politics, religion

Some churches are silly… and some are just so sick!

This morning, as I was looking at my Facebook memories, I remembered that six years ago, Jan Crouch, wife of the late televangelist Paul Crouch, died. Paul and Jan Crouch, you might recall, founded Trinity Broadcasting Network, a religious channel that appears on a lot of cable networks around the world. Back when Bill and I first got married, we were pretty broke, and I used to watch TBN for fun. There was some really crazy stuff on that network. That was also where I first encountered Paula White, who later became famous for being Donald Trump’s “spiritual advisor”, and current wife of Journey songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Jonathan Cain. Paula White is pretty extra, but so were the Crouches, who often made me laugh.

Stir it up right now… in the name of JESUS.
Jesus is COMING.
God is BIG.

In the above two videos, beneath Paula White’s “queen bee dance”, Jan Crouch is dancing and whacking the tambourine with the late Roger McDuff, who always reminded me of a Q-Tip. But even if I find Christian faux country numbers creepy, I have to admit that at least his songs made me laugh. And so did Paul Crouch, as he spoke of “doctrinal doo doo” and “shooting people” who get in God’s way.

Paul Crouch talks about doctrinal doo doo and then tells everyone that he IS a little God.

A lot of people say and do a bad things in the name of religion. Whether it’s doing a ridiculous queen bee dance, singing a song about Jesus “coming”, or claiming to be a “little God”, these folks who appeared on TBN and preached to shut ins and bored housewives like me were spreading some stuff that really stunk to high heaven. However, as messed up as this stuff is, it doesn’t compare to the Preacher Boys podcast I watched yesterday, in which the host, Eric Skwarczynski, talked about a preacher at a church who got up and confessed to committing “adultery”.

Pastor John Lowe says he committed adultery… but actually, he committed rape.

The pastor’s victim, now a woman approaching middle age, bravely got up (at 9:33) and confronted the pastor. She reminded him that he “took her virginity”, and did abusive things to her. But here he was, “confessing to adultery”, minutes after the “flock” applauded when he introduced himself. And instead of comforting the victim, the people in the congregation are quick to “forgive” Pastor John Lowe. The woman who was his victim left the church with only one or two people comforting her. What gives? These people are Christians? Why don’t they care about the woman who was this man’s victim, when she was just a teenager? Why are they falling for the “pastor’s” line about how he’s a “victim”? In his mind, the teenager was a temptress, and it’s her fault he raped her… but he doesn’t admit to rape. He calls it an “affair”.

As the woman is trying to confront the pastor, people are telling her to sit down and be quiet. And other men are yelling that they need to hear from their pastor. Then we hear a woman yell about how the woman was sixteen, and was complicit. Amazingly, they then yell, “We love you, pastor,” as the woman walks out, almost alone, while people gather around the pastor and “forgive” him.

This is coming in the wake of Josh Duggar’s sentencing. There are still people who claim Josh was “framed”, even though there is overwhelming evidence that he’s a sick predator. Why are religious people in certain evangelical sects so quick to forgive the sins of the pervy men in their midsts?

This morning, as I was eating breakfast with Bill, I ran across a Twitter feed posted by a guy named Nathan Ryan, who related the story of going to an evangelical church camp during the summer of 2002. That was just after 9/11, right around the time when Al Qaeda and ISIS were ramping up in the United States. This dude tweeted about how, as an object lesson, he and fellow campers did an activity in which they were accosted by men in ski masks, holding fake guns, and forcing them to choose between loving Jesus Christ and dying, or denouncing Christ and “living”.

The first of a shocking series of tweets by Nathan Ryan about his experience at a evangelical church camp… click the link to read the whole thing.

This is insane.

So here, we have a belief system where children are taught that they will either be violently killed for their religious beliefs, or they will eventually go to Hell. And we have a faith system where men who rape teenagers are given a pass, while their victims are told that they must forgive, be silent, and cover themselves up, so that their brothers in Christ don’t “fall” to temptation.

Of course, it’s not just evangelicals who do this stuff. I’ve written a lot about things in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that I don’t like. One woman on Twitter, responding to Nathan Ryan’s tweets, posted this about the Mormons and her experience being raised LDS…

All of this stuff is mind blowing to me. I grew up in the mainstream Presbyterian USA Church. The worst things that happened to me at church was being bullied by some of my mean spirited classmates from school, and being bored as hell during church services. No one ever tried to scare me with stories about being blown up by Muslims, nor was I ever asked any questions about my sexual habits. I was never shamed about the way I dressed or told that I was “tempting” members of the opposite sex. And, although the creepy neighbor who used to show me men’s magazines did attend our church, that abusive habit had nothing to do with religion. Religion wasn’t used to abuse me, unless you count my being forced to attend church.

But now, we have evangelicals in bed with our government leaders. And they have managed to indoctrinate a lot of people into thinking that submitting to these abusive churches is the only way to “save” America. Have a look at the tweet that followed these stories…

Seriously?

Here’s another tweet from someone who was abused during church camp in the 1990s.

Wow.

I actually worked at a Presbyterian church camp during the summers of 1993 and 1994. None of this weird shit went on where I worked. Kids played games like “Capture the Flag” and “Barnyard”; they went on hikes, bike trips, and canoe trips; they sang songs and attended devotions and vespers; and they made S’mores or homemade ice cream. It was a lot of wholesome fun in a truly beautiful setting. I’m still good friends with a number of people who worked with me during that time. I feel fortunate that I never had the toxic and abusive experiences some of these folks on Twitter have had.

I don’t have any need for church anymore. It doesn’t mean I’m an atheist. I do believe in God. But I don’t believe in going to churches, because there are too many that have turned abusive and sick. What I mostly took away from church is basic understanding of the Bible and exposure to a lot of church music, mainly because my mom was an organist, and my dad was in the choir. I think if I had a child and they experienced church the way some of these people have, it would absolutely mortify me. That goes double if I ever exposed an innocent child to the likes of Greg Locke, who is an absolutely vile person and a totally fake representation of a “pastor”.

