A New Wave of Wacko Evangelicals Swept GOP Primaries—and Could Win Several Seats in Washington
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A Southern Baptist Pastor claiming dangerous and crazy things like the notion that there is a homosexual plot to sodomize children, and that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims is so common that it barely registers as newsworthy these days. What should be catching the attention of even the most jaded news editors, however, is that a Southern Baptist Pastor who actually said exactly these aforementioned things has just won his GOP primary race for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Say hello to Tea Party Republican Jody Hice.
In the coming 2014 election, Hice will be the official Republican nominee to replace outgoing Georgia Congressman Paul Broun. Hice believes gay people have a secret plot to seduce and sodomize America’s sons, thinks same-sex marriage is akin to bestiality and incest, and compares abortion to the genocide waged by Hitler. Broun (R-GA) has endorsed Hice, which is unsurprising given it was Broun who once claimed, “Evolution and embryology and the big Bang theory are all lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
Pastor Hice has a long history of delivering hateful and homophobic laden sermons from the pulpit. He has struck out at those who oppose harmful “gay conversion therapy,” and by banning it “we are enslaving and entrapping potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals in a lifestyle that in reality they are not.”
If Pastor Hice were an anomaly, this would be the start and end of this story. Unfortunately for those who cherish America’s secular traditions, he’s not. Alarmingly, he is one face in a sea of evangelical Christian faces swept to primary electoral victories this year on the back of religious conservative activism, and by that I mean political activism drummed up by the success and growth of America’s mega-churches.
While polls show a decline in America’s religiosity, and with millennials shunning the religious enthusiasm of their parents, the mega-church movement is neither dying nor slowing. A 2013 report shows that churches with weekly attendances of 2,000 or more grew in 46 states.
"With each passing year, mega-churches are more in both number and size and the ones at the top of the list are larger than the ones at the top of the list in previous years," Warren Bird, director of research and intellectual capital development for Leadership Network, told The Christian Post.
According to Bird, there are currently 1,650 established mega-churches in the country, many of which draw a sizeable percentage of young adults. And now these asylums for the easily led are being led to the altar of radical theocratic, political ideals – and its sponsor – the Republican Party.
In a number of GOP primary races, candidates with close ties to a mega-church have upset their more fancied establishment opponents. Including Pastor Hice, four candidates with mega-church backing have won decisive primaries.
“People generally like their pastor, and in politics it’s always good to be liked by voters,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon.
Another mega-church supported candidate to triumph is Oklahoma Representative James Lankford, who recently won a primary in the special election to succeed retiring U.S. Senator Tom Coburn.
Lankford is a graduate of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who believes life begins at the moment of fertilization. From 1996 to 2009, Lankford was the student ministries and evangelism specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, and was the program director for the largest Christian camp in the U.S. Indeed, Jesus camp comes to Washington.
The Republican National Committee said it was Lankford’s visibility among evangelicals that helped him defeat his much-favored opponent. Notably, should Lankford win in November, he will become the only full-time religious leader in the U.S. Senate.