Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition: Five Republicans fight for the faith(ful) in Iowa

By Jacques Berlinerblau The 2012 Republican Presidential race for conservative Christian hearts and minds and votes got off to an … Continued

By Jacques Berlinerblau

The 2012 Republican Presidential race for conservative Christian hearts and minds and votes got off to an unbelievable start yesterday–really, I mean, beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of–when the ultra-Conservative, Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition hosted its 11th Annual Spring Kick off.

I hadn’t even pulled my Scofield Reference Bible down off the shelf when the evening’s MC, Gopal Krishna, was already lambasting the “weird and kinky lifestyles” that have become prevalent in our sinful nation.

The five presidential sort-of-hopefuls who showed up did not disappoint their audience at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa. Nor did warm-up speaker congressman Steve King who assured us “If we get the culture right the economy will be right eventually.” Nor did the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, who implied that it may be necessary to overthrow the American government (about which more anon).

Ladies and gentleman, the 2012 Faith and Values games have begun! Here are the major themes and storylines of the evening as I see them:

Meshing the Tea Party Agenda and the Evangelical Agenda: Well, that happened fast. In the run-up to the midterm elections most Republican candidates were (suspiciously) silent on the issues of abortion and gay marriage. Instead, the focus was on lowering taxes, reducing the size of government, taming the national debt, etc.

What was curious yesterday was how evangelical worldview and Tea Party bluster seamlessly coalesced. Nearly every one of the speakers managed to integrate anti-abortion themes with small government appeals.(Look at the platform of the Faith and Freedom Coalition to see the new hybrid in action).

But permit me a thought experiment: wouldn’t it take an awfully big, well-funded, and creepily invasive government to enforce penalties for crimes committed against unborn life, especially when life is understood to begin at the moment of conception?

Newt Gingrich Invokes Camus, Buddy Brings the Gumbo: A variety of rhetorical modes were on display. Former speaker of the House and holder of a doctorate, Newt Gingrich, sounded, well, professorial.

Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer, by contrast, could just as well have emerged from a gator-wrestling party in the bayou for all the drawling he did (e.g., “I am uh Church goin’ Methodist boy from a cotton-field in LouEEEsianAHHH.“)

As for Tim Pawlenty, he was handsome, but seething. If he wants to challenge no-show Mitt Romney who is not only handsome, but smooth and likable, he better blunt some of his edges. Rick Santorum was awfully sedate as he rehashed, oddly, an endless litany of Barbara Boxer inflected tales concerning abortion battles of yore.

Talk-radio host and businessman Herman Cain had the best rhetorical tools of the bunch, but failed to articulate any clear policy prescriptions that would move us from “the entitlement society to the empowerment society.”

Remember the Part in the Gospels Where Jesus Started Kung Fu Fighting?: Each of tonight’s speakers stressed that the nation is involved in a life-and-death battle for its very survival. In fact “fight” was one of the most commonly heard words tonight. Herman Cain warned: “The American dream is under attack, the good news is we’re fighting back. We are fighting back with our faith.” Roemer sighed that “The system is institutionally corrupt and people of faith have to come against the corruption.”

“We need to be a country that turns toward God,” declaimed Pawlenty,” not a country that turns away from God.” Gingrich spoke of the need for “a change so deep and so profound that nothing we have seen in our lifetime is comparable to the level of depth we have to go to get this country back on the right track.” Santorum urged his listeners to fight for their freedom.

A novice to Christianity might have walked away from this angry event thinking that this Jesus fellow was some sort of nunchuck wielding martial artist ever on the prowl for unions, liberals, gay people, and whatever unfortunate illegal immigrants might cross his path.

Reading the Constitution the Way Evangelicals Read the Bible: At least Mike Huckabee (who also did not show up tonight) had the honesty to admit back in 2008 that he viewed the Constitution as subservient to the Bible.

No such hierarchy was evident this evening. Speaker after speaker invoked the Bible, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as if they all unequivocally proffered explicit, full-throated, red-lettered, denunciations of entitlements, Planned Parenthood, and “ObamaCare.”

As a scholar of the Bible I find it fascinating, and alarming, that so many politicians (even Catholic ones such as Gingrich and Santorum) are reading the Constitution precisely the same way evangelicals read their Scriptures.

That is to say these conservative Christians believe that: 1) the Constitution is infallible and inerrant, 2) they can discern its “original intent,” 3) this original intent always synchronizes with their political worldview, and, 4) all other attempts to understand that original intent put forth since, let’s say, 1791 are misguided and perhaps satanic if they diverge from aforesaid political worldview.

Going into 2012, a great service that professors of law could render the lay public is to explain to them the absurdity of this interpretive strategy. I call upon conservative legal scholars, whose work I have always appreciated and learned from, to use their lecterns to stop the “originalist” or “strict constructionist” madness. The Constitution is not the Bible.

And the Winner Is? Hard to say, though Buddy Roemer (who seemed to speak twice as long as anyone else and somehow already looked exasperated by all of this campaigning) managed to not only articulate his views on the corrupting influence of money in politics, but establish his policy for campaign contributions (capping them at one hundred dollars and expecting no money from PACs).

