Box Turtle Bulletin

Box Turtle BulletinNews, analysis and fact-checking of anti-gay rhetoric
“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
This article can be found at:
Latest Posts

Posts for September, 2011

Ugandan Health Minister Says Prayer Cures AIDS, Linked to American Dominionist Movements

Jim Burroway

September 2nd, 2011

Health Minister and pastor Christine Ondoa

Christine Joyce Dradidi Ondoa wears two hats. She is a pentecostal preacher at a Life Line Ministry in a Kampala, Uganda, suburb, and she is also the new Health Minister for the Ugandan government:

Asked if she expected to be named a minister, the Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga and Moyo SS alumna, said: “Yes and no”.

“Yes because I knew that I was always meant for good things and knew that God was preparing me for a big task. But I did not know that it was going to come this soon and at this time.”

Ondoa is not without qualifications. She is reportedly a trained pediatrician, and she served previously as the Executive Director of one of Uganda’s three national referral hospitals. However, as Bruce Wilson discovered at Talk To Action, she has some decidedly unorthodox medical opinions. According to the Ugandan news magazine The Observer:

The newly appointed health minister, Dr Christine Ondoa Dradidi, has told The Observer that prayer heals HIV/AIDS, and that she knows three people who were once positive but turned negative after prayer for deliverance.

She, however, said medical workers and the general public should be cautious about people who claim they were healed of HIV.

“I am sure and I have evidence that someone who was positive turned negative after prayers,” Ondoa told The Observer on last week, promising to ask colleagues in Arua hospital, where she once worked, to find the relevant documentation.

As pastor, at Life Line Ministries, she works under the direction of apostle Julius Peter Oyet, who is one of the most influential evangelical leaders in Uganda you’ve never heard of. Oyet was present in the gallery when the Ugandan Parliament first considered the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in 2009, and he has been very open about his belief that homosexuality should be a capital offense. Oyet, who is also President of the Ugandan branch of the U.S.-based College of Prayer (or COP, which itself is a ministry of Rev. Fred Hartley’s Lilburn Alliance Church in Atlanta), was made a member of M.P. David Bahati’s staff to lobby Parliament for the bill’s passage. While Bahati is the bill’s author and sponsor, Oyet played a crucial role in its drafting. He reportedly told a documentary filmmaker:

I was there. Id have been part of the brains behind it. We worked on it. We planned who should propose it. It is the Ugandan’s bill. It is the culture of Uganda to keep purity. It is everybody’s voice. I worked with Bahati on this.

Wilson, who was among the first to raise the alarm over role played by the particular branches of Dominionism — you know, the thing that’s supposedly a myth — known as the New Apostolic Reformation and the so-called Seven Mountains Mandate in propelling the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Uganda’s Parliament, has effectively connected the dots between Ondoa and Oyet, to U.S. evangelical groups headed by Fred Hartley, III and C. Peter Wagner. Wilson points out that one key rhetorical hallmark of these groups is that they refer to homosexuality as a manifestation of “Baal worship.” Wilson also reports that two weeks after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in October, 2009, Hartley led a two day COP training session in Uganda to “mentor” Bahati and fifty other members of Parliament. Wilson’s report has many more details on the entire movement, tracing its inspiration from Christian Reconstructionist R.J. Rushdoony and Gary North, who advocated bringing back the Old Testament as the basis for civil law, including the mandate to kill gay people.

Dominionism Is Not A Myth, Continued

Jim Burroway

August 25th, 2011

Last Sunday, I posted my reaction to an incredibly ill-informed op-ed on The Daily Beast by A. Larry Ross claiming that, despite all evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as Christian Dominionism. It was all a myth, he claimed, made up by  the “East Coast media elite.” While Ross’s op-ed was grossly misinformed, Ross himself is not. His is, in fact, an Evangelical publicist whose client list includes such heavy hitters as Rev. Billy Graham, Rick Warren, and T.D. Jakes. None of those Evangelical clients hew to the particular definitional theologies of Dominionism, although some of them — Rod Parsely, for example — might be said at least to have some Dominion-ish tendencies, and another — Rick Warren — was taught by a Dominionist teacher (Warren denies having had any contact with theologian Peter Wagner since his seminary days).

