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Transcript - KunstlerCast #175: Despotic Christian Theocrats on the Rise
Note: This has been lightly edited for clarity.
Duncan Crary (host): The topic of today's show is kind of a blast from my past. You want to talk about right wing Christian evangelical theocrats, who are trying to take over the county -- you heard a recent Fresh Air episode about that. I'll explain to listeners later why this is a blast from my past. But tell me what you heard the other day.
James Howard Kunstler: Actually I heard two broadcasts. Terry Gross at Fresh Air on NPR seems to be following this story. She's doing a real good job. She's even maintaining her composure with some seriously insane people. Terry Gross back on August [24th] did an interview with an author and investigative journalist named Rachel Tabachnick. And you can find that, by the way, on the August th Fresh Air podcast, which is available on the Internet.
The title of that program was "The Evangelicals Engaged in Spiritual Warfare," and it was about a faction of the Christian evangelical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, that's been making itself felt around the country recently.
I think probably the best known manifestation of it was Rick Perry organizing a particular prayer meeting in which he had several of these so called "apostles" of the movement on stage with him. This is a really crazy Christian cult with very crazy beliefs. I think they're very dangerous.
I want to talk about where they're coming from and why I think they are dangerous. This New Apostolic Reformation movement believes in what they call "dominionism," in the larger sense that it comes from this Bible idea that man shall have dominion over the fowl of the air and the creatures of the earth, et cetera.
But they have expanded this notion into the cultural realm and the political realm to mean that their group, in particular, should have dominion over politics, culture, media, business, education, show business -- everything, really, that adds up to our society. They want to control it.
In addition, they have this crazy belief system. They believe literally in demons and devils. There was a second Fresh Air broadcast on October 3rd, in which Terry Gross interviewed one of the founding "apostles" of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, a crazy person names C. Peter Wagner. He's now elderly.
He discussed some of their beliefs in some detail. He was very evasive in several instances when Terry tried to pin him down on a particular point of crazy theology.
DC: And so in being evasive, do you think he knows that these beliefs are crazy? Or that he's doing a PR job? Why do you think he was being evasive about that stuff?
JHK: I think that he is sincerely a crazy person with crazy beliefs, but he is shrewd enough to know when other people are going to discount what he's saying, or to go further are going to believe that he's dangerous -- that his group is a dangerous group. For instance, in this interview with C. Peter Wagner, the "apostle," they were talking about demons. These guys believe literally in demons. And for a while they were discussing the idea that Emperor Akihito in Japan, who replaced his father, Hirohito, a decade or so ago, went through a ceremony, kind of his inaugural ceremony to become the new emperor. And part of it is they put him in a ceremonial room where he supposedly consorts with the Sun God from Japanese Shinto religion.
So this guy, C. Peter Wagner, was going on at length about how the emperor of Japan had actual sex with a demon, what they [NAR] regarded as a demon, which is the mythical Sun God of Japan. And the New Apostolic Reformation people think that's a literal demon sent by Satan to corrupt the Japanese Emperor.
And what he said was that this accounts for Japan being in a depression for the last 20 years, and for having gotten in all of these terrible banking problems and money problems over there. And also for things like the Fukushima nuclear accident, the tsunami, et cetera, et cetera.
Terry Gross was asking him whether he literally believes that Akihito, the ceremonial emperor of Japan, got into a room and had sex with the Sun Goddess. And he said, yes, he literally believes this.
So this is where they're coming from. They believe in a literal Satan, they believe in demons, they believe that -- she asked him whether political figures in America were possessed by demons. And he kind of hedged and said, well, they're not possessed by them, but they are "afflicted" with demons. That was his wording.
He was putting perhaps too fine a point on it. He wasn't willing to name any ones that he thought that were the ones who were afflicted with demons. But these people are completely nuts.
Another point of their theology is that they believe that they have to convert everybody -- and in particular all the Jewish people in the world, including all the people of Israel -- that their mission is to turn all the people of Israel into Christians, that this will fulfill some mission of theirs.
But the most dangerous thing of all, I think, is this idea that they have to control all the politics and culture and business of America.
