Posts Tagged “torrington CT”

What part of 'When you pray, go into your inner room' did you not understand? (from Mt 6:6, NASB) / PsiCop original graphicSince their religion was founded, Christians appear to have had a lot of trouble with the teachings of their own religion. As I’ve explained at length, according to their own scripture, Jesus left behind some fairly clear and unambiguous instructions for them, that they more or less ignore. Some of this isn’t entirely unreasonable; after all, strictly following the order to “turn the other cheek” in every conflict could — if the circumstances are dire enough — result in injury or even death. So I get why Christians might not be too eager to obey that one all the time.

That said, some of Jesus’ instructions are far less harmful to follow, yet Christians have, historically, dug their heels in against them and refuse to follow them. Among those is his injunction against public piety. The gospel according to Matthew reports that Jesus said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Mt 6:1-6)

In spite of this clear and explicit order, Christians don’t seem to hesitate to let others know they’re Christians, that they’re righteous, and that they worship their deity. They desperately want other people to know they’re Christians, and they never shy away from ensuring that the rest of the world knows it.

Just today, not too far away from me in the northwestern Connecticut, as the Torrington Register-Citizen reports, they got together in what amounts to an orgiastic display of anti-scriptural public piety (WebCite cached article):

More than 150 people gathered at Coe Memorial Park [in Torrington] from Saturday morning until the evening for a day of worship, entertainment and food during the 2013 Praise God Fest.

All the entertainment and food was donated, and there were several volunteers helping serve food and offer information during the festival.

The stated explanation for why they did this is pretty lame:

Michael Oleksiw is a pastor at the Freedom Hills Christian Center in Torrington, and is the coordinator for Praise God Fest.…

“Christians are real people, regular people,” Oleksiw said. “We have fun, and we just want to tell people abut the hope that we have in our lives as Christians.”

I mean, seriously, who isn’t aware that Christians are “real people”? We need this display of public Christian piety, to know that? Really?

Oleksiw’s “explanation” implies that Christians are some kind of tiny minority that’s maligned and misunderstood or something. But this is patently absurd; Christianity is the majority religion in the US, in Connecticut, and even in the city of Torrington. They aren’t misunderstood at all.

The rationales that Christians cook up to explain why they think they can display their piety openly and publicly, in spite of Jesus’ clear order never to do so, are mind-boggling. In fact, they border on incoherent. See, for example, my exchange with a Christian in the comments on this Hartford FAVS article).

One explanation I’ve heard is that, when in verse 6 of the Matthew passage Jesus said to “go into your inner room” to pray, he wasn’t giving a blanket order to all Christians to do this all the time; it was just an example of something they might want to do … sometimes. This, however, doesn’t make sense in light of the overall passage. Jesus opened that particular teaching (in verse 1) with a general statement: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” He then went on to give examples of the “hypocrites” behaving unacceptably: Being seen giving to the poor (verses 2-4), and standing in the streets to pray (verse 5). In verse 6 he turns back to his followers, and tells them to “go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret,” which contrasts with the behavior of the “hypocrites.”

Unfortunately, the idea that verse 6 is merely an example and not a universal instruction doesn’t hold up in the language of those verses … whether in the original Greek or in translation. Verse 6 opens with a distinct break, that being the Greek phrase συ δε (su de); it’s usually translated as “But you …” although for me, a closer and more literal English equivalent would be, “You, however …” In either case, there’s a clear break in Jesus’ address. He’s obviously going from having given two examples of “the hypocrites’” bad behavior, to telling his audience what they need to do, by comparison.

This kind of irrational and illogical semantic dance is to be expected of a religion that’s ostensibly based on strict readings of a particular batch of writings. I get why they do this: After all, what good is it to be a Christian, if you aren’t going to get noticed for being one? Even so, no literate Christian has any viable excuse for not being aware of Matthew 6:1-6 and Jesus’ explicit injunction against public piety. It’s time for Christians to grow up, suck it, and obey the teachings of their own religion. Even the teachings that are inconvenient.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 6:6.

