It’s his first wife, though, who makes this story even more bizarre than you can imagine.
She married him. She was also very troubled. She said that he raped her during the marriage (and yes, rape in marriage is absolutely possible and happens pretty often) and impregnated her against her will, or at least she thought he did, but wasn’t sure because of multiple sexual partners. They appear to have separated during the pregnancy (which he didn’t know about) and she was admitted to a mental hospital. Due to her very severe mental health issues, the child, a little girl, was taken at birth and placed with her parents.
To properly understand all this (as far as it’s possible to understand this bat shit crazy story), you have to understand that the mother was transgendered. Just because a person is trans does not mean they are “out.” If he was trans, then he was always trans. You don’t just wake up one morning and find you’ve become transgendered. And trans people in our society are treated horribly, and that’s putting it mildly.
So imagine the situation. A transgendered man marries a straight (well, sort of straight – we’ll get to that) man. The straight guy rapes the trans guy producing an undesired pregnancy, or maybe somebody else did. Who knows? The trans guy has to carry this pregnancy, that he did not want, to term. The child is given to his parents who are apparently religiously very conservative and hell, no, do not accept the trans thing at all.
I suspect I’d have been in a mental hospital too if I’d had to deal with all that. I might also have checked into the mental hospital had I been one of the parents.
But of course there is more. You knew there was more.
The supposed straight guy isn’t totally straight. He’s sort of a wanna-be pedophile. He’s written about it. He’s said that if he had access to a child, he’d engage in sexual activity with her, and that includes his daughter.
And about 25% of the American electorate lost their fucking minds and elected a man to the presidency who very likely got into office by colluding with the Russian government, but that’s got nothing to do with this, since Russia also hates the gays. The same guy thinks it’s perfectly okay to “grab” women “by the pussy.”
But it’s all okay.
Sometimes I just want to quit reading the news altogether and go visit with Frances. She thinks humans are just plain crazy.
It was an Amazon Prime ad, showing a photo of a black, cylindrical thing called an “Echo” and proclaiming that it was on super sale, for three or so hours only.
Being a total Amazon junky, I was suckered in (tell me those ads don’t work) and clicked on it.
I work in the kitchen a good bit. Some of the stuff I do, like canning and cheese-making, is tedious as hell. You try heating a vat of milk curds from 86 degrees to 100 degrees over a thirty minute period, evenly spaced out, stirring frequently, and see how bored you get.
So I listen to audio books. I listen to so many of them that I have an Audible account and prepay for a dozen or so books annually. That reduces the price per book to a bit less than $10, which is cheap to get somebody to read to you for hours. In addition, once you have credits with them, they run these wonderful sales where you can get three books for two credits.
Anyway, I have blown through several iPods listening to audio books. And I kill them all the same way. They are in the kitchen. To turn them on or off, I have to touch them. And eventually, they get too much moisture on them and they die. Additionally, it’s a pain. Dave comes in the kitchen, I’m deep into peeling peaches and a murder mystery, and he wants to talk to me. He has to yell over the recording and then I have to wash my hands, dry my hands, turn off the iPod and have a conversation. When he’s finished, and I resume listening, I always have to back up to catch the part I missed due to the distraction, and it’s just a royal pain.
To add insult to injury, Dave always has felt like I didn’t want him to interrupt me, and hence would be pissed that he even has to do it.
So, when I read about the Echo, I thought “Bingo!”
You know what happened, don’t you?
Not only did I want one of these devices, it was on super sale. Like really super sale. Like $50 off. Like $129. I clicked “Buy now.”
Here she is.
I just wanted you to hear her voice. Dave loves her.
I don’t have to get my hands wet. She will find my book, play my book, turn the volume up or down, pause, rewind slightly, move to the next chapter, all by voice.
When I bought her, I thought she would merely play my books and allow me to eliminate the dreaded iPod war, but she does so much more than that. She will play music, anything I have in the cloud, and also anything from Prime Music. She serves like a mini-Google.
In the middle of a recipe, if you need to convert tablespoons to ounces, Alexa is your girl. If you run out of soy sauce, just tell Alexa and she will add it to your shopping list (which is then accessible at the store via the Alexa app on your phone). If you want the news, you can either go with the preset stuff or go into the app and select what sources you want to hear and Alexa will bring it to you with your bacon and eggs.
My two favorite Alexa stories are these:
When we had the electrician at our house rewiring our kitchen, we had to leave him one evening and go to the barn to milk. He continued to work while we were gone. When we got back, he asked me what in the world that black thing was. He said that he had to cut the power to that outlet, do some wiring and then power it back up. When he did, of course, the Echo reset.
As soon as he told me, I started laughing.
When the Echo is first turned on, it finds WiFi and then the blue lighted ring lights up, accompanied by some sort of weird music, and finally Alexa says, “Hello.” And as you can see from the little video, she’s not subtle or quiet.
Imagine this guy who never saw one of these things before. He’s paying no attention to the black speaker until suddenly a woman says “Hello.” He said he almost fell off the ladder.
The other story involves a family with four teenagers who came to stay with us over Thanksgiving last fall. The kids found the Echo. They are very smart, very computer-savvy kids, but had never seen an Echo. They wore Alexa out. I am quite certain that she demanded a raise. She was the best entertainment you can think of.
They played with that thing for several hours. She played music. She answered every question you can imagine. She did all sorts of math problems.
And in doing that, they learned something about her. She isn’t the brightest thing on earth. She’s a computer and is very, very literal. If you don’t word the question or command exactly right, she becomes mystified. She can’t intuit very well.
And that’s why I was surprised to see this.
This, of course, is ridiculous.
But if you look around, you can find people who believe this kind of crazy stuff.
When a source is called “Intellihub,” you can bet that it is 1) not a “hub” of anything, and 2) not intelligent. And when they add a nice purple eye-catcher thing saying “SCI-TECH,” well, you know it’s probably bullshit.
If you scroll down the page, you’ll find that the article came from naturalnews.com.
Of course it did.
My goodness, Alexa is recording everything we say?
It seems that a guy was found dead in a hot tub with an Echo nearby. And the police thought that they could get Amazon to give them the recording from the Echo and there it would be: the murder happening.
But apparently, law enforcement folks have no idea how the Echo works.
