Friday, July 10, 2020

Stupidity Unmasked

There was a recent news item about a lawmaker in Ohio, Nino Vitale, who refused to wear a face mask under the premise that "we are all created in the image and likeness of God" and "(t)hat image is seen the most by our face." This news reflects a few thematic points.

The first theme is that utterly inane arguments like this one never die; they simply are resurrected repeatedly to serve newer and even stupider purposes. Vitale's rendering of the image language of the Bible is no different in essence than Mormon arguments which use the same passages to declare that God is a glorified human being -- arguments which I addressed and debunked in The Mormon Defenders back in 2001. (The sum of it: The language has nothing to do with physical appearance but with humans being designated authorities on earth. A mask doesn't change that.)

The second theme is that the resurrection of stupidity like this is a perpetual cycle which no amount of education can correct. A church that has gorged on Joel Osteen and messages and music designed to make themselves feel better will not be persuaded by facts or evidence when there is an agenda at hand to pursue. Apologetics is a practice for the sake of the dwindling few who are the exceptions to this -- and it is those I will continue to serve with this ministry.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Crowned with Viral Glory


The current crisis has not unexpectedly brought to light some darker corners of the church that had been better off remaining dark. A couple of examples:


Jim Bakker, whose reputation is so well known as to not require any further explanation, has been called down for promoting a fake toothpaste cure: 


Rodney Howard Browne has been arrested for violating public health orders: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/30/us/florida-pastor-arrested-river-church/index.html  People might not remember Browne, so a reminder may be in order. He was a leading voice in the “holy laughter” movement some years back.  https://www.equip.org/article/an-evening-with-rodney-howard-browne/


For my part, I’ll just make a rather mundane prediction that for the foreseeable future, distance learning is going to become a much more popular way of teaching apologetics.


I’ll also take a guess that John Hagee’s next book with be about how this is the end of the world.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Kissing Joshua Harris Goodbye

From the September 2014 E-Block -- in light of Harris' recent profession to have deconverted, this looked like a good time to bring it out.

**

At reader request, we're having a look at Joshua Harris' I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a rather aged book at this stage, but one that remains a subject of some controversy. Reviews of this work on Amazon indicate strong love-hate relationships with Harris' advice, with some claiming his work saved their lives, and others claiming it ruined them.

I should begin with a few disclosures.

Firstly, as of this year, my wife and I will celebrate 24 years of fruitful marriage together. In my younger years, I dated only two girls; my future wife was one of them, and we dated for roughly five years. So Harris' advice would have obviously not been of any use to me personally.

Secondly, in the Biblical world, and in many cultures even today, people are married as early as ages 12-14, and marriages were arranged by families, often with the bride and groom not meeting until the wedding day. While this may shock us, it should be kept in mind that 1) there was no perception of what we regard as young adulthood (an in-between period of half-childhood, half-adulthood); 2) romantic love as we know it was virtually unknown; 3) if nothing else, this was a frank recognition that sexual urges were so powerful that they had to be channeled into legitimate avenues as soon as possible. I will not here debate the virtues of this system, nor suggest we revert to it: It is far too late for us to do so anyhow. I will suggest that we might do well to learn from that system, and understand why it was followed.

Thirdly, Harris makes it plain that his advice is not for everyone. He does not think everyone should stop dating and shift to his courtship model, but it is clear that he does strongly advise people to do so. His text is rife with qualifications that he does not consider his system a panacea. For my part, I rest in saying that the real problem isn't the system, but the people: Abuses will happen no matter what the rules are, as I think even Harris will admit. He thinks abuses are less likely under courtship parameters. I very much doubt that would be the case due mainly to the fact that our social world is too individualistic for that to be true. Harris has the right problem, but the wrong solution: The source of the problem lies much deeper than our rituals of mating.

With all of that in mind, let's now look at the contents of the book (hereinafter referred to as IKDG).

Harris' main motives, at least, are honorable: He believes that dating can be a distraction from God, one in which people focus too much on each other and not enough on God. He also believes that dating can encourage self-gratification over pleasing others, and over the long-term good of others; that it compromises our ability to see members of the opposite sex as brothers/sisters in Christ; that it leads us to compromise our service to other Christians as we focus overmuch on one person; that commitment should precede intimacy, and so on.

Harris' solution takes the form of a sort of days-of-yesteryear courtship: We should cultivate friendships with members of the opposite sex, initially and exclusively, until we perceive that we find a person who is a match, coupled with only seeing them socially in group settings, especially settings in which both parties serve some godly end (like at a church function). Then the male of the pair should seek permission for courtship, which will involve social gatherings with the female of the pair's family and friends. In the end, physical contact of all kinds, including hand-holding and kissing, is reserved until the wedding day.

