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Cross-posted from Patterns that Connect

The story behind how "The Path to 9/11" (PT911) came to be made is still quite murky, so the degree of influence various individuals and entities had is very much up in the air.  Nonetheless, it is certain that director David Cunningham had a lot of power--after all, directors usually do, and the producer's own statements indicate he took a rather hands-off approach.  

So who is the director, and what are the influences on him?  This is surely a complicated investigative question for anyone with so little previous public record.  But we do know this much:

    (1) He's the son of Loren Cunningham, the founder of a very big missionary organization, Youth With A Mission (YWAM),
    (2) He founded an auxiliary of YWAM, The Film Institute (TFI) with the goal of  producing a "Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Television industry."
    (3) PT911 is TFI's "first project."

Therefore, whatever other influences are involved in the production of PT911, the role of YWAM has to be considered as an important contributor.  It's all too easy for those left of center to refer to the "religious right" as a sort of short-hand, but this is often politically foolish when we are dealing with specific groups or individuals whose beliefs and practices are strikingly at odds with what the majority of Christians believe--or sometimes even with what the majority of rightwing Christians believe.

For example, journalist Robert Parry, who broke the Iran-Contra scandal while working for AP in 1986, has written extensively about the Reverand Sun Yung Moon, in a series, 'Dark Side of Rev. Moon'.

The summary of one of Parry's story's "Buying the Right", reads:

Rev. Sun Myung Moon calls America "Satan's harvest" and vows to subjugate its people under a Korea-based theocracy. Normally, this anti-Americanism would not sit well. But Moon has spread around billions of dollars from mysterious sources to Washington conservatives. The money has helped key allies, such as Jerry Falwell and Oliver North. It's the real Asian money scandal -- and the Washington media is missing it. (8/11/97)
A brief segment of this story reads as follows:
Better than Jesus?

Falwell also might have been shy about disclosing his alliance with Moon because the Korean's theology upsets many Christians. Moon asserts that Satan corrupted mankind by sexually seducing Eve in the Garden of Eden and that only through sexual purification can mankind be saved. In line with that doctrine, Moon says Jesus failed in his mission to save mankind because he did not procreate.

Moon sees himself as a second messiah who will not make the same mistake. He has engaged in sex with a variety of women over the decades. The total number of his offspring is a point of debate inside the Unification Church.

Moon's rhetoric has turned stridently anti-American, another problem for the Religious Right and its strongly patriotic positions. On May 1, 1997, Moon told a group of followers that "the country that represents Satan's harvest is America." [ Unification News, June 1997] In other sermons, he has vowed that his victorious movement will "digest" any American who tries to maintain his or her individuality. He especially has criticized American women who must "negate yourself 100 percent" to be a receptacle for the male seed. [For details of Moon's speeches, see The Consortium, July 28, 1997]

Clearly, when we are dealing with a figure like Moon, it is a mistake to use the label "religious right," as it helps to paper over the fact that his actual teachings are deeply anathema to vast majority of followers of the religious right--even if their mamon-crazed leaders feel differently.

And so we turn to look at YWAM with the lesson of Moon in mind.  I do not wish to equate the two.  YWAM is nowhere near the blatantly anti-Christian ideology of Moon and his Unification Church.  But neither is it a perfectly normal missionary organization, like the missionary outreach of any long-standing denomination.  Founded in 1960 by Loren Cunningham, it claims a staff of thousands in over a hundred countries.   Two types of charges against it are significant for our consideration: its theology and its cult-like aspects.  Both are potentially significant in terms of potential influence on the nature of PT911.  

Evidence of YWAM's Questionable Theology

In "The False God & Gospel of Moral Government Theology", E. Calvin Beisner, an author and theologian with Christian Research Institute, and himself a solid member of the religious right, describes Moral Government Theology and its association with YWAM--an association the YWAM denies.

In the summary, Beisener says:

Moral government theology (MGT), rooted in the philosophical definition of freedom as the "power of contrary choice," denies the fundamental Christian doctrines of God's perfection in knowledge, goodness, and power; original sin; human moral inability; the substitutionary satisfaction of God's justice in Christ's atoning death; redemption; and justification by the crediting of Christ's righteousness to believers by grace through faith apart from works. As documented in this article, these denials are unbiblical and are so serious as to warrant classifying MGT as non-Christian.
In the body of the article he explains:
Contemporary moral government theology is principally the brainchild of the late Gordon C. Olson. During the 1930s and 1940s, Olson's studies led him to believe that God's foreknowledge is necessarily limited by human free will and that the classical doctrines of original sin, human depravity and moral inability, the Atonement, and justification were as wrong as the classical doctrine of absolute foreknowledge.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Olson and an engineering associate of his named Harry Conn began to teach moral government theology for various mission organizations, often in recruiting, motivating, or training young people. Moral government theology (hereafter MGT) first began to spread rapidly when Olson and Conn became regular speakers for Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which has since become one of the larger youth missionary organizations in the world. Contrary to YWAM's repeated denials that MGT was an important part of its teaching, it was in YWAM training that tens of thousands of students from the late 1970s through the 1980s, and some even into the 1990s, learned MGT (although today some YWAM leaders speak against MGT).

Clearly, it is not alleged that YWAM still teaches this theory.  However, the fact that they once did (even though they now deny it) is evidence that we should not casually lump them in with the rest of the religious right.  Some on the religious right clearly accept them, but some obviously do not.  So why help them by lumping them all together?  It's best to describe them as they are--which is, at least, as a controversial organization, as we shall see more fully in the next section.

Evidence of YWAM's Cult-Like Features

Any discussion of churches and cults is bedeviled by the difficulties of subjective judgment, since there is real truth in the claim that "one man's cult is another man's religion."  Yet, some examples of religious cults are so clear that no one (except their members, of course!) can deny what they are.  YWAM is clearly not one of those.  But it does have a record of clearly cult-like activities, and has been investigated as such on several occasions.

