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In yesterday's post, we described some of the more...ah...unusual and disturbing public statements by John McCain's supporter and advisor John "Turn Iran Into A Glass Parking Lot For Jesus" Hagee.

Today's post is a little different.  Instead of focusing on Hagee directly, we're going to focus on the sorts of stuff that are not in the public eye--namely, that Hagee runs a weekend "Jesus Camp" for grownups that was successfully infiltrated--and escaped from--by Matt Taibbi, reporter for Rolling Stone.

What Taibbi reports on is illuminating--and horrifying, if old news to us survivors.  I also will give commentary on just how these tactics are used as a form of thought reform.  Hopefully it gives you a better perspective on why this sort of stuff must be actively resisted politically by anyone.

Into the depths of a Hagee-run "Jesus Camp" for adults

As we went into with yesterday's post, a lot of John Hagee's statements have been pretty chunder-inducing in the philosophical and moral sense.

Thanks to Matt Taibbi--possibly one of the first persons to ever successfully infiltrate a neopente dominionist church for the specific purpose of investigation and expose--we know this crosses over into the literal sense, too...and we get, as a bonus, a glimpse into the horror of just what it feels like to be recruited into a "Bible-based" coercive religious group.

It honestly cannot be overstated just how dangerous Matt Taibbi's infiltration was.  Hagee's church is known to promote highly coercive "cell churches" and is among the more extreme of "Joel's Army"/"Joshua Generation" churches; the consequences if Taibbi had been exposed before he was able to escape would have been disastrous.

That said--somehow Taibbi did manage to infiltrate, escape, and has written his own version of Bilbo Baggins' "There And Back Again" in the Rolling Stone article Jesus Made Me Puke--so named for an incident to be described in the article, itself a segment of a new book called "The Great Derangement" (which focuses on conspiracy-theory promoters, with a large section dedicated to the infiltration of Hagee's church).  The article is probably one of the best exposes of the inner workings of these groups that I have seen--and hits sufficiently close to home that I have had to do readings in parts to avoid being "triggered" (I myself do have diagnosed PTSD as a result of growing up in the stuff we'll be discussing--and this and the next post should reveal just why people get PTSD after being in these groups).

Taibbi actually notes the legitimate fear of being "caught out"--something he experienced for a short time as an infiltrating reporter, but which walkaways live with for much of their lives--especially if their family members remain in neopente dominionist churches:

I felt nervous and unpleasantly certain that I was about to be found out. When Maria asked me why I'd come on the retreat, I bit my lip. When in Rome, I thought.

"Well," I said, "since the new year, I've just been feeling like God has been telling me that I need to get right spiritually. So here I am."

I paused, wincing inwardly. An outsider coming into this world will feel sure that the moment he coughs up one of those "God told me to put more English on my tee shot" lines, his dark game will be instantly visible to all, and he'll be made the target of one of those Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style point-and-screech mob scenes.

Among other things, for possibly the first time outside of writings by walkaways, Taibbi gives a glimpse of the very real "public" and "private" face that neopente dominionist groups give:

As Hagee tells it, only after Israel is involved in a final showdown involving a satanic army (in most interpretations, a force of Arabs led by Russians) will Christ reappear. On that happy day, Hagee and his True Believers will be whisked up to Heaven by God, while the rest of us nonbelievers are left behind on Earth to suck eggs and generally suffer various tortures.

So here I was, standing in the church parking lot, having responded to church advertisements hawking an "Encounter Weekend" — three solid days of sleep-away Christian fellowship that would teach me the "joy" of "knowing the truth" and "being set free." That had sounded harmless enough, but now that I was here and surrounded by all of these blanket-bearing people, I was nervous. When most Americans think of the Christian right, they think of scenes from television — great halls full of perfectly groomed people in pale suits and light-colored dresses, smiling and happy and full of the Holy Spirit, robotically singing hymns at the behest of some squeaky-clean pastor with a baritone voice and impossible hair. We don't get to see the utterly batshit world they live in, when the cameras are turned off and their pastors are not afraid of saying the really dumb stuff, for fear of it turning up on CNN. In American evangelical Christianity, in other words, there's a ready-for-prime-time stage act — toned down and lip-synced to match a set of PG lyrics that won't scare the advertisers — and then there's the real party backstage, where the spiritual hair really gets let down. I was about to go backstage, to personally take part in the indoctrination process for a major Southern evangelical church.

(Fortunately, there are some of us who aren't about to let the "dumb stuff" be unexposed.)

Speaking of uncovering about that flyer?  On the very same page where Hagee's church describes the use of cell groups (in an org known as "Government of 12"--a subtle reference to the ancient Israeli Parliament comprised of the heads of the twelve tribes; yes, in what is probably one of the most blatant mockeries of Judaism I have ever seen, they named the cell groups and the primary "shepherds" after the twelve traditional tribes of ancient Israel), there's actually a bit of info on these "Encounter Weekends"...mostly in regards to dates and a questionnaire, not so much as to what actually goes on there.  

Some of those questions are rather unusual: "Are you a member of a cell group?"  "Are you a cell group leader?" (This is showing part of the purpose is of course to recruit folks into cells.)  "Have you attended a Ministry of Reconciliation Encounter in the past year?" (It's likely people who attend more than one are, ahem, especially targeted.)  Some questions seem innocuous but aren't: "Are you currently seeing a counselor/therapist?" (Don't check "yes"; they'll try to perform an exorcism for the "spirit of psychiatry".) "Are you currently taking any prescription medications?" (As we'll detail in part 2, there was a massive "deliverance ministry" service at the end of the "Encounter Weekend"; it's likely that this and the previous four questions are being explicitly used to gather information as to what "demons" to "cast out".)