They, like the writer of the silly article above that, thought that Alexa makes a recording of everything you say. Seriously.
Can you imagine the amount of storage space necessary to hold all the conversations that occur in a single home, say, mine, around Alexa? She is on the kitchen counter. Our dining area is adjacent to her. Sometimes Dave and I sit there and talk for an hour or more.
And Alexa is recording all that? All that stuff about which calf might need his horns burned in the next week, or whether or not it’s going to rain and can we put sealer on the deck today? That stuff. Oh, and a recording of me taking Dave’s blood pressure and later on, asking Minnie if she needs to go outside.
They think that because Alexa is “listening,” she’s also recording.
She is not.
She is sort of listening, in a computer kind of way. She’s waiting for the “wake up word,” which we have set as “Alexa.” If she hears that word, she responds, and yes, at that point, she does, in fact, start recording. One of the things you can do with an Echo is conveniently order shit you don’t need from Amazon. Of course you can. They’re not stupid, so Alexa can do this. They need a recording of that.
And apparently, she does keep track of what you asked, and it’s time and date-stamped and stored in the cloud.
Boy, I bet the cloud was crying on Thanksgiving Day.
If I go to the app, which is on my phone, right now, and look, I can find a list of all the things I asked Alexa today. On some of them, I’m asked to confirm if Alexa did what I asked to help the software “learn” my voice. If Alexa didn’t understand me, I can go to the app and answer the questions and help her learn.
The recording for me today consists of:
9 a.m. Alexa, play audiobook.
9:09 a.m. Alexa, pause.
9:11 a.m. Alexa, resume.
9:30 a.m. Alexa, pause.
10:15 a.m. Alexa, add spinach to my shopping list.
12:06: Alexa, what’s the weather?
1:25 p.m. Alexa, what is goldbach’s conjecture? [She looked it up for me.]
1:53 p.m. Alexa, king to the last night. [We have no idea. She somehow decided we’d said her name while we were talking. This happens occasionally, but not often. It probably was a gerund that she separated into “Alexa” and “king.” But notice that she recorded no more than the immediate phrase following what she had interpreted as her wake up word. Not even a whole sentence. You’re not going to solve a murder mystery with that.]
You get the idea.
Interesting stuff, huh?
Anyway, our Echo is one of those appliances that, like our phones, or our computers, or the refrigerator, would be replaced immediately when/if she dies.
And if the ebil guvmint wants to listen to our dinner conversation, they are welcome.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Amazon. If you happen to be interested in an Amazon Echo (or the smaller Tap, or the tiny Dot), use this link. It doesn’t do a thing for me, but does donate a wee bit of change to the Kentucky Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Ranch.
Somebody sent me a link to this article today. The author is not anyone I’m familiar with, but then I don’t generally hang out on religious blogs.
Here’s the summary: John Pavlovitz is upset because evangelical Christianity “sold out” and voted for Trump in a large percentage. Methinks he’s an evangelical Christian who didn’t vote for Trump.
He doesn’t tell us who he did vote for, however. He simply didn’t vote for Trump.
He says this:
Thecost, is that the Church itself, though winning this political battle has lost the greater war for its humanity and its dignity.It has been fully separated from its namesake.It is no longer synonymous with Jesus.It is no longer good news for the poor, the marginalized, the hurting, the downtrodden.It is an exclusive brothel where power lusting white Christians fornicate freely.
He’s pretty brutal, as you can see.
But I really want to differ with him, substantially.
You see, I do not think that evangelical Christians “sold their souls” to vote for Trump. I wasn’t even surprised that they did it.
In the first place, the “soul” is a metaphor. Nobody actually has one. You are your brain. You aren’t some ghost in an organic machine. But let’s leave that aside and simply accept the word as a metaphor.
For years now, Christianity has been losing ground.
Even back in my religious days, I knew that mainline Christian churches were losing members, but we rationalized this by saying that those people were leaving those “modernist” churches to come to our pure, holy churches. We didn’t understand that they were simply leaving.
When you leave a church, you go someplace. Either you go to another church, as we did when we left the Fundy Church From Hell and went to the Not-So-Hellish Evangelical Church, or you do what we finally did and just walk right out the door and never look back.
The never-look-back bunch is about as numerous today as the church-swapping bunch.
Mainline Christian churches pretty much know this. They have been dealing with it for a long time, and they typically are more reasonable people than the fundigelical types, so they are learning to accept their position as a soon-to-be minority faith. I’m speaking here about white Christians. The PEW data doesn’t differentiate racially. However, the math is pretty clear. When white people become a minority in America, white Christians will also be a minority.
The non-hispanic white population of America today is 63% and falling. It will take awhile (long past my lifetime) to get to less than 50% but it’s coming. Add to that inevitable decline the rapid rise, at least for now, of the “nones” (including atheists and agnostics), and there is reason for Christians to feel, well, like they are losing ground.
And when you’ve spent your whole life accustomed to sitting at the head of the table, and being all generous and allowing the minority religions and if you feel really good, the evil atheists to have a seat at the table, or maybe a seat at the kid’s table in the other room, you don’t take it very well when you start to get the idea that you might not get to dictate the seating at all.
That’s what happened in 2008. An uppity black guy won the presidency and horrified these folks. Many of them have spent eight solid years being horrified. They are losing their place at the top of the ladder and it’s scary as hell.
In addition, they have spent decades being told, from the pulpits, that the Clintons are the most evil people in American politics. I know because I was there and heard them do it. Not just one church, but over and over again in every evangelical/fundamentalist church I knew anything about. And Hillary was actually considered to be worse than Bill, because she didn’t understand that women shouldn’t “have authority” over a man.
So, when this election became a contest between Clinton and Trump, I knew there might be a problem. I did not foresee the debacle that it actually became (like most other people, I thought she’d win), but I knew it was going to be closer than it needed to be due to the evangelical vote.
I knew they’d do what John Pavlovitz laments and “sell out.”
They’ve always been sell-outs.
When I was younger, The Moral Majority in the form of Jerry Falwell came along and told them that they had to vote a certain way (Republican) because of abortion. So they sold out the futures of living kids so they could feel all righteous and superior about embryos and fetuses.
They sold out the educations of countless children so that they could feel all righteous and superior about having their own schools, away from those less-than-desirable minority children.
