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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.


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!


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.


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.

Torture is Anti-American (and it doesn’t work)

Torture is Anti-American (and it doesn’t work)

It grieves me that it could possibly be necessary to argue to an American – much less an American veteran – that torture undermines everything that we would like to think we stand for…

1992 U.S. Army Interrogation Field Manual 34-52 states: “Experience indicates that the use of prohibited techniques is not necessary to gain the cooperation of interrogation sources. Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear.”

In the words of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for torture.” The United States ratified this convention in 1994.

If anything useful came out these interrogations in Iraq, we would have heard about it. – Alfred McCoy, historian and author of “A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror

History shows — and I know a little about this — that mistreatment of prisoners and torture is not productive. It’s not productive. You don’t get information that’s usable from people under torture, because they just tell you what you want to hear. – Senator John McCain (R-AZ)

Torture anywhere is an affront to human dignity everywhere. We are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law. . . . Yet torture continues to be practiced around the world by rogue regimes whose cruel methods match their determination to crush the human spirit. . . . These despicable crimes cannot be tolerated by a world committed to justice. . . . I call on all governments to join with the United States and the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture and in undertaking to prevent other cruel and unusual punishment. – President George W. Bush, Statement on United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, 6/26/2003

The debate over how terrorist suspects should be held and questioned began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the Bush administration adopted secret detention and coercive interrogation, both practices the United States had previously denounced when used by other countries. It adopted the new measures without public debate or Congressional vote, choosing to rely instead on the confidential legal advice of a handful of appointees….The administration had always asserted that the C.I.A.’s pressure tactics did not amount to torture, which is banned by federal law and international treaty. But officials had privately decided the agency did not have to comply with another provision in the Convention Against Torture — the prohibition on “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment.

First, torture is not necessary. If someone has information, they are just as likely, if not more so, to disclose the information after non-abusive interrogation tactics. Second, many who are interrogated do not have information to give. Third, whether or not a person has information, he or she will likely confess to anything to stop torture; thus the information obtained is never reliable. – statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights

Terrorism requires us to think carefully about who we are as free peoples and what we need to do in order to remain so. When we are confronted with terrorist violence, we cannot allow the claims of national security to trump the claims of liberty, since what we are trying to defend is our continued existence as a free people. Freedom must set a limit to the measures we employ to maintain it. – Michael Ignatieff, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, 2004

All men have rights, including the right to a trial–a regular trial! The abuse of prisoners indicates that we don’t think detainees are human. – Lieut. Cmdr. Charles Swift

We were pretty much told that they [prisoners in Afghanistan] were nobodies, that they were just enemy combatants. I think that giving them the distinction of soldier would have changed our attitudes toward them. A lot of it was based on racism, really. We called them hajis, and that psychology was really important. – A member of the 377th Military Police Company, quoted by Douglas Jehl and Andrea Elliott, “Cuba Base Sent Its Interrogators To Iraqi Prison,” NY Times, 5/29/2004

Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment harms individuals, sends a message of fear and intimidation to prisoners and members of minority political, ethnic, religious and belief groups, and undermines state legitimacy. – U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 11/17/1999

How could ordinary American soldiers and civilian contractors inflict such degradation on other human beings? . . . Torture and humiliation is a landscape without boundaries, a terrible slope that even the most practiced interrogators can slide down once they allow themselves to apply the slightest physical or psychological pressure. – James Glanz, “Torture Is Often a Temptation And Almost Never Works,” NY Times, 5/9/2004

According to experts, the preconditions that can lead someone to become a torturer include a fervently held ideology that attributes great evil to some other group and defines the believer as a guardian of the social good, an attitude of unquestioning obedience to authority, and the open or tacit support of the torturer by his peers. – Daniel Goleman, “The Torturer’s Mind: Complex View Emerges,” NY Times, 5/14/1985

The United States helps the advance toward a world free of torture by a number of means, including a $5 million contribution to the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture. In addition we support torture victims’ treatment centers in the U.S. and abroad. . . . We continue to be appalled by the actions of governments that use torture or turn a blind eye to its occurrence. They may try to escape international scrutiny and accountability for their actions, but as long as torturers around the world spread fear and suffering, the United States will not waver in its commitment to eliminate torture. – U.S. Department of State, 6/26/2003

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it “bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East. How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. – Harold Pinter’s Nobel lecture, which the ailing playwright delivered by video from London December 7 2005 to the Swedish Academy in Stockholm.

