Purge of professors at Patrick Henry College?
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Fri May 26, 2006 at 08:31:29 AM EST
Whilst purges at colleges and seminaries being hijacked by dominionists are nothing new (one of the saddest examples of this being the hijacking of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville), hearing of academic purges at institutions originally set up as dominionist is rather surprising.

Yet this is exactly what JewsOnFirst is reporting--that apparently fully one third of the faculty and staff at Patrick Henry College has left due to further restrictions on academic freedom.  

And, as I'll note, Patrick Henry College was never the most academically free institution of higher education in the first place. (Now updated with more info below.)

For those who aren't aware of Patrick Henry College and its role in modern dominionism, especially the political end (those of you who are new to dominionism research or fighting dominionism), I'll give a backgrounder of the place and why the report is so signifigant.

Patrick Henry College is a dominionist college that especially targets the product of the ever-increasing dominionist "homeschool" industry--kids who have been educated their entire educational careers on correspondence-school material (and yes, the vast majority of dominionist "homeschooling" is in fact correspondence schooling, typically run by either dominionist churches or the publishers of the curriculum) like A Beka's curriculum and other educationally substandard dominionist curricula packages designed more as "indoctrination for Junior" than as formal education.

Patrick Henry College was founded in 1998 by Michael Farris, then head of a group called the Home School Legal Defense Association--a dominionist correspondence-school lobbying association that, in addition to working for expanding legal loopholes for dominionist "homeschooling" has also explicitly promoted dominionist causes unrelated to correspondence-schooling, frequently attempts to lock out non-dominionist homeschool associations out altogether (and was actually successful for a time in South Carolina), explicitly promotes only pro-dominionist homeschooling groups (several of which require actual statements of faith for membership) and notably does not list several major inclusive state groups, and even uses dominionist parents' fears of CPS as recruitment tactics, has worked on expanding legal loopholes that permit horrific acts of religiously motivated child abuse to go undetected and even promote books on religiously motivated child abuse, and leaders have even coached their members on how to derail CPS investigations.  

Patrick Henry College is presently unaccredited--for legal purposes, a degree from Patrick Henry College is worth the parchment it's written on and no more, and in several states (notably Oregon) it's actually illegal to promote yourself as having a doctorate or bachelorate if it's from an unaccredited institution.  (And yes, this could get Patrick Henry graduates in trouble--according to its own website, Patrick Henry College offers bachelorates in "classical liberal arts", history, literature, government, and journalism.)  In fact, despite its best efforts, Patrick Henry College has been unable to obtain accreditation; the American Academy for Liberal Education rejected it outright when its accreditation group found out about Patrick Henry's "statement of Biblical worldview" (which it requires both students and faculty to sign) which in part mandates teaching of young-earth creationism.    (We'll get more into that in a bit.)  It is now trying to get accredited through a group called the "Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools"--a group that itself operates as essentially an accreditation mill for dominionist "bible colleges" and is itself at threat of losing its right to perform legal accreditation.  

The college has rules that fit more in line with extremely strict "bible colleges" that publish dominionist curricula (like Bob Jones University or Pensacola Christian College--the latter being the publisher of A Beka and which has rules so restrictive that the school itself could be considered a coercive religious group) than with traditional institutions of learning.  From one article:

It is worth making clear from the outset that Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia is not your average American university. At Patrick Henry, the students - about 75 per cent of whom have been taught at home rather than in schools - are required to sign a statement of faith before they arrive, confirming (among other things) that they have a literal belief in the teachings of the Bible. At Patrick Henry, students must obey a curfew. They must wear their hair neatly and dress "modestly".

Students must also obey a rule stating that if they wish to hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, they must do so while walking: standing while holding hands is not permitted. And at Patrick Henry, students must sign an honor pledge that bans them from drinking alcohol unless under parental supervision.

The Statements of Faith and Christian Worldview--which, as noted, are mandatory for faculty, staff and students--actually go far beyond even most Bible colleges.  Among other things, students are required to sign statements that only the Protestant bible is the actual "Word of God" and is infalliable and inerrant (and it meets Lorie Johnson's criteria for "bibolatry" in that it's the first thing listed); they must sign statements agreeing with young-earth creationism (as noted); that women must "submit to their husbands" as their husbands "submit to the church" because this is their "godly place in the home" (yes, this is literally in the statement); and finally, they must sign a statement that explicitly supports Christian Reconstructionism (and even carries this down to their "property" statement, declaring men essentially "agents" of "God's dominion").

