Friday, May 20, 2011


I hate to see people duped. Hate it. With most people, though, I'm sorry to say that if you can find ONE solid connection to their emotions, you can own them, you can do their thinking for them, and you can inspire them to do, say, and support some very ignorant things. It's the way the movements I write about work - manipulation and preying on irrational and illogical fears. Very seldom do I write about anything political, but as you can see in the blog description below the title, the Religious Right is nestled very solidly among the movements I consider as dangerous, and generally brain-dead, as patriarchy, courtship, et cetera, so from time to time (like today), it'll get some attention here.

Well, Glenn Beck, master manipulator, is at it again. A "Restoring Courage" rally to be held in Jerusalem. This time more reckless, irresponsible, and dangerous than the brain-dead rally he held in Washington last year (which American Christian leaders did everything but tie knots in their rear-ends to be a part of). Anyone who thinks ANYTHING spiritual, at least from a positive spiritual perspective, or thinks ANYTHING Christ-like came out of Beck's rally last year is a fool. It was a sad day for our Christian faith in this country from where I sit - a day where the already prolific draping of the Christian faith with an American flag was made even more prolific - a day where the already blurry line between faith and patriotism was blotted out, and for many American Christians, they became the same thing.

To those of you who share faith in Christ with me, please don't diminish Christ in this way. PLEASE. Please don't surrender your mind to a sociopolitical movement cloaked in faux-spirituality. Christ is Christ, and everything else is everything else.

There are those who say that it's America's duty, as a "Christian nation", to support Israel. Funny, but I've read the bible cover to cover many times in many different translations, and not once, NOT ONCE, have I found so much as a reference to America in it, and I'll even go so far as to offer this bit of heresy - I don't think any of the disciples were registered Republicans. [* gasp* *How is that possible?!!! They couldn't have even been Christians?!!! They had to be Republicans!!! They had to be!!!*] You'll find nothing in the bible to back up the idea that America owes any political or military support to the current Israeli nation. These are all human ideas that have nothing to do with the bible, but are applied as if biblical commands. The same people who believe these things with their whole hearts would call me a heretic for writing articles like this one. Life is so much easier when we can just attach ourselves to emotional trains of thought, particularly when the thought is that of someone else, and when we can put all our faith in what's been rendered a rule book that men have determined for us to be - in its entirety - dictation straight from the mouth of God.

And please note, people, that I'm not suggesting America should or shouldn't support the nation of Israel. That's completely irrelevant to the point I'm attempting to make.

Some people will find this move by Beck to be harmless in the sense of causing or creating more problems with the Islamic nations in the Mid-East - "They already hate us." Well, that may be true with the radicals, but you wanna know why most of them hate us, radical or otherwise? Because of crap like this! Do you REALLY want Glenn Beck to become the American poster boy to a group of people who already resent us for going all over their region trying to tell everybody how to live? THAT's how they see us (whether that's who we are or not). Do we really want Beck's freaking manipulative face on it? What possible good can come from this for anyone but Glenn Beck?

Glenn Beck is a MASTER at whipping the right-wing, cultural Christianity base up into an emotional frenzy, whether through fear or through appeals to their "Christian" patriotism, then capitalizing on the emotion by showing his own feigned emotion to stir them up even more, leaving them to believe that it's all been a spiritual experience at it's core.

I've said before that everytime I see him begin to cry, I feel like I'm in a little, country Baptist church somewhere here in the south, and somebody just said something about "Mama" (you rural southerners will know what I mean). Just watch...

The man is completely shull of fit. "Lewis! You don't know that! How can you say that?!" I do know it, and I can say it, cause I've seen Christian music artists pull these same stunts more times than I can count - always to manipulate - with the goal of getting people to the merchandise table. There are people among my family and friends who can verify that for everytime I've watched Beck turn on his BS waterworks, I immediately say, "If he'd just do a product pitch, it'd be perfect." (SA)

Christian music artists generally have a formula for compelling people toward purchasing product. For many, maybe even most (at least in the Southern genre I was in - the worst for doing this), that formula involves and revolves around the setlist. For the sake of this article, I'm gonna use a 10 song first set and a 5 song second set as my example. Again, I've personally witnessed this, from 100 member country churches to major arenas and 20,000 people in the audience.

