Beliefs Faith 2016 Politics

5 faith facts about Scott Walker: Son of a preacher man

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, potential Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on May 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Rick Wilking *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-WALKER-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 11, 2015.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, potential Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on May 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Rick Wilking *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-WALKER-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 11, 2015.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City on May 21, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Rick Wilking *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-WALKER-FAITH, originally transmitted on June 13, 2015.

UPDATE: Gov. Walker withdrew from the 2016 race on September 21. 

(RNS) Scott Walker, best known for picking a fight with Wisconsin’s unions that led to protesters’ occupation of the state Capitol, credits prayer and his church for delivering him and his family through trying times.

The only governor in American history to survive a recall election, the Harley-riding Republican who declared himself a candidate for president Monday (July 13) has recently ramped up talk of his evangelical beliefs. Raised in a church parsonage, Walker scores high on Christian credibility with conservative voters who turn out so reliably in Republican primaries. Here are five faith facts about the Badger State’s two-term governor.

1. He’s a P.K.

A “pastor’s kid.” Scott Walker’s father is the Rev. Llewellyn Walker, who moved the family from Colorado Springs to Plainfield, Iowa, for an assistant pastor’s job at the town’s First Baptist Church when the governor was a toddler. The governor’s mother, Patricia Walker, ran the Sunday school.

Llewellyn Walker, ordained in the American Baptist Churches USA — considered more moderate on social issues and theology than the larger Southern Baptist denomination — later led the First Baptist Church in Delavan, Wis. The governor preached sermons there as a teenager when his father was too ill to take the pulpit, according to The New York Times.

2. His current church is more conservative than his father’s.

With eight other Milwaukee-area churches that end in “brook,” Scott Walker’s Meadowbrook Church in Wauwatosa, Wis., is a smaller offshoot of the Elmbrook megachurch, once led by evangelical author and speaker Stuart Briscoe. Religion journalist Richard Ostling wrote in GetReligion that though Walker’s church is nondenominational, it includes “Baptist-style” practices and “upholds typical conservative Protestant theology.” That includes the belief that salvation is available only to those who accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

3. He left a church that was starting to welcome gays and lean leftward.

For more than a decade, Walker worshipped at the Underwood Memorial Baptist Church in Wauwatosa, an American Baptist church that hired a woman pastor in 2003. A year later, it affiliated with the gay-friendly Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and placed the rainbow flag of gay liberation on its church sign. Walker then left Underwood, because, many suspected, the then-candidate for governor considered it too liberal.

As Kevin Genich, a former Underwood member who knew Walker, told The New York Times: “As soon as we put the flag on the sign, he was out of there.” Walker said he left because he was looking for a place with more opportunities for his two young sons.

4. He believes God sent him a message through a devotional after he fell for a prank.

During Walker’s 2011 battles with Wisconsin’s unions, a prankster posing as billionaire industrialist David Koch called the governor. Walker told the fake Koch that he had considered planting “troublemakers” among crowds of pro-union protesters to discredit them. By his own admission Walker said that he sounded “pompous” during the taped and widely distributed phone conversation. He also said God was trying to teach him a lesson.

When he realized he had been duped, Walker wrote in his book about his trials as governor, he picked up a devotional by evangelist John Maxwell and read that day’s entry: “The power of humility, the burden of pride.”

“I hear you, Lord,” Walker recalled saying out loud.

5. He punted on evolution and President Obama’s Christianity.

Even Walker called it a punt. Liberal broadcaster Rachel Maddow had a field day with his Feb. 11 non-answer when asked if he accepts evolution. Walker’s high school science teacher, the now-retired Ann Serpe, said she had long ago explained evolution to her otherwise bright pupil and that he should have “manned up” to the question.

Later that month, Walker said he didn’t know whether President Obama is a Christian, even though Obama has repeatedly spoken publicly about his Christianity. Walker’s spokeswoman later said that Walker knows that the president is Christian, but didn’t appreciate the “gotcha” question.

LM/AMB END MARKOE

About the author

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe has been a national reporter for RNS since 2011. Previously she covered government and politics as a daily reporter at the Charlotte Observer and The State (Columbia, S.C.)

40 Comments

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  • He is the fiscal conservative with street cred for the Bible thumpers. A person likely to survive the GOP primary. But he appears to be an evangelical version of Mitt Romney.

    A guy whose only appeal to the working class is being a religious conservative. His policies as governor of WI has done as much as possible to bend workers over a barrel. However, after 3 failed attempts to take him out of office, Walker probably feels invincible.

