Richard John Neuhaus did not think dominionism was a myth

Richard John Neuhaus, the neoconservative intellectual and editor of the journal First Things, thought that adherents of “dominion theology” were nutty, but he did not think they were inconsequential.

In his May 1990 article “Why Wait for the Kingdom? The Theonomist Temptation,” Neuhaus introduced the prominent players and prominent ideas in play among the “theonomists” or “reconstructionists” or “theonomic reconstructionists” — the gothic Presbyterian wing of dominion theology or dominionism.

Dominion theology also has a creepy Pentecostal wing, the so-called “New Apostolic Reformation” which takes a very different route — more Peretti-esque “spiritual warfare,” less ultra-Calvinism — to arrive at a very similar millennialist political and theological agenda. Neuhaus here is writing before the rise of that branch of dominion theology, although he foresaw its arrival in the growing influence of theonomic reconstructionist doctrine among influential Pentecostals such as Pat Robertson.

Neuhaus’ tone in the piece is glibly dismissive and a bit condescending, but that’s just how Neuhaus wrote about everyone he disagreed with. He did not lightly dismiss what he viewed as the very real danger of the dominionists’ very real and growing influence.

Neuhaus begins with a brief introduction of some of the main personalities and a pithy summary of their shared ideology:

The theonomic movement is in some ways small, with perhaps no more than a dozen prominent representatives. Its influence, however, is disproportionate to its size, and familiarity with its personalities, positions, and purposes is important to understanding the ways in which some fundamentalists and evangelicals are making the connections between religion and public life. …

… To date the leadership of the theonomist movement is the trinity of [Rousas John] Rushdoony, [Gary] North, and [Greg] Bahnsen. Other prolific writers in the movement are David Chilton, Gary DeMar, George Grant (not the distinguished Canadian philosopher), and, at least until recently, James Jordan. In truth, “prolific” is hardly adequate to suggest the veritable flood of publications from these writers. …

Most other Christians … are conventionally given to saying that the Bible contains “no blueprint for the right ordering of society.” That is precisely what the theonomists deny. In fact, one set of books is called “The Biblical Blueprint Series,” and it is nothing if not specific. The determining proposition is that the Mosaic law given at Sinai was not just for Israel but is God’s design for all nations of all times. … As most of the proponents of this viewpoint do not hesitate to say, a theonomic social order is a theocratic social order, and a theocratic social order is a Christian social order. (Some theonomists prefer “Christocracy” to theocracy.)

Bible law requires a radical decentralization of government under the rule of the righteous. Private property rights, especially for the sake of the family, must be rigorously protected, with very limited interference by the state and the institutional church. Restitution, including voluntary slavery, should be an important element of the criminal justice system. A strong national defense should be maintained until the whole world is “reconstructed” (which may be a very long time). Capital punishment will be employed for almost all the capital crimes listed in the Old Testament, including adultery, homosexual acts, apostasy, incorrigibility of children (meaning late teenagers), and blasphemy, along with murder and kidnapping. There will be a cash, gold-based economy with limited or no debt. These are among the specifics broadly shared by people who associate themselves with the theonomic viewpoint.

That’s an extreme agenda, but the details — extreme social conservatism, gold-buggery, economic lawlessness — may be a bit familiar. Those extreme ideas are more mainstream today than they were when Neuhaus published this article in 1990.

Neuhaus wasn’t wrong about dominion theology’s “disproportionate” influence.


Christianity, INC.

Bob Smietana* interviews scholars Brad Christerson and Richard Flory to provide an insightful and disturbing introduction to the next generation of Strang-ian hustlers reshaping charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity here in America: “The ‘Prophets’ and ‘Apostles’ Leading the Quiet Revolution in American Religion.”

Here’s Smietana’s introduction:

Largely behind the scenes, a group of mostly self-proclaimed “apostles,” leading ministries from North Carolina to Southern California, has attracted millions of followers with promises of direct access to God through signs and wonders.

Their movement, which Christerson and Flory called “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity, has become one of the fastest-growing faith groups in the United States. Apostles like Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, and Ché Ahn claim millions of followers. They’re also aided by an army of fellow ministers who fall under their “spiritual covering.”