The first two religious questions (do you know Jesus, how long) are pretty standard for religious retreats, but the next two aren't: "If you were to die today do you know for sure where you would go?" "If you went to heaven and God said to you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" What would you say to God?" (Am I the only one getting a distinct impression of Jehovah as Club Bouncer here, or worse yet, with a shotgun at the Pearly Gates?)

Taibbi's announcement hawking the "Encounter Weekend" was probably identical; needless to say, there isn't too much to allude to the madness (and the end-of-retreat vomitorium-for-Christ) he'd experience.  The only hints hinting to the uninitiated of some of the decidedly more bizarre things noted in the second part (re "generational curses" and a mass "exorcism" that resulted in a neopentecostal chunderfest) are the questions "What physical/mental ailments do you have at this time?" and "What physical/mental ailments are generational in your family?"

This in itself is the first danger sign.  Practically every known checklist of coercive groups lists deceptiveness or attempting to hide details of what is going on as a red flag; Robert J. Lifton's Eight Criteria for Thought Reform (portions of the Milieu Control axis), Steven Hassan's BITE Model (Behaviour Control axis, section 1; Information Control axis, sections 1 and 3), Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer's Six Conditions for Thought Reform (step 1, "Keep the person unaware of what is going on and how she or he is being changed a step at a time"), Isaac Bonewits' ABCDEF coerciveness test (the entire program fits under section 13, and keeping info from persons would count under section 2) all have sections denoting how this could be a Bad Thing.

Taibbi, fortunately, records what goes on.  And Mr. Taibbi and I are about to take you down the rabbit hole to see how far down it goes.

In which we get a glimpse at Bible-Based Cult Recruitment 101...and the hell that walkaways live through every day of their lives

After they meet up at the church and go off to camp (by bus--probably to keep anyone from taking their own transportation) and listening to many a "testimony" on the way), Taibbi describes how neopentecostal dominionism--and Hagee's church in particular--crib from Scientology's concepts of early harms (including essentially past-life/past-heritage "sins of the fathers") apparently making folks into wimps and leaving them open for "oppression".  After a rousing speech from a pastor who could pass for an Army drill sergeant (and in fact was in the Army, and who literally describes himself at one point as a "turbocharged, Army-trained enemy of Satan", up to and including a joke about how Satan had a wanted poster of him in Hell) which wraps up with a tale on how he felt neglected by his daddy--a real tearjerker of a story, per the article--the concept of "wounds" and "normals" is introduced in that apparently slights even as a child cause folks to "go away from God".  

This is the beginning, here, of hardcore coercive-group indoctrination.  The names used for the tactics will vary between researchers and exit counselors, but this qualifies under "loaded language".  The specific use of "wounds" and "normals" (and specifically the use of "normal" as a semi-noun) is remarkably similar to how many coercive groups will redefine common language to mean something else in-group; Scientology is infamous for this, as are neopente dominionist "Bible-based" coercive religious groups.  Robert J. Lifton's Eight Criteria for Thought Reform actually notes things that apply in two sections--"Loading the Language" and "Mystical Manipulation"; the BITE model refers to this as as "Thought Control" (section 2 in this axis) and "Emotional Control" (section 5 in this axis).  In fact, recent research into the psychological mechanism of coercion indicates that the specific arousal of emotional high and lows is an integral part of recruitment.

In fact, the process--as we will see--is reminiscent of recruitment tactics used by the Moonies (who also tend to send people out on 3-day retreats in initial stages of recruitment).

After rounding folks up in sex-segregated groups to talk in circles about all the perceived slights that had been inflicted on them (such horrid slights, I might add, as being yelled at by their fathers while flying RC planes when they were palling around with their buddies) in a sort of neopentecostal Iron John get-together (and Taibbi gives a story about apparently being driven to drug abuse by his alcoholic clown father who used to use his shoes as paddles--and the amazing thing is that the group apparently bought this), they all had to write apology letters (and yes, this included Taibbi writing an apology to "My Daddy The Clown") for holding grudges--followed by letters to Jesus apologising for holding a grudge.  

Of note, this little interlude would count in many tests of coerciveness of groups as being potentially unethical use of confession.  Similar setups in cell-church groups have been used to vilify persons who attempt to leave, and even in group therapy this is sufficiently problematic that there are typically hard rules that "what goes on in group, stays in group, and does not go beyond these four walls".  The BITE model explicitly refers to the unethical use of public confessions (Information Control axis, section 6 and Emotional Control axis, section 6 and Behaviour Control, section 4) as do Lifton (the entire "Confession" axis of "Eight Criteria for Thought Reform") and Bonewits (section 1, "Internal Control", of ABCDEF).  In addition, a dedicated paper by Dr. Richard Ofshe has noted how forced confessions of this sort are used in coercive groups as a method of control.  

In addition, this section could well count in the "emotional control" sections of multiple coerciveness checklists, including BITE, Lifton's, and Thaler Singer's.