It would appear that a few folks had a conference call and decided to plant the Dominionism-is-a-myth bug in more than one outlet. A few days before Ross’s piece appeared in the Daily Beast, Lisa Miller wrote a very similar piece for The Washington Post. Like Ross, Miller claimed that concerns over the Dominionist leanings of some GOP candidates and their advisers was exactly the same thing as being paranoid about Evangelicals overall — despite the fact that only a very tiny minority of Evangelicals hold Dominionist views. Critics can tell the difference between mainstream Evangelicalism and Dominionism, but Miller pretends that the word Dominionism is just a pejorative for mainstream Evangelicalism. And to drive the point home, she even puts “Dominionism” in scare quotes:

One piece connects Texas Gov. Rick Perry with a previously unknown Christian group called “The New Apostolic Reformation,” whose main objective is to “infiltrate government.” Another highlights whacko-sounding Christian influences on Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. A third cautions readers to be afraid, very afraid, of “dominionists.”

The stories raise real concerns about the world views of two prospective Republican nominees. But their echo-chamber effect reignites old anxieties among liberals about evangelical Christians. Some on the left seem suspicious that a firm belief in Jesus equals a desire to take over the world. … As Rachel Maddow so sarcastically said of the New Apostolic Reformation on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Aug. 10 : “Their goal, world domination, blah blah blah.”

Miller emphasizes that mainstream Evangelicals do not want to take over the political world, that mainstream Evangelicals aren’t of one mind, and mainstream Evangelicals aren’t militant. Fine, but a small minority known as Dominionists do and are. And to pretend that Dominionists don’t exist is like saying that since mainstream white people don’t want to bring back Jim Crow, then it follows that “racists” don’t exist and the word belongs in scare quotes. That kind of reasoning is patently absurd.

Rachel Tabachnick, who researchers the political impact of the religious right, appeared on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross on Wednesday. She gave a very succinct description of one version of Dominionist theology promulgated by a movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR):

Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence. The “mountains” are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.

“They teach quite literally that these ‘mountains’ have fallen under the control of demonic influences in society,” says Tabachnick. “And therefore, they must reclaim them for God in order to bring about the kingdom of God on Earth. … The apostles teach what’s called ‘strategic level spiritual warfare’ [because they believe that the] reason why there is sin and corruption and poverty on the Earth is because the Earth is controlled by a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan. So they teach not just evangelizing souls one by one, as we’re accustomed to hearing about. They teach that they will go into a geographic region or a people group and conduct spiritual-warfare activities in order to remove the demons from the entire population. This is what they’re doing that’s quite fundamentally different than other evangelical groups.”

Get that? This is fundamentally different than other evangelical groups. And Tabachnick’s background allows her to tell the difference:

Tabachnick, who has been researching and writing about the apostles for a decade, says her own religious background has helped her with her research. She grew up as a Southern Baptist and converted to Judaism as an adult.

“Having the Southern Baptist background and growing up in the Deep South has helped me to be able to do this research and has also helped me realize something that might not be apparent to some other people looking at the movement,” she says. “This is quite radically different than the evangelicalism of my youth. The things that we’ve been talking about are not representative of evangelicalism. They’re not representative of conservative evangelicalism. So I think that’s important to keep in mind. This is a movement that’s growing in popularity, and one of the ways they’ve been able to do that [is because] they’re not very identifiable to most people. They’re just presented as nondenominational or just Christian — but it is an identifiable movement now with an identifiable ideology.”