Is this workable? Yes and no. The problem, as noted, is not the system, but as Harris acknowledges, it is instead that we are in a society that "celebrates self-centeredness and immorality." [36] The Biblical world knew little or nothing of the former aspect of that equation, which was considered deviant behavior and would be punished. In that light, the success of Harris' courtship model will be entirely dependent on the ability of each person to control those self-same tendencies, as would also be the case under a dating model. (And obviously, one of Harris' themes, that people need to make sure that they are "ready" for marriage, would have earned him nothing in the Biblical world but a blinding stare: You were never asked if you were ready, you just did what your family told you!)

Quite obviously, each person's tendencies towards self-centeredness varies. One person may succeed in both models (dating, courtship). Another may succeed in only one but not the other. Some may well fail under both! And Harris seems like he would admit this, as he (again) frequently qualifies his advice as not for everyone. This would also go far in explaining the love-hate reviews on Amazon. Among the "hates" is a reviewer who said they followed Harris' model and ended up in an abusive relationship. Obviously, no method will be foolproof: You can be just as distracted from your work for God during a courtship as you can be under a dating model.

In the end, I'd advise readers to see Harris' efforts as merely food for thought, not solid and comprehensive advice. It has some good pointers, such as not skipping friendship as part of a relationship (my wife and I were best friends as we dated, and still are as a married couple). In Biblical terms, Harris has nothing unique to offer; what few texts he finds to support his contentions, save in the most general sense, do not support any particular relational model. Perhaps his most outlandish exegesis is borrowed from Gregg Harris (an expert in homeschooling!) who claims that the story of Isaac meeting Rebekah while she was watering camels illustrates that Rebekah was better able to meet her husband because she was doing the domestic duties she was supposed to be doing. [157] That's a rather strained lesson to draw from the text, especially when most spouses of the day were put together beforehand by their families.

Finally, as some have pointed out, Harris was merely a youth pastor when he wrote this book; he is not an expert on relationships, much less a psychologist. His work falls into that unfortunate category of writings by non-experts who get a pass simply because they are pastors and/or have "life experience." Harris has a tendency to universalize his own weaknesses and assume his problems are everyone else's. The success of his book with some reflects the fact that inevitably, some of his problems will be other people's problems, too.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Christian Behrend Doscher's $20,000 Promise


One of Christian Behrend Doscher’s most egregious attempts to deceive me took place in 2008 while he was posing as “spirit5er” on TheologyWeb. It took me until 2016 to find out the whole truth.

While I was engaging him in debate on TheologyWeb in 2008, Doscher challenged me to a debate in front of my church and said he would pay me $20,000 for that debate. Because of a crash, the TheologyWeb version of that thread no longer exists except for a bit of it in an archive. But Doscher preserved a version of those events on an atheist forum that same year. Here’s what he said in a message dated October 6, 2008:

I accepted Holding's $20,000 price tag for an oral debate at a location, date and time of his choosing, on a biblical subject of his choosing, in front of any audience of his choosing, then asked for the name and number of his pastor to facilitate the deal, guarantee his promise to debate and transfer the money. Nope. He refused to give the information on his pastor (like Holding really goes to church?!), unless I PM'd him with an electronic scan of my bank statement showing I had at least $20,000 in my account. When I objected that people sending bank statements to people they don't know on the internet is absurd, and they can be easily photoshopped anyway (bank statements being little more than letters, lines and numbers, how hard is that to alter?), he replied that he knows experts who can tell whether a scan that shows my name and money-amount, has been photoshopped or not. As if the prospect of meeting personally with his pastor to facilitate this deal upon his agreement to debate, was somehow more prone to deception and falsification than his ridiculous face-saving suggestions.


I had plenty of suspicions about “spirit5er” so I never told him a thing. I also strung him along about his offer of $20,000, knowing that it was likely to be false. I had no idea just how false it was until 2016, when I started collecting documents from Doscher’s old lawsuits in the midst of his libel lawsuit against me.

By way of background, in 2007, Doscher briefly worked for Swift Transportation, a leading trucking company. He resigned from that job on July 31, 2007, over an issue involving a traffic ticket and a refusal to drive his truck. In June 2009, he filed the first of a series of lawsuits related to these events. I won’t get into details on those cases here. What I want to highlight is this snippet from a document he filed in that case:



(Doscher v Swift, Motion for Summary Judgment, October 2010, p. 60)

So, let’s put the pieces together. In 2008, the same year he was often homeless and living in his car, Doscher was also offering me $20,000 to engage him in a live debate. This was in spite of the fact that he couldn’t even afford to spend the money for gas needed to turn the heat on in his vehicle in the dead of winter.

