They Cast Out Demons, Burn "Witchcraft Items," and Field Gubernatorial Candidates
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 10:55:44 AM EST
[editor: This story is about a radical right wing movement in charismatic Christianity that claims to fight demons but, leaving demonology aside, is also targeting the executive branches of government of entire US states.]

They claim to be able to raise the dead and cause miracles, such as the multiplication of Thanksgiving turkey dinners. They burn "witchcraft items" and "idols." They hold mass exorcisms to cast out alleged evil spirits they say cause lust, pornography, addiction, homosexuality, bisexuality, and perversion. They claim to be able to heal HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Glaucoma, and cancer, and to break "generational curses" and "witchcraft curses." Who are they? Here are a few overviews (1, 2, 3.)

They compare opponents of their movement to rats that will be exterminated and one of their leaders has predicted that the regime they're working to create will initially "seem like totalitarianism". They're closely tied to the notorious, so-called "kill the gays bill" before Uganda's Parliament. They're behind Sarah Palin and one of their "prophets" has become the de-facto prayer leader for the Republican Party.  

While America has fixated on the Tea Party movement, a radical, right-wing charismatic evangelical movement is burrowing into the power structures of major American cities, such as Newark, NJ [1, 2], and even entire states, such as Alaska and Hawaii.

In Hawaii, they claim to be fielding both a Republican and Democratic candidate in the 2010 race for the governor's seat. Both candidates are staunchly opposed to gay marriage and same-sex civil unions as well as legalized abortion, and both can frequently be found onstage together at movement conferences.

In 2006, movement leaders paid airfare, conference fees, and lodging costs so Hawaii Lt. Governor Duke Aiona and his wife could attend an Argentina conference of the movement which featured, as a prominent speaker, celebrated exorcist and New Apostolic Reformation leader Cindy Jacobs (see video links in first paragraph for footage of Jacobs in action.) Video footage from the event shows Aiona praying together with the First Lady of Uganda Janet Museveni.

Hawaii's Republican Lt. Governor James "Duke" Aiona has publicly dedicated his state and its school to Jesus and declared his desire to "disciple the nations, here in Hawaii and everywhere else."

[video 1, right: Duke Aiona dedicates Hawaii to Jesus. video 2, left: Aiona announces his goal of "discipling the nations" at 2009 conference.]

Endorsed by the current Republican candidate for the governorship of Hawaii, Duke Aiona (see video at end of post), E Pule Kakou is a yearly, week-long prayer initiative broadcast on major networks and multiple cable channels in the Hawaiian islands.

According to the E Pule Kakou official web site, during E Pule Kakou week in 2009, several people were successfully raised from the dead, a man was healed of an incurable blood disease, and, during a church-sponsored Thanksgiving turkey dinner, there was a miraculous, divine multiplication of turkey dinners reminiscent of the multiplication of loaves and fishes described in the New Testament of the Bible.

This might seem silly to secular America, good grist for a hearty mocking by John Stewart or Stephen Colbert. But there are real-world implications to the meteoric rise of the New Apostolic Reformation. If Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012 we could have a New Apostolic Reformation president, and the Medieval, demon haunted movement is really impacting people's lives.

In Hawaii, for example, the right wing charismatic evangelical churches behind E Pule Kakou also helped put Hawaii's current governor, Linda Lingle, into power in 2002. On July 6th 2010, immediately before she vetoed a civil unions bill, HB444, that would have allowed same sex couples in Hawaii the same legal rights as opposite-sex married couples, Lingle invited evangelical anti-gay rights pastors into her executive office for a special prayer.

As Hawaii activist Carroll Cox chronicled the event [1], 2, it was reminiscent of the deep South during Segregation except the the state-enforced bigotry was directed not at African-Americans but at gay rights groups - on that day pro-gay right protesters, who were required to get a special use permit and liability insurance to demonstrate in favor of the civil unions bill, were crowded out of an area their permit said they could gather in.

Meanwhile the Governor's Sheriff's Office let anti-gay right evangelical Christian demonstrators swarm up to the fifth floor of the Hawaii State House, where they chanted and blew rams' horns for hours outside of Governor Linda Lingle's executive office.

A day after vetoing the civil unions bill governor Lingle went on a Hawaii talk radio show and compared same sex marriage to incest. It was a vilification tactic popular on the Christian right, and while she announced her veto the day before, Lingle trotted out another sinister argument also commonly advanced by conservative evangelicals.  

While announcing her decision, Lingle claimed that the issue at hand, the civil unions bill, was so important that she didn't feel she should decide it by executive decision - Lingle said it should be decided by popular vote. It was deeply hypocritical, because Lingle's blatant favoritism of the anti-civil union protesters undermined her pretense of impartiality, and there were serious Constitutional issues underlying Lingle's excuse.

