From the Archives

Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?

steamy romance

Pastor Bob shows Church Member Felicia How Much Jesus Loves Her

In October 2013, Doug Phillips, president of  Vision Forum Ministries confessed to church leaders that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Defenders of Phillips took to their blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook to do damage control on the behalf of Phillips and the patriarchal movement. One such defender is Independent Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham, a man who is widely viewed as the African-American version of Doug Phillips.

A Christian woman by the name of Julie Anne posted an article on the Spiritual Sounding Board blog about the Doug Phillips scandal. Her post mentioned the following quote by Voddie Baucham:

Dennis,You ask, “How many times do we see this in Christian leadership?” The answer may surprise you, but it is actually quite rare. There are hundreds of thousands of churches in America. We hear of these types of things on a national basis when they happen to high profile people. However, considering the number of people in Christian leadership, the numbers are quite small.As to your other point, most men who go through something like this never recover. Of course, there are exceptions. Moreover, there are some circles wherein things like this, and much worse, are merely swept under the rug. However, in circles where leadership is taken seriously, it is very difficult for a man to come back from things like this. People have long memories, and tend to be rather unforgiving. (emphasis mine)

Baucham repeats the oft told lie that clergy sexual misconduct is quite rare. I have heard this line more times than I can count. It is an attempt to prop up the notion that clergy are more moral and ethical than most people; that they are pillars of virtue and morality.  Such claims are patently false.

In 2007, Dr. R.J. Krejcir of  the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute, wrote a post detailing his recent study of clergy infidelity. Krejcir stated:

  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

So much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Numerous studies have been conducted concerning sexual infidelity among married people. The percentage varies widely, but it is safe to say that between ten and twenty percent of married people have been sexually unfaithful to their spouse. The percentage is higher for men than it is women.

We know that men of the cloth are not morally or ethically superior. In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 600,000 clergy. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion and Research, this total includes active clergy and “retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries.” This number does not include clergy who are affiliated with independent churches. If between ten and twenty percent of married people commit adultery, and clergy are no different morally from non-clergy, then this means that between 60,000 and 120,000 clergy have committed adultery.  Again, so much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Keep in mind, this is only the number of CONSENSUAL sexual relationships. Each month, the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter publishes reports of clergy misconduct on their Black Collar Crime Blotter page. In the October 2013 newsletter, there were over sixty reports of clergy being accused, arrested, charged, convicted, sued or imprisoned for criminal acts, many of which are sexual in nature.  As we know from cases like Bill Wininger, Bob Gray, and David Hyles, predator clergy can prey on children, teens, and women for decades before they are caught.

Voddie Baucham saying that there is not problem with clergy infidelity is a denial of the facts on the matter. Like the Catholic church, Protestant and Evangelical churches have their own their own sex scandals. As I have said before, Evangelicals love to point to the Catholic church’s sex scandals, all the while ignoring their own increasing problems with sexual infidelity, sexual abuse, and predator clergy.

Most clergy are faithful to their spouses and most of them are not sexual abusers or predators. That said, there are tens of thousands of clergy who can’t keep their pants zipped up and there are thousands of pastors who use their position of authority to abuse and prey on those who trust them.

Monica Cole Equates Fighting Liberals with Americans Fighting the Nazis

one million moms

Monica Cole is the outrage director for One Millions Moms (OMM), a ministry of the American Family Association (AFA). Several times a week, Cole sends out emails that are meant to stir the passions of God’s mighty army of soccer moms. In today’s email, Cole equates the work of OMM with that of American soldiers fighting the Axis powers, Germany and Japan, in WWII. Cole writes:

I sometimes fear that I fail to express to you the vital and crucial role you play in the battle to promote biblical values in our nation, as well as to preserve, protect, and defend religious liberty.

Your efforts today and in 2016 are absolutely crucial in this struggle. In fact, they are more important now than ever before.

….

I sometimes think of what it must have been like to celebrate Christmas during World War II. Today I want to remind you how those on the Homefront helped our soldiers overseas defeat the Axis powers.

