The Evangelical Christian Movement – Methods Part 2

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.

Community Activism

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.

Child Rearing

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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42 Responses to The Evangelical Christian Movement – Methods Part 2

  1. Nancy says:

    I think you made a typo of omission:

    “It also does mean they should all be removed and placed in our obviously flawless foster care system.”

    should be

    “It also does not mean they should all be removed and placed in our obviously flawless foster care system.”

  2. Guest Blogger says:

    Ha! One day I’ll put up a post without a typo…but not today! Thanks

  3. TW says:

    Thank you for writing this. I also grew up in the Evangelical church and as a teen I experienced much depression and anxiety that I believe were a direct result of the women hating teachings that I was bombarded with. I had extremely low self esteem and self-hatred because of the fact that I was born female and not male. Discovering feminism and going through therapy has helped me immensely but I do feel sad whenever I see young children spouting the hateful vitriol that the church provides.

  4. Tristan Lear says:

    They have mastered the art of framing hate as compassion. “We love the gays …” … “We’re praying for you …”

  5. Guest Blogger says:

    Yeah. I thought about including the clip from Dobson “The Call” in San Diego, which was an anti-gay rally in which Dobson directly says to people protesting his rally that he’s praying for them. But I thought if I transcribed that, I might barf and ruin another keyboard.

  6. Katya says:

    That kid publicly shaming himself because he doesn’t believe the way he’s been taught he’s supposed to is heartbreaking. Instead of teaching kids that doubts are normal, they teach them that absolute certainty is the only acceptable mindset. The result is all this other absolutist crap–there’s no room for nuance, let alone the kind of complications and contradictions that are a part of life. This is just the most life-denying faith I can imagine–it’s like they believe that their faith cannot survive sustained contact with the outside world. What a horrible thing to have such a fragile belief system. But of course, if you never learned to think for yourself, you have no way of adapting and reconciling your principles with the world you encounter, of weighing competing obligations, of refining and clarifying your beliefs. Rigidity or collapse are your only options.

  7. Tristan Lear says:

    yep. the threat of hell still occassionally gets under my skin. all the contemplation and the world can’t compete well with permanent torture.

  8. LotusBen says:

    To riff off of an ableist Christian expression, Evangelical child rearing is truly the ignorant leading the ignorant. Brainwash someone into not thinking for themselves and you have the perfect sort of person to brainwash subsequent generations into not thinking for themselves. It’s really pretty tragic. A maladaptive cultural meme that, like a killer virus, got out of control and kept spreading and spreading.

  9. ks says:

    I love this series.

    I was raised Catholic in rural southern WV (against the wishes of my dad’s freewill baptist parents), so while I was never “in the middle of it,” so to speak, my sisters and I were quite often targets of conversion attempts by the fundamentalists/evangelicals we were surrounded by. And since my mom encouraged us to experiment with our religious beliefs and go to various churches with other non-Catholic friends and relatives, we got a lot of it. Some of those attempts were nicer than others, but I got told I was going to hell for worshiping Mary and various other imaginary sins many times. These days I’m an atheist with a *very* poor opinion of religion in general, but I’m also an adult and have had *conversations* with some of my more extreme relatives about which boundaries are not to be crossed. We’ve mostly reached a respectful truce about it all and it is fine. Of course, it helps that I’ve moved away and only go home a couple of times a year.

    My poor husband, on the other hand, has almost no experience with that sort of thing. He is Sri Lankan and was raised Hindu (now also a non-believer), but his whole family lives in the US/Canada now and his sister converted to Christianity in college. And her brand is of the Mars Hill/megachurch type. They’ve also sort of reached a truce about the whole thing, but it hasn’t been easy. She keeps trying to convert their devoutly Hindu mother (because she “wants at least one of her parents in heaven with her when she dies”) and her poor kids are very much used in the way you describe. Their whole lives revolve around the church–they go to the private school attached to the church, they play sports in the church league, all their friends are from church, etc. Except for the neighbor kids and our side of the family, everyone they are allowed to associate with is part of the church. It is really kind of scary. But since he was never a part of it from the inside, S was absolutely not prepared for being invited to the kids’ baptisms last year. He was freaked out for weeks after and kept going on and on about how he didn’t realize that his sister was *so* into it and he’s worried about the kids. He really does think that it is abusive, the way they are being raised (although, I’m sure she’d say the same thing about our own little multicultural, non-religious heathens).

