In other churches, congregations get a message that’s both more terrifying and more generic. “Our ruling elites hate the future,” says Douglas Wilson at a church in Idaho. “When they are not killing the citizens of the future, they are taxing the remainder into a staggering slavery. They hate it. They hate God and they hate the image of God. They hate the image of God and man, and that’s why they attack the most innocent among us.”
In Rio Rancho, I take a folding chair in the back of the chapel and sing along with some guitar-and-vocals devotionals. The service begins with a church elder affirming that America is “going downhill, and going downhill, fast,” before reading from Chronicles 7:11, Verse 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Hall takes the pulpit only briefly to tell us that his big sermon will come next week. We’ll have to wait to hear who he’s voting for. In the meantime, we’ll hear from “my lawyer,” Joe Infranco. It’s a star turn—Infranco is with the Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly the Alliance Defense Fund), and he’s joined Hall on a tour of New Mexico churches, talking up pulpit freedom. Instead of endorsing a candidate, he’ll describe how far a nation can fall—how much harm can be done to Christians—if the churches don’t engage in political debate. He bemoans the “Starbucks conversation,” in which Christians are uncomfortable saying what they think to strangers.
“What happens when same-sex marriage comes is that if you’re a traditional Christian, it becomes the wrong answer,” he says. “We’re in a culture that prizes relativism. You want to be tolerant. It’s the highest goal in the culture. But tolerance is not virtuous. Tolerating evil is not a great thing.”
Infranco has examples. California may pass a law that bans ex-gay therapy, even as sex-change therapy is encouraged and covered by health insurance. A photographer in New Mexico is fighting off a lawsuit because she chose not to document a gay wedding. Eke Green, a Swedish pastor, is convicted of a hate crime for calling homosexuality an “evil force” and “diabolical power.” (These are Green’s words, not Infranco’s.) It’s happening because Christians don’t fight back.
Infranco describes what happens when he debates, and a student says that the Alliance is trying to “force your morality” on people. “It gets thunderous applause, as if the words came down from Mount Sinai,” he says. “I’ll just say things like: Let me explore what you’re saying. If there’s no absolute truth and no absolute right or wrong, I suppose you don’t criticize Nazi Germany.” The point isn’t to compare the Reich to Obama’s America. The point is that the argument is so easy, and so winnable, if Christians buck the IRS and get into the game.
After the sermon, a small group of parishioners stay and talk with Infranco.
“I just feel like we’re in the minority now,” says one of them, a middle-aged transplant from New York.
“The real discrimination in the culture is absolutely against a Christian who believes in the authority of the Bible,” says Infranco. “You go to California and say ‘I’ve got a same-sex partner.’ You’ll be welcomed in politics. You can be president of a university. You go out and say, I supported Proposition 8, and your restaurant will be boycotted. You’ll be fired from the university.”
“We better start jumpin’ up and down a little more,” says the parishioner.