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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008) www.sacredtribesjournal.org TABLE OF CONTENTS Editor’s Introduction

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The Family International: A Brief Historical and Theological Overview - James D. Chancellor

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Research Observations: The Meaning of Life in Contemporary Druidry - Michael T. Cooper

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Latter Day Saints, Rituals, Pilgrimage and Cultural Symbolics: Neglected Sources for Understanding Engagement - John W. Morehead

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Analysis US Religious Landscape: Analysis with Potential Implications for American Religious Identity - Michael T. Cooper, Jonathan Brown, Rebecca Erickson and David Liu

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Interview STJ Interview with Douglas Cowan

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Sacred Tribes Journal is published at least twice a year by the editors. ISSN 1941-8167 (online) Sacred Tribes Journal invites submissions for its upcoming issues. Contributions addressing new religious movements and spiritualities are invited. Please see the contributor's guidelines at http://www.sacredtribesjournal.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id= 12&Itemid=29. If you have questions regarding potential submissions, please email the editor at mcooper@sacredtribesjournal.org. Disclaimer notice: The views expressed in Sacred Tribes Journal are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the position of the journal, editors or institutions associated with the journal or editors. Editor Michael T. Cooper (mcooper@sacredtribesjournal.org) Trinity International University Senior Editors John W. Morehead Western Institute for Intercultural Studies Jon Trott Jesus People USA Philip Johnson Morling College Editorial Advisors Irving Hexham University of Calgary Stephen P. Kennedy Trinity Graduate School Gerald McDermott Roanoke College Terry C. Muck Asbury Theological Seminary Harold A. Netland Trinity Evangelical Divinity School Sylvie Raquel Trinity College Amos Yong Regent University Copyright Š 2008 Sacred Tribes Journal All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced in any form - mechanical, electronic retrival system, photocopy, etc. - without permission in writing from the editor, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in books, critical articles, or reviews. Permission to reproduce the journal or its contents can be secured by contacting the editor.


Sacred Tribes Journal

Volume 3 Number 1 (2008):1-96 ISSN: 1941-8167

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION Philip Johnson It is with great pleasure that I introduce the third and latest edition of Sacred Tribes Journal. The journal was created in 2002 as a collaborative trans-Pacific project dedicated to Christian thinking about both new religious movements and emerging forms of non-Christian spiritualities. Although Sacred Tribes Journal was originally hosted on the web-site of the Cornerstone Community of Chicago, it was not an official publication of that community. The founding editors originally envisaged that the e-journal would occupy a literary position midway between Christian academic publications and mass-market periodicals that are produced outside the academy. To that end the founding editors collaborated in the editing of two editions of the journal between 2002 and 2005. The inaugural volume that was released in 2002 comprised several essays that employed heuristic devices to describe and critically assess apologetic styles and methods that can be discerned in a corpus of Protestant evangelical literature devoted to the subject of new religions. Those essays also tentatively explored ways of deepening Christian understandings of new religions by advocating the integration of interdisciplinary tools and methods. Some of the perspectives on methodology that were expressed in the inaugural volume were subsequently reiterated by various authors in the textbook Encountering New Religious Movements, and also in Religious and Non-Religious Spirituality in the Western World (“New Age”), the position paper produced by the Issue Group studying new religions and alternative spiritualities that participated in the Lausanne World Forum of 2004.1 Both of those publications point to the emergence of new critically informed thinking about attitudes and methodologies among Protestant evangelicals in their understanding of new religious movements and alternate spiritualities. Those two publications also herald new frontiers of engagement for both Christian scholars and practitioners in that field of enquiry known as missiology. The second volume of Sacred Tribes Journal was released in 2005 and brought together contributors from Australia, New Zealand and the

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Johnson: Editor’s Introduction USA in a themed edition on NeoPagan spiritualities. The essays included personal reflections and reassessments of Christian attitudes about NeoPagan practices and beliefs, and several creative dialogical responses to NeoPagan interests in mythology and ritual, ecology and animal ethics, and spiritual praxis. In October 2006 two of the founding editors met Michael Cooper in a mini-conference about new religions that convened at the Tao Fong Shan Christian Centre in Hong Kong. In the wake of that meeting discussions ensued about redeveloping the journal. The final result of those discussions is now apparent as Sacred Tribes Journal has been bibliographically transformed into an academic publication with the creation of a new editorial board, and the development of a new website. The primary intended reading audience has shifted towards professional scholars and tertiary students. Nonetheless, the journal maintains continuity with previous editions in that it remains as a forum concerned with the study of new religious movements that emphasizes and employs interdisciplinary methods, and encourages the development of integrated holistic Christian thinking and praxis. The third volume of Sacred Tribes Journal comprises a collection of essays that, amongst other things, point to questions about methodology in understanding the members of religious groups such as The Family (Children of God), Druidry, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James Chancellor provides a succinct account of the internal history of The Family that charts the emergence, development, recession and regeneration of the group under the charismatic leadership of its founder Father David (David Berg), and his successors. Chancellor discusses how the structures of leadership developed around the authority of Father David as the prophet in the halcyon days of the 1970s counterculture, and the evolution of local levels of leadership among his disciples scattered in worldwide communes. In the course of his discussion Chancellor outlines the development of Father David’s concept of sexuality in the Godhead and the corresponding sexual mores of The Family, noting the controversial technique of “Flirty Fishing” to attract converts and the subsequent difficulties that the disciples faced through the transmission of sexually communicated diseases. Chancellor outlines the reforms that were introduced in The Family’s leadership structures in the latter part of Father David’s life, and notes the transition in structures that have occurred in the wake of the prophet’s death. Chancellor briefly outlines a few of the central doctrinal teachings of The Family concerning Jesus and salvation, the role of the prophet Father David, human communication with the spirit world, and the apocalypse. The Family’s understanding of the apocalypse has been a significant theme from its inception to the present. Chancellor describes the attendant tensions in The Family concerning the earlier expectations concerning the imminent return of Christ to the earth, and the current challenge of living with an apparent delay in the timing of the eschaton.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008):1-96 ISSN: 1941-8167 Finally, Chancellor discusses aspects of the social conflict generated between former members and current members of The Family. The strength of Chancellor’s narrative derives from relying on the primary sources and in his field interviews with Father David’s successors and disciples in a number of communes. Michael Cooper undertakes a phenomenological exercise by exploring how contemporary practitioners of Druidry address the problem of the meaning of life. Cooper briefly discusses the problem of defining Druidry and its phenomenological place within the wider tapestry of NeoPagan thought. He then proceeds to outline his methodology in undertaking both Internet-based and oral interviews with Druids from two specific groups: Ar nDraiocht Fein and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Cooper’s primary emphasis is on gathering together data from the interviews that best describes how Druids in these twin groups understand the meaning of life. In the course of his descriptive analysis Cooper centers attention on the rituals and mythology associated with the celebration of Nature and the cycles of life through the Wheel of the Year festivals. Cooper also notes the diversity of understanding among Druids about how the Divine is conceptualized. In considering the question of the practitioners’ identities Cooper includes some brief discussion on the role of ancestors in Druid rituals. Cooper concludes his preliminary map-work by indicating what areas of Druidry require deeper scholarly investigation and points to some unexamined horizons for future research. John Morehead takes as his point of departure some remarks made by M. Gerald Bradford in identifying some scholarly lacunae in understanding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The specific lacunae that Morehead refers to concerns the importance of ritual and pilgrimage and the associated cultural symbols linked to sacred spaces and ritual events. Morehead briefly explores the importance of LDS ritual pageants and festivals through the prism of the anthropology of pilgrimage. He suggests that ritual pageants, such as the annual Mormon Miracle Pageant at Manti, reinforce both LDS identity and ideology associated with sacred space. He also mentions how LDS Temples can be appreciated as tangible social symbols that contribute to the construction of LDS identity and boundaries. Morehead indicates that acts of LDS pilgrimage involve the rehearsal and re-enactment of sacral narratives. Morehead’s outline of these ritual elements within the LDS culture forms the basis for his subsequent discussion of symbolic protests that are undertaken by some Protestant evangelicals at LDS pageants and sacral sites. Those evangelicals who make their presence felt at such

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Johnson: Editor’s Introduction events and sites are committed to the goal of evangelization and discipleship of LDS members. In the course of Morehead’s discussion the impact of these acts of symbolic opposition on both LDS members and the protesting evangelists are then considered. Morehead indicates that as these ritual pageants and festivals are important for the confirmation and maintenance of LDS identity, symbolic acts of opposition from non-LDS evangelists tend to have the effect of strengthening LDS boundaries and identity. He also suggests that for the non-LDS evangelists their acts of opposition are best understood as another species of boundary maintenance. Morehead expresses the hope that Protestant evangelicals might reconsider their strategies by reflecting on the anthropology of the LDS culture. Jonathan Brown, Rebecca Erickson, and David Liu have collaborated with Michael Cooper in examining the US Religious Landscape Study (URLS) that was produced by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The authors summarize the statistical results obtained in the study concerning the religious profiles of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a cluster of other faiths that exist in the USA. The discussion then proceeds to briefly consider the implications of changing religious affiliations among the American populace vis-á-vis patterns of decline in mainstream Christian churches. The Canadian religious studies scholar Douglas Cowan is interviewed by John Morehead. Cowan’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Calgary comprised an analytical study of Protestant evangelical countercult apologetics through the prism of the sociology of knowledge and propaganda theory. The dissertation formed the backbone for his book published in 2003 with the title Bearing False Witness? The release of the book created some heated discourses among countercult apologists about Cowan’s motives, methods and message. The interview provides Cowan with the opportunity to explain why he wrote his book and to briefly explain in non-technical terms the methodological tools he employed to study evangelical countercult apologetics. The editors trust that its readers will be stimulated by the essays in this new edition of Sacred Tribes Journal. 1

See Irving Hexham, Stephen Rost and John W. Morehead (eds), Encountering New Religious Movements: A Holistic Evangelical Approach, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004).The Lausanne Forum convened in Pattaya, Thailand from September 29 to October 5, 2004, and the participant members of Issue Group No. 16 at the forum produced Religious and Non-Religious Spirituality in the Western World (“New Age”), Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 45, http://www.lausanne.org/documents/2004forum/LOP45_IG16. pdf

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167

THE FAMILY INTERNATIONAL: A BRIEF HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL OVERVIEW James D. Chancellor The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Introduction The Jesus People Movement began in the United States as a fusion of an evangelical Christian awakening and the youth counter culture of the 1960’s. The Children of God (COG), now known as The Family, was the most controversial group to arise out of this broader religious landscape. The call on young people to a life of radical separation from family and conventional society, the bitter denunciation of American values, and the confrontational style of the movement soon elicited considerable hostility from family members, government, and the media. David Brandt Berg, founding prophet of The Family, left the United States in 1972.1 He encouraged his followers to flee to more hospitable lands in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Within a few years, most of the disciples responded to this call. Those who remained went underground. The Children of God virtually disappeared from the American landscape. Though there were always a few communities in the United States and Canada, in the late 1980s, the North American disciples began to return home in large numbers. The Family had gone through radical theological, organizational, and lifestyle changes. This small, North American counter-cultural movement had grown into a worldwide religious subculture of some 10,000 people. History of the Family The COG begins with David Brandt Berg. Born in 1919, by 1944 Berg was in full time Christian service. He was ordained to the ministry in the Christian and Missionary Alliance and spent twenty years in and out of various religious positions.

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Chancellor: The Family

The Children of God: The formative years By the mid 1960’s, Berg saw himself as a uniquely called and gifted missionary to the lost and confused youth of America. In 1966 he and his wife and four children took to the road as an itinerant singing and evangelistic team. He added several disciples along the way, and in early 1968 Father David and his extended “family” settled into Huntington Beach, California. He and his children began a strongly youth oriented evangelistic ministry, and the first shot in the Jesus Revolution had been fired. Father David’s revolution was not only for Jesus. It was also against the “System,” the corrupt educational, political, economic, and religious structures of contemporary American society that were soon to be consumed by the wrath of God. Those young people who “received Jesus” were further challenged to “forsake all” by rejecting every tie to the evil System, commit fulltime as a disciple, and move in with Father David and his growing “family.” In April of 1969, Father David took his band of young charges on the road again. A young woman named Karen Zerby (Maria) joined up. She soon became Father David’s secretary, and they began a sexual relationship. The community settled temporarily at a campground in the Laurentian Mountains in Canada. Here Father David announced the foundational prophecy for the Children of God: “A Prophecy of God on the Old Church and the New Church.”2 God, in favor of His New Church, the Children of God, had rejected the old System Church. Father David also announced to his inner circle that he was separating from his Old Wife and taking his young secretary, Maria, as his New Wife. She gradually rose in status within the movement, and eventually inherited the mantle of leadership upon Berg’s death. Soon the disciples were on the move again, living off the land. They survived on gifts from their families, funds brought into the community when new disciples joined, and “provisioning” most food and necessities by appeal to the public. By February of 1970, they numbered nearly 200 and had settled on to a ranch in west Texas. During this phase, the basic patterns for COG life were established. The disciples established into a routine of Bible memorization, Bible studies developed by Father David, provisioning, jobs to maintain community life, devotional and fellowship meetings, training in witnessing strategies, and witnessing ventures. They continued to grow, and soon they were dispersed. By the end of 1971, 69 colonies were spread out across the United States and Canada with almost 1500 disciples. The summer of 1971 marked the beginning of FREECOG, the original anti-cult organization. FREECOG began a propaganda campaign accusing the COG of kidnapping, drug use, and psychological

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 terror by hypnotizing and “brainwashing” innocent young people. These and other attacks only exacerbated a fortress mentality that already laid heavy emphasis on the otherness of the outside world. In this formative period, Father David received two revelations that would begin a series of “revolutions” within The Family. In December of 1970, he had a dream that led him to withdraw from personal contact with the disciples.3 He began to teach and guide them through his writing. From this point on, he channeled his charisma and authority through his correspondence, known as MO Letters. In the spring of 1972, Father David had a dream of mass destruction in the United States. He urged his North American followers to flee as soon as possible and to begin the missionary task of reaching the world for Jesus. They heard the call, and by the end of 1972 colonies had been established in much of Western Europe and Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and India. With the migration out of North America, the overtly confrontational, anti-establishment component of the COG message began to soften. This change in posture was consistent with an enlarged vision for a worldwide missionary enterprise. The explosive growth, rapid spread, and youth and inexperience of most disciples left the organization with serious leadership problems. In 1973, Father David attempted to slow the growth of the movement and develop more capable leadership. He also introduced a new strategy for getting out the message, the wide distribution of COG literature. This activity was termed “litnessing.”4 Since the literature was exchanged for “a small donation,” finances improved dramatically. Music was always a central aspect of The Family vision. Disciples have written hundreds of songs of protest, praise, and proclamation. By 1974 several COG bands had achieved wide public acceptance and popularity. In addition, numerous “Poor Boy Clubs” that featured dancing, recorded and live music, and dramatic skits were opened around the world. By the mid 1970’s, Berg had come to a new understanding of his own role in human history. He was not only God’s unique End Time Prophet, but also King of God’s New Nation. Some top-level leadership began to chafe at this new status. By contrast, he was concerned about the arrogance and harshness of many leaders, and their lack of concern for the welfare of the ordinary disciples. In the “New Revolution” of early 1975, Father David established a new “Chain of Cooperation” in an

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Chancellor: The Family

attempt to address these problems.5 Most of the leadership under the Chain of Cooperation came from the old guard, and the reform lacked effect. The Chain also further distanced Father David from the vast majority of young followers, and life for most of the ordinary disciples grew more difficult. In the early 1970s Father David began the most sensational aspect of his "Revolution," a complete transformation of sexual ethos. Shortly after taking Maria as a second wife, Berg began having sexual encounters with other female disciples in his inner circle. By the early 1970s, the top level of leadership was also experimenting with multiple partners. These activities were unknown to the vast majority of disciples, whose sexual mores continued to reflect their evangelical Christian roots. In March of 1974 Father David and Maria relocated to the resort of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. He gathered a small group of attractive female disciples to begin an experiment in a new witnessing strategy, which he termed “Flirty Fishing,” later shortened to “FFing.” The female disciples would use the full range of their feminine charms, including sexual intercourse, to witness for Jesus and to make supportive friends for the movement. Few field disciples were aware of the extent of this new strategy. In 1976 Mo Letters came out that described the FFing of Maria and others in graphic detail, set the model for the larger community, and encouraged the disciples to begin this new “ministry.”6 Acceptance was by no means universal. Many disciples had strong reservations, and a significant number left the movement. Flirty Fishing marked some significant changes. The confrontational approach was now gone forever, replaced by a strong emphasis on the love and compassion of Jesus. Additionally, the target audience had shifted almost completely away from “hippies and drop outs.” These and other substantive shifts in Family orientation brought serious internal conflicts. The Family of Love: Degeneration and regeneration By the end of 1977, a number of leaders began to question Father David’s status as God’s End Time Prophet. They also raised doubts regarding some of his teachings, particularly the radical shift in sexual mores. Father David became more aware that many leaders were abusively authoritarian, and were living in luxury by means of exorbitant “taxes” on field colonies. In January of 1978, Father David issued “Reorganization Nationalization Revolution”7(R N R), the most significant event in the history of the Children of God. The organization itself was dismantled and some 300 leaders were dismissed and either rejected or ordered into the streets as ordinary disciples. The movement was

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 renamed “The Family of Love.” All those loyal to the King were welcome to remain directly faithful and responsible to the Prophet. There was considerable loss of membership in 1978, even with the birth of some 600 children. The Jonestown tragedy brought fears of anticult hysteria, and the disciples were urged to go underground. Many “went mobile,” traveling about in campers or caravans as itinerant missionaries, often not identifying themselves as Children of God. Their only direct connection to the movement was the MO Letters. Though the disciples continued to litness and witness, Flirty Fishing increased dramatically after the R N R. In some areas it became the primary means of witness and financial support. In the mid 1970’s, the sexual ethics of the COG grew increasingly liberal. The practice of multiple sexual partners (sharing) had filtered down from leadership to all of the field colonies. By 1978, Berg was strongly encouraging sexual experimentation and he freed the disciples from any leadership constraints. Nudity within the homes, and sexual liaisons between members became common practice Father David understood human sexuality as a beautiful, natural creation of God. In exploring how this principle might relate to children, he sent out Letters detailing his early childhood sexual experiences, and directives for adults to allow children the freedom to express their natural sexual inclinations. From 1978 to 1983, he and the entire Family were exploring the outer limits of sexual freedom. Most disciples were aware that sexual contact between adults and children was occurring in the Berg’s household. 8 Some disciples interpreted some of the MO Letters as allowing for sexual interplay of adults with minors. It is not possible to determine the extent or degree of this activity, but it was occurring in Family homes around the globe. By the end of 1980, The Family of Love was growing again. Dispersed throughout the world in small homes, most disciples were isolated and somewhat adrift. In 1981, Father David ordered the disciples to begin weekly fellowship meetings with others in their area.9 A new hierarchical structure was established. Large homes, which functioned as national headquarters, were set up in each country. By the end of 1981, another significant transition overtook The Family. In 1981 there were 719 births. From this point on, children constituted the majority of members. The care, discipline, and education of children soon began to require an increasing portion of energy, time, and resources.

