"Battle Cry" Youth Rally in Massachusetts, Summer '04
Joan Bokaer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 11:35:49 AM EST
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Is anyone following the massive youth rallies and summits put on by Battle Cry? If not, we should.

Photo: "Battle Cry" youth rally, Amherst Mass., summer 2004

From their website:

Teen Mania Ministries and the BattleCry are proud to announce a series of events that will change the course of an entire generation. God has called today's young people to be the leaders that will change the tide of history, and it's time for them to get their marching orders.

I'm struck by the words "get their marching orders."

Massive stadium events are the second phase of the movement ...

The stadium events are already taking place. They held one right in our backyard (well, Bruce and Fred's, anyway) in Amherst, MA, last September. Maybe that's why the stadium's not completely full.

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At these mega-events, young people encounter God in a real way and are mobilized and equipped to take a stand for Him in their schools, their homes and their communities. With inspiring speakers, top Christian bands, and a high-impact multimedia experience, join tens of thousands of teens, young adults, youth workers and parents gathering in San Francisco, Detroit and Philadelphia as one generation under God.

Acquire the Fire 05-06 Tour: Run to the Battle

The new ATF tour will be held in over 25 cities across the country and will tie in with every aspect of the BattleCry strategy. Featuring headline bands, speakers, and a full line-up of pyrotechnics and high-impact videos, more teens than ever before will catch the fire at these life changing events and have the chance to be a part of the common cause uniting youth groups across the country.

I think this is a good strategy to reach youth, and one we can learn from -- but with a different ideology.

"Battle Cry" is far from the only organization holding these sorts of rallies [ though they are - it's true - currently less common in Mass. than elsewhere in the US ]

It's odd to me : I'd think that the organizational efforts of the Christian right in Massachusetts would set off some psychological alarms of sorts among many Mass. residents.

But, that's not the case - it's striking to me that David Barton, of Wallbuilders, came to Worcester, Mass. for a home schooling rally at the Worcester stadium, and nobody seemed to notice or care. It's likely that few in the vicinity know of Barton's particular brand of Christian historical revisionism or where Barton fits into the Christian right. On the same day as Barton's visit, an antiwar rally and protest against the visit of a Bush Administration official was fairly well attended by protestors. Not so for Barton's event.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 11:47:47 AM EST

Thanks, Joan, for frightening me nearly to death on Christmas Eve.

I'm sorry, truly; but, I think of the massive Hitler Youth rallies when I read about BattleCry and see your post's photograph. I know, I know--once progressives mention Hitler-anything vis-a-vis some aspect of the Religious Right it supposedly disqualifies said progressives from further serious consideration. I know, I know--the "Hitler thing" as a comparison is cheap and easy. . . .

but does that make it completely off-the-mark or even necessarily unhelpful?

I don't think so.

And looking at what opponents of socially conservative (and quasi-nationalistic?) mass youth movements failed to do in the past is important, too. Like you said: we can learn from this.

Mass gatherings energize and inspire. They are carefully orchestrated and memorable. The message they impart could, theoretically, just as easily be one of sacrifice for social justice and human rights (or, in a theological vein, one of humility before God and other people) as it could be one of this nationalistic religio-political triumphalism.

What's so frieghtening to me it that, unlike, say, the the Promise Keepers movement, this one is aimed at impressionable minds, and not training them to proceed with great regard for even Christian humanist values.

(I wonder how many copies of Jenkins/LaHaye books were in the backpacks of attendees that day in Northampton? I suppose slightly fewer copies than NIV Study Bibles.)

by IseFire on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 12:20:21 PM EST

If you drill down into the site, they have "extreme camps," which sound like intensive brain-washing sessions.  They push the kids through "intense" physical activity, and have "Power-packed Speakers," " Cutting Edge Bands," "Dynamic Praise and Worship," and "Motivating Counselors." want to bet they hit the kids with the speakers, worship, and motivational counseling when they're over-tired and vulnerable after a long day of physical exertion and long night of live music? Talk about willing subjects, unaware of the manipulation.

The following bit of info on how cults work, ironically, appears to be from a group that some might consider a cult (Jehovas' Witnesses):

""Coercive persuasion" is a term that more aptly describes the cult indoctrination method. The cult offers something attractive [like cool bands, perhaps?] or desirable to the individual, and the individual decides to suspend normal critical judgment in this area in order to obtain this "carrot" representing the fulfillment of their desire. Because this process involves mutual and willing cooperation, and the victim views all decisions as their own, it is a more binding form of mind control that is harder to undo. They wanted to believe it, it fulfills a "need," and it is "their decision." The only effective way to undo this form of programming is to review the indoctrination process with the individual, forcing a reexamination of the cult."

From a cult victim who eventually left the cult:

Through "fellowship," "guidance," and "training," cults groom "deployable agents," people who have internalized the message of the cult so deeply that their self-interest and the cult's interests are one and the same. This is why it's so hard to leave a cult after you've been a member for years -- it's hard to sort out what's genuine religious faith, what's cult-serving programming and what's "you."

Beware of the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.
by mataliandy on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 12:56:26 AM EST

This is precisely the conversation I did not want to be having. I was not planning to ever write here at Talk to Action, but for the sake of pointing out just how much you do not want to be trying to build your own version, I'll come out of the woodwork here.

My partner, Mike Doughney and I (of barf.org) have been studying Teen Mania for the past 8 years, we've been to way too many of their events. We have not written about them for exactly this reason, that other than what we call a 'containerized' event (another named 'problem', which is in actually just another symptom of a systematic, broadly cultural set of problems from which this mere symptom springs) most people have no framework for understanding them, AND more importantly, when people do see or hear of such an event, they desire to emulate it and take the tactic as something 'we can use', or as some so called "good strategy to reach youth, one we can learn from." We completely disagree.

All of this, every last bit of this, I'm about to talk about is but one of many. If you walk away from this thinking Teen Mania is the problem, or Ron Luce is the problem, or Teen Maniacs are the problem, you've missed the entire point. All of this is but one case study of MANY, MANY different parts of a broader whole where these concepts and tactics are being taught in contemporary christianity. Do not focus on any one organization, as to do so misses the entire point. They are merely indicative of a much larger problem

Mirroring them, only serves as a confirmation for them. If they see or even, as they so often do, make up an alleged 'equal yet opposite' coming back at them, it only strengthens them. They view opposition as `evidence' of doing something properly. If we are going to resist, we need to do so in ways that do not make them feel good, nor confirm their frame. Part of our work is to smash those (FALSE) mirrors. Back to reality here, there is no, nor will there be any ethical, 'equal yet opposite' reaction of secular or even an alleged "liberal christian" youth movement being primed to restructure the world, fortunately. Their war is one sided, them against unorganized individualist/autonomist cats who for the most part, barely even realize their armies exist. When `our side' (whoever that might be) do gather organizationally, is it usually either socially based or survival based, not an army of latte-sucking bored suburbanites out to take over the world.

Further, not only would you not ethically want to emulate what actually takes place at these events and in these venues (the wholesale restructuring of identity and thought into someone who views all interaction as opportunities and reciprocity based equations with the movement's goals in mind, someone who pounds on everything and everyone around them as 24/7 as possible), you couldn't even if you wanted to. Ron Luce has referred in an event to those who've committed themselves through their altar call as "Slaves"- do you genuinely desire an army of teenage Slaves to your cause? I certainly don't.

From the Teen Mania stage, we've heard Jeanne Mayo refer to this as Kamikaze Christianity. There is only one thing to learn from that: this is not a path that ANYONE needs to take. Further, they view even their own people as an expendable natural resource for their cause.

