Matt Comer

Are there any warriors in Charlotte?

Filed By Matt Comer | July 19, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Charlotte North Carolina, Lou Engle, Michael Brown, North Carolina

How thin of a line exists between violent word and thought, and violent action and deed?

That is the question I asked in my July 17 Special Report and commentary, "On the edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City." Years of interaction with North Carolina-based anti-LGBT religious organizations, months of conversation with Dr. Michael Brown, his church and organization, and more than a week spent writing culminated in an in-depth, 6,300-word exploration of verbal and theological violence, militancy and extremism directed toward the LGBT community.

A day prior to my report's publication, Bilerico published Patricia Nell Warren's piece on Lou Engle and a worship and prayer rally to take place on July 25 in Charlotte, N.C. Combined, her post and my report only scratch the surface of what I believe is a deeply entrenched ideology of violence underpinning the ministries of Charlotte's anti-LGBT religious movement.

As I say in my report, I don't believe Brown, Engle, the groups they lead or those with which they associate would participate in any direct, physical violence against LGBT people. But their words are dangerous and open the door to real threats of physical violence.

"History has proven that only a short, sometimes unforeseeable, gap exists between the violent rhetoric of a movement's leaders and the violent actions of its followers," I write in the report. "History has also shown us that those who employ verbal and religious violence as a tool of thought and instruction are inevitably the root cause of real and lasting mental and physical injury and death."

Michael Brown has built his career around theological study and ministry. Currently, he leads the Coalition of Conscience, a "network of church and ministry leaders, business and education leaders, and Christians from every walk of life, based in the greater Charlotte area, working together for moral and cultural change through the gospel." His FIRE School of Ministry, FIRE Church and FIRE International ministry are based in Concord, N.C., a Charlotte suburb.

Lou Engle, likely already known to many readers here but introduced so well by Patricia last week, is the leader of TheCall and the International House of Prayer, national prayer movements. He has been connected to Joel's Army, a militant religious movement the Southern Poverty Law Center says is potentially violent. Brown serves on TheCall's advisory board. As noted by Patricia and in-depth in my report, Engle has been asked to help lead the growing extremist movement against LGBT equality in Charlotte.

What worries me so much is not the "God Has a Better Way" worship and prayer rally designed as a counter-demonstration against Charlotte's LGBT Pride festival this week, but rather the extremist and militant language and rhetoric Brown and Engle use to promote their movement.

Here are just a handful of examples documented in the report:

Michael Brown "Yes, the battle lines have been drawn, the enemy is taking ground, and many of us hardly realize that the war is on."

"Just think: We live in a time of moral madness and social uncertainty, a time when talk of a moral revolution should be everywhere. Instead, the best-selling 'revolutionary' books are books about new diets! What does this say for us as a people? When we need to be talking about the call to die for the gospel, we are talking instead about the call to diet for good looks. What a sad indictment!"

"We live to do His will, period. If His will can be accomplished most fully through our living, so be it. If His will can be accomplished most fully through our dying, so be it. That should be our normal expression of faith."

Lou Engle
"Revelation demands participation ... Sometimes we use prophecies as toys instead of bombs to make war with in the Spirit."

"There's power in that kind of prayer," Engle exclaimed. "That's a prayer," he said, making machine gun sounds and adding, "Shoot everything!"

"Are there any warriors in Charlotte who want to go to battle?"

"I know the battle. If Charlotte is going to win this battle, you're not going to win it with an ideological struggle. The church has got to get on a hill above the hill. Holy Spirit, come into this place and cause men to come out of fighting small battles. When they were meant to go to war, they attack themselves when they live in a time of peace ... Men it is time to go to war!"

The Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok, editor of the group's quarterly news-magazine, Intelligence Report, warns that painting an entire group of people as "the enemy" can lead to severe, life threatening circumstances.

"When you characterize an entire group of people as the enemy, whether or not you mean that in terms of physical violence, you should not be surprised when impressionable young people see that as a call to violence," Potok told me. "These people all say they don't intend to harm anyone else, but the reality is this kind of speech opens the door to criminal violence. It is taken as a kind of permission by hate criminals.

"You can't simply defame huge groups of people, often with completely false propaganda, and sit back and act like an innocent when they are attacked. The reality is that they have had a hand in this. I'm not suggesting that they be prosecuted, but as a moral matter it is clear."

Brown and Engle claim their movement is non-violent. They say their fight is with spiritual powers, not people. Regardless, the allegory and verbal instruction they use is in direct contradiction to the philosophy of non-violence and the "non-violent," "Jesus revolution" movement they lead.

"One cannot be non-violent when one is teaching, praying, speaking and leading from a violent, war-like and battle-ready theological perspective," I write in the report.

There are people who believe they are engaged in a "war," to see that LGBT people do not gain civil or social equality. Unfortunately, there are also people who are unable to distinguish between verbal rhetoric and allegory, and real physical calls to violence.

I encourage you to read the report.