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Chancellor: The Family

The Family: Serving a sexy God From 1982 to 1984, The Family reordered itself back into a tightly knit organization. Many Disciples responded to Father David’s call to carry the message of Jesus to the "Third World." By the end of 1982, 34 percent of the disciples were in Latin America and almost 40 percent in Asia. By 1982 children were a majority of full-time members. The Family responded in several ways. Children began to play an even greater role in outreach ministries. An increasing amount of attention was given to child rearing. Most significantly, The Family began to see the youth as the hope of the future, the disciples who would carry the movement and the message to The End. The recruitment of new disciples continued, but the numbers fell considerably. The total number of full-time members reached 10,000 in 1983, and hovered around that mark for the next ten years, despite averaging over 700 births per year. Many of the new disciples proved to be short term, and as the first wave of children began to mature, The Family began to loose more people than were joining through evangelism and recruitment. The Family began to face a new and troubling phenomenon, teenagers. Several “school homes” were established for the education and discipleship of the growing number of teens. In 1983, Father David received disturbing reports of misconduct at one of the teen homes. He responded with strict guidelines for the youth, and high expectations for their personal conduct.10 By the early 1980s Flirty Fishing was widespread and becoming increasingly central to the life of many communities. “FFing” was originally envisioned and theological justified as a witnessing strategy, it was not a useful tool to recruit new disciples. However, it did serve another vital purpose. FFing had become a primary source of financial support and political protection. Many female disciples established longterm relationships with wealthy or influential men. These men often provided resources, helped in immigration, and protection against social and political repression. In some areas of Asia, Europe, and Latin America, female disciples went to work for escort services, providing sex for a fixed fee. 11 The issues of sexuality and their distinctive sexual practices were playing and ever increasing role in Family life. In the spring of 1980, Father David sent out “The Devil Hates Sex!--But God Loves It!”12 In his own “revolutionary” style, he made very clear that the disciples served a “sexy God” and that God loved sex and wanted his Children to enjoy it fully. But as nudity and open sexuality became more and more common, real problems were surfacing.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) began spreading through The Family. It was common practice to have a considerable amount of sexual sharing at Area Fellowships, facilitating the spread of STDs from home to home. In March of 1983 Father David issued “Ban the Bomb!”13 He halted sexual activities at Area Fellowships, and limited all sexual relationships to persons residing within the same home. Of course he exempted himself from this restriction. This is the first point at which The Family began to face the negative spiritual and social consequences of unrestricted sexual freedom. In December of 1984 Maria prohibited new members (Babes) from any sexual encounters during their first six months.14 The pendulum of sexual freedom had reached its apex, and began a slow swing back toward a somewhat more conventional sexual ethos. Also in 1984, Maria commissioned certain musically talented homes to produce a series of audiocassettes for the general public. The tapes were an immense success and soon became a central focus of outreach. They were also an additional source of financial support. As The Family reconfigured toward a more tightly structured organization of large communal homes, other problems developed. In 1985, World Services received reports of harsh and oppressive leadership practices in Japan and other areas. They responded with a flood of literature reasserting the hierarchical nature of the leadership structure, but also urging local and area leaders to carry out their duties as servants, dealing with disciples under their care with love and understanding. The Family was evolving and maturing. Since birth control was strictly prohibited, almost all homes included a good number of children. Given their strong communal lifestyle, parents were becoming increasingly wary of inviting total strangers into their communities. Family homes began requiring a six months probationary period for prospective members. The probation period has gone a long way toward stabilizing community life and eliminating short-term disciples. In the late 1980’s, a good number of former disciples began to return to the fold. Many were teenagers who were in need of spiritual direction and training. To meet this need, The Family established Teen Training Camps (TTC) in Mexico, South America, Europe, and Asia. While in the Teen Training Camps, several teenage girls reported inappropriate and uninvited sexual advances by adult males. When Maria became fully aware of extent of this problem, she responded. In August of 1986, she prohibited sexual contact between adults and minors. However, The Prophet had repeatedly affirmed sex to be enjoyed as fully

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Chancellor: The Family

as possible. Stepping away from such a total affirmation proved difficult. A short time later, adult sexual contact with minors was made an excommunicable offense, but as late as 1989 the problem still existed in some locations. The Family continued to place further limits on sexual expression. By the end of the decade, sexual activity among children or young teens was increasingly discouraged. Current policy forbids sexual intercourse between children under age 16. As might be expected, the policy is not uniformly kept, and sanctions are not severe. However, adult sexual contact with a minor is now a most serious breach of Family rules and results in automatic excommunication. By 1987, Flirty Fishing was central to the life of most communities, but it had become problematic. Many homes were overly dependent on it, primarily by means of influential supporters developed through longterm relationships. However, the AIDS epidemic was the primary reason for halting the practice. In the fall of 1987, a policy memo banned sexual contact with outsiders, except “close and well-known” friends who had long-term relationships with Family women. This policy is in force today, and there are very few women who continue in relationships with their “fish.” Beyond these, any sexual contact with outsiders is now an excommunicable offense. Throughout the late 1980’s, The Family continued to evolve. Education emerged as a top priority, with large school homes established in all areas. Teaching the youth became a primary Family concern. By the end of 1989 there were almost 100 school homes, serving over 3000 children. As the teens continued to gather in larger numbers, disruptive and destructive conduct increased. The Family responded with “Victor Programs,” which were periods of intense discipline, work, and spiritual oversight. In some places these programs were harsh and abusive. Many, if not most, of the first wave of teens rebelled and left. After a few years, Maria found certain aspects of the program far too harsh, and she ended it. She apologized and ordered the key adult leadership to apologize personally to teens they had mistreated.15 By the late 1980’s, India was the most fruitful mission field, with over 2000 disciples. Most were North Americans or Europeans, on tourist visas or in the country illegally. In 1988, the Indian government clamped down, and many were forced to leave. Confident that The End was near and persecution would greatly increase, Father David ordered the disciples in India to go home. By the end of 1989, over 800 disciples had returned from the East. The return of these battle hardened missionaries pointed up again the disparity in the “standard” of Family life. In an effort to create an End Time Army ready for the final tumult,

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 World Services suspended all homes in North America and Europe until they could be reviewed and re-certified as legitimate Family communities. Many failed the test. A new category of membership was established, TRF Supporter (TSer). These were persons who wished to remain connected to The Family, but were unable or unwilling to maintain the standard of disciple life. 16 In 1989 almost 1400 were “Tsed,” essentially kicked out. Regular disciples were prohibited from direct contact with them. However, they were encouraged to remain loyal to the Family vision, and were viewed as partial members if they continued in their financial support. Many were TSed as family units, but there were a number of situations where spouses were separated, and in some cases parents were separated from their children. From 1989 to 1994, the total number of disciples remained at approximately 12,000, but the percentage of those on TS status increased from approximately 10 to 25 percent.17 After 1993, the attitude toward TSers softened considerably. Currently termed “Fellow Members,” they enjoy fellowship with Disciple Homes and take a much more active role in support of Family objectives. After 1989, The Family began to focus on newly opened mission fields in the former Soviet Union and Africa. Hundreds of disciples, mostly second generation young people, now work in Eastern Europe and Africa, almost all as underground, unregistered missionaries. The Family: Persecution and maturation At the close of the 1980’s, The Prophet was tired, ill, and aging. He essentially retired at the end of 1988. Maria assumed the role of spiritual leader and guide. Peter Amsterdam took over administrative control of The Family. This was never formalized or announced. Few disciples were conscious of the change, though all knew that Father David was grooming Maria, allowing her ever greater latitude and authority. In October of 1994, David Brandt Berg passed away. Shortly after his death, Peter Amsterdam and Maria were married. They now lead as a team. However, Father David still speaks regularly and guides The Family from heaven. While various internal forces worked to constantly reconfigure the community, forces from the outside fostered a significant shift in the early 1990s. The disciples had always faced strong and often hostile opposition. They have been harassed, kidnapped, and assaulted by religious opponents. They have been intimidated, arrested, and

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Chancellor: The Family

imprisoned by law enforcement authorities. Virtually all opposition was interpreted as religious persecution. When persecution came, they suffered, sought the assistance of “friends,” and went underground or moved on to more receptive fields. But when their children became the target, attitudes changed quickly. Beginning at the end of the 1980’s, persons within the anti-cult movement, supported by the testimonies of a number of ex-members, laid charges of child abuse and sexual molestation against The Family in Europe, Australia, and South America. The various attempts to take away the children dramatically changed the way The Family related to the outside world. Father David instructed the disciples to stand and fight for their children. Disciples all over the world began active protests against the governments that were attacking their communities. Sometimes The Family took preemptive measures, inviting in law enforcement and social services agencies to conduct investigations of the children. In addition, Family leadership opened their communities to legitimate scholarly inquiry, confident they had nothing to hide. 18 But the movement had been forever altered by these experiences. The event that most rocked The Family came in 1993, in England. A wealthy widow, whose adult daughter had joined while on a religious quest in Nepal, filed suit in British High Court seeking custody of the daughter’s infant son. The judge conducted a lengthy inquiry, not only into the actual circumstances of the child in question, but also into Family history, ideology, and moral conduct. The anti-cult establishment became actively involved, and the case lasted almost three years. Throughout the process, Family leadership was required to come to terms with the past; to explain passages in their literature that did condone sexual contact with minors; to respond to the testimony of numerous former members who had been mistreated and abused. The closet doors were kicked open. In the midst of the whole painful process, Father David died. In order to close out the case, Peter Amsterdam was required to write an open letter to the judge that admitted the policies and practices of The Family had, in some instances, been harmful. The letter identified Father David as a root cause of some of this destructive behavior. It was a painful, but necessary catharsis.19 Though finally admitting the extent of past abuse, Family disciples have successfully defended themselves against all charges of current sexual misconduct with minors, or any form of child abuse or neglect. Worldwide, over 600 children have been removed from their homes and examined by court appointed experts. These experts have detected no

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 abused children. Without question, there are numerous incidents of child sexual abuse in Family history. They have attempted to put these things behind them. To date, no adult has been found guilty of misconduct. But attempts will surely continue to bring offending individuals and Family leadership to justice over this sad and bitter aspect of their past. Though the 1990s were a time of renewed “persecution” and a time of winnowing out the uncommitted, The Family began to mellow. Father David set himself and his followers against the Church, “the god damned, hypocritical, idol worshipping, churchianity of the System.” 20 But in late 1991, he began to encourage disciples to visit and perhaps even fellowship with open-minded congregations. In general, this has not worked well. More significantly, he directed the disciples to send their many converts toward local churches for care and training in the Christian life. 21 This proved to be a temporary strategy, but is clear evidence of an attempt to lower tension with the outside. Attitudes toward members who left were always negative and strained. But by the late 1980s an increasing number of teens were leaving. And many parents wished to maintain a good relationship with these departing children. The Family has made an about face on this sensitive issue. It is now recognized that only a few of the children will remain committed. Efforts are made to prepare the others for life on the outside and parents are encouraged to keep the relationships strong and the lines of communication open. This softened attitude has extended to all former members. From 1994 on, The Family has committed to a “Ministry of Reconciliation.”22 Peter Amsterdam has taken the lead in attempting to reach out to ex-members around the world in an effort to heal old wounds and establish friendly relationships where possible. These attempts have met with some success, though small cadres of former members still remain hostile and aggressively opposed to The Family. This shift in attitude toward the outside is also evidenced in a transition in the approach to social ministries. Since the beginning, the disciples were concerned almost completely with the spiritual salvation of potential converts. But in 1992, Father David directed his followers to begin helping the poor and the helpless, “like Jesus did.”23 Almost immediately, Disciples started ministries to prisons, street gangs, illegal aliens, unwed mothers, drug addicts, refugees in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and abused children all over the world. Social ministry has taken root very quickly and is now central to the life and practice of most disciples, particularly the second generation.

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The Family: The Post Prophet Era David Berg died in the fall of 1994. The transition of authority had been ongoing for a number of years, and his mantle fell easily on Maria and her consort, Peter Amsterdam. While the transition went quite smoothly, The Family changed dramatically in 1995. World Services implemented the “Charter of Rights and Responsibilities.” The Charter contains the movement’s basic beliefs and details the fundamental rights and responsibilities of the disciples, as well as the rules and guidelines for communal life. Queen Maria and King Peter retain overall and supreme authority, but day-to-day life is far more democratic. The disciples are strongly encouraged to live “according to their own faith” with a minimum of supervision and direction from a radically altered leadership structure. Smaller home size is mandated, and most significantly, disciples have the absolute right of mobility. Recently, The Family has moved toward a “Board Vision” in which the various aspects of communal life and ministry will be under the direction of a wide and popularly elected board of directors.24 The Love Charter greatly improved the life experience of most disciples and has led to greater contentment and happiness. It went some way toward curbing the mass exodus of young people from the movement. But it has not been without its problems. The Family has struggled to find its way under the kinder and gentler approach to leadership. Toward the end of the 1990’s, Maria and Peter were becoming increasingly concerned with the lax attitudes and low productivity of many disciples. In a take off from the Y2K phenomenon, they issued S2K – Shake Up Two Thousand. 25 Discipline and community standards were reaffirmed, and those unwilling to conform were strongly encouraged to become Fellow Members, or leave the movement completely. This purge has been ongoing, and some 1500 disciples have been pushed out into the world.26 The quest has been to create a leaner and more productive Army of the Lord, more prepared to carry out the mission, and to face the tumult of the end of days. The two most significant changes in The Family since the death of Father David are in the areas of spiritual life and community vision. Interaction and communication with the Sprit World has been a feature of Family life from the beginning of the movement. Disciples were open to the possibility of prophetic experiences and guidance from those who 727(s )-56.9723(a)-13.3881(nd )-77.5Membe 11.11.04 144 191.04 Tm [(727(s )-56.9723(t0)34.2.0191 0

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 communicate directly with The Family. Much of the guiding vision and strategy now comes directly from above, and the substantive portions of the Letters are direct utterances from the Spirit World, most often from Jesus and David Berg. In conjunction with this shift, the disciples themselves are strongly encouraged to develop the prophetic gift within them. Most have. Direct revelations and prophecy is now a normal feature of disciple life, either in private experience or community prayer.27 The vast majority of disciples now look to prophecy to guide decision-making in virtually all aspects of their lives. The shift seems to have created a greater sense of ownership in their various ministries, confidence, and a sense of shared vision. The disruptive potential for such openness to prophecy within a tightly structured community is obvious. To minimize this potential, Maria has retained the role of “Wine Taster,” essentially holding the keys to the kingdom. All prophecy that might impact the broader community in any way is subject to her evaluation and validation. 28 An equally significant shift has occurred in the conceptualization of the purpose of The Family. From the very beginning, witnessing for Jesus and the spiritual salvation of as many souls as possible before The End has been the essential task of Family life. To that end, Family disciples have been highly mobile, and generally not geared toward the spiritual development and care of converts. The development of followup literature, the involvement in social ministry, and the encouragement of coverts toward outside churches represent the beginnings of a shift. But at the opening of the 21st Century, a fundamental reorientation has occurred. The “Activated Program” has been developed and implemented worldwide. 29 It is not an option, but rather the new Family vision. Considerable resources have been poured into developing quality educational materials for new converts. And Family disciples are strongly encouraged to settle down in one place, focus their evangelistic efforts, and work at developing what are essentially congregations that will be directly related to local disciple homes, and look to those disciples as spiritual mentors, guides, pastors. Analyzing the motivations for significant shifts in movements like The Family is no easy task. Two factors seem to be at work here, both growing out of an apparent delay of the Second Coming of Jesus. To date, The Family claims to have led more than twenty three million persons to pray the salvation prayer and receive Jesus as their personal savior. However, that is simply a number on a piece of paper. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the disciples have had little or no

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Chancellor: The Family

contact with these “converts.” For most of their history, The Family lived in high expectation of an immediate end to human history as we know it, and the singular task was to get as many people saved as possible. The care of souls was a low priority, if at all. It seems clear that the Activated Program represents the beginning stages of an accommodation to the possibility of a much longer than expected mission in this world. Beyond that, many of the disciples are beginning to age. Given their strong apocalyptic bent, most have made no provision at all for an extended life. That is changing. Family leadership is quite open in describing the Activated Program as the potential retirement package for faithful disciples.30 It remains to be seen how well the “radical revolutionary Children of God” can sustain this shift toward more conventional religious life. There are real challenges, especially the degree to which outside members can participate in some of the distinctive aspects of the Family ethos. But, the Activated program seems to be catching on, particularly in certain areas of Latin America and Asia, where the disciples have generally been more geographically stable. Though the number of committed, fulltime, communal disciples is down somewhat, the overall “membership” is expanding quickly into the tens of thousands. It seems clear that Queen Maria and King Peter are leading The Family on a journey from “cult” to “sect.” Theology of The Family While The Family can be viewed and examined from many perspectives, it is essentially a religious movement grounded in a clearly articulated belief system. The Family boasts an extraordinary range of educational, religious, cultural, ethnic and national backgrounds. Even so, the disciples are guided and sustained by a common vision and a coherent set of theological commitments. This theological system has developed and evolved through the years, but is grounded on the twin rocks of Biblical authority and the prophetic office of Father David. The Christian Bible was the sole source of religious authority at the beginning of the movement, and disciples remain deeply immersed in the sacred text. However, Father David adopted a position of “progressive revelation,” which keeps open the possibility of revision or change, and placed his writings on an equal footing with the Bible. 31 An exhaustive analysis of Family doctrine is beyond our scope. 32 I will attempt to explore the core beliefs that are central to The Family experience. These core beliefs center on Jesus and human salvation, Father David as God’s Prophet, the Spirit World, the End Times, the System and the sexual ethic.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167

