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The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

Robert Lanham - (2006)


The actor Stephen Baldwin, for God's sake, is the host of a traveling skate boarding ministry. He's been hanging out in parking lots of adult entertainment shops photographing patrons as part of an antiporn campaign. (xx)

Evangelicals have received a lot of scrutiny lately, so access was often tricky. For all their talk of inclusiveness, most are actually wary of intruders and are experts at spotting them. We found that unless you sign your e-mails "God bless" and say "Hallelujah" when hearing an anecdote about converting a Hasidic salesclerk at Circuit City, they'll likely identify you as an outsider. (xxi-xxii)

Amanda is against gay marriage but supports civil unions, because she doesn't want to "force a new definition of marriage on people who don't want it." She has "advanced gaydar" and has dated other lesbians she's met at church. She's currently in a serious relationship with a woman who used to teach a gay deprogramming class. Amanda recently came out to her fundamentalist parents, who have since stopped talking to her. (xvii)

[James Dobson's Focus on the Family] has an annual budget of $146 million and receives so much mail it has its own zip code [80995]. (2)

Dobson began his career by publishing a book about spanking. Dare to Discipline is his response to what he believes to be a culture of permissive parenting. In it, he promotes the disciplinary effectiveness of spanking, even for "sick and deformed" children, whom, he says, should be treated no differently than normal children. After all, his own mother hit him with "a multitude of straps and buckles," and look how normal James turned out! Dobson says he believes spanking is biblical. Everyone knows that Mary spanked Jesus with a bamboo reed whenever he turned his brussels sprouts into Reese's Pieces. (3)

The Eleven Evangelical Commandments
6. Thou shalt become aware of pop culture trends eight years after the fact and co-opt these trends for Christian culture. (8)

At megachurches, regular congregants often arrive early and save their seats with their Bibles. And be sure to leave your cigarettes at home, since evangelicals only like lawmakers who support the tobacco industry. (17)

Lakewood takes in so much cash, the church has its own vault to store the offering. (31)

As reported in Christianity Today, [Joel] Osteen writes in Best Life Now that he was able to convince an airplane pilot to stow his TV camera in the cockpit, despite having been informed by the counter clerk that the camera needed to be checked with the rest of his luggage:
"The woman behind the counter glared at me and shook her head, clearly aggravated. I just smiled and said, 'Sorry, ma'am; it's the favor of God.' " (36)

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies." (Journal of Religion and Society, 2005) (37)

Despite their hippie roots, it's next to impossible to get any weed at any of the Calvary Chapel churches. (41)

Megachurch Hall of Fame
10. Radiant Church, Surprise, Arizona: Operates a publicly funded school that doubles as a church recruiting center. Radiant spends $16,000 annually on Krispy Kreme donuts.
9. Brentwood Baptist Church, Houston, Texas: Has its own McDonald's, complete with golden arches and a drive-through.
8. Southeast Christian, Louisville, Kentucky: Has a gym, sixteen basketball courts, a rock-climbing wall, and a member of its congregation invented the Greenlee Communion Dispensing Machine, which can fill forty Communion cups at once in a matter of seconds.
4. Crossover Community Church, Tampa, Florida: The hiphop church. Reminiscent of a nightclub, Crossover is decorated with graffiti, has a pulpit designed to look like a large spray can, features breakdancing, hip-hop music, and is pastored by a rapper named Urban D who calls himself a "player" on his church Web site. The church covers topics like "what it means to be God's illest."
2. Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California: Bar codes are assigned to babies checked into the nursery to avoid losing them at the Purpose Driven pastor's (Rick Warren) enormous megachurch. (44-5)

[Rick Warren has] ministered to leaders such as George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Rupert Murdoch, and claims to have personally signed a copy of The Purpose Driven Life at the request of Fidel Castro, though some of the aforementioned, obviously, are still going to hell. (54)

Quick Facts about Warren's Saddleback Church:
Collected $ 7 million in cash on one Sunday.
Provides several service styles, including gospel, guitar-driven, and even "hula and island-style." (56)

Prior to the 2004 election, Warren set up voter registration booths on Saddleback's church patio. Most tellingly, he sent letters to 150,000 pastors, insisting they encourage their congregations to vote for Bush. (56)

In the mid-seventies, [Bill] Hybels polled his community and used market research to see what unchurched people liked and disliked about church and then removed the obstacles. Today, his church has no steeple, no hymnals, no stained glass, and no intimidating religious crosses or symbols. (61)

The divorce rate in red states is 27 percent higher than in blue states. Furthermore, born-again Christians have a higher divorce rate than any other social group in the United States. (U.S. Census Bureau and Barna Research) (77)

The only thing more scandalous than Jim [Bakker]'s notorious affair with buxom Jessica Hahn was his then-wife and cohost, Tammy Faye, who had an equally messy affair with her mascara wand. (89)

Like Falwell, Robertson has evangelical Tourette's and has managed to offend nearly everyone on Earth, and in Heaven, purgatory, and hell. Everybody has a favorite Pat outburst. Ours occurred when Pat addressed the Republican National Convention in 1992, saying that feminism was "a socialist, antifamily, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." (90)

