Dominionism and coercive tactics, part 1
Dominionism, both in and of itself and in the religious and other groups associated with dominionism, share enough characteristics with groups traditionally considered coercive groups (or "cults", in the case of coercive religious groups) that the groups associated with dominionism, and likely the entire dominionist movement itself, are better seen as a coercive religious group in and of itself rather than as a strictly political movement. It is my belief (as a walkaway and as an informal researcher) that it is likely impossible to fully understand dominionism (as a political movement) unless one sees the political aspects of dominionism in a larger context of a general coercive mindset existing in the "parent" groups of the dominionist movement.
In this post, I will directly compare lists of coercive tactics used by four groups active in research of coercive groups (FACTnet's summary of research by Dr Margaret Thaler Singer, info from Rick Ross Institute, info from Steven Hassan's "Freedom of Mind", and lists from the International Cultic Studies Association (a group, ironically, that had to change its original name, the American Family Foundation, due to confusion with the dominionist group American Family Association)) in comparison with coercive tactics used in the dominionist community at large and with specific aspects of the dominionist community in particular.
The following list is courtesy of the following article at FACTnet, a group who is best known for pointing out coercive tactics used in Scientology but whom also has been doing heavy research as of late in regards to abuses in "Bible-based" coercive groups (including many associated directly with dominionism).
This list is from Dr Margaret Thaler Singer, a major researcher into coercive tactics (both in the vein of "thought reform" techniques used to "brainwash" people in coercive regimes, and also specifically in the use of coercive tactics in spiritually abusive groups).
TACTIC 1. The individual is prepared for thought reform through increased suggestibility and/or "softening up," specifically through hypnotic or other suggestibility-increasing techniques such as: A. Extended audio, visual, verbal, or tactile fixation drills; B. Excessive exact repetition of routine activities; C. Decreased sleep; D. Nutritional restriction.
This is largely an issue with specific practices in dominionist-affiliated churches, but does occur and is known to be coercive:
a) Heavy emphasis on prayer/fasting (especially in dominionist churches with empasis on "word-faith" teaching or "deliverance ministry", such as New Life Church in Colorado Springs), often multiple 40-day fasts in a year. (The dominionist church I walked away from also does regular 21-day fasts, and other dominionist groups have tended to promote this as well).
b) Services in dominionist churches are often heavily scripted (to the point that specific playing of music is a "trigger" for the "manifestations" in those churches; "Power In The Blood" and "In The Name Of Jesus" are two songs that are often used as specific "trigger songs" in churches into "deliverance ministry").
c) In some dominionist circles, "biblical diets" are promoted (including not only "What Would Jesus Eat" diets, but the "Cabbage Soup Diet" (which is strongly recommended against by dietitians and which even its promoters recommend never to stay on for longer than seven days) promoted for people on 21 and 40-day fasts who have medical reasons against a total fast)
d) Especially in churches with a heavy emphasis on "deliverance ministry" certain Bible verses are used almost as a mantra.
e) Generally studying the Bible in a fundamentalist context is one of the few, and often the only, form of meditation allowed; in churches into deliverance ministry, it's even claimed that meditation will cause one to be demonised.
In the case of dominionist groups on a political level, generally there isn't so much of this (save with "biblical diets" and restriction of information, as noted below) but the dominionist churches serving as "gateway groups" and home churches for the political wings of the dominionist movement do practice these and often.
TACTIC 2. Using rewards and punishments, efforts are made to establish considerable control over a person's social environment, time, and sources of social support. Social isolation is promoted. Contact with family and friends is abridged, as is contact with persons who do not share group-approved attitudes. Economic and other dependence on the group is fostered. (In the forerunner to coercive persuasion, brainwashing, this was rather easy to achieve through simple imprisonment.)
This is actually quite blatant, both in the "parent churches" of the dominionist movement and in the political/social groups associated with dominionism.
Among other things:
a) Extensive "parallel institutions" exist, including business institutions (in the form of the "Christian Yellow Pages" and similar listings that require a dominionist "statement of faith"), media outlets (via "Christian" radio and television networks; Harpers Magazine has an entire section on it), schooling (homeschooling and private schools in the dominionist community, which will be discussed more in detail in a bit), and social networks (including dominionist alternatives to children's groups like the Girl Scouts--of which at least two (Royal Rangers/Missionettes and "Heritage Girls" exist)).
b) Families are often told not to associate with people outside the group, and even family members who are not fellow dominionists are seen either as targets for conversion or for damnation. In "social" dominionist groups, this is exemplified by documented practice of "See You At The Pole" folks of writing names down of people, nailing them to crosses, and praying that they become suicidal unless they become dominionists; in the case of the parent churches, this can go all the way to practices in "deliverance ministry" that preach that all persons outside the church are demonised.
