Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Church’

During the recent weeks much ink has been shed involving the alleged “War on Christianity.” This is usually a topic reserved for the Xmas season but due to the recent pronouncements by the Obama Administration concerning the equal treatment of women with respect to health care, and the Republican efforts to politicize men’s control over the vagina, it has gathered considerable attention. One of the biggest problems in society at large, in my opinion, is the rejection of fact-based arguments based on provable facts. As a society we have ceded thoughts to a few “experts” who do not use facts but rely on hyperbole to reinforce held positions. Even the vaulted “PolitiFact” has some epic fails of recent in their attempt not to be seen as too political. I hope to examine the roots of religion in America and then how it is affecting the debate on education and GLBT issues.

Christians have become apt at playing the “victim card” after almost two thousand years of practice.

“Does anyone know…does the Christian persecution complex have an expiration date? Because…uh…you’ve all been in charge pretty much since…uh…what was that guys name…Constantine. He converted in, what was it, 312 A.D. I’m just saying, enjoy your success.”

“I have to say, as someone who is not Christian, it’s hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God-willing, maybe one of you one day will even rise up and get to be president of this country – or maybe forty-four in a row. But, that’s my point, is they’ve taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status.”

–      Jon Stewart

This began in America as far back as the Mayflower. American history, as written by those who came to America, is a story of “true Christians” fleeing Great Britain to practice their faith. The reality is a little different. One man’s Freedom Fighter is another man’s terrorist.  The people who fled from England were in fact tied in closely with those supporting Guy Fawkes.

According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, the “Puritans” were led by a group of radical pastors who, challenging the authority of the Church of England, established a network of secret religious congregations. William Brewster, one of the leaders of this movement who came to America, became the senior elder of the colony, serving as its religious leader and as an adviser to Governor William Bradford. As the only university educated member of the colony, Brewster took the part of the colony’s religious leader until a pastor, Ralph Smith, arrived in 1629. Thereafter, he continued to preach irregularly until his death in April 1644.

Guy Fawkes

Before coming to America William Brewster was embroiled in the controversy, when Queen Elizabeth decided to have her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, executed in 1587. Mary, a Catholic whose first husband had been the King of France, was implicated in conspiracies against Elizabeth’s continued Protestant rule. It was this event, combined with the rise of James, Mary’s protestant son to the throne, which inspired Guy Fawkes. Brewster himself survived the crisis, but he was driven from court in London, his dreams of worldly success dashed. His disillusionment with the politics of court and church led him in a radical direction.

Brewster and his followers objected to the King being the head of the Church of England. Having lost his ability to rise to power in England, Brewster and his sect made a deal and went to the States. Away from the Church and Crown they wanted to live a life as they interpreted it from the bible. They did not need educated people telling them what to think.  They did not come to America to start a land of religious tolerance. They came so they could develop their form of religious purity.

Giordano Bruno

When Catholics came a few years later they were tortured and killed by these Puritans. To put things in perspective, in this time period the Roman Catholic Church burned astronomer Giordano Bruno at the stake for heresy in 1600. His crime? Advocating an endless universe, and that the sun did not go around the earth. Churches and religion did not allow anyone to challenge their dogma. The Churches used government to enforce their dogma and the crown got their “divine right” to rule from the church.

By 1654, however, the Puritans so dominated the colony that Catholics found themselves actually outlawed, the persecution becoming so intense that they fled to Pennsylvania.  Although Catholics eventually moved to Maryland in small numbers, they still, even until 1776, were not allowed to hold public office, establish schools, or conduct religious services. My girlfriend’s home in southern Maryland still had an alcove in one room designed for secret masses during the catholic persecutions well into the 1700’s. The government confiscated land that had been owned by the Jesuits. It was against this backdrop of violence and persecution by the religious on the citizens of the colonies, that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Bill of Rights. It was not to protect religious beliefs of a particular church, but to protect people from the religious belief of others. As Jefferson said; “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise as it had happened in a fair or market”

