Student Expelled From College Days Before Graduation For Watching “Glee”

(This just in: DailyKos reports on Christopher Peterman story!)

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This is not a headline from The Onion. It happened to Christopher Peterman on Tuesday.

Here’s what really happened.

In the late 1990’s, a 15-year old girl was raped by a married man at her fundamentalist church in New Hampshire. She became pregnant. When the girl reported it to her pastor, the pastor had her publicly apologize to the congregation for her role in an adulterous relationship. Then he sent her to live with people in Colorado where she had the baby and gave it up for adoption. The pastor’s name was Chuck Phelps. (No apparent relation to Fred Phelps of the Westboro Church in Kansas).

A year ago, ABC’s 20/20 aired an entire episode on this incident, with Elizabeth Vargas reporting. Soon after, the rapist was brought to trial, convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced by a judge to 15-30 years in prison, where he is today.

As it turns out, however, the pastor who covered this man’s crimes for fifteen years remained on the board of trustees of Bob Jones University, the self-proclaimed “Fortress of Faith” in Greenville, South Carolina. The founder of BJU famously said that if his university ever strayed, he hoped alumni and students would take action and demand the administration “Do right.” His most famous saying was “Do right til the stars fall!”

Christopher Peterman decided to do just that, to follow the founder’s admonition and demand that BJU “Do right” and remove Chuck Phelps from the board. BJU, in typical fashion, rather than do the right thing, threatened Chris with expulsion if he continued to protest the school’s board member.

Chris refused to be silenced. Rather than back down, he organized a protest of students and alumni. A protest at Bob Jones University! Last December, those who opposed BJU’s decision to keep Phelps on its board wore red to show their opposition to Phelps. A BJU spokesperson told a reporter that the university would take no retaliation against any students organizing or participating in the protest. Days before the protest, in an unprecedented move, Phelps stepped down from the board. Naturally BJU said his resignation had nothing to do with the protest.

At BJU, however, nothing is ever as it seems. Despite its claims that no retaliation would be taken against the students, Chris became a marked man. He was called into meeting after meeting, sometimes in the middle of the night, to talk about his spiritual condition with a dean. They moved an informant, a resident assistant, into his room, to report on his activities. Finally, days before he was to have graduated, they expelled him. Supposedly, his expulsion was due to an accumulation of demerits for offenses like watching Glee. But we know the truth and the truth has a nasty habit of coming back to haunt those who don’t want the truth to be known. Just ask Ernie Willis. He’s just begun a 15-30 year prison sentence because the truth, although slow, eventually became known by everyone.

Here’s what happened in Chris’s own words:

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Myths from Columbine, Part Three – Columbine and Christ

The past two days I wrote posts about the Columbine shootings that took place 13 years ago this week. Part one was about nine commonly-held misconceptions about the tragedy; part two was about the story of Cassie Bernall and the legend that has arisen about her death.

One of the lessons of Columbine that is overlooked is that it illustrates in real-time how a myth is created. I use “myth” here in the modern sense, to mean something that isn’t true. Without going off on a tangent, the actual definition of myth, according to the late Joseph Campbell, is “truth speaking to us as metaphor.” Although I prefer Campbell’s usage, I’ll succumb to modernity for this post and use the word to mean a falsehood.

Within minutes after Cassie’s death, the rumor began that she had died as a martyr for Christ and because of her mother’s book and the song by Michael W. Smith, the odds are that most people today who know of Cassie believe in the literal truth of her martyrdom. Think about – it’s been only 13 years, with all the modern technology we have and people still believe a legend rather than the factual account.  (Perhaps it’s BECAUSE of modern technology, but that’s another subject…) Now, go back in time to the desert of the Middle East 2000 years ago. Bart Ehrman has written extensively about this subject; most of the information below is from Jesus Interrupted: Revealing The Hidden Contradictions In The Bible (and why we don’t know about them).

