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Instead of the planned piece on Cho (which I'll start on that series Monday), I wanted to touch on why I fight.

As you'll find out by reading, the reason I fight is actually quite personal--I hope that by educating people that we can stop kids--including the "Jesus Camp" kids--from living with the same longterm scars that myself and other walkaways deal with every day.

I'm also writing this piece to give you some insight into the viewpoint of the "spiritual warfare" crowd--and maybe, just maybe, some ideas to help those of us breaking away and to keep the country from being hijacked.

There's a reason I write about dominionism--not just on the political threat, but the real threat inherent in these groups by virtue of many of the hardline "spiritual warfare" dominionists being in essence abusive Bible-based cults.

I know all too well about the danger these groups present--not just for the country, but for the kids themselves.  I in fact live with it everyday.

You see...I was once one of those kids like in "Jesus Camp" myself.

I'm a survivor of the same "Third Wave" (aka "Joel's Army") dominionist movement that spawned the camp depicted in "Jesus Camp".  I even remember in my youth attending a day-camp program run by the dominionist church I escaped--one that was very much like "Jesus Camp", in fact.

To this day I have serious issues trusting people and have had to undergo therapy for complex PTSD (yes, kids who grow up in this stuff go through literal shellshock, in some ways worse than Gulf War or Vietnam veterans--because they never had anything "before the war" to go back to), and have socialisation issues to the point people have wondered if I didn't have Asperger's Syndrome.  

I've compared the experience of growing up in these groups to something akin to growing up in a pit filled with zombies--all of which are trying to zombify you, and grab onto you as you try to climb out the slick, jagged walls...and that's assuming you decide to at all, because you're taught all your life that even with the horrors in the pit that Outside is Much, Much, Much Worse.

Most of us who've escaped discovered either people "in the pit" were lying about Outside, or we had a caring person from Outside tell us what it's really like (usually kind of a mix of both); more and more, these kids are being isolated from ever having contact with people from Outside till they're well in their twenties or even beyond that.

Even when you've been in a public school and had some contact with the outside world--much less the situation these kids are growing up in (with dominionist correspondence-schooling sold as "homeschooling", dominionist alternatives to Scouting like the Royal Rangers and Missionettes and Heritage Girls, not even allowing them to be friends with non-dominionist neighbours, etc.)--the impact of things once you're Outside (at least speaking from the perspective of someone who escaped) is not unlike that of a kid raised by wolves (or zombies).  You have to almost literally relearn everything about being human all over again almost from the cradle--that's something I'm still doing and probably will be playing catchup with the rest of my life, to be honest.

I still kick myself in the ass all too much over the shitty things I did as a dominionist "God Warrior" kid (even though I really did not know better--how could I?  I was raised in a dominionist cult that thought everything else was evil and that we'd be going to war with the Russians and they'd be raptured up before the nukes started flying!).  I try to educate people on the mindset of these groups because people really don't understand what goes on in the heads of dominionists--and most of them are in a mix of hatred (of their critics, who are seen as children of the devil) and fear (of the outside world in general).

One of the crappier incidents I remember that I did--and to this day I kick myself over it, and if the guy who this happened to is reading this, my deepest apologies--anyways, one time in 5th grade, I had made a comment that was in fact seen as socially acceptable by the dominionist group that raised me...that I hoped that "godly people took over and did to the atheists what Hitler did to the Jews".

Unbenownst to me, there was a Jewish student in the room.  When the teacher (rightfully so!) ripped me a new one, I got panicked--but not because I had literally (and, ironically, innocently--remember, I was taught this was a Good Thing by the group I ended up walking away from!) advocated genocide of every atheist in the US--but because I thought I'd insulted a Jew and thus permanently damned myself for insulting one of "God's chosen people along with those baptised in the Holy Ghost".

Nowadays, I realise how what I did was horrifically wrong.  I had no concept then, though, and wouldn't for quite some time--and, I suspect, the "Jesus Camp" kids are in the same damn boat as I was in.

Only they don't have a fifth-grade teacher to tell them that it was wrong.

. . .

One of the first things that led to me starting to break away was hearing people in my own church condemn the Christian metal band Stryper as "satanic".

Now, I was a fan of the band Stryper back then.  (It was one of the few hard-rock bands someone thoroughly inculcated in dominion theology could listen to without risking one's soul--or so I thought at the time.)  I knew they did literal altar calls and tossed out Bibles at concerts.  I knew Stryper was about as far from "devil music" as one could get.

That little chink started opening up more chinks.  

Eventually my religiously-inspired "bad behaviour" ended up getting me put in a psych ward for a month for "depression" (and now, I realise in retrospect and my therapist does as well, that it probably was the result of the coercive religious practices in the group I left).  That month of isolation away from dominionist programming was like a Prague spring in a way--I learned that listening to secular music would not instantly damn me to hell, among other things.  I learned that people who weren't dominionists were actually human.

