Nel's New Day

April 8, 2018

Evangelicals Enable Sexual Misconduct, Other Un-Christian Behavior

After enabling Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) for his non-Christian behavior during his campaign and since his inauguration, evangelicals worry about losing elections from his behavior and divisive language. A leader of a faith-based ministry said about the Stormy Daniels’ affair, “We’re very concerned.” Christian evangelical leaders plan a meeting with DDT on June 19 at DDT’s Washington, D.C. hotel. DDT has been asked to take questions for 90 minutes during the daylong meeting with questions about the women suing him in private discussions, a “sidebar conversation.”

A source referenced Galatians:

“There’s things that are like fingernails on the chalkboard to people of faith. That’s not who we are; that’s not a ‘fruit of the Spirit’; that’s not leading with humility.”

Ethical concerns come from its organization with the White House its venue at DDT’s hotel. A planner said, “This is probably the best deal in D.C.”

Two years ago, mostly white evangelical Protestants met with DDT at a New York hotel to reassure evangelicals about DDT’s vulgarity and multiple marriages just a few months before DDT’s infamous Access Hollywood tape. According to evangelicals, DDT followed his campaign promises on abortion, religious freedom, and Israel policy. They want DDT’s reassurance and mobilization of conservatives around other issues for the election. Other agenda items  include discussing priorities and strategies for the elections, such as the insertion of voting reminder in church bulletins. Church leaders will be told to describe voting as a Christian’s “civic duty.”

The need for such a meeting shows a recent change in the political climate. Only a month ago, ultra-conservative megachurch leader Robert Jeffress said:

“Evangelicals still believe in the commandment: Thou shalt not have sex with a porn star. However, whether this president violated that commandment or not is totally irrelevant to our support of him…. Evangelicals knew they weren’t voting for an altar boy when they voted for Donald Trump.”

The shift in the evangelical movement from “family values” to the focus on white males is shown in the new church on the evangelical block, Focus on the Family, a charity founded by James Dobson who was a strong supporter of Roy Moore. In joining the religious welfare state by declaring itself a church, the charity eliminates all taxes and audits with the loose IRS requirements that “organization need not have all of the characteristics (few churches do, and newly-created churches cannot be expected to); thus, no single characteristic is controlling.” VP Mike Pence, a worshipper of James Dobson has promised Focus on the Family the administration’s unwavering support.

In a 1998 letter, Dobson wrote:

“What has alarmed me … has been the willingness of my fellow citizens to rationalize the President’s behavior even after they suspected, and later knew, that he was lying. Because the economy is strong, millions of people have said infidelity in the Oval Office is just a private affair–something between himself and Hillary. We heard it time and again during those months: ‘As long as Mr. Clinton is doing a good job, it’s nobody’s business what he does with his personal life.’

“That disregard for morality is profoundly disturbing to me.”

Dobson cited that people involved in licentious behavior would be fired in any other situation—for example, corporate, academic, and medical fields–and finishes with the vital importance of “character”:

“As it turns out, character DOES matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country, without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world…! Those two positions are fundamentally incompatible. In the Book of James the question is posed, “Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring” (James 3:11 NIV). The answer is no.”

Twenty years later, Dobson’s answer to the question from the Book of James is “yes.”

Operating as a “church auxiliary,” Liberty Counsel, a collection of lawyers, also escapes filing forms with the IRS. Members represented Kim Davis in her losing fight to illegally deny same-gender couples marriage licenses, awaits the Supreme Court “wedding cake” decision about whether businesses can discriminate against anyone they don’t like, and fills the DOJ. Others travel the world to push legislative draconian anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Evangelicals should clean their own house before controlling the lives of others who choose not to be a part of their religion.

