Friday, October 27, 2006
EMNR Erases Part of Its Past
Today I was writing my curriculum vita and including various publications I've worked on, including published and unpublished items. A few items I wanted to include were unpublished papers that are available electronically. As a time saver I clicked on my blog and went to the articles in the right hand column and clicked on the links for papers I delivered in previous years at the annual conferences for Evangelical Ministries to New Religions. To my surprise my papers have been removed from the Research Papers section of the EMNR website. In addition, the papers from my colleagues that used to be available in the past, such as those by Jon Trott and Philip Johnson, have been removed as well. (Note the hole now present elsewhere on their website in a 2001 e-mail newsletter to members which mentions my presentation but the link to the paper is now dead.)
I find the removal of these documents troubling. On the one hand EMNR can choose to include or not include any papers it wishes. Since I am no longer a member of EMNR I can understand how the decision might have been made to only include papers by current members. On the other hand, when I wrote the papers I was a member in good standing in EMNR, and served on the board, including holding the positions of vice president and president in various years.
So why the removal? It seems on the surface that unfortunately two things have happened. First, EMNR appears to have sanitized its history by removing traces of a previous member and board member who's present views they find distasteful. This is curious since counter-cult methodology critiques some of the new religions for cleaning up their history and revising their sacred writings.
Second, while protesting loudly that one of their bogeymen has nothing valid to say in his criticisms, through this action EMNR has validated some of the criticisms of sociologist Douglas Cowan, Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at Renison College, who wrote Bearing False Witness?: An Introduction to the Christian Countercult (Praeger, 2003). In this book and his previous Ph.D. thesis, Cowan stated that the counter-cult methodology involves a form of reality maintenance, and raised the concern that their reasoning and activities are lacking in part because of a lack of peer review. The removal of papers by a former member critical of the counter-cult movement and its methodology involves a form of reality maintenance that seeks to expunge troubling ideas from the past. In addition, any possibilty for the peer review that might have come from interacting with the ideas presented in these papers is now lost.
I'm not going to lose any sleep over this development, I just wonder, "What's going on EMNR?" I hate to see these well-meaning folks continue to marginalize themselves within evangelicalism and beyond.
Update 10/29/06: After conducting some Internet research this weekend I came across one of the motivating sources for EMNR's decision to remove my papers and those of my colleagues from their website. Dwayna Litz, who took great exception with Cornerstone Festival's Imaginarium presentations that touched in part on the Mexican Day of the Dead and Halloween, apparently contacted EMNR's board and shared her concerns over my views. You can read Dwayna's concerns here. The apparent connection between EMNR's decision and Dwayna Litz is very troubling as even a casual reading of her concerns indicates that not only fails to accurately understand the Bible as it relates to new religious movements (not to mention a basic sound theology), but she also fails to understand the views I expressed in my papers, as well as those of my colleagues Jon Trott and Philip Johnson. If EMNR's board expresses views in sympathy with those of Ms. Litz, and finds it necessary to placate this segment of evangelicalism/fundamentalism, then it confirms that I made the right decision to sever my ties with this organization and to pursue my approach as a separate methodology.