Right Wing Family Values and the World’s Greatest Freak Show

Do you remember when it first dawned on you that your relatives are all a bunch of crackpots and weirdos? Seems like I was around 8 or 9 — my mother worked all night in the casinos and slept most of the day, leaving me alone to protect my naïve older sister from the depraved advances of Mom’s alcoholic boyfriends and worry about my big brother’s drug addiction. I couldn’t count on my grandparents to help — they were too preoccupied with their own divorce, dating, and remarriage dramas.

“Holy sugar,” I thought to myself, “these people are seriously messed up!”

That’s about the time the fantasies began. My home, I imagined, was a three-ring circus — and my relatives were the freaks and the clowns. In my daydreams, I was not really one of them. No — surely, I was of aristocratic origin. My REAL family were royalty in a faraway Kingdom and I was born a beloved Princess in a fancy castle with many servants and my own Fairy Godmother. Somehow, I’d been separated from my blood kin as an infant — I was captured by gypsies and sold in a black market adoption — that’s how I ended up being raised by this group of crazies!


ABC’s Primetime Nightline recently aired a segment featuring the Gil & Kelly Bates family — a conservative, Evangelical mega-family of twenty. The Bates, who are close friends of JimBob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting” fame, hold to the extreme fundamentalist ideals of the growing “Quiverfull movement.”

During the one-hour special, Gil, Kelly, and their children explained the family’s lifestyle which, to all modern appearances, represents a throw back to the imaginary 60′s-style “Leave It to Beaver” family combined with strict, Victorian Era sexual mores and the atavistic gender roles of ancient goat-herders. The Bates eschew all forms of birth control and adhere to the marriage model of the biblical Patriarchs — with Gil as family leader and Kelly as submissive “help meet.” Kelly and the girls adorn themselves in modest, hand-sewn dresses, while Gil and his clean-cut sons teach bible study and participate in local Tea Party politics.

Aren’t they lovely? Don’tcha wanna be just like them?

I sure did! I left home at 15 and embarked on a quest to recreate my long-lost perfect, happy family — my REAL courtly family, where I truly belonged. After a false start involving marriage at 16, a baby at 19, and divorce after seven years of abuse rivaling the most astonishing freak show acts Mom’s circus family had ever performed — I remarried, found a “Bible-believing” church, and worked hard within the Quiverfull counterculture to implement the best of the best biblical family values into our home life. I had six more children. I homebirthed, homeschooled, and home-churched. I submitted to my husband and joyfully sacrificed my time, energy and talents to build him up and help him to succeed. I published a “pro-life, pro-family” Christian family newspaper to inform and encourage other Christians to defend “Traditional Family Values.”

In 2003, we were honored as Family of the Year at the Nebraska Family Council’s “Salt & Light” awards. I’d finally made it! I had built my own Magic Kingdom where my husband reigned as King and I was his Queen, the children were our loyal subjects and we could all live happily ever after …

Like the Bates family, we were the perfect picture of the “biblical family values” fantasy — an idealistic vision of big, happy families: devoted husband and wife surrounded by a passel of respectful, obedient children — we were all sweetness and smiles. It is this mesmerizing dream world which energizes and motivates Tea Party Republicans like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to work tirelessly to implement the “pro-family” theocratic agenda into every aspect of American society: not only in politics, but religion, family, media, education, business, and entertainment.

Fundamentalist Christians are convinced that contemporary American society is the World’s Most Spectacular Display of hideously mutated, diseased and anomalous freaks. ”Step right up folks!” the preacher yells, “and witness a grotesque parade of ho-mo-sex-uals, lesbians, Wiccans, radical feminists, godless liberals, secular humanists, and …” (congregation gasps!) “Muslim extremists!!”

Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, respectable religious parents scramble to shield their innocent children’s eyes and ears from the depravity and corruption of “The World.” They homeschool and form special Chastity and Creation Science clubs designed to insulate and isolate their vulnerable young from the miscreants and most depraved elements of popular culture.

It’s completely understandable and normal for preteens to create imaginary worlds — their own private, safe hideout where they can dream of nobility, of rising above and doing so much better than the clowns running the Big Top’s Museum of Mutantstrosities. The grown-ups watch in silent, knowing amusement as kids disavow their relatives as “psychos” and “bozos.”

But when otherwise responsible, Christian adults in recent years set out on a mission to create a radically distinct way of life-based on “biblical family values,” the resultant countercultural movement is known as “Quiverfull” has become an all-too-real Hall of Mirrors horror show.

