Christian Right's Narrative Incomplete
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Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 05:07:34 PM EST
Elizabeth Castelli has written an informative article about the recent "War on Christians" conference in Washington, D.C.

She begins with a broad outline of the Christian Right's "traditionalist, triumphalist historical narrative" about the role of America in God's "providence."

I would like to add a footnote to her paragraph about the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
Castelli writes:

Several interlocking narratives and rhetorics are at work in the Vision America program. One critical piece of the puzzle is a traditionalist, triumphalist historical narrative in which the United States was given to Christians by God to establish a providential nation based on biblical precepts. (No apologies -- nor even passing reference -- to the land's prior occupants.) Founded as a city upon a hill (the oft-repeated image deriving from John Winthrop's 1630 shipboard speech to the English colonists he was bringing to the new world) and as a refuge for puritans escaping religious persecution, "America was not an accident," as one speaker at the conference put it.

Rick Scarborough, president of the organization that sponsored the conference, is a Baptist.  Had he paid attention to what he should have learned in his Baptist history classes at seminary, he would have learned that colonial Massachusetts was far from being a promised land for Baptists.

Roger Williams was banished from the Colony because he challenged Winthrop's idea that America was a "new Israel."  At the beginning of his Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience (1644), Williams explained one of the theses of his book: "The state of the land of Israel, the kings and people thereof, in peace and war, is proved figurative and ceremonial, and no pattern nor precedent for any kingdom or civil state in the world to follow." (p. 3)

Roger Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and established the first Baptist church in America.  
Williams was not the only Baptist to suffer such persecution.  John Clarke, pastor of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island published an account of religious persecution in New England in his Ill News from New-England(1652).   In it he told how in the summer of  1651, Obadiah Holmes, John Crandall, and John Clarke -- all members of the Baptist Church at Newport, Rhode Island -- were arrested and imprisoned for holding an unauthorized worship service in the home of a blind Baptist named William Witter who lived at Lynn, Massachusetts outside Boston.  They were sentenced to be fined or whipped.  Fines for Clarke and Crandall were paid by friends.  Holmes refused to let friends pay his fine and was publicly whipped on the streets of Boston on September 6, 1651.

A year after Clarke's book was published, Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University, was forced to resign from his position and banished from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  His crime:  refusing to have his fourth child baptized as an infant and proclaiming that only believers should be baptized.

And these are just a few examples of what life was like in Massachusetts during the days of the pilgrims.  

When Baptists begin holding up colonial Massachusetts as a model for modern society it demonstrates something about the transvaluation of beliefs and convictions that modern fundamentalists have brought about in Baptist life.  They truly have more in common with colonial theocratic Puritans than they do with their Baptist ancestors.

As bad as it was for Baptists, it was worse for Quakers.

Sydney Ahlstrom records some of the ways that the authorities dealt with Quakers, "In July 1656 the ship Swallow anchored in Boston Harbor.  It became known quickly that on board were two Quaker women, Mary Fisher and Ann Austin, who had shipped from Barbados.  The authorities moved swiftly.  The women were kept on ship while their belongings were searched and more than one hundred books confiscated.  Although there was as yet no law against Quakers in Massachusetts, the two were hurried off to jail, stripped of all their clothing, and inspected for tokens of witchcraft.  After five weeks, the captain of the Swallow was placed under a 100 pound bond to carry them back to Barbados." A Religious History of the American People, p. 178.

When these efforts failed to keep Quakers out of the colony, they resorted to more drastic measures.  William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and William Leddra are listed among the Quaker martyrs in Massachusetts.  The last Quaker martyr in Massachusetts, Mary Dyer, was hanged in the Boston Common on June 1, 1660.  All died in defiance of a law banning Quakers from Massachusetts Bay Colony.  

A statue of Mary Dyer now stands in front of the State Capitol in Massachusetts as a constant reminder of the Colony's shameful legacy of religious intolerance.  

by Mainstream Baptist on Thu Apr 06, 2006 at 05:15:22 PM EST

What DeLay and his ilk are responding to isn't an assault on Christianity. They are indignant that anyone would assault their brand of control that is wrapped in a veneer of Christianity.

The neo-cons took their strategery and wrapped it in God, Mom, the flag, and apple pie. People who are in a consistent state of anxiety over any number of issues see this pleasing sight and throw in with it in order not to be afraid anymore.

Let's call them what they really are - fear enablers masquerading as Christians.

by MWDpresby on Fri Apr 07, 2006 at 01:22:42 PM EST

Thanks for posting this--wonderful article.

