On March 19th, the Pennsylvania Pastors Network hosted U-Turn: A Conversation with Pastors on Society, Culture, and Leadership at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. Since I only stayed for the morning talks, I missed the panel discussion featuring Sandy Rios, as well as Mike Huckabee's video. Fortunately, Right Wing Watch was also monitoring U-Turn, and they have since posted video clips from the conference.
First, during a panel discussion entitled "A Ministry Perspective", Sandy Rios blasted same-sex marriage while displaying the persecution complex so common among Religious Right figures.
"There is persecution afoot. It's abroad ... but it's also here, and I want to speak about one part of it quickly. Homosexual marriage is bringing about the tip of the spear of the battle that we're going to face."Also in keeping with the Religious Right's persecution complex was Rios' warning that Christians would soon suffer martyrdom for their beliefs.
"I would recommend that you stop playing it safe. The Bible says if you can't keep up with men, how will you run with horses? You must prepare for martyrdom. I don't know what it's going to look like, but it's coming."Rios pandered to ugly stereotypes about transgender people, warning the audience that their female relatives would be forced to share public restrooms with "men dressed like women". She urged listeners to take a stand against LGBTQ rights as a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage approaches.
"There are wives, your sisters, your children who now are going to be forced to go into public restrooms and share them with men dressed like women. This is in epidemic proportion in gyms, in schools. In Massachusetts where homosexual marriage has been legal for ten years, the stories would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. And ladies and gentlemen, Supreme Court will make a decision on whether homosexual marriage will be the law of the land in April, and if they do, every single person in this room is going to be forced to make a choice. And I'm just telling you, even if you don't want to engage in this battle, you will, and your people will, and you'd better stand."
Next, Mike Huckabee addressed U-Turn attendees in a video message near Mount Carmel in Israel. Huckabee was disappointed that pastors have supposedly failed to preach on present-day issues, in keeping with previous U-Turn talks that encouraged pastors to discuss politics from the pulpit.
"We wonder why our culture has turned godless. We wonder why people don't grow up understanding the fundamentals of natural law, the moral basis of our Judeo-Christian founding as a nation. Might it be that the problem is not the history classes in our high schools, but the pulpits of America who have not taken what they even believe and applied it to the pulpit and to the people?"Huckabee's message urged religious leaders to "stand in the gap" by preaching on pressing issues. "God wants us to stand in the gap, and sometimes my heart's broken because in our own country, a lot of pastors will stand in the pulpit, but they won't stand in the gap," he said.
Rios and Huckabee, like U-Turn's earlier speakers, warned listeners that their country was spiraling downward due to advances in LGBTQ equality and "godless" thinking. Such rhetoric was intended to inspire pastors into action, to encourage them to preach to their congregants on pressing issues. U-Turn is a reminder that the Religious Right is mobilizing as the Supreme Court's April decision draws near and the 2016 election looms.