The Travesty of the Texas Evangelical Summit: And Four Lessons It Teaches

We all know the outlines of the story.  Alarmed by the increasing likelihood that Mitt Romney would top the GOP ticket for 2012, several conservative evangelical leaders — James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, Donald Wildmon, head of the American Family Association, and Gary Bauer, former president of the Family Research Council — hosted a meeting of the evangelical old guard at the home of Judge Paul Pressler in Texas.  Before the meeting, invitees were asked by Wildmon whether, if the group coalesced around a particular candidate, they would be willing to put aside their individual preferences and support the candidate that emerged.  Each of the remaining candidates had a surrogate who made his case.  After several rounds of voting, the group voted 85-29 to support former Senator Rick Santorum.

All attendees were to refrain from commenting on the meeting for 24 hours afterward.  Tony Perkins — whom I like, by the way — was designated as the group’s spokesperson.  Let’s review what has happened since then:

  • Predictably, the spin war for presidential campaigns could not wait 24 hours. Campaign surrogates and other attendees were leaking like sieves well before 24 hours had passed, trying to shape the way in which the meeting and its outcome were framed.  Not exactly a sterling representation of Christian character.
  • Perkins described the outcome of the meeting as an “endorsement” of Santorum. Whether he misspoke, or whether they had never clarified the right language to use, the Gingrich campaign swiftly objected, and Perkins was forced to walk back that language.
  • Red State’s Erick Erickson, who attended (now he’s an evangelical leader?), slammed the Perry surrogate for being unprepared and the Romney camp for calling everyone bigots.  Erickson (just trying to be helpful, of course) advised the media to write about the Texas conclave that “Romney will probably become the nominee…with even less good feelings between evangelicals and him than John McCain had.”  Consistent with his behavior so far in this election cycle, this was again a terrible misrepresentation of what happened.  There was an appeal to avoid the kind of anti-Mormonism or mean-spiritedness that was evident from the likes of Robert Jeffress at the Values Voters Summit, but Team Romney did not “accuse them [those in attendance] of being anti-Mormon bigots.”  That said, one can hardly blame the Romney camp for being unenthused about a meeting whose implicit — but very clear — purpose was to rally behind someone not-Romney.
  • David Neff, editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, evangelicalism’s most storied publication, criticized the Texas gathering for “playing kingmaker and power-broker.” The implications here are pretty scathing: “When evangelicals are confined to a partisan kennel, it is easy to think we are exercising real power. In fact we are, to use the old Soviet phrase, serving as ‘useful idiots.’ Christianity Today founder Billy Graham discovered this had happened to him. Out of an abundance of enthusiasm and good will, he tried to aid Richard Nixon in his campaign. Later, when the Watergate transcripts revealed the true Nixon, Graham realized he had been used.”
  • News leaks that Dobson, after praising Santorum’s wife to the high heavens (and she does sound wonderful), referred derisively to Calista Gingrich as “a woman who had been a man’s mistress for eight years.”  While his statement is true, it’s hardly winsome to condemn a candidate’s wife for her sexual history, and it’s another example of how different camps are leaking details from the meeting to serve their own purposes.
  • Worst of all (or maybe not), it’s not clear that the non-endorsement from the Texas gathering will really make much difference, as Gingrich, not Santorum, is the one who has closed on Romney since the meeting. It’s possible that the leaders in attendance (and not everyone in attendance was really a leader) have not yet fully mobilized their resources and their constituencies, or that the effect has not yet registered in polls.  But so far, Santorum’s support in South Carolina has barely moved a blip.

