Dark Christianity
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dogemperor [userpic]
Interesting article on megachurches

SF Gate writes on megachurches:


Posted as relevant, as much of the dominionist movement is centered around megachurches (New Life, which is a pentecostal megachurch at the centre of the dominionist haven of Colorado Springs, is an example; the church I walked away from is a megachurch in a denomination (AoG) which is both heavily linked with dominionism and is downright favouring of megachurches; even the Baptist church at the center of the original Justice Sunday controversy is a megachurch in Baptist terms (being a multiple-campus church to get around Baptist bylaws on church size).

dogemperor [userpic]
The Slactivist on the "Left Behind" books


The Slactivist talks about why the "Left Behind" series are the worst books ever written:

When we were first putting together the Evangelical Environmental Network, I was kind of jealous of our partners forming similar groups among Catholics, mainline Protestants and Jewish congregations. They all had structures to work with. Those groups had organizations and hierarchies that allowed our partners to quickly and officially establish legitimacy with the constituencies they were trying to reach.

Evangelicals have no such structures. Instead of church polity, we have a marketplace. Influence and authority are not determined by tradition, by hierarchy, by spiritual discernment or democratic election embodying collective wisdom. Instead, they are determined by book sales, TV ratings, fund-raising acumen, and how many radio stations one owns.

This is a hell of a way to run a church.

Some of these market mechanisms can, I suppose, be passable proxies for a democratic form of church governance. Take for example the recent rise to national prominence of the Rev. Rick Warren. One could argue that the success of his book, The Purpose-Driven LIfe, represents the wisdom of the people -- that the body of believers has voted with their dollars to elect Warren as a pseudo-bishop in our market-driven church. But this kind of "election" usually has more to do with the flim-flammery of marketing than it does with the will of the Holy Spirit. I'd trust the system more if we just cast lots like the early church did in selecting a replacement for Judas.

This market-driven ecclesiology gets more disturbing the more you learn about the cynical, pragmatic outlook of groups like the NRB and the CBA. That would be the National Religious Broadcasters and the Christian Booksellers Association (although books account for less than a fifth of their sales). Think of them as our colleges of pseudo-cardinals, or the pseudo-archbishops who with their money and marketing appoint our pseudo-bishops.

This is part of what frightens and angers me about the phenomenal popularity of the Worst Books Ever Written. LaHaye and Jenkins are spreading their political agenda and worldview -- their triumphalist, Jonah-like delight in the damnation of their enemies, their sociopathic lack of empathy -- and the popularity of this agenda in turn lends it a kind of spiritual authority. And that is part of why this quixotic, elliptical-but-thorough assault on these awful books means more to me than simply a diverting way to spend my Fridays.

Interesting comparison- evangelicals use money as a means to determine authority rather than a hierarchy. I have sometimes privately wondered if money isn't actually more important to some sects than actual worship of Christ. Especially the 'non denominational' megachurches.

dogemperor [userpic]
Memorial Day News Digest


Soldiers of Christ: inside America's biggest megachurch: full Harpers article.

Feeling the Hate with the religious broadcasters: Full Harpers article.

Luring Teenagers to Religion: tactics used by various religons to get young people to join.

Microsoft severs ties with Ralph Reed, who was a member of the Christian Coalition. Guess the blowback from the WA gay rights bill got their attention.

Hope that everyone has a pleasant holiday.

dogemperor [userpic]
You can't make stuff like this up...


Pastor Ted Haggard, of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, has given some pointers to his congregation about how to behave for the media, according to this article

Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has long been a media magnet, for obvious reasons: Any organization willing to take on an enemy as wily as SpongeBob Squarepants is bound to receive attention. But lately, another Christian institution in the area -- New Life Church -- has joined Focus in the national spotlight. The sizable amount of coverage New Life has garnered to date will be supplemented by plenty more in the coming months, and thanks to a Springs-based blogger known as Non-Prophet, outside observers can learn how insiders have been preparing for the onslaught.Read more... )

dogemperor [userpic]
Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch


The first half of Jeff Sharlet's "Harper's" article Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch" is available on his "Revealer" website. I highly recommend it.

