Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Raped By Leading Church Member — Then Forced To Apologize to Congregation and Shipped Out of State

An arrest in New Hampshire has revealed a shocking story of a 15-year-old girl who was raped and impregnated by a leading church member at the Trinity Baptist Church in 1997. She was allegedly forced by the church to stand before the congregation and apologize before being taken out of state — and out of the reach of police investigating the rape.

The pastor of the church, Chuck Phelps, reported the rape to state youth officials, but the police were never able to track down the victim. She has now come forward at age 28 and stated that she was taken to another church member’s home in Colorado, home schooled and not allowed to contact outsiders. After she went to police, Ernest Willis, 51, was arrested.

What is not clear is if police tried to interview church leaders and whether they failed to disclose information on her whereabouts. Moreover, it is not clear how the church treated Willis, a well-known member of the church, after the rape was revealed.

As a young girl, the victim often worked as a babysitter for Willis. She told the police she would often stay the night if he got home late. She says that she was repeatedly raped on different occasion by Willis. He allegedly not only brought her a pregnancy test but, when it proved positive, asked if she wanted him to arrange an abortion out of state. She also claims that Willis offered to punch her in the stomach to try to cause a miscarriage.

Willis has been charged with four felonies – two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor.

For the full story, click here.

64 thoughts on “Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Raped By Leading Church Member — Then Forced To Apologize to Congregation and Shipped Out of State

  1. Nice one, kidnapping…

    A new flavour to add to the stench that is religion.
    There’s just no line these cretins wouldn’t cross, is there?

    Religion is a gateway crime. Round up all believers and shove ’em in the slammer for some years, depending on the class and amount of belief the police finds them in possession of….

    Better yet, send them to that “better place” they so love, cuz they sure refuse to make this world one….

  2. More horror from the article:

    The victim said Phelps told her she would be put up for “church discipline,” where parishioners go before the congregation to apologize for their sins.

    She asked why. “Pastor Phelps then said that (Willis) may have been 99 percent responsible, but I needed to confess my 1 percent guilt in the situation,” the victim told the police.

    “He told me that I should be happy that I didn’t live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.” [emphasis mine]

    Fran Earle, the church’s former clerk, witnessed the punishment session.

    At a night meeting of the church’s fellowship in 1997, Phelps invited Willis to the front of the room. Willis apologized to the group for not being faithful to his wife, Earle said.

    “I can remember saying to my husband, I don’t understand it’s any of our business why this is being brought up,” Earle said.

    Phelps then told parishioners a second matter was at hand; he invited the victim to apologize for getting pregnant.

    “I can still see the little girl standing up there with this smile on her face trying to get through this,” Earle said.

    A day after the session, Earle called the pastor’s wife, who said the victim had decided not to press charges for statutory rape.

    “You’ve got to understand, we trusted our pastor and his wife to be telling us the truth,” Earle said. “They told us it had been reported. He reported it as a consensual act between a man and a woman. Well, I didn’t know a 15-year-old was a woman.”

    Earle, who left the church in 2001 after 19 years, said it was regular to see young girls who were pregnant called to the front of the congregation to be humiliated.

    Anyone left who still thinks religion DOESN’T make one crazy? Anyone think more indictments are in order?

  3. mespo,

    From the way it sounds this particular “church” operates? You might even get me to grab a torch and join the mob. Hell, Jesus Himself would be up for a house cleaning.

    And this little gem . . . “Police records do not show whether detectives asked church leaders to help them get in contact with the victim or if information was withheld.

    “If somebody tried to cover this up or not cover this up, that’s a separate issue,” Mitchell said.”

    The records don’t show if they were asked?


  4. If God had wanted 15 year-old girls to apologize for getting pregnant, we wouldn’t have given them their lovely lovely vaginas.

    Pastor Phelps was way out of line here. Not only did he make the girl apologize, he reported the incident to the secular police. Does he not hold the Word of God close to his heart?:

    Genesis 19:8 (New American Standard Bible)

    8″Now behold, (A)I have two daughters who have not had relations with man; please let me bring them out to you, and do to them whatever you like; only do nothing to these men, inasmuch as they have come under the shelter of my roof.”


    BTW, anybody notice that we have a pregnant girl here under the ‘protection’ of a Baptist church, and there is no mention of a child being born?

  5. I document church abuse cases in Fundamentalism. (I am a Christian.) Thought you might like to read the unprovoked hostility spewed by Dr John Matzko, Division of History Chairman and faculty member of Bob Jones University about this case:

    MATZKO: Subtract the questionable public confessions before the church, and to me it looks mostly like a case of sloppy police work thirteen years ago.