The idea that democratic majorities should be able to vote on the rights of minority groups would have appalled America's founders. Lingle's argument was a bizarre one for her to advance because she's Jewish, and in pre-World War Two Nazi Germany the democratic legislative process was used to strip German Jews of basic citizenship rights.

The very point of the American Bill of Rights was to prevent that sort of thing from happening - democratic majorities, whether through voting referendums or via their elective legislative representatives, can't strip minority groups, whether they be gays, Jews, blacks or Hispanics, atheists or Mormons, of basic rights.

Leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation claim that all belief systems, both religious and philosophical, that compete with their totalistic, demon-haunted, politicized ideology are illegitimate and under demon influence. Their chosen politicians are rapidly moving into positions of power in American politics, and their prophets have predicted they'll achieve political control of the nation by 2012.  

[below: Duke Aiona gives prayer for E Pule Kakou 2008]

Thanks for all the work that you and Rachel Tabachnick have been doing to document the existence and activities of the "New Apostolic Reformation."

Now we just need to figure out ways to get the mass media to notice.  Or, at the very least, to attract the attention of a few published professional writers with a mainstream audience and whose books get reviewed in the mass media.

Besides the ideas that I've suggested here, have you brainstormed this matter with Chip Berlet?  Perhaps he, as a longtime professional political researcher, might have some useful suggestions.

By the way, do you send out press releases?  If not, I would urge you to consider doing so.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 06:10:12 PM EST

In terms of press releases, well - those would be great but I can't spare the time. Or, if it wouldn't take much time you might be able to tutor me on this.

Of course I know Chip, and Fred, and many who have done cutting edge work in this strange field - which is ridiculously underfunded. Everyone I know in it is dramatically overtaxed and under-supported. So brainstorming becomes a luxury. In terms of the magnitude of political impact in question here that should not be the case. But it is.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 07:05:52 PM EST

Press releases might be part of an overall package but I believe it's the online audience, i.e. the so called blogosphere and online readership in general (which is just about everyone these days) that is a more  important target -  this is really the goal of building an online community. This site has great content and I would imagine a significant core readership. If there is brainstorming, I would start with the question -  why does even the more important article here receive so few comments?

by marktypos on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 08:56:17 PM EST
The mass media and the blogosphere are both important.  Mass media coverage can go a long way towards legitimizing an issue and thereby giving it a lot more coverage in the blogosphere as well.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 09:06:57 PM EST
The underlying question is the same for both - why is writing thoughtful, well researched and important content not enough? And again, why do even the most important articles on this site receive so few comments?


by marktypos on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 09:29:53 PM EST

MarkTypos wrote:  "why is writing thoughtful, well researched and important content not enough?"

Because, in today's world, there are just too many things competing for everyone's attention.  Hence nothing can succeed just on its own merits.  Marketing is essential -- and difficult.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 09:36:58 PM EST

Diane, again, I agree. But that requires either tons of funding or a strong volunteer community, or both.

Fundamentally, it's all about the need to create a community. This is self evident since, after all, we're talking about countering a powerful social movement that is itself masterful at messaging. Look at how much there is to learn from the very people that are being tracked and written about right here. While we
quietly read (and don't even discuss) how they are eating our lunch they are in fact eating our lunch.

by marktypos on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 10:19:02 PM EST

Do you have any thoughts on how to build more of a community amongst those of us who oppose the religious right wing?

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 11:07:59 PM EST
The religious right has always had two grand approaches - it's at once top-down and bottom-up.

Building institutional capacity at the local level is key. That's not abstract, it's about schools and churches, collective efforts of every sort. At the local level the religious right is a counterculture.

The biggest obstacle of all, I'd say, is that many constituencies whose interests are being attacked by the religious right don't seem to understand they share a common foe. Dialog is badly needed.  

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:54:20 AM EST

Bruce Wilson wrote:  "The biggest obstacle of all, I'd say, is that many constituencies whose interests are being attacked by the religious right don't seem to understand they share a common foe. Dialog is badly needed."

I agree.  Do you have any thoughts on how to bring about more dialogue between different groups targeted by the religious right wing?  (That would be a topic for a post in itself, I would imagine.)

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 10:53:06 AM EST

I agree with both of your lines of analysis. Messaging and PR are important but on the other side of the equation there's a need for a broader societal response, and  the movement in question has a great deal we can learn from.

Back in late 2006 I was moved, on an odd whim, to radically rewrite and invert a major political tract attributed to Paul Weyrich. I thought of it as an intellectual exercise. I called it Paul Weyrich's Teaching Manual For The New Progressive Movement. Sara Robinson later picked up on my piece in a three-part 2008 series she dubbed, What We Can Learn from Conservatives About Winning in Politics.

by Bruce Wilson on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 11:16:34 PM EST

The pages linked in your comment above contain some great ideas in terms of the larger picture, but do not address the immediate practical problem of how we can do more and better outreach now, regarding the existence and activities of the NAR in particular.

