Friday, July 10, 2009

Paranoia And Christian Fundamentalist Groups In SA


Recently while looking over the postings on the links page of a group affiliated to a larger local anti-gay hate group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/christianview/links), I found the following items:

"! A great site about Survival Survivalism Homesteading plus Firearms A website with a huge amount of info about wilderness survival, survival Training, survival skills, homesteading, preparedness, survival Navigation, survival First aid, self defense, survival books, survival guides, survivalism, firearms, handguns, rifles, shotguns, ammunition, military manuals, us army manuals, navy manuals, marine manuals, survival books, survival manuals, survivalist, survival Navigation, survival First aid, Army Survival Manual, survival Shelter, survival retreat, Survival priorities, Other survival skills, desert survival, Natural disaster survival, tornadoe survival, Hunting, Bushcraft, underground shelters, Survival knife, storing food, fallout shelters, survivalists, Civil Defense, nuclear war survival, nuclear survival, terrorist attacks survival, Bug Out Bag, BOB, survival Training, sere, patriots, sere manual, military guides, backpacking, camping, combat, disaster, emergency, emergency kits, http://www.survivalebooks.com/

! A very nice Survival plus gun forum called survivalismforum.com They have neat info about how to get concealed weapons licenses permits CCW survival gun info survival retreats how to's wilderness survival wilderness skills survivalist info survivalism info homesteading info gold mining gold prospecting military manuals gun manuals survival manuals and army field manuals army technical manuals."

Surprisingly both items were posted by a woman - and a straight (presumably) Christian fundamentalist! Now I have to ask myself: Is somebody expecting a war?

This is South Africa - a country where the same people who fight for gun ownership rights also fight against equality for gay and transgender citizens. Now I don't know about you, but that certainly looks like food for thought to me. Yummy.

I can grasp the need for some groups of people to stand with their backs toward each other in order to have the dutch courage to face the world around them, and even to arm themselves for various reasons - but what I really find puzzling is that these posts were found on a Christian fundamentalist group wall! What happened to 'turn the other cheek' or 'love thy neighbor'? While I realize that many people hate gay and trangender people, and while the above postings were not directly related to the topic of gay or trans people - they were posted on a site replete with topics unique to religious fundamentalists - their obsession with abortion, prostitution, whether or not Christmas is still relevant, the shocking decline in public morality (tsk, tsk) - and homosexual perverts 'recruiting' in "our schools", "threatening Christianity", "the church" and "the family". I still find this connection - and their reasoning skills rather puzzling.

This clearly ties in with certain similar groups in the USA - bigot and fruitcake central as far as the religious right wing is concerned - where even wingnut groups like the KKK and American Socialist Workers (Nazi) Party consider themselves "Christian". Like their persistent and ubiquitous intolerance of diversity, I just find the Christian fundamentalist obsession with firearms and survivalist training and the obvious "persecution complex" a curious contradiction - and a manifestation of their inherent paranoia. It makes me wonder what - or WHO they are so frightened of?

The fact that most of these groups are based in Cape Town and KZN, but predominantly in Cape Town, also makes me wonder about a few things. Perhaps it is something in the water?

I mean, they only think they are being persecuted - while we actually are being persecuted - and you don't see gay people rushing off to buy guns and get military training and equipment down at the local surplus store? Quite a difference.

Let's look at an example from our own religious radical right wing in SA, Charl van Wyk of Christian Action Network, Africa Christian Action, Frontline Fellowship, In Touch Missions International, Gun Owners Of SA, Christian Liberty Books... hang on a second - Gun Owners... - what?

