The Latest from Bruce

Questions?

Is there a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about ? If so, here’s your chance. If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about , please leave your request in the comment section. Any subject…ask away.

Doing this from time to time helps me understand what is important to the readers of this blog. I have plenty of subjects to busy myself with, but I would love to hear from you,

Thanks in advance for helping me improve  this blog.

Amish Sheep in SE Michigan

Last Sunday, Polly and I took a short road trip to Homer and Albion, Michigan. We had been to Homer years ago. One of the photographs I took in Homer of our youngest daughter Laura won a local photography contest. Polly thought a return to Homer might provide an opportunity for me to take another award-winning photo. The weather God didn’t help me much, so Homer was pretty much a bust, but I took a lot of other pictures as we traveled the rural  roads of SE Michigan that I think are keepers.

We were delighted to stumble upon a small Amish community. This community is quite poor compared to their brethren in the eastern Indiana. Some of the houses were quite rough, in need of repair. Some were downright dumpy. One oddity was seeing sheep tethered or chained in the ditches in front of many of the Amish homes. I suspect that they were using the sheep to “cut”  the weeds and grass along the ditch line. What follows are photographs of several of the sheep that took time out from their grazing to pose for me.

Please click the high-resolution links to see photo full size. Most photos on this site are resized to 600×400, resulting in 60-90% reduction in size. This reduction flattens and softens most photos.  I hate it, I mean I really, really, really hate it,  but you’d hate it even more if I uploaded all my photos as shot and it took 5 minutes for the site to load. If you would like to save, print, or use one of my photos, please use the high-resolution photos. Any noncommercial use is permitted.

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Notes

Slogan on Homer water tower? Homer is Home *sigh*

Cost for one year at Albion College? $51,000

Percentage of Albion residents who are black? 30% What made me look this stat up? A lot of churches with crazy sounding Pentecostal names that are typically found in bigger cities.

Favorite find? Whitehouse Nature Center, operated by Albion College. Will definitely have to return and walk the trails.

If God is Love, He Has a Funny Way of Showing It

gumby

God is a lot like Gumby. He can be twisted and shaped into virtually any form a person wishes.

Take the God is Love crowd.

They stop by, read my writing, and are horrified to find that I think God is a God of judgment, wrath, hatred, and violence.Where did I e-v-e-r get such an idea?  Perish the thought, Bruce. God is a God of love. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. God would n-e-v-e-r do anything to hurt you, Bruce.  He has your best interest in mind. Look at how much God loves you…he sent his son Jesus to die on the cross for your sins. Isn’t that awesome?

No, it is not awesome. Blood atonement is quite violent and revolting and I see no love in the act. What I see is a righteous, holy God who hates sin and those who do it. I see a God quite willing to destroy the human race because they don’t keep his commands. I see a God who, for some perverse reason, sent himself to die on a cross, so his hatred of sin and those who do it could be assuaged.

You see, I have read the Bible. ALL OF IT. I take what the Bible says at face value. Yes, the Bible presents God as a God of love. However, the Bible also presents God as a righteous,holy, vengeful, hateful God who doesn’t think twice about using violence to get his point across. God is the meanest son-of-a-bitch on the block. Cross him and you are dead, right Uzzah? (2 Samuel 6)

As I look at the world today, I see no evidence of this God of love. Look at his supposed followers. Do they evidence love to the world? Hardly. They fuss and fight amongst themselves. They split and divide over the silliest of things. Where is the love Christians? If you can’t get it right, how can you expect worldlings like myself to embrace the God is love notion?

I much prefer a world where God is Dead. I don’t have to look for surreal, existential answers to the issues facing the human race. I don’t have to manipulate a religious text to get a satisfactory explanation for what I see and read with my eyes. Humans are the problem and humans are the solution; no God needed.

I don’t need God to experience and know love. I have a wife, six children, 3 daughter-in-laws, and ten grandchildren. Through them I experience and know love. As a Christian would say of God, they are ALL I need.

It is enough to live and die, knowing that I have been loved by others.

Is it OK for an Evangelical Christian to Marry an Unbeliever?

unequally yoked together

The Bible is clear on this subject. The Bible, the infallible, inspired Word of God that millions of Evangelicals SAY they believe says:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is not an ambiguous or hard to interpret passage of Scripture.  It means exactly what it says. Believers (Christians, followers of Jesus) should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. The Bible describes marriage as “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:27)

One would think bought by the blood, Bible believing Evangelicals would, because of their love for Jesus, obey what God has commanded. God calls on every single Christian to be like Tim Tebow, a virgin until the day they marry a fellow believer of the OPPOSITE sex.

