A-Deconstructing “Christian Industrial Complex”

This page is a compilation of five articles in a series on “Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex” that I posted October 5, 2014, on this futuristguy blog. It is an earlier version of what will appear in the Futuristguy’s Field Guides training curriculum, which explores why things go wrong in organizations, even when we want to do good, and processes to repair any damages we cause. The Field Guides will have this material remixed and edited, with art illustration, and workbook exercises with case studies from history, movies, and novels; and questions for personal reflection and group discussion.
I have done only minor editing in this compilation, mostly to remove duplication of lists with individual posts/sections. Also, I have removed some references to a sixth article that I had originally planned, “Part 6 – Thoughts on Mars Hill Church and Emergent Movement as Christian Industrial Complexes.” Those case studies are available elsewhere: Case Study ~ Mars Hill Church, and Diagnosing the Emergent Movement.

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Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex

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.

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Series on Deconstructing the Christian Industrial Complex

Part 1 – Culturology, futurology, and three frameworks for decoding the Christian Industrial Complex.

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

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

Part 4 – Framework #3. Psycho-social strategies and structures that lock people into toxic systems.

Part 5 – Christian Industrial Complexes, institutionalized social movements, and the dark side of toxic systems.

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Part 1. Culturology, futurology, and three frameworks

for decoding the Christian Industrial Complex.

October 2014 marks a milestone. Twenty-five years ago, I started an intentional study of “postmodern” cultures, when I first set foot in Marin County, California. This is one of the main places where that postmodern culture of the future had already been pioneered for decades. (I don’t want to get hung up here on the many meanings of the term postmodern, but do need to clarify what it is that I’ve been studying for 25 years is the emerging global paradigm shift and the related changes in culture.) It was intentional because I felt driven to figure out why this place was so very different from what I’d known, and why I felt comfortable to a degree here that I’d not really sensed before.

One conclusion I came to is that postmodern culture is NOT the same as postmodern philosophy. Culture is more concrete, philosophy is more abstract. Concrete people tend to learn better by action-reflection, abstract people by theory-into-practice. Concrete learning and culturology appeal to me. They fit how I’m “wired.” I also embraced a guiding assumption that people change their cultural activities far faster by social influences than by studying and then applying the theory embedded in some new statement of philosophy. And Marin County embodied a more spirituality-embracing and constructive postmodern culture way more than a skeptical-standoffish and deconstructive postmodern philosophy way. (For more on these differences, see this post on Culturologists versus Philosophists? Culturology versus Philosophy?, and the follow-up post, More Thoughts on Culturologists versus Philosophists.)

Those initial contradictions and questions sent me toward becoming a culturologist and a futurist. I know those aren’t common terms, so it helps to think of them as being like “archaeologists of the present.” We’re trying to figure out what’s happening within contemporary times, before the dust settles, by watching and weighing what we perceive on the horizons of culture shifts. And that’s hard to do, especially since so many forces of change in global paradigms and cultures keep most of us more off-kilter than holding on to a sense of stability.

So, this article on the “Christian Industrial Complex” brings together mostly cultural and futurist studies I’ve done since 1990. Here’s a list of the concept frameworks that I believe we need to start thinking through (1) the “emerging ministry movement” of the mid-1990s to early 2000s, and (2) various embodiments of a Christian Industrial Complex that arose from what I see as six streams from that movement.

  1. How subcultures emerge, bloom, and fade or reform for insiders, while they initially repulse attract outsiders.
  2. How power dynamics can corrode populist (grassroots) social movements from a culture of participation to one of consumerism.
  3. How psycho-social strategies and structures lock victims and their perpetrators into toxic systems.

I’ll oversimplify all of these patterns for the purpose of giving a big-picture overview of subculture and counterculture movements, but give occasional expansions of description. Also, I’m citing mostly those sources and influences that key concepts directly come from. And I’ll conclude with a list of Industrial Complex Indicators.

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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.

