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Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

Michael Jackson, Child Abuse, and JW Apologist Firpo Carr

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James

Recently, I participated in an online discussion in the comments of an article written by a prominent friend/adviser to the late Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson & Jehovah’s Witnesses, by Firpo Carr

The Michael Jackson case and the issue of child abuse are both important to me, but I didn’t really know who Firpo Carr was when I made my first comment. I’d run into his name before, but I was a little under-prepared for his particular style of debate. I felt pretty battered by the end of it, much like what happens when I try to have a political discussion with someone who has already been stirred up by their favorite propaganda machine.

His back and forth with Jerry Bergman is illuminating and true to form.

A sampling of Carr’s other L.A. Sentinel articles for you to chew on:

One article on money and priorities took an argument that was very familiar to me from JW days, and made it much more compelling and interesting. He’s clearly a smart guy, but something….

I hadn’t really thought about this very much before, but there might be a serious educational problem with a dependence on some forms of long-distance learning, especially at the upper levels in the humanities. Potential scholars may simply lose too much by not participating on-site at their universities. There is a sort of human osmosis effect that can only be learned by being there. It’s important to have both peers that are interacting with you and trustworthy mentors that can call attention to your blind spots without attacking you as a person. It may be more difficult to absorb the values and norms of dialogue and debate if you’re not part of the ebb and flow of discussion.

On campus, you become part of a network of friendship that includes worthy adversaries, and you develop different skills as you learn how to respect people independently of whether or not you have disagreements. Constant exposure to a wide range of scholarship and discussion not only helps the scholar to develop an ethical sense of discernment, but also models the qualities that they admire (or reject!) in a teacher. At its best, university life at the graduate level is amazingly liberating, intellectually stimulating, and fulfilling.

It’s not just the “immorality” (sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll) of university life that JWs object to, it’s the training in strong interpretations and critical thinking, along with the ethics of scholarship, that would be dangerous for them to condone in their followers. Independent thinking is against their religion.

Firpo Carr has written a fair number of books. Good for him for being so prolific! However, some supplemental reading might be helpful. Start with a selection from my page of reading recommendations for former JWs. To that, add:

Why? Because this latter list contains non-JW-influenced resources for understanding some aspects of the mindset that can lead people to be manipulated – and possibly continue the chain.

To stick to the topic at hand, though, readers should be aware that child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a systemic problem, one that is reinforced by setting unreachable standards of perfection, demonizing “worldly authorities,” defending questionable biblical interpretations with out-of-context snippets, defending the two-witness rule for any accusation of foul play, subordinating women, presenting an almost comical style of discourse and argument, hours of weekly meetings for repetition and reinforcement, the paucity of choices for a mate, the fear of disfellowshipping and abandonment by friends and family, the threat of demonic possession, the undermining of kindness, and the almost complete lack of pastoral care.

Firpo Carr can of course believe what he likes and project what he needs to – his path is none of my concern – but it’s a very odd position from which to deny or rationalize child abuse. Even more so now, I wish that I had followed my instincts while Michael was still alive. Michael Jackson describes some of the abuse he and his siblings suffered at the hands of his father in this video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mc8HjdK7kJ8[/youtube]

Watch that, then read our discussion. Remember that Firpo Carr says he was Michael’s friend. I’m sorry, but I have serious doubts that Firpo Carr brought much of spiritual value to the friendship. Now he says that Michael Jackson took him aside and told him that he wished his children to be brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses – and to have them study with Carr!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnAhcHMgR_8[/youtube]

I wonder if Michael said that to anyone else, or (shall I be this cynical?) if he said it to anyone at all.

In related news – some new documentation on the Watchtower child sexual abuse settlement. It’s not hearsay – it’s signed, sealed with gag orders, wrapped up in lies, and delivered:

“Documents show that the church knew for years that some prominent members were sexually abusing children and did little.”

The Watchtower PR department issued a statement. “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached.” Sigh. It’s not for the sake of the victims, or their policies would be different.

This is the way they protect known predators. Imagine how they handle psychological and physical child abuse, and then start Googling for the testimonies…

Here’s a sweet sad Monty Python/Michael Jackson mashup. Maybe it will start to express the inexpressible value of caring and kindness.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Z04RssKWI[/youtube]

For a while, Michael was able to redefine and transform his experience. He created music that brought fun – and even joy – to people all over the world.

I will remember him that way.

Questioning JW Records Disfellowshipping Process

Questioning JW Records Disfellowshipping Process

In the words of Christopher Walken in the role of The Continental, “Wow. Wowie-wow-wow-wow.”

