Friday, March 30, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Castration: Brought to Us From the Same Folks Telling Women Not to Use Contraception

The idea that the American Roman Catholic bishops of ALL PEOPLE -- given the actual history of the church on human rights and religious freedom -- are lecturing President Obama and the American people on religious liberty is supremely ironic. The bishops must be counting on Americans' amnesia and/or ignorance of history.

But what of the actual issue of religious liberty?

The New York Times (March 3, 20120 "Dolan Urges Catholics to Become More Active in Politics") reported that Dolan was declaring that the bishops' ideological war on President Obama over providing health care to women was really all about "religious liberty." 

As the Times noted:

"Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan told Roman Catholics... that in an era when the church was fighting the government on several fronts, they needed to make their voices heard more clearly in the political sphere. Speaking at a diocesan convocation Cardinal Dolan, who is the archbishop of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, 'We are called to be very active, very informed and very involved in politics.'... Cardinal Dolan told the crowd that the government sought to make the church do something 'we find unconscionable.... It is a freedom of religion battle,' he said. 'It is not about contraception. It is not about women's health.' He added: 'We're talking about an unwarranted, unprecedented, radical intrusion into a church's ability to teach, serve and sanctify on its own.' The cardinal mocked a secular culture that 'seems to discover new rights every day.'... Obama officials have pointed to recent polls showing that most Catholics favor the new contraceptive rule... Cardinal Dolan said, 'If you want an authoritative voice, go to the bishops. They're the ones that speak for the truths of the faith.'"

Here's another dispatch re the "moral authority" of the bishops lecturing our president about "religious freedom" and their "right" to deprive women of contraceptives. 

Dutch Church Is Accused Of Castrating Young Men

March 21, 2012 12:00 am NEW YORK TIMES
The case, which dates from the 1950s, has increased pressure for a government-led inquiry into sexual abuse in the Dutch church, amid suspicions that as many as 10 young men may have suffered the same fate.
"This case is especially painful because it concerns a victim who was victimized for a second time," said Peter Nissen, a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands. "He had the courage to go to the police and was castrated."
It is unclear, however, whether the reported castration was performed as a punishment for whistle-blowing or what was seen as a treatment for homosexuality.
In 2010, about 2,000 people complained of abuse by priests, church institutions or religious orders in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church commissioned an inquiry. It finally concluded that the number of actual victims over several decades could be 10 times higher.
That committee, led by Wim Deetman, a former education minister, was presented with evidence of the castration case when it was contacted by a friend of the young man, who was castrated in 1956, two years before his death in a road accident.
Since the case emerged, the Deetman Commission has issued a detailed justification of its actions, contending that it was unable to reach any conclusions on the case from the evidence at its disposal.
The victim, Henk Heithuis, lived in Catholic institutions from infancy after being taken into care. When he complained about sexual abuse to the police, Mr. Heithuis, 20 at the time, was transferred to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel, where he was castrated.
Cornelius Rogge, a sculptor whose family became friends with Mr. Heithuis, informed the Deetman Commission about the case, contacting an investigative journalist and author, Joep Dohmen, when there was no clear sign of a follow-up.
On Dutch television, Mr. Rogge described how he knew that the castration had taken place and said he believed that there were other victims.
"We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were not present," Mr. Rogge said. "He did that. He was totally maimed. That was a huge shock for us, of course."
Mr. Heithuis had also described his ordeal verbally, Mr. Rogge said.
"He was strapped to a bed," Mr. Rogge said, describing Mr. Heithuis's statement. "In one stroke, his scrotum was cut out. Then he was taken to an infirmary to rest and recover. Then the other boys received the same treatment. He could hear them screaming."
Mr. Dohmen, the investigative journalist who broke the news in the daily NRC Handelsblad, said that correspondence from the 1950s and Mr. Heithuis's testimony to Mr. Rogge suggested that there could have been an additional nine cases. Mr. Dohmen said he uncovered another case. A gay man, who had not been abused, was also castrated, he said. That man has asked that his identity not be made public.
Mr. Dohmen said he did not know whether Mr. Heithuis was castrated as a punishment for whistle-blowing and could not provide further evidence of the other possible victims.
In an e-mailed comment, Mr. Rogge said he believed that the castration was a punishment.
Mr. Dohmen said that the man accused of abusing Mr. Heithuis was investigated but not prosecuted. He was transferred to Nova Scotia, where he started a home for boys.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Join Me At Wild Goose!