    Raped twice? So the girl’s raped and then goes back to see the same guy again in private. The prosecutor better have a convincing personality to get a conviction on that sort of testimony.

    JERI: No John, Go read the account. The man came to her house when her mother was not home and raped her the second time.

    And why should anybody subtract the “questionable public confessions” of the church when that is the heart of the moral matter? Oh wait, I forgot about Fundamentalists who will do ANYTHING, believe ANYTHING they are told to hold on to their man-centered religion. Now stop excusing the men who let a rapist come to church and kept his secret while they sent his victim off to coventry. And be ashamed of yourself if you have a conscience left. Gosh it’s tragic to see the children whose lives are ruined by unrestrained corruption in Fundamentalism. It’s even worse to see aged men whose souls have been destroyed by it. Don’t you have the sense to fear God? You knwo what Christ taught about the little ones.

    MATZKO: Sorry, I’m not buying it. Neither will a jury, if it even gets that far.

    JERI: No you’ve bought something else, and a long time ago, and that is tragic. And no amount of evidence is going to change your mind.

    MATZKO: In New Hampshire, penetration committed on a minor younger than 16 is indeed statutory rape. But the statute of limitations runs only six years. If Phelps reported the incident, then the problem is–unless proved otherwise–with the police.

    JERI: Sure John, and that means nobody sinned, you know, because it all got wiped out by American jurisprudence. Of course Phelps never did anything wrong, not by covering the rape by calling it consensual sex, not by covering the rapist by staging the “discipline” to make sure nobody thought Willis had engaged in sex with a minor member of the church, not by protecting Willis by getting that child out of there. No John, no wrong was done,m because by now I have learned the heart of Christian Fundamentalist morality: IF IT WAS DONE IN A CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALIST CHURCH, IT WAS RIGHT. Now everybody shut your eyes and keep going.

    MATZKO: I’m sure if the police wanted to know where the girl was, Phelps would have told them. And legally it’s their responsibility to follow up.

    Now, as to what a pastor’s ethical responsibility is in a nasty situation like this, I’m uncertain. I’m pretty sure that in the Old Testament economy, either the girl would have become a polygamous wife or both the guy and the girl would have met their ends surrounded by a lot of hefty rocks.


    It’s a study in moral bankruptcy. This is what that 15 year old girl faced at Trinity Baptist Church in Concord New Hampshire.!/profile.php?id=1338783489&v=wall&story_fbid=107821685930255

  6. If anything should change it should be the definition of what constitutes a Church.

    Too many of those so called churches have popped up in this country and the results in many of them have been disasters.

    I’m sure people can think of a number for them from Jim Jones to Waco.

  7. Sounds as if there are plenty of people to blame in this horrifying story: the rapist, the pastor, the congregation, the parents of the victim. I’d say they were complicit in the crimes and/or coverup of the crimes committed against this child.

    Regarding the police–an excerpt from the article:

    But moving the girl out of state prevented the police from collecting evidence or a statement, the police said yesterday.

    “Without a victim, it makes it very difficult to have a case,” said Lt. Keith Mitchell. “That basically made the investigation very difficult.”

    The police knew a child had been raped and most likely dropped the case because the investigation was difficult? Do these police choose only to work on cases that are easy?

  8. Geez, already you guys are blaming religion for rape. Or the cover-up.

    Just because a rapist just happens to be a member of a church which tried to do their damage control to avoid scandal does not mean that rape and cover-up was fully endorsed by their religious teaching or establishment.

    Even though I am an athiest and strongly believe in separation of church and state, we must always remain unbiased when it comes to many different crimes being committed by religious people, that it is an action of an individual, not an establishment.

    And please don’t bring in Waco, that’s apples and oranges.

  9. ChaZ

    Too true. Another church, even a (gasp) Baptist church, might have handled this appropriately.

    I suspect there are pediphiles in every respectable organization, perhaps even the ABA. But it is too much to resist special condemnation when it is a church.

    “Oh, the hypocrisy”; “let’s condemn all Christians for what one person or one group has done”. Good grief!

  10. ChaZ said:

    Just because a rapist just happens to be a member of a church which tried to do their damage control to avoid scandal does not mean that rape and cover-up was fully endorsed by their religious teaching or establishment.

    Perhaps you missed this part:

    “”He told me that I should be happy that I didn’t live in Old Testament times because I would have been stoned.””

    Not only was the church’s leadership complicit in this crime, but it appears that they influenced the local police, who did not follow up with anywhere near the vigor that the situation requires, ie, making this a FBI problem.