But, in another, all to typical, example of  the fact that Evangelicals only believe the Bible when it fits their lifestyle and ignore it or explain it away when it doesn’t, the Christian Partner for Life website (website is no longer active) gives this advice;

Finding your husband or wife can be quite a process.  Often, whether through school or elsewhere, we meet people in our lives who are not committed Christians.  A common question that we receive is: “Is it OK to date someone who is not committed to Christianity?”  While many advisors and ministers that we encounter have said definitively “NO,” we think it is important to have a more secular view of the situation.  If you have a great connection with someone, and they would potentially want to explore raising your future family with predetermined beliefs, we see no reason to object….

….We believe that marrying a non-Christian or a non-practicing Christian is not a definitive “no” answer, as is commonly taught.  Would you rather stay single or marry a loving and wonderful person who is agnostic of Christian beliefs?  If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass, we think the possibility of marriage should very much exist.  If a relationship is based upon love, trust and mutual respect, there is a good chance that a marriage will succeed, regardless of religion.

The caveat to this question becomes whether your future spouse is willing to raise a family the way that you would like to.  Would your future spouse be open to raising your children as committed Christians?  If so, we think that a relationship could work…

In other words, ignore the Bible.

The Bible says that nonbelievers are dead in trespasses in sin. Unbelievers are at variance with God, vain in their imaginations and haters of God. Unbelievers are bad people, After all, their father is the devil himself.

Yet, John at Christian Partner for Life  says “If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass”  then perhaps it would be OK to marry them. How can an unbeliever have a great moral compass? According to the Bible, they can’t.

Here’s what I think…unbelievers are hotter…And baby, when it comes to chasing after hotness, let the Bible be damned darned.

All silliness aside, John’s post  at Christian Partner For Life is just another reminder that Evangelicals, for all their bluster about the Bible being truth, really don’t believe it.

Now for MY marriage advice for unbelievers.

Actually, the Bible gives some pretty good advice here. In most circumstances it would be unwise for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical. Unless the believer is willing to live as an unbeliever then it is probably unwise to marry. I can hear the howling now, Evangelicals everywhere are screaming, HOW DARE YOU EXPECT A BELIEVER TO DENY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE AS AN UNBELIEVER!! I bet it seemed OK  to most Evangelicals when John suggested the very same thing when he suggested making sure the unbeliever would be willing to raise future children as believers. Evangelicals seem to always expect OTHERS to compromise so they can be true to their beliefs, but they rarely seem to be able to compromise their beliefs for the sake of others. The message is clear: my beliefs matter, yours don’t.

Generally, it is a bad idea for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical, especially if their prospective marriage partner’s family is Evangelical too. If you marry anyway, you are sure to have conflict over issues like:

  • Baptizing or dedicating the children
  • Attending church
  • Tithing
  • Praying over meals
  • Having family devotions
  • Cursing
  • What entertainments to participate in
  • What movies to watch
  • Sex

You will also likely subject yourself to a life of “I am praying for you” and subtle attempts to win you to Jesus.

It is almost impossible for an Evangelical to NOT talk about their faith. (nor should they be expected to) This is why the Bible actually gives sound advice about an unequal yoke.

Contrary to the little ditty, opposites attract, successful marriages are usually built on the things that the husband and wife have in common. While my wife and I are very different, we do have many things in common. We cultivate our common values and beliefs, and with things we differ on we leave each other free to pursue those things.

Over time, the things a couple differs on can become something both like or agree upon. When Polly and I married she was a sports atheist. I was a jock. I mean one of THOSE kind of guys. I played sports year-round for the first ten years of our marriage. Age, knee problems, and a busy church ended my sports playing career. Polly made a good faith effort to enter into my world. For a long times. her ignorance was quite amusing, but bit by bit she became conversant in sports-talk. I did not reciprocate. I still do not know how to sew or put the toilet seat down.

We still have a lot of things that we do not hold in common and that’s OK. But, the bedrock of our marriage of almost 37 years is the values, beliefs, and likes we hold in common.  I believe it would be very hard for an Evangelical and an unbeliever to find common ground to build a successful marriage. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

On this issue I am much more of a Bible believer than John at Christian Partner for Life. Granted, I see the principle taught in scripture from the other end of the equation, but it still is good advice. When it comes to the foundational issues of life and the philosophies we live by, having a common mind is always best. Certainly, compromise is possible, but willingly chucking your beliefs (whatever they might be) for love will usually leave you disappointed, and if you are not careful may land you in divorce court.

