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View Diary: Dominionism as a coercive religious movement (part 3) (31 comments)

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  •  And I shall look forward to the next installment! (2+ / 0-)

    But the way you're describing things - and looking to highlight assumptions I think may be unwarranted - makes me sort of wonder how much experience you actually have with religious congregations, sub-divisions and denominations. Per the whole interpretive thing as it relates specifically to theology, and how that translates to direct actions in the world.

    IOW, how many members of each congregation you cite would present any sort of actual "threat" to Democracy in America by virtue of Dominionist beliefs? I ask, because without the 'standard' breakdown of how many parishoners who belong to the church and/or show up for services actually understand or care about whatever interpretational tangent their preacher happens to embrace? Answer: about a third. Whoa. Thirds keep showing up in all this, don't they? §;o)

    IOW, not every preacher's as 'lucky' as David Koresh or Jim Jones. Most of their congregation won't show up for the Kool-Ade or weenie roast. First because they never bought the radical shit in the first place (it's a 'social' function), second because they don't want to die for some megalomaniac's ego trip. Really. If you've got 2500 tithe-paying members in your steel church, you'd be damned lucky to get 5 or 6 who will show up with guns to help you fight off the IRS because you didn't bother to pay taxes or blew your exemption by telling people how to vote. I don't think it would hurt to inject a little realism when talking about this subject - go ahead and divvy those thirds!

    People's innermost beliefs are something sacrosanct to me, even when their expressions of said beliefs are seriously misguided, or merely inadequate, or simply too dumb to pay any real attention to. I harbor no desire to police other people's minds, and I am known to be extremely resistant to the attempt myself. Thought-crime is anathema to me, and to the idealized democracy we here in America have long loved to believe in but have been helpless to accomplish. See, America is as much a dream as the Kingdom of God is a dream. None of us ever was or ever will be qualified or able to "Make It So" by mere wishful thinking, fervent belief, or impassioned plea.

    Your targets here are the MOST marginalized human beings on the planet. They grasp at these power-straws because they have no power in the real world. In many places they'll suffer all their lives and die ugly and young, because they've no hope for better. Here in America they fear what's happened to our social structure and ideals, and what vanishingly little power they've got in their own lives. So they talk big, or applaud those who do it for them.

    Basic psychology 101 - threaten people where it hurts most and they'll react. No one should ever be surprised by this.

    Satan himself had a 33% approval rating even as he was booted out of heaven.

    by Joy Busey on Wed Oct 04, 2006 at 01:49:49 PM PDT

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    •  My experience (9+ / 0-)

      My experience with dominionists (at least the "spiritual warfare" crowd) is that:

      a) Most were middle-class, a few lower-class, but for the most part white suburbia.  In fact, if anything, they try to explicitly recruit from the middle-class suburbs, because they can give bigger "seed faith offerings"--it's kind of hard for people to give half their income to the church when they're living on welfare.  (And yes, the group I escaped from WOULD ask you to do that.)

      b) The specific church I left is growing and packed to such an extent that they've split off a satellite campus and claim 10,000 members between the two campuses--and the churches are large enough that I can believe this, at least during the perpetual revival meetings.

      c) In the churches that have cell groups, very often if you aren't turning up for services you tend to get visits--and harassment, and occasional involuntary exorcisms--in short order.  (In the "spiritual warfare" movement, it is sadly not unusual for people to have to break most links to the community they grew up in--it is no longer safe for them to remain as walkaways.)  In the larger megachurches, membership in a "cell church" group is often mandatory.

      d) Very often, the illegal electioneering these churches perform is in fact held during the revivals and such where they pack thousands of people in church services.

      e) Most of these groups are high-demand compared with the traditional church--among other things, "good Christians" in these groups are expected to not only attend morning Sunday services, but evening Sunday services, various "classes" targeted at women or kids or husbands or married couples, Wednesday night services, cell church meetings in homes, etc.  They are also expected to largely isolate themselves from pretty much all contact with the non-dominionist outside world outside of voting for dominionist candidates or for converting others to their church.

