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Much has been made of possibly one of the most flagrant (and most well documented) abuses of tax-exempt status of a church in recent memory--namely, the literal endorsement of Michelle Bachmann by the pastor of the neopentecostal Living Word Christian Center in a sermon which was videotaped and broadcast.

As it turns out, a precursory examination of Living Word's website should give you info on why their promotion of a self-proclaimed "God Warrior" shouldn't shock you...and, sadly, in the neopente churches at the core of the "Joel's Army" movement, the actions of Living Word are not exactly an abberation.

Seeing as we have a dominionist church promoting a dominionist candidate, I figured it would be worth my time to do a little research on the church--maybe this will be useful for CREW et al in their investigations.

Anyways, I start doing research.  I can't find any sort of denominational affiliation on their website--not even looking in the history section or for affiliations in the ministries section (often you can find Assemblies churches that are hiding their affiliation by looking in the ministries section and finding, for example, links to Virtuous Woman (an AoG women's newsletter) or a Royal Rangers post for the kids).

Uh-oh.  Danger signal one--either this is a church trying really hard to hide its denominational affiliation or it's a neopente dominionist church not linked to a specific denomination.  (Yes, this is bad for many reasons.)

The home page itself gives quite a number of danger signs in and of itself, if you have any info on the specific symbology used in "Joel's Army" neopente churches in particular.  (Being a survivor of one of these churches, I have more familiarity with the imagery than I want at times.)

Anyways, two danger signals right there--a blatant promotion of Joel's Army theology right on the front page:

As soldiers in God's army, we are in a war against Satan. As our enemy, Satan, the Bible tells us, wants to "sift us like wheat" (Luke 22:31).

The primary way that Satan tries to "sift us like wheat" is through persecution and opposition. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us everyone "who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (NKJ). About opposition, Charles Finney, one of the foremost evangelists of the 19th century, once said, "If you have much of the Spirit of God, you must make up your mind to have much opposition both in the church and in the world."

Christians can expect frequent, distressing battles with Satan. Christians who are lukewarm and worldly minded, however, aren't much of a threat to him, and they may never have to face spiritual conflict. But when a believer begins to genuinely seek God, warfare intensifies.  
. . .
God doesn't say you can't use the sword of the Spirit if you're in sin. That's when you need it the most! At those times of testing, Satan would try to deceive me with the Word. He'd say, "Well, Jim, you've already sinned. You might as well go even further. You're out of the will of God. Why don't you just really sin. Then you can come back and ask Him for forgiveness. Remember that scripture where He says He forgets your sins?"

No! If you blow it, come back at Satan with scripture. Satan will try to say, "It's not doing anything. It's not working." He knows the power of the Word and that's why he doesn't want you to use it. And I'm warning you, he's not going to leave you alone. You've got to stay on it!
. . .
After my experience on the subway, I recognized the power of speaking the Word of God. I began to memorize scriptures and confess them over myself and my family every day. Charles Capps has ministered a lot on the power of your words. He said, "Words are the most powerful thing in the universe." He also said, "Faith comes more quickly when you hear yourself quoting, speaking, and saying the things God said."

Mark 11:23 says, "whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith" (KJV). The word "say" is used three times. "Believe" is used only once. You have what you say--not what others say about you. You will have whatever you say about you. It's a spiritual law.

This is the basic principle of seed time and harvest. The words you speak are seeds that produce after their own kind. Just as surely as they are planted, you can be equally sure a harvest will follow. Whether you're throwing fiery darts or speaking blessing, a harvest will come. If you're gossiping, you will reap a harvest from it. And if you're speaking scriptures every day, you will most definitely see the fruit of it in your life. However, before you can reap any harvest, you must first put your seed in the ground.

(And yes, they're talking specifically on the "Sword of the Lord" imagery used in these scary churches.  I remember much of it from my own experiences.  It's also of note that they're also relying heavily on dominion theology; "name it and claim it" in fact is derived ultimately from dominion theology and the "Prosperity Gospel" is inherently dominionist in and of itself.  TV preachers--as Living Word's pastor is--are often a "gateway group" to the hardline political dominionists, if not hardline political dominionists in and of themselves (and more and more, the latter is the case).)