They sold out the futures of countless young women (I was one of them), telling us that we should aspire to be “keepers at home,” or if we absolutely had to work, nurses or teachers.
They sold out the well-being, the happiness, and in many cases, the actual lives of their own children who were born gay so they could be thought “spiritual” by their fellow church members.
I have spent this whole day, off and on, thinking about this and trying to come up with something, anything, that the fundigelical church in America has ever done that improved anyone’s life. I lived among them, as one of them, until I was in my mid-forties. And I can’t think of a thing.
The only thing I ever saw in fundigelical Christianity was a bunch of people imprisoned by fear and guilt and living with the dread all the time that people at the church would disapprove of something they did or didn’t do.
It was never “good news for the poor, the marginalized, the hurting, the downtrodden.” And it has always been “an exclusive brothel where power lusting white Christians fornicate freely.”
This is not to say that there aren’t good, decent people who are evangelical. There are. There are good Christians. And there are shitty Christians. There are good atheists and there are some really crappy ones. People are just people.
But what I have never met, ever, is a person who was good because he was Christian. The good Christians I’ve known are simply good people who would be good if they were Buddhists, or atheists, or Catholics or Methodists.
So, when evangelicals embraced Trump, they didn’t surprise me at all. When they sold out to a man who embodies every single thing they supposedly reject, it didn’t surprise me at all. When they gave away their entire country because baby Jesus values fetuses more than actual children, that didn’t surprise me one bit. When they value the opinion of Vladimir Putin because he excoriates gay people and that makes God happy, that didn’t surprise me either.
The thing that surprises me is that it seems to have surprised John Pavlovitz.
In the late nineties, Dave and I went on one of those Holy Land tours with a group from our church. In addition to Israel, we went to Jordan and Egypt.
While we were at Masada, we were waiting for the tour bus and hanging about in the gift shop at the base of the mountain.
There was a book on display written by a rabbi. I don’t recall the title, but it was about the historicity of Jesus (did Jesus exist at all?) I was so intrigued by the idea. I wanted, really wanted to read that book.
But when I put out my hand to pick it up, I realized it was shaking. My heart was pounding. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking at that book.
I didn’t buy it. I didn’t even touch it.
Back then, there was no Amazon. I was a frequent visitor to the public library. I also haunted a used bookstore in Fayetteville, NC.
I used to go in there, sell them my old books, get a credit slip and then collect a big bag of books and take them home.
One day, I found this book and bought it. I slipped it in the stack, hidden in the middle and brought it home. I hid it in my dresser and read it in secret. I didn’t even want Dave to see it, much less anyone else.
In all the years we’ve been married, Dave has never given me a single reason to think he would criticize me for anything I read, or wanted to read, or anything I did for that matter. But I didn’t want him to see that book.
You know why? You know what was so bad about that stupid book (apart from the completely silly premise contained therein)?
Susan Powter’s lack of hair.
I am not kidding. She cropped her hair really short. And mind you, this was long after we’d left the Fundy Church From Hell that taught that women should have long hair. This was while we were at the much more liberal fundigelical Christian and Missionary Alliance church.
So I was afraid to even touch a book about the historicity of Jesus, and hid a book because the woman on the cover cut her hair really short. So, I must be a shy, frightened, scaredy-cat of a woman. Right?
Well, no. That’s not exactly how people see me, putting it mildly. I am the sort of woman who got hounded with “you need to work on having a meek and quiet spirit, dear.” But I was afraid.
And then we moved to Alaska, and I had a combination of lots of time during the cold dark winters to read, the internet, and a tiny little library (in photo – isn’t it beautiful?) complete with interlibrary loan.
And I could read anything I wanted and nobody knew.
So I did.
And in doing so, I overcame fear. It wasn’t instantaneous by any means. It took me several years, but I found out that freedom of expression is better than any relationship with anyone, ever, anytime.
In the last couple of years, since May 2014, I have come in contact with the most fearful people I have ever known since those days I was part of Fundyland. I have gotten messages on my Romancing Victims web site using fake names and bogus email addresses because the senders were so frightened that Camille Lewis and her Court would somehow think poorly of them if they were discovered conversing with me.
I got one message from a scared little somebody that just said, “Thank you” written over and over again. That’s all.
I have gotten phone calls from women who were nearly hysterical with fear, sobbing almost uncontrollably. I have gotten phone calls from people who were simply trying to ascertain if I was a real person and not one of Camille’s sock puppets – they wanted to determine if they could trust me.
The fundigelical culture is one that fosters fear. Everyone is taught to fear “God”- The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10a). We were exhorted to fear not them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him that is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:28).
But of course, nobody can actually fear “God.” You can’t even see “God.” So instead, we feared what other people might think about us. If anyone saw me buying or even showing interest in a book about whether or not Jesus ever really existed at all, well, that might mean that I didn’t really have faith. And I’m not quite sure what buying a book with Susan Powter’s shaven head on the cover might mean, but I knew it was bad somehow.
This is another book I read during the same period, by a man, as you can see, named David R. Miller. Dr. Miller, at the time of the publication of this book (1992) was a psychology professor at Liberty University (which is a bit like jumping from the frying pan into the fire, but still. . . )
What is less obvious until/unless you read the book is that Dr. Miller seems to have done a brief stint at everyone’s favorite fundamentalist college: Bob Jones University.
He doesn’t actually say so in the book, but he describes so much stuff that goes on at BJU that it’s pretty apparent to anyone who ever put their toe on the campus that he was there.
He tells a story in the book about how his wife was ill one weekend, and he had to call the doctor on a Sunday afternoon. The doctor, who had apparently seen her before, said he’d phone in a prescription for Dr. Miller to pick up at a nearby pharmacy. This pharmacy, of course, was near the campus.
Dr. Miller talks about the choice he had to make about getting that prescription filled. You see, he opted to stay home from church on a Sunday night to be with his sick wife, and if he went and got the prescription filled, that she very much needed for her health, somebody might see him out and about on a Sunday evening during church time. [He never mentions what he thought the person who would have seen him would use as their excuse for not being in church on a Sunday night.]
But if he waited until church got out, the pharmacy might be closed.