If Patrick Henry College were merely an unaccredited "Bible college" spouting this, it'd be disturbing enough.  Unfortunately, Patrick Henry is extremely influential; the entire purpose of the college is in fact to train up a generation of young "God warriors" to take over the government, and many of its graduates are associated with Dubya and others in his administration.   In fact, apparently Patrick Henry is a major source of interns for the present administration:

No, what makes Patrick Henry unique is the increasingly close - critics say alarmingly close - links this recently established, right-wing Christian college has with the Bush administration and the Republican establishment as a whole. This spring, of the almost 100 interns working in the White House, seven are from Patrick Henry. Another intern works for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, while another works for President George Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove. Yet another works for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. Over the past four years, 22 conservative members of Congress have employed one or more Patrick Henry interns. Janet Ashcroft, the wife of Bush's Bible-thumping Attorney General, is one of the college's trustees.

The New Yorker has also written a particularly telling article on Patrick Henry College:
Patrick Henry’s president, Michael Farris, is a lawyer and minister who has worked for Christian causes for decades. He founded the school after getting requests from two constituencies: homeschooling parents and conservative congressmen. The parents would ask him where they could find a Christian college with a “courtship” atmosphere, meaning one where dating is regulated and subject to parental approval. The congressmen asked him where they could find homeschoolers as interns and staffers, “which I took to be shorthand for ‘someone who shares my values,’ ” Farris said. “And I knew they didn’t want a fourteen-year-old kid.” So he set out to build what he calls the Evangelical Ivy League, and what the students call Harvard for Homeschoolers.

Farris is fifty-three but seems younger, with thick brown hair and a slightly amused expression. He and his wife, Vickie, began to homeschool their children (they have ten) in 1982, and the next year he founded the Home School Legal Defense Association, to challenge state laws that made it difficult to homeschool children. In 1993, he ran, unsuccessfully, for lieutenant governor of Virginia. At the time, evangelicals had yet to emerge as a national political force; many preferred to keep their distance from secular culture, which is one reason that Patrick Henry parents educated their children at home. Since then, Rove has built an entire campaign around mobilizing Christian conservatives. In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute after the 2000 election, he said that the President had lost the popular vote because fewer than expected “white, evangelical Protestants” had come to the polls. One of Rove’s principal strategies for victory in 2004 was working to increase this group’s numbers, and on Election Day four million more evangelicals voted than in 2000.

Farris’s manifesto for the school, “The Joshua Generation,” embraces the Rove principle: the “Moses generation,” he wrote, had “left Egypt,” and now it was time for their children to “take the land.” Farris is the author of nine nonfiction books and three novels, all with Christian themes, and in them he warns against “MTV, Internet porn, abortion, homosexuality, greed and accomplished selfishness”; he calls public schools “godless monstrosities.” But students are not expected to avoid the secular world entirely. Farris told them at chapel recently that one day “an Academy Award winner will walk down the aisle to accept his trophy. On his way, he’ll get a cell-phone call; it will be the President, who happens to be his old Patrick Henry roommate, calling to congratulate him.”

When the Farrises began homeschooling their kids, they were one of only a few thousand American families who did so. Now about a million and a half children, as many as two-thirds of whom are thought to be evangelicals, are taught at home. Farris bought the land for the Patrick Henry campus with four hundred thousand dollars from the Home School Legal Defense Association’s reserves; he raised the rest of the money for the college, nine million dollars, from parents and donors such as Tim LaHaye, the author of the best-selling “Left Behind” series. LaHaye’s portrait hangs in the main hall.

Farris was competing against established Christian schools such as Bob Jones University, which sells textbooks and videos for homeschoolers. Some families, though, believe that a traditionalist approach to Christian education is limiting, and Patrick Henry was designed to appeal both to the protectiveness of these parents and to their ambitions, promising an “authentic Christian environment” as well as preparation for “careers of influence” in politics.

Three times a year, the White House chooses a hundred students for a three-month internship. Patrick Henry, with only three hundred students, has taken between one and five of the spots in each of the past five years—roughly the same as Georgetown. Other Patrick Henry students volunteer in the White House. Tim Goeglein, the Administration’s liaison to the evangelical community, said that the numbers reflect the abilities of the Patrick Henry students, who “have learned a way to integrate faith and action.” For the White House, it is also a way to reach out to its base while building a network of young political operatives.

Of the school’s sixty-one graduates through the class of 2004, two have jobs in the White House; six are on the staffs of conservative members of Congress; eight are in federal agencies; and one helps Senator Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania, and his wife, Karen, homeschool their six children. Two are at the F.B.I., and another worked for the Coalition Provisional Authority, in Iraq. Last year, the college began offering a major in strategic intelligence; the students learn the history of covert operations and take internships that allow them to graduate with a security clearance.

