Rick Warren's Dirty Dominionist Secret
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Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 11:24:41 AM EST
Lately, in possibly the most popular posts (based on our traffic usage) ever in the history of Talk2Action, we've focused on some rather disturbing links between Rick Warren (publisher of the book "The Purpose Driven Life" and promoter of a megachurch-growth empire) and publishers of a particularly disturbing strategy RPG involving the literal killings of non-dominionists based off the "Left Behind" novels.

The thing that is most surprising to me in all of this is that people find it surprising--as it is, Rick Warren has close connections with an Assemblies of God preacher and megachurch promoter by the name of David Yonggi Cho.

Who is Cho, what is his part in the development of "spiritual warfare" theology as promoted in the "Left Behind" books, what is his association with Warren, and why should you be gravely concerned about all this?

Read on and find out.

One of the associations Rick Warren has that is of particularly grave concern to me--and one which has been very little publicised, outside of a few apologetics circles--is the links between him and longtime spiritual-warfare hawker David Yonggi Cho (nee Paul Yonggi Cho).

Cho, for those who aren't familiar (and most of you won't be unless you are a walkaway from some of the most spiritually abusive segments of the dominionist movement), is the head of Yoido Full Gospel Church--an extremely large Assemblies of God church in Seoul, South Korea (and with multiple "satellite" congregations throughout South Korea) that qualifies as the world's largest megachurch and (if its satellite congregations are counted) quite possibly the largest single congregation of any church; the church has claimed quite literally three-fourths of a million people in South Korea as members, and effectively is the Assemblies of God in that country for all intents and purposes.  His megachurch empire started a scant ten years after the Assemblies entered Korea, so he is a prime study on how the Assemblies actively exports dominionism worldwide.

The reason that Cho has two names is a story in and of itself (and is where we begin jumping deep into the rabbit hole and seeing how far down it goes).  Cho has claimed that that he died and later came back from the dead:

Paul Yonggi Cho

Some of the biggest names in the charismatic movement claim to have been to the other side and back. Among them is Paul Yonggi [David] Cho -- controversial pastor of the largest church in the world (with more than 500,000 members) in Seoul, Korea. He said he met a blue-skinned, deceased missionary to Korea there who
commissioned him to reach his country-folk for Christ.[1]

Cho has also stated that one of his assistant pastors at the Yoido Full Gospel Church died and came back to life after three days. During that time period, according to an interview Cho gave
to Mary Stewart Relfe, he was reunited with his wife in heaven where he saw God and was able to meet various biblical figures -- including Abraham, Stephen, and David.[2].

(Sources: [1]Cho, Leap Of Faith) (Bridge Publishing, 1984); [2] "Interview with Dr. Paul Cho," Mary S. Relfe, League of Prayer (P.O. Box 4038, Montgomery, AL, 36104).)

During this bit of a trip to the Other Side that Cho claims to have experienced (a surprisingly common claim by Assemblies-linked "name it and claim it" promoters; Jesse Duplantis, another "name it and claim it" promoter popular on the Assemblies traveling-pastor circuit, also claims to have died and come back, as have many others) Cho claims to have been told to change his name and also claims to have seen Jesus as a member of the local fire brigade:

Cho claims to have received his call to preach from Jesus Christ Himself, who supposedly appeared to him dressed like a fireman. (Dwight J. Wilson, "Cho, Paul Yonggi," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 161)

. . .

As Cho tells the story of his name change, God showed him that Paul Cho had to die and David Cho was to be resurrected in his place. According to Cho, God Himself came up with his new name. (Paul Yonggi Cho interviewed by C. Peter Wagner, "Yonggi Cho Changes His Name," Charisma & Christian Life, November 1992, 80)

Cho is the inventor of possibly one of the most spiritually abusive tactics ever devised--the "cell church" or "shepherding group", which has been the primary method in which his church has grown exponentially. (Of note, it was originally invented as a way to keep control over the huge congregation; it is now being used to "seed" dominionist movements in churches to take over from within, "cuckoo style".)  Cho is also, very much, a promoter of dominion theology and particularly "name it and claim it"; Cho has had links with the Assemblies frontgroup Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International which has historically been a major force in promotion of dominionism both here and abroad, and a profile at Rick Ross Institute notes that he has bastardised concepts from traditional Korean shamanism in almost identical fashion to that of the Moonies. He has also, by his own admission, used tactics based on those used by Soka Gakkai--a "Buddhist-based" highly abusive coercive religious group that is almost universally considered cultic and possibly violated law in obtaining confidential NCIC records for purposes of "dead-agenting" critics and which uses prayers as a form of cursing mainstream Buddhist leaders in Japan, has in general engaged in extremely unethical behaviour and whose members have even literally attempted to torch the temples of mainstream Buddhist churches.