You CANNOT BE A DEMOCRAT AND A CHRISTIAN!”, according to dipshit “pastor” Greg Locke. He needs to be arrested.

This is what we have in America now. This is what some people regard as “religion”. A lot of it is really sick and perverted. Greg Locke hates Democrats and calls them “baby butchers”. But he doesn’t have a thing to say about the gun toting conservatives who scream about their Second Amendment rights, as more kids die in their classrooms. These folks care about money and controlling women, people of color, and the poor. And one way to do that is to force women to give birth, which keeps them occupied and impoverished. Greg Locke is the same man who cheated on his ex wife with her former best friend, then cried about it on Facebook.

I think that if being a Christian means that I have to associate with people like Greg Locke, I’d rather not be a Christian. But, for the record, the Christ I learned of in my church going days, embraced the poor, the sick, and the disenfranchised, and operated for peace, compassion, and love. More and more often, these days, we’re seeing some churches turn very toxic and abusive, which leads people down a path away from Jesus Christ. What a shame that is.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, rants, sex, sexism, slut shamers

Pro-life men and fat shaming men have things in common…

This morning, I got a private message from someone who read my recent rant about pro-life men who make me want to hurl. I was surprised to get that message. As of this morning, that particular rant only has four views. However, it does have two likes, which is somewhat unusual for my blog. My posts, by and large, don’t get “likes” very often. 😉

The person who wrote to me indicated that she felt my post was “poignant”. I thought that was an interesting observation. Maybe it does seem poignant, though, that a middle-aged woman who has always had the right to choose would be so disgusted by men with “pro-life” attitudes. Very soon, the risk of pregnancy for me, personally, will no longer exist at all. So, if Roe v. Wade does get overturned, it won’t matter too much for me, at least not in terms of whether or not I would be forced to bear children. If the United States turned into an actual Gilead, as depicted in Margaret Atwood’s book, The Handmaid’s Tale, I would either be a wife or a “Martha”. Or maybe I’d just be a “working stiff” who wears grey. The bottom line is, my actual purpose– according to some men– will soon cease to exist. But, you know, even when I was still young, a lot of men didn’t think I was fulfilling my “purpose”. They probably felt like a vagina was wasted on me.

As I was reposting the two book reviews I added this morning, I watched the latest episode of Fundie Fridays on YouTube. The host, Jen, had a guest named Mickey Atkins on the show. Mickey is a social worker, like I would have been if I hadn’t become an “overeducated housewife”. The two of them were discussing Lori Alexander, aka “The Transformed Wife”. Lori Alexander, for those who don’t know, is a very controversial figure on social media. She believes that women’s sole purposes for being is to make babies and be housewives. I don’t generally pay a lot of attention to Lori’s posts, because I disagree with almost everything she says or writes, and I generally don’t think it’s productive to pay attention to her dumb comments. However, sometimes, when she says or writes something that is especially offensive, I will take note of it. I do casually follow Fundie Fridays, as well. I don’t watch it every week, but I do watch often enough. So, even though I think The Transformed Wife shouldn’t have a platform, I decided to listen to Jen and Mickey talk about her this morning as I multi-tasked.

This is yet another great video by Jen and James, and guest star, Mickey Atkins.

Listening to this video led me to look up things I have written about Lori Alexander. In the process of doing that, I ran across some old posts on my original blog about related subjects. It occurred to me, as I was reading, that men who “concern troll, and “fat shame” women, are a whole lot like the pro-life men who make me want to hurl. They REALLY have a lot in common. And, I also realized, that whether or not they know it, a lot of pro-life men and fat shaming men are probably motivated by the same thing… the desire to have sex with, and ultimately control, women. I think a lot of men are, deep down, offended by women who don’t do what society expects of them.

A lot of men think it’s a woman’s duty to be pretty, friendly, agreeable, and sweet. They think it’s her role to be willing to have sex with them– and only them. She is to turn them on and, when she gets pregnant, be willing to have their babies. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the man will feel like he needs to stick around and help raise the babies. It’s only that to be “good”, a woman is to be attractive and appealing. A smart woman with an opinion– especially if he doesn’t think she’s attractive– is offensive to a lot of men. And women who get pregnant, and then decide to reject the pregnancy, are repulsive to certain men.

Notice that I specified “certain men”. Not all men are like this. My husband, Bill, is not like this at all. He’s a kind, supportive, loving man who doesn’t mind that I’m overweight, opinionated, and often unlikable to other people. Bill loves me for who I am, not what I look like, and not just for my sex parts. I realize that I am extremely lucky, too. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but I did. My husband is an absolute gem.

But I know from my past life, and even incidences from my current life, that not all women are nearly as lucky as I have been. Every once in awhile, I run into a guy who seems determined to remind me of what they think should be my place. I see them do it to other women, too. They firmly believe that women are here to entertain them, satisfy them, attract them, and serve them. They aren’t here to be someone in and of themselves.

So how did I come to this conclusion? It started with a post I wrote on my original blog about a group called “Overweight Haters, Ltd.” Back in 2015, a woman named Kara Florish was riding on The Tube in London when a middle-aged male stranger placed a business card on her lap.

The man quickly got off at the next stop and disappeared in the crowd, leaving Kara sitting there, stunned. Kara posted on Twitter, commenting:

“I am not upset myself. I am smaller than the national average and not exactly obese, but this is hateful and cowardly and could potentially upset people struggling with confidence and eating disorders. Please tweet and share this if you are also outraged. Plus – to the person who wrote this card, go back to school, you can’t spell ‘beautiful’.”

I didn’t actually write about this incident until several years later. Florish wasn’t the only one who got a card from this vile group. In another article from The Guardian from 2015, it was reported that another commuter, a man named Sean Thomas Knox, witnessed a woman getting one of the cards. According to the article:

“Young man just got on train at Oxford Circus, gave printed card saying YOU’RE FAT to overweight girl. He jumped off. She read it, [and] cried.