I learned soon from a high school teacher--and if you are reading this somewhere, I'd love to thank you for this--that the Equal Rights Amendment didn't say what dominionists claimed it said--it said nothing about merging the Boy and Girl Scouts or making women become lesbians.  I learned that Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" was in fact saying alcoholism was a form of suicide--a message the group I left would have actually agreed with--from the same teacher.

I began to realise something was broken, too, during the televangelist scandals.  My folks had taken us to Heritage USA (the old theme park that Jim and Tammy Bakker ran) as sort of a dominionist alternative to taking us to Kings Island or Disney World; in my teenhood I started realising that these were far from the men of God they claimed to be.

I made the mistake of mentioning this to my mother once.  She first thundered that I was not to judge a "man of God"; when I questioned whether they were men of God at all she accused me of being demon possessed, attempted an impromptu exorcism by smearing Wesson oil on my head whilst ranting in tongues, then went on a two-hour harangue reading from the Bible on how I was apparently damned, had better change my ways or I'd go to hell, had better "start flying right", and that if I didn't she would have deacons come to our house to perform an Assemblies-style "deliverance service" on me.

All because I didn't toe the line anymore.  (This pattern would be repeated quite often in my youth as I spoke up more for myself.  There were times I thought seriously that I would have to run away from home for my own personal safety.)  Until I was in college, though, I just thought my parents were somewhat abusive--I didn't realise what went on in my home, the "beating of kids till they cried", the claim I was full of Satan...I didn't quite realise that wasn't normal, largely because my folks largely prohibited me from going to other people's houses (especially overnight; literally, to visit a friend, my mother pretty much almost had to have a full background check on their parents).

I never went to my high school prom because I knew my folks would never allow me to go--because it was co-ed and they had rented out a hall overnight.  I also had at least one college choice denied me outright by my folks because the college offered co-ed dorms.

I finally began to realise something was severely broken in the church I walked away from was through involvement on net.abuse issues on the Usenet group alt.religion.scientology in the early 90's (the Scientologists were doing their best to wreck the group, which was being used as a support group for ex-Scientos).

Using some of the checklists of "coerciveness" that had been posted by exit counseling groups, I realised the group I walked away from would fit the criteria.

In my research on dominionism since (which I have done, in part, to help along my own recovery from the scars of spiritual abuse)...I am becoming increasingly convinced that (especially among the pente/charismatic groups involved in dominionism, possibly increasingly so even among the Southern Baptists) part of the reason people are having such poor success in debating dominionists is because they do not realise they are in essence dealing with someone who is in a coercive religious group.

Dominionist groups, especially those into "spiritual warfare" (crossreference Marguerite Perrin on "Trading Spouses" for an example of this in action--I honestly wish I could say it's an extreme example, but in some dominionist groups her behaviour is sadly typical), have an entire system designed to isolate their members from "mainstream reality" and to essentially create a dominionist "group-think".

Speaking from my own experiences as a former dominionist (having been raised in it), here are some of the things that my church has done to pretty much prevent any outside influences:

a) Taught explicitly that everyone outside the group is evil, possibly even in league with Satan, and that Satan may even be "working through them"

b) Taught that criticism of the group was "blaspheming against the Holy Spirit" and criticism of members or the church was answered with "touch not mine annointed" or "thou shalt not judge a man of God"

c) Taught that demons were the cause of all hardship and illness (including diseases; genetic diseases along with multigenerational poverty were termed "generational curses" and even colds and flu were the result of "solidified demonic corruption") and that these could be cured by "naming it and claiming it" as well as donations of up to fifty percent of income to the church

d) Taught that "doorways to Satan" could open up and cause "demonic oppression" by things as innocuous as peace symbols (which they preached were Satanic), Nike shoes, and Pokemon (!) (yes, they literally teach that if kids had Pokemon stuff they'd be demonised; they also do book burnings of Harry Potter books for the same reason, and even criticised C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia" because it was fantasy)

e) Taught people to not associate with "unsaved" people unless for the purpose of conversion, and even distributed "Christian Yellow Pages" to this effect (which required a fundamentalist statement of faith to be signed before they'd list someone)

f) Ran their own TV and radio "godcasting" network (now focusing largely internationally; see here) and told people that literally all media outside from the church was Satanic

g) Handed out voter's guides from the AFA and a predecessor group (Freedom's Heritage Forum) telling people explicitly whom to vote for (by the way, a deacon of the church is the state head of the AFA)

h) Taught explicitly that deceptive tactics are perfectly permissible in an attempt to convert someone (and yes, this is denomination wide; I've documented over 40 separate "front groups" used for various forms of targeted prosyletising by the Assemblies, including targeting other churches)

i) Taught people could literally be hexed into conversion by essentially cursing these people in the name of Christ to be miserable and even suicidal unless they converted

j) Taught that involuntary exorcism of people who were LGBT, not dominionists (and openly critical of the group), and so on were perfectly permissible (I will never be able to come out safely to my parents that I'm bisexual or that I've always felt like a man in a woman's body as a result; it would literally be a death sentence in my case)

Now, I wish this were not a terribly large church, or a terribly politically active or important church.  I wish this was an abberation.

