One of the giveaways at the recent Values Voter Summit was a new book from Jim Garlow, a California pastor who mobilized churches to organize on behalf of California’s anti-marriage-equality Prop 8 in 2008 and says his daily one-minute radio commentaries are heard on 850 stations across the country.
After getting through Garlow’s “Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues,” I was surprised that David Barton was not mentioned in the acknowledgments, because the book is a very Bartonesque argument that politicians should look to the Bible for policy guidance on everything from healthcare to the minimum wage to climate change.
“There is no major world issue about which the Word does not provide basic and transcendent truths,” Garlow writes. He complains that people understand that the Bible applies to their personal lives, but
…when we hear the word political, we shut our Bibles and recoil, as if God has no interest in government, in spite of the fact that it was God who first invented it (Isaiah 9:6). Christians—particularly pastors—seem to run from the political. The Evil One delights over this situation. But a Sovereign King refuses to yield any ground to the Evil One. He intends for us to do the same.
Garlow’s first chapter asks, “Why are we quiet?” Perhaps in a nod to Donald Trump, Garlow says the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which bans overt politicking by tax-exempt nonprofit organizations, including churches, “effectively silenced and muzzled all pastors.” Anyone who follows American politics can be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the notion that conservative religious leaders have been “silenced” and “muzzled,” but it is an article of faith at Religious Right gatherings that America’s moral decline is the fault of overly timid preachers. Garlow does not like timid, and neither, he says, does Jesus, whom he describes as a “man’s man” and “no wimp.”
We are in a war: a war for truth, righteousness, and justice. The pages that follow are designed to equip you for success in those battles. Welcome to the war.
Garlow says what he’s calling for is “biblical applicationalism” and a return to the idea of a nation founded on biblical truth. He repeatedly says that he is not calling for theocracy, and says he’s not a dominionist. But among those whose quotes he uses to open chapters in his book is Christian Reconstructionist Gary DeMar. And one of three people he thanks as members of his “spectacular research and writing team” is Gary Cass, who Garlow calls “a pastor who ‘gets it,’ who has a staggering grasp of historical theology and its relevance to current culture.” Cass is a former director of the Center for Reclaiming America for Christ. Two years ago he generated controversy with a Charisma magazine column entitled “Why We Cannot Coexist,” in which he said that Muslims and Christians cannot co-exist and that “The only thing that is biblical and that 1400 years of history has shown to work is overwhelming Christian just war and overwhelming self-defense.” After the column generated a protest campaign with the hashtag #CancelTheCrusades, Charisma took down Cass’s call to “crush the vicious seed of Ishmael in Jesus name.”
Garlow does not call for a worldwide holy war, but he does complain, “Our societal and cultural desire to accept everyone has stopped us from acknowledging the evil clearly written into Islamic tenets.”
Garlow, like Donald Trump, disparages political correctness:
Not surprisingly, the promoters and users of PC tactics are those who typically hate biblical truth, traditional morality, sexual restraint, personal responsibility, the nuclear family, or any other concept based on transcendent, unchanging truth revealed by an almighty God for our society’s good.
Says Garlow, “Unfortunately, Christian religious tolerance has devolved into a secular monstrosity called multiculturalism.” Tolerance is a “weapon” to “destroy and discredit our values in the public square,” he writes.
Cultural progressives will not be satisfied with silence; they want a complete and unconditional surrender. That is the nature of spiritual warfare; there is no peaceful coexistence.
“Religious liberty is under attack from godless, sexual anarchists,” he declares. Garlow, of course, is stridently opposed to legal equality for LGBT people. “There is no God-given right to do wrong,” he writes. “Every sinful act is by definition a lawless one.” Garlow says it is “quite likely” that “there is no such thing” as sexual orientation and he seems to wish gay people would just slink back into the closet. “For years that chant was, what we do in our bedroom is our business,” he writes. “If that is the case, then they should keep their business in their bedrooms.”
Hate crimes laws are, in his view, “inherently unjust” and “are a form of legally justified revenge against someone whose actions violate some standard of political correctness.” And, he says, “Hate crimes inevitably lead to hate speech and ultimately thought crimes.”
