Wednesday, November 25, 2009
No, not Charlie's Family. We're talking about the truly scary, secretive right wing political "fellowship" in Washington DC, subject of an excellent 2008 book by Jeff Sharlet called The Family.
Sharlet is back on the media circuit talking about the Family to NPR's Terry Gross, timely at present because of their involvement and influence in the current health care debate.
Brother T Tex alerted me to the above NPR piece which is well worth a listen.
And while we're on the subject of Jeff Sharlet, I'd like to point out a monumental article he wrote back in 2005 for Harper's called "Soldiers of Christ: Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch" about Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Unfortunately it's not one of the articles Harpers offers for free, although the text can be found in somewhat random places elsewhere on the internet. The story of Pastor Ted's rise from pastor of a basement church to an advisor of President Bush is fascinating, and the social implications of the megachurch phenomenon are absolutely terrifying:
Which brings us back to "Order." Key to the growth of evangelicalism during the last twenty years has been a social structure of "cell groups" that allows churches to grow endlessly while maintaining orthodoxy in their ranks. New Life, for instance, has 1,300 cell groups, or "small groups," as Pastor Ted prefers to call them. Such a structure is not native to Colorado Springs; in fact, most evangelicals attribute it to Pastor Paul Cho, of South Korea, who has built a congregation of 750,000 using the cell-group structure. American megachurches that have adopted the cell model unaltered have had only partial success.
Pastor Ted's insight was in adapting this system for the affluence of the United States. South Korea, he notes, is on the "front lines" in the war against communism, "so they needed a strong chain-of-command system." But not so Americans. "Free-market globalization" has made us so free, he realized, that an American cell-group system could be mature enough to function just like a market. One of Pastor Ted's favorite books is Thomas Friedman's The Lexus and the Olive Tree, which is now required reading for the hundreds of pastors under Ted's spiritual authority across the country. From Friedman, Pastor Ted says he learned that everything, including spirituality, can be understood as a commodity. And unregulated trade, he concluded, was the key to achieving worldly freedom.
In devising New Life's small-group system, Pastor Ted says that he asked himself and his staff a simple question: Do you like your neighbors? And, for that matter, do you even know your neighbors? The answers he got - the Golden Rule to the contrary - were "Not really" and "No." Okay, said Pastor Ted, so why would you want to be in a small group with them? His point was that arbitrary small groups would make less sense than self-selected groups organized around common interests. Hence New Life members can choose among small groups dedicated to motorcycles, or rock climbing, or home-schooling, or protesting outside abortion clinics.
But Pastor Ted's true genius lies in his organizational hierarchy, which ensures ideological rigidity even as it allows for individual expression. Not just anyone can lead a small group, much less a section; a battery of personality and spiritual tests must be undergone first, as well as an official background check. Once chosen, group leaders meet regularly with their own leaders in the chain of command, and members are encouraged to jump the chain and speak to a higher level if they think their leader is straying into "false teachings" - moral relativism, ecumenism, or even "Satanism," in the form of New Age notions such as crystal healing.
Whether the system is common sense or heresy itself - the Body of Christ atomized - is beside the point; New Lifers have found it powerfully persuasive. Pastor Ted has instituted a semester system, so that no one needs to be locked into a group he or she doesn't like for too long. And since New Life's cell groups don't limit themselves to Bible study, they function as covert evangelizing engines. In return, what Pastor Ted has given his flock are lifestyle choices.
I'd like to point out that you don't have to be a foaming at the mouth atheist to oppose the megachurch phenomenon - probably the best way to fight them is to support smaller progressive churches.
Posted by Randy at 11:14 AM
from the Sydney Morning Herald:
For decades the celebrity-recruiting group, granted legal status as a religion in Australia in 1983, has fought to preserve its secrets. These include a bizarre cosmology involving the galactic dictator Xenu dumping millions of corpses in volcanoes on Earth 75 million years ago and blowing them up with 17 hydrogen bombsIn this schema, the souls, or ”thetans”, of the dead were contaminated and in turn contaminated humans, who can be cleansed only by Scientology. The process involves vitamins, E-meters and large sums of money.
Posted by Randy at 10:38 AM
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
'I have walked the same path as God, by taking lives and making others afraid, I became God's equal. Through killing others, I became my own master. Through my own power I come to my own redemption..'
this post inspired by The Barracudas' "Poor White Trash"
Posted by Randy at 11:12 PM
Thursday, November 19, 2009
someone's coined a bumper sticker slogan encouraging people to pray for Barack Obama. But here's the funny part: if you actually read the verse, it's really a secret Christian code for "Kill the President!'