Unfortunately, a church deacon at the very church I walked away from is head of the Kentucky AFA (one of our two main dominionist groups here--the other is in Lexington and is the state FotF frontgroup), essentially has been at the center of the dominionist movement in the state for the past thirty years, and is busy setting up a multi-station "godcasting" network on shortwave radio (yes, most of the annoying religious broadcasters on shortwave radio are affiliated with High Adventure Ministries, which is a front group of the very AoG church I walked away from).  It's also a major stop on the Assemblies "traveling preacher" circuit, is the second largest church in my home state (with anywhere from 7000 to 17,000 in attendance, depending on whose figures you believe and whether a "revival meeting" is in progress there), and no less than Oliver North has been at the church preaching that the Reds were the Antichrist so he pushed the Iran-Contra arms deal as a mission from God (!)  It was also one of the first of the so-called "Third Wave" churches promoting the "Joel's Army" stuff I've written about--the same stuff that "Jesus Camp" teaches to little kids--and was pushing this stuff all the way into the 1960s.

Also, sadly, this view is also not atypical--John Ashcroft's "eccentricities" like being annointed with Wesson oil (!) are typical teachings in those churches, and practices at Ted Haggard's New Life Church are very similar to the tactics of "deliverance ministry" preached at the church I walked away from.

And even more frightening, they are getting more and more control of the government--to the point that someday, they could eventually force us walkaways back at gunpoint--or kill us "just like Hitler did to the Jews"--or, worse yet, start a war that kills everyone.

. . .

One of the things I still have nightmares over to this day--and modern political events don't help at all with this--is of Cold War sermons regarding the Final Battle.

You see, they would preach that Russia (back then the USSR) was the literal country of Satan and its leader was the Antichrist.  And at the very end of things, Russia would use some Middle Eastern country--Iran was quite frequently mentioned--and would launch an invasion of Israel after having nuked Jerusalem.

The US would begin a nuclear exchange with the Russians after that, which would end up with the US and Israel against the rest of the world in a nuclear Mother of All Wars to be centered on Megiddo Hill.  

Of course, all the True Believers would be raptured up first.  And they'd have a heaven-side seat to watch everyone else burn in literal nuclear hellfire.

And the sick and sad thing was that they welcomed this.  The preacher almost seemed to be in orgiastic joy over the fact that in 1984 the relations between the US and USSR had worsened to such a point people were thinking nuclear war was a very real possibility.

I didn't know then that they were pulling this stuff out of the Scofield Reference Bible (along with their support for young-earth creationism and a lot of other bizarre things) and that the reference in the Scofield bibles were actually from Tsarist Russia--back when the Russian secret service was doing progroms against its Jewish population and printing things like The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion to justify them.

I know that now, but I still have nightmares about how the whole church was so damned happy that literally the rest of the world was going to be nuked and they were finally going to Get Theirs Against All Those Non-Dominionist Heathens.

The fact that we could end up going into a nuclear war with Iran doesn't help my nerves any at this...nor does the fact that, even to this day--fully 12 years after the Berlin Wall fell--they still claim that Russia is "Gog" and that Boris Yeltsin is part of a grand Satanic conspiracy.

. . .

Some have even asked how we can persuade dominionists to, well, not be dominionists.

The problem is that--because dominionism is, at its core, a spiritually abusive movement with political aspirations it isn't that simple at all...because you have to fight the programmed mindset.

I am posting this info in the hope that people--in particular, experts in the psychological field (I know we have at least one on the board!) will be able to give suggestions.  I also post this in the hope people realise the difficulty us walkaways have had in getting out--and maybe our success stories will give people hints on how to stop the hijacks from occuring.

One thing that is difficult to explain to people who have never been involved in a coercive religious group is just how people get "stuck in" and refuse to leave.

What people don't tend to realise is that most coercive groups--be they dominionist groups or some other flavour of coercive group (such as Scientology, the Moonies, etc.)--have as part of the coercion in and of itself various "thought stopping" techniques and other forms of coercion that literally prevent the person from questioning the group at all.  (In fact, that's how we can define dominionism as a coercive religious movement, especially in its "spiritual warfare" and "premillenarian dispensationalist" flavours.)

A writer from the Ex-Pentecostals walkaway support board--who also has written a book on his experiences called "Letters from an Ex-Pentecostal"--has written possibly one of the best descriptions of the coercive mindset and just what people--both people fighting dominionism, and people fighting the coercive tactics used in dominionist groups--face:

(as a side note, this is concerning spiritually abusive pente and neopente groups involved in the dominionist movement)

When confronting a Pentecostal, one must remember that Pentecostals are stuck in a mental thinking loop that prevents them from thinking in the normal sense about anything relating to religion. They have designed an enormous list of code words designed to trigger thinking patterns in a particular way. Think of it as a computer program or a computer virus. When you hear the words "reprobate" or "backslider" or any other code words, they are designed to trigger a particular thought pattern. Another phrase that comes to mind is "touch not mine anointed!" The last one triggers thoughts of incapacitating terror at the thought of questioning the pastor about anything. Also, there are particular gestures that are designed to trigger certain thoughts like the tightening and closing of the eyes followed by something like "Woo, I feel something in this place, let's pray for that guy right now!"