In my own life, perpetual pregnancies destroyed my health, and my indiscriminate acquiescence to my husband’s every whim transformed him from a loving father into a tantrum-throwing tyrant. Burnout and disillusionment led to abuse, neglect, family disintegration and a particularly nasty divorce.

When the dust settled, I took a good look at myself in the mirror. I could no longer deny the strong family resemblance — I saw my mother in my own face staring back at me. After all those years of fighting and denial, I had to finally accept the fact that I really am one of them — I belong to these crazy people. I, too, am a conspicuous oddity — a bizarre spectacle and an embarrassment to my own noble children.

Funny thing is … these days, I don’t mind so much being associated with my misfit clan of circus freaks. Life experience has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the inevitable realities and desperate circumstances which deformed and mutated Mom and the rest of us into shocking and extraordinary creatures worthy of society’s disquietude and awe.

Black market adoption fantasies and youthful idealism are important wayposts on the journey to adulthood. Rebellion against blatant injustice, hypocrisy, moral compromise and the myriad of other common grown-up failure is a healthy manifestation of a kid’s personal power and strong moral agency. Arrogant and annoying, yes — but in moments of truth we have to admit, the kid’s got a point.

Society sucks. Bigotry, racism, inequity, corruption, greed, depravity, malevolence, and all manner of evil abound. Let’s just face the fact that in many ways, the contemporary American social and political scene has devolved to become the World’s Greatest Freak Show.

No wonder Tea Party Patriot families like the Bates and the Duggars escape into their own personal fantasy-land.

Ironically, with maturity comes humility — along with a profound sense of connection and belonging to that wacky bunch of buffoons who share our DNA. We see our people with new eyes. Sure, Grandma’s got a beard and Uncle Stan is a charlatan — Aunt Betty’s such a lunatic, she may as well have two heads. But in the end, they’re all we’ve got. That perfect, royal family whom we imagined searched frantically for us for years and never gave up hope that one day we would return to our true home? They’re not real. Cousin Roger is real — never mind that he doesn’t have a lick of sense and the only thing he’s good for is shoveling elephant shit — he’s the one who truly understands you, knows all about you, and loves you anyway.

Tea Party family values are the fundamentalists’ desperate attempt to deny their own imperfections, vulnerability, and their inescapable mortality. Sure it hurts that they look down on us regular folk — those of us who make no pretense of actually having our acts together — they avoid being seen out in public with us, they disown us, and they shrink away in fear of catching our cooties.

But take heart — perhaps they’ll grow up.

I did. Not saying I don’t still sometimes get all starry-eyed and visionary over the possibility of influencing our society for the better — I’ve got a bit of spunk left in me and I’m doing what I can to stick it to The Man. But I no longer think of myself as qualitatively different or “other” than all the rest of my fellow human beings — my family. My freakish, crazy, wonderfully imperfect people.

I don’t believe in God anymore, but I still have faith. I have hope and I trust that collectively, we’re all gonna make it — we are learning from our mistakes and growing more compassionate. Our shared experiences make us wiser and I have confidence that better times are just ahead.

Jesus, the 12th Man in the Huddle

According to Jason Stein, a sports writer for the Defiance Crescent-News, something extraordinary took place last Friday during the Archbold/Hicksville High School football game.

Stein wrote:

When Archbold quarterback Tyson Dietrich took the snap from center Lee Klinger in overtime and ran 11 yards into the end zone seemingly effortlessly, the Blue Streaks used what little energy they had left in the tank to celebrate what the quarterback called a “miracle of a comeback.”

For Hicksville, a team that looked emotionally drained, it was a bitter way to end a game where it had played so well, but could never figure out a way to close the game out.

As players for the Aces took a knee, laid on the field and just looked exhausted, it was easy to see just how bad they wanted that game. And yet, for as well as both teams played, the best part of high school sports was yet to come.

In an age where arrogance and showboating is too often on the “highlight” reel on TV for players from the pros, college and even in high school, everyone on Friday gathered on the big Hicksville “H” at midfield. And this was not just the red and white jerseys, it included the blue and white as well and all of the coaches.


How could a team that had only a few seconds ago looked so down and another team that was riding the wave of victory quell their emotions? Why would these two combatants, who had just shaken hands as they are required to do, want to spend more time together?



It’s called class.

