Buyer’s Remorse or Getting What they Expected?
Are evangelicals who supported Obama or have agreed to work with his administration experiencing what religion writer David Gibson has termed “buyer’s remorse,” or are they getting what they expected out of Team Obama?
Recently, some Christian evangelicals have expressed their disappointment in Obama’s approach to the issue of abortion. In a USA Today column dated March 16 and titled “Mr. President, we need more than lip service,” David P. Gushee wrote:
I knew from the beginning that if Obama took typical Democratic positions on abortion-related issues, this centrist evangelical friendliness toward him and his administration would be tested. I knew that during the campaign he had hewed closely to the standard Democratic pro-choice line. But his party’s platform also promised a commitment to abortion-reduction efforts, and he has echoed that language. Some of us continue to dream that he will roll out a major abortion-reduction initiative. All too familiar. Such an initiative has not been offered. But what has occurred are a series of disappointingly typical Democratic abortion-related moves…
Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships’ council, told the Baptist Press that “At this point” he was “very frustrated that what little protections there are for the unborn have been quickly and systematically removed”:
So that has very discouraging. I have been somewhat encouraged that he has promised that he would not force someone—a health-care worker, for example—to be involved in an abortion if he or she should object on a conscience basis. But other than that, there has been the removal of protections and policies that would have protected the unborn.
Obama “is not doing anything he hasn’t said he was going to do during the campaign,” said the Rev. Joel Hunter, an evangelical megachurch pastor from Orlando, Florida, and another advisory board member. “So I am not enthusiastic, but I’m not disappointed, because we knew what to expect. I’m encouraged he is not totally flipping to the other side. We’ve got to be patient here.”
Douglas Kmiec, a Pepperdine University law professor, Catholic opponent of abortion and former Reagan administration lawyer who took a lot of heat for endorsing Obama, said that “As far as the expectations I had for a president who is a pro-choice president and did not share my pro-life views, President Obama has been honest about what he intended to do and has done those things,” Kmiec said. “He has been honest, we’ve been honest about our disagreements, and the conversation continues.”
Let the Judicial Wars Begin
Over the past nearly thirty years—with the exception of the Clinton presidency—the religious right “has powerfully and effectively used the political process to push for the nomination and confirmation of federal judges that it believes are more likely to issue legal decisions consistent with its views,” Frederick S. Lane wrote in his 2008 book The Court and the Cross: The Religious Right’s Crusade to Reshape the Supreme Court.
Regardless of how many “culture war” skirmishes are fought over abortion, gay marriage, or stem-cell research in the coming four years, for the religious right, the battle over President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments takes precedence. When you hear conservatives say that they support “strict constructionist,” and oppose “judicial activists”—judges that “legislate from the bench”—they are describing one of their most important projects; long-term control of the courts. As a People for the American Way report pointed out, 59 percent of federal appeals court judges were appointed by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and the current Bush. In addition, seven of the nine justices currently on the Supreme Court were appointed by these three Republicans.
When the New York Times recently reported that it looked like Obama would nominate Indiana’s Judge David F. Hamilton (named to the bench by Bill Clinton in 1994) to a seat on the appeals court in Chicago, the religious right exploded with indignation. While the Times described Hamilton as a “highly regarded federal trial court judge” who, lawyers say, “represent[s] some of his state’s traditionally moderate strain,” conservatives had an entirely different take.
In Tony Perkins’ Washington Update, Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, joked that Hamilton “appears to be as moderate as Obama himself (which is to say, not at all).” Perkins claimed that the Indiana judge “ruled against abortion waiting periods, permitting chaplains to offer Christian prayer at the Indiana state house, and stiffer regulations for sex offenders. Hamilton’s resume includes a post with ACORN, a clerkship with liberal Judge Richard Cudahy, and a stint as the former head of the ACLU’s Hoosier chapter.”
The Judicial Confirmation Network’s Wendy Long noted that “Hamilton has a history as a hard-left political activist, and his choice signals that Obama does intend to push extreme liberals onto the bench and politicize the courts as we’ve never seen before.” Long also picked up on the ACORN theme pointing out that “Hamilton was a fundraiser for ACORN (nice ACORN payback, Mr. President).” She maintained that “in 1994, when President Clinton nominated him to the district court, the ABA rated him as ‘not qualified,’ apparently because of his almost purely political (as opposed to legal and judicial) experience.”
Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said that “It’s far from clear what justifies the [New York Times’] characterization of Hamilton as a ‘moderate’… Was it perhaps Hamilton’s service as vice president for litigation, and as a board member, of the Indiana branch of the ACLU? Or maybe Hamilton’s extraordinary seven-year-long series of rulings obstructing Indiana’s implementation of its law providing for informed consent on abortion?… Or perhaps Hamilton’s inventive invocation of substantive due process to suppress evidence of a criminal defendant’s possession of cocaine, a ruling that, alas, was unanimously reversed by the Seventh Circuit? With ‘moderates’ like Hamilton, imagine what Obama’s ‘liberal’ nominees will look like.”
Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, said that the Hamilton pick was being touted “as an example of how moderate their picks will be. If this is what the Obama administration considers ‘moderate’ then I think the nation is in trouble.”