All seniors do a directed research project that is designed, Farris told me, to mimic the work that an entry-level staffer would be assigned. “A whole lot of elected members of Congress started off as Hill staffers,” Farris said. “If you want to train a new generation of leaders, you have to get in on the ground floor.”

Frightening enough as is. Disturbingly, though, it's not dominionist enough for some parents--including the parent whose complaint began the purge (as noted below) or a group fo dominionist homeschoolers who wanted them to ban women entirely:
A faction of homeschooling parents lobbied Farris not to admit girls to the college, but he told me that he considered that an “extreme” position. “All women, moms included, benefit from a great education,” he said.

So the news from JewsOnFirst that a minor purge is taking place at Patrick Henry is both surprising and disturbing:
In 2006 more than half the faculty at Patrick Henry College quit because of the institution's severe restrictions on academic freedom. News recently emerged of five professors leaving.

(This should give you an idea on how influential Patrick Henry College is for its size.  According to at least one post sourced in the JewsOnFirst article, there are only sixteen faculty positions at Patrick Henry.)

Religion News Service has reported:

[Departing professor David] Noe and J. Kevin Culberson, a departing assistant professor of history and literature, wrote a March article published in a Patrick Henry publication, the Source, in which they declared: "While it is true that the Bible contains all we need to know for reconciliation with God, it does not include all the information we need to live happy and productive lives."

College chaplain Raymond Bouchoc, in a response endorsed by college President Michael Farris, said their article left the reader with "some harmful implications."

Arguing that Scripture is sufficient for providing "universal guiding principles for all of life," Bouchoc said: "It may not provide the particulars of how to repair the door jamb, but it does provide universal principles applicable to fixing it."

Erik Root, a departing instructor of government, said the issues at the school centered on "the ability for not only students to ask questions but professors to ask questions of the class."

He cited an example of his class discussion about philosopher Thomas Hobbes' state of nature, in which he asked his class about a situation in which two people were out on the ocean with a lifeboat that would hold only one. When Root asked the class what they would do, one student responded with the biblical verse about laying your life down for another.

"I said, 'Great. That's simplistic. But why is that the case? ... What is God saying here about that?"' Root recalled.

Root said a parent sitting in on the class objected to his teaching approach, and he was later questioned by Farris.

"If you're going to convince somebody of your position, you can't just walk around shouting Bible verses," said Root, who is looking for a new job.

"You have to give them a reason for what you believe."

The Washington Post also reports that this has been going on for some time:

(from archived article)

The departure of five of the school's 16 full-time professors follows the forced resignation last year of Jeremy Hunley, a library clerk who promoted the idea that baptism is essential for salvation, a violation of the 10-point statement of faith that all faculty members and students are required to sign when they come to Patrick Henry. According to the statement, and to many evangelical Christians, salvation is found only through faith in Jesus Christ.

The rebellion reflects the recurring tension at many Christian colleges between adherence to articles of faith and the free-ranging spirit of academic inquiry. Some departing faculty, alumni and students say it calls into question the future of a college that was established as an "evangelical Ivy League" that would prepare conservative Christian students for influential positions in government.

College President Michael P. Farris, a lawyer and home-schooling advocate who founded the Purcellville school, said Patrick Henry is a place that encourages "a free flow of ideas" beyond some core principles on which everyone must agree -- principles such as the existence of God and Satan and the infallibility of the Bible.

"The only problem I have when there are two schools of thought is that there are too few," he said.

But Noe and government instructor Erik S. Root, who is also leaving, said that they have encountered additional "arbitrary limitations" set by the president when they raised issues that do not contradict the belief statement.

Root said his contract was temporarily withdrawn this spring in part because of an article he wrote for a school publication about a Christian saint that prompted the president to question his loyalty to a biblical worldview. In a letter to Root, Farris questioned whether Root shared the views of a Darwinist he had quoted. Root called Farris's concerns "guilt by association."

Noe co-authored an article in March arguing that the Bible is not the only source of truth and that students can learn valuable lessons from non-Christian writings. The 900-word story led to a 2,600-word response by the chaplain -- endorsed by the administration -- detailing its "harmful implications" and saying it "diminished the importance of" Scripture.

Noe, who has been ordained by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, said that the article was not meant to challenge the Bible but to defend liberal arts.

An article from Christianity Today has further info, including that one of the stickling points involved a lecture on St. Augustine:
"We were brought here on false pretenses," said David Noe, assistant professor of classics who has taught at Patrick Henry since its founding. "We are leaving due to a long train of abuses by Farris in violating both academic freedom and due process, as well as many other issues relating to Farris's running of the college."

