Posts Tagged “christian fundamentalists”

Stacey Wendell ties a ribbon around a telephone pole in front of the Word of Life Church, in Chadwicks, as a memorial for the two teenage Leonard brothers who were beaten at the church on Oct 12. Lucas Leonard, 19, was killed, his brother Christopher has been released from the hospital. Wendell is the organizer of the vigil being held for the two at St. Patrick's St. Anthony's Church in Chadwicks. Michael Greenlar ( / The Post-DispatchI blogged just a few days ago about beatings and a murder that happened at a Pentecostal church in New Hartford, NY just over a week ago. The victims’ parents, jailed on manslaughter charges, reportedly claimed the two boys they beat, one to death, had molested other children. The Syracuse NY Post-Dispatch reports on their classy legal tactic (WebCite cached article):

A mother and father charged with severely beating their sons told police afterward that they did it because their sons had molested children, according to New Hartford police.

New Hartford police and State Police officials said they found no evidence that any children were molested.

That claim by the parents was an attempt to “cover their tracks”, New Hartford police spokesman Lt. Tim O’Neill said today. The parents made the claim early in the investigation, he said.

“There is absolutely no indication of any sex abuse to any of the children,” he said.

You’ve just got to love these devout adherents of “the Religion of Love” who brutalized their two sons … one to death, the other hospitalized … and then piled onto that crime by trying to set them up for one of their own. It’s a good thing the police didn’t fall for this scheme. That’s not to say that a fatal and a near-fatal beating would have been appropriate, had either actually been guilty of child molestation. Had that been the case, the proper response would have been to pick up the phone and call police, not spend hours interrogating and beating them in a church.

But precisely this reasoning is fully in line with what another member of the same church had claimed earlier, that the two beaten boys were involved in the occult and had practiced witchcraft.

The good news is that the local community has had it with the Pentecostal church where this occurred. As the Post-Distpatch explains, they’ve started a campaign to shut it down (cached):

Hundreds of mourners gathered behind the Word of Life Christian Church on Tuesday night to remember Lucas Leonard, pray for Christopher Leonard and call for the closure of a church that event organizers said put the town “on the map” for all the wrong reasons.…

“We want them gone,” organizer Stacey Mendell told the crowd to cheers. “We want peace back in our community. We want justice for our boys.”

Mendell is organizing a fundraiser for Christopher and is trying to organize support to get the church shut down. Another organizer, Ami Loomis, said the community needs to step up for Christopher.

This sort of thing is actually not common at all. If it were more common, it very well could be an effective way of getting churches and their officials to behave. Who knows how — for example — the Roman Catholic Church might have dealt with the “priestly pedophilia” problem if all their churches had been the focus of efforts to shut them down? Maybe they’d have had some incentive to actually deal with the scandal, and with child-abusers within their ranks, more meaningfully.

Michael Greenlar / The Post-Dispatch.

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The Word of Life church occupies a former schoolhouse in New Hartford, N.Y., about 100 miles west of Albany. / Nathaniel Brooks for The New York TimesBy now frequent readers of my blog will have heard the story of one teen killed and his brother seriously injured, beaten by their parents and a number of others at Word of Life Christian Church in New Hartford, NY. I’d held off blogging about this until more information was available. At first, very little information was released, but with additional revelations and reporting a meaningful story of fierce, predatory religionism — so powerful that it ripped parent-child bonds apart — can be told.

Word of Life is a small, independent Pentecostal church. This isn’t at all strange, there are hundreds, perhaps into the thousands, of such churches around the country. The South is riddled with them, but they can be found almost anywhere in the country. There might very well be one in your town!