    The church aided and abetted a child rapist and did not excommunicate him. The church was instrumental in the victim’s relocation in order avoid prosecutions, almost certainly did not make a full and honest report to the cops, and shamed the girl according to their Biblical precepts in private and public. That sounds to me like a full endorsement by the establishment of that church.

    But I suppose you are making the “NO True Scotsman” argument here? Please, then, explain your assertion against the backdrop of the similar and multifarious atrocities committed systematically and with full endorsement by the highest establishment of the RCC.

  11. How about let’s be more careful about what constitutes a church, Chaz.

    Not everyone who proclaims him or herself a Christian are really Christians at all.

  12. Since this happens more than once or twice under the guise of Church, we need to start making demands over allowing churches tax exemptions. T.V. shows, owning property which is not for having a building that’s other than a church, and stop trying to influence politicians.

    That goes for all religions.

  13. Buckeye:

    ““Oh, the hypocrisy”; “let’s condemn all Christians for what one person or one group has done”. Good grief!”


    Do we really need a list of atrocities by denomination, by year, by diocese, to see the pattern? You cannot indict every Christian for the crimes of many of them, but you can certainly ask why any person would associate themselves with an institution that habitually perpetrates –via its clergy and prominent laity — every manner of sin, perversion, and outrage they claim they despise. Sorry you don’t get to excoriate others for their supposed sins or explain every calamity as divine retribution, while perpetrating or covering up for child sex abusers. It is rank and pervasive hypocrisy.

  14. Buckeye:

    I think Mespo has you on that one, just replace collectivism with religion and you get the drift.:)

  15. The only hypocrites I’ve seen have been the so called Christians who profess love of Christ, but have little regard for the down trodden, unless they get a tax deduction out of it.

  16. There are hypocrites in every kind of human organization. And men have always found a way to cynically misuse an organization to achieve personal ends. And sheep to follow them. No reason to hang organized religion for this. There are a lot more valid reasons to hang organized religion.

  17. lyris:

    “The only hypocrites I’ve seen have been the so called Christians who profess love of Christ, but have little regard for the down trodden, unless they get a tax deduction out of it.”


    Take a stroll past any Catholic Bishop’s residence and lob in a piece of paper with Mark 9:42 (KJV)scrawled on it — then watch the roaches scatter looking for personal flotation devices.

  18. Dave S:

    Of course, you are very right. But why pass up a shot on a shameless, accusatorial hypocrite when you see one.

  19. I still say take away their t.v. programs, and property that doesn’t involve charity, and you’ll see who the true Christians are.

    Also take away their non profit status when they try to interfere with politicians who respect women’s right to choose, for example.

    When they do this it’s crossing separation of church and state. We shouldn’t allow them to get away with crossing that line.

  20. Mespo

    “habitually perpetrates –via its clergy and prominent laity — every manner of sin, perversion, and outrage they claim they despise.”

    Comprehensive, indeed. HABITUALLY perpetrates. EVERY manner of sin, perversion, and outrage.

    Maybe I do need that list of atrocities, at least those performed by my own denomination. The only kooks I know of, I’m sure there are some more, out of about 70 million members, are Pres. Bush, VP Cheney, Jim Jones, and Colonel John Chivington (the last two physically committed particularly henious acts, but Mr. Jones, at least, had left the my church by then).

    It’s true we’ve been in turmoil over gay marriage and ministers, especially since 2000, but we continue to fight for more inclusiveness and hope to finally reach our goal of Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors, and still avoid schism, in time to celebrate our 300th birthday in about 30 years. Hopefully a lot sooner.

    But if you wish to condemn the 69,999,976 of the rest of us, don’t forget to include Justices Blackmun, Murrah, and Vinson.

    Sorry you don’t get to condemn all Christians for those that DO commit the sins, perversions, and outrages you list, or maintain that every calamity is explained by all Christians as retribution. Simply not true.

    What happened to this girl is beyond malicious and true evil, and I hope justice will be done and reparation made. I expect some Christians will help see that happens.

  21. I agree Buckeye that most Christians are decent people, just as most people from other beliefs are decent people. But many new denominations keep popping up and frankly I don’t think much of them as they keep pushing harder and harder for money on t.v.

  22. “Sorry you don’t get to condemn all Christians for those that DO commit the sins, perversions, and outrages you list, or maintain that every calamity is explained by all Christians as retribution. Simply not true.”


