ROCK ISLAND - Bruce Rauner's decision to back out of a Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Rock Island last Thursday has stung a local pastor, who questions why the GOP gubernatorial candidate refused to stand at the podium with him.
“I’m not a Jeremiah Wright. I’m not g**-damning America or anything like that,” Rev. Donald Johnson told Illinois Review. “Those who heard my speech Thursday night - I don’t believe anyone could come away from there saying I was involved in hate speech."
“There were 200 white people there. If I had used any kind of hate speech …” it would not have been so graciously received, said Johnson, who received a standing ovation at the dinner.
Crisis Manufactured by Mainstream Media Reporter
Sources, including Rock Island County GOP chairman Bill Bloom, tell Illinois Review the entire incident was created by a reporter (presumably Eric Timmons -- photo right) with a local, mainstream newspaper.
"The Rauner staff was contacted by a local paper hoping to 'invent' a news story," Bloom says. "Pastor Johnson has written some books that strongly (and rightly) condemn Obama for his policies and the devastation they have wrought across America. He pulls no punches. A local reporter cherry picked a few very confrontational statements (which the Pastor uses to shock people and make them think). He sent these phrases without context to the Rauner team."
Refusing to say exactly what it found offensive, the Rauner campaign condemned Rev. Johnson's remarks, calling them "inflammatory" and stating that "such language has no place in our society."
It therefore came as surprise, when Rauner backed out of keynoting the dinner, leaving Bloom to re-invite Rev. Johnson - who is African American - after he'd un-invited him in attempt to persuade Rauner to attend.
Social Issues: The Third Rail of Illinois GOP Politics
As reported by IR last week (HERE), it appears that Rev. Johnson's socially conservative message made the Rauner campaign "nervous."
When asked about it, Johnson told Illinois Review: “The first part of the message of my book is on Obamanomics. So the first issue that I address is economics and the devastated economic program that this president has done.”
“Mr. Rauner says that he’s concerned about economics - you cannot ignore Obama-nomics. You can’t avoid it because Obama has devastated this country economically.”
Johnson said as a black person, he’s concerned with unemployment in his community.
“In our area, it is 12.5%. The unemployment in the white community is 5.0%. The unemployment for black youth across America is 38%. But the unemployment rate for black youth in Chicago is 92%.
“Like Mr. Rauner, I’m concerned about economics. So I don’t know why he decided to ask Mr. Bloom - my GOP chairman here - to throw me under the bus,” Johnson said.
“In this area, I’m probably the most visible and most vocal Black Republican. So if there’s no room for me in his camp, then what does [Mr. Rauner] do about the other so-called black Republicans or black people he’s interested in recruiting?”
Johnson, who holds a master’s degree in Biblical studies from Southern Baptist Seminary, said he’s a Republican by choice and conviction. He holds to the same values Republicans uphold in their national and state platforms.
“Social issues give people a reason to get out and vote. Plus, we have to deal with the fact that those social issues are economy-related,” Johnson argues.
“I’m not Republican because my mom and daddy were, or my cousin is, or that. The reason why I am a Republican is because of the values the Republican Party has had. The Republican Party right now looks more like the Democratic Party than the Republican Party.”
Rev. Johnson's Books at the Center of the Controversy
Rev. Johnson has written two books (HERE and HERE) about what he calls President Obama's unBiblical views on abortion, gay marriage and the redefinition of the family. He's also written about the erosion of religious freedom through mandated health care coverage, and about the President's immigration policies.
Published in 2008, Johnson's first book: "Black, But Not My Brother," is an argument why blacks should not vote for Obama. The Reverend writes:
“If elected America’s first Black President, Barack Hussein Obama has promised that he would use the presidency as a ‘bully pulpit’ to promote unrestricted abortion and the homosexual agenda – both of which threaten the survival of the Black community. Ours is more about survival than party loyalty and personal economic interest.