Biblical literalism and fanatical fundamentalism are features of this particular form of Christianity. “Speaking in tongues” is among their most notable practices; their church services, Bible studies, and pretty much any other gathering is liable to break out in someone “prophesying” incomprehensibly, often followed by someone else breaking out in a “translation.” It’s not unusual for Pentecostals to keep to themselves, becoming almost reclusive, because they fear “the World” and wish to remain as far from it as they can. Most Pentecostals reject all forms of pop culture, and will listen only to Christian music and watch or listen only to religious broadcasts. A lot of Pentecostal families even home-school their children, dreading the “worldly” indoctrination of public schools — or even parochial schools run by other kinds of Christians. Many Pentecostals shun medicine in favor of supernatural powers, especially “laying on hands,” and many things that go wrong — from physical ailments to emotional distress to car breakdowns — are often blamed on demons or devils, and ad hoc “exorcisms” aren’t uncommon.

(As an aside, I know quite a lot about this … during my own “fundie” days, I was a Pentecostalist myself. So my knowledge of this faction of Christianity comes from the perspective of an insider. For a while I was a “lay exorcist,” with the “gift of discernment of spirits” and a reputation as a healer.)

At any rate, two boys were severely beaten by members of their own church, including their parents, and one succumbed to his injuries (WebCite cached article). As I said, most of that bas been in the news for days now. It was a “spiritual counseling session” gone bad. Supposedly. CNN reports on what may have been the reason this “counseling session” had been called (cached):

The fatal beating of Lucas Leonard in the sanctuary of Word of Life Christian Church came after the teenager had “expressed a desire to leave” the secretive upstate New York church, New Hartford Police Chief Michael Inserra said Friday.

That wish, according to Inserra, apparently prompted a counseling session on the spiritual state of Lucas and his younger brother, Christopher. During the sessions, the teens were beaten with a cord and Lucas Leonard suffered injuries so severe that emergency room doctors thought he had been shot, Inserra said.…

A witness at a probable cause hearing told a judge the counseling session lasted 14 hours, beginning Sunday night and ending Monday morning. Daniel Irwin, who lives in the church, said the session ended when people thought Lucas had died.

It’s actually easy for me to understand how the folks in Word of Life wouldn’t have been any too happy about one of its youngsters wanting to leave. They’d surely assume him to be “lost” to “the World” and to Satan, whom they believe is currently its ruler. As for why two parents would want to beat two of their sons senseless, and one of them to death, there are clear Biblical directives to that effect:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; and they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Dt 21:18-21)

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Mt 10:35-37)

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Lk 14:26)

In short, this church was just doing what its teachings and scripture demanded of them. Lots of media stories about the Word of Life Christian Church, such as this one by the New York Times, convey the impression that it was something of a one-off oddball “cult” (cached). I’m not sure I can go with that, though. The folks at Word of Life might have been a little stranger than some other independent Pentecostal churches, but what I see in the descriptions fits very neatly into how a lot of such churches operate. The philosophies described are truly not at all unusual. This church simply can’t be as novel as the media suggest.

As for the Word of Life congregants who’ve been charged, they’ve cooked up what is a very typically Pentecostal rationale for what they did. As another New York Times article explains, Lucas Leonard admitted he’d been practicing witchcraft (cached):

On Sunday night, toward the end of a daylong church service, Tiffanie Irwin, the pastor at Word of Life Christian Church here, turned to her congregation and made a stunning accusation.

Someone among them, she said, was practicing witchcraft.

Lucas Leonard, a 19-year-old whose family was immersed in Word of Life’s secretive practices, said that he was the one, that he wanted church elders to die and that he had considered making a voodoo doll of a church leader.

Those revelations were some of what one member of the church, Daniel Irwin, told investigators after Mr. Leonard was beaten to death by a group of fellow congregants — including Mr. Leonard’s parents and half sister — during a so-called counseling session that began on Sunday night and stretched into Monday morning.

You’ve just gotta love how these people make victims into perpetrators and vice versa, don’t you? To be honest, I have no idea if Lucas had really been practicing witchcraft, although I truly doubt it. Irwin’s testimony may very well have been an outright lie. It’s less likely to have been his interpretation of what Lucas said.

The vile, pathetic and desperate accusation that Lucas Leonard had been a “witch,” as the Syracuse, NY Post-Dispatch reports, is something police are downplaying (cached). They insist the “counseling session,” aka beating, was triggered by Lucas saying he wanted to leave and that neither witchcraft nor voodoo had anything to do with it.

