Dueling Holy Wars
Today, what appeared to most folks to be an emergency management group held a talk on Al Quaida and the Iraqi insurgency–implying that all of Islam was out to get us, and warning about Islam's own version of dominionism.
There was a big thing about the group holding the talk that very few people noticed, though.
The group conducting the talks–the “ALERT Teams”–is connected to the most extreme branches of dominionism: a movement called “Joel's Army” or the “Joshua Generation”, which has been especially promoted by Bill Gothard and which has even gone to setting up paramilitary training camps for its own…of which ALERT Teams happens to be one.
The talk–covered in the Longview, TX News-Journal–seems innocuous enough on its face, if more than a bit jingoistic:
BIG SANDY — Islamic extremists have a 100-year plan for world domination, and Americans must be prepared for the long fight, a U.S. Air Force general told East Texans on Monday.
Speaking during a Veterans Day banquet in Big Sandy, Mike McClendon said extremists want to create an economic superpower with the biggest army and strongest currency, and they want half the world's population to reside in an Islamic state.
They plan to gain control of oil reserves and bankrupt Western countries, and they plan to create safe havens throughout the world, including some in Latin America, he said.
“They're willing to go as long as it takes, and they are making progress,” said McClendon, who commands the Air Force's Global Cyberspace Integration Center in Virginia.
McClendon's office culled the information from extremist Web sites, he said. The general, a former teacher at the International ALERT Academy in Big Sandy, delivered the findings to about 450 people who attended ALERT's sixth annual Veterans Day event Monday night.
. . .
The ALERT Academy is home to the Air Land Emergency Resource Team, which trains young Christian men to respond to natural disasters and other crises throughout the world.
David Herring, who coordinates outside events, camps and conferences for ALERT, said the banquet recognizes veterans and active military members, as well as law officers, firefighters, emergency personnel and other people who ALERT students should emulate.
“It's important for every citizen to honor those people who have given for our freedom,” he said. “It's a way to say thanks, a minor effort on our part to express our gratefulness.”
Dwayne Harris, an Air Force veteran from Longview, said he was attending the banquet for the second time.
“It's an honor,” he said. “It's fantastic.”
This would be not seen as worrisome by most folks. Pretty much everyone can agree Al Quaida is Bad News (though most people who study extremism in Islamic circles would quibble about lumping Iranian Shia revolutionary movements in with Al Quaida (essentially a Sunni “Islamic Nationalist” movement with a particular love of terror tactics), much less with the Iraqi insurgencies).
Those of us who've been researching dominionist and Christian Nationalist groups–in particular, the movement known as “Joel's Army”–are disturbed as all get out by this, however.
Why are we disturbed? For one, ALERT Teams is not just your average Explorers Post EMT cadet squad.
And secondly, this is a sign of something finally getting some well-needed research–more evidence of a wholescale attempt at steeplejacking the very groups Americans entrust to keep them, and their country, safe.
A bit of backgrounder
The reason I have used the term “Dueling Holy Wars” to refer to this speech is because ALERT Teams is far from innocuous. In fact, it can be argued they are among the “Extreme of the extreme” among Christian nationalist groups.
To give you some backgrounder, it's necessary to diverge for a wee bit and discuss a form of dominionism that–outside of a few people, such as Sara Diamond–hasn't gotten an intensive amount of research.
A lot of researchers into “Christian nationalist” movements in the US now agree there are three major branches–“Christian Reconstructionists” (popular in “independent fundamentalist Baptist” circles and also the subject of most research on dominionism to date), “ultramontaine” Catholicism (think Opus Dei), and a third group within neopentecostal churches that I have referrred to in my writings as “Joel's Army” dominionism or “neopentecostal dominionism”.
Surprisingly, the neopente dominionists seem to have had the longest continuous push of all “Christian nationalist” groups (with the exception, of course, of segments of Catholic nationalist movements); they have also, especially in the past thirty years, become considerably more extreme in their tactics–both inside and outside of the churches where the movement lives.
Joel's Army essentially teaches that the “Saved” are a kind of ubermensch, and that everything is the subject of massive territorial battles between them and the “Armies of Satan”. They go much, much farther with this “spiritual warfare” meme than mainstream Christian groups or even evangelical Christians, though–many of the churches hold beliefs very similar to those in Scientology teaching that one can be essentially “infected” with demons and thus “lose God's blessing” by the most innocuous things, that one must constantly name and claim “spiritual” and physical territory (in fact, the impetus for neopentecostal dominionism can essentially be seen as an extension of “name it and claim it”, and even other Christian churches are seen explicitly as “the enemy”.
