Preying on Victims: Radical Christianity and Exploitation of Tragedy in the Name of God By Michele Stopera Freyhauf
It is our moral responsibility, whether we identify as Christians or not, to pray for not prey on the victims of tragedies.
Over the last month, dare I say years, society has witnessed or been subjected to an all out war from radical Christians across America deploying the wrath of God and reveling in the tragedy of others to perpetuate their apocalyptic message of rhetoric and terror. As I hear the news over the last few months, an old Billy Joel song starts to play in my head “We didn’t start the fire.” Whether we started the fire or not, we should not feed the flames of hatred but figure out a way to extinguish it.
Here is a brief synopsis of current events that reflect this hatred and radicalism perpetuated in the name of God – examples of Christianity terrorizing or preying on victims through their actions.
The Westboro Southern Baptist Church: Preying on Victims at Funerals and Thanking God for their Tragic Deaths
Their web address says it all: www.godhatesfags.com. This group, which one cannot call Christian but rather “hate-mongers,” threatened to burn the Qur’an, was banned from Facebook for spreading hatred against homosexuals, and recently had the audacity to picket funerals of Americans killed in natural disasters, most recently, a teen-age shooting victim, Daniel Parmertor (age 16), from Chardon, Ohio. Thankfully, volunteers across Ohio and a local group of bikers formed a human barricade to keep these people away from the funeral and grieving family and community.
This group preys on tragedy. They “praise God for sending a shooter to a High School in Ohio.” They “praise God for killing a coast guard member.’ They praise God for killing UK Singer Davy Jones.” They also picketed the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims where Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others, including federal Judge John M. Roll was killed stating, “God sent the shooter to shoot you! And He’s sitting in Heaven laughing at you!” The article goes on into quite graphic detail, which you can read for yourself but concludes with the statement “Thank God for his Righteous Judgments!” This group picketed over 47,500 funerals and events to date. One has to wonder what bible they are reading and what God they are praying to.
Pat Robertson, Glen Beck, John Hagee, and Jerry Falwell: Praying and standing against homosexuals would stop God’s wrath (natural disasters) from occurring – America – you have done this to yourself.
Pat Robertson is notorious for his outspoken apocalyptic rhetoric. This was seen during the 9/11 (God’s response to the ACLU and abortions), hurricanes in New Orleans (God’s response to abortions), Earthquakes in Haiti (because they made a pact with the devil – and it was a blessing in disguise), Ariel Sharon’s stroke (divine retribution for pulling out of Gaza), and most recently the tornadoes that hit the Midwest in the United States last week (which could have been stopped if people prayed enough). Agreeing with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on “pagans,” “abortionists,” “feminists,” and “homosexuals” as well as the ACLU. Even Glenn Beck jumped on the bandwagon after the Japanese Tsunami and Earthquake: “Whether you call it Gaia, or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent and that is, ‘Hey, you know that stuff we’re doing? Not really working out real well.’ Maybe we should stop doing some of it.” John Haggee stated that Hurricane Katrina was the “judgment of God” for the sins that took place on its streets.
These words or messages are supposed to provoke repentance and change behavior in what is being portrayed as pre-apocalyptic events or warning signs from God. If we do not comply with God’s teachings in the Bible, the end of the world will come swiftly. What is incomprehensible to me is conveying that God willed these tragedies, wanted people to die just to teach us a lesson. These evangelists are simply bullies, taking advantage of victims and tragedy.
Father Marcel Guarnizo and the Denial of Communion to a Lesbian at Her Mother’s Funeral
Imagine the loss of your mother and going to her funeral. Imagine your mother’s funeral turning into a political protest. A protest that has a Catholic Priest denying communion in front of a grieving congregation to the daughter, Barbara Johnson, woman standing first in line because she was a lesbian; something the priest learned of right before the service. As she stood in line “he put his hand over the body of Christ and looked at me and said, ‘I can’t give you Communion because you live with a women, and in the eyes of the church, that is sin.” To compound matters, when Johnson gave her eulogy, the priest left the altar and refused to attend the burial of her mother. He dishonored her mother, a devout and life-long Catholic, because he did not agree with the daughter’s chosen lifestyle.
