Archive for the “Christianity” Category

Christians and their religion

Ted CruzA few days ago the Faith & Freedom Coalition held a conference, and most of the GOP presidential candidates showed up to promise this Christofascist collective that they’ll be dutifully Christofascist presidents, if elected. This is normal stuff, so it hardly merits much notice.

One of those Christofascist candidates, however, used this event to announce that the rest of the field isn’t sufficiently Christofascist. And he added a claim that’s so preposterous and idiotic that I just can’t avoid remarking on it. As the National Journal reports, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz actually thinks Democrats want to enact “mandatory gay marriage” (WebCite cached article):

“More than a few Republicans, sadly, even more than a few Republicans running for president in 2016, chose that moment somehow to go rearrange their sock drawer,” Cruz said. “I’ll tell you this, I will never, ever, ever shy from standing up and defending the religious liberty of every American.”…

He said religious liberty is no longer a priority for both Republicans and Democrats. “The modern Democratic Party has decided their commitment to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any willingness to defend the First Amendment,” Cruz said.

Yes, folks, you read that right. Teddy thinks Democrats want to force each American to marry a gay partner. I mean, what else could “mandatory gay marriage” be? Isn’t that what the word “mandatory” means? How can he say that’s what Democrats want? If he or anyone else can offer any evidence this is Democrats’ goal, I’d love to know about it. But I suspect nothing of the sort is going on, and Teddy fabricated this notion in order to terrify his audience.

It’ll help to understand the truth about Ted Cruz. His father, Rafael Cruz, is a popular and fanatical preacher, and has preached dominionism, a Christian theocratic movement. His son Teddy is not much less extreme. Also, no one who belongs to the Faith & Freedom Coalition actually wants anyone other than themselves — i.e. conservative fundamentalist Christian white men — to have any “freedom” at all.

At any rate, the whole idea that gay marriage might become “mandatory” is so childish and laughable, it’s unbelievable that a sitting U.S. Senator would claim it’s coming. But Teddy did just that. Be afraid, folks … be very, very afraid.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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Archbishop John Nienstedt celebrated Holy Thursday Mass in April 2015 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Jennifer Simonson | MPR NewsHere’s a follow-up to my last blog entry. Archbishop John Nienstedt is out, Religion News Service reports, as the head of the archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis (WebCite cached article):

The Vatican on Monday (June 15) launched a major housecleaning of the scandal-plagued Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accepting the resignation of Archbishop John Nienstedt along with that of a top Nienstedt aide, Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche.

The moves come a little over a week after authorities charged the archdiocese for failing to protect children from an abusive priest and days after Pope Francis unveiled the first-ever system [cached] for disciplining bishops who do not act against predator clerics.

As noted in the article, not only has Nienstedt had trouble dealing with allegation of abuse by his priests, including the possibility that someone on his staff may have destroyed evidence in a criminal case, he’s engaged in some questionable behaviors of his own.

Nienstedt’s resignation, therefore, has been a long time coming … too long, as it turns out. Although some have praised Pope Francis for this and other similar moves, the cold fact is that it’s too little, too late. The Pope finally got around to closing the barn door only after nearly all the horses got out.

The time for the R.C. Church to have taken strong and decisive action against abusive clergy and their enablers in the hierarchy, was a dozen years ago or so when the abuse had been known and the worldwide scandal really began to snowball, with various countries’ investigations coming in and demonstrating just how extensive it was. The abuse happened for decades — if not centuries — and by virtue of the hierarchy’s (until-recently) successful cover-ups and resistance to doing anything, a lot of the perpetrators and their enablers managed to evade punishment. For every cover-up artist like Nienstedt who’s now forced to resign, a dozen predecessors had already managed never to be held accountable for what they did. It’s a travesty — especially in an institution that claims to be the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet. The truth about them is that they wouldn’t know morality if smashed them in the face and knocked them out.

Photo credit: Jennifer Simonson / Minnesota Public Radio.

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St Paul Cathedral 2012Note: There’s been some news today about this archdiocese; see my next blog post for information.

The worldwide Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal continues slowly to churn out news stories, because the R.C. Church’s hierarchs continue covering up for abusive priests — years after they’d said they’d do a better job of policing them. The latest such story, as reported by the New York Times, comes out of Minnesota and involves an archdiocese, not a person, criminally charged with complicity (WebCite cached article):

Prosecutors in Minnesota filed criminal charges on Friday against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, accusing church leaders of mishandling repeated complaints of sexual misconduct against a priest and failing to follow through on pledges to protect children and root out pedophile clergymen.

The charges [cached] and accompanying civil petition, announced by the Ramsey County prosecutor, John J. Choi, stem from accusations by three male victims who say they were underage when a local priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, gave them alcohol and drugs before sexually assaulting them from 2008 to 2010.

