The first half of this article was published in the June-July 2005 issue of the Columbus Free Press as "Local Theocrats Come Out: An Evening with Rod Parsley." It was cited by Bill Moyers in "9/11 and the Sport of God," an address at Union Theological Seminary where he and his wife Judith received the seminary's Union Medal for their contributions to faith and reason in America.
I have over-linked, but I believe it is important to "footnote" as much as possible. Unfortunately, some sources no longer exist. Some websites do not maintain archives and others have removed postings. In particular the Christian Coalition of Ohio, where I found Parsley's "Pastor's Policy Briefing" schedules and speakers is gone.
I have included wherever possible, alternative citations. If I find new live citations I'll add the URLs.
Below this article in separate blogs are transcripts of speeches from the event in order of appearance: Brad Stine, Ann Coulter, and Alan Keyes. Keyes speech, with it's call to Ohio to serve as the the model for a Christo-political movement nationwide is a significant document of the Parsley political machine and has been ignored by the media. As far as I know, I am the only reporter to publize it.
It’s been a banner spring for Columbus telerevivialist cum spiritual adviser to the Republican Party Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester. Interviews in James Dobson’s daily online news commentary Citizen Link and Crosswalk. Features in Charisma Magazine, the Scaife owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Columbus Dispatch, the Other Paper and the Newark Advocate. Citations in the New York Times (March 27, 2005) and Dallas Morning News (June 10, 2005). An op-ed in the Charlotte Observer (May 16, 2005). Photo-ops with Sen. Sam Brownback. Hobnobbing with old friends Ken Blackwell, Cincinnati moral crusader Phil Burress, former Ohio Congressman Bob McEwen, former Alabama Supreme Justice Roy Moore, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. The Center for Moral Clarity. The Ohio Restoration Project. Patriot Pastors. And, of course, the launch of his 12-city Silent No More book tour at World Harvest on April 16 which brought to town rightwing writer and TV starlet Ann Coulter, Christian insult comedian Brad Stine, and another old friend, former UN Ambassador, presidential candidate, and recreational mosher Alan Keyes.
Pretty good for boy from Martin County, Kentucky who likes to say his home was so far out in the sticks that they had to pipe in sunshine and use hoot owls for roosters.
The Free Press attended the book launch and rally at World Harvest. Unfortunately tickets for the pre-rally dinner earlier in the evening were sold out at $50.00 a pop x 1200 dinners, so we missed Alan Keyes’ dinner keynote. Judging from the reception he received at the rally, though, he must have been a smash.
Rally security at World Harvest was tight. Bags were inspected, the press suspect. A man from a local radio station told me that security followed him into the restroom asking what he intended to do there. Apparently they were concerned that he’d pull a custard pie out of pants and hurl it at the recently pied Ann Coulter. If all this sounds a bit paranoid, it was. And, it definitely wasn’t fun. I’ve attended numerous Biblical American events in arenas, convention centers, churches, and in the streets with big names including Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, Tom Delay, Don Wildmon, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, Gerald Ford, Flip Benham, Ron Luce, Josh McDowell, Ken Starr, Phyllis Schlafly, and Roberta Combs, but I have never experienced the spookiness that gripped World Harvest that evening. The guy behind me asked several times, “Have you ever seen a church like this?”
The truth is that World Harvest is not your parents’ white steeple church. Like other outer belt mega-churches it melds evangelical Christianity, entertainment, and new technology into a “safe” entertainment and “worship” space for mostly prosperous sub-and exurban socially conservative escapees from Sin City, including a substantial number of African Americans. The state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, big screen TVs, light show, and minimalist auditorium set design oddly reminiscent of the 1960s TV music show Hullabaloo—without Lada Edmond, Jr’s boog-a-loo (perhaps Ann Coulter could audition)--cocoons its members in a hyperreal Disney World of Biblical pleasure and pop consumerism.
With God on Our Side
The World Harvest Worship Singers kicked off the evening with an energetic rendition of country singer Kathy Bee’s patriotic song, written in the wake of 9/11, “I’m an American,” followed by an extended big screen TV photo and video montage of iconic American images. Comforting family farms, small-town parades, the Liberty Bell, Ellis Island, portraits of the Founding Fathers, and voting booths, were juxtaposed with Biblical American images of ultrasounds and fetuses, churches and people at prayer, battlefields and war, marriages, families, and Terri Schiavo, all spiced up with taped commentary by revisionist “historian” David Barton. Barton, a seminal figure in Christian Reconstructionism and the reordering of American history to fit the Dominionist agenda, when not shilling doped research ”proving” that the Founding Fathers were evangelicals and that the US Constitution is a Christian document, is the Vice Chair of the Texas Republican Party and a consultant to the Bush administration and “a close personal friend” of the President.
