Posts Tagged “evangelical christians”

Bob Jones University, Front Campus FountainThere are a number of evangelical Protestant colleges in the U.S., and Bob Jones University in South Carolina is one of the strangest and most controversial of them. It resisted admitting blacks until long after other major schools in that state had started admitting them, and even after that, it maintained a ban on interracial dating that lasted until 2000. In the 1970s the school fought a legal battle to retain its tax-exempt status, and ultimately lost. It’s also remarkably anti-Catholic (although this is in keeping with its Protestant evangelical origins). In spite of the controversy that swirled around it, BJU incubated more than a few Republican presidential campaigns.

But now BJU has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy. As the New York Times reports, this involves sexual-abuse reports on campus and the manner in which BJU dealt with them … or, rather, how it refused to deal with them (WebCite cached article):

For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.

All of this happened until recently inside the confines of this insular university, according to former students and staff members who said they had high hopes that the Bob Jones brand of counseling would be exposed and reformed after the university hired a Christian consulting group in 2012 to investigate its handling of sexual assaults, many of which occurred long before the students arrived at the university.

Last week, Bob Jones dealt a blow to those hopes, acknowledging that with the investigation more than a year old and nearing completion, the university had fired the consulting group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace, without warning or explanation. The dismissal has drawn intense criticism from some people with ties to Bob Jones, and prompted some victims and their allies — including many who were interviewed by Grace investigators — to tell their stories publicly for the first time, attracting more attention than ever to the university’s methods.

The management of BJU apparently had differences of opinion with Grace. They claim to have wanted to resolve these differences … but one wonders what that means, given how they chose to go about it:

[BJU president Stephen Jones] said the university had not told Grace what its concerns were and wanted to discuss them with the consultant but could do so only face to face and felt compelled to fire the firm first.

“We terminated our agreement with Grace so that we could sit down and get it back on track,” Mr. Jones said, vowing to complete the investigation, with or without Grace.

I honestly don’t understand how they were forced to fire their own chosen investigators in order to get the investigation going again. This is mind-boggling gibberish.

Also, rather strangely, it’s not just on-campus abuse that BJU tried to squash:

But at Bob Jones, most of the stories that have been made public do not involve assaults on campus. They are about people who were abused as children and then looked for help in college.

Honestly, this too is mind-boggling. Why would BJU object to its students seeking help for abuse that occurred years before? Why would they get in the way of it? How could they find that unacceptable?

At any rate, the firing of Grace has blown the lid off the situation at BJU, and people are now talking about how the university handles sexual abuse cases. The Times reports:

“They said not to go to the police because no one will believe you, to defer to authority like your father or especially someone in the church,” she said. “They said if you report it, you hurt the body of Christ.”

Now, maybe it’s just because I’m a cynical godless agnostic heathen, but I’m not quite sure how “the body of Christ” can be “hurt.” I mean, Christ is God, is he not? Can God be hurt at all? How, exactly, does that work?

I note that running interference for sexual abusers, and the pressure on victims not to report it, in the name of protecting “the body of Christ,” is nearly the same as what we find occurred in the priestly-pedophilia scandal. Yes, folks, it does happen in places other than the Roman Catholic Church. It really, truly, absolutely is not just a Catholic problem — and I’ve never once said it wasn’t (even if Catholicism’s apologists may claim otherwise). But that it happens elsewhere still doesn’t mean it should happen anywhere, especially at the hands of people who claim to be doing God’s work and promoting morality.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Hoaxed photo of the Loch Ness monster from 21 April 1934.We’ve seen that Creationists will stop at nothing to indoctrinate school children with their irrational, non-factual, hyperreligious dogma. They’re ferociously angry at the idea that anyone might actually accept evolution (what they often call “Darwinism”*). That evolution is currently the only valid scientific explanation for the diversity of life on the planet, doesn’t matter to them. They’re still outraged that science has validated evolution. (“Science,” you see, in their minds is an insidious diabolical conspiracy designed to destroy them.)

An example of just how far these people will go in their sanctimonious effort to promote Creationism and discredit evolution, can be seen in this Scotsman report about a Louisiana outfit that claims the Loch Ness Monster refutes evolution (WebCite cached article):

Thousands of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real — in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Pupils attending privately-run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland’s most famous mythological beast is a living creature. …

One ACE [Accelerated Christian Education] textbook called Biology 1099, Accelerated Christian Education Inc reads: “Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence.