  • For the subculture’s insiders, the arc of cultural formation process tends to go from catalyzed (fresh and energized), to standardized (expected and getting stale), to either neutralized (dilution and extreme inertia) or self-euthanized (dissolution and implosion) or revitalized/retro-ized (transmorphed and re-energized).
  • For those outside the subculture, there tends to be a sort of magnetic attraction or repulsion process. If the mainstream’s magnet starts by being attracted by the newly noticed subculture, then the arc of their involvement goes from being mesmerized by it, to popularizing it. From there in can negative – getting bored with it, and then discarding it in favor of the latest “new thing” – or stay positive and continue embracing it. If the mainstream’s magnet starts by being repulsed, the storyline is often more along the lines of marginalizing and even stigmatizing it. If the repulsion doesn’t last, then potentially it moves to tolerating or somewhat embracing the movement, and from there it may even merge with the trajectory of those who were attracted by it.

Here is a bit of expansion on some of what’s going on underneath those patterns.

Subcultures typically start as underground or more hidden affinity groups, and they usually emerge as “countercultural” – in reaction or opposition to the mainstream culture. They are catalyzed by both a sort of utopian longing for what they see as good and/or a dystopian reaction against what they see as bad. In any given group, either the utopian/reconstructive or dystopian/reactive side tends to dominate. Either way, this means the subculture starts out as something with substance – a different mode of thinking that results in distinctive values (how we should act and how things should be) which guide members’ activities.

Gradually they get noticed and often become more popularized. In this transition, the internal substance that attracted a group of desirers and/or discontents together gets co-opted and turned into an external style. Part of this is very understandable, as every subculture has – well – “cultural” elements, such as predominant lifestyles, and places they do/don’t go, and things they do/don’t do, and music and arts and foods and fashions, etc. All of these become indicators of their identity. “Style” happens when the externals of the insiders’ identity are mistaken by outsiders as being the substance. But, at the end of this process, “being seen as” Punk [or Hippy, Goth, Cyberpunk, Eco-spiritual, Cosplay, Emergent, Young-Reformed-Restless, etc.] takes precedent over actually “being/becoming” [fill in subculture name].

Mimicking by the mainstream is a key way that a diluted version of the values the subculture produced eventually show up in the mainstream. Or, sometimes, some people indigenous to the subcultural tribe rise to a level of greater public awareness. If they keep their roots, they generally stay activists who keep producing. If they lose their roots, they generally become celebrities who seek to find consumers. With activists, the subculture’s values continue being presented in a more hard-core way that challenges and agitates. With celebrities, the subculture’s values seem to get remade into something softer and more palatable.

So, whether through its activities or its celebrities, the subculture provides some “spiritual spackle” to fill in gaps the mainstream had in its value structures. (And, since values typically involve issues of personal morality and social ethics, they are indeed “spiritual” in nature.) As best I’ve been to intuit it, that process of subculture-to-mainstream influence typically takes 15 to 20 years. So, one way to do reasoned speculation (i.e., strategic foresight and forecasting) on the potential directions a society may be shifting toward is to:

  • Identify and track its subcultures from their inception.
  • Profile their paradigm and especially their values.
  • Calculate how their influence could affect the mainstream value set.

For instance, if you dive into  The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise (an-depth study of the underlying values in the Punk movement) circa 1970s, you’ll notice a strong emphasis on DIY/do-it-yourself and populism/open-to-anyone. Add about 20 years, and you see echoes of those same core values in profiles of some of the earliest “emerging ministry” in the early to middle 1990s especially. Back then, it wasn’t about being polished, it was about just doing the ministry, connecting with anyone who “got it.” That changed … as influences from other kinds of core values started showing up on the “cultural GPS” of emerging ministry.

To summarize: It’s as if a subculture starts in the basement of the existing social structure. As its members gain more notice, they sometimes move up to the main floor where their “cultural kiosk” draws even more awareness and either wider attraction and popularization or repulsion and marginalization. Sometimes an elite few take the elevator to the mezzanine or maybe even to the exclusive stores on the very top floor. Either way, some of the core values seep into the mainstream culture eventually.

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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.