Many of these apostles run megachurches, including Bethel Church in Redding California, HRock Church in Pasadena, and the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. But their real power lies in their innovative approach to selling faith. They’ve combined multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism to connect directly with millions of spiritual customers. That allows them to reap millions in donations, conference fees, and book and DVD sales. And because these INC apostles claim to get direction straight from God, they operate with almost no oversight.

I added the links for some of the names above so you can click over to the archives of Right Wing Watch and read for yourself some of what these folks have been preaching over the years. It’s an ugly stew of Christian nationalism, dominionism, vicious anti-gay hysteria, and — in recent years — paeans to the spiritual deliverance promised by a pussy-grabbing pathological liar.

Christerson & Flory have done their homework, particularly on the financial model that sets these new “apostles” apart from the earlier generation of Benny Hinns and Jim Bakkers and all the other TV and radio preachers who used to dominate the pages of INC Christianity is a money-making machine.

Flory: These apostles are able to access a lot more money, because they are operating with a pay-for-service model, rather than relying on people’s donations and their goodwill. Congregations bend over backwards to keep people happy and keep the butts in the seats; people don’t have to pay unless they feel like it. But this is a completely different financial model, and it tends to generate much more money.

The archaic term for this “pay-for-service” model is Simony. That name comes from Simon the sorceror, a Samaritan convert in the book of Acts.

That’s a Philip story. Philip is my favorite character in Acts — the first of the early Christians to really understand what Pentecost meant. While the other disciples were still squabbling in Jerusalem about the necessity of circumcision and the theoretical possibility of welcoming unclean Gentiles, Philip was hotfooting it to Samaria and baptizing sorcerors. The apostles heard about that and sent Peter and John to regain some control over Philip’s wanton evangelism. When Simon saw Peter and John laying hands on the new believers so that they could “receive the Holy Spirit,” he tried to pay Peter to teach him to do the same. Peter sternly rebuked Simon for thinking he “could obtain God’s gift with money.”**

Technically, then, I suppose what the INC apostles are doing isn’t exactly what Simon did. They’re not trying to obtain the Holy Spirit with money, but are offering to provide it to others for a price. But the same basic idea is at work — the buying and selling of spiritual gifts in exchange for money — and that still seems to fall under the category of Simony. It’s the same sin whether you’re buying or selling.


So what exactly are they selling? Flory describes it as “a more experiential, embodied way of understanding religion,” which makes it sound like they’re doing Yoga or something. But that’s not it. What they’re offering, instead, is the promise of a first-hand experience of the power of God: signs and wonders and miraculous healing.

Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.

It’s very spontaneous. We went to a conference where a number of apostles were speaking and Bill Johnson was doing a Bible teaching. He had probably talked 20 or 30 minutes, and you could feel the restlessness in the room. He said, “I know you are just waiting for me to stop preaching because you want the power. But just hang with me here.” People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.

After he finished, people came up to the stage, and they were being slain in the spirit. People were falling down and getting healed. That’s what they are there for.

Christerson is trying to be generous there, describing this experience in terms that participants themselves might use. But he slips into a more skeptical, more accurate description when he says “People were falling down.” Those “slain in the Spirit” wouldn’t say they fell on their own, but that they were knocked over by the spirit-filled power of the apostle’s touch.

I’ve been to services where this happened and I didn’t see anyone convincingly “slain” by the laying on of hands. I saw people falling down — flopping like basketball or soccer players trying to trick the ref into calling a foul. But, of course, there was no referee on hand — so this unconvincing performance wasn’t trying to draw a whistle. It seemed to me, rather, that the people falling down were doing so to convince each other and to convince themselves.

If that sounds cynical, I’m afraid I’m even more cynical about the other aspect of this experiential experience — the claim that “People were … getting healed.” In response to Smietana’s question about this movement “staying out of the spotlight” of the broader culture, Christerson describes a huge INC event in Los Angeles:

They have their own networks for disseminating information and getting attention. They are not sending our press releases. For example, they had this Asuza Now conference at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and it drew 50,000 people on a rainy day — if not for the bad weather, the crowd probably would have been even bigger. And it didn’t even make the Los Angeles Times. Fifty thousand people show up for an apostle’s conference at the LA Coliseum, and nobody covered it. That was mind-boggling to me.