The most comprehensive set of writings on it I've been able to find online comes from the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey (RRI), which describes its mission thus:

RRI's mission is to study destructive cults, controversial groups and movements and to provide a broad range of information and services easily accessible to the public for assistance and educational purposes.
RRIs main page on YWAM contains links to its own comprehensive report, as well as testimonies by two former members, a family-member of a YWAM member, an overseas missionary with extensive experience of YWAM, a critical news story from New Zealand, and a positive one from Florida.
The comprehensive report--by Ross himself--begins with a brief description of WYAM, then continues:
During the month of September 1990, I was contacted and subsequently retained by a family in Long Island New York. Their concerns centered upon their adult single daughter's involvement with the organization known as Youth With A Mission (YWAM). She planned to enter a Discipleship Training School (at a cost of $1700.00) operated by YWAM in late September located in Elizabeth, New Jersey. After completing the training program she might then be selected as a staff member (full time missionary) at the salary of $7.00 per week.

The young woman could be placed within the third world. Once placed she would be totally dependent upon YWAM for financial support, food, medical attention and security. She had liquidated all her assets. The family accepted fully their daughter's religious commitment, but felt that they should investigate YWAM. My work on their behalf consisted of gathering information.

The report combines a description of the specifics of the case, including interactions with a high-ranking YWAM official, as well as a digest of material Ross uncovered in his background research.  The picture that emerges is definitely disturbing, but deserves to be read in full.  However, toward the end of the report, Ross offers an analytical perspective that is worth reproducing in full:
There is an evident pattern to all the complaints about Youth With A Mission. If these statements are accurate, (which they seem to be) YWAM practices the so-called "sheperding" leadership method. Implementing direct control over their members through "discipleship" training. This training appears to employ recognized techniques of thought reform and mind control as listed by Robert J. Lifton in his "eight criteria" (see The Future of Immorality and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age, New York, Basics Books, 1987).

This can be seen clearly through a comparison of those eight criteria to the practices employed at YWAM DTS facilities.

* "Milieu control; essentially the control of communication within an environment." This appears to be accomplished at the DTS through the school's relative isolation from the outside world. Also, through rules concerning dating, television, discussion alone with other new members and communication with family. Another example of "milieu control" would be "group leader's" influence during "intercession". Lifton seems to be describing YWAM DTS when he states that "there is often a sequence of events, such as seminars, lectures and group encounters, which become increasingly intense..."

* "Mystical manipulation; a systematic process that is planned and managed from above (by the leadership) but appears to have arisen spontaneously within the environment." This process seems to occur through "intercession" when one receives a "confirmation" through Bible verses (step 8) or when "God...brings things to your mind" (step 9). Also, when "group leaders" receive a "word from the Lord". The profound influence exercised by leadership during "intercession" probably promulgates these seemingly spontaneous spiritual experiences.

* "The demand for purity; radical separation of pure and impure, of good and evil, within an environment and within oneself." This can be seen through several steps within "intercession" (steps 1,3,4). A YWAM lecturer "reasoned that there are three kinds of thought: yours, Satan's and God's". There is no gray area. Everything is black and white. As Lifton relates the group has a "Manichean quality".

* "The cult of confession; a confession process that has its own structure...accompanied by patterns of criticism and self-criticism, generally transpiring within small groups." Confession seems to be the most prevalent feature of "intercession". DTS students said "confession emotionally exhausted us". Students who had nothing to confess were told they were "guilty for not confessing anything".

* "Sacred science; a sacred set of dogmatic principles with a claim to a science embodying the truth about human behavior and human psychology." Again, the process of "intercession" seems to be the "sacred science" of YWAM. This technique within the overall structure of "discipleship" can be "the truth" for every person involved. It can be seen as the science by which every student can become "clean: and reach God (steps 1,2,3).

* "Loading of the language; literalization of language-words or images becoming God. A simple slogan to which the most complex and otherwise difficult questions can be reduced. The language of non-thought." Phrases such as "openness and brokeness, causing disunity, being rebellious, give up your rights, with the appointing comes the anointing and don't say it, pray it are just a few examples of the "thought terminating cliches" reportedly used within YWAM. These slogans could discourage questions, individuality and critical thinking.

* "Doctrine over person; one must find the truth of the dogma and subject one's experiences to that truth... doubts are reflections of one's own evil." This can be seen in (step 3) "die to your own imagination". The students at the DTS are asked to subject their experiences to that of the "group leader". The doctrine of "intercession" comes before individual rights. They were told "give up your rights" and "you get the leader you deserve". They must be part of the whole "in God's Kingdom there is structure".

* "Dispensing of existence; those who have not embraced that truth...are bound up with evil and do not have the right to exist. There is a being verses nothingness dichotomy." Nancy Brown stated that YWAM depicted the "world" as "Satanic". "Bind Satan" and "deal aggressively with the enemy (step 6)". All thoughts could be labeling dispenses with the individual thought and the outside world as evil. Ultimately, when one student decided to quit a YWAM DTS, her group leader said, "well, at least God never quits on us". Somehow she had rejected God by leaving YWAM.

One very disturbing feature of YWAM is its seeming inability to engage in open dialogue. Mr. Savoca [the WYAM higher-up Ross interacted with] never really responded to any concerns. He was evasive and finally fled rather than answer specific questions. This would lead to the conclusion that YWAM has little if any intention of changing.

Now, keep in mind, Cunningham is not just a product of this environment, and a promoter of it.  He is the son of the founder of it.  Everything about this description seems to mitigate against the ability to make a fair-minded film.  Indeed, the very idea of a fair-minded film would appear to be anathema to such a mindset.  

