Ron Luce's "stealth evangelism" guide exposed (part 1)
Backgrounder--a history of the bait and switch
First, I should give a bit of backgrounder. "Bait and switch" evangelism--often termed "servant evangelism" or "stealth evangelism" in the dominionist communities where it's promoted--is the concept of earning the trust of an individual, or holding an event, with the purpose of prosyletising to them--but without letting the target know at first of your intent to attempt to convert them. It is actually a fairly major way in which the more pente dominionist groups recruit, and has direct implications with fighting dominionism (as I'll note below).
One common method for more organised groups is to hold "anti-drug rallies" at public schools, or to hold "dinner parties", or even run haunted houses, without ever revealing the connections to a dominionist missionary group; at the end, when the doors are locked and the money has been taken, the people are subjected to hard sell evangelism.
People are actively encouraged to find ever more creative ways to trick people into being subjected to a bona-fide pentecostal altar call (and no, the comment there isn't accidental; the Assemblies of God has been historically one of the biggest promoters of this particular method of recruitment other than the Moonies (who call it "heavenly deception"), as I'll note below). This has included, notably, even infiltrating other Christian churches (the practice is termed "sheep-stealing", and the Institute for Religion and Democracy almost stole the tactics it uses for splitting and hijacking congregations fullscale from pente-affiliated "shepherding groups" who used this to plant "charismatic" cell churches within non-pentecostal denominations with the goal that the "cell church" would eventually take over the home church a la the Borg).
As I noted, this tactic primarily started within the more pente branches of dominionism, especially churches heavily into the "dominion theology" movement and its associated "spiritual warfare" theology. Possibly the first group I know of that has promoted this aside from the Moonies is none other than the Assemblies' own Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International--a group extremely active in dominionist movements both here and abroad, and one of the groups with the earliest documented history (dating back to the beginnings of the Cold War and the first major waves of promoting "dominion theology").
This is actually one of the favourite tactics to target children and teens in particular, and in recent years ("recent years", of course, being defined as "within the last thirty or so") one of the major expansions of "bait and switch evangelism" is to get teens themselves recruiting other teens in using these same deceptive recruiting tactics. Luce is, by far, not alone in this--another particularly infamous group promoting this is an Assemblies "youth ministry" called the Seven Project which promotes itself to schools as a group for "at-risk youth" and teaches kids techniques of "bait and switch" evangelism as well as being a form of "bait and switch" itself.
A history of the reviewed document
Also, here's a bit of brief cultural backgrounder regarding the other major principle player behind the pamphlet--Carman Ministries.
Carman Ministries is an organisation run by "Christian contemporary" performer Carman Dominic Licciardello (who uses only his first name as a stage name).
Carman has been particularly popular in "spiritual warfare" circles, largely because he is a major promoter of it; also, much of his popularity is because of the extensive "parallel economy" in music promoted by dominionist churches (who typically teach that any "non-Christian" music is by definition Satanic). It is probably not an exaggeration that in many hardline dominionist churches, Carman is one of the few popular artists that teens are allowed to listen to.
Partly because of the heavy promotion of "spiritual warfare" (documented nicely in Biblical America Resistance Front's website; BARF are the same folks now running the excellent site Acquire the Evidence), Carman has been a increasingly controversial figure, with some more mainstream evangelicals expressing concern that Carman Ministries may be, or may be in the process of becoming, a coercive religious group.
Not unsurprisingly, one of the major sources of Carman Ministries' funding is the DeMoss Group, which is a major bankroller of dominionist causes. Carman has himself promoted dominionist worldviews, notably, being a major promoter of David Barton and Wallbuilders (the latter being an explicitly Christian Reconstructionist group promoting the "America is a Christian Nation" canard; Barton himself is also an explicit Christian Reconstructionist, having not only founded Wallbuilders but having headed the Texas GOP during its hijacking by dominionists and also being on the board of the Providence Foundation, another Christian Reconstructionist group, and even actively assisted Dubya in recruiting Christian Nationalists of all stripes as a campaign assistant specifically dealing with church outreaches).
Now that you know the general backgrounder here, we'll get to the meat of things:
An expose of a manual on "bait and switch" evangelism
Probably one of the best ways I can think of to show just what sort of thing we're dealing with (with the "BattleCry" seminars and such) is by looking at a manual Luce has written himself: specifically, the R.I.O.T. Manual which is designed as a guide to "bait and switch" for kids.
This is one of the better examples I've found of what I mean by the "private face" of dominionism; this was distributed by Carman Ministries (and would primarily have been gotten by dominionist youth already active in "spiritual warfare" movements) in 1995 (showing how long this has been the "norm") and was written by dominionists, for dominionists.