  10. Verity Khat says:

    Kristen J., I’m so sorry your parents put you through that. I really love reading the series, though.

    And now I’m going to add to everyone’s high blood pressure. The ‘thumper churches around here use a highly-effective, highly-enraging tactic that straddles the community activism and child rearing ideals. They pour lots of money and effort into cool, modern amenities for their youth programs. We’re talking movie theaters, arcades, and state-of-the-art skate parks on church campus.

    Then they have big events and encourage their youth to invite all their friends. What kid is going to say “no” to free food and cool activities? And their parents are inclined to let them attend, because “supervised church event” sounds wholesome and safe (and usually is). It’s a pretty foolproof way to attract a captive, impressionable audience. And then poor kiddos come home crying because the ‘thumper kids told them that they aren’t “real Christians” because they aren’t “saved” and they’re going to Hell. >_< Lather, rinse, repeat next weekend.

    I think my zen Lutheran pastor has to dial up the megachurch preachers at least once a season to remind them that such behavior is extremely shitty.

  11. Guest Blogger says:

    @Verity,

    Ah, I can’t believe I left that out! My cousin is a “youth minister” and his church just added a pool table. Reminds me of the song from the music man – Ya Got Trouble. Do your local churches have prizes for bringing in other kids. We used to get prizes.

  12. ks says:

    @11: It sounds like my kids’ karate dojo. We get free lessons when/if their friends join. Doesn’t seem quite as appropriate for church.

  13. Kylene says:

    As a liberal christian I am concerned about the bias of this series. I think it may be slightly off base to basically classify all christian churches that identify as “evangelical” as cult-like. There are many sides to all aspects of faith, there are extremists in all religious as well as anti-religious sectors. Maybe add in a column written by someone who identifies as part of this “movement” and allow them to provide insight into the non-extremist aspects of the religion? I just get concerned that in the vein of being non-discriminatory, we begin to discriminate against religious people in bulk.

  14. librarygoose says:

    I just get concerned that in the vein of being non-discriminatory, we begin to discriminate against religious people in bulk.

    I get concerned that people classify me as a freak with no morals and that Presidents have stated that I am neither a citizen nor a patriot. But pointing out the actual problems that exist in the Evangelical movement is not discrimination. I like the actual looks into such a powerful religious movement, too often they get away with things because they have religious privilege.

  15. Rebecca says:

    Sadly, I don’t think any discussion of evangelical child rearing can be complete without talking about what is, in my opinion, the worst tactic of all that many of these people employ. They simply believe that they can beat the “devil” out of their children. After all, well behaved children in public are a good “testimony” too all those worldly parents who let kids, you know, be kids. To them, it is all about the appearance. It doesn’t matter that they are beating and abusing the children at home. Just look at the following that disgusting people like the Pearls have, and James Dobson, who also advises abusing your children.

    Beat a child into they are completely terrified to think anything other than what you tell them to, and you’ve got another little “solider” in your army. Evangelical child rearing and abuse go hand in hand.

  16. ks says:

    librarygoose@14:

    I get concerned that people classify me as a freak with no morals and that Presidents have stated that I am neither a citizen nor a patriot. But pointing out the actual problems that exist in the Evangelical movement is not discrimination. I like the actual looks into such a powerful religious movement, too often they get away with things because they have religious privilege.

    QFT

  17. emandink says:

    Really, how many times does Kristen have to state that she’s not talking about all Christians or even all people who ID as Evangelical?

    I love the point in 10/11 about the youth ministry, having experienced these sorts of conversion attempts myself as a kid. There is nothing more dispicable than someone trying to force their beliefs on an essentially captive audience of 12 year olds by telling them that they and their families are going to suffer horribly for all eternity unless they share the speaker’s beliefs.

  18. Guest Blogger says:

    Really, how many times does Kristen have to state that she’s not talking about all Christians or even all people who ID as Evangelical?

