May 26, 2009

Al-Qaeda Terrorists = The Prophet Jeremiah?

The following article originally appeared on the the FrontPage Magazine website, and is reproduced with permission.

Note: The Institute on Religion & Democracy’s Rebekah Sharpe provided full coverage of the Sojourners Mobilization to End Poverty conference. To read that coverage, click here.

Copious amounts of ink were expended warning about the Religious Right theocracy supposedly threatening America during the Bush administration, when church-going evangelicals and Roman Catholics elected conservative governing majorities. Yet the whippings, heresy trials, and burnings never got underway. However, if the speakers at a mass rally of religious leftists led by the founder of Sojourners magazine is any indication, the Religious Left intends to make the Obama administration a time to implement its own agenda.

And an extremist agenda it is. Speakers at the rally equated themselves with the Biblical prophets, al-Qaeda terrorists to the Prophet Jeremiah, capitalist “greed” with the Soviet gulags, and conservative Christians with the Antichrist.

More than 1,100 Religious Left gathered in Washington, D.C., for Jim Wallis‘s annual “Mobilization to End Poverty,” which convened in late April. (I’m indebted to reporting by my assistant Rebekah Sharpe, one of whose articles is here.) Meeting under the reign of Obama, the mood was ecstatic. Wallis himself, after 40 years in the wilderness that began with his 1960’s campus radicalism with Students for a Democratic Society, presented himself as Moses who is bringing the Chosen People to the Promised Land. But this time, the modern Moses plans to cross the River Jordan and help seize the land.

In a moment of humility, Wallis presented himself as the Obama court prophet and likened his movement to the Biblical prophets. “When I think about how we relate to power my models and archetypes are Micah, Amos, Obadiah; it’s our paradigm, habit,” Wallis declared to the enraptured audience. “Now we have a president and a Congress who want to seriously confront poverty. I think we need some theological reflection. We may have to learn from Joseph, and Daniel, who had the king’s ear.”

“My friends, we have been living in a greed economy,” Wallis intoned his class warfare rhetoric. “It’s clear now that the greed economy has failed. It is time for a common good economy and a common good culture, and that’ll only be built by a movement” — a movement he leads, of course.

Wallis’ invited clergy at the Sojourners jamboree were enthusiastic to lead to the Promised Land — but first they must flee the Antichrist; and that Antichrist is conservative Christians. Dallas minister Frederick Haynes, who pastors a large black Baptist congregation, proclaimed to applause that if Jesus still walked the earth, “He’d be attending this conference, ’cause we’re dealing with His agenda. Others are making policies that contradict the policies of our Savior.” After covertly equating conservatives with the Antichrist, he likened those who opposed waterboarding terrorists to the biblical court prophet, Ebed-Melech. “My man, he has a government job with the king, and he stood against the policies of the king. There were foreign policies of a preemptive strike. [The king] put Jeremiah in a hole; a hole was their Guantanamo Bay. He [Jeremiah] is a victim of torture, but Ebed-Melech went to the king and implored the king to change his policy.”

In this analogy, al-Qaeda terrorists are the Prophet Jeremiah.

Pushing Sojourners to be more aggressive, Rev. Haynes urged Religious Left activists not to settle for table scraps but demand “justice.” After all, “Ebed-Melech does not ask the king can he have food rations; he didn’t get Jeremiah food when he was in the pit but he said, ‘No, I want Jeremiah out of the pit,’ and that’s the difference between justice and charity.”

Becoming more forthright, he condemned most of the nation’s recent history. “For 30 years at least,” Rev. Haynes preached, “this country has suffered from Reaganomics. Back in the ’80s there was a president, [the] reverse Robin Hood, Reagan, [who] robbed from the needy to give to the greedy. The poor have been demonized and vilified for the last 30 years.” The Great Satan not only demonized the poor but enslaved them. “Our responsibility is to go to the king and appeal to the king on behalf of those who are incarcerated by impoverishment.”

These supposed attacks on the poor that purportedly are so common in today’s America were also denounced by Christian Community Development Association chief John Perkins, whose Religious Left group is melodiously devoted to “subversion, synergy, solidarity, simplicity, and symphony.” Perkins held forth: “If an old black welfare recipient would have got too many food stamps you would have heard preachers all around the country preach about that. [You] don’t hear a word about the AIG leaders who have brought our whole economy down. This is more than wrong; it’s almost witchcraft. You don’t hear our church say anything about that.”

Perhaps Perkins has been residing in a cave like some ancient prophets, since he’s not heard the cacophony of national denunciation aimed at AIG executives. And who are these preachers who inveigh from their pulpits against food stamp recipients? Perkins further fibs, claiming pro-life Christians do not care about children once they are born. “In the white conservative church they can get very excited about those children before they’re born, and I can’t get them excited about children after they’re born. I’m pro-life before they get here; I’m pro-life after they get here, ’cause life is from God.” For the Religious Left, being “pro-life” means unqualified support for a limitless welfare state.

World Vision President Richard Stearns helped Sojourners complete its demonization of the West by equating capitalism with the horrors of Soviet Communism, a standard tactic of the New Left. “Eighty-nine [1989] was a turning point: we saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. Why is 2009 a turning point? Just as we witnessed the bankruptcy and inadequacy of communism in 1989, we are just now realizing the bankruptcy and inadequacy of unrestrained capitalism.” Stearns described the supposed greediness of modern America by describing the re-write of Jesus’ words of concern for the poor: “I was thirsty, and you drank bottled water; I was a stranger, and you deported me; I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes; I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that cause my problem.”

Such droning moral confusion may represent the views of only a fringe movement, but it is a fringe movement with the ear of President Obama. Wallis regaled the crowd with his recent power encounter. “I was talking to a reporter just the other day,” he remembered, “and he asked me, ‘What’s the difference in this White House and previous White Houses?’ And I said well, sometimes with other White Houses, they’ve been quite eager to arrest us. This one puts you on taskforces.”

That is a frightening prospect for those of us who represent their “Antichrist.”

 


Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.


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