Rick Perry's best Christian Right buds thinking book-burning is a great idea (and while you're at it burn them thar Virgin Mary statues, too)
Savonarola: the Rick Perry of the 1490s?
C. Peter Wagner, chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Reformation (NSR) prominently backing Texas Gov. Goodhair Perry's Republican Presidential bid, doesn't much like being called part of America's own Taliban.
Apostle Wagner has repeated invoked a book-burning in Florence, Italy by Savonarola (Girolamo Savonarola, 1452-1498), an ascetic monk who was a forerunner of the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 describes him this way:
The French king, whom Savonarola at the head of an embassy of Florentines had visited at Pisa, now entered the city. After the king's departure a new and peculiar constitution, a kind of theocratic democracy, was established at Florence, based on the political and social doctrines the Dominican monk [Savonarola] had proclaimed. Christ was considered the King of Florence and protector of its liberties. A great council, as the representative of all the citizens, became the governing body of the republic and the law of Christ was to be the basis of political and social life. Savonarola did not interfere directly in politics and affairs of State, but his teachings and his ideas were authoritative. The moral life of the citizens was regenerated. Many persons brought articles of luxury, playing-cards, ornaments, pictures of beautiful women, the writings of pagan and immoral poets, etc., to the monastery of San Marco; these articles were then publicly burned. A brotherhood founded by Savonarola for young people encouraged a pious, Christian life among its members. Sundays some of this brotherhood went about from house to house and along the streets to take away dice and cards from the citizens, to exhort luxuriously dressed married and single women to lay aside frivolous ornament. Thus there arose an actual police for regulating morality, which also carried on its work by the objectionable methods of spying and denunciation. The principles of the severe judge of morals were carried out in practical life in too extreme a manner. Success made Savonarola, whose speech in his sermons was often recklessly passionate, more and more daring. Florence was to be the starting point of the regeneration of Italy and the Church. In this respect he was constantly looking for the interposition of Charles VIII for the inner reform of the Church, although the loose life and vague extravagant ideas of this monarch in no way fitted him to undertake such a task. [my emphasis]
Now, Wagner and his Apostolic colleagues in the NAR idolize this guy Savonarola and his book-and-unclean-objects-ritual-burning. But they're nothing like the Taliban, no, nothing at all!!
But the NAR isn't so fond of Savonarola's asceticism, at least not for their religious leaders. They favor instead what they call the "Word of Faith," also known as the Prosperity Gospel, which basically teaches that if you're a good enough Christian, God will make you rich. (No, that cranky Jewish bachelor Jesus of Nazareth who started the Christian religion wasn't enlightened enough to advocate the "Word of Faith." If only he had had inspired Apostles like Wagner and Cindy Jacobs around!
Here is Cindy Jacobs' suggestions for stuff to burn:
There are certain occult items that we are are not to possess. If we own any of the following objects, we need to get rid of them. If the object was at any time worshiped as a god or used in the worship of a false god, then we should burn it or otherwise destroy it.
It is not unusual for tourists to bring home keepsakes from faraway lands that have demonic attachments or are idols. What we often do not realize is that these objects can curse us. For instance, many people purchase African masks that have been used in worship ceremonies. Others buy native art such as Kachina dolls, statues of Hindu gods and statues of Buddha. Back home, havoc starts to reign in the form of --usually the person does not know why these things have happened."
The idea that "sickness, tragedy, depression or marriage break-ups" occur because someone has a statue of Ganesha the Elephant God in their house is just hick superstition. But Gov. Goodhair's supporters in the NAR think that it makes perfect sense.
Apostle Chuck Pierce and Rebecca Wagner Sytsema elaborate their hick "theology" of book-and-other-bad-stuff-burning this way:
Take what can be burned and burn it. If it cannot be burned, pass it through the fire (as a symbolic act of obedience) and then destroy it by whatever other means are available to you such as smashing or even flushing (I have known people to do this with jewelry that cannot be destroyed in other ways)!
Once you have destroyed the object, renounce any participation you or your family have had with that object (whether knowingly or unknowingly) and ask the Lord to forgive you.[...]
Because the legal right for demonic forces linked with that object has been removed through these acts, you can now command any demonic forces linked with that object to leave in the Name of Jesus.
Repeat these steps for every object that needs to go.
Now, in the non-Pentecostal world of conservative Protestantism, and in mainstream Christianity more generally, the idea that you can catch evil spirits from statues is regarded as un-Biblical, even a variety of paganism. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament to Christians) mocked the false gods as being just pieces of stone that it was foolish to worship. (Contemporary Biblical scholarship sees that as a polemical characterization; the non-Jahwist religions in the ancient Near East regarded statues as symbolic representations of their gods.)
Most contemporary Christians also tend to see belief in demons as literal spiritual entities that can cause physical effects in the material world as bordering on mental illness, if not entirely over that line. This attitude is not without a realistic foundation. Apostles who claim to be receiving clear and literal direct communication from God are likely to be some brand of sociopath, whether or not they believe their own claims. Followers who defer to their official Apostles and Prophets for guidance on what the Lord's immediate will is free themselves from having to interpret their own messages from God. But this kind of Christian Pentecostal faith almost certainly facilitates the manifestation of clinical pathologies in followers, as well. If your belief system strong encourages the notion that your weird dreams or the hallucinations of space aliens you're seeing may be direct messages from God or the Devil, or the result of your being infected by an evil spirit, it's easy to imagine that that such a believer would be disinclined to seek counseling or medical treatment.
A cat statue: quick, burn it! Smash it! Before we catch a demon from it!
And what would all-American hick theology be without a big dose of good old anti-Catholic bigotry? Pierce and Sytsema on good candidates for burning:
Buddhas... Hindu images; fertility gods or goddesses (or any type of god or goddess); Egyptian images; Greek gods; gargoyles; kachina dolls, totem poles, or any other native figure that depicts or glorifies a "spirit" or demonic being; evil depictions of creatures such as lions, dogs, dragons, cats, or any other creature made with demonic distortions; or any other image of any person, idol, god, or demonic figure which is considered an object of worship or spiritual power in any culture of the world...
A commonly seen item in the United States that falls into this category is images of the Virgin Mary, who is often worshiped by many as an equal to Jesus. C. Peter Wagner calls the worship of Mary a "deceptive adaptation" by the Queen of Heaven, a high-ranking demonic principality, to gain worship that should belong to God. [my emphasis]
The Savonarola model as described in the article above is probably a good way to think of the NAR/Christian Right approach: "Savonarola did not interfere directly in politics and affairs of State, but his teachings and his ideas were authoritative." In the formally segregated South, the more proximate model for the Christian Right's notion of godly government, African-American citizen's weren't formally denied the vote. But it was largely denied in practice via legal barriers, voter fraud (the real kind), and extra-legal violence and intimidation. If you interpret the Constitution as much of the Christian Right does as enacting Christianity as the law of the land, you don't need to formally amend to have a de facto theocracy, if enough of the Congress and the courts go along with the notion.