“Have you heard of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland? ‘Nessie’ for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur.”

Another claim taught is that a Japanese whaling boat once caught a dinosaur.

These are lies, of course. The putative Loch Ness Monster has never been recorded by any imaging device, ever … not by sonar, and not even by photograph — for example, the famous “surgeon’s photo,” above, is a known hoax (cached). Over the last few decades, a number of expeditions have tried to locate and image “Nessie,” but all have failed to do so. If “Nessie” exists, then she’s done a remarkable job of hiding herself from all of these efforts. Maybe this is because she’s aware she’s being searched for and is purposely avoiding detection, specifically in order to deprive skeptics of evidence of her existence …!?

In short … one can’t possibly use “Nessie” as proof evolution isn’t true, because “Nessie” does not even exist!

It’s one thing for private Christianist schools to want to teach this nonsense to their children. They’re free to do so, even if what they’re teaching is wrong. The problem here, as The Scotsman explains, is that public funding is financing the education of some of the kids who’ll be indoctrinated this way:

Thousands of children are to receive publicly-funded vouchers enabling them to attend the [ACE] schools — which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum.

So Louisiana taxpayers will be picking up the tab for some of this religious indoctrination. I’m sure Louisiana’s devoutly religionistic governor, Bobby Jindal, doesn’t view this a a problem, but those of us with brains know otherwise.

* Use of the term “Darwinism” as a label for evolution is a rather transparent — not to mention juvenile — attempt to discredit it. It implies that evolution is merely “the teachings of Darwin,” rather than a valid field of science. Calling a field of science by the name of the person who first brought it to light, is simply not done. We do not, for example, call relativity “Einsteinism,” nor do we call quantum mechanics “Planckism.” Nor is classical physics called “Newtonism.” Really, Creationists need to grow up already and put “Darwinism” to rest, ferfucksakes.

Hat tip: Skeptical Inquirer.

Photo credit: Wikipedia.

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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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Attention Lunatic AtheistsThe persistence of evangelical Christians to cross every line, and break every rule, in their continuous effort to force their Jesus on everyone, amazes me. Nevertheless, they do it constantly. Not all of them, to be sure, but some. And I suppose they can’t be blamed for it. After all, their Jesus ordered them to “go … and make disciples of all the nations,” without adding any caveats to that order. So they’re only doing what they were instructed to do by the founder of their religion.

Reuters reports that the sheriff of Polk County, Florida has been following this mandate as Jesus stated it, going after a vocal atheist in Lakeland (WebCite cached article):

An atheist and self-described member of the “most hated minority in America” has filed a lawsuit accusing a sheriff in Florida’s conservative Bible Belt of arresting her and trampling her constitutional rights because of her work to separate church and state.

EllenBeth Wachs, 48, said her suit against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, an evangelical Christian, puts her at “ground zero” in the struggle against religious intolerance. …

“Mr. Judd is actually using law enforcement to basically do a legal lynching of me,” Wachs told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

She was referring to having been arrested by Judd’s deputies three times since March — what she sees as a campaign of harassment and retaliation against her.

This began a while ago when Wachs insolently dared to inquire about something Judd had done:

Wachs first ran afoul of Judd around Christmas last year, when she filed several public-records requests to look into his decision to donate the Polk County jail’s basketball hoops and other equipment to local churches.

Ordinarily in cases like this, one expects the other party to deny the accusation, or to say something that implies the claims are something other than they appear to be. This time, though, silence has been the reply:

The sheriff’s office declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Of course, there’s probably much more to this story than is in this article. I’m skeptical enough to know that Ms Wachs and her attorney are presenting this story in the best-possible light for their side. Even so, the Polk County sheriff’s department’s total silence suggests there’s at least a bit of merit in the suit. This contest has only just begun, and I expect there’s more to come. So stay tuned.

Oh, and if Sheriff Grady Judd is looking for force more people to his Jesus, I sincerely invite him to come here and make me a Christian. If he dares.

Photo credit: Chairman Meow.

