Does the Church Have a League of the South Problem?

When the Washington Free Beacon revealed that an important member of Sen. Rand Paul’s staff, Jack Hunter (aka “The Southern Avenger”), had at one time been a member of the League of the South, pressure came quickly for Paul and Hunter to distance themselves from the League’s neo-Confederate views.  Eventually, Hunter resigned from Paul’s staff.

Pundits on the left and right questioned Paul’s judgment and views on race. Paul has been on the defensive and if he chooses to run for president, he likely will be asked again about his reasons for hiring a neo-Confederate sympathizer.

With the emergence of the Institute on the Constitution as an accepted organization within the Christian right, I submit the evangelical church now has a League of the South problem. As I have pointed out on the blog, the IOTC’s director and lead teachers are leaders in the League of the South. Founder and director Michael Peroutka is a member of the board of directors for the League and senior teacher David Whitney is the chaplain of the League’s MD branch. Peroutka has stated to a League of the South audience that his reasons for teaching the Constitution are not to reform the current government but to prepare for Southern secession or some form of governmental collapse. He has also pledged the resources of the IOTC to the achievement of the League’s objectives.

As I noted recently, the National Religious Broadcasting network is now showing the 12-part Constitution course with Peroutka and Whitney teaching. This course is also being shown simultaneously on Liberty University’s television network. The far right Sons of Liberty of Bradlee Dean is also offering the IOTC course. Peroutka is a regular on Steve Deace’s talk show. If not for parents’ protests, the Springboro School Board would have evaluated the course as a potential offering in their school district. The teacher of the course then moved it into a local church. Many mainstream churches, especially in Ohio, have hosted the course over the past several years.

Before the series started on the NRB network, I alerted the NRB about the connection between the League and IOTC. And yet, the series continues.

Is there a problem here? I think there is, but perhaps I am wrong.

Many in the nation are having important conversations about race and racism. Historically, the church has been divided over issues of race. The League fancies itself a Christian oriented organization with an objective to promote Southern secession to form a white, Christian nation. Will the evangelical church let these objectives enter the mainstream?

To my mind, the emergence of the IOTC raises significant questions. Is the situation I am describing here helping or hurting racial reconciliation? Can a League of the South board member simultaneously be a leader in the evangelical world? Does the stated aims of the course and organization matter if the content of the course serves Christian right political objectives?* Association with the League in the political world is enough to cause significant alarm; should the same be true in the church? Are there important differences between the political and religious worlds that make association with the League a problem in one place but not the other?

Does the conservative Christian church have a League of the South problem?

*A related issue relates to the accuracy of the course information. There are many problems with the IOTC programs I have seen (e.g., see this post) but this is also true of Christian nationalist programs without questionable ties to neo-Confederate organizations.

IOTCNRBWebsitesm

  • Zoe Brain

    Warren – you have my sympathy. It cannot be easy being an Evangelical at times like this.

    Kipling had it right:

    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

    Ironic isn’t it? Here I am, an atheist, calling on you not to despair, but keep the Faith. I figure you will anyway, no matter what I counsel. Just to let you know that others sympathise.

  • Tom Van Dyke

    I don’t know what “the Church” means here. With 30,000 sects, Protestantism doesn’t have a normative “Church”; a capital “C” usually connotes the Roman Catholic Church.

    Further, “evangelicals” vote only 70-30 GOP, so an “evangelical” Church–if there even were such a thing that could be referred to in the singular–cannot be spoken of normatively as “conservative.”

    There’s some sort of point here, but it seems more a vague allegation of conservative = racism via a chain of guilt-by-association than an actual argument.

    Does the conservative Christian church have a League of the South problem?

    Absent some smoking gun of racism, spread over a significant chunk of “conservative Christian churches,” the answer is plainly no.

  • Camille Lewis

    Does the conservative Christian church have a League of the South problem?

    And how.

  • Warren

    Tom – I am not saying all of those who have partnered with IOTC are aware of the relationship between Peroutka and LOS. However, some who are don’t seem terribly bothered by it; that concerns me. Also, I am thinking ahead here. Perhaps I should ask is the evangelical world about to have a LoS problem?

    • Tom Van Dyke

      Warren, I think most thinking people see this as a juvenile but relatively harmless naivety, along the lines of Civil War re-enactors in reb uniforms.

      This is a game, a gotcha.

      And frankly and for the record, as an adult I don’t think anything Confederate is cute–I was thrown off the Southern Appeal blog for calling for the end of flying the Confederate battle flag in public–out of respect for what it means to our fellow [black] Americans. I’ve paid my dues in this symbolism game.

      But we tolerate the metaphysically racist Nation of Islam to some degree, and the same guilt-by-association game that’s being played here puts racist Louis Farrakhan on the same stage as Barack Obama at the Million Man March.

      You got Jack Hunter’s scalp

      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/07/23/what-rand-paul-aide-jack-hunter-and-his-resignation-say-about-his-boss.html

      with this game, so congratulations. But none of this is real.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

        I seriously doubt that a board member of the Nation of Islam would get a program on the NRB Network. To my African American friends, this is not a game.

