Patricia Nell Warren

Demons at Harvard

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | April 29, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: exorcism, Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative, Harvard University, HIV/AIDS, Lance Wallnau, NAR, New Apostolic Reformation

The first week of April, a major university conference took place whose speakers numbered some of the most extremist and wiggy religious activists in the U.S.

harvard.jpgOne might assume that it was sponsored by the Tea Party, or The Family, or some other way-out cult group. But no. The so-called "Social Transformation Conference" was sponsored by none other than Harvard University itself. The conference partnered with Harvard's Extension Service and Leadership Society, which seeks to help students step into public service.

Once upon a time, this Massachusetts school was a respected (if conservative) educational institution whose performance was relied on by many Americans - and that included those concerned with biomedical research. A Harvard degree was an open-sesame to most any career in high places.

But in recent years, however, Harvard has been on a slippery slope of scandal and loss of credibility. It's not hard to see why.

The April 1-2 Social Transformation Conference was titled "Reclaiming the 7 Mountains of Culture." Those buzzwords "transformation" and "Seven Mountains" identify the extremist religious political activists that group together in the so-called New Apostolic Reformation.

In the NAR's view, they are the new Apostles, superceding the old Apostles that the Bible mentions. They are allegedly chosen by God to drive demons out of the U.S. and the world and restore it all to Jesus. "Demon possession" is another buzzword - according to the NAR, demons can and do infest anything from a child to a town, an institution, an entire country. Demons also cause all health problems. Needless to say, the NAR also believe that demon possession causes homosexuality - along with that disease that they equate with homosexuality, namely AIDS.

To cast out the world's demons and achieve their goals, NAR believes they must "reclaim" (i.e. take over and completely control) the Seven Mountains of culture - business, education, government, media, arts and entertainment, family and religion. Reclaiming them means, of course, driving out the demons that allegedly infest them. Interestingly, none of those mountains are specifically dubbed as health science and healthcare. Presumably the "demon-infested" health area falls directly under religion, since exorcism is demanded.

At any rate, the NAR will -- if they succeed in taking over the U.S. government - dictate everybody's healthcare according to their re-interpretation of the Bible. My guess is that healthcare would not even be available to any American who did not subscribe to NAR beliefs. These "new Apostles" also aim to create a global empire - ruled by themselves, of course, as the self-styled representatives of Jesus - through their International Transformation Network (ITN).


LGBT people will surely ponder the lurid details of how these apocalyptic activists view AIDS. Reading about it is a little like looking at a medieval art-work teeming with images of murky and hellish superstition.

One of the conference's featured speakers was Dr. Lance Wallnau, formerly founder of the Lance Learning Group, now a leading NAR activist. In a recent YouTube video, Wallnau quoted the Bible as part of his claim that the "new Apostles: have power to drive out demons and heal maladies. Then he proceeded to give us his version of Uganda's efforts to fight HIV/AIDS through the A-B-C program crafted by this movement. In recent decades, through the ITN, the self-styled "Apostles" have been missionizing hard in sub-Saharan Africa, and boast today that they have 14,000 churches dotted across Uganda. Their organizations were among those benefiting from U.S. PEPFAR financial support of faith-based NGOs. President Museveni of Uganda, his wife Janet and some of his government had become NAR converts. So Uganda turned to the NAR and PEPFAR for help.

According to Wallnau, 35% of the Uganda population was HIV+, including the military, putting the country at risk of occupation by Islam. (Experts put the prevalence rate at more like 29 percent.) So the NAR asked for, and got, access to Ugandan media and education, to put out the word on A-B-C. A meant abstinence from sex outside of marriage. B -- be faithful to your married partner. C -- use a condom if you are already infected. In three years (as Wallnau tells the story), HIV prevalence plummeted to 5%.

In short, according to Wallnau, "The problem with AIDS has already been solved."

What Wallnau isn't telling us, and what less biased experts admit was this: the Uganda figures dropped so dramatically because of massive AIDS deaths in 3 years, not because A-B-C worked. By the following year, 2006, the red-faced Uganda health ministry had to admit that the infection rate was rising again.

Indeed, Janet Museveni apparently contributed to the failure of the program. According to Str8t Talk Chronicle, the President's wife doesn't believe in condom use at all, not even between marrieds. So she used her powerful influence to stop the government's advocacy of limited condom use in mid-campaign - thus contributing to the resurgence of HIV infection.

When A-B-C fails, the NAR has the ultimate solution: drive out demons with "miraculous healings." According to them, countless thousands of alleged "miraculous AIDS healings" are being reported from converts in Uganda and other countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, U.S. TV faith-healers like Benny Hinn, who is widely viewed as a fraud here in the U.S., have been touring Africa, doing big business.