Departing professors also cite Farris's treatment of government instructor Erik Root and his March firing of Robert Stacey, the chairman of the college's department of government, as additional reasons that confirmed their decisions to leave the 350-student college.

Noe, Root, and rhetoric and theology professor Todd Bates agreed to go public with Christianity Today earlier this month, they said, after Farris repeatedly denied their requests to respond to accusations that beliefs they had expressed were biblically unsound. "Farris said that we threatened the college's fidelity to its mission and vision," said Noe. "He spoke to the press, but told us we couldn't."

Farris did not respond to multiple requests by CT for an interview, but told The Chronicle of Higher Education that he wonders why the professors are still leaving now that he is no longer president. "If I'm the problem—well, I'm going to be gone," he said.

. . .

The debate reached a head when Root published an article entitled "Of St. Augustine, the Teacher, and Politics" in the campus publication The Source. The piece argued that St. Augustine "deserves to be called a Saint because he was instrumental in making political philosophy palpable to Christians and vice versa. … [He] taught Christians how to engage the culture around them."

Soon after its publication, Root learned his contract was being "temporarily withdrawn" based on the article as well as a complaint from a student's parent over his use of the "lifeboat example" in class. Root said the illustration was used to explain Thomas Hobbes's state of nature argument. "Acting academic dean [Marian Sanders] told me I couldn't use that any more," said Root. "She said that there are some questions we can't ask in class or entertain."

In a February 28 e-mail message, Farris asked Root to respond to seven "questions."

"The overall question is the fidelity to the biblical worldview in your role at PHC," stated Farris. The letter claimed "the well-known 'lifeboat' game" was "a recognized tool of those who wish to contend that there are no absolute values." It further asked for an "explanation about this episode and the underlying philosophy that this represents."

"I thought it was an academic freedom issue," said Root, adding that he did not respond to Farris's questions as his contract had already been pulled.

In March, five professors resolved not to sign their contracts for the following year based largely on Root's suspended contract. The decision stemmed from a previous agreement nine professors made last fall, said Noe. "Many of us, including the five of us who left, made an informal agreement to do everything to defend anyone who was wrongly terminated, including leaving."

. . .

On March 8 another Source article, this one by Noe and Culberson entitled "The Role of General Revelation in Education," again prompted the administration's response.

"A common misconception among American evangelicals, and one that cannot be supported by the Scriptures themselves, is that the Bible is the only source of truth," the article began. "We argue that this misconception amounts to a blasphemous denial of Christ's words in Matthew 5 that 'he sends rain on the just and the unjust.'"

The 900-word article argued that "a Christian must refuse to view special and general revelation as hostile to one another. Nor should he hesitate to learn from a pagan. There is much wisdom to be gained from Parmenides and Plato, as well Machiavelli and Marx."

The article prompted a 2,600-word response by college chaplain Raymond Bouchoc, sent to students, faculty, and staff. The response, endorsed by Farris and Sanders, discussed seven "harmful implications" that could be drawn from the professors' article and claimed the piece "diminishes the import of Scripture."

(Yes, you're reading that right. For simply advocating that St. Augustine's view of incorporating the Bible with observations of the world, and for daring to suggest people could get useful insights from non-dominionists, the professors were censured. This is not surprising--no less than ordained minister and paleontologist Robert Bakker has specifically cited St. Augustine's search for truth in why he finds Christianity and evolution compatible. Of note, Bakker happens to be an evangelical pastor to boot, according to multiple sources.)

Eventually, per the Christianity Today report, one professor was fired for standing up to the charges and the rest were placed under gag orders.

Interestingly, Patrick Henry College has promoted the idea that one of the persons most responsible for shaping Christianity in its modern forms is burning in hell:

[Former president and now chancellor] Farris, a Baptist minister, has publicly expressed views that have shocked some professors and students.

"He said St. Augustine was in hell," said Root. "I heard it with my own ears." Other professors and students said Farris has repeatedly disparaged Calvinist theology.

"There is a sense that you face antagonism as someone who is theologically Reformed," said Bates, who sparred with Farris over a speech he was planning to deliver at the college's annual Faith and Reason Lecture, and again over the use of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology textbook. According to Bates, Farris considered it "too Reformed."

"We are put in a hard position," said Bates. "We're told this is an open dialogue, but if you engage in open dialogue, you're in trouble. It's infuriating because you're an academic and want to engage in ideas."

Bates said that at a meeting with Farris, "He told me that a person of the Reformed position to which I hold cannot in good conscience sign the statement of faith. When I responded that I failed to see the discrepancy between the two, he replied, 'I define the statement of faith.'"

