Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hey, Kids: On Thanksgiving, Be Thankful That Your Parents Don't Follow These Pearls Of Wisdom.

They might land your parents in jail - and you in the morgue.

Last week's sentencing of Larri and Carrie Williams for the death of their daughter Hanna Williams refocused on the books and teachings of Michael and Debbi Pearl:

Two parents in Washington state have been found guilty of murder after following the abusive parenting techniques advocated in the parenting book "To Train Up a Child" by Michael and Debi Pearl.

It all started with James Dobson

In the 50s parental child abuse seemed to terminate with Dr. Benjamin Spock. In fact, it was Spock who was blamed for the permissive parenting (hence the rebellious, anti-war youth) in the 50s and 60s. He was widely criticized for encouraging parents to treat each child as an individual - an individual who needed self-expression and affection.

The Christian Right started to find a niche in the pro-war movement, denouncing the "hippies" who were pro-"love" and anti-war (it was Norman Vincent Peale who spearheaded a denunciation of Spock and his guidelines). And while they weren't as successful as they wished in bringing youth (via discipline) back to the fold, they proclaimed their voice and stance through preachers and televangelists like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.Nevertheless, the hawk disaster that was Viet Nam made things difficult for preachers of stern parenting, so it was with a sigh of relief that Dr. James Dobson came on the scene with "Dare to Discipline" (1977). Dobson became founder of the "Vatican of the West" - Focus on The Family with its headquarters in Colorado Springs - as well as a prominent leader in the Christian Right.*

Dobson's influence increased with by his stance against homosexuality and his opinion that it was a "choice" brought about by environmental factors. The Christian Right, of course, ate it up, including his views on parenting: "spanking" became OK - to a limited degree - and stern, disciplinary parents felt vindicated and relieved.

The Words Of A Knife-throwing Sadist** And A Jesus Freak***.

When the Pearls came on the scene with To Train Up A Child in 1994, few people bought into the idea that rebellious children, like livestock, could be trained into docile, obedient kids willing to do their parent's bidding at the drop of a hat. But the champion "hatchet man"* and his Jesus Freak mate* persevered, producing subsequent books, becoming a grass roots effort to tame children according to the Bible.

"625,000 copies in print!"

The most disturbing thing about the Pearls' cover: not the smiling child unaware that he's about to be "disciplined" if he quits smiling, but the "625,000 copies in print." It may be true that the Pearls now have a following, but it is the following of parents who are willing to "break their spirits" at any cost. In this aspect, the Pearls treat children more like horses. Rubber hoses are used more like riding crops - crops that will leave no mark should the child welfare agency come around.

The title, of course, should be indicative: the Pearls are not about rearing or parenting, but TRAINING and subduing any child's willfulness. Children are "disciplined" with switches as young as 6 months old. Boundaries are set (indeed, there are admonitions for children who crawl off a blanket). And while it is true that they guard against abuse, they delight in submissive, obedient children to the point of obsession:
In a lengthy diatribe on his Facebook fan page, he wrote that he and his family are all laughing at the "caustic critics" who have come out against him after the death of Lydia Schatz. He writes that children who are disciplined according to his methods "...become the models of self-control and discipline... that pay the taxes your children will receive in entitlements."
"My granddaughters laugh with joy after giving their baby dolls a spanking for “being naughty” because they know their dolls will grow up to be the best mamas and daddies in the world—just like them."
Perhaps they "laugh with joy" because they are transferring the pain down to another object. The possibility that these children will make good parents is slim indeed.