The right to be free from torture . . . is one of the few absolute standards of international law, a right that exists regardless of the economic or social organization of a society. – Irving R. Kaufman, “A Legal Remedy for International Torture?” NY Times Magazine, 11/9/1980

As early as the 16th century the French thinker Montaigne had registered his distaste for what he regarded as nothing less than state-sponsored sadism. . . His protest was increasingly taken up in the century that followed, and by the 18th century writers such as Voltaire were speaking out scathingly against the barbarity of torture. – Michael Kerrigan, The Instruments of Torture, 2001

American interrogators working in Iraq have obtained as much as 50 percent more high-value intelligence since a series of coercive practices . . . were banned [in May]. . . . Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, said that . . . “a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence.” – Dexter Filkins, “General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data,” NY Times, 9/7/2004

CIA veteran Bob Baer says torture was forbidden when he worked for the agency. “Now contractors are sent out to torture people to death and then hide it.” And now the Americans — at least in the minds of Iraqis and many others in the Middle East — are no better than Saddam? That’s right. The U.S. was going to go in and win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and instead we take over Abu Ghraib when we should have torn it down. It’s just enormously symbolic. It’s sort of like going into Baghdad and tearing down the central mosque and building a synagogue in its place. I don’t think [U.S. policymakers] really get the full picture of this. – “The Place is Broken

How are the torturers justified? It is sometimes said that it is right to torture a man if his confession can save a hundred lives. This is nice hypocrisy. . . . Arrests are made at random. Every Arab can be “questioned” at will. The majority of the tortured say nothing because they have nothing to say unless, to avoid torture, they agree to bear false witness or confess to a crime they have not committed. – Jean-Paul Sartre, Introduction to Henri Alleg, The Question, 1958

States which practice torture also resort to legal fictions and conveniences, the by now customary “emergency” statutes, which suspend constitutional rights, including the writ of habeas corpus, and facilitate arrest, detention, and interrogation. – Kate Millett, The Politics of Cruelty, 1994

A nationalist is someone who not only overlooks atrocities committed by his own side. He has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them. – George Orwell

We discovered a prison for children – all aimed at — for Saddam Hussein to intimidate the people of Iraq. – President George W. Bush, July 10, 2003

An Iraqi TV reporter Suhaib Badr-Addin al-Baz saw the Abu Ghraib children’s wing when he was arrested by Americans. He related how he himself was arrested arbitrarily by the Americans while shooting film and spent 74 days in Abu Ghraib. “I saw a camp for children there,” he said. “Boys, under the age of puberty. There were certainly hundreds of children in this camp.” Al-Baz said he heard a 12-year-old girl crying. Her brother was also held in the jail. One night guards came into her cell. “She was beaten,” said al-Baz. “I heard her call out, ‘They have undressed me. They have poured water over me.'” He says he heard her cries and whimpering daily – this, in turn, caused other prisoners to cry as they listened to her. Al-Baz also told of an ill 15-year-old boy who was soaked repeatedly with hoses until he collapsed. Guards then brought in the child’s father with a hood over his head. The boy collapsed again. UNICEF has confirmed that Iraqi children have been imprisoned in Iraq.

Torture has a way of undermining the forces using it, as it did with the French Army in Algeria. . . . By using torture, we Americans transform ourselves into the very caricature our enemies have sought to make of us. . . . [It] is self-defeating; for a strong country it is in the end a strategy of weakness. . . . the road back — to justice, order and propriety — will be very long. Torture will belong to us all. – Mark Danner, “We Are All Torturers Now,” NY Times Op Ed, 1/6/2005

Any government that commits, condones, promotes or fosters torture is a malignant force in the world. And those who refuse to raise their voices against something as clearly evil as torture are enablers, if not collaborators. . . . Jettisoning the rule of law to permit . . . torture is not a defensible policy for a civilized nation. It’s wrong. And nothing good can come from it. – Bob Herbert, “Torture, American Style,” NY Times Op Ed, 2/11/2005

They continued asking me questions, constantly the same ones: accomplices, addresses, meeting places. . . . . What they wanted to hear from me in Breendonk, I simply did not know myself. If instead of the aliases I had been able to name the real names . . . probably . . . I would be standing here now as the weakling I most likely am, and as the traitor I potentially already was. Yet . . . I talked. I accused myself of invented absurd political crimes, and even now I don’t know at all how they could have occurred to me. – Jean Améry, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, 1966