Here's an excerpt:

the city’s mightiest megachurch crests silver and blue atop a gentle slope of pale yellow prairie grass on the outskirts of town. Silver and blue, as it happens, are Air Force colors. New Life Church was built far north of town in part so it would be visible from the Air Force Academy. New Life wanted that kind of character in its congregation.

“Church” is insufficient to describe the complex. There is a permanent structure called the Tent, which regularly fills with hundreds or thousands of teens and twentysomethings for New Life’s various youth gatherings. Next to the Tent stands the old sanctuary, a gray box capable of seating 1,500; this juts out into the new sanctuary, capacity 7,500, already too small. At the complex’s western edge is the World Prayer Center, which looks like a great iron wedge driven into the plains. The true architectural wonder of New Life, however, is the pyramid of authority into which it orders its 11,000 members. At the base are 1,300 cell groups, whose leaders answer to section leaders, who answer to zone, who answer to district, who answer to Pastor Ted Haggard, New Life’s founder.Read more... )

dogemperor [userpic]
Some useful definitions


The article 'Getting Your Religious Terms Straight' was useful in outlining the major beliefs and lexicon of Evangelicals. I'm repeating it here for your education:

Getting Your Religious Terms Right
Can't tell the difference between the evangelicals and the seekers? Confused by the prosperity gospel? Here's a glossary to help you

Those who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. The vast majority of Americans are Christians. The Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches reports that 163 million Americans belong to some 200 major, national Christian churches (This tally does not include those who belong to the growing numbers of independent, non-denominational churches). By far the largest is the U.S. Catholic Church, with more than 66 million members. The evangelical Southern Baptist Convention is second, with more than 16 million members.Read more... )

dogemperor [userpic]
DailyKos: The Coming Christian Hate

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]deridetenebras)

I stayed on with this church for a nearly a year, growing ever more leery of what I was hearing. Finally, one Sunday, I attended an Assembly of God church service. The space was like an airplane hanger. It was decorated in stale browns with pink sashes and white flowers. There was a giant TV screen above the alter and a man screaming at us and people talking in `tongues' and crying and yelling out. The whole thing reminded me of the old videos of those huge Nuremberg Nazi rally's in the late 30s. At one point the man launched into an attack on the USSR, unions and Democrats; organizations and governments working against the will of God.

I distinctly remember feeling ill at that point and I remember a voice telling me to leave. To get out quick. I finally left. By the time I got to my car I had a fever. I pulled over several times to vomit before I got home. I was in bed for several days with an unbelievable fever and, right or wrong, I took that as a sign from God that I was to stay far a way from the Fundamentalist Christians.

But I forever found them fascinating. Later, I went back and talked to them. I was actually told in one conversation that Hitler was correct to kill the homosexuals and Catholics. A society must rid itself of those that threaten its moral standing. I was also told that the poor deserved their situation because they were clearly non-believers. Everyone, it seemed, was to be hated for one reason or another. When I warned my high school biology teacher that one day, these occultists would be in power in our nation and would disallow the evolution she was teaching and would want to put gays into gas chambers...she said no way. It could never happen. Never in America.

Read the entire article here: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/5/5/9474/94289

Current Music: denison witmer
dogemperor [userpic]
Intervew with Jeff Sharlet


Jeff Sharlet, who spoke at the Religious Right conference this past weekend, and who wrote "Soldiers of Christ, Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch" in the May issue (on the stands now!) of Harper's Magazine, is interviewed by Kathleen Dunn on Wisconsin Public Radio. It's the 5/5 interview, and you'll need Real Player to listen to it.

Definitely worth your time. If you purchase the magazine, it has pictures of the fantastic paintings at the World Prayer Center that Sharlett describes, including the one with the two sexy angels pouring honey all over this guy, and the fierce warrior angel.

dogemperor [userpic]
Harpers articles about the Religious Right


I was looking to see if perhaps the May issue of "Harpers" magazine was up yet- it features two articles of great interest to readers here: "Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch" by Jeff Sharlet, and "Feeling the Hate with the National Religous Broadcasters" by Chris Hedges. Both of these writers spoke at the Religous Right conference this past weekend.

