Southern Religion

Scientology schism (over management)

Scientology blundered toward the new year with a pugilistic response to questions about why three of its top spiritual achievers publicly left the cult, er, church.

Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin of the St. Petersburg Times wrote that “Geir Isene of Norway and Americans Mary Jo Leavitt and Sherry Katz” announced their split with Scientology:

Isene left first, a decision that emboldened Leavitt, who inspired Katz. Such departures are rare among the church’s elite group of OT VIIIs, who are held up as role models in Scientology. The three each told the St. Petersburg Times that they had spent decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to reach the church’s spiritual pinnacle.

All three stressed their ongoing belief in Scientology and say they remain grateful for how it helped them. Yet they took to the Internet — an act strongly discouraged by church leaders, who decry public airing of problems — to share their reasons for leaving. They said they hoped it would resonate within the Scientology community.

Scientology’s response was similar in assaultive tone to the reaction to Catholic Online [here]. Tommy Davis of Scientology wrote in a letter to the Times:

Your biased approach to stories regarding my religion is by now well documented. You, Joe Childs in particular, actively seek out only those individuals who have something negative to say about the Church; if they do not fit your agenda then you attempt to coach them and coax them into doing so by “educating” them about Scientology until you have “adjusted” their viewpoint accordingly and when that does not work you simply put words in their mouth. This is your pattern, which was unknown to the Church until recently, and has been your modus operandi for the better part of two decades.

All this habitually fists-up rhetoric from an organization whose evangelism is so slickly finished it puts most of the competition to shame. Consider this leaked, internal push for their Ideal Org program. Maybe it is a little too long. And doesn’t mention the V-like Ideal Org uniforms. But consider pitch:

Okey-dokey. You too can help convert your friends to a money-sucking program that promises mastery of immortality. A program where outcomes can be a lot worse than denial of communion.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Cults, WWW | , , , , | 2 Comments

Evangelism repositioned, de-acidified, sugar- and money-coated

Gone are the halcyon days of Jerry Falwell declaring 9/11 the result of “throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked.” Evangelism, writes Sarah Posner in the Guardian, has been “rebranded:”

The re-branding was the product of evangelicalism’s survival instinct in the face of the parody-ready Falwell prototype. One of America’s leading evangelicals is now Rick Warren, whose mega-bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life (2002), begins:

“This is more than a book; it is a guide to a 40-day spiritual journey that will enable you to discover the answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?”

The new evangelicals write books not about how God will smite you, but how God loves you and wants nothing more than your greatest personal, spiritual, and material fulfillment. The middle of the decade saw the publication of televangelist Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004) and TD Jakes’ Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits (2007). Joyce Meyer’s Seven Things That Steal Your Joy: Overcoming the Obstacles to Your Happiness (2004) and Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone (2005) are equally at home at Bible study and coffee klatch, in the church bookstore and at Wal-Mart.

Oh me, oh my.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Evangelism repositioned, de-acidified, sugar- and money-coated

Two churchmen sentenced for sex crimes, one so inadequately

An Argentine judge sentenced former Archbishop of Sante Fe Edgardo Storni to eight years incarceration for abuse of his power to sexually exploit a male seminary student. That sentence punctuated a long running scandal in which a book was published documenting the abuse, the Vatican launched and abandoned an investigation and a succession of victims saw their cases dismissed by various judges.

Not similarly concerned with the abuse of power in such relationships, a California judge sentenced “the youth group leader at Miracle Land Korean Baptist Church in Cypress was sentenced to 90 days for having sex with a 15-year-old girl.”

Both abuses occurred in close association with church events, making obvious the link between clerical authority and the sexual incidents.

Both assailants enjoyed the public support and protection of their church communities, as though their were something acceptable about their crimes. That misguided view of clerical sex crime contributes to the isolation of and harm to victims.

Most ethicists agree that betraying the trust of and abusing the authority of the ministry to secure sexual favors does not and cannot result in mutual consent.

The result is instead a form of rape.

Punishment at every level should fit the crime, should it not?

[H/T: Christa Brown]

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, SBC | , , , , | Comments Off on Two churchmen sentenced for sex crimes, one so inadequately

Using Catholic Church discipline to shape American public policy director Deal Hudson’s denigration of two progressive Catholic groups as “fake Catholic” provoked push-back from Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic magazine. Cones

Well, I disagree with him, and if he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal. It’s time for Catholics with actual knowledge of the breadth of the Catholic tradition to start speaking up for themselves before we all get read out the church.

