is it propaganda?

Wikipedia says that propaganda was not originally a negative or pejorative term.

While the term propaganda has acquired a strongly negative connotation by association with its most manipulative and jingoistic examples, propaganda in its original sense was neutral, and could refer to uses that were generally benign or innocuous, such as public health recommendations, signs encouraging citizens to participate in a census or election, or messages encouraging persons to report crimes to the police, among others.

Our church is located in an area of Greater Victoria that was once known as ‘the Western Communities’. Some recalcitrant old-timers (read ‘me’) still sometimes use the old term. The term has some negative connotations – our area used to be considered a little bit of ‘hicksville’, or ‘dogpatch’… not the choicest addresses in town.

All that began to change with rapid property development and population growth in our end of town. That’s when the propaganda machine went into effect.

The powers that be decided that a new term was needed so they began to refer to our area as “the Westshore”. The local Chamber of Commerce and our various civic government officials were all behind it. A good deal of the business community got behind it as well, including the local newspapers and such. These folks studiously avoided the old term and sometimes gently (!) corrected the rubes that still used it.

This propaganda effort has been going on for several years. The local mall has been renamed from ‘Canwest Mall’ to ‘Westshore Town Centre’. Our recreation centre was once the ‘Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre’, but now is ‘Westshore Parks and Recreation’. And on it goes. The new term is winning the day and the public image of the ‘Westshore’ is much more sophisticated and upbeat than the ‘armpit’ reputation of the old ‘Western Communities’.

I suppose there is nothing wrong with this, though the curmudgeon in me resists this kind of mumbo jumbo. For business people, I suppose there is a profit motive in upgrading the ‘brand’ of their region, but it all seems a lot of tomfoolery to me.

Words have a good deal of power to influence. Most of my readers know that I am identified as a fundamentalist and that I am not reluctant to wear the label. Now there is a term with baggage! A few years ago, one of my dear friends, Dr. Bob Jones III, floated the idea that we might need a newer and better term to represent a ‘sane’ sort of fundamentalism. He made no suggestions and got some resistance in a few quarters. Nothing much came of that suggestion.

Lately, a few fellows are consistently using a new term in their blogging on issues that would typically be considered fundamentalist in their philosophy and position. They seem to be studiously avoiding the term fundamentalist, although at least some of them (I think) would not be shy about accepting the label if someone else described them that way.

But it seems that they are busy in an attempt to rebrand their position. I’m going to provide a few links. They are almost all from the same group blog and I consider some of these fellows to be ‘on-line friends’. One of them is even a Facebook friend, how much closer can you get! Anyway, see if you can pick out the term. Tell me what you think of the effort. Can you think of a major source or influence behind this term?

Some efforts like this will fail because they don’t capture the ‘hearts and minds’ … they just don’t catch on. Time will tell what will become of this effort, if it is an effort.

Here are the links:

Just wondering if anyone else is picking up on this … have you noticed it elsewhere?



  1. Don,

    Speaking for myself, I use the term conservative to refer to a slightly different, more specific bundle of convictions than I intend when I speak of fundamentalist. When I’m writing about being a conservative, issues of the affections and worship are most often (but not always) in play. In those cases, the things that I advocate because I’m a conservative actually run counter to much of the nonsense that still pervades fundamentalism: trite and breezy worship services, manipulative decisionism, intellectual shallowness, etc.

    There is no effort on my part at anything like rebranding here. To oversimplify: if we’re talking about the philosophy and practice of separatism, I’m a fundamentalist. But if we’re talking about liturgical issues, I’m a conservative.

    • Thanks, Mike. I don’t mean to criticize this as such, but just noting it. I have noticed the term one or two other places, but you fellows are the most readily available source. Of course, Religious Affections is more devoted to liturgical type issues.

      Thanks for the comment.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. I sort of like the term, “non-conformist.”

    • Personally, I like ‘curmudgeon’, but that’s just me.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. d4v34x says:

    Good night. If I’d have known this touched so much on RAM, I’d have read past the first few paragraphs the first time.

    I’m ambivalent about the term fundamentalist/ism even if I’m fundamentalistical. But Alex G made a good point at SI tonight, identify with something else and you likely take on more and more significant problems.

    So I guess I’m staying in to press for resurgence. :^)

    • Hi Dave

      The term doesn’t matter in some senses. It is a word that can be much distorted by usage beyond its original scope, so it could be prudent to drop the term at some point.

      I thought Alex made a very cogent point this evening, and it is something I have been harping on for a while as well. Some of these so-called CEs are quite attractive… except they also hang out with some very weird dudes. We just can’t go there, and the more attractive CE guys don’t seem to get why we can’t.

      And its pretty amazing to see R.McC mixing it up on SI. He usually doesn’t get into the fray.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. d4v34x says:

    I was more talking about name identification rather than individual fellowship choices.