The World Harvest Worship Dancers aka Remnant-- promising to “raze Hell.” followed with a raucous STOMP rip-off with dancers dropping flat dead on the floor one-by one in military precision, killed by abortion and other cultural atrocities. The dancers were joined shortly by a military sideshow of a color guard, taps, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner, and more tin drum beating and patriotic verbiage. It would be interesting to know just how many World Harvest gang bangers have seen action. Would Parsley come out in designer Christian camoware waving a Daisy air rifle? Thankfully, he kept to his Armani and Bible.
While the rest of the evening’s performance was outwardly sedate, the message was not. The metaphoric war theme, made popular in youth ministry arena rallies, and now surging into adult ministries, was intended on a primary level to buttress support for the Great American Commission to spread democracy and Christianity to the undemocratic and unchristian. Parsley’s implicit religio-cultural message shared by high rollers like James Dobson, James, Robison, Chuck Colson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and numerous lessers in the movement, however, couldn’t be missed: placing patriotism and the state in the service of Christianty. The crowd loved it, even if they didn’t quite get it—yet.
Has Rod Parsley ever been silent?
Rod Parsley has always had an image problem. He’s the pastor of one of the largest churches in Central Ohio. He runs a Bible College, a prep school, and the Center for Moral Clarity, a “political ministry” that sponsored the book launch, rally and other events of a political nature. He takes his crusades all over the country and overseas; he’s got an international viewing audience. He hangs out with nationally known politicians, advises Ken Blackwell. But to a lot of people, even other evangelical Christians, he’s a flim-flam man, a guy who can turn a buck faster than a speeding bullet, somebody who falls asleep every night with The Elmer Gantry Bedside Reader in his hand. He just don’t get no respect. But things are changing.
For years Parsley always been politically outspoken—abortion for instance—though last summer World Harvest was picketed by Operation Save America, waving its bay-bee blender bits posters over the church’s alleged refusal to get involved with their dog, pony, and ass show downtown. A spokesperson for the church told the Free Press at the time, however, that to the best of his knowledge nobody had ever asked the church to participate.
For a long time now one of Parsley’s major issues has been the First Amendment Rights of pastors and churches, and he’s been working for passage of HR235, the federal Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act. Last year, though, Parsley ramped it up, and took an active role in the Ohio election. He held a Pastor’s Conference at World Harvest that featured Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. During Parsley’s religio-political “Silent No More” speaking tour in the fall, Blackwell sometimes traveled with him. Their most notorious coupling was recorded by TV cameras at the Cathedral of Praise Church in Sylvania Township outside of Toledo when Blackwell joined Parsley in the pulpit and dissed same sex marriage. “That notion even defies barnyard" logic"—even the barnyard knows better.” Blackwell has participated in other events at World Harvest and reportedly spoke there the day after the book launch. He also endorses Silent No More saying it should “make’values voters a force that politicians can no longer ignore.” Parsley and Blackwell, along with professional starvation artist and youth evangelist,Lou Engle, the Chaplains of the US House and the Pentagon, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Fox News commentator Kelly Wright were listed in the Elijah List newsletter as committed to lead prayers at the Inaugural Prayer Breakfast on January 20 in Washington. Most recently Parsley participated in a press conference at the request of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senators Sam Brownback and Jeff Sessions, Bishop Harry Jackson and other African-American clergy on behalf of nomination of Janice Rogers Brown to the Circuit Court.
Parsley is also a member of the Arlington Group (and here), a coalition organized in the mid-1990s by Free Congress Foundation CEO Paul Weyrich This gang of heavy hitters includes James Dobson (Focus on the Family), Don Wildmon (American Family Assoc.), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Janet Folger (Faith2Action, former director of The Center for Reclaiming America, and former legislative director of Ohio Right to Life), Randy Thomas (Exodus International), Phil Burress (Citizens for Community Values), Matt Staver (Liberty Counsel), Richard Land (Southern Baptist Convention), and, not surprisingly, Ken Blackwell. Their meetings, like those of the murky Council for National Policy are held off-the record, According to Weyrich, the effort to place anti- gay marriage amendments on the ballots in 11 states emanated from the AG, and that the resources to go full-tilt in Ohio were raised from participants in the group.
