How a growing Christian movement is seeking to take control of the top sectors of American society

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Last week, from Oct. 6 to 9, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. was filled with tents, worship music and prayer for the “Awaken the Dawn” rally. The purpose of the event, according to organizer Lou Engle, was to “gather around Jesus,” to pray for the nation and its government. It ended with a day of prayer by Christian women.

This wasn’t the first such event. On April 9, 2016, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, tens of thousands of people gathered to pray for the supernatural transformation of America.

Five years earlier, in August of 2011, more than 30,000 people cheered wildly as the then U.S. presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry – now secretary of energy in the Trump administration – came to the center stage at “The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis” at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

These three events and the leaders who organized them are central players in a movement that we call “Independent Network Charismatic,” or INC, Christianity in our recently released book, “The Rise of Network Christianity.”

Based on our research, we believe that INC Christianity is significantly changing the religious landscape in America – and its politics.

Here is what we found about INC

INC Christianity is led by a network of popular independent religious entrepreneurs, often referred to as “apostles.” They have close ties, we found, to conservative U.S. politicians, including Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and more recently President Donald Trump.

Charismatic Christians emphasize supernatural miracles and divine interventions. But INC Christianity is different from other charismatics – and other Christian denominations in general – in the following ways:

  • It is not focused primarily on building congregations but rather on spreading beliefs and practices through media, conferences and ministry schools.
  • It is not so much about proselytizing to unbelievers as it is about transforming society through placing Christian believers in powerful positions in all sectors of society.
  • It is organized as a network of independent leaders rather than as formally organized denominations.

INC Christianity is the fastest-growing Christian group in America and possibly around the world. Over the 40 years from 1970 to 2010, the number of regular attenders of Protestant churches as a whole shrunk by an average of .05 percent per year, which is a striking decline when one considers that the U.S. population grew an average of 1 percent per year during those years. At the same time, independent neo-charismatic congregations (a category in which INC groups reside) grew by an average of 3.24 percent per year.

Its impact, however, is much greater than can be measured in church attendance. This is because INC Christianity is not centrally concerned with building congregations, but spreading beliefs and practices.

The influence of INC Christianity can be seen in the millions of hits on many of theirweb-based media sites, large turnouts at stadium rallies and conferences, and millions of dollars in media sales. In our interviews with leaders, we found that Bethel, an INC ministry based in Redding, California, for example, in 2013 had an income of US$8.4 million in sales of music, books, DVDs and web-based content as well as $7 million in tuition to their Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry.

Appeal of INC

As part of our research, we conducted in-depth interviews with senior leaders, staff and current and former participants in INC Christian ministries. We also conducted supplementary interviews with Christian leaders and scholars with knowledge of the changing religious landscape and attended conferences, numerous church services, ministry school sessions, healing sessions and exorcisms. In all, we conducted 41 in-depth interviews.

Our primary conclusion is that the growth of these groups is largely the result of their network governance structure. When compared to the oversight and accountability of formal congregations and denominations, these structures allow for more experimentation. This includes “extreme” experiences of the supernatural, unorthodox beliefs and practices, and financing as well as marketing techniques that leverage the power of the internet.

In our research, we witnessed the appeal of INC Christianity, particularly among young people. We saw the thrill of holding impromptu supernatural healing sessions in the emergency room of a large public hospital, the intrigue of ministry school class sessions devoted to the techniques of casting out demonic spirits and the adventure of teams of young people going out into public places, seeking direct guidance from God as to whom to heal or to relay specific divine messages.

‘Seven mountains of culture’

In addition to the growth numbers, the importance of INC Christianity lies in the fact that its proponents have a fundamentally different view of the relationship between the Christian faith and society than most Christian groups throughout American history.

Most Christian groups in America have seen the role of the Church as connecting individuals to God through the saving grace of Jesus and building congregations that provide communities of meaning and belonging through worship services. They also believe in serving and providing for the needs their local communities. Such traditional Christian groups believe that although the world can be improved, it will not be restored to God’s original plan until Jesus comes back again to rule the Earth.

INC beliefs, however, are different – their leaders are not content simply to connect individuals to God and grow congregations. Most INC Christian groups we studied seek to bring heaven or God’s intended perfect society to Earth by placing “kingdom-minded people” in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society.

INC leaders have labeled them the “seven mountains of culture.”