It was not a matter of Churches being protected from government intrusion but of attempting to control church influence and dictum in the actions of government. For millenniums, from the days of the Romans and Greeks, states and countries had a favored religion that would support a favored ruler who would in turn use that government to protect the favored religion. Every so often a leader in either the church or government would challenge that equilibrium and war would ensue. That is the religious heritage of the United States.  It has nothing to do with the noble thoughts of religious freedoms and every thing to do with accumulation of power in the few. In order to understand the current “culture wars” one has to know this history. Not the sanitized history taught in the Bible tracts given by the churches. One needs only to point to the use of the judicial system to enforce dogma by the church a recently as the Salem Witch trials or the enforcement of the slavery laws in the south. As Kenneth Stamp wrote in The Peculiar Institution, Christianity actually became a way to add value to slaves in America:” …when southern clergy became ardent defenders of slavery, the master class could look upon organized religion as an ally …the gospel, instead of becoming a mean of creating trouble and strive, was really the best instrument to preserve peace and good conduct among the negroes.” As to the witch-hunts, according to scholars, the number of executions for witchcraft exceeded 50,000 people. This is the “American Religious Heritage” that Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Pat Robertson and others are fighting for. It is the America Barry Goldwater warned us of. He said that these Christians believe they are acting in the name of god, so they can’t and won’t compromise.  You must have compromise to have a functioning government. Otherwise you have a theocratic rule of law.

As a society we must fight this at every step and not yield a inch to the fanatics who would (and have) white washed their past. These protestant reformers who try to hide the killings of Catholics and non-believers: the Catholics who try to ignore two millennium of wars, executions and burnings (and a few sex scandals) and any others who attempt to control our government and thoughts. We need to challenge not just their arguments and demands but the very foundation they are built on. It is then that the house of cards will collapse under its own weight of hypocrisy.

“There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this Supreme Being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’ “
(1909-1998) US Senator (R-Arizona) Source: Congressional Record, September 16, 1981

I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular, but some degree of persecution – 
Jonathan Swift. True words to a large extent.

Me in first grade. Holy Family School

I grew up in Catholic Schools for a great deal of my life. My elementary school was Holy Family in Hillcrest in southeast DC. The Sisters of St. Joseph ran it at the time. This order of nuns was founded under the guardianship of the Jesuits. This is important as the different religious orders had different focus. Jesuits were, and in many respects still are the thinkers of the church. Schools like Georgetown, Boston College, Marquette, University of San Francisco and Creighton (my law school) are Jesuit institutions. Never taking anything on faith alone, Jesuit priests spearheaded many of the Central American political revolutions in the 1970’s and 1980’s. This education fueled my constant questioning and analyzing of everything in my environment. The Order of Nuns came to America and was the leader in setting up education of the children of immigrants in the 1800’s. This social conscience was still strong and played a large influence in my development. Although I seriously disagree with the dogma of the church (any church), I fully support the mission (and to me obligation) to make things better for those with little. I am very much a Franciscan by nature.

It therefore baffles me to no end when I see politicians use religion to create fear and mistrust in the community. They do this by repeating lies as dogma and turn their persecution of others into a holy war. When I grew up we prayed to reduce suffering in the world, not for personal wealth. Now we have Christians fully immersed in the “Prosperity Theology.” The book, Prayer of Jabez, sold millions of copies to people who now consider themselves Christians. It is important to remember that these are the people we are dealing with as antagonist of equality for all. They truly believed that they alone are blessed and that everyone else is unworthy. Politicians use these people, scaring them with the prospects that brown people are here to take your job or live off their tax dollars or destroy their way of life (or prospect for a better life) by demanding equality.

The white people of the South are the greatest minority in this nation. They deserve consideration and understanding instead of the persecution of twisted propaganda.