(Again, the "the Saints are burning in hell" line is distressingly common among dominionists.)

The Christian Post writes about the practical problems with Patrick Henry's approach:

"If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe." (That's G. K. Chesterton, of course.) If you want to form a Bible college, you are free to draw it as such, and it can be checked out. Fine. You can also form a liberal arts college in a recognizable way. Fine. Patrick Henry College, a rural Virginia school that commands big funds for its (so far) tiny enrollment (300) and faculty (sixteen), lost five of those sixteen professors this month, and others speak of leaving. They are having trouble with the school president's image of what a giraffe looks like. That is, he disciplines them when they "do" liberal arts, while he insists that his pact with them demands that everything they teach must be congruent with "the biblical world view."

Thinkers at a true liberal arts college with Christian church and culture ties, influences, reminiscences, or Catholic and Evangelical expression, would ask about "the biblical world view." Is it that of the Song of Songs, or Lamentations, pro-polygamy Pentateuch writings, or what? No matter: At Patrick Henry College, it is Michael P. Farris, founder and president, who determines what the biblical world view is. In his vision, for instance, St. Augustine is to be ruled off the campus and in hell as a pagan, not a saint. And Professor M. Todd Bates, who quoted Augustine in a formal campus lecture and did not repent for doing so, was threatened and then fired from the non-tenuring faculty.

Already, a support group has been formed for the purged professors.

This will be interesting to watch at any rate.

presuppose the possiblity of fresh or new answers for both old and new questions.   Any curriculum for which answers are pre-ordained cannot, in my opinion, be classified as a genuine liberal arts curriculum.

These inculcating religious colleges that call themselves liberal arts institutions are selling snake oil, pure and simple.

It is to be hoped that the press will continue to make their agenda public and that people will apply some serious critical thinking when judging where they can safely send their children for serious educations.  

We need to hold the Bush administration responsible for hiring improperly prepared interns.

by tikkun on Fri May 26, 2006 at 12:56:21 PM EST

Totally agreed with you on your points (re the actual purpose of liberal arts education).

Then again, the purpose of dominionist education (both the correspondence-school "homeschooling" promoted and dominionist institutes of higher education) is not to educate or to train people to think, but to indoctrinate and in fact teach "thought-stopping" techniques that pretty much shut down any chance at logical debate.

Let's just say that there's a reason that pretty much all of Liberty University's so-called "victories" in debate are all at the junior varsity level :3

by dogemperor on Fri May 26, 2006 at 02:45:59 PM EST

With someone like Michael Farris, it was only a matter of time before his inflexibility destroyed PHC.  He has been replaced as President of his own vanity school.  Whether the school can survive is debatable.

In reading the various articles that include quotes from the professors and Michael Farris and comparing them to the official PHC press release, I've concluded that either the school is telling the truth and the professors are lying or the professors are telling the truth and the school is lying.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave...

by Brainbelle on Sun May 28, 2006 at 04:10:24 PM EST

Mr Farris was interviewed on Fresh Air last Wednesday: He explained the departure of the professors,
Farris on Fresh Air

and used some of the most turtured logic I have ever had the displeasure to parse in explaining why "homosexual behavior" should be illegal and hate speech against gays is a good thing.

by bybelknap on Mon May 29, 2006 at 01:30:10 PM EST

for the links to 'homeschooling is legal'

We try to get accurate information out to the homeschool community.  nice to know someone is out there!

by Brainbelle on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:19:48 PM EST

I actually know people who homeschool for legitimate, non-dominionist reasons (mostly people with kids who have special needs--in particular, autistic kids who'd melt down in a regular classroom due to being overstimulated--as well as inadequate public school systems with few options available for really bright kids) and one of my best friends in high school (in fact, one of them who kept me sane despite living with dominionist abuse) was "unschooled", so I can see why some people may wish to homeschool their kids.

One of my concerns, in fact, is that dominionist correspondence-schooling is represented as the only form of homeschooling and the dominionist correspondence-school lobbying groups like HSLDA deliberately try to lock out actual, traditional homeschooling (like "unschooling", in-home Montessori programs, secular homeschooling, etc.).  This was especially apparent post-Katrina (when a lot of parents were forced to homeschool as a necessity and HSLDA heavily promoted itself as the only group promoting homeschooling and their interests--and of course neglecting non-dominionist homeschool groups).