It is, in fact, probably not a major exaggeration to state that Cho has been responsible for the increasing rate that the Assemblies of God has gone hard-dominionist worldwide; in fact, in 1992, he was elected head of the World Assemblies of God Council (the group overseeing all Assemblies of God churches worldwide)--the exact period when "Third Wave" pentecostalism (such as promoted in Brownsville Assemblies of God during the "Pensacola Revival") and its associated spiritual-warfare movements were embraced officially as a "move of the spirit" by the American Assemblies of God headquarters.

It should be noted that this is not the first time Cho has tried to breed the "Pensacola Madness", though.  Part of the reason I am all too aware is that the  Assemblies of God church I am a walkaway from was the first documented church in the US where Cho predicted, and was trying to encourage, "Brownsville"-style revivals:

It is interesting how a claim regarding a prophecy attributed to Korean Pastor Cho changed three times, each time becoming more specific until it identified Pensacola as the city where a "great end-time revival" would break out and spread throughout the world. Actually, I had heard of that prophecy years before when we lived in Kentucky, and there was speculation that Evangel Tabernacle would be the church where it was to start. The prophecy didn't change . . . the telling of it did.

(In fact, the church I'm a walkaway from pretty much was one of the first "Third Wave" churches in the US, a full thirty years before Brownsville's "revival".)

Another article (which notes that the church I am a walkaway from was the first in North America targeted by Cho) also notes that between the time the church I left was targeted and Brownsville was targeted that he claimed the next "outpouring" would be in Canada--at the Toronto Airport Fellowship, a Vineyard church often credited for "Third Wave" pentecostalism and its associated spiritual warfare movements.

Sadly, the rampant spiritual abuse I have reported as a survivor of "Third Wave Madness" is all too typical in the "Third Wave" churches--in fact, the whole "Third Wave" is increasingly regarded as spiritually abusive per se, and some of its core doctrines are frighteningly similar to those in Scientology.

Not only did Cho devise "Third Wave" pentecostalism, he in fact invented many of the tactics that are used by "spiritual warfare" groups--including "prayer gangs", "territorial marking" with Wesson oil, etc. and can in fact be credited with much of the dominionist "spiritual warfare" movement's invention and popularising.

Of interesting note, Cho has attempted to promote dominionist movements in South Korea itself and has multiple links to dominionist groups here in the States; in addition to the FGBMFI and other links, he's also linked to quite possibly one of the most spiritually abusive of the Assemblies frontgroups, "Youth With A Mission" (which is almost universally considered by exit counselors as cultic, and which has multiple links to dominionism).

Quite obvious why I consider anyone and anything to do with Cho as being Bad News.

And the links between Cho and Warren are, sadly, extensive indeed.  Deception In The Church and Let Us Reason document this:

Warren was a key speaker at Yonggi Cho's church growth conference in 1997. Cho is known to mix occult concepts with Christian teaching. He is especially known for his word faith & visualization techniques. Warren was also a key speaker at Schuller's Institute for Successful Church Leadership.

David Cho's connection to Robert Schuller is evident. Robert Schuller writes in the foreword to Yonggi Cho's book, The Fourth Dimension: "I discovered the reality of that dynamic dimension in prayer that comes through visualizing.... Don't try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It's true. It works. I tried it."

To say Cho is promoting mysticism would be an understatement. He says if Buddhists and Yoga practitioners can accomplish their objectives through fourth dimensional powers, then Christians should be able to accomplish much more by using the same means. (Paul Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1, 1979, pp.37, 41) "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth... He is bound by your lips and by your words... Remember that Christ is depending upon you and your spoken word to release His presence." (Ibid., 83)

In Warren's interview with Cho we can see his respect for him.

Warren: Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?

Cho: I feel that the most American churches really don't believe in the miracles of God. The church is getting very institutionalized. But I tell you that by a new anointing the American church would start to believe the miracle of the nation of God's hand."

Warren: Can you please pray a prayer of blessing to the pastors that are reading this? (Rick Warren And David Yonggi Cho Talk About Using The Internet by Tim Bednar July 25, 2003) (originally from e-church.com

More damningly, a dominionist publication has interviewed Cho wherein the latter admits links with Rick Warren; this same publication has an article by Rick Warren where he quotes Cho directly in admitting both have possibly plaigarised sections of sermons from Billy Graham and a pastor of a Dallas, TX church:

There has been much talk in recent years on blogs and Web sites about how much of other people's sermons is appropriate to incorporate into your own messages. When does it get to the point of "plagiarism"? A friend of mine in Cincinnati was recently dismissed by his church's board of trustees because of this. As I predicted to that board of trustees, the size of that thriving church has been cut in half, the momentum they had been experiencing has gone away, and they are in big financial trouble. What a needless waste of God's momentum that had been resting upon them.

At a seminar, Dr. Cho, pastor of the world's largest church in Korea, was asked during a question and answer time, "How do you put your weekly messages together? They are so powerful!" He said, "Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church. Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W.A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church. I can't afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather. I don't trust my own ability to give completely original messages." Wow!