I have a feeling that America is a crazier place now than Germany was in 1932, just before Hitler got his hands on the levers of power over there. It disturbs me greatly that we're so crazy, and we're so fraught with problems that we cannot discuss coherently and because we can't do that, we can't figure out any way to get to where we need to go in this country and to do the practical things that are necessary to reform our culture and the way we live and our political system. That we're leaving ourselves open for crazy people like this to come and push us around.
Now, C. Peter Wagner, on this Fresh Air broadcast about the New Apostolic Reformation, was very clear about the whole "apostle" system that they employ, which is the idea that you have particular figures of authority who speak to God personally and are vested with tremendous individual power and control over other people.
That is the way that they intend to proceed insofar as they want to take over all of the levers of culture and politics in this country. They believe, literally, in vesting despotic power in people. It's not really a long leap to imagine that they would be perfectly OK with vesting despotic power in politicians and in political leaders.
DC: Jim, this issue of political leaders and candidates having a connection to some loony religious background or religious leader is not a new thing. It happened with Obama and his connection to his minister or preacher or whatever in Chicago. George H.W. Bush was closely allied to Pat Robertson and other guys on the Christian right wing. People were afraid that JFK was going to be taking his marching orders from the Pope and so on and so on.
So, why are you taking this particular group of nut jobs seriously? Do you think they are more dangerous than those other ones?
JHK: Yes, I think that they are demonstrably more dangerous than any of those people. I think that they have a much firmer grip on the existing right wing power structure in America. Rick Perry has been consorting with these people. The figure in the new Apostolic Reformation movement, whose mission it is to take over government, she was the one who was behind this prayer meeting that was organized in Texas.
By the way, one of the things they did that shows how crazy they are is that they're in the middle of this terrible drought there in Texas and they don't even know whether they'll be able to have a cattle industry in the future. Rick Perry decides that the best policy, in view of that, is to pray.
So anyway, they held this prayer meeting in Texas in which several of the self appointed -- or I'm not even sure how they get to be apostles, but several of these apostles were on the stage with him.
In the Fresh Air interviews, C. Peter Wagner claimed that it was just kind of a happy accident that the lady who's in charge of capturing the political scene for them, happened to be the one who arranged this prayer meeting.
But I think you could also reach the conclusion that it was a very deliberate attempt to capture a candidate running for President. Michele Bachmann is also a captive of forces either like this or the new Apostolic Reformation movement itself. To some extent, Sarah Palin is, too. Sarah Palin was actually involved in some kind of a ceremony in her own church in Wasilla, Alaska some years ago.
We've talked about this before, the idea that history does not repeat, but it rhymes. One of the things that was a major part of Hitler's program, his platform, when he was agitating for power for all those years in the '20s and going into the 1930s, was the idea that he really wanted to get rid of representative democracy. The German Nation was really ripe to do that, because the Weimar Republic was so feckless. In particular, in their Parliament, they couldn't accomplish anything. They couldn't solve any of the terrible, crushing financial problems, especially that Germany was suffering in the aftermath of the First World War. Of course, they presided over that terrible chapter of German hyperinflation that destroyed everybody's savings in Germany, when that happened in 1923.
So there was tremendous ill feeling about democracy itself and democratic government. So, when Hitler came along, a big part of his program was to get rid of it. And I think that we can see a very similar scenario developing in the USA today, with this tremendous dissatisfaction with Congress and the idea that they can't accomplish anything, they can't solve any of our financial problems, our fiscal problems in particular.
For those listeners who are confused about what fiscal means, "fiscal" is about all the issues involving government taking money in and then dispersing it out for the things that government has to pay for to do. So all the big arguments today over taxes and spending in government are fiscal issues. And they are unresolved. And they seem, to many people, to be irresolvable.
This tremendous disappointment that we see with representative democracy extends, of course, to the office of the President. By the way, I am among the people who are disappointed in President Obama. But I am not ready to surrender American government as we've known it, especially not to power authorities that pretend to speak to God. One of the reasons I bring this up is because I had an experience back in the 1970s, when I was a young newspaper reporter. I made a specialty for a while of investigating religious cults. I got some familiarity with them.
