Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mad Max Myers is not my Anti-Fracking Savior

Recently, in the interest of providing our coalition membership an opportunity to educate themselves about the ideological commitments, policy positions, and political strategies of candidates aspiring to the nomination for Pennsylvania governor, Shale Justice met with aspirant Max Myers. Mr. Myers represents himself as the best possible candidate for the anti-fracking community across Pennsylvania, and is thus far the only candidate who claims to support a moratorium on new gas industry permits.

He sounds great.

Moreover, in our meeting with Mr. Myers, he was gracious, liberal with his time, and seemed interested in our perspective and questions. He is immensely affable.

It's thus that much more unfortunate that, at that meeting, he so woefully misrepresented by omission his ideological commitments, and that these commitments are, in fact, not merely inconsistent with the progressive base whom he wishes to court, but anathema to the separation of church and state, the basic human rights of gays and lesbians, and the reproductive rights of women. It is one thing to hold, for example, that gays and lesbians ought not to be permitted the right to marry. That's a rough enough bullet to bite for folks--especially women like myself--who've cut their activist teeth in the trenches of the civil rights movements in America. But it's another altogether to hold the view that gays and lesbians are possessed by demons, and thus presumably are in need of exorcism and salvation. Yet Mr. Myers led for six years the Global School of Supernatural Ministry (GSSM) (http://gssm.globalawakening.com/), part of the Apostolic Network of Global Awakening (ANGA) --known more for its Pentacostal-style faith healing and other appeals to the far right fringe supernatural than for its purchase on reason (http://globalawakening.com/).


Indeed, no matter where one stands on these other hot-button issues, it's hard to imagine even fairly conservative Republican voters finding themselves comfortable with what can only be described as the authoritarian, theocratic, and just plain whacky vision of Max Myer's America. Moreover, this is a "whacky" with consequences. The sorts of beliefs GSSM and ANGA advocate fuel the sorts of actions responsible for the beating murders of young men like Michael Shepherd, the horrific anti-gay policies of Uganda, the plainly bigoted policies of Russia.

Beliefs have consequences, and we cannot afford the beliefs of candidates like Max Myers no matter how much we want that moratorium.

When we originally met with Myers, I was concerned about two things:

1. His evident non-commital if not cagey non-response to my direct questions about his position on gay rights and women's reproductive rights. Though it was difficult to make out just what he was saying, it seemed to be that he did not want to alienate voters or distract them from the bigger issue (fracking) by coming out before the primaries with a policy position on these issues. He made it out as a matter of strategy--but implied that he was with his progressive base.

2. His apparent lack of any very sophisticated understanding of the issues relevant to extreme extraction. For a candidate who claims that he is going to make fracking and energy policy more generally a major campaign issue, Mr. Myers evinced at best a cursory understanding not only of what all is involved with respect to the processes associated with fracking, but had fairly little idea of the immense amount of work that has already gone into opposing it.

So--I wrote Mr. Myers a letter--before I knew anything about GSSM or ANGA:

Dear Max,

First, let me thank you sincerely for coming to speak to Shale Justice. We appreciate the time you took greatly.

Second--and I am now simply speaking to you as a citizen of the Commonwealth--I have spent some quality time on your website. I appreciate your observation concerning fracking that "the procedure should be stopped until such a time as the industry demonstrates that they can employ a procedure that does not contaminate our drinking water and pollute the atmosphere." That you specifically support the moratorium distinguishes you from every other candidate in the Democratic Party--and I think that this could be your winning hand in the primary. Perhaps I'm the crazy one, but I feel quite sure you're not a "crazy fanatic, a lunatic, and a poor representation of a minister" as the one radio host endeavored to describe you--and I'm a garden variety atheist. I very much appreciated the time you took to talk with me after the "official" evening had concluded--I know you surely were as beat as I was--so thanks.