These include business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family and religion. In this form of “trickle-down Christianity,” they believe if Christians rise to the top of all seven “mountains,” society will be completely transformed.

One INC leader we interviewed summed it up this way:

“The goal of this new movement is transforming social units like cities, ethnic groups, nations rather than individuals…if Christians permeate each mountain and rise to the top of all seven mountains…society would have biblical morality, people would live in harmony, there would be peace and not war, there would be no poverty.”

We heard these ideas repeatedly in most of our interviews, at events we attended and in INC media materials.

Most significantly, since the 2016 presidential election, some INC leaders have released public statements claiming that the Trump presidency is part of fulfilling God’s plan to “bring heaven to Earth” by placing believers in top posts, including Rick Perry; Betsy DeVos directing the Department of Education; and Ben Carson leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Changing the landscape

INC Christianity is a movement to watch because we think it will continue to draw adherents in large numbers in the future. It will produce a growing number of Christians who see their goal not just as saving souls but as transforming society by taking control over its institutions.

We see the likelihood of INC Christians taking over the “seven mountains of culture” as slim. However, we also believe that this movement is sure to shake up the religious and political landscape for generations to come.

By Brad Christerson, Richard Flory/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist


White Working-Class Millennials Are Less Christian, More Republican Than Their Elders Nearly half of young working-class whites do not identify with any religious affiliation.

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A large new report from PRRI and The Atlantic examines white, working-class Americans in an effort to explain what motivated them “to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton by a margin of roughly two to one” in the 2016 presidential election. The findings tend toward conventional wisdom—except when it comes to white working-class millennials. It turns out this group breaks from their older counterparts in some unexpected ways.

Less than half of young, white, working-class adults identify as Christian.

For the report, “white working class” is defined as non-Hispanic white Americans without a four-year college degree who hold non-salaried jobs. Overall, 71 percent of white working-class Americans identify as Christian, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. And among “seniors”—defined as those 65 and older—the percentage calling themselves Christians jumps to more than 80 percent.

But among white working-class young adults—defined here as those in the 18- to 29-year-old age range—just 48 percent identify as Christian, with 16 percent describing themselves as evangelical Protestants, 16 percent as mainline Protestants, 10 percent as Catholic, and 6 percent as another Christian religion. This is about equal to the percentage that said they have no religious affiliation.

At 47 percent, religious unaffiliation for white working-class young adults was significantly higher than religious unaffiliation among 18- to 29-year-old Americans overall (36 percent).

White working-class millennials are more Republican than their elders… but less conservative

In general, young Americans tend to skew toward Democratic Party affiliation. But for the youth of the white working class, the Republican Party is way more popular than the Democratic, according to the PRRI/Atlantic report. More than half of young white working-class voters—57 percent—identify as Republican or at least lean toward the GOP, while just 29 percent identify as or lean toward Democrats

It’s no surprise that white working-class young folk might lean more Republican than their richer, non-white, or college-educated counterparts. But here’s a departure from conventional wisdom: The youngest adults of the white working class are more likely to lean Republican than the oldest members. In fact, 18- to 29-year-olds here lean more Republican than any other white working-class cohort studied.

For both seniors and those in the 50- to 64-year-old cohort, 51 percent identified as or leaned Republican and 36 percent identified as or leaned Democrat.

The older-millennial/younger-Gen X group—which included white working-class Americans ages 30 to 49—contained slightly fewer Republican Party voters than did the older generations (47 percent) and slightly fewer Democratic Party voters (34 percent). This group was the most likely to identify as politically independent, with 16 percent identifying as such. Just 10 percent of the younger group, 8 percent of those ages 50-64, and 9 percent of seniors in the report identify as political independents.

But while the youngest adults of the white working-class are more likely than their elders to describe themselves as Republican, they are less likely to consider themselves conservative. “White working-class young adults are less than half as likely as white working-class seniors to identify as conservative,” according to the report.

Less than a quarter—23 percent—of white working-class young people call themselves conservative, while 26 percent identify as liberal and 40 percent identify as moderate.

White working-class millennials don’t think Donald Trump gets it—but their parents love him.

Just 34 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old cohort in question agree that President Trump understands the problems facing their communities. Older members of the white working class are much more likely to endorse this statement, with 47 percent of the 30- to 49-year-old crowd and 46 percent of the majority-boomer group on board. Seniors, however, are more like young adults with regard to Trump here; just 38 percent say he understands their problems.