And, so it is. It is hard to even speak about religion to these Pentecostals stuck in the mental traps because the minute you try to question them, those code words, and those gestures come into their imaginations, without even them hearing them or seeing them, and these things short-circuit the mental processes to the point where they cannot hear the words you are saying. The mind is stuck and has something like a computer virus.

Often, it takes a tremendous effort to break these people from this state of self-hypnosis. Sometimes it takes a dramatic event for them to begin to question. Sometime the pastor betrays them so deeply, they go through terror, depression, and many other things that are so unbearable that they have to begin to question the system.

The services are designed to nurture these thought systems and loops that they cannot break out of. All the emotional things that go on from excitement to terror, to grieving, to anything with extreme emotions - all this contributes to the deadening of the mind to thinking outside of the particular mind set.

Their minds are stuck. They do not know this. You can tell them this and often, they do not understand what you are telling them because their thoughts are stuck in a short circuit. Sometimes we have to spend many years or months trying to figure out a way to break within a particular person's mind to break it out of the shorted-loop. Each of us has a lot of work to do if we are to do this. Each case is different, and I suspect that there is a particular KEY to each person to break them out of the loop. It just might take a long time to find the Key to break the code and delete the looping control loop of their mind's software programs, in a manner of speaking.

So, do not ever be surprised that you cannot communicate with these people. It is part of the design of the system to keep them trapped in the mental control loops triggered by words, gestures, music or whatever a local preacher can design. The pastor does not do this deliberately as in, "How can I design a system to keep them trapped," but he simply does it by trial and error in Darwinian fashion as to what works with a particular person and congregation and what does not. This is how it works. And whatever system of controls survives the experimentation is what survives in the same way as animal species survive in the process of natural selection in the Survival of the Fittest. The better the system design, the harder it will be to break
them out of the mental loops.

In other words, coercive tactics practiced in dominionist groups literally set the mind in an "infinite loop" if any criticism of the group occurs.  (THIS is why you end up with, at best, people accusing you of being "anti-Christian" and occasionally going on "God Warrior" rampages.  I now know it's pretty much impossible to discuss things with my mom on these things because of this.)

In my case, the "key" was realising that I was being lied to--which was first "put in the lock" by hearing people condemning Christian metal bands, and "turned" by realising this was just the start of a whole series of lies.

This is also the reason I am not sure dialogue is even possible directly with dominionists; you are not so much arguing with a person as with an entire system of thought reform.

I can certainly agree with the author's observation that each person who is a successful walkaway from dominionist groups tends to have something specific that leads them to walk away; in my case, it was the discovery I was being lied to (and it's the dishonesty and subterfuge that STILL is one of the things that galls me the most about dominionism, to be perfectly honest--among many, many other things).

I've posted a brief example of code words particularly used in pente and charismatic dominionist groups, many of which act as "stop words" or "start words" in the community; many of the "code words" that have been documented in use by dominionists are also "thought stopper" words.  

Among other things, when dominionists talk about the "homosexual agenda"--that is literally a "thought stopper" phrase that dominionists use to essentially get their members to not only go into two-minute hates about everything related to LGBT folks--but there's the spiritually abusive preaching that literally teaches that gays are the servants of the devil himself and out to molest their kids (playing on fear and the need for a Great Enemy), plus other coercive tactics that teach that church leaders and other "men of God" (including fellow dominionists) are never to be questioned, combined with teachings in many churches that claim reading any info non-approved by the church or even doing business with non-dominionists will "open doorways for Satan" in one's life and cause one to become hopelessly insane, penniless, oh, and damned literally to Hell... THAT's what goes through the dominionist's head when he hears AFA leaders ranting about gay people.

Unless and until you luck upon that one "Key" that causes them to start to question--it's difficult to even talk to them.  I'd say nearly impossible.  (This is also the specific reason children are being isolated almost from birth, "homeschooled" via dominionist correspondence courses, sent to "Christian alternatives" to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and sent to dominionist colleges--it is incredibly hard for someone raised from birth in a coercive religious group and never having had any exposure to anything outside of it till in their twenties to walk away.  It is in some ways comparable to someone being raised by wild animals nearly all their life and then discovering human society; if one is younger, one has a better chance of adapting to human society (though you aren't ever going to be COMPLETELY normal about things) as opposed to finding human society in their twenties.

I am reminded of a part of the tall tale of Pecos Bill (whom is often spoken of as being raised by coyotes till he was a young man) many versions of the story, Bill's brother finds him and ends up in a furious debate with Pecos Bill, Pecos Bill firmly believing he was a coyote till his brother pointed out he didn't have a tail and his brother pointed out the identical Lone Star tattoo on them.  (And just like Pecos Bill, you pretty much have to learn to behave in society some twenty years late, with the rough difficulty of learning to live among humans when you've spent your whole life among coyotes.)

