Rep. Trent Franks speaks at a news conference on the Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, Oct. 9, 2013. 
Tom Williams/Getty Images

This Week in God, 11.1.14

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at a recent forum in which a Republican congressman endorsed some strange ideas as the “secular left.”
 
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), one of Congress’ more aggressive culture warriors, partnered with E.W. Jackson – yes, that E.W. Jackson – to discuss the nation’s ills. As Brian Tashman reported, they shared an unusual perspective.
Jackson asked the Arizona congressman about the “profound threat to Christianity in general and to our Christian foundations in this country,” which he said comes from President Obama and the “drumbeat of atheism that attacks everything, ‘get the cross down,’ ‘don’t show a Bible,’ ‘don’t wear a cross,’ ‘don’t say God bless you.’ It just seems like every day we’re hearing some new effort to try to shut Christians up and shut us down.”
 
“The litany that you listed there is so right, dead-on,” Franks responded, before warning that ISIS may succeed in committing violence against Christians because “the secular left” in America is diluting the country’s Christian heritage.
It’s not at all clear what they were talking about. There is no organized national effort to tell American Christians to stop wearing crosses, stop saying “God bless you,” or stop showing Bibles.
 
Similarly, in the same forum, Franks said there’s a legal effort underway to remove religious icons from tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. In reality, no such lawsuit exists.
 
In the larger context, the far-right Arizonan has long tried to position himself and his allies as victims of cultural persecution, worthy of pity. It’d be a more compelling case if Franks’ complaints were based on real mistreatment.
 
Also from the God Machine this week:
 
* A notable LDS shift: “The Mormon Church has decided to rename the General Women’s Meeting as the General Women’s Session of General Conference – something that signals a big change for women’s leadership in the church, the governing First Presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced on Thursday.”
 
* A worthy cause: “Point Loma Nazarene University wants to offer human trafficking survivors who want to earn a college degree a full-ride scholarship. PLNU, a private Christian university located in San Diego, officially launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign this week with a goal to raise $40,000 in 40 days. The money will fund the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund, a reference to the Bible verse Isaiah 61:3.”
 
* A just resolution: “Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist Church (UMC) minister who was defrocked by church leaders and subsequently reinstated for officiating the wedding of his gay son, has been fully restored to his position as a pastor today following an official ruling from the church’s highest court.”
 
* And this week, TV preacher Pat Robertson explained that he believes Ouija boards are real – and dangerous. “The spirit is causing that little needle — it goes around to letters and spells out words and so you feel like [it’s] some dead person, but actually it is communicating with demonic spirits,” he said. “It is a dangerous thing and I strongly urge people not to get involved in it.”
 

Rachel Maddow Show This Week in God and Trent Franks

This Week in God, 11.1.14