I cannot remember the decision he finally made about all this – I just remember the dilemma he describes. I suspect his ultimate decision was to pack his stuff and get the hell out of there, but he very adequately describes the fear that drives every aspect of life in that culture.
That’s what it’s all about.
And even after somebody leaves, nine years later, that person is stillattempting, successfully at times, to control people using fear. She learned how really well. She actually learned more about doing that than about rhetoric.
The fact that Camille and her ilk do not have any control over anything at all doesn’t seem to stop people from being terrified of her. Her threats, and those of her accomplices, including Cathy Harris, are meaningless. They are yapping little lap dogs with no teeth. Yes, the barking is shrill and irritating. But, no, they can’t really bite. They have no teeth.
I find it a little odd and somewhat astonishing that the people who call/write me in terror are Christian and I am the resident atheist.
The other day I found myself quoting the Bible to one of them, something that I do from time to time. Mythology can contain truth, or at least allude to truth.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Of course, “God” doesn’t give us anything at all, but you get the idea. Freedom is power. Freedom is a form of love – not only of the self, but of others. And freedom leads to a sound mind. Yes, there can be consequences, but hiding has consequences too. I’ve been both places and free is far preferable.
There is nothing in the world better than using your real name on social media, on blogs, and saying what you really think (within reason – we all know there are times when you’re better off not expressing your deepest thoughts). There is no bondage worse than worrying yourself into hysteria over what somebody will think if they find out that you have a book with a picture on the cover of a woman with a shaved head.
Or that you very much want to read a book about whether or not Jesus ever existed.
This is Dave and me at our wedding, 44 years ago today. It was small, just a few people gathered at my in-laws’ house. We were married by Dave’s former football coach who also happened to be a justice of the peace.
My mother was a little bit distressed that we weren’t having a preacher. There was one present, but he was merely a guest. No prayers. In hindsight, I’m really glad about that.
But all the picture-taking, and all the words said over us by Coach Lollis were really not the wedding.
This was the wedding ceremony. That’s Lollis standing there with us supervising our signatures on the paperwork.
Marriage is a legal contract. In the years since, we’ve bought and sold a dozen houses, and opened and closed numerous banking and brokerage accounts, and we’ve signed lots of paperwork.
Signing the papers to get married was just like that (except that buying a house if you have a mortgage involves way more signatures and lots more paper).
Never once did it cross my mind forty-four years ago that not everyone could do what we were doing. In the years since we signed that document, we have almost never (maybe never – I can’t remember a time) been asked to produce it to prove our legal status. We’ve changed our legal residence from one state to another about seven times. Nobody has ever questioned our claim to be legally married. We have taken it for granted, for forty-four years.
If we had to produce that document today, I’d have to hunt for it.
I am so happy to be living in a period where other people are beginning to get the right to do what we did so long ago.
My sincerest wish for them is that one day, they too won’t know where they put that document. They will be able to just take it for granted that when they tell somebody they are married, it will be accepted without question the way our marriage has been for forty-four years.
Cause it’s starting to rain, And my cheeks are stained With all the same old bullshit, misery and pain. . .
And I know I’m to blame, oh, and it’s a lowdown dirty shame Cause John Coltrane is on my radio again. Nathan Davis, “John Coltrane,” from Nathan Davis LIVE
Dave and Nathan and I lived in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina for several years in the mid-to-late eighties. We moved back to the Greenville area from Southern Pines, North Carolina in large part because we knew that Nate was not likely to get a good education at the Christian school that was part of the Fundy Church From Hell.
The lower-grade teachers were fine. It was the upper grades that concerned us, due to inexperienced, untrained teachers and inadequate facilities.
Because of our indoctrination in fundamentalism, we didn’t think that public school was an option. So we decided that we were more likely to find good education combined with our religion in a town peppered with Christian schools.
At first, it seemed like a good thing to do. Nathan started the fifth grade there in 1986.
But in the fall of 1988 (his seventh grade year), he began to tell me that he was being bullied. Of course, he didn’t use that word. He just talked about how the guys were teasing him. I told him that life wasn’t always about how much people like you, and that sometimes they just don’t and that he needed to grow some thicker skin.
Sometimes, parents need to clean out the cobwebs in their heads.
One day, just before Thanksgiving, while picking Nate up after school, I couldn’t find him. When he didn’t come to the car after a little wait, I went looking for him.
I saw a circle of boys off to the side of the parking lot with Nathan in the center. They were taunting him and shoving him from one to the other. I stood quietly, getting increasingly enraged, just watching to be sure about what I was seeing. I also was afraid that if I went storming up, I would make matters worse.
They finally saw me, and immediately disbanded. Nate grabbed his book bag and came to the car. On the ride home, I asked him about the incident. He said, “Mom, I’ve been telling you. . . ” And the spider webs cleared. I realized I’d been blowing him off and said, “Tell me again.”
He began to describe ongoing, systematic bullying, led almost entirely by one boy. The kid was one of those adolescents who goes through puberty gracefully. No awkwardness, just an easing into adulthood with good looks, and a tendency to look older than he was. His father was also very well-to-do and drove a very nice car.
I drove a red VW bug.
We got home and had a family discussion about the situation. During that conversation, Nathan told us, in tears (and this was a boy who rarely cried, even as an infant), that if we sent him back to that school, he would die. It was drama, yes, but he was serious.
So we went to see the principal, Bruce Mizell.
He informed us that Nathan had had “emotional problems” ever since he’d been at Hampton Park, more than two years.
I asked him when, exactly, he was planning to tell us about that. He had no answer.
It was one of those conversations where the response is “No doubt the problem is with you.” Anyone associated with Bob Jones University for more than twelve seconds knows about this.
It was also obvious to us that the instigator’s father was a heavy donor and there was no way in hell that Mizell was going to offend the man. The son would slide by. [The last time I checked, the son has a prison record.]
We then began discussing what we might do about Nathan’s “emotional problems.” Mizell reached for the phone book. I thought he was looking up the phone number of some counselor he was going to recommend, but no – he had nobody in mind. He was just looking randomly.
We then mentioned possibilities, like home schooling. His response was immediate and vehement. “Whatever you do, don’t home school him.”