This is no mere parochial quarrel. It is part of a conflict over how much the Catholic right will use church discipline to bend national policy to its will.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent interview with Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, and reaction to it, indicates what the right has in mind.

In the interview, Pelosi expressed concerns about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and gay rights and touched on the difference between pastoral care by her bishop and lobbying by bishops.

Patrick Archbold at the Catholic blog Creative Minority Report called this “text-book definition of scandal (a grave offense which incites others to sin). He argued that “it should, at this point, be dealt with in a direct and public way lest no one else think that you can hold these positions and consider yourself a ‘practicing’ Catholic.”

“Direct and public” appears to imply something more than the 2007 letter Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., received from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., requesting that he not receive communion because of his stand on abortion. The letter was revealed in the wake of a conflict between Tobin and Kennedy after Kennedy criticized the U.S. bishops for threatening to oppose health reform unless the legislation banned the use of federal funds to cover abortion. Kennedy said their stance was “fanning the flames of dissent and discord.” And Tobin demanded an apology.

Archbold’s shaping and interpretation of Pelosi’s studied answers into an assault on the Catholic Church is less important here than the coherence of his conclusions with Tobin’s application of force and perhaps even Randall Terry’s theatrical attempt to pressure bishops into denying communion to Catholic public officials who take positions like Pelosi’s.

The emergent pattern is one of using the hammer of church discipline to direct the behavior of Catholic public officials and through them to shape public policies to a narrow view of Catholic theology.

Defining some as “fake Catholic” follows the pattern of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fundamentalist takeover which among its effects made the SBC a mainstay of the right wing of the Republican Party. Those bidding for power tarred opponents as “liberal” (rather than “fake”) in order to drive them out. That process of narrowing continues as the SBC shrinks.

The resulting SBC is more politically right-wing than the Catholic Church is currently.

Most recently, the Roman Catholic Church found ways to oppose Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. Yet the SBC through its political arm — the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — remains scandalously silent on that matter. One which has otherwise attracted sweeping opposition from religious leaders and human rights groups.

A part of what has been ironically dubbed Batholicism, there lies the future of a Roman Catholic Church whose members permit some to be defamed and either silenced or driven out because they dissent from ideological narrowness.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | Catholic | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dad, Aunt Lisa, Mommy Ruth, Peapoppy, Ma Ma, …

There is something about which we agree with PZ Myers. As he writes in a blog about the loss of his father (fill in, however, your own loss), “We tell ourselves that time heals all wounds, and it’s not true.”

No it isn’t. This is the season of my grief, too.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Lullaby for a sleeping conscience

Christa wants to sing sleeping Southern Baptist Convention consciences awake to their neglect of trusting Baptist Children.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Churches, Crime, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Lullaby for a sleeping conscience

All is lost in the ‘War on Seasons’ Greetings’

U.S. Republicans did no better than British Tories in the war on “Seasons’ Greetings.”

The Tories surrendered and the Republican National Committee deserted under fire to “this blessed time.” Truly. Enlarge the image at right, and weep.

What’s a mumbling old culture warrior to do when his natural allies run and hide?

[H/T: Political Carnival]

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Satire | , , | Comments Off on All is lost in the ‘War on Seasons’ Greetings’

Focus on the Family comes out against Uganda anti-gay law

No LBGT advocate, Focus on the Family has at last drawn a line at Ugandan gay genocide. Colorado Springs Gazette blogger Mark Barna writes:

“As a Christian organization, Focus on the Family Action (the political arm of the family group) encourages pro-family policies. As such, we respect the desire of the Ugandan people to shield their nation from the promotion of homosexuality as a lifestyle morally equivalent to one-man, one-woman marriage. But it is not morally acceptable to enact the death penalty for homosexuals, as some versions of the bill are reported to require.”

“My reaction is to denounce this. It sets a horrible precedent and has a potential for developing hatred.”

Otherwise the Barna news story on the same topic isn’t quite as rife with errors as a Richard Land exposition on health care reform. Nonetheless sweepingly erroneous, Barna writes:

Moreover, it’s unfair to single out American evangelical leaders and organizations for not condemning the bill when many world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and human rights groups have also been silent on it.

