Thursday, June 4, 2020

#2345: Larry Tomczak

Larry Tomczak is an apostolic leader, evangelist and founder and leader of the fundamentalist organization People of Destiny International. He has also been editor of the People of Destiny magazine and author of multiple books, notably Clap Your Hands, the Church Planters Handbook (with Dick Benjamin, Jim Durkin and Terry Edwards), The Bullseye Challenge and the disconcertingly titled The Little Handbook On Loving Correction: How To Raise Happy, Obedient, Respectful Children and God, the rod, and Your child’s bod: The art of loving correction for Christian parents. It should go without saying that you don’t take parenting advice from people like Larry Tomczak. He is also a longtime board-menber of the Intercessors for America ministry and Executive Director of The Awareness Group. 

However, no matter what hat he is wearing, Tomczak is tirelessly combatting the influence of Satan. Why do you think American media is so biased against wingnut conspiracy theorists? That’s Satan, of course. “For hundreds of years, our beloved nation enjoyed a blessed reprieve from many aspects of Satan’s reign because of the prevailing influence of the gospel and our Judeo-Christian foundations,” claims Tomczak (black people and native Americans were presumably treated according to the will of God), but “[i]n the past few decades America has drifted rapidly away from our heritage,” and rather fallen under the sway of Satan (apparently the election of Trump was a prophetic “breakthrough – Tomczak was positively giddy – though the more recent impeachment efforts have proved to him that “we are in perilous times of the Last Days.”). Though Tomczak has assiduously worked to reveal a variety of ways in which “the devil is using the Democratic Party to try to destroy America,” including the devil’s / Democratic party’s “6-point battle plan, you can probably guess which of the devil’s most “diabolical schemes” is most clearly being pushed and by whom.

Yes, it’s the gays
Tomczak is, as you predicted, virulently and unhingedly anti-gay, and he has claimed that gays will destroy America like the Nazis did to Germany. In particular, gay people and their allies are putting America “on the path to destruction,” and events that “brazenly celebrate, legitimize and promote the gay lifestyle in America” are just symptoms of the country’s “downward spiral” and gay “tsunami”; as Tomczak puts it, “[i]t would do us well to recall that in Nazi Germany, only a small percentage of the people were part of the Nazi party. Amid the atrocities, the overwhelming majority were apathetic and afraid to speak up [not actually accurate]… Is history repeating itself?” Yes, that’s the entirety of the parallel, and it’s based on an easily demonstrable falsehood. But accuracy is, of course, not a relevant parameter here. He later likened opposition to homosexuality – including “courageous” African countries that “outlaw homosexuality”, thus “standing strong amidst this moral storm” – to the fight against Nazis; indeed, as Tomczak sees it, we are already “in a civil war” over gay rights. God, of course, is on his side, and is already punishing gay men and lesbians by making them “effeminate” or “mannish,” with Tomczak citing Romans 1:27 to claim that gays and lesbians “receive in their own bodies the penalty for their sin.”

Otherwise, Tomczak promotes most of the standard bullshit myths, such as the pseudoscientific “findings” of Paul Cameron, about  how people “become gay,” for instance through “spousal and child abuse; media influence, pornography; absence of a father; childhood experience; experimentation; seduction and molestation by peers or authority figures; [and] misunderstanding ‘artistic’ bent.” And among allegedly prudential reasons you have for rejecting the homosexual lifestyle is of course the idea that it inevitably leads to disease and misery: “Engaging in sodomy with the sewage system of another’s anatomy is contrary to God’s design and it will bring inevitable consequences,” says Tomczak. He also promotes the ex-gay movement.

