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Busy Days For ‘eBay of Prophecy’

Busy Days For ‘eBay of Prophecy’


By Bill Berkowitz
religiondispatches.org

RD News Round-Up—November 24, 2008: Religious Right’s ‘Obama Watch’; RaptureReady.com getting readier; Focus on the Family’s ‘I Stand for Christmas’ campaign; Proposition 8: The Aftermath; Huckabee’s revenge; Christian doctrine cures OCD?

Religious Right’s ‘Obama Watch’

Before President-elect Obama and the first family have moved into the White House, unpacked even so much as an overnight bag, suitcase, trunk, or toy chest, the braying from the religious right began. While Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink.com regularly features updates on Obama’s activities—or associated rumors about the President-elect’s possible moves—Lou Sheldon’s Traditional Values Coalition has initiated a project called “Obama Watch.”

From James Dobson’s Focus on the Family:

In “Obama’s FCC Adviser Supports Limits on Talk Radio” FotF’s Citizenlink.com’s Jennifer Mesko reported that Obama named Henry Rivera, former head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “to run the team that will select the next [FCC] chairman. Mesko, maintaining that Rivera “is a longtime proponent of the so-called Fairness Doctrine,” reported that “Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said the Fairness Doctrine would force stations to stop addressing important policy issues”: “A Christian radio station discussing the issue of abortion would have to give airtime to a pro-abortion voice like Planned Parenthood,” she said. “Rather than present a view that fundamentally opposes the station’s core beliefs, it would likely steer clear of airing controversial topics altogether.”

Stephen Adams’ piece titled “Atheists ask Obama to Keep God out of the Military” reported that a group called The Secular Coalition for America, “an organization representing atheists in the military” has petitioned Obama “to take steps to eliminate what it calls ‘an overall culture of religious intolerance’ in the armed forces.” Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said: “The usual critics of religious expression in the public square have broadened their religion-scrubbing complaints to the military, based on little more than the fact that men and women who put their lives on the line for this country are susceptible to a belief in God. We should encourage such devotion, not punish it.”

Lou Sheldon’s Tradition Values Coalition has set up its own “Obama Watch.”

In a piece dated November 13, titled “President Obama To Use Executive Orders To Bypass Congress And American People,” TVC claimed that Obama would “begin using executive orders to undo many of the Bush policies that protect life, national security, and other pro-family concerns.” According to TVC, “the Obama transition team is looking at overturning at least 200 Bush executive orders,” including an Executive Order that would “reverse policies that protect taxpayers from having to fund abortions overseas,” and another that would “probably overturn Bush’s prohibition against new embryonic stem-cell research.” In addition, “Obama is also likely to seek to strengthen a Bill Clinton executive order (EO 13166) that discourages English-only policies in federal programs.”

Transition Team Leader John Podesta Is Former Radical Clintonoid Operative,” provides details about John Podesta, the head of the transition team, whom TVC characterizes as “a longtime left-wing radical who campaigned for Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern in the 1960s,” and who “served on the staff of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and helped Leahy pioneer the practice of smearing and filibustering conservative judges who were nominated for federal judgeships.” Podesta, they continue, “also worked for Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1995 as White House staff secretary and Assistant to the President,” where he “worked to suppress investigations of presidential wrongdoing and helped shortcut the impeachment of Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky perjury scandal.”

In a recent edition of Jerusalem Report, Mike Evans, the head of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, wrote: “The question in the minds of many elderly Jews in Israel is: Will Barack Obama’s newly-appointed Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel, continue his efforts to divide Jerusalem and turn Judea and Samaria over to the PLO?”

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Busy Days for ‘eBay of Prophecy’

As if the crashing economy with its record number of foreclosures and staggering rise in unemployment, two wars, a series of devastating natural disasters, a crumbling infrastructure, and rumors that a Britney Spears’ comeback is in the offing isn’t enough to put Todd Strandberg’s Rapture Index over the top, the election of Barack Obama should put the icing on the cake.

According to Newsweek, Strandberg’s Web site, RaptureReady.com, which “track[s] current events and link[s] them to biblical prophecy in hopes of maintaining his status as ‘the eBay of prophecy,’ the best source online for predictions and calculations concerning the end of the world.”

In addition to Rapture Ready Wallpaper, and a number of ads for books (Coincidences in the Bible and in Biblical Hebrewby Haim Shore), a very scary graphic novel (Armageddon Now: World War III), videos (“Rapture—End Times”), and dating aids (“Meet Christian Singles”—obviously something that should be done sooner than later), RaptureReady.com’s front page features a slew of bad-news articles with headlines that almost make you wish for the End Times to come already!

A savvy entrepreneur, Strandberg has bought up a number of Internet addresses including AntiAntichrist, Tribulationus and RaptureMe, in case RaptureReady.com crashes from the traffic after the Rapture.

As of November 19, The Rapture Index stood at 159 down from a 2008 high of 170 and up from a 2005 low of 143. Strandberg told Newsweek that anything over 160 means “fasten your safety belts.”

