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There are thousands of Bruce Wilsons @brucewilson
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How PBS partnered with the religious right to sanctify giant predatory transnational corporations : a case study. talk2action.org/story/2011/3/7… @C_Stroop
Several years after I wrote this 2009 expose of the joint PBS project on "spiritual capitalism", I learned that the Templeton Foundation and Howard Ahmanson's Fieldstead Foundation (Ahmanson endorsed the project) were both...
...part of the behemoth theocratic funding combine known as The Gathering. The biggest philanthropy of the The Gathering community is the National Christian Foundation, now America's 10th biggest charity. But the The Gathering community of funders...
...is bigger still and includes, among other philanthropists, Dick and Betsy DeVos. Back in 2001 at The Gathering, Betsy & Dick discussed public schools. After The Gathering pulled down most of its (previously) public audio from the event, I posted audio from that 2001 talk...
...a Politico reporter noticed it on Youtube & ran a story ( politico.com/story/2016/12/… ), which rendered "The Gathering" down to "an annual conference of some of the country’s wealthiest Christians" as if it were some ecumenical event with zero agenda. The Politico story ...
...was chased by many stories on DeVos' alleged agenda, none of which confronted what The Gathering was, or what it does. An extended treatment from Mother Jones called The Gathering "a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy" motherjones.com/politics/2017/…
the thing about The Gathering which caught my interest (as I told a team of video documentary makers working on a series about "The Family" behind the National Prayer Breakfast) is that you can get hard facts about it - which moves the discussion beyond mere opinion...
There are various philanthropies whose heads attend The Gathering. Those philanthropies each year file 990 IRS tax forms, which are publicly available. Thus, there exists a PUBLIC RECORD of what "The Gathering" collectively funds. But to get at those hard facts would take WORK...
...which is to say that it would take TIME. And, reporters these days aren't allotted much time to do their stories. It's much easier to do the "he said, she said" stock formula of dueling opinions than to pick through endless tax forms (which I have done a lot of). But even...
...the best funded outfits, inc. the @nytimes & @MotherJones do this - after the Politico story on the DeVoses at The Gathering I expected some queries - what is The Gathering ? What's it all about ? Nope. Here's my take: twocare.org/the-gathering-…
Now, that TwoCare.org take puts LGBTQ rights front and center - which does distort what The Gathering is all about : extending hegemonic (Protestant) Christian supremacy over the whole earth. A lot of The Gathering funding is about building institutions, i.e. schools
...universities, churches, plus developing coalition efforts, big tent parachurch ministries... At The Gathering each year, promising ideas for leveraging philanthropic dollars are showcased. Looping back to the DeVoses at The Gathering in 2001 ( )...
during her talk Betsy DeVos alluded to the ultimate leveraging idea. She told her audience that even all the pooled wealth represented at The Gathering couldn't begin to match the vast flows of public taxpayer dollars that pay for public education. Betsy DeVos did not directly...
...state that getting control of those public funds was the goal, but she hardly needed to. Fortunately, because the funding of public education in the US is very decentralized, Betsy DeVos, as Sec. of Education, can't directly shut off the flow of $. But she can monkeywrench..
...such as by making student loan debt (for higher education) even more onerous and punitive. In any case, the The Gathering community is politically quite sophisticated - it's well aware that incremental steps towards their vision for laissez-faire capitalist theocratic hell...
...work much better than big steps towards the goal, which might trigger a backlash. So, the redirection of federal funds, especially social program spending but also foreign aid as well, towards church & "faith based" organizations, is an ongoing, incremental but glacial process
...that's been ongoing since the Clinton Administration. Here's what David Kuo, a member of The Family (or The Fellowship) said about it in his book "Tempting Faith" - with the "Charitable Choice" provision in the 1995 Welfare Reform bill (signed by Bill Clinton) that...
...made it legal for federal funds to flow directly to religious groups (prior to "Charitable Choice", those religious groups needed to have expressly secular nonprofit charities to receive the $)... Kuo wrote, on page 88, "What was I peddling? With Charitable Choice, I had...
..helped get a fairly radical provision in the welfare bill". On page 84, Kuo writes, "Team Ashcroft named our new proposal "Charitable Choice" because it was so innocuous. It didn't draw attention to anything religious". 1 of the people associated with The Family/The Fellowship
along with Kuo to bring about such "faith based" changes was staffer Mike Gerson, later to become a speechwriter for George W. Bush. Gerson is a Family/Fellowship member on the liberal end of its spectrum. He thinks federal funds should go directly to religious groups but that...
(as he has directly advised The Gathering) Christians should set an example by "baking the cake" (literally and figuratively) for LGBTQ customers. Accordingly, Gerson is an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post. Not to be outdone, the @nytimes boasts two op-ed columnists...
...who have been repeat speakers at The Gathering - David Brooks and Ross Douthat. This is interesting because it has been openly stated at The Gathering that while Billy Graham's Christianity Today represents the liberal side of things at The Gathering, the "conservative" end..
..end of things is represented by Howard Ahmanson, who has historically been the top funder of the overtly theocratic Christian Reconstructionism movement whose would-be mullahs would like to impose Old Testament punishments, such as stoning, for various infractions like adultery
...blasphemy, heresy, idolatry, homosexuality, witchcraft, and so on (the full list is rather longer.) Now, for a number of years of its existence (until the event & community went a bit more underground after some negative scrutiny) The Gathering boasted a quarterly...
...full color, professionally produced magazine. One of the 2005 editions featured an op-ed from a Christian Reconstructionist pastor somewhat notorious for his advocacy that incorrigibly rebellious children & youths should be executed by stoning. (see: chalcedon.edu/magazine/stoni…
In that op-ed, pastor Einwechter made clear to his The Gathering audience that current US law did not allow for such a practice. Accordingly, he suggested, wealthy The Gathering parents might want to consider cutting such reprobate offspring out of their wills. What I found...
...truly striking was that the people who run The Gathering (it's of course under a 501(c)(3) nonprofit) thought it acceptable to run an op-ed from a pastor who doesn't mince his words, that parents (& the community) should bash rebellious kids to death with rocks, Taliban style
To add some more nuance to the picture, consider this searingly sardonic 1998 piece, published by libertarian Reason magazine, by Walter Olsen, "Invitation To A Stoning" : reason.com/archives/1998/…
Olsen made clear that the Christian Reconstructionist penchant for stoning was, at least back then, considered to be out on the lunatic fringe by many conservative evangelicals. Here's the key (brilliant Olsen) bit: 'Reconstructionists provide the most enthusiastic constituency..
'...for stoning since the Taliban seized Kabul. "Why stoning?" asks [Gary] North. "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost."...
'Thrift and ubiquity aside, "executions are community projects--not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his' duty, but rather with actual participants." You might even say that like square dances or quilting bees, they represent...
'the kind of hands-on neighborliness so often missed in this impersonal era. "That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes," North continues...
'"indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians." And he may be right about that last point, you know.'

Olsen goes on, 'The Recons are keenly aware of the P.R. difficulties such views pose as they become more widely known.'
But I guess the The Gathering community wasn't especially worried about PR blowback, at least back in '05. By ,'012 or so, they reconsidered things and wiped most of their archival material. Fortunately, my latent hoarding tendencies proved beneficial here - because I had...
...downloaded the entire The Gathering website prior to the big purge and have since distributed the material to interested academic (to few, but enough to preserve the incriminating material for posterity or, at least, until a giant solar flare erases all our digital data...
...after which we'll be joining Dick & Betsy DeVos, & the The Gathering crew, out in the field hoeing potatoes.
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