“Am 99.9% sure this wasn’t staged. She didn’t even realise I was watching at first. Her stunned, desolate reaction was very real. Then tears.”

Knox described the man who handed over the card as a “hipster.. smartly, trendily dressed” with a beard. “Perhaps it was a piece of conceptual art,” he tweeted 

“It lasted a few seconds, but the card in that photo [Florish’s] is the same card I saw, in the girl’s hand. And her shock was real.”

I’ve seen a lot of comments fat shaming men leave for women online, too. They often couch their opinions as “concern” for women’s health. But, when it really comes down to it, I think men are less concerned about health as they are their own sex drives. A lot of them seem to think it’s a woman’s duty to be pretty for them, so they will want to have sex with them. And then, once they have sex, if the woman gets pregnant, she should want to have the baby. To not have the baby is to reject the man. A lot of pro-life men simply can’t deal with that kind of rejection. It’s a terrible assault on their egos. Notice, too, that a lot of pro-life men– especially those who are religious– also pressure women to be pleasing to them and pretty, but not sexy or, heaven forbid, slutty. Slutty women end up as handmaids, you know… or they work at Jezebel’s. 😉

Think I’m way off base on this? Consider something that happened to me back in February 2018. I read an article about a woman who had given birth to a baby girl she named Parker. The woman then left the newborn infant outside in the cold. Parker later died. Her mother was arrested and charged with murder, which was eventually reduced to a conviction of manslaughter.  She was sentenced to nine years in prison.

For some reason, a man decided that the comment section was a good place to rail against abortion, even though this story had NOTHING to do with abortion. He pointed out that had the mom aborted Parker, people would be applauding her choice. A lot of women responded to him, including yours truly. I dared to tell him that I didn’t think men really needed to chime in on this issue, since it’s never their lives or health on the line when someone gets pregnant. A few days later, I got a private message from someone who was looking for advice on apartments in Alsace. After I responded to the PM, I noticed I had another one from a “stranger” named Jason. Jason wrote this to me:

For some reason, a lot of men think the worst thing a woman can be is “fat”. So they add that to the word, “cunt”, to be as insulting as they can possibly be…

Interesting that Jason, who is presumably “pro-life”, doesn’t realize that I used to be someone’s developing fetus. And yet, he felt the need to invite me to commit suicide. Sadly, when I complained about this to Facebook, they said there was “nothing they could do about it.” However, I’ve been “on restriction” all month for writing a comment that referred to “dumb Americans”. Go figure.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that I enjoy being referred to as a “cunt”. It’s not a nice word. And no, I don’t like it when people call me “fat”, because I know that’s basically akin to “ugly” in some people’s opinions. Nobody likes to be insulted. On the other hand, I am already married to a wonderful guy who doesn’t think I’m a “fat cunt”, and would be devastated if I died. But this comment did make me realize that Jason must be very, very frustrated by women who aren’t afraid to speak their minds, and would happily deny them, both access to their cunts, and respect for their views. You see, my guess is that Jason isn’t gay. He probably really enjoys having sex with women. And a lot of women have probably denied him sex. At the same time, he’s presumably here because some woman had sex and got pregnant. He probably passed through his mother’s “cunt” when he was born. So he actually owes everything to a cunt, doesn’t he? But he thinks that as a man, he should have power over women. A woman who tells him to STFU is very threatening and offensive. So he calls me a vile word and advises me to kill myself. Makes a lot of sense, right?

As a woman, I have been sexually harassed by men, even though I don’t think I’m conventionally “beautiful”. It started on the playground when I was a little girl, when little boys would try to make me give them some “sugar” (I grew up in the South in the early 80s, and that was a euphemism for kissing). It continued as I got older, when bigger boys would grab me and try to touch me or kiss me, and when the neighborhood pervert, who referred to himself as “The Home of the Whopper”, showed me pornography. Then, it continued when boys would make comments about my body– negative or positive– or try to humiliate me with cruel jokes and pranks. In college, I remember meeting a guy at a party, and within a couple of hours, he was trying to stick his tongue down my throat. I was shocked and horrified, and I asked him to stop. He then proceeded to treat me like I had given him blue balls or something.

I got harassed when I lived in Armenia by men who exposed themselves to me. It happened three times that I can remember. I was lucky. I knew a woman who was harassed and violently assaulted. She had to go into the hospital. On a trip to Turkey, a man felt my legs as I tried on shoes that I desperately needed. Another man grabbed my breast when I was trying to find a bathroom. Not two hours later, when I was changing clothes, a different man came into the dressing room, called me “sexy”, and asked me to come with him. The female friend who was traveling with me was also harassed, although she wore men’s shoes and had shaved her head. The trip, which was mostly amazing, culminated when we got stuck on the border with Georgia and the customs manager propositioned me. And no, I wasn’t looking sexy. I had on shorts, a t-shirt, and wore no makeup. He still wanted to have sex with me… and, of course, that was ALL he wanted. He thought I would give it to him, because I’m an American woman, and women from the USA are supposedly “loose”. I was a virgin at the time.

A couple of years later, when I was back in the States, I worked at a country club. One of the members, a guy named J.J., was notorious for hitting on all of the women who worked at the club. It didn’t matter if the female he was targeting was a minor who was still in high school, or if it was the matronly dining room manager who was in her 60s. None of us were spared his attentions. One day, he followed me into the linen closet, which unfortunately was in the men’s locker room. Thinking the locker room was empty, I had gone in there to get tablecloths and napkins. He cornered me, and tried to paw at my breasts and kiss me. It was absolutely appalling, and yes, I said “No”.

And… I have also been fat shamed by men. It started with comments from my father, who would tell me that no man would find me attractive (he also didn’t like my outspoken personality and vulgar language). He would touch me and tell me I had “fat” I needed to lose. Sometimes, he called me names, like “hog”, or referred to me as “retarded”. As I got older, some men would body shame me. It happened a lot in Armenia. I would get stopped by strangers on the street trying to sell me Herbalife, or they would flat out tell me I was “fat”. But it also happened in the United States, or on vacations. Regular readers of my blog might remember when I wrote about the man on SeaDream I who was surprised by my pretty singing voice and said to Bill, “Now I can see why you’d love her.” He made similarly disgusting comments about women, revealing the attitude that he felt like it was a woman’s duty to be beautiful and available to him. And if she wasn’t those things, he could call her a “fat cow” (he literally referred to his late wife in this way– she had just died of breast cancer).