Posted by Randy at 6:06 PM
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Too Weird for Words (so watch the documentary)
On a peaceful summer’s night in July 2008, along a stretch of the Trans Canada Highway in Manitoba, the unthinkable happened. What started as just another Prairie bus ride became a nightmare when the lives of two passengers intersected tragically and resulted in the murder of Tim McLean. In Bus 1170, Bob McKeown takes us inside what happened on Greyhound 1170 through the eyes of the surviving passengers and other witnesses.
A seemingly random decision, to take the Greyhound from B.C. to Winnipeg rather than a friend’s offer of a plane ticket, would cost twenty-two-year-old Tim McLean his life, would profoundly change the lives of dozens of others who saw his murder and shock anyone who has heard about it since. On Greyhound 1170, Vincent Li, a diagnosed schizophrenic on his own randomly chosen bus journey, sat beside McLean and then, obeying voices inside his head, repeatedly stabbed and then cannibalized McLean’s body.
Watch documentary here.
Of special interest to Snake Oil readers: victim Tim McLean was a Juggalo!
Posted by Randy at 10:50 PM
Posted by Randy at 5:25 PM
By Eleanor Bader, RH Reality Check
Posted on November 16, 2009
Posted on November 16, 2009
Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas, Assistant Director of Operation Save America, is worried. According to studies by the Barna Research Group, California pollsters specializing in tracking religious and spiritual attitudes, only nine percent of teenaged Christians believe in moral absolutes. What’s more, Barna reports that the vast majority of kids raised Christian will abandon all or part of their faith by the time they finish high school. "Assembly of God leaders estimate between 65 and 70 percent will depart, while the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life estimates roughly 88 percent will leave," Thomas writes.
To remedy this, Thomas' Elijah Ministries has started the Kingdom Leadership Institute, a weeklong ideological boot camp for home-schooled Christians between the ages of 14 and 21. His recently released book, The Kingdom Leadership Institute Manual, is a roadmap for their training and a fascinating -- if twisted -- look at the concerns of far right evangelicals, complete with a game plan for action.
There's no pussy-footing in Thomas' screed. For him the battle between God and Satan is at hand, pitting True Believers against Sinners. Common ground? Impossible since there are only two sides, one resulting in heavenly salvation and the other ending with the earth’s destruction.
"Life is not a playground," he rails. "It is a war zone -- a clash of ideas, philosophies, values, and worldviews. It demands leaders who do not shrink back in [sic] the day of battle." He calls it "spiritual warfare" and repeatedly summons images straight out of the Middle Ages, with gallant Knights protecting grateful maidens, and courtliness trumping gender equity.
Contemporary equals bad, he rants. "During Colonial times, children would be up at four in the morning to help with chores; spoke only when spoken to by an adult; and by the age of seven or eight, boys had chosen their craft or trade and were ready to become apprentices. What a contrast compared to the unruliness, laziness, and lack of direction that characterizes many in this generation." One can only wonder about the regimen imposed on the good reverend’s 13 children and two grandchildren.
As Thomas sees it, the crisis facing today’s young people is a direct result of American secularism-- you know, those pesky rules separating religion and government. In his telling, the lead culprit is the Supreme Court which has usurped God’s legal authority, outlawing prayer in schools, sanctioning abortion and gay rights, and allowing infidels -- AKA Muslims -- to live freely among us.
Remember Alabama Judge Roy Moore? So does Thomas, and he is still smarting from Moore’s 2003 comeuppance. Moore -- one of Thomas’ few heroes -- had posted the 10 Commandments in the Rotunda of the state Judicial Building, something most folks -- Christians and non -- saw as a violation of church/state separation. Not Moore. Given a choice between removing the Commandments or losing his job, he chose the latter which demonstrates, says Thomas, how far the Godly have fallen in the US of A.
Thomas’ solution for changing this and returning American youth to the Christian fold is straightforward, if absurd, and starts with home schooling. Women, he writes, should quit working for money and instead work on inculcating “Christian values”, including male supremacy, in the next generation. “A patriarch is a family ruler. He is the man in charge,” Thomas begins. “Biblical manhood demands men … defend and shield or cover women from injury, evil or oppression.” Not surprisingly, Thomas puts forward an essentialized view: Men are logical, women emotional and spiritually attuned. Feminist challenges to this monochromatic definition are anathema to nature, he charges. Worse, they challenge the male birthright to establish a “dynasty” at home.