According to the New York Times, “The White House is planning to announce a handful of other candidates over the next few weeks to fill some of the 17 vacancies on the appeals courts, which are just below the level of the Supreme Court. On most of the 12 regional appeals courts, including on the Seventh Circuit for which Judge Hamilton has been nominated, a majority of the sitting judges were appointed by Republican presidents.” The paper reported that “A senior administration official said Judge Hamilton would have the support of both Mr. Bayh, a Democrat, and the state’s other senator, Richard G. Lugar, a Republican.”
As Obama sets about filling a host of judicial seats in courts across the country, will liberals and progressives fight just as hard for his nominees as the religious right has fought for Reagan and Bush I & II’s nominees? Will the religious right wage an all-out war against each and every nominee, or will it hold its fire (if not its rhetoric) for the big battles; nominees to the US Supreme Court?
Blackwater’s Eric Prince Steps Down
“The company formerly known as Blackwater [Worldwide, and before that Blackwater U.S.A.] continues its mission to bury its tarnished reputation and soldier on,” Jeremy Scahill, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, recently wrote. After re-branding itself “Xe” (pronounced like the letter “Z”), hoping to deflecting the public’s attention from the company’s countless killings in Iraq, it recently announced that Eric Prince (a former Navy SEAL who founded the firm in 1997) is stepping down in order to concentrate on other business opportunities.
According to Scahill, Prince “sought to cast his departure as a natural part of the firm’s ‘ongoing evolution’: ‘As many of you know, because we focus on continually improving our business that Xe is in the process of a comprehensive restructuring,’ he wrote. ‘It is with pride in our many accomplishments and confidence in Xe’s future that I announce my resignation as the company’s chief executive officer.’”
The company’s re-branding efforts extended to its subsidiaries as well. According to SourceWatch, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, pointed out that Blackwater Airships is now Guardian Flight Systems, Blackwater Target Systems is GSD Manufacturing, and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center is the US Training Center. In addition, “The company also shed its bear-paw and crosshairs logo, for a stylized rendering of the name ‘Xe.’” Unlike the more famous Prince, as far as we know, Eric Prince is still going by the name Eric Prince.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Elsa Prince, Eric’s mother, was a “major proponent” of California’s Proposition 8, giving $450,000 to support to the Yes on 8 campaign:
Mother and son sit on the board of a family foundation that donated $8 million in 2006-07 to Christian groups involved in the Yes-on-8 effort, including $300,000 to Focus on the Family, on whose board she sits. Focus on the Family gave $450,000 to Proposition 8 and $1.35 million to the 22 same-sex marriage ban campaigns in 2004 and 2006.
In the 1980s, Eric’s older sister Betsy Prince married Dick DeVos, whose father Richard was a co-founder of Amway. According to Jeremy Scahill, together, the two families have been one of the “greatest bankrollers of far-right causes in US history, and with their money they propelled extremist Christian politicians and activists to positions of prominence.”
Jonathan Falwell Steps Up
Jonathan Falwell, one of the late Jerry Falwell’s sons, is now the senior pastor at the Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, the church his father founded several decades ago. In a recent e-mail, Falwell appears to be picking up his dad’s political mantle as well, as he has leaped aboard the Armageddon bandwagon, warning that The Rapture and End Times could be just around the corner. (Our thanks to BuzzFlash’s Mark Karlin for spotting this):
“The New Testament leaves us with the anticipation that Jesus could come at any time.”
Those are the words of Dr. Ed Hindson, spoken at a stirring “Global Warning Prophecy Conference” hosted by Thomas Road Baptist Church last week. The conference also included Drs. Tim LaHaye and Gary Frazier.
In Luke 21:25, we read that there will be signs all around us prior to the return of Christ. Stating that we must discern the signs of Jesus’ second coming, Dr. Hindson noted six modern developments indicating that the stage is being set for the return of Christ. They are:
1. Israel returned to the Promised Land (1948)
2. Increase of Islamic opposition
3. Extremists threatening the world
4. The political unification of Europe
5. Failure of peace attempts in the Middle East
6. The worldwide threat of nuclear weapons.
To some, these signs may prove alarming. But as Dr. Hindson noted in the conference, “Biblical prophecy is not designed to scare us, but to prepare us.” The rapture of the saints at the return of Christ is a message of comfort. As Titus 2:13 tells us, we must be “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The most important thing to remember in terms of these last days prior to the impending return of Christ is this: God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9, NKJV).
This means that Christians are on Earth by design, with a specific purpose to communicate the Gospel of Christ to the nations. As I’ve noted in past columns, this is not a popular objective in our modern society that rejects the absolute truths of God’s Word in favor of a collective of “truths.” But we—those who have placed their faith in the Christ of the Bible—are nevertheless compelled to reach out in love to all with the Gospel.
I want to answer two prominent questions regarding Christianity:
1.) Why do Christians believe that Jesus will come again? Because the promise of Jesus’ first coming was wondrously fulfilled when He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago. There is evidence and verification of His life, His death, and His resurrection. The early disciples were eyewitnesses to the fact of the resurrection. We do not follow Christ in blind faith, nor are we following a pipedream. Not only did Jesus literally conquer the tomb, He promised to return again.