Jesus and Salvation Human salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior is the cornerstone of Family theology. The disciples generally share an understanding of Jesus Christ that is consistent with Evangelical Protestant Christianity. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose from the grave, and is returning soon to this earth. All people are “lost” and without hope in this world. However, eternal salvation is available to all who will, in faith, simply repeat a short prayer inviting Jesus to come into his or her life as personal Savior. Once an individual repeats this prayer, that person is saved and has secured an eternal home in heaven with Jesus. “Witnessing,” or the attempt to get as many people as possible to pray this simple prayer, has been the central task of discipleship from the beginning. Paradoxically, Father David taught that in the end, all creation would be reconciled to God. Nevertheless, this universalism has set very lightly on the disciples and never dampened their evangelistic fire. The Prophet In the early days, David Berg claimed no special status or office. However, as the movement developed, he came to a radically different self-understanding. By the end of 1970, Father David had emerged as God’s Prophet for the End Time. He quickly established his absolute authority over the disciples. His claims of divine appointment and absolute spiritual authority roughly coincided with his withdrawal from direct contact with the disciples. He channeled that authority through the MO Letters, affirming them as “new Scripture” that clarified or superseded the Bible, and was more likely to be of immediate value. At times, Father David’s claims to divine insight and authority seemed almost limitless.33 And though he consistently emphasized his own humanity and fallibility, he remained throughout his life (and beyond) as the divinely anointed leader and spiritual guide for the Children. He also claimed the title of King of God’s New Nation, with all the political authority and homage due their rightful King. After the necessity to win souls for Jesus, Father David’s claim as Prophet and King is the most consistent theme in Family life and literature. The full acceptance and affirmation of The Prophet’s role and status was a central

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component of the socialization process. Disciples could remain in The Family harboring “doubts and struggles” over some of his more extreme claims, some viewing him as both a prophet and “a weird old man.” Yet, no open challenge to his position or authority was possible. Many of the disciples, particularly the females, developed an extraordinary emotional bond as well. If anything, Father David’s status has been enhanced by his death. And though Maria and Peter now rule over The Family as co-regents, Father David now sits at the very right hand of Jesus, in a much stronger position to lead and guide the Children. The Spirit World The work of Father David in the heaven is consistent with longestablished Family theology. Father David’s direct encounters with the Spirit World began in 1970, when the spirit of Abrahim, a fourteenthcentury gypsy Christian, entered his body and began to speak through him. This was a watershed event for the Children of God.34 The reality and immediacy of angels, spirit helpers, and dark spirits became an everincreasing dynamic of Family life. Virtually every disciple regularly prays for and receives comfort, assurance and guidance from God through dreams, visions, or experiences of “prophecy” in a context of person or communal prayer. Encounter with the Spirit World seems to have escalated in the wake of a terrible tragedy that struck The Family in the summer of 1995. A van full of young people was involved in a serious accident. Five teenage girls were killed. Voices from the Spirit World responded. Father David, Jesus, and the apostles Paul and Peter spoke in prophecy through several members of Maria’s personal household. Soon, the spirits of the five young women began to communicate from the Spirit World to other disciples, offering forgiveness to the driver and expressions of joy and ecstasy at being in heaven with Jesus and Father David. Even before this incident, many disciples recounted moving and profoundly shaping experiences of visions, dreams and encounters with the Spirit World. However, the Spirit World also has a dark side. The Devil and his demons are ever present and actively at work in the world. The primary target is God’s own special End Time People. Opposition and persecution, physical illness, community discord, lack of disciplined behavior in children, and personal failures of all types are primarily conceptualized as the result of Satan’s attacks. The disciples are humorous people, with a wonderful capacity to laugh at themselves. But one never hears joking or in any way making light of evil spiritual forces. Nevertheless, Father David clearly taught that Satan has no ultimate

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 power over them. The disciples are confident that God is with them and that adequate spiritual power is accessible to eventually thwart any attack from the Dark Side. In keeping with their understanding of spiritual forces, disciples practice a form of spiritual healing common to the Pentecostal wing of Protestant Evangelicalism. Conventional medical care is uniformly supported and disciples who pursue treatment for medical problems are not viewed as spiritually problematic. However, the fundamental cause of illness or physical affliction is most often understood to be spiritual. Thus it is reasonable and prudent to seek a spiritual cure as a first response. The Children generally conceptualize problems, difficulties, and human weakness in distinctly spiritual terms. A significant number of young adults still carry unresolved resentment related to the dealing with typical childhood misbehavior as spiritual problems. However, most disciples are strengthened and empowered by their access to spiritual resources and power. The disciples interpret life as a profoundly spiritual adventure. This adventure is both personal and cosmic in scope. The End of Days Millennial expectation is a central focus of theology. David Berg taught that human history would climax in a worldwide political, economic, and moral meltdown. The Antichrist will arise to save the world and for 3 1/2 years will establish his reign as a wise and benevolent leader. Then, his true nature will be revealed. He will declare his divinity and require the world to worship and obey him, persecuting unto death all those who refuse. Satan, acting through the Antichrist, will have almost total control of the earth. All people will be required to carry the “Mark of the Beast” as a control mechanism. The Great Tribulation will last for 3 1/2 years; then, Christ will return for his Church. The Antichrist will be defeated in the Battle of Armageddon, Satan will be bound, and Christ will establish His Millennial Reign on earth. At the end of a thousand years, Satan will be released for one final confrontation. At Satan’s ultimate defeat, the Kingdom of Heaven will be established forever, and God’s Children will live with Him in the Heavenly City.35 This overall construct is generally consistent with beliefs that are held in substantial sections of the Christian Church. What distinguishs Family theology is the special role they will play in this grand drama, and the intensity of their conviction that the End Time is near.

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Chancellor: The Family

The disciples do not “believe” The End is near, they know it. And they live out their lives accordingly. Early in the movement there was considerable hope that 1993 would be the time, and there was considerable disappointment as the year past. Since then, The Family has been reluctant to set specific dates. But the knowledge that each day is lived in the shadow of the End remains a powerful dynamic and informs life at all levels. It continues to serve as the primary motivation and justification for the life of sacrifice and hardship. Until very recently, Family disciples have been loath to make long term plans for life in this world. Disciples do not plan for the future. The decisions they make are profoundly informed by the imminence of the End. The depth and intensity of the End Time Vision clearly sets them apart. There is also a firm conviction that their separation from the world, absolute dependence on God, communal lifestyle, suffering, and hardship will uniquely prepare them both to survive the Great Tribulation and lead other faithful Christians through those very dark years. The System Family disciples have a strong sense of special status with God, a status that sets them in full and deadly opposition to the world that is under the control of Satan, The System. The System is evil, dangerous, corrupt to the core, and forms the fundamental “other.”36 The disciples maintain as much distance from the System as possible. They hold passports, obtain drivers licenses, and get legally married when necessary. But they operate on the fringe, with as little interface with government or any other System institution as possible. They do not participate in civic life at any level. They educate their own children. They intentionally insulate themselves as much as possible. In general, this insulation extends to Christians outside the movement, especially the institutional church. This position has moderated over the last few years, and the disciples are much more open to working in cooperation with Christians outside their community. However, they generally do not identify or “fellowship” with outsiders, and the basic view of the Church as part of the System remains. Their special status with God carries a high price. The disciples live in an almost continual crisis environment. To survive and complete the assigned mission requires absolute dedication and requires a level of unity and discipline that can be only achieved through a structure of authority similar to that of a military establishment. Though authoritarianism has softened and the leadership structure is more open and democratic under the Charter, participation in God’s elite End Time Army still requires total obedience to God, and to the structures of authority God has ordained in Father David and the leadership of that Army.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 When questioned about the problems arising from the authority structure, many are quite open. Several themes consistently emerge. The era prior to 1978 is the Dark Age of the abuse of power. The disciples believe that changes in policy and spirit have worked to minimize the potential for mistreatment and abuse. However, the R N R did not alter the basic orientation that requires an authoritarian system of community organization and control. Generally, the disciples hold a complex and somewhat ambivalent appreciation of the authoritarian nature of their movement. They accept the necessity of discipline and clear lines of authority. They are aware of trials, trauma, and abuse. Yet, even in the face of serious abuse and profound personal loss, disciples consistently attribute these difficulties to the character flaws of individuals. They do not find fault with the nature of the community, and especially not the vision or leadership of Father David or Maria. Radical commitment to Jesus, the Prophethood of Father David, communion with the Spirit World, and the End Time Vision inform every facet of Family life. The Children have also retained their early vision of “Revolution for Jesus.” No aspect of their shared experience has been more “revolutionary” than the total restructuring of the sexual ethic. Sexual Ethos The renunciation of the “System,” interplay with the Spirit World, and authoritarian leadership structure has set The Family off as an unusual and distinctive religious movement. However, it is their “revolutionary” theology of human sexuality that has marked them, in the minds of many observers, as a “dangerous cult.” It is the single most distinguishing mark of this most unusual community. The sexual lifestyle of The Family is grounded on two assumptions that flowed straight from the mind of the Prophet. The first premise is that sex is not only a clean and pure God given gift, but also a basic human need, essentially no different than the need for sleep, food or water. Therefore, it is not only acceptable, but a Christian duty to meet the need of a brother or sister. The second premise flows out of the special nature of the time and the people. Father David taught the disciples that the close of the age required new and innovative understandings of God’s purposes and His will. As well, the Children were God’s Chosen End Time Army, and as such had received a special dispensation, freeing them from some of

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Chancellor: The Family

the legal and ethical constraints that are normative to the less committed Christian community still operating in the System. This is “The Law of Love.”37 Sexual purity was a key element of the early COG lifestyle. However, when the “revolution” came, it came swiftly and fully. Many could not make the adjustment and left. Those that stayed made the adjustment, and the new sexual ethos spread rapidly throughout the worldwide community. We have already addressed the three principle components of the revolution; sexual sharing, Flirty Fishing, and childhood sexuality. Sexual sharing had a two-fold purpose. The first was the straightforward enjoyment of sexual pleasure and fulfillment by as many disciples as possible. The other purpose was to break down old System loyalties and allegiances in order to establish primary loyalty to The Family and to the Prophet. By the early 1980’s, The Family had reached a level of sexual freedom and experimentation rarely imagined, never mind practiced by most human beings. Nudity was a common feature of home life. Father David laid open the possibility of lesbian intimacy, though he maintained a strong aversion to male homosexuality. Flirty Fishing was ubiquitous, and the vast majority of women were having regular sexual encounters with both strangers and long term “fish,” in order to fulfill the mission and support the home. Sexual sharing with multiple partners became so commonplace that in some areas the home leader would post “sharing schedules” on the bulletin board. Twelve year-old children were considered “adults” and often sexually initiated into the group. Sexual interplay with even younger children was never officially sanctioned, but was modeled in the Prophet’s household and did occur from time to time and place to place. However, this almost limitless freedom came with a heavy price. We have already addressed the dangerous, and then life threatening spread of STDs throughout the movement. Beyond that immediate threat, it is not hard to imagine the strain such activity placed on normal marital and family relationships. Then there are the children. They suffered not only from direct sexual encounter, but also from the instability of family life, never being quite sure whom their mother might be sleeping with the next night. It is little wonder that very few of the first wave of children remain in The Family. In time, Family leadership became cognizant of these issues and began to address them. Flirty Fishing was halted and all sexual contact with the outside world was banned. 38 Strictly enforced limitations were placed on the sexual experience of children, and fixed age limits were established for any sexual contact. The practice of sexual sharing has cooled off considerably since the wild years of the early 1980s. For one

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 thing, the first generation is beginning to gray, and it is hard to imagine them keeping up the pace. Then, the second generation paid the price for such rampant promiscuity. They are not anxious at all to head down that road. In general, the younger generation is considerably more conservative than their parents. However, the essential theological convictions on which the sexual ethos is grounded remains in tact. Though Flirty Fishing was halted, it was never repudiated. Quite the contrary, it is still viewed as a valid and proper technique for the times. Some women are nostalgic for the old days. The Law of Love remains in force, and sexual sharing is still a significant component of The Family lifestyle and an essential aspect of communal bonding. Maria has actually found it necessary, on several occasions, to admonish the older teens and young adults to be more sexually active, participating more fully in the “sexual fellowship” of the community.39 The continued prominent place of sexuality in Family ideology is clearly demonstrated in the most recent sexual innovation, the “Loving Jesus Revolution.” Maria and Peter received revelations from Jesus that he was most pleased with their commitment and fulfillment of their mission, but was not fully satisfied with the level of their devotion and the expression of their love for him. Jesus wants it more clearly understood that the Children are his Bride, and he is their Husband.40 To that end, in 1996 The Family began to incorporate the sex act into their private worship of Jesus. This is done though auto stimulation, or during sexual intercourse with a partner, imagining that partner as Jesus and expressing love for the Lord through the sexual partner. The Loving Jesus Revolution, like many of the innovative practices of The Family, was too much for some disciples, and they moved on. In general, the revolution has been accepted and is now a common feature of the disciples’ devotional life. There is a place for “Loving Jesus” within group devotional experiences, but not in the presence of children. The disciples have experienced any number of undulations in their sexual lifestyle. But there is little doubt that the “revolution” begun by Father David in the early 1970’s lives on, and remains integral to Family identity. The Broken Ones Beginning in the mid to late 1980’s, hundreds of older teenagers and young adults began leaving The Family. A good number, but by no means all, had been hurt, and some terribly scarred, by their experiences

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Chancellor: The Family

in The Family. They had suffered hardship, dislocation, broken families, deprivation of adequate educational opportunities, and serious emotional and sexual abuse. As these young people have matured, many have struggled deeply to overcome their past. Over the past few years some have attempted to loosely organize some type of united effort in coping with the past and seeking justice and compensation for the wrongs they suffered. For its part, The Family continues to offer general apologies for past wrongs, with the hope that everyone involved would forgive and forget. Most of the aggrieved ex-members are profoundly unimpressed by these efforts. The cause of these young people has been energized by a terrible tragedy. In January of 2005, Ricky Rodriquez, the oldest child of Maria who had departed the movement in 2000, murdered Angela Smith, Maria’s long time secretary. He then took his own life. His intent was to torture Ms. Smith to learn the location of his mother so that he might kill her as well. For a short time, this tragic event focused intense media coverage on The Family. Several active ex-members are now attempting to gather affidavits with the hopes of a class action suit against The Family and criminal proceedings against guilty parties within the group. Their efforts are frustrated on several fronts. Most of their parents are either still in The Family or so conflicted about their own complicity in the abuse that they will not cooperate or testify. Most of the criminal conduct occurred outside of the United States and was many years ago. Civil action is complicated by the difficulty of even finding “The Family,” and the lack of substantive financial resources to go after. This whole process is ongoing, and it is difficult to predict where it might all end. It is almost certain that new and more lurid accounts will appear in the future. The trauma and harm these people suffered is not self-mending, and their efforts to retaliate and seek some form of justice will surely continue, and most likely intensify. Conclusion: The Future of the Family It seems clear that the golden age of the “radical, revolutionary Children of God” is behind them. The disciples have matured considerably in the expression of the revolutionary components that remain. The “Consider the Poor Ministry,” the large number of the second generation leaving, and the more recent Activated Program are clearly blurring the once very sharp lines between discipleship and the System. The continual reduction in tension with the outside world is evident in many areas. However, the disciples still understand themselves to be God’s unique End Time Army. The Family would like a truce with the greater Church, but has no interest in joining the team.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 5-32 ISSN: 1941-8167 Surely the greatest challenge facing The Family is an internal one. Their unique role in God’s Mission remains justified and energized by the passionate and unequivocal expectation of the imminent End of Days. Like many movements before them, they will have to come to terms with an extended stay in human history. However, if The Family is anything, it is flexible. They have demonstrated a remarkable capacity to survive repression, persecution, monumental leadership failures, and radical theological restructuring. They have survived the death of the Prophet, and come to terms with the loss of many of their youth. Given their eccentricities, it is doubtful The Family will ever become a large movement. Nevertheless, they are a people filled with energy, confidence in their calling and mission, and above all hope. That hope has carried them though many dark nights and there is no reason to believe that it will not carry them well into the future.

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1

“The Great Escape!” Mo Letter # 160 . Zurich: World Services.

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“The Old Church and the New Church!” Mo Letter #A, August 1969. Zurich: World Services. 2

“I Gotta Split?” Mo Letter # 28. December, 1970. Zurich: World Services. 3

“Shiners? – or Shamers!” Mo Letter # 241. Zurich: World Services. 4

“The Shake – Up! – or Reorganization – The New Revolution Part 3 – The Chain of Cooperation. Mo Letter #328C. February, 1975. Zurich: World Services. 5

“The Family of Love – Sin or Salvation?” GP # 502R. Zurich: World Services. 6

“Re-organization Nationalization Revolution.” Mo Letter # 650. January 1978. Zurich: World Services. 7

8

The Book of Davidito. 1982. Zurich: World Services.

“Fellowship Revolution..” Mo Letter # 1001. April, 1981. Zurich: World Services. 9

10

“Teen Terrors!” Mo Letter # 1512. Zurich: World Services.

“The Seven Fs of Ffing.” Mo Letter # 1083. January 1983. Zurich: World Services. 11

“The Devil Hates Sex! –But God Loves It!” Mo Letter # 999. Many 1980. Zurich: World Services. 12

“Ban the Bomb!” Mo Letter # 1434. March 1983. Zurich: World Services. 13

“Sex with Babes?” Mo Letter # 1909. December, 1984. Zurich: World Services. 14

“Discipleship Training Revolution.” Mo Letter # 2677. Zurich: World Services. 15

“WS Advisory: “Tightening up our Family.” July, 1989. Zurich: World Services. 16

“!994 Family Statistical Report.” January, 1995. Zurich: World Services. 17

“PEN – Persecution End Time News.” October, 1993. Zurich: World Services. 18

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See “BI Case” in Chancellor, James D. 2000. Life in The Family: an Oral History of the Children of God. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. Pp.133-134. 19

“The Old Church and the New Church!” Mo Letter #A, August 1969. Zurich: World Services. 20

21

“Go to the Churches.” Mo Letter #2867. Zurich: World Services.

