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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Bret Welty Charged with Sexual Abuse

bret welty

Bret Welty was formerly a minister at Calvary Chapel Church, Common Ground Biker Church in Meridian, Hard Rock Revival Church (home church) in Boise, and the operator of Sound Harvest (all in Idaho) — a business that set up audio equipment for churches and events. (According to Linkedin, Sound Harvest is owned by Michelle Welty.) Welty also sold real estate.

Earlier this month, Welty was charged with sexual abuse of a minor younger than 16 years old, and lewd conduct with a minor younger than 16 years old.

The Idaho Press reports:

One of the members of his congregation was a 15-year-old girl who was having family troubles and living with anxiety. The family felt it might help her to spend a weekend at the Welty household, where Welty lived with his wife, 15-year-old son, and 24-year-old stepdaughter. She was at the home Aug. 9.

Police and prosecutors say that night Welty entered her room and touched her inappropriately. He continued to touch her for between 30 minutes and an hour, until he was interrupted by his wife, Fouts explained in court.

“The defendant confessed to his conduct,” Fouts said. “He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.”

Fouts asked Magistrate Judge Michael Lojek to set Welty’s bail at $350,000. Smith asked for far less.

“He’s been a pillar of…various churches that he was ministering at, and I would just ask the court to set bond at $25,000,” Smith said.

Lojek set Welty’s bond at $250,000. He also ordered Welty stop ministering, until given permission from the court “so as to protect any other…vulnerable potential victims he may come into contact with in that capacity.”

Lojek said he considered the nature of the relationship between Welty and the girl. It was unique, given that he was her pastor, and the pastor for the rest of her family. He issued two no contact orders in the case, barring Welty from having contact with the girl, as well as with her father.

Matthew Fouts, of the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office, stated “The defendant confessed to his conduct. He stated that he’d struggled with such behavior before, although not with victims of this age, this young age.” This tells me that there is likely more to this story than has been reported. I suspect there are more victims.

Bret Welty is also a muscian. His bio page states:

Bret Welty is a blues rock singer, songwriter, and guitar player with an inspired approach to blending the soul of blues with a variety of musical genres. Bret has been playing in bands for over 25 years, in a variety of roles.

Born in California and raised on a variety of music, Bret spent his formative high school years split evenly between Oregon and later California, where he was exposed to blues and rock. “The first time I heard guitar and blues put together, I was hooked,” Bret explains. As a young man, Bret tried his hand at 11 instruments before settling on the guitar. He received his first real guitar at age 15, and by the summer he had saved up enough money to buy his first electric guitar. Within 6 months, he was in his first band, and his love of performing live grew from there. Bret studied jazz in college, and has worked as a guitar teacher and faith music leader.

A true musician in every sense of the word, Bret plays drums, bass, lead guitar and mandolin. He has played all over the Northwest at both intimate and large venues, including state fairs and music festivals. Bret has played shows with Daryl Mansfield and has performed with Dennis Agajanian in concert.

Bret will release his album in 2014 “Unlimited Edition” a collection of rock and blues originals, is due to be released August 23rd 2014. It features a song dedicated to wounded service men and women whohave been hurt in the service of our country.  Coves of Bill Withers and the Marshal Tucker band can be found on this release.

Blues is at the heart of Bret’s music, but listeners will also enjoy elements of jazz, rock, funk, Latin, R&B, southern rock, and country. His albums feature original song writing and topics that listeners can easily identify with: love lost, hard times, triumph, freedom, and patriotism.