This isn't an issue for only Charlotte or North Carolina. Brown and Engle are engaged in a national movement. You might not be seeing this movement in your city or town yet, but you will. Please take the time to read the report. Pass it along to your friends. Blog about it; twitter it; Facebook it.

Violence and religion never mix well. And it is time religious leaders like Brown and Engle are called on their offensive and outrageous use of religion in the name of violence.

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Nope No no no no no. I do not agree that there is a thin line at all between word and deed. As a matter of fact i see a VAST ocean between the two. Say what you want, say what you will. I can combat your free speech with my own. If someone here is insinuating that ignorant people should be zipped up, i declare and find a ruling that you are the ignorant one. The need to halt dangerous emotional rant does not trump your dangerous emotional rant. Sure my feelings are hurt and anyone who feels and speaks of homophobia can fuck off. Gratefully i can still say it. My anger and hate and rude approach to anything and everything that pisses me off is not responsible for physical violence of any kind. The same can be said for people who hate me and only say it. Your trip down this road ALSO suggests frightening consequences even if you are coy enough to pose it as a question.

Rick Elliott | July 20, 2009 4:00 AM

I'm not even on the same planet with Brown/Engel theologically. However, I agree with them on the need for revolution in our culture. It's current superficial insipidity is abhorrent.
They talk about revolution, but their stance is neither revolutionary nor nor theological. It's the same crap that tries to drape itself with a Christian facade. When stripped to its essentials, they're Pharisaic, angry hate-mongers who are polar opposites of Jesus. What scares me is their appeal to a much larger constituency. Peel back only the top few layers of American society and what lies underneath is a viiolent core.
When can the Religious Right grasp the truth that Jesus is the antithesis of who they are. In fact it was against the religious folk that Jesus directed almost all of his barbs.

Thanks Rick. I've made the same points nonstop for months. And I'm tired. But it's always refreshing to see someone who's knowledgeable about scripture.
I think the religious right will never see what hippocrits they are because, despite all the self righteous bragging, they really don't know anything about the bible. They bear false witness like it's going out of style, ignore all of Jesus and the prophets' major demands, and cherry pick the rest to pieces. Pharisees have been around for centuries, and they're not going anywhere.

Tom Brown | July 20, 2009 8:20 AM

Thanks, Matt, for the detailed report elaborating on the dangers Patricia Nell Warren cited earlier. My little church in Daytona prayed Sunday for safety and peace for the Charlotte Pride Weekend and we'll continue doing so. I hope the Pride organizers are working closely with the Charlotte police, FBI, Homeland Security or whomever to make sure the Pride events are off-limits to guns and that there are reasonable buffer zones set up so gay families don't have to worry about "red shirts" or other anti-gay protesters intimidating their kids. Unfortunately, there's a Catch-22 at work. By sounding warnings about the risk of violence, there could be two horrible consquences: 1) LGBT people and their friends decide it's too dangerous to attend Pride, handing the Dr. Brown crowd a victory by default. or 2) One loony decides this is his chance for holy martyrdom by firing a gun at somebody.
I hope there are cooler heads among the clergy in Charlotte who will use their influence to calm things down. Will the Southern Christian Leadership Conference intervene in some positive way?
This is America, so we have to live with freedom of speech, and even freedom of hate speech. However, we can still take precautions to make sure hate speech doesn't lead to something worse.

"Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. By simply not mentioning certain subjects... totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have by the most eloquent denunciations." ---Aldous Huxley

Brown claims to have “found the Lord” as a “sixteen year-old, heroin-shooting, LSD-using Jewish rock drummer.” Since then he has founded a society following that mirrors Hitlers Nazi movement. The Red Shirts are people without conscience and feel that inciting fear is justified in their “outreach” to GLBT by brandishing anti-gay placards and preaching through amplified sound systems, all intimidation tactics.

People just like them tried to disrupt the Pride parade in NW/AR but had little effect, of course it was a small group with offensive placards and one very offensive loud-mouth with a portable PA. These people claimed to be there to save others from themselves, the whole time they did nothing but offend those who came to watch the parade. These people are nothing more than Neo-Nazi bigots who hide behind a Christian ideology, a false claim and out and out LIE.

Quote Engle and his CALL “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire.” What an Orwellian twist on Jesus!

To really understand Brown and Engle one only has to look at Nazi propaganda, there are not Christians but just the opposite, they are anti-Christ! And I'm not even a supporter of monotheists and I can see that. Red shirts, Brown shirts what's the difference, hate is hate no matter what color they wear.

Any plan that depends on fundamentalists acting responsibility for enactment is doomed from the start. These people are generally aware of what they'd doing, but they're making too much money off it to stop.

That and they're probably true believers who really want to get people riled up for the cause. Too bad the people they're talking to generally think that violence is the best response to anything.

When your words motivate people to commit acts of violence against others, you are not simply exercising free speech or practicing your faith. You are a Jihadist.