American evangelicals question Republican ownership

After an election where conservative social causes failed to convince voters, evangelical Christians are pondering their relationship with the Republican party.

Christian conservatives used to be referred to as the “base of the base” of the Republican Party – voters whose strong religious ideologies meant the party could count on them to support “family values” candidates and initiatives…

After the 2012 election, evangelical leaders are contemplating what it means that conservative Republicans lost so badly, and that social issues championed by the religious right also suffered defeat. They are also questioning whether they still have a place in the world of politics.

There was a time when leading evangelicals had a very powerful position inside the Washington DC inner circle. The rise of the religious right in the late 1970s and early 1980s heralded an era in American politics in which social conservatives very much shaped the Republican agenda…

In return for an outpouring of support, politicians pushed agendas dear to the evangelicals, such as opposing gay rights and abortion and promoting the teaching of “intelligent design” in schools along with evolution…

At Barack Obama’s first term comes to an end, there has been a sizeable demographic shift in the US when it comes to voters and faith.

According to a recent survey, an increasing number of Americans are giving up on religion. The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life found that one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation, and, with few exceptions, are not seeking religion.

Dr Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Theological Seminary, says this “acceleration of secularisation” is what made social conservatives, and their agenda, lose so badly in November.

He acknowledged the religious right is losing its political power…

Evangelicals may well have to learn how to live into a minority position against the larger society moving in a different direction.”

That, my friends, is what is called wishful thinking. The point of evangelism, of fundamentalist religion – as ideology, for that is what it is – is remaining true to beliefs that ran out of reality centuries ago. That fact hasn’t mattered to proselytizers in the past. There isn’t any inherent reason to expect that commitment to reverse itself.

No, religious fanatics are perfectly willing to retreat into an ever-diminishing circle of influence. Choosing isolation is perfectly satisfactory to a True Believer. The only worry for the rest of the nation is the possibility of a truly nutball fringe deciding they need to become a Christian al-Qaeda.

Billy Graham de-cultifies Mormons in his website

Make up your own caption

Shortly after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoyed cookies and soft drinks with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son Franklin Graham on Thursday at the elder Graham’s mountaintop retreat, a reference to Mormonism as a cult was scrubbed from the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In a section of the website called Billy Graham’s My Answer there had been the question “What is a cult?”

One fundamentalist hustler cooperating with another.

I think this will become about half of what we get to see in coming years from this crowd. The other half will stick to telling those who haven’t become True Believers – in their own particular sect – that you will roast in Perdition.

Christian homophobes organize boycott of anti-bullying program

On Mix It Up at Lunch Day, schoolchildren around the country are encouraged to hang out with someone they normally might not speak to.

The program, started 11 years ago by the Southern Poverty Law Center and now in more than 2,500 schools, was intended as a way to break up cliques and prevent bullying.

But this year, the American Family Association, a conservative evangelical group, has called the project “a nationwide push to promote the homosexual lifestyle in public schools” and is urging parents to keep their children home from school on Oct. 30, the day most of the schools plan to participate this year…

Kind of warms the cockles of your heart to hear these so-called Christians would rather aid bullies by doing nothing than to welcome gay students who have been bullied. Doesn’t sound very Christian to me. Or does it?

“I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is,” said Maureen Costello, the director of the center’s Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program. “It was a cynical, fear-mongering tactic.”

The swirl around Mix It Up at Lunch Day reflects a deeper battle between the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights group founded 41 years ago in Montgomery, Ala., and the American Family Association, a Bible-based cultural watchdog organization in Tupelo, Miss. The association says its mission is to fight what it calls the “increasing ungodliness” in America.

The program is not about sexual orientation but rather about breaking up social cliques, which are especially evident in a school cafeteria, Ms. Costello said.

In some schools, cliques are socioeconomic. In others they are ethnic or religious or based on sexual orientation. By giving students a way to mix with other students, self-imposed social barriers can be broken down and bullying can be curbed, she said.

“Many of the targets of bullying are kids who are either gay or are perceived as gay,” she said…But the idea that the program is intended as homosexual indoctrination is simply wrong, Ms. Costello added…

This is not especially different from the lunatic fringe of professional Christians who used their “holiness” to protest previous civil rights-based issues. The same sort of nutballs who claimed civil rights assemblies were brainwashing white students into being race-mixing subversives – or equal rights for women would have their wannabe Dollywood daughters burning their training bras.

