Shadow War
March 30, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Shadow War : The Battle For The Mainline Churches Are you politically informed ? Well, you may have missed this. Here's the background to the UCC's recent ( network-TV blacklisted ) ad series [ covered 3/29 on Metafilter ] : a 20 year campaign, run almost like a CIA 3rd world destabilization program and funded by the Scaife, Olin, Bradley, Castle Rock ( Coors affiliated ) and other far right foundations. The objective : to take over and politically neutralize the religious denominations comprising the National Council of Churches which "include remarkably high numbers of leaders in politics, business, and culture.... these churches are some of the largest landowners in the U.S., with hundreds of billions of dollars collectively in assets, including real estate and pension funds. A hostile takeover of these churches would represent a massive shift in American culture, power and wealth for a relatively small investment.” It's more than about $ : the Christian Social Justice tradition is in the crosshairs. Veteran observer of the Christian right movement Frederick Clarkson lays out the skinny on the "Shadow War" in the Spring '06 edition of "Public Eye", a quarterly publication of Political Research Associates [ more inside ]
posted by troutfishing (11 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: post it to your Kos diary or as a comment in the still-active thread from yesterday

Here is probably the largest repository of writing and journalism on the IRD and its associated groups and their activities on the net. I couldn't link to it on the front page because it's on my own site.

The IRD - the "Institute on Religion and Democracy" is a 501c(3) coordinating hub for individual factions of the "Association For Church Renewal" which tend to hold the following positions ( and more ) :

- Biblical literalism,

- Opposition to abortion rights and in some cases to opposition to legal birth control even for married couples.

- Hostility to environmental concerns and to action on Global Warming.

Indeed - on Global Warming: The IRD may have been the pivotal political force tipping the balance in the recent National Association of Evangelicals vote on whether the NAE should advocate action on Global Warming. Given the centrality of the NAE to George W. Bush's and the GOP's political base, an NAE vote advocating action could well have pressured the Bush Administration into significant action on Global Warming. That did not happen, and the IRD played a major role ( also see: Evangelicals Will Not Take Stand on Global Warming by Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post)

[ from an IRD press release ] "At the urging of evangelical leaders, including the IRD’s interim president, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) has decided NOT to endorse campaigns or legislation regarding global warming."

Andrew J. Weaver and Nicole Seibert have mapped the organizations and groups associated with the IRD. The map is attached to their story - Church & Scaife Secular Conservative Philanthropies waging unethical campaign to take over United Methodist Church published by Media Transparency (Click on picture below for full version)

The IRD's first major campaign, in the early 1980's was to trick ( apparently ) 60 Minutes into running a piece which amounted to an outrageous smear piece on the National Council of Churches about which Don Hewitt, two decades later, remarked : " "We once took off on the National Council of Churches as being left wing and radical and a lot of nonsense. And the next morning I got a congratulatory phone call from every redneck bishop in America and I thought, oh, my God, we must have done something wrong last night, and I think we probably did."

[ writes Weaver, from the linked story above ] "The broadcast on CBS's 60 Minutes entitled "The Gospel According to Whom" began with Roman Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, saying, "I am worried - I am outraged when the church lies to its own people." The camera moved from an offering plate in a United Methodist church in the Midwest to images of the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and then to marchers in Communist Red Square. The lengthy segment over and over suggested that the National Council of Churches (NCC) was using Sunday offerings to promote Marxist revolution. "

The head of UMaction (which targets the Methodist Church) Mark Tooley last worked for the CIA [ link : SF Chronicle ] before he joined the IRD.

Writes Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist MInister, clinical psychologist, and author : "In 1996, in a characteristically misleading fundraising letter, Tooley claimed that the UMC was supporting "Marxist guerrilla movements in Central America, violent revolution in southern Africa, halting U.S. defense programs, government-funded abortion, expanding the role of the federal government in the lives of ordinary Americans."....According to California-based investigative reporter Matt Smith, IRD and its allies' use of right-wing nonreligious foundation money to smear liberal church leaders through mailings, articles in IRD-aligned publications, press releases, and stories in secular newspapers and magazines has more in common with a CIA Third World destabilization campaign than ordinary civilized debate (Smith, 2004). "

Indeed, internal documents obtained through court order from the AAC - the IRD's "Renewal" or "Action" group attacking the Episcopal Church reveal the nature of the AAC's activities:

[ quote thanks to Father Jake Stops The World ] "...We consult with a large number of our constituency on a variety of issues including assistance with legal, strategic and communications issues. This includes some covert activity! One of the major problems we face in the AAC is that a large portion of what we do is under the radar or behind the curtain...

