Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Modest Proposal: Us vs. Them

As long as I went so far out on a limb this past Sunday night, I guess it won’t hurt to go a little further. The scene of the crime was the comments section of my favorite anti-theocracy website, Talk to Action. It was my first-ever comment on that website, posted in an unusually long comments section. Many of the meticulously researched and well-written articles generate no comments or very few of them, and some of the regular contributors were wondering about that in the brainstorming session that followed this article by Bruce Wilson.

Mostly, though, they were wondering for what seemed like the 100th time how to publicize the acute danger to religious freedom and civil rights posed by a relatively new fundamentalist phenomenon known as the New Apostolic Reformation. The best-known example of the New Apostolic Reformation is Sarah Palin’s Wasilla Assembly of God church. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only one by a long way, because the movement is worldwide and officially nondenominational. 

Since the regulars seemed to be inviting feedback, I finally screwed up my courage to say what I’ve been wanting to say for months, and at Talk to Action more than anywhere else. With all the proofreading and rewriting involved, it took me about three hours to write that comment. I realize it isn’t perfect, but I’m not about to waste all that work and (for once!) the hell with my perfectionism. It’s why so many of my blog posts never get written or posted at all. And one other thing: This way I’ll have a record of my comment if Talk To Action decides it isn’t up to their standards and deletes it.

I’m reposting it here pretty much as originally written, except for adding a few font changes and live links, fixing a few typos and also correcting the spelling of Rachel Tabachnick’s name, which I misspelled earlier. It begins with a quote from an earlier comment following the Bruce Wilson article.

A Modest (?) Proposal

Re “The underlying question is the same for both - why is writing thoughtful, well researched and important content not enough? And again, why do even the most important articles on this site receive so few comments?”

And then, of course, there is the Big Question: How to bring the very real threat posed by the NAR and similar theocratic movements to the attention of the mass media and the public?

I have been following the thoughtful, well-researched work of Bruce Wilson and Rachel Tabachnick and the other dedicated regulars of this site for two years now. I have read with growing alarm their exposes of the New Apostolic Reformation and John Hagee's Christians United For Israel (CUFI) and its unholy alliance with the Israeli extreme right both religious and secular. But for me and others like me to read this material and become more convinced and more outraged than we were already is basically just preaching to the choir. I was already convinced of the dangers of theocracy when I joined this site.

And yet this is the first time I have ever ventured to post a comment here. Part of the reason for that is because I have expressed my outrage at great length on other websites and discussion boards I frequent. But for the last several months (literally!) I have been trying to work up the nerve to suggest what I'm about to propose here, because I know it will sound perfectly insane at first reading.

The religious left has one weapon at its disposal it has never even picked up, let alone thought about using--namely moral certainty or moral absolutism. The same kind--and I mean exactly the same kind!--that the religious right uses.

Think about it. We have Truth on our side. We have Liberty, Growth and Evolution on our side. And what all of that taken together adds up to is that we have GOD on our side!

We are right and they are wrong.

Read that again, and again--until it sinks in. And yes, I know the right says the same thing! It's probably an occupational disease of progressives that we are way too reflective, too nuanced, too self-critical to be effective fighters.

The right is aware of this tendency both in the areas of religion and politics, and they use it against us. The worst thing about progressives--and one of the ways we hamstring ourselves--is that we allow them to get away with it, over and over again. I'm not saying we shouldn't be reflective and self-critical, but we can do that on our own time. It's none of our enemies' business and we don't allow them to make it their business.

I used the word enemies deliberately and for a reason. They have declared us the enemy. They have announced their intention of exterminating liberals of all kinds like rats. As a Jewish feminist with strong Pagan leanings, I can take a hint. I am already their enemy on at least three fronts, and most likely everyone reading these words can say the same thing.

So isn't it long past time for the religious left to launch a counter-offensive, to declare a state of spiritual and temporal warfare against THEM? That would get the attention of the media and the blogosphere like nothing else in the world. After all, the American public and the media love nothing so much as a great action-packed, elemental battle of Good vs. Evil. So that's what we should give them, and we'll get their attention. We are the good guys and they are the bad guys, and we need to get rid of any lingering doubts on that score, because they inhibit our ability to act.

For the record: I am very much opposed to dualism as a philosophical concept. As a universalist (if that’s even the word I want), I have to believe to that good and evil both have their origin in God, because God includes the totality of everything that exists. But as a purely tactical approach as opposed to a world-view, dualism has a lot to recommend it.

What I'm recommending specifically: For someone a lot more Web-savvy than I am to launch an elegant, beautifully produced and very comprehensive website to be called something like "Reclaiming the Seven Mountains." It's extremely important to use not just the same tactics, but the same symbolism that the Right uses. That way they are sure to get the message.

I've looked at the corresponding theocrat (NAR?) website, and I believe that some of the "seven mountains of culture" are Religion, the Family, Government, Education, the Arts...okay, that's five of them right there. It's been awhile since I looked at it, but I believe one other is Economics.

