Posts Tagged “fundamentalism”

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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AngusTJonesHWOFSept2011Most of us assume that religious people are capable of feeling a certain amount of gratitude for the things they have in their lives. But all too often, they don’t. For example, fierce Christofascist Glenn Beck bolted from Fox News, the network that placed him front and center in America’s living rooms, just as soon as they’d made him famous enough to build his own publishing operation (WebCite cached article).

The latest example of a religionist publicly biting the hand that feeds him, is actor Angus Jones of Two and a Half Men. The (UK) Guardian reports that, now that he’s a fundamentalist Christian, Jones is railing against his own show and begging people not to watch it (cached):

If all publicity is good publicity, Two and a Half Men has once again hit the marketing jackpot. The show, which survives and apparently thrives on its off-screen dramas, has added new elements into the mix: God, Satan and eternal damnation.

Angus Jones, better known as the character Jake Harper, the adolescent “half” in the title, has released two videos criticising the CBS sitcom, now in its 10th season, as “filth”, and urging viewers to shun it lest they become contaminated.

The 19-year-old actor, who reportedly earns $350,000 per show, making him the highest paid teenager in US television, made the pleas after embracing the Forerunner Chronicles, a California-based Christian group which warns about evil in entertainment.

Wow. What a class act this kid is. He makes his fortune on a TV show, becoming one of the highest-paid performers in the industry … and decides to denounce it as evil and Satanic. Boy, that’s Christian gratitude for ya! Well done, kid. Well done. I’m sure your Jesus would be so proud!

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Michele BachmannWith Christofascist Michele Bachmann leaping to the fore of the pack of Religious Rightists who are climbing all over each other to become the Republican candidate for president next year, and she being a rigid fundamentalist Christian, I suppose it was inevitable that the scriptural role of women in Christianity (especially in Bachmann’s version of it) would come up. She appeared on all the Sunday shows — since she won the more or less useless Iowa Straw Poll — and addressed this on Face the Nation, as CBS News reports (WebCite cached article):

Appearing on “Face the Nation” Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann stood by her comment in Thursday’s Republican debate that when she said that wives should be submissive to their husbands, she meant that married couples should have mutual respect.

In 2006, Bachmann said her husband had told her to get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. “Tax law? I hate taxes,” she continued. “Why should I go into something like that? But the lord says, be submissive. Wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands.'”

Naturally, therefore, this dutiful scriptural Christian wife did precisely as her husband had told her to do. In other words, she was obedient. However, when questioned on this, Bachmann said something very different:

“I respect my husband, he respects me,” she said. “We have been married 33 years, we have a great marriage…and respecting each other, listening to each other is what that means.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see how “obedience” can be “mutual,” a word which implies “equality.” Continued questions only caused Bachmann to fall into even more ridiculous semantic claims:

“Do you think submissive means subservient?” O’Donnell asked.

“Not to us,” Bachmann said. “To us it means respect. We respect each other, we listen to each other, we love each other and that is what it means.”

Unfortunately, neither “submissive” nor “subservient” even comes close to implying the kind of equanimity that Bachmann outlines in that last sentence.

Those not familiar with fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this is all about. It comes from two Bible verses, nearly identical, found in two different deutero-Pauline epistles — Ephesians 5:22 and Colossians 3:18. These are translated into English variously:

Ephesians 5:22

Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (New American Standard Bible)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (King James Version)
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. (New American Bible)

Colossians 3:18

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (NASB)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (KJV)
Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. (NAB)

In the original Greek, these verses are as follows (courtesy of Unbound Bible):

αι γυναικες τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν υποτασσεσθε ως τω κυριω (Ephesians 5:22)

αι γυναικες υποτασσεσθε τοις ιδιοις ανδρασιν ως ανηκεν εν κυριω (Colossians 3:18)

The Greek word in question, then, is υποτασσεσθε, a form of the verb υποτασσω which can mean any of the following: “to submit to,” “place under,” “be subordinate to,” “to obey,” “be under the authority of,” etc. but which is assuredly related to υποτιμω, which means “to abase.” Not one of these possible meanings of υποτασσω comes anywhere near to expressing the kind of equanimity or mutuality that Bachmann suggests it means. In fact, the context of the verse — both in Greek and in English translation — only further confirms that it means anything but equality, and that is in the mention of “lordship” (e.g. “as unto the Lord” or τω κυριω). The concept being conveyed in both verses is that the husband-&-wife relationship is the equivalent of the Jesus-Christ-to-his-Church relationship, in which the latter is decidedly subject to (or subordinate to, or under the authority of, however you want to say it) the former. There is absolutely no equality, either stated or implied, in either of these verses. Not one iota of it. (Pun intended.)

The bottom line of both these verses is that wives — and by extension, all women — constitute a second-class within Christianity. No other interpretation of these verses makes any sense, because the exact words here cannot be construed to mean anything else — if one assumes (as Bachmann and her fellow fundamentalists supposedly do) that the Bible can only be read strictly and literally. If on the other hand one assumes these epistles were written by mere human beings, and specifically by male authors trying to propound their authority over women … well … that’s something else.

Really, this whole idiotic episode is just Bachmann’s way of veering out of the way of the strict scriptural directive that women are to be subordinate to men, so that she can then justify running for president, an office in which she would have authority over men (if she were elected). There’s no way around it.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr.

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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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