Some men, especially in the military community, are very offended by smart, opinionated women, especially if they’re considered “fat” or not pretty enough. I’ve gotten tons of shit over the name of this blog by men in the military community, as well as some rather clueless women. One time, a military man commented on a blog post I wrote that was shared on Facebook. He wrote, “Ugh. I hope she at least has children.” WTF, guy? I responded that I didn’t have children, and I would be very happy to tell him why I didn’t, if he really wanted to know the gory details.

Frankly, I think it’s probably a burden to be really attractive to men. I remember another incident, back when I was in my late 20s and thinner and prettier than I am now. I was at a bar, and one of my co-workers, who was slim and pretty, was dancing to music. We were friends, but hadn’t come to the bar together. A guy tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to look at him, and he asked me if my co-worker was with anyone. Obviously, he’d spotted her and wanted to meet her, presumably because she was very attractive. But instead of asking her, he approached me, the less threatening “fat friend”. I think I told him that we hadn’t come together and if he wanted to talk to her, he should man up and talk to her. I’m not her “fat friend”, there to help some guy score.

Lori Alexander, who thinks that women need to stay home and pump out babies for their husbands, also fat shames women. She says that it’s a woman’s duty to be pleasing to her man. And if her man thinks she’s too fat, she needs to do something about it. And she needs to let him have sex with her, no matter what… even if it happens while she’s trying to sleep or isn’t feeling well. In that sense, I guess she’s in agreement with famously pro-life mom, Michelle Duggar, who told her daughter, Jill, to be “joyfully available” to her new husband, Derick. The year after the public heard about this advice, the news came out that Jill was one of four of the Duggar daughters who were molested by their eldest brother, Josh. We all know where Josh is right now. Mr. “Pro-Life” father of seven is currently sitting in a jail cell, awaiting sentencing for receiving and possessing images of child sexual abuse… and some of the female children being abused were in diapers!

Josh wanted to save developing fetuses, but he didn’t mind looking at those same, precious babies being abused for his own sexual gratification.

So yeah… I think guys who would like to deny women the right to bodily autonomy are, by and large, not interested in protecting babies. A lot of those guys wouldn’t bother to stick around if a woman got pregnant out of wedlock, and they certainly don’t want more of their paychecks going to providing social welfare safety nets. These guys– Josh Duggar especially– use women for their own gratification and then condemn them as “sluts”. They are repulsed by women they see as sloppy and out of control, whether the lack of control is regarding food or sex. And so, if you pay close attention, you see that a lot of fat shamers and pro-life males respond to women in very similar ways. They have a LOT in common!

I think, deep down, most of these pro-life, hyper-religious, fat shaming guys are obsessed with sex, and controlling women. They hate that a woman has the power to do something they can’t do, and a lot of them are offended when a woman has the nerve to have a vagina, but doesn’t do enough to be attractive. Or, worse, she’s attractive, but denies him access to her vagina. Or she gives him access, but then doesn’t want to accept the grand gift of his sperm, which created a developing fetus. Remember… the vast majority of us owe our lives to a woman and her vagina.

I’ll leave you with one last anecdote. A couple of days ago, I read a Facebook post about the 1987 film, Dirty Dancing, which was released when I was 15 years old. A lot of people forget that the reason why “Baby” has to learn to “dirty dance” is because Johnny Castle’s partner got “knocked up” by Robby, the asshole waiter. She had an illegal abortion, which made her very sick. The poster pointed out that the film was a reminder of what could be at stake if women in the United States lose access to abortion. One commented wrote this:

What is the script was flipped? What if Robby was a loving caring father that wanted the baby, but Penny knew that if she had the baby, her life would change, and she didn’t want that? Robby would have no legal say in it, and would be forced to see his child killed. Not all guys are douchebags. And not all women are angels. If a person, male or female, doesn’t think they can handle being a parent, then don’t take the risk of it happening.

Naturally, I had to respond. I didn’t even address the fact that this dude used the term “douchebag”, which is, in and of itself, a very offensive and sexist pejorative. Who uses douchebags? It’s not men who use them; it’s women. And, in fact, we aren’t repelled by “douchebags” so much as what comes from using them– the residual nasty smelling stuff from a woman’s private area. It’s the “waste” that is repellant. Personally, I consider the term “douchebag” to be akin to calling a woman a “cunt”, but since that was the term the guy used, I went with it in my response to this hypothetical “loving, caring father” who would be “crushed” that his child would be killed by heartless Penny.

If you don’t understand that it wouldn’t be Robby’s health or life on the line, and you think another person should be compelled to stay pregnant for someone else’s sake, then yes, you ARE a “douchebag” (not that I would use that term). Guys who want to be fathers should find women who want to have babies with them.

It’s as simple as that, folks.

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law, true crime

Repost: Yet another innocent man goes to prison over false rape charges… 

Here’s a repost from July 2014 about a man who was falsely accused of rape. I am reposting it to go with today’s fresh content.

This is actually an old case.  Someone posted about it on Facebook today and I had to read up on it to see if it was true.  I found the case referenced in several brief articles until I found a much longer one that related the tale of Cassandra Ann Kennedy and her decision to falsely accuse her father of raping her back in 2001.  At the time she made the accusation, Cassandra was 11 years old.  She was upset with her father because he had divorced her mother.  She was tired of having to go to his house for visitations, where she and her sister would have to sleep on a mattress on his floor.  She was tired of his partying, drinking, and pot smoking.  And then, apparently, he stopped showing up altogether.  Cassandra thought he didn’t love her, and she wanted revenge.

