"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaders of the Christian Right

Some major conservative Protestant preachers such as Jimmy Swaggart, Rex Humbard, and Oral Roberts did not focus on politics, and a few conservative Evangelicals took positions that could be considered liberal. Two of the most prominent spokesmen of the Christian Right were Jerry Falwell and Marion Pat Robertson. Falwell headed the Moral Majority, which was founded in the 1970s and lasted until 1989. Thereafter, the Christian Coalition became the most significant vehicle of the Religious Right. In 1994, it distributed over 30,000,000 voters’ guides. It demonstrated great skill in operating phone banks and driving people to the polls. Under Dr. Ralph Reed, its staff director, it skillfully used polling data and moved beyond moral questions to promote the economic policies of the Republican Party. In 2004, Reed was chairman of the Bush reelection campaign in the South. In 2001 and 2002, his consulting firm received $4.2 million for lobbying against and creating Christian opposition to expansion of gambling casinos in the South; more than half came from Indian casino clients anxious to prevent competition
Pat Robertson was leader of the Christian Coalition, an organization with 1,200,000 committed, hard-right members. Reverend Dr. Robertson also hosts from Virginia Beach his highly influential “700 Club” on the Christian Broadcast Network, which he controls. He also operates “Operation Blessing” to help Africans, especially refugees. However, he was caught using its airplanes to ship equipment to his diamond mines in Africa. He has investments from China to the Congo, and had a partnership with one of Africa’s most unsavory tyrants.

In 1979, Robertson denounced “the humanistic/atheistic/hedonistic influence of the American government” which was controlled by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission. The television spellbinder not only influenced hundreds of thousands of voters, but he managed to collect $164,000,000 in contributions in 1997. As a result of running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988, he acquired a mailing list of over 3,000,000 angry and very conservative people, a list that became his most powerful asset, which he used to build the Christian Coalition into a major political force. The good reverend used it for at least one business venture. He encountered problems with the IRS and the FEC when he loaned out the list for Oliver North’s unsuccessful run for the Senate. Greg Palast, a careful investigator, said Robertson gave his mailing list to the George H.W. Bush campaign in 1992. Judy Liebert, the former chief financial officer of the Christian Coalition, insisted that Ralph Reed destroyed documents subpoened by the government. Some of them proved that the Coalition had printed Republican campaign literature.

In its in-house documents and in Robertson’s speeches, there is much harsh language about minorities and women. Coalition staffers said this was necessary to keep the contributions coming. A dismissed employee claimed that Ralph Reed, head of the coalition, destroyed subpoenaed documents. Robertson’s great following prevented the federal government from taking decisive action, but he did close the Christian Coalition and reestablished it with a slightly different name, the Christian Coalition of America. In 2000, he helped his friend George W. Bush win in Republican primaries in Virginia and South Carolina by portraying John McCain as ungodly. In 2003, he joined in the far right’s attack on the career elements in the State Department, stating, “If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom, I think that’s the answer.” Robertson and Falwell were mainly concerned with, abortion, sexual morality, anti-gun control, opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, and opposition to gay rights. They advocated school prayer, opposed sex education and backed teaching creationism or at least “teaching the controversy,” which means discussing both evolution and creationism in the science class. They demand that textbooks print disclaimers to the effect creationism was at least as good an explanation for human origins as human evolution. To accomplish their ends, they began running school board candidates in the eighties and quickly entered state politics. By 2003, Mississippi, Alabama, and Oklahoma had laws requiring this.

Soldiers of the Christian Right were also interested in enlisting Christ in the Cold War, and Falwell assured his followers that “Jesus was not a pacifist. He was not a sissy.” The Religious Right operated telephone banks and was very effective at get-out-the vote operations. At election time, Falwell’s allies passed out voter guides on Sundays. By the nineties, they sponsored attack-advertising campaigns in some states where they were particularly interested in electing Republican senators. Reverend Tim LaHaye also entered the political arena in the late seventies. He was initially motivated by a desire to battle President Jimmy Carter’s plans to strip Christian schools of tax exemptions if they practiced racial discrimination. Soon, his concerns broadened to include the full agenda of the Christian Right.

Another powerful Christian evangelical spokesman was Dr. James Dobson, who built his following addressing family values. “Focus on the Family,” Dobson’s radio broadcast reached 7.5 million listeners per week in 2002. Gary Bauer, a conservative Christian politician, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Although his showing was not impressive, he built up a network of 100,000 activists who petition politicians when he gives the signal. These leaders realize that anger is the energy source that gives their movement life and vitality, and they have proven to be very effective at playing upon anger and transforming it into conservative Republican political activism.

Dr. Dobson’s messages are carried on Salem Communication’s network, which owns 103 stations and has more than 1,900 affiliates. Christian radio stations are growing at a rapid rate, and it is estimated that 100 million people listen to them. Except perhaps in the case of the campaign to recall Gray Davis, the stations have avoided obvious political involvement, but their messages are nonetheless unmistakable. Recently Dobson has been assisting a young evangelist who promises to be a very effective successor to Robertson and Falwell, Rod Parsley of Columbus, Ohio, a pastor of a 12,000 mega church in the Columbus suburbs. Though white, his worship and preaching style has attracted many African-Americans. He is credited with doubling the number of African American Republican votes in 2004, when he cris-crossed the state with Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, denouncing gay marriage. As a preacher he combines cultural wars issues with the prosperity gospel. Services are like pep rallies, the atmosphere is sweaty and emotion filled. Parsley holds that compliant, tithing Christians will be assisted by God in realizing their material dreams.

In his preaching, he stops just a shade short of endorsing a party or candidate but the message is unmistakably. He favors legislation that would permit clergy to discuss parties and candidates in church. Borrowing from his friend former Senator Zel Miller, he calls himself a “Christocrat.” Through Reformation Ohio, he seeks a million converts and 400,000 new voters. For him religion and politics are reverse sides of the same coin, and he explicitly endorses the entire Republican economic agenda, even questioning the value of Social Security and Medicare. Since the November 2004 election he has appeared with many prominent Republican leaders, explaining to party operatives how best to exploit culture wars issues and appeal to much greater numbers of blacks. When George W. Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court, Parsley shared a conference call with him to introduce the candidate to ministers across the nation. Though a Bible College dropout, Parsley is considered by hundreds of ministers to be anointed by God to lead conservatives in the next phase of the culture war. Parsley took over a major mega church in Colorado Springs in late 2006 after its pastor admitted homosexual practices.

Reverend Doug Coe is one of the nation’s most influential Christian leaders. He is little know and keeps a low profile. Yet he is the friend of presidents and counts many Washington figures as friends and followers, including Senator Hillary Clinton. He operates The Fellowship, which puts on the annual National Prayer Breakfast, and operates out of an estate on the Potomac called the The Cedars. He claims to be non-political, but his followers are mostly on the right. Mrs. Clinton sought comfort in its ranks during the Lewinsky scandal. She is a member of a Bible study group and an all female prayer cell. Some say that The Fellowship practices “cobelligerency” in welcoming non-conservatives. Evangelical theologian Francis Schaeffer used this term to describe alliances evangelicals found it necessary to develop with Roman Catholics. The Fellowship or Family does admit to waging “spiritual war” on behalf of Christ.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!