Saturday, June 27, 2009
This is especially true with the original subject matter of this blog, the clergy abuse of children. While it's true many predators use the system to squeeze by on 'technicalities', it's also true that people have been falsely accused by the police for child molestation. There was an epidemic of this in Southern California, the most notable case being the subject of the movie 'Witch Hunt'.
Child molestation: a national epidemic or a national hysteria?
To those who have experienced it, it is not a national hysteria. It is real. And what makes it worse is when allegedly good people try to brush off matters by telling victims to 'get over it'. Victims, in order to put it aside, MUST talk about it and MUST get validation.
What clouds the matter is when people and organizations use child molestation like European football, otherwise known as 'soccer' to those in fundamentalist high schools.
Child abuse just becomes another issue to be 'kicked around' in order to score points for your team, but under no circumstances will anyone actually 'touch the ball'.
That is what I think about the efforts of some people and groups when it comes to addressing this topic. I'm starting to become very sensitive to people treating the issue like an 'us against them' ball game instead of a social problem we must all be diligent about confronting.
If you care about this, it's important to not jump on a bandwagon of hysteria. You have to respect that some people have been falsely accused and that authority figures are not often your friends.
Check out the movie 'Witch Hunt' now showing on MSNBC:
Evan Ginzburg, associate producer of The Wrestler, makes a cameo appearance with Mickey Roarke in The Wrestler.
Here's the podcast of LEGENDS, the show I was on last Wednesday. Evan Ginzburg (above) hosts it out of NYC. I was on plugging my latest work, Wrestling Then and Now - The Movie, which Evan produced.
Obviously, the subject of the clergy abuse of children would not be appropriate, although, at one point, Evan asks me about my other work. I haven't listened to the podcast, but I hemmed and haw'd before eventually saying, as briefly as possible, "My other theme is the clergy abuse of children, but it was a relief to lose myself in a subject matter that had nothing to do with that."
That's a paraphrase, btw. I'm not sure of my exact words but that's the gist of how I feel about that subject matter. Necessary to address, but psychologically unhealthy to spend more than a few years addressing it, unless you're a paid advocate.
It will probably be awhile before I even listen to my own podcast. In this way, I almost feel like Johnny Depp when he appeared on Letterman this week and revealed he never watches any of his movies. He just doesn't like watching himself. I'm kind of the same way. I don't like listening or watching myself.
LEGENDS broadcast with Evan Ginzburg and Mike Lano.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Bassenco, in this case, refers to Jeri Massi, author of Schizophrenic Christianity.
Here is the original thread, located in the 'non believer' section of the FFF, which is the only place I'm allowed to post on that forum:
In defense of Bassenco.
Very few contributed to this thread, so I took the liberty of getting something off my chest:
Here is the post as it appears on the FFF:
I don't want to spend a lot of time writing about Bassenco, but I noticed this thread seemed a bit empty. There is a question I would like answered, though, and only one, maybe two, people are qualified to answer it.
Let me start by directing you to this blog post by spiffinwheeze.
Here is the link to his post:
Feel free to read it in its entirety, but I just want to concentrate on this excerpt:
BASSENCO once remarked to me that a certain atheist film maker who posted about her having attended Hyles-Anderson College could not get the facts straight if you nailed them in a straight row across his forehead. She did apologize for this outburst and assured me that the poor boy meant well.
She even said something like, "He writes screen plays, and that's how he thinks--like it's a screen play." She then showed me the synopsis he had written of "the facts" about her history of speaking up about abusive churches. His intention was to post the following record of her life.
In it, she had been a student at Hyles Anderson and had met Voyle Glover there: both untrue. There were all kinds of inconsistencies like this, but nothing damaging. And she was right: all the facts that he knew were neatly pieced together into a seamless garment.
End of excerpt.
Okay, I first noticed Bassenco's blog a few months before Bob Gray was arrested. She was promoting SECRET RADIO and the big question on people's minds seemed to be, "What school is she talking about?"
People couldn't resist trying to pin the fictitious college in her book on one or two particular places. I remember her denying she had attended certain colleges, but ultimately I really didn't care. I liked the book and gave it a glowing review. I don't think I knew until SCHIZOPHRENIC CHRISTIANITY that she went to BJU. Of course, she might have mentioned it on the FFF, but I don't feel like wading through pre-2006 FFF posts, or the posts from her blog, for that matter. Not really worth it.
The long and short of it is:
I never said or wrote anything implying that she went to Hyles Anderson college much less met Voyle Glover there.
Now, that last one blows me away! Like, it's not enough, according to her (through spiff) that I 'lied' about H/A, but there's the added caveat that I'm saying she met Voyle Glover there. Not true! By 'not true', I mean not true that I wrote anything stating that she went to H/A, let alone met Voyle Glover at H/A. I haven't the slightest idea where she met Voyle Glover at.