I stumbled across this today while backtracking some google searches that led people to this site. It’s always interesting to see what else comes up under the same search phrases. Go to this page at FreeMinds.org to hear the recordings. It doesn’t take long for someone who is looking for answers to their questions to be shunned. This gives a pretty good idea of their pastoral expertise.

Sick of Lies Conversations with Elders

The following phone conversations reveal the lying, misinformation schemes and doubletalk of elders and other brothers that are often triggered by a conversation with a questioning Jehovah’s Witness who is trying to get truthful answers from the Watchtower Society.

“I get many people asking me why I did this, it started as an idea. I wanted to leave and just disassociating myself seemed pointless because I wanted people to know why I was leaving and not just have a blank statement read to the congregation that I’m no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I decided that I would get myself disfellowshiped and document every step of the process. I had already been ‘reproved’ for asking to many questions on the subject of evolution, so I decided to continue to ask questions. I phoned up several elders and asked them questions on various topics, including 607, child abuse, UN NGO statue and more. When I first started doing this I started having second thoughts, I decided I would not pursue the matter anymore, I doubted anything would come of the questions and decided to leave it alone. Well it was only two days after asking these questions that the elders told me that they wanted to meet with me in a judicial committee and discuss what I had said. I was very nervous, but I decided to finish what I had started and carry out my project.

During the whole process I listened to questions and comments from other people who have been through emotional distress because of this religion, I tried to incorporate some or their concerns and questions in where I could. All in all I would say that this has been very therapeutic for me, facing my abusers who caused much depression and hardship in not only my life, but many others has made me feel like I took control of the situation and left under my own terms. After the whole ordeal was finished I left feeling no fear and no anxiety, I felt totally free.” – Sick of Lies

A few sample descriptions:

The elder who denies the “Two Witness” rule that protects pedophiles in the congregation as well as the Watchtower’s connection with the United Nations as an NGO (and they are still an NGO) (19:37)

An “anointed” elder is asked about proving the validity of the 607BCE date for the destruction of Jerusalem, gets flustered and says, “If the Watchtower says that’s what it is, then that’s what it is.” He is then asked about how you know you are of the anointed, and what would happen if the caller partook at the Memorial observance. (11:37)

Asking an elder about 607 BCE. (2:59)

The committee begins, they start by stating the reason they are there: “because your questioning everything” then state the reason they feel that I’m asking the questions is “your just trying to show your superiority because you have an education”. The elders in this committee repeatedly run down ‘higher education’ and state how it destroys spiritual minds.

“You’re looking for information that’s outside of what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has published… I support what the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has to say. Those are my beliefs.” Never is the bible mentioned as the highest source, but always the Watchtower.

Questions are asked about how the elders handle someone who is suicidal or mentally ill. The elders simply reply that this is not their concern and they are simply there to assess wither or not the person qualifies for membership anymore. The elders state that baptism is a contract, and that once joined there is “no nice way out”. They take no responsibility for any depression or suicides that occur because of the shunning that results from their decision.

Second appeal hearing Part One. This time Dan is accompanied by Sean who came to provide him support and counsel if needed. Until last meeting where the elders allowed an outsider (Dan’s mother) to attend the entire hearing and even speak freely, this time they state confidentiality / elder privilege / organizational policy prevent any outsiders from viewing judicial committee under any circumstances.

Part two of appeal hearing. Elders ask if the meeting is being recorded and ask him ‘do you want to get in a war with us?’ ‘If this recording is being used for clandestine purposes you are in a heap of trouble’. Also the person is told that a picture he took of the elders was illegally taken.

04/26/06 Final Meeting with elders. Here the person is told the appeal committee has decided to uphold the decision to disfellowship. He is told there will be no more appeals and this decision will not be overturned.

Reality will not be overthrown

Reality will not be overthrown

The United States has, until now, been a (if not "the") world leader in scientific research and the development of technologies. This has been the backbone of public policies that navigate reality, and it has brought us our highish standard of living and our economy of relative priviledge. But I think we’re on the way out of that role. When ideologies replace knowledge, it is always the people who pay.

Certain fundamentalist groups, suspicious of all intellectuals, "eggheads," and independent thought, have moved us even further into a state of socio-pathology. Their effects on public policy, public higher education, biomedical research, family planning and sex education, environmental issues, the arts and humanities, freedom of inquiry, and even research funding for the common good are monumental, and I suspect that these effects will continue to feed into the sucking vortex of disaster created the skewed priorities of the neocons and crony corporatists.