And I do believe that this is part of what happened as the “lake” of emerging ministry. At first it was a gathering of diverse people on common ground, and then it (understandably) started to be followings of particular pastors, church planters, authors, charismatic speakers who captured the imagination. From there, groups began to spin off into separate streams as people sorted themselves out according to their underlying paradigms (or which celebrities they followed). Because much of this differentiation was based on what different groups now saw as missing from the emerging mainstream, it meant the creation of multiple emerging subcultures. But in some of those spin-offs, by then – the early 2000s – power dynamics and celebrity status seemed to step in more and more, and the original cultural creative aspect ended up being less and less.

Here’s my attempt to overview how that complex process happens when social-cultural elements integrate with problems of power and prestige:

When a populist movement like “emerging ministry” starts out, it has a grassroots culture of participation. It’s more decentralized and messy, a virtual-identity group with few rules and no rulers. And participants flounder around, trying to figure things out, but actually have fun doing it. People work things out and are glad to have somewhere to share whatever gifts and abilities they’ve got to contribute for the common good.

As “key people” emerge or either are designated by an outside “sponsor” who funds things, or become promoted through popular acclaimed from within the movement, that represents a major shift. What once was an organic movement becomes an oligarchy of elites/celebrities who “lead” (or hijack) the agenda. Now it’s more on its way to being a consumerist culture with a centralized cluster of identifiable organizational entities and enterprises involving business, media, politics, philanthropy, arts, etc.

When money becomes a major issue to the insider elites, the oligarchy becomes a plutarchy (rule by the rich). This is where the individual celebrities link up with complementary financial partners: event sponsors and promoters, publishers, speakers bureaus, social media platforms, certifying agencies, etc. Where grassroots movements might be far more sustainable, the consumer networks require constant streams of new products to keep the income maintainable.

When demand side of consumers marry with the supply side of elites-and-partners, this is on the way to a closed system. Only those individuals who have the required platform, message, social media following, connections with others in the directory are allowed to be designated as elite insiders, and – for “the greater good” – there is now a gridlock against outside voices that critique. Inside critiquers are likewise not very welcome, and so various enforcers of the system find ways to silence, deflect, or remove them.

With an airtight, anti-change system in place, the organization keeps recirculating its air and trying to maintain its energy, but it has already started moving toward entropy. So by this stage, you have an idolatrous culture. In the extreme, people are reduced to pleebs who find their vicarious identity in the celebrity leaders’ machine, and don’t realize they are but cogs to keep it going … unless or until something shakes them up enough to awaken to the fact that they are keeping a failing, toxic system propped up.

I’m going to suggest that a major temptation arises when money, prestige, and/or power creep in and dominate a movement. The potential for a commercial enterprise can bring out the worst in those who originally intended the best – and also in those for whom exploitation and abuse is already their modus operandi. Both ultimately lead to direct control of and/or damaging influence on underlings by those viewed as authorities and leaders. This is a form of spiritual abuse, and power is its cornerstone, as I note in this excerpt from my post on How do an abuser’s authority, theology, and pathology interrelate?

[…] it occurred to me that there are at least three possibilities for the theology/pathology chicken/egg question.

The first is more along the lines of Lord Acton’s maxim about power: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” You may start out with well-reasoned and good-intentioned theology, but once in a position of power, the system goes to closure and the creative power goes to inertia, which brings corruption and corrosion to the system. Theological ascendency when in a position of authority leads to pathology.

The second is more along the lines of author Frank Herbert, who explored in his Byzantine Dune saga just about every major system of power dynamics from religious/mystical to technological to political to tribal to financial to ecological to physical. According to interviews with Herbert, “Power is a magnet that draws the corruptible.” Power draws pathological theologians and practitioners.

The third is one of my own device that I’m still experimenting with on how to present. It is a riff on the problems I’ve seen in people in leadership roles that I have no other way to interpret but as them demonstrating sociopathological behaviors – no apparent conscience touched by issues of right/wrong, no apparent compassion and empathy for others who are suffering or how their own abusive actions induce suffering. At this point, my quotable is: “Corrupt people desire power and find a path for their pathology, sometimes in a theology.”

