For the Christian Coalition's Texas contingency, political priorities reside deep in the heart of lone star hearth and home. Before strategy-talk could commence, attendees at the Texas State Caucus meeting asked God to guide them toward "what's best for our nation and, more importantly, best for Texas."
With nervous charisma and the kind of fervor that has made man the indisputable superior to the armadillo, the scorpion, and even longhorn cattle, Coalition leaders pulled out all the ropes to inspire their geographically disparate masses toward unified action. The round-up take-home message went something like this: Coalition troops must work harder than ever to bridge the distance between heaven and the ballot box, Scripture and the school board.
Jeff Fisher, a Texas Christian Coalition chief of staff, boasted that Texas is home to the most effective Coalition chapters in the nation. The secret? Organized evangelicals from the panhandle to the gulf have successfully energized local campaigns and remained non-partisan in the process. With success has come recognition of "the importance of knowing people in power," Fisher explained.
Quicker than you can say "my mama" with a Phil Gramm-ian intonation, the podium was then seized by a man who declared himself "glad to be in the redemption business." (I didn't catch his surname but his first name was Dick). Dick got right to the point. His mission is to "equip Christians to have an effective voice" in matters both political and civic. "There are 360 days to change Texas!" he challenged, then revealed a reformed three-pronged Christian Coalition strategy of prayer, money, and volunteers. Prayer, he explained, will be held in coalition with Prayer Warriors, and accompanied by fasting.
Dick elaborated. Money, $1.1 million to be exact, will be raised for training workshops, Operation Precinct '96 registration drives, registration Sundays, scorecards, and primary election voters' guides. As election time draws nearer, events will include a Republican rally, videotraining, a statewide precinct walk and a pre-election broadcast to fifty Texas television stations. Training materials and election guides will be printed in English and Spanish. The planned media blitz will feature family-friendly "stars" like Pat Boone and Pat Robertson urging Christians to vote.
David Barton took center stage to drive home the urgency of helping Christians take over the Texas State Board of Education. Together with California, the Texas State Board determines the curriculum of the country, he explained. In California, "now creationism is taught equally with evolution," he informed us, implying that the anti-evolutionary brethren of the golden state have outpaced Texans in the race to Christianize public education.
Scott Fisher, Texas Christian Coalition communications director, announced the upcoming Faith and Freedom Fiesta, a gala event to be held in San Antonio on November 11, 1995. The "highlight of the year for the Texas Pro-Family movement," the Fiesta has been organized to "build meaningful relationships in the Hispanic and African-American communities." Ralph Reed and Justice Raul Gonzales will join pro-family legislators and candidates in presenting "exciting workshops" in the name of "racial reconciliation."
Having recently become partial to uniquely Texan cliches, I was delighted when the meeting ended with a bang. With the prospect of 8,192 precincts waiting to be organized in his state alone, Jeff Fisher let go a parting rallying cry. "Let's get out there and kick some liberal boot!" he shouted.
"Amen," echoed the man behind me. "Amen."
Liz Gore is a research associate with the Institute for Study of the Religious Right in Los Angeles, California.