    15….million :)

    I would also point out that I never even once referred to anything as a cult. I said sect, which as far as I’m aware, does not have any negative connotations.

  19. EG says:

    As a liberal christian I am concerned about the bias of this series. I think it may be slightly off base to basically classify all christian churches that identify as “evangelical” as cult-like. There are many sides to all aspects of faith, there are extremists in all religious as well as anti-religious sectors. Maybe add in a column written by someone who identifies as part of this “movement” and allow them to provide insight into the non-extremist aspects of the religion? I just get concerned that in the vein of being non-discriminatory, we begin to discriminate against religious people in bulk.

    Yeah, yeah. The poor, discriminated-against, evangelical Christians. When they stop trying to take away my rights and when they stop tormenting their kids physically and emotionally, I’ll try to give a shit about the fact that sometimes, on liberal-left blogs, people discuss how awful they are.

    You’re the one conflating the evangelical Christian movement with “religious people in bulk.” Personally, I’ve known too many religious people I’ve liked and admired to insult them like that.

  20. Stephanie says:

    My parents were “saved” when I was 13 years old. Before this, we never went to church. I was forced by my parents to “accept Jesus into my heart” so we could walk down the church aisle as a “born again” family. I had no idea what I was getting into. It was terrible to think that you were a pretty good person and then, at 13, be told you were a horrible sinner and were going to hell. The whole movement is based on fear and control. My sister recently told me that when she was 10 years old she came home from school and no one was home. She was terrified because she thought the rapture had come and she was left behind with all of the evil doers. My other sister told me how she would lie in bed praying all night long, never going to sleep, because my mother told her she was bad and going to hell. She was 8. This movement is abusive and frightening. I turned my back on it and have never been happier. Unfortunately, I don’t have a relationship with my parents because they are immersed in it. But I will gladly give up that relationship if it means never having to think I am inferior, to believe I am immoral, evil, and to live in a constant state of victimhood and fear.

  21. Amelia says:

    Sadly, I don’t think any discussion of evangelical child rearing can be complete without talking about what is, in my opinion, the worst tactic of all that many of these people employ. They simply believe that they can beat the “devil” out of their children. After all, well behaved children in public are a good “testimony” too all those worldly parents who let kids, you know, be kids. To them, it is all about the appearance. It doesn’t matter that they are beating and abusing the children at home.

    My parents (especially my mother) were fundamentalists and had a copy of “The Willful Child” by Dobson when I was growing up. I only just discovered it a few years ago when searching their house for something to read. Its everything you would fear, and goes about comparing child rearing to training dogs. It was a well worn copy, and I remembered them using some of the techniques, but I guess it didn’t work because I’m not an evangelical anymore.

  22. WitchWolf says:

    Never got the whole original sin thing – They blame Eve for eating the apple — WTF — I mean Adam could have said no, and not ate the apple then turn tohis god and whine and complain, and let his god exile Eve like he did with Lilith.

    I mean if men “are” all that and peanut butter and jelly too, why did Adam eat the fruit he knew was taboo… Please —

    I see the myth as nothing more than a man not taking responsibility for his own choices, then blaming it on women. Then lashing out against the women, making her some kind of evil monster.

  23. konkonsn says:

    I feel kind of bad (for not being sickened), but I was grinning the whole time the homophobe was talking about how the gay characters on TV get the best of everything (and PoC have the most lead roles in film, yeah?) and outright laughed when he screamed in his angry voice, “God loves you, friend…” Actions and words, it helps if they match.

    I did watch through the whole first clip on Jesus Camp (the nine minute one), and I want to warn you that there’s a rape joke in there (around 1:22). Also, I’m a bit concerned in the video summary as the Facebook page of two of the children were posted. I get if you want to troll/say something to one of the adults, and I know the children have grown up a bit, but it bothers me what the intentions of the video creator might have been. However, the end of the video did have nice demonstration of the using kids to convert method you were discussing (8:26). I felt so bad for that poor woman.

  24. konkonsn says:

    Oh! And I do have a question.

    So Rebecca brought up the whole beating the devil out of the child issue. I’m curious how this interacts with thinking the devil/evil spirits are real, both how the parents handle it and how the children think of themselves. I’ve seen some clips in a Discovery (or History) Channel show on exorcism that show churches that do regular exorcisms. Basically someone goes up, confesses sins, hands are laid, and the person often faints. This looks the same to me as some types of faith healing.