      Please forgive me if I have very little sympathy here for the "spiritual warfare" crowd.  Part of this is because I grew up in it for 26 years, have had to literally seek out psychiatric treatment for long-term consequences of growing up in an environment featuring regular religiously motivated physical, mental, emotional and spiritual abuse (I have been in fact diagnosed with complex PTSD--which is very common with people who have grown up in coercive religious groups).  If anything, having grown up in it, I am probably more acutely aware than most as to how long they've been planning a hijack of the country, aware of the longterm damage that this stuff does to people, and what an absolute horrifying clusterfuck things will be if the dominionists ever succeed in getting sufficient political power to do so.

      I'll be quite frank in that there is sufficient imagery in the average George W. Bush speech--especially his inaugural speeches--that it has literally triggered panic attacks in myself and other walkaways from these groups.  (Seriously, be glad this is nothing you ever will have to deal with.)

      If anything, I'm pissed at the leaders of these groups for taking advantage of people, I'm pissed at the parents of these kids (who, increasingly, will never have a chance to experience life outside of a dominionist cult--literally they are isolated and "Jesus Camped" from birth until well in their college years, and even in their career choices nowadays).  I'm pissed off at the dominionists for hijacking my country and I'm pissed off because they have stolen years of life from me and thousands of people like me who are never going to get that back.  And they want the force of law to make people fall under that--and they honestly do not care how long it takes for that, only that they eventually "get dominion" by hook or by crook.  And, yes, part of me is very pissed at myself for ever having been into that stuff--even though I was raised in it, even though I literally did not know any better till I was about twelve years old.

      At the same time, I do feel sick and sad for the people trapped in it.  I was once one of them myself, until I learned I was being lied to by people in my church (and I am thankful that I had enough of a sense of ethics that I still felt the idea of "heavenly deception" WAS deceitful and wrong!).  

      Nowadays, I'm a mix of sick, sad, pissed, and determined that I'm not going to let people who are essentially in a state of induced insanity take over the country.  (And yes, that's pretty much how I HAVE to look at my past as a dominionist--I do look at it as a period of induced insanity.  Much of why I try to educate people on dominionism is a sort of a way to set things right after a lot of crappy things I did in my childhood.)

      At any rate, though, I do honestly understand where you're coming from on a lot of this.  A lot of people do get suckered into this stuff--and, for a long time, there've been people who've been born into this who have literally known nothing different and don't know any better (there's all too many of those in the group I escaped, and had I not escaped myself, it's entirely possible we'd be on the third generation of dominionists in my family :(--and I know of four-generation dominionist households in the group I left).  I do realise some of the folks recruited in are vulnerable--but is it ethical, dare I ask, to let these people continue to be taken advantage of by--not even wolves in sheep's clothing at this point but sheep with rabies, which infect the whole flock, risking not only that herd but the entire sheep-farming community?

      My personal morality--and your mileage may vary--is that, frankly, no man has the right to coerce another to follow a belief system, and no man has the right to call another the literal spawn of the devil for believing differently.  (Yes, I think dominionists are dangerous; yes, I think the blatantly coercive nature of dominionism as practiced especially in neopente communities is highly dangerous not only for the country but for its own practitioners; no, I don't think dominionists are the spawn of the devil.  I don't even believe in a devil anymore, and thanks to what I dealt with growing up, I have a hard time trusting in the concept of a God who is anything more than an uninterested observer.)

      (And yes, before you ask--at this point, a lot of the dominionists pushing this stuff really do believe what they're preaching.  I'm not sure the founders did, but you have pastors who are well into the third and fourth generations of their families who were raised as dominionists, and their pastor's wives are homeschooling the fifth generation which is even more isolated.)

      In the next post (which I'll be making tomorrow) I'll be detailing just how these groups are in fact a political threat--hopefully that can clear things up a bit.  