Danger sign number three is promotion of "name it and claim it" preacher Kenneth Copeland on their website--not entirely surprising, as this is (per reports from other posters) a large megachurch heavy into the "name it and claim it" stuff and even running its own TV empire not unlike other large dominionist megachurches, but it is important to note that they seem to be a major stop on the dominionist travelling-preacher circuit.  (Copeland is actually particularly infamous as far as "name it and claim it" promoters; in fact, Copeland was one of the earlier TV preachers to explicitly promote dominion theology--the same dominion theology used as justification for political dominionism by the "Joel's Army" crowd.  Copeland was also noted in the 80's televangelist scandals, and infamously solicited "seed faith offerings" because "God wanted him to buy a LearJet".)

Of course, one can actually go to the horses' mouth to confirm that they're big on "name it and claim it", too; this page from one of their side ministries not only acts as a literal primer for "name it and claim it" but at one point literally describes God as an indulgent "sugar daddy"--and teaches that acknowledgement of reality (with, for example, a bad financial situation) is "opening doorways for Satan to steal your blessing":

God is wanting to do something good for you right now. If you'll give Him the slightest opportunity, He'll jump on it. He will find a way to bless you because He is a good Daddy. He's not an abusive Daddy. He's not a neglectful Daddy. He is good!
. . .
Sometimes that puzzles people. They can't figure out how they can say "healing is mine now" or "prosperity is mine now" when their body still hurts and their checking account is still empty. I'll tell you why you can say that--because 2,000 years ago Jesus paid the price for your healing and your prosperity. He obtained it for you way back then. So you aren't trying to get those things, they are already yours in Him.

Of course, the Devil will try to steal those blessings. He'll try to talk you out of your faith by pointing to your symptoms or your checkbook. But don't let the Devil discourage you. He's a defeated foe. When Jesus was crucified, He battled the Devil on his own territory and came out the victor. The Bible says "having spoiled principalities and powers, (Jesus) made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it," (Colossians 2:15).

In today's vernacular, that would mean Jesus whipped him completely, put him on a rope behind his car and dragged him all through the city. So when the Devil tries to steal what's yours in Jesus' name, you do the same thing to him. Put him on a rope and drag him around by opening your mouth and speaking the language of redemption!

(Of course, the "language of redemption" here consists of Marguerite Perrin-esque "I'M A GOD WARRIOR!" tantrums when someone points out the reality of things like how paying 50 percent of one's income might be ill-advised when one can't pay the rent as is.)

There's also a frightening amount of "fire" imagery with the kid's programs--here, the programs are not dissimilar to what you'd see in, well, the movie "Jesus Camp" (which is about a "Bible camp" run by "Joel's Army" neopentes under the name "Kids on Fire Ministries").

(All of this, as an aside, is a reference to "second baptism"--"baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following", often termed "baptism in fire" by the neopente sects after the flames appearing on the heads of the Apostles at Pentecost.  In other words, they're training the kids to be the front guards of "Joel's Army"; people in these groups are in fact not considered truly saved until they're ranting in tongues and swinging around "fiery swords of the Lord".)

Danger sign number five comes with the adult ministries section--which specifically mentions that they use "discipleship groups".  (This, in and of itself, is a major danger sign we are dealing with a Bible-based cult; I've written on how these groups are used by churches to abuse and in fact the book The Discipling Dilemma--and various links from practically all legit exit counseling groups--detail the abusiveness of "discipling" in neopente dominionist churches.  In fact, Steve Hassan's BITE Model goes into detail on how these tactics are abusive.)

Danger sign number six also involves a rare and unusual confession from a dominionist group--the operation of a front company for the purposes of "bait and switch evangelism".  (The existence of front companies of this sort is also pretty much a de facto sign we're dealing with a Bible-based cult here.)  They also run an FGBMFI-esque group on how to run dominionist-owned businesses--thus setting up the dominionist "parallel economy", and run internal "business fairs" within the church to promote businesses owned by fellow dominionists.

Danger sign seven may show just WHY there are so many danger signs--at least two of their groups use the name "Maranatha", which is shared by one of the most busive documented "Joel's Army" neopente groups ever documented (they have since reorganised under the name "Every Nation", partly because Maranatha was becoming so infamous that multiple state college campuses banned them outright).  Most groups using the name "Maranatha" in any capacity are "Joel's Army" neopente dominionist groups--and quite a few of those have associations with either the former Maranatha or with Every Nation.