If you are in an unequally yoked marriage or relationship, how do you make it work? Please leave your thoughts in comment section.

Does Evangelicalism Encourage Weakness and Passivity?

hopeless without God

Recently, Aliyah Burton, a homeschooled 14-year-old, wrote a guest post for the Lies Young Women Believe website. Titled, Does the Maker of the Stars Want to Use You, the post reveals a troubling aspect of Evangelical thinking about how to live life. Burton wrote:

My heart has been hurting a bit these days because I know I have so much inside of me that needs to change. I don’t know how God’s going to work it all out. Things like pride, resentment, and arrogance build up in me, reminding me I’m still so broken.

I have these conversations with God, telling Him I have nothing left that’s any good at all. I probably sound a little like this: “I gave you all I thought you wanted. . . . Wait, what was that? . . . You want everything? Even the worst parts?” I run and hide, sometimes, from the God who made me.

I still wonder about this: Does He really want to see my brokenness? Does He really want to do something with me? Have you ever felt like that?..

I read God’s Word because I know He’s not going to take my excuses for an answer. I know He’s going to keep reassuring me as He did to Jeremiah . . .

“I know you”

“I have still chosen you.”

“I’m the One who made you this way, don’t you think I know how to use you?”

The way he said it made me laugh, but this truth rang clear to me: God is in charge, not me. Yet my itty-bitty human brain seems to think the Maker of the stars needs my permission to work in and through me.

I read God’s Word because I need to be reminded that He wants to use me, even when it doesn’t feel like that could possibly be true…

My initial response was one of sadness. Here’s a bright 14-year-old girl and she has already lost her ability to think rationally. Not only has she surrendered her ability to reason and think, she thinks the Evangelical God talks to her.

Here’s a girl sitting in her bedroom sad over the fact that she is not the person God wants her to be. She is plagued by pride, resentment, and arrogance, knowing that these things are a reminder of how broken she is. Ponder this thought for a moment. Here’s a girl who already thinks she is broken. That’s what the Evangelical teaching on original sin does to a person. It makes them see themselves as broken and in need of repair. And who can repair them? No one but God. This girl has been taught that she is helpless and hopeless without God, unable to do anything on her own.

Does she really have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem? Only she can answer that, but I suspect that her angst is fueled by the preaching and teaching at her church and her home school education. Minor character flaws are blown up into transgressions against a thrice-holy God. If she really does have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem, then she need not passively, obediently wait for God to fix her.  She is not weak, nor broken, and it is within her power to change her ways. Prideful? Stop! Resentful? Stop! Arrogant? Stop!

Far too many Evangelicals go through life thinking they are helpless, broken people who need God’s help to do anything. This kind of thinking makes them weak and passive, always waiting for God to forgive them, deliver them, show them a better way, or give them strength. Instead of relying on self, they are taught to rely on a non-existent God who supposedly never leaves them or forsakes them and sticks closer to them than a brother. They are reminded that the Bible says:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

They are also reminded that Jesus said in John 15:5:

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Evangelicals are told, You can’t do ANYTHING without Jesus. He is your strength. The very breath you have comes from him. Don’t trust your own reasoning, don’t trust the reason of any mere human. Trust God, lay your life at his feet, and let him direct your life. Remember, Jesus said we are to deny self. We don’t matter. Jesus is the end all. Jesus taught us to pray, God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. Not our will, but his.

This is why uncounted Evangelicals are waiting for God to change them, correct them, or show them what to do. Marriage problems? Out of work? Health problems? Job problems? Conflict with children, spouse, coworker, neighbor, or friend? Financial trouble? Just wait and let God show you the way. Just wait and God will return your phone call. Just wait and God will use his mighty wonder-working power to conform your life into the image he wants it to be. And while they are waiting, life continues to move forward. Waiting on God becomes an excuse, a way of sidestepping personal responsibility, a way of ignoring character flaws.

Every one of us are responsible for our own behavior. There’s no God fix coming for what ails us. If it is important to us to be good, to treat others with decency and respect, then we will do what’s necessary to make these things happen. I have little patience for the prayers of the helpless. They have been neutered by religious teachings that have robbed them of their will. Taught to deny self, they trust in a deity that has no power to help them. The only person that can change ME is the person staring at me in the mirror.

