Tag Archives: sexual assault

Religion, Misogyny, Politics, and the Military

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As much as I struggle with faith, I still am a Catholic (not Roman) Christian. That being said I have to admit that many Christians, especially men, use historic interpretations of scripture to justify positions that are decidedly misogynistic and detrimental to women. These positions range from opposing the ordination or women to justifying the mistreatment, sexual abuse, and rape of women and being “God’s Will.”

In the movie Blazing Saddles there is a scene where Hedley Lamarr (played by Harvey Korman) is recruiting a gang of outlaws to drive the inhabitants of the town of Rock Ridge from their homes. One of the recruits is asked his qualifications and replies : “Rape, murder, arson, and rape.” Lamarr appears stunned and says “You said rape twice,” to wit the outlaw says “I like rape.” Lamarr than laughs heartily and hires him.

Sadly, the film illustrates the attitude of many many men than just outlaws. The film is illustrative of the Church and religious attitudes held by many in the Christian Church, as well as almost every religion, not just those that flow from the seed of Abraham.

The fact is that religion in general puts women in a subservient position, devoid of rights, devoid of authority. The fact is that the texts, or “Canons” that assume this position were all decided on by men and the succeeding doctrines were decided by men is determined to be the Will of God and the Word Of God. Opposing doctrines were heretical, that applies to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. I won’t address other major non-Abrahamic religions.

To be honest there are some denominations in Christianity and Judaism which have accepted women as full equals, to including in the matter of ordination or leadership, whether as pastors, priests, bishops, or rabbis. But most have not. That discrimination also extends to LGBTQ people, regardless of their gender.

I am white, straight, and married to the love of my life. I respect “big T” church tradition as it is recorded in the Creeds, but I don’t accept supposed “traditions” that deny the rights and worth of any of God’s people. John Dominic Crossan wrote:

“The past is recorded almost exclusively in the voices of elites and males, in the viewpoints of the wealthy and the powerful, in the visions of the literate and the educated.”

Likewise, Barbara Tuchman wrote:

“Theology being the work of males, original sin was traced to the female.”

Despite some of the success of the #MeToo movement the fact is that women in the United States experience a vastly different playing field than do men. This includes women in religion, government, business, and the military. Even successful women are treated with tremendous disrespect and held to a higher standard than their male counterparts. If the have a hard tough edge they are labeled as bitches, when men acting the same way would be admired for their toughness. Men can act out emotions of anger, rage, grief, or sadness without being vilified, they are simply being who they are, if women act out they are considered unfit for the offices they hold.

As a career military officer and chaplain I seen, up close and personal, a culture that on one hand gives lip service to respecting women, but in reality, perpetuate the abuse of women, and God forbid that those women be Lesbian or Trans, in which they are treated even worse, and that includes the military justice system.

Today, Republican Senator Martha McSally of Arizona, a combat veteran Air Force fighter pilot spoke up that she had been raped by a superior officer while on active duty. I am sure that there are hundreds of not thousands more who have not spoken out, mainly due to the fear of retribution and the hurt it would cause their families. I know some of these women from different parts of my military career.

When it comes to sexual abuse or rape, God help a woman if she comes forward. She will be subjected to scrutiny and condemned in hearings, depositions, and at trial should it go that far. She will be treated as if she were the criminal, and even if she wins in court the damage will be lasting. As for those who did not report their their rapes out of legitimate fears of retribution from men in the institutions that they served, or from the men and institutions they were attending as students, they are held to an even higher standard of proof. “How dare they speak ill of successful men!”

It happens every day, and not just to high level well known women. I know far too many women in the military and in the ministry who have, after making legitimate grievances known, and won those cases been subjected to retribution from allies of the men who caused them harm. This happens all too often in the military where high ranking men can be assured that the religious establishment will defend them, and where senior ranking male Chaplains know that they can use the system to get retribution on their accusers, without any further danger.

It angers me when I see women in male dominated institutions be subjected to such abuse. So I will continue to speak up on such matters of the church, in the military, in government, and in the private sector. I refuse to be a bystander when I see such injustice continue.

But the fact is that far less talented men are held to a lower standard than incredibly talented women simply because they have a penis, sometimes, not even a very big one.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under crime, culture, ethics, faith, LGBT issues, Military, News and current events, Political Commentary

The Tip of the Iceberg: Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Age of Trump

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

The Greek father of medicine Hypocrites had as his foundational rule, primum non nocere, or first do no harm. Sadly, it deny theseems that many powerful men have never understood that their actions in regards to women or for that matter men who have no power, political, economic, or sexual must be established on the same basis that Hypocrites understood medicine. Today President Trump basically gave Roy Moore a pass and endorsement for his Senate campaign by saying that Moore denied any wrongdoing. His comments came a day after his Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders implied that if a crime is not admitted by the criminal it didn’t happen after Senator Al Franken admitted and apologized for his photographed groping of a female journalist while on a USO tour to Afghanistan. Evidently if Trump or Moore deny similar or worse escapades their denial should be believed at face value.

Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Glenn Trush, and so many more who demonstrated their contempt for women by abusing, harassing, threatening, or demeaning them managed to maintain their power, reputations, and riches. Hopefully that era is ending even as the list of verifiable predators keeps growing, as women, so long afraid of having their careers or lives destroyed by powerful men begin to speak out. Of course if we look back to history so many other powerful and respected men we find that it is littered with the less than commendable deeds of men.

Honestly I do not understand why these men did these things. Perhaps power over others is an aphrodisiac that they cannot resist. But them maybe I am somewhat of an anomaly and not because I am a better man or more ethical person than any of the men I have mentioned. Actually the fact is that I am a terrible shy person, so much so that shortly after we were married Judy walked into the bathroom where I was taking a bath and I said something like “get out, I’m bathing” and she replied, “we’re married.” Honestly I couldn’t argue with her logic.

But the fact is I have always been rather shy, insecure, and terribly respectful around women. When I was in high school and junior high their was a girl named Robin that I so wanted to ask out, she was a sweetheart, but I couldn’t do it. I finally told her that at our 25th high school reunion. We are both happily married now, to other people and I am glad that I never did anything unseemly around her or to her. There was another girl, very pretty, named Janet who sat behind me in one of my classes who told me “you’resuch a Fox,” and being the shy history and ROTC geek that I was said, “ya, like Rommel, the Dessert Fox” at which point she shook her head and kept going.

When I first met Judy in my freshman year of college I was still terribly shy and insecure, so much so that when I asked her out for our first day that she was relieved because she thought I was going to ask her to marry her. It had something to do with how I stammered out the words “will you…” thankfully about five years later did say “I do” to me when we were married, and despite my many fuck ups we are still married some thirty-four and a half years later. I think in large part this has more to do with her character than mine, for even when my ambitions were not sexual in nature they catered to my need for military or academic achievement versus anything dealing with love, emotional, or sexual intimacy. But as bad as those those things were for our marriage they also kept me from doing things that all of these other men did as a matter of how they lived life. Evidently, all of them regardless or politics, ideology, or religion, thought that they could get away with groping, exposing themselves to, harassing, molesting, or even raping women simply because they had the power to do so.

In a way I guess that when it comes to these issues I have to say that I was lucky to be so insecure, prudish, and shy around women. It probably kept me from doing things that had I not been that way that I would have regretted and that women who I (to use the words of former President Jimmy Carter “lusted after”) would have had to deal with the scars of such abuse for decades. My insecurities, shyness, and basic loyalty to Judy kept me from doing things that a young man with a measure of power and ambition, or an older ( or more powerful) man seeking to use sex or position over women to force women into sexual compromises, or worse. I could never do it, even when I was sexually attracted to other women.

None of this makes me a better person than any of the men that I named at the beginning of this article. I guess that I am lucky that I was so shy, insecure, and prudish. I am blessed to still be married to a woman who I not only love but also respect, and the women that I didn’t use my person, position, or power to manipulate or abuse because of my introverted, insecure, and shy nature to cause harm to over all of these years.

But that leads me to an interesting question. How can I excuse the nefarious deeds of men whose policies and politics I admire when I condemn their counterparts on the other side of the aisle for the same deeds, regardless of whether they are admitted or on the same scale of moral bankruptcy as the men that I admire? Honestly as a Christian I can’t. I can believe in grace and God’s forgiveness of sins, but as painful as it may be to my politics I cannot let men who I otherwise admire like Al Franken, a man that I could have otherwise supported for election to the Presidency in 2020 because of their policies get a free pass as some many of Trump and Roy Moore’s religious supporters give them.

That doesn’t mean that I believe in a one punishment fits all system. Like any crime or infraction of justice there is a gradient of evil. Some people are sociopaths who have made a lifetime of abuse, others were simply occasional dumb shits and idiots. That being said I think that the punishment must fit the crime and not all cases are equal, even so it is important that in each case the appropriate justice be meted out. That might mean criminal charges, firing from lucrative employment, voluntary resignation, or some kind of censure. All of the accusations against them are deserving of a full public airing and if that leads to criminal, legal, financial, or public censure that is fine with me and I don’t care if they share my political or social beliefs.

