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“Cruz, Trump Pray Each Other Away In SC”: There Isn’t A Whole Lot Of Love-Thy-Neighbor Going On

Mike Lee wants you to know that Ted Cruz prays a lot.

The Utah Republican senator told a packed room at a barbecue joint in Easley, S.C., that in Washington, when “all the powers in the world” seem to have turned against people who believe in liberty, freedom, and Jesus Christ, Cruz is always there.

“In those moments, Ted is among the first to suggest we pray together,” he said.

In the final days before Palmetto Staters decide who will win their long-coveted support, the timbre of the race here has taken a distinctly Bible-Belt tone. Instead of speaking to pragmatic New England sentiment and detailing how he plans to win in November, the Texan is explicitly appealing to South Carolinians’ Protestant Evangelical sensibilities.

And Donald Trump, in his own very special way, is making a similar pitch.

But between their supporters on the ground, there isn’t a whole lot of love-thy-neighbor going on.

When asked at the barbecue place about tension between their supporters, Easley resident and staunch Cruz backer Scott Watkins chuckled.

“You mean other than the fistfights?” he said, grinning.

Emotions are particularly frayed in a small-ish region of the densely Evangelical state called the Upcountry, which has become ground zero of the Trump/Cruz Battle Royale. It’s where the pair—and their very passionate supporters—are waging a holy war of Old Testament proportions.

And as is the case with any war, geography matters. The northwest corner of the state is overshadowed by the Appalachian Mountains, and what it lacks in glitz (think Charleston) or policy-making clout (that would be Columbia, smack-dab in the center), it makes up for in religious faith and conservative single-mindedness. About 40 percent of the state’s Republican primary voters live in this Appalachian region, and their support helped save George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush’s then-flagging presidential bids. The forces that dominate Upcountry politics are also ones that outsiders find totally perplexing—and none less so than Bob Jones University. The school has just 3,000 students—one-third of whom were homeschooled—and it’s so conservative that they aren’t allowed to watch any movies above a G rating without a faculty member present (seriously). It’s also a popular pilgrimage location for Republican presidential contenders, since the school’s community is highly organized and politically active.

So while Lee was focused on praying, and Watkins joked about fistfights, others cast the disagreements in more ominous tones. Joanne Meadows, former president of the Greenville County Republican Party, said conflict over whether to back Cruz or Trump had strained some families.

“There are a lot of houses that have been divided,” she said soberly. “There’s a lot of emotion in this.”

She added that she’s backed Cruz since meeting him at a Republican Party dessert social, and that she’s had some very involved debates about her pick with skeptical neighbors.

In this part of the state, though, it isn’t just a question of neighbors sniping at each other over glasses of iced tea. Cruz’s foes have gone after him in labor-intensive ways. Dan Tripp, South Carolina state director for the pro-Cruz Keep the Promise super PAC, emailed over pictures of numerous large Cruz road signs with smaller “TRUMP MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” signs stapled all over them. One sign had the words “CHEAT,” “FUCK,” and “CHEATER” scrawled on it in orange spray paint.

Tripp estimated that upwards of one-third of the super PAC’s large pro-Cruz highway signs had been stolen or defaced. Even in an ugly South Carolina presidential primary, he added, that’s a lot.

Trump’s messaging to Evangelicals focuses less on his personal faith and more on Cruz’s alleged lack thereof; the mogul has spent the past few weeks questioning the Texan’s devotion to Christianity.

“How can Ted Cruz be an Evangelical Christian when he lies so much and is so dishonest?” he tweeted last week.

There’s a reason Trump singles out Evangelicals; South Carolina is one of the least Catholic states in the nation —2010 data shows only Mississippi and Tennessee have a smaller percentage of Catholics—and Evangelicals made up 65 percent of 2012’s Republican primary voters.

And it could be a winning strategy.

“There are Evangelicals that are extremely skeptical of any politician who tells them exactly what they want to hear, appearing to be too perfect in their philosophy and faith,” said Robert Cahaly, an Atlanta-based consultant who does work in South Carolina.

“As Carson, Trump, Rubio, and the media continue pointing to examples of tactics and actions which are inconsistent with Cruz’s carefully crafted persona, they actually erode the fundamental essence of his support,” he added.

Thus far, it’s working out. Recent CNN and PPP polls show Trump is leading among Palmetto State Evangelicals.

That may be why churches are now battlegrounds. The South Carolina politics blog FitsNews posted pictures of fliers that reportedly blanketed Upstate churches on Wednesday evening (when many host Bible studies and mid-week services). Churchgoers returning to their cars found fliers under their windshields highlighting recent reports that Cruz doesn’t tithe very much.

“Canadian-born Ted Cruz may not even be eligible to be president,” read one flier, next to a picture of the Texan with a Pinocchio nose. “Has a habitually habit of lying and spreading falsehoods on the campaign trail, all while waving a Bible around, taking selfies of himself praying and even signing autographs in the Lord’s House.”

Cruz’s explicitly religious pitch brings its own risks. And if those attacks work and Cruz loses badly in South Carolina, he may have trouble resurrecting his campaign elsewhere.