In short, the meeting’s been a public relations nightmare for conservative evangelicals, and it’s not clear that it accomplished anything whatsoever.  From the above, I take the following lessons:

  1. If you jump into the middle of a food-fight, you’re going to get slimed. What’s especially irritating about this whole story, for someone who cares about the reputation of conservative evangelicalism, as I do, is how predictable this was.  Of course the campaigns are going to leak selectively and fight over what the meeting meant — and your rules and reputations will be collateral damage.
  2. The older generation of evangelical activists don’t have the influence they once did.  As a former strong-willed child, and father to a strong-willed child, I have a lot of gratitude for the ministry of James Dobson.  I also have a lot of respect for those who fight for the causes of life and family within our political structures.  Those are critical things.  But as several attendees noted, the crowd was quite old and gray.  This is not because — as Erickson said — younger evangelical leaders have abandoned politics.  It’s because (a) their approach to political and social change is different, and because (b) they’re less alarmed by the prospect of a Romney presidency (more on this below, #4).  Many young evangelical thought-leaders are pursuing social change through cultural instead of political channels, and even those who work in political channels are seeking to move conversations rather than elect conservative saviors.  Rather than choose a single “evangelical-approved” candidate, make the moral case to all candidates in all parties and move all the candidates toward your point of view.  Move the whole darn conversation.
  3. The older generation of evangelical activists are victims of their own success.  The truth is, the Dobson generation (and Robertson and Falwell and D. James Kennedy and…) did succeed in moving the conversation.  The current crop of GOP candidates is testament to their influence.  There is not a single pro-choice candidate; there is not a single candidate who favors gay-marriage (though some think it’s a state issue).  Each of the candidates has attended Faith and Freedom Coalition events and spent many hours interacting with evangelicals, hearing their concerns, and sharing their views.  This is a massive victory for the evangelical old guard, but they want to go further and choose the GOP nominee.  They need to understand where their role as ministers and Christian educators stops, and where they could only move forward by becoming political organizers and forfeiting their religious authority.
  4. The younger generation of evangelical leaders are not feeling the same anti-Romney hysteria as their elders.  Evangelicalism is a differentiated entity.  Rick Santorum won the evangelical vote in Iowa (32% compared to Romney’s 14%) but Romney won the evangelical vote in New Hampshire (31% to 23%).  Northeastern evangelicals are more inclined to support Romney.  While I haven’t seen any statistical study of this, my experience suggests that younger evangelicals too are more inclined to support him, or less inclined to view his Mormonism as a problem.  I know several young evangelical leaders who were invited to attend the Texas meeting, but declined because they supported Romney and felt no need to unite behind a non-Rom.  Of the most ardent despisers of Romney (and I deal with many), I would say 3-to-1 are over the age of 50.  Younger evangelicals are also less bothered by the prospect of a Mormon in the White House.  They know more Mormons, they’ve interacted with Mormons as co-belligerents against abortion and gay marriage, and they appreciate Mormon family values.

Such, at least, are the lessons I take from the Texas meeting and the shambles it’s become afterward.  I have great respect for many who attended.  But I don’t think the meeting was a wise decision in the first place, and I think it represents a way of seizing political power that’s fraught with problems.  Change the culture and make a prophetic case to the whole political structure; tell people why you prefer the candidate you do; but when you become a partisan political organizer, you forfeit a lot of the religious authority you possess.  This is why I think it’s important to keep Christian political leaders, and Christian religious leaders, separate.

About Timothy Dalrymple

Timothy Dalrymple was raised in non-denominational evangelical congregations in California. The son and grandson of ministers, as a young boy he spent far too many hours each night staring at the ceiling and pondering the afterlife.
 
In all his work he seeks a better understanding of why people do, and do not, come to faith, and researches and teaches in religion and science, faith and reason, theology and philosophy, the origins of atheism, Christology, and the religious transformations of suffering

  • http://firstthings.com Joe Carter

    The younger generation of evangelical leaders are not feeling the same anti-Romney hysteria as their elders.

    Why is that? Do they not care about truth or integrity? The problem with Romney is not that he is a Mormon, but that he appears not to have any core political convictions. He position on abortion, for example, has changed depending on his political needs (at one time he claimed to be pro-life while still advancing the pro-choice cause). The man has no qualms about lying to people if he thinks it will help him get elected.

    Why this doesn’t bother everyone—especially young evangelicals—is an absolute mystery to me.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Can you be more specific about the “at one time” you’re referring to, Joe?