White working-class millennials lean less authoritarian than their older counterparts.

Nearly three-quarters of white working-class seniors score high for authoritarian orientation, compared to just 43 percent of 18- to 29-year-old working-class whites. This finding probably has something to do with the lower levels of religious affiliation found among younger working-class whites, as pollsters found “profound differences in the degree to which white working-class Americans prefer authoritarian traits by religious identity.” For instance, 82 percent of white working-class Protestants and 70 percent of white working-class Catholics were identified as having an authoritarian orientation, compared to just 39 percent of those with no religious affiliation.

Young working-class whites struggle more with alcohol and drug dependency.

Young working-class whites are much more likely than their senior counterparts to struggle with drug- or alcohol-dependency. Some 16 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds say they personally struggle with alcoholism or excessive drinking, versus four percent of seniors. And 13 percent of the younger group says they struggle with drug abuse, versus 3 percent of seniors. The younger group was also more likely to say that someone in their household has struggled with depression (45 percent versus 22 percent).

Young working-class whites think things are getting better.

Asked whether America has changed for better or worse since the 1950s, most working class whites say worse (65 percent). But “there is a notable generational divide among white working-class Americans about the direction of the country since the mid-century mark,” the report notes. Just a little more than half (54 percent) of the younger group says America has changed for the worse, while 44 percent say it has gotten better. Only about one-third of working-class whites overall believe that things have gotten better.

Asked whether “things have changed so much” that they “often feel like a stranger” within the U.S., more than half of working class whites age 50 and above agreed but only 42 percent of those under 50 did.

Report methodology note from PRRI/The Atlantic: “The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.1 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The survey included a subsample of 1,956 likely voters. The margin of error for the subsample of likely voters is +/- 2.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.”

By Elizabeth Nolan Brown/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Why Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s Chief Strategist, Is So Dangerous for Black People

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Stephen K. Bannon will be a name you will want to remember. He has the new president’s ear. He also has a messianic right-wing ideological belief system that makes him dangerous to Black people. Today, he begins his appointed role as Chief Strategist to President Donald Trump. Bannon, a Harvard Business School graduate, served as Trump’s chief executive officer during his presidential campaign. Prior to joining Trump’s campaign, Bannon was the executive chair of Breitbart News. Bannon described Breitbart News as a “platform for the alt-right.” The alt-right, as described by the Southern Poverty Law Center, “is a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization. … Alt-righters eschew ‘establishment’ conservatism, skew young and embrace white ethnonationalism as a fundamental value.”

Bannon considers himself a leader of this movement and, unlike his new boss, Bannon is ideological to his core. He is driven to restore a Western world system and society based on Judeo-Christian values and a capitalist system that distributes more income to the white working class.

In a 2014 speech, Bannon gave a rare public glimpse into the full range of his views during a conference at the Vatican. Bannon laid out his ideological vision to save the Western world. In Bannon’s view, capitalism is still the most viable economic system, but it has gone off the rails. Two separate strains of capitalism now dominate the West and must be realigned through revolutionary action. The first strain is a crony capitalism of insiders. This “state-controlled capitalism” is “the big thing the Tea party is fighting in the United States.” This capitalism is abhorrent to Bannon and echoes similar insights from the left, of an economic system controlled by the wealthy few who are served by a permanent political elite. These groups hoard wealth and disenfranchise the larger working class, more specifically for Bannon, the white working class.

The other strain of capitalism that he opposes is what he calls “Ayn Rand or the objectivist school of libertarian capitalism.” Ayn Rand, a Russian-American writer, has become an important philosophical figure for right-wing libertarians in the United States. Rand put forth a philosophical view that rational self-interest is our true moral purpose in life and that laissez-faire capitalism, or unregulated capitalism, is the most capable system for humans to pursue our individual rights. Laissez-faire capitalism has long been embraced by right-wing think tanks and the modern Republican party. Bannon breaks with it as a doctrine because he believes it commodifies individuals into selfish actors. In Bannon’s view, people turn toward pursuing “personal freedom” as a way of life. This hedonism divorces people from a Christian belief system and that leads to a breakdown in society.

