The spring of 2005 has been a banner for Columbus' tele-revivialist cum spiritual adviser to the Republican Party, Rod Parsley, Pastor of World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester; interviews in James Dobson's daily online news commentary Citizen Link and Chuck Colson's Breakpoint; features in Charisma Magazine, the Scaife owned Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Columbus Dispatch, the Other Paper and the Newark Advocate; and citations in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News.

Also, there was the op-ed in the Charlotte Observer and the photo-ops with Sen. Sam Brownback. He was hobnobbing with old friends Ken Blackwell, Cincinnati moral crusader Phil Burress, former Ohio Congressman, Bob McEwen, former Alabama Supreme Justice Roy Moore, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. Let's not forget his Center for Moral Clarity, the Ohio Restoration Project, and his Patriot Pastors. And, of course, the launch of his 12-city Silent No More book tour at World Harvest on April 16 which brought to town rightwing writer and TV starlet Ann Coulter, Christian insult comedian Brad Stine, and another old friend, former UN Ambassador, presidential candidate, and recreational mosher Allen Keyes.

Pretty good for a good ol' boy from Martin County, Kentucky who likes to say his home was so far out in the sticks that they had to pipe in sunshine and use hoot owls for roosters.

The Free Press attended the book launch and rally at World Harvest. Rally security at World Harvest was tight. Bags were inspected, the press suspect. A man from a local radio station told me that security followed him into the restroom asking what he intended to do there. Apparently they were concerned that he'd pull a custard pie out of his pants and hurl it at the recently pied Ann Coulter. If all of this sounds a bit paranoid, it was. And, it definitely wasn't fun. I've attended numerous Biblical American events in arenas, convention centers, churches, and in the streets with big names including Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauer, Tom Delay, Don Wildmon, D. James Kennedy, Pat Robertson, Gerald Ford, Flip Benham, Ron Luce, Josh McDowell, Ken Starr, Phyllis Schlafly, and Roberta Combs, but I have never experienced the spookiness that gripped World Harvest that evening. The guy behind me asked several times, "Have you ever seen a church like this?"

The truth is, that World Harvest is not your parents' white steeple church. Like other outer belt mega-churches, it melds evangelical Christianity, entertainment, and new technology into a "safe" entertainment and "worship" space for mostly prosperous sub-and exurban socially conservative escapees from Sin City, including a substantial number of African Americans. The state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, big screen TVs, light show, and minimalist auditorium set design, oddly reminiscent of the 1960s TV music show Hullabaloo - without Lada Edmond, Jr's boog-a-loo (perhaps Ann Coulter could audition) - cocoons its members in a hyperreal Disney World of Biblical pleasure and pop consumerism.

Has Rod Parsley ever been silent?

Rod Parsley has always had an image problem. He's the pastor of one of the largest churches in Central Ohio. He runs a Bible College, a prep school, and the Center for Moral Clarity, a "political ministry" that sponsored the book launch, rally and other events of a political nature. He takes his crusades all over the country and overseas; he's got an international viewing audience. He hangs out with nationally known politicians, advises Ken Blackwell. But to a lot of people, even other evangelical Christians, he's a flim-flam man, a guy who can turn a buck faster than a speeding bullet, somebody who falls asleep every night with The Elmer Gantry Bedside Reader in his hand. He just don't get no respect. But things are changing.

For years, Parsley has been politically outspoken - abortion for instance - though last summer World Harvest was picketed by Operation Save America who were waving their bay-bee blender bits posters over the church's alleged refusal to get involved with their dog, pony, and ass show downtown. A spokesperson for the church told the Free Press at the time, however, that to the best of his knowledge nobody had ever asked the church to participate. For a long time now one of Parsley's major issues has been the First Amendment Right of pastors and churches, and he's been working for passage of HR235, the federal Houses of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act.

Last year, though, Parsley ramped it up, and took an active role in the Ohio election. He held a Pastor's Conference at World Harvest that featured Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. During Parsley's religio-political "Silent No More" speaking tour in the fall, Blackwell sometimes traveled with him. Their most notorious coupling was recorded by TV cameras at the Cathedral of Praise Church in Sylvania Township outside of Toledo when Blackwell joined Parsley in the pulpit and dissed same sex marriage. "That notion even defies barnyard logic - even the barnyard knows better." Blackwell has participated in other events at World Harvest and reportedly spoke there the day after the book launch. He also endorses Silent No More saying it should "make 'values voters' a force that politicians can no longer ignore."