      If I believed he had no core political convictions, I would be quite concerned. I don’t, so I’m not, at least on that score. I wrote a bit about the abortion issue here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2011/12/31/an-open-letter-to-the-romney-skeptic/ There’s more to it, of course, when you get into all the little backs and forths of each issue. But I’ve found his actions since his conversion to the pro-life position to be consistent with that position, in the midst of an environment that punished him for it thoroughly.

      • http://firstthings.com Joe Carter

        Tim,

        In your post to Romney skeptics, you say:

        Now, if you were actually, secretly pro-choice, and wanted to be an effective Governor of a blue state, and then change your views on abortion in order to situate yourself for an eventual Presidential run, wouldn’t you wait until later in your Governorship? Wouldn’t you wait until after you’ve dealt with some of the most nettlesome life issues? . . . So, wouldn’t you proclaim yourself pro-life but open to stem-cell research and the morning-after pill?

        To the first question, their was no conflict since Romney admitted that while he was personally pro-life, he would still uphold pro-abortion laws (see quote below). To the second question, “wouldn’t you proclaim yourself pro-life but open to stem-cell research” . . . well, that’s exactly what he did:

        “Some stem cells today are obtained from surplus embryos from in-vitro fertilization. I support that research, provided that those embryos are
        obtained after a rigorous parental consent process that includes adoption as an alternative.” (Mitt Romney, Op-Ed, “The Problem With The Stem Cell Bill,” The Boston Globe, 3/6/05)

        But I’ve found his actions since his conversion to the pro-life position to be consistent with that position, in the midst of an environment that punished him for it thoroughly.

        He has not been consistent. That was made clear during his first run for the presidency. Let’s look at the facts:

        Romney says he “simply changed his mind” on abortion after a Nov. 9, 2004, meeting with an embryonic-stem-cell researcher who said he didn’t believe therapeutic cloning presented a moral issue because the embryos were destroyed at 14 days. ‘It hit me very hard that we had so cheapened the value of human life in a Roe v. Wade environment that it was important to stand for the dignity of human life,’ Romney says.” (Karen Tumulty, “What Romney Believes,” Time, 5/21/07)

        Romnney supposedly had this “epiphany” in Nov. 2004. But six months later he admitted that he as fine with killing embryos:

        FOX’s CHRIS WALLACE: “[S]pecifically, you don’t see, as I understand it,
        the use of these leftover embryos in fertility clinics as destroying life?”

        ROMNEY: “That’s right. I believe that when a couple gets together and decides that they want to bring a child into the Earth, and they go to a fertility clinic to do so, and if they’re going to be through that process a leftover embryo or two, that they should be able to decide whether to preserve that embryo for future use or to destroy it; to have it put up for adoption or potentially to be used for research and experimentation, hopefully leading to the cure of disease. And so for me, that’s where the
        line is drawn. Those surplus embryos from fertility clinics can be used for research.” (Fox’s “Fox News Sunday,” 5/22/05)

        A few days later he he said: “I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice and so far I’ve been able to successfully do that and my personal philosophical views about this issue is not something that I think would do anything other than distract from what I think is a more critical agenda …” (Mitt Romney, Press Conference, 5/27/05)

        So he has an “epiphany” that killing embryos is morally wrong. Yet he comes out in support of killing embryos and doesn’t plan to impose his “personal view” to stand up for the pro-life cause.

        Of course two years later, he flat-out lied about his record: “You don’t have to take my word for it. You can look at what I did as a governor. And as a governor I came down on the side of life.” (Fox News’ “Hannity &
        Colmes,” 5/7/07)

        And also: CNN’s JOHN ROBERTS: “Even though you were effectively pro-choice?” ROMNEY: “You know, as governor, all the decisions I made as governor and all the bills that came to my desk were – I came down on the side of life. So when I ran for office, I was effectively pro- choice. I didn’t call myself pro-choice, but I said I would keep the law the way it was. But the first time as governor that I saw a piece of legislation that dealt with life, I came down on the side of life.” (CNN’s “American
        Morning,” 6/18/07)

        He can’t even keep his story straight:

        Romney In South Carolina, January 29, 2007: “Over the last multiple years, as you know, I have been effectively prochoice . . . I never called myself that as a label but I was effectively pro-choice and that followed a personal experience in my extended family that led to that conclusion.”