The criminal case amounts to a sweeping condemnation of the archdiocese and how its leaders have handled the abuse allegations — even after reforms were put in place by church leaders to increase accountability — and the charges are among the most severe actions taken by American authorities against a Catholic diocese.

This case involves a catastrophic, consistent refusal to monitor and discipline Fr Wehmeyer, over the course of about 15 years or so. The archdiocese was repeatedly told about Wehmeyer’s antics, yet the abuse continued unabated. Wehmeyer finally was convicted in 2013 — not that the archdiocese did much to help bring that about.

At any rate, as this story explains, Fr Wehmeyer continued abusing kids in his care many years after the US R.C. bishops supposedly established a new “zero tolerance” policy, back in 2002. I guess “zero tolerance” must not mean what most of us think it means.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Newport Patch / Stain Below Jesus Painting in Newport Church Seen as a Sign from GodYet another miracle has the Ocean State all agog. This time it’s inside a church in Newport. The Providence Journal, among a number of media outlets, reports uncritically on a stain on the wall beneath a painting of the crucified Jesus (WebCite cached article):

For years, parishioners of St. John the Evangelist Church didn’t say much about the rust-colored stain running beneath the 12th Station of the Cross painting of Jesus.

Some never noticed it.

Others, without knowing what was causing the mark, didn’t want the 140-year-old Episcopal church to become a roadside curiosity or tabloid headline.

But this spring the church has turned a spotlight on the odd little stain, which in the right light appears to have trickled like blood directly from a painting of Jesus’ crucified feet onto the plaster of the church wall.

On Sunday, the Rev. Nathan J.A. Humphrey’s sermon addressed the “mysterious red mark,” suggesting that, whether of earthly or divine origins, it was evidence of Jesus’ presence in the church.

So this thing’s been there for no-one-knows-how-long, but suddenly — because the church’s minister mentioned it in a sermon — it became news? Why? I have no idea. I guess Rhode Island must have had a slow news day or something.

For the record, it looks to me as though it’s a rust stain from plumbing in the wall behind the painting or from the frame itself. Parishioners shouldn’t have to keep cleaning it up; instead, they should take down the painting, fix whatever causes this stain, clean the stain that’s already there, and paint over it. But why do I doubt they’ll do that, when this is attracting interest in their church?

The idea that the Almighty has nothing better to do with his/her/its time than plant a rust streak in the wall beneath this painting, is just flat-out fucking ridiculous. I mean, seriously. S/he/it has an entire universe to run, fercryinoutloud. It’s arrogance of the highest order for this Newport church to presume to have this much of the Almighty’s attention. Besides, there are a lot better ways for the Christian God to make himself evident to people, than this, if s/he/it actually wished to make him/her/itself evident.

Photo credit: Newport Patch.

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Wedding RingsIreland held a referendum yesterday on gay marriage. To no one’s real surprise, as Reuters reports this morning, voters there approved the measure (WebCite cached article):

Irish voters backed same-sex marriage by a landslide in a referendum marking a dramatic social shift in the traditionally Catholic country, government ministers and opponents of the bill said on Saturday.

Final results were not expected until later in the day, but ministers predicted Ireland had become the first country to adopt same-sex marriage via a popular vote by a margin of around two-to-one, just two decades after it decriminalized homosexuality.…

The proposal was backed by all political parties, championed by big employers and endorsed by celebrities, all hoping it would mark a transformation in a country that was long regarded as one of the most socially conservative in Western Europe.

As one would expect, the Roman Catholic Church — which has a large presence in the Emerald Isle — opposed this measure. But their influence has waned in Ireland as a result of the Catholic clerical abuse scandal, which was a particularly thorny issue there. This rendered the Church nearly impotent as the vote approached:

The Catholic Church, whose dominance of Irish politics collapsed in the wake of a series of sex scandals in the early 1990s, still teaches that homosexual activity is a sin. But it limited its ‘No’ campaigning to sermons to its remaining flock, a marked contrast with active public opposition to similar moves in France and elsewhere.

I can’t think of a better example of an organization “reaping what it sowed” as a result of its own actions. I hope the bishops are happy. Had they not torpedoed their own reputation in Ireland — by virtue of their actions and inactions where child-abuse by clergy were concerned — they might have actually had a chance to fend off this referendum. In this case, they marginalized themselves.

Photo credit: firemedic58, via Flickr.

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Hypocrisy: No one does it better than Christians / MotifakeNote: There’ve been some updates to this story since I first published it; please see below.

