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'I lost my church' over abuse

Written by Peter Smith on .

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander gave a powerful interview in Christianity Today. She is known for her eloquent statement of forgiveness toward her abuser, Dr. Larry Nassar, during the recent and dramatic series of victim-impact statements at Nassar's sentencing. More than 150 women said they were sexually abused by him under the guise of medical treatment.

While some in the evangelical press touted her forgiveness, there is much more to the story, as was evident in her statement and is even more evident in her interview.

Articles in evangelical press, she says, failed to emphasize also her call for "swift and intentional pursuit of God’s justice" when there is abuse.

"I lost my church" for advocating for victims of sexual abuse, she added.

That's because, she said, she belonged to a church that was involved in restoring the leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries despite the scandal of coverup of sexual abuse in that small but influential church group. More on that here.

The only reason I am able to have the support of these leaders now is because I am speaking out against an organization not within their community. Had I been so unfortunate so as to have been victimized by someone in their community, someone in the Sovereign Grace network, I would not only not have their support, I would be massively shunned. That’s the reality.

 

 

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Heroic survivor of Holocaust recalled

Written by Peter Smith on .

reneeI was saddened to learn of the death of Renee Rothschild this past Saturday in Louisville, Ky., at age 98. 

Married for 75 years (!), Renee and John Rothschild were the only Holocaust survivors in their families, and the story of how they survived that catastrophe is as remarkable as the resilience and faith with which they forged new lives in America.

Renee was arrested in southern France and put in a concentration camp run by the Nazi-collaborationist French government. The prisoners there were destined to Auschwitz.

But her fiance, John, took action, abandoning his own safety in an act of amazing courage, and love.

The two had met during a summer in France when they were 19 years old, and were engaged within three weeks. While John returned to his native Switzerland to do his compulsory military service, she was eventually stranded in a France that had come under Nazi conquest.

History tells us, correctly, that Nazi-run concentration camps were all part of a one-way machinery toward death. So what happened next takes some explaining, but the Rothschilds kept the yellowed telegram, travel pass and other documents to corroborate it.

The camp that Renee was in was not run by the Nazis directly, and the French did have some limited discretion over their prisoners. And John had at least some hope of legal protection given that he had citizenship papers from neutral Switzerland.

Yet he still risked his life traveling into France and walking into that camp, hearing the gate clang behind him, carrying what little collateral he had. He met with the camp commander, presented him with a box of fine cigars and the business card of a local lawyer whom the commander owed a favor. 

Thankfully the commander admired the Swiss, and when John asked that he let his fiancee go, he did.

"I didn't even know he was coming," she later said of John, but he was "my knight in white armor."

There were more amazing feats that led to their escape into Switzerland, and their eventual relocation to America, where Renee became a French teacher. She is survived by John as well as by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Their story and video is here in this USA Today article, which I originally wrote for The Courier-Journal of Louisville back in 2013.

Rabbi Robert Slosberg of the couple's synagogue, Adath Jeshurun, said of the couple: "They're just an amazing blessing. They never became jaded by the terrible experience they went through."

 

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U.S. political chasm over Israel

Written by Peter Smith on .

israelpalestine

American attitudes toward Israel are increasingly getting to look as polarized as many other areas of American life.

Growing numbers of Republicans sympathize more with Israel than Palestine, while declining numbers do among Democrats, among whom about equal numbers sympathize with each side,  according to the Pew Research Center.

It's a growing contrast from the historic and uncompromising bi-partisan support for Israel. It also coincides with a time of governments in both countries that are staunchly to the right politically, with crucial support from their strong, conservative religious factions.

One can debate which factors are causes and which are effects. Certainly the Netanyahu-Obama clashes over Iran and settlements had a polarizing effect, as do the current Netanyahu-Trump rapport. Also it wouldn't be a surprise if, under the concept of intersectionality, many Democrats characterize Palestinians as suffering from a long-term injustice under Israeli rule. 

See more on the survey here.

 

 

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'Fossil-free' Presbyterian walk planned

Written by Peter Smith on .

A group of Presbyterians hoping to get their denomination to pull all their fossil-fuel investments will be undertaking a 260-mile walk in June to make their point.

The Pittsburgh Presbytery recently added its name to about a dozen others urging the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to shed such investments

The walk will take start at the denomination's headquarters in Louisville, Ky., and end in St. Louis, site of its General Assembly, which will vote on the divestment proposal.

Organizers plan worship services and teach-ins along the route.

“We agree that climate change is real and that the church needs to respond. This can be achieved through several different strategies," one participant said.

 

 

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Again, shattered young lives

Written by Peter Smith on .

Heath2

Less than two months ago, I was visiting Paducah, Ky., when this event appeared on the screen in the hotel lobby. It was a memorial service held 20 years after a student went on a shooting rampage at nearby Heath High School, killing three and injuring others, at least one of whom is in the front row at right.

And was it only yesterday that Alex Hribal was sentenced for his bloody rampage at Franklin Regional High School?

Now, once again in western Kentucky, we have young people shot, two of them killed, and many more wounded physically and psychically, allegedly by yet another teenage gunman. 

That it happened twice in one small region, to victims who did nothing wrong but to go to school as the grownups around them expected to, is horrifying enough.

That it happens so often that we barely notice unless the casualty count is high, is even more of a travesty. 

This devastating story in the Daily Beast tells how the New Mexico shooter (remember that one?) lurked for years on extremist sites online, where school shooters were sickeningly glorified. 

We owe it to the survivors and the memories of the loved ones to do better than we have, so that when they hold the 20th annual memorial service at Marshall County High School, these things will be a rarity.

 

 

 

 

 

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