I came to some conclusions about them. The 1970s were a very unsettled period of our politics and our culture. They weren't identical to today. In fact, there are a lot of real differences, not the least of which is that the much more active elements in politics then were the left. Now the left is just like a beaten dog.
And the right, in the form of the Tea Party and activist Republicans and activist Republican Jesus theocrats, they are the ones that are on the offensive now. But, the one thing in common was a population, and in particular young people back in the '70s, who felt so lost and felt as though they had no structure in their lives, that they were willing to accept almost any crazy narrative to adhere to if it would provide them with an armature for them to hang their life on and give them some structure and dimension.
I'm very troubled by the idea that there are going to be so many people in the United States who have lost the structure in their life that they may end up succumbing to movements like the new Apostolic Reformation movement.
DC: It's interesting that you say that, because I used to pay attention to the statistics more closely, but the Millennials are the least religious of any age group in this country right now.
JHK: I understand that. What troubles me though is that things flip very quickly. There are tipping points for phenomenon, including political ones. It disturbs me that we will get to a point where so many people are so disturbed about the uncertainty that they face and the losses that they have suffered, especially in their expectations, that they'll flip and they'll follow programs like this, especially if the boundary between religion and politics becomes so blurred that really what you end up subscribing to is just simply authority, if any authority figure comes around and promises to give you some kind of a structure and narrative for your existence that you'll snatch it.
But you worked for an organization for quite a few years that was a humanist organization that, in its own way, was battling religious fanaticism.
DC: Yeah, that's right [the Institute for Humanist Studies]. And the organization, for whom I worked, was a member of a national coalition called the Secular Coalition for America that actually hired a lobbyist. I haven't paid attention to them too closely in the past few years. But they may even have more than one lobbyist now. It's an organization in DC. They're battling against theocracy in the legislature and the legislation that is being passed -- when some Congress member tries to pass, clearly violating the First Amendment of the Constitution, some just clearly religious dictate into law, they'll oppose it.
A lot of them [these religious bills] are just hard to take seriously though. Do you know what I mean? Some of this stuff is just so...
JHK: It was hard for people to take the Nazis seriously, even after Hitler took power. Very soon after, by the way, he did do the things that he had promised to do. He didn't abolish the Reichstag or parliamentary democracy per se. But the Reichstag happened to burn down very soon after he took power.
And parliamentary democracy for all practical purposes fell by the wayside in Germany very soon after. It just became an ineffectual force. He disabled it. And it disturbs me greatly that the new Apostolic Reformation movement would seem to stop at nothing to do what it feels that it wants to do to take over all of the levers of American culture.
DC: Well, it's interesting how politically savvy these religious right wing groups are. I had a glimpse of it. Some of these right wing lobbyists would show up to events that the organization I worked for was hosting, either here in New York State or in DC. We had one lobbyist in New York and we had one lobbyist in Washington. These people have tons of lobbyists. They've got way more money. The secularists are outgunned.
JHK: Right. They're outgunned. They don't take these people seriously as an organized opposition. And they don't think that the effects of what they are selling and offering to the American people really amounts to anything. But I would actually take it very far. I have often compared this period of history to the 1850s in America, preceding what ended up being the greatest convulsion in our history, the Civil War.
That was a political period, especially the 1850s, where political parties lost their sense of what they stood for. Some parties, like the Whigs, disappeared, because they no longer knew what they stood for and people lost interest in them.
We were kind of in the political wilderness. That sent America lurching into this tremendous bloody convulsion that took hundreds of thousands of lives. I actually kind of think that, if we have some sort of a new civil war in the years ahead, if America becomes a disorderly place, and if there are battles for power and battles for authority, I wouldn't be surprised if the battle lines formed along similar battle lines to the Civil War in the sense that much more of the religious fanaticism in this country emanates from the South.
FROM SUBURBAN SPRAWL TO CIVIL WAR
JHK: I think that the South is going to become an economically very troubled place. Because one of my beliefs and one of my secular, economic beliefs is that the economy of the years to come for the Sunbelt are going to be proportionally just as bad as the boom years were in the 1970s through the year 2008.
That was the boom time for the Sunbelt, when the cities of Atlanta and Orlando and Dallas and Houston really reached this giant stage. A lot of businesses relocated to the South. They had, in particular, an economy that was booming on the basis of real estate and suburban sprawl building.