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Screenshot from Twitter, via the Torrington Register Citizen (http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2013/03/20/news/doc51493e14b1a0a944806262.txt)I’m marking this post as “off-topic,” even though I’ve blogged a number of times about misogyny — mostly because it lies at the heart of many religions. That said, it’s often found elsewhere, and is certainly not solely a religious problem.

Most of you know by now about the Steubenville, OH rape case which made headlines over the last few months and for which a trial was just concluded (WebCite cached article). This case was a long and disgusting parade of bad behavior by many people in and around Steubenville: Kids who sent pictures of the incident, and even video commentaries on it, to each other; bullying of the victim; conspiracies to cover up what happened; football coach Reno Saccoccia threatening a reporter (cached); intervention — on the victim’s behalf — of the Internet group Anonymous; and many more examples of hideously bad behavior.

Among the problems has been that the perpetrators have been defended by a chorus of folks, locals and others alike, who presume that the victim was responsible for the rape, since she partied with football players and got drunk. In other words, she had “asked for it.” At times, even media outlets seemed to have more sympathy for the rapists than for the victim (cached).

Another point that’s been frequently made, is that high school football is “king” in Steubenville, a place where football players are revered and granted hallowed status, given carte blanche to do as they wish. The implication is that Steubenville is one of those rare places where this sort of thing could happen.

I’m sorry to report, however, the idea that this is a localized, unique phenomenon, turns out not to be true at all. A very similar situation is playing out unnervingly close to me, in Torrington, CT, as the Torrington Register Citizen has diligently reported over the last several days (cached):

As international media scrutiny fell on Torrington, police confirmed Wednesday that charges against two 18-year-old Torrington High School football players, as well as an unidentified 17-year-old city male, stemmed from the alleged sexual assaults of two 13-year-old girls.

Both Joan Toribio, 330 Highland Ave., and Edgar Gonzalez, 18, of the same address, but different apartments, have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of sexual assault and two charges of risk of injury to a minor. Toribio is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault, while Gonzalez is charged with one.

Before the story gained media attention, it had already created a storm of controversy within the school community. Students flocked to social media in the days surrounding the arrests of Gonzalez and Toribio, with several students offering support for the two football players and others blaming the victims for causing the incident. References included calling a 13-year-old who hangs around with 18-year-olds a “whore,” and claiming the victims “destroyed” the lives of the players.

The RC, to its credit, actually published the full contents — including names! — of kids who’d posted comments on the Internet deriding the victim and supporting the accused rapists (cached).

Similarities between these cases are rather obvious, especially since Anonymous has gotten involved with the Torrington incident (cached):

Twitter users from around the country — including some affiliated with the hacktivist group Anonymous — reacted Wednesday morning to allegations of sexual assault and victim-bullying at Torrington High School.…

Anonymous, the online group of hackers and activists, have begun to take up the Torrington case as their latest cause. In the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, also involving football players, Anonymous members dug up Youtube videos, tweets, public records and hacked private files to post a Wikileaks-style dossier of information, pushing the rape into the public eye. They called that “operation,” #OpRollRedRoll.

“#OpRaider is the new #OpRollRedRoll,” tweeted @YourAnonNews late Wednesday night, refering to the high school’s mascot, the Red raiders. “Torrington better take note of #Steubenville because they’re about to go on blast. #endrapeculture”

YourAnonNews is one of the larger news distribution accounts for Anonymous members.

(For benefit of those not native to northwest Connecticut, Torrington High School’s athletic teams are “the Raiders.”)

One of the worst parts about this case is how Torrington school officials have reacted to it:

“If you look at crime statistics these things happen everywhere and we’re not any different than any other community,” said [Athletic Director Mike] McKenna.

Even though the 13-year-olds went along with what happened, that doesn’t make it right. This is statutory rape, plain and simple. 18 year old men know they aren’t supposed to do what they’ve been accused of.