Please see my suggestions in my reply to an earlier comment, below.

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 11:33:35 PM EST

that part of the problem is that for a lot of "Religious Right" researchers, it IS more of an intellectual exercise, and that in itself is a problem.

I've been trying to get people in the walkaway community to share their experiences for a long time now- every since I learned about the term walkaway and that what I went through was common.  People who are walkaways live in fear- they were programmed by the dominionist (NAR, fundamentalist, reconstructionist, whatever) churches to live in fear.  Thus they are unwilling for the most part to share their experiences EXCEPT in safe places- and often not willing to do so there as well.  (However, if someone shares something that they went through, they often speak up with "I went through that too!".)

When people hear that others have experienced what they did, it is healing- and it enables them to function better.  They become empowered to find their own voice.  (Safety in numbers for one thing.)

Our testimony provides the emotional impact lacking in the intellectual exercises.  To fight dominionism, you need all of these- explanation, documentation, evidence, analysis, and testimony.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 09:23:31 AM EST

Bruce wrote:  "Of course I know Chip, and Fred, and many who have done cutting edge work in this strange field - which is ridiculously underfunded. Everyone I know in it is dramatically overtaxed and under-supported. So brainstorming becomes a luxury."

But Chip does get paid for his work, correct?  Perhaps someone at Political Research Associates might be willing and able to write grant proposals to help you and a few of the other regulars here as well?  Has this possibility been tried or even discussed?

As for press releases, if you Google "press release tutorial," lots of pages will come up with advice on how to write a good press release.  Much (though not all) of the advice is also applicable to good blog posts, so studying these tutorials can help to improve one's writing in general.  Any press release you write could also do double duty as a blog post, except that the blog post would also contain links to sources.

Of course, press releases are still time-consuming to write.  Perhaps what's needed is to turn the informal network of researchers here into a more formal group and put out a call for more volunteers to join to help with chores like writing press releases.  What do you think of that idea?

by Diane Vera on Sat Jul 17, 2010 at 09:31:32 PM EST

Diane and Mark, thanks for your feedback!  Mark, be sure to see my response on Bruce's other article about Glenn Beck.  One of the things which makes this work so difficult is the amount of background information that is required to fully inform readers.  For instance, in the case of Beck,  maybe it's not clear where he is going unless one has a pretty good background in the narratives of the John Birch Society and the more overtly anti-Semitic narratives of the 1920s and 30s which blended the secular conspiracy theories with end times prophecy. Even the most theological-savvy viewer may not see what Beck is doing if they don't know the narratives and sources that he is now tapping into.  

Having background information is necessary for so much that we write about, but there is not time or space to provide this in blog postings. For instance, would it set off warning bells for our readers to learn that popular ministries are using JBS media materials? I don't really know.

This reminds me of a conversation that I was having with a young rabbi in which I mentioned the JBS, to which he responded, "What is the John Birch Society?"  That was a wake-up call.  As I explain in the comment on the other article, I grew up in a place where JBS signs were tacked onto pine trees all along the roadway, and it just had not occurred to me that everybody might not know about it.

And also on this topic...   I have mentioned in a number of different settings that the regional JBS is headed by a local Orthodox Jewish man.  Sometimes I get totally blank stares, but when I have mentioned this in my home state of Georgia, particularly in the company of people my age and older, the typical response has been hysterical laughter that goes on for several minutes.  This is usually followed by apologies to me for the laughter, which they fear I may not appreciate, and then more laughter.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 12:55:12 AM EST

Rachel Tabachnick wrote:  "Having background information is necessary for so much that we write about, but there is not time or space to provide this in blog postings."

Perhaps this is a problem Chip Berlet (a paid political researcher) might be able to help with?  The PRA site already includes in-depth background on some right wing groups and leaders, such as Lyndon Larouche.  Perhaps he could write similar material about the John Birch Society?  (Could someone here who knows him personally, which I don't, please suggest this idea to him?)

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:43:12 AM EST

Here's a great short treatment of the JBS at PRA :

The PRA background material is invaluable. But in terms of the New Apostolic Reformation that's coalescing from the charismatic movement, which is really the subject of my post here, there's been a dearth of journalistic coverage for at least a decade. That's created an enormous problem for Rachel and I in writing on the movement - there are few points of reference in the secular world. Prior to when Rachel and I started writing on Palin and the NAR most of the best writing on the subject was being done by fundamentalists appalled by the NAR's new doctrines, which they saw as heretical. But referring to such work was problematic because many of those authors also wrote from a very tendentious religious viewpoint and often endorsed various forms of bigotry and conspiracy theory.

As a consequence we've had to create our points of reference. A few people have been picking up our work. Kyle Mantyla, the main writer for People For The American Way's Rightwingwatch [ ] is now following NAR leaders in his ongoing, excellent coverage. And Rob Boston of Americans United has picked up on my Hawaii work (links not working right now, the AU server seems to be down).