I would like to first note a huge "thank you" to Biblical America Resistance Front, who not only originally reported on the R.I.O.T. Manual but formerly had the full text available. (The full text is still available via archive.org, and it is this archived text which I will refer to here.)
Anyways, to quote James Lileks, "Let's begin".
The book starts out right at the beginning promoting the dominion-theology version of "spiritual warfare":
This manual will help you start a R.I.O.T. - a Righteous Invasion of Truth - in your town. We wrote it to get you ready for battle and to send you into war. Our purpose is not to tell you about a R.I.O.T., but to motivate and equip you to get a R.I.O.T. going. A R.I.O.T. makes the devil mad and brings lots of people to Christ.
Let's see--already, in the first paragraph we're having kids talking about "going to war", "making the devil mad", and in the second they're talking about "invading the devil's territory".
This is classic "dominion theology" talk: according to one of the core beliefs, God and man are seen as having "lost dominion" at the Fall, and Jesus died not to win the world back but to make it merely possible for "God Warriors" to do the grunt-work of "spiritual warfare" to "claim dominion over the earth for God and Jesus". (This is also, notably, the theological basis for political dominionism as well in these groups--governments, too, and entire countries must be "claimed for Christ".)
Interestingly, this also plays straightaway at what many people interpret as a "martyrdom complex" in dominionism but--in the "spiritual warfare" theology--is actually a bit more complex. It's taught explicitly that anything that is not of the group is Satanic or capable of being used by Satan (because it's not been "claimed for Christ") and that not only will young "God Warriors" be cursed but that the level of oppression will be directly in relation to "how close they're walking for God"--because Satan is literally using everyone else to bring you down and oppress you as a sort of infernal temper tantrum against their "good works".
In other words, the more you act as a competely obnoxious God Warrior, the more you'll get attacked--but not because you're being completely obnoxious, but because Satan really, really hates the idea of you being a God Warrior--thus, you should be even more obnoxious, because this is seen as a sign you're doing a good job.
(This is one of the reasons it's notoriously hard for people to walk away after their teens from these groups. It's also, notably, widely considered a major warning-sign of a coercive religious group; the "Thought Control" section of Steven Hassan's BITE Model almost completely covers this.)
Continuing the martyrdom complex, they literally compare their actions to those of the participants of the L. A. riots after the "not guilty" verdicts of the policemen involved:
1. WHAT IS A R.I.O.T.?
Yes, they're comparing themselves to the LA rioters--no matter that there are portions of LA which have still not recovered even ten years afterwards.
Later on they note Paul's imprisonments (which, notably, they neglect to mention were at the hands of a repressive Roman government) and mention that kids are likely to suffer, and end with the stinger:
Paul had a reputation for stirring things up. What's your reputation? Sometimes we worry so much about ruffling people's feathers that we do not do what God has called us to do. We worry more about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us.
(song lyric in italics from Carman's "R.I.O.T." (from which the guide is named, and which was distributed with the single), as quoted in book)
Yes, you read this right. They're promoting, quite literally, imagery of a public insurrection as the kind of things young "God Warriors" should emulate in their "spiritual warfare" imagery.
Think about THAT the next time you read about the BattleCry stuff or, for that matter, the whole concept of how the young are being expressly groomed for being future dominionist leaders. This is where it's leading, and why I genuinely fear for this nation and for the kids involved.
And yes, the lyrics really ARE that bad.
There's more "the angrier people get, the more certain it is you're doing the right thing" imagery on page 13:
In a Righteous Invasion of Truth (R.I.O.T.), rather than being destroyed, people's lives are put back together. There may be some wreckage, though. When Satan's plans are destroyed he gets stinking mad. But we say it's about time we made him mad!
I should note, as a minor aside, the "devil" noted is, quite explicitly and implicitly, pretty much anyone who isn't a dominionist and dares to speak out against this nonsense.
It's also of note they claim it's one's "reputation" at stake, neglecting to mention that many of the tactics promoted are likely to get people suspended or fired (as I'll detail). Nor do they mention the fact that--especially in regards to the more coercive dominionist groups--people can literally have their lives destroyed.
