Born-again evangelical leader David Lane is building "an army" of Christian pastors to help the Republicans put a conservative in the White House, The New York Times reported.
Lane, 60, has been traveling the country, and especially to Iowa, to carry out his personal mission of mobilizing the 100,000 politicized pastors on his email lists to become a central power inside a Republican Party with strong conservative values.
The former Bible salesman, who once devoted his life to drugs and women, hopes that these evangelical ministers will spread the good word to their congregations to continue backing social conservative candidates and push their opposition to same-sex marriage.
"An army, that's the goal," says Lane, a one-time public relations man and self-described "wild man" who has vast experience in conservative politics in Washington, Texas, and California, according to the newspaper.
The "goal" is to have 1,000 evangelical pastors run for public office in towns and cities nationwide, including in Iowa where the religious right exerts considerable power over the state's GOP presidential caucuses.
His group, the American Renewal Project,
which helps to organize "Pastors and Pews" events, has already flexed its muscle in Iowa, helping to oust three state Supreme Court justices who voted to allow same-sex marriages, the Times noted.
Although in November's elections he focused on the battleground states, Lane is pushing to make a much bigger statement in 2016. And although some say the air appears to have gone out of the evangelical balloon of late, Lane is hoping to re-energize the movement ahead of the race for the White House in 2016.
"If the Lord were to call 1,000 pastors in America, and they ended up with an average of 300 volunteers per campaign in 2016, that would be 300,000 grass-root, precinct-level, evangelical conservatives coming from the bottom up," he said to a ballroom full of pastors in Iowa. "It would change America."
John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron and an expert on evangelicals, says: "This is about keeping the pressure on for the next election. Lane has influence with pastors, and they listen to him."
"David is the real deal," said the Rev. Brad Atkins, a prominent pastor in South Carolina. "He really believes that this is his calling."
Lane was front and center last week as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gave a rousing speech on religious liberty in Iowa, while later that day Lane was thrilled to see pastors surround Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in a prayer circle.
Cruz and Jindal both use the words "good friend" to describe Lane. However, his liberal opponents call him a religious fanatic in light of his strong faith views, including that abortion will result in divine vengeance on America and that the GOP will be wiped out if it accepts same-sex marriage, the Times reported
Lane's travels are funded by several wealthy donors while the American Family Association, a Mississippi-based conservative religious organization, pays him a retainer and gives him legal and accounting assistance.
His mission as a self-styled leader of the religious right is a far cry from the days he spent partying as a failed student at the University of Mississippi, where for four summers he sold Bibles door-to-door.
"I'd stay drunk all night and sell Bibles all day," admitted the Oklahoma-born Lane, who dropped out of university in 1977 for a life of "drugs, wine, women and song." He says "cocaine" was his drug of choice, and his favorite song was "Le Freak" by Chic, according to the paper.
He eventually turned his life around and sought redemption in the Bible when motivational speaker Judge Ziglar, author of "Timid Salesmen Have Skinny Kids", took him under his wing.
After moving to Houston, he came under the influence of Judge Paul Pressler, a central figure in the renaissance of the Baptist conservative movement and the Moral Majority.
He then moved to Washington when he was given $3,000 in seed money by rich Texas home builder Bob Perry, who funded the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry in 2004.
Lane eventually ended up working for Moral Majority founder Jerry Fallwell, and throughout his career gained a reputation as a "pastor's friend," the Times added.
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