c) Access to outside media is severely restricted. Even in the "social" and political dominionist groups this is under the guise this is "harmful" or "un-Christian"; in the case of the parent churches, the line tends to go further in claiming that exposure to media outside the church will at best cause one to backslide and (frequently in dominionist churches practicing "deliverance ministry") claims that any media or contact outside the church will cause one to become demon possessed. (Again, this will be noted below.)
d) The restriction of info extends specifically to children, in that there is a very heavy emphasis on both use of homeschooling (with dominionist curriculum) and restriction of contacts of children to dominionist-approved groups (including alternatives to the Boy/Girl Scouts). Much of this is explicitly promoted in dominionist literature from the American Family Association and Focus on the Family.
e) Family members outspoken in regards to disapproval of dominionism risk either being disowned or involuntarily exorcised (the former more common in fundamentalist sects, the latter more common in minors and in groups into "deliverance ministry").
In some cases with dominionists, this even has resulted in businesses founded by them taking on the same coercive tactics; Amway/Quixtar, a group associated with coercive tactics in its business training, was founded by a dominionist and the DeVos Foundation is still a heavy funder of dominionist causes (in fact, the DeVos Foundation is probably the largest funder of dominionist causes in the US along with the Coors family and Scaife family foundations). Many of the reports of coercive behaviour in Amway/Quixtar have especially been associated with Amway/Quixtar representatives also associated with the Full Gospel Businessmen's Association (which is a front group of the Assemblies of God targeted towards businessmen; more on front groups in general below).
Pyramid schemes specifically targeting dominionists--called "affinity fraud"--have also become so common (because, in part, of their promotion as a "Christian Alternative") that state attorneys-general have had to warn about them.
TACTIC 3. Disconfirming information and nonsupporting opinions are prohibited in group communication. Rules exist about permissible topics to discuss with outsiders. Communication is highly controlled. An "in-group" language is usually constructed.
Again, this is true in both the political dominionist movement and in its parent churches.
Dominionist churches are often so concerned about the actual dogma of the group going out to the outside world that multiple services geared towards "new members" and "dedicated members" are held. Generally the actual dogma is not discussed in great detail (because they know, and even admit, that outsiders would be horrified or "consider us a cult").
There is a well documented "code language" in dominionist circles, and very often (both politically and to their own members) dominionist groups speak in a code that sounds innocent to those not in dominionist circles but is in fact a message to the dominionist community. (Yurica Report has done a particularly good job of the documentation of "code words" and their use in the dominionist community; this community, too, has been trying to develop a "dominionist lexicon" as have other sites. Theocracy Watch has also documented use of dominionist code words in presidential speeches, as has this article. Code words within dominionist churches themselves are even more obfuscated; at least one group of walkaways is trying to compile a lexicon, and other lexicons of dominionist codewords/code phrases have been compiled by Project Tocsin and Dark Christianity.
In fact, it is strongly suspected that comments Bush has recently given in regards to Harriet Miers are in fact coded messages to dominionists.
In the parent churches, the reaction is actually even more extreme--people are told, flat out, that disagreement with the church will lead to disfellowship; in many cases this is actively extended to claims that the person disagreeing is "possessed with the spirit of rebellion" (in the case of churches into "deliverance ministry") or with women in particular being accused of having a "Jezebel Spirit".
TACTIC 4. Frequent and intense attempts are made to cause a person to re-evaluate the most central aspects of his or her experience of self and prior conduct in negative ways. Efforts are designed to destabilize and undermine the subject's basic consciousness, reality awareness, world view, emotional control, and defense mechanisms as well as getting them to reinterpret their life's history, and adopt a new version of causality.
This occurs both in political dominionist groups and in the parent groups--much of the emphasis in "alternative media" is to show how the world outside is "satanic" or actively against the group. A major part of any newsletter by FotF or in "Christian news" media is how someone supposedly was living in horrific conditions till they were "saved"; this gets even more extreme in dominionist groups targeting gay/les/bi/trans individuals.
Dominionist groups--both parent churches and political dominionist groups--have a major focus in restricting both contacts with people outside the group and with media not directly controlled by dominionist groups. (In fact, it is not uncommon to claim that people will lose salvation if exposed to media outside the group or if they interact too much with people outside the group.) Media outside the group are often accused of being blatantly "anti-Christian" (and in the parent churches, actively accused of being Satanist).