Danger sign eight is a subtle one, and one first pointed out by DailyKos (and Talk2Action and Dark Chrsitianity) user Sunfell as a trend in dominionist churches.  Namely, most dominionist churches are what she terms as "Bibolatrous"--literally listing Biblical infalliability above the issue of Jesus Christ being the Son of God and Saviour in their statements of faith or doctrinal statements.  And yes, Living Word would count as not only bibolatrous but explicitly dominionist (Inerrancy comes first, Jesus only third; much of the statement of faith goes on about how only "born again" Christians--later defined in the statement of faith as actively yammering in tongues in statement 7 and mere confession of Jesus as saviour or baptism or confirmation not seen as sufficient in statement 5.  "Name it and claim it" and dominion theology is explicitly defined as core theology of the church in statement 8.)

As if that weren't danger sign enough, danger sign number nine also shows up in the Statement of Faith--namely, that they are explicitly premillenial-dispensationalist.  (Yes, these folks believe that "Left Behind" isn't just bad fiction but a pretty good description of what they expect to happen at the End of Days--up to and including everyone who isn't a dominionist Getting Theirs.)  And--interestingly--they have a rather interesting bit of doublespeak that instructs that "anti-Semitic" methods shouldn't be used in conversions, that Jews are still seen (along with dominionists) as "chosen", but still need to convert to being "Messianic Jews" (aka neopentes who celebrate Pesach, keep kosher, and have their tent-meetings on Saturday); in fact, the document goes on to state that the ultimate destiny of all of Judaism is to convert to being neopentecostals (!).  The irony of this being inherently anti-Semitic is of course lost on them.

All in all, this sounds a hell of a lot like the abusive Assemblies of God church I escaped--and their preacher not only would endorse political candidates, the head deacon is head of the state AFA and would hand out voter's guides along with the church newsletters that were sample ballots filled out with a nearly entirely Republican slate.  The similarities, in fact, are enough to be alarming to me.

As it turns out, I'm right to be alarmed--and right in thinking this isn't just a one-time thing.  According to this dominionist website, Hammond is quite a major promoter of premillenial-dispensationalist theology; according to this site, Hammond actively promoted a virulently anti-LGBT speaker for a Senatorial run.

A look on FACTnet's boards also confirm that Living Word, and in particular Mac Hammond, were in fact connected with the abusive Maranatha:

Bruce Harpel and the Minneapolis Maranatha used to greatly encourage support of WoF Mac Hammond and his "Living Word" entity. Read this article and tell me what you think.

"Have a Mary Christmas!" by Mac Hammond

It also appears that Hammond's stumping for Bachmann isn't his only support of her--according to the Minnesota Monitor (which has been giving continuing coverage of the scandal) Hammond donated over $4000 to Bachmann's campaign in June 2006 alone, may have donated as much as $14,400 total to Bachmann's campaign, and also donated funds to the election campaign for the other candidate they've publically supported in sermons--the virulently anti-gay Rev. Keith Butler:

James "Mac" Hammond, the pastor who introduced Michele Bachmann to his congregation while stating he would vote for her, donated $2,000 to the Bachmann campaign in June of 2006.  His wife and fellow pastor, Lynne Hammond, also donated $2,000.

The Hammonds have donated to only one other federal candidate this cycle, Rev. Keith Butler, who had sought the Republican party endorsement for U.S. Senate in Michigan.

The donation raises further questions about whether Hammond had crossed a line by all-but-endorsing Bachmann from the pulpit, and by allowing Bachmann to testify before his congregation.  Bachmann, a Republican State Senator who is running against activist Patty Wetterling for the open Minnesota sixth district Congressional seat, addressed the congregation with Hammond's blessing, stating that God had called her to run for Congress, and that she was a "fool for Christ."

In yet another warning sign, it appears that Living Word may be engaging in an astroturf campaign in regards to posts critical of the church involvement--again, this is something familiar to me with the dominionist church I escaped.  (There's more evidence of astroturfing here and possibly here.)

So, well...I'm not really surprised that the church pulled the act of endorsing candidates illegally, nor am I surprised Bachmann is a screaming kook.  (A lot of her statements actually sound frighteningly like things that my mother--and other people still heavily involved in the church I escaped--spew on a regular basis.  Needless to say, I try to avoid my mom whenever possible.)

Now the question remains--how are we to make sure that dominionist churches are stopped from this sort of electioneering--something that has been going on, in fact, for nearly thirty years or more in the Assemblies and the Maranatha-descended churches?  Are we going to let them get away with political murder again?

