Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Religion and Politics: Strange Bedfellows

There are literally hundreds of print and electronic media outlets to consider when blogging.  Democrats from all around Duval County regularly scan multiple media platforms and sources and share their findings in an effort to stay abreast of breaking news, trends, movements, accusations, half-truths, misrepresentations and from time to time out-right lies.  Our goal is to increase awareness and encourage appropriate action through shining the spotlight of public awareness on any and all of the above goings-on.  Here's an interesting article by B.E. Wilson from Alternet.org that sounds the alarm for caution on religious personalities and their growing influence in conservative politics, their Party leadership, elected officials and candidates seeking office.  More of his writings and others can be viewed at www.alternet.org

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B. E. Wilson
(from Alternet.org)

Is God a Terrorist ? Meet Kansas Senator Sam Brownback’s Friend & Former Condo Mate, GOP’s New Prayer Leader Lou Engle

POSTED: 12:04 pm, May 17, 2010 19 COMMENTS

Among other things, TheCall Founder Lou Engle has predicted legalized abortion will lead to a second American civil war and written, “The ‘most dangerous terrorist’ is not Islam, but God. One of God’s names is ‘the avenger of blood.’ Have you worshipped that God yet?”

In early May the Kansas Democratic Party issued a press release calling on Sam Brownback to “denounce close advisor and former roommate [Lou Engle] for supporting execution of gays.”

Now the KDP has released a new 1 and 1/2 minute video, featuring footage I’ve posted over the past several months, concerning US Senator Sam Brownback’s alleged friendship with evangelist Lou Engle, who claims he and Senator Brownback lived together in a rented Washington DC condo for seven months.

The video calls on Brownback to denounce Engle. But this isn’t just about Engle and Brownback. As detailed below, based on the frequency with which he can be found in public appearances with leading Republican Party politicians, Lou Engle would seem to be the GOP’s new prayer leader and religious figurehead.

In the Kansas Democratic Party video Engle can be seen be seen at a December 2007 rally in Kansas City, at which he discussed God as the “avenger of blood,” asking his audience, including teens and young adults, “have you ever worshiped that aspect of God anytime lately?” A year and a half, Kansas late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was assassinated. Tiller’s wife said he considered himself a Christian martyr. Lou Engle’s TheCall events have featured calls for acts of Christian martyrdom to stop gay marriage and abortion.

On May 2nd, 2010, Lou Engle staged a rally in Kampala, Uganda, apparently in support of a bill in that country that would execute many gay Ugandans and impose an Orwellian anti-gay police surveillance state.

Meet the GOP’s new prayer leader

Lou Engle is not just any evangelist. He’s the Republican Party’s new unofficial prayer leader who could be found over the past year onstage with numerous nationally prominent GOP politicians. But, why ? The likely reason is that Engle is a prophet in a fast-rising new right of the Christian right that’s been almost wholly unnoticed by reporters and journalists purporting to cover politicized religion in America. But as detailed below, fellow leaders in Engle’s movement are already playing a significant role in American electoral politics. They claim to be both transforming entire African nations, whole US states such as Hawaii, and significant East Coast cities, including Newark, New Jersey.

Last December 2009 Engle led the Family Research Council’s Prayercast on Health Care Reform, a telecast event attended by GOP Senators Sam Brownback and Jim DeMint and Republican Congress members Michelle Bachmann and Randy Forbes. Lou Engle claims he was Kansas Senator Sam Brownback’s roommate for seven months, and his association with GOP politicians doesn’t stop there. During summer 2009 Engle blessed and anointed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

More recently, Engle led a session on “prayer and revival” at the April 2010 Freedom Federation ‘Awakening 2010′ conference at former Moral Majority head Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA. Attending the event were Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Congressman Randy Forbes, Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and Reagan Administration Undersecretary of Education Gary Bauer.

Media coverage of Lou Engle’s religious tendency has been almost nonexistent, and that’s striking given there’s evidence the movement has already fielded a vice presidential candidate and is now fielding one (and, adding Brownback, maybe even two) GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Meet the Next Christianity

As an introduction to historian Philip Jenkins’ 2002 Atlantic Magazine article The Next Christianity put it, “We stand at a historical turning point, the author argues—one that is as epochal for the Christian world as the original Reformation. Around the globe Christianity is growing and mutating in ways that observers in the West tend not to see.”

While Jenkins’ article suggested the momentous changes he rightly observed ongoing in world Christianity were erupting out of the global South, that wasn’t exactly true. The changes were to a considerable degree being driven by new theological ideas and new evangelizing techniques that were being exported from America, by American evangelicals.

In late 2009 a Boston-based think tank Political Research Associates report, by PRA Project Director Kapya Kaoma, accused American evangelicals of exporting their culture war agenda to Africa. There was considerable evidence for the accusation, but the report did not identify the specific religious tendency most aggressively involved.

Lou Engle belongs to a little known but rapidly emerging tendency within Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity that by 2000 was estimated to encompass 295 million Christians worldwide. Perhaps the leading super-denomination within this emergent tendency is the “New Apostolic Reformation.”, which seeks to radically restructure the faith by placing believers in pyramidal authority structures under its apostles and prophets. NAR founder C. Peter Wagner has declared his movement is leading a second Reformation.

