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10 June 2005 @ 04:21 pm
 
I'm reading an article from Harpers Magazine on Ted Haggard, the pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. This is one of those megachurches; in fact it's THE megachurch, current home of the fundagelical movement. Some of this is striking me funny. I'd like to hear your thoughts.



Pastor Ted began the church in 1984. As best I can tell, these events occurred around that time.

He was always on the lookout for spies. At the time, Colorado Springs was a small city split between the Air Force and the New Age, and the latter, Pastor Ted believed, worked for the devil. Pastor Ted soon began upsetting the devil’s plans. He staked out gay bars, inviting men to come to his church; his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings. One day, while he was working in his garage, a woman who said she’d been sent by a witches’ coven tried to stab Pastor Ted with a five-inch knife she pulled from a leg sheath; Pastor Ted wrestled the blade out of her hand. He let that story get around. He called the evil forces that dominated Colorado Springs—and every other metropolitan area in the country—“Control.”

Two things about this paragraph. One... that witch acts like no witch or coven I've ever heard tale of. I know some of you on my flist are pagan and may or may not belong to covens, but you probably know people who do. This seems awfully uncharacteristic of witches/Wiccans/pagans I've known. What's your take on this? Are there people you know of who'd do this? Or were there back in the early 80s?

Honestly, it has the ring of late-night horror movie witches, not RL witches at all, which leads me to suspect that Pastor Ted may not be lying as such, but may have unconsciously exaggerated some of the details. As the article goes on to show, he thinks very much in black and white. If he is there doing God's work, as he believes himself to be, then anyone who opposes him must be taking orders from the Devil. The woman may or may not have identified herself as a witch, but he would have interpreted an attack on God's Servant as coming from a witch.

The coven part is also odd. I mean, maybe one witch might take unilateral action. But a whole coven choosing to do harm and sending a member out to strike him? That's the complete opposite of how I would expect a coven to act. I mean, they'd attempt to calm down a violent member, wouldn't they? And then pass around empowering lemon bars. :)

The fact/assumption that a coven was directing this person's behavior leads me to the second point: the name Pastor Ted gave to all the evil forces says a lot about Pastor Ted. "Control." Using this as a name conjures up not only images of malign forces enthralling and overpowering innocent people, but it implies that the evil is dictated by one entity-- the Mission Control of demons. Any negative activity is ascribed to the mysterious "Control," and is thus demonic.

Pastor Ted seems to view everything as divided into two, the ruler and the ruled. No one takes independent action; any action is assumed to be at the behest of a higher-up. Earlier in the article, the organization of his church is described:

The true architectural wonder of New Life, however, is the pyramid of authority into which it orders its 11,000 members. 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.

A very top-down form of worship, far different from the communal worship of the early Christian church.

Sometimes, he says, Control would call him late on Saturday night, threatening to kill him. “Any more impertinence out of you, Ted Haggard,” he claims Control once told him, “and there will be unrelenting pandemonium in this city.” No kidding! Pastor Ted hadn’t come to Colorado Springs for his health; he had come to wage “spiritual war.”

He moved the church to a strip mall. There was a bar, a liquor store, New Life Church, a massage parlor. His congregation spilled out and blocked the other businesses. He set up chairs in the alley. He strung up a banner: SIEGE THIS CITY FOR ME, signed JESUS. He assigned everyone in the church names from the phone book they were to pray for. He sent teams to pray in front of the homes of supposed witches—in one month, ten out of fifteen of his targets put their houses on the market. His congregation “prayer-walked” nearly every street of the city.


Um, I would also put my house on the market if there were prayer teams in front of my house. That's harassment. I would not consider my house worth the aggravation. And jeez-- these people don't even have the courtesy to give the assumed witches a witch trial. What if they weighed more than a duck? In Pastor Ted's world, suspicion is all it takes for someone to be guilty.

All you pagans, Wiccans, witches, whatever you may be-- is there a pagan side of this story? I'd love to hear what some of the accused witches have to say.

On the democratic movement in the Ukraine:

Kiev is, in fact, home to Europe’s largest evangelical church, and over the last dozen years the Ukrainian evangelical population has grown more than tenfold, from 250,000 to 3 million. According to Ted, it was this army of Christian capitalists that took to the streets. “They’re pro-free markets, they’re pro-private property,” he said. “That’s what evangelical stands for.”

Fred Clark, writer of the Slacktivist blog, responds to this statement. Fascinating reading.

This Harper's article is very long, and there's a lot I want to address, so I'll continue later.
 
 
 
Mary Lewys: Magic Manmlewys on June 10th, 2005 02:41 pm (UTC)
Well, what I remember of my witch/pagan reading was the rule of three - basically, whatever you do is returned to you three times (or something). NOW, all that is saying is that if you put ill out there, be prepared to get ill back at three times the strength.

That's why I tend to like the pagan view of things. Nothing's a sin, but be prepared to reap what you sow.

But what KILLED me about the paragraph you quoted was this:

...his whole congregation pitched itself into invisible battles with demonic forces, sometimes in front of public buildings.

Why am I envisioning pantamimed fight scenes on sidewalks?

I mean....that pretty much seals him and his congregation in the "Oh My God, what's wrong with you?" catagory.
Maureen Lycaonmaureenlycaon on June 10th, 2005 03:20 pm (UTC)
Two things about this paragraph. One... that witch acts like no witch or coven I've ever heard tale of. I know some of you on my flist are pagan and may or may not belong to covens, but you probably know people who do. This seems awfully uncharacteristic of witches/Wiccans/pagans I've known. What's your take on this? Are there people you know of who'd do this? Or were there back in the early 80s?

First, did the incident even happen? Is there a police report or any other sort of proof? Or -- is it possible that Pastor Ted invented it? The concept of "holy lying" is common among the fundies. People who can shoot down doctors who perform abortions will hardly stick at lying to make themselves and their mission seem more heroic. And I've also seen fundies imagine things that could not have happened, apparently in all sincerity, and claiming that before their conversion they did things that would surely have put them in prison -- things that can't really be hidden in a highly technological society, such as the infamous "breeder" claims.

Sorry, but I've gotta treat this claim with the same extreme skepticism I'd view anything at all that Pastor Ted says. I've never heard of a single verified instance of Wiccan or NeoPagan violence against Christians. If one exists, I'd damned well like to know about it. (And no, that story about the Asatruars who were confronted by KKK members doesn't count -- that was self-defense. ;-) )

“They’re pro-free markets, they’re pro-private property,” he said. “That’s what evangelical stands for.”

Few statements reveal more clearly that fundamentalist extremism is a creature of reactionary American politics, as much as it is a religion.
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