Third, I have thought a fair lot about that conversation, and I wonder if I may venture a couple of observations--intended to be helpful:

a) The conversation we had about reproductive healthcare rights--including access to abortions--seems fairly similar to the one recounted here:

"I asked Max Myers, assuming this abortion ban gets signed into law, would he support repealing it as governor. I couldn’t really get a straight answer. He said he’s trying to stay away from social issues like abortion on his campaign, but I insisted that if he was governor and that abortion ban was law and he had a repeal bill on his desk, he’d either have to sign it or veto it, he’d have to make a decision one way or the other. Well, he still wouldn’t give a real answer. To be honest, my natural inclination is to suspect he’s for the abortion ban, but I have to admit that if I was for the abortion ban and he gave me the same non-answer, I’d probably suspect he was against it. So at best, his position is unknown, and I think it is perfectly fair to hold his unwillingness to take a position against him on this issue. It’s impossible to have it both ways. You can’t hope to get both pro-choice and anti-choice people on your side by refusing to give an answer on the issue, and you might even invite opposition from both camps (http://counterpointpa.org/max-myers-democratic-candidate-for-pa-governor-on-progressive-issues-counterpoint-pa-613-192013-with-transcript-and-links-to-sources/)

Assuming this is an accurate reflection of that interaction, and after some reflection of my own, I'd have to say that this writer seems correct--it IS fair to hold your unwillingness on this issue against you because it IS very important to thousands of people, it IS a matter of human rights, and whatever your moral (or pastoral) position may be on abortion, per se, these, I think you'd agree, are not strictly relevant to your run for the gubernatorial nomination for the Democrats. Put differently: I appreciate that you do not want to make yourself a target of the Republicans by coming out as a progressive on women's reproductive rights--but--and I cannot stress this enough:

You will risk losing the support of key members of the anti-fracking movement if you do not take a clear-sighted pro-reproductive rights position BEFORE the primary. The KEY organizers, writers, activists in the GRASSROOTS of the PA anti-fracking movement are WOMEN:

Karen Feridun--Berks Gas Truth
Maya van Rossum, Tracey Carlucci: Delaware River Keepers
Sue Laidacker, Wendy Lynne Lee, Carol Parowski: Shale Justice
Dory Hippauf: Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition
Deirdre Lolley: Marcellus Earth First

And this is a tiny selection of names--there are hundreds more--in vital decision-making capacities. This fact is what distinguishes the grassroots movement in PA from the Big Greens--the Sierra Club, for example, whose position on fracking is only recently moved in the direction even of regulation, and with whom we have at best a contentious and wary relationship. Many of their members will get behind Hanger--just as those who support regulation within the anti-fracking movement have (Breathe Easy Susquehanna County, for instance). They mostly either waffle on the moratorium--or oppose it, like Hanger himself. From our point of view, regulation is nothing but code for the control of the rate of harm--NOT the amount. Just as there is no such thing as a little bit of acceptable slavery, so too there is no such thing as a little bit of acceptable cancer, neuro-toxin disease, endocrine disruption, etc. We want a candidate that will stand up for the human rights contained in the environmental rights provision of the Pennsylvania Constitution--and this candidate must stand for ALL human rights.

The reason taking a pro-reproductive health rights position before the primary is, in my view, critical to win the support of these grassroots organizers is not, however, only because they're women--but because they (we) are mostly veterans of precisely those battles. We are the progressive women of the Democratic Party (or among the independents)--and we have put countless hours into the defense of women's reproductive rights. COUNTLESS. Moreover, we see that these issues are intimately connected in many ways. For example, some evidence shows that exposure to frack-related toxins may deleteriously affect fetal gestation (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/01/1259276/-Bad-news-for-pregnant-women-near-fracking-Study-shows-toxins-linked-to-heart-defects#). There is clear evidence that shows benzene--a carcinogen in the frack cocktail) is a causal agent in breast cancer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwE0kClzg8M). We are also far too sophisticated to be one issue voters--and that's because we see these connections. We're just not going to sell ourselves out on one issue in order to support the candidate that claims to be able to deliver on another. We know that such an approach is wholly self-defeating.

