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God's Senator

Who would Jesus vote for? Meet Sam Brownback

Sam Brownback Photo

At the Veterans Day parade in Emporia, Kansas

Nobody in this little church just off Times Square in Manhattan thinks of themselves as political. They’re spiritual — actors and athletes and pretty young things who believe that every word of the Bible is inerrant dictation from God. They look down from the balcony of the Morning Star, swaying and smiling at the screen that tells them how to sing along. Nail-pierced hands, a wounded side. This is love, this is love! But on this evening in January, politics and all its worldly machinations have entered their church. Sitting in the darkness of the front row is Sam Brownback, the Republican senator from Kansas. And hunched over on the stage in a red leather chair is an old man named Harald Bredesen, who has come to anoint Brownback as the Christian right’s next candidate for president.

Over the last six decades, Bredesen has prayed with so many presidents and prime ministers and kings that he can barely remember their names. He’s the spiritual father of Pat Robertson, the man behind the preacher’s vast media empire. He was one of three pastors who laid hands on Ronald Reagan in 1970 and heard the Pasadena Prophecy: the moment when God told Reagan that he would one day occupy the White House. And he recently dispatched one of his proteges to remind George W. Bush of the divine will — and evangelical power — behind his presidency.

Tonight, Bredesen has come to breathe that power into Brownback’s presidential campaign. After little more than a decade in Washington, Brownback has managed to position himself at the very center of the Christian conservative uprising that is transforming American politics. Just six years ago, winning the evangelical vote required only a veneer of bland normalcy, nothing more than George Bush’s vague assurance that Jesus was his favorite philosopher. Now, Brownback seeks something far more radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years — schools, Social Security, welfare — will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.

Bredesen squints through the stage lights at Brownback, sitting straight-backed and attentive. At forty-nine, the senator looks taller than he is. His face is wide and flat, his skin thick like leather, etched by windburn and sun from years of working on his father’s farm just outside Parker, Kansas, population 281. You can hear it in his voice: slow, distant but warm; a baritone, spoken out of the left side of his mouth in half-sentences with few hard consonants. It sounds like the voice of someone who has learned how to wait for rain.

“He wants to be president,” Bredesen tells the congregation. “He is marvelously qualified to be president.” But, he adds, there is something Brownback wants even more: “And that is, on the last day of your earthly life, to be able to say, ‘Father, the work you gave me to do, I have accomplished!'” Bredesen, shrunken with age, leans forward and glares at Brownback.

“Is that true?” he demands.

“Yes,” Brownback says softly.

“Friends!” The old man’s voice is suddenly a trumpet. “Sam . . . says . . . yes!”

The crowd roars. Those occupying the front rows lay hands on the contender.

Brownback takes the stage. He begins to pace. In front of secular audiences he’s a politician, stiff and wonky. Here, he’s a preacher, not sweaty but smooth, working a call-and-response with the back rows. “I used to run on Sam power,” he says.

“Uh-uh,” someone shouts.

To quiet his ambition, Brownback continues, he used to take sleeping pills.

“Oh, Lord!”

Now he runs on God power.

“Hallelujah!”

He tells a story about a chaplain who challenged a group of senators to reconsider their conception of democracy. “How many constituents do you have?” the chaplain asked. The senators answered: 4 million, 9 million, 12 million. “May I suggest,” the chaplain replied, “that you have only one constituent?”

Brownback pauses. That moment, he declares, changed his life. “This” — being senator, running for president, waving the flag of a Christian nation — “is about serving one constituent.” He raises a hand and points above him.

From the balcony a hallelujah, an amen, a yelp. From Bredesen’s great white head, now peering up from the front row, Brownback wins an appreciative nod.

This boy, Bredesen thinks, may be the chosen one.

* * *

Back in 1994, when Brownback came to Congress as a freshman, he was so contemptuous of federal authority that he refused at first to sign the Contract With America, Newt Gingrich’s right-wing manifesto — not because it was too radical but because it was too tame. Republicans shouldn’t just reform big government, Brownback insisted — they should eliminate it. He immediately proposed abolishing the departments of education, energy and commerce. His proposals failed — but they quickly made him one of the right’s rising stars. Two years later, running to the right of Bob Dole’s chosen successor, he was elected to the Senate.

“I am a seeker,” he says. Brownback believes that every spiritual path has its own unique scent, and he wants to inhale them all. When he ran for the House he was a Methodist. By the time he ran for the Senate he was an evangelical. Now he has become a Catholic. He was baptized not in a church but in a chapel tucked between lobbyists’ offices on K Street that is run by Opus Dei, the secretive lay order founded by a Catholic priest who advocated “holy coercion” and considered Spanish dictator Francisco Franco an ideal of worldly power. Brownback also studies Torah with an orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn. “Deep,” says the rabbi, Nosson Scherman. Lately, Brownback has been reading the Koran, but he doesn’t like what he’s finding. “There’s some difficult material in it with regard to the Christian and the Jew,” he tells a Christian radio program, voice husky with regret.

Brownback is not part of the GOP leadership, and he doesn’t want to be. He once told a group of businessmen he wanted to be the next Jesse Helms — “Senator No,” who operated as a one-man demolition unit against godlessness, independent of his party. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a man with presidential ambitions of his own, gave Brownback a plum position on the Judiciary Committee, perhaps hoping that Brownback would provide a counterbalance to Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who threatened to make trouble for Bush’s appointees. Instead, taking a page from Helms, Brownback turned the position into a platform for a high-profile war against gay marriage, porn and abortion. Casting Bush and the Republican leadership as soft and muddled, he regularly turns sleepy hearings into platforms for his vision of America, inviting a parade of angry witnesses to denounce the “homosexual agenda,” “bestiality” and “murder.”

He is running for president because murder is always on his mind: the abortion of what he considers fetal citizens. He speaks often and admiringly of John Brown, the abolitionist who massacred five pro-slavery settlers just north of the farm where Brownback grew up. Brown wanted to free the slaves; Brownback wants to free fetuses. He loves each and every one of them. “Just . .
. sacred,” he says. In January, during the confirmation of Samuel Alito for a seat on the Supreme Court, Brownback compared Roe v. Wade to the now disgraced rulings that once upheld segregation.

Alito was in the Senate hearing room that day largely because of Brownback’s efforts. Last October, after Bush named his personal lawyer, Harriet Miers, to the Supreme Court, Brownback politely but thoroughly demolished her nomination — on the grounds that she was insufficiently opposed to abortion. The day Miers withdrew her name, Sen. John McCain surprised the mob of reporters clamoring around Brownback outside the Senate chamber by grabbing his colleague’s shoulders. “Here’s the man who did it!” McCain shouted in admiration, a big smile on his face.

Brownback is unlikely to receive the Republican presidential nomination — but as the candidate of the Christian right, he may well be in a position to determine who does, and what they include in their platform. “What Sam could do very effectively,” says the Rev. Rob Schenck, an evangelical activist, is hold the nomination hostage until the Christian right “exacts the last pledge out of the more popular candidate.”

The nation’s leading evangelicals have already lined up behind Brownback, a feat in itself. A decade ago, evangelical support for a Catholic would have been unthinkable. Many evangelicals viewed the Pope as the Antichrist and the Roman Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon. But Brownback is the beneficiary of a strategy known as co-belligerency — a united front between conservative Catholics and evangelicals in the culture war. Pat Robertson has tapped the “outstanding senator from Kansas” as his man for president. David Barton, the Christian right’s all-but-official presidential historian, calls Brownback “uncompromising” — the highest praise in a movement that considers intransigence next to godliness. And James Dobson, the movement’s strongest chieftain, can find no fault in Brownback. “He has fulfilled every expectation,” Dobson says. Even Jesse Helms, now in retirement in North Carolina, recognizes a kindred spirit. “The most effective senators are those who are truest to themselves,” Helms says. “Senator Brownback is becoming known as that sort of individual.”

* * *

As he gathers the forces of the Christian right around him, however, Brownback has broken with the movement’s tradition of fire and brimstone. His fundamentalism is almost tender. He’s no less intolerant than the angry pulpit-pounders, but he never sounds like a hater. His style is both gentler and colder, a mixture of Mr. Rogers and monkish detachment.

Brownback doesn’t thump the Bible. He reads obsessively, studying biographies of Christian crusaders from centuries past. His learning doesn’t lend him gravitas so much as it seems to free him from gravity, to set him adrift across space and time. Ask him why he considers abortion a “holocaust,” and he’ll answer by way of a story about an eighteenth-century British parliamentarian who broke down in tears over the sin of slavery. Brownback believes America is entering a period of religious revival on the scale of the Great Awakening that preceded the nation’s creation, an epidemic of mass conversions, signs and wonders, book burnings. But this time, he says, the upheaval will give way to a “cultural springtime,” a theocratic order that is pleasant and balmy. It’s a vision shared by the mega-churches that sprawl across the surburban landscape, the 24-7 spiritual-entertainment complexes where millions of Americans embrace a feel-good fundamentalism.

When Brownback travels, he tries to avoid spending time alone in his hotel room, where indecent television programming might tempt him. In Washington, though, he goes to bed early. He doesn’t like to eat out. Indeed, it sometimes seems he doesn’t like to eat at all — his staff worries when the only thing he has for lunch is a communion wafer and a drop of wine at the noontime Mass he tries to attend daily. He lives in a spartan apartment across from his office that he shares with Sen. Jim Talent, a Republican from Missouri, and he flies home to Topeka almost every Thursday. On the wall of his office, there’s a family portrait of all seven Brownbacks gathered around two tree stumps, each Brownback in black shoes, blue jeans and a black pullover. The oldest, Abby, is nineteen; the youngest, Jenna, abandoned on the doorstep of a Chinese orphanage when she was two days old, is seven.

Brownback’s house in Topeka perches atop a hill, shielded from the road behind a great arc of driveway in a nameless suburb so new that the grass has yet to sprout on nearby lawns. On a recent Sunday, Brownback sits in the kitchen, looking relaxed in jeans and an orange sweatshirt that says HOODWINKED, the name of his oldest son’s band. Hoodwinked members drift in and out, chatting with the senator. When the band starts practice in the basement, Brownback walks downstairs, opens the door, jerks his right knee in the air and half windmills his arm. Hoodwinked shout at him to leave them alone.

When he was a boy, Brownback didn’t belong to any rock bands. He grew up in a white, one-story farmhouse in Parker, where his parents still live. Brownback likes to say that he is fighting for traditional family values, but his father, Bob, was more concerned about the price of grain, and his mother, Nancy, had no qualms about having a gay friend. Back then, moral values were simple. “Your word was your word. Don’t cheat,” his mother recalls. “I can’t think of anything else.”

