Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Time Magazine: Article on the top 25 evangelicals in America

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]thedemonprist)

This is Time Magazine's newest cover story: The Top 25 Evangelicals in America Interesting (and chilling) reading about some of the movers and shakers of Dominionism and their future short- and long-term plans.

Bold/underline = standout points, my commentary = brackets [ ]

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What do they think Bush owes them? His campaign barely had time to sweep up the confetti last Nov. 3 before the victorious President got a congratulatory bouquet of praise, threats, warnings and demands. "In your re-election, God has graciously granted America — though she doesn't deserve it — a reprieve from the agenda of paganism," wrote Bob Jones III, president of the namesake South Carolina university that his grandfather founded to foster "Christ-like" character. "Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing." But if Jones saw the victory as an opportunity to be seized, others were preaching the biblical virtues of patience and caution. "Can we handle success and increased influence with grace and prudence?" Watergate conspirator turned prison evangelist Chuck Colson wrote in a column. "Sad to say, the church has managed to shoot itself in the foot almost every time it has achieved power in society. So what we need right now is a bracing dose of humility."

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...the recent expansion of the religious right's agenda into human-rights issues abroad creates new possibilities for influencing the Administration's foreign policy.

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Evangelical activists, for their part, say that as Bush looks forward, he should also look back. They claim that what brought churchgoing Christians (including a record number of Hispanics) to the polls more than any other issue last year was gay marriage. Initiatives banning it were on the ballot in 11 states and passed in every one, overwhelmingly in almost every case. So religious groups were startled and angry when Bush, bowing to what he said were political realities, seemed to signal in a pre-Inaugural interview with the Washington Post that he would not press the Senate to pass the federal ban.

The reverberations came almost instantly. Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who sends a daily e-mail to 125,000 Christian activists, says his computer mailbox was jammed with hundreds of complaints, many lamenting, "I worked my heart out for this guy." The Arlington Group, a coalition of conservative religious organizations, quickly fired off to Bush political guru Karl Rove a private letter signed by such figures as Bauer, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Focus on the Family's James Dobson, conservative standard bearer Paul Weyrich and evangelist Jerry Falwell. They laid down a none-too-subtle threat that the Administration's "defeatist attitude" on gay marriage might make it "impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."

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"At the very top of the list is the judiciary, which we feel is out of control and threatening to religious liberty and to the institution of the family," Dobson says. "That would be the most important thing to us because every other issue that we care about is linked, one way or another, to the courts."

[ This is one of the most chilling excerpts. These are the kind of people that want to dictate to you and me how we can and cannot live our lives. ]

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But conservative Christians have new ambitions too and are expecting the President to embrace those as well. In recent years they have expanded their political agenda into foreign policy, where they have gone beyond the narrow goal of supporting Israel. An estimated 60% of the world's Christians live in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and evangelical missionaries have received a firsthand look at problems that Washington policymakers have ignored for decades. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have put forth reams of reports, but "the religious groups were able to get these issues higher on the agenda, where the secular human-rights groups were not, because of their mass constituency," says Allen Hertzke, director of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of a book on religious activism in foreign policy. Those new interests have produced new alliances. Working with liberal groups, religious conservatives forced the Bush Administration to intercede in the Christian-Muslim civil war in Sudan. They also put political muscle behind global aids funding and legislation against international sex trafficking and lately are becoming increasingly worried about Third World debt.

That's just the beginning. "You will continue to see this agenda of Christian conservatives broaden out," says Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and as it does, the results will sometimes be unexpected. At last week's annual antiabortion march, activists from the National Association of Evangelicals drew quizzical looks as they paraded under a banner reading stop mercury poisoning of the unborn. It was a protest against water pollution by coal-burning utilities—a cause Ralph Nader or Al Gore would also support. "You can build from the left and build from the right and get something done," Brownback says. Which, in the end, may be what having power is all about.