So, OK, 50,000 people at a service offering miraculous healing. Let’s say that only 1 percent of that crowd actually sought such healing from an actual, physical ailment. That’s 500 people. And let’s continue with that conservative estimate and say that only 1 percent of those who sought such healing claims to have received it. That might seem like an unimpressive success rate, but it would still be five people — five ironclad case studies for doctors and journalists and skeptics to be confronted with. Five people with names and diagnoses that had been suddenly and otherwise inexplicably reversed.

Give me those names and get them to sign HIPAA waivers and I’ll believe that “healing” is taking place at these INC events. Otherwise, I’m forced to view this “healing” as not just a hoax, but a particularly cruel and predatory one.

In other words, this isn’t just Simony, but a Simony scam. They’re not just trying to exchange God’s gifts for money, but collecting money for a counterfeit forgery of those spiritual gifts.

May their silver perish with them.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* This piece appears in Christianity Today, which usually invokes the disclaimer of CT’s self-own about being a publication that believes gay and lesbian couples are “destructive to society.” But since snatching up former Gannett reporter Smietana was such a smart move, and since I personally admire anyone who hires the good people cast aside by that incompetently run newspaper chain, I’ll give them a pass this time.

** Acts 8:14-24

Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money! You have no part or share in this, for your heart is not right before God. Repent therefore of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the chains of wickedness.”

Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may happen to me.”

When this story is invoked to denounce the sin of Simony, people often leave out that last bit, from verse 24, in which poor Simon repents just as Peter said he should. We don’t hear any more of what happened to him, but the text doesn’t suggest that he remained trapped in “the chains of wickedness.”

Simon the sorceror repented and received forgiveness and liberation from the sin that now bears his name. I like to think that same kind of happy ending is available for those Simonious believers now supporting the bogus Trumpian Gospel of the sham-apostles of INC.

Always Submit to the Church Administration

Here’s a little video from the Church of Christ (Not That One) recently highlighted by Christian Nightmares and many others:

This achieves that rare feat of being simultaneously charming and creepy as hell. The kids are adorable, gamely attempting to lip-synch along to the ghastly lyrics, which aren’t really in kid-friendly language and thus, one hopes, strike those poor kids as incomprehensible strings of syllables.

Some thoughts:

1. The first thing I thought of watching that video was this:


2. The “Church of Christ” here is not the same as the Churches of Christ — the “restorationist” Protestant denomination known for its a capella singing and for Richard Beck. And it’s not the same as the International Church of Christ, known for its “flirt to convert” outreach efforts and for its insistence that it is not a cult, not at all, definitely not that.

This Church of Christ is the Iglesia ni Cristo — a charismatic denomination that began in the American colony of the Philippines in the early 20th century. Its doctrinal language and statements about the authority of the Bible read much like that of any other white evangelical/fundamentalist group on the charismatic/Pentecostal side of the family. But, as the lyrics of that song reveal, scratch a little deeper and you’ll find some far-out, freaky stuff that it’s hard to refer to as anything other than heresy:

Always submit to the church administration
For they were placed by Lord God to lead his nation
If we obey then we will receive salvation
Sing along with me

So, then, a big scoop of dominionism paired with the belief that salvation depends on unquestioning obedience to authoritarian church administrators, rather than on Jesus Christ. Phew.

3. Of course, the bonkers authoritarian cult stuff and the tomorrow-belongs-to-me dominionism really don’t distinguish this group from many other charismatic/Pentecostal evangelical groups here in the U.S. Just go have a look-see at and you’ll find endless variations of this same stuff all over their site. List a bunch of statements from the ICC along with a bunch of statements from, say, the International House of Prayer and you’d have a hard time telling them apart. Heck, people from ICC and IHOP would have a hard time telling them apart.

This theology may be wacky, incoherent, anti-biblical, and heretical, but hey — it won in Iowa and came in second in New Hampshire.

4. Given the authoritarian streak in the ICC, would anyone want to bet against the likelihood that some sort of hideous, horrifying sex-abuse scandal is eventually going to blow up in this outfit?

5. The ICC is another example of why the conservative/liberal framework distorts more than it clarifies when we talk about religion and theology. Groups like this get placed on the “conservative” end of that theological spectrum — somewhere out near Bob Jones and Al Mohler and Ken Ham and Michele Bachmann. You’ll find a lot of ideas out there, but you’d have a hard time explaining why any of them should be regarded as theologically conservative.

