Posted on: 04/23/08:
Since our anticipated and providential move into the community of Temple Hills, Maryland in June 2007, Iíve had the opportunity and privilege to be heavily and strategically involved with my local fellowship as the Pastor of Outreach and Evangelism at Hillcrest Baptist Church. There is no doubt or uncertainty in the mind and consciousness of my family that this is where we are to be right now.
The leadership and staff of the church have provided consolation during our transition; however, the leadership and staff provide consolation as a part of their job. They are expected to be consoling. After all, they are the ones who take responsibility for the growing leadership of the church. However confirmation comes in large part as the response of the few or many within the laity to the role and character of the minister.
So really this brief work is about how the people of the pews have changed my life and how God has used each of them as an instrument in my sanctification. Of course this work will not do justice to convey or describe the transformation that occurs when someone is placed in servitude to the laity, however the meaningfulness of this spiritual union between the leadership and their people within the local fellowship is captivating, life changing and awesome.
Posted on: 04/07/08:
How the religious right uses the 'prosperity gospel' to win foot soldiers and continue its culture war.
Researcher Sarah Posner has been following the Religious Right for several years and writes a blog called The FundamentaList for the American Prospect. Her new book, God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters (PoliPointPress, 2008) examines the role advocates of the "prosperity gospel" play in the Religious Right.To read the rest of the article, click here.
Posner talked recently with Church & State about her research and the status of the Religious Right today.
Church & State: Many people think of the prosperity gospel as a movement that attempts to link Christianity to hypercapitalism and the collection of wealth. You assert these ministries play a political role as well. What role does the prosperity gospel play in the Religious Right?
Posner: When George H.W. Bush was preparing to run for president in 1988, his evangelical advisor, Doug Wead, prepared a list of 1,000 "targets" -- religious leaders of influence worth courting for the votes of their followers. The list included a lot of names you'd expect -- Robertson, Falwell, and other household names, but also included some of the most prominent prosperity gospel evangelists, notably Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch, the head of the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The courting of these prosperity televangelists by politicians continues today, as we have seen Mike Huckabee touting his close relationship with Copeland, and John Hagee and Rod Parsley campaigning with John McCain. In tune with the Religious Right, they take ultraconservative positions on issues like abortion, gay marriage, separation of church and state, and other social issues, and actively encourage their followers to vote.
In your new book, God's Profits, you discuss Ohio pastor Rod Parsley, who has labored to make an impact on statewide politics. Parsley's favored candidate for governor, Ken Blackwell, was soundly defeated in 2006. Does this mean Parsley has lost political influence? What are his goals, and what are the chances he could become a national figure as well-known as the late Jerry Falwell?
It's certainly Parsley's goal to be a successor to Falwell. He proudly accepted an honorary doctorate from Liberty University last year. (Parsley doesn't even have an undergraduate degree, so this was quite an honor, to say the least). He has said he sees his Center for Moral Clarity, the political arm of his church, as the successor to Falwell's Moral Majority.
Certainly many observers thought Parsley's influence was on the wane after Blackwell was trounced in the 2006 gubernatorial race. And although Blackwell's defeat could be chalked up to other factors -- particularly the raft of corruption scandals plaguing Ohio Republicans -- there was a group of prominent moderate Republicans who came out against Blackwell because of his religion-baiting.
That said, Parsley's name is still on the tips of conservative tongues as a religious kingmaker in the race for the White House, and McCain campaigned with Parsley, whom he called a "spiritual guide," in Ohio in March.
A spate of new books asserts that the Religious Right is a spent force politically. What is your view? Have we truly entered a "post-Religious Right" America?
Many kingmakers on the Religious Right have seen their political influence wax and wane. Pat Robertson and James Dobson, for example, do not wield the cult of personality that they once did. Yet while the movement appears rudderless at the moment, literalist conservative Christianity runs very deep in our country. Although the public face of the movement is in transition, and many centrist evangelicals are striving to spread a less divisive message, the Religious Right's basic doctrine continues to resonate with a significant segment of the population. Because of the movement's organization, any new leaders who emerge over the next few years will have a formidable and well-funded political and media infrastructure to build on.
The continued survival of the Religious Right depends on the cultivation of a new generation of activists. In your chapter titled "Generation Next," you discuss efforts by Religious Right leaders to raise up a new generation. How successful have these efforts been?