Gay Rights group files suit against homophobe evangelist for inciting persecution in Uganda

A Ugandan gay rights group filed suit against an American evangelist, Scott Lively, in federal court in Massachusetts on Wednesday, accusing him of violating international law by inciting the persecution of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

The lawsuit maintains that beginning in 2002, Mr. Lively conspired with religious and political leaders in Uganda to whip up anti-gay hysteria with warnings that gay people would sodomize African children and corrupt their culture.

The Ugandan legislature considered a bill in 2009, proposed by one of Mr. Lively’s Ugandan contacts, that would have imposed the death sentence for the “offense of homosexuality.” That bill languished after an outcry from the United States and European nations that are among major aid donors to Uganda, but was reintroduced last month.

Mr. Lively is being sued by the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda under the alien tort statute, which allows foreigners to sue in American courts in situations asserting the violation of international law. The suit says that Mr. Lively’s actions resulted in the persecution, arrest, torture and murder of gay men and lesbians in Uganda.

…Mr. Lively said he did not know about the lawsuit…he said…I’ve never done anything in Uganda except preach the Gospel and speak my opinion about the homosexual issue…”

Mr. Lively is…the author of “The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party,” which says that Nazism was a movement inspired by homosexuals, and “Seven Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child,” a guide to prevent what he calls “pro-homosexual indoctrination.”

He has traveled to Uganda, Latvia and Moldova to warn Christian clergy members to defend their countries against what he says is an onslaught by gay rights advocates based in the West…

Mr. Lively is one of many conservative American evangelicals who were active in Uganda. He and others tried to distance themselves from the legislation after the international outcry over the death penalty provision. Ms. Spees said the lawsuit singled him out because “his role was critical…”

Yup. Let’s carry the message of hate and harm around the world from American Christian fundamentalists. What a gift to give.

Creeps like this have a long and contemptible history inside American Christian sects. Over the centuries you only need to substitute one word for another. You can substitute Jew or Catholic, Negro or Puerto Rican, peacenik or feminist – for homosexual – and you see the face of their hatred.

Pat Robertson answers a tough question on Alzheimer’s — and upsets his fundamentalist Christian peers

The televangelist Pat Robertson’s suggestion that a man whose wife was far “gone” with Alzheimer’s should divorce her if he felt a need for new companionship has provoked a storm of condemnation from other Christian leaders but a more mixed or even understanding response from some doctors and patient advocates.

On his television show, “The 700 Club,” Mr. Robertson, a prominent evangelical who once ran for president, took a call from a man who asking how he should advise a friend whose wife was deep into dementia and no longer recognized him…

“This is a terribly hard thing,” Mr. Robertson said, clearly struggling to think his way through a wrenching situation. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the loved one — this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone “

“I know it sounds cruel,” he continued, “but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”

When Mr. Robertson’s co-anchor on the show wondered if that was consistent with marriage vows, Mr. Robertson noted the pledge of “’til death do us part,” but added, “This is a kind of death.”

He said the question presented an ethical dilemma beyond his ability to answer. “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship, you’re lonely, you have to have companionship,” Mr. Robertson said.

The reaction from many evangelical leaders, who see lifelong, traditional marriage as the cornerstone of morality and society, was harsh and disbelieving…

Dr. James E. Galvin, a neurologist who runs a dementia clinic at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said it was wrong to say that people with Alzheimer’s were “gone,” or to call its late stages “a kind of death.”

“While it’s true that in terminal phases, patients may not be fully aware of what’s going on, they tend to recognize the people who are closest to them,” Dr. Galvin said.

With good care, people may live 15 to 20 years with the disease, most of that time at home, Dr. Galvin said. If they eventually move to a nursing home and seem unaware of what is going on around them, he said, then spouses face “an individualized decision” about when and how to develop new relationships…

I doubt if ever before have I come close to agreeing with Pat Robertson on anything. I think he probably gets the seasons and sunrise wrong. Still, this is a question that he has answered as a man of conscience, willing to take that question beyond the accepted constraints of his fundamentalist brethren. I give him credit for that.

I haven’t much experience with Alzheimer’s. I only recall one relative who seemed to be in early stages of senile dementia – when I was a young man and she was already in her 60’s. But, Robertson’s answer is one of the answers that someone might legitimately consider in the context of advanced Alzheimer’s when to all intents and purposes you are unrecognizable to the patient.