Strom Thurmond

Last week, Tea Party Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina said, “Christians are a relentlessly and mercilessly persecuted minority today.” This despite the facts that Christians dominate the American landscape. These Christians think that they should be exempt from anti- hate and anti-bullying laws if said bullying is a result of “religious belief or moral conviction.” Somehow the Republican Party has tapped into people fears of loosing their religious freedom to a point that they are willing to sanction violence if it is defense of their religious moral principles. This could not be a more clear parallel to the Nazi parties laws allowing the German people to attack Jews and Jewish institutions during World II. The Nazi’s, like the Tea Party Republicans, used race, sex and religion as a wedge to cement the support of the white majority creating common enemies. This is not the Christianity of my youth and I fear that it is only going to get worse.

They actually speak in terms of a new political elite. McConnell, the Republican Leader in the United States Senate said, “The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check. We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’re tried elections. Nothing has worked.” What the republicans are saying is if the American people won’t vote for the kind of government he wants, then we must strip away the people’s ability to choose their own government. Elections haven’t worked.

I realize that Obama has not been the progressive social leader some of us had hoped for. Unless we come together Mitch McConnell and Tim Scott and the rest of the fringe right will control all branches of government. That would not be good for any of us.

I am getting more and more upset by the constant flood of crap that is frothing out of Rick Santorum’s mouth on a regular basis. His ass must be getting jealous of the crap that mouth has seen. The worse comes when he speaks of “Gay Marriage.”

Now people tell me I should not get upset and that he has no chance of winning the nomination. I say BULL! He is giving voice to millions of Americans. Americans who will continue to harass, beat and kill gay men and woman because they are genetically different and they do not understand that difference.

First I have to say that I despise the term “Gay Marriage.” This past year, on our 18th anniversary, Ed and I got married in Washington DC where we first met at a political march. We did not get gay married any more than we had a gay lunch after the wedding and gay parked our gay car (ok it was a Chrysler Sebring but you get the point). We got married in Washington DC pursuant to the laws of the Federal District of Columbia and the rules of the United States Congress. It is Marriage, not gay marriage. We are fighting for Marriage Equality not something new and different.

Second, Santorum’s stump speech says that; “Marriage is not a right.” “It’s a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason…. We want to encourage what is the best for children.” That statement is wrong on so many levels when examined. First, Santorum and I were in law school about the same time. When I was in school, Creighton, a Jesuit Law School, We learned about a case called the Loving Case. (LOVING v. VIRGINIA, 388 U.S. 1 (1967)). Many states, including Florida, through the 1960’s had Anti-Miscegenation laws on the books outlawing interracial marriages. The Supreme Court declared that these laws were, “designed to maintain White supremacy”. The Court stated in no uncertain terms,
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” I am not sure where Santorum got his information but marriage is not a privilege and equality is not a privilege. It is a basic right.

He and his ilk, the evangelical Christians, talk about the sacredness of marriage. I will point out that government sanctions marriage. There is NOTHING that a government in this country can do, under the Constitution, that is “sacred.” The government issues a license to get married and to have certain benefits and obligations bestowed on two people. The government cannot issue a sacred document. It is at its’ base a contract between two people for mutual support. Marriage has not been between one man and one woman since time immemorial. Not until the very recent times did it morph into that. Before that it was between and man and his property. One man bought a daughter from another. The payment took the form of a dowry. As an attorney, I still deal with divorces of marriages performed in other countries that require the return of goats and such.

The last part of his statement is equally absurd. “We want to encourage what is the best for children.” Does that mean my brother and sister-in-law, married for over 20 years having no children, are not really married. The other possibility is even more absurd and point out why Christians find science to be the enemy. It is highly unlikely that a marriage of two people of the same gender will produce children. When I was in catholic school, in the sixth grade, I learned that it takes and x and y chromosome to produce a child and to get the right combination requires people of two different genders. Maybe they have discovered something new in genetics that I missed. As to the need to protect children, protect them from what? Priests? “Youth counselors?” Michelle Bachman’s husband? I will let Zach Wahls close for me. He is a 19-year-old University of Iowa engineering student and Eagle Scout whose parents are lesbians. Wahls gave a three-minute speech Tuesday before Iowa legislators urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions.