“The Ministry of Reconciliation.” New Good News, no. 653, October, 1995. Zurich: World Services. 22

“Consider the Poor! – Our New Ministry in the U. S. to the Poor!” Mo Letter #2755, March, 1992. Zurich: World Services. 23

“The Board Vision.” GN #949 CM/FM. August, 2001. Zurich: World Services. 24

“The Shakeup 2000 – The S2K!” GN # 3257. September, 1999. Zurich: World Services. 25

“Coming Persecution: Conviction versus Compromise Part 1.” GN 957 CM/FM. September, 2001. Zurich: World Services. 26

“Understanding Prophecy!” GN 876 CM/FM. January, 2000. Zurich: World Services. 27

“Three Gifts of the Lord’s Love!” Mo Letter #3005. March, 1995. Zurich: World Services. 28

“Heading into 2002!” GN 3382A CM/FM. December, 2001. Zurich: World Services. 29

30

Personal interview with Maria and Peter Amsterdam. October, 2002. “The Word, The Word, The Word!” Mo Letter #2494. November, 1988. Zurich: World Services. 31

See Chancellor, Appendix A for the complete “ Family Statement of Faith.” 32

“A Psalm of David!” Mo Letter # 152. January, 1972. Zurich: World Services. And “The Laws of Moses!” Mo Letter # 155. February, 1972. Zurich: World Services. 33

“Abrahim The Gypsy King: The True Story of Our Spirit Guide.” Mo Letter # 296. April, 1970. Zurich: World Services. 34

See Chancellor, Appendix A, Section 29, “Eschatological or Prophetic Considerations. Pp. 267 – 270. 35

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“A Prophecy Against Our Enemies!” Mo Letter #188. October,1972. Zurich: World Services. 36

“The Law of Love!” Mo Letter # 302. March, 1974. Zurich: World Services. 37

“The Ffing / Dfing revolution – The Book is the Hook!” Mo Letter # 2313, March, 1987. Zurich: World Services. And “Moma on the New AIDS Rules – its Come to That!” Mo Letter #2346. September, 1987. Zurich: World Services. 38

39

Personal interview with Maria and Peter Amsterdam. October, 2002. “Loving Jesus Revelation!” Mo Letters #3024 and 3025. July, 1995. Zurich: World Services. 40

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167

RESEARCH OBSERVATIONS: THE MEANING OF LIFE IN CONTEMPORARY DRUIDRY Michael T. Cooper Trinity International University Introduction The cultural context of Western culture suggests that people continue to demonstrate strong religious and paranormal beliefs. Over the course of the past several years, many have suggested that Western society is not as secular as once believed. 1 The contemporary Western religious landscape, instead, could be thought of in terms of re-enchantment. One expression of this re-enchantment is exemplified in the revival of European native religions, sometimes referred to as Paganism. In its varied expressions, Paganism has raised the question of whether the West was ever truly disenchanted. Some have suggested that Pagan religions such as Druidry, Asatru and Wicca are successfully confronting the Western religious economy. This article will look explicitly at Druidry as one recent expression of reenchantment. After defining and situating Druidry in the context of Pagan religions, this essay will examine the Druid understanding of life as it relates to the role of nature, deities and ancestors. An essential characteristic of the article is the attempt to allow practitioners of Druidry to express their beliefs in relationship to the meaning of life. As such, the article represents a framework by which one might study expressions of Paganism. Defining Druidry Paganism is a broad religious category incorporating at least three core beliefs. First is the belief in the inherent divinity of the natural world. Second, Pagans generally reject any dogma that prescribes the manner in which one should conduct life. Third, practitioners accept both female as well as male deities. As Ronald Hutton comments, “Pagans today are people who hold those tenets and turn from

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symbolism, kinship, and inspiration to the pre-Christian religions of Europe and the Near East. . . .”2 Hutton posits that if there is a legitimate claim to being a Pagan religion, Druidry can make it.3 Defining what it is, however, has become a difficult task. As an informant said, “Ask two Druids, get three answers.” The ancients suggested that the very word “Druid” itself is an indicator of its meaning. A cognate of the word for “oak” in many European languages and from “wisdom,” having an Indo-European root, many speculate that “Druid” is one who possesses the wisdom of the oak. 4 Strabo and Pliny the Elder both had the understanding that Druid was a cognate of the Greek for oak, drus.5 Pliny states, “The magicians perform no rites without using the foliage of those trees . . . it may be supposed that it is from this custom that they get their name of Druids, from the Greek word meaning ‘oak.’”6 Contemporary observers of Druidry have found a definition challenging. Graham Harvey, for example, states, “Not all of them [Druids] are Pagan, not all of them have Celtic ancestors, not all of them speak Celtic languages and not all of them agree on what ‘Druid’ means. Perhaps the only thing that they all agree on is that human sacrifice is not part of Druidry!”7 Emma Restall Orr recognizes the difficulty in defining Druidry as well. Due to the lack of a sacred text in Druidry it is difficult to arrive at a consensus of belief. Orr states, “There is no one god, or even one pantheon, which all Druids revere as the divine guiding force. There are no prophets who have laid down great truths together with ritual obligations – just a mixture of historical and mythical heroes.”8 Nonetheless, she suggests that there is consensus in regards to the general features of Druidry. Most Druids agree that it is a polytheistic faith that honors nature as well as the ancestors. However, according to Philip Carr-Gomm, each Druid can conceive of deity on his or her own. In this, some Druids are monotheistic while others are pantheistic or even agnostic. There are also duo-theistic Druids who polarize deity in order to express its femaleness and maleness, a theology borrowed from Wicca.9 CarrGomm states, “Druidry celebrates the natural world, and rather than focusing on how to transcend our physical existence, it focuses on celebrating our life on earth and on encouraging our creativity, helping the Bard within us to sing the song of our hearts and souls.”10 Alferian Gwydion MacLir, member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), Druid Wandmaker and Doctor of Philosophy (a.k.a. James W. Maertens, M.A., Ph.D.) has defined Druidry in this widely accepted manner: Druidry is a way of life based in reverence for and communion with nature. It teaches that spirits and intelligence exist

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 everywhere in nature, in animals, trees, stars and sacred places. It reveres ancestors and the divine imagination, which is to say the individual experience of the divine. Its ethics respect all creatures and value peaceful co-existence, sustainable living, and ecological responsibility. 11 Isaac Bonewits, founder and first Archdruid of Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), defined Druidry in light of its relationship with the pre-Christian expression. As such, Druidry is a Neo-Pagan religion. By this Bonewits meant that ADF would be a new expression of an ancient religion or what he termed paleo-Paganism. Those religious group that incorporate elements of Christianity or other religious elements were thought of as meso-Paganism. These distinctions do not seem to be of necessary importance for adherents. Some insight is gained from one informant’s comment on the subject: As for myself, I respond with a shameless yes to both terms. I am a Pagan and a Neo-Pagan. I find, however, as time goes on, that I call myself Pagan more and more, rather than Neo-Pagan. Probably because I’ve been a Pagan for ten and a half years now. I’m not exactly new to it anymore. ADF describes Druidry in the following manner: NeoPagan Druidry is a group of religions, philosophies and ways of life, rooted in ancient soil yet reaching for the stars. We are part of the larger NeoPagan movement, one of the world’s most vital and creative new religious awakenings. Like much of that movement we are polytheistic nature worshippers, working with the best aspects of the Pagan religions of our predecessors within a modern scientific, artistic, ecological and wholistic context using a nondogmatic and pluralistic approach.12 Nevertheless, no matter how Druidry is defined, phenomenologically speaking, there is an apparent congruency of beliefs among those I have interviewed. Research Methodology and the Study of Paganism Many have noted that research of Pagan religions is often difficult. 13 Due in part to the secretive nature of some religious rituals, participant observation can be challenging. Access to such events is generally limited to adherents. Eileen Barker, nevertheless, suggests that it is methodologically reprehensible if the study of a religious movement

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does not include participant observation.14 However, there can be consequences in this approach. While most sociologists and anthropologists regard participant observation as imperative in understanding religious movements, they can be mistaken for lending credibility to questionable groups.15 The research for this article is a result of on-going research attempting to understand the religious beliefs of contemporary Druids in relationship to the Western religious landscape. Two hundred and thirty interviews with 70 practitioners have been conducted by diverse means since September 2002. Three interviewing techniques constituted the use of the Internet: via electronic mail exchanges, a discussion forum and an on-line open-ended survey. Likewise, the traditional approach of faceto-face interviews was also employed, on occasion as a result of the initial electronic contact. As a result of the use of the electronic interviews, participant observations were made at three rituals and were followed up by face-to-face interviews with twelve practitioners. One telephone interview was conducted and was followed up by email. Internet Interviews The use of the Internet in research has recently attracted the attention of the academic community.16 Although traditional ethnography has depended upon the physical displacement of the researcher into a community that is geographically located, sociologists have a growing interest and acceptance of “virtual ethnography” in virtual communities that are located on the Internet. 17 Similarly, anthropology, even though a relatively recent interest, is increasingly open to academic enquiry on the Internet. 18 While there is interest in this type of research, there are also issues yet to be resolved. One issue confronting research framed in the context of the Internet is that of community. One informant was aware of the effect of being a participant in a “cyber-community,” Although the ADF organization really resonates with me, my experience with it up until this point has been through email lists rather than meeting anyone in person which may limit my interaction or impressions of others’ full personalities, practices, or beliefs, so my views of Druidry may or may not accord with the views of others. While outside the focus of the study, the research suggests that technology has little effect on the views of members. Samuel Wilson and Leighton Peterson suggest that “the distinction of real and imagined or virtual communities is not a useful one, and that an anthropological approach is well suited to investigate the continuum of communities, identities, and networks that exist . . . regardless of the ways in which

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 community members interact.”19 Margot Adler, the National Public Radio commentator and practicing Wiccan, notes that Pagans are generally optimistic about the use of technology.20 For many, according to Adler’s research, the computer is the best way to communicate with other Pagans.21 Still another issue is that of access or what has been termed the “cyberspace divide.”22 In the United States only fifty percent of households own personal computers and only fifty percent of these are connected to the Internet. 23 The worldwide estimate of on-line use is approximately 0.01 percent.24 Interestingly, however, Alder estimated that 21 percent of Pagans work in the computer technology field and many Pagans believe that 80 percent of the community actively uses computers.25 New ethical issues also arise in conducting Internet interviews. For example, the use of e-mail and discussion groups does not necessarily secure the anonymity of the user. On the other hand, chat rooms and discussion forums, while permitting anonymity, do not assure the researcher that the participant’s identity on-line is the same as the identity in public social discourse.26 Wilson and Peterson suggest that although the American Anthropological Association Code of Ethics does not explicitly deal with virtual research it should nonetheless apply to online as it does to face-to-face research.27 The benefits of Internet usage for interviews and surveys are great. The Internet opens up opportunities to interview individuals from different continents simultaneously while potentially maintaining daily contact with participants.28 In this, participants, such as Druids who might be otherwise socially marginalized, can participate from the safety of their environment. Studies have shown that email surveys are returned at a greater rate than surveys returned via post. Similarly, web page based surveys can speed up the data collection process and have been demonstrated to generate many responses in a short period of time. 29 In September 2002, a website was designed by the researcher and a domain name was secured through Domain Registry of America. The website was hosted on the Trinity International University’s server at the URL www.researchndruidry.org. The purpose of the website was to gather data from an online survey. There is absolutely no way to determine who came across it or for what reason they made their way to it unless they actually participate in the survey. To date, 49 practitioners of Druidry have completed the survey and five respondents were professed Christians attempting to evangelize me. The site has collected

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more than 1400 hits, but there is no way to tell how many are for the first time. The survey was originally tested by a group of Druids that were part of a discussion forum that was arranged especially for this research. There was general consensus that the website was appropriate and would assist in collecting data. One informant wrote, “I went to your website you set up. I think that it is a good way to get the answers you’re looking for without anyone having to reveal themselves if they choose not to.” The challenge for the website was to find Druids who would participate. Since the focus of the research was on two Druid groups (ADF and OBOD) an avenue was sought by which only those groups would participate. One informant from OBOD suggested that I post a message on the OBOD message board indicating the presence and purpose of the website. Since I was an unknown, I decided to wait on posting a message until I conducted face-to-face interviews with OBOD members. This seems to have been a good decision. One participant in a face-to-face interview commented on the OBOD message board, “For anybody interested, I’ve actually met the chap who made this post with [person’s name] to assist in his research. It’s straight up legit so do make your contributions on his website.” As previously mentioned, a discussion forum was initiated as a result of email communication with the senior Druid of a grove in the United States. The number of participants is unknown, but nine actually responded and interacted in written electronic form. Based on communication with the senior Druid I do know that the forum consisted of members of his local grove and another grove in the area, as well as others who were a part of a scholar’s guild for ADF. As a result of the forum and the advocacy of the participants, 26 ADF members have completed the online survey. Face-To-Face Interviews Face-to-face interviews were conducted in England and Scotland from 9 to 21 June 2003. All seven of the interviewees were participants in OBOD. Some arrangements were made before I arrived in England by email correspondence. Others were made through interviewees’ introduction following a participant observation of a summer solstice ritual in Glastonbury. Five additional face-to-face interviews were conducted with ADF participants. These particular interviews were also conducted on 22 September 2005 after observation of an autumn equinox ritual that incorporated an ordination of one member into the Druid priesthood. While there were 25 participants at the ritual, three of the five interviewees were individuals who had participated in a discussion forum.

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 The Meaning of Life in Contemporary Druidry: A Phenomenological Approach Joseph Bettis outlines three ways in which phenomenology of religion can be understood. First, it can refer to the philosophical school that asks the question, what is phenomenology. Second, phenomenology of religion can refer to the study of religion in historical perspective where researchers apply phenomenological methods to early religious symbolism and rituals. Finally, it can be understood as one religions attempt to describe the essence of what practitioners do. 30 As such, phenomenology of religion is not necessarily concerned for finding a common theme among all religious practitioners nor is it concerned with a theology of religion. As Bettis notes, “phenomenology of religion attempts to describe religious behavior rather than explain it.”31 It is in this third understanding that the current research formulates a phenomenological study of Druidry. In developing a contemporary understanding of the religious beliefs of Druids the question of how initiates make sense out of life is addressed. Fredrick Streng noted, “To understand religious life means to comprehend the feelings, activities, ideas and social forms of people as they express the ultimate dimension of their lives.”32 For this study, the ultimate dimension is explored in adherents’ responses to one interview question: how does Druidry provide an understanding to the meaning of life? In other words, why are we here? Melford Spiro suggested that humanity has a universal desire to know, to understand and to find meaning. He posited, “religious beliefs are held, and are of ‘concern,’ to religious actors because, in the absence of competitive explanations, they satisfy this desire [to know, to understand and to find meaning].”33 The phenomenological analysis will focus on how Druids express this universal desire of humanity. The question on a meaning of life attempts to understand a religious system synchronically and diachronically. The synchronic understanding of life helps answer the question of who one is whereas the diachronic meaning helps in understanding the historical connection with the community. When asked about the meaning of life, informants consistently defined themselves in terms of the wheel of the year/cycle of nature (synchronic) and the ancestors and deities (diachronic). This three-fold idea was widespread: nature, ancestors, gods and goddesses. One member of ADF referred to this notion as the Kindreds, “Most of us believe that by working with members of the Kindreds: spirits of nature, the ancestors and the deities, we develop allies that help us through troubled times.” Whether or not the Kindreds are a universal

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in Druidry is unclear. Nevertheless, the meaning of life for adherents of Druidry is derived from an understanding of nature, ancestors and deities. Another informant states, [Those practices (rituals, etc.)] open the portals to the Otherworld where I can experience the wonders of Nature, Faerie, mythology, fantasy, history, the future. All that is available to me through Druid (and Wiccan) training, and I feel very connected to the Gods, the world and nature. Cycle of Nature/Wheel of the Year Philip Carr-Gomm writes, “Druidry has an entirely different vision that celebrates and revels in life-as-it-is-now – not life as it might be in the hereafter or as it could be if we were able to break the cycle of death and rebirth.”34 In this way, the meaning of life is mirrored in the cycles of nature. One informant stated, “We celebrate the changes, we celebrate the fertility, the birth, the harvest, the death.” Life is a journey beginning with birth and leading to death and some type of re-birth. The cycle of nature helps in the understanding of this process and is therefore celebrated at festivals reinforcing the deep sense of responsibility that the Druid has for the environment. They provide a practical means where the practitioner can experience oneness with nature and its rhythm in the changing seasons.35 For example, consider the following comment: I feel that everything on this planet is connected, in a symbiotic relationship. We may have higher intelligence than other species but have misused it. Mankind has at times seen themselves as dominator of the planet, resulting in a disconnection from the natural world, leaving destruction in our wake. I believe that life should be lived passionately, and that a deep sense of connection with nature is life-enhancing, both for ourselves and also for the wider world that we live in. There are eight community festivals celebrated by Druids during the course of the year beginning with Samhain.36 These same eight festivals are also celebrated by Wiccans. Carr-Gomm writes, Witches, Wiccans and Druids all celebrate these times of the year. Although we can find traces and records of ancient practices and folklore associated with these special times, we cannot be sure that any particular community in ancient times celebrated all eight. In the modern era, it was only in the middle of the last century that Ross Nichols and Gerald Gardner introduced the celebrations of the complete eightfold cycle – a practice that has now become widespread. 37

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 The eight festivals are divided into two sets of four. There is an apparent belief that these practices are somehow tied to the past practices of Druids. For example, Druidry teaches a way of life that embraces and loves the nonhuman world as much as the human world. The old Druidry of legend strikes a chord with those people in the modern world seeking a spiritual path grounded in Nature. . . . Druidry is fundamentally a relationship to the natural world of animals, trees, plants, sea, star and stone. It cultivates awe and a sense of the numinous in the light of the sun and moon, and the invisible rush of the wind. It acknowledges spirit in all things, not just in human beings, and finds intelligence and wisdom in all creatures. In this respect, it is in accord with much of modern science but goes beyond biology to find life and communion in stones, rivers and stars–things science tends to consider “inanimate” and without intelligence. 38 What is of interest for this research is the contemporary meaning given to these practices more than their historical authenticity. As Maya Sutton and her co-author Nicholas Mann suggest, indifferent of the practice’s historicity, “We use this cyclical pattern in our Druid ceremonies and find that it becomes more relevant and appropriate as time goes by.”39 The first set of four festivals is the Solar Feasts and they occur at midwinter (21 December) and midsummer (21 June) as well as at the time of the equinoxes (21 March and 21 September). The second set of four festivals, the Fire Feasts, made up for the agricultural climate of Northern Europe (1 May – Beltane or May Day; 1 August – Lughnasadh or Lammastide; 1 November – Samhain; 1 February – Imbolc or the Feast of the Candles). Thus, according to Chris Turner, the Solar Feasts are predominately spiritual and the Fire Feasts are primarily pastoral.40 One informant communicates the significance of the wheel relating it to Christianity: Just as Christians take the life, acts and words of Christ as the path by which they order their lives and model their behavior, so, I think, do Pagans--Wiccans, druids and others, take the Wheel of the Year as a guiding inspiration. Everything has a beginning, middle and end, and must, for life to continue. The feasts are viewed as rites of passage in the cycle of life. They help bring understanding to different stages from birth to death.

