Incidentally, the Phoenix did not post Rock's article on their website, as is usually the case. I can't remember the last time something on their Opinion page was not placed online.
Don’t waste time with conspiracy theories; let’s talk policy
by Sen. Tom Coburn
In a recent op-ed on your page the president of the Muskogee County Democratic Party, Calvin Rock, asks readers to believe that I, Sen. Jim Inhofe, former Rep. Steve Largent and other Republicans are part of a secret, fundamentalist conspiracy bent on controlling our nation. Also, according to Rock, we exclude females and nonwhites, and we tolerate rape.
I normally ignore bizarre personal attacks and conspiracy theories of this nature, but it’s important for readers to understand why Rock is making these outlandish claims.
Rock, I believe, is attempting to participate in a broader debate about faith in the public square.
First, however, it’s telling that the chairman of the Muskogee Democratic Party isn’t using his platform to express the ideas of his party, such as their health care plan, but is instead spending his time recycling conspiracy theories of the radical left.
I’m more than happy to discuss any of my votes or policy positions with Rock or any Oklahoman, Republican or Democrat.
Yet, Rock is not interested in debating policy. Instead, he is engaging in crass, partisan and amateurish character assassination. The people of Oklahoma want constructive solutions from their party leaders, not conspiracy theories.
Second, Rock’s op-ed, I believe, expresses a hostility toward faith in the public square that runs throughout much of the criticisms I’ve seen regarding the “C Street” house and the foundation — which Rock describes as “The Family” — that helps members of Congress host the National Prayer Breakfast every year.
In politics, I’ve found that those who accuse others of harboring secret, nefarious agendas often have hidden agendas of their own. The fact is, the moral failings of some of my roommates at C Street and the subsequent media frenzy about congressional prayer gatherings have given those on the far left ammunition to make their case that anyone who aims to bring faith into the public square has a secret theocratic agenda.
Rock tries to make his case with an argument that is riddled with factual errors and innuendo. In fairness to Rock, some of his errors may be the fault of another author, Jeff Sharlet. What Rock calls “The Family” is hardly an “elite fundamentalism” but a loose and disjointed affiliation of thousands of national and international individuals who have been active in areas of faith, business and politics and who have attended one of the National Prayer Breakfasts in the past 50 years.
People come to the National Prayer Breakfast from all backgrounds for all sorts of reasons. Some are devout Christians, some are Jews, and others have no faith at all. Some come to mingle with politicians while others are seeking answers to life’s most important questions.
The alleged elite fundamentalist organization pulling the strings behind all of this doesn’t have a formal hierarchy or membership roll because they are trying to elevate Christ rather than any organization or individual. It’s true that those involved describe themselves as “followers of Christ,” which is another way of saying Christian. In fact, it is their faith as “followers of Christ” that has led various lay ministers involved in The Family to not only reach out to members of Congress but to children living in inner-city Washington, D.C., and in some of the poorest parts of the world.
If this organization has a secret plan to take over our government, they aren’t having much success. In spite of my best efforts to bend my colleagues to my will, two of the more active participants in congressional prayer breakfasts, Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., still vote the other way most of the time.
If Oklahomans want to understand the true, “secret” agenda of this group they should read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and study groups like Young Life and the Navigators.
I believe our country needs more, not fewer, elected officials who acknowledge an authority higher than party or government in their lives.
As Americans, the freedoms we enjoy are a gift from God. We have thrived as a nation because we’ve always understood that our rights as individuals do not come from a king or the state but from a creator.
The public square is not merely a place for faith. It was built on faith.
I make no apologies for that belief, nor do I apologize for trying to live out my faith when I’m away from my home church in Muskogee. I hope readers will put in proper perspective the views of a party operative who would rather attack my faith than my votes.
Calvin Rock's column was based on the recent conspiracy book by author Jeff Sharlett, "The Family - the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power". Rock is also the president of the Muskogee-area PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group (real Muskogee/Oklahoma values, wouldn't you say?).