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In several recent posts, I've sought to highlight a few points about the theocratic dominionist movement in the U.S.  In The Next Denialism about Dominionism, I discussed the campaign of denialism and the smearing of those of us who have written about dominionism. In that post I wrote that "denial about dominionism" is in its way, "as preposterous and pernicious as denial about climate change."

In a second piece, Deeper Background on Dominionism, I reprised a post about discussions of dominionism by Christian scholars. I observed that "the false assertion that that moderate and liberal Christians have been soft on dominionism" has contributed to confusion rather than clarity about dominionism, and that those who make such claims have certainly not been reading Talk to Action, where a number of writers, some religious some not, some Christian some not, have been writing about dominionism, its constituent parts, and its variations for years.  

In this post I want to point to an excellent short piece by Baptist historian Bruce Gourley, whose discussion of Christian nationalist "lies" about separation of church and state, I have also posted as part of this series.  Gourley's essay "Turning Our Children Into God's Warriors," which I present here in its entirety, originally appeared in the February 2007 edition of the Baptist Studies Bulletin.  BSB states we are free to republish, with the appropriate credit of course.  (I have included only a few of the many useful links embedded in the original.)

"Turning Our Children Into God's Warriors"
By Bruce T. Gourley

           For years the Religious Right has warned Christians of the dangers of liberalism and “secular humanism” in American society.  Now some on the Religious Right want your children to march off to war to save America by turning the nation into a theocracy.

           To Christian theocrats (also known as Reconstructionists or Dominionists), democracy is an enemy.  Betty Fischer, director of Kids in Ministry International and founder and director of Kids on Fire summer camp in North Dakota, declared in the recently-released Jesus Camp documentary that democracy is a problem because it "treats everyone as equals.”  Therein is the fundamental reason why Christian theocrats are striving to turn America into a theocracy: the belief that (certain) Christians should receive preferential treatment in America and control the system of laws.  This is the only way to vanquish pluralism and “secular humanism.”

           Who exactly are these Christians that would replace democracy with theocracy?  The ideological founders and leaders of the movement include(d) Rousas J. Rushdoony, Francis A. Schaeffer and Gary DeMar.  American Vision, led by DeMar, is a leading Christian theocratic organization.  DeMar and other theocrats use terminology such as “Biblical Worldview” or “Christian Worldview” to express their goals of turning America into a theocracy.  This spring, the Southern Baptist Convention's LifeWay is hosting a Gary Demar "Worldview Super Conference" entitled "Training the Next Generation to Capture the Future."

           Alarmingly, the theocrats are increasingly recruiting children to fight their war against democracy.  In the Jesus Camp documentary, the children at the Kids on Fire summer camp are forced to smash ceramic cups with hammers to represent their commitment to destroying America’s democratic legal system in order to replace it with theocratic laws.  Repeatedly called the chosen generation, the children are told they will take over America for God.  And in Georgia, the Georgia Home Education Association (GHEA) is featuring Gary DeMar at their upcoming 2007 annual conference as they train the children to be “little patriots.”

            Christian schooling and homeschooling are vital tools for Christian theocrats.  DeMar’s American Vision offers an extensive line of homeschool resources that are very popular in the Christian homeschool movement and Christian schools, including the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a leading national homeschool, and blatantly theocratic, organization that proclaims “now it’s time for homeschooled children to take back America” for God.  The militantly-minded HSLDA aligned with Marilyn Musgrove (R-CO), sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, to sponsor legislation (H.R. 3753 / S 1691) that would direct the Department of Defense to obtain homeschool records of children for the purpose of “recruitment and enlistment” into the armed forces.  In addition, the Homeschool division of the Southern Baptist Convention's Lifeway is affiliated with HSLDA.

            Michael P. Farris, the founder of HSLDA whose books are sold by LifeWay, wants control of Christian children from elementary school through the teenage years and beyond.  He is also the founder of Patrick Henry College, a Christian college for homeschoolers located near Washington D.C. and devoted to promoting a theocratic agenda by transforming the U.S. government to “adhere to principles of biblical morality.”  The HSLDA, in addition, is the founder of Joshua Generation Ministries, a theocratic organization which recruits young people aged 11 to 19 to “become a force in the civic and political arenas” and banish pluralism and secular humanism from America: “We believe His promise that one of us can put a thousand to flight and two can put ten thousands to flight.”