In the 10 song first set, you come on stage with something upbeat but not outright "in your face" in dynamic. Song #2 is something more mellow, usually a lesser known song from the artist's catalogue having never been released to radio, but with a deeper emotional dynamic than song #1. You use the emotional momentum from song #2 to go into song #3, an energetic number (perhaps even your latest single). You've done no talking to this point, but just gone from one tune right into the next, giving them energy, relaxation, and then familiarity with more energy. Having now built a "bond", you head into the next phase...

After song #3, the artist (or group MC if a group) gets folksy for a few mintues, flatters the audience ("We're honored to be here with you tonight"), introduces the band, tells a couple of jokes, and uses the positive momentum to propel everything into song #4, an uptempo, energetic number, very likely a past hit song for the artist. Songs 5, 6, and 7, are a deeper period, songs with heavier, meatier, sometimes somber messages, often containing their own emotional peaks and valleys, usually set up with personal, heart-wrenching, emotionally connecting introductions ("This isn't just another song to me...I've lived it...yadda, yadda"), and all of this to build momentum to go straight into song #8 (the HAMMER), usually one of the artist's bigger songs of their career and something the audience recognizes favorably (now ready for an emotional release) from the first note of the introduction. After possibly a short encore of song #8, you go into the final phase of the set...

Song #9 can go one of two ways - it can either be an emotional power ballad, likely a past hit at that, that builds up to an emotional frenzy at its end, OR, you can cover a traditional old song that everyone is sure to know (a song they may likely sing at their church), probably even sing along with you, and feel comfortable in their connection with you...and then from this, song #10 (the REAL HAMMER), the artist's signature song.

As soon as song #10, and any necessary encore, ends...the product pitch...with HEAVY emphasis on songs #8 and #10 (which the artist has conveniently made sure NEVER appear on the same CD or DVD), not to mention references to "If you liked that song Sissy Sue sang (with the touching, personal intro) you can find it on such and such CD...yadda, yadda). Everything is scripted and intended to manipulate you to the merchandise tables at intermission, particularly to purchase songs 8 and 10.

For the second set, the first four songs aren't really scripted - perhaps some requests are handled here - but that last song...

One thing EVERY gospel artist knows, particularly those in the Southern genre, is this: If you can't get them to respond to anything else, DO A PATRIOTIC SONG. Think about the connotations of what I just said there. Christian music artists KNOW than the typical Christian sitting in the pew of a typical church, or the typical Christian who attends Christian concerts, will respond 1000x quicker to a song about America than they will to a song about Christ, His love, or His grace. This is their ace in the hole. Close the second set with a patriotic number to arouse the emotions and manipulate those who haven't already dropped their money at the merchandise table to visit it on their way out. If you can't get them to respond to "Jesus loves you" (and often they don't), you can absolutely bet your bottom dollar that they'll respond to "The devil is out to destroy America". It's a guarantee, and it doesn't speak well of the modern American church body. Priorities are out of whack and our nation itself has become a religious idol.

Do you think I'm being cynical? I've personally witnessed the group manager ask the product manager what units were in surplus back at the storeroom at the office. I've witnessed the product person's answer. Then, I've been handed my setlist for the night, and mysteriously, it contained several songs (particularly those that had once charted) from the particular CD that the merchandise guy mentioned having a surplus of, with emotional peaks built to center around the promotion of a couple of those songs, songs that may not have been staged in months, and NEVER in this particular order. This would continue for several nights...until the surplus evened out, and then the setlist would go back to normal.

While what they're doing may not be necessarily sinister in the intent of all who do it, it IS manipulative and it DOES take advantage of people and their emotions, so, in essence, it IS sinister, and it's something I don't ever want to be associated with again.

Glenn Beck does this same thing. He's become a very wealthy man doing this. He WANTS you to confuse your faith with your patriotism - because then he can manipulate you.

Don't be duped.

And puhlease, people...I'm a political conservative, not one of those "mean ole liberals", and I love my country very much. My soul, however, does not belong to the GOP...and neither does my brain.

ETA: For a few other of my thoughts on the Religious Right, try this post from about a year ago.


