Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Thanksgiving Family Forum: Government, God, and Gab

On November 19th, the Family Leader hosted the Thanksgiving Family Forum at First Federated Church in Des Moines, Iowa, with CitizenLink and the National Organization for Marriage as keynote sponsors. The forum was an online roundtable discussion among several GOP presidential contenders, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania), and businessman Herman Cain. Given that several questions posed to candidates involved religion and values, the Thanksgiving Family Forum was a feast of startling quotes. An edited video of the roundtable discussion has been posted at www[dot]citizenlink[dot]com/2011/11/19/thanksgiving-family-forum-complete-video/

Moderator Frank Luntz began the roundtable with a question about the line "so help me God" in the presidential oath of office. At the 4:11 mark, Michele Bachmann claimed that George Washington fervently believed in the force of Providence at work in the early nation, arguing that without God's aid, Americans won't be able to get the U.S. back on track.

"It reminds me that it was George Washington that added those last four words, 'so help me God,' and after he added those four words, he reached down and he kissed the Bible. And I think it's because if there was any American who had seen the hand of God rising up this nation, it was George Washington. He literally said without the aid of Providence, we wouldn't have had this land, and I think the time that we're in right now in this country is also at such a critical time, without his hand, we won't be able to get back on track."
Afterwards, Bachmann talked at length about her conversion to Christianity and experiences with God. Rick Perry also emphasized human dependence on the divine, insisting that a president needs God's wisdom and guidance to lead successfully. At the 6:14 mark, he had this to say.
"Being the president of the United States is got to be the hardest job in the world, and the idea that one of us sitting around this table could do it with our own human intellect, our capability, is beyond any of us, and we have to have that eternal wisdom that comes from God, and so 'so help me God' is almost a plea ... The idea that I would walk into that without God almighty holding me up would scare me to death."
Luntz asked the group what they consider to be the number one value that America needs to reclaim. At the 7:55 mark, Rick Santorum made the troubling claim that American civil law must agree with divine law, throwing in anti-abortion sentiment for good measure.
"America is a country that was founded on the concept that our rights come to us from our creator. Rights come to us from God, and that when God gives us rights, he doesn't say, 'Well, here are your rights, just do whatever you want to do with them." That in fact he has laws that we must abide by. Now unlike Islam, where the higher law and the civil law are the same, in our case, we have civil laws. But our our civil laws have to comport with the higher law ... As long as abortion is legal, at least according to the Supreme Court, legal in this country, we will never have rest because that law does not comport with God's law which says that all life has value ... As long as there is a discornance between the two, there will be agitation."
Santorum them derailed into a lengthy discussion about his faith and the role of God in his election to the U.S. Senate. Hilariously, Luntz called him out on his failed reelection bid at the 9:17 mark.
SANTORUM: I knew, at that moment when I won, I had a constituency of one. And I always felt that way. I always felt like, you know, that God had sort of pulled me out and given me this opportunity. But I've got to tell you, it took me until the United States Senate to really see what God had in store for me.

LUNTZ: So can I ask you then what message was God sending to you when you lost your race for the U.S. Senate?
[Audience laughs]

SANTORUM: Can I first tell you the good news? I mean, come on, You sort of glossed over the good news to get me--I'll get to that.

LUNTZ: Quickly.
At the 10:57 mark, Newt Gingrich stressed that Americans must remember that God supposedly endows humans with rights, casting secularism as short-sighted and narrow in its political vision. His rhetoric about God allegedly being driven from the public square is a familiar Religious Right chestnut.
"It would be to ensure that every American understood that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, and therefore you have to explain the word 'creator,' and I wouldn't have anybody teaching who felt uncomfortable explaining what the founding fathers meant when they said that our rights come from our creator, because it changes everything else. 'Secular' is a term that comes actually from the Latin secularis meaning 'century,' and it basically says life is very limited, so you might as well get the most you can now. A belief in God is the precise opposite. It's a belief that we are all part of an eternity and that eternity stretches behind us and ahead of us, and therefore we have to measure what we do within the framework of God's greater plan. A country which has been now since 1963 relentlessly in the courts driving God out of public life shouldn't be surprised at all the problems we have because we have in fact attempted to create a secular country which I think frankly is a nightmare. So I think the first step is--this is not sectarian. It's not Protestant, Catholic, Jewish. This is a factual historic statement. Our founding document, which is the base of our government, says we are endowed by our creator and therefore we have responsibilities as citizens to that creator, and if we simply have a system that reasserts that and educates that and tries to live up to that, we will be a dramatically better country, and other policies follow from it."
For this statement, Gingrich received warm applause from the audience. Gingrich neglected to add that not all Americans believe in God (or one god), not all Americans agree on what such a being would expect of humans, and that not all Americans want faith and government entwined. By caricaturing secular government as a short-sighted, he forgot that separation of church and state protect both from each other.

In only the first few minutes of the Thanksgiving Family Forum, candidates flaunted their Religious Right credentials to an approving audience. Amidst pious words about their faith and their visions of God in government, candidates revealed an alarming vision for America.

Stay tuned for even more quotes from the roundtable!

For more information on the Thanksgiving Family Forum, visit www[dot]thefamilyleader[dot]com/thanksgiving-family-forum. For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Why Evolution is True: Republicans insane; want to establish theocracy

The Daily Beast: Best Moments From the GOP's Thanksgiving Family Forum

Huffington Post: Thanksgiving from Hell: The Republican Family Forum

Washington Post: GOP Candidates Court Conservative Christians in Iowa


  1. hhhmmm see, I am a Bokononist, or at least for today. I wonder where that leaves me in Newt's

  2. The GOP is nuttier than a fruit cake this season. I think the fact that Gingrich emerges from the pack looking like an "intellectual" is pretty telling. I enjoyed Maureen Dowd's column today:


  3. "[T]he idea that one of us sitting around this table could do it with our own human intellect, our capability, is beyond any of us ... The idea that I would walk into that ... would scare me to death."

    I can't argue with that.

  4. Okjimm -- A bokononist? Maybe the GOP contenders are a karass brought together to serve some higher purpose: to show the world how nutty right-wingers are. It's their zah-mah-ki-bo to be seen as goofballs.

    Donna -- A fun, irreverent column. Thanks!

    Cognitive Dissenter -- :: snickers ::


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