All of these activities have just been hammered, these activities are basically stopping now. So they don't have that suburban sprawl economy supporting them anymore. And a lot of the corporations, even the textile industry, quite a mile ago has moved on from the South, where it relocated from the North in the 20th century.
So they're going to be left high and dry in the years ahead economically. And I'm convinced that the place is going to become an agricultural backwater and that many of these cities that have grown large in the last 50 years, places like Atlanta and Orlando and Dallas are going to contract hugely.
There's going to be a huge amount of pain around this economic contraction in the South. It's going to make people crazy. When, and if, battle lines form over who is going to control whatever remains of the national government in America, it wouldn't surprise me at all if the battle lines were drawn again between the North and the South, only this time between a fanatical religious right and a secular, humanist rest of the country.
DC: Speaking of the battles, and I think you're talking about an actual pitched battle, but...
JHK: Well, I am in a way. I wouldn't pull any punches by the way. I don't know that it's going to result in battles like the Battle of Cold Harbor and Gettysburg. But I think that the issue will be that a lot of these states will want to secede from the USA, because the federal government is going to have really no effective power.
DC: But speaking of maybe intellectual battles, I used to find them so tedious. You're trying to argue with people who have these archaic, religious beliefs and usually very patriarchal too, which is why I find it surprising to think that Millennials would adopt some of these -- you were thinking that maybe they would fill the void in their lives with these right wing religious ideas. But forget about women's rights --
JHK: I know. But I felt the same way about my generation in the early 1970s, when I was investigating religious cults. Because we had just come out of the Aquarian, hippie movement, in which we were opposing insane ideas like the Vietnam War. And there was this sort of assumption that we were a clearheaded, clear thinking generation. That we could interpret reality pretty clearly. And that we were on the side of reality. But I discovered, in the early 1970s, that there were an awful lot of people coming out of the hippie period who were really lost and really wanted somebody to provide a framework for their worldview.
Let's remember something else. One of the biggest struggles in being a young person is the struggle to form a coherent worldview that gives you some idea of what you are going to do with your life and what direction you're going to go in. And it's really not easy to form a worldview.
Because, among other things, you have to experience a little bit of success in life to have your beliefs reinforced, to give you the idea that maybe you are doing the right thing, maybe the behaviors and ideas that you've adopted are fruitful and will take you to a good place.
So if you don't have that, it's a struggle to pull that together. And there's a great temptation to have somebody hand you a precooked set of beliefs and a precooked pathway to that kind of reinforcement and that kind of satisfaction in life. I think it's a false kind of satisfaction, because it's really not yours. It's not really coming from experience.
But if you have none at all, the horror of the vacuum of having no worldview that makes sense, that adds up for you, is extremely painful. So I think that that may be what will tip even secular Millennials into a situation where they just can't bear the pain of the uncertainty that we face.
And the uncertainty that we face is really tremendous. That's the one thing that I believe is certain is that we are facing a period of history where things are going to be very difficult and that hardships will be normal for many people. Those are the kinds of situations when the social fabric really tears apart.
DC: Well, Jim, it's been a few years since I used to really pay attention to these things. So I'm afraid I'm a little bit rusty. But I do remember at the time, this was during the reign of George W. Bush, when the religious right wing was more in the news than it has been for the past few years under Obama. I do remember feeling at the time that when one of these fringe religious groups would appear in the media, there'd be a firestorm of chatter on the Internet afterwards, especially among the atheist circles, who are in direct opposition to these views.
Sometimes I felt that these fringe groups didn't deserve the attention they were getting in the first place, that they weren't really that much of a menace. It's just the whole feedback loop between the media and the Internet was blowing it out of proportion. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that some of these groups aren't really worth taking seriously and just get hyped up in the media?
JHK: My own personal opinion, in this case, of the new Apostolic Reformation movement is that people aren't paying enough attention to it. And that they don't appreciate just how dangerous it is and what a menace it presents to a country that cannot get its shit together and cannot understand what's happening to it. And it's a tremendous temptation to take a set of canned ideas -- especially ones that, in the case of the New Apostolic Reformation, offer this kind of tremendous personal authority in all matters to individuals. It's basically an invitation to tyranny and despotism. I don't think that we're paying enough attention.