  • I don’t care if Walker is a direct descendant of the Apostle Peter, he is not a Christian. Not in the way Jesus taught the Gospel to those that would be recognized as His followers. He’s the shill for the incredibly rich and powerful. His relentless and disgusting assault on Unions makes him as likely to follow the Gospel as Caiaphas.

    He not only crushes the poor and the needy, the hard working widow and the orphan, he creates them en masse.

    If “by their fruit you will know them . . .”

    Walker is evil as it gets.

  • I may have to give up atheism. Miracles, for which there is no natural explanation, apparently do occur. For the third time in two weeks I find myself agreeing with you.

    Well, I don’t actually agreed that Walker is as evil as it gets. But in terms of general principles, yes I do agree with you.

  • Scott Walker just announced today that God told him to run. Got also told Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Ben Carson, Mike the Huckster, and a host of others in the last two elections that he wanted them to run.

    God is such a great kidder. He wants them to run, but he never promised that they would actually win.

    It always amazes me that the beliefs of the particular and peculiar version of God that so many so called Christian seem to worship always coincides with their own beliefs on the subject.

    Just once, I would like to hear a Christian candidate say, “God told me not to run and I’m not going to.”

  • If someone indicates verbal agreement with the basic doctrines of the faith and the immediate ethical or moral implications, the presumption is that they are a Christian, whether we think they’re a wonderful person or a lout. In other words, if they believe in the Apostles Creed and if they’re not a convicted serial killer or a genocidal dictator, they’re presumed to be Christian until proven otherwise.

    Otherwise, we’re really traveling in “no-good-Scotsman” territory.

  • The problem is that we’re then requiring a political test for who’s a Christian….something people do all the time, I realize, but something we all need to be more careful about. Obviously, if Attila the Hun or Jack the Ripper or Pol Pot were running for office, no Christian could support the person, but that’s a very exceptional circumstance of course.

    On issues like the ones Walker dealt with in Wisconsin, the bald fact is that Christians are readily found on both sides of the debate. I know Christians who think Walker is a hero for his stance, and I know other Christians like you who think what he did was monstrous. Both are Christian.

  • I’m Kar La Ro Na CC32 Michelle Tieta the RepentBot and today my name to bother you with is Tieta. I must spam you daily with my Repent! spam or I will implode.

    Repent! Bring out your dead! Repent!
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    Or just don’t bother. It makes no difference. (with apologies to Monty Python)

  • Little “g” god.

    Walker is a sick twisted tool for the rich and powerful to crush the working poor. I don’t care if he recites the exact words from the Angel at the tomb, what he has done to innocent hardworking people by PROUDLY destroying their rights to protect their careers with Union representation is nothing short of evil.

    If I had the opportunity to speak directly to him or his “Christian” supporters, I would say the exact same thing. Republican voters need to wake up to these degenerates like Walker.

  • God didn’t have to tell me a thing about Walker. It’s already been said. Walker’s pride in destroying the working poor speaks the very words of Christ. As in all of the condemning words. His day will come when he stands judgment and he will wail. In the mean time, Republicans that declare they are a Christian need to reject this scumbag like the unrepentant freak that he is. That he has chosen the rich and has made every effort to crush Union members into poverty condemns him.

  • I too actually agree with Be Brave for the first time.

    I don’t think that Be Brave will agree with me on this, but Walker named ending funding for Planned Parenthood as one of his greatest achievements. I don’t think that is an achievement at all. It prevents poor women and women without health care from getting the help they need. Planned Parenthood provide basic gynecological care for many women as well as birth control.

  • Could I vote for someone who believed that all Jews are going to Hell because they don’t believe in Jesus? I don’t think so. Of course anyone who believes that is likely to have other positions I don’t agree with as well.

  • I was forced to join a union (UAW) in order to get a lob at the auto company I worked for. For thirty years I tolerated the unions “bullying”, trying to force me to vote Democrat, making me pay dues and using the dues to support causes that go against my faith. The unions got so power hungry in Detroit that they started to bleed the auto companies into bankruptcy. If one takes a really good look at how unions work, every philosophy they have is similar to communism. I applaud your Governor for allowing the worker to have a freedom of choice as to joining the union or not. People should not be forced to pay a union just to get or keep a job. The Democrats are all about “free choice” until it works against them. I was a Democrat until the union took away my freedom, tried to take away my faith, and spent my dues unwisely.