Once you open the door to torture, once you start legitimizing it in any way, you have broken the absolute taboo. President Bush had it right in his State of the Union address when he was describing various forms of torture by Saddam Hussein and he said, “If this isn’t evil, then evil has no meaning.” – Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch, CNN broadcast with Wolf Blitzer and Alan Dershowitz, 3/4/2003

In 1951, as a young paramilitary officer trainee in the C.I.A., I heard my instructors say that to win the cold war, “fighting fire with fire” would be required. I remember asking, how, if we did that, we could maintain any distinction between what we stood for, and what our communist opponents represented. I was told to sit down and shut up. – Donald P. Gregg, “Fight Fire With Compassion,” NY Times Op Ed, 6/10/2004

Torture destroys the soul of the torturer even as it destroys the body of his victim. The boundary between humane treatment of prisoners and torture is perhaps the clearest boundary in existence between civilization and barbarism. – Jonathan Schell, “What Is Wrong With Torture,” The Nation, 2/7/2005

Societies that do not recognize the dignity of the human person, or profess to recognize it and fail to do so in practice, or recognize it only in highly selective circumstances, become, not simply societies with torture, but societies in which the presence of torture transforms human dignity itself, and therefore all individual and social life. – Edward Peters, Torture, 1985

Meeting for the first time since the 1940s, World War II veterans who had been charged with top-secret interrogations of Nazi prisoners of war lamented “the chasm between the way they conducted interrogation during the war and the harsh measures used today in questioning terrorism suspects.” … Another World War II veteran–one of the few who interrogated the early 4000 prisoners of war, most of them German scientists and submariners, who were brought in to Fort Hunt, Virginia for questioning for days and weeks–spoke of how “during the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone. We extracted information in a battle of the wits.” He added that he was proud that he “never compromised my humanity.” Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist, told the Post, “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or ping pong than they do today, with their torture.” Several of the veterans used the occasion, upon receiving honors from the Army’s Freedom Team Salute, to state their opposition to the war in Iraq and methods used at Guantanamo Bay…. But what the Veterans’ revealed so strikingly was the disgust these former interrogators– in a war that posed a greater threat to America’s survival than the so-called “war on terror”–have for the cruel, inhuman, degrading and illegal techniques called for –and condoned– by the Bush Administration.

“The indisputable evidence disclosed today that the US government, with the assistance of psychologists, was engaged in psychological torture tactics for the CIA is as morally reprehensible as Tuskegee and the MK-Ultra program of the 1950’s and 60’s.” – Leonard S. Rubenstein, Executive Director of Physicians for Human Rights

Torture is a sign that a government either does not enjoy the trust of the people it governs or cannot recruit informers for a surveillance system. In both cases, torture to obtain information is a sign of institutional decay and desperation, and torture accelerates this process, destroying the bonds of loyalty, respect and trust that keep information flowing. As any remaining sources of intelligence dry up, governments have to torture even more. Torture also gives a fake sensation of power to the executioner a fact that has a positive feedback that further fuels more violence. Psychological torture has persisted not because it necessarily works, but because of an institutional history of the practice. The interrogators themselves tend to believe in its efficacy, and no matter what you do, you can’t stop them once they start. – Darius Rejali

Frank Anderson, former chief of the CIA’s Near East and South East Asia division, talked about reform but reminded the audience that “reformers are no smarter than the people who need to be reformed.” He believed that there is a natural tendency for organizations to resist change. Discussing the use of torture as an intelligence strategy, Anderson said, “[the] problem with torture is what it does to us… I will rebel against anyone who wants my son to torture — those are wounds that never heal.” He voiced support for Senator John McCain’s proposal that would ban the use of inhumane treatment against anyone in US government custody. With such reassurance, Anderson believed America can regain some of its lost global legitimacy and the intelligence community can concentrate on more effective means of obtaining information.

Documents Tell of Brutal Improvisation by GIs

“You would be surprised at how far a can of orange soda would go,” said Lt. Col. Mark Costello, who oversees interrogations at Abu Ghraib. – Norimitsu Onishi, “Transforming a Prison, With U.S. Image in Mind,” NY Times, 9/16/2004


Ask a presidential candidate

Ask a presidential candidate

What question would you like to ask the top three Democratic candidates?