At that point, we both knew the answer to the problem. Whatever this idiot man thought we shouldn’t do was very likely the right way to go. So that’s what we did. And we never had contact with Hampton Park Baptist Church or School again, except for one brief visit Dave made to let Mizell listen to an obscene phone message Nathan received shortly after leaving from a Hampton Park student.
Pretty bad, huh? The graffiti was everywhere. It consisted of only two words, primarily – “wake up” – with the occasional “please” tossed in.
So I began reading the comments. And I got really angry.
There was another one, but it was removed before I thought to get a screen shot of it. It began with something like “Atheists say they don’t believe in God, but are really obsessed with God,” and went on to assume that the vandals were, in fact, atheists.
This is, of course, typical fundigelical-think. Here’s another gem:
Naturally the vandal(s) cannot possibly be “saved.” They have to be people from Outside – Other. This cannot possibly be rooted within. In fact, the vandalism itself is not cause for asking some questions, “Gee, somebody is really mad. Who have we offended and what could be the problem?”
No. Somebody is royally pissed at us, and that’s proof that we are right.
There’s another Baptist church with this self-aggrandizing attitude. I think the name is Westboro. Check ‘em out. Just use Google.
So, I couldn’t help myself. The comments were open to the public, so I commented. And pretty much thought that was that.
But then, I discovered that a friend of mine who has a bigger beef with Hampton Park than I do posted a comment. This isn’t it. I cannot post his comment because it was removed by the Hampton Park page administrators. But this is the gist of it.
And Jeffrey brings up a very valid point. It is now two weeks since GRACE issued their relatively scathing report about Bob Jones University. Anyone who has spent more than twenty minutes immersed in the Bob Jones sub-culture of Greenville knows that Hampton Park is a “BJU church.” From the pulpit to the music to the Sunday school to the day school, and probably to the janitor, many if not most of the people hired there are affiliated with BJU. They are grads or former students.
Is it possible, just a teensy, itsy, bitsy bit, that somebody in Greenville is royally pissed that Hampton Park isn’t implicated in the GRACE report, but probably ought to be? Or that somebody has reason to believe that crappy stuff has gone on there?
I know for sure that it’s a shitty school. I know because we paid them good money for a couple of years to educate our son, and then had to spend the following four years rehabilitating him from the damage they allowed those dreadful kids to inflict on him. I know because I spoke with his teachers. One of them assured me that she thought the way those kids treated Nate was terrible, and that she tried to stop it. But another, older, long-time teacher informed me that Nate had only gotten what he deserved. “No doubt the problem was with him.”
So, here we have a reasonable motive. A report comes out that a lot of people are unhappy about for one reason or another, and Hampton Park looks around at the obvious message sent to them in spray paint and says, “Who? Us?” and blames. . .
Gee fucking thanks.
Let’s talk for a minute about atheists and vandalism.
There is no question that there are more religious people in America than there are atheists. Like, you know, lots more. And religious people not only live and work and hang out – they generally have buildings, churches, where they meet. Atheists? Not so much.
Atheists have billboards.
And not very many of them, especially if you compare them to the number of church signs that are around. Think about the last time you saw a church sign(s) and the last time you saw an atheist billboard.
But this is what happens to atheist billboards, regularly.
It happens so often that most atheists pretty much expect it. Often billboard companies are reluctant to rent space to atheists because they know the vandals are coming.
And you know what Christians have to say when atheist billboards are vandalized?
But you know what? The vandals at Hampton Park couldn’t possibly have been atheists. I can fucking prove it.
Update, Christmas day:
They took down the photos and all the comments. They didn’t want to “stifle conversation,” of course not. But the “conversation” had lost its focus – namely, people telling them how great they are and how sad it all is.
And “speculations” resulted in “tensions.” Hell, yeah, they did. But long before the admins of that page decided to remove the whole thing, they removed Jeffrey’s comment. So they did, in fact, “pick and choose.”
Mama said it was shame about Billie Joe, anyhow.
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge,
And now Billie Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge
Bobbie Gentry, “Ode to Billie Joe”
Years ago, I was a pretty devout Christian fundamentalist. Lest you have doubts about that, here I am (standing, on the right with my head just over the head of the pianist), singing in a trio at church in the early nineties. Calvary Memorial Church, Southern Pines, NC, which I refer to fondly as “The Fundy Church From Hell.”
And, while I don’t have a photo handy of anyone preaching, here’s a newer picture of the same church. You can see the pulpit clearly to the left of the picture, so you can imagine the hours and hours I spent sitting in that place, listening to preaching and hearing not only stories from the Bible, but all sorts of stories about people. Little moral lessons.
Some were warning stories, like the veiled song referenced above, “Ode to Billie Joe.”
But others were these feel-good, sappy stories designed to draw tears and bring out Kleenexes and soften “hearts” for “the Holy Spirit.”
I was well into adulthood before I began to understand that these little stories were mostly composites and in many instances, totally fake. Preachers used them as “illustrations” and somehow thought it was okay to tell fables like this in order to make a point. And it is. From the time of Aesop, people having been telling stories to communicate larger ideas.
Hell, they even sell books of “sermon illustrations” – in other words, maybe true but probably fake stories that preachers can use to sprinkle around on an otherwise very boring sermon to make it more palatable.
Once the internet arrived, we started getting forwarded email. Remember? With the five-deep “>>>>>” signs all down the part that was forwarded, where you had to hunt to find the actual message buried inside. And they were mostly fake too.
So somebody brilliant came up with the idea of Snopes. They began to check out these stories, so that now you can find out that the story of the adulterous couple is a legend, and is told in various ways, or that the story of the car thief who was smashed in an earthquake is just plain false.
But some of these stories are heartwarming, and who cares if they’re fake? After all, they make us feel all warm and fuzzy, and maybe something sort of like that really did happen, and besides, I happen to like fiction.
Of course, when I buy fiction and read it, I know I’m reading fiction.
Mark is supposedly a real person (a point of some controversy, but he does seem to be real) who is a moderator on the Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones Facebook page. I’m linking to it, but I don’t recommend it, unless you like your truth mixed with all sorts of fabrication and creative stories.
This heartwarming little story is about an immigrant couple who tragically had their child snatched away from them. He goes on to compare that couple with Joseph and Mary, and it’s all so lovely and such wonderful things come of “obscure beginnings.”