Warren was also a speaker at the Azusa Street Centennial (held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, generally held as the "birth" of pentecostalism including the Assemblies of God) and reportedly shared the stage with Cho.

Warren and Cho also have joined forces in promoting megachurches via the Internet including setting up "cell churches" online (and networking fellow dominionists):

Churches need to stop building bigger buildings and start relying more on the Internet, say two leading pastors in the church growth movement. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the 750,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of the 15,000-member Saddleback Valley Community Church, say the Internet is a "next generation strategy" that will connect decentralized home groups to the larger church body.

The two met recently in California to discuss church growth strategies for the 21st century, and their conclusion was -- stop building buildings and use that money for world missions. The interview appears in the July 25 issue of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free, e-mail newsletter available from the Web site www.pastors.com.

With 20,000 new converts a year, Cho says there is no way his church can match buildings to membership and so he's encouraging younger converts to stay at home and worship through the Internet.

"We are so jammed that we have no way to keep growing except by going to cyberspace," says Cho. He says he tells young people, "Don't come to church, just stay home and get your teaching through the Internet." These long-distance members give regular feedback on the sermons and services, and they can give their tithe through the Internet, and they stay physically connected to the larger body through small study groups.

Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Church," adds, "Even if we had all the buildings we needed, one question is whether or not the next generation wants to worship in huge buildings." He says Saddleback is experimenting with live Internet services on the weekends and has already set up a GroupNet to help small groups stay connected to each other.

Cho's church offers live services over the Internet, including Sunday and Wednesday. "But also, when I want to give special instructions or teaching to the cell groups," says Cho, "then I will teach it through the Internet to the cells and apartments."

"It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings," says Cho. "It is silly to spend more money on branch church buildings! You'll never have enough. I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings." Warren adds, "No matter how much land you have, it eventually fills up.

Besides, just think of that money and how it could be used for missions. Our goal is to decentralize -- to send our church members out for ministry into their neighborhoods." Regarding the traditional need for buildings, Warren cites Saddleback's legacy: "We wanted to prove to the world that you don't have to have a building to grow a church. We were running over 10,000 in attendance before we built our first building. So we know how to grow and minister without buildings. What we're trying to learn now is how to do it through the Internet -- into the homes."

(It is worth noting--on a rather frightening note, at that--that many estimates have South Korea as the world's most "wired" nation, especially in regards to broadband access.)

Especially damning, Cho admits on his own website the links between him and Warren and cross-promotion of each other:

Prayer is the only way to survive!

Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in the USA came to see Dr. Cho who was visiting Los Angeles for the Spiritual Renewal Conference 2001 at Sarang Community Church in Los Angeles (Rev. Jung Hyun Oh). While Dr. Cho was talking to him, he urged the churches in the USA to pray. Dr. Cho emphasized prayer for the survival of the churches in the USA. He further said that leaders should listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and find out the methods of drawing young people into the Church, such as using the Internet.

It is frightening that Rick Warren is very, very close with the person who may in fact be one of the most responsible for the fact that the Assemblies of God is, denomination-wide, dominionist and embracing of spiritual abuse in the name of "spiritual warfare"--and in the process creating thousands of instances of "collatteral damage".

And it should not be surprising in this light why Rick Warren's name, and the name of his organisation, are being found closely linked to games promoting the dominionist ideals of "spiritual warfare"--the very ideals in "dominion theology" that his friend David Yonggi Cho largely invented, has heavily promoted, and spread like a plague worldwide for the past fifty years.

First, thank you for this article, and I'm sorry for the pain you've obviously suffered.

Second, I've been away from the USA for nearly 20 years as a missionary. I don't know if that automatically is a mark against me or not. But I must admit that I'm not familiar with much of what has been happening in the American church during this time.

Third, I have some problems with the Spiritual Warfare movement, especially with some of C.P. Wagner's books. I have read many books associated with it, and I'm not certain that it is dominionist at its core, but I can understand how someone might come to that conclusion. Generally, I've found the movement very ready to find the 'demonic' in other cultures and political viewpoints, while seeing none within their own.  However, the basic concept that evil is a spiritual presence in the world and through Christ it can be overcome seems to me to be Biblically accurate. The fact that the conflict is spiritual would preclude the use of 'wordly' means.

I do have some real questions. I've never before seen a major connection between the Assemblies of God as an entire denomination and dominionism. Where is some documentation that goes beyond accusation?

You say, "Youth With A Mission (which is almost universally considered by exit counselors as cultic, and which has multiple links to dominionism)". I'll be honest, I find this hard to believe. I don't doubt that some people have left YWAM with problems, as people have left many groups with problems. Where is the evidence?

You also say that cell groups are spiritually abusive. Are you saying that this is their purpose and very nature? Certainly, small groups have been used in many situations to maintain control over people. The communist Dergue government used a similar system in Ethiopia to control the population. However, I've been in churches and seen others that have used small groups in ways that are spiritually nourishing and productive.