DC: Man, that's bad news for me, Jim. I don’t want to pay attention to this stuff. I got so tired of it, you know.
JHK: It may be forced on you. I mean, if a character like Rick Perry actually got the Republican nomination and got elected President, which is not out of the question. Some people may think it's unlikely, especially after the last several weeks, when he made so many gaffes that people are beginning to discount him, if not dismiss him. But we're presented now with three of these crazy people, who probably subscribe to this program: Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. There are a lot of other people who will be running for Congress and the U.S. Senate.
So the whole political system is threatened by this idea that a particular Christian group wants to take it over, literally, and make no bones about it. The only thing they really hedge their politics on is admitting that, by trying to infiltrate politics, they claim it doesn't mean that they want to run a theocratic state.
But I think they're simply being dishonest about it. They don't just want elected officials to be interested in being saved by Jesus. They want to get hold the levers of power and actually run a theocratic state. And they will not admit it, because it is obviously so much at odds with the Constitution that there's no way that they could really justify it in terms of what we all understand really about the separation of church and state. But it's clearly what they want to do.
DC: So Jim, I guess since we're talking about this topic, I would like to speak to you about your personal worldview here. You mentioned I think on last week's show that you consider yourself an agnostic. Is that the term that you use?
JHK: Yeah. I'm just a guy, who was raised in a religion free household. I'm certainly not a militant atheist. One looks at the universe and sees a very interesting array of patterns. You wonder if there is any teleological element to it, by which I mean some sort of intelligent force behind it. And I don't even pretend to know. But the catch for me is that I'm not particularly obsessed with it. I'm not disturbed by my lack of experiencing religion. I don't feel that I need to have an explanation for everything. I'm very content with understanding what I consider the spiritual side of the universe, which is that it's beautiful and that it exists at all. As Liechtenstein says, it's astonishing that anything exists. That's good enough for me.
So I don't have a particular animus against religion per se. But I do have an animus against dishonest and insane religious fanatics.
And I see a very good possibility that we could get to a place with the New Apostolic Reformation/Christian Dominionists that would be every bit as bad as the Spanish Inquisition or some other episode -- the early Puritan episode in colonial America, where you had a brief period of really serious persecution, religious persecution.
DIMINISHING RETURNS OF TECHNOLOGY
I think that could easily happen again. One of the things that's occurring as we speak and in fact is one of the themes in the book that I just finished, "Too Much Magic," is that Americans are going to be very disappointed with technology and with the things related to it, including the intellectual baggage of the enlightenment, of secular humanism, of ideas like empiricism and science and logical positivism and all of the ideas that form the basis for our fact-based reality that we have accepted for the last hundred odd years as representing the way things really are in the universe.
People are going to be very discouraged and disappointed about how technology and the enlightenment have let them down. And they're going to have to turn to something. I don't know that they will be able to resist forces as sure of themselves as this kind of fanatical Christianity.
DC: But I want to go back to something you said, I think on last week's show. You were mentioning the singularity.
DC: Who is the person?
JHK: Ray Kurzweil.
DC: Kurzweil, OK. You're going to have to refresh my memory as to what that is. But it almost sounded like this concept of "transhumanism." It involves this relationship between technology and God, right? And you were saying the singularity is a great way to convert atheists into God believers. You've gotta tell us more about your thoughts on the singularity. It almost sounded like you were buying into it.
JHK: Well, I wrote a chapter about the singularity in this forthcoming book of mine. The idea that I got from studying Kurzweil's idea was that, and his singularity idea is that human intelligence and machine intelligence will meld together and will reach out, within a relatively short period of like half a century, and infect the entire universe with machine/human intelligence and then infect all the parallel universes down all the wormholes of potential universes until they occupy all the space in the universe and become God.
Insofar as the Einsteinian sense of time is actually a rather plastic sense of time, a sort of mutable sense of time, that would lead you to the conclusion that, if we become God, then that suggests that we've always been God. In that case, who are we shoving out of the "God space" when we enter it via Ray Kurzweil's Singularity? So what it leads you to is the idea that if you didn't believe in god in the first place, then with Kurzweil, then you do have to, because we're going to be it.