What’s worse, the school, and football coach Dan Dunaj (who’s since resigned) allowed Gonzalez to play last year, in spite of felony and misdemeanor charges against him based on a March 2012 incident. (He claims not to have been aware of them. Yeah right.) Superintendent Cheryl Kloczko referred everyone to the aforementioned McKenna.

Yeah, these people are a wonderful crew who really care about the victims … Not!

That Kloczko, the Torrington school system’s chief, sloughed off this affair to her athletic director … after having ordered him and the rest of the school system to silence on the matter (cached) … is the pinnacle of cowardice. If she refuses to discuss the case, she should at least have the fortitude to take reporters’ calls and tell them, “No comment,” instead of avoiding them entirely and using her employees to wall herself off from the world.

On the whole, I’m not surprised at any of this. I’m not surprised a couple of 18-year-old high school football players decided to have sex with 13-year-olds despite knowing it’s illegal to do so. I’m not surprised a bunch of kids in their school are defending them and targeting the victim for having reported the incident. I’m not surprised there are Torringtonians — kids and adults — who figure that “boys will be boys” and that statutory rape is all just a normal part of growing up, or worse, that the victims “wanted it,” so it shouldn’t be illegal. I’m not surprised the folks who run the school system are acting like sniveling little cowards and avoiding having to give any answers.

Really, I’m not surprised at any of this. Nor should you be. Why? Because we’re seeing simple human nature at play.

It’s inevitable that teens will misbehave. It goes without saying it will happen. The point is, how do people deal with it, when it does? An honorable school system and community would admit the wrongdoing occurred, would comfort and help the victims, discipline the perpetrators, and stop the perpetrators’ defenders. Unfortunately, all of these things require something very few human beings have: Courage. When faced with unpleasantness, it’s much easier to deny it than to accept that it occurred. It’s much easier to bully victims than to provide them help and support. It’s much easier to let juvenile delinquents stay delinquent, than to do the work of disciplining them. It’s just so much easier to act as if nothing went wrong, and that by having brought the incident to people’s attention, the victims are actually the perpetrators, rather than the other way around.

In general, human beings are cowardly and lazy, always preferring “the easy way out” to getting off their asses and doing what needs to be done. Bullies — including teen bullies — are by nature intimidating people, and most folks, even school personnel, prefer to avoid confrontation; so they cast a blind eye toward bullying and act as though there’s nothing wrong with it.

As for the idea that the intense coverage of this case somehow is doing a disservice to Torrington, and that it’s all just so unfair … well, that’s just whiny crybaby talk. The cold fact is that all of this happened. That the RC posted full images of nasty, hateful Internet comments — not shielding the posters’ identities — is entirely appropriate. They originally posted their viciousness in public on the Internet without any consideration of who might see it. They are not entitled, later, to any privacy or protection. They said it, they did so very publicly, and now they need to fucking own it. If it makes them look bad, well, they’ve earned it and they have no one but themselves to blame.

P.S. The Torrington Register Citizen has published an online FAQ about this case, providing background information as well as the current “bottom line” of how things stand at the moment. It’s fully linked to the RC‘s own prior coverage, as well as other sources of information. It should be a useful summary for those who haven’t followed it over the last several days.

Photo credit: Twitter screenshot, via the Torrington Register Citizen.

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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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Pac Man GhostThe “hauntings as news” phenomenon is one I’ve blogged about many times, as a sterling example of lazy journalism at its most obvious. A nearby newspaper, the Torrington Register Citizen (part of the barely-alive collection of rags known as Journal Register Company) is a chief offender in this regard; they’ve reported several times on hauntings and ghosts as though they are real news stories deserving professional journalistic attention. That ghosts do not exist, and that hauntings do not really happen, appears not to matter to the RC‘s hypercredulous staff. They just continue running after every ghost they hear about, including this latest example of their idiocy and laziness (WebCite cached article):

RISEUP Paranormal CT, an affiliate of the Rhode Island based RISEUP Paranormal Group will be investigating the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut on January 16th. The Connecticut based group is led by Gail Capolupo, Ann Collette, Don Krantz and Thomas Flanagan.