Is Ralph Reed Beyond the Law?: I am all for expressive liberty but at what point does rhetoric veer into incitement to commit a crime? With the Declaration of Independence as his proof text (?) Reed reminded his audience of the possibility of “replacing the government by force.”

The Iowa branch of Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition website features a video urging and instructing pastors to preach politics from the pulpit and disobey the IRS’s 501 c3 clause. (See my interview on this subject here).

If an American Muslim cleric advocated taking over the government by force and disobeying the tax codes I think it is fairly certain and entirely understandable that a visit from a certain governmental agency would not be far behind.

We maintain this double standard at our own peril.

By Jacques Berlinerblau | 
March 8, 2011; 1:20 AM ET


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  • MacDonald1

    The evil writings in Leviticus 18:22 … against gays – depicts: “P” … “priestly rules” & expanded by the pope; homophobes and religious frauds … to attack the gay community and never meant to apply to the public — but to priests. Leviticus exists in the old testament & torah … & was written long after Moses — 600BC.How would you like it … if hate speech was directed to your brother or sister as you sat in the pew; spewed by some better than thou religious lunatic with a hateful black book about Leviticus — under his arm? The pope and churches fully aware that Leviticus 18:22 applies only to priests refuse to remove this stigma maliciously persecuting gays. Kids bullied into suicide …! Being black or left-handed or being gay is just as natural.It is written; so therefore it shall be? We are the chosen people? Such a wicked fantasy. To see the religious lunatics manipulate government and our lives is shameful. According to biblical law, a father can sell his daughter as a slave.

  • MacDonald1

    Bibles and the torah which includes leviticus 18:22 — should be immediately banned … for promoting hatred against minorities … namely the gay community and the crosses removed from all schools and churches.The Right Honourable Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien told the Vatican that there was to be no cross erected over the Canadian Parliament buildings figuratively speaking; when the Pope demanded the Prime Minister go against gay rights. An Alberta bishop had the audacity to say that The Canadian Prime Minister would go to hell for going against the church. Such outrageous evil threats. The Right Honourable Prime Minister in return; basically told the Pope to go to Hell! The Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canadian Minister of Justice, stood for equal rights for the gay community. With reference to protecting the children: The Honourable Hedy Fry, member of the Canadian Liberal Parliament, who happens to be a doctor who delivered many babies; spoke eloquently to defend the rights of babies being born and stated that she was in fact defending their rights by speaking on behalf of equal rights for the children and youth of the future — defending their integrity and dignity.One should appreciate each day of life and not expect another.By enjoying their tax exempt status and benefits from the state it also puts churches at the mercy of the state; to be forced to adhere to the human rights laws. Religion is thriving like a cancerous growth on society that should be stopped in its tracks; outlawed & banned.

  • MacDonald1

    Tell them to take that cross and shove it where the sun don’t shine and pay their taxes along the way before they take that cross down forever with its final station; extinction. Einstein stated in a letter recently auctioned that the bible was a collection of primitive legends. He said believing in God was childish and he as a Jew is no different than another person and are not chosen by God. Do you want to be lambs at the slaughter or be wise and reject religious cultist manipulation? Mean & nasty; run by evil and bogus religious cults from Rome or wherever. Is this the world you want? The pope talks about ending prejudice and hate; what a hypocrite! Religion is a crutch for the insecure.

  • MacDonald1

    A special compliment to the Parents … Mothers , Fathers and other family members who have stood up for their sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who may be facing identity issues as they enter their teens … possibly being bullied; when in fact being gay or bi is totally natural. Alan Turing broke the code for the enigima machine in World War II and was gay and was persecuted by religious lunatics – and he committed suicide. Prime Minister Brown recently apologized on behalf of the UK.

  • jack824

    This tawdry group is to Christianity what the 9/11 bombers were to Islam – miscreants who use the faith as a cover for hateful positions and actions they could not otherwise defend. To see five of these “leaders” willing to deny a minority basic rights in exchange for a few votes is sickening. When thrice married Gingrich and scandal-ridden, insurrection-baiting Ralph Reed are supposed to be exemplars of Christianity, and the message of the church has been twisted into hate, the faith is in serious trouble. We are losing young members whose image of Christianity is more anti-abortion, anti-gay rights than the Beatitudes.

  • bzig

    What a bunch of hypocrites. They condemn every other country in the world that uses religious supression and then strive to do the same here. I do not subscribe to their bibiliical views and never will. We were founded on the principals of Democracy and a good number of the founding fathers were tolerant but against religious control. Ergo separation of church and state. They really need to go back into their darkened rooms and carry on and leave the sane progressive “thinking” people to move this country forward not back.

