Star Dreck: Religious Right `Federation' Clings On To Same Old Misguided Mission
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 01:11:14 PM EST
Economic news, the possibility of health-care reform and even the death of "king of pop" Michael Jackson have dominated the headlines lately. But quietly, beneath the surface, the "culture wars" continue to percolate.

Leaders of the Religious Right aren't real happy with the current situation. President Barack Obama remains popular. Same-sex marriage is now legal in six states, and others are considering it. Abortion is still legal, and public schools aren't pushing fundamentalist Christianity.

What to do? Form a federation!

Several Religious Right organizations came together June 30 here in Washington to announce the formation of the "Freedom Federation" and to unveil a "Declaration of American Values," a document reflecting the same obsessions that have animated the Religious Right for decades: opposition to abortion, opposition to gay rights, xenophobia, opposition to church-state separation, etc.

The event didn't get much ink in the secular press, but The Christian Post ran a piece quoting several of the major players. I was amused by former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell's insistence that the Federation is interested in "a process of addition and multiplication, not subtraction and division."

So the Religious Right now intends to bring people together by highlighting the same issues it has exploited for decades to divide Americans? Call me skeptical.

Groups joining this effort include the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Liberty University, the Family Research Council, Liberty Counsel, Vision America, Concerned Women for America, the American Family Association, Catholic Online, the Traditional Values Coalition and a host of lesser lights. The federation doesn't plan to hire a staff or open and office, and it's unclear what the next step will be. I have been unable to even find a Web site for this federation.

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank, who specializes in a daily dose of snark, seemed under whelmed. Dredging up the inevitable "Star Trek" comparison, Milbank seemed suspicious of the Federation's claims that it is politically neutral.

"While `we have no allegiance as a federation to either party,' as Blackwell put it, federation politics are no secret," wrote Milbank. "Among the many others signed on to the federation are Gary Bauer's Campaign for Working Families, which is at the moment working on a campaign to `stop Obama's socialism'; Lafferty's Traditional Values Coalition, which is trying to stop `Obamunists' from destroying private health care; Exodus International, which promises `freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ'; Morning Star Ministries, which recently hosted the Spiritual Warfare Conference; and the American Family Association, which is promoting a boycott of Pepsi for supporting `homosexual activists.'"

In other words, despite the fancy name and all of the rhetoric, this really is your father's Religious Right. Yawn. Nothing new here.

Milbank noted that several of the speakers at the event made "Star Trek" comparisons, trying to hitch their movement to the popular summer film. I haven't seen the movie, but as a kid I did enjoy the original "Trek." I have some advice for activists interested in opposing the tired and repressive agenda of the Religious Right: Ready the photon torpedoes.

Rob, thanks for bringing this to our attention. But I have to contest your point that this new group is characteristic of the traditional religious right. Rather, I'd say it is a hybrid, a mix of the traditional religious right together with entities representing the very new and radically different, not to mention much more aggressive, Third Wave / New Apostolic tendency.

To give an indication of how different Morningstar Ministries is from "your father's religious right", here are a few videos with footage from Morningstar. The first, an ad for Morningstar's "University" features a pop song with lyrics such as "There's a last day army rising up for war." Morningstar Ministries has bought and refurbished Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's former palatial PTL Ministries estate. Founder Rick Joyner has recently described having a long phone conversation with Sarah Palin.

Here's Rick Joyner talking about meeting with members of Congress, his phone conversation with Palin, etc.

Here's a video I did last September which, among other things, traces the extensive connections between Sarah Palin's key church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, and Rick Joyner's Morningstar Ministries.

Rick Joyner has stated that Morningstar is properly identified as a "Third Wave" mininstry. The Third Wave is a tendency that - according to World Christian Trends AD 30 To AD 2200, only emerged in the early 1980's and by AD 2000 had encompassed 295 million Christians worldwide. It's probably even bigger now. Wasilla Assembly of God head pastor Ed Kalnins, who has blessed Sarah Palin in at least 2 public ceremonies, declares, in the video below, that he believes in the "Five Fold Ministry" - a concept tracing from the late 1940's Latter Rain revival, which forms an important component of Third Wave theological belief. From October 2nd to October 5th, 2008, Morningstar's Head of Prophecy and Vice President, Steve Thompson, led a "Prophecy" conference at the Wasilla Assembly of God.