b) Ditto for gay rights--including the right to marry.
c) To turn to fracking specifically for a moment--we had discussed at the meeting with Shale Justice the tremendous significance of the drive to construct pipeline infrastructure, and that many of us in the activist community hold the view that this is where our attention and work needs to turn if we are going to prevent a catastrophe for the state (and for our sister states). I simply want to reiterate that key point, and add that among the vital things we have learned is that "fracking" is NOT just about what happens at the well pad. It is an enormous environmentally liquidating industrial colonization of the Marcellus Shale--and all of the people, flora and fauna who inhabit these regions. If those pipelines and their export facilities are constructed, we face becoming an effective gas-factory for multinationals whose only real sense of patriotism is the American flag they wave as an advertising strategy. The idea that natural gas is an avenue to national security and energy independence is ludicrous--indeed, precisely the reverse is true. As our municipalities become more and more eroded--both ecologically, economically, and with respect to the social fabric--we become a weaker nation, not a stronger one. (I have written on this subject pretty extensively: http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2012/03/17/why-fracking-epitomizes-the-crisis-in-american-democracy-profiteering-and-the-good-american/). The overturning of Act 13 was a tremendous victory and opportunity to build momentum towards a moratorium--but the vast majority of us in the anti-fracking movement see that moratorium as a strategy to buy time towards a ban. To be very clear: even IF the drilling process could be rendered safe (and monitored in perpetuity), that is only a FRACTION of the drilling-to-LNG-export process. From the well pads (and the immense ecological disturbance this process causes there) to the pipelines, to the compressors, to the dehydrators, to the waste tankers, the chemical crew cabs, to the derricks, to the waste processing facilities, to the deep injection wells, to the road damage, to the bridge damage, to the LNG export depots--the truth is that there is NO way this process can be rendered safe. From both the clear science and the obvious practical effects--ecological, economic, and social--we don't need more study.

We NEED a BAN. Should you ever like to tour some sites you'll find convincing, let me know. I am more than happy to show you what this looks like 40 minutes from my house. Should you like to canvas some photographs of both the destruction and the resistance to it, please go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wendylynnelee/sets/

That's it for now--I am sorely tempted to try to engage you on union rights, and the recent (grotesquely misnamed) "right to work" legislation introduced in the PA legislature, and your view on the Affordable Heathcare Act, and the increasing penchant for surveillance both at the federal and state levels--especially of environmental activists. But I have "talked your ear off" already.

Thanks for listening.

Wendy

I received a short, but friendly response from Mr. Myers that he and his wife were on a short vacation, and that he'd respond more fully soon.

Fine.

But then, in the course of my own research, a thirty second Google search, and with thanks to the awesome Sean Kitchen of Raging Chicken Press, I discovered GSSM, ANGA and Max Myer's connection to the New Apostolic Reformation:

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a title used to describe a movement within Protestant Christianity largely associated with the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements. Its fundamental difference from other movements is the belief that the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of prophet and apostle are being restored.. The New Apostolic Reformation is a title originally used by C. Peter Wagner to describe a movement within Pentecostal and charismatic churches. The title New Apostolic Reformation is descriptive of a theological movement and is not an organization and therefore doesn't not have formal membership. Among those in the movement that inspired the title NAR, there is a wide range of variance on specific beliefs. Those within the movement hold to their denominational interpretations of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit within each believer. Unlike some parts of Protestant Christianity, these include the direct revelation of Christ to each believer, prophecy, and the performance of miracles such as healing. This move has also been given the descriptive title, the Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. Although the movement regards the church as the true body of saved believers, as most Evangelical Protestants do, it differs from the broader Protestant tradition in its view on the nature of church leadership, specifically the doctrine of Five-Fold Ministry, which is based upon a non-traditional interpretation of Ephesians 4:11. C. Peter Wagner writes that most of the churches in this movement have active ministries of spiritual warfare.[3] As an example of this warfare he claims that God acted through him to end mad-cow disease in Germany. In an article responding to criticism of the NAR, Wagner notes that those who affiliate themselves with the movement believe the Apostles’ Creed and all the orthodoxy of Christian doctrine, so that the movement is therefore not heretical.Wagner has listed the differences between the NAR and traditional Protestantism as follows:
Apostolic governance – The Apostle Paul's assertion that Jesus appoints apostles within his church continues to this day.