On June 4, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama will join Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners live on CNN for a conversation about faith, values, and poverty — and they’re asking supporters to vote for their favorite question to ask in front of a national television audience.

The presidential candidates forum will be a unique opportunity to shape the national debate over faith and values — and to put poverty on the national agenda. Be sure to tune into the forum on Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. Eastern Time to see which question is asked — and how the candidates respond.

The questions were submitted by Sojourners supporters.

I’ve just cast my vote for my favorite question (of the very few questions given):

Executive salaries have increased by almost 300% in recent years, while wages for ordinary workers have remained stagnant. What specific policies would you endorse to address the growing gap of “Haves” and “Have-nots” in our nation? – Submitted by Randy from Deer Park, TX

Cast your vote here.

Notes on “Feminazi”

Notes on “Feminazi”

Rush Limbaugh defends his use of the term “feminazi” as “right” and “accurate” in response to a June 22 Washington Post article on Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s (D-IL) controversial floor statement that referenced Nazis. The Post article mentioned Limbaugh’s use of the term “feminazi” as well as other examples of recent political debates in which Nazism has been invoked. From the June 22 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

In The Washington Post we get a little story: “Tips for the Democrats, Hint: Next time don’t compare anybody to Hitler.” And by the way, the only reason they’re doing it is because Rush Limbaugh invented the term “feminazi.” That’s the sum total of the Washington Post story — Durbin did it because I popularized it first with “feminazi.” I haven’t used that term on this program in years. But it still gets to ’em, doesn’t it? And you know why? [chuckles] Because it’s right. Because it’s accurate. [laughs] And I’m not going to apologize, but I will apologize if it hurts your feelings. But you know what? I think if you’re offended, it’s your problem. It’s not mine.

Interesting that he claims he hasn’t used that term in years – I have heard him use it on several occasions while trolling across the dial. Media Matters notes that Limbaugh referred to the National Center for Women & Policing and the Feminist Majority Foundation as “feminazis” on his May 27, 2004, broadcast, for example. And here’s another where is is reminscining about an event at New York’s 92nd Street Y also attended by CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield:

It was a frosty evening that night. It had to be, what, back in 1992 or ’93? And I’ll tell you what got me in trouble. Greenfield said, “You really used the word ‘feminazi’? Do you not think that’s an upsetting word to Jews?”

I said, “Well, I don’t think it should be. I mean, if you look at what abortion is, it’s almost comparable to what happened in World War II.” Pfft! Man, you could have felt the ice…”

What is a feminazi? Wikipedia defines: A feminazi is a neologism and invective term of the words feminist and Nazi, used predominantly in United States conservative political rhetoric, to characterize women whose ideas they disagree with as misandrous. That is as having a hatred of men. The term was popularized by prominent broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, who credited his friend Tom Hazlett, a professor of economics at the University of California, Davis, with coining the term. In the extreme formulation, feminazis are seen by conservative commentators as women who persecute men. The term “Feminazi” is not self-applied by any feminist movement or group. The term is often used as a derogatory term for feminist.

Trivia: A similar term Femnazi was coined earlier as the name of the male hating female inhabitants of the fictional planet, Femnaz, in a Legion of Super-heroes story from a 1964 issue of Adventure Comics written by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel.

What is missing from this definition – fine as far as it goes – is that the hard pseudoreligious right attaches the “Nazi” part of the word to condense a framing of abortion as genocide. Feminazis are defined as pro-abortion, although the term seems to be applied to all feminists, regardless of the topic, as well. That’s already a significant spin of rhetoric. It implies moral bankruptcy and invokes the familiar thought-constellation of “baby-killers, destroyers of life, murderers.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who was truly pro-abortion. I don’t know anyone who would not prefer that abortions were completely unnecessary in all circumstances. Abortion rates (legal or otherwise – you don’t really think there are no abortions when they are illegal, do you?) go down when there is family-planning, birth control, sex education, and honest discussion – when there is less rape and incest and poverty, and so on. The religious right doesn’t seem much concerned about these issues, in contradiction to their claims of moral superiority. How many of the poor are consigned to death or misery under the grand plan of their pro-rich policies? Who wants to cut social programs? No – it’s not about life. It’s about controlling women. They’ve even got some women on board with this. Sheesh. What a classic projection to accuse women of hating men in order to support attitudes that are intended to control women, their bodies, their sexuality, and their choices.

