Santorum not Source of 'Phony Theology' Idea, Origins in 'Biblical Economics' Partnership
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Feb 21, 2012 at 12:46:44 PM EST
What did Rick Santorum mean when he described President Obama's environmental policy as being phony theology?  Santorum is not the original source of this idea. The narrative is widespread in the Religious Right and has been accelerated through a partnership with big business and wealthy family foundations. This is the world of "Biblical economics," a world in which unregulated free markets are holy and the opposition is literally demonic. It includes a 12-part DVD series produced by the Cornwall Alliance, featuring nationally-known Religious Right leaders and claims that environmentalism is a cult in competition with a Judeo-Christian biblical worldview. They have even given this competing religion a name - the Cult of the Green Dragon.
Santorum spoke in Ohio this past weekend about President Obama's energy and environmental policy.  He used the phrases "phony theology," and "not a theology based on the Bible, but some different theology."   Santorum continued, describing global warming as follows.
"I refer to global warming as not climate science, but political science."
This view of global warming as a liberal political ploy, and environmentalism as a competing theology with Christianity, has been enshrined in a 2010 video by the Cornwall Alliance titled Resisting the Green Dragon.  A short edited trailer is embedded below.  

The Cornwall Alliance movie demonstrates that an unholy alliance of big business, wealthy family foundations, and the Religious Right is willing to go to any lengths to convince Americans to oppose environmental regulation, regardless of the long term consequences.

The movie features appearances by numerous Religious Right leaders including: David Barton, major promoter of revisionist Christian Nationalist history: Bryan Fischer, American Family Association; Tony Perkins, Family Research Council; and many more. The advisory board of the Cornwall Alliance  includes members of  think tanks that bring together right-wing  Catholics, evangelicals, and Jews, with neoconservative business and political leaders to oppose the federal regulatory system.

The founder and national spokesperson is Calvin Beisner, affiliated with the following entities as a scholar or fellow. Each institute is followed by a list of major funders (from Media Matters Action Network - Conservative Transparency).

Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty - Brady, Koch, Earhart, Templeton, Bradley, DeVos, Scaife

Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow - Exxon Mobil, Scaife and Carthage (also a Scaife foundation)

Institute on Religion and Democracy -  Brady, Carthage (Scaife), Castle Rock (Coors), Olin, Bradley, Scaife

Atlas Economic Research Foundation - Carthage (Scaife), Koch,  Earhart, Exxon Mobil, Olin, Templeton (over $ 4.3 million),  Bradley, Scaife, Smith Richardson

A partial list of the board of advisors from the Cornwall Alliance website follows, with my own brief biographical comments. Note that Rick Santorum joined the Ethics and Public Policy Center as a Senior Fellow in January 2007.
David Barton - Wallbuilders, major promoter of "biblical worldview" history of the U.S., including claims that the Bible opposes various taxes and the minimum wage

John Michael Beers - Ave Maria University

Joel Belz - Founder, WORLD Magazine

Michael Cromartie - Vice President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Barrett Duke -  Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention

George Grant - PCA minister, source of quote, "It's Dominion we are after. World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish."

Jay Grimstead - Director, Coalition on Revival, which developed "Worldview Documents" for 17 spheres of society and government

Stephen Hayward - Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Rabbi Daniel Lapin - President. Toward Tradition, the Religious Right's favorite rabbi

Herbert Schlossberg - Senior Research Associate, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Louis B. Sheldon - Chairman, Tradition Values Coalition  and a board member of the Oak Initiative

Robert Sirico - President, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty

Jim Tonkowich - Scholar,  Institute on Religion and Democracy

Alan Wisdom - Vice President, Ethics and Public Policy Center

Rick Santorum's role at the Ethics and Public Policy Center was described as,
"...identifying, studying, and heightening awareness of the threats posed to America and the West from a growing array of anti-Western forces that are increasingly casting a shadow over our future and violating religious liberty around the world."

The Ethics and Public Policy Center has received funding from foundations including: Carthage (Scaife) Bradley, Olin, Templeton, Earhart, Scaife, and Simon.  According to SourceWatch, the EPPC received over $9 million dollars from eight foundations between 1985 and 2001. The EPPC was led by Elliot Abrams from 1996 - 2002.

Tom Barry of the Center for International Policy said the following about the institute.

Created in 1976, EPPC was the first neocon institute to break ground in the frontal attack on the secular humanists. For nearly three decades, EPPC has functioned as the cutting edge of the neoconservative-driven culture war against progressive theology and secularism, and the associated effort to ensure right-wing control of the Republican Party. It explicitly sought to unify the Christian right with the neoconservative religious right, which was mostly made up of agnostics back then. A central part of its political project was to "clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition and the public debate over domestic and foreign policy."