6. The Iglesia ni Cristo is an example of the kind of two-thirds world Christianity that is often cited as evidence that evangelicalism is a global phenomenon rather than a peculiarly white American invention. That misrepresents what we see in churches like this one. What we see here is simply colonial white evangelical theology reflected back from the colonized.

7. I would very much like to hear a hard-core punk version of this song. And also maybe a K-Pop rendition. Or maybe just Regina Spektor transposing it into a minor key.

Left us a mixed impression

• Con-artist, habitual liar and right-wing pseudo-historian David Barton illustrates the stopped-watch principle by accidentally saying something partly true. Barton celebrated the lackluster box office performance of the new Left Behind movie because, he says, it teaches a false and unbiblical eschatology. True! Barton complains that the pessimistic outlook of premillennial dispensationalism discourages Christians from working for change in this world. Also true!

Of course, Left Behind’s strain of dispensationalism differs from the earlier variations taught by folks like Scofield and Hal Lindsey, in that it’s married to Tim LaHaye’s John Birch Society political ideology, encouraging an activism that closely aligns with Barton’s own right-wing dominionism. And if I were forced to choose between the passively destructive pessimistic quietism of earlier PMD eschatology and the actively destructive paranoid theocracy promoted by LaHaye and Barton, then I’ll take the former, thanks.

For Halloween, Arthur Tress’ photographs inspired by children’s descriptions of nightmares.

• This seems like a smart idea in Conshohocken: “The chief has designated the parking lot and the lobby at police headquarters as an online safe transaction zone. He says if you’re conducting a one on one transaction where money is changing hands. This is the safest place to do it.”

• “It would seem that the Bible belt has been unbuckled and the fly is now open.” Michelle Krabill on rape culture in christianamerica.

• Glioblastoma multiforme will kill you within a few short months. With the very best medical treatment in the world, it will take a precious few months longer to kill you. But it will kill you. It is, without exception, a death sentence.

So if Pat Robertson can do what he says and heal people with this deadly form of cancer, then he needs to get his butt out of the TV studio and go do it. Otherwise he really, really needs to STFU right now and stop telling people that dying from a terminal disease is some kind of moral failing.

Phil Plait has a good post on how it’s not really news that Pope Francis accepts the science of evolution. He blames the “unholy marriage of the Republican Party and religious conservatives” for the widespread American surprise over the unremarkable news that a religious leader doesn’t reject science. The “science versus religion rhetoric” of the religious right, Plait says, “has polarized our country so badly that a lot of people perceive all religion to be totally anti-science, and that’s not true, and not fair.”

Yep. And the perception that this is how it ought to be — that real, true religion ought to reject all science — has been far more disastrous for religion than it has been for science.

• And by the way, the West Chester University Golden Rams women’s rugby team is now 5-0.

• In The Bible Made Impossible, Christian Smith writes about “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” Here’s a musical illustration of what such interpretive pluralism looks like. (I forget whether I posted this previously, but either way, it’s still wonderful.)

It’s your turn to walk on water

• The one thing that unites every blogger here at Patheos — Christian, atheist, Pagan, Buddhist, mixed-drink martial artist — is our shared frustration with autoplay video ads. That frustration is shared, too, by our hosts here, because their contracts with advertisers make it clear that such ads aren’t supposed to be allowed here.

Anyway, the IT crowd is working on technical fixes to put a stake through the heart of this evil. And also to figure out the app-store glitch that’s hijacking pages when we try to read them on an iPhone. (Hemant has a good summary of some steps you can take if you want to assist Patheos’ tech crew in this righteous battle.)

Soon, I hope, Patheos will be autoplay-video free, after which all the bloggers of the various faith traditions can argue about which of our prayers were responsible for that result (with the atheist bloggers arguing, of course, that it was secular code — not supernatural intervention — that solved the problem). That will be a happy day.

• The Puppy Spring: “What started quite literally as a walk in a park with a dog has exploded into grave sin writ large, moral crisis, or subversive coup attempt depending upon who you ask.”