A number of the other entities comprising the Freedom Federation are also identifiably associated with the Third Wave and also its newest incarnation, the New Apostolic movement: Lou Engle's The Call To Action, Ron Luce's Teen Mania Ministries, Bishop Harry Jackson's High Impact Leadership Coalition and, arguably, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition, which is led by the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez who also  controls the global Apostolic ministry 3DBN - the "Third Day Believers Network".

Rodriguez, who created the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition (NCHLC) in 2000, may have played a significant role in George W. Bush's 2nd term re-election bid ; in 2004, Hispanic evangelical and Hispanic charismatic voters swung heavily towards Bush and the GOP.

The Third Wave/New Apostolic movement played a significant role, via Lou Engle's TheCall, in the passage of California's Proposition Eight. Engle's group had a number of field officials in the state coordinating the pro-Prop 8 effort.

The Third Wave/New Apostolic Movement is both extremely different from traditional Christianity and also has evolved very different ways of political organizing. According to World Christian Trends AD 30 To AD 2200, Third Wave Christianity bears no relation to traditional Christianity. I personally believe that's an overstatement, but agree it's radically different.

For over a decade, the hub of efforts to promote the Third Wave / New Apostolic movement was arguably located at Ted Haggard's Colorado Springs New Life Church and also in the adjacent World Prayer Center. By the late 1990's, Haggard's joint efforts, together with C. Peter Wagner, had created prayer-network communications webs that were coordinating upwards of 40 million Christians globally in simultaneous prayer. Those communications networks are new and immense, and they are being turned towards political organizing.

I've written an overview of the Third Wave / New Apostolic movement here, at Religion Dispatches and there is a considerable body of writing on those movement, as well, at Talk To Action in the Special Focus: The New Apostolic Reformation, the Third Wave, and Sarah Palin's Churches site section.

by Bruce Wilson on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 05:57:21 PM EST

that if this Morning Star is the same as (or connected to) Morning Star International, they're the direct "descendent" (or renaming) of Maranatha Ministries- an extremely coercive "Bible based coercive group" that is bad news from the beginning (not to mention the NAR connections).  They were semi-involved (along with the CCfC) in getting me involved with the cult I was in for over three years- and have been working on recovering from for over 26.

Also, I noted at least two groups that are listed with the SPLC as hate groups.  I'm not in the least surprised, except that the "religious right" seems to be associating more and more with them.

I'm hoping that people may finally realize that the religious right is connected with (and possibly even defined by) various forms of bigotry.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Jul 07, 2009 at 07:12:10 PM EST

Other than the fact this group right now has a smaller number of members, how does it differ from the Arlington Group of which I think all are members?

by JerrySloan on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 12:36:51 AM EST
I don't know the answer, and the roster of CNP members are always a few years out of date. But those leaders, above, represent a newly emergent power block within the Christian right which 1) holds a notably different theology, 2) is stylistically different, 3) use different, far more efficient methods of organizing, and 4) represent a move to get beyond most of the old ethnic bigotries that have characterized the Christian conservative movement.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 06:28:59 AM EST
I think, is that the Arlington Group is a DC based strategy group of major religious right organizations.  

This is, as Bruce suggests, an effort to form a new style political coalition. It incorporates the historic pentecostal/charismatic elements that were the base for the Christian Coalition back in the day, (along with the more recent strains like The Call) and which have been without a clear major organizational home since the decline of the CC.   Whether this really turns out to be that, or ends up being a false start, remains to be seen of course.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 01:44:43 PM EST

That from one perspective this functions as another meet-and-greet for surviving elements of the old religious right and the emerging new charismatic upstarts.

What does it mean ? I completely agree - who knows ?

One thought though - in typical charismatic ecumenical fashion, perhaps the new upstarts are slyly evangelizing the old guard. And, they'd be hard to resist - after all the charismatics have the best church growth schemes. Nothing like success.

by Bruce Wilson on Wed Jul 08, 2009 at 02:57:44 PM EST

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