Her son played football (“quarterback” she says, “never very good”) and was elected class president and “Mr. Spirit.” “He was talkative,” she adds, as if this were an alien quality. Like most kids in Parker, Sam just wanted to be a farmer. But that life is gone now, destroyed by what the old farmers who sit around the town’s single gas station sum up in one word — “Reaganism.” They mean the voodoo economics by which the government favored corporate interests over family farms, a “what’s good for big business is good for America” philosophy that Brownback himself now champions.

In 1986, just a few years after finishing law school, Brownback landed one of the state’s plum offices: agriculture secretary, a position of no small influence in Kansas. But in 1993, he was forced out when a federal court ruled his tenure unconstitutional. Not only had he not been elected, he’d been appointed by people who weren’t elected — the very same agribusiness giants he was in charge of regulating.

The following year, he squeaked into Congress, running as a moderate. But in Washington, in the midst of the Gingrich Revolution, Brownback didn’t just tack right — he unzipped his quiet Kansan costume and stepped out as the leader of the New Federalists, the small but potent faction of freshmen determined to get rid of government almost entirely. When he discovered that the Republican leadership wasn’t really interested in derailing its own gravy train, Brownback began spending more time with his Bible. He began to suspect that the problem with government wasn’t just too many taxes; it was not enough God.

Brownback’s wife, Mary, heiress to a Midwest newspaper fortune, married Sam during her final year of law school and boasts that she has never worked outside the home. “Basically,” she says, “I live in the kitchen.” From her spot by the stove, Mary monitors all media consumed by her kids. The Brownbacks block several channels, but even so, innuendos slip by, she says, and the nightly news is often “too sexual.” The children, Mary says, “exude their faith.” The oldest kids “opt out” of sex education at school.

Sex, in all its various forms, is at the center of Brownback’s agenda. America, he believes, has divorced sexuality from what is sacred. “It’s not that we think too much about sex,” he says, “it’s that we don’t think enough of it.” The senator would gladly roll back the sexual revolution altogether if he could, but he knows he can’t, so instead he dreams of something better: a culture of “faith-ba
sed” eroticism in which premarital passion plays out not in flesh but in prayer. After Janet Jackson’s nipple made its surprise appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl, Brownback introduced the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act, raising the fines for such on-air abominations to $325,000.

On Sundays, Brownback rises at dawn so he can catch a Catholic Mass before meeting Mary and the kids at Topeka Bible Church. With the exception of one brown-skinned man, the congregation is entirely white. The stage looks like a rec room in a suburban basement: wall-to-wall carpet, wood paneling, a few haphazard ferns and a couple of electric guitars lying around. This morning, the church welcomes a guest preacher from Promise Keepers, a men’s group, by performing a skit about golf and fatherhood. From his preferred seat in the balcony, Brownback chuckles when he’s supposed to, sings every song, nods seriously when the preacher warns against “Judaizers” who would “poison” the New Testament.

After the service, Brownback introduces me to a white-haired man with a yellow Viking mustache. “This is the man who wrote ‘Dust in the Wind,'” the senator announces proudly. It’s Kerry Livgren of the band Kansas. Livgren has found Jesus and now worships with the senator at Topeka Bible. Brownback, one of the Senate’s fiercest hawks on Israel, tells Livgren he wants to take him to the Holy Land. Whenever the senator met with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to talk policy, he insisted that they first study Scripture together. The two men would study their Bibles, music playing softly in the background. Maybe, if Livgren goes to Israel with Brownback, he could strum “Dust in the Wind.” “Carry on my . . .” the senator warbles, trying to remember another song by his friend.

* * *

One of the little-known strengths of the Christian right lies in its adoption of the “cell” — the building block historically used by small but determined groups to impose their will on the majority. Seventy years ago, an evangelist named Abraham Vereide founded a network of “God-led” cells comprising senators and generals, corporate executives and preachers. Vereide believed that the cells — God’s chosen, appointed to power — could construct a Kingdom of God on earth with Washington as its capital. They would do so “behind the scenes,” lest they be accused of pride or a hunger for power, and “beyond the din of vox populi,” which is to say, outside the bounds of democracy. To insiders, the cells were known as the Family, or the Fellowship. To most outsiders, they were not known at all.

“Communists use cells as their basic structure,” declares a confidential Fellowship document titled “Thoughts on a Core Group.” “The mafia operates like this, and the basic unit of the Marine Corps is the four-man squad. Hitler, Lenin and many others understood the power of a small group of people.” Under Reagan, Fellowship cells quietly arranged meetings between administration officials and leaders of Salvadoran death squads, and helped funnel military support to Siad Barre, the brutal dictator of Somalia, who belonged to a prayer cell of American senators and generals.

Brownback got involved in the Fellowship in 1979, as a summer intern for Bob Dole, when he lived in a residence the group had organized in a sorority house at the University of Maryland. Four years later, fresh out of law school and looking for a political role model, Brownback sought out Frank Carlson, a former Republican senator from Kansas. It was Carlson who, at a 1955 meeting of the Fellowship, had declared the group’s mission to be “Worldwide Spiritual Offensive,” a vision of manly Christianity dedicated to the expansion of American power as a means of spreading the gospel.

Over the years, Brownback became increasingly active in the Fellowship. But he wasn’t invited to join a cell until 1994, when he went to Washington. “I had been working with them for a number of years, so when I went into Congress I knew I wanted to get back into that,” he says. “Washington — power — is very difficult to handle. I knew I needed people to keep me accountable in that system.”

Brownback was placed in a weekly prayer cell by “the shadow Billy Graham” — Doug Coe, Vereide’s successor as head of the Fellowship. The group was all male and all Republican. It was a “safe relationship,” Brownback says. Conversation tended toward the personal. Brownback and the other men revealed the most intimate details of their desires, failings, ambitions. They talked about lust, anger and infidelities, the more shameful the better — since the goal was to break one’s own will. The abolition of self; to become nothing but a vessel so that one could be used by God.

They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls “Jesus plus nothing” — a government led by Christ’s will alone. In the future envisioned by Coe, everything — sex and taxes, war and the price of oil — will be decided upon not according to democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the anointed few. It’s a good old boy’s club blessed by God. Brownback even lived with other cell members in a million-dollar, red-brick former convent at 133 C Street that was subsidized and operated by the Fellowship. Monthly rent was $600 per man — enough of a deal by Hill standards that some said it bordered on an ethical violation, but no charges were ever brought.

Brownback still meets with the prayer cell every Tuesday evening. He and his “brothers,” he says, are “bonded together, faith and souls.” The rules forbid Brownback from revealing the names of his fellow members, but those in the cell likely include such conservative stalwarts as Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee, former Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma and Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma doctor who has advocated the death penalty for abortion providers. Fellowship documents suggest that some 30 senators and 200 congressmen occasionally attend the group’s activities, but no more than a dozen are involved at Brownback’s level.

The men in Brownback’s cell talk about politics, but the senator insists it’s not political. “It’s about faith and action,” he says. According to “Thoughts on a Core Group,” the primary purpose of the cell is to become an “invisible ‘believing’ group.” Any action the cell takes is an outgrowth of belief, a natural extension of “agreements reached in faith and in prayer.” Deals emerge not from a smoke-filled room but from a prayer-filled room. “Typically,” says Brownback, “one person grows desirous of pursuing an action” — a piece of legislation, a diplomatic strategy — “and the others pull in behind.”

In 1999, Brownback worked with Rep. Joe Pitts, a Fellowship brother, to pass the Silk Road Strategy Act, designed to block the growth of Islam in Central Asian nations by bribing them with lucrative trade deals. That same year, he teamed up with two Fellowship associates — former Sen. Don Nickles and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond — to demand a criminal investigation of a liberal group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Last year, several Fellowship brothers, including Sen. John Ensign, another resident of the C Street house, supported Brownback’s broadcast decency bill. And Pitts and Coburn joined Brownback in stumping for the Houses of Worship Act to allow tax-free churches to endorse candidates.

The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that’ll all be just fine.< /p>

Brownback points to his friend Ed Meese, who served as attorney general under Reagan, as an example of a man who wields power through backroom Fellowship connections. Meese has not held a government job for nearly two decades, but through the Fellowship he’s more influential than ever, credited with brokering the recent nomination of John Roberts to head the Supreme Court. “As a behind-the-scenes networker,” Brownback says, “he’s important.” In the senator’s view, such hidden power is sanctioned by the Bible. “Everybody knows Moses,” Brownback says. “But who were the leaders of the Jewish people once they got to the promised land? It’s a lot of people who are unknown.”

* * *

Every Tuesday, before his evening meeting with his prayer brothers, Brownback chairs another small cell — one explicitly dedicated to altering public policy. It is called the Values Action Team, and it is composed of representatives from leading organizations on the religious right. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family sends an emissary, as does the Family Research Council, the Eagle Forum, the Christian Coalition, the Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America and many more. Like the Fellowship prayer cell, everything that is said is strictly off the record, and even the groups themselves are forbidden from discussing the proceedings. It’s a little “cloak-and-dagger,” says a Brownback press secretary. The VAT is a war council, and the enemy, says one participant, is “secularism.”

The VAT coordinates the efforts of fundamentalist pressure groups, unifying their message and arming congressional staffers with the data and language they need to pass legislation. Working almost entirely in secret, the group has directed the fights against gay marriage and for school vouchers, against hate-crime legislation and for “abstinence only” education. The VAT helped win passage of Brownback’s broadcast decency bill and made the president’s tax cuts a top priority. When it comes to “impacting policy,” says Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, “day to day, the VAT is instrumental.”

As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, the most important U.S. human rights agency, Brownback has also stamped much of U.S. foreign policy with VAT’s agenda. One victory for the group was Brownback’s North Korea Human Rights Act, which establishes a confrontational stance toward the dictatorial regime and shifts funds for humanitarian aid from the United Nations to Christian organizations. Sean Woo — Brownback’s former general counsel and now the chief of staff of the Helsinki Commission — calls this a process of “privatizing democracy.” A dapper man with a soothing voice, Woo is perhaps the brightest thinker in Brownback’s circle, a savvy internationalist with a deep knowledge of Cold War history. Yet when I ask him for an example of the kind of project the human-rights act might fund, he tells me about a German doctor who releases balloons over North Korea with bubble-wrapped radios tied to them. North Koreans are supposed to find the balloons when they run out of helium and use the radios to tune into Voice of America or a South Korean Christian station.