So, FWIW, I’m wondering if really this is a triangulation of three items instead of a duel between two: position/role of authority, system of theology, and personal pathology. Seems it could start with any of the three elements, depending on the person and his/her situation, and go in any direction from there to pick up other elements in different permutations. Maybe there’s a chicken, an egg, and a road to cross?

Who holds responsibility for this pathological shift that denatures the vigor of a creative movement and turns into consumerist ventures?

This is a crucial question at this point. In organizational systems, responsibility often is shared, regardless of whether the system is relatively healthy or sick. Sellers need buyers; celebrities need idolizers. I have suggested we need to consider a continuum with different levels of responsibility that include higher culpability for those in leadership roles who do direct damage to others, and higher complicity for those who are enabling accomplices who keep the system propped up. (See the 11-part series on Responsibility for Spiritual Abuse.)

I’m not including those in complicit roles where their actions indirectly cause damage just to assign guilt. Rather, I want to point out their vulnerability more than their responsibility, because if they fail to identify what made them susceptible to getting sucked into a sick system, it’s likely to happen again. What drew them in? Desire to please God? Access to celebrities? Spiritual growth? Association with something that seems vibrant, alive, popular? Be on the cutting edge? A mix of motivations?

Those in positions of power and influence likewise need to consider questions about what drew them into such roles, and what they’re going to do about it. For if they do not find their way out, they may end up with even greater culpability for deeper and wider damage done by inflicting abuse of power upon God’s people. And they may end up creating a truly toxic system.

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Part 4. Framework #3. Psycho-social strategies

and structures that lock people into toxic systems.

How do theologians (and others) with a pathological bent use their authority to turn a consumer-culture machine into a self-perpetuating toxic system?

This section cross-pollinates concepts about sick organizations with power-hungry people, to see how toxic systems step up control factors to exert dominion over groups and remove their freedoms. So, let’s think through the systems level of toxic organizations increasingly limit personal choice of the members therein:

An open system lets in new participants, new inputs, new energy. This allows the system and those within it to grow, get rid of pollutants, and take care of other tasks to keep things sustainable. In an open system, individuals have freedom of choice to discern and decide their own trajectory within all possible options.

However, a closed system is either self-contained – no new inputs, nothing old output – or at least socially isolated in ways that limit outside influences that would supposedly contaminate the purity of those living inside the system. A closed system creates what is called bounded choice.”

Bounded choice is a basic type of “conditioning” designed to control someone’s behavior. This removes freedom for self-determination, allowing individuals to operate only within specified choices. As they do that, it may look like growth or change because people are active, but actually, it’s just an orbit around the set of rules and regulations designed to limit personal freedom and keep people in line. So, even if someone is no longer tethered to the system, they’ve been trained to self-constrain themselves to negate any doubts, objections, or questions that arise. In other words, they keep on the same toxic trajectory, just because it’s become the only thing they really know.

From there, the elites who now have sufficient influence in their gridlock of leadership to create an interlocking directory of family and friends who run interrelated political, social, philanthropical, media, and economic enterprises. This gridlock removes freedom of association, because the social identity and consumer products created by the elites squeeze out other providers and other product options. To be a compliant subject, you must kowtow to the slate of consumer choices the leaders allow.

A total institution exists where all aspects of life are dictated and regulated. Examples are prisons, old-school mental hospitals, and military boot camps where the entire schedule is set for inmates, patients, and novices. Total institutions are closed systems that assert complete control over their inhabitants’ worldview (beliefs) and world-do (activities). They prescribe inhabitants’ interpretation of reality, self-perception, organizational roles, social relationships, cultural lifestyles, political isolation (or attempts at domination), media access, etc. The system is now just one giant cog, and it removes the freedom of cultural participation. (See also this book by Erving Goffman on Asylums, which was a major research source for the concept of total institution.)

On an even larger scale of total institution is the totalitarian or authoritarian state – typically run by one main person plus an inner circle of enforcers in a dictatorship, or multiple leaders in an oligarchy. At this level, the entity is considered a sociological “cult” (regardless of whether it is a religious group or not). Control is instilled and then maintained across multiple generations over time with a “psychology of totalism” that conditions all its citizens from childhood onward for “right” thinking and behaving, with severe punishments for disobedient behaviors, dissenting views, or any other form of difference that supposedly threatens the “unity” of the movement or state. (See this post with links to summaries of Robert Jay Lifton’s pioneering research work on what have been eight classic criteria for identifying systems that us a psychology of totalism.)