Parsley doesn’t seem to talk much about these connections though, at least not in public, and certainly not at the book launch. They help explain, though, his recent appearances in the national media. Connections. Connections. Parsley seems to prefer his folksy po'-boy-made-good-through-hard-work image to the corporate Christian persona. Anyone who has watched his Breakthrough TV show can attest that he’s a charismatic speaker of the Old SchoolSouthern Oratory even if it’s open secret that every sermon is carefully planned, worded, and choreographed, every pause, every amen, every organ riff staged managed for optimum results.
Probably the best-known sound byte from the Parsley book sermon is about his “nonpartisanship,” though if anyone went through the rest of the speech they’d see very little of it. Parsley says he’s neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but a Christocrat. You can bet your little pea pickin’ heart, though, that he’s not gonna come out for Mike Coleman for governor very soon. “I intend to speak to both sides of the political spectrum.” Parsley exhorted. “To the believing and non-believing. To the socially conscientious as well as the economically conscientious. I intend to take issues that traditionally belong to the left and commit them to the right. I intend to take the concerns of the religious and commend them to the secular. Let me say it this way. In short, in the book Silent No More, I intend to offend everybody …I suppose you could say I intend to be an equal opportunity offender.” Although the sermon sounded canned in person, it was still rather jarring, though not surprising, given Parsley’s well- made sermons, to hear this near exact quote a few days later recorded at another venue. And so far he doesn’t seem to have offended the Right.
The book launch was a sermon that wasn’t, but we’ll call it that anyway. It was a sales pitch, a scintillating preview of things to come, an offer nobody could refuse. Pitchmen walked the aisles at various times hawking books signed by Parsley himself. I worried about his hand and bought two copies Even Allen Keyes got into it, nearly shaming us into compliance to think about what “Pastor Rod” plans to do. “The question really put to you tonight in terms of our resources in terms of your time, in terms of your commitment—where will you be? When the collection was taken up later, I noted that credit card numbers are to be written on the outside of the envelope. Visions of free trips to Las Vegas and clubbing in the Caymans danced in my head.
Parsley took on Islam. “ I will rail against the idea that the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same being.” . That morning, however, Parsley, in a phone interview with Dave Daubenmire on WRFD-AM told Coach that he would be gladly greet any Muslim cleric at World Harvest. I won’t hold my breath.
Parsley took on “what he calls “spiritual racism” caused by a “bankrupt educational system” that tells African Americans that the “slave religion” of Islam is their traditional religion and that Christianity is “the white man’s religion.”He took on Louis Farrakhan, Mohammad, Queen Noor of Jordan (American Lisa Hallaby, the widow of King Hussein). “She’s obviously never been to Sudan where women are having their arms hacked off and men their hands cut off. It’s in the book! It’s in the book!” He said the church had been intimidated—by “spiritual racism’ presumably, but didn’t say by who? The bankrupt educational system? The Nation of Islam? Queen Noor? He took on homosexuality, claiming that the life expectancy of gay men, excluding AIDS is 43 years; for lesbians 45 years. He took on “the media’s high tech persecution” of Christianity But mostly he took on activist judges that have “driven the founding faith of our nation from the marketplace of ideas” and used the First Amendment “to drive Christianity from the public square.”
The separation of church and state to Parsley is a lie perpetrated on Americans—especially believers in Jesus Christ. To him the church is the sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. He calls it the largest special interest group in the country and promises the US and the world are about to learn just how powerful it is. Parsley sees himself as a wall builder and a wall buster. As a wall builder he will restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall. “ I would like to know who the federal government thinks they are to tell me where I can and where I cannot declare that which God Almighty has spoken with me and my spirit,” he says. “I will say it on the street corner and I will not set my citizenship at the door of the church!”
The crowd loved it.
Parsley: Let the Revolution begin!
Response: Let the Revolution begin!”
It’s beginning to sound like a Teen Mania event.
Brad Stine’s problem with animals.
Brad Stine, an outsider Christian comedian weaned on Sam Kinston and George Carlin followed Parsley’s tough act, taking some richly deserved swipes at sacred cows in and outside of the church and had a few genuinely funny lines (“You’re a Christian comedian? Where’s your puppet?”). Mostly, though, he moved between social commentary (mainly about bad manners and even worse drivers) and small lectures based on Bartonesque historiography of what constitutes a “real American.” (God has been replaced by self-esteem, which in turn has created cowards with not enough germs in their bodies to fight for America). Don’t ask!