With this list before us, there should be little doubt about how Monica Lewinski came to be such a central figure in 9/11--"The demand for purity" says it all.  But more than sexual purity is involved here. "There is no gray area. Everything is black and white."  This is how Bush thinks, and so it is no wonder that his failings are excused. Note--I'm not saying this is the reason for why the film is as it is.  There are surely many contributing factors. But I am saying it's a powerful reason why it isn't as it should be.

Similarly, the principle of  "Doctrine over person" helps explain why the facts and intelligence were fixed around the policy that Clinton, not Bush, was to blame for 9/11, since Bush was pure and Clinton was not.  "one must find the truth of the dogma and subject one's experiences to that truth."

Finally, regarding "Loading of the language" intended to "discourage questions, individuality and critical thinking."  Loaded language is hardly limited to mind-control cults.  They are, however, extremely sensitive to its potential.  With that in mind, consider how Cunningham responded recently:

According to Cunningham, critics are simply taking scenes out of context or relying on a competing set of experts. Here's what Cunningham told The Crimson White, a University of Alabama newspaper:
    "A lot of these critics haven't seen the whole thing or, in some cases, any of it," Cunningham said.

        "We have these CNN pundits who haven't seen it who are taking scenes out of context as examples [of factual inaccuracies in the film]."

        Cunningham also pointed out that the critics, many of whom are Democrats, are just telling their side of the story.

        "We have out [sic] CIA consultants and Clinton has his. It's kind of a `he said, she said' situation right now," Cunningham said.

At one level, this is simply typical rightwing spin.  But at another level it is rather adroit use of  language to "discourage questions, individuality and critical thinking" that is almost certainly second nature to Cunningham, given his upbringing and who he is.

The emblematic phrases he uses aren't even rationally related to the charges.  There is no way that a false, defamatory scene can be altered by context.  Nor does it involve conflicting experts to note how a film script clashes with its purported source material.  A sixth grade reading level will more than suffice for that.  This is the use of language as talisman, to magically stop the process of critical thinking.

Keep in mind, this is only a brief, initial peek behind the curtain at the sort of organizational world in which Cunningham was born and raised.  There is bound to be much, much more for us to learn about YWAM and how it influenced the making of PT911.

Originally posted to Paul Rosenberg on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 04:20 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (30+ / 0-)

    Here's a tip:

    YWAM has also been linked with Guatamalen dictator Rios Montt, responsible for the genocidal murder of over 70,000 Mayan Indians during his 14-month rule in 1982-3.

  •  Great digging, PR (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grayslady, danmanvan, blue armadillo

    Thank you for this insight.

    These folks are sca-ry.

    As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. - Justice William O. Douglas

    by occams hatchet on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 04:10:37 PM PDT

  •  Not a quasi cult. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tikkun, grayslady, dft, corvo, MarketTrustee

    A cult.

    If we're dumb. Then God is dumb. And maybe a little ugly on the side.

    by Ghost of Frank Zappa on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 04:14:43 PM PDT

  •  If they want "Christian" entertainment (0+ / 0-)

    they can make their own movies.

    Some of the best films of the recent years were made with cameras anyone can afford and a small amount of money.

    QUALITY is what it is about.
    If they make an actually interesting and entertaining, quality film, people will want to see it.

    It really IS that simple.

    •  They want a broader audience.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Paul Rosenberg

      The point behind YWAM showing PT911 on ABC is so that it'll have extra "street cred" for their real audience, the millions of churchgoing Christians that they'll push the PT911 DVD out to before the election (October surprise!)

      Imagine a whole rack of PT911 DVD's on sale at your local Wal*Mart in the weeks before the election. With "ABC/Disney" logos on them. Ugh.

  •  Paul you might want to dig up some material on (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tulip, wu ming, daulton, MarketTrustee

    early Moonie activities.  I haven't found documents establishing a clear link yet, but this is almost identical to the the tactics of the Unification Church  back in the late 60s and early 70s.  

    Also, it might interest you to know that YWAM funded Rod Parsley in Ohio to the tune of 10 million.

  •  Excellent Diary (0+ / 0-)

    My gut tells me there is much more to this if people dig enough.

    Good point about lumping together all the religious right. The schisms that exist within the monolithic "religious right" are generally papered over to outsiders.

    Just imagine that each group within the "religious right" is like in Monty Python's Life of Brian

    Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People's Front?
    Reg: Fuck off! We're the People's Front of Judea

  •  Their theology smacks of dominionism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    irishwitch

    with it's insistence on subjugation of the female to the male. That alone disqualifies it from any sort of legitimacy. Their ideas represent nothing less than a regressive instinct to fight against any form of progress or change in a male dominated society which, IMHO, is sorely in need of extensive reform.

    "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." - Albert Einstein

    by scoff0165 on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 04:41:40 PM PDT

  •  just a thought (0+ / 0-)

    He [Moon] especially has criticized American women who must "negate yourself 100 percent" to be a receptacle for the male seed.

    well, there's at least one belief the fundamentalist right may share with moon.

    i wonder if the religious right views moon the way israelis view the religious right here. basically, "we're glad to accept your support, financial and political and we'll just look the other way when it comes to the other crazy-ass stuff you believe."

    I wouldn't mind turning into a vermilion goldfish. --Henri Matisse

    by isis2 on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 04:55:47 PM PDT

  •  You ain't seen nuthin' yet (0+ / 0-)

    It's only mid-September.

    I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. Will Rogers

    by Zwoof on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 05:14:31 PM PDT

  •  YWAM is a 501(c)3 organization (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    occams hatchet, BlueInARedState

    It is listed with the IRS as a charitable organization.  I'm wondering if some of those tax-deductable donations were diverted to help start up TFI.

    Liberal: "I still think it's a respectable word. Its root is "liber," the Latin word for "free," and isn't that what we are all about?"--Mary McGrory

    by mini mum on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 05:34:46 PM PDT

  •  Also check out (0+ / 0-)

    "Pray for Rain Films"

    "Mr. Speaker, I mourn democracy." Barney Frank, House of Representatives, 06/29/06

    by suskind on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 05:54:07 PM PDT

  •  Excellent (0+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent diary, recommended.

