The Bid to Turn Pastors into Politicians

“I saw that the skills of a successful politician are the same skills of a successful pastor. The skill set is about the same,” evangelical powerbroker David Lane tells David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Charitably, one might think that what Lane means is pastors need to navigate disagreements, engage in diplomacy, or broker compromise. But I suspect that the shared skill set (or at least his ideal shared skill set) has more to do with theology than politicking and policymaking.

Brody went inside Lane’s Issachar Training, part of Lane’s push for 1,000 for pastors to run for office. “The men of Issachar are mentioned in the Bible,” Brody notes. “They were men who knew the times and acted.”

The training was held in Baton Rouge the day before The Response, the Christian prayer rally organized by the American Family Association and Lane’s American Renewal Project, and promoted by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. According to the Christian Examiner, Jindal wrote a letter promoting the training as well. “There is a great need for the kind of leaders we read about in the Old Testament, ‘The Men of Issachar’ (1 Chronicles 12:32),” wrote the governor and potential presidential candidate. “We need such men and women of wisdom today who will accept the challenge to restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”

The “Men of Issachar” to which Jindal and Brody refer are members of the Tribe of Issachar, one of the lost tribes of Israel. In Jewish tradition, the Tribe of Issachar is known for dedication to religious study–not to politics, and certainly not for any commitment to “restore our Judeo-Christian heritage in America.”

Lane tells Brody that if each pastor running for mayor or school board or county council recruited 300 volunteers, then in 2016 “300,000 grassroots, precinct-level conservatives” would change America. “Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme,” Lane said. “Our values or somebody else’s values. It’s our goal to bring spiritual men and women into the civil government arena.”

Lane didn’t invent this idea, of course. Here’s Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition (which had the same founder as the Christian Broadcasting Network, Pat Robertson), in a 1993 interview:

[I]f you were to elect a conservative president who embraced our entire agenda, you still could not govern if you don’t have state legislature, if you don’t have mayors, city councils, county commissions, zoning boards, school boards, all the way down to the local level. What we have learned is one of the essential and primary rules of American politics, which is that political effectiveness flows from the precinct upward; not from the Oval Office downward. There’s a verse in the New Testament which says, in which Christ is speaking to his Disciples, and he says, “He who is faithful in small things will be faithful in large things.” Before you want to be president, first learn how to do a good job on the school board.

Reed, who in 2011 resurrected his checkered career with the now-influential Faith and Freedom Coalition, added that the Christian Coalition and its allies had promoted between 500 and 1000 religious conservatives to run for office, and 40% of them won. He went on:

We saw, in July of this year, Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, immediate past president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention, defeat Bill Clinton’s hand picked candidate for lieutenant governor of Arkansas. Currently the governor of Arkansas is engaged in some S&L problems, and it’s very possible that Mike Huckabee, who won that election, could be the next governor of Arkansas, entirely possible.

What Reed didn’t foresee is that Huckabee, now a model for Lane’s pastor initiative, would go on to serve nine years as Arkansas’ governor, and run for president (probably twice). Huckabee thinks that the Supreme Court shouldn’t get to decide what laws are unconstitutional, particular bans on same-sex marriage because God hasn’t given permission to do that. He thinks that the Supreme Court’s precedent striking down compulsory school prayer causes school shootings. Laws, he has said, come from God, not from a human hand, and our political order is threatened by a “humanistic, secular, atheistic, even antagonistic toward Christian faith.”

Just in case you wondered what Lane’s Men of Issachar might one day be up to.

  • Jeffrey Samuels

    I can’t think of anything more frightening than to have federal, state, and local governments full of religious leaders. Countries that have tried that have all turned into the worst kind of theocracies.

  • Alan

    If Mike Huckabee believes laws come from God then why does he want to be a law maker? He must assume he is God or that God tells him what to do. Gods never speak, people speak for gods because gods are human invented; a greedy scam on human victims.

  • GeniusPhx

    regardless of whether they believe in the supreme court or not, its the law of the land. that’s a phrase the republicans need to learn that they have a hard time with ‘law of the land’.

    something else they get wrong, when the declaration says ‘god’ it means ‘nature’s god’, not the christian god. it’s the god of deism, which is what most of our founders were (found it again in the national archives yesterday). we were NOT founded as a religious nation but a secular nation with a secular constitution, live with it.

  • I have recently found myself in a quandary: I left organized religion behind over 40 years ago, not God though, because of politics from the pulpit. Now I find myself with a message from God that is in keeping with all religions’ core values. The problem is that unless I teach it from not just a religious point of view but also from a political one to counter the Religious Right’s views, I end up becoming just like the preachers who are running the GOP – politics from the pulpit. People like Ralph Reed and Mike Huckabee make it necessary for people like me to speak out against their agendas as a matter of not just faith, but of patriotism.

    The Religious Right in this country has infiltrated so much of our governmental offices through the GW Bush Faith offices, as well as many school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and governorships, and our federal government, that it is nearly impossible to preach about faith without becoming mired down in political correctness. The ideas about Religious Freedoms seem to only apply to those Christians who embrace the Apocalyptic, Prosperity, or Dominionist Gospel approaches and hatred towards anyone who is different from them. We are seeing our own history being rewritten by the Texas School Board, to conform to their twisted views, and women’s health care needs being determined by people like the owners of Hobby Lobby and SCOTUS.

    So, the problem I have is how to move people back towards living their faith’s core values without becoming political in the process. This seems to be the field where this battle is going to be fought – the political arena – not because it should be, but because these power-mad religious zealots have decided it must be. It makes me sick that so many Americans have bought their snake-oil version of Christianity and have forgotten (or worse yet, never learned) that this nation was founded as a secular nation not by Christians, but by Deists such as myself.

    Well, I guess if this is to be the battlefield for faith, then I am dedicating the next two years to preaching God’s new message of inclusion of all faiths and people, even atheists, using political issues to show where God actually wants us to go (and trust me, it is not the path that Ralph Reed and his zealots want us to go), then so be it. I will be posting YouTube videos of my sermons from now on starting in February discussing the New Message – one chapter per month – and how it relates to how you live your life and I will be using both religious and political issues as examples of what is right and what is wrong. It will not be pretty for some, and for me, it is not what I wanted to do, but as a person of faith, I must speak out against these zealots who are twisting our history, leading us into unnecessary war and destruction to line their own pockets, and who have left God out of their plans except as a scapegoat when they fail.

    When politics becomes the religion of some of our faith leaders, then faith leaders must become political to change the course of a nation. It is not right, but sometimes it is necessary to insure that freedom of religion can prevail. When one of our nation’s leading political parties has a religious purity standard for its politicians, then the rest of us must stand against it, both from our pulpits and from our ballots. I will be doing both.

    Rev. Devon Jeanette Noll
    God’s Fellowship (formerly New Word Universal Fellowship Church)

  • Craptacular

    “I saw that the skills of a successful politician are the same skills of a
    successful pastor. The skill set is about the same,” evangelical
    powerbroker David Lane tells David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

    I take it to mean that the successful ones are sociopaths.

  • Craptacular

    “I left organized religion behind over 40 years ago…” – Devon Noll

    Yet I notice you still sign your walls of words as “Rev.” so you can’t have left it that far behind.

  • cgosling

    Didn’t Jesus say something about “giving unto Caesar”, and settle the matter about religion and state?

  • fiona64

    These same people, who screech blue murder about “Sharia law,” would be more than happy to implement their own version.

    This country is not a theocracy, people, no matter how much you fantasize that it is.