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Beginning with midwinter, the cycle celebrates the return of the sun and represents the hope of re-birth after death. The Winter Solstice is the time when the atom-seed of Light, represented both by the one light raised on high and by the white mistletoe berries distributed during the ceremony, comes down from the Inspired realms and is conceived or incarnated in the womb of the night and of the Earth Mother. It is thus a potent time to open ourselves to the fertilising power of the Muse or of the Great Source, so that we may give birth to our creativity.41 By the spring equinox, the cycle celebrates fertility and balance between life and death, light and darkness. It points to the future and the light that will illumine the world until the autumn equinox takes it away. It is a hopeful time of potential growth when seeds for the new crops are blessed and planted. In recognizing the power of the sun over the darkness, it symbolizes the rise of wisdom. Carr-Gomm states, “At this time we can open ourselves to wisdom and the powers that can bring clarity to us.”42 The midsummer celebrations focus on vitality and strength. It is “the time of Expression - when we can open ourselves to realising our dreams and working in the arena of the outer world.”43 Yet, at the same time, it recognizes the waning of the vitality and strength as the days begin to be shorter. The autumn equinox is a time for reflection on what the light has brought. It acknowledges the mystery of how the seed planted in the spring has grown and will soon be harvested.44 According to Ross Nichols, founder of OBOD, the solar feasts remind the practitioner of the importance in giving and receiving, “The putting into practice the law of giving and receiving is what makes these solstice ceremonies the high ones of the year. The full cup that has been received must be emptied if it is to be refilled.”45 Another informant states, I believe the meaning of life to be a chance to grow and improve. Improve not only ourselves, but the earth by reconnecting with a time when people lived with the land and not against it. When we were a part of nature, in harmony, not when we ignore it. To acknowledge the spirits that are around us and give them the proper respect. Interspersed in these solar feasts are feasts of the season. CarrGomm states, “The four fire festivals relate to key life periods and the experiences necessary for each one of them.”46 Beginning with Samhain (sometimes written as Samhuinn and pronounced sow-inn), recognition that summer has come to an end leads to thanks for what has been

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 accomplished as well as a desire to protect what might not survive the winter. It is also a time of mourning the past because it is gone and recognizing its contribution to the future. The dead are honored at this festival and their direction is sought for the future. “It is a time of prophesies, of disguising oneself to avert evil, of performing rites of protection from the dead and Otherworldly spirits.”47 Nichols states that the gates of this world and the other world are opened at this time. 48 Carr-Gomm writes, “The Druid rite of Samhuinn, therefore, is concerned with making contact with the spirits of the departed, who are seen as sources of guidance and inspiration rather than as sources of dread.”49 As we grow old, we approach the Gateway to the Other World. If we have followed such a path as Druidry, this becomes a time of preparation for the Great Adventure, a time in which we become familiar with our friends and guides in the Other Worlds who show us, time and again, that death is really a b..8273( )]rith os

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might well be one of the feminine and masculine sides of our nature.54 Finally, Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-nas-ah) is the celebration of the first harvest. It focuses on the understanding of sacrifice as it acknowledges the giving up of the seed to death and the giving of life sustaining nutrients.55 As we become young adults at the Lughnasadh time of our lives and begin to build a family, the rules change - the wildness of youth gives way to the constraints that responsibility brings, and we need an understanding of this as part of the wider scheme of things - not merely a ‘knuckling down’ to duty with the seeds of rebellion in our hearts.56 Orr summarizes the meaning of these rites of passage, So the Druid family is offered rites of passage which carry the members from conception to death. These ceremonies of celebration, dedication and transformation are to some extent individually crafted to be specifically relevant to the people involved. They are designed to aid processes of change, to bring confidence and affirm support.57 Deities Through the connection with the wheel or cycle of the year, a practitioner achieves a sense of cosmic belonging. That belonging creates meaning and order for life. So, it is in the context of the wheel of the year that a practitioner understands his/her relationship to nature, ancestors and the god/desses. As stated previously, there is no single pantheon of god/desses in Druidry. However, there does seem to be the belief in a Life Force that varies in manifestations. I believe our spirits are eternal and we vacillate between being in a state of spirit and earthly manifestation. Our goal is to learn the truth and grow closer to the Life Force that is the Universe, whether you call it The Force, the Gods, God, Goddess, Deity, Great Spirit, Eternal Spirit or any of the multitude of concepts humans have devised to encompass this incredible, but intangible force of life. One member of ADF stated, As polytheists, we believe in a multiplicity of deities, some more powerful than others. Individual Groves within ADF may have specific deities that are worshipped at every occasion for worship or may change which deity is worshipped based on the

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 time of the year. The same holds true for our solitary members as well. There is a strong sense of being in the presence of gods and goddesses. The gods and goddesses are viewed as imminent rather than transcendent. Since Druidry is polytheistic, this might be expected. We also live among gods. The Divine is immanent in reality to such an extent that one is never outside of its presence. There is no “deus absconditus” (hidden God) or withdrawn transcendence: the gods are here with us, all the time, in all our comings and goings. Thus, we live together among the gods, which means doing the best by them that we can. While ancient writers related the Celtic gods with their own, there is an attempt to reconstruct them for the contemporary context. This reconstruction makes Druidry distinct from Wicca in that Wicca’s theology is characterized by its polarity. Wicca views the essentiality of the maleness and femaleness of deity as expressed in the god and the goddess. Druidry on the other hand does not necessarily view this distinction. One insider explains the difference, One of the ways in which Druidry differs from modern Wiccan witchcraft is that it does not posit a dual theology of one god and one goddess. Indeed it doesn’t posit any single theology at all. Gods and goddesses are treated as heroes of story and the spirits of place -- of river, rock, well, and tree -- are just as divine as any pantheon of archetypal characters corresponding to social roles or crafts. The Celtic gods and goddesses, such as Lugh, Brigit, Dagda, Boann, Cernunnos, Hu, Taranis, Ogma, Angus Og, Cerridwen, and Arianrhod (among others) are sometimes characters of legend, and sometimes spirits of place. In the case of Lugh and Brigit, these are spirits of knowledge and craft and healing.58 Nevertheless, it is difficult if not impossible to identify a specific pantheon of gods in Druidry. As another informant explains, There is no simple pantheon and modern Druidry often embraces deities and stories from diverse other pantheons, recognizing the power of myth across cultures. Some modern druids are Celtic reconstructionists, some are pantheists, some are syncretists

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drawing on Native American or Asian philosophies and deities. I venture to say, however, that most if not all Druids recognize and revere the spirits of the trees, animals, and wilderness places.59 Ancestors Miranda Green points out that, for contemporary practitioners, the ancestors provide the connection between the past and present.60 As one informant explained, These [ancestors] can be your own direct ancestors, the ancestors of the tribe (community) you now belong to or the ancestors of the earth, the place where you meet or worship. We feel that all of our ancestors are worthy of respect and that no ancestor was completely bad, that they all have some good within them. It is also important to remember that without these ancestors, we wouldn’t be here. The connection with the ancestors is significant for the Druid. One informant comments, “Those practices (rituals, etc.) give me a sense of stability and continuity with my fellow Pagans, and my ancient ancestors.” It not only provides them with a sense of identity that has been inherited down through the centuries, the ancestors are viewed as a rich resource that can counsel and protect. Another informant states, Really, guiding souls on this plane of existence is what I believe the deceased do between lives as well. When a person in the family dies, I believe they have become one of the Ancestors, and as such, may be appealed to for guidance. The ancestors, are after all, one of the triumvirate of, for want of a better term, entities, we appeal to in our rituals. Nature, deities and ancestors all contribute to the meaning of life in contemporary Druidry. In relationship to nature, one informant commented, Paganism is an earth-based religion. We work with the wheel of the year. The year is divided into four quarters and four cross quarters, each with is own celebration. It’s a dying and rebirth world. We celebrate the changes; we celebrate the fertility, the birth, the harvest and the death. The change from the dark half of the year to the light half of the year and back. Our lives are the same. We’re conceived, born, work, die and our energy is recycled. It’s the wheel of life. On occasion, an informant would respond differently. For example,

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Volume 3 Number 1 (2008): 35-57 ISSN: 1941-8167 The meaning of life itself is to live life to the fullest. To learn and gain knowledge, experience, and spirituality to its fullest. To have no fear of life and to know that everything you experience and learn in life is for a reason and has meaning. Even if you don’t always know what that meaning is until a later date. Nonetheless, the consensus among those interviewed was that nature modeled the meaning of life. In regards to life, one informant commented: We can experience it and embrace that experience, we can celebrate it and we can trust it. One Druid tradition, the RDNA, narrowed down their basic expression of belief to the simple statement “Nature is good.” That doesn’t mean it conforms to our human notions of good and evil; it means that trusting Nature is the one choice we’ve got. (Literally–to insist that Nature is not to be trusted, and take that insistence seriously, is to go spinning into an abyss of self-contradictions). Trusting in the cycles of nature, then, provides meaning to life and gives explanation to life’s experiences. Other informants saw the meaning of life in their connection with the divine, as well as with nature. For example, an informant stated, the meaning of life is “To connect with the divine, with the rest of humanity, and nature.” This was not uncommon. Consider the following comment: We believe that we are here to gain a better understanding of how the world around us, and everything that happens on it, works. Druidry is a path of lifelong learning. We learn about the cycles of nature, the history of our ancestors and the nature of our Gods and Goddesses. Conclusion In order for an understanding to develop of Druidry, a phenomenological approach to ultimate questions is suggested as a framework. Particularly, as expressed in the study, this framework has attempted to understand the Druid meaning of life. The phenomenological analysis in the study focused on that meaning as expressed in the Druid relationship with nature, the deities and ancestors. The effect that Druidry has had upon the researcher is inconsequential.

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At the same time, verification of the observed phenomena by practitioners is vital for a perspective that describes the religious experience of others. While this study has looked at Druidry phenomenologically, further historical and sociological research is needed. Specifically stated, research is needed in regards to the number and types of rituals that are practiced. There are eight festivals celebrated throughout the year that directly relate to the beliefs and practices of Druids. Further participantobservation of these religious rituals would help in a general knowledge of their relationship to beliefs and practices. Similarly, this study has focused on two Druid organizations when there are literally hundreds spread across the globe. While the present study helps with a beginning knowledge of Druidry, further research should focus on specific cultural expressions of these beliefs. Rodney Stark, “Church and Sect,” in The Sacred in a Secular Age: Toward Revision in the Scientific Study of Religion, ed. Phillip E. Hammond (Berkeley: University of California, 1985); Rodney Stark and Laurence R. Iannaccone, “A Supply-Side Reinterpretation of the ‘Secularization’ of Europe,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 33, no. 3 (1994): 230-252; William S. Bainbridge, “Secularization, Revival and Cult Formation,” The Annual Review of the Social Science of Religion 4 (1980): 85-119; Peter Berger, “Epistemological Modesty: An Interview with Peter Berger,” Christian Century 114, no. 30 (1997): 972-976; Peter L. Berger, “The Desecularization of the World: A Global Overview,” in The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics, ed. Peter L. Berger (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999). 1

Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (New York: Oxford, 1999), 390. 2

Ronald Hutton, “The Roots of Modern Paganism,” in Pagan Pathways: A Guide to the Ancient Earth Traditions, ed. Graham Harvey and Charlotte Hardman (London: Thorsons, 1996), 4. 3

Emma Restall Orr, Principles of Druidry (London: Thorsons, 1998), 25; cf. Philip Carr-Gomm, Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century (London: Rider, 2002), 3-4. 4

Peter Beresford Ellis, A Brief History of the Druids (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2002), 37. 5

Pliny, Natural History, XVI, 95.

6

Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People Speaking Earth (Washington Square, N.Y.: New York University, 1997), 17. 7

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Orr, Principles of Druidry, 8.

8

Carr-Gomm, Druid Mysteries, 55.

9

10

Ibid., 5.

11

James W. Maertens, “Druidry Teaches . . .” (accessed from www.druidry.org, 31 August 2003). Information from http://www.adf.org/identity/npd-today.html. Accessed 10 March 2003. 12

See for example Tanya Luhrmann, Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft: Ritual Magic in Contemporary England (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989); Lorettta Orion, “Revival of Western Paganism and Witchcraft in the Contemporary United States” (Ph.D. diss., State University, 1990); Michael York, The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-pagan Movements (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 1995); Helen Berger, A Community of Witches: Contemporary Neo-Paganism and Witchcraft in the United States (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1997); Jenny Blain, Douglas Ezzy and Graham Harvey, eds., Researching Paganisms (Walnut Creek, Calif.: Alta Mira, 2004). 13

Eileen Barker, “The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must be Joking!” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 34, no. 3 (1995): 289-290. 14

15

David G. Bromley, Jeffrey K. Hadden and Phillip E. Hammond, “Reflections on the Scholarly Study of New Religious Movements,” in The Future of New Religious Movements, ed. David G. Bromely and Phillip E. Hammond (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University, 1987), 213. Chris Mann and Fiona Stewart, “Internet Interviewing,” in Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method, ed. Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2002), 611. See also R. Coomber, “Using the Internet for Survey Research,” Sociological Research Online 2, 2 (1997). Accessed 16 October 2002 from www.socresonling.org.uk/socresonline/2/2/2.html. 16

Kate Eichhorn, “Sites Unseen: Ethnographic Research in a Textual Community,” Qualitative Studies in Education 14, 4 (2001): 567. 17

Samuel M. Wilson and Leighton C. Peterson, “The Anthropology of Online Communities,” Annual Review of Anthropology 31 (2002): 450. 18

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19

Ibid. 456-457.

Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers and Other Pagans in America Today (New York: Penguin, 1986), 392. 20

21

Ibid., 448.

Brian D. Loader, Cyberspace Divide: Equality, Agency and Policy in the Information Society (London: Routledge, 1998). 22

Andrea Fontana, “Postmodern Trends in Interviewing,” in Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method, ed. Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2002), 169. 23

Chris Mann and Fiona Stewart, “Internet Interviewing,” in Handbook of Interview Research: Context and Method, ed. Jaber F. Gubrium and James A. Holstein (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2002), 605. 24

Alder, Drawing Down the Moon, 447. See also Erik Davis, “Technopagans: May the Astral Plane Be Reborn in Cyberspace,” Wired Magazine 3, no. 7 (1995), accessed 15 October 2002 at www.wired.com/wired/archive/3.07/technopagans_pr.html. 25

Fontana, “Postmodern Trends in Interviewing,” 169.

26

Wilson and Peterson, “The Anthropology of Online Communities,” 461. See Carol V. McKinney, Globe-Trotting in Sandals: A Field Guide to Cultural Research (Dallas: SIL, 2000), 10-20 for a summary of AAA Code of Ethics. The June 1998 Code of Ethics of the American Anthropological Association can be found at http://www.aaanet.org/committees/ethics/ethcode.htm 27

Mann and Stewart, “Internet Interviewing,” 605.

28 29

Ibid., 608.

Joseph Dabney Bettis, “Introduction,” in Phenomenology of Religion (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), 1-2. 30

31

Ibid., 3.

Frederick J. Streng, Understanding Religious Life (Encino, Calif.: Dickenson, 1976), 1. 32

Melford E. Spiro, “Religion: Problems of Definition and Explanation,” in Anthropological Approaches to the Study of Religion, ed. Michael Banton (London: Tavistock, 1966), 110. 33

Philip Carr-Gomm, The Druid Mysteries: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century (London: Rider, 2003), 6. 34

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Carr-Gomm, Druid Mysteries, 89.

35 36

Carr-Gomm acknowledges that Samhain was believed to mark the beginning and end of the Celtic year, “This now seems incorrect historically, but nevertheless those who celebrate this time today notice a definite shift in the life of the year–with it dying in some way and perhaps only really being reborn at the winter solstice, the time that scholars now believe marked the traditional beginning of the new year.” Ibid., 93. Cf. Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism: Listening People, Speaking Earth (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 3-6. Philip Carr-Gomm, Druidcraft: The Magic of Wicca and Druidry (London: Thorsons, 2002), 88. 37

James W. Maertens, “Druidry Teaches . . .” (accessed from www.druidry.org, 31 August 2003). 38

Maya Magee Sutton and Nicholas R. Mann, Druid Magic: The Practice of Celtic Wisdom (St. Paul, Minn.: Llewellyn, 2002), 228. 39

Chris Turner, “The Sacred Calendar,” in The Druid Renaissance: The Voice of Druidry Today, ed. Philip Carr-Gomm (London: Thorsons, 1996), 160-162. 40

Philip Carr-Gomm, “Druid Festivals,” available from http://druidry.org/obod/intro/festivals.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 41

42

Ibid.

43

Ibid. Orr, Principles of Druidry, 85-91.

44

Ross Nichols, “Festivals of Light,” in The Druid Teachings of Ross Nichols, ed. Philip Carr-Gomm (London: Watkins, 2002), 108-109. 45

Carr-Gomm, “Druid Festivals” available from http://druidry.org/obod/intro/festivals.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 46

Copperlion, “The Thinning Veil,” available from http://druidry.org/obod/festivals/samhain.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 47

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Ross Nichols, “The Fuller Tale of Ceridwen Ceriedwen,” in The Druid Teachings of Ross Nichols, ed. Philip Carr-Gomm (London: Watkins, 2002), 94. 48

Carr-Gomm, Druid Mysteries, 94.

49

Carr-Gomm, “Druid Festivals,” available from http://druidry.org/obod/intro/festivals.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 50

Harvey, Contemporary Paganism, 8-9.

