Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Christian Bootcamp Seeks to Arm Home-Schooled Youths for "Spiritual Warfare"

By Eleanor Bader, RH Reality Check
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.

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