The trick with dominionists is that they have been explicitly taught that people who point out they "don't have tails" are in fact in league with the Devil., a site that focuses on coercive tactics within Scientology but is a good info source re coercive tactics in general, notes the following definition of a coercive religious group:

Every cult can be defined as a group having all of
the following 5 characteristics:

1) It uses psychological coercion to recruit, indoctrinate and retain its members
2) It forms an elitist totalitarian society
3) Its founder leader is self-appointed, dogmatic, messianic, not accountable and has charisma
4) It believes 'the end justifies the means' in order to solicit funds or recruit people
5) Its wealth does not benefit its members or society

The coercion I know of too well--they alternate between keeping you scared of everything--even your own mind--and driving you into "two minute hates".  (In the group I left, if you harboured doubts about the group you were seen to be the victim of "demonic oppression" by "demons of doubt" because you'd "left open doorways for Satan in your life"; the cure was always a "deliverance" service, often being forced to confess your sins in front of a 4000-10,000 seat audience, and isolating yourself even further from Outside and getting more involved in the dominionist group.)

This of course has the effect of keeping you both scared and petrified. :P  Growing up in that from birth tends to cross your wires rather permanently (which is why, to this day, I still have PTSD and anxiety problems a full seven years after escaping).

Most of you know of the totalitarian aspects, at least a bit.  (It's not the same as, well, living in the Pit, but you get an idea.  Growing up in it, you do get a horror of things after escaping--because you know they want to convert dominionist totalitarianism de facto into de jure--and believe (and are petrified) that if they don't hijack the government that God is going to revoke their status as "chosen people".

I've also noted the total lack of accountability (generally, the pastor is the supreme ruler of the church and exerts control through the deacons or "shepherding" group leaders).  To doubt or to oppose the pastor in these groups is a dangerous thing indeed--it labels you as The Enemy to those in the pit, and they'll try to "exorcise" you, assassinate your character, and rip you down.

The "by any means" should also be obvious to people by now--with use of church infiltrations.

And, well...the televangelism industry has since its beginning been run by these people and about every 20-30 years or so a major scandal breaks out.

Anyways, this is why I write.  Hopefully we can stop more people from being hurt.

Originally posted to dogemperor on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 07:51 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (42+ / 0-)

    Wanted to take a break for a bit and let people know why I am fighting--hopefully this will give more insight.

    The Cho series will begin on Monday--I'm doing some further research and article linkage, so that will be a series of 2 to 3 days or so.

    •  Wow! (11+ / 0-)

      Unbelievable stuff! I'm glad you escaped! This is so frightening but I think we need to hear about what has been pretty much dismissed as a "fringe" movement! I've been watching the Christian Right for a long time but I had no idea how organized this stuff was!

      Let us resolve to be the masters,not the victims,of our history,controlling our own destiny without giving way to blind suspicions & emotions- JFK

      by vcmvo2 on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:07:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you (4+ / 0-)

      I know sharing all this must have been difficult.  

      Keep writing!

      This scared the bejebus out of me. :)

    •  Thanks again (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, Coherent Viewpoint

      Thanks for another great diary, dogemperor (of dune?)

      What solutions do you see for a problem like this? Is it a recurring fad that will crumble under the weight of its detachment from reality, or would outside actions be necessary? And do you think efforts to help them become more moderate are appropriate, or would you prefer a rejection of faith altogether, as Sam Harris argues? Personally, I agree with much of what Sam has written, but think that religious moderation is a fine step in the right direction.

      Republicans have nothing to fear but the absence of fear itself.

      by factbased on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 11:47:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  *nods* (5+ / 0-)

        As for what to do...I think a combination of both outside action and, for want of a better term, "cult-proofing" the populace in general (as in educating people on tactics of spiritual abuse and coercion in general, along with a strong emphasis on coercion being immoral and inappropriate behaviour) will be necessary.

        People who are not dominionists are in fact going to need to be eternally vigilant in regards to this stuff--spiritually abusive groups have come up throughout history, and many of these groups are so established in the US now that it'd be impossible to fully root them out anyways.  Best IMHO to prevent them from doing more damage and being proactive in undoing the damage already done.  As one of the Founding Fathers once put it, "the price of freedom is eternal vigilance", and people have gotten, I'm afraid, slack on the "eternal vigilance" thing (hence allowing the dominionists to pretty much hijack the democratic process).

        A lot more awareness needs to be made in social work circles and with people working with kids in particular on the realities of religiously motivated abuse (which is actually quite a severe problem in dominionist circles, but which dominionists use loopholes that the USS Nimitz could be driven through to even avoid prosecution or investigation till their kids end up maimed or killed).

        As for a rejection of faith altogether, I'm not sure that's called for.  In fact, I actually think a big part of this will in fact involve people of faith--in particular, mainstream Christianity stating no more in regards to dominionism and not allowing Christianity to be hijacked altogether and to be willing to flat out call a Bible-based cult a Bible-based cult.  

