Today, we begin a new series--a two-parter on what is probably the most influential guy you've never heard of in dominionism (Paul Yonggi Cho--the head of Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul
(which is the world's largest megachurch, with 780,000 members) and head of the World Assemblies of God Council
We are going to begin this series in a somewhat unconventional manner--beginning with my personal interest in researching Cho's part in being a promoter of dominionism and his connection with what is known as one of the darkest chapters in Guatemala's history--the genocidal rule of dominionist-preacher-turned-general Rios Montt and one of Montt's proteges nearly successful attempts to restore the Reign of Terror, and Ted Haggard's New Life Church--the same church that is the world headquarters of the National Association of Evangelicals.
I will admit, for starters, that I have a wee bit of personal interest in Cho and his role in promotion of the "Third Wave" toxicity. This is in part because I am a survivor of the first church he tried to breed a "Brownsville" revival at
--many of the horror-stories I've told you about my own experiences in dominionism are in fact from a church that has practiced Cho's theology nearly since its founding, and which is still to this day a de facto center of one of the more extreme dominionist groups in the state
(one of its head deacons is head of the Kentucky AFA as well as an affiliated group, "Freedom's Heritage Forum", and the AFA illegally distributes voter's guides every election during church meetings handed out by none other than Simon himself).
To say I'm familiar with what happens to a church when Cho's theology infects it is an understatement; hence my valid concern about any links between churches and Cho. (Monday, I'll be posting on Cho's history; n that article, I highlight some of Cho's more notorious activities (including the details of his involvement with the very church I escaped) and his links with one of the most popular "pop evangelical" preachers in the US today.)
A church that practices frighteningly similar practices to the church I escaped is New Life Church in Colorado Springs--yes, the same New Life Church that Ted Haggard runs and which is now de facto head of the National Association of Evangelicals--the same Ted Haggard now seen as one of the "young blood" leaders of the dominionist movement. The landmark Harper's article Soldiers of Christ gives some of the details:
New Life began with a prophecy. In November 1984 a missionary friend of Pastor Ted's, respected for his gifts of discernment, made him pull over on a bend of Highway 83 as they were driving, somewhat aimlessly, in the open spaces north of the city. Pastor Ted--then twenty-eight, given to fasting and oddly pragmatic visions (he believes he foresaw Internet prayer networks before the Internet existed)--had been wondering why God had called him from near Baton Rouge, where he had been associate pastor of a megachurch, to this bleak city, then known as a "pastor's graveyard." The missionary got out of the car and squinted. He crouched down as if sniffing the ground. "This," said the missionary, "this will be your church. Build here."
So Pastor Ted did. First, he started a church in his basement. The pulpit was three five-gallon buckets stacked one atop the other, and the pews were lawn chairs. A man who lived in a trailer came round if he remembered it was Sunday and played guitar. Another man got the Spirit and filled a five-gallon garden sprayer with cooking oil and began anointing nearby intersections, then streets and buildings all over town. Pastor Ted told his flock to focus their prayers on houses with FOR SALE signs so that more Christians would come and join him. Once Pastor Ted and another missionary accidentally set off an alarm and hid together in a field while the police investigated. It was for a good cause, Pastor Ted would say; they were praying for the building to be taken off the market so it could someday be purchased for a future ministry. (It was.)
He was always on the lookout for spies. At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil's plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings. One day, while he was working in his garage, a woman who said she'd been sent by a witches' coven tried to stab Pastor Ted with a five-inch knife she pulled from a leg sheath; Pastor Ted wrestled the blade out of her hand. He let that story get around. He called the evil forces that dominated Colorado Springs--and every other metropolitan area in the country--"Control."
Sometimes, he says, Control would call him late on Saturday night, threatening to kill him. "Any more impertinence out of you, Ted Haggard," he claims Control once told him, "and there will be unrelenting pandemonium in this city." No kidding! Pastor Ted hadn't come to Colorado Springs for his health; he had come to wage "spiritual war."
