Another “cult apologist” has surfaced through the news coverage of Elizabeth Smart.

Nancy Ammerman of the Hartford Institute for Religious Research previously has spoken about the Branch Davidians.

In 1993 Ammerman claimed within a published report that the FBI was negligent because they didn’t listen to her fellow apologists James Tabor and Phillip Arnold. Both men have been recommended as “religious resources” by the Church of Scientology, which has often been called a “cult.”

Ammerman’s work regarding the Davidian standoff was lauded by Scientology through a full-page article within its own “Freedom Magazine.” And she has admitted that “various political and lobbying groups” influenced her view of that cult tragedy.

The professor’s report about the FBI was later included in a book titled “Armageddon in Waco,” which also contains the work of scholars historically associated with and/or supported by groups called “cults.”

Ammerman observed that “If [Elizabeth Smart] was a devout religious person, and [her captor] wanted to play on those religious sentiments, it’s plausible, just plausible, that she could have understood this to be some sort of religious experience,” reports the Palm Beach Post.

Is a violent kidnapping, rape and imprisonment now somehow to be categorized within the realm of “religious experience”?

Here it seems Ammerman is avoiding the “B” word (“brainwashing“), in an attempt to offer some sort of alternative “religious” explanation.

But isn’t there a more obvious and plausible understanding, which is more consistent with the established facts?

Elizabeth was initially isolated for months. This began when the 14-year-old girl was first held in a boarded up hole at a relatively remote campsite. This is not unlike what happened to cult kidnap victim Patty Hearst in 1974, when she was first confined within a closet by the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Elizabeth like Hearst was brutally raped, terrorized and effectively cut off from the outside world. This made Mitchell’s process of coercive persuasion not only possible, but also enabled its eventual success. Mitchell then simply solidified his undue influence.

Elizabeth became “Augustine.” And though she had numerous opportunities to escape and/or identify herself to authorities, she did not do so. Instead, for months “Augustine” passively followed her captors, Mitchell and/or Barzee.

Her actions cannot simply be explained away by her “religious experience,” or written off as just the effects of trauma and the “Stockholm Syndrome.”

Ammerman also said, “I suppose he also could have played off of a child’s desire to be obedient to an adult.”

This is a common sense observation almost anyone might make about adult authority.

But attempting to explain Mitchell’s undue influence over the child by linking it to her religious background sounds a bit like “victim bashing.”

Such a conclusion seemingly supposes that if Elizabeth and/or her family were not Mormons, Mitchell an excommunicated Mormon, might not have been so successful.

However, Mitchell’s bizarre religious “Manifesto,” an odd hodge-podge of beliefs taken from many sources, has little meaningful similarity to the Mormon Church Elizabeth attended.

Mitchell may have claimed to be a “prophet,” but Elizabeth must have known through her religious training, that the only prophets accepted by Mormons are those that are acknowledged by their church.

Accordingly, despite Mitchell’s claims, only the current church president could be seen by Elizabeth as a living prophet today.

In actuality Elizabeth’s “religious experience” can be seen more readily as an obstacle for Mitchell to overcome, rather than a common premise or bond that empowered him.

Again, Patty Hearst like Elizabeth Smart had no apparent common bond with her captors. Hearst was not a campus radical and/or left wing political activist. And the Hearst family were conservative and Republican.

But Patricia Hearst nevertheless, due to the process she was subjected to through her confinement, isolation and treatment, succumbed to her captors and became “Tania,” a revolutionary Marxist.

A cursory review of other cult victims in groups like Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple, Solar Temple, Aum of Japan and “Heaven’s Gate,” demonstrates a diversity of backgrounds and frequently that personal histories are not in harmony with the cult’s beliefs.

Any attempt to simplistically categorize cult victims seems more like denial than serious examination.

Such claims as, their common “religious” background and/or religious devotion, made the victim vulnerable, appears to surmise that this somehow can’t be done effectively or as easily to secular or less devout people.

And let’s not forget that Elizabeth was abducted not recruited.

Research indicates that almost anyone may succumb to the extreme environmental control and pressures imposed by someone like Mitchell, and almost certainly a 14-year-old child held prisoner.

