The Not So Stealth Campaign to Silence Critics of Religious Extremism
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 02:50:08 PM EST
While it's not as big a kerfuffle as Rupert Murdoch's hacking scandal, and doesn't measure up to the hubbub over whether the nude photos of Scarlett Johansson that recently appeared on the Internet are actually Scarlett Johansson, nevertheless there's a political sideshow in development involving Republican Party presidential candidates and their right-wing religious allies.

The essence of the matter is this: A number of conservative writers and political pundits have taken to attacking left-wing investigative reporters, researchers and journalists over their reporting about Dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism and the New Apostolic Reformation - three little-known theological and ideological movements gaining ground on the Christian Right.

The subtext of a recent contribution to this newly minted genre appears to be a not-so-subtle message to Jewish writers, researchers and critics of the Religious Right: "Don't rock the boat."

'The Truth About Evangelicals' is bereft of one thing; truth

In a recent edition of USA Today, Mike I. Pinsky, a self-described "left-wing Democrat," jumped on board the Stop-Picking-On-Dominionists bandwagon with a column titled "The Truth About Evangelicals."

Thus Pinsky, a former religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times, and the author of A Jew Among the Evangelicals: A Guide for the Perplexed, joined such conservative luminaries as the always-in-comeback-mode Ralph Reed (think Jack Abramoff scandal), Michael Gerson, and Ross Douthat, and Lisa Miller, a religion writer at The Washington Post, in claiming that progressive researchers are spreading paranoid tropes about the religious beliefs of some of the Republican Party's presidential candidates, most notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Pinsky's defense of so-called common-sense all-American evangelism (the non-theocratic kind) contains a number of well-worn claims including: a) most Christian evangelicals have no idea what Dominionism, Christian Reconstructionism or the New Apostolic Reformation are; b) the paranoid left is overstating its case; c) some of the figures named by critics are "marginal," citing David Barton and John Hagee as examples; and finally, d) Jews need to be careful about "demonizing" Christians.

Jews should watch what they write

Let's look at that last point first.

In a time-honored fashion, Pinsky warns Jews - and the critics cited by Pinsky are Jews -- to be careful about what they say about conservative evangelical Christians: "If, as Jews, we replace the old caricature of hayseed fundamentalist mobs carrying torches and pitchforks with one of dark conspirators trying to worm their way back into political power at the highest levels, we run the risk of accusing them of doing to others what we are doing to them: demonizing. We didn't like it when people said we had horns and tails, ate the blood of Christian children and poisoned the wells of Europe with plague, much less conspired to rule the world through our Protocols."

I say time-honored fashion because since the beginning of recorded history, Jews have always been warned about being careful about what they say about Christians.

While many Jews have tended to feel more than a little uneasy about conservative Christian evangelical leaders and their anti-gay, anti-choice rhetoric and political activities, nevertheless, the Christian Right has, over the past few decades, claimed a special relationship with Jews. Much of this relationship is based on their alleged support for Israel -- exemplified by opposing any Roadmap to Peace with the Palestinians -- and End Times scenarios that in the End, doesn't leave the Jews in very good shape.

Over the years, Christian Right leaders have picked out a few favored Jews and invited them to their seminars, conventions, summits, demonstrations, and rallies (think Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, who runs The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, founder and head of Toward Tradition -- before his association with the scandal-ridden Republican Party uber-lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, and Rabbi Yehuda Levin, who most recently blamed the Washington, D.C. earthquake on gays and their supporters.

While most Christian evangelicals may or may not be familiar with Dominionism, Christian Reconstruction or the New Apostolic Reformation, that is hardly the point. Back in the early days of the Religious Right, most American evangelicals were probably not all that familiar with the likes of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Tim LaHaye and Dr. James Dobson. It wasn't until they emerged as leaders of a powerful movement that they achieved widespread recognition.

Pinsky claims that writers Michelle Goldberg, Rabbi James Rudin, Sara Diamond (an oldie, but goodie who actually left the right-wing watch scene many years ago) and Rachel Tabachnick, are using what he calls an "Upper West Side hysteric" tone (a label that I believe is supposed to indicate something both elite and unbalanced) and a, "tenuous if not tortured connect-the-dots link to a presidential or congressional candidate."

(Although Tabachnick is now "Jewish by choice," she grew up Southern Baptist in the South. In an e-mail, Tabachnick told me that she has "worked very hard in her writing and speaking to distinguish between the larger body of evangelicalism and the radicalized movements gaining prominence in the Religious Right." She pointed out that she has "received correspondence from Christians, including evangelicals, thanking her for exposing the growth of the New Apostolic Reformation.")

How "tenuous" or "tortured" is it to examine the speakers list at Rick Perry's highly publicized The Response event in Houston last month and see that many of the speakers are directly linked to Dominionism and the New Apostolic Reformation?

Not so much.

Just how 'marginal' are Barton and Hagee

As to David Barton and Pastor John Hagee: We should all be blessed with the multiple platforms, political connections, and financial wherewithal of both these men.

We'll let longtime journalist Frederick Clarkson, author of the invaluable book, Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, and the co-founder of Talk2Action, summarize: "... neither Barton or Hagee are in fact, marginal figures in evangelical Christianity or in wider public life. ... Barton was named one of the nation's `25 Most Influential Evangelicals' by Time magazine in 2005 and for many years served as the vice-chair of the Texas GOP. Barton was repeatedly featured on Glen Beck's Fox News show at its height.

"His books are widely used in evangelical Christian schools and home schools. For his part, Hagee is one of the best-known evangelists in the world. His show is seen by millions each week around the world and is carried by several networks. His organization Christians United for Israel remains a powerful if controversial entity, and its annual Washington conferences are routinely addressed by senior pols such as Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). His support was courted and received by 2008 presidential contender John McCain until a controversy led to their mutual renunciation, making headlines around the country. Controversial? Yes. Marginal? Far from it."

