A story in last week’s issue of the Texas Observer is drawing attention across the blogosphere to a militaristic Christian organization called Repent Amarillo who are dedicated to eliminating anything they deem anti-Christian through the use of intercessory prayer (aka “spiritual warfare”) and witnessing “soldier groups”. Their first successful mission was harassing a private married-couples-only swingers club out of existence.
Repent Amarillo became an almost-constant presence, shouting through bullhorns, blasting Christian music, haranguing club members, following swingers in vehicles and sticking video cameras into people’s faces. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has been called out twice. Police records show that nearby businesses have called frequently with noise complaints. Repent even showed up on occasion when the Route 66 building was rented out for non-swinger events. “They have been here every time we open our doors, regardless of what kind of functions we have, whether I’m down here doing maintenance, cleaning, whatever,” Mac says. “They don’t have a life. Well, I guess we are their lives. We’re their blood. At three or four in the morning, we’ll open the door, and there they are. They come waddling out of their vehicles with their cameras.”
Lives and livelihoods were destroyed, and local officials took a decidedly “hands off” approach to their borderline legal tactics. So with this “victory” under their belt, who are they going after next? It’s hard to say since they have so many targets. But in a television interview from last year, it’s clear that their leader, David Grisham, has a special obsession with Paganism.
If you look at their “warfare map”, you’ll see a whole category dedicated to “Occult Witchcraft”, which includes a local nature center, a UU church, palm readers, and shops that sell Pagan “paraphernalia”. So expect a campaign against a relatively defenseless target, maybe a local psychic, sooner rather than later.
This sort of active militancy isn’t unique. Colorado’s New Life Church (formerly headed by disgraced pastor Ted Haggard), during its ascension into power, orchestrated a cleansing of Colorado Springs, driving Witches and New Agers from their homes with tactics very much akin to Repent Amarillo’s.
“He move the church to a strip mall. There was a bar, a liquor store, New Life Church, a massage parlor. His congregation spilled out and blocked the other businesses. He set up chairs in the alley. He strung up a banner: SIEGE THIS CITY FOR ME, signed JESUS. He assigned everyone in the church names, taken from the phone book, they were to pray for. He sent teams to pray in front of the homes of supposed witches – in one month, ten out of fifteen of his targets put their houses on the market. His congregation of “prayer-walked” nearly every street of the city.”
Repent Amarillo is a fringe group, but the New Life Church was once a fringe group. We once dismissed the rabid prayer-warriors that clustered together in a New Apostolic Reformation (born in Colorado Springs) , until we saw one of their number gain the Republican vice presidential nomination. We can no longer ignore these militaristic “prayer warriors” simply because their numbers are small, that just empowers them to pick off weak targets (like the swingers) and grow in status and power.
That doesn’t mean we need to out-militant them, but it does mean that Pagan communities, especially small and vulnerable Pagan communities, need to prepare for the coming storm. They need to come out of the “broom closet” now to their employers and family before they are outed by these “soldiers”, they need to be prepared when the faux-military trucks and loud-speakers roll up to their events, they need to know the law and how to use it, and they need to be ready to network with the larger Pagan community and other sympathetic minority faiths so we can get the word out, show solidarity, give aid, and withstand these bully tactics. They may have come for the swingers first, but if we show no shame, and stand up, it can end with the Pagans.