The “knocked-up” women of the rich have always had the option of abortion at the convenience of their men, but I am more concerned about people whose lives can be destroyed rather than Vanessa missing a semester at Yale or disappointing her soon-to-be hubby Biff or whatever. I’d not like to see a return to the days of backalleys and wire hangers. If this were really about “life,” the children born would be welcomed, healthcare would be provided, and so on – not to mention that such folk would have to be opposed to the death penalty. Some of these folks want to bring back stoning (don’t believe me? do a little research of your own). It’s interesting that there are few vegetarians among the hard right – a cow is much more sentient than an 8-week old fetus that doesn’t even have any brainwaves (i.e no consciousness of any kind).

I am also very concerned that fewer doctors are receiving the training to do the basic procedure, which has other uses (as most women know).

Abortion is a complex and ethically-fraught topic. To rhetorically conflate those pro-choicers who are perhaps more familiar with the raw edges of human experience – and who wish to allow women the space for more control over their own bodies and futures without the intervention of patriarchal government structures – with “Nazis” is dishonest, more so than Durbin’s remark. Such women for personal choices in these areas are nothing like Nazis – the ultimate “anti-choice” and “anti-freedom” power structure of the last century. Let’s not forget the men who are for choice either – how many men are forced into shotgun weddings anymore?

Hard-liner anti-choicers consider my ruptured ectopic pregnancy (that nearly killed me and for which there was no hope whatsoever of the survival of the fetus) as an abortion – tell me, what was the alternative?

Roe v Wade was the compromise on a very controversial topic. If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. If your sister is raped by your dad, you work it out as best you can using your own decision-making process, with your own network of advisors, and within your own relation to the sacred. And if your child is slated to live three years in horrible pain before dying – and you decide that such a life is better than no life, it is your decision. If your child is born into abject poverty, and that’s ok with you, go for it. If you’ve not raised your children with an understanding about sexuality and their responsibilities because you fear that talking about sex makes it happen, if your boy doesn’t carry a condom because he is in denial that anything will happen, if your daughter enters a fugue state in which she denies she is even pregnant….and you will support and welcome such children to such unprepared parents – that is also your choice. But all the feel-good religious talk in the world isn’t going to matter so much when you and friends and family members are actually confronted with some of the very difficult possibilities surrounding sexuality and reproduction. Talk to your parents and grandparents, look around you. In such cases, there is often no right answer, and the question is who makes the decision? I think that people should be able to make decisions about ethics and religion themselves, especially when it has to do with their own body – and yes, the women has the primary decision-making authority (unless the man wants to carry the pregnancy to term). Besides, in this day and age, education is not only about pregnancy – it’s also about disease. To be uninformed and uneducated and in denial is not only stupid, it’s dangerous.

As a former evangelist and a religion scholar, I know that there is not much in the way of biblical support for being against sex education or birth control. The example of Onan – used against both birth control and masturbation – was an example of someone disobeying God’s weird command (in the circumstances) to have sex and produce a child with his dead brother’s wife. Really read that narrative and then try to justify the arguments! He “spilt his seed upon the ground” (Genesis 38:7-9), but it was the reason and motivation for doing so that was – in the context – wrong. The sin was disobedience – refusing to give his brother’s wife an heir. How many people would accept the surrounding circumstance – that you should marry and have sex with your dead brother’s wife?

In any case, pro-choice views do not imply hating men at all – but only resisting those structures and those men who view women as property, with bodies to be controlled by them. I don’t hate men. I’m a married mom – and my husband values my feminism, and shares my views as part of human rights. There are men-haters, of course (although I suspect not nearly as many as women-haters) but the two groups of “men-haters” and “feminists” are not identical.

Still, “feminazi” is a clever twist of rhetoric. It’s catchy. And it certainly has been effective. Fewer and fewer women self-identify as feminists anymore. Many don’t even realize that there are dozen of kinds of feminisms. All that subtlety and complexity and public discussion – gone. I think that some of the feminists moved on too quickly from real social issues into language politics – and got sidelined at a crucial moment. The messages have not reached popular understanding. I still run into folk who believe it’s all about not shaving or about burning bras!

We are becoming barbaric again – and it isn’t even in the service of any recognizable religious values. The judeo-christian values – caring for the poor, compassion, forgiveness, grace, communion, and so on – are not in evidence – only the ancient controls over the people, and these taken out of context.

All of this for Mammon – money, power, corruption – and supported by the most spectacular examples of repulsive false prophets I could have imagined.

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