For more than 10 years running, I have attended an annual fall event sponsored by the Christian nationalist group Family Research Council (FRC) called the Values Voter Summit (VVS).
I usually emerge from this event feeling like I need a long shower and then a visit to a therapist. The Summit is a bitter cocktail of right-wing politics mixed with a Christian nationalist agenda, conspiracy theories, shameless politicking for the GOP and bad history topped off with hatred of LGBTQ people, feminists, liberals, non-believers, folks who like science and advocates of church-state separation.
During the years of Donald Trump’s presidency, the VVS became little more than two days of worshipping in the MAGA cult. Prior to Trump, I always found it odd that Ronald Reagan was talked about more at the VVS than Jesus. From 2016-20, they swapped in Trump, which was hardly an improvement.
Last week, FRC President Tony Perkins announced that the Summit will be no more. It’s being replaced with an event called the Pray Vote Stand Summit. While the line-up of speakers looks familiar – a bevy of far-right members of Congress mixed with Fox News personalities – the venue has changed. The VVS used to meet in a lavish D.C. hotel near the National Zoo. The Pray Vote Stand Summit is taking place in a fundamentalist church in Leesburg, Va., a D.C. exurb.
So, what’s going on? I can’t say for sure, but I did notice in recent years that even given the in-person presence of Trump, a man who in the Christian nationalist pantheon now outranks Jesus, attendance was off compared to previous years. And the composition of the crowd – mostly old, overwhelmingly white and hardline fundamentalist Christian – isn’t exactly a recipe for growth. The kind of far-right evangelicals who love the Summit are in decline. White evangelicals accounted for 23% percent of the population in 2006; they’re now down to 14.5%.
In these pandemic times, the FRC may simply be scaling back because some people are reluctant to travel. (Ironically, FRC’s stand on vaccines – they hate them because President Joe Biden is for them – has done the group no favors.) But it’s also possible that this downsizing will continue, and that at some point in the future, there will be no more FRC summits at all.
A fellow can dream, right?
P.S. Church & State Assistant Editor Liz Hayes’ report on the 2019 VVS is a good inside look at this truly reprehensible event. You can read it here.