Later on, the "See You At The Pole" events are promoted as a good example of "RIOT Action". This, too, is a subtle reference to "spiritual warfare"; Religious Tolerance, a site based in Ontario, has documented multiple reports of a particularly disturbing tradition at SYATP events:
Edmond North High School in Edmond, OK: Nearly 150 Christian students gathered in the school yard during the 2005 SYATP event. They wrote the names of non-Christian students on pieces of paper. Darrell Haley, a youth pastor at the local E-Church brought a portable wooden cross which was set up next to the school flagpole in an apparent violation of the principle of separation of church and state. The papers were then nailed to the cross. Darrell's daughter Rachel wrote, "God truly moved in such a mighty way. I just felt the presence of God and the Holy Spirit at our school today." Olga Cossey, an adult youth leader at Witcher Baptist Church, said that seeing the students nailing the symbolic pieces of paper on the cross was a very emotional moment for her.(References from article: Mark SchlachtenhAufen, "Faith renewed for local students Wednesday," The Edmond Sun, 2005-SEP-22, originally at http://www.edmondsun.com A photograph of the cross with the names of non-Christian student appears at: http://www.youthworkers.net/PDF/syatp2005_1.pdf (warning: potentially triggering); YouthWorkers is a "youth ministry" umbrella group whose participating ministries are primarily dominionist groups, including Teen Mania, the Assemblies of God (and at least four of its frontgroups), a number of (primarily) pentecostal dominionist churches, and also including a number of groups considered coercive religious groups) "See you at the pole," Baptist Standard, 2001-SEP-24, at: http://www.baptiststandard.com/2001/9_24/pages/pole.html (also features picture of names being nailed to cross, potentially triggering))
Multiple other sites have reported on this--one need merely do a Google search for "See You At The Pole" "cross" "nailed".
And yes, this is the sort of stuff that's encouraged as a Good Thing by Luce and crew.
In fact, these charming folks even promote the idea of God as Creepy Stalker (yes, like that's going to win souls):
A R.I.O.T. is using every spare moment to reach out to lost people. It is creatively expanding the kingdom of God. It is strategizing and coordinating with friends to take over a part of your school or town for Jesus. It is a full-blown blitz! It is making everyone think, God, God, God! That is all I ever see and hear! God stuff is everywhere!
Of course, most workplaces would term something like this "creating a hostile work environment"; the US Air Force Academy is in rather a bit of a serious controversy and is being investigated primarily because people are being harassed by "Stalkers for God".
The classic examples of "bait and switch" are promoted in the next few pages (counting the touching story of a dominionist who actively took advantage of two guys on the football team who were grounded and only allowed to attend Bible studies), and includes even more spiritual warfare ideology (and just a bit of scripture twisting to boot) on pages 17-18:
A riot usually starts when people are dissatisfied with the status quo. Tired of puffing up with too much for too long, they say it is time for a change. Scripture says, "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it" (Matt. 11:12). Jesus tells us here that He came to change the status quo. He points out that since He and John came on the scene, some amazing things had happened in God's kingdom. After years of relative quiet, someone showed up who knew what was sup posed to happen and by force took hold of God's kingdom.
Yes, the imagery is quite clear--"you'll take us converting the world to a dominionist theocracy, and by God, you'll like it".
Matt. 11:12 is taken out of context; Etext's handy RSV and KJV Bible texts shows that the actual context of this Bible verse is in Jesus specifically praising the work of John the Baptist, and later on he condemns the dominionists of his own time for accusing John the Baptist and Himself of being demon possessed.
In fact, the verse quotation is from a particular version of the Bible that has mistranslated it. According to the text in the RSV (considered by most mainstream Biblical scholars as a more accurate translation of the Bible than the KJV or NIV) the verse alone describes people ATTACKING Heaven, not a marching mass of "God Warriors":
12: From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force.
The KJV version is similar: 12: And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
According to online texts I've been able to find, the particular rendering in the book is from the New International Version (or NIV), a particular translation often seen as even less accurate than the KJV, one which was originally written by a consortium of conservative churches (including, notably, the Assemblies of God) with the very specific goal of promoting dominionist theology (to the point that Greek texts were occasionally used in preference of Hebrew or Aramaic, and occasionally employing very controversial translations that do not appear in any other version of the Bible) and which is commonly used in Assemblies churches due to its friendliness towards spiritual warfare theology. In fact, this page has an example of how this mistranslation from the NIV is used in Assemblies churches to recruit youth to "spiritual warfare" movements.
The book gives a telling idea of what a Pax Dominionista would be like:
It's time for us to be mad that young people sit mesmerzed for hours by mind-numbing music videos, distracted from paying attention to eternal issues. We should get mad that teens listen to hours and hours of anti-God, anti-Jesus music every day and spend only a few minutes reading the Bible (if that much!). We ought to be infuriated that many young people find their purpose for life in sports rather than in the One who made them in the first place.
Yes, people who dare to watch music videos (as if MTV actually shows such things more than twice a year anymore!), play sports, or do anything other than stick their noses in an NIV Bible and join their local "Spiritual Warfare" auxillary are to be condemned in their worldview because they aren't "Christian enough".