    A couple of guys were tossing Orthodox Baptist around. I kinda like that. I know Kent B. just goes with Baptist and lets the chips fall. But Baptist can also be twisted.

    Maybe we can go with Baptist followed by several clarifying symbols like they have on brochures for state campsites to note what amenities the site has, such as swimming, fishing, hiking, showers, electrical, etc.

    McCune’s interactions on SI surprised me in two ways. That he was there at all and that the fray went the way it did there toward the (what I hope is) the end.

    I don’t think normal internet etiquette is sufficient for interacting with saints our senior, especially those of stature. Nature of the medium to some extent probably, but there has to be a way to interact with some deference (without seeming fawning) as well as speak plainly without seeming brash.

  5. And its pretty amazing to see R.McC mixing it up on SI. He usually doesn’t get into the fray.

    Highly unusual. One pastor, who knows Dr. McCune well, told me that this was BIG step out of the box for him. And IMO a welcome, sorely needed one.

    I loved it when Popeye would say, “It’s all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more. “Spinach, muscles, look out, it was GO time.

    No knowing the man, but from what I’ve read from him this week in regard to his concerns and heard from others about the significance of him putting his voice into the mix was what I liken to a “Popeye moment.”


  6. David Barnhart says:

    Don, If I remember that 2002 article correctly, Dr. Bob III *did* make a suggestion for a new name. I believe he put forward the term “preservationists.” Obviously, it didn’t catch on, but I still agree with his point — the term fundamentalist has a lot of baggage now, and that baggage acts as negative propaganda, making it much easier for the enemies of Christ to lump biblical Christians in with muslim terrorists. Remember how much was made of the guy in Scandinavia who committed mass murder and who was continually referred to in the media as a “fundamentalist Christian,” no matter how often it was pointed out he was no true Christian of any stripe?

    I understand that many want to jettison not only the name, but some of the principles of fundamentalism as well, but I see no reason to hold onto a name that is not in itself a biblical term (as compared to “Christian”) just out of stubbornness. I.e., I don’t think all rebranding is either bad, silly, mumbo jumbo, or propaganda.

    Although it’s not much help to the fundamental cause, I’d probably accept the term “curmudgeon.” My daughter already thinks I’m something like that, even if she wouldn’t use that specific word (she would probably think it “archaic”)!

    P.S., I think it’s great to have someone like Dr. McCune to participate on SI. I wish we had more like him participating regularly. We are sharpened much more when all sides of fundamentalism contribute to the conversation. Unfortunately, it seems we get way more “hypers” than those from the fundamental mainstream.

    • First, apologies for late posting of comments. My wordpress setup is not mailing all comments to me again for some reason so I didn’t realize some were in the queue.

      A couple of replies:

      @d4 Dave

      I think the way the discussion went with Dr McCune was entirely the fault of the immature poster, James K. He regularly is extremely obnoxious in his posting. I can’t understand why the SI moderators don’t come down on him hard, or throw him off altogether. He only inflames, he doesn’t advance discussion.

      @dcbii Dave

      Well, I didn’t mean to imply that I am insisting on holding on to the term ‘fundamentalist’. I can see where it can be problematic as you noted. I remember now that Dr Bob suggested ‘preservationist’. For a term to catch on, it has to have some kind of ‘ring’ to it. It has to be really connected to the idea you are trying to communicate with it and it also has to have the momentum of a lot of people getting behind it. Once it is suggested, a whole lot of people saying, ‘yeah, that’s me’, gives a term a certain momentum, and voila! a new term.

      It just seems to me that there is a little effort on the part of some to push the term “conservative”. Mike Riley says in the first post in this thread that it describes his worship and affections. But there are others who seem to be using it as a replacement term for fundamentalist.

      The problem with ‘conservative’ as a replacement term is that it seems vague, too mild, already used (in other contexts), and not really descriptive of a fundamentalist mindset. That last is not bad if you are trying to change the mindset, but fundamentalists don’t want to change the mindset. They are suspicious of those who appear to want to make such changes. Change the term? Sure. But don’t change the mindset.

      Last, on SI: I think the guys you wish were still participating in SI have given up on the place because of the unfettered behaviour of clowns like James K, noted above. Also for the swarming tactics used against anyone who has a more traditional fundamentalist point of view. Look at the continued and ongoing public lynching of Chuck Phelps. Those people need to get a life.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. David Barnhart says:

    Regarding who will not appear in a forum like SI, there is doubtless some effect from those who leave because of either perceived ganging up, or because of obnoxious posters being allowed to participate (to a point). However, there are also many who have never participated and who won’t on a forum that allows pretty much equal access to all voices. While I wish those men wouldn’t think that way, I would never want a place like SI to be controlled for only those who have “earned a right to speak.” We have enough forums like that already. If that means some voices are lost, then so be it. That’s why I really appreciate it when men like Dr. Bauder and Dr. McCune participate directly.

