Thursday, May 05, 2005

If You Thought Robertson and Dobson Were Nuts, Meet Ted Haggard and the New Life Church

If you think James Dobson and Pat Robertson are bad then let me tell you about Ted Haggard and the New Life Church!

For all intents and purposes Ted Haggard and James Dobson are engaged in an evangelical game of "good cop/bad cap," with James Dobson of Focus on the Family playing the proverbial bad cop, while Haggard, with his smooth style, and deceptively friendly, utgoing personality plays the part of the proverbial good cop.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the New Life Church (and you’ve been blessed by God if you haven’t!) , it's an 11,000 member strong megachurch in Colorado Springs, where bigotry and dreams of a Christian utopia on earth reign supreme. . It began in 1984 when Haggard was driving through the area, stopped his car, and had a vision in which he saw himself turning Colorado Springs into another New Jerusalem, a utopian society based on Christian (i.e. theocratic) values.

Initlally little more than 20 members meeting in a basement, the movement grew quickly through truly fascinating (read disturbing) tactics. This is a church that created its own propaganda by forming prayer vigils outside the homes of gays, lesbians, and wicans with the expressed purpose of forcing them to move. And the frightening thing is that it worked. After identifying and targeting 15 homes as being occupied by Wicans (witches, as Haggard calls them) 10 out of the homes were abandonned simply because the residents could no longer take the constant praying –or, if you will, preying. I believe in the real world we might be more inclined to call this harassment.

The thing which few people want to talk about is the fact that institutions like the New Life Church, Focus on the Family, The Christian Coalition, and the National Asociation of Evangelicals all see prayer less as a means of glorifying and worshipping God, but rather as a spiritual weapon in a culture war. To be succinct, they view prayer as a means by which to destroy their enemies. In sharp contrast with Mainstream Christianity, the New Life Church openly admits that it is not a Social Gospel Church. It is more interested in converting people than it is in operating soup kitchens or building projects for the homeless. Of course you need to remember that Haggard thinks that Jesus would have embraced free markets--this inspite of the fact that while Jesus walked the face of the earth he and the Twelve Apostles lived communally--sharing everything and owning very little. And it makes me wonder: Shouldn’t someone should tell these Bible-bastardizing buffoons that Christ never bothered to accumulate personal wealth during his earthly ministry? Why it’s enough to make you wonder if we shouldn't require our clergy to take oaths of poverty Of course you have to remember that depriving people of their civil liberties and demonizing them Desciples of Satan comes with a heft price tag. So I can understand why they would spell the name of the Savior as JE$U$ CHRI$T. In short, Haggard and the New Life Church are more interested in controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes--banning premarital sex and homsexuality--than ity is in feeding, clothing, and sheltering poor hungry children. Yup. I'm sure Jesus would be REAL proud of that.

In addition this church, like so much of modern fundamentalism, has a highly militant streak to it. Even their rhetoric has overtones of violenceand destruction, incorprating assinine phrases such as "exploding the Gospel for Christ," or openly admitting, and even admiring the "fact" that The Bible is a violent, bloody book, while ignoring the parts which emphasize peace, forgiveness, and loving ones neighbors. Worse yet, the praise the fact that certain American GIs have disturbuted 900,000 Bibles in Iraq at a time when the President is trying to tell the Muslim World that our invasion of Iraq is not a crusade.

Like most fundamentalist organizations the New Life Church depends on pageantry and symbolism, but in this particular case the symbolism has become truly bizarre, indeed, overtly sexual. Visitors to the church will discover a large statue called "The Defender.” This is a monster piece of “art,” a deformed monstrosity in the form of a muscular angel, its face locked in an angry, defiant expression while the angel itself swings an actual sword, a broadside at unseen foes. . And then there's a painting, "The Vessel," which featuures realistic, large breasted, white angels pouring an earn of honey over a muscular, bronze-skinned naked man who is collecting the honey in a bowl before his crotch. The idea here of course, is that this is God's love pouring down from Heaven to mankind, but the images are so starkly homoerotic that you really need to wonder if this church hasn't obsessed over the idea of homosexuality in particular and over sex in general. Or for that matter if there aren't a few unresolved latent urges here--if you get my drift. There is, afterall, a theory tht says the most visceral of homophobes are actually trying to deny their own inner impulses by persecuting others with smilar behaviors and characteristics. But it’s just a theory.

Hypocrist not withstanding, we are after all, talking about a group that wants to roll back protection for gays, lesbians, and nonchristians. Indeed, their persecution (there just isn't another way to say it) of Wicans proves conclusssively that they have no respect for freedom of religion either. Any group that would attempt to drive someone out of his or her home based on a literal interpretation of the Bible would almost certainly perform a repeat of Kristallnacht if they ever given the opportunity.

So just why in the hell are people like Haggard so dangerous?

In a representative democracy like America you’d think that their delusional world view would be enough to mark them as the phony Christians and real life fascists that they are. Well, my pets, life is never that simple. Would that it were. Clowns like Falwell, Robinson, and even Dobson, are oafs. They couldn't make an eloquent statement if they tried. And whenever they have tried they have only succeeded in making Osama Bin Laden sound moderate and have ended up offering apollogies to mainstream America. In addition they are just plain nasty. But people like Haggard, on the other hand are reasonably attractive. They know which face to wear when they deal with the public--and it isn't the one with the proverbial 666 on the forehead. They know how to couch their visceral hatred for Jews, Gays, Lesbians, Muslims, Hindus, nonchristians and nonfundamentalist ("nomonal") Christians in polite, Orwellian double talk. (Hitler did the same thing while he was running for office—even brutal, hate-mongering psychopaths know how to “behave themselves” when doing so will promote their otherwise sociopathic agenda.) People like Haggard understand pop culture (think grunge bands and hip hop performances) and they know how to milk the media.

More importantly, Haggard has a direct link to the Whitehouse, talking to President Bush via conference call every Monday morning. This might not be a problem if it weren't for the fact that this administration has all but cut itself off from mainstream Christianity and nonchristians -- a fact which is reflected in funding for faith- based initiatives where the money is being deliberately channeled to right wing Christians, seldom secular or nonchristian groups. When seen in this particular light one must conclude that the left has it right. The present wave of fundamentalism is indeed trying to destroy the United States government by funding a shadow, Faith Based government that is intended to superecede the Republic of our Founding Fathers.
And they don't even need to do it through Faith Based Initiatives. The New Life Church can collect up to $200,000 per sermon. Mainstream Christians who still comprise a majority of the religionists in the country, are lucky if they can collect $200,000 for a national effort, much less per sermon.

Luckily a majority of Americans still have a softer and gentler view of Jesus Christ and of religion overall, but that doesn't mean that we can sit on our asses and do nothing while these delusional theocrats work to create a Fascist Christian State. I for one believe it is time for the IMMORAL MAJORITY to stand up and take back its rights. We've given these societal perfectionists enough power as it is. We have to get organized, my pets. We need to send these would be dictators and theocrats back to the Dark Ages that they came from.



(For more on the extreme nature of modern day fundamentalists, please be so kind as to scroll down to Brandon's excellent post about The Radical Christian Right, and then proceed to Sam's equally enlightening piece about the "Reverend" Pat Robertson.)

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