But there's also considerable resistance, as well, in the field of people who cover religion and politics, to acknowledging the new movement. How was it that Rachel and I, newcomers to the field, picked up on something others had long missed ? I think it's threatening to some. That's very unfortunate, because the New Apostolics are starting to coordinate their organizing efforts, in major US cities, with local police departments. Does that sound ominous ? Well, it should.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:47:38 AM EST

The PRA site does indeed contain some material on the John Birch Society, but not yet the in-depth book-length treatment that is given to Lyndon Larouche.

The PRA site also contains some brief overviews of what it calls "conspiracism."  It would be very helpful if the PRA site could add a more in-depth treatment of "Illuminati"/"New World Order" grand conspiracy claims, including some in-depth debunking of same.

I'm well aware of the dearth of scholarly and journalistic coverage of the NAR.  That's the very problem I'm trying to address in this comment thread:  How do we get journalists and scholars to start paying attention to the NAR?

I've noticed that Kyle and Rob Boston have begun paying attention to some NAR leaders.  However, even they have not yet talked about the NAR itself, as far as I am aware.

So, how do we get journalists and scholars to start paying attention to the NAR?

It really seems to me that blogging -- and promoting this blog -- is just not enough.  I think that your information about the NAR needs to be put together into a book, which could then be promoted at various offline, face-to-face events, to which scholars and the media are invited.  There are people here (such as Frederick Clarkson) with experience writing and promoting books, who could probably give further advice on this.

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 09:33:52 AM EST

...That's a project that has been weighing on my mind.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 05:46:39 PM EST

A few things.  

While we could certainly use some help with site promotion, some of us are not unsophisticated about media relations, and even have some considerable experience in it.

Major media do in fact read this blog and have interviewed some of us about our work, and we have been fortunate enough to have been quoted from time to time.  The problem is not that people don't know about this blog or necessarily even about NAR, and other topics that we have written about here.  It is much more complicated.  I wish that it were not so.  

As for PRA, we are certainly open to talking with PRA or anyone else about how best to further the work of this site.  We certainly wish our work had more visible impact than it does.

That said, there are many things that readers can do to help in the short run.  The most important of these is to use social media. If you have a blog, Facebook page, a Twitter account, and so on, please use them.  The most important readers we need to reach are your friends and colleagues.   Write about or promote things you see and think about here.  Use the comment threads to tell readers that you are doing it. Invite people you know and respect to read and discuss Talk to Action -- and not just on this site.  

This is how we build communities of knowledge and concern.  

As for the matter of comments, many blogs have really crappy comments, and too many of them.  We are very glad when thoughtful and informed conversations take place, good questions get asked and answered, and so on. Certainly discussion of how to best get the information and ideas written about here falls in that category.

While we welcome a sense of online community, we also recognize that it is hard to sustain this kind of community in what is essentially a publishing environment.  Among the many reasons for this, is that people come and go. They have lives.  Even many front page writers have come and gone since we first got started.  

Finally, we also recognize that this site is not for everyone. But for those people it does speak to, for those who find it useful, it is the only thing even remotely like it, and this site is first and foremost for such people. They are welcome to find creative ways to use it consistent with our stated purposes.  I believe that this kind of activity, this acting out of a common sense of purpose, is the main and best way that people will find community here.  It also may be the best way to get noticed.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 02:40:32 AM EST

Frederick Carlson wrote:  "The problem is not that people don't know about this blog or necessarily even about NAR, and other topics that we have written about here.  It is much more complicated."

What are some of the complications you see?

I'm glad to hear that some people here are knowledgeable about media relations.

I don't have a Facebook or Twitter account, but I do have personal blogs, on which I do occasionally link to Talk To Action posts (most recently here), and I also post on message boards now and then.

I agree, Talk To Action is unique.

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:07:24 AM EST

.... for the misspelling of your name in my comment above.

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 09:35:42 AM EST

Thanks to Talk to Action, I was able to get the local Democratic Party to add separation of church and state to the statement of principles.  It was a long fight- because so many people consider us to be "conspiracy nuts" and who refuse to accept that "Yeah, those 'churches' can be THAT BAD!".  Another thing is that Talk to Action (and Dogemperor) provided the information needed to catch and stop a few laws from being passed- for instance, solicitation of money from the public through state agencies specifically for Dobson's Focus on the Family group.

That last- the Democrat party finding out about the underhanded conservative Republican politics, was the kicker that got the line added to the party principles.  If I hadn't been active "in both worlds", it might have passed and the separation of church and state line wouldn't have been added or emphasized.  

The thing is- we ALL have to get involved like this, as nasty as it could be.  Our freedom depends on it.  

I might also suggest changing the citation format used to something a bit more like you'll find in a journal- for instance, in an audio recording transcribe the pertinent portion, add something like "(John Doe, Public Speech July 18, 2010 10 am CDT at the God Rules church, 15:30 into the recording)" followed by the link.  Not just attaching the link which seems to be standard practice.