If Atheism Leads to Hedonism, So Does Calvinism

hedonism

Evangelicals-turned-atheists are often accused of deconverting because of a secret desire to sin, to live wickedly. I have had countless Evangelical apologists accuse me of hiding the real reason I left Christianity: some sort of “secret” sin. Supposedly, atheists are hedonists — pagan pleasure seekers. While it is certainly true that my sin list got a lot smaller post-Jesus, I suspect my life measures up quite well against the lives of Christians who ignorantly believe that atheists are morally inferior to followers of Jesus. Sure, atheism freed me from guilt over many of the behaviors I at one time considered “sin.” I no longer feign holy outrage when I see naked women or gay romance on TV.  I no longer have to beat myself up when I’m less of a man than I could be. I am quite self-aware, and usually don’t have a problem recognizing when I have been an ass or caused harm to someone else. When I understand that I have failed in some way, I don’t pray, seeking a mythical God’s forgiveness. Instead, I do what I can to apologize and, if necessary, make restitution. I then do my best to not repeat said behavior. As all humans do, I fail every day. That said, knowing what I know about Christians, I am confident that my way of life and morals compare favorably to that of saved, sanctified, bought-by-the blood, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Evangelicals. And I can say the same about most of the atheists I know. We are not hedonists, nor do we lurk in the shadows waiting for opportunities to rape, murder, molest children, or root for the New York Yankees. Quite frankly, most atheists — myself included — live uninteresting lives. I may joke about being a stripper named Santa, but my real life is quite banal.

If atheism leads to hedonism, then Christianity — especially Calvinism — does too.  Recently, I published a guest post titled The Cruel Message of Calvinism. Jean left the following comment:

I have often wondered–if you actually believe in predestination, what is keeping you from unbridled hedonism, if that appeals to you? After all, if you’re saved, you’re saved; and if you’re damned, there’s nothing you can do about it, anyway. Nothing you can do will help anyone else, in the long run, either. Why live a life of rugged virtue, if it isn’t going to gain you anything at all?

The doctrine of predestination (and election) teaches that God, before the world began, chose who would and wouldn’t be saved. The only people who will be saved are those chosen, drawn, and called by God.  Even Arminians, to some degree or the other, believe human salvation is predetermined by God. It is God alone who saves. In other words, the salvation game is rigged. Since salvation can never rest on human merit and good works, it is up to the Christian God, through the merit and work of Jesus, the son of God, on Calvary’s cross, to save sinners from their sins. Further, God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is the sovereign of the universe, and everything that happens is according to his purpose, plan, and decrees. Nothing happens unless God wills it or allows it to happen.

hedonism 2

As you can see, both Christianity and atheism can lead to hedonism. Evangelicals will argue that the Holy Spirit lives inside of them, and is their teacher and guide. Supposedly, having God living inside of you inoculates you from “sin.”  However, as causal observation of Evangelicals and stories such as those found in the Black Collar Crime Series tell us, the Holy Spirit is really bad at his job. Go read comments by Jim on the post Church of Christ Preacher Al Shannon Says Women Who Dress Immodestly Risk Rape by Lustful Men. (Also see Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Al Shannon Says Modern Women Wear the Attire of Harlots) Jim says he is a Bible-believing Christian. Ask yourself, does his behavior reflect the belief that God, the Holy Spirit is his teacher and guide? Supposedly, the Holy Spirit gives believers the words to say when witnessing. If that’s true, based on Jim’s comments, the Holy Spirit is an arrogant bully and troll. (And if Jimbo dares to object to my characterization of his boorish behavior, I can quote a dozen Bible verses that condemn his behavior.)

The only difference between atheists and Christians is that Christians wallow in helplessness before their imaginary deity, seeking his/her forgiveness. Atheists cut out the middleman — God — and seek the forgiveness of those they have hurt, promising to do better the next time.

Are you an atheist? Do you desire to live a hedonistic life? How is your life different post-Jesus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Dan Broxterman Charged with Rape

Dan Broxterman, the former pastor of FUN CHURCH (now closed)  in Hamilton, Ohio, was indicted recently on ten counts of rape. One alleged victim was under the age of thirteen. Local 12-News reports:

A Butler County grand jury indicted Dan Broxterman, 56, on Aug. 8. According to the indictment, the rapes occurred from 2014 through July 2019. Broxterman was a pastor and the lead singer of a tribute band. He also faces charges of gross sexual imposition and disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.

Tammy Mercer attended one of Broxterman’s churches from 2010 until 2013. She believes many people were fooled by him. But, she said she became suspicious after learning he was ordained by paying $50 online. She also said she found out he was allowing teenagers to sleep over at the church and engage in sexual activity.

According to Local 12-News, Broxterman served time for gross sexual imposition in 1990 and 1994.

fun church

Broxterman previously pastored Tree of Life Church (now closed) in Hamilton, Ohio. A church listing website had this to say about Tree of Life and its pastor:

We have church in the Hamilton Family Fun Center and always have a reason to laugh. Pastor Dan makes sure of that! The kids love us because of our 222 CLUB. The music is powerful and energetic. Come worship with us! Turning Hamilton Downside Up From The Outside In!