Since Brownback took over leadership of the VAT in 2002, he has used it to consolidate his position in the Christian right — and his influence in the Senate. If senators — even leaders like Bill Frist or Rick Santorum — want to ask for backing from the group, they must talk to Brownback’s chief of staff, Robert Wasinger, who clears attendees with his boss. Wasinger is from Hays, Kansas, but he speaks with a Harvard drawl, and he is still remembered in Cambridge twelve years after graduation for a fight he led to get gay faculty booted. He was particularly concerned about the welfare of gay men; or rather, as he wrote in a campus magazine funded by the Heritage Foundation, that of their innocent sperm, forced to “swim into feces.” As gatekeeper of the VAT, he’s a key strategist in the conservative movement. He makes sure the religious leaders who attend VAT understand that Brownback is the boss — and that other senators realize that every time Brownback speaks, he has the money and membership of the VAT behind him.

VAT is like a closed communication circuit with Brownback at the switch: The power flows through him. Every Wednesday at noon, he trots upstairs from his office to a radio studio maintained by the Republican leadership to rally support from Christian America for VAT’s agenda. One participant in the broadcast, Salem Radio Network News, reaches more than 1,500 Christian stations nationwide, and Focus on the Family offers access to an audience of 1.5 million. During a recent broadcast Brownback explains that with the help of the VAT, he’s working to defeat a measure that would stiffen penalties for violent attacks on gays and lesbians. Members of VAT help by mobilizing their flocks: An e-mail sent out by the Family Research Council warned that the hate-crime bill would lead, inexorably, to the criminalization of Christianity.

Brownback recently muscled through the Judiciary Committee a proposed amendment to the Constitution to make not just gay marriage but even civil unions nearly impossible. “I don’t see where the compromise point would be on marriage,” he says. The amendment has no chance of passing, but it’s not designed to. It’s a time bomb, scheduled to detonate sometime during the 2006 electoral cycle. The intended victims aren’t Democrats but other Republicans. GOP moderates will be forced to vote for or against “marriage,” which — in the language of the VAT communications network — is another way of saying for or against the “homosexual agenda.” It’s a typical VAT strategy: a tool with which to purify the ranks of the Republican Party.

* * *

Eleven years ago, Brownback himself underwent a similar process of purification. It started, he says, with a strange bump on his right side: a melanoma, diagnosed in 1995.

Brownback is sitting in the Senate dining room surrounded by back-slapping senators and staffers, yet he seems serene. His press secretary tries to stop him from talking — he considers Brownback’s cancer epiphany suitable only for religious audiences — but Brownback can’t be distracted. His eyes open wide and his shoulders slump as he settles into the memory. He starts using words like “meditation” and “solitude.” The press secretary winces.

The doctors scooped out a piece of his flesh, Brownback says, as if murmuring to himself. A minor procedure, but it scared him. In his mind, he lost hold of everything. He asked himself, “What have I done with my life?” The answer seemed to be “Nothing.”

One night, while his family was sleeping, Brownback got up and pulled out a copy of his resume. Sitting in his silent house, in the middle of the night, a scar over his ribs where cancer had been carved out of his body, he looked down at the piece of paper. His work, the laws he had passed. “This must be who I am,” he thought. Then he realized: Nothing he had done would last. All his accomplishments were humdrum conservative measures, bureaucratic wrangling, legislation that had nothing to do with God. They were worth nothing.

Brownback turns, holds my gaze. “So,” he says, “I burned it.”

He smiles. He pauses. He’s waiting to see if I understand. He had cleansed himself with fire. He had made himself pure.

“I’m a child of the living God,” he explains.

I nod.

“You are, too,” he says. He purses his lips as he searches the other tables. Look, he says, pointing to a man across the room. “Mark Dayton, over there?” The Democratic senator from Minnesota. “He’s a liberal.” But you know what else he is? “A beautiful child of the living God.” Brownback continues. Ted Kennedy? “A beautiful child of the living God.” Hillary Clinton? Yes. Even Hillary. Especially Hillary.

Once, Brownback says, he hated Hillary Clinton. Hated her so much it hurt him. But he reached in and scooped that hatred out like a cancer. Now, he loves her. She, too, is a beautiful child of the living God.

* * *

After his spiritual transformation, Brownback began traveling to some of the most blighted regions in the world. At times his motivation appeared strictly economic. He toured the dictatorships of Central Asia, trading U.S. support for access to oil — but he insists that he wanted to prevent their wealth from falling into “Islamic hands.” Oil may have spurred his interest in Africa, too — the U.S. competes with China for access to African oil fields — but the welfare of the world’s most afflicted continent has since become a genuine obsession for Brownback. He has traveled to Darfur, in Sudan, and he has just returned from the Congo, where the starving die at a rate of 1,000 a day. Recalling the child soldiers he’s met in Uganda, his voice chokes and his eyes fill with horror.

When Brownback talks about Africa, he sounds like JFK, or even Bono. “We’re only five percent of the population,” he says, “but we’re responsible for thirty percent of the world’s economy, thirty-three percent of military spending. We’re going to be held accountable for the assets we’ve been given.” His definition of moral decadence includes America’s failure to stop genocide in the Sudan and torture in North Korea. He wants drug companies to spend as much on medicine for malaria as they do on feel-good drugs for Americans, like Viagra and Prozac. Ask him what drives him and he’ll answer, without irony, “widows and orphans.” It’s a reference to the New Testament Epistle of James: “Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Brownback is less concerned about the world being polluted by people. His biggest financial backer is Koch Industries, an oil company that ranks among America’s largest privately held companies. “The Koch folks,” as they’re known around the senator’s office, are among the nation’s worst polluters. In 2000, the company was slapped with the largest environmental civil penalty in U.S. history for illegally discharging 3 million gallons of crude oil in six states. That same year Koch was indicted for lying about its emissions of benzene, a chemical linked to leukemia, and dodged criminal charges in return for a $20 million settlement. Brownback has received nearly $100,000 from Koch and its employees, and during his neck-and-neck race in 1996, a mysterious shell company called Triad Management provided $410,000 for last-minute advertising on Brownback’s behalf. A Senate investigative committee later determined that the money came from the two brothers who run Koch Industries.

Brownback has been a staunch opponent of environmental regulations that Koch finds annoying, fighting fuel-efficiency standards and the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. But for the senator, there’s no real divide between the predatory economic interests of his corporate backers and his own moral passions. He received more money funneled through Jack Abramoff, the GOP lobbyist under investigation for bilking Indian tribes of more than $80 million, than all but four other senators — and he blocked a casino that Abramoff’s clients viewed as a competitor. But getting Brownback to vote against gambling doesn’t take bribes; he would have done so regardless of the money.

Brownback finds the issue of finances distasteful. He refuses to discuss his backers, smoothly turning the issue to matters of faith. “Pat got me elected,” he says, referring to Robertson’s network of Christian-right organizations. Sitting in his corner office in the Senate, Brownback returns to one of his favorite subjects: the scourge of homosexuality. The office has just been remodeled and the high-ceilinged room is almost barren. On Brownback’s desk, adrift at the far end of the room, there’s a Bible open to the Gospel of John.

It doesn’t bother Brownback that most Bible scholars challenge the idea that Scripture opposes homosexuality. “It’s pretty clear,” he says, “what we know in our hearts.” This, he says, is “natural law,” derived from observation of the world, but the logic is circular: It’s wrong because he observes himself believing it’s wrong.

He has worldly proof, too. “You look at the social impact of the countries that have engaged in homosexual marriage.” He shakes his head in sorrow, thinking of Sweden, which Christian conservatives believe has been made by “social engineering” into an outer ring of hell. “You’ll know ’em by their fruits,” Brownback says. He pauses, and an awkward silence fills the room. He was citing scripture — Matthew 7:16 — but he just called gay Swedes “fruits.”

Homosexuality may not be sanctioned by the Bible, but slavery is — by Old and New Testaments alike. Brownback thinks slavery is wrong, of course, but the Bible never is. How does he square the two? “I’ve wondered on that very issue,” he says. He tentatively suggests that the Bible views slavery as a “person-to-person relationship,” something to be worked out beyond the intrusion of government. But he quickly abandons the argument; calling slavery a personal choice, after all, is awkward for a man who often compares slavery to abortion.

* * *

Although Brownback converted to Catholicism in 2002 through Opus Dei, an ultraorthodox order that, like the Fellowship, specializes in cultivating the rich and powerful, the source of much of his religious and political thinking is Charles Colson, the former Nixon aide who served seven months in prison for his attempt to cover up Watergate. A “key figure,” says Brownback, in the power structure of Christian Washington, Colson is widely acknowledged as the Christian right’s leading intellectual. He is the architect behind faith-based initiatives, the negotiator who forged the Catholic-evangelical unity known as co-belligerency, and the man who drove sexual morality to the top of the movement’s agenda.

“When I came to the Senate,” says Brownback, “I sought him out. I had been listening to his thoughts for years, and wanted to get to know him some.”

The admiration is mutual. Colson, a powerful member of the Fellowship, spotted Brownback as promising material not long after he joined the group’s cell for freshman Republicans. At the time, Colson was holding classes on “biblical worldview” for leaders on Capitol Hill, and Brownback became a prize pupil. Colson taught that abortion is only a “threshold” issue, a wedge with which to introduce fundamentalism into every question. The two men soon grew close, and began coordinating their efforts: Colson provides the strategy, and Brownback translates it into policy. “Sam has been at the meetings I called, and I’ve been at the meetings he called,” Colson says.

Colson’s most admirable work is Prison Fellowship, a ministry that offers counseling and “worldview training” to prisoners around the world. Many of his programs receive federal funding, and Brownback is sponsoring a bill that would make it easier for more government dollars to go to faith-based programs such as Colson’s. Social scientists debate whether such programs work, but politicians consider them undeniable evidence of the existence of compassionate conservatism.

And yet compassionate conservatism, as Colson conceives it and Brownback implements it, is strikingly similar to plain old authoritarian conservatism. In place of liberation, it offers as an ideal what Colson calls “biblical obedience” and what Brownback terms “submission.” The concept is derived from Romans 13, the scripture by which Brownback and Colson understand their power as God-given: “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”

To Brownback, the verse is not dictatorial — it’s simply one of the demands of spiritual war, the “worldwide spiritual offensive” that the Fellowship declared a half-century ago. “There’s probably a higher level of Christians being persecuted during the last ten, twenty years than . . . throughout human history,” Brownback once declared on Colson’s radio show. Give
n to framing his own faith in terms of battles, he believes that secularists and Muslims are fighting a worldwide war against Christians — sometimes in concert. “Religious freedom” is one of his top priorities, and securing it may require force. He’s sponsored legislation that could lead to “regime change” in Iran, and has proposed sending combat troops to the Philippines, where Islamic rebels killed a Kansas missionary.