  • Anti-LGBTQ Matthew Dennis “Denny” Patterson, pastor for over 20 years at the Nolensville Road Baptist Church (Nashville, TN), resigned last September following charges of child abuse for at least two decades. He is accused of touching children, mostly male, in their underwear and having them sit on his face and stomach.
  • Bill Hybels, co-founder of the megachurch Willow Creek Community Church (Chicago, IL) had a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual misconduct and fired several pastors and staff members. Now former pastors and staff members are accusing Hybels of sexual harassment and misconduct, including a prolonged affair with a married woman.
  • Pastor Ken Engelking was fired for “sexual immorality” from the Morning Star Community Church (Salem, OR) because of abusive, adulterous relationships that included sexual assault and rape covered up by the church since 1982 and still led by Senior Pastor Scott Nelson. One victim said she decided to tell what happened after seeing the movie Spotlight, describing a newspaper investigation into the church’s cover-up of sex abuse by Catholic priests. Past reports about the sexual misconduct to pastors were not reported to minors’ parents or anyone else. Engelking’s wife blamed one of the victims for a rape because the victim was wearing a tank top instead of a t-shirt.
  • Former youth pastor Brad Tebbutt is on administrative leave by the International House of Prayer of Kansas City after being accused of sexually abusing a Washington woman three decades ago when she was 14.
  • Joshua Clemons, a former youth pastor, has been arrested for sexual assault of children while he worked at Cross Roads Community Church (Parker, CO) and the children were part of the youth group. The married pastor also had an affair with a 17-year-old girl.
  • Chauncey Walker, a former youth pastor at Wichita’s Word of Life Ministries Church,faces trial for having sex with a 15-year-old  girl. The senior pastor, Robert Rotola Sr, said there was nothing he could do because Walker had quit when the victim told him and threatened to shame the victim by going public. Conversations showing the guilt were taped and can be used in the April 9 trial, legal in Kansas because only one party needs to consent to a recording. The victim is suing World of Life Ministries and Schools, Rotola, and his son, Robert Rotola Jr who is the church school administrator, for $575,000. An amended lawsuit petition indicates that more victims might be added.
  • Navy Capt. Loften Thornton, chaplain for over 25 years, was from released from his post after a video showed him having sex with a woman in front of a New Orleans pub five minutes away from the Marine Reserve facility.
  • Andy Savage, pastor at Highpoint Church (Memphis, OR), received a 20-second standing ovation after he apologized to his rape victim, Jules Woodson, who he assaulted when she was a teenager. (Savage resigned two months after the ovation.)

These examples are only a few from a cursory search of articles during the past few months in reports of massive coverups regarding sexual misconduct. Coverups are demonstrated by an evangelical leader calling DDT the “dream president” and white evangelicals overwhelmingly supporting former judge Roy Moore in his run for the Senate seat in Alabama after women talked about his sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Evangelicals are reviving the “Billy Graham/Mike Pence Rules,” the evangelical solution to sexual misconduct and assault by preventing Christian male leaders from meeting alone with a woman who is not his wife. Katelyn Beaty, Editor at Large for Christianity Today, gives the female perspective of this male-centric guideline:

“The Pence rule arises from a broken view of the sexes: Men are lustful beasts that must be contained, while women are objects of desire that must be hidden away. Offering the Pence rule as a solution to male predation is like saying, ‘I can’t meet with you one on one, otherwise I might eventually assault you.’ If that’s the case, we have far deeper problems around men and power than any personal conduct rule can solve.

“Most female Christian leaders I know find the Pence rule frustrating. (All the people I know who keep the rule are men.) Imagine a male boss keeps some variation of the rule but is happy to meet with a male peer over lunch or travel with him for business. The informal and strategic conversations they can have is the stuff of workplace advancement. Unless there are women in senior leadership positions — and in many Christian organizations, there are not — women will never benefit from the kind of advancement available to men.

“The answer is not to ask women to leave the room. It’s to hold all men in the room accountable and kick out those who long ago lost their right to be there.”

If DDT were to leave office—for whatever reason—VP Mike Pence might replace him. And so would the “Pence Rule” for the nation’s administration. Women would suffer far more losses because of this evangelical control.

April 29, 2012

Farewell to Gingrich?

Newt Gingrich is almost gone from the current political scene although he hasn’t declared himself officially there—just officially maybe if etc. No matter what, he deserves a sendoff. This is the man that the GOP hates, who liked Citizens United until another Republican had a bigger super PAC, who thought that he could arrest judges for doing their job, and who decided that Fox was biased in favor of Mitt Romney—when Fox was supporting Rick Santorum. But there’s lots more about him.

As a child, Gingrich was seriously abused by his stepfather, a Marine officer. As a teenager, Gingrich loved zoos and dinosaurs, wanting an academic career. In his twenties, Gingrich grew his hair long, having a yen for the counter-culture of the 60s. By his thirties, having successfully dodged the draft with student and family deferments, he ran for the House of Representatives in an Atlanta (GA) suburb. After he lost, his campaign scheduler said, “We would have won if we could have kept him out of the office and screwing [a young campaign staffer] on his desk.” At this time Gingrich was with his high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley, who he married when he was nineteen years old.

Politics and his wife didn’t mix. While Jackie Gingrich was still in the hospital recovering from her third cancer surgery, Gingrich “argued” with her over the terms of the divorce that he wanted and she didn’t. He had told one of his aides, “She isn’t young enough or pretty enough to be the President’s wife. And besides, she has cancer.” Another reason was his affair with Marianne, who became his second wife and was discarded after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Because Gingrich refused to pay alimony or offer child support for his two children, Jackie’s church took up a collection for her. Gingrich has said that when he read a book called Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, he “found frightening pieces that related to my own life.”