Practices in “Joel's Army” groups have led to a staggering amount of forms of abuse. In addition to the general tactics of spiritual abuse common in these groups (including a particularly nasty “Big Brother” system of “shepherding” common in cell churches within large megachurches), the antics of “Joel's Army” have increasingly turned to targeting others–including horrific involuntary “exorcisms” of walkaways, a substantial part of the engaging in acts of domestic terror and cooperation with extremist groups here in the States, calls for denationalisation and jailing of all non-dominionists, horrifically nasty and extreme political character assassination…and, increasingly, frank murders and assaults against LGBT people, as well as calls for progroms against LGBT people as well as Moslems and members of non-Abrahamic religions.
Lest one think that Joel's Army's wrath is restricted to those outside of it, kids are too often targeted–both in the horrible subject of religiously motivated child abuse and the “Bible-based boot camp” industry–which neatly intersects with one of Joel's Army's dirtier secrets.
Namely, Joel's Army–not unlike Al Quaida–has their own versions of “training centers” and religious indoctrination to breed kids in the group to be “blessedly violent”.
Some of the “Bible-based boot camps” double as “Joel's Army madrassas”…and, often, paramilitary training occurs there. Not only that, but there's an increasing trend to home-educate kids and then send them to paramilitary training facilities as part of the “Joshua Generation” that–in their mythology–is destined to sweep the land like a plague of locusts. (To give you an idea, the “Left Behind” books–and especially the “Left Behind: Eternal Forces” game–are essentially fictionalisations of Joel's Army theology.)
And no discussion of this can be complete without focusing on Bill Gothard–an extremist, even within the extreme Joel's Army circles…and also the man behind ALERT Teams.
The man…and the Bible-based cult…behind ALERT Teams
Bill Gothard has been rather well known in neopente dominionist circles–especially within the Assemblies of God and its daughter churches–as a promoter of a form of “Joel's Army” theology that tends to even make some of the less hardcore members of “Joel's Army” a bit nervous.
Gothard was first brought to the attention of the world at large when WISH-TV in Indianapolis brought to light a series of horrific abuses at a reform school he ran for kids:
Tracking new Florida child welfare chief Jerry Regier's past has led to some pretty disturbing things: radical Christian groups, papers on parental discipline that condone bruises and welts, and a drive to give tax dollars to churches.Now, welcome to the prayer closet.
Inside a converted 300-room hotel, the prayer closet is a little room where kids are taken when they disobey staff at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC). Once locked inside, the misbehaving youths are forced to sit and pray to Jesus, sometimes for days at a time. Some juvenile ITC residents have said the evangelical Christian teens and young adults who staffed the center sometimes forbade them from going to the bathroom, forcing them to sit in their own urine for hours. Some have complained of beatings with paddles by untrained staff that left bruises and welts. When not in isolation, the kids are forced to march and chant and pray, with gospel music playing almost constantly.
The juvenile court system in Indianapolis has been sending kids convicted of minor crimes to the ITC for the past decade, but the extremist Christian creep show inside the center was exposed only earlier this year in reports by two Indy TV news stations.Those exposes, one of them titled “Dark Secrets,” prompted a state investigation.
Gothard now tries to promote “Character Counts” courses in public schools, despite his own record of religious abuse (so extensive that most researchers classify his groups as Bible-based cults). He's promoted the odd concept that Cabbage Patch Kids could cause your kids to be possessed by the devil:
Take for example Gothard’s “Cabbage Patch” flap. In 1986, he taught that the highly popular Cabbage Patch Dolls were causing strange and destructive behavior in children that could only be alleviated when the dolls were removed or destroyed.
In a letter from his organization, his followers were told by representative Ginger Jones that to enter into a written agreement to love a doll was a violation of the First Commandment. The threat as seen by Gothard was that by adopting a doll, children might not want to raise up their own godly children.8 Children may “love” dolls as they do other toys but this does not mean they worship them.
(8. Copy of December 8, 1986 letter on file with Personal Freedom Outreach, a Christian group highly critical of “Joel's Army”.)