Not everyone follows links or listens to (or watches) dominionist stuff.  I generally don't follow links, unless it's documentation or transcription.  This would be far more effective for people who are here just to get information.  The "link" citation style is also VERY off-putting for a lot of academics I know, and that should be taken into account.  (I cannot emphasize the "VERY" off-putting enough!!!)

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 09:49:08 AM EST

I second your suggestions, at least in part.

While I wouldn't necessarily urge us all to use the exact citation format you called for, I would say that we should at least name all our sources, by title and author at the very least, if not a complete academic-style citation.

We should avoid the anonymous links that are all too common on blogs.  I know that I personally find anonymous links to be very annoying, I would expect academic scholars to find them even more annoying.

Agreed also that it would be a good idea to transcribe the relevant portion of all audio and video.

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 10:44:04 AM EST

I was just throwing out an example (as a suggestion) that I know would be far more acceptable to the academic world.  The required elements- who said it, where it was said, what time and date, and some sort of link where people can find the source if they want to examine it more closely.

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 12:10:53 PM EST
It is important to accept that this is a blog and not an academic journal, and that is not going to change.

Good sourcing is encouraged via excellent links, but it is not required.  It is important that what we present here be accessible for a wide range of readers of differing levels of background and differing interests.  In that spirit, academic styles of writing and sourcing are discouraged.  

We are an all volunteer operation, and people participate as time and circumstances allow. We have no paid staff, and that is unlikely to change any time soon.  Front page writers and diarists are their own editors and are responsible for their content and presentation.

I realize that all this may seem odd and inexplicable to many, but what I hope people will appreciate is that it is remarkable that this site is still running, considering the many challenges and the real world limits of time and resources.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 04:52:13 PM EST

To again second Fred's point - it's surprising this site continues to put out groundbreaking work that often bests the few funded efforts working in the same general territory.  

I very much agree that academic-style source citation can be preferable to unidentified links (not identified until you follow them, that is) but that convention takes considerably more time and so I suspect, for my part, that if I took the time to do that I might not have time to write the sort of stories I writing now. Additionally, to get any significant readership for what Talk To Action writers contribute to this site requires spending time promoting those stories.

Consider, also, that my story this comment thread is attached to is tracking in real time a political movement that in my opinion will have a significant effect in the 2010 elections. Academic work almost never tracks events in real time - there's a lag of years or, typically, decades. And in the case of this story, many of the story links go to conference footage of New Apostolic Reformation leaders that substantiates what I'm saying in my piece. I'm not aware of any precedent on this scale, at this level of direct substantiation - inside or outside academia.  

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 06:08:57 PM EST

that in my opinion more meta conversations like this one would be very valuable...IF the intention is to encourage participation- on whatever level. People might be willing to bring contributions to the table that could leverage your efforts - if they felt this was welcome.

by marktypos on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:22:19 PM EST
We don't do meta about the site rules and administration. The site is wide open for use by people who share our purposes. We would prefer that people worry less about us, and figure out how best to make better use of what they find here, both in terms of the content and the space to publish themselves and to converse and network with others.

But certainly conversations such as these are welcome because they cause everyone to think about what the site means, and what it means to participate, and so that folks understand more about what our strengths and limitations truly are. We can't be all things to all people, but we do try to do what we do, well.

But as I have said, there are reasons, often good ones, for why and how we do what we do. I have no problem clarifying that from time to time.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 08:49:23 PM EST

When you put a link- maybe put in parentheses the source and approximate date?   Like "(Sermon by Jack Megapreacher, God Rules Church, July 19, 2010)"?

That should only take a few more seconds (I imagine you would not have to go back and check that information), and would be very much appreciated.  If something like the date is not known, an estimate could be made (and we could mention that it is an estimate).

 I know how long it takes to do transcription- I've done it.  Ditto for finding sources.  I do appreciate the less-strict standards of this blog (writing formal papers is very frustrating for me because of the need to triple-check citations and get them right), but I think with a tiny bit more time we could improve our reputation with academia.

In another part of this thread, there was a question about how to develop communications with other groups under attack by the dominionists.  This could be a way to reach out to one such group and improve the chances that they would interact with us.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 02:11:03 PM EST

-- it is academia that needs to improve its reputation, not us.  

If you use the internet, you click on links. If you don't, you are not doing your homework. Simple as  that.

Links are among the important research tools of the times.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 20, 2010 at 12:46:47 AM EST

that led to 30 minute plus sermons- and the quote was in the middle of it and almost taken out of context.  I got subjected to far more Pentecostal/Dominionist preaching than I could stomach (if I didn't know the authors of the articles, I would have thought they were dominionist plants).