    I agree with D4 that there should probably be some way to handle internet etiquette so that equal access doesn’t result in either fawning or complete disdain, but some of that is the nature of human behavior, and rules only go so far. They are just as hard to administer in a forum as they are in say, a school. You will always get complaints from both sides that things are too strict or too lax. You can’t please everyone.

    • I agree that it is difficult to manage online fora, but there seems to be little effort to restrain the most obnoxious. There is also a bit of a generation gap – the older generation simply has a hard time dealing with what seems to be a very rude younger generation. They just choose to ignore it for the most part. I think that is a mistake, but you can’t change what people are, generally speaking.

      It’s like how I describe the ministry, often like herding cats.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. d4v34x says:

    Lynching, really?

    If people have what they feel are legitimate problems regarding that situation, why not discuss them?

    • My uncle used to say that he didn’t know if Christians could become demon possessed, but they could certainly become demon-obsessed. There is a whole class of people for whom this demon is their obsession. It goes beyond discussion. They are ought to crucify people.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Don:

    You wrote, “He [JamesK] regularly is extremely obnoxious in his posting. I can’t understand why the SI moderators don’t come down on him hard, or throw him off altogether.

    Because IMO JamesK’s targets (persons and positions) for hostile, obnoxious comments are the preferred targets of the SI leadership. If he were obnoxious toward any of the favored persons or positions of the SI leadership he would have been come down hard on and thrown off long ago.

    In your last you closed with,

    Last, on SI: I think the guys you wish were still participating in SI have given up on the place because of the unfettered behaviour of clowns like James K, noted above. Also for the swarming tactics used against anyone who has a more traditional fundamentalist point of view. Look at the continued and ongoing public lynching of Chuck Phelps. Those people need to get a life.

    In concise terms you have hit the nail on the head. I still interact in private communication with several who used to participate at SI. They, just as I did, quit SI for the exact reasons (and more of the same) you site above.

    The character assassination, the “ongoing public lynching of Chuck Phelps” is obvious, allowed for and participated in by SI leadership.

    DB, the ganging up at SI is not perceived, it is fact and frequently practiced at SI by certain members and the moderators, just as Don described it.


  10. Dave (Barnhart), there’s a problem with disrespectful comments at places like SI that goes beyond the obvious, but it’s a very significant factor for me.

    If someone from my church (or, for that matter, my family) goes to the site and sees me involved in a discussion, and see the kinds of comments that some people make, what is the impact on them? They aren’t likely to think less of me. That factor doesn’t really come into it, for me.

    The real danger is that they will slip into sinful attitudes towards the person who has appointed himself to attack me — and they will (at least in their heart, if not in writing) attack back.

    A significant factor in my greatly reduced involvement is that I concluded I needed to “protect myself” because of the need to protect others from wrong attitudes. This is certain — those who know, love, and respect Don, if they see how he is treated sometimes on SI, are going to be tempted to anger. Those who know, love, and respect Dr. McCune will have been tempted to let fly. In that sense, men like Mike Harding provided a real service by giving a voice to those people in a spiritually mature fashion.

    There are other reasons I’ve pulled back from SI significantly, especially compared to my involvement in the past, but the one I’ve described here is one others have rarely mentioned.

    Who knew that a thread on “propaganda” would end up discussing SI participation? :)

  11. David Barnhart says:

    Don, first off, if you want to just delete this as being too far off the thread topic, go ahead.

    JG, it *is* a bit unusual that this thread took the turn it did, but it may yet turn out to be useful.

    To some extent, I see where you are coming from, especially as you are one of the more “mild-mannered” posters out there. I wish SI had more who could (in very “British” fashion) get their point across in a way that was polite while still being very pointed. However, such people are not the norm. For every one like you SI encounters, it sees several similar to the “Jackhammer” persuasion who think SI is far too critical of tone, does not allow enough sparks or sharpening, and is generally too controlling rather than not controlling enough. Some of those people have boards you participate on, and some you would stay away from, but the real difference in most cases between them is *not* the tone, but the target.

    Along those lines, there are also those who like sharpness of speech just fine as long as it is coming from the old guard of fundamentalism (they see it as “contending for the faith”), but when equal tone comes back at them, they see it as “ganging up” or even “lynching”, or at least consider it “obnoxious” speech. I.e., there is very much a double standard in place. SI tries to avoid that, but obviously not completely successfully.