It’s kind of ironic. In 2008, he offered me $20,000 he didn’t have to pay me for a live debate. In 2016, a judge ordered him to pay me just over $20,000 to cover my attorney fees. One way or the other, he’s destined to pay me that amount someday. It just remains to be seen how.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

I Am Second, II: Some Facts About That Libel Lawsuit

In an entry for this blog some time ago, the theme was “I am second” – referring to where I had reached on the list of freelance contributors to the Christian Research Journal. This entry is about another “second” I’ve also reached, of an entirely different kind – and unlike last time, it’s not about an achievement. It’s about an effort that’s been made to destroy all that I’ve worked for the past 20 years, and how it’s destined to fail.

Readers will recall that in 2015-16, I was the subject of a libel lawsuit. The plaintiff sued me in his home state and lost on the grounds of his state’s court lacking jurisdiction over me as resident of another state. He then sued me in my home state of Florida, and he lost here as well. The end result is that he now owes me nearly $27,000 at present, which is a combination of just over $21,000 in attorney fees plus two years’ interest.


He makes public statements about the money I spent. He’s less inclined to mention more than that about it.


Well, then. It’s time to reveal some facts about this individual, as well as explain why “I am second” with respect to something related to him.


His name is Christian Behrend Doscher. Here are a few facts about him.

When he sued me, he already owed more than ninety thousand dollars in debt. Some sixty five thousand of that was from other legal debts he has incurred over the past several years due to losses in court.

With the debt to me added, he would now be over $110,000 in debt. Among those debts, he owes more to me than he owes to any other party save one. That is the sense in which “I am second” in this instance. I am his second leading creditor.

That’s what he doesn’t seem inclined to mention when he talks about that $20,000 I spent and posts about it in various places: That he now owes me every cent of that money, plus interest, by court order.

He will not be paying me back any time soon, though. That’s because he is, in fact, long term unemployed, on disability, and indigent. He has been unemployed for at least eight years. He lives off disability checks and food stamps.

And now, he has threatened to file a third libel lawsuit against me – or rather, against my former ministry Apologetics Afield, which is now defunct. So why is Doscher suing a dead company, rather than me personally?

Maybe he’s trying to make me first in terms of who he owes money to instead of second?

Or maybe, he’s too frightened of me to face me one on one in a court of law, knowing that I know as much as I do about his past and about his litigation history.

Doscher sometimes objects that people don’t know the whole story about his lawsuits against me. He has said they need to hear more of the story.

Well, I agree.

I have started a new journal that I have titled DoscherLeaks, which is part of a website I have about the lawsuit. In that journal, I will be presenting copies of several documents related to Doscher and/or to his lawsuits against me. For openers, we have this. It was a bankruptcy filing he made in September 2015, shortly after he first sued me. In that document, he lists his income and his assets as of September 2015. (I had originally planned to make this and much more part of an ebook, but I have since decided that this format has more utility.)

Here are some interesting facts related in the bankruptcy paperwork:

His total debt at the time of filing was $89,391.84.

$10,677.50 of that was on a student loan.

One of his possessions is a set of “vintage nail clippers” valued at $2.

He lists his prior lawsuit against me as an asset worth $15,000.

He receives $745.00 per month for a disability payment. He lives off of this and $194.00 per month in food stamps.

The only party he owes more to than to me is the background screening company HireRight ($33,562.50).

The next document I am sharing now is a transcript of the hearing where the judge in Doscher’s home state awarded me attorney fees. A few points I found notable include that my attorney says I did an “excellent job of presenting the issues to the court” in my originally filed motion to dismiss (though he also said it needed more reference to state law). I also appreciated this quote from my attorney:

“Mr. Doscher has repeatedly chosen to initiate litigation in this and other forums. Mr. Doscher needs to understand that there are very real costs to those he brings into court.’

After the judge declines to let him speak, Doscher leaves the courtroom. The judge says near the end, before making the award, “It’s my finding that Mr. Doscher has abused the court process to go after somebody from out of state, hale them into court in this state.”

It’s good to know more of the story, isn’t it? I am sure Doscher appreciates it.

That’s just a fraction of all have on Doscher, which was compiled over several months as preparation for his lawsuits. I have much more.

And I will share it all in depth on DoscherLeaks.

One other thing I will share now: A select list of quotations by attorneys in past suits who opposed Doscher. I’ll put those below. (In later journal entries, we’ll fill out the context for these quotes, but if you want to see the documents now, please contact me.)