Dominionist groups (especially those into "spiritual warfare" and the explicitly Christian Reconstructionist groups) do engage in historical revisionism, including claims that the US was meant to be a religious theocracy and including conspiratorial claims that "liberals and satanists" are attempting to deny dominionists their "godly heritage". (This includes explicitly in their educational systems, too; see my prior post on A Beka's curriculum for examples.)
Churches in the dominionist movement into "deliverance ministry" (such as New Life Church in Colorado Springs) take this to extreme levels, claiming that anything outside the church is crawling with demons and that areas can be affected by "territorial spirits". (In one documented case, a New Life Church member attempted an impromptu "exorcism" by spraying Wesson oil over a business with a 5-gallon garden sprayer.) Much of the justification for dominionism in these churches is based on the idea that, quite literally, everything in the world is against them. (For people who want a very visual example of this in action, do a Google search for Marguerite Perrin's infamous "God Warrior" brew-up. The frightening thing is, much of her behaviour is typical of people heavily into "deliverance ministry". They quite literally do believe, to quote Mrs. Perrin, that in regards to stuff outside their homes..."Everything Is Un-Godly".)
TACTIC 5. Intense and frequent attempts are made to undermine a person's confidence in himself and his judgment, creating a sense of powerlessness.
In dominionist groups, this is typically done by claims that doubts in a group are the result of "demonic oppression" or a "lack of faith". (This is an aspect more common in the parent churches.)
TACTIC 6. Nonphysical punishments are used such as intense humiliation, loss of privilege, social isolation, social status changes, intense guilt, anxiety, manipulation and other techniques for creating strong aversive emotional arousals, etc.
Shunning is a very common practice in dominionist groups, as well as claims that people are "backsliding". People who walk away from even political dominionist groups are often viciously demonised (Exodus International's own founders are generally treated as persona non grata by the group due to the founders now being outspoken about "de-gaying" therapy being not only ineffective but harmful).
TACTIC 7. Certain secular psychological threats [force] are used or are present: That failure to adopt the approved attitude, belief, or consequent behavior will lead to severe punishment or dire consequence, (e.g. physical or mental illness, the reappearance of a prior physical illness, drug dependence, economic collapse, social failure, divorce, disintegration, failure to find a mate, etc.).
This is extremely common in dominionist groups. In the parent churches, this often becomes vociferous, including claims that people who walk away or even criticise the leadership of the church are "demon possessed" or will "lose their blessing" or are permanently damned for "blaspheming the Holy Ghost"; very often people are literally cursed in the name of God to suffer all manner of troubles until they convert.
One specific aspect--dominionist churches very often preach on what they will do to non-dominionists upon obtaining political power. This includes threats of physical violence (including against gays and walkaways, as well as against outspoken critics). The very threat of political power can be used as a psychological threat, especially in conjunction with threats of force already used.
Some dominionist groups have actively attempted lawsuits et al against critics, and have attempted "real life" harassment (including both pickets and libel); the particular dominionist church has in fact gone to this level of "dead agenting" in targeting persons merely stating public support of Fairness Ordinances (including falsified ads in magazines targeted at the gay/les/bi/trans community implicating that supporters of Fairness ordinances were paedophiles).
In the cases of churches into "deliverance ministry" or heavily into "de-gaying therapy" the threats of coercion can include involuntary exorcisms and involuntary committment to "Christian therapy centers" (such as Love In Action/Refuge--as sadly documented by the case of Zach, a 16-year-old who was involuntarily committed; despite being ordered by the state of Tennessee to shut down for being unlicensed, at least one other minor has since been involuntarily committed). Rapha Counseling Centers (heavily promoted in the dominionist community as a "Christian Counseling Center" alternative to conventional psychiatry) even includes involuntary treatment of adults, practices "deliverance ministry") and even lists a series of endorsements by dominionist groups. There are sadly quite a number of other similar facilities, and none less than Ted Haggard's New Life Church a search function for them. (Part 2 of this series will actually largely focus on this.)
Certain dominionist groups associated with the "right-to-life" movement as well as "deliverance ministry" have in fact been linked with wider-scale violence (including death threats, terroristic threatening, and (in the case of dominionist antiabortion groups) occasionally crossing the line to frank terrorism and/or murder). This is also increasingly occuring with anti-gay groups in the dominionist movement, to the extent that anti-hate groups (first Southern Poverty Law Center, most recently the Anti-Defamation League) are now taking notice and formally documenting some dominionist groups as hate groups.
From the same article as Singer's work is Robert Lifton's list. Here's how I've evaluated dominionist groups per that list:
Robert Jay Lifton's Eight Point Model of Thought Reform
As previously noted, dominionist groups have a very heavy emphasis on limiting info from outside the group, to the point of creating essentially an entire "parallel economy" in the dominionist community including not only media but businesses, entertainment, and institutional systems including psychiatric care).
