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Tag: religion

Former Southern Baptist Chief Calls Sex Scandal An ‘Apocalypse’

Russell Moore, the former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling the massive sexual abuse – including child molestation and rape – in the SBC an “apocalypse.” He says, “I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in America and the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination.

Some of that abuse is detailed in a 288-page third-party report released over the weekend that states in part, “for many years,” a few senior Southern Baptist Convention executive committee (EC) leaders, “along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse,” “closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations.”

As a result, “survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”

The report names several past presidents of the SBC including this example:

“Former SBC President Paige Patterson was terminated from his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 after it was revealed that he told a student not to report a rape in 2003 and, in 2015, emailed his intention to meet with another student who had reported an assault, with no other officials present, so he could ‘break her down.'”

“This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse,” writes Moore at Christianity Today, where he now serves as the director of the Public Theology Project. “The abuse investigation has uncovered more evil than even I imagined.”

Moore says he had called for the investigation, which he now says “uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.”


Its conclusions “are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).”

As Moore reveals, Southern Baptist Convention leaders had documentation – a database – of over 700 cases of sexual abuse, and instead of acting on them by reporting them to the police or preventing those who committed abuse from being in positions where they could continue the abuse, “nothing was done” except to use the database to protect senior leaders.

“Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves.”

Moore, who with his wife left the Southern Baptist Convention last year, says he has rage wondering “how many children were raped, how many people were assaulted, how many screams were silenced, while we boasted that no one could reach the world for Jesus like we could.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Mastriano Shared Post Warning Against Electing Muslims (Like Dr. Oz) To Congress

Doug Mastriano is a QAnon conspiracy theorist and January 6 insurrectionist who this week won the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor. Mastriano is also anti-Muslim: He previously shared an image with the words, “Stop Islam” and a post claiming that “the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law.”

In addition to running for governor, Mastriano is a Pennsylvania state senator, a right-wing commentator, and a frequent guest in right-wing media. He regularly pushes lies about the 2020 election being stolen from former President Donald Trump.

Mastriano has shared toxic conspiracy theories on social media. Media Matters previously documented that Mastriano sent more than 50 tweets with the QAnon hashtag in 2018 and used Facebook to share false claims that vaccines are deadly and cause autism.

Mastriano is behind the Facebook page "Doug Mastriano Fighting for Freedom," which frequently posts his commentaries. On August 20, 2018, Mastriano shared a piece from the defunct website DailyTack.com which had the headline “Over 90 Jihadi’s Are Running For Office As Democrats.”

In the piece, author Harry Cherry wrote that “between 90 and 100 Muslims are running for office this year, the most since September 11th, 2001 – the Associated Press has reported. … The bottom line is that the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law.”

From the piece Mastriano shared:

Between 90 and 100 Muslims are running for office this year, the most since September 11th, 2001 – the Associated Press has reported.

Around 50 of those candidates will remain after primaries, according to the Associated Press. However, that number is drastically higher than the dozen Muslim candidates that ran in 2016.

Many of the candidates say they were motivated by anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S. – rightly so after 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and the San Bernardino Massacre. Leftists blame President Trump and the travel ban from 7 “muslim-majority countries,” however all 3 terror attacks listed above, were committed in the United States by muslims – long before Donald Trump ever ran for President. The bottom line is that the American People have a right to be fearful of the prospect of a large number of muslims being elected to congress, specifically if they practice Sharia law. Sharia law is the practice of utilizing the punishments listed in the Quran in one’s daily life, including in public. Sharia law also promotes the killing of Jews and Gays.

Mastriano also shared an image on December 8, 2018, which stated: “In the name of tolerance we have imported intolerance. People who respect neither the culture nor the rights of the original population.” That text was imposed on a graphic stating, “Stop Islam.”

Mastriano has made similar anti-Muslim posts. The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported on May 6, 2019, that he “shared a stream of conspiracy theories and Islamophobic memes and articles” on Facebook. In one instance, the publication noted that Mastriano shared a piece from August 4, 2018, with the headline, “A Dangerous Trend: Muslims Running for Office.”

