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Thursday, 03 July 2014 06:39

Christian Warriors: Apocalyptic Dreams, American Nightmares

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aaaChristianWar(Photo: Douglas Miller)Visions of apocalyptic battles are not only taking place at conferences of far-right organizations, in End Times novels, and on theater and television screens these days. Some in what might be considered mainstream right-wing circles also seem to be cranking up the rhetoric and spoiling for such battles.

In a new piece published by Political Research Associates (PRA), Frederick Clarkson quotes Republican campaign and conservative movement strategist David Lane, who last year wrote on a conservative website: "If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end."

More recently, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the crowd at the annual conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, that he could "sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren."

In his PRA piece titled "Rumblings of Theocratic Violence," Clarkson pointed out that while "such rhetoric" has been "common on the farther reaches of the Right" for many years and could be easily dismissed, "[b]ut something has changed in recent years" as these "disturbing claims are appearing more frequently, more prominently, and in ways that suggest that they are expressions of deeply held beliefs more than provocative political hyperbole."

"What's more," writes Clarkson, a long-time scholar and reporter on the Religious Right, the author of the invaluable Eternal Hostility: the Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and a co-founder of Talk2Actionorg, "there are powerful indications in the writings of some Christian Right leaders that elements of their movement have lost confidence in the bright political vision of the United States as the once and future Christian nation — and that they are desperately seeking alternatives."

Much of the rhetoric that flows from the mouths of conservatives and Christian Right spokespeople is rarely reported in the mainstream press.
It happens at conferences, rallies and meetings sponsored by an assortment of conservative political groups, some well established, and some temporary.

All expenses paid, unconstrained rhetoric unleashed

One such temporary entity was called the Iowa Renewal Project, which in 2011, brought hundreds of conservative pastors, and their spouses, "to an expenses-paid, two-day Pastors' Policy Briefing at an [Iowa] Sheraton hotel," The New York Times reported. "Through an evening banquet and long sessions, they heard speakers deplore a secular assault on evangelical Christian verities like the sanctity of male-female marriage, the humanity of the unborn and the divine right to limited government."

''What we're doing with the pastor meetings is spiritual, but the end result is political,'' David Lane told The New York Times. ''From my perspective, our country is going to hell because pastors won't lead from the pulpits.''

According to Clarkson, "The Iowa Renewal Project ... is one of several state-level units of the American Renewal Project — which is, in turn, a political development and mobilization project of the Mississippi-based American Family Association." Lane has acknowledged Donald Wildmon's AFA largely pays for the pastor conferences.

Lane told the Dallas Morning News that the pastors briefings has "been in 15 states now, largely under the radar, and we've had 10,000 pastors plus spouses that we've put up overnight and fed three meals. The purpose is to get the pastors—the shepherds in America—to engage the culture through better registration and get out the vote."

With many of the old guard of the Christian Right dead or no longer as politically relevant, these new developments have ushered in a period where "no one now qualifies as the 'leader' of the Christian Right. Instead, a constellation of smaller, electorally focused organizations has emerged, and others have evolved." The emergence of the Tea Party over the past few years had been a major development as well.

While Lane's focus has been organizing evangelical voters and assuming political power through traditional electoral means, he is not confident that it is possible to install a Christian Nation through these methods alone. "Hence," Clarkson writes, "Lane's doubt-filled essay" about the end of American democracy, titled "Wage War to Restore a Christian Nation," and published on World Net Daily (WND).

According to Clarkson, "WND quickly removed the essay in June 2013 after bloggers called attention to it, but Lane soon demonstrated that it was not an aberration, [telling] conservative Iowa radio talk show host Steve Deace the following month that 'car bombs in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Des Moines, Iowa' would be merciful punishment from God for legalized abortion and for 'homosexuals praying at the Inauguration [of President Obama's second term].' Without such divine mercy, Lane suggested, America might 'get judgment like Nazi Germany.'"

Clarkson's wide-ranging essay points out that "Lane's essay is a clarion call for a contemporary religious war against the supposedly pagan government of the United States. And his notion of war is not just a metaphor for politics. He even called for a contemporary 'Gideon' and a 'Rahab the Harlot' to rise to the occasion. Gideon is the Biblical figure who leads an Israelite army in an ethnic cleansing of the Midianites who were both oppressors and worshiped false gods. The story of Rahab turns on how she sheltered two Israelite spies in preparation for the sacking of the city of Jericho by Joshua's army, resulting in the massacre of everyone but Rahab and her family. One does not invoke Gideon and Rahab in this way if one is simply calling for religious revival, or seeking to advance a legislative agenda."

All this is reflective of "an alarming degree of militancy at a high level of American politics. ... [and] it is a bellwether of an ideological reorganization, or at least reconsideration, now taking place within the Christian Right."