Tomczak on popular culture
Like many other religious rights activists, Tomczak is no fan of Beyoncé, and is deeply concerned that Michelle Obama is apparently a fan because Beyoncé’s music will “lead naive young girls on a dangerous path that could lead some even into sex trafficking” and ultimately “abuse, abortions and abasement-sometimes death.” Tomczak’s criticisms of popular culture also encompasses “former Christian Katy Perry flaunting her sex in a satanic witchcraft spectacle with fire, horned men and a sacrificial offering to … ?”, Emma Stone (who is “compromising to defile our daughters) and “closet lesbian” and same-sex-marriage supporter Queen Latifah. In general, Tomczak warns of the dangers of music festivals and says that if deceased rock stars could return to life, they would tell everyone to “steer clear” of rock music. He has also warned that “Archie comics embraces homosexuality, witchcraft demons and occult practices” and that the film “Love, Simon” is “a sham. It’s also another device of the devil to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ (John 10:10) our children.”

A particular nemesis is apparently Ellen DeGeneres, whom Tomczak has accused of recruiting children into homosexuality. When the accusation received some attention, Tomczak asserted that he was merely trying to create a respectful and civil dialogue regarding homosexuality, before insisting that Ellen and her “partner” (Tomczak’s scare quotes) are harming children and their caregivers, and that her marriage and support for marriage equality will potentially doom “5000 years of Western civilization” and “the future of our nation” because marriage equality “opens the floodgates for other arrangements and legitimizes a lifestyle replete with dangerous, at-risk sexual behavior such as HIV/AIDS and over 30 STDs that are endangering lives, jeopardizing healthcare and impacting our economy.” All in the name of respectfulness and civility, of course. He also insisted that he was simply speaking the truth by condemning homosexuality – his ability to assess what he says being what it is – just like Martin Luther King, Jr. denounced racism.

Duane “The Rock” Johnson, on the other hand, seems to be some kind of prophet – at least Tomczak thought his movie "San Andreas" was some kind of prophetic warning about the impending end times. But then, Tomczak sees signs of the end times everywhere, though mostly in conspiracy theories about things that simply never happened. In fact, Tomczak’s end game is somewhat unclear – on the one hand, he accuses gays and others (most people he disagrees with, in fact) of bringing about the end times, though on the other he is also literally and explicitly praying for God’s judgement to fall upon this nation because “apart from divine intervention in holy judgment, America will simply slide deeper down the spiral of sin and destruction.” It really does make it unclear what he is really trying to achieve here, but the source of any confusion is probably due to trying to ascribe coherence and sanity to Larry Tomczak.

To no one’s surprise, Tomczak is a creationist and angry critic of evolution, a theory he doesn’t begin to comprehend and which belongs to a field (science) he doesn’t begin to comprehend either and is therefore deeply mistrustful of. In a criticism of current depictions of the Scopes trial and its aftermath for the WND, Tomczak laid out his misunderstandings of evolution with great fervor – for instance, according to Tomczak, the theory of evolution is the “dogmatic theory taught in schools and perpetuated by Hollywood [?] that human beings accidentally evolved over billions of years by ‘natural selection’,” and it “is mind-boggling. It’s akin to postulating that the images on Mount Rushmore formed spontaneously”; Tomczak is clearly referencing our common understanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution by spontaneous random manifestation. And he does, of course, have some damning refutations – most of it familiar creationist talking points, but some of it a bit novel, for instance his observation that “[I]n his 160-year-old ‘Origin of the Species,’ Darwin stated, ‘Let us assume …’ or ‘We may well suppose …’ over 800 times! We’re supposed to acquiesce so our youth base their lives on assumptions rather than the authoritative Word of God.” So yes, we’re headed for the end times, and it is partially Darwin’s fault. “Christians are not to be silent bystanders in the face of this tsunami of secular humanism,” implores Tomczak.

Diagnosis: We’ll grudgingly recognize the ability of such deranged fundies to come up with novel expressions of lunacy – the topics and general gist are the same, of course, but Tomczak does admittedly manage to add some individual touches of color. He also wields a bit of influence, and must be considered moderately dangerous. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

#2344: Sara Thyr

Sara Thyr, ND, is a naturopath who describes herself as a naturopathic midwife, and is also (at least a one-time) president of the American College of Naturopathic Obstetrics and a founding member of the American Association of Naturopathic Midwives (the former is the organization issuing credentials for the latter, of course). Naturopathy is, of course, bullshit, and the idea of naturopathic midwifery and naturopathic obstetrics downright scary. Looking at Thyr’s article “Pre-Conception Testing: A Naturopathic Perspective” is not conducive to allaying one’s fears and worries. 