He moved the church to a strip mall. There was a bar, a liquor store, New Life Church, a massage parlor. His congregation spilled out and blocked the other businesses. He set up chairs in the alley. He strung up a banner: SIEGE THIS CITY FOR ME, signed JESUS. He assigned everyone in the church names from the phone book they were to pray for. He sent teams to pray in front of the homes of supposed witches--in one month, ten out of fifteen of his targets put their houses on the market. His congregation "prayer-walked" nearly every street of the city.
(As an aside--and because this is one of the big things people always ask about--about the "cooking oil" stuff. Neopente dominionists (especially within the Assemblies of God and churches that are descended from the Assemblies or have close links to them--like New Life does) promote the use of "annointing oil" as a form of "territorial marking" to "name and claim" a targeted area for their dominionist God. Olive oil (not prepared in the traditional manner--real
annointing oil would in fact cost nearly as much as a new Kia
to produce--we're talking Extra Virgin like you'd get at the store) is recommended, or--if you're out of extra virgin--plain old Wesson oil is recommended as "your faith will sanctify it" (an example of the sorts of scripture-twisting used to justify this is given at this website
, and page 12
of this document from a dominionist church points out the use of Wesson oil in this manner in a "name it and claim it" faith-healing service; this website run by a "Joel's Army" promoter
also notes the use of Wesson oil as a "territorial mark").
(Of note, the use of Wesson-oil "territorial pissings" is not just restricted to faith-healing and marking buildings as "Joel's Army turf"; more disturbingly, it's also used to mark possessions of people, specifically people whom are targets for conversion (they will mark their possessions and "pray" for them to follow the dominionists' will or else; infamously, this was actually done by an Assemblies-linked pastor to all the chairs in the Senate chambers during the Alito hearings. Pagans and even mainstream Christians will in fact recognise this as a form of hexing; other forms of "cursing people in the name of Christ" of this sort involve nailing people's names to crosses and "praying" over them (as occurs regularly at See You At The Pole events held in schools and promoted by dominionist groups).)
New Life Church, interestingly, is also the headquarters of the National Association of Evangelicals--a group largely comprised of dominionist churches including several Institute for Religion and Democracy-supported splits of mainstream churches and originally set up as a dominionist-backed alternative to the mainstream National Council of Churches. (It is of note that the three founding denominations are all known dominionist pente denominations, including the Assemblies of God.) Even as it was, it has gone hard dominionist since Haggard took over in April 2003; this has included court briefs pushing for allowing dominionist chaplains to prosyletise (in direct response to the USAFA religious harassment scandal, below). Evangelical Right has an entire section on Haggard, including video.
New Life Church is also connected with the religious coercion scandal going on with the US Air Force Academy (which has almost totally been hijacked by dominionists--complaints of not only prosyletisation at official functions, but religious coercion and even religiously motivated harassment have been documented and were routinely ignored and whitewashed) that was so severe as to be described literally as religious bullying. As it turns out, New Life Church is directly across from the USAFA headquarters (as documented in the movie "Jesus Camp"; trailer here (warning: likely to be triggering to walkaways from dominionist groups, as is much of the movie)) and reportedly several of the persons responsible are members of New Life per some media reports.
I should probably not have been surprised, in that light, to see that New Life Church has tangible links with Cho and--via a church in Guatemala may well have been the second big church in North America to be infected with "Cho Madness"--links to a group with a long history of attempts to establish the "Republic of Gilead" worldwide with disastrous effects both here and abroad.
Bartholomew's Notes gives more info:
(Rev. Doug) Giles's brother-in-law Mell Winger (or "Mel Winger") has a doctorate from Fuller Theological seminary, where it looks like (based on his theology) he studied under C. Peter Wagner, who promotes an interesting worldview based on constant "Spiritual Warfare" against demons. He is currently district pastor at New Life Church near the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, working under Ted Haggard (see below). Previously, however, he was a pastor at Trinity Church in Lubbock (now run by a follower of Kenneth Hagin) and the director of the Bible Institute of El Shaddai Church in Guatemala City (1).