We are to be confident that these people are experts on ghosts, for reasons the RC carefully copies verbatim (I assume, since it reads that way) from the group’s press release:

RISEUP (The Rhode Island Society for the Examination of Unusual Phenomena) is a non-profit organization that specializes in researching, investigating, and documenting reported hauntings, UFO/USO experiences, and unidentified mysterious animal sightings. Members are trained to apply science in order to seek logical explanations about supposed paranormal events through the use of surveillance tools, recording devices and common sense. While RISEUP remains open to the existence of ghosts, spirits, extraterrestrial beings and crypto zoological animals, each investigation is conducted without pretensions allowing the group to conduct research as unbiased observers.

These are not really valid “credentials” granting weight to any of their determinations, however. That they’re non-profit does not mean they can’t be deluded or incompetent. That they “document” things does not grant veracity to what they document. That they claim to “apply science” to things, does not mean they actually do. That these people are “open” to strange things means they may be too credulous to bother looking into mundane, non-mystical explanations for things. That they claim to investigate “without pretensions” does not mean they actually do. That they say they’re “unbiased” does not mean they actually are. For all I know, these folks may sincerely believe the pablum and nonsense they’re serving up. But that also does not grant them any veracity.

The only way to establish the veracity of ghosts, is to subject them to rigorous, valid scientific testing. To date, this has never even been attempted, much less tried and failed. Anyone who is certain s/he can do so, would do well to submit an application to the James “the Amazing” Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, collect his/her prize, and become instantly wealthy.

And yes, the Randi Foundation has that money set aside. Yes, you will be allowed a say in how your own test is conducted. And not to worry if you don’t need all that money, you can always donate it to charity … so don’t let that stop you! If you’re right, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by doing so.

Lastly … I’ve been to the now-magnificent Warner Theater in Torrington many times, beginning way back in the 70s when it was a dreary, run-down movie theater, rather than the art-deco live theater it is now. I’ve been in its backstage areas and all around the building. But never once have I seen even the slightest hint of anything that could even remotely be called a ghost. I grant that I’m a cold-hearted godless agnostic cynic and skeptic, so I guess the ghosts there have — quite obviously — read my mind, detected that, and steered clear of me so that I would remain skeptical.

Or something like that, the true believers love to say.

Photo credit: acordova.

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Yet another old complaint about Christmas is the use of “Xmas” as a shorthand for “Christmas.” I was reminded of this when I saw a story in a nearby paper, the Torrington Register-Citizen, about the “Christmas Village” annually hosted in their city. The headline of this story is “Xmas Village opening soon.” Commenters, however, almost immediately weighed in with how terrible this was of the paper to do. For instance:

atilla wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:19 AM:
” Please replace the “X” with “Christ” as it should be. Non-believers need not comment. “

Should be wrote on Dec 2, 2009 4:49 AM:
” I can’t believe the headline reads “XMAS VILLAGE”, should be CHRISTMAS VILLAGE ” …

Get it straight wrote on Dec 2, 2009 8:13 AM:
” The name of it is CHRISTMAS VILLAGE. It’s not “X mas Village”!!!!! What is wrong with you people down there???!!! “

That’s just a sampling … many of the comments say pretty much the same.

For the record, however, “Xmas” is just as valid a way to name the holiday celebrating Jesus’ birth, as “Christmas.” It is not “disrespectful,” since the “X” in “Xmas” literally means “Christ.”

Allow me to explain.

