Another Senior Journalist Confesses to Ignorance
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sun Aug 21, 2011 at 08:15:17 PM EST
First, two veteran CNN journalists admitted that they had never heard of such major terms as dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism or the New Apostolic Reformation until reading an article by Michelle Goldberg on The Daily Beast.   Now comes religion writer Lisa Miller of The Washington Post with a column in which she describes the New Apostolic Reformation as "a previously unknown Christian group."   One could say many things about the NAR. Low profile, perhaps. Publicity shy, maybe.  But the NAR is far from unknown, except perhaps to Lisa Miller.
Megachurch pastor Ted Haggard wrote about the NAR in a book published in 1998. By 2003, he was elected president of the National Association of Evangelicals and was one of the best known and most visible figures in evangelicalism.  Bruce Wilson reported on this in the prominent online magazine Religion Dispatches in 2009.  Haggard worked closely with NAR founder C.Peter Wagner in promoting the movement, which was rooted in the Pentecostal/Charismatic "Third Wave" of the 1980s and 90s. Wagner himself writes about NAR in a book in 2002.

Of course, neither Wagner nor Haggard were marginal or obscure figures. Wagner is a widely published author who was for 30 years (among other things) a professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary.  As Wilson reported, Wagner was busy doing high profile teaching and publishing and working with vast networks of apostles and prophets, worldwide from his World Prayer Center, and the Wagner Leadership Institute.  Wagner's views have been controversial among many evangelicals, even as they have been widely influential among others.  

The NAR splashed dramatically on the national radar screen in 2008 when Sarah Palin's involvement was widely reported. Bill Berkowitz summarized in a retrospective article last year on AlterNet:  

Presidential campaign watchers got their first taste of the New Apostolic Reformation when it was revealed that Sarah Palin, while mayor of Wasilla, had been prayed over in a laying-on-of-hands by Rev. Thomas Muthee of Kenya, director of the NAR East Africa Spiritual Warfare Network, in a ceremony designed to protect Palin from witches and demons. Muthee, it turns out, is famous in his native land for driving out of town a woman he deemed a witch, a charge that had her neighbors calling for her stoning.

Palin, according to Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier, became part of her prayer network at the age of 24. Wasilla is no stranger to wandering NAR leaders. Last June, Apostle Lance Wallnau stopped through in the course of his world travels, promoting the movement's Reclaiming the Seven Mountains of Culture campaign at Wasilla Alaska Assembly of God Church -- the very church at which Muthee laid hands on Palin. (The "seven mountains" are the realms of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion.) Other NAR luminaries dropping by Wasilla last year include leading international Apostles Naomi Dowdy and Dutch Sheets.

There were a number of videos documenting Palin's involvement in NAR, made during the 2008 elections.  These were widely discussed and footage of Palin appearing at NAR ceremonies was even shown on national television.  Here is one by Bruce Wilson.

Its bad enough that Miller hasn't heard of such a major movement in evangelicalism and so presumes that no one else could have either.  What's worse is that she writes that the recent stories in The New Yorker, The Texas Observer and The Daily Beast "raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees"  -- and then spends the rest of the piece telling us why we should not be concerned.  Her main point is that not all evangelicals think like that.  True.  But no one said that they do.

She says that the "echo-chamber effect" of the articles "reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians."  This might be an interesting point, but she does not bother to provide any evidence that this might be so, and if it was, what the consequences might be.  And while we might not be surprised to find liberals who make broad brush generalizations about evangelicals, what is astounding is that Miller would try to make her point by making broad brush generalizations about liberals.  

The very next sentence is similarly revealing.  "Some on the left" she claims, "seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world."   That may be. But she does not say who, or how many, the extent that such views might exist  and of what consequence they might be.  

The whole column is like this.

"'Dominionism'", she declares, "is the paranoid mot du jour."  Unfortunately, she does not say who exactly is being paranoid or what exactly they are paranoid about.  

If the knocking down of straw men is remarkable in this piece, so is the use of false equivalence.

"Certain journalists" she claims, "use 'dominionist' the way some folks on Fox News use the word 'sharia.'"  She does not name any journalists who do this. She offers no examples of scary misuse of the term dominionist. She makes no effort to show how her unsubstantiated charge against  unnamed journalists is in anyway like what happens on Fox News.  

Finally, there is her stated reason for this column. "It's a plea," she writes, "given the acrimonious tone of our political discourse, for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion."  

I hope Miller will take her own plea to heart.

Frank Schaeffer  also had a  mostly great article about Bachmann and the religious right at d_by_my_dad_and_his_christian_reconstructionist_friends_--_here%2 7s_why_that%27s_terrifying/ . He also points out that he believes that there are too many sane Christians to allow these fakes to take over, even as he points out that majority opinion is the last thing these folks would respect.

Just like the European bird, the wren is blind to the threat posed by the cuckoo in its nest and thinks it the best of all possible wrens as it claims perfection in all the things the wren measures. But all those measures are simply camouflage of its real intentions that do not include anything good for wrens.