Most importantly, theirs is a strategy of provocation. In Christianity, the central figure is that of a "martyr." The "Kamikazes" Mayo speaks of are for the most part, not Christians doing killing at least here in America, but rather, of Christians provoking others into killing them. This is what they mean by being willing to die for it. This is also why the two central "martyr" figures of Columbine, Rachel Scott and Cassie Bernal, are not only held up as quintessential examples by Teen Mania, but were in fact Teen Maniacs themselves. Rachel Scott's sister and mother have appeared on an Acquire the Fire stage after Columbine.

But I've gotten ahead of myself...

First of all, let's talk about what you're talking really talking about here; "Battlecry" is not the name of the organization. The "Battlecry" stadium events are being held by Teen Mania Ministries, headed by Ron Luce. Teen Mania has been hosting Acquire the Fire events (originally in churches, later in arenas) for at least 16 years now. They have also recently staged "National" events in Michigan and Indiana.

Teen Mania has been referred to as their "Pentagon for youth ministry'. As for "marching orders", we were listening to exactly the same rhetoric at an ATF (Acquire the Fire), from the stage out of Joseph Jennings back in 1998. Militarism and war, total cosmic war, are perhaps the primary metaphors in Teen Mania's lexicon. Last year's events around the country featured both a 'firing squad' (with paintball guns) demonstrating 'what the world will do to you' as a faithful christian, played as a video insert as part of the event, and an actual onstage firefight with unseen enemies, in which christians in camo fight as a squad with a gun firing out blindly in all directions, while `under fire' themselves. We have this in video form.

Teen Mania is based out of Garden Valley, Texas (near Tyler), where they have they have a 472 acre campus that was once owned by Keith and Melody Green/Last Days Ministries, for those of who know about that group that was influential in anti-abortion circles.  The Garden Valley area itself is a nest, with Mercy Ships, Sky Ranch, Teen Challenge, Youth with a Mission, Fatherheart (Maternity 'camp')/Living Alternatives and others

They have an annual budget of $22 million a year. Former President Gerald Ford has spoken from their stage alongside Ron Luce at one of the Michigan National events. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have spoken from their stage, and they've shown a video endorsement from numerous major ministries and Barbara Bush.

But do not mistake this for a purely top down strategy, Teen Mania is also has a very bottom up component. Teen Maniacs, those who have accepted the identity, are not mere "impressionable" or "misguided" youth.

As I've mentioned, Teen Mania has a road crew that does events around the country, self-described Maniacs in the internship programs produce the stage 'experience', and act in it. While Teen Mania refers to these events as 'conferences' they are fully managed 'experiences' with many goals, not the least of which is to make a memorable and enjoyable setting a key component of each teenagers' conversion experience. While those entering usually already consider themselves christians, or at least churchgoers, Teen Mania is about creating a point in time and space that christianity no longer becomes one's parent's ideology, and instead becomes each individual's personal 24/7 identity.

The stadium events are a training ground, impression manufacturing meta-experience, and an intake path, not just for other aspects of Teen Mania programs, but for the social movement as a whole.

Other components of Teen Mania include international and a few domestic mission trips ("Global Missions"), primarily over the summers, but also over holiday breaks. A variety of internship programs, summer camps programs ("Extreme camps") on the Teen Mania campus, and the Center for Creative Media, run by a former producer of VH1's Behind the Music. The group centerpiece of the Teen Mania program is Honor Academy, which encourages teens to take a year off between high school and college to go to the Teen Mania campus.

From there, a tiny number are hand selected for personal mentoring under Ron Luce, in a program called the "Fellowship of the Burning Heart".

In almost all these programs, the teens themselves are responsible for finding their own funding sources, usually relatives, church, and carwashes and the like, etc to pay for everything from mission trips to honor academy. The participants themselves have invested time and money to be there, their emotional commitment is huge. So even when told to do the organization's gruntwork, they're paying for the privilege. For example, they have a hundred person telemarketing operation run by Teen Maniacs, who are all paying to be there.

These programs all are part of a bigger picture, a funneling down to the purest of the pure, not necessarily always pure in behavior but pure in commitment. The stadium events are an initial intake path designed to engender greater and greater levels of commitment, moving from the local church youth group up towards every greater levels of time and monetary commitment to both the parachurch ministry itself, and to "Worldchanging" as an eventual life/career path.

This is clearly visible in the CLAIMED numbers running through Teen Mania annually, approximately

200,000 pass through stadium events

40,000- 70,000 at the annual nation event (this next year there will be 3, San Francisco, Detroit, Philadelphia)

3,000 will go on mission trips

600 end up at Honor Academy


5 were (one year) selected for the Fellowship of the Burning Heart

Keep in mind; this is not merely a self perpetuation generator of a parachurch ministry. Teen Mania is goal oriented, with a goal of "Worldchanging", on both the meta and the micro levels. While rarely overtly political, (although in Canada, Stockwell Day has spoken from the Teen Mania stage) it is as we put it, a process of changing out the hardware so new software can run. No one needs to put, for example an `anti-Clinton' candidate up on stage making speeches, if one of their raison d'être is, to paraphrase Josh McDowell from the stage, `Clinton stands against everything you are.'

So back to my original point, they're picking a fight, and unfortunately it seems, all too many people are willing to give it to them. Or at least, are willing to give them the fight they want, on their terms. As for Teen Mania itself, it and the Maniacs it produces, they are merely indicative of a much larger problem.

Don't think of Teen Mania as a containerized organization, but as a distillation of every church sending their youth groups into the events, and the church vans in the parking lots include everything from the usual suspects, Assemblies of God, Church on the Rock, Salvation Army, Nazarenes, and other garden variety non-denom wingnuts down the street, straight on through to mainline United Methodists, and yes, even Quakers. The Teen Mania "problem" is spread out all over all kinds of churches.

Also, as an aside, the picture above, to our eyes appears to be the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, which was their 'national' event for last year this past April, not Amherst. The reason it appears 'not full' is because Teen Mania seldom, if ever allows seating behind the stage. 40,000 is still a few tens of thousands too many, one `kamikaze' is too many.

by Lauren Sabina Kneisly on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 08:19:30 PM EST

You make some very important points.

While I agree with Joan that there may be things to be learned from this outfit, that is true of every component of the religious right and the various streams flowing into it. The question is what is it that we are learning?  I agree with you that emulation is not a goal.  

It is also tempting, as you note, to focus on one stream and lose sight of the larger sea that it flows into. But losing sight of the sea is always a mistake.

There may be times that a particular organization seems worthy of particular study, but when making that choice, it is important to not only have very clear reasons-- but very clearly stated reasons  why, and why this particular area of research should be undertaken as opposed to the many others that could be chosen. It is this latter point that is essential. Whenever undertaking a project  in this area, we are all responsible for asking what are the best ways for us to use our time and resources? And is a particular project really worth the effort in light of the bigger picture?

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 08:50:59 PM EST

Thank you for your very informative reply, Lauren. My question to you and others is, what should we do? I couldn't tell, Lauren, what you were suggesting. My instinct is to want Teen Mania exposed. I just learned so much from your post. Why haven't I known this?

by Joan Bokaer on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 10:11:40 PM EST
From time to time Teen Mania gets a rare article in a local paper; there was also a piece in Spin magazine a few years back. The usual take in all of these articles is how wonderful it is that abstinent, drug and alcohol-free teenagers are going on mission trips. Ho-hum.

