Publicizing the existence of the NAR -- some suggestions
Diane Vera printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 12:44:49 PM EST

Some regular columnists here on Talk to Action have complained about difficulties in getting the mass media to notice the existence of a new but rapidly growing - and already highly influential - religious movement with theocratic ambitions, the New Apostolic Reformation.

I have some suggestions on publicity. For all I know, the regulars here may have pursued all these avenues already, but I figured I should mention them anyway, just in case at least one or two of my ideas have not yet been pursued.

I also have some thoughts of my own on why it has been so difficult to get the mass media to take the NAR seriously.

My suggestions:

  1. Have the researchers here made contact with academic scholars of new religions? I would suggest contacting as many new-religion scholars as possible. In particular, be sure to share your research with J. Gordon Melton, author of the Encyclopedia of American Religion. Note that new-religion scholars tend to avoid criticism of the religions that they research. But, at the very least, writings about the NAR by new-religion scholars would help to establish, in the eyes of mainstream journalists, the existence of the NAR, and hopefully some credible information about how big it is and how it is organized. If information about the NAR is ever to find its way into textbooks, or into any of the reference books consulted by religion journalists, it is absolutely essential that new-religion scholars be informed about it.
  2. Have the researchers here made contact with well-known "anti-cult" researchers such as Rick Ross? Though not as respectable as new-religion scholars, they've succeeded in shedding a mass media spotlight on other dangerous religious organizations and might be able to do the same for the NAR. (Warning: Some "anti-cult" researchers seem to be motivated by just plain religious bigotry, and they vary in how concerned they are about getting their facts straight. Look carefully for the better ones.)
  3. Way back in 1999, the Christian Science Monitor published the story Targeting cities with 'spiritual mapping,' prayer by Jane Lampman. Has anyone here contacted them about a possible follow-up story?
  4. Has anyone here written articles about the NAR for local mainstream newspapers -- which might be more receptive, at least to stories of local interest, than the big mass media outlets? For example, have any local New Jersey newspapers been contacted about "Pray for Newark"? Local newspaper stories - especially in locales outside the Bible Belt - might be a key stepping stone to getting a story noticed by the major mass media.
  5. Has anyone here written articles about the NAR for the gay press? The bigger gay periodicals might be another good stepping stone to getting the story noticed by the mass media.
  6. Someone here should research the question of whether Rubén Díaz Sr., who is a New York State Senator and also pastor of the (Pentecostal) Christian Community Neighborhood Church in the Bronx, has any connection to the New Apostolic Reformation. If he does, then this could be a story of major interest to the gay press, because Rubén Díaz was the leading opponent of same-sex marriage in the NY State Senate. It might also help persuade New York City-based journalists to take the NAR more seriously.
  7. Has anyone here contacted the authors of popular books and mass media articles about demons and exorcism? (An example is Michael W. Cuneo, author of American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty.) They might very well be interested in the NAR from their own angle, given the NAR's emphasis on new forms of exorcism, e.g "strategic level spiritual warfare."

As for why the mass media aren't paying attention, I would concur with Rachel Tabachnick, as quoted in the recent Talk To Action post The New Apostolic Movement uncovered ... and un-covered by Bill Berkowitz:

Since "journalists can not access a textbook description of the NAR it basically doesn't really exist for many of them. ..."

This problem can be remedied only by contacting lots of religion scholars, as suggested above.

Another problem, I think, is the fact that the major mass media are based here in New York City. To many New Yorkers, especially the better-educated amongst us, the very idea of theocracy just seems utterly foreign. Here in NYC, especially in Manhattan, we're accustomed to people of many different religions, or of no religion, living side-by-side without so much as batting an eyelash at each other. So, to many New Yorkers, it seems that only a totally crazy total "loser" could possibly desire theocracy. It is hard for many New Yorkers to imagine that anyone that crazy could possibly have any real influence whatsoever, or be taken at all seriously by anyone in power.

And that, I think, may be the main reason why so many pundits are always pronouncing the religious right wing to be "dead."

