We were watching CNN late Saturday night and caught the tail end of a report on Teen Mania, Ron Luce’s Christian youth indoctrination organization. Watching the pre-teens and teens at one of Luce’s BattleCry events was downright scary.
Luce’s message, which is tinged heavily with his brand of fundamentalism, is that popular culture is corrupting our youth. He pounds into his young congregants the need to reject all the commercialism, sex, drugs and whatnot rife in secular culture.
He woos impressionable pre-teens and teens with the usual fundie blend of showbiz and pulpit-pounding demagoguery. While telling them to reject pop culture, he uses (Christian) rock music, pyrotechnics, and variety of merchandise to convert his BattleCry event audiences to the Teen Mania way.
Watching adults sway in some kind of hypnotic rapture during a fundie church service is one thing. Seeing kids as young as 10 with their eyes closed and arms upraised, entranced by Luce’s brand of religion by the hundreds is alarming.
Pop culture is evil, kids. It’s poisoning your minds, removing all that is good from your souls. Instead, empty your minds of all free will and follow me instead. That’s the Luce message.
An army of Christian youth robots.
Christiane Amanpour was the CNN correspondent doing the story, part of her series, “God’s Warriors.” A Christian Iranian by birth, Amanpour was clearly drawing parallels between Luce’s Christian militancy and the Islamist extremists she covered in another segment. She questioned Luce point blank about his requirement that students at his Honor Academy follow very strict dress and behavior codes, asking him how those restrictions were any different from conservative Muslims requiring women be veiled. Luce did not provide a substantive answer.
Granted, Luce’s ministry has helped some kids pull themselves out of some pretty nasty circumstances. Some have absentee mothers and fathers, have done drugs, are sexually promiscuous, and are generally just messed up.
But judging from the BattleCry event Amanpour covered, the vast majority of the kids attending Luce’s bombastic arena events are normal middle- to upper-class kids with no clear direction or purpose in life. In other words, normal adolescents.
If you believe the Luce/Teen Mania party line, the majority of young people are sexually active, druggie pop-culture automatons that need to be Saved from a dissipated future. To do it, they just need to subscribe to the Teen Mania belief system.
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We believe that there is one God eternally existent in three persons: The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe in the deity of Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His personal return in power and glory. We believe in the resurrection of the saved to eternal life, and the everlasting punishment of those who have rejected God’s forgiveness in His Son. We strive to contribute to achieve greater unity in all that we do within the Body of Christ.
These kids are the footsoldiers in a battle, Luce says. There is a crisis: “A stealthy enemy has infiltrated our country and is preying upon the hearts and minds of 33 million American teens. Corporations, media conglomerates, and purveyors of popular culture have spent billions to seduce and enslave our youth. So far, the enemy is winning. But there is plenty we can do. We need to take action. We need to answer the Battle Cry.”
If you are of a certain age, you’ve heard something like this crap before. Rock music, comic books, MTV, Beavis and Butthead, cable TV — they’ve all been targets of reactionary campaigns to “protect” our children from corruption and evil.
Yet, the republic still stands. I’ve spent half my life teaching young people. A tiny, tiny minority mess up their lives with drugs, booze and promiscuity. The vast majority survive adolescence to become respectable, useful adults. Luce’s crisis is as non-existent as Bill O’Reilly’s “war on Christmas.”
Luce, whose compensation in 2006 as head of Teen Mania was about $148,000 (from its IRS Form 990), has clearly found a hook. All Christianist preachers have to have a shtick, or they get lost in the crowd. Luce’s ploy is to blame “pop culture” for kids’ troubles and scare the bejesus out of kids and their parents into donating millions of dollars to his ministry.
His religion is the usual doctrinaire, black-and-white theology of fundamentalism. Homosexuality is a sin. Rock-and-roll music is evil. Girls should dress modestly. Premarital sex is dangerous. Muslims are bad people. Non-believers are bad people. Christians should only hang out with Christians. Heaven and Hell are real places. The Bible is inerrant.
And the kids at these events are absolutely entranced by the whole multimedia show. I won’t go so far as to say they are being brainwashed, but some in the CNN segment looked as out-of-their-wits as Deadheads at a smoke-enveloped concert. In that state of mind, a kid could accept anything as right and true.
Talk2action has a report on Teen Mania. Rolling Stone also covered it some time ago. Visit Luce’s sites, then the anti-Luce sites and draw your own conclusions. Me, I think he’s nuts.