The Christian Right plots religious invasion into politics with candidate training program for pastors

It’s been called “Jesus Camp for adults,” but Jesus Basic Training would probably be more accurate.

A Christian organization called the American Renewal Project is holding a series of Issachar Trainings across the country in order to train roughly 1000 Evangelical pastors on how to run for and win political office. Issachar refers to a story in the Bible, in which the men of Issachar “understood the times and knew what Israel should do,” by which the Bible means help Kind David raise a massive army.

In this case, the army won’t be using swords and spears as much as they’ll be using forms and press conferences. As Ismat Sarah Mangla reported last week:

At an Issachar Training held in South Carolina in June, workshop sessions included “Campaign Mechanics 101” with information on how to set up a finance committee and figure out messaging. Other topics covered range from how to gain publicity by setting up the right photo opportunities to determining which precincts to target and why.

The logic is simple: Christian conservatives perceive their way of life as being under attack, and in order to keep their values codified as public policy, they’re going to have to win more elections. As American Renewal Project’s founder, David Lane, explained to NPR, “Somebody’s values are going to reign supreme. We want people with our values to represent our values and interests in the public square, be elected to office, and represent our issues.”

Lane also explained to the Christian Broadcasting Network that it doesn’t take much by way of candidate training to spark a movement. As he describes, with 1000 pastors running for office, at 300 volunteers per pastor, you get 300,000 volunteers across the country spreading conservative political gospel to voters, who in turn elect a large number of those pastors to office.

Lane didn’t mention how many of those volunteers he expected to come from those pastors’ churches. Of course, directly recruiting volunteers at church would be all kinds of illegal on the part of these soon-to-be candidates.

By itself, the idea of a candidate training program isn’t all that unusual. In purely secular terms, Issachar is but one of many similar candidate training programs across the country. The mechanics of fundraising, media buying, voter turnout and delegation of responsibilities across campaign staff are crucial skills that any interest group will want their members to know in advance of running for office. Across the ideological spectrum, parties and issue groups organize retreats, workshops and programs designed to train the next generation of champions for their cause.

However, a candidate training program organized for the sole purpose of undermining the Separation of Church and State is another thing entirely — especially one designed specifically for pastors, as opposed to accepting any would-be political crusader. Keep in mind that this is a movement that, for all of its talk about the Constitution, has no interest in religious freedom and every interest in “tak[ing] back America for Christ.” They aren’t entering the political arena to be just another voice in the room; they are waging a holy war to put God in our schools, our bedrooms, our bodies, and so on.

Perhaps it’s because the religious are thinking in such territorial terms that they are convinced those who don’t share their deeply held religious beliefs are doing the same. No matter how many time we insist that they are more than welcome to pound their Bibles as hard as they want as long as they don’t do it in my bedroom using my tax dollars, they insist that we’re really out to criminalize their religious activity. And they feel violated. And they need to fight back. Or, as Issachar’s website says (emphasis theirs), “make preparations for war.

Perhaps they are so worried about Sharia Law being established in the United States because, given the opportunity, they would be more than ready to establish Christian Law in Islamic countries. After all, they’ve done it before, both here and elsewhere.

David Lane is right to say that “somebody’s values are going to reign supreme.” That set of values would be those of our Founders, who wrote the First Amendment specifically to protect religious minorities from government persecution. As Thomas Jefferson explained in his Letter to the Danbury Baptists in 1802, our government doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) have anything to say one way or the other with respect to religion. This was important to the Baptists, who were seeking religious protection; not from secularist, communist, Obama-ist liberals, but rather from the Congregationalists who held the majority in the Connecticut’s legislature.

In other words, we don’t keep religion out of government because we think religion is bad. We keep religion out of government because you can’t give one religion preference over the rest, which will inevitably become the case when legislatures operating on majority vote are allowed to reflect the religious beliefs of their members.

Conservatives are more than welcome to become pastors, and pastors are more than welcome to run for political office. But they should know that attempts to legislate their sermons are going to be counterproductive. Not only do such attempts run counter to the understanding our Founders had as to the appropriate exercise of religion, but the politicization of religion is also one of the primary reasons why so many Christians are leaving their faith.