For Bannon, an idealized view of capitalism would be the 1950’s America, where the wealth and income gap were not as cavernous as today. The family unit and the Christian-based gospel held people together. This is the nostalgic world Bannon would prefer to take us all back to. A place where others who were not white hid in the shadows. A time where people still engaged in behavior not sanctioned by the church or polite society, but at least they had the decency to keep it out of the public domain, not only because of the the fear of breaking social mores but also because of the risk of arrest. A time when Black people were more overtly controlled for the pleasure of white pleasure and ego. Bannon’s concern with restoring what he believes is being lost, the centralization of whiteness to politics and political discourse, is what drives him. Blacks and others are collateral damage to this restoration, both in the U.S. and in Europe.

To restore this order, Bannon believes a war is afoot and he takes an ‘onward Christian soldier’ stand concerning his place in it:

“And we’re at the very beginning stages of a very brutal and bloody conflict, of which, if the people in this room, the people in the church, do not bind together and really form what I feel is an aspect of the church militant, to really be able to not just stand with our beliefs, but to fight for our beliefs against this new barbarity that’s starting, that will completely eradicate everything that we’ve been bequeathed over the last 2,000, 2,500 years.”

The embodiment of Bannon’s “church militant” is the Tea party movement. He sees the Tea party as a global call to arms against the two strands of bad capitalism and a rejuvenator of Western values. The irony seems to be lost on Bannon that the vanguard foot soldiers of his movement did not arise out of a concern for crony capitalism and the concentration of wealth. The Tea party, birthed in 2009 as supposed protectors of the American Constitution, was a reaction to President Obama seeking to give aid to homeowners who lost equity in their homes and were in financial ruin. The call to arms was from a Wall Street media insider siding with crony capitalism. The view that the undeserving poor and/or Black people were being considered for aid by the Black president is what sparked Bannon’s “movement.”

For Bannon, the disturbing racial animosity that is part and parcel of the Tea party is a side note and nonfactor as long as the greater good is achieved — the unifying of white people. As he states, “With all the baggage that those groups bring … we think that will all be worked through with time.” By baggage, he is speaking of their racial animus. Bannon has been more careful than other alt-right leaders in avoiding public expressions of racism. He instead provided them with a platform. When he says the racial baggage will be worked out, he means fewer immigrants in Europe and America and a return to complete white dominance over civil society. To save the Judeo-Christian world order, Bannon believes he has to galvanize a white populous through a white nationalist sentiment grounded in American history, thought and behavior. His publication has fostered dangerous stereotypes of “others” and a calling to arms of a white ethno-nationalist allegiance. Bannon is ok with sacrificing Black bodies to white anger if, in the long run, this white anger can become the basis for the revolution he wants.

Internationally he sees Europe as being endangered by a fundamentalist Islam looking to crash upon its shores. Bannon sees his fundamentalism as the good fundamentalism. His view of European history is as a benign conqueror spreading the gospel of Christianity. He apparently does not see the seeds of Islamic fundamentalism in the struggle to remove Western imperialism and exploitation from its homelands. For Bannon, Western invaders always have a higher purpose of spreading a Christian god to the barbarians.

Bannon will now have the best chance possible to forge his revolution. His position with the President-elect gives him access but not control. There will be an internal war in the Trump administration that will pit Trump’s crony and laissez-faire capitalist appointees against Bannon. Most of Trump’s Cabinet picks are like himself, from a billionaire class looking to add to its riches. This is something Bannon will see as a problem. Trump’s billionaire appointees will have no spiritual connection to their lower-class white Christians. They look to preserve the wealth gap. They are only ideologues to the collection of more money.

Bannon has to know this. He knows that Trump is mostly non-ideological except he is a white-race man. That is where there will be common ground. Trump will want Bannon’s help in feeding the white masses the red meat they crave in dispensing with political correctness. Bannon will want more — a fundamental change in capitalism. A world where income and wealth are distributed more broadly and Christian morality is more than just pious lip service. The only thing this group truly agrees on is the subservience of Blacks and others to the master race, as they work out the rest.

By Kamau Franklin/AtlantaBlackStar

Posted by The NON-Conformist


Loser Mike Huckabee asks : ‘What kind of Christian’ is Obama?

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Image: USA Today

Mike Huckabee on Thursday night clarified what he meant by saying that President Barack Obama “pretends to be” a Christian.