Brownback doesn’t demand that everyone believe in his God — only that they bow down before Him. Part holy warrior, part holy fool, he preaches an odd mix of theological naivete and diplomatic savvy. The faith he wields in the public square is blunt, heavy, unsubtle; brass knuckles of the spirit. But the religion of his heart is that of the woman whose example led him deep into orthodoxy: Mother Teresa — it is a kiss for the dying. He sees no tension between his intolerance and his tenderness. Indeed, their successful reconciliation in his political self is the miracle at the heart of the new fundamentalism, the fusion of hellfire and Hallmark.

“I have seen him weep,” growls Colson, anointing Brownback with his highest praise. Such are the new American crusaders: tear-streaked strong men huddling together to talk about their feelings before they march forth, their sentimental faith sharpened and their man-feelings hardened into “natural law.” They are God’s promise keepers, His defenders of marriage, His knights of the fetal citizen. They are the select few who embody the paradoxical love promised by Christ when he declares — in Matthew 10:34 — “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

Standing on his back porch in Topeka, Brownback looks down into a dark patch of hedge trees, a gnarled hardwood that’s nearly unsplittable. The same trees grow on the 1,400 acres that surround Brownback’s childhood home in Parker; not much else remains. When the senator was a boy, there were eleven families living on the land. Now there are only the Brownbacks and a friend from high school who lives rent-free in one of the empty houses. When the friend moves on, Brownback’s father plans to tear the house down. The rest of the homes are already taking care of themselves, slowly crumbling into the prairie. The world Brownback grew up in has vanished.

In its place, Brownback imagines another one. Standing on his porch, he thinks back to the days before the Civil War, when his home state was known as Bloody Kansas and John Brown fought for freedom with an ax. “A terrorist,” concedes Brownback, careful not to offend his Southern supporters, but also a wise man. When Brown was in jail awaiting execution, a visitor told the abolitionist that he was crazy.

“I’m not the one who has 4 million people in bondage,” Brownback intones, recalling Brown’s response. “I, sir, think you are crazy.”

This is another of Brownback’s parables. In place of 4 million slaves, he thinks of uncountable unborn babies, of all the persecuted Christians — a nation within a nation, awaiting Brownback’s liberation. Brownback, sir, thinks that secular America is crazy.

The senator stares, his face gentle but unsmiling.

He isn’t joking.

JEFF SHARLET

Discussion

24 comments for “God's Senator”

  1. To provide an updated answer to the question posed in the subtitle “Who would Jesus vote for?”, the answer for 2012 will be humble small businessman Mitt Romney (barring a continuance of “Newt-mentum”). More specifically, Jesus would be super psyched about Mitt’s proposal to privatize veterans’ health care:

    “Sometimes you wonder, would there be someway to introduce some private sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose whether they want to go on the government system or the private system and then it follows them, like what happens with schools in Florida where they have a voucher that follows them. Who knows.”

    Oh, someone knows Mitt, and his gentle face is smiling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 11, 2011, 8:00 pm
  2. I stand corrected!

    Cain says God persuaded him to run for president
    AP

    By RAY HENRY – Associated Press | AP – 6 hrs ago

    ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Herman Cain said God convinced him to enter the race for president, comparing himself to Moses: “‘You’ve got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'”

    The Georgia business executive played up his faith Saturday after battling sexual harassment allegations for two weeks, trying to shift the conversation to religion, an issue vital to conservative Republicans, especially in the South.

    In a speech Saturday to a national meeting of young Republicans, Cain said the Lord persuaded him after much prayer.

    “That’s when I prayed and prayed and prayed. I’m a man of faith — I had to do a lot of praying for this one, more praying than I’ve ever done before in my life,” Cain said. “And when I finally realized that it was God saying that this is what I needed to do, I was like Moses. ‘You’ve got the wrong man, Lord. Are you sure?'”

    Once he made the decision, Cain said, he did not look back.

    Four women have now accused Cain of sexually harassing them when he led the National Restaurant Association more than a decade ago. Cain, who has denied wrongdoing, was silent about the allegations and did not take reporters’ questions.

    Cain isn’t the first to say God prodded him toward a campaign. Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, has said she felt God was speaking to her about the race, adding that her husband needed to see a “burning bush,” a Biblical reference to God’s first appearance to Moses.

    God certainly works in mysterious ways

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 12, 2011, 9:50 pm
  3. Too…many…choices…for…baby…Jeebus. He’s just a baby!

    During a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa Friday afternoon, Rick Santorum argued that Americans receive too many government benefits and ought to “suffer” in the Christian tradition. If “you’re lower income, you can qualify for Medicaid, you can qualify for food stamps, you can qualify for housing assistance,” Santorum complained, before adding, “suffering is part of life and it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life.” However, almost all states have curtailed their aid programs, just as the economic downturn is expanding the pool of eligible applicants

    Near the end of the linked video God’s new favorite Senator explains that there’s both the tangible types of suffering (lack of food, shelter, etc), and the intangible kind of suffering like a lack of dignity. So any of you starving/dying folks, just know that he’s suffering too. It’s a good thing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 21, 2011, 8:46 am
  4. Newtmentum? :

    Gingrich Says Child Labor Laws Should Be Rolled Back So Kids Can Be Janitors

    David Teich November 21, 2011, 11:07 AM

    Newt Gingrich’s desire to roll back Social Security is no secret. But apparently his quest to tackle decades-old New Deal policies doesn’t stop there.

    Now Gingrich is taking on an issue he says “no liberal wants to deal with” — economically suffocating child labor laws.

    During a Harvard address on Friday, Gingrich blamed child labor restrictions for doing “more to create income inequality in the United States than any other single policy.” “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods, entrapping children in…child laws, which are truly stupid,” said Gingrich.

    Most of these schools ought to get rid of the unionized janitors, have one master janitor and pay local students to take care of the school,” he added. “The kids would actually do work, they would have cash, they would have pride in the schools, they’d begin the process of rising.

    No, it’s just plain old Godmentum, and Newt’s got it!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 21, 2011, 8:55 am
  5. I bet the GOP primary voters might like to learn more about this Catholic-based legal system Newt’s talked about:

    Gingrich: Ave Maria to help Catholic-based legal system replace left, secular judicial branch

    By KELLY FARRELL
    Posted November 19, 2010 at 11:46 p.m.

    NAPLES — Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke of the importance Ave Maria School of Law will have in replacing the current liberal, secular legal system during the law school’s 10th Anniversary celebration held at the Naples Ritz Carlton Beach Resort on Friday night.

    The potential 2012 presidential hopeful converted to Roman Catholicism in 2009, which is the same year the law school relocated from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Naples.

    The law school’s students would be prepared to write the laws, defend the laws and defeat the left, Gingrich said. The modern, secular law, he said, can be seen every few minutes on TV.

    “Ads on television, basically say ‘do you know somebody with money we could mug together?’ …Call…’” Gringrich said.

    This school matters, he said, by replacing the “neutral technology for the redistribution of wealth” with a morally-based legal system.

    He’s a little vague on the details about this new “morally-based legal system” but I’m pretty sure at least pizza will still be legal.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2011, 9:51 am
  6. This David Barton fellow must be the guy Newt calls when his historian work requires a Constitutional interpretion:

    Fri Nov 25, 2011 at 08:44 AM PST
    Gingrich in Video Which Claims Constitution Based on Old Testament

    by TroutfishingFollow

    Does Republican presidential candidate and Former Speaker of the US House of Representative Newt Gingrich believe that the United States Constitution is based on the Old Testament?

    On September 19, 2011, at an Orlando, Florida hotel, Republican presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry gathered, along with hundreds of pastors brought in for a secretive “Pastors Policy Briefing” meeting (which excluded the press), and listened as Christian history revisionist David Barton, former Vice Chair of the Texas GOP, explained (link to video clip of Barton) that key concepts in the United States Constitution were derived from Old Testament scripture, including from the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

    Footage from Gingrich’s and Barton’s talks at the September 19th meeting is now being showcased in a 2-hour long video that’s being screened in churches across America, titled “One Nation Under God”.

    In his September 19th talk featured in the “One Nation Under God” video, David Barton declares that the authors of the Constitution “gave us the First Amendment, not because it guarantees separation of church and state – there’s no such thing”. As Barton went on to explain,

    “Strikingly, if you look through that document, it is amazing how many Biblical clauses appear in Constitutional clauses. Biblical verses and phrases – you’ll find them throughout – so many concepts, the founding fathers pointed to bible verses as the source of those concepts. See, today we’re “oh no, the government’s secular” – that’s that compartmentalization again. They never believed it was secular. They looked to God to be included in everything they did.

    While Barton narrates, the video shows the pairing of important clauses in the Constitution with their alleged sources in scripture from the Bible’s books of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezra, Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus. The Book of Leviticus prescribes stoning as a capital punishment for a range of transgressions including blasphemy and cursing, adultery, and witchcraft.

    Gingrich has made numerous appearances at events alongside David Barton, head of the nonprofit group Wallbuilders and author of numerous works of Christian nationalist history revisionism, and Gingrich has pledged to seek Barton’s advice during his 2012 presidential campaign.

    “One Nation Under God”, which heavily promotes Newt Gingrich as the candidate who can best enable Christian nationalist voters “retake” America in the 2012 election, is connected to pastor David Lane’s ongoing Renewal Project/Pastors Policy Briefing events being held over the past several years in swing states including in Iowa, that trace back to efforts by Lane to rally pastors behind Rick Perry in Texas. An April 2, 2011 New York Times story characterized Lane’s events as a “broad effort to revitalize the religious right.”

    “One Nation Under God” is being deployed in a well-funded and organized national campaign, orchestrated by an entity, whose efforts seem to interlock with Lane’s Renewal Project events, called United in Purpose/Champion The Vote that aims to register and get to the polls, millions of new conservative evangelical voters–with Gingrich as the current beneficiary. The effort includes the targeting of African-American and Hispanic evangelicals.

    Newt Gingrich and the New Apostolic Reformation

    As reported by the LA Times, one of the major financial backers of the Champion The Vote, United In Prayer initiative is tech boom entrepreneur Ken Eldred, whose several nonprofit foundations are endowed with upwards of $50 million dollars. In his 2008 book Dominion! How Kingdom Action Can Transform The World, C. Peter Wagner identifies Eldred as a “marketplace apostle” who has provided “what might prove to be our most viable guidelines for a new strategy of social transformation.”

    According to the 990 tax forms of his several “Living Stones” foundations, Ken Eldred has financed several aspects of Wagner’s movement including the work of apostle George Otis Jr., whose Transformation videos show evangelical believers achieving dominance over cities, towns, and geographic areas by driving away demon spirits and hounding out or neutralizing ideological foes, often portrayed as witches and warlocks.

    In September 2008, shortly before the 2008 presidential election, footage surfaced showing a star from Otis, Jr.’s first Transformation video, Kenyan evangelist Thomas Muthee, blessing and anointing Sarah Palin against “every form of witchcraft.”