    Why do Republicans want democracy in Iraq but then criticize it in Connecticut?

    by BlueInARedState on Sun Sep 10, 2006 at 06:32:49 PM PDT

  •  Those whom the gods would destroy (0+ / 0-)

    they first make mad.

    Someone up there doesn't like the US of A.

  •  Before YWAM... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Allogenes

    In their early days they were known as Youth In Asia, but they had marketing problems.

  •  I attended a couple YWAM camps in the 70s (5+ / 0-)

    I grew up in a family that attended what I believe was then the largest pentecostal denomination (the Assemblies of God).  I attended several summer camps as a teen at which there were YWAM speakers.  I even once spent a weekend listening to Harry Conn speak.

    Of course, that was a while back so there are details I'm not absolutely certain about now.  But I remember being favorably impressed with the YWAM group.  I imagine that I might have been as taken up with the beliefs of these folks as much as any teenager at the time could have been.  They appeared to take faith more seriously than other folks around me.  I do recall there were some even within pentecostal circles that believed the YWAM folks to be "over the edge".

    My recollection is that the "Moral Government" people were more rational than those directly associated with YWAM.  I think an important point to note is that the MGT movement had intellectual roots in the revival movements in the United Status of the 1840s and hence ought not to be considered a 20th century phenomenon.  I'll bet I still have some of the "Moral Government" pamphlets and essays stashed away in some box in my garage.  (Yes.  My wife thinks I have too many boxes of "stuff".)

    Another significant point is that there were quite a few leading figures associated with YWAM who were from down under, especially New Zealand.

    Whether YWAM is a "cult" or not is something of a humorous question for me.  My grandfather, a pentecostal minister, now elderly and retired, evidently was/is not a part of a crazy cult because he was an Assemblies of God minister even though he believed/es that god speaks to him about very detailed matters of life.  On the other hand, the YWAMers are "cultish".  Just strikes me as one crazy person taking pride in the fact that he or she is not as crazy as the next.

    ...the New York Times...All the Lies We've Decided to Tell You

    by aspTrader on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:14:09 PM PDT

    •  My experience with YWAM (2+ / 0-)

      I had some contact with YWAM in my former fundamentalist days.  They used a lot of performance (skits and dances to Christian songs or instrumental music) in their "outreach," and they taught "regular" church folk how to do the skits, which was where I came in. The church I was attending at the time was near one of the YWAM "camps," so we could go up there for events, or staffers could come to the church.

      At that time (early-mid '90s), there was no overt evidence of the MGT theology.  There were traces of Pentacostal influence (speaking in tongues), but even that was not given any emphasis.  It was just a background thing that some people there occasionally did.

      In my experience, there was nothing obviously cult-like about the YWAM people, or their speech or behavior.  (One of my brothers was involved in an eastern religious movement and had lived in an ashram, and went through a period where he never went to movies, or watched tv, or in fact read, watched, or talked about anything but his "guru." Those who wanted to receive the guru's "secret knowledge" were deemed not ready unless they were willing to sacrifice whatever was most important to them. Being allowed to kiss the guru's feet at a public gathering was a great honor.  Things like that were my standard for cult-like behavior.)  The YWAMers didn't seem particularly isolated, anti-social, incapable of independent thought, etc.  As I said, at the time I was myself a fundamentalist, so my perspective was obviously biased. But even in retrospect, I can't think of anything obviously "weird" about them.  (Of course, the fact that they were full-time evangelists would be weird enough for many folk.)

      However, I never attended a DTS, so I can't speak to that or what kind of techniques might have been employed there.

      As for the emphasis on purity and the Manichean world view - I gotta tell you, that's right-wing Christianity, period.  There's nothing unusual about YWAM as compared to Christian fundamentalism generally in that regard.

      He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression. -- Thomas Paine

      by Leslie in CA on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 10:00:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Cultism Is Less About Beliefs Than About Practices (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Coherent Viewpoint
        First off, I need to re-emphasize this point.  Your last paragraph is true, but it misses the point.  It's one thing to have a Manichean worldview.  It's quite another to have it drilled into every cell in your body.

        For example, in the first three seasons of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, the show apparently had a fair number of religious right fans.  It boggled my mind when I discovered this.  I discovered it in season four, when Willow came out as a lesbian, and all those fans freaked out.

        Now, Buffy from the very beginning was incredibly anti-Manichean.  Sure, the whole vampire/deamon world setup was inherently Manichean, but that was, at one level, Joss Whedon's whole point: to take a reactionary genre and honor its conventions in the process of subverting them.  He did it beginning with the very first scene in the very first episode.  This was the very essence of the show.  Yet, a fairly sizeable number of rightwing people just didn't get it.

        Now, yes, I know that they're stupid in a way. But if they were really, deeply indoctrinated at a cellular level, then I think that it would have been well neigh impossible for them to miss the fact that the show was attacking their worldview.  Their brains might not have realized it, but the marrow of the bones would have known.

        Second, I need to stress that this is only one aspect of the constellation factors mentioned.  And most of the others are even more explicitly about control of thought and behavior.  And this control is far more effective in a controlled groups setting.  Which is what you have in a self-contained religious community--almost any self-contrined religious community.

        Of corse, not all such communities try to control thoght and behavior.  But if they do, they are far more effective at it than anyone can be in influencing people who are out in the world alot.

        Third, you write:

        "The YWAMers didn't seem particularly isolated, anti-social, incapable of independent thought, etc.
        I would say the same of most of the scientologists I've met who are beyond the neophyte stage.  Doesn't mean they aren't in a cult.