51

Carr-Gomm, Druid Mysteries, 98.

52

Coifi, “Imbloc,” available from http://druidry.org/obod/festivals/imbolctxt.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 53

Information from http://druidry.org/obod/festivals/beltane.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 54

Orr, Principles of Druidry, 92-97.

55

Carr-Gomm, “Druid Festivals,” available from http://druidry.org/obod/intro/festivals.html, accessed 17 October 2003. 56

Orr, Principles of Druidry, 98.

57

James W. Maertens, “Druidry Teaches . . .” (accessed from http://www.druidry.org, 31 August 2003). 58

59

Ibid.

Miranda J. Green, The World of the Druids (London: Thames and Hudson, 1997), 178. 60

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LATTER-DAY SAINTS, RITUAL, PILGRIMAGE, AND CULTURAL SYMBOLICS: NEGLECTED SOURCES FOR UNDERSTANDING AND ENGAGEMENT John W. Morehead Western Institute for Intercultural Studies

Introduction The general academic study of Mormonism is growing rapidly, but the types of analysis have been focused in relatively few areas. Evangelical explorations of Mormonism have also been limited, as exemplified by the vast majority of popular studies that primarily address doctrine and worldview. This is understandable in that Mormons believe their faith to be a restored expression of original Christianity, and yet from a traditional Christian perspective the doctrines of Mormonism are typically considered heretical. From this perspective, the analysis and critique of Mormon doctrine serves the dual function of defining traditional Christianity while doing so in contrast and opposition to many of the unique doctrines of Mormonism. But while this situation within evangelicalism is understandable, and explorations of Mormon doctrine and worldview are of continuing importance, additional perspectives of analysis are needed which will broaden an understanding of this complex and multifaceted religion and culture. Ritual represents an important and neglected aspect of Mormon studies that can compliment the many doctrinal studies of the religion. This aspect has not been discussed by evangelical writers and this article attempts to address this deficit. Specifically, this article will look at one aspect of ritual in the form of pilgrimage, and will apply the insights of anthropology of pilgrimage as a tool to help in the understanding of Mormons and Mormonism. I will then consider the implications of anthropology of pilgrimage for evangelicals in their engagement with Latter-day Saints.

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Mormonism, Academia, And Neglected Aspects Of Study In an extensive article from FARMS Review, M. Gerald Bradford notes the growing interest among scholars in the study of Mormonism as a religious tradition. 1 This is expressed in a variety of forms, from academic publications, to dissertations and theses, to the development of Mormon studies programs at various universities. But even with this increased academic interest the focus has tended to be relatively narrow involving historical, cross-cultural, scriptural, doctrinal, and social scientific studies. 2 In light of the narrow analytical frameworks, Bradford suggests that the religious studies agenda for Mormonism needs to be broadened to include neglected aspects of the Mormon religion: The experiential, ritual, ethical and legal, and material dimensions of Mormonism all have one thing in common: relatively little attention has been paid to them. These elements need to be integrated with other dimensions of the faith and compared with like characteristics in other religions before the tradition’s structural makeup is fully portrayed. What it means to be a Latter-day Saint is reflected in the experiential and ritual dimensions of the faith every bit as much as in what adherents believe or in the sacred writings they hold dear.3 Just a little later in his discussion Bradford goes on to specifically emphasize again the significance of ritual as a neglected aspect of Mormon studies: …the study of the ritual or ceremonial dimension of Mormonism, in everyday life and worship is of vital importance in gaining a better appreciation of the tradition as a whole. This aspect also needs to be studied in comparison with patterned celebrations and formalities in other traditions. 4 Bradford is not the only scholar to recognize the significance of ritual studies to an understanding of Mormonism. John Sorenson has discussed various aspects of ritual in Mormonism as an alternative or compliment to formal theology as a vehicle for understanding the religion. 5 He defines ritual as “formal patterns of behavior in which issues of ultimate significance are affirmed, reflected, or brought into thoughtful consideration.”6 With this definition in mind, he notes there is a “range of religious ritual” that takes place in LDS life in a variety of contexts, from the personal, to the congregational, to that which surrounds LDS temples as well as drama.7 Scholars have noted that within Mormonism history plays the part that theology does in Protestant Christianity. 8 History and ritual come together in LDS culture in connection with the celebration of

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Mormonism’s sacred history in things like community celebrations such as Pioneer Day (the most popular cultural celebration in the state of Utah) and pageants or public dramas such as the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah.9 Within Mormonism various historic sites serve as a “physical example of the ritualizing impulse,” such as the Hill Cumorah in New York where Latter-day Saints believe Joseph Smith found ancient golden tables which would become the Book of Mormon, the Sacred Grove also in New York where Smith claimed to have been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ, as well as the Kirtland Temple in Ohio and Nauvoo Temple in Illinois. 10 Such sites and the ritual celebrations that go with them are significant within Mormonism. As Olson notes, “the territorial environment functions as a symbol of group identity” through which “the group’s most important values are ritually and ideally expressed for the entire community.”11 Olsen refers to this process as an “ideology of place,” a “powerful idiom through which attachment and identity are expressed.12 Having considered the significance of Mormon ritual in connection with idea of sacred places I now turn my attention to specific forms of Latter-day Saint ritual, that of Mormon participation in dramas at temple sites. I argue that they are as ritually significant to Latter-day Saints as a form of religious pilgrimage just as pilgrimages in other religious traditions, whether the hajj in Islam or life-cycle initiations (samskaras) in Hinduism. While it may seem strange to evangelicals to think of Mormon visits to community celebrations, pageants, and temples as religious pilgrimage akin to pilgrimage in other religious traditions, there is scholarly recognition of pilgrimage in Mormon culture. 13 A consideration of anthropology of pilgrimage will help in understanding the similarities between various types of pilgrimages in differing religious contexts. Anthropology of Pilgrimage Pilgrimage is a relatively new aspect of study in anthropology. It usually depends upon the theoretical model for interpretation from Victor and Edith Turner, although the details of their model are debated. Anthropology of pilgrimage seeks to understand the “cultural and social significance of human travel”14 in religious contexts. Alan Morinis defines pilgrimage as “a process undertaken by a person in quest of a place or a state that he or she believes to embody a valued idea.”15 It involves a number of elements which minimally include “the religiously motivated individual, the intended sacred goal or place, and the act of

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making spatial effort to bring about their conjunction.”16 Pilgrimage then may be understood as a sacred journey, and Morinis has developed a typology for the journeys that includes devotional, instrumental, normative, obligatory, wandering, and initiatory.17 In consideration of Mormon culture related to pilgrimage, particularly those involving temples and pageants, Mormon pilgrimage is most likely best classified as encompassing aspects of both initiatory, defined as those pilgrimages that “have as their purpose the transformation of the status of the participants,” or devotional, defined as those pilgrimages which “have as their goal encounter with, and honoring of, the shrine divinity, personage, or symbol.”18 Application to LDS Culture Scholars are more likely to recognize pilgrimage as a facet in other religious traditions, but may question its application Mormonism. How can pilgrimage be understood to take place in Mormon culture, particularly when, as Davies states, “Mormons themselves do not normally speak of pilgrimage”?19 Such a lack of conscious awareness on the part of the pilgrim is not the determining factor in addressing this issue. As Morinis notes, pilgrims do not necessarily engage in a process of self-conscious pilgrimage or understand the symbolism of the object of that journey.20 It is the personal movement toward a sacred place on the part of the pilgrim that is the determining factor as discussed above. In Davies’s consideration of this in connection with Mormonism, If pilgrimage is grounded in the process of movement towards a sacred space for soteriological ends then it is perfectly legitimate to approach the Mormon practice of temple visiting and the idea of life as a journey to heaven as aspects of pilgrimage.21 In his discussion of Mormon pilgrimage, Davies discusses various expressions of it including drama and temple visits. Davies notes that LDS temples function within Mormon perceptual geography as central symbols, and in his view “Mormon spirituality cannot be interpreted without some idiom of pilgrimage.”22 In LDS temples Mormon history and faith come together as “an exteriorization of Mormon spirituality,” where temples serve “as the final unifying focus both of historical patterns of pilgrimage, of missionary pilgrimage, and of life itself as pilgrimage.”23 Cultural Considerations from Pilgrimage A study of LDS ritual from the perspective of anthropology of pilgrimage provides a number of insights into Mormon culture that have profound implications for evangelical engagement with Latter-day

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Saints. I will first consider three cultural aspects and then their implications for evangelical and LDS encounters. Identity and Ideology of Place Community celebrations within Mormon culture such as Pioneer Day, and even local cemeteries in Mormon communities, function as symbols of Mormon group identity. The same is true of pageants such as The Mormon Miracle Pageant at Manti, which Bitton describes as an event which perpetuates “a romanticized, ritualized, version of the Mormon past.”24 Such celebrations in connection with sacred spaces of pilgrimage provide what Olsen has called an “ideology of place” where the territorial environment often serves to express fundamental aspects of a culture’s ideology. 25 Temples as Social Symbol LDS cultural identity is not only found in community celebrations and pageants, but as we have seen, temples also serve as important expressions of social symbols as well. As Mormon sociologist Armand Mauss has observed, a temple offers “a solid, material focus for the collective, community identity of all the Mormons in its locale, and especially for the individual Mormon identities of all who use it. One’s Mormon identity is reinforced to some extent even by visiting the grounds.”26 In his view, “they will make an increasing contribution to the construction and maintenance of local Mormon identities.”27 Viewed from the perspective of anthropology of pilgrimage, a temple is a central feature of LDS culture which functions as a marker of LDS identity. Davies comments on Victor Turner’s anthropological approach to symbols and states that in connection to LDS temples, If we add to this perspective the notion that a symbol participates in that which it represents we are in a position to understand the profound part played by temples in both the historical and modern life of Saints, embracing geographical, theological, artistic and architectural aspects of Latter-day Saint culture.28 Pilgrimage and Narrative Rehearsal Whether it is a community celebration, a dramatic reenactment through pageant, or a visit to a temple, all may be understood as forms of

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religious pilgrimage. These acts of pilgrimage must not be understood merely as forms of participation in individual entertainment, mere personal piety, or forms of tourism, but rather, these expressions of pilgrimage serve as a social context for religious groups to engage in narrative rehearsal.29 By this it is meant that participation in pilgrimage to these locations involves a personal and corporate re-enactment of the sacred story of the Latter-day Saints, and by so doing, a sense of group identity and cohesion is reinforced. Through the pilgrimage journey Latter-day Saints are participating in their sacred story as an expression of a total way of life that solidifies both the personal sense of identity and a sense of belonging to the broader religious community as well. Symbolic Opposition and Implications for Encounters Important implications arise from reflection upon Mormon ritual through pilgrimage, especially in the specific case of evangelical and LDS engagement at pageants and temple sites. One popular approach among evangelicals in ministry to Mormons is to engage LDS at their cultural community celebrations, pageants (especially at the Manti Miracle Pageant), and at community open houses associated with the opening of new temples. The stated goal of these evangelical organizations is twofold, the first being the evangelization of the LDS people, and the second goal being a desire to educate the public about the differences between traditional Christianity and Mormonism. Methods at these venues run across a narrow spectrum from quiet interaction involving discussions of doctrinal differences and the distribution of literature, to more aggressive apologetic confrontation, and at times outright denunciation and ridicule. However, given the issues discussed above related to pilgrimage we might reflect upon whether these methods at these sites at times of pilgrimage represent potentially fruitful avenues for evangelicals to engage Latter-day Saints. I argue that these are inappropriate places for evangelism due to the cultural issues raised by anthropology of pilgrimage. Previously I noted that Mormonism expresses its deepest sense of religious and cultural identity in events such as community celebrations and pageants as well as in its temples. For Latter-day Saints these are sacred symbols and sacred space, and through them Mormons find a sense of individual and collective identity with their religious culture. Regardless of the best motivations and desires of evangelicals, and even if outreaches at these events were more respectful rather than confrontational, the presence of evangelicals who function in opposition to the Mormon sacred narrative and symbolism at such pilgrimage venues is often perceived as an attack not only upon individual Mormons, but also upon their culture and religion. When the members of

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a culture feel that their culture is attacked they naturally become defensive and this hinders if not prevents effective communication. We might also consider that Mormonism has a history of oscillating in its relationship with non-Mormon culture between what Mauss has called assimilation and retrenchment. Mormonism has tended to either move toward acceptance and assimilation in the mainstream culture or move away from it emphasizing its unique distinctives and “peculiarities” or what he calls a process of retrenchment.30 Mauss argues that Mormons have been involved in a process of retrenchment since the middle of the twentieth century, and that this involves a process of redefining and strengthening the boundary between Mormon and nonMormon identity. Evangelicals might consider whether their activities at sites of sacred LDS pilgrimage will contribute toward and accelerate the retrenchment process. Yet despite serious communication obstacles, evangelicals pursue counter-cultural educational and evangelistic methodologies in the midst of LDS pilgrimage journeys. In my view this is due to two factors. First, as referenced in my introduction, evangelical treatments of Mormonism tend toward doctrinal and worldview critiques to the neglect of other important considerations such as ritual, symbolism and pilgrimage. A greater awareness of the significance of these elements would be of great service to evangelicals as they develop a broader understanding of Mormon culture and it would also help facilitate a more positive engagement process. Second, in addition to a lack of awareness among evangelicals of the significance of Mormon ritual and pilgrimage, I suggest that other social dynamics are at work. Kent Bean, Assistant Professor in the English department at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, addresses the issues of identity and boundary maintenance in his doctoral dissertation that explores this process among Latter-day Saints and evangelicals during their interactions at the Mormon Miracle Pageant at Manti.31 His observation, research, and analysis led him to the conclusion that identity and boundary maintenance are key activities that involve both Mormons and evangelicals. In Bean’s discussion of the Manti pageant he characterizes it as incorporating “material aspects of public display” which sends a “meta-message” as thousands of Mormons gather to reaffirm their faith and sense of identity. Identity reaffirmation of individuals and of a whole religious community through the act of public display takes on additional significance in light of the presence of those

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from other religious communities who are interpreted as an affront to the boundaries of the Mormon community. Indeed, Bean notes that the presence of members from each religious group serves as a threat to the boundaries of each group: Pageants have become one ‘battleground’ where issues of naming can be discussed and tussled over. Identity claims can be staked out by all those involved: ‘I am this; you are that.’ ‘No, I am this; you are that.’ Boundaries are explored in the process and territory is claimed. 32 As Beam develops his thesis he discusses the issue of identity formation and the importance of having an “Other” against which one can define oneself. He quotes John R. Lewis who argues that societies need enemies, and working against a perceived enemy provides a sense of greater unity for a community. Picking up on this idea, Bean suggests that a similar dynamic plays out among evangelicals and Mormons: …certainly some members of each group consider members of the other group to be, quite literally, enemies of righteousness. But the important point is that in the defining of someone as an enemy - indeed, in the manufacture of some Other as an enemy, which is arguably what is happening in instances of counterMormon activity and Mormon response – there is group cohesion.33 John Saliba has noted similar issues of identity and boundary maintenance dynamics taking place in evangelical responses to the New Spirituality or New Age, and his critique is equally applicable to evangelical responses to Mormonism at places of sacred pilgrimage. Saliba notes that in confrontationally differentiating evangelical doctrines from New Age beliefs, evangelicals maintain the boundaries that allow a community to strengthen its own sense of identity by contrasting itself with “others” who are portrayed as being the exact opposites as themselves. Such boundaries are necessary whenever conflicting religious claims challenge, or are perceived as a threat to, one’s faith. They perform the function of offering intellectual and emotional security to those who are confused and troubled by the spread of different belief systems and spiritual practices.34 Moving beyond Saliba’s identification of a boundary maintenance and defense response to perceived threat from the “religious other,” he also offers additional criticism that is relevant to evangelical evangelistic responses to Mormonism at pilgrimage sites, particularly those forms

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manifesting themselves at Manti, Temple Square, and new LDS temple openings: One wonders, however, whether the kind of criticism offered has any lasting pastoral value. For in the final analysis the evangelical and fundamentalist response to the New Age Movement is nothing but a monologue or a soliloquy. At best, it is a process of self-affirmation and self-assurance, providing comfort and solace to confused Christians…At its worst, it degenerates into a senseless diatribe or an emotional harangue.35 It would seem then that while evangelicals engage in what is intended as a positive form of communication and outreach at pilgrimage sites within LDS culture, the likelihood is that the presence of evangelicals will be considered counter-cultural and offensive by LDS. Conclusion

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M. Gerald Bradford, “The Study of Mormonism: A Growing Interest in Academia,� FARMS Review 19, no. 1 (2007): 119-74, available electronically at 1

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http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/getpdf.php?filename=ODYzODc0Nz IxLTE5LTEucGRm&type=cmV2aWV3; accessed 5 May 2008. 2

Ibid., 142-55.

3

Ibid., 156.

4

Ibid., 157.

John L. Sorenson, “Ritual as Theology,” Sunstone 27 (May/June 1981). 5

6

Ibid., 11.

7

Ibid., 13.

Douglas J. Davies, The Mormon Culture of Salvation (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2000), 11. 8

Davis Bitton, The Ritualization of Mormon History and Other Essays (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 181. 9

10

Ibid., 177-78.

Steve Olsen, “Community Celebrations and Mormon Ideology of Place,” Sunstone 5, no. 3 (May-June 1980): 40. 11

12

Ibid., 42.

Douglas J. Davies, “Pilgrimage in Mormon Culture,” in Makhan Jha (ed), Social Anthropology of Pilgrimage (New Delhi: Inter-India, 1991). 13

Ellen Badone and Sharon R. Roseman, “Approaches to the Anthropology of Pilgrimage and Touris,” in Badone and Roseman (eds), Intersecting Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage and Tourism (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press), 1. 14

Alan Morinis, “Introduction: The Territory of the Anthropology of Pilgrimage,” in Alan Morinis (ed), Sacred Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 4. 15

Surinder M. Bhardwaj, “Geography and Pilgrimage: A Review,” in Robert H. Stoddard and Alan Morinis *(eds), Sacred Places, Sacred Spaces: The Geography of Pilgrimage (Dept. of Geography and Anthropology, Louisiana State University, Baton Route, LA: Geoscience Publications), 2. 16

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17

Morinis, Sacred Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage, 10-

18

Ibid., 14, emphasis added.

19

Davies, “Pilgrimage in Mormon Culture,” 311.

