The long march through the institutions
Michelle Goldberg printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 11:58:01 AM EST
Earlier this week, I published a piece in Salon about the war on Christmas canard that various right-wing demagogues are using to stoke the embers of outrage among their base. (If you want to read it and are not a Salon subscriber, you have to click through an advertisement). Last year, we heard a lot about this from Bill O'Reilly -- there were regular "Christmas Under Siege" segments on The O'Reilly Factor. This year, the spurious campaign to defend Christmas is likely to be a lot bigger, with the Christian right legal outfits Alliance Defense Fund and Liberty Counsel both mobilizing upwards of 700 lawyers each to intervene if anyone interferes with the singing of Christmas hymns in schools or the erection of crèches on government property. The war on Christmas trope is useful in framing an aggressive campaign to get more Christianity into public life into a defensive stance against a malign secular conspiracy to drive religion underground.

One thing I quoted, but didn't have a chance to delve into, is this line from a San Francisco Chronicle story about Liberty Counsel's "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign:"  "The 8,000 members of the Christian Educators Association International will be the campaign's 'eyes and ears' in the nation's public schools. They'll be reporting to 750 Liberty Counsel lawyers who are ready to pounce if, for example, a teacher is muzzled from leading the third-graders in 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.'" Apparently, members of the Christian Educators Association International are being instructed to act as informers for a movement that is fundamentally hostile to the very existence of the secular public schools where these people presumably work. And this points to the way that the phenomenon described by Mainstream Baptist and Joan Bokaer -- of the Christian right taking over local Republican party organizations from within -- has now spread far beyond politics, to encompass many different aspects of American life.

We can see this with the growth of religious right organizations like Pharmacists for Life that, by encouraging and supporting pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives, impose their religious doctrines on the general public. It's also at work with the increasing emphasis on evangelism in the workplace; with the aggressive proselytizing and climate of Christian nationalism at the Air Force Academy; and with the increasingly sectarian character of government-funded social services, courtesy of Bush's faith-based initiative. The woman in the mink coat that Joan wrote about was driven out of her party; now we're seeing people driven out of their jobs.

As I'll be writing in a Salon piece next week, this growing, diffuse campaign to Christianize all kinds of institutions from within is part of what has Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League so alarmed. I'm not sure what the best strategy is to counter it, because the lines separating evangelical self-expression and comradeship, which they have every right to, from improper coercion and subversion, can be difficult to draw. Nor does the establishment clause necessarily protect us in the private sphere. Obviously, in some cases people can make civil rights claims, but what I'm worried about, and not clear on how to respond to, is this attempt to polarize every bit of our public life along religious lines.




Display:
I read a couple of the articles that you linked to, and they were very enlightening, particularly the one about the Salvation Army lawsuit. I wonder if that's been ruled on yet?

I have had to deal with overt and aggressive evangelism in the workplace, and it was very difficult for me, especially since I was in the military and simply could not vote with my feet (quit). I had no legal recourse, either. I had to put up and shut up.

I'm a longtime Salon subscriber, and it has always been gratifying to see your magazine cover things like the Religious Right, as well as other subjects. I'd love to see an article investigating the covert takeover of low power FM stations all over the US by evangelical broadcasters.

I look forward to the new article. It's great to have you here, Michelle.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 12:42:59 PM EST

Lorie,

I'd actually love to talk to you sometime about what happened to you in the military -- I've been mulling over the idea of doing a story about the Christianizaiton of the services. If you feel like emailing me, you can reach me at michellehelene@yahoo.com.

There's a lot more about the Salvation Army lawsuit in my book. It's a pretty shocking story, and got remarkably little coverage. The court dismissed part of the case, but part of it is ongoing, and I think the NYCLU may appeal the dismissal. You can read about it here.

by Michelle Goldberg on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 01:38:24 PM EST
Parent

I just might do that. I recounted my encounter with an extremely religious roomie in my personal journal- after people were flipping out over that woman in "Trading Spouses". My roomie could have been her as a youngster. It reminded me about other evangelical tangles I had in the military. Not fun...

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 02:19:35 PM EST
Parent



Re CEAI in particular:

CEAI (Christian Educators Association International) is a dominionist "parallel economy" alternative to the National Education Association that is heavily promoted by dominionist groups:

http://www.namb.net/educators (promotion by National Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention)
http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/7/afa/292003b.asp (AFA promotion)
http://www.cccu.org/resourcecenter/resID.935,parentCatID.224/rc_detail.asp (from a certification mill for dominionist colleges)
http://www.nehemiahinstitute.com/csa.php (from a dominionist education site in a rollcall of groups almost entirely consisting of accreditation mills for dominionist school programs)
http://www.blessedcause.org/PressRelease/Christian%20Educators%20Association%20International.htm (from a hardline dominionist website)
http://www.educationpolicy.org/files/paynea.htm (from a pro-dominionist, anti-public-schools site: their links section is a who's who of dominionist groups)
http://www.raiseyourhand.us/leadershipteam.html (a "prayer gang" led by CEAI's executive board; deeper in the website it admits it's a CEAI front group that has as its goal dominionist indoctrination of every child in the US (http://www.raiseyourhand.us/aboutus.html))
http://www.crosswalk.com/news/religiontoday/1357601.html (via Salem Communications-owned crosswalk.com, press release from Answers in Genesis)

CEAI itself seems to be one of the oldest dominionist groups, right up there with Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International (http://www.ceai.org/about.htm), and (after a bit of digging around in the website) it's actually quite obvious CEAI was founded as a similar effort to FGBMFI targeting public school teachers (http://www.ceai.org/fabout/history_part2.htm).

