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Christian evangelical ministers in Ohio are teaming up to form a network intent on building on their constituencys extensive contribution to President Bushs victory in the 2004 election. They are also working to defend Issue 1an amendment to the state constitution banning same-sex marriageand help Christian conservatives take over the states Republican party. Reverends Rod Parsley and Russell Johnson are key players in the effort to wrest control of the GOP from so-called Party moderates. Their job has no-doubt been made easier by the fact that Republican Party officials have been enmeshed in a series of political scandals that even include the states Republican governor, Bob Taft.
Americans must be Christo- cratscitizens of both their country and the Kingdom of GodParsley told his congregation at his World Harvest Church, located just outside Columbus, Ohio. And that is not a democracy; that is a theocracy, he said. That means God is in control and you are not.
Headed by Parsley, a 48-year- old televangelist and author, the World Harvest Church, described recently by the Columbus Dispatch, as a nondenominational congregation with a regular weekly attendance of between 10,000 and 12,000, is one of many politicized megachurches popping up across the country.
The World Harvest Churchs Center for Moral Clarity recently launched a three-year project called Reformation Ohio. Its goals, according to the Dispatch, are to register 400,000 new voters, organize black Ohioans who share conservative views on issues such as gays and abortion, and conduct get-out-the-vote rallies, all while leading 100,000 Ohioans to Jesus.
In suburban Columbus, Johnson, the senior pastor of the evangelical Fairfield Christian Church, is recruiting 2,000 Patriot Pastors to get out the evangelical vote for the Ohio primary in May 2006. According to the Cleveland Jewish News, Johnson sees the 2006 election as an apocalyptic clash between a virtuous Christianity and the evildoers who oppose Christ- ianitys values.
Before the 2004 presidential election, the Cleveland Jewish News reported that Johnson denounced tax-supported schools that have banned the teaching of creationism, Bible reading and prayer. He blasted the pagan left for its warfare against the very definition of marriage. He decried homosexual rights that will come with a flood of demonic op- pression.
Johnson envisions reclaiming the teaching of our Christian heritage among Americas youth is paramount to a sense of national destiny that God has invested into this nation.
Both Parsley and Johnson are close to J. Kenneth Blackwell, the controversial Ohio secretary of state who was entangled in a series of controversies revolving around the November 2004 presidential election. Since Governor Bob Taft cannot run for re-election due to term limits, Blackwell has declared himself as one of several Republican candidates for the state house.
Health and Wealth Theology
Rev. Parsley is not a newcomer to politics. In the late 1980s, his church picketed the Bexley Art Theater for showing what Parsley said were obscene films [and] World Harvest members protested when the gay advocacy group Stonewall Union was allowed to hand out literature at the Ohio State Fair, the Columbus Dispatch reported. During last Novembers election, Parsley took a leading role in the push to pass Issue 1, the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Operating on an annual budget of $38.5 million, Parsleys ministries include his nondenominational church, a school and Bible college, his television show Breakthrough, the Center for Moral Clarity, a mission program, and a ministerial fellowship. According to the Dispatchs survey of the auditors records of Franklin County, The church/school complex has been appraised at about $26 million, and the nearby Bible college campus is worth nearly $2 million. In addition, according to Fairfield County auditor records, Parsleys estate, which also includes the home of his parents, is appraised at nearly $2 million.
Parsley has refused to reveal his own personal wealth and the church has not responded to requests for financial information from Ministry Watch, a North Carolina-based organization gathering financial information on religious organizations that solicit money nationwide.
Rod Pitzer, the research director at Ministry Watch, told the Columbus Dispatch, World Harvests refusal to provide financial data should be a red flag, and he urges people not to donate to Parsley. Of the slightly over 500 ministries currently being profiled by Ministry Watch, only 29 have refused to cooperate. Among the 29 are some big name ministers, including Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Tim LaHaye, and Kenneth Hagin.
Ohio Restoration Project
In late March, the New York Times reported that the newly established Ohio Restoration Project was planning to mobilize 2,000 evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic leaders in a network of so-called Patriot Pastors to register half a million new voters, enlist activists, train candidates and endorse conservative causes in the next year.
In Ohio, the church is awakening to its historic role as the moral voice in the community, Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring, a conservative group based in Pennsylvania that trains ministers in political activism, told the New York Times. Ohio is in the vanguard of that nationally. I very much want Pennsylvania to be with them.
As stated earlier, Rev. Johnson is behind the mobilization. In a letter originally posted on the website of his Fairfield Christian Church, Johnson asked supporters to pray that God will raise up a harvest of Patriot Pastors who are dedicated to making a difference in this hour of American history. Johnson added, What happens in Ohio in the next 18 months could very well make an impact on what happens in America in the next 20-30 years.
The non-profit Patriot Pastors intend to raise a $1 million war chest in order to build a database of 300,000 postal addresses and 100,000 e-mail addresses to recruit a network of like-minded Christian voters to be 21st-century Minutemen. These volunteers would help transport the elderly to the polls, provide childcare so parents can vote, and assist with voter registration drives and rallies, the Cleveland Jewish News reported.
While the ORP plan says that it will not specifically endorse candidates, it will invite Blackwell to speak at pastoral meetings and to a statewide Ohio for Jesus rally scheduled for next spring. Along with the homegrown Parsley, other national Christian evangelical leaders to be invited include Rev. Franklin Graham, Focus on the Familys Dr. James Dobson, and the Prison Fellowship Ministries Charles Colson.
Rev. Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the New York Times that the Ohio Restoration Project might have a significant impact: This represents a new wave in organizing on the part of conservative evangelicals. From my standpoint, as someone who doesnt agree with their conclusions, this is a more dangerous model.
Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer covering conservative politics.
Z Magazine Archive
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
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LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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