Thursday, December 25, 2008
Good question! Anger, frustration over the refusal to even comprehend your side of the story, maybe sadness in some people, but I think most feel anger or frustration. Not just about atheism, but simply having a different opinion regarding politics, fashion, art, and even the basic minutia of life.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I went to see 'Twilight', and liked it. I'm not going to write a detailed review, but there was an unexpected personal moment when it's revealed our heroine's mother lives in Jacksonville, Florida. It reaches further heights of absurdity when her vampire lover tells her, "You must go to Jacksonville where it's safe!"
Yeah, right! I'm practically guffawing in my seat.
Safe? From what?
Well, in the movie, we're talking about being safe from fueding vampire and werewolf clans in the great Pacific Northwest.
Okay, we're going to exchange the dramatic scenery of that beautiful American rainforest just to get away from some vampires and werewolves? What in the world is safe about Jacksonville? They've got vampires and werewolves, you just find them filling the pews every Sunday morning. Most are deacons and pastors.
Sure our heroine will be safe! Instead of vampires and werewolves, she'll have to deal with pedophile preachers, sex starved deacons, oxycontin-addled conservatives, and crack houses galore sandwiched between two malls and a beach.
Read any book by Florida resident, Carl Hiassen (author, STRIPTEASE). He'd agree with me.
If that's the best Stephanie Meyer, author of TWILIGHT can come up with, may I suggest a few key places in Orange County, CA?
You're safe anywhere on Garden Grove Boulevard after 12AM, or, for that matter, anyplace in the City of Westminister after 3AM. You might see some people with emaciated looks, glazed eyes, who are unable to stay in the sunlight for long.
Fear not, although some might claim to be vampires, they're mostly just speed freaks with no place else to go.
I think you'll be safe.
Monday, December 1, 2008
I'm cruising the web and decide to google myself. It's not something I do every day. Maybe once a year?
Imagine my surprise when I find that I'm the subject of an article that's accusing me of spreading a story that Jeri Massi (author of Schizophrenic Christianity) attended Hyles Anderson College! Not only attended Hyles Anderson, but also met Voyle Glover there!
That's news to me because I never said or wrote that! The proof text is not given and the article from where the accusation came from was never printed.
The article they refer to, I presume, is from a review I wrote of Jeri's book, Schizophrenic Christianity. I removed the article from this blog for reasons I believe share similarities with Trinity leadership covering up the Bob Gray affair: because it would not look good for advocates of victims to appear conflicted.
I've since crossed the border of 'care/don't care' a long time ago. Ergo, I have no problem with re-printing the review today.
Your assignment, class, before you read, is to glance at this article from spiffinwheeze.
Now, after reading, go through my review, which I freely admit is stream of conscious, and find where I mentioned Jeri Massi attended Hyles Anderson (let alone met Voyle Glover)! Never happened.
I limit myself solely to what she wrote in her bio. Her character, Grace, may have went to a college inspired by places like Hyles Anderson, but I never made the claim about Jeri. I challenge anyone to dig up that piece of info.
While you're reading it, notice the picture of the grave of Bob Gray (above, click on pic to see a bigger image). It's presented as a public service. Although some from Trinity once criticized my first posting of this picture, I think you'll understand, given the context of the article, why I'm reposting.
The image reflects that the gravestone commemorates Gray as 'devoted husband and father' and a 'Sgt' in 'World War 2'. Nothing about 'man of God', unless that's her interpretation of what a devoted husband, father, and WW2 Sgt stand for.
Regarding the other opinions, I stand by them. Her psychology hearkens back to the days when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. I'm not finding any caveat in the quoted sections to escape the interpretation that, in some circumstances, it appears permissible to blame the victim. If that's not what she meant, the passages need to be re-written.
PS: If you wish to host a discussion about this, do so at the FFF. I've disabled comments because I've decided to emulate the great bloggers who claim to accept comments, then give creative reasons for not publishing critical ones. In this case, I've decided to be a little more honest by simply eliminating them.
NOTE: All italics in this article are mine for emphasis.
Jeri Massi, the author of Schizophrenic Christianity, is the one person who almost did what I thought was impossible. She makes me look at Trinity in a slightly more sympathetic manner. A reader once contacted me about what exactly was on Bob Gray's tombstone. The origins from the question most likely began with Jeri's post at the Fighting Fundamentalist Forum.
From her thread: Visited Bob Gray's grave today.
"I'm in Jacksonville, and my host asked if I wanted to see the Trinity campus. I said yes, and we drive around the campus. On the right side (as youdrive up), it looks liek a drab compound: low, block-like buildings. As you come around the other side, where the football stadium is, it looks more like a school campus.
In the back is a cemetary, and Bob Gray has an imposing monument and flat plaque commemorating him as a man of God."
There is not a flat plaque commemorating him as a man of God. The flat plaque commemorates him as a husband, father, and soldier. While there are still people around who do regard him as a man of God, that is not what the plaque says. I posted a picture to prove this and was chastised by anonymous posters, probably from Trinity, even though this is evidence we are dealing with a personality prone to exaggeration.
Needless to say, out of respect for those from my past, I removed the photos.
So, between the exaggerations and her childish posts at the 'Fighting Fundamentalist Forum', (i.e., 'I would like to thank all the corrupt fundy wackos.), and the occasional harassment of the folks at the TBC forum, I'm wondering if Schizophrenic Christianity will push me over the edge? Will I, like Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, after years of doing the same thing, finally turn my back on the evil empire and throw the emperor down the shaft?
Jeri Massi is a talented writer.
The book begins with promise. She talks about growing up in Philadelphia. Her parents were divorcing. Her life was 'marked by violent, ugly scenes, and constant, cataclysmic changes. I was too young and too innocent to know just how much I was caught between the wrath of two furious parents, but I understood that I was in trouble.'
Her parents enrolled her in a Catholic school, but she rebelled against that.
This is intriguing. It makes you wonder if the drift into fundamentalism was not, in fact, a rebellion against her parents. This book would actually benefit from more autobiography.
I found myself identifying with her. I also went to a Catholic school. My parents divorced. I went into fundamentalism, possibly out of rebellion. And then, like Jeri, attended Bob Jones University.
The difference is, I left Bob Jones University after three weeks because I realized it was a just a waste of time for me. Jeri stayed, graduated, and seemed surprised that fundamentalism drifted into legalism and pettiness. Hadn't it always since the days of J. Frank Norris?
She began researching fundamentalism back in 2000 and is now presenting 'her findings'.
Her facts are accurate. It's just there's too few of them!
This book appears to be maybe 30% fact and 70% opinion. Lots of opinions! If you've ever stumbled onto her webpage and read her '30 Days of Righteousness', you'll know what I'm talking about. Just endless preaching. Calvinism. Church structure. Hierarchies. Opinions and more opinions, interrupted by stories about Charles Shifflet, A.V. Ballenger, Jack and Dave Hyles, Joe Combs, Andy Beith, and, of course, our own, Bob Gray.
There are lessons to be drawn from all these cases, but I'm looking for more substance. Not sermonizing.
Jeri loses herself by the time she gets to Chapter Eleven. This chapter attempts to describe the difference between the real world of child molesters and public perception.
This is coming after a lengthy diatribe about the differences between schizophrenia and sociopathic behavior.
Jeri seems to have no sympathy for those who have been victimized by sociopaths:
"If you are stupid enough to have given up your wife, your money, your time to him, that is because you are a wimp, a dope, a fake like him, but you were beaten at your own game."
Okay, I'm not looking for her to be speaking at the next American Psychiatric Convention, that's for sure. We move on to an example sometimes given by molesters when they accuse the victim of leading them on.
Jeri chimes in:
"If the stupid child is going to behave as a temptress, he will treat her as a temptress. If she is going to wear those frilly petticoat dresses to church, he will act on the lure she has provided."
Hmmm, are we blaming the victim here?
She switches from the 'stupid child' to the sociopath:
"He either views himself as different because of his sexual appetite, isolated from other people because of these temptations that have been with him since childhood, or he places the blame on children."