            Joshua Generation Ministries is now forming local chapters referred to as “GenJ” clubs.  Earlier this month churches in Morgan County, Georgia, received promotional materials for “BLT (Building Leaders for Tomorrow) the GenJ Club of Morgan County.”  The theocratic agenda is not even disguised in these materials.  Holding up Puritan leader John Winthrop as a role model and hero, the literature proudly proclaims, “Generation Joshua wants America to be a perpetual city on a hill …. Generation Joshua trains the newest generation of young people to be effective leaders today in order to change government policies tomorrow ... to give young people a vision for taking America back to its Judeo-Christian foundations.”

            In short, some prominent leaders and organizations spearheading the Christian homeschool movement want to turn our children into God’s warriors.  As the flyer for Joshua Generation reveals, they are not content to recruit homeschooled children only. They want to draft the youth in our churches to fight in the army of their God.  We must educate ourselves and be diligent in protecting our children and youth from the hungry grasp of today’s Christian theocrats.

Notes: For a listing of state homeschooling organizations affiliated with the theocratic Home School Legal Defense Association, click here.  On March 9 [2007] Bruce will be leading a workshop entitled "Responding to Christian Nationalism" at the upcoming spring Georgia Cooperative Baptist Fellowship meeting at Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

Click here for more information on Christian theocracy/nationalism.  You may also visit Bruce's personal website at www.brucegourley.com.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank You - N/T (5+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Wed Mar 06, 2013 at 10:05:05 PM PST

  •  thank you for this; I note that Dominionism (9+ / 0-)

    and the Seven Mountain theology and other manifestations of this effort to create a theocratic state continues apace.  It has been a creeping sort of manifestation with the political camel poking its nose farther and farther under the ecclesiastical tent until today, ministers are encouraged to recommend candidates from the pulpit and to disparage those whom they see as impeding their social agenda.

    •  Reagan flung the doors of the GOP wide-open (6+ / 0-)

      for these loons, and they've been running the party down to its present state of disfunction ever since. Having been raised in the South in the '70's AND having been dragged to a Fundamentalist Church in my teens, this misuse of Christianity for a few to obtain personal power over the lives of many is disturbingly familiar.

      What was a shock to me was when I left the deep South to go to college, so few of my professors, who had come from NE liberal universities, had any inkling of the depths of this. This was back in the late '70's and early '80's. And the purposeful ignorance continues, apparently.

      Radarlady

      •  I would point out the infiltration of seminaries (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        radarlady, Rogneid, celdd, IreGyre, DJ Rix

        as well as religious colleges and seminaries have embraced the fundamentalist view of an inerrant Bible, requiring faculty and students to sign "loyalty oaths" affirming their belief in the inerrancy of the KJV.  Any who refused were purged and so seminaries, even traditionally conservative seminaries, who traditionally had a few liberal or moderate professors on their faculty now have solidly conservatively radical faculties who toe the "party" line  

    •  yes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DJ Rix

      We are also seeing seven mountains/New Apostolic Reformation folks gain influence in the Democratic Party, or at least try to. Samuel Rodriguez is one notable example.

  •  Fruitcakes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, WheninRome, Rogneid, DJ Rix
  •  Scary. Very scary. (4+ / 0-)

    And of course these are the people exhorting Christians to breed, in order to produce more "warriors." Ugh.

    "...Males are biologically driven to go out and hunt giraffes.” —Newt Gingrich in 1995

    by BadKitties on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 05:35:01 AM PST

  •  If those who have been writing against (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IreGyre

    Christian Dominionism in the United States (which absolutely DOES exist and IS a huge problem) have been being slammed by the dominionist-side writers, that should be satisfying because it means they are paying attention to you. So maybe all your hard work is paying off.

    I looked at the Talk to Action site. Lots of good writing, but very few comments.  Not sure what that means.

    I don't think that those of us who are atheists and who are active in separation of church and state feel that moderate and liberal Christians who are church/state activists are "soft on Dominionism". The view (at least for me) is that it is hard for liberal and moderate Christians to separate themselves in some ways from dominionistic Christians because they also pay homage to the biblical texts, many of which give support and encouragement to the dominionist point of view.  So when a liberal or moderate Christian comes after dominionists for pushing their views because they have the "wrong interpretation" of what it means to be a Christian in terms of government, it is quite easy for dominionists to ignore that because that claim can be easily dismissed by pointing to the texts that both sides revere.

    And here is a glaring example of this joined-at-the-hip issue.... Barack Obama formed a group to attract evangelical Protestant and Catholic young people to his campaign.  It was called the "Joshua Generation Project".

    I wonder if Mr. Gourley knows about this and/or would appreciate the irony.