2. MYSTICAL MANIPULATION. The potential convert to the group becomes convinced of the higher purpose and special calling of the group through a profound encounter/experience, for example, through an alleged miracle or prophetic word of those in the group.
Dominionists have as a part of their essential theology that they are chosen specifically to "Christianise the planet" by force. The specific end goal varies with the particular branch of dominionism--in preparation for the Millenial Reign of Christ in Christian Reconstructionist groups, as a "trigger point" for Rapture in some premillenarian dominionist groups, as something necessary for the US to remain a "Chosen Nation" along with Israel in the eschatology of quite a few dominionist groups associated with "Third Wave" theology)--but the basic theology does always note on some level that dominionists are "chosen by God" and because of this "choosing" they have a literal holy mandate to convert the US to a theocracy.
In many of the "parent churches" of the dominionist movement in particular those into the "third wave") they preach explicitly that they are the first churches since the time of the Apostles to be actually practicing Christianity and that the various "manifestations" seen in pentecostal churches are "proof" of this.
In the "parallel media" used by dominionists and promoted in the dominionist community, an essential feature of most news statements is of someone who "got saved" through the group's efforts.
3. DEMAND FOR PURITY. An explicit goal of the group is to bring about some kind of change, whether it be on a global, social, or personal level. "Perfection is possible if one stays with the group and is committed."
As noted above, both of the two main branches of dominionism have as their essential theology that the planet must be converted to dominionism--by force, if necessary--and that they are the only ones who have a proper view of "Christianity". As the major goal of dominionism in general is to establish religious theocracies in countries with secular governments including the US, Australia and other countries) this would apply to dominionist movements by default.
4. CULT OF CONFESSION. The unhealthy practice of self disclosure to members in the group. Often in the context of a public gathering in the group, admitting past sins and imperfections, even doubts about the group and critical thoughts about the integrity of the leaders.
Some dominionist groups have been known to use self-disclosure against members, in particular dominionist groups practicing shepherding/"cell church" techniques such as Promise Keepers, Youth With A Mission, Campus Crusade et al).
Dominionist churches also frequently encourage people to confess "secret sins" at "deliverance services" and have on occasion used confessions against walkaways and critics.
Many dominionist groups accuse critics of the movement or its leaders of "having a liberal agenda" and in churches practicing "deliverance ministry" doubts about the church, its theology, or its leadership are literally seen as signs of demonic possession. With women in particular, they are often accused of having a "Jezebel spirit".
5. SACRED SCIENCE. The group's perspective is absolutely true and completely adequate to explain EVERYTHING. The doctrine is not subject to amendments or question. ABSOLUTE conformity to the doctrine is required.
Extremely common--dominionist groups, almost by definition, have a fundamentalist/literalist view of Christianity that at best does not acknowledge interpretive approaches to Scripture as theologically valid, tend to damn other groups including liberal Christian groups or Christian organisations criticising dominionism) as being "not truly Christian" or "lukewarm", and a common phrase in dominionist circles is "God said it, I believe it, that settles it".
Anything outside this worldview is literally seen as satanic, and in the cases of churches into deliverance ministry, as sign of demonic possession (see above).
6. LOADED LANGUAGE. A new vocabulary emerges within the context of the group. Group members "think" within the very abstract and narrow parameters of the group's doctrine. The terminology sufficiently stops members from thinking critically by reinforcing a "black and white" mentality. Loaded terms and clichés prejudice thinking.
As noted, there is an entire lexicon used in the dominionist community that is little understood outside of it. Much material aimed at dominionists such as "code words" in Presidential speeches) is not easily understood without a knowledge of what the terms mean in the dominionist community. (In fact, the use of code words is so extensive that lexicons are being developed including by walkaways from dominionist groups.)
7. DOCTRINE OVER PERSON. Pre-group experience and group experience are narrowly and decisively interpreted through the absolute doctrine, even when experience contradicts the doctrine.
Explicit both in theology and action by dominionist groups. The places where people can see this most explicitly in regards to dominionist policy are with court cases involving "intelligent design"; even with documented evidence of evolution, dominionists push "intelligent design" as an attempt to get young-earth creationism taught in schools. Their worldview literally does not permit room for even hard scientific evidence of speciation; it has literally been taught in dominionist circles that paleontologists fake fossils entirely, or that the rate of radioactive decay changes or the speed of light. In other words, if they acknowledge fossils documenting speciation events at all, they inevitably will warp science instead of adapting theology to scientific evidence (the exact reverse of most Christian groups, including the Catholic Church).
