Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex, Part 3 – Corrosive Power Dynamics

Part 3. Framework #2. Power dynamics that corrode populism into consumerism.

I found the process of subcultural emergence fascinating, and first taught on the subject in about 1996. In the late 1990s, I was applying subculture analysis directly to the emerging ministry movement. I even got to present a workshop on the subject at the 1998 Young Leaders Re-Evaluating Postmodernism conference – “Navigating the Futures of Street-Level Postmodernism.” Even then, I was cautionary about going overboard on subculture ministry. It would be far too easy to end up as “modernist ministers in postmodern drag,” turning the serious work of cultural contextualization into mere consumerist top 10 tip lists.

So, I was aware of how things could go off-kilter if we put populist/open-participation blinders on, and allowed only certain celebrity/closed-consumerist types provide the overriding perspective and hijack the trajectory. Sometimes it happens when people get complacent and also happens if mega-ministries and businesses jump in to select their “star” performers. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex, Part 2 – Emerging Subculture Movements

Part 2. Framework #1. Trajectory arcs of emerging subculture movements and interactions with the mainstream.

In the mid-1990s, I did extensive research work on the process of how “identity subcultures” emerge, based on a newfound set of core values that drew them together as an “affinity group.” Sometimes those values attracted people from widely different social situations, cultures, races, etc., and they created a virtual tribe based on something they all saw as important that was missing in the mainstream culture. Keep in mind that these viritual-identity, cultural creative entities start out as producing something new – it’s inherent to their emergence. However, it doesn’t always stay that way. Sometimes a forward trajectory runs out of creative energy, or otherwise ends up going sideways. Continue reading

Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex, Part 1 – Culturology, Futurology, and Three Decoding Frameworks

Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex, with Applications to Mars Hill Church and the Emergent Movement

SERIES SUMMARY. A question that’s arisen lately on spiritual abuse survivor blogs has to do with the “Christian Industrial Complex,” or some variation thereon, such as: the Evangelical Industrial Complex, the Emergent Industrial Complex, the Resurgence Industrial Complex, the Patriarchal Industrial Complex. These are contemporary versions of the idea of a Military-Industrial Complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against in his farewell speech. I’d describe it as a gridlock of military, political, and business interests that formed a self-benefiting association of preferential relationships that went against the public interest. (Some of the classic research behind the Military-Industrial Complex comes from The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills.)

When it comes to Christianized variations of this organizational complex, what exactly is that all about? Why the increased interest at this time? How do we dissect what this thing is, how/why it affects us, and why it’s even relevant?

This series introduces three major frameworks I use for analyzing social movements and toxic systems, and builds toward describing what this phenomenon of a Christian Industrial Complex is, how it works, and how it can inflict damage. It also suggests a list of indicators for identifying layers of enmeshed involvement among celebrity leaders, Christian business industries, and followers/consumers in such probable toxic systems as this. It ends with some initial analysis and interpretation of toxicity issues in two streams that came out of the “emerging ministry movement” – the more conservative New Calvinism of Mars Hill Church/Resurgence and the progressive Emergent Movement of Emergent Village.

Note: These posts are designed to be read in order because of the sequence in which terms and concepts are introduced. Continue reading

Mars Hill, Emergent Movement, Emergent “Meltdown”?

The last few months have brought some amazing contemporary case studies into the public realm of online scrutiny and also “digital dissent” with online push-back by survivors of spiritually abusive ministries and movements. This includes both Mars Hill Church and what I’ve been calling the Emergent movement that arose from the embers of what used to be Emergent Village. I’ve written far above my usual output because of how these two real-world examples illustrate the final material I’ve been writing for a forthcoming volume in my imprint on Do Good Plus Do No Harm. It’s a book for people associated with missional/social transformation endeavors, church plants, and non-profits.

Continue reading

FAQs – How can arts, beauty, and creativity contribute to healing? Part 2 – Experiential

This comment appeared after a post on Spiritual Sounding Board, Emotional Chaos after Spiritual Abuse. This shares the more personal experience side of arts, beauty, creativity – and healing. See the article for the concerns “Refugee” was talking about. Continue reading

FAQs – How can arts, beauty, and creativity contribute to healing? Part 1 – Theoretical

The following are from a series of comments on a post at The Wartburg Watch, Did Southern Seminary Give ‘Baptist’ Tuition Breaks and Academic Perks to SGM Pastors? My comments were in response to what others were saying about music, culture, and worship. This article gives more the theoretical side of arts, beauty, creativity – and healing. Continue reading

FAQs – What kinds of “cults” are there, and what are some criteria?

Some people label certain theologies, or authoritarian churches or ministry movements as “cultish.” But what does that mean? Is it only about having right or wrong theology, or can it be about other things?

Some researchers distinguish between a sociological cult (an organization based on control behaviors) and a religious cult (an organization based on particular religious or doctrinal beliefs). A religious cult might also be a sociological cult, depending on whether it exerts influence over the lives of its members, to the point of extensive control and damage to the person, families, and other social relationships. Continue reading