All game long players were seen helping up the opponent, never showing the other team up, or taking a cheap shot at the other. Maybe this wasn’t as surprising, but it was a great sight of what sports SHOULD be about. Not winning or losing, but coming together at the end, win or lose and being grateful for playing a game on Friday night.

Stein rightly applauds the great show of sportsmanship by the Hicksville and Archbold players. Sportsmanship at all levels is lacking these days and it is refreshing to see players respect their opposition.

The problem I have with this story is the WHY of the sportsmanship. Why did the Archbold and Hicksville players treat each other with decency and respect?

The short answer? Jesus.

Hicksville and Archbold High School both have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. According to Stein’s story this is the reason the players treated each other so well.

Lucas Smith,the coach for the Hicksville Aces, had this to say:

Both schools have a FCA program (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and we invite the visiting players and coaches after the game to come and basically have a little talk together, a nice prayer thanking God for the opportunity to play this game, just looking forward to making men out of these young guys as they go through life.

NW Ohio is overwhelmingly Christian. Evangelical Christianity rules the roost so it is not surprising that Hicksville and Archbold have a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. What is surprising is a school employee, at a organized school activity, sees no problem with offering a “talk” and a sectarian prayer. This is a clear violation of separation of church and state.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) is not a generic, non-sectarian group. Here is how FCA describes itself:

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is touching millions of lives… one heart at a time. Since 1954, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA is the largest Christian sports organization in America. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ.

There is no question about the sectarian nature of FCA. The FCA has a statement of doctrine that makes it clear that they are a Fundamentalist/Evangelical group:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
  • We believe there is only one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
  • We believe in the deity of Christ (John 1:1), in His virgin birth (Matthew 1:18, 25), in His sinless life (Hebrews 4:15), in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood (Hebrews 9:15-22), in His bodily resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), in His ascension to the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:9-11) and in His personal return in power and glory (Hebrews 9:27-28).
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful men (women), regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. (John 3:16; John 5:24; Titus 3:3-7)
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. (John 14:15-26; John 16:5-16; Ephesians 1:13-14)
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost, they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:1-4)
    I suspect the coaches and the FCA will say attendance at the “talk” and prayer is strictly voluntary but as anyone who has ever played team sports knows, few players are willing to make themselves the target of the coach’s disfavor by not attending a team activity. So they quietly submit to acts of worship of the Christian God regardless of whether or not they are a practicing Christian. (and prayer IS an act of worship)

Personhood Ohio and their Attempt to End Abortion in Ohio

Is this a person with a right to all the protections of Ohio Law?

I have written about the issue of abortion many times. The last time I wrote on this issue I was accused of being immoral. How could anyone think abortion is ever OK, I was asked.

Most of the opposition to abortion is driven by Christian, particularly Evangelical and Catholic, religious beliefs. Regardless of common sense or scientific evidence, people continue to insist that life begins at conception. Since life begins at conception, any and all abortions are considered murder. Doctors who perform abortions are murderers. (though rarely is the woman getting the abortion called a murderer. She is considered a “victim”)

Personhood Ohio, a part of Personhood USA, is gathering signatures to put a Personhood Amendment on the Ohio ballot in 2012, This constitutional amendment will effectively outlaw all abortions, even abortions done to save the life of the mother.

The exact text of the amendment is as follows:

Be it resolved by the people of the State of Ohio that Article 1, Section 1 of the Ohio Constitution be adopted and read as follows:

All PERSONS are, by nature, free and independent, have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and seeking and obtaining happiness and safety.

Insert: Article 1, Section 1(b). Person defined:

The word “person” or “persons” applies to every human being at every stage of the biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization.

In June 2001 I addressed the implications of a Personhood Amendment to the Ohio Constitution:

One of the implications of Personhood laws is that they could make the use of birth control pills illegal. (since birth control pills are an abortifacient and can, and do cause spontaneous abortion) 46 years ago in Griswold v. Connecticut the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right of privacy extended to the use of contraceptives and states could not ban the sale of contraceptives. (it is hard to believe there was a time where selling birth control was illegal)

Personhood laws could upend not only Roe v. Wade but Griswold v. Connecticut. If a fertilized egg is a person then any deliberate effort to kill the fertilized egg would be considered murder. A quick perusal of The Pill Kills website will make it clear that the Personhood crowd is dead alive serious.

What are some of the legal implications?