Perhaps rather than engaging in specious and/or simplistic explanations, Ammerman should have explored the unique circumstances, but common characteristics that define destructive cult indoctrination, often described as “thought reform.”

A cult doesn’t require a large following and some are very small.

“Heaven’s Gate” had less than fifty members, when its leader Marshall Applewhite told his followers to commit suicide.

Some cults are a family unit, such as the women and children led by Winifred Wright, recently prosecuted and sentenced to prison after the death of a child.

All a cult actually requires is a leader and at least one follower.

This seems to describe Brian Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, the duo that kidnapped and held Elizabeth Smart for nine months.

Within a 27 page manifesto now made public, Mitchell speaks as “the voice of God” and then explains his singular status as “God’s chosen prophet,” reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The transient’s writings are not original, but rather an idiosyncratic, eclectic mix of the bible, Book of Mormon and plagiarized excerpts from other sources pieced together arbitrarily.

What is telling though is the importance Mitchell places upon himself. He is the central character and defining element of his manifesto.

This is consistent with what noted psychiatrist and cult observer Robert Jay Lifton describes within his paper titled “Cult Formation.

Lifton lists three essential ingredients for the formation of a destructive cult.

The first is “a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose their power.”

Mitchell’s limited charisma only netted him one follower, until he kidnapped Elizabeth Smart.

Like other cult leaders such as Jim Jones and David Koresh, Mitchell’s manifesto reflects a man who sees himself as “chosen” and everyone else as wrong and/or evil.

He warns, “Repent, God says, and deliverance will come; and ‘for this cause I have raised up my servant Immanuel David Isaiah [Brian Mitchell], even my righteous right hand, to be a light and covenant to my people…'”

Barzee was “brainwashed” into embracing this worldview according to her children. And it appears that Elizabeth Smart was similarly influenced.

Lifton says this is the second component necessary to create a cult, an observable process he calls coercive persuasion or thought reform.”

Apparently, the abduction of Elizabeth was tied to a plan regarding plural wives.

Mitchell’s manifesto states, “Thou shalt take into thy heart and home seven times seven sisters, to love and to care for.” Elizabeth was to be “the jubilee of them all, first and last,” reports the Desert News.

Like other cult leaders Mitchell was obsessed with his proclaimed role and seemed to believe that the end justified the means.

According to Barzee the 14-year-old girl was part of a “prophetic” revelation. A woman that visited her in jail said, “God told them to take Elizabeth. They were doing what God asked them to do,” reports the New York Times.

It seems for some time the strange street preacher that once wandered about Salt Lake City was seen by residents as a harmless eccentric.

Benign “cults” typically don’t draw much concern.

However, Mitchell and Barzee moved from bizarre and benign to criminally destructive.

Evidence of “economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader” is the final factor cited by Lifton to determine a destructive cult.

The troubled couple certainly had the right to believe anything, but that right never included the freedom to do whatever they wished in the name of their beliefs.

Mitchell and Barzee are now where they both belong, behind bars. Perhaps the “chosen prophet” should have foreseen such an end.

Elizabeth Smart was not simply a victim of the “Stockholm syndrome,” which draws its name from a 1973 hostage situation related to a bank robbery in Sweden. At that time robbers held hostages for several days and their prisoners developed a seemingly strange affinity for their captors.

Instead, Smart who was abducted by force, controlled and isolated by her captor Brian Mitchell, also known as “David Emmanuel Isaiah,” was apparently “brainwashed.” And her father recently used that word to explain his daughter’s behavior.

More information emerged yesterday during news conferences and through various reports, which support that conclusion.

Brainwashing” is the word often used to describe a process more precisely called “thought reform.”

When initially questioned by police Elizabeth Smart identified herself as “Augustine” and seemingly attempted to frustrate the efforts of officers to help her.

Eventually Elizabeth broke down and admitted her real identity. But why did she not do so immediately? Police also said she spoke in a prosaic biblical language.

Other witnesses supposedly saw Smart at a “party” with her captor Mitchell and his wife Wanda Barzee. Elizabeth stood silently behind her captor submissively, robed in what some have called a “berka.”

Asked why the women wore these garments and were veiled Micthell reportedly said, “To protect them from the sins of the world.”

