Grayson Foe Daniel Webster Credits Success To "Hedge of Thorns" Prayer
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Oct 25, 2010 at 03:45:14 PM EST
"I wrote the prayer down, and as a matter of fact I passed it out to all our campaign workers and I asked them to begin praying this prayer. And, I will tell you, it was an absolute miracle that we ended up winning that race in 1984... I thought, "you know that was... I believe that prayer was one of the keys to us winning." " -- Daniel Webster

If Republican Daniel Webster prevails against Democratic Representative Alan Grayson in the 2010 race for Florida's 8th Congressional District, will Webster again credit, as in the past, a "hedge of thorns" for his political victory?

"It absolutely changed my life," declared Webster, referring to the teachings of evangelist Bill Gothard, in a 2003-published speech Daniel Webster gave before an audience of Gothard's followers. Webster then attributed his political success to a magical prayer called "The Hedge of Thorns of Protection", which Gothard claims can force unfaithful spouses back to their mates, redeeming them from the influence of Satan. Webster also stated that the Bible calls on wives to submit to their husbands but emphasized he did not usually demand or pray for that.

What the 2003-published footage makes especially clear is the depth and sincerity of Daniel Webster's commitment to Bill Gothard and his teachings. It's not an act. In the speech Webster says he adapted Gothard's "Hedge of Thorns" prayer for use in his political campaigns, causing God to influence the decisions of Florida voters and warding off possible election rivals in his former Florida state congressional district. Daniel Webster also credits the prayer with helping his rise to speaker of the Florida State Legislature in 1996.

For over four decades, fundamentalist evangelical Bill Gothard has been giving courses on Biblical living including his signature Institute in Biblical Life Principles seminars. Gothard has been accused by fellow conservative evangelicals of running a cultic ministry and promoting un-Biblical teaching but has built a worldwide following of Christians who attest to the efficacy of Gothard's methods for overcoming various chemical and purported behavioral addictions among which according to Gothard, as show in the video below, include "sodomy."  

"I don't even remember all the commitments I made but I raised my hand every time - because it absolutely changed my life," stated Daniel Webster, describing his pledges to follow Bill Gothard's teachings at a 1982 Gothard seminar. "But I also learned something else," he continued, "...in 1983 and 1984, when I went back. And that was, I thought that the prayer of The Hedge of Thorns of Protection could be used around the district that I served." Webster went on,

"So I began praying that, uh, because I was facing a very difficult opponent in 1984, I began praying that the voters would believe the truth, and I based it on a particular scripture. So I wrote that scripture down, I wrote the prayer down, and as a matter of fact I passed it out to all our campaign workers and I asked them to begin praying this prayer.

And, I will tell you, it was an absolute miracle that we ended up winning that race in 1984. And, again, by the grace of God. And so, after that, I thought, "you know that was... I believe that prayer was one of the keys to us winning."

So I began praying the same prayer around the same district and using the same verse, and then added a few other verses. But this time I prayed that every person that desired that district would lose interest. So since 1984, and now I'm elected in the [Florida State] Senate through the year 2002 - including my jump from the House to the Senate - not one person has run against me."

Daniel Webster then described using the "Hedge of Thorns" prayer in his bid to become speaker of the Florida State House of Representatives,

"I remember, I began asking people to pray that same hedge of thorns. And, this time, we based it on a scripture, Psalm 140, verse 11 which says 'let not an evil speaker be established.' " [note: Psalm 140, verse 11 actually says, "Let not a slanderer be established in the earth; let evil hunt the violent man to overthrow him." (New King James Version)]

Webster was one seat short of having a Republican majority that would establish him as a speaker, and he credited his "hedge of thorns" prayer tactic with helping gain the needed majority:

"In order to get there we need more seats, more House seats. So the other scriptures we used was Luke 1:52, "You have put down the mighty from their seats and exalted them of low degree." And by those two scriptures, and a lot of other things, when, after the election took place we won, by one vote."