Christian Dominionism Is Not A Myth

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2011

On August 14, Michelle Goldberg sounded the alarm about the close ties that two GOP candidates for president, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have with extreme elements of far-right Cristianism known as Dominionism. Today, A. Larry Ross responds with a well-intentioned, but ultimately hopelessly informed counterargument that “Christian Dominionism is a Myth.” Ross’s argument rests on this crux:

Although her well-intentioned article may resonate in the echo chambers of her fellow East Coast media elite, Goldberg misapplies a broad label that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify.

Ross identifies himself as “a lifelong evangelical who understands the foundational tenets of belief in the doctrine of love, according to the principles of Jesus in the Great Commandment and the Sermon on the Mount.”  I take him at his word. I think that description applies to almost all who identify as evangelicals — as well as almost all who identify as mainline Protestants, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Mormon. Which means that it doesn’t really tell us much. And if the particular individuals that Goldberg discussed held themselves to that relatively simple and expansive definition, then there would hardly be any cause for alarm. But they don’t. And instead of understanding what they do believe to be equally essential articles of faith, Ross dismisses the entire phenomenon as ghosts dreamed up by the “East Cost media elite” (his words; how’s that for misapplying broad labels?) to pump more excitement into cable news channels:

Most Americans today consume news less for information than for validation, and gravitate to media outlets that reinforce opinions and a worldview they already embrace. Despite today’s proliferation of 24/7 news networks and social-media platforms, as everyone retreats to these silos of validation, we seem to have lost our public square, or at least the former civility of it.

Sojourners president Jim Wallis has observed that network-television viewers need to hear the collegial, respectful discussions among marquee leaders with opposing views that take place in network greenrooms moments before they aggressively attack and demonize each other in heated debates broadcast on point/counterpoint news programs.

But in discussing Dominionism, Goldberg doesn’t misapply anything. To the very point that Ross misses, she is actually applying a label to identify a theology that few, if any, evangelicals use or with which they identify, and she applies it specifically to that exceptionally tiny minority for whom the label does applies. These are not the people within the broad spectrum of Christianity, nor are they even those within the outer ten percent of its fringes. We’re not talking about the Pat Robertsons, the Joel Olsteens, the Albert Mohlers or the Rick Warrens. No, we’re talking about people who are far, far more fringe than anyone whose name immediately comes to mind whenever most people think of Christian Evangelicalism. And that is exactly Goldberg’s point. And when Goldberg says, “If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional,” that advice applies to mainstream Evangelicals as well. I suspect most of them don’t understand Dominionism either. Ross certainly doesn’t appear to.

Pretending that the so-called New Apostolic Movement and Seven Mountains Theology don’t exist or that those influenced by the Kansas City Prophets have not gained influence among particular presidential candidates here at home and political leaders abroad doesn’t make them go away. Granted, these are probably not the kind of people Ross runs into in his church, his friends and colleagues’ churches, or in any other circles he hands with. But just because they can’t be found under Ross’s bed or alongside him in the pews — or in Wallis’s greenroom sojourns — doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And when they are identified as close advisers credited for a big win in Iowa, or when they act as main speakers and moderators at a huge televised rally for a candidate’s benefit, the proper response is to ask hard questions of what they want for the country, not whistling and quickly walking away.

When Dominionists “Take Their Equal Places In Politics”

Jim Burroway

July 1st, 2010

The theocratic temptation that is holding many on the Christian far-right in its grip is beginning to alarm other Christians. Among them is Discernment Ministries, which lately appears alarmed at the tendency to call dreams and visions revelations from God without any scriptural or other basis other than the dreamer’s say so. Lately, they’ve been monitoring the Seven Mountains Mandate and the so-called New Apostolic Reformation. The Dr. Rev. Orrel Steinkamp blasts Janet Porter and Lou Engle, among many others, for their skewed version of Christianity:

C. Peter Wagner, chief apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), made a tactical decision to see Dominionism as temporarily consistent with democracy. I have not been able to locate when and where Wagner made such an “apostolic decree.” But, indeed, the Kingdom of God cannot ultimately be a democracy. For Wagner and any other Dominionist, the democratic process can only be a way station on the road to their “kingdom of God on the earth,” which is prior to the real Parousia.