However, it appears the kidnapper actually wanted to hold Elizabeth within a “world” of his own creation.

Another witness said, “She didn’t seem like she was kidnapped. She acted like she was part of the family,” reports Associated Press.

One Salt Lake City resident told reporters he provided shelter for Mitchell, Barzee and Elizabeth for several days and that the girl never expressed fear, tried to escape, call police or sought his help.

How did Mitchell, a self-proclaimed “prophet” and supposed messenger of God change the 14-year-old Salt Lake City teenager into his willing follower?

Thought Reform, often called “brainwashing,” depends upon control of the environment. And certainly Mitchell controlled Elizabeth’s completely. He also isolated the teenager from her familiar support system of family, friends, school and church.

After gaining environmental control Mitchell then effectively could filter all information flowing to Elizabeth. She became dependent upon him to interpret everything, from her daily surroundings and situation to the bible and perhaps even the meaning of life.

The teenager then had no outside frame of reference or accurate feedback from others to oppose Mitchell’s growing influence.

Step-by-step this control led to the undue influence witnessed by those recently interviewed. Elizabeth gradually seemed to assume a cult identity, which may have included the new name “Augustine.”

What can the family do now?

Elizabeth Smart’s happy reunion with her family is proof that her authentic personality, developed through 14 years of nurturing within her home and community, is by far more powerful than whatever cult identity Mitchell may have imposed upon the girl.

Now the family instinctually seems to understand what Elizabeth needs immediately, which is unconditional love, acceptance and sense a safety.

Elizabeth’s father Ed Smart is now carefully avoiding any painful confrontation with his daughter about what happened during her nine months with Mitchell. He said, “What is going to come out is going to come out, I don’t have it in me to try and make this harder for her than it is.”

He acknowledged though that Elizabeth seems changed by her experience and sees her now as “a young woman.”

The Smarts will no doubt soon seek professional help to assist them in their daughter’s recovery process. This may include mental health professionals, their church and others familiar with the cult phenomenon.

Polygamists in Utah have made many Mormons in that state increasingly familiar with the kind of control and undue influence young girls suffer from in cult-like groups. Some teenagers in recent years have fled polygamy and their abusers were arrested and sent to prison.

Intense indoctrination, control and resulting unreasonable fears are apparent amongst the victims of polygamists, much like the “brainwashing” that may have overcome Elizabeth Smart.

Patricia Hearst spoke about her own kidnapping ordeal in 1974 on CNN News. She was abducted and later “brainwashed” by a political cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Hearst said, “You’ve, in a way, given up, you’ve absorbed the new identity they’ve given you. You’re surviving — you’re not even doing that – you’re just living while everything else is going on around you.”

Steven Stayner was abducted at the age 7 by a sexual predator and held for several years. He explained, “When I disappeared, Steve Stayner died and Dennis Parnell was born — the name I went by — and then it’s kind of like going back again to switch from Dennis Parnell back to Steve Stayner again.”

Has “Augustine” switched back to Elizabeth Smart?

It seems so, but the girl who is now a “young woman” may take years to fully sort through and recover from her ordeal and it is unlikely that her life will ever really be the same again.

Speculation that Salt Lake City kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart was held within a “psychologically controlling” environment is now emerging, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

One expert commented about the influence Brian David Mitchell may have had over Smart saying, “We have no idea what psychological or pressure manipulations he used with her.”

Mitchell seems like the model for a cult leader. He changed his name to “David Emmanuel Isaiah” and allegedly sees himself as a “prophet.” He then became a wandering preacher, often delivering sermons to the homeless.

Mitchell, once an active member of the Mormon Church and a “temple worker,” later abandoned his faith and service to begin a series of bizarre adventures including a stay with survivalists and eventually became homeless himself, reports the Desert News.

Mitchell also wrote his own version of the Book of Mormon and ultimately believed he was “above God,” though directed by heaven.

His wife Wanda Ilene Barzee, who is now also charged with kidnapping, accompanied the wandering prophet.

One of Brazee’s children said, “He obviously brainwashed my mom.”

It appears that Mitchell may have also “brainwashed” Elizabeth Smart to some extent over the many months he held the 15-year-old captive.