• Back-to-back in my Feedly reader yesterday: “Pat Robertson: Gay People Are Terrorists,” followed by a post about these “terrorists” in Wyoming:



That’s Marvin Witt and Mike Romero, who’ve been together for 30 years, applying for a marriage license in the Natrona County Courthouse. “These people are terrorists,” Pat Robertson says. “They’re radicals and they’re extremists. … And I think it’s time pastors stand up and fight this monstrous thing.”

OK, then.

Chris Kluwe addresses #GamerGate. He was a pretty good punter but his real gift seems to be the profanity-laced rant — an underappreciated art form.

• Remember back in 2011 when conservative Christians were claiming that dominion theology was a “myth”? People like Joe Carter, writing for First Things, denied its existence or significance, claiming it was just a bogeyman dreamed up by “liberal blogs and websites.”

Well, here’s what that imaginary bogeyman had to say at a recent fundraiser for the right-wing activist group, Alliance Defending Freedom. This is featured speaker David Benham:

What we see now is the struggle for dominion. … God is sovereign over all things. The Bible says in Psalm 24 “the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” including government, entertainment, media, education, the legal system, everything. My finances, my sexuality, everything is under God. … Does this agenda, this sexual anarchy agenda, does it want dominion? Take a look. Has it got dominion in government? Has it got dominion in entertainment? Has it got dominion, I mean, you name it, in the marketplace? Yes. Absolutely it does. How does God get dominion back?

The other featured speaker at the event was New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. But sure, let’s just pretend this is just a fringe ideology far from any real influence or power.

Peter Enns really likes the new edition of The Jewish Study Bible, sharing a great example of what it gets right that other study Bibles (and a lot of Bible readers) get wrong. The book of Leviticus says sex is a no-no during a woman’s menstrual cycle, but it says this twice — commanding two very different, irreconcilable punishments. A lot of Christian study Bibles have notes cross-referencing the two passages in a way that seems to try to obscure or fudge the contradiction. The Jewish Study Bible just says, “Thus the law in 18:19 … directly contradicts [the law in 15:19-24].”

One tradition says that a “high view of scripture” compels us to ignore and deny such direct contradictions. Another tradition says that reverence for scripture requires us to recognize contradictions and contend with them. Which seems more respectful of the actual text?

• So last night, shelving cleaning products while bopping to “All the Things She Said,” I realized I hadn’t provided the answer to our little Simple Minds question: their Top 10 hits “Don’t You Forget About Me” and “Alive and Kicking,” plus “All the Things She Said,” “Sanctify Yourself,” and “See the Lights.” (I’m not complaining, mind you. The Muzak loop with the surprising number of Simple Minds songs is much more up my alley than the mellow-oldies one they sometimes play that includes both “Afternoon Delight” and the Carpenters’ “We’ve Only Just Begun,” sometimes back-to-back.)


IHOP and the End of the World (part 2)

In “Love and Death in the House of Prayer,” journalist Jeff Tietz provides a bit of background about the theology of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.

What strikes me in his description of that theology, below, is the way IHOP seems to have merged two competing strains of End Times mania. Their view seems to borrow from both premillennial and postmillennial mythologies:

At IHOP’s frequent, frenetic conferences, attendees learn that they are “in the early days of the generation in which Jesus returns,” as IHOP founder Mike Bickle puts it. “I believe that people alive on the Earth today will actually see the Lord with their own eyes,” he has preached. But Jesus has no clear return path. Demons, he says, have steadily taken possession of Christian hearts and infiltrated earthly institutions.

Dude, we could be, like, the best of all the generations that have ever been seen on the face of the Earth.

In 1983, Bickle says, God instructed him to “establish 24-hour prayer in the spirit of the tabernacle of David.” The tabernacle was the tent erected by King David to house the Ark of the Covenant after the conquest of Jerusalem; it became a dwelling place of God and a site of ecstatic worship. To resurrect this spirit of worship, Bickle would build IHOP’s first prayer room, a storefront hall next to the Higher Grounds cafe and Forerunner Bookstore in an IHOP-owned strip mall in South Kansas City. Bickle believes that unceasing, euphoric worship and song at IHOP and in prayer rooms across the globe, which should never close or be empty, will promote passionate intimacy with the Lord, revive the church and demolish demonic strongholds. And so IHOPers pray all day and night, through blizzards and blackouts, in hours-long sessions of mesmeric, musical worship, repeating the same phrases over and over, expecting to precipitate the Great Tribulation and the final battle between good and evil that precedes the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

