Four Themes of Biblical America
By Mike Doughney and Lauren Sabina KneislyWe've found that the best way to describe Biblical America begins by showing some of the video we've collected. Here for the first time, we've selected video clips that we've gathered over the past year to illustrate four obvious themes of this social movement. The most basic theme, from which this web page gets its name, is the assumption that America must be based on their particular literal interpretation of the Bible. We also show how they use military imagery and terms to promote their agenda, demonize their opponents and all those whose lifestyles don't conform to their demands, and how they manipulate human reproduction to advance and grow their movement. Produced as part of a presentation at the Bastard Nation annual conference in San Francisco, July 1998, originally titled, "Know Your Enemy - Biblical America, Compulsory Pregnancy Advocates and the Implications for Adoptees".
By the summer of 1998 we'd been monitoring the activities of "Biblical America" for over a year, and we'd accumulated a rather large (and still growing) library of video from a variety of sources. Some of the videos were purchased at conferences and bookstores, some were given away as promotional items, some was taped off various Christian satellite channels, and much of it was video we'd shot ourselves. Tucked away in our collection were many small scenes that clearly illustrated themes that we'd seen repeatedly on our travels. We knew from experience that explaining what we'd seen to most people can be very difficult, and it helps to at least have a few things to use for "show and tell," whether that be the cover of book, a flyer or convention program, or a piece of "WWJD" jewelry. Of course, we thought, a video would provide the best possible introduction.
What we ended up with was a video that we threw together in record time, highlighting a few key pieces of memorable footage from the collection. Some may think that it shows a lunatic fringe of America, a fringe that's relatively harmless if only because its ideals and beliefs are laughable to many. But we're not laughing. What we've shown in this video is just a small sliver of a huge movement, of millions of people and billions of dollars, with a level of political power completely out of proportion to its relatively small size. We ignore this movement at our peril.
We came to believe just a few days into the first major event that we covered - Operation Rescue's visit to Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio, in the summer of 1997 - that the usual social issues such as abortion, queer rights, pornography and the like are methods and tactics, but these issues are not part of the core agenda of the "Biblical America" movement. Eventually we arrived at the realization that the ultimate agenda is a very simple one, that being the growth, control and maintenance of a group of people with its own culture, identity and economy. Everything else - including the facade of "morality" - is secondary to that agenda.
The basic themes of Biblical America, then, are all tied to that core agenda. How does a movement grow and energize itself to continue growing? What happens when the movement, so to speak, "saturates the market," or begins to realize that they may run out of steam?
Certainly a full explanation of these themes, what we've observed, and the core agenda are well beyond the scope of a 20 minute video and this introduction to it; no doubt there are a few books to be written and a website to fill up! We'll at least try to cover the basics.
Briefly, four themes of Biblical America that we've chosen to focus on are:
It then follows, for them, that America, as a result of having rejected a religious basis for government, is on the verge of destruction. The only method, for them, to forstall such destruction is not to fix the problems that they allege will lead to America's decline. Instead, what they seek is a "spiritual awakening," which is just another term for "church growth;" the conversion of large numbers of people to the "right kind" of Evangelical Christianity that is centered on "lay evangelism," that is, that every individual, not just a professional class of clergy, must devote themselves to the task of converting others.
The manipulation of media and perception to create the impression of impending doom is omnipresent in the culture of Biblical America. Most people are optimistic about our nation and its future. In contrast, a growing population has been led to believe that they must act now or else the nation is doomed. Rather than actually getting one's hands dirty to actually fix social problems, they instead center upon the only activity that supports the agenda of church growth: evangelism.
It's important to realize that this mission to evangelize, to force change and conversion upon those who neither want nor need it, has no ethical or moral limit in their system. A simple "no" is not taken to be "no," but instead as "not yet." More corrosive is the idea that proscribed activities among consenting adults in the privacy of their homes, without the knowledge or observation of other people, are somehow affecting their quality of life; that the simple presence of "evil people" in the neighborhood somehow degrades them. There is no room for privacy or any other modern concept of "rights" as we know them in this system, for those who are not identified as one of their group.
Given this extreme imperative that action must be taken against the surrounding population to avoid destruction, the language of war and violence becomes common. War imagery fills their media; one popular televangelist (who at this time has near-zero visibility in secular media) wears fatigues and a U.S. Army t-shirt while preaching before thousands, using ammo boxes as a pulpit, standing before a Jeep in military colors. Music videos contain grainy footage of tanks and men with bayonets; another shows a gang with sticks, beating an individual in a red rubber devil suit to the ground. Types of warfare, spiritual, temporal and eventual, become undifferentiated; an occasional mention of restraint, lip service to "nonviolence," are submerged beneath overwhelming calls for action and destruction of their "enemies." The "violent" are to take the country "by force."