    Oh my, so it sounds like Newt likes to pal around with Joel’s Army. I wonder how prominent evangelical leaders feel about Newt’s recent conversion to Catholicism:


    MATTHEWS: A lot of people I know are happily married for the second
    time, sometimes the third time.

    In fact, I bumped into an old friend of mine the other day. He`s on
    his forth. I`m not here to judge. I`m not a minister. I`m not a man of
    the cloth. In fact, I don`t really judge people myself on that. I think
    people should seek happiness on Earth in a reasonable way and in a moral
    way.

    OK. Now, Newt Gingrich, three times married, Opus Dei, right-wing
    Catholic, is he OK with you? Are you OK with him?

    PERKINS: You know, this issue came up when he was kind of toying with
    the idea of running four years ago. And he addressed those issues.

    And I absolutely do agree he has serious problems with women,
    conservative voters. I think they will give somebody one pass, but I do
    think he has a difficulty that he may not be able to overcome. But this is
    what he has done in the debates. He has not been out front and won every
    debate, but he`s kind of had this — every time he`s said something, it`s
    been pretty good.

    I mean, he`s a pretty smart guy.

    MATTHEWS: I know that.

    PERKINS: And he has kind of been a senior statesman and he`s brought
    some clarity to these debates. So I think people are giving him a second
    look.

    Well, ok, his Opus Dei affiliation doesn’t seem to be a problem with folks like Tony Perkins. And, as Tony pointed out, he’s brought a lot of clarity to the debates.

    Although, given these friends of his, I have a lot more questions now. Like, since he’s a member of a far-right Catholic cult, but pals around with far-right Evangelicals, which theological interpretation wins? For instance, since his evangelical Historian friend David Barton appears to oppose weekends and overtime laws, how will this jive with Newt’s envisioned Opus Dei Catholic-based legal system (I’m guessing he’ll find a way make it work).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 28, 2011, 8:38 pm
  7. Ok, I think we’ve finally found God’s Senator.

    Santorum: ‘Science Should Get Out Of Politics’

    Yep, definitely God’s Senator. It’s a powerful, almost surreal, statement too. Or maybe “hyperreal” is a better description.

    Oh Ricky, may your story never end.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 9, 2011, 8:05 pm
  8. @Pterrafractyl: I seriously hope this guy does NOT win the GOP nomination next year, the others suck really bad as it is.

    Posted by Steven l. | December 10, 2011, 8:50 am
  9. @Steven L.: I wouldn’t worry about ol’ Ricky, although I could see him as an Ashcroft-like cabinet pick someday. Unfortunately his political career, like his current campaign, seems to have joined the ranks of the undead. We haven’t seen the last of the Santorum.

    Newt, on the other hand, I would be more worried about, although it looks like he may have peaked. In a way, it’s too bad, because I would be grimly curious to see how receptive the public would be to Newt’s new “best of three” form of Constitution rule:

    December 18, 2011 12:45 PM
    Quote of the Day

    By Steve Benen

    At this week’s debate for Republican presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich emphasized one of his favorite subjects: his disgust for the federal judiciary. The disgraced former House Speaker warned of “an uprising” against the courts, adding that he’s “prepared to take on the judiciary” unless federal courts start issuing rulings he agrees with. He went on to say he understands these issues “better than lawyers,” because he’s “a historian.”

    Yesterday, Gingrich hosted a conference call with reporters and went even further, sketching out his vision for policymakers literally ignoring federal court rulings. Referencing Supreme Court findings on the handling of suspected terrorist detainees, for example, Gingrich said, “A commander in chief could simply issue instructions to ignore it, and say it’s null and void and I do not accept it because it infringes on my duties as commander in chief to protect the country.”

    Gingrich went on to describe “the rule of two of three” — a made-up rule with no foundation in American law — in which two branches of government could out-vote the other one.

    He wasn’t kidding, by the way.

    This led CBS’s Bob Schieffer to ask Gingrich a good question on “Face the Nation” this morning.

    SCHIEFFER: One of the things you say is that if you don’t like what a court has done, that Congress should subpoena the judge and bring him before Congress and hold a congressional hearing … how would you enforce that? Would you send the Capitol Police down to arrest him?

    GINGRICH: Sure. If you had to. Or you’d instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshal.

    Just so we’re clear, this week, a leading presidential candidate articulated his belief that, if elected, he might (1) eliminate courts he doesn’t like; (2) ignore court rulings he doesn’t like; and (3) take judges into custody if he disapproves of their legal analyses.

    So where did Newt come up with his novel notions of constitution original intent? Let’s just call it divine inspiration:

    He said he developed his proposals after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 ruled that reciting phrase “one nation, under God” in the Pledge of Alliance in public schools infringed on the separation of church and state.

    I was frankly just fed up with elitist judges imposing secularism on the country and basically fundamentally changing the American Constitution,” Gingrich said. “The more it was clear to me that you have a judicial psychology run amok, and there has to be some method of bringing balance back to the three branches.”

    God’s lil’ crypto-fascist, that’s our Newtster!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 18, 2011, 4:47 pm
  10. Well this is a bit unexpected. God’s pick just might be Ron Paul:

    Death Penalty For Gays: Ron Paul Courts The Religious Fringe In Iowa
    share

    Pema Levy & Benjy Sarlin December 28, 2011, 3:32 PM

    Ron Paul has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over newsletters printed in his name during the 1980s and 1990s which contained racist, anti-semitic, and homophobic content. He is also on the hook for accepting the support of fringe right-wing groups. While Paul dismisses these concerns, his campaign seems to have no problem working with and enjoying the support of anti-gay extremists, including one supporter who has called for the implementation of the death penalty for homosexual behavior.

    Paul’s Iowa chair, Drew Ivers, recently touted the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a pastor at the Dominion Covenant Church in Nebraska who also draws members from Iowa, putting out a press release praising “the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.” But Kayser’s views on homosexuality go way beyond the bounds of typical anti-gay evangelical politics and into the violent fringe: he recently authored a paper arguing for criminalizing homosexuality and even advocated imposing the death penalty against offenders based on his reading of Biblical law.

    “Difficulty in implementing Biblical law does not make non-Biblical penology just,” he argued. “But as we have seen, while many homosexuals would be executed, the threat of capital punishment can be restorative. Biblical law would recognize as a matter of justice that even if this law could be enforced today, homosexuals could not be prosecuted for something that was done before.”

    Reached by phone, Kayser confirmed to TPM that he believed in reinstating Biblical punishments for homosexuals — including the death penalty — even if he didn’t see much hope for it happening anytime soon. While he said he and Paul disagree on gay rights, noting that Paul recently voted for repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he supported the campaign because he believed Paul’s federalist take on the Constitution would allow states more latitude to implement fundamentalist law. Especially since under Kayser’s own interpretation of the Constitution there is no separation of Church and State.

    Under a Ron Paul presidency, states would be freed up to not have political correctness imposed on them, but obviously some state would follow what’s politically correct,” he said. “What he’s trying to do, whether he agrees with the Constitution’s position or not, is restrict himself to the Constitution. That is something I very much appreciate.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 28, 2011, 7:24 pm
  11. The NY Times has a piece on Foster Friess, the Koch-buddy billionaire backing Rick Santorum (He’s was smitten with Mittens four years ago, but Ricky wins its this time). God’s king-makers have deep pockets:

    A Wealthy Backer Likes the Odds on Santorum
    By JIM RUTENBERG and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
    Published: February 8, 2012

    Mitt Romney and Foster Friess, a wealthy donor to conservative causes, were walking out of an event together a few months ago when Mr. Friess broke the news: After backing Mr. Romney for president four years ago, he was getting behind Rick Santorum this time around.

    “He couldn’t quite figure out why Rick was even bothering to go through the effort,” Mr. Friess recalled in an interview on Wednesday. “I mean, I don’t mean to fault him for saying, ‘Why take Rick seriously?’ Nobody took Rick seriously.”

    Many more Republicans are taking Mr. Santorum seriously now, thanks to his victories in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado on Tuesday — and perhaps none more than Mr. Romney, for whom Mr. Santorum’s unexpected rise poses another threat from the right.

    Few people played a more pivotal role in Tuesday’s turn of events than Mr. Friess. An investor who made millions in mutual funds and now lives in Wyoming, he is the chief backer of a “super PAC” that has helped keep Mr. Santorum’s candidacy alive by running television advertisements on his behalf.

    His role as outside funder — one that Mr. Friess indicated he would continue to play in the contests ahead — escalates the battle among a few dozen wealthy Republicans to influence their party’s choice of a presidential nominee.

    They are exploiting changes to campaign laws and regulations that have allowed wealthy individuals and businesses to pool unlimited contributions into super PACs that in turn have inundated the airwaves with negative advertisements.

    Mr. Friess’s chosen outlet, called the Red, White and Blue Fund, provided critical support for Mr. Santorum as he successfully sought to resuscitate his campaign with victories in Tuesday’s contests. At a time when Mr. Santorum could not afford to pay for a single commercial of his own, the Red, White and Blue Fund focused in particular on Minnesota, where the super PAC supporting Mr. Romney, Restore Our Future, broadcast a last-minute blitz of advertising against him, according to an analysis from Kantar Media/CMAG.

    Mr. Friess’s personal Web site calls him “The Man Atop the Horse”; his father was a horse and cattle trader. He is relatively rare among the major backers of super PACs for his close association with the religious conservative movement. His Web site quotes Scripture, and he often says that God is “the chairman of my board.”

    He is also rare for his willingness to speak openly about his political giving, a break from Mr. Adelson, who has not spoken publicly about his donations of $10 million, with his wife, to the super PAC supporting Mr. Gingrich.

    “There are not many donors who are really willing to be out there as such an advocate,” said the founder of Red, White and Blue, Nick Ryan. “It takes a little bit of the cloak and dagger out of the whole thing.”

    Mr. Friess, 71, said that he liked Mr. Santorum for his faith, but that he also believed he was the best candidate to compete with President Obama, whom he blamed for excessive government. He said he came to know Mr. Santorum several years ago and particularly approved of his opposition to abortion rights and his hawkish foreign policy stance.

    Like donors to rival super PACs, Mr. Friess ranks among the country’s leading patrons of Republican and conservative causes. He has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party and candidates in recent years, including to Mr. Santorum’s two chief rivals for the presidential nomination, Mr. Romney and Mr. Gingrich, to whom Mr. Friess donated last spring. Late last year, Mr. Friess gave $100,000 to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin to help fend off a Democratic-led recall effort.

