‘Christian Exodus’ movement makes South Carolina its promised land

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For now, it’s in a subdivision on the outskirts of Greenville, a small plot of land with a two-story house, the Ten Commandments posted in the front yard and a trampoline in the back.

In time, Janoski believes South Carolina will fill with scores of other families who want a limited government based on Christian principles instead of officials who allow abortion and ban school prayer.

Janoski moved his wife and four children from eastern Pennsylvania to South Carolina earlier this year after hearing about Christian Exodus, a movement to “reintroduce the Christian principles once so predominant in America” one state at a time.

The first state is South Carolina, chosen because a number of residents here already agree with the aims of Christian Exodus, according to the group’s president Cory Burnell.

With just five families relocated so far and only about 100 people coming to this weekend’s national conference in Greenville, Christian Exodus would seem to merit at most a blurb in the local newspaper. But Janoski has done a dozen interviews since moving to the state, including with national newspapers, GQ and even Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

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The reason can be found in the first paragraph of the group’s position statement: “If this cannot be achieved within the United States, then we believe a peaceful withdrawal from the union to be the last available remedy.”

Secession is a last resort but necessary to assure the people who end up representing the group in government are true believers in its goals, Burnell said.

“It gets them to understand they would have to stand up and defend at all costs the beliefs they expound,” he said.

Plenty of people who otherwise might support the Christian Exodus’ principles don’t like the idea of trying to separate from the country if things don’t work. Bob Jones University, a conservative Christian school in Greenville, and the South Carolina Baptist Convention haven’t endorsed the group.

Even Dorchester County Republican Chairman Arthur Bryngelson, touted as Christian Exodus’ first official candidate as he runs for county council in 2006, wishes the group wouldn’t discuss secession, especially in a state whose first effort to leave the Union led to the Civil War.

“We tried that once 150 years ago, and it didn’t go too well,” Bryngelson said. “Trying to change from within is the safer way.”

Burnell, a 29-year-old financial adviser who lives in northern California, founded Christian Exodus two years ago. He plans to move to South Carolina in about a year with his wife and two children.

He stresses he doesn’t want to create a theocracy where the clergy would be the congressmen. Instead, Burnell said he wants to return to what he calls a constitutionally limited government, something he said that not only today’s Democrats but also modern Republicans have abandoned.

Christian Exodus

Cory Burnell’s attempts to create a theonomy – generally considered an expansive version of theocracy – are unbiblical. Christians are not called or encouraged to set up separate states and/or countries. According to the Bible, their citizenship is in heaven. Until then, Christians are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Separating into an artificial religious community is a utopian fantasy.

Christian Exodus wants to repeal the 16th Amendment allowing the income tax and the 17th Amendment allowing the direct election of U.S. senators. The group opposes abortion, supports school prayer and says “homosexual activity is a behavior that a state may regulate and legislate against,” according to its Web site.

“I’m surprised it has taken Americans so long to stand up and demand their government back,” Burnell said.

Janoski learned of Christian Exodus from a fellow church member. The moment he read about it, he knew the movement agreed with his religious beliefs and his ideas about government.

It wasn’t long before Janoski lined up a computer programmer job that allowed him to move to South Carolina; “The Lord opened doors,” he said.

Janoski isn’t bothered that only four other Christian Exodus families have found their way to South Carolina so far, making the group’s goal of attracting 2,500 members to the state by September seem impossible.

“The real battle is going to be won shaking your hand in church or at the taxpayer meeting or in the neighborhood,” he said.

Janoski enjoys the media attention, believing each interview and story spreads his group’s message. He even had a good laugh as “The Daily Show” mocked him as “a white Christian man who just wants to be accepted for who he is” all the while living in a state whose politics are dominated by white Christian men.

“We can laugh at ourselves. It’s OK,” Janoski said. “Our long-term goals are righteous.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
AP, via the Southern Standard, USA
Oct. 14, 2005

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)