Friday, May 27, 2005

Harper's features articles on Evangelicals (Dominionists), but also other interesting things

Harper's magazine for May 2005 features a set of articles on Evangelicals in the United States. I would link to the online Harper's, but they only give the table of contents with no actual content. So, you can likely pick up a copy at your local library.

  • The Jeff Sharlet article, "Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch" provides a look at the New Life Church led by Pastor Ted Haggard in Colorado Springs, CO. The article details how the church was founded and how it has raised to prominence, its influence on the White House, as well as small stories about members of the church. It is interesting to note that while most people will think of Dr. Dobson when it comes to evangelical influence in the White House and the government, it is Pastor Ted who actually wields a lot of influence, but he does so in a more quiet way. However, he has done so by embracing a corporate market economy with the rhetoric of spiritual warfare. For those who want to see exactly how these groups work, the article provides some insight.
  • Chris Hedges writes about the National Religious Broadcasters Association. The article, "Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters" covers their annual convention in an article that gives much to think about and much to be concerned about for those who value concepts like tolerance and diversity. The description of the exhibits, especially the presence of the Israeli Tourism Ministry as one of the exhibitors, really brings home a degree of irony (to put it mildly). The article also describes some of the speakers as well. The new president of the NRB, Frank Wright promises to fight anti-hate crime legislation which is something that Christian broadcasters fear would hamper their attacks on the gay community. Readers must keep in mind that these people believe that Christianity is under attack. So, ok to attack anyone who does not agree with you? Apparently it is. According to the article, "but Christians who challenge Dominionists, even if they are fundamentalist or conservative or born-again, tend to be ruthlessly thrust aside." When an organization rejects even those who could help it, I think it is not a good sign. The article provides a definition of Dominionism, which is an alliance of sects with a common goal to achieve political power through a militant biblicism. Any opponents, Christian or otherwise, are viewed as agents of Satan; in this movement, "the only legitimate voices in this state will be Christian. All others will be silenced" (58). The author ends the article with a reflection on lessons he learned from his ethics professor at Yale's Divinity School. Dr. James Luther Adams warned that the new face of fascism would take a Christian form. When he did it 25 years ago, it seemed fantastic, but it was at the time that Pat Robertson and others were just coming into prominence. This last paragraph can be particularly chilling:
"Adams told us to watch closely the Christian right's persecution of homosexuals and lesbians. Hitler, he reminded us, promised to restore moral values not long after he took power in 1933, then imposed a ban on all homosexual and lesbian organizations and publications. Then came raids on the places where the homosexuals gathered, culminating on May 6, 1933, with the ransacking of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Twelve thousand volumes from the institute's library were tossed into a public bonfire. Homosexuals and lesbians, Adams said, would be the first 'deviants' singled out by the Christian right. We would be the next" (61).

I don't know about readers out there, but I am certainly not waiting until they come for me. People like this need to be called out on what they are doing, and they need to be denounced for their hypocrisy, intolerance, and overall lust for power. If anyone needs a further incentive, maybe the words of anti-Nazi activist Pastor Martin Niemoller, may provide a reminder of why those who value freedom must remain vigilant and active. He said, referring to Nazi Germany,
"First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me."

Additionally, not all is gloom and doom in this month's issue of Harper's. A couple of additional features of interest:

  • There is a small feature in the Annotation section that provides explanatory notes about Shiite posters seen in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. For those who believe that one should strive to know what your opponent thinks, this may be a little learning tool. The brief piece carefully explains the symbols and their significance. Whenever possible, I think one should try to see things from the other side's point of view. It does not mean one condones their violence, but it means you can understand where they are coming from.
  • There is also a photo essay by Peter Turnley on dancing. It presents photos of dancers in Brazil, Argentina, and Cuba from dance halls to carnival in Brazil to the 82 year old lady in La Habana. Very nice photographic work.

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