        Romney In South Carolina, February 8, 2007: “I am firmly pro-life … I was always for life.” (Jim Davenport, “Romney Affirms Abortion Opposition During Stop In SC,” The Associated Press, 2/8/07)

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I don’t have too much time at the moment, but thanks for the response. A quick point or two:

          1. So, prior to his conversion in 2004, Mitt was personally against abortion but did not believe the government should make it illegal. He believed it was a moral matter, a matter of conscience, not the role of government. This, as you probably know, was related to an experience of seeing a dear relative die from an illegal abortion in the 1960s. It was a part of his family history, and shaped the view of his mother, and he shared that view until 2004. So, that’s just background, which you presumably know.

          2. With regard to the first question I posed, you say there’s no conflict. But there is. He went from being effectively pro-choice (personally pro-life but pro-choice on the role of government) to being effectively pro-life. If you don’t think this presented all sorts of problems for him as Governor of Massachusetts, then, well, you’re just hugely incorrect. Mitt was reviled as a pro-lifer by the Left in the state, and very much despised for changing his views. He “promised” that he would enforce the rules on the books and not seek to overturn them. He technically fulfilled that promise (as I’ll explain below, and as he notes in one of your quotations). But the people of Massachusetts thought they were getting someone who would never let his personal pro-life views shape his policies. They did not get that. And they were pissed.

          3. Whether leftover embryos that will not be adopted, which are bound for destruction anyway, ought to be made available for medical research, is a matter over which pro-lifers can disagree. They will either be destroyed in the process of research or destroyed in the process of disposal. Did he make the right decision in this case? I don’t know. I don’t like the idea of this kind of research, but I understand he’s trying to balance the good of research, and the potential benefits that could flow from that, with pro-life principles. Like Bush, he was not going to permit the creation of embryos for the purpose of research/destruction; but he tried to find a way to work with what was already there, not created specifically for this purpose, but bound for destruction otherwise. And again — as someone who was there in Massachusetts at the time — the state clearly perceived him to be taking a pro-life stance, and gave him hell for it. The rest of the state certainly did see him as standing up for a pro-life cause.

          But unless you’re going to pass a law that all leftover embryos in fertility clinics must be adopted, a law that is not on the books anywhere in the United States, and which would be unpractical in any case, then you’re going to be dealing with the destruction of embryos one way or another. Now, maybe evangelicals and Mormons should come out against fertility clinics and the processes that result in leftover embryos. I don’t think that evangelicals or Mormons have fully thought through the implications of a culture of life for fertility and contraception issues. But Mitt’s consistent with the majority Protestant position on that, and I won’t throw him out of the pro-life camp for deciding, recently after his conversion (I don’t know what his view on this is now), that it would be better for embryos bound for destruction to be destroyed through research that could potentially help (we were told) solve our most tenacious diseases.

          4. You cite something in which Mitt says he is still keeping his “promise” of not upsetting the status quo on the basis of his personal convictions. Mitt himself will say that there was a time period after his conversion on the life issue when he was still working through what it meant. But I don’t think that’s the point here. His promise was that he would execute the laws that were on the books. Pro-life governors in states with pro-choice laws face this issue all the time. Heck, every President since Roe v. Wade has had to permit, and protect the act of, abortion, regardless of his personal views on the matter. Mitt’s sometimes criticized for not ignoring the rulings of the SJC on gay marriage, or the earlier rulings on payment for abortion — but this is special pleading against him. The executives execute; that’s their Constitutional role. And to be consistent here, we’d have to ask every pro-life President (or any politician with power in this area) since Roe v. Wade why he or she hasn’t defied the Supreme Court order and refused to countenance Roe. When Mitt was coming into power on Beacon Hill, he promised that he would execute the laws that were on the books, and would not seek to overturn them. That’s in fact what he did. He took pro-life positions on NEW laws, but he did not attempt to overturn pro-choice laws that were already on the books — attempts that would have failed in any case, given an 85-87% Democrat legislature. So it was technically true that he hadn’t gone back on his promise — but I also get leery of small quotations pulled out of context.