Gothard also promotes the concept of “generational curses”–a concept popular in “name it and claim it”/”prosperity gospel” circles that teaches that one's ancestors' actions can literally cause one to be “oppressed” or “possessed” by Satan–and literally sets up adoptees to be targeted for religiously motivated child abuse:
Gothard emphasizes sins visited “upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” and neither emphasizes nor explains the pregnant phrase, “of them that hate me.” It is also regrettable that he does not properly consider verse 6 “But showing love to thousands who love me and keep my commandments.” His view is novel and as far as I know cannot be found in any major commentary. Here Gothard parts company with good men. A quick glance at his materials on adopted children shows an extension of this error.10 Here he teaches that the new parents of an adopted child must research the sins of the “biological parents,” confessing them and casting the consequences off the child. He says:
“Causes of Conflicts — Adopted children are affected by the sins of their natural parents, and these sins are usually very severe.”
“Steps to Resolve Conflicts — If the child is too young to understand, pray for the child. Confess your sins and acknowledge the sins of the natural parents. Ask God to rebuke Satan and free the child from any unbelief or rebellion from the lives of the parents. Pray in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then he goes on to say that if the adopted child is old enough, “Explain that just as physical weaknesses are passed down through parents, so are spiritual weaknesses such as pride, lust and rejection (see Exodus 20:5).” He then tips his hat to Exodus 20:6 and Ezekiel 18:20. But if these verses apply, what need is there of the “Step to Resolve the Conflict” in the first place? No such exorcistic ritual is ever hinted at anywhere in the Bible.
(10. Bill Gothard, Ten Reasons Why Adopted Children Tend to Have More Conflicts (Oak Brook, Ill., Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1982), pp. 1-2. 11. Marilyn Willet Heavilin, Roses in December, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), pg. 21.)
Gothard–in addition to promoting all this–also likes to promote an entire system of religiously motivated child abuse and indoctrination–there are indications that he largely pioneered the field of promotion of Bible-based baby beating in particular–and part of that system involves dominionist home education.
It is in fact this home education system that is of particular interest to us, as ALERT Teams (itself a Gothard frontgroup) is essentially a “graduate school” for people educated using it.
A conservative Christian group critical of Joel's Army theology gives us some info about Advanced Training Institute, the home education curriculum in question:
IBLP operates with a paid staff of about 300 out of its Oak Brook, Illinois headquarters. The organization reported revenue of more than $19.4 million and assets of more than $34.7 million on its 1998 tax returns, the most recent report available. (Gifts have totaled $70 million through the first half of 2000, the largest being the use of a 2,200-acre former university campus near Tyler, Texas, used by Gothard's ALERT program). The Institute's highest-paid employee earns $47,880. Gothard himself reports having received just $12,000 in salary and $18,000 in expenses in 1998. In 2000, Gothard says he will make $15,000. (This information is sketchy and outdated, because Gothard does not make financial information readily available.)
In addition to the Basic Seminar, IBLP also runs more than 60 other ministries, including conducting an Advanced Seminar, Children's Seminars (1992) (ages 6-12 — “The Children's Institute in Basic Life Principles”), the Anger Resolution Seminar, the Financial Freedom Seminar, the Marriage Oneness Seminar (Secrets to the Ultimate Marriage), and special Legislative, Medical, and special training for public and private school teachers [ATI (1984) — Advanced Training Institute home-based education program]. In addition, IBLP has a home school curriculum (through ATI using the Wisdom Booklet series [52 booklets]);2 operates the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy (1994); operates the Telos Institute (1997) (a post-secondary, distance learning degree program), Excel (training for young women), and Verity (distance learning undergraduate degree); conducts “All Day Ministers' Seminars”;3 and publishes a quarterly journal, Life Purpose: A Journal of God's Power in Us. Community ministries include orphanages, the Log Cabin program for troubled youths, ALERT, CharacterLink, and Character First!. (See Note on IBLP programs and affiliated organizations.)