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[ While reading this, I had two thoughts: 1) Wouldn't it be great if someone was able to infiltrate the Dominionists and successfully impersonate one of them, all the while documenting carefully their nasty little tricks and games, and then suddenly and publicly turn on them with this evidence and thus figuratively stab them in their blackened little hearts like the vampires they are? Would that crush their empire? And:

2) Could it be possible that some Dominionists have successfully infiltrated the Democratic Party, and are sneakily working to shift Democratic views and strategies into ones more in sync with the Dominionist agenda? This thought ties in with that last bolded segment from the article. ]

Following are a list of a few of the most notable evangelicals, with underlined highlights:

Chuck Colson

Reborn and Rehabilitated: The spectacular Christian rehabilitation of Charles Colson — the man who once advised Richard Nixon to firebomb the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank — began after Colson's Watergate prison term, with his best-selling conversion narrative, Born Again. His resurgence accelerated as he founded Prison Fellowship Ministries and built it into a $50 million organization that operates in all 50 states and 110 countries. His ministry's success (a University of Pennsylvania study found that graduates of the prison program were 60% less likely to be reincarcerated than was the average con) and his campaign for humane prison conditions helped define compassionate conservatism and served as a model for the faith-based initiatives that Bush favors.

Colson, 73, is now regarded as one of evangelicalism's more thoughtful public voices. And, says Ted Olsen, online managing editor of Christianity Today: "If he gets on a bandwagon, it's likely to move." After decades of relative abstention, Colson is back in power politics. He helped cobble together an alliance of Evangelicals and Catholic conservatives, advised Karl Rove on Sudan policy and put his prestige behind an anti-gay-marriage lobbying body, the Arlington Group. And he has recouped one more lever of power: in 2000 Florida Governor Jeb Bush reinstated the rights taken away by Colson's felony conviction—including the right to vote.

James Dobson

The Culture Warrior: James Dobson is tired of being misunderstood. The founder of Focus on the Family wants everyone to know that his sprawling campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., is devoted to his radio program, publishing empire and maintaining his 2.5 million-strong e-mail list of supporters. While it may be true that only a sliver of the activities there are political, Dobson stepped down as president of the organization in May 2003 so that he could become involved in politics. Now he's not only advocating policies calling for a ban on gay marriage and for restraint of the judiciary but also threatening to target Democratic Senators at the polls if they don't vote the way he likes on President Bush's judicial nominations.

It's not certain, however, whether Dobson, 68, can translate his considerable influence into political muscle. White House officials consider his demands too absolutist and impractical. "We respect him greatly," says a Bush aide, "but his political influence is not everything people might think." Indeed, Dobson seems to exercise greater sway outside the political arena, where the trained child psychologist has offered families a Christian alternative to modern mores. Says Dobson: "We're involved in what is known as a culture war that is aimed right straight at the institution of the family."

Michael Gerson

The President's Spiritual Scribe: For a White House speechwriter, coining flowery phrases for your boss is less important than accommodating his speaking style and deepest convictions. For Michael Gerson, 40, George W. Bush's chief scribe since the 2000 presidential campaign (he will become a policy adviser in the West Wing), breaking that code meant knowing as much about the New Testament as about Bush's Texas roots. That proved easy. The former journalist shares Bush's devout Christian faith and his view that the role of Providence in human affairs should be reaffirmed in the public square.

Though even some G.O.P. supporters have criticized the President for his regular religious references, such lines are not likely to disappear from his speeches. "Scrubbing public discourse of religious ideas," says Gerson, "would remove one of the main sources of social justice in our history."

Billy & Franklin Graham

Father and Son In the Spirit: He has had the ear of Presidents for five decades, but except for his public disavowal of racial segregation, Billy Graham, 86, has stuck to soul saving and left the political proselytizing to others. He explained his self-imposed separation of church and state in the language of a Gospel preacher: "It's not what I was called to do."

His son Franklin, 52, the anointed successor to the Graham evangelical empire, has no such reticence. "As a minister, I have every right to speak out on moral issues," he says. And he has, frequently and freely opining on subjects ranging from homosexuality ("I don't believe in the lifestyle") to the Iraq war ("I don't advocate war, but it's important to support our government"). Some suggest the difference in approach is the result of temperament and target audience. "Dr. Graham, having [ministered] to many Presidents, is more private about his counsel than Franklin, who speaks more to average Americans than their leaders," says Rod Parsley, pastor of the World Harvest Church in Columbus, Ohio.