        Most of us walkaways are probably never going to be able to really deal with churches anymore--there's too much imagery that is abused in dominionist groups that makes even a mainstream Christian church feel threatening.  I do know walkaways who've kept some sort of faith, though not a dominionist one--some being Christians who don't practice with any church at all, more who are pagans or deists, a few who've gone Buddhist, and a few who are Unitarian Universalists. (I myself took the "eclectic pagan" path, though sometimes I border between being a pagan and a deist.  You might call me a pagan who believes that sacred cattle need to be ground into hamburger now and again; Discordia tends to appeal to me for that reason :3)

  •  Thank you (10+ / 0-)
    That looks like it took a lot of thought to write.  Thank you for your insights.  I hope I don't sound smug when I say I've never been happier to have been raised Quaker.
  •  Of Course the Entire Religious Right (10+ / 0-)

    is a soft, statistical version of this.

    They hang together, they don't get much from open information sources, their churches construct very complete communities with wide arrays of both services to obtain and role for participation.

    I have never seen a definition of 'cult' that does not also extend well into mainstream religion. I won't claim they're exactly equal, but there's a large softly blurry overlap.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:01:34 AM PDT

  •  Congratulations (12+ / 0-)

    on getting out, living to tell your tale, and sharing your hard-earned perspective.

    Has anyone told you yet that this ought to be a book? ;-)

    I hope that your work gets disseminated widely. It's well worth reading.

  •  you need a medal for this (9+ / 0-)

    thank you

    excellent writing as usual.

    as I say every day, looking forward to your book.

    things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

    by terrypinder on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:04:39 AM PDT

  •  excellent diary, should be a book (5+ / 0-)

    And all of this is frighteningly familiar. I had acquaintance with this mindset, many I knew were in it, and I was close to it growing up.

    Congratulations on escaping.

    Bring the Troops Home. Restore Constitutional Government. Take Back Your Nation.
    Justice Holmes: "When you strike at a King, you must kill him."

    by khereva on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:11:37 AM PDT

  •  Truly excellent perspective. (7+ / 0-)

    Your "key" moment reminds me of my dad's story. His key moment was more social than religious, though it certainly spilled over into his religious beliefs. As a child, he was told not to drink from the "colored" water fountain, because "it was dirty." He saw that, in fact, the "colored" water fountain was much cleaner than the "whites only" water fountain. And then he began to wonder what other lies he was being told. Just a crack is all it takes...but what starts that crack, who knows? I believe that it has to come from somewhere within a person, but I also believe it is the responsibility of the outside community to offer the alternatives, to offer the ideas that push their way in.

    Thanks for sharing your powerful story. And I'm with the "write a book" folks!

    Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief... You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

    by Albatross on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:17:34 AM PDT

  •  Great diary on a frightening mindset (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sobermom, Ahianne, Albatross

    Amazing how just alike coercive religions are, no matter the location of their members or the definition of their God.

    I'm glad you got out with as much mental health as you did. Please write more about this.

  •  The realization that they (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, sobermom, Albatross

    ..are being lied to is the key that gets people out of a lot of coercive groups. It's hard to face the fact that someone you trust is lying; some people never can because it is so shattering.

    Who you gonna call?

    by Ahianne on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:52:21 AM PDT

  •  This diary just dropped off the front page. (4+ / 0-)

    I wish I could do more than just recommend and give mojo because this is very, very important. I have had contact with both the Church of Scientology and "Hebrew Christianity" and this all is quite familiar.

    I support the troops...I want them OUT OF THE SANDBOX. NOW.

    by Snakes on a White House on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 08:55:34 AM PDT

    •  Heh. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sobermom, terrypinder, SSMir, dotsright

      Most of that "Hebrew Christianity" stuff is--and this shocks most people--most of it consists of satellite congregations of Assemblies of God churches who essentially set up mock "temples" and "synagogues" for people playing at being kosher pentecostals.  (In fact, just about the only "Hebrew Christianity" or "Messianic Jew" group NOT run by the Assemblies is Jews for Jesus itself--and J4J is well known to be a coercive religious group.)

      I actually had a few members of my Sunday-school class who were in fact "messianic Jews" aka "Hebrew Christians"--just about the only difference in truth was the Messianics having their satellite services on Saturday and in Hebrew and also celebrating Hannukkah as well as Christmas.  (No, I never got to find out if Messianics got presents for nine days; many kids at that point were in fact being encouraged to buy Christmas presents "for baby Jesus" which were then donated to the church's own charities--promoted as alternatives to United Way because "the United Way is evil because they support abortion and gays".)

      It was really only until a very few years ago, living in a largely Jewish part of my hometown, that I realised just how insulting most Jews actually think "Messianic Judaism" really is. O_o

  •  You make (4+ / 0-)

    an important point about PTSD in kids.  Kids growing up in abusive homes and in religious cults are taught that what they experience isn't reality.  They are constantly taught that lies are "the truth" and that their own experience isn't valid.  Given that their cognitive development is occurring at this time, all of their thought processes are tainted by this conditioning.  You clearly have a strong center to have been able to escape.

