Harvard 'Social Transformation Conference' To Feature Avowed Witch Hunters
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 24, 2011 at 03:33:23 PM EST
[ed - for related stories, see Talk To Action contributor Rachel Tabachnick's NAR Apostles' Brand of "Transformation" to be Promoted at Conference at Harvard and also Who are the Apostles? What is the New Apostolic Reformation? Seven Mountains Campaign?. Also see Everything You Need to Know About The Speakers at This Weekend’s Harvard Hate Conference published at Truth Win Out.

Update: see body of story for 2 new video documentaries showing close links between speakers scheduled for the Social Transformation Conference and professed co-author of Uganda's so-called "kill the gays bill" Julius Oyet.]

While Salem has garnered all the attention, the real peak of the Massachusetts Bay Colony's witch craze was in what is now North Andover, where two dogs were tried and executed for witchcraft. It's been a few years now since witch hunting was in vogue in Massachusetts, but the upcoming Social Transformation Conference to be held at Harvard this April 1-2 could help rekindle the practice. Footage from a November 2009 evangelical conference held at the Hilton Hawaiian Village near Honolulu shows scheduled Social Transformation Conference speaker Dr. Pat Francis up onstage, her voice cracking with intensity, shouting out "In the name of Jesus we break the power, of witchcraft power, every witchcraft power, we drive you out!"

As documented in my new 14 and 1/2 minute video, four of the speakers slated for the Social Transformation Conference, to be held at the Harvard Northwest Science building, promote the idea that witchcraft is a pressing contemporary societal concern. Three of those also claim that entire family lines can be collectively cursed because of ancestral involvement in idolatry and witchcraft.

The video demonstrates that these four conference speakers are "apostles" in a global evangelical network whose leaders appear bent on restoring a Pre-Enlightenment worldview in which believers and society are beset by demons including succubi and incubi, menaced by the conjoined threats of apostasy and idolatry, and plagued by "generational curses"--these apostles represent a Christian supremacist movement whose leaders encourage believers to cleanse the Earth of infidels and competing belief systems.

Update, March 31, 2011: Witchcraft isn't the only issue. My two new videos, below, emphasize close ties between two of the speakers at the Harvard Social Transformation Conference and Ugandan evangelical leader Julius Oyet, who says he helped plan and write Uganda's internationally-denounced "kill the gays bill".]

Controversy over the conference started with two pieces by Michael Jones of Change.org and Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out. Both organizations are committed to fighting for gay rights, and many of the speakers scheduled for the upcoming conference are tied to antigay organizing and rhetoric. As Jones' story documented, some of the featured speakers slated for the conference, such as Bill Hamon, seem to advocate imposing the death penalty for homosexuality.  

A hard-hitting op-ed in the Harvard Crimson published March 24 notes that  while proponents of the Social Transformation conference promise it will be an "existential encounter that will renew and revive your passion to be agents of change", rhetoric from featured speakers such as Lance Wallnau clashes wildly with portrayal of the conference as inclusive.

In an October 2010 broadcast Wallnau declared, "So you've got your homosexual activity, your abortion activity here, Islam coming in, you've got a financial collapse--all of this, to those of us who are Christians, is an apocalyptic confirmation that when you remove God from public discourse, when you don't line up your thinking with kingdom principles, you inevitably hit an iceberg like the Titanic and you go down." Do the speakers for the event have the right to express their opinions? Of course, but should they be allowed to co-brand themselves with Harvard? As the Crimson explains,

"Of course, we do not dispute the value of the First Amendment and believe that Harvard can and should invite to campus any speaker it wishes. In the case of speakers who are known widely for intolerant or strongly offensive views, however, they should not be put on a pedestal--quite literally--and be allowed to take advantage of speaking under a Harvard banner and the legitimacy that banner affords naturally affords them...

By hosting a panel discussion whose participants will merely voice their opinions without being called upon to justify their past incendiary remarks, the event seems to accept incredibly offensive opinions without providing any internal challenge. In a sense, the intellectual integrity of the entire Harvard community is consequently on trial with this coming conference." [emphasis mine]

The Harvard Crimson also notes that writing by Os Hillman, another featured speaker, suggests that the inclusion of a gay character in the Harry Potter movie series "is how the frog in the kettle gets hotter and hotter until we wake up one day and realize we have totally lost the culture and we have become a nation like Sodom and Gomorrah in which God had to destroy the entire city."  