Medical decisions based on popular myths in the dominionist community such as the claim that birth control pills and IUDs are a form of abortion because they prevent implantation, or that birth control makes kids "hornier", or that abortion causes breast cancer) are promoted even despite hard scientific evidence to the contrary.
Interestingly, this has been part of why many dominionist groups promote "Christian Counseling" as an explicit "parallel economy" alternative to traditional psychiatry. Psychiatrists are becoming increasingly aware that practices in dominionism are psychologically harmful and some specific practices, such as "de-gaying" or "reparative" therapy, have been officially condemned by nearly all mainstream psychatric/psychological associations as both ineffective and capable of causing grave psychiatric injury) and because of this dominionists are specifically recommending people go to doctors and associations within the dominionist community itself. (This is a pattern repeated in several other coercive religious groups, in particular within Scientology--a group which also has practiced its own version of "reparative therapy". Part 2 of this series will focus on deliverance ministry and the promotion of "Christian Counseling" and the similarity of tactics used amongst dominionist "Christian Counseling Centers" and Scientology.)
8. DISPENSING OF EXISTENCE. Salvation is possible only in the group. Those who leave the group are doomed.
Explicit in both the parent churches and the political dominionist groups, often very blatantly explicit. In fact, many dominionist "parent churches" have it as part of explicit church theology that any walkaways as well as church critics are "blaspheming the Holy Spirit" and have thus committed the one unforgivable sin.)
The fact that dominionist "parent churches" often preach of what they intend government-wise including the literal murder of non-dominionists) also is a strong psychological element in discouraging people from leaving the group.
Dominionist groups as part of their basic theology do preach that non-dominionists are damned.
Rick Ross has another list of warning signs for coercive religious groups at this link:
Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader.
True in nearly all dominionist groups--there is no meaningful accountability either in the parent churches or in the political wings of the dominionist movement.
(In some cases, especially with independent churches, the pastor IS the head; in many AoG churches (and to an extent in the denomination itself) there is little accountability (effectively in all AoG churches not owned by the church itself, the church is essentially independent; the main qualification to join the AoG as a church is to sign the statement of faith and fill out a membership form) and very similar situations exist within the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard churches; in the case of churches with explicit bylaws (like the Southern Baptists) major purges have been initiated by dominionists.)
No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
Also the case in dominionist groups. In some cases it is the result of theology (usually quoting "thou shalt not judge a man of God" in conjunction with claims of permanent damnation for "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" and in some cases it is due to purges of non-dominionists in control (as was the case with the Southern Baptists).
No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
In the case of many dominionist groups there is little info available.
One complicating factor is that dominionist groups very frequently split into multiple front groups that are registered separately with the IRS (with the second-largest denomination involved in dominionist movements, the Assemblies of God, there are at least forty of them, mostly focusing in various forms of "stealth evangelism"); in many cases they are also unwilling to give out financial info except to other dominionist groups or to members. (The group I walked away from refused to give financial statements to non-members and was investigated by the IRS as a result; many dominionist-operated charities have poor accountability for funding.)
The one group that had any sort of oversight over pentecostal/charismatic churches at all, the National Association of Evangelicals, has been hijacked by the pastor of a dominionist, spiritually abusive church (New Life Church in Colorado Springs) and is effectively now useless as an oversight group in regards to dominionism. In fact, New Life Church itself is essentially a Brownsville/Third Wave church (only about a decade and a half pre-Brownsville)--a movement within pentecostalism not only highly linked with dominionism but also widely associated with coercive religious tactics in and of itself.
An example in a political dominionist group is a recent call by Texas Freedom Network to investigate the Texas Restoration Movement (a sister group of the Ohio Restoration Movement run out of World Harvest Church in Columbus) due to lack of financial accountability and probable violation of election laws. Similar hijinks occur with many if not most dominionist groups, including formation of multiple front groups in attempts to obfuscate where monies are being spent.
Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
Again, common in dominionist groups (in fact, a part of the essential theology of many). Even the most moderate dominionist groups claim they are being persecuted by "liberals" and "satanists" or by the "gay agenda".
Groups into "deliverance ministry" and Christian Reconstructionists are even more extreme, claiming that literal Satanic conspiracies are in place to "rob" the United States from dominionists and to "rob America's Christian Heritage"; the "deliverance ministry" groups even go so far as to claim "territorial spirits" control entire areas (San Francisco is often described as being controlled by a "territorial spirit of homosexuality", for instance)
I also have noted (re the previous checklists) general beliefs of the outside world being evil and its impetus in setup of the parallel industry in dominionist circles.