Let's look deeper: Charl van Wyk is the author of a book on religion, guns, religion, more guns, the use of guns to defend religion, and the use of guns justified by religion. He is one of the founders of the Gun Owners Association of SA (GOSA). More than just talking about God and the use of guns, Mr van Wyk has done both. Twice. Several years ago he just happened to be in a church that was attacked by APLA "terrorists". 11 were killed, 58 wounded in the attack - and that was just the church-goers. Apparently only one terrorist was wounded by him with a .38 Special revolver - affectionately reffered to on van Wyk's sites as a "snubby". More recently (2009) he was involved in a public shoot-out with would-be hijackers in a city street, this time not actually hitting anything, but none the less inspiring more fan mail and perhaps a few more radio spots on a fundamentalist radio station. In Oct 2004, Charl Van Wyk became one of the founding members of Gun Owners of South Africa, (GOSA), an online civilian gun rights ownership group, which is also involved in Public demonstrations against the Firearms Control Act. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_James_Church_massacre)


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Let's analyze this information:

What kind of a Christian minister - even a "missionary" takes a gun with him TO church - and even INTO church? Especially in a large city like Cape Town which is, as unlikely a target for political unrest as you may get - at any rate far from a likely terrorist strike? I mean, really - what are the odds of one man taking a gun with him into church - and that very same church getting attacked by three men with automatic weapons and handgrenades? Add to that the likelihood that the same man would happen to be a victim of a second similar violent incident and again save the day to be hailed as a "Christian missionary hero"? 'Pretty darn small' I hear people muttering. It would seem this sort of thing happens around Mr van Wyk.

There are names for people followed by such bad luck - in the army they get called 'f***ing bullet magnets' by whatever is left of their platoons - I wouldn't much want to be around him, no sir.

Following these events of 1993, this man then goes on in 2004 to became one of the founding members of Gun Owners of South Africa (GOSA), and to promote a pro-gun lobby while also being high up in a local religious fundamentalist organization which punts "pro-life" and is exceedingly outspoken in its opposition of abortion, and that other bugbear and favorite pew-filler of relgious fundamentalists - gay rights.

On his website (http://www.charlvanwyk.info) where he heavily promotes his own undeniably heroic action in the attack on his church - and his book, which is naturally also based on his heroic deeds at said tragic event. The site also details his involvement with various international groups - mostly American - including Gun Owners of America and the local anti-gay and anti-abortion group Christian Action Network - of which he is the number two man after Peter Hammond - the second great example of right wing fundamentalist bigotry and hypocrisy I will focus on in a minute. He is listed as a missionary for a US group "In Touch Missions International" which has 'missions' in SA (and surprise, surprise, Uganda) and which also seems to support another Affiliate of the CAN in KZN called Kwasazibuntu Mission. But that isn't strange, you often find these organizations have so many lines of interlinked support drawn between them, back and forth, that it looks like a spider-web that could blot out the sun.

He also advertizes his services as a public speaker and his frequent tours of the USA - and his weekly radio talk show called "Salt & Light" on a CAN affiliated "Christian" radio station every Tuesday. I have never listened to it myself, and don't know what his usual topics are - but I can venture a guess. And before anyone tells me Mr van Wyk isn't listed as being part of Christian Action Network, let me point out that he is listed as Assistant Director of Frontline Fellowship, Director of Africa Christian Action, and that both groups form part of the umbrella organization called Christian Action Network run by his boss over at Frontline Fellowship, Peter Hammond.

Peter Hammond was the author of "the Pink Agenda" in 2001, and his ACA affiliate pushed his American "Homosexual Agenda" clone here in SA, attempting to spread an article so full of hatred and lies about gay and transgender people, while claiming it to be "fact", that it still drips venom to this day.