    I condemn only their judgment in supporting a haughtily irrational institution that supposes to know more than it does, claims to be more virtuous than the evidence shows, and assumes the right to preach a morality that is hasn’t the foggiest idea of how to practice as demonstrated by every scam artist mega-church leader, every pedophile hiding bishop, and every moralizing pastor with a mistress or rent-a-boy on the side. As for the criminal act themselves, why there are plenty of Christians to go around to keep every grand jury busy.

  23. lyris:

    “I agree Buckeye that most Christians are decent people,…”


    I agree that most people are decent people – their particular religious affiliation having nothing to do with it. One might as well say that, “I agree that most men with mustaches are decent people.” It’s about the same degree of cause and effect.

  24. Decency and kindness are a lot like evil and cruelty.

    They are nondenominational and equal opportunity.

  25. Lyris

    I couldn’t agree more that churches, and contributions to churches, shouldn’t be tax-exempt.

    People of faith will still attend, still volunteer at church, and in the community, and still contribute to all the charitable funds their churches administrate. Every penny that goes to charity takes the burden off the taxpayer in general. I don’t have the total amounts, but it is considerable.

    It seems the Feds are cracking down on the TV money grubbers, at least the most egregious of them, and none too soon.

  26. Mespo

    My mistake. I understood you to say the institution (by which I understood you to mean organized Christian religion, specifically) “habitually perpetrates –via its clergy and prominent laity — every manner of sin, perversion, and outrage they claim they despise.”

    I would agree that it would be foolish to support an institution that “habitually perpetrates” such misdeeds. Most churches don’t. Some do. I don’t.

    I don’t condemn your belief system and would hope you would show the same tolerance for mine.

    I don’t condemn all lawyers for the misdeeds of the few, either, though there may be enough of them to keep every grand jury busy, also.

  27. Buckeye, I for one tried to respect people’s beliefs until I met people who were hypocrites.

    While they claim they were Christians their behavior says different.

    They show no tolerance for the victims of the times. People who are on welfare are lazy, people on disabilities are also lazy and are draining society.

    They showed no concern about the victims of Katrina or other disasters like the earthquake in Haiti.

    They also showed no sympathies for returning troops who needed help.

    How could those people call themselves Christians when their behavior tells me they aren’t.

    To them charity is good if they can use it for tax deductions.

  28. Buckeye

    I don’t condemn all lawyers for the misdeeds of the few, either, though there may be enough of them to keep every grand jury busy, also.


    Perhaps, but no where in any oath I’ve seen do lawyers swear to provide their clients with life-everlasting or entrance into a mystical heaven. Lawyers deal with the business of Caesar, whereas Christians claim to be dealing with the business of God. Thus when lawyers break the law they must render unto Caesar but Christians … whole different ballgame.

    When one sees so many Christian leaders from the Pope to a little ol’ Baptist minister continually breaking their god’s law one has to think that their fear of losing life-everlasting or entrance into heaven is non-existent. Could it be their lack of fear is based on a certainty that life-everlasting/heaven doesn’t actually exist? If so, then why do they continue to preach said existence? To sucker others into providing them a living? In other words, a con job … a taxable con job?

  29. That was a response to the remark in Mespo’s response that there were enough Christians to keep every Grand Jury busy. Just a return snark.

    I don’t know about all lawyers oath of office, but all Federal officers take an oath ending in “So help me God”. The few state lawyer oaths of office I looked at could lead one to think they are sometimes simply ignored.

    I think lawyers and Christians are like the police and military – there seem to be so many bad apples because they are the ones that make the news. When you consider the total number of participants, the number of bad ones are pretty small, yet they are all tarred with the same brush. Now, you may say they’ve only not been caught, yet, but that’s a pretty cynical view.

    I have no idea what motivates any church official to break “God’s law”. I’m often not sure what “God’s law” even entails, so I try to stick to the 10 commandments which seem to be pretty close to our criminal laws – curious that, isn’t it?

    I will say I get tired of being accused of “guilt by association”, especially on this blog. I really hadn’t expected that. I didn’t see anyone rushing to object to Jericho’s over the top rant, so I stuck my little oar in.

    I’m just as appalled at the alledged misdeeds as anyone else. It seems to me that, if true, several “sins” have been committed, both civil and holy.

  30. Buckeye:

    “I don’t condemn your belief system and would hope you would show the same tolerance for mine.

    I don’t condemn all lawyers for the misdeeds of the few, either, though there may be enough of them to keep every grand jury busy, also.”