"Truly An Evil Book"

Although the Pearls actually make conciliatory statements against child abuse, most people agree with the definition of child abuse as causing undue pain. The abhorrent technique of causing pain to infants has caused people to speak out against the Pearls and focus on when their techniques are put to overuse. Review on Amazon:
2 people wrote this book. 900 people gave this book 5-star reviews. That's 902 people that the police should be keeping an eye on.
Too bad the police didn't keep an eye on Carrie and Larry Williams: 
On the night of May 11, 2011, sometime around midnight, 13-year-old Hana Williams fell face-forward in her parents’ backyard. Adopted from Ethiopia three years before, Hana was naked and severely underweight. Her head had recently been shaved, and her body bore the scars of repeated beatings with a plastic plumbing hose. Inside the house, her adoptive mother, 42-year-old Carri Williams, and a number of Hana’s eight siblings had been peering out the window for the past few hours, watching as Hana staggered and thrashed around, removed her clothing in what is known as hypothermic paradoxical undressing and fell repeatedly, hitting her head. According to Hana’s brother Immanuel, a deaf 10-year-old also adopted from Ethiopia, the family appeared to be laughing at her.
Hana was pronounced dead at the hospital, the cause hypothermia compounded by malnutrition and gastritis. The following day, when Child Protective Services tried to check on the other children, Larry Williams refused to let them in. When police followed up, a deputy noted that the family acted as though Hana’s death was “an everyday occurrence.” Twelve days later, detectives and CPS conducted interviews with the children, but their answers seemed rote and rehearsed, all repeating that Hana was rebellious and refused to mind Carri; one child said he thought Hana was possessed by demons. According to investigators, Immanuel said that “people like [Hana] got spankings for lying and go into the fires of hell,” just before Larry abruptly ended the interview.
As investigators searched the house—so orderly it didn’t look like eight children lived there, wrote Detective Theresa Luvera in her warrant affidavit—they found a fundamentalist Christian child-rearing book called To Train Up A Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl, which advises raising children to obey without question by starting to spank them when they're just a few months old. The book has been implicated in the beating deaths of two other adoptees—an American boy in North Carolina and a Liberian girl in California; the prosecuting attorney in the latter case, Michael Ramsey, called it “truly an evil book.”
Giving Thanks

While the abusive "training techniques" were carried to the exceptional extremes, the Williamses are not alone in their zealous behavior: millions of children are "trained" routinely, using the spare-the-rod-spoil-the-child dictum of the Old Testament. Some of those children will overcome the beatings (as some of their parents had), while others will not: they will suffer emotional as well as physical scars and a few, like Hana, will die. 

Children across the country may not know it, but they should be giving thanks that their parents are not following the Pearls' teachings or their "truly evil book."

*While not an ordained minister, Dobson has his 18 honorary doctorates from Christian colleges and universities prominently displayed behind glass at Focus On The Family.

** From the book:
On another note, Michael is an inductee into the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame and holds several world titles, including Gold Cup winner of 2008-9, long distance thrower of the year with a record all time high of hitting a four inch target at 63 feet, and he is the undisputed best tomahawk thrower of 2009, holding the world title.
***Debi Pearl grew up during the 1960s at the height of the hippie revolution and the Jesus Movement. The forced draft due to the Vietnam War brought a sense of eternity to the youth, provoking them to seriously consider their souls. It was a time of a great move of the Spirit of God. As a teenager, dressed in tie-dye tee shirt and long drooping peasant skirt, she stood on the highways and byways sharing the gospel and seeing miracle after miracle of God’s amazing grace. She married her life mate, Michael Pearl, in 1971.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Aimless Apologists: Free Birds Is Fraught With Subversive Meaning! Yeah, Right.

Beware of a family movie that doesn't mention God. Beware of a silly movie no evident motive but to entertain, because it is surely sinister. Beware of a movie that shows a wild imagination. There are subliminal meanings in everything.

There comes a time when you have to say to uber-Christians: "Give it a rest already!" 

I saw Free Birds last night. It was a fun, silly movie about two turkeys who time-travel to the first Thanksgiving in order to change the menu, thereby saving the lives of future turkeys. The only political bent that could be noticed was that the voice of the President (who pardons the main character) is definitely a take on Bill Clinton. Anyone seeing any socio-political message in it would have to be one hell of an absorbed individual, bent on an agenda of his own.

Jackson Cuicon of Christianity Today, is one such individual.

