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God's Own Party

Everything's divine in Arvada, where the GOP has veered sharply to the religious right.

He even networks with Jews. Morrison denounces anti-Semitism and makes a point of acknowledging its roots in Christianity. FBC is fanatically supportive of Israel, professes a love of Jews and even includes some Hebrew words in its services. Every summer the church has an Israel Awareness Day, with speakers who have included orthodox rabbi Stanley Wagner and Israeli embassy officials. FBC sends its "international" singers to Israel along with tour groups and contributes to Israeli food banks.

FBC has openly assured Jewish leaders that its purpose is not to proselytize, but its actions belie that claim. In the ultimate of stealth tactics, FBC members have been known to convert Jews and hide them from their families while the process takes place, all the while whispering "praise the Lord" among themselves for such a "miracle." Told of one such incident, Morrison doesn't deny that it happened.

Sitting in his office, which features a painting of two orthodox Jews and expansive bookshelves lined with religious texts and such oddities as The Unseen Hand, a grand political-conspiracy book by crackpot Ralph Epperson, Morrison explains his church's fascination with Jews as "biblical," based on respect for the people who "preserved our scriptures" and a belief that Israel must be a nation before Jesus comes back to Earth and saves his believers. "We need to understand Judaism to do our own walk," says Morrison.

Obviously, though, as an evangelical Christian committed to getting people to believe his way, he wouldn't mind converting Jews to Christianity. "Some Jews are uncomfortable and think we have a hidden agenda," he says. "But we've been doing Israel Awareness Day for more than twenty years. And on that day, I ban proselytizing. I don't want any hidden agenda that day. Yes, we would like the Jewish people to accept Jesus Christ, but our purpose is to support, comfort and encourage Jews and Israel. I think Jews have the right to think we have a hidden agenda, based on history. But we're not just stepping in and stepping out of this for that purpose. For 22 years we've been doing this--that's our answer."

Morrison is used to fending off questions about hidden agendas. Arvada's old-line Republicans accuse FBC of being a potent political power. "People see the numbers and the bigness," Morrison says. "I think there's a fear with that: 'That big church over there is trying to take over.' Take over what? We're not an organized political force trying to use our numbers to do anything. Absolutely not.

"Speaking as a church, we don't take a stand. By law we don't. Our main purpose is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I'll preach what the Bible teaches about abortion, but that's it."

Morrison himself has done some GOP grunt work, though Pat Miller says he hasn't been a precinct committeeman for about six years. (Morrison says he can't recall ever being a committeeman.) But regardless of his personal political activity, his preaching reinforces the belief systems of his flock--beliefs that spill over into political action.

"My own personal conviction is that I believe abortion is wrong," says Morrison. "And we need laws about it. And that's the way I'm going to believe. But as far as a designed strategy by Faith Bible Chapel as a corporate entity, no, we don't initiate anything."

Morrison insists that all of FBC's work revolves around people, not politics. "If people have a certain view, they're going to congregate," he says. "If people have a strong position on moral issues and they're conservative or biblical, well, why shouldn't it work that way? It ought to work that way. That's democracy. I don't think it's a conspiracy. The NRA is tied into their people, too."

The political power that emanates from evangelical Christians is a natural consequence of hard political work, he insists, not some cunning strategy of his church. "If anything," Morrison says, "it's a grassroots thing. Pat Miller's a member of our church, and I remember that the last time I went to a Miller campaign function, half the people there were not even from our church."

That means half of them were.

For a two-time loser (to Congressman David Skaggs), Pat Miller is unusually chirpy as she takes a breather at what passes for the Tammany Hall of evangelical Christians: the offices of Citizens for Responsible Government, an anti-abortion lobby that Miller has recently taken over. Behind her, a laser printer churns out copies of a fundraising letter that, true to form, excoriates moderate Republicans. Miller has brought to her new job a mailing list culled from two congressional campaigns and the ability to summon the soldiers for intra-party skirmishes.

Like Morrison, Miller is self-taught. Like Arrington, she gets right in your face. Years ago she ran a beauty shop in Illinois. After moving to Colorado with her husband, Lynn, who worked at Coors, she got a job at a supermarket and later stayed at home with their son. Miller's entry into politics came about a decade ago, when she got upset at one of their son's reading assignments. Although she herself believes in supernatural powers, she was steamed about supernatural tales involving vampires and the like, and she complained to school officials. Some people called her a book-burner; she describes herself as a concerned parent. Eventually she took matters into her own hands, home-schooling the boy for several years.

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