Newt Gingrich Teams With Anti-Gay Zealot Lou 'Uganda' Engle For U.S. Cyber-'Revival'
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The Christian right has often sought to stay the hand of God, angry with our failings as a nation, by "standing in the gap" at large prayer rallies and pleading for mercy. They have made a special point of doing so in the run-up to national elections since 1980, praying for "Godly" government and righteous candidates, and this year is no exception. The beneficiaries are almost always Republicans -- and this year is probably no exception in that regard as well. But there is also an ominous element that mostly transcends parties and is on vivid display as we enter the fall campaign season.
On Labor Day weekend, Lou Engle, head of the fiery neo-Pentecostal group, The Call, is leading a worship service in a sports arena in Sacramento, California, and a "solemn assembly" at the state Capitol the next day. These events were initially billed as a 10th anniversary of The Call's first youth rally on the National Mall which drew, according to the organization, 400,000 people. Since then, the Sacramento event has been repositioned as the kick-off of a major Christian right fall political campaign initiative. Engle says it will be the "hinge of history" opening the door to "the greatest awakening" and "returning our nation to its righteous roots."
There are several important dimensions of this effort. One is that this is an effort at reaching and mobilizing evangelical young people into Republican politics, particularly in California; another is that it represents a new stage in the long-term cooperation between conservative Catholics, fundamentalists and the neo-Pentecostals. And finally, the militant rhetoric of Engle's armies of activists is escalating, and their organizational infrastructure seems to be increasing, especially in cyberspace.
Before we discuss these, there is one additionally remarkable aspect of this. The eminence grise of this initiative appears to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose organization Renewing American Leadership (ReAL) is apparently the force behind a series of Christian right events being organized under the rubric of " Pray & Act." This is politically important, but as Gingrich's role becomes more public, it may also become morally dissonant, since Gingrich is well-known (and has been recently highlighted in the news) as a thrice-married serial philanderer (his recent conversion to Catholicism not withstanding). This certainly makes him an unlikely guide for a religious political movement whose leaders believe that the fate of America hinges on the health of heterosexual marriage.
"If our society goes down the tubes," neo-conservative Catholic Robert P. George (one of the movement's premier thinkers and strategists) speculated in an essay featured on the ReALWeb site "... it will not be in the end because of bad economic decisions... It will be because we let misguided but determined people undermine the institution of marriage and destroy the innocence of our children."
In March, Gingrich recruited Rev. Jim Garlow, a principal organizer of the successful effort to pass the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8, to chair ReAl, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that says it seeks to advance and defend, among other things, the Judeo-Christian tradition. The board also includes longtime Gingrich political operative and founding director, Rick Tyler, and Christian nationalist historical revisionist David Barton (a former longtime vice-chair of the Texas Republican Party). By April, Garlow had announced Pray & Act -- a 40 day fast and preparation for political action campaign -- and the project was featured on the ReAlWeb site, and almost nowhere else.
At this writing, details are still emerging, but the list of religious right leaders involved is impressive, and their intention to lead people from a state of fervent prayer to acquiring state power is unambiguous.