Wagner’s movement, which mainly originated in North America, is now playing a leading role in the attack on the LGBTI community in Sub Saharan Africa and in many other areas around the globe. It splits the world into absolute good and absolute evil, teaches that its enemies, including homosexuals, are possessed by demons, and claims all other faiths are under demon influence. Its adherents practice exorcism and claim miracle healing of HIV and AIDS. They seek to disciple entire nations and extend Christian dominion over all sectors of society, with the end-time goal of creating a theocratic utopia by cleansing the Earth of perceived demon influence and unbelievers.

The movement uses cutting-edge PR and marketing techniques and media strategies. Its evangelizing techniques are derived both from coercive cult practices and proven church growth strategies. It espouses radical free market economics and opposes government provided social services. Its leaders claim their movement is the only block of Christianity growing faster than the world population and faster than Islam.

Apostles and prophets coming your way

While Lou Engle has received a fair amount of media over the last year, none of the mainstream media coverage has placed Engle within the evolving structure of the US religious right. Engle serves alongside Sarah Palin’s friend and prayer group leader Mary Glazier, as a prophet on the New Apostolic Reformation’s Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, a group of less than thirty, headed by Peter Wagner, which issues prophetic statements. Besides Engle and Glazier, another ACPE prophet is Bishop Harry Jackson, who has led recent efforts to ban gay marriage in the District of Columbia.

Also at the December 2009 Prayercast against Health Care Reform was pastor Jim Garlow, who leading up to the 2008 election played a major role networking and organizing evangelical pastors during the push for California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition Eight. Jim Garlow can frequently now be found at conferences held by Lou Engle’s movement, which is emerging as the new powerhouse of the Christian right.

Another major entity in the movement, besides the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders (ACPE), is the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA), a globally influential body of “apostles” run by Rick Warren’s dissertation adviser C. Peter Wagner, whose apostles and prophets have played a significant role in organizing and inspiring Ugandan Parliament members who have drafted, submitted, and backed Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Bill.

ICA apostles include Jim Ammerman whose chaplain endorsing agency controls 6-8 percent of the active duty chaplains in the US military. In September 2008 Ammerman printed a letter, in his official endorsing agency newsletter, that called for Democratic Senators Obama, Clinton, Dodd, and Biden to be executed for treason, for voting against a 2007 Senate bill that would have made English the official US language.

One of Ammerman’s former prominent chaplains, James Linzey, could be heard in 2005 and 2006 espousing an anti-semitic, white racialist conspiracy theory alleging an evil Jewish banker-controlled plot to send a wave of Mexican and Islamic killers into the American Southwest to alter America’s racial and ethnic makeup by raping all women and killing all adult and teen males.

Another ICA apostle is the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, who is President of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference, an association that claims to represent ten million Hispanic evangelicals and five million Hispanic charismatic Catholics in the United States.

Rodriguez, who has been dubbed the “Hispanic Karl Rove,” does not mince words. As he told a mega church audience in 2007,

“We have radical Muslims. Radical homosexuals. Radical abortionists. We need radical, born again, spirit filled Christians to arise ! Do you follow me ? We don’t need any sissy Christians, Oprah Winfrey Christians. We need prophetic, devil stomping, demon rebuking, blood washed, Bible believing, free-from-sin Christians !”

But Rodriguez can also take on such a PR-savvy, urbane demeanor he has been mistaken for a moderate or even slightly progressive evangelical and can travel in Democratic Party circles with ease and helped draft a major policy document, released in 2007 by the Democratic Party centrist group The Third Way, that purported to present a road map for moving America beyond the ongoing, contentious culture war battles over reproductive and gay rights.

Rise of The Rainbow Religious Right

At an October 2008 rally during the anti-gay marriage push in California Lou Engle stated that Hispanic voters were key to an electoral strategy that would turn California into a “pro-life” state. Declared Engle,

We believe that the Latinos are going to be a mighty force to turn America back to God. I am burning with a passion for the Latinos. Cindy Jacobs prophesied that California will be a pro-life state. The only way that will happen is MILLIONS of Latinos begin to understand that they can literally turn elections!

And that they can bring their fasting and prayer from South America and Latin America and not leave their prophetic fire at the border ! [applause] And bring it up into Texas and into Arizona and into California, to awaken some of the cold blood of the white folk.

Samuel Rodriguez is serving as point man for the New Apostolic Reformation’s strategy to capture Hispanic and African-American voters and although the movement’s interests do not always align with the Republican Party, in practice they tend to.

It’s an electoral force that couldn’t be fully tapped in the 2008 presidential election – many in this voting demographic who might otherwise have skewed towards the GOP were drawn to support Barack Obama. But Black and Hispanic evangelical voters played a significant role in passing California’s anti-gay marriage Proposition Eight, and it’s likely that the key wedge issues promoted by Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic movement, gay rights and abortion, will play an increasing role in upcoming elections not just in California but also in traditionally liberal East Coast cities, such as Newark.

ICA Apostle Rev. Bernard Wilks presides over a prayer initiative in Newark, New Jersey that claims to have one volunteer organizer for almost every street in the city. The volunteers are organized by city ward, as if PrayforNewark was a political campaign. Wilks’s church newsletters list “enemy identification” as one goal of the prayer effort.

Parent ministries for the PrayforNewark effort are Ed Silvoso’s Harvest Evangelism and International Transformation Network which are also working to “transform” the Sub-Saharan nation of Uganda and the US state of Hawaii. Silvoso’s ministries are also active in Jacksonville and Orlando, Florida, and in Baltimore, MD.

You can read more about this movement in the Alternet article:
Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America and also at this special Talk To Action resource section.

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