14.

Alan Morinis, “Introduction: The Territory of the Anthropology of Pilgrimage,” Alan Morinis (ed), Sacred Journeys: The Anthropology of Pilgrimage (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 17, 21. 20

21

Davies, “Pilgrimage in Mormon Culture,” 317.

22

Ibid., 322.

23

Ibid., 323.

24

Bitton, The Ritualization of Mormon History and Other Essays,

181. Steven L. Olsen, “Community Celebrations and Mormon Ideology of Place,” Sunstone 5, no. 3 (May-June 1980/81): 40, 42. 25

Armand L. Mauss, “Identity and boundary maintenance: International prospects for Mormonism at the dawn of the twenty-first century,” in Dougas J. Davies (ed), Mormon Identities in Transition (London and New York: Cassell, 1996), 19. 26

27

Ibid.

28

Davies, The Mormon Culture of Salvation, 39.

Douglas Davies, “Time, Place and Mormon Sense of Self,” in Simon Coleman and Peter Collins (eds), Religion, Identity and Change: Perspectives on Global Transformation (England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2004), 110. 29

Armand Mauss, The Angel and the Beehive: The Mormon Struggle with Assimilation (Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994). 30

Kent R. Bean. “Policing the Borders of Identity at The Mormon Miracle Pageant,” (Doctor of Philosophy diss., Graduate College of Bowling Green State University, 2005). 31

32

Ibid., 198, emphasis in original.

33

Ibid., 201-202, emphasis in original.

John A. Saliba, Christian Responses to the New Age Movement: A Critical Assessment (London and New York: Geoffrey Chapman, 1999), 77. 34

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35

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Ibid.

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US RELIGIOUS LANDSCAPE: ANALYSIS WITH POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS ON AMERICAN RELIGIOUS IDENTITY Michael T. Cooper, Jonathan Brown, Rebecca Erickson and David Liu1 Trinity Graduate School Introduction The recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study entitled US Religious Landscape Survey (USRLS) has generated a wealth of information on the religious identity, beliefs and practices of Americans. The telephone interviews with more than 35,000 adults represent a substantial undertaking on the part of the forum to lay out the growing diversity of religion in this country. With such a large sample, extrapolations can be made to the general US adult population of 225 million. As such, the USRLS give us a relatively accurate picture of the religious landscape of the United States.2 New religions are generally thought of in terms of religious groups forming out of the dominant religion of a culture. These often-called “deviant religions” break with the dominant religion and shape into new religious movements. Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses are most commonly associated with such movements. However, recent attempts at understanding new religious movements in the United States have included non-Western religions surfacing as the result of immigration, globalization and/or easternization. As such, it is correct to think of new religious movements being inclusive of world religions when such religions are the minority faith in a country. Sacred Tribes Journal is interested in new religious movements in the Western cultural context. The data from USRLS provides us with an indication of the size of some NRMs, but not all. Nevertheless, the data is useful and instructive. In an attempt to understand the makeup of these minority religions in the US, this article will address not only the

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US’s Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness landscape, but also the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist ones as well. Judaism The Pew survey found that 1.7 percent of Americans identifies themselves as Jewish (3.83 million). They also have one of the highest retention rates of the religions examined. The survey indicated that 76 percent of all people born Jewish remain so throughout their lives. Generally, the vast majority of Jews live in the Northeast of the country (41 percent). New York state and New Jersey have the largest number of Jewish adherents. Over half of the Jewish population (58 percent) is between the ages of 30 and 64, while the gender composition is split nearly in half (48 percent being female and 52 percent being male). However, the main ethnic composition of Jews is White (95 percent). Only 3 percent is Hispanic, 1 percent Black, and 2 percent listed themselves as Other. An absence of note is that zero percent identified themselves as Asian. In regards to education, 78 percent indicated having at least some college education, with 35 percent of the total population going on for post-graduate studies. In regards to salaries, almost half of all Jews (46 percent) have a yearly income of over $100,000, and 14 percent make less than $30,000. This deviates strikingly from the national average, where only 18 percent make over $100,000 and 31 percent make less than $30,000 annually. The survey indicated that 1.9 percent of the US adult population grew up Jewish, but 1.7 percent remained in the faith of their childhood. The survey also indicated that while there were those who apparently switched into Judaism (0.3 percent), there were also those who switched out (0.5 percent) for a net loss of -0.2 percent. Finally, in dealing with family units, 57 percent of Jews are married, 19 percent have never been married, 9 percent are divorced or separated, 8 percent are widowed, and 6 percent live with a partner. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of all Jews (72 percent) do not have any children living at home; while 20 percent have 1

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The vast majority of Muslims live to the east of the Rocky Mountains (83 percent), with 32 percent living in the southern part of the country. Just over half of the Muslim population is male (54 percent), and nearly half of all Muslims are in the 30-49 age range (48 percent). The next largest age group is 18-29 years old with 29 percent, followed by the 5064 year old group with 18 percent. Only 5 percent was over 65 years of age. While 37 percent of Muslims identify as White, 24 percent as Black, 20 percent as Asian, 4 percent as Hispanic, and 15 percent as Other/Mixed, it is important to note the lack of “Arab� as a category. Therefore, it is unknown whether or not Muslims with Middle Eastern heritage are being defined as White, Asian, or something else. Though, if many are being identified as White (as they are in other surveys), that could explain the large percentage for that category. Additionally, 65 percent are Foreign-Born, with 50 percent of those arriving from Northern Africa and the Middle East and 28 percent arriving from South-Central Asia. The largest percentages are: 24 percent Arab Region, 10 percent Other South Asia, 8 percent Pakistan, 8 percent Iran. Of the 35 percent that are Native-

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The geographical regions of the US Hindus are relatively equally distributed: 29 percent of Hindus live in the Northeast, 13 percent in the Midwest, 32 percent in the South and 26 percent in the West. Over half of the US Hindus (58 percent) are in the 30-49 age range. The next largest age group is 50-64 years old with 19 percent, followed by the 1829 year old group with 18 percent. Only 5 percent is over 65 years old. A majority of US Hindus are male (61 percent) and this figure ranks the first among all religious traditions in US. In sharp contrast to other major religions in US, Hinduism is primarily made up of Asian (88 percent). Only 5 percent of Hindus identify as White, 2 percent as Hispanic, 1 percent as Black and 4 percent as Other/Mixed. Only 2 percent of Hindus switched from Protestantism, while 4 percent switched from Catholicism. Ninety percent of Hindus are nonconverts. Eighty-four percent of Hindus were raised in the faith of their parents and have remained in the faith from childhood to adulthood. Only 8 percent of Hindus converted to other religious groups and to no religion. Hindus in US are much more likely than other religious groups to report high income levels. Forty-three percent of US Hindus earn $100,000 or more per year and this figure ranks the second after US Jews (46 percent). Hindus also tend to have higher levels of education than members of other religious traditions. The survey shows that 48 percent of Hindus in the US, have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall. Seventy-nine percent of US Hindus are currently married (ranks the first among all religious traditions in US) and only 14 percent of them have never been married (ranks the second among all religious traditions in US). Over half (52 percent) have no children living at home, 45 percent have 1-2, and 3 percent have 3 or more. Buddhism The Pew survey indicates that 0.7 percent of the US adult population identified themselves as Buddhists. Included among this group are the following: Theravada Buddhists (Vipassana) < 0.3 percent; Mahayana (Zen) < 0.3 percent; Vajrayana (Tibetan) < 0.3 percent; Other Buddhist groups< 0.3 percent; Buddhist, not further specified 0.3 percent. The Buddhist tradition is made up of several distinct groups, the largest of which is Zen Buddhism. The total 0.7 percent figure represents 1.575 million US adults. Most adults in the category of Buddhism live in the West (45 percent) and South (23 percent). Seventy percent of their population falls between the ages of thirty and sixty-four. Fifty-three percent are male. In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made

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up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three (32 percent) American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism. Thirty-two percent of Buddhists were switched from Protestantism and that number represents 504,000 US adults. Twenty-two percent of Buddhists were raised in the faith of Catholicism and that number represents 346,500. Fifty percent of those in Buddhism category were raised in the faith of their parents and have remained in the faith from childhood to adulthood. While 22 percent of Buddhists switched into other religious groups and 28 percent of Buddhists converted to no religion. They are generally middle income families (56 percent of them earn $50,000 or more per year). Buddhists tend to have higher levels of education than members of other religious traditions; the survey indicates that seventy-four percent of Buddhists have college or post-graduate education. More than a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall. Forty-five percent of them are married and the majority (70 percent) has no children. But thirty-one percent of them claim that they have never married and this figure ranks the second among all major religious traditions in U.S. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make up 1.7 percent of this population. This figure suggests that approximately 3.83 million US adults are Mormon. The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey shows that 76 percent (2.91 million) of the Mormon population occupies the Western region of the U.S. (mountain west, pacific west and southwest). The Southern states have a distribution of 12 percent, while the Midwest boasts 7 percent, and the northeast holding a total population of 4 percent. The distribution of age within the Mormon adult population is as follows: approximately 42 percent fall within the age group of 30-49 years old. The second largest group (24 percent) is made up of individuals aged 18-29, followed by people aged 50-64 which is 19 percent, and only 15 percent (573,750) of Mormons are over the age of 65. Gender composition shows that over half (56 percent) of Mormon adults in the U.S. are women, with men representing 44 percent.

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The racial and ethnic composition of Mormons in the U.S. indicates that 3.3 million (86 percent) Mormons are White (non-Hispanic), 7 percent are Hispanic, Black and Other/Mixed (non-Hispanic) each account for 3 percent respectively. The smallest demographic in the ethnic composition of Mormons in the U.S. are Asian which makes up 1% of the Mormon population. The Religious Landscape data suggests that distribution of income amongst Mormons is relatively equal: 26 percent of Mormons earn less than $30,000/yr. 22 percent earn between $50,000-$74,999/year, 21 percent earn $30,000-$49,999/year, 16 percent earn $75,000-$99,999/year, and also 16 percent earn more than $100,000 yearly. The educational distribution among Mormons implies that only 9 percent of Mormons have less than a high school education; 10 percent have done post graduate study, 18 percent of Mormons are college graduates, 30 percent are high school graduates, finally, 32 percent have attended some college. Figures on the marital status of Mormons show that the vast majority (71 percent) of Mormons are married. Twelve percent have never married, 9 percent are divorced or separated, 5 percent have been widowed, and 3 percent are living with a partner. Interesting figures of note come through analysis of a chart providing the number of children in Mormon households. Though the study surveyed that 71 percent of Mormons are married, more than half (51 percent) of Mormons do not have any children. Fourteen percent have one child and another 14 percent have two children, 12 percent have three children and nine percent have four or more children. In regards to conversion, figures show that 28 percent of U.S. adults have changed their religious affiliation from the affiliations to which they were born. The Pew survey indicated that 74 percent (2.83 million) of the U.S. Mormon population are “non-converts,” meaning that they were born into LDS Church. However, the figures show that 13 percent of Mormons converted from a Protestant background, while 7 percent of U.S. Mormons were former Catholics. Only 1 percent converted from all other faiths (Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.), and roughly 192,000 or 5 percent of converts were classified as unaffiliated. Jehovah’s Witness The survey indicated that 0.7 percent of the U.S. population identifies themselves as Jehovah’s Witnesses. This number accounts for an estimated 1.58 million adherents. Looking geographically, the largest concentration (36 percent) of Jehovah’s Witnesses live in the south, followed by 29 percent in Western states, 19 percent in the Midwest and 16 percent in the Northeast.

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The age distributions among adult adherents are as follows: 39 percent are between the ages of 30 and 49 years of age, 25 percent are between the ages of 50 and 64, 21 percent are between 18 and 29 years of age, 14 percent are 65 years of age or above. The gender composition of Jehovah’s Witnesses shows that women (60 percent) out number men (40 percent). The racial and ethnic composition indicates that nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. Jehovah’s Witnesses are white (non-Hispanic), 24 percent are Hispanic, 22 percent are black (non-Hispanic) and 5 percent are classified as “other/mixed.” The income distribution numbers indicate the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are middle class. The figures show that 42 percent earn less than $30,000/year, 23 percent earn between $30,000-$49,999/year, 17 percent earn between $50,000$74,000/year, 9 percent earn between $75,000-$99,000/year and 9 percent earns more than $100,000 annually. The survey also included the martial status of the respondents. Over 53 percent indicated that they are married, 14 percent indicated they are either divorced or separated, 20 percent have never been married, 1 percent indicated that they were living with a partner, and 11 percent were widowed. In regards to children, a very telling 63 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have any children, which could adversely affect affiliation in the future. Sixteen percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses indicated that they have one child, 11 percent have two children, 6 percent have three children, and 4 percent have four our more children. In light of religious switching, it is interesting to note that only 37 percent of all Jehovah’s Witnesses are “non-converts” meaning that they were born into their faith. Of the people that converted, 33 percent grew up Protestant, 26 percent previously identified themselves as Catholic, 1 percent were apart of “other faiths” and 8 percent were previously unaffiliated with any particular religious group. According to the study, Jehovah’s Witnesses have one of the lowest retention rates, with just over 37 percent of its adherents being born into the faith, 30 percent have switched to another group, while 33 percent have switched to “no faith.” Other Faiths Finally, the survey estimated that 1.2 percent of the US adult population identified themselves in the category of “Other Faiths.” Other Faiths include Unitarian and other liberal groups, New Age

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(including Wicca, Pagan religions and other New Age religions), as well as Native American Religions. The 1.2 percent figure represents 2.7 million US adults. Of those in the category of Other Faiths, 80 percent are white and mostly male (54 percent). They are generally born in the United States. Most of the spouses of those of Other Faiths are of a different faith themselves, including 40 percent who indicated having a Christian spouse. Ninety-one percent of those from the category switched into their current faith. That number represents 2.46 million US adults and also suggests approximately 9 percent of those in the Other Faiths category were raised in the faith of their parents and have remained in the faith from childhood to adulthood. While 91 percent of those of Other Faiths switched into their current faith, 73 percent switched from Christianity. That represents 1.97 million US adults who were once either Protestant or Catholic â&#x20AC;&#x201C; fifty percent of those switching to Other Faiths were once Protestant while 23 percent were once Catholic. In comparison to Buddhism (54 percent indicated having been Christian), more than twice as many Christians have converted to Other Faiths (1.97 million compared to 850,500). Most adults in the category of Other Faiths live in the West or South. Sixty-four percent of their population falls between the ages of 30 and 64. They are generally middle income families (44 percent are married) or individuals who indicated having at least a high school education while the majority has indicated some college to postgraduate education. Forty-four percent are married and the majority (69 percent) has no children. Implications Since the 1965 Immigration Act, minority religious movements in the United States have grown at a continued pace. As the survey indicates, among the minority religions considered as world religions (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism), relatively few US adults have switched religious affiliation. The one notable exception is in Buddhism (850,500 switched). In the case of new religious movements (Mormonism, Jehovahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Witnesses, Other Faiths) religious switching was more prevalent. It should be no surprise that religious switching occurs in a religiously pluralistic context. With competing religious views and a market-like perspective on religion, one can shop for religious options to suit their desires. The Pew survey should make us aware that religious switching will continue and most of the switching will be away from Christianity to another religion. In light of the data suggesting the decline of Christianity in the United States, the church must begin asking questions about why it is

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losing members. According to the Pew Forum survey, Protestant groups have a net loss of 2.6 percent of US adults (5.85 million). While the number of adults entering Protestant groups seems positive (8.4 percent, 18.9 million) the number leaving (11 percent, 24.75 million) indicates a growing change in religious identification among Americans Protestants. Catholics fair even worse with only 2.6 percent entering and 10.1 percent leaving for a net loss of 7.5 percent (16.875 million). The only groups with any appreciable growth are Jehovahâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Witnesses (+0.1 percent), Adventist (+0.1 percent), Holiness (+0.4 percent), Pentecostal (+0.5 percent), Protestant nonspecific (+1.5 percent) and Nondenominational (+3 percent). If Christianity in general is in decline while a few Christian groups continue to show some growth, the natural question is why are some growing and others not. Only educated speculation can suffice at this stage due to a lack of data. However, a couple assumptions can be made in regards to the general decline of Christianity. First, American Christians know little about their faith as well as the faith of others. Due to a lack of knowledge about faith, the incorporation of other faith ideas into oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s religious expression precipitates a crisis of religious identity. Nowadays, a Christian can practice Yoga, Tai Chi or any number of religious activities and not feel conflicted with their own beliefs. In so doing, Christianity is no longer unique among the religions, but is simply one among the religions. Second, with a religious identity crisis comes a greater tendency to switch religious affiliation. Thus, it is no surprise that the category of Other Faiths (0.9 percent), Buddhism (0.3 percent), Muslim (0.1 percent) have grown. Even those who indicated Agnostic (2.1 percent) and Nothing in Particular (5.5 percent) still have religious tendency yet no longer identify with a specific religious group. Finally, for religious switching to occur indicates that many are not satisfied with their present religious identity and are seeking such satisfaction in alternative religions. Conclusion The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey of the US religious landscape is a valuable source of information for understanding the religious nature of the United States. We continue to anticipate more data on the religious practice of Americans. However, while we wait, it seems clear that the religiously pluralistic context of the United States

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has increased the religious options and Americans are willing to switch to other faith expressions.

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1

Michael T. Cooper is associate professor of religion and contemporary culture and the program director for the MA in Communication and Culture at Trinity Graduate School in Deerfield, Illinois. Jonathan Brown is a student at TGS and is researching American Urban Culture. Rebecca Erickson is a student at TGS and is researching the religious identity of the Druze. David Liu is a student at TGS and is researching Christianity in China. 2 All data is from the US Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey was conducted between 8 May and 13 August 2007. The telephone interviews of a nationally representative sample of 35,556 US adults were conducted in English and Spanish. Interpretation of the data is the sole responsibility of the authors. The survey can be downloaded at http://religions.pewforum.org/ 3 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,â&#x20AC;? Pew Research Center 2007. Available from http://pewforum.org/surveys/muslim-american/

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SACRED TRIBES JOURNAL INTERVIEW WITH DOUGLAS COWAN John W. Morehead Western Institute for Intercultural Studies Dr. Douglas Cowan is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Renison College/ University of Waterloo, where he specializes in “cults,” sects, and new religious movements, as well as religion on the Internet and religion and film. He is a co-general editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of New and Emergent Religions, and has co-edited (with Lorne L. Dawson) Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet (Routledge, 2004), and (with Jeffrey K. Hadden) Religion on the Internet: Research Prospects and Promises (JAI, 2000). Dr. Cowan has also written several books including Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet (Routledge, 2005), and his most recent work Sacred Terror: Religion and Horror on the Silver Screen (Baylor University Press, October 2008). Perhaps his most controversial book, however, at least among a segment of the evangelical community known as the “countercult movement,” is Bearing False Witness? An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Praeger, 2003). In the study of new religions and those who respond to them, scholars have examined the secular anticult movement, but few have distinguished between this and the evangelical countercult movement. The editors of Sacred Tribes Journal believe that Bearing False Witness? presents an important thesis, as well as criticisms of evangelical countercult methodologies worthy of careful consideration. For this reason we are pleased that Dr. Cowan has agreed to participate in this interview. Sacred Tribes Journal: Dr. Cowan, thank you for participating in this interview. As we begin, please share some of your background with us. What led you into religious studies from the perspective of sociology of religion?

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Douglas Cowan: Thanks for the opportunity. I do appreciate it. As I tell my students, I am something of a mixed bag in terms of my training and experience in Religious Studies. If a colleague has a BA, MA, and PhD in History, for example, and that makes her a purebred, I’m a reasonably well-mannered junkyard dog. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a Master of Divinity, for which I specialized in Church History—I wrote my thesis, which became my first book, on The Cloud of Unknowing, a fourteenth-century English mystical text—and I have a PhD in Religious Studies. The benefit of this kind of multidisciplinary preparation is that I tend not to see things through any one particular disciplinary lens. Though I tend to function now as a sociologist of religion, both professionally and intellectually, I still bring a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary approach to everything that I do. I am also an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, and served congregations in southern Alberta for a number of years before going to grad school for my doctorate. I spent two years training as a spiritual director—which was not my calling at all, by the way. Those experiences, as much as anything else, gave me the impetus for grad school by providing me with a topic I was passionate about researching—the evangelical Christian countercult. Since then, as you noted in your introductory material, in addition to the countercult, I have published on conservative reactionary movements in mainline Protestantism, religion on the Internet, and I am working on my second book on contemporary Paganism. Since I bore easily, I tend to work on a lot of things at the same time. Sacred Tribes Journal: How did the countercult community come to your attention as distinguished from the secular anticult movement, and why did you decide to research this movement? Douglas Cowan: I really wasn’t aware of any of it until I was ordained and settled on my first pastoral charge. I mean, I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s and had been told that there were these dangerous, devious organizations called “cults” out there, but I had no real clue what that meant. Or even if it was true. Though I certainly wouldn’t consider them a “cult,” while I was an undergrad in Victoria, I did once get into a letter-writing campaign with a Jehovah’s Witness, the kind of tedious, minutiae-driven, micro-hair splitting debate you see in countercult apologetics all the time—“Is eimi in John 8:58 present tense or a past participle or a present progressive or whatever, and, more importantly, why what you believe about it makes you a heretic.” That sort of thing. I found it a completely unfulfilling experience, a rather sad chapter in my life, actually. We were

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speaking different languages, were not going to see eye-to-eye, and that became clear almost immediately. However, several years later, having survived seminary, I figured I’d had all my theological shots and felt relatively immune to whatever the real world had to offer. In my denomination, new ordinands are “settled” on a pastoral charge. Though you have some input into the decision, the Church essentially decides where you will serve first. When I got the call from the settlement committee, I was at my parents’ home on Vancouver Island. The chair of the settlement committee called up and said, “We’re thinking of Cardston and Magrath for you,” two small towns in southwestern Alberta, just north of the Montana border. “OK,” I replied, “I know where it is on a map. Tell me about it.” “Ummm, well, how do you feel about inter-faith dialogue?” “Fine... why?” “Well, there are some Mormons there.” Cardston, you see, was settled in the late 1880s by Latter-day Saints who were leaving Utah after the passage of the Edmunds and EdmundsBurke Acts—the anti-polygamy laws—and who were seeking a place where they could practice their religion free from state interference. In fact, the town of Cardston is named for one of Brigham Young’s sons-inlaw, Charles Ora Card. In 1923, the Cardston saints dedicated the first LDS temple in Canada, the only one until the Toronto temple was dedicated in 1990. When I moved to Cardston, there were about five thousand people in the town, a little more than four thousand of whom were Latter-day Saints. And I had the United Church. Since I knew very little about Latter-day Saints, I went to the Christian bookstore in my hometown and asked what they had on Mormonism. “Oh, we have the best book on the market,” the clerk replied, and handed me a copy of Ed Decker and Dave Hunt’s The God Makers. I took it home and read it that afternoon. About three-quarters of the way through, though, I looked up and said, “Mom, they’re sending me to Mars.”

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What I discovered when I got to Cardston, of course, is that Latterday Saints are pretty much like everyone else. In fact, over the years I was there, they were extremely gracious in offering their ward facilities—which were obviously the largest in town—when we had, for example, a funeral that our tiny church could not accomodate. When my first book came out, the one on The Cloud of Unknowing, the owner of the local LDS bookstore was quick to order ten copies—at a significant loss to him, I’m sure! When I left Cardston, the United Church had grown to the point where they were building a new church, and the Latter-day Saints pitched in on a number of occasions to help them do it. Through all of this, I began to wonder about the disconnect—what as a sociologist of religion I would now call the “cognitive dissonance,” the difference between expectation and experience—between what I read in Decker and Hunt, and what I encountered living in the heart of Mormon Alberta for five years. At one point, I mentioned The God Makers to someone, and he replied, “Oh, that’s just Christian hate literature.” And I realized he was right. I began looking deeper into the socio-literary iceberg of which The God Makers was only the tip and discovered this whole evangelical subculture dedicated to little more than countering the “cults.” I began to collect material, as much of the literature of the countercult as I could find, thinking it might make an interesting book someday. I collected backsets of Saints Alive in Jesus Newsletter, The Berean Call, Christian Research Journal, and so forth. I haunted used bookstores for anything and everything I could find—which amounted to quite a collection, as everyone who has helped move my library can attest! When I moved to Calgary in 1994, the University of Calgary was just starting its regularized doctoral program. I approached Irving Hexham, at that time probably the most knowledgeable person in Canada on new religious movements, and asked if he would be willing to supervise my work. He was, and I was admitted in the first intake to the program. I am also the first graduate of that program. I knew that in my doctoral work I wanted to write about the evangelical countercult, but at first, to put it crudely I was simply interested in “proving them wrong.” As one reviewer of BFW? noted, not infrequently, exposing the “soft underbelly” of countercult polemics is absurdly easy. I mean, so many of the arguments put forth by countercult apologists and polemicists are so obviously flawed, so logically inconsistent, and in not a few cases, so patently falsified, that in many cases it’s a wee bit like dynamiting trout. Interesting the first couple of times you do it, perhaps, but unfulfilling in the long run.

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Irving pushed me to explore the topic more deeply, to understand the “why” of the countercult, not just the “what” and the “what’s wrong.” This is not an uncommon experience for beginning graduate students. They think they know what they want to do, until they realize there are so many more interesting questions to be asked. Which is why I moved to an analysis based on propaganda theory and a sociology of knowledge. I moved from trying to “get them” to trying to understand the motivations and the methods, the theological underpinnings and the sociological pressures that drive the countercult engine. Sacred Tribes Journal: Who is the primary or intended reading audience of your book? Douglas Cowan: As a dissertation, a dissertation that was twice as long as the published book, by the way, Bearing False Witness? had a very specific purpose and a very limited audience. As a book, on the other hand, it was written primarily for academics in my field—sociologists of religion and religious studies scholars. And, it has been rather favourably reviewed in the American Journal of Sociology, which is nice. But, and this has been hard for some members of the countercult to understand, it was not written with them in mind as the audience. I have had to repeat over and over to many folks, “You are the group I wrote the book about; you’re not the group I wrote the book for.” When I presented some of the research at the 2002 EMNR conference, I found that a lot of people seemed to think that my task, or my goal, was to help them do their countercult work better—which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the work, and not a little characteristic of the ego-centricity of many countercult apologists. That is, if you don’t think like us, and we can’t use what you have, why should we care about what you think? A good example of this was when I wouldn’t disclose my religious beliefs at the conference. There was quite a bit of email traffic about this following the event, and my position was (and remains): if my criticisms have validity, then it shouldn’t matter what my personal religious beliefs are. If they have validity, and I obviously believe that they do, then you can’t use the fact that I’m not an evangelical Christian to dismiss them. I think that an awful lot of the countercult folks actually know this, they simply don’t want to admit it. While they’re very good at dishing out criticism, they’re very poor at receiving it. In fact, I would suggest that these are the two areas in which many members of the evangelical countercult show the

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least grace: the manner in which they exercise their witness to others, and the manner in which they respond to criticism of that witness. Unfortunately, when BFW? came out, it came out in a very expensive edition, and I am contemplating a revised edition that would be much more affordable, and which would take into account changes in the countercult, such as the incarnational approach modeled by the folks at Sacred Tribes Journal. Sacred Tribes Journal: I hope further dialogue and reflection on our approach more appropriately locates us in the missions category rather than a variation of the countercult, but we’ll keep the dialogue going. In your book you rely on a theory called “the sociology of knowledge.” Could you briefly explain the main premises of this view? Douglas Cowan: Sure. A sociology of knowledge asks some fairly basic questions: how do we come to think the way we do about something? Why do we

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For example, a number of popular countercult authors have come to the conclusion that there cannot be life on any other of the unimaginable number of planets in the universe. Why? Because the Bible doesn’t say that there is, and to paraphrase one such apologist, one would think that God would include such an important detail in the Bible if it were true. Not to put too fine a point on it, this is logically absurd, and monumentally arogant—and easy to demonstrate in both cases. However, rather than simply countering the argument, a sociology of knowledge asks, “OK, how did you come to this conclusion, as opposed to another? What is it about your understanding of the Bible that leads you here? And how do you support that conclusion in the face of challenge and disconfirmation?” For example, the Bible says nothing about the Internet, but countercult apologists have wasted no time making good use of it. What this kind of analysis led me to relatively quickly is that the vast majority of material resources produced by the countercult is not meant for adherents of alternative religions. It is not intended, really, to convert anyone. Rather, by and large, it is meant for evangelical Christians who already share the basic worldview of the countercult apologists, and who want to be confirmed and reinforced in their beliefs. They’re hymn books produced for the choir, not for those they would like to join the choir. Now, this is not to say that nothing is ever produced for adherents of other religions, or that literature is not designed to assist evangelicals in their interactions with these folks. Of course, there is. But, for the most part, countercult apologetics is about reality maintenance, maintaining and reinforcing the security and the superiority of one’s own evangelical Christian worldview. Sacred Tribes Journal: Is the sociology of knowledge generally accepted as a valid approach by sociologists of religion? Douglas Cowan: Absolutely. And the great thing about it is that there is no community to which its theoretical principles or methodological approaches cannot be applied. Sacred Tribes Journal: Why did you decide to apply the sociology of knowledge approach to your analysis of countercult apologetics? Douglas Cowan:

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For me, the sociology of knowledge approach addresses the most interesting and significant questions about a group—not so much how and when a group develops, but why it develops when it does and why it evolves in the way that is does. Since I am also interested in the role of the “movement intellectual,” those who claim to speak with a certain measure of authority for different groups and the effect those movement intellectuals have, this allowed me to investigate the ways in which evangelical countercult propaganda has shaped and influenced Christian perceptions of new religious movements. Though I was a member of a very liberal Protestant church in Canada, remember my reaction to reading The God Makers—not that Decker and Hunt were propagandists who should not be believed if their tongues came notarized, but that the religious group they were describing were actually as described. The printed word, especially the word that is published and sold commercially, is an especially powerful tool in our society. The sociology of knowledge allows me to investigate the effects these words have, which is why I chose to concentrate on publicly available works, and then locate them in the analytical framework of propaganda theory. Sacred Tribes Journal: How would you define propaganda? Douglas Cowan: The definition that I developed then, and that I hold to now, is: Propaganda is a systematic, ideologically driven, action-oriented manipulation and dissemination of information, which is intended for a specific target audience, and which is intended to intended to influence the beliefs and behaviour of that audience in manners consonant with the aims of the propagandist The particular value of this definition is that it does not rely on subjective characteristics such as “good” or “bad” propaganda, or that what “we” (the good guys) give out is “information” and what “they” (the bad guys) do is propaganda. My analysis is not dependent on whether or not one agrees with the information one is investigating. It also provides a more systematic way of looking at information and information management that is open to empirical investigation. For example, three of the most important components of this definition of propaganda are that it is systematic, that is, it not simply one pamphlet, one lecture, one whatever, but that the information can be tracked and investigated across a coherent body of data. Second, it is a manipulation of information. Some scholars have argued that all information is propaganda, but I disagree. I argue that there is an inherent manipulation in propagandistic discourse that shapes, moulds, and manages the information in ways that support the aims and intentions of the propagandists. To take a couple of simple examples, using the word “cult” to describe a religious movement when one knows the very

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negative connotations that word carries in our culture is a way of manipulating the information one disseminates. Or, simply inventing information about a group, lying about them, or, at best, only revealing partial truths. The third component that is important to note is that propaganda is not for everyone, it has a specific target audience. You could not use the vast majority of evangelical countercult material on adherents of new religions. The moment you call Mormons satanic, or say that all other religions than one’s own are from the Devil, you’ve pretty much stopped any reasonable chance at dialogue. In broad terms, the most successful propaganda is propaganda aimed at people who are most likely to be sympathetic to it already. Sacred Tribes Journal: Evangelical readers who are not sociologists or trained in religious studies, may struggle to understand your argument. Are there any non-technical texts you could recommend for evangelicals to start with in grasping the sociological theories you draw on? Douglas Cowan: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Although it is a bit dated, one of the best is Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy. For a good introduction to the kind of propaganda analysis that I am talking about, though they take a slightly different approach, would be Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, The Manufacture of Consent, a very well-known study. Sacred Tribes Journal: A member of the countercult movement might casually dismiss the thesis and resulting criticism of the countercult movement in your book, but what positive insights might be gained through critical self-reflection on your book’s ideas? Douglas Cowan: While the critique that I offer might sting a bit, I do think there are benefits. For example, I alluded earlier to the ease with many countercult arguments can be defeated or dismantled. And I wasn’t exaggerating. It really is a simple matter. By paying attention to some of the criticisms I make in the book, perhaps countercult apologists might come up with arguments that are not so easy to challenge. Also, to go back to what I suggested is the real motivation behind an awful lot of countercult apologetics—reality maintenance for people who already believe they have the only true interpretation of this, that, or the other thing—then I’m not sure they’ll really get much out of this. They are more likely to

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ignore the critique—which is exactly what has happened. On the other hand, if there are people who are genuinely interested in dialogue with members of new religions, and, to be honest, I’ve met far fewer of those, then the kind of arguments they make could be modified by the critiques I offer. What is important to recognize about that, though, is that dialogue is not monologue, and in countercult discourse the two are often used as though they are synonymous. Real dialogue only occurs when there is (a) an exchange of ideas that occurs on an equal footing, and (b) equal potential for each partner in the dialogue to be changed by the process. This doesn’t mean that an evangelical Christian would convert to Mormonism, for example, though I suppose that’s a possibility. What it means is that the evangelical is as open to changing his or her mind about the LDS Church as, hopefully, the Latter-day Saint is to changing perceptions of evangelicalism. There have been some significant and well-reported events of this kind recently, though those have tended to draw trenchant criticism from much of the countercult, so I guess I don’t hold out much hope. Sacred Tribes Journal: To the best of your knowledge, have there been any substantial interactions with your thesis by evangelicals, or by the countercult movement? Douglas Cowan: Only from the good folk at Sacred Tribes Journal. Most others go on and on about how “somebody really needs to take Cowan on,” but to date no one has stepped up. Various people have been huffing and blowing for a couple of years now about writing an in-depth review or refutation, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Sacred Tribes Journal: What have been some of the reactions from members of the countercult? Douglas Cowan: As I pointed out, there has been some huffing and blowing that someone should sit down and really take me to task for what I’ve written. But, to date, no one really has. Mostly, with the exception of the odd mention on email lists, my work has been pretty much ignored by the countercult. One of the more absurd reactions was from a couple of the people I discuss briefly who thought that because they were mentioned in the book I ought to be sending them free copies. Fortunately, that level of response was fairly limited. Sacred Tribes Journal: In 2002 you were invited to make a presentation to the annual conference of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions. You wrote a paper after this experience that you presented to the Center for Studies on New Religions http://www.cesnur.org/2002/slc/cowan.htm. What are your current

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thoughts on this encounter with the countercult community, and have there been any continuing reactions to your presentation? Douglas Cowan: What’s interesting about the 2002 EMNR conference is that, though many of the participants dismiss the importance of my work, the presentation I made there was still being talked about three years later. I would be surprised if very many other presentations have that kind of shelf life. I had though that the EMNR might organize an author-meetscritics roundtable for one of their conferences—something I suspect would be quite a draw. I understand, though, that that suggestion was soundly rejected. Too bad, I’d certainly be willing to do it. Sacred Tribes Journal: Some of the countercult characterizations of your thesis we have heard include the notion that all apologetic activity is propaganda, and that you are advocating some form of epistemic relativism. Would you consider these accurate representations of your thesis? Douglas Cowan: I’ve heard that, too. Also that I’m “postmodern,” which, in a very soft way, I suppose that I am, in that I reject overarching metanarratives as adequate explanations for human history, society, and behaviour. In terms of “epistemic relativism,” I don’t know that I’m advocating anything so much as (a) pointing out that epistemologies are relative; if they weren’t, there would be a much narrower range of beliefs available and evident, even within Christianity. (b) Rather than advocating a particular position, I also calling attention to the logical shortcomings of the apologetic system that currently characterizes much of the evangelical countercult movement, and asking how often very intelligent people can hold to epistemological positions that are so patently tenuous. In terms of what this indicates about their understanding of my thesis, I feel a bit like one of the religious groups they target. There has been very little attempt to understand what I’ve written, but no shortage of commentary that what I’ve written is wrong, ill-informed, and so forth. Perhaps if a more affordable paperback is released, more people will be able to interact with the material, and some substantial responses will be offered.

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