The really sad part of all this is that the members of Word of Life Christian Church very likely don’t comprehend what they did wrong here. Chances are they see Bruce and Deborah Leonard, and all the other accused churchgoers, as martyrs … persecuted by Satan and “the World” for merely having followed the Word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ. That’s how true Pentecostals think.

Photo credit: Nathaniel Brooks for the New York Times.

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First Assembly of God, Torrington, CT / Stay cool with Jesus sign / Mike Angogliati / Torrington Register-CitizenI know I’m going to get complaints about this, so let me straighten this out, right at the start. There are many sorts of “terror” in the world. Only a little of it is what we generally connect with the word “terror” — i.e. suicide hijackers and abortion-clinic bombers. By using the word “terror” in the title of this post, I am not, by any means, asserting any kind of equivalence among these events. “Terror” does not always mean “killing many innocent bystanders at once.” Many sorts of threats can constitute “terror,” even if those threats are never manifested in violence. There are degrees of terror, some much worse than others. But still, they all remain “terror” in some way or another.

Which brings me to the topic of this post. Most Christians — especially of the fundamentalist sort — will not accept this as an example of “terrorism.” They don’t view it that way, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything other than a form of terror by threat.

The nearby Torrington Register-Citizen ran a story today about the heatwave which is gripping much of the country (WebCite cached article). It included a picture of a Torrington church’s sign:

MIKE AGOGLIATI / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

Mike Agogliati / Register Citizen / A sign of the times. This sign at the First Assembly of God Church on New Harwinton Road offers advice for keeping cool in the summer heat. Their 'loving' message? 'Think it's hot here? Imagine Hell.'

I can think of no better example of what is wrong with fundamentalist / evangelical Christianity, than this sign. It carries the threat of this particular religion, which claims that, if one fails to believe precisely what it teaches, one will be condemned to an eternity of torment.

Those who adhere to this sort of thinking haven’t the slightest clue how horrific it is. To them, it’s “fact,” and its ramifications don’t matter to them. They do not realize theirs is a campaign of terror: “Believe what we order you to believe, or you will FRY with the Satan’s demons in ‘the Lake of Fire’!”

Consider if what they believe is true … that their angry, sin-hating, almighty God will condemn people to eternal torment merely because of what they happen to believe. Why should mere “belief” provide relief from eternal perdition? What being worth worshipping should care so much about what the beings he ostensibly loves “believe” rather than what they “do” or what they “are”? How does this sort of threat differ from any other kind of extortion?

To put it bluntly — it doesn’t. It’s a threat. Nothing more, nothing less. Any being who feels the need to threaten people, in order to coerce their adoration and worship, is not worth adoring or worshipping. Period.

Photo credit: Mike Agogliati / Torrington Register Citizen.

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One Nation, Under God: America is a Christian NationDavid Barton is popular among the Religious Right, at the moment. He’s a Christofascist’s Christofascist, happy to tell Chrisitianists around the country that the US was originally founded as the Christocracy they think it should be … even though it absolutely and demonstrably was not. He’s a pet historian for militant Christians of all stripes, from Glenn Beck to Newt Gingrich to Mike Huckabee. The mass media are even enamored of him, because he’s always good for a sound bite or two. Mother Jones offers this story about Barton and the hard-on the Right has for him (WebCite cached article):

Newt Gingrich is a fan. So’s Michele Bachmann. Mike Huckabee’s such a booster that he recently said that all Americans should be “forced at gunpoint” to listen to this guy.

The object of this high praise from Huckabee — and recent shout-outs from other potential GOP presidential contenders — is David Barton, a Republican activist and minister who founded WallBuilders, a for-profit evangelical outfit that works to inject religion into politics. Barton holds some pretty unconventional views, and in the past he has spoken alongside fringe figures like Holocaust deniers and white supremacists. Among other things, he claims that Jesus would oppose the capital gains tax and the minimum wage; that global warming is “self-correcting”; and that the nation’s homeland security apparatus has been infiltrated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. He also contends that the separation of church and state is a perversion of the Founding Fathers’ intention to create a Christian nation.