The footnotes are particularly illuminating:
2 To enroll in Gothard's ATI home schooling program, parents and enrolling children are required to complete the Basic and Advanced IBLP Seminars (and pay the yearly $675 per family tuition fee). Families must agree to many guidelines in order to be accepted into the school and continue in it. At the yearly ATI conference, the dress code is nearly a uniform consisting of a white shirt and navy blue pants or skirt. They must follow a dress code while they are homeschooling, and the curriculum itself describes in detail what is required for proper and modest dress and grooming. Beards are not allowed, but an exception is granted to those who have one because of religious conviction. Once in ATI, a family is sent the curriculum on a regular basis. The curriculum consists of 52 Wisdom Booklets, which provide nearly all that is required to complete the education. These booklets make a stack just over a foot high. When a family has completed all the booklets, they start again from the beginning. The curriculum is intended to be used for all ages simultaneously — K-12.
Gothard claims that “As students explore information, it passes (consciously or unconsciously) through a grid of presuppositions in their minds. After the information is evaluated by this 'grid,' it is acted upon.” (Emphasis added.) One of the goals of the training is “To identify each son and daughter's purpose in life and establish direction for their training.” One of the “Tools” to accomplish this is a “Life Purpose Appraisal,” which sounds much like personality testing! (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) [Must reading for anyone desiring a fuller understanding of the origins, techniques, and goals of personality testing would be Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing, by Martin and Deidre Bobgan, EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, 1992, 213 pages.]
3 These “All Day Ministers' Seminars” are purportedly for “senior pastors and Christian leaders” and their wives; it “addresses current issues facing ministers and Christian leaders and provides training and encouragement” (IBLP Internet web site, 10/00). A recent seminar covered the following topics: “(1) How to reach the heart of your listener by understanding his true needs; (2) How to respond to people who live by their own rules; (3) How to meet an urgent need in your church with new answers on Anger Resolution; (4) How to bring the light of Christ back into your public schools (A new opportunity!); (5) How to develop three unexpected qualities that God looks for in a leader He uses; (6) How to avoid defeat by understanding the five aspects of temptation; (7) How to have a prayer ministry that is guaranteed to get results in your community; (8) How to win the heart of a rebel (vital for parents); and (9) How to develop a passion for souls.” (Emphasis added.) And for the pastor's wife: “(1) The key to finding inward rest (Elisabeth Elliot teaching); (2) How to help your husband be known in the gates.” (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
The notes also break down how the ALERT Teams are the “graduate program” for kids homeschooled using ATI:
Education: The Telos Institute, a post-secondary [distance learning] degree program that integrates Biblical principles and character training with life skills, has a current enrollment of 336. [Telos students may earn an associate of arts degree in Character Development Services, and an associate of arts degree in Child and Youth Character Development. Preliminary studies in mechanical engineering are also available.] Oak Brook College of Law, a four-year juris doctorate correspondence program that offers a legal education with a [supposedly] Biblical basis, had 21 graduates earlier this year  in its inaugural class. Advanced Training Institute, a home-based education program focusing on moral, intellectual and spiritual development, has 12,800 students.
. . .
Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT): Composed of male graduates of the Advanced Training Institute, the program is activated at the request of government officials and provides disaster relief and humanitarian aid, as well as aerial, land underwater search and recovery. The program is based on a 22-acre former college campus in Texas donated to the Institute. The program currently has 181 enrolled; it has 600 graduates.
Getting info on what exactly is taught in the ATI curriculum is notoriously difficult; much like Scientology has tried to keep the OT VII stuff from getting out, Bill Gothard claims all of his material is under copyright and as a condition of purchase prohibits families using the material from publishing it or even revealing its contents, and Gothard's companies are the sole distributors of their material. Despite this, however, some information has managed to get out. At least one site critical of Gothard managed to get a copy of the application form–not only are all spouses (including divorcees) and at least two pastoral signatures required, but the form itself indicates that all TV, most music (including most “Christian contemporary” music), all video games, etc. are banned and that people must attend Gothard's seminars to participate. Sample questions include:
– On the married status: One option is “Rebuilder” (this is, of note, a code term in Gothard and Assemblies circles in general for “remarriage”)
– Are any of your children resistant to enrolling in ATI?
– How has God led you to enroll in ATI?
– Please check any of the following damaging influences in your home: (Video/computer games (hours per week:_____), Sensual reading/viewing material, If any of these harmful influences are in your home, please explain on a separate sheet.
– Do you have a TV monitor in your home? (Hours viewed per week: _____ For the sake of achieving spiritual maturity and academic excellence, are you willing to limit your TV viewing or remove the TV from your home?