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Focus on the Family’s ‘I Stand for Christmas’ campaign

Now that the presidential campaign is over and President-elect Obama’s transition team is busily vetting hundreds of potential employees, it’s time to turn your attention to more important matters: The “War on Christmas.” Focus on the Family house organ, CitizenLink.com, says that “it’s time for the secularization of Christmas to end.”

CitizenLink.com recently reported that “Last Christmas, Stuart Shepard introduced a brand-new holiday in his Stoplight® video commentary. More than 2.2 million people around the world watched ‘Merry Tossmas,’ in which retailers were asked to acknowledge the name of the holiday that falls on Dec. 25. Otherwise, their catalogs met an unfortunate end.”

Focus on the Family would like your family to add another this tradition to the holiday, er Christmas, season. It is quite simple: if you receive a mail-order catalogue from a retailer and that catalogue doesn’t prominently acknowledge “Christmas,” simply toss it. Voilá, “Merry Tossmas.”

At focuspetitions.com, supporters can join the “I Stand for Christmas” campaign, or you can access Focus on the Family Action’s 2008 Christmas-Friendly Shopping Guide with its lists of “Christmas-friendly,” “Christmas-negligent,” and “Christmas-offensive” retailers; and, be sure to watch Stuart Shephard’s clever video, “Merry Tossman 2008.”

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Proposition 8: Untold Stories

In the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 8 in California, gay rights activists and their supporters have butt up against the boasts and brags—and some serious whining—of the religious right. While opponents to Prop. 8 have filled the streets of a number of cities with thousands of angry and steadfast demonstrators, religious right groups appear see the anti-same-sex marriage amendments that passed in California, Arizona, and Florida as a much-needed culture wars booster shot.

With pro-gay civil rights demonstrations continue across America, pro- and anti-gay spokespersons squaring off in debates on radio and television talk shows (for an especially spirited debate watch this clip of columnist and author Dan Savage and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council), and with Religious Right groups see in their victory an opportunity to push for more anti-gay Constitutional amendments in a number of states, it may be surprising to learn that there are still some Prop. 8 stories out there that haven’t garnered much media attention.

Most people who followed the ultra-costly battle over Prop. 8 are fully aware that the Mormon Church contributed very heavily—to the tune of approximately half of the $40 million that Team Yes raised (see Friday's feature, Proposition 8, The Mormon Coming Out Party.) However, as journalist Max Blumenthal recently pointed out, the third largest private donor to Proposition 8 was Howard F. Ahmanson, heir to the Ahmanson banking fortune. Ahmanson is a longtime donor to anti-gay and other religious right causes as well as a follower and major funder of the late Rousas John Rushdoony, who is described by Blumenthal as “a radical evangelical theologian who advocated placing the United States under the control of a Christian theocracy that would mandate the stoning to death of homosexuals.” (For more on Ahmanson’s palling around with gay-stoning theocrats, see “Top Prop. 8 Donor Funded Proponent of Death Penalty for Gays).”

Then, there are the family values of Frank Schubert. During the Prop. 8 campaign, Schubert, president of Schubert-Flint Public Affairs, the public relations outfit that managed the Yes on 8 campaign, was in large part responsible for “bombard[ing the public] with false advertising, including ads that purported that if Prop. 8 failed, schoolchildren would be forced to learn about gay marriage, kindergartners would be taught sex ed and churches would lose their right to free speech.” In his zeal to earn his wage and stirring up a hornet’s nest of anti-gay sentiment, Schubert apparently was willing to throw his sister, who is a lesbian, under the proverbial bus.

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Proposition 8: The Aftermath—The Legal Wars

On November 19, the California Supreme Court agreed “to consider complaints by opponents of Proposition 8 that it improperly revised the constitution to ban gay marriage,” the Sacramento Bee reported. At the same time, “The court declined to stay its enforcement.”

The court asked for briefs arguing three issues:

1) Is Proposition 8 invalid because it constitutes a revision of, rather than an amendment to, the California Constitution?

2) Does Proposition 8 violate the separation-of-powers doctrine under the California Constitution?

3) If Proposition 8 is not unconstitutional, what is its effect, if any, on the marriages of same-sex couples performed before the adoption of Proposition 8?

The court could hear oral arguments in the case as early as Marc 2009.

“It’s unfortunate that the judges are giving time to the mushy, subjective arguments of homosexual activists who reject the clear reading of the constitution and the clear reading of Proposition 8,” Randy Thomasson, president of the Campaign for Children and Families, said in a statement. “If the court disobeys the constitution by voiding Prop. 8, it will ignite a voter revolt. It will also threaten the validity of all future Constitutional amendments.”

Thomasson said the court is “playing with fire” by threatening to reverse a vote of the people. “The California Constitution clearly says that the voters have the right to alter the highest law of the land,” he said. “It’s the beauty of the American system of government. The four Supreme Court justices who unconstitutionally invented homosexual ‘marriages’—Ron George, Joyce Kennard, Kathryn Werdegar and Carlos Moreno—seem to be ignoring the fact that the people get the last word, not the judges.”