Pretty much every reference to Barton that I’ve seen in the mass media — whether it’s a quote from some angry theocrat, or if it’s the reporter him/herself — calls Barton a “historian.”

The trouble is, he isn’t one.

That’s right, folks. The Religious Right’s favorite historian, is not a historian at all! He’s not even close to being a historian.

Barton’s only bona fide academic degree is a B.A. in religious education from Oral Roberts University (class of ’76). Barton has absolutely no credentials in the field of history. Not one. Not even so much as a vague whiff of one.

I expect Rightists to make a big deal out of Barton and to mispresent him. Of course they’re going to call him a “historian,” if the “history” he spews is a steaming load of fierce militant Christianism and he’s no historian at all. I understand Rightists lying about him. But folks in the mass media have no reasonable excuse for misstating Barton’s credentials. They probably refer to Barton as a “historian” simply because the Right calls him one and they cannot be bothered looking at his C.V. to see if he truly is one. But as someone who did earn a B.A. in history, I am incensed that this lie continues to be propagated.

Barton, and all of his sanctimonious fans who call him a “historian,” are now members of my “lying liars for Jesus” club. (If they weren’t members already … a lot of them are.)

Oh, and Mr Barton — and any other like-minded Christianists: If you think that, as an American, I am required to become the kind of Christian you are, then I invite you to use whatever means you wish to make me convert. Go ahead. I dare you! Do you have the courage to give it your best shot? If you truly think I’m required to worship your Jesus, why would you not do everything in your power to make me do so?

Hat tip: Peter at Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster: University of Georgia.

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Bundesarchiv Bild 137-040965, China, Tientsin, HJ und BDM VereidigungI’ve already blogged about the hyperreligious populace of Giles County, Virginia who flew into a towering rage over the matter of posting the Ten Commandments in the local high school. But the Decalogue controversy there refuses to die. There have been lawsuits and threats of lawsuits, with the ACLU coming down on both sides of the issue (opposing the school itself posting the Decalogue in public locations, but supporting students who post them in their lockers).

The county’s religionist parents have successfully gotten their kids to take a stand for Christofascism, as reported by WDBJ-TV in Roanoke (WebCite cached article):

About 200 students walked out of Giles High School Monday morning, demanding the return of a Ten Commandments display. …

“This is Giles County and Christ is a big, big, big part of Giles County. For those who don’t like it, go somewhere else,” shouted one student. She was greeted by a round of cheers from the crowd. …

“This is America and we can have our Ten Commandments and if they don’t like it, they can get out,” said one boy.

So you see, folks, this is what kids in Giles County, Virginia are learning: If you’re not Christian, you must leave. What a marvelous lesson to have taught the next generation of Giles County! Everyone in Virginia must be so proud of their new platoon of Christofascist Youth.

Hat tip: Unreasonable Faith.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / Bundesarchiv.

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000362 Transformation 2008-canopy of prayerWhile wildlife officials are looking into the causes of some bird die-offs (in Arkansas and Lousiana, among other places), and are not yet sure why they happened, an evangelical preacher has decided she knows why, and is happily trumpeting their cause. According to the Raw Story, it’s because Congress repealed the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule in the US military (WebCite cached article):

The deaths of thousands of blackbirds in Arkansas may have been caused by the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” according to a self-described “prophet” who once claimed the ability to banish “gay demons.”

Evangelist Cindy Jacobs said on a video posted over the weekend that the strange phenomenon, that has now occurred in various places across the world, was an “answer” from God for violating his principles concerning homosexuality.

“According to biblical principles, marriage is between a man and a woman, so we have to say ‘what happens when a nation makes a decision that’s against God’s principles?'” she said. “Well, often what happens is that nature itself will begin to talk to us – for instance, violent storms, flooding.”

