Dominionist groups as coercive religious groups?
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Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 10:38:24 AM EST
One of the things I have been thinking a great deal about in regards to dominionism is how a good deal of dominionist groups use similar tactics to well-known coercive religious groups.  (Yes, this is going to be one of my longwinded posts here)
The reason that this keeps coming to mind for me is that I myself am a survivor of a coercive religious group associated with the Assemblies of God--one which is also very politically active, in a denomination that is pretty politically active in regards to dominionism.  (Among other things, the AoG has funded John Ashcroft's gubernatorial runs in past) original discovery that something was severely broken in the church I walked away from was through involvement on net.abuse issues on the Usenet group alt.religion.scientology (the Scientologists were doing their best to wreck the group, which was being used as a support group for ex-Scientos).

Using some of the checklists of "coerciveness" that had been posted by exit counseling groups, I realised the group I walked away from would fit the criteria.

In my research on dominionism since (which I have done, in part, to help along my own recovery from the scars of spiritual abuse)...I am becoming increasingly convinced that (especially among the pente/charismatic groups involved in dominionism, possibly increasingly so even among the Southern Baptists) part of the reason people are having such poor success in debating dominionists is because they do not realise they are in essence dealing with someone who is in a coercive religious group.

Dominionist groups, especially those into "spiritual warfare" (crossreference Marguerite Perrin on "Trading Spouses" for an example of this in action--I honestly wish I could say it's an extreme example, but in some dominionist groups her behaviour is sadly typical), have an entire system designed to isolate their members from "mainstream reality" and to essentially create a dominionist "group-think".

Speaking from my own experiences as a former dominionist (having been raised in it), here are some of the things that my church has done to pretty much prevent any outside influences:

a) Taught explicitly that everyone outside the group is evil, possibly even in league with Satan, and that Satan may even be "working through them"

b) Taught that criticism of the group was "blaspheming against the Holy Spirit" and criticism of members or the church was answered with "touch not mine annointed" or "thou shalt not judge a man of God"

c) Taught that demons were the cause of all hardship and illness (including diseases; genetic diseases along with multigenerational poverty were termed "generational curses" and even colds and flu were the result of "solidified demonic corruption") and that these could be cured by "naming it and claiming it" as well as donations of up to fifty percent of income to the church

d) Taught that "doorways to Satan" could open up and cause "demonic oppression" by things as innocuous as peace symbols (which they preached were Satanic), Nike shoes, and Pokemon (!) (yes, they literally teach that if kids had Pokemon stuff they'd be demonised; they also do book burnings of Harry Potter books for the same reason, and even criticised C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" because it was fantasy)

e) Taught people to not associate with "unsaved" people unless for the purpose of conversion, and even distributed "Christian Yellow Pages" to this effect (which required a fundamentalist statement of faith to be signed before they'd list someone)

f) Ran their own TV and radio "godcasting" network (now focusing largely internationally; see and told people that literally all media outside from the church was Satanic

g) Handed out voter's guides from the AFA and a predecessor group (Freedom's Heritage Forum) telling people explicitly whom to vote for (by the way, a deacon of the church is the state head of the AFA)

h) Taught explicitly that deceptive tactics are perfectly permissible in an attempt to convert someone (and yes, this is denomination wide; I've documented over 40 separate "front groups" used for various forms of targeted prosyletising by the AoG, including targeting other churches)

i) Taught people could literally be hexed into conversion by essentially cursing these people in the name of Christ to be miserable and even suicidal unless they converted

j) Taught that involuntary exorcism of people who were gay/les/bi/trans, not dominionists (and openly critical of the group), and so on were perfectly permissible

Now, I wish this were not a terribly large church, or a terribly politically active or important church.  I wish this was an abberation.

Unfortunately, a church deacon at the very church I walked away from is head of the Kentucky AFA (one of our two main dominionist groups here--the other is in Lexington and is the state FotF frontgroup), essentially has been at the center of the dominionist movement in the state for the past thirty years, and is busy setting up a multi-station "godcasting" network on shortwave radio (yes, most of the annoying religious broadcasters on shortwave radio are affiliated with High Adventure Ministries, which is a front group of the very AoG church I walked away from).  It's also a major stop on the AoG "traveling preacher" circuit, is the second largest church in my home state (with anywhere from 7000 to 17,000 in attendance, depending on whose figures you believe and whether a "revival meeting" is in progress there), and no less than Oliver North has been at the church preaching that the Reds were the Antichrist so he pushed the Iran-Contra arms deal as a mission from God (!)

Also, sadly, this view is also not atypical--John Ashcroft's "eccentricities" like being annointed with Wesson oil (!) are typical teachings in those churches, and practices at Ted Haggard's New Life Church are very similar to the tactics of "deliverance ministry" preached at the church I walked away from.

If people are interested (and I've included a poll below) I've started to document dominion theology and how it is coercive according to both multiple checklists for "coerciveness" as well as direct comparison with well-known coercive religious groups (many of the similarities of tactics of dominionist groups into "deliverance ministry" and Scientology in particular are shocking when put in direct contrast).  I've made a few posts on Dark Christianity in regards to this, but I do think this is an area of study that needs more attention in general.

IMHO, much of how we are going to lick dominionism in the end is by learning how people in coercive religious groups in general think and how these groups ARE, in large part, less formal political groups and better classified as coercive groups with political agendas.  (It DOES explain why occasionally trying to debate dominionists seems as productive as talking to a brick wall, and may give info on more productive ways to actually get into useful dialogue--or determine if it's even possible.)

Is that the same denomination that gave us televangelist Jimmy Swaggart? The one who got nailed having altogether too much fun in a motel on New Orleans's Airline Highway to Heaven?
Just asking.

by MaryOGrady on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 11:27:50 AM EST
That would be one and the same, yes.

As well as being associated with Jim Bakker and John Ashcroft and Gen. Boykin and Benny Hin and a whole cast of completely unsavoury people:

by dogemperor on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 04:08:34 PM EST

h) Taught explicitly that deceptive tactics are perfectly permissible in an attempt to convert someone (and yes, this is denomination wide; I've documented over 40 separate "front groups" used for various forms of targeted prosyletising by the AoG, including targeting other churches)

This is common among most fundamentalist groups of any stripe. I came across my first instance of this while reading about the Jehovah's Witnesses; they call it "theocratic warfare," which is a term I've found most...well, telling.
Potius mori quam foedari.
by LiliSaintcrow on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:44:41 PM EST

Item h), there, describes many people's experiences with recruiters from the Roman Catholic Church's Opus Dei.

by MaryOGrady on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 08:11:46 PM EST

I'd even go so far as to state it's not even restricted to pente/charismatic-affiliated dominionists (someone has mentioned similar practices with the Jehovah's Witnesses and Opus Dei, and I've heard the practice called "heavenly deception" among the Moonies).

In fact, the use of multiple front groups is almost universally recognised among exit counselors as a "red flag warning" of a potentially hazardous group (it indicates the group has something to hide).

by dogemperor on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 10:23:09 AM EST

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