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This book is for you if:
-You know little or nothing about the fundamentalist movement in America but you want to understand why it has become such a prominent force in our government;

-You are concerned or curious about the problem of religious abuse and spiritual bullying that takes place in fundamentalist churches and schools;

-You are still part of the fundamentalist movement but you have doubts, questions or concerns; or

-You want to be moved by reading a good story that will make you laugh, cry and become angry.

Spiritual Probation is available in paperback, Kindle, Nook and iBook, and soon it will be in other ebook formats. Although it is fiction, the story is loosely based on the events surrounding the federal lawsuit of Baker v. Bob Jones University. It is ultimately one young man’s survival of religious abuse, a form of bullying that receives little attention.

What is it about?

Nate O’Connor wants to do right. His senior year of college, though, gets off to a rocky start. He’s a student at Bob Johnson University, the flagship institution of higher learning in American fundamentalism, where he and his best friend are placed on spiritual probation after being accused of disloyalty to the school. Their attempt to repair their reputation backfires and when Nate meets two women–one beautiful and smart, the other wise and charming–his entire belief system is uprooted. Nate’s world is further rocked by tragedy and his life will never be the same.

What are people saying about it?

“Setting his tale inside the closed society of a fundamentalist university, Rich Merritt tells a fascinating story that is alternately disturbing and inspiring. Spiritual Probation opened my eyes and touched my heart.
Joe DiPietro, Tony-Award winning playwright of Memphis

“In every decade, a true classic emerges, which demonstrates the strength of the human will to conquer and survive the ills of its society. Merritt has written such a work in this coming-of-age story of courage and conviction in a world that is perceptively lacking in empathy and compassion for the individual spirit and soul. A poignant ‘must read’ for such present times, which is so heavily burdened with the painful effects of emotional bullying and spiritual abuse, so currently at the forefront of daily life.”
Lynda Mandell, M.D., Ph.D., Board Certified Psychiatrist

“For those of us who have left fundamentalism, our exodus stories are often met with a caveat-emptor-inspired ‘You chose to go there!’ or a flippant ‘You should have known better!’ Merritt’s Spiritual Probation meets those consumerist dismissals head on. Merritt’s is a very human story–with bright, promising young people caught in an oppressive, intrusive ideology and thrown into the most senseless tragedy. … This story is our story.”
Camille K. Lewis, Ph.D., author of Romancing the Difference: Kenneth Burke, Bob Jones University, and the Rhetoric of Religious Fundamentalism

Read Dr. Lewis’s complete review at her blog, “A Time To Laugh.”

“Rich Merritt’s assault on the malign effects of religious indoctrination at faith-based schools combines high drama, hot romance and the pathos of families victimized by name-brand Christianity.”
Elliott Mackle, author of Captain Harding’s Six-Day War and It Takes Two

“Mr. Merritt’s writing is brilliant. His use of certain books of the Bible as chapter names brings home some of the ironies. His subtle cues of timeframes (e.g., songs that may not be familiar to younger readers) may not be immediately appreciated, but like any good book, a second reading brings even more details to the reader’s attention. … The story is painful, yet beautiful. The reader will enjoy the friendship, love, and devotion shown by the principal characters and will despise the treachery, viciousness, and power-mongering demonstrated by the antagonists. Most of all, the reader will be reminded of what it’s like to be alive, young, and on the path to discovery of what matters.”
Leland Dirks, author of Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog


Young Man Expelled For Watching “Glee” Answers Critics

Chris Peterman kriegt seinen Abschluss nicht, weil er "Glee" geschaut hat

Last week I wrote about Chris Peterman, the young man who was expelled from Bob Jones University days before his graduation for, among other things, watching an episode of Glee. Since then, thanks to readers of this blog and many others, the story has been picked up by a countless number of news outlets, including the Huffington Post.  It has received international media attention as well. Even the Russians are calling into question our schools of higher learning. “в Штатах из универа отчислили за просмотр “Glee”. у нас плохое образование, говорите?”

The nature of fundamentalism is that it blinds its adherents to the world around them, because they are taught that the world is an evil place. When a situation like Chris Peterman’s arises, they are unable to see what is really going on. They react by attacking and that’s what they’ve done to this fine young man. They impugn his motives, question his credibility and make false accusations. Rather than link to this detritus, here is Chris responding to these allegations in his own words. I trust this man to be his own best advocate. If you have an ounce of judgment, no doubt you’ll agree.

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“Glee” Is Too Gay For THIS Man’s School?

Earlier this week, Bob Jones University senior Christopher Peterman was expelled for, among other things, watching an episode of Glee. Glee is unacceptable to BJU because of the worldly music, dancing and homosexuality.

