First up from the God Machine this week is a specific kind of invitation extended to far-right evangelical leaders by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).
As we talked about last week, Jindal, a likely Republican presidential candidate in 2016, is set to host a massive prayer rally called "The Response" next month in his home state. The event is not without controversy in light of the religious extremists, including the American Family Association, which are helping sponsor the evangelical event.
Jindal has so far been publicly indifferent to the hullabaloo and this week, according to the conservative Washington Times, the GOP governor reached out to church leaders to encourage their participation in the upcoming rally (thanks to my colleague Laura Conaway for the heads-up).
In a letter distributed to pastors, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal calls on them to consider public service, as part of his invitation to a gathering scheduled to take place a day before a highly-publicized prayer event Jan. 24 at Louisiana State University. The letter, which begins with "Pastor ..." invites recipients to consider being a guest at a pastors' briefing hosted by the American Renewal Project, which is to take place the night before "The Response: Louisiana" will take place at LSU.
Much of the letter was unremarkable, though the correspondence specifically told pastors, "As we make an appeal for leaders of faith to rise up and engage America in the public square with Biblical values, we are trusting you will hear God's call on your life for this mission.... The time has come for pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance."
The notion that church leaders -- as opposed to public officials elected by the American public -- would "lead the way and reset the course of American governance" seemed like an odd sentiment in a secular democracy. Indeed, given that the separation of church and state is a bedrock principle in the American system of government, it's rather alarming that a governor and likely presidential hopeful is looking to pastors -- presumably, ministers who share his beliefs and agenda -- to establish the course for public policy.
Given that so many of Jindal's allies are on the extreme fringe, this is all the more problematic.
With about a month remaining before "The Response" event kicks off, look for protests to continue. If you missed it, Rachel's segment from earlier this week is well worth your time.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* It's been quite a year for the pope: "In his latest surprising move, Pope Francis critiqued the cardinals, bishops and priests who comprise the bureaucracy that serves him. During his annual Christmas greeting, he accused the Holy See of lusting for power, living hypocritical double lives and suffering from "spiritual Alzheimer's" that has made the group forget the expectations to serve as joyful men of God, The Associated Press reported."
* Ugliness in Germany: "A record 17,500 people have turned out for the latest 'anti-Islamisation' rally in the German city of Dresden, according to police estimates. Demonstrators sang Christmas carols and listened to speeches about immigrants and asylum seekers. Weekly rallies by a group called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, began in October.... Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior politicians have spoken out against the Pegida rallies.
* Indiana: "An Indiana church that saw a large number of congregants walk out in January after forcing its gay choir director to resign, will close at the end of this year. David Mantor, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, said attendance and donations had been spiraling downward for 30 years (thanks to reader R.P. for the tip)."
* Ohio: "A suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio has ordered one resident to remove a zombie-themed nativity scene from his property, local TV station WLWT reported Tuesday night. Jasen Dixon, a Sycamore Township man who manages a haunted house in Indiana, built the manger scene with zombie-like figures standing in for Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus and the three wise men. But town officials following up on two anonymous complaints found that Dixon's handmade nativity scene violated zoning codes."
* Florida: "Officers arrested a Tallahassee woman who they say began to rip apart a Satanic Temple holiday display in the lobby of the Florida Capitol on Tuesday. Susan Hemeryck, 54, told two Florida Department of Law Enforcement Capitol Police officers that she was 'sorry and had to take down the Satanic display,' because it was 'not right' before she attempted to tear it about 11:30 a.m. Hemeryck then tried to remove the display. Officers stopped her and told her to put it back. One of the officers explained to her that removing the display was in violation of the law. In response, Hemeryck said, she 'could not take it anymore' and began to rip the display apart. She was then escorted away and placed under arrest."