His words went viral across the Internet and had nearly a half million hits on YouTube in a single day.

Picture of the Day!

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Picture of the Day
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This past week I posted what I thought would be a cute innocuous blurb about Christmas. It simply said that “December 25: That awkward day when God is reminded that He slept with His own mother to conceive Himself!”

I thought it was cute but by reading some of the responses, you would think that I attacked the Holy Mother Church during the height of the Inquisition. People were responding about the bible saying this and that and others were urging me to stop my attacks on Christians especially at this time of year. I finally responded back by saying that these people had no room to speak of attacks. I feel that it needs a bit more explanation of my spiritual journey.

I was raised Catholic. Elementary school, middle school, graduate school and law school. During my time at the University of Maryland, I got sucked into Campus Crusade for Christ and the now infamous “Family” of “C-Street” fame who tried to “Pray the Gay Away”. From early on I questioned Dogma and theology. I asked the nuns in school how god could die on a cross and if he was really dead who raised him, or the salvation of the Indians in America while Jesus was alive in the Middle East, and other scenarios. After years and years of dogma dumped into my head, and developing a self loathing trying to resolve the “gay-issue” I looked to the evangelical movement. During this time I was never able to stop acting on my gayness. I only knew that one had to win over the other.

While I was living in the “Cornerstone House”, a home managed by “The Family” of  Jim Hiskey, Chuck Colson and The Coe’s (Father and sons), I was involved with Campus Crusade for Crist. After talking to the director, Dan Mosley, his wife told me point blank that she was; ”going to pray that the lord take me before I had a chance to sin again.” Yes she was going to pray for my death. This caused me even more confusion and anxiety since I was having sex with several of the other men at the house involved at Cornerstone and with “The Family”. I knew that something was very wrong with this situation. The Christians I met were either hateful or hypocrites. Often both. After trying several different types of counseling and often having sex with these counselors I made a clean break.

Once outside this environment I realize more and more how it was like a cult. So many people try to rationalize how to square biblical interpretations and religious doctrine with the reality of their life. I went a different rout. I question the bases of the foundation or their arguments. I looked at the validity of the “New Testament” as the word of god. I saw that the story of god coming to earth, having a son with a mortal woman who was to save the world, has played out time and again. It is the story of Zeus and Hercules. It is the story of Isis and Ra. It could also be the story of Odin and Thor. It is a story that repeats through history. The names change but the themes remain the same. It is in a writing that is done decades or even centuries after events in a time with no hard records. In short, it is a belief system base ancient myths that are reworded and refitted for a different time and period. These are nothing more than stories parents used to frighten their children and that the rich embrace to enslave the poor and keep them under control. Even the bible itself says men are but sheep being lead to the slaughter.

One of my favorite lines recently is that if the US got rid of all atheists, it would lose 93% of the National Academy of Sciences but less than 1% of the prison population. I could live with that. I would like to live someplace sane! As we get more into the Christmas season the evangelicals complain about this fictions war on Christmas is destroying the holiday. That somehow stopping government from sapling nativity sets on public land is a slap at Christmas. Or using Happy Holidays is destroying the institution. I would simply say that before they worry about keeping Christ in Xmas, they should try putting him in their religion first.  Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

That was never more evident that during the beginning of the AIDS crisis. Instead of helping the sick and dying, the Christians were advocating a roundup and death camps for people with AIDS. Instead of caring for the sick, the Catholic Church in Washington DC ordered an AIDS support group in their parish to cease and desist using the church basement for meeting. Jerry Farwell declared AIDS “God’s wrath on homosexuals. Christians used AIDS to justify hatred and fear of gays instead of caring for the sick and dying. Indeed and thought and action, the Christians were very un-christ like. It was not until the early 1990’s, some 45,000 deaths later, that the mainstream churches began actually helping instead of demonizing. That is unforgivable.