You seem also to speak of churches' growing as something untoward and negative. Do you mean to do so?

What is your definition of dominionist? It seems to be so broad as to include just about anyone who believes that Christian faith is correct. Perhaps, I'm missing something.

I've read several posts on this site, and though I've seen some disturbing stuff on attacks of liberal churches and increased HIV infection in Uganda, I have yet to see a convincing article on dominionism.

by chipmunk on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 06:39:00 PM EST

a) In regards to "Youth With A Mission" and the evidence it's a spiritually abusive group, here are some good links to get you started:

Reports by exit counselors and cult researchers re abuse in YWAM:
Rick Ross Institute (as an aside, Rick Ross has possibly been the most active in reporting spiritual abuse within the "spiritual warfare" and dominionist movements)
Freedom of Mind Institute (Steven Hassan has assisted walkaways from YWAM and other spiritually abusive groups within the "spiritual warfare" movement)
International Cultic Studies Association
FACTnet also has quite a bit of discussion in regards to YWAM.

As a note, these are the four groups that have the best reputation for opposing spiritually abusive tactics regardless of the claimed creed of the abusive group in question, and they base their criteria on the specific level of coercion inherent in the group.  It is also remarkably rare when pretty much all of the Big Four express the same concerns--some of the few groups to get such universal concern re abusiveness include AmWay, the Moonies, and Scientology (all of which are widely known as being cultic and psychologically harmful).

Criticism of YWAM on dual grounds of coercive religious tactics and possible bad apologetics:
Apologetics Index (a site from a Christian viewpoint, but which also notes specifically concerns of coerciveness separately from apologetics concerns)
Site critical of YWAM (Multiple complaints here--notes of coercive religious tactics, notes of apologetics issues, and (of particular relevance to the community) damning evidence that YWAM is explicitly dominionist (dominionism here being termed "Moral Government Theology", being a variant of dominion theology))
Expose of YWAM (critic is a conservative Protestant who is increasingly alarmed re promotion of dominionism, includes very good backgrounder info re links with YWAM and other dominionist and abusive groups)
Deception In The Church (site does criticise from a conservative Protestant viewpoint in regards to its apologetics, but it also notes spiritual abuse and coercive tactics aside from apologetics concerns; as an aside, Deception In The Church is possibly one of the best resources out there re documentation of abuse in "Third Wave" aka "Brownsville-style" neopentecostal churches and the site was largely started due to increasing reports of abuse in that movement)

In addition, several YWAM walkaways are regulars on the Ex-Pentecostals forums; the site is a resource for persons who have escaped coercive and spiritually abusive churches within the pente and neopente movements.  (There are quite a number of reports of abuse not just within YWAM but within the Assemblies of God proper, especially since the "Brownsville" thing caught on; here are some reports from survivors.)

b) In regards to abuse within "cell church" and "shepherding" groups, there is an amazing amount of documentation--enough that most exit counselors and researchers consider the mere presence of cell groups as a major warning sign.

Cell churches were originally designed both as a way of massive church growth (in that they could grow, not unlike a pyramid scheme; the model is almost identical to that of an MLM group such as AmWay) and as a way of maintaining control over members.  Typically a cell of 5 to 10 persons will have a "cell leader" or "shepherd", who will in turn report to a regional director or deacon, and so on all the way to the pastor.

Abuse in these groups is very well documented.  In fact, one of the groups most infamous for the use of "cell churches" and shepherding (the International Churches of Christ) is in fact used as a model for how "bible based" coercive religious groups operate.  Possibly the best book on the subject is The Discipling Dilemma, which (while focusing largely on abuse within the ICOC) also mentions how this is being increasingly abused within the neopente movement as well.

One known dominionist group (besides neopente megachurches) which has used "cell churches" is Promise Keepers and there have been reliable reports of abuse directly related to "cell church" and "shepherding" use in that parachurch organisation.  Maranatha, a particularly abusive group, largely pioneered its use within "charismatic" neopente groups as well, and is another spectacular model for how cell groups very often go frankly abusive.

Cell groups in practice very much go into a "Big Brother" mentality, wherein members of a cell group are encouraged to sniff out "secret sins" in members.  Cell members have occasionally been subjected to involuntary exorcisms as a result.

In some churches--particularly the types of spiritually abusive organisations we're discussing here--or other groups like AmWay or the Dergue, the purpose of the cell IS to maintain strict control.  Sadly, that is its original purpose in large part (as documented in "The Discipling Dilemma").

A particularly telling story from a walkaway from a dominionist neopente church that largely invented cell-church use shows not only how these groups tend to be abusive in practice but also how these groups are used to promote dominionism and dominion theology.

c) Church growth in and of itself is not a negative thing (and I never meant to imply as such).  However, spiritually abusive tactics do unfortunately tend to be more common in large megachurches (as a great deal of emphasis is given on getting new blood in the door no matter what, and the use of deceptive practices to get warm bodies "in the door" is not only tolerated but in some cases--including Rick Warren's--frankly encouraged).