Yep, you read right. A dynasty.
“Feminists charge that Christianity promotes a patriarchal religion, which oppresses women and steals their potential. Although it is true that Christianity is patriarchal, the function of true patriarchy is to protect, provide, and care for women and children. Biblical patriarchy is expressed as chivalry,” Thomas writes.
You can almost see Thomas squirming at the idea of women's equality or the varied gender expressions feminists have championed. And then there’s his obvious discomfort with power-wielding females. "A woman can manipulate, dominate and control a man to the point that his manhood is slowly eaten away like a cancer," he raves. Finally, there’s the ultimate rightwing putdown: "Too many women seek value by trying to become men, lead as men, and be aggressive as men."
For Thomas, the call is not only to criminalize abortion and homosexuality, return prayer to the schools, get women out of the workplace, and declare the U.S. a Christian nation, but also to impose Biblical rule on all who reside within our national borders. Furthermore, he's going for blood -- and I mean that literally. "Whether we like it or not, ours is a bloody religion," he explains. "Beginning with God slaying the animals to cover Adam and Eve after the fall…to the final sacrifice by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, one theme rings true. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins."
It's hard to know whether this is an oblique reference to murdering abortion providers or is a more literal reference to the war Thomas envisions between his parishioners and everyone else.
But either way, Thomas' fighting words are sure to unsettle at least some of his youthful charges, sending them squarely into the arms of 21st century secularism.
I say a hearty amen to that. Hallelujah.
Posted by Randy at 5:23 PM
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Lastest on the Horrorcore Murders - McCroskey might have documented activities with a computer, cell phone or camera
- Details surface on murder weapons in Farmville slayings
FARMVILLE—Two weapons—a ball-peen hammer and a wood-splitting maul—were used to bludgeon four people found dead inside a Longwood University professor’s home in September, a source close to the investigation confirmed yesterday.
Also yesterday, Richard Samuel Alden McCroskey III, 20, of Castro Valley, Calif., was served with indictments on six counts of capital murder in the bludgeoning deaths of professor Debra S. Kelley, 53; her estranged husband, Mark Niederbrock, 50; their daughter, Emma Niederbrock, 16; and Melanie Wells, 18, Emma’s friend from Inwood, W.Va.
All four were discovered dead Sept. 18 in Kelley’s Farmville home.
McCroskey, who recorded violent rap music using the name “Syko Sam,“ also faces a charge of grand larceny that accuses him of stealing Mark Niederbrock’s car.
A Prince Edward County grand jury returned the indictments Oct. 19, but they were sealed until yesterday.
Investigators recovered several possible weapons from the home, including the ball-peen hammer and wood-splitting maul, according to the court papers unsealed yesterday. A maul is a tool with a long handle with a head like an ax on one side and a hammer on the other.
All four victims were bludgeoned beyond recognition, the source said.
Officials also removed from the Kelley home a meat cleaver and a red-stained knife, but authorities do not believe either of those weapon was used in the killings, the source said.
Three of the four bodies were found in a downstairs bedroom, according to court documents. The other was found in a room upstairs. Authorities have not said which bodies were found in which room.
Authorities believe one or more of the victims might have been attacked while sleeping, but they don’t know that for certain, the source said.
The ball-peen hammer and the maul already were in the home and were not acquired for the purpose of committing the killings, the source said.
McCroskey has not discussed the crimes with investigators.
Authorities say they might never know on what day the three female victims died, although investigators say they believe Mark Niederbrock was killed after Kelley and the two teenagers. Charging documents filed earlier in the case say Niederbrock was killed Sept. 17, the day before the bodies were found.
At least 98 items were recovered from Kelley’s home, including sketchbooks, electronic equipment, a pair of stained eyeglasses, and a note to Wells found on a kitchen table. The search warrant return did not indicate what the note said or who wrote it.
McCroskey might have documented his activities while at Kelley’s home using a computer, cell phone or camera, according to an affidavit for a search warrant. Digital cameras might contain pictures of the crime scene, the affidavit states.
full story here
related coverage here
previously on Snake Oil
Posted by Randy at 9:00 PM