Finally getting elected to the House of Representatives in 1978, Gingrich used the Republican whip, Dick Cheney, to rise in the ranks. Gingrich’s staff started a whisper campaign falsely accusing Speaker of the House Tom Foley, a Democrat, of being a closet homosexual and created another manufactured scandal about some House members’ supposed abuse of their credit union. Gingrich used these bodies for his advancement.

After George H. W. Bush appointed Cheney as secretary of defense, Gingrich took over as the House whip. Bill Clinton’s reelection dropped Gringrich’s national approval rating to 28 percent, leading him to push for Clinton’s impeachment. At the same time, Gingrich was having an affair with Callista Bisek, one of his staffers who is twenty-three years younger than Gingrich. Little did he know that Tom DeLay was leading a group of 20 Republicans working to oust Gingrich. The coup failed when Dick Armey told Gingrich about it after he found out that the plan didn’t include his succeeding Gingrich.

James Dobson gave up on the Republicans’ trying to get rid of Gingrich and took over the task himself by mobilizing the Christian Right. In 1998 Dobson gave a speech to the Council for National Policy, a secret group that brings together right-wing activists with wealthy conservatives to shape political strategy.

“Does the Republican Party want our votes—no strings attached—to court us every two years, and then to say, ‘Don’t call me. I’ll call you?’ And not to care about the moral law of the universe? Is that what they want? Is that what the plan is? Is that the way the system works? And if so, is it going to stay that way? Is this the way it’s going to be? If it is, I’m gone, and if I go—I’m not trying to threaten anybody because I don’t influence the world—but if I go, I will do everything I can to take as many people with me as possible.”

Dobson continued to threaten House Republicans when he met with 25 of them a month later. After Army confronted Dobson, Dobson persuaded Focus on the Family to tell its members—falsely—that Army was a paid consultant to the ACLU. Despite Gingrich’s and Army’s strategy of impeachment, the House lost five Republican seats—the worst midterm-election in 64 years for a party that did not control the White House. Gingrich resigned and divorced his second wife, again in her hospital room. This time he sent his message by phone.

For years Gingrich wrote op-eds and speeches, even a trilogy of alternative historical novels in which the Confederacy won the Civil War before he returned to the political arena in 2006. In New Hampshire, Gingrich warned that “before we actually lose a city” to a terrorist attack, the government should consider limiting free speech. In his manifesto, Rediscovering God in America, he also declared that the United States is a Christian nation. “There is no attack on American culture more deadly and more historically dishonest than the secular effort to drive God out of America’s public life,” he insisted.

At that time, even the right wing disapproved of Gingrich’s philandering. Jeffrey Kuhner, editor of the right-wing Web magazine Insight, wrote, “Mr. Gingrich views women as little more than sex objects who are discarded like an empty Coke bottle when they fail to satisfy his near-limitless appetite. He is yesterday’s man.”

Gingrich thought he could persuade Dobson to overlook his past peccadilloes. The big mistake was justifying his own actions because “every member of every jury of America has had weaknesses.” Dobson considers himself without spiritual fault. After Dobson’s harsh statements and questions, Gingrich said, “I have turned to God and got on my knees and prayed to God and asked for forgiveness.” Gingrich’s answer satisfied Dobson, especially because he had the impression that he could lift this sinner out of his darkness and depravity. It was Gingrich’s statement that led Jerry Falwell to ask him to give the commencement speech at Liberty University.

Despite the tarnished image of Liberty after one of the students was arrested for confessing his plans to commit mass murder against the notorious Fred Phelps church, a confession that came immediately after Falwell’s unexpected death, Gingrich gave the speech. He gave a call for graduates to confront “the growing culture of radical secularism,” thereby honoring the memory of Falwell. Gingrich’s sins fell away, and he was invited to appear with the other GOP presidential wannabes at the Family Research Council’s annual Value Voters Summit. Gingrich was back.

With Dobson’s anointing, Gingrich has joined the company of serial killer like Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz, forgiven and redeemed by Dobson because they  confessed their evil deeds and professed a commitment to evangelical religion.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman executed by the Nazis for publicly opposing Hitler and denouncing church leaders who acquiesced to his rule, calls this “cheap grace.” In 1943, he wrote, “Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like a cheapjack’s wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut-rate prices . . . In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin.”

Part of this information came from an abstract of Max Blumenthal’s book, Republican Gomorrah. This blog is just a piece of the iceberg regarding Gingrich’s scandals. You’re welcome to read more—or just wait for him to re-emerge somewhere else.

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