Many New Yorkers have no idea what the Bible Belt is like. Here in NYC, Pentecostal and independent charismatic churches are largely confined to poorer neighborhoods, another reason why most New Yorkers tend to assume they must be unimportant and un-influential. Many New Yorkers assume that poor equals powerless and have no understanding of the role of grassroots political organizing in either left-wing or right-wing politics. Many New Yorkers also don't realize that, in other parts of the U.S.A., there are plenty of middle-class and well-to-do members of Pentecostal and "nondenominational" independent charismatic churches.

Ditto for evangelicals in general, here in NYC.

Here in NYC, as far as I can tell, most middle-class Christians are Catholics, most of whom ignore the Church's official teachings in birth control, etc.

Thus, many New Yorkers have a hard enough time imagining how even those religious right wing leaders who are already household names could possibly have any real influence at all, let alone that there could possibly be any reason to take seriously any leaders or groups who haven't yet been featured prominently on the evening news.

Note to the owners of this site: The link to "guidelines" on the story submission form does not work. I hope this post is within the guidelines as I vaguely recall them from the last time I posted here.

Rick Ross already knows about Dominionism and I would also say the NAR.  As I remember, he focuses more on local groups and not on the movement as a whole.  

(Cults are still generally considered a more local phenomena, although the ex-Scientologist walkaways are starting to get more attention.  I've known about that group for many years, but it's still considered a small - local- problem in many areas.)

It would help if people (in areas where dominionism hasn't already taken a large measure of control) learned about the movement.  The local paper here?  Glowing reports on the local Dominionist churches, and they tend to support dominionism anyway.

Letter-to-the-editor campaigns is one thing an individual can do.  (Make sure you follow their guidelines CAREFULLY, otherwise you probably won't get published!)  If a dominionist group starts pushing one of their causes- show up at the public meetings (with friends- not alone) carrying research and facts- and refute their propaganda.  Get involved.  Tell people about dominionism.  They will probably write you off as a "conspiracy theorist" but when they start hearing little things on the news here and there... they'll start thinking.

It took dominionism quite a few years to get as powerful as it is.  It's going to take time to get it exposed and stopped.

by ArchaeoBob on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:18:14 PM EST

Dominionism and the NAR has already showed up on the radar of academia... but not as a research topic.

Some of the researchers I know are well aware of what is going on (and are worried about the future of this country because of dominionism).

The people researching religion, however, are rather few and far between at my school.  The last one I knew personally retired three years ago.

I know a lot about it because I'm a walkaway and I've been active on this blog for a few years now.  However, it's not my area of research and study- which is poverty and race issues.

I also have too strong of a knee-jerk reaction (triggering) to Dominionist talk and documents... for me directly researching dominionism would be too painful.

I might be able to do research on other aspects related to dominionism- like how language regarding it reflects the bias of the reporter, and so on.  That is, if I had the time (and funds to pay bills).

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 11:38:16 AM EST

Thanks for the suggestions.  I think one of our biggest problems at the moment is a lack of people and resources to get this message out.  There are very few people in the progressive world researching and writing about the NAR and therefore very few people to do the work making the type of contacts that you have suggested.  Another problem is that the movement is developing so rapidly that it is a full time job just to keep up with new developments, much less write about them.

Hopefully with the increased political visibility of Apostles like Lou Engle and the exposure of the NAR's role in Uganda and numerous U.S. cities, there will be increased interest in finding out about the movement.

Diane, I would be interested in corresponding with you. You can reach me at the e-mail address in my bio.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 10:02:25 PM EST

Rachel Tabachnick wrote:

I think one of our biggest problems at the moment is a lack of people and resources to get this message out.  There are very few people in the progressive world researching and writing about the NAR and therefore very few people to do the work making the type of contacts that you have suggested.

Have you tried putting out a call to action, to recruit more people into some semi-formal online group to help with the research and/or to help get the word out?

Anyhow, thanks very much for your interest in corresponding with me.  I've sent you an email.

by Diane Vera on Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 09:16:45 AM EST

Thanks for pointing out the broken link, Diane.

The site guidelines link also exists in the upper left corner of the site.

