Dominionists and recruitment of youth
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Tue May 30, 2006 at 10:51:07 AM EST
Talk To Action author Jonathan Hutson's expose on a Christian right paramilitary role playing video game is one lens into "stealth evangelism". For another, here is an anthology of posts on Ron Luce's slickly packaged, warlike rhetoric drenched "BattleCry" stadium events targetting teenagers, on a 1995 "stealth evangelism" manual that was distributed by Luce, and on the subject of "spiritual warfare" groups targeting youth in general.
The Purpose Driven Life Takers focuses on an increasing--and somewhat disturbing--trend, that being, the promotion of "spiritual warfare" theology to kids via video games.  (The game featured is essentially a version of "Grand Theft Auto" for the dominionist set, where players earn points for conversion or killing of non-dominionists.)

The game parallels some disturbing trends among racist groups (in that games are being used as tools for recruitment), and--more disturbingly--Rick Warren, author of "A Purpose Driven Life" (one of the more popular books in the evangelical community), has the director of his church sitting on the board of the company developing this game:

The international director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver, is a former investment banker who serves on the Advisory Board of the corporation created in October 2001 to develop and market this game. The creators plan to market their game using the same network marketing techniques that Mr. Warren used to turn The Purpose Driven Life into a commercial success. For example, they plan to distribute their merchandise through pastoral networks, especially mega-churches.

Warren does have links to dominionist groups--most notably in the "spiritual warfare" communities, like Ron Luce's "BattleCry", and by his own admission is a promoter of "stealth evangelism":
In order to build this earthly kingdom, Mr. Warren plans marketplace ministries - business ventures with a veneer of missionary compassion that slip into a country in order to transform it systematically through the governmental, corporate, and social sectors. And that is why Mr. Warren calls himself a "stealth evangelist" - because he wishes to cloak his dominionist agenda, which is the establishment of an earthly kingdom that reflects his skewed vision of Christianity.

According to Mr. Warren, the establishment of this earthly kingdom requires "foot soldiers." As part of his plan, Mr. Warren said he would encourage laypeople to "adopt" needy villages overseas in order to plant churches, expand business opportunities, educate children, influence governments, and overthrow corrupt political leaders, whom he described as "little Saddams." Mr. Warren said his purpose is to enlist "one billion foot soldiers for the Kingdom of God" in the developing world. And the stadium crowd roared its approval.

Celebrants included Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda, a tiny east African country that lost hundreds of thousands of people when it suffered genocide in 1994. Catholic and Protestant clergy have been convicted in connection with that genocide. Yet Mr. Kagame announced that he would allow Mr. Warren to turn his country into the first purpose driven nation. The following month, 16 Rwandan religious leaders arrived in Orange County to begin religious training at Saddleback Church. Mr. Warren has said that his global initiative was developed "underground" and in "stealth". Presumably, this was done with the assistance of Mr. Carver, who directs the Purpose Driven Church in all its activities outside North America.

This leads us to entry the second (well, technically, second through fourth) of our anthology:

Ron Luce's "Stealth Evangelism" guide, exposed (part 1), and part 2 and part 3

If you want to get an idea what is meant by "stealth evangelism", there is probably not a better source than to go straight to the horses' mouth.  This three-parter is an in-depth look at an actual "stealth evangelism" manual published by Ron Luce and distributed by "Christian contemporary" singer Carman back in 1995.  The viewpoints promoted are frightening:

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.

Kaufman High School in Kaufman, TX: The Baptist Standard web site featured a photograph and short article describing students from the First Baptist Church of Kaufman at the 2001 SYATP event. They who were attaching pieces of paper containing prayer requests to a wooden cross. It is not clear how many pieces of paper contained names of non-Christians in the school.

. . .
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!

That's right! That is exactly what we want them to think. We say, "Get the picture, dude! God's got your number. He is after you!"

Part 1 focuses largely on theology and mindset; parts 2 and 3 are an expose of tactics.  And such things are being promoted even to this day in groups like "BattleCry".