Parsley and Blackwell, along with professional starvation artist and youth evangelist Lou Engle, the Chaplains of the U.S. House and the Pentagon, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Fox News commentator Kelly Wright were listed in the Elijah List newsletter as committed to lead prayers at the Inaugural Prayer Breakfast on January 20 in Washington. Most recently, Parsley participated in a press conference at the request of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senators Sam Brownback and Jeff Sessions, Bishop Harry Jackson and other African-American clergy on behalf of the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown to the Circuit Court.

Parsley is also a member of the Arlington Group, a coalition organized in the mid-1990s by Free Congress Foundation CEO Paul Weyrich. This gang of heavy hitters includes James Dobson, Don Wildmon (American Family Assoc), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Janet Folger (Faith2Action, former director of The Center for Reclaiming American, and former legislative director of Ohio Right to Life), Randy Thomas (Exodus International), Phil Burress, Matt Staver (Liberty Counsel), Richard Land (Southern Baptist Convention), and, not surprisingly, Ken Blackwell.

Their meetings, like those of the murky Council for National Policy, are held off-the-record. According to Weyrich, the effort to place anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballots in 11 states emanated from the AG, and the resources to go full-tilt in Ohio were raised from participants in the group.

Parsley doesn't seem to talk much about these connections, though, at - least not in public - and certainly not at the book launch. They do help explain, however, his recent appearances in the national media. Connections. Connections. Parsley seems to prefer his folksy poor-boy-made-good-through-hard-work image to the corporate Christian persona. Anyone who has watched his Breakthrough TV show can attest that he's a charismatic speaker of the Old School of Southern Oratory, even if it's open secret that every sermon is carefully planned, worded, and choreographed, every pause, every amen, every organ riff stage-managed for optimum results.

Probably the best-known sound bite from the Parsley book sermon is about his "nonpartisanship," though if anyone went through the rest of the speech they'd see very little of it. Parsley says he's neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but a Christocrat. You can bet your little pea pickin' heart, though, that he's not gonna come out for Mike Coleman for governor very soon.

"I intend to speak to both sides of the political spectrum." Parsley exhorted. "To the believing and non-believing. To the socially conscientious as well as the economically conscientious. I intend to take issues that traditionally belong to the left and commit them to the right. I intend to take the concerns of the religious and commend them to the secular. Let me say it this way. In short, in the book Silent No More, I intend to offend everybody "I suppose you could say I intend to be an equal opportunity offender."

Although the sermon sounded canned in person, it was still rather jarring, though not surprising, given Parsley's well made sermons, to hear this near exact quote a few days later recorded at another venue. And so far he doesn't seem to have offended the Right.

The book launch was a sermon that wasn't, but we'll call it that anyway. It was a sales pitch, a scintillating preview of things to come, an offer nobody could refuse. Pitchmen walked the aisles at various times hawking books signed by Parsley himself. I worried about his hand and bought two copies. Even Allen Keyes got into it at the event, nearly shaming us into compliance to think about what "Pastor Rod" plans to do. "The question really put to you tonight in terms of our resources, in terms of your time, in terms of your commitment - where will you be?" When the collection was taken up later, I noted that credit card numbers are to be written on the outside of the envelope. Visions of free trips to Las Vegas and clubbing in the Caymans into my head.

Parsley took on Islam. "I will rail against the idea that the god of Islam and the god of Christianity are the same being."

That morning, however, Parsley, in a phone interview with Dave Daubenmire on WRFD-AM told Coach that he would gladly greet any Muslim cleric at World Harvest. I won't hold my breath.

Parsley took on what he calls "spiritual racism" caused by a "bankrupt educational system" that tells African Americans that the "slave religion" of Islam is their traditional religion and that Christianity is "the white man's religion." He took on Louis Farrakhan, Mohammad, and Queen Noor of Jordan (American Lisa Hallaby, the widow of King Hussein). "She's obviously never been to Sudan where women are having their arms hacked off and men their hands cut off. It's in the book! It's in the book!"

