Corporate America and Theocracy
mick arran printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Dec 06, 2005 at 06:55:24 PM EST
The connection between the Christian Right and US corporations has a long and disturbing history. From prayer-breakfasts sponsored by right-wing churches to the massive donations from corporations to those same churches, it often seems as though the two are covertly working together toward the same goal. I once saw a painting in a real estate broker's office above her desk which showed two men in suits in a lusciously-appointed office suite shaking hands with Jesus. On the bottom it said something to the effect of 'Deals go better when Christ is your partner'. I was struck by how close it was to a Coca-Cola ad tagline of the time--'Things go better with Coke.'

For the most part, this partnership has been friendly and successful. It's good for both sides. It has been evolving, however, and it's not entirely clear in which direction.

For instance, this ADage article on Tyson Foods' 'Giving Thanks at Mealtime' program.
NEW YORK ( Foods wants people to have a wing and a prayer.

The chicken, beef and pork marketer recently began offering free downloadable prayer booklets on its Web site with mealtime words of thanks expressed across a variety of faiths, from Christian to Muslim. The move is seen as one that could become more common as marketers position themselves as faith friendly to connect with spiritual Americans.

What started out as the internal manifestation of Tyson's mission statement--a set of core values that includes "striving to be a faith-friendly company...and to honor God..."--has over the last few years morphed into placing 128 part-time chaplains in 78 plants across the country and, now, the external marketing initiative to play a part in mealtime prayer.

"There is a broader trend among bigger businesses to be faith-friendly employers, acknowledging that employees don't want to leave their soul in the parking lot," said David Miller, director of the Yale Divinity School's Center for Faith and Culture and a professor of business ethics.

Tyson has long been a financial supporter of the Christian Right, not to the extent that Frank Perdue has, perhaps, but its support has been significant. The chaplains the article mentions, for instance, are nearly all Christian evangelicals, fundamentalists, or both. So far as I know, not a single one of them is a Muslim or even a Catholic. Some are mainstream centrists (Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregationalist), but very few.

That's OK in-house, but when you start injecting religion into your marketing, you're playing with fire and Tyson obviously knows it.

"People are not just buying our products, they're buying us and they're spending more and more time looking on the Internet and elsewhere to find out, `what does this company stand for,' " said Bob Corscadden, Tyson's Chief Marketing Officer. Consumers researching Tyson are likely to find on the Net a chronicle of Tyson's long history of accusations of labor violations and illegal political gifts. So a little religion couldn't hurt.

Tyson has been developing the Giving Thanks at Mealtime booklets (roughly 25,000 have been sent out since the program's kickoff in late August) for the past two years, taking its time with consumer research and working with Mr. Miller and others to determine that prayer books would indeed please rather than put off would-be purchasers. Although it has looked to tie to some faith-based organizations, "teaming with any one religious group could alienate other groups. It's a sticky wicket," Mr. Corscadden said.

Indeed. One has to wonder how long the 'interdenominational' aspect will last given John Tyson's personal orientation as a born-again, evangelical Christian and the Christian Right's infamous intolerance even of mere nods in the direction of other faiths. One is almost forced to the conjecture that Mr Tyson is most likely under tremendous pressure to drop the non-Christian booklets from the Tyson distribution list.

Or one would be if one didn't know that Mr Tyson has a much bigger pie to offer the Christian Right.

Tyson has no plans to use direct faith-based efforts for its traditional advertising in the near future. But its ongoing "Powered by Tyson" campaign is based on a larger brand promise of proudly powering the world that rose directly out of Mr. Tyson's Christian values in addition to the idea of protein as power, according to Craig Bamsey, director-business strategy at Faith Popcorn's BrainReserve.

Ms. Popcorn, whose group developed the "powering the world" strategy for Tyson, firmly believes that success for food companies in the future rests on selling their ideologies as much as their food. "It's a very different marketplace than it used to be and for a lot of people, seeing companies express their faith openly is a huge positive," Mr. Bamsey said.

Ms Popcorn is no fool. A little too ready to see the world in a slight, ephemeral trend, perhaps, but not a fool. Her reputation is based on her ability to be ahead of the curve. If she's seeing religion as a powerful marketing tool in the future, she's probably right. Certainly it would be no surprise to discover that the Christian Right is thinking along the same lines.

