The FundamentaList (No. 13)

1. Fallout from the Romney Speech

Focus on the Family's James Dobson, who has indicated that he's not going to endorse any candidate in the primaries, reportedly called Mitt Romney to congratulate him on his anti-secularism speech in Texas last week, much to the jubilation of the Romney supporters at the Evangelicals for Mitt blog. Pat Robertson, despite his support for the mayor of iniquity, sent along a note as well, and to the relief of Romney's staff, it wasn't to prophesy God's wrath on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. It just goes to show you that Romney's speech had its intended effect: to assure conservative evangelicals that "even though you think I believe that Satan was Jesus' brother, at least I'm not an atheist."

The speech wasn't enough, though, for Gary Cass, formerly of D. James Kennedy's Reclaiming America for Christ and now of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, an organization formed to protect Christians from "defamation, discrimination, and bigotry." (Numerous Huckabee supporters serve on the organization's advisory board.) In a statement, Cass said that Romney was free to practice Mormonism's (unspecified) "secret rituals," but he took issue with Romney's failure to renounce "Mormonism's historic antipathy toward Christianity." Cass continued, "If he does not renounce the historic Mormon hostility to Christianity, then we must conclude that he agrees with his church's defamation of the past."

2. Huckabee's Homophobia Unearthed

In light of the revelations over the weekend that Mike Huckabee once called for the quarantining of people with HIV/AIDS and his view that "homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle," more attention is now focused on whether Huckabee is a retrograde gay basher instead of the nice guy who has turned even Frank Rich's head.

Huckabee refused to recant his view on homosexuality (although he did acknowledge that he would no longer advocate a quarantine), and he justified his comments about sin by claiming that "sin means missing the mark. Missing the mark could mean missing the mark in any area. We've all missed the mark." That portrays his comments in a rather innocuous light, as if to humbly admit to his own sinfulness. But let's be honest: the Christian right has never placed other sins on equal footing with the "abomination."

Huckabee has surrounded himself with high-profile supporters who regularly and publicly revile and insult gay people. Huckabee's anti-gay backers include Rick Scarborough, who condemned this summer's Democratic debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign; Star Parker, who has cited approvingly R.J. Rushdoony's theology, which calls for the death penalty for homosexuals); and Don Wildmon, whose obsession with the "homosexual agenda" is well documented. We're all sinners, and then there are gay people, and for many of Huckabee's high-profile supporters, the two aren't even in the same league.

3. Matt Drudge Wakes Up

Leave it to Matt Drudge to dig up a completely unsurprising article about Mike Huckabee calling for pastors to "take this nation back for Christ" and post it on his Web site as big news about Huckabee’s theocratic leanings. While Tony Perkins read it as "a subtle but clear warning to secular elites," I read it as Drudge being oblivious to what has been Huckabee's clear platform this year when speaking to evangelical crowds.

Case in point: Huckabee's secret speech to the Iowa Renewal Project Pastors' Briefing last week (see last week's FundamentaList for more). This week I caught up with Michael Ernst, who attended the Iowa Renewal Project event, and he told me that the group, mostly pastors, represented a "concrete bloc that support the idea that we are a Christian nation." Huckabee, said Ernst, "fit right into that."

4. Kenneth Copeland's Son Responds to Grassley Inquiry

In a webcast response to Sen. Charles Grassley's investigation into the Kenneth Copeland Ministries' use of tax-exempt donations, Copeland's son, John, the ministry's CEO, claimed to be "surprised" by the investigation and "not sure why we were singled out." (Could it be his father's $20 million luxury jet, perhaps?) In an "interview" in the ministry studios with an unidentified woman, Copeland contended that donors "have a right to ask" for financial information from the ministry but that the ministry has no obligation to provide it. Reminiscent of your childhood insistence that you could say whatever you wanted because "it's a free country," Copeland maintained that donors have a right to ask for the financial information as "part of our freedom of speech." But actually getting a substantive response to the question? No dice.

The financial accountability statement on the Copeland Web site is a rudimentary pie chart showing the percentage of ministry money spent on various programs, nothing more. Armed with all that detailed information, who would hesitate to donate $1,500 so Kenneth Copeland Ministries can upgrade to high-definition television equipment?

The younger Copeland, a self-described cowboy, offered up a strange and meandering defense of the ministry rooted in his cockamamie view of the Constitution and the Bible. "In the Bible, some of the richest people who were on Earth were people of God," he said, adding that "Solomon was so rich the Queen of Sheba fainted" and that "Abraham was so rich he had to leave the country he was in because it couldn't contain him." And about that vow of poverty? "Why would I want to become a Christian," he wondered, "if becoming a Christian means I have to be poor and sick?"

Asked why the ministry will not disclose the membership of its board of directors, Copeland concocted a theory of their "constitutional right to privacy. ... You don't want the government or the police to come barging into your house whenever they feel like it. ... That same right to privacy has been given to churches. ... A privilege that our forefathers have given us." Although no law requires it (and the constitution says nothing about it), it's a more common practice than not for churches to be transparent and reveal the identities of their boards of directors. But Copeland spun it as if Grassley were sending the FBI without a warrant to search board members' houses. Given that Grassley doesn't even have a civil subpoena much less the authority to dispatch the police, Copeland's argument was just plain silly, but sadly that slippery-slope, church-persecution narrative holds water for a lot of people.

5. Hagee Rewrites New Book to Allay Christian Criticism

When John Hagee, pastor to the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio and head of the Zionist group Christians United for Israel (CUFI), released his new book, In Defense of Israel, in early October, he promised that it would "shape Christian theology" by proving that Christ did not come to earth to be the Messiah -- for Jews. Hagee's intention, apparently, was to prove that two millennia of anti-Semitism was a grievous mistake because, since Christ did not come to earth to be the Messiah Jews were waiting for, how could they be blamed for rejecting him? (As it turns out, according to Hagee, the Jews were just waiting for the Second Coming.) Because his "shocking exposé" was so contrary to established doctrine, it unleashed a storm of Christian criticism charging that Hagee, heretically, did not believe in Christ as savior. (There was not a similar storm of criticism that he still believes that Jews will be saved -- finally! -- when Christ returns.)

On the CUFI Web site, Hagee writes this week that what he meant to say was that Jews were waiting for the "Reigning Messiah" and God sent the "Suffering Messiah" instead. That saved all the Christians, but the Jews were still left hanging for the "Reigning Messiah" that the Christians believe will appear at the Second Coming. Who knew?

Contact me at tapthefundamentalist AT gmail DOT com.

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