Mehmet Oz, who is currently in contention for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, is Muslim and has criticized former opponent Kathy Barnette for writing that “Pedophilia is a Cornerstone of Islam,” calling the remark “disqualifying.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

How To Keep The Faith When Religion And Politics Divide Us

In a recent phone conversation — a catch-up during COVID isolation — a longtime friend talked of a memory that seemed especially relevant these days. A fellow cradle Catholic, whom I met at a Catholic university, she recalled how startled she was on entering my childhood parish for my decades-ago wedding and finding herself surrounded by statues of the saints and Christ on the cross, familiar to her but so very different. The faces and hands and pierced feet were painted black, so unlike anything she had experienced growing up.

It stopped her, until she realized how appropriate the scene was. Of course, these representations would be reimagined in the image of those who gathered and worshipped in this particular holy place, located in the heart of West Baltimore.

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Among The Republicans, Debauchery And Blasphemy Reign

Since Nov. 8, 2016, I have stumbled about in a country I do not recognize — a mean and narrow place where toddlers are snatched from their mothers’ arms as they try desperately to find sanctuary, where NATO is denounced but Russia is courted, where the president mocks children, the dead and the disabled to the rapturous cheers of his cult following. The recent impeachment proceedings have left me more profoundly confused.

President Donald Trump has so remade the Republican Party that it, too, is unrecognizable — a clown car of lapdogs whose use of the English language would likely startle even George Orwell. Up is not merely down; gravity no longer exists. Neither do facts.

Trumpists have resorted not only to distortions and fabrications but also to nonsensical demands to show their loyalty to dear leader. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) offered the sole amendment to the articles of impeachment in the House Rules Committee, insisting that Trump’s behavior was no different from that of President Barack Obama. If Trump is to be impeached, Byrne argued, so Obama should have been, as well.

Previously, Byrne, who once seemed sensible, had been at the front of the rump parade that tried to disrupt impeachment testimony by storming a meeting room. He is now seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in a crowded field of Alabama notables, so, apparently, there is no ploy too contrived or stunt too silly to show his fealty to Trump.

On Wednesday, as Congress impeached Trump on two counts, the president’s GOP defenders stood in the well of the House of Representatives to lie, prevaricate and even blaspheme. If the president is looking for a congressman on whom to confer the award for most sickeningly sycophantic, that would likely go to Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), who mustered the gall to compare Trump to Jesus Christ.

“Before you take this historic vote today, one week before Christmas, keep this in mind,” Loudermilk exhorted. “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats afforded this president in this process.”

There is much that is wrong about that analogy — biblically, constitutionally and, not least, theologically. And it serves as yet another reminder of the speed with which Trumpists have trashed democratic traditions and cheapened civic and religious institutions.

Still, I am taken aback by the collapse of even the appearance of morality among religious fundamentalists. I have never taken their “Christianity” seriously; white Christian fundamentalists have always embraced white supremacy over Christ’s precepts about loving all humankind. Yet, I never expected that they would rapturously embrace the debauchery of Donald Trump.

More astounding has been the revelation that so many of the nation’s powerful leaders don’t believe in the democracy they were sworn to serve. They don’t believe that patriotism requires putting nation over party; they don’t believe that we are a nation of laws; they don’t believe in the separation of powers envisioned by the founders; they don’t care that a foreign adversary intervened in a U.S. election, possibly tipping the scales.

Men such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Attorney General William Barr believe that their tribe should rule — absolutely and in perpetuity. If that brings the United States perilously close to the banana republics they once derided, that’s OK. After decades in which they shouted about the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution, it turns out they don’t believe anything they preached.

Vladimir Putin is certainly pleased. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) repeated a key bit of Russian disinformation on the floor of the House Wednesday, insisting that the impeachment inquiry aimed to stop the investigation “into the corruption of Ukraine interference in the U.S. election in 2016.” That’s a lie that Russia has planted, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Putin, one of the president’s most crucial supporters, has already rolled out the same disinformation machinery he put to work to boost Trump’s campaign in 2016. Endorsing Trump’s re-election, Putin said: “I don’t think Trump will be voted out of power on made-up charges. Democrats lost the last election, and now they want to win by other means.”