Homeschooling Is Legal is possibly one of the best sites I've seen for both warning about HSLDA's dominionist agenda and giving real alternatives--the site was set up originally by an inclusive homeschool group in Virginia that fought to receive formal recognition as a homeschool oversight group, and works towards helping ALL homeschoolers--NOT just those who are using dominionist correspondence-school programs.

One of the very best ways of putting "action" to this "talk" is supporting local inclusive homeschool organisations and--for parents who are interested in homeschooling--warning them to avoid HSLDA and its affiliates and to instead use inclusive homeschool organisations in their state for support.  (The inclusive homeschool groups, much like mainstream Christianity, are under heavy and occasionally vicious attack by dominionist correspondence-school lobbying groups.  In South Carolina, they were in fact shut out for a time until they successfully fought to have an inclusive homeschool state organisation recognised along with the HSLDA state affiliate--and it was not easy to get the doors back open once HSLDA had slammed them in inclusive homeschoolers' faces in the legislature.)

by dogemperor on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 02:45:15 PM EST

What I have seen of your site is a call to arms, alerting folk to threats from Dominionism.

This story is the opposite of a threat, though sad for those who are losing their jobs.  It shows that, even in one of the bastions of Dominionism, some of the faculty staff are committed enough to freedom of expression and intellectual honesty to resign in support of a colleague.

And surely there must be many like them within conservative evangelical circles.

Dominionists like to provoke fear among evangelicals and confrontation with those of liberal views.

The best response is not to create fear among those with liberal views of evangelicalism, but dialogue and reconciliation.

I'd be interested to know what initiatives there are to promote a dialogue between liberal Christians and evangelical Christians in the USA.

I am asking because extracts from your site are being quoted in UK discussion forums to illustrate what a bunch of dangerous right-wing bigots American Christians are.

Surely, these horror storied are the exception.  Is there not a middle ground?  And if not, who is trying to build one?

by tawek on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 05:58:29 PM EST

1) In regards to Patrick Henry College, actually this is a more worrisome sign--the persons who were removed were trying to actually do liberal arts education, and were removed for such things as discussion of the works of St. Augustine.

A similar purge occured with the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, KY during the dominionist takeover of that denomination; dissent will lead to the loss of one's job there, minimum.

  1. Regarding legitimate non-dominionist evangelicals (such as Jimmy Carter or the folks at Mainstream Baptist), yes, they do exist and they are in fact some of the most vocal opponents of dominionism--partly because they are seeing firsthand how dominionism is destroying the evangelical movement.

  2. With the more hardline dominionists and non-dominionist evangelicals (much less non-evangelical Christians), I'm not sure a middle ground is possible.  When you start getting into the denominations that are more closely associated with hardline dominionism (like the "fundamentalist independent Baptist" churches and the Assemblies of God and other neopentecostal churches here--including a lot of the "independent charismatic" churches that are actually neopentecostal or even Assemblies churches which don't reveal their denominational links) you start entering an area where several of these groups are starting to cross the line to being bona fide coercive religious groups.

One of the big things regarding coercive religious groups is they have "thought-stopping" techniques as well as an explicit "us versus them" theology.  You may want to seriously read up on the rest of my other diary entries, particularly the info on coercive religious groups; the articles on "spiritual warfare" groups are also of particularly useful note.

Because of this, discussing the reason dominionism may be flawed with a fair percentage of active dominionists is about as useful as debating the merits of psychotherapy with an active Scientologist.  It isn't going to happen.  They will likely flat out condemn you for being "lukewarm" at best.  (The purge at Patrick Henry, in fact, is a classic example of what happens when even persons within hardline dominionist groups speak out.)

This site is trying to reach out to non-dominionist evangelicals and to mainstream Christians (among others); Street Prophets (linked to from here) is also an excellent resource.

4) Unfortunately, these horror stories are not the exception but in fact are the general rule.  Yes, it is that bad (and in fact the deeper you go, the worse it gets).  

I know from hard experience here--I am a walkaway from what was, prior to the hijacking of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest dominionist congregation in the world--and in fact is still the largest in quite a few countries (particularly Australia).

by dogemperor on Fri Jun 09, 2006 at 01:19:10 PM EST

Thankyou DogEmpreror, that's actually remarkably helpful.

I must confess that I worried about the reaction I'd get here, seeing as I haven't been too polite about the site in my post in the "The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)" discussion, and I have a different position on abortion and gay rights. (Don't worry, I'll steer clear of those subjects)

I was very pleased when you said: "This site is trying to reach out to non-dominionist evangelicals and to mainstream Christians (among others)".  This is very welcome.

