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From caring citizen to ‘a fool for Christ’: the sad case of Matthew Carapella

MARCUS ROBINSON examines the transformation of a likeable, compassionate young Canadian into an abusive Christian zealot.

THE first I’d heard of street preacher Matthew Carapella was when I read a September 2017 report that the people of London in Ontario were being subjected to homophobic and other forms of abuse by Carapella and another preacher named Steven Ravbar.

Things had become so bad that Cory McKenna, a pastor at the Harvest Bible Chapel on Commissioners Road, had to get a trespass order issued against both Carapella and Ravbar after the pair refused his repeated requests to stop confronting his parishioners.

McKenna said the men regularly showed up during service and challenged people in the congregation about their beliefs. They even confronted women about what they were wearing. Soon after an online petition was launched asking that Ravbar and Carapella be barred from verbally assailing passersby in London’s centre, the pair moved their message to Kincardine, around 100 miles away, and beyond.

During a short stop in Kincardine, for example, they railed against the LGBT community, short shorts on women and “the atheists, God-haters and make-believe Christians”.mathew carapella

Normally I disregard the antics of street preachers but what made me dig deeper Carapella’s behaviour in particular was the speed of his transformation from being a well-balanced athletic philanthropist into a raving misanthrope.

I wasn’t the only one puzzled by his transformation. Sheryl Rooth, writing for The Londoner, said: “There is a difference between sharing the word of God and screaming into a microphone at a woman wearing a skirt and telling her she is a whore. A difference so gaping it creates a chasm to be filled with anger, fear, and the potential for violence. Let’s not confuse being a God-fearing Christian with fearing a hate-spewing misogynist with a microphone . . .

“I could stand in front of him all day and argue that women are not responsible for the world’s problems. Nor are we harlots because we wear pants or high heels. Our children are not suffering because we have our own identities. Husbands do not cheat on their wives because women have careers . . .

“How does someone go from one extreme to another in such a short amount of time? Maybe he did receive a message from Jesus to change his life. Perhaps there are mental health issues or this is a side effect of having the most career interceptions in football. The brain can only take so much before it starts to give in to the pressure. Regardless of the reason, when I see Carapella on the corner, I almost always think of his family and how they are coping. It can’t be easy watching this unfold knowing there is little they can do.

“Religion should bring comfort, structure, guidance and commitment to a person. Conversations should be full of grace, not apprehension and admonishment. What is happening on our street corners is not preaching of the gospel.”

On investigating further, I learned from a website called “Seek the Truth” that in 2013, Carapella, then aged 26 and a successful football player was publicly recognised for being a role model for youngsters. He worked for one of the most successful construction firms in Canada, and lived life to the fullest, engaging well with his community.

He did his best to help others and make a positive impact and his passion was to help underprivileged children. Working with the London Community Foundation, he started the All for the Kids Fund to help provide needy youth with funding for activities such as sports, music, art, dance, drama, as well as the basic needs such as food and clothing.

He wanted to ensure than no child in his community went without.

Soon after, Matthew came in contact with Steven and Rudy Ravbar. Like Matthew, they placed great value in their faith, but did not feel the Christian churches in London, Ontario were the answer.

Instead they chose to follow a form of fire and brimstone Christianity popularised William Branham, and got their ideas from some 1,100 recorded sermons of the Pentecostal evangelist which were preached during the 1940s through the 1960s.

These sermons, according to the Ravbars, held the key to unlocking “true salvation” while the rest of the Christians in the city had placed their faith in a “cheap imitation”.

Said the author of the “Seek the Truth” piece: “Unaware that Steven and Rudy were recruiting him into a destructive religious cult, Matthew began spending time with the Ravbars to learn more about the esoteric teachings of William Branham.

“The cult identity that had formed in Matthew continued to change his personality to match William Branham’s pattern of verbal abuse, while Matthew’s aggression towards the city of London continued to worsen. He began verbally attacking any passerby who gave the slightest impression of similarity towards the opposite gender, calling them an ‘abomination’.

“He began targeting specific churches in the community, harassing parishioners and religious leaders about their beliefs. He began visiting other churches during services and harassing church members for their apparel or their beliefs.

“Church leaders have been forced to ask for police intervention. Cult leaders have manipulated his emotions, placing him in a state of fear. That fear has now created a barrier between him and the outside world, enslaving him to the clutches of a destructive cult. The real Matthew is now buried deep inside, longing to be set free.”

 

Judge accused of a ‘shameful diatribe’ against US hate preacher Scott Lively

SCOTT Lively – a preacher who probably did more to stoke up hatred against gays in Uganda than any other foreign evangelist – is demanding that remarks made about him by a Federal judge be expunged from official records.