          So this, as I understand it, is why he sees himself as acting in a consistently pro-life manner ever since his conversion to a personally-and-effectively pro-life position. He didn’t see the choice to permit research on leftover embryos that were bound for destruction as a pro-choice position.

          5. With regard to your last two quotations: I’m not sure where the first one comes from, but in the second he’s presumably referring to being personally pro-life, as he always has been. Given two snippets, without context, I’m assuming that’s what he’s talking about. With the first quotation (again, seeing this out of context, snipped up), Mitt referred to being “personally pro-life” as being “effectively pro-choice” (this is not uncommon language in the pro-life movement, or even outside, as John Robert’s question shows), so presumably he’s referring to the years prior to his conversion, and his position of being “personally pro-life but effectively pro-choice” came about through the death of a beloved relative from an illegal abortion in the 1960s. But come on, he’s been clear multiple times, and he was clear multiple times between 2004-2007, that he was no longer “effectively pro-choice.” Clearly the charitable interpretation is that he misspoke, not that he “can’t even keep his story straight.”

          Finally, again, knowing plenty of people who know Mitt, and who have discussed these things with him many times, I can tell you that they have complete confidence that he is sincerely pro-life. He will nominate pro-life judges, and he wants to pass a law protecting pain-capable babies in utero. I think that would be a great step. Whether my assurance or my friends’ confidence (and my trust of my friends) has any credit with you, of course I don’t know. But it’s my observations of Mitt’s years as governor, my attempts to get into the nitty-gritty of his record and why he stood up against the liberal establishment in Massachusetts that wanted full freedom for embryonic stem cell research, and my informed trust of my friends that makes me confident he’d defend unborn life in the White House.

          • http://firstthings.com Joe Carter

            Whether leftover embryos that will not be adopted, which are bound for destruction anyway, ought to be made available for medical research, is a matter over which pro-lifers can disagree.

            Actually, no, I don’t think it is a point on which pro-lifers can disagree. If someone is on death row we can’t kill them to take their organs. Nor do we kill someone—even if they are in the dying process—because it might benefit medical research.

            But I’ll set that argument aside and focus on Romney. The point is that his supposed “epiphany” was that it was wrong to kill embryos for research. Yet six months later he was saying that there were circumstances in which it was fine to kill embryos for research.

            Why the change? Did the “epiphany” not stick?

            my informed trust of my friends that makes me confident he’d defend unborn life in the White House.

            Maybe so. But we don’t need someone who will grudgingly defend unborn life. We need someone who is dedicated to the cause. That isn’t Romney.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Not to *kill* embryos for research, but to use embryos that are being killed for research. And again, I don’t know what his current position on this issue is.

            Did I say “grudgingly”? No.

  • http://www.debatingobama.blogspot.com Gregmetzger

    Much to affirm in what you have said. Nice perspective. I wish you had also rebuked the effort some are engaged in to blame the vote on Catholic chicanery. I also disagree that the old Religious Right folk “advanced the conversation” very much. Their adoption of culture war model was more damaging than any litmus test power they were able to assert, IMHO.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Can you say more about the Catholic chicanery, Greg?

  • Kubrick’s Rube

    This is somewhat off-topic, but:

    “Tony Perkins — whom I like”

    This is disappointing. Though I don’t agree much with any of the leaders at the Texas summit, I strive to give most of them the benefit of the doubt that they are sincere and arguing in good faith. But with Perkins’s consistent and egregious disdain for the Ninth Commandment, he loses that presumption and the respect that goes with it.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Tony’s is a nice guy. I believe he’s acting in good faith on his convictions. I didn’t say that I agree with him on everything, or that I would not sometimes criticize him on things. But I do like him.

      -Tim

      • Basil

        How can you like someone who is the head of hate group? Among many other things, Perkins has repeatedly claimed on TV that gay men are pedophiles. His director of “Policy Studies”, Peter Sprigg, makes similar claims, and also advocates “exporting homosexuals” from the us, and calls for criminal penalties to be reintroduced against homosexuals.