Cassandra had a friend whose stepfather was sent to prison for a child sex crime.  She got the idea to accuse her father when she saw her friend’s stepfather get sent away.  Since Cassandra started having sexual experiences in the second grade, she knew about sex and what she could say to make her father look guilty.  She also had some trauma to her genital region that looked convincing.  Obviously, someone was abusing Cassandra when she was a little girl.  It wasn’t her father, though.

Based on Cassandra’s convincing testimony and her wrath toward her dad, Thomas Kennedy spent nine years in prison and was released in 2012.  He was originally sentenced to 15 years and would have been released in 2016, had Cassandra not had an attack of her conscience.  She went to detectives and told them she lied about her father.  He’d never raped her or touched her inappropriately.  In fact, she even had some fond memories of him from when she was very young.

Cassandra Kennedy was not punished for falsely accusing her father of rape, because authorities feared that punishing her would discourage legitimate rape victims from coming forward.  I suppose I can understand that fear, given how shameful sex crimes are for victims.  However, I can’t help but remember that an innocent man, who may not have been the world’s greatest dad, spent nine years that he will never get back in a prison cell.  I am assuming that since he was innocent, he won’t have to register as a sex offender… but now he has to resume his life after having spent nine years incarcerated.  How difficult was it for him in those months after he was released in 2012?

Some months ago, I wrote a blog post about a young man who was falsely accused of rape.  Johnathon Montgomery had the misfortune of once living in the same neighborhood as Elizabeth Paige Coast, a girl whose mother caught her looking at pornography.  Elizabeth’s mother assumed that her daughter must have been abused, since she was looking at porn, and she demanded to know who had touched her.  In a panic, Elizabeth named Johnathon, who had since moved to Florida.  She didn’t think the police would find him.  They did, and he went to prison for four years for a crime he didn’t commit.  At least in this case, Coast had to pay a large fine and spend 60 days in jail.  It seems like a small price to pay for the four years Mr. Montgomery lost, though.

I certainly understand the need for people to come forward to speak up when they have been sexually assaulted.  I would never deny anyone the right to justice when a crime has been committed.  I even understand prosecutors being reluctant to charge false accusers because they don’t want to discourage genuine victims from seeking help.  At the same time, I can’t help but think of how totally unfair it is that Thomas Kennedy and Johnathan Montgomery went to prison for years because someone lied.

I posted about this case on Facebook and a friend who is very much a feminist was dismayed that someone had left this comment with the story…

It’s amazing that no one who actually is guilty of wrongdoing in this case, will pay any price. Not the accuser, police, doctor, teacher, prosecutor, no one.

All of those people were willing to throw away a man’s life based on nothing more than the say-so of a troubled 11-year old girl, because we’ve been told by feminists that “women don’t lie about being raped” and that men are animals. Well, women DO lie about being raped, and only a small fraction of men are anything but decent.

My friend described it as a “MRA” comment– that is, “men’s rights”.  She is against men fighting for rights because she thinks they already have too much control and don’t need to fight for their rights.  Frankly, I disagree.  While I completely understand that women have historically gotten the short end of the stick and still face sexism today, I also think that men also get treated unfairly based on their gender.  I think both males and females are entitled to fairness, and we do have some laws right now that favor females over males.

If you’re really for fairness, you can’t be for giving women special treatment because of the equipment they happened to be born with.  I think the above comment is perfectly reasonable.  What surprises me is that it was the only one posted.  Had the genders been switched in this case, I bet the comments section would have been full.  Do people really not care that an innocent man spent nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit?  Do people really not understand that if something like that could happen to Thomas Kennedy or Johnathon Montgomery, it could happen to them or one of their loved ones?

I understand that Cassandra Kennedy and Elizabeth Coast were both troubled girls when they made their false allegations.  It’s obvious that they both needed help when they were at their most vulnerable.  But that help should have come in the form of counseling, not incarcerating innocent men.  Making false rape accusations does more than ruin the lives of innocent people; it also does a huge disservice to legitimate victims of sex crimes who may one day face doubt when they come forward.  Situations like the ones I’ve written about today give people like Todd Akin ammunition when they spread their misogynistic agendas.

Honestly, if I had a son, I would be very vigilant about teaching him to be careful around women.  There are a lot of great women with big hearts out there.  But there are also a lot of shady, immoral, liars out there, too, and our society seems reluctant to hold them accountable when they take advantage of female friendly laws.  Justice should be blind.

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book reviews, celebrities

A review of Sally Field’s life story, In Pieces…

Four years ago, weeks before we moved to Wiesbaden, actress Sally Field, who was then 71 years old, published her memoirs, titled In Pieces. I downloaded the book in October of that year, fully intending to read it immediately. But then stuff happened. We moved, and other books and current events came up. Sally’s book drifted further and further down my “to be read” list, in favor of other books that I considered more pressing because they covered current events or otherwise “hot” or interesting topics.

Recently, Sally Field commented about the trend of right wing politicians trying to take away women’s rights to choose whether or not they want to be pregnant. Field said in an interview for Variety,

“Those men who are doing that, and they’re mostly male governors who are doing it, are so backward, so ignorant and really just power hungry,” the two-time Academy Award winner, 75, said. “I think it’s criminal.”

“They’re so wanting to roll back the achievements and important progress for women, for Blacks, for the LGBTQ community.”

She continued:

“I can’t say enough horrible things about what I feel about those men,” she said. “If you see them coming toward me, those two governors specifically, lead me out of the way because I cannot be responsible for what I would do. [Addressing her publicist] Heidi, do you hear me? Lead me away.”

I had basically forgotten about Sally Field’s memoirs until a few weeks ago, when I read a news article about the war on abortion. A journalist for People Magazine mentioned that Sally Field had an abortion in the 1960s, when she was a young actress struggling to break into the entertainment industry. The year was 1964, and Field was just 17 years old. She had to go to Tijuana, Mexico to have the procedure, since it was not legal in the United States. The story about her abortion was in her book, In Pieces, which reminded me that I bought the book several years ago. It was because of her comments about abortion that I decided it was time to read Sally’s life story. I believe very strongly that people should have the right to have an abortion, and it’s no one else’s business.