“If Trump wins South Carolina by double digits in spite of Scalia’s death and the renewed emphasis on the need for a conservative Supreme Court, it calls into serious question Cruz’s ability to rally evangelical voters—the lynchpin of his base,” emailed Robert Jeffress, a pastor from Dallas who has opened several Trump events in prayer but hasn’t endorsed.

That said, Cruz’s backers believe God is on their side. Maryanna Tygart, a retired nurse, traveled from her home in Indiana to South Carolina to volunteer here for Cruz.

“It was so crowded this morning, I tell you what, I was almost in tears,” she said as she waited to get her picture with him at a Republican Women’s Club event in Greenville. “We didn’t even have room big enough or enough phones for people to work, and there were so many people going out door-to-door and canvassing—and it was like, yes! Praise the Lord.”

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, February 19, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Evangelicals, South Carolina, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Donald Trump Vs. Ben Carson; Something Very Ugly Here”: Violent Criminal? Or Pathological Liar? We Don’t Need Either As President

Donald Trump is not being at all subtle in his latest wave of attacks on his current main opponent, Dr. Ben Carson, and it’s triggered yet another round of pundits wondering if The Donald has finally gone too far and crashed his campaign. But recall what has happened every other time people said Trump went overboard, whether he was tearing down Mexican immigrants, John McCain and POWs, or Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: No matter what, he just keeps rising in the polls.

Carson has built up a following among conservative, evangelical Christian (and largely white) voters in Iowa with his tales of moral redemption from a violent childhood, and The Donald is now setting out to depict Carson as dangerous — and maybe even inhuman.

Carson’s violent behavior in his adolescence is key to the salvation element so integral to his narrative — though lately the press has been inquiring whether the doctor may have fabricated or at least somewhat exaggerated those anecdotes. So it probably helps Trump that Carson has already spiked the ball for him, by putting himself in the uncomfortable position of insisting to the media that, yes, he was prone to violence as a youth.

Thus, Trump sees Carson in the predicament of being either a serial fabulist — and Trump has enjoyed playing up this possibility, too — or the violent menace that Trump wants to paint him as.

So, from that candidate who first made his political mark broadcasting conspiracy theories regarding President Obama’s birthplace, and kicked off his campaign by railing against immigrants, here is the message in brief: Ben Carson isn’t one of the good ones.

“He’s said in the book — and I haven’t seen it — I know it’s in the book that he’s got a pathological temper or temperament. That’s a big problem, because you don’t cure that,” Trump said during an interview Thursday on CNN. “That ‘s like — you know, I could say, as an example: child molester. You don’t cure these people. You don’t cure a child molester. There’s no cure for it. ‘Pathological,’ there’s no cure for that. Now I didn’t say it — he said it in his book.”

The Donald wasn’t done yet, though — far from it. At his rally Thursday night in Iowa, during an epic 90-plus-minute stump speech, Trump upped the ante on grotesque sexual imagery, when he hinted at a literal castration of awful people like Carson.

“If you’re pathological, there’s no cure for that, folks. Okay? There’s no cure for that. And I did one of the shows today, and I don’t want to say what I said — but I’ll tell you, anyway. I said that if you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, you’re a child molester, there’s no cure for that. There’s only one cure, we don’t want to talk about that cure — that’s the ultimate cure. No, there’s two — there’s death, and the other thing.”

Initially, Carson tried to take the high road while speaking to reporters Friday morning, during an appearance at Bob Jones University, a center of religious-right politics. (Note: Bob Jones University did not admit African-American students until the 1970s, as they felt the squeeze of the new civil rights laws — but then prohibited any interracial dating, until changing that policy under political pressure during the 2000 presidential campaign.)

“Now that he’s completed his gratuitous attack, why don’t we press on and deal with the real issues. You know, the reason that I”m in this race is because there are some real, profound issues that affect the trajectory of our country right now. That is what the American people are concerned about,” Carson said.

But then when he did attempt any substantive rebuttal, Carson fell utterly flat.

“I’m hopeful that maybe his advisors will help him to understand the word ‘pathological,’” Carson said, “and recognize that does not denote ‘incurable’ — it’s not the same. It simply is an adjective that describes something that is highly abnormal, and something that fortunately I’ve been able to delivered from for a half a century now.”

In sum, Carson’s response to Trump saying that the doctor is incurably “pathological” was to didactically explain that such a person could be cured!

It wasn’t exactly the kind of response that would make Trump back down. Later on Friday, Trump’s campaign posted a Friday the 13th-themed horror-movie video about Carson, and the stories concerning whether or not Carson was really as angry a young man as he’s made himself out to be.

“Violent criminal? Or pathological liar? We don’t need either as president.”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, November 13, 2015

November 14, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Evangelicals | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fundamentalism, The Political Kiss Of Death”: Experienced Veterans Of Culture Wars, Just Not On The Winning Side

Jonathan Rauch writes that Christian conservatives, in response to their defeat in the “culture wars,” are likely to isolate themselves from the wider society.

I think that is precisely what they will do. It’s what they’ve done before. After the failure of Prohibition and their Pyrrhic victory in the Scopes trial, they headed for the backwoods, hiding out in their tent revivals and two-bit tabernacles.