The office of the prophet – There is within the church a role and function for present-day prophets.

Dominionism – "When Jesus came, He brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth."

Theocracy – Not to be confused with theocratic government but rather the goal to have "kingdom-minded people" in all areas of society. There are seven areas identified specifically: religion, family, education, government, media, arts & entertainment, and business.

Extra-biblical revelation – There is available to all believers the ability to hear from God. "The one major rule governing any new revelation from God is that it cannot contradict what has already been written in the Bible. It may supplement it, however.

Supernatural signs and wonders – Signs and wonders such as healing, demonic deliverance and confirmed prophecies accompany the move of God.

Relational structures – church governance has no formal structure but rather relational and voluntary alignment to apostles. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Apostolic_Reformation
).

Lest we think Mr. Myer's connection to a movement whose believers think that their pentacostalism can be credited for the cure of mad cow disease is fleeting, a youthful indiscretion, or that he's clearly disavowed such bat-shit crazy talk--well, no. As Rachel Tabachnick shows in her 3.13.13 piece, "NAR Leader Running for Governor in Pennsylvania - As a Democrat," Myers joined internationally known ANGA apostle, Randy Clark as recently as 2007 (http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/3/18/223235/954 ). Fact is that as recently as the 2014 mission trip application for ANGA members, the applicant must answer the question whether he/she "has ever been involved with drug abuse, homosexuality, or the occult?"

Time for another letter--but this time, I sent it out to as wide a swath of anti-fracking activists as I could muster:

Dear fellows--

Thanks to my good friend and excellent writer Sean Kitchen at Raging Chicken, I was alerted to some VERY disturbing stuff about our new friend Max Myers--there is NO POSSIBLE WAY we can with any credibility lend support to this campaign (even as private citizens).

Here's Sean's piece:

http://www.ragingchickenpress.org/2014/01/30/why-are-environmentalists-supporting-max-myers/#comment-60883

Here's the name of his 2009 book:

The Tail That Wags The Dog: A Journey Towards Supernatural Leadership

Here's even more disturbing stuff:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/20/1195486/-PA-Democrat-for-Governor-Wants-Theocratic-Leadership-Max-Myers-Secret

He RAN the Global School of Supernatural Ministry:

http://gssm.globalawakening.com/

It teaches that "homosexuality can be caused by demon possession."

WHOA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He is involved in a religious fringe movement: Apostolic and Prophetic:

http://www.politicalresearch.org/tag/new-apostolic-reformation/#

"On March 18th, Max Myers officially kicked off his campaign for Pennsylvania governor at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia. Touting himself as a moderate Democrat, Myers failed to mention his leadership in a politico-religious movement that believes in casting out “gay demons.”" (http://www.politicalresearch.org/tag/max-myers/).

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/3/20/142944/066

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Apostolic_Reformation

http://general.mtstars.com/360355.html

NONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONONO.

w

Needless to say, the post eventually made its way to Mr. Myers who responded that he was "saddened" that I had "attacked" and "accused him," that I was "throwing him under the bus," and that he'd "appreciate it" if I'd be one of the leaders to "help him" "get the troops lined up" to get a moratorium. He appealed to the exam,ple of Martin Luther King to substantiate his commitment to civil rights.

Here is how I responded:

Good morning Max,

Thank you for responding. Please let me respond to your letter--I am going to number my comments just for clarity:

1. I am wholly unsure what you mean by "actions and accusations." I have accused you of nothing--I have simply made available to a wide constituency of relevant citizens materials anyone can google for themselves. These materials contain facts relevant to your candidacy that voting citizens have a right and a responsibility to know so that they can make an informed decision of conscience once they enter that polling booth.