    Since I was involved in Catholicism – and even then was a natural skeptic – the whole evil spirit possession (or is it thought of as a possession?) issue is something I don’t really understand. If you were possessed, your body and actions were out of your control and a professional exorcism needed to be done. Possession was exotic and terrifying; basically what’s portrayed in most USian exorcism movies. So the idea of a low level type possession is foreign to me. There was this underlying idea in some of the religious articles I read (and some of the EWTN shows I watched) about how evil spirits/Satan whispered temptations to you, but it was always framed as something that happened outside of your body, and you could either answer his whispers or deny them and choose God. Is this more what’s being talked about?

  25. Jen in Ohio says:

    Then they have big events and encourage their youth to invite all their friends.

    I think I actually saw this part of the movement get started when I was a kid in the 70s. I was not churched as a child and one of the few great privileges I was allowed was the complete freedom to read whatever I wanted and shape my own religious/spiritual views and/or to decide I didn’t need them. I had no religious education whatsoever until grade school, at which point I developed a close friendship with a little girl whose family attended what they called a “Christian Fellowship”. I began going with them twice a week and went for years — until I was about ten or eleven and actually sat down and read the entire Bible and started asking questions that no one could answer with anything that I recognized as sense.

    I look back on that group now and see it as a precursor to these modern kinds of massive evangelical movements because it seems like the ramp up, including the recruitment and these youth events (and more that I won’t go into here). For example, my little friend and I had previously enjoyed celebrating Halloween and going trick-or-treating and her family was fine with this; her mom even helped us to make our own matching costumes one year. But then the Fellowship decided that Halloween was now on the shit list and they strongly encouraged all the parents to bring their kids — and the kids to bring their friends — to some kind of Fellowship alternative event party. My friend invited me and I was dubious because trick-or-treating was a big deal where I’m from and an industrious kid could easily re-stock her candy stash until March. My friend assured me there would be candy and costumes and I was like, “So it’s the same as a Halloween party?” Her eyes got all wide. “Absolutely not!”

    And it was not, in fact, the same as a Halloween party. It was deeply creepy, though, I’ll give ’em that. Imagine a party that mimics a Halloween party in almost every way except there are no witches or vampires or Frankenstein monsters on anything and there is instead Jesus everywhere. Jesus is on everything from the pumpkins and Halloween-colored streamers and decorations to the Halloween-like candy to the Halloween-ish booth-games to the prizes to the apples you bob for and there is even a big ole cross painted on the apple bobbing barrel. And there is no Monster Mash, there is only, like, pre-top-40 Amy Grant. Toward the middle of it, we kids were all brought inside the home for a sermon about the evils of Halloween and secularism.

    The utter fucking hilarity in my total lack of a religious education was immediately apparent to the pastor’s teenage kids, who’d already discovered pot but hadn’t shared it yet, when I had first arrived and was baffled by my surroundings. My child-mind flipped through the possibilities of what all of these representations of Jesus could possibly mean when they were juxtaposed with Halloween such as they were, and I concluded, “Oh I get it! It’s scary ’cause Jesus is a zombie!” The pastor’s kids howled with laughter while all the adults looked at me with a mixture of pity and horror, and after that I only agreed to go on “church field trips” if the pastor’s kids were going too.

  26. LotusBen says:

    konkonsn. . .I’m not really an expert on the matter, but I believe many Evangelicals think of human nature as inherently evil (even if they don’t always admit it) as a result of Original Sin. So what most of us would interpret as our own emotions, desires, impulses, instincts, intuitions, etc. they often believe are messages for Satan or demons. Just like they often believe their own thoughts are messages from God. In this view, thinking (provided its Church-approved thoughts) is good, and feeling is bad–as part of an Aristotelian hierarchy of Being whereby repression (psychological and otherwise) is viewed as a good and appropriate form of the higher ruling over the lower. So “low level type possession” could just be the natural subjective state of most human beings prior to an effective and thorough religious indoctrination into Evangelical ideology. But all this has just been my opinion as someone who has known a lot of Evangelicals and studied the movement. I’ve never been an Evangelical myself (although I was a Christian and had some beliefs that overlapped with theirs).

