Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin ,Pentecostalism & Evangelicalism & The Theocratic Agenda

Anyway Sarah Palin belongs to The Assemblies of God ministries or Pentecostalism so here's a bit about Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism . These groups have become more active politically for the last thirty years and have had an impact on American society and will continue to do so for better or worse whether Sarah Palin is elected or not. They are a major influence on every aspect of American culture though they are the majority in America they still see themselves as victims and outsiders. They are not as it were comfortable with the idea that a free democratic society is one of give and take and sometimes compromise. They are also not comfortable with the idea that minorities in a democratic society are in need of being protected by the tyranny of the majority.They believe that their views and their policies are those which are Biblical based and therefore should apply to all members of American society.

"Contemporary Pentecostalism has moved beyond the hope to restore New Testament spirituality to call for the restoration of New Testament authoritative offices and vigorous warfare. Both of these have potentially frightening implications. In the course of a century , prominent media voices in this movement have shifted from advocating the recovery of such New Testament virtues as humility, gentleness, love to boasting about dominion and authority. In its extreme forms contemporary popular Pentecostalism is brash and aggressive, unabashedly meshing its images of God and the American way of life. Such popular forms of Pentecostalism promulgated especially in print and broadcast media, are found in Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God as well as in the vast independent sector." p. 3

" While Assemblies of God adherents( like other Pentecostals and evangelicals) often formally object to secular popular culture, they have participated enthusiastically in the creation of a parallel popular culture that offers Christian variations on everything from rock bands and night clubs to soap operas, talk shows, sex manuals, and exercise videos" transforms popular culture ..."sanitizes and customizes it with Jesus language". p. 7

Above Quotes from:
Restoring The Faith :The Assemblies of God, Pentecostalism, and American Culture, Edith L. Blumhofer, pub. 1993

" Despite all their modernist trimmings, evangelicals at the heart are deeply traditional and they have been able and continue to impose their values on America to an astounding degree . Almost imperceptibly the clock is being turned back to a prefeminist, pre-sexual revolution era. People are getting married younger, and rising numbers of educated women are choosing to stay at home to raise their children. Hollywood is producing more and more wholesome entertainment, much of which would have fit right in with the other fare flickering on silver screens in the 1950s. Sex and drugs no longer rule rock and roll. The Bible is back in the classroom. Evangelicals feel America has abandoned its Christian roots; in truth there is ample evidence that it is the advancement of the secular lifestyle that is being turned back and that the country has done a regressive about -face that will return it to the norms of half a century ago. Evangelicals are pushing a nostalgic, even anachronistic, view of what it means to be an American. " pp. 239-240


Anyway I thought this book would be appropriate given the issue of Sarah Palin running for the Vice Presidency. She appears to be a " True Believer " and an active member of the Religious Right and its attempt to reshape America as a Theocratic State . But is America already on the verge of being a Theocracy and therefore its just a matter of time. As the " New Evangelicals" & Charismatics point out they have seen in the past that the bold moves made by the Religious Righ have not always been successful and have sometimes created a backlash so they believe in " incrementalism " a creeping movement towards their ultimate goals . They claim they are patient and are willing to take their time to accomplish what they believe needs to be done. This is even more frightening than the strategies of the old Religious Right .

Monique El-Faizy in her book God and Country tells us she was brought up as a born-again Christian but as an adult found she no longer could adhere to the basic norms or theology of Fundamentalism or Evangelicalism. As she points out those who once called themselves " Born-again Christians " prefer to call themselves Evangelicals . Before calling themselves " Born Again" Christians all such supposedly non-denominational Christians including Pentecostals and others were often just lumped together as " Fundamentalists ". But this is merely a form of rebranding inorder to sell their product of salvation and what they consider to be the authentic true Christian beliefs and life-style to other Americans. In the same way as revivalists such as Billy Graham in the 1950s avoided the term " Fundamentalist " since it had a negative connotation due to the Scopes Trial and the Temperance Movement . So the movement has adapted to certain parts of contemporary culture or has co-opted parts of the culture. There are now successful Christian Rock groups that are almost indistinguishable from non-Christian rock groups except for their underlying message. The Christian music business is now a billion dollar going concern. Evangelicals have also made major inroads in the publishing industry with books which easily sell copies in the millions. Their Mega churches have little resemblance to traditional churches They are more like giant suburban style malls containing fitness centres, coffee shops, spas, hairstylists, clothing stores , book stores and fast-food chains etc.

The music is anything from traditional Gospel, to pop, to rock, hip-hop, rap, New Age or Heavy Metal or even Goth but the message is always at its core evangelical Christian. The songs are different in that here are no four letter word or explicit sexuality it is all wholesome , innocent and just good fun they would argue. The music for instance is not merely a poor copy of pop rock or whatever but is as professionally produced as any music in the secular pop music industry. There is more of an emphasis on ability of performers and on a well-crafted pop-tune rather just a mere copy badly performed as it was several decades ago. These newer evangelicals are much more savvy.