  • All abortion would be illegal, including abortion in the case of rape and incest
  • Abortion to save the life of the mother would be outlawed since it is illegal to murder one person to save another
  • Using any form of birth control that is an abortifacient would be illegal
  • Our entire legal code would need rewritten to reflect that a fertilized egg is a person
  • A person causing a woman to miscarry would be charged with murder.
  • Parents would be able to claim the fertilized egg as a dependent on their income tax return
  • Fertilized eggs would be eligible for adoption
  • Stem cell research would be curtailed and possibly even banned

The battle line is clear. The religious-right has learned that evangelizing people one soul at a time will never give them the Christian nation they desperately want. So they turn to the political process, where they have been very successful in advancing their agenda. Issue by issue they continue to push their agenda forward.

The battle is not about abortion as much as it is about religious dogma. Those pushing the Personhood Amendment in Ohio have no room in their worldview for compromise. After 9-11, then President George Bush, told the world, either you are for us or you are against us. I see this same kind of thinking with those promoting the Personhood Amendment. They are convinced God and the Bible are clear…..life begins at conception (or fertilization) and any termination is murder.

Never mind that millions of people, myself included, don’t believe life begins at conception. However, we also don’t believe in abortion on demand through the entire nine months of pregnancy either.

My position is clear. Here is the breakdown on WHEN abortions occur:

  • 61.8% of abortions occur at nine weeks or less
  • 78.9% of abortions occur at ten weeks or less
  • 89% of abortions occur at twelve weeks or less
  • 98.5% of abortions occur at 20 weeks of less
  • 1.5% of abortions occur after 20 weeks

Nine out of ten abortions occur in the first trimester. I support abortion without exception in the first trimester. I generally support abortion up to viability. (and I know there is debate over when viability is reached) Once viability is reached I do not support the right to an abortion unless the mother’s life is at stake. (and the vast majority of late term abortions are done because the life of the mother is at stake)

Imagine with me for a moment a women who was raped and is now pregnant with the rapist’s child. Do we really want to say to the woman, “You must carry your rapist’s fetus to term.”

Imagine with me for a moment a 14 year old girl who was raped by her step-father. Do we really want to say to the teen, “you must carry your stepfather’s fetus to term.”

Imagine with me for a moment a woman who is pregnant with a fetus that is literally killing her. Do we really want the life of the mother sacrificed so a fetus can live? (who would I choose, wife or unborn fetus. Not a hard choice. I would choose my wife every time)

While medical treatment for birth defects are improving at astounding rates, fetuses are still born with defects that will result in their death in a matter of hours or days after birth. Is forcing a woman to carry such a fetus to term in the best interest of everyone involved? I know there are differing views on this difficult issue BUT Personhood laws cut off all debate. Life begins at conception, end of story.

A Personhood Amendment to the Ohio Constitution will result in women going out of state or to back-alley providers to get an abortion. Since “morning after” drugs will be outlawed women will seek other medical means to terminate their pregnancy.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the religious zealots who are trying to get the Personhood Amendment on the ballot. Driven by their belief in God and a literal interpretation of the Bible they intend to deny every woman in Ohio of the right to control what does or does not happen to their body. Every pregnant woman will be stripped of the right to choose what is medically best for them. If the Personhood Amendment is enacted pregnancy will be the only medical condition a woman has no control over.

Make no mistake about it. The religious zealots pushing the Personhood Amendment have many social and moral issues the would love to regulate by law. Abortion is just one item in their catalog of perceived social ills they would love to regulate by law.

We must push back any attempt to enshrine religious dogma in the Ohio Constitution. I realize we have a tough battle ahead of us. Politically, Ohio has taken a decided turn to the right. Sometimes I wonder where “my Ohio” has gone. Almost every major political office in Ohio has a Republican at the helm. Even here in NW Ohio, Republicans own virtually every political office. A pro-choice person is unelectable. Just imagine the odds of me winning an election as a liberal, pro-choice, atheist. The Bengals have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl this year. (and they have a ZERO chance)

Regardless of the odds, we must make known our opposition to the Personhood Amendment. First, we must try to stop the amendment being put on the ballot. If enough signatures are gained and the amendment makes it to the ballot we must make people aware of the pernicious import of this amendment and defeat it on Election day.

Pastor Mike’s Fictional Enemy the Atheists

Have you seen Pastor Mike’s blog yet? (blog no longer active) He is a King James Only pastor who thinks there should be a National Atheist Registry. He is convinced that atheists are afraid to say publicly they are atheists. Granted some atheists are afraid to say publicly I am an atheist. No wonder with loons like Pastor Mike running free.