The unethical use of confessions (and forced apologies to the Son of God) weren't the only potentially abusive things documented.  Taibbi notes that not only was charismatic hyping going on, but that people were subjected to repetitive cycles of hymnals, specifically "shepherded" Bible-study, and preaching by Mr. Drill Sergeant For God (in a pattern remarkably similar to what I recently documented at Teen Challenge):

After each of these grueling exercises we would have lengthy, fifteen-to-twenty-minute sessions singing unbearably atonal Christian hymns. Then we would have teaching/Bible-study sessions led by Fortenberry on the theme of the moment (e.g., "Admit the Truth About Our Wounds") that lasted an hour or so. Then, after Fortenberry would waste at least half the session giving us the Marlboro Man highlights of his professional résumé ("I was the manager of the second-largest ranch in America, 825,000 acres. . . .") and bragging about his physical prowess ("If someone was to slug me, I could whip just about anyone here"), we would go back to the group session and confess some more. Then we would sing some more, receive more of Fortenberry's hairy lessons, and then the cycle would start all over again. There were almost no breaks or interruptions; it was a physically exhausting schedule of confession, catharsis, bad music and relentless, muscular instruction. The Saturday program began at 7:45 a.m. and did not end until ten at night; we went around the confess-sing-learn cycle five full times in one day.

As noted in my series re Teen Challenge, not even monasteries operated by the Roman Catholic Church are this intensive; this is, notably, very similar to coercive tactics within a number of coercive groups masquerading as self-help orgs.  

Again, this is an area where almost every known checklist red-flags this: BITE Model (Behaviour Control axis, sections 1(c,d) and 2; Information Control axis, 2(d) and 4(a)); Thought Control axis, section 4); ABCDEF (sections 1, 2, 12); Lifton's (Milieu Control and portions of Mystical Manipulation and Demand for Purity axes); and Thaler Singer's ("Control the person's social and/or physical environment; especially control the person's time", "Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments, and experiences in order to promote learning the group's ideology or belief system and group-approved behaviors", and "Manipulate a system of rewards, punishments and experiences in such a way as to inhibit behavior that reflects the person's former social identity").

Taibbi has noted this similarity to "pop psychology"--and the combo of charisma, "sure cure" claims, and the repetitive regime turns out to be surprisingly effective in recruitment.  Taibbi gives a glimpse as to the level of coercion. By day 3...well, let's just say it was fortunate that Taibbi got out, because he gives an absolutely chilling description of the mental state of people as they are recruited into the group--something I found particularly triggering, as the fight to avoid this still induces panic attacks in me to this day:

Here I have a confession to make. It's not something that's easy to explain, but here goes. After two days of nearly constant religious instruction, songs, worship and praise — two days that for me meant an unending regimen of forced and fake responses — a funny thing started to happen to my head. There is a transformational quality in these external demonstrations of faith and belief. The more you shout out praising the Lord, singing along to those awful acoustic tunes, telling people how blessed you feel and so on, the more a sort of mechanical Christian skin starts to grow all over your real self. Even if you're a degenerate Rolling Stone reporter inwardly chuckling and busting on the whole scene — even if you're intellectually enraged by the ignorance and arrogant prejudice flowing from the mouth of a terminal-ambition case like Phil Fortenberry — outwardly you're swaying to the gospel and singing and praising and acting the part, and those outward ministrations assume a kind of sincerity in themselves. And at the same time, that "inner you" begins to get tired of the whole spectacle and sometimes forgets to protest — in my case checking out into baseball reveries and other daydreams while the outer me did the "work" of singing and praising. At any given moment, which one is the real you?

You may think you know the answer, but by my third day I began to notice how effortlessly my soft-spoken Matt-mannequin was going through his robotic motions of praise, and I was shocked. For a brief, fleeting moment I could see how under different circumstances it would be easy enough to bury your "sinful" self far under the skin of your outer Christian and to just travel through life this way. So long as you go through all the motions, no one will care who you really are underneath. And besides, so long as you are going through all the motions, never breaking the facade, who are you really? It was an incomplete thought, but it was a scary one; it was the very first time I worried that the experience of entering this world might prove to be anything more than an unusually tiring assignment. I feared for my normal.

There's actually a formal description for this process in exit counseling circles.  Exit counselors speak of "pre-cult" and "in-cult" personalities when discussing adult recruits to coercive groups--people do in part dissociate when in a coercive group, and in some particular cases (cell church groups, for instance), this has actually been measurable in studies.  This is also why recovery from being raised in a coercive religious group is so hard for multigenerational walkaways (such as the "Lost Boys" of the FLDS group recently in the news)--generally there is no "before the cult" personality, and people must essentially resocialise and reraise themselves (and this particularity of recovery is only now becoming a subject of intensive workshops and research by exit counselors, now that it's understood that multigenerational walkaways from coercive groups are not as rare as previously thought).

This would also seem to back up the importance of emotional control in recruitment within coercive religious groups--part of the reason neopente dominionist groups (including the coercive ones) are so successful is because they do give quite a lot of emotional highs and lows.

At any rate, the author describes pretty well the process of how being recruited feels--and it was in fact this particular section that inspired the most terror in me, because I remember having to fight to "keep my normal"...for thirteen years after realising that things weren't entirely right there.

And tomorrow, we focus on the end result--a bizarre neopentecostal dominionist mass-"exorcism" that turned into a literal vomitorium.