Excuse me? Like Jeri Massi did when she was describing the 'stupid child'?
If there's any blame to be had, you could blame the parent for making the child wear revealing clothes, but not the young victim. Jeri seems to regard a child playing doctor as pedophilia:
"A 14 year old who engages in a sex act with a younger child is engaging in pedophilic behavior. A seven year old who sexually molests an infant is also engaging in pedophilic behavior. And a 50 year old who engages in a sex act with a 10 year old is a pedophile. Pedophila has to do with sexual attraction to a child before the child enters puberty."
A seven year old who molests an infant? A seven year old who does this should be reprimanded, but by this definition, any child who ever engaged in sexual experimentation with a friend of the same age (i.e. 'I'll show you mine if you'll show me yours') is guilty of pedophilia. Well, that's probably more than half the country!
Yes, a 50 year old man who engages in a sex act with a 10 year old is a pedophile. I would argue the definition of a pedophile can only be used to describe an adult with an attraction to children. Not a child's attraction to someone within his, or her, age group.
We go through 195 pages of this book before we get to Chapter Fourteen, `If You Have Been Abused'. This important section only comprises four pages and offers nothing to victims beyond 'Get your hearts ready with contrition for your own sin and humility before God.'
Is that it? I was expecting way more than this.
Jeri, to her credit, admits she is not a counsellor or qualified to give psychiatric advice. However, she also claims to be a researcher. If you are not qualified to give advice, find someone who is and have them write a chapter! Talk to psychiatrists, counsellors, and therapists about what they suggest victims of sexual abuse should do. This 'take two scriptures and call me in the morning' doesn't work for fundamentalists, and it's not working here, either.
It's interesting. She tells us she's not qualified to give advice, but is producing workbooks for those who have been victimized.
I hope those future books include works from 'the outside'. Get actual victims to write their stories. Have them write about how they coped. How they picked themselves out of the dung heap, cleaned themselves up, and lived to fight another day.
Reading this book made me feel like a designated driver for the late Dudley Moore's loveable alcoholic, Arthur Bach. Arthur is quite articulate before he hits the booze, just like Jeri is at the beginning of this book. Warm. Engaging. However, like Arthur, her personality begins to change at midpoint. Arthur, at least, is a funny drunk and not an obnoxious one.
Jeri, alas, is not funny. Just obnoxious. Sermonizing. Rambling. Pretentious. Drunk with self importance.
This book begins with such promise before it descends into bad taste. Not because of the terrible acts of the people she is describing, but because Jeri does not seem that far off from the fundamentalists she is condemning!
Fundamentalists have traditionally painted their opposition with a big brush, so Jeri's brush, by necessity, must be bigger and broader.
She does mention the problems dogging the Free Presbyterian Church in Canada, and I wished she had spent more talking about how the Presbyterians combatted molesters within their ranks. It was just as much a struggle for them as it currently is for those within fundamentalism.
There was one small factor that helped the Presbyterians get a handle on the situation. Can anyone guess what that 'small factor' was?
The ordination of women.
Having women, especially those who are mothers, on the board had it's effect. Very few mothers, I'm imagining, could be deacons and hear a story about a pastor molesting a child, and be silent. Men in groups, on the other hand, seem to have a knack for writing this kinda thing off. Yet, this is something that Jeri is incapable of endorsing because, in her words:
"I also am patriarchal in my point of view, recognizing that the Bible clearly teaches that eldership in the church is male. Yet I appreciate how patriarchy has been exploited and mismanaged in authoritarian sects of Christianity, including Fundamentalism."
When I first attended a conference of the Religious Broadcaster's Association in Los Angeles, I was struck by how the women at Beverly LaHaye's table dressed. They wore tight black mini-skirts and did not look like they needed any man to tell them what to do, or how to live. Yet, their actual material is nostalgic for the days when men ruled the roost and women made sure their husband's meal was cooked before he came home.
This was the first time I was exposed to the strange phenomena of women who have careers built on getting other women to give up theirs!
You almost get the feeling Jeri is homesick for fundamentalism and just waiting for some godly man to stand against the evils of this movement so she can return to it and gleefully submit.
Jeri Massi's Secret Radio was a much more fulfilling read. Secret Radio is filled with insightful character studies and way more wisdom than Schizophrenic Christianity. The only faults in Secret Radio occur when, once again, Jeri gets into her teacher mode and feels the need to tell us about the history of fundamentalism, and what's right or wrong about a particular character's decision.
The bottom line:
Jeri is talented, but she does not trust her audience. This lack of trust leads to treating the reader like an imbecile or a backslider. If the writer does not trust the reader to come to the proper conclusions, how can the reader trust the writer?
Honesty is demanded and required.
Julia Scheeres, in her book, Jesus Land raised the bar for this new genre that scrutinizes fundamentalism. Julia was totally honest about herself. We respect that honesty because it shows the writer respects us.
Jeri, like the fundamentalist she rails against, does not trust that we'll come to the proper conclusion. Consequently, we get a book that's too preachy, immature, whiney, and potentially damaging to victims who feel guilty enough for the actions of others.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Daniel Davis speaks the truth about some churches.
The subject being debated was whether it's a proper use of taxpayer money to provide scholarships for low-income children attending the Don Brewer Early Learning Center.
The back-and-forth had been going on for a long time when Davis spoke for the first time. In a voice tinged with emotion, he described his upbringing and his political philosophy.
Davis said he was fortunate to have been born into a middle-class family that provided for him and cared about education.
Trinity cared so much about education that, on some occasions, a few teachers had to go without pay. If they complained, their dedication would be called into question. Teaching's a calling, you know. Not a job! Yeah, they cared.
He said that when he came to the council, he didn't believe it was government's job to make sure children had a decent meal at night or to provide early learning opportunities for children who weren't as fortunate as he had been.
Where did he ever get that idea? Hmmmm. . .
But during his time on the council, he said, he has seen those children who don't get that meal and who don't get an equal shot at an education.
Government has to step up and help, Davis said.
Reality does have a way of poking holes in political fantasy, doesn't it?
Because "Jacksonville has a bunch of sorry churches" that aren't fulfilling their mission, he said.
Like the church whose leaders taught him it wasn't government's responsibility to provide 'early learning opportunities for children who weren't as fortunate as he had been'?
Churches are building magnificent structures and they trip all over themselves to witness in foreign countries, he said, but they aren't doing what they should at home.
If they were, Davis said, government wouldn't have to take on a role that shouldn't belong to it.
That's a clumsy walk on the tightrope! After Gray left for Germany, Trinity FINALLY got around to building their new sanctuary. Once the sanctuary was complete, they eventually built a new mission. First thing's first.
Davis said that after he finished talking at the council meeting, he thought, "Man, did I just say that?"
Friday, November 21, 2008
2009: here we come!
Jeff Brumley of the Florida Times Union confirmed to me, in an e-mail, that the trials have indeed been pushed back. We have no idea if a date has been set. My bet is sometimes next year.
Keep checking this blog for updates, or read The Florida Times Union, for upcoming articles.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Click here to read more about Alford pleas.
Tony Denton, the minister who mysteriously disappeared from the website of Trinity Baptist Church (Jacksonville, FL) after Bob Gray's arrest, pleaded guilty to molesting young girls. He was attending Trinity Baptist Church at the time of his arrest.
The incidents took place at Berean Baptist Church, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, thirty years ago.
He pleaded guilty to 13 charges, but entered an Alford plea on three.
An Alford plea is when a defendant pleads 'not guilty' but acknowledges the evidence to convict him is there. The court can now render a guilty verdict and pronounce sentence.
Pronounce sentence they did: Denton was given three three year convictions---ALL SUSPENDED! He also gets unsupervised probation.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Word on the virtual streets have Trinity's lawyers attempting to disqualify Adam Horowitz, lawyer for the victims. Why? Haven't the slightest idea.