I rarely follow links because of things like that (I recently followed another link in a blog- and found the article to be wrong in so many ways that I stopped reading).  Researchers usually want to get the meat- go straight to the portion in question, and not listen to 30 minutes of brainwashing nonsense (or whatever).  If the original author was willing (and able) to listen to things like that and found the information- all well and good.  Don't subject us to it.

The internet is full of bogus stuff- lies, fake research, you name it.  The "Linking" behavior IS standard practice, and while it is good to have the recording/video/article available (I do like that rather than having to use a database or search engine to get any referenced material), a lot of time the links are to something that only marginally supports what the author says it does- if it's not just to another bogus site.  

That isn't so true here (although I do remember encountering something similar a few times), but it is still a problem with the general practice.

Since the practice is the same as used at conspiracy theory sites (for instance), it may be lazy thinking- but people will think of us as being just another one of them.

Also, I would add that most academics don't have the time to read through page after page after page.  We were taught to skim articles- read the abstract, skim a couple of paragraphs in the background and findings, and jump to the analysis/conclusions.  THEN if there might be something worthwhile there or important to our own work, we go back and read the whole thing- or at least the relevant portions.  If I didn't learn that technique and fast, I would not have finished the classes for my MA.  

That is why we use the citing methods we do and why it is so important- so if we need to follow up on something, we can without spending lots of time doing so.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Jul 20, 2010 at 10:16:49 AM EST

But people are just going to have to do their own homework.  If anyone runs into what they consider to be "bogus" links, they should speak up on the comment threads.


by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Jul 20, 2010 at 04:46:23 PM EST

"As for the matter of comments, many blogs have really crappy comments, and too many of them."

Of course, but that's a little like saying that many  books have crappy content. It's not really a reflection on the medium. Many serious sites have excellent, vibrant (and of course moderated) comment sections.

by marktypos on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 01:08:08 PM EST

there is the definition of "crappy content".

by ArchaeoBob on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 01:39:09 PM EST

is clear -- or at least clear enough. And that they are in plentiful supply on many sites is beyond dispute.

That said, again:  We are an all volunteer operation. If a major foundation wished to underwrite editorial, technical, public relations and community moderation functions that would be nice, but frankly is most unlikely to occur.

Beyond that, all I can say is that thoughtful comments and discussion are always welcome and encouraged here.    

by Frederick Clarkson on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 05:04:45 PM EST

Anything at all to help get this information out would be invaluable. This may be hopelessly naive, but what about getting some of these articles to people like Keith Olberman or Rachel Maddow? They, and a handful of others, seem to unafraid to strip off the veneer pasted on by mainstream media complacency, and may be able to provide avenues for getting some of this into the public conversation. Just a thought. Keep up the good work!
Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
- George Orwell
by Ravenmoon on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 07:49:47 PM EST
Are you hereby volunteering to write press releases to be sent to people like Keith Olberman or Rachel Maddow?  Or does anyone else here want to volunteer to do that?

I wish I had the time for this myself, but, alas, I don't.

by Diane Vera on Sun Jul 18, 2010 at 10:57:24 PM EST

Re >>The underlying question is the same for both - why is writing thoughtful, well researched and important content not enough? And again, why do even the most important articles on this site receive so few comments?<<

And of course, the Big Question:  How to bring the very real threat posed by the NAR and similar theocratic movements to the attention of the mass media and the public?

I have been following the thoughtful, well-researched work of Bruce Wilson and Rachel Tabatchnick and the other dedicated regulars of this site for two years now.  I have read with growing alarm their exposes of the New Apostolic Reformation and John Hagee's Christians United For Israel (CUFI) and its unholy alliance with the Israeli extreme right both religious and secular.  But for me and others like me to read this material and become more convinced and more outraged than we were already is basically just preaching to the choir.  I was already convinced of the dangers of theocracy when I joined this site.

And yet this is the first time I have ever ventured to post a comment here.  Part of the reason for that is because I've expressed my outrage at great length on other websites and discussion boards I frequent.  But for the last several months (literally!) I have been trying to work up the nerve to suggest what I'm about to propose here, because I know it will sound perfectly insane at first reading.

The religious left has one weapon at its disposal it has never even picked up, let alone thought about using--namely moral certainty or moral absolutism.  The same kind--and I mean absolutely the same kind!--that the religious right uses.

Think about it.  We have Truth on our side.  We have Liberty, Growth and Evolution on our side.  And what all of that taken together adds up to is that we have GOD on our side!

We are right and they are wrong.

Read that again and again until it sinks in.  And yes, I KNOW the right says the same thing!  It's probably an occupational disease of progressives that we are way too reflective, too nuanced, too self-critical to be effective fighters.  

The right is aware of this tendency both in the areas of religion and politics, and they use it against us.  The worst thing about progressives--and one of the ways we hamstring ourselves--is that we allow them to get away with it, over and over again.  I'm not saying we shouldn't be reflective and self-critical, but we can do that on our own time.  It's none of our enemies' business and we don't allow them to make it their business.