The use of deceptive tactics is a concern because most experts in spiritual abuse consider this a major warning sign of a spiritually abusive church.  ("Bait and switch" evangelism, such as noted in the Ron Luce manual I wrote about earlier, is very common as a way to get people "in the door".  Steve Hassan in his "BITE Model" of "abusiveness" of a group specifically mentions deceptive recruiting as a warning sign, as do Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer (who did much of the early basis for research of coercive groups in general) and Dr. Michael Langone (who now is one of the head researchers at ICSA).)

Also, most large congregations in non-abusive churches do eventually split to "missionary" churches, in part because of the sheer difficulty of managing large congregations without resorting eventually to potentially abusive tactics.  (Most of the big megachurches actually have a surprising level of control over their member's lives--usually enforced through the cell churches.)

My personal definition of dominionist (or at least the definition I've used in my writings) has been "groups which promote the hijacking or replacement of secular institutions of government, education or other facilities with their own institutions based on dominion theology".  (Generally, I've seen the term used for both "premillenialist dominion theology" promoters (more on that in a sec) and Christian Reconstructionism.)

One of the things that is beginning to be recognised (and Fredrick Carlson and Chip Berlet here have specifically noted on this) is that two separate dominionist movements actually exist that have a considerable amount of overlap.  One is Christian Reconstructionism proper; the other, which has been termed "Christian Nationalism", "Moral Government Theology", "Kingdom Now Theology", and "Dominion Theology", is a separate dominionist movement (and possibly the larger and older of the two).

Christian Reconstructionism largely had its birth in independent fundamentalist Baptist groups, and is postmillenialist and pulls most of its base theology from fundamentalist Baptist belief; "Kingdom Now Theology" or "Moral Government Theology" is actually premillenialist in many cases, and promotes the mass conversion of secular institutions to "Christian Nationalist" operated organisations as a tool to get a "critical mass" of people converted to their particular flavour of "Christianity" so that the Rapture can Hurry Up And Happen.  (In the "Third Wave" pentecostal groups, there is an additional emphasis given--all the convertees are supposed to be members of "Joel's Army", an army to "claim dominion" over the earth now and to come down from the heavens at the end of the Tribulation to slay the unconverted seven years post-Rapture.  The "Left Behind" game is a clear reference to "Joel's Army" and "endtime overcomer army" beliefs in those groups.)

The definition of "dominionist" I use in regards to the promoters of pente-style "dominion theology" are probably closest to what Chip Berlet and Frederick Carlson have termed "Christian Nationalists" (rather than "Christian Reconstructionists").  There is a considerable amount of overlap in the goals of Christian Reconstructionists and "dominion theology" Christian Nationalists, but the core reasons are somewhat different.

The vast majority of my writing has been in regards to the latter, not the former.  (Interestingly, there seems to have been more formal research on the former, hence why I've been posting and replying in comparison and contrast--most of my unfortunate experience has been with the latter.)

To give an even narrower definition--the "dominion theology" I'm referring to here is a premillenialist theology that preaches that God (and Adam, as God's regent) lost dominion over the earth at the Fall and Satan claimed the earth at that time; Jesus died and suffered three days in hell and then came back from the dead; only the "saved" with "Signs following" (usually tongues, but increasingly (and especially in the "Brownsville" churches) featuring things like being "drunk in the Holy Spirit", roaring, waving around "swords of the lord", or having "birthing pains" as "manifestations"--this on top of the usual being "slain in the spirit" and dancing in the aisles) can properly "claim dominion" back for Christ; once the world has been "reclaimed" or once a critical mass of persons have been converted, the Rapture will take place; people and things and places must be "claimed for Christ" and "dominion taken from the devil".  Many variations even promote the idea that the "saved" can bring people back from the dead, have miraculous cures, be fabulously wealthy (because "God doesn't want his Chosen to be paupers"), the concept that only they and the Israelis are the Chosen People of God, etc.

Yes, at its base it is a "spiritual warfare" theology.  Variations and evolutions of this have included word-faith theology, the old "name it and claim it" that televangelists are always hawking on TBN; the "Brownsville" or "Third Wave" movement is a general extension of that base theology.

I've done a minor history of dominion theology (as practiced within pente and neopente circles) here, and Sara Diamond's "Spiritual Warfare" is also an excellent intro to the roots of this particular strain of "Christian Nationalism".