I did go digging through the archives and found Sharlett's earlier article, Jesus Plus Nothing" about the enigmatic and secretive "The Family". I also found a Nerve article:Sex As A Weapon is Sharlet's examination of the Christian men's movement the Promise Keepers.

I also found The Apocalypse Will Be Televised" and Life Everlasting. All three articles are fascinating and insightful reading. Sharlet edits the online journal The Revealer.

Happy reading!

dogemperor [userpic]
Dominionist denominations?


What are some of the big dominionist denominations? I know the Southern Baptists have their share, and I think Assembly of God. What others?

dogemperor [userpic]
God Assault


This AlterNet article talks about the tactics of Dominionist churches.

Calvary Chapel-style Christianity is a complex system with intricate rules. Think of it as God's game.

Because certain trees are sprouting in the Middle East, the world will soon end. Because the European Union has grown to its current size, fiery death and plagues of locusts are about to descend on the planet. Because Israel established a homeland, non-believers will, in a short while, suffer agonizing horrors before being damned to an eternity of pain.

And now a word from our sponsor -- a real estate agent helping Christians find their dream homes.

This summer, I joined the rush hour in San Bernardino. Every day, descending the final hill from Los Angeles into the fastest growing region in California, I tuned into Christian radio station K-Wave. The station broadcast lessons on Christ-sanctioned financial planning as well as sermons on faith-rooted marriages. But its mission of missions was to map out, just the way the Weather Channel describes approaching storm fronts, the end of the world now bearing down upon us.

The deep voice of Pastor Chuck Smith filled my car each morning. Founder of Calvary Chapel, a "mega-church" with a publishing company, Bible colleges, and franchises in every state, Pastor Chuck inspired two followers to write the best-selling Left Behind novels about the Apocalypse. Soon obsessed with the station, I started wishing my Democratic friends in L.A. would join me in K-Wave's freeway congregation.

Each evening I returned home to find them wringing their hands over the possibility that a born-again Christian president, who laced his speeches with secret signals to fellow worshippers and considered praying his most important action before starting an unjust war, might be re-elected -- and re-elected by religious nuts so stupid they believed Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie were lovers.

As it happened, those "nuts" won the election for the president. Ill-prepared newscasters promptly relabeled them "moral voters," showing how little they understood about the new religion practiced in Calvary Chapel.

Democrats could, of course, have turned on K-Wave (or its equivalent), but even then they might not have grasped the most basic element of Calvary Chapel: It isn't guided by the outside world's concept of the Christian right's stern and unforgiving morals code.

While Calvary Chapel encourages Christians to enjoy "fellowship" with God, the doctrine it preaches is guided not by any ordinary sense of morality but by a gruesome vision of the end of the world and a set of instructions for how to deal with it.

Listening to that doctrine each morning and evening, I felt the sensations American audiences first discovering Hong Kong action flicks must have known: a fascination with the exotic combined with awe at the extreme violence it displayed. Granted, my perspective is unusual. Unlike most of my Democratic friends, I was raised in a church that practiced New Thought Christianity just up the freeway from Pastor Chuck's compound. It offered a new agey cocktail of faith, drawing heavily from Buddhism, Hinduism, and transcendentalism. Just the type of stuff Calvary Chapel abhors.

My childhood of crystals and sunshine made Calvary Chapel-style evangelism, with its emphasis on conversion and its belief in testifying to God's power, something strange and deeply mysterious. I felt like an anthropologist investigating a new culture as I listened to its broadcasts, and what I found makes me refuse to picture the organization as an army of moral voters.

