‘Stealth’ Candidates and the Religious Right

One of the religious right’s most effective strategies in winning political power has been running “stealth” candidates for office. A Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report in 2006 explored this tactic, quoting a 1986 memo from religious-right leader Pat Robertson to supporters seeking control of the Republican Party in Iowa:

“Give the impression you are there to work for the party, not to push for an ideology; hide your strength; don’t flaunt your Christianity.”

“Stealth” candidates are not a thing of the past for the religious right, especially now that more voters are aware of the political extremism they represent. Look, for example, at the current race for governor of Virginia.

In the late 1980s, Robert F. McDonnell submitted a master’s thesis to the evangelical school he was attending — Pat Robertson’s Regent University — in which he described working women and feminists as “detrimental” to the family. McDonnell also attacked “cohabitators,” “homosexuals” and “fornicators.” He even argued for allowing government to make the use of contraception by unmarried couples illegal.

Now as the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, McDonnell, 55, downplays his conservative beliefs. He says those views “have changed as I have gotten older.” His legislative record, however, doesn’t back up that claim.

Read the full story here.

21 thoughts on “‘Stealth’ Candidates and the Religious Right

  1. “Give the impression you are there to work for the party, not to push for an ideology; hide your strength; don’t flaunt your Christianity.”

    If I recall correctly, Ralph Reed is generally considered to be the father of “religious stealth candidacy.” I feel sure that Pat picked it up from him, being as how they were close associates years ago (i.e., Ralph worked for Pat).

    In my opinion, stealth candidacy is another form of lying that Christian Neo-Fundamentalists have tapped under the formal definition of “heavenly deception.” “Heavenly deception” is a term that has its historical roots in Sun Myung Moon’s so-called Unification Church, which traditional orthodox Christians have always defined as a nonChristian cult because Mr. Moon claims that he is the messiah here to finish Jesus’s work. It is my understanding that a number of the major leaders of the Religious Right are friendly with Mr. Moon and suck up to him on various occasions. As a Christian, I sure gotta wonder what’s going on there. I think it must have something to do with the “M” word. No Cynthia. Not messiah. Money.

  2. You might want to double-check your sources.

    At the time McDonnell attended, it was called CBN University (that’s right. Pat Robertson named the school for his TV Network.) Admission was contingent on signing a written statement that Jesus Christ was your personal Savior. Don’t take my word for it: check out the Washington Post article yourself. Here’s a snippet:

    After four years in the Army and the start of a management career with a Fortune 500 health supply company, McDonnell moved with his wife, Maureen, and two young daughters from a suburb of Kansas City, Mo., to Virginia Beach, where he enrolled in a public policy master’s program at what was then called CBN University. The school was founded by Pat Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network.

    The article contains a telling quote from the thesis in question:
    “Leaders must correct the conventional folklore about the separation of church and state,” he wrote. “Historically, the religious liberty guarantees of the First Amendment were intended to prevent government encroachment upon the free church, not eliminate the impact of religion on society.”

    He might be okay with women working so long as their work benefits him, though. His campaign manager last time ’round for AG was a working mother, he boasts, and his wife held several federal jobs before the couple started their family. Also, she has run several businesses working from their home.

    His connections to Regents University are described in the article:

    McDonnell said that he was seeking a faith-based institution that explored the Christian origins of Western law and that he and his wife wanted to return to Virginia, where they grew up. The school expected students to take their faith seriously; they were admitted only after signing a statement affirming that Jesus Christ was their savior. The school also produced a number of politically active conservatives. Its Web site used to say that 150 of its graduates worked in President George W. Bush’s administration. Regent’s motto: Christian leadership to change the world.

    McDonnell also vigorously opposed Judge Askew’s reappointment in 2003, and was publicly quoted questioning whether a homosexual could be a qualified judge. Judge Askew was accused of sexually harassing a female employee, but no court ever found her guilty; she denied wrongdoing but lost her job anyway.

