They say a man is known by the company he keeps. If that’s true, some of the folks that state legislature candidate Jason Conger hangs with might say something troubling about him.
Back in January, a Bend group called Prepare the Way held a “Cities Wide [sic] Prayer Meeting” to support the Republican Conger’s campaign for Democrat Judy Steigler’s House seat.
“We are asking that you share about this gathering with your pastors and Christian leaders,” an announcement of the event on Prepare the Way’s website said. “Help spread the word so we can gather as a City church, letting go of denominationalism, standing together to support a Godly man willing to represent God in a very challenging hour in government.”
Toward the end, the announcement got kind of scary. Introducing a quote from Archie P. Jones, it said: “We must not stand idly by while the enemy takes what is rightfully ours. Christians have DOMINION on this earth by the blood of the Lamb!” (Capitals in original.)
A little explanation of who Archie P. Jones is and what “Dominionism” means is in order here.
“Dominionism” is a doctrine embraced by many Christian fundamentalists that essentially says Christians have a divinely ordained right – indeed, a duty – to rule the Earth. According to the ReligiousTolerance.org website, Dominionists think the verse in Genesis saying man shall rule over all the creatures on Earth “commands Christians to bring all governments, societies, and cultures worldwide under the rule of the Word of the Judeo-Christian God as they interpret it to be.”
Archie P. Jones is a prominent Dominionist author and scholar. In a 1980 essay entitled “Civil Government: The Neglected Ministry” he wrote that the legitimate role of government is “to enforce God’s law” and that “the ruler, in his pastoring, teaching function, must enforce God's laws, God's moral system and moral teaching.”
(If you’re in any doubt as to which end of the political spectrum Jones believes to be on God’s side, it might help to know that he co-authored a book titled “Born to Lie: From the Birth Certificate to Health Care” that, among other things, tries to revive the discredited smear that Barack Obama isn’t a native-born American citizen.)
When I asked Jason Conger if he agreed with the Dominionist doctrine, he replied: “I have to be honest and tell you I don’t even know what a Dominionist is.” After I gave a brief explanation, he said that “any kind of imposition of a state religion I certainly don’t believe in. I’m a believer in the Constitution and I completely respect the provisions dealing with the establishment of religion.”
Conger explained that the January prayer meeting came about because Stephen Williams, the founder of Prepare the Way, and his wife are “very dear friends of ours.” Stephen Williams formerly was a teacher in Cupertino, CA and became something of a right-wing media celebrity in 2004 when he tangled with the school district over bringing religion into the classroom. He also ran unsuccessfully for the Bend-LaPine School Board in 2007.
Conger says he supports the Constitution, and I have no reason to doubt him. His campaign website doesn’t present any wacky ideas – in fact, it’s pretty bland. And he belongs to Trinity Lutheran Church, which is hardly out there on the lunatic fringe.
But his closeness to Williams and his group makes me wonder where he’d stand if pushed hard on issues such as civil unions for homosexuals, prayer in the schools, abortion rights and Oregon’s Death With Dignity law. Hopefully that will become clearer between now and November.