Stine has a real problem with animals equating pioneer era self-supporting hunting and fishing to nation building. The central theme, which he kept coming back to can be summarized in:” This is Ohio. You don’t even pretend to be animal rights activists around here. You people see it, shoot it, and eat it!!…. If it’s got a face eat it, that’s what I’m talking about. This is America.” Then again, maybe he’s on to something.
According to a long feature on Stine in the August 8, 2004 issue of the New Yorker, the comedian says he distances himself from the likes of Falwell and Robertson (though he’s performed for both) “because their names suggest religious intolerance.”
Is Ann Coulter a Born Again Christian?
According to the World Harvest Bible College dress code for women, “dresses or skirts must reach the middle of the knee when standing at normal posture. Slits in front, back or side are to extend no more than one inch above the middle of the knee” If Ann Coulter were a WHBC student (which she no doubt would never be) she’d have been booted out the minute she stepped on campus. La Coulter, being Republicany Correct, of course, and an alleged role model for World Harvest women, was granted special dispensation for her trademark mini. It was fun waiting for her drop her notes and bend over and give the boys in the band a shot. She didn’t.
Coulter gave a restrained (for her) and unevangelical performance, with only a small tip of the hat to the public role of the church in politics at the very end. In fact, there was a niggling feeling (or maybe it was just me) that she actually held her hosts in contempt. After all, anybody who shacks with Bob Guccione, Jr. and Bill Maher, hates to miss the drag queen’s Halloween parade in the Village, and says she lives on cigarettes and Chardonnay can’t be all that theocratically inclined. If some of her more far-out friends actually got control and tried to put her in a knee-length skirt she’d be the first to hit the Canadian border.
Coulter spent the majority of her time attacking Democrats and liberals in general, the “liberal media,” in particular, conservative “pundit” Tucker Carlson (apparently for his criticism of the Iraq War), MSNBC which fired her and “needs to go off the air,”—and even Fox News, claiming it “isn’t always that great.” Coulter martyarized “If Roger Ailes goes, we’re finished.” She advised everybody to go to Hollywood and make movies.
Entertainingly, Coulter conjured up the ghosts of Richard Nixon and Alger Hiss, throwing in some free advice from Don Corelone on revenge--references that likely left much of the audience clueless, but no less enthusiastic. “CBS News represents the Left’s enduring hatred of Richard Nixon for getting Alger Hiss,” she smugly informed us. “Liberals waited 25 years to get Richard Nixon and we waited 35 to get Dan Rather. Rest in peace, Richard Nixon. We got Rather!” And, of course, she offered a shopping list of Democratic Party offenses including support of gay marriage, abortion, and teachers’ unions. She insisted that Democrats not Republicans are owned by Wall Street. Me: (How about both?) followed by the simple-minded, “I can’t see arguing that Ken Lay is evil where George Soros is a great American. Either they’re both evil or they’re both not.”
The hilarious highlight came, though, in question 6 and 7 during the Q&A period. In question 6 a woman introducing herself as a mother who weirdly sees Coulter as a “wonderful role model for my children” asked if a woman would ever become president. Coulter replied:
“But they [Democrats] just want to randomly choose some nitwit like Barbara Boxer, for instance. Or Hillary. How about that for a role model? Hillary. Get ahead by who you’re married to . That’s a good role model for girls.”
Followed by Question 7 from a female college student asking advice on how to take back universities from liberals. Coulter replied:
“That’s very simple—especially with a pretty girl like you asking the question. You must join College Republicans. I promise you a lot of men will join. And since you’re in college, I gotta give you a tip. It’s a great way to meet heterosexual men…And there are a lot of pretty girls in College Republicans, which is why my male friends like going to my college speeches with me."
Who says Republicans don’t do irony?
The Alan Keyes Circle Jerk.
The last time I saw Allen Keyes live was at the 2002 national Christian Coalition Road to Victory Conference in Washington. Snuggled comfy like a bug in a prayer rug somewhere on the enchanted ticket with Pat Robertson, Tom Delay, Orrin Hatch, Fr. Frank Pavone, Armstrong Williams, Ernest Istook, James Inhofe, Dick Armey, Lindsey Graham, Donna Rice Hughes, Pat Boone, Messianic Jews and 40 other luminescent born again pols, Keyes gave a shoe-banging analysis on the source of rampant homosexuality, divorce, teen pregnancy “illegitimacy,” pornography, STDs, the DC sniper and, of course, 9/11: abortion. Anything after abortion is mere epilogue.