– Do you have Internet access in your home? (Hours used per week:)
– To the father: How many hours per week do you work? Hours
Gentle Spirit, which is a site dedicated to inclusive homeschooling and fighting the “steeplejacking” of home education by dominionists, has an extensive section on Bill Gothard's ATI in part two of their “Homeschooler's History of Homeschooling”:
Another person who has profoundly and deeply influenced the homeschooling movement is Bill Gothard, both through his Institute in Basic Life Principles and his Advanced Training Institute, which is his homeschooling program.
. . .
the first 20 years of his ministry, his teachings received little public scrutiny, in part because the only way to get any of his books or materials, which were self-published, was by attending his seminars. They were not sold anywhere else in the country, including Christian bookstores. Only seminar attendees could obtain these materials, and each attendee could only buy one copy (IBLP officials kept records of who purchased what). Seminar attendees were also frequently discouraged from discussing Gothard’s materials or the material presented in the seminars outside of the seminars. In addition, the materials themselves were in outline form, and seminar attendees filled in the blanks as they heard Gothard’s teachings (which as a matter of policy were never taped). There was no body of published information attributable to Gothard alone; attended’ notes could be called into question, especially since sessions were never taped.
. . .
The foundation of Gothard’s teachings is submission to authority. He teaches that God has instituted “umbrellas” of authority for our “protection” and that if we move out from under those umbrellas, we place ourselves in danger. These umbrellas of authority include a husband’s authority over his wife, father’s authority over his children, pastor’s authority over those in his congregation, employer’s authority in his sphere of influence, and so on. Gothard teaches absolute obedience to these “authorities” in one’s life. Although it is permissible to respectfully “entreat” an authority, the authority always has the last word and people are urged to “trust God” even if their “authority” makes a wrong or damaging decision. Authority of parents over their children continues as long as the parent lives. This means that grown children must continue to seek their parents’ counsel in every major decision. For instance, those applying to participate in Gothard’s homeschooling program must first secure the approval of all living grandparents.
The article also reveals more about the mandatory requirements for the ATI program, including a mandatory shepherd (listed as an “evaluator”) and at least three separate questionnaires to be filled out by participants and the shepherd. Participants also must agree to a list of 49 “Character Qualities”.
Part four of “Homeschooler's History of Homeschooling” continues:
As conservative Christian homeschoolers increasingly distanced themselves from homeschoolers whose beliefs were different, communication within the movement broke down. The left hand no longer knew what the right hand was doing. Those in statement of faith circles eventually stopped hearing about homeschoolers or homeschooling organizations which did not share their religious views, or if they did, the reports were suspicious, fearful, or negative. This generation of Christian homeschoolers had heard sermon after sermon, read book after book, about the dangers of “secular humanism.” They had been warned repeatedly about the ongoing battle for the minds of their children between the forces of good and the forces of evil, and they had been repeatedly reminded that this was warfare, they were warriors, that if they did not protect their children from the schemes of the enemy, then God would hold them accountable. If their children
grew up and left the faith or shamed them in some way, they were told, their parenting practices and spirituality would be implicated. This resulted in parents who were anxious and fearful over how their children were “turning out,” ever wary of the judgments of fellow homeschoolers. Christians who were skeptical of this mindset were often rejected as liberal or “worldly” or “carnal.”
In addition, thousands of these Christian homeschoolers nationwide had attended Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles seminars where they were taught that obedience and submission to spiritual authority were required of the Christian, even when those in authority erred, resulting in an unwillingness to criticize those who held positions of leadership in the church and in the homeschooling movement, especially on the part of women, who had been taught that they were not to lead in the family or in the church but were to concentrate on their role as keeper at home, wife and mother. At the same time, homeschoolers often heard and read rousing and inspiring
exhortations to Christian obedience and biblical lifestyles with
the promise that if they were faithful, they would enjoy the blessings of God on their families.
Another source on what goes on within the Gothard programs is, of course, what I refer to as the All-Too-Neglected Source: the first-hand accounts of walkaways like this escapee from Gothard's ATI program.