Read the rest at the site.

dogemperor [userpic]
Another interesting Dominionist article


Although the main thrust of this Seattle Weekly article is a debate on whether Bush is the "AntiChrist" or not, it also hits on the hypocracy, and dare we say, heresy of the burgeoning Dominionist movement:

Bringing Back Heresy

Lang argues that followers of Jesus, not Bush, should call an Antichrist an Antichrist—or rather, its spirit. "The progressive church should bring back—and this sounds so crazy—the word 'heresy.' The end times theology and this other thing called Dominionism or Christian Reconstruction—those are heresies." [emphasis mine] Lang says not to believe Christian Coalition leader–turned–Whore of Enron–turned Bush/Cheney campaign lieutenant Ralph Reed when he claims the Christian right has no plans to upend the Constitution and impose its religion on civic life. "He's a liar," says Lang. "Dominionism is the notion that God has given the dominion, the governance of the world, to the church. And so Christians literally are born to rule, by force if necessary, to bring the Kingdom of God on Earth. I believe that the theology that drives the Bush administration affirms this." When Falwell preached, "We must take back what is rightfully ours," his ambitions did not stop at U.S. borders. This is a Church of a Law Unto Itself.

In the Greek, the word "anti" doesn't just mean "against." It also contains the meanings "equivalent to" or "a substitute for." Nero was anti-Christ because he falsely claimed to be God. The idea of deception is crucial. The Antichrist isn't the devil, the opposite of God. He's an evil human masquerading as a golden god. The Antichrist appears to humanity not as the hideous Beast but as handsome Nicolae Carpathia, who resembles Robert Redford without the facial erosion. "That could be our next Republican president," quips Lang.

In this sense, the Bush church is Antichristlike indeed. It is institutionalized deception, anti-American ugliness with a beguiling face, a neocon job. Only when necessary does it employ the perilous bald-faced lie, the outrageously transparent duplicity—the political equivalent of Robertson arguing that "Do unto others" indicates Christ's support of capitalist selfishness. More often, a smoothly dissembling surface is preferred. Rove notoriously emulates Machiavelli; the Christian right is a stealth movement, infiltrating school boards and mainstream churches and every institution of democracy like a thief in the night—in order to undermine, overthrow, and replace democracy with theocracy. Bush is the father of lies. The Union of Concerned Scientists proclaims Bush's lies about science "unprecedented." In With God on Their Side, Kaplan concludes, on mountainous evidence, "The goal is not to engage your opponents in the public square, but to kneecap them, or send them into exile."

"It is a conspiracy in the sense that they have not been public and accountable to their ideology," says Lang. "Follow the money! The same filthy-rich foundations that have funded the rise of neocons are funding the rise of the religious right." He suggests that you check out the exposé Web site The Yurica Report for the terrifying particulars.

I like the rational tack of this entire article- especially the insight about that the 'antichrist' really is. "Institutionalized deception"- a perfect phrase to encapsule what the next four years will be like if we don't holler "Heretics!" loudly enough to get the sleeping majority's attention. People like us might get kneecapped, but we'll be heard.

dogemperor [userpic]
Moderate Evangelicals could sway election


Not every Evangelical Christian is supportive of the actions of the "Hard Right". An in-depth article in "American Prospect" talks about these moderate Evangelicals and how they might vote this year.

Some excerpts:

In early February, 60 minutes' Morley Safer portrayed white evangelical Christians as the carnies of American Protestantism. Nine million viewers tuned in and saw shots of vast "megachurch" congregations swaying hypnotically and raising their hands in song. Tacky cinematic renderings of a fiery Armageddon added some dramatic tension. The slick ringmaster of these goings-on, of course, was the Reverend Tim LaHaye, the famous apocalyptic entrepreneur and co-author of the wildly popular Left Behind novels. (The series depicts the end of the world as prophesized in the Book of Revelation.)

Safer eventually turned his attention to Washington, where he declared that "evangelical ... beliefs have already reshaped American politics." As the visages of George W. Bush, Tom DeLay, and John Ashcroft flitted across the screen, the message was clear: The Republican Party has God on its side.

Except that this year, a considerable group of evangelicals just might swing the vote -- in favor of the Democrats. Read more... )

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