  1. Beck is a tool, pure and simple. And I don't mean a handy one either. He's appealing to the same Christians who will castigate Mit Rommney while forgetting Beck ascribes to the Word and Letter of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young as well.

    I truly think we need to take care of the poor and needy here in the US before we support the rest of the world. Do unto others, but what if the others are our neighbors? Are we forgetting the needs here?

    I detest Beck so much that I made my 86 year old mother who's a moderate Republican read the truth about him and now she turns him off too.

  2. Speaking of manipulation, someone who played piano for a Billy Graham crusade told me that he instructed his musicians to use "umph chords" in the invitation song. Lewis, you could probably tell me the technical name of them. But they are the ones that make you agitated and restless, so that you will have trouble remaining in your seat.

    And I wonder why I react to things that seem innocent sometimes? umm...yeah.

  3. I don't know that they have a technical name, but I know exactly what you're talking about, Sharon. Whenever I'd get rooked into playing for an offering (which was seldom - I'm a different kind of musician than a church musician so usually I declined if I could), pastors and worship leaders (or whomever "received" the offering - I PROMISE you it's a sales pitch) have asked me, always, to play a certain kind of song - something happy and peppy. I just played what I wanted. Sometimes I played Toto tunes. Most people wouldn't know the difference between "Amazing Grace and "Rosanna" anyway.

  4. LOL I woulda loved hearing the Toto melody...Hold the Line (dun dun dun dun) Love Isn't Always On Time ...during an offertory. That would totally be worth a twenty! :p

  5. That's a good one, but I never did that one...I stuck to the ones which had little segments I could throw in without raising eyebrows...A little of the outro of Rosanna, mixed with a little of the intro of Georgy Porgy, then bring it down with the chorus of Without Your Love. The only people who ever knew I was doing it (as far as I know) were my bandmates;)

  6. i'd just like to say - Legally, Constitutionally, the US is *NOT* "A Christian Nation"

    why do i say this?

    The Treaty of Tripoli, made in the early 1800s, article 12 states "Being as the United States of America is not a Christian Nation..." and continues on about how it's *OK* and completely kosher to make a treaty with "Musslemen" [Muslims]

    that treaty, as ALL treaties do, as the force of the Constitution, it is LAW.
    and hasn't been superseeded. [and i don't think it CAN be, not constitutionally]

    the US was never MEANT to be any sort of religious nation - it was meant to be purely secular, and people could practice whatever religion they wanted [so long as A) they didn't harm anyone else and B) didn't force anyone else to follow it - which should have been inferred by A but people often don't see forcing someone to follow THEIR religion as "harm". i do]

    we are a nation where the majority is Christian, but we are NOT a Christian Nation.

  7. Manipulation is sadly a fact of life throughout much of life, and much of the Christian community.

    There was an event we played yearly (I think the artist I toured with still does it), held every year on the Saturday nearest to Halloween. It was billed as the "Christian's Alternative to Halloween", but would've been better represented by what a fellow musician dubbed it {CLA} - "Kick the Devil in the Nuts Night". At the event's height back in the late 90s, first half of the last decade, attendance ran anywhere from 12,000 to 15,000.

    It was the way they were brought in that was troubling.

    The first radio ad I ever heard for it sounded more like a tractor-pull was being advertised.

    "Saturday! SATURDAY! Saturday! Be there as 15,000 Christians descend on the Lawrence Joel Coliseum and give the devil a beatin' with a big ol Bible Belt!"

    That is, word for word, what I can remember before I was entirely overcome with laughter. What it did was play on emotion and reduce the Christian faith of all who might attend to the absolute LOWEST common denominator, "getting that mean ole devil!"

    Most of the artists there, knowing the dynamic was what we called "gospel NASCAR" or "gospel wrasslin'", would play down to the audience. In this instance, the artist I was with didn't - but probably because they sold well there anyway.

    It was all manipulation, and any benefit to those that attended ended with the emotional high when the last note was struck and they fanned out to their cars - and they left the lesser for it - their faith dumbed down, their wallets considerably lighter - but the promoter made a fortune, as did the artists by the time they got their flat and sold a few thousand dollars worth of product. Exactly who was being "ministered" to?

