Next month, America faces the one-year anniversary of having elected Reality TV star Donald Trump as President of the United States. Pundits, journalists and everyday people worldwide are stunned and flummoxed as each day yields a shiny new illustration of how an amoral congenital liar, White Supremacist, emotionally autistic man-child is striving to “normalized” dictatorship, as all about him cower, fearing his hours-long tirades of unpredictable temperament or an unleashed Kraken-inspired primary challenger.
“Donald Trump’s brand of preening narcissism and incompetence is a constant reminder of just how far we’ve fallen,” writes Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter in the November issue.
Thank God, some say, that “adult” Vice President Mike Pence is waiting in the wings, crouching on deck to be called up to save the ballgame, otherwise known as the Republic, should Trump be indicted, impeached, deposed, resign or any other myriad of fantasies Trump despisers dream about. But Pence—who identifies as “a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican, in that order”—knows his place, serving as a submissive Christian good wife, supporting Trump adoringly, no matter what.
But whether the one-time presidential aspirant is biding his time or dutifully following an assignment, in reality, Pence is the tip of the spear for religious extremist Christian warriors who now occupy a place in the Oval Office. And while Trump may have initially disparaged having this less than macho-macho man as his running mate, he has since seen the light. White evangelicals voted for him overwhelmingly, by 80 percent or more, and have stuck by him come hell or high water. Plus—they make him feel special. Why else would a self-proclaimed germ-a-phobe let so many strangers lay hands on him as he bows his head over the Resolute desk, promising them more religious liberty.
“Many right-wing Christians have convinced themselves that he is a leader in the tradition of Cyrus the Great or King David who, while being deeply flawed, can be used as an instrument of God’s will,” writes Salon political writer Chauncey Devega. “Christian evangelicals’ rejection of empirical reality and their habituation into believing the absurd and the fantastical mates perfectly with the zealotry of the broader American right, which views politics as a form of religious fundamentalism.”
“Trump is a Trojan horse for a cabal of vicious zealots who have long craved an extremist Christian theocracy, and Pence is one of its most prized warriors,” Jeremy Scahill wrote right after the 2016 election in an article for The Intercept entitled “Mike Pence Will Be The Most Powerful Christian Supremacist in U.S. History.”
“Pence has been a reliable stalwart throughout his public life in the cause of Christian jihad — never wavering in his commitment to America-First militarism, criminalizing abortion, and utter hatred for gay people (unless they go into conversion therapy “to change their sexual behavior,” which Pence has suggested the government pay for),” Scahill writes.
As governor, Pence opposed legislation to add LGBT people to hate crime laws and tried to block federal HIV funding without a warning label opposing same sex relationships. Pence became infamous for signing Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law in 2015, which would have allowed discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The signing ceremony featuring a bevy of conservative religious leaders has become an iconic symbol of Pence’s penchant for all things anti-LGBT. After a massive backlash, including pressure from the NBA, which basketball-loving Hoosiers could not abide, Pence backed off a bit, but never renounced the ideology that guided his pen.
In 2000, while serving as a representative in the 107th Congress, Pence said: “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service because the presence of homosexuals in the ranks weakens unit cohesion.” No surprise, then, when Trump-whisperer Mike Pence was the exclamation point at the long sentence written by religious right buddies Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, and an assortment of other Christian Right politicos secretly writing policy, including the surprising directive to end open transgender service in the military. Pence made that call to Air Force One that got Trump to tweet out the new policy, according to a White House source familiar with the chain of events.
Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler and California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter got their inaccurate claims about the $1 billion cost of gender reassignment surgery from Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council. When they failed to get their legislation passed, they went to Freedom Caucus head Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who attends a weekly congressional bible study with Pence and other Christian Rightists, to get into Pence’s office. But Perkins and company had been pressing Trump since June 2016 about how the military is no place for “social experimentation,” according to the Washington Post, so he wasn’t averse to the idea.
“I think the military suspending transgender [people] from the military shows the influence of the religious right,” Heidi Beirich, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) told Newsweek.
“The SPLC has identified 45 organizations it classifies as anti-LGBT hate groups spread across the country, dedicated to waging what Focus on the Family founder [James] Dobson described as a ‘second civil war’ to put control of the U.S. government in the right hands—the hands of those who reject LGBT rights,” Newsweek reported last July.
Perkins confirmed this in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Trump is “committed, along with the Republican Party platform, that the social engineering that has been in our military that the previous administration foisted upon the military would stop,” Perkins said after Trump announced the ban. “That’s what he’s doing. He’s only doing what he committed he would do.”
Though Trump may simply be swayed by the evangelical infatuation with him as their leader, Pence and the evangelicals he hangs with have a profoundly deeper commitment to their version of Christianity known as Dominionism. Though there are different strains of this spiritual warfare, it still aims at theocracy and religious freedom which strategists want to exploit as a weakness in constitutional democracy.