DC: OK, and that's where you left it last week. And now I want to keep going. But do you buy into this? This doesn't sound like something you'd buy into. I thought you don't believe in techno grandiosity.
JHK: Absolutely not. That's why I wrote the chapter about Kurzweil, because I think that he's the poster child for techno triumphalism and techno grandiosity. I think that apart from the fact that he's a very accomplished fellow. He's done many interesting things in his career. He invented a certain kind of keyboard synthesizer early in his career. He invented recognition language for computers to recognize speech. He's responsible for some interesting innovations. He started many companies, including a nutritional supplement company, because he does believe that he should do everything possible to extend his own life so he can live to be a part of the singularity.
So he is an accomplished fellow, but I think in some respects he's also completely crazy. With a lot of this stuff, whether it's Ray Kurzweil, or the Apostolic Reformation Christian dominionists, or the Nazi party or any of these extreme belief systems, it's very hard to separate where the craziness begins and where the other stuff leaves off.
And insofar as we're in a point in history when we're very confused and worried about how we're going to carry on being civilized, these are terrible temptations for a culture to veer into this kind of organized insanity.
DC: Yeah. And I did notice in my few years working with organizations trying to oppose the theocrats, when you engage in battle with these people, you tend to adopt some of their techniques. And if you take it too far, you end up just as bad as they are.
JHK: That was one of the reasons that I admired Terry Gross so much in her interview with C. Peter Wagner in the October 3rd Fresh Air episode, which, by the way, you can get if you go to NPR.org.
DC: I'll put a link on our website at KunstlerCast.com.
JHK: And also, by the way, there's a written transcript of her interview so that you can actually look at it and study it some to see how crazy this guy is. Terry Gross was admirably restrained in not taking a kind of prosecutorial tack with this guy. She didn't try to engage him in argumentation over his beliefs. She just allowed him to lay it out for the craziness that it is without challenging him very much.
If it was me, I don't think I'd have had the kind of discipline to do that. I would want to engage him like Clarence Darrow at the Scopes Trial. But he was clearly insane and it was very disturbing.
I also recommend her interview with Rachel Tabachnick, who's the author of the book about the New Apostolic Reformation Christian dominionist movement. That show aired on August th on Fresh Air, and it's also available on their website. It's very, very disturbing. Rachel Tabachnick is, I think, an excellent reporter, and she's pretty much calling it for what it is.
RELIGION IN A WORLD MADE BY HAND
JHK: There's one other aspect of this to me, personally. I've been writing these novels about the future. The first one was "World Made By Hand," and the sequel was "The Witch of Hebron."
I plan to write two more, one each for the other remaining seasons of the year. And all of them are going to take place in the same town in the same town, a couple of decades into the future.
In that story, I've introduced a Christian cult called the New Faith Brotherhood, or New Faith Covenant Church, I guess they call themselves.
I imagine that there would indeed be a situation where you would have a group of people, in this case, my fictional townspeople of Union Grove, New York, who have been let down by technology and are living now in a world made by hand, a world where there's no corporate structure left, the electricity is not on. People rarely go more than 10 miles away from where they live. It's kind of a neo medieval situation.
So you have that group, and then you have this group that has settled in their town, of Christian cultists who have gotten over the disappointment with technology, because they've got something that's totally replaced it. They've got this theology that's replaced it.
To some extent, I very consciously realized that that would represent a form of the re-enchantment of the world, or your worldview. Because I maintain that reality has not changed, but the cognition of reality for the characters in my book, that's changed.
DC: Yeah. You have a wonderful passage in "The Witch of Hebron" where you explain that in very rich language.
JHK: Well, thanks.
DC: You're inspired by the fall in the Hudson Valley, and there's all this folklore from way back and it's kind of coming back. So, listeners, it's in one of the beginning chapters of "The Witch of Hebron."
JHK: But that was a pretty benign view of where this was all going, because in my story, in my books, these people are managing to get along. And it's a very small scale. It's all within one town, and there's only several hundred people on one side and 80 people on the other side. They're managing to help each other and get along. That would be a good outcome. What I see actually happening in our politics in a not very long period ahead, sooner rather than later, is going to be really a serious battle for the soul of America that's going to take place on the political stage. And it's already shaping up.
