Saturday, April 30, 2016

Charlie Johnston Lies about Me - and I Admire Him for It!



Charlie Johnston is from Belleville.

If you come from St. Louis, that's all you need to know.

Charlie is the kind of guy you'd meet in a bar in Belleville, Illinois - a working class community across the river from St. Louis, where I'm from.  Guys from Belleville - and from all over Southern Illinois - are characters.  They come up with tall tales and you sit on a bar stool listening to them and you take everything they say with a grain of salt because they're from Belleville.

Charlie Johnston is a liar.  Or a teller of tall tales.  Take your pick.

He says an angel is giving him secret messages.  He says, among other things, that the last normal Christmas was Christmas of 2013, and if you didn't notice how abnormal Christmas of 2014 and Christmas of 2015 were, that's not his fault.  He says that his angel has told him that Obama will not finish his term; that he will convert and that the 2016 elections will be suspended.  He says that the Virgin Mary will publicly appear in 2017 and that there will be a utopia of Christian believers on earth from that point forward.  He says he walked across America - even though he appears to be in his 70's, is overweight, admits to having nerve damage, and his own posts on his Facebook page prove that he did no such thing.

On Friday, April 29, the National Catholic Register published a well written and well researched article by Patti Armstrong detailing Charlie's weirdness and the bishops who have warned their flocks about him and banned him from speaking in their dioceses.  In that article, Patti quotes me, and my two posts on Charlie (this one and this one).

Charlie's response?

Before I tell you Charlie's response, you have to realize what happens when a guy from Belleville starts telling tall tales - claiming an angel is giving him visionary messages that are patently absurd, claiming he's walked across the United States, claiming a cataclysm is coming, the date of which he keeps changing - when a guy from Belleville starts telling tall tales and suddenly discovers that there are a ton of Devout Catholics who, for whatever sick reason, ARE ACTUALLY BELIEVING HIM!

Now if you're Charlie Johnston and you've been making this up as you go along, what do you do when the National Catholic Register links to an article by a guy named Kevin O'Brien, a guy from across the river in St. Louis, who has proof that you've been lying about one big thing in particular - your walk across America?

You could attack this Kevin O'Brien in a number of ways.  He's a public figure, he's a sinner, he's got a temper, he's vulnerable.

But let me make a comparison.  If you notice, people who hate the Catholic Church hardly ever hate it for valid reasons - the sex scandal or the corruption in Rome or bad bishops - they usually hate it for really bizarre reasons, like "The fishing industry has the Pope in its back pocket, which is why Catholics have to eat fish during Lent" or "Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and Dan Brown was right and Mother Teresa was evil".

Likewise, Charlie Johnston (who's from Belleville), and who could, if he wanted, dig up some real dirt against me and do some damage (frequent sinner and occasional jerk that I am) - Charlie does what any other teller of tall tales does when he realizes he's been knocked off his bar stool and the gig is up.

He lies.

Boldly.  Completely.  Out of thin air.

He makes up a totally bizarre fib out of whole cloth and sells it - even though it's a lie that is impossible for him to support.

Here's what Charlie says about me (my emphasis) ..

She also cites blogger Kevin O’Brien who, some time back, did an unhinged attack piece, in which he didn’t allow any comments. It was chock full of misinformation, including that I had never taken a pilgrimage at all and that I was raising MILLIONS (use your best Dr. Evil voice) for the Shrine through the donations button on my website. I corresponded with him for a few days, noting that I do not have and never have had a donations button on my website. Oops – he corrected it without noting any correction had been made. Old-time journalistic ethics allow for minor grammatical and spelling edits to be made without publicly acknowledging it, but require any substantive edits to be disclosed. The business on the pilgrimage was strange. There were literally thousands of contemporary witnesses who were virtually following me on my way. Over a few days, O”Brien edited and re-edited that portion of it, again without acknowledging he had made any errors in the first place. The last time I looked he concluded that I had “only” walked 1,700 miles, that it was not coast to coast, and that I accepted rides from people who offered.

Now CHARLIE JOHNSTON HAS NEVER CONTACTED ME!  He did not correspond with me for a few days.  This is an incredibly bold lie, and an incredibly stupid one.

So let me address Charlie for a moment.

Charlie, either you're lying or I am.  If I'm lying, and you and I did correspond for a few days, as you claim, all you have to do is produce the correspondence to prove it.  Where are these "few days" of emails or letters, Charlie?  You cannot produce them because they do not exist.  Charlie, you are lying.

And I edited my original post once, to take out a reference to Father Corapi, a reference that did not fit.  Other than that, I have not changed one thing in my original post since I published it last fall, despite what Charlie claims.  I have never written that Charlie had a donation button on his website or that he was raising millions or that he walked anywhere near 1700 miles.

Again, if I'm lying and you're not, Charlie, prove it.  I have screen shots of your Facebook posts that demonstrate that you did not walk across America (in case you decide to delete them from Facebook).  Do you have screenshots of the various changes you claim I made on my site?

Well, I don't mean to be angry or nasty.  I like Charlie.  I really do.  How can you not like a guy from Belleville who lies like this?