He said the church had been intimidated - by "spiritual racism" presumably, but didn't say by who? The bankrupt educational system? The Nation of Islam? Queen Noor? He took on homosexuality, claiming that the life expectancy of gay men, excluding AIDS is 43 years; for lesbians, 45 years. He took on "the media's high-tech persecution" of Christianity. But mostly he took on activist judges that have "driven the founding faith of our nation from the marketplace of ideas" and used the First Amendment "to drive Christianity from the public square."

The separation of church and state to Parsley is a lie perpetrated on Americans - especially believers in Jesus Christ. To him the church is the sleeping giant that has the ability and the anointing from God to transform America. He calls it the largest special interest group in the country, and promises that the U.S. and the world are about to learn just how powerful it is.

Parsley sees himself as a wall builder and a wall buster. As a wall builder he will restore Godly presence in government and culture; as a wall buster he will tear down the church-state wall. "I would like to know who the federal government thinks they are to tell me where I can and where I cannot declare that which God Almighty has spoken with me and my spirit," he says. "I will say it on the street corner and I will not set my citizenship at the door of the church!"

The crowd loved it.
Parsley: "Let the Revolution begin!"
Response: "Let the Revolution begin!"
It's beginning to sound like a Teen Mania event.

Is Ann Coulter a Born Again Christian?

According to the World Harvest Bible College dress code for women, "dresses or skirts must reach the middle of the knee when standing at normal posture. Slits in front, back or side are to extend no more than one inch above the middle of the knee" If Ann Coulter were a WHBC student (which she no doubt would never be) she'd have been booted out the minute she stepped on campus. La Coulter, being Republicany Correct, of course, and an alleged role model for World Harvest women, was granted special dispensation for her trademark mini. It was fun waiting for her to drop her notes and bend over and give the boys in the band a shot. She didn't.

Coulter gave a restrained (for her) and unevangelical performance, with only a small tip of the hat to the public role of the church in politics at the very end. In fact, there was a niggling feeling (or maybe it was just me) that she actually held her hosts in contempt. After all, anybody who shacks with Bob Guccione, Jr. and Bill Maher, who hates to miss the drag queen's Halloween parade in the Village, and who says she lives on cigarettes and Chardonnay can't be all that theocratically inclined. If some of her more far-out friends actually got control and tried to put her in a knee-length skirt, she'd be the first to hit the Canadian border.

Coulter spent the majority of her time attacking Democrats and liberals in general, the "liberal media," in particular, conservative "pundit" Tucker Carlson (apparently for his criticism of the Iraq War), MSNBC (which fired her and "needs to go off the air") and even Fox News, claiming it "isn't always that great." Coulter martyrized: "If Roger Ailes goes, we're finished." She advised everybody to go to Hollywood and make movies.

Entertainingly, Coulter conjured up the ghosts of Richard Nixon and Alger Hiss, throwing in some free advice from Don Corelone on revenge - references that likely left much of the audience clueless, but no less enthusiastic. "CBS News represents the Left's enduring hatred of Richard Nixon for getting Alger Hiss," she smugly informed us. "Liberals waited 25 years to get Richard Nixon and we waited 35 to get Dan Rather. Rest in peace, Richard Nixon. We got Rather!" And, of course, she offered a shopping list of Democratic Party offenses including support of gay marriage, abortion, and teachers' unions.

She insisted that Democrats, not Republicans, are owned by Wall Street, (how about both?) and followed with the simple-minded, "I can't see arguing that Ken Lay is evil where George Soros is a great American. Either they're both evil or they're both not."

The hilarious highlight came, though, in questions 6 and 7 during the Q&A period. In question 6, a woman introducing herself as a mother who weirdly sees Coulter as a "wonderful role model for my children," asked if a woman would ever become president. Coulter replied: "But they [Democrats] just want to randomly choose some nitwit like Barbara Boxer, for instance. Or Hillary. How about that for a role model? Hillary. Get ahead by who you're married to. That's a good role model for girls."

This was followed by Question 7, from a female college student asking advice on how to take back universities from liberals.

Coulter replied: "That's very simple - especially with a pretty girl like you asking the question. You must join College Republicans. I promise you a lot of men will join. And since you're in college, I gotta give you a tip. It's a great way to meet heterosexual men " And there are a lot of pretty girls in College Republicans, which is why my male friends like going to my college speeches with me. "

Who says Republicans don't do irony?

Marley Greiner is a Free Press Board member and a freelance writer and activist.

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