“Kids love us”, and our pastor loves kids too. He’s a pedophile who pays close attention to church children.  Praise Jesus!

According to Linkedin, Broxterman is the business development manager for Ohio Valley Insurance and Financial Group in Fairfield, Ohio. I suspect he is not doing much “developing” since he is sitting in jail with a $1 million bond.

dan broxterman 2

Broxterman is the lead singer for PUSH — a DIO tribute band.  Broxterman’s Twitter account mentions he is the lead singer for a called Holy Diver.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Kyle Harrison Accused of Absconding with $50,000

pastor kyle harrison

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2017, Kyle Harrison, pastor of Harvest Church in Starke, Florida, was accused of misrepresenting himself as a licensed contractor. Harrison later pleaded guilty and was ordered to repay the victim $26,009.25 he took from her as payment for the work he never completed. Harrison was fired from his job with Harvest Church and now lives in Orlando, Florida.

Last week, Mike and Charlene Oliver accused Harrison of not returning a $50,000 investment loan. News 4-JAX reports:

A Starke couple turns to the I-TEAM after they say their trusted pastor failed to pay them back after loaning him thousands of dollars.

….

At the time of the loan, Harrison was the senior pastor at Harvest Church in Starke. Mike and Charlene Oliver trusted him so much, Mike agreed to loan Harrison $50,000 as an investment into Harrison’s business, Transformation Ministries

As a member of Harvest Church, Mike had turned to Harrison for spiritual guidance when Mike was diagnosed at age 40 with lung disease. He was given just three to five years to live and wanted his family to benefit from the investment if he died.

“I wanted to have money come back for my family in case something happened, and I was no longer here,” Mike explained.

The only cure was a lung transplant, but because of Mike’s deteriorating medical condition, he says two hospitals had already denied enrolling him as an organ recipient.

“He was the pastor, so why wouldn’t you trust the pastor,” said Mike.

“He made us feel like he genuinely loved us,” said Charlene.

….

Mike says he was forced to take medical retirement as a Corrections Officer, and Transformation Ministries — which employed ex-offenders as car mechanics — appeared to be a viable business.

“We had a whole bunch of business,” said Mike, who spent time working at the shop himself.

The Olivers drew up a lengthy contract, which has Kyle Harrison’s signature. It detailed a monthly payment plan of $488 and included a list of collateral that would become the Olivers’ property if Harrison failed to repay the loan.

“At first he paid us,” said Mike.

But that didn’t last. The Olivers said the monthly payments became more inconsistent.

“He’s the pastor, so we were like, ‘We will give you a little more time,'” Mike said he told Harrison.

….

The Olivers now say they believe Harrison took advantage of Mike’s medical condition and never thought he would have to pay back the money because Mike was so sick.

….

They said they have not heard from Harrison in more than a year and said Harrison’s phone has been disconnected.

While the Olivers said they know they probably won’t get their money back, they reached out to the I-TEAM because they want to warn anyone else who might come in contact with Harrison.

“He has the gift of gab,” said Charlene.

“He is not what he pretends to be. He’ll make you feel like everything he’s doing is Godly and, ‘I’m trying to help you,’ and that’s not the case.” Mike added. “I don’t want nobody else to be hurt by him or anyone else. I want people to be careful, be careful.”

Sadly, some congregants learn the hard way that pastors can be grifters, and just because they are charming and charismatic doesn’t mean they won’t fleece you if given the opportunity.

Transformation Ministries is now closed. It is highly unlikely that the Olivers will see their $50,000 again. Giving money to God and his representatives on earth is always risky business.

Kyle Harrison’s testimony:

During the foundational stage of our church, Harvest Christian Fellowship in 1998, I was seeking the voice of the Father concerning His plan and purpose for this ministry. My personal testimony concerning drug abuse is not that impressive compared to some. In the mid 80’s like many other high school students I drank, smoked pot, and experimented with powder cocaine. But by the time I graduated from high school I had given all that up, at the time I thought I gave it up for a girl, who six months latter became my wonderful wife. But soon after that I realized it was all in the plan of God.