Though I'd never heard the term Dominionism before reaching this site, and probably will avoid it when elsewhere, my post to Christianity Today might give you a hint of my position.  
[ http://kedesh.christianitytoday.com/cgi/webx?13@@.ee6b4e9 ]
Also, as someone from an evangelical background, with left-of-centre politics, I'm a bit of a fan of Jimmy Carter.  Wonderful man :)

I've known people who've left coercive religious groups, and I know the pain they can cause can be intense.  I am very sorry to hear you have had such an experience.  I understand it can be extraordinarily painful.

I had a little contact with some when at university.  I thank my home church while at University.  Who knows?  Without them, I might have been at risk.

I'm sure you'll forgive me if I'm a little sceptical of claims made on this site.  Of course, as I'm a bit of a rebel at heart, you'd expect nothing less. Probably why I've often clashed with coercive Christians when I've met them.

I come from a position of great ignorance, being British, but that just makes me even more nervous about exaggeration.  If the basic facts are accurate, but, say, the language gives the impression something affects hundreds of thousands of people, when it should be tens of thousands, then that won't be helpful.

I do stand by my comment on the "The Purpose Driven Life Takers (Part 1)" page.  Maybe that page is untypical, but the discussion seemed to react very badly to factual criticism of the original article, and that will not inspire confidence among those you are trying to reach out to.  Bad reaction to criticism is what I would expect of Dominionism, not its critics.

I also thought your own response to Mark Carver was too confrontional.  It may amuse you to know I have never even heard of Mark Carver, Rick Warren or Purpose Driven Ministries, but from an outsider point of view, I'd have been more impressed with a reply like: "Mark, we are delighted to hear you and your organisation are disassociating from this game, but are we not correct in saying you used to be .." and then supply the evidence.

I know it's easy and maybe unfair for an outsider like me to suggest calm diplomacy.  Maybe if I had had similar experiences, I wouldn't.  But I do know that in a political battle (which in large measure this is), if you come over as angry and confrontational, it won't win you allies.

I may be an outsider, but for a while I was involved in UK politics, and I'm sure many of the same political rules apply in the USA as they do in the UK.

I believe giving good as well as bad news is extremely important.  It gives hope to your allies, and sounds less alarmist.  Also helpful to offer clear evidence you are seeking a middle ground, to offer the olive branch to those who might respond, and always avoid personalising your criticisms.  Attack their actions, not the people.

For myself, my personal objective coming here was in reaction to what I saw as a demonisation of American Christians in the UK media.  British viewers will never get into the intricacies of different types of Christian in the USA, they'll just assume you are all nut-cases, and that really annoys me.

You said: "Unfortunately, these horror stories are not the exception but in fact are the general rule".  I'd be interested if you could quantify that.  You're not saying most Christians in the USA are dominonists, are you?

And even among those that are, are they a unified force, or a fractured group, with savage internal differences?  It seemed to me that if a college founded as a Dominionist institution can't hold together, Dominionism may be a lot more fractured than it appears.

by tawek on Fri Jun 09, 2006 at 06:11:55 PM EST

I do admit my comment to Mr. Carver may have been harsh.  Then again, part of that is, well, the fact I'm an escapee from one of the churches that a close associate to Rick Warren first spread a lot of the really coercive stuff to (specifically David Yonggi Cho, documented in Rick Warren's Dirty Dominionist Secret.  I'm afraid my patience for defense of anything relating to that particular branch of dominionism ran out roughly in 1995 when I realised how similar it was to Scientology in biblical wrappings. :P

Carter, IMHO, is an example of what I term not only "sane Christianity" but someone who actually, honest-to-God gets it about the whole point.  (I've not been a practicing Christian for years, mind, but I do respect people who actually follow the words of Christ and try to do good.  Carter is a primary example of that.)

Most Americans aren't dominionists, but you do hear more about them because:

a) they have hijacked the second largest religious denomination in the US (and, in the Southeast US in particular, historically one of two dominant Christian denominations)

b) dominionism largely started in the United States, ironically from the other major dominant Christian denominations in the Southeast US (pentecostal and neopentecostal groups--the same ones which were spread to Africa, and as I understand it are now causing a bit of a crisis with your child protective services agencies due to the use of involuntary exorcisms in kids)

c) dominionist groups, as a rule, tend to be quite a bit more loud and obnoxious than mainstream Christianity (partly because they have completely neglected that portion of the Bible where Jesus instructs one to pray in one's closet, much less the portions later which state faith and works are necessary)

d) dominionists are now trying to infiltrate mainstream Christian groups to hijack them in very similar manner to how the SBC was hijacked (including most of our largest Protestant denominations--the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians (our branch of the Anglican church here--there is a "conservative" Anglican church run by dominionists that is trying to get the Church of England to recognise it instead), the United Church of Christ, and the Methodists (as a note, if the UCC, Methodists or Presbyterians DID successfully get taken over--sadly, dominionist churches WOULD have a majority in membership in the US)

by dogemperor on Sun Jun 11, 2006 at 12:57:31 PM EST


Thanks for your reply.  I've recently posted on a rather confrontational forum, so it's a relief to get positive, friendly replies which directly reply to my points :)

Your description of dominionist takeovers of mainstream denominations is informative.  Coming from across the Pond, I only get distorted news about the US church.

