Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reconstruction Time Again

Having seen signs of a worldwide religious fundamentalist web spanning the globe, it is quite easy to start jumping to conclusions and formulating conspiracy theories. It is surprisingly quite easy to do, check a right-wing religious fundie group's website and see whose material they are using or propagating, which groups do they provide links to on their contacts page, who are their leaders and guest speakers and which other groups do they belong to? Who are they affiliated to? Go beyond that and research the ideologies they follow - such us "reconstructionism", "dominionism", "transformation" and see who is active in working for it. Start joining them up and I can promise you, after trying to draw a diagram of this sort, you will run out of space pretty fast!

I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but I am reminded by some in whom I have confided, that these are simply "religious groups co-operating with each other" and acting on the basis of similar beliefs - although to me, in my own limited lay-man sensibility, that forms a kind of network, doesn't it?

Let's take a group such as Christian Action Network as an example. They are a prime anti-gay, anti-human rights and anti diversity hate group in South Africa. If there is a press release or an email campaign, or a protest in South Africa about either abortion, gay rights or religious matters, or what X and Y are doing in the privacy of their own homes, odds are they are the ones behind it. CAN boasts that it has around 108 member groups and bodies fulfilling various roles in society, all Christian fundamentalist, and all aligned by nature. They don't like to say which groups are affiliated to CAN, but with a little smart detective work, a few mouse clicks and a lot of reading, you can piece together the puzzle. This is intriguing for one thing - the Franschoek Declaration. Another part of the group - Christian Liberty Books, works hard to peddle books on homosexuality, why feminism, communism and Islam are evil and how great it is to be a fundamentalist, all written by Hammond - the showpiece is the now infamous "the Pink Agenda" of 2001 which made extensive use of blatantly false "studies" and thumb-sucked "facts" intended to incite hatred against the pink community. The top member group is of course Frontline Fellowship, led by the man who fronts CAN - the "paintball pastor" himself, Peter Hammond.

Why do they call him that? Well, do a Google search for his name and "paintball pastor" and you will see for yourself. No wonder he has dropped off the radar since - I wouldn't want to show my face after that embarrassment either - nor would I take him seriously as a pastor or a "reverend".

So there we have the CAN, consisting of FF and its 100 or so member groups and bodies.

Closely tied to CAN is the largest fundie political party in SA - the ACDP. ACDP delegates have participated in CAN workshops and acted as guest speakers on itchy topics such as gay rights and the "threat of homosexuality" against the church and the almighty "nuclear family". I have spoken at length in the past about the ACDP and how it propagates anti-gay lies and propaganda based on fraudulent "scientific studies" and "research" performed by darlings of the US religious right such as Paul Cameron - which they devour hungrily along with a staple diet of fundamentalist scriptural misinterpretation. They believe gay people "choose" to be gay, "recruit" in schools (hence the press release this week to applaud Lithuania for passing laws banning discussion of gay topics in schools) and that being legally equal to gay people "oppresses" them.

Like the CAN, they also view secular government as a major threat to their faith and after a little thought, it seems to me their perception of religious freedom and equality is that everybody should be Christian and fundamentalist like them, and if you aren't, you shouldn't be equal. These beliefs they share with all members and bodies of the CAN and their affiliates. Since 1994 the ACDP has very vocally opposed every single move which gave the pink community in South Africa equality and civil rights. It opposes gay equality so much that it has made it the main focus of coming elections, starting with municipal by-elections in 2011 and the next general election in 2014.

ACDP groups on Facebook have been closed down by their new fundie propeller-head admin, who is trying to consolidate their membership on the social networking site into one big official ACDP group. This has been made private, so that people wanting to join have to request to join by producing their ID numbers and party membership numbers! This is obviously to keep out prying eyes - mostly liberal and pink, I would think - and to avoid being made to look foolish in arguments with human rights advocates who get them so angry that they admit things which cost them elections. And now they sit behind closed doors, complaining about that pesky gay pride festival in Johannesburg next month, gosh darn it - and wondering about what to do about it. And whining about "deluded" Christians who didn't vote them into government - and how to restructure their strategy for 2011 so they can win them over. Conspiracy? Just because its only a theory, does it mean they aren't actually conspiring?