I realize Bassenco did not write spiffinwheeze post, unless spiff is a sockpuppet. So, what I would like is for her to visit spiff's blog, or simply reply to this thread, and correct what spiff is asserting to be true. I would also love to read this history that I allegedly wrote where I assert she attended Hyles Anderson and met Voyle Glover there.
If this has been a grand misunderstanding, that would be a relief. Bassenco has been one of the more vocal supporters of the victims of clergy abuse. I would hate for the waters of credibility to be muddied because of false assertions like this.
NOTE: In reposting this from the FFF to my blog, Jeri's alleged assertion that I wanted to post a 'record of her life' is also bewildering. Why would I care? The only 'record' I've ever thought about posting concerned the time line in the Bob Gray case. That was something I discussed with a former student of TCA. We never got around to doing that time line, but, honestly, why would I want to devote valuable time to posting a record of Jeri's life?
Like I said, if spiffy is not telling the truth, this is a prime moment for Jeri to get over to his blog and correct this misunderstanding. Let's hope that's all it is.
Monday, June 22, 2009
You might be interested to know that Wrestling Then and Now will have its big screen debut in Lancaster, CA this October. It will be at the on-campus theater of the Antelope Valley Community College. I sent a copy of Wrestling Then and Now, and other movies, to the manager of the gallery. The hope was to screen some of my shorter works, but she took one look at the wrestling movie and is convinced this is what the doctor ordered for Lancaster.
Now, are you ready for this? She is going to develop the screening into a two week gallery show featuring art about wrestling, art by wrestlers, and it will include bands and performances. Can you say 'Rassle-Pa-Looza'? I thought you could!
I am really going to enjoy the two weeks in the great blue collar town of Lancaster come this October. Stay tuned to this webpage for more info.
I am proud to say I played a part in getting this home closed down by bringing together a former resident of victory with a public access producer. We shot the interview, the video was sent to the Department of Children's Services, and it was closed down on Valentine's Day.
The proprietor of the home has been accused of rape, so naturally he's free to start more homes:
ARTICLE: LOCKDOWN: Are Teens and Taxpayers paying the price at Christian Reform Schools?
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
"You have to tell everything." Christa Brown, the webmaster behind Stop Baptist Predators, told me when I spoke with her in Texas back in January, 2008.
I was on my way to Jacksonville, Florida to host a public awareness meeting on the subject of clergy abuse. I made a brief stop to interview Christa for a podcast.
Bob Gray, my former pastor who was arrested on multiple charges of child abuse, had not been a Southern Baptist for decades.
There was still the nagging question concerning his early days. Did the SBC of the fifties know about any accusations against Gray? Did they simply allow him to become 'independent' as a way of washing their hands of him?
After the podcast was recorded, Christa and I met the next day and discussed the various methods of getting the accounts of sexual abuse by clergy out in the public arena.
I mentioned the difficulty I was having in writing a book about it.
There were just too many crossovers where regular people, not wanting to become public figures, would be thrust into the limelight. It wouldn't just involve other people, though. It would also be about the dark secrets most of us harbor about ourselves. That would be the most difficult hurdle.
Christa Brown jumps over that hurdle in This Little Light.
She opens herself up by telling the story of how Eddie Dunagan, a youth minister, capitalized on Christa's abusive situation at home. She called the police after witnessing an act of family violence.
The pastor criticized her for doing so. Some things just don't need to be reported!
Eddie used this situation as an opportunity to manipulate himself into her life.
There was no romance or sweet talk. Just bible thumping and scripture twisting.
"God gave us all sorts of ways to show our love for one another," he said. "All of these other ways are good ways that God gave people so they could show their love before they're actually married."
Gee, I wonder if Eddie had the guts enough to preach that to his youth group?
A 'well meaning' friend encourages Christa in this relationship:
"If Eddie says it's God's will then it must be God's will." contended Brenda, "You shouldn't doubt him."
With advice from 'well meaning' friends, who needs the condemnation of enemies?
Eddie badgers her into drinking beer. She drinks it, and whatever drugs might have been implanted in the alcohol. She wakes up naked in the parsonage. Eddie then chuckles and tells her she is still a virgin.
We flash forward to adulthood.
Christa now has a daughter about the same age she was when Dunagan molested her.
She wants to make sure her molester is no longer in the pulpit. After all, what are the chances he, or any other predator, might attempt something with her daughter?
Christa is shocked to find that not only is Eddie still in the pulpit, but other accounts of molestation are being reported by victims from her former church.
She knows the statutes of limitations have passed (Christa is a lawyer), so she envisions a creative solution:
A labyrinth garden that leads to a statute of a millstone.
