Wednesday, June 9, 2010


There used to be a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle named Art Hoppe. One of

his favorite vehicles for satire involved God and the angel Gabriel. Gabriel would be angry

over some new affront or outrage committed by humans who occupy that "little blue marble"

God created; and he would ask God for permission to blow his trumpet and end the world

once and for all. Despite making a good case, in the end God would refuse and a frustrated

Gabriel would slink away.

Maybe it's time to say "Blow Gabriel Blow". In Nigeria, a Pentecostal preacher named

Helen Ukpabio (Pentecostal as in Christian) says God has given her the power to tell whether

a child is possessed by Satan. She can discern whether an infant or a toddler is a witch or

warlock. This might all be amusing if not for the fact her teachings have contributed to the

torture and abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children, infants, and toddlers suspected

of being witches or warlocks.

According to the New York Times, a new documentary for HBO examines children

enduring horrific exorcisms including being splashed with acid, buried alive, or dipped in fire.

Many children are abandoned or expelled from their villages on the word of some person who

claims God spoke to them and told them to fight Satan.

Adding insult to injury, many of these messengers of God charge a fee to perform the

exorcisms with poor parents scrambling to come up with the money so their children are not

killed or thrown out of the village.

Ms. Ukpabio is not unique. Fundamentalism is dangerous and religious fundamentalism

is the worst kind. Maybe you're thinking that's just Africa and it's backward and those people

will believe anything. American fundamentalists travel to African nations encouraging them

to pass laws criminalizing homosexuality, a capital offense. Recently, two openly gay men

were sentenced to fifteen years in prison in another nation citing religion as the basis for their

punishment for their crime against nature. This is no game the fundamentalists are playing.

Fundamentalist Muslims justify killing by their reading of the Koran. Fundamentalist

Jews justify killing and prejudice by their reading of Hebrew scriptures. Fundamentalist

Christians justify the torture and killing of babies by their reading of the Bible. This Nigerian

preacher was invited to speak to fundamentalist churches in England and recently, in Houston,

Texas. She was asked to pass along her theology which no one is allowed to dispute (she has

gone to court in Nigeria asking for a restraining order prohibiting anyone from criticizing her

or her beliefs). American and English audiences want to hear what this woman has to say.

American fundamentalists are encouraging her and her beliefs.

By its nature, fundamentalism is anti-intellectual. It is anti-democratic and anti-

pluralism. Fundamentalism cannot tolerate dissent and it believes it is always right, insuring

that all critics and opponents must be wrong. There is no middle ground. Fundamentalism is

anti-American and causes people to check their brains at the church door and pick up their


There is no need for the existence or belief in Satan or the devil. Sin is caused by us. We

choose to bring evil into the world when we choose to de-humanize ourselves or others. Free

will gives us the option of choosing good or evil. The idea that God needed to create an entity

to tempt us into making sinful choices makes no sense. We are quite capable of being selfish,

arrogant, stupid, insensitive, and even murderous on our own.

I imagine Gabriel pursing his lips and getting ready to blow as he watches infants and

toddlers tortured or abandoned in God's name. I imagine his lungs filling with air as he

ponders the hypocrisy and ingratitude of those who have benefitted from this gift of life

given to us. He is glancing at God for permission to end this experiment because humans

have so bastardized the basic simple message to love one another, turn the other cheek,

forgive an in finite number of times, and take care of the least of your brothers and sisters.

If it were up to you, what would you tell him to do? What do you think? I welcome your

comments and rebuttals. Please send them to

Note: Sometimes more than one blog is posted in a day, so please look for previous blogs.


  1. We may be coming to a close to the experiment as we refuse to respect ourselves nor the planet we live on.

  2. Thanks Bernie... it is a crazy world.
    Take Care Mr. Ward... You are a smart man.
    Best Wishes Chris