In recommending Alan Abramowitz’ column on racial/ethnic and religious cleavages in the American population being the basis of partisan polarization, it occurs to me that people who don’t pay much attention to religion might not think it’s that big a deal. But along comes (via Mediate’s Josh Feldman) a good example of how politicized religion might create unusually intense pressure on believers to vote this way or that:

Pastor Robert Jeffress sat down with Bill O’Reilly Monday night to argue that President Obama is laying the groundwork for the rise of the Anti-Christ because he is “conditioning” people to rely on government support. He said there will be a “future world dictator before Christ returns who’s going to usurp people’s personal rights, and “change God’s laws… without any opposition” so “people will have been conditioned long before the Antichrist comes to accept government overreach, and that’s what you’re seeing with President Obama.”

He said, “I’m not saying President Obama is the Anti-Christ. In fact, I’m sure he’s not, because the Anti-Christ is going to have higher poll numbers.”

He argued that in addition to Obamacare creating a culture of dependency, Obama is sowing the seeds for the Anti-Christ with the contraception mandate and “abortion-inducing drugs,” as well as the “redefinition of marriage.” He argued that gay marriage is simply a “counterfeit” of real marriage, and “whenever you say marriage is whatever you want it to be… people say why bother getting married at all.”

Crazy stuff, eh? But Jeffress isn’t some fringe character; he’s pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, a 10,000 member megachurch that has a heavy footprint in the largest Protestant denomination in America, the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s very, very close to Texas Gov. Rick Perry. And his hostility to his fellow-Americans is by no means limited to the President of the United States, viz. this little comment from earlier this year (via RightWingWatch’s Brian Cashman):

The megachurch pastor maintained that abortion rights opponents will “buy a little more time for our country before God’s judgment” comes to America for decriminalizing abortion, just as God punished Israel and Nazi Germany: “He raised up the Babylonians and the Assyrians to judge Israel for engaging in child sacrifice; he raised up the Allied forces to crush Nazi Germany for taking kids to the gas chambers by the trainloads.”

Old Testament and Holocaust analogies are nothing new for the Christian Right, but again: those who think politics is all about economic policy or don’t understand why compromises are difficult to achieve should think about hammering out practical deals with a man who thinks that if you are pro-choice you are for all practical purposes performing child sacrifices or gassing kids “by the trainloads.” We’re talking some pretty serious weltanschaaung differences here, and of course it has an effect on the political party that embraces Jeffress as a distinguished man of the cloth.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.