Meet "the congregational version of the 'tea party'"


What in God's name (no pun) is happening to the separation of church and state? More and more, we're seeing a blurring of what should be a bright line between the two, and increasingly, voters are either becoming desensitized, apathetic, or, even worse, supportive.

According to a big, front paged L.A. Times piece today, formerly apolitical pastors are speaking out on politics. This is due to a number of factors, including a crescendoing clash over abortion, marriage equality, and the state of the economy.

Corporate funding is one thing, but add to that even more money flowing from muscular "experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement's most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states."

Money talks. Churches are people too.

Of course, this trend is exacerbated by the right wing extremism and blatant (read: scary) faithmongering by Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, who both appeal to evangelical Christian voters.

These voters make up a significant portion of the electorate in Iowa, South Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Colorado, where pastors are already trying to shape the primaries.

"The Christian activist right is the largest, best-organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today," said Rob Stein, a Democratic strategist who recently provided briefings on the constituency to wealthy donors on the left. "No other political group comes even close." [...]

"This is the congregational version of the 'tea party,'" says Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Pastors who in the past would dodge my calls are calling me saying, 'How can we be involved?' "

Organizations with a lot of money behind them are offering seminars, online tools and lawyers, to which the GOP is shouting, "Hallelujah!"

Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and many newer groups are hoping to register 5 million conservative Christian voters.

The political engagement of evangelical pastors signals a reawakening of the conservative Christian activism that atrophied in the last decade. This time, organizers say it could be even more powerful, a reflection of the sharp backlash against the current administration.

Black Christians named Barack Hussein Obama have that effect on conservative Christian activists.

When groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State give the heads up that  churches' nonprofit status are at stake, they're ignored because religious leaders have all those well-funded Christian legal organizations behind them:

The most prominent — the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in fiscal year 2010 — is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The group sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)

The Christian Right is undergoing a revival that not only wants to pray the Dems away, they're willing to put their donations where their sermons are.

And that is sinful.

Please read the whole article here.