      •  Thanks for this honest discussion, dogemperor. (2+ / 0-)
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        moiv, Snakes on a White House

        I don't know when I've enjoyed a 1-on-1 so much around here! Please allow me to address your points -

        a) The middle class has financed the entirety of the social infrastructure in this country, one way or another, for the entirety of its existence. And for a large percentage of the middle class, funding their spiritual institution and community and charities has been a whopping (but ancient) 10% of what they've already paid taxes on. Even the Big Denominations have harbored charlatans and con-men in it for wealth and/or power, so the idea that the steel churches would harbor cons and criminals shouldn't surprise anybody. Even the middle class members who so often get fleeced.

        This is duty.

        b) Your experience is of a single church. I attended churches here and there all my life that can brag about way more members (tithe-payers) than attendees on any given Sunday, and claim way more adherence to dogmatic themes than members are willing and/or able to provide in real life. Church is a tradition in most families and communities. My father went through a dozen different denominations in just the first decade after retiring from the Navy (where there's just Jewish, Catholic and Protestant). Never assume those old guys in MIB garb in the back with their Bibles open to follow every word are "learning" something from the preacher instead of "policing" what the preacher has to say. In mainline denominations, pastors serve at the grace of the congregation, not the other way around. And any given denomination (non-charismatic) can be known to harbor a fairly wide spectrum of position on a number of tenets and attendant theology among the churches, and among individual parishoners.

        This is human nature.

        c) Yes, you're likely to get visited if you belong to a church or fraternal organization or bridge club where members care if you don't show up. Even if you're in the hospital they'll come. If your father just died, darned if they don't cook you inedible meat loaf or sickly-sweet cake! They'll answer your door and wash your dishes and talk to friends/relatives on your phone. I have never in my life found great fault (or reason to fear) because people I know in a social situation care that I stopped coming around. I just tell 'em why.

        This is sociology.

        d) Illegal electioneering is as old as elections. In any system where numbers count, people who care will strive to pad the numbers. All sides usually engage this tendency, so it generally works out in the end. As I said, all these people by all your best estimates aren't more than a third. Apply the further divisive thirds and it's not really that scary.

        More human nature at work.

        e) Tradition doesn't wield as much power as it once did. The steel churches are making waves (and lots of money), and often making the news. And if my neighbor wants to visit - or even enthusiastically join - the steel church down the road (or any other), I don't mind. He still knows me for who I am, our families get along just fine. He's not looking to steal my land or kill my children/grandchildren or make me his slave. He knows his grapes, though. I rely on his expertise quite a bit for my vineyard's problems, and he taught me how to make wine. I've taught him how to grow 5-alarm habaneros, and how to put up sauce (preserve) that sells for a bundle in the organic B&B/restaurant market.

        He'd feed and house us in a worst case scenario (and we lived through the blizzard of '93). We'd house and feed them too. Everyone I know in my neighborhood (rural and spread out) is very much the same. Save less than a handful of "bad seeds," we all know who they are, and simply don't count on them for shit. Tell our kids to stay the heck away from their property. But I'd bet that in a real pinch we'd let them in too.

        Traditional ethics runs deeper than you think.

        e) Time allotments are always about what people WANT to do, weighed against what they HAVE to do. And yep - you're right - church can (and is often designed to) monopolize your time. What are they taking you "away from?" 300+ expensive channels of garbage and hyper-sales pitches every 3 minutes, 24 hours a day? Or real, quality time with your spouse and children? For many of these people, church time IS family/non-TV time. Since school and work are each more than 8 hours out of a day, isn't more family/non-TV time better? Do you just disagree with their attentional focus? Why? And what ever could you do about it?

        Freedom of belief, freedom of choice. I don't begrudge it of my fellow citizens, even when I disagree.

        I do see and understand your concerns, I think. I'm trying, anyway! It's just that I've encountered a lot of reactionaries in my time (I'm old), and an awful lot of fearful, helpless people. I don't begrudge them their fantasies. It would be a cruel person who could do so. Even though we all know how to defend ourselves, and none of us is prone to eliminating guard, even if a lowered facade is reasonable.

        It's just that since I realized a third of people are hopeless, anything less than that doesn't much impress me. Reality right now in this particular time zone on this particular planet is that MORE than a third of those who in past history qualified as "middle class" are a single accident or illness away from bankruptcy, were they still allowed to declare such. Which they're mostly not. They they're poor, just like the tens of millions of other citizens who can't afford to eat and see a doctor at the same time.