Jacobs’s credentials as a fundamentalist preacher, prophet, and anti-gay crusader are impeccable, so we know she must be right:

Jacobs founded Generals International (GI), an international evangelical Christian group, along with her husband in 1985. She is also a member of the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, a group of prophets who claim to have foreseen Islamic terrorism in 1999.

During an evangelical conference [cached] in 2008, Jacobs conducted a mass exorcism of the audience to cast out the spirits of pornography, addiction, lust, bisexuality, homosexuality, and perversion. In another event in Texas in November, she claimed that if Latinos voted for candidates who opposed gay marriage, then God would reward them [cached] with immigration reform.

Here’s the video of Jacobs’s ignorant, juvenile, hateful, and simple-minded diatribe, courtesy of Youtube:

Note the semantic and logical failing of her so-called “argument” right at its start: She begins with the claim that Gods principle is marriage should between a man and a woman, then says that the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” goes against “God’s principles.” The failure here is over the little matter of “marriage.” The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule is not — and never was — about “marriage.” All its repeal does is to permit openly-gay people to serve in the military. That’s the limit of its effect. I suppose that its repeal would allow gay military personnel to marry, but am not sure if the federal Defense of Marriage Act — which remains in effect — still would prevent it.

Of course, neither logic nor correct semantics ever matter much to ferocious fundamentalists, so I’m not sure why I expected them to come from her. Silly me … expecting that grown adults can actually think rationally now and again!

Of course, the idea that God can’t seem to think of any better way to express his displeasure over the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is by roaming the world killing off flocks of birds, also makes little sense and is extremely illogical.

Photo credit: Harvest Evangelism.

Hat tip: Lordrag at iReligion Forum on Delphi Forums.

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Harry Potter book seriesWith the release of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 film this weekend, it was inevitable, I suppose, that some whacky Christian pastor would come out against the Harry Potter franchise as “un-Christian” because it “promotes witchcraft.” Pretty much every H.P. release — whether in book or movie form — has been punctuated by some fundamentalist Christian loudmouth denouncing the book or film as “demonic” or “Satanic”, because it includes sorcery and witchcraft. So this report by the Christian Post is not exactly a surprise (WebCite cached article):

Another Harry Potter film hits theaters everywhere Friday and Steve Wohlberg, author of the new book Exposing Harry Potter and Witchcraft: The Menace Beneath the Magic, strongly advises against seeing it.

Wohlberg, a bestselling author, expressed his concern to The Christian Post. He said the trend toward witchcraft, vampirism, and occultism among teens has rapidly increased since the Harry Potter Craze began in 1997 in the United Kingdom. Written by J.K. Rowling, the Harry Potter series explores sorcery, witchcraft, and Wicca, noted Wohlberg. …

“The more I read the books, the more I realized how spiritually dangerous the material is,” he said. “Even though it’s fiction there is a lot of reality woven in it. My warning is that Harry Potter is a major contributor to Wicca.”

That there is no “Wicca” in the H.P. series, that it’s never mentioned, nor even hinted at, doesn’t appear to be sufficient to stop this pea-brained idiot from railing against H.P.

Like any other crank of the same sort, Wohlberg bases his views on a lot of supposition and on anecdotal reports he’s managed to catalog:

In his book, he gives several personal accounts of people who have dabbled in witchcraft specifically because of Harry Potter. Teenagers, he explained, are vulnerable to these themes because they are fascinated with the message that magic gives you power. He gives accounts of teens at bookstores on the day of the release of a new Harry Potter book, describing how they have “the book in one hand, and a wicca book in the other.”

Yeah. As though he can provide any demonstrably-genuine photos of this phenomenon.

The truth about H.P. is that the series definitely has moral themes, but ones that most Christians would agree are positive. As I blogged previously, other authors — including assuredly Christian ones such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — have used magic-infused fictional worlds for their Christian-inspired literature, for a long time now. And I don’t suppose that will end. Moreover, I’d be astonished if any of these anti-Potter folks would dare condemn either The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings for “promoting witchcraft” or any other similar nonsense.

Photo credit: bibical.

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