Lay representatives of the Church showed compassion to the grieving daughter, gave her communion, according to John Shore, lovingly. Johnson was also consoled by Catholics who “surrounded and hugged” her to make a point that “Fr. Marcel in no way represent the love of the Church.” Rules, threats, care, and defending what is perceived to be the Catholic faith is now a replacement for pastoring, shepherding, or even caring for the congregation. Through this stance, the very actions of many (not all) ordained in the Catholic Church, through their fire and brimstone approach, becomes a source of abuse in a different way. Lack of pastoral support, care, and compassion and the demands of compliance instills a psychological abuse in people that can be unrecoverable.
Sluts, Prostitutes, Femi-Nazi’s,” and Rush Limbaugh
What can be said that has not already been said about Rush Limbaugh’s rants against a Georgetown law student? NOW’s website summarizes what occurred briefly; “Limbaugh’s targeting of Sandra Fluke was way out of line, even for him. Limbaugh is free to disagree all he wants with Fluke — a Georgetown Law student who testified before a congressional committee in support of health care coverage for birth control — but calling her a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ on air is unacceptable. After sparking outrage, Limbaugh took to the airwaves again yesterday to suggest that if Fluke wants contraception to be fully covered, she should post videos of herself having sex online so Limbaugh and others can watch.” Limbaugh’s comments were inappropriate and spewed hatred. Others jumped on the bandwagon including Bill O’Reilly and Patricia Heaton.
Limbaugh attempted to apologize only after sponsors and a few channels dropped his show. Many are still calling for a boycott of sponsors and the parent company that carries his show. He defended his actions stating his comments were made “in the attempt to be humorous.” A humor that is repulsive, offensive, diminishes the medical value of birth control pills, and incites as well as overlooks violence that is often launched on women by their male counterparts through sabatoge and control – a marking of their territory, a dangerous and abusive display of power and control. Moreover, what message is Limbaugh sending, especially to teen-agers or young adult women that have to take birth control for medical purposes? What is he saying about a woman’s right to choose? The issues of birth control have been quietly accepted and a seemingly settled issue – until this year.
The Catholic Church, GOP, and Contraception
Mary Hunt states, “religious liberty language is attractive, especially in an election year.” Certainly, the conservative GOP bandwagon has taken off over this issue. The rhetoric over contraception is fueling violence and controversy by the Catholic Church. My prior post addresses the Bishop’s stance at length. Walker Nickless, the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, issued a warning - the contraception mandate in healthcare reform is literally a plot by the Devil that required ““violent opposition.”
Between House Speaker John Boehner and Rick Santorum, contraception covered under Obama’s healthcare plan has become a party platform that is nothing more than conjecture and a skewed battle cry for religious freedom. In reality, what their stance does is taking away our religious freedom. Santorum, on ABC’s This Week states, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country.” Constitutionally this is problematic on many levels.
For me, in 2012, it is incomprehensible that we are fighting over women’s rights in today’s world (especially in the United States). According to Gloria Steinhem, who fought for women’s rights over the last forty years, “We had an important and profound front lash and then you inevitably have a backlash.” It is safe to say we are standing in that backlash – one that is severe, especially in the fundamentalist sects and Roman Catholic Church. So many tragedies and abuses have occurred and continue to occur in the name of Christianity. These extremists do not perpetuate the gospel message, but spew violence and hatred. In my own naïveté, I never imaged a day where Catholics and Fundamental Evangelists would agree and work towards a common interest. We need come together as community to be a beacon of hope in the face of tragedy instead of a raging fire of hate burning out of control.
Michele Stopera Freyhauf is currently at the University of Akron doing post-graduate work in the area of the History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality. She also has a Master of Arts Degree from John Carroll University in Theology and Religious Studies and is an Adjunct Professor at Ursuline College. Her full bio is on the main contributor’s page or at http://johncarroll.academia.edu/MicheleFreyhauf .