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Christian soldier

He has backing from Omaha insurance giants and the Christian right, but his rocky divorce threatens both.

Scripture tells us that some 2,000 years ago, Christ entered the temple and threw out the money changers. Two years ago, Jon Christensen (R-Neb.), riding a wave of reform spirit and Christian indignation, entered the halls of Congress, but must have decided that the money changers weren't so bad after all.

Christensen, a freshman Republican from Omaha, launched his political career with a few moneyed backers, such as Omaha businessman David Sokol, and the support of an army of right-wing Christian activists. A virtual unknown, he used legions of canvassers to defeat two moderate Republicans in the 1994 primary and set himself up for a November win.

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Christensen is closely allied with the conservative activists at Omaha's Christian and Missionary Alliance-affiliated Christ Community Church. Says former Omaha Mayor Mike Boyle, "He's right out of the Pat Robertson politicians' school." Christensen's opposition to abortion and homosexuality and his belief that creationism should be taught in schools jibe with fundamentalist teachings.

Christensen didn't remain an unknown for long. Like many of his fellow freshmen, he quickly got a plum assignment. In fact, more than a third of the freshman Republican class got seats on one of the three most powerful money committees in the House. Fifteen GOP newcomers sit on the Banking Committee; eight more took spots on the Commerce Committee; and three freshmen -- Christensen, John Ensign of Las Vegas, Nev., and Phil English of Erie, Pa. -- got positions on the most powerful: the House Ways and Means Committee.

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