What does it mean for us? Maybe nothing, but we've all seen apparently loopy fundamentalist campaigns turn into commonly-accepted belief. Bill O'Reilly et al are busily trying to do that very thing with their idiotic 'Save Christmas' campaign. If Tyson's 'powering the world with religious protein' concept sells, pretty soon everybody will be doing it, and mixing religion into absolutely everything will become 'normal'. It's a small step from there to the majority religion (or the religion that claims to be the majority) flexing its perceived muscles to force their version of religion to the top, effectively pushing everyone else out.

The fundamentalists and Dominionists can't win unless their version of Christianity is perceived to be not just the most common but the dominant one, the one and only religion practiced by the vast majority of Americans. Alliances with corporations could be an enormous help.

Suppose US corporations became over the next ten or twenty years carbon copies of the military and sports worlds in the way they try to force fundamentalism on employees. Suppose that you took a job and quickly learned that unless you go to the 'right' church and 'bear witness' in the 'right' way every morning at the compulsory prayer breakfast, you won't have that job for very long. Suppose every corporation became a fundamentalist annex where non-believers were subjected to ridicule, abuse, forced 'exorcisms', and even beatings. And let's further suppose that globalization has removed once and for all any hope that there will ever be enough jobs here for every American to have a decent one, that a permanent job-blight has settled on the country. That is, after all, the road we're going down. In fact, after the last five years of Norquistian economic policies, we're almost there.

Suppose all that were true? How far do you think we'd be from theocracy then?

My friend Jason Pitzl-Waters examines this in his Wildhunt Blog, where he takes a sharp look at the Narnia hype.

He coined the word 'sermo-mercials' to describe the deliberate marketing that Disney is doing to churches:

Disney  Hypes "Narnia" to Christians. It's interesting, in a creepy way to see how Christians are the New! Improved! market to sell Stuff to.

by Lorie Johnson on Tue Dec 06, 2005 at 09:24:18 PM EST

Actually, as far as Hollywood is concerned, this has been coming for a long time, ever since Mel Gibson's bloody screed pulled in $300M by being marketed to Christian churches. Narnia is just the first real chance they've had to capitalize on it. (Movies take roughly 2 yrs from greenlight to distribution on average.) Expect to see a lot more of it in the future as films that were greenlighted as a result of Passion start to hit the cineplexes.

The movies' sudden love for Christians isn't actually all that sudden. This deserves a post of its own, maybe, but Hollywood is a separate entity with its own rules. Movie studios aren't like any other corporations in the world, and it's a mistake to think they represent anything other than themselves. Yes, they ape the regular culture but in a weird, warped way common only to them. In Hollywood, everybody is a stranger in a strange land and no amount of experience in other corporate environments can prepare you for it.

- mick -

by mick arran on Tue Dec 06, 2005 at 11:40:18 PM EST
I've learned in my studies that the moderan Christian culture occupies a parallel universe of sorts, walled off from secular culture in a way that most mainstream people would find surprising. They homeschool, they have their own books, music, entertainment, social circles- even their own financial advice people. If you belong to a megachurch, you can pretty much get all the things you want or need right on the campus. I found a link to a blog called Sheepwatch on another post, and the writer nails it:

"Jesus said to be fishers of men but too many Pastors had turned into being keepers of the aquarium."

It's a very insular world, and very much an echo chamber. Note how uniform a lot of their websites, sermons, and press releases are? That is deliberate. It's more for their members than for us. The aquarium comparison is especially apt when you see all this stuff targeted at them. They're literally a captive audience.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 01:53:06 PM EST

I think this deserves much more discussion.  

I think you are definitely on to what may be beneath the upsurge in the religious right, which is clearly connected to its unholdy alliance with big-money interests.  

Obviously, we see this in the Republican party, and we know how wealth and elections are linked.  But I think that we are only beginning to unearth the extent to which they are the protein for a vast range of policy shifts.  

The religious right is commandeering politics and boosting the private sector, which pays back with support for the religious right.  

We are headed for a corporatocracy as much as theocracy, or perhaps some corpotheo combination.  

