It was a Saturday night spent learning about the evils of Dumbledore (gay), Gobber (also gay) and Elsa (lesbian-recruiting bride of Satan).
These rants about “Harry Potter,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Frozen” weren’t out of place at a conference led by Kevin Swanson, a Colorado-based pastor who has warned on his radio program that these fictional characters — along with the Girl Scouts, women’s soccer and day care — are turning kids gays.
What was most remarkable about these polemics against fictional children’s book characters is that they came at an event that was also attended by three men vying for the Republican nomination for president, including a sitting governor and a sitting U.S. senator.
When Swanson announced that he was convening a conservative summit in Des Moines, Iowa, called “Freedom 2015: National Religious Liberties Conference,” it was clear that it was designed to get the attention of Republican presidential candidates. Four agreed to participate, but one unnamed candidate later withdrew, reportedly after a wise campaign aide Googled Swanson’s name and found his catalogue of crazy statements.
But Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal had no such qualms. All three joined Swanson on stage at the conference for individual Q&A sessions, where he inquired about their views on Kim Davis and the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision.
The trio declared their unequivocal support for Davis, the rogue Kentucky clerk who attempted to block marriage licenses for gay couples in her county, and derided the Obergefell ruling as an unlawful violation of both constitutional and biblical codes, so egregious that it should be rebuked if not outright ignored. Another speaker, Cruz’s father and campaign surrogate Rafael Cruz, called on government officials to defy a Supreme Court intent on “trying to cram homosexual marriage down our throats.”
As soon as Huckabee left the stage, Swanson declared that if his own son were to marry another man, he would only attend the wedding after smearing cow manure all over his body.
Swanson closed out the “liberty” conference with a fiery speech in which he proclaimed that although he does believe in the death penalty for gays, he wouldn’t advocate for the government to execute gay people — or, at least, not yet.
The conditions aren’t right, Swanson explained. The culture hasn’t fully embraced his movement’s version of Christianity, and therefore gay people don’t know that homosexuality is a death penalty crime that they must renounce before it provokes divine destruction. He said he would recommend that the government wait to impose the death penalty until the culture shifts, giving gays time to repent.
Draconian measures to stop homosexuality are warranted, in Swanson’s view, not only because he believes the Bible mandates them, but also because he thinks that the gay threat is coming from all directions: country music, soccer, schools, day care and Girl Scout cookies.
The views that Swanson expressed at the conference reflect his ties to a movement known as Christian Reconstructionism.
Reconstructionists not only call for “lesser magistrates” like Davis to defy rulings like Obergefell by invoking “God’s authority,” as Davis did, but also to demand that all government officials enforce Old Testament laws (or, at least, the Old Testament laws that they want enforced). After all, they say, whatever contradicts God’s law is no law at all.
Philip Kayser of Biblical Blueprints told one breakout session at the conference that while it may be unrealistic to expect the national imposition of biblical law at this point, it can still be achieved at state and local levels. He urged government officials like Davis to flout the federal government in order to impose their religious beliefs over whatever jurisdiction where they have sway. Such “interposition” is justified, Kayser said, as long as public officials do it in a “biblical and Christ-centric” way. “In my book, she is a hero,” Kayser said of Davis. “Magistrates must follow Christ in their interposition.”
Kayser, like Swanson, has repeatedly backed instituting the death penalty for gay people in order to comply with biblical dictates, a position he outlined in a pamphlet he distributed at the summit. (Kayser’s pamphlet also calls for capital punishment for blasphemers, Sabbath-breakers, apostates and witches.)
Another Reconstructionist preacher who spoke at the conference, Joel McDurmon, has said that the U.S. must embrace and enforce Old Testament laws, but that is achievable only once the country is successfully evangelized.
Some Reconstructionists also back “biblical patriarchy,” the idea that Christians must follow strict gender roles within the family, which for women means bearing and raising as many children as possible in order to repopulate the earth with believers.
In order to change the culture in their direction, the thinking goes, believers must first have lots of children (birth control is considered just as bad as abortion, as it fills women’s wombs with “dead babies,” at least according to Swanson). Then, these families must adhere to the rule of male headship over the family. These strong, male-led families then create strong, male-led churches, which will then create strong, male-led societies, ones where government welfare programs and intervention in the economy aren’t needed, and cultural ills like feminism fall away as cosmopolitan liberals, with their low birth rate, are outvoted.
But for Reconstructionists, the war isn’t just about demographics. It is also a cosmic battle.
That is where Elsa comes in.
While these women may be having a “Quiverfull” of children (a la the Duggars), Satan is coming for them, and he takes insidious forms, such as Disney movies.
As Swanson explained on his radio show last year:
How many children are taken into these things and how many Christians are taking their kids off to see the movie “Frozen,” produced by an organization that is probably one of the most pro-homosexual organizations in the country? You wonder sometimes, I’m not a tinfoil hat conspiratorialist, but you wonder sometimes if maybe there’s something very evil happening here. If I was the Devil, what would I do to really foul up an entire social system and do something really, really, really evil to five- and six- and seven-year-olds in Christian families around America?
Friends, this is evil, just evil. I wonder if people are thinking: “You know, I think this cute little movie is going to indoctrinate my five-year-old to be a lesbian or treat homosexuality or bestiality in a light sort of way.” I wonder if the average parent going to see “Frozen” is thinking that way.
One conference presenter, Geoff Botkin, told attendees that “Let It Go,” the iconic song from “Frozen,” is “Satan’s rebellion anthem,” as it convinces children to rebel against God. He lamented that Christian families are unwittingly turning their kids over to Satan when they see “Frozen” or let them “sing ‘Let It Go’ while taking a shower.”
As Botkin explained in his session, which focused on the “ten planks of communism,” of the three major threats to America, Christians who don’t abide by biblical law are the greatest, even worse than Islam and progressivism.
Even worse than Christians who aren’t abiding by Old Testament dictates, he said, are the Christians who preach social justice, advocate liberal policies and are fully inclusive of women and the LGBT community. These scorned people of faith were also meeting that weekend in Des Moines to warn about cries of “religious liberty” becoming a cover for a larger right-wing agenda.
But three Republican presidential candidates, who have all turned the imaginary persecution of Christians in America into a central campaign message, didn’t seem to mind that they were appearing at a conference whose organizer who is looking forward to the day when America is repentant enough that the government can impose the death penalty on gay people, rails against children’s books and movies, and attacks large swathes of Christians as apostates.