The link to El Shaddai throws up warning-flags a-plenty to me, partly because I've only
heard "El Shaddai" used as a church name in the neopente community (and in particular in regards to Assemblies churches), and El Shaddai is linked to the Assemblies--and to Cho:
(1) El Shaddai was set up by a pastor close to TL Osborn, and has had links with members of the global neo-Pentecostal "A-List", such as the Korean Pastor Formerly Known as Paul Yonggi Cho (now David) and (the late) Nigerian Benson Idahosa. Serrano Elías, Guatemalan president from 1991-93, was a member.
So we have connections not only with Cho, but the attempts by the FGBMFI to hijack governments throughout Latin America
as documented by none other than the Peace Corps
. . .
I'm going to divert for just a sec to discuss more on some of those names besides Cho, especially that Guatemalan president...because Guatemala is a country that is misfortunate enough to have lived through not one but two dominionist governments, and has experienced a great deal of pain and horror thanks to dominionism.
Elías, of note, was a dominionist candidate elected in 1990 in what was only the second free election in Guatemala since 1953, and is best well known for having illegally suspended the constitution and dismissing Guatemala's congress and Supreme Court in an attempt at an auto-coup and--in a pattern that is the remarkable reverse of most of these sorts of things in Latin America--the military literally had to overthrow him to restore democratic rule to the country. He's also been suspected of harbouring persons connected with the previous military government linked to extreme human rights abuses, particularly against the Mayan population. He is also a former member of the military government himself, having served under General Rios Montt who is connected to the FGBMFI and is responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses documented in Guatemala including frank genocide; in large part it was Montt's abuses that led to the establishment of civilian government in Guatemala in the first place, later to be interrupted by Elías' dominionist coup.
Yes, you read that right. It appears that the district pastor of New Life Church--the same New Life Church that Ted Haggard runs the National Association of Evangelicals out of since being elected its leader--has close connections with a friend of a dominionist leader who makes Augusto Pinochet look positively warm and fuzzy in particular.
For those unfamiliar with Rios Montt's history--which is especially topical now, considering connections with Rep. Jerry Weller who is now involved in the third major breaking page-diddling scandal (specifically, Rios Montt is Jerry Weller's father-in-law; he's married to Zury Rios Montt)--let's give a review.
Per the Wikipedia article:
Ríos Montt's ties with the United States military go back fifty years when he received training by the Pentagon. In 1950, Ríos Montt graduated as a cadet at the School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone, which at the time educated students in counterinsurgency tactics for the purposes of combating potential "communist" influence in the region.
In 1954, the young officer played a minor role in the successful CIA-organized coup against Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán, who was alleged to have had communist sympathies largely as a result of his efforts to break the economic monopoly of the United Fruit Company, a US firm with strong ties to Washington.
Following the coup, Ríos Montt's rise swiftly through the military. In 1970, under the military regime of President General Carlos Manuel Arana Osorio, he became a general and chief of staff for the Guatemalan army.
In 1973, Ríos Montt resigned from his post in the Washington embassy to participate in the March 1974 presidential elections as candidate for the National Opposition Front (FNO). He lost the election to a rival right-wing candidate, General Kjell Eugenio Laugerud García, by 70,000 votes. Ríos Montt denounced a "massive electoral fraud", blaming Catholic priests who had questioned the mistreatment of the Catholic Mayans, and claimed that the priests were leftist agents. It is alleged that he was given a payoff of several hundred thousand dollars along with the post of military attaché in the embassy in Madrid, Spain, where he stayed until 1977.
In 1978, he left the Catholic Church and became a minister in the California-based evangelical Church of the Word; since then Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have been personal friends.