The point is that all seven are under attack by the forces of theocracy, and have been for the last 30 years or more. And the whole time progressives have been watching and documenting the steady encroachments on our civil liberties and religious freedom in growing horror but have been ineffective for the most part in stopping them, or even slowing them in any significant way. The important thing is to put the NAR and other dominionists on notice that we are no longer simply defending ourselves but counter-attacking--actively pushing back against their encroachments. And YES, I do understand that this is a dangerous project, but the danger is all the more reason to do what we should have done decades ago.

The good thing is that our enemies have given us several excellent step-by-step manuals of what they've done and how they've done it. The strategies that worked for them will work even better for us. After all, we are right and they are wrong. Therefore we can afford to be completely upfront about both our methods and our goals. There is no need for their deceptive Machiavellian tactics because we aren't Machiavellians. But aside from lying and other forms of deception, I think we can adopt most of their strategies.

So I suggest we adopt most of the tactics that have worked for them--including spiritual warfare and so-called "spiritual mapping." I'm serious. Places like Sarah Palin's Wasilla Assembly of God church and Rick Warren's Saddleback Church could be labeled "theocrat strongholds," and cities like Newark and even threatened states like Hawaii could be labeled "enemy occupied territory."

They have probably done most of the spiritual mapping work for us already--all that would be necessary would be to exchange their labels for our own.

Three reasons I hesitated for before I ventured to make this "modest proposal" in public. (1) I was afraid everyone would think I'm crazy; (2) I didn't want Bruce Wilson and Rachel Tabachnick and others to receive any more death threats than they already get; and (3) I don't want to start receiving any death threats myself. So far I haven't gotten any simply because nobody has ever heard of me, and I'd like to keep it that way as long as possible. I'm not even a very prolific blogger, just a nebbish with a long history of spouting off on interfaith discussion boards.


Wugo said...

I've Googled earnestly for statistics on the resurgence of Fundamenalists and discovered none at all. I suspect they are diminishing in number the while they grow more vocal. Probably they will fade away entirely when public education has improved.

If there were head counts of the group that showed increasing numbers of them over recent years, that would prove me wrong.

Raksha said...

Sean: Unfortunately, this isn't something you can easily learn about by googling unless you already know what you're looking for. The most dangerous theocratic developments aren't in fundamentalism per se, but in that aspect of it known as Pentecostalism. That's a distinction I didn't make for a long time myself, but it's an important one in Protestant Christianity.

I can only speak about Pentecostalism as an outsider, since I've never been to one of their services in my life. But as I understand it, the leaders invite/induce possession in the participants by what they SAY is the Holy Spirit, although from what I've heard about these services I'm sure I'd have a very different take on it. A lot of the manifestations I've heard about don't sound very "holy" to me!

Again as I understand it, the devotees are "slain in the Spirit" (fall over backwards?) and speak in tongues, which are not any known languages ancient or modern. About any healings said to take place, I'll refrain from making any judgment call one way or the other. That's something you can only know about on a case-by-case basis, but I don't believe the vast majority of the claims I've heard. Most of them way are too vague and too grandiose to be taken at face value. To a sceptical outsider (me) it all sounds like either mass hypnosis/hysteria or shameless fraud on the part of the leaders.

Please understand that I am NOT condemning states of non-ordinary consciousness per se, not even those brought on by psychedelic drugs or induced by the leader of a group meditation (admittedly a kind of hypnosis), or an ecstatic ritual like the Spiral Dance. But the leaders of such meditations or rituals HAVE to be responsible and moral people! They need to bear in mind that they are dealing with people in a highly receptive and suggestible state. Above all, they have to refrain from inducing hatred of any kind, especially hatred of some target group--remember Hitler's famous mass rallies? 'Nuf said.

As I understand it, the leaders of the NAR go out of their way to induce as much hatred as possible, and practically everyone not in their camp is "God's enemy," in other words--THEIR enemy. I should probably explore these ideas further in a follow-up post, either here or in the usual place.

I just wish I could write faster! I'm still too much of a damn perfectionist, and even my "short" e-mails take way too long.


Wugo said...

I found Pentecostalism discussed by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentecostalism). 115-million members distributed among 10,000 sects are estimated but not verified. Most adherents are from the third-world poor, it's claimed.
Compared to the totality of Christians their membership is small, however their malignity may justify your concern. Like you, I have no personal experience with their liturgy. From time to time I've been accosted by missionary types concerned about my salvation;those were Pentecostals, I surmise.

Riyana-Rebecca said...

I dunno, Mom. I'm totally for being strategic in these political matters, but I don't want to become them while fighting them. It just seems icky. I know that's not completely what you're saying, but it makes me a little uncomfortable to get too close to going there all the same.

tapirgal said...

Yes, be my guest. I'm glad you like the star.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow. This is beautifully written. We're talking The Handmaid's Tale here. The religious right will settle for nothing less. Horrifying.

Raksha said...

Re the last four comments: Sorry about not responding to them until now (it's November 11th). The reason is that I didn't even know they were there, except for Wugo's second one which I had put off responding to. I'm going to change my settings so that I get notifications of new comments by e-mail, which I guess I should have done a long time ago. But I didn't get comments on my old posts for so long there didn't seem to be much point to it. I'll do that now and respond to the comments tomorrow if possible.