Smart was dressed oddly when first identified by witnesses. She wore a veil, as if she was a plural wife within a harem. According to a family spokesperson the girl was never far from the watchful eyes of her captors.

The Smart kidnapping has eerie parallels to the abduction of Patty Hearst.

Hearst, an heiress to a newspaper publishing fortune, was abducted by a cult called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) and held for more than a year. She suffered gross abuse from her captors and was “brainwashed,” according to court testimony.

However, Patty Hearst did not receive much public sympathy and was sentenced to prison for her role in a bank heist staged by the SLA.

Later, President Jimmy Carter commuted that sentence and Bill Clinton eventually pardoned Hearst before leaving the White House.

The saga of Hearst’s kidnapping, confinement and “brainwashing” may be helpful in understanding how Mitchell could hold Elizabeth Smart for so long without an escape.

How much more vulnerable was this child than the 19-year-old college student Patty Hearst? And what forms of psychological control and manipulation did Smart endure at the hands of this self-proclaimed “prophet” in the “name of God”?

For more than a hundred years teenage girls have been married off to polygamist men in the United States, often old enough to be their fathers.

But Lu Ann Kingston rejected her lot as a polygamist wife and walked out. Now she is sharing her history in an effort to promote legislation and make such practices a serious felony, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Kingston who became a fourth wife at the age of 15 says, “Polygamists know there is a penalty, but it’s not that great.”

Under the proposed legislation marrying a second wife who is a minor will become a second-degree felony, with a possible 15-year prison term.

The legislation cleared the Utah House Judiciary Committee this week and seems likely to become law.

Such legislation is long overdue in Utah, which contains large groups of polygamists.

There are about 50,000 polygamists living in the United States, Canada and Mexico. The largest concentration of adherents is in Arizona and Utah.

But what about the leaders who make these girls marry?

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff claims, “We’re not bluffing. We’re not just going after the husband, but also the prophets or leaders — whoever is commanding these young girls to get married.”

And after decades of ignoring polygamist abuses Utah has taken some action in recent years, but only after much media coverage and corresponding outrage.

In 1999, David Ortell Kingston was convicted of two felony counts for having sex with his niece. Kingston is a key leader of one of Utah’s largest polygamist groups. He was sentenced to prison, but will be released soon in June.

David Kingston’s brother was also sentenced to 7 months in jail for beating up his daughter when she refused an arranged marriage with her uncle.

Lu Anne Kingston, once a member of the same notorious sect, says that at 15 she was forced into marriage and had two babies by the age of 20.

She said, “It’s not easy to leave. There’s such a great fear of leaving [the girls] are told that [plural marriage] is the way to heaven.” And failure to submit to such practices potentially places that person in “outer darkness” for eternity.

Because of such unreasonable fears, which are indoctrinated from earliest childhood, few polygamists seriously question their lot in life and/or rebel against group authority.

Polygamist sects are most often ruled over by authoritarian “prophets” who essentially speak for “God.” They are absolute authoritarian leaders not unlike those that head purported “cults.”

Though the modern Mormon Church reflects an evolution of devolving power and greater accountability, these polygamist “prophets” remain much like the early Mormon leaders of the 19th Century, such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

Both men were polygamists and their word was law amongst Mormons.

Perhaps Mormon history has made it difficult for Utah to face the dilemma of polygamy today?

A Mormon scholar says the Book of Mormon, which is supposedly historical, is actually only “inspirational fiction,” reports Christianity Today.

Thomas W. Murphy is a Mormon, but also the chairman of the anthropology department at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington. Murphy wrote within a published paper “DNA research lends no support to traditional Mormon beliefs about the origins of Native Americans.”

This college professor like other Mormon scholars before him, who have questioned the historicity of their faith’s scriptures, is now subject to excommunication and expulsion for his views. This has frequently been the fate of Mormon academics that in some way question the church’s teachings.

Joseph Smith supposedly translated the Book of Mormon from ancient “golden plates,” which conveniently later disappeared. Smith claimed these plates were the historical record of an ancient people that once thrived in America. However, no archaeological or historical evidence has ever proven this.

Nor does science substantiate Smith’s claim that ancient Hebrews migrated to North America. Murphy wrote, “To date no intimate genetic link has been found between ancient Israelites and the indigenous peoples of the Americas.”