Reporters are unlikely to sit through to the end of a 12 hour long event over two days that is largely nonsensical to outsiders. Unmotivated outsiders will not sit through the whole process of setting up and redefining concepts and language that are then applied during the final session. They will miss the five minutes of those 12 hours that gives a clearer idea of what the whole point of the organization is - namely, that it's reinforcing an aggressive, conflict-capitalizing stance against the rest of the world and selecting for individuals who agree with that stance.

Were it even possible to stop Teen Mania tomorrow, there are dozens of other similar groups already running both inside and outside of churches. They will, like Teen Mania, all operate under the incorrect cultural assumption that faith-based organizations do not turn on their neighbors and target them for aggression.

What to do? Any suggestions from me would put me far outside the site guidelines... so I'll stop here.

Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 02:26:54 AM EST

When  you say "exposure doesn't work," I'm not sure what you mean. I'm not talking about a reporter sitting at an event for a few minutes. I'm thinking about a well-researched documentary, and/or a book that would sound the alarm. I remember when all the publicity about cults came out in the seventies, it helped parents learn how to deal with their own children.

I don't agree with silence.  Maybe I'm not understanding you, and you're not advocating silence. But then what do you suggest?

One thing that I accomplished by getting Lauren mad was that she wrote a great reply and I learned so much -- she came "out of the woodwork," so to speak.

Now I'm a little more knowledgeable, and think Teen Mania needs to be understood by the general public. You say it's part of a much bigger trend, but it's alright to focus on one part of a trend. If you try to expose all the groups, you end up exposing nothing because it all seems too big.

Lauren says she's been attending these events for eight years -- I hope a major article or book comes out of it.

by Joan Bokaer on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 05:30:37 PM EST

I'm always kind of puzzled by the "let's go sound the alarm" kind of language when someone starts talking about some group or religious phenomenon that elicits discomfort, with which they weren't already familiar. As if, outside of some contingent of enthusiasts who track these things, there is some enormous consituency that will both understand what is going on, would think it important, and are in a position to do something about it, which in this case, I suppose, would somehow cause Teen Mania's arena and stadium events to play to empty houses, and cause its more advanced programs to attract fewer recruits.

I thought Sabina was already rather clear about this. The point is not to go through the usual cycle of focusing one one particular group or leader as "bad" in a misapplication of the 'cult' model. The 'cult' model posits an independent, isolated unit other than its own 'fronts.' Parachurch ministries are organic, growing out of networks of churches and reflecting what is going on in those churches. They are the reflection of values, assumptions and strategies taught in those churches and most if not all others, things like reciprocity, retribution, supremacy and dualism, and the denial of human intent and responsibility by attributing contemporary events caused by individuals to the actions of "God."

Again: an organization like Teen Mania is the product of thousands of other groups - churches. It is driven by the expectations of those churches for self-perpetuation. What Teen Mania does is normative relative to all those churches. And even when one of those churches goes to one of Teen Mania's conferences and its leaders finds it not to their liking because of, among other things, the militarism or suggestions of retribution, there's no outcry, no "sounding the alarm" among those who both are the object of their appeals, and those who stand to lose the most should something go wrong. They leave and rarely if ever express their concerns in public.

There is also the simulation of persecution problem, that they are already primed and ready to pounce on anyone who so much as raises a question about the purity of their motives (see the comments downthread). Any attempt to educate "the general public" that something is not quite right here just provides them with validation of their worldview at least internally, and externally, creates a "he said/she said" mush that will be understood by very few people.

You wrote:

You say it's part of a much bigger trend, but it's alright to focus on one part of a trend. If you try to expose all the groups, you end up exposing nothing because it all seems too big.

But again, the problem is not groups or their exposure. The formation of these groups is simply the reflection of the underlying terrain of their psyche: the need for someone else to be crushed "under [their] feet" to validate their existence; the legitimization of reciprocity, putting into practice at all times the notion that "if a man will not work, he shall not eat," removing the government from any provision of social or emergency assistance and hard-wiring assistance to proselytization; subtly popularizing the idea that when bad things happen to people, they probably just deserved it, they must not have prayed hard enough a la they must have failed to meet the terms of the often-repeated-lately 2 Chronicles 7:14.

Sabina and I spent a summer in Ohio last year working on some methods to deal with Operation Save America, which you can read about at the site we set up for that effort. At the time, we wrote about the "receive, readback and reject" strategy, that it was important to focus on one very clear aspect of what the particular group wanted - not what we interpreted it to be, but what came out in their own words and images of them - and placed them in a position where they can do nothing but agree with our portrayal of them. We set up a frame into which they entered and confirmed everything we'd already said about them. There may be similar opportunities in the future, but again, we are talking about really basic notions like their supremacist notions of taking over, overriding privacy, autonomy and consent. The problem is that when the federal government models exactly this kind of behavior on a nearly global scale, and there's a great deal of agreement and not much effective dissent, why should one expect much to happen when one group models exactly the same behaviors, strategies and values?
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 01:18:30 AM EST

First of all let me thank both you and Lauren for these posts here.  I want to point out though that this kind of stuff isn't new.  Although now an atheist I was caught up in fundyism about 10-12 years ago.  In about 1994 or so I was going to a PCUSA (Presbyterian Church, USA) church in a very wealthy suburban area in Maryland.  For those not familiar with it, the PCUSA is the wingnut wing of the Presbyterian church, the Calvinist equivalent of the Southern Baptists.

I went out on a date with a girl from the young adults' group at our church who proceeded to tell me that she had participated in something called a "lock in" at the church the previous year.  This is sort of a "shock therapy" for the church young people.  It's supposed to get them used to the idea that they may have to die for the faith, that they may be persecuted horribly for Jesus.  The idea is that you are now in some kind of vaguely atheist-commie totalitarian state.  Some of the kids are "guards" or "soldiers" or whatever and their job is to go around shouting in your face, calling you names and ridiculing your faith all the while telling you that you will soon face the firing squad.  Apparently, this harassment goes on all night over a Friday or Saturday night, hence the name "lock in".  My friend then told me that she had been assigned the role of guard in this scenario.  She also said that for added realism she had carried a 12 gauge shotgun.  Yes, a real shotgun!  Oh, she hadn't loaded it of course.  It was just for effect you know.  Now I cannot confirm the gun part but I do know that on one occasion the youth group leader sprung a much shortened version of this on us during our regular Thursday night get-together.  It was basically the whole bit described above minus the 12-gauge.  At one point we were forced to lie face down on the floor while the "guards" screamed at us.  Really quite unnerving.

On another occasion a Campus Crusade event featured a variation on this theme where we were all told to pretend to be missionaries and were supposed to wander around our campus at night singing and praying while some of the CC staffers followed us and harassed us for this, again playing the role of "the authorities" in some putative anti-Christian state.

These are classic cult mind control techniques.  They are intended to form a "trauma bond" among the people who go through them and burn the cult message into your brain with adrenaline and pain.  I know that these groups I was in didn't exactly invent these techniques the year before so we're talking about at least 20-30 years of cult techniques in "mainstream" fundy churches.  Of course, they only did this stuff on rare occasions but I wonder what would happen if they made such practices more regular.

by NorthernLights on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 01:30:31 AM EST

I know these events are not new. What's new is the well organized machine that directs these energized youth to vote Republican as part of their mission for Christ. I don't know the exact path from the event to the Republican Party, but would be a good research project.

I also wonder if the size and scope of these events have increased dramatically.

by Joan Bokaer on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 08:23:00 AM EST

Perhaps the reason you could not tell what I was suggesting to do, was because I made no suggestions of what to do. Mike spoke for the both of us when he said to do so would clearly fall beyond the perview of this site.