The use of the term institution is important to note here, as one definition of an institution is any social, business, or political organization that lasts beyond two generations. I think that applies to subcultures and other social movements as well, which makes it relevant to the topic of this article. “Institution” has a negative connotation for many people. I’d suggest, however, that just because something is an institution, that doesn’t always mean it is institutionalized – bogged down by rules and regulations. Some forms of social organization create legacies that can last beyond two generations and stay viable and participatory by building in flexibility, and training next generation leaders to adapt the organization’s original purpose to whatever cultural times they find themselves in. So, it depends.

Also, by the time an organization has moved beyond an interlocking directory and is nearing a total institution, it has moved up significantly along the scale of toxicity. Pathological leaders, their enforcers, and their enablers in such insidious systems use positive reinforcements and negative punishments to get people in and then keep them in. Not all tactics work for all people, but savvy spiritual abusers know how to use all sorts of customized tactics to entrap people. They will appeal to hopes, and resonate with lofty desires. They will implant guilt and self-doubt, shame and fear. Whatever it takes to maintain control over others for the ultimate benefit of self. (For a more detailed list, see What are strategies and tactics of leaders who are abusive?)

Moving from the sociological and organizational part of toxicity, here are how psychological and relational processes manifest themselves when a movement has gone from participatory to consumerist, or relatively “safe” to “unsafe.”

Grooming for Recruitment. Intentional psychological and relational conditioning of someone’s thought life, emotions, worldview, friendships to get people involved in a group or movement. Often this uses positive reinforcement and “love bombing” in relationships to get people hooked into the system. These strategies and tactics lead toward …

… Victimization. Intentional misuse of power dynamics (emotional leverage, physical strength, religious or political position of authority, etc.) in a relationship between unequal “partners” to perpetrate abuse of spiritual authority. This is where things often turn nasty, if there is resistance to “the machine.” These strategies and tactics lead toward …

… Grooming for Retention. Intentional conditioning of someone’s thought life, emotions, worldview to keep people involved in the group or movement. This can be either positive or negative reinforcement, or an unpredictable alternating between them to keep members feeling insecure and ultimately to maintain the machine …

So – let’s piece together these frameworks about social movements with what we know of strategies and tactics of spiritually abusive leaders and toxic organizations. What thoughts do you have?

  • How do you think subcultures and power dynamics and toxic strategies interrelate?
  • Have you seen any/all of these three major elements in action – to a greater or lesser degree – in a group, team, ministry, church, organization, movement, or denomination?
  • What happened in those situations? How were people helped, how were they harmed, and how did people react?
  • What experiences have you had, or what examples do you know of, of organizations that got progressively more restrictive with bounded choice – interlocking directories – traits of a total institution?
  • What level of responsibility do people hold who have led organizations that turn out toxic? How about those who simply show up, give financial gifts, maybe volunteers some?

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Part 5. Christian Industrial Complexes, institutionalized

social movements, and the dark side of toxic systems.

In my opinion, any variation of Christian Industrial Complex combines many elements of bounded choice and interlocking directories. It emphasizes specific Christian genres of theological systems or ministry practices, and promotes specific celebrities who embody them. This can be marketed and sold outright as “the best brand,” or somehow ends up as perceived as the right way to go among those vulnerable to looking for a “total system” that answers all their needs. I do NOT think a Christian Industrial Complex is likely to reach the extreme end of the spectrum and become a total institution – although some of its celebrity leaders and/or partner entities may definitely go into that direction individually as toxic leaders or very sick organizational systems. However, the presence of the bounded choice and interlocking directory factors do put a Christian Industrial Complex at high risk for becoming institutionalized and stale. Also, the overfocus on black-and-white “best brand” thinking plus a limited cadre of communicators who promote the variant paradigm means that it’s no longer a vital alternative culture. At some point it has already jumped the shark – and is now overstating its current creativity and has overstayed the brand’s viability. And perhaps it is at this very point in the in-between zone of interlocking directory and total institution when the dark sides of toxic Christian Industrial Complex systems emerge. From what we’ve witnessed in the past five or so years, we seem to have a couple examples where it’s become apparent enough that those who benefit from being in an Industrial Complex engaged in manipulation and disinformation to gain and maintain their power situation.