It's a little ironic.  Some decades ago, those of a liberal theology were few in number in the pews, but they dominated the leadership of most UK denominations.  This wasn't the liberals' fault, probably the anglo-catholics and evangelicals being a bit lazy about involvement in church politics.  In my opinion, this has changed in the UK, and denominations broadly represent the churches they represent.  I hope this remains true.  But the point is, the dominance in leadership of Liberals in UK churches overstated their strength.

It sounds like the dominionist takeover of the Southern Baptists was much more deliberate.  But if the effect is similar, and they dominate the centre but many local churches hold different views, it may not be as bad as it appears.  Is there any way to find out how many non-dominionist southern baptist churches remain?

I also wonder if all those you regard as dominionists, really are.  I've met people from what I thought were coercive churches in the UK, and found they were nothing of the sort.  In those cases, a bad experience in one home group may have unfairly trashed the reputation of the whole church.  In one case, I think that a church that was coercive, realised what they were doing, and, in effect, repented.  Might there not be such cases in the USA?

I have recently started a correspondence with someone who attends Patrick Henry College.  You make the point in this article that this college was "originally set up as dominionist".  Having seen a documentary where the leadership gave exactly that impression, I don't blame you.  But I now know different.

From my new friend, I know that many of its lecturers were fantastic people, who challenged and stimulated the students: the exact opposite of what an outsider might think.  They are conservative evangelicals, who are also intelligent, open-minded, compassionate individuals, who passionately believe in peacemaking, humility, and understanding.  In fact, exactly the kind of people you want to reach out to.

Those who believed in academic freedom and intellectual integrity appear to have represented the majority of lecturers.  That their leaders were purged is why the case has generated so much publicity, and why it has received such criticism within Conservative Evangelical circles.  Surely, this is a very good sign: that narrow-minded intolerant Evangelicals are fewer than they appear, and when they set up a college, they had to recruit lecturers from outside their ranks.

You correctly describe how in your article students and lecturers are required to sign a conservative evangelical statement of faith and conform to restrictions, such as relations between the sexes.  But unusual though those are, if the lecturers were stimulating and challenging the thinking of the students, giving them access to Saint Augustine, and many other non-evangelical thinkers, it might still have been a great environment for like-minded bright young students from a home-school environment.

The leadership were unhappy, and took action to create a more restrictive environment.  It is tragic that they may have fatally undermined the credibility of the college, damaged the education of their students, and attacked the integrity of decent honest people.

But that isn't a sign of strength, but weakness.

by tawek on Mon Jun 12, 2006 at 04:02:52 PM EST

Tawek - Here is how far this thing has gone in the US:  The Fundamentalists (Right-Wing Christians, Conservative Christians, Dominionists, Christian Nationalists, Christianists, call them what you will), These people even have hijacked the word "Christian."

When they say they are "Christian", they mean they are fundamentalist Protestant.  That is what the word means in the USA.  And if I ever say that I am Christian, I must qualify by saying, "Tolerant Christian", or "Moderate Christian", or "Rational", or something like that.

In the USA, the word Christian has an exclusive, passive-aggressive holier-than-thou stink about it.  They even have a little bit of a special pronounciation.  They stress the S-sound a bit, so that it comes out "Chrisssschn."

They may not always admit it, but they do not include Catholics, nor even mainline Protestants, nor, probably, you or me or anybody else in their club.

They do not even know what Orthodox Christianity is.  They have hijacked the word "Orthodox" as well, and have applied it to some of their own little denominations.  My mother once warned me not to go to an "Orthodox Presbyterian" service.  She was afraid I would get into a fistfight.

So your impression that all American Christians are far-out whackos is largely correct:  No American labels himself a "Christian" anymore, except for the far-out whackos.  And younger Americans, if they are not already far-out, shy away from all churches, because they cannot tell the whackos from the rest of us.

This e-mail is too long.  I cannot get into how the "Chrisssstians" have damaged American politics.  Maybe later.

by Tom Neely on Fri Jun 23, 2006 at 01:46:43 PM EST

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