“The idea that Christians have a sacred duty to get involved in politics, the law and media, and otherwise bring their influence to bear in different public spheres is the animating principle behind the religious right,” Religious Right watcher Sarah Posner wrote in Salon in 2011 about the dominionist strategy. “If you attend a Values Voters Summit, the annual Washington confab hosted by the Family Research Council, you’ll hear speakers urging young people to go into media, or view Hollywood as a ‘mission field.’ That’s because they insist these institutions have been taken over by secularists who are causing the downfall of America with their anti-Christian beliefs.”
Another Religious Right watcher, Frederick Clarkson, a senior fellow at Political Research Associates, says the religious movement should be taken seriously.
“Dominionism is the theocratic idea that regardless of theological camp, means, or timetable, God has called conservative Christians to exercise dominion over society by taking control of political and cultural institutions. The term describes a broad tendency across a wide swath of American Christianity,” Clarkson wrote on politicalresearch.org in August 2016.
“There are untold numbers of dominionist and dominionism-influenced politicians and public officials at all levels of government and who even after leaving office, shape our political discourse. Roy Moore, the elected Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been a rallying figure for dominionists of all stripes for the better part of two decades,” he continued, about the controversial populist who just won the Alabama Republican primary with help from “alt-right” leader, Steve Bannon.
“Others at the top of recent American political life have included Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, and Newt Gingrich. Other prominent elected officials in the dominionist camp include Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R-TX), Gov. Sam Brownback (R-KS), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), and Rep. Steve King (R-IA).”
Trump recently nominated Brownback, one of the most anti-LGBT politicians, as the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, where he will spread the Pence policy about religious freedom and religious persecution around the globe. Indeed, even after he resigned, Health and Human Services Sec. Tom Price, left behind a “draft strategic plan” replete with references to “faith” or “faith-based” organizations, according to a Politico report Oct. 3.
Pence often joined Price, Speaker Ryan, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for weekly Bible study sessions, the Associated Press reported last year. “Mike Pence is a House man. He cares about us and he will make sure that we are in the loop,” said Rep. Jack Carter, R-Texas, who also attended Bible study with Pence.
“The enemy, to them (dominionists), is secularism. They want a God-led government. That’s the only legitimate government,” Jeff Sharlet, author of two books on the radical religious right, including “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” told Democracy Now on July 21, 2016. “So when they speak of business, they’re speaking not of something separate from God, but they’re speaking of what, in Mike Pence’s circles, would be called biblical capitalism, the idea that this economic system is God-ordained.”
The talk is serious. “David Lane, a leading Christian Right electoral organizer, declared in a 2013 essay that religious war may be on the horizon,” Clarkson reported. “Meanwhile he has shifted the electoral emphasis of his Mississippi-based American Renewal Project. (The group hosts all-expenses paid policy briefings for clergy and their spouses, featuring top politicians like Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gingrich, Huckabee, Cruz, and often David Barton. Republican presidential contender Donald Trump addressed one such event in August 2016.) They are currently recruiting and training clergy with a dominionist vision to run for office at all levels.”
The weekly evangelical Christian Bible study is lead by Ralph Drollinger, a former University of California, Los Angeles, basketball star who lead a similar group in the Sacramento Capitol. “Homosexuality is a sin,” and an “abomination in the eyes of God,” he told Sacramento News and Review in 2005 about his group, Capitol Ministries.
Democratic California Senator Liz Figueroa gave her review of the experience after Drollinger said women who do not stay home with their children are sinful. She complained that he “uses God’s word for the purpose of divisiveness and political stances.”
“Some of us Democrats and women innocently thought that, hey, this is a good way to start our week,” said Figueroa. “And then you realize, wait, this is a conservative Republican man who uses Scripture for his purposes.”
Figueroa was among the protesters a year ago.
The Capitol Ministries leader has only good things to say about the vice president. “Mike Pence has uncompromising biblical tenacity and he has a loving tone about him that’s not just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” Drollinger told CBN more recently.
Pence may dream of being President, but he, too, may become entangled in the probe into Russian hacking into the 2016 elections. As Scahill pointed out in his investigation into Pence the Christian Supremacist, Pence is very close with anti-LGBT Christian Rightist and Blackwater founder Erik Prince. “The Prince family’s support for Pence, and the Christian supremacist movement he represents, has deep roots,” writes Scahill.
Some of those roots may be pulled out by Special Counsel Bob Mueller who will surely look into the Washington Post report about an anonymous letter the paper received last December suggesting that Prince may have served as part of the Trump transition team, which Pence headed, and acted as Trump’s representative in a meeting with a Russian official.
Look out for a clash of dominions.