So, for starters, we have a general who participated in a CIA-financed coup who tried to oppose an election by essentially blaming it on the "Catholics and Injuns", who then became a neopentecostal preacher. In 1982, he returned to Guatemala and began one of the bloodiest periods in the country's history--and gave the entire world a glimpse as to what a Pax dominionista
, a real-life "Republic of Gilead", would resemble:
On March 7, 1982, General Ángel Aníbal Guevara, the official party candidate, won the presidential election. On March 23, with the support of fellow soldiers, General Horacio Egberto Maldonado Schaad and Colonel Francisco Luis Gordillo Martínez, Ríos Montt seized power in a coup d'état, that was quietly backed by the CIA, deposing General Romeo Lucas García. They set up a military junta with Ríos Montt at its head. The junta immediately suspended the constitution, shut down the legislature, set up secret tribunals, and began a campaign against political dissidents that included kidnapping, torture, and extra-judicial assassinations. The coup was described as being of the Oficiales jovenes (young army officers), and prevented Guevara from being installed as president on July 1.
Initially, there was some expectation that the extremely poor human rights and security situation might improve under the new regime. Drawing on his pentecostal beliefs, Ríos Montt invoked a modern apocalyptic vision comparing the four riders of the Book of Revelations to the four modern evils of hunger, misery, ignorance and subversion, as well as fighting corruption and what he described as the depredations of the rich. He said that the true Christian had the Bible in one hand and a machine gun in the other. On April 10, he launched the National Growth and Security Plan whose stated goals were to end the extermination and teach the populace about nationalism. They wanted to integrate the campesinos and indigenous peoples into the state, declaring that because of their illiteracy and "immaturity" they were particularly vulnerable to the seductions of "international communism."
The consequences of Rios Montt's rule have been well documented--over 10,000 Mayans died alone and possibly as many as 200,000 dissidents in total were executed. To this day, Rios Montt does not dare leave the country, as there is a warrant out for his arrest for crimes against humanity. User MKS
has written poignantly on the horrors that occured in Guatemala during that period, including her own experiences among the Maya who were targets of genocide
The Peace Corps article also notes his connection with the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International as their force in setting up a dominionist junta in Guatemala:
Guatemala: The fellowship entered Guatemala in 1952, only one year after its inception in 1951. The Guatemala directors are leading businessmen, media people, and military officers, including a former minister of defense. Prominent members frequently travel through Latin America setting up chapters. FGBMFI members often say that they have turned their business over to the Lord and that they are the happiest people on earth. (9) John Carrette, a prominent FGBMFI member, told a meeting of the Indian Evangelical Association ASIDE that Indian pastors should not support or finance political candidates in any way. Carrette himself was a vocal supporter of the evangelical ex-president Gen. Efrain Rios Montt. (9) Rios Montt spoke at the FGBMFI 1984 world convention. (1)
In other words, they very
likely entered with the first military coup in the 1950s, and the FGBMFI were some of Montt's biggest supporters; Montt himself was also a member of the FGBMFI himself.
As for Serrano Elías, he too was a dominionist pastor and came very frighteningly close to re-establishing the Reign of Terror. From the Wikipedia article on Serrano Elías:
In 1976 he collaborated with various US protestant churches to help the population recover from the devastating earthquake that had afflicted the country. He then published a document describing the miserable conditions under which the indigenous population lived, which resulted in his receiving threats. He went into exile in the US, only returning in 1982, to work in the government of fellow evangelist General Efraín Ríos Montt as Vice President of the Advisory Board to the government.
. . .
On May 25, 1993, Serrano illegally suspended the constitution, dissolved Congress and the Supreme Court, imposed censorship and tried to restrict civil freedoms, allegedly to fight corruption. The autogolpe (or autocoup) failed due to unified, strong protests by most elements of Guatemalan society, at the forefront of which was the Siglo Veintiuno newspaper under the leadership of José Rubén Zamora. This was combined with international pressure, and the army's enforcement of the decisions of the Constitutional Court, which ruled against the attempted takeover. In the face of this pressure, Serrano resigned as president and fled the country. He was replaced on an interim basis by his vice president, Gustavo Espina Salguero, pending the re-establishment of the constitutional order.
Not only did Serrano Elías try to re-establish the dominionist government, he actively tried to stop the perpetrators from coming to justice--specifically, three generals who are wanted in the same international arrest warrant for Rios Montt on charges of genocide. From The Daily Journal Online
PANAMA CITY (EFE) -- Former Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano Elias termed as "absurd and irresponsible" the accusation that he is harboring an ex-Guatemalan interior minister, a fugitive from Spanish justice, in Panama.
