Soldiers of Christ
May 30, 2005 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Soldiers of Christ : "Have you ever switched your toothpaste brand, just for the fun of it?" Pastor Ted asks. Admit it, he insists. All the way home, you felt a "secret little thrill," as excited questions ran through your mind: "Will it make my teeth whiter? My breath fresher?" In this sharp article from Harpers Magazine, Pastor Ted Haggard, head of New Life Church and the World Prayer Team, describes the delirious thrill of deciding upon which brand of worship is right for you. We also meet some of the members of his flock, including one lady with big, brown eyes, eyes with which she claims to have seen "gay sex demons." (A belief more common than you might think.)

Who is this Pastor Ted, who speaks with the White House weekly? He writes books about "free market theology," he oversees the World Prayer Center, and as head of the National Association of Evangelicals, he leads the most powerful religious lobbying group in the United States.
posted by JHarris (36 comments total)
Double, already posted on the 27th...
posted by Onanist at 2:43 AM on May 30, 2005

Originally found on slacktivist. First FPP, please be gentle & advise as to what I could do better next time.

In particular, could someone tell me the difference between the two different titles on the posting page, and why there's that unsightly blank line at the bottom?
posted by JHarris at 2:43 AM on May 30, 2005

Dammit, you're right Onanist. And I did a search too, don't know how I missed that.
posted by JHarris at 2:45 AM on May 30, 2005

He isn't scary at all. I have met him. He is friends with my pastor, and he has come out to this area to speak several times.
posted by konolia at 4:42 AM on May 30, 2005

Well he's scaring me.

Make him cut it out.
posted by Clay201 at 5:16 AM on May 30, 2005

Then there are those of us who never chose to smoke in the first place, making this brand choosing irrelevant. ;-P
posted by mischief at 5:27 AM on May 30, 2005

"Have you ever switched your toothpastesnake oil brand, just for the fun of it?"
posted by jaronson at 5:37 AM on May 30, 2005

I just saw a gay sex demon recently...then I had sex with him.
posted by ChrisTN at 5:48 AM on May 30, 2005

I missed that soundbite the first time, though. "Have you ever switched toothpaste brand" sounds curiously a lot like Reverend Billy.
posted by fungible at 5:54 AM on May 30, 2005

Or Rev. Wayne from Snow Crash.
posted by Sellersburg/Speed at 6:10 AM on May 30, 2005

Video of Pastor Ted in action.

I dunno, konolia, he freaks me out. Pressed on the point of the evangelical attitude toward Jewish guilt for killing Jesus, he sidesteps the issue to score points with the network TV audience. The video sure makes me wish Chris Matthews knew his Matthew 27.
posted by felix betachat at 6:13 AM on May 30, 2005

I'd thought about the marketing of toothpaste brands as a metaphor for sectarianism before; it's reassuring to see somebody else has, too.
posted by alumshubby at 6:15 AM on May 30, 2005

The real eye-opener in the article for me was that modern evangelicals are using the research of Rodney Stark to market themselves. Stark is a rational choice theorist who uses economic theory to model complex social processes. Sects compete in a "religious marketplace" by offering a variety of "compensators" like which can be existential (e.g., "alleviating fear of death") or practical (Catholic schools).

That evangelicals are employing this paradigm in a organizational rather than a descriptive sense closes the circle, I suppose. The megachurches are big ole compensator factories.

God and mammon, together at last.
posted by felix betachat at 6:26 AM on May 30, 2005

apparently before coffee, I write like a 12 year old girl
posted by felix betachat at 6:29 AM on May 30, 2005

More such interesting articles about religion and pop culture by Jeff Sharlet can be found at The Revealer, a daily review of religion and the press.
posted by farishta at 7:06 AM on May 30, 2005

Now that I've read two of the three Harper's articles nofundy wanted me to see, I begin to get the picture: Dominionism isn't going to be forced on's being marketed to us. (No sale.)
posted by alumshubby at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2005

That is a fascinating article. There is some scary stuff in there too (why does Bush need to talk to that whack job anyway? Oh wait...).

These people need to be taken seriously. Their 'cell' structure helped lead to the Republicans beating the Democrats at the ground game in 2004.
posted by UseyurBrain at 8:52 AM on May 30, 2005

He isn't scary at all. I have met him. He is friends with my pastor, and he has come out to this area to speak several times.

Well, he's not supposed to be scary; otherwise he'd not be able to tickle the ears of all those masses of evangelicals who like that he can soothe their guilty consciences from worrying about the fact that their prioroity values of personal comfort and affluence are in sharp contradiction with every teaching of Christ.

He's one of those who deserves a millstone aound his neck for sure.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2005

No pastor in America holds more sway over the political direction of evangelicalism than does Pastor Ted

Ahhh power! Glorious delicious power. There is nothing like religion to deliver a big ole heapin' serving of power to the man in charge. Using the personal interpretation of ancient writings as well as private conversations with the deity ("And the Lord told me...") to dictate what everybody else should do and think. And surprise, surprise! Even though the Lord God made us all, some of us (females, homosexuals, non-American) were not created equal.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:00 PM on May 30, 2005

At the base are 1,300 cell groups, whose leaders answer to section leaders, who answer to zone, who answer to district, who answer to Pastor Ted Haggard, New Life’s founder.