This is IHOP’s most alluring tenet: God needs IHOPers to effect the Tribulation and bring Christ back to Earth. “The church causes the Great Tribulation,” Bickle has preached. Before founding IHOP, he argued that “God intends us to be like gods. God has conceived in his heart of a plan to make a race of men that would live like gods on Earth.” Bickle sometimes affects to know God as he would a peer. “I heard what I call the internal audible voice of the Lord,” he has said. He claims that he visited heaven one night at 2:16 a.m., and the Lord charged him with preparing for an End Times ministry and seated him in a golden chariot that lifted off into the empyrean. At IHOP, where prophetic experiences are endemic, the mortal and divine commingle liberally.

The vanguard of God’s End Times army, according to Bickle, will be made up of young people, or “forerunners,” seers specially attuned to the will of the Lord, “the best of all the generations that have ever been seen on the face of the Earth.” For seven years of Tribulation, they will battle the Antichrist. When Christ returns, he will slaughter by sword in a single day the unsaved, and his warriors will rule heaven and Earth forevermore.

IHOP is not the only charismatic movement in America to adopt this theology of aggressive prayer. A constellation of ministries shares its vision. Together, they make up what has been called the New Apostolic Reformation, a decades-old rebellion against traditional Christianity that counts millions of adherents worldwide; it has become such a force in evangelical America that Texas Gov. Rick Perry hosted an NAR prayer rally in Houston for his 2012 presidential campaign. As prayer rooms are established in ever more locations, according to NAR, the “seven mountains of culture” – government, business, family, educational systems, the media, arts and religion – will fall under its influence.

The New Apostolic Reformation’s theology is broadly postmillennial. Where premillennial theology of the sort preached by Tim LaHaye focuses on fleeing this world, the NAR is focused on conquering and ruling it. In the pessimistic outlook of premillennialists, Christians can only wait and watch as the world becomes more and more depraved until the Rapture carries them all away. But for the folks at IHOP and throughout the rest of the NAR, Christians have an agenda — conquering the “seven mountains.”

This is quite different from the soft post-millennialism of the Social Gospel movement in the early 20th century. It’s not about a gradual process of reform that might, over time, “Christianize the social order” through an ever-greater approximation of this-worldly justice. It’s war — a Manichaean battle between the children of light and the children of darkness, winner-take-all.

Such militant postmillennialism is sometimes called “dominionism” — from adherents’ expressed desire to seize “dominion” over every aspect of this world. But earlier forms of “dominionism” — like the Southern-Gothic Calvinist “Christian Reconstructionism” of the Rushdoony cult — completely rejected the Scofield mythology of the premillennial dispensationalists.

The dominionists of the NAR, though, seem too fond of that mythology to let it go. Thus they’ve grafted parts of it into their own postmillennial vision.

Which parts? The fun parts. The exciting parts.

They can’t get rid of the whole Great Tribulation battle against the Antichrist, because that just sounds so cool. Sure, the Tribulation is seven years of wrath, death and suffering, and it’s also a dispensationalist construct that’s otherwise incompatible with the End Times framework promoted by the NAR. But if there’s no Tribulation, then there’s no Tribulation Force and no chance to fantasize about being a brave and heroic champion of that elite God squad.

That’s what it’s all about, the ability to tell oneself — to pretend, to fantasy role-play — that one is part of an epic struggle during “the most critical time in the history of the world.”

Given that, it’s not surprising that the NAR and IHOP and the other various para-church para-denominational groups embracing this new End Times mythology are also embracing the far-right politics of the tea party. Both appeal to the same basic fantasy.

How the most famous white evangelical with a disability became the public face of the white evangelical campaign against the rights of persons with disabilities

The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities is a diplomatic effort to encourage every nation to respect those rights in the same way the United States has ever since President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans With Disabilities Act back in 1990.

