My report from the Church Lady convention

30 Oct 2011 01:04 pm
Posted by: Donna

I went to the Center For Arizona Policy Faith in Action Tour, featuring Dr. Del Tackett yesterday morning. I stayed through most of it and took some notes.

Let me start by saying that the “non-denominational Bethany Bible Church is enormous. It’s a large campus with several buildings, including the spacious auditorium where the Tour was held. It staggers me when I consider that Bethany Bible is but one of many similarly ostentatious mega-churches in the Valley. There are at least four I can think of right off the top of my head within the North Central Phoenix corridor. There were three within a five mile radius of my house when I lived in Ahwatukee. Gleaming monuments to tax exemption.

I arrived at 9:20 and parked my car in the huge parking lot. Hundreds of people had already arrived and I saw many late-model expensive cars and SUVs. I checked in at the registration table and entered the event. Outside the auditorium were the inevitable exhibitors and here they were the usual assortment of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, missionary groups, and hawkers of (expensive) religious training materials. I got two free DVDs as I walked around the displays. One was for the Truth Project and the other was a Dr. Del Tackett lecture.

I took a seat inside. It was a nearly sold out crowd. Let me say that I didn’t go intending to poke fun at the facilitators or the attendees. Which is probably a good thing because I certainly didn’t find anything amusing there. The whole thing filled me with disgust from the get-go. The crowd was easily 95% lily-white and affluent looking. They had that smug sanctimonious air about them that turned me off from organized religion at a very early age.

The program started with some local CAP dude laying out the agenda and telling what I suppose were jokes, since they drew peals of laughter, but I couldn’t understand them because they were in evangelical code language. Then there was an inspirational video about something or other. And then Cathi Herrod got up and said some things and then it was time for Dr. Tackett.

Del Tackett is “the author, architect and teacher for Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project” according to his website. CAP enthusiastically pushes the Truth Project in its work here in Arizona. Tackett’s speech to the Faith in Action crowd was mostly hokey platitudes and he reminded me of every scam artist motivational or snake oil pusher I’ve ever listened to. I looked around at the smug affluent white people in the audience around me, who were nodding in rapt agreement at everything he said, and thought “You have GOT to be kidding me. You guys are really falling for this charlatan?” There was a theme to Tackett’s sales pitch, though. He emphasized the need to “love thy neighbor” and stressed the importance of small groups within the larger church. This has been an important strategy for right wing theocrats. Small groups make people in them feel more connected and also more obligated and accountable. This is also how cults and pyramid schemes operate.

Tackett loaded his talk with personal anecdotes of international travel and they always ended well, with the people he encountered receiving whatever Biblical wisdom he wanted them to receive. What a phony. Oh, and “God loves freedom” and numerous references to The Enemy, as in “God loves to empower. The Enemy does the opposite.” “The Enemy wants to suck all power.” Woo, that sounds scary.

Tackett was finally done and it was Cathi Herrod’s turn to speak. That, of course, was preceded by a hagiography video about CAP and Cathi Herrod. Herrod describes herself as a “former pro-choice feminist” who came to Jesus while in law school. She is very glib and really lays on the faux folksy and maternal schtick. The Faith in Action Tour billed itself as getting Christians involved in the community. Herrod made it clear that involvement meant political. Really strong pitch to get the audience motivated to pressure politicians to enact “family values” legislation. Which means banning abortion, getting the gays back in the closet, and tax dollars going to religious schools, among other things. Herrod got big applause when she claimed that a reduction in the number of abortions in Arizona was due to CAP sponsored laws limiting access to abortion. And when she praised “crisis pregnancy centers”.

When she was done State Senator Rick Murphy and his wife Penny got up and talked about the many children they’ve adopted and fostered. Which is laudable, except for the part where they emphasized how important it is to inculcate the young charges with “Christian Values”.