It will be a terrible quandary – you must include your whole life’s experience together and yet look ahead to a life that can be painfully distant even when together. My snap judgement would be to stay together. But, I can see a context wherein divorce might be the sound decision.

Evangelical preacher goes on trial for theft and fraud

Evangelist and revival leader Ernest Cadick passionately preached God’s word, according to pastors in Indiana and Kentucky. But salvation wasn’t the only thing he was selling.

Approaching potential investors in churches, the ordained minister solicited $719,150 over 15 years for oil and gas ventures, then spent the money on himself, according to a federal indictment.

Cadick also used the apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation to fleece additional churchgoers at Louisville’s Evangel World Prayer Center, according to another indictment returned in state court, allegedly telling them that when President Barack Obama was elected, the dollar’s value would plummet to 3 cents as it was replaced with a new currency.

If they gave him their saving, the indictment alleges, he would fly it to Switzerland, where it would earn double their investment back each month.

Now the 60-year-old traveling evangelist is facing two separate trials — one in state court and another in federal — on those allegations.

He will be tried July 11 in Jefferson Circuit Court on three counts of theft for allegedly taking $29,500 from elderly victims in the Swiss investment scheme.

And he is scheduled to be tried today in Louisville federal court on 16 counts of fraud for allegedly taking money for oil and gas ventures and foreign currency investments and spending the money on himself, according to his indictment…

Long detailed article. Another Christian hustler who would kneel down and pray with his victims to convince them to fork over their savings in return for God’s guarantee of salvation – and more profits.

Investors sometimes make dumb decisions. Investors who make decisions based on “revealed word” and scripture written by a King’s committee in the 17th Century are beyond dumb.

Evangelical takes on Beck for hating social justice churches

An evangelical leader is calling for a boycott of Glenn Beck’s television show and challenging the Fox News personality to a public debate after Beck vilified churches that preach economic and social justice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, a network of progressive Christians, says Beck perverted Jesus’ message when he urged Christians last week to leave churches that preach social and economic justice.

Wallis says Beck compared those churches to Communists and Nazis.

Wallis says at least 20,000 people have already responded to his call to boycott Beck. He says Beck is confusing his personal philosophy with the Bible…

He’s afraid of being challenged on his silly caricatures,” Wallis says. “Glenn Beck talks a lot when he doesn’t have someone to dialogue with. Is he willing to talk with someone who he doesn’t agree with?…”

For some Christians, practicing economic and social justice means that churches should practice charity: setting up soup kitchens, assisting victims of natural disasters, and helping people find jobs.

For other Christians, practicing economic and social justice also means trying to change the conditions that cause people to be poor or unemployed. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. subscribed to this definition of biblical justice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis is the president of Sojourners, a network of Christians.

That concern for justice is what helped convert him, says Wallis, president of Sojourners. Wallis, who counts King as one of his faith role models, says the Bible isn’t just concerned with feeding the poor — it’s concerned about the conditions that create the poor…

“The Bible just didn’t say take care of the victim — it talks about justice,” says Wallis…

Meanwhile…he’s waiting for that public debate with Beck. “I’ll have it,” Wallis says, “anywhere he wants.”

Har! Demagogues like Beck aren’t especially long on individual courage. Or integrity.

Rightwing churches kickoff campaign of fear

145 evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they will not cooperate with laws that they say could be used to compel their institutions to participate in abortions, or to bless or in any way recognize same-sex couples.

We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” it says. The signers include nine Roman Catholic archbishops and the primate of the Orthodox Church in America.

They want to signal to the Obama administration and to Congress that they are still a formidable force that will not compromise on abortion, stem-cell research or gay marriage. They hope to influence current debates over health care reform, the same-sex marriage bill in Washington, D.C., and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation…

Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, said it was “fear-mongering” to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to do any of those things. He said they are protected by the First Amendment, and by conscience clauses that allow medical professionals and hospitals to opt out of performing certain procedures, and religious exemptions written into same-sex marriage bills.

Have to watch out. There might be a Death Panel hiding under your bed.

More realistic. These paranoids have enjoyed a disproportionate measure of power from political opportunists and cowardly media. Their fears are those of discredited reactionaries everywhere. They thrive on an ignorant public accepting of their lies.

Certainly, their paranoia is laughable. But, automatic acceptance by an ignorant and ill-informed public perpetuates bigotry as thoroughly as any compliant legal system.