  3. You would think that Regent University would want large numbers of unsaved people to come there so they could preach to them for 4 years and get them saved. That is apparently not the case. Traditional Christian fundamentalism (as opposed to this bizarre Christian Neo-Fundamentalism that has developed recently) has a “doctrine of separateness.” They believe that the Bible instructs them to physically and socially separate themselves from the sinful body of the rest of mankind and have social relationships only with those who believe as they believe. Translation: ” I can’t hang out with you because you might be smarter than me and know 10 very good reasons why I should go to another church—and some of those reasons might be so good that I might just take you up on that.” I think that is why you have to sign the “I am saved” pedigree papers.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the “doctrine of separateness” is how that interfaces with the concept of Christian love. A couple of folks that I know, who adhere to this doctrine, claim that Christian love consists only in sharing the gospel with an unsaved person. That is all they feel that they are required to do because it is the definition of love itself—to them at least. They can meet an unsaved person and have lunch with them for an hour at McDonalds only if the sole purpose of the lunch is to get the unsaved person into a saved condition. If they accept Jesus, they can keep on having lunch at McDonalds for weeks or months as friends. However, if they have lunch and don’t accept Jesus—but the person needs to borrow a few bucks to buy some medicine for her child—they may get turned down. It is necessary for their child to suffer from untreated sickness so mommie’s anguish will drive her towards Jesus. As Al Capone might order: “Lean on her!!!”

  4. Now as the Republican nominee for Virginia governor, McDonnell, 55, downplays his conservative beliefs. He says those views “have changed as I have gotten older.” His legislative record, however, doesn’t back up that claim.

    Does he specify exactly why his views supposedly changed, other than trying to go into stealth mode?

  5. Lying and deception have become cherished values to this flavor of Christianity. However, they might be taking a tip from their own scripture.

    Ben, I’m not mainstream Christian but I think being ‘saved’ means that you have accepted JC as your personal savior. You have admitted that you are helplessly and hopelessly lost in the depravity of human sin, confessed your sins and have been washed in the blood of the lamb, and will now enjoy eternal life. (“He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” – John 6:47).

    By the way Ben, if you turn back to the end of the Playing The Victim thread, you’ll see I answered your other question. And I found the answer in RED LETTERS. Red letters are quotes of Jesus so you can’t get a more official answer than that.

    Incidentally, a Christian who was posting in that thread was disputing what I was saying; yet, here I found the chapter and verse to prove I was correct all along. This isn’t the first time I’ve proved myself to know more about Christianity than a lot of Christians do. Fascinating. Notice also that that person never returned to acknowledge the veracity of my post. Typical. And it neatly ties in with my second paragraph above.

  6. Cytocop:

    One of the key points of Christian fundamentalism is their belief that the holy writings of Judaism (Old Testament) and Christianity (New Testament) can only be understood by the reader if the Holy Spirit dwells within them. The Holy Spririt acts as sort of an internal universal translator like the electronic device in the Star Trek world. So, if Ben reads John 3:16, it just sounds like gobbledy-gook to him. However, if I or some other Christian reads it, we understand what it means in a way that Ben never could.

    Your understanding of that verse probably freaked the guy out because that is not supposed to happen—or some other such nonsense.

    Of course, there is one other possibility. If I recall correctly, you once told me that you were a Christian who later converted to Judaism. If so, according to Baptist theology, and the Holy Spirit indwelled you at one time when you were a Christian, he never goes away. He stays in there and does his “thing” no matter what you think, say, do, or otherwise believe—and he stays in there forever. So, at the final judgement, Jesus will say, “Okay, where are all the Jews? You guys assemble over here. Wait a minute. Cytocop? What are you doing here? Your in the wrong group. Get your butt over there to Group 3 with the other presbyterians. Well. I’m not saying that is going to happen, but some Southern Baptist probably would.

  7. P.S. Ben. You were just a handy example for my response to Cytocop above. I could have used Popeye, Bluto, or Lex Luthor instead. They just did not come to mind at the time because I was in a hurry. Although my theology tends a bit in the Baptist direction, I have never bought into the fundamentalist’s Holy Spirit as “universal translator’ theory. I know too many nonChristians that know their Bibles a whole lot better than Christians.

  8. Cytocop, I did see your post on the Playing the Victim thread. Good find. Sorry I didn’t respond.

    Regarding being “saved,” I asked that question because it tied back in to the question I asked on the Victim thread; specifically, if Christians are “saved,” what happens to the people who aren’t saved? It appears that there would be many answers to that question, depending on who you asked, which also seems a little confusing. Why wouldn’t all Christians know exactly what happens to the unsaved?

    Charles, yeah, I’m stirring up trouble, I guess. Honestly, I’m very often ambivalent when I visit this blog and read some of the comments. I mean no offense by this, but when I hear mainstream Christians (and other types of believers) using logic and sound reasoning to counter the fundies, I want to say, “Hey, you’re almost there! Just keep thinking rationally and soon you’ll…”

    I wish good things for you, Charles.

  9. Ben. Thank you. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a SOUND MIND.” (II Timothy 1: 7). I think you called it “sound reasoning” above. Probably about the same thing really. We have not seen much of those three over at the SBOE.