In 1999 while praying on a park bench at 2 am, at a time where I felt that I was in desperate need of a word form God, the Spirit of God led me to Matthew’s gospel. There I saw the Jesus made the statement that basically said, if the multitude had not made the choice to follow Christ they would not have had a physical need. God began to show me that there was going to be people in our future that were going to make the decision to follow Christ, and because of that choice they were going to have needs that typical church ministry could not meet. So from that moment on my spirit was open to any opportunity that would bring that word into fruition.    Not long after Transformation Ministries was born.

As the years have rolled on we have done many  things wrong, and many right. All the while trying to hear the voice of the Lord. The need for this type of skill training ministry is undeniable, and as we look into the future, we see the need getting greater and greater.

Prior to becoming pastor of Harvest Church, Harrison was a worship leader. A 2001 Charisma article mentions Harrison:

Members of the ethnically diverse fellowship [Potter’s House] describe [Vaughn] McLaughlin as a spiritual father who has gone out on a limb to lead them. Kyle Harrison, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Starke, Florida, was a worship leader when he met McLaughlin. Now he is pastoring the only multiethnic congregation within three counties of his church.

Harrison, who is white, says McLaughlin has mentored him and even paid his debts. “This man who I call my bishop, if it weren’t improper, I’d call him father,” Harrison says.

And he [McLaughlin] “even paid my debts.” Warning, Will Robinson, Warning!

Quote of the Day: What Has Organized Religion Been Up To?

The last few decades sure have been bad ones for organized religion. Conservative Christians have decided that the sum total of the Bible is about reestablishing the sex and gender mores of the 19th century. Liberal protestantism is so unassuming that hardly anyone even remembers it exists. The Catholic Church has been responsible for the deaths of millions in Africa thanks to its mindless belief that God hates condoms. Much of Islam has been taken over by the toxic Saudi strain. Israel has turned into an apartheid state. Hindus in India are apparently now dedicated to creating a religiously pure state. And even Buddhists have been acting badly lately.

Meanwhile, science keeps churning out new wonders. Cell phones. The internet. Cures for cancer. Robotic prosthetics. Solar panels on rooftops. Talking computers. Antidepressants. Google Maps. Cheap genome sequencing. Virtual reality. Machine learning. Meatless meat. Missions to Mars. Electric cars. Fiber optics.

Seems like no contest to me. But who’s winning?

— Kevin Drum, Mother Jones, Organized Religion Is Having a Bad Few Decades, August 18, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: OMG! I Had Sex With My Girlfriend

i would rather be fornicating

John Piper was asked:

“Hello, Pastor John. I’m a listener in the Middle East. I slept with my girlfriend two days ago and now we are both hurt and feeling dirty, cheap, and ashamed. We cannot even look at ourselves. We are both born-again believers in Christ, but we were lured into temptation.”

“Is there any hope that we might become pure again and be healed from our sin? I know the blood of Jesus covers every sin, but how can we get our relationship’s purity back again? Or is that permanently gone? What do we do now?”

Here’s Piper’s response:

I think this young man from the Middle East is beginning in the right place. He is, it seems, appropriately shattered, meaning he understands something has been irrevocably lost. He and his girlfriend will never be able to go behind this sexual encounter and undo it. They have lost something very precious.

I begin this way, even though it may sound hard, because I feel a tender and jealous concern for those who are listening who have not lost their virginity. It is a very precious thing for men and women. The world views it as weakness — silly, in fact.

God views it as a very great strength and beauty beyond compare. I am just as eager to help listeners maintain their sexual purity and virginity before they lose it as I am to help those who have lost it recover the purity that Christ makes possible. That is why I am beginning the way I am beginning.

I think this young man is beginning in the right place. He is broken. He knows that a beautiful thing has been lost, and he knows that the blood of Jesus covers every sin. This is a good place to begin.

Those who take their sins lightly and treat the blood of Jesus as a kind of quick fix have never seen the true costliness of what Jesus did to purchase their purity. So, let me simply make a few observations that might prove redemptive and hope-giving to our friend from the Middle East and his girlfriend.

….

