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Wolves, "Sheepdogs," and the Gospel of Leviathan

We want to live pure, we want to live clean, we want to do our best; sweetly submitting to authority – leaving to God the rest….

From “Obedience,” a children’s song teaching the supposed virtues of “Positive Christianity”

“For I know this — that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”

The Apostle Paul, quoted in Acts 20:29-30

The Rev. Dan Kellogg of Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek, Washington wants young people to understand that he is “edgy” – an expression never used by people who warrant the description – and that his rock concert-style worship services appeal to the “young and hip.”

Kellogg and his fellow pastors displayed those traits in a memorably misbegotten rap video produced for “Back to Church Sunday” in 2012.

A few years earlier, during a six-week series entitled “Permanent Ink,” Kellogg invited a tattoo artist on stage inscribe body art on member of the congregation.

“We actually believe that this represents something that we can apply, something popular in our culture, that we can apply some spiritual truth to,” Kellogg explained to Seattle’s ABC affiliate. “Some people have thought through what they want permanently on their body, and what we want to talk about is what you want permanently on your soul, too.”

The Reverend carefully observes that there are limits to this principle.

“The one you won’t want to on yourself is the `666,’ right?” he prompted the congregation as the tattoo artist did his work.

What someone takes into his or her heart is more important than the decorations adorning that person’s skin, according to Rev. Kellogg. This being the case, the pastor should explain why he teaches his congregation to “take the mark” by internalizing a message of submission to Babylon.

During a recent Sunday service described by a congregant as a ceremony of “police worship,” Kellogg led the congregation in a ritual during which each of them raised his hand and recited the following oath:

I pledge to do my best to follow the law.

I pledge to thank a police officer for their [sic] service.

I pledge to call 911 if I see someone suspicious in my neighborhood.

I pledge to watch the back of our officers as they fulfill their duties.

I pledge to pray for the safety of all members of law enforcement.

“They were telling people to basically worship government and worship police no matter what,” the astounded and horrified church visitor told Infowars.com. “No mention of police brutality, no mention of the stingray [covert electronics surveillance] systems grabbing our data….”

The previous week’s service, continued the correspondent, “was military worship where they played clips of American Sniper,” using that exercise in war pornography to instill reverence for the “sheepdogs” blessed by God with a “gift of aggression” and who supposedly use that gift to protect the flock by dispatching “evil-doers.”

This was not the first time Gold Creek Church has performed this liturgy of submission to the State and its armed enforcement caste. An earlier observance of this kind took place in January 2010 following the death of Officer Timothy Brenton, whose family attends Gold Creek. Brenton left behind a wife and two young children, and it was appropriate for the church to conduct a memorial service and extend its love and sympathy to the murdered man’s family.

Rather than doing this, however, Kellogg – dressed in police attire – used the occasion to preach about the supposed virtues of unconditional support for State-anointed dispensers of violence, and to administer “an oath taken by church members to support and assist police, not work against them,” as Seattle’s ABC affiliate KOMO summarized.

Gold Creek Community Church was not the only congregation in Washington State to conduct a ceremony of this kind this year. The Real Life Church in Greenacres sponsored the “Spokane Sheepdog Seminar” on January 31. The speakers at that event –Lt. Col. David Grossman, a retired Army Ranger, and his associates Carl Chinn and Jimmy Meeks– are circuit-riding evangelists for the Homeland Security State who focus their efforts on the Evangelical Christian community.

At each stop on this year’s tour, Grossman and his missionary companions will teach a message that neatly inverts the one preached in the New Testament.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,” Paul explained to Timothy, “but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Grossman’s “gospel,” by way of contrast, dictates that Christians should consider themselves powerless, embrace the spirit of fear, look with distrust upon those who are not similarly alarmed – and to regard with servile reverence those who are endowed with the divine “gift of aggression.”

“Our enemy is denial,” Grossman insists. “Denial is a big, white, fluffy blanket we pull up over our eyes and pretend the bad men will never come. Denial equals negligence.”

The wolf/sheep/sheepdog taxonomytaught at the dinner table by the cinematic version of Chris Kyle’s father is a nearly verbatim rendering of Grossman’s treatment of the subject.

The on-screen monologue so closely tracks Grossman’s essay that Jason Hall, who is credited (if that’s the proper word) with writing the “American Sniper” screenplay, may be vulnerable to a plagiarism suit.

Owing to his demonstrated prowess at killing people from a distance, the late Chris Kyle is seen as the alpha Sheepdog – but every police officer, according to Grossman and his acolytes, is a member of the same exalted pack. They are thus elevated above the ovine masses who are told to seek their protection.