I know how I sound when I type the sentence—"The Indian turkeys are happier than the U.S. turkeys so clearly the movie thinks religion is bad." I know it sounds like a classic over-reading of the text, reading anti-Christian rhetoric into a movie that's totally benign just so that you (as reader) and I (as writer) will have something to get angry about.

Then he proceeds to go on (and on and on) about things like:

IMAGERY - This flashback's imagery plays heavily on the image of Paul's visitation on the road to Damascus,
MARX ("religion is a falsehood told out of compassion") and
EXISTENTIALISM ("compassionate atheism").

Yes, it's a classic over-reading of the text, but who the hell reads it like this particular "Christian" reviewer with an apologetic axe to grind?

Sometimes a silly movie is just ... a silly movie. Get over it.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hawaii Got A Scientist While Russia Got A Crackpot: Two Sides Of LGBT Equality

UPDATE: Yesterday, Illinois passed marriage equality. Hawaii and New Mexico may soon follow suit.

On Nov. 4th at the Hawaii State House of Representatives eminent bio-geneticist Dean Hamer (for 35 years, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health) gave testimony in support of Hawaii's marriage equality hearing.

It was perhaps the most compelling argument by a scientist that gays are biologically motivated in their sexual orientation as heterosexuals are. It is a "must see" that is making the rounds of the internet - but slowly, discreetly, especially if you're laptop is monitored by your right wing pastor.

But in Russia:


"Russia's parliament invited an American anti-gay psychologist whose work has been widely discredited to give expert testimony where he suggested that a third of LGBTs support pedophilia, according to a participant in the meeting."
"Family Research Institute founder Paul Cameron, who has been censured by the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association for distorting statistics in efforts to block LGBT rights, spoke at a Duma roundtable on "family values," according to tweets from lawmaker Alexander Sidyakin."


In America we have many freedoms, but one freedom is still developing: freedom from right-wing religion and its wingnuts.  Russia, sadly, does not have that freedom. Russia is held in a stranglehold by a Christian religious power not seen since Constantine made Christianity Rome's "official" religion.* It is certainly more powerful than the Anglican Church during America's colonial period. It is even more powerful than the revivalist religion of the antebellum South.

“Which president is the lion of Christianity, the defender of Christian values, the president that’s calling his nation back to embracing its identity as a nation founded on Christian values?” [Bryan] Fischer asked. “Those, ladies and gentlemen, are quotes from Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.”

It is a power-hold today's Southern Baptists certainly envy:

But for the Christian Right, the possibility that Russia is embracing America's hate groups, homophobes and scientific frauds to legitimize its own intolerance does not enter into the picture: eager to proselytize and convey the evils of its chief candidate for hell, the Christian Right's leaders (e.g. Bryan Fischer and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council) don't question Russian motives. Anti-gay Russian sentiment is a gift horse.

Back To Hawaii

After 5 grueling days of testimony, the Hawaii House judiciary and finance committees will likely broaden the religious exemptions of the controversial bill. That, however, is not what Christian Right opponents wanted, and they are is angered by the possibility of the bill's passage. Last ditch efforts (like the testimony of one police chief who vowed never to enforce the law) were muddled by the sheer volume of "testimonies" (over 1000!) and Dr. Dean Hamer's was perhaps the only clear-cut and authoritative voice heard. Moreover, same-sex marriage was not on trial - homosexuality was, and the debate degenerated into a boring hodgepodge that made Hawaii's state congress look ridiculous in its confusion.

No, the debate did not go well for opponents of marriage equality.

The Other Debate

While Dr. Hamer's testimony may not considered absolutely definitive (it will certainly be contested by the "ex-gay" movement and various hate groups pushing for conversion), it has solidified the "born that way" meme in scientific terms. Any counter-attempts to prove "it's a choice" will look weak and the Christian Right will have one less homophobic left to stand on.

In America. 

Other countries such as Russia are fair game for crackpots like the Christian Right's Paul Cameron: America's sage institutions like the American Psychological Association and the American Sociological Association must be political pawns of the radical "homosexual agenda." Russia maust be made to know about the "homosexual menace."

