Posts Tagged “kidnapping”

John Lanza, pastor at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church. JOE HERMITT, The Patriot-NewsFour months ago I blogged about a wingnut church in Pennsylvania which had staged fake kidnappings of kids taking part in its youth ministry. The church claimed to be doing this in order to “teach” its kids about persecution of Christians. That one of the kids was injured during this little stunt, didn’t bother them at the time. Well, it may have taken them a while to do so, but the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News reports that commonwealth officials have decided to file charges over it (WebCite cached article):

Dauphin County prosecutors today charged a church and its pastor after a mock “terrorism raid” in March.

The fake raid occurred at Glad Tidings Assembly of God Church in Lower Swatara Township [cached] when four men — one carrying an unloaded but real gun — rushed into a room full of youth-group participants, put pillowcases over their heads and forced them into a van. The children didn’t know the raid was fake. One was injured.

The district attorney’s office filed charges of false imprisonment, a felony, and simple assault against the church and youth pastor Andrew D. Jordan, 28.

The church remains defiant and unapologetic over this, even after the charges were filed:

Lanza and Jordan are still listed as lead and youth pastors, respectively, on the church’s website [cached].

My guess is, Glad Tidings will continue intoning the mantra that all they were doing was “teaching persecution of Christians” and insist no harm was done — in spite of the fact that at least one child involved was injured. Raging paranoia has crept into America’s evangelical churches, and their persecution complex has long since set in. Pastor John Lanza, who runs this church, and the rest of his staff probably are not even aware of how delusional they’ve become. There’s a slight possibility that criminal proceedings might wake them up to that fact, but more likely, they’ll view them as further evidence that they’re being “persecuted” and they’ll become even more convinced of it than they already were. Sigh.

Photo credit: Joe Hermitt / The Patriot-News.

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Glad Tidings Assembly of God, Middletown, PANote: There’s additional news about this story.

Over the years I’ve mentioned, many times, the tendency of devout Christians to obsess about “persecution.” They just can’t help but consider themselves “persecuted” — going as far as to invent persecution where it doesn’t exist (as in most of the occidental world, where Christianity is the majority religion). That there is some persecution of Christians in some parts of the world fuels their obsession, and knowing that it can’t happen here doesn’t seem to have any effect on that.

Almost unbelievably, a church in Middletown, PA has gone as far to stage fake kidnappings of kids in its own congregation — essentially “creating” persecution that’s not actually happening — and, as the Washington Post On Faith blog reports, they’re using that true persecution abroad in order to justify these outrageous exercises (WebCite cached article):

The men burst into the church classroom and ordered the 15 teens in the youth group to the floor.

They covered the teens’ heads with pillowcases and bound their hands. One man waved an unloaded gun, and another yelled, his face daubed with camouflage paint. …

It sounds terrifying, but there’s a catch: The raid was fake, staged to show the teens the perils faced by Christian missionaries in the world’s trouble spots, [the Rev. John] Lanza said.

Yet it traumatized one 14-year-old girl so badly that her mother filed a report with the police, claiming her daughter suffered a busted lip and bruised knees.

They did this without even getting parental permission:

Neither she nor the other teens in the group knew the raid was coming, Lanza said. He said church officials didn’t notify their parents, either.

As I said, the excuse given for this is the fact that Christians are being persecuted elsewhere, and in response to a particular incident of persecution:

“This is to give students a sense of the constant threat brought against missionaries everywhere,” [Lanza] said.

The mock raid came on the heels of the terrorist slaying in Yemen of a Lancaster County man, Joel Shrum, who was killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle in the city of Taiz on March 18.

Shrum was learning Arabic and teaching English, according to his family. A group linked to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for his murder, saying Shrum was proselytizing.

Lanza said Shrum’s slaying is just one example of why it’s important for students to know the dangers of mission work.

Amazingly for a representative of “the Religion of Love” who ought to be showing compassion for others, Lanza is unrepentant, doesn’t see the harm in what his church is doing, and thinks it was all just good fun:

“I’m pretty sure she [i.e. the injured teen] was laughing at some point and having fun with the other students,” Jordan told the TV station. “I can’t confirm that, but that’s what I’ve heard from friends of hers that were there.”