Marriage has its special rewards for faithfulness, and singleness — chaste, holy singleness — has its special rewards for faithfulness. Married people can glorify God in some ways that single people can’t, and single people can glorify God in some ways that married people can’t. This is not a matter of inferiority or superiority. Singleness and chastity are a very high calling in God’s mind. That is the first thing.

— John Piper, Desiring God, I Slept with My Girlfriend — Now What?, August 18, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Pastor Bo Wagner Wants to “Unperson” People

bo wagner

In George Orwell’s book “1984,” the government could make people become “unpersons.” An unperson was not only eliminated, all traces that they had ever existed were utterly erased. And while I am certainly not hoping for such a dystopian society, that one particular part of it could be used very effectively as a deterrent to mass shooters.

What I propose is “The Unperson Act.” When a person commits a mass murder, whether they are killed or arrested, they immediately need to “be erased.” It must be illegal to show so much as a single picture of them. They must be referred to as “Alleged Shooter Number whatever,” and if they are guilty, they must forever be referred to as “Unperson Number whatever.”

Their birth certificates should all be destroyed, as well as their death certificates. If they are alive and arrested, they should be placed on death row and executed on an undisclosed day no more than one year from the time of the shooting. During that year, they should be placed in complete solitary confinement, no outside visitors whatsoever and no contact with or information from the outside world at all. During that last year, all of the prison staff should refer to them only by their Unperson Number.

Facial recognition technology, and whatever other algorithms or actual people are needed, should constantly scrub the internet of any traces of their existence. When they are buried, it should be in an undisclosed location in an unmarked grave.

Would this possibly be hard on the family? Of course. But that very fact as well should serve as a deterrent. And the lives of potential victims must be placed above the hurt of the murderer’s family, as hard as that is. As a side note, I would recommend a constitutional amendment that this can never be used against anyone but mass murderers, thus allaying fears that it could eventually be used against Christians, political foes, etc. [I’m far more worried about what the Bo Wagners of the world might do to those they disagree with than I am mass murderers. What’s next? Using Bo’s “unperson” law to execute and “unperson” abortion doctors?]

— Bo Wagner, Times Free Press, Pastor Bo: It’s time to ‘unperson’ mass shooters, August 16, 2019

Wagner is the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina.

The Cruel Message of Calvinism

Guest post by Linda

One of my earliest memories is sitting on the floor in a church nursery, rolling a big ball to a little boy who would then roll it back to me. I was delighted with this simple game. An equally delighted adult was watching us. I can’t remember who she was, but I am sure she was smiling and encouraging us in our ball rolling. We were probably three or four years old. I felt safe, happy, and comfortable.

My family went to church every Sunday. I didn’t understand why of course, but it was always fun because there were other kids to play with. Eventually I outgrew the nursery and began attending Sunday school. In Sunday school the teachers were always ladies and they were always sweet. They taught us all sorts of Bible stories. It wasn’t quite as fun as the nursery had been, but it was pleasant and sometimes we got to color. We soon began learning about Jesus. We would sing “Jesus Loves Me” or the song about the wise man who built his house upon a rock, smacking our fists into our palms to show how good and solid the rock was. There was an important message in these songs, though I wasn’t sure what it was.

After a while, Sunday school took a more serious turn. Our teacher taught us about lepers. Lepers were people who had a terrible disease that caused their body parts to rot and fall off. Other people hated them and made them live far away. Only Jesus was kind to lepers. Jesus was better than other people. Like the Sunday school songs, there was an important message in this story. I still didn’t fully understand it, but so far, I liked Jesus a lot. I was glad he was nice to the sick people and he even helped one of them get well. I don’t remember the first time we heard about Jesus dying on the cross to save us, but the teacher started bringing it up every week. She told us it was very important for us to believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins. It had never occurred to me not to believe something an adult said, especially a teacher, so it seemed kind of strange that she thought we might not believe her story.

Around this time, I started learning to read. Thanks to TV, I even learned that all people did not use the same words as we Americans did. Some people spoke and wrote a language called Spanish. It had different words for things like “water” and “friend.” This was amazing. The subject of language came up one week in Sunday school when our teacher taught us about the Tower of Babel. In this story, God punished some men who tried to build a giant tower they could use to climb into Heaven. He did this by switching everyone’s words around. It all made sense now! That must have been where Spanish had come from, plus a whole bunch of other languages I had never even heard of. I found myself smugly wondering why God had written the Bible in English. I decided it must be because English was the best language.

