The American Christian Right has been pronounced dead numerous times in the past. I myself have published multiple articles in leading peer-reviewed journals, arguing that the Christian Right has suffered significant cultural and political influence over the past half-generation or so. For instance, last year, my article “From Monologue to Dialogue: How the Internet is empowering the evangelical periphery,” which appeared in the journal, Information, Communication & Society, claimed:
“Contrary to the effects of broadcast media, a medium through which American evangelicals were largely unified along conservative theological and political lines, this article explores how the Internet is empowering divergent religious movements within the evangelical community. As a result of this development, the previously unfettered authority of the Christian Right is being usurped and the religious monologue it once enjoyed is gone. Instead, today's evangelical media landscape is more diversified, more decentralized, and ultimately more politically moderate than it once was. Understanding this phenomenon is of central importance to this article.”Similarly, my soon to be published article in the International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church, explores the homogenization of the evangelical/megachurch experience, and the subsequent decline of megachurch attendance (among other topics).
That said, the American Christian Right continues to hold substantial sway (albeit declining sway) within the Republican Party. But any GOP candidate hoping to secure their parties nomination, and ultimately win the White House, desperately needs the support of conservative Christian voters. And among those on the long list of potential 2016 GOP candidates, no one has done more (or continues to do more) to cultivate evangelical support than Texas Governor, Rick Perry.
During his ill-fated 2012 presidential run, Perry banked heavily on the support of the Christian Right, and their support, he ultimately received. And had Perry avoided a series of embarrassing gaffes which made him appear less intelligent than the last U.S. President from Texas, he very well could have won the primary.
Among those most supportive of Perry’s candidacy was an paraministry organization known as “The Response.” For those unfamiliar:
“The Response has engendered widespread criticism of its deliberate blurring of church and state and for the involvement of the American Family Association, labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its leadership’s homophobic and anti-Muslim statements.Of course, there is nothing new about a cooky religious movement in the United States. Such movements have been apart of this country since before its founding.
However, it’s The Response's affiliation with the New Apostolic Reformation movement that is perhaps most startling. Those involved with the New Apostolic Reformation movement fashion themselves and modern-day prophets of God’s divine message. It’s leadership, moreover, “believe they have a direct line to God. Through them, they say, He communicates specific instructions and warnings. When mankind fails to heed the prophecies, the results can be catastrophic: earthquakes in Japan, terrorist attacks in New York, and economic collapse.”
“But what makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government. The new prophets and apostles believe [only] certain Christians are destined to not just take “dominion” over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the “Seven Mountains” of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world. They believe they’re intended to lord over it all. As a first step, they’re leading an “army of God” to commandeer civilian government."In 2012, the Christian Right believed they had found God’s chosen vessel in Rick Perry. And judging by the increasing religious tone of several recent speeches, Rick Perry certainly seems to hope that the same faith which the Christian Right placed in him in 2012 holds for 2016. Whether or not this support materializes for Perry remains to be seen. Yet irrespective of what ultimately becomes of Perry in 2016, should the the Christian Right succeed in mobilizing behind a single candidate, that candidate will likely become the party’s nominee. From there, anything can happen in a general election.