I called Charlie yesterday after he lied about me.  "I want to tell you that I admire you for lying so boldly," I told him, and I meant it.  It takes guts to lie like this.  "But of course," I continued, "you have no evidence to support your lies, which you should have realized before you told them."  At which point, Charlie went ballistic, said that I was the one who was the liar, and hung up on me.

Later, this happened ...

charliej373 says:



I just had a call from Kevin O’Brien, congratulating me on being a “bold liar.” I hung up. I have had my say – and they have had theirs. Let them continue.

Like

Ha!  I'm an "ambitious young sort"!

Do you know how long it's been since I've been an "ambitious young sort"?  It's been years!  

I love you, Charlie Johnston.  You are an American icon - a religious huckster; you're a biblical icon - a false prophet; you're an eternal icon - an emperor without any clothes, and your fans keep admiring how well dressed you are.  You pull tall tales out of thin air and you're as amazed as I am that your fan base believes you - because you're not at all good at lying, but your True Believers don't care; they eat it up no matter what you say.

I really admire your guts and the inanity of your lies.  The next time you're in Belleville, I'll drive across the river and buy you a beer.

I'm not mad that you're lying about me.

I'm mad that your followers are believing you.




Saturday, April 9, 2016

Identity, Act and Destiny

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Mat. 7:16-20

Loren Copp.

The Riverfront Times ran an article in December that was very sympathetic toward a St. Louis businessman who claimed to be helping troubled teens, Loren Copp.  Copp, it turns out, has now been arrested on child abuse charges, and the evidence against him is said to be a video of him having sex with a 12-year-old girl, a girl that he had taken under his wing and was "caring for".  The RFT is now reporting that Copp's supporters, including his attorney, have suddenly abandoned him, in light of the evidence that has led to his arrest.

And, of course, there have been lots of red flags over the years.  A commenter at the RFT's website notes ...
This man has had numerous, I mean numerous, lawsuits and allegations, throughout Illinois and other places. He has ruined businesses, not to mention many people's lives. He has been the source of divisiveness, while proclaiming that he is an agent for unity. Yet, he continues to want to paint himself as the picture of the compassionate martyr. In previous comments from other articles, someone stated that the truth will come out. Well guess what? The truth is coming out. 
Comedy is about the truth coming out, about masking and unmasking, about our real Identities being revealed under the pretenses we put forth.  That's why comedy, in the literary sense (apart from mere laughter), is so satisfying.

Therefore what interests me about this story is that even in this age of phenomenalism we recognize Identity; we recognize a unity behind the scattered bits and pieces of evidence, an Actor behind the actions, a real face behind the false one.  "Ye shall know them by their fruits" means that Identity precedes Act.  We are not just people who do random things.  Each of us has an Identity, and from that Identity we operate.

But it works both ways.  What we do also changes who we are.  I am thinking of one friend in particular who became more and more selfish the more selfish choices she made in her life, so that, over the years I knew her, a good person became a bad one, and a young woman who could have gone either way became a mature woman who had become untrustworthy; she was no longer a good or a mixed person doing occasionally bad things, she was a selfish and bad person who consistently acted according to her character.

For, eventually, Act and Identity become one - for better or worse.  Worst case scenario: Smeagol becomes Gollum.  Best case scenario: Francis becomes St. Francis.  Our ultimate destinies, heaven or hell, then, are not so much rewards or punishments doled out to us by the Judge Judy in the Sky, but the final affirmations of who we are, the inevitable consequences of our free will and character, our Identities.  If we are "thrown into the fire" it is not just because of our bad fruit, but because we are bad trees and can no longer bear good fruit - though, of course, He is the vine and we are the branches and it is His fruit that we bear when we live through Him.

So that when St. Paul says, "I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2:20), he is saying, my Identity has changed.  I am no longer condemned to be a bad tree bearing bad fruit.  I have been grafted on to a living vine, and I no longer am who I once was.

This simple insight is resisted everywhere we look.  We think that in order to be forgiving or forbearing we are obligated to accept what's on the surface, to believe our neighbor's mask, and not to recognize the hidden face underneath.  We don't want to see the trail of accusations, failed businesses and hurt people behind a Loren Copp; we don't want to think that there's a unity indicated by the scattered indicia all around us, a substance behind the possibly disconnected phenomena we observe.  

Perhaps this is because we know our own jumbled souls, and we see how we can become either our best selves or our worst selves quite easily.  And in God's mercy, our Identities are never finally fixed in sin; we can always repent and be crucified, to live as New Creations, to bear His fruit.

But bad people do bad things.  And bad things are usually done by bad people.  That great and simple truth is one of the most unpopular in our world today.

The meaning of our lives is wedded to the mystery of who we are.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Why We Must Accept "Gay Marriage"

The following quotations (with my emphases in bold) are about the effects of "phenomenalism" on our souls, the belief that individual events or details are all that compose reality.  Phenomenalism (as used by this author) means that there are no unifying principles of being, no "substances" indicated by the disconnected bits of data we observe.

In a world that has become "phenomenally obsessed", we believe ...