Blurring The Line Between Faith and Fighting is a very good article that exposes the military imagery in "spiritual warfare" groups like BattleCry:

Why all the military imagery and terminology? Isn't spiritual warfare enough? Why does it appear that many churches are more than ready to take the next step, and take this 'warfare' out of the churches and into the streets? And why the warlike emphasis on teen evangelicism? Battlecry is one of the most overt examples of the use of military imagery and martyrdom to fire young people up into some kind of crazed fury. Their use of military terms is the most overt, and the use of SEALS in their latest mass rally is disturbing on many levels- not the least of which is the tie-in with military recuritment in the real-life armed forces.

Christian Wars is another excellent piece on BattleCry and the "spiritual warfare" imagery therein:
But things have changed again- for the worse. The war imagery pendulum is swinging back from the spiritual realm to the real world, a place that should be of concern to moderate Christians and non-religious people alike. Instead of the Christian version of 'jihad' or 'struggle' against the internal  adversaries of spiritual practice, the struggle has been moved to the outside world and its perceived adversaries- all nonbelievers- including fellow Christians. The constant and urgent message is this: Christians are being attacked. There is a war against Christianity. Christians must go on the offensive and fight back." This message is constant and unrelenting. In spite the fact that they are currently in power, there is still a war against them going on, and battles to be fought against a nebulous and often changing enemy. That enemy is now 'the flesh, Satan, and the world'.

Think about that: The world.

Joan Bokaer's recent post about the teen evangelical event in San Francisco called "BattleCry" talked about the war imagery used in this rally. The language and imagery was the typical 'Let's scare people into belief' tactic that is common in such rallies:

First you need an Enemy. In the case of BattleCry, it's 'giant corporations, media conglomerates, and purveyors of popular culture'. Sex and tolerance are also considered enemies- especially if the two are combined. Independent women with self-determination are enemies. The secular media and popular culture are often painted as the ultimate enemies of the True Believer. The bottom line is secularity. If it's secular, it is evil, and must be fought against.

Next you need lots of people screaming together. This is particularly effective with young people, who enjoy the excitement of a huge crowd with loud music, freebies and lots of other youth. The irony here is that the people who put on these events use the same tactics that their perceived enemies of the corporate media use to get a wave of excitement going: Music, crowds, and freebies.

One of the first, and still one of the better, articles on BattleCry itself is Christ's Righteously Equipped Warriors (referenced in above article).  Joan Bokaer does one of the better exposes of BattleCry that I've seen; the comments also include specific info on links between BattleCry and other groups promoting "spiritual warfare" theology, notably Ted Haggard's New Life Church and Assemblies-linked "spiritual warfare" promoters.

Bokaer also touches on the links to the present administration:

BattleCry is an outgrowth of Teen Mania founded by Ron Luce, author and host of  "Acquire the Fire TV" cable television program. Luce is also a President Bush appointee to a federal anti-drug-abuse commission.

(As a side note, the "RIOT Manual" I did an expose of was published by Teen Mania.)

An interesting look at what actually happens in those "BattleCry" meetings is available at "Battle Cry" Youth Rally in Massachusetts, Summer '04:

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

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

Again, the comments are particularly telling in this post, giving a lot of good backgrounder info.

Another expose of a "BattleCry" rally is at Battle Cry Last Weekend in Philadelphia:

The militaristic imagery was abundant. Throughout Ron Luce's speech, a loud crowd from the back of the stadium would periodically erupt, "We are warriors!"

Some attendees wore shirts with the image of Jesus on the cross, robes waving, and emblazoned across the front the words, "Dressed to Kill."

The first rock band that performed, Delirious, got the crowd festive and up on their feet with lyrics that were projected on large screens so that everyone could join in: "We're an army of God and we're ready to die.... Let's paint this big ol' town red.... We see nothing but the blood of Jesus...."

