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.


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.


UPDATE - May 1, 2016 - On Charlie's blog, he has admitted that he and I never "corresponded for a few days".  He still claims I re-edited my original blog post a number of times, though he has no evidence of that.  He continues to malign me, but he has admitted that there was no correspondence.

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!