Keyes dwells on abortion like Coulter dwells on the Clintons, but for Keyes and his coreligionists it’s ultimately not about abortion or other societal “malfunctions.” It’s about the “restoration” of the Godly state that they somehow envision that Madison, Jefferson, and Adams, had in mind, despite all facts to the contrary—thank you David Barton! On one level the manifestations of malfunctioning secular society, or what Keyes calls, “the decline of our moral identity” are very real to them and in need of address and redress. On a deeper level, however, they are symbols— fears, threats, unwanted cultural agents of change to just-like-us-Americans to be manipulated and to suck people into Biblical Restoration culture (and conversely to filter out the less dedicated).
Billing himself a “genuine conservative,” officially Keyes says he aims to strengthen “the foundations of political liberty in America” and to promote “the right of mankind to practice “responsible self-government. As a matter of personal conscience he believes that Christianity “most perfectly embodies those ideas,” but that a diverse national pubic policy must derive these ideas from sources “that are open to support from all the people.” Of course, like most Biblical American theorists and shakers, he uses a different language than the rest of us. It’s all about word twisting. “Support of the people” can translate into general societal support of vague Christian morals or values or a more narrow interpretation of Christian values by “the elect” in seats of power. While “responsible self-government” to most people ideally means a participatory, transparent, and an inclusive system under a secular Constitution, to Keyes it means a state melded to the cross under the leadership and judgment of God’s selected and elected who will guide the people to act in concert with God’s will, however and by whoever it is defined. No liberals, Unitarians, Hindus, Muslims, Satanists, Sangrians, Buddhists, shamans, atheists, agnostics, and I-don’t-cares need apply. And their little dogs, too.
Keyes came out locked and loaded at World Harvest. Calling out elites, lawyers, and judges, Keyes, evidently blowing his load at the pre-rally dinner, blasted into a short but “spirit filled” case for the “restoration” of the Godly state seemingly unhampered by secular Constitutional protections and restraints, or at least amended to turn it into the kind of God-inspired document the framers intended it to be for the spiritual-political renewal of God’s people in God’s chosen land. Reinforcing revisionist historgraphy, manufacturing judicial antagonism towards Christianity and undergirding Parsley’s promise to not set his citizenship at his door, Keyes came full circle, “We must give the blind to all those who say the Christian heart and the Christian conscience cannot be brought into the public precincts of this nation.”
Stitching faith in the Christian God to the cloth of American state, Keyes rejects the secular state and implicitly excises all those who do not hold his standard of Godly patriotism. “ There can be no separation of God from country. We will unite them once again.”
The US and its people will wear well the seamless flag of Christian Nationalism in Keyes’ view of the future.
The Ohio Experiment.
Ohio is clearly a test for Domionist activity, and Silent No More is its inspirational guide. It’s purpose is to call to service those disenchanted, or offended, or afraid of “liberal” America, especially those who have time or money on their hands It the call for soldiers to hit the street. Domionists are not monolithic, however, and certainly not everyone will follow the trumpet. Some will chew off bits and pieces. And some will stay home and watch TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Netwowrk).
Although the evidence is before our eyes, a Domionist, Reconstructionist, evangelical, wingnut or whatever you like to all it, stealth operation is underway in Ohio. It has many tentacles, political, religious, moral, and economic. The evidence is right in front of us. The Arlington Group with its deep incestuous relationships poured money into the state’s gay marriage amendment and will no doubt funnel money, and probably already has, into the gubernatorial campaign of fellow Arlingtonian Ken Blackwell. Rod Parsley and his Center for Moral Clarity has put on the whole armor of God with its various programs and patriot pastors. Parsley is ideally placed “in the heart of it all” to recruit soldiers into the streets, to change Ohio—to change the country. And if you doubt it listen to Allen Keyes: “If you will respond to this call that’s heard here in Ohio, there shall be a lifting of that plain, And it shall pass from person to person, heart to heart, from faithful spirit to faithful spirit until the light is a glow over all the horizon of Ohio, until the flame—the flame will capture hearts all over America. And it’s been said that what has begun in the spirit of God has spread to become the blessed future of America. ”