Several threads and posts have prompted me to start this thread. I have no idea, as I start, where this will end up. Bear with me and we'll see.
I'll start with an old adage from I know not where: "Conservatives are easily focused - they always look inward at what they want to protect. Liberals are easily fragmented - the always look outwards at what needs changed. They all end up looking in different directions and, hence, are not easily focused." Apart from the labels "conservative" and "liberal" being outdated and less easily defined, I think this still applies.
For several years, I have posited that there has been an inherent problem with liberal/ progressive/ mainline Christianity (LPMC, for short going forward) that is allowing a distinct minority of extreme Fundamentalist Christians to snowball the effects of their fear-mongering and propaganda into a popular ideology of exclusivism, hatred and elitism. The problem, I surmise, is that not only did LPMC not counteract millenialism, dominionism, end-time theology, or whatever other name is goes under, but that it did the opposite - it slowly syncretized some aspects of this phenomenum into its own beliefs and practices.
A number of threads and posts here are are dealing with different aspects of the same problem. They are each highlighting individual problems, but they are really part and parcel of a bigger problem. These are just some of the threads dealing with some aspect of "dominion theology" or "prosperity theology" - they are interesting reads:
NathanATX's "The Christian Embassy" http://www.soulforce.org/forums/showthread.php?t=1749
Emproph's "Theocratic Treachery" http://www.soulforce.org/forums/showthread.php?t=1677
Joe Brummer's "Gay Activists Need Non-Violence" http://www.soulforce.org/forums/showthread.php?t=1753
LadyinRed's "rticle on Talk to action about people being programmed into violence." http://www.soulforce.org/forums/showthread.php?t=1742
These cover a number of different scenarios that are unmistakably related.
A current popular evangelical theology is blindly accepted by a lot of Christians who may not know the source or the underlying precepts of prosperity theology, which is the basis for millenialism, etc.
In 2004, I wrote (I will try to reduce the size of this quote, or highlight significant areas):
Do the tenets of Prosperity Theology ring a bell when we consider what is happening in so much of our country? If so, who is immune? It hinges on the addiction to power, position, prestige and profit (for the leaders), or the fear of loss of any or all these things (for the adherents).
Certain attitudes from this theological outlook have seeped into virtually every LPMC church, and have set up a stage upon which "dominionism" can preach it's popular, but hateful, rhetoric. How many LPMC churches have copies of the "Left Behind" series of books on their shelves? How many in one way or the other glorify the wealthy, powerful or prestigious members?
GLBTQ and immigrants are not alone in being demonized - it's just that many groups have yet to realize that is what is happening. In much more subtle ways, racism is alive and well in the efforts to dismantle the gains that have been made. To the Prosperity Theology crowd there are far fewer in the "Christian like us camp" than outside it. That camp excludes the poor (even though these make up a lot of unwitting supporters), people of color, GLBTQ folks, socially moderate to liberal on the spectrum, non-Pentecostal and non-Fundamental conservatives (they don't have the "right" Christian characteristics) and, of course, every non-Christian on the face of the planet.
Not only is the upcoming Left Behind game, being promoted by many conservative church hierarchies, about a right-believing Christian commando force slaughtering unbelievers (those who believe differently), but we are already at war, or in serious antagonistic diatribe, with non-Christian nations over protection of resources. We are also, despite our verbal insistance on human rights, standing by as millions of people are slaughtered. Why? Because they are not economically important. They are simply collateral damage in a game that is about acquiring more and more advantage - with the key players being those who are specially anointed by God.
So who's included in the elite camp: powerful (God-given, remember), wealthy (ditto), MALE (unless you are married to one of these males, and even then ...), European descent (and then only some), heterosexual (a must) - well, we could go on narrowing the field down. And they will do just that because the fewer players, the greater the return for each of the elite.
Who needs to be on-board for this to work? Government, big business, military and social leaders. Oddly enough, who are the subjects of many of the threads talking about these radical conservative movements - it's the same people.
How does a war like this start? When one - only one - "side" declares a war. That war has been declared, and most people of the world, including the majority of those in our country, are expendable. How do you get people to sign onto a war like this? By convincing them there are Godless enemies that are out to take away what you have - not just out there in the world, but inside our culture. That includes, obviously, Muslims, GLBT, abortionists and women who have had abortions, and all manner of other people. Fear is the driving force behind the success of the leaders.
Call it what you want - end times theology, as is popular today - is all about the end of times as we know it. We are in this with a whole bunch of other people - so what do we do? We cannot keep thinking that we have to deal with just our own particular symptoms - e.g. lack of rights for GLBT. This is a much larger phenomenum and to combat it, non-violently or not, will take a large network of allies.