Originally posted to dogemperor on Fri May 09, 2008 at 01:50 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar (73+ / 0-)

    Tomorrow, we enter the Vomitorium for Christ (and do what may be one of the first systematic "cult danger evaluations" for a deliverance-ministry service--the extent of how bad it really is shocked even me when I did the evaluation, and I lived in that insanity for 25 years (thirteen of it trying to remain sane).

    And now a tip totally unrelated to dominionism. :D  (I give tips as well as receive them.)  Namely, I encourage everyone who can (who is reading in the US, that is) to please sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry--they're giving away free HLA typing kits (you get mailed a cheek swab kit, you swab your cheek, you send it back) from May 5 to May 19.  I especially encourage people who are of non-Western European descent to join the registry--it's hard as hell to find a matching bone marrow or stem-cell donor for Native Americans or some Asian groups, for instance.

    Best case scenario, you're never needed; worst case scenario, you get flown free to a hospital, take some meds to boost your blood marrow cell production for a few days, get taken for free to hospital, and either do a plasmapheresis (like donating plasma, only this time they're taking the red cells) or you get knocked out for a few hours whilst they take a bit of your marrow (and no, they don't hack into your hip--it's a large needle), you get flown back home for free, and you get the warm fuzzies of knowing you potentially just saved someone's life. :3

    Besides, it's friggin' free.  Normally it costs $52 to join up. :3

  •  I laughed out loud reading parts of this (25+ / 0-)

    story in Rolling Stone today.  Like when he had to testify in front of the group:

    My name is Matt. My father was an alcoholic circus clown who used to beat me with his oversize shoes."

    As Matt said,

    It was a testament to how dysfunctional the group was that my story flew more or less without comment.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Fri May 09, 2008 at 02:00:44 PM PDT

  •  These cults need investigated. (16+ / 0-)

    And I have to believe that there is no reason to give tax exempt status to anyone like Hagee.
    Taking the tax exemption will make this impossible in the future.
    These people are obviously politically active.

    St. Ronnie was an asshole.

    by manwithnoname on Fri May 09, 2008 at 02:04:01 PM PDT

  •  This is why the fundies are totally lost to us (28+ / 0-)

    politically.  There is no argument that can reach them.

    By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that Christians of this type should learn to "be rational" or "set aside your religion" about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you've made a journey like this — once you've gone this far — you are beyond suggestible. It's not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc., that's the issue. It's that once you've gotten to this place, you've left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things.

    Some people fight fire with fire. Professionals use water.

    by Happy Days on Fri May 09, 2008 at 02:08:00 PM PDT

    •  You've become batshit crazy (8+ / 0-)

      in other words.

      I suggest that adults who willingly submit to this cerebral fornication are already batshit crazy.

      Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on earth. ~Stephen Hawking

      by Executive Odor on Fri May 09, 2008 at 03:02:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  People don't necessarily *voluntarily* join. (14+ / 0-)

        Among other things, these groups use deceptive methods of recruitment (never, ever, ever revealing the Crazy Stuff until you're well into it), and these groups also typically practice something called "love-bombing"--smothering you with affection, hugs, etc. (Again, this is a common tactic among coercive groups.)

        In other words--thanks to the manipulative tactics used and especially due to people's (unfortunately, very false) perception that "Bible-based" groups "aren't like those Scientologist or Moonie whackos"--people often do not realise what the hell they have gotten themselves into until it's too late.  (Taibbi is probably unique here because he joined for the explicit purpose of infiltration, but even he began to be affected by many of the tactics used--and this was with pre-existing knowledge of the scripting of neopente services and whatnot!)

        Also--and this is something that, at least until Scientology and the Moonies had been around a while, was almost entirely exclusive to "Bible-based" coercive groups--there are people who are born into it.  (In the case of the neopente dominionist groups like Hagee's, you often have two and three generations of people who were completely raised in this; this has also been one of the factors that has hampered the investigation of possible abuses in the FLDS group in Texas, because many of the mothers and babies involved are third- and fourth-gen multigenerational group members who have been explicitly instructed to lie about even their identities to protect the group.)  To this day, the largest group of people who are multigenerational walkaways are escapees from neopentecostal dominionist groups (with multigenerational walkaways also coming in lesser amounts from Scientology and the Moonies).

        Also, there is an increasing population of people who did not choose to get involved but are forced into it anyways--as I've noted in my series on Teen Challenge, there is an increasing trend of people being committed involuntarily to "faith-based" rehabs run by neopente dominionist groups.  Teen Challenge itself uses many of the very tactics we will be discussing today and tomorrow (and Hagee's Cornerstone Church is an "Assemblies daughter" very, very close theologically to its "parent", so much so that it could be described as still in the process of "budding" from the Assemblies not unlike New Life Church in Colorado Springs); a program called InnerChange operated by Prison Fellowship Ministries also used almost the exact identical tactics (and ended up being shut down in Iowa by a US District Court decision in part because of the documented use of these tactics and no secular alternatives being available for rehab).

        •  Speaking of Co$, this passage looks... (11+ / 0-)

          ...suspiciously familiar.

          Some questions seem innocuous but aren't: "Are you currently seeing a counselor/therapist?" (Don't check "yes"; they'll try to perform an exorcism for the "spirit of psychiatry".) "Are you currently taking any prescription medications?" (As we'll detail in part 2, there was a massive "deliverance ministry" service at the end of the "Encounter Weekend"; it's likely that this and the previous four questions are being explicitly used to gather information as to what "demons" to "cast out".)

          Scientology also actively opposes psychiatry and prescription drugs, especially psych drugs.  So, did L. Ron borrow these memes from the Dominionists, come up with them independently, or are these just standard tools in the common manual of operations for coercive cults that both groups have latched onto?

          "Iraq: the bravest 1% fighting for the richest 1%." ~ An Unknown Kossack.

          by Neon Vincent on Fri May 09, 2008 at 04:02:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you think about it (7+ / 0-)

          as I have, we in the USA are only three or four consecutive lifespans away from hardcore Puritanism. That's not even a heartbeat in human history.

          Seems to me there's a strong cult mentality that hasn't been thoroughly purged from American society yet. Our grandfathers, and their fathers, lived through times when batshit crazy religion was often the only explanation for what we now explain with science. Enough of that ideology survives today to affect the lives of everyone -- including those of different faiths, those of no faith, and those who don't even live in this country.

          I'm especially terrified by people who would arrange for Biblical "prophecy" to come true, should they ever grab the reins of power. But, no, I think they already have.

          Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare. Some would say it has yet to occur on earth. ~Stephen Hawking

          by Executive Odor on Fri May 09, 2008 at 09:18:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Jonathon Schwarz wrote something similar... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, dogemperor, Rogneid

      ...on the "This Modern World" blog in response to Taibbi's book.

      We’re Going to Lose

      It’s things like this that make me convinced progressives, whoever we are, will ultimately lose and mankind will destroy itself.

      That’s because incest, sexual abuse, astrology, lust, cancer, handwriting analysis, intellect, and anal fissures are genuine problems for people. Anyone who suffers from them naturally wants to know WHO’S RESPONSIBLE.

      Bad political movements provide easy answers in the form of all-encompassing worldviews: it’s the demons, or the Joos, or the filthy Arabs, or the dirty Mexicans, or the capitalist swine, or Jane Fonda. (Or all of them working together.) Cast them out and all your problems will vanish.

      I hope he's wrong, but I'm afraid he's right.

      "Iraq: the bravest 1% fighting for the richest 1%." ~ An Unknown Kossack.

      by Neon Vincent on Fri May 09, 2008 at 05:01:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And why mormons would have been 90% for Romney (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Jehovah's witnesses and LDS have been around for over a hundred years, so the multi-generational indoctrination is very deep.

      That "outer persona" has been trained to run with the crowd (or congregation, as it were).

  •  Thank you so much dogemperor... (16+ / 0-)

    The Cornerstone Church is less than a mile from my house and every time I'm stuck in traffic watching people pour into or out of that place I wonder how they get them there (much less keep them there).

    I'm going back to read your diary again as well as Taibbi's story.  Thanks again.

    "Help!!! I'm being Enlightened!" - TCFKNCS's avatar

    I always wanted to quote an avatar.

    by RhymesWithUrple on Fri May 09, 2008 at 02:10:01 PM PDT

  •  It's hard to join these new cults since... (10+ / 0-)

    ... I belonged to one the oldest cults around; the Catholic Church. It's a cult that mixes magic and money better than most; talk about exorcising your options!

    In fact, we would be confronted with moral dilemmas in seminary school that would confound the snake-oil pentecosts of Hagee's domain; such as,

    Is it ok to kiss a Nun?

    It's ok as long as one doesn't get in the Habit!

    As you can tell, I was excommunicated for being a Secular Humorist.

    A Poet is at the same time a force for Solidarity and for Solitude --Pablo Neruda

    by justiceputnam on Fri May 09, 2008 at 02:41:14 PM PDT

  •  thank you for a good diary as usual (10+ / 0-)

    Circumstances prevented me from reading the whole article in Rolling Stone. The magazine disappeared under a mountain of papers, and when it resurfaced I wasn't thinking about it any more. I'd read to the "wounds" and "normals" part.

    It is hard to imagine getting pulled into the phase which he describes as "a sort of mechanical <>ian skin starts to grow all over your real self" - I can't bring myself to write the "Christian". My real self IS Christian, and nothing at all like that. What went through my mind was, "Blessed are they that walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the street of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful..." and I interpret that Psalm (Psalm 1) as a warning not to get entrapped with the used-car-salesman routine.

    Is it even possible to define this practice in such terms that it could be made illegal? I am starting to understand the process behind the personality switch, at last. I will have to read the rest of that article!

    In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

    by Lefty Mama on Fri May 09, 2008 at 03:07:21 PM PDT

  •  Perhaps a bit off-topic (8+ / 0-)

    Those who are in the neopente groups are also fanatic supporters of Bush.  Taibbi notes that these people will believe anything as long as it comes out of mouth of a preacher - and reject even trying to question it.  It's small wonder that Bush still appeals to these people.  Once they chose him as their anointed leader, they would never question what he says.

    Fine series, Dogemperor.  I'm happy that you're explaining this world to the rest of us.  I had no idea, before reading your work.

    •  EXACTLY. (10+ / 0-)

      Part 2 will in fact discuss this in part--and neopente dominionists honestly do think that Dubya was divinely appointed to be President of the United States and the Democratic Party is the party of el Diablo.