Great, so now I have a line connecting the CAN and ACDP, representing co-operation and affiliation.

Then there is the new and vaunted Family Policy Institute, which has sprung up in Cape Town during last year, fronted by poster-boy Errol Naidoo - who has used his new platform to continue his crusade to get every Pride event in South Africa banned. Errol is almost famous, but particularly so for his nine-year-long war on the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras in Knysna. His bullying and brow-bashing is by now almost as much a part of the festival as the pink feathers and the parade along the main road, although not as frivolous. Coincidentally, Errol has appeared in many FF and CAN articles, as guest speaker on the topic of homosexuality - often together with Peter Hammond - and the two of them also appear together in the list of editorial staff for the fundie mouthpiece rag "JOY!" magazine.

Recently, and most telling of all, the ACDP made public an admission that Peter Hammond and Errol Naidoo had called all religious fundamentalist political parties together just before the April 22 elections in order to facilitate a political alliance - which some people at the ACDP have nicknamed a "Republican Party for South Africa"!

Great. Just what we need. A fundie super-party made up of conservative losers that will probably share a whole 6 seats in Parliament, fighting over who gets the spotlight first. Damn, but its getting crowded in there.

Fortunately this little plan flopped - that time, but I get the idea we can expect something like that to take place some time in future - if they can ever put aside their petty differences and stop fighting over who gets to use the comb first. To go up a step further, Mr Hammond is also on the Steering Committee for a group called the ICCP -International Church Council Project, which is both anti-feminist and virulently anti-gay. If you read a bit you may recognize some names featured in the article on Wikipedia about dominionism linked at the beginning of this article. One of them would be "Rushdooney". If I were a conspiracy theorist, I could easily draw a line between the CAN and the ICCP and claim they were up to no good. Whether or not they are up to no good, and whether or not to draw a line between them is a choice I will leave up to you after looking there, and here:

http://www.churchcouncil.org/ICCP_org/Document_Articles_Eugene_Clingman/Topic
_18_Homosexuality1_by_Eugene_Clingman.htm

While you're at it, have a look at this: http://www.christiancharter.org Fundie parties who formed the CDA (Christian Democratic Alliance) in 2008, signed a charter last year on the web. They cheekily called it the "Christian Charter", because they view all those whose rights they conspire to oppose as "un-Christian", and tried to use it as a rallying call to generate voter support for the April 22 election. That little sword-motif is getting monotonous, if not a little scary.

Perhaps now you can see how easy it is to join the dots between groups. Deciding whether these groups are all working together and conspiring together to the detriment of human rights, equality and freedom is a lot harder. Certainly the old concept of "one is a dissident, two a conspiracy" applies.

Isn't it odd that the God these people claim to follow, gave people free will - and that some people use their free will to take it away from others?

Seems some people don't like being made fools of in arguments of why some people should be treated equally and others not. Usually it is the religious fundamentalist types who like to flex their muscles in trying to force people to believe what they believe.

As far as I am concerned, I think it is a fear of upsetting the status quo - religion being at the core of the problem, not wishing to lose credibility in the mind of society - a euphemism for losing control.

Anything which invalidates their theocratic authority, which they cannot dismiss, explain or argue away is seen as a threat. Science and historical fact are seen as the top two. On the other hand, ignorance of the public - and consequent blind faith - is seen as their biggest ally.

It seems there are no depths too deep or dark for some people to sink to in order to promote their own hatred and intolerance - and the folly of this is outweighed only by the ignorance of masses of people only too keen to believe them - because they don't know any better.

Knowledge and education is the key to this human tragedy which is a bonfire of hate fueled by ignorance.

At any rate, I would encourage everyone to not just accept everything dished out to them at face value - go out there and dig up what you can and expose it to the light. Question everything. Ask "why?" more often. Spread fact and knowledge and present it as a challenge to those who speak or act out of ignorance and intolerance. But most importantly, ask what kind of a loving God would side with human rights abusers instead of those being abused?

I think that is where you will find your answer.

Exactly the same place where they lose their authority.

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