  27. DouglasG says:

    Ms Kristen @18 – I’d have sworn the right answer would be seventy… times seven.

    Your history of being used for ministerial purposes makes me think of Wicked and Elphaba singing hymns at the Quadlings.

    I’d seen that youth group anti-gay clip before. Just as well that sort of thing probably didn’t exist in my time; they might have burned me at the stake only to become immortalized in fiction had the cover-up provided inspiration for a case on Law & Order in which the church would get away with it.

    I was wondering a couple of days ago when something along a similar line came up elsewhere about how uniform (or not) strict vigilance is among various sects to protect their members’ children from informed choice rather than to permit or promote it.

  28. DouglasG says:

    Oh, bother – sorry about the italics getting muddled.

  29. Elsa says:

    Raising up godly children also entails having complete and utter control over everything they do, in order to make them an instrument for the Lord and to receive the blessing of raising good Christian children. For my parents, and many other families in the movements they were associated with, this meant homeschooling (using completely skewed inaccurate material of course), complete isolation from other children because no one was quite godly enough, monitoring music and often reading material, family prayer sessions (these amounted to public confession), and church attendance, including Wed, Sunday nights and revivals.

    I remember going to a week long revival where I was told that women should always be silent in church, fundamentalist evangelicals do love Pauline scripture and that we were all worthless and a 0 – only allowing Christ to work through us made our lives meaningful. But of course it was still only Christ that was working, only through complete surrender could we have value and it was clear that that value was borrowed since we were merely vessels. As a young teen, I desperately tried to believe and answered countless alter calls (again with the public confession) crying for God to “forgive my unbelief.”

    The abuse that children suffer at the hands of fundamentalist and/or evangelical parents is really incalculable. I and all of my siblings struggle to this day because of the hateful insidious messages we were fed as children. These are not people you can say live and let live to because they are ruining their children’s lives.

    Thanks so much for this series Kristen J. It is a much needed conversation.

  30. Jesus Camp.

    *shudder*

    One shot in the film portrays a hall full of children praying before and praising a cardboard standup of George W. Bush. I had been turned around saying something to my partner, turned to the screen as this came on, and exclaimed “What the fuck???

    That was a messed-up, scary movie.

  31. @25

    That’s awesome and hilarious. I grazed the outer atmosphere of that movement in the mid-1980s, though any specifically religious messaging went right past me.

    I have parents who were similarly liberal. A book given to me by Jehovah’s Witnesses at our front door ended up among the many I had in grade school, but I can’t recall a single piece of information from the text aside from the year… 1934? being presented as some kind of turning point. I must have liked the colour scheme or something; the text clearly meant less than shit to me. Now, the articles and pictures from Astronomy magazine, which I had a subscription to at the same time… those- were worth remembering.

  32. Colin Mackay says:

    “Then they have big events and encourage their youth to invite all their friends” and it seems like Kony 2012 was one of them.

  33. Guest Blogger says:

    I did watch through the whole first clip on Jesus Camp (the nine minute one), and I want to warn you that there’s a rape joke in there (around 1:22). Also, I’m a bit concerned in the video summary as the Facebook page of two of the children were posted. I get if you want to troll/say something to one of the adults, and I know the children have grown up a bit, but it bothers me what the intentions of the video creator might have been.

    Crap, I didn’t read the annotations. I just used that video because I didn’t think it would get pulled (most of the others appear to be the entire documentary). I’ll see if I can find alternate footage.

    There was this underlying idea in some of the religious articles I read (and some of the EWTN shows I watched) about how evil spirits/Satan whispered temptations to you, but it was always framed as something that happened outside of your body, and you could either answer his whispers or deny them and choose God. Is this more what’s being talked about?

    Ah, this is a theological quagmire. To be honest, I don’t think the “demon possession” theories are all the well fleshed out. If I were to try to make order out of the mass of chaos, I’d say that in general the difference is that some evangelicals believe in a larger number demons and in demons with a variety of levels of strength…if that makes sense.