    There is a sanctuary somewhat locally for those who are escaping from cults.  When I worked at a battered women's shelter I took in a mom and her son.  She was escaping an abusive marriage in another part of the country.  But as we dealt with the domestic violence issues it was clear that there were cult issues as well.  She needed the involvement of both places in order to function well enough to care for her child.  

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us.  I wish you strength and happiness.  Your work on the dominionists is a powerful way of making a difference.

    "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, and the dream shall never die." Ted Kennedy

    by sobermom on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 09:03:30 AM PDT

    •  So much of this, I think, is about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Coherent Viewpoint

      community.  The diarists comment about his mother trying to "exorcise" him goes straight to the heart of the matter.  Belief isn't simply a matter of epistemology or what we think to be true and false, but is also a condition for being a part of a group or community of people.  These religious groups are tightly knit and peoples lives become thoroughly imbricated with these social relationships.  Even if they begin to entertain doubts, they risk losing jobs, friends, and loved ones by sacrificing their beliefs.  In this regard, I think dogemperor is extremely courageous.

      Despite the loathing I feel for these extremist groups, I will say that they have done a very good job at providing a sense of community that is sorely lacking on the left.  I think those on the left tend to be suspicious of groups of any sort, as they readily recognize how groups tend towards fascism.  However, I think we need to do a better job providing forms of community (though I have no idea how to go about doing it).  This is not only necessary for our own psychological health, but to provide a haven for those going through crises such as dogemperor went through, and so they don't experience the choice between a despotic and manipulative cult and freedom as one between group relations and exile.  If we don't have a better deal to offer, we don't have much at all to offer.

      I've been pimping her book for the last couple of days, so I'll do it here too.  Recently I've been reading Sharon Crowley's Toward A Civil Discourse:  Rhetoric and Fundamentalism, which examines the break down in dialogue in our country.  This is a book I think every Kossack and Democrat needs to read.  Not only does Crowly give an excellent discussion of rhetoric, discussing the sorts of tools we need to successfully campaign, but she also goes into great detail about the belief system underpinning fundamentalist Christianity.  These people terrify me.  Crowley's findings follow dogemperor's remarks to a T and suggest strategies for defeating these movements.  I believe that those in the democratic party both need to be far more cognizant of this movement (that has gained an astonishing amount of political power in the last 35 years at all levels of government) and to be far more aware of the importance of rhetoric.

  •  I believe that these people are terrorists (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, terrypinder, cherryXXX69

    and should be treated as such.  The fundies are at the threshold of violence, the only thing holding them back was the hope that W would deliver the theocracy.

    And the parents are child abusers, subjecting children to this fundamentalist crap is the worst form of child abuse, their kids should be taken, the parents should go to prison.  In my opinion theocrats are worse than even Nazis.  Shut down the churches, throw the terrorists tax evaders and child abusers in prison.  Use the Patriot Act against these guys.  

  •  Wow! This is a work of love. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, factbased

    And thank goodness you are in a place in your life where you can create such a work.  Spiritual abuse indeed! Truly terrifying.

    I am going to forward this on to some friends. Long reading, but so worthwhile.


    "You don't know the REAL Homer--it's all burping and neglect!" -- Bart Simpson

    by Pandoras Box on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 09:43:15 AM PDT

  •  Check out Sara Robinson at Orcinus (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, cherryXXX69

    Thank you for a great diary.  I wish it had gotten more recommends.  This is important and frightening information..

    You might want to check out Sara Robinson's series at Orcinus.  Scroll down the left margin to where it describes her bio and then beneath that are links to a series she did on understanding the things that help people escape.  Her series was more from a political perspective, getting through to conservatives, but the overlaps were many and I'm sure you'd recognize the same mind set.

    I agree with those who think this would make a great book.  I don't think most people understand any of these cultish organizations well and it is important to know how they keep people in their thrall.

    •  Actually, I've been reading Robinson's series (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      terrypinder, factbased
      I've been reading the series regularly (since it was recommended on Dark Christianity--a LJ community that fights dominionism and also has a rather substantial walkaway population) and Robinson does have some really good points--I, too, would recommend her works for further reading.

      (I suspect Robinson is from a group that hasn't been as hardcore dominionist as the group I left, but it's proof people can escape.)

  •  i know, imho, it's child abuse (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, cherryXXX69, factbased

    so sad. my mom, aunt and probably over half of my family are either close to being this bad or worse.

    when i see this up close and personal it makes my stomach turn.

    Don't fight it son. Confess quickly! If you hold out too long you could jeopardize your credit rating. --Brazil (1985)

    by hypersphere01 on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10:01:57 AM PDT

  •  Stunned (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's like being raised by the patients in a mental institution!  

    Wesson oil?!?!

    Wow.  So happy for you that you made it out--- do you have figures on how large this movement is country-wide?  Like, how many people are in this cult?

    War is NOT a preventative measure.

    by demandcaring on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10:02:52 AM PDT

    •  And, I also wondered (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      what your relationship with your family is like now that you've escaped... I imagine it's difficult.