Special thanks to the Jacksonville media for NOT alerting us to these changes! You'd think with thousands of people across the world looking to blogs like this for updates, at least the local media would keep everyone alert. Not a chance!
Monday, October 6, 2008
He founded a company called 'We Care About Kids' that produces movies specializing in issues important to young people. 'Newton's Law', with Maria Conchita Alonso focused on drinking and driving. 'The Big Leaf Tobacco Company' featured Curtis Armstrong and narration by Cuba Gooding, Jr. It was aimed to discourage cigarette use.
His latest project tackles the controversial issue of child abuse. In this interview, Allan Rich discusses the dilemma victims face, the material his film will cover, and his plans to take it directly to the nation's PTA.
Here is an outtake where Rich reacts to the anti-Obama ad that accused him of wanting to teach sex to kindergartners:
I shot this video last week and finally have it on-line! I'm working to help Allan Rich get this movie financed.
If you'd like to contribute, visit We Care About Kids.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Make such a program REQUIRED in all schools, public and private.
One idea that I championed, that has never been implemented, would be to have a poster in kindergarten, or elementary schools, along the lines of the sex harassment posters required in some workplaces.
It would basically say that no one is above the law, and if anyone ever touches you like that, to contact a teacher, principal, or number on the poster.
That hasn't happened yet, but kids are doing some amazing things these days. Like calling 9-1-1 to report burglaries in progress! It's just a matter of time.
While Christian parents argue over specifics like, "Is it scriptural to call the law on 'God's Anointed'?", it obviously remains up to the children to defend themselves.
Strange that Christian conservatives aren't questioning John McCain's distortion of a policy that Obama never sponsored in the first place, yet he did vote for. Namely, a program that told kids the difference between appropriate versus inappropriate touching.
Here is an article from The New York Times that quotes Obama's exact words regarding why he voted for this program:
“I have a 6-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old daughter, and one of the things my wife and I talked to our daughter about is the possibility of somebody touching them inappropriately, and what that might mean,” Mr. Obama said in 2004. “And that was included specifically in the law, so that kindergarteners are able to exercise some possible protection against abuse, because I have family members as well as friends who suffered abuse at that age.”
Sounds reasonable to me!
The article also spells out the other McCain distortions, such as the idea of a 'comprehensive' sex program for, of all people, children under five! Get out of town!
From the article:
It is a misstatement of the bill’s purpose, therefore, to maintain, as the McCain campaign advertisement does, that Mr. Obama favored conventional sex education as a policy for 5-year-olds. Under the Illinois proposal, “medically accurate” education about more complicated topics, including intercourse, contraception and homosexuality, would have been reserved for older students in higher grades.
The advertisement, then, also misrepresents what the bill meant by “comprehensive.” The instruction the bill required was comprehensive in that it called for a curriculum that went from kindergarten and through high school, not in the sense that kindergarteners would have been fully exposed to the entire gamut of sex-related issues.
I respect those who demand that various denominations create a database for sex offenders, but I personally feel that most denominations are incapable of policing their own.
The idea of reaching potential victims, before they become victims, makes far more sense to me.
Honestly, can you imagine some brave teacher at Trinity Christian Academy, circa 1970's era, teaching their class the difference between inappropriate and appropriate touching?
I can just see a child's hand going up and asking about strange behavior he, or she, encountered in an administrative office.
Why would Christian conservatives be against this?
Click here to read full article.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Gays, not child molesting preachers or bad economy, spurs churches into action!
Jeff Brumley's article misses the irony that a church, about to go on trial for covering up the crimes of a serial child molester, is spurred into political action to fight the gays.
That was the issue when I first attended Trinity back in the seventies. Anita Bryant was the woman of the hour and Bob Gray championed her anti-gay politics. Gray has since been accused of molesting children in his office during this era.
The beautiful thing about anti-gay politics is it covers up a whole range of vital topics: from the collusion regarding pedophiles in the pulpit to economic and military issues.
Why are we losing the Iraq war? Well, maybe one reason has to do with FIRING translators who happened to be gay. Nobody could understand anybody and now we pay the price.
Economics? Why are the gay areas in major metropolitan areas MORE SUCCESSFUL than average 'heterosexual ghettos'? 'Heterosexual ghettos' is my new name for once great neighborhoods, filled with poor people and their families, that used to be 'homeowner communities' but have since transformed to 'rental communities'.
Reason: A childless couple, both working, make and save more money than a heterosexual family with three or four kids. Do the math! Who is the more burden on society? Childless gay couple? Or unemployed heterosexual families with mouths to feed?
Get this (from the article):
Failure will result in the continuing moral decline of American society and government, said the Rev. Tom Messer, Trinity's pastor, and opens congregations to lawsuits if they refuse to marry same-sex couples. Messer said he's holding similar gatherings around the state.
Messer's TRAVELING AROUND THE STATE on this issue? Let a pastor molest a bunch a kids, and Messer is silent. Let a small percentage of gays become successful? Pull out all the stakes and hold rallies!
Lawsuits if you refuse to marry gays? How about lawsuits if you refuse to do anything about a child molesting preacher?
Is the Florida Times Union a conservative rag? How is it they continue to miss these ironies?
Thursday, September 11, 2008
At least the majority of Democrats keep their sexual scandals limited to adults 18 and over! Maybe there's something about those who oppose liberty for consenting adults that twists their minds toward minors? Who knows?
One of the reasons the corruption at Trinity was allowed to continue for as long as it did was because of politics. They were in bed with the Republican party even during my day. You have to wonder what ultimately led to the corruption. Did politics corrupt the church? Or did the churches, steeped in denial, help corrupt the politics? It was probably a mutual admiration society of corruption.
You can't condemn what happened at Trinity without examining the political implications. I've always contended that. One corruption inevitably leads to the other.
In any event, I've been considering making a YouTube inspired by John McCain's attack ad against Obama for, of all things, a class where children are taught the difference between inappropriate and appropriate touching.
I made one within a year of Bob Gray's arrest called 'DON'T GO IN THE CHURCH!'. Well, it turns out I don't have to do that. Others have caught on. Their YouTubes are pretty close to the YouTubes I would be making. Thanks for saving me the effort!
Here they are:
NOTE: Apologies for the profanity on the intro page for this video. However, it is well made, and you can't deny the person responsible for that page doesn't have a good reason for outrage.
Of course, it all goes both ways. Hillary, a lawyer, did help free a child rapist. Then again, she's not exactly endorsing programs to warn kids about pedophiles, nor is she running for president:
The Republicans still beat the Democrats when it comes to the number of members convicted for these type of crimes:
STOP REPUBLICAN PEDOPHILIA!
Politics corrupts individuals as well as churches. Until this matter gets addressed, there will always be cover ups in churches, liberal or conservative.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
So. . .is McCain against this? Obviously so.
I have written about this before. Most sex education courses directed at youngsters are meant to tell them about inappropriate touching by adults. Trinity Baptist Church, my former church in Jacksonville, Florida, under the direction of Bob Gray, always took a stand against sex education. Wonder why?
Bob Gray, of course, died before facing his trial on charges of serial child molestation on the campus of Trinity Christian Academy, the school he founded. Click here for more information about that.
I wonder how many young children at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, circa 70's era, might have spoken up if a brave teacher in their class warned them about inappropriate touching by adults?
Can you imagine one of those children raising their hand and asking, "What is 'inappropriate touching'? Is that what Brother Gray was doing to me in his office yesterday?"
Sex obsessed Republicans!
No wonder they're against sex education! It calls their bluff.
It bears repeating, look at how many of them have been fingered for inappropriate relationships with minors:
STOP REPUBLICAN PEDOPHILIA!
Here is the McCain spot responsible for this post:
Click here for the real story about a program aimed to warn children about pedophiles.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
I've always been amused that on the few, occasional, incidents of earthquakes in California, our self appointed prophets will tell us we're being judged for 'immorality' or 'liberal politics'. However, EVERY YEAR HURRICANES HIT FLORIDA AND THE GULF COAST!