As an aside--not many people caught this, I know, but "Triumphalism" is actually (as it turns out) a bit of a codeword for "Kingdom Now" or "Dominion theology" (the specific type of which I write on here; the article where I noticed it as a synonym is in regards to use of the Alpha USA course by dominionists specifically associated with "Pensacola Outpouring" aka "third wave" spiritual-warfare movements in the Assemblies and neopente communities):

One area of major concern not addressed by CRN is Gumbel's teaching of Kingdom Now theology. Kingdom Now theology (sometimes called Dominionism or Triumphalism) is the teaching that we can now have (with enough faith) all or most of the physical and health benefits promised at Christ's ultimate and perfect Kingdom. In other words, we can begin to claim for ourselves most Kingdom benefits here and now.

The illusion that we can now have the physical aspects of God's perfect future Kingdom is expressed in this way by Gumbel, "The Kingdom is both `now' and `not yet.'"22 Gumbel also says that the age to come can be realized in principle in this age. He goes on to affirm:

    "We live between the times, when the age to come has broken into history. The old age goes on, but the powers of the new era have erupted into this age. ... healing is one of the signs of the Kingdom which was inaugurated by Jesus Christ and continues to this day. Hence we should expect God to continue to heal miraculously today as part of His Kingdom activity."23

Apologist Hank Hanegraaff appraises the Kingdom Now illusions in these words:

    "Leaders of the Counterfeit Revival demand the Kingdom now! -- in this life, with all of its attendant material wealth, public accolades, physical health, and earthly power."24

Gumbel bases his Kingdom Now theology on his misinterpretation of two Scriptures. First, he cites the questionable (and often disputed) Mark 16:15-20. And like most of his persuasion, he is selective. He does not press the verse and suggest that he handles poisonous serpents or that he can empty out cemeteries. Why not do it all?

The Mark 16 passage cited above is hotly disputed as to authenticity. Historically the orthodox position on the Scripture has been the inspiration and inerrancy of the original autographs. No one should base major claims on a few verses that are legitimately questionable. The rejection of these verses based on internal and external evidence in no way alters crucial doctrines of the Christian life.25

Charles R. Erdman, commenting on the Gospel of Mark, affirms that: "The closing verses of this Gospel are commonly regarded as an appendix, added by a later hand."26

The Geneva Bible explains the controversy over the ending of the Gospel of Mark:

    "Scholars differ regarding whether these verses were originally part of this Gospel. Some important early Greek manuscripts lack these verses, other manuscripts have vv. 9-20 (known as the `Longer Ending'), and still others have a `Shorter Ending' (roughly one verse long). A few manuscripts have both the `Shorter Ending' and the `Longer Ending.' Because of these differences some scholars believe that vv. 9-20 were added later and not written by Mark."27

In his further attempts to justify Kingdom Now ideas, Gumbel also quotes John 14:12 that says those that believe will do greater works than Jesus. If Gumbel's view is true he should lead the way in regularly walking on water, multiplying food, raising the dead, demonstrating a transfiguration body, changing water to wine, healing masses of incurable diseases, controlling storms and getting tax money from the mouth of fish. After all, how else could we do greater works than Jesus? Certainly Gumbel is not a model of his own teaching. Having someone fall down or say their headache is gone or they have a warm feeling in their elbow is a comic illusion and a charade when compared to the power and scope of the ministry of Christ.

(Incidentially, there was a documented case where someone brought a dead infant to be resurrected during the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, and various Assemblies-linked preachers have made bogus claims of resurrections in Africa.  Dominionist preachers (notably Pat Robertson) have claimed to control storms and the like.)

(The particular verses taken out of context:

Mark 16:15-20 (RSV, courtesy

  1. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
  2. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
  3. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
  4. they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."
  5. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.
  6. And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Verse 17-18 has been in particular used in pente churches into the dominion-theology theologies to justify their teachings (including promotion of faith-healing and "deliverance ministry" movements) and even to justify the pentecostal movement itself (in particular the concept of "baptism in the holy spirit", seen as the actual sign of salvation); at its most extreme, verse 18 has been used to justify "snake handling" pentecostalism in Appalachia (yes, people really DO play with rattlesnakes in some pente services in Appalachia, even though it's illegal).  The entire chapter is, in context, in reference to the resurrection and ascendance of Christ into heaven, and (as noted) there is controversy regarding verses after verse 15 being possible additional verses.

John 14:12 (also including 13-14):

  1. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father.
  2. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son;
  3. if you ask anything in my name, I will do it.

Verse 12, as well as 13-14, are often quoted out of context by dominion-theology teachers to justify dominionism (13-14 are explicitly used in scripture-twisting to justify "name it and claim it" theology).  This is yet another example of the words of Christ being warped to a completely different meaning; the entire chapter in context is in regards to Christ reassuring the apostles that to know Christ is to know God, to keep the faith, and to not be afraid once He was no longer physically present in the world.  The chapter is in a series of chapters with the general message to keep the faith, not be afraid of persecution, and to love even their enemies and to forgive them.  Notably, the passages end with the crucifixion and ressurection of Christ in chapters 18-20--giving the full context of telling his apostles to not be afraid in regards to Jesus' imminent execution.)