Let me tell you about those cell groups. They are known as a "free market cell"...which, being translated means this:

Are you interested in quilting? You can start a small group focused on that. Would you like to teach a book of the Bible? Ditto. Wanna have a group of folks do cycling together? Ditto ditto....we have the same type of system at our church, copying them (actually one of their guys came here and taught our church how to do it.)
As to the section leaders, etc etc...the purpose there is this: When you have a big church, it is hard for even a group of pastors to adequately minister individually to each person. When one leads a cell group, let's say that a member of it has a personal crisis. If it is something too big for a cell group leader to handle (say, a suicide of a child, or a threatened divorce) you go up to the next level of leaders as far up as needed. This is simply a way to organize helping people. NOT to rule them or tell them what to do. I myself am a cell leader at the moment, and I am telling you it ain't no big hairy deal. Just about anyone is allowed to do it, as long as they go thru the training and meet basic criteria (I do think they do a criminal background check, which is only smart these days.)

Y'all have to remember that when the media writes about anything, there is no guarantee that they actually understand it-and we all know that the words people use to describe things can color the opinions of others.

If any of you have any questions about Haggart's church, I can either answer them or find out for you. Pretty much as good as from the horse's mouth. I will leave you with this thought-we know him best as one who teaches that denominations are like different flavors-that the type of church that appeals to Sally may bore Tom silly, and the church that Tom likes may freak Ethel out. All that matters is that Christ is exalted, not the style of the church. In that vein he is all about denominations getting along and working together. If that freaks you out, I just don't understand why. I myself think it is pretty cool.
posted by konolia at 3:48 PM on May 30, 2005

Boy. Am I out of touch. I thought he was a priest on Craggy Island
posted by notreally at 4:13 PM on May 30, 2005

konolia: I think what botheres these people isn't the style of the church, it's the message. Namely the hyper-fundi, biblical-literalism, anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-families-that-don't-meet-an-idealized-vision-of-the-1950's. etc message.
posted by delmoi at 4:52 PM on May 30, 2005

And that is why he believes spiritual war requires a virile, worldly counterpart. “I teach a strong ideology of the use of power,” he says, “of military might, as a public service.” He is for preemptive war, because he believes the Bible’s exhortations against sin set for us a preemptive paradigm, and he is for ferocious war, because “the Bible’s bloody. There’s a lot about blood.”

konolia: You don't see why some of us might find that frightening?
posted by delmoi at 4:57 PM on May 30, 2005

Well, delmoi, lemme go back and finish reading that article....might actually ask my pastor about that. Of course having done interviews myself with the local paper and having seen how my own words got twisted....well, I'd have to hear him say that myself.
posted by konolia at 5:30 PM on May 30, 2005

Who’s the Balrog?” I asked, referring to a demon that nearly kills Gandalf, the Lord of the Rings’s heroic wizard. I expected Commander Tom to reply with the usual enemies, “the culture” and the homosexuals and the humanists. But the Balrog, he said, is inside Pastor Ted, and inside every Christian. Before the church can condemn the world, it must cleanse itself, thought Tom; he believed that American evangelicals were filthy with pride.

“Pride’s dangerous,” he said. He was thinking of the last presidential election. “Like a football game. Us against them.” Commander Tom was pleased with the results but dismayed by the political power surging through his congregation. “That is not the same as”—he paused—“going into God. God does not see politics as a victory.”

* * *

Commander Tom has a point.

I met Ted Haggert ten years ago. Never been to his church, but my son attends occasional Friday meetings there (He's at USAFA.) What I think upsets y'all would be what are his personal opinions. I seriously doubt his congregation is in one accord re Iraq for example. What would probably freak me out is the largeness of his church.

I have also met his worship pastor, who did a worship seminar at our church. Real nice guy, humble. You all would have liked him.

Every time I read an article such as this I really feel torn. Sometimes my fellow Christians forget how their subculture looks to the rest of you. Actually that is one reason I hang around here and places like here. It is good to know how we look from the outside. Sometimes we differ on essentials-I do believe, for example, on what the Bible teaches on homosexuality and sex outside of marriage-but quite a lot of things that irritate or freak y'all out are things we could and should change.

God is very patient, for which I am very grateful.
posted by konolia at 5:50 PM on May 30, 2005

Holy shit, it's L. Bob Rife!
posted by bokane at 8:49 PM on May 30, 2005

konolia why do you have a blind belief in the bible?
How do you accept everything it says as true - theres lots of murder, revenge and slavery? just asking.
posted by adamvasco at 9:32 PM on May 30, 2005

adamvasco: that's unhelpful.

konolia: I'm honestly curious. In the link I provided above, Haggard says something along the lines of: "nobody in my congregation believes that the Jews killed Jesus". Taking him at his word, then, how does an evangelical read Matt 27? I'm not trying to pick a fight here; I want to know if Haggard was blowing smoke for network TV, or if there's a more subtle interpretation of that text current in evangelical circles than the plain sense.
posted by felix betachat at 11:23 PM on May 30, 2005

Felix - Im not tryying to troll here , its just that I come from a different culture where church and state are separate and Religious leaders do not talk daily with political leaders and neither do people interject biblical quotations in their everyday speech.
Thus I am trying to understand where fundamentalists are coming from. Is Konolia a fundamentalist? She does not behave like the the talking head bevets. This is why I have asked the question.
posted by adamvasco at 8:22 AM on May 31, 2005

adam, you might want to read konolia's posting history. She's definitely no bevets but has some views that probably are in the minority on MeFi. I definitely respect that she's been firm in her resolve yet has consistently posted for a long time. It breaks up the homogeneity and is a great reminder that Mefi is fairly diverse, but a majority consensus here is hardly the world.