    All manipulation.

    This is exactly what Beck does.

  8. that came off as really preachy [if you'll allow the almost-pun there]

    i just... i get very, very tired of hearing that it's my "patriotic duty" to hate Muslims or support our illegal war or whatever, because "We're a Christian nation at war with the evil Muslims who want to destroy Christianity"

    which isn't TRUE - theologically, Muslims are required to accept and allow and tolerate Christianity [as a fellow "Religion of the Book]. what certain fanatical Muslims hate is *Capitalism* - which is also very, very anti-Christian [or, i guess, Christians are supposed to be anti-Capitalism...]

    sorry for being a little overboard on that one...

  9. denelian...I didn't find it preachy at all. I totally agree. The US is a nation predominantly founded by Christians, predominantly inhabited by Christians, but never intended to be a Christian theocracy, but to allow for ALL religions to be practiced (within lawful reason) without oppression from the government or interference from the government,

  10. Great post here. Appeals to emotionalism are merely selling "snake oil" (the snake part is so appropriate) to the masses. Bad enough when it was merely to appeal to a person's desire for physical health ("This will cure what ails you, from toothache to the common cold!"), but worse when it is appealing to a person's spiritual health ("Support this cause, and you're supporting the fight against evil!")

    What makes it the worst is when none (or little) of the support a person would give ends up actually going to what they are trying to support. Like the person giving out of their limited income to a televangelist who promises to help the poor children in some third-world country, while maybe (and that's a big maybe) 10 percent of the funds go to the actual kids in need, and a nice chunk of change goes for the new mansion the televangelist is building, where he will visit his new mistress (or the male version of a mistress), until said mistress/manstress? is eventually revealed, and then the televangelist will go public with a big "apology" and he will "repent" and appeal to the emotionalism of all of his followers (after all, they have sinned too, so why are they any different and how can they judge? they will infer from what he says) who will support him lavishly in his new ministry when he decides to help others trapped in his sin, and now he has the money to buy a new sports car.

    Okay, okay, that was a lot of very cliche generalizing there, and I certainly support charities as being good (and maybe even one or two televangelists), and I see nothing wrong in people making money in ministry either or selling their CDs/whatnot, and I certainly believe that many public figures are sincerely apologizing when they have been revealed in wrongdoing, and I am certainly in favor of forgiving those who wronged you (this next bit is the forgiver's choice, of course) even if the other person doesn't ask for it (but in either case not forgetting, of course, and not letting them get in a position to harm again, which could even mean a permanent severing of the relationship) ... but ... if the shoe fits, wear it. And if you look like a money changer (Matthew 21:12-13) and act like one, you probably deserve to get your schemes revealed and your tables knocked over! The whole ... "a house of prayer should not be turned into a den of robbers" thing!


  11. Lewis;

    thanks :) i get a bit zealous about it, i admit - i grew up [mostly] in Northern CA, and i remember getting into waaaaaaaaaaay too many school-yard fights, because SOMEONE was picking on the Mormons. again. [i never, ever told ANYONE my religion. never talked about religion at all if i could help it] if it wasn't the Mormons being attacked for "following the Anti-Christ Brigham Young" [what happened to Joseph Smith?] it was Jews, for "Killing Jesus", and sometimes [rarely] Catholics for "idolotry" and "papistry" [whatever they meant by that...]

    THEN i moved to Alabama. where it was WORSE [but no Mormons, thank Deity!] and i won't repeat what people called Catholics, Jews or Jehovia's Witnesses...

    so - i was afraid i went a bit overboard. ovrly-forceful in a forum where it isn't necessary [at least, from what i've seen, it isn't necessary] I'm gald/grateful you didn't find it overboard or insulting [that's what i was really worried about - you thinking "I KNOW that, choir, yelling at"]

    i don't know if you read fiction at all, but i'm addicted to Sci-Fi. way back in the early 60's, Heinlein wrote a novella about the 2nd Civil War [really the 3rd] that was getting rid of a Theocracy. he also mentioned that the ONLY thing "keeping religious freedom FREE is the Mexican standoff between the various Christian sects" - which is still true.

    it's why fundys SCARE me - in Heinlein's writing, 2012 is the year a Fundamentalist Preacher was elected President - there were NO elections in 2016. and... look at who the Republicans are considering as their candidate...
    Heinlein has been called "prophetic* in gross detail" - like, he envisioned the country criss-crossed by roads [but not cars! moving roads]. in GROSS, much of what he wrote has sorta come true.
    i really, REALLY don't want this one to come true. at ALL.