Forgive me but my love for the Wild Goose Festival is personal. To explain it, I have to tell you a bit of my own story.
Until Gareth Higgins asked me to speak at Wild Goose in 2011, I hadn’t spoken at a major (or minor) evangelical  or religious event for 25 years plus (with one exception of the Greenbelt Festival in the UK 5 years ago).
Almost 30 years ago I found myself abandoning the evangelical world as it became more and more right wing, exclusionary, homophobic and frankly more like some religion based on Ayn Rand than Jesus. Not to mention, the evangelical arena seemed  fatally politicized. But how could I complain? My late father Francis Schaeffer and I helped make it that way.
We helped found the religious right and the anti-abortion movement in the 1970′s and 80′s. I wrote, produced and directed the multi-million dollar documentary series featuring my father (“How Should We Then Live?” and “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”) that started the ball rolling to the eventual takeover of the Republican Party. It was taken over by people who once were mostly interested in Jesus but whose actions eventually made them look more interested in backing George W. Bush and his wars.
In the early 1990s I repented of my family’s tilt-to-the-right, changed my mind on politics, life and faith and shook the dust from my shoes and ran. After a weird journey through the movie business I became a novelist and never looked back.In 1990, I started to go the Greek Orthodox Church. I was burnt out on personality cults and “great pastors”, but I liked liturgy and ritual and community. And there are few to no sermons!
The people who read my books these days have mostly never heard of my dad let alone of me when I was – as if in a different life – a right wing evangelical nut.  Once in a while I get reminders like when the New Yorker called me in October of 2011 to ask me why Michele Bachmann was telling everyone that she got into politics because of my dad’s and my work. But other than those just-kill-me-now moments – and/or the questions raised by bemused interviewers about my childhood and youth – I figured I had moved on.
Then Gareth called. And I went to Wild Goose last year.
I found that I was still deeply hungry for the “old neighborhood” so to speak. To tell the truth I was – perhaps like some other former evangelicals – wounded. I have had a successful career over the last 20 years as a writer of “secular” fiction and nonfiction but I hurt. My new world was as alien to me as my old world has become.
Where did I “fit?” Are there other people “like” me? If so, where?
The hurt came from the fact that there was so much I still loved about my evangelical past– the community, the shared love, the clear path to following Jesus. But that world had become so polarized and political that I’d been thinking I had to make an either/or choice: run and keep running from the American “Christian world” and be a secular writer (although “privately” still religious since I go to a Greek Orthodox church) or tear open old wounds.
Participating in the Wild Goose Festival proved me wrong. It turns out I’d thrown out the bath water, the baby and the tub! It turns out that I’d made an either/or descision when there is a better and middle way.
I had agreed to speak for Gareth because he is a friend. But I soon found that Wild Goose made me see I’d been wrong. I’d been blind.
I discovered that there is a “third way” that transcends the either/or choices between a “Christianity” more interested in how you vote, and a “secularism” that seems to want to strip my life of transcendent meaning. That third way is what Wild Goose means to me and I think, to many others.
Wild Goose has connected and re-connected me to people I’d written off. I’d presumed I knew all about “them.” I did not. This summer I will speak at Wild Goose again (I gladly donate my time for free). Mostly I’ll just and hang out.  Wild Goose is a hospital for the soul and I plan to check into the ICU again to be humbled and to learn.
Rachel Maddow has often introduced author Frank Schaeffer on her show as “A man who knows whereof he speaks.” Frank is a New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen books. He is a lead blogger on the Huffington Post and Alternet. Frank is also a survivor of polio and an evangelical/fundamentalist childhood, an acclaimed writer who overcame severe dyslexia, a home-schooled and self-taught documentary movie director, a feature film director and producer of four low budget Hollywood features Frank has described as ‘pretty terrible,’ and an author of critically acclaimed fiction and nonfiction.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mainline Denominations Can Have a Bright Future If They Want One

I've been speaking at many small colleges that have historical ties to the oldest mainline denominations in the US. I have been noticing something interesting: a terrific hunger for a deeper spirituality on the part of many young people who come from evangelical backgrounds like mine and also like me are looking for something outside of the right wing conservatism they come from.