    He said during the interview Wednesday that he had spoken to Mr. Adelson recently. And he has also been an ally of the billionaire Koch brothers, perhaps the leading financiers of conservative causes in the nation. He has attended the Kochs’ semiannual retreats for major donors, including the most recent one, held late last month at a resort in California, and like them has donated to Tea Party-inspired candidates and groups, including the Tea Party Express political action committee.

    “Well, I think that if he does that it is so exciting,” he said, “because it finally recognizes that Rick Santorum is a threat.”

    To make matters worse, take a look at what Foster specifically thinks resonates with the “pro-Israel” block of Evangelical and Catholic conservative voters in Rick “Let’s bomb Iran” Santorum’s policy portfolio:


    Friess said he doesn’t counsel his chosen candidate on strategy, but he does think Santorum can woo the “pro-Israel voting bloc,” Catholic and Evangelical voters.

    Santorum is constantly mentioning on the stump the dangers of a nuclear Iran and how the country would never be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon if he were president, but Friess specifically mentioned his work on both Iran- and Syria-related issues as reasons he would do well with voters that are interested in a more hawkish and conservative Israel stance.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 8, 2012, 10:52 pm
  12. Here’s a story that’s impressive in how it’s able to encapsulate so much of what has gone awry in a society:

    Duggar Says Overpopulation Is a Lie & More Controversies
    Mar 30, 2012 4:45 AM EDT
    Michelle Duggar, of 19 Kids and Counting, claims the Earth’s overpopulation problem is a “lie.” See 8 (and counting!) of the biggest debates involving reality-TV’s mega-brood.

    Michelle Claims Overpopulation Is ‘a Lie’

    Did you know that if every single human being in the world stood shoulder-to-shoulder they would fit within the city limits of Jacksonville, Fla.? That’s the truth about overpopulation, according to Michelle Duggar, the baby-popping matriarch of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting. In a Web interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Duggar answered a question about whether her oversize family hurts the environment by disputing the idea of overpopulation entirely. “First off, the idea of overpopulation is not accurate,” Duggar said before proposing her theory about Jacksonville’s ability to accommodate 7 billion people. In fact, she pointed out, the world is in need of more babies. “We’ve had other countries coming to our doorstep, asking us to please let their people know that they need to have more children,” she said. “They are seeing that their death rates are outnumbering their birth rates and they’re in crisis.”

    Campaigning for Rick Santorum

    Given their staunchly anti-abortion beliefs, it perhaps isn’t surprising that the Duggars support Rick Santorum-they did, however, raise a few eyebrows by packing up their things and hitting the road to campaign with him. “He is the true conservative in the race,” Michelle has told The Daily Beast. “Rick Santorum has the family values that we hold dear in our hearts.” The Duggars have even recorded a “19 Reasons and Counting to Vote for Rick Santorum” video, in which they get the entire family involved, even managing to get their second-youngest (who sounds like she’s still very new at talking) to utter, “Rick Santorum for president!”

    Duggar Family Clones? The Bateses

    For anyone who thought the Duggars were a singularly bizarre family, meet the Bateses. As of February, they’re now tied with the Duggars as America’s largest family. The Tennessee brood has also suffered through two miscarriages; they also don’t believe in birth control; they also support Rick Santorum and-you guessed it-they also just scored their own TLC reality show. You might think the two families are rivals, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. The two families have met and (so far) have nothing but nice things to say about each other. “The Duggars are some of the kindest-hearted people,” Gil Bates (patriarch of the Bates family) said. “We’re all in a race against time to finish whatever work God has for us in the time we have left.”

    So there’s not one, but two, TLC shows that celebrate the lives of families with 19 children and a distinct patriarchal Christian worldview. That some great exposure for the “Quiverfull” movement since both families are also living billboards for the non-denominational patriarchal anti-feminist Christianist movement that arose in the last couple of decades. The Christian authors that created the system of “Biblical womanhood” aslo push a “contraception=abortion” theological arguement that’s becoue part of the present day political subtext in sudden contraception kerfuffle in the US’s presidential race. The term “Quiverfull” is derived from the theological imagry of each child as an arrow in the parent’s quivers as part of some sort of spiritual arms race. And as a Dominionist movement(ie. the spiritual arms race includes a mandate to “subdue” the earth and physically take over and rule society), the Quiverfull movement also intends to provide exponentially growing blocks of voters for the Dominionist cause:

    Newsweek
    Extreme Motherhood
    Mar 16, 2009 8:00 PM EDT
    Understanding Quiverfull, the antifeminist, conservative Christian movement that motivates popular reality-TV families like the Duggars.
    by Kathryn Joyce

    If there is a wholesome counterpoint to the gossip-rich travails of single-mom Nadya Suleman and her 14 children, it might be Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who had their 18th child just weeks before the arrival of Suleman’s octuplets in January. The Duggar birth was televised on the Arkansas couple’s popular TLC reality show, “17 Kids and Counting” (now “18 Kids and Counting”). Unlike Suleman, who was vilified as the freakish, government-assistance-dependent “Octomom,” the Duggars’ abundant progeny often attract admiration. Their children play violin, their palatial home is immaculate and the family matriarch is a soft-spoken multitasker who gently keeps order in her immense household.

    Watching Michelle Duggar manage her Herculean tasks is addictive. We like to marvel at the logistics of life in oversized reality-TV families like the Duggars or the participants of the series “Kids By the Dozen” (also on TLC), which features families with at least 12 children each. How do they do all that laundry every week? Afford all those gallons of milk or cope with a joint birthday party for 13?

    But there’s one big omission from the on-screen portrayal of many of these families: their motivation. Though the Duggars do describe themselves as conservative Christians, in reality, they follow a belief system that goes far beyond “Cheaper by the Dozen” high jinks. It is a pro-life-purist lifestyle known as Quiverfull, where women forgo all birth-control options, viewing contraception as a form of abortion and considering even natural family planning an attempt to control a realm-fertility-that should be entrusted to divine providence.

    At the heart of this reality-show depiction of “extreme motherhood” is a growing conservative Christian emphasis on the importance of women submitting to their husbands and fathers, an antifeminist backlash that holds that gender equality is contrary to God’s law and that women’s highest calling is as wives and “prolific” mothers.

    Mary Pride, an early homeschooling leader whose 1985 book “The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality” is a founding text of Quiverfull, convinced many readers that regulating one’s fertility is a slippery slope. “Family planning is the mother of abortion,” she writes. “A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could be popular.” Instead, Pride and her peers argue, Christians should leave family planning in God’s hands, and become “maternal missionaries”: birthing as many children as He gives them as both a demonstration of radical faith and obedience, as well as a plan to effect Christian revival in the culture through demographic means-that is, by having more children than their political opponents.

    Quiverfull advocates see their lifestyle, and their abundant progeny, as a living denunciation of what they call “the contraceptive mentality”: demonstrating their commitment to end abortion by accepting all children as “unqualified blessings” from God. They often underscore the point by referring to their children as “blessings,” as in their “eight”-or 10, or 12-“blessings at home”: language that has spilled over into the mainstream among families that do not follow the Quiverfull conviction, such as the Gosselins (of TLC’s “Jon and Kate Plus Eight”), Suleman and even former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. It’s this ideological grounding, tying the Quiverfull conviction to growing anticontraception efforts among abortion opponents worldwide, that makes Quiverfull arguments relevant far beyond the movement’s small but growing numbers. (As a movement, it likely numbers in the tens of thousands, though hard numbers are not available.)

    Often, children of the movement are also called “arrows.” Quiverfull takes its name from Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.”A wealth of military metaphors follows from this namesake, as Pride and her fellow advocates urge women toward militant fecundity in the service of religious rebirth: creating what they bluntly refer to as an army of devout children to wage spiritual battle against God’s enemies. As Quiverfull author Rachel Scott writes in her 2004 movement book, “Birthing God’s Mighty Warriors,” “Children are our ammunition in the spiritual realm to whip the enemy! These special arrows were handcrafted by the warrior himself and were carefully fashioned to achieve the purpose of annihilating the enemy.”

    Quiverfull advocates Rick and Jan Hess, authors of 1990’s “A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ,” envision the worldly gains such a method could bring, if more Christians began producing “full quivers” of “arrows for the war”: control of both houses of Congress, the “reclamation” of sinful cities like San Francisco and massive boycotts of companies that do not comply with conservative Christian mores. “If the body of Christ had been reproducing as we were designed to do,” the Hesses write, “we would not be in the mess we are today.” Nancy Campbell, author of another movement book from 2003 called “Be Fruitful and Multiply,” exhorts Christian women to do just that with promises of spiritual glory. “Oh what a vision,” she writes, “to invade the earth with mighty sons and daughters who have been trained and prepared for God’s divine purposes.”

    Quiverfull doesn’t follow from any particular church’s teachings but rather is a conviction shared by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians across denominational lines, often spread through the burgeoning conservative homeschooling community, which the U.S. Department of Education estimates has more than 1 million school-age children, and which homeschooling groups say easily has twice that number.

    Quiverfull’s pronatalist emphasis is linked to a companion doctrine of strident antifeminism among conservative Christians who see the women’s liberation movement as the origin of a host of social ills, from abortion to divorce, women working and teen sex. “Feminism is a totally self-consistent system aimed at rejecting God’s role for women,” Pride wrote in 1985; since then, the movement she helped create has erected an opposite and equally self-consistent system of “biblical womanhood.”

    At the forefront of evangelical opposition to feminism is a group of self-described “patriarchy” advocates, who have reclaimed the term from women’s studies curricula to advocate a strict “complementarian” theology of wives and daughters being submissive to their husbands and fathers. This resurgent emphasis on women’s submissiveness takes many forms, from the statement by the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention that wives must “graciously submit” to their husband’s “loving headship” and the theological works being written by the SBC-affiliated Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, to far more severe interpretations that claim women’s absolute obedience to their husbands is the first, necessary step toward Christians reclaiming the culture. Part of the Quiverfull mission is raising large families that embrace these traditional gender roles and teach their daughters to do the same.

    So while population growth, environmental degradation, and the ongoing capture of the state by far-right corporate interests promises to usher in an age of pink slim and peak water across the world, it’s worth recognizing that the corporate interests are going to be increasingly relying on this rapidly growing Domninionist movement with a theological mandate to trash the environment and hyper-breed in order to maintain that grip on power. And, presumably, to provide the far-right with quivers full of shock troops to fight for a theocratic future in the hastened resource wars of tomorrow.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 31, 2012, 7:15 pm
  13. Eric Cantor: Today’s turd in the Grand Old Party punch bowl:

    Special Topic
    Cantor Suggests Anti-Semitism Is A Problem Within The House GOP Caucus
    By Annie-Rose Strasser and Scott Keyes on Apr 19, 2012 at 11:15 am

    A few weeks ago, the House GOP was up in arms over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) $25,000 donation to anti-incumbent candidate Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who ultimately defeated his opponent, incumbent Rep. Don Manzullo (R-IL). But the story got a little more fraught when it turned out that Manzullo once said Cantor would not be “saved” because he is Jewish.

