Teenage Mutant Theocrats -- Updated
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 10:38:38 PM EST
Devin Burghart of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights reports that a recent regional Tea Party Patriots conference held in Idaho was a far-right stew of  
"...racist "birther" attacks on President Obama, discussions of the conspiracy behind the problem facing America (complete with anti-Semitic illustration), Christian nationalism, anti-environmentalism, and serious calls for legislation promoting states' rights and "nullification."

While Christian nationalism is often in the mix in such far right settings as this, the presentation on the subject stood out to veteran rightwatcher Burghart.  

[One of the speakers was]...Sandpoint High School senior Brady Smith, who had attended something called "the patriot academy" in Texas.  A lanky redhead in a dark suit. Smith read from his notes about how the root cause of the country's sickness was that we've forsaken our Godly heritage as a Christian nation. He listed several problems: the attack on "traditional marriage," abortion, and our public education system not teaching Christianity, as symptoms of the larger sickness. The cure to all that ails the country, according to Smith, was a return to our Godly heritage. His remarks were warmly received. But to the outside observer, Brady Smith's youth foretold a tragedy in the making.

You may be wondering, as I did, what is the Patriot Academy?  It turns out that it may not only be where Brady Smith got many of his ideas -- it provides us with a window on the growing role of conservative Christian homeschooling in Republican electoral politics.  

Patriot Academy is a training and ideological indoctrination program for young prospective conservative political leaders. Held annually at the Texas state capitol in Austin since 2003, the Patriot Academy is a project of Torch of Freedom Foundation, headed by Rick Green a former State Representative (1999-2003) from Dripping Springs, Texas. Green is also an associate of Christian historical revisionist David Barton's Wall Builders empire. Green travels the U.S. giving Christian nationalist lectures at churches, Christian academies and home schooling conventions. He ran as a the Republican candidate in a close-but- unsuccessful race for the Texas Supreme Court in 2010. (David Barton is the former longtime Vice-Chair of the Texas Republican Party, who has barnstormed the country on behalf of the Republican National Committee in election years.) The group's Facebook page describes the event as "a five-day political training program where students age sixteen to twenty-five learn about America's system of government from a Biblical worldview." They claimed that 85 students from 22 states participated in 2010 and that they are hoping for 100 at the next session in August 2011. Many participants have been homeschooled. Interestingly, the Torch for Freedom Foundation web site, has among its very few links to other groups, one to an apparently forthcoming electorally focused entity called Stand USA.. Also interesting, is that the Patriot Academy's Facebook site "Likes" only two other sites -- Rick Green and American Majority. The latter turns out to be an electoral training organization headed by Ned Ryun, the co-founder of Generation Joshua, the political mobilization arm of the Christian Rightist, Home School Legal Defense Association. He is the son of former Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) and is a former writer for president George W. Bush. American Majority, also produces historical material, which while de-emphasizing religious themes, seeks to adjust history to justify their current political views. History is powerful, which is why the religious and secular right invoke it so often. But progressives have generally not done well in addressing how the religious and secular right manipulates history to craft a contemporary political narrative that places them conveniently as the true interpreters of the will of God and the Founding Fathers. I wrote back in 2007 that
Christian revisionist-influenced political breezes are even blowing in the Democratic Party. Prominent campaign consultants are advising their clients not to use the phrase separation of church and state because it raises "red flags with people of faith" and because the phrase does not appear in the Constitution. This is an excellent example of how successful Christian revisionists have been in their efforts to delegitimize the term as part of their efforts to shape and control public discourse in their direction. This is also symptomatic of the way that our political leaders are so far away from being able to articulate a compelling narrative of the story of religious liberty in America, that some are conceding the ground and listening to campaign consultants who say that it is better to say nothing.
Clearly, we need to do better, much better than this. Meanwhile, homeschoolers steeped in Christian nationalism have been systematically groomed and mobilized to provide fresh blood and perspective in the Republican coalition. And national pols who know better, from John McCain to Newt Gingrich are pandering to Christian Nationalism. According to an article in World Net Daily, profiling the homeschooled (til the 9th grade) and then-Congresswoman elect Jaime Herrera (R-WA)
Homeschoolers were active nationwide in the mid-term elections, with a division of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association called Generation Joshua deploying 900 students in 21 races. The Student Action Teams, or SATs, of about 45 or 50 were sent out five days before the election. In previous elections, they have worked for candidates such as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Gov. Bob McDonnel of Virginia and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Daniel Webster, a homeschooling father, who was infamously smeared by opponent Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., as "Taliban Dan," was a beneficiary of Generation Joshua's Florida efforts last week. Webster defeated Grayson by 18 points.
At this writing, American Majority (whose constituency certainly extends far beyond homeschoolers) has trainings coming up in a dozen states, notably the battleground state of Wisconsin. Meanwhile, the more extreme elements of the homeschooling movement have had many years to develop, and have done so largely unnoticed, with a few exceptions. The 2006 documentary Jesus Camp revealed neo-pentecostal summer camp director Becky Fischer proudly teaching children that their lives would be defined by their service in God's Army, and that that was not merely metaphorical. The film also showed Religious Right leader Lou Engle personally coaching the children (on a field trip from North Dakota) in antiabortion protest at the U.S. Supreme Court. All this follows the trends that were clear when I was writing about Christian nationalism and revolutionary theocratic elements of Christian homeschooling for my book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy. At the time, a staffer at the Home School Legal Defense Association, Chris Klicka wrote that sending children to public school "violates nearly every Biblical principle... It is tantamount to sending our children to be trained by the enemy." Klicka also urged Christian homechoolers not to have anything to do with non-Christian homeschoolers. "The differences I am talking about," he insisted, "have resulted in wars in the not too distant past." Journalist Eleanor Bader wrote about one revolutionary political training effort in 2009. She reported that longtime antiabortion leader (Operation Save America) Rusty Thomas was organizing what he called a Kingdom Leadership Institute, which is a forerunner to what he believes will be a bloody conflict the goal of which will be, writes Bader,
"...not only to criminalize abortion and homosexuality, return prayer to the schools, get women out of the workplace, and declare the U.S. a Christian nation, but also to impose Biblical rule on all who reside within our national borders."
In briefly highlighting these elements of the homeschooling movement, I do not mean to suggest that all homeschoolers, or even Christian homeschoolers, are necessarily conservative, theocratic or even political. Rather, it is important to understand these elements that are active and significant, even if mostly operating just beyond our field of vision. It is also important to stress that just because parents and teachers might try to raise children to become theocratic end times revolutionaries and/or faux 21st century versions of the Founding Fathers, that doesn't mean that they will succeed in raising up a generation of David Bartons, Rick Greens, Rusty Thomas's, Lou Engles and Becky Fischers. But by that standard, it doesn't mean that they won't either.