They did so through the many personal sacrifices, often including their own sons and daughters. In addition, they purchased war bonds, used ration coupons for everyday items like gasoline and sugar, and wrote encouraging letters to soldiers. They took part in rubber and scrap metal drives and saved cooking fat. Women took difficult manufacturing jobs traditionally held by men. They couldn’t go overseas and fight the enemy on the front-lines, so they did their part on the Homefront.

This is the role you and your fellow 1MM supporters play. You have a family to care for, a church to support, and a job to keep. I appreciate that, and I fully understand those responsibilities.

However, your sacrifice on the Homefront – through your partnership with 1MM and AFA – is essential to the outcome of our struggle. Just as our parents and grandparents scrimped and saved and sacrificed to support the troops overseas, so is your sacrifice crucial in making possible everything we do here at 1MM and AFA.

And never was your support more necessary than it is today.

Like those who came before us, we have the challenge and privilege to “remain in action throughout the war” we’re fighting …

Just as our parents and grandparents fought and died in order to pass on to us the freedoms they enjoyed, so we are fighting for our children and grandchildren. This is our mission. We’re giving of ourselves so that they can live in a nation where they are free to live by and promote Christian principles and values in every area of culture – government, public policy, the courts, education, family, business, community, and more.

And when you consider all that’s at stake in the 2016 elections, our efforts are particularly critical in 2016 because …

… Religious liberty – our first freedom – hangs by a thread.

So, please, let’s do what the “Greatest Generation” did and – putting all of our trust and faith in God – do whatever it takes to win victory over the enemies of freedom. Meanwhile we continue the fight …

Cole believes that American religious liberty “hangs by a thread.” Evangelicals, mistaking a loss of preference for the loss of freedom, have convinced themselves that they are under attack. The women of OMM think that secularists, liberals and atheists, all of whom are the servants of Satan, are concertedly working to destroy Christianity and criminalize the worship of Jesus.  Why, if Cole’s email is to be believed, Christians are being attacked just like America in the 1940s when German submarines prowled the Atlantic and Japanese planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor.

Reminding readers of the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made on behalf of the American war effort, Cole pleads with supporters to scrimp and sacrifice so OMM can continue to battle the evil forces of darkness. In other words, OMM needs money and they want their supporters to cut back on lattes and Redbox rentals so that the money saved can then be sent to the OMM war effort.

At the end of her fundraising appeal, Cole uses a bit of Biblical imagery in the hope that doing so will move OMM supporters to cough up more money. Cole writes:

In addition to your active participation in our projects, the two ways in which you can help 1MM and AFA most right now are through your prayers and your financial gifts. Think of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ arms as he prayed for victory over the Amalekites. Your prayers and your donations hold up 1MM and AFA so we can fight the enemies of Christianity and freedom.

In Exodus 17, Amalek and Israel are fighting one another. Moses tells Joshua that he plans to stand on a hill overseeing the battlefield with the rod of God in his hand, hoping to spur Israel on to victory. Like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, when Moses raises the rod, Israel prevails in battle. When Moses’ arms weaken and he can no longer hold the rod high, Amalek prevails. Concerned that the battle might be lost, Aaron and Hur have Moses sit on a rock and they, one man on each side, hold Moses’ arms high. And sure enough, thanks to the work of Aaron and Hur, Israel defeats Amalek.

Cole uses this story to portray the American culture war. Amalek, in the guise of secularists, liberals, and atheists, is waging war against Evangelical Christianity, and OMM  is Moses, with rod held high, standing on a hill. As the battle continues, the arms of OMM become weak. If OMM doesn’t find someone to hold up their arms, the battle will be lost. Well, not really someone, but something. Something as in cash, checks and credit card donations.

Previous posts on the American Family Association and One Million Moms

Follow the Money: The American Family Association and their Support of the Gay Agenda

One Millions Moms Says a Boy is a Boy Even if She is a Girl

One Millions Moms Upset Over FOX Making the Devil Likable and Human

One Million Moms Outraged Over Women Not Wearing Underwear

One Million Moms Offended Over Old Woman Flashing Her Husband in Taco Bell Commercial

The Homophobic Hysteria of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association

Same-Sex Marriage: Will God Answer the Prayers of the American Family Association?