Dominionism, I will note, is a subset of Christian belief; even quite a few fundamentalists have very serious issues with dominionism (aka "Christian Nationalism") on its face, and some of the largest critics you will see on this site are in fact Christians.  (One of our regular writers is from Mainstream Baptist, an association of Baptist congregations who were forced out of the Southern Baptist Convention when it was hijacked by dominionists.)  Many of the sources that I have used to document on dominionism are in fact from Christian apologetics sites operating from moderate or even conservative Protestant viewpoints (in the case of the Brownsville stuff, it's a necessary thing at times, because some of the best documentation of the tactics being used by these groups are from Christian groups with grave concerns about this stuff).  Another of our representatives is from the Episcopalian Church and has done excellent reporting--as a pastor--on how dominionist groups associated with the Institute for Religion and Democracy have tried to hijack his church and "convert from within".

It is, in fact, quite possible to be Christian--even a fundamentalist Christian--and still be opposed to the entire concept of Christian Nationalism and dominionism.  

In fact, one powerful argument I have occasionally used with people in regards to fighting spiritual abuse within churches and dominionism is that the spiritual abuse within certain dominionist and "Christian Nationalist" churches is frequently driving people away from Christianity altogether.  I myself am never going to be comfortable in a church--ANY church--not even Unitarian Universalism or a Friends meeting--specifically because I am a survivor of 26 years of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse--all of which was religiously motivated.  It is in fact a major step for me in my healing that I can visit apologetics sites for research without twitching or having flashbacks to abuse.  (I still don't like to listen to certain songs played in the church I left, or view certain things--the "God Warrior" Marguerite Perrin episode of "Trading Spouses" being a big one--because it makes me flashback to some very traumatic experiences.)

My issue is not with people having faith and acting on it.  (In fact, some of the people who have been the most encouraging and who have urged me to write on these matters have been Christians of deep faith indeed.)  My issue is twofold:

  1. There are a lot of groups with a history of being spiritually abusive--using tactics that are documented to be harmful to their followers--who also have, as part of their agenda, the taking over of secular government and other secular institutions to essentially force everyone else to follow the same abusive practices wrapped up in the Bible.  (In other words, mainstream Christianity can argue--and has argued--that dominionist movements and "Christian Nationalism" is in fact a spiritual counterfeit.  Speaking as someone who's done research on spiritual abuse as a part of my own healing, I tend to agree--the base tactics of Scientology and the group I left are the same, one just dresses it up in bad space opera and the other in rampant misuse of the Bible.)

  2. These tactics, and the promotion of "Christian Nationalism", are spreading to groups that have not previously had a history of abuse of this sort.  (The Southern Baptists are a prime example of this--the denomination was hijacked by "Christian Nationalists" in the 1990s, and now you have Southern Baptists (like Rick Warren) partnering with Assemblies-based preacher David yonggi Cho and trading notes with him (and Cho even admits to cribbing spiritually abusive methods from a highly abusive group linked to actual arson--and which wraps up a spiritually abusive core in misuse of Buddhist scripture).

  3. A lot of the groups in which both "Christian nationalism" and abusive tactics are rampant--in particular, the Assemblies of God--have a lot of political power now and have as a primary goal the complete takeover of the US government so they can make the US a "Godly Nation".  (Part of their base theology--borrowed from British Israelism--is that the US and Israel are "Chosen peoples" and both countries must be theocracies if they are to "secure God's blessing" and keep it.)

I realise this is a very long reply, but I hope I've answered your questions on this.

by dogemperor on Thu Jun 01, 2006 at 09:13:48 PM EST
Thanks for the long response. I appreciate the time you've taken. The 'political Christianity' that I've seen since I've been back in the USA, has been bothering me. I'll have to look more closely at your answers and the sites you refer to, then I'll probably write again.

In part, I'm hoping it isn't as bad as Talk2Action makes it seem.

by chipmunk on Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 11:43:49 AM EST


by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 04:41:39 PM EST

Relative to dominionism, consider listening online to Michelle Goldberg's interview on NPR's Fresh Air.

Also, for general background on the Christian Right and Dominionism in particular, take a peek at the glossary on Religion Right Watch just as a starter, and dive into the topic more with this relatively recent issue of Mother Jones.

Hope that helps.

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Hello again,

I am aware that there are churches that are abusive. From the sites that you pointed out and some personal reflection on things I've seen, it seems that the opportunity for this sort of abuse is more widespread than in the past. It seems to me that some reasons for this are:

   + The apostolic leadership model.
   + The growth of Mega-churches.
   + The 'shepherding' model of discipleship.
   + The growth right-wing politics in the church.
   + A general lack of real community in American life, that people seem to, unfortunately, seek to fulfill in often harmful ways.

I'll switch to a personal story. Soon after I became a Christian (i.e., was saved) I felt that God was calling me to missions. I went to a school in Florida that a special program to train Christians in community development. One of my professors recommended that I go to seminary before going overseas. (I think that he saw 'potential' in me for whatever reason.)

The denominational seminary was in Indiana, but I wanted to be closer to my girlfriend (now my wife), especially after a year in Florida. So I went to a Mennonite seminary in Virginia. Anyway, when I finished seminary in 1988, we decided to serve in Africa with a Mennonite mission agency, rather than with the denomination that both of us had grown up in.