I used the word ENEMIES deliberately and for a reason.  They have declared us the enemy.  They have announced their intention to exterminate liberals of all kinds like rats.  As a Jewish feminist with strong Pagan leanings, I can take a hint.  I am already their enemy on at least three fronts, and most likely everyone reading these words can say the same thing.

So isn't it long past time for the religious left to launch a counter-offensive, to declare a state of spiritual and temporal warfare against THEM?  That would get the attention of the media and the blogosphere like nothing else in the world.  After all, the American public and the media love nothing so much as a great action-packed, elemental battle of Good vs. Evil.  So that's what we should give them, and we'll get their attention.  We are the good guys and they are the bad guys, and we need to get rid of any lingering doubts on that score, because they inhibit our ability to act.

For the record:  I am very much opposed to dualism as a philosophical concept.  As a univeralist I have to believe to that good and evil both have their origin in God, since God includes everything that exists.  But as a purely tactical approach as opposed to a world-view, dualism has a great deal to recommend it.

What I'm recommending specifically:  For someone a lot more Web-savvy than I am to launch an elegant, beautifully produced and very comprehensive website to be called something like "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains."  It's extremely important to use not just the same tactics, but the same symbolism that the right uses.  That way they are sure to get the message.

I've looked at the corresponding theocrat (NAR?) website, and I believe that some of the "seven mountains of culture" are Religion, the Family, Government, Education, the Arts...okay, that's five of them right there.  It's been awhile since I looked at it, but I believe one other is Economics.

The point is that all seven are under attack by the forces of theocracy, and have been for the last 30 years or more.  And the whole time progressives have been watching and documenting the steady encroachments on our civil liberties and religious freedom in growing horror but have been ineffective for the most part in stopping them, or even slowing them in any significant way.  The important thing is to put the NAR and other dominionists on notice that we are no longer simply defending ourselves but counter-attacking--actively pushing back against their encroachments.  And YES, I do understand that this is a dangerous project, but the danger is all the more reason to do what we should have done decades ago.

The good thing is that our enemies have given us several excellent step-by-step manuals of what they've done and how they've done it.  The strategies that worked for them will work even better for us.  After all, we are right and they are wrong.  Therefore we can afford to be completely upfront about both our methods and our goals.  There is no need for their deceptive Machiavellian tactics because we aren't Machiavellians.  But aside from lying and other forms of deception, I thing we can adopt most of their strategies.

So I suggest we adopt most of the tactics that have worked for them--INCLUDING spiritual warfare and so-called "spiritual mapping."  I'm serious.  Places like Sarah Palin's Assembly of God Church and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church could be labeled "theocrat strongholds" and cities like Newark and even threatened states like Hawaii could be labeled "enemy occupied territory."

They have probably done most of the work for us already--all that would be necessary would be to exchange their labels for our own.

Three reasons I hesitated for before I ventured to make this "modest proposal" in public.  (1) I was afraid everyone would think I'm crazy; (2) I didn't want Bruce Wilson and Rachel Tabatchnick and others to receive any more death threats than they already get; and (3) I don't want to start receiving any death threats myself.  So far I haven't gotten any simply because nobody has ever heard of me, and I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible.  I'm not even a very prolific blogger, just a nebbish with a long history of spouting off on interfaith discussion boards.

by Raksha on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 12:39:24 AM EST

At some point, this can't be treated as a symmetrical struggle. The religious left cannot behave like the religious right, because totalitarian movements gain their certainty from dogma. Dogma is rooted in the past, implanted by conformity in all normal members of society, and activated by right-wing extremists using the sort of methods documented at this site.-------------- The opposite of this is revolution.----------------- Revolution requires a kind of faith. Mancur Olson's famous paper on collective action implied that revolution might be a rational act on a collective scale, but rational individuals would lay low and hope to collect benefits as free riders if the revolution succeeded. So the fact that revolutions ever succeed indicate that non-rational elements are at work.-------------- However, that is not necessarily the same thing as dogmatic religious certainty. Which is good, because revolutions that have gotten too close to that certainty have gotten very bloody and self-destructive.------------- (I'm going to have to split up this post because I can't make paragraph breaks for some reason.)

