Monthly Archives: June 2010

Graven Images

One of last week’s more bizarre news stories was the destruction by lightning of the huge Touchdown Jesus statue that dominated a church campus in Cincinnati.

As other bloggers have pointed out, this event puts Christians who interpret natural events as signs of a supernatural being’s approval or displeasure in an awkward position. Was the lightning strike an act of god’s judgment, his seal of disapproval? The church affected doesn’t seem to think so, as the congregation intends to rebuild the statue. This time it will be fireproof.

Another, seemingly unrelated, story occurred just a few days before lightning struck: a federal court upheld a ban on ten commandments displays in two Kentucky courthouses.

Ho-hum. Another ten commandments case. That’s hardly news.

Unless one finds a connection between Touchdown Jesus and the ten commandments:

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

If that’s the case, then it should be obvious to Christians that Touchdown Jesus had to go and he has to stay down. No rising from the dead ashes for this Jesus.

On the other hand, maybe the lightning strike was just an example of, as the Good Book says, god sending rain on the just and the unjust. Shit happens, and it can happen to anyone, because god pisses on (and electrocutes) everyone equally.

Or, maybe it was just a random natural event.

– the chaplain


Posted by on June 20, 2010 in atheism, humor, religion


Two Kinds of People

In the minds of some Christians, there are only two kinds of people in the world – believers and pre-believers.

A joy of the believer is in the process and possibility of looking to connect to others. There’s a thrill when we connect with believers and a challenge when we connect with pre-believers.

“Wrong” believers, apparently, are actually pre-believers who simply need a belief adjustment. And unbelievers and post-believers just don’t exist.

— the chaplain


Posted by on June 18, 2010 in atheism, religion


Deliverance Is Evil

I came across a harrowing post at Thoughts in a Haystack the other day, and followed John’s link to an even more harrowing item. You’ll be thrilled to learn that Pentecostals can no longer be regarded as a one-trick pony. No, sirree, Bob. Not by a long shot. Now, in addition to speaking in tongues, Pentecostals have a lock on the ministry of deliverance: exorcising demons. Unlike speaking in tongues, though, which any spirit-filled believer can do, deliverance requires special training in a field called Spiritual Warfare.

Where and how, exactly, do Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance education take place? Is such education available via correspondence or online courses, or is on-campus class participation required? Are such courses offered by Pentecostal Bible colleges? At all of them, or just a select few? Or – here’s another possibility – are courses in Spiritual Warfare and/or Deliverance offered in weekend seminars held in church basements? When a candidate completes the training course (can it be done in one course, or are multiple courses required?), does he or she receive a certificate or degree? Can one get certified in Deliverance only, or must one be certified in the field of Spiritual Warfare in general?

How does one become a Spiritual Warfare and/or Deliverance educator? Are instructors certified? Do they hold collegiate or advanced degrees in these fields? Are there entire degree programs devoted to the field of Spiritual Warfare? Is Deliverance a sub-field of Spiritual Warfare, or a discipline in its own right? Can you imagine attending college and enrolling in the Deliverance program because what you want to do for the rest of your life, more than anything else, is exorcise Homosexual-Causing Demons from gay people? My God, is that the stuff dreams are made of or what? Quick, show me where to sign my name!

This deliverance stuff would be hilarious if people weren’t being hurt by it. Unfortunately, some lunatics who take these ideas and rituals very seriously are tormenting others. Consider Kevin Robinson’s story:

The prophet placed her hands on Kevin and began to pray over him. “Come out, come out!” she shouted. “In the name of Jesus, I command you to come out! You gonna free him right now!”

Kevin closed his eyes, thinking to himself, “There’s something wrong with me; I need to change.” A part of him believed this prophet could do what no one else had been able to do during previous deliverance attempts—make him heterosexual. But the prophet was loud and she looked at him with disgust and contempt as her chants became more and more belligerent. Even now Kevin can’t bring himself to repeat the most hurtful things she said. He soon began to cry. And then, with the prophet still exhorting the demons in him to depart, he blacked out and collapsed. When he regained consciousness, he stood up and returned to his seat. His shame was turning to rage. He searched his mind and thoughts and found he was unchanged—he was still attracted to men. In the past it had been family members—his mother, his aunt, or his uncle, the church’s pastor—who performed deliverance on him. This time it was a stranger, and she had pushed him beyond the breaking point. Never again, he decided, would he allow himself to be treated this way.

It was, by Kevin’s count, at least the 10th time since he was 16 that he’d subjected himself to gay exorcism.

Every time I read that passage, I can’t decide whether I want to cry or cuss out the stupid “prophets” who tortured Kevin. If you have a queasy stomach, you may want to skip Peterson Toscano’s account:

Peterson Toscano, a gay Christian activist, underwent three exorcisms before coming to terms with his sexuality. One took place in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, another in an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan owned by Joanne Highley, who runs L.I.F.E. Ministry. During the latter exorcism, Highley had him lie down on her bed, then she sat beside him and began to press on his body, commanding the demons to exit through his mouth and rectum. Before the rite was complete, Toscano, who says he felt increasingly violated by Highley’s actions, stopped the ritual and left her apartment. Highley did not respond to requests to be interviewed, but she has previously stated that her process is to “cleanse and bind demonic powers . . . out of genitals, of course out of anal canals, out of intestines, out of throats and mouths if there’s been ungodly deposit of semen in those areas—we cleanse with the blood of Jesus, and we cast out the demonic powers.” Some practitioners of deliverance believe that a demon has a physical as well as a spiritual form and can be purged through the orifices—thus an exorcism can be judged successful if the subject vomits, coughs up sputum, or, in rare cases, evacuates his bowels.