I say it's time to get mad as hell and not let them do this--and if the IRS doesn't take action, raise holy hell until they do.  Vote Democrats in who will start investigating this sort of abuse actively.  Start filming inside dominionist churches and recording televised sermons of TV-preacher dominionist churches to document this sillybuggers so we can show that Living Word isn't an abberation but part of a continuing and fundamental abuse of the tax-exempt status for churches and religious organisations that dominionist churches have flagrantly gotten away with for over a quarter of a century.

Originally posted to dogemperor on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 10:09 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip for yer troubles, sir (17+ / 0-)

    Hoping this gets currency, because more people need to know how sadly common this is around election time in dominionist churches.  (And trust me, the hanky-panky at LWCC is the very tip of the iceberg as to how far this stuff goes; the Assemblies of God have pulled the same crap for decades.)

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

    I'll go back and read a few of your other diaries

    ...the train's got its brakes on and the whistle is screaming.

    by themank on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 10:21:00 PM PDT

  •  Hello! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

        I am the guy who asked you to write a diary on Dominionists....without clicking on your username first.  Sorry.  I feel silly.
        So, I came to your latest diary, here, to write this note.
        Now, I need to read a few of your diaries.  I have not read this one just yet.  I wanted to get this quick note written first.  Then, I will read this at my leisure.

    Big Jack Kelly, the Smartest Guy in the World, the Arrogant Autodidact, the Sage Amongst His Books, the Seeker of Truth who Found It.

    by bigjacbigjacbigjac on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 10:33:27 PM PDT

    •  Eh, don't sweat it (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rupert, bigjacbigjacbigjac
      I'm actually relatively new here on DailyKos and kind of still learning the ropes myself--though I've been on Talk2Action and Dark Christianity forever and a day, it feels like, LOL :3
      •  uid:52305 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        That gives you at least a few months seniority over me at 90,000 something.  I just started in June of this year.
            But I know the feeling, just learning the ropes, even though I have been at this long enough to know things by now.
            The diaries are building up so quickly, it makes me wonder what will happen to all these diaries and comments, long term.  Where will all this be archived, 100 years from now.

        Big Jack Kelly, the Smartest Guy in the World, the Arrogant Autodidact, the Sage Amongst His Books, the Seeker of Truth who Found It.

        by bigjacbigjacbigjac on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 11:49:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wow (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rupert, bigjacbigjacbigjac

    I haven't read anything that thick since I read about the workings of Scientology. The point about Jesus being third most important in their theology is new to me, but not really surprising. Looking at them from the outside, it is clear they had to sideline Jesus somehow. The OT seems to work a lot better for them politically.

    I still have hope this scam will decay from the outside in the next decade or so, as their victims start paying more attention to the three-dimensional world around them.

    Thanks for the work.

    Don't get Amwayed.

    by Olds88 on Wed Oct 18, 2006 at 10:40:51 PM PDT

  •  How more blatant can you get? (4+ / 0-)

    Pastor won't be voting for Bachmann -- he can't

    When Living Word Christian Center pastor Rev. Mac Hammond said he planned to vote for Michele Bachmann, the GOP Sixth District candidate for Congress, he stressed that he was making an individual choice.

    But Hammond can't vote for Bachmann. He lives in the Third District.

    The comments to this blog at the Star Tribune offer even more insight:

    Greg says:

    October 18th, 2006 at 9:43 am

    I think it was only a matter of time until this happened. I don’t know how many of you have actually attended Living Word, but my wife and I did for more than a year. During the time we were there, the ministry often drifted off the message of God’s love and into very partisan politics. I came to grow in God’s word and now I’m finding that elsewhere. We both were completely turned off by the injection of politics into the services. I personally voiced my discontent by leaving a church that I felt failed me, but it also comes as no surprise that they got reported for their actions.

    I tend to be liberal, but we didn’t leave out of fear of a conservative planet, we didn’t find it distasteful because we are some hypocritical liberals who mocked an Evangelical Church. To actually promote these ideas is a caricature of those who you don’t agree with, simply language which paints the church as a victim. Personal responsibility should be the message of a conservative, and I think you’ll find that the pastor, even if he and I disagree on our politics, will take it.

    This church isn’t a victim of anything. The pastor violated guidelines set out by the IRS. He got caught and owns up to it. Don’t blame it on liberals or “Bachmann’s opponents.” Just call it what it is, a partisan pastor who went a little too far, got caught, and how has to face possible consequences for his actions.

