Monday, May 22, 2006

State of Belief: May 21 (Part 2)

Gaddy: I want to know who the key players are in this whole movement to take over Christian denominations, and I wish one of you would talk about the Institute for Religion and Democracy. I want to know more about that one in particular.

Weaver: Well, the IRD began out of the first Reagan White House as an attack really on Liberation Theology in Central America. It has morphed over time into a direct attack on mainline churches. The key players , and one of the most disturbing parts of this, are neoconservative Roman Catholics. Six of them sit on the board, that is 35% of the board members. There is not one cent, Welton, spent on any change in the Roman Catholic church, this I consider, and others, the most significant breach in ecumenical good will since Vatian II. ...
These Roman Catholics are the power center of this, that get the money from Scaife and other neocon sources, and the other people involved in this are very minor players. So, the IRD is funded by secular money as a propaganda machine against these churches, and the leadership is also Roman Catholics, which is something that responsible Roman Catholics need to address.

Gaddy: Dr. Dorhauer, how a movement that started in response to Liberation Theology in South America is concerned about a church in Norman, Oklahoma, I don't understand that.

Dorhauer: Well, let me see if I can't make some connections here. The connections to the local church are through their Association for Church Renewal. This is now a group of over 30 "renewal movements" within each of the separate denominations. There are currently two functioning within the UCC. One has been there for a long time--the Biblical Witness Fellowship, the president of which is David Runyon Bearford, who is intimately aligned with the IRD and has been for a long time. If they have a national event, he's one of their featured speakers. If they publish a letter that goes out to the press or to the public, he's one of the consistent signatories on those letters.

The second renewal group within this Association for Church Renewal, headed by the IRD, is the Faithful and Welcoming Group, who formed for the first time in January of this year. These renewal movements are an overt attempt to take over the denomination, much like has happened with the Southern Baptists Convention. That's probably where they've been the most effective.

Gaddy: Dr. Prescott, let's use that as a segue to go to you. Who was involved in taking over the Southern Baptists Convention? Was it the IRD, or were there individuals, or organizations? Would you point a finger at some people?

Prescott: I don't believe that the IRD was involved in the takeover of the Southern Baptists Convention. I think it's a spinoff of tactics that were used in the SBC, and applied to other mainline denominations. I think that probably the deep roots for the takeover of the SBC, come from Ed McAteer and the Religious Roundtable, and Tim LaHaye's Council for National Policy. And I think those are the organizations that brought people like Richard Melon Scaife and Howard Ahmanson and Joseph Coors, and a whole crew of other wealthy industrialists who had a lot of money to fund these kinds of things, with people with religious concerns. And they were exceedingly conservative, they formed an alliance, and they've been very effective in pushing their agenda.


Gaddy: How do you get this done--what is the strategy for taking over a denomination?

Weaver: Well, you undermine confidence in the leadership. You constantly create a picture that they are doing untoward things. So you use, as John has said, propaganda language continually. And drive home wedge issues. Human sexuality is the primary one, because there is so much emotion around that question. But they also use jingoistic, patriotistic--recently United Methodist bishops, two out of three of them in November signed a very strong statement against this war as unjust and immoral. Also said the occupation, which is important, is unjust and immoral. Well, when Fox News called the White House, they had no comment. But within 10 days, the IRD did a smear piece in the Weekly Standard where Fred Barnes, who is on the board of the IRD, who's on Fox News, and the Weekly Standard board. They also did a fund letter at Christmas time, December 22, saying that the bishops would not have defended America at Normandy. At Normandy! So we're talking about extreme propaganda to try to divide people.

Gaddy: And so when you get confidence in the leaders shaken, what's next?

Dorhauer: Well, what happens--and I want to talk about shaking of the confidence in leaders in the UCC in particular. We go into churches where we discover material has been handed out. And the material will read something like, "The United Church of Christ does not believe in Scripture. The United Church of Christ does not believe in the Lordship of Jesus. The Faithful and Welcoming Group, which I mentioned a minute ago, handed out at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, a brochure at their presentation, that said that the General Synod delegates last July, declared their independence from the teachings of Jesus and the authority of Scripture. Now this is the literature that they're handing out in churches across our denomination.