        These are neo-Nazi type positions. He’s not a “nice guy”. At the very least, he’s bearing false witness.

        Do you share these positions?

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I realize these are tough matters to talk about, and it’s perfectly understandable to be deeply impassioned about them. But I still think we have to represent each other’s opinions honestly and fairly. Perkins has not said that gay men are pedophiles. From what I’ve seen, Perkins and FRC typically clarify very specifically that they’re not claiming that all — or even most — homosexuals are pedophilic. They say there’s an “overlap,” or that homosexual men are more likely to have sex with under-18 boys than heterosexual men are to have sex with under-18 girls (in other words, there is a higher proportion of pedophilia amongst gay men than amongst heterosexual men). Is that true? I don’t really know. I have no interest in defending it, since I haven’t really looked at the evidence for and against. It’s an empirical question. But even if it were true, I could think of any number of reasons why it might be true (ideals of beauty, different plausibility structures in different cultures, greater opportunity, a tendency in general for society to look less negatively at adult sex with underage males (as opposed to females) that would have nothing to do with the relative virtues and vices of heterosexuals and homosexuals.

          As for criminal penalties for adult homosexual behavior, or expulsion from the country, no, of course I don’t support those positions. I’ve not seen anything suggesting that those are the official positions of the FRC, and I’ve not seen the specific cases with Sprigg you’re referring to. Do you have links for me?

          I suspect this response will upset you, even though I’m not defending those claims. Perkins comes from a very different thought-world than you do. The cultures you occupy are about as different as American and Afghan culture, and it takes a lot of effort to understand one another. I think it’s worth the effort, though.

          -Tim

          • John Haas

            And, which are the Afghans?

            As for this: “. . . a tendency in general for society to look less negatively at adult sex with underage males (as opposed to females). . .” I simply must ask, what on earth are you talking about?

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            For instance, when a teacher has sex with a 15-year-old boy, we respond less negatively than when a teacher has sex with a 15-year-old girl.

          • Kubrick’s Rube

            “I’ve not seen anything suggesting that those are the official positions of the FRC, and I’ve not seen the specific cases with Sprigg you’re referring to. Do you have links for me?”

            Links tend to get my comments delayed, but both of the following are from rightwingwatch.org:

            February 2010:

            Matthews: Do you think we should outlaw gay behavior?

            Sprigg: Well I think certainly…

            Matthews: I’m just asking you, should we outlaw gay behavior?

            Sprigg: I think that the Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas which overturned the sodomy laws in this country was wrongly decided. I think there would be a place for criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior.

            Matthews: So we should outlaw gay behavior?

            Sprigg: Yes.

            And in March 2008, in response to the Uniting American Families Act:

            Sprigg: I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Thanks, Basil.

          • Kubrick’s Rube

            As for Perkins’s empirical claim, it’s false:

            “In fact, a 1995 study released by the American Psychological Association found that “gay men are no more likely than heterosexual men to perpetrate child sexual abuse”; the argument that homosexuals are overrepresented in such cases is based on what John Hopkins University psychiatrist Frederick Berlin has described as the “flawed assumption” that men who abuse young boys are also attracted to grown men.”

            But even if it were true, it’s base demagoguery to proclaim group level tendencies as an argument to deny the vast majority of the individuals within that group equal rights.

            For example, if somehow equal rights for Christians (or religious people in general) became an open question, would you consider it a good faith, honest argument for anti-Christian bigots to point out the disproportionate Christian prison population?

            In response to important policy questions, Perkins consistently offers dangerous non-sequiturs based on long-debunked myths.

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            They do reply to this objection, KR. Again, I’m not going to defend it right here, because that’s not my point. But this is very directly addressed on their website — which tells me that either you haven’t read their own defenses of their viewpoints, or the scientific literature they cite, or that you’re not able to hear what they’re saying. Which, to be honest, I would find perfectly understandable.

            Is the prison population disproportionately Christian? It’s an empirical question that would interest me.