    As for rationality, it does have its place and an extremely good one. However, as I have often said, faith does not exist in the sphere of rationality—not really—no more than real science exists in the realm of alchemy or astrology. Faith is an intangible affair of the heart—like your love for your wife and kids. An affair of the heart may have a chemical subtrate, but those of us who experience it in all kinds of places sense the presence of something a bit more that transcends the substrate and exists in a world of its own beyond logic and the test tube. You might say, “Aw Charlie. You are just a hopeless romantic!!!” Well, maybe, but that is not necessarily bad. That romanticism or spiritual trascendance adds the sugar, and spice, and everything nice to life—unless the person toting it into a room happens to be a certifiable, whacko, extremist nutcase. Then you got a problem.

    Go stick Beethoven’s 5th into the CD player. Don’t listen to the music. Relax and FEEL the music. Blend your personal being with that feeling and each note. There is something more there than just 8 tuning fork tones on a scale. Faith is kind of like that—only better. It’s an affair of the heart.

  10. Cytocop, I did leave you hanging at the end of the Playing the Victim thread. Not my choice, however; just a new breakdown in a body that more closely resembles a ’74 Buick every month. I won’t do much better tonight, what with the painkillers which are also brainkillers.

    You quote Mark 16:15-17, which are not Red Letters; they are a later (I think 2nd century) addition to the Gospel of Mark. Not Jesus’s words.

    Ben, a great many of us mainliners think everybody is saved, that Jesus came to redeem the entire world, no exceptions. That’s my belief.

    And I have a particular distaste for the formula “accept Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior.” I don’t know what the hell that’s supposed to mean, really. Nothing Jesus ever said seems to me to support that formulation. He just said, “follow me”. I interpret that to mean, do as I do, care about what I care about, and (my personal favorite) try not to disgrace and dishonor my name. All right, I might not have a lot a scriptural evidence for that last one, but what the heck else do you think He meant when He said He wouldn’t recognize everyone who had just cried “Lord, Lord!”?

  11. Charles and Leigh, I appreciate the thoughtful responses.

    Charles, I am very glad to hear you acknowledge that “faith does not exist in the sphere of rationality.” I agree completely, because everything you said after that could just as well have been used to explain one’s belief in Odin or Vishnu or Osiris or Scientology or the Book of Mormon or in the strictest possible fundamentalist interpretation of any religious text.

  12. Though controversial, the Jesus Seminar found only 18% of the quotations attributed to Jesus likely to be his. Seekers of the truth might think about being careful when they quote such old and uncertain texts.

  13. Leigh Williams, the source I used had Jesus’ words in red letters. So what is YOUR tried-and-true source of red letters, and how do you know yours is the correct one?

  14. Leigh Williams, what you wrote above: Is that your opinion or can you cite supporting evidence?

    I accept that you are in possession of or have access to a authoritative Greek New Testament (or whatever language the earliest version of the New Testament was written in), and that your source is a verbatim copy of the original source. I also accept that you are a New Testament Greek scholar qualified to interpret which quotes of Jesus are true and accurate. With that in mind, could you please point us to the book, chapter, and verse in which Jesus instructs his disciples to write his words in red ink?

    I never realized it before but I have to assume that since the color of ink is crucial to Christianity that Jesus would have left specific instructions as to which color his quotes are to appear. Since color is the be-all and end-all, I’m sure he would have said THOU SHALT QUOTE ME IN RED.

    Furthermore, since Jesus left these instructions and you are knowledgeable enough to decipher which quotes are real and which are fake, would you also like to direct us to where Jesus says For all the unbelievers, have no fear. You too are saved and….blah, blah, blah. If Jesus says no such specific words, would you care to direct us to the verse where he IMPLIES such a concept? I haven’t been able to find any edition of the Bible in which he assures us infidels and unbelieves of this promise.

    I’m fascinated that in all my 30-something years in Christianity, in dozens of different denominations, in dozens of different cities and states, I never ran across any Christian – clergy nor lay – who in print or speech made an issue out of the color of ink. I either missed a LOT or else Christianity has changed a lot since.

    This all leads me to wonder: since only the red is important, what do Christians think of the black ink text? Is it B.S. or what?