Beyond AIDS, the NAR believes that homosexuality, too, is caused by demon possession, and can be "cured" by exorcism. Another prominent NAR figure, Lou Engle, who appears to have replaced Rick Warren as the NAR poster boy in Washington D.C., has made his belief very clear in anti-gay statements delivered in his typically frenzied preaching style.

Not Much News Coverage

The Harvard conference didn't make much of a ripple in the U.S. news scene, but it did stir up some minimal protest on campus.

According to the Harvard Crimson, "Gay rights groups criticized the conference for the inclusion of speakers Os Hillman, a prominent Christian business leader, and Lance Wallnau, an expert in personal and organizational transformation, pointing to inflammatory remarks they have made in the past. On Friday evening, approximately 20 activists gathered outside the building to protest the event, and more joined them on Saturday."

The Crimson went on to quote a few people who disapproved. The publication reported, "Harvard College Queer Students and Allies Political Committee Chair Samuel J. Bakkila '11-'12, who participated in the protest, said he felt the conference promoted homophobia. 'It does not send the message, to students and especially to incoming freshmen that were just admitted, that Harvard will be a safe space for them,' he added."

The Crimson also mentioned that protesters were prevented by NAR conference organizers from going inside the building to listen to the speakers.

With this conference, I'd say that Harvard has slid a lot farther down the slope.

Only a few dozen protesters? Most of them LGBT, as it appears? In a student body numbering around 1900? With all respect for the courage and conviction of those who did show up, this wasn't enough protest to make a ripple in the news, let along make a dent in the NAR momentum. Does this indicate that most Harvard enrollees are not concerned about the extremist "Apostolic" takeover of their school?

Whatever happened to the kind of widespread student outrage that once drove ROTC off the Harvard campus?

Kiss Harvard Goodbye?

Indeed, with the formal return of "demon theology" to Harvard, the school is almost back to those dark colonial days when Salem, MA authorities hung people believed to be possessed by the devil.

Why should anybody be surprised that the school might knee-jerk back to its Bible-thumping witch-hanging roots? After all, Harvard was founded as a divinity school in 1636, just sixteen years after the Puritans landed in Massachusetts, when the colony still boiled with persecution of dissenters and obsession with "evil" - culminating in the Salem witch trial of 1692. Not till the 1800s did a group of Unitarians took over and secularized Harvard, transforming it (yes, that's the right word) into the bastion of liberal and tolerant learning that the school became for over a century - till just recently.

But that was then - this is now. Today there is also the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative on campus. I wonder if the HAI feels that their goals and their credibility are a wee bit undercut by this conference. According to their mission statement, HAI "is dedicated to research and education to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa and developing countries." This sounds pretty mainstream/medical/modern to me. How does HAI view demon infestation as an alleged cause of AIDS, and exorcism as the alleged cure?

And if "the AIDS problem is solved now," as Wallnau claims, why would HAI (or anybody else) be bothering to do more AIDS research and spend millions?

An earlier version of this article was published in A & U Magazine.

Lance Wallnau talk - "How A Nation Ended Their AIDS Epidemic!"

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harvard glbtq | April 29, 2011 1:46 PM

As a Harvard student, I have to question this author's familiarity with current campus life. Dozens of conferences are held at Harvard every month, and many people with very diverse viewpoints speak at them. Just because Harvard hosts these panels doesn't mean they endorse the views of everyone who speaks at them.

But due to the inflammatory and homophobic nature of two of the speakers at this panel, it did attract criticism and negative attention. I wish they hadn't hosted this panel. But it emphatically does NOT mean that Harvard as an institution is anti-gay; in fact, its campus is very open and supportive of GLBTQ students. I would suggest reading this recent article:

It seems to me that the author is taking a legitimate criticism and blowing it way out of proportion to malign the entire university, which is uncalled for and unfair.

Also, can I just comment: "But in recent years, however, Harvard has been on a slippery slope of scandal and loss of credibility." Really? Harvard is losing prestige and credibility? I don't think so. It still dominates all of the rankings, attracts the most highly qualified applicants, and is the most competitive and elite of the Ivy League schools. This hasn't been changing and isn't about to. I am really puzzled as to where the author got this idea of a school decline from.

Since you're a student, I suggest you do some homework. Go to Google and search under "Harvard scandal" and see how many come up.
Not the least of which are various financial uproars surrounding Harvard president Lawrence Summers.

Brandeis got out more students than that with a very casual protest against the Phelps Clan.

Harvard: So close to Brandeis yet so far from sanity

Flippant response aside, my complaint is that the conferees are advocates of a Domionist Theocracy and an overturn of the Constitution of the United States. This Theocracy would limit citizenship and voting rights to confessing evangelicals, by and large.

They are implicated in numerous murders in multiple African countries, primarily financialy or by incitement, with the numbers of dead approaching the point where the events could be considered Crimes Against Humanity.

