Sunday, February 27, 2005

Would you believe Christian persecution is on the rise?

The new evangelical army, look for it near you soon.

"How many of you out there think ministering the Word is unpopular?" the Rev. James McDonald asked a rapt crowd of hundreds at the opening ceremony of the National Religious Broadcasters' (NRB - website) convention. A beefy, bald-headed evangelist with a folksy style and an uncanny resemblance to Jesse Ventura, McDonald spent his 30 minute sermon harping on a theme that would dominate the convention: Christian persecution.

For five days inside the Anaheim Convention Center, from February 11-16, the NRB's attendees conducted business as if they were huddled in the catacombs of Rome rather than welcomed guests at a self-contained suburban city of paisley-carpeted hotels, all-you-can-eat buffets and climate-controlled conference halls directly across the street from Disneyland. Indeed, when McDonald asked attendees for a show of hands in affirmation of his question, nearly every hand in the room shot up.

It might seem ironic for McDonald to invoke the spectre of persecution at the convention of a group that represents the interests of 1700 broadcasters and which enjoys unfettered access to congressional Republicans and the White House. The NRB's influence was best summarized by its new CEO, Frank Wright, who, in describing a recent lobbying excursion to Capitol Hill, said, "We got into rooms we've never been in before. We got down on the floor of the Senate and prayed over Hillary Clinton's desk." Wright went on to rally support for the NRB's handpicked candidate for FCC commissioner, whom he refused to name, and rail against federal hate crime legislation because, "Calls for tolerance are often a subterfuge when everything will be tolerated except Christian truth."

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