There’s a teensy problem, of course. The story of “Ed and Liz” is, like the sermon illustrations of my youth, fake. Mark is referring to the very imaginary Ed and Elizabeth Tozar, the supposed Ukranian parents of Cathy Harris, who was tragically abducted from them and then prostituted for years and years.
I honestly do not know why Mark is recycling this mythology. Does he not know that we proved the whole thing fake months ago? Cathy has never refuted any of this, and in fact, went completely silent about these fictitious parents when we showed that it was all untrue.
But I suppose that’s par for the course. Mark has given us a two-for in this little story.
The Jesus myth is fake, too. Even if there was a Jesus, there wasn’t any census, nor any tax, nor any trip to Bethlehem, nor any miraculous virgin birth, nor any special star, nor any wise men, nor any angels. There may or may not have been a Joseph and a Mary, and a baby Jesus. Maybe.
Does the fact that these folks listen to “sermon illustrations” which are the equivalent of those silly stories that float about now on social media instead of email make them more gullible? I guess believing in one myth makes it easier to swallow the other one.
Telling the story over and over again, even for 2000 years, doesn’t make it true.
Years ago, Dave and Nathan and I went on a trip out west. One place where we stopped was the Grand Canyon.
I have been aware for a long time that I am really afraid of heights, more so than a lot of people. I don’t like to get on a ladder. Oddly, I’m not overly frightened of flying, but I suspect that’s because I’m enclosed in the plane.
This fear pretty much destroyed my experience at the Grand Canyon, and even though I didn’t mean for it to, that of my family.
I took this photo. I took it under pressure. I remember it well. The feeling going through me was sheer horror. Not only were they standing next to the rail – Dave was more or less leaning on it. They didn’t linger there. I snapped the picture and they came back closer to me.
A really bad thing for me at the Grand Canyon was that so many areas didn’t have any guard rails at all.
We saw people doing this, and even took a photo of a guy with his dog on the edge, but I can’t find it now. This is not our photo, but even looking at it gives me the willies.
And I can think about this rationally and still freak out. Even if Nathan and Dave were standing more than a body’s length from the edge, so it was physically impossible for them to fall over, I still couldn’t watch them. I stayed in a panic most of the time we were there. I knew I was seriously diminishing their experience, but I couldn’t help it.
And what’s sort of odd is that the guard rails help. I’m still uncomfortable, but it’s not nearly as bad if there is a rail.
Years ago, I bought a copy of this book. For one thing, I thought the title was so cool that I wanted it on my bookshelf. Note: It’s a Christian book. As such, I do not recommend it now. Read stuff like that at your own risk.
Anyway, I cannot be absolutely certain, and I tossed my copy long ago, but I think the basic framework of the analogy that I am employing here came from that book. I have enlarged on it and embellished it over the years, but I do want to acknowledge the original source.
I don’t like cliffs. I don’t like them really a lot, as I’ve mentioned. But almost nobody would think it was a great idea to jump off one.
So, on overlooks, the parks department or the maintenance folks put up fences. You can pretty easily climb over the fence if you wish, but they are there to say, “Stay behind the fence and you’ll be safe from the risk of falling off the cliff.”
And it works pretty well. The fence is a psychological security blanket.
Consider this photo. This is 1982, me with Nathan on a ferry. I was decidedly uncomfortable here, not because I have any fear of water ( both Nathan and I could swim well), but because the barrier was netting.
Same ferry, same trip. Solid barrier. Happier Mom. The only reason I’m holding him is to hold him up for the camera.
One of the things that the workmen have to decide is where to put the fence. How far back from the edge of the cliff, or the pothole, or the work site, or whatever perceived danger? Six feet? Two? Fifty?
That’s a subjective call, and it’s based on a number of things, including the condition of the ground along the proposed fence site, the available spare ground in the area, and the perception of how dangerous the situation is in the first place.
We set all sorts of fences in life. Everyone’s comfort zone is different. This is all okay. Some of us are okay with setting our fences right on the edge of the cliff, and having them very low. Others get hives at the thought and like fences set way, way back from the edge. They’re like me. They want that fence back so far that if you fell over it head first, the worst thing that could happen is a bump on the forehead.
The problem comes when we start to get the fence and cliff confused.
The fence is not the cliff. Each individual can have a fence in a different place and that does not change the location or the danger of the cliff.
Authoritarian religion (call it “fundamentalism,” call it “evangelicalism,” or do what I do and call it “fundigelicalism”) gets this very muddled. In their world, the fences are all cliffs. If you put your toe over their fence, you just fell off the cliff. If they acknowledge that you have a separate fence (something that’s not always a given), they are very critical if your fence is a foot closer to the cliff than theirs is.
In some cases, they refuse to admit anyone to their little club if the fences aren’t in the “approved” places.
They insist, of course, that they figure out where to place their fences using their book, but all 30,000 Christian denominations are using the book and the fences are all over the place.
The truth is that we place our fences where we are comfortable with them, where they alleviate our anxiety.
And that is why crossing a fence is really hard.
This is Calvary Memorial Church, Southern Pines, North Carolina. I refer to it affectionately as “The Fundy Church From Hell.” We spent about 14 years there, with a break of a few years in the middle.
I will never forget the last time we went there. I knew we were going to leave. There was no way we could stay. I got up after the morning service, just knowing I was walking out the door and never coming back, and I was crossing the fence. I was walking out beyond the barrier.
The cliff was there, I thought, and I was going to fall off. Only I had to climb over the fence.
This was in 1993, so it’s been almost twenty years ago, and I can still shudder when I think about it. I can also laugh at the insanity of my delusional idea, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t actually feel the horror.
That’s one way to breach a fence. Just climb the hell over it. It’s fairly sudden and pretty scary.
It feels like that – like walking into a dark tunnel where you can’t see the cliff.
There’s another way to do it, though. It’s not sudden, and it’s very hard work, as you can see. You can move the fence.
Neither solution is easy. Because of that, it’s important to think about fences before you build them, and be sure you like their location for the long haul.
More importantly though, it’s important to keep the fence and the cliff separate. They are not the same thing.
The fence is simply a psychological security device.
The cliff is, well. . . what exactly is the cliff?