Asking a question as wide-reaching as what you said probably isn't the best use of space on a thread like this when you could easily read what she's already written or privately correspond. Pulling it out in public just leads to more bashing.
posted by mikeh at 9:03 AM on May 31, 2005

Adam, bevets is just a software program. Didn't you know?
posted by bokane at 9:57 AM on May 31, 2005

konolia: I'm honestly curious. In the link I provided above, Haggard says something along the lines of: "nobody in my congregation believes that the Jews killed Jesus". Taking him at his word, then, how does an evangelical read Matt 27? I'm not trying to pick a fight here; I want to know if Haggard was blowing smoke for network TV, or if there's a more subtle interpretation of that text current in evangelical circles than the plain sense.

Well, if you want to be literal, the Romans were the ones who killed Jesus. Of course the truth is that the very reason Jesus came to Earth was to die. The scriptures say that He laid His life down-no one really took it. Being God as well as man, no one could take His life unless He chose to give it up.

Now as to the chapter you refer to, it is true the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted Him dead. He did not fit their preconceived notion of what a Messiah would do and be, even though He did fulfill the OT scriptures referring to Messiah. To me the most intriguing verse is verse 25, where the people say "Let His blood be on us and on our children!" Many take that as them being willing to take the responsibility for His death-but it actually has a much deeper meaning. It is by His blood we are saved. If you go back to the OT you will find the story of when the Israelites fled Egypt. Check out the Passover story. What they did with that Passover lamb is a type and picture of who Jesus was and is and what He came to do.

But getting back to what you asked, the truth is that all of us killed Jesus. For every human on this planet has sinned, and it is that sin he came to rescue us from. Besides, you can't blame the Jews for what happened in the sense that you mean-most of the early church WAS Jewish. In the very beginning they didn't even realise God was reaching out to Gentiles too. (See book of Acts for that.)
posted by konolia at 10:42 AM on May 31, 2005

konolia why do you have a blind belief in the bible?
How do you accept everything it says as true - theres lots of murder, revenge and slavery? just asking.

I know the God of the Bible. Been a Christian since 1980, and He has been faithful the whole time.
posted by konolia at 10:44 AM on May 31, 2005

Pastor Ted does not 'scare' me, but it does make me sad. All of that power, money, human capital, etc... and yet charity and good works seem to be really far down the totem pole. There seems to be very little discussion of Jesus' larger message, and instead Christianity is reduced to a 'feel good' religion designed to make you feel good about yourself and your choices in life... to make you not feel guilty about being well-off in a world of suffering. And I find it unconscionable that charity and outreach are so unimportant to these mega churches. It's the "me" generation wedged into carefully-selected scripture, and it has very little to do (at least at the top, I'm sure individual believers are quite different) with Christianity as anything other then a personal identity.
posted by chaz at 11:01 AM on May 31, 2005

konolia may I ask what you were before 1980?
I was a long time lurker until Matt opened the flood gates, and then you took off for a while I guess because of abuse. However as this thread is now well off the front page it will probably stay polite. I have a very hard time getting my head around activist fundamentalism. I accept that you have your belief system and as far as I have read you have never tried to hoist it upon anyone. However what I find strangest is a literal belief in a book published in the 1600's - thye king james bible - right - which was in itself a collection of translations, mistranslations and propaganda. The world moves on and sometimes becomes more sophisticated. Why is the fundamentalist view "right" and other possibly more intellectually formatted christian views wrong? Surely live and let live. If gays are not canvassing your children let them be. Similarily what right does a small section of the american populace have to declare a war on the belief system of another nation. It seems to me as all of this is driven by fear.
posted by adamvasco at 12:11 PM on May 31, 2005

It's typical of fundies to pick and chose what passages to follow. That this guy mentions violence and blood (old testament stories) over the sermon on the mount reveals all I need to know about him. Nevermind that the New Testament is just those books that reinforce the superstitious nature of the whole circus show. Had they any integrity Thomas and the rest would be read as well. Not that it would matter much. It all comes down to power. The corruption of the church took place when Paul's old prejudices resurfaced. Gotta keep those gays down!

It's like that previous thread about the other free market Jesus freaks. They must skim right over the end of Matthew 19.

In the end, Jesus puts up nigh impossible standards so I understand the mentality of choosing what to follow and what to ignore. Just don't expect me to call you Christian.
posted by john at 12:35 PM on May 31, 2005

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