I did a basic backgrounder 'report' and the only reason I did that was in service to my broader point- that it is ethically impossible to attempt to use strategies such as Teen Mania employs to spread any version of whatever 'our side' (and it's cats, nothing so unified as a 'side') believes.

In the many years we've studied them, this is the most I've ever published publicly. "Exposure" only results in 'conversations' and threads such as this, which has no surprised me in the least, the usual bemoaning of coersive tactics and high demand groups, as somehow some seperate animal from the typical church down the road, the usual conspiratoral expectations, do they have links to _____ (fill in the blank with your favourite illuminati de jour), Hitler youth analogies, etc. None of which are very useful.

I'm glad you learned from the post, but again, while Teen Mania does serve as a nexis, and a very imporant (imho, anyway) place to look, it is not really all that different than what happens in arenas and ammusement parks, and hotel ballrooms all across the country any given weekend.

As for any sense of outage or being stunned at not having heard about this before, I really have to ask why would you have? In a place where such is the default, the bedrock, and the socially acceptable, one must go out of their way to notice things like this, not the other way around (i.e. 'this being so rare, it would stick out like a sore thumb and surely SOMEONE would have written about it by now'). You're soaking in it, it's all around you.

As I said,  these events have been taking place in stadiums all across the country for over a decade now- and that's just Teen Mania. Any look at any convention center or arena schedule will yeild at least something similar- an expression of the exact same values and tactics, if not being taught in quite the same way with the clear visual cues of firefights and camo onstage.

I'm not surprised in the least. Besides, surely the current adminsitration is evidence enough that investigative journalism in this country is a dead animal.

So why on earth would you have heard of it?

by Lauren Sabina Kneisly on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 03:49:43 AM EST

Thank you for the fantasic insights into this phenomenon. It's a huge misconception that those who fall into cults are impressionable. Everyone is susceptible to a cult, if the "right" set of circumstances arise. So, knowing that these organizations are using basic cult indoctrination techniques, would it make sense, then, to work with churches and youth groups to develop some form of "proactive deprogramming," to help churches, and the families that are at their heart, learn to prevent such indoctrination techniques from taking hold?

I know such work would not stop the phenomenon entirely, but perhaps it could slow it down?

It's been shown that training kids to recognize the tactics used in ads makes advertising much less effective, so perhaps training kids to recognize the manipulation in these programs would make them less effective...


Beware of the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.
by mataliandy on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 12:05:11 PM EST

That's actually what I was trying to get at (and apparently was unsuccessful at--again, my apologies if I inadvertently derailed the discussion by this!).

What I was trying to say (in my post asking re research and stuff) was that one possible way of fighting dominionist groups is noting how the "parent groups" of dominionism use spiritually abusive tactics--in the mainstream churches that these movements are increasingly taking life in, teaching kids in general to be "spiritual-abuse smart" might well discourage the groups that not only are spiritually abusive but take advantage of youth in church teen organisations and also have a dominionist bent.

Much of my purpose in posting on spiritual abuse within dominionist groups has, in fact, been in hopes that one way of many, many ways of fighting dominionism (including fighting them in the ballot box, fighting the funding sources of the dominionist movement, etc.) is by essentially teaching mainstream churches that are increasingly being targeted by or even infiltrated by dominionist groups on how to be "spiritual-abuse smart".  As a fair number of dominionist groups are spiritually abusive, and much of the mindset of dominionists (especially hard-dominionists--"Christian Nationalists" and Christian Reconstructionists; less so in the case of "Christian conservatives") is a direct extension of a spiritually abusive mindset, and "soft dominionists" (aka "Christian conservatives", those who mostly tend to vote among dominionist lines because they are being told these are "Christian causes" and may not support the agendas of religious tests for public office, heavy emphasis on "spiritual warfare", etc. pushed by "Christian Nationalist" dominionists) may well be inclined to not support the more hardline groups if they discover an agenda of spiritual abuse and scripture-twisting.

In other words, I'm noting on stuff regarding spiritual abuse in relation to dominionism because it's a potential wedge issue.  (There are some evidences of this, among other things, in the general pro-life movement--in the 80's to 90's, a lot of pro-life groups started backing away from American Life League and Operation Rescue because they felt a lot of what they were doing was extreme and hurting the pro-life movement in general.  There's even starting to be a division of this sort within the "Christian homeschool" movement, with some religious homeschoolers starting to disagree with the stuff HSLDA is backing.)

I'm not saying discussion of spiritual abuse within dominionism should be a main focus or even a primary focus in some areas.  I do think it is important to be aware of the tactics used, however, to understand what is going on in the heads of the more hardline dominionists, and also why there are increasing numbers of young dominionists.  (There are things--like the outright literal demonisation of critics--that make no sense whatsoever to the outsider but--once one gets info on the general tactics of spiritual abuse that go on in a number of the churches involved in dominionism--do make sense within a larger framework.)

I will admit I come from a somewhat biased viewpoint--I myself am a walkaway from a church that is hip-deep in the dominionist movement (and would be considered "Christian Nationalist) and, up until my mid-teens, was a dominionist myself.  Many of my posts here are attempts to show what is going on in the heads of a goodly portion of the dominionist movement.  (And if I rant too much or veer off-topic for Talk2Action, please, don't hesitate to let me know.  I am sometimes not so good at judging when I'm in a full-scale rant!)

I think the usefulness of learning about coercive tactics within the dominionist movement is most useful in two areas:

a) As a potential "split issue" with people who may sympathise with certain specific agendas in dominionist movements (like protecting Christianity, the pro-life movement in some churches, etc.) but would not go along with the whole shebang of mandatory religious tests, "spiritual mapping" of areas, etc.

b) As a way of "cult-proofing" mainstream churches to make it harder for any coercive movement--including hardline dominionism--to take root and flourish.

(And again, mods, if this is off-topic I give you full permission to nuke this.  Just noting some of where I'm coming from on this.)

by dogemperor on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 09:01:32 PM EST

This is EXACTLY why I say walkaways need to talk more on their experiences on forums like these.

There is so little that people who have not been involved in these groups are aware of that it is often shocking to people who are learning about it.  Much of the info--like what you've posted--is pretty much only available from walkaways from these groups.

This is why I keep hammering home--dominionism is a symptom of a larger illness within modern churches that is not restricted to one particular denomination or even theological movement.  I'm more familiar with dominionism within pente circles, for instance, but there are dominionist movements within the SBC, and increasingly within other mainstream churches; part of this is the result of "sheep-stealing" tactics among the more coercive groups within dominionism, but some of this is becoming homegrown too in those groups.

The AOG is probably the group I'm familiar with most, along with the charismatic neo-pentecostal "nondenominational" churches like Ted Haggard's New Life Church (as that particular segment largely spawned from movements within the AoG, there are similarities) and the spiritual abuse within those groups--but it's becoming a problem EVERYWHERE.  In most of the pente denominations it may be too late to root it out entirely (because in THOSE churches it's been festering for the better part of sixty years or more) but in other churches it may not be too late to keep it from taking root.  The sad example of what's happening within the Southern Baptist Convention is an example of what happens when it's not stopped in time (it could have been stopped in the 70's, but most of the non-dominionists have been purged by now).

And yes, the youth groups in these churches are a big place where stuff like Teen Mania is heavily promoted.

