RD News Round-Up: October 27, 2008

Ghouls, Ghosts, Goblins and Halloween Hell Houses

Along with the Halloween traditions of carving up pumpkins, kids in costumes, trick-or-treat, scary movies, a candy industry on steroids, and ghouls, ghosts and goblins, comes another, albeit relatively new addition to the day’s activities, courtesy of the religious right; Halloween Hell Houses.

Will the religious right take a time out from demonizing Sen. Barack Obama to create Halloween Hell Houses this year? You betcha’.

Built on fear and based in church-initiated intimidation, Scaremare—the first Hell House project—was started in the late 1970s in Lynchburg, Virginia, by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Since then, hell houses have sprung up in all parts of the country.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Hell Houses are fairground haunted houses with a twist: the scary stuff isn’t the usual ghost or goblin, but is some enactment of sin, or the torments of hell. And the sins on offer are not so much greed, envy, or sloth as whatever might be at the top of the fundamentalist political agenda: abortion, homosexuality, stem-cell research…

In some circles, Halloween Hell Houses are also known as “Judgement Houses.” At the Clearwater, Florida-based Judgement House Web site you can find everything you need to stage a truly frightening event, including an informational how-to video and 10 different scripts. Each scripts is “unique in its setting, characters and story and is a relevant interpretation of events happening around the world today. However all of our scripts ask the same important question, ‘What will you do with God’s offer of a saving and personal relationship with His Son Jesus Christ.’”

Judgement House “is a dramatic walk-through presentation about the truth of people’s choices and their consequences both in this life and the next…. No other tool is more effective at presenting people with an opportunity to choose a personal and saving relationship with Jesus Christ.” Since its founding in 1983, Judgement House claims that “an estimated 3.9 million people have attended a Judgement House presentation with 390,000 of those choosing a saving and personal relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time.”

More than two hundred Judgment House events are scheduled for this Halloween.

Falwell’s Liberty University still hosts Scaremare throughout the month of October.


Tradition Values Coalition’s Shameless Video Voter Guide

Lou Sheldon’s Tradition Values Coalition may be among the second tier of religious right organizations, but this election it has come up with a first: a 2008 VIDEO Election Guide for the Presidential Race. According to a TVC e-mail, the voter’s guide “include[s] numerous videos of the presidential candidates outlining their plans for America. In other words, there is no media filtering or bias—you’ll hear from the candidates in their own words… The guide also includes a summary of the platforms of the Democrat and Republican Party, as well as votes and positions on the issues, showing where Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama stand on key issues.”

Videos about Obama include “Obama refuses to salute the flag”; “Why does Obama Carry A Hindu Monkey Charm”; “Senator Barack Obama’s Faith: Is It Black Liberation Theology?” while McCain’s side of the ledger includes “McCain discusses his beliefs about Christianity and the Christian roots of America”; and “McCain on his greatest moral failure.”

If you view the videos in the “Economy” section you would never know that McCain has been in a total fog—read that, completely flummoxed—by economic issues in general and the economic crisis in particular. You would discover, however, that “Sen. Obama was involved in creating the current economic crisis,” and you’d see “Obama confronted over his income distribution of wealth plan.”

In a section called “Did You Know?” The TVC lets it all hang out. The one McCain video? “John McCain endured five years in the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison in Vietnam after his fight was shot down.” Obama videos include “Obama is the most liberal Senator in the US Senate”; “Sen. Obama wants to teach sex education to kindergarten children”; “Sen. Obama’s strange assortment of friends.”


More on Sarah Palin’s Religious Affiliations 

Just when you thought that there was nothing else to discover about Sarah Palin’s religious affiliations, along comes Talk2Action’s Bruce Wilson with another video exposé. Wilson and Ruth, his co-researcher and co-documentarian, have done an extraordinary job trying to bring information about the realities of Sarah Palin’s religious relationships to the spotlight. And while the mainstream media hasn’t picked up on the Palin videos—as they did with Pastor John Hagee’s ‘Hitler was sent by God’ video that went viral and mainstream—Wilson and company are on the job.


In a recent post at Talk2Action, Wilson writes that the new 10-minute video “features never-before publicly heard audio from Sarah Palin’s key church, the Wasilla Assembly of God and never-before publicly seen footage from Pastor John Hagee’s now-infamous ‘God Sent Hitler’ 2005 sermon, in which Hagee pantomimes a Nazi holding a rifle pointed at Jews.


Hagee Hears a Who-madgeddon

For the few gifted enough to retain information beyond the 24/7 news cycle, you will have no trouble remembering Pastor John Hagee. The head of San Antonio’s 19,000-member Cornerstone Church was riding high; his multimillion-dollar media ministry was raking in the dough, adding to the pastor’s prestige and providing a lovely lifestyle for the preacher and his entire family. In 2006, the long-time “supporter” of Israel founded Christians United for Israel, a Christian Zionist lobbying group that was on the cusp of becoming one of the most significant Christian lobbying groups on Israeli-Palestinian issues. In addition, he was the author of a number of books, the latest of which urged the United States to get muscular with Iran.