Because of the gratuitous putdowns of the work of some very serious and courageous journalists, Pinsky's refusal to actually take the issue of Dominionism, et al., seriously, his citing work of more than the decade-old writing of Sara Diamond, and his being so off base about David Barton, and John Hagee, I originally figured that he might not really be paying attention to current developments.

But Rachel Tabachnick disabused me of that notion.
In a conversation thread on her Facebook page, Tabachnick pointed out that Pinsky "has written repeatedly about Hagee in the Orlando Sentinel, in USA Today and in his own book. ... This is not ignorance. This was willfully misleading readers."

Thanks, Bill. And thanks to Buzzflash where this piece originally appeared.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 03:26:44 PM EST
The antidominionists have been taking notice, too- and are rebutting: ml (some interesting factoids here!). Also lots of talk2action and Chip Berlet quotes in these two pages.

by zowie on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 07:58:35 AM EST

...dominionists have an underlying fear of being exposed on what they really stand for.  They probably hoped that critics would be derided as paranoid conspiracy theorists in the hopes that the mainstream media would not take notice.  

I believe they are finally coming to the realization that sites like and (plus many others) pose a real threat to their agenda.  

by LupusGreywalker on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 08:52:53 PM EST

They've been trying to shut up walkaways for years... and as people come to realize that sites like T2A are not conspiracy sites but have valid issues and research (and that walkaways are actually telling the truth about what they experienced), they work harder to shut us up (or shut down sites).

I expect this site and others will start experiencing attacks of all types.  If they can't turn people away by the "conspiracy site" label, then they may try to make it hard for people to access the information they need.

I'm expecting things to get worse.  Far worse.   That is why sites like this and others are so important - so we know what they're up to.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Sep 27, 2011 at 10:33:27 PM EST

I definitely agree that this and other similar sites will be attacked. Due to the connections these people have, some of those attacks could be highly sophisticated. I suggest that this site, and all others like it, prepare in advance for such attacks. I also suggest that they get together as a group to defend themselves. If it hasn't been done already, we should be prepared to download any relevant videos or screen-shoot any article as soon as they get posted. We should also start responding to any site that posts an article on the subject and include the URLs from all websites dedicated to exposing Dominionism. We should post the best EVANGELICAL sites - or specific politically relevant articles at those sites. This will reach the most important audience - Evangelicals. Evangelicals must be prioritized, not just to reveal the difference between them and the Doms, but because they are their natural enemies.

by Villabolo on Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 06:33:06 PM EST

"...dominionists have an underlying fear of being exposed on what they really stand for." Yes they sure do have a fear of exposure, yet they had the stupidity to raise a dozen of their ugly heads at Slick Ferry's "The Response".

by Villabolo on Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 06:08:30 PM EST

Seems like many are wounded and bleeding when they leave, crawling and sometimes helped by friends who have recovered or in recovery. The fortunate few who leave healthy usually do it in a lively dance step.

by chaplain on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 08:32:19 AM EST
I've never met one who left "in a lively dance step"... but I grant they could exist.

There is a great variation between people.  Some have to come out on gurneys (their mental, emotional and social nature and skills so shipwrecked that they may even need hospitalization), while others hobble out, with or without help.

The thing is, we're demonized from the beginning because we've got that horrible infection, awareness of cognitive dissonance (some don't even have that - just can't take the abuse any more).  The church leaders don't want others to talk with us because they may realize just how bad things really are (I do know that there are differences in experience, and my observation is that the more stereotypical and higher up in status, the better the treatment).  

We also have something that they don't want others to hear: our stories.  People still have a hard time believing how bad it can be to be in those churches, especially if you're not high up in the power structure.  They have a hard time believing the sorts of things the leaders (at whatever level) will demand of people, or do to them.   Those damned "churches" literally practice torture... it may not be physical (although that has happened in a way), but emotional and mental torture is still torture.

They cannot tolerate having the truth told about them.  Us, they try to pass off as crazy and/or "making it all up" (talk with dogemperor about that - we all have gotten some version of that), but as more and more of us speak out, people start picking up that there are common elements and threads through our stories.  My opinion is that they used to think that we were the worst threat because we actually were telling people what it is like to be under their power, but in the last few years sites like this one are now on their radar and the fact that the reports here are almost always well documented (exception: personal stories, analysis, and ideas) and well written means that the people fighting against them (such as you find here) are at least as much of a threat as walkaways if not more.

As for me, I probably could be considered on of the gurney cases.  Large chunks of the three years I spent in the Assemblies of God were repressed (could not remember no matter how hard I tried) for almost 28 years, and the "timeline" of my life was broken during that period until I regained those memories (some are still rather hazy).  I have to deal with issues all the time stemming from the things that happened and every time they hit us up or attack, it just makes things worse.  People have a hard time understanding this, especially since it's been so many years (walked 30 years ago).  They also don't seem to grasp that I may NEVER recover fully, and may have to 'battle demons' for the rest of my life.

I know of other cases (some are friends) where the walkaways weren't as messed up, and a few who had it equally bad.  I know OF people who ended up institutionalized because of what they went through.  So there is a spectrum of experience, but I have never heard of a positive experience in those churches... otherwise they wouldn't have walkaways.

Another point is that this illustrates why both solid research AND the testimony of walkaways are both equally important, by the way.  Together, we're even more of a threat to them.  Now they're realizing that the threat is growing and that's why they are fighting back.

by ArchaeoBob on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 10:24:52 AM EST

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