The Cornwall Alliance's Reactionary and Dominionist Worldview

The Cornwall Alliance's movie dips into the well of "New World Order" conspiracy theory, a narrative in which the term "globalism" does not refer to big business and the impact of global corporations on labor, but to a demonic plot by the "elite"  or "Illuminati" for a one-world government.  This narrative is a means for transferring American concerns about globalism away from mega-corporations and toward a claimed socialist/communist plot of the United Nations and environmental activists, often including other groups such as the Council for Foreign Relations.  These entities are supposedly involved in a nefarious plot to eliminate much of the world's population and prepare the way for a a one-world government.

Photobucket This is not a new phenomenon. Protestant fundamentalist textbooks have included this narrative for decades. For instance, one of the most popular textbook series for fundamentalist private schools and home schooling is A Beka Books.  The high school economics text includes an entire chapter on "globalism," but never refers to international mega-corporations or the challenges to labor brought about by the growth of global corporations. In the context of the textbook, globalism is a conspiracy against capitalism by the U.N., peace organizations, and environmentalists.

The chapter on globalism begins with the famous Bruegel painting of the biblical Tower of Babel and includes a warning about the one-world government of the Antichrist. Throughout the A Beka textbook series, evolution and global warming are mocked.  The A Beka and other similar textbook series are currently being used in private schools receiving public funding through corporate tax credits in Pennsylvania and Florida. The teaching of this "Biblical capitalism" worldview will be greatly expanded as "school choice" programs are initiated in states across the nation, a campaign funded by the same family foundations - DeVos, Koch, Scaife, etc. - funding the anti-regulatory and anti-labor activism.

The popularity and growth of these narratives has been accelerated by the partnership between the political Right and the Religious Right, but also by a dramatic change in theology among the Protestant fundamentalist sector of the Religious Right partnership.  This change has resulted in a shift from an escapist end times theology to a "Dominionist" theology.  In brief, this means emphasis has shifted from a doomsday scenario in which the believers escape the world prior to the reign of the Antichrist (in the Rapture), to one of taking "dominion" over society and government in order to bring about Jesus' return.

The shift to Dominionist theology provides much better alignment with the goals of right-wing business and political partners, and has provided a better theological platform for uniting the various religious entities of the larger Religious Right - Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish - embracing the idea of imposing their "Biblical worldview" on American government in support of various causes.  However, this partnership is meeting resistance from religious leaders who may be conservative on social issues, but object to the Bible being used as a weapon to abolish the federal regulatory system and social safety nets, and to impose radical laissez-faire economic policies.

The Cornwall Alliance's desperation to turn Americans against environmentalism is no doubt partially in response to growing environmental awareness among American evangelicals.  The Evangelical Environmental Network, for example, has taken a strong stance on reducing mercury emissions. In response, the EEN has been under attack from the Cornwall Alliance and other right-wing religious leaders working closely with anti-regulatory think tanks.

The EEN has even been subjected to a stealth attack by Samuel Rodriguez, an evangelical leader who signed the network's "call to stop mercury poisoning of the unborn," while simultaneously working with the Affordable Power Alliance (APA) to oppose restrictions on mercury emissions. The APA promotes claims that mercury emissions are not a threat and that global warming is a hoax. The APA board includes Rodriguez and Harry Jackson (both New Apostolic leaders) and targets minority and elderly audiences. Jackson is also featured in the "Resisting the Green Dragon" movie.

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is not the original source of many of his quotes being replayed over and over on network news this week. And he's not the only candidate referencing narratives from a "Biblical economics" and a "Dominionist" worldview.  It is time for the American public to become educated about how these narratives have emerged - from a world in which big business, a few ultra-wealthy families, and the Religious Right are rewriting history and science, and interpreting the Bible as supporting laissez-faire capitalism.

Also see a previous Talk2action article for numerous links to media and information on "Biblical capitalism" or "Biblical economics."

Also see Right Wing Watch's coverage of the Cornwall Alliance.

Every 49 years them there children of Israel canceled ALL their debts. They called it "Jubilee" Leviticus 25:8-17

by Villabolo on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 05:06:28 PM EST

Rick Santorum will be appearing in my home town at a church called "Abba's House" this coming Saturday. Abba's house is Chattanooga TN's own NAR strong hold.

by rahilliard on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 10:10:01 PM EST
Well, there goes my theory (stated under an earlier article) that Santorum's extreme right-wing Catholicism would be incompatible with NAR beliefs. I guess he worries about theology only when it is someone else's. Is this a matter of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?

by MLouise on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 11:10:21 PM EST

Abba's House is one of a small but growing group of Charismatic Southern Baptist churches that has embraced the NAR.  As someone who grew up Southern Baptist, it's hard for me to imagine a SBC pastor hosting Rodney Howard-Browne, promoting prosperity doctrine, or speaking with Randy Clark at "healing and impartation" training.  But it's happening!  Apparently the Toronto Airport revival is what drew in a number of Southern Baptists.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Thu Feb 23, 2012 at 12:59:21 AM EST
What on earth is 'impartation' training? Never heard of it, but I don't move in those circles. I'm Eastern Orthodox and I guess I miss a lot of fun out there in evvy land.

by rdrjames on Sun Feb 26, 2012 at 06:53:44 PM EST

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