As it turns out, the Alpha course itself may have originated in "third wave" churches in the UK, and from there has been explicitly used in "faith based coercion" programs in prisons--in other words, many of the "faith based" programs in prison (some of which are increasingly becoming mandatory) are promoting possibly one of the deepest forms of "pente dominionism" to literally captive audiences.

Very interestingly, I found this link in discussion with a friend of mine on AIM who had read the article in question and has been doing a bit of a project in monitoring his local religiocasters--he agrees the major theme is "triumphialism", the idea of them triumphing and conquering everything opposed to them.  This even includes some of the "Elect" imagery that is promoted in dominion-theology circles--and of conquering earthly institutions to "secure the Kingdom blessings on earth" (of import to this community).

by dogemperor on Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 07:35:46 PM EST

Ethan Allen (1738-1789)

"Nothing is more evident to the understanding part of mankind, than that in those parts of the world where learning and science has prevailed, miracles
have ceased; but in such parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue; which is of itself a strong presumption that in the infancy
of letters, learning and science, or in the world's non-age, those who confided in miracles, as a proof of the divine mission of the first promulgators
of revelation, were imposed upon by fictitious appearances instead of miracles.

"Furthermore, the author of Christianity warns us against the impositions of false teachers, and ascribes the signs of the true believers, saying, `And
these signs shall follow them that believe, in my name shall they cast out devils, they shall speak with new tongues, they shall take up serpents, and
if they drink any deadly thing it shall not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.' These are the express words of the founder
of Christianity, and are contained in the very commission, which he gave to his eleven Apostles, who were to promulgate his gospel in the world; so that
from their very institution it appears that when the miraculous signs, therein spoken of, failed, they were considered as unbelievers, and consequently
no faith or trust to be any longer reposed in them or their successors. For these signs were those which were to perpetuate their mission, and were to
be continued as the only evidences of the validity and authenticity of it, and as long as these signs followed, mankind could not be deceived in adhering
to the doctrines which the Apostles and their successors taught; but when these signs failed, their divine authority ended. Now if any of them will drink
a dose of deadly poison, which I could prepare, and it does not `hurt them,' I will subscribe to their divine author and end the dispute; not that I have
a disposition to poison any one, nor do I suppose that they would dare to take such a dose as I could prepare for them, which, if so, would evince that
they were unbelievers themselves, though they are extremely apt to censure others for unbelief, which according to their scheme is a damnable sin."

( Ethan Allen,
Reason the Only Oracle of Man,
Boston: J.P. Mendum, 1854. )

by Dave on Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 11:13:23 PM EST

...that Ethan Allen would be rather shocked at one of the decidedly more peculiar branches of dominionist pentecostalism in Appalachia--namely, the "snake handling" church.

(Yes, they do exist.  Rather illegally, but they do exist, and in fact in parts of Appalachia the "snake handling" flavour of pentecostalism is the dominant flavour of pentecostalism.  In parts of Eastern Kentucky the two major religious denominations tend to be Southern Baptists and "snake handling" churches.

(And yes, they do drink poison and play with rattlesnakes in services; yes, several people a year die in "snake handling" services.  They are usually deemed as having insufficient faith or that it is "their time to go"; of note to this community, it's the "snake handlers" and Southern Baptists working together that has pushed for things like placing the Ten Commandments in schools.  (In fact, the court-case which made it all the way to the Supreme Court ruling a Kentucky "Ten Commandments" courthouse display crossed the line of constitutionality was in McCreary County--in Appalachia, all of a county away from a  Southern Baptist college which just ran a gay student out based on a posting (which is used as a de facto community college by the populace--and which my sister attended pre-dominionist-hijacking because there are no accredited (for financial aid) Assemblies of God seminaries who will train women in the ministry; of note, she later decided the ministry was not for her, but ironically also learned that gay men are in fact human beings too).  

I should note, having been in that area of Kentucky, the Southern Baptists are actually the liberals in that part of the world (as recently as the late 70's/early 80's, there were parts of towns you did NOT go in at night if you were African-American and valued your personal safety) and the area is still a stronghold for both Klan groups and--more recently--"Christian Militia" type groups.  (One leader--Steve Anderson from Pulaski County, who operated a pirate shortwave radio station where he encouraged people to shoot policemen pulling them over, had a shootout with police (armed with an AK-47) over a traffic stop, after which it was discovered his car was full of pipe bombs--was captured after a two year search.  Of note, it's also been suspected he was hid out by sympathisers (similar suspicions exist re Eric Rudolph).  This linkalso has reports on other members of the same militia group--one of several active in Eastern Kentucky.

by dogemperor on Wed Apr 12, 2006 at 11:46:41 AM EST

Doesn't sound like a very welcoming place.

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