Update [2011-4-23 0:27:49 by Frederick Clarkson]: I have since found a clip of the relevant sections of Jesus Camp featuring Engle. Powerful stuff. (Hat tip to boofdah at Daily Kos.)

.. if I did not mention the excellent report on David Barton published today by Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way, and also acknowledge the important work on Barton and Christian historical revisionism by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the Texas Freedom Network, Rob Boston at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Chris Rodda, Bruce Wilson, and Rachael Tabachnick here at Talk to Action -- and no doubt, many others who do not immediately come to mind.

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 11:18:30 PM EST
Compare Hitler to the neotheocrat above- (and note, there were devout Christians like the Scholls who resisted Hitler's march) "Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith." ( Adolf Hitler, in 26 April 1933 in a speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant of 1933; from Ernst Helmreich, The German Churches Under Hitler. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1979, p. 241. ) "I know that here and there the objection has been raised: Yes, but you have deserted Christianity. No, it is not that we have deserted Christianity; it is those who came before us who deserted Christianity. We have only carried through a clear division between politics, which have to do with terrestrial things, and religion, which must concern itself with the celestial sphere. There has been no interference with the doctrine of the Confessions or with their religious freedom, nor will there be any such interference. On the contrary the State protects religion, though always on the one condition that religion will not be used as a cover for political ends. "There may have been a time when even parties founded on the ecclesiastical basis were a necessity. At that time Liberalism was opposed to the Church, while Marxism was anti-religious. But that time is past. National Socialism neither opposes the Church nor is it anti-religious, but on the contrary, it stands on the ground of a real Christianity. "The Church's interests cannot fail to coincide with ours alike in our fight against the symptoms of degeneracy in the world of to-day, in our fight against the Bolshevist culture, against an atheistic movement, against criminality, and in our struggle for the consciousness of a community in our national life, for the conquest of hatred and disunion between the classes, for the conquest of civil war and unrest, of strife and discord. These are not anti-Christian, these are Christian principles." ( Adolf Hitler, in a speech delivered at Koblenz, August 26, 1934; from Norman H. Baynes, ed., The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939. Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1942, p. 386. )