I believe this is what is happening right now with two streams that originally co-existed within the emerging ministry movement, as I noted in Mars Hill, Emergent Movement, Emergent “Meltdown”?

Mars Hill Church spun out of the “emerging ministry movement” to become the theologically conservative wing of things with the New Calvinism/Resurgence movement. Emergent Village spun out as the theologically progressive wing and eventually turned into an Emergent movement as the Village eventually went defunct. As a long-time student of the dynamics of spiritual abuse, I would note this as evidence that apparent abuse of spiritual authority can happen in any theological system along the entire spectrum of Christianity, because every theology has inherently abusive fault lines which pathologically-inclined people can exploit for self-serving power and prestige.

In both cases, the movements centralized around particular people and organizational partner entities.There are evidences of positive and negative conditioning by individual leaders and some of the partner entities, and of increasing restrictions of freedom through bounded choice and “preferred partnerships.” And there are even some noticeable levels of some of the eight classic indicators of authoritarian “cults” as found in the research work of Robert Jay Lifton. I’ll get into some of that in Part 6. But, if you want to do things the Punk/DIY way – and I hope you do! – below is a list of key indicators you can use to do your own research and reflection, and see what you think for yourself. I’m also supplying a very short “starter list” of samples partner organizations for Mars Hill Church and the Emergent Movement in case you’d like to explore those as case studies.

Key Questions and Indicators for Interlocking Directory

Look for interconnections based on reliance on others for money, prestige, and/or power. If there is gold by association, there may legitimately be guilt by association. Look for a common identity where there is enmeshment. If you see or hear about Person ABC, do you consistently see or hear about Person XYZ with him/her? Look for what the “value and belief profile” is for the inner circle of spokespeople, and how it may differ from what rank-and-file members may be. Examine the movement or organization you’re interested in and look for patterns of common participation in/by:

  • Speakers/consultants (paid). Podcasters (probably unpaid).
  • Authors (paid). Bloggers (probably unpaid).
  • Publishing houses with multiple authors in the same theological genre or movement.
  • Event hosts, planners, and promoters.
  • Event sponsors.
  • Overlapping membership on organizational boards of directors.
  • Partnering agencies, non-profits, networks, foundations, funders.
  • Partnering schools, training programs, institutes, seminaries.
  • Commenders who are Tweeters, bloggers, Facebookers, etc.
  • Certification agencies (like ECFA/Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.)

For instance, do pretty much the same list of speakers get featured at events by Business ABC, and some/all are also under contract by Publishing House DEF, and they share the same Literary Agent GHI, and they write forewords and endorsements and Amazon reviews and Tweets for each others’ books. Meanwhile, many serve on the advisory boards or boards of directors for each others’ Non-Profits J K and L, and some work as paid consultants for them. And Seminary MNO has multiple people from this checklist on their Adjunct Faculty list. And Foundation PQR or individual funders like ST and UV keep things afloat for Organization WXYZ?

On a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (high), how “locked in” to each other as individuals and organizations are these people in this directory?

What are their ethical and/or financial conflicts of interest, if any?

Can we trust their supportive statements or endorsements about other members of the directory?

Starter List #1 – Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll have had links with Resurgence, The Gospel Network, Tyndale House Publishers, and Acts29 [Church Planting] Network.

Starter List #2 – The Emergent Movement has had links with the now defunct Emergent Village (some of the conversations from which are now on Emerging Voices blog at Patheos), and with JoPa Productions, Jericho Books, and the CANA Initiative.

UPDATE NOTES: 10-06-2014. More points and questions added in the section on Key Questions and Indicators for Interlocking Directory.

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