How the Right Wields Faith as a Weapon

Religious-right leaders often use faith as a weapon to divide people for political gain. An essay from Dave Welch, head of the far-right groups U.S. Pastor Council and Houston Area Pastor Council, offers another stark example.

In his July 17 essay for World Net Daily, a website that wallows in the dirty waters of the fringe right, Welch attacks both the faith and patriotism of pastors who don’t agree with him politically. His major targets are pastors who refuse to drag their houses of worship into political warfare. Writes Welch:

“(I)f a pastor is clearly shown that he can legally do anything in relation to influencing public policy, informing and registering voters, educating on candidates’ positions, etc. – with the only exception being directly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate as an organization (pastors may clearly do so individually) – and the pastor is doing none of the above … there must be another reason.

There is. His biblical worldview is incomplete, his theology is fragmented, he has been ‘seminarianized’ into the seeker-friendly, market-driven, church-growth mindset and/or he simply is not a leader.”

Welch also insists that pastors can be good American citizens only if they politicize their pulpits:

“(T)here is no ‘exception’ clause for Christians in general or for pastors in particular. If you are an American citizen, these are your duties, period.”

Like everyone else, of course, pastors have the right to speak out on political issues of the day. What houses of worship cannot do — at least not without risking their tax-exempt status as nonprofits — is endorse or call for the defeat of partisan political candidates. Clearly, some pastors — conservatives and liberals — have decided to do neither from their pulpits. That irritates Welch.

But deciding not to turn their houses of worship into battlegrounds in our nation’s divisive culture wars surely is their right, isn’t it? Perhaps these pastors want to open their doors to everyone instead of making political beliefs a litmus test for exclusive membership in their faith communities. And, in any case, by what right does Welch consider himself their judge?

Nevertheless, Welch has long made it clear that he thinks such pastors are bad Americans as well as poor faith leaders. He has been sharply critical of pastors who he said refused to speak out forcefully against the mayoral candidacy of Annise Parker, who is openly lesbian and won election last fall to be Houston’s mayor. He has also questioned the faith of pastors who see no conflict between their belief in God and accepting the science of evolution. And he doesn’t limit his criticism to pastors — everyone is open game for Welch’s self-righteous attacks. He even calls President Obama, who has publicly professed his faith in Jesus Christ, “anti-Christian.”

This is always important to remember: the religious right is really a political movement, not a religious movement. As such, politics is the driving force for its foot soldiers, and faith is a weapon for bludgeoning opponents in the service of a political agenda. In short, Welch and others like him believe that being a good Christian or a good American means agreeing with them — on everything. If you stray from the party line, they will come after you with vengeance.

8 thoughts on “How the Right Wields Faith as a Weapon

  1. “…the seeker-friendly, market-driven, church-growth mindset…” of Pastor Welch accurately describes the strategy of most mega churches that are run as money making empires for the benefit of the pastor, senior staff, the pastor’s family, and right wing politicians. It doesn’t begin to describe the many, many churches that eschew partisan politics.

  2. WWJD? What Would Jesus Do? He would probably kick Dave Welch in the rear end and send him flying. Ministers like Welch give religion a bad name, do a disservice to their “flocks”, frighten the horses, and put their church’s tax exemption at risk.

  3. It would be pretty amusing to see tighter enforcement of the rules on tax exemptions for ministries like Welch’s.

  4. I have said for years with regard to the “Christian Right” – they are not Christian and the are not right!
    Bert Clayton

  5. You know what. I bet a certain percentage of preachers just get tired of the gospel, tired of their sin-ridden congregations, and bored to death. Many quietly quit believing. Then comes the realization of self and recognition of its presence and needs. Then they realize a need to be themselves and “do something with their lives.” For the Christian minister, because they are almost always natural executive types from birth, they are drawn like nighttime moths to the light bulb of position, privilege, power, and money.

    I bet there are thousands of them out there on the American landscape, and none of them have ever been television preachers. All they have to do is drop the “J” name in conversation, and little old ladies with huge bank accounts will throw money at every tune they pipe. Sometimes when they are playing their pipes for loot and power, the real thing might just walk in on them to check it out:

    Perhaps Dave Welch will get an unexpected visit one day.

  6. Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, James Dobson, Rick Scarborough, Don McLeroy, and Father Tardone…ah yes…Father Tardone. He has the same disease that has infected the Christian fundamentalists, the Christian Neo-Fundamentalists, and the Religious Right throughout our country. Have a look and see the name of the disease (right after the commercial):

  7. Well, Gene, I can drink to that comment. I’d also request the Office of Faith-Based Partnerships be eliminated.

    Of course, neither will EVER happen because the Righties would scream bloody murder. Gordon’s hallucinated complaint that the “left” is waging war against Christianity would become the battle-cry of the nation; the result being conservative Christianity becoming ever more entrenched in American politics and at a faster rate than it is already.