  •  The website says it's non-denominational. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm only seeing $2,500 in donations to Michele Bachmann:

    •  On levels of donations, etc. (0+ / 0-)

      Open Secrets lists $2500 per person; I myself would be interested in knowing where Minnesota Monitor is getting its info on (among other things, this may be revealing in regards to similar violations of 501©3 status; among other things, the Assemblies of God is known to have officially donated nearly $20,000 to the election campaign of then-Sen. John Ashcroft in 2000, but it's also possible that a lot of money may have been donated unofficially).

      As for "nondenominational"...again, this is something that a lot of people who have not had exposure to neopente dominionism and in particular no exposure to Assemblies megachurches don't know.

      Most neopentecostal churches not part of the Assemblies or Foursquare almost to a one claim to be nondenominational; this is because, often, they are part of either groups with a very lax ordination standard (even in comparison with those in use in the Assemblies) and in fact largely operate as "name brands".  (Calvary Chapel and Vineyard almost entirely operate under this structure--you pay a fee and sign a statement of faith, and you too can become an ordained Vineyard pastor and your flock an officially sanctioned Vineyard church.)  Quite a few neopente groups actually border the line between being denominations proper and "parachurch" groups--Maranatha in its various incarinations (including as Morning Star International and Every Nation) is actually a classic example of this, and Maranatha and Every Nation-associated churches uniformly consider themselves "nondenominational charismatic" churches because the governing body does not consider itself a denomination in the same sense that the Assemblies et al do.

      In other words, with pretty much any neopente church outside of the Assemblies, Foursquare, or Vineyard you pretty much have to go by the "walks like a duck" rule.  There do seem to be sufficient links to Maranatha that it's likely this church is one of the hundreds of former Maranatha churches (quite a few of which are also Every Nation churches nowadays)--all of which described themselves as non-denominational.  (Maranatha itself promoted itself as a parachurch group, despite the fact that it was in fact neopentecostal and used a particularly harmful variant of dominion theology as its core practice.)

      Also--and again, this is a trend that most people really are not aware of--it is very rare for even large Assemblies-affiliated megachurches to list their denominational affiliation (in fact, it's actually more common for smaller Assemblies of God churches to admit they're Assemblies than the megachurches!).  Partly because the Assemblies has very deserved bad press, a lot of these megachurches will even falsely promote themselves as "non-denominational" or merely as "charismatic"; the only way one can tell that these are Assemblies-affiliated churches are finding known Assemblies-linked ministries being promoted (like the Seven Project, or Royal Rangers, or Assemblies-run "women's ministries").

      In fact, the dominionist church I escaped from has gone through this attempt to hide its true affiliation several times.  It originally (at its founding) admitted it was Assemblies to its members but used the term "blah Tabernacle" rather than "blah Assemblies of God"; it has since gone through "blah Christian Life Center" and now "blah World Prayer Center", more and more hiding its denominational links to the Assemblies (even as a kid I was instructed to tell people, if they asked about our church, not to tell them it was Assemblies of God but rather an "independent charismatic" church, even though it had known affiliations to the Assemblies).  This is because the megachurch operators know there is a bad association with the Assemblies or even "pentcostal", but people don't panic so much merely hearing a church is "charismatic".

      (And yes, for the record, I've redacted the specific name of the church; as I've noted, I tend to write here pseudonymously because the group I left does have a history of RL harassment of ex-members.  Giving the full name of the church I escaped in the specific context of the church I escaped is possibly giving a bit much info.)

      Another example of a church that promotes itself as an "independent charismatic" church but which shows several signs of--if not being a "hidden" Assemblies megachurch--of a very close association with the Assemblies is none other than New Life Church in Colorado Springs (you may be familiar with it as it's Ted Haggard's church).  Among other things, Assemblies preachers including Paul Yonggi Cho have close links with New Life, and New Life Church is known to have the largest Royal Rangers "post" in the US (Royal Rangers and Missionettes is an Assemblies-run alternative to Boy and Girl Scouts and is officially run as a "youth ministry of the Assemblies of God"; it's promoted in Assemblies and Assemblies-linked churches as an alternative to Scouting as even the Boy Scouts are seen as not being "Christian enough".  The few non-Assemblies churches that have Royal Rangers posts tend to be either neopentecostal churches or members of the International Pentecostal Holiness Church).

      Hence, how shall I say can't really trust that a large megachurch is in fact an "independent" church, because quite a few large Assemblies megachurches actually engage in false advertising so that the "fresh meat" won't be scared off.

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