2. You are in fact associated--and have LED--organizations whose view of homosexuality is that it is demonic possession. I can only assume you concur with that view because (a) I can find no source where you explicitly and publicly denounce it, (b) you are wholly non-committal when pressed to take any position--and that lends further force to the claim that you endorse it, and (c) this is in no way a view one has to dig for--it comes up immediately in a recent search. Ditto for women's rights--which are women's reproductive rights.

3. You may have indeed left the Republican Party--but this is largely irrelevant when the view you clearly advocate is theocratic and violates the separation of church and state. That you have an ongoing connection to the Dominionist Movement is something voters have a right to know since it instantiates a specifically theocratic ideology that--were virtually any facet of it enacted as law--would substantially alter the very ways in which we all live, and in ways that would violate in deep-going ways the civil liberties contained in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/03/20/1195486/-PA-Democrat-for-Governor-Wants-Theocratic-Leadership-Max-Myers-Secret#).

4. You provide no evidence in your missive here of your support of gay rights or women's rights--and opening up your campaign in a location connected to gay persons (The William Way Center) is absolutely NOT support for gay rights--it IS political window-dressing. You led for six years an organization, the Global School of Supernatural Ministry, that is associated with an endorsement of policies (including Uganda's) that have led to widespread violence against gays (http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/3/19/212223/878).

5. There is little evidence that you in fact support the war on fracking as anything other than the only issue with which you can reach progressives. Such motives can only be counted as political expediency--not a commitment to either human rights of ecological integrity. This is not "leadership." It is pandering. Moreover, what research into your theocratic commitments shows is that you hold views anathema to any view of human rights that includes all human beings regardless sexual orientation. The page on your own website reflects little more than a cursory understanding of the issues relevant to extreme extraction, and it contains inconsistencies. You cannot coherently both hold that we ought to enact a moratorium AND hold that you favor an extraction (do you mean severance?) tax. The latter presupposes the continuation of fracking; the former advocates a halt. It was also very unclear at your meeting with members of Shale Justice that you had conducted even a cursory level of homework on these issues. You do not appear to really understand what was in Act 13, or any of the copious relevant legislation currently at issue.

6. To appeal to MLK may seem quite honorable--but it is compromised by a history of explicit views and associations that are inconsistent with that view.

I believe that my candidates have a responsibility to inform me of whatever may be relevant to my making an informed thinking decision about my vote. At the meeting with members of Shale Justice, you effectively dissimulated by omission insofar as you did NOT inform us of your theocratic commitments, and you demurred with respect to your view of gay rights and women's rights. This, it turns out, did not merely feel dishonest, it WAS dishonest.

Thing is, perhaps you don't hold any of these views any longer--but it doesn't really matter. That you can hold views that are so profoundly irrational and potentially violent in their consequences must at the very least raise a red flag for any thinking voter. It's not as if you merely held the view that, say, gays ought not be allowed to marry. That would be difficult enough for any progressive. You endorsed a view that would allow gays to be subjected to violence in the name of "liberating" them from demonic possession--that's in a whole other league. And it does not bespeak a life devoted to "reconciling people" unless what you mean by that is through oppressive measures designed to enforce adherence to religious ideology.

I am truly sorry Max--but yours is not a candidacy that I can support without the serious compromise of my commitment to human rights. You're correct when you say that a candidate's religious beliefs should not be strictly relevant to the judgment of her or his strength AS a candidate. But that presupposes he or she does not intend to govern from the pulpit. Everything researchable about you says otherwise.

With respect,

Wendy Lynne Lee

The central question, however, is why any of us would go to so much trouble to even vet a candidate who stood so little chance of getting the democratic party nomination.

I think the answer is clear and compelling:


Because we NEED a candidate who will stand up against an industry who is turning Pennsylvania into an extraction colony owned and operated by multinational corporations so powerful that they have their own standing armies.

That's why. And we need her or him to win.

That's manifestly not John Hanger--who works for a law firm that defends the gas companies against us (http://thewrenchphilosleft.blogspot.com/2013/10/john-hangerright-off-rack-wendy-lynne.html).