It was the 1970s. Hippies were everywhere. Stores carried posters and signs with slogans like: “Keep On Truckin’,” “Peace,” and “Smile God Loves You.” One week our sweet Sunday school teacher had a warning for us kids. She told us not to believe the signs that said “Smile God Loves You” because they weren’t true. God did not love everybody. I didn’t think much about this warning at the time. I was already learning not to question the things I heard in church. As the years went by and I transitioned from a curious child into a quiet teenager, I grew frustrated with church. Those early lessons about kind and helpful Jesus didn’t mesh with the grown-up sermons about a righteous, angry God. The punishment doled out by God at the Tower of Babel seemed like a prank compared to burning unbelievers in Hell forever. I didn’t understand what we were supposed to do for Jesus. I knew that He had died for us wicked humans, but there was something crucial I was missing. Why did all these people spend every Sunday listening to the preacher talk about it? What was the point? Our preacher spent a lot of time and energy ranting about all these other preachers who had everything wrong. There was a long list of these false preachers. He also had a long list of behaviors that would not help you get into Heaven: praying, tithing, getting baptized, helping the poor, caring for the sick, winning souls, going to church, volunteering in church, building the church, studying the Bible, serving your community, and on and on and on. I got tense just listening to him talk about all the ways you could waste your time trying to be a good person. It was like listening to a song with an overly long introduction. I kept waiting for the tension to break and for him to finally say what we should do to get into Heaven, but he never did.

It occurred to me that church was vastly different from school. In school, you learned about a new subject, studied it, took tests on it, then you moved on to the next level. You repeated this process from first grade to second grade to third grade and so on. By the time you got to middle school, you didn’t keep going over the same topics you learned in grade school; you were expected to have them memorized so they could form the foundation of more advanced subjects. Not so in church. In church you went every Sunday, year after year, to hear the same lecture about how horrible you are and how you deserve to burn in Hell and how Jesus would save you from Hell if only . . . something. What that something was, I couldn’t quite grasp. I wondered if I was dumb. Obviously, every other person in church understood it, so why didn’t I? Confusion morphed into anger and I started to hate going to church. I was closing in on adulthood and longing for independence. It felt like church was keeping me trapped in childhood. My escape finally began when I left home for college at the age of eighteen. I was still a Christian, though I could not have described my actual beliefs to anyone who might have asked. I knew what I was supposed to say, but those Christian-approved words didn’t match up with the thoughts and emotions I kept inside. In college I made the shocking discovery that other people sometimes questioned the origins of the Bible. They talked about it as if it were any other book written by men. Even more shocking was the fact that college instructors now encouraged us students to think about these things. They wanted us to think! I couldn’t handle it. I decided they were all evil. Though I had problems with Christianity myself, it felt like an attack to hear others criticize the faith — my faith! Even so, I did begin allowing myself to think, just a little bit at first. This was the beginning of the end of my faith. It wasn’t until many years later that I finally left Christianity for good. It took a long time to get rid of the fear that I might accidentally come to the wrong conclusion and burn forever because of it. And it wasn’t until the advent of the internet, decades later, that I finally understood what our preacher was really saying all along. I had started reading online articles about Christianity in its various forms. When I came across a description of Calvinism, I realized that there was a good reason our preacher never told us what to do to get into Heaven. He did not believe it mattered one bit what we did, because God had already decided who was in and who was out.

I had heard this long ago, this doctrine of predestination. It hadn’t upset me too much back then, because I was so deep in fundamentalist brain fog that I couldn’t process the horror. It just didn’t sink in. Now I thought about all the convoluted, pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook I had heard masqueraded as wisdom. And I realized that the particular message of our peculiar brand of Calvinism did not require years of lectures to understand. It was as simple as it was cruel: God created some people to damn and some people to save. There is nothing any human being can do to change this situation so it is foolish to even try. I cannot describe the way this realization made me feel. I was astonished at how ridiculous it was, and at how many otherwise intelligent adults really believed that this was the sort of thing a righteous creator would do. It still gives me a strange feeling to think about how that church, which I first knew as a safe and happy place, was never anything more than a shrine to violence and injustice.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Unlike Liberals, Conservatives Are Careful in What They Say

Rick [Green], it’s really a question because there are so many issues that keep popping up in culture and we want to present information the right way. One of the things that oftentimes you see is people who just start talking before they have all the facts and information don’t always do a good job.