The American Family Association Runs Ad That Says Only God Can Define Marriage

Tim Wildmon Says Satan Hates the United States

How Evangelical Pastors and Church Members Can Overcome Their Porn-Watching Habits

watching porn is a sin

According to an upcoming study by the Barna Group titled The Porn Phenomenon, Christian pastors have a porn problem. While the full study will not be released until April 2016, Barna president David Kinnaman announced some of their findings:

Most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past.

  • Overall, 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.
  • About 12% of youth pastors and 5% of pastors say they are addicted to porn
  • 87% of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it.
  • 55% of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered.
  • The vast majority of faith leaders who struggle with porn say this has significantly affected their ministry in a negative manner. It is not clear why, but youth pastors are twice as likely as pastors to report this kind of unfavorable impact.

I suspect that the stated number of pastors who are “struggling” with porn, “addicted” to porn, or currently using porn is underreported. It is not surprising to learn that youth leaders have a big problem with pornography. Youth pastors tend to be younger, often with the same raging hormones as the teenagers to whom they minister. I have long believed that Christian youth groups led by youthful pastors are havens for sexual abuse and misconduct.  While churches have all sorts of policies in place that are meant to keep sexual misconduct from happening, rarely does a week go by without a youth pastor being arrested for some sort of sex crime. While these stories get all the press, the bigger story is the sexual misconduct that is covered up by church leaders and parents. Offending youth pastors are quietly fired or shipped off to Fundamentalist treatment centers such as Reformer Unanimous, the ministry that treated child molester Josh Duggar.

Evangelicals have all sorts of ministries and mechanisms they use to combat the “porn problem.” XXXchurch.com is a site dedicated to helping Evangelicals battle porn addiction. They offer things such as X3 groups, which are online meetings for Evangelicals who are struggling with porn. Evangelicals wanting “freedom from porn addiction, freedom from pain, freedom from guilt and shame and freedom from the very things that keep them trapped” will find help in one of XXXchurch’s 60 X3 groups. Joining one of these groups requires the payment of a $19-$39 a month membership fee.

XXXchurch also offers video workshops on subjects such as:

  • Porn — Giving you a clear path to Sexual Freedom. This course will finally give you the steps to porn addiction recovery and healing.
  • Sex — Helping you have Better Sex. This course will allow you to experience a deeper connection with your spouse and find greater intimacy.
  • Accountability — Helping you discover a life of Character. This course will give you the tools to finally live a life of accountability and openness.
  • Pre-Marriage — Everything you should know before Marriage. This course talks about great sex and other things your parents wouldn’t. A must for engaged couples.
  • Parenting — Guiding you through parenthood and Tech. This course gives parents a solid foundation to build trust and openness with their children.
  • Spouses — Helping women understand the visual nature of men. This course will give you the keys to understanding how the male brain works, thinks and responds.

Each of these workshops cost $97.

If Evangelicals are overwhelmed by porn and unable to break free, XXXchurch even offers one-on-one coaches who will help sinful Christians overcome their porn addiction. This personal attention doesn’t come cheap:

  • The Standard plan costs $300 a month. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session and daily chat access with their coach.
  • The three-month Plus plan costs $700. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session, daily chat access with their coach, Free X3watch Premium annual subscription, FREE X3pure recovery video workshop, and FREE X3groups
  • The Ultimate plan costs $1,500 and includes 7 months of Plus plan services.

According to the XXXchurch website, having a coach will help the porn addict:

  • Identify what triggers you sexually and how to resolve those triggers in a healthy manner
  • Minimize high risk scenarios that often lead to acting out
  • Seal up the leaks in your game that cause stress, and other emotional triggers
  • Find, form and foster healthier relationships
  • Discover the secret sauce of real accountability

XXXchurch is a nonprofit, but something tells me that Craig Gross, the man behind the “ministry,” has handsomely profited from helping Evangelicals with their porn addiction.

A new player in the porn addiction game is Seth Taylor. Taylor offers a program he calls My Pilgrimage (based on the book, Feels Like Redemption). For $399, Evangelical porn addicts receive:

…a four-module approach to finding freedom from pornography and masturbation. It starts with upending everything you thought you knew and ends with complete and total freedom. This book, guidebook, video curriculum, and small group will change everything.

Like Gross, Taylor has found a way to turn sex, guilt, and shame into a moneymaking business.