Note

I am not against waiting, thinking, or meditating before making a decision. Haste is just as bad as passivity. When I need to make a decision or change something in my life, I try to give the matter careful consideration. But, when I act, it is me acting, not some outside source of power. As a humanist, I recognize that the buck stops with me and my fellow Homo sapiens.

The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review

the preacher the life and times of don hardman

Laura Hardman, wife of Fundamentalist Baptist Evangelist Don Hardman, has written a biography about her husband titled The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman. The self published book is 201 pages long. In 2010, Laura published an autobiography titled Laura’s Light. The book was published in 2010. You can read my review of the book here.

Like Laura’s Light, The Preacher reads quite a bit like the Bible. Don Hardman’s story is one of bondage to sin and deliverance from that sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. Also, like the Bible, it is littered with fictions and omissions. I will illustrate some of these fictions and omissions later.

While the book is meant to be a biography of Don Hardman’s life, it is sparse on details, except for those details that paint Don in a favorable light. In the preface, Laura states:

I will endeavor to write about a man whom I watched God transform into literally another person over the last thirty-seven years. It is my desire not to glorify or make much of what he did when he was lost, but make much of his new life in Christ.

In other words, the past is the past, it is under the blood, praise Jesus! Time to move on.  The greater objective, according to Laura, is for some “sinner or saint” to “read this biography and realize there is hope for a victorious life, not only when we get to heaven, but also here as we walk in this world.” Laura wants readers to know that they too can be just like Don and Laura Hardman and achieve the victorious Christian life.

The book has eight chapters:

  1. A Struggle Through Childhood
  2. No Purpose for Life
  3. Time for Change
  4. The Call of God
  5. Just a Servant of the Lord
  6. A Street Preacher
  7. The Chance of a Lifetime
  8. The Life of Evangelism

These eight chapters take up 142 pages. The other 70 pages are what Laura calls a “Summary and Sketches of What the Preacher Said.” While Laura had uncounted recordings of Don’s sermons that she could have transcribed, she instead decided to summarize 30 of his sermons. While Laura says the reason for doing this is because “the Lord laid on my heart that giving a short essay and sharing how the people reacted might be more edifying”, I suspect the real reason for not transcribing Don’s sermons is because he often preached for 60 to 90 minutes. Over the years, Don lost meetings because he refused to shorten the length of his sermons.

Chapter one details Don’s birth in Canton, Ohio in 1950, his battle with polio, and a bit about his parents, brother, and grandparents. The chapter ends with Don graduating from high school, a rebellious young man who frequently skipped school, hung out at pool halls, smoked, drank beer, and rarely thought about God.  According to Laura, Don graduated in May of 1968 “with a diploma in hand and no purpose in life.”

What’s interesting is that Laura makes no mention of the fact that Don married a 13-year-old girl by the name of Cheryl, one month before he graduated from high school. At the time of their marriage, Cheryl was four months pregnant and both Don and her were wards of the court. While I can certainly understand why Laura might not want to mention this, wouldn’t this juicy tidbit enhance Don’s sinner to saint story?

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s

In chapter two, Laura skips Don’s marriage to Cheryl, the birth of their two children Joe and Tangi, and their foster daughter Shelly. Again, if what I am being told is correct, there are plenty of stories that Laura could have shared from this period that would have enhanced Don’s sinner creds. Outside of mentioning Don’s drinking habit, nothing more is said about Don’s life until May of 1977. During this nine year period, Don was married to Cheryl. An uninformed reader would assume that Laura is Don’s first wife and that Joe and Tangi are her biological children. In my review of Laura’s first book, I wrote:

Two children came out of Don’s first marriage. Laura claims the children as her own, a claim I suspect the biological mother finds quite offensive.(a woman I have corresponded with over the years)  While Hardman does say Don had two children, she never calls herself their step-mother. In her mind, when Jesus came into their life EVERYTHING became brand-new and that included the children having a new mother.

In May of 1977, Don, Laura, and their two children moved to Findlay, Ohio so Don could begin working for Ashland Oil. According to Laura:

In June of 1977, things seemed to be going great for us as a family. We moved into a government house on 1143 Concord Court, Findlay, Ohio. Our neighborhood was made up drunks, unmarried couples living together, and a slew of hoodlum kids. Needless to say, we added to their list of hoodlums. Little did we know that this wicked little neighborhood would become a mission field in the months to come.