But what these previous critiques have so far missed is that Os Hillman, Lance Wallnau, Pat Francis, and Bill Hamon are identifiably part of a global evangelical network that's not just in the forefront of antigay organizing globally; they are "apostles" in the International Coalition of Apostles, and all but Hillman are on the ICA's elite Apostolic Council. In addition, along with more notorious evangelical antigay figures such as Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs, and Bishop Harry Jackson, Bill Hamon is a member of the "Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders" (here's a list of members:  http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word/4655 ), which is a major leadership entity in the movement, collectively known as the New Apostolic Reformation. As Rachel Tabachnick explains,

The NAR was organized under the leadership of Convening Apostle C. Peter Wagner, who describes the international movement as a spontaneous Holy Spirit-inspired phenomenon which provides its followers supernatural powers for healing, prophecy, and the expulsion of demons.  The leadership of this post-denominational movement seeks to bring together Charismatic evangelical Christians in order to take Christian dominion over the earth in preparation for the end times.  These goals are spelled out explicitly in the books of leadership including C. Peter Wagner who formed the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) to lead the movement...

These apostles differ from fundamentalists of the past in their belief that they can "transform" communities through Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW), a process in which they claim to identify and purge literal demonic beings from a population in order to take Christian "dominion" over society and government.  The leadership has produced a number of very slick campaigns which tout their charitable potential  to overwhelmed municipalities, but the underlying agenda is Christian supremacist and founded on demonization of others."

Written as a companion story to accompany my new video, Tabachnick's story NAR Apostles' Brand of "Transformation" to be Promoted at Conference at Harvard helps explain why such a movement might have been able to infiltrate Harvard:

"As noted in previous articles, the NAR introduces their brand of transformation through charitable efforts and supposedly ecumenical prayer groups.  The movement is multi-racial and includes women in positions of both apostle and prophet.  At first glance many of their organizations might appear as promoting the social gospel but their message is quite the opposite.  While they participate in charitable activities, societal transformation is to be a supernatural event which can only take place was the demons are expelled and society is purged of evil influences such as homosexuality, religious pluralism, and the separation of church and state."

I just watched the video and thought you might be interested in my impressions of it.  That in itself is a bigger deal for me than you might think, because I only got a high-speed DSL modem a few months ago.  Before that I was on dial-up, so I was unable to watch online videos until recently.

Even though the names of the NAR movers and shakers such as Cindy Jacobs, Lou Engle, C. Peter Wagner, etc. are familiar to me from T2A's essays, I was totally unfamiliar with their speaking style and didn't even know what they looked like.  Sure, I've been in situations where I've had televangelists inflicted on me by other members of the household, but I live alone now so even that hasn't happened for a long time.

Anyway, I started the video expecting to see full-blown frothing-at-the-mouth religious fanatics, but I came away with the overwhelming impression that I was watching a performance.  I thought to myself, "these people are acting," and not all that badly either.  Just not quite good enough.  It struck me as a very slick, very polished performance--almost but not quite convincing.  

Now they may be perfectly sincere in their beliefs, fanatical, misguided and intolerant as they are.  I don't know; I'm in no position to judge anyone else's sincerity.  But somehow I doubt it.  Watching the black lady, especially, I found myself thinking, "Come on...you KNOW you'd much rather be making a rock video than preaching a sermon against witchcraft!"

So aside from my disgust at the intolerance and ignorance they were peddling (which I expected), one of my strongest impressions of the video is that I was watching a bunch of frustrated actors who flunked their screen tests at some point.  I have very little real-world experience with fundamentalist Christianity.  Can anyone more familiar with the scene tell me if there is any basis for that impression?

by Raksha on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 03:39:00 PM EST

But I would say this - Some of the leaders featured in the video have been leaders of their evolving movement for decades. They've shown tremendous commitment to propagating their ideas. I have to wonder whether Lance Wallnau really believes or not (something about his sarcastic affect perhaps) but I have to give Pat Francis the benefit of the doubt and as for the others, Lou Engle, Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, etc., I feel confident they are what they appear to be - charismatic religious supremacists.

Bear in mind that to be an evangelist is to be an actor, to some extent. But that doesn't necessarily belie belief, and there are many gradations of belief. And, don't forget that these leaders are influencing millions of people, especially in the developing world. It's easier, I think, to discount them if one considers them to be mere actors in a play, but down the road the play itself can have real consequences.

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Mar 27, 2011 at 06:18:15 PM EST

... of the apostles.  I also think that we underestimate them if we assume that this is all an act.  Furthermore, unlike the last generation of televangelists (ie. Benny Hinn, John Hagee, etc.) many of these apostles are not making lavish incomes or building personal empires. However, these apostles are also working in an environment of extreme "free market" conditions.  Their ministries are independent and if they can't raise the money to support them, they don't survive. This is a very different world than that of your average pastors and priests.

Like televangelists of the past, these apostles must have good stage skills, but they differ from the stereotypical image of televangelists in that most are contemporary in their dress and appearance and have developed presentations that are appealing to young people.  For instance, most dress casually for services, often in jeans and their speaking is often interspersed with contemporary music, sometimes with musicians playing in the background.  Their events around the world include popular evangelical performers and at first glance look more like a rock concert than a revival.

I think the apostles prove that our stereotypical image of the Religious Right is badly outdated!

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