The year is approximately 30 A.D. (or 30 CE as it’s now called). There were no recording devices, not even pencil and paper. Let’s assume Jesus did live (even though there’s no record of his existence other than the Biblical account and the manuscripts that didn’t make it into the Bible). The disciples and the others who followed him didn’t write down his words; most of them were illiterate fishermen or other laborers. After Jesus died and his followers dispersed, how do you think his story was recorded? That’s right, by word of mouth. For almost forty years, the story of Jesus was passed around his groups of followers and early converts verbally. Imagine the children’s game of telephone for over a generation. How accurate is it going to be?

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Myths from Columbine, Part Two – What Did She Really Say?

On April 20, 1999, 12 students and 1 teacher were murdered at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado by two students who committed suicide. Yesterday, in Part One, I wrote about ten commonly-held beliefs about Columbine that aren’t true, and I discussed reasons for the first nine.

I saved the tenth for today.

CASSIE BERNAL – Did she really say “yes”?

Columbine is etched in our national memory as one of the most horrific tragedies we’ve endured, and the suffering of the victims’ friends and families continues to be a painful reality. Apart from the tragic aspect, however, the most intriguing component of Columbine involves Cassie Bernal, and what the aftermath of her story says about the nation and about the concept of truth and myth.

Immediately after the shootings, a story began circulating about a girl named Cassie Bernall. Cassie was in the library along with dozens of others when they heard shots. As confusion ran through the building and Harris and Klebold entered the library, some students hid under tables while others managed to escape. One of the students who escaped reported that he heard one of the shooters ask Cassie if she believed in God. When Cassie said “Yes,” the shooter killed her.

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Myths from Columbine, Part One – What You Think You Know

Thirteen years ago this week, twelve students and one teacher were murdered at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. The two students who committed the murders, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, also killed themselves in the attack bringing the death toll to 15, the deadliest high school massacre in American history. Most of us remember the horrible scenes from that day and recall the news that emerged from the tragedy. The facts of that day are now a part of American history, including a book titled Columbine by Dave Cullen.

So, here’s a history quiz.

TRUE or FALSE:

1). The shooters – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – were part of a group known at Columbine as the “Trench Coat Mafia.”

2). Harris and Klebold were Goths.

3). Harris and Klebold were fans of Marilyn Manson.

4). Harris and Klebold specifically targeted jocks.

5). Harris and Klebold specifically targeted minorities.

6). Most of the kids shot were on a hit list.

7). Harris and Klebold were gay.

8). Harris and Klebold were both psychopaths.

9). Harris and Klebold chose April 20 for the shootings because it was Hitler’s birthday.

10). Cassie Bernal was killed because she said she believed in God.

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Jews are not God’s chosen people…WE ARE!

Whenever I’m at a loss for something to write, which isn’t often, one reliable source to break through my writer’s block, my personal brand of Drano if you will, is World Magazine. I don’t know much about World Magazine except that I don’t have to search the website much to find something utterly disagreeable. Thanks to Twitter I don’t even have to visit their overly-crowded homepage; usually, they showcase their most profound nonsense via tweets.

Today’s prize goes to Alex Tokarev and an article titled “Religion in Politics.” Tokarev makes the usual religious claims that the founding fathers wanted religion in politics. That’s complete bullshit but rather than dive into a discussion of why, I’ll refer you to a excellent book on the topic by Garry Wills titled Head and Heart: American Christianities. America exists only because a group of wise men designed it to keep religion out of the government. Period. End of discussion. That part of Tokarev’s tripe is stale and uninteresting.

Another part of his piece also isn’t new – the Christian church has been making the claim for 2000 years – but you don’t see it as often these days. He writes: “Christ was crucified, the gospel rejected, the Church persecuted. The temple was destroyed, the nation of the old covenant was scattered, the priesthood was taken away from the Jews, and the Christians became the new chosen people.” (bold typeface is my addition)

Here are the facts and reasonable assumptions we can take from this article:

  • Tokarev has chosen a specific type of the Christian lifestyle.
  • He believes that only those who have also chosen this lifestyle are “God’s chosen people.”
  • Because God has chosen Tokarev and others like him, they, more than anyone belong in positions of national leadership.