        • Tom Van Dyke

          Of course this is a game. There is no harm contemplated to black people by Hunter or Rand Paul or anyone else. Even if there was, it’s illegal. Let’s be real.

          Hell, Bill Clinton himself got gamed. Republicans have no chance.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/magazine/31clinton-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          And the man once called the “first black president” remains deeply wounded by allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks during the campaign, like dismissing Obama’s South Carolina win by comparing it with Jesse Jackson’s victories there in the 1980s.

          “None of them ever really took seriously the race rap,” he told me. “They knew it was politics. I had one minister in Texas in the general election come up and put his arm around me.” This was an Obama supporter. “And he came up, threw his arm around me and said, ‘You’ve got to forgive us for that race deal.’ He said, ‘That was out of line.’ But he said, ‘You know, we wanted to win real bad.’ And I said, ‘I got no problem with that.’ I said it’s fine; it’s O.K. And we laughed about it and we went on.”

          I’m sure Hillary thought it was real funny.

  • Patrocles

    “Is the situation I am describing here helping or hurting racial reconciliation?”

    I’m all for reconciliation. But methods of reconciliation are different. It’s a difference if enmity is a personal reaction to personal experiences, or if enmity has become a tradition and a cultural trait. (What we once called “inherited enmity” in German, normally referring to German-French relations.)

    As for offenses, appeasement may work sometimes. But it won’t work when the other side is a professional who only plays being offended (for political etc. gains).

    And it won’t work, too, if the other side is a person who has learned to find emotional gain in feeling offended. We all know such people in everyday life, and we ought to admit that they exist in public life, too. (I suppose that psychologists have a peculiar term for that – “narcisstic injury”??? – and I would be happy to know it.)

    In both cases, appeasement may only work as a kind of reinforcement for the inclination to take offense. The level for taking offense will be lowered, then.

    You admit that there are such persons – I admit that we don’t know their numbers; it’s up to everyone’s discretion if he has just to do with such a person.

  • Donald

    Warren,

    While I’m not a spokesman for the ‘League,’ anyone who visits their web site with an open mind understands they are about CULTURE not COLOR. They want to live in a society that maintains facets of ‘Southern Culture’ – this includes: Cultural, Social, and Economic.

    And your concerns about Blacks, this from their web site:

    Q: What is the LS position regarding blacks in the South?

    A: The LS disavows a spirit of malice and extends an offer of good will and cooperation to Southern blacks in areas where we can work together as Christians to make life better for all people in the South. We affirm that, while historically the interests of Southern blacks and whites have been in part antagonistic, true Constitutional government would provide protection to all law-abiding citizens — not just to government-sponsored victim groups.

    • wygrif

      “they are about CULTURE not COLOR”

      Yes. A culture which was based on systematic rape, theft, murder, and enslavement of those of a particular color. Can’t see how anyone could possibly confuse that with racism.

      • Donald

        “A culture which was based on systematic rape, theft, murder,”

        That’s what you have in the inner cities today.

    • Sharon

      What exactly would “economic Southern culture” be? As far as I know that must refer to the plantation system. While I’m sure the LotS folks aren’t advocating slavery, there is the definite implication that Southern culture would include a fairly hierarchical economic setup, with everyone “knowing their place”.

      In addition, the “culture not color” meme is either ridiculously naive or deliberately deceptive — African Americans (and other Americans of color) clearly perceive such discussions as antagonistic to them as full citizens and as full people. Just like with flying the Confederate flag, etc — why go out of our way to do something hurtful? “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.”

      In my view, the Church (that is, those who follow Jesus and try to live their life according to God’s rules of love and service rather than earthly rules of power) should run as fast as it can away from anything that would trip people up and make it harder for them to hear the message of overwhelming love. Certainly saying “well, I’m associating with and promoting the ideas of these people who call for a return to a system that disenfranchised and oppressed you, but *I* don’t mean it — let me tell you how Jesus loves you!” doesn’t seem like it will be effective.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

        Well said. For some, the culture not color meme is due to lack of research. For others, deception must be the goal because if you read anything by Michael Hill (LoS prez), you quickly see that it is culture AND color. For Hill, you can’t have one without the other.

      • Donald

        Sharon,

        You threw out a lot and I’ll try and address it, though I do perceive an unwillingness on many here to even hear what other like myself have to say.

        On economic issues, the LoS supports:

        -Abolish[ing] all forms of the “income tax” on individuals and families.

        -Abolished all taxes on real property, both during the life of its owner and at his death

        -Levies indirect taxation (e.g. sales and use taxes, tolls, etc.) as a reasonable and necessary means for the support of government functions.

        Sets reasonable legal limits on usury.

        Establishes equitable and just trade agreements with foreign nations.

        That’s a taste of where they stand. But you are correct about one thing, “Southern culture would include a fairly hierarchical … setup” – that is the crux of the entire system, and is very biblical.