        Fourth, you write:

        However, I never attended a DTS, so I can't speak to that or what kind of techniques might have been employed there.
        And that's where the rubber meets the road, according to what I've read so far.
        •  Greatly delayed response (0+ / 0-)

          Didn't get back to the diary, sorry.  I hope this shows up in your comment list, if you check.

          Just to be clear, I didn't mean to say that YWAM is perfectly normal, can't be a cult, etc.  I was just offering my own experience, which is just that - an experience, not data.

          He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression. -- Thomas Paine

          by Leslie in CA on Fri Sep 15, 2006 at 11:49:38 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks For First-Hand Info! (0+ / 0-)
      Several thoughts in response:

      (1) The initial attraction of YWAM for religiously-raised youth sounds very similar to that of all missionary work.  You said, "They appeared to take faith more seriously than other folks around me."  That defines most missionaries, in my experience.  And the attraction is certainly easy for me to understand.  Youth are often idealistic, and missionary work appeals to those who are.  I have no reason to think that YWAM is noticeably different than many other missionary organizations at that level of encounter.

      (2) I'm not surprised to hear that the MGT people were more rational.  It doesn't sound like a doctrine for the highly emotional.

      (3) But YWAM today denies that it had more than an incidental relationship with MGT.

      (4) In one of the articles I link too, "The False God And Gospel Of Moral Government Theology", E. Calvin Beisner writes:

      Since the 1960s, a new heretical theology has been infiltrating evangelical circles. Not officially embraced by any well-known denomination or parachurch organization, the system has nevertheless made serious inroads into at least one large and well-known missions organization and has spawned a ministry and publication dedicated to its promotion and defense.1 This system of doctrine is paradoxically old and new: its elements are old,2 but the manner in which they are tied together into a complete structure is new.

      THE RISE OF MORAL GOVERNMENT THEOLOGY

      The system's major proponents dub it moral government theology. But today's moral government theology is a far cry from what went by that name two centuries ago, when people as diverse as Jonathan Edwards (a firm Calvinist) and John Wesley (a firm Arminian) both used it to refer to God's government of moral agents through His moral law as contrasted with His government of the physical creation through physical law.

      Contemporary moral government theology is principally the brainchild of the late Gordon C. Olson. During the 1930s and 1940s, Olson's studies led him to believe that God's foreknowledge is necessarily limited by human free will and that the classical doctrines of original sin, human depravity and moral inability, the Atonement, and justification were as wrong as the classical doctrine of absolute foreknowledge.

      Now, I'm anything but an expert in this area.  However, I do know something about the general pattern of fundamentalism, which appears to be repeated among various related anti-modernist docrtines which are not necessarily fundamentalist.  Two things that are quite common are (1) inventions of new beliefs (2) that are given false lineages.  Neither of these is usually intentional.  (People generlaly believe they are returning to the original faith.) But they happen anyway.  Given what Beisner has written, it would seem that a similar pattern is probably at work with MGT.  But, obviously, this is only speculation on my part.

      (5) I'm not sure what your point about cults is.  A cult is not determined by having strange beliefs.  (If it were, Red Sox fans would surely quality, for example. And, as a kid, I was one, sort of, not having an AL team nearby.)  A cult is determined by the social control of its members.  (And no one can control Red Sox fans, at least as far as I can tell.)

    •  More on YWAM, MGT, and an emphasis here on cults (0+ / 0-)

      I attended a one year unaccreditted bible school right after high school during the 1973-1974 school year that frequently had YWAMers and others teaching Moral Government in to speak.  I suppose, then, that I was a part of this to a larger degree than other people.  More than devote a weekend to a DTS, I devoted a year to it. Makes me sick to think about it now, but my life at the time was what it was.

      I don't doubt the truth of YWAM's statement that the relationship to MGT was anything more than incidental. That's why I mentioned the New Zealand angle. If you're doing research, take a look at the work of Joy Dawson and her son John. They may also have had a link to MGT. But there is another influential New Zealander running in these circles who I would bet is the single most important "incidental link" between YWAM and MGT. His name is Winkie Pratney.

      I don't see any significance in the relationship between YWAM and MGT for understanding the Disney/ABC docudrama event or taking action against it. I'm open to hearing the argument but I don't think you've made the case that this YWAM/MGT relationship is anything significant.

      As I wrote upthread, I grew up in the Assembly of God pentecostal denomination in Northen California and my grandfather was a very well known Assembly of God minister in another state.

      My guess (and it's just a guess) is that this denomination had/has? closer links to YWAM than just about any other denomination in the US. Check here for statistics on membership in this denomination in the US.

      I would put it to you that one way to think about YWAMers is to understand them to be the "activist true believer base" of a much larger population.

      Interestingly...  On a lark, I just googled one of the ministers I respected the most at the school I attended.  He (Joe) wrote the lead article here.  But take a look at who wrote the article below his.

      Small world...

      ...the New York Times...All the Lies We've Decided to Tell You

      by aspTrader on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 11:56:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why MGT? (0+ / 0-)
        I don't see any significance in the relationship between YWAM and MGT for understanding the Disney/ABC docudrama event or taking action against it.
        The point is not for either of those things.  The reason I brought it up was to point out that we should not simply say "this is a product of the religious right."  In saying that, we give YWAM too much credit--credit it wants, BTW.

        Calling it "the 'activist true believer base' of a much larger population" brings up an interesting point.  As Robert Altemeyer--the researcher who developed the Rightwing Authoritarianism (RWA) scale--has discovered, RWA is much more concentrated on the political right the higher up you go.  This also seems to correlate with the sharp--but seldom examined--diffrence between traditional conservatives and the reactionaries who lead them.  For example, the former generally support the welfare state, and abortion in at least one case--rape, health threat to the mother, serious birth defect--the latter want to destroy the welfare state, and oppose abortion in every case.

