The Campaign to Silence Critics o Religious Extremism


A number of conservative writers and political pundits have taken to attacking left-wing investigative reporters, researchers and journalists over their reporting about Dominionism, Christian Reconstruc-tionism and the New Apostolic Reformation—three little-known theological and ideological movements gaining ground on the Christian Right.

 

In a recent edition of USA Today, Mike I. Pinsky, a self-described “left-wing Democrat,” jumped on board the Stop-Picking-On-Dominionists bandwagon with a column titled “The truth about evangelicals” (www.usatoday.com). Thus Pinsky, a former religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times, and the author of A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed, joined such conservative luminaries as the always-in-comeback-mode Ralph Reed, Michael Gerson, and Ross Douthat, and Lisa Miller, a religion writer at the Washington Post, in claiming that progressive researchers are spreading paranoid tropes about the religious beliefs of some of the Republican Party’s presidential candidates, notably Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann.

 

Pinsky’s defense of so-called common-sense all-American evangelism (the non-theocratic kind) contains a number of well-worn claims including: (a) most Christian evangelicals have no idea what Dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism or the New Apostolic Reformation are; (b) the paranoid left is overstating its case; (c) some of the figures named by critics are “marginal,” citing David Barton and John Hagee as examples; and (d) Jews need to be careful about “demonizing” Christians.

 

Let’s look at that last point first. In time-honored fashion, Pinsky warns: “If, as Jews, we replace the old caricature of hayseed fundamentalist mobs carrying torches and pitchforks with one of dark conspirators trying to worm their way back into political power at the highest levels, we run the risk of accusing them of doing to others what we are doing to them: demonizing. We didn’t like it when people said we had horns and tails, ate the blood of Christian children and poisoned the wells of Europe with plague, much less conspired to rule the world through our Protocols.”

 

While many Jews have tended to feel more than a little uneasy about conservative Christian evangelical leaders and their anti-gay, anti-choice rhetoric and political activities, nevertheless, the Christian Right has, over the past few decades, claimed a special relationship with Jews. Much of this relationship is based on the right’s alleged support for Israel—exemplified by opposing any Roadmap to Peace with the Palestinians—and End Times scenarios that, in the end, don’t leave the Jews in very good shape.

 

Over the years, Christian Right leaders have picked out a few favored Jews and invited them to their seminars, demonstrations, and rallies, think Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who runs The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews; Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder and head of Toward Tradition (before his association with the scandal-ridden Republican Party uber-lobbyist, Jack Abramoff); and Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who most recently blamed the Washington, DC earthquake on gays and their supporters.

 

While most Christian evangelicals may or may not be familiar with Dominionism, Christian Reconstruction, or the New Apostolic Reformation, that is hardly the point. Back in the early days of the Religious Right, most American evangelicals were probably not all that familiar with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye, and Dr. James Dobson. It wasn’t until they emerged as leaders of a powerful movement that they achieved widespread recognition.

 

Pinsky claims that writers Michelle Goldberg, Rabbi James Rudin, Sara Diamond (an oldie but a goodie who actually left the right-wing watch scene many years ago) and Rachel Taba- chnick, are using what he calls an “Upper West Side hysteric” tone (a label that I believe is supposed to indicate something both elite and unbalanced) and a, “tenuous if not tortured connect-the-dots link to a presidential or congressional candidate.”

 

How “tenuous” or “tortured” is it to examine the speakers list at Rick Perry’s highly publicized “The Response” event in Houston and to see that many of the speakers are directly linked to Dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation? Not so much.

 

As to David Barton and Pastor John Hagee: we should all be blessed with the multiple platforms, political connections, and financial wherewithal of both these men.

 

Longtime journalist Frederick Clarkson, author of the invaluable book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and the co-founder of Talk2Action, summarizes: “…neither Barton or Hagee are in fact, marginal figures in evangelical Christianity or in wider public life…. Barton was named one of the nation’s 25 Most Influential Evangelicals’ by Time magazine in 2005 and for many years served as the vice-chair of the Texas GOP. Barton was repeatedly featured on Glen Beck’s Fox News show at its height.

 

“His books are widely used in evangelical Christian schools and home schools. For his part, Hagee is one of the best-known evangelists in the world. His show is seen by millions around the world and is carried by several networks. His organization Christians United for Israel remains a powerful if controversial entity and its annual Washington conferences are routinely addressed by senior pols such as Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT). His support was courted and received by 2008 presidential contender John McCain until a controversy led to their mutual renunciation, making headlines around the country.”

 

In a conversation on her Facebook page, Tabachnick pointed out that Pinsky “has written repeatedly about Hagee in the Orlando Sentinel, in USA Today and in his own book…. This is not ignorance. This was willfully misleading readers.” 

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Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative movements.