So what do you do if you are a faithful Mormon?

Denial seems to be the preferred response.

Mormon leaders continue to spin apologetics to explain their lack of historical proof. Though increasingly it seems like they are running on empty.

In a prepared response to Murphy a professor at Brigham Young University stated, “We didn’t think the arguments were good enough to respond to,” reports BYU News. He then spun apologies rather than respond to the substance of Murphy’s points.

Needless to say that most faithful Mormons seem willing to accept whatever their leaders say. One BYU student who sat through the presentation commented, “I thought it was very effective.”

Here is the rub.

If Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon, which appears to be the case, where does this leave the religion he created that now includes millions of adherents?

This would mean Smith was not a “prophet,” but rather a clever con man. And Mormonism’s claim that it is “the restored Word of God,” based upon Smith’s revelation, then collapses.

Certainly Mormons have the right to believe whatever they want, but history is based upon proven objective facts, not subjective beliefs.

When Mormonism entered the realm of purported history it became subject to the type of scrutiny not typically applied to spiritual claims.

It looks like church and state remains essentially synonymous and virtually seamless in Salt Lake City. That is, it’s difficult to see where one stops and the other begins.

Mayor Rocky Anderson has largely caved in to Mormon Church (LDS) demands that freedom of speech be ended around its historic temple area.

The controversy began some time ago when the city sold the church a block adjacent to its Temple Square, but that sale did not include the easement, which provided for free access and expression.

Never mind.

The church strictly enforced its own rules anyway prohibiting any speech or activity it didn’t appreciate, such as born-again Christians speaking critically about the LDS and handing out tracts.

Enter the American Civil Liberties Union.

A court decision later forced the church and the city to allow free expression on the block.

Never mind.

The Mormon Church used its considerable muscle to pressure the city into a solution it sought to circumvent the court decision. That is, sell LDS the easement through a land swap.

Now it seems that church and state are again united in Utah and single minded regarding how best to run Salt Lake City, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

The deal to swap property owned by the church for the easement has received the blessings of the church and city council, which is completely composed of Mormons. In a seamless media event both made the appropriate pronouncements and announcements for the plan.

But is likely there will be more litigation.

Never mind.

City coffers will no doubt spill forth the funds necessary to defend the LDS solution.

What Salt Lake City residents have learned, is even though approximately half are now non-Mormon, what the LDS wants it gets.

So much for democracy, free speech and pluralism in Utah. Brigham Young would no doubt be proud of Mayor Anderson for bowing before a higher authority.

Mormonism may have once arguably fallen within the category of a “cult.” It certainly began as a personality-driven group defined by a totalitarian charismatic leader, Joseph Smith.

Smith eventually exercised absolute control over his followers in Illinois, where they lived within a largely self-contained community called Nauvoo.

He was head of the church, its “prophet,” “revelator,” “seer,” the mayor of Nauvoo and a militia general. The people of Illinois came to fear Smith’s power, which ultimately led to his arrest and death.

Then came Brigham Young. Unlike Smith’s son and designated heir Young had a new vision for the Mormons, which included a “Promised Land.” That land is now known as Utah.

In the beginning Utah was a theocracy ruled over by Young. But through a series of pragmatic “revelations” and succeeding church presidents, the religious state would become one of the United States of America. First, it was necessary to give up polygamy and many years later another “revelation” would provide the premise for previously excluded Blacks to enter the Mormon “priesthood.”

The totalitarian governance of The Mormon Church changed too. Power devolved from one-man rule to a more moderate structure of council and quorums.

But will Mormonism ever completely cast off what can be seen as its “cultic” baggage?

Racism and elitism still permeate the modern Mormon religion through its writings and teachings about the so-called “Laminites,” a mythical people apparently invented by Joseph Smith, but accepted by Mormons as historical fact.

Thomas Murphy a Mormon anthropologist recently attempted to address this issue by proving Smith’s historical claims were scientifically false. However, the response to his research results was the threat of possible expulsion through excommunication. Other Mormon scholars and intellectuals have experienced similar resistance.