        We also know that RWA is correlated with church attendence.  It would be quite logical to assume that such an "activist true believer" base of true believer churches would be significantly more authoritarian than the population it is drawn from, and would hold extremist views that the population as a whole does not hold, but is seldom confronted with.  

        Thus, my point is to caution folks against assuming that this is representative of the entire religious right as a population. If we want to reach people in the broadest possible manner, we should not be doing the work of those who want to continue turning them against us.

        One final point about MGT.  From what I've heard and read so far, it does seem that YWAM helped spread it to a significant degree.  How significant can be debated, but the number of people exposed to MGT through YWAM appears to be in the tens of thousands at least. And it does seem that it is not just incompatible with fundamentalism, but with basic beliefs of the vast majority of Christians.  The same is true of the Moonies.  If folks on the religious right are who they say they are, they should have zero tolerance for this sort of stuff. But. They. Don't.

        The fact that YWAM denies this past is significant here.  They know it doesn't look good.  So they lie about it.  Because they can.

        There's an interesting parallel here with reports that the 9/11 hijackers gambled and went to strip clubs.  Karen Armstrong takes note of this phenomena in her book The Battle For God.  There is a tendency for some fundamentalist to "jump the rails" like this, which has been documented across religious traditions.  IMHO, it is evidence of the tendency toward extremism that underlies the entire fundamentalist dynamic.  And that's the final reason why I think it's significant.  It sheds some light on the real core of my concern, which is the cult-like tendencies of YWAM.

        p.s.  It's quite possible for an organization to function like a cult in its innards, but not in its general dealings with the public at large, or even those who participate in much of its activities.  I think there's good evidence that this may describe YWAM, but I need to learn a good deal more before I am willing to say outright that it is a cult.  Cult-like tendencies are troubling enough, IMHO, when talking about the sort of issues raised in relationship to PT911.  This is still quite compatible with YWAM having had a beneficial influence in some people's lives.  The world is not all black and white.  An organization like YWAM can do both good and evil.  In fact, it can do both great good and great evil.  Just because they promote Manichean thinking doesn't mean we should.

        •  I take back something I wrote upthread (0+ / 0-)

          Paul,

          In your post above you, you write that YWAM helped to spread MGT to a significant degree.  Further upthread I had written that the two had no significant relationship.  After doing some browsing I can see I was wrong about that.  Thanks for helping me to clarify for myself.

          I also think you are right in understanding that there is a greater emphasis on submission to authority among these folks.  But looking back on my experience now, it's not clear to me that these folks have a greater need for authority figures than others.  I believe that they simply and sincerely believe that submission to authority is what their faith requires.

          In short, it's not necessary, IMO, to posit some psychological need for authority in them to explain their willingness and desire to submit to authority.

          ...the New York Times...All the Lies We've Decided to Tell You

          by aspTrader on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 11:31:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not Necessary, But... (0+ / 0-)
            I think you were reflecting on your experience, when you said the relationship was not significant, and I accepted that.  Others, however, saw a much stronger relationship.  I believe that's part of what's made YWAM's denials somewhat credible to many people over the years.  I'm glad you did the digging for yourself and came to your own conclusion.

            As for the issue of authoritarianism.  I think you're certainly right that it's "not necessary, IMO, to posit some psychological need for authority" among YWAM members--especially on a case-by-case basis.

            But the empirical evidence shows that regular church attendence is broadly correlated with RWA, which includes authoritarian submission as one of its components.  That doesn't mean that everyone involved has this need, only that a larger percentage have more of this need than among the general population.

            In short, it's an empirical, statistical relationship, not a logically necessary, causal one.  These are the sorts of relationships that dominate in the social science, and they accord with my observation that the world is not a black-and-white Manichean place.  Most causes and effects are multiple, partial, and a mix of good and evil.

        •  YWAM.. the MGT and authoritarianism themes (0+ / 0-)

          ... having agreed with you in my post above...  8-)  let me now disagree a bit.

          I don't think MGT per se is the "hot button" that sets YWAM apart vis-a-vis the rest of the evangelicals or other "traditional" denominations.  I think playing that up as the distinguishing characteristic that makes YWAM "cultish" is wrong-headed.

          However, you're right that YWAM is cultish.  I just haven't been able to put my finger on why I think so.  I understand the essence of the authoritarian theme and it's importance for explaining some things.  But I suddenly realized what this other dimension was that hasn't been discussed yet, at least to my knowledge.

          The point is this...  Among the evangelicals I encountered so many years ago, many of the leading YWAMers I encountered stated that "God had spoken to them" about very detailed matters of life and faith, etc.

          I had really forgotten about this aspect of what I had experienced and observed.  There are probably others who may have thoughts about this and I don't have much time to elaborate in depth now.

          But if you're looking for the "cult angle" on the YWAM phenomenon, look no further than these few points:

          1. "God speaks to many of these folks" directly (not just through "his Word") and frequently about many detailed aspects of life.  I could tell you stories I had long not thought about that are pretty incredible...
          1. Submission to authority, as you have emphasized, is a critical element of their belief system.
          1. Now, you're not going to find these folks writing this down very often.  But I'll bet the tapes and videos and DVDs they sell are full of folks explaining how "God told me this" and "God told me that".

          No, really!

          Just my 2 cents...

          ...the New York Times...All the Lies We've Decided to Tell You

          by aspTrader on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 01:19:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes And No, No And Yes... (0+ / 0-)

            No: I Think You Misunderstand Why I Bring Up MGT

            I've tried to clarify this several times, but people keep misunderstanding me.

            I don't think MGT per se is the "hot button" that sets YWAM apart vis-a-vis the rest of the evangelicals or other "traditional" denominations.  I think playing that up as the distinguishing characteristic that makes YWAM "cultish" is wrong-headed.

            That's not what I'm arguing.  I defy you or anyone to point to anything I've written that says that.  My only claim is that this is not orthodox Christianity, and thus we should not blithely equate YWAM with the religious right in general.  We should be more specific is describing YWAM.