  15. Wow, Cytocop. I had no idea you were so deeply attached to the concept of Hell. Or perhaps it’s the notion that Christians are all about exclusivity that you embrace. Let me see if I can address your concerns:

    Alas, I neither speak nor read Greek. I primarily use the NRSV and NIV translations. I note, however, that among modern translations that are considered the most scholarly, including those used by conservative Protestant denominations, Mark 16:9-20 are each footnoted with a disclaimer that these verses are not found in the “most trustworthy” manuscripts. One can argue, as some very theologically conservative writers do, that the oldest manuscripts (which do not contain verses 9-20) are not the most trustworthy. But when you see that even the NIV and NASB translations used by evangelical congregations note real problems with this passage, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not a good one to use if you want to claim that Jesus damns unbelievers.

    Of course, you can always resort to the KJV and NKJV versions, to which many fundamentalist denominations persist in clinging. No footnote or anything there, I believe.

    To the horror of some conservative Christians, belief in Hell itself is trending downwards, not to mention the correlating upticks in a belief that many religions can lead to heaven. Albert Mohler, the influential president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, hand-wrings about it here: http://www.albertmohler.com/blog_read.php?id=1414

    As for the “color of ink” issue that seems to exercise you greatly, I point you to this Wikipedia explanation of the term “red-letter christian” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-Letter_Christian

    I should also note that, although I admire Jim Wallis, I take that red-letter thing even more seriously than he does, to the extent that I am pro-choice and pro-equality . . . given that Jesus never mentions abortion or homosexuality. In truth, I probably shouldn’t describe myself as a Red-Letter Christian, since I don’t want to be associated with conservatism in any way. I am so liberal that I’m hanging by my toenails on the edge of the leftmost cliff. I’m also a Universalist, which means that I believe the whole world is saved through the self-sacrificial Servant.

    As to the Bible’s Hell, here’s a good take from one of my favorite bloggers, Fred Clark (Slacktivist): http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/03/h-e-double-hockey-sticks.html

  16. It isn’t me who’s “attached” with Hell (to use your word); it’s Christianity that is. Jews have only a vague, amorphous notion of the concept. Hell is never discussed at all really, not in synagogue sermons nor in print. At least not in liberal Jewish movements. There is the word ‘sheol’ which is found in the so-called Old Testament: “Let me not go down into sheol….” or words to that effect in the scriptural verse. However, ‘sheol’ was an actual physical location. It was a low elevation or pit in Jerusalem where garbage was tossed.

    And it wasn’t me who brought up this red vs black checkers game; it was you. You are the only Christian I’ve met here who is “exercised greatly” (to use your word) with the concept. I’d never even heard that ink color is a factor in Christian scripture until you brought it up.

    So, as for my being “attached” to Hell, likewise please don’t project this “exercising” color theory onto me.

  17. I don’t even believe there is a Hell, so no projection is involved. As for the Red Letters, let them go. It’s a term in common use to describe leftist Christians who are primarily concerned with social justice issues, and I’m content to merely describe myself as a liberal Christian.

    Sheol doesn’t mean a garbage pit. It means the underworld or perhaps merely the grave, and the term is the traditional Jewish conception of life after death, which was that all, the good and the wicked, went to Sheol to await the resurrection.

    Hades, a greek word, is the other word for the afterlife used in the New Testament. In Greek philosophy, everybody went to Hades after death (similar to Sheol). The presence of this word in the Greek codices reflects, I believe, the enormous influence of Greek ways of thought on Christianity as it developed during the first and second centuries, most evident in an increasing mind/body dualism which was foreign to Jewish thought and which reached its greatest expression in Gnosticism and the Manichaean heresy. This influence continues to this day, however, in that most ordinary Christians unquestioningly accept mind/body dualism.

    Gehenna is the word Jesus used on occasion that means a garbage pit. It was literal location, a ravine on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which was used as a garbage dump. Fires burned there most of the time, consuming the waste. Jesus told the establishment Jews of his time that they would end up in Gehenna if they didn’t repent (turn away) from their legalistic religion and its embrace of worldly power, a locution that’s always recalled Khruschchev’s “”We will bury you” to me. Turns out He was right, at least for the Sanhedrin. Their temporal power was destroyed by the Romans. The Pharisees fared considerably better over time, dedicated as they were to scholarship and personal piety and less dependent on the Temple.

    Gehenna got conflated over time with the Lake of Fire mentioned in the Revelation of the mad John of Patmos. (One wonders what marvelous psychotropic plants were available on that little island!) I have little to say about the ridiculous flights of fancy arising from this piece of apocalyptic raving, but there’s no denying it is much beloved of those mostly uneducated and credulous Christians who are fond of a good blood-and-guts Us vs. Them tale with such fertile “prophetic” possibilities. I greatly deplore its inclusion in the canon of scripture, as I believe it’s largely responsible for the popularity of the myth of Hell that gained such strength over time, aided by terrible mistranslation and people’s natural glee over the contemplated misery of others.

