This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. The big story at the intersection of religion and politics this week is obviously the Values Voters Summit in Washington, which will wrap up this weekend. This is the fourth year for the Family Research Council’s event, now the largest religious right gathering in the country, and by most estimates, this year’s convention was the largest to date.

Republican leaders, including several likely presidential candidates and Fox News personalities, have lined up to show deference to the movement, but the size of the audience seems to be the result of a right-wing, vaguely-theocratic base that feels put upon after GOP defeats in the most recent elections.

Dave Weigel had a good report on the first day of the event. What I found especially interesting is the shift in the religious right’s attitudes, away from the traditional issues (hating gays, promoting school prayer and the Ten Commandments, banning abortion) and towards a more generic Tea Party-like platform.

Attendees were not overly concerned with any particular social issue. They felt attacked on all fronts. There were some warnings of the threat of gay marriage — mostly from Carrie Prejean, the Miss California who lost her bid to become Miss USA after saying she opposed same-sex unions — but angst about a social issue that had riveted conservatives for most of this decade was buried by worries about the other threats to American values. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-Minn.), a likely 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, drew only measured applause when he mentioned “defending traditional marriage.” It was when he mentioned, specifically, the victory of anti-gay marriage forces in California, the applause picked up. Telling activists of a mounting threat was one thing — reminding them that the threat has been identified and met in the streets and at polls was what they wanted to hear.

“This is not politically incorrect!” said Pawlenty. “This is not politically offensive! This is what our founding fathers believed.”

A friend of mine who’s covering the event added, “I survived day one of the ‘Values Voter Summit.’ Three things they do not like: Obama, liberals and health-care reform. Three things they do like: guns, Jesus and Jesus with guns.”

Also from the God Machine this weekL

* Former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page agreed to join President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships earlier this year, but he’s considering stepping down. Page told U.S. News‘ Dan Gilgoff, “I wouldn’t go out huffing and puffing but saying, ‘Have I made any positive contribution?” Within the next month or so I will be able to understand if my own time is well spent there.”

* Rosh Hashanah began last night, and President Obama delivered a video message in honor of the holiday. He included a specific message about his foreign policy relating to Israel: “Let us work to achieve lasting peace and security for the state of Israel so that the Jewish state is fully accepted by its neighbors. And its children can live their dreams free from fear. That’s why my administration has actively pursuing a lasting peace that has eluded Israel and its neighbors for so long.”

* Should a right-wing church, featuring a Birther message out front, be a polling place for voters? Locals in North Richland Hills, near Dallas, are debating the matter.

* Johnny Piper, the mayor of Clarksville, Tenn., is outraged that the U.S. Postal Service offers a stamp that commemorates Eid, an Islamic holiday. Piper has begun forwarding an anti-Muslim email on the subject, blaming President Obama for ordering the stamp’s creation. In reality, the first Eid stamp was issued in 2001 — during the Bush administration — and has been reissued five times since.