Now, I do not believe that area of the country is being judged. That's just how the weather is in that area of the country. However, with people so eager to ascribe divine judgement to the weather patterns, why are their mouths so silent when they keep getting hit with hurricanes every year? Anyone ever think they are being judged for consistently voting bigots and conservative hypocrits into office who keep bringing the country into more debt and war mongering?
Well, I'll just shut my mouth now and allow a more eloquent medium to express my view.
Check out the YouTube where the representative from Focus on the Family prays for rain to occur during Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention, then check out the letter from Michael Moore currently being circulated to those on his mailing list:
An Open Letter to God, from Michael Moore
Sunday, August 31st, 2008
The other night, the Rev. James Dobson's ministry asked all believers to pray for a storm on Thursday night so that the Obama acceptance speech outdoors in Denver would have to be cancelled.
I see that You have answered Rev. Dobson's prayers -- except the storm You have sent to earth is not over Denver, but on its way to New Orleans! In fact, You have scheduled it to hit Louisiana at exactly the moment that George W. Bush is to deliver his speech at the Republican National Convention.
Now, heavenly Father, we all know You have a great sense of humor and impeccable timing. To send a hurricane on the third anniversary of the Katrina disaster AND right at the beginning of the Republican Convention was, at first blush, a stroke of divine irony. I don't blame You, I know You're angry that the Republicans tried to blame YOU for Katrina by calling it an "Act of God" -- when the truth was that the hurricane itself caused few casualties in New Orleans. Over a thousand people died because of the mistakes and neglect caused by humans, not You.
Some of us tried to help after Katrina hit, while Bush ate cake with McCain and twiddled his thumbs. I closed my office in New York and sent my entire staff down to New Orleans to help. I asked people on my website to contribute to the relief effort I organized -- and I ended up sending over two million dollars in donations, food, water, and supplies (collected from thousands of fans) to New Orleans while Bush's FEMA ice trucks were still driving around Maine three weeks later.
But this past Thursday night, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans had begun making plans to possibly postpone the convention. The AP had reported that there were no shelters set up in New Orleans for this storm, and that the levee repairs have not been adequate. In other words, as the great Ronald Reagan would say, "There you go again!"
So the last thing John McCain and the Republicans needed was to have a split-screen on TVs across America: one side with Bush and McCain partying in St. Paul, and on the other side of the screen, live footage of their Republican administration screwing up once again while New Orleans drowns.
So, yes, You have scared the Jesus, Mary and Joseph out of them, and more than a few million of your followers tip their hats to You.
But now it appears that You haven't been having just a little fun with Bush & Co. It appears that Hurricane Gustav is truly heading to New Orleans and the Gulf coast. We hear You, O Lord, loud and clear, just as we did when Rev. Falwell said You made 9/11 happen because of all those gays and abortions. We beseech You, O Merciful One, not to punish us again as Pat Robertson said You did by giving us Katrina because of America's "wholesale slaughter of unborn children." His sentiments were echoed by other Republicans in 2005.
So this is my plea to you: Don't do this to Louisiana again. The Republicans got your message. They are scrambling and doing the best they can to get planes, trains and buses to New Orleans so that everyone can get out. They haven't sent the entire Louisiana National Guard to Iraq this time -- they are already patrolling the city streets. And, in a nod to I don't know what, Bush's head of FEMA has named a man to help manage the federal government's response. His name is W. Michael Moore. I kid you not, heavenly Father. They have sent a man with both my name AND W's to help save the Gulf Coast.
So please God, let the storm die out at sea. It's done enough damage already. If you do this one favor for me, I promise not to invoke your name again. I'll leave that to the followers of Rev. Dobson and to those gathering this week in St. Paul.
Your faithful servant and former seminarian,
P.S. To all of God's fellow children who are reading this, the city New Orleans has not yet recovered from Katrina. Please click here for a list of things you can do to help our brothers and sisters on the Gulf Coast. And, if you do live along the Gulf Coast, please take all necessary safety precautions immediately.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Bible Madness and Don't Go In The Church, two movies I made about fundamentalism and it's benign and terrible consequences, are now available on the same DVD.
They are now available from Heretics of Hollywood.
Visit this page for more info: Bible Madness/Don't Go In The Church.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
A charge of lewd and lascivious behavior has been dropped against an 18-year-old resident of a Baker County home for troubled youths who had been arrested in an investigation of consensual sexual activity with another teenage resident. . .
McCormick said one boy came to a camp administrator and said he had made up the story about the abuse. Eventually, two boys said they simply wanted to get someone in trouble and a third said he made up the story, McCormick said. He said the admissions were taped with a volunteer teacher who is not part of the school administration.
Bessinger said prosecutors have not heard those statements.
With this post:
I have been told that the charges against John Wilson and Benjamin Lewis and the investigation closed against each of them, as the boys who brought the accusations confessed to investigators that they knew accusations of sexual misconduct and physical abuse was the "best" way to get back at these men in their rebellion against the rules.
Yes, charges were dropped with the 18 year old boy, but the prosecutors haven't confirmed anything about the other two. The boys apparently confessed to an 'independent investigator' (i.e. the volunteer teacher) that they made it up. However, it doesn't mean anything unless they confessed it to a prosecutor. As that would be a felony, to lie to a prosecutor, they might be a bit more circumspect saying such a thing to an official of the state.
Once again, more proof as to why independent investigations, when it comes to this particular crime, are not to be trusted.
Thanks to Walkin' With Jesus at the FFF for pointing this out. I forgot about that article!
Sunday, August 3, 2008
I just got through watching Disturbing Behavior, which is offered as a free download through my cable company. This movie totally bypassed me when it was released in 1998.
It concerns a community where the parents have fallen under the spell of a youth psychologist who promises treatment for troubled teens. Basically, we have The Stepford Wives for high school.
What makes this movie especially disturbing, many years after it's release, is the fact that, in real life, many parents have fallen under the spell of religious leaders who essentially promise what the doctor, in this movie, offers on screen.
Troubled by your kids choice in music? Concerned about the friends they are hanging out with? Afraid they may not be the 'chip off the old block' you always envisioned?
Send them to a Christian camp where their entire behavior will be controlled by a competent staff who will feed them scripture, and corporal punishment, until they either give in or discover even newer reasons to hate Christianity and what we pass off as the 'typical American family'.
Disturbing Behavior does not offer a camp, just a simple operation.
The thing is, this operation cuts off the sex impulse, but whenever the kids get turned on, the sexual impulse turns violent. They become abusive monsters, just like in real life.
Are we sure this is fiction? That seems to be the norm in most fundamentalist Christian camps. Especially those that attempt to turn gay teens straight. Or skeptical teens into followers of the Christian herd.
Sexual thoughts are replaced with biblical stories of war, beatings for breaking the most minor of rules, and the ever present threat of hellfire.
If Disturbing Behavior changed the pseudo science into religion, you'd have a real life version of what many have already experienced in this country.
Check out the following links:
The Truth about New Horizon's ministry.
International Survivors Action Committee.
One of the more disturbing scenes in the movie is when the main character learns that his parents enrolled him in the program to make him a robot.
There is probably nothing worse than learning that your parents have stopped listening to you.
The already fragile bond between parent and child can easily be killed by the disturbing behavior of parents tuning their kids out but giving an all too willing ear to the latest fundamentalist quack.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
The killer of Unitarians had the following books in his apartment:
"The O'Reilly Factor," by television commentator Bill O'Reilly; "Liberalism is a Mental Disorder," by radio personality Michael Savage; and "Let Freedom Ring," by political pundit Sean Hannity.
I would not accuse the authors of instigating the shooting at the UU church in Knoxville, Tennessee, although I don't know why.
Fairness? Yeah, sure. . .right.
Would those conservative authors pull any slack if the shooter had attacked people in a fundamentalist church and Marilyn Manson records were discovered in his apartment?
