20 May 2009

Catholic Church Child Abuse

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse has published a report regarding the systematic abuse and torture by Catholic institutions in Ireland from 1936 onwards of children who were placed in their care.
It is unlikely that any of the abusers identified by the Commission will face prosecution.

The Catholic church has a long history of trying to cover the atrocities it has committed.

12 May 2009

'I'm Going to Church'...The Review

On the way to the church I asked my 2 female friends if they could be themselves and try to ignore the fact that I was there as I wanted them to be their 'normal'.
The building was old with arched stained glass windows and inside the seating was on 2 levels. The downstairs section was crowded and so my friends suggested we head upstairs as the loud rock-style singing belted out.
As we took our seats near the front I was struck by the racial makeup of the congregation - a place that seemed to have almost every different race and mixes present. The black female singers on stage wore denim and high heels and had a slight air of indifference.
My eyes wandered around, darting everywhere as I noticed the peeling paint on the wall across the atrium.
The congregation sang loud and as the song almost came to its natural end a man in a suit with a microphone appeared on stage and said, "Lift your hands high...say, 'Lord, touch my life, I want to be changed, transformed, I give you all the honour and glory' - In Jesus' name."
The people clap and shout praises, waving their arms above their heads. The man starts to mumble and then gets louder and I realise he is speaking some kind of gibberish - 'speaking in tongues' and the people do the same. The murmurs get louder and louder and I watch people around me and a few have tears streaming down their faces. The singers leave the stage and the music stops.

The 1st suited man leaves the stage and another one appears, this time in a darker coloured suit. He tells us about how successful their recent missions have been. He has just returned from Mali where he saw over 500 people give their lives to Christ. (I notice my friends quickly glance over at me at this point. I don't meet their eyes. I don't want to convey my thoughts to them, although they surely know.)
The 2nd suited man continues, telling a story about the old man he met out there who couldn't see and God opened his eyes. And that a little boy was brought to him at the end of the service out there who couldn't speak and Jesus opened his mouth - 'Amen!'. The people said 'Amen!'.

It suddenly dawns on me that my friends had failed to let me know that the church they attend each and every Sunday was a place where they carried out 'healing sessions'. A 'charismatic ' church. I am in shock.

The man tells us to 'prepare for the battle - the final battle'. He hands over to a 3rd man also with a suit and a microphone but this man says he is going to sing a song about the mercy of God. His preamble prior to his song had 'Allejuiah' at the end of each sentence. He starts singing to a backing track. The crowd seems a little bored. I notice a man sitting on the ground floor directly below me with a large Bible open across his lap and he's using a bright orange fluorescent pen to highlight passages. He seems so focused on his task. He's probably mid- 40s. The man on stage is still singing and during his song ushers walk around distributing leaflets. The song comes to an end.
Then a 4th man arrives on stage, someone younger, who talks about the money raised so far to repair the roof and also there will be some a course available over the next few days which will help 'you to disciple to others so they can be led to Christ'. Also they are setting up a group to bring together all the creative members of the congregation so that they can help to 'drive the message forward'.

The Pastor arrives and the 4th man leaves the stage. The Pastor is an older white man who talks about how 'God's blessings' helped a woman to get a rebate of her Council Tax. He then talked about the CDs and DVDs which were available for 14.99GBP and 24.99GBP but could be downloaded for free. He emphasised the benefits of paying for them rather than downloading as they were in beautifully presented cases. He held them up and showed them around, telling the crowd they could buy them on the way out. He calls to the ushers to distribute the 'offering envelopes'.
He tells the crowd that 'god has not forgotten about your physical needs...Ezekiel 36...I will put my spirit in you...you will live in the land...I will save you from all your uncleanness...I will increase the fruits of the trees'. He continues, 'As we give we'll pray. It's like sowing a seed. It's sowing a seed. God knows your needs and gives when you give. The God of abundant supply. How much will your heavenly father provide for you? All these things will be given. He always provides. Amen. Allejuiah!' The crowd shout 'Amen' and 'Allejuiah'. The band and the singers arrive back on the stage and stay in the background.
He tells the crowd that if they complete the information on the envelope they have been given then they qualify for the governments Gift Aid scheme where the church can claim back 29% more than they give. As the ushers make their way around the church handing out the envelopes he asks for the crowd to pray: 'We thank you for people seeking jobs. Those who are struggling with issues, financially and we commit our offerings. Let us sing as we receive the offerings. Let us give and receive your offerings with joy!'
As the band starts playing the congregation stand and sing. A young boy a few seats down from me jumps up and dances wildly to the music. The crowd seems slightly subdued. The Pastor thinks so too and waves his hands at the band who lowers the volume of their playing. 'I don't think you feel it. This song says 'love came down and rescued me, I was once blind and now I see'!' The crowd took the hint and somehow managed to crank it up to a level that was acceptable to the pastor. He smiled. And clapped.
At the end of the song he asked the crowd to be seated. The ushers did the rounds with the envelopes and yellow plastic buckets.