This administration puts political interests above our well-being as a people. Knowledge and expertise has been pushed aside in favor of unqualified appointments (or those with clear conflicts of interest), the dissolution of advisory committees, and even censorship and suppression of reports from the government’s own scientists.

Across the board, "intelligence" (I use the term in its double meaning) is disregarded unless it supports a conclusion desired by power. There is nothing more deadly to truth than this. I believe such disregard is a substantial security risk that presents a clear and present danger to the American people. We are becoming a danger to ourselves as well as to others. There is still room in our current system for things to change. I hope that the momentum for such change is growing, and I hope that real leaders will emerge – soonest – in this nation’s time of need.

My reaction to the State of the Union Address

My reaction to the State of the Union Address

I somehow made it all the way through the State of the Union address last night. Much as I disagree with the Bush administration, I even found him unusually appealing.

I actually had the thought, “Well, maybe most of this administration’s ugliness is Cheney. Maybe Bush means some of what he is saying here.” I thought he really tried to appeal to our hopefulness at a very sour time – that showed some good leadership. But that’s about it.

So many platitudes, so little straight talk.

He opened with the death of Coretta Scott King. At least he kept his remarks short and honored her as best he could, considering everything.

Isolationist? I haven’t heard anyone advocating that America should be isolationist or retreating from the world. I guess everyone can get behind that – attack a position no-one holds. Actually, it seems that this administration might benefit from more open debates on how to engage with the rest of the world in more effective ways. The costs of our invasion of Iraq – all the costs (ethical, diplomatic, financial, etc.) – have yet to be justified. I sincerely hope that his view of Iraq is not as simplistic as his few comments suggest. Probably just dumbing down.

Ditto for terrorists, but this is even more troubling. He seems to view the terrorists as a singular force, when it is really a mutating, changing and global set of loose alliances. He hasn’t got at what it will take to defeat them if he is concentrating on nations.

Interesting that he went back and forth from inaccurate representations of Democratic views to words about bipartisanship and working together. He suggests that they are soft on terrorism? Please. In my darker moments, I wonder how far this administration would go to bolster those claims.

The Rule of Law – I can’t believe he’s trying to wrap his illegal surveillance of Americans in 9/11 again. The claims he is making on the NSA spying scandal are pretty much to be expected – and really it’s probably all he can do right now. Of course, everything he said is problematic from a variety of perspectives, but that’s all playing out elsewhere. Personally, I believe this president violated federal law, but feels secure enough about it to brag. Bad sign.

“Human-animal hybrids”? What? Is there some room from O Lucky Man hiding in North Carolina? Is there an island of Dr. Moreau off New York? Maybe they mean Plum Island?

Well, good to see the value of life expressed. I think about the lives of those people who died in the aftermath of Katrina, the lives of the people of Fallujah or in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or in our huge domestic prison system which still carries out barbaric if sterile executions, or the lives of people around the world who get HIV for lack of real educational programs beyond “just abstain” and die from it for lack of support for generic drugs. It’s easy to see the values of “life” in cutting anti-poverty programs, in cutting education, in cutting healthcare. Or maybe the value of all our lives is measured in terms of profits and cannon fodder. I felt sorry for that military family standing there. I felt sorry for that soldier’s wife and his parents. What did he die for? Invasion and occupation wasn’t the only option. I’ve now heard rumours of dropping nukes on Iran. Evidently civilian killings are planned to represent our support of their liberty too.

I liked the “switch grass” – it added spice, although I’m not sure where the marshlands could be retrieved for growing it. Can you see the slogan? “Grow Grass for Bush.” Actually, I think the clean reliable and safe energy he’s planning on is primarily nuclear energy. Has that really registered? Do we really want to give terrorists even more underdefended targets here?

I’m not sure I can really believe that an administration so closely tied to oil and gas (and who always supports industry over consumers) will be the ones who will move us out of a petroleum-based economy. He said that the US would replace 75% of our Middle East oil imports by 2025, but only 20% of our imports come from the region anyway, and he gives it about 20 years to happen. The White House has been against efforts to tighten fuel economy standards, and the tax system actually gives SUV drivers an incentive. He pledged support for alternative fuel technologies in previous State of the Union addresses, too, just like every other President I ever remember. Let’s see how it pans out.

Line item veto? Maybe it was a joke? He did grin. Anyway, that power was granted to Clinton but then overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

On the economy, let’s remember that he inherited a $281 billion budget surplus that is now a $400 billion deficit. The national debt is up 44% (trillions and trillions of dollars, folks), but he wants to keep those tax cuts to the rich. The gap in America between the rich and the poor grows.