    The difference between the “sins” of lawyers and that of Christianity is simply this: lawyers police their own and condemn the wrongdoer. When have you seen the leader of any of the strains of Christianity condemn another one? The Pope covers for an army of pedophiles and the Lutheran Church remains publicly mum to name just one enabler. Mega-Church leaders are caught in every sexual scandal imaginable and there is nothing but the chirping of crickets from the main line denominations. Bottom line is that they are deserving of condemnation when they both countenance the abomination and also refuse to condemn another who does the same thing — all under the banner of “Teacher of Morality.” The reason for their position is easy to understand. When you’re involved in the same scam as the next guy, it doesn’t pay to blow the whistle on him out of fear the same will happen to you. The whole thing is insidious as more and more people are coming to realize.

    By the way, no one’s beliefs are entitled to respect unless they have passed through the gauntlet of rational criticism. Where did you ever get any notion otherwise? That’s just deflection. If I told you I was a devoted follower of Zeus (as thousands were in ancient times), would you give me the same credibility? Why should you?

  31. Mespo

    I have heard condemnation of mega-church “money ministers” and rabid evangelists in local churches, and in conversations with fellow parishoners.

    There is a minister that shows up on TV, probably Hardball though I can’t find his name, who refutes people like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson’s unchristian pronouncements and (usually right-wing) politician’s moral mis-pronouncements. Could more be more involved? Sure. I would be interested in which mainline churches you think would countenance the abominations in this story.

    I truly doubt it’s complicity as much as not wanting to cast the second and following stones when the press is doing such a good job. Mostly it’s probably an assumption (maybe mistaken) that anyone that knows anything about Christianity would know Christians would condemn the acts allegedly perpetrated here as being unchristian.

    I don’t condemn all Christians for the mistakes of some anymore than I would condemn all lawyers because of the unscrupulous acts of some – but that’s just my schtik.

    BTW, how often have you seen nationally published reports of lawyers policing their own and condemning wrongdoers? I probably missed them.

    Your beliefs or non-beliefs may not gain my respect or credibility, but as long as they don’t affect me, or society in general negatively, you’re welcome to them – as long as you don’t proselytize. If they have a positive influence – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. – I would applaud them.

    I can’t speak for Catholics, but it seems to me they are even more exercised over Church’s, and especially this Pope’s, inability to exorcise their deeply troubling problem priests than anyone else. Just my impression.

  32. Buckeye,

    (In the following please accept my use of the word respect as semantical for tolerance etc.)

    I’m offering another viewpoint on Christianity… that viewpoint differs from yours as you have, thus far, expressed it. Why would you interpret a different viewpoint as anything other than an invitation to debate the subject?

    I would never disrespect your belief system by attempting to break into your spiritual leader’s sermon or homily in your house of worship or picket your congregation’s gathering with signs and chants but here, on this blog, I am able to offer the viewpoint without disrespecting you.

    Now if, and I emphasize the word if, you consider the expression of any viewpoint other than your own on Christianity to be intolerant or disrespectful … well then …..

  33. Backing up a bit, I’m lost on a particular point. Phelps brings the girl before the congregation to apologize (without insisting the same of the rapist?) but he also reports the rape to the police. So which is it? If he reports it, then he thinks it was rape. If he makes the girl apologize, then he thinks it was consensual.

  34. ShireNomad,

    I reread the article and Willis apologized to the congregation for being unfaithful to his wife … did the pastor report the situation as a rape or as consensual sex between adults? … that is not clear in the article.

    What is clear is that the girl was sent to another church member’s home out of state where she remained and was home schooled.

    My question is … where was the girl’s mother during all this and what happened to the baby?

    Should be an interesting case.

  35. Blouise

    The only thing I find disrespectful is the condemning of all Christians as being like the few described in this article. If you don’t think we all behave like this, there’s nothing to debate – we agee. If you do, you will have to explain to me why so many millions of us haven’t been exposed for such malicious crimes, yet.

    If you think that all Christianity (or any other religion) is simply foolishness made malevolent by these bad actors, then our positions are so far apart that a debate would probably be unproductive. I’m no lawyer nor yet a philosopher, but I’m perfectly prepared to respect your viewpoint as long as you respect mine.

    If you think my viewpoint that most Christians are not like these jerks doesn’t even belong on this blog, please state so clearly enough so even I can understand it.

  36. Buckeye,

    Condemnation of an individual isn’t the reason I challenge those who follow the Christian religion. I find the subject of theology fascinating. I figure anyone who chooses to join a religion (or to remain in one once adulthood is reached) has very specific reasons for doing so and understands not only the guiding tenants of that religion but the impact such a chosen lifestyle has on oneself and those one loves.

    For instance, in your latest post to mespo you wrote, “Your beliefs or non-beliefs may not gain my respect or credibility, but as long as they don’t affect me, or society in general negatively, you’re welcome to them – as long as you don’t proselytize.”