In fact, the reason the hashtag fake news became a thing is because people started saying things before they knew what they were talking about. This is something, dad, you and I have talked about many times. [Tim Barton is the son of David Barton — a certified liar for Jesus]

Conservatives are very cautious in what they say [I’m rolling on the floor laughing hysterically] and when they say it’s because statistically, and this is just statistically: there’s gonna be people that are progressive, liberal, conservative, constitutional. However, you identify libertarian whatever. 

There’s gonna be people that fall in different camps. But statistically the majority of people on the conservative side don’t want to speak to an issue unless they have, Rick is you have mentioned, the apologetics. Whereas, statistically on the other side, you see liberals who are free to say whatever they feel or think or want whether or not it’s backed up by actual factual information [I’m still rolling on the floor laughing hysterically].

— Tim Barton, WallBuilders, Specific Things You Can Say To People Who Disagree With You Politically, August 12, 2019

D-Day in New York – It’s About Time

guest post

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

On August 15, Catholics will celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. That is, supposedly, the date on which the Virgin Mary was bodily hoisted into Heaven, thus ending her earthly life.

The day before, the 14th, just might be D-Day, at least in New York State. That day will mark the beginning of a one-year window in which survivors of child sexual abuse can file civil suits against their abusers, under terms of the Child Victims Act (CVA) passed earlier this year.

Nearly everyone expects a flood of suits to be filed that day. Some will have waited years, even decades for this opportunity: previously, if a child was molested in New York State, he or she could file a lawsuit or seek criminal charges until he or she was 23. Given what we’ve seen, it’s easy to see how this works against victims: it often takes decades for someone (as it did for me) who was molested or abused as a child to speak about it.

After the one-year window provided in the CVA has passed, victims can still file civil suits until age 55 and seek criminal charges until age 28. While these provisions are an improvement on previous statutes — which were among the most victim-unfriendly in the nation — the Empire State will still lag behind its heavily-Catholic neighbor Massachusetts, which gives victims 35 years to sue their abusers.

What galls people such as I, though, is that it took sixteen years for the state legislature to pass the CVA. Although I rarely have kind words for politicians, I must say that some members of the State Legislature–among them Assembly members Brad Hoylman and Linda Rosenthal, both Democrats from Manhattan — should be commended for their efforts. That it took so long is mainly a testament to how hard some organizations fought against them.

Will it surprise any of you to know that two of the main opponents of this Act–and its “window” in particular — are the Boy Scouts of America and — wait for it — the Roman Catholic Church? Although New York is one of the “bluest” states in the country, the Church still wields a fair amount of influence in the politics of both the state and New York City. Church leaders howled that the “window” will result in a flood of lawsuits that could impose “financial hardship” on the state’s dioceses and archdioceses. They have a point: California passed similar legislation in 2003, and within a few years, the dioceses of San Diego and Stockton filed for bankruptcy.

Still, the protestations of Church leaders in New York are at least somewhat disingenuous, if not entirely hypocritical. In claiming that the “window” could lead to thousands of lawsuits, the Church in New York is tacitly conceding that many children (and adults), over many years, have indeed been sexually exploited by priests, nuns and other authority figures such as deacons. But what is less-widely known is that, in a way, the dioceses of the state have implemented some version or another of the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), which allows victims to file claims for past sexual abuse. There can be little doubt that this program was implemented because Church leaders knew that passage of the CVA (and similar laws in other states) was all but inevitable, and that by giving victims nominal compensation on the condition of confidentiality, they could forestall a number of lawsuits.

And, while some victims might reap substantial payouts for lawsuits filed under the CVA, it will probably take years to settle and collect. The IRCP process, in contrast, takes months, and therefore may appeal to older victims who don’t want to spend significant portions of their remaining years in a court case. I have little doubt that Church leaders knew this, too.