Africa Christian Action was the group that tried to market it - and still does, from the only online sales point that will sell it - their own. They brag that proceeds of sales of this book go towards so-called "ex-gay" ministries which resort to actual torture and obsolete and dangerous psychological practice which was already obsolete 40 years ago - in order to supposedly turn gay people "straight" - or punish them for being born gay in the first place. How noble of them. Mr Hammond has also dis - graced the steps of Parliament on numerous occasions to oppose gay and trans civil rights - calling them "privileges for perverts" and deploring South Africa's failure to declare homosexuality a criminal offence as it is in the rest of Africa. (I presume this man has full knowledge of the extent to which such inhuman laws are enforced in countries such as Uganda. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-9030.html)

More about "the Pink Agenda":

http://www.christianaction.org.za/newsletter_uca/uca_2002-ed1_pinkagenda.htm "It would be a scandalous irony if all types of obscenity are protected, but genuine research and academic endeavour is censored. Pray that we will be able to continue to distribute the book widely and get the truth about the radical homosexual agenda out." Co-author, Dr. Peter Hammond.

Hark at him: "genuine research and academic endeavour" indeed! This said by the co-author about a piece of propaganda written by himself and another whackjob gay-hating bigot at the same group, using reference material sourced from right wing "authorities" on homosexuality such as "The Pink Swastika" and disgraced former US psychologist Paul Cameron who advocates extermination for gay people in the same pattern as his Nazi mentors - http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000,020.htm

Peter Hammond, a "reverend", is not above violence himself, having a reputation for having served the SA Army in cross-border covert operations for the then Apartheid government and who has appeared in the news several times as being suspected of and even arrested by various embattled African countries for "smuggling arms" while on "ministry missions" for God and the so-called "persecuted Church". In fact he even credits himself with helping to set up the fundamentalist Christian government of Zambia. Considering the right wing ambitions of late, I can't say i really doubt this - after all it seems he and his organization have been getting increasingly involved in politics in South Africa - and most of the religious politcal parties (who also hate gay people) have been bragging of their intentions to rub out that pesky little line that separates church and state. A few years ago Hammond was plastered in the papers for taking one of his offspring out to "harmlessly paintball" young children trick-or-treating one All Hallows Eve - which one article claims he described as a "joke". According to this article: http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=vn20051130104827297C942563 several children were lured to his car and shot at extreme close range.

"It was meant to be a joke: nobody was meant to get hurt," He said. - I am sure this man knows full-well how much a direct hit with a paintball can hurt - and they sure weren't laughing.

"I laid down a few ground rules: we were just going for teenagers, no kids." - Oh so that makes it all right then?

"We feel terrible that anyone got hurt, but it really was an accident" - yeah, right. Some accident.

There is some discrepancy as to who exactly was the trigger man, but according to the victims, the man laughed before driving away. One child was injured after being shot in the face at point blank range. Hammond was arrested and charged with assault soon after being traced by detectives and he and his controversial brand of "Christianity" made the news once again. After this it seems he earned the nickname "the paintball pastor" and has generally kept a low profile since the assault charge, the case having been postponed several times since then. Some kind of agreement must have been reached, because the case seems to have completely disappeared form the radar after 2006 without any mention of an outcome or conviction.

"Boys need to play with toy weapons to learn how to be "aggressive and adventurous", according to Lenora Hammond, wife of paintball-evangelist Peter Hammond. (http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=13&art_id=qw1133527684249B215)

"Men who follow Jesus Christ the dragon-slayer, must themselves become lesser dragon-slayers. And this is why it is absolutely essential for boys to play with wooden swords and plastic guns," she writes in an article on Hammond's Frontline Fellowship website www.frontline.org.za."

"We want to instill in them a hatred for evil and to have a deep desire to fight it. They are learning what a weapon feels like in their hands."

Terrific parenting tips, for sure. I wonder what sort of message that brings home to a young child ? When you don't agree with somebody else, hate them - and even if they aren't doing you any harm, go out and shoot them. And when daddy is caught doing bad things, blame it on the kids because they are under age - or call it an accident - but ultimately, violence is the solution. Model citizen.

He claims that it was his children, and not him, but does accept responsibility. Does he also accept responsibility for the damage he and his wife have done to their OWN children, their view of God, grace and love, and his disgusting example as an "evangelist"? No, give him some time to put a spin on it and he will probably blame it all on the "pink agenda", just like everything else.