Laura may have forgotten that I lived in Findlay in the 1970’s, grades eight through eleven. I am quite familiar with the neighborhood the Hardman’s lived in. The house in question is a single family dwelling. At the time the Hardman’s moved into the house it was around 20 years old. I seriously doubt that the house was government housing. It is possible that it was Section 8 housing, but this would mean that the Hardman’s were either on welfare or quite poor. Having already stated that Don had a job at Ashland Oil, which was a good paying job in the 1970’s, it is unlikely that the Hardman’s were poor or on welfare.  (put 1143 Concord Court into Google Earth or Google Map and take a street view look of the house and neighborhood)

As far as the Concord Court neighborhood is concerned, I  seriously doubt the neighborhood was as Laura describes it. While my memory is certainly not what it once was, I do remember that the Concord Court area was a working class neighborhood of moderately price, small homes, not unlike the neighborhood on National Court that my parents, siblings, and I lived in the 1970’s.

If my memory is correct, what are we to make of Laura’s description of the neighborhood? The easy answer would be that she is lying and that certainly might be the case. However, I am more inclined to believe that this story, like much of The Preacher’s Life, is like a testimony given during Sunday night church. Over the years, I heard hundreds of testimonies, often from people who told the same story over and over. I found that, over time, the stories become more exciting. A story that started out with a person being a drug user years later became the story of a person selling heroin for the mob. As we age, we tend to change, reformulate, correct, and expand the narrative of our life. The challenge for any reader is to be able to pick the facts out of the bullshit.

Chapter three details Don and Laura’s salvation experience. On June 20, 1977, Paul Reimer, pastor of First Baptist Church and church deacon Mike Roberts visited the Hardman home and shared the gospel with Don and Laura. After Reimer had shared the gospel with them and Roberts gave a personal testimony:

Don was the first to take a step forward, and prayed to God for forgiveness. Because we did not know how to pray, they led us in a prayer. Our hearts had been smitten and conviction brought tears to our eyes. We understood for the first time in our lives what Jesus had suffered for us on the cross that we might have life. Our lives were heavily burdened down with guilt and shame, and the chains of sin kept us shackled to the old life. Now we are given the choice of Freedom in Christ or Bondage withe the devil.  It’s doesn’t seem like much of a choice even though many  choose bondage with the devil.

Shortly after Don cried out to God, I also gave my life to God. We literally gave our lives to Christ!

The next Sunday, the Hardman’s walked the aisle at First Baptist Church and made their profession of faith public. Several weeks later, they were baptized and not long afterward they stopped smoking and drinking beer. Laura writes:

It took about four months of battling our flesh, but God did give us the victory. At the beginning, we only went to church on Sundays, but realized how important that midweek service was in our growth. Not only did I watch a thrice-Holy God changing my life, but also transforming my husband into another man, from a man whose mouth had a cuss word coming out every other word, to one thanking and praising God.

These excerpts are typical of testimonies of those saved in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Years ago, an Amish-Mennonite neighbor confided in me that he was troubled because he didn’t have a sin to salvation story like Baptists have. Raised in the church, a practicing Amish-Mennonite, he grew into salvation. He wanted to know if his salvation was defective because he didn’t have any bad sinner stories to tell. His question illustrated the fact that IFB churches and preachers play up the bad sinner part of their testimony. Everyone wants to be viewed as the baddest sinner in town, a sinner whom God miraculously delivered. As I mentioned previously, most of these testimonies are a mixture of lie, half-truth, fabrication, and fact.

The Hardman’s were saved in era when the IFB church and Evangelicalism made much of bad sinner testimonies. While these testimonies were meant to give God all the glory, what they really did was make much of the sinner and their debauched life before Jesus. Who wants to hear the testimony of the aforementioned Amish-Mennonite man when they can hear the testimony of Mike Warnke, Chuck Colson, Pat Boone, Joanna Michaelsen, and Eldridge Cleaver?

