Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More bad news

An update on the previous post re: the former youth pastor, now to be referred to as RO.

I was up until 2 am reading posts on a blog about this issue and it just gets worse. I won't ever devote that kind of time to it again for obvious reasons. The things I learned about this person were so upsetting, not because I ever saw him as some great spiritual giant, but because of the abuse of his considerable power. My very strong inner sense of justice is screaming.

RO's party line on his first divorce was that she didn't want to be the wife of a minister. Not true. You guessed it- he cheated. He married his current wife, JO, because it was too difficult for him to get speaking gigs as a single, divorced guy. He repeatedly told the women he was involved with (or trying to be involved with) that it was a marriage of convenience and that he didn't love her. When couples came to RO for marriage counseling, he would split them up, counsel the woman on his own, encourage her to get a divorce, and then attempt to start a relationship with her, with mixed results. In addition to the many sexual dalliances, there are a lot of questions regarding fiduciary matters at both the church where I knew him and the BH church in B'ham. Apparently there was some embezzlement in both places, in the 5 figures, and both places agreed to cover it up to avoid publicity. His ministry never filed as a 501c(3) but took donations with no documentation. He was able to wrangle gifts, like golf clubs, vacations, cars and houses out of people by claiming financial hardships, despite the fact that he was making in the mid 6 figures at the church job, not counting all his speaking engagements. When then church took a love offering for him on his last day, it amounted to around 18k and he referred to it as a "slap in the face," because it was barely over 1k for each of the 15 years he'd been there. Charming.

There are two specific examples of his behavior that are the most frightening to me. First, a young woman named KS, whom I know. (She has come forward publicly and shared her story and her real name, but I'm going to go ahead and let her be in charge of disseminating that information) She began a relationship with Rick at age 16 (a pattern - sometimes he waited until they were 18 to consummate the relationship, sometimes not). After the relationship had gone on for a while, she found herself to be pregnant. His words to her were, "If you have this baby, it will never know its father." So, she was talked into terminating the pregnancy, which he did pay for. He also said he would be there with her, but - wouldn't you know it - something came up at the last minute and she was alone.

The second one borders on frightening. This was posted anonymously. A couple who was having problems went to him for counseling. The man was referred to a counseling center, but RO continued meeting with the wife. RO recommended that the couple separate. He would show up at the woman's house, and bring her flowers and wine. On one of those occasions, things got out of control and in the woman's words, he raped her. She called her husband hysterically crying and he came to her aide, took her to the hospital and helped her file a police report. There was no doubt in the exam that she had been forced. When they went public with this, they were asked to leave the church and were threatened (I don't know how specifically). In the month following the charges, they were pulled over by B'ham police 8 times, and harassed to the point of having to move. When they went to file the lawsuit, the evidence had disappeared from the police report. The couple reconciled and have a strong relationship. The husband wrote the story on the blog.

At present, RO is working three different stories of this situation, depending on who he's talking to, he is strutting around town as if nothing happened, playing golf every day and working to line up preaching gigs. Here's what kills me about that: Where has he turned to get these speaking gigs? The inner city churches. I can't even begin to go into how racist that is, to assume that African-American churches will be (a) more accepting, or worse, (b) less informed.

There are people working diligently to take him down - not in a vindictive, "you must pay" way but in a "people are being hurt - you must stop" way. Some of the comments posted were by people saying that RO was being unnecessarily persecuted (whatever) and that the people working to dismantle his empire needed to "get a life." I believe that God in in charge of vengeance but I also believe that God uses us to accomplish all of God's purposes, including vengeance, and those who are on this job are on the right track.

A note to all those women at the gym who feel comfortable enough in their bodies to walk around the locker room naked...

...please stop.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another one bites the dust

This week while I was preparing for a sermon on Malachi, I found out that the man who had been my first youth pastor at my home church has been carrying on an affair with a woman since 1981. The relationship began when his first marriage ended, but has continued into his second marriage. The woman with whom he had been having the relationship, for whatever reason, decided to go public with this relationship, and apparently, the man called her and begged for her not to ruin his ministry or his family. She told him he had done that himself, and she went on with her intentions.

I have commented before that in that church, the extra-marital relationships of the staff were practically a competitive sport, and the list of those who did not have such relationships is far shorter than the list of those who did. If they were found out, it was either covered up or they were allowed to resign and the congregation was told that they were "called to other areas of ministry." The senior pastor and an ongoing, long-term relationship with his executive assistant. He was confronted with it many times, and those who questioned him were told that they were no longer welcome at the church. We were all supposed to turn a blind eye, but when he retired and moved to Texas, she divorced her husband and also moved to Texas. How stupid are we supposed to be?

I think it's interesting that I learned this during the week that I was living with Malachi. Malachi puts a heavy burden on the priests to have a relationship with God so that they may effectively represent God to the people, bring them a correct understanding of God's ethical standards, and offer spotless sacrifices to God, which is what God deserves.

These ministers brought corruption to their offices and corruption to the people because they were offering only the appearance of a genuine sacrifice, but they weren't actually giving up anything at all. In fact, they were taking way more than they were giving. I am not trying to condemn them as worse than me or anyone else. I have certainly not conducted myself perfectly and have caused damage to people myself. I am merely pointing out that they chose a position of spiritual authority and they abused it and did great damage. They are all suffering serious consequences and the ripple effect of their actions will probably never be fully known. You would think that their stories would serve as a cautionary tale, but it keeps happening. Amazing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ein deutsches Requiem

Last night at SF Choral Society rehearsal, I had a moment of true worship. As a musician, I tend to connect with God through music the most because that's the way God made me. Brahms' Requiem has been one of my favorites ever since I first sang it in college well over a decade ago. For that performance we unfortunately performed it in English but for an ok reason - it was the 25th anniversary of the first performance done at GCU and we invited alumni back to sing with us, and they didn't have time to learn the German, etc. While I enjoyed it then, I have a much deeper appreciation for it now.

Brahms' Requiem is considered more of a "humanistic" requiem because while it has a sacred content it does not follow the typical Catholic mass format. It is a requiem in seven movements, but instead of containing texts that are intended to usher the departed into eternity, it is focused on those still living. The passages chosen remind us that death and loss are inevitable but that God is in charge of it all and we are ultimately victorious because God is. One of my favorite things about the work (and perhaps why some of its critics consider it somewhat pedestrian) is how the music and lyrics fit together so beautifully, intensifying the emotional effect. For example, there is one passage where we are repeatedly singing "Where, O Death, is your sting?" and the music alternates between a thundering indictment and syrupy taunting. It reminds me of a cat playing with a ball of yarn.

One of the reasons I had such a great experience of it last night was that I was focusing on being present in the music and I found myself feeling connected to the thread of the church in history. It's the same reason I love hymns. It reminds me that there are people who have gone before that have as much to say to us, or more than, the voices we hear today. I also felt the power of the original language that I did not get to experience the first time around. I have not typically enjoyed singing in German as much as other languages - perhaps that is because I grew up in a home where German was used as a secret code, but that's a conversation for another therapist. I got the power of Brahms writing in his own language for his own people last night like I hadn't before.

I hope that anyone who is in the Bay Area the weekend of August 3rd & 4th can come see the performance. It's going to be a fabulous evening at Davies Symphony Hall. We'd love to have as many folks there all the hall will hold. As you might image, the cost of such an event looms rather large - the orchestra alone costs us $21,000 - so go online, purchase those tickets, and come enjoy.

If the library school thing doesn't work out...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Old Home Weekend

For some reason this weekend I've been contacted by two folks from high school and have virtually checked in on a third. I got a message from one friend through MySpace. It was good to catch up. She's been through some rough stuff, but she seems to be in a good place now. She told me that another person from our class was on as well, so I looked at her page. Sweet Fancy Moses. Let's just say that people change.

The other one was, shall we say, a bit of a crush when I was younger. He was my Jake Ryan . I've seen pictures - the years have treated him well. :-)

Anyone else out there have a Jake Ryan?

A previous post has been removed because I'm trying to be like Jesus

Ok - I'm sorry. I posted a snotty thing because I was irritated on a friend's behalf and it was neither nice nor terribly subtle. I'm a uniter, not a divider.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

When I Grow Up...

I've made some life decisions* of late and I'm excited to have a bit of direction for myself. Late in the game, I know, but better late than never.

My favorite job of all time was when I worked at the theology library. It played to my strengths, was great fun, and I really dug it. Unfortunately, it paid well below a living wage and they hired someone who was a complete dolt as my boss and I had to get out. The woman asked an assistant to remind her what a monograph was. Seriously. The Library Director. Dolt. Anyway, I loved it and have always wanted to get back into that world.

There is also a pastoral leaning in me that I believe was put there by God and something I want to pursue, on God's timetable, of course. In order to be ordained in my denomination, I have to finish my MDiv which will take some time and money. Fortunately, I have a plan...

One of the (several) benefits for working for the Khaki Khonglomerate (KK) is the tuition reimbursement program. They will, of course, only reimburse for tuition toward a degree program that could potentially benefit them. Fair enough. Unless the KK institutes some sort of Retail Chaplaincy program, they will most likely not pay for my MDiv work. They will, however, pay for me to get my MLIS (Master of Library & Information Sciences) @ San Jose State, which is an online degree program. Ideally, after I finished that, I could get a job in a theology library and then finish the MDiv for free or cheap. If not, KK has archive departments that could utilize my mad librarian skillz, and the salary is significantly higher so I could pay retail for the MDiv.

School will be in session in Fall 2008. Tough to justify new back-to-school clothes for an online degree, but I be I could make it work.

*the term "life decisions" is used loosely and it is understood that God usually has other things in mind that rarely are in line with my plans.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Open to Suggestion

Hello My People!

I have decided to take what I am calling a "Hometown Vacation" (a la George Costanza) the first week of September. Thanks to the Labor Day holiday and our early dismissal here at the KK on Fridays, I get 9 days for the price of 4!

So - I need suggestions. I know I'm going to the beach, to some museums, Conservatory of Flowers, stuff I can't do when I'm at work. Maybe the Monterey Bay Aquarium, etc. What else would you recommend in this great Bay Area of ours?

Who is dating this woman?

Today I was reading a story on Yahoo!News about this very convoluted plot to rob a bank by locking a bomb around a man's neck. Turns out it was the work of Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a woman with a history of mental illness and a strong hatred of men. What we're concerned with today in this post is the number of men who are listed in this story as "former boyfriends." Seriously? Who are these people? She actually killed one in the 80's and claimed it was self-defense. Currently, she's on trial for the murder of two more, and was helped by a couple of others, one of whom is now deceased. The motive for robbing the bank? She wanted to pay someone to kill her father. She also has a strong hatred for Geraldo Rivera, which seems about the only sane thing about her.

This is not one of those "Why don't I have a boyfriend?" whiny posts, because that isn't the issue. The issue is not that I don't have a boyfriend, but that this woman does. Not just A boyfriend, but several. Obviously, there is an issue of the type and quality of men she is dating and I would venture to guess that our tastes are somewhat divergent. It just boggles the mind that she hates the men and can't keep them away from her. She even has a history of MURDERING her boyfriends, and still - always a date on Saturday night. Wow.

Monday, July 02, 2007

So, here's a question

A little food for thought to ease you into a Monday morning from Mark Van Steenwyk's blog...

Do people need to be “converted” to theism before becoming Christians?