Most evangelicals now dress in a more relaxed fashion than did their earlier representatives and the teenagers look otherwise like any other teenager. Much of this one can see in ministries aimed at teenagers such as BattleCry! or a host of other outreach ministries. But all in all this is a deception because the core of the evangelicals still hold to certain Protestant Fundamentalist beliefs and the Fundamentalists agenda as in making America over into a hyper-religious theocratic state.

This softening of their image combined with the adapting of various strategies and repackaging of their product has helped them to subtly make inroads into America's supposedly secular culture. For instance they have shifted their emphasis in sermons to the promotion of the Power of Positive Thinking philosophy and the Prosperity Gospel and pop-psychology which are similar to those pushed by media figures such as Dr. Phil, Oprah or Ellen Degeneres or the View and morning talk shows.
Mush of it seems bland or harmless but it subtly changing American culture. Now everyone in the media at some point has to proclaim their belief in Jesus or God or at least a Higher Power to have any credibility with a large segment of TV viewers.

In the end they are still anti-feminists, anti-gay, anti-abortion and would ban books, films,tv programs, music, clothes etc that offend their sensibilities. They also have little patience with those who do not support their cultural and political agenda.They are for the most part still fervent supporters of ultra-Conservative social and economic policies. They still believe that America was chosen by God for a special mission to spread Christianity and defeat the Heretics and all non-believers one way or another as they try to usher in the Second Coming and the End-Times.

I am tempted to use the pig analogy which neocons and the Religious Right use so frequently yet get upset when a more liberal sort like Barack Obama uses it. This gentler, kinder, more compassionate version of Evangelicalism is really at heart Protestant Fundamentalism except they have dropped certain issues believing they were never really that important such as certain clothing, or hair styles etc. So this is that infamous pig with lipstick , but its still a pig.

But once in power would these evangelicals revert to their older mean-spirited selves.

So here are a few bits from the book and my commentary.

as for the role of women:

" In the evangelical community the man is the head of the household , as stated in the New Testament Epistle of Ephesians and women submit to their husbands. Surprisingly, you'll find few evangelical women who find that dictum sexist. While there are differing interpretations of the command to "submit", the evangelical women I have met have seemed comfortable with it . While many evangelical women work outside the home, their primary role is that of helpmate." p. 185

But the movement does offer evangelical women a bit of status and power- a few crumbs from the table as it were- by insisting on the important role they play in having children and rearing them and especially if they are able to home-school their children. This then is to be their major role and contribution to society. It is up to their husbands to earn a living and provide for their family and to do so that their wives need not work outside the home.

" Mothers are the force behind the homeschool movement, which gives them tremendous power in the home and in the community." p. 186

But what about the women who do not have children are they supposed to hide their heads in shame. No they are to commit themselves to educating other women about their proper role in society. They can also in the meantime use their gifts and talents to help bring about a state which conforms better to God's Law. After that though if they refuse to marry or have children are they then to be shunned ousted from society. Well of course they must marry or burn and have children if they can. Women are only supposed to work out of necessity unless they have a calling. So Sarah Palin we can assume is one of those few evangelical women who has heard the call and so must play a different role besides that of wife and mother.

As for politics the majority of evangelicals are ultraconservative and committed to George W. Bush & the Republican Party. For instance the author El-Faizy speaks about a scene that took place at the evangelical school Patrick Henry University in which the professor talks about what he refers to as "builders and snipers " as he uses for an example of what he means he points out that in his view " the press criticizing Bush over his handling of the war in Iraq are snipers not builders ( p. 182). "

So from the get go the students are being taught that the press and mainstream media are not helpful but are rather destructive while Bush is somehow beyond criticism because he's doing the best he can; because he is on a mission from God ; because he is the president he shouldn't be criticized especially since he is a true Christian etc. The press is therefore dismissed and seen as irrelevant or is then demonized . So much for the importance of a free press which the founding fathers believed was so important inorder to maintain a free democratic society . But I guess once the True Believers are in charge all such checks and balances are unnecessary and therefore redundant and a mere annoyance.

The " Builders " of course are all those True Believers who show their support for the Bush administration. All those who work for the Republicans in helping them maintain power are "Builders". All those who volunteer to go to fight in Iraq are also "Builders ". It is odd though that so many of these evangelical true believers aren't off fighting in Iraq rather than spending their time getting a degree so they can work at some safe office job in Washington or in one of the state capitals.

Note: Patrick Henry College was founded in 2000 in Purceville Virginia " to train young Christians, specifically homeschool students, to work in politics and other spheres of influence." p. 180

It is interesting how the evangelical movement is concerned that their children not attend public schools or even non-evangelicals schools where they might meet non-Christians or even non-evangelicals. After homeschooling they attend evangelical colleges to keep them from unnecessary contact with outsiders.During the summers from the time they are three or foor years old as we saw in the documentary Jesus Camp they go to Bible camps or camps run by evangelicals and when they get summer jobs every effort is made so that they are working for and with fellow evangelicals.