Okay, this portion of the tirade is over. WhatTell me what you think. Did the revision make it any clearer? By the way, it is okay to tell me I'm just a conspiracy wingnut.
I agree with your post. Two examples to share with you, just to see if it fits your description of prosperity theology:
1. While on a voluntary mission trip to Arizona and New Mexico, I went with the First Baptist Church of Farmington to deliver electric blankets to a Navajo community, named Sawmill, up in the mountains of Arizona right on the border of NM. About halfway through the trip, as they stopped by the shacks these Navajo live in, I was handing out the blankets to the people delivering them. One lady got back in the van and said, "I am so glad we got these almost for free!" and I said, "Really, who donated them?" She said, "Well, the Farmington Blanket Company was going to throw them out, because these blankets have a defect in them and not all of them will work." I was incensed. I said, "So you mean to tell me that you giving defective electric blankets to these people?" She smiled and said, "Yes, and we didn't have to pay but .25 for each of them." I said, "So the electric blanket on your bed was too good for the Navajos?" I was livid! How Christian is that to give throw aways to people, whom they obviously considered inferior to themselves? Be reminded that the temperature year round in the mountains hovers around 40 in the morning and about 75-80 during the day. Most of these people living in grinding poverty and most do not have running water or indoor plumbing.
2. My former father-in-law was taking a mission trip to Cuba. It was a medical mission of sorts. They were taking medication to clinics in Havana and holding a Bible school in a school nearby. My father-in-law mentioned that they got the medication from a pharmacy that was going to throw it out because this medication (cold remedies, Tylenol, Advil, some antibiotics, some prescription pain relievers) was 2-3 years past the expiration date. In essence, giving expired medication to the Cubans. Again I was livid. I said, so if you won't take it and a pharmacy was going to throw it away because it is NO GOOD, why the hell are you giving it to Cubans? He said, "Because we don't have to pay full price for it and it makes it like we a doing a good thing!" There is a reason he is a former father-in-law!
I agree, much of the church is entrenched in Prosperity theology. And it it is height of arrogance and pompousness to espouse this theory. "Take up your cross" and "Blessed are the poor in spirit" are just impotent sayings that we tell ourselves to help us sleep at night. It is this theology that pushed Native Americans off their land, and enslaved millions of Africans, and screams, "If you are in this country you need to speak English". This theology is of Satan himself. He is the one who has bastardized the gospel of Jesus.
Theology of conquest
Andrew, you have verbalized what I have been feeling for years. You have given it a name ... well, several names actually ... but I will stick with Prosperity Theology for the sake of simplicity.
As you have shown in your essay, Prosperity Theology is a theology of conquest. It relies more on the Book of Revelation than the Gospels, and in a way that totally misinterprets Revelation's apocalyptic nature. The Savior preached by Prosperity Theology is not the peace-loving Jesus I encounter in the Gospels, the Jesus who loves the outcast and walks meekly but with divine fortitude toward Calvary.
This approach to Christianity uses two major tools to get its job done: war and exclusion. It is violent by nature, not loving and peacable. It demonizes anyone who disagrees, which by its very nature sanctions violence. It has set itself up as Judge and decides who's in and who's out. To me, this is the ulltimate blasphemy, since it is a role reserved for the Almighty. Are we not supposed to quake before the justice of God, ALL OF US? We all rely on God's mercy and love, knowing that we fall short every day. Knowing this in ourselves, is it not the ultimate hubris to declaim the failings of others?
Jesus taught that what we do to the least of his brethren we do to him. How can putting people down, demonizing them, subjecting them, discounting them be evangelical in nature?
I worry about the polarization of our society: rural vs urban, rich vs poor, Christian vs Muslim, red vs blue. There seem to be more things that divide us than unite us. Is this state of affairs not the logical outcome of Prosperity Theology?
I also worry about how we meet this onslaught. Do we use their own tactics against them, demonizing Fundamentalists and Evangelicals? Does that not make us as bad as they are? Or do we meet them with love and nonviolence, with peace in our hearts? I hear the messge and believe in it, but I often can't walk the walk ... or even think the thought when I am pissed off. God forgive us and bless us all.
It has always been my contention that Christians should know and understand Dominion Theology because it is at work in our Nation and has infiltrated the mindset of even non- believers. You hit the nail on the head with the concept of ‘Entitlement’; of course we are entitled to horde the wealth of the world. After all we are Americans and deserve to sustain our prosperous why of life, regardless of the price all other Nations pay for our indulgences. I hate it. I could talk all day about this subject. I think the biggest crock is the pseudo-democracy being push upon the world, at gun point if need be. But yes, entitlement is absobloodylutely a major building block in the huge lie being force fed to as many as it’s globalistic, money grabbing hands can reach. And yes, I agree that the divisions of the minorities is in the end result a brilliant tactic
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