    *not in the sense of true prophecy - rather, seeing current treads and closely approximating where they would end up in "today" - cell phones were one, wireless networking another, in the 60's! mathmatical extrapolation, NOT true prophecy]

  12. Personally, I prefer Jeff Beck. ;)

  13. @Steve...Excellent choice ;)

  14. Haha, YES!! Thank you, Lewis. I ask people where in the Bible it says that if America makes Israel give some land back to their neighbors our country will get thrown into hell and God will "remove his blessing". But they don't seem to know. :/

  15. I believe every bit of it; sad to say that kind of manipulation became common in my own church. During the offering, at first we just improv'd, simple chord progressions, lead instruments joining in as they felt led, nothing scripted. Then the Worship Committee felt it "hampered giving" to hear such unstructured stuff, so we switched to keyboard only, chords directed by band leader. That "hampered giving," so we switched to the old guilt-inducing hymns, then praise songs. Last I heard, "people sing along and forget to give. Go back to chords."

    I assumed the reason giving was lower in that service was cuz it was designed to attract the unchurched and 18-30 age group, who have less money and inclination to fill the plate (or maybe I was a lousy keyboard player!), but whatever. Many, many more examples but you get the idea. I think the intentions started out good, but church as a business and praise band as a marketing tool got old for me. I'm not involved now; I'd love to get back to the basics and do praise music but I don't see it happening.

  16. Denelian: That preacher's name was Nehemiah Scudder, from "If This Goes On."

    Hi, I'm a Jubal Harshaw wannabe, married to a real life Maureen for 23 years. ;-) You "Heinleiners" will get the references.

    Sorry...seeing a Heinlein reference on this blog nearly gave me a stroke.

  17. By the way, another Heinlein book that does a really great job of portraying how religion is a tool of indoctrination and manipulation, that can be used for both good or ill is, "Stranger In A Strange Land." I highly recommend this book. The way the protagonist, Michael Valentine Smith, took what he saw being done successfully by the major religion of the time and used it for "good" (within the context of the story) is pretty cool. The story was HEAVILY based on the teachings, and the life and death of Jesus, but as a sci-fi geek from way back (all hail Heinlein & Asimov - and forever ostracize Hubbard), even this atheist was moved toward a more "spiritual" outlook on humanity. ;-) Take care!

  18. Thanks for the recommendation of "stranger in a strange land" I'll read it if I can ever find it.

    BTW, when I was younger and read Asimov, another believer once asked me "How can a Christian like you read sciencefiction?" Of all the "What the ..." comments I ever heard, that is one the strangest. I've never been able to find out why sciencefiction would be so horribly offensive as to deserve his expression and tone of voice.

  19. Bob;

    Hail and Marry Meet! Heinleinians Unite :)

    man - if your wife really *IS* another Maureen, i'd love to meet her! [i'm safe, i promise - straight-cis-female] Maureen was a bit of a role model for me, in ways i won't talk about here :)

    and trying to be like Jubal definately *IS* a worthy goal! i know my dad tries to be him, too, sans writing fiction [he writes code instead]

    i didn't name Scudder for fear of someone saying "I know that guy". overly paranoid, i know...

    a third book about religion was 5th Column? or 6th Column? it also had a different name - the one were China invaded, and the resistance movement made up a fake religon [with advanced weapons disguised as religion paraphanelia] because it was going to be a multi-generational fight to get the country back. i wish i remembered it's other title - but it's almost 7am, i'll be nice to me about it.

    i second Bob's recommendation - especially if you can find an abriged copy. if you can't find one, email me [denelian at yahoo] i have one [sadly it's abridged. i need to find an UNabridged. but the abridged is still awesome!] that i will happily send you - because i'm going to be getting a new copy soon anyway. and sharing Heinlein is like... like sharing water on Mars, almost [which you'll understand if you read Stranger]