Now this doesn't play everywhere, but the point is that in some places it will play, and they're looking for the people who will receive that information, and then will receive a follow-up call. And those churches are being targeted by trained activists who are going in, and within a year or two, serving on councils and boards, and asking the councils to pass resolutions like, if at our next pastoral church, we don't find a UCC pastor whom we think is fitting, then we're going to amend our bylaws which require us to call a UCC pastor, and we can call anybody we want.

At the same time, the Biblical Witness Fellowship, which is one of the renewal groups attached to the ACR, the Association for Church Renewal, has organized what they call the Godly Pastor Network. And they send recruits out to Evangelical seminaries across the country, pastors who have no relationship with the UCC, and they build a network and contact those churches in which those activists have appeared, and tell them here are pastors willing to serve in your church.

Gaddy: So, in the minds of these people, there must be an Ungodly Pastor Network too.

Dorhauer: That's the implication.

Gaddy: Bruce Prescott, does this all sound familiar?

Prescott: It does--the only difference is it's just incredible that it's people that are outside the denomination. Ours, we had our own group of fundamentalists that organized themselves and did these kinds of things within the denomination. But it wasn't really people from outside doing it.

Gaddy: Some of you have written, or maybe all of you have written, about the hookup between this takeover movement and Christian Reconstructionism movement, and the Dominionist movement related to that. My guess is, a lot of listeners to State of Belief are not familiar with those terms and those organizations. Give us a very quick introduction to them.

Weaver: Well, Howard Ahmanson is at the core of this. He's a billionaire, whose wife sits on the IRD board. They are big contributors to Christian Reconstructionism. Howard Ahmanson for 23 years was on the Chalcedon Institute board. He is the primary funder. They believe that we should not have a democracy but we need to have a twisted sense of Calvinist theocracy, in which among other things, people like everyone on this radio show should be stoned to death because we don't share their religious beliefs out of literalism out of Deuteronomy. Gays should be stoned to death, and incorrigible children.

Bill Moyers has talked about this. If this was a group of lunatic fringe--but these people have infiltrated into a system where they're contributing to money to take over mainline churches.

Gaddy: What about Dominionism? Is that about what it sounds like it's about?

Dorhauer: It's exactly what it sounds like it's about. It's a fundamental belief that the principles, literally interpreted, of Scripture, ought to be the basis of our governance. And as Andrew said, those that do not believe the literal fundamental interpretation of that Scripture are to be eliminated.

Gaddy: So, they're going to impose those through religious institutions or through legislation and officers of the government?

Dorhauer: Their goal is to take over the government. Thirty years ago, this movement began by getting local members elected to school boards, to city councils, to county councils. And what we're now seeing as the byproduct of that is school boards are debating whether or not they can teach creationism or evolution.

Gaddy: So, there's a close connection with the Christian Coalition. Dr. Prescott, is there a connection with the Christian Coalition?

Prescott: I think there's been a close connection with the Christian Coalition, but I actually think that in the Southern Baptists Convention, there is very strong infiltration, or maybe just a movement toward Christian Reconstructionism.

Dorhauer: Christian Reconstructionism is a blueprint for civil society. They want to make the Ten Commandments the law of the land. That's why Roy's Rock is so important. They want to strengthen patriarchically ordered families. They want to close the public schools and make parents totally responsible for the education of their children. They want to require ecclesiastical agencies to provide welfare services. And that would reduce the role of government to the defense of the nation, and the defense of property rights. Their goals have pretty much been accomplished over the past 5-6 years, and sometimes before that. These goals are the goals of the Religious Right. What distinguishes reconstructionism from Dominionism is there is a full philosophy for Christian Reconstructionism, and not everybody will follow that. Not even everybody that identifies with these goals knows about Reconstructionism.

But the idea that Christians should dominate society, is prevalent throughout the Religious Right. And this Dominionist idea, I think is being worked out by our current administration.

Gaddy: So there is a partisan political component to this movement, and it is Republican?

Oh, absolutely. I think that two things are going on at the same time. I think that there are those with political aspirations, who have no real theological bent whatsoever, who benefit from that kind of paranoia that is fed by those from the Religious Right, and I think they use that to their advantage. I think that those at the core of this Dominionist Christian Reconstructionist movement also use those on the political right to *their* advantage.

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