CEAI was formerly known as the National Educators' Fellowship; http://pages.zdnet.com/trimb/id22.html details how they've had a long history of blatant prosyletisation to kids in schools (and in case you doubt they're blatantly dominionist: http://www.ceai.org/fmembers/teaching_tips/tt_halloween.htm has links to pages claiming Halloween is satanic and encouraging placing Bible verses in the sacks of kids going "trick-or-treat"-ing)).

by dogemperor on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 12:57:28 PM EST

Many AM religious radio programs tout the CEAI, even as they attack the NEA, the American Federation of Teacher, and other legitimate labor unions. They tend to stress the "educators as professionals" angle, which has long been used to deny teachers' need for representation in relation to school administrations.

by MaryOGrady on Thu Nov 24, 2005 at 11:08:19 AM EST
Parent
Most AM radio preachers (especially those that are regionally or nationally syndicated) are members of a group call the National Religious Broadcasters.

The NRB is in turn the media division of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Why do I bring this up?

a) The NAE a few years ago was essentially taken over by dominionists, and in fact a person at the very center of the dominionist movement--Ted Haggard of New Life Church--is the head of it.  

For those who aren't aware--New Life Church is a dominionist, spiritually abusive church that not only practices Brownsville aka "Third Wave" doctrines (that are dominionist at their core, as "Third Wave" doctrines are in essence an extension of "spiritual warfare" and "deliverance ministry" beliefs) but has in fact set up "prayer gangs", uses coercive "prayer cell" setups (a coercive tactic introduced to pentecostal/charismatic groups by Paul Yonggi Cho, who also is responsible ultimately for the whole Brownsville aka Toronto aka "Third Wave" madness in the first place), has links to the AoG (via use of the Royal Rangers, an AoG front group meant as a dominionist alternative to the Boy Scouts--whom, it is felt, are not "Christian enough"), and has even attempted "Wesson oil" exorcisms on city buildings and literally stalked "new agers" and neopagans in their community.  Harper's Magazine has done an excellent expose on the group, and this site has links to further information; "This American Life" has also done an informative program regarding New Life and its prayer-gangs.

b) The National Religious Broadcasters are the main media wing of the "parallel economy" that dominionist groups have set up (which includes "Christian businesses" via the "Christian Yellow Pages" and companies like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby which directly fund dominionist causes).  In fact, the NRB is  probably THE major media point from where the dominionist message gets out to the churchgoers, aside from the churches themselves (who often teach that to listen to "non-Christian media" will cause one to be demonised).

A number of informative articles are available on the NRB and its specific links to dominionist groups, including:

Harpers Magazine companion article to the New Life Church article
Max Blumenthal article on NRB as dominionist media
Columbia Journalism Review's article on dominionist "parallel media" focusing on the NRB
Mirror and further commentary re above CJR article
Americans United article on NRB as dominionist media

(Most of these articles are mirrored on Katherine Yurica's excellent site on dominionism (which is also one of the few sites I've seen that focuses in on the AoG links with dominionism, something I can personally confirm as a walkaway).)

Possibly even more disturbing, one thing I have found in my own private research of dominionist radio (in preparation for a research project involving "godcaster" networks associated with the NRB and a few particular broadcasters in particular, namely Salem Communications and Calvary Chapel's loose-knit translator networks including WAY-FM and K-Love affiliates) is that the FCC's head of licensing policy for broadcast licenses (for AM/FM/TV licenses) has been saluted by the NRB and has links to them:

Dark Christianity article (if anyone wishes, I'll gladly post it here too, to give a little bit of backgrounder for the next project)
Original Project Tocsin blog


by dogemperor on Sun Nov 27, 2005 at 01:24:06 PM EST
Parent




Michele said,

I'm worried about, and not clear on how to respond to, is this attempt to polarize every bit of our public life along religious lines.

I think this expresses the concern of a lot of us.

The Dominionist attempt to "Christianize" the culture is polarizing and divisive.  If we don't find a way to restore some civility in public life, sooner or later the conflict will escalate beyond the level of rhetoric.

It would help if "Evangelicals" would go back to working on converting people instead of focusing on re-claiming a culture.  Culture has little or nothing to do with being a Christian.

by Mainstream Baptist on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 01:46:13 PM EST

In some areas (notably, regarding gay/les/bi/trans individuals and in regards to abortion providers) it already has gone beyond rhetoric.

For that matter, in Colorado Springs itself, it went beyond rhetoric in the 70's when neopagans were literally being stalked and their homes picketed by Ted Haggard's New Life Church.

Sadly, I'm not sure what the cure is, as with a lot of these groups the dominionist push is part of their core theology (not so much with the Southern Baptists, I'm talking more on the pente/charismatic groups into "Third Wave" stuff) and we're also dealing with what is essentially a coercive mindset.

by dogemperor on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 02:01:50 PM EST
Parent

There's a segment of "This American Life" that talks about Pastor Ted and his 'prayer walking' around Colorado Springs.

It's definitely worth listening to.

Pray

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 02:16:09 PM EST
Parent




Excellent article in Salon, Michelle. Congratuations on a wonderful job.

When I hear a fundamentalist relative start complaining about the "anti-Christmas" conspiracy over the holidays this year, I'm going to bring up Ford and the Birch Society and see if they know anything about the legitimacy of those complaints. ;-)

by Karen on Wed Nov 23, 2005 at 06:56:11 PM EST



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