        If you had to go through a hurricane, would you rather be a survivor in New Orleans or Japan? Did you notice there was NO looting after the Tsunami in Japan? Because they have a high regard for morals and authority. It doesn’t have anything to do with their race, its their culture.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      Donald – What is a “government-sponsored victim group?”

      And have you read anything by Michael Hill?

      • Donald

        re: What is a “government-sponsored victim group?”

        Seriously, you’re a college professor and you’re asking that question? The Gov’t has grouped people (by law) into groups. If you fall into one of those groups, there are ‘set asides’ and Gov’t regulations to help based on race, gender, etc. If you seek help and don’t fall into one of those ‘victim groups’ you will likely not get help. For example, if you are a ‘white male’ and want to set up a small business, there are NO gov’t set asides to help you, and if you want to compete for a Gov’t contract, you start at an economic disadvantage. This is why MANY small businesses run by men, put their wives on the company as CEO, so they can get special help in terms of loans and priority set asides.

        • ken

          And did the governmnet ever have laws that actually did make victims of those groups? (i.e. laws that specifically disadvantaged those groups in the past)?

          • Donald

            I’m not exactly sure what your question means but, the Gov’t selects WHICH groups get help. For example, my ancestors (being from the South) were subjected to a terrible Federal Gov’t war that culminated in an attack on civilian populations, and the looting and burning of substantial property.

            My parents grew up in dirt poverty during the Great Depression, had no indoor plumbing, and my mother and uncle were the only two that survived adulthood out of a family of 6 kids – the others died of disease.There’s no Gov’t set asides for people like me, nor do I ask for any. Through education, hard work, a strong family structure, and the Grace of God, I was able to become a successful engineer and recently put four of my kids through college as well; even Though Grove City turned my oldest daughter down – I had to put that in :)

  • gah

    I’m sure if you dig around enough you will find a lot of unsavory leftists mixed up in various churches, since so many of them have embraced “liberation theology.” Then there is 0bama’s pastor, Rev. Wright.

  • ken

    Donald says:

    July 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    ‘I’m not exactly sure what your question means but, the Gov’t selects WHICH groups get help.”

    And in the past the government specifically past laws that disadvantaged certain groups as well. Now the government currently has many programs to help groups that have historically been disadvantaged. And certainly, the current need/effectiviness of all of them may be questionable, but you seem to be portraying a willful ignorance of the reasons behind them

    “subjected to a terrible Federal Gov’t war ”

    Do you mean the US Civil War? if so your mis-representation of history is on par with Barton’s.

    “There’s no Gov’t set asides for people like me,”

    Yes there are. There are a variety of welfare programs: food stamps, medicaid, housing programs etc.

    • Donald

      Re: Yes there are. There are a variety of welfare programs: food stamps, medicaid, housing programs etc.

      My parents grew up in poverty, but I was never in need. My father served in WW2 and prospered after the war – taking advantage of the economic opportunities that were available. I’m a ‘baby boomer,’ if you haven’t figured that out, and never endured the poverty my parents, grandparents and great grand parents did. My point is, everyone has a choice to grieve about the lot in life God gives them, or look positively on the opportunities that are there, and be thankful for what one has. If the point of the Gov’t programs was to help ‘Disadvantaged People Groups’, by any objective measure they have failed miserably. We’ll just have to disagree about the Federal War. I grew up in the Gov’t run schools and was taught from a point of view my country could do no wrong. It wasn’t til I realized what our Gov’t did at Hiroshima and Dresden (killing civilian populations to bring an end to the war) that my eyes were opened to what Lincoln did as well. Yes, we have many memorials to him and it’s hard to believe he would unleash an Army to ravage a civilian population, but that’s what did happen.

  • David M

    Wow, a lot of racism has been vented here, conscious or not. It sickens me. I teach a lot of black college students from urban backgrounds. I have come to understand something of what white (male) privilege means. I suspect some of the whiners above don’t have a clue how privileged they are. They have to find some way to consider themselves disadvantaged in order to keep at bay the reality that they’ve been dealt the aces, and that’s why they can put their kids through college — not because of whatever personal virtues they may have.

    Warren, I understand what your concern is. I wonder, though, if part of what is going on is the gradual splintering of what has been called evangelicalism since the advent of Youth for Christ and Billy Graham. I’m not sure that either the NRB or Liberty University can claim to represent that amalgam. They are both on the fundamentalist end of the spectrum. Is it even newsworthy that these organizations are racist?

    In the end, though, I may just be out of the loop, being no longer in an evangelical congregation.

  • Byron Harvey

    David, as a graduate (’85) of Liberty, I have my share of issues with some of the things that have been done there down through the years–and with a few that continue to be, I have no doubt–but to call Liberty “racist” is to fly in the face of enough evidence to the contrary as to render the statement irresponsible at best, and silly on its face.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

      I don’t think Liberty U. is racist as an institution. What I am troubled by is that Liberty and NRB are hosting a board member of a neo-Confederate organization who has pledged the course to the aims of the League. I think there is a problem when the League can get this close to the evangelical mainstream.


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