Domestic violence has no place in religious worship

The following post was written four years ago. I repeat it as domestic violence continues today, and in some cases, were heightened when we had the pandemic shutdown. In a charitable group I was involved with that helped working homeless families, about 1/3 of our victims lost their home as a result of domestic violence abuse.

I listened to a troubling story on NPR about a female Baptist minister being a domestic violence victim. She gained the support of her father, who is the minister of a church, to seek a divorce from her abusive husband. But, the deacons of her church threatened to expel her if she did not recant the divorce.

I have shared before the story of a friend who went to her minister because her husband was beating her. The minister asked to see them both. To her surprise, the minister told her in front of her abusive husband that it was her fault. If she was a better wife, then she would not be beaten.

Both women found new churches. As a Christian, I am appalled that male religious leaders can justify the abuse of another human being from their scriptures. And, other religious leaders can find similar interpretations from wording in their religious texts. So, domestic violence and even honor killings are more acceptable in some cultures.

My response is quite simple. These are crimes. If a religious leader tells you it is OK that a male parent or husband can beat or assault a woman, find another church or religion. A perceived supreme being worth worshipping would not condone such violence, regardless of what the religious texts might be interpreted to say. Women “hold up half the sky” says the ancient Chinese proverb. And, women were very important in promulgating Christianity after Jesus left earth.

My thesis is straight forward. Religious texts were written, edited, interpreted and translated by imperfect men. Even if the words were divinely inspired, they were not dictated. Men wrote them down. Sometimes, they were written many decades after the event occurred. I mention the word “edited” as some chapters got cut from religious text that governs two religions.

Given the two words “imperfect and men,”  it is my view there is no way every word should be held up as true. In fact, gospel is short for “good news.” The news is the writer’s version of the truth, so each gospel or book will include their version of the story based on their male and human biases. If women penned these texts, they would read differently.

So, domestic violence simply should not be tolerated. It is a crime. If my friend had been later killed had she heeded that minister’s advice, he would be culpable in her murder. Again, let me say this boldly. No religious leader should condone domestic violence. He is abetting a criminal act. If yours does, please find another place of worship.

In my worship and charity work, I have met some wonderful religious leaders of many faiths. But, I have also met some whose imperfections are more apparent. Find a religious leader that respects you as a person. They are out there.

Finally, if you, a friend or a relative are in a domestic violence situation, get out. He will not change. I will leave you with a true story told by a friend about his sister. His family of eight brothers and sisters had no idea one of their sisters was being beaten by her husband. She made excuses for missing family events when she could not hide her cuts and bruises. The husband also beat the kids, sometimes picking them up and driving their heads into the ceiling. The brothers and sisters did not know until their brother-in-law killed their sister.

Get out. He will not change. He will beat you. He will then apologize. And, then he will repeat the cycle.

Note to Senators and Congressman – please act on our gun death problem

After watching the President Biden’s very good speech last night asking for our support in addressing our gun death problem, I posted the following short statement on the websites for my two Republican Senators (Burr and Tillis) and Senate Minority leader McConnell. I also posted it on my Republican Congressman’s website.

I watched the President’s impassioned speech on doing something at long last to deal with our gun death problem in the US. We have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two wealthiest nations COMBINED. That is not an enviable standing. I am pleading with you to think like a parent and grandparent and do something. There are measures which are supported by the majority of gun owners that we can build from. If you and Congress fail to finally do something, it will be a disservice to Americans. Please act.

I have posted similar messages over the years, but to no avail. Maybe, just maybe, Americans have had enough with their elected officials, and can squeeze out some leadership from these folks beholden to the NRA. Sadly, these folks have not seemed to care that the majority of gun owners are OK with several changes. We need to make them care.

Quiet resolve equals strength

The following poem is called “Strength in silence and sweetness: ROAR” by our blogging friend Cindy Georgakas. A link to her post is below. Following her poem, is an amended comment I made regarding my thoughts on its veracity.

“There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;

Hear me Roar!

If you cross me, don’t be fooled
by my demure ensemble.

Cover your ears and run for the hills because I’ve hired my entourage to find you.

If you thought you could pull a fast one, think again.

Hear me Roar!

Life was made for making things right and putting an end to the injustices rendered.

Whipping cream is sweet it’s true, but if you’ve run amuck,
pucker up and deal with what life hands you, served on a silver platter.

Hear me Roar!

We gather in the name of God, where sweetness cuts to the chase.

That’s right…NEVER underestimate the silence and power of a woman,
wrapped in whipping cream clouds that smile.

We are woman;

Hear us roar!”

