Thursday, September 5, 2013

#694: Jim Garlow

Jim Garlow is the Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, a virulent radio personality (“The Garlow Perspective”, and “The Garlow Perspective Special”), and founder and leader of several wingnut organizations such as “Renewing American Leadership Action”. He is particularly well-known for being Gingrich’s most ardent religious right supporter during the 2012 Republican primaries, often with amusing, and quite often scary, results.

Zeh Gays
His views on gay marriage are rather predictable, but his arguments are even more incoherent than most. Garlow claims, for instance, that gay marriage equals slavery for Christians, and that legalizing gay marriage would mean reversing the abolition of slavery in the US; the claim is not further explained (though this exchange with Matt Staver is illuminating).

Garlow has urged supporters of LGBT rights to “dial down the rhetoric” and keep the debate reasonable. That request was made in the very same speech in which he claimed that it is obvious that Satan is behind the gay agenda. After Obama came out in support of gay marriage Garlow asserted that religious liberty and “the radical homosexual agenda” were headed for outright war since “they cannot both exist in the same nation at the same time,” and warned that advances in marriage equality will force the Christian church underground and the liberties and freedom of Christians be taken away from them. Yet, martyr as he is, Garlow would nevertheless continue to speak out against the gays, even though “we are coming into an era where it could cost us everything, including our lives”.

Never one to shy away from grandiose delusions, Garlow has compared himself to Revolution time War pastors who fought the British because, just like these pastors, Garlow is willing to declare “if necessary, here we die!” He seems unaware that just declaration such things doesn’t make you a hero unless you are taking a genuine risk, but in Garlow’s world the mere fact that people disagree with him constitutes a violation of his rights and a threat to his person.

Nor is Garlow one to shy away from Post modernist talking points if they can serve his agenda. According to Garlow, “sexual orientation” doesn't really exist and is just a modern phenomenon cooked up in the last few years (though he remains impervious to the fact that “x is a social construct” does not mean that “x does not really exist”).

He was, in other words, not particularly happy about the Supreme Court marriage equality rulings, accusing the court of trying to “flex muscles against almighty God” by “obliterating marriage”. (Before the ruling he had, once again, affirmed that an affirmative ruling on marriage equality would force Christians underground; Garlow himself appears, rather unfortunately, to continue to be very much around).

As for politics, Garlow, who has – in a particularly reality-deficient mode – lamented the lack of influence of preachers on politics, claims that being politically on the left is incompatible with being a true Christian (because it would entail disagreeing with Garlow), and that if Obama was reelected in 2012 all hope for the salvation of America will be lost. Indeed, during the 2012 Republican primaries he claimed that if the Republicans lost the election America would lose its biblical understanding of almost everything; it is unclear what that even means (it seems to be intended to mean something related to economic debt), far less that it would be a bad thing. It would also have been the end of Western Civilization, though once again the evidence to support the claims rather than paranoid delusions is sorely absent. There are “only 61 days of America left” he declared 61 days before the election, but unfortunately he appears to be still around (his doomsday speech after the election contained some predictably mindnumbing hyperbole, though)

Scholarly Production
Garlow is the author of numerous books, including Cracking Da Vinci’s Code (with Peter Jones, claiming that Dan Brown’s popular novel not only contained numerous falsehoods, such as the idea that Jesus was not divine, but also that Brown had a sinister, hidden agenda), The Secret Revealed (yes, an expose on the New Age book “The Secret”, which deserves all criticism it can get, though Garlow is probably not the right person to do it), Encountering Heaven and the Afterlife: True Stories from People Who Have Glimpsed the Afterlife (duh!), How God Saved Civilization, and A Christian’s Response to Islam.

Diagnosis: One of the least coherent fundies on the religious right, and that says quite a bit. He has become rather influential, and pals around with central extremists such as Staver and Barton, and should thus surely be watched.

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