      These are also the folks, of note, who steeplejacked the GOP and are working very hard to consolidate this control (and in fact have done so to the extent that if a politician doesn't at least give lip service to dominionists, he won't be elected--and increasingly, there's a push to elect True Faithful; do not be shocked if Huckabee gets the veep nomination when the GOP convention begins).

      In the particular case of neopente dominionists, there's another reason (that Taibbi doesn't get into in the article--but knowing that cell churches are in operation at Hagee's church, it's a logical progression) that they may not criticise--in a cell-based group, you can get in very deep shit very rapidly.  Theology of "cell church"-using groups actually preaches that everyone is under the "covering" of a shepherd--and opposing the shepherd, or the pastor, is literally akin to opposing God and Jesus.  There effectively is no accountability procedure outside of the cell group--and someone criticising a cell leader or the pastor could well find himself a target of an involuntary exorcism.  He could also find himself cast out--and these groups are not above harassment of walkaways, and these churches do regularly expound on how pretty much anyone not "under their covering" will be utterly annihilated.

      I write much, much more about the abusive practices of "cell churches" in Assemblies and Assemblies-daughter churches here;   along with "deliverance ministry", neopente dominionist "cell churches" are one of the coercive practices most well documented to cause short- and long-term psychological harm (with documented changes, including complete reversals, of personality type--I'll be doing a dedicated post on the study in question in future).  

      •  Many thanks for the important and courageous work (6+ / 0-)

        This can't be easy to write, but the more we can publicise just what Hagee and his ilk are doing in the name of religion, the more room we allow for the association of progressive values and faith in public life. I'm an atheist and generally unhappy to see religiosity practically a requirement for public servants, but since it's not going away any time soon we need to break the fundies' ability to profess a monopoly on God. One part is offering a positive alternative, and that ain't my fight. But this part - exposing neopente operations as frank mind-control - can force our opposition to spend resources on a front where they're not accustomed to being questioned. At least, they'll divert time, money and energy. At best, one of them will self-destruct on camera. if we can get Hagee or Parsley to say something so nutty that McCain has to denounce him, we'll hurt this beast. These stories have to get out.

        I apologise if this sounds cynical - I really do feel for the people harmed by these coercive operations. But the victimisers accumulate power they use to harm the world. I believe that as surely as the world turns west to east.

        We're on a blind date with Destiny, and it looks like she's ordered the lobster!

        by Prof Haley on Sat May 10, 2008 at 12:37:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The worst part is that these people (5+ / 0-)

          are encouraged to home school their children, cutting them off other points of view.

          It's one of the reasons I'm dead set against home schooling unless there are medical or geographical reasons a child can't attend school.

          -7.50, -7.74 --I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

          by GMFORD on Sat May 10, 2008 at 01:53:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  We're going to end up in a serious conflict... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, GMFORD, Neon Vincent

    with these barking dogs.  Better get a good rifle with a scope... because one day they are going to end up on your doorstep demanding your children.

  •  If someone EVER asks you: (4+ / 0-)

    The "would you go to heaven question".

    (a) say "yes";
    (b) say "heaven doesn't exist"; or
    (c) get ready for a long ass lecture

  •  One of the best Diaries (7+ / 0-)

    I have read on this or any site!  This stuff is important to know and clearly explains why the Bushies act and believe the way they do.  

    The Christian Right have always scared the shit out of my, but I could never put my finger on exactly why.  I look forward to your follow up tomorrow.

  •  Hi de (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, Rogneid, Munchkn

    Thanks for the diary.  I have read the article, and actually I meant to provide a link to it the next time I 'saw' you.  I'm glad to have your perspective.  

  •  I really enjoyed the article and (7+ / 0-)

    even more, your excellent analysis of what was going on.

    It brought to mind an event that happened not too long ago in the suburbs of Denver.  A teenager went into some kind of evangelical retreat with a gun and shot some people then shot himself.  Wish I could remember the details but I remember reading that he had gone to the retreat but had been kicked out.  

    I read about it on a dominionist chat room where I lurk (trying to figure out how they think).  What was weird was during all discussion, it never occurred to anyone that there was a connection to what happened to the kid when he was a member of the church and had attended the retreat.  All the discussion was about what a horrible world we live in. 'Hurry Jesus Please!' kind of stuff.  And they wandered off into talking about how bad devil worshipping is and the kid was probably at Satanist.  The original article made it clear that the family belonged to that church and that the kid was a devoted Christian but the commenters completely ignored that.

    BTW:  It seemed obvious to me that the poor Christian kid was so distraught about being kicked out of the retreat (he had tried to go back several times but they refused him) that he just went berserk.

    -7.50, -7.74 --I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

    by GMFORD on Sat May 10, 2008 at 01:49:07 AM PDT

    •  And swept under the rug real quick. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dogemperor, GMFORD

      No one likes  talking about homegrown crapturist terrorism and why it's homegrown.

      Passenger on the long train of abuses.

      by OleHippieChick on Sat May 10, 2008 at 07:03:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I remember the case all too well. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GMFORD, Sister Coyote, auroraborealis
      I know, or more properly, knew the kid in passing who did that--one Matthew Murray, who was a regular on (a walkaway forum I'm also on) as well as a survivor forum for Gothard walkways.  Murray is one of those unfortunate individuals who ended up having essentially an explosive mental breakdown.  