Copyright © 2022 Cindy Georgakas

Allow me to just focus on Cindy’s opening sentence – “There is strength in silence, behind my sweetness;” I have often quoted an old line “do not mistake kindness as weakness.” False bravado means fake bravery. Beating on one’s chest is usually reserved to someone who does not want to fight. The one to worry about most has always been the quiet, pensive one. Think Ukraine President Zelenskyy standing up to an untruthful bully in Putin.

To the point of Cindy’s poem, I am reminded of a true story from one of the most difficult books I have ever read, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn. It is about the maltreatment of women around the globe and the title is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky.

The example is a tribe was left to defend itself with the women and children left in the village. They were housing some injured male warriors. When the enemy came to find them, the women who commanded a lot of respect told the enemy to go on about their business and let them be. And, the enemy did. They were so steadfast in their resolve it intimidated the enemy men.

We should never forget a huge example during the 2016 GOP presidential primary. When Meghan Kelly of Fox asked the future president some tough questions in one debate, he refused to do future debates if Ms. Kelly was one of the interviewers. He was scared of her. What we learned later, he was fed questions by someone at Fox and Ms. Kelly happened to ask him questions about his maltreatment of women that were not fed to him in advance and he did not like it one bit. And, this would not be the first or last time the former president quivered when faced with a female reporter armed with good questions.*

Finally, it should be noted the election in Australia last week where conservatives were swept out was said to be due to a large voting bloc of women who were concerned about climate change action, child care funding, Medicare strengthening and integrity, rather than contrived and overstated issues to cause fear. Women can make a difference and I hope they do. If we do not think this is so, remember what happened in the United States in 2018, when the Women’s March fueled many women winning elections and a changeover in the majority in the House.

*Per Robert Mackey of The Intercept om May 12, 2020: “WHEN AN ACTUAL press conference threatened to break out in the Rose Garden on Monday, as two White House correspondents refused to let Donald Trump silence them, and a third declined his request to change the subject by asking a new question, the president abruptly turned and walked away.” Note the first two reporters were female.

Two questions on gun deaths – a letter to the editor

The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper. It is necessarily brief but poses two questions that I want to ask certain politicians. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you like it.

Members of a political party are saying our gun death issues are not a gun problem, but a mental health one. Two questions. 1) If that is the only reason, then why does the US have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two first world nations combined? I presume these 22 countries have people with mental health issues as well.

2) If this is only a mental health issue, then why are members of this party against expanding Medicaid which provides mental health benefits? The number one cause of gun deaths in the US is suicides. Access to a weapon plays a role and saying it does not is naive and political. All it takes is one impulsive act and it is over.

As a result, any solution has to be multi-faceted to work including better gun governance and access to mental health services as only two of the components.

The majority of people want better gun governance (a redundant plea)

Another week, another mass shooting in America. Ho-hum. Another day, more suicides by impetuous acts and more homicides by uncivil arguers. Boring. And, of course, we have the inevitable accidental shooting by a curious child and discovered weapon. This does not seem to bother anyone, either.

The following is a repeat of post from three years ago. It is a variation of a post I have written countless times. Yet, we do not seem to care. I am glad the president is going after ghost guns, but that is only part of the problem. When the leading US gun death cause is suicide, by far, you would think legislators, especially Republican ones, will stop counting the NRA donations and do something about this obvious problem.

From an article called “Polls find Americans mostly are supportive of stricter laws on guns” by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn of the Raleigh News and Observer, please note the following cited survey results. Note these results have been fact checked by the paper’s Fact Checking Project.

– Gallup’s poll from August, 2019 noted “61% would support a ban on semi-automatic guns known as assault rifles.”

– The Civitas Institute (a conservative policy group) poll from September, 2019 showed “58% of respondents saying gun laws were not strict enough.” Note of the Civitas poll respondents, “48% either owned a gun or had someone in their home who owned a gun.”

– A Quinnipac University poll from May, 2019 showed “61% of Americans support stricter gun laws. The same poll showed 94% of Americans support required background checks for gun buyers. And, 77% of those polled support ‘requiring individuals to obtain a license before being able to purchase a gun.’”

– In 2017, Politifact Wisconsin “found multiple previous polls citing support for background checks ranging from 84% to 94%.”

The numbers 58% and 61% are meaningful, but let’s focus on the 94% (or even 84% to 94%) of respondents who want required background checks and the 77% who want a license before hand.

These are consequential majorities. Earlier this week, the Houston Chief of Police challenged his two Texas Senators (Ted Cruz and John Cornyn) and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to act after yet another police officer was killed.

The NRA has spoken. Now, we need to set their ardent, sales focused rhetoric aside and act sensibly. Just the two items highlighted above will help – background checks and pre-buy licensing. No loopholes. Cars require ownership and driving licenses to operate. Yet, they are not designed to kill.