by zowie on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 03:17:04 PM EST
...Having been raised by the Kingdom Theology/Dominionist/Latter Rain/YWAM/Assemblies of God/Homeschool A Beka, I know what you're talking about.

These people frighteningly resemble the Third Reich in many many different ways to me aside from simply Left Behind and The Final Quest.  I started recognizing this at the age of 15/16 having left "Christian" homeschool in 9th grade.

Thankfully, which has been both a blessing and a curse, I was able to get my hands on Les Miserables which I read when I was 17.  I finally had read a careful presentation on what actual Christian values might resemble and cemented my disgust of Evangelical Christianity.

It wasn't until recently (26 now) that I started reading the words of Hitler and coming to the knowledge that so much of what I was taught might as well have been plagiarized from Mein Kampf.

Unfortunately there seems to be two breeds of homeschoolers - those who are very intelligent and get the royal treatment by academia both because their parents have taught them to pursue academic goals for a career and because they are inherently intelligent, and there are those who were taught the whole world is ending and that they must dedicate their lives to saving the lost before judgment day arrives lest God punish them for failing to convert as many to him before the blight of the heathens is exterminated in the final battle.  

Unfortunately, I was the latter, and, for that, I will never forgive them.

by OldChaosoftheSun on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 03:38:21 PM EST

It's interesting to be an atheist homeschooling parent.

Many homeschoolers are unaware of HSLDA's dominionist goals, and tend to go running to them for legal advice when issues arise. They are fairly insidious. By providing a desperately needed service (free legal advice to people in a stressful, uncertain situation, who are deeply concerned about their children's welfare), they are cultivating unwitting allies to their cause.

Ironically, they have a piss-poor track record when it comes to "defending" homeschooling in a legal setting. Their militant attitude and rejection of provable fact tends to make state boards of education and courts strive to do exactly the opposite of HSLDA's demands. However, since the result of their buffoonery tends to hurt all homeschool families by creating "government interference," it ends up giving them more traction instead of less, because people tend to blame the government for overreaching, rather than blaming HSLDA for being a bunch of legal hacks who couldn't see a logical argument if it were 400 feet tall and doing the "Snoopy dance" on their front lawn in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

Beware of the everyday brutality of the averted gaze.
by mataliandy on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 02:19:17 AM EST

it is always good to remind ourselves that just because an organization has money and dominionist goals, does not necessarily mean that they are competent, or that the entire organization is competent.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 10:36:19 AM EST

that there is a homeschool advocacy web site that devotes a lot of attention to the alleged deficiencies of the HSLDA.  It looks interesting.


by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 11:26:33 AM EST

...It's unfortunate they won't devote any resources to helping keep home-schoolers from sexual slavery by religious pedophiles.  A child locked in room with a solely religious social environment is susceptible to any form of indoctrination, including that they must perform sex acts for salvation and to help their family pay bills.  

by OldChaosoftheSun on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 05:05:01 PM EST
...Should only be legal if there is reasonable external oversight.  If they ran 20 kids in my town through a child-molestation ring, they certainly aren't exclusively employing those tactics exclusively here.  

by OldChaosoftheSun on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 05:25:44 PM EST

that you reminded us that not all homeschoolers are religiously oriented.

Around here, it's usually safe to connect homeschooling with fundamentalism/dominionism.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 20, 2011 at 05:57:52 PM EST

I hereby nominate 'Teenage Mutant Theocrats' as the best title ever for a T2A story.

by COinMS on Thu Apr 21, 2011 at 10:24:31 AM EST

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