“He cited statistics of a survey of homosexualists: 27% engage in sex with children from 15 to 18, 15% with children under 15; 32% think such sex is OK”
“Such interesting statistics. The question is, should we give children away to be adopted by single-sex families? For me the answer’s obvious. Comrade Cameron…is even harsher. He says we should ban those who openly promote their homosexual orientation from teaching children in schools. A hawk.”

Actually, more like a fox - in a Christian Right hen house.

*When pagans were imprisoned and temples burned.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Next Anti-Christ Is 16 Years Old, A Brilliant Scientist, A Mountain Of Compassion, And ... Gay.

Bryan Fischer will be taking tickets to the auto de fe.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Pope Francis I move over, there's a new Anti-Christ in town and he's sure to be the devil's favorite for a while: he's 16 year-old Jack Andraka and he's adorable. At fifteen, he developed an inexpensive test to detect early signs of pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers because a close family friend had died of pancreatic cancer. He's also a Life Scout with the Boy Scouts of America (but not a member of the Boy Sodomizers of America ala Bryan Fischer), and he's butch enough to love kayaking. 

I’m openly gay and one of my biggest hopes is that I can help inspire other LGBT youth to get involved in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics]. I didn’t have many [gay] role models [in science] besides Alan Turing." 

Yes, he's gay. But that's only part of the reason he might be the next Anti-Christ.

In the world of the Christian Right, there are enemies and ENEMIES, and one of the worst, most, insidious enemies it has been battling for decades (centuries, really), is science. 

"Science Shouldn't Be A Luxury"

One more reason to think Jack is an abomination to mankind: he is a scientist dedicated to making scientific knowledge more available to the world - especially to youth. In trying to roll back strides in science as the horrendous results of anti-God belief or playing God, the Christian Right has been trying to twist science to do its bidding (e.g. pseudo-historian David Barton stated unequivocally that science would eventually prove that everything in the Bible was true, or the ridiculous junk scientists of the Creation Museum).
"Science shouldn't be a luxury, and knowledge shouldn't be a commodity," he said Monday at the 2013 Social Good Summit.
"We're living in a knowledge aristocracy. We have a knowledge elite," he said, explaining that less than 1% of the world controls scientific, academic research.
"If a 15-year-old who didn't even know what a pancreas was could find a new way to detect pancreatic cancer, then just imagine what we all can do," he said.
"Just imagine" is what the Christian Right is afraid of: a world of young, progressive, compassionate, (and possibly gay) scientists. They might prove conclusively that God's Word (The Bible) is more metaphorical than real. They might find cures to God's plagues. They might encourage humanity to question more and make blind belief a thing of the past. 

Today's Christian Right is cast from the same mold as the people who thought Gutenberg's new invention was evil, since reading and writing was limited to clergy and the church's aristocratic donors. 

Backing Off - For Now

The Christian Right needs a new Anti-Christ: Barack Obama is old hat, Hillary's close, but not nearly charismatic enough and the pope is not considered the effort since he won't be around long enough and Anti-Christs need to take root and grow for a while. It has also been determined that naming a new Anti-Christ every week is counterproductive - that strategy has no staying power. Yes, Jack Andraka fits the bill on so many levels.

To date, however, there has been no word from Christian Right powers-that-be. Not Bryan Fischer. Not Tony Perkins. Not even Linda Harvey.* Perhaps they are conjuring up a case against Jack's parents (obviously "exploiting" him and being too liberal). But perhaps they are wary of backlash, and not merely from the LGBT community: America does not take kindly to demonizing young people unless they are wild celebrities (like McCauley Culkin or Miley Cyrus), and Jack Andraka is as dedicated to social justice for humanity as they come. 

And yes, they're afraid of  that too. 

*Often characterized as America's most homophobic woman, Harvey (Mission America) has ranted against gay teachers and anti-bullying programs because she firmly believes that teens like Jack Andraka will be indoctrinated.