America is a nation of many people and many different religions as well as people who have no religion. Believing that you are God’s chosen people, and are divinely ordained to rule over everyone else, is the height of arrogance. If we ever need “Exhibit A” for why religion has no place in government, Tokarev and World Magazine would have a purpose.

Landlord Refuses To Display Atheists’ Billboard

An atheists’ organization thought they had posted a billboard in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. The landlord, however, had other plans and at the last minute refused to allow the billboard to be installed.

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This is the type of issue that grabs me by the gray hairs. FREE SPEECH!!! RELIGION!!!

The problem with the billboard is the message itself. The first two words, “You Know” are infuriating enough. Don’t tell me what I know! It’s rude. It’s like pointing your finger in someone’s face.

It’s also wrong. And this is my problem with the type of atheism that insists deep down we all truly know there is no God. It sounds an awful lot like another kind of ism I’ve learned to despise. Fundamentalism.

Because the truth is that we don’t know. No one does. Not really. Many of us want to know. I do. But people who tell their kids all the time “You can’t have everything you want!” don’t apply that principle to the most basic existential dilemmas. As much as we crave answers to life’s unanswerable questions, we have to learn to be okay with not knowing.

FURTHERMORE, MYTHS ARE REAL!!!
The late great Joseph Campbell devoted his life teaching that “Myths are truth speaking to us as metaphor.” Jesus used parables to teach so obviously there’s something to mythology, right Christians?

It’s great to get ideas out there and this landlord is probably a putz but come on, have some cojones and put up a billboard that says “We really don’t know. And that’s okay.”

Coming out all over again

This blog is about creativity.  The plan is to promote and support the many artists I’ve enjoyed meeting since I moved to New York last year.  The goal is to help those who use their imaginations to create something get their creations out there:  authors, musicians, playwrights, artists and others.  But first things first…

I’ll begin with The Bible

Genesis – “The Beginning.” Genesis begins “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  But what happened next? 

Because the Bible has been intelligently designed, the order of the books is as important as the writings those books contain.  After Genesis, the second book is Exodus, which literally means the road out. God’s message is pretty clear:

First we begin; then we come out.

Moses Leaving Egypt“Life as a journey.” Probably the most common theme in literature, next to “Good vs. evil” and often those two themes are combined.  Journeys are about leaving one place (the Exodus) and finding another – hopefully better – place, like The Holy Land. 

Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about the meaning of literature and mythologies’ many references to the “journey” theme in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.  As he points out, in every religion or mythology, there are many journeys – becoming a man, becoming a woman, finding oneself, the hero’s adventure.  

One journey that has captured the nation’s attention over the last few decades has been the journey out of the closet of denial about one’s sexual orientation. 

But there are many ways to come out.  When my friend Shannan first contacted me, she described leaving fundamentalism as her own form of “coming out” and that description has resonated with me in many other ways.   Some have come out of bad relationships.  Others have come out of addictions. 

My latest coming out has been challenging and I’m not done yet.  For the last few years I’ve described myself as a lawyer / writer but secretly I clung to the “lawyer” part because being a writer is terrifying.  Well…in a coming out of sorts, with a 2-year old memoir and a novel on the way, it’s pretty hard to deny I’m a writer.  But I still practice law even though it’s not what I want to do.  I feel like I’m stuck in the Red Sea crossing, with Pharaoh’s army closing in behind and the walls of water about to come tumbling down.  Melodramatic?  Perhaps.  To quote a line from a favorite new musical of Jonathan and mine, “I don’t know where this metaphor’s going, but I felt it just had to be said.” It illustrates the point. 

And of course, today… I’m “coming out” as over 40, perhaps the most frightening “coming out” for any gay man in America.  But hey, in the movie version, Moses is over 40 and he looks hot.

Next blog … the Exodus perversion. 

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