It's not Alison Schwartz who calls the moratorium "misguided" (http://www.nofrackingway.us/2013/06/24/allyson-doesnt-live-in-gasland/).

Are there others? Not who stand much of a chance--even if they don't traffic in crazy as does Mad Max.

Beliefs have consequences. So, if--as some folks responding to my posts with tremendous anger clearly do--you want to see a theocrat in the governor's office who may or may not be committed to a fracking moratorium, apparently thinks gays are in need of exorcism, is at a minimum very shaky on the rights of women, and just may be trying to appeal to you as a progressive by playing the frack-card 'cuz he's got nothing else to get your attention--if you're OK with all that, Mad Max Myers is your guy.

But if it's not, gaining a fracking moratorium is not worth sacrificing everything else.

Makes Corbett look pretty good.

Nah. Just kidding.


2 comments:

Wendy Lynne Lee said...

To his credit--Max Myers did respond to my second letter. He insisted that he had "never even heard of Dominionist theology," that the leadership he advocated was within the church--not the state--and that he did not seek to force CHristian values onto the secular society. Mr. Myers also insists that he is a committed environmentalist.

My response:

"2. I URGE you to look up GSSM. They absolutely DO espouse everything I have claimed. In fact, on their 2014 application they specifically ask this--identifying homosexuality with sin:

"Have you ever been involved in sexual immorality (pre-marital sex, homosexuality, adultery, pornography, etc)? Yes No If yes, briefly explain the involvement and how long it has been since you were last involved:"

You are still listed at GSSM as adjunct instructor.

You advocated as recently as 2012 "supernatural leadership" as a prescription for states--not just churches.

GSSM is explicitly associated with Dominionist Theology and the Dominionist Movement via the Apostolic Net work of Global Awakening--there's just no disconnecting them:

http://www.talk2action.org/story/2013/3/18/223235/954

Thing is, if you really don't know about this nonsense, you SHOULD. Claiming not to know doesn't make you look a heck of a lot better. Any even cursory search makes you look like a far right New Apostolic Reformation STEALTH candidate--a wolf in sheep's clothing. You can tell us that you don't believe this silliness--but until you go on record DENOUNCING IT IN VERY CLEAR TERMS, no one has any reason at all to believe otherwise. Moreover, you are wholly non-commital when pressed about gay rights and women's rights--and this does not encourage trust. In fact, just the opposite--wariness given your history.

So NOW when you say "I don't know about this stuff, or "this isn't what GSSM stood for," it CAN'T help you. Why? Because we then get to choose a candidate who claims not to know what he SHOULD have known, OR one who is knee-deep in mendacity about what they stand for, OR one who may have REALLY changed his mind--but is not courageous enough to say so in PUBLIC.

These are all bad, Max.

I would respectfully argue that I am also not "out of line" when I suggest that it appears more political expediency than genuine commitment that you have taken up fracking as a distinguishing issue. It offers you a way to differentiate yourself from your competition, and it is an important issue that you can deploy to distract attention away from these other hot buttons. But there's little evidence that you actually have been a "life long environmentalist" or that you really know all that much about the complex ecological, social, or economic issues qua fracking. It's not that you couldn't bring yourself up to speed--but that it's not very clear that you have made this effort is telling.

I appreciate the time you have taken to respond to my criticism--truly.

But all of these issues are so intimately connected--their ecological, social, and economic ligatures so intertwined--that few who have a history of working in grassroots movements--like the anti-fracking leaders you'd court--can sign onto such a campaign.

It's not because you're unlikable--you're quite likable.

It's because when anyone who vets you properly pulls on a Google thread, the GSSM/Theocratic world that unravels is the one progressives have been struggling to end our whole lives."

Jane Srygley said...

Hi Wendy.

I caught Max on a TV show with all of the Dem Gov candidates. I was impressed with his anti-fracking stance, but after reading your blog here, I'm well.... LESS impressed :-)

I have a demanding job in foster care but would love to help out your cause as best I can. I'm fluent in Spanish if that helps.

Feel free to contact me at janemsrygley@gmail.com

Thanks!

Jane