These folks would like, quite honestly and bluntly, to make the "parallel economy" they have in the dominionist world the only economy worldwide.
Later on in Part 1, the book encourages people to make a "hit list" of things "the devil is doing that make you mad". (We assume that "promotion of a horrific twisting of Christianity called 'spiritual warfare' dominionism" is not an acceptable answer on the list.)
In page 24, it encourages people to be as obnoxious as possible (and, quite possibly, in direct violation of Jesus' commandment to "not be like the Pharisees" in being a complete obnoxious lout in public in regards to one's faith):
When you bring a R.I.O.T. to town, the locals should know that you have been there. The city council and mayor should know that you are doing something to stir up righteousness in your town. The newspapers and T.V. stations should know that something is going on with your R.I.O.T. Squad. When you start a R.I.O.T., everyone will know.
Packs of roving "God Warriors" are actively encouraged (the better to annoy people to conversion with, my dear):
So we all agree we need a R.I.O.T. The question is how do you start one? Well, you don't do it alone. You need a R.I.O.T. Squad to help you. A R.I.O.T. Squad is a group of wild teens who want to stir up some trouble for the devil. They are tired of living a boring Christian life and they want some action. They don't talk about doing something; they actually go for it. And they need each other to pull it off.
More lovely scripture-twisting here; Hebrews 10:24-25 is: 24: and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (RSV version)
The actual context is with Paul speaking to the Jews about how the Old Covenant (requiring a sin offering) is no longer needed in Christianity, as Jesus is seen as the "sin offering", and is in general promoting the love of Christ rather than Levitican law--a point lost on most dominionists.
Later in the chapter the book actively encourages people to list potential "marks" for bringing in as members of a little "God Warrior" squadron and even gives the first of what are multiple adverts for Luce's own groups:
During your first official R.I.O.T. Squad meeting, give mem bers a vision of what you will be doing. Remember, you want them into it as much as you are, so let them have input. Don't make it "my Squad," but "our Squad."
Now you see the point of "BattleCry" and things like it--recruitment, plain and simple. And yes, they're teaching kids as teenagers the fine art of dominionist networking.
One interesting bit is in its operating procedures it tells youth to "honour your authorities" but later teaches them how to explicitly bend or break school rules. (More on this in a bit.)
More scripture-twisting starts in Part 2:
We Christians are in a war, but our war is not against the devil. Jesus won that war when He died on the cross. We battle for the souls of people. We fight to keep our faith alive and to share it with others (see 1 Tim. 1:18).
One would think a major part of that "spiritual weaponry" would be in not using scripture twisting to justify "spiritual warfare" ideology. (At least the book is frank enough to admit that dominionists are warring in fact against non-dominionists and see people as territory rather than as sentient beings.)
1 Timothy 1:18 is "18: This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare" and is being misused as an actual call for "spiritual warfare" theology (even more explicitly so in the NIV version).
The actual context is in regards to Paul writing to Timothy about his own salvation and in fact condemning people who pay far too much attention to the letter of the law rather than one's spirit and conscience (literally rendering two of the people he is criticising for this to Satan!)--an issue which was destroying the Macedonian church of the time.
Ephesians 6, a favourite of scripture-twisters, comes up not once but twice, both times completely out of context. Ephesians 6:16 is a reference to the "armour of God" (specifically the "shield of faith") and the entire "Armour of God" section is widely misused in the "spiritual warfare" movement to justify their theology; Ephesians 6:12 has been misused similarly. The entire context of Ephesians 6 is in fact teaching that all members of the church have a place and must support each other, and for people in the church to have faith even at times of persecution for things will right out in the end (Paul in fact using his own imprisonment to note this).
Page 38 continues the misuse of the "armour of God" imagery of Ephesians 6, and in fact encourages the formation of cell groups in pages 38 and 39.
Page 41 begins the heavy emphasis on "Stealth Evangelism":
Also available to you are concealed weapons. Although lethal, most people never know you are carrying them. Here are your concealed weapons:
To hear these people speak, they lived in Communist China or Taliban Afghanistan where proselytisation would literally cost someone their head--not the average high school where Bible clubs are technically allowed as after-school activities!
There is so much scripture-twisting it's not funny, and some of the twisting involves some old favourite verses of the dominionist community (taken out of context, of course):
John 14:17 is in larger context of Jesus noting that if one knows Him, one knows God and the Holy Spirit and in general instructing his disciples to keep faith. (This is a speech, notably, just before his Crucifixion, and much of the speech in John 14 is specifically in regards to Jesus knowing he will eventually be persecuted and executed.)