    For example, when I was colicky as an infant my parents took me to a faith healer who said I was possessed and cast a demon out of me in much the way you describe with the “laying on of hands.” Apparently, the colick demon is typically capable of being exorcised that way, but I had a particularly tough one.

    On the other hand when I was 10 and told my parents’ minister that her God was either the shittiest being to ever exist or a figment of her demented imagination, I was forced to sit in a chair for 4 hours while she attempted to exorcise the demon forcing me to say those things. Alas, that demon was also intractable.

    As for beatings…the theory as far as I can figure it out is that “demons” are interested in the pleasures of the flesh and that is one of the reasons they want to take on human form. Beatings, purgatives, starvation are all seen as ways to keep a child – and children are apparently very susceptible to demons – from being possessed or to remove a not very powerful demon.

  34. William says:

    As a liberal christian I am concerned about the bias of this series.

    That is unfortunate. Primarily because we all know where this is going.

    I think it may be slightly off base to basically classify all christian churches that identify as “evangelical” as cult-like.

    Absolutely. I think Kristen J. has done a significant disservice to us by not using the word “theocratic” often enough. The lack of overt comparison of Evangelical Christianity to Islam’s more violent strands also disturbs me, as I see little difference between American Evangelicals and the Taliban other than the relative impotence of American Christianists.

    There are many sides to all aspects of faith, there are extremists in all religious as well as anti-religious sectors.

    Yes, but Christianity have been more consistently violent than any other ideology in human history. Hell, you’ve got more blood on your hands than Communists.

    Also…who, exactly, are these extremists in the “anti-religious” sectors trying to bomb, burn, intimidate, kill, or other wise oppress. Have they been successful? Are they anywhere near as numerous as their Christian counterparts? When was the last time they rampaged through a contient?

    Maybe add in a column written by someone who identifies as part of this “movement” and allow them to provide insight into the non-extremist aspects of the religion?

    Ahh, yes, the whole “equal time” argument. I would…look forward to such an opportunity.

    I just get concerned that in the vein of being non-discriminatory, we begin to discriminate against religious people in bulk.

    Tell you what, put your house in order and then we can talk about how your feelings are hurt. Until then, shut the fuck up. Its quaint and all that you’re trying to find something redeeming in a morally bankrupt and ethically repellant ideology with a history of genocide, but your folk are still looking to violate my liberty. Control your people, then we can talk about a respectful discussion. Otherwise, I’d advise keeping your head down.

  35. konkonsn says:

    As for beatings…the theory as far as I can figure it out is that “demons” are interested in the pleasures of the flesh and that is one of the reasons they want to take on human form. Beatings, purgatives, starvation are all seen as ways to keep a child – and children are apparently very susceptible to demons – from being possessed or to remove a not very powerful demon.

    This is interesting, especially when also thinking about LotusBen’s comments. There seems to be a dual mindset here that allows for the most effective means of controlling behavior. If the individual can be properly, psychologically shamed (best and first option, I should think), then we can blame their behavior on original sin and make them feel bad about being human. If the individual needs a more abusive touch, then we can blame it on demons, thus dehumanizing the individual so it makes us easier to hurt them. That’s not your child (or a gay/female/non-Christian “person”) you’re hitting/yelling at. It’s a demon.

    I also like Elsa’s comment:

    Raising up godly children also entails having complete and utter control over everything they do, in order to make them an instrument for the Lord and to receive the blessing of raising good Christian children.

    Part of evangelical parenting seems to be instilling fear in the parents as well. I actually remember a story from some sermon (once again, think it was on TV) about a Christian woman who lived right but allowed her children to do as she pleased (she did pray for them, I believe). One night, she dreamed of burning in Hell, and when she asked why should would be there when she was a good Christian, she was told that she had allowed her children to go to Hell by not being proactive enough in their lives. Can’t remember if they lived godly ever after once she woke up.

    But, yeah, when I was dealing with my anxiety, I’d say shitty things to people not out of any real belief and even knowing it might be hurtful because of the overwhelming fear. Not excusing the abuse; even with my irrational fear, when I realized I was hurting people, I would isolated/immobilized myself because I didn’t want to do what I thought God was saying and I couldn’t do what I wanted. But I can see where it becomes an influence.