It should also be noted that at least a few dominionist groups (largely the premillenarian dominionist groups) have a definite..."armageddonist" bent. (DefCon American has recently done an excellent article on this sort of thinking.) During the Cold War, threats that it might go "hot" were seen as a sign of the imminent Rapture; conflicts in which Israel is involved are seen as a sign The End Is Near; Russia and, more recently, the European Community have been implicated as "nations of the antichrist" in dominionist conspiracy theories. During the Y2K scare, many dominionists thought Y2K would be the beginning of the Tribulation.
In the most extreme examples this has led to "real life" violence, including against other Christian groups (for example, there was recently a case in Alabama involving a number of followers of "deliverance ministry" beliefs in the dominionist community that recently attempted to destroy an altar in a Catholic church). Israel has also expressed extreme concern regarding dominionist groups attempting to foment violence in regards to the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and building of the Third Temple (enough that in 2000, at least one group was kicked out) and "Christian Zionism" in general is becoming increasingly worrisome to Israel's government.
It should also be noted that the general "fear of persecution" is often specifically used to dead-agent (perform character-assassination) upon critics of dominionist groups; the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center, Americans United, People for the American Way, and other groups openly critical of dominionism have been explicitly targeted by dominionist groups as "attacking Christians".
There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
This is something that shows up more in the "parent churches" of dominionist movements, but as noted before, even in the broader dominionist movement there is a strong impetus to demonise walkaways reporting abuse in dominionist groups. This has, on occasion, crossed the line into "real life" harassment or even attempts at exorcism.
Dominionist groups do use this politically in claims of "persecution against Christians"; for example, the Anti-Defamation League (which has in past partnered with "evangelical groups" which had ties to dominionist groups, but recently came out against major dominionist groups in the US) is the subject of "character assassination" by dominionist groups claiming the ADL is out to "persecute Christians" and "destroy Christmas"--despite two separate official statements from the ADL that their concerns were about dominionists, not Christianity.
Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
This does happen, especially with the parent churches of dominionist groups. Not only are exit counselors noticing a pattern, it has caused a split in the Southern Baptist denomination (leading to the formation of the Mainstream Baptists); in pentecostal/charismatic churches and "independent Baptist" churches where dominionist movements have been around far longer, there are now sufficient numbers of people reporting abusive behaviour that multiple support forums have formed specifically to deal with issues relating to walking away from dominionist groups. (The first one was "Walk Away" which was associated with the now-defunct Institute for First Amendment Studies; Fundamentalists Anonymous and Ex-Pentecostals are also two other groups dealing specifically with issues in relation to walkaways from spiritually abusive "Bible-based" churches.)
At least one particular subset of dominionist thought--the "third wave" (also known as the "Toronto Outpouring", "Brownsville Revival" and "Kansas City Prophets") movement practiced in many AoG and Vineyard churches as well as many "independent pentecostal" churches like World Harvest Center in Columbus, OH ("home church" of the Ohio Restoration Movement and "Reformation America") and New Life Church in Colorado Springs--is regarded as particularly spiritually abusive. More on that below.
There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.There are many, many books and television programs documenting abuse in dominionist movements, and often with particular dominionist churches (Yurica Report and Theocracy Watch in particular have documented specifically activities in New Life Church in Colorado Springs, as have Harpers Magazine and most recently Mother Jones).
Churches in the dominionist movement associated with "word-faith" and/or "third wave" theology, as well as those associated with "deliverance ministry", have been reported the most as being spiritually abusive. At least one site (Deception In The Church) exists specifically to document spiritually abusive practices in word-faith and "third-wave" movements.
Followers feel they can never be "good enough".
In many dominionist churches, it is explicitly taught that insufficient "faith" or dedication to the church is the cause of all life's problems.
The group/leader is always right.
Group leaders are generally not challenged even in the political dominionist groups and often end up forming family dynasties (this is being seen now with the American Family Association). In the parent churches, this even will go so far as to deride people whom criticise the leaders, misusing Biblical phrases such as "touch not my annointed" (all the members of the church are seen as specifically "annointed") or "thou shalt not touch a man of God". In extreme cases this is even seen as a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. (THIS is the specific reason I say the NAE in toto is dominionist now; most of the churches which are members of the NAE believe in the "thou shalt not touch a man of God" or "touch not my annointed" dogma.)
This mindset even extends to the political realm; many dominionists have actually stated they support President Bush as he has been "specifically annointed to lead the country" and Bush has given "code word"-infested speeches to support the ideas of the dominionists that he sees himself as appointed by God as well. (In the case of John Ashcroft, the ex-US Attorney General who is part of a multigenerational AoG family and who had his last senatorial bid largely funded by the AoG, this included annointing in the literal sense--as in US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas literally "annointing" Ashcroft with Wesson oil in a pentecostal parody of King David's coronation.)