There have been groups monitoring and warning against Ron Luce, Teen Mania, and BattleCry for some time.  One is Biblical America Resistance Front, which has started a new campaign called "Acquire the Evidence"; Responding to the 'BattleCry' campaign: Introducing 'Acquire the Evidence' details more:
I've been part of a team that's been aware of Teen Mania and its founder, Ron Luce, for some years.
Now that they've begun seeking press attention and fomenting controversy to publicize themselves, we've brought our website fully online with the following debut article. Please visit the site at for additional information.

The article also gives an interesting expose on how Luce is reliant on secular promotion (as there are no promotion companies within the dominionist community capable of handling both the levels of production required and the crowdspace needed for the typical BattleCry rally), and again, the commentary provides some very good backgrounder.

And finally, whilst not related to BattleCry directly, there are other groups that are closely tied to Ron Luce--including the Assemblies of God and Bill Gothard's "character education" groups--that do their own stealth recruitment of youth for "spiritual warfare" groups.  This reply thread details one of these projects--the "Seven Project" operated by the Assemblies of God (one of the top promoters of "spiritual warfare" theology, as noted in the article I've written on "dominion theology") and promoted in public schools as a program for at-risk youth.  (Kids are actually recruited quite commonly to things like "BattleCry" through groups like the Seven Project.)  

It's important to be aware of this, because the roots of this are in the scarier "dominion theology" communities--and there is evidence that the "Army of God" rhetoric has spawned domestic terrorism (in fact, a dominionist domestic terrorist organisation calls itself the "Army of God").  It's also part of an increasing tendency to bring up dominionist kids as "Joel's Army" from birth--using abusive childrearing tactics from the time of infancy, raising them in dominionist households where they are correspondence-schooled and their heads filled with "spiritual warfare" theology (it doesn't hurt that at least one of the major "homeschool" curriculum authors is tied to honest-to-God militia groups), sent to dominionist alternatives to Scouting with particularly heavy emphasis on "spiritual warfare" and even frank paramilitary training, end up in groups like "BattleCry" as teens (and if they don't fit in the dominionist mold, being sent to dominionist-run reeducation camps), sent to dominionist-run colleges where they are schooled in the fine art of hijacking the government or to religious schools where they are taught how to perfect "stealth evangelism" in hijacking mainstream Christian churches, occasionally end up recruited into spiritually abusive pyramid schemes as adults when the MLM is promoted as "spiritual warfare", practice drive-by  "territorial pissings" with Wesson oil as a form of "spiritual warfare" (and go on to things like harassing pagans), and go on (at least this is the hopes of dominionists) to conquer the world and hold it under a Pax dominionista, elect pro-dominionist candidates as a form of "spiritual warfare", and end up covering the planet as "Joel's Army" (interestingly, a scripture-twisting which is a reference to an army comparable to a plague of locusts and which utterly destroys the land it has conquered) including subjugating non-dominionists. Most recently, I've written an article--An informative expose of a BattleCry event--that is based on two recent articles (one from an attendee who is a regular on Daily Kos, the other being from well known watchdog Sunsara Taylor) being separate expose's of the recent BattleCry rally in Philadelphia. The separate reports detail things as disparate as the old "AIDS Is God Smitin' Fornicators" canard, a literal "Wild Injun of the Amazon" presentation straight out of "freaks and geeks" Boardwalk sideshows, and "spiritual warfare" theatre produced by a dominionist military group--in an almost complete full circle of the "spiritual warfare" game promoted.

...Battlecry is coming to my city now. And a lot of churches are promoting it. They even have billboards around the city.

Le sigh.

by Jordi on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 03:56:39 PM EST

BattleCry is a part of the evangelical organization Teen Mania, and you can learn a lot about the kind of society that Teen Mania is fighting for by reading up on its Honor Academy, a non-accredited educational institution that offers directed internships to 700 undergraduate and graduate youth each year...

by bright on Thu Nov 02, 2006 at 12:19:18 AM EST

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