It's a theme repeated down through all of recorded history: Theists try to convince themselves that their land has been taken from them and that their gods want them to "reclaim" their land from the hands of the demonized enemies they create to justify themselves. To not do so angers their gods and causes floods, famine, and no end of bad things.

America is the most Christianized country in the world, suffering under the "honor" of having the most number of Christian churchers per capita of any other nation. Despite this problem -- indeed, because of it -- radial Christians demand that more Christianization is needed. The irony of their unamerican, unconstitutional bigotries being touted as "TRUE Americanism" never seems to be internalized by these nuts.

Associated Press, April 11, 1998
Evangelicals Vow To Reclaim America
By David Briggs

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - What has happened to America? asks the Rev. D. James Kennedy, surrounded by red, white and blue bunting in an imposing sanctuary familiar to viewers of his TV preaching on ``The Coral Ridge Hour.''

A local judge in Alabama is sued for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, Kennedy laments, ``while the president is apparently engaged in seeing how many of those commandments he can break.''

``God's will for this nation will be done,'' he assures conservatives from across the country on the final day of a conference called Reclaiming America for Christ. ``Twenty-six other empires have risen, and all have fallen.''

His message resonates throughout the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, where worshippers open with ``God Bless America.'' At the end of the service, on the final notes of ``America the Beautiful,'' a huge American flag unfurls over a cheering congregation.

This Easter, conservative activists are finding special meaning in the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like the earliest Christians, they feel like voices in the wilderness of a nation that they believe worships secular gods in media, education, government no less powerful than Mithras or Adonis or the assorted gods of first-century Rome. And they compare America to the ancient Roman Empire, crumbling from within, from moral weakness.

Out of frustration, many conservative evangelicals are heading beyond party politics, taking places on school boards and on picket lines, to influence public policy on such issues as abortion, school prayer and same-sex marriages.

``You might say the hot new idea is the civic gospel,'' says John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio. ``Christians have a special responsibility to create a civil order that nurtures moral lives.''

Actually the idea is a conservative twist on an older tradition. At the turn of this century, liberal evangelicals, shocked by the excesses of capitalism, gave rise to the ``social gospel'' movement, shifting religious focus from the church to the streets, establishing a tradition for the civil rights struggle.

In the recent past, politics appealed to evangelicals even across party lines. They helped elect a born-again president, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, and influenced Ronald Reagan's victories in 1980 and 1984. In 1994, with the election of a Republican Congress, many thought their years of hard work through grassroots organizations such as the Christian Coalition had paid off.

But to the dismay of many conservatives, Republican congressmen seem more interested in economic than social issues. ``The bottom line is (the GOP) they said they would do some things and they haven't done them,'' says Jim Woodall, executive director of Concerned Women for America. ``You don't get passionate about balancing a budget.''

When GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole kept his distance, and evangelical agendas went unfulfilled in the new Republican Congress, evangelicals felt betrayed. ``They haven't seen any movement on the big issues they really care about,'' UA's Green says. ``Given what they've done for Republican candidates, they'd really like to see more.''

And Republicans will take notice, evangelical activists and outside observers predict.

At the very least, Green says, religious conservatives should have veto power over the next GOP presidential candidate. But they are looking beyond, with rumblings of a third party or a wider political base.

It is one thing, analysts say, to argue for the common good based on morality formed by religious beliefs, and another to ``reclaim America for Christ.''

Such language, says Steven Bayme, Jewish communal affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, will exclude conservative Jewish activists who share concerns as political allies. ``When the language becomes exclusively Christian, Jewish groups become at best ambivalent, at worst hostile.''

Less willing to trust traditional routes, conservative evangelicals are looking beyond Republican headquarters. Indeed, here at this conference, and in mass movements such as the Promise Keepers, they talk increasingly about grassroots ways to effectchange on those issues, from abortion to same-sex marriages, that they care about.

At the Florida conference, the Rev. Dennis Tegtmeier, a Lutheran chaplain at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, was still disappointed with ``the buckling of knees,'' in a Congress that did not override Clinton's veto of late-term abortion.

Major organizations of evangelical activists felt the backlash. Christian Coalition revenues dropped from $27 million in 1996 to $17 million in 1997. ``I think it's disillusionment. We were all paying the price for the Republican Congress' apostasy,'' says Donald Hodel, president of the Christian Coalition.

Evangelical women, Woodall says, are no longer joining Concerned Women in waves, as they did when President Clinton was first elected and the organization signed 10,000 new members a month.

Elsewhere in the country, there is relative satisfaction. The economy is good, unemployment is low, purchasing power is up. Even a president embroiled in allegations of sexual harassment and financial wrongdoing can get high approval ratings.

But here, and around the circuit of evangelical political revival meetings, there is America in moral decline. ``We're going to self-destruct, the way I see it,'' says Edward Marcinski of New Britain, Conn. ``Laws have no correlation with the laws of the Creator.''

In sessions on grassrootspolitical activism, Marcinski's colleagues identified those issues that concerned them most, with answers on worksheets repeating ``abortion, prayer in schools, and the homosexual agenda.''

But many suggestions for action sidestep the Republicans, running instead from ``Impeach the Supreme Court'' to commercials for Christ during the Super Bowl.

Bill McKale and his wife, Melanee, planned to return home to Vancouver, Wash., to distribute election guides, attend school board meetings and make sure people at Faith Bible Fellowship vote. But what for? ``All the stuff that the ACLU is against,'' she says.

To recover from withering backlash against congressional inaction, evangelical leaders pin their hopes on the McKales and other first-timers at the Florida conference.

For many evangelicals, political activity is a divine calling. At the Florida conference, the 1,400 activists pledge allegiance not only to the American flag, but also to the Christian flag and to the Bible.

In the 1830s, when French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville traveled through America, he discovered that religion was indispensable to democracy. That point, according to the religious broadcaster Kennedy, was that America is great because America is good.

Today, Kennedy tells conservative activists, one no longer can say America is good. For him, however, it's no time to give up.

``There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,'' he says, ``and the idea of reclaiming America for Christ has definitely come.''


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