It will be interesting, to say the least, to see what happens to the individual dioceses as well as the church as a whole as a result of New York’s CVA. For years, individual parishes and Catholic schools (including the one I attended) have been closing, mainly in the five boroughs of New York City, but also in other parts of the state. While few people expect the Archdiocese of New York or the Diocese of Brooklyn to go belly-up, mainly because they still own lots of valuable real estate and other assets, it’s not hard to imagine some of the less-affluent dioceses upstate filing for protection.

I realize that I have focused on the effect the CVA will have on the Catholic Church. So have most of the media. As I mentioned, the Boy Scouts will also be affected. Although the Catholic church is the largest denomination in the State and City (though many claimed members have long since stopped practicing the religion, or even renounced it altogether), there are a number of other religious organizations that could be affected. Chief among them, I believe, are the Hasidic and Ultra-Orthodox communities. (In Orange County, there is a village, Kiryas Joel, which is essentially governed by Satmar Hasidic interpretations of Halakhic law, and most of whose residents speak Yiddish.) In addition, there are a number of insular religious communities ensconced in upstate enclaves and some outer-borough New York City neighborhoods. It’s hard not to believe that some current or former members of such communities will come forward as a result of the CVA.

Whatever happens, I am glad that some people who suffered sexual abuse from priests and other religious leaders will have an opportunity, however brief, to break the hold of their abusers and hold them to account.

Quote of the Day: “The Family”

A secretive organization that has courted political leaders and built international influence while undermining the constitutional division of the church and the state in the process is at the center of a new five-episode documentary series called “The Family.”

Since 1953, the National Prayer Breakfast has remained a fixture in American politics that has boasted attendance by every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower on the first Thursday of every February. It has been hyped as an opportunity for the political elite of Washington, D.C., and visiting international dignitaries to put aside partisan differences and reflect on a higher purpose.

While the annual event is purportedly hosted by members of Congress, it is actually organized and run by an evangelical Christian organization called The Fellowship Foundation, or “The Family,” as it is referred to internally by its members.

The series, which debuts on Netflix on Friday, takes a look at the group that operates with its own higher purpose — quietly building its influence on global politics “in the name of Jesus.”

Video Link

“The Fellowship isn’t about faith and it spreads very little. It’s about power,” said Jeff Sharlet, whose books, “The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power,” and “C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy,” inspired the Netflix series.

“Internally, it is spoken of primarily as a ‘recruiting device’ with which to draw ‘key men’ into smaller prayer cells to ‘meet Jesus man to man,’” according to Sharlet. “Practically, the Prayer Breakfast has functioned from the very beginning as an unregistered lobbying festival.”

….

Citing 2006 documents, Sharlet estimates the number of dedicated organizers who handle recruitment at just 350. Those organizers, however, have built a network of prayer cells that the late Christian Right leader Chuck Colson pegged at 20,000-strong, calling it, “a veritable underground of Christ’s men all through government.”

Sometimes that has meant aligning with politicians who stray from Jesus’ example. In 2009, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford gave a press conference outside of C Street emphasizing his religious pedigree upon resurfacing after disappearing from his state for days to visit a mistress in Argentina.

….

So, while President Donald Trump may not have the most pious of track records, Sharlet says the Family has embraced the unique opportunity provided by the most fundamentalist Cabinet in recent American history to advocate evangelical policy.

“The Fellowship believes God uses who He wants, and that power itself is an indicator of who He has chosen — it’s a theology of more power for the powerful,” Sharlet explained.

“The fact that Trump, with his “art of the deal,” is especially well-prepared to embrace this transactional theology — Trump puts the Christian Right’s people in power in return of their support — seals the deal.”

— Ethan Sacks, NBC News, Secretive Christian group at heart of D.C. politics ready for its close-up in Netflix docuseries, August 10, 2019

Purchase Books by Jeff Sharlet

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy

Update on Polly

polly 2016

Polly was transferred to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne earlier this week. When this ordeal is finally past, you can count on me doing some writing about our experiences — good and bad. As things stand today, Polly will have surgery on Thursday. Yesterday, she had a tube inserted to drain an abscess in her bladder. Polly is also being treated for a potassium deficiency. The colorectal surgeon wants her in the best shape possible before the surgery. There is a small chance that she might escape without a permanent colostomy bag. The surgeon said that he won’t know for sure until he begins removing the fistula. We hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Thank you for your continued support. Your words of encouragement and donations are greatly appreciated.

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