I have no need for a life based on mythos and I have no room in my heart for forgiveness. That is my position on Christians.

This past week I have been skiing for the first time ever.  Another item off the bucket list! One of the more interesting events of the week had nothing to do with skiing but was a friend request on Facebook. The request came from a law school classmate who I have not spoken with in over twenty years. I have not written much about law school except for my reasons for applying. One reason for why I ignored those three years is that they were hellish.

Creighton Law School - 1987-1990

They were not hellish in the “always studying, never playing, never socializing way”. I could live with that. They were hellish in the “having a horrible relationship while doing experimental drug protocols and living in a backwater hell hole called Omaha while going to a conservative Jesuit law School and trying to keep it all hidden from public view while living with a selfish stoner of a boyfriend” kind of way.

What made the friend request interesting was that it was from a classmate whom I had little interaction with, but carried a schoolboy crush for. Attached to the Facebook request he indicated that although he married out of school he and his wife had split and he had “come out”. He explained what triggered his search for me was reading a book that mentioned the Bowers v Hardwick decision (A case involving criminalization of homosexual activity). He remembered an incident in Constitutional law class when Professor Shugrue, after deriding the legitimacy of gay relationships, asked for my reaction.

To understand Professor Shugrue think Hobbit meets The Paper Chase. He thought of himself as a modern day Charles Kingsfield but looked like a hobbit with a skin condition. The first day of classes we were to be ready to discuss the classic case of Marbury v. Madison. True to the Socratic method of teaching, Shugrue called on me to analyze the case. I cannot remember what I said exactly but I’m sure it was insightful and elegant. I did however say Marshall instead of Justice Marshall. Shugrue jumped all over that omission saying, “Although you may be on a first name basis with the Justices, in the class we will refer to them as Justice Marshall or Chief Justice Marshall. I found out that Shugrue was on the admission committee and was privy to my application and personal reference letters. Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice Byron White and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) wrote the personal reference letters. I had worked for all three in one capacity or another. Apparently I intimidated the good professor and he was going to try to put me in my place. We spent the next hour in a spirited discussion and in the end I had established myself as one who could not be intimidated and come hell or high water I was going to piss high than him!

Moving forward a couple months the discussion was about the Bowers/Hardwick decision concerning sodomy. Shugrue took the position that sodomy was not natural and should not be given protection and other conservative-babble not related to the law. I realize that this probably not his true position on the matter since he did not include any legal arguments in his discussion, but at 8 AM on a Monday morning, after a weekend of partying and fighting with Steven, I was in no mood. I raised my hand and went into a full throttle defense of gays, gay life styles, bath houses, leather and SM and relationships finally closing by saying that my other half and I had been together 6 years at that point (five and a half to many) but that we were more long term than most of my fraternity brothers from undergrad. Many of who were already on their second marriage. I kicked open the closet door and came flying out like the Tasmanian Devil. There appeared to be a stunned silence in the lecture hall. I think many expected me to go storming out of the room but I stood defiant, arrogant and emotionally drained.  After a bit the discussion continued. Shugrue moved on to another student and I sat. I soon saw the fallout. Many of my classmates who played racquetball with me or studied with me now avoided me. Small-minded America had reared it ugly face. I did however find a circle of friends. They included the few progressives in the school, and surprisingly, a couple of Mormon students who were incredibly nonjudgmental.