Since the U.S. law served as a model for the U.N. Convention, nothing in America would change if the convention were ratified by the U.S. U.S. ratification would, however, make a significant different for persons with disabilities in other countries, since America is a big, influential nation and its support for — or withholding of support from — this effort affects whether or not its regarded as a serious effort whose reforms should be implemented in meaningful ways. It also makes a significant difference as to how the U.S. itself is perceived in and by those other nations. Is the U.S. a we’ve-got-ours-screw-you nation? Or does its concern for human rights extend beyond its own borders? Does America follow its principles or is it hypocritical?

Yet the United States has not ratified this convention. The United States Senate voted not to do so.

Jon Eareckson Tada will be headed to the Academy Awards on behalf of the Christianist movement against the rights of persons with disabilities.

Why not? Well because of Nicolae Carpathia and Agenda 21 and the global conspiracy of the Illuminati and the international Jewish bankers, of course. Which is to say because of a vocal faction of white evangelicals who oppose this convention as part of their fantasy role-playing battle against imaginary monsters.

Leading this charge was a guy named Michael Farris, the founder/CEO/pope of something called the Home School Legal Defense Association. The HSDLA spends most of its time raising funds to fight against any legal oversight for right-wing Bartonian home-schoolers, defending parents’ religious freedom not to let their kids learn reading, writing and arithmetic, or anything like actual science and history. Oh, and defending the parental right to corporal punishment, of course.

Farris tag-teamed with former Sen. Rick Santorum to block ratification of the disabilities convention late in 2012, and they resumed their valiant battle against the rights of persons with disabilities again late in 2013.

So what do the Farristorum and the Hesulda have against people with disabilities? Well, mainly it’s just their fundraising niche. All the really lucrative religious-right direct-mail fundraising markets were already dominated by a few big players or were too saturated to allow room for yet another player trying to collect checks to fight the Gay Menace or the Satanic baby-killers.

So HSDLA had to get creative, claiming that the convention threatens American “sovereignty” and “states rights.”

No, really, “States rights.” They say that. Because I guess when you’ve learned all your history from a home-school curriculum, you don’t realize that “states rights” has always been the last desperate bastion of villains and bastards and that the phrase will be forever associated with treason in defense of slavery and the people who started and lost a civil war then embraced terrorism for a century rather than accepting their military and moral defeat.

“States rights.” OK, then. So these are not good people, but at least they’re not pretending otherwise.

Apart from kicking-down at persons with disabilities, the HSDLA has also been in the news a bit recently due to its close association with something called the Vision Forum — a separate direct-mail fundraising agency promoting a proudly patriarchal form of white Christianity. Vision Forum was like an even creepier version of Bill Gothard’s creepy cult. It imploded late last year when its CEO/founder/pope, a guy named Doug Phillips, was found to have been conducting an affair with a woman young enough that “conducting an affair” seems like a too-polite euphemism for something closer to abuse.

But there’s a coda to the Vision Forum story — an upbeat epilogue following its ignominious end. It turns out that Vision Forum is also part of “the quiverfull, dominion-mandate Christian movie scene.” That’s a thing — it even sponsors an annual right-wing Independent Christian Film Festival. And the Vision Forum folks went and made themselves a movie, called Alone Yet Not Alone, which is all about how women are called to serve as “wife, mother or daughter.”

Katie Botkin describes the film:

The movie Alone Yet Not Alone has been called racist because of its portrayal of Native Americans, but that’s not really accurate. It’s actually reflecting the idea that Christian culture is superior to Native American culture; that other types of culture are hostile to real Christianity, and that real Christianity can and must eventually take over these other cultures.

And but so, the links and ties between the filmmakers, Vision Forum, and Michael Farris Inc. are incestuously overlapping, as Libby Anne explains:

The list of those involved also reads like a who’s who of Patrick Henry College graduates. (Patrick Henry College was founded by Home School Legal Defense Association founder Michael Farris in an effort to train up a new generation of Christian leaders to “retake America for Christ”). Alone Yet Not Alone was written by Tracy Leininger, a graduate of Patrick Henry College. Patrick Henry College alum and The Rebelution founder Brett Harris (brother of I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Joshua Harris and son of prominent Christian homeschool leader Gregg Harris) plays a leading role in the film. Several other Patrick Henry College graduates—including Ben Adams and Peter Forbes—were also involved. Not surprisingly, Michael Farris and HSLDA promoted the film heavily.