If diverse viewpoints are credible soley based upon their divisive nature, then by all means, Harvard made an absolutely great choice in suporting the event, provided the destruction of the US Constitution is merely a diverse viewpoint, the deaths by burning(frequently filmed) of old women and small children is merely the reflection fo a diverse viewpoint, the ignorance that is leading to an HIV driven holocaust is a letigimate viewpoint to be honoured in the name of diversity.

Please be sure to bring in some of the middle level people from the Rwanda massacre to speak as well, theirs is a divergent viewpoint.

Your university hosts these monsters, graduates of my alma mater are busy prosecuting them wherever and whenever possible.

Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

It’s been 30 years! We are long overdue for a cure! Please support re:solve AIDS and the Chronic Disease Fund.

The Christian religion will be a dead religion and consigned to the dust bin of primitive myth-based beliefs by the middle of this century, I predict. Unless it begins to evolve into more social relevancy, most remnants of the Christian religion will only survive to serve the ends of despots and political manipulators -- much of which has already come to pass.

I'm sorry but ask yourself this: if humans were to some day find a cure for death, would we even be having this discussion. Most religions are rooted in the fear of dying: loss of self -- nothing more. And, unlike Buddhism, Abrahamic religions don't really offer anything beyond the promise of the preservation of the self in its present form of consciousness. No real re-birth or evolution beyond the material sense of self -- just a continuation of it in some "spiritual realm". How sad and how limiting.

Too many "religious types" are like frightened children at bedtime, so afraid when the lights go off. They cling to the past and to the extinguished light of yesterday which only drags them down further into darkness. But the dawn will come sooner, if only you would just stop thinking so much about it. It's time to move on; make life better in the "here-and-now" so that our children will have a better life to look forward to in this world after we are gone.

And that means our GLBT children as well. All of us, and especially those of you in the "christian" community, have a lot to make up for with them. It's time to get started. Reject all forms of exclusion, no matter what you may personally feel about a particular group. As long as no demonstrable harm is being done to another, then you must allow each of us to live our own lives as we see fit. I am no longer a Christian (although I was raised as a German Lutheran), still I believe that your Jesus (perhaps not the present cultification of him), but, perhaps, the true Messiah would have done that.

The real test of your humanity towards your fellow man or woman is not how well you get along with those who are like you, but how well you receive those who are not. I have no doubt that ol' J.C. would agree with me on that one. Even Buddha, it is claimed, once said: "Be a lamp unto yourself." But that doesn't preclude lighting at least part of the way for others you meet along the road -- as long as you don't force them to follow you on your trail when they may have their own journeys to make along different footpaths.

Still, I am hopeful. I think we can all find commonality, if we only try a little harder to seek it with one another. I think each one of us has been given a single piece of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle - unique unto itself. I believe that the mystery of our existence will never be completely unraveled until we each come together, along different paths if need be, and arrive at a common destination to help each other put the pieces back together again. Somehow, by then, I don't think that we'll be surprised at what we'll find. We may find that, when the puzzle is complete, that it is just a giant looking glass with one image looking back.

Maybe that is what faith is. I can't prove it. I think that it could be true. Or not. But, perhaps, it might be all different tomorrow.

In conclusion, just remember:

"Veritas Vos Liberabit" (The Truth Shall Set You Free)... but, "De omnibus dubitandum" (Everything should be questioned).

~ Bud Evans

If you Google 'Social Transformation Conference' and go to the bottom of their web page you find:

This event is student operated and the contents are not endorsed by Harvard University

Harvard has for many years - as long as I've been living in Boston - rented out space and equipment to all sorts of groups. I remember going to a rally of the Socialist worker's party there years ago - staged right in front of the Widener- and seeing Angela Davis speak there years ago.

Harvard Extension is not Harvard University - this Conference rented out rooms from Harvard Extension.

So Harvard's defense in that a subsidiary rented this out and they rent to all kinds of people?

That will be a great comfort to the next victims of these people's influence; I can only imagine the relief of the next five year old girl burned to death in the knowledge that it was only a subsidiary of Harvard that gave support to her executioners.

Perhaps the crimson lads should take a better look at the effects of their actions; or is this all the beinning of an accomodation with the extremist Right, not out of principle, but out of fear of survival if they come to power?

When I think of Harvard scandals, I think of Dr. Joseph Biderman and all the pharmaceutical money he's taken. Or, I think of George and Olive Smith, enamored of the virtues of coal tar extracts, extolling the virtues of DES.

But, when I Google "Harvard scandal" this is what I come up with - It's about the dismissal of Richard Alpert, son of the president of the New Haven Railroad. I am not sure exactly how Google works. I guess what comes up in an individual's search depends on a persons past search patterns. It's ironic to see who Harvard sees fit to dismiss. I, actually, consider Alpert's work to have brought humankind a step further.

Yeah, I know, Harvard has more class valedictorians and class presidents than any other college or university in the country, probably more Eagle Scouts, too.
Exactly what do we have in store from tomorrow's leaders this time around?