I am a stranger in a strange land.

Evangelical Magazine Urges Trump’s Removal

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli of Christianity Today — a prominent evangelical magazine — took a bold step Thursday by publishing an editorial calling for the removal of President Donald Trump, who was impeached just a day before.

Galli affirmed some of the Republican talking points about impeachment, saying that “Democrats have had it out for him from day one,” that the motives of the impeachers should be treated with suspicion, and that Trump wasn’t treated fairly enough in the House of Representatives’ inquiry.

And yet, he said the facts of the case against Trump are “unambiguous.”

“The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents,” wrote Galli. “That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral.”

Many evangelical Christians have been fervent in their support of Trump, despite all his wrongdoing and patent unfitness. Galli’s piece acknowledged that there are things Trump has done as president that evangelical Christians should be happy about. But that’s not enough to keep him in office.

“President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people,” he explained. “None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character.”

Trump, Galli argued, has “dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration.”

The piece also pointed out that in 1998, Christianity Today called for President Bill Clinton’s removal, and the revelations from the House demand the same for Trump. It also offered this admonition for Christians who still back Trump:

Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end?

Oddly, it didn’t offer the words that should be most reassuring for an evangelical Christian fearing the president’s removal: If Trump is gone, Mike Pence is next in line.

Church Nativity Scene Shows Jesus As Caged Refugee

A Methodist church in Claremont, California, displays a nativity scene outside the church with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in separate cages, CNN reported Monday. The infant Jesus, alone in his cage, is wrapped in a foil blanket like those given to children at detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The nativity display draws attention to Donald Trump’s policy of separating families — even those seeking asylum — at the border.

“What if this family sought refuge in our country today?” Karen Clark Ristine, senior minister of the church, wrote on Facebook about the nativity scene. “Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center as more than 5,500 children have been the past three years,” she added.

In the Bible, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with a young infant Jesus to escape a threat of violence from King Herod.

“We don’t see it as political; we see it as theological,” Ristine told the Los Angeles Times. Members of her church have “seen how these asylum seekers have been greeted and treated,” she added. “We wanted the Holy Family to stand in for those nameless people because they also were refugees.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), the congresswoman representing Claremont, said she was proud of the congregation for putting together such a powerful display.

“I’ve been to the immigrant children prison camps at the border, and I know the harm caused by this policy of family separation,” Chu said in an email. “This scene does a remarkable job of recreating the feeling of loneliness and fear created by the Trump administration. I’m proud to represent a congregation like Claremont United Methodist which is doing so much to highlight the plight of today’s refugees with this powerful nativity scene.”

The Trump administration has been roundly criticized for implementing a family separation policy targeting families crossing the southern border. More than 5,400 children have been separated from their family since 2017, according to the ACLU. As Ristine noted, many of the families were fleeing violence and looking for a safe place to be.

Doctors and lawyers visiting children ripped away from their parents have described truly horrible conditions at detention centers.

“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” Dr. Lucio Sevier, a board-certified physician, wrote in a medical declaration. “To deny parents the ability to wash their infant’s bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse.”

An investigation by Trump’s own administration found “separated children exhibited more fear, feelings of abandonment, and post-traumatic stress than did children who were not separated.” Some of the children separated from their family were survivors of kidnap or rape, while others had “witnessed the rape or murder of family members or were fleeing threats against their own lives.”

Despite a 2018 court order prohibiting the Trump administration from continuing its family separation policy, the ACLU filed court documents in July 2019 alleging family separation was continuing to happen.

“It is shocking that the Trump administration continues to take babies from their parents,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told NPR.

It’s the second year in a row churches have used nativity scenes to draw attention to the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

In 2018, the Saint Susanna Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts, displayed baby Jesus in a cage in its nativity scene. That same year, an Austin couple also displayed Jesus in a cage in their front yard, with Mary and Joseph standing to one side, and a quote from the Statue of Liberty on the other: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.”

In Claremont, the Holy Family is reunited in a nativity scene inside the church. As of October, more than 350 children separated by the Trump administration are still waiting to be reunited with their families.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Photo Credit: Rev. Karen Clark Risitne via American Independent