The Greek letter Χ or chi is the the first letter in “Christ” as the Greeks wrote it (i.e., Χριστος or Christos). In Christianity’s earliest days the most common language spoken by Christians was Greek. And they often abbreviated the name “Christ” by using the single letter Χ or chi. (Note that this was but one of many ancient scribal “shortcuts” which were used, to help speed up writing. The modern ampersand or “and-symbol,” “&,” is another remnant of a different — but similar — shortcut.)

Now, as it happens, in other languages there is no single letter for the Greek Χ, since they did not have such a sound, or they wrote it in a different way (such as the “CH” digraph). So instead of the Greek chi, they wrote another similar-shaped letter, that being “X,” which ended up being a letter in English.

That’s really all there is to this. In a very real way, there truly is an “X” in “Christmas,” because the “X” literally means “Christ”!

It turns out that there are many other symbols or replacements for “Christ” or “Jesus Christ” which continue to be used even today, such as the IHS monograph (which figured prominently in one of my blog entries this past April). Another is the chi-rho, a symbol which is a concatenation of the first two Greek letters in Christos, i.e. Χ and Ρ (chi and rho).

These and other similar symbols and shortcuts are known collectively as christograms. The “X” as used in “Xmas,” then, is just another of these christograms. Not one of these was ever intended as “disrespectful.” They are, instead, just alternative ways of writing “Christ” or “Jesus” or both.

This is not, of course, the first time that comments on Register-Citizen Web articles have betrayed ignorance on the part of its readers.

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It must be a slow news day here in northwestern Connecticut. One of the local papers, the Torrington Register Citizen, ran a news story about — of all things! — a putative ghost in a city bar. Yes, that’s right … reports of a ghost at a bar, are news (WebCite cached version):

Is there a ghost in Snapper Magee’s? After an investigation this past weekend it is possible.

Now, don’t ask how reporter Ronald Derosa conducted this “investigation.” In fact, he didn’t. It was someone else entirely:

Around 2 a.m. Sunday morning, after the popular Water Street bar closed, the Northwest Connecticut Paranormal Society came in to investigate reports that the building may have a spirit inside. A team of five investigators, including a sensitive and a psychic came by from the Professional Investigations and Presentations group, equipped with an assortment of tools to conduct a proper paranormal search, said John Zontok, the director of the organization.

We all know — of course! — that an organization dedicated to the “paranormal” is going to be objective and above-board about such an investigation, and be as skeptical about these “ghost rumors” as anyone can possibly be.

Right?

If so, you’d be mistaken:

From 2 to 5 a.m. the team remained, setting up eight infra-red night vision cameras, EVP sensors to pick up voices, and tools to measure the electro-magnetic field, Zontok said.

The result: there was a high amount of magnetic energy in the front of the bar as well as in one room on the second floor where there was no electricity at all, he said.

“Which could possibly mean there was a presence there, trying to show itself to us,” he said.

Zontok concludes there must be “a presence” there … there can’t possibly be any other explanation for magnetism. It’s not possible, for example, for there to have been some steel somewhere in the building structure, that accounts for it.

He checked for the presence of “electricity,” and ruled that out.

So there must be “a presence” there, which has nothing better to do with its time, than sit and wait for Zontok and his crew to stroll in, set up equipment, then tamper with it while it’s there.

(Note to Zontok and his pals: Magnetism doesn’t require the presence of electrical current. Really!)

You might ask, “Is this guy for real?” Unfortunately the answer is a big “YES!” There are a lot of people who take this very seriously and they soak it up enormously. It’s fodder for a number of television shows, including one that Zontok’s group will work with:

Now, the group is ready to be featured on the Discovery Channel this October, around Halloween, he said.

It’s nice to see how, with all the things that are happening in this country, in this state, and even this part of Connecticut, that the Register Citizen can find the time and space in its pages to tell us all about this important haunting. (I shouldn’t make fun of the REeven venerable newspapers such as the Hartford Courant sometimes resort to crap like this.)

Just in case anyone out there isn’t clear on the matter … there are no such things as ghosts. For a professional journalist to decide that there are … or even that they might exist … is inexcusable.

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