Garlow also devotes plenty of space to arguments about the kinds of authority the Bible grants to government, ideas that are grounded in Christian Reconstructionism and have been embraced by much of the Religious Right. The term social justice “has taken a distinctly anti-scriptural meaning,” he says, and liberal churches “cherry-pick the Bible to advance a humanistic (Marxist) definition of economic justice.”
“The biggest problem is that it confuses social justice’s governmental confiscation of private property with authentic biblical justice, which it isn’t,” says Garlow. Some taxation is biblically acceptable, he says, in order to pay for things like national defense. But, he argues, “Nowhere in the Bible is the government authorized to take from the rich to give to the poor nor to redistribute wealth.” That kind of taxation, he says, is theft:
Any forced redistribution of the fruit of a man’s labor violates God’s command not to steal. Theft is still theft, even when it’s the government picking your pocket. Whether by a gun (a thief) or through a tax (by the IRS), the impact is still the same: you no longer have what you earned.
Food stamps are also unbiblical, he says. Not surprisingly, Garlow cites Star Parker, a favorite at Religious Right conferences for her attacks on welfare recipients as lazy freeloaders. Writes Garlow, “Show me a person who uses their welfare dollars to buy lottery tickets and play the casino slots, and you will see as much greed as an inner city slumlord.”
Because he argues that the Bible gives churches, not government, the responsibility to care for the poor, Garlow’s proposal for a “biblical tax code” includes a 3.33 percent tax that would be given to local houses of worship, replacing government welfare programs that he says are rife with abuse and corruption. He says by letting churches take care of people, his plan would be “assuring funds went to the genuinely needy, offering job hunting assistance, and, at the same time, proper prodding of the slothful and lazy.”
Social Security is also unbiblical, according to Garlow. “Biblically, entitlement programs and forced savings/retirement insurance programs like Social Security are never the role of the civil government,” he says. “With the Social Security Act of 1946, the government has stepped outside of its prescribed role and into areas it had no right to enter.”
Besides, “Where does it say in the Bible that we are supposed to retire at sixty-five, or at any age for that matter?” Garlow asks. He complains, “After a life of hard work, Americans now feel an entitlement to unproductivity.” But sooner or later Social Security will collapse and people will get back to “God’s design for society” by “having lots of godly, hardworking children” who will take care of their parents in old age.
Garlow also takes on climate change, writing that “at its core global warming is a battle between two worldviews in direct opposition: biblical truth and evolutionary untruths.” Garlow writes that “all the major global datasets reveal the earth hasn’t warmed since 1977” and “NASA scientists are now discovering record levels of ice in the Arctic.” Writes Garlow, “The reality is this: we’re all just fine. God remains in complete control of His creation.”
Just to do a little reality check on his claims, August 2016 was the 16th straight hottest month ever recorded globally. And while Antarctic wintertime ice hit record highs in 2012-2014 before returning to average levels in 2015, “both the Arctic wintertime maximum and its summer minimum extent have been in a sharp decline for the past decades,” according to NASA. “Studies show that globally, the decreases in Arctic ice far exceed the increases in Antarctic sea ice.”
On it goes, through 31 chapters. Our educational system “is consumed with anti-Christian bigotry.” Government should do away with no-fault divorce. Unions were legitimate at a time of deplorable and dangerous working conditions, but have “become as abusive as eighteenth century employers.” God wants workers and employers to negotiate without any third-party involvement from government or unions. In a break with the hard right, Garlow does call for immigration reform that offers those who have been in the country illegally a pathway to remaining in the country.
Garlow also takes on the federal judiciary. He calls the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling “quite possibly the strongest attack on Christians and Christian values ever written by a sitting Justice in a majority opinion.” Justices, he says, are “knowingly lying about what the Constitution says and what its words mean and, as such, are in direct violation of Exodus 20:16,” which prohibits “false testimony.”
Garlow says there’s no quick fix to bad court rulings because Congress doesn’t have the courage to impeach justices. It will require “America to experience a spiritual renewal, or at least an adherence to biblical values such as integrity.” But he does call for state officials to nullify and defy federal court rulings on abortion and LGBT equality: “We need principled, constitutional, pro-life, and pro-family state legislators and governors to defy the Feds and enforce state laws.” And he calls for individual citizens to nullify “ungodly” and “unjust” laws, citing the Manhattan Declaration’s vow of civil disobedience and adding, “May we have the discernment and courage to do what is right and obey God rather than man.”