In the case of dominionist groups practicing "shepherding" this extends to cell group leaders; in the case of dominionist households similar dynamics apply (which will be detailed more below).
The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
In the case of dominionist groups, the authority probably lies more on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, but again, this is generally coloured by leaders of the dominionist movement (both in the sense of folks like Dobson et al putting out their own guides to the "parallel economy" of dominionists, and in the sense of both the political and church leaders in dominionist groups practically telling their members what to believe in).
In conjunction with a basic theology that men are not to be questioned in the church, generally the leader is accepted as the main source of info and theology.
This is part of a general coercive mindset common in dominionist groups--dominionist households also operate under this model, with men by definition subservient to the elders of the church or the cell group leader, women being literally ordered to be subservient to their husbands as their husbands are to God, and children ordered to be similarly subservient to their parents. The basic model of childrearing in dominionist households literally is training the kids in coerciveness from the beginning.
This includes frank examples of child abuse at times--the Pearls, popular "childrearing advice" writers in the dominionist community, have promoted use of "chastening rods" (plastic rods designed to whip children as young as four months old with) and as a direct result have been investigated by the State of Tennessee for child abuse. The Pearls operate a website, No Greater Joy; in at least one advice column they literally told a woman it was her husband's decision whether or not she was to use birth control; the same writers accuse women who stand up to their husbands as having a "Jezebel Spirit". They have even literally accused critics of being demon possessed.
Ten warning signs regarding people involved in/with a potentially unsafe group/leader.
Dominionist groups do have a definite obsession with obtaining final power over us all, which not only often compels them to violate laws that (ironically) endanger the legal status of the church itself (such as illegal electioneering) but also engage in deceitful methods in both recruitment and maintaining members. In the most extreme cases (for example, in some of the antiabortion groups and now with the antigay groups) this has led to even "real life" violence against people.
In many dominionist churches, especially those part of the Brownsville/"third wave" movement, people are expected to spend almost all time with the church.
Individual identity, the group, the leader and/or God as distinct and separate categories of existence become increasingly blurred. Instead, in the follower's mind these identities become substantially and increasingly fused--as that person's involvement with the group/leader continues and deepens.
Dominionist groups in general do preach they are part of an elect out to "save America". (The specifics of the theology do differ, depending on the dominionist group, but all have a common goal of establishment of a theocracy due to what they see as a Biblical mandate to do so.)
In the case of the "third wave"-affiliated or "deliverance-ministry" affiliated dominionist groups, dominionism is actually seen as a moral imperative that is necessary in order to "preserve God's blessing" or to "drive out territorial demons".
In many cases, the dominionists literally see themselves as "tools of God" or even as "God's puppets".
Whenever the group/leader is criticized or questioned it is characterized as "persecution".
Common even in the mainstream dominionist groups (one only need read newsletters from Agape Press or in fact ANY dominionist group to see how the poor, poor dominionists are supposedly being picked on by the rest of us!).
In some dominionist churches (including New Life Church in Colorado Springs) this even goes to the point of blatant conspiracy theories to the effect that critics of the church are literally being possessed by Satan himself "because they hate what we are doing and we're causing the devil some hurt". (For another example of this, see the above article where the Pearls have accused critics of being demon possessed for warning churches they could lose their tax exempt status for promoting use of the Pearls' materials.)
The SPLC has also been particularly demonised by dominionists for being a party in a lawsuit against Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore and their general stand against dominionism.
Uncharacteristically stilted and seemingly programmed conversation and mannerisms, cloning of the group/leader in personal behavior.
There is some of this, but not quite so much in the dominionist movement as a whole (with the possible exception of Dobson in Focus on the Family). One does see this in quite a few of the "parent churches" of dominionist groups, though, as well as with smaller groups involved in the dominionist movement. People have also reported noticing similar things with members of Promise Keepers (a dominionist group which has been known to practice coercive religious tactics).
The "cloning" actually seems to occur with dominionist groups in political tactics--for example, the FCC often receiving thousands of protest letters a month from the Parents' Television Council (a dominionist pro-censorship group)--all of which are nearly identical. Dominionist groups often will coordinate campaigns between each other, often using the exact same source material (this is especially apparent in dominionist anti-gay/les/bi/trans campaigns, as almost all research quoted is writings of disbarred "reparative therapy" promoter Paul Cameron).
Dependency upon the group/leader for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. A seeming inability to think independently or analyze situations without group/leader involvement.
Pretty explicit; there are even "Christian diet plans", many dominionist groups have entire libraries on things like "Christian Investing" et al. (The entire dominionist "parallel economy" could be seen as an extension of this.)