For Evangelical porn addicts who can’t afford the services of XXXchurch or My  Pilgrimage, “ministries” such as Covenant Eyes offer what is advertised as “internet accountability and filtering.”  For $13.99 a month Evangelical families can use Covenant Eyes’ services to filter internet traffic and block access to pornography and other objectionable material. Each family member is given a username that allows Covenant Eyes to track their internet usage. On a daily basis a report is sent to parents detailing who viewed what. Adults who are addicted to porn can have their wives or pastors be their accountability partners. Each day their porn gatekeepers receive a report showing the addicts’ internet activity.

The next time you to go to a Sunday service at I Love Jesus Church, located at the corner of Self-Righteousness and Moral Superiority, just remember that it is likely that the pastor and some of the church members were surfing porn sites the night before. When the pastor stands behind the pulpit and preaches against masturbation, pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, don’t forget that he is likely a hypocrite, a man who says one thing but does another.

Forget all these “ministries” that prey on Evangelical fear, guilt, and shame. While I am sure there is such a thing as porn addiction, most so-called porn addicts are weak men (and women) who are unwilling to stop looking at pornography. Instead of manning up and being personally accountable for their behavior, Evangelical men are taught that they are morally crippled and helpless. Evangelicals are led to believe that without Jesus and the church, they would quickly slide down the path of moral decadence. Yet, even WITH Jesus and the church, Evangelicals generally sexually behave in a similar manner as their heathen counterparts in the world. Perhaps Jesus and salvation is not the sin antidote Evangelicals claim it is. In fact, isn’t the very existence of ministries such as XXXchurch and Covenant Eyes proof that the supposed moral superiority of Evangelicals is largely a fiction? If Evangelical pastors can’t practice what they preach, what hope is there for parishioners? (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to seriously question their beliefs concerning sin and human sexuality. Instead of shaming people over their use of porn, perhaps churches would be better served if parishioners were taught how to embrace their sexuality. Porn is not the problem. While I have my own ideas about porn, having viewed it a time or two myself, I know that most people can look at pornographic magazines or watch videos on YouPorn without turning into sexual miscreants. While I am sure that secular counselors work with sex/porn addicts, this obsession with pornography and sex addiction is largely an Evangelical phenomena. Perhaps Evangelicals need to take a hard look at WHY they have such a big porn and sexual misconduct problem. Perhaps Evangelical THEOLOGY, with its focus on sin, shame, guilt, fear, and Puritanical sexuality, is the problem.

For readers interested in what science has to say about porn and sex addiction, I will end this post with an excerpt from an article titled Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real, written by The Daily Beast contributor Samantha Allen:

The last time neuroscientists Nicole Prause (Liberos LLC at UCLA) and Vaughn Steele (Mind Research Network) published on porn addiction, they received six legal threats, several calls for a retraction, and anonymous emails telling them to kill themselves.

Their controversial claim: “porn addiction” isn’t actually an addiction, at least in the sense that it does not neurologically behave like other well-documented addictions.

For therapists that treat porn consumption on an addiction model and for religious groups like Focus on the Family that are invested in maintaining a concept of “porn addiction,” the research undermines the clinical language they used in their approach to the controversial medium. But conclusive evidence for “sex addiction” and “porn addiction” continues to prove elusive.

Today, Prause, Steele, and their team of researchers are back with a new study, published in the journal Biological Psychology, that only reaffirms their previous findings: “porn addiction” and “sex addiction,” as we understand them, may not be real.

In what is now the largest neuroscience investigation of porn addiction ever conducted, Prause and a team of UCLA-based researchers asked 122 men and women to answer questions about their relationship to “visual sexual stimuli” to determine if they experienced problems as a result of their porn usage.

Whether the subjects were “problem users” or not, they were all shown several categories of images—pleasant ones like skydiving photos, neutral ones like portraits, unpleasant ones like mutilated bodies, and, of course, sexual images—while hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that measures electrical activity in the brain.

From this body of data, researchers examined each subject’s late positive potential (LPP), a common measure for the intensity of the brain’s emotional response at a given moment. The results were clear: Subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images.

As Greg Hajcak, a Stony Brook University researcher on the study, points out, a cocaine addict will experience “increased LLP to cocaine-related pictures”—one of the clearest indicators of psychological addiction.