      He had been raised by parents into Bill Gothard, who promotes an extremely abusive "Bible-based" neopente cult that I've written about extensively in past; he started having signs of a psychotic mental breakdown (not unknown in these sorts of groups) when he was involved in Youth With A Mission--a very, very abusive Assemblies frontgroup that is almost universally regarded as abusive.  Pretty much he was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, and he snapped horribly; during the last month or so before he snapped, multiple people begged him to seek help--but unfortunately his only experience with therapists had been with the "Christian counselor" type, and as a result he had a complete and total distrust of any therapists. :(

      •  yes (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aitchdee, dogemperor, GMFORD

        I know the aunt of one of the people who was killed in the Denver shooting, so we got email about it at the time. Very sad.

        And yes, it's very true that you have a different brain when you're in a group like this. It has literally taken me ten or twelve years to grow out of the person I was when I was in the cult I was in. I'm SO MUCH HAPPIER now...but I still have family who sound like they're from Mars to me now....

      •  I'm glad you're okay. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I feel so bad for what the children go through in those cults.  Is enough being done to deprogram those who leave?  Also, is there a movement to out and shutdown these horrible places?

        -7.50, -7.74 --I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Thomas Jefferson

        by GMFORD on Sat May 10, 2008 at 08:43:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There's more being done. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There is stuff being done now to help kids escaping coercive religious groups (which is a complete change from even five years ago, when even exit counselors thought multigen walkaways were so rare that it'd be unlikely studies could be done) and a number of studies are now ongoing as to issues multigenerational walkaways face.

          One group working to help kids in coercive groups is Children's Safe Passage Foundation--of note (as is all too common in these cases), the founder himself is a multigenerational walkaway from a "Bible-based" coercive religious group.  The group also maintains a newsfeed in regards to reports of religiously motivated child abuse.

          Another group focusing on multigenerational walkaways is International Cultic Studies Association; their conferences typically include sections on multigenerational walkaway issues and for three years running have conducted specialised workshops for multigenerational walkaways.

          There is still much, much, much more that can be done, though.  (Keep in mind that the mere existence of multigenerational walkaways--whilst not new--is something newly recognised; until a few years ago, there was a bias against recognition of large, long-established, and/or "Bible-based" groups as potentially abusive, and now that this bias has been largely done away with, it's now being recognised there are a lot more of us out there than previously thought.)  The entire field of specialised exit counseling geared towards multigenerational walkaways is still very, very new--and there's much to be done, including provision of "safe houses" for kids attempting to escape an abusive group or facility.

          As for shutdown of facilities, this varies.  As for "Bible-based boot camps", there is a movement to shut down or increase regulation--International Survivor's Action Committee being a primary group behind this--and HR 5876 has been proposed to specifically regulate the "boot camp" industry on a national basis and close the loopholes used by "faith-based" groups.  

          As far as shutting down other facilities...this is far more difficult in practice, unfortunately.  For one, the Constitutional protections for freedom of religion (ironically, the very amendment the dominionists would like to do away with altogather) are the same protections that allow coercive religious groups to operate--making it very difficult in practice to even so much as set up a potential "abusive group's list" such as is done in France or Germany.  (One way this could be done, interestingly, is strengthening the wall between church and state--for example, the constitutional provisions in France and Mexico prohibiting clergy from being involved in politics or running for office.)  Needless to say, messing with the First Amendment is sufficiently risky that it's not a real good precedent to make IMHO.

          Another problem in regards to regulation of coercive religious groups is the fact they typically register as church groups with the IRS--making any investigation problematic if electioneering violations occur, seeing as church groups can use an exemption in the tax code that allows them to get away with not only not filing any info with the IRS but allows them to keep all financial records private.  (The IRS used to actually check to verify if it was a church, but this was stopped after a lawsuit by the Church of Scientology.)  This is why, for instance, Sen. Grassley has been forced to issue Congressional subpoenas to televangelists in the investigation of embezzlement at ORU--and why it's very rare that the IRS does in fact yank tax exemptions from churches and make them pay back taxes.

          One area where you can actually help here--Americans United has been the primary group filing reports with the IRS regarding electioneering violations (and the IRS is, fortunately, starting to look at these violations more sternly and starting to move to revoke 501(c)3 status from some groups).  The more reports given to them and the IRS, the more likely it is that the IRS will do something.  (Of note, it's been reported that the Assemblies of God and the Southern Baptists are the two worst denominations overall re reports of electioneering violations, with reports also being very common re "Assemblies daughter" megachurches like Hagee's church.)

          Unfortunately, again, pretty much we have to take an approach not unlike what was done with busting Al Capone--he got busted not for being a gangland leader in Chicago, but because he didn't pay taxes on the income he earned as a crime lord.  So it is with coercive groups--pretty much the only way to bust the group totally is via tax code violations.  These have in practice been rather hard to prove, but there is increasing success with this.

          One potential method of shutdown of the more extreme groups that, to my knowledge, has not yet been attempted but could be viable (and has been used in some other countries)--RICO complaints could potentially be lodged against groups that have expressed support for domestic terrorists, and (if LGBT people are successfully added to federal hate crimes laws--another reason to "vote blue") eventually RICO could be used against groups promoting the especially virulent anti-LGBT stuff (like promoting "The Pink Swastika" and whatnot).