  36. DragonBreath says:

    That jesus camp crap turned my stomach the first time i saw it a while back via the Military Religious Freedom Foundation; once was enough. I see a glimmer of hope as many young people are turning away from their religious brainwashing and embracing non predatory religions, deism or no religion, agnostic/atheist. For all their god loves you, love thy neighbor ad nauseam; check out all the hate they display on atheist blogs. As Obi-wan said “You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” and i am not referring to the atheists. In all fairness i have met a few Christians who actually walk the walk; unfortunately they are few and far between.

  37. matlun says:

    That jesus camp crap turned my stomach the first time i saw it a while back

    No kidding. I could not watch it all the way through in a single sitting since I found it too upsetting.

    In all fairness i have met a few Christians who actually walk the walk

    This I think is a misunderstanding. Most of the Evangelicals we are discussing here honestly believe in what they are saying and doing. Calling them dishonest or hypocritical is not generally correct (even though there are obviously many individual examples).

    There are many different interpretations of what it means to be a Christian.

  38. I live in Bob Jones University/Jim Demintland, and these people really DO want an entirely “Christian” country (their kind of Christian). I have been saying this for decades, and a lot of liberals, skeptics and others online (who live in nice enlightened areas and do not have to deal with them on a daily basis) have rolled their eyes at me as if I hysterically exaggerate or as if I am trying to start a panic. Neither: just describing what I see around me.

    The good thing about this recent birth control debacle has been that people finally believe us when we tell them what they intend. Santorum and Co are NOT KIDDING and they are not just using social issues as tools or diversions…. they are serious.

    Thanks for being on the case, Kristin! We can’t emphasize this enough right now.

  39. Bjorn Beer says:

    Nice post. I like the way you get inside the head of an evangelical ( I grew up baptist) . I wrote a piece you might enjoy which uses the words of Jesus against the stance of the religious right on contraception: http://open.salon.com/blog/bjorn_philip_beer/2012/03/09/a_hard_pill_to_swallow_catholic_contraception_policy

  40. Guest Blogger says:

    FYI, the clips have been swapped out. I apologize for not being more careful.

    If the individual needs a more abusive touch, then we can blame it on demons, thus dehumanizing the individual so it makes us easier to hurt them. That’s not your child (or a gay/female/non-Christian “person”) you’re hitting/yelling at. It’s a demon.

    I think that’s very true. I think it also provides group cover for people who like to hit their children. I’ve been involved in two sects where that level of child abuse was espoused. Fortunately, I was never on the receiving end of one of their beatings, but I was forced to watch as an object lesson. In my view it seemed like the community was divided into those who enjoyed it including our minister who in retrospect was a sadistic shitstain and those who thought they were “saving” their children.

    In addition, I think demons give them an easy way out for their sinful behavior. It wasn’t me that committed adultry, it was the demons. Once the demon is gone, you can’t blame me or hold me responsible for my behavior.

  41. Guest Blogger says:

    I have been saying this for decades, and a lot of liberals, skeptics and others online (who live in nice enlightened areas and do not have to deal with them on a daily basis) have rolled their eyes at me as if I hysterically exaggerate or as if I am trying to start a panic. Neither: just describing what I see around me.

    Yeah, that was one of the reasons I wanted to do this series. Just a few weeks ago at a campaign planning meetup I was mentioning that we should highlight the rights new war on contraception and some dude said “Oh, don’t be so hysterical. No one is trying to take away your birth control.” I restrained myself from punching him in the nose…but only barely.

  42. Colin Mackay says:

    Don’t get so hysterical @guest blogger! No, it’s time we got strategic. But in an open forum like this we will still be forced to endure the_idiotic distractions. Best chance is to do a quick ring around and raise the funds for a top level secular domain. Then, in peace, we will be able to develop a global strategy to combat the_idiot conservatives. Strikes me that among progressive groups a lot of meaningful alliances can be forged. LGBTI, feminist, atheist, secularist, humanist, rationalist,…. We will all alienate some members…which seems a small price to pay for the benefit of a successful, global, progressive political lobby.
    I’ve tried, for years, to have meaningful dialogue with apologists; it doesn’t work!!

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