In statements to EFE on Saturday, Serrano Elias, exiled in Panama for the past 12 years, denied that he was protecting Donaldo Alvarez Ruiz, as a spokesman for the Rigoberta Menchu Foundation, Eduardo De León, has said.
Menchu, a Guatemalan Indian and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, brought charges against Alvarez Ruiz and other ex-high ranking Guatemalan officials accused of attacking the Spanish Embassy in Guatemala in 1980, killing four Spanish priests and committing other human rights crimes between 1978 and 1986.
In the Jan. 31, 1980, attack on the embassy, a group of peasants from the Guatemalan province of Quiche, accompanied by students and workers, peacefully occupied the Spanish mission to call for an end to violence in the region.
In response, security forces staged an attack on the embassy that left 38 people dead, many of them in the fire that ensued.
. . .
Spanish judicial officials said Friday in Madrid that Interpol has confirmed Alvarez Ruiz's presence in Panama and that, therefore, he could be arrested at any time.
The international warrant for his arrest was issued last December by Spain's Audiencia Nacional in response to a criminal complaint filed by Menchu in December 1999.
Menchu's complaint alleging crimes against humanity in Guatemala named Alvarez Ruiz, as well as former President Romeo Lucas, who governed from 1978-1982, and Gens.
Efrain Rios Montt and Oscar Mejía, who served as de-facto heads of the Guatemalan government in the 1980s.
It probably should not surprise people, in that note, to find Cho has close links with what may be the most villianous of all hives of scum and villiany in the dominionist movement (whilst there are certainly dominionists who have close links with groups calling for genocide, the FGBMFI is unique in that it has multiple links with actual instigators of genocide). From the Wikipedia article on Yoido Full Gospel:
Membership of Full Gospel Central Church reached fifty thousand by 1977, a figure which doubled in only two years. On 30 November 1981, membership topped 200 000. By this time, it was the largest church in the world and was recognized as such by the Los Angeles Times. A special worship service was held to celebrate this milestone, with Demos Shakarian, President of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International as the guest speaker.
In fact, Cho openly advertises the links
between himself, the FGBMFI, and Cho himself is rather suprisingly influential in the spread of dominionism in Guatemala itself. In what may be yet another attempt to re-establish a dominionist government, Cho is now attempting to partner with the son of Guatemala's sitting president
...and as the sitting president beat out
Rios Montt when he tried to run for president, it's now sadly possible that two out of three major parties in Guatemalan politics may have been hijacked by dominionists--partly due to Cho.
. . .
Getting back on track with the connections between Cho, New Life, and the masterminds of the Guatemalan Horror, Cho's theology--aside from being heavily connected to some of the worst episodes in Guatemalan history--seems to have influenced Winger, and by extension New Life--and not in a positive way. Among other things, the Bartholomew's Notes article recounts how Winger and his wife are reported to have literally cursed Doug Giles (most well known for promoting "manly Christianity" and "spiritual warfare" theology himself) in the name of Christ in his initial attempts to walk away, according to this Dutch sympathiser:
Some dear friends of mine, Mell and Paula Winger, have seen many family members come to Christ as they have faithfully interceded for them through the years. The testimony regarding Paula's younger brother is especially powerful:
Doug Giles had an extremely ungodly lifestyle and was living in total rebellion. He hated the gospel message and was so repelled by our faith in Christ that he would leave the house when we came for dinner. We began devoting one night each week to pray and fast for Doug's salvation. We did this weekly for a year and a half, praying that he would be able to see the truth of the gospel, binding the spirit of rebellion that was controlling him and asking God to soften his heart so that he might be drawn to Him. Then, although we were no longer setting aside every Monday night to intercede for him, we continued to pray these and other principles for Doug during the next six years. Finally, one night while attending a Christian concert, he received Christ as his Savior. That was 17 years ago, and today Doug has a powerful evangelistic ministry based out of Miami, Florida.