That’s where the hard part comes in. Are there any cliffs? Sure there are. If I drink and drive, I’m coming really close to the “wreck-the-car-and-possibly-kill-my-sorry-ass” cliff.
But we invent cliffs, too. I would venture to suggest that religious people invent a lot of cliffs.
The cliff I was so afraid of when I walked out of the Fundy Church From Hell that last time didn’t exist at all. It was entirely a figment of my imagination, a bogeyman hiding in the dark.
After breaching the fence, the one I’d built (with help from the pulpit at the Fundy Church From Hell), I spent several years not only moving fences, but also evaluating the existence of cliffs and in many cases, removing fences altogether because I came to realize that the cliffs were imaginary.
But I see this issue as a real basic difference between authoritarian religion and more progressive religion. The people I know who are still religious and who can tolerate me for more than twenty seconds have a tendency to have the difference between cliffs and fences better established in their minds than those who think I’m evil incarnate.
When I was at the Grand Canyon, I was confusing fences and cliffs and I was doing this to other people – my son and my husband. I was demanding that, for my personal comfort, they see my fence and stay behind it.
I really don’t like doing that. I don’t like it when people do that to me. I understand entirely what is happening when people do it because of love and concern and because they can’t help it – why can’t I see the fence? Why don’t I understand that there is a cliff out there?
You can get paralyzed with fear that somebody you love is in mortal danger because they have put their fence in a different place, or because they don’t even have any fence at all, and OMG, there is a cliff there.
Doing so does not protect them. It doesn’t make the cliff real. Your fear is real, I know that. My fear at the Grand Canyon was so real I was crying some of the time. But I wasn’t protecting my family. I was just making them miserable.
Confusing fences with cliffs does not do anything but create barriers.
Do you know what our dog does when she sees this?
She saves us from it. Loudly. Vigorously.
And she cannot understand why we are not grateful.
Put yer money where yer mouth is
Yer mamma sez that you was real
Put yer money where yer mouth is
Yer mamma sez that you was real
Ready or not, come what may The bets are going down for judgement day So put yer money in yer mouth And your hands right upon the wheel
Noel Gallagher, “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is”
One of the cardinal tenets of the Cathy Harris/Camille Lewis/Linda Fossen Philosophy of Sexual Abuse is that rape victims almost never, ever lie. They never falsely accuse anyone. Anyone who says they were raped, was raped. There isn’t even room for discussion about this.
This is the “description” note from Truth Seeking Graduates of Bob Jones. I didn’t write this. They did. Camille Lewis and Cathy Harris. It’s their page. You cannot question the veracity of any victim’s account, ever, period.
And if you do, even slightly, even regarding something they know nothing at all about, they will come after you with a vengeance. [I realize these quotes come from a different page, but it’s the same people, adding in Linda Fossen.]
I’m covering up for an abuser. Of course.
And after Fossen chimes in with accusations that my father, my husband, and insinuations that maybe I myself, or even my son are all child molesters, Camille can’t stand it and has to make it even better.
Not just my family. [They didn’t know, I guess, that I have a brother, or maybe they would have gone after him too.] No, it’s a pedophile ring operating at Bob Jones University for years and years and somehow I know all about it and am covering up.
That’s what they do to you if you dare suggest that any alleged victim might be lying. Please keep that in mind.
Meet John Hawkins. He’s an attorney, as you can see. This is the banner from his Facebook page. According to his web site, he’s a graduate of Wofford College and then did law school at the University of South Carolina, so he doesn’t appear to have any connections to Bob Jones University.
Well, except that he really, really wants to help the victims. . . sue. See the sad-looking girl? John wants to help her.
Isn’t that nice? What a great guy.
When I first saw his photo on his web site, I thought immediately of another personal injury attorney-turned-politician who is a handsome man with a nice smile.
This guy. Remember him?
But no matter. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.
So, we have this personal injury attorney who is putting up ads on social media soliciting victims to sue Bob Jones University. I suppose that was inevitable. Wherever there is a wreck, there are always ambulance chasers. And besides, maybe there’s a victim out there who actually does have a case and needs representation, so it’s all good, right? John Hawkins is a sort of hero. He’s going to work hard for justice and truth and all that. Right?
Remember, according to Camille Lewis, and Cathy Harris, and Linda Fossen, and Karen Nelson Lee and all those people who blasted me all over Facebook and on blogs and everywhere they could think of, and threatened me with legal action over and over again, victims never lie. Doesn’t matter if the court tossed the case. It doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter to me one way or another whether or not John Hawkins was guilty of rape or not. The court dropped the case. We really don’t know why. The news reports (and take into consideration that these are news reports surrounding his political campaign, and you have to sort take those with a grain of salt) seem to lean in the direction of the alleged victim being intimidated and/or threatened in some way, but I have no idea and that’s not what this is about anyway.
What it’s about is whether Camille Lewis and Cathy Harris and their buddies are gonna put their money where their mouths are and condemn this. Or is the man saying and posting on his Facebook page all the nice words they want to hear and so they’re going to do. . . nothing.
As I publish this, apparently there was some conversation about this on TSG, and some posts about how great it was that this lawyer was doing this, but those have been scrubbed. What I see now is. . . nothing.
Call him out, Camille.
Put your money where your mouth is. You didn’t mind blasting away at me. Blast away at him. Or are you a hypocrite?
So, after having a lovely little conversation with Mr. Hawkins over on TSG, during which Camille gushed with her usual “God bless” (and not the sarcastic version), she found out about his history of legal difficulties. In true Bob Jones University style, she didn’t just add a comment to the existing conversation, saying, “You know, in light of this added information, I just can’t support your efforts.” Nope. She quietly removed the whole conversation so she can pretend she never, ever, ever. . .
We give people advice and/or information all the time, informally. We offer our opinions on nearly everything, from the best dentist we know of to how to remove ink stains from a dress shirt.
But, after realizing that she’d totally screwed up by basically encouraging an ambulance-chaser to troll for clients and letting him use her Facebook page to do so, she decides to recommend another. . . ambulance chaser.
Jeff Anderson is controversial, to say the least. He is to Catholic-church-abuse cases what Gloria Allred is to celebrity cases.
If you’d like to read all about him, in a reasonably unbiased story, here you go.
