Last Friday, 2012 Presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich attended the Rock Church conference in Virginia, presumably trying to boost up their appeal among the evangelical base. While Huckabee is already the darling of social conservatives, Gingrich had to up the ante to win them over (as he is well known to have serial adultery in his past).
As you've surely already heard by now, in order to do so, Gingrich singled out the most destructive force in America today. Pagans. Really:
"We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."
While we might be able to take some humor from this bizarre quote, there was one aspect of the conference that was not even remotely funny. In fact, it was downright alarming.
Attending the Rock Church conference was a man named Lou Engle, founder of "The Call", a radical evangelical group. He prayed for Gingrich and Huckabee, actually doing the "laying of hands" on Huckabee, hoping that they are able to achieve success in "the lion’s den".
Why is this frightening? Well, Lou Engle is part of what is called the "Christian Martyr" movement. If that name sounds alarming, the actual words of this man should reaffirm your fears. Check out this video of some of Engle’s "greatest hits" in the past (posted in a diary by troutfishing this weekend):
As you can see, besides saying that they need to plant the seeds of "Christian martyrdom", Engle also explains that God required the 600,000 deaths in the Civil War as repentance for the bloodshed by slavery. He then follows by saying that God requires bloodshed for the murder of "50 million babies", today. Also:
"Do you know one of the names of God is avenger of blood? Have you ever worshiped that aspect of God lately?"
"God avenges blood. He does not forget the cry of the humble. And babies are the most humble people in the world. He does not forget their cry"
Do I even have to tell you how alarming these words are in the wake of the murder of Dr. George Tiller? In the wake of Tiller’s assassin saying from jail that more people are going to do what he did?
And Gingrich’s "pagan" quote sounds less like a silly pander, and more like a political dog-whistle when you look at this quote from Engle on the slaughter of pagans in the Bible:
"I believe we're headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground," said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah.
"There's an Elijah generation that's going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion," Engle continued. "The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire."
The fact that two presidential hopefuls would actually seek the favor of a man like this, or perhaps even use dog-whistle code words , should be a wakeup call to everyone that this violent and extremist wing of Christianity is gaining power and is a serious threat to our society.
Last week, President Obama’s Justice Department convened a special task force to deal with possible violence to women’s health care providers in the wake of the Tiller tragedy. Let’s hope they come up with a plan. Quickly.