I haven’t blogged about the reality-TV show originally named 17 Kids and Counting, the Duggar family who stars in it, or the Quiverfull movement to which they belong (WebCite cached article). Honestly, there hasn’t seemed to be much point in it. To begin with I don’t even give a flying fuck about any so-called “reality” shows (they aren’t “real,” they’re scripted). And the Quiverfulls are just a freakish evangelical Protestant collective of insane wing-nuts to which I’d have preferred never to call anyone’s attention. But given this latest bit of news, I don’t think it can be avoided any more. As In Touch Weekly reports, one of the Duggars’ sons, Josh, had molested a number of girls as a teenager (cached):

Josh Duggar of the TLC hit reality show 19 Kids and Counting was named in a police report as the “alleged offender” in an underage sexual abuse probe, In Touch magazine is reporting exclusively.

The charge being pursued while Josh was a minor was sexual assault in the fourth degree, multiple sources who have seen the police report and are familiar with the case told In Touch. According to the report, Josh was brought into the Arkansas State Police by his father, Jim Bob, who said he caught him leaving a young girl’s bedroom and “learned something inappropriate happened,” one source said.

These charges were never dealt with at the time:

A bizarre turn of events prevented police and prosecutors from finishing their investigation and possibly prosecuting. The state trooper who originally took the report about Josh shortly before 2005 never followed up. That state trooper was later convicted on child pornography charges and is serving a 56-year prison sentence.

When the state trooper ran into trouble, someone from the Arkansas State Police alerted the Child Abuse Hotline about the Duggar situation that had been sitting inactive. That’s when the Crimes Against Children Division and Springdale Police Department got involved. By then the three-year statute of limitations had passed and it would not have been possible to pursue prosecution of Josh if the allegations warranted, so the investigation was discontinued. “A technicality prevented any further action,” a source familiar with the case told In Touch. “That’s been the biggest regret in all of this.” (The statute of limitations has since been lengthened.)

Hypocritically, this erstwhile pervert worked for the Family Research Council, a Christofascist outfit which sanctimoniously rages about what it perceives as “immorality,” especially of the sexual sort. He’s resigned already (cached), and the FRC insists it never knew about this. I admit that’s possible, but even if it’s true, it doesn’t excuse Josh having taken a job with them, knowing his own past.

In the meantime the usual suspects are lining up to support the teen child molester. Among them is presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who had this to say (cached):

“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” Huckabee said in a statement posted on Facebook Friday [cached]. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Shucksabee is, of course, wrong to claim that the problem here is that this is “sensationalism.” Not at all. Nor is Josh Duggar’s status as “forgiven” relevant to anything. No, the actual problem is that this guy was a pervert as a teen, but was never prosecuted for it because the trooper who would have done that was, himself, a pervert! A secondary problem is that Josh Duggar was a fucking hypocrite to have taken a job with a Christianist morality-force in spite of his own far-less-than-moral background.

Oh, and … I note that Shucksabee has all sorts of sympathy for the Duggar family, and is sanctimoniously outraged on their behalf that this story was even reported, but he has no fucking sympathy for any of Josh Duggar’s molestation victims (at least one of which, stories suggest, was one of his sisters). I get why Shuckasabee is defending them: They’re militant Christianists like himself, and they’re extremely well-known, by virtue of their TV show. He cannot — and will not — concede any possibility of anything being wrong with this.

But it’s not just Shucksabee railing at the insolence of the media reporting this. Raw Story has cataloged many other examples of other Christians supporting Josh and the other Duggars (cached), many of them excusing what he did as no big deal, or with the old adage that “boys are curious.” Fuck that shit — and I mean that. Those people all need to go fuck themselves.

For the last time, let me be clear: Militant Christianists like the Duggars and their defenders, including Mike Huckabee, are damned fucking hypocrites — every single last fucking one of them. They scream and rail and bluster and fume over the “immorality” of things like gay marriage, and demand that it be outlawed, but when one of their own was caught behaving immorally, it’s nothing to be concerned about, shut up about it, everyone go home, there’s nothing to see here, etc. Christianists bellyache about something they call “moral relativism” and they almost always condemn it — loudly! But here’s a rather brazen example of them actually engaging in moral relativism.

Update 1: TMZ reports that the Duggars’ cable network, TLC — after running silent for a while — finally pulled their show from its schedule (cached).

Update 2: The center young Josh was sent to after his molestation was discovered, was founded by a guy who, it turns out, has a checkered history of his own with women (cached). What a wonderful crew! Their pretensions, lies, disingenuity, dissembling, and hypocrisy are now more apparent than ever. (Hat tip for this: Friendly Atheist).

Update 3: Officials in Arkansas are falling all over themselves to defend Josh Duggar and sing his praises, and the state’s courts are wiping his record clean (cached). Well done, Christians! You must be so proud!

Photo credit: Motifake.

