Thursday, March 01, 2007

Coincidences with Mad Dad Video

As Jon Stewart is wont to say, "Thank you, Jesus!" -- when stuff just to obvious parades its comedy. In this case, it would be, "Thank you, MassResistance."

There we were, minding our own pinko business, when we took at peek at the site of the organization of two who pledge to "End judicial tyranny, same-sex "marriage", and homosexual activist recruitment of our children in the public schools!" There, a simple, one-sentence post points to a YouTube vid of Mad Dad David Parker.

Think lifting the rock and seeing the bugs flying and crawling everywhere -- ooh, ooh and snakes too! In this case, the video and its key players led to more of those self-described Judeo-Christians, Charismatic Catholics, diploma mills, mail-order ministers and more.

No Bombs or Spoilers

That video has no, if you pardon the expression, revelations. It is Parker on camera last September speaking in general terms about why he demands that the Lexington Schools buckle under his demands. It is a 29-minute and 18-second clip, with the bulk of it him in the middle.

However, on both ends, a couple of iffy activist kind-of-ministers grab the screen. The host, in particular, identified herself several times as Dr.Shirley Canniff. She did not seem to understand the concepts Parker presented and as a result, asked odd questions and didn't analyze anything. Her language skills were remarkably poor. She was good at nodding and grunting though.

Parker says he has a doctorate in something unspecified. He seems bright and articulate enough. His companions though are neither and got my fingers researching.

While the YouTube teaser reads that is vid is of both Parkers, Tonia says absolutely nothing. She doesn't even move or face the camera. After appearing briefly on screen next to hubby in lawn chairs, she is gone. She may be David's faithful companion, but she seems to have far fewer lines than say, Tonto in Lone Ranger shows.

If it were just David speaking, this might be unremarkable. However, the host is fishy from the beginning. While many academicians are poor oral communicators, Canniff is inarticulate, uses very poor English and even abuses the principals' names -- Tania instead of Tonia Parker and the Worthingtons instead of Wirthlins.

Such incongruities led me to wonder about her education and experience.

Also, her co-host for this was Rev. Merrie Turner, whom Canniff identified as having been on other of her show segments. After Turner made some extremely incongruous statements, one of which David quickly disassociated himself from on camera.

The oddest was certainly her opening statement as David wound down his presentation. He spoke only of his campaign for parental control and notification. Yet, near the end of the vid, Turner takes the mike to start with how the interview reminded her of the relationship to pedophilia, specifically of Roman Catholic officials with altar boys and others. (WTF moment, here.)

She said, "Any way you cut it, it's the same spirit, it's the same anti-Christ entity that's trying to get into the hearts and the mind of the youth." She couldn't stop herself and also linked the schools issue to Nazi Germany and how those officials were sodomizing young boys. If David and others did not (Barney Fife moment, here) "nip it in the bud," we would "opening the door for the enemy to pray on our children in America."

To his credit, David quickly spoke up to say that the foursome suing made no such allegations in the schools matters.

Afterward, I was similarly curious about her background.

Circles within Spirals

While neither a cabal nor even a good conspiracy, the overlap among the key players here is strong and telling. The short version includes:
  • The "TV" that taped David Parker is not TV at all in the way we think of it; the kindest way to put it is that this is exclusively new media
  • Canniff's doctorate and ministry credentials are risible
  • If Turner is a minister, hers are likely as light and questionable
  • Unlike the Parkers and Wirthlins, the Canniffs and Turner have a trail that connects them to dubious institutions and groups
Disclaimer: Having appeared on public-access TV, I am not above self-promotion and low-audience broadcasts.

Some of the noteworthy terms that appear on the Canniff and Turner résumés and sites are Benny Hinn, the Spirit of Truth Institute, self-identification as Judeo-Christian, and Charismatic Catholicism. The Parkers and their lawsuit chums, the Wirthlins, may or may not belong to the same Charismatic Catholic movement or any of these other groups.

I have no knowledge either way. That's not particularly relevant. If we in fact are known by our deeds, words, and company we keep, they run with a strange pack.

We can certainly respect the foursome not going about their religion -- mainstream, sect, cult or otherwise -- in fact, that is a welcome change from so many who thrust their personal and private beliefs at anyone within earshot. It is remarkable only in that seemingly everyone connected with the video, plus the foursome, self-identifies as Judeo-Christian. This fits in the list of things that make you go hmm.

The Doctors Canniff

In the stuffy, New England tradition, we are accustomed to clerics who graduated from divinity schools at places like Harvard, BU and BC or formal seminaries.

Is a $15 ministry less worthy than a Harvard Divinity School D.D with installation in a mainstream denomination -- particularly if you are called by God to preach? That one is marginally harder to call than the value of a doctorate that cost a few hundred dollars for a correspondence course from an institute that is accredited by an entity unrecognized by virtually anyone except others in such bible schools.

