Friday, April 19, 2019

#2176: Samuel Rodriguez

One of the more powerful figures on the religious right, Samuel Rodriguez is a fundie pastor and founder and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC/CONEL), the largest Hispanic Christian Evangelical/Pentecostal organization in the world. As such, he is also a frequent advisor of lawmakers, wields a substantial influence on policy making, and has been a featured speaker in the White House and at Congressional meetings. Currently he also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Evangelicals, is chair of The Congress of Christian Leaders, and one of the leaders of the dominionist New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

Though frequently portrayed as a political moderate – and despite his frequent self-comparisons with MLK (a cross between Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, Jr. “with a little salsa tossed in,” according to himself) – Rodriguez is solidly wingnut. For the 2016 election he effectively endorsed Trump, for instance, claiming that his very freedom to preach the gospel would otherwise be at risk. (He has also endorsed Jared Kushner, but that’s a different story). Now, Rodriguez does indeed disagree with many fellow wingnuts on the topic of immigration when it suits him (he is on record defending Trump’s wall, however), though his professed reason is that the immigration of evangelical Christian Latinos is part of the salvation and replenishment of Christian America, which is currently under threat of secular persecution – “there is an attempt to silence the voice of Christianity, there is an attempt to silence the voice of truth, of righteousness and Biblical justice,” says Rodriguez – and a bulwark against Islam. Rodriguez was also co-founder and former vice president of the NAR-led, South Carolina-based political project The Oak Initiative, a religio-political organization with a mandate to save America from an imaginary Marxist/Leftist/Homosexual/Islamic enemy, and represented the Initiative on conference calls in preparation for Lou Engle’s rally The Call, Detroit, in 2011, the purpose of which was to help cleanse the city from the demon of Islam by engaging in “spiritual warfare” (Rodriguez resigned from the organization when media started to pay attention). As part of his “nonpartisan” outreach efforts, Rodriguez has participated in numerous religious right rallies, including the 2012 prayer-and-fasting-to-beat-Obama rally “America for Jesus”, filmed an ad for GOPfaith, and appeared for instance in a Champion the Vote’s “nonpartisan” mobilization DVD “One Nation Under God” with James Dobson, David Barton and Newt Gingrich. There is a good portrait of Rodriguez and his wingnuttery here. For anyone still in denial and who doubt Rodriguez’s wingnuttery, the NHCLC has a formal agreement to make Liberty Counsel their official legislative and policy arm, and Mat Staver is a board member of and chief legal counsel to the NHCLC. 

There is a good resource on Rodriguez’s involvement with the NAR here; Rodriguez has for instance asserted that Cindy Jacobs, who routinely claims that her prayers stop terror attacks, save the economy, prevent coups, heal medical conditions, cure insanity, and resurrect people, is “a legitimate prophet of God.”

Rodriguez is, of course, staunchly opposed to marriage equality and abortion, both of which he claims to be the work of demonic spirits: Jezebel, which pushes people into “sexual perversion”, and the spirit of Herod, which is responsible for abortion. He has also called marriage equality an assault on religious freedom because views he disagrees with threaten his religious freedom and are therefore unconstitutional. “This is not an issue of equality. This is an attempt to silence the church of Jesus Christ,” says Rodriguez, a claim  so dumb that it is quite superfluous to point out the laughable false dilemma on which it rests. (It is, of course, this kind of nonsense that for instance qualified him for participating on Rubio’s Religious Liberty advisory board.) “There’s a great probability that in our lifetime,” said Rodriguez, “that we may have to be imprisoned and suffer great persecution, prosecution, as a result of our commitment to biblical truth, to Jesus, to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We are there, my friend,” because America is currently engaged in modern-day Baal worship. “That’s not hyperbole,” Rodriguez asserted, which is technically correct: it isn’t hyperbole; it’s pure delusional fantasy. His evidence is that “many Christians have had conversations” about this very topic, which is not evidence. Since he is deeply confused about the difference between disagreeing with him – or making policy decisions he doesn’t approve of – and violating his religious rights, it is little wonder that he feels persecuted or thinks that marriage equality will lead to anti-Christian discrimination and hate speech laws. It doesn’t make the idea less silly, however.

Rodriguez also promotes right-wing positions on economics and government regulation, and has for instance taken part in a “prayercast” to ask God to defeat the ACA, signing onto declarations that oppose progressive taxation and embraced rhetoric about people being “enslaved” by government and “uber-entitlements.” He has promoted the LIBRE Initiative, saying that it is anti-Christian and anti-American to “punish success”, and embraces a prosperity gospel view of wealth. 

Rodriguez is also the author of e.g. Be Light and Agenda of the Lamb, and executive producer for the 20th Century Fox motion picture The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection.

There is a good Samuel Rodriguez resource here.

Diagnosis: Rightwing fundie extremist. He claims to be nonpartisan and moderate, since lies for Jesus apparently don’t count. Extremely dangerous.

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