            Yes: God Speaking To YWAMmes.

            However, you're right that YWAM is cultish....

            But if you're looking for the "cult angle" on the YWAM phenomenon, look no further than these few points:

              1. "God speaks to many of these folks" directly (not just through "his Word") and frequently about many detailed aspects of life.  I could tell you stories I had long not thought about that are pretty incredible...

              2. Submission to authority, as you have emphasized, is a critical element of their belief system.

            This goes along with some of what Rick Ross writes.  On the second point, I already quoted this:

            There is an evident pattern to all the complaints about Youth With A Mission. If these statements are accurate, (which they seem to be) YWAM practices the so-called "sheperding" leadership method. Implementing direct control over their members through "discipleship" training. This training appears to employ recognized techniques of thought reform and mind control as listed by Robert J. Lifton in his "eight criteria" (see The Future of Immorality and Other Essays for a Nuclear Age, New York, Basics Books, 1987).

            On the first point, here's a passage from the same document that I didn't quote:

            Christian Research Institute of California sent a report dated November of 1987. YWAM was described as "basically sound". However, the report did raise some serious concerns. It questioned the value of "imposing legalistic standards... this heavy-handedness appears to express itself in some form of the 'sheepherding' error. The report also criticized the group's repentance as "one-sided" and the way by which they "open their Bible at random and ask God to speak to them from the passage so selected" as an "abuse of the Bible". This report concluded that "involvement...can be good, as long as those involved are aware of the problems and do not accept uncritacally the errors or imbalances in their teachings".

            I defy anyone to explain how this is any different from consulting a Ouiji Board.

  •  I just finished watching the second episode. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Iowa Boy

    It sucked.  I'm not even starting on the politics.  Just a bad movie.  Boring, even.

  •  Having spoken to Rick Ross on the phone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Coherent Viewpoint

    In Omaha we have this cute little cult - the leader is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, the Buddha Maitreya (only 2,400 years early!), and a bunch of other crap I don't believe. I like his original form - Ronald Lloyd Spencer, former truck driver, drug addict, and general purpose dipshit.

    This group, The Church of Shambhala, pushes a frothy mix of new age philosophy and they have a habit of keeping genuine Buddhist monks in forced labor situations. I got to know Rick a bit a few years ago when I rescued a young monk out of the place with the help of a few Omaha police officers. The poor fellow had four wisdom teeth out and when he got back to the 'production center' they put him right back to production - working on epoxy without a respirator. I held the young man at an undisclosed location, hired him an immigration attorney, and the poor cultists just couldn't understand why I wouldn't do Great Leader's bidding and return the 'sinner' to them.

    Rick's material is ... good. But I'd do more research on cult activity to sharpen this up before you really start spreading it. You do need to spread it, if this group is genuinely heretical in the eyes of the church, but be certain before you open fire in a broader fashion.

    "Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise" - U.S. Constitution author and fourth President James Madison

    by Iowa Boy on Mon Sep 11, 2006 at 09:56:00 PM PDT

    •  Obviously, This Needs More Research (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Coherent Viewpoint
      One reason that people use stealth is to make it hard to get a handle on them.  So, when they do happen to catch some unwanted attention, it's difficult for people to put them in context.

      This is what seems to have happened in this instance.  There is simply no way I could thoroughly research them in the time available (especially considering the other things on my plate).  But I could give folks a heads up.  I'm hoping that others will come forward with more information, in addition to what I can dig up on my own.

      p.s.  For some reason, cult leaders seem to find the name "Maitreya" particularly cool.  Don't know why that is.  Fortunately, they don't seem to go in for Avalokiteśvara.

  •  Weell whatta you know (0+ / 0-)

    Madrassas right here in River City!

    What happened to the notion that religipus views were a private matter?
    W and his bunch will have us goose-stepping to HIS God?  This just outrageous!  Aren't you appaled?

  •  moral government = free will (0+ / 0-)

    YWAM may or may not qualify as a cult.  But in terms of theology, it was at the outset squarely liberal, and that is where it comes in for criticism from the evangelical "mainstream," if one could use such a word as mainstream in describing this world.  Broadly, Judaism and Catholicism accept, with limits, the concept of personal free will;  historically, Protestantism, by contrast, embraces predestination, an all-controlling God.  Moral government, as a freewill philosophy, is reformist in the context of the evangelical world.  There is no question YWAM was originally a moral government movement;  they seem to have backtracked lately or at least gone underground with it.  Moreover, they have been criticized for "going native" in their third world missions;  that is, accepting and valuing local cultural practices and incorporating them into YWAM's worship styles.  Most people would say that is liberal.  Again, this has made some "mainstream" evangelical commentators uncomfortable;  the word "idolatary" has been bandied about.

    One cult-like thing about YWAM;  it is damn secretive about what it does stand for.  Anyone been able to figure it out from their websites?  I sure can't.  I infer that they are inwardly confused and divided and have a problematical relationship with their original embrace of moral government philosophy.

    As for the tenor of YWAM's politics, as opposed to its theology, follow the money.  They reportedly gave $10 million to rightist ministers in Ohio and they are up to their necks in this "Path to 9-11 Scandal," so that is easy to figure out.  They may be theologically progressive, but they are politically real conservative.  Is it possible to be both at one time?  Of course it is.

    •  Interesting Take (0+ / 0-)
      What you say is certainly possible, but I'm not sure it's actually all true.  Calvinism surely taught predestination, but it was never the whole of Protestantism.  What's more, America has moved decisively away from it's early Calvinism.  Both the First and Second Great Awakenings were, one could argue, premised on free will, and greatly diminished the influence of predestination as a doctrine in American religious thought.  aspTrader wrote "the MGT movement had intellectual roots in the revival movements in the United Status of the 1840s."  As I said elsewhere, I'm not an expert on this. But it's not surprising to find such roots.  Both liberal and conservative tendencies were expressed during this time.  (The Millerites came out of this same social context, for example.)