This monument would not only honor the victims of clergy abuse. It would be an inspiration to victims, and a reminder to churches that they must be vigilant in confronting sexual predators who represent them as pastors and youth leaders.
The higher up's seem to agree. Unfortunately, this is but the first of many experiences where hopes are elevated, only to be crushed by the reality they merely agreed with Christa to get her out of sight and mind.
This leads her to SNAP, the Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests. She attends the meetings, then throws herself into activism.
She visits her home church and puts flyers on the automobiles. The congregants will know that one of their ministers abused a young girl, and the church did nothing. She contacts people she suspects have been molested.
The church's lawyer sends her a letter demanding she cease these activities.
The lawyer, in this case, happens to be Phil Waller, the attorney of choice for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. He also claims all the church members as his 'clients'.
Christa Brown compares him to Harvey Keitel's Mr. Wolfe from Pulp Fiction. His job is to 'clean up' the mistakes of the Baptists. In the Bob Gray world, that man would be David Gibbs.
If the Southern Baptist Convention thought a lawyer would intimidate another lawyer, they obviously had another thing coming.
This Little Light gives us a fly on the wall insight to the behind the scenes machinations involved with Christa's quest for a written apology for the silence she experienced from church officials, financial costs, and, even non monetary requests like simply playing the piano at the church of her youth one last time.
One of the fascinating parts of the book involves a meeting where they hammer out the details behind the SBC's 'apology' letter. We read how the leaders, and their attorney, argue over every single word in order to sneak in phrases that would excuse themselves for ignoring the abuse she suffered.
A mistake, on behalf of SNAP, leads to the SBC making a bold, obviously exaggerated claim, that SNAP apologized for 'false charges'.
The 'false charge', in this case, being the result of secretarial neglect.
Christa publically accuses the SBC of ignoring a letter she sent. The SBC did send the letter, but it is lost amidst a slew of piled up mail at SNAP headquarters. When the error is discovered, Christa issues a public apology for saying SNAP never received the letter.
SBC officials take advantage of this by issuing press releases that SNAP is apologizing for 'false charges'.
The letter is eventually discovered.
It is a standard 'business as usual'. Not a real apology.
Christa, like many victims of clergy abuse, realizes she is dealing with sharks in the water. She witnesses a beloved music minister, whom she thought would at least confirm her story, suddenly backtrack to make her relationship with Dunagan seem consensual.
This leaves a sour taste in her mouth for how religion, specifically the fundamentalism of the SBC, intimidates and encourages corruption. Phrases like 'God's will' literally make her want to throw up. At various points in the book, she actually does.
The finale has her answering another 'well meaning' Christian who encourages her to put her faith and trust 'in Him':
"This sort of talk of God's love that is in your email is the sort of talk that transports me to the torture chamber that is in my head."
It would be a false statement to say this means Christa has crossed the line into Atheism. If you listen to her interviews at Stop Baptist Predators, you will hear the word 'God' injected into some of her interviews.
There is a growing amount of work being published, from Julia Scheere's Jesus Land to Michele Ulriksen's Reform at Victory, where victims of religious abuse are mincing no words.
Those authors are not giving aid and comfort to 'the enemy' and make no bones about how their abusers were making up the religious BS as they went along.
There is an entire demographic of victims who will never be reached because of 'well meaning' Christians. Their survival is linked to rejecting the falsehoods thrust upon them, but because of all the talk of 'God's will', they tune out. That's too bad, because in the battle for accountability, alliances are everything.
Religious, and pro family, organizations have lost their moral credibility by ignoring abuses done by leadership.
Victims become survivors by realizing their instincts were right.
Such leaders are not worthy of respect.
Victims, if they wish to become survivors, must take their own journey to resolve the confusing issues of sex, religion, and the challenges of 'working and playing well with others'. All talk of theological matters really needs to be left at the front door.
I find it interesting that the dialogue I've experienced the last two years of blogging about the Bob Gray case always leads back to the question, "You don't condemn all religion because of the actions of the few?"
Funny, nobody ever seems to ask how clergy abuse affected the sex lives, marriages, families, or self esteem of victims. Everything always seems to revolve around religion, like the other issues are an inconvenient add-on.
Imagine somebody who just had their family slaughtered by a lone gunman being lectured by a 'well meaning' NRA supporter that 'guns don't kill people, people kill people'.
"In spite of your tragic experience, you're still for the second amendment, aren't you?"
It's that insensitive. Not very 'well meaning'.
This Little Light is a book worthy of discussion groups at libraries or your local book dealer.
The simple act of telling her story opens the door for a variety of discussions ranging from the use of art as both a public awareness and recovery tool, the proper place for religious discussion when dealing with clergy abuse victims, and the type of scars child sex abuse, clergy or not, carries into adulthood.
Podcast: A conversation with Christa Brown.