by super390 on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 02:18:34 AM EST
Political certainty is simply the confidence that one's enemies are moving to seize power and enact policies that will make one's life intolerable - worth dying to oppose. Revolutions against conservative systems have happened when it was clear that the system was growing more brutal, more incompetent or more undemocratic as a long-term tendency. That probably squeezes out the free riders, but it produces a coalition that agrees on the immediate struggle and little else.--------------- The struggle against right-wing oligarchism will involve such a coalition. A coalition between hypothetical dogmatic religious leftists and stone-cold atheist socialists and people who just want to be left the hell alone is a tricky matter. They will each come to the conference table with their own gripes against the bad guys. Political movements require political education, and the focus of this education must be the common background of right-wing elements in a conspiracy to create a permanent triumph of inequality and injustice.------------ The main characteristic of the right is its worship of a cherry-picked past of anti-egalitarian examples. Sites like this one delve past the surface doctrine (for the media's microphones) to the writings of the original conspirators like Rushdoony. There we see the nightmare of the end game. But we should also thus see why capitalism, homophobia, tribalism, racism, militarism and theocracy nestle so comfortably together.-------------- To see how much of our normal society and institutions are dedicated to evil pushes us together, despite our differing personal agendas, towards a demand for social reform that can only be called revolutionary. We have the advantage that we can see that our country is the aberration, that it veered off a course of social justice that Canada and the western democracies have mostly continued to pursue with success.--------------

by super390 on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 02:20:06 AM EST
I also contend that ideologies spring from their environment. If the bad guys are winning it's because their followers are living in an environment that didn't exist before or didn't have the same relation to other parts of the nation. American suburbs seem to be the cradle of modern right-wing evil and they seem quite aberrant in their denial of the validity of the cities upon which they are parasites. Most of the resistance to the right seems to come from cities and college towns. Revolutions have geography, which the Tea Partiers appreciate when Beck comes up with his slogans du jour like "We Surround You." The great, somewhat violent overthrow of backwards capitalism in the New Deal was very much a victory of urban over rural, but the left coalition included farmers disgusted with their ruination at the hands of big business.------------- What is important is that the urban progressives had a vision of a modern society whose reforms could promise benefits to some in the enemy camp. It was not a totalitarian vision, or it could not have assembled such a diverse coalition. It included religious progressives, but those persons did not expect to be the dominant actors in the future they helped build, and they were not marked by dogmatism. They must have understood that in that future they would have to put up with a lot of things they wouldn't agree with.------------- That New Deal coalition is essentially the one that waged the war against global fascism, and was replicated by coalitions in Japan and the Western democracies that have left those societies mostly urban, diverse and agnostic in character. What makes that coalition so impossible in America now?------------ 1. Faith in "progress" has collapsed except in the narrowest sense of personal consumption. 2. Therefore no one is sure the pie will get bigger, thus instead of planning its more equitable distribution, we fight over the ever-scarcer crumbs. 3. We are tempted to find the biggest bullies to follow, and self-serving ideologies and superstitions breed bullies like flies.

by super390 on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 02:36:16 AM EST
We need a vision of what our lives could be like when we defeat our enemies. Otherwise we are just sending a negative message and unfortunately a society brainwashed by salesmen will only respond to positive action. That means that the religious have a political certainty of what their role ought to be after a successful revolution whether it is violent or not. The same is true of women, small businesspersons, laborers, minorities, educators, etc.---------- Political education then is about learning how to create a society that will not lend itself to the seductions of theocracy and plutocracy. The political education at Talk To Action is learning how Americans are vulnerable to these seductions due to the flaws in their historical knowledge, political awareness (low involvement), corporate media control, and especially their prejudice in assuming the best motives of those marching under the cross instead of, very possibly, the worst motives seen in a powerful country since the fall of Hitler.

by super390 on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 02:51:39 AM EST
Re "At some point, this can't be treated as a symmetrical struggle. The religious left cannot behave like the religious right, because totalitarian movements gain their certainty from dogma. Dogma is rooted in the past, implanted by conformity in all normal members of society, and activated by right-wing extremists using the sort of methods documented at this site."

I realize that the religious left can't behave like the religious right since we aren't motivated by dogma and conformity, and  I apologize for my poor choice of words that led you to believe that's what I meant.  I said "moral absolutism or moral certainty" when what I really meant was moral clarity, of the kind that the abolitionists had, or more recently, that Martin Luther King had or Nelson Mandela had.

I was wrong also to say moral certainty or clarity is a weapon the left has never even picked up, let alone thought about using.  That was wrong and unfair when it's the motivating force behind every regular contributor on this site, as well as most and hopefully all of the readers.  

But again it gets right back to the problem of communication--why aren't we PERCEIVED as having moral clarity?  The right has so completely dominated the discussion of religious and moral issues for the past 30 years that fanaticism is perceived as zeal or passion and tolerance as weakness by a large percentage of the American public, at least by those who don't question whatever they hear from the pulpit.  Since I've never been one of them (raised in Reform Judaism) I tend to forget they exist, although I had a shocking reminder of it just this afternoon.  That's a subject for another comment, though.

So in desperation I have taken to advocating a rhetoric of confrontation and warfare like the right uses, although I hope and pray that the revolution will be a nonviolent one when it comes.  I'm glad though that my little rant started you off on a brainstorming session of your own.  It was never intended to be the last word on the subject even for me, let alone for anyone else!


by Raksha on Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 07:43:25 PM EST

for misspelling her name in my long post above.  I won't let it happen again.

by Raksha on Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 12:52:45 AM EST

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