Pastor Mike (aka Mike Stahl) is a Fundamentalist looking for a fight with an enemy that doesn’t exist. Evidently, he is unaware of how many atheists are actually out in the open with their atheism. We are not hiding. We are not afraid of the Pastor Mike’s of the world. We are not afraid of the fictional Christian God. Here we are. The last name is spelled G-e-r-e-n-c-s-e-r.

Let me share with you (blog no longer active) some of Pastor Mike’s brilliance:

For example , if you’re an atheist and have a PUBLIC atheist website / blog , organization , etc..then why would you object to me , or ANYONE simply placing your name , home town ( i.e., city and state ) in a nationwide registry? It’s no different than if I were to expose KKK or neo-Nazi members from one of their PUBLIC hate sites. Wouldn’t GOD-GIVEN common sense dictate that if you do NOT want any info about you posted PUBLICLY , then you would not post that info P-U-B-L-I-C-L-Y!!

Evidently, Pastor Mike thinks atheists are in the same category as members of the KKK or Nazi groups. Never mind the glaring fact he seems to miss…. that most members of the KKK and Nazi groups are CHRISTIANS.

Taking a lesson out of Ken Silva’s playbook Pastor Mike refuses to post the comments of atheists. The reason?

No , I’m not afraid. And NO! I won’t post any comments and / or dignify them with people who REFUSE to want to know the truth of God’s Word ( NOT MINE! ). If you ever decide to SINCERELY discuss God’s Word with me , in public or private , you must first ditch your preconceived biases by taking down that atheistic ‘wall of defense’ you have built up. We then have a starting point on which to build an honest and SINCERE dialogue. Barring that , as I said , it’s nothing morer than an exercise in futility. So , you must ask yourself , do you want to pick and start a verbal fight , or do you sincerely want to seek the truth – wherever that leads!

You see Pastor Mike has the truth and all discussions must begin with everyone admitting that Pastor Mike’s truth is THE truth and his truth is the standard of judgment for all things.(1) Like Ken Silva, Pastor Mike isn’t interested in understanding any other position but his own. He has already arrived at destination-truth. Atheists need Jesus. End of story.

Pastor Mike warns atheists about sending emails to him. In typical, arrogant, former police officer, style Pastor Mike writes (blog no longer active):

And , one more thing , any e-mails I receive , I will consider them MY property , and WILL , from this point forward , take it that any e-mails and/or electronic transmissions you send me are MY property , and that by sending them you are giving me permission to PUBLICLY post any and all info in them in any forum , written or otherwise that I so choose , as well as distributing the info to anyone and in any way I so choose – up to and including the e-mail and / or your ISP info!

There are a lot of Pastor Mike’s in the world, especially among those who are King James Only. Zealots like Pastor Mike create a fictional enemy and then wage war against the fictional enemy, defeating the fictional enemy without the enemy ever fighting back. (kind of hard to fight back when he doesn’t allow comments)

Pastor Mike…….here is a little secret for you. Piss ants like you are everywhere. Distracting? Yes. Annoying? Yes. A credible, meaningful threat to the atheist movement in America? ROFLMAO.

Pastor Mike, the comment section is open. Comment away. Opposing comments are welcome, even from those who worship the Christian God. Be careful though……..some atheist just might answer you back and I know that will cause you great consternation.

How about a open dialog with no strings attached. I would be glad to have a open discussion with you on your blog or mine. The only rule? No editing. Come on out from the safety of your keyboard and monitor. Come on out into the big, bad world where evil atheists lurk in the shadows waiting to destroy America. Perhaps you might learning something about us evil atheists.

Pastor Mike thinks that atheists are out to destroy Christianity and maybe some atheists are. Most of the American atheists I know simply want to live in a country where Christianity is not given favored status. They expect a secular state like the United States to bar the door lest the theocrats overthrow the state. Atheists want Christians to have the complete freedom to worship however they want. However atheists expect every citizen to have that same freedom.

John F Kennedy said:

“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute – where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote – where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference – and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.”

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish – where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source – where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials – and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. . . . “

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end – where all men and all churches are treated as equal – where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice – where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind – and where Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

Kennedy was right 50 years ago and he is right today.

(1)I am sure Pastor Mike will says HIS truth is THE Bible, but, as everyone knows, his truth is his interpretations of the Bible not the Bible itself. The Bible can be made to say anything