One of the proffered ATI courses is, in essence, an unaccredited course in Cosmetology As A Form Of Bait-And-Switch Evangelism:
Hair Design Workshop
Jan 26-27, 2006
Phase One-$225 (Kit additional)
Ladies attending the Hair Design Workshop can become competent and experienced in the skill of enhancing the outward appearance to the glory of God. This ministry may be used in the home to meet the needs of family members, friends, church members, and the elderly.
Phase One of the Hair Design Workshop will include two days of instruction on the attributes of hair, blunt and under cuts, advanced techniques in layers, tapers, stacking, male clipper cuts, and much more.
There are multiple other courses offered, including a surprising number of courses in both essentially Home Economics and setting up “parallel economy” bait-and-switch evangelism fronts…and, of course, the ALERT Teams.
The dark truth behind ALERT Teams
I specifically mention the stuff about Gothard's home education circles emphasizing the role of people as “God Warriors” because ALERT Teams is–quite bluntly and frankly–a paramilitary training center for dominionist youth being raised as part of the “Joshua Generation” in Joel's Army circles.
Even the press on Gothard's website re the ALERT Teams isn't as innocent as portrayed in the newspaper article:
The ALERT program focuses on training men in Biblical disciplines and character within the framework of learning skills for crisis response and ministry support.
The goal of the ALERT program is to build men who are known not only for their excellent skills, but also for the Godly character and servant’s hearts with which those skills are executed—not primarily for personal advancement, but for unselfish ministry to the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of others.
When a man learns to place his life in God’s hand, for God’s direction and purpose, God raises him up and uses him. ALERT is an intensive training program, spanning two years, which provides an opportunity for men ages 17 and older to learn character, discipline, and skills to meet the needs of individuals in crisis and to support their present and future ministry.
The overview is even more explicit as to the fact it operates as a “Bible-based boot camp” and military training facility for Joel's Army:
What is ALERT?
ALERT (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) is a training program with a military-type structure for men ages 17 and older.
The first phase of ALERT is the 10-week Basic Training, which is similar to a military boot camp, but with an intense focus on the Lord. Training elements include:
* Leadership Training—Leadership by example
* First Aid—Wilderness applications
* Physical Work—Techniques of strength and endurance development
* Rope Work—Knots and river crossing
* Outdoor Survival—Orienteering and fire and shelter construction
* Character Training—Responsiveness to authority
* Personal Disciplines—Bringing thoughts and actions under control
* Rappelling—Introduction to high-angle rescue
* Sawyer—Proper use of the chain saw
* Evangelism—Sharing faith in Christ with others
* Memorization—The book of I Peter
Those that complete Basic Training are qualified to go through Advanced Training, where they take multiple courses to prepare them for disaster response, such as:
* Counseling—Training in proven Biblical concepts
* Search-and-Rescue—Land search-and-rescue techniques
* Open Water SCUBA Diving—Entry-level diving with certification from NASE
* High-Angle Rescue—Rope-rescue techniques
* Structural Collapse—Structure stabilization, shoring techniques, and patient extrication
* Firefighting—Basics of structural fire fighting
During Advanced Training, ALERT men also choose an area of vocational training they would like to major in, such as:
* Aircraft Maintenance—Airframe and power plant apprenticeship
* Aviation—FAA-certified ground school and flight instruction
* Auto Mechanics—Basic engine repairs at home or in the workplace
* Construction—Classes and experience in various construction trades
* Emergency Services Operations—Fire Academy, EMT (Basic and advanced rescue skills)
* Emergency Medicine (Paramedic)—Advanced professional emergency care
* Leadership and Management—Managing people, materials, and property
* Law Enforcement—Biblical principles and practice of law enforcement
Of note, the page itself offers pictures of military drills.
The ALERT Teams also have a separate webpage (which does not advertise so much of its linkage to Bill Gothard), which provides a bit more info. The Basic Training page here is, ironically, a bit more revealing:
ALERT provides a quality alternative to young men considering military service, as it imports the best features of the U.S. military. As such, ALERT should not be confused with church camp or recreational outdoor programs.
Training in Godly character is organized into clusters, the chief cluster encompassing the area of compliance. The principle of authority is taught with a view to differentiating between obedience, submission, honor, and loyalty.
Within the context of compliance training, recruits master the elements of basic obedience (rote compliance motivated by consequences) and balance that with responsible boldness in learning appeal techniques. Moving on to the second level, submission is learned in light of phileo (brotherly love) and mutual trust. The third and highest level of compliance, honor, is imbued with the agape (God’s love) understanding that we die to self as we strive for the success of a God-appointed authority.