Earlier, the Los Angeles Times reported that “Proposition 8 backers want to intervene in the litigation because they said that Attorney General Jerry Brown could not be trusted to defend the measure.”

Frank Schubert, Prop. 8’s campaign manager told the Times that his organization is “confident that the law is on our side, and the court will make a correct decision. We are not confident the attorney general will vigorously defend Proposition 8 in light of his strong opposition to the measure.”

According to the Times, “Opponents of Proposition 8 argue that it was a sweeping Constitutional revision, which can only be put on the ballot by the Legislature, instead of a more limited Constitutional amendment, as supporters contend.”

Meanwhile, a flabergasted Donald Wilmon issued an American Family Association Action Alert on November 18 that warned:

We have arrived at a most urgent time in history.

Some elected officials in California—the governor and a number of legislators—have decided that the vote of the people means NOTHING.

For reasons known only to them, they have indicated that they want the vote of the people concerning Proposition 8 overturned. To date, 44 legislators as well as the governor are petitioning the California Supreme Court to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Although I fail to see how something that is in the Constitution can be unconstitutional, this is what they are advocating nevertheless.

I have never—EVER—witnessed such blatant disdain from elected officials towards a majority of their constituents as is the case concerning the sanctity of marriage.

[Emphasis from the original Alert.]

Wildmon said that he is not advocating “tak[ing] to the streets”; rather, that supporters should e-mail “the governor and your two senators, urging them to heed the voice of the people and leave the Prop. 8 language in the constitution.”

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Huckabee’s Revenge

Has the kinder gentler face of the evangelical movement—the guitar-playing, weight-losing, quip-making Mike Huckabee—gone rogue?

The former Arkansas governor who made a valiant,albeit losing, run for the Republican presidential nomination appears to have landed squarely on his feet. With a new weekend television program on the Fox News Channel and a new book out, Huckabee seems to be positioning himself for a prolonged stay in the political spotlight.

According to Time, Huckabee’s book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America, “is filled with sharp words for his fellow Republicans who frustrated his bid for the party’s nomination.” Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney “receives the roughest treatment”:

Romney’s record was “anything but conservative until he changed the light bulbs in his chandelier in time to run for president.”

Huckabee’s “treatment of former candidate Fred Thompson, a rival who helped sink Huckabee’s upstart ambitions in South Carolina, is somewhat more favorable, if only because it is less personal”:

Fred Thompson never did grasp the dynamics of the race or the country, and his amazingly lackluster campaign reflected just how disconnected he was with the people, despite the anticipation and expectation that greeted his candidacy.

“Many conservative Christian leaders,” including Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson, Dr. Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University in South Carolina, and Rev. John Hagee—“who never backed Huckabee, despite their holding similar stances on social issues—are spared neither the rod nor the lash.”

Of a meeting with Bauer: “It was like playing Whac-a-Mole at the arcade—whatever issue I addressed, another one surfaced as a ‘problem’ that made my candidacy unacceptable.”

The real threat to the GOP, according to Huckabee is “libertarianism masked as conservatism”:

“I don’t take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it. Faux-Cons aren’t interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument.”

[Look for RD's extensive review of Huckabee's book soon]

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RD Tidbits:

*Obama on his faith: In 2004, when then-Illinois State Senator Barack Obama was running for a Senate seat, he sat down with Chicago Sun-Times columnist Cathleen Falsani for an interview that in the intervening years has, according to Christianity Today’s Steve Waldman, “been quoted and misquoted many times over.” Falsani, described by Waldman as “one of the most gifted interviewers on matters of faith” and the author of the recently published memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, allowed CT to publish—for the first time—the full transcript of a fascinating interview that focused exclusively on Obama’s spirituality. A tip: Take the time to read some of the “fascinating” comments on the interview!

*AFA Warns Pepsi: PepsiCo has thus far ignored Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association’s two requests to discuss the company’s “support of gay groups.” According to an “AFA Action Alert,” “Pepsi has given Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) a half-million dollars to help push the homosexual agenda in the workplace.” Pepsi has a long tradition of financial support for homosexual groups. According to Jacqueline Millan, director of PepsiCo Corporate Contributions has stated: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with PFLAG … (in) promoting the necessary message of inclusion to untapped groups … and that is a crucial step toward building a healthy working environment.”

*Christian Doctrine Cures OCD: Can Christianity Cure Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder?: A Psychiatrist Explores the Role of Faith in Treatment (Brazos, 2008), written by Ian Osborn, offers a Christian framework for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Eric L. Johnson’s review at Christianity Today points out that Osborn, “who himself struggled with and overcame OCD,” presents a book “unique for its three ‘case studies’ of notable Christians. By examining the autobiographical accounts of Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a popular 19th-century Carmelite nun, Osborn presents convincing cases that each struggled with OCD and overcame it through a deepening trust in God. This last point makes the book noteworthy, if not notorious, since the author is suggesting that Christian doctrine held the key to their cures.”

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Bill Berkowitz is a freelance writer and longtime observer of the conservative movement. Read all of Bill Berkowitz's articles here.

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