All that promotion paid off in the form of a bona fide Academy Award nomination. The title song, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” has been nominated for the Oscar for best original song. (Maybe due to the fact that it was co-written by “Bruce Broughton, who served on the Academy’s board of governors as a representative of the music branch from 2003 through 2012, when he was termed out.”

And here’s where things get really weird.

The song was performed and recorded by Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni — she’s famous enough in the white evangelical subculture not to need a last name — was paralyzed from the shoulders down in a diving accident in 1967. She learned to draw and to paint, holding a pen or brush in her mouth, and her inspirational story — propelled by a best-selling memoir — made her a popular speaker and evangelist.

And now, 46 years after the accident that left her a quadriplegic and 38 years publishing the memoir that made her a household name among white evangelicals, Joni Eareckson Tada has become the public face of the very same far-right Christianist groups that have effectively blocked the U.S. from ratifying the international Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Seriously, what in the actual flaming fudge?

When white evangelicals traded in Jesus for the culture wars against the Satanic baby-killers, weird things were bound to follow, but who knew it would get this weird? Or this cruelly sick? Wow.

Good solid pro-family evangelical Southern Baptists

Remember when we were told that Dominion Theology is just a myth?

Well here’s a new book outlining how the Bible — read “literally,” of course — should be the basis for all civil law. It’s called God’s Law: The Only Political Solution and it’s by Charlie Fuqua.

Charlie Fuqua is an anti-abortion Southern Baptist and, therefore, a good evangelical.

Fuqua says he’s just reading the Bible like any good Christian should, and that he wants American law to reflect God’s law. You know, like overturning Roe v. Wade, reinstating school prayer, expelling all Muslims from the country, abolishing the minimum wage, gold-buggery, and executing any prisoner who is not “rehabilitated in two years.” And, of course, Charlie Fuqua believes that Global Warming is a hoax and that Barack Obama is a Muslim Communist.

He also cites the book of Deuteronomy to propose “the death penalty for rebellious children.” If a rebellious child is “permanently removed from society,” Fuqua says, “that gives an example to all other children” and “would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.”

Oh, and one other thing you should know about Charlie Fuqua: he is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 72nd District in Arkansas.

So a full-blown Dominionist/Reconstructionist can get the Republican nomination for statewide office in Arkansas? Yep. Fuqua has previously served in the state legislature, and he’s running to reclaim his seat there.

Fuqua’s book and outspoken advocacy of theocracy, however, have made things uncomfortable for the Arkansas Republican Party. The party chairman recently announced that it will stop providing campaign funds for Fuqua and for two other candidates — incumbent legislators Rep. John Hubbard and Rep. Loy Mauch.

Mauch, who represents the 26th District, is a notorious Neo-Confederate who has a history of defending slavery, praising John Wilkes Booth, and railing against Abraham Lincoln as a “war criminal.”

Hubbard recently published a book of his own, titled Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative, in which he wrote that slavery was “a blessing in disguise” for black people, because it was better than life in Africa.

Hubbard has angrily claimed the words of his book are being taken out of context. He emailed a longer excerpt to the local ABC affiliate to prove this claim. The longer excerpt just makes him look even worse. (And that doesn’t even include the part where he criticizes school integration for dragging down the white kids.)

All three of these men, by the way, are Southern Baptists — just like Denny Burk. They’re good “convictional” evangelicals — just like Denny Burk.

But while Denny Burk is eager to spend his days questioning the “convictional” validity of which women may and may not be officially recognized (by him) as real, true evangelicals, guys like Fuqua, Hubbard and Mauch get a pass because, you know, they’re anti-gay and anti-abortion and therefore good evangelicals.

If you want a good theological critique of Charlie Fuqua’s Dominionism or the Neo-Confederate nonsense of Hubbard and Mauch, don’t look to the Southern Baptist Vatican in Louisville — for the SBC, any conservative Republican will always be an evangelical in good standing.

But if you are looking for a theological response to Fuqua, the best one I’ve seen is from Ari Kohen:

In brief, here is my plea to people like Charlie Fuqua:

Stop cherry-picking the Torah to justify all of the terrible things you want people to do to one another; Jews don’t believe that things like this are mandated by the Torah and it’s our book.

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