Oh yeah, Reverend, I’m sure her injuries were just a lot of rollicking hilarity. No doubt about that.

What’s really happening here is not giving these kids an “education” in how Christians are being persecuted. That can be done rather easily, without staging fake kidnappings. No, the real plan here is to expose them to the sensation of actually being persecuted; in other words, to sensitize them to it. They’ll relive this trauma — which to an extent was very “real” at the time they were experiencing it in spite of it being fake — whenever they hear about persecution of Christians. It’s really very clever on Lanza’s part … not to mention diabolical.

Yes, I get that there is persecution of Christians in some places. Yes, I get that Mr Shrum was killed in Yemen. Yes, that persecution is wrong, and the killing of Mr Shrum was horrible. But terrorizing kids in Pennsylvania is horrible, too … and the former horror does not justify the latter. (To believe so is “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and is fallacious.)

Isn’t it long past time for Christians to grow up to the point where they don’t have to pull shit like this any more, because they no longer feel the need to “be persecuted” for Jesus?

Update: It took a few months, but charges have been filed in this case. Those responsible still refuse to admit any wrongdoing, but they’re delusional, so that’s to be expected.

Photo credit: Glad Tidings Assembly of God Web site.

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The plot thickens concerning the Idaho Baptists who were caught in Haiti trying to sneak some children out of the country (about whom I’ve blogged several times already). First, we hear (from the New York Times) that their leader, Laura Silsby, is no stranger to law enforcement, not in Idaho anyway (WebCite cached article):

The leader of the group of Americans charged on Thursday with abducting children in Haiti is an Idaho businesswoman with a complicated financial history that involves complaints from employees over unpaid wages, state liens on a company bank account and lawsuits in small claims court.

The leader, Laura Silsby, defaulted last July on the mortgage on a house in an unfinished subdivision here in Meridian, a suburb of Boise, according to the Ada County Tax Assessor’s Office. Yet in November, Ms. Silsby registered a new nonprofit, the New Life Children’s Refuge, at the address of the house, which she bought in 2008 for $358,000. …

Ms. Silsby and her business, Personal Shopper, which provides shopping services for Internet customers, have faced multiple legal claims.

According to state records and officials, Personal Shopper has been named 14 times in complaints from employees over unpaid wages. Among the reasons cited by the employees for having not been paid were “no money for payroll” and “fully investor funded and investors have been hit hard by the economy.”

Employees won nine of the cases, forcing Personal Shopper to pay nearly $31,000 in wages and $4,000 in fines. The Idaho Department of Labor initially put liens on a company bank account to get the money.

Nevertheless, despite her questionable business history, Ms Silsby has some very loyal and very religious supporters:

Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, where five of the Americans charged in Haiti attend services, said Ms. Silsby had attended his church for about two years.

“You wouldn’t find any finer Christian people than these people,” Mr. Henry said in an interview earlier this week.

Uh, OK, pastor. Whatever you say.

In addition to this, it appears that Ms Silsby’s nine followers are no longer fans of hers, as the New York Times (again!) is reporting (WebCite cached article):

Divisions emerged within the group of 10 Americans jailed in Haiti on child abduction charges, with eight of them signing a note over the weekend saying that they had been misled by Laura Silsby, the leader of the group.

“Laura wants to control,” said the scribbled note handed to a producer for NBC News. “We believe lying. We’re afraid.”

The infighting came amid a shakeup in the legal representation of the Americans, who have been charged with trying to remove 33 Haitian children from the country without government permission. …

The note signed by the group, which is affiliated with a Baptist church in Twin Falls, Idaho, made clear that they were emotionally distraught and divided. “We fear for our lives here in Haiti,” said the letter, which was signed by everyone except Ms. Silsby and Charisa Coulter, Ms. Silsby’s former nanny and co-founder of the group.

“We only came as volunteers,” the note went on. “We had NOTHING to do with any documents and have been lied to.”

It’s too bad it took being jailed in Haiti before they figured out Ms Silsby is not to be trusted.

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