... what can be done should be done.  As a consequence, we must observe the transplantation and destruction of whole populations, the machine-gunning of fleeing civilians, terror-bombing and pulverization of towns, and the horrors of extermination camps.  The tools cease to be simple instruments of execution in the service of substantial purposes and gain a momentum of their own that bends the purposes to the technical possibilities.  

In other words, if we don't perceive an end or a structure that rises above mere abilities or desires, we become monsters.  The disconnected things we do become our masters.

There is the most intimate connection between the comic strip and the concentration camp.  The man who runs away from an invasion from Mars [as in The War of the Worlds broadcast panic] because the comic strip and the broadcast have decomposed his personality and the SS man who garrotes a prisoner without compunction because he [the SS man] is dead to the meaning of his action in the order of spiritual reality are really brothers under the skin.

And close kin to "gay marriage" advocates, I would add.

"Gay marriage" is simply phenomenalism applied to the family.  There always have been and always will be "gay" people.  There always have been and always will be various "paraphilias", or what used to be called perversions.  There is no "substance" to love or sex or marriage.  They are all mere phenomena, things people do.

But the irony is that if that's all there is, mere phenomena, then we inevitably are slaves to these disconnected acts of ours.  "What can be done must be done".  If two men are willing to engage in anal sex and call that an act of love and marriage, then we must concede, in the same way that if we can equip drones with nuclear warheads, we eventually "must" do so.   

We are forced to swallow the lie of "gay marriage" in the same way that we are forced to swallow the "global economy" or tanks in Ferguson or concentration camps or Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton or college students offended by professors and demanding that they be fired.  We just do what we do.  There is no unifying principle.  It is all phenomena, no substance.

Every thing you do with your genitals is OK.  Only mutual consent restrains you legally, and that's only by a kind of social contract, not by any true underlying principle.  

"It's all good".  Because there is no good.

And ...


Phenomenalism has gone further toward transforming our society into the combination of a slaughter house with a booby hatch than many contemporaries are still sane enough to realize.


... these are all from Eric Voegelin, The History of Political Ideas, Volume VII.  This is a textbook he wrote!  Imagine if all textbooks were this much fun! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mother Angelica, Pray for Us


I am in Minneapolis with my friend Dale Ahlquist of the American Chesterton Society and the EWTN series The Apostle of Common Sense.  We were together at Easter dinner when we learned of the death of Mother Angelica.  Soon after that, we were both interviewed by Matt Swaim of the Son Rise Morning Show.  I will put a link to the interview up once it's posted on Sound Cloud.

EWTN saved the Catholic Church in America.

Mother Angelica allowed Our Lord to work miracles through her.  She was a Christian of great faith and common sense.

God grant her eternal rest in Your Eternal Word.  Mother Angelica, pray for us!


Friday, March 25, 2016

We have Met the Antichrist and He is Us

A Good Friday Reflection



What strikes me about today's reading - the Passion from the Gospel according to John - is the I AM of Jesus vs. the I AM NOT of Peter.

Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, 
went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?”
They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”
He said to them, “I AM.”

... and they fall back, stunned.  This is repeated.  Later ... 

Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, 
“You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
He said, “I am not.”

I AM is, of course, the Holy Name of God.  In it is contained the mystery of being.

And our denial of Christ, our denial borne from fear and self-will can be no more in the end than I AM NOT.  We are the antichrist; we have met the antichrist and he is us.

Also, I am struck by how perfect this story is, far too perfect for any fiction writer.  The fact that Good Friday coincides with Passover, the fact that the Suffering Servant prophecy from Deutero-Isaiah, written 700 years before the birth of Christ (today's first reading), describes Our Lord with an accuracy that even the Apostles did not fully realize, the fact that human nature is so perfectly presented in the tale of the Passion - neither fiction nor drama nor myth has ever approached the richness and complexity of this true story, considered merely from the point of view of literary criticism.  The Passion draws together threads that had been weaved and left mysteriously untied in Scripture, some for over a thousand years at the time.   No writer of fiction could have done this.

And beyond that, dear readers, is the daily and hourly weight of sin.  Some of you are far too young and far too hopeful to feel it as I do and as some of the rest of us do.  But we are in such desperate need of a Savior, especially in how we are ignorant of our need of a Savior, in our smug self-satisfied way of going about and doing harm and being quite sufficient on our own, thank you, with our perversions and our betrayals and our diversions that we cover over with make-up and make-believe as if they were mere blemishes and not the fruit of our inner rot.  We are I AM NOT and we are proud of it.

Today, the day that God died, may we simply pause and realize the horror of it all, and the horror of our puny I AM NOT, submitted to and remade by the great I AM. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Charlie Johnston's Followers take the Next Wrong Step

NOTE - On April 29, 2106, Charlie Johnston responded to this post and my previous one with outright lies, doing his best to libel me in the process. I go into detail about that here - Charlie Johnston Lies about Me - and I Admire Him for It! Charlie is one of the most outrageous frauds in the Catholic Church. He actually fascinates me - in a sad way. Read on ...




Charlie Johnston is a false prophet.

His archbishop has "strongly" advised Catholics to be cautious of him.  His archbishop has also banned him from speaking in his own archdiocese.

