Tuesday, February 13, 2018

#1964: Stephen McDowell & Mark Beliles

You may not have heard of them, but Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles are two of the scariest people alive in the US today, and – at least arguably – vastly more influential than you’d ever expect unless you had intimate knowledge of the inner circles of those powerful, wealthy, tireless and frighteningly big American Dominionist groups that make the Taliban look like defenders of reason, freedom and tolerance – this, despite the fact that McDowell and Beliles so abjectly delusional that we wouldn’t trust them to add the numbers two and four together without injuring themselves.

McDowell and Beliles are, for instance, the authors of the (apparently) popular homeschooling textbook America’s Providential History, which outlines the Seven Mountains strategy, combines the legalistic fire-and-brimstone Biblical framework of the Reconstructionists with the zeal of the New Apostolic Reformation, and provides a list of “Christ Guidelines for Resistance to Tyranny” with the explicit warning that there “may come a time when we must resist lawful tyranny.” Basically, the book espouses the thoroughly paranoid, conspiracy-theory-fuelled anti-government sentiment familiar from today’s extreme wingnuttery, but fueled by religious, Satanic Panic-style fervor.

A recurring theme of the book (described in more detail here and here) is that the whole notion of scarcity of resources is a communist myth, and that any shortage is due simply to people not having sufficient faith: “A secular society will lack faith in God's providence and consequently men will find fewer natural resources ... The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality […] In contrast, the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God's earth.  The resource are waiting to be tapped." This is clearly borne out by the data, which demonstrates that the poverty of a region is inversely correlated with its inhabitants levels of faith; history is for instance clear about what happens to your crops when you neglect to make the proper sacrifices –just look at the Aztecs; they got the point. And “[w]hile many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large, with plenty of resources to accommodate all the people He knew would come into existence. […] All the five billion people on the earth could live in the state of Texas in single family homes with front and back yards and be fed by production in the rest of the United States. Present world agriculture areas, if developed by present technology, could feed 31 billion people.” And if you wonder on what data their conclusion is based, it just shows your lack of faith. The thing is, of course, that the data the rest of us are currently using are collected by secular, and therefore don’t correct for the inherent laziness of secularists: “Those with a secular world-view will lack a God-inspired strength and work ethic.” In fact, it’s not only a matter of effort: “In a Christian economy people will earn more with less work,” which means, for instance, that crime will disappear and people will start to respect the Ten Commandments. And the most important measure to take to reach this situation, is to abolish Government in favor of Christian control of the economy.

Their chapter on the Civil War and Reconstruction also gives a useful illustration of some contemporary wingnuts’ view of the Confederacy (more on that here). In fact, it is primarily concerned with the religious revival they think they can find among the Conferedate Army (“While the Confederate Army was enjoying revival (up to 150,000 Southern troops were saved during the war), it also enjoyed phenomenal success in almost every major battle”) and detailing the admirable religious faith of the Confederacy’s heroic generals. The Reconstruction era, meanwhile, is described as an unholy attack on Christianity: “After the war an ungodly radical Republican element gained control of the Congress. They wanted to centralize power and shape the nation according to their philosophy. […] They used their post-war control of Congress to reconstruct the South, pass the Fourteenth Amendment, and in many ways accomplish their goals.” Then McDowell and Beliles go on to criticize the evil of the 14th, 16th, and 17th Amendments and suggest that separation of church and state was a consequence of the more godly South being defeated. As for slavery, McDowell does elsewhere (on the Wallbuilders website, in fact) describes slavery as “America’s original sin,” but then states that “In light of the Scriptures we cannot say that slavery, in a broad and general sense, is sin.” Jesus means you can have it both ways.

Along the way, they also repeat plenty of religious fundamentalist myths about American history, such as the Aitken Bible myth.

Their chapter “The American Apostasy and Decline” claims that the decline of America is due to the abdication of authority by Christians to the “conspiracies of men,” which includes “the humanists, the ACLU, the big bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the New Age Movement, the World Council of Churches, the Homosexuals, the Feminists, the Communists, the Democrats, the Pope, etc.”

McDowell and Beliles are also the founders of the Providence Foundation, an organization seeking to “disciple the seven areas of culture.” The foundation’s “National Transformation Network” also offers courses by Paul Jehle and David Barton. McDowell and Beliles themselves have conducted training in dominion-style politics since the 1980s, including courses on “biblical economics”, which is basically Ayn Rand-style economic theory founded on judiciously selected quotes from the Old Testament. Much of their activities have taken place abroad, and they have accordingly also written an international textbook, Liberating the Nations. It’s pretty scary stuff.

Many of their strategies and ideas were apparently developed during their association with the militant fundamentalist group Maranatha Campus Ministries in the 1980s.

McDowell also appeared in the “documentary” “One Generation Away: The Erosion of Religious Liberty”, one the religious right’s many propaganda pieces promoting their persecution myth, and which was lauded by Rick Santorum and the Heritage Foundation.

Diagnosis: Deranged madmen, utterly and completely out of touch with anything resembling reality or accuracy, and as evil as they are delusional. But they’ve also enjoyed more than their share of influence. Dangerous.


Hat-tip: Talk2Action.

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