    Then, there are those like Don, who use plain speech to the point of bluntness (e.g. “Fundamentalism by blunt instrument”), who seem to handle themselves fine, but apparently when spoken to in the same fashion can somehow generate sympathy in others (this is the first I’ve heard of people getting angry at others responses to Don). I appreciate Don’s bluntness because it is much like mine, which I usually have to temper *a lot* before I post. I’ve had to learn the hard way about posting in anger, but I’ve also had time to do so, since I’ve been participating in internet discussions since the mid-late 80’s. Generally, plain speech is preferred, since it can be the most honest, but it can cross the line into disrespect or worse. I think it still beats disdain disguised as politeness.

    Although I won’t go into specific policies or posters, I will mention that often, the posts others read represent just the tip of the iceberg, with much of the vitriol either having been deleted outright, or edited by the moderators. It’s a tough line to walk. Just be aware you don’t see everything that goes on behind the scenes, and that there are many discussions about what crosses the line and what doesn’t. We won’t always make the right decision, and if that influences you or others to post less, then so be it. One thing is certain — if SI were a place that was comfortable for all of the old guard of fundamentalism to participate, and it didn’t allow questioning or examination of any traditions or sacred cows, it would be far less useful a place than it is now. I regret that that means some participation is lost (since it’s not a “safe” place for some to speak with impunity), but that makes me even more thankful for those who will take on the task of speaking to the new generation without demanding obsequiousness or obeisance.

    • Dave, I don’t think the guys who have backed out of participation in SI are demanding obsequiousness or obeisance. They might be willing to contribute to the discussions if they weren’t met by rudeness and the unrestrained ‘shouting down’ that often goes on.

      I realize that moderation is not easy, but rude behaviour is allowed to continue far far too long. The current anti-Phelps thread is a prime example. The clowns involved are obsessed with this issue. It is the only thing they ever talk about, whether it be attacking Chuck, Dr Bob, or BJU. It is endless, foolish, and unprofitable.

      I also recognize that it is easy to cross the line and be too blunt. I try to argue dispassionately, but I do let the emotions run riot at times. I should just walk away from the computer when that happens, but I of course think I am in control, perfect control, no problems here…

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  12. Don,

    I’m not expecting you to post this comment since you didn’t post my last, but I just wanted to point out that this is another example of what I’ve mentioned to you before: your inconsistency regarding BJU and the FBF. You are critical of those attacking Phelps, now a board member of BJU and a board member of the FBF. You even say they are lynching him.

    However, you say nothing about Lou, who has slandered Bauder and Doran repeatedly, calling for people to boycott their ministries. As well, he has lied about SI and continues to be on a mission against it. Yet you simply allow his comments to stand. Since it’s your blog you are free to say and allow whatever you want. Just don’t be surprised when people take what you say less seriously because they see the inconsistency.


    • Ed, I don’t find that you usually advance the discussion. You seem to just want to take potshots at people. That isn’t what my blog is after, in spite of my polemic style and frequent subject matter.

      In any case, I posted this message simply to answer your charge about Lou. I appreciate Lou and his fundamentalist convictions. I think he sometimes errs in things he says, or in the way he says them, but I do appreciate his faithful fundamentalist testimony. Lou could tell you that I don’t approve all of his posts either. In fact, Lou probably gets more posts trashed on oxgoad than anyone else. My reasoning for that is two-fold: 1) Lou has his own blog where he can promote his positions, 2) Lou can get quite intense and make multiple posts on a single topic – I don’t want him to become the dominant poster in any thread (that’s MY spot!!!). However, I don’t think I can simply ban Lou. He is not intemperate in his language, he is usually on topic, and he is often right.

      Others, who seem to want to just snipe and criticize and make arguments that have already been made and answered, may find less of a welcome here.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  13. Dave, thanks for the lengthy response. Just so you know, Brits don’t always confine themselves to politeness. :)

    The concern I raised was not focused on:
    a) People disagreeing with me. I encourage people to feel free to express it when they do, even our church members. Then we can talk about it.
    b) Blunt speech, even sharp speech, on topic.

    What I’m talking about is personal attacks, ad hominems, straw man arguments, etc. SI seems, at times, to drift into a culture where it is acceptable to mock people, and to mock positions that, whether based on sound exegesis or not, are drawn on Scripture.

    It violates the entire attitude we are supposed to have towards brothers in Christ.

    I don’t care whether someone agrees with my stated positions on separation, or music, or even clapping (for crying out loud — I can’t figure why that was so amazingly controversial, either you agree or disagree. But I’m still getting traffic on that piece).

    I do care if someone mischaracterises my position into something it isn’t, or makes the position about me rather than about the Scriptures, or personally denigrates me (which again changes the focus from the Scriptures), or simply makes a mockery of the whole thing.

    I would especially care if a member of the SI team engaged in that kind of behaviour, of course. In any event, the culture would need to change considerably before I would feel I could participate at all at the level I did in the past.