I've also noticed that while some people in the so-called emergent evangelical movement are reaching out to these young people the leaders of the mainline denominations both locally and nationally often seem blind to a huge new opportunity for growth and renewal staring them in the face. That new opportunity is the scores of younger former evangelicals diving headlong out of the right wing evangelical churches.

What brings those suffering from spiritual burnout to my talks is that I've been there and done that.  I usually get invited to speak because someone at the school shares my former evangelical background and has read one of my books like Crazy for God: How I Grew Up As One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. I'm invited as a speaker who talks about both the religious and political sector where I've been arguing against the "politics of hate," that has overtaken the far right.

The title of my talk is usually something like "Saving Faith from Politicized and Poisonous Religion." I speak about how as someone born into a leading evangelical religious family I found a deeper faith by embracing mystery and paradox. 

My college talks are thronged by young people who have gotten tired of being told they have to vote for conservative Republicans in order to be Christians. And they are tired of the false certainties not to mention the relentless gay bashing.

I'm interested by the fact that when I ask them if they go to church they either say no and are of the "spiritual not religious" persuasion, or they have hooked up with formerly evangelical groups that now have reshaped themselves as more progressive. What I don’t often hear is that they have turned to the older mainline more liberal and progressive denominations. This is a surprise since in terms of world view the older denominations should be a good fit for the progressive former evangelicals. I’ve asked many of them, “Has anyone from the mainline churches made an effort to connect with you?” Most say no.

In my talks argue that spirituality without community is hollow and self defeating. I ask "So where do you DO community?" And that question (mostly asked during the Q and A sessions) leads to discussion of options for going to church. And what amazes me is the invisibility of the mainline communities when it comes to the literally millions of former evangelicals I know are out there.

In fact most of the bright young students I talk to think that the word "Christian" means evangelical/fundamentalist. They are barely aware of any alternatives.

I don't get it. Where is everyone? Why is the “emergent” evangelical church reinventing a wheel that’s been around for centuries? And why aren’t the mainline churches letting us know they are there?

Because of the thousands of emails my books about my journey out of the evangelical right have generated, I know that there is a vast movement afoot of individuals who feel they are alone. Each one writes to me as if we’re the only people thinking “this way.” However I know of few mainline efforts to reach out to these lonely former evangelical younger folks who may feel alone but who actually number countless people.

There are some good things happening. These things are mostly the creation of a few individuals not so much the official high priority work of denominations. Here are a few great examples that might inspire others to replicate them: 

Darkwood Brew is an online program put together by Rev. Eric Elnes pastor of a United Church of Christ parish. It is a groundbreaking interactive web television program and spiritual gathering that explores progressive Christian faith and values. 

Living the Questions is not the product of a denominational workgroup or other institutional effort aimed at simply dressing up the theological status quo. Instead, it is the response to the search for a practical tool to bring together, equip, and re-educate thinking Christians. The idea for producing a program to help people wrestle with basic questions often avoided by the Church came out of the real world needs of pastors Jeff Procter-Murphy and David Felten, both of whom serve United Methodist congregations in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Wild Goose Festival. This is not a denominational effort but does involve social justice projects that tie in with most mainline churches. We (I say "we" because I'm one of the speakers) take inspiration from many places, such as Greenbelt in the UK, Burning Man, the Iona Community, SXSW, and others. The festival (June 21-24) is open to everyone; we don't censor what can be said; we invite respectful - but fearless - conversation and action for the common good.  