After we had been in Africa a few years, my mother's church (the one I'd grown up in) got a new pastor. He basically cut off all connections he could between the church and us. We weren't from the right denomination. He wouldn't permit us to speak in the church when we were home for a summer. Eventually, he began getting 'his' people on the church's administrative council. People like my mother and grandmother, longtime leaders and teachers in the church, were marginalized. He began using church money as 'he' saw fit, with consulting the church council. It was one of these abusive situations. Enough old-timers in the church saw what was happening and finally got him to leave.

Being in Africa, I was pretty far removed from the whole thing. I've seen other abusive situations, also.

However, I don't see a direct link between these abusive situation and dominionist theology. It seems that there are two different issues here. And while my feelings are that right-wing ideology and dominionist theologies may produce more of this type of abuse, most of what I've seen had little connection with either.

I'm not certain that you were saying that there is a direct link. Just commenting.

by chipmunk on Sat Jun 03, 2006 at 05:56:41 PM EST

In some cases--and here I'm referring mostly to the situation within the Assemblies of God--the political dominionist movement and the coercive dominionist movements are related and largely one and the same.  (In some cases, enforcement of the political dominionist line largely occurs through the abusive tactics like cell churches, etc.)

At least within the Assemblies, not only things like "cell churches" and targeting other Christians for conversion (via deception, in many cases) but things like voting for "Godly candidates" who toe the dominionist party line are part of the continuum of dominion theology--George W. Bush, for instance, has been explicitly promoted as God's own chosen leader so that "Christians can take back the US and secure God's blessing over our chosen land".  ("Christians", in the Assemblies, typically are only defined as pentecostal and charismatic groups.  Even groups like mainstream Methodists and Episcopalians are seen as "lukewarm Christians"--an epithet from Revelation stating that these churches would be "spit out of the mouth of God".)

In the case of the "Third Wave" pentes, it's even more explicit--people are flat out told to join political dominionist groups as a form of "spiritual warfare".

A good example of where religious dominionism has gone to political dominionism actually is available in the very Assemblies church I left.  That church, along with a Lexington-area megachurch, are the two primary foci of the dominionist movement (politically) in my home state; the dominionist political movement in fact was started in my state in the dominionist church I left, starting with the pastor telling folks in 1980 to vote for Reagan because Jimmy Carter was a "closet Communist" (they literally equated all Democrats with communists, and they also explicitly equated Communism with Satanism; this stems from an interesting claim in the early editions of the Scofield Reference Bible indicating Russia was the home of the Antichrist) and led to one of the church deacons--with full blessing of both the original pastor and the pastor's son who took over the church upon the original pastor's death--forming the first "religious right" group in Kentucky called Freedom's Heritage Forum.  

That group later in large part merged with, and is largely synonymous with, the American Family Association of Kentucky--which is also still led by the same deacon.  In fact, that deacon (again, I will note, with explicit blessing of the church pastor) gives out voter's guides (illegally) in church services (and the pastor will tell people explicitly to vote as the guide states because their opponents are "satanic"), has had a television show on the church's TV station (as well as radio programmes--increasingly disturbing, as the church now operates an increasingly large shortwave radio preaching empire) where he promoted dominionism, and has even been explicitly defended by the pastor despite the fact that the deacon in question and his "activism" is some of the most blatantly homophobic material this side of Fred Phelps.  (Among other fun things, they've distributed Holocaust-revisionist material claiming that gays instigated the Holocaust as a way of "attacking God's chosen people".)

I've actually written about aforementioned deacon's antics--and both he, and the church in general, consider political dominionism a form of "spiritual warfare" to "reclaim the country".

How they justify this is by theology that teaches that mankind and God lost dominion over the earth upon the Fall, and dominion can only be regained if all things--physically and spiritually--are explicitly reclaimed and held by "saved, born-again Christians".  (Again, I will note that only people who are "baptised in the Holy Ghost"--in other words, folks who speak in tongues or experience some of the stranger "Brownsville" manifestations like waving around "swords of the lord"--are in fact considered truly saved.  Merely confessing Jesus as one's saviour doesn't cut it with these folks, as "lukewarm Christians" do that too.)

In the Southern Baptists, the link between abusive tactics and dominionism isn't so frank--largely because a) the SBC only recently got hijacked by dominionists (whereas in the case of the Assemblies of God et al, it can be argued dominion theology originated in those groups fifty years ago) and b) there is still some separation between political dominionism and dominion theology (among other things, in the SBC, some of the basis for dominionism is closer to a Christian Reconstructionist viewpoint than the theological basis for dominionism in the Assemblies et al).

This is one of those things that evidence has only recently come out in regards to this, and largely from people who have escaped those groups or done hard research into the history of Christianity in the US.  