In dominionist groups into the shepherding/cell church thing (including Promise Keepers) and with a number of the "third wave" churches, even things like buying houses or getting jobs are largely steered by the pastor of the church.
Hyperactivity centered on the group/leader agenda, which seems to supercede any personal goals or individual interests.
Again, typical; in fact, in the "parent churches" of the dominionist movement people are literally told to abandon their families if they will not support them in dominionism (misusing quotes by Jesus Christ himself claiming they are to "set brother against brother"). People who are seen as insufficiently involved in dominionist groups by the parent churches are often suspected of "backsliding" and will at least have a number of folks wanting to "pray over them".
A dramatic loss of spontaneity and sense of humor.
Quite literally the closest thing I have ever seen to a dominionist comedian is Mike Warnke (who largely ripped off his act from Gallagher, only replacing the smashing of watermelons with a story about how he was supposedly a former Satanic high priest--as it turns out, he was a fraud, had in fact been involved with pentecostal groups at the time he claimed to be an active diabolist, and was disgraced in much of the pentecostal community as a result--though not all of it).
Even dominionist church services are surprisingly scripted, and walkaways from dominionist groups do report severe problems in decision making and spontaniety.
Increasing isolation from family and old friends unless they demonstrate an interest in the group/leader.
Again, typical, and even extended in the case of a lot of dominionist groups of explicitly trying to hex non-dominionist friends into suffering and suicidality unless they become fellow dominionists. (This has been practiced fairly extensively by churches into "deliverance ministry", but is also promoted as a tactic by the folks organising "See You At The Pole" (a dominionist-run campaign targeting teens)--literally writing down names, nailing them to a cross, and praying that they are miserable until they become dominionists.)
One of the most common causes of religiously motivated child abuse, in fact, has to do with walkaway teens and specifically gay/les/bi/trans teens who are "throwaways" from dominionist groups. The lucky ones are able to be legally emancipated; the less lucky ones end up physically abused, sent to coercive and abusive "Bible boot camps" or "de-gaying centers", subjected to involuntary exorcisms, etc...where occasionally they end up dead.
Autistic children and even "rebellious" children have also been killed in impromptu exorcisms by dominionist churches.
Anything the group/leader does can be justified no matter how harsh or harmful.
Explicitly believed in by default on both a political and on a "parent church" level; the most common tactic is deliberate deception (both in the forms of "stealth evangelism" and in the form of multiple front groups of dominionist organisations).
Dominionist churches believe they have the moral right to flout laws if necessary--this includes violation of laws regarding tax exempt groups and even laws regarding child abuse (many dominionist groups and churches actually preach that beating children with "chastening rods" is not only acceptable but Biblically mandated).
In the most extreme cases in the dominionist movement (dominionist antiabortion groups) the flouting of law has even extended to the deliberate destruction of property and killing of doctors. Many of the major figures of the antiabortion movement in the dominionist community have signed statements in support of a letter (by a dominionist who later murdered a gynecologist and eventually was executed for it) claiming killing those providing abortion services was "justifiable homicide".
Dominionist groups are also known to be associated with racist groups, including relationships between Tony Perkins (of the Family Research Council) and David Duke (former Grand Wizard of the most violent Ku Klux Klan group in the country as well as the one most closely linked to neo-Nazi groups) as well as between Roy "Ten Commandments" Moore and "white citizen's councils" and "neo-Confederate" groups associated with Klan and "Christian Identity" racists as well as "Christian Militia" groups.
Dominionist groups have also engaged in not only hate crimes against gay/les/bi/trans individuals but also have engaged in bona fide Holocaust revisionism (in the form of a book called "The Pink Swastika" promoted in the dominionist community, including in AFA promotional material; the book claims that not only were gays not killed in the Holocaust, but were the main instigators of it (much like neo-Nazi "Holocaust revisionists" who claim that the Jews made up the whole Holocaust thing or even instigated it)).
Former followers are at best-considered negative or worse evil and under bad influences. They can not be trusted and personal contact is avoided.
As noted before, at best walkaways are seen as "backslidden" and at worst as being frankly possessed by the devil himself. Exorcism is occasionally attempted on walkaways, especially children and family members.
In dominionist groups into "deliverance ministry", this is even extended to mere association with non-dominionists "opening a doorway for Satan in your life". Again, Marguerite Perrin's televised brew-up shows this in action--one of her major fear-filled rants was on how the persons she was rooming with "weren't Christian".
Dominionism and coercive tactics, part 1 | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden)
Dominionism and coercive tactics, part 1 | 17 comments (17 topical, 0 hidden)