In recent months, CAN and Hammond (along with long time associate Erroll Naidoo of His People Church, Morningstar nternational and the Family Policy Institute) have been pushing the religious right fundamentalist political parties in SA to unite into a kind of "Republican Party" for South Africa, gay rights remaining their prime target and rallying call. Late last year such an attempt failed dismally because the leadership of the CDA and ACDP each wanted the limelight for themselves and could not agree on names, representation in Parliament and a logo for their super alliance of evil and then started slining mud at each other about trivial matters such as who broke away from whom over discipline issues and formed their own splinter party..

It seems Mr van Wyk, being the man in the pro-gun lobby is also well and truly right up there in a clearly anti-gay religious fundamentalist alliance. Mr Naidoo has recently even been bragging that he was invited to have dinner with Bishop/Dr/whatever Mvume Dandala - called leader of the new kid on the block party - COPE, although what this bodes as far as changes in the political landscape and the potential fundamenalization of COPE, only God knows. COPE meanwhile appears to be suffering heavy financial losses and even it's members are now streaming back to their parent organization, the ANC. Even MP's and high level members are resigning. All I can say is that if their little religious right wing alliance of ACDP and numerous other small parties materializes - and if they align with a larger party such as COPE then the run-up to 2014 will be very, very interesting indeed - and we do know that the ancient Chinese meant that saying "may you live in interesting times" as a curse, don't we?

As far as this is concerned, van Wyk certainly cannot claim innocence here. In a "guilt by association" scenario, this man might do so - and then fall flat on his face. As a man standing in the shadow of Peter Hammond since about 1991, he cannot deny seeing what is in that shadow. Firstly, as a number two in such an organization, he cannot plead ignorance of the activities or policies of his group or groups. And secondly, he is also the manager of Christian Liberty Books, the online outlet for Hammond's "the Pink Agenda" - and also the man who defended its publication under that stale old "freedom of religion" bastion of the religious right. (http://www.cft.org.za/articles/attack_on_religious_freedom_.htm). Ironically you will also find comments by Phillip Rosenthal, leader of a subgroup of the CAN, Christian View Network - on whose site I found the postings re military training and hardware I listed above. As a footnote, Christian Action Networks website includes a subsite called "Firearm News" which promotes GOSA(http://www.christianaction.org.za/firearmnews/index.htm)... interesting? I think so. You should too.

In articles displayed on van Wyk's site, (here for example: http://www.charlvanwyk.info/news2008.html) he clearly shows a bias against the pink community by siding with government officials complaining that they have to perform "homosexual" marriages.

In articles posted around the web on mostly Christian fundamentalist sites, he has turned into a real folk hero, our Mr van Wyk. Christian Newswire (http://www.christiannewswire.com/news/168163108.html) and Gun Owners Of America aren't shy in calling this man "a hero". Some articles even use the bible as justification to carry guns. Some of the topics below as listed on the GOA site indicate the paranoia with which they view the world - remember - this is an American site, not from somewhere in the middle of Iraq, where such a view could be excused by circumstances.

"No Guns For Negroes; Knife control needed at Virginia Tech; More Gun Control Introduced in Congress; Mitigating Mumbai and the importance of 'Active Shooter'; The Gun Grabbing Veil has been Lifted; Big Brother's new target: Tracking of all firearms; ALERT! Sotomayor Ruled Against Gun Rights!; Congress' Plan Would Let AG 'Ban Guns at Will'; Who Will Defend You?; Guns stop crime; More gun shows = fewer murders; Ammunition Ban And Registration Proposal Getting Fresh Look (Updated); Gun Control, Terrorism, and Mumbai; Self Defense over the Next Four Years; Good News: Social Conservatism is Alive and Well; Charl van Wyk was armed when terrorists attacked his church; Where the blame should really lie; Debunking the "90 percent of guns used in Mexican crimes are American" lie; Armed Citizen servers his follow man; LIBERTY ALERT! Inside Info on Gun Witch Hunt; Protect your guns, they will protect you"