I finally finished the book last night. I’ve always liked Sally Field as an actress, and now that I’ve read her book, I like her even more as a person. Curiously, some people on Amazon commented that this book was “whiny” and “poorly written”. I don’t agree with them. I’m not sure what would have made the book better for them. This is Sally Field’s story. Everybody has a story. This is hers. There are aspects of her story that may be distasteful for some people. Yes, she had an abortion. She did not have a good relationship with her biological father, a man named Dick Field, whom she says she didn’t enjoy visiting after he and her mother divorced. She was also sexually abused by her stepfather, Jocko (Jacques O’Mahoney), and had a difficult relationship with the late Burt Reynolds, who also had a difficult relationship with Loni Anderson, whose life story I read years ago.

In spite of all of that, Sally Field has had an amazing career as an actress on television and the big screen. She’s done everything from sitcoms to high drama, and she’s been incredibly successful. And she’s raised three sons, whom she obviously loves very much. I will be 50 years old in June; Sally’s been acting since before I was born, and one of her sons is my age. I think I’ve always liked her because she reminds me a lot of my sister, Becky.

This was way before my time…
Not one of Sally’s favorite roles.

One thing I would mention about In Pieces is that this book isn’t mainly about Sally’s roles. Anyone who picks up this book wanting to know a lot about Sally’s experiences starring on ER as a bipolar mother, or her turn as a housewife turned comedienne in Punchline with Tom Hanks, will be disappointed. She does write about some of her roles– notably Norma Rae, which was a fabulous movie from 1977– and Sybil, a made for television movie she made in 1976. She also writes about Gidget and The Flying Nun, and how neither of those roles were very exciting or challenging for her. Actually, I get the sense that Field hated being The Flying Nun, and hadn’t wanted to do that show at all. But she was advised by her stepfather, Jocko, himself an actor, that she should take the work. Sally’s mother, Margaret Field, who was also an actress, was always present in her life– kind of in an unhealthy way. They were basically enmeshed. Sally’s mom needed to live her own life, but every time she started to try to break away from Sally, something would happen. Her mom would end up depending on Sally, and Sally would depend on her mom.

People were always telling Sally what to do, and perhaps because she felt the need to please people, she did what they said… until she finally learned that she should listen to her own counsel. As someone who is married to an overly responsible people pleaser, I could really appreciate that part of Sally’s story. She ties it up nicely toward the end of the book, as she’s talking to a therapist, who turns a “light” on in her psyche and delivers wisdom in a figurative thunderbolt of insight. She got that insight in time to share it with her mother, just before her death in 2011.

Field writes about her sister, Princess, who was the product of her mother’s marriage to Jocko, and there’s a bit about her older brother, Rick, who is a scientist. Poor Rick never got along with his and Sally’s father, Dick, who was in the military and went off to fight in World War II. When he left, his wife was a homemaker. When he came back, she had a career as an actress and had taken up with Jocko. His marriage was destroyed, and his children wanted nothing to do with him. I felt kind of sad for him, but I also realized that, based on this book, Sally Field had a lot of bad experiences with important men in her life. But, based on her story, it sounds like her mother was a big part of the reason why her relationships were difficult. Her mom would do things to try to sabotage her romances, telling her that the men she wanted to be with weren’t “good” for her. It wasn’t until she was quite old that she finally told her mother what happened with her stepfather. And her mother, to her credit, took responsibility for her part… and turning a blind eye to the abuse.

One of Sally’s best performances!

I will warn readers that this isn’t a particularly “happy” story. Sally Field has had a messy life, parts of which were quite difficult. Anyone who is hoping for a positive, uplifting story will probably be disappointed. Personally, I enjoyed In Pieces. It gave me some insight into who Sally Field is as a person, as well as some insight about Burt Reynolds, who was a similarly complicated and interesting person. I see that most of the negative reviews about this book mention that Sally seems “whiny”. I guess for those who see her as a larger than life movie star with lots of money and privilege, maybe she does seem that way. But she has led an extraordinary life. I appreciated the glimpse behind her persona, even the negative reality checks about how there was a time when she needed public assistance and was signing autographs as she stood in line to get financial aid. Acting can be a very tough, unforgiving, unglamorous, and poorly paid gig. Sally made it big, and was able to provide her sons with educations at prestigious universities, but she had to work hard to get there. I see her book as a glimpse of that process, and a reminder that life as a star isn’t all hearts and flowers.

On a more personal note… I like that Sally Field enjoys swearing. Apparently, Burt Reynolds didn’t like it when she swore… one more reason to ditch him. And she uses interesting metaphors, like “flopped like a juicy fart at a family reunion”, which some people might find crude. But, of course, I found it charming. I’ll have to add it to my own personal collection of funny and gross things to say.

Out of five stars, I think I’d give In Pieces three and a half. Sally Field does present her very human side, complete with foibles and personal problems. Some people may not like that, and will think she’s confused her book with a therapy session. Some readers would rather read about her acting and roles she’s had, rather than Sally Field as an actual person. I’m inclined to give her more of a break than they did, even if I can see their point. I’m not sorry I read the book, though.

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book reviews, religion

A review of Sex Cult Nun, by Faith Jones…

Happy Saturday, everybody! I woke up early this morning, determined to finally finish my latest reading project. It’s not that the book I just finished, Sex Cult Nun (2021), by Faith Jones, wasn’t interesting. It definitely was. I just find it hard to read as fast as I used to. I tend to read when I’m lying in bed, and I drift off to sleep. I definitely need naps more than I used to. It’s probably because Bill wakes me up at 5:00am, most mornings.

I think I discovered Sex Cult Nun when I saw it recommended in the Duggar Family News group. I am fascinated by books about religious cults, so when someone recommends a new one– especially one that is highly regarded– I usually take notice. However, when I realized that Faith Jones was raised in The Family, which used to be known as the Children of God, and is now known as The Family International, I almost didn’t read the book. I’ve now read several books about the Children of God cult, and I always find it difficult to get through them because books about that particular cult are often rife with stories of child sexual abuse. I don’t enjoy reading about children being sexually violated.