But even subjects in the study who experienced “major problems” related to their porn usage didn’t display this same LLP pattern when viewing sexual images. In fact, as the researchers note, they “showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity”—the opposite of what one would expect to find in an addict’s brain.

Some self-described “porn addicts” may experience legitimate problems as a result of their habits, the researchers are quick to clarify, but neurologically speaking, they do not appear to have the same relationship to porn as a substance addict has to their drug of choice. In other words, porn and sex addictions are probably not addictions and treating them as such could prove counter-productive.

“This study appears to add to a list of studies that have not been able to identify pathology consistent with substance addiction models,” the authors conclude.

So far, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has agreed that there is insufficient evidence to support diagnoses for sex and porn addiction. In 2010, the APA rejected the inclusion of “sex addiction” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A new condition called “hypersexual disorder” was proposed for the DSM-5 but, in 2012, the APA rejected it as well for lack of evidence.

Note

XXXchurch offers an online sex addict test for those who wonder if they are addicted to sex and/or porn.

The Mormons have a porn addiction problem, as do Catholics.

Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast

From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation, Evangelical preachers tell of a day when Jesus will come to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth.  This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today and could be someone such as Barack Obama or Pope Francis. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals find it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so of late since it has been reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he leaves office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast.

While the character of  the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering and painful death await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical church goers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle, Evangelical passion for future events cooled. I am of the opinion that the rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt-needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism (most often found in charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches).

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this: Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological thoughts. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Note

I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicals are not in agreement about how the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted. That said, it is not hard to find Evangelical blogs, websites, and news services promoting the eschatological beliefs mentioned in this post.

You can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here.

Why Every High School Should Teach a Mandatory Comparative Religion Class

one true religion

Several days ago, Polly and I traveled to Jackson, Michigan to have dinner with Sergio and Russ, two people I had met through this blog and Facebook. Russ talked about how he had been exposed to a variety of Christian sects and how this cornucopia of beliefs caused him to be skeptical of religion. Teenage Russ quickly figured out that no two sects had the same beliefs. Each sect had different beliefs, yet all of them supposedly worshiped the same God. Russ rightly wondered, if they are all worshiping the same God, why is this God giving each sect different beliefs? Questions such as this ultimately resulted in Russ rejecting religion and embracing atheism.

Polly and I grew up in Fundamentalist Christian homes. Neither of us can remember a time when we weren’t part of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. After high school, both of us attended an IFB college, Midwestern Baptist College. We met, married, and several years later began pastoring IFB churches. We were in our thirties before we attended a church outside of the IFB church movement. Indoctrinated in the one, true IFB faith, we were certain that our sect and its beliefs were the faith once delivered to the saints. While we grudgingly admitted that there were Christians in other sects, we believed that our sect was the only one that had the right beliefs. Not only did we have the right beliefs, we also had a pure lineage that reached all the way back to Jesus and John the Baptist. While we would eventually abandon the IFB church movement for the friendlier confines of generic Evangelicalism, it would be another 20 years before we left Christianity.

By being exposed to a plethora of beliefs, Russ was able, at an early age, to conclude that Christianity was false. Polly and I, on the other hand, having been exposed only to a narrow set of beliefs, spent five decades of our life in the Evangelical church before we could extricate ourselves from its hold on our lives. Sergio had a similar background, having been raised in an Evangelical home. He spoke of the anger that came when he realized he had wasted much of his adult life believing a lie. And not just believing, but diligently trying to live according to the precepts of Evangelical Christianity. Polly and I had similar anger and regret. It is hard not to be bitter when thinking about wasting the most productive, healthy years of your life worshiping a mythical God.

Which path should children be encouraged to follow — that of Russ or that of Bruce, Polly, and Sergio? I think most agnostics and atheists would agree that blind devotion to religious dogma harms children and robs of them the critical things skills necessary to help them understand life. Instead of being immersed in Christianity, children are better served if they are exposed to a wide spectrum of religious beliefs, including non-Christian religions.

I have long advocated that public high school students be required to take a comparative religion class. Such a class would expose students to the various world religions and their teachings. Once exposed, like Russ, they will be in the position to compare religions. Since most public school students come from Christian homes, this means they would be exposed to religions different from their own. This exposure would provide an effective inoculation from Fundamentalism and religious bigotry.