Corporate investment and religious right pressure on corporations are a part of the mix Religious Investment are only part of the picture.  

Add to this donations to right wing think tanks and support for candidates who, in turn, support corporate policies of lowered wages, environmental destruction, union dissolution, amassing of monopolies, tax breaks, anti-consumer legislation, and all sorts of other schemes to increase profit, as well as to direct social welfare programs into religious right organizations which become increasingly wealthy in the process.  

This is THE key, I think.  I'd be very interested to know what else you have uncovered.

by cyncooper on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:20:44 AM EST

advertise in the gay media is their latest marketing tool, a la Faith Popcorn, as well as another corporate alliance for the fundies and Dominionists?

I can't stand it.

by carole on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:26:24 AM EST

I understand and support your concerns, but I hope we can call fundamentalists by their name, rather than slipping into a shorthand that tends to dehumanize them. Just a thought.
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 11:35:07 AM EST
I try to keep the two separate in my own writings, because they're quite different when you examine them closely. While fundementalists can be strident and very hard nosed, they generally prefer to keep to themselves.

Dominionists on the other hand, seem to have gotten mixed up in power politics, and cannot help but try to swarm over everything.

Think about Jimmy Carter. He's a fundementalist Born Again Baptist, but he's not a Dominionist.

by Lorie Johnson on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 01:56:36 PM EST

Not sure about assumption that fundamentalists "generally prefer to keep to themselves." What they tend to share is belief in literal interpretation of the bible. Beyond that, suspect there is a range in degree of activism. Certainly, many of them function as foot soldiers for religious right groups such as FOF, AFA, PTC, Promise Keepers, etc. This group can be extremely active in terms of e-mail, letter-writing, phone campaigns and, at times, demonstrating.

Also not sure that Jimmy Carter is representative - or would pass a strict fundamentalist test. He does identify himself as an evangelical - a group that includes social conservatives and liberals.

by Psyche on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 04:21:29 PM EST

There are a wide variety of fundamentalists, some of whom are unhappy with dominionism in general and the Christian Right in particular. So I was trying to tease the categories apart, and suggest that using the term "fundies" instead of "fundamentalists" might be inadvertantly pushing away a few potential allies. :-)
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 06:00:04 PM EST

I know 'dominionists' is become the preferred term on Talk2Action -- and this may be a contrarian view -- but, quite honestly, I don't find it rolling off the tongue.  Often it lands somewhere near Dominoe's pizza in my mind -- although maybe that's not too bad since the founder is such a right-winger.

by cyncooper on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 01:49:34 PM EST

explicitly saying he is not a fundamentalist, in a recent extended interview on C-SPAN. He describes fundamentalists as oppressive toward women, among other negative attributes, and with his wonderful late mother, his wife, and his daughter being such great, strong women, it is not surprising that he does not want to be termed a fundamentalist.

by MaryOGrady on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 05:57:37 PM EST

still working my way through the new language and other articles on this site. I have read some of your research on Political Research Associates when I've needed a quick answer, but mostly fundamentalism and dominionism have been subjects and people that I just ignore (at best).

That approach has not actually worked in real life, so I am here to learn a different way.  

I came here because of the political, but of course, people are much more complicated.  I'll keep reading.

Thank you.

by carole on Wed Dec 07, 2005 at 07:09:53 PM EST

You are very right to point to the decision by Ford not to advertise in gay media, at the behest of the religious right, as another arrow in this strategy.  For a long time, boycott tactics and bullying efforts by the religious right had little effect.  Now, companies seem to be laying down at the first twitch.

I hope someone is monitoring this and can create a long-range chart to determine if there is more capitulation.  It certainly feels that way.

In the meantime, here is a site that has some action steps to encourage Ford to do the right thing -- America's Blog.

by cyncooper on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 02:04:17 PM EST

The relationship between the Christian right and elements of the corporate sector is important to understand, and to be able to explain clearly and well. Also to differentiate between companies that are for example, indoctrinating emplyees in the preferred religion of the management, and those that are just caving into perceived or actual organized consumer pressure.

There are also elements of the corporate sector that would naturally resist the Christian right. They are important allies.