Another man, a new person, arrived on stage - a man with a Northern accent and wearing trainers. He tells the congregated that 'Religion will try to bind you up, but Jesus will set you free' and 'God is not natural, god is supernatural! Amen.'
He talked about how god healed a man 5 years ago who had Parkinson's disease and a twisted spine. No one prayed for him he just was healed. "I get so excited that god wants to bless me with being able to heal through me.' 'You can leave here free cos my yoke is easy.'
He walked around the stage in an excited manner. 'Some fantastic miracles are taking place here tonight. I could jump off a doll's house!' The crowd applaud.
'When you die are you going to heaven? Jesus paid the debt for our sins at Calvary by grace - this was a gift from god. He had a crown of thorns on his head...' (he became choked with emotion at this point) '...he was was dying for YOU! and me...'
'I used to be a gambler and went to the best casinos and had the best cars, stayed in the best hotels but there is no buzz like Jesus! I used to leave nightclubs with pains and I didn't even know where I was. When I found Christ indescribable things happened to me. The Gospel can transform England and the world. This God is a supernatural god and people will be healed.'
He said a prayer for all those who wanted to repent of their sins and receive Christ. He asked for those who had prayed with him who had not yet received Christ to raise their hands. He acknowledged them and thanked them. He asked if there were other people who had not raised their hands but wanted to to do so. A few more people raised their hands. He asked them all to come to the edge of the stage.
He directed his next comments at those people had not come forward, 'You are going to burn in hell if you die tomorrow. This is your final opportunity to receive Christ. Christ died naked in front of his mother for you. Leave your seat that the Devil has you super-glued to right now.'
Turning to the 7 people gathered below him he said, 'I'm going to pray for these people' and he called on the Pastor to join in the prayer. Each person had an usher assigned to them and the the ushers and the new Christians walked off into the back area of the church.
The 2 men were joined on stage by 2 other guys who stood off to one side. The man with the trainers appealed to those who had any pain in their bodies to come up to the front. Along the front edge of the stage were church aides who would greet those people and talk to them. Several people lined up down an aisle. A woman usher assigned each person presenting themselves for healing with an aide. Each aide touched the person and spoke to them in their ears. Some people, after discussions were passed down to a group of men who lined them up near the stairs to the stage.
An elderly woman was ushered up the stairs towards the middle where Mr Trainers man stood with another man. The man asked her where she had pain and she said she felt pain in her foot. She was a woman from Portugal and her English was not fluent. She answered the questions he asked as if she was bewildered by the whole experience. She said she had pain for about 6 months but she hadn't seen a doctor. Whilst she was speaking a 3rd man came up and stood behind her with his hands out - no doubt expecting her to fall over at some point. Mr Trainers Man placed his hand on her head and blew puffs of air 3 times towards her head and shouted, 'Lord, set her free! Loose her from this pain, oh merciful God!' She was asked if the pain had gone. She hesitated and then shook her leg, hesitated again and then said, 'Gone.' The man turned to the crowd and shouted, 'The pain has gone! The pain has gone! The merciful Lord has set her free! Praise God! Allejuiah!' He punched the air. The crowd clapped and shouted, 'Allejuiah!' 'Amen!' 'Jesus is Lord!'
An elderly man limped onto stage and explained that he had fallen down 2 years ago and now suffers from severe arthritic pain. He was supporting it with a bandage but the pain 'comes and goes'. He was a black man with a strong accent from somewhere in Africa. The Trainers man bent over and grabbed the man's knee shouting gibberish/speaking in tongues and exalting the higher power to heal the man and rid him of the knee pain. The 'healed' man was encouraged to walk up and down to show he had been healed. He limped away down the stairs to clapping and whooping. There were another 2 encounters and I think at this point my friends nudged me that they were ready to leave.
I stumbled down the stairs and on the way to the exit had to pass the table of books, CDs, DVDs, brochures, etc. for sale. I collected as much free information as I could.

As we got into the car I was asked what I thought about it. My brain was scrambled at this point. They both wanted my initial views and I stated that it is a money-making con which preys on the weak-minded and the ignorant. I felt violated and angry and sad and so confused that all those people were so sheep-like and pliable.

For me being atheist is so obvious and valid and I had not been in a church situation for years. I had not witnessed these charlatans close up. It was shocking and tragic.
The people commandeering this con weren't clever and yet what did that make those handing over their money and whooping with joy?

One of my friends told me that she has her doubts about the healing and that the church seems to have less crowds each week. Small comfort that things may be changing.Yet the so called healing session was not the issue for me. Some churches have a few prayers, some people pray at home in private - if you put it all into a bag it is all a belief in the supernatural. The differences are are all about degrees and it is one and the same. The people are being fed a line and they believe it. They suspend all forms of rationality and avoid critical analysis of the information presented to them and swallow the con whole.

I have tried to record the events as I saw them, through my own eyes and in a later post I will write a commentary. Please share your thoughts.
P.S. I do know that not all churches are like this one but the point is they all believe. I don't.

10 May 2009

I'm Going to Church...mini-update

I attended a church service today and quite frankly I am traumatised.

The experience was so horrific and so sad that I need a day or two to collect my thoughts in order to write my review.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I hadn't forgotten.
Bear with me.