  • andy1776

    The amount of hypocrisy in these comments is astounding. Claims that religions incite hatred, intolerance, and violence may very well be true. I personally don’t think so, but that’s my subjective opinion. Calling for bans of religions material, because they encourage hatred or violence, is quite possibly the most hypocritical thing I have been exposed to this week. How are bans enforced? With force and violence. You don’t evolve as a society by forcing people to think like you. Indeed, it shows just how myopic the scope of these solutions are. You lead by example, and let the people make their own mistakes. Ever hear of tyranny by the majority? Its why our founding fathers structured our government as a Republican Democracy. To protect the people from these “solutions” that are just as authoritarian and fascist as the ideas they claim to fight.Also, China’s really good about banning religions. People just vanish from what I understand. That’s humane right? Its not like they’re killed or anything. Anyone that calls for banning anything, needs to move to china. They’ll be appreciated there.Ron Paul 2012!

  • FRAGOFRAGO

    Be very afraid if these ayatollahs of morality take power. They would bring us back two millennia with their antiquated views and Bronze Age beliefs.

  • abbydelabbey

    The last thing I want in an elected official is someone from the righteous right. I am a Christian but find the pontificating and self-righteous hypocrisy as an un-Christlike as can be. (For example, Gingrich alone has a habit of dumping wives, especially if they’re sick.)

  • marley31

    This article sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch where even before they finish they start laughing at the absudity of what they are saying.

  • IN_IT_WE_TRUST

    .

  • IN_IT_WE_TRUST

    Oooppps. Last time.Mr. MACDONALD1 et al:WE[i] APOCALYPTARIAN(s) Welcome Ye & Yo on Board [NEBULA-BUILT; nay Biblical-Built] SPACE-0SHIP EARTH(s)! So,REJOICE [Queerian] Brethrens & Sisters! ANDda Good News is; That since WE[i] & YE & YO art all “Automatic Born Citizens/Denizen’s” of THIS Holyi (nay biblio Cursed nor biblio born’th in their sin’th stories) Space-Ship Earth , aka S/S/ GEOID, S.S. GAEA, S.S. TELLUSng something, S.S. Blu-dot etc.. THATWELCOME ON BOARD [HU{MATE] on this MIRACLE holyi-made-SHIP/PLANET of OUR’s (not Theirs, not the Eviljealousicals & Pre-Apocalyptic like minded’s) Thus Ye & Yo’s art potentially APOCALYPTARIAN(s), aka potential EKLAHTi-ON’s (nay Off’s anymore).! Or simply, and Not-Any-Simpler, EXPLANATION: similarly situated as Rabbi JEZUES by his Handlers, had Beaten his Disciples, and Threw Him & them into Hidden Places//Dungeons//Prisons & Abused, Laughed at… lalala, hahaha…, In AMERICA! YESIn America, by Them EVILJEALOUSICAL’s (includes Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Pagans..) that Ye & Yo’s art Cryin about! Note: CHUCK COLSON, from “Prison Fellowship Ministries” et al Knows Exactly What i{WE} art Sayin! Because They Tried To STOP US! Stop the EC{LATARIAN or APOCALYPTARIAN FAITH, a Belief, like a Religion, yet Better! ANDThem same SATANIC VERUS Lovers (not only Appliesto Ishlami’s) fanatics, today Evily Stole some of our Works/Scripture, as if Theirs, to Modernize Their Pre-Apocalyptic System(s) based on GODLY Jealousy & more Nauseating “(KIDs) Stories” as our other prophet, Albert Einstein & CO. {pbuh} would iterate. OYEvay!Note: Soon it will be proven (what them Preachers, aka PS: According to our Prophet (MAHDI..) The

  • davivman

    It is rhetoric like this blog post that makes it so hard to have real conversations. What is the purpose for a post like this? Is it to humiliate conservatives until they acknowledge how stupid they are? Is it to make liberals feel good about themselves knowing that they are so much better than those silly conservatives?We live in a country whose inhabitants harbor a wide variety of opinions on how things ought to be. I understand that it is incredibly inconvenient to have to interact with people that don’t see things the way that we do. Some of these people don’t even have the good sense to realize that their views are different than our own and keep those views quiet. On the contrary, many of these dolts broadcast these views emphatically with no shame whatsoever.It may not be easy to treat other people with respect especially when you really don’t like what they do or when those other people do not treat you with respect. However it is still the right thing to do.

  • jpk1

    Thank you Professor Berlinerblau.The facts have never been this movement’s friends, and they’d like us to ignore that, but I decline, and I thank you for doing likewise.

  • Sara121

    “You don’t evolve as a society by forcing people to think like you. … Ever hear of tyranny by the majority?”Quite so. Which is exactly why everyone should be suspicious when anyone in a religious majority feels comfortable forcing his religious opinions onto other people through legislation.”…in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass upon the rights of the minority.”Because Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and viceregents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: …more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents…”Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? …”If ‘all men are by nature equally free and independent,’ all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all they are to be considered as retaining an ‘equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of Conscience. Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. …”During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil Society. propose a restoration of this primitive State in which its Teachers depended upon the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall. On which Side ought their testimony to have the greatest weight, when for, or when against their interest?”Excerpts from James Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessment. There is much, much more.

  • ZenLover

    Davivman wrote:

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