May 13, 2021

CultNEWS101 Articles: 5/13/2021

Mother of God, Orthodox Women, Germany, Anti-vaccination, Anti-Semitism, Podcast

Washington Post: She told followers she was 'Mother God.' Her mummified body was found wrapped in Christmas lights.
"Amy Carlson's body was mummified in a sleeping bag and wrapped in a cloth adorned with Christmas lights when Colorado sheriff's deputies found her last week. Glittered makeup decorated her face and around her eyes, according to law enforcement.

"The mummified remains appeared to be set up in some type of shrine," police said in an affidavit.

That shrine was allegedly erected by Carlson's followers in her religious group "Love Has Won," which some officials and former members have described as a cult. Carlson, 45, claimed she was "Mother God," 19 billion years old, a reincarnation of Jesus and could heal people of cancer "with the power of love," she said on "Dr. Phil" last year."
"Chava Herman Sharabani has been trying to obtain a get—or a divorce, according to Orthodox Jewish religious law—from her ex-husband, Naftali Sharabani, for 10 and a half years. The 30-year-old teacher lives in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn with her two children, and her marriage, as she describes it, was not a happy one. Herman Sharabani had been legally separated for a decade, but the get from the beth din, or the Jewish religious court, had been delayed.

According to tradition, it is the husband who initiates the process of issuing the get. Sharabani had left the family a decade earlier, according to Herman Sharabani and her lawyers, but she says he still refused to grant her a get. (Representatives for Naftali Sharabani did not respond to Vogue's request for comment.)

"Here I was for 10 and a half years, running after people, asking 'Can you help me? Is there anything to do?'" says Herman Sharbani. "And they're always like, 'I don't know. Call me in a week.'"

Chava Herman Sharabani has been waiting for her to get a religious divorce document, for 10 and a half years.

The process rendered Herman Sharabani an agunah, a woman who is trapped in a dead marriage, according to orthodox Jewish custom. (In Hebrew, the word is literally defined as "anchored" or "chained.") Without a get, an agunah woman cannot remarry or even date. "It was just a constant banging my head on the wall," says Herman Sharbani.

On Instagram, Herman Sharabani happened to see a DM conversation between the popular Jewish singer Dalia Oziel and a woman named Rifka Meyer, who runs a prominent sheitel (wig) salon in London. Meyer described how she had fought for a get for almost 10 years and only spoke out about her struggle recently. (Meyer received her get in September of 2020.) Seeing this conversation out in the open inspired Herman Sharabani."
"Last year, I felt lucky to be an American in Germany. The government carried out a comprehensive public-health response, and for the most part, people wore masks in public. More recently, COVID-19 cases have surged here, with new infections reaching a single-day zenith in late March. Germany has lagged behind the United States and the United Kingdom in vaccination efforts, and German public-health regulators have restricted use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over 60, after seven cases of rare cerebral blood clots. Key public-health measures, particularly lockdowns and vaccination, have been divisive. Among some people, even the magnitude of the virus's infectious threat has been in question.

Over the past year, Germany's sprawling anti-lockdown movement has brought together a disquieting alliance of ordinary citizens, both left- and right-leaning, and extremists who see the pandemic response as part of a wider conspiracy. In August, nearly 40,000 protesters gathered in my neighborhood to oppose the government's public-health measures, including the closure of stores and mask mandates. It was unnerving to hear German chants of "Fascism in the guise of health" from my window, and all the more given that the same day, a subgroup of those protesters charged Parliament. In a moment presaging the U.S. Capitol insurrection, 400 German protesters, including a group carrying the Reichsflagge, emblematic of the Nazi regime, rushed past police and reached the building's stairs. Germany is riddled with QAnon adherents, some of whom are anti-vaccination, and some people are using this pandemic to articulate their anti-Semitic beliefs. They might deny COVID-19 exists, then play it down, and eventually blame 5G and Jewish people for the pandemic. In Bavaria, vaccine skeptics now use messages such as "Vaccination makes you free," an allusion to "Work makes you free," a horrific maxim of Nazi concentration camps.

Like the United States, Germany has a thriving anti-vaccination movement, and here it has encompassed conspiracy theorists, left-leaning spiritualists, and the far right. These last ties are the most troubling. In German-speaking lands, anti-science sentiment, right-wing politics, and racism have been entwined since even before Jews were accused of spreading the bubonic plague in the 14th century. These movements illustrate a grim truth: In both the past and the present, anti-science sentiments are inextricably tangled with racial prejudice.

Anti-vaccine movements are as old as vaccines, the scholar Jonathan M. Berman notes in his book, Anti-vaxxers, and what is striking, according to the author, is that early opponents at the turn of the 18th century believed that vaccination was "a foreign assault on traditional order." But beliefs linking anti-science sentiment and anti-Semitism were already deeply set. During the plague outbreak of 1712 and 1713, for instance, the city of Hamburg initiated public-health measures including forbidding Jews from entering or leaving the city, Philipp Osten, the director of Hamburg's Institute for History and Ethics of Medicine, told me. By the time cholera emerged in the 19th century, sickening thousands of people in the city within a matter of months, these antiquated ideas had taken on a new form.

Because this new disease was poorly understood, doctors, scientists, and laypeople promulgated competing theories about its spread. Some physicians blamed cholera on alcohol consumption, others on sadness or fear. Self-published pamphlets circulated misinformation much as social-media posts do today, and the public's understanding of the disease was capacious, in many cases reflecting people's anxieties. These ideas might have been innocuous enough on their own, but consummated through social movements and disinformation, they often posed a threat to people's lives. As the historian Richard J. Evans has noted in Death in Hamburg, some Germans blamed the spread of cholera on Jews. These sentiments then extended to other epidemics, and to the vaccination movement. By the middle of the 19th century, anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets were being written against smallpox vaccination.

When cholera reemerged with full force in Hamburg in the late 19th century, local officials—following the advice of the scientists Robert Koch and Max von Pettenkofer—proposed a bill of public-health regulations such as school closures, disinfection of waterways, and quarantine. This led to a national uproar among constituents who saw state-enforced health measures as a threat to the German economy—and this time an ad hoc coalition joined together to oppose such measures. The German National Economic Association argued that the bill interfered with economic trade and personal freedom. But the opposition was as much about ethnicity as economics.

Denying the need for public-health measures, including vaccination, slipped into tacitly implying that the disease would carry off the Jewish and the poor. Sometimes the calculation was explicit. A monthly magazine distributed by the German physician Gustav Jäger argued that the cholera epidemic would remove "weaklings" from the "better classes" of society. These words were code for the poor and for ethnic minorities, and not only do they link contagion to ableism, but they deny members of ethnic minority groups their humanity."

"When discussing the difference between nature and nurture (and the connection between the two), we have to acknowledge the ways in which human beings are hyper-wired for social relationships. This idea really comes to life when we discuss the subject of cults. In this episode your host Leslie sits down with cult expert and survivor Dr. Janja Lalich to talk about who gets into cults, and how."

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