    I do hope that John Darby, C.I. Scofield, and others of their ilk are even as we speak writing over and over on the heavenly blackboard: “I am sorry that I defamed the name of Christ with the heresy of Premillennial Dispensationalism.” I also hope that Jerry Jenkins and Tim LeHaye will be required to sit down to table and eat every damn word of every single copy of their execrable “Left Behind” series. I will supply catsup, hot sauce, my famous cream gravy and plum jam, and even make them the occasional margarita to help wash it down. I’ll clean their bathrooms and make their beds, too, as restitution for my unkindness; such is my notion of heavenly justice.

  18. Leigh Williams, please go back and read the discussion. You projected onto me an “attachment” (your word) to Hell. But it isn’t an attachment of mine no matter how you choose to see it. A quick study of the history of Christianity will reveal that it is Christianity – not Judaism – that has been “attached” to hell or a well-defined concept thereof. For example, I know of no Jewish equivalent to Dante’s Inferno or the Left Behind series you cite. I’d be interested to know if there is one.

    And it wasn’t me who was concerned with the color of ink. It was you who brought it up, denying black-inked quotes being bonafide quotes of Jesus. So it is you who is “exercised greatly” by color. I hadn’t even considered text color. In fact, I’d been under the impression that the red ink is just a 20th century publisher’s marketing gimmick; I had no idea the practice of red inking dates back to the 1st century CE. In Judaism, scripture is all in black; the Torah, the most authoritative hard copy, certainly is.

    You are correct, however, in saying that sheol is an underworld. But the entire concept is vague in Judaism compared to the hell in Christianity. In fact, it is so vague that it isn’t taught in Jewish religious schools. Perhaps it’s dealt with a little more in yeshiva or Jewish seminaries but, even then if it is, whatever is mentioned there is not brought to the pulpit or Jewish religious school. In Judaism, there is little-to-no discussion of hell or sheol or any such abstract concept. For that matter, there’s little discussion about heaven either. Judaism is concerned about THIS life and THIS world. A life well-lived is its own reward and, thus, the World To Come (“HaOlam haba’ah”) will take care of itself. My understanding is that Christianity is still very much married to heaven/hell.

    I still await a verse (in red or black – your choice) indicating Jesus’ acceptance of the unbelievers or infidels, whatever term one wants to use. I believe that is the question that initiated the discussion. There is a long tradition in Judaism that “The righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come.” There really is no tradition of a heaven being inhabited only by Jews. The key is not which faith one labels one’s self but to live a good life of mitzvot. I was wondering the origin of an all-inclusivity in liberal Christianity. Without a supporting verse to reference, it doesn’t sound like it originates in Christian scripture but arrived later.

  19. Hello everyone. I just wanted to chime in to offer a brief clarification about that tangential comment regarding Mark 16:9-20. It would be overdemanding to expect any normal footnote in any normal Bible to provide an in-depth survey of the manuscript-evidence for a variant-reading. In the case of Mark 16:9-20, the footnotes in several modern translations, including the NIV, are worded rather poorly, and tend to give an inaccurate impression.

    The number of existing ancient Greek copies of Mark in which the text ends at 16:8 is *two.* These two are Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus, from the 300’s. Vaticanus has a prolonged blank space after 16:8, as if the copyist recollected the missing passage, though it was not in his master-copy; he proceeded to reserve this blank space for it, thinking that it would be sufficient for the missing verses. Although the blank space is actually four lines too short to contain Mark 16:9-20 in the copyist’s normal handwriting, it’s a pretty close estimate. In Sinaiticus, all four pages from Mark 14:54 to Luke 1:56 are written on a cancel-sheet — that is, a replacement page which was made by the supervisor of the scriptorium where the codex was made. It was not written by the same copyist who made the surrounding pages.

    Also, in this case the earliest manuscripts are not the earliest *evidence.* Patristic writings from the 100’s and 200’s (and 300’s and 400’s) show that prominent Christian writers (and some non-Christians as well) recognized and used Mark 16:9-20. These writers/writings include Justin Martyr (160), the Epistula Apostolorum (150/180), Tatian’s Diatessaron (172), Irenaeus – in “Against Heresies” III:10:5-6 (184), Hippolytus, the author of “Rebaptismate,” Victor of Thibaris, Aphraates, and so forth.

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.
    Indiana (USA)