As an aside, re the African stuff--quite a lot of the more abusive African churches have been planted by the very same groups active in dominionism here in the States, and have been active to greater or lesser degree politically in dominionist movements in those countries; however, due to multiple factors (including the fact that political conditions in Africa are in general not conducive to takeover attempts save by people with a large amount of artillery, etc.) they've been somewhat less successful in hijacking governments than in Latin America.

One country in Africa that WAS specifically targeted by dominionists (and in fact by the very dominionist church I am an escapee from) is Liberia.  Among other things, pro-dominionist warlords were explicitly supported, and the very group I left has operated a clandestine radio station (calling itself "Voice of Liberty") in Liberia for several years.  (The station may be on the air; it has been intermittently off-air.)

Not only that, there is evidence that Pat Robertson--a major force in promoting political and religious dominionism--actively participated in support of Mobutu Sese Seko's regime in what was then known as Zaire (now Congo-Kinshasa); his charity "Operation Blessing" (which has been promoted as a "Christian alternative" to secular charities and even inclusive Christian charity groups) is well known as having been used to traffic "blood diamonds" out of Zaire whilst claiming the airplanes were being used to assist with Rwandan refugee humanitarian aid.  

In another "Liberian Connection", Robertson had a similar deal going with Charles Taylor for "blood gold"--a deal which may have included "Christian Zionist" groups in the US in general and (on another end) could have funded some of Al Quaida's own efforts.  When this link was revealed, Pat Robertson literally accused Bush of trying to undermine a "undermining a Christian, Baptist president to bring in Muslim rebels to take over the country"--despite the fact that the funds from "blood gold" traffic in Liberia were in part being used to fund Al Quaida, among others.

by dogemperor on Sun Jun 04, 2006 at 04:49:37 PM EST

b) In regards to abuse within "cell church" and "shepherding" groups, there is an amazing amount of documentation--enough that most exit counselors and researchers consider the mere presence of cell groups as a major warning sign.

In the same way, it would be easy to prove that schools are inherently abusive organizations. There is equally "an amazing amount of evidence" to suggest that schoolteachers have abused children one way or another in abuse that goes back hundreds of years, in schools of every kind, in  every district, of every country in the world, at every time in history.

However, anyone who's been to school would know this to be... misleading.

Look, I share your worries about dominionism; the Christian right; manipulative techniques etc., but you aren't doing yourself any favours by making huge, sweeping, misleading generalizations such as this:

Cell groups in practice very much go into a "Big Brother" mentality, wherein members of a cell group are encouraged to sniff out "secret sins" in members.

Now that statement just makes me laugh. Sorry, but it's just really funny. It sounds like the words of a witchhunter, or like language from the Spanish inquisition. There are millions and millions of cell groups in the world. In those millions of cell groups you'll find everything under the sun, just like you will in schools, corporations; governments; movements; military forces and just about anything else across the globe.

A cell group is a meeting of a small number of people. There are as many definitions of 'cell group' as there are cell groups in the world.

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Rick Warren, Saddleback Church, and Purpose Driven Ministries have no connection whatsoever to the "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" video game. They have not endorsed it, have no intention to promote it, and in fact have never even seen the game. Also everyone familiar with Rick Warren's writing and teaching knows that he completely rejects and even opposes "dominion theology."  Please make this correction.

My personal involvement with the game was from a request by some friends who asked for my advice as a businessman. Whatever one thinks of Rick Warren, neither he, nor his network have anything to do with that game.

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by mcarver on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 01:36:07 PM EST

a) Firstly, let's hope that you have in fact read the guidelines for this site, some of which specifically warn against spamming.  (To quote an old yarn, "Spamming is the same thing lots and lots of times.")

b) Cho is a well known promoter of dominion theology; in fact, Cho can in fact be said to have explicitly invented much of the theology behind "dominion theology" as it is practiced in the Assemblies of God and the multiple neopentecostal "charismatic" groups that are spawned from this.

c) In light of b) and assuming you are not just doing damage control (and, sadly, it has been my general experience that abusive dominionist groups DO specialise in this), perhaps you can clarify Warren's exact relationship with Cho et al (which is the primary focus of this article).

d) Explanation as to the specific content of the courses required for Saddleback Christian church members would also be appreciated.  (I'll go more into detail on this in one of the other posts.)

Unless and until some clarification is made, especially on point B) (the close relationship between Rick Warren and David Yonggi Cho), I stand by my statements in this thread.  I have thoroughly documented them; Rick Warren has expressed support for one of the primary promoters of "dominion theology" and "name it and claim it" theology (which itself is a form of dominion theology--you are explicitly "claiming dominion over the devil" in the process of "naming and claiming").  

I myself am a walkaway from a highly abusive church where Cho's theology was promoted, so to say I am very familiar with it is an understatement; hence, I have some legitimate concern regarding Warren's relationship with Cho and his support of Cho's theology.

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