Covert activity? Under the radar? Behind the curtain? Unusual language for those claiming to do nothing more than create a "safe place" for conservative Anglicans."

A Talk To Action contributor adds to the incriminating mix another quote from the same source documents Father jake mentions :

"We commit to the guerrilla warfare of the next year...."

Covert Activity ? Under the radar ? Guerrilla warfare ?
posted by troutfishing at 7:55 AM on March 30, 2006

A very thorough post as usual trout. Thank you.
The book methodism@risk covers some of this territory.

Real WWJD folks, huh?
posted by nofundy at 8:03 AM on March 30, 2006

Why why why why why why why why why why???

Perhaps the desire to control the birthpower, or females, is so strong, so ingrained, that these individuals are willing to take it upon themselves to take over churches - if only to use the church to outlaw abortion! It's incredibly frustrating!

But the most frustrating part -
I've emailed all this to my good friend and mentor - head pastor of a very large UCC church in Grand Rapids - and I KNOW he'll open it, look it over once or twice and sort of chuckle. "Ah, I see Nathan's on about Satan or something or other. Aren't young people today so passionate?"
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:15 AM on March 30, 2006

Was I the only one hoping this would be about Babylon 5 after reading the first few words of the FPP?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:16 AM on March 30, 2006

Baby_Balrog - maybe, or maybe not. This is an issue that recently has been officially acknowledged by the UCC. Your friend the pastor will almost certainly have heard of this before.
posted by troutfishing at 8:26 AM on March 30, 2006

nofundy - thanks. btw, I enjoyed reading about that documentary. I apologize for not commenting. I'm very busy these days.
posted by troutfishing at 8:27 AM on March 30, 2006

nofundy - also, I've created anthologies aggregating material on attacks on the UCC and the United Methodist Church
posted by troutfishing at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2006

I don't get it. I could only make it through half the links, and troutfishing's follow up doesn't help much.

Churches are powerful organizations with strong ties to politics. They are socially and politically manipulative. And I don't see how most people could fail to find something sinister in any politically oriented church umbrella organization that they weren't a member of. Could it be a surprise to anyone that there is some bad blood and nastiness between such groups? Or that they have political agendas? Or that they're rich? Or that they have a huge proxy influence in government? Anyone?

Isn't this the sort of thing these groups do? I mean, that's not a secret right? Wouldn't we all be pretty surprised if this wasn't the case? This reads like an expose about how unhealthy french fries are, which makes it into some big conspiracy.

These groups are political machines. They have strong ideological agendas. This surprises anyone?

At least we've gotten them to stop the whole Inquisition thing. But I think expecting them to stop being agenda oriented, politically mischievous, and generally nasty is asking too much. And frankly, what is the alternative?

Am I just missing the point here? Or is this something atheists will have trouble caring about?
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2006

So.. there's a conspiracy to take over moderate Christian churches? Is that approximately the thesis here? (I don't have time to read all the links at the moment, but I intend to later).
posted by raedyn at 8:34 AM on March 30, 2006

posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:38 AM on March 30, 2006

y6y6y6 - here's why it's important.

American politics is currently dominated by screaming wing nuts - both wings. But there are huge numbers of quiet, boring soccer moms & dads such as myself who schelp in the minivan to a mainline church every sunday.

These people are the swing vote.

If any social change is going to happen, it's going to be because great armies of Dockers-clad suburbanites will slowly, quietly vote it into being.

On one side, you have groups like the More Light Presbyterians, who are working for acceptance of gay marriage in the church. On the other side you have groups like the IRD.

What America looks like 20 years from now will depend a lot on who wins.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2006

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