Nine months or so later, in the spring of 1978, “God spoke to his (Don’s) heart about full-time service.”  According to Laura, a short time later, God gave Don his life verse, II Timothy 4:5:

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

Laura writes “of course, he never understood what that meant until later on.” Don told their church family that God had called him to preach. Pastor Fred Crown, also a pastor at First Baptist Church,came and talked to Don about his call to preach. Laura writes:

Pastor Crown looked him dead in the eyes  and said “So you feel God has called you to preach” and Don said, “Yes Sir.” He (Crown) said, “Then you need to consider not stealing from Him.” Of course, he was dealing with tithes and offerings. Don told him we could not see how we could pay our bills and tithe our income. The wisdom from this preacher never ceases to amaze me. He told us to try tithing for a month, and he would take care of every unpaid bill himself. Needless to say, we never had an unpaid bill and never again robbed from God.

While Don and Laura may never have robbed from God again, they did rob the U.S. treasury. Some of the churches Don preached at, including the churches I pastored, paid Don in cash. Don did not claim some or all of this cash income on his tax return. This proved to be quite a money boon to the Hardman’s.

Chapters four through six detail Don’s life as a pastor and evangelist. In 1980, Don graduated  with a one year certificate from Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Baptist correspondence school. By this time, Don was on disability and he and his family moved back to eastern Ohio to be near family. While in eastern Ohio, the Hardman’s helped Victory Baptist Church in Kensington, Ohio and Lisbon Baptist Temple in Lisbon, Ohio.

Jim Midcap was their pastor while they attended Lisbon Baptist Temple. I preached for Jim in late 1980’s  when he was pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Negley, Ohio. Jim returned the favor and preached for me while I was pastor of churches in Mt. Perry and West Unity, Ohio. For several years, Jim operated a clothing and food ministry that provided the Hardman’s with food and clothing to distribute to the poor and homeless in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had the privilege of taking a trip with Jim and a few other men from Ohio to Louisiana  to deliver and distribute food and clothing. I had a great time and my eyes were opened to the plight of the poor in cities like New Orleans.

In November of 1980, the Hardman’s moved to Pennsboro, West Virgina to begin pastoring Pennsboro Baptist Church.  According to Laura:

…We used all of our money to transport our mobile home and did not have enough money to have our gas turned on…Here we were far hence unto the Gentiles and not a penny to our name until the disability check came in. Still, this Preacher had not come here to become a Pastor, but to be a Servant of the Lord in whatever capacity he was needed.

Don began filling the pulpit at the Pennsboro Baptist Church every Sunday. Some liked him, and some did not like his free spirit in decision, but the congregation asked him to candidate as Pastor anyways. He was voted in as Pastor in December of 1980.

I am sure readers will ask, as I did, why moved to Pennsboro unless you planned on pastoring the church? Why move without having the funds necessary to turn on the gas? What happened in Kensington and Lisbon, Ohio that resulted in the Hardman’s quickly moving to West Virginia? The book answers none of these questions.

According to Laura, while at Pennboro Baptist, Don became “a friend to the friendless, a father to the fatherless and a teacher to the unlearned.”  All Don wanted to do was “try to make a difference in people’s lives and get them to the God who changed his life.” Don spent two years trying to change the church, but, according to Laura, Don “could not seem to override the traditions of the church.”  In the fall of 1982, Don resigned from the church and moved down the road to start Freedom Baptist Church. Five years later, Don left Freedom Baptist and began working full-time on what he called the Streets of America. From this time, until today, Don’s ministry is operated from a base in New Orleans and Midway Bible Baptist Church in Fishersville, Virginia.

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Late 1980’s

I looked in vain for any mention in the book of myself and Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio. While Laura mentions numerous churches and preachers who gave Don his start, she makes no mention of me or Somerset Baptist. Laura seems to have forgotten that I was one on the first pastors to have Don hold a meeting for them. She seems to have forgotten than Don held at least five meetings for me, most of them two weeks long, at Somerset Baptist Church and Grace Baptist Church (later Our Father’s House) in West Unity, Ohio. She also fails to mention that we spent time with them at their parents home, named our youngest daughter after her, and brought a group from our church to their church’s Bible conference. Again, an uninformed reader would never learn that Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Somerset Baptist, and Grace Baptist, played an instrumental part in Don getting started in evangelism.

Of course, I understand why Laura might want to edit me and the churches I pastored out of  Don’s life story. Nothing like having a preacher friend turned atheist muck up Don’s story of spiritual ascendency from drunk to Holy Spirit filled man of God.

As I mentioned in my review of Laura’s first book:

Hardman portrays life in the ministry as one of standing for the truth at all costs. She details loss of friends and loss of meetings because of their stand for the blessed truths of the King James Bible. Not one time does Hardman ever speak of a problem being their fault. It’s always the liberals fault. There is always an enemy, imaginary or real, they are fighting. This is the kind of life narrow Baptist Fundamentalism brings.