          As for the matter of religiously motivated child abuse, there's multiple impediments to shutdown: the existence of a massive "parallel economy" that covers practically all mandatory reporters a kid is likely to ever see (including pastors, doctors, schools (and increasingly there's a trend towards "home education" via correspondence schools that knocks this out entirely (and pretty much any contacts kids may have at all) who are extremely unlikely to report religiously motivated child abuse; the fact that pastors of these churches are frequently the primary promoters; the fact that the "parallel economy" itself is promoted as a way to hide signs of abuse; specific lobbying by political dominionist groups to neuter what laws there are in place; a general unawareness of religiously motivated child abuse by CPS agencies (unlike the case in the UK, where there is an educational campaign for mandatory reporters on "deliverance ministry" related child abuse and Scotland Yard has a specific division investigating religiously motivated child abuse); and finally frank tolerance of religiously motivated child abuse by CPS agencies in some areas of the country.  (More here.)

          Unfortunately, so far, often the only recourse has been as an adult and in the courts--and coercive groups as a whole have had a practice of not only filing SLAPPs against critics but countersuits against persons suing and winning for damages, assuming people can get favourable judgements against "Bible-based" groups at all.  (Laura Schubert, one of the few people who has successfully sued and won against an Assemblies church in the US for false imprisonment related to a "deliverance ministry" service where she was targeted for an involuntary exorcism, won her case in 1996 but is still waiting for her money--the Assemblies has tied the case up in the courts for the past 12 years, has whittled the original award from $300,000 to $100,000, and is trying to have the entire settlement dismissed.  More typical in the courts in the US, sadly, is this case of an adult woman subjected to an involuntary "exorcism" who had her police report eventually thrown out by dominionist-sympathetic judges.  In some areas of the country, lawsuits against "Bible-based" coercive religious groups have little chance of success--in part because these very groups have a strategy of packing the judicial bench with "friendlies".)  Lawsuits in Australia have been more favourable to escapees, but dominionism in general is not as solidified as it is in the States and there is far greater awareness of coercive tendencies of neopentecostal dominionist groups.

          And that brings me to the final point.  One of the biggies--THE biggie here, IMHO--is education, education, education.  The situation is, and will be for some time, a case of "caveat emptor" when it comes to religious groups in general; the best cure in this case may well be sunlight.  (I myself try to shine a little light on this stuff.)  Educate yourself, then your friends, then have them educate their friends and so on, about how coercive groups work; the groups most associated with coercive activity; the warning signs of potentially abusive groups; and work to provide resources to people escaping these groups.

        •  And more groups helping child walkaways (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Another newer group dedicated to providing legal assistance (among other things) to minor walkaways is RISE International; among other things, they work on not only educating re specific issues of multigenerational walkaways but provide assistance with emancipation proceedings.

  •  Not to diminish (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dogemperor, OleHippieChick

    the psychological hell these creeps put people through, but Taibbi's piece has got to be one of the funniest things I've ever read! I was heretofore unaware that handwriting analysis, and anal fissures were actual demons. I'm not even certain what an anal fissure is... unless we're talking butt cracks. But my Dad always said those were like opinions - everybody's got one.

    On a more serious note, Matt made one analogy in there that struck a chord with me because it's one of my favorite anecdotes from the last eight years.

    He mentions the "born again" experience of so many of our recent leaders - and specifically cites W's miraculuos conversion at the hands of Billy Graham.

    Back in 2004, specifically on an evening just days before the November elections, NBC's Brian Williams did an interview with Rev. Graham. I was among the , probably not small, number of people who was gobsmacked to hear Billy say that he somehow didn't remember this much-ballyhooed event from George's bio! If you recall, the story had been bandied about for five years at the time.

    Read the link (thankfully the story is still online!), and pay attention to the final paragraphs. My only question was - why didn't Rev. Graham say something earlier?

    Meddle not in the affairs of dragons... for thou art crunchy and good with ketchup.

    by Pariah Dog on Sat May 10, 2008 at 05:31:55 AM PDT

  •  The weak-minded victims(?) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of these vultures tend to be the most nasty-assed and spiteful beings. They use the sickly-sugar-sweet veneer of their "faith" as a beard, as permission. No matter the horrors they commit on a daily basis, come Sunday, they're so smugly "saved."
    I think there are users on both sides of this equation.

    Passenger on the long train of abuses.

    by OleHippieChick on Sat May 10, 2008 at 06:02:04 AM PDT

    •  Very thought-provoking info, de. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Lefty Mama, dogemperor

      (Sorry to reply to myself but) I'm muttering to myself now --
      Shoulda labeled their "faith" as their "faithiness" because whenever I come into contact, I can't shake the impression of a deep-down furtiveness, a phoniness at their core.
      Are the lives of these "faithiful" so empty?, are they so gullible and undereducated in the ways of the world?, are they such provincial freakin bumpkins they can't tell, as adults, when they're being indoctrinated?
      I can see it if they're really young when they're coerced, but some of us old farts (when we were 18-19) were able to peg the Moonie scam and the myriad cults of the day straight off. What is WRONG with these people??
      I suspect they want to believe the simply outrageous things in order to justify their own behavior.
      Too, it's the creeping bu$hian disease of making up your own reality, throwing your shit against the wall and seeing what sticks. There's no law. Everything's hearsay. Everybody's doing it. Maybe they always have, but they've gotten arrogant these past years since the circus came to town.

      Passenger on the long train of abuses.

      by OleHippieChick on Sat May 10, 2008 at 06:52:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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