One thing I personally would like to confirm--I've noticed that quite a number of the groups you've listed (Mercy Ships, Teen Challenge and Youth With A Mission, among others) in the town where Teen Mania's headquarters are located also happen to be front groups of the Assemblies of God that practice "sheep-stealing" targeted at other denominations.  (The Assemblies has a lot of front groups--at least forty that I've documented, possibly almost half of those targeting young children, teenagers, or youth.  There is quite an active movement explicitly to set up a "young turk's" movement in that denomination.)  I am quite curious as to whether the founders or present managers have AoG links...the "bottom up" could well also be from groups linked to the AoG.  (The premillenial dispensationalist rhetoric is also almost identical to that I've heard in the AoG megachurch I grew up in.)

It would also be interesting to note if the same sorts of spiritual abuse that occur within Youth With A Mission in particular and most Assemblies of God-associated groups in general (including within the church itself) also are occuring within Teen Mania--one angle of attack (seriously!) is to note the coercive practices, which might discourage the mainstream churches from supporting them.

by dogemperor on Sat Dec 24, 2005 at 11:41:59 PM EST

Yes, not long after Labor Day, I was called out for recommending an exhibit in NYC of "before and after photos" of reconstructive surgery done by Mercy Ship doctors. But it's not as simple as, "Oo, they're nasty conservative evangelicals, don't tout their exhibit" when, in fact, their surgical work changes lives for the better. Of course, they proselytize, too. But, I'm still trying to decide if that is inherently wrong, to proselytize, especially when the proselytizers are offering medical services that no other program--gov't or UN--can offer.

Any information you have on Mercy Ship would interest me.


by IseFire on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 12:20:26 AM EST

Sure thing (re the Mercy Ships research):

(from The Big List of good and bad charities

Mercy Ships (appears to be a dominionist "shadow economy" alternative to Doctors Without Borders. The fact that the major groups endorsing them are Focus on the Family and the President (who has links to dominionist groups and is likely a dominionist himself) tends to make one very leery. Practices stealth evangelism; had to do a fair amount of digging on the site to see that they do explicitly market themselves as a Christian group; a further websearch (http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/ywam.htm) shows they are specifically affiliated with Youth With A Mission, a dominionist group that is known for coercive religious tactics that specialises in stealth evangelism to school students. (http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/ywamstory.html and http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/youthwithamission.html have further info on Youth With A Mission in general, and also includes mention of the "Mercy Ships"). Per some info (http://www.rickross.com/reference/youth/youth6.html) YWAM may qualify as a front group for the Assemblies of God; the link between YWAM and the AoG is confirmed by the AoG's own website (http://intercultural.ag.org/im_involved_donor.cfm).)

(More on the Assemblies of God connections in a bit.  (Being a walkaway, I tend to treat ANY groups associated with the AoG with a high index of caution, because more often than not they are being used as fronts for stealth evangelism--the Assemblies actively encourages creation of front groups, in fact, because they claim that "people won't want to hear you if you admit you're with the Assemblies of God or even if you're a pentecostal".  (This is in part due to reports of spiritual abuse.))

More explanation--per the RapidNet article, here's the interesting tidbits:

The following is from an email BDM received in 1996. The writer was a former YWAM missionary who went through YWAM's Discipleship Training School (DTS) and served on the YWAM mercy ship Anastasis:  (For more testimonies from former YWAM'ers ...)

During the classroom phase [of DTS] different instructors come to teach and or minister. One instructor was a psychologist -- a devoted disciple of Larry Crabb. He taught on Cliff Jumping and exposing our true selves to others so we could have a higher degree of intimacy with them and with God. Along this vein, [DTS has] small groups in which students discuss their feelings, griefs, etc. with one another ... In retrospect they were nothing more than encounter groups. A lot of YWAM training involves being "freed from your hurts or past" so you can serve -- sound a little like inner healing? In addition, on more than one occasion I was concerned about YWAM's soteriological errors. -- Such statements as: "God is revealing Himself to the Muslim world by appearing to them in dreams. Muslims worship the same God we do, they just have a little distorted vision of him."

On a more practical level, YWAM doesn't fare much better. DTS  students ... are required to do work around the base or ship. Usually these are menial tasks [regardless of] the abilities of the student. This is [supposedly] necessary in order to learn servitude and humility. After [successful completion of] DTS people can go on staff with YWAM. Many times they do not receive the positions promised. They also tell DTS students that part of the function of the DTS training is to develop character. It would seem at times, though, that YWAM behavior borders on hazing, just to see if they can get a reaction out of you.
Often times their preparation for outreach is poor. Off to some 3rd world country goes a party of DTS students with minimal contacts and minimal preparation. I did my outreach in Albania. Many of my classmates were professionals like myself or had a skilled trade. Thirty of us went into three different areas of Albania -- To do what??? We didn't have a clue. YWAM said, "Just do a little friendship evangelism or whatever God shows you." So we spent 8 weeks doing not much. We had two dentists in our group and they went to a few villages and pulled some teeth. That was it. Many outreaches involve dramas. That's all they did -- dramas all day long for 8 weeks.

The last day of my DTS was the happiest day of my life. I couldn't wait to get away from them. They were always trying to get inside my head and get me to express my real feelings and to reveal some nonexistent emotional pain.

Now for the straw that broke the camel's back. Almost a year after completing my DTS, I went out to a YWAM meeting with some friends. The speaker was a man named Steve Pretzel. His first words were, "I sense a tired spirit here. I want you all to close your eyes and go to that place where you meet Jesus. It might be in the mountains or by a stream or in a field. But go to that place where you meet Jesus. And, Jesus is coming to you and He's going to minister to you, and only you know how he's going to minister to you." Pure inner healing/visualization!

YWAM also stoops to flat-out extortion to prevent people from spreading the message about YWAM's many problems -- they use the story of Joshua and Caleb, cautioning students not to bring back a bad report of YWAM lest the wrath of God fall on them.  

Per Mercy Ships' own website, the Anastasis (the ship mentioned) is in fact operated by Mercy Ships:
The 522-foot flagship, the Anastasis, is currently the world's largest non-governmental hospital ship.  Acquired in 1978, she contains three fully equipped operating rooms, a dental clinic, a laboratory, an X-ray unit, and a 1,500 ton cargo capacity.

In other words, Mercy Ships is a de facto wing of Youth With A Mission.

The same Rapidnet article, troublingly, also notes that Third Wave aka Brownsville-style "spiritual warfare" theology is taught.  (In fact, "Brownsville" or "Third Wave" theology is an outgrowth of dominion theology teachings in the Assemblies of God--which themselves are outgrowths of and directly related to word-faith and (to an extent) latter-rain teachings.  I've posted extensive information on this on a a post detailing the history of dominionism within the pentecostal movement.)

In typical fashion for AoG front-groups, Mercy Ships does not reveal its links to either the AoG or Youth With A Mission up-front on its website; it's largely through research on YWAM itself that the links to Mercy Ships are discovered.  One has to do some digging on Mercy Ships' website to find documentation from themselves:

(from a press release directed at their fundraisers)

The organization, founded in 1978 as an outreach of Youth With a Mission, owns three ships. Two are in service.

The flagship, Anastasis, travels the coast of Africa with three operating rooms, a dental clinic, laboratory and CT scanner, a sophisticated piece of diagnostic equipment.