  • God told Mitt not to run this time, and he isn’t going to. But I don’t understand how all these people get God to talk to them. I have a great faith in God and He always makes me figure things out for myself. I am aware that not everything I’m inspired to do is from God. God has an enemy, who is also our enemy and sometimes (maybe a lot) we are tricked into thinking something is from God but it’s actually from God’s opponent. I admire people with faith, but many have faith, truth, and reality all mixed up. I’m sure that’s what happened to Mitt eight years ago, he got tricked, but this time he learned his lesson. Discernment of spirits seems to always be a problem for those who think every “good feeling” is from God.

  • Correct, but if you are Christian, Do you believe the words in the bible are from God? Or do you believe what you ” think” is more correct than what the bible actually says? Based on what so many “think” is right, I can only guess that they are not truly Christian, but it makes them feel good to say they are.

  • The whole “No True Scotsman” issue? Flew invented something that made hum feel cocky yes, but it actually applies to Christians as in what is right and what is wrong.

    “No true virgin” is a perfect example. Another is “No true dead person . . . ”

    And of course PER JESUS, who is just a tad bit more influential than Anthony Flew, makes it clear that no true Christian does or is this or that.

    Now of course, a Christian might be utterly deluded to think the Koch brothers are better for society than people having Union representation, but that would make Scott Walker mentally challenged into the imbecilic range of intelligence. And of course, not a fit man o be president. Nor a fit man to believe about anything.

    Walker is a carpet bagger carrying the load for the rich and nasty. “If,” he is a Christian, which his actions show he’s not, he needs to start studying the New Testament and applying to himself what a Christian is and does.

  • Jack,

    That’s not true. We require of Christians, for them to BE a Christian, when they make claims to being a Christian. And, “BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL KNOW THEM,” per Jesus the Christ . . .,

    Walker acts and implements actions like a non Christian.

    He looks more like Nero or some other heartless Roman elite (or in this case 21st century elite) than he does anything resembling an Apostle or Disciple.

    It is absolutely fair to “judge” a Christian, when they make that declaration. Now, of course, Walker, if he “is” a Christian, can repent and undo all of the harm he has caused to thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of working people by implementing laws that only empower the rich. Which Jesus clearly preached about.

    Walker rides on the hurting bodies of the duped masses. While his Puppet Masters ride in corporate jets.

    When reading the New Testament for what a “true Christian” is, Walker does not make that grade.

  • Now people in the same industries earn about 30-40% less with fewer benefits. Unions are the only thing which keep mass industrial labor at a middle class income level.

  • It is required of Christians, for them to BE a Christian, when they make claims to being a Christian.

    And, “BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL KNOW THEM,” per Jesus the Christ . . .,

    Scott Walker acts and implements actions like a non Christian.

    He looks more like Nero or some other heartless Roman elite (or in this case 21st century elite) than he does anything resembling an Apostle or Disciple.

    It is absolutely fair to “judge” a Christian, when they make that declaration. Now, of course, Walker, if he “is” a Christian, can repent and undo all of the harm he has caused to thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of working people by implementing laws that only empower the rich. Which Jesus clearly preached about.

    Walker rides on the hurting bodies of the duped masses. While his Puppet Masters ride in corporate jets.

    When reading the New Testament for what a “true Christian” is, Walker does not make that grade.

  • Look – Walker is Nixon: amoral, willing to say and do anything to win (besides the fake-Koch phonecall, there’s lots of evidence in emails around Milwaukee); he’s full of false humility; he doesn’t seem to care for the poor and the needy; he believes that each of us has the right to shoot first when afraid, then ask questions; and so on. Clearly, by his fruits we know him. BUT, then again, none of us would measure up to the standard of “Christian” that’s being bandied about here. As Paul wrote, “All have fallen short of the glory of God.” That’s why we needed Jesus in the first place.

    Let’s elect candidates on their vision for America – from a strictly secular view. Clearly, Walker falls waaaay short – Wisconsin’s economy is in freefall (just like Kansas’) following huge tax cuts for businesses and high wealth individuals (no trickle down here); he’s gutted education; he wants $250 mil to keep an NBA team in Wis; concealed carry; etc Enough evidence here to discard him…

  • Walker’s relationship to the church is far less important to him than his primary purpose of denying the working class – whether employed by private industry or public bodies – the right to organize and bargain collectively for decent wages and hours

    His comment that the minimum wage is “lame” is pretty telling regarding all he’s learned in his years at church

  • Be Brave, whether you realize it or not, you are setting up a political test for who’s a Christian. That is exactly what we should not be doing.

