Republican presidential candidates, from left, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, moderator Frank Luntz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum stand on stage during the Presidential Family Forum, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

This Week in God, 11.21.15

First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the “presidential family forum,” held last night in Iowa, and hosted by a far-right religious-right group called The Family Leader, led by a conservative kingmaker named Bob Vander Plaats.
Right Wing Watch explained this week a little about the man who ran the show: “”Not only does Vander Plaats want to remove from office or defund the courts of judges who find in favor of marriage equality, he believes that anything, like gay marriage, that ‘goes against the law of nature’ is by definition unconstitutional . He argues that the government is an institution of God and therefore its purpose is ‘to promote righteousness’ and to apply ‘God’s principles and precepts.’”
And it’s against this backdrop that seven contenders for the Republican presidential nomination – Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum – appeared at last night’s gathering, hoping to earn an endorsement. (In 2008, Vander Plaats backed Huckabee, who won that year’s Iowa caucuses, and in 2012 he backed Santorum, who won that year’s Iowa caucuses).
So, how’d it go? I think this helped capture the flavor of the evening.
Asked to name the first person they would call upon hearing about a terrorist attack, Carson and Rubio both said the Department of Homeland Security; Fiorina and Mike Huckabee both said they’d fall to their knees and pray.
The question was quite specific. The moderator asked the candidates to imagine a scenario in which there were simultaneous attacks on Times Square and Yankee Stadium on Sept. 11, 2017. The question – who would you call first? – went to Rubio, who talked about federal resources and DHS. Huckabee answered moments later, saying he would get on his knees and “make a call to God.”
Based on the roar of applause, it was apparently the answer the audience was looking for.
Cruz, meanwhile, continues to be the candidate making gains with evangelical voters.
He brought down the house at the close of the evening with an impassioned plea for conservative unity that may, come the Iowa caucuses in February, turn out to be prophetic.
“If conservatives come together and stand as one, it’s game over,” he said. “This primary is over if conservatives unite. And if conservatives stand together and unite, the general election is over.”
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Creationists are losing a generational fight: “Now, at long last, there seems to be hope: National polls show that creationism is beginning to falter, and Americans are finally starting to move in favor of evolution. After decades of legal battles, resistance to science education, and a deeply rooted cultural divide, evolution may be poised to win out once and for all. The people responsible for this shift are the young.”
* Nice move, Jack: “A string of Islamophobic incidents have been reported since the massacre in Paris last week, but at least one little boy in Texas knows the attackers don’t represent the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. When 7-year-old Jack Swanson of Pflugerville, Texas, found out that a local mosque had been splattered with feces and desecrated with torn pages of the Quran, he emptied the $20 from his piggy bank and donated it to the congregation, according to NBC affiliate KXAN.”
* Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) said on Twitter this week, in an all-caps message, “Jesus would fight for our Second Amendment.” For what it’s worth, I don’t think she was kidding.