Ironically, better documentation of the links can be found via Youth With A Mission itself (in much the same way that most AoG front groups do not actively advertise their links, one must do digging in the AoG's own website):

http://www.ywam.nl/mercyships.htm (from Youth With A Mission of the Netherlands, notes Mercy Ships is de facto branch of YWAM)
http://www.marinereach.com/ (Mercy Ships d/b/a used in Southern Pacific, claims they and Mercy Ships USA are different orgs at http://www.marinereach.com/about.asp)
Entrezmed abstract (abstract of paper designed for medical professionals which notes in title association of Mercy Ships with YWAM)
http://www.urban-ministries.net/Reports/what.htm (from Urban Ministries, another front that Youth With A Mission is operating under, explicitly lists both Marine Reach and Mercy Ships as front groups)
http://www.angelfire.com/hi/storiesywam/ (from pro-YWAM site, also lists Mercy Ships as front group)
http://www.ms-information.org/appinfo/faqs.htm (from an application site operated by Mercy Ships, notes that training courses by YWAM are mandatory for participants)

Youth With A Mission's Wikipedia page notes the association with Mercy Ships, and Mercy Ships' Wikipedia page also notes association with YWAM in turn.

Youth With A Mission itself is a highly coercive front group of the AoG (the movement within the Assemblies of God known as "third wave" theology, and to a lesser extent the Assemblies of God as a whole, is beginning to be regarded as coercive by most exit counseling groups).  In fact, it is probably the one front of the Assemblies that has been most consistently linked to spiritual abuse; in relation to this website, not only is Youth With A Mission abusive but dominionist; per not only is YWAM explicitly dominionist but has known links to promoters of dominionism within the Assemblies of God.

by dogemperor on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 02:02:39 AM EST

We are not interested in the matter of coercive practices, spiritual abuse, cultism or anticultism per se at Talk to Action. We are interested in the religious right as as social/political movement and what to do about it.

If we want to talk about shepherding/discipleship tactics; thier history and evolution, and how it has specific relevance to dominionism and the politics of the religious right, that's fine. There is, as always, a gray area. But it is up to all writers and commenters to keep the focus of this site uppermost in thier minds as they write. It is easy to veer off topic, no matter what the issue may be.

People who have a history of involvement in groups that are part of the religious right, have valuable information for the rest of us and I hope that they will share it. We all have much to learn from one another.  

All writers on this site are bound by the reasonable site guidelines which are intended to move the stated purpose of the site forward.  


by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 01:20:22 AM EST

This is EXACTLY why I say walkaways need to talk more on their experiences on forums like these.

For the record, Lauren Sabina and I are not "walkaways." It is possible for motivated outsiders to cross the threshold and attend such events to observe what happens, and the events are big enough that one can usually remain relatively anonymous.

This is why I keep hammering home--dominionism is a symptom of a larger illness within modern churches that is not restricted to one particular denomination or even theological movement.

Dominionism is one of several strategies inherent to Christianity. I would not call it an illness, nor would I use the term to somehow identify some particular flavor or subset of Christians. It is simply one of several strategies inherent to Christianity.

I'm more familiar with dominionism within pente circles, for instance, but there are dominionist movements within the SBC, and increasingly within other mainstream churches; part of this is the result of "sheep-stealing" tactics among the more coercive groups within dominionism, but some of this is becoming homegrown too in those groups.

Dominionism comes out, in the same way that aggressive evangelism, high birthrate/anti-abortion/adoption and other growth strategies come out, because church leaders don't want to be looking at a graying, stagnant or declining congregation. When they see that the growing churches around them practice "spiritual warfare" against imaginary enemies both personal and corporate, that they keep young people involved by sending them to Teen Mania and other high-intensity / high-conflict youth ministries, and that they adopt a political stance that matches these internal processes and strategies, it's inevitable that most churches will push these kinds of strategies, hard, while not even necessarily self-identifying what they are doing as "dominionist."

One thing I personally would like to confirm--I've noticed that quite a number of the groups you've listed (Mercy Ships, Teen Challenge and Youth With A Mission, among others) in the town where Teen Mania's headquarters are located also happen to be front groups of the Assemblies of God that practice "sheep-stealing" targeted at other denominations.

I wouldn't describe any of these organizations as "front groups" for the Assemblies of God; it is incorrect to assume that such groups follow some kind of model that mandates "front groups." I'd instead reiterate what I wrote above: large wealthy parachurch organizations come out of wealthy churches, those are the churches that are rapidly growing, they are growing because they implement certain strategies, thus the organizations reflect those strategies, which are again inherent to Christianity and are expressed in certain ways where culturally acceptable, and in America those ways are... acceptable. Privileged, even.

It would also be interesting to note if the same sorts of spiritual abuse that occur within Youth With A Mission in particular and most Assemblies of God-associated groups in general (including within the church itself) also are occuring within Teen Mania--one angle of attack (seriously!) is to note the coercive practices, which might discourage the mainstream churches from supporting them.

It is not clear to me that this "angle of attack" gets you anywhere. Teen Mania is sold to church leaders as the means by which their young people get "fired up" and "plugged in for life" in terms of church involvement. Anecdotal reports from one concerned parent a few years back indicated that the word on the street among churches in her town was that Teen Mania had a sterling reputation.

The whole schedule of the weekend is aggressive - rush to the venue after work on Friday, the session ends at 10:30 pm or so, get a few hours of sleep if you're lucky, then back to the arena by 8:30 for another 12 hour day sleep deprived (which is joked about from the stage on Saturday morning) and then drive half the night so they can come to church Sunday morning and give testimony about how great it all was. I'd think it self-evident that a certain degree of coercive tactic must already be acceptable just to send young people to an event with that kind of schedule.

Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 03:24:54 AM EST

Hello, Lauren-

I had wondered what had become of your site and efforts, since it has been very quiet over the last few months and years. I am glad to see that you are still researching these things.

After reading your argument, I must agree that emulating and 'changing' the content of such rallies would be futile. These 'kamakazis' (an interesting term, since it is Shinto religious word for Spirit Wind) need an enemy in order to justify their often horrific beliefs. Without an Enemy (I use the capital E deliberately), they are nothing.

I have learned that there can be no reasoning with people who are 'on fire' or zealots for their beliefs- no matter what they are. The best we can do is learn as much as we can about them, and figure out a way to use their own energies against them, knocking them out of fanatacism back into humanity. Knowledge is power. It's our only effective tool.

Our youth are targeted by this facet of the religious right because they are impressionable, idealistic, and vulnerable. But the Holy/God Warrior aspect of some of these folks disturbs me in a very basic way. They want a 'holy' war. If one does not come to them, they will create one. All the agitiprop on the right wing radio  and TV is building up the pressure of hatred in its listeners. Wil Wheaton, in an article in Salon saw this in his own father, and I have seen it in mine. This secterian hate pressure is what we really need to both address, and dispel.

by Lorie Johnson on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 11:10:19 AM EST

Our youth are targeted by this facet of the religious right because they are impressionable, idealistic, and vulnerable. But the Holy/God Warrior aspect of some of these folks disturbs me in a very basic way. They want a 'holy' war. If one does not come to them, they will create one. ... This secterian hate pressure is what we really need to both address, and dispel.

The question Sabina and I have often considered is along similar lines: if in fact you are dealing with a subculture that fundamentally requires war and conflict to validate their existence (and "rightness") what can possibly be said to them that would have any effect? They (and much of this country, as has become apparent these past few years) live in a framework of "hyperrealistic totalism," a simulation of the world that's better than reality because, they think, everything runs exactly the way they say it does. Since this framework is completely imaginary, it has to be defended 24/7 against anyone who dares let reality intrude, thus the totalistic, all/nothing, us-versus-everybody-else reflexive conflict generation.