John 3:16 is quite possibly the only verse here that isn't twisted explicitly, but is paired with Romans 3:23 in a creative form of scripture-twisting. John 3:16 is in fact part of a larger dialogue (rarely quoted) which is part of a debate between Jesus and the Pharisee Nicodemus regarding whether Jesus was in fact the son of God; Romans 3:23 (written by Paul, who never met Jesus face-to-face) is part of a longer monologue describing how all men have salvation and that Gentiles as well as Jews could be saved through Christ. (In full context, Paul was saying the Jews--seen as God's chosen people--were just as much "sinners" as non-Jews were.)
Romans 6:23 is part of a much longer context (is in fact, the final verse in the context) of Paul describing the concept of men being resurrected in Christ symbolically (the Evangelical concept of being "born again"); Paul also describes the concept of salvation through grace, and notes that the Saved have an obligation to "walk the good road", so to speak.
Romans 10:8-10 is in larger context of Paul again describing the concepts of universal salvation (for both Hebrews and non-Hebrews), and in fact is part of a sub-monologue that is frankly condemning of people who dictate whether someone will go to heaven or hell (in other words, the important point is you have faith in God, and you act in a good way according to that, because actions speak far louder than words--another point entirely lost on dominionists)
Interestingly, Romans 10:9-10 has occasionally been used to justify "name it and claim it" as well.
Matthew 11:28-30 is from the same section previously mentioned involving Jesus praising John the Baptist and condemning the dominionists of his own time.
Revelation 3:20 is a quote from the book that in fact may have been the most scripture-twisted in the entire Bible (the entire concept of premillenial dispensationalism is based largely on a literalist reading of it, for example). The legitimacy of Revelation is, and has been, in rather serious question since its inclusion in the Bible, and most Biblical-historians now consider Revelation part of a body of apocalyptic writings that were essentially meant as coded messages for the Christian community during a time of extreme political repression by the Romans. (In other words, Revelation is essentially the equivalent of a political cartoon--similar to how George W. Bush is occasionally referred to as the "Chimperor"--in terminology that the Church would get but would be indecipherable to Roman authorities.) Hence, stating what anything is in Revelation in context is difficult at best. The passage seems to be part of a (heavily coded) message regarding remnant Christians and advising people in general to keep the faith (in common theme to apocalyptic literature); at least one other section of Revelation 3 (Rev. 3:15-16) is the source of the "lukewarm" church insult (used to demean mainstream Christianity) and Rev. 3:17-18 have been used to heavily pressure people to give large "faith offerings" to dominionist churches.
In fact, the entirety of Part 2 is massive scripture-twisting to justify spiritual-warfare ideology that could have come straight from an Assemblies of God tent meeting. (To document all the examples would require at least two posts dedicated to it.) The style of a large part of this section is a perversion of the "armour of God" ideology, only depicting the "armour of God" in terms of police armour.
One particular section, "Cuffs" (beginning on page 50) has an extremely heavy emphasis on "deliverance ministry"--the same "deliverance ministry" that is frighteningly similar to Scientology in its abusive tactics:
Yes, you too can be a teenaged Marguerite Perrin (of "Trading Spouses" infamy).
Of note, this is specific dominion-theology imagery (as if it weren't obvious) and specifically pente dominion-theology imagery. Mark 3:27 is misused in "deliverance ministry" circles to promote the idea of people "opening doorways for Satan" on occasion, and Mark 16:17-18 have been misued to promote the "signs and wonders" movement in general, the entirety of the pentecostal movement, and even including the "snake handler" pentecostals of Appalachia (of which at least one or two a year die of snakebite and/or poisoning--to the point most Appalachian states have banned the groups, though they still exist underground).
Of course, this "binding" also includes such charming things as nailing people's names to crosses at See You At The Pole events and "territorial pissings" with Wesson oil in 5-gallon garden sprayers when they're a bit older.
The group also promotes the concept that people help the poor out of "guilt" and the only acceptable reason to help the poor is by converting them; they also frankly encourage "love-bombing" a target. The whole section is a good study in the rampant misuse of Scripture to justify dominionism, and it's easy to see how a "good Christian" kid could get sucked into something like that.
Part 3 of this manual details a plethora of tactics for "bait and switch" evangelism, and is extensive enough that it requires a section all on its own. As I'll note, many of the tactics border not only on the harassing but the frankly illegal (as kids are actively encouraged to stalk and harass others).
Ron Luce's "stealth evangelism" guide exposed (part 1) | 53 comments (53 topical, 0 hidden)
Ron Luce's "stealth evangelism" guide exposed (part 1) | 53 comments (53 topical, 0 hidden)