Can there be redemption for these individuals? Yes I do believe that, especially for the people whose actions were simply lame, stupid, or ignorant; but for those who are pathological abusers, liars, and sociopaths whose actions were so obviously premeditated and heinous there is little likelihood of reform I think that redemption is a likely option. Such people, even when they “repent” tend to revert to their old behaviors as soon as the spotlight is off of them. Psychologist Judith Herman wrote:

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

Over the years too many women or in some cases men have been silenced. That can’t be allowed to continue. The voice of those previously silenced needs to be heard and those accused need to be exposed and held accountable.

Personally I have no problems with the crimes or abuses of such men, and yes even women in some cases being exposed so that other people will not be victimized. If this scrutiny ends up helping to change our culture it is worth it. The culture that accepts rape, sexual assault, abuse, and intimidation has to be changed, and that will not happen if these crimes remain blanketed in silence.

I think that many more powerful men, politicians, business leaders, actors and Hollywood moguls, and even religious leaders whose lives which have involved the serial abuse of women, or in some cases men will be exposed, and that is not a bad thing. Sadly, in the case of some men, particularly the current President I don’t think justice will be done. A poll released today indicated that the vast majority of members of his political party don’t think that the issue matters when it comes to retaining political power.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under ethics, Navy Ships, News and current events, Political Commentary

Stupidity Infects the Church

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong.”

Those words are more profound than many of us would admit, and sadly in the United States they are the last thing thought about by supposedly orthodox Evangelical Christians.

Today I want to follow up on something my friend from my former church denomination, Fr. Kenneth Tanner posted on Facebook. Ken is both orthodox and conservative in his theology. He is a remarkable writer and he puts his faith into action at the local level in his parish in Michigan. Over the past couple of days he has posted comments that I wish I had posted because not only do I want to agree with him but because they call me back to who I am as a Christian and why in spite of everything I still remain one.

Yesterday Fr. Ken posted this gem which reminds me of so many of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Every attempt by the church to tie its mission and destiny to a political leader, or party, or policy involves forgetting the Spirit. Presidents and legislatures and courts and banks and marketplaces are not in the business of resurrection. The church is.

The day before he posted a comment which I think in light of the political scandals, especially those of politicians, Republican and Democrat regarding sexual assault:

“This is for my people, speaking as a leader within our community. It may not apply to you but they need this right now; they need to know where I stand.

No. It is not OK for a man to seduce or pursue or be alone with teenaged girls. And, no, it is not possible for there to be a consensual sexual relationship between a man and a teenaged girl.

Yes. Women and girls who make allegations of sexual harassment or assault are almost always telling the truth and we should assume female veracity even as justice and accountability are pursued in ways that ensure the rights of the accused.

There is a reason that false accusation is for God on a level of moral seriousness reserved for murder, because it “murders” the reputation and life of those falsely accused, but we also have to understand that most victims of sexual harassment and assault are honest with near-mortal wounds of their own that they bear.

No. It is never OK to turn a blind eye to multiple and credible witnesses against a leader running for public office because utilitarian politics are more important than principles and human decency.

It matters not one wit if a presidential agenda or a senate majority or the makeup of the Supreme Court or any other grave moral challenge—like the precious life of the unborn—hangs in the balance.

It also make zero difference if it’s all so unfair or the other “side” doesn’t play by the rules or everyone is against “us.”

There is no justifiable reason for a pastor to support a candidate for public office that is accused by multiple women of sexual assault. It is an offense to the gospel and calls the integrity of the church into question.

In short, Christian faith is rarely about winning. It’s about dying and waiting for God to use our death in his grand promise to make all things well.

When I saw it I read it to one of my Chaplains who is also a theological evangelical conservative who was amazed at Kenneth’s boldness and how well he said what needed to be said.

As I have pondered his comments I meditated on some of the words of the German Pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Honestly, I don’t think I could even hold a candle to Bonhoeffer but in our country at this time I think that Kenneth does. Kenneth, like Bonhoeffer is a theologian of the Cross.

As I continue to read things being said in the defense of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and the defense of the unprincipled and thoroughly un-Christian actions of President Trump and GOP lawmakers I am ashamed to even call myself a Christian. Honestly I cannot believe than anyone claiming to be a Christian would defend them, but these defenders of Moore and Trump are abusing utilitarian ethics while claiming to follow supposedly Biblical absolutes. They would condemn Bill Clinton (as he should be) but let Trump and Moore off the hook for even worse moral acts. Theirs is indeed a dark and dystopian world where Orwellian doublespeak is the norm, and the clear words of Jesus the exception. I do not know whether to hate them or pity them, but because of Christ, as much as I detest them and their actions I cannot hate them, as Jesus said from the Cross, “they know not what they do.”

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.”