    Today, Cantor, the only Jewish House Republican, nearly affirmed that this was the reason he fought against Manzullo’s re-election, insinuating that anti-Semitism – and racism – are lingering problems among the House GOP generally. He speaking at a breakfast event organized by Politico.

    Calling it the “darker side,” Cantor responded to Politico’s Mike Allen’s question of whether there is anti-semitism in Congress by trying to avoid commenting. But eventually he let up: “I think that all of us know that in this country, we’ve not always gotten it right in terms of racial matters, religious matters, whatever. We continue to strive to provide equal treatment to everybody.”

    “We’re talking about the House Republican Caucus, not America,” Allen pushed.

    Cantor then sat in silence, grimmacing for several seconds before Allen changed the topic.

    There’s a video at the link that has to be watched to really get the non-verbal communication of Cantor at the end when he sat there “in silence, grimmacing”. There’s a “I’m not going to say yes, but yes [I am talking about the GOP House membership]” element to the gesturing.

    The one part of the article I actually found surprising was that Cantor is the only Jewish GOP member of the House. I don’t know why…I just didn’t expect that to be the case.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 19, 2012, 8:44 am
  14. Ok, it’s obvious now. Paul Ryan is clearly God’s Chosen Warrior. Not only is he correcting the US Conference of Catholic Bishop over the church’s moral objections over the Ryan budget (like protecting human dignity and feeding the hungry and homeless) but he’s also correcting the Joint Chiefs of Staff after they complained about the Ryan Budget giving them TOO MUCH MONEY. Too much for the generals and too little for the poor? Sounds Jesus-approved to me!

    God’s Warrior? No. God’s General.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 19, 2012, 2:41 pm
  15. Just FYI, in case things seemed all topsy-turvy yesterday it was apparently opposite-day:

    Think Progress
    After Previously Praising Her, Paul Ryan Now Disses Ayn Rand: ‘I Reject Her Philosophy’

    By Scott Keyes on Apr 26, 2012 at 11:40 am

    In 2005, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) heaped praise on Ayn Rand, a 20th-century libertarian novelist best known for her philosophy that centered on the idea that selfishness is “virtue”. The New Republic wrote:

    “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said at a D.C. gathering four years ago honoring the author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

    Ryan also noted in a 2003 interview with the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well… I try to make my interns read it.”

    But today, Ryan is singing a far different tune.

    From an interview with National Review’s Bob Costa this week:

    “I reject her philosophy,” Ryan says firmly. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas,” who believed that man needs divine help in the pursuit of knowledge. “Don’t give me Ayn Rand,” he says.

    I hope that clears everything up.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 27, 2012, 6:47 am
  16. Our modern America:

    Fox News guest laments ‘mistake’ of letting women vote
    By Stephen C. Webster
    Rawstory
    Monday, May 7, 2012 15:20 EDT

    Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, a tea party activist that’s appeared several times on Fox News, and founder of an organization where Sean Hannity serves as an advisory board member, said in a sermon recently published to YouTube that America’s greatest mistake was allowing women the right to vote, adding that back in “the good old days, men knew that women are crazy and they knew how to deal with them.”

    In the video, published to YouTube in March, Peterson explains that he believes women simply can’t handle “anything,” and that in his experience, “You walk up to them with a issue, they freak out right away. They go nuts. They get mad. They get upset, just like that. They have no patience because it’s not in their nature. They don’t have love. They don’t have love.”

    Despite his statements being online for more than a month, Hannity welcomed Peterson on his show last Tuesday to castigate the Obama administration over “taking credit” for the Osama bin Laden assassination – but the segment didn’t exactly go as planned.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 8, 2012, 2:04 pm
  17. It’s worth noting that Opus Dei isn’t the only fascist ultra-right-wing Catholic group that Ricky has been a member of over the years:

    Salon
    MARCH 15, 2012 8:25AM
    Rick Santorum and the Politicization of Religion

    March is Rick Santorum’s moment to strut the stage like a minor Shakespearean buffoon, who mortifies but entertains the crowd before he is yanked behind the curtain. Much of his message is old news, but he also represents a movement to insert the most conservative brand of Catholic theology into secular political discourse. But Catholic voters reject this guy. Why? Despite the church’s rightward drift under Pope Benedict, the church has had an at times uneasy relationship with Opus Dei and Regnum Christi, two branches of Catholic lay practice that Santorum endorses and that have been highly suspect to many within the church.

    Of the two groups, Regnum Christi is the more virulent. It is the lay branch of the Legion of Christ order founded by child rapist and bigamist Father Marcial Maciel. According to the New York Times, Santorum has long been a supporter of the group and in 2003 was the keynote speaker at a Regnum Christi event in Chicago. Though this occurred a decade ago, Maciel, who had been under investigation since the 70s, was already well on his way to repudiation by the church.

    Anyone vaguely familiar with the church’s agonizingly slow response to the preponderance of evidence concerning its decades-long priestly sex scandal has to find the straightforward nature of this condemnation rather striking. And yet Maciel’s legacy, Regnum Christi, is a pet project of Santorum.

    “The Culture Did It”

    Rick Santorum has followed the lead of many apologists for the Catholic sex scandal, which cost the U.S. church $2.6 billion in settlements from 1950 to 2009; he blamed the culture. He said:

    It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning “private” moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.

    I have to agree with Ricky on one point…there does appear to be a cultural sickness at work in contemporary politics. For instance, Ricky is the guy that almost got the GOP nomination. That’s pretty sick.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 16, 2012, 2:55 pm
  18. Lol. I think David Barton just hit the historian’s version of rock bottom:

    Glenn Beck set to publish controversial book on US president Thomas Jefferson

    Rightwing US radio host Glenn Beck could take over The Jefferson Lies, dropped by Christian publisher over accuracy concerns

    Alison Flood
    guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 August 2012 09.38 EDT

    Evangelical author David Barton’s controversial Thomas Jefferson book, which was dropped by its publisher for inaccuracies last week, may have found a new home with Glenn Beck.

    Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies, purports to “correct the distorted image of a once-beloved founding father”, arguing that Jefferson was an orthodox Christian who did not believe that church and state should be separated. It was named the least credible history book in print last month by the History News Network, and two conservative Christian professors, Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter, even wrote a book criticising its claims, saying that “as Jefferson did with the Gospels, Barton chooses what he likes about Jefferson and leaves out the rest to create a result more in line with his ideology”.

    The Jefferson Lies was dropped by its publisher, Christian press Thomas Nelson, last week, but now Barton has said that Beck’s publishing arm Mercury Ink is negotiating to publish a new edition. The new version “will not include any substantive changes, but I will rephrase some things to remove any potential confusion,” he told Publishers Weekly. The evangelical writer will also include content cut by Thomas Nelson, he said, adding: “I have actually run across more supporting documents that strengthen my case, not weaken it.”

    Beck, the rightwing US radio host who has written numerous bestselling titles himself, launched his own publishing imprint Mercury Ink last year, in conjunction with Simon & Schuster. He wrote the introduction to Barton’s book, saying that the title “takes on this long-held falsehood about the separation of church and state and proves once and for all that our Founding Father was no secularist”, and that “the Left” know that “if they are able to discredit and dismiss Jefferson and our other Founders, then we are that much closer to surrendering our birthright and our natural freedoms”.

    Well, ok, to be fair, Barton has been wallowing around in the Beck-bottom for a while.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 23, 2012, 8:25 am
  19. At a minimum, Congressman Broun has to be in strong contention for the title of “God’s representative on the House Science Committee“:

    TPM
    Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA): Evolution, Big Bang ‘Lies Straight From The Pit Of Hell’

    Benjy Sarlin October 5, 2012, 12:21 PM

    Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) tore into scientists as tools of the devil in a speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet last month.

    “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell,” Broun said. “And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

    According to Broun, the scientific plot was primarily concerned with hiding the true age of the Earth. Broun serves on the House Science Committee, which came under scrutiny recently after another one of its Republican members, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), suggested that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses against pregnancy.

    “You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth,” he said. “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

    “What I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it,” he said. “It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

    May the angels protect Paul against the ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world: CobraScience. But don’t fret. He has powerful allies. Yo Joe!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 6, 2012, 5:57 pm
  20. John Adams – “The government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian religion.”

    There is another relevant and contrasting quote by Ronald Reagan which I searched for unsuccessfully, in which he defends the pure idea and practice of sentimentalism. His meaning was clear – that when reason or science or empirical data threaten one’s preconceived notions of one’s own moral superiority, that person is perfectly justified in closing his mind and retreating to a fundamentalist position. This amazing and angry defense of irrationality was spoken in either a major speech to the nation or a debate.

    Can anyone familiar with this quote please assist my spotty memory?

    Posted by Dwight | October 10, 2012, 3:57 am
  21. I can’t find the quote still although I know it’s out there. I was trying to draw a parallel between Reagan’s tactics and the Romney/Ryan strategy of avoiding reality and appealing to the electorate’s baser emotional impulses, ala Mein Kampf and the Big Lie. This excerpt from http://www.shmoop.com/reagan-era/race.html makes my point.

    From Anti-Black to Anti-Government

    The politics of racism were certainly nothing new in American history, and Reagan was no more guilty than any number of other major political figures in our past for appealing to the least noble sentiments of the American character. What made Reagan’s brand of racial politics uniquely powerful, however, was Reagan’s success in channeling prejudice against black people into scorn for the government. Implicit in Reagan’s multitude of “Chicago welfare queen”-style anecdotes was the notion that federal government spending on social programs was mostly wasted on pointless handouts to black recipients. In fact, during the 1980s more than 85% of the federal budget was allocated to defense spending, Social Security, Medicare, and payments on the national debt—all utterly colorblind expenditures. Even welfare, which Reagan often implied was a program for black people, benefited far more whites than African-Americans. But Reagan carefully cultivated the impression that “government spending” meant “free money for black people,” and happily watched as some whites’ resentment of blacks morphed into loathing of the government that supposedly coddled them.

    Sounding familiar?