William Bagely, a Mormon descendent and historian specifically studied probably the darkest day of Mormon intolerance. This was September 11, 1857, known as the Massacre of Mountain Meadows. On that day a group of Mormon men dressed as Indians murdered 120 settlers as they crossed Utah.

This event seems to reflect the deep fear early Mormons had of their ethnocentric society being somehow defiled or violated by “unbelievers.”

Bagley points out that Brigham Young himself knew about the coming attack and supposedly said, “Brethren, do your duty.” But Mormon apologists deny this, reports the Salt Lake City Tribune.

In recent months another controversy has erupted in Utah. This revolves around the rather heavy handed way the Mormon Church has exercised its power in Salt Lake City to suppress free expression around its historic Temple Square.

What then is the future of Mormonism in the 21sr Century?

Will The Mormon Church continue to evolve until it is another denomination within the mainstream of American religious life? Or has it reached some limit, which it cannot move beyond?

Many insist that the demythologizing of the Mormon Scriptures and the opening up of Utah as a truly pluralistic society is inevitable.

“Mormon missionaries’ lifestyle is filled with structure and sacrifice,” reports Michigan’s Midland Daily News.

Mormon men are expected to serve two years as missionaries, while for women such service is optional and only lasts 18 months.

The lifestyle and rules of Mormon missionaries is demanding and rigid. They are specifically trained to present six precise and pre-set one-hour lessons in exact succession to potential converts.

Every day missionaries get up at 6:30 a.m., study the scriptures for three hours and then begin working their assigned area. They have one hour for lunch, then work until supper and continue working in the evening until near Bedtime, which is at 10:30 p.m.

Their required dress includes white shirts, black ties and slacks. Men must be clean-shaven, have short hair and avoid face piercings. Women must wear blouses, sweaters and skirts and also appear very conservative. They must address each other as “Sister so-and-so” or “Elder such-and-such.” They don’t use first names.

All this can be seen as a way of breaking down individual identity. Missionaries may cease to see themselves as unique and instead form a group sense of identification and related mindset.

Mormon missionaries are only allowed to phone their families twice a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

Cut off from even their families, the missionaries have no meaningful outside frame of reference, but are largely locked into an environment completely controlled by their church. And this is reinforced by the rule that they must never be alone, are required to work in pairs and always be within speaking distance of each other at all times.

This can be seen as a means of monitoring every missionary, closely and constantly.

All media is prohibited. This includes television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Access to information is thus controlled.

One missionary told the Midland Daily News, “It’s about focus. For me, after I talk with my parents, I mean it’s really nice to talk to them, but it is so hard to get back on track.”

And a Mormon missionary can expect to be moved on short notice, if reassigned to another area they must pack up to leave and be gone within 24 hours.

One missionary said, “We are strained, stretched and stressed.”

It is interesting to note the parallels that can be seen between the rigidly structured life of a Mormon missionary and the established criteria of coercive persuasion.

Of course Mormon missionaries freely volunteer for service and such parallels might also be drawn regarding other religious orders and/or the Marine Corp.

But is being a Mormon missionary the equivalent of becoming a soldier? And are city neighborhoods somehow a beachhead?

According to Opinion/Editorial letters within the Salt Lake City Tribune, freedom of speech is doing fine in Utah.

One writer claims, “I am convinced that Mormons value free speech as much as other lovers of the Bill of Rights.”

But do they?

The writer is actually commenting about “free speech” within a closed system. That is, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) speaking amongst themselves.

However, the real test of being “lovers of the Bill of Rights” seems to be the city block in downtown Salt Lake City adjacent to the Mormon Temple built by Brigham Young.

If Mormons really wanted to demonstrate how they “value free speech” they would allow all voices to be heard, which obviously includes non-Mormons. But apparently the church hierarchy and its obedient faithful have no intention of doing so.

A non-Mormon also commented with the Tribune and pointed out that simply passing out tracts with another religious viewpoint resulted in arrests near Temple Square.

Does this sound like a democracy or a theocracy?

No matter how LDS leaders try to spin this one it’s abundantly clear that they have set limits to both religious tolerance and free speech in Utah. And the Constitution has nothing to do with it.

Ironically Mormonism, which has been called the “most American religion,” doesn’t seem to appreciate the simple truths and values that has made the United States a great nation.