This so totally describes those who defend Trump, Moore, or for that matter anyone from the other side of the political spectrum who have groped, assaulted, raped, or abused young women, or in some cases young men and then defend themselves as good Christians, or liberal humanitarians. As for me I care not a wit whether they are Republicans or Democrats, liberals or conservatives, religious or irreligious, the point is, at least for me is that I have to be honest and not sacrifice my integrity for any kind of temporal gain. I cannot hold those who I agree with politically or socially to a different standard than those who I oppose simply because they are more representative of my political or social views.

Bonhoeffer wrote:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Despite all of my struggles with faith I am still drawn to the Crucified God, and as such my life, my politics, and my words, as hopelessly flawed as they may be and as I am, have to at least attempt to live up to the Gospel of Christ. Otherwise what use am I?

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, ethics, faith, nazi germany, News and current events, Political Commentary

Scorched Earth: The Trump Answer for Everything

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I watched the second Presidential debate last night and It was an unbridled and frightening look at how GOP nominee Donald Trump would govern the country. Playing to anger and hatred of his base he did something never done before in American politics, he said he would appoint a special prosecutor to prosecute his opponent and then made the comment “she would be in jail.” He called her “the devil” and said she had “hatred in her heart.” I was amazed, I have never seen anything like this on a public stage in American political history. 

As he did this he stalked about the stage, following behind Clinton as she spoke, his face often twisted as he tried to contain his rage at having been caught on video red handed using the language of sexual assault and rape and saying it was okay to call his daughter a “piece of ass.” His rage had been building as GOP office holders who had previously endorsed him dropped him in the 48 hours following the revelations and as he directed his surrogates and supporters to attack his own party leaders. In order to deflect attention from himself he brought Bill Clinton’s accusers from the 1990s to the debate even trying to sit them in the VIP box. 

He failed to answer direct questions and instead when nuclear with long disproved conspiracy theories about Mrs. Clinton. One GOP leader tweeted that it was like watching a Saturday Night Live debate. 

He made comments supporting Russia and President Putin, even throwing his running mate, Governor Mike Pence under the bus regarding Syria policy. The fact that he did this was not surprising because Pence offered direct criticism of Trump’s sexual assault language. After the debate Pence predictably fell into line and kept rolling under the tires of the bus Trump had thrown him under. 

Likewise he openly lied about things that he has said in public, on television, or on the radio, comments which are so unnerving that had anyone other than him said them their lives and careers would be destroyed. But he is different, the bar has been set so low for him ever since he entered the campaign, waged a scorched earth campaign against his GOP opponents in the primaries with almost no one in the media confronting him, a situation that remained until last Friday’s revelations when he talked about grabbing women by the “pussy.” 

Trump may have held his base in line with his performance because it played to the hatred of his base for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. He played to their xenophobia with his failure to answer his Muslim ban policy, something that Mike Pence said was no longer in place but is still on his website, and which he called “extreme vetting” last night. He still talked about putting up a wall on the southern border, he still refused to apologize to the multitudes of individuals and groups that he has disparaged and attacked in so many ways during the campaign and that will play well with the people that Hillary Clinton called “deplorable.” 

The Trump campaign is not about policy, it is not about principle, and it certainly in not about the Constitution or for that matter the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, or Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. It is about about sowing anger and hatred and the promise of retribution against the people he and his followers despise, especially those in the GOP. This is the campaign of an unprincipled, vicious, power hungry, narcissistic sociopath who has no self-control and no boundaries. 

Today, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that he would no longer defend Trump and instructed GOP House members to do what they needed to save their campaigns in order to hold a majority. When  House GOP extremists scortched him he made sure that they knew that he was still “supporting” Trump. Wayne Gruden, a leading Evangelical Christian theologian who just two moths ago had penned a “Christian” treatise to vote for Trump, dropped his support and told Trump to leave the race. Today George Will wrote that this will be an “acid wash” for the GOP exposing the people who stood beside Trump for what they really are, including Mike Pence who Will noted only looks Presidential because he is next to Trump. Things will get worse, there will be more revelations and Trump will respond with fire. He will destroy the GOP and the country in order to advance himself. 

Get ready for a rough ride, this is going to be a brutal final month as Trump’s campaign collapses and he and his most devoted followers torch the GOP as he rides his campaign into its Wagnerian end. In the closing days of the Third Reich with all collapsing around him Adolf Hitler turned on followers who realized the end was near and were trying to end the war, even Hermann Goering and Heinrich Himmler, and he told Albert Speer that the German people were not worth saving. Just wait and see what Trump does to the GOP in the coming month, it will be a scorched earth campaign the likes of which we have never seen. His wrath against it will be even greater than his wrath against Hillary and it will spell the doom of the GOP. Sadly, it will hurt the country as well. American politics will never be the same after this. 

Have a good day,

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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