    There are at least two very different views — free-market and socialist — on how a modern economy should run. Christians can be on either side without having their faith called into question. Neither view poses a direct challenge to the Gospel or the needs of the poor.

  • I strongly favor the free-market approach to socialism, but I would never call into question somebody’s faith for taking the opposite view. One can be on either side and have the right heart and a good conscience.

  • Susan, I think you’re conflating two different issues — one’s opinion of Planned Parenthood and whether or to what extent it should receive taxpayer dollars. Even if we accept the premise that Planned Parenthood is a great organization, it doesn’t logically follow that it should get taxpayer dollars. There is something to be said for the notion that nonprofits should depend fully on donations of people who support them.

    The idea that everything we like should automatically receive government funding is not a well-thought-out view. It is a very naïve view that not only imposes our own views on other taxpayers, but neglects the potentially corrupting or corrosive influence of funding by the government. With funding comes strings of various kinds, which may end up fundamentally shifting the mission or direction of the organization being funded.

  • But as many economists will point out, unions are to labor what monopolies and oligopolies are to capital. As the latter artificially pushes prices up, above the free-market price, the former does the same with wages.

    An extreme example of that occurred for many years with the automobile industry. Both labor and capital in that industry made out very nicely, but the losers were the American people who were forced to buy really lousy automobiles at inflated prices.

    Were it not for foreign competition — Honda and Toyota — auto labor and auto executives would still be fat and happy, but American motorists would still have no good options.

    The world of assembly line auto workers making more than college professors and having lifetime jobs was a fantasy world that was built on the backs of American consumers and depended on politically well-connected oligopolies that made a mockery of free markets.

  • Somehow I think you would vote for such a person if he were otherwise a fairly typical liberal Democrat.

    Voting on someone’s theology is generally not a great idea. Voting on the issues of the day makes more sense.

  • I agree that we should vote on actual issues, not theology.

    As for your litany, you’re unwittingly illustrating the difference between liberals and non-liberals today. Liberals are among the minority of Americans who will make judgments on a person’s ethical or moral character based solely on their politics. Thus, if a candidate doesn’t agree that the best way to improve education is to spend more money on it, that person automatically is labeled a mean, bad person who hates education. There is no critical thinking involved — such as questioning the dubious premise that more money always produces better outcomes. If the money is going to fund a dysfunctional system, there is no reason in the world to believe that more will mean better, and every reason to believe the opposite.

  • Presumably what he means by saying the minimum wage is “lame” is the economic reality that you can’t boost incomes in a sustainable way by legislative fiat. The way incomes rise is by increased economic activity and by increasing the skill set of people. It’s not by politicians saying, “We hereby decree that wages will rise by X amount.” That’s magical thinking. If the minimum wage is below market, it will have zero effect since businesses will be paying higher than it. If the minimum wage is above market, businesses will hire fewer people. It’s a childish way for politicians to feel good about themselves and win some votes, but for mature adults who want to boost people’s incomes across the board, there’s no substitute for pro-growth economic policies and giving people greater access to education and learning more skills.

  • If raising wages by political decree were the answer, why not raise the minimum wage to 20 an hour, or 100 an hour? The obvious answer is that if you raise it above a certain amount, businesses will hire fewer people. A child can understand that.

    It’s the equivalent of saying, “Why can’t we just print enough money so that everybody can be a millionaire?”

    In both cases, we run into the same problem: Unless there’s a real boost in economic activity or in people’s skill sets, then at best, we’re just rearranging and redistributing — at best, we’re helping some at the expense of others, and not getting any net benefit for society.

  • Be Brave, do you live in Wisconsin? I do. I don’t see any poor people here being “destroyed” by anything that Walker has done. If anyone is being “destroyed” here, it’s by the banking cartels with their predatory lending tactics, the real estate bubble bursting several years ago that still hasn’t fully recovered, and by federal actions such as Obamacare. People that couldn’t afford healthcare before still can’t afford it and now they’re being fined by the IRS because of it.

    The unions are too big for their britches, plain and simple. The wages often get disproportionately large compared to non-union workers, which raises costs on goods sold. This makes our businesses less able to compete with products made by non-union workers elsewhere in the US or abroad. It’s also costing our government more money than it should to operate. Unskilled labor in factories often make more money than the engineers there. I’ve seen it and lived it. And it’s wrong.

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