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SiegeOfAcre1291For years now I’ve blogged about a Right-wing movement in the US I’ve called “the Great Neocrusade.” It’s a modern incarnation of the medieval Crusade, during which western European Christians ventured to the Levant in an effort to drive Muslims out, under the principle that their presence there was an affront to their Jesus which couldn’t be tolerated. (At least, that’s what the Crusade became. Its origin was in Pope Urban’s approval for Latin Christians venturing east to assist the Byzantines, but that scenario didn’t last long and the Crusaders embarked on their own mission, distinct from Byzantium’s, soon after their arrival. And about a century after the Crusades’ launch it would become a campaign against Byzantium itself).

As it stands within the American Right, the Neocrusade is an effort to drive Islam from the new Christian “holy land.” Neocrusaders are predominantly Christians — most of them being of the evangelical Protestant sort — but there are some Jews who’re part of the movement too. Their effort is predicated ostensibly on the threat posed by Islamist terror, which to be sure is horrific and should be fought using every means at our disposal to do so. That said, the Neocrusaders’ main contention — i.e. that Islam is inherently violent and all Muslims therefore are potential terrorists — is quite simply not true. What’s really going on is that these folk view Islam as the chief rival of their own religion, are incensed that it exists at all, and want to get rid of it in order to show the power of their own faith. All the crap about terrorism is mere pretense. That’s not to say Islamist terror isn’t real — just that they know better than to stomp around claiming every Muslim is a terrorist; they just say that in order to rationalize what they’re doing.

For the most part this Neocrusade manifests itself in the form of rhetoric and occasionally votes (such as outlawing “shari’a law” even though it’s not now, nor will it ever become, the law of the land in the US).

So it’s rare that Neocrusaders actually take up arms against Muslims in the US, but it nearly happened just in the last few months. The Web site Heavy.Com reports a Right-winger and failed Congressional candidate from Tennessee named Robert Doggart admitted he’d planned to stage an attack on a mosque and schools in Hancock, NY (WebCite cached article):

A Tennessee man, who made a failed bid for Congress last year as an independent with extreme right wing beliefs, has admitted in federal court to planning an attack on a Muslim community in New York.

Robert Doggart, 63, was recorded on a wiretapped phone talking about his plan to travel along with members of a private militia to an area near Hancock, New York, known as Islamberg, to burn down a mosque, school and cafeteria, while gunning down anyone from the community who tried to stop them.

“Our small group will soon be faced with the fight of our lives. We will offer those lives as collateral to prove our commitment to our God,” Doggart said in a Facebook post, according to court documents. “We shall be Warriors who will inflict horrible numbers of casualties upon the enemies of our Nation and World Peace.”

Doggart was arrested April 10 by the FBI on charges that he solicited others to violate civil rights, attempted to damage religious property because of the religious character of the property and made threats through interstate communication.

Two weeks later, Doggart pleaded guilty to interstate communication of threats. A judge has not yet signed off on the plea agreement. He was released on $30,000 bond to home confinement after the agreement was made and faces between 0 and 5 years in federal prison, along with a possible fine of up to $250,000.

The Heavy article describes Doggart’s plot in detail and includes court documentation of the case as well as of Doggart’s background. There’s a lot of detail there and I can’t hope to do any of it justice; I’ll just suggest you check out the article and find out what happened.

There are two things about this case I find disappointing: First, the judge has let Doggart out on bond, in spite of the fact that he’d admitted, in court, to having planned a terror attack. That decision is mind-blowing. Had Doggart been, instead, a Muslim who’d admitted involvement in a terror attack, there’s no fucking way he’d be free right now. Second, the mass media haven’t picked up this story, not even (to my knowledge) news outlets local to Hancock NY or southeastern Tennessee. I hadn’t heard of Heavy.Com before finding this story, and ordinarily wouldn’t have used them as a source for a blog post, but primary-source material is included, so the report is substantive. The other outlets mentioning this are all Left-wing in nature.

Maybe all the good ol’ boys back in Tennessee would prefer not to mention this, so that might explain why Doggart’s local media are running silent, but I can’t imagine how or why the New York state or eastern Pennsylvania media don’t consider this news (Hancock is in Delaware county, abutting the Pennsylvania state line). Unless this story turns out to be untrue — which I admit is possible, but given the evidence contained in the story it seems extremely unlikely — the media are doing a disservice to ignore it as they are. Perhaps they’ll finally pick up the story … I certainly hope so. The reality of Christianism in the US is that it definitely is capable of terrorism, and this is one example of it (albeit one that was nipped in the bud). There have been other Christian terror attacks, such as the rampage in Austin TX last December by a member of the Phineas Priesthood (cached).

Hat tip: Raw Story.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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