Dominionists and their subversion (steeplejacking) of Christian churches and organizations, and the building of their own front groups has been well documented on this site, and though the similarity with other theocratic right wing groups set on subversion of other religions has been less documented here, the remarkable similarity of all of them to each other more than to the religion they camouflage in is the key IMHO to defeating their agenda, as well as using each other to stir up bigotry in their hosts to give each other more power.

I believe the real Cuckoo Metaphor (as opposed to just a synonym for crazy) is the process that can make the most headway in the discussion. It changes the discussion from "our religion vs their religion" to every religion has theocratic cuckoos that need to be opposed with out bothering about what religion they want to impose, as it would have little in common with the honorable form of that religion in any case.

by FreeDem on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 12:44:32 AM EST

"Dominionists and their subversion (steeplejacking) of Christian churches and organizations, and the building of their own front groups has been well documented on this site, and though the similarity with other theocratic right wing groups set on subversion of other religions has been less documented here, the remarkable similarity of all of them to each other more than to the religion they camouflage in is the key IMHO to defeating their agenda, as well as using each other to stir up bigotry in their hosts to give each other more power."

I have a hard time understanding what you are trying to convey due to the overuse of run-on sentences.

by LupusGreywalker on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 10:04:27 AM EST

Lisa Miller's ignorance of the New Apostolic Reformation is unnecessary given the fact that Peter Wagner's apostles have published dozens (probably hundreds, in fact) of books and their movement has produced many thousands of hours of conference footage, a good deal of which now gets internationally broadcast on God TV--to millions of believers worldwide.

In addition, NAR theology has led to very public rifts among Christian conservatives. Marsha West and Brannon Howse, previously affiliated with the American Family Association, have recently leveled a barrage of criticism against the AFA for partnering with the NAR's apostles, in conjunction with Rick Perry's The Response event.

Conservative criticism of the NAR is hardly new however--the so-called "discernment ministries" have been closely tracking the movement, which they accuse of heresy, for more than a decade (two decades, in some cases).

by Bruce Wilson on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 08:25:21 AM EST

.. ministries have lives to live, jobs to attend to, and never enough time or money to focus on the NAR culture. Not too many of my Pentecostal or Charismatic brethren are going to fund my efforts in this regard nor help me pay my own bills - but then again, I've not tried to be a Perry Stone or a Hank Hanegraaf figure either. I do what I can, though. There's just never enough time ..

by rev rafael on Sat Aug 27, 2011 at 11:02:50 AM EST

Journalists living in the Northeast and on the West Coast tend to ignore The Rest of US. They don't have the experience of driving between cities and finding nothing but rock 'n roll, country music, and religious programs on the FM radio. They don't see ads for revivals to be held at their local Family stadium / convention center (yes, that's the name of the local suburban stadium/ concert venue/convention center, as opposed to the urban counterparts). They don't see "Christian bookstores" containing free "Christian yellow pages" at their local strip mall. They don't have people asking which church they attend.

If you live in the Midwest or the South, the above phenomena are prominent enough for the curious non-Evangelical to conclude that there is an Evangelical subculture out there.

WaPo reads like a company newspaper, and no doubt the religion news is covered with a strong slant toward politics. That still doesn't explain why the religion reporter is ignorant of the politicized versions of Evangelical Christianity. Coastal snobbery? (eh, being paranoid again...)

by NancyP on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 02:19:45 PM EST

... starting to throw around the names of the movements that we've been covering here for years, I decided to post some links to resources on my new blog (I'm not leaving TTA here, I just now have another blog over at the new site) so people know where to find out about the various religio-political  movements.

For the NAR, I recommended Rachel Tabachnick's NAR resource page here at TTA; for Christian Zionism I recommended to Bruce Wilson's "Special Focus" page, also here on TTA; for Dominionism I recommended Leah Burton's, which has a great Dominionism 101 crash course for people who are just now hearing about these people; and for Christian Reconstructionism, I recommended Fred's four-part break down from The Public Eye. When did Fred write this? Way back in 1994! The mainstream so-called "religion reporters" just haven't been paying attention or reading anything that the people who have been following and reporting on these movements have been writing for years, and in some cases decades.

For me, it's the same thing with all the journalists who are just now discovering David Barton. All of a sudden there are all these people writing about Barton who didn't even know who he was a year ago. The problem is that, while it's good that this is bringing mainstream attention to Barton, these journalists don't seem to really grasp his influence or the influence of his historical revisionism. They're only writing about him because this stuff is a hot topic at the moment.

by Chris Rodda on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 11:25:18 AM EST

One thing I need to stress is that while these groups have different names and different ideologies, for the most part they believe they have to FORCE it on others, which is the essence of dominionism.  They may have their differences, but they do work together for the same goal... taking over the world "for Christ" and forcing their own version of "Christianity" on others.

There may be different branches in dominionism, but we shouldn't focus so much on the trees (or species of trees) that we miss the forest.

by ArchaeoBob on Mon Aug 22, 2011 at 10:22:42 PM EST

I had missed this post by Frederick until today when you linked to it in your piece referring to my writing. This is excellent and a robust challenge to people who want to continue to deny the significance of NAR.

by gregmetzger on Mon Sep 26, 2011 at 08:57:43 AM EST

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