In fact:

Barna is correct when he writes that “numerous Christian leaders and groups have weighed in.” (For example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Focus on the Family is a welcome and unexpected late-comer to the family of opponents, not yet joined by the Southern Baptist Convevtion Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

This without defending Barna’s failed attempt to exonerate the Christian Right for its well-documented role in fostering the law and to cast belated opposition as pioneering.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Focus on the Family comes out against Uganda anti-gay law

Jung’s soul search and the meaning of holiday despai;

A drawing from Carl Jung’s 205-page Red Book or Liber Novus, written between 1914 and 1930 but published only in 2009. Peay calls it “a Dante-esque narrative of how Jung rediscovers his soul” and compares it to the medieval Irish “Book of Kells,” or William Blake’s “Illuminated Manuscripts.” While others regard it as the consequence of a psychotic episode.

Exploring holiday symbolism and Carl Jung’s recently published “Red Book,”, Pythia Peay refers us to Dr. Michael Conforti, a Jungian analyst and founder of the Assisi Institute. Conforti said Jung was “one of the first psychologists to look seriously at the role of spirituality in a person’s life.”
Conforti says of the Jungian view of the Christ Child:

With King Herod’s efforts to kill all the male children, [Comforti] says, “This was no easy birth. Thus the archetypal roots of Christmas and the Christ child is the story of how something sacred emerges despite tremendous adversity.” Those who suffer depression during the holidays, he explains, may in fact be closer to the “true spirit” of Christmas. For such individuals, he continues, the Nativity story validates their despair, while giving them “a glimpse of something in them that is struggling to come to fruition despite great odds.”

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Health | , , , , , | Comments Off on Jung’s soul search and the meaning of holiday despai;

How many sexually predatory Irish Catholic priests were exported to the U.S.? [Updated]

Photo taken by me on 12 August 2009, of the memorial cross at Harold's Cross Park, Dublin, Ireland.Hohenloh + 19:55, 9 September 2009 (UTC)

Harold’s Cross in Dublin

It begins with one clear example: The notorious Rev. Brendan Smyth, a sexually predatory Irish priest who, after questions about his behavior arose in Ireland, was assigned to Our Lady of Mercy in East Greenwich from 1965 to 1968. Where Jeffrey Thomas of Massachusetts and Helen McGonigle of Connecticut say he raped them.

As a result of that childhood experience, they want some answers, as do the others who joined them in news conferences on Monday in Providence, R.H., and Boston, Ma.

How many other sexually predatory Irish priests were exported to the United States and part of the decades-long Irish coverup? Where they re-offended?

Simple questions, for which is seeking answers. According to The Providence Journal, “they sent letters to Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Boston archdiocese and Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Providence diocese, asking that they search their personnel files for information about accused Irish priests who had served in their areas.”

They already have a short list, writes Meghan Irons of the Boston Globe.

. . . unveiled today the names of 60 to 70 accused priests it says were either born in Ireland or are of Irish descent who came to the United States and re-offended. [And] demanded that Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence to comb the records of their dioceses and make public the names of any credibly accused Irish priests who have worked there.

. . . has compiled a database of 3,000 names of accused priests and said about one third of them have links to Ireland, which is reeling from revelations of a decades-long cover-up of abuse in the Dublin archdiocese. Four Irish priests resigned this month as news unfolded.

There is one simple, right response for the Roman Catholic Church: The cooperation required to secure reliable answers.

Norbertine Abbot acknowledges Smyth’s abuse

From The Providence Journal:

In an extraordinary letter sent to a television station in Ulster, the Norbertine abbot who had been Father Smyth’s religious superior for 25 years acknowledged that he and others had known for decades that Father Smyth had a “problem” with children, and thought they could deal with it by having him reassigned every two or three years to prevent him from forming “attachments to families and children.”

Two of those assignments involved duty in the United States: three years as a parish priest at Our Lady of Mercy parish in East Greenwich in the 1960s, and an assignment years later in North Dakota. In both places, according to the superior, Father Smyth molested children.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Catholic, Churches | , , | Comments Off on How many sexually predatory Irish Catholic priests were exported to the U.S.? [Updated]