In February, after being courted by Team McCain for more than in year, Hagee endorsed Sen. John McCain for the presidency. Then Talk2Action’s Bruce Wilson got busy. He delved into the pastor’s sermons, his writing and public commentaries. Wilson found that Hagee’s sermons were riddled with anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic statements. Wilson’s video of Hagee preaching about how God had sent Hitler to hunt the Jews and force them to Israel became a YouTube sensation—causing so much heat that the mainstream media was forced to pursue the story. In short order, McCain was forced to disassociate himself from Hagee, repudiating the endorsement he had so eagerly sought.

Earlier this month, Hagee, 68, underwent open heart surgery. While he is not slated to be back in the pulpit for several weeks, his new book, Financial Armageddon: We are in a battle for our very survival…—published by the Strang Book Group—will hit bookstores the second week of November.

From the publishers:

In Financial Armageddon… Hagee addresses the subject of global oil and economic crisis head on, demonstrating clearly that God has much to say about both the current oil and economic crises and our personal finances in general.

Christians like every other American should know how these issues are going to affect their personal finances. But even more important to consider as Christians is this: What does God have to say about global events affecting America and the world, and what advice does He give to His children for avoiding the devastation of financial collapse?

God has already revealed the information we need to understand how Bible prophecy intersects with world events, and has given us an investment manual for knowing how to manage our personal finance. It is the Word of God! As you read, remember that God has promised to bless His people. Rest assured that God is in control. You can have peace and financial security even when the world seems to be collapsing around you. Rather than hit the panic button, concentrate on finding ways to glorify God in the way you live. Trust our Heavenly Father. He will never let you down.



No Candy, No Soda, No Birth Control!

A small pharmacy in Chantilly, Virginia, has become—according to the conservative Christian group Pharmacists for Life International—at least the seventh pharmacy in the country that refuses to sell contraceptives of any kind. “I am grateful to be able to practice where my conscience will never be violated and my faith does not have to be checked at the door each morning,” said Robert Semler, manager of the Divine Mercy Care Pharmacy.

According to the Associated Press, “States across the country have been wrestling with the issue of pharmacists who refuse on religious grounds to dispense birth control or morning-after pills, and some have enacted laws requiring drugstores to fill the prescriptions.”

The AP reported that the pharmacy had received a blessing from Arlington, Virginia’s Bishop Paul S. Loverde, and while it “is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, it is guided by church teachings on sexuality, which forbid any form of artificial contraception, including morning-after pills, condoms and birth control pills, a common prescription used by millions of women in the U.S.”

“If this emboldens other pharmacies in other parts of the state, it could really affect low-income and rural women in terms of access,” Tarina Keene, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the National Abortion Rights Action League, told the AP.

The anti-abortion Pharmacists for Life International claims that while only a few pharmacies have been certified birth control-free, there could be hundreds of others with similar policies. However, several states “require pharmacies or pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions, according to the National Women’s Law Center,” the AP reported. “Four states explicitly give pharmacists the right to turn away any prescriptions, the group said.”


RD Tidbits 

New poll results re: California Propositions 8 and 4: According to a statewide survey released on October 22 (by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) with funding from The James Irvine Foundation) Proposition 8, which would ban same-sex marriages in California, is losing among likely voters 52 percent to 44 percent. Proposition 4, which would require a parent to be notified before a minor can have an abortion, is leading by a slim margin, although it hasn’t reached the 50% threshold.  

‘It’s not easy’ for African-American Christians who don’t support Obama: J. Lee Grady, the editor of Charismamagazine, has written an interesting, albeit mostly anecdotal, column about the travails of African Americans that are not voting for Obama. “It’s not easy to go against the flow when it seems that the entire black community is marching in lockstep with the well-financed Obama machine,” writes Grady in a piece titled “Breaking Up (With Obama) Is Hard to Do.” Grady lists a host of black church folk that are supporting Obama and points out that that “makes it hard for black Christians who, for conscience reasons, cannot support a candidate who believes in killing unborn babies or rewriting Judeo-Christian morality.”

Faith-Based Initiative—Justice Dept. opinion could expand religious hiring rights: A June 2007 opinion issued by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) “determined that a federal grant program could exempt a Christian relief organization from a prohibition against hiring only those of its own faith under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy recently reported. The opinion has resuscitated discussion of one of the issues at the heart of Bush’s faith-based initiative; “whether religious organizations should retain the right to employ only those of their own faith when the positions are funded with tax dollars.”

Faith communities fight poverty: The statistics are startling. According to the Center for American Progress’ Sally Steenland and Chase Nordengren, “Over 37 million Americans live below the official poverty line, constituting a population larger than the 25 smallest states combined… One in eight Americans is poor. One child in six is poor. … From 2000 to 2007, the number of children living in poverty increased by 15 percent… In 2007, the richest 20 percent of Americans had over 50 percent of the nation’s income, while the poorest 20 percent had only 3.4 percent.” In a piece titled “Fighting Poverty With Faith,” Steeland and Nordengren recently reported that “the ‘Fighting Poverty with Faith’ action campaign [in September] brought together a coalition of nearly 100 religious communities in 36 states to draw attention to America’s poor and create a mandate to reduce poverty in a significant way.” For examples of faith groups taking action against poverty, go here.  




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