Monday, July 28, 2008
I'm posting this due to the irony that I was kicked off the FFF's main forums because I affiliated with the Unitarians. I was accused of claiming alliance with a Christian denomination even though the FFFr's do not accept Unitarians as Christian.
When it came to ousting a critic, the webmaster of the FFF saw no contradiction in accepting Unitarians as Christian. Now that an unemployed man, with a hatred of liberals, visited a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, with 76 rounds of ammo with him, and killed two people, I'm seeing absolutely no mention of this, nor any prayer requests.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I decided to break from my on again/off again siesta from this page (until the civil trial kicks in this fall), to mention that the National Sword of the Lord conference is taking place between July 28 to August 1 in Walkertown, North Carolina.
Why do I mention this? No reason except small items of personal significance.
This blog will chronicle the upcoming civil trials against Trinity Baptist Church, plus the investigations regarding Camp Tracey in Baker County, Florida. Camp Tracey is not related to Trinity, but one of the counsellors was a student at TCA during my era.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
There are two videos now playing on Trinity's web page. They center around Freedom Fest, a celebration held on the grounds of Trinity during the 4th of July holiday.
The one on the left has somebody skydiving to the Trinity complex. The video to the right has images from Freedom Fest, which includes what appears to be a CCM rock band, complete with electric guitars and drums. Now, any time someone with electric guitars showed up at Trinity, I remember people getting nervous.
One notable 'teen church' had a woman playing a stringed instrument. I believe it might have been a harp. However, at the intro of one of her songs, she mentioned the Mother Ship from Close Encounters of The Third Kind.She felt elated seeing it because it reminded her of how the New Jerusalem might look when it descends from the sky.
She played a Christian folk tune. Possibly something from the 'Jesus People' era.
Hippies for Christ, that sort of thing.
After the service, Ron Reilly, the youth director, remarked he was surprised she said such a thing and had no idea she played that type of music.
The anti-rock sermons of the day centered on the beat, regardless of the lyrics. Any music with a beat, even those with a Christian message, were looked upon as suspect. For some reason, this did not apply to QUEEN'S 'We Will Rock You', which was stomped by the fans during football games.
Decades pass. Things change. And now people sky dive to rock concerts at Trinity!
Actually, this is a good thing.
Let's just hope the parachute opened!
I'm not finding the rock band footage on YouTube, but you can see it at Trinity's web page. I'm guessing the video was projected five minutes before the Sunday morning service, hence the name '5 Till'. Hear the narrator tell us that it's 'all about the kids'. See a guy dressed like 'Captain Jack Sparrow' (i.e. 'Jack Cracker') paddling in the Trinity pond:
TBC Page with videos.
NOTE: This topic of how much things have change has prompted this interesting discussion on the FFF. A poster is afraid that while these changes are good, there is a fear it might lead to other horrible things like gays in the pew!
I kid you not:
From the FFF: Family Freedom Fest- Awesome!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Article: Councilman says he's a target of stalker.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
"Even Jesus can't tell some Southern Baptists what to do."
Tom Ascol, pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Cape Coral, Florida.
This article from Christianity Today demonstrates that the Southern Baptist Convention has inflated the number on their membership roles. They can barely keep an accurate data base of existing members, let alone a database of ministers who have been found guilty of molestation.
A charge of lewd and lascivious behavior was dropped against the 18 year old who was arrested regarding the incident at Camp Tracey. The father of the victim did not wish to prosecute.
An investigation is still underway regarding 'dorm father', John Edward Wilson, accused of choking, slamming, and throwing a 14 year old teen.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Stephen Edmonds, the former deacon from First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, and once a president of the Northeast Florida Builder's Association, accused of child molestation, is about to be a free man. His probation will end in March, but he was hoping to end it early. His request was denied by Judge John Merrett.
Merrett, you might recall, is the judge who packed a pistol and pointed it at a man on trial for child molestation, yet, strangely enough, gave Bob Gray, then on trial for molestation, the greatest latitude by postponing his trial for a year.
This time, I kid you not, Judge Merrett ordered Stephen Edmonds to remove a Florida Gator's decal from his vehicle because one victim found it 'disturbing'.
Monday, July 7, 2008
This article from the Florida Times Union paints a disturbing picture.
Two men sued Harvest Baptist Church this year because they claim to have suffered 'repeated sexual and physical abuse by staff and senior residents in the late '80s and early '90s.'
The primary focus of the article concerns the brother of Harvest's pastor, Cedric McCormick. Cedric is no longer at the camp.
According to Kirk Griffin, the man who sued the church, he was forced to perform oral and anal sex on two counsellors.
Parents had to sign a contract that kept their children at the camp for a year. They were not allowed state counsellors, and dental and medical care was only for emergencies. Five minute phone calls to parents are only allowed on birthdays and visitation days.
Camp counsellors put older teens in charge of younger teens. The older teens, sporting gang tattoos, allegedly abused the younger teens.
Parents were told their children would lie and make up stories.
One parent wanted to remove her child, but was told she would face legal action if she did. They also blamed the victim for not defending himself and said they are not responsible for third party actions.
A Clay County mother had similar experiences with her daughter, according to the article:
"Her first sexual experience should not have been in a place like Camp Tracey or with a woman," the mother said. "I feel something very special was taken from her, and it now is a part of her life and memory forever."
The camp has refused regulation using the separation of church and state defense.
A mother sets the record straight about Camp Tracey.
In this response to the Florida Times Union article about Camp Tracey, BK, a mother who sent her daughter to Camp Tracey, sets the record straight. BK visited the camp and was shown a pleasing picture of horseback riding, farming, and rehabilitation.
She became suspicious when she was not allowed to see her daughter.
Upon seeing her daughter, the woman learned:
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Trinity Baptist Church isn't the only Jacksonville church under the eye of scandal. In addition to Harvest Baptist Church (see article below), First Baptist, the prestigious downtown church, has a former deacon who plead guilty to fondling a 16 year old boy.
Unlike the 18 year old in the below article, this fellow was a respected adult, deacon, and former president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association.
From Florida Times Union: Sex case at camp leads to 2 arrests.
From 2003: Man sues church, alleges abuse - Harvest Baptist's Camp Tracey cited.
Official Camp Tracey webpage: Camp Tracey.
Camp Tracey, in Baker County, Florida, has been the subject of investigation for physical and sexual abuse by camp workers and older residents for at least twenty years, states the above article, from The Florida Times Union. An arrest has been made. The first arrest on a charge of child abuse in twenty years.
According to Camp Tracey's official webpage at, camptracey.org, it is run by Gary Byram and Dr. Wilford McCormick.
McCormick is pastor of the Harvest Baptist Church, the church associated with Camp Tracey. He has been the pastor since 1972 and founded Camp Tracey in 1981. Byram was the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Bradenton, Florida. He resigned from his church in 2004 to become staff evangelist and national representative of Camp Tracey Ministries.
Harvest Baptist Church was sued by Kirk Griffin in 2003 stating he was abused by two camp counsellors. He claimed he was forced to engage in sex acts with two camp counsellors and 'spiritual advisors'. Alas, 'repressed memory' played it's ugly role and he didn't remember anything until 2003, which happened to be the year his lawyer, Joel Magolnic, initiated the lawsuit.
Griffen says there are other victims.
Harvest was represented by the Christian Law Association, the same organization that gave legal advice to Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.
A Baker Grand Jury convened on Camp Tracey back in 1987. They issued a presentment 'criticizing the camp for excessive corporal punishment and the use of ropes and handcuffs to restrain children at the camp'.
The Grand Jury's recommendation? In light of the ropes and handcuffs on children?
Give 'em another chance!
According to the 2003 article, 'jurors also criticized education and health care at the camp and said it would consider criminal charges if changes weren't made.'
They let them go with a slap on the wrist.
The state of Florida generally gives a free pass to teen homes when it comes to physical abuse. Obviously, that is my opinion based on my personal involvement in the case involving Mike Palmer's Victory Home for Girls in Southern California. I videotaped a former student's testimony, the tape was sent to the Department of Children's Services, and the home was shut down.