Sadly, it looks as if Giles himself may have been the victim of being forced into dominionism--a story all too common, and indicative of the levels of spiritual and mental abuse all too common in these groups. (There is a very real and very serious risk in walking away--realistically, merely being disowned
by one's family may be the best outcome. All too often, people end up being subjected to physical and mental abuse, by family members or by dominionist-run clinics--and all too often, it ends up breaking people.)
Winger himself has some definitely odd ideas and seems to be one of the big parties behind the pushing of "spiritual warfare" at New Life--and, in yet another pointer to the targeting of Guatemala by dominionist, seems to share some viewpoints on Guatemalan politics that could have come out of Rios Montt's own book:
Winger has an interesting take on Guatemala's socio-economic problems, clearly based on Wagner's demonology. Discussing the town of Almolonga:
About 25 years ago, the Church was small and weak, the fields were undeveloped and the city was characterized by an alcohol-induced lethargy - the fruit of serving an idol named Maxirnon. This perverse idol is associated with the vices of smoking, drinking liquor, and immorality. Maximon is a 3-foot idol consisting of a clay mask and a wood and cloth body. He receives the kisses of the faithful who kneel before him. Placing at his feet bottles of liquor purchased with their meagre earnings, they hope against hope that their offering will bring blessing and healing. The priest offers lit cigars to the idol, and taking a mouthful of the liquor offering, spews it over the devotees. The followers leave expecting a blessing, perhaps receiving a demonic display of power, but nonetheless slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss of oppression.
But following mass conversions, exorcisms and a resurrection from the dead, all is now well, with Godliness and (nod to Max Weber and David Martin) a new work ethic:
This work ethic has produced an economic renewal, an incredible dimension of community transformation throughout Airnolonga. There is no evidence of the unemployment, the beggars, the drunkards asleep in alleyways, or the loiterers that so often characterize similar places.
Winger, like Giles, sees spiritual warfare in masculine terms: he has a book entitled Fight on Your Knees: Calling Men to Action Through Transforming Prayer. According to the blurb:
For the Christian man the battle rages in unseen realms, and he's got to wield God's mighty weapon for warfare. He's got to pray. Instead of "Stand up and fight," his war cry must be "Kneel down and pray!" He understands that spiritual battles require godly tactics. He wrestles until he wins the war.
Fight on Your Knees inspires and equips men like you to pray for families, churches, cities, and nations--and to guard and strengthen yourself against the enemy's onslaughts. This book compiles writings by fourteen men of various ethnic and professional backgrounds, Christian leaders such as Bill McCartney, Steve Shanklin, Ted Haggard, Dutch Sheets, and Dale Schlafer. Their words will challenge and encourage you to enlist in the growing army of intercessors. God is calling men to war through prayer, and you can join them. You can fight on your knees and win.
Winger also promotes the idea of the "prayer shield", and headlines Exodus 15:3: "The Lord is a man of War: The Lord is his name".
(That last bit is a rather interesting bit of scripture-twisting common in "Joel's Army" circles. This verse is in fact part of a longer part of Exodus 15 where the ancient Israelis were thanking God for the defeat of the pursuing Pharoah
(and specifically for swallowing up the Egyptian pursuers in the Red Sea after they'd crossed).)
Though it shouldn't be surprising--it IS disturbing nonetheless. One has to wonder just how many churches are infected by this--and just how far the links between modern dominionism and Cho go. It is, sadly, entirely possible that the same dominionist movement that hijacked the Republican party in the US--and is frighteningly close to establishing a dominionist government, its "chosen president" and his advisors already having pushed this nation closer to dictatorial rule than any other time in its history--may have in fact been responsible for the horrors that were inflicted upon poor Guatemala in the 80's and 90's.
And...frighteningly...one of the persons linked to that horror is not only friends with its instigators, but with members of a church who would very much like to set up a Rios Montt here in the States...and who has control of a denomination with 50 million members worldwide and 3 million in the US alone, and the ear of the head of the largest association of evangelical churches in the US.
Monday, we reveal a lot more on Cho himself--and on his disturbing links to one of the most popular preachers in the US, Rick Warren.