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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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Hell: If you think Christianity exists only to help you avoid it, you're doing it wrong.The hubbub over evangelical pastor Rob Bell and his supposed universalism hasn’t let up yet. Perhaps in memory of a momentous article that magazine published decades ago (cached), Time magazine — in its cover-article overview of the Bell/universalism controversy — asks the question, “Is Hell Dead?” (WebCite cached article):

The standard Christian view of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is summed up in the Gospel of John, which promises “eternal life” to “whosoever believeth in Him.” Traditionally, the key is the acknowledgment that Jesus is the Son of God, who, in the words of the ancient creed, “for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … and was made man.” In the Evangelical ethos, one either accepts this and goes to heaven or refuses and goes to hell.

Bell, a tall, 40-year-old son of a Michigan federal judge, begs to differ. He suggests that the redemptive work of Jesus may be universal — meaning that, as his book’s subtitle puts it, “every person who ever lived” could have a place in heaven, whatever that turns out to be. Such a simple premise, but with Easter at hand, this slim, lively book has ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond.

The Time article is in five pieces in its online form; here’s page 2 (cached), page 3 (cached), page 4 (cached), and page 5 (cached).

I’ve blogged a couple times already about this particular controversy and the fierce anger it’s engendered within the evangelical Christian community. The assumption seems to be that, if you take away the possibility that people might end up in Hell, Christianity suddenly becomes useless and moot.

This view is hypersimplistic, juvenile and short-sighted. It basically obviates all of Jesus’ teachings, and relegates him to the role of a cosmic magician whose death and resurrection are the only things about him that matter.

At the risk of — ironically — appearing to be a skeptical, cynical, godless agnostic heathen who dares to deliver a sermon on the meaning and importance of Christianity, I must point out that (if the gospels are to be believed, anyway) Christianity is about more than just “Hell-avoidance.”

Consider, for example, the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. These two discourses are not just about getting a “Get out of Hell free” pass; they’re about humility and sacrifice, as expressions of divinity on earth. While they state that humility and sacrifice will be rewarded, the content of these is not about the reward itself (which is avoiding Hell), they are instead about the hard work of being humble and of the godliness of sacrifice, and about how doing it will make “the Kingdom of Heaven” real.

Moreover, these discourses were the product of Jesus’ apocalypticism, a view which held that the end of all things was imminent, so concerning oneself with the present, with the physical, and with triviality, was useless. Giving everything — and I do mean everything, even one’s own personal welfare and survival — up to God was far preferable. That’s what holiness was about, to Jesus himself while he walked the earth and preached. Evangelicals’ obsession with (what they view as) the horror of Bell’s “heresy” is, by contrast, perhaps the height of triviality itself.

Any Christians who think Hell-avoidance is the entire point of being a Christian, therefore, cannot really be Christians. They’re doing it wrong. They would do well to put a crowbar to their Bibles, crack them upen just a tiny bit, and deign to read the gospels they claim to revere but know little or nothing about.

Photo credit: PsiCop original based on Signorelli’s Hell, via diy.despair.com.

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Last Judgment (Arkhangelsk)I’ve blogged twice about the controversy over evangelical pastor Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins. Supposedly, Bell is an evil, Satan-loving heretic who dares promote the vile and disgusting heresy known as “universalism,” or the idea that all human beings will somehow — eventually — be saved. The uproar over his book hasn’t abated, though, and it’s even had some casualties. The AP (via MSNBC) reports that one of them is a pastor in Henderson, NC who lost his job over it (WebCite cached article):

The pastor of a rural United Methodist church in North Carolina wrote a note on his Facebook page supporting a new book by Rob Bell, a prominent young evangelical pastor and critic of the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal torment for billions of damned souls.

Two days later, [Chad] Holtz was told complaints from church members prompted his dismissal from Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson.

Although Holtz’s Facebook posting triggered his firing, it’s not the only point of disagreement he had with his own congregation:

Church members had also been unhappy with Internet posts about subjects like gay marriage and the mix of religion and patriotism, Holtz said, and the hell post was probably the last straw.

I guess modern thinking is objectionable to evangelical southern Christians. They would, of course, be better off if they would just stop the spiritual/psychological terror campaign they conduct against others (e.g. “You MUST believe what I tell you to believe, or you’ll spend eternity IN FLAMES!!!”). But they’re too childish to do that … so they won’t.

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

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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