The wonderful state of Florida welcomed Mike Palmer with open arms and now he enjoys nearly total immunity in the panhandle.
Nobody seems to care about child abuse unless sex is involved, and that's the case with the current arrest. It appears boys played with themselves and a counsellor who, although he might have anger control problems, does not seem to have been involved. Nevertheless, he appears to be taking the blame for the independent activities of sexually curious teens.
The other arrest is of an 18 year old boy who, although slightly older than the other boys (14 years,4 years difference), may now face up to fifteen years in prison. I've always been opposed to arresting 18 year olds for engaging in sex with those slightly younger than themselves.
Considering how skittish we are in this country to discuss sexual matters, it makes sense that this boy was not told the finer points regarding statutory rape. In my opinion, those laws should be used to protect children from adults, not used to punish 18 year olds because adults are too scared to talk to them about the birds and the bees (beyond 'don't do it!').
It appears this latest case takes advantage of the boy's ignorance in order to bolster the state's case against Camp Tracey.
Physical abuse, and sexual abuse by adults and camp counsellors, is serious and should be investigated then punished to the fullest extant of the law.
I'm not seeing that in this case.
The camp worker was released on his own recognizance, but the teen is still in jail.
It appears the past investigations and lawsuits failed (settled 'out of court'), and now officials are banking on punishing this young boy in order to bolster their case against Camp Tracey.
Does it take one type of state sanctioned abuse in order to expose other abuses?
I notice Larry Brown and Johnny Pope, two preachers who have been associated with Trinity Baptist Church (preaching at Trinity's youth camp) will be at Tracey's 'Camp Jubilee 2009'. Camp Tracey has had former graduates of Trinity Christian Academy, and former members of Trinity Baptist Church, on their staff.
Trinity Baptist Church and Camp Tracey are not connected.
I'll be following this one.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
The youth pastor already pleaded guilty to 9 counts of voyeurism and resigned from his church. His house sitter let the police in. She claimed the tapes she found, presumably of her daughter and other young girls, taking a shower, were videotaped by him.
How were they videotaped? It's difficult to videotape shower scenes in stealth. The steam can easily put the camera out of commission. He must have been really dedicated and invested in some spy ware.
Did the youth pastor have a habit of inviting underage girls into his house to take showers? What evidence do we have that the house keeper, in fact, did not videotape her daughter, and others, in order to plant the evidence? Hey, any time things are done 'without a warrant', it begs these kind of questions.
If the police overlooked a warrant in a frame up, how do we know the police overlooked other matters in some cases that might be legitimate? Selectively ignoring things like 'warrants' makes it difficult for other legitimate complaints to be heard.
Those engaged in child exploitation must be severely dealt with, but prosecution must adhere to the letter of the law in executing their justice. Any time I read about the police engaging in searches 'without a warrant', I tend to become a bit concerned.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Click here and read article.
You'll notice the 'Rev. Darrell Gilyard' is mentioned as one of his illustrious clients, as are some players from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bob Gray's name is notably absent.
If you'd like to see a movie about a lawyer who used to practice in Jacksonville, be sure to check out The Devil's Advocate.
Keanu Reeve's character, Kevin Lomax, tells Al Pacino's character, John Milton, that he used to work for the Duval County prosecution.
How did he get so good? Outside of being the son of the devil, Lomax used to eavesdrop on jury deliberations through a hole in the jury deliberation chamber.
Ironically enough, it begins and ends with a teacher on trial for child molestation.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
TBC's wikipedia survived without mention of the Gray incident, until recently.
Here's their current wikipedia:
Trinity Baptist College.
It does contain an inaccuracy that will probably be corrected, or result in it's getting pulled.
"In 1992, in order to cover up for Bob Gray, the church voted Thomas Messer to be the senior pastor of the church and later the president of the college."
Tom Messer was actually chosen by Bob Gray. Nobody really voted on him, although there are reports of a voting fiasco between Messer and a fellow named Mike Hamm. Apparently, Hamm won the first two elections, but technicalities were called in to question that forced a third vote, and a win for Tom Messer.
The phrase 'in order to cover up for Bob Gray' is surprising considering there is not an article referenced. Let alone a court testimony, or deposition quoted. I don't expect that will stay up too long.
Your guess is as good as mine, but when the wiki entry says 'the church', is it referring to the entire church body? Or, just the small group of pastors whose vote ultimately counts. And when I say 'pastors', I'm really referring to the main pastor (Gray) and his associate (Willinger). Not even the votes of deacons count as they are strictly in an advisory role.
If wiki is referring to the entire church body, no one, except friends of victims, and those who were insiders, would have had any idea what was happening with Bob Gray. So, that would not have even been an issue when Hamm and Messer were considered as potential pastors.
If the other two cases are not thrown out, perhaps we'll hear more about how Messer became pastor in the upcoming trial?
We shall see.
Still no wiki for Bob Gray, though.
I'm not really complaining about this one! Although, there's a vast difference between two adults being arrested for violating out of date sodomy and co-habitation laws, as opposed to those arrested for child exploitation. In one sense, I'd agree with the Southern Center for Human Rights regarding out of date laws affecting adults and their private sex lives.
On the other hand, this law takes up the slack where the SBC, and various independent churches, refuse to.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
How are those organizations, separate from the SBC, supposed to keep track of criminals fleeing from the SBC? There's not exactly a media blitz regarding the SBC scandal.
It's time for federal intervention. It's time to require certain precautions in religious, or non religious, organizations that also work with children. Failure to meet those standards should result in the revoking of their tax exemption.
In the eye of most independent Baptists, and probably Southern Baptists, the idea of churches paying taxes is somehow equated with persecution. I've never understood that! I think POWs who have been tortured, or even missionaries who have truly been persecuted, can tell the difference between 'persecution' and 'inconvenience'.
Paying taxes is an inconvenience, but not persecution. Until you're waterboarded for not paying your taxes, you are not being persecuted! It also amazes me when I see young Republicans, and libertarians, freely taking advantage of federal programs they wish to cut. Don't they realize that by taking these 'handouts', regardless of their rationalizations, they have become no different than the welfare mothers they criticize?
Churches are spoiled in this country. We've given them far too much latitude, and now they twiddle their thumbs while children are being molested. I think they've made themselves impotent when it comes to social responsibility. Their theology, and rapidly changing views concerning biblical prophecy, serves only to rationalize their social impotence.
Yes, if the Southern Baptist Convention were to act on their own and create a database, that would help the SBC. There would not be any need for federal intervention if churches took the lead to police their own.
They're not. They are too addicted to politics and self interest to do anything. I believe it's a waste of time to even ask them.
We've played nice, but I would encourage activists to take this to Congress. Especially if the administration experiences radical changes after the upcoming election.
What prompted this meditation was reading this article at The World According to Bruce.
He makes some valid points with appropriate suggestions.
Honestly, what is wrong with that suggestion? I don't think you can trust the SBC, or other organizations, to police themselves. In a sense, that's what we're asking them to do. We're asking them to create a database without the threat of government intervention.
Nothing's happening. I think we can protest, send them roses, play nice, play rough, they're just not going to listen! They need to be forced by rule of law. Yes, if they did so voluntarily, there would be no need for government intervention. But the religious right has betrayed the American family at every turn. It's time to strike back with the full force of government regulation.
This is not Bruce's opinion, by the way. These are my opinions inspired by reading his article.
He mentions other things that are worth considering:
Would you believe I've pondered that one, myself? I don't even have kids, but it occurred to me that's an open invitation in organizations that have been lax with protecting children from sexual predators.
Or, how about:
I visited a Mormon church that did not believe in separating children from parents. Suffice it to say, it was a very noisy service! That said, it would be difficult for a child predator to be alone with a child in a church that refuses to separate children from their families.
Bruce brings up other good ideas worth exploring.
Click here and read the article.
Friday, June 20, 2008
The majority of the church believe him, except of course, the police who regard Pastor Virtue as a 'wolf in sheep's clothing'.
