Going down, down, down, and coming up again

Going down, down, down, and coming up again July 5, 2022

• “How a Tulsa grandmother became a vicious Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist—in her own words.”

This piece by Elizabeth Williamson is enraging and engrossing, confounding and heart-breaking. The Sandy Hook denialist she profiles is miserable and digging herself ever deeper into a Hell of her own making, desperately trying not to escape, but to drag as many others down with her as she can.

It’s a stunning confirmation of what Howard Thurman argued:

The penalty of deception is to become a deception, with all sense of moral discrimination vitiated. A man who lies habitually becomes a lie, and it is increasingly impossible for him to know when he is lying and when he is not. In other words, the moral mercury of life is reduced to zero.

When your identity and your self-esteem and your meaning and purpose in life are all tied up with your superior knowledge of the torture dungeons beneath the McMartin Preschool and with your better-than-others indignation over the horrors taking place in those dungeons, then it becomes almost impossible for you to ever accept that those dungeons and horrors never existed. Evidence and reality and truth cannot matter as much as your chosen identity and you turn into “gr8mom” or Jason Carver.

The same thing happens if you construct your identity on imaginary horrors at Planned Parenthood rather than at the McMartin Preschool. The exact same thing.

David Dark quoted that but from Howard Thurman in this essay on the Jan. 6 hearings, where it also applies.

• And here’s David on Barry Hankins on J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism:

The threat unprincipled parties pose to an anxious and despairing populace is nothing new. In this sense, the story Barry Hankins tells in the new edition of God’s Rascal: J. Frank Norris and the Beginnings of Southern Fundamentalism is almost comforting in its familiarity. Through careful study of the voluminous writings of his subject — a pastor, pundit, radio personality, and sexual predator born in Alabama in 1877 — Hankins demonstrates that the multi-pronged cultural crises that threaten American public life follow a familiar pattern that’s been jumping the fences of politics, religion, and media all along. …

Whether denouncing the theory of evolution, maligning Roman Catholics, or praising the Klan for successfully opposing a public speech by W.E.B. Du Bois, Norris went on to stoke and capitalize upon whatever social strife would strengthen his position as a professional God talker commandeering First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. According to some accounts, this included setting the place on fire.

• The schismatic white Presbyterian PCA has voted to withdraw itself from the National Association of Evangelicals. Remaining in that umbrella of evangelical denominations, PCA delegates said, has become intolerable because of the NAE’s “meddling” in “civil affairs.” Specifically, PCA members opposed the NAE’s advocacy on three issues: “A 2011 statement by the association meant to spark discussion on how climate change impacts vulnerable populations, the organization’s past efforts supporting immigration reform and its 2015 change of heart on the death penalty, which it had previously supported.”

They seem nice.

Or, to use less sarcastic, more biblical language, “By their fruits you will know them.” When the fruit borne of your theology is “F–k World Relief,” then the health of that theology is evident. The axe is at the root, etc.

• In other news from the PCA … “Report Backs Abuse Allegations Against Chris Rice.”

To be fair here, the Tates Creek PCA church in Kentucky seems to be supporting victims, working hard to put new protections in place, and firmly committed to transparency as it investigates past actions by its Dove Award-winning former worship leader and its former senior pastor (subject of a previous investigation). And neither former leader, we should point out, has ever been accused of concern for climate change, support for immigration reform, or opposition to the death penalty.

The NSFW review of this story by Evan Hurst at Wonkette does an excellent job at placing both this and the recent Southern Baptist report on their sex abuse cover-up in the context of the current white-/Christian-nationalist moral panic over drag queens and trans teens. Hurst also provides a surprisingly good summary of the distinction between the PCA and the PCUSA.

• One more story in which a PCA pastor acts like a Pirates of the Caribbean Actor: An Indiana pastor was accused by multiple young women of sexual harassment and various forms of skeevy creepitude. After presbytery officials’ initial investigation found the accusations credible, the pastor sued the women for “defamation.” That civil suit is now proceeding at the same time as the denomination’s full investigation into the now-former pastor.

“For an accused teaching elder to sue his accusers in a civil court—it is ugly,” said another pastor from the same Indiana presbytery. Yep, it sure is.

• “A Year of ‘Protecting’ Children in Texas“:

One of the main progenitors of the recent agitating in Texas over transgender kids is a man named Jeff Younger. He and his wife divorced when their children were little. One of their kids is transgender and began identifying as a girl; Younger’s ex-wife supported her in taking a new name and presenting in public as female. Younger saw this as a great loss — the loss of his son — and took to the courts, at great personal expense, in an effort to gain custody and force his child to detransition. But the courts were unsympathetic.

Younger became a cause célèbre for the right and this year campaigned to represent part of the Dallas–Fort Worth suburbs in the state House, primarily on the issue of passing laws to block kids from transitioning. He brought much of the state GOP along with him. On the night of the Uvalde shooting, Younger lost his runoff to Ben Bumgarner, who co-owns a firearm company that produces modified AR-15s.

Christopher Hooks is writing there about Texas. But not only about Texas.

• The title of this post comes from a Vigilantes of Love song that I now realize is almost 30 years old. Yikes.

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