Sharlet: Spent the morning in an interview with Matthew Wells, a BBC radio reporter who’s been working the evangelical politics beat in America for the sake of worried Europeans. Should they be worried? Judging from the clips of Ohio mega-pastor Rod Parsley that Matt played me, yes.
Parsley is a self-described “patriot pastor” and a solid Christian Nation man — which is to say that he believes, based on an extremely selective and distorted reading of U.S. history, that the U.S. was founded as a Christian country and has a special Christian calling in world affairs. That’s trouble for any nation inclined toward a secular policy, as much of Europe is.
But does Parsley have pull? Parsley’s World Harvest Church was instrumental in swinging Ohio for Bush, and now the church is putting muscle behind the Ohio gubernatorial ambition of J. Kenneth Blackwell, Bush’s point man in the state.
I learned most of this from Matt, who’d come to talk to me about evangelical political power more broadly, after reading my Harper’s feature on Ted Haggard and New Life Church. I didn’t know a lot about Parsley. Which points to a possible model for understanding the growing strength of the Christian right. There are no new Falwells, no new Billy Grahams. Rather, the movement is broad enough, and strong enough, that it’s better seen according to a federal model. Or, perhaps, according to the rules of nobility. Ted Haggard, Rod Parsley, Rick Warren, James Dobson, James Kennedy, Bill Hybels — all so many minor and major princes. Christ is king, but a savvy political machine like that of the Bush administration can press these principalities into its temporary service. And the princes can maintain their claims of independence.
Rod Parsley — who, on every single issue, including economic ones, is dedicated to conservative Republicanism — says that he is neither Democrat nor Republican — he’s a “Christocrat.”
Well, ain’t we all. Matt asked me what I think Christian conservatives will do now that they have power. “Will do?” I responded. “The question is, ‘What have they done?’” If their destination was a Christian nation, the only thing left to say is: Wake up, kids — we’re already here.