Friday, May 1, 2009

Newt Rediscovering the Religious Right?

A while back, I made the observation that Newt Gingrich was courting the religious right and despite his claim that he would decide "later" whether he would run for president in 2012, Newt sure seemed to be doing so.

As time passes, we see more and more evidence that Newt is not only courting the religious right, but perhaps attempting to herd them into a possible following.

This June, Newt will be one of the religious right's special guests at a Pastor's Policy Briefing hosted by The Family Foundation, Pastors for Family Values and the Virginia Renewal Project. If you don't know the groups, you probably don't want to. If you do, Google is your friend.

The Title of the conference? Rediscovering God in America. It is not coincidental that Newt wrote a book by this title in 2006, and has produced a DVD by the same name (see trailer here).

And let's see, recognize any of these other religious right/political right wing names who are also speakers?
  • Historian David Barton (and here from 2005), self-taught historian oft considered a historical revisionist (probably the kindest of the charges), darling of the Christian evangelical wing and GOP (especially in Texas). Here's RightWingWatch on Barton.
  • Mike Huckabee, former AK Governor and 12-year Baptist preacher who came in second in the 2008 GOP primaries. In a speech 2008 speech given in Michigan, Huckabee supported amending the US Constitution to reflect God's Standards. (Vid. here, beginning moments of video.) It is fairly clear that Huckabee has his sights on 2012.
  • Bob McEwen, former GOP congressman from southern Ohio, former house ally of Newt, and caught up in the 1992 banking scandal.
  • Lou Engle, co founder of "TheCall", a third-wave charismatic movement, and participant in the film 2007 film Jesus Camp, can be seen here (video, Engle in the first 27 seconds in San Diego just days befor the November 4, 2008 election specifically to support passage of California Prop 8); and here (vid. at 0:59, a trailer to a documentary about the movement); and here from CNN on post election Prop 8 protests, see Lou Engle at 2:35); and here where Engle and others speak to "The Call", including a short statement by Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, and offshoot of Lou Dobb's Focus on the Family. Perkins was a state representative in Louisiana 1996-2004 and was alleged to have done business with David Duke, KKK, in the mid-90s (see wiki for allegation and refutation). Perkins has some interesting things to say about the Christian right's current relationship with the GOP here (US News and World Report, 01 May 2009). Perkins, an attorney, graduated from Liberty University (see Dr. Jerry Falwell, Jr., below).
  • Dr. Laurence White. Here's as good a description as any: Dr. Laurence L. White is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas for more than 25 years. Pastor White is a regular speaker for national pro-life, pro-family organizations like James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family,” D. James Kennedy’s “Reclaiming America,” Beverly Lahaye’s “Concerned Women for America,” and Tony Perkins’ “Family Research Council.” ... Dr. White also serves on the National Advisory Board of the Family Research Council. He is currently the Chairman of the Niemoller Project and the Texas Restoration project. In 1997, Pastor White was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree by Liberty University of Lynchburg, VA. in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the pro-life movement. ..
So, the question is, what is Newt, the spanking new Roman Catholic, doing suddenly hanging with a bunch of right wing evangelicals?

It seems pretty clear that he is trying to establish his creds with this bunch in advance of his 2012 run for president. The only way Newt stands a chance to win in 2012 is to have the blessing of this bunch in order to draw the evangelical vote.

Will it work? Who knows. She From the North is the darling of the populist and evangelical crowd, she herself being one, and it is hardly a coincidence that Gingrich has been downplaying (or should we say up-playing her lack of political experience and knowledge?) her readiness to run, though he has generally done this gently.

And even if Gingrich could manage to peel off evangelical support from another candidate, he most certainly cannot peel off support from evangelicals (and fundamentalists) who view Roman Catholicism as everything from apostate to the work of the devil and there are plenty of these folks out there [read here; here (a short video from Larry King Live with Albert Mohler, April 9, 2007); here (another short video from Larry King)].

These represent the rather "nice" differences. There are many that are far more harsh.

For many of you who read this site--many of us here tolerant of individual beliefs especially when they do not abandon secular civil rights for those who do not believe as we do--you can see the irony in all of this and it most certainly is not lost on those who believe that their religious views are the only correct or moral views and that laws must reflect their religious views. This, of course, is where some things come together, and some things fall apart.

During the fight on Prop 8, for instance, many leaders of various religious stripes, banded together to see Prop 8 pass and the literature and arguments were shared between them. They also band together on pro-fetus issues. They diverge on the issue of the death penalty and on many other topics.

So, I predict, Newt is in for a bumpy ride in the near future. And so are we. And, irony of ironies, so is God.