First up from the God Machine this week is a look at the extent to which the religious right movement is ignoring the Republican Party establishment and rallying in defense of Todd Akin's (R) Senate campaign in Missouri.
On Thursday, Mike Huckabee threw his support to the right-wing candidate, signaling broader support from evangelicals, but also note how far religious right figures like Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association were willing to go in backing Akin.
As Right Wing Watch noted, Fischer initially likened Akin criticism to the Pharisees' persecution of Jesus, but in this clip, the AFA leader went further, suggesting the congressman has practically been a rape victim himself. "You talk about a forcible situation, you talk about somebody being a victim of forcible assault, that would be Todd Akin," Fischer said.
Though that kind of rhetoric may be unique to the AFA, religious right support for Akin is broad and solidifying -- the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, among others, are defending the Republican from GOP attacks.
Some of this support appears to even push legal boundaries. Federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt religious groups from intervening in political campaigns, but Americans United for Separation of Church and State reported this week that the Missouri Baptist Convention has actually taken deliberate steps to get Akin elected, which the IRS may well find problematic.
The larger point, though, is that a meaningful schism is getting wider, with the Republican establishment on one side and evangelical social conservatives, who largely approve of Akin's bizarre understanding of biology, on the other.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Political reporters were, for the first time, invited to attend Mormon church services with Mitt Romney and his family last weekend.
* Rep. Ben Quayle (R) of Arizona this week tried to argue on Fox News that the recent Republican shenanigans at the Sea of Galilee had a religious underpinning. "[S]ome people had been talking about, 'This is the only opportunity that we will be able to go into the sea where Jesus walked on water,'" he said.
* Rev. Grant Storm, a Louisiana-based Christian pastor known for his anti-gay activism, was convicted of obscenity this week after being caught masturbating at a public park near a children's playground.
* And E.J. Dionne sat down with Massachusetts Senate hopeful Elizabeth Warren this week, and covered her religious beliefs in ways most Warren interviews have not. Pay particular attention to the emphasis the candidate places on the Book of Matthew.