Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ohio, Blackwell & the Christian Right

The theocratic Christian Right in Ohio promises to gather a lot of attention in the run up to the 2006 elections. The controversial Secretary of State Kenneth  Blackwell is the movement's apparent choice for governor.


Plans by a group called the Ohio Restoration Project to mobilize conservative Christians on Blackwell's behalf has been widely reported, including by the New York Times.

But Blackwell is trolling for support in other precincts of the Christian Right as well. He is a featured speaker at a Christian Right conference on Friday, June 17th at Cedarville University, a Baptist school in southwestern Ohio.

The conference is transparently seeking to persuade conservative Christian businessmen to become political activists and political donors. "This conference is for folks who earnestly desire to make a difference in their generation through economic means," according to the description on the conference web site. "They want to learn how to win in the marketplace and win big so they can leverage their resources and influence on behalf of a Kingdom agenda."

The event is sponsored by "Business Reform" magazine -- which brags about its line up of speakers: "It would cost you thousands for a day with them, but you and up to three friends can join them June 17th at Cedarville University from 8 - 5 with a single $49 subscription to Business Reform magazine."

Whatever else it may be, it is an event with dominionist Christian Right overtones. One of the featured speaker is Rev. Dennis Peacock, a longtime theocratic activist, whose organization Strategic Christian Services says it brings a "Biblical Worldview" to business. In a recent column posted on his web site, Peacock attributes the nation's problems to "our increasingly anti-Christ culture where secular humanism has gutted our cultural morality and worldview with a perjurious historical revisionism worthy of the Hitlers and Stalins whose ambitions we claim to have not only defeated but transcended."

Peacock was a founder and leader of the Coalition on Revival, which led a series of theological conversations in the 1980s that have been pivotal in animating, and setting the more decisively theocratic direction of the Christian Right.

Another seminar speaker is Dr. Gary Cass, who heads the Center for Reclaiming America, a political arm of Rev. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries. For ten years, Kennedy has held an increasingly influential political conference at his church in Ft. Lauderdale. This year, the Christian Science Monitor ran a feature story about the conference.

"In material given to conference attendees," according to the Monitor, Kennedy wrote: "'As the vice-regents of God, we are to bring His truth and His will to bear on every sphere of our world and our society. We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors -- in short, over every aspect and institution of human society.'"

The Center for Reclaiming America, the Monitor reported, "aims to increase its 500,000-strong 'e-mail army' to 1 million, and to encourage Christians to run for office. It has plans for 12 regional offices and activists in all 435 US House districts. And a new lobbying arm in Washington will target judicial nominations and the battle over marriage."

"'If they don't vote our way, we'll change their view one way or another,' executive director Gary Cass tells the group. As a California pastor, Dr. Cass spearheaded efforts to close abortion clinics and recruit Christians to seek positions on local school boards. 'We're going to take back what we lost in the last half of the 20th century,' he adds."

The title of Cass' Cedarville talk is: "Winning the Culture Wars."

Of course, just because Mr. Blackwell is speaking at a conference with Cass and Peacock, does not mean that he necessarily shares their views. On the other hand, this is yet one more example of the way that the ambitious Blackwell, who is running for governor in 2006, is positioning himself as the candidate of the Christian Right.

[This is part I of a two part series on Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and his relationship to the Christian Right. Crossposted from FrederickClarkson.com]

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