After all, he wants everyone to know the full story.

Now everyone will.

**

By a local attorney, in Doscher’s lawsuit against his former public defender in a custody case:

"As can be seen from the excerpt reproduced immediately below, (1) Mr. Doscher threatened to run up the cost of litigation by dragging out discovery, claiming as an excuse that he as a pro se would end up taking more time. (2) He also acknowledged that he received social security disability payments due to his 'mental disability.' (3) He then stated that even if we were awarded sanctions against him, he would not have the money to pay that, moreover, (4) he would be filing bankruptcy in 2013 and add Ms.[Defendant], in that event, to 'the other creditors that I must name'. (5) He then stated, 'unless somebody gives me a whole bunch of money in the next two years, Ms. [Defendant] would not recover any fees or costs even if she is successful (6) Finally, he ended with a cheeky comment about his own legal abilities. (7) In a portion not excerpted below, Mr. Doscher also threatened Ms. [Defendant] with a bar complaint and (8) threatened to file the same case in federal court so that Ms. [Defendant] would have to defend parallel litigation in both venues."

Based on this email, the attorney says, "I realized that Mr. Doscher's relentless pursuit of litigation had some aspects of it being a game to him, that he could use and manipulate for his own purposes. Coupled with his mental disability and his explicit promise to run up costs, I realize that I could not deal with him in the same manner that I deal with the normal attorney and pro se litigant."

"Finally, the court in the present case should not allow Mr. Doscher to abuse the judicial process. He is continually granted orders of indigency and continually wastes mine and the court's time with repetitive motions in which he regurgitates much of what has been previously stated at least once. Since by his own admission he labors under a mental disability, it is inappropriate for his mental disability to determine the course of litigation in light of the willingness of the court to overlook, in some instances, his being pro se...I believe the court should recognize the inappropriate - if not bad faith - actions of Mr. Doscher in conducting the litigation. I do not know what measures the court can put into place to prevent his continuing to do so, but I would request the court give serious consideration to placing some limits or restrictions upon Mr. Doscher's filing of motions."

From his lawsuit against Swift Transportation:

“Plaintiff Christian Doscher’s Motion for Summary Judgment is based entirely in self-serving, inadmissible hearsay evidence, unsupportable legal theories and is an improper attempt to resurrect three causes of action…[which the Court] previously dismissed, with prejudice, almost a year ago. Plaintiff’s Motion exposes the weakness of all of his claims because on each of his causes of action, he cannot meet at least one essential element of his prima facie case.”

“…Plaintiff asserts that he was improperly disciplined and forced to resign on July 31, 2007 because he was told by managers to violate the law. Significantly, Plaintiff does not identify any law Swift’s managers allegedly asked him to break. Further, according to Swift’s managers, Plaintiff was never asked to break the law…Rather, he was disciplined because he was insubordinate to supervisors, failed to communicate with supervisors, abandoned a loaded trailer of freight on a customer site, improperly used company property, and, as a result, threatened Swift’s relationship with its customer….The evidence clearly shows that rather than communicating with his supervisor when he erroneously believed his freight was overweight and explaining the reasons why he believed the trailer was overweight, he just shut off all forms of communication with his supervisor and abandoned his job assignment in violation of Company procedure.”

“In this case, Plaintiff self-diagnoses his condition and claims he has a ‘mental disability’ that is triggered when he hauls freight from a shipper who does not have a scale on-site. Plaintiff has not produced any admissible evidence that this impairment limits his ability to work or perform any other major life activities. In fact, Plaintiff admits he is still able to work despite his alleged mental disability…. He also has not produced any doctor’s diagnoses, medical records, or any other documentation showing that he has a physiological or mental disorder that meets the definition of a ‘disability’ under applicable law.”

From a lawsuit against his state and county:

“…while Mr. Doscher alleges significant harm as a result of this 1990 court order, including violations of his right to vote, own a firearm and sit on a jury, his hearsay allegations of damages are not born out by evidence in the record which shows none of that to be true…”

“What is in the record are clear admissions by [Doscher] that he knew there was a problem with his criminal history in 1990 at the time his criminal history was transmitted by [X] County to the [State Patrol], and yet he did nothing until 2008 to challenge or otherwise correct the information…”

“…He states that he was told nothing could be done about it by unnamed and unidentified members of the criminal justice system…But what actually happened in 2008 belies his claims that nothing could be done when he learned of the error in 1990. In 2008, Mr. Doscher availed himself of the statutory process for correcting criminal history…when [the State Patrol] received updated criminal history information in 2008, the agency promptly corrected the criminal history. Had Mr. Doscher acted similarly in 1990, when he first learned the felony was on the record, the issue would have been resolved them.”