The isolation was actually a godsend in that I did not feel the need to integrate myself into the typical student social scene. Although the gay scene in Omaha was abysmal, I made due with it and the bookstores across the river in Council Bluffs IA. I also had the Iowa caucuses to keep me busy. I helped organize for Senator Paul Simon of IL, the bow tie guy, and did advance for him in Iowa.  A picture from one of my events was featured in Time Magazine. I had a great eye for photo ops. It was my second political campaign in Iowa. The first one being the Harkin Senate race in 1984.  Although I was out of the closet as a gay student, I still hid my medical secret close to my vest. If anyone at the school found out that I had AIDS I probably would have been separated from the rest of the students. I continued my bi-weekly visits to NIH for lab work and follow-up while testing new drugs. I was emotionally and physically a wreck. I stayed in a relationship with Steven because I thought it better to die in a miserable relationship than to die alone. It did not dawn on me that the relationship was doing more to kill me. We finally parted ways a couple months after graduation.

I’m sure there were some good times in law school. But right now I can’t really think of any. Well except my first jailhouse sex. But that’s a story for another day.

The more I listen to the coverage of the Penn State-Standusky the more upset I get. During a recent round table discussion that included Dan Rather, New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, the topic focused on why this scandal happened. Rather said that Penn State was so “money-conscious” and that the school’s concern with profits was an “indication of what has happened to the country.” Heilemann disagreed with Rather. Heliemann said the “institutional failure” stemmed from the school’s concern with protecting its “reputation, status, and the privilege and power of adults.” I have only seen one real article focused on the victims. It was written by of all people, a Wall Street Journal columnist. I am furious on two levels.

First, there has been no discussion on the impact of the victims. Just as with the Catholic Church scandal, the Penn State scandal coverage is focused on the accuser. The schadenfreude of watching the powerful fall. As a person who was raped several times in several circumstances I can say with all certainty that it is about pure arrogance.

The Catholic Church felt that they were above man’s law and untouchable. Penn State felt the same. Standusky felt the same as repeatedly violated his victims. His position in the community, like a priest or Michael Jackson, was beyond reproach. The brothers who  rapist must have had the same attitude. One set, being the children of a DC cop felt they were untouchable.

This is a scenario that plays out more times a day than the human brain can conceptualize. Research shows that one out of every three to five women, and one out of ever five to seven men are sexually abused by the time they reach their eighteenth birthday. Although women account for 20% of the [sexual] abuse of boys, approximately 60% of boys and 80% of girls who are sexually victimized are abused by someone known to the child or the child’s family. Rape is one of the most repeated crimes and most underreported crime. I am truly weakened when I read the coverage and see no reporting on the trauma of the victim.

The impact long term differs considerable between boy and girls. Sexual assaults on boys tend to be more violent and are more likely to result in serious physical injury or death than those perpetrated on females. Men who were sexually abused as children are twice as likely to become substance abusers, commit suicide, be prone to illness, have problems in school, be antisocial or overly aggressive, and be verbally or physically abusive to their mates. Because of the culture that exists in much of the world, men have additional constraints that impede their ability to cope with the aftermath of sexual abuse. Because men are expected to be “macho,” or to be in control and not show any weakness, issues are raised that the victim refuses to deal with.

With these circumstances, men and boys who have been in any way sexually abused do not get the support and help that women have come to take for granted in the last two decades. Statistics published in 1992 and 1994 by the U.S. Department of Justice show that only 52% of rapes are reported, that one of two rape victims is under 18, and that one in six is under 12 years of age. There are a number of reasons we choose not to talk about our ordeal; a deep sense of shame, fear of revenge by the perpetrator and of ostracism by friends and family. The most common experience is dissociation. That is the minds desire or ability on the conscious level to escape an unavoidable and intolerably painful situation.

I have talked to several men recently who suffered abuse on one level or another. All of us saw ourselves, as coping with it and that it had no long-term effects. But after a deeper discussion we saw how it still affected the way we view or have sex or dealt with people in intimate relationships.

The reality of the Penn State/Catholic Church scandals is that society will focus on the failure of the powerful to police itself while ignoring the victim because in the face of the victim they will see an emotional intensity that will scare them.