What is Bob Jones University? It was founded in 1927 by, guess who? Bob Jones Sr. It was then presided over by his son, Bob Jones Jr.

Meet Bob Jones Jr., who, before he became president of Bob Jones University had aspirations of becoming a thespian:

The Tea Party Marine And The Constitution (and how Bob Jones U gets it wrong…again)

Promotion to Captain, June 1, 1995

When people join the military, they swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” That’s the beauty of our system: there’s no loyalty oath to an individual or even to an office like a monarch or President. It’s to the Constitution.

I like the part about “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” My original idea for a title for my novel Code of Conduct was “Against All Enemies” because in my view, anyone who supported “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was a domestic enemy. I have my reasons. I didn’t go with that title, though, because by the time I published it, about a half dozen authors had stolen my idea for a title.

But that was fiction so it was fine. And I never intended to publish it while I was in the Marines. Part of the reason was that I didn’t know how to publish a book back then but I also understood that Marines don’t criticize their superior officers, including the Commander-in-Chief. Remember, it was President Clinton who passed “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Even when the Navy Times published my column, pseudonymously, in 1997 criticizing “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” I was careful not to criticize the President, as much as I wanted to. Members of the armed forces don’t get to do that. It’s one of the many rights people surrender when they join the military.

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Myth or Fact? “Christians in America today face a situation just like the Jews under Hitler”

(The Columbine tragedy occurred 13 years ago today. This is the final part in a four-part series about the myths that continue to linger from that terrible event. Read parts one, two and three.)

We could discuss other aspects about Columbine. Why boys were able to obtain such powerful weapons so easily. Why Eric Harris’s mental condition wasn’t diagnosed and treated properly. Why boys who had been in so much trouble with the law before had been treated so leniently (psychopaths like Harris can turn on the the charm when it suits them). I highly recommend Dave Cullen’s book, Columbine. He explores these issues and many others. This week, however, I’ve been sticking to the theme of the myths of Columbine and today I’d like to veer off into a discussion of another psychopath: Hitler.

Adolf Hitler was born 113 years ago today. (A few days ago I saw a cartoon on a right-wing Facebook page that showed a guy praying to God, asking Him why the Divine hadn’t sent anyone to cure cancer. God replied: “I did, but you aborted him.” My reaction to that sort of propaganda is: Okay, but don’t we wish someone had aborted Hitler? Maybe in some cases, even from a right-wing perspective, abotion isn’t such a bad thing.) One of the first false rumors to emerge from Columbine was that Harris and Klebold were neo-Nazis who had chosen April 20 because of that connection. Harris had written about Hitler in some of his early journals so people made that assumption. The truth, however, is that the boys never explained why their original choice was April 19, but they discussed “topping Timothy McVeigh,” the Oklahoma City bomber, which had occurred April 19, 1995. When the date rolled around, Harris decided he wanted more ammo so he decided to wait one more day. No explanation. April 20 – Hitler’s birthday – was just a bizarre coincidence.

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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.


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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$700 Million and a leaky hull

It’s a religious holiday weekend but no doubt some of you are taking advantage of the time to do your taxes. What would Jesus think?

As you re-sort those receipts into piles after the dog has barfed on them, wondering if there’s a way you could justify deducting the little critters (2 out of 2 IRS auditors say you can’t), don’t you want to know where your tax dollars are going? You’re no dummy. From the picture to the left and the heading for this post, you’ve probably figured out this is about a ship.

In January, the USS Coronado was christened in Alabama. By the time we buy 20 of these ships, the cost of each “should” be below $400 million. That’s actually a steal for a US Navy combat vessel. But right now, that’s not the way things are looking. The two that exist presently have cost $700 million each. Do you realize that even if you had won the lottery last week all by yourself, you couldn’t have bought one of these boats? Which is exactly what I wanted to do with that money! So, we really don’t know right now what the final cost of each ship is going to be.

Of the two ships on the high seas, apparently one has a cracked and leaky hull. I lived on a US Navy amphibious ship for six months. I don’t think leaky hulls are what they’re going for.  “The story of this ship is one that makes me ashamed and embarrassed as a former Navy person,” Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and onetime Navy pilot, said in late 2010, citing billions of dollars in cost overruns. JOHN McCAIN! The man who picked Sarah Palin to be his running mate without any sense of embarrassment is embarrassed by this ship!

Right now the Navy has 285 ships, making it, as Mitt Romney points out, the smallest Navy since 1917. We can expect Romney to make a big deal about this, as if it’s President Obama’s fault, never mind the reality that ship programs takes decades and today’s ships can do far more than ships could do in 1917. But part of the problem is also the program itself. Ships aren’t supposed to have cracks in hulls. We’ve been building ships as a nation for centuries. Why, taxpayer, is this still happening?

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