“He who says that religion and politics don’t mix, understands neither one.” – Gandhi
The race between Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and Governor Rick Perry is coming down to an old fashioned, Christian, church-goin, doctrinal dog fight. One that favors Bachman in the short run in Iowa and Rick Perry in the long run across the rest of the South, that is, provided the Texas governor suvives the vetting process of the next few months.
Now you aren’t going to get this play by play anywhere else boys and girls so play close attention. And it may take more than one post to accomplish this. The national media prides itself in its ignorance of religion and both the Bachman and Perry camps have good political reasons to feint in different directions about all of this. But if you stay with me, the journey will be worth it, believe me.
Here’s how it shakes out. Rick Perry is the candidate of what I will call “Classical Evangelicals,” that is, born again Christians who oppose the doctrines of the Charismatics who believe in the so called gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing and speaking in tongues.
Some Classical Evangelicals trace their lineage back to the Fundamentalist Movement of the 19th century. Jerry Falwell comes to mind. But most resent the comparisons. Gallup shows that only 4% of today’s born againers would identify themselves as “Fundamentalists.” Others have emerged from the Holiness Movement which was big in the 19th century. They are today conservative Methodists and Nazarenes. But most of what I am calling “Classical Evangelicals” are Southern Baptists.
The organizers of the big Rick Perry day of fasting and prayer in Houston, Texas were “Classical Evangelicals.” Paige Patterson is a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the heart and soul of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. James Dobson and his wife are Nazarene. Penny Nance of Concerned Woman of America is a graduate of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. Tom Minnery is a Methodist. Tony Perkins is a Baptist. Don Wildmon, the man who paid for it all and who has the mammoth mailing list to end all mailing lists is Methodist. And the behind the scenes organizer, David Lane, is also a Southern Baptist. Rick Perry, himself, is a Methodist who attends Lake Hills Church in Austin, which dropped “Baptist” from its name to attract a wider crowd.
Now, keep in mind, according to Barna fully 51% of born again Christians are Charismatic. Most of the top ten Christian television preachers are Charismatic. But Rick Perry’s big prayer and fasting rally had just one token Charismatic on its organizing board. And that was Bishop Harry Jackson. Who also happened to be African American and not likely a player in the GOP nominating process.
On the other side of this doctrinal divide are the Charismatics, who believe in the so called gifts (charismata) of the Holy Spirit. These include Pentecostals, such as the Assemblies of God, who as their “Classical Evangelical” Nazarene and Methodist counterparts trace their lineage back to the Holiness Movement and the modern neo-pentcostals which include Catholics and other traditional Protestants, such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians who began embracing charismatic doctrines in the 1960’s. This is where Bachamn hails. She has a Lutheran heritage but ended up at Oral Roberts University, a school founded by a Pentecostal. It was a red flag to the “Classical Evangelicals.”
Okay, so if 51% of born againers are Charismatic, Michelle Bachman wins, right?
Not so fast. Now, this gets really, really complicated. First, many Charismatics are African American. Count them out. they will vote for Obama if unemployment rises to 50%. And keep in mind that generally speaking, “Classical Evangelicals” don’t like Charismatics. Only one generation ago they believed that Pentecostals were demon possessed. They probably thought that the Newsweek cover of Michelle Bachman and the goofy eyes was fully appropriate. But Charismatics have no problem voting or supporting a Classical Evangelical.
The Classical Evangelicals have been frustrated for some time. They have been casting about for a candidate for years. They liked Reagan who irritated them by picking a Charismatic as his religious liasion. Bush, Senior did the same. The younger, George W. Bush read their books and picked a Classical Evangelical to run his shop but he was playing them. After he left office he humiliated them with an interview on ABC’s Nightline where he announced that the Bible was not really true afterall.
By 2010 the Classical Evangelicals were already in a serious hunt for a candidate. They had rejected Sarah Palin as a Charismatic. She had switched to one of their own Bible Churches, but they could see through that. She and her family had been Assemblies of God in Wasilla, time enough to become demon possessed. They begged for Huckabee to come back, even though they had split with him over some past squabble last time. It had been their best chance to have a “Classical Evangelical” in the White House and a former Southern Baptist pastor at that. The Charismatics had helped him pull an upset win for him in Iowa but his own Classical Evangelicals sat on their hands in South Carolina.
At one point they were entertaining the idea of supporting Newt Gingrich. Yes, married four times but at least he didn’t speak in tongues. And then sun rose on Michelle Bachman. And they knew she could win it all and drag all of their churchgoers along with her. And they had to act fast. And that is when David Lane found Rick Perry. And came to him with money and churches and support on a tray.
Stay tuned for the rest….