I think that your diary is certainly well within the site guidelines and has lots of useful thoughts and ideas.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 10:17:56 PM EST

The dominionists would provide lovely antagonists for a great novel by, say, Tom Clancy. I mention him as someone whose more recent tomes have garnered significant attention to the "what-ifs" of American government -- Executive Orders, for one, raised awareness of terrorist threats. Debt of Honor, which ended with a kamikaze-style attack on the Capitol during a joint session of Congress preceded 9/11 in a too-eerie way. Novels can bring reality to life by making the potential scenarios come alive.

The more I read this site, and others, the more worried I get. I am a Quaker Pagan, an ordained minister and priest, a seminary student, a mother and grandmother -- many reasons to worry but not the background and writing skills to reach people directly. Thank you for doing what I wish I could.

by Khalila RedBird on Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 01:32:20 AM EST
You mention that you are "an ordained minister and priest, a seminary student."  That being the case, there's one very important way you can help:

Bring the NAR to the attention of your seminary teachers, and ask if any of them know any scholars interested in documenting the existence of what is probably one of the world's fastest-growing yet least-publicized religious movements.  If so, please pass the info along to those scholars.

Thanks for any attention you can give to this matter.

by Diane Vera on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 12:52:38 PM EST

That's a key avenue we haven't begun to explore.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 08:35:32 AM EST
A friend of mine was writing some short stories (threads for a book, I hope) that were based upon what could happen, especially with the rhetoric coming from the NAR.  Many of his stories really hit home- because they were so close to the dominionists I've encountered.

I've also heard of books like "The Handmaid's Tale" or something like that, which is supposed to be based on what a theocracy would be like.

I think books- maybe a movie, would be a great way to bring home the reality of dominionism in this country to those who aren't aware. or who write the dominionists off as nutcases or "They're a church, they can't be THAT bad!".

It would be especially effective if at the beginning or end there is a disclaimer that the book or movie is based upon REAL modern groups and movements that receive little exposure in the media.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 10:25:25 AM EST

A big problem with the fiction avenue is getting it published -- at least by any publisher capable of reaching a wide audience.  Getting fiction published is considerably HARDER than getting non-fiction published.

So, unless someone here happens to be personally acquainted with a major author or publisher of fiction, we're probably best off sticking with non-fiction avenues for now, and only then branching out to fiction to drive home an already well-known point.

In the meantime, I suppose it couldn't hurt for some people here to write to already-published fiction authors to suggest to them some ideas for future stories.  But I think it's more urgent to convince relevant scholars, and thereby also convince journalists, that the NAR exists and is (whether for better, worse, or neutral) a very significant and influential religious movement.

(I say "for better, worse, or neutral" because we should NOT count on religion scholars to CRITICIZE the NAR.  Criticizing religious movements is not their job.  We just need them to document the NAR's existence, growth, and influence, that's all.  Only then will the NAR really "exist" for most mainstream journalists.)

by Diane Vera on Sun Apr 04, 2010 at 12:59:54 PM EST

Another suggestion: some kind of online database that would allow users to establish and/or research the myriad connections in a very visible manner by entering search terms, businesses, organizations, location, etc.

As pointed out above, the movement is growing so rabidly it is practially impossible for anyone to actually monitor its development. If the connections between community, government, military, education, and religion could be shown in a visible manner or in a manner that is more "digestable" then more people (and more mainstream media!) might take more of an interest.

Imagine if you could actually show someone a graphic or chart of the connections between say their congress person and groups with harsh social agendas?

I would love to be involved with raising people's awareness of the NAR and any other movement of its kind!


by rahilliard on Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 03:17:36 PM EST

My sense is that what you're describing could be very useful for researchers but perhaps not so much as a teaching tool because, in practice, such charts tend to become cluttered with data to the point that they become dark masses of lines, dots, and symbols like overdone Jackson Pollock-style paintings.

What really sets this movement apart is its distinctive ideas and practices - such as "shepherding"/"discipling", claims to being able to raise the dead, spiritual mapping/spiritual warfare, and so on.

What could help a great deal, I think, would be some semi-organized collaborative effort in which people divided up the job of tracking movement leadership - because the leadership is fairly well known.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Apr 03, 2010 at 08:34:19 AM EST

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