Lively wants the Boston-based First Circuit Court of Appeals to remove language used by Judge Michael Ponsor when he dismissing a suit brought against the pastor by the group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG).

The group had tried to sue Lively – co-author of the infamous The Pink Swastika – under the Alien Tort Statute, which allows foreign nationals to sue US citizens in American courts. Ponsor threw out the suit, saying that the law does not cover alleged injuries committed outside the United States.

The group had accused Lively of waging a campaign to persecute LGBT people in their country. The pastor, who runs Springfield-based Abiding Truth Ministries, had frequently visited Uganda and had urged politicians to take the strongest possible measures against gays and lesbians. As a consequence the country passed a a draconian anti-LGBT law in 2014, an early draft of which called for the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.

Reports at the time directly linked Lively with Uganda’s proposed “Kill the Gays Bill”.

In his memorandum, Ponsor remained highly critical of Lively, even while agreeing with his argument that the suit should be thrown out. The judge said the pastor’s views on gay people ranged from “the ludicrous to the abhorrent”, and said that Lively was advancing “crackpot bigotry”.

Ponsor also wrote that Lively’s “actions in aiding and abetting efforts to demonise, intimidate, and injure LGBTI people in Uganda” constituted violations of international law.

Ponsor, according to this report, wrote: “Defendant Scott Lively is an American citizen who has aided and abetted a vicious and frightening campaign of repression against LGBTI persons in Uganda. Lively’s crackpot bigotry could be brushed aside as pathetic, except for the terrible harm it can cause. The record in this case demonstrates that Defendant has worked with elements in Uganda who share some of his views to try to repress freedom of expression by LGBTI people in Uganda, deprive them of the protection of the law, and render their very existence illegal.”

The evidence, said Judge Ponsor. “confirmed the nature of defendant’s, on the one hand, vicious and, on the other hand, ludicrously extreme animus against LGBTI people and his determination to assist in persecuting them wherever they are, including Uganda. The evidence of record demonstrates that Defendant aided and abetted efforts (1) to restrict freedom of expression by members of the LBGTI community in Uganda, (2) to suppress their civil rights, and (3) to make the very existence of LGBTI people in Uganda a crime.”

The Liberty Counsel – the right-wing Christian hate group responsible for sending Kim Davis to Romania to stoke up opposition to gay marriage – filed a brief in October asking the appeals court to toss out Ponsor’s “unnecessary and prejudicial language.”

Liberty Counsel Vice President Horatio Mihet said in a news release: “Today, we defend Pastor Scott Lively’s name in the Court of Appeals and work to remedy Judge Ponsor’s shameful diatribe against Lively’s Christian values and beliefs. Once Judge Ponsor concluded that he lacked jurisdiction over SMUG’s preposterous lawsuit, the only thing left to do was dismiss it. However, instead he chose to include an unnecessary tirade of words against the pastor.”

According to Charisma News ,”due to the judge’s known support for the LGBT agenda he improperly littered his order with a prolonged tirade against Lively, badly distorting Lively’s Christian views and ministry and insulting him with such unbecoming epithets as ‘crackpot bigot’, ‘pathetic’, ‘ludicrous’, ‘abhorrent; and numerous others. Judge Ponsor also purported to conclude, without even a pretense of legal or factual analysis, that Lively’s Christian beliefs and pro-family ministry violated ‘international law’ and that Lively’s peaceful speaking on homosexuality in Uganda somehow ‘aided and abetted’ crimes supposedly committed by people Lively has never even spoken to or met.”

Charisma News added: “Judge Ponsor should have dismissed the case in 2013, when asked to do so following the Supreme Court opinion. Instead, he forced Lively to needlessly endure four more years of intense litigation and discovery by the army of lawyers working for the Center for Constitutional Rights, an organisation that has received funding from George Soros.”

Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said: “Judge Ponsor allowed his support for the LGBT agenda to enter an opinion and make prejudicial findings laced with defamatory statements that are both illegal and unbecoming.”

St Sukie de la Croix is alive and well and as entertaining as ever

ST Sukie de la Croix, who wrote for the Gay and Lesbian Humanist, among many other publications, has just published a new book, The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity.

He is most widely known for his 2012 book Chicago Whispers: A History of LGBT Chicago Before Stonewall. His works have explored the underground cultures and aspects of Chicago’s LGBT community dating back to decades.

He has had several columns in Chicago publications, both in print and online: Outlines (now Windy City Times), Nightspots, Chicago Now, and Chicago Free Press.