    I take from that statement that if mespo’s views, in your opinion, have a negative effect upon you or society in general, he can have them as long as he doesn’t try to convert anybody to his way of thinking. (proselytize)

    My next question would then be … what, in your opinion, would be a “negative effect” on you or society in general?

    Since you were more specific when listing the positive “If they have a positive influence – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. – I would applaud them.”, I feel the question is a fair one.

  37. Since we have rights to believe or not believe in any religion Buckeye’s post is moot.

    Frankly I find that teaching fear mongering deplorable and in many religions that’s what they seem to spew. Not all but many of them.

  38. Just because it’s such a great point, I’d like to repeat Mespo:

    “The difference between the “sins” of lawyers and that of Christianity is simply this: lawyers police their own and condemn the wrongdoer.”

  39. Blouise

    “I take from that statement that if mespo’s views, in your opinion, DON’T have a negative effect upon you or society in general, he can have them as long as he doesn’t try to convert anybody to his way of thinking. (proselytize)”

    You left out one pretty important word. I’ve included it in caps above.

    I would consider physical or mental harm a negative effect. Of course, I would include a person’s family in the “society in general” phrase.

    Certainly these men were not practicing any mainline religion and I’d say they were doing both physical and mental harm. I’ve never heard of a Baptist church (or any other mainline church) condoning these practices. They actually sound more like a cult than a religion.

    I don’t practice all the tenets of my particular mainline religion, either, (I’m a little bit more liberal), but in general I’m comfortable with my beliefs.

  40. Buckeye,

    I’m not certain now that I understand … I removed the double negative because I thought you were saying that he could hold his beliefs even if they had a negative impact as long as he didn’t proselytize.

    If I reword the sentence as you stated to “I take from that statement that if mespo’s views, in your opinion, DON’T have a negative effect upon you or society in general, he can have them as long as he doesn’t try to convert anybody to his way of thinking.”

    So his beliefs, even those that DON’T have a negative impact, can not be proselytized? When I reread your original sentence I realize that is exactly what you said.

    My beliefs DON’T have a negative impact on anyone but I will abide by your personal dictates and not proselytize you by attempting to explain them to you.

    Ah, Christianity.

  41. buckeye:

    “Your beliefs or non-beliefs may not gain my respect or credibility, but as long as they don’t affect me, or society in general negatively, you’re welcome to them – as long as you don’t proselytize.”


    That Christianity is precisely founded as a proselytizing religion is exactly my point and the reason for my ire. (Mark 16:15) If Christians want to accept your guiding rule, they’d get no quarrel from me. They don’t. Rather, they take the Gospel of Mark literally and decide to inject themselves and their hypocritical morality into all manner of secular activities, not the least of which is the governing of us all. Then when the ideology of faith collides headlong with reality and just when they are finally cornered into some irrational, illogical position, like say condemning stem cell research they pull that supposed trump card out: “I don’t condemn your belief system and would hope you would show the same tolerance for mine.” R-E-S-P-E-C-T, as Aretha might say, is earned not granted. People are entitled to respect, but their beliefs, well they are entitled to none without proof or a rational basis. You get respect for your beliefs when you show a good reason for believing them.

    My simple position is that when you affect me and mine with a First Century belief system that is, at the same time, archaic, misogynistic, irrational, and replete with negative impacts for society, you’d better be able to support it with more than a pitiful, “Respect me, Respect me, because I believe it to be true with all my heart.” Sorry, just not good enough.

  42. Blouise

    Amen! Explaining, of course, is not the same as proselytizing. Explain away. But either explaining or proselytizing through derision (or guilt by association, my original gripe), is not really helpful. At least so I believe.

  43. Mespo

    You seem to be describing fundamentalism rather than mainline Christianity. I can’t and won’t answer for them since I agree with all you say about them. Just don’t lump me in with them.

  44. Buckeye:

    I am indeed referencing fundamentalism,and I certainly don’t paint with so broad a brush as to include everyone who wears the tee shirt. My problem is I see no move from mainline churches to divorce themselves from the fundamentalists hence my ire. What gives the fundies power is their unrebutted claim that they speak for the true religion. Moderates, who support separation of church and state, need to come forward to show just how minimalist this fundie faction truly is.

  45. Bukeye,

    (Sorry, I had to break off to go pick up a teenage grandchild)

    I remember, back in the 80’s, many mainline denominations expressing worry about the growing congregations within the fundamentalist movement. Older, well established churches sought ways to compete in order to add to their memberships. Ideas such as more relevant (modern) music, welcomers at the doors, the hand of friendship during the service, more adult programs, more activities for children, younger “youth” ministers to help attract teenagers … good ideas and good for the congregations but not resulting in any great increase in membership across the board … at least when compared to the ever increasing numbers enjoyed by the fundamentalists.

    I think it is as difficult today for mainline Christian denominations to differentiate themselves from their fundamentalist brethren as it is for those dealing with a similar problem within Islam. The perversions are within and that is always more difficult to fight than attacks from outside.

  46. Blouise

    Not sure what perversions you mean, but – yes the larger any institution grows, the harder it is to keep it on the straight and narrow. As you can see, I have no problem with distinguishing myself from fundamentalism. Of course no one is going to kill us if we chastise fundamentalists – yet – which makes it a lot easier.

    And here in the bible belt, it’s a lot more work. That’s what I meant by hoping there isn’t a schism in our denomination because of the turmoil over gays being able to be ministers and to marry. We’ll work it out, in time. Can’t do it by quitting, though.

    Many congregations, like the one I belong to, are using the innovations you mention, along with finding new ways to serve their communities. Of course the first brings in more members, sometimes only temporarily, but the second is more important even though there is little to none in increase of membership. That priority is probably one reason why mainline churches are fading – we emphasize serving not fearing.

  47. Buckeye,

    Would that make you part of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church?

    If so, may I say I always loved performing in the Episcopalian environment. I also have a very real attachment to the Book of Common Prayer.

    Mainline churches failed to grasp, back in the 80’s, the “personality cult” coming into play in the founding of so many of these fundie churches. (The church mentioned in the article upon which we all began this commentary was one such “personality cult” church.) When the ministerial staff has been well trained in an accredited seminary and the church itself has centuries of experiences in protecting itself from wayward clergy, it is difficult to grasp the “wild-west” nature of the fundie cultists.

    Yet, as Christians, charged with protecting “The Word”, such situations must be acknowledged and dealt with. Thus my reference to “perversions” from within. In making that criticism I must also acknowledge the difficulty of so many different denominations coming together to decry the fundie scourge … Muslims are experiencing similar difficulties.

  48. Blouise

    No, I’m a Methodist but our founders John and Charles Wesley were Anglican students at Oxford. This denomination has changed and split and joined over the years, and is now described as both mainline and evangelical.

    I guess the following description is as close to my beliefs as any, but I am more with the activists for more change than not:

    You can scroll up and see the Christian_right definition.

  49. Blouise

    I just reread your last paragraph and can only say that, as with mespo, I am not in the business of telling others what they can or can’t believe as long as they don’t proselytize. When they do, I speak up. When they get into politics, I vote for what I think is right.

    If my church (and other churches) insisted that only we had the correct take on “the word”, we’d be like the fundamentalists – wouldn’t we?

    Just as I am an American, and a Democrat, I don’t agree with all the things Ameria and the Democrats stand for, but I don’t insist anyone who is not an American or a Democrat is a scourge.

    Like I say, I’m no philosopher, I just muddle along as best I can. I’ve always maintained that ridicule is better than defamation, all things being equal.

  50. Buckeye,

    I wasn’t referring to the correctness of “The Word”‘s interpretation … who does or does not have it right … in all mainline Christian denominations The Word is addressed in their Creed and is substantially similar. For instance the Methodist Creed (Book of Discipline) addresses the matter thusly:

    “Article II.-Of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man

    The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”

    Mainline Christian denominations will disagree about original sin and other theological points but “The Word” is constant.

    When a fundie sect takes “The Word” and spins it into a personality cult for their founding leader then mainline Christian doctrine must take note. It is a perversion of the divinity of Jesus which is the basis upon which Christianity is constructed.

    As I said earlier, theology (the science of religion) is a subject that fascinates me. I earned an M. Div much later in life simply to better understand the subject.

    I have no ax to grind with any particular denomination within Christianity as I don’t subscribe to the divinity of Jesus. (I evolved out of Congregationalism into a form of Unitarianism.)But I do find it rather puzzling that so many mainline Christians have no idea what the belief system of their denominations really are and thus do not grasp the perversion of many (not all) fundies.

    That an organization built on a personality cult strives to gain political presence is not at all surprising … personality cults seek power and politics provide avenues to power. Religion is a convenient cloak in which to wrap the cult …

    You certainly don’t have to defend your faith or attack the faith of another but you mentioned the remarks of Jericho and stated that you did not wish to be “lumped in” with the fundies … (I’m paraphrasing your words, I know) …but the mainline denominations have allowed the fundies to misrepresent Christianity for several decades now … isn’t getting lumped in to be expected? Unfair? … yes.