And then there is the wonderful chapel program at Maryville College (Maryville, TN) run by Rev. Anne McKee. Maryville College proudly claims its mainline Presbyterian heritage. While holding strongly to the Presbyterian connection, the college honors and welcomes students and church connections from a broadly diverse faith community. The chapel program has the strong support and participation of the students. Whatever Rev. Anne McKee is doing should be copied.

Why aren't the mainline denominations pitching their churches’ tolerant noble humanistic and enlightened views about individual empowerment, community and spiritual rebirth to the spiritually disenfranchised on a larger scale? The examples I mentioned here show that religion -- even “church” -- can be presented in a way that works and draws young people in. As someone once said “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest” (John 4:35).

If the mainline churches would work for the next few years in a concerted effort to gather in the spiritual refugees wandering our country they'd be bursting at the seams. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

My Latest on Huffington Post Re the Bishops/Pope v. Women (and all Americans)

Frank Schaeffer


The Pope Must Secretly Be Working for President Obama

Posted: 03/12/2012 8:12 am

Moderates and women are fleeing the Republican Party. Between rush Limbaugh and the Roman Catholic bishops' war on women's access to contraception the Democratic Party is sitting pretty for 2012.
But this issue might have gone away if it wasn't for the fact that the Roman Catholic hierarchy aided, abetted and goaded by some Republican operatives, is working hard to make sure that they keep the so-called social issues on the front burner all the way to Election Day.
Rather than let what activists in the Democratic Party are calling "the war on women" fade away along with Rush Limbaugh, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and thus refocus on what most American care about -- the economy -- the Pope, the American bishops and several key mostly behind-the-scenes Roman Catholics on the hard right of both the Church and the Republican Party seem determined to make the "war on women" into the central issue of the 2012 race.
Are these hard right Roman Catholics secretly working for President Obama? Okay, they're not; but they might as well be. Consider these points:
  1. According to the New York Times: Pope Benedict XVI waded into the American culture wars on Friday, urging visiting American bishops to beef up their teaching about the evils of premarital sex and cohabitation, and denouncing what he called the "powerful" gay marriage lobby in America. Benedict said there was an urgent need for American Catholics to discover the value of chastity, an essential element of Christian teaching that he said had been subject to unjust "ridicule." The pope also told the bishops not to back down in the face of "powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage."
  2. A far right "religious liberty" group -- the Becket Fund -- led by the ultra-conservative Roman Catholic William P. Mumma (a Wall Street banker) is working closely with the Roman Catholic bishops to sue the government in order to force women to forgo contraception if they happen to work for Catholic-run corporations. The view they are defending was summed up by the leading Catholic philosopher of the 20th century and Vatican favorite, Elizabeth Anscombe in her anti-contraception essay "Contraception and Chastity," where she wrote: "If you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition. It's this that makes the division between straightforward fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature and of contraceptive intercourse. Hence contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery." (G. E. M. Anscombe, "Contraception and Chastity," London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975

Most Roman Catholics would not sign on to such weird extremism. But "most Roman Catholics" are not in charge of their church today.
And most Americans will not thank the Roman Catholic activists suing our government to force us to adopt Anscombe's view of contraception even in the name of "religious liberty." Liberty as defined here as the "right" of the Roman Catholic Church to deny progress in women's rights. The suit will mean that any time the social issues might have faded away the Roman Catholic church's attack on women will remain "news."
The far right ideologues who want to turn depriving women of contraceptives into a "religious liberty" issue are counting on trying to get their "case" before at least 4 Supreme Court Justices that have a right-wing Catholic worldview -- Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. This fact alone will make millions of women vote for reelecting the President just to make sure he has the chance to appoint another one or two moderate pro-women justices.
Bluntly put, between the Becket Fund/Wall Street suit, the Pope weighing in and the American bishops anti-Obama activity ramping up to try and defeat him in 2012, the Roman Catholic leaders seem anxious to declare holy war on the Democratic Party. Democratic Party candidates everywhere will reap the benefit because most Americans treasure their freedom from religion as much as they respect freedom of religion.