You can head over to Jeffrey and Shirley Canniff's site to check their vitals. There we find:
  1. Theophostic Ministry certificates. This is not ministry as in ordination and preaching. It is a dubious counseling and healing system that has a tinge of Scientology method about it. The underlying theory is that we carry around the bad things that we have done and what happened to us. The man behind the system, Dr. Ed Smith has a divinity degree from an accredited seminary. His counseling involves prayer, what he calls prophets as counselors and expensive sessions (such as $300). Some praise the healing. However, many strongly criticize it. A Net search for it finds a preponderance of detractors.
  2. World Evangelical Bible Institute, Lowell, diplomas. If this ever existed, I can't find it in library or Net search. There is no site or phone associated with various forms of the name, even though the Canniffs say their got their unspecified diplomas two years ago.
  3. Spirit of Truth Institute, Bachelors, Masters and Doctorates of Divinity. This is a textbook diploma mill. However, the couple who runs it, Paul and Faye Richardson (they also identify themselves as doctors), claims accreditation. He ended up himself with suspect degrees from Bible Schools. Amusingly enough, they also let you buy honorary doctorates for yourself or your minister. The accreditation for the divinity degrees is through the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions, Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Searches on that iterate the Wikipedia entry that indicates such vetting is meaningful only to the gullible.
The SOTI degree site is sparse, but great reading. At one great address in Richmond, Virginia, you can get an apparently instant and very low-cost ordination or sign up for bargain divinity degrees. The first two offerings are:
  1. MINISTERIAL CREDENTIALS --- Licensed and ordination available for the qualified: Must be saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, living a clean life, called to the ministry, active, and financially responsible. $15.00 for individual or $25.00 for a married couple. Write for more information and free application to: Full Gospel of Christ Fellowship, Inc., 2800 Blendwell Road; Richmond, Virginia 23224.
  2. THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH INSTITUTE --- A full accredited Bible school. Correspondance courses only, leading to Diploma, Associate, Bachelor, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Theology, Ministry, Divinity, Counseling, etc. Very low prices. For a bulletin, write Spirit of Truth Institute, 2800 Blendwell Road, Richmond, Virginia 23224
Apparently for a few hundred dollars, you can take the correspondence courses for your divinity degrees. With those in hand, you are in line for the Richardsons' mission of propagating this ministry like something between an Amway dealership and just apostolic witnessing (with degrees and titles). SOTI will act as the accrediting agency for your own ministry school as well, for annual fees. You can find out how that works by sending $3 for their tape "How to Start a Bible School."

The Canniffs state that their own school of ministry (Seek International Leadership School of Christian Multi-Media Ministry) has SOTI accreditation. This is classic teach a man to fish stuff. It looks like this could be recursive, hence the Amway allusion.

As for Turner, it is harder from her sketchy biographical data to tell where she might claim her authority to use the title Reverend. Her page lists a couple of possibles:
  • Caribbean Bible Acad. & Min. Inst. - 2 yr degree. Nothing like that appears in libraries or on the internet.
  • Bible Fellowship - 5 yrs. As undefined as above, but I assume these are the self-study to understand the Bible better. There is nothing to indicate any of these can confer divinity degrees.
  • Benny Hinn School of Ministry. This is also a Bible-study curriculum, apparently with no authority for creating ministers.
She could be called to God's service and ordained herself. She may have had an extra $15 for the Spirit of Truth or similar ordination. It is unclear and she does not claim on her site to be preaching at or paid by any church.

What I did find about her is that she lives outside of D.C. and has a conservative activist history. Her 15 minutes of fame came not from the quasi-TV of the Canniffs, but trying to get Laura Bush to take tea with the ousted Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore -- the Ten Commandments on the lawn guy.

No More Mister Nice Blog covered this with the background articles. Turner arranged for the tea at the Renaissance Mayflower, replete with the offer to let attendants buy "Ten Commandments centerpieces made of red granite, Italian marble and rock from Mount Sinai."

Right below that mention are citations of Turner's Operation Rescue picketing of a Wichita women's clinic and related work in 1991. She apparently "spent five years fighting criminal charges before being sentenced to probation and community service for obstructing a federal court order."

The Hinn Connection

A recurring nexus in this group is charismatic preacher Benny Hinn. Turner writes that she studied at his ministry school and lists Benny Hinn Crusade Choir among her Church & Ministry Affiliations. The Canniffs sites have links to Hinn's sites, including many of his ministry school lessons. Likewise, their associated bookstore has the main Hinn site as the top link.

Hinn is even more controversial and criticized than Smith. A library or Net search for him produces charlatan, false prophet, and cult. He is quick to make specific, God-revealed predictions. For example, Castro would die in the 1990s and by 1994, God would destroy the American homosexual community in a flood of fire. It does not seem to dissuade his followers that he is wrong almost every time.

There's lots of straight analysis on him and a Wikipedia entry with links to positive and negative comments. While the Canniffs seem to like him enough to feature his sites, they don't claim any direct affiliation as Turner does.

