The Wall Street Journal this week published a fascinating piece about how conservative evangelical Christianity is changing in America today, particularly in its approach to politics and the decades-long “culture wars” over issues like abortion and gay rights. The article focuses on Russell Moore, who has replaced Richard Land as the leading spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention:

Since the birth of the Christian-conservative political movement in the late 1970s, no evangelical group has delivered more punch in America’s culture wars than the Southern Baptist Convention and its nearly 16 million members. The country’s largest Protestant denomination pushed to end abortion, open up prayer in public schools and boycott Walt Disney Co. over films deemed antifamily. Its ranks included many of the biggest names on the Christian right, including Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

Today, after more than three decades of activism, many in the religious right are stepping back from the front lines. Mr. Moore, a 42-year-old political independent and theologian who heads the convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, says it is time to tone down the rhetoric and pull back from the political fray, given what he calls a “visceral recoil” among younger… Read More

The chief organizer of so-called "pastor policy briefings" in support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's re-election bid in 2005 is now calling on Congress to enact legislation "reestablishing the Bible in public schools." In an email to recipients on his American Renewal Project list today, David Lane calls for congressional legislation reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1963 ruling against state-sponsored prayer and devotional Bible study in public schools. That "foolish" ruling, he writes, "gave control of education to the secularists, who have imposed their values, their views, their politics, and their laws on America's Christian heritage and Christian culture." Lane served as the executive director of the Texas Restoration Project in 2005. His organization, funded with $1.3 million in donations from major Perry campaign donors, hosted six "pastor policy briefings" in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio that year. Thousands of pastors and their spouses got free hotel lodging and meals so they could hear Gov. Perry and his political appointees and supporters give speeches in the run-up to Perry's 2006 re-election campaign. The not-so-subtle message to pastors was to return home and essentially turn their congregations into parts of the governor's re-election campaign. They were also…… Read More

A national organization that focuses on recruiting conservative evangelical pastors and their churches into partisan political warfare is gearing up for the 2014 midterm elections, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be a speaker at one of its first events this year.

A report from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) provides a broad overview of the American Renewal Project’s plans over the next two years. Those plans includes voter registration drives and a series of “pastor policy briefings” in 12 states. The briefings follow the model of the Texas Restoration Project, which in 2005 hosted six such “briefings” for thousands of pastors and their spouses in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Gov. Perry was the featured speaker at each of those events, all held the year before the governor ran for re-election. The Texas Freedom Network later discovered that the events — including venue rentals as well as food and lodging for pastors — were secretly bankrolled by major Perry campaign donors, including voucher sugar daddy James Leininger of San Antonio.

The CBN article reveals that the American Renewal Project is housed within the right-wing American Family Association (AFA). Gov. Perry asked AFA… Read More

The people behind religious-right activist David Lane's Restoration/Renewal Projects are getting plain lazy to the point where they're just hitting "copy-paste" on old material and distributing it in support of yet another Rick Perry political campaign. The Iowa Independent reports members of the Iowa faith community recently received invitations from the Iowa Renewal Project to attend a "pastors' policy briefing" to be held next month in Des Moines. The date will be less than two months before the state's first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses at which Gov. Perry will rely heavily on votes from conservative evangelicals if he is to have a viable shot at the Republican presidential nomination. TFN has for years been documenting the activities of the Texas Restoration Project, which was also organized by Lane appears to be almost a carbon copy of what the Iowa Renewal Project is now attempting. Restoration, Renewal, potato, po-tah-to. Read More

Mormonism, or the attacks on it, is in the news again this morning following a story in The Daily Beast that cites emails between a Christian radio executive and well-known religious-right activist David Lane. The emails between Lane and Dick Bott of the Bott Radio Network seem to indicate the two were in cahoots to advance the anti-Mormon narrative that became controversial when Dallas pastor and Gov. Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress called the faith of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney a cult and non-Christian. The story posits that because Lane a long history as an important Gov. Perry supporter, perhaps the coordinated efforts were not between Lane and Bott alone, but also with Gov. Perry's presidential campaign. We're not quite ready to take that leap. As Sarah Posner points out in another story published today in Religion Dispatches, the evidence for coordination between Gov. Perry's campaign and Lane on this issue is thin right now. But there are other reasons to be distressed by these emails. Read More