      "Fundamentalism" like most words has several different meanings.  Typically, in a Christian context, it refers to a belief in Biblical inerracy and literalism.  Evangelicals are not so narrowly defineable.  Their theology

    •  I agree with everything you've said (0+ / 0-)

      I certainly believe that the MGT and YWAMers tended, when I knew them, to be reformist/progressive or "liberals" on some theological and "worship" styles.  Clearly, however, they are conservative on political matters to the point of even lying in the Disney/ABC docudrama.  It will be interesting to watch what the YWAM organization does as these lies become more well-known to YWAMers themselves.

      I was wrong about something I implied upthread.  Namely, that MGT had it's main roots in the 1840s revival movement spearheaded by Charles Finney.  Certainly, Charles Finney was a significant influence on Gordon Olson and Harry Conn.  I have't thought much about these matters for 25-30 years so I have forgotten some things.  But in browsing the web a bit last night, I now recall that it was Pelagius who strongly argued within the church about free will.

      I also appreciate your side comment: "...if one could use such a word as mainstream in describing this world."  Very humorous.

      Having grown up a pentecostal protestant and being now being married to a hispanic practicing catholic, I get a bit confused.  I like to confuse my children too on these matters by calling myself the "catholic atheist" in the family.  They're just getting old enough now to appreciate the comment and it's fun to do to get them to think.

      ...the New York Times...All the Lies We've Decided to Tell You

      by aspTrader on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 11:05:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  YWAM involved with the largest publisher (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Paul Rosenberg

    Of fundy school books.

    Light Educational Ministries

    No wonder the thought of propaganda seems do appealing to them, it is a full time job for these people.

    http://www.unbelief.org/...

    -- If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. * Noam Chomsky

    by NCrefugee on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:34:10 AM PDT

    •  more (0+ / 0-)

      LEM's Theological and Reference Catalogue

      This catalogue claims to redress a 'void' existing in Christian bookstores by offering the works of Rushdoony, North and a range of other 'dominion theologians'. The range of topics dealt with is extremely wide, from The Dominion Covenant, 'North's economic commentary on Genesis, pointing out that sound economic policy must be founded in the doctrine of creation' to Donald Howard's Burial or Cremation: Does It Matter?: 'Howard suggests burial is the only Bible-approved method of disposing of our loved ones after death'. (8)

      The 'Science/Mathematics' section of this catalogue contains a lot of old friends, including Duane Gish, Henry Morris and Ken Ham, all mainstays of Young Earth Creationism. There are twenty books under the Science/Maths heading, not one of which would advance your understanding of science or maths in any way. One of these works, The Cosmos, Einstein and Truth by Walter van der Kamp, 'revives the old geocentric theory [ie. the sun and the rest of the universe revolve around the earth] with some fascinating insights which challenge Einstein's work.' (18) James Nickel's tome Mathematics - Is God Silent? 'revolutionises the prevailing understanding and teaching of Maths [and] shows that Maths is distinctively Christian.' (19)

      Finally, Rushdoony himself will lay your doubts to rest with his magisterial Mythology of Science: 'This book defines the nature of the opposing religious systems of thought: Christian creationism and Darwinism. It is a call to Christians to stand firm for Biblical six-day creationism as a fundamental aspect of their faith in the Creator.' (19)

      -- If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. * Noam Chomsky

      by NCrefugee on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:38:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks For The Tip! (0+ / 0-)
      I will definitely follow this up.
  •  more links to rushdoony (0+ / 0-)

    -- If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. * Noam Chomsky

    by NCrefugee on Tue Sep 12, 2006 at 06:49:07 AM PDT

  •  I've been to DTS (0+ / 0-)

    I will not go so far as to assume that the things you've done research on are isolated incedents-I just know what happened at the base I went to school at- and some of the first hand accounts I read are a tad over exagerated in comparison with my experience. As far as there political ideals- I'm not sure I ever really followed along with them- and by the time I actually started following politics, I had decided that I definately did not. As far as their connections to horrible dictators and scandals and the like- I know nothing of these things-They could be true(God I hope not) like I said , I only know what I saw.(at YWAM Tyler)

    I had heard the whole thing about YWAM being Quasi-cultish, when I was at school- I always thought it was a joke passed around town, I never really thought anyone beleived it, untill now. I'm going to address some of the things I've read in first hand accounts online- hopefully I'll be able to go over things in more detail when I write my first diary. lets start with the rules- 1)not aloud to leave the base without permission: We went out at night, every chance we got (which was not often since almost no one had a car). The leadership almost never had a problem with us leaving(They never took issue with most of the people I knew). There was this one guy that I heard that they had a problem with leaving- I didnt' really hear the whole story. 2)Singles are not allowed to have cars on base: Not true - it's just that the majority of the single students didn't own a car. I did know this one guy who had a sweet looking mettalic Thunderbird that he named gertrude, and treated it like it was girl friend. 3) Not allowed to watch TV: Not true- alot of the staff had tv's and were nice enough to let us  watch them. Some of the students owned DVD players and we often watched movies. Like a good little Christian School, we were discouraged from  watching rated R films. 4) Not ever left alone: While actually being alone for a good amount of time was a feet to be admired , as many of my roomates did not understand the meanings of the words "alone time" or "personal space" - being alone was definately aloud. One of my favorite things to do was go hiking through the woods everyday by myself.

    As far as the base being isolated- well... it is. I really don't see anything wrong with iliminating destractions at school.

    My basic veiw of YWAM(atleast YWAM tyler) is that the most you can accuse them of, is being a ministry run by that imperfect race of beings refered to as human. My experience- which I plan to go in to more detail , later when I have time- was an experience- that was pretty good. I really grew in my walk with God.

     hope this helps shed some light on things...

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