If they want to maintain their values at all, they’ll have to keep them to themselves.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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16 Responses to “The Christian Right plots religious invasion into politics with candidate training program for pastors”

  1. Skye Winspur says:

    If Thomas Jefferson were around today, he’d be defending the rights of Muslims to live in peace across our country, against the “ground zero mosque” screamers. His advocacy for the Danbury Baptists is a wonderful example of how the founders were not the narrow-minded theocrats that Pat Robertson et al. insist they were. (By the way, Baptists were reviled by most Protestants at the time and they were widely considered an “antinomian sect,” not a bona fide religious group.)

  2. Brad Cecil says:

    Are these the same idiots who revile at “political correctness”? Because there’s nothing more politically correcting than checking yourself into “Jesus camp for adults” for a brainwashing session, errr, training regimen for a career in politics.

    Yeah … just like Jesus did.

  3. Bezukhov says:

    I’ve been looking and searching for a long time and I can’t find a single reference in the New Testament where Jesus or any other NT writer encourages Christians to seek political power.

  4. Ashley_Walker says:

    My cousin woz actualey earning money part-time from there computar. . there dads buddy had bean doing this 4 less than 15 months and recently paid for the morgage on their place .and purchased a new Honda . have a peek at this

    Daily World. Idea Of Earning

  5. Glen Thompson says:

    But we already have the bigoted “Salvation Army”.

  6. pliny says:

    So Steeplejacking for State Capitols? Joy.

  7. Don Chandler says:

    I’d read that even Bernie Sanders says he’d let religious groups remain tax-exempt…this is usually expressed in the context of fighting for religious freedoms…errr, religious discrimination.

  8. Don Chandler says:

    How can a government be run based on religious precepts? You’ll never get any consensus/coalescence. They are irrational. As if we needed proof, religious governments don’t seem to be working very well in Islam nations. In fact, factions are always at war in the Middle East. And in the “Christian world”, religion is an ever fragmenting operating system. As a monolith, Christianity isn’t even anti-gay. Oh well, infusing religion into government will always fail as long as you have free speech and an educated populace.

  9. 2karmanot says:

    “we don’t keep religion out of government because we think religion is bad.” That’s very diplomatic and kind of you to write Jon, when in truth the violent fabrications of religion are exemplary examples of subversive threats if not terrorist Undermining of law, order, and secular state identity. In other words religion is ‘bad’ when infecting all the above with mythic virus. Let the Jesusreich begin. It’s been brewing for decades. Our first order of business is to tax the hell out of them—-pardon the pun.

  10. 2karmanot says:

    BRAVO! Yes, I am shouting.

  11. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps it is time to cut off their tax-exempt status when they have stopped being churches and are not out to become political organizations. There is now no doubt about what they are up to.

  12. Indigo says:

    I think their intuition is on target, Christianity through history has demonstrated that it is at a loss how to behave where it is not in control of government. The Emperor Constantine started that by making it the state religion. Interestingly, the Christicoli responded with so much eagerness to grab power that they tossed aside the example of Jesus without a second thought. Here they go again. Christians? Really? I think we should call them by their real name . . . Constantinians.

  13. therling says:

    Fine. Let them go into politics, but first strip them of any tax-exempt status.

  14. The_Fixer says:

    First off, I would prefer that the founder’s professed values, rather than the values they put into practice, would be used as a basis for running the country. I’d rather see “All men are created equal” put into practice, unlike what the founding fathers actually did – which was owning slaves. And of course, women didn’t even enter into the equation, as they couldn’t vote back in those days, and owning property was a very difficult proposition for most women at that time.

    Secondly, I certainly don’t want someone who treats myth seriously, and as a guide for running a country, to actually run the country. If a person believed that Thor was actually the king of kings, that would rightfully make them the subject of derision and ridicule.

    Third, this has to be stopped as quickly as possible. These religious nuts are a minority, and will gum up the works with their attempts to rewrite the Constitution. It will be a needless waste of time electing them to office; the Constitution is clear on this, no matter how much they don’t like it. Aside from that, it’s just a bad way to run government and gets us into a lot of trouble (AKA, it fucks things up terribly). Remember Rumsfeld’s staff Iraq briefings that always featured a bible quote? See how well that all worked out for us? We’re still suffering the consequences of his, and his boss’s actions. Talk about “Unknown Unknowns”!

    These idiots have to be stopped ASAP.

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