  51. The Word is a very funny segment on the Colbert Report.

    Or is it “up”?


    I get so confused.

  52. Blouise

    Beyond calling a cult a cult rather than a church, what would you suggest a mainline church might do? Without getting sued by either the cult or the government.

  53. Buckeye,

    Oh sure … smart aleck … hold me accountable for my words:)

    Okay … here goes.

    If I were to hold anyone accountable for the failure of mainline Christian denominations to define the fundies, it would be the ordained leaders of those denominations.

    It is the ordained who have been trained in the theology of their faith and they are the ones most able to intellectually describe the manner in which the divinity of Jesus has been spun to suit the personality cult that is at the basis of so many of the fundie organizations.

    It is also their job to educate and lead their congregations. A well educated congregation is able to recognize and give definition to a fundie when they come across one and is thus given a semblance of protection from the perversion.

    The manner in which an ordained leader decides to educate his congregation is based on his/her communication skills and the general personality of his/her congregation. One or two sermons a year should suffice.

    Fundamentalism does not even have to be mentioned in the sermon … one can describe the personality cult without ever even having to name it. What one has to do is describe the Word, as put forward in that denomination’s creed and move forward from there to how often the Word is misunderstood and misused and why it is often done purposefully.

    A properly ordained leader can educate without inflaming his flock thus giving them confidence in recognizing a perversion of their faith when they see or hear it.

    Ordained leaders give sermons every week in hopes of helping their membership deal with the challenges life sets before them. This is just another one of those challenges.

  54. Buckeye,
    …. I realize that such sermons could be a real challenge for the ordained leader … especially one who has come to heavily rely on a sermon subscription service.

  55. Well, we sometimes get sermons about just that. I always thought it was to keep us on the straight and narrow, but maybe our bishops have put out the word on the QT.

    This will work for individual congregations, but to get it to the general public would require something more. I guess the National Council of Churches could start an advertising campaign and give their good seal of approval for member churches while making TV ads about the difference between a church and a cult.

    As a personal aside, years ago in Calif. my mom worked for 2 doctors house cleaning, etc. They had 4 sons. No religious training at home. One son began dating a fundamentalist girl and between she and her mother, they had the poor kid an emotional mess. He had to have extensive psychotherapy to recover.

    I always told my kids and family that I sent my kids to church to innoculate them against such a virus. They don’t go to church, now, but they’re not in a cult either!

    At one church, we had anti-cult speakers come and tell us about how to warn our kids about cults that were springing up on college campuses. This would be in the 80’s. The cults would target the brightest kids, because if/when converted they made the best spokespersons for future converts.

    The cults would be very welcoming, inviting the away-from-home-for-the-first-time college students to gatherings. Once they were dependent on them, the more aggressive cults would get them on special diets that would affect their brain functions and, along with sleep deprivation, make them easier to brainwash. It would take an interventionist to get them out.

    Here is an article from 1978 – prompted by the Jim Jones episode, and around the beginning of this surge of cults:,9171,916533,00.html

    BTW this church in the article lists itself as “An Independent Fundamentalist Church”. I don’t find it listed in the membership of the Council of Churches even though it used the Baptist brand. How sneaky!

  56. Buckeye,

    Yes, I remember the push back against cults and the legitimate worries parents and other adults had for the children.

    I suspect that many “personality” users also took note and found that setting up churches was much more lucrative. The free speech guarantees were most helpful to them. When the political right moved in to take advantage of the situation, a beautiful partnership was born … lots of indoctrinated souls now spewing forth bible verses and political rhetoric. Joined together every Sunday and Wednesday, it was possible to motivate and turn them in any direction the politicals wanted.

    Then under the auspices of protection of freedom of religious choice and freedom of political speech, the cults gained an aura of respectability and the “personalities” gained even more personal power.

    Many of these fundies claim to be Christian and Republican when in fact they are neither. They are products of a “personality” based cult motivated by a hard right conservatism that has nothing in common with Christians or Republicans … they are pawns in a game played by individuals whose only goal is power.

    Mainline Christian denominations and true conservative Republicans are facing the same dilemma … how to take back their good name.

  57. For all of you church haters out there making your stupid comment like always, I have two things to say to you. 1) Only the girl is saying she was raped, and she waited until she was 28 to do anything about it. 2) When the girl was 15, she was given the opportunity to press rape charges against the guy she accused of raping her, she declined.

    Why on earth would someone who was supposedly forced to have sex against their will CHOOSE NOT TO PRESS CHARGES? I’m having a hard time believing this wasn’t consensual.

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