Periodically throughout history, such movements have come face to face with reality the hard way and peoples get reintroduced to the idea that totalism and making up your own reality is a bad thing. Perhaps we're just overdue for that kind of correction, but in the meantime, they are able to amass vast wealth to keep themselves afloat while producing nothing of value and pushing the casualties, for the most part, down to the individual and to the margins.

When you're down to the point where students at a large state university are spraying oil around campus and they think they're accomplishing something - and they're being financed and supported by area churches enough to rent an on-campus house for their 24/7 obsession machine - what are you gonna do?
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Sun Dec 25, 2005 at 08:29:39 PM EST

These people have created their own reality matrix and are trapped inside it, sad to say. Someone needs to give them the 'red pill' (a reality check) to unsnare them.

You wrote:

When you're down to the point where students at a large state university are spraying oil around campus and they think they're accomplishing something - and they're being financed and supported by area churches enough to rent an on-campus house for their 24/7 obsession machine - what are you gonna do?

I can think of one thing people could do: slip and fall in the damned oil, then sue the pants off the perps. Hit them in the pocketbook. Evict them from their house, and sue them for soaking a room with oil.

The whole oil thing bothers me in a very basic way, mostly because I have studied religious and metaphysical subjects for decades, and understand the real reasoning and purpose of anointing. If they bothered to actually read their Bible, rather than merely waving it around and quoting stuff out of context from it, they'd learn that the creation of genuine holy anointing oil was a very specific, and most important- very expensive process, which was done by people consecrated in the Temple, and to exacting specifications. A properly created anointing oil would be very difficult to obtain today, because some of the ingredients are exceedingly rare (like the wood aloes) or extinct in the wild. People who specialize in the art of perfumery were needed to put this oil together, and that art is also rare.

Using wesson or lowly cooking oil is an insult to the Most High God, and they might as well be peeing on things for the 'blessing' they're giving. I shake my head in dismay when I read about this because it is so backwards and insulting and ignorant.

The whole point of the creation of this original oil was that it was meant to be an expensive sacrifice to the people to obtain the ingredients and the master perfumers to make it, and it was only to be used on kings and high priests.

The Magi who brought the three gifts brought three very interesting things: frankencense and myrrh, which was readily available for purchase, and gold to purchase the remaining ingredients which would anoint Christ as a Davidic king. Even the Magi would rather risk bringing gold to the Christ child than the final ingredients of the anointing oil.

Sorry to go on about that- it's one of my real bother buttons.

by Lorie Johnson on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 01:08:13 PM EST

Regarding the use of Wesson oil in annointings and comparing it to "peeing on something"--you're more dead on than you realise.

In groups that practice "spiritual warfare" (and at least in pentecostal and charismatic communities, this does relate to dominionism--honest, Fred!--in that much of the theological basis for dominionism in these groups is linked with the "spiritual warfare" beliefs) annointing oil is used less to sanctify an object and more as a literal "territorial p*ssing".

In the groups within the pentecostal dominionist community (like New Life Church in Colorado Springs, the AoG church I'm a walkaway from, Youth With A Mission (which is actually a dominionist group), etc.) they have a specific belief in "territorial spirits".  (Many dominionist leaders actually claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God's own way of "cleansing" the "territorial spirits" possessing New Orleans or otherwise claimed "territorial spirits" were the reason NOLA got hit with the hurricane.  These included an Alabama state senator linked with Roy Moore and the dominionist movement in that state as well as Pat Robertson et al.)

In these groups, it's specifically taught that if a believer has enough faith he can make anything pure, and the purpose of annointing oil is to create a "spiritual tie" with that person or place, to specifically mark that person or that place as "belonging to God and the children of God" and "denying Satan's authority over that person".

(If it sounds like "name it and claim it", you'd be right on this, folks--not only this particular belief within the pente dominionist branches, but dominionism itself (specifically, "dominion theology" within pentecostal circles) is itself largely an outgrowth of word-faith aka "name it and claim it" beliefs.)

So yes, they ARE in a sense "peeing" on things, in the exact same sense that a dog pees on a fire hydrant to mark it as his and as his territory.

(As I've noted, this seems to be especially popular in "hard dominionist" circles in the pente community.  John Ashcroft, as well as New Life Church (run by Ted Haggard, who literally has decades being at the heart of the dominionist movement) do this whole "annointing" territorialism thing.)

by dogemperor on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 04:43:04 PM EST

For more info on the what this 'battle cry' is all about, I recommend reading the book by the Teen Mania founder Ron Luce. It's called 'Battle Cry for a Generation' and it will shed light on the questions here. I've read it and found it to be very insightful and challenging to me as a Christian. The references to 'a battle' merely reflect the seriousness of the spiritual war that is going on for our hearts and minds these days. The pain and casualties of it are chilling reminders that it is not symbolic, but real. I don't work in a field that deals with issues like 'cutting', or eating disorders, or addictions, or other destructive behaviors, but I'm learning a lot from reading and listening to those that do. When troubled kids either commit suicide or slowly kill themselves from these behaviors, it's tragic and certainly a wake up call that we need to help.

by rogertq on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 02:31:11 PM EST
As if on cue, one of Ron Luce's finest shows up for a visit, since they have to always speak up if anyone ever discusses from an outsider's perspective what Teen Mania is all about. There it is, on page 3 of the Honor Academy manual:
I will never portray or allow Teen Mania to be portrayed in a negative light.

My italics. Ironically, he kept the subject line intact...

And as is almost always the case, this guy's profile here links to a blog that's full of cut-and-paste Christian propaganda and has links to all the usual suspects.

As for Luce's "Battle Cry" book, it's one of those screeds that forces you to wipe the spittle from your glasses every so often while reading it. Another example of manufactured crisis and conflict, complete with MTV and popular culture being likened to terrorists, that those who have zero historical knowledge actually think is new, when it's not. It's just another whine of the form "ohmygod kids are becoming juvenile delinquents" as they were called a bit before my day.

Only this time around, Luce tries to make the case in his book that things like porn cause destructive changes in the brain, citing yet another brand of non-science using scientific sounding language a la the Intelligent Design types. And the citations - some with atrocious errors - are just a complete joke. There's also tons of wacky statistics pulled out of thin air, with vague references to the websites of the FRC, the Heritage Foundation, and other similarly biased sources.

And while some will reflexively bring up the word "cult' to describe such groups and their practices, speaking as a non-professional interested party who's followed cults for over a decade and started one of the first websites devoted to such (at ex-cult.org) these groups don't necessarily qualify for the 'cult' label. But when we live in a society that is running rapidly toward totalitarianism, it follows that groups and institutions in government, politics and religion will simply reflect that popular trend, broadly adopting the language and practices of totalism that once were more isolated and visible among so-called 'cult' groups.
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 10:54:55 PM EST

But when we live in a society that is running rapidly toward totalitarianism, it follows that groups and institutions in government, politics and religion will simply reflect that popular trend, broadly adopting the language and practices of totalism that once were more isolated and visible among so-called 'cult' groups.

Well put Mike.  That is what I think is happening too in churches like the one I went to (see above post) and even groups like Campus Crusade.  There is an increasing shrillness in everyone in society, a rising panic and a tendency to think "we just must do something".  Combine that with a mindset centered on magical thinking and throw in a few power hungry "leaders" and you've got a recipe for mayhem.  What I fear is that these youth movements will evolve into paramilitaries.  It sounds nutty but authoritarian regimes often rely on "private" groups to do a lot of their dirty work.

by NorthernLights on Mon Dec 26, 2005 at 11:28:12 PM EST

In signing up for Talk to Action, you checked off a box that indicated that you have read and support the site's statement of purpose and guidelines.