This would be a good time to visit SNAP's website. Specifically, their 21 points on how to conduct yourself if your pastor, or priest, is caught in a sex scandal.
Number fourteen is rather appropriate:
14) Support the accused priest PRIVATELY.
Calls, visits, letters, gifts, and prayers - all of these are appropriate ways to express your love and concern for the accused priest. Public displays of support, however, are not. They only intimidate others into keeping silent. In fact, it is terribly hurtful to victims to see parishioners openly rallying behind an accused priest. You may want to publicly defend a priest, collect funds for the priest's defense, and take similar steps. Please don't. Express your appreciation of the priest in a direct, quiet ways. Even if the priest is innocent, somewhere in the parish is a young girl being molested by a relative or a boy being abused by his coach or youth leader. If these children see adults they love and respect publicly rallying around accused perpetrators, they will be less likely to report their own victimization to their parents, the police, or other authorities. They will be scared into remaining silent, and their horrific pain will continue.
I think that sums it up. It would have been better had Pastor Virtue (gotta love that name!) said something like this:
"Although I am innocent of the charges, child abuse is still a major problem in this country. Abusers should be confronted and have their day in a court of law. Since I am innocent, I welcome this opportunity and I pray for those, in this church, who have history of abuse in their lives." Or, something to that effect.
Instead, we get Elmer Gantry! Church leaders have been forcibly ejected from the sanctuary. There's more drama than an episode of Dallas!
It's a pity they can't all be like Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. After Prestonwood's pastor, Joe Barron, was arrested in a sting, allegedly for pursuing sex with a 13 year old (actually, police officer posing as one), Graham took to the pulpit and, according to a report, 'acknowledged pain but praised God for purifying the church. He exhorted his congregation to uphold Christian standards of morality. And he even thanked reporters for their coverage'.
Pastor Virtue, by contrast, declared that members had an 'illegal meeting' and used that as an excuse to throw out a pastor, and some members, whom he believed conspired against him.
I'm pleased that Trinity Baptist Church, in Jacksonville, has not stooped to those methods. The situation is disturbing at my former church, but, as the story of Pastor Virtue demonstrates, things could be worse.
Pastor Virtue has minister forcibly removed from church.
Chief Pastor Jack Graham comments on Prestonwood situation.
SNAP's guidelines on 'What to do when your priest is accused of abuse.'
Friday, June 13, 2008
Click here to read article in context.
You know, after reading the comments made by SBC officials, I don't think they're avoiding the issue as much as others might think.
If Trinity Baptist Church were to have issued just half of the report that the SBC did, I would be amazed. That's what I'm just not getting about all the victims (or rather, those who represent them) dissing every apology offered by the Roman Catholic Church, the SBC, the Presbyterians, and other groups.
It's generally: "Too little, too late!" While the other victims who accept an apology, such as those who met with the Pope, have been described as 'a few small, cautiously-selected and highly-favorable audiences'.
Victims of clergy abuse, and child abuse, come in many stripes, and not everyone necessarily sees the same things through the same glasses. For some, it's an earth shattering event just to hear religious leaders finally admit that what we knew was truth all along.
It's understandable that SNAP does not want the hierarchy in any denomination becoming complacent regarding this issue, but I think it's more complex than that.
Let's look at what Southern Baptist leaders are saying, as represented by the quotes from the article in Ethic's Daily:
While an SBC database might seem like a good idea "on the surface," leaders said, it would be impossible to ensure that all convicted sex offenders that ever had a connection to a Baptist church would be included. Since sexual predators often migrate from one denomination to another, listing only SBC ministers would afford only partial protection.
There have been cases of predators moving, not just from one denomination to the next, but into organizations set up to fight against abuse. Think about it: if you are drawn to that illegality, what better cover could you ask for?
This is one reason why citizens are discouraged from doing their own investigations into child abuse. It mucks up the works. How do you know the difference between a citizen truly trying to fight a wrong? Or a predator seeking cover, and perhaps, some pointers?
There have been cases of police abuse against children. We don't see a lot of people storming the bastille demanding accountability there! Probably because they're afraid of getting arrested on bogus charges.
Check out this report:
POLICE SEXUAL ABUSE OF TEENAGE GIRLS.
What about Republicans? Our biggest defenders of so-called 'family values'?
Check this out:
STOP REPUBLICAN PEDOPHILIA!
That list is pretty long! It includes the late Strom Thurmond, formerly on Bob Jones University's board of directors, for having sex with a 15 year old. She eventually wrote a book about it.
It's interesting the connection between Republican pedophilia and fundamentalist ministers. One could argue the problem began when churches began linking up with political parties.
Here's a list of Democratic pedophiles, but the Republicans are still the winner when it comes to numbers:
The point is: it's everywhere!
The Southern Baptists are asking local churches to police their ranks. And they're doing so in the strongest possible language.
From SBC 'must expose' sexual predators:
Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman delivered his report moments ago, spending most of the time addressing the subject of child sexual abuse.
“One sexual predator in our midst is one too many,” he said to applause. “… We have a huge responsibility to our Lord, our nation, our church family and potential victims. Sexual predators must be stopped. They must be on notice that Southern Baptists are not a harvest field for their devious deeds.”
Sexual abuse, Chapman said, “is a growing crisis in our nation.” Southern Baptist churches, he said, “must be on watch and take immediate action”
The denomination, he said, must not turn a “blind eye” to the issue and must state categorically that child sexual offenders “will … not find refuge in our churches.” Ministers caught in such a sin and crime “must understand they will not ever be allowed to minister in Jesus’ name” and will be reported to local authorities, Chapman said.
“We must expose them,” he said.
“Never let it be said that we are anemic in the fight against sexual abuse. To say so is a false accusation,” he said.
“We must never rid ourselves of the problem” by knowingly allowing an employee to go to another church, Chapman said.
How are they to do this?
Southern Baptist churches should take to provide the highest degree of protection against sexual predators, and having considered a wide variety of options, recommends the Dru Sjodin national sex offender database, maintained and provided by the United States Department of Justice and publicly accessible without charge, as the best resource for such use, and has posted a link to it and other worthy resources on SBC.net
That database lists all child sex predators, whether Southern Baptist or not, who have been convicted.
What about predators who move from church to church?
“The Executive Committee strongly encourages local congregations to devise policies and execute strategies (1) to be diligent as they choose and supervise their ministers, employees, and volunteers, (2) to be vigorous in their investigations of known or suspected sex abuse within their ranks, and (3) to be honest and forthcoming in revealing the facts to their sister congregations when asked about former ministers, employees, and volunteers.”
All systems are flawed, but if the church which sponsored my alma mater, Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, had made public statements like these, I would have been pleased.
I'm not a Southern Baptist. If this organization is as corrupt as some believe it is, why bother with the pretense of trying to reform them? If they're so corrupt, valuable time is being wasted. Just admit 'Icabod' is written over the door and abandon them! End of discussion.
Ironically, I'm probably the only one applauding the SBC for their report.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, though.
Here is the statement I made in my short video, Don't Go In The Church:
"Until church officials recognize the seriousness of the problem and confront this horrid evil. . .don't go in the church!"
The Southern Baptist Convention has acknowledged it has a problem! Great, they admitted it. Now, all eyes are on the local SBC churches who get caught up in these scandals. Let's see how they handle it.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Considering that Trinity Christian Academy was already being scrutinized for not doing anything about suspected child sex predators lurking on campus, I was surprised this obvious link was ignored by the local media.
Actually, I've heard harsher stories, from a credible source, about kids raising rabbits only to be forced into killing them for the purposes of dissection. I doubt that's happening anymore, what with all the other negative publicity the school has received.
I totally missed this article that appeared on PETA's website on May 31, 2007. Apparently, PETA sent Trinity Christian Academy a letter asking them to make 'humane education a priority at Trinity Christian Academy.'
They also enclosed a "Kindness Kit".