As of this morning, I have already reviewed three other books about the Children of God/ The Family. Sex Cult Nun is number four. And although I do find The Family disturbing to read about, there are some aspects of that particular religious group that really are interesting. I’m glad that I did finish Faith Jones’ story, because ultimately, it ends with triumph. Also, although Jones endured a lot of abuse on all levels, her book doesn’t include graphic stories about children being horrifically abused. Make no mistake– Jones was abused and severely neglected when she was growing up, and she does share stories about that abuse. But she manages to share her story without causing the shock and horror I’ve encountered in other books about this particular cult.

Background about David Berg and his cult

Faith Jones comes from a long line of evangelists and proselytizers, which she details in the first chapter of Sex Cult Nun. But the most famous/infamous of her ancestors is her paternal grandfather, David Brandt Berg, founder of the Children of God. Jones explains that Berg’s religious convictions were cemented, in part, because he believed that he had experienced a miracle. Berg was drafted into the Army in 1941, when he was 22 years old. Berg’s mother, Virginia, was a famous preacher who had been miraculously healed, due to her religious convictions. She was a very charismatic traveling evangelist who held tent revivals. Virginia had three children, but only her son, David, was interested in pursuing a life in the ministry. She took him with her on her travels as her assistant and driver.

But then Berg was summoned to military service. Although he could have gotten out of being drafted because he was pursuing a life in the ministry, he decided not to try to get out of military service. He had gotten tired of working with his mother and craved adventure. But then when he was in boot camp, he contracted double pneumonia, and was not expected to recover. Berg prayed to God, promising that if was healed, he would devote his life to God’s service. And, just like that, he was “miraculously healed”, just like his mother was. Berg was medically discharged from the Army, and he went back to work with his mother. However, Berg was not happy with his modest role as his mother’s assistant. He wanted to preach, too. He would have to wait awhile before that would happen.

While he was working with his mother, David met a pretty brunette woman named Jane Miller. She was a devout Baptist from Kentucky who had moved to California. Jane worked as a secretary at The Little Church of Sherman Oaks. David and Jane eloped in 1944, and the couple had four children, including Faith Jones’s father, Jonathan “Hosea” Emmanuel. Berg became ordained as a minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He began to preach about integration and sharing one’s wealth with the less fortunate. Jones writes that her grandfather was formulating his ideas about “Christian communism”, which is essentially what his cult, the Children of God, would become while he was still living. Berg was unhappy with his lot in life, and engaged in a number of “antics” that would infuriate local religious leaders, who would call law enforcement. The situation got so bad that Berg decided to go on the road. Faith Jones’s father was in the eighth grade at the time. He was pulled out of school, and that was the end of Hosea’s formal education.

In 1968, David Brandt Berg, finally started a religious movement in California. The group originally consisted of “hippie types”, young people and troubled teenagers– drifters attracted to the counterculture movements of the that era. He originally called his cult “Teens for Christ”, but later changed the name to Children of God.

David Berg was charismatic and enigmatic, and he brought together young, attractive, and talented people and convinced them that his brand of evangelical Christianity was the right way to live. In reality, the Children of God was historically a group with extremely abusive and misogynistic teachings. Young people were sent all over the world to beg on the street, sell religious reading materials, and “flirty fish” new converts, who would live in poverty in diverse locations. The children raised in that cult, at least when Berg was still living, were horrifically abused on all levels. Faith Jones, one of David Berg’s many grandchildren, was no exception.

Faith Jones never met her paternal grandfather, who went into hiding in 1971. David Berg divorced Jane Miller (known as Mother Eve) in 1970 and that same year, he married a cult follower named Karen Zerby, who had worked as his secretary. Karen Zerby now leads The Family, as the Children of God cult is now called. She is known as “Mother Maria”.

Karen had a son named Ricky Rodriguez in 1975, while she was living in Tenerife, Spain. Ricky was fathered by a “flirty fish”– a man Karen had been trying to lure into the cult by having sex with him. David Berg “adopted” Ricky, whose childhood was recorded in a book called The Story of Davidito. The book was supposed to be a guide to cult followers on how to raise their children. However, the book strongly encouraged child sexual abuse, which Karen Zerby allegedly participated in against her son.

Ricky Rodriguez endured horrific abuse, and in 2005, invited his mother and his former nanny to lunch. After lunch, he murdered his nanny by stabbing her to death. He had meant to murder his mother, too, but she hadn’t accepted his invitation to lunch. Rodriguez then committed suicide. It’s my understanding that a lot of the really abusive practices that took place while Berg was still alive no longer happen. “Flirty fishing”– using sex to lure new converts– went out in the 1980s, supposedly due to the AIDS epidemic.

Who is Faith Jones?

Jones was born to David Berg’s son, Hosea, around 1977. At the time of Faith’s birth, Hosea had two wives, Ruthie and Esther. Ruthie is Faith’s mother. Like many people who were born into the Children of God cult, Faith wasn’t always raised with her family of origin. She spent her growing up years living in different religious communes around the world, mostly in Asia. The communes, which were called “homes”, were led by shepherds– usually married couples– who kept the members accountable to the cult’s teachings and doled out punishments for infractions of the rules. Jones mostly grew up in Macau and Hong Kong, but she also spent time in Taiwan, mainland China, Thailand, and Russia.

Children were “homeschooled”. They were not allowed to read any books that weren’t approved by the cult’s leadership. They were forced to read “Mo Letters”– these were letters David Berg, who had taken to calling himself “Moses David” (hence the “Mo”), wrote to his followers. When members were punished, they were often required to read and reread the Mo Letters, over and over again, even if they had already memorized them. Jones did get a couple of tastes of formal education, and that ignited a thirst for knowledge within her. But children were severely punished for seeking information, reading unapproved books, or breaking other rules, such as eating sugar without permission. Children were also trained to “share” with other members. “Sharing” is a euphemism for having sex. The cult members were not to work with “Systemites”– normal people who weren’t in the cult.