This thinking is on prominent display in The Preacher. Not one time, does the book implicate Don or Laura. It ‘s always family, a church, or a pastor, who is to blame for broken fellowship or lost relationships. In Laura’s mind, her husband is a God-called man who is in tight with the Almighty. Those who take issue with Don’s preaching are liberals or carnal. Over the years, I saw Don repeatedly browbeat church members with the Bible, calling out their sins. One time, he went from teenager to teenager pointing his finger at them, exposing their secret sins. These tactics worked, with church members, visitors, and teenagers getting saved or repenting of secret sin.  Was this God? Of course not. Like most skilled Baptist preachers, myself included, Don was an expert manipulator of emotions. He knew how to set the hook and reel the fish in.

And here’s thing, I know a lot of things that I can not share in this review. Since I have no way of verifying what I know, I can’t share it. I mentioned Don impregnating a 13-year-old girl and marriage to her because I have a copy of the marriage application. Other things that I think are likely true lack evidence.  I can say this, there are those who think Don Hardman is an Elmer Gantry-like grifter; that he and Laura have spent four decades making an easy living off their marks. For readers not familiar with the term grifter, a grifter is “someone who swindles you through deception or fraud.”

Is it possible that Don and Laura Hardman are frauds? Sure. I have no way of knowing or proving this, but I do know that the IFB church has turned out a number of con artists, some of who have gone on to pastor large churches. Bob Gray pastored Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for decades. He was finally exposed as an adulterer and child molester, a life of perversion that began when he entered the ministry in 1949. I heard Bob Gray and Don preach at the same preacher’s meeting in Cambridge, Ohio. The Hardman’s are or were friends with a number of the men who operated IFB teen group homes. Many of these men have been accused of child abuse, sexual assault, and rape.

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Grace Baptist Church (Our Father’s House) West Unity, Ohio, Circa 2000

Supposedly, a few years back, I can’t remember the exact date, Don had cancer. This cancer was killing Don and modern western medicine couldn’t cure him. The Hardman’s raised a significant amount of money so Don could get alternative cancer treatment in Mexico. Yet, Don’s cancer story is not mentioned in the book. Wouldn’t a miraculous healing from deadly cancer be an important story to share? While this story isn’t shared, Laura spends 32 pages, almost 25% of the biography part of the book, detailing the lightning  story. Based on the amount of space given to this story, it’s safe to say that the Hardman’s consider this the highlight of their time in the ministry.

July 1, 2003, finds Don and Laura holding a meeting at First Baptist Church in Forest, Ohio. Don’s sermon text for the night is I Kings 8. Laura writes:

About halfway into the message, we could hear the thunder and see the lightning through the stained glass windows, During his preaching, when a loud crack of thunder rang out, Don would say, “Yes, Lord, we are listening.” He made reference to the verse God’s voice was like thunder. (Psalms 77:18)

All of a sudden, a lightning bolt hit the church and burnt out the sound system, blowing the light bulbs out of their sockets behind the pulpit. We could smell the burning wires but still did not know we had taken a direct hit. Not once did we lose our electricity, so Don kept preaching on Solomon’s prayer of repentance. About 20 minutes later, a women came running into the church and said, “the church is on fire.”

This event made the news, from the local paper to the Toledo Blade. It was mentioned on CNN and Don had interviews with the BBC, the NBC Today Show, and Paul Harvey. The book has several of the news stories along with a transcript of Don’s interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show:

Video Link

Again, what I find interesting is what is missing in this chapter. Laura makes no mention of the name of the pastor of First Baptist Church in Forest. Why is this? Perhaps it is because not too long after God’s lightning bolt sign from above, the pastor of the church was removed for sexual misconduct.  The image of Evangelist Hardman must not be tainted by any connection with an atheist, adulterers, child abusers, or rapists. Like the precious blood of Jesus that wipes away all recollection of sin before salvation, Laura conveniently writes out of the book anyone who doesn’t affirm, strengthen, or reinforce Don’s drunk to Holy Spirit  filled traveling evangelist testimony.