        This is a great social wrong. You've taken worldwide estimates and applied them to America, without any constraints per reality. A good many of the people you target here are the targets and/or victims of that social wrong. It's all of a piece. I think distraction at this point - less than 6 weeks away from the most important election many of us will ever see - is unwarranted. These people aren't monsters, they're not mutants. They're our neighbors, our friends and acquaintances. Sometimes they're our family. We don't want war with them any more than they honestly want war with us. Enough blood is being spilled elsewhere to keep the vampires satiated - we've got to work on what we've got in common, not what differences we have.

        My own opinion, of course. I've enjoyed your series, and will keep reading. My older sister once belonged to a notorious radical organization because she was dating the ringleader in college. She tried to talk me into starting a high school chapter of the SDS in Muskogee, Oklahoma (I kid you not) way back in '69. When I was dating the captain of the HS debate team that included Mike Synar (the last honest man in Congress)...

        I asked her point-blank what would happen if she won. What comes next, what's the goal here? Oddly (to my mind), she didn't know, and appeared never to have thought of that before. How weird. As I shook my head to indicate I wasn't buying a word of it, I said...

        "Well, you can bet your bippy that SOMEBODY knows what comes next. I don't think I'll put my body on the line until I know exactly what it is - and approve of it."

        She came around (and has long since become a regular law-abiding member of society). Now she asks all the hard questions, and does rather well at it. We're not "special." People who are for any reason compelled to pay attention are going to bring their rational faculties to bear (minus the idiot third). Present your point, draw the requisite parallels, bring it home. Anything so fuzzy as religion needs way more factual, concrete documentation than just what some wacko preacher somewhere in Bumfuck, Joisey has to say today.

        If you're trying to incite civil war, that is.

        Satan himself had a 33% approval rating even as he was booted out of heaven.

        by Joy Busey on Wed Oct 04, 2006 at 05:14:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  thanks so much for writing this diaries (4+ / 0-)

        I am very saddened to hear about your upbringing in this and how damaging it was to you.

        I really really however feel that those of us with no knowledge of these groups have to learn as much as we can about them, for a number of reasons, but especially because they wield so much power now. I really really appreciate the fact that you wrote these diaries.

        l'shanah haba'ah bi chi-town

        by biscobosco on Wed Oct 04, 2006 at 09:14:12 PM PDT

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        •  Both their power and their GROWING power (1+ / 0-)
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          Their growth/recruiting levels are also a huge concern.  Joe Busey and Dogemperor both make valid points about the relative level of influence these groups have.  I respect that there is no clear answer to that question other than, whatever the level influence & power, they have obtained enough political and social force to hurt an awful lot of people.

          What is not in question in my mind is the astounding level of growth these groups keep showing.  Where I live in New England, all the "traditional" offenders are getting older, thinning out and dying off.  The dominionist / fundamentalist wing of the religionist political movement, however, shows continued and dramatic growth.  I do not have the numbers but literally, every single new religious headquarters that posts in a town near me belongs to one of these sects.  It has been this way since the 1970s or since the end of the baby-boom generation.

          Throughout my county, region and state, the stained glass buildings with the organs are emptying, which if fine.  However, every month or two, along comes another building sporting a sign indicating the formation of another dominionist-fundamentalist-evangelical-Pentecostal type group, which is generally waiting for rapture rather than living in the world today.  

          Certainly, it is far from everyone in these fast growing assemblies who fall into the militant spiritual warfare camp.  Still, there is a pervasive thread of belief and teaching in these emerging institutions that is inimical to living in accordance with the laws of civil society.  For that matter, their teachings are politically inimical to many notions of contemporary deference to the Ten Commandments -- esp. that commandment regarding taking a particular God’s name in vain, which appears to be dying out as well.  (Apparently a casualty of theological evolution).


          Religion is like Sodomy: Both may be harmless when practiced between consenting adults but neither should be imposed upon children.

          by Caoimhin Laochdha on Thu Oct 05, 2006 at 07:12:28 AM PDT

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