The Grayson Flap

In late September, Democratic Congressional Representative Alan Grayson was widely pilloried in the media, from the right over to the liberal-leaning Jon Stewart show, for running a political attack ad that suggested Grayson's Republican opponent in the race for Florida's 8th Congressional District, Daniel Webster, has said wives should "submit" to their husbands.

Both Grayson's ad and countless critical media stories that followed [such as Politifact.com's take], criticizing Grayson's ad, missed the nuance of Daniel Webster's position. The Grayson ad narrowly mischaracterized Webster's words, from a 2009 speech given at a Bill Gothard-sponsored conference. But in the wider context of what Gothard teaches, the Grayson ad depiction was accurate.

Bill Gothard's institutions expressly teach female submission within marriage, and his  "Hedge of Thorns" prayer doctrine includes calling down divine misfortune upon spouses, either male and female, who stray from the marital fold. But the heavier animus is against women. In his foundational movement book Rebuilders Guide, Bill Gothard quotes Ephesians 5:22 and I Peter 3:1 as commanding that "Wives are instructed to submit to their husbands" and rebellious wives cause horrific damage to their families according to Gothard:

"By disobeying God's word and taking matters into her own hands, the wife destroys both her own family and her husband's family. She sows the seeds of destruction in her families of her children and her grandchildren "to the third of fourth generation." (See Deuteronomy 5:9.)" - Bill Gothard, from Rebuilders Guide.

As of when writer Hannah Rosin was researching her generally favorable 2007 book God's Harvard - A Christian College On a Mission To Save America, Rosin was so impressed with Gothard's teaching she compared his doctrines regarding women to those of the Taliban.

In a September 2009 Alternet story I provided additional support for Rosin's accusation. Specifically, according to Vice President of the Chalcedon Institute Martin Selbrede, Chalcedon institute founder Rousas J. Rushdoony, also considered the founder of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, came very close to striking a legal deal with Bill Gothard for Gothard to promote Rushdoony's writing.

According to Selbrede, the deal fell through because Gothard held a position concerning divorce that was even more draconian than Rushdoony's (Gothard seems to have argued for banning divorce altogether.) However Gothard seems to have been in agreement with Rushdoony's proposal to institute stoning, beheading, and burning at the stake (all mentioned in Biblical scripture), as capital punishments for adultery, female unchastity before marriage, homosexuality, idolatry, apostasy, and witchcraft.

Given Daniel Webster's close ties to Bill Gothard and his teaching, it is surprising that few in media have seen fit to raise the issue of Webster's ties to Gothard, but it is in keeping with contemporary American media treatment of right-leaning political candidates who have deep, longstanding ties to radical Christian clerics.

Along with Hawaii gubernatorial candidate James "Duke" Aiona, Daniel Webster has deep ties to tendencies on the far evangelical right that some on the left have been tempted to compare with movements in radical, or revolutionary Islam.

We've generally argued here at Talk To Action that such comparisons tend to occlude as much as they illumine, but that does not mitigate mainstream media's (currently neglected) responsibility to inform voters as to the extremity of the positions in question. As University of North Florida Associate Professor of Religious Studies Julie Ingersoll argues, "Daniel Webster embraces "an entire worldview that is outside the views of mainstream Americans, and which can certainly be considered a threat to religious freedom."

Does Daniel Webster truly agree with Bill Gothard's views, and specifically with Gothard's apparent sympathies toward Christian Reconstructionism? Will voters have an inkling of Daniel Webster's unusual "hedge of thorn" prayer campaigns to woo their votes from the clutches of the devil? Will a single journalist ask Daniel Webster questions about these matters - if he thinks wifely submission is mandated by scripture or anything at all related to Webster's nearly three-decade long relationship with Gothard and his teaching?

I doubt it, and this is a testament to the state of the Fourth Estate in America in the year 2010 - truth is, for the most part, elsewhere. Occasionally it shines through, sometimes by accident, sometimes through Herculean effort: but all too seldom.




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