The iconoclastic libertarian, H.L. Mencken, skewered and roasted them with all the glee of the Calvinistic deity in newspapers across the country. They earned every column inch.

Even into the 1960s, they continued their retreat, establishing thousands of “Christian” schools in protest of 1) the ruling on prayer in government schools, 2) sex education, and 3) desegregation of government schools. They wanted the right to pray, repress and hate–three constant traits of the American fundamentalist.

Oddly, it was the victory of Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, who gave them a lust for power–in spite of Carter holding none of the hateful values inspiring his fellow fundamentalists. Once they saw the glimmer of political power, however, nothing could restrain them. The greatest lust is not sex, it’s power.

It is said in Luke that Satan took Jesus to a mountaintop and showed him “all the kingdoms of the world” and said to him, “All this power I will give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”

Jesus resisted, it is said, but for American Christians this temptation was too great. With Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson playing the role of Satan, they were promised political domination of this country, and by implication, the world. The temptation was too great.

In the end, they tied their wagons to the anemic presidency of the village idiot, George W. Bush, discrediting themselves and their message in the process.

America turned against the demands of the Christian Right. The campaign to bring back censorship failed. The campaign to ban abortion fizzled with public opinion now as split as when the battle started. They will never have the nation-wide ban on abortion they seek.

Their crusade against gay people backfired spectacularly–not only did they fail to make it a felony to be gay, but gay couples are legally marrying in state after state.

During the “war” Americans, became more secular and less Christian. More Americans today say they are non-believers than when the Moral Majority set out to make this a “Christian nation.”

They lost because they fought tooth and nail against the oldest American value–individual rights and liberty. Americans have long held those as core values. I won’t say Americans have always lived up to those values–they haven’t, but I will say they always clung to them.

As much as the Religious Right pretends they are patriots, in terms of American core values, they are traitors to the Enlightenment tradition of the Founders, instead they preached an authoritarian religion which, when all was said and done, had no appeal for the American people.

Time and time again, we have been able to judge the final victory of a cultural war by determining the side of the American fundamentalist. The staunchest advocates of slavery were fundamentalists, so much so that the largest fundamentalist denomination in the country originated in a defense of slavery: the Southern Baptist Convention. Fundamentalists supported Prohibition. They tended to oppose equality of rights for women.

During the war against Jim Crow, racist fundamentalists put out pamphlets on the evils of “miscegenation.” Figures such as Jerry Falwell claimed “civil rights” was communistic. Some outposts, such as Bob Jones University, refused to admit black students even into the 1970s. Fundamentalists are experienced veterans of culture wars, just not on the winning side. If anything, their support for a cause is the kiss of death.

 

By: James Peron, President, Moorfield Storey Institute; The Huffington Post Blog, July 8, 2014

 

 

 

July 9, 2014 Posted by | Culture Wars, Fundamentalists, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Origins Of The Modern GOP”: The Party Of Lincoln Is Now The Party Of Voter ID Laws

Dartmouth Professor Randall Balmer argues convincingly that the origin of the religious right as a political force stemmed from opposition to school desegregation rather than opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision. I don’t think it is well known that evangelicals were largely silent about the Roe ruling at the time it was issued, nor that some of the most influential evangelical leaders at the time were supportive of the ruling.

Today, evangelicals make up the backbone of the pro-life movement, but it hasn’t always been so. Both before and for several years after Roe, evangelicals were overwhelmingly indifferent to the subject, which they considered a “Catholic issue.” In 1968, for instance, a symposium sponsored by the Christian Medical Society and Christianity Today, the flagship magazine of evangelicalism, refused to characterize abortion as sinful, citing “individual health, family welfare, and social responsibility” as justifications for ending a pregnancy. In 1971, delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, passed a resolution encouraging “Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” The convention, hardly a redoubt of liberal values, reaffirmed that position in 1974, one year after Roe, and again in 1976.

When the Roe decision was handed down, W. A. Criswell, the Southern Baptist Convention’s former president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas—also one of the most famous fundamentalists of the 20th century—was pleased: “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person,” he said, “and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”

Although a few evangelical voices, including Christianity Today magazine, mildly criticized the ruling, the overwhelming response was silence, even approval. Baptists, in particular, applauded the decision as an appropriate articulation of the division between church and state, between personal morality and state regulation of individual behavior. “Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the Supreme Court abortion decision,” wrote W. Barry Garrett of Baptist Press.

It was actually a ruling by the DC District Court upholding the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to revoke Bob Jones University’s tax exemption that convinced evangelical leaders Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich to rally the religious right against President Jimmy Carter’s reelection. They could hardly make Bob Jones’ anti-miscegenation their rallying call, however, so the modern-day Republican Party was founded on an evangelical “awakening” on what had formerly been considered an issue only for “papists.”

Today, the party of Dwight Eisenhower and Everett Dirksen is the party of Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich. The party of Lincoln is now the party of voter ID laws.

 

By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, May 28, 2014

May 29, 2014 Posted by | Evangelicals, GOP, Religious Right | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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