I'm very disappointed in the mainstream media, in particular the part of the mainstream media that's still in the possession of people capable of thinking -- which is to say not Fox News, not Rupert Murdoch's organs, but the places that are not religiously crazy or captive of the Republican right.
And they are not challenging people like this. They are not challenging groups like the New Apostolic Reformation enough. And I'm afraid that these religious fanatics are going to just blindside the people capable of thinking, and sort of get a hold of the levers of power and create a lot of mischief in our culture.
THE FUTURE OF CHURCHES
DC: Well, Jim, returning this conversation back to urbanism again, where we started at the beginning, I am not a religious person. I refer to myself as an atheist when people ask. But you could probably consider me an agnostic. It's just not really a part of my life. But I do lament, especially in my own neighborhood, there's all these churches that are just abandoned now. They're beautiful buildings and they were great congregation spaces. And I don't really subscribe to the message delivered in lot of the churches, but I have congregated at plays and other events on Sundays and thought it was really nice and kind of wished that I had that in my life.
And I've been thinking, would you ever buy an old church, Jim, and deliver a little sermon? Maybe we could do the podcast from the church every Sunday?
JHK: Well, I thought about buying a church and turning it into a house. And there was one for sale up in Argyle, for only about $150,000 a couple of months ago. I decided not to do that. I have some artist friends who bought churches and live in them and use them as studios. That's pretty cool. But I think the outcome is more likely to be the way I kind of laid it out in "World Made By Hand," which is that you end up with a group of people who have lost a lot of structure in their lives. The corporate structure withers away, and all the other institutional structures that people used to hang their lives on withered away, and the only thing left is church.
So in my "World Made By Hand" novels, you have the normal, ordinary townspeople whose lives tend to be socially centered on the congregational church, the traditional kind of New England, Northeastern version of a church, where you don't have to be that kooky. It's just a place for your social life to happen.And a lot of things are organized around it, in the absence of schools and big school systems and corporate workplaces and other things. The commercial stuff that I think is going to wither. So that I can see. And I can see people getting back into that without having to be fanatical.
DC: Right, yeah. That's good. But it's interesting, you mentioned the power of the people who are really fanatical and emphatic in their beliefs. Because I went to this quasi military school, and people were always complaining about the military program, so they got rid of it. And they tried to replace it with a softer "leadership" program and it just didn't work. You've almost got to have to have the strong, opinionated, militaristic [mentality to succeed in being adopted] ...
JHK: Speaking of military schools, one of the sort of quiet scandals of the last 10 years was the takeover of really the whole administrative apparatus at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, which, by the way, is close to one of the centers of the Christian dominionist New Apostolic Reformation headquarters, which I think is Colorado Spring -- where there are, really, it's a high concentration of Christian crazies. So they took over the Air Force Academy and they subjected a lot of the cadets there to religious indoctrination. Some of them objected. I don't know if it was -- in fact, I doubt that the situation was entirely cleaned up, because they probably would have had to clean out a large number of the administration and the teachers and the officers. But that's probably an ongoing kind of stealth operation.
DC: Yeah. And there's another group that was a member of this coalition [I worked with], called the Military [Association of] Atheists and Freethinkers, or something like that. And they're people in the military who are not religious and were getting really fed up and pushed around by the evangelicals.
JHK: Do you remember when you were working for the Humanist group? Do you remember that Air Force Academy scandal?
DC: Oh, yeah, that was one the issues, proselytizing in the military.
JHK: Yeah. And actually requiring cadets to go through this indoctrination in order to become Air Force officers. Do you remember what the outcome of that was? Because I don't think it was ever resolved, really.
DC: I'm not sure, because I left [the humanist movement], I think, soon after that.
JHK: I want to leave it at this, which is simply that I'm asking people to just keep their eyes on the New Apostolic Reformation movement. Because I think they're dangerous. They bear watching and monitoring. And thinking people, just be on alert for Christian fanaticism infiltrating American politics and taking it over.
DC: All right, Jim, we'll be on the lookout. See you next time.
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