You would think these folks have a higher crime rate than we do in SA - and do they? No? Or do they have a tendency to exagerate in comparison to a country like SA where crime has become a defacto feature of daily life and we have become somewhat desensitized to it? Hmm... interesting point to ponder.
Try this on for size:

http://www.realclearreligion.com/index_files/ed2d682942555ec782a3af6eaa6c2076-76.html Here a religious group sings van Wyk's praises for defending faith against "Marxist-Leninism". Huh? I have to wonder what they are putting in their corn flakes. Are these guys living in the past, or what? Marxist-Leninism ie communism - the once be-all and end-all of the liberation theologists - who used religion in an US v/s THEM scenario. Now they are spinning stories of "the persecuted church" and "persecuted Christians" around the world in order to encourage and develop a "laager" mentality while using the high crime rate in SA as an excuse to do it.

To me it seems that these groups are encouraging people to arm themselves with a dual purpose. Yes, it is good for people to be able to defend themselves if criminals attack them or their loved ones with knives, firearms or harsh language. But it seems their devout praise and encouragement of these acts of 'self-defence' reveal a more sinister purpose. The religious right has few real enemies, but many imaginary ones it has dreamed up to enforce the paranoia it uses as a glue to hold itself together - and to win new converts to its "cause". They call themselves "Christian soldiers" and their devotion to their faith a "war". It is frightening stuff.

Take a good long look at these radical fundamentalist groups and I guarantee you will find mention of their perceived "enemies" and "threats" somewhere. You will see among them people of other religions - i.e. "Muslim extremists"; liberal political bodies which "threaten western or 'Christian'civilization" by working for human rights and equality for all; atheists (who do not believe in any god or religion) whom they ignorantly view as 'devil worshippers' and agents of evil; secular government - which separates religion from state and they call "secular humanist" and consider a religion; ideologies such as communism and secular democracy; and last but certainly not least - the so-called "homosexual lobby" - which often is included along with pedophiles, rapists, 'abortionists' and murderers in groups described as "criminals".

While some may call mr van Wyk a hero for his intervention in the church shooting I would rather look at the pilot who managed to put his aircraft down safely in the much publicised emergency river landing last year in the US, without loss of a single life. He stayed on board the aircraft as it sank into the river to ensure everyone got off before disembarking. Has he set up a self-promoting website to proclaim his actions (and extraordinarily bad aim and poor choice in firearms)? Was he religious? I can't find any mention of it anywhere. Has anyone seen him in follow-up newspaper articles since the event? Does he travel the world giving talks on himself and his own undeniably heroic actions? No? I can't even remember his name. That to me is a true hero.

Yes, Mr van Wyk seems to have quite a hero image thing going for himself. He travels the world spreading the word of his heroic exploits, singing his own praises, collecting right wing awards and accolades while spreading the word of God as he sees it - Christ wielding a sword, gospel and guns - with a bible in one hand and a "snubby" .38 Special in the other. Hasn't anybody told mister 'Rambo' that 'real' men carry a Glock? Perhaps he should sling a 'fifty cal 'chopper' over one shoulder while he is at it, just so people get the message he conveys - he is at war.

Here at home he battles the gay civil rights movement, secular democracy, freedom of religion and gun control - spreading his sage wisdom on the subject in articles where he and his group call the banning of pseudo-scientific propaganda to incite hatred against the pink community 'violations of religious freedom', combats hate-speech legislation as 'censorship of the church' while insisting on censorship on the gay rights lobby - and even argues that global school massacres can be countered or prevented by arming the teaching staff - effectively turning schools into armed camps - clearly a very healthy environment for raising paranoid young people in. As can be seen from these fundamentalist leaders ideas of how young Christians should be raised, this should be right up their alley. What would be next? Gun toting preachers? Why not? After all, he is one.

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