Yes, both the “wolves” and the “sheepdogs” are capable of horrible violence, but where the latter are concerned Grossman insists that we are not to take counsel of our fears. Sheepdogs “would no more misuse this gift [of aggression] than a doctor would misuse his healing arts,” he maintains, even though Sheepdogs understandably “yearn for the opportunity to use their gift to help others.”

Curiously, Paul didn’t mention “aggression” in the inventory of spiritual gifts found in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. It’s also impossible to find a parable or a version of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus extolled aggression as a commendable trait, rather than teaching forbearance in the face of provocation. The use of violence in self-defense or in defense of one’s family is compatible with biblical teachings, but this is not “aggression” in any sense.

The first biblical example of the “gift of aggression” is the account of Cain murdering his brother. Significantly, Cain was also the first political figure in the biblical account: After being driven into exile from his family, Cain built a city named after his son, Enoch (Gen. 4:16-17). Aggression is the antithesis of every Christian virtue, and the indispensable foundation of every political state.

When presenting their concepts to Christian gatherings, Grossman and his comrades – in entirely predictable fashion — invoke, and misapply, Romans 13:3-4: “Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’ servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

“There is no need to fear authority if one is not engaged in wrong-doing,” insists Jimmy Meeks by way of a dishonest summary of those verses. This puts him in a difficult position regarding the turbulent history of the early Christian Church, which was led by devout men who were well-acquainted with chains and prison bars, and most of whom were “lawfully” put to death for their refusal to obey directives issued in the name of “authority.” There is the additional complication presented by Jesus Himself, Who was “lawfully” executed on a cross while bracketed by common criminals.

Meeks assumes that disobedience to state “authority” and “wrong-doing” are essentially the same thing. One principle clearly taught in the New Testament is that those who follow Jesus can expect to get in trouble with those who presume to rule other human beings – but that this offers no reason to fear what such usurpers can do to them. This is precisely the opposite of the message of unqualified submission to “authority” being peddled by Grossman, Meeks, and their epigones.

“I find it very interesting that in the Bible there are only a few occupations that are said to be `of God,’ that they are jobs that God Himself created and placed upon the earth,” continuesMeeks. “One of them is the job of a police officer” – a claim he buttresses with an extravagantly creative rendering of Romans 13:4: “The policeman is sent by God.”

“Could it be any more clear?” Meeks exults. “God is the author of police work…. As police officers we are authorized by God Himself to mete out the necessary justice: make the arrest, give the ticket, even take a life if need be. And God supports us in this matter…. [I]t is an awesome thought to consider that God calls us His `avenger’ who is deputized to execute His judgment.”

Every act of threatened or actual violence committed by a police officer, therefore, carries divine sanction, and those on the receiving end of those ministrations are reprobates worthy of such treatment. Those who obstruct or criticize the State’s divinely appointed ministers of violence are resisting God Himself. They are the “wolves” who must be identified and dealt with; hence the emphasis on teaching the flock to scrutinize the behavior of their neighbors and report any actions or opinions that might undermine this Godly order.

“Sheepdog” training doesn’t just focus on the omnipresent threat posed by the “wolves.” It also cultivates disdain for the “sheep.”

Jesus taught parables involving the concept of sorting wheat from tares, or sheep from goats. Grossman emphasizes the idea of separating the pitiable and pathetic “sheep” from the valiant and virile “sheepdogs.” One inevitable consequence of this indoctrination is that at least some pastors – men who are supposed to love, serve, and sacrifice on behalf of their flocks – are taught to be contemptuous toward the “sheep” of their fold.

“The vast majority within the church are sheep,” concludes Stuart Vogelman, executive pastor of the Real Life Church, which sponsored the January 31 Sheepdog Seminar. “Pastors tend to be sheep, as well. When it hits the fan, they’ll hide behind the sheepdog.”

This most likely would be the case – at least for those who don’t enjoy the calm courage that comes from knowing the Good Shepherd. Helping people make His acquaintance has traditionally been the chief calling of Christian pastors. At least where matters of church security are concerned, Grossman wants pastors to teach reliance on the sheepdogs, rather than the Shepherd.

At Real Life Church, security personnel are to be chosen from among the “sheepdogs” in the flock. They are given intensive firearms and emergency response training and expected to be vigilant “watchmen” of the church grounds. This much is certainly commendable: Church security personnel are numbered among the large and ever-expanding population of private peace officers, who – unlike their government-employed counterparts – actually protect persons and property. However, Vogelman emphasized, in an emergency the church’s “sheepdogs” must yield to their government-licensed superiors, who have “government-given authority.”