The Basic Training environment is very effective in revealing resistant attitudes and rebellion in young men. Responsiveness is ALERT’s byword, and as an ALERT Responder, a good employee, or a faithful son, the recruit must demonstrate the qualities of dependability, diligence, and thoroughness. Meaningful projects allow men to develop these qualities along with punctuality and accountability, to achieve a mature level of responsiveness.
Similar qualities are clustered around persistence (endurance, determination, patience), confidence (boldness, initiative, decisiveness), and readiness (vigilance and attentiveness).
. . .
Skill training is threaded throughout Basic Training as a foundation for subsequent areas of training. Many of these training opportunities have an element of adventure and provide incentive to complete ALERT Basic Training. Among these are camping skills, survival skills, and outdoor skills.
The realm of search-and-rescue requires Responders who are competent in all varieties of outdoor terrain and who will not be liabilities to themselves or to the mission. Living off the land, group sheltering, and outdoor living have been proven elements to teach our men to thrive in austerity while delivering valuable services. Such conditions are useful in preparing men for foreign missions or the coming perilous times.
Introductions in map and compass skills support later training in search-and-rescue, diving, and aviation. Elementary ropework, practiced in river crossings and rappelling in Basic Training, leads to high-angle rescue. First Aid essentials covered in Basic Training eventually yield to instruction in emergency medicine in Advanced Training. Problem-solving exercises give a practical forum for team-building and leadership practice, and by the time Basic Training is completed, the young men have been knit together into a cohesive team that depends first on God’s strength. They are then ready to confront new challenges in ALERT Advanced Training.
. . .
Discipleship is what the Christian life is all about. But how do we know when we are true disciples? And how do we know when we have trained someone else to be a disciple? The answer is found in the Great Commission: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). So what were all the commands of Jesus? A survey of the Gospels will produce about forty-nine general commands that every believer should follow. This, then, is the curriculum for carrying out the Great Commission and being a disciple. We will attempt to cover 8–9 foundational qualities needed in the life of an ALERT Responder.
A recruit is evaluated closely throughout his nine weeks of Basic Training, based on the following criteria. Note that the Advancement Standards are also listed in Appendix A of the Basic Training Regulations Manual.
To advance into the battalion for ongoing training:
Demonstrate discipline in personal devotions and Bible study
Demonstrate a willingness to serve
Demonstrate the ability to work as part of a team
Wear the ALERT uniform properly
Demonstrate proper care for personal items (faithful in the little things)
Demonstrate proper care for buildings and equipment (faithful in another man’s ministry)
Complete the hikes:
• Solo Hike
• Endurance Hike
• Responder Challenge
Demonstrate competence in the following skills:
• Field work, including camping, navigation, and outdoor survival
• First Aid
• Search and Rescue
• Rope work
• Drill and ceremony
Pass the ALERT physical training test:
• 42 push-ups in 2 minutes
• 52 sit-ups in 2 minutes
• Run 2 miles in less than 15:54
Recite the entire book of I Peter (KJV) with the unit upon promotion.
Satisfactorily demonstrate key disciplines:
* During the next stages of training, these standards are required in order to earn the rank of Responder.
As if this weren't enough, the group also runs their own alternative to Scouting as “ALERT Cadets”; essentially, their guide details on how to set up one's home as essentially a small military school.
Notably not covered (in great detail) in ALERT Team's promotional literature is the fact that the military training goes into more than the usual rappelling, emergency, survival, and orienteering training expected of a back-country rescue organisation.
Gothard operates what appears to be a paramilitary-like training school for teenagers on a 2,200-acre former college campus in Big Sandy, Texas, as part of his ALERT program (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) — purportedly for domestic missions work via the providing of disaster relief and humanitarian aid (see second paragraph of Endnote #9). Gothard states that “ALERT is an intensive program in which young men [male graduates of ATI] ages sixteen and older are trained in Biblical principles, Godly character, and practical skills. ALERT utilizes military disciplines to train young men to restore life, rather than take it, and to bring peace and encouragement to those in distress. The present program involves the following phases: (1) Discipline: in physical strength, endurance, and self-control; (2) Skills: in a wide range of vocational specialties; and (3) Emergency Services: in response to calls from cities, states, and nations.” (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.) As of July, 2000, the program had 181 enrolled and 600 graduates.