I am long-ago tired of the standard “thoughts and prayers” line offered by legislators followed by “now is not the time to discuss changes.” Since people are dying everyday by suicide and other reasons, waiting for a time with no deaths will not happen. Further, the mass shootings of more than a few victims are happening with alarming frequency.

To be brutally frank, Democrats should push this issue to the nth degree. Maybe, the Senate and president will act. It matters not who pats themselves on the back – JUST DO SOMETHING! And, these legislators are in my “thoughts and prayers” to actually act like the parents and grandparents we hope they would be.

Truisms of not great importance, mixed in with few that are

A few miscellaneous truisms:

  • a character killed off a soap opera is really not dead; they do come back in new permutations.
  • suicides are more prevalent in homes that have a gun on the premises; all it takes is one impulsive act.
  • the soap actor who played said deceased character is not married to the dead person role, so they may come back in a new role
  • the most prominent reason for gun deaths in America is suicide, not terrorism, not violent crime related.
  • a horror movie bad guy never dies, even when he does; the code word is “sequel.”
  • accidental shootings are one thing we should be able to avoid, yet a sad search to do is to Google “Four-year old kills six-year old” and read the related stories.
  • per Black comedian Chris Rock, a Black crew member on “Star Trek” should not beam down with Captain Kirk, as he is not coming back. Rock is heard to say in his routine, “Brother, don’t go.”
  • allowing guns on college campuses is a horrible idea, as college campuses have a higher rate of depression than in general society – again all it takes is one impulsive act.
  • when the bad guy is shot in a crime show, the police don’t remove his weapon; so someone else tends to get shot.
  • the surveys I have read convey most gun owners want better gun governance laws; yet the gun making lobby is too overwhelming to allow things to get done.
  • if a hospital, police or federal agent team includes a male and female, there will be future episodes of mutual attraction.
  • my own survey tells me I have heard too many “thoughts and prayers” or “it is a slippery slope” comments from legislators who want to stall to let the temperature for change abate. To me, our country needs more political courage to do needed things to make us safer.
  • if you watch Hallmark movies, no lead character is ever divorced; he or she is widowed, often with a child. I guess there are no greeting cards for divorces.
  • one of the things that scares more than me about the increased civil unrest in our country is we have more guns than people.
  • movies on channels with commercials will start immediately following the end of the previous movie’s credits finish – and you wonder why we binge watch.
  • there are changes we can make that people from the two parties can agree, if we can just get them to forget who put the money in their pocket.
  • finally, Chris Rock has a good solution for gun deaths – make the bullets cost $5,000 a piece. Shooters will become more judicious in shooting someone.

A Call to Action – another book on the maltreatment of women and girls

Yesterday, I provided a reprise of a post on the book “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn about the global maltreatment of women and girls. This difficult read speaks of how women and girls are treated as second class citizens or even possession in many parts of the world.

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem.

While we are still only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

And, since Carter is one of the more learned people about the Christian bible having taught Sunday school for many decades, he offers many good examples of how religious text can be taken out of context to diminish women. This is not restricted to the bible as other religious texts have been similar misapplied. It is obvious from the reading Carter is offended by such, as he sees the role of women in the church as a key. My family was no different, as my mother was the religious leader in the family who got us up and to church for both Sunday school and the service.

Our world and country need stronger positioning of women. I am delighted to see more women running for office in the US. At long last, the US has a female Vice-President. And, what I am also witnessing is the more courageous politicians are not necessarily the men. The example of Liz Cheney is a good one as she stood her ground in the eyes of death threats from people in her own party. I will never forget ten female Senators in 2013 told Ted Cruz and other male Senators at impasse to get out of the pool at the very last minute to avoid the US defaulting on its debts.

Half the Sky – a needed relook on the global maltreatment of women and girls

The following piece was posted about eight years ago, but it remains relevant in today’s world. With the Taliban re-seizing control, it shows how any forward progress for women and girls can be jeopardized with more autocratic rule. We must also guard against the ice-picking away of women’s rights even here in the US.

One of my favorite columnists, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, was on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” last night. Kristof has co-authored a book with Sheryl WuDunn, which I have yet to read, but will put it on list to do so. The book’s title is indicated above – “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.” In short, when women are oppressed, it is like trying to survive with half the sky. I have written about this in earlier posts, but merely from an economic growth standpoint, if a country or region oppresses women, they are competing with the rest of the world with only 1/2 of their intellectual capital. But, it obviously goes far deeper and broader than that.