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Dec 08, 2005 at 02:10:47 PM EST

Like other chicken processors in the US, Tyson exposes its workers to needless, permanent, disabling injuries in the name of "speeding up the line." It's a commonplace that Tyson and its corporate colleagues recruit undocumented foreign workers because of their reputed docility, then use them up and spit them out, crippled, without pity for them or their families.
So, when Tyson's mission statement says the company is "striving to be a faith-friendly company...and to honor God...", is the word I am looking for "hypocrisy," or is it more like, "blasphemy"?

by MaryOGrady on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 10:41:03 AM EST

Some companies go even further than Tyson and are explicit funders of the dominionist movement.  A few that I documented in this thread:

Corporations known to have supported dominionist causes:

Chick-Fil-A (multiple dominionist links; and document this fairly extensively)

(from which is an article on the antics of Roy Moore)

    Another religious celebration covering the Thanksgiving period is "National Bible Week." This celebration began in 1941, when the first Bible Week proclamation was made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Support for this event is better organized and funded than the "America's Christian Heritage Week," since the latter is relatively recent. But the Bible Week celebration has the same objective of prompting elected officials to declare the holiday and issue proclamations. In 1996, governors in 29 states declared National Bible Week (up from 27 in 1995).

    NBW organizers include major leaders in the business and political sectors. Chairing the Bible Week committee is S. Truett Cathy, chairman and founder of Chick-Fil-A, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia. Acting as Co-Chairs are U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Representative Steven Largent (R-OK). Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania is in charge of the Governors' Committee for NBW. And overseeing the committee charged with recruiting municipal leaders on behalf of the Bible Week cause is Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore, Maryland.


    Also, if you don't like Focus on the Family, don't eat at Chick-fil-A, who heavily sponsors FOTF.

Speaking of which, here's some evidence even more damning of Chick-Fil-A being dominionism-friendly: (Chick-Fil-A's children's meal incentives promoting a radio show targeted at children and broadcast by Focus on the Family's "godcasting" radio affiliates) (notes Chick-Fil-A promoting FotF-related children's incentives) (from Focus on the Family themselves; notes that Chick-Fil-A not only uses FotF material as children's incentives but other dominionist incentives targeted at children (such as Veggietales, which is a "Christian" children's program generally carried on "godcasting" networks, especially PAX TV affiliates and whose creators have multiple links to dominionist and spiritually abusive groups)) (promotion by Arthur S DeMoss Foundation--a group which itself has indulged in "stealth evangelism" using athletes including NASCAR drivers; will post more on the DeMoss Foundation in a short bit) (website for the owner of Chick-Fil-A; yes, it does talk about his funding of dominionist causes)

Amway/Quixtar/Alticor (multiple dominionist links, including promotion in AoG churches as "Christian Business" (see in previous Dark Christianity article re dominionists and pyramid schemes at; DeVos Foundation (operated by Amway founder) major funder of dominionist causes (see; Amway/Quixtar/Alticor itself has been noted as using coercive tactics (see first link); see for examples of what is being funded)

Coors Breweries (owners of Coors operate Castle Rock Foundation and Coors Foundations, both major funders of Christian Reconstructionist and dominionist causes; see for info, and for groups funded)

Olin Chemicals/Olin Pharmaceuticals (operated Olin Foundation, major funder of dominionist causes; seems to have stopped trust fund as of November 2005 but multiple members are in Scaife Foundation; see

Allen-Bradley Company (electronics firm)(founders operate Bradley Foundation, major funder of dominionist causes; see

Mellon oil/industrial companies (possibly including Gulf Oil at one time, now owned by BP) (founders operate four separate groups collectively known as the Scaife Foundation, all of which are major funders of dominionist causes; see;
Mellon Financial may not be involved with the Mellon industrial/oil companies that I can see. If anything, Mellon Financial would probably piss off dominionists:
(re funding of GLAD, a gay/les/bi/trans advocacy group)

Then again, there's some confusion, because at least part of the Scaife Foundation hydra may have changed focus (due to takeover by a daughter that doesn't agree with the funding of dominionist causes) and is even funding some progressive causes:

B. F. Goodrich was formerly a Scaife company but has since been sold;

The closest thing I've found to a present link to Scaife-owned companies (and even THIS may be out of date) is this:

One major focus of investment with Scaife, interestingly, is news media:

(This is especially interesting in regards to consolidation of media by right-wing and dominionist interests)

In other words, it appears Scaife may be a trust-fund baby, and in fact much of the right-wing turn was recent (and may be in a process of reversal). Most of Scaife's interest seems to be in media concerns.