Evangelicals continue to demand that the various trappings of the Christian religion be reintroduced in the public schools. Often, Evangelicals will argue that morality requires religion, and it is our duty to give students a moral and ethical foundation. Fine, I say. Every school  then should require high school students to take a comparative religion class. Middle school and elementary students should regularly be exposed to a variety of religious beliefs, taught from a historical perspective. What better way to turn out well-rounded students than to expose them to a variety of beliefs, including atheism, agnosticism, humanism, paganism, and Satanism? Doing this prepares students for choosing their own non-religious/religious path. By the time students graduate they will have a sufficient understanding of religion and will be in  the position to choose accordingly.

Surely Evangelicals want their children to have all the facts about religion, including Christianity. Surely, they don’t want their children making ill-informed decisions about God and salvation. Well, actually Evangelicals don’t want their children to be exposed other religions. Instead, Evangelicals diligently indoctrinate their children into what they believe is the one true faith. Children born into Evangelical homes are bombarded with calls to put their faith and trust in Jesus. Sunday school teachers and children’s church workers use manipulative and high pressure techniques to induce children into asking Jesus into their heart. If children make it through the primary years unsaved, they are handed off to youth directors who “encourage” them to put their faith and trust in Jesus. The goal is to make sure children are saved and on the narrow path before they become young adults. Church leaders know if unsaved children reach adulthood they are often “lost” forever.

The next time you hear Evangelicals clamoring for Christianity to be reintroduced into the public schools, ask them if they would support teaching students about other religions. Keep pressing them until they admit that what they really want is a religious monoculture. In their minds there is no King but Jesus and no religious truth but the Bible. If left to their own devices, many Evangelicals would burn freedom of religion at the stake and turn the United States into a theocracy.  Exposing Evangelical children to other religions is crucial in our attempts to beat back theocratic thinking. Once exposed, religious extremism loses its power.

Tim Gilleand Asks: How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? 

bible vs evolution

Recently, Tim Gilleand wrote a blog post titled How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? In his post, Gilleand argues that creationists and scientists both have the same data and that the difference is how that information is interpreted. Gilleand writes:

I believe that the scientific method requires that all evidence must be interpreted before a conclusion is drawn.  My issue is not with the evidence itself, it is with the interpretation stage.  I believe that scientists interpret the evidence through a worldview filter.  Their worldview filter includes their personal beliefs about how the world does or does not operate.  For example, if I believe there is no supernatural influence in the world and everything continues on the way and the rate at which it always has, then I am going to interpret something like radiometric decay or geology much differently than someone who believes God has intervened in this world at various points in our early history.

Let’s look at a couple examples…

If God really created Adam on the literal sixth day of creation – how old do you think he might look on day 7?  Was he a full grown man?  30… maybe 40?  But the truth is he is only one day old.  He was created fully mature and able to sustain himself.  Now apply that concept to the rest of creation.  If God really created the world in six days fully mature and self-sustaining – how might that affect the apparent age of the earth?  And how might that affect our research if we left out that concept?  Might we come to a much different conclusion?  I think so.  The point is evidence like radiometric dating the age of the earth doesn’t rule out a special creation because things still might appear older than they truly are and yet that would still be in line Biblicaly (sic).

But isn’t that a deceptive God??  I hear this all the time.  No, it’s not.  Perhaps God never intended us to study the age of the earth while ignoring his revelation about how He did it!  Not God’s deception, human ignorance.

As for geology, we have to look at what might have happened had Noah’s flood actually covered and destroyed the whole world as the Bible seems to imply.  Take the layers at the Grand Canyon.  Two schools of thought: either a little bit of water (the Colorado River) over a long period of time (millions of years) OR a lot of water (the flood) over a little period of time.  The same evidence, different conclusions based on different interpretations that are dependent on our worldview assumptions.

Is the difference between creationists and scientists really a matter of worldview? Is it, as Gilleand says, a matter of how one interprets the world? Creationists would love for this to be true, but doing science requires no particular worldview. Some scientists are devout Christians, yet they come to the same conclusions as their non-Christian colleagues. It is the creationist alone who allows his worldview to radically alter his view of scientific data.

