November 2011 Church & State | Featured

Several of the speakers at the Religious Right’s recent “Values Voter Summit” expressed extreme views. Here’s a sampling:

Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University Law School, unleashed a tirade dealing with the fate of Western society.

According to Staver, “We are in a battle for the survival of Western civilization.” He also asserted that pretty much everything wrong with the country today can be laid at the feet of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey and education reformer John Dewey. According to Staver, thanks to the nefarious machinations of this duo, homosexuals run amok and it’s practically illegal for a Christian to work in the public schools.

“In America, we are witnessing a battle over kicking God out of public schools and the public square,” Staver said, alleging that teachers are routinely fired for opposing gay rights.

Summing up, Staver said, “2012 is our year. 2012 will not only be our year but it will be our destiny. I believe that in our generation two things will happen. The future of Western Civilization will be determined. Let it never be said on our watch that we did nothing. That’s the option that we have…. Let it be that on our watch in our generation we did not let the Western Civilization falter or fall.”

U.S. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) regaled the crowd with tales from the culture war in his state, where an Iowa Supreme Court ruling mandating marriage equality riled fundamentalists and led to a successful campaign to kick three judges off the bench. King claimed that as he toured the state by bus, he was constantly harassed by gays who shouted obscenities at him.

“They were the most unhappy people I ever met who called themselves gay,” King said.

King also freely rewrote American history. According to the congressman, the Declaration of Independence was written under divine guidance, and God “moved the Founding Fathers around like men on a chessboard. I believe this country was planned and built by his hand.”

But it was hard to top Glenn Beck, former Fox News personality. Beck unleashed a bombastic tirade that careened wildly from ominous claims of societal conflict due to the Wall Street protestors and an ongoing “race war” to assertions that politics doesn’t matter as much as service to your fellow Americans.

It is difficult to characterize Beck’s rant or summarize his main themes – there weren’t any. A few sips could be taken from his stream of consciousness, however: Beck dislikes it when young people take out loans to pay for college and then complain because they experience difficulty paying them back. He mentioned this more than once. At one point, he recommended that if young people can’t afford college, they should just go to “the free public library. It worked for me.”

Doomsday prophesies also littered the Beck rant. He conjured up a veritable zombie Apocalypse involving hordes of advancing Wall Street occupiers.

“The violent left is coming to our streets, all of our streets, to smash, to tear down, to kill, to bankrupt, to destroy,” Beck told the crowd. “It will be global in nature and global in its scope. I said these things two years ago, and I was mocked and ridiculed.”

Although much of what Beck said sounded like deranged ramblings, the crowd adored him, and he exited the stage to a sustained ovation.

Another favorite trick of speakers was to make wildly sweeping generalizations that, even under the guise of rhetorical flourishes, simply could not be defended; the crowd lapped it up.

Thus, Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation informed attendees at a breakout session on poverty that, “The left hates the institution of marriage. They simply hate it.” During a panel discussion, right-wing blogger Joe Carter told the crowd, “Social conservative should be redundant. You can’t be conservative without being a social conservative.” Retired Army Gen. William Boykin insisted that the church in America today has no power and added, “We are under the greatest persecution that we have ever seen in America.”

With views like these front and center, the Summit was, by any definition of the word, enlightening.