The 'Kindness Kit', according to the article, contained: "handy tips, educational videos, and information on how to teach kids to interact with animals—like not killing bunnies in the frickin' classroom, for a start.'
Teacher Abuses a Rabbit for His Students.
Here is the letter sent to Mr. Clayton Lindstam:
May 31, 2007
Clay Lindstam, Administrator
Trinity Christian Academy
800 Hammond Blvd.
Jacksonville, FL 32221
Dear Mr. Lindstam:
PETA is the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 1.6 million members and supporters dedicated to animal protection. We have recently been inundated with calls from Jacksonville-area residents who are deeply upset by the incident involving a biology teacher who intentionally fed a live rabbit to a python in front of students at Trinity Christian Academy. Video footage of the rabbit’s demise is currently circulating on the Internet.
The fact that snakes hunt and eat other animals for survival in the wild is no excuse for this sorry spectacle. The domesticated rabbit used by the teacher was deprived of what any prey animal has in a natural setting: the chance to escape. The little black rabbit had no way of defending herself; she was grasped tightly and deliberately held in front of the python in order to "bait" the snake. Far from being an "educational experience," this demonstration only taught the students that it is acceptable to be cruel to others and take pleasure in watching them suffer and die. In this era of school shootings, lessons of compassion and empathy have never been more crucial. Violent spectacles—such as this one—have no place in the classroom.
We urge you to make humane education a priority at Trinity Christian Academy. We will be sending you a free copy of Just Choices, a humane education program for middle- and high-school students. Just Choices encourages students to explore new ideas and reevaluate old ones while developing a strong understanding and appreciation of historical and contemporary social justice movements. Through this program, students learn how their actions affect others, and they become inspired to take on social issues with passionate civic engagement. The program reinforces reading comprehension skills, civic responsibility, and analytical thinking and reasoning. It also meets U.S. national standards for education in several areas.
Please let us know what measures Trinity Christian Academy is taking to ensure that similar incidents of cruelty do not occur on school grounds in the future so that we can inform our members. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this case further with you. I can be reached at (number deleted by CHRISTIAN SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL).
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Stephanie Bell, Cruelty Caseworker
Domestic Animal Issues & Abuse Department
NOTE: For full effect, check out the actual letterhead, with the appropriate image of a white rabbit on the top.
PDF of letter to Lindstam.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Hey, can't say I'm not cheerleading the SBC when they take a step in the right direction, though!
That said, there are other crimes Southern Baptist ministers, and those of other denominations, have fallen into besides child molestation and it's resulting collusion. Perhaps SBC officials are afraid if they start a database in one area, there will be calls for creating data bases in other areas? A data base for ministers who robbed their congregation? A database for those who have committed adultery or visited prostitutes? Where will it all end?
There actually is a system in place to deal with molesters and other crooks, though. It's called '911'.
It's an outside system that simply requires we take the first step. In order to use it, we have to stop being mousy with questions like, "Will God be glorified if we call the cops on our child molesting pastor?"
SBC officials will be dancing around eggshells for years on this issue! It's time for families to take the initiative and stop giving these people the moral credibility they don't deserve. That said, it would not surprise me if the reason families are not taking the initiative is because child abuse is so prevalent in our society.
What credibility can you have if you take a bold stand against the SBC, but haven't done anything about Uncle Ernie?
SBC says 'No!' to database.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Here are some excerpts:
"Plantiff admits that it was in 1987 that she first told her father of the abuse she claims to have suffered and that Gray was the one who abused her. Plantiff did not file her lawsuit, which was based on the abuse she suffered, until July 2007."
"Plaintiff claims Trinity Baptist Church misrepresented facts about Gray's behavior to others. . .
"Specifically, plaintiff claims:
"another alleged victim lied to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, now the Department of Children and Families, about abuse she suffered as a child and did so at the urging of church leaders (a claim that conflicts with her prior, sworn deposition testimony).
"Additionally, Plaintiff claims one teacher was threatened for questioning why students were called out of class to visit with Gray and that another employee was terminated when her husband reported in 1992 that he had learned that Gray had abused a student years before."
Wow! Where is that employee? I wish she'd speak up. I kept hearing stories like this these last few years. In fact, I have asked about one teacher whom I believe might have known way back in the 1980's. That teacher has either vanished into time, or just doesn't want to be bothered. I am surprised the statement about the terminated employee made it into Denise's claim in the first place! If the lawyer does not have sworn testimony from those past employees, why would opinion and, hate to say it, 'rumor', be introduced into an official court transcript?
The deposition spoken of, where the plaintiff claimed that another alleged victim lied to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, is Case No. 16-CF-2006-07704-AXXX-MA. I might post it at a future point, but it is a huge file! It was taken on April 19, 2007.
Here are some excerpts from that victim's deposition:
Q: That interview with HRS, was it just a one time interview?
Q: And what did you basically tell them? Is that nothing happened?
A: It was real quick.
Q: Did you say nothing had happened?
A: They asked me questions and I basically just didn't answer their questions.
Q: Did you---did you deny abuse?
A: I - I can't remember verbatim what we discussed.
Q: What is the --- all right. Other than that conversation you've told me about, and you're not sure about the date with HRS, have you had any other conversations with either HRS or what is now called the Department of Children and Families?
Later in the deposition:
Q: Did somebody come out. . .
A: I just --- HRS called me on the phone and asked me questions about Bob Gray.
Q: Did you --- did you tell them about french kissing---
Q: Why not?
A: At this point, I was not ready to deal with it.
Q: Do you---as you look back on it, do have have any idea what initiated HRS contacting you?
A: I've heard that someone contacted HRS to contact me.
Q: Who have you heard did that?
A: I actually think I read it on the forum and I believe it was a guy named (NAME DELETED BY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL)
END OF EXCERPTS
This is a sore point for me, and a good moment to emphasize why you should never give out phone numbers where adult survivors of clergy abuse are concerned. I also contacted the HRS in those days, and they wanted phone numbers if I believed a child's life was in immediate danger. At the time, Gray was in Germany, totally outside the jurisdiction of the HRS. As far as I knew, in my limited scope, since Gray was not at Trinity, children were probably not in danger during that era of Trinity history.
Remember, I didn't know then what I know now about abuse, and how, if not confronted, it breeds an environment for other abusers. That said, they only wanted a phone number if I believed children were in immediate danger. Since I did not believe that was the case, I did not give out any phone numbers. Even now, as I see what can happen when a victim is outted before she, or he, is ready to talk, I would still err on not giving out phone numbers.
Look at the fruits of that decision! Look how it impacted the case!
She wasn't ready to talk, and that made it into the record and created the impression she was 'lying'. Giving out the phone number of a victim, before that victim is ready, is the most irresponsible thing a so called 'supporter of victims' can do.
There are people who believe that the woman quoted in this deposition 'lied'. I've never taken that view, and still don't. Victims of any kind of abuse need to realize that when they tell someone, that person will take the news harder than the actual victim who has been abused. Be very careful who you tell!
Supporters need to realize that they are simply that: supporters. They are not white knights trying to rectify a wrong situation. Like the upcoming movie about the clumsy superhero, Hancock, a supporter of victims can sometimes make things worse by jumping the gun and shooting from the hip.
That was very irresponsible of that person to give out the phone number of this victim.
I might write about this at a future point.
Or, maybe not.
When I think about some of the irresponsible actions on the part of those who claim to support the victims, it makes me very disappointed. I try not to get angry. I tell myself, "This is not your battle."
When I read the spin, from the latest decision regarding Denise Green's case, that this victim 'lied to the HRS', I, as a supporter of victims, feel betrayed and I'm not even a part of the case!
Didn't anybody even think about how an adult victim would respond to a visit from the HRS out of the clear blue?
Didn't anybody read the victim's deposition before filling out the court papers?
Didn't anybody. . .think?
This isn't my battle. . .but I still can't help feeling a little angry. . .
Click below to read the latest decision regarding Denise Green:
Denise Green, 6/5/2008 10:06:44 AM