On December 23, 2009, Chuck Colson obliged Senator Jeff Sessions and gave the keynote speech at the “12:23 Men of Mobile Bay Christmas Gathering.” His topic was the Manhattan Declaration. Two thousand representatives of 30 religious groups applauded Colson as he fervently asked them to combat the “secular worldview” and ”advance the Kingdom of God” (Chuck’s version, unsurprising, doesn’t include GLBT people).
We have to change the mindset. We’re at war.
What motivated Jeff Sessions, the highest-ranking Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to extend the invitation to Chuck Colson, founder of Loudoun-based Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM)? Colson’s contrarian Christmas commentary, “It’s Not about the Manger” may provide an answer. Colson informs readers that, in addition to comfort, the manger scene ”should also inspire a holy terror in us”. The piece contains no mention of “peace on earth and good will towards men”. Instead Colson tells us that ”He invades planet earth… then Christ leaves behind an occupying force, His Church, which is to carry on the work of redemption until His return and the kingdom’s final triumph.”
Senators don’t organize gatherings of thousands of people for non-political purposes. Sessions apparently found the idea of “an occupying force…to carry on the work of redemption [sic]” to be useful as a tool for motivating a new cadre of political activists. The “12:23 Men of Mobile Bay” appears to be a newly formed ad-hoc collection of men’s ministries. I could only find two mentions of the group on the web. The first was from the Covenant Church of Mobile. This church was founded in 1973 – coincidentally the year of the Roe v. Wade decision – as a home bible study group. I would describe this church as Christian Reconstructionist because of the view of God and government described in their statement of faith: “While civil authority is separated from church government, it should not be separated from God and His law”.
The second was from the Men of St. Joseph, an “emerging” Catholic men’s group dedicated to promoting “the truth of Christ in the family” and “the proper explanation of masculinity and freedom.” The following is excerpted from their announcement for the 12:23 event.
Tomorrow, a historical event will touch down in Mobile, Alabama. This introduction of the Manhattan Declaration by Charles Colson has the potential for shockwaves across the nation.
…a unified effort is needed to overcome what is true prejudice against life, marriage, and religious freedom, and how we must in solidarity overcome the attack waged on our guiding principles. If we do not act in solidarity, subsequent totalitarianism will necessarily proceed…
Tomorrow is not a finale; rather, it is the first harmonic note to a crescendo in the future. While the rumblings of decline and destruction quake across our country, it is us who must take these gifts of masculinity and freedom, and join with our other brothers in trumpeting the words of our Christ to our hurting country: We have not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Like the Manhattan Declaration itself, these are not the ideas of principled people of faith. This is the call of a zealous army preparing to go to war, and it is the exclusive venture of only one major political party.
This raises serious questions for Loudoun taxpayers who care about the expenditure of their hard earned local tax dollars. PFM receives a $250K property tax free ride. Was this presentation by Colson primarily religious in nature, or was it political?
Prison Fellowship’s Mark Early provided this advice to voters, shortly after PFM was granted its tax-free status by our Board of Supervisors:
Neither Chuck nor I would presume to tell you for whom you should vote. However, we would like to suggest what issues should guide your decision-making and which of these issues are most important.
Early goes on to explain that “on issues like education or helping the poor…experience tells us that no candidate is better on all these issues.” When it comes to the social wedge issues long exploited by the radical right, however, “a candidate is either committed to protecting human life from conception [sic] to natural death, or he is not. He is either prepared to defend the traditional family [sic], or he is not.”
This is bibliolatry, in this case a form of politicking that uses freeze dried bits of the Bible to distort voter “worldview” and direct voting behavior. While Chuck Colson may claim that his Manhattan Declaration roadshow is “non-partisan,” there can be no doubt that the face-to-face with 2000 Christian Reconstructionist activists is a political godsend to Republican campaigners like Jeff Sessions.