    •  It is not hard (0+ / 0-)

      for moderate and liberal Christians to separate themselves from dominionist Christians. That is an unsupported myth that I first saw articulated by Sam Harris.  I have found denialism to exist about the same between the religious and non-religious in my experience. I think it has to do with more of an "it can't happen here" sensibility, and various other filters, than any religious identity that I have seen.  

      •  Since I move in circles either already (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DJ Rix

        invested in church/state issues or exclusively atheist/agnostic/freethinkers groups, I have not observed much denialism concerning Christian Dominionism at all.  Of course, atheists experience it all the time in their communities, either dominionism or mild to strong persecution, so they tend to have no problem accepting the fact that dominionism exists and is a problem. Within Christianity in general, I'm sure that liberal and moderate Christians feel that they are perfectly able to distance themselves from fundamentalists, but that line is often not so clear to people outside the circle, like atheists, etc.

        What I also see that brings me to one of my points is the discussion that almost always occurs after an article or diary on Christian dominionism. Christian commenters will make statements about how dominionists/fundamentalists are all wrong because they don't have the correct view of Jesus or the correct view of the meaning of the gospels/bible, or the correct definition of what being a Christian means.  I find that unproductive when it comes to this issue because it will never resolve the problem. For example, liberals/moderates see the good/benign community organizer Jesus as the model for what Christianity means, and Fundamentalists see the stern and often harsh judgemental Jesus as the model for what Christianity means. Both are right and both are wrong, so it's moot in my view.  Discouraging those types of commenter conversations might help to focus people more on solutions.

        The issues of dominionism are legal and Constitutional and historical, and that is the vantage point that I feel is best for holding dominionism's feet to the fire.

        As far as "it can't happen here"... sometimes writers who exclusively write about the Religious Right get bogged down in shouting fire when there is just a little smoke.  Most people are pretty good at shutting down the fringe of the fringe before those types do much damage. I see that all the time locally.  However, the whole game is like playing "whack-a-mole", so you do have to be somewhat vigilant.

        By the way, I saw a lot of writings in negative reaction to Sam Harris's comments on this topic (the concentric circles thing?), and in my opinion they quite often were off the mark of what Harris actually said and meant. I just thought I'd share that since you brought it up.

        •  Moderate & liberal Christians (0+ / 0-)

          (which can mean many things) do not tend to view themselves as spiritual warriors. That mindset is generally absent. They  weren't raised that way. I wasn't raised that way. To become religious "warriors" would be antithetical to authentic expressions of faith & spirituality, a surrender to the demonic. Dominionists need to be exposed out  in political & cultural discourse. The denialism has gone on far too long.  

          "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

          by DJ Rix on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 09:22:27 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Which is more likely, plutocracy or theocracy? (0+ / 0-)

    Due to its popular support, I'm beginning to think the latter is more likely.

    Plus, theocratic fascism may be imminent in Greece.

    •  why not both? (0+ / 0-)

      Fundies believe less government = more God, so they're on board with the plutocrats' agenda of privatization, deregulation, and austerity, though with a very different ultimate goal in mind.  They also believe (as it serves the plutocrats to have us all believe) that poverty and its attendant miseries are cultural not structural in origin - all boiling down to insufficient religion - and that a generous helping of good old-fashioned moral rectitude (courtesy of a fundie-dominated society) will solve all social problems.

  •  A little late to the conversation, but I wonder.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DJ Rix, Fishtroller01

    what you think we can do to mitigate the damage and the dangers to democracy that the hardest of the hard right are promoting? How do we stop or slow down the process of "taking over" our government leadership with those whose purpose isn't in the public interest?

    I am one, for sure, who isn't in denial about the real dangers that  extremist fanatics present. You and your colleagues have provided a valuable service by posting here. I have learned a lot. Sometimes it seems like some details are a little more than I really wanted to know. Some of these folks have constructed such a bizarre and twisted mish-mash of irrational thoughts that it's nearly impossible to accept the fact that such people exist. Not without studying this fascinating subject, anyway.

    Maybe if I explain a bit about how I overcame some of my skepticism and denial:

    I have the advantage of a few decades of working with alcoholics and addicts. So I have a bit of understanding about how denial fits into the picture. Fear is always present and manifests as irrational thinking and bad behavior. One doesn't need to be an addict or a drunk to behave badly or develop a defective thinking process.

    Fast forward. Here's one real-life example. I grew up in Wisconsin. The election of Scott Walker and the fanatical tyranny he's afflicted on my home state has been difficult. It has harmed friends and family and is deeply personal and emotionally draining.