          • Basil

            I would reply, but your spam filter doesn’t like me. I’ll try not to take it personally

          • Timothy Dalrymple

            Sorry about that, Basil. I need to change the settings. I’ll look into it.

          • Basil

            Here is a good explanation of why Perkins and his ilk are bearing false witness:

            http://youtu.be/sV5PbrTySxY

          • Basil

            Don’t worry about it Tim. I was probably too verbose. Anyways, the youtube clip from Rob Tisinai is a more terse way to present the points I was trying to write out for you. Conflating gays and pedophiles may be politically satisfying, but mostly it is just a great way to protect pedophiles from scrutiny because everyone is busy playing “smear the queer”. Just ask the Catholic Church hierarchy.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        (sorry for responding up here; the thread below got too narrow to post)

        “Is the prison population disproportionately Christian?”

        It’s a claim I’ve seen a number of times, but looking into it now, the one source that keeps getting cited (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 1997) is dubious. I can’t even find a link to the original report, just stories about the story, so that’s a pretty huge red flag.

        I wanted to use an example that wasn’t loaded and ended up with one that’s likely not true. Sorry about that.

        “They do reply to this objection”

        The APA’s objection to their statistics or my objection to its relevance? I read their response to the APA’s position, and while I don’t think it’s particularly strong (redefining legal and psychological terms to meet their conclusions and misrepresenting other people’s studies), I’m more interested in an explanation of why the majority of LGBT individuals should be punished for the crimes of the few, which I haven’t seen addressed on their site.

        It’s funny. I wasn’t thinking of the pedophile link when I started this thread derail but a number of specific statements Perkins has said over the years. I’ll give some brief examples later.

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        Here are some examples of Tony Perkins’s lies, mischaracterizations and misrepresentations from the last year or so. There are plenty others that would require a few paragraphs of explanations and debunking (so are probably more pernicious); but for now here are some straightforward ones:

        “This year promises to be one of challenges for Christians as the Obama administration continues to destroy religious freedom in America.”

        “This administration has an extensive record of hostility toward Christianity.”

        “I have no doubt, as you look back over the last two and a half of years of this administration, that the President has used his bully pulpit, he has done public policy but beyond the public policy that he’s pushed for, its created an atmosphere that is hostile toward Christianity. And we’re seeing this played out all across this culture and the courts have been emboldened by this and now you see the military doing it as well. There’s no end to this as long as you have someone who is the Commander-in-Chief who is the president of this country that has a disdain for Christianity.”

        “I mean, days after this is signed into law…we have chaplains being ordered, or at least given the permission and of course we know what that means it means they’ll be pressured, to do same-sex weddings on military bases.”

        “Population control is a very loaded term. It includes not only abortion, contraception and sterilization, all at government expense of course, but it also includes infanticide and the promotion of same-sex relations.”

        “It’s clear this President is more interested in appeasing sexual revolutionaries than in fighting America’s enemies.”

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        “How many brave men and women are liberals willing to sacrifice so that homosexuals can flaunt their lifestyle?”

        “In fact, the very term “hate crime” is offensive in this context, in that it implies that mere disapproval of sexually extreme behavior constitutes a form of “hate” equivalent to racial bigotry.”

      • Kubrick’s Rube

        On the anti-bullying campaign “It Gets Better”: “It’s disgusting. And it’s part of a concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that “lifestyle.””

        On gay teens committing suicide after being bullied: “Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.”

      • http://frcblog.com Chris Marlink

        Thanks for your kind words, Tim, for Tony and for FRC’s work. We appreciate your apologetic on our behalf. The “hate group” designation is non-sensical and more a reflection of the shifting values of our culture than a critique of the arguments (or social science that under-girds them) we’ve made related to marriage, sexuality, etc.

        I appreciate your take on the summit, and have shared it internally with a number of our staff. Your 4th take-away, however, I think misses the mark.

        “The younger generation of evangelical leaders are not feeling the same anti-Romney hysteria as their elders.”

        My read is that Romney’s Mormonism is a small factor, if a factor at all, in most conservative evangelical’s political calculus. At FRC we work with Mormon elected officials and correspond regularly with Mormons that support our mission and share common cause. It’s not his faith, and it’s not hysteria.