Since the hyper-spiritual warfare motifs of the Latter Rain movement are beginning to take a sinister shift towards actual military, Gothard's involvement in paramilitary-like things causes us to wonder if there is a connection. Don't forget that Joel's Army has a “chosen seed” (the coming generation) to carry out its purpose on earth, which is dominion (both physical and spiritual). In this context, Christians should have some grave concerns about Gothard's activities.
Along these lines, Gothard has clearly bought into the “Christian America Myth” (ATI Wisdom Booklet 53). He believes that “Christian” conviction can be equated with Biblical faith. But, all religions offer some form of moral basis for society. Christian conviction cannot save a nation that continues to reject true faith in Jesus Christ. America flourished upon a “Biblical ethic” that has sustained it until recent years. But a Biblical ethic is not necessarily evidence of a Biblical faith.
. . .
The state of Arkansas is one of 14 states that have required character training in the schools. Moreover, Arkansas has mandated Gothard's CharacterFirst! character training program be used: “The plan calls for teaching character in all their public schools and, at the same time, enrolling thousands of outstanding high school boys in an 'Arkansas ALERT Program' (Air Land Emergency Resource Team). These young men would learn personal disciplines, character qualities, practical skills, and basic life principles. They would respond to needs throughout the state and enlist welfare recipients to work with them on special projects. A superintendent of a school district in Arkansas has offered his schools for a totally new approach to education. We would restructure his schools around age-integrated learning teams rather than the traditional age-segregated classes. The older student team leaders would be trained to be role models and to work with younger students on their teams. Teachers would be guides, academic consultants, and professional tutors working to serve the parents, who would accept primary responsibility for their children's education and facilitate further teaching in the home.” (Source: IBLP Internet web site, 8/97.)
Yes, you're reading this right–the group “holding the talk about Islamic extremism” is a brother in arms to them in a sense–embracing neopente dominionism rather than Wahhabist islamist thought, but all the same promoting the concept that people should be converted–forcibly, if necessary.
A further sign of targeting of the military by dominionists
Bruce Wilson here on DailyKos has written some very good articles–as part of an ongoing research effort in conjunction with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation–into dominionist groups targeting the military for “conversion from within” (something which has had rather creepy historical parallels in the case of the coup by Efrain Rios Montt in particular); I've written some on Campus Crusade and with Assemblies men in general–and the Assemblies has especially embraced “Joel's Army” since Paul Yonggi Cho ran the denomination for the better part of a decade.
It would appear that Bill Gothard's groups are now part of this as well–which is something with very disturbing implications in both the case of our military and with emergency services here in the US (a lot of military folks go into law enforcement and emergency management and rescue post-military). As noted in the article, Gothard's group is apparently frankly inviting military personnel to speak to ALERT teams as an official part of their recruitment and training–and also encouraging ALERT members to join the military itself.
The 2007-2008 Schedule of Events in the group's newsletter notes the military recruitment (as part of a “Veteran's Appreciation Day”), and the same newsletter has a “Sergeant Major's Bulletin” for his “battalion”; their advertisement for the “Veteran's Day Banquet” notes the attendance by McClendon.
And yes, this is–sadly–yet another case of folks high up in the military promoting Joel's Army stuff. Brigadier-General Mike McClellan happens to be commander of the Global Cyberspace Integration Center–the division of the Air Force that maintains things like the GPS system, the various military satellite systems, and most of the Air Force's military reconnaissance and monitoring of threats to military network and Internet infrastructure.
It also appears that the good Brigadier-General can't feign innocence here–he actually has a bit of a history of this sort of thing. Among other things, he is known to have given the commencement speech at Heritage Christian Church, a church (which does not even have its own building–it uses the building of a Nazarene church) which is part of a small neopentecostal denomination known as Fellowship of Connected Churches. (It is also quite a young denomination–all of ten years old.) FCM is an explicitly Joel's Army denomination; it promotes the “Fivefold ministry” (a giveaway sign of “Joel's Army” groups, particularly those connected to the Brownsville Revival) and states it promotes a “Kingdom worldview”–a codeword denoting promotion of neopente dominion theology).