A society that treats women as lesser citizens will not flourish long term. If you oppress women, you are relegating them to a subservient role, and through your teachings, make more women less inclined to “lean in” as Sheryl Sandberg is suggesting. Last night Kristof observed that the better educated a group of people are, both men and women tolerate far less the abuse and oppression of women. Just as bigotry has to be carefully taught per the song from “South Pacific,” the maltreatment of women must be taught as well.

Kristof noted that it is not just the gang rapes in India that are now getting more attention and must stop, it is the maltreatment by male family members of girls that needs to cease as well. To this point, I have seen data which suggests that when boys and girls witness or are victimized by domestic violence, they show a greater propensity as adults than others to either conduct such violence (if male) or associate with someone who is more controlling and could be violent toward them (if female). In other words, the boys are taught by example that it is OK to do this and women are taught they must allow it.

But, this extends beyond the borders of India into many places, especially in several African nations where rivals will rape, maim and abuse women and children. It extends to nations where certain religions make women subservient, where the rape of a wife by a husband is not a crime, e.g. It extends to nations where these same religions do not want to educate young girls as they may get ideas they can better themselves. This denial of education as a means to oppress a group of people is as old as any sin that exists today.

Kristof is optimistic about change. There is a movement that has education, games, film and advocates galore. Please check it out at www.halftheskymovement.org . I made the comment this week, that one of the best things that Hillary Clinton did as Secretary of State, was be a very visible and loud voice for women around the world. I posted last summer that one of the best ambassadors for the US were its female naval officers of very big ships. When Iraqi soldiers wanted to speak with the person in charge saying this directly to a woman officer, she would respond, “I am in charge” and it made a huge impression.

This week a significant leader died – Margaret Thatcher. If you have not seen “Iron Lady” you must. Whether you agreed with all of her politics or not, she made a huge step forward for women and is to be commended. The fact people can openly disagree with her is evidence that she made a difference in moving the ball forward. And, like Jackie Robinson, she had to be tough as nails and not show weakness. The same is true for other great leaders such as Clinton, Golda Meir, Aung San Suu Kyi, Angela Merkel, Christine LaGarde, Nancy Pelosi, Condaleeza Rice and Madeleine Albright to name only a few. In the future, we need to have much longer lists to choose from.

Let me close with a different thought. We need to treat women fairly, just as we would anyone else. I often paraphrase the Golden Rule as they are words to live by – “treat others like you want to be treated.” There are no caveats to this rule. There are no race, sexual preference, ethinicity and especially gender caveats. If we do this simple task that Jesus implored us to do, we will pay it forward. If we teach our kids to do this, they will pay it forward. Just as bigotry has to be carefully taught, so should the Golden Rule. If we do, our world will be different. And, in many more places, the other half of the sky will be engaged, educated and valued trying to make it so.

Note: Since I wrote this I have read “Half the Sky.” It is an excellent book, but one of the toughest books I have ever read. It will frustrate you as it delves into girls being sold to adult men for marriage at very early ages such as twelve or thirteen. It speaks to such girls having babies long before their bodies are ready, so vaginal tearing occurs and can lead to an infection known as fistula, where bowel movements leak into such wounds. It speaks of genital mutilation which occurs in some religions which is forced upon teens without their consent.

RESPECT – a movie worth watching about Aretha

My wife and I saw the terrific biopic about Aretha Franklin called “RESPECT” yesterday starring Jennifer Hudson. Hudson does a highly commendable job as Franklin, but that is less a surprise given her credentials and that Franklin asked her to play the role before she passed.

The acting is excellent with Forest Whittaker playing her dominant father, Audra McDonald playing her mother, Marlon Wayans as a first love interest, and Skye as a young Aretha. The movie pulls few punches showing Franklin’s shortcomings (such as her bout with alcohol) as well as her many successes.

However, the music, its creation and its performance, is what got folks clapping in the theater. Seeing Hudson as Franklin work with musicians to create “I’ve never loved a man” or with her sisters to adapt Otis Redding’s “Respect” is worth the ticket by themselves. Seeing Hudson perform “Natural Woman” and “Amazing Grace” are quite eventful.

The movie is directed by Liesl Tommy off the screenplay written by Tracey Scott Wilson based on the story by Callie Khouri. I will not give any more of the plot away, but simply encourage you to go see it.

Land of Hope and Dreams – a Bruce Springsteen song to relish this July 4th

Whether it is people in poverty, the abused, the disenfranchised, or specific groups whose civil rights are threatened, Bruce Springsteen has been a consistent voice of reason and support. Like Bono, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Elton John, etc., Springsteen does not mind sticking his neck out or lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen for what he does to help. It is not a stretch for him to do so.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Land of Hope and Dreams (Live in New York City) – Bing video