“My team is trained,” Pastor Vogelman explained to me in a telephone interview. “If there’s a police officer [on the scene], he’s in charge. You follow orders from him. We respect them, we defer to them” – even if the private security personnel are more competent in the use of firearms and better-equipped in other ways to deal with an emergency.

“Authority” trumps competence, and preserving the divinely ordained social hierarchy is apparently more important than protecting the flock. This is why, in the event of shooting or similar eruption of violence, Vogelman and his fellow sheepdogs “know that we’ll probably wind up on the ground and handcuffed, along with everybody else, until the officers have sorted out what’s happening.”

Asked about concerns expressed by people who criticize excessive force and other abuses by police, Vogelman replied: “I’m a licensed State Patrol chaplain, and I minister all the time to guys who wear bullet-proof vests. I have some pretty strong views about the subject.” Although he declined to elaborate on those views, he did acknowledge that within his congregation he has heard some criticism “from the sheep” about what they regard as the pastor’s excessive concern regarding security issues.

“Denial really is the most important problem,” Vogelman insisted, retailing Grossman’s central talking point. He likewise reiterated the Sheepdog Seminar claim that violence at churches and church-operated venues is more prevalent than school violence. Sheepdog speaker Carl Chinn calculates that between 1999 and 2014 there were 549 deaths resulting from “deadly force incidents” at houses of worship or congregational facilities. This works out to fewer than 37 such deaths each year from among the more than nine million Americans who attend weekly worship services.

That figure is a little more than one-third the number of Americans who die in automobile-related accidents every day. In empirical terms, Church-focused criminal violence is a manageable problem, not an existential crisis requiring a general mobilization.

Ah, but we have to remember that we’re a nation at war, insists retired police sergeant (and unofficial “Sheepdog” publicist) Joe Gaines: The big picture requires that we “Add in the potential for terror attacks in our schools and churches by foreign extremists, as they have done all over the world….”

Addressing the same point, Meeks tells his audiences that “open source US intelligence” confirms that “al-Qaeda and ISIS are monitoring American church websites for church function dates and particularly church pilgrimage activities.”

Unless we do as our heaven-sent “sheepdogs” require, our church softball leagues will be soft targets for ISIS-directed terrorist attacks. If you consider that threat assessment to be unrealistic, then you’re guilty of the grave sin of “denial.”

Each “Sheepdog Seminar” begins with a screening of the film “Faith Under Fire,” which portrays a horrific 1980 church shooting in Daingerfield, Texas that claimed the lives of five people. Intriguingly, nowhere in any of the “Sheepdog” training materials can we find so much as a syllable devoted to the most hideous church-related “deadly force” incident in recent US history – the 1993 annihilation of the Branch Davidian congregation at Mt. Carmel outside Waco.

David Koresh and his followers were certainly security-conscious. As the ATF learned, the Davidians were more than adequately armed and much more proficient marksmen than the government-licensed killers who attacked the group’s sanctuary.

The church was sufficiently fortified and provisioned to withstand a prolonged siege by the FBI. The pastor and his “sheepdogs” held the enemy at bay for 51 days before being murdered in a chemical weapons attack that led to a catastrophic fire – with Delta Force commandos gunning down anybody who attempted to escape the holocaust.

The Waco atrocity receives no mention in the materials provided by Grossman and his colleagues because it demonstrates the inescapably lupine nature of government-licensed “sheepdog.” Their function is not to act as benign protectors of the “sheep,” but to serve the “thieves and robbers” who corral the flock to be fleeced or slaughtered (John 10:1-10).

Grossman’s “Sheepdog Training” seminars will attract the kind of people who dismiss Koresh and his followers as “cultists” because they didn’t acknowledge the divinity of the State. Whatever else may be true about the Branch Davidians, their worthy defiance placed them in the company of the early Christians who were denounced as atheists and “wrong-doers” – and often put to death in exceptionally sadistic ways — because they refused to offer a pinch of incense on the altar of Caesar.

“Non-thinking Evangelicals are helping to build the police state even more than the socialists in this country,” laments Dr. Phil Fernandes, President of the Institute of Biblical Defense and pastor of the Trinity Bible Fellowship in Bremerton, Washington. 

Assuming that the assessment by Dr. Fernandes is accurate, the turnout for the “Spokane Sheepdog Seminar” is a harbinger of ominous times: The event drew more than 250 people from six states, including Alaska and California. Vogelman proudly reported that this included “thirty to forty cops – federal, state, local, sheriffs and deputies, people from the Department of Homeland Security,” in addition to dozens of church elders, and scores of pastors.

Grossman and his comrades have scheduled seven more seminars this year. At each they will train and equip hundreds of influential people to minister on behalf of the Homeland Security State – strengthening the sinews of Leviathan in the tragically mistaken belief that they are “doing God a service.”