The Judeo-Christian Thing

It's a pity that the lawsuit foursome has not shown their religious-affiliation hand. As close as they get is David and his lawyer saying they are Judeo-Christians. That phrase pops up quite a bit in relation to the Canniffs, which makes me wonder if they attend the same worship services and share theology.

It could be that this is just a right-wing meme. However, at least for the Canniffs, it seems much more formal.

They link to and claim ownership of the Judeo-Christian Multi-Media Networking Group. That comes with a Yahoo Group as well as Tripod freebie site. As they there describe this:
The main purpose of the JC Multi-Media of Boston is to assist leaders of various Christian and Messianic Ministries from the East and the West Coast by uniting and sharing of common multi-media ministry talents.

Yahoo Groups welcomes: The Judeo-Christian Multi-Media Networking Group of Boston directed by co-founders, Dr. Shirley M. Canniff, M.Ed/Div and Dr. Jeffrey Canniff, Div, Comflm - a freelance media registry founded by Janet Aldrich and The Judeo-Christian Documentary/Non-Fiction Networking Group of Los Angeles,founded by Karen Meissner.
Further on the site:
The JC Multi-Media Networking Group's primary purpose is to produce Christian documentaries, movies and teachings for both Internet radio and cable television, and to pray for the new endeavors of Christians in the media and film industry in the Greater Boston area.
The latter group in California seems to offer everything from tech troubleshooting to prayer.

To Be TV or Not To Be?

Of course, there is irony in a blogger questioning new media. Yet, the Canniffs are heavy-handed in naming their YouTube and similar postings a TV. If we were conservatives here, we'd have to put TV in quotes whenever it appears.

The self-titled WSTK-ICTV stands for Seek the Kingdom Internet Christian Television. The FCC might not like the Canniffs using those call letters. WSTK is an erstwhile licensed call signal in Aurora, North Carolina. It used to be in Colonial Heights, Virginia and for an AM radio station in Jacksonville, Florida. Those seem to be out of use.

If those call letters are not in use at the moment, I don't know the implications of using them in the videos to identify them as products of WSTK-ICTV. The ICTV is Internet Christian Television. The other kind-of-official-looking acronym is WSCIRO (Seek Christian Internet Radio Outreach). It is unclear whether combinations incorporating call signs violate any regulation, even if the FCC considers what the Canniffs do broadcasting.

Both of these are internet-only presences. The production quality and contents of both fall far short of public-access TV and are more like grade-school productions. They also seem unclear on even the technological basics and terms. For example, the WSCIRO-promised 24/7 LIVE WEBSTREAM is obviously recorded and seemingly unchanging during a given day.

Don't go looking on VHF, UHF, cable, AM or FM for these broadcasts.

What Can We Learn from This?

While it could be happenstance that these various coincidences occur with these sundry players. That doesn't seem likely.

The overlaps are circumstantial but numerous. The Judeo-Christians seem to be working together. It is unlikely that Shirley Canniff and Merrie Turner just had an interest in Lexington's education and asked David Parker for an interview as his profile heightened.

He may have had second and third thoughts listening to Canniff and then hearing Turner's outrageous comments.

I'd love to know whether they attend the same churches or just have lock-step politics. Meanwhile, it seems plain that the Canniffs are way off mainstream thought and religion. That's no a crime, but does place them in a clearer context.

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Anonymous said...

At last someone else has discovered the discrepency in Rev. Merrie Turner's resume. You have to stay in one place usually long enough to obtain a degree she has not done this. She was ordained by herself or by mail order as was her "press pass" which enables her to proclaim herself as a reporter, both of those afford her free or reduced stays, that is when she is not the "guest" of some unsuspecting host or hostess until they realize she will never leave until they practically force her. She does not have a residence of her own, she stays were ever, with who ever will put her up for how ever long. That is when she is not putting in an unscheduled appearance as "Betsy Ross" as the most inappropiate places such as a book signing by Caroline Kennedy? By the way the book had nothing to do with Betsy Ross I am surprised that St. Elizabeth's did not offer free room and board for a couple of nights. After listening to her speak she rambles from one subject to the other and more often than not avoiding an answer to most questions asked. You haved heard the old saying "children should be seen and not heard" well not that I think this of children but I think that MS. Turner should not be seen or heard! Some fellow souls who have been fooled once or twice will completely agree.

Anonymous said...

I watched the clip, looks like something from a junior high school interview, Ms. Canniff is an extremely poor speaker, so was Ms. Turner. if either one of them had the education they both proclaim to have I would think they would communicate much better that what was on the clip. I don't know where Ms. Turner was going when she took over the mike, she got way off the subject, she sounded like she as on something or just plain ignorant, probably a little bit of both. Will be interesting to see if they surface again we got a good laugh out of the video, like I said it looked like it was made by a junior high audio vusual department!