[Pat Robertson] on gays: "[Homosexuals] want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the faces of ministers." (92)

[Jerry Falwell] Memorable Quote (on September 11): "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.''' (97)

[Luis Cortes, Nueva Esperanza] Memorable Quote: "This is what I tell politicians ... you want an endorsement? Give us a check, and you can take a picture of us accepting it." (98)

[Paul Crouch] Memorable Quote: "If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network] and have not contributed ... you are robbing God and will lose your reward in Heaven." (99)

[Jimmy Swaggart] Memorable Quote: "And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one [a gay man] ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died." (105)

[Ted Haggard] Defining Quote: ''I'm a right-wing religious conservative .... I joke that the only disagreement I have with George Bush is on what type of truck to drive." (115)

Where leaders like Dobson sound like broken records when it comes to their incessant gay bashing, Haggard is more obsessed with patriotism and promoting the biblical basis of free markets. (118)

[Haggard] describes his wife's "predictability" as an attribute. He speaks angrily about the "homosexual agenda." (119)

In the Prayer Closet: Don't Be Weird
Haggard knows being too Pentecostal could affect his public persona. Following increased media attention, he's been coaching his congregation to avoid discussing the voices they hear in their heads. "Don't be weird," he says. "When we're alone, run around, do cartwheels, kiss your enemy, do whatever you want. But when the cameras come on, remember ... they cannot understand tongues, they cannot understand cartwheels." He's even become reluctant to discuss his own spiritual gifts. "I don't operate technically with the gift of tongues," he says. Nevertheless, he does claim to "pray in tongues every day" in his "prayer closet." (119)

Haggard believes evangelicals seeking a nonviolent God are searching in vain. "If you want a peaceful God," he says, "choose Buddhism." New life Church is decorated with enormous bronze warrior angels all brandishing menacing larger-than-life swords. They're the church emblems. A variety of sword-toting angel miniatures are even sold in the bookstore. With swords drawn for battle, two especially aggressive sculptures known as "The Defender" and "The Reaper" are apt metaphors for Haggard's belief that Jesus is a God of might. "The God of the Bible has never been peaceful," Haggard says. He recently told Harper's, "I teach a strong ideology of the use of power, of military might, as a public service." (120-1)

Though Dobson usually gets all the credit for bringing about the evangelical boom in Colorado Springs, the "prayer warriors" at New Life Church tell a different story. In 1984, years before Dobson made the move to the Rockies, pastor Ted Haggard arrived in what he called a "pastors graveyard," Sensing Colorado Springs was overrun by "demonic activity," "humanism," "New Agers," "ex-hippies," and "covens," Haggard and members of his church decided to "prayerwalk" the town, reclaiming it for God's purposes, one Applebee's at a time. Haggard and his prayerwalkers visited gay bars, government buildings, and stood outside the houses of "witches," tirelessly chanting and anointing troubled areas with what one New life congregant described as "gallons of motor oil." (126-7)

Freaky Christian Ministries
K&K Mime: Two African-American mimes who perform in whiteface. The identical twins, Keith & Karl Edmonds, are the self-proclaimed "founders of gospel mime." "K&K Mime has a burden," claims their Web site, "to reach the people of this present generation, as well as the babes in Christ." (133)

American Family Association—Want to see Little House on the Prairie restored to prime time? AFA's got your back. They're the boycott-happy, family-values watchdog trying to control what you watch and hear. They also produced the antihomosexual propaganda video It's Not Gay, which ironically is indeed pretty gay. (170)

Everyone knows that Capitol Hill doesn't have nearly enough out-of-touch, born-again, Aryan policy makers who decorate their offices with guns and Jesus statuettes. A stone's throw from the nation's capital, Patrick Henry College is an evangelical college for aspiring politicians in the business of rectifying this deficit. . . .
Students at Patrick Henry are forced to conform to a dress code, stay out of the dorms of the opposite sex, and avoid any public display of affection. Smoking and drinking are also forbidden. All students must also sign a statement of faith that claims non-Christians will be "confined in conscious torment for eternity." Moreover, Patrick Henry's faculty must agree to teach that creation occurred fully in "six twenty-four-hour days," since this biblical understanding is "the best fit to observed data." Most disturbingly, Patrick Henry's literature claims that the government should be built upon the realization that people "are tainted by sin and therefore cannot be trusted to be free." (180)

Most Inane Mark Driscoll Quote: "After church tonight you will go home and you will eat chicken, not human, because of the spread of Christianity ... go to a country where there hasn't been the spread of Christianity and they're having human for dinner." (207)

[Mark Driscoll] says he's seen possessed people "totally overtaken" by demons "levitate off the ground." (208)

Affliction: Preferred term for any form of sickness, since it implies an outside force (Satan) trying to impose his will. Saying you're "sick" sounds mundane. Claiming you have an affliction, now that's some Old Testament shit. (217)

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