There I was walking along Greenwich Street, just minding the Palace business, when I happened to notice that many of the parked cars had leaflets tucked into their windshields. Passing close to a car, I saw that the headline reads in bold print:
THE POPE’S SECRETS
Under this headline is a color photograph of some pope or other, making a googly face. It’s hilarious! Since we all know that the current pope orchestrated a worldwide cover-up of rampant child rape at the hands of clergy from 1981-2005 when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, I was honestly curious as to just what “secrets” this investigative journalist, Tony Alamo, had unearthed that could be more horrifying than that.
It turns out the big “secret” is that the IRS, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Mafia, and Labor Unions are all part of the Vatican, and — get this — the pope is the SUPER-BOSS of all government agencies! Also, the Catholic Church is “the great whore”* and a “satanic queen” that orchestrated the executions of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. And as if that weren’t enough, the Vatican now controls the United Nations, the armed services, all police forces, the international banking and federal reserve systems, “most of the heavyweight news media,” and the U.S. Supreme Court.
In other words, it turns out that Tony Alamo is a barking loon. Okay, to be fair, I reserve judgment on his allegations regarding the Vatican controlling the U.S. Supreme Court; given the current 5-4 ratio of Catholics to non-Catholics on the high court as well as some of the decisions I’ve seen lately, he just might actually be on to something there. Now, I have no love for the Catholic Church, but you know what? It is not because the Pope is the SUPER-BOSS of the IRS, the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Mafia, Labor Unions and all government agencies. It’s because of the church’s evil dogma, deranged theology, unmitigated contempt for women and gays, and did I mention the worldwide cover-up of their own epidemic of child rape? Yeah, that too. But, I digress.
You have probably figured out by now that Tony Alamo is not an investigative journalist. Tony Alamo is the “World Prophet” of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, and is currently in prison serving a 175 year sentence. That’s right: one-hundred-and-seventy-five years. It seems the Arkansas pastor was convicted in 2009 of 10 counts of interstate transportation of minors for illegal sexual purposes, rape, sexual assault, and contributing to the delinquency of minors. (He ought to fit right in with the Catholic Church hierarchy, no?) Alamo has preached and written (pdf) about the Biblical requirement that godly Christian men engage in polygamy; Alamo himself apparently had up to 13 “spiritual wives” at a time. One of them was just eight years old when she was “married” to him — the girl’s father sent her to live with Alamo when she was just six.
In short, Alamo is a petty and brutal tyrant who enforced his sadistic and perverse will on his flock (including kids) with violent beatings, forced fasts, and sexual abuse. If you can stomach it, read some of the court documents, e.g. this one, or take a look at the victim testimony. After sentencing, Pastor Alamo displayed the full plumage of his grandiose martyr complex, announcing that he was “just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel.” Of course.
Alamo is your garden-variety, vicious fundamentalist preacher — a typical entitled narcissist, albeit one with a slightly more elaborate messiah complex than we typically observe in the wild with primates of this sub-species. Assuming he does not escape from prison or win release on appeal, he ordinarily would not warrant a second thought. But what terrifies me is his followers. From prison, Alamo not only dictates the contents of his bizarre newsletters, he still holds considerable sway over the minions in his church.
And they are bugfuck nutz.
I am not referring to their relentless leafleting of cars, homes and businesses in the West Village, although that is annoying as hell. And I don’t just mean that so many of these people remain committed members of his church despite his extraordinarily horrifying behavior and subsequent conviction, although that too is pretty disconcerting. What concerns me is that the mindset of his followers is so inhuman, depraved and evil that the pope’s got nothing on them. And they’re running around in the West Village.
Allow me to demonstrate what I mean, and then ponder whether you would feel safe with these people in your neighborhood. In conjunction with the criminal investigation into Alamo, Arkansas authorities removed minor children from the church’s compound and the homes of his followers in light of extensive evidence of neglect and abuse. The human services officials told the parents that they could get their children back if they just got jobs and homes outside of Alamo’s compound. Every one of them refused:
In five separate opinions today, the state Supreme Court upheld Griffin’s rulings against Miriam and Albert Krantz, parents of six; Carlos and Sophia Parrish, parents of four; Greg Seago, father of three; Bethany Myers, mother of two, and Alphonzo Reid, father of one.
In each decision, the high court said that the parents lived with their children on Alamo’s compound and that state human services officials told the parents when they removed the children from the compound in 2008 that if they moved away and found jobs outside the Alamo Ministries, they would be able to get custody of their children.
In each case, however, the parents refused to comply.
Many parents refused to believe the testimony of their own children (or at least claimed they did not), regardless of the fact that so many of their stories were remarkably consistent and there was plenty of corroborating evidence. From a decision on appeal upholding the removal of custody of two other girls:
Brian Broderick denied knowing that children had been beaten, sexually abused, slapped, or forced to fast, and described the ministry as a great environment in which to raise children. He did not believe any of the witnesses testifying to such abuse and called his children, M.B. and N., liars. In fact, he said that there was nothing anyone could do to make him believe that Alamo, whom he considered to be a prophet, had molested M.B.
To recap: there are people in this world who think it right and proper to send their six year old daughter to live with their pastor, until she can be “married” to him at age eight. There are people who will not change jobs or housing in order to regain custody of their own children. There are people who are (or will claim to be) unaware that their kids have been brutally beaten, sexually abused, or forced to fast, and when confronted with mountains of testimony and evidence to the contrary, they still flat-out refuse to believe it. They go by the name of “Christians,” and they are walking among us.
Say what you will about Pastor Alamo’s harem, he is certainly not wrong that the Bible condones not only polygamy, but also the treatment of females (and wives in particular) as property. Hell, it’s even codified right there in those Ten Commandments conservatives want displayed in every public school and courthouse:
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.
Be that as it may, I am saddened that there are (no doubt well-meaning) people who write things like this to the abuse victims:
I hope you receive the proper counseling you need to eventually live a normal life without fear. Despite what you may have heard the first fifteen years of life, God is with you.
I once received a newsletter from his church under my windshield wiper. After reading it, I sent him a letter and rebuked his false teachings and warned him that he would burn in Hell if he did not repent of his sinful ways. It looks as though he didn’t repent and now his sins have caught up with him.
Putting aside that this so-called “god” was nowhere to be found for fifteen years while this kid’s life was a living hell, now these people claim to have knowledge of the real intentions of this god. Curiously enough (and biblical support notwithstanding) it turns out that this god is not at all like Tony Alamo says it is. And how exactly do they “know” the mind of this God? The same way Tony Alamo does. That is, they don’t.
I cannot claim to comprehend even a sliver of the pain and damage these child victims have experienced at the hands of their parents and others in their church. Perhaps at this stage in their lives they may find the idea of a kinder, gentler god somehow comforting, and I wish them all the comfort and healing they need. But at some point they may also find they need to reconcile this kinder, gentler god with one that would allow what happened to them at Alamo’s compound. If it were indifferent to their suffering, then it is not worthy of respect, much less worship. If it were incapable of interceding, then it is no god at all.
The only way to ultimately make sense of this conundrum is to accept the truth: that there are no gods, at least none that we can possibly know anything about. That humans are capable of great evil and also great good, and that they are ultimately in control of their own lives and the societies they build. Accepting this fact is both humbling and empowering. It is the only way one can free oneself from the tyranny that is religion and the irrational fear of hell. These kids have been to hell already.