“I’m less concerned about what faith a person has. I’m more concerned about the authenticity of their faith and how that plays out in their policies. I’m also concerned about a guy that believes he’s a Christian and pretends to be and says he is but then does things that makes it very difficult for people to practice their Christian faith,” the former Arkansas governor said on Newsmax on Tuesday. “I’m disappointed if a person says, ‘I’m a Christian,’ but you invite the pope into your home and then you invite a whole bunch of people who are at odds with the Catholic Church policy, I think there’s something very unseemly about that.”

More from Politico

Go away Mike Huckabee…why don’t you read your Bible where it says explicitly…

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

Matthew 7:1-3 King James Version (KJV)

Posted by Libergirl


Not Just Christian Fascism: Eco Justice & the Hobby Lobby Atrocity

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The myth of American exceptionalism has always been impervious to data and empirical evidence. Despite being the richest, most prolific jailer in the world, the U.S. is fond of swaggeringly comparing itself to Western Europe with its evil big government social welfare safety net and waning capitalist moxie. Despite allowing Christian fascists to control its public policy, it is fond of denigrating Muslim theocracy while touting its status as a beacon of secular democratic rights. Despite telling American women that they are liberated, post-feminist and beyond all that affirmative action shit, it is beholden to a medievalist court blazing a “new” trail of misogynist jurisprudence.
The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision is staggering in its criminal disregard for individual liberty, women’s self-determination and economic justice. It is indicative of how much the political ground has shifted in eight years that the seemingly modest requirement that all employers be mandated to provide birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has emerged as a pitchfork clarion call for the radical right.
As commentator Sally Kohn pointed out recently on CNN, the cost of birth control meds like Plan B is prohibitive for women who are making at or below minimum wage (HL apparently funded Plan B and other contraceptives it disingenuously labels “abortifacients” before the passage of the ACA). The absence of this coverage will have an immediate impact on their families and day-to-day livelihoods.

But this endorsement of Christian fascists cannot be separated from the broader context of GOP assaults on worker rights and racial justice. In addition to subverting reproductive rights, the GOP has consistently opposed raising the federal minimum wage and fought tooth and nail against minimum wage increases in state legislatures like California.
The SCOTUS ruling against a requirement that home care workers in Illinois pay union dues was another salvo in the radical right’s campaign against public employee unions like SEIU. SEIU’s membership is 56 percent female and 40 percent of color. Nationwide, working class and low income women of color disproportionately rely on public employee unions to fight for benefits and higher wages

These assaults have particular relevance for black women because women of color have seen their wages plummet, benefits disappear and job prospects shrivel. While there has been much focus on skyrocketing unemployment among black men, black women’s unemployment has increased significantly. As Jenn Jackson writes in Ebony, according to the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) “black women only made up 12.5 percent of all female workers in June of 2009, yet accounted for over 42 percent of job losses for all women between June 2009 and June 2011. Black women’s unemployment rate increased 2.1 percent in the same period—three times the increase of the next highest unemployment rate (black men).”
In 2013, “Black women were the only subgroup of women who did not see a decline in unemployment rates. As other racial, ethnic, and gender groups have seen improvements in their employment status, black women continue to lose jobs at disturbing rates.” Similarly, as the lowest paid group of women in the workforce Latinas also have the lowest rates of workforce participation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Latinas make a lowly 61.2% to the dollar of white men while black women make 68.6%

Just as recent Supreme Court decisions on corporate “personhood”, voting rights and affirmative action have further eroded the right to self-determination for poor and working class people, the Hobby Lobby decision is ultimately about power and authoritarian control over women’s lives, families, destinies and communities. And the only way to beat back the fascist anti-democratic tide is to organize.

Written by Sikivu Hutchinson

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Christian American Patriots Militia leader: We now have authority to shoot Obama

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Christian American Patriots Militia leader: We now have authority to shoot Obama (via Raw Story )

An apparent threat made against President Barack Obama’s life posted on Facebook has caught the attention of the Secret Service. Agents declined to comment on the post, which has been removed but was preserved in screen captures by Social News Daily…

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Christian TV host asks God for ‘military takeover’ of Obama’s presidency

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Christian TV host asks God for ‘military takeover’ of Obama’s presidency (via Raw Story )

A Christian TV host this week called on God to consider a “military takeover” of President Barack Obama’s government because it could be the only way to save the country from tyranny. On his Monday Internet broadcast, Morning Star TV’s Rick…

Posted by the NON-Conformist

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