    I initially couldn't believe that someone would have immediately switched from his promised agenda to a complete reversal of everything. Day one eliminated a financial surplus and created a fake financial emergency. Day two was worse.

    I figured out that he's done this before. He has a long history of very bad behavior. I knew about the old tricks and how these fanatics lie, cheat and steal. That's not unlike the behavior of a long-time alcoholic. I spent a lot of time researching his background, family history, his gang members, etc.

    I struggled to understand what his end game could be. For what purpose is he shredding the Wisconsin Idea? Why is he eliminating 50 years of progressive advances. Why is he dismantling the state's reputation for excellence in education? What is his purpose?

    Then I figured out that he grew up in a Christian Reconstructionist environment. His father, the preacher as he call him, was a student of Vernon Grounds, one of the early zealots of the movement. His father served several churches and serially closed each one because of his extremist rhetoric. I spoke with several of his former church members. Scott Walker has spoken about learning how to influence others (manipulate, really) by studying his father's preaching style. Sure enough, given this perspective, this is exactly his style. Facts don't matter. He's speaking to his followers. He's manipulating them. Everyone else is inferior because his beliefs are from God and he is superior, personally. I've listened to interviews of his parents. Bingo. Their son can do no wrong because he's a Christian and God is directing everything he does. I'm paraphrasing, but these are the words they use. They never answer a question. Apparently, they don't need to think about anything. God has all the answers. These are similar to the words spoken by fellow church members.

    If one doesn't think these folks exist in large numbers or that they're well-organized, they would be mistaken. Walker's election campaign was based on a formal hierarchy of church members (Christian Warriors - really) who are organized by legislative districts and regional volunteers and coordinators. There are major funds going onto publishing political pamphlets and candidate information. All of this material is for Republicans. It's all distributed outside of the church environment, yet is strictly organized by church locations and hierarchy. Barely outside of the church environment. Parking lots and entrances. After-church get-togethers, picnics, etc.

    It's obviously a violation of the separation of church and state, but borderline. Enough to skirt the intent of the Constitution.

    Whay would Walker ram trhough laws to permit massive open pit mining operations that permanently destroy sacred Chippewa resources located on sovereign Native American federally-protected reservation land.

    Nobody in their right mind would do such a thing.

    But a Christian Reconstructionist is obligated by God to plunder all of the Earth's resources.

    I eventually concluded that there really is no purpose for this behavior. It's futile to search for a so-called end game. The end game will be determined by God, apparently. This cannot be questioned. Faith, and all that, you know.

    These people are very dangerous to democracy, society, and civilization itself.

    I'm convinced. I am not in denial.

    Do you have thoughts about how we can turn this around? I'm at a loss. It just keeps getting worse. And there are too many other infected statehouses. Wisconsin is not alone.

    Sorry to rant for so long. But this travesty is deeply personal to me.

    "Never wrestle with a pig: you get dirty and the pig enjoys it"

    by GrumpyOldGeek on Thu Mar 07, 2013 at 05:47:44 PM PST

    •  thank you, and yes (0+ / 0-)

      Fascinating stuff about Walker and grounds. Thank you! I'd love to know more.

      I actually devoted a whole chapter to your question in my 1997 book Eternal Hostility:  The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, which is out of print, but usually available used for a few bucks on Amazon.

      There were five points. Very briefly 1) To reclaim American history and the theme of religious freedom.  2)  Register and mobilize voters. (and I would not wait for the pros to finally decide your town or district is a priority. I think we need to be able to do it for ourselves in our own communities; keep out own lists, develop our own skilled activists, and so on.)  3) Do research, as it seems you have done. We need to know who are formidable opponents are, their strengths and weaknesses, if we expect to be able to develop sound strategy to protect democracy in our communities and beyond. And no, your average twenty something professional political operative from out of town is no substitute for knowing our own communities.  This brings us to 4) Identify and expose the Christian Right's contradictions and weaknesses. This should go without saying, but it is my experience that not enough people know enough or even have a common vocabulary to do much with this. Knowledge and the terms that go with it, matter. And 5) practice democratic values.  In order to defend it, we need to live it.

      Over at Talk to Action, we try to create a space for people to publish responsbile, relevant material.  We don't go tabloid with the latest outrages so much as try to understand and explain what is going on around us.  We are in it for the long run.

  •  ...outstanding. What you write is true... (0+ / 0-)

    ...where I live it isn't even hidden, it's in the open...

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Fri Mar 08, 2013 at 08:21:07 AM PST

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