        The differences are at the policy level and at the level of trustworthiness. Despite his omnipresence on the political stage, many people, conservatives especially, are still trying to sort out the answers.

        • Timothy Dalrymple

          I agree, Chris, that the reservations regarding Romney are mostly about policy and record. There is, however, some concern about his Mormonism. Some of it centers on the non-bigoted concern that Romney’s election would take Mormonism out of the margins and into the mainstream and, as a result, more people would become Mormon. Some (though I would say it’s not a large percentage) is just plain bigotry, thinking Mormons are weird or irrational or untrustworthy.

          I’d agree that my statement missed the mark because it should have been clearer that I was not alleging that the elder leaders in evangelicalism *all* suffer from this kind of hysterical over-reaction to Romney. But note here I was speaking of hysteria and not bigotry. Even some of the non-bigoted opposition, I believe, has bought into a kind of collective hysteria that has infected hard-core conservatism (especially through the likes of Rush, Levin, Erickson, et al) and made it difficult for them to see Romney clearly. Again, though, I don’t wish to imply that that’s accurate of everyone.

          -Tim

  • Daalch

    I fail to see the fuss over Romney, Gingrich, or any of the candidates “reasonable” change of mind over abortion or other important positions. In this case it was a good change. It should be celebrated – and of course watched for authenticity.

    After all we are all hopefully growing in our understanding about many issues in life, or we should be.

    I have often told friends and somewhat new Christians that “my theology has been adjusted many times in my 25 year walk of faith”, and sometimes with humbling, theological egg on my face for adamantly held views that turned out to be not so black and white as I had thought.

    I find this Grace filled and essential truth produces a refreshing breath of relief for the honest believer. Of course the Bible calls it sanctification.

  • cda

    The more indebted Romney is to the establishment Party the less likely I am to vote for him. The GOP needs to end their participation in crony capitalism, they need to focus on bringing down barriers that make it difficult for Americans to start businesses in their own country, they need to stop being a part of the system that restricts American businesses and supports foreign countries through transnational policies that transfer American wealth and jobs to other countries under the guise of fairness. Romney is just one more bought and sold GOPer that wants to protect and insulate the GEs from new American start up companies. Go through all the regs and toss out all that restrict competion and overburden small businesses with excessive paper work and regulations that do nothing but insure bureaucratic paper pushing jobs in DC.

  • Wade Sikes

    I find the thoughts of Alexis de Tocqueville to be increasingly pertinent to Christianity and its place on the American political landscape.
    “When a religion seeks to found its empire only on the desire for immortality that torments the hearts of all men equally, it can aim at universality; but when it comes to be united with a government, (or a political party, my words) it must adopt maxims that are applicable only to certain peoples. so therefore, in allying itself with a political power, religion increases its power over some, and loses the hope of reigning over all…Religion, therefore, cannot share the material force of those who govern without being burdened with a part of the hatreds to which they give rise.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    I really can’t stand political gospels and I believe that they are harmful to the church.

    Our congregation is roughly half conservatives, and half liberals.

    It’s possible because the sermon is about law and gospel…no politics. When politics or political parties are brought up it is to put a pox upon both their houses.

    Should we forget politics? NO! We do our bit…what we believe is right. Vote. Work for whatever issues and candidates we believe in. But that is OUTSIDE the worship service.

    The message that we have for people on Sundays is of far greater importance that politics. And we never know when it will be someone’s last chance to hear the gospel.

    Thanks.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      As one of my friends once said, “The dead are not raised by politics.”

      • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

        Amen!

        I’ll have to remember that one!

  • http://gladstreams.wordpress.com Pat Lynch

    There is another way lf approaching this topic. Yes, the “old school” leaders are a different and rare breed. Yes, younger evangelicals are different. There is, in a few circles, a move to rethink how Christianity engages the secular authorities. Here is a blog post: http://wp.me/s270xt-71 Try it out.

  • Daalch

    Hmm – my post was ignored.

    Was that a good thing or bad.


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