But the important thing here to talk about is that Camille/Cathy is giving legal advice. “The best lawyers in the country. . .” Now, exactly how would Camille/Cathy know that?
Right after our son died, we got a sympathy card from the mother of a friend. We didn’t know the woman. Tucked into the sympathy card was a business card. She was a realtor and knew that we’d be in the market soon selling Nathan’s house. The card had a note on it to the effect that she would be willing to help us out.
You can probably imagine how we felt about that. We couldn’t even begin to face selling that house for almost a year. And we didn’t call that realtor.
My advice to anyone who is considering legal action against Bob Jones University is this: You need to talk with a professional, licensed, experienced counselor and get some advice from somebody who actually knows what they are talking about. I am not such a person. Nor is Truth Seeking Graduates, Camille Lewis or Cathy Harris.
He uses all the great quotations Says the things I wish I could say Whoa, but he’s has so many rehearsals Girl, to him it’s just another play but wait
When the final act is over And you’re left standing all alone When he takes his bow and makes his exit Girl, I’ll be there to take you home
Curtis Mayfield, Calvin Carter, and Jerry Butler, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You”
When you live in Alaska, you either never leave the state, or you get really familiar with the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
While it’s possible to drive to the Lower 48 (or Outside, as Alaskans refer to it), via the Alaska Highway, and we’ve done it several times, it takes a long time and flying is way better.
I used to have a running account with Travelocity, and got periodic email alerts whenever the price of a ticket from Anchorage to Raleigh, NC would drop. We scheduled trips around those sales.
We didn’t fly the plane ourselves, of course. Neither of us know how, nor do we own a plane.
But when the plane took off, we knew where we were going, and approximately when we would get there, barring unforeseen problems. If there was a plane change (and there always was) we knew where it would be – generally Minneapolis.
This is from the GRACE report (PDF, 300 pages), page 10, plus the footnote. [Click on images to enlarge them.] They’re defining “independent investigation.” Basically, they’re saying that Bob Jones University had no control over the way the report was done.
And this footnote from page 13 assures us (and we’re given the same assurances in other places) that BJU did this whole thing voluntarily.
And after they were fired and rehired, the terms remained the same. Independent. Voluntary.
Just like us on our airplane flight, Bob Jones University was a passenger. They paid for a ticket to ride, they sat in the seat and they were not in control. They didn’t fly the plane.
Of course, they were served lunch.
During our flights, our pilot would occasionally come on the speaker and tell us our altitude, or the weather in our destination city, or even inform us that if we looked out the window to our left, we’d see a certain mountain range. And before, and sometimes during the flight, the stewards would explain potential dangers to us, where to find the oxygen masks, the importance of seat belts. [Yeah, we were served meals like that on flights to and from Alaska. It’s a long way. And it was a number of years ago. I know times have changed.]
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that Bob Jones University officials, who had paid for the ticket, were kept apprised of the situation as it developed. I strongly doubt that they knew absolutely nothing of what was being discovered and were just in the dark completely until the day the report landed on their collective desks. Nothing in the those declarations of “independence” by GRACE contains any hint of total secrecy. [Obviously, the identities of the interviewees are confidential, but that’s not what I’m talking about. ]
Just like us, they knew what they were paying for. They knew the destination, approximately when they would arrive, and all about layovers. That the plane developed mechanical difficulties and had to land unexpectedly for repairs was something they couldn’t foresee, but other than that, they knew.
So it raises a question? Why did they do it?
I know all the stuff that has been bandied about – that they were placed under extreme pressure from Camille Lewis and her little Facebook page, but that’s just silly. That school has been under pressure before, way more than what Camille has ever dished out, without budging an inch. The IRS swooped in and removed their tax-exempt status, remember? They didn’t even blink. Well, until they finally blinked – on Larry King. A little bit.
There’s way more to this than some irritated alumni.
I think we might be witnessing a hostile takeover of a formerly family-run business. Starting with the ascension of the fairly-handicapped Stephen Jones, going from there to the scare (and I think it scared them) of the Chuck Phelps fiasco and resultant very bad press on national television, all the way through the hiring of GRACE, and then the firing of GRACE, and the re-hiring of GRACE, and the movement down of Bob III to Chancellor, thus eliminating him from the board of directors, and the resignation of Stephen Jones – I believe these are all layovers on the flight.
Some of them were probably planned. Others might have been simple mechanical problems that caused unexpected delays or detours.
But I don’t think for a second that we’re seeing any real surprises here. We’re watching a play. We’ve gotten to Act V, or Act VI, with who knows how many acts left.
It’s not even reasonable to suggest that men who run a university, even if you think they are inept as some believe these people are, would pay somebody else a great deal of money to allow them to commit institutional suicide. Somebody(s) at Bob Jones University saw the handwriting on the wall.
It’s not about disaffected alumni. Never has been. Nor do I think it’s about sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse. It’s about a steep decline in numbers of fundamentalists period, but especially in those who would opt for schooling in a rigid, isolated environment with no accredited degree at the end. That’s why Liberty University keeps growing while BJU keeps shrinking. People are voting with their feet and their offspring are attending other schools.
GRACE, as Jackson Condrey pointed out, has a very strange way of doing business. They are essentially asking an institution, business, ministry to pay GRACE money so they can be publicly shamed, ridiculed and possibly sued. Why would anyone in their right mind agree to such a thing?
The only thing I can think of is that doing so is a means to an end, and that the alternative routes, like the Alaska Highway, are less desirable, more expensive, or way too long.
I do wonder, though, if while Boz was writing the report, he didn’t look up from time to time and say, “This one’s for you, Gramps.”
That little gem is from Dan Keller’s incredibly boring Storify page dedicated to systematic and ongoing smearing of Jeffrey Hoffman for no reason I can discern.
Dan, dear, there are two giant problems with your “commentary.”
1. This page is not about any federal investigation of anything. It is Camille who is totally obsessed with special visitors who have shiny badges. Remember? I never mentioned any such thing on this page or anywhere else.
2. Camille Lewis has my ISP blocked from her blog. It’s been blocked for I-don’t-know-how-long. I cannot see it. I cannot read it. Hence, I have never seen the page you reference. How, then, could I plagiarize it? You probably have me confused with Cathy Harris.
Don’t you ever just get tired of looking like an idiot?