Faith Jones was taught that she owned nothing. She had to share EVERYTHING with the group… and that included her body. She was told that her body didn’t belong to her; it belonged to God. God wanted her to share her body with anyone who wanted access to it. And using birth control was forbidden, as was refusing sex.

Faith breaks out at age 23

Eventually, Faith realized that she wanted a college education. But cult members were forbidden from studying at a university. They were also forbidden from working at jobs for money. They got all of their money by begging, performing in the street, or selling religious materials or music productions. Once she’d made up her mind, she told the leaders of the commune, who promptly did all they could to force her to stay. Jones was told that if she left the cult, she would end up on drugs or homeless. This is the same threat repeated by other cult leaders, who try to make their victims believe that they can’t make it through life on their own. It was a threat my husband heard, when he decided to quit Mormonism.

But Faith was determined, and fortunately, her mother’s parents were not in the cult. They were able to help her a little bit. Faith also had to rely on her own resources to raise enough money to buy a plane ticket to the United States from China. Living outside of the cult caused Faith Jones significant culture shocks at times. At one point, she lived with a Chinese woman who became enraged with her when she tried to borrow a fan without asking permission. Faith was raised in an environment where people lived communally. She didn’t have a concept of privacy or people not using things without permission.

When she moved to California and looked into attending college, she found that none of the big schools would accept her, because she didn’t have any credentials. Her solution was to attend community college, where she made excellent grades. But she couldn’t relate to other people, since she’d spent her life outside of the United States. She didn’t get pop culture references, and didn’t know how to be “normal” with “Systemites”.

Nevertheless, Faith Jones was an extraordinary student, and she eventually managed to win acceptance to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. That would have been an exceptional feat regardless, but she made it in as a transfer student, which is a very rare achievement. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, having learned to speak Russian and Mandarin fluently. Then she went to law school at the University of California- Berkeley. Jones writes that she wasn’t particularly attracted to the law, but decided it was a profession in which she would always be able to make a good living. She would not be impoverished again, nor would she ever be beholden to other people. She is now a very successful attorney with her own practice. But she still has many hang ups and complexes that stem from her upbringing in a cult.

Faith Jones has a TED Talk. This is worth listening to, if you don’t want to read the book.

My thoughts

I didn’t really enjoy this book to its fullest until I got to the end. In fact, I really wish that Faith Jones had spent a little more time writing about her life outside of the cult. It was during that time that she “awakened”, and I found that part of the book fascinating and exciting. For instance, she writes about meeting a military officer who was also studying law when she was at Georgetown. He became her boyfriend for a time, and he helped her to overcome some falsehoods that she learned while she was in the cult.

Faith had never learned that sex is not supposed to be painful. When she was in the cult, she was forced to have sex with men she wasn’t attracted to, so she wasn’t prepared to have normal sex. Faith was also raped a couple of times. Her ex boyfriend taught her that sex shouldn’t hurt. He also defined rape to her, which caused Faith to realize that, actually, all of the sexual experiences she’d had before they dated were basically rapes. She hadn’t actually wanted to have sex with those men; she was pressured, coerced, and a couple of times, actually forced to have sex with them. I’m sure that realization was very traumatic for her, but I suspect that in a way, it was also liberating. She learned that she could and should say “no”, and that consent is necessary before sex.

Unfortunately, Faith’s relationship with her boyfriend ultimately couldn’t work out, as he and his parents were members of a different controlling religious cult–the Seventh Day Adventists. Their religion was not as toxic as Faith’s was, but there were too many dynamics within it that were like the Children of God/The Family. Moreover, because of the religion her boyfriend was in, she was asked to lie to his parents, who were not aware that their son had strayed somewhat from the religion’s teachings– no meat, no alcohol, and no sex before marriage.

I was a little surprised when Faith wrote that she hadn’t necessarily been attracted to studying law; she had just wanted to be able to get a good job and make plenty of money on her own. For one thing, I know that not everyone who goes to law school is successful in launching a legal career. For another thing, Faith Jones is obviously very intellectual and has a gift for making cases. She once got a professor at Georgetown to change an A- to an A, when he told her he’d never been convinced to do that before. She laboriously went through all of her work to make her case and managed to change his mind. And she’d done it because she had her heart set on graduating from Georgetown with straight As so she could get the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. I doubt many students are that single-minded and dedicated. To me, it seemed natural that she would become a lawyer. I thought that even before I knew that is, in fact, what she had done after she graduated from college.

I also liked that this book ends on a good note. While I’m not so naive to think that Faith is completely recovered from her traumatic childhood, I do think she’s made great strides toward overcoming some very significant challenges. She does point out that not everyone who was in the cult was that lucky. Her father, for instance, is still impoverished, although she has a good relationship with him and her mother. Her mother was able to pick up the pieces post cult life and start a career in her 50s. That gave me hope, as I will be 50 soon myself, and sometimes I worry about potentially having to support myself. 😉

Finally, I want to comment that this book reminded me a lot of Tara Westover’s book, Educated, which I have also read and reviewed. I think Jones and Westover have a lot in common, although Westover was raised as a fundie Mormon. Personally, I think Educated was a bit easier and more entertaining to read, but both books are worthwhile and gratifying reading. They’re both books about young women who overcome tremendous odds and severe handicaps to achieve great success and greatness in the world. Ultimately, both books are “feel good” stories when all is said and done, but readers have to wade through some disturbing and upsetting passages to get there. Likewise, Tara Westover’s book reminded me of The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls.

Anyway… I am amazed by Faith Jones’s determination, tenacity, resilience, and brilliance. She is a very unusual person and her story is worth reading, if you can stomach the parts about the abuse she and other members of The Family endured. I recommend Sex Cult Nun, but be prepared for some unpleasant shocks– though not as many as I’ve read in other books about the Children of God/The Family.

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