2.) Why is it important that Christians evangelize? Because after Jesus Christ calls believers (the church) to Himself when He returns, this Earth will subsequently go through a period of lawlessness and chaos, the likes of which we have never seen. This tribulation period will see the Antichrist rise to power, promising peace but bringing about only corruption and death. War, “eclipsing the Holocaust,” as Dr. Hindson described it in our conference, will break out across the world. We, as Christians, do not want anyone to have to live through such an awful period. Further, we do not wish for any soul to perish and face an eternity apart from God.
I believe the promised return of Christ is as sure as the daily sunrise. And I long to see Him! If you know Christ as your Savior, join me in looking for that glorious appearing every day. However, if you do not know Christ as your Savior, I urge you to visit our church’s Web site (www.trbc.org) and click on “Who is Christ?” to learn how you can know Jesus Christ as your Savior.
NOTE: Christians wishing to investigate these last days are encouraged to pick up a copy of Drs. Hindson and LaHaye’s Global Warning: Are We on the Verge of World War III? This book is an excellent survey of the final signs that will serve as God’s global warning to the people regarding His return.
”The Nazi Model for ‘Gays’ in US Military”
When, or if, President Barack Obama wades into the debate over gays in the military (“don’t ask, don’t tell”), he is sure to face an angry gaggle of Christian conservatives. In an early February article, Scott Lively, the founder of Abiding Truth Ministries (a virulent anti-gay organization that has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group) argued against allowing gays to serve openly in the US military. The final four paragraphs say more about Lively, the author of the notorious book The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, than about the issue:
Masculine-oriented male homosexuality tends also to be pederastic in nature, meaning that it often involves relationships between adult men and teenage boys. The ancient Spartan army, for example, drafted young teen boys and paired them with adult homosexual soldiers. Brownshirt leaders in Germany recruited boys from the local high schools for sex. Roehm himself once briefly fled Germany for South America over a scandal involving a young male prostitute. This bodes ill for the young men who will be our future draftees.
The scenario I see unfolding if we allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military is an initial period of turmoil in which members of the services would attempt to show their opposition through the limited means available to them. This would result in a clampdown by military authorities in an effort to force acceptance, accompanied by a sensitivity-training regimen. One or more incidents of violence against homosexuals, real or staged by the “gays” themselves, would ensure prioritization of the politically-correct policies, and justify pro-homosexual “affirmative action.”
Next would come a severe drop in enlistments and re-enlistments, triggering the reinstatement of the draft. This would in turn begin a degeneration of the moral and ethical culture of the services as those with the highest personal values would be most likely to leave, being replaced, in many cases, by men whose motivation is to share a male-dominated environment with others of similar sexual proclivities.
Whether or not a segregated service was initiated, a homosexual subculture of servicemen would form, characterized by intense internal loyalty and political ambition. Eventually, this “army within an army,” buoyed by pro-homosexual “affirmative action,” and the ability to act covertly (due to the fact that some would remain “closeted”) would come to dominate the services. What would they do with such power? The title of Lively’s essay? “The Nazi Model for ‘Gays’ in US Military.”
For more on Lively’s enterprises, see “Postcards From the Edge: Crackpot Anti-Gay Crusader Goes Global” (http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/oped/1183/postcards_from_the_edge%3A_crackpot_anti-gay_crusader_goes_global).
Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America, a new book by Nathanial Frank, “[d]raw[s] on decades of research on gay service and hundreds of exclusive interviews with policymakers, government officials, academics and service members, the book shows the cruel and unaffordable costs of the current gay ban,” according to the book’s Web site. See here for Frank’s friendly visit last week with John Stewart on The Daily Show.
Coral Ridge Ministries’ New Pastor: In mid-March, the members of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (founded by the late D. James Kennedy) elected the Rev. Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of famed evangelist Billy Graham, to be their new pastor. According to Charisma News Online, “As part of Tchividjian’s election, the 2,200-member congregation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, agreed to merge with Tchividjian’s 650-member New City Church, also located in the Fort Lauderdale area.” Kennedy was a profoundly political and powerful conservative pastor, albeit lesser-known than the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Dr. James Dobson, and Pat Robertson. While Tchividjian has written that he and Kennedy didn’t differ in their beliefs, “he told Coral Ridge members that politics is just one strategy to engage the culture,” Charisma News Online reported. “I also think that the sphere of art and the sphere of education and the sphere of media and technology are also strategic,” he said, according to the Associated Press.
ORU & Joyce Meyer Ministries Receive Accreditation: Oral Roberts Universities and the Joyce Meyers Ministries, both of which have come under attack for financial shenanigans, have received clearance accreditation from the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA). According to Charisma News Online, the ECFA recently said that both “had met the group’s standards of ‘responsible stewardship,’ which involves ministries’ financial accountability, transparency, board governance and fundraising practices.” The news service noted that ORU, “was $55 million in debt when three professors accused its former President Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, of using school funds to support a lavish lifestyle,” while the Joyce Meyer Ministries “is one of six Charismatic ministries to be investigated by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee.”