We’ve created “more jobs than Japan and Europe combined”… and they are all at Halliburton. Seriously, I don’t know if the claim about job creation is true or not, but it is my understanding that in both Japan and most of Europe, there is healthcare whether or not you are employed, a free college education, weeks and weeks of vacation, and generous pension plans. Part-time jobs at Walmart don’t really compare. Let’s also compare the worker populations. I wonder how many new workers entered the market in that time? No mention of how many jobs India or China have created in the same amount of time…. Anyway, there was a reason he didn’t cite the figures from the beginning of his presidency – it would have cut his total by more than half. 2 million jobs over a five-year period isn’t really much to brag about, especially when you look at the jobs.

Healthcare. Again, Bush would rather cut Medicare than allow, for example, negotiated drug prices. A closed-door session just gave away another $22 billion benefit to insurance companies, and some $140 million was spent by drug and insurance companies to lobby Republicans on the Medicare drug benefit alone. How about looking at some of the systemic issues?

Yes, we need to have a debate on healthcare, one that bases decisions on the common good of all Americans – is he really going to have that debate? I hope so. We need everyone’s ideas on this one. He didn’t really make any move toward fixing the current mess that privatizing the drug benefit (or is it “penalty”?) has caused. There seems to be no move (while he’s in the mood to cut needed programs all over, like Pell Grants and Medicare), to optimize or reform the healthcare system or to watchdog the health/drug/insurance industries. Any administrative assistant at any healthcare facility in the country can tell you where the fat is, where the corruption is. How about this as one small measure – insurance companies have to pay bills within 30 days, like the rest of us. Don’t wait around to hear such measures suggested by the Bush administration.

The Patriot Act? How about if we lose some of these provisions, such as the criminalization of protesters (carrying punishments of up to ten years in prison)? Or perhaps the Congress should consider cutting back on the wholesale authority to wiretap your phone, monitor your e-mail and demand your medical, financial and student records from banks, vendors, doctors‚ offices, and libraries – those required to turn over your records are prevented from ever telling you, even if the records turn up no wrongdoing.

The Bush administration has worked hard – to subvert America’s laws regarding open government while it infringes on your constitutional rights. This administration has done everything in its power to block and stall and hide from investigations into 9/11, the way we entered into the Iraq war, the Katrina aftermath, and the outing of Plame. It is a very very secretive administration. It has promoted cronyism at such levels as to have become actual security threats to our nation, and blocked meaningful debate by simply shutting down the conversation.

Just the little detail that adds insult: Cindy Sheehan was arrested and taken away in handcuffs for the crime of wearing a teeshirt that said “2245 How Many More?”. She was an invited guest. She wasn’t the only one in trouble either. Beverly Young (wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee) was removed from the gallery for another teeshirt considered to be a “protest.” It read, “Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom.”

So while I feel the President has, with practice, improved on his speech delivery skills, we’re still just being had.

Of course, I wasn’t that impressed with the Democrat’s response either, which had a few good points but was dumbed-down wayyyy too much.

I did like the brief comments I saw from Barack Obama. Maybe he should run in 2008. I’d vote for him over anyone else at this point.

So here’s his statement, which makes me a lot more hopeful than any words from this President’s speech:

Tonight, the American people know our union should be stronger. They know we can defeat terror and keep our shores safe. And they know that we can be competitive in a 21st century economy where every hardworking family prospers, not just some.

But the American people are wondering if this Administration can lead us there. Because after five years of the same timid solutions to great national challenges, Americans are more anxious about their future and more uncertain about the direction of the country we love.

They’ve seen their wages go down as their medical, gas, and tuition bills go up. They’ve seen jobs go overseas and wonder if our children will be prepared to compete in a global economy. And they’ve seen scandal and corruption take hold of a Washington that helps high-priced lobbyists at the expense of hardworking families.

Americans everywhere want a leader who speaks to their hopes for a better future and then acts on them.

But tonight, the President barely mentioned his health care plan for people who can already afford health care, ignoring bold, bipartisan proposals that can guarantee affordable and available health care for every American.

He identified America’s addiction to oil, but ignored his Administration’s addiction to oil-industry giveaways that won’t free us from our dependence on fossil fuels.

And after forty-six minutes of speaking, the President used less than sixty words to tell us how he’d clean up Washington and restore the American people’s faith in a government that works for them, not just big donors.

We can have this kind of government in America, face the future with hope, and move our country in the direction of progress. But we need strong leadership to get there – leadership that isn’t afraid to think big, try new ideas, and reach out to Americans of all political stripes. This is how we will restore the American people’s faith in our union and truly make it stronger.

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