St Sukie De la Croix was approached by Chicago’s municipal tourism authority to script and conduct the first “LGBT History of Chicago” bus tour. He had two plays, A White Light in God’s Choir (2005), and Two Weeks in a Bus Shelter with an Iguana (2006), performed by Chicago’s Irreverence Dance & Theater company.

In 2008, he participated as a historian in a PBS television documentary, Out and Proud in Chicago.

In 2011, he was honoured with an Esteem Award for Outstanding Magazine Reporter or Columnist. In November 2012, he was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

The writer and photographer was born in Bath, Somerset, as Darryl Michael Vincent, to a poor family. His father Stanley Reginald was a truck driver while his gypsy mother Doreen Mary worked in an engineering factory.

He was an only child and grew up an hour away from Stonehenge in a community populated by many pagans and gypsies. Due to his community and socialist parents, he was not raised to follow a specific religion. After changing his name to Sukie de la Croix, six years later he added “Saint”. When asked what he is the saint of, he replied that he’s the patron saint of homosexuals.

• The Blue Spong and the Flight from Mediocrity – a humorous fantasy that is receiving rave reviews – is available from Amazon.

UK Humanist Andrew Copson releases new book on secularism

Review by DALE CLARIDGE

DO religion and its institutions subvert reason and progress in modern life? In his introduction to Secularism: Politics, Religion and Freedom, Andrew Copson presents a holistic and hard-hitting case showing the importance of keeping religion out of politics. The CEO of Humanists UK, Copson is accustomed to speaking to ideologically diverse audiences and his new book strikes the rare balance of being both entertaining and informative as he takes novice readers on a fast-paced journey through the history and necessity of one of the most fundamental ideas of Western civilisation.

To begin, Copson sets out a clear end-game for the secular individual. He explains the work of Jean Baubérot and his tripartite conditions for secularism:

1. Separation of religious institutions from institutions of the state, and no dominance of religious institutions;
2. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion for all;
3. No state discrimination against anyone on the grounds of their religion or non-religious world view or their beliefs.

It is by no means a one-sided analysis of the subject. Copson tests Baubérot’s ideas, and pits core tenets of the social contract – such as fairness, equality, and freedom – against the people who have sought to implement them.

The book examines countries such as Denmark and the United Kingdom, which are effectively far more secular, despite their religiously-based legal frameworks, than countries boasting secular constitutions such as Bangladesh. To fully explore this issue, we are taken on a trip around the world. We are asked to consider how the minds behind partition of India both cultivated religious sectarianism and attempted to create a home for all Indians, and how post-partition India has sought to accommodate those who believe they require an exemption from common law.

Copson examines how a system like India’s might leave the country more open to the ethno-religious nationalism of Narendra Modi’s BJP, than a more equal, less accommodating system like that of the United States.
This system is described in stark contrast to the constitution that revolutionary France created in a violent attempt to discard and replace the Catholic Church.

Another example: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s ultimately failed attempt to emulate a 20th century, pseudo-secular Europe requires us to ask the question as to how a truly secular state can come about, and how secularism can fall.

Through these, and other examples, we see that people of different nations had different relationships with different types of religion, and these present different social inequalities and heavily shapes what people are looking for in secular governance, if anything.

Copson provides a detailed and convincing argument, detailing how the longevity of a truly secular state cannot just rely on law, but must also win hearts and minds.

Copson evaluates, clearly and honestly, not only what secularism has achieved in placing the dignity of the human being above any theological considerations, but how allegedly secular states the world over utilise national identity to discriminate against religious minorities, secretly or explicitly, by sponsoring the majority religion of the state.

Copson’s gift, it seems, is the ability to condense decades of the evolution and analysis of the concept of secularism into 140 short pages. With the soft ambition so characteristic of his narrative voice, he leads the reader seamlessly from secularism’s conception (before it had been named) to how political religion took its roots in Europe and the Middle East.

Concisely, the difference between secularism in opposition to religion and secularism that simply ignores religion is spelled out.

Although not a polemical piece, Copson tackles the best of the arguments against pursuing secularism in their strongest forms.
Can enlightenment values shaped in opposition to Christianity be universalised? Does a secular state demand that everyone behaves as though they are non-religious? Can we accommodate those with extreme or pernicious religious beliefs?

Copson lays his firm conviction in the value of secularism open to every brutal criticism and diligently refutes each of them. Through a clear and honest intellectual process, he shows why compromising on secular law, both in theoretical necessity and in practice, erodes our personal and public freedom.

If you picked up this book hoping to glean a few, empty platitudes to argue that secularism presents a magic solution to the world’s problems, you’ll likely be disappointed. Instead, you’ll find something far more nuanced. The risks and rewards of both are laid out for readers to decide where their opinions fall.