This is a guest post by Kristen J. Kristen J. is a frequent commentor at Feministe and a former member of several Evangelical churches located throughout the U.S.
As promised in this post I’m going to continue the analysis into the Evangelical Christian Movement’s methods for achieving social and political change. I suspect that this post may be…shall we say… controversial? The methods up for discussion today are community activism and child rearing.
I think we’re all pretty familiar with the ways in which the Evangelical Movement engages in community activism. We’ve seen members picketing clinics. We’ve heard about the boycotts. We’ve seen their rallies. Perhaps what has flown under the radar is how this community activism is organized. After all most of us have been engaged in community activism for years without the level of support the Evangelical Movement seems to be able to drum up. As discussed in prior posts, part of their success is a result of their shared ideology. Community activism is a religious precept (some have taken issue with me calling it a key to their salvation, which I explained in the comments…you say potato, I say delicious tuber…we’ll compromise at religious precept). But I think churches* also play a key role in the success of the Evangelical Movement. They provide a way for members to build a sense of community, to maintain that sense with continued interaction, and to disseminate information about shared goals. On the secular side it’s hard to identify similar institutions that provide a conduit for collective action with the notable exception of trade unions.
Many of you are probably asking yourselves why I included child rearing (Note: Not parenting, child rearing) in the disccussion of the Evangelical Movement’s methods. The reason is relatively simple. Within the Movement children are often seen as tools. This doesn’t mean they aren’t loved and cared for. It also doesn’t mean they should all be removed and placed in our obviously flawless foster care system. It means that if we want to understand how the Evangelical Movement *works* sometimes we have to see some uncomfortable truths.
So here is an uncomfortable truth. From the age of five I was used as an attraction for my parents’ various ministries. In many cases I was asked to do things that made me very uncomfortable and violated my boundaries. But I was the bait in their God trap. Sure, that particular experience was likely unique (Dear FSM, I hope so), but the overall approach of using children to “reach” otherwise inaccessible audiences is standard practice. Why? Because as anyone who has met a girl scout knows, its impossible to tell a child to stfu (or at least it should be). As one minister explains “children evangelize so powerfully because they have no guile.” (Fr. Peter deSousa, Holy Spirit Interactive)
Yes, that’s right children are very open and trusting. They believe the things we tell them. They learn so easily who to love and who to hate.
[Excerpt from a documentary entitled Jesus Camp. Transcript beginning at 0:00 and ending at 0:30
Let me say something about Harry Potter *pause* warlocks are enemies of God. And I don’t care what kind of hero they are, they’re an enemy of God. And had it been in the Old Testament, Harry Potter would have been put to death. *children clapping and saying amen*]
They learn shame if they don’t believe.
[Excerpt from a documentary entitled Jesus Camp. Transcript beginning at 0:40 and ending at 1:12
*Young boy, can’t tell how old he is* I don’t have a lot to say. I just wanted to talk about belief in god and I’ve had a hard time doing it. And its just really hard to this. Just to believe in god is really hard because you don’t see him, you don’t really know him much. Sometimes I don’t even believe what the bible says. It makes me a faker.]
They learn their role in the Movement.
[Excerpt from a documentary entitled Jesus Camp. Transcript beginning at 5:07 to end.
*Minister speaking to a large group of children* Take these prophecies and do what the apostle Paul said and make war with them. *Musical dance number with images of children in camo playing with sticks* This means war. This means war. This means war. Are you apart of it or not.]
They even learn that the casualties of that war deserve it. [Big Enormous Trigger Warning: Homophobia]
[Pastor Damon Thompson speaking to a group of people including a number of teens on stage. Transcript beginning at 0:30 and ending at 0:56
I was flipping through the channels and watching a program. You know what the program was about? It was about bullying. You’ve heard this? Kids that are committing themselves because they’re being bullied. What they are not saying is the kid is not just miserable because he’s being bullied. He’s miserable because he’s gay. Because there’s a lot of people that were bullied that never killed themselves but the boy already hated himself because he was dealing with the demonic force of homosexuality. *applause and standing and wooting* I know you all are not going to help me with this. But I’m not going to bow down [Ed. Note: Can you hear the dog whistle?] to the culture. Being gay is not normal.]
And the consequences reach far beyond these children who may or may not escape this indoctrination. Between the moment they learn these lessons and the moment they realize the pain they’re causing is a lifetime for the children they interact with on a daily basis. They create a toxic environment for other children and without strong supervison that is committed to maintaining safe spaces for all children that environment can get out of control.
[Trigger Warning: Child abuse and misogyny]
At seven, I knew the sect I was in was wrong. I wouldn’t be able to leave the Movement and Christianity for many years, but I walked away from one of the more extremist sects that controlled the small Oklahoma town I lived in at the time. For that and for the high crime of wearing pants, I was called a whore. With teachers watching other children would quote scripture about how I was going to burn. Two boys in my class threw gravel at me during recess one day saying that was how God dealt with girls like me. I was seven.
The enemies are different now. Instead of women and people who are jewish or catholic, its people who are gay or muslim and well…still women. Sins of Eve are eternal, I suppose. Still, for all that’s changed, the techniques are the same. Teach children to fight your religious battles and to hell with the consequences.
That’s all I got on the methods used in the Evangelical Movement. Have you seen other techniques that you’d like to share? Next time we’ll wrap it up and talk strategy. Maybe brainstorm our way to some harm reduction solutions. But before we go there is there anything anyone is curious about? The floor is open for any questions.
*Before someone starts yelling at me for arguing for the abolishment of churches…please note that nowhere in here did I call for the abolishment of churches. I’m outlining how the Movement functions and one of the main ways in which it organizes is through churches.
[Edited to replace clips which had inappropriate/abusive annotations.]
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