Thursday, February 22, 2007

Just Jesus Land

Well, I read Jesus Land. I got it partly right. It does involve the heavy handed treatment of the author, Julia Scheeres and her adoptive Afro-American brother David, at a christian camp for supposedly troubled teenagers, the New Horizon Youth Ministry's camp, Escuela Caribe in the Dominican Republic. But their stay at Escuela Caribe was only part of the tale.

On the larger scale it is a story of abuse; physical, emotional, sexual abuse. It's also a story of racial prejudice and religious bigotry. It is a story of narrow minded stupidity. It is a story of hatred and self loathing. These elements come together in violence perpetrated against children; most pointedly Julia and David, whose childhood is stolen from them by a sadistic father, a self-involved religious automaton mother, another adoptive Afro-american brother who is also a sexual predator, racial hatred at their high school and the Lafayette, Indiana community, and the incredible stupidity and further sadism of those running the camp in the Dominican Republic.

Much of this is done in the name of old testament, fire and brimstone christianity.

While there is an air of predictability about Scheeres' narrative, it is that, perhaps, which makes it even sadder and all the more maddening. This story has been told before, many times. Every time we hear of this kind of abuse, we tend to believe, or at least hope that the act of airing these harrowing tales in books and other media will be useful in putting an end to it. But, of course, it doesn't. Demented, stupid people keep coming down the pike who use religion, among other weapons cruely against people, usually children, who haven't the wherewithal to defend themselves. The biblical concept of original sin is routinely used against children by supposedly pious adults as a justification for violence; all in the guise of turning troubled kids away from satan and toward abject supplication to god.

It should be said that Jesus Land is also a love story; the mutual love of Julia and David. The hell that the two of them lived through as societal and family outcasts served to create a bond between them. Each provided a small island of peace for the other. Julia and David were the only ones who had any understanding of what was happening to them. Each was the only person the other could trust.

I won't divulge the ending for anyone who hasn't but has an interest in reading Jesus Land. Not that it's some kind of mystery, but it doesn't end quite how you might think. Suffice it to say that Julia Scheeres is a survivor. Unfortunately, many others are not.

A couple of web sites of interest: and The first was set up by a group of New Horizon alumnae who use the site as a tell all against the organization. The second is the New Horizon Youth Ministry's web site. They are still in business, and judging from the site, going great guns. That is great, indeed!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Evil is Afoot!

You just can't make this stuff up. Check out

We Westerners are just a nasty, depraved bunch.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jesus Land and Beyond

This post, in slightly different form, was originally written as a comment on Julia Scheeres' blog site in response to her post titled "Ghosts of My Brother." Ms. Scheeres is the author of Jesus Land, the story of the life and death of her adoptive brother and, at least in part the disastrous effect a "tough love" religious camp had on him. Jesus Land was listed on the NYT bestseller list for some time.

I haven't read Jesus Land as yet. I have been aware of it owing to its success, but just haven't gotten around to it. As some of you may know I have read Sam Harris' and Richard Dawkin's recent books, among others. I am also in hopes of viewing the Jesus Camp film which has made some news of late.

While Ms. Scheeres now resides in San Francisco, she originally hails from in or around Lafayette, Indiana. Her blog profile states that she "outgrew" Indiana. I can relate to that, but I guess I never did - outgrow it, that is. I still live in the Hoosier State. Ah, but that's another story.

Several years back there was a christian based group in Indy that was housing a number of mainly Russian orphans (and children effectively orphaned by the incarceration, and/or addictions of their parents) at a former Stouffers Inn Hotel on north Meridian St. and the former Julietta Home on the far eastern edge of Marion County.

Via a roundabout means we were contacted by the group at Julietta to inquire if their kids could come to our home to pick apples. At the time we had seven apple trees and no means to utilize the overwhelming crop they produced. So, one sunny September afternoon we hosted a group of around twenty to twenty five kids ranging in age from six or seven to around seventeen to pick our apples. It is interesting to note that these kids were not eligible for adoption. They were all conscripted to return to Russia at age eighteen to serve in the military.

They wound up hauling out perhaps fifty or more bushels of apples, and we also allowed them to pick the grapes from our small arbor. Few of the kids spoke any appreciable English, and ostensibly for that reason, we were requested to refrain from making any attempt to communicate directly with them. At the time we thought that a bit strange. But overall, it seemed to be a happy experience for all. Perhaps it was just the effect of being outside on a lovely late summer day.

However, a few weeks later news hit the airwaves regarding this group and its heavy handed tactics at disciplining their charges. The name of the group escapes me at this writing. Some of the kids were reported to have been isolated in lightless rooms, trussed up in blankets, sometimes for days. The kids were often harrangued for their transgressions - whatever they may have been - in interrogation sessions rather ironically reminiscent of Stalinist era KGB or East German Stasi tactics. A number of other accusations were leveled at the group. I don't recall if there was any other alleged physical abuse, nor do I remember there being any accusations of sexual mis-conduct on the part of the overseers.

The end result, though was that the Russian government quickly pulled the plug on the group and whisked all of the kids back to the motherland. This revelation put a damper on our enthusiasm. What had seemed so blissful on "apple day," turned to a sense that we had abetted forced child labor.

The puritan ethic which still holds fast in this country often leaves one dumbfounded. The misery that is brought to bear against people of all ages, but most painfully, against children in the name of religion is despicable. The supposedly protective umbrella of religion often provides, rather a font of guilt, self-loathing and hate that gives license to all manner of abuse and, as we are now witnessing, mass murder.


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Thoughts on Yet Another Cold Night

It has been very cold here in Indy for several days. We had an entire week with lows dipping below zero and haven't even approached the freezing point since I can't remember when. Now those of you in more northern climes are no doubt unimpressed. But it's a matter of what you're used to. If it snows a half inch in Atlanta, everyone goes ape shit. Indiana normally gets a fair share of "winter" weather, but this stretch of cold coupled with some significant snow is not the norm.

I just read the latest report from upstate New York that some areas have as much as 110" of new snow. That's more than nine feet! Holy crap! They won't dig out of that till the end of July. What the hell do you do with nine feet of snow?

But still.

The local weather guys are predicting no significant break in our situation. There is even another snow storm in the works as an arctic low is set to combine with heavy moisture coming up from the gulf. The next "perfect storm" on the brew. What a crock.

Oddly, we had the warmest January on record. No snow. A good deal of rain. But February has come in like an early arriving lion who has apparently eaten all the damn lambs.

So much for the blasted weather.

I posted some of my articles I've written here at Blog Critics Magazine ( over the last several days. Overall they have been reasonably well received. An older article titled "On Death" didn't get much in the way of comments, but was chosen one of the selected "articles of the week" by their editorial staff. Pretty good, huh?

What is rather funny, though is that an article titled "The Folly of the Iraq War" got what I initially thought was major response. I don't believe that any post I've written here has had more than a dozen or so comments. The great majority of them get none. (No, no, that's all right. I've learned to accept it. I understand. Really.) As of this writing a total of 350 comments have been written under my Iraq article.

When it began to take off, I was delighted and surprised. While some of the comments were rather scornfull of my offering in that they felt it amounted to nothing but old news, some seemed to like all or portions of it for varying reasons. However, it soon became clear that my little article was of no particular concern to anyone. My bubble burst. Of those 350 comments, perhaps a couple dozen are even remotely related to the article. Most are concerned with what I assume are ongoing disputes between a number of contributors, editors and commenters which began long before I came on the scene. Being a newby, it didn't occur to me that there was long established in-house squabbling. Mercy me!

Apparently, one of the commenters is also a heavy contributor and editor on the site, one Dave Nalle. He has made comments under at least two names which others consider a dastardly deed. I have no opinion one way or the other. It comes down to being a tempest in a teapot as far as I'm concerned.

When I went through the process of registering for the site, I read any number of admonishments against personal attacks. They would not be tolerated! Well, aparently that ship sailed long ago. Pretty much everyone ranted that their fellow ranters are lying scum who should go fuck themselves by whatever means available - hard and often.

I should note that this group seems to hover around the "Political" section of the site. It is divided up into various areas of interest. Of course, I posted my Iraq article and also my article about Bobby Kennedy under the "Politics" banner. A couple other articles were posted under "Culture" and one under "TV/Film." As noted, they went largely unnoticed, but at least they were not subjected to the maelstrom of accusation and name calling.

I may avoid the "Politics" section in the future. Although, some of it was rather entertaining. It's surprising how imaginative people can be through their invective. I recommend the site to any of you unfamiliar with it. There is in fact some good writing to be found there. Some of it, if I may say so, is mine. (I'm hot stuff!) By the way, I post at Blog Critics under the name "Baritone" just to keep homeland security off balance.

Hee, hee.

Keep up the good work you motherfuckers! (Sorry, Jazzy)

At least it's something to do on a cold winter's night.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Big day for Indy & Chi Town, disappointment at home

This is the big day for the citizens of the fair cities of Indianapolis and Chicago. By the time most anyone reads this, one of those cities will be the home of the Super Bowl champs. A great day.

However, disappointment hit home. My son in Germany was to board a plane in Berlin and arrive in Indy around 5:30PM today. He arose at around 6AM and soon after boarded a train for the 2 hour ride to Berlin, then made his way to the airport.

Upon checking in he couldn't find his passport. Then it dawned on him. His passport was left sitting on his desk back at his apartment. He had used it to do a pre-check-in on line. It never made it back into his travel pack.

It's the kind of thing that we all do at one time or another; the kind of thing that drives us to distraction and worse. My son was devastated. The plan, of course, was to get to Indy in time to take a seat and watch the Super Bowl at the old homestead. My wife and I were looking forward to having him home. We haven't seen him since last August. It would be great to share watching the game with him.

He called his brother who then called us to relay the news. It left me feeling hollow and feeling my son's pain. I know this doesn't measure up to what families are going through with their kids in war zones. But family is family.

Fortunately, the airline allowed my son to reschedule his flight without penalty. He will be coming in on Tuesday. Our other son is flying in Wednesday. We will all be together for a few days. That is great. We will just have to watch the game separately. Somehow, I think we will survive.


P.S. The Colts won! Woohoo!!