The argument Gilleand is trying to make is that creationists and scientists alike have a starting point from which they begin their investigations While this is, to some degree true, let me demonstrate the difference between the starting points of creationists and scientists. Scientists begin with what we know, the collective body of knowledge we call science. This body of knowledge changes often, as scientists continue to make new discoveries and test currently held scientific ideas. Any student of the modern scientific era knows that science has radically adapted and changed as new information is brought forth. Things that were once considered settled facts are later, thanks to the diligent work of scientists, shown to be wrong. This is why the scientific method is vitally important to our understanding of the universe and the future of all life. It is a self-correcting way of understanding the world.

Creationists, on the other hand, do not start with the collective body of knowledge we call science. Their starting point begins not with science at all, but with a literalist, Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Gilleand admits this when he says:

As a Christian, I believe God does and has intervened in our world.  I also believe the Bible is a historical, reliable account of the creation of the world.

….

We believe we have additional information in the revealed word of God – therefore we see our starting assumptions as more reliable than fallible human intellect because it comes straight from God who was there, observed it, and doesn’t lie.

For creationists like Gilleand, their interpretation of the world begins not with what they can see and know, but with what unknown authors wrote in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Creationists are less than honest when they say that the issue is how the scientific data is interpreted. No matter WHAT science says, creationists will always retreat to faith and their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Non-creationists know that the universe is billions of years old. How do we know this? Science. While scientists continue to study the universe, creationists have no need to do so. Their minds are made up: God created the universe in six literal 24 hours says, 6,020 years ago. None of what science tells us about the universe ultimately matters to the creationist. Why? To put it simply, the BIBLE SAYS.

For these reasons, I have long suggested that it is generally a waste of time to argue matters of science with creationists. The issue is not one of science, but theology. This is why when creationists comment on this blog, I ignore their anti-science rantings and instead attack their beliefs about the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Once inerrancy and literalism fall, the argument for creationism is over. This is why, a few years back, when Gilleand stopped by this blog to wage war with the Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist, I attacked his view of the Bible. Gilleand ultimately retreated to the house of faith, safe from the assault of the evil, Christ-denying atheist.

If creationists want their understanding of the world to be accepted as the prevailing scientific view, then they need to start publishing studies in non-Evangelical peer-reviewed scientific journals. Why don’t creationists do this? Surely, if it is self-evident that creationism is true and just a matter of properly interpreting the scientific data, science journals should be filled with studies and papers by creationist scientists. Yet, year after year no studies or papers are forthcoming. The creationist answer for this is that there is a conspiracy by non-creationist scientists to keep creationists from publishing. Their evidence for this? None. If the evidence for creationism is overwhelming, then the science community will grudgingly admit they were wrong and embrace the creationist interpretation of the data. Of course, the creationist, at this point, responds, right, these scientists are unsaved. They don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God, nor do they believe that the Bible is a supernatural, authoritative text. So then, it really is all about theology, not science?

…a new apologetics ministry based in Northern Indiana.  Our mission stems from the verse found in Colossians 4:6 (NIV) – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” We have formed this ministry to combat modern secularist tendencies to pull people (often times including Christians) away from the accurate original Biblical message. We will discuss hot topics ranging from creation vs. evolution, homosexuality, abortion, modern politics, the supposed separation of church and state, often-cited inaccuracies in the Scriptures, end times, and much more.  We aim to make our posts informative, researched from both sides of the aisle, and considerate of opposing views (grace) but firm in our stance (salt).

You see, even for Gilleand, it is not about the science. It is all about apologetics, the defending of the Fundamentalist Christian view of the world. In Gilleand’s eyes, everything begins and ends with the Christian God and the Bible. Gilleand’s literalistic interpretation of the Bible becomes a box in which everything must fit. (please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and  What I Found When I Left the Box) While Gilleand has convinced himself that he has “researched from both sides of the aisle” and considered “opposing views”, his “firm stance” never changes. This is Fundamentalism at its finest: No matter what, I believe. While Gilleand thinks of himself as being open-minded, the fact is he is only willing to consider data that neatly fits within his box. Any data outside of this box is rejected, labeled as being contrