Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Blessed Be the State's Punitive Priesthood

Pastor Jay Dennis, who
 presides over the First Baptist Church on the Mall, a large and growing “mega-church” in Lakeland, Florida, urges his congregation to see police officers as angelic beings bearing a divine commission to impose summary punishment. They are to be obeyed, prayed for, and never spoken of other than in tones of chastened gratitude and unalloyed reverence. 

“It grieves me on the one hand, and makes me angry on the other hand, when I hear the criticism, and disrespect towards, and violence directed at those in law enforcement,” the pastor declared during his “Law Enforcement Encouragement Sunday” sermon on October 4. “We want law enforcement to know that First Baptist Church on the Mall supports you one hundred percent, and is committed to pray continually for you.”

Cop-worship Sunday is becoming a common observance at American Christian churches -- particularly Republican-leaning Evangelical congregations, whose communicants are especially receptive to the oft-repeated and patently false idea that we are witnessing a "War on Cops." Pastor Dennis dutifully retailed that claim, urging his congregation to “Pray for a hedge of protection around their vehicles, that angels will guard and shield them from danger.”
Pastor Jay Dennis.
Pastor Dennis began his homily, in predictable fashion, by citing the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament’s Epistle to the Romans, which is widely (and, according to some orthodox Christian clergy, mistakenly) construed as counseling unqualified submission to political rulers. 

 “`Do you want to have no fear of authority?’” asked Dennis, reading from the modern language translation of the passage.””` Do what is good and you will have praise from the same…. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing.’”

“When Paul speaks of `authorities,’ by application that includes law enforcement officers,” Dennis told the congregation. “So here is the idea:  When you obey the law, you have nothing to worry about; however, if you do wrong, and if you break the law, you should be fearful. The sword here is the instrument of punishment, and today that would be their weapons. God has given to these officers great authority that must always be respected.”

The problems with Pastor Dennis’s state-centered exegesis are plentiful, beginning with the fact that most government edicts cannot be obeyed without violating what ethical people – of whatever religious or philosophical background – recognize as the paramount moral law, often called the Golden Rule.

During the 1850s, to cite one obvious example, tens of thousands of Americans of good conscience – including some Christian clergymen -- systematically violated the Fugitive Slave Law by refusing to allow federal marshals to abduct black individuals and deliver them into the custody of other human beings who claimed to own them.  Many other Christian clergymen of that era condemned this as rebellion against “authority” and the “rule of law.” Had he been living at the time, Pastor Dennis – on the available evidence – would have be found among the latter.

Not Pastor Jay: Dana Carvey as Carsenio.
Secondly, it is impossible for people to obey the “law” as the government defines it. The same Epistle to the Romans cited by Pastor Dennis explains that the Old Testament law was to reveal sin (Romans 3:20) – that is, to show all of the manifold ways that fallen human beings offend their perfect Creator, so as to impress upon us our dependence on His grace. 

In what Christian believers should regard as a grave blasphemy, the State presumes to the same authority, without extending the offer of forgiveness.

As constitutional attorney Harvey Silverglate has documented, each American, during a typical day, commits at least three acts that could be construed as felonies – even when nobody else is harmed, or any property damaged. All that is necessary is a sufficiently ambitious prosecutor aided by a law enforcement officer willing to enforce the “law” even when doing so is incompatible with justice. 

In the eyes of our self-exalted rulers, all of us are criminals who fall short of the glory of the State, and are in proper peril of being detained, shackled, caged, or summarily killed by those who give tangible form to the State’s abstract righteousness. Pastor Dennis ratifies this perverse and idolatrous notion through his his casual endorsement of the idea that police are endowed with the authority to inflict summary punishment. This is the import of the pastor’s statement that the weapons carried by police are the equivalent of the “sword” that serves as “the instrument of punishment.”

Assuming any legitimate role exists for government-employed police officers, it would be purely reactive in nature – investigating criminal offenses and, where appropriate, detaining people suspected of committing them.

If police officers have unqualified power to impose punishment on people who have done no injury to the persons or property of others, why shouldn’t they be feared, and perhaps hated, rather than respected?

In his zeal to preach the gospel of submission to state “authority,” Pastor Dennis – who is also a notable anti-pornography campaigner -- minimized a multitude of sins committed by the Lakeland PD, including a huge sexual misconduct scandal implicating several ranking officers. He likewise chose to ignore numerous incidents in which innocent people have been beaten and even mutilated by the LPD’s ministering angels of divine justice – but Pastor Dennis appears to believe that nobody on the receiving end of state-consecrated violence can be regarded as truly innocent.

Florida Southern College student Joanna Youssef -- to cite one among many suitable examples -- was not committing a crime when she was encountered by two of Lakeland’s exalted emissaries of the divine state.  According to Pastor Dennis, that meant that she had nothing to fear. When Youssef got into an argument with a friend, she attracted the attention of LDP Officer Nicholas Ivancevich, who forced her to the ground and handcuffed her. While she was prone, shackled, and helpless, a police dog named Quanto escaped from a patrol vehicle and attacked her, rending her flesh and leaving her scarred and traumatized.

Such “unfortunate” incidents will happen, Pastor Dennis might concede, but it’s not as if the officers had been doing something genuinely scandalous, such as looking at porn. If the latter is true, it’s only because they were too busy producing the equivalent of porn to be watching any.

For several years, a married civilian LPD employee named Susan Eberle was used as a sexual plaything by several officers. Eberle describes herself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She also concedes that at least some of the behavior in which she was involved as consensual. Much of it, however, was involuntary, and some of it constituted sexual assault. 

An investigation by the state attorney’s office found that Eberle’s efforts to get help were thwarted by superiors intent on covering up the crimes and protecting the offenders.

According to the state attorney’s report, Eberle described an incident in which LPD gang investigator Dan Jonas “asked her to urinate in a cup so he could drink it.” The officer also sexted Eberle a self-portrait in which he was wearing women’s underwear. The report abounds in material that sounds as if it could have been rummaged out of the Marquis de Sade’s wastebasket.

“As many as ten sworn LPD officers have engaged in sex acts and sexually suggestive behavior while on duty over the past seven years with an LPD civilian employee,” concluded the report filed by Jerry Hill, the State Attorney for Polk County. Seven of the officers admitted to the charges under oath; two others offered partial admissions. Several of them “are high ranking officers … directly responsible for training other officers at LPD.  While some of the acts were consensual, many others were acts of sexual violation that “would potentially constitute felony and misdemeanor crimes as defined by Florida State Statute.”

Other acts “likely rose to a level of sexual harassment and certainly are considered unbecoming conduct in the workplace.” Just as seriously, other LPD employees “failed to intervene and stop criminal misconduct that was reported to them…. Alleged sexual crimes went uninvestigated, and evidence was lost.”

For that reason, no criminal charges were ever filed against any of the officers implicated in the scandal. Hill comments that the investigation of Eberle’s allegations “sheds some light on the serious shortcomings [of the LPD] in the areas of traffic stops, search and seizure, thoroughness of investigations, preparedness for trial, and complying with Florida Records law.”

“Had these members your department been more focused on the important responsibilities of law enforcement, rather than pursuing sexual encounters with a civilian analyst, the LPD might not be in the condition it is today," Hill admonished then- Chief Lisa Womack.

One collateral result of the investigation of Eberle’s complaint was the decision to dismiss scores of criminal cases in which the stainless exemplars of civic righteousness in the LPD had perjured themselves.

Several officers were cashiered as a result of the scandal. Eberle, significantly, was one of them: She was fired in September 2013 for “conduct unbecoming, untruthfulness, and required conduct and cooperation” in the investigation of her own claims. This means, in effect, that she was punished for the refusal of corrupt superiors to take her complaints seriously. Last April the City of Lakeland quietly paid Eberle $28,500 to withdraw a discrimination complaint she had filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

To his credit, when the LPD’s institutional abscess ruptured in July 2013, Pastor Dennis said that the “light needs to be shown in this situation.” While he experienced a “gamut of emotions,” the pastor continued, “sadness prevails.” 

Lakeland PD Chief Larry Giddens at the pulpit.
While sadness is understandable, outrage would be more appropriate, and less likely to be redeemed in the coin of cheap grace. The corruption disclosed in the report had metastasized into the marrow of the LPD. Merely excising a handful of employees – including both the chief and the whistleblower – wouldn’t be an effective cure. Little more than two years later, Pastor Dennis appears to consider the department fully rehabilitated, and worthy of something perilously akin to worship.

“There is evil in this world, there are evil people in this world, and they’re everywhere,” Pastor Dennis told his audience, encouraging them to believe that the state’s vessels of sanctified violence are an exception to that rule. During his prayer at the close of the sermon Dennis asked for “a revolution of respect for those who protect and serve us.” 

Significantly, he didn’t request divine intervention that would miraculously transform police into actual protectors and servants, nor did he plead for a "hedge of protection" for innocent and helpless people who endure the ministrations of the State's emissaries of violence.

Cop-Worship Sunday is the subject of this week's Freedom Zealot Podcast.