"But we're thankful he's raising his voice on issues central to our faith."

Tim & Beverly LaHaye

The Christian Power Couple: In his role as minister and organizer, the Rev. Tim LaHaye, who will turn 79 in April, somehow never achieved the name recognition of, say, Jerry Falwell — or for that matter of his wife Beverly LaHaye, 75, founder of Concerned Women for America, one of Washington's most influential antiabortion and anti-gay-marriage organizations. But it is a measure of Tim LaHaye's reach that his role in founding Falwell's Moral Majority is only his second most notable venture.

(Falwell was inspired to start the group in 1979 after seeing how LaHaye had organized scores of fellow pastors to work for conservative political causes in California in the '70s.) It wasn't until 15 years later that LaHaye got the idea for a novelized account of the Second Coming. The result, Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth's Last Days (1995), launched a literary empire. The book and its 11 sequels have sold more than 42 million copies (not counting spin-offs like kids' books, CDs and greeting cards) and set the image that many people — believers and non-believers alike — now have about how the world will end. "In terms of its impact on Christianity," says Falwell, "it's probably greater than that of any other book in modern times, outside the Bible.

Richard Land

God's Lobbyist: You can chart Richard Land's clout by his phone log. The 58-year-old Texan, the Southern Baptist Convention's main man in Washington, recalls that the Reagan Administration returned his calls promptly; the first Bush White House less so and Clinton's staff (eventually) not at all. Now? The men around his longtime friend George W. Bush don't sit around waiting for Land's call. They reach out to him, individually and as part of a weekly teleconference with other Christian conservatives, to plot strategy on such issues as gay marriage and abortion.

Land, who helped engineer his 16-million-member convention's 1979 shift from moderacy to hard-line conservativism, has a hand in most of its key policies, from its 1995 apology for having supported slavery to its 1998 statement that wives should submit to the leadership of their devout husbands. Since arriving in Washington in 1987, Land has cultivated dozens of sympathetic members of Congress.

[ I remember that brouhaha over the "wives" statement. ]

Princeton- and Oxford-educated, he is as formidable a public spokesman as he is in Washington's corridors and regularly battles culture-war foes on venues such as Meet the Press. "People think they're going to be dealing with some bootstrap preacher," says Larry Eskridge, associate director of the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals at Wheaton College. "But he can match pedigree and training with the best of them."

Joyce Meyer

A Feminine Side Of Evangelism: It is the stories from her personal history — her abuse as a child, her failed first marriage — that resonate with Pentecostal Joyce Meyer's predominantly female audience. Based in Fenton, Mo., Joyce Meyer Ministries teaches Bible to a virtual congregation. She is a traveling road show with a multimedia connection to followers. Meyer, 61, offers a gospel of prosperity that promises that God rewards tithing with his blessing. But her own conspicuously prosperous lifestyle — which, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, includes a $2 million home and a $10 million jet — concerns some Christians.

[ Can you say, "Hypocrite"? Yeah. I knew ya could. ]

Meyer's spokesman says 93% of the $8 million her ministry takes in each month goes to more than 150 charities worldwide, but the Christian watchdog group Wall Watchers has asked for an IRS investigation into the ministry's finances. Meyer says an investigation does not worry her, and she continues to deliver her uplifting message on more than 600 TV stations and 400 radio stations as well as in 70 books and scores of stadium-filling appearances.

Richard John Neuhaus

Bushism Made Catholic: When Bush met with journalists from religious publications last year, the living authority he cited most often was not a fellow Evangelical but a man he calls Father Richard, who, he explained, "helps me articulate these [religious] things." A senior Administration official confirms that Neuhaus "does have a fair amount of under-the-radar influence" on such policies as abortion, stem-cell research, cloning and the defense-of-marriage amendment.

Neuhaus, 68, is well-prepared for that role. As founder of the religion-and-policy journal First Things, he has for years articulated toughly conservative yet nuanced positions on a wide range of civic issues. A Lutheran turned Catholic priest, he can translate conservative Protestant arguments couched tightly in Scripture into Catholicism's broader language of moral reasoning, more accessible to a general public that does not regard chapter and verse as final proof. And there is one last reason for Bush to cherish Neuhaus, who has worked tirelessly to persuade conservative Catholics and Evangelicals to make common cause. It's called the conservative Catholic vote, and it played a key role last November.

Rick Santorum

The Point Man On Capitol Hill: The Senate's third-ranking Republican may be a Catholic, but he's the darling of Protestant Evangelicals. Pennsylvania's Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference Committee, is the standard bearer of social conservatives on the Hill, regularly and vocally taking the point position against gay marriage, abortion rights and judges who defend either. He speaks monthly with evangelical leaders, hearing their concerns and briefing them on the status of legislation, while his staff regularly taps evangelical broadcasters and activists to help mobilize support for their common agenda. In the new congressional session, that includes pushing laws aimed at limiting access of minors to interstate abortions and giving legal rights to fertilized eggs in utero. Though highly controversial for his verbal attacks on gays and supporters of abortion rights — he once likened homosexual sex to bestiality — Santorum, 46, is said to have presidential ambitions. "Never say never," he says — music to evangelical ears.

Jay Sekulow

The Almighty's Attorney-at-Law: If God is heading to an appeals court, Jay Sekulow is likely to be sitting at the counsel table. His Washington-based American Center for Law & Justice has argued and won several high-profile religious-freedom cases, including Supreme Court decisions that allowed Bible-study clubs on public-school campuses and that protected the right of antiabortion demonstrators to rally outside abortion clinics.

Sekulow, 48, who was raised Jewish but converted to Christianity in college and now considers himself a "Messianic Jew," formed the law center with a group of other conservative litigators in 1990. Today the 700,000-member center has become, with a budget of $30 million, a powerful counterweight to the liberal American Civil Liberties Union.

The group's latest battles are supporting the congressional ban on partial-birth abortions and pushing, in an unusually bold and public way, for President Bush's judicial appointments. "The President has shown the kind of nominees he likes for the courts," explains Sekulow, "and I'm very comfortable with that."

Howard & Roberta Ahmanson

The Financiers: Money makes the Word go round, and this wealthy, conservative Republican couple takes a dizzyingly ecclectic approach to funding evangelism. The projects that savings-and-loan multimillionaires Howard and Roberta Ahmanson have paid for over the years through Fieldstead & Co., a private philanthropy in Irvine, Calif., form a cornucopia of faith-based activism, including an institute linked to the antievolution intelligent-design movement and a study of social endeavors by Third World Pentecostal churches. The couple have been accused over the years of having an extremist agenda, mostly because a onetime pet charity, the Chalcedon Foundation, advocates the Christian reconstructionist branch of theology that says gays and other biblical lawbreakers should be stoned. Howard distanced himself from those views and resigned from the foundation board years ago.

The couple, both 55, now are warning powerful conservative Christians about the pitfalls of hubris in the aftermath of their victories over liberals last November. Says Roberta: "Christlike humility and [improving] the lives of human beings should be the goals."

David Barton

The Lesson Planner: Even before he got directly involved in politics, David Barton was a major voice in the debate over church-state separation. His books and videotapes can be found in churches all over the U.S., educating an evangelical generation in what might be called Christian counter-history. The 51-year-old Texan's thesis: that the U.S. was a self-consciously religious nation from the time of the Founders until the 1963 Supreme Court school-prayer ban (which Barton has called "a rejection of divine law"). Many historians dismiss his thinking, but Barton's advocacy organization, WallBuilders, and his relentless stream of publications, court amicus briefs and books like The Myth of Separation, have made him a hero to millions—including some powerful politicians. He has been a co-chair of the Texas Republican Party for eight years, is friends with House majority leader Tom DeLay (whom he has advised on the Pledge Patriot Act, which seeks to keep the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance) and was tapped by the Republican National Committee during its election sprint as a liaison to social conservatives. Those elected as a result of his efforts need not feel lonely in Washington: Barton conducts tours of the Capitol, during which he shows his rare copy of the Bible that Congress once printed—for use in the schools.

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