The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: February 16, 2019
Rant and Rave and Vent and Grumble Edition
You may want to avoid this Brunch. I invite you to do so if ranting and raving and venting and grumbling (especially about politics and religion) bothers you. I myself hesitate to participate in this, because I know it is probably only going to add to the noise bombarding our lives in this hysterical culture we have created in the 21st century. Nevertheless, there are times, in my humble opinion, when such grousing is warranted.
Especially when it comes to the abuse of power. My own reading of the Gospels leads me to conclude that this was the thing that most often set Jesus himself off (try on Matthew 23 for size). Oh sure, he got exasperated with how slow and inattentive the disciples were sometimes, but what really ticked him off were people in positions of authority sticking it to the little people, especially when they rationalized their self-righteous cruelty by appealing to religion or the Bible. He didn’t take too kindly to the secular variants of this either, calling Herod a fox and pretty much dismissing Pilate as a clueless dullard.
Well folks, I’ve reached my Matthew 23 moment and I’m going to be blunt and honest in expressing my less than charitable feelings about some of the folks who are running things around this joint.
You have been warned.
Of course, we must start with…
OUR NATIONAL DISASTER — PRESIDENT TRUMP
One thing that is abundantly clear from reading the full text of President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border — he’s barely even deigning to explain why there is a particular crisis today, or why that crisis is so grave that it requires the military to combat it. At its heart it’s a contemptuous document. It’s the proclamation of a monarch, not an argument by a president.
• David French, National Review
This is a sign of the end of the American Revolution. We, the people, who declared our independence from the rule of kings, have a president who thinks he is king, that he alone understands the problems of our nation, and that no one else should be able to stop him from doing what he wants. By his own words (“I did not need to do this”) he has contradicted any idea that we are facing a “national emergency.” The only emergency to him is that he might lose face and fail to get what he wants.
And if you think, “Oh Chaplain Mike, you’re just another one of those liberals who doesn’t like President Trump and wants only to see him out of office,” just stop. Stop! The president just trampled upon the most conservative of values in this country — the rule of law, limited government, and the separation of powers to guard against tyranny.
Lest you think I am just picking on the current POTUS, I am not. Recent presidential administrations have been cracking this door open bit by bit, spurred on by the hyper-partisan climate and government gridlock. But Trump has done more than that. He’s blown the door off its hinges. This is the most transparent of power grabs. The president of the U.S. has declared this “emergency” (which he admitted he didn’t really need to do) so he can literally steal taxpayer money that has already been stipulated by Congress for other purposes and use it for his own agenda.
Worst of all, the president’s party, you know, the one that supposedly represents conservative values, is probably going to simply shut up, bow their heads, and get in line. I suggest a new symbol for the GOP — the jellyfish. That’s how much backbone they have, letting this king wannabe completely take over their party.
Two years into his administration, Trump has recognized that the institutional power of the Republican Party has all the effectiveness of the Maginot Line. He can ignore its leaders, scorn them, or just smash through them with no lasting political damage.
Trump’s declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border is a high point, or low point, of a familiar pattern that is right out of Groundhog Day—or the Netflix series Russian Doll. Again and again, Trump embraces a policy, or reveals a character trait, that hits at the heart of what the Republican Party claims to stands for. In response, there is unhappiness, even anger, but never action. If you think the Republicans in Congress are going to stand up to Trump’s fake national emergency in order to defend the party’s long-held principles, or to assert the constitutional authority of the legislative branch, you haven’t been paying attention for the past three years.
• Jeff Greenfield, Politico
Our national emergency, our national crisis, our national shame is a president who has gone off the rails and a Republican party that’s too intimidated, too lacking in principle and courage to do anything but go along for the ride.
This is a direct assault by this president on the Congress’s Article I powers. Usually, presidents use these powers to do things like levy sanctions on countries that are slaughtering their own people. What this president is trying to do is to redirect money already appropriated for a project that Congress already has declined to fund—the last time only a couple of days ago. That is purely a dictatorial action. It is an abuse of power. It cannot be allowed to stand.
• Charles Pierce, Esquire
• • •
THE BAPTIST APOCALYPSE
And now to the world of religion, to churches that have long boasted in their independence, their preaching of the gospel, their strong insistence upon morality and sexual ethics.
Turns out the foxes have been guarding the hen house.
Doug Myers was suspected of preying on children at a church in Alabama — but he went on to work at Southern Baptist churches in Florida before police arrested him.
Timothy Reddin was convicted of possessing child pornography, yet he was still able to serve as pastor of a Baptist church in Arkansas.
Charles Adcock faced 29 counts of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in Alabama. Then he volunteered as a worship pastor at a Baptist church in Texas.
The sordid backgrounds of these Southern Baptist ministers didn’t stop them from finding new jobs at churches and working in positions of trust.
In the past 20 years, a disturbing number of Southern Baptists in church leadership roles have engaged in sexual misconduct, according a recent investigation detailed in the Houston Chronicle. Many of these leaders were able to procure jobs in other churches after their sexual misbehavior in a congregation. Some were even registered sex offenders. Some, in fact, are still working.
This investigation has uncovered, for the first time in SBC history, the scope and depth of the problem of sexual abuse in local SBC congregations.
In all, since 1998, roughly 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. That includes those who were convicted, credibly accused and successfully sued, and those who confessed or resigned. More of them worked in Texas than in any other state.
They left behind more than 700 victims, many of them shunned by their churches, left to themselves to rebuild their lives. Some were urged to forgive their abusers or to get abortions.
About 220 offenders have been convicted or took plea deals, and dozens of cases are pending. They were pastors. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. Deacons. Church volunteers.
Nearly 100 are still held in prisons stretching from Sacramento County, Calif., to Hillsborough County, Fla., state and federal records show. Scores of others cut deals and served no time. More than 100 are registered sex offenders. Some still work in Southern Baptist churches today.
Journalists in the two newsrooms spent more than six months reviewing thousands of pages of court, prison and police records and conducting hundreds of interviews. They built a database of former leaders in Southern Baptist churches who have been convicted of sex crimes.
The investigation reveals that:
• At least 35 church pastors, employees and volunteers who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at churches during the past two decades. In some cases, church leaders apparently failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct.
• Several past presidents and prominent leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention are among those criticized by victims for concealing or mishandling abuse complaints within their own churches or seminaries.
• Some registered sex offenders returned to the pulpit. Others remain there, including a Houston preacher who sexually assaulted a teenager and now is the principal officer of a Houston nonprofit that works with student organizations, federal records show. Its name: Touching the Future Today Inc.
• Many of the victims were adolescents who were molested, sent explicit photos or texts, exposed to pornography, photographed nude, or repeatedly raped by youth pastors. Some victims as young as 3 were molested or raped inside pastors’ studies and Sunday school classrooms. A few were adults — women and men who sought pastoral guidance and instead say they were seduced or sexually assaulted.
I will let Jesus himself do the ranting, raving, venting, and grumbling about this issue.
If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!
• Matthew 18:6-7