The whole process becomes a celebration of conflict where the contrarian is exulted, where basic ideas of peaceful coexistence in civil society are strangely absent, where conflict is to be generated in the process of "countering the culture." Ultimately, other people are seen only as numbers, either they are to be converted or vanquished. "Love" is a codeword for, "you've been warned, it's time to convert for your own good."
The demonization of the adversary is, of course, one of the elements of a prelude to war. Here we see the spreading of false propaganda, of manufactured statistics and vile urban legends, taken to the level of high art. Demonization extends to non-Christian Native Americans, to any other peoples whose beliefs are seen by them as alien, non-Christian, and thus not worthy of understanding or tolerance.
This demonization may be seen, in a sense, as racism. As the Native American speaker before the Promise Keeper rally says, the concept of "one race" of Godly men runs throughout Biblical American culture. Those who are not a part of that race, by virtue of non-participation in rituals of confession, worship and redemption, are in a sense seen to be of a different race; not differentiated by blood, but by group participation, identity and belief. The demonization and targeting of others not a part of their group takes a form indistinguishable from racism.
One curious phenomenon we've witnessed, and that appears in the tape, is that of a sort of, for lack of a better term, "environmental hygiene," that somehow, in their minds, the very surroundings are tainted by the evil activities of others. Philip Ney creates an imaginary taint of babies' blood in the swimming pools and drinking water that somehow makes it impure and disgusting, while of course he ignores the measurable consequences of real environmental pollution in that same water. But then, in his preceding comments, he assumes for his audience that the very earth is somehow pure, that burial grounds are somehow devoid of billions of mutating bacteria. His irrational belief in a pure Earth now defiled by evil supercedes even any pretense of scientific reasoning, even while he's become the preeminent authority on the so-called "post-abortion syndrome."
The fourth major theme, and that which is of most interest to the Bastard Nation conference attendees, is the manipulation of reproduction to facilitate movement growth. Children are consistently viewed as the future of their movement. While it's generally known that many fundamentalist Christians and Catholics have families sized larger than the norm, the "rest of the story" is that, for those who can't bear children, adoption - and a social agenda designed to fill a demand for adoptable babies - is seen by them as an essential element of the strategy to grow their movement.
We've used the word "eugenic" to describe the methods by which they manipulate the reproducive process. There is an element of "eugenics" here which we call "holy eugenics," analogous to traditional eugenics as "holy racism" is to racism. That is, that certain babies or children are more valuable than others; children of those in their own group are, of course, the most valuable of all. Almost as valuable to them are newborns who have been immediately given up for adoption. Remember that to their way of thinking, all human behavior and identity is the result of nurture; heritage, blood or race are irrelevant.
An insatiable demand for pure newborns has thus been created. To fill the demand, a pervasive system of so-called "Crisis Pregnancy Centers" has been created. While it may appear to the casual eye that the goal of these "centers" is to do anything possible to avoid abortion, the core agenda is actually twofold. The primary purpose of such centers is to obtain newborns to fill this demand for adoptive children; we have thus sometimes referred to these centers as "adoption mills." The secondary purpose of these centers is to indoctrinate, to convert women, and again, fulfill the core agenda of supporting church growth; we also, then, refer to these centers as "Compulsory Pregnancy Indoctrination Centers."
Examination of the materials distributed by the administrators of these centers reveals the policies by which they go about placing children for adoption, and their basic attitudes towards reproduction. Prospective adoptive parents must usually sign a "statement of faith" that confirms that the child will be raised in a religious household of the correct type. Such "statements of faith" must also be signed by center workers. It is not part of their mission to encourage single parenthood; adoption is, by and large, the expected outcome once a decision to bear has been obtained.
Even more ominous are some of their attitudes towards the legal system, which betray a blatant disregard towards the rights of birth parents. Advocates of adoption insist that those who are unfit to be parents - which of course includes any situation which is deemed to be outside that of the heterosexual two-parent family - must be induced, or even bribed, to give up their children for adoption.
We've included in this video just these four themes; there are, of course, many others. What we've sought to do is to illustrate that, when we talk about a "Biblical America," we are talking about a specific movement that is doing specific things that may eventually affect the quality of life of all Americans. We are not "religion bashing," we are describing a system of beliefs that inevitably result in behaviors that then have an impact on the secular political and social level, affecting all of us. We are not describing protected "speech," but of the actions of many individuals in concert as part of an influential movement.
Originally webpubished January 17, 1999