If you wish to look at science-based recommendations for preconception care, you can go here. To Thyr and many likeminded deranged lunatics, what is wrong with the science-based recommendations seems to be primarily that they are boring. Since really, there is, for most normal women, not really that much to worry about. According to Thyr, however, science- and evidence-based practitioners don’t look at “all the factors”; in particular, they don’t look at the imaginary and not-science-based factors that Thyr and other naturopaths conveniently offer expensive tests and treatment regimes – pure woo – to treat you for. For instance, the first thing Thyr will look at when meeting women looking to become pregnant is “food allergies”, since, according entirely to her imagination, “undiscovered food allergies are the most common cause of unexplained infertility,” and naturopaths are really good at finding out that you are really allergic to common foods you haven’t noticed that you are allergic to and that real, legitimate tests show that you are, in fact, not allergic to. She also says that “[f]ood allergies are a very misunderstood topic,” which is pretty undeniable given the falsehoods and nonsense about food allergies she will go on to convey.

Next up on her list, of course, are toxins, in particular environmental toxins, understood the way woomeisters and hucksters usually understand them, and showing that Thyr’s understanding of chemistry and biochemistry (or biology – there is, predictably, some pseudoscientific handwaving about epigenetics included here) is as lacking as her understanding of immunology. (She learned – or didn’t – both at a naturopathy school, of course.) Thyr, unsurprisingly, offers a detoxification program to pretend to help remedy the situation. She also recommends adrenal testing; now adrenal dysfunction can indeed cause infertility and pregnancy loss, but Thyr is of course looking at more subtle” adrenal problems that ordinary doctors wouldn’t find. Indeed, if you come to her you presumably suffer adrenal problems and should purchase a test. It’s an integral part of the grift.

There is a more thorough discussion of Thyr’s recommendations here.

Diagnosis: We’re sure she’s a true believer, but in these cases the moral difference between callous grifting and doing the exact same thing but believing that you help, is slim, and the latter might arguably be worse since people who are aware that they are grifting tend at least to be a bit more careful. The recommendations are pure, delusional bullshit no matter what.

Monday, June 1, 2020

#2343: Eric Thomson

Eric Thomson is a pretty obscure neo-nazi, most famous for coining the acronym ZOG – Zionist Occupation Government – back in 1976. ZOG is an iteration of the international Jewish conspiracy traditionally invoked in neo-Nazi, Christian Identity, and white supremacist circles, and the conspiracies associated with ZOG are more or less those of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, just somewhat adapted to more modern times, claiming for instance that Jewish people are controlling every social and governmental institution. It was popularized in part by David Duke, who would use if for more or less everything that doesn’t adhere to the principles of white supremacism.

Thomson was also co-author, with famous neo-nazi Ernst Zundel, of The Hitler We Loved and Why, which argued that “Hitler was well loved and loved in return, but this relationship between the Leader and his people was not the gushy, sickly sweet effusion of an obese Jewish mother for her pimply, draft-dodging son. This was Aryan love. Strong, steady and uplifting.”
Diagnosis: Though apparently somewhat influential, Thomson remains obscure and some of his activities lay so far back in time that we cannot take it for granted that he is still around. It is, in any case, worth being aware of him and his acronym. 

Hat-tip: rationalwiki

Sunday, May 31, 2020

#2342: Tom Thompson

Tom Thompson is a former city planner in New Bern, North Carolina, and climate change denialist. He is a fairly typical specimen, and would have flown entirely under our radar if a 2013 Spiegel article hadn’t featured him and his tireless lobbying of local politicians as an example of wingnut denialism and the war on science. One of the politicians who apparently listened to him was Pat McElraft, who subsequently wrote climate change denialism into bill HB 819, banning the state from basing coastal policies on the latest scientific predictions of how much the sea level will rise due to climate change.