      Best wishes on your continuing recovery.

      War is NOT a preventative measure.

      by demandcaring on Thu Oct 12, 2006 at 10:05:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not the greatest, if you must know (4+ / 0-)
        In all truth, I try actively to avoid dealing with my family whenever possible--I do keep relations with my sister and my dad (as they've proven to be decent folk and--in times where they've been away from the dominionist programming--they actually tend to be sane; my dad in particular has stood up to my mom at times on some of the dominionist stuff, but cares too much for her or is too scared of her to divorce her).

        Were it not for my dad and sis still being in the situation, I'd probably have long since cut off all ties altogether.

    •  Nobody really knows how many there are. (6+ / 0-)
      Depending on who you talk to, this could be anywhere from one in 150 to one in thirty to one in ten people--a lot of this stuff is rampant in the pente and neopente movements (most particularly in the Assemblies of God and the various neopente denominations and "Charistmatic" independent neopente churches descended from them).

      Getting hard figures on this is very difficult for several reasons:

      a) A fair amount of this is being promoted in independent megachurches (like Rod Parsley's World Harvest Church or Ted Haggard's New Life Church) that have no denominational affiliation and essentially act as one-church denominations.  (Increasingly, this is a big part of the pente dominionist movement.)

      b) Some of this goes on within "cell churches" in mainstream congregations that have been seeded by the dominionist groups (IRD-linked "Church Renewal" groups and "charismatic Baptists" and "charismatic Catholics" in particular would fall in this category).

      c) Much of this has to do with a particular subset of pentecostal belief termed "dominion theology" or "Third Wave pentecostalism" that absolutely no reliable statistics exist on (as far as, say, percentages of pentecostal churches that espouse "Third Wave" stuff).

      Now, as to the denomination I escaped from (the Assemblies of God), it's presently the largest pente denomination worldwide (with around 3 million members in the US alone and around 50 million members worldwide); especially in the 1980's and 1990's, the Assemblies pretty much officially espoused Third Wave stuff as a "genuine move of the Holy Spirit" and the head of the World Conference of the Assemblies of God (Paul Yonggi Cho, who also runs the world's largest megachurch in South Korea with nearly 800,000 people in that church alone) was in fact largely the person who invented Third Wave Madness.  (I'm going to be doing a series on him all next week.)

      The Assemblies have also been one of the earliest groups involved in dominionism, having essentially invented the theology internally and working since at least the 1950s (and if you count Aimee Semple McPherson, earlier than that--around the 1920s) to set up a dominionist theocracy.  (During the Cold War and before World War II they largely sold dominionism as an explicitly anti-Communist movement.)

      So, to be honest--on the minimum end it could be upwards of around 5 million people in the US alone (if you count the Assemblies and all the big neopente groups like Vineyard or Foursquare that have also explicitly endorsed "Third Wave" stuff on a denomination-wide level, as well as the big megachurches) and possibly as many as 30 million (if you count all the other sources promoting this).

  •  Great diary but don't (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    terrypinder, Coherent Viewpoint

    kick yourself for behavior committed in the 5th grade. We ALL have shameful episodes in our past - most of us from much more recent vintage.

  •  Fucking great diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Sorry I missed it yesterday.

    So you know, this is making the rounds, it just got IMed to me from a pop culture researcher.

  •  Glad to see this (0+ / 0-)

    I am glad that you are posting some background, Dogemperor. I know that this has been a long, hard struggle for you, and know what sort of courage it took to do this.

    Time does heal. Remember that. You have made a great leap by walking away from all of that, and now people have an idea of that happens to these 'Jesus Camp' kids when they grow up.

    If that isn't child abuse, I don't know what is.

    Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. --R. A. Heinlein

    by Sunfell on Sun Oct 15, 2006 at 10:07:31 AM PDT

    •  That's my hope, anyways... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ...if this helps people know what it's really like in those places and all, it's worth ripping the scabs open for a short bit.  (And yeah, I've come a long way, I know.  I also know I have a long way to go.)

      Thanks for the commentary at any rate.

  •  great diary and I'm sorry (0+ / 0-)

    I'm sorry I got to see it too late to tip or recommend. Powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing something that had to be difficult to write.

    "This is a Revolution, dammit. We're going to have to offend SOMEbody!"--John Adams, *1776*

    by aphra behn on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 08:02:59 AM PDT

  •  i'm damn near in shock after reading this... (0+ / 0-)

    ...not because i don't believe it. quite to the contrary, it's just that it's so amazing to see my childhood and teen years so well described. i had to take a break 'cause it all came back so vividly. kudos on a terrific entry.

    by koan on Thu Oct 19, 2006 at 12:37:03 PM PDT

    •  I'll note the trigger warnings in future :P (0+ / 0-)

      Whenever I write on the subject of my own personal experiences, I'll be sure to note a trigger warning, certainly.

      I am glad, though, I'm not alone in having survived this.  Just out of curiosity, what group were you raised in?  

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