Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beware Oprah

We Americans have a constitutionally guaranteed right to our own beliefs no matter how loony they may be. If we want to believe that God flooded the entire world and annihilated humanity because he thought we had a tad too much attitude, we can.

But what about our right to subject everyone else to our own belief system? There doesn’t seem to be such a right, at least not according to the American Constitution as I remember it. However, don’t try telling that to the leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR.

Last Wednesday on NPR’s Fresh Air, Terry Gross spoke to Rachel Tabachnick, a researcher who has been looking into the NAR and finding some surprising things. For starters, the NAR folks are hard-core fundamentalists. Really hard-core. They make ordinary fundamentalists look like a bunch of abortion-loving sissies.

According to Tabachnick, the NAR guys believe in Dominionism, which is the idea that it is their duty to take over government, business, education and all other major institutions in order to help bring about the End Days. According to them, these institutions, as of now, are under the control of demons. Yes, demons.

Obviously, most of us do not believe that demons are running everything. So far, all they seem to control are Goldman Sachs and some of the other major investment banks and corporations. But are we to believe they also control the Red Cross? Our public schools? The University of North Carolina? Duke? (Well, maybe Duke).

Are we to believe that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is controlled by demons? Most Americans, I’m guessing, would agree that the NAR is overestimating the extent of demon control here.

They're Everywhere!
(According to the NAR)

The NAR sometimes gets quite personal about its accusations. They believe, Tabachnick says, not only that gay people are controlled by “demonic spirits,” but that “Oprah Winfrey is a precursor of the Antichrist.”

Wow. Does Stedman know about this? Or could he be…? Never mind.

I suppose that those of us who don’t see Oprah as Antichrist material can dismiss the NAR’s ideas out of hand. After all, what influence do they have in America?

Hmmm. Maybe not a lot right now, but here’s an interesting tidbit that Tabachnick turned up: Texas Governor Rick Perry, who recently vaulted to the status of front runner among Republican presidential candidates, preceded his campaign start-up with a prayer rally that was organized with the help of NAR-linked people.

Tabachnick specifically identifies Lou Engle and Mike Bickle, the latter being affiliated with The Call and the International House of Prayer (not to be confused with IHOP of pancake fame).

Now, I do not believe that Rick Perry is going to be our next president. His beliefs are just too nutty. (Full disclosure: Back in 1980, I thought the same thing about Ronald Reagan.)

But no, even for Republicans, I think Perry just goes too far outside the boundaries of What-a-Sane-Person-Can-Believe Land. And his affiliation with the anti-Oprah fanatics is just one example of his loopiness. There is also his famed declaration that it might just be time for Texas to secede from the United States.

Admittedly there were more than a few among us who raised no objection to the idea of Texas leaving the union. Indeed, the thought can be downright comforting. But nonetheless, does it make sense that the voters would choose as U.S. President a man whose most famous declaration before entering the race was “We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot.”?

What really might cause an eyebrow or two to be raised here is not Rick Perry per se, but the association of Rick Perry with a bunch of people who think the rest of us are now under the control of demons and that only by our falling under NAR “Dominion” will we be saved. It’s enough to make an atheist say, “God help us.”

And, by the way, why aren’t there hundreds of Americans out there on the front lines right now with fists flying against these fundamentalist wackos? I imagine the wackos themselves have a theory: Their enemies, they might argue, have orders from Oprah telling them to cool it for the time being.