                                                        A brief update

As some of you may have noticed, my family has moved to a new home on the frontier. We are profoundly grateful for the help so many of you have given to us -- and still very much in need of whatever you can provide. This is a reader-supported enterprise, and I am deeply appreciative of the support we have received. Thank you so much.

Dum spiro, pugno!


InalienableWrights said...


501c3 Christians talk incessantly about getting to "know Jesus" and somehow come to the conclusion that doing so and following the greatest commandment are mutually exclusive. That you can not know Jesus and love one another.

It seems to me that if you do not take the greatest commandment to heart that you certainly do not know Jesus.

The feeble attempts of those that attempt to "love one another" from my perspective are the actions of people, perhaps with good hearts, but certainly people that will perish for lack of knowledge. The church is filled with people that stopped learning in kindergarten as far as understanding how the world works and certainly in their ability to identify evil. If you can not even identify evil you certainly can not take actions to love your neighbor. Most often you will do the opposite and cause your neighbor great harm.

How can you love your neighbor when you idly sit by and let the Satanically run bankers enslave the entire planet through debt slavery? But again Christians do not understand this because they choose to stop learning at the kindergarten level.

How can you love your neighbor when you support your government fighting illegal wars that murder millions of people in foreign lands that present no threat to you? But again Christians do not understand at all how the world works and will doom the world to perish because they choose to reject knowledge.

How can you love your neighbor when you totally reject your neighbors right to exercise God given rights and free will? How can you love your neighbor when you support the kidnapping, jailing, extortion, and murdering of your neighbor that chooses to exercise his God given rights of free will ranging from ingesting raw milk, to choosing the medical treatments that they believe will save their lives? Christians pay lip service to believing that we have God given rights, but their actions show that they despise their neighbor exercising God given rights.

How can you love your neighbor when your support stealing from you neighbor to fund the education of your child? How can you love your neighbor when you support the police coming in and murdering someone that is sick and can not pay the property extortion, because they refuse to leave the home that they rightfully own?

Rights are absolute. They do not change from place to place or from time to time, yet Christians support the idea of relative moralism. That my rights are different in Webster county than they are in Green county. Most Christians do not know it but in doing so they are supporting a main plank of the Church of Satan. You heard me right. Relative moralism is a major plank of the Church of Satan and the 501c3 Christians support it whole heartily......

InalienableWrights said...


Christianity has become a mental disorder. Christians pay lip service to loving one another but their actions look more like they hate one another. They hate and despise the God given rights that their neighbors have and they do everything in their power to ensure that the state will destroy the lives of those that choose to exercise those rights.

The state is the God of most Christians. Again they pay lip service to God being their sovereign yet their actions show that they see the state as their sovereign. That the state is their God.

The fact that our world is full of such a magnitude of evil rests squarely on the shoulders of the apostate 501c3 Christians because they choose to remain ignorant. They do not know the difference between right and wrong nor do they know the difference between good and evil. They are the reason that the New World Order is so successful, all because they do not support the God given rights of the individual. If they did the New World Order would fade away, because the only way the New World Order can exist is by trampling the God given rights of people, and ironically they do it with the full support of the 501c3 Christians.

Joshua Cottle said...

You can add Judge Kozinski's words on the subject regarding common violations of the law to your Silverglate reference. http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/2015/06/Kozinski_Preface.pdf

Anonymous said...

PORK The Hogma!

- from 'Lakeland' ("Home of a Thousand FAKE$), FloriDuh!

Genevieve Hawkins said...

I think some of the Christian reverence towards the State can be seen in the New Testament. Christians are taught to shun Judas, the apostle who ratted out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Yet they turn a blind eye to Pontius Pilate or the apparatus of the State that led directly to his crucifixion. It's a subconscious support for the State's actions as either inherently right or at the least inevitable...

Timothy Fountain said...

Fair comments above - well, the "mental illness" rehash of Freud doesn't get us beyond "Yes you are"/"No I'm not" nyah nyah nyah arugments.

While there are plenty of historic bits of evidence to support Marx's critique of religion as an "opiate" to prevent revolutionary change, there are bits of counter example as well. The article sites abolitionism; the U.S. Civil Rights movement would have been unimaginable without the moral authority and social organization of churches.

Another important bit is the fact that statists are always anxious to curb the influence of churches. That's because churches, however flawed, declare a moral authority above the state.

And it should go without saying that the defining feature of the last century was the rise of all powerful, atheist (or in Germany's case, neo-pagan) states that displaced religion and inflicted the highest body counts in history in their quest to build a perfect world.

Jesus preached love for enemies, because "(God) makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). We're all in this mess together. There is no perfect group that knows how to order society. I think the U.S. Constitutional experiment is worth preserving, because it aims to restrain any pretenders to such power over others.