These are rituals that require specialized training? How does this work? Does one complete supervised professional internships in verbally berating and physically assaulting people in order to be acknowledged and/or certified as a Deliverer or Spiritual Warrior? Can one who is especially skilled at this continue on to post-graduate studies? The mind boggles.

Is behavior like this any more civilized than that of African witch-hunters? I think not. Is it coincidental that many of the Africans labeled as witches and many of the Americans undergoing deliverance are minors? I think not. Minors are emotionally, psychologically and intellectually vulnerable, often physically weaker than their tormentors, and easily victimized; they’re easy pickings for bullies. American exorcists may wear silk instead of cotton, but they’re just as deluded as their witch-hunting counterparts in Africa. All of them are equally willing and eager to take out their fears on those who are least able to resist them.

Defenders and practitioners of deliverance insist that the ritual is an act of “love and care” aimed at delivering gays “from the clutches of the Devil.” But some people, including some Pentecostals, wonder if deliverance rituals cross the line into abusive behavior. Duh! Gee, ya think? There haven’t been any cases “challenging gay exorcism in the United States to date, nor, apparently, has there been any research into the psychological impact of the practice, without which prosecution remains unlikely.” All that’s a convoluted way of saying that, until someone formally studies Deliverance and issues a scholarly declaration that it may be problematic, religious nuts will continue getting free passes on activities that would be deemed unacceptable, and probably illegal, in non-religious circumstances. Given the USA’s traditional kowtowing stance toward Christianity, authorities won’t pay any attention to this stuff unless people start dying during or shortly after deliverance rituals. Even then, it would probably take multiple deaths to spur any action; one death would simply be dismissed as a tragic anomaly. In the meantime, people like Kevin Robinson and Peterson Toscano will continue suffering at the hands of those who are supposed to love them the most.

– the chaplain


Notices & News

This is just a quick post to let you know of some recent events.

First, I’ve added another bookshelf in my Reading Room. If you’ve got some time on your hands and are looking for something to read, check out some of the stuff that keeps me occupied when I’m not blogging, working, cooking, eating…

Second, I should have posted this last week, but here it is now: the 143rd Carnival of the Godless is available. My piece, Gawd Said Let There Be Irony – And It Was Good, is included, along with several other good posts. If you haven’t read this latest carnival installment yet, do yourself a favor and correct that shortcoming today.

Third, my Masters of Disaster & Irony post has been included in Sunday in Outer Blogness. If you’ve never read this blog carnival, you’re in for a treat. Most of the posts here deal with issues pertinent to ex-Mormons. These posts give readers a peek at some facets of faith and life that are unique to Mormonism. Nevertheless, as I read posts written by Ex-Mos, I often see similarities between their deconversion experiences and mine. That’s not surprising, really. Regardless of where one begins the process, outgrowing childish fantasies and entering intellectual adulthood requires working through similar phases of belief, doubt, searching, disillusion and resolution. As the inclusion of my non-religious post indicates, the host likes to include material that reaches beyond religious interests and is pertinent to humanity as a whole. My post is one of four BP-themed posts featured in this week’s carnival. I’ve been included in this carnival before, and I’m always gratified by that acknowledgment.

Fourth and finally, the most recent Humanist Symposium (#55) is up. I don’t have any pieces in that carnival this week, but there are several posts that you may want to read if you haven’t seen them yet.

– the chaplain

1 Comment

Posted by on June 13, 2010 in announcements/news, carnival


Masters of Disaster & Irony

British Petroleum, the company that is responsible for what may be the most catastrophic man-made ecological disaster in human history, has spent nearly two months trying to persuade the world that it bears little or no responsibility for the devastation that is currently going on in the Gulf of Mexico. That’s why people find notices like these, posted at BP gas stations around the USA, ironic.

I didn’t know anyone was still buying gas from BP. I guess someone will have to do it, though, if we want BP to pay for cleaning up its mess. For some truly awful looks at the disaster that continues to unfold in the gulf, check out this photo essay. Some samples of what they have:

Americans missed an opportunity to start weaning ourselves from oil during the energy crises of the 1970s. Nearly 40 years ago. It sickens me to think about how far we could have come in the nearly half century that has passed if we would have made some efforts to change our ways then. I wish I could say that this disaster will be a wake-up call. But, I doubt that it will be. We’ll muddle through this, then continue doing the same irresponsible, wasteful shit we always do. What a confounding species we humans are; we can investigate the outer reaches of the universe, the depths of the sea and the structure of DNA, yet we don’t have enough sense to avoid fouling our own nest.

H/T to Think Progress and

– the chaplain


Posted by on June 12, 2010 in environment, photography, society


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