Alcoa Aluminum is now probably one to avoid as well, as Scaife still apparently owns that:

Curves, Inc. (spa chain) (apparently owners are linked with Randall Terry's groups; see

Wal-Mart and Sam's Wholesale (group has funded dominionist causes in past, and Walton Foundation still funds dominionist groups involved in "stealth evangelism": notes some info, as does and and; has a fairly complete list of recipients) (may not be as active in funding dominionist causes as in past but still group of concern)

Hobby Lobby (dominionist-run store that (per even goes so far as to only play "Christian contemporary" music in its stores; notes how Hobby Lobby may in fact violate federal law by discriminating against non-dominionists in hiring; notes how owner of Hobby Lobby is major contributor to Jerry Falwell and his Christian Reconstructionist efforts; is pretty damning in and of itself in regards to dominionist ministries funded (which includes at least one "godcasting" group, Bearing Fruit Communications, associated with PAX TV)

In-N-Out Burger and Forever 21/XXI stores are known to put Bible verses on bags/wrappers out of religiosity ( and but so far I've not found overt dominionist links with those two chains.

Alaska Airlines is similarly suspicious but actually has an even higher index of possible suspicion:
(all in regards to placing (Protestant) Bible verses with meals)

Alaska Airlines is listed in at least one "Christian Yellow Pages" directory as well, which is a bit of a red flag.

People's Benefit Services, formerly National Liberty Corporation (change of name noted at; dominionist links are probably most notable under their previous identity as National Liberty Corporation.

The reason National Liberty Corporation gets its own special listing is because it was founded by an Arthur S DeMoss, who is also possibly one of the largest funders of dominionist causes in the United States and seems to specifically specialise in projects involving "stealth evangelism" or "bait and switch evangelism".

National Liberty sold via direct (snail-mail) marketing--junk mailing--and still derives the majority of their business from this. details a bit of this history.

Info on the DeMoss Foundation, National Liberty Insurance, and funding of dominionism: (on dominionism) (notes DeMoss Foundation as major sugar daddy of dominionist causes) (actually details where most of the money goes, gives some more back-history; notes involvement directly in the Iran-Contra arms scandal, also notes direct funding of Christian Reconstructionist groups; has directly assisted in bankrolling political campaigns for dominionists (notably John Ashcroft).) (details stealth evangelism campaign by DeMoss Foundation in free giveaways of "Power For Living"--a dominionist religious guide--which was promoted by sports personalities on television such as NASCAR's Jeff Gordon; also notes dominionist groups funded by or assisted by DeMoss Foundation)

by dogemperor on Fri Dec 09, 2005 at 02:33:02 PM EST

It would be nice to make all of this into a concise list.  Certainly a lot of important info here.  Have you seen anything on L.L.Bean?

(By the way, I believe Arthur DeMoss died.  The Foundation is run by Nancy DeMoss.)

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 12:08:52 AM EST

This is probably an area we need to do a lot of research in and actually set up a list--I've seen requests on at least three anti-dominionist forums (two blogs--here and Dark Christianity--and discussion on an anti-dominionist mailinglist) for a list of known funders of dominionist causes for purposes of publication and boycotting.

I agree we do need to get a list up so we know who the funders of dominionism are.  (Among other things, I'd love to know if In-N-Out and Forever 21 just have religious owners (which is all fine and good) or actually are corporate sponsors of dominionism (which is not).

I've not heard anything on L. L. Bean myself--anyone else?

by dogemperor on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 11:58:12 AM EST

Really important to have complete and solid research with the latest ownership information and policy implications. One false piece of information is really discrediting. That's the especially challenging -- and time consuming -- part.

by cyncooper on Sat Dec 10, 2005 at 05:14:31 PM EST

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