Since 1973, over 15,000,000 Black babies have been aborted, creating a 25 percent population reduction. 1,452 Black babies are aborted daily. Planned Parenthood’s genocide policy has targeted us for extinction by abortion; and it is working.
Planned Parenthood’s candidate is our color. However, the real question we must face is ‘Can we afford a leader who champions racial suicide – even if he is Black?”
Rev. Johnson also addressed homosexuality and the AIDs crisis in the black community, writing:
“Black America is being despoiled by abortion and decimated by the impact of homosexuality, especially HIV/AIDS. If we choose Mr. Obama because of color, we choose a champion for abortion and the homosexual agenda; we choose our own destruction.
Intoxicated by this historic moment, we must not be blinded by color. We disregard at our peril.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told us not to judge people, even Presidential candidates by the ‘color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ As a people of faith, we must remember that it is not economics, but righteousness that exalts a nation, Proverbs 14:34."
Illinois Black Conservatives Agree with Johnson
Several Black Republican leaders in Illinois reviewed a portion of Rev. Johnson's writing, and told Illinois Review they fully agreed with Johnson.
"Of course, I agree with [Rev. Johnson's] statement. I couldn't have said it better myself. Rauner is not a conservative, so I wouldn't expect him to agree with Rev. Johnson. Once again, conservatives in Illinois have a choice between a moderate Republican and a liberal Democrat for Governor," Wallace said.
Babette Holder, (photo right) a black activist, GOP precinct committeeman, and writer for "The Last Civil Right," said the numbers Rev. Johnson cited were non-debatable facts.
"I absolutely agree with what Rev. Johnson said in his book's epilogue. The numbers are facts that my pro-life organizations speak of daily such as National Black Pro-life coalition and Radiance foundation," said Holder.
"Yes, I agree with every word the pastor wrote, and have said as much myself - at great personal cost - in as many places as I could," LeFlore said. "I wrote about it in Freedoms Journal Magazine, I made speeches, and ruined family gatherings carrying that same message. I still do on Facebook, and everywhere else I can.
"And even after 6 years of undeniable proof that Pastor Johnson and others of us were correct in what we were warning about, our message remains just as unpopular now as it was then to those whose first loyalty should be to Christ...and not to color," LeFlore said. "Lord, we need an awakening."
Wallace agrees with LeFlore that economic issues are directly connected to the American family's destruction.
"You see, the deterioration of the family has led to the financial crisis we face," say Wallace. "Moderates and liberals think we can fix the financial problems without addressing the social issues. While conservatives believe that the financial issues are driven by the social issues."
Wallace argues Christian conservatives, like himself, believe that the social dysfunction and fiscal problems are symptoms of a spiritual problem that neither government policy nor the free market can fix.
"We do believe that the free market is the best for the less fortunate to move from poverty to prosperity. We do believe that it is the Church where the disenfranchised and marginalized find redemption, restoration, forgiveness and reconciliation before God and man," Wallace said. "Moderates and liberals have no concept of these principles or ideas.”
"The whole intent of this episode was to either damage Rauner's campaign, or to damage Republicans in northwest Illinois," Rock Island County GOP Chairman Bill Bloom (photo right) told IR. "I want them to fail in both of these gambits."
According to Bloom, Rev. Johnson has been invited to attend their conservative breakfast group "The Ronald Reagan Breakfast Club" tomorrow.
He hopes conservatives will support Rauner, and believes doing so will be good for Illinois and good for conservatives.
Rev. Johnson told Illinois Review he’s sent an autographed copy of his second book “Pandora President” to Rauner and hopes he’ll hear from him after he reads it.
“We must not allow the Democratic Party to define our identity or to determine our issues,” Johnson said. “The issues the Republican Party has stood for up until the last eight or nine years are the ones that have drawn the voters to come out.
“I believe I’ve read that 32 million Christians did not vote in the last presidential election. If 32 million Christians had voted, Mickey Mouse could have gotten elected.”