    Posted by Dwight | October 12, 2012, 7:49 am
  22. It might seem like a dangerous move for a first term Senator to call for voters to hold his own party members “accountable” because they trash-talked your brilliant victory plan but let’s just say it’s good to be the king:

    Alternet

    Cruz’ Father Suggests Ted Cruz Is “Anointed” to Bring About The “End Time Transfer of Wealth”

    Posted by Bruce Wilson at 10:36 am
    October 17, 2013

    “The pastor [Huch] referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur.” – Rafael Cruz, August 26, 2012

    In a sermon [2] last year at an Irving, Texas, megachurch that helped elect Ted Cruz to the United States Senate, Cruz’ father Rafael Cruz indicated that his son was among the evangelical Christians who are anointed as “kings” to take control of all sectors of society, an agenda commonly referred to as the “Seven Mountains” mandate, and “bring the spoils of war to the priests”, thus helping to bring about a prophesied “great transfer of wealth”, from the “wicked” to righteous gentile believers. link to video [3] of Rafael Cruz describing the “great transfer of wealth” and the role of anointed “kings” in various sectors of society, including government, who are to “bring the spoils of war to the priests”.

    Rafael Cruz’ dominionist [4] sermon given August 26, 2012, at the New Beginnings Church of pastor Larry Huch, in Irving, Texas has already received considerable scrutiny due to an excellent Huffington Post commentary [5] by Methodist Associate Pastor Morgan Guyton, who noted the explicitly dominionist nature of pastor Cruz’ sermon, which concerned the divine mandate for believers, with anointing of “kings” in their respective spheres, to take control over all sectors of society.

    Cruz spoke of “Kings who are anointed to go to war, win the war, and bring the spoils of war to the priests.”

    Discussion of the now-notorious speech by Rafael Cruz has missed the fact that Ted Cruz was subsequently blessed and anointed [6] by prominent dominionist pastors, in effect as a “king” in the political/governmental sphere, at a special blessing ceremony at the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, at a July 19th-20th 2013 rally designed to draw pastors into politics.

    But in a very real, mundane sense Ted Cruz has already helped deliver hundreds of millions of dollars, or more, to the evangelical right. Cruz’ past service – as a “king” who brought “spoils to the priests” – is a matter of established record; as I revealed in a prior story, no less than a top adviser to President George W. Bush has stated that in 1999 Ted Cruz played a major role in helping the Bush for President campaign lock down the conservative evangelical vote in the 2000 election.

    One can interpret the “great transfer of wealth” — predicted by Ted Cruz’ father Rafael Cruz, and by Pastor Larry Huch, who threw his Texas megachurch’s considerable heft behind the 2012 Cruz for Senate campaign — in magical terms, sure.

    But Ted Cruz’ apparently notable role in getting George W. Bush into the presidency led in turn to Bush’s “Faith Based Initiative” – that continues to this day under two successive Obama administrations and which, during the Bush years, funneled billions of dollars to churches and institutions associated with the religious right.

    In other words, the “great transfer of wealth” is about more than wishful thinking. It’s about an ongoing effort, by leaders and institutions of the evangelical right, to gradually gobble up the secular sphere of government.

    Thus, for example, fast growing Christian schools such as the late Moral Majority co-founder Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, which now vacuums up hundreds of millions of dollars in federal student aid money each year. Or the hundreds of millions of diverted tax dollars now flowing, in a least 12 U.S. states, under so-called “neo-voucher” schemes, to private schools – many of which, as explored in a new [7] Rolling Stone story, have virulently anti-LGBT policies. Under Bush, too, several billion dollars per year in USAID funding were shifted from secular aid nonprofits to religious ones, some them holding anti-gay and reactionary, even theocratic, underlying ideology.

    I could go on at length about this dreary subject, which involves major shifts in government social service funding streams. But instead, let’s turn now to the “kings for dominion”:

    In his August 26th, 2012 guest sermon at Larry Huch’s Irving, TX megachurch, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’ father Rafael Cruz, in what was not the first of his guest appearances at the church, explained,

    “The pastor [Huch] referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur. God, even though he’s sovereign, even though he’s omnipotent, he doesn’t let it rain out of the sky – he’s going to use people to do it.”

    Introducing pastor Cruz, in the context that it would soon be Rosh Hashanah, which would ring in the Jewish New Year of 2012, Larry Huch had stated, invoking dominionist numerology,

    “The number 12 means ‘divine government’, that God begins to rule and reign. Not Wall Street, not Washington – God’s people and his kingdom will begin to rule and reign”

    As Huch spoke, Rafael Cruz could be seen in the audience, standing next to Huch’s wife Tiz, hand upraised to receive and magnify Huch’s prophetic blessing. Huch continued,

    “I know that’s why God got Rafael’s son elected – Ted Cruz, the next Senator. But here’s the exciting thing – and that’s why I know it’s timely for him to teach this, and bring this anointing. The rabbinical teaching is, especially amongst gentiles, who God opens their eyes, that in a few weeks begins that year 2012, and that this will begin what we call the “End Time Transfer of Wealth.

    And that when these gentiles begin to receive this blessing, they will never go back financially through the valley again. They will grown and grow and grow. It’s said this way – that God is looking at the church, and everyone in it, and deciding, in the next 3 and 1/2 years, who will be his bankers. And the ones that say, “Here am I, Lord, you can trust me”, we will become so blessed that we will usher in the coming of the Messiah. This message if for you. Would you welcome our good friend Rafael Cruz ? What a tremendous man of God.”

    Pastor Cruz could not have made himself more clear:

    “There are some of you, as a matter of fact I will dare to say the majority of you, that your anointing is not an anointing as priest. It’s an anointing as king. And God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield ? The battlefield is the marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion. If you remember the last time I was in this pulpit, I talked to you about Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, where God says unto Adam and Eve, “Go forth, multiply, TAKE DOMINION over all creation.” And if you recall, we talked about the fact that that dominion is not just in the church. That dominion is over every area – society, education, government, economics…

    “The battlefield is the marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion”. What’s not to love?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 19, 2013, 10:57 pm
  23. Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 3, 2013, 6:51 pm
  24. God’s Senator/Governor just performed another miracle:

    The Kansas City Star
    Brownback signs bill that allows permit-free concealed carry of guns in Kansas

    By BRYAN LOWRY

    The Kansas City Star

    04/02/2015 3:28 PM

    04/02/2015 6:48 PM

    TOPEKA

    Kansans soon can carry concealed weapons without permits or training under a bill signed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday.

    The new law, which kicks in July 1, makes Kansas the sixth state to allow “constitutional carry.” It will allow Kansans 21 and older to carry concealed firearms regardless of whether they have obtained a permit.

    Training still will be required for anyone who wants to carry a concealed gun in the 36 states that accept Kansas permits.

    Brownback touted the importance of training, explaining that his youngest son took a hunter safety course this past week.

    “It was an excellent course. He got a lot out of it. I got a lot out of it. And I want to urge people to take advantage of that,” said Brownback, who was flanked by Republican lawmakers and representatives from the National Rifle Association and Kansas State Rifle Association.

    Asked why he did not think training should be required if it is valuable, Brownback said carrying a gun is a constitutional right.

    “We’re saying that if you want to do that in this state, then you don’t have to get the permission slip from the government,” Brownback said. “It is a constitutional right, and we’re removing a barrier to that right.”

    “Training is an ongoing, personal responsibility. It’s not something the government can mandate,” he said. “… It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ when you talk about the lifestyle of carrying a gun.”

    About 87,000 people hold concealed-carry permits in Kansas, according to the attorney general’s office. More than 17,000 of them are in Sedgwick County.

    One of the most vocal critics of the legislation, Bill Warren, holds a concealed-carry permit. He has expressed concern about the safety impact on his Wichita movie theaters if people who have not gone through training bring in guns.

    He probably will prohibit guns in his theaters.

    “My No. 1 priority is the safety of our customers, and after we talk to our security we will make a decision before it’s enacted,” Warren, who donated and hosted events for Brownback’s gubernatorial campaign, said Thursday. “It makes things for the general population less safe.”

    Patricia Stoneking, president of the Kansas State Rifle Association, praised the governor as a strong supporter of the Second Amendment.

    Stoneking said the signing of the bill was the culmination of a 10-year plan by the group. She said the inclusion of the training requirement in the 2006 concealed-carry bill was “political horse trading” and said it was a compromise necessary to pass the legislation at that time.

    Looking ahead, she said she wants to see one more major change: lowering the age to carry a concealed weapon to 18.

    “Eighteen-year-olds are allowed to open carry, and they go to war and put their lives on the line to protect this country,” Stoneking said. “I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that.”

    To reiterate the president of the Kansas State Rifle Association:


    Stoneking said the signing of the bill was the culmination of a 10-year plan by the group. She said the inclusion of the training requirement in the 2006 concealed-carry bill was “political horse trading” and said it was a compromise necessary to pass the legislation at that time.

    Looking ahead, she said she wants to see one more major change: lowering the age to carry a concealed weapon to 18.

    “Eighteen-year-olds are allowed to open carry, and they go to war and put their lives on the line to protect this country,” Stoneking said. “I believe we can lower the age to 18 at some point in the future. I think after everybody sees that there are not going to be any of the dire predictions coming true, and they relax a little bit, then we can talk about that.”

    So is this the next phase of the GOP/NRA national gun fetish? Legal concealed carry laws for without any training at all for everyone over 18? It’s looking like it:

    The Huffington Post
    Joe Manchin Opposes NRA-Backed Bill On Concealed Guns
    Posted: 03/12/2015 6:28 pm EDT Updated: 03/13/2015 1:59 am EDT

    WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is a self-described “law-abiding gun owner, hunter, card-carrying life member of the National Rifle Association and Second Amendment advocate.”

    But on Thursday, he said he “strongly” opposes an NRA-backed bill in West Virginia that would nix permit and training requirements for people carrying concealed guns.

    “I have always supported a West Virginian’s right to bear arms,” Manchin said in a statement. “Senate Bill 347 would allow a person to carry a concealed gun without a permit or requirement of safety training and that is irresponsible and dangerous to the people of West Virginia.”

    The bill passed the state House earlier Thursday, and the state Senate on Wednesday. Still, Manchin said it was a bad idea.

    “There is not one West Virginian whose Second Amendment rights will be infringed without this bill,” Manchin said. “In West Virginia, we believe in gun sense, which is common sense, and it only makes common sense for concealed carry applicants to receive proper training. I commend the brave legislators who voted no and represented their constituents who know that this is irresponsible.

    An NRA spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

    Note that the West Virgina bill also limited the law to people over 21, with an exctption for people over 18 that have served in the military(where they presumably got quite a bit of training in weapons safety).

    So the NRA and its state affilates clearly have more work to do on the concealed carry front because someone needs to think of the rights of highschool seniors to carry concealed firearms without any safety training and the NRA and godly leaders like Sam Brownback are clearly up to the task.

    And don’t think they’ve forgotten about the children because the NRA clearly hasn’t and if you’re a kid in Kansas’s public schools (that happens to hate school) the ‘Brownback miraclejust keeps getting better and better.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 3, 2015, 3:28 pm

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