Next up was the Q and A panel featuring Herrod, Dr. Tackett, and some woman named Carmen Pate. They each did some opening remarks. In hers, Herrod spoke of being concerned about religious liberty – being able to “practice religion in the public square”, as she put it. She resents the expectation that the practice of religion should be “confined to the four walls of church”. Yeah, no shit, Cathi. She also said something that really made me want to line up to ask a question (unfortunately I couldn’t stay past noon because I had other obligations). She said CAP had to “watch our rhetoric” and that “we’re involved with every issue except immigration”. Now isn’t that special? It’s not like the issue impacts, you know, families or anything, right? Yeah, don’t want to piss off your lily white Republican followers, do you Cathi?

I stayed around to a few questions but it was getting close to noon and I was going to throw up if I stayed any longer. But I did hear a couple. Okay, so I’m not a religious or spiritual person at all but I do know plenty of people who participate in organized religion or their own version of faith and they seem to derive something positive from it. Fine with me. They seem happy with their lives, are not assholes in general, and are not pushing anything on me. The audience at this CAP thing is a whole nother breed. They seem to find neither comfort nor exaltation in their beliefs. Their lives are of hard struggle and martyrdom. And what so besets these well-fed white Mercedes driving Christians? Well, one lady was terribly upset about a porn shop opening near her! Another, a school teacher, was terribly worried about her students who carried Bibles feeling awkward about it. Then there was the gentleman who faced the terrifying trauma of having to work for a company with anti-discrimination policies which make it impossible for him to pester uh “witness” to his homosexual co-workers.

Yeah, these people have such big problems, don’t they? These are your “values voters” right here. And this is the stuff they value. They make me sick.


  1. Comment by SH on October 30, 2011 2:20 pm

    “Small groups make people in them feel more connected and also more obligated and accountable. This is also how cults and pyramid schemes operate. ”

    I’ve been organizing coffees for my neighborhood Democrats club… so THAT’S why they want me to wear a blue Snuggy with them… ;)

  2. Comment by Michael Bryan on October 30, 2011 3:11 pm

    Thanks for enduring that to report back to us heathens :)

  3. Comment by Miguel Becerra on October 31, 2011 2:23 am

    I am right-wing and I never miss a day of reading your blog, in fact I probably read you and Daily Kos more often than I ever turn on Fox News. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m a huge fan of your blog. No ulterior motive here, I just like to get the whole story.

  4. Comment by Neil on October 31, 2011 11:19 am

    Overall, sounds kinda ho-hum.

  5. Comment by Donna on October 31, 2011 8:11 pm

    Thanks, Mike!

  6. Comment by AF on November 6, 2011 6:45 pm

    What a bunch of self-centered narcissistic blatantly biased crap! Can’t believe I wasted my time reading this excuse for a journalistic endeavor. So what if you didn’t get the jokes. Would you understand the jokes at a medical doctors convention? Why blame them because you don’t understand the jargon? “they had a smug sanctimonious air”. What does a smug sanctimonious air look like? Did someone mistreat you, say something unkind to you? “There was an inspirational video about something or other”. So what? Why shouldn’t they show this type of video. What was it about? Why is a concern about porn bad? What is wrong about denying funds to an industry that exploits women and entraps men in a perverse world that no real woman can satisfy. Whoa not “love thy neighbor”! There they go trying to follow that Man from Nazareth. You are a hypocrite! Tackett is a phony because…?? You may as well have said that he is a poo-poo head! This whole article is full of platitudes and attacks meant to cater to your audience; not to inform or present a truly unbiased view. This article reads like something written by a three year old having a temper tantrum.

  7. Comment by Donna on November 7, 2011 8:32 pm

    Nice word salad, AF. Next time, try separating it into shorter paragraphs.

  8. Comment by Alt Numlock? on December 23, 2011 6:59 pm

    Word salad?

    What a rational, devastating rejoinder!

    AF asks some valid questions and this is all you’ve got?

