Recently, I had the opportunity to read the book, Pigs in the Pulpit, by J. Michael Wittman. The book is written as an expose of Christian religious groups and their abuses with the lives of faithful and often spiritually needy individuals and groups. Initially, while reading the book, I thought there was some underlying hidden agenda for the author in writing such a treatise that exposes the manipulating and controlling aspects of some fundamentalist sects within the Christian world. However, as I continued the reading, it was clearly not the case. The author is recounting the potential warning signs of trouble when there is a dysfunctional individual in an authoritative and influential position within a faith community.

As an author that mainly focuses on Catholic subjects and issues, I was concerned that the book was just another revealing list of predatory crimes of a sensual and sexual nature by ministers of all denominations. As a Catholic, I feel there has been an extremely inordinate amount of negative reporting on the Catholic Church’s sex scandals. The book by Mr. Wittman however offers insights and refreshing points that illustrate that abuse exists within all sects of religious belief.

One of the most frightening characters one could ever imagine is an individual that seeks total control and manipulation over individuals and groups. In the early 21st century, our memories are still fresh with dictatorial images of the 20th century’s most heinous villains; Hitler and Stalin just to mention a few of the most obvious. In comparing these individuals of the last century to the unfortunate examples of religious leadership and abuse that are rising in our religious communities, the path to destruction should seem obvious.

Pigs in the Pulpit, offers a macroscopic perspective of the glaring deficiencies that often exist with sects of religious extremism of any kind. Additionally, the concept of total subjugation of personal will and life to the teachings of an often controlling religious figure clearly illustrates the fine line between faith and fanaticism of faith. Unfortunately, individuals are often drawn to religious expressions of faith as they perceive such through charismatic and magnetic preachers, ministers and clergy. What is often misunderstood is the fact that these men and women are not always motivated by altruistic and faithful objectives that are rooted in moral and ethical propriety.

Religious groups that focus on total submission and loss of individuality to the persona of the lead preacher or minister is the beginning of religious incorporation into cultic slavery under the guise of religion.

Pigs in the Pulpit, illustrates the graphic dangers that are indeed possible when honestly faithful individuals encounter charlatans of religious piety that prey on the hopes, needs and aspirations of others’ spiritual aspirations.

While the book is remarkable in its redaction of the author’s experiences, it should not indicate the religious experiences of most of the Christian faithful. It should also not be used as a barometer to judge men and women of all religious denominations that are effectual and exemplary ministers of Word and Sacrament. This book should be read and understood in the proper perspective in which it is written…a warning against extremism of any type, especially in regards to religious leadership and faithful fellowship.  While personally not familiar with the sectarian beliefs offered by the book’s author, I am very familiar with Catholic structures of hierarchy and parish structures. The work illustrates very clearly that in addition to proper discernment regarding religious participation, there should also be a healthy concern for the motivations of the ministerial leadership as well. Religious beliefs are indeed the most personal convictions of an individual, and they should always be respected as sentiments that “build up” the faith, rather than demoralize and dehumanize God’s message of love and faith distributed through it’s sacred ministers.

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