Your comment, and Mike's comment taken together indicate to me that perhaps you don't. So as one of the site owners, it is my obligation to check: So tell me please, do you agree with the stated purpose of this site?

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 02:50:44 AM EST

>In signing up for Talk to Action, you checked off a box that indicated that you have read and support the site's statement of purpose and guidelines. Your comment, and Mike's comment taken together indicate to me that perhaps you don't. So as one of the site owners, it is my obligation to check: So tell me please, do you agree with the stated purpose of this site ? My statement was not political and not personal. I was merely shedding some light on what had previously been a misinformed discussion on Teen Mania - specifically to the references of 'war' and 'battle'. It required an explanation of what spiritual warfare is and how the battle is for our hearts and minds, and that the casualties (many among the youth - who are below the age of 18) are as real as the casualties on a battlefield. >It is our intention to take the conversation forward, I believe I moved the conversation forward. Misunderstandings do nothing to promote learning, civility, or truth. I posted with good intentions, and I'm not sure why there is such frustration and animosity directed toward me. >So tell me please, do you agree with the stated purpose of this site? To what specifically are you referring? I'm not sure what is bothering you, so until you tell me what that is (or what I have done wrong), I really don't know how to proceed. If what I posted was in error, please feel free to add to the discussion of what I addressed. Roger

by rogertq on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 02:46:56 PM EST
Do you support the stated purpose of this site as you indicated when you checked off the box during the registration process?

Simple question, simple answer.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 03:26:08 PM EST

What prompted you to say that? What brought this on? I posted to clarify a misconception of the terminology that was being used to possibly shape peoples opinions of another group of people. I felt the need to shed some light on the discussion and help clear up what apparently was not understood. There's nothing wrong with that. Again, if what I said was not truthful, please clarify how it is in error.

by rogertq on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 03:54:54 PM EST
support the stated purpose of the site?

Simple question, simple answer.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:00:11 PM EST

Again, if what I said was not truthful, please clarify how it is in error. I don't want to argue with you. I just want people to know the truth. If you are referring to the 'Terms of Use' agreement at the creation of a user login, then yes, I believe I have followed the four points of that agreement.

by rogertq on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:27:23 PM EST
as to whether you agree with the site's purpose. I am left with no other choice but to believe that you do not.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:36:58 PM EST
...are you grilling me? You are breaking one of the 'terms of agreement' that I had to agree to to be able to post on here! Again, I don't want to argue with you - but what's important here is truth...at the end of the day that divides the people that are right and those that are wrong - but believe with all their heart that they are right. So, therefore it is of utmost importance.

by rogertq on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:44:37 PM EST
that you agree with the site guidelines. For purposes of our conversation, Roger, that is the only matter on the table.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:49:26 PM EST
You are unable to affirm that you agree with the site's statement of purpose. I have asked you several times, and you offer me only evasiveness.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 04:51:16 PM EST
What is this game that you're playing? You know where I stand as I posted a website in my profile info. I have agreed to what was required of me by joining this site...have you played by the same rules? Are your intentions pure? Seriously, you are distracting us from the issue that this thread was supposed to be here for.

by rogertq on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 05:11:58 PM EST
You clearly cannot bring yourself to admit that you do not infact agree with the site's purpose. Perhaps you did not tell the truth when you checked of the box that said you agreed with the site's purpose. Or perhaps you cannot admit that you may have erred.

There have been other Christian Right folks who did not read what they were agreeing to carefully, and graciously conceded that they did not mean to do so, and behaved like gentlemen in withdrawing.

For future reference, people may believe that you are about pursuit of the truth if you are truthful yourself.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Dec 27, 2005 at 07:55:42 PM EST

This thread is probably pretty much over, but to set the record straight I'd thought the following points  should be addressed. Quoting the anonymous poster who calls himself Roger:

My statement was not political and not personal. I was merely shedding some light on what had previously been a misinformed discussion on Teen Mania - specifically to the references of 'war' and 'battle'. It required an explanation of what spiritual warfare is and how the battle is for our hearts and minds, and that the casualties (many among the youth - who are below the age of 18) are as real as the casualties on a battlefield.

Okay, let's leaf through the book that Roger cited and see what it actually says, starting at page 30, with the bulleted points Luce uses to support his notion of a "decline of Christian culture:"

  • Morally corrupt films and programs
  • An increasingly perverted music industry
  • The pornographic invasion of the Internet
  • Civil initiatives promoting gay marriage
  • Battles to remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings, and fights to take "under God" out of our Pledge of Allegiance

As is common with this form of Christian agitprop, Luce uses the confusing method of lumping everything together into the "homogeneous forces of darkness" to inspire outrage and later, action. Specifically with regard to the items cited in the site guidelines,
here are a few specific quotes from the book:

Gay and lesbian civil rights and marriage equality. The fourth bulleted item above and on page 46: "They [God-fearing parents] find themselves in arguments with their own teens about why "homosexuality may not really be wrong after all, since people can't help it; they were born that way."

Abortion. Page 29, again lumping everything together: "Suicide, abortion, alcohol, drug abuse, and violence are firey flames licking at the wreckage of many young lives." Also on page 123, in the so-called "Teenager's Bill of Rights," appears a standard piece of anti-abortion code language: "We recognize the value of each life, whether born or unborn, and we seek to protect those who are unable to protect themselves."

Religious equality and pluralism. Luce puts forward the usual bogus lament that Christians lost, and must return to, some degree of supremacy in America on page 29: For two centures we have enjoyed a society that - while not thoroughly Christian - is based on many of the moral imperatives from Scripture. But as our population has fallen from core evangelical, Bible-based beliefs, so has our society in our desire to be a tolerant, inclusive society. There is no longer a potent majority that speaks out when traditional biblical values are violated."  

While Roger insists that his comments here hawking Luce's book are not "political" in nature, like others who talk a lot about "spiritual warfare" he is either avoiding the obvious or being deliberately obtuse since this allegedly "spiritual warfare" is a means to move people to action in the physical world. As Luce himself makes a bit clearer if not all that explicit on page 58:

Jesus didn't give His life to start a social club; His church was meant to be an army. ... As I've said, most Christians don't realize there's a real war going on. They view our struggle as purely symbolic. ... There is nothing symbolic about 33 million teens under withering fire.

Meanwhile, on page 91 Luce puts forward a specific example of political action to further one of the primary agenda items in his book, which is the eventual regulation of media content:

Rod Blagojevich wants to save American youth. This Democrat governor of Illinois firmly believes his success will depend upon stopping retailers from hawking M-rated games to kids under 17. ... Blagojevich is proposing bills to slap a $5,000 fine - or a year in jail - upon anyone who tries to rent or sell inappropriate video content to underage youngsters.

Better yet, it turns out that Ron Luce himself is a confirmed speaker at Rick Scarborough's next Vision America conference entitled "The War on Christians and the Values Voter in 2006." Luce's name is on the list along with Alan Keyes, Rod Parsley, Janet Parshall, Gary Bauer and Phyllis Schafly.  

Now what was that about you not violating the site guidelines and not being "political" when you're hawking a book from a guy like this?

Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 02:39:00 AM EST

I left out two Senators and three Congressmen on that speaker list including Brownback, Cornyn and DeLay. Nah, it's not political at all...
Acquire the Evidence: on Ron Luce, Teen Mania Ministries and the "BattleCry" campaign. acquiretheevidence.com

by Mike Doughney on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 02:42:50 AM EST
I appreciate your vigilance and thoughtful perspectives on all this.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Dec 28, 2005 at 02:53:22 AM EST

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