  9. Comment by Donna on December 23, 2011 9:34 pm

    What valid question did he ask, nobody from

  10. Pingback by Democratic Diva » Meet Senator Rick Murphy on June 28, 2013 4:12 pm

    […] AZ Senator Rick Murphy was when I went to that Cathi Herrod Church Lady God Bothering Extravaganza a couple years ago. Murphy and his wife were being honored for hoarding foster children for Jesus. When she was done […]

  11. Comment by Lets Get Honest on June 29, 2013 1:26 pm

    You’d probably enjoy my “Christian Social Services: replenishing the ranks of the faithful” or “Orphans: Where the Great Commission* meets the Military/industrial complex.” posts.

    *Evangelical code for recruiting (Matthew 28:19 go forth and get them, with a Trinitarian code not found elsewhere in the Bible).

    Seriously, I’m a survivor of religious DV, got out, and politics have so gotten in that public square, they are also getting federal millions to adopt out of foster care, adopt internationally, Cryo-Adoptions, and when that can’t keep pace with women like ME who are running out the FRONT doors of the church (and taking our considerable talent and insight with us), they then push welfare reform to scapegoat single mothers — (, it really exists!) and take the kids improperly — as it turns out, legislators are particularly good at promoting and doing this. The general presumption is dependent on skin color (first), gender (second) and marital status (third). They KNOW we know they’re covering up abuse and women have had enough (not that I was raised in the church – which was probably why when I became a Christian (no problem so far, single, working professional) and then married a man, all the true beliefs came out, including about whether I could: have a bank account. Use contraception. Drive a car. What kind of work. Engage in my profession (a life’s work itself — I married late). etc.

    Too many assaults later, I got out and re-engaged in the community, only to have to face a faithbased, faith-laced family court system, which then took it apart again, same practices, same belief-sets (as do many women).

    They don’t want to be confined to church (and hardly are — see GWBush first 2 exec orders), they are marketing through welfare reform (ESP. in Arizona) and churches have become marriage marketplaces (with federal support) themselves.

    I ran across Bethany Christian Services under “Adoption Incentives.” I have been forced recently in my area to get some help from food banks again (and directly related to some of this policy) — and saw a brochure.

    Many thanks for the phrase “hoarding foster children for Jesus.” Get them while they’re small; adult women are fast learners, and we communicate with each other. You might like my blog…. I can report from either side (I’m not anti-Bible, just anti-religion). The stories we could tell…..

    One of my career goals (with what years are left) is to get the religious tax exemption removed for religious groups. Level the playing field, and see how many pastors come running to plant new churches……

    In case this isn’t clear, you have a very serious problem on the hands here, fascism and faith do go hand in hand plus then mix in some Unification Church, and you’re right in it (and funding it, through taxes too).

    Enjoyed the commentary. I have a friend closer to this scene geographically. Signed, 20-yr-survivor, kids aged out, still at it…

  12. Comment by Lets Get Honest on June 29, 2013 1:52 pm

    10/21/2012 -christian-sects-in-the-statehouse/#more-4571

    Scroll down and let’s have a chat about the role of money-laundering international cults and “True Parents” in american family law courts (don’t miss the Coronation of Rev. Sun Myung Moon (2004) in a US Senate building, or (towards the bottom) the 2001 hearing with another Arizona Moonie (and legislator) testifying for taking more welfare funds to promote marriage…

    A Christian evangelical couple adopted two girls from China (Steven Curtis Chapman). They loved them, utterly — and one of the older teenagers mistakenly backed over a little girl, killing her – -this was used to raise extreme sympathy for the pain they must be going through — and start another foundation for more international adoptions.

    One mistake not to make, being self-sufficient, liberal, progressive, Democrat, whatever — is to underestimate these guys. (and on this issue, it’s not just Republicans, sorry to say).

    I have severe PTSD not so much as from the in-home battering (which I got out of) but the years afterwards in the courts. Children stolen overnight, abandoned by the father — church people involved, kept my kids.

    Look at the military background…

    I’m looking up the Cathy Herrod group as we speak; it has a tax return…
    Pay attention to commissions and task forces and initiatives as they come up.

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