From an educational and social or developmental point of view these children as adults have been isolated and insulated from the rest of society and so may not develop or mature in an intellectual sense always seeing everything through their restricted narrow point of view. Its like watching Jesus Camp one is appalled and yet feel sorry for these children being indoctrinated and seeing them being told at four years old that they are sinners and will go to hell if they don't repent and accept Jesus. One wonders about the damage being done to these children. But the we see this sort of abuse continues into their teens and into adulthood when we read about Homeschooling from primary through to High School Graduation and then they attend ministries such as Battle Cry! for teens and young adults followed by attendance at Evangelical Colleges. Some like El-Faizy just grow up and realize that the evangelicals don't necessarily have all the answers and that their life-style is not nessarily the only correct way to live. The others become adults with a fixed rigid mind-set who cannot possibly see any other way to live or to think. The moment they have a thought which doesn't jive with what they have been taught they feel guilt & shame or that they have failed and so they go and pray more, read some Bible passages or meet with other evangelicals to set them back on the right path as it were.

As El-Faizy points out from her own personal experience combined with the research she did for this book that:

" Students who attend schools that emphasize the spiritual over the academic often paint the world in black and white- a natural inclination given that they have been educated in an environment that portrays everything in terms of an epic struggle between good and evil." p. 189

Having lived such sheltered lives it would seem that such a sheltered life-experience may not bode well for helping to create public policies which would affect people who are not evangelical Christians. What they might believe to be a reasonable policy to outsiders such policies might seem to be wholly impractical or draconian etc. Having had little contact with outsiders how could they develop a sympathic view of others or empathy for those different from themselves or a tolerance for differing views . But I guess that's the whole point since outsiders are to seen as the enemy or as just unimportant when it comes for instance to making decisions about public policy. This is of course how the wealthy in our society have also seen the world and that's why their children only attend acceptable private schools and ivy-league colleges so that they will not be contaminated by their contact with Unwashed Masses that is all those who are not members of the upper classes. Yet they will tell us that we live in a classless society. In a sense the wealthy class is just being replaced by the evangelical Christians and those who are able to adapt to their program and agenda.

also see at Cynthia Boaz compares Sarah Palin to the evil "aunts " in Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel about the near future when theReligious Right get complete control The Hand Maids Tale : Welcome to Gilead, Governor Palin /Tuesday 30 September 2008 by: Cynthia Boaz, t r u t h o u t

The attractive young women of reproductive age are the "handmaids"; the attractive but infertile middle-age women are the "wives"; the dark-skinned women of any age are domestic servants, and so on. All women are forbidden from reading or writing. The country is renamed the Republic of Gilead, a reference to the biblical homeland of the patriarchs. And the Aunts - who are middle-aged white women of some previous prestige and education - are especially sinister characters. The primary job of the Aunts is to keep the handmaids (the childbearers) subservient. They go about this by convincing the handmaids that they are powerless and can only contribute to society when they fulfill their God-given responsibility to serve the commanders. The Aunts' job, put simply, is to exploit other women by keeping them submissive and telling them that it's for the good of all (and even more insidiously, that in obeying, the handmaids "empower" themselves.) What makes the Aunts so remarkable is their collective failure to realize that they are simply being used by the commanders to keep other women in line, and their willingness - glee, even - at doing so is simultaneously sad and terrifying. So what compels the Aunts to become traitors to both their sex and their country? First, they believe that their contribution to the repressive social order is righteous, and second, they've found that under this rigid system of social control, they have the illusion of a tiny bit of power.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. Governor and Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin is the Gileadian "Aunt" manifested. Her sudden emergence onto the American political scene, accompanied by a burst of enthusiasm on the part of many American women, is a surreal example of life imitating art. Much of Palin's rhetoric, tactics and personal philosophy seem to be taken directly from the Auntie training manual. By accepting the position on the GOP ticket despite her astonishing lack of qualifications, Palin signaled that she was prepared to be used - on the basis of her sex alone - in exchange for the promise of status and power. Refer to Palin's RNC convention speech, which was mostly a fawning homage to McCain's patriotism and leadership, sprinkled with condescending references to Obama as "our opponent." Although the lines were delivered with Palin's own folksy vernacular and over-enunciation, it was not Palin, but McCain - or more accurately, the GOP elders at whose feet he finds himself on election eve - who wrote the speech and whose voice echoed through the hall that night in St. Paul. Women who find themselves drawn to Palin because they think she epitomizes the classic "woman who has it all" might want to take a closer look. Sarah Palin was picked for the ticket solely because of - not despite - the fact that she is female. By keeping her sequestered from the media, McCain has confirmed he does not have faith in an unscripted Palin's ability to represent the campaign to the world. By going along with it, Palin is telling us that she's perfectly fine with being controlled by her male superiors. And by portraying herself as the candidate of the empowered woman (while simultaneously promoting policy that is openly hostile to the interests of working and middle-class American women), she reveals the sad truth about how little progress we've actually made.

and so it goes,

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