Over the years, Don has lost a number of the churches he once preached for. Whether this was due to his refusal to answer questions about his past or the length and content of his sermons, Don now has just a handful of churches he regularly holds meetings for; churches like Old Time Baptist Church, (Pastor Lou Guadagno) Buffalo, New York, Lighthouse Baptist Church, (Pastor David Constantino) North Tonawanda, New York, and Amazing Grace Baptist Church, (Pastor Jimmy Hood) Columbus, Ohio. As Laura admits in the book, most of the churches that once had Don preach for them no longer do so.

For the churches and pastors Don still preaches for, Don is a god-called evangelist mightily used by God to win souls and call backslidden church members to repentance. For others, Don is a long-winded, legalistic preacher. And for a few others, perhaps those who know Don and Laura Hardman the best, the Hardman’s are grifters who have found an easy way to make money. For me personally, there are things I have been told that deeply trouble me. While there is no hard evidence for these things, especially since many of these things happened decades ago, there’s enough smoke to make wonder if there is a fire. If I had known these things when Don first preached for me in 1987, I doubt that I would have had him do so. If I was still a Christian, I could play the pious preacher and say that God will make all things known on judgment day. As an atheist, all I can do is review Laura Hardman’s books and make my observations known. It is up to you the reader to determine whether what I write is true.

Note

I do not know of any place this book can be purchased. Someone connected to the Hardman family sent me a copy of the book. Laura Hardman’s first book was published by Victory Baptist Press, but I did not find her newest book in their online catalog.

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Has Anybody Seen JC?

This is the twenty-third installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Has Anybody Seen JC?, sung  by Jeff Ollerhead, a singer–songwriter from Liverpool, England. Best I can tell the lyrics are of unknown origin. The song has numerous verses as the lyrics below show.

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus
Has anybody seen J C
J C, J C, J C, J C.
Not since Easter Sunday,
Riding on a Donkey.
Has anybody seen J C
J C, J C, J C, J C

Virgin born, head of thorn
Resurrects the dead at dawn

That J C, he’s divine
Changes water into wine.

Virgin Mary, She’s the most
She’s been fucked by the Holy Ghost

Cleans up temples it is said
Raises spastics from their bed

J C, He’s so cool
Boogies across my swimming pool

Took three loaves and five fish
Feed five thousand piece of piss

Lots of songs, raises cheers,
In the charts two thousand years

Holes in hands, Holes in Feet,
Carries his cross down the street,

Holy Ghost, He’s the most,
Gets them pissed on wine and toast,

Banished fear and gave us hope,
Went one better than the Pope,

Love he gave, faith he took,
Still the Worlds best selling book,

Save our souls, fun we poke,
Sorry God its just a joke.

J C stands five foot nine,
Plays scrum half for Palestine.

Arms out wide, feet are tied,
It’s hard to boogie when your crucified.

Songs of Sacrilege: My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus

This is the twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus by Jimmy Buffett, an American singer–songwriter.

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus
My head hurts, my feet stink, and I don’t love Jesus.
It’s that kind of mornin’,
really was that kind of night.
Tryin’ to tell myself that my
condition is improvin’ and if I don’t
die by Thursday I’ll be roarin’ Friday night.

Went down to the snake pit,
to drink a little beer.
Listened to the juke box,
oh, it’s comin’ in clear.
All of a sudden I wasn’t alone
pickin’ country music with old Joe Bones.
Duval Street was rockin’,
my eyes they started poppin’!
Because there she sat at the corner of the bar,
as I broke another string on my old guitar.
Someone call a cab.
Lady won’t you pay my tab?

Chorus

Got to get a little orange juice,
And a Darvon for my head.
I can’t spend all day,
Baby, layin’ in bed.
I’m goin’ down to Fausto’s
to get some chocolate milk.
Can’t spend my life in your sheets of silk
I’ve got to find my way
Crawl out and greet the day.

Chorus

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus Saves

This is the twenty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus Saves by Slayer, an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California.

Video Link

Lyrics

You go to the church, you kiss the cross
You will be saved at any cost
You have your own reality
Christianity

You spend your life just kissing ass
A trait that’s grown as time has passed
You think the world will end today
You praise the Lord, it’s all you say

Jesus saves, listen to you pray
You think you’ll see the pearly gates
When death takes you away

For all respect you cannot lust
In an invisible man you place your trust
Indirect dependency
Eternal attempt at amnesty

He will decide who lives and dies
Depopulate Satan’s rise
You will be an accessory
Irreverence and blasphemy

Jesus saves, no need to pray
The gates of pearl have turned to gold
It seems you’ve lost your way

Jesus saves, no words of praise
No promised land to take you to
There is no other way