Thompson, a God-fearing wingnut, put the main focus of his lobbying on the costs of measures to protect New Bern from rising sea levels “just because a few scientists are claiming that that’s what will happen.” But according to Thompson “they have no evidence. We’re supposed to spend money on something that might not happen at all.” Or in other words: they have no evidence for their claims since Thompson can’t be bothered to look and it would be bad if their claims were true. As Thompson sees, there are simply too many numbers and too many estimates that seem contradictory to him, who has no expertise in or understanding of the field, so he just rejects the whole thing. So it goes.

Diagnosis: Yes, a fairly typical specimen, and mostly included to have a representative of a frightening number of denialist loons who are, in all the relevant ways, much like Thompson. Individually their power to do harm is limited, but the size of the group makes them collectively one of the most effective threats to civilization at present.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

#2341: Melvin Thompson

Melvin Thompson is a former pastor of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church in Pike County, Kentucky. Thompson is oldschool. So while other fundies were railing against and gnashing their teeth over same-sex couples a couple of years ago, Thompson and his congregation went on to ban interracial couples from their church. The church went on record saying that while all people were welcome to attend public worship services there, the church did not condone interracial marriage; in particular “parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services” or other church functions (with the exception of funerals.) Officially, the recommendation “is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve,” which, if true, doesn’t exactly paint that community in a particularly sympathetic light. It is correct, by the way: the congregation put the resolution to the vote, and it passed 9–6. Thompson was of course quick to emphasize that he is not racist, and went on to lament how he and the resolution were portrayed in the media, i.e. as being somehow racist – “but it is not,” asserted Thompson; rather, the resolution is an “internal affair” of the church.

The Sandy Valley Conference of Free Will Baptists, of which Thompson’s church is part, quickly went on to nullify the resolution. Thompson himself was replaced as a pastor, but remained a member of the congregation and apparently brought the issue up again later, asking for it to be discussed at a business meeting among the church’s men. Yes, the context of the request includes another little detail that shouldn’t exactly help enhance the image of the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church.

Diagnosis: Fill in whatever you fancy.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

#2340: Gary Thompson

Gary Thompson is a climate change denier (of some stripe) who has at least on two occasions published climate change denialist articles for the wingnut website American Thinker. The website unfortunately provides no more information about him, and we have thus been unable to locate any reliable background (his name is hardly unique). But the articles themselves are instructive. “The AGW Smoking Gun”, for instance, does cites peer-reviewed papers, but what he calls “analyzing” e.g. graphs is not analyzing but rather quickly eyeballing graphs while dismissing peer-reviewed data analysis to lead himself to the opposite conclusion compared to the authors of the papers in question (“Our results provide direct experimental evidence for a significant increase in the Earth’s greenhouse effect that is consistent with concerns over radiative forcing of climate”). So instead of disproving the enhanced greenhouse effect, Thompson’s article merely provides, instead, further evidence for the Dunning-Kruger effect, and/or for the pernicious influence of bias . For more detailed criticisms of the article, this one is helpful.

Diagnosis: Thompson really is a good example of denialism at work – he is certainly a smart guy, and certainly a far cry e.g. from some of the wild-eyed creationists we have covered when it comes to being thoughtful and measured. But bias and a little knowledge can fell the smartest, and Thompson is not the smartest.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

#2339: Damon Thompson

Damon Thompson is a South Carolina-based fundie preacher formerly associated with The Ramp – a revival cult thing somewhere in Alabama run by preachers affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation and apparently aimed at young people (this story might provide an illustration) – and more recently something called “Carolina Revival”. Thompson claims that being “saved” actually changes your DNA. Indeed, it changes your DNA so much that if you committed a crime and left behind DNA, then if you afterward became “born again” it will ensure that your DNA doesn’t match that left behind at the scene. Let us just say that anyone gambling on this idea will be in for an ugly surprise. Thompson has, as fundie preachers are wont to, of course made up an anecdote to make the claim vivid for his listeners.

He is, of course, also virulently anti-gay, offering kids “deliverance from homosexualityat his prayer rallies. “You may think you were born gay, but you cannot be born again gay!”, says Damon Thompson.

Diagnosis: Dangerous madman. He does have the power to ruin lives, and seems unafraid to use it.