“If the [] State Patrol refused to let the Mr. Doscher see his records or refused to provide him an opportunity to challenge the accuracy of those records, Mr. Doscher could have asked a superior court judge to order the State Patrol to do so. Alternatively, Mr. Doscher could have simply asked a superior court judge to order the State Patrol to correct their records. The bottom line is that Mr. Doscher chose to do nothing between 1990 and 2009 when he filed this lawsuit…To the extent that Mr. Doscher continued to be damaged beyond the applicable statute of limitations it is only because he failed to file a lawsuit or seek a court order to correct the problem.”

“It appears that Mr. Doscher is now alleging that some unnamed employee of the XXXX County Superior Court Clerk's Office knowingly sent an erroneous Order of Probation to the [] State Patrol with the intent that the [] State Patrol should act on the erroneous Order of Probation.”

“Mr. Doscher's allegations against this unnamed employee of the XXXXX County Superior Court Clerk's Office is based entirely on speculation. Mr. Doscher's recollection of conversation with unidentified Clerk's Office employees is hearsay of the most unreliable kind and would be inadmissible at trial.”

From his lawsuit against a local attorney:

“I am the defendant in this vexatious litigation and I respond to plaintiff’s motion…”

“One aspect of this plaintiff’s modus operandi as a vexatious litigant is to lay venue in a county distant from the plaintiff’s residence in order to create additional cost and expense in travel time. In addition, as the attachment hereto indicates, Mr. Doscher has been denied in another matter payment of court costs at public expense in [X] County (the proper county of venue for this matter), and it is my belief that he Mr. Doscher presumes that his vexatious litigation will not be allowed in [X] County.”

“…Mr. Doscher’s vexatious litigation goes beyond the mere filing of improper, invalid, or likely invalid lawsuits, but goes to the process of litigation itself. Specifically…Mr. Doscher freely admitted to me that he would take a long time in deposition of my previous client, [Mrs. T], which deposition would ‘likely take [Mr. Doscher] several days’ to complete…”

“[X] County Superior Court and the [State] Supreme Court have both recognized that Mr. Doscher’s requests for indigency in other of his vexatious litigation should be denied, and [Y] County should do the same.”
 

From a suit involving HireRight:

[Doscher is a] “pro se litigant well-known to this Court” [and his motion to strike “not only lacks merit, but was plainly filed in a further and entirely improper effort to harass Defendant…[it is] just the latest installment in his ill-conceived ploy to avoid litigating the merits of his claim, a strategy that smacks of desperation because, according to Plaintiff’s sworn affidavit, he supposedly lost vital evidence when his backpack was allegedly stolen from his unlocked car. Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike is yet another shameless attempt to manipulate the legal system, and in any event, is not cognizable under the narrow grounds afforded by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure…”

“Plaintiff’s Motion to Strike is plainly intended to deflect the Court’s attention away from the actual issues in the case and to harass Defendant by unnecessarily driving ups its expenses in responding to baseless motions….[the motion] should be denied as frivolous and improper.”

“…the Court surely recognizes Plaintiff’s Motion for what it is – a last ditch attempt to allow Plaintiff to succeed on a Motion for Default to win the case on a technicality without actually litigating the issues…Generally speaking, the federal courts do not countenance such abusive tactics, and there is no reason for the Court to do so here.”

From a lawsuit against Public Storage:

[Doscher is a] "serial pro se litigant" [and a] "known vexatious litigant who intimidates his adversaries in the hope of squeezing money out of them to 'make him go away.' " She further states that he is "simply untrustworthy and lacks any credibility whatsoever."

“…Plaintiff is a pro se vexatious litigant, familiar with ‘crying wolf.’”

“The attempt to extort money from [the clerk at the storage facility] was not a ‘settlement negotiation’ as claimed, it was a direct threat to sue her if she did not pay money.”

“[Doscher] argues that, simply because he asserts something to be true, it is enough to create a genuine issue of fact….[but] there is no way a jury might reasonably believe Mr. Doscher’s version of events. [His] view of the law would create a license for serial litigants like himself to simply sue companies…based on he-said, she-said arguments that are nothing more than lies.”

From another lawsuit involving HireRight:

“Doscher’s current lawsuit is a transparent attempt to revive the claims he settled in September 2012 with the aim of extracting another payment in 2013. Doscher’s conduct must not be countenanced by the Court and, instead, he must be ordered by the Court to comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement….Doscher must not be permitted to ignore the settlement and release he signed less than one year ago in furtherance of this manufactured litigation.”


**

More to come -- here and elsewhere.