Last year, concern about Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann's relationships with a variety of dominionist thinkers and political actors was gaining traction in the media. Rachel Tabachnick was on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. There were major articles in The New Yorker, The Texas Observer, and The Daily Beast. Perry's massive pre-presidential campaign prayer rally attracted major media attention, and some of us noticed that the event was organized by the dominionist associates of C. Peter Wagner, the leading figure of the New Apostolic Reformation, and that Wagner himself was present.
All this was accompanied by a sustained barrage of articles and op-eds in mainstream and right-wing media (which in retrospect, seems orchestrated) variously claiming that the role of dominionism was exaggerated or didn't exist; and that those of us who have written about these things were all kinds of terrible. We heard from, among others, Ross Douthat and Michael Gerson at The New York Times and The Washington Post, respectively and in syndication beyond. Charlotte Allen sneered about it on the Los Angeles Times op-ed page. Lisa Miller at The Washington Post published as ill informed a piece as has ever been written on the subject. (I responded here.) The worst of the bunch was Mark Pinksy's screed in USA Today -- in which he compared the work of several Jewish writers to some of the worst anti-Semitic smears in history. Then Jim Wallis of Sojourners of all people picked sides and piled on. Writing at The Huffington Post he also denounced of those of us who write about dominionism -- and recommended Pinky's smear to boot!
Enough was enough. So some of us wrote an Open Letter to Jim Wallis. He never responded, nor did any of the other perps. (Except Pinksy who in comments at Talk to Action, stood by his smears and refused to apologize when Chip Berlet pointedly called on him to do so.) The story was widely picked up on and discussed around the blogosphere.
We stood our ground and declared that we refused to be silenced or intimidated -- and the smear campaign stopped as suddenly as it started. I've reposted the Open Letter below as a reminder of how far some people will go to suppress important information and analysis that does not comport with their various agendas.
October 6th, 2011
An Open Letter to Jim Wallis from Writers about American Religion and Politics
Dear Jim Wallis,
We are writing in response to your e-mail to the Sojourners list on September 29th, and your similar piece on The Huffington Post, in which you claim that "some liberal writers" -- whom you do not name -- are broad brushing evangelical Christians as "intellectually-flawed right-wing crazies with dangerous plans for the country." You characterize unnamed writers -- writers like us -- as people who are "all too eager to discredit religion as part of their perennial habit and practice." This charge is as unfair as it is unsubstantiated.
You may recognize some of us as people who have written in recent years about such tendencies in modern Christian evangelicalism as dominionism, apocalyptic demonization, Christian Reconstructionism, and the New Apostolic Reformation. We see these forces as playing a significant role in our religious and political lives.
We are concerned about your recent attacks for three main reasons.
Our first concern is your claim that writers who are critical of these tendencies are making broad, unfair claims about "most or all evangelicals." This is just not so. We understand and try to reflect in our work the idea that some, but certainly far from all, evangelical Christians embrace or are influenced by these important movements.
We agree with you that evangelicals are highly varied; are not all politically conservative; and that certainly not all are Republicans. None of us has ever thought or written that they are. Indeed, some of us are evangelicals ourselves. We know that former Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are evangelical Christians. And some of us have written about how elements of the above-mentioned movements and tendencies are also involved in the Democratic Party.
We understand that there are complexities in life, religion, and politics. We take seriously the need for and the extraordinary privilege of constantly learning. As writers, we are quite varied among ourselves. We are religious and non-religious; Christian and non-Christian. We have different histories and emphases in writing about religion, theology, and politics. We do not always agree with one another. But we all do agree on this much: These exclusionary Christian movements and tendencies are real, overlapping, and significant in evangelicalism specifically and in our political and electoral culture at large. We invite our readers to consider that there are aspects to these movements and tendencies that are profoundly problematic, and we invite you to consider that as well.
Second, we are concerned that you have endorsed the essay by Mark I. Pinsky that appeared recently in USA Today. That piece attacked some of us by name and all of us by implication. Pinsky's is but the latest in a series of prominently published smears against those of us who write about these subjects and their ties to powerful political interests. We are disturbed that you would cheer on these ad hominem attacks.
Finally, Pinsky tries to blame much of the published criticism of these elements of evangelicalism on left-wing Jews. We, including the majority of us who are not Jews, view this as a transparent effort to intimidate Jewish writers. We are shocked that you are endorsing and promoting Pinsky's attack on these writers, whose work is well-sourced and painstakingly researched.
We are also shocked that you equate these Jewish writers with "secular fundamentalists" whom you say "want to prove that evangelicals are stupid and dangerous extremists." You do this by immediately following this claim by stating that Pinsky's essay is one of "the best responses to the recent articles about evangelicals."
We want to remind you that in his essay Pinsky goes so far as to compare the work of those four Jewish writers to some of the worst anti-Semitic smears in history, including false claims that Jews had "horns and tails, ate the blood of Christian children and poisoned the wells of Europe with plague.. [and] conspired to rule the world through our Protocols."
Whatever one may think of any of our published work, the fact is that none of it is remotely analogous to the false claims in the various notorious anti-Semitic forgeries known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Pinsky 's equation of the work of the writers he names with the Protocols is despicable.
We would like to believe that despite our differences with you, you share with us a common desire for a just and peaceful world. We value honest disagreement and debate, and hope that you value these as well. Indeed, as writers we know how essential they are to clarifying and even resolving differences, correcting errors of fact -- and dare we say, perspective. These are necessary ingredients for democracy itself. We invite you take issue with any specific facts or characterizations in our work. Then we will have something to talk about. But we will not be silent in the face of smears and intimidation tactics -- which are so very far from the values of the faith traditions from which many of us hail, and the civic values of free speech and respect for religious pluralism that we all share.
We call on you to stop making false characterizations of our work and stop promoting the false characterizations of others. We also specifically ask that you rethink your support for Pinsky's smear and withdraw it.
Blogger, Bartholomew's Notes on Religion
Journalist and author of The Religious Right in Michigan Politics
Journalist, blogger, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort
Independent journalist. Contributor to BuzzFlash, AlterNet, and Z Magazine
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Columnist, The Humanist Magazine
Journalist, blogger, author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy; editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America
Editor, Church & State Magazine
Barry W. Lynn
Publisher and Columnist, Church & State Magazine
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Independent journalist. Contributor to Christian Century, Commonweal, Books & Culture and Touchstone.
Rev. Dr. Bruce Prescott
Blogger at Mainstream Baptist
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Journalist, blogger, Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America's Future
Adele M. Stan
Washington Bureau Chief, AlterNet.
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Co-founder and featured writer, Talk to Action