Wagner’s tactical decision (as opposed to strategic decision) was a major change. It opened the way for the false apostles and prophets to enter the political arena. So now “apostle” Lou Engle is free to lay apostolic hands of blessing on 3-time divorcee Newt Gingrich. Now the NAR apostles and prophets, thanks to Janet Porter and WorldNetDaily, can take their equal places in politics. Now they have the blessing of James Dobson, who endorsed Janet Porter’s May Day event at the Lincoln Memorial. Now Cindy Jacobs, prophetess extraordinaire, who had a visit of the Seraphim in her room that caught it on fire, can share the stage with Newt Gingrich. Now Rick Joyner, who has his own political action organization which he calls the Oak Initiative — and who reportedly made a trip to heaven and heard Martin Luther repent of the Reformation — can rub shoulders with James Dobson.

So now these self-anointed, self-appointed apostles of the NAR, laden down with false signs and wonders, false apostolic decrees, and false prophets — who compete with each other in imaginary “can you top this” fraudulent oracles supposed to be from God — have been given the kiss of acceptance by Christian Right politicians, including James Dobson. The apostles and prophets see this as a match made in heaven, a giant step toward appointing apostles as governors of every state and province in the world, complete with in-house prophetic seers to make supernatural decisions.

Yesterday, Truth Wins Out’s Evan Hurst, who attended one of Lou Engle’s prayer meetings in St. Louis, observed this penchant to create a god in Engle’s image. Some examples:

He asserts at the beginning that he is a prophet, and not a teacher, which is telling, for several reasons. It shows that we’re dealing with a person who is not only delusional, but also not really a scholar of his chosen subject, the Bible. Engle introduces the story of Jezebel and Ahab, found in 1 Kings, to draw a parallel to modern times where, Engle believes, other Christians who he views as unorthodox are the root of most problems. On one side are Lou, his followers and like-minded people. He will later refer to them as the “Yahweh Separatists.” On the other is basically everyone else in the world, including most Christians, who he refers to as a “Jezebel” generation. He intones the call of the Calvinist reformers, “Sola Scriptura!“, which I think would probably amuse those old Calvinists, considering.

…However at the beginning of the fifth segment, we jump in on one of the creepiest moments of the entire night, as Lou Engle is explaining the “prophetic dreams” he had which called him to his work in St. Louis. Basically he says that God told him that, on the spiritual plane, he is like Charles Lindbergh flying the “Spirit of St. Louis,” that he, on the spiritual plane, IS “St. Louis” (of Engle?), and that his mission IS “The Spirit of St. Louis.” People, the man is delusional, and he’s got a flock of followers behind him who believe every word he says. He’s a cult leader.

“Saint means HOLY and Louis means WARRIOR. Holy war! I like that!”

For the record, Lou Engle is down with the idea of “holy war.” He likes it. In Arabic, they call that jihad.

He then moves into another dream he supposedly had, where God told him he had given him authority over Jezebel, and indeed told him to open his St. Louis church on Lindbergh Boulevard. This, to Lou Engle, is all the fulfillment of divine prophecy, but if you’re not familiar with St. Louis, let me explain something. It’s hard to drive around St. Louis without hitting Lindbergh Boulevard over and over again, because the road is very, very long. Think of the longest, busiest streets in your town. Lindbergh is one of those. Also, as Charles Lindbergh hailed from St. Louis, his name is on quite a few things there! But instead Lou Engle believes this is all evidence that in St. Louis is some sort of “well” that God has “deposited” for them.

Lou Engle continues to recount his dreams, with his followers oohing and aahing at him, as he explains how, he believes, God is giving him a “word of authority” over the government of the state of California, starting with the recall of Governor Gray Davis.

[Hat tip: Warren Throckmorton]