Charlie, in the great tradition of false prophets, has spun this warning to his own advantage, and Charlie's True Believers have rallied around him and have been guzzling the Kool-Aid since the bishop's letter and Charlie's spin appeared earlier this week.

I posted about Charlie Johnston last fall, detailing at least one of his prophecies that have proven false, and detailing, from evidence on his Facebook page, that he did not walk across America, as he continues to claim he did.  And while Charlie is stretching the truth at best and lying at worst when he insists that he walked across the U.S., his other claims are based not on his own tall tales, but on purportedly revealed truths and warnings given to him by an angel of God.

Charlies says his angel has been appearing to him and warning him of dire things to come, including the suspension of the 2016 elections, Obama not finishing his term as president, Obama converting to the Catholic faith, the end of "normal" Christmas, worldwide financial collapse, and the appearance of the Virgin Mary in a universal apparition during 2017, with all of the turmoil of our suffering resolving itself into a utopian peace on earth after the appearance of Our Lady.

It is, of course, patent nonsense on the surface, and Charlie, a good old boy from Belleville (across the river from me) seems to have fallen into something he wasn't planning - a cult status among gullible Catholics.  What is disturbing is not so much that Catholics lust after the lurid, or that Catholics want their Faith to be indistinguishable from a National Enquirer headline, or that Catholics tire of the daily drudgery of picking up our crosses in small ways and conforming ourselves to Christ; what is disturbing is that Charlie is getting good at this.  He's learning how to work these people.

Comments are open.  Feel free to excoriate me and make fools of yourselves.  But respond at the very least to the evidence I present in my previous Charlie post that Charlie has been lying about his so-called walk across America.  And if he's lying about that - or even stretching the truth about that - why would we believe him about anything else, especially things that are prima facie ridiculous?

Meanwhile, for those of you who are sane, rest assured that not all Catholics buy this garbage.  The archbishop of Denver doesn't; only the fringe does, and when the Charlie Fad ends, they'll be on to someone else, someone even more ridiculous and even more dangerous than Charlie is.

***

Here's the story on Charlie from the Denver Catholic Newspaper.  Note that, since the archdiocese conducted a "preliminary investigation", the question of the veracity of the so-called visions, and of the angelic or demonic character of the so-called angel was not examined.  For a preliminary report, this is devastating to Charlie - though his followers won't admit that.



Archdiocese releases statement on alleged visionary Charlie Johnston

Caution urged in face of claimed divine visions and messages  

MARCH 07, 2016
The Archdiocese of Denver released a statement on the alleged visionary Charlie Johnston, urging the faithful to “exercise prudence and caution” with regard to his claims that he has received “divine visions and messages.”
The statement, released March 7, reveals that the archdiocese has conducted a preliminary investigation into the writings and speeches of Johnston that date back to 1998.
“Johnston claims to have received both visions and messages from the Blessed Mother, the Archangel Gabriel and other saints since he was young,” the statement discloses. “According to Mr. Johnston, the purpose of these visits was to train him to serve as a messenger for God and strengthen the faithful, particularly during a time of economic and moral upheaval, which he refers to as ‘The Storm.’
“In his writings and in person, Mr. Johnston also insists that the ‘prophetic’ aspects of his message are not essential and should not be the focus of those who follow him. However, it appears that those same predictions are what attract new followers to his message and give them a sense of urgency and zeal.”
Chancellor David Uebbing explained to the Denver Catholic that “the scope of the commission created to assess Mr. Johnston’s messages was limited to conducting a preliminary investigation. Should Archbishop Aquila later decide to launch a full-fledged investigation, the question of whether or not Mr. Johnston’s alleged visits from saints and angels are divine would be addressed. As a result of the preliminary investigation, Mr. Johnston will not be approved as a speaker in the Archdiocese of Denver.”
The full release is below.
Statement on the alleged visionary Mr. Charlie Johnston
On March 1, 2016, officials from the Archdiocese of Denver met with Mr. Charlie Johnston to inform him of the findings of a preliminary investigation into his writings and speeches. A special commission composed of two theologians and a canonist reviewed material from his blog, videos of presentations from various parts of the country, and an archive of writings detailing Mr. Johnston’s alleged visions as far back as 1998.
Mr. Johnston claims to have received both visions and messages from the Blessed Mother, the Archangel Gabriel and other saints since he was young. According to Mr. Johnston, the purpose of these visits was to train him to serve as a messenger for God and strengthen the faithful, particularly during a time of economic and moral upheaval, which he refers to as “The Storm.”
In his writings and in person, Mr. Johnston also insists that the “prophetic” aspects of his message are not essential and should not be the focus of those who follow him. However, it appears that those same predictions are what attract new followers to his message and give them a sense of urgency and zeal.
After hearing concerns and inquiries from Catholics throughout the United States and within the Archdiocese of Denver itself, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila decided to launch a preliminary investigation to advise him on the content of Mr. Johnston’s writings and presentations. It should be noted that the commission’s mandate did not include determining whether Mr. Johnston’s messages are divine in origin.
After reviewing the commission’s findings and in keeping with his pastoral office, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has decided to strongly advise the faithful to exercise prudence and caution in regards to Mr. Charlie Johnston’s alleged divine visions and messages. As has been demonstrated with other alleged apparitions, the danger exists of people placing greater faith in a prediction than in Christ’s words and promises.
For these reasons, Mr. Johnston will also not be approved as a speaker in the Archdiocese of Denver.
For those who are disappointed by this finding, the archdiocese encourages them to seek their security in Jesus Christ, the sacraments, and the Scriptures. The faithful should also remember Christ’s words: “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24:36).



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Desecration and Distraction



I am hearing from devout Catholics who are upset about this story ...

An Oklahoma City satanist says he plans to protest the Catholic Church’s beliefs about Jesus’s birth by pouring costume blood over a statue of the Virgin Mary outside of St. Joseph Old Cathedral on Christmas Eve.

Adam Daniels says he hopes his display, titled the “Virgin Birth is a Lie,” will expose the “lies” of the Catholic Church, reports The Oklahoman. The satanist states the virgin birth of Jesus is a fraud.
“The purpose of the blood is to add another layer of corruption to Mary, which is an emblem of the Catholic Church,” he said. He also plans to cover the statue “in sulfur powder and ash.”
Daniels obtained a permit for his “display,” set-up for which is permitted to begin at 4:30 p.m. and must be removed by 6:15 p.m. His protest will be restricted to the sidewalk outside the cathedral, and he is not allowed to block any of the church’s entrances. The permit also requires that he clean up the entire display and ensure no materials are left on the sidewalk.
According to the news report, Daniels is protesting the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve due to the archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s recent demonstrations against his group’s “black mass,” the unveiling of a Baphomet statue, and Daniels’ own book-signing event.
Throughout the past year, the Satanic Temple of Detroit has worked to promote abortion and same-sex marriage.
The archdiocese of Oklahoma City did not immediately return Breitbart News’ request for comment.

Here are my reactions.

First, it's very telling that Satanists are promoting abortion and same sex marriage.

Second, what the Oklahoma Satanist does not understand is how he's inadvertently witnessing for Christ.  Compare Caiaphas, who when he remarked in the Sanhedrin that it was expedient that one man should be put to death for the sake of many, did not realize how deeply his selfish Machiavellian purely-political words resonated and revealed the deeper and more solemn providence of God (see John 11:51).

Because, you see, Mary has already been covered with blood.  At the moment of her immaculate conception, she was redeemed and conceived in purity because of the Blood of Christ - which was yet to be shed (historically speaking), but by the virtues of this Blood alone are Mary and all of us made pure.

And, finally, as far as desecrations go, this is more diversion than desecration.  The Satanists are using it for PR fodder, and some Catholic organizations are using it for fundraising fodder - fanning the flames of indignation over an admittedly horrific event, but one that pales in comparison to the more serious and less visible desecrations going on all around us.  At every Sunday suburban Mass, you have poorly catechized Catholics, Catholics who use porn, Catholics who use contraception, divorced and remarried Catholics, Catholics who cheat the poor, Catholics whose sins stain the Body of Christ more darkly than any quantity of theater blood, Catholics who blithely receive the Eucharist, perhaps not knowing what they do, perhaps knowing what they do.  That is desecration.  The theatrics in Oklahoma is diversion.

For sins are more serious than symbols - and we dishonor Mary and Jesus by what pours out of our hearts more than by what pours out of a prop bag.

Having said that, it is our job to love these Satanists - our enemies - for as St. Paul says ...

If thine enemy hunger, feed him. And if he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  (Rom. 12:20-21)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Escape from Utopia

“Karen, I was right!  Someone escaped!  She says they are a cult!” I said to my wife, exuberant.


It was Monday, Labor Day.  We were at the Lake of the Ozarks, in mid-Missouri, and Karen, my wife, noticed a group of people standing near the overlook on the hill above the lake’s dam.  A man about my age was about to take a picture of a group of teenagers with the lake in the background.  All of them were well groomed, well behaved and wearing polo shirts and caps that said “Shepherdsfield” on them.  Karen offered to take the picture for this man, so he could be in it as well.  He was very grateful.


“What’s Shepherdsfield?” I asked after the photo had clicked.


“We’re a Christian community near Fulton, Missouri,” the man answered.  “We’re on our Reward Trip.  These young people have been working very hard all summer, and we’re taking them on a Reward Trip before school starts again.”  My eyes locked with one of the young people.  They were certainly well behaved … but a “Christian community”?  Creepy.


Karen and I got in the car.  I began to talk in my quiet, slow cult-leader voice.  “Welcome to Shepherdsfield,” I said.  “You’ll be very happy here.  As long as you do what we tell you.  There’s no need to fuss.  You’ll be loved and you won’t want to leave.  In fact, you won’t be able to leave.  Now just do what we say and everything will be fine.”


“Kevin!” Karen shouted.  “Stop that!  You’re so judgmental!  Those were nice people!  What makes you say they’re a cult?!”


I got out my phone and Googled them.  One of the first things that comes up is the blog Cult Girl Speaks Out.  It’s written by Tabitha Casey, and it details how she grew up in Shepherdsfield and how she “escaped” and how she’s trying to process all of it now.  It’s a fascinating blog, and even Karen became interested as I read many of Tabitha’s posts to her on our way to ice cream after dinner at the Lake.


Tabitha Casey
Of course, my only knowledge of Shepherdsfield is what I’ve been reading on Tabitha’s blog, and it’s possible that the place is not as dark as she paints it - though, she actually seems quite fair and gives credit where credit is due on more than one occasion.  But human history has many examples of utopias gone bad - and, if what Tabitha says is true, Shepherdsfield is one of them.  


For one thing, according to Tabitha, the Reward Trip rewards children from the ages of about 10 on up who are required to work all summer long from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm daily mulching, weeding, repairing, and sweating in the hot and humid Missouri summers, the “reward” of which is a trip to someplace like the dam overlooking the Lake of the Ozarks.  Plus mini-golf.  But it’s worse for adults.  Able bodied males supply the commune with money by power washing, painting and building decks in Columbia, Jefferson City, and other towns nearby.  The income they generate goes to the Shepherdsfield “church”, which allots them back a small amount.  In the case of Tabitha and her family of eight, they were given no more than $130 per month back from the money her husband earned power washing.  Of course, the “church” provides all needs - housing, car, telephone, utilities, food - but the “church” also controls all needs.  And if and when a member “escapes” with his or her family, they must leave with absolutely nothing.  There is no private ownership.  Christian Communism meets Christian Capitalism - the Company Town owns everything and the members owe their souls to the company store, so to speak, even though the power washing business seems to be entrepreneurial and thriving.  


Tabitha explains how there is no incentive to work hard, since slackers receive the same share as hard workers.  This was the story of New Harmony, Indiana and elsewhere.  Human nature must be either ignored or brutalized for utopias to have any chance of working.


For example, Tabitha describes


… a peer of mine who, at age nine, because of stealing some quarters from a communal change drawer to buy a gift for a girl, was subjected to the most severe punishment we had devised. He was made to undergo what we termed "coventry". This coventry involved rejection from every member of the community. He would eat alone during all our common meals (lunch and dinner for five of the seven days); no one would talk to him except to give direction ... he would not play or interact in any fun way with any of his friends during this time. This lasted several weeks and crushed this child.  To this day, the mention of Shepherdsfield evokes only pain.


… the fear of such strong punishment was so great that those youth who had pullings toward stealing, lying, cheating, interest in the opposite sex, etc. became masterful at doing what they were already inclined towards and masterful at disguising it. It created an environment of facades. If someone had a problem, or an issue, covering up, putting on a brave face and always looking joyful - "as a good Christian should" - were the ways that were approved of to deal with it.


This is one of many painful and fascinating tales of Tabitha’s life as a Christian Communist.  She analyzes her experiences growing up in Shepherdsville well, and reaches the two most obviously correct conclusions


This is my story - this is the life I lived and this is mine to tell. I did not just observe and am reporting on what I observed - I ate, drank, slept, talked and walked this life - this is my story and this is what I want to do with what I have lived. I want to warn people about the dangers of these two things mostly:


1.) spiritual abuse and
2.) putting men on pedestals or allowing them to climb there themselves.


Such misplaced idealism which created the environment for spiritual abuse and for trusting in men rather than God, and for giving men way too much power and authority over private lives and over other people’s families led to what became an intolerable atmosphere.  There is more than one suicide in Tabitha’s story.


Her husband, however, gets closer to a third lesson learned that should be emphasized …


It was a great place to be a kid - but there was never a transition point in how one was treated. We were never given the chance to make decisions and choose wisely - all those decisions were made for us.  If we started to try to think an issue through and - Heaven forbid - question or disagree, we were challenged on our spirit of divisiveness.


My friends, I see this in Devout Catholic circles every day.  It is the prime characteristic not of the Church, but of an ideology.  Ideologies are Closed Systems, Unrealities that are man-made fictions and that can only exist by forcefully suppressing human nature and by carefully keeping out anything that might topple the house of cards or pop the carefully guarded bubble.


The true Church, by contrast, and true philosophies, and indeed common sense and sanity are marked by an openness, by a seeking, by humility.  “Thy Kingdom come” (our daily prayer) means that we will never have the perfect community on earth, though we are always desiring it and seeking it.  The “eschaton” is not “immanent”.  There is a fundamental tension that exists between “The Divine Ground” of our existence and our longing for it.  Even we Christians who know Christ and love Christ still seek Him - or at least seek to imitate Him - in various ways.  We try to remain open to Him, and in doing so we renounce the kind of control and fear that keeps His Spirit out, we renounce the contraceptive mentality that protects the precious bubble at all costs, that keeps it from ever being pierced, and that keeps life from ever being natural, joyful, fertile.


There is an idealism behind Shepherdsfiled, and “Cult Girl” Tabitha readily admits that and refuses to condemn it.  She knows that that love, that longing, that desire to embody what we long for is at the heart of our existence.  But there was an idealism to all sorts of Communism, not just the Christian “Acts 2” kind.  There was an idealism to the Bolshevist Communism that brutalized half the world for most of the 20th century.  Even the Nazis were idealists.  But all such ideals, all such utopias, all such Closed Systems and Unrealities start with a frightening premise: We men are enough.  We can build, on our own efforts, God’s Kingdom on earth - if we’re just emphatic enough and repressive enough.  And if we have to, we’ll tear down and remake man himself to do it.


In C. S. Lewis’ phrase, “The Abolition of Man” is the final project of man.  Indeed, at one point, Tabitha quotes C. S. Lewis …


Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their conscience.


Monday night, Labor Day, after meeting the Reward Trip kids and reading Tabitha’s blog posts, Karen and I arrived at the ice cream stand off of Highway 54 at the Lake of the Ozarks.  There were about eight old men surrounding us as we stood in line to get ice cream, and, to my surprise, they were dirty old men.  One old guy got a sundae with a cherry on top.  He turned to his octogenarian companion.  “I guess I can’t give you my cherry!” he leered.  Two other old guys got their sundaes.  One of them, stooped over, wearing shorts with street shoes and black socks pulled up to his ankles, said to the old guy next to him who got a smaller size sundae, “I guess mine’s bigger than yours!”  I’m not sure his companion heard him.


They all finished their treats, climbed (slowly) into a mini-van with Missouri plates and pulled away, almost backing into another car in the process.


“Wow!  Those old guys were something else!” I exclaimed.


“Do you know who those guys are?” asked Karen.


“Who are they?” I replied.


“They’re the elders from Shepherdsfield,” she answered.  


It was the best laugh I’d had all weekend.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Is Sasquatch the Antichrist? - or - The Temptation to Believe Nonsense

NOTE - On April 29, 2106, Charlie Johnston responded to this post with outright lies, doing his best to libel me in the process. I go into detail about that here - Charlie Johnston Lies about Me - and I Admire Him for It! Charlie is one of the most outrageous frauds in the Catholic Church. He actually fascinates me - in a sad way. Read on ...

***

I don’t want to write about this, but I think I have to.  I’d rather not write anything more on this blog (most of my articles are now on Catholic Exchange and the Ink Desk), and I’m closing this post to comments.  But what I have to say has to be said.


Living the Christian Faith is not sexy.  It is not lurid.  It is not particularly exciting on a day to day basis.  It doesn’t have the flair of a Jerry Springer episode.  Types of antichrists are all around us, but Sasquatch is not one of them and if there is such a thing as a “rapture” it’s not a mass UFO abduction.


But we’re not satisfied with that.  We want celebrities.  We want false prophets.  We want National Enquirer headlines about the apocalypse.

Charlie Johnston

***


Charlie Johnston is from Belleville, Illinois, across the river from me.  He is becoming viral, sweeping the attention of conservative Catholics from coast to coast.  I’m hearing about him from all corners.  This is, sadly, due to a video of him posted on Vimeo, in which he talks to a group of serious Catholics, including Fr. Mitch Pacwa from EWTN.  Fr. Mitch’s presence in the audience of Charlie’s talk has made a huge difference to people’s perceptions of Charlie Johnston and Charlie’s “authority”.




If Fr Mitch Pacwa came to see Charlie. That spoke volumes to me! I Hold Fr Pacwa in very HIGH esteem. And Bishop Garcia is onboard as well, tells me to pay attention to Charlie. The Bishop is NO liberal for sure!!!


I found the video one of Hope for sure…


In the video, Charlie begins by saying some good things, such as how God works through the ordinary and how all we need to do as believers is to take the next right step.  Sound advice, and many others have said that.  But when the Q&A comes, Charlie expounds on his “visions”, delivered to him by an angel, he claims, of the coming “Storm”.  Charlie’s vision includes the following:


  • A world wide financial collapse.
  • The collapse of all order in society.
  • The conversion of President Obama, who will not finish his term in office.
  • The suspension of the 2016 elections.
  • The appearance of the Virgin Mary sometime in 2017, to be noticed by all people.
  • A utopia following the Storm, in which the Church is reunified and true believers live in harmony.  Our society will go from Ferguson to Mayberry, so to speak.


Charlie, however, also claimed that Christmas of 2013 would be our last normal Christmas.  When people point out to him that Christmas of 2014 was quite normal, he responds (in so many words), “Well, the government is now regulating Christmas lights and soon you won’t be allowed to decorate in front of your home and have a Christmas tree and we’re ceding territory to radical Islam and there’s Obamacare and you call that normal???  Oh, and nobody listened to Winston Churchill either.”  I’m paraphrasing, but read Charlie’s defense of this failed prophecy for yourself.


Note that when other Christians or Christian sects have made specific predictions about the End Times, and when the predictions are inevitably proven wrong, such false prophets typically respond, “I know we said the rapture was to take place at 12:01 am on September 2, 2015 - and everybody is still here - but it was a spiritual rapture and if you didn’t notice it, that’s your problem, not mine.  You’re not as spiritually sensitive as we are.  Oh, and we’re moving the date up to September of next year.  Be prepared!”


Now, worldwide economic collapse, of course, is quite possible, and even inevitable because of the nature of usury, but predicting when the economic shell game will end is just a guessing game.  And so when most ordinary people hear, “Last normal Christmas, Obama will convert, the Virgin Mary will appear”, they laugh, roll their eyes, and go about their business.  


But many Devout Catholics have apparently lost this quality, this virtue of common sense.


Charlie also says the summer of 2015 will be our “summer of discontent”.  As I write this, it’s almost Labor Day of 2015.  I’m still waiting for the beginning of the Storm, but I’m sure Charlie will tell me I missed it.


But there’s more.  


If you need more evidence of Charlie’s dubious status as a prophet, well, there’s this.  He claims to have walked across America.  He claims to have walked 3200 miles wearing a 70 pound backpack, even though he has nerve damage.  He claims to have slept outside, often fearing for his life in groves of trees in inner city ghettos.  He claims to have run into cougars.  He claims this experience changed him spiritually.  




Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went.


But if you look at Charlie’s own Facebook page, which he started for the purpose of chronicling this journey, here’s what you find …


  • Charlie departs from Alabama on Feb. 11, 2011.
  • He appears to be on foot all the way to Houston, where he posts on Facebook on July 4, 2011, covering over 400 miles in about five months.
  • He then posts from San Antonio, then Austin (a strange detour to the northeast), then from somewhere in New Mexico by Oct. 11, covering perhaps 600 miles in three months.
  • He then gets on a plane and flies to Chicago on Oct. 18.  He has pictures of this.
  • He stays in Chicago until Nov. 24, when he flies to San Diego.  He posts pictures from the plane window.  One of his Facebook friends doesn’t seem to realize that Charlie’s “walk across the U.S.” includes more than one plane ride and says, “So you have made it all the way to San Diego??? That’s truly incredible Charlie!!! God bless you.”  Charlie replies, “Ha! Most of the rest of the journey will involve going up and down mountains. Glad I had almost a year to train for that - because it is this second leg that, at least physically, is truly incredible.”  What’s truly incredible is the gullibility of Charlie’s Facebook friends.
  • After the first of the year, in 2012, Charlie is posting from his hometown of Belleville, Illinois - 2,000 miles to the east of San Diego by foot.
  • From his Facebook posts, Charlie appears to remain in Southern Illinois for several months.  He even alludes to this at one point, writing, “Funny thing...after a few months of living indoors, I am really no stronger than ever I was...I still have to conserve my strength and rest frequently because of my neurological damage. If you took any group of outdoorsmen, I would be among the last people [you] would think is the guy who has hiked 2000 miles across the country and has another 1200 or 1500 to go through the desert.”  At this point, he has walked perhaps 1200 miles, if that many, has not walked at all for almost six months, and is certainly not about to walk through the desert - especially from Southern Illinois, which is nowhere near the desert.  In fact, his remaining posts demonstrate that he came nowhere close to the desert on foot - and the only mountain climbing he did was in state parks, abetted by some car rides when he got tired.
  • By April, Charlie is posting pictures from the California coast.
  • By May of 2012, he’s freely admitting that people are driving him pretty much everywhere he’s going.
  • On April 25, he admits he rode in a car from California to Kansas.  After that, he says he rode into Colorado.
  • He seems to be on foot part of the time and hitch hiking most of the time through the High Plains of Colorado through the spring of 2012.
  • He spends the final two months of his “walk” living in Loveland, Colorado.
  • He claims he climbs Mt. Meeker, where he plans to build a shrine that will probably cost (from the look of the design) upwards of $50 million to construct.  Mt. Meeker is the end of Charlie’s “walk across America” - a walk that included at least two airplane rides and that featured very little walking at all or that saw him riding in cars for the bulk of the final nine months of his journey.  And this is all documented on Facebook!


First of all, if Charlie is lying about his “walk across America”, or at least stretching the truth, why would anybody believe him when he relates his “visions” and prophecies?


Secondly, if the economy is going to collapse and money will be worthless, why is Charlie soliciting donations for his $50 million shrine?  How can my cash be useful to him when it won’t be useful to me?  And where is the accounting for the money Charlie is apparently being given by people?  Does anybody know where such possible donations are really going?


Finally, Abraham told the Rich Man, “They have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them … If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  Well, we have both Moses and the Prophets AND someone who has risen from the dead.  Let us listen to them.  Why would we waste our time with the nonsense coming from the mouth of someone whose three verifiable claims - 2013 was the last normal Christmas, 2015 is our “summer of disconent” and “I walked 3200 miles across America” - are either subjective and vague or demonstrably false?


But, as I said at the outset, the day to day living of our Faith is apparently not sexy enough for us.  Even many of the Catholics I know who are skeptical about Charlie Johnston still want to believe him and are disappointed when I point out Charlie’s unreliability.


And that’s the core of the sin - wanting to believe him.  It’s a kind of morbid curiosity, a kind of morose delectation, a desire for more than what we have, which (as Catholics) is the presence of Jesus Christ Himself and His Spirit and access to His Father as adopted children.  What more can we want?


Why do we desire to augment that fullness … with this?  With titillating tales of the lurid and grotesque?  With claims that can be proven to be false by spending an hour on Facebook or Google?


...

Fellow Catholics, we must strive for “maturity in Christ”.  We can’t get there if we don’t simply grow up.