Aug 04 2013

A splintering off?

Published by at 8:31 am under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Idaho and Montana, said Chuck Baldwin, co-author of the book “To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should not Give up their guns”, are “the tip of the spear of the freedom fight” because that is where you find lots of “liberty loving, constitutionally oriented people.”

Quite a few self-described conservatives would be nodding their heads to that. Where, in Baldwin’s half-hour discussion following that statement, they might stop nodding and start shaking their heads, is a matter for serious consideration and could be a story of things to come in Idaho.

Baldwin is a Montana minister, chaplain of the group called Oathkeepers, and he was a main speaker at last week’s “Self Reliance” rally sponsored by that organization, held at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. The event reasonably could be called a survivalist gathering, and it attracted a significant number of people, hundreds at least or possibly several thousand, depending on whose numbers you accept. They are more than a tiny fringe, though, as measured by the elected officials present, including Idaho state Representative Vito Barbieri (one of the speakers).

Much of the weekend was basic survivalist fare, talk of stocking up food and ammunition for the coming apocalypse, self-defense, and such favorite topics as the long-discredited Agenda 21 conspiracy. And there were the usual frequent references to “patriots” and “supporters of the constitution,” both of which were meant to include, of course, only people who agree with the speakers’ interpretations. (They didn’t quite go so far as to call everyone else “traitors”, but the implication seemed in the air.)

Baldwin’s speech, available on YouTube, exemplified some of this, but it also featured a challenge aimed more at other stripes of conservative than at liberals.

“It’ll come as a shock to many of you,” he said, that “government is not God.” Lots and lots of people maintain that it is, he said. (Specifics, naturally, were lacking.) That point in place, he then took aim at fellow pastors, a whole lot of whom, he argued, may be well-meaning but tell their congregations that government should be strictly obeyed “no matter what.” (Again, no names were specified.) He told the audience they need to “find a patriot pastor who will tell you the truth.” He helpfully pointed to an online list.

All this sounded like the setup for a larger point: “What we have in America today, instead of prophets and watchmen in the pulpits, we have CEOs over corporations. We have people that are looking at their churches as a corporation. They are dealing with their churches as if it is a corporation. It’s all about success. It all about money and buildings and popularity and image and prestige. Its all about building a corporate church within the political structure of whatever the community is in which they live. And they don’t want to upset that, they don’t want to create division within that. And they will do anything and everything to not offend the political and religious hierarchy in which they are involved.”

So who is he talking about here?

Once again, there were no names mentioned, but we can say this much: The survivalist offshoot of northern Idaho conservatism is political in part not just because politicians show up at the events but because it infuses the politics. And you have to ask: Where will this take Idaho politics? Is it a dead end, or is it continuing its push to the extremes?

The Oathkeeper’s page on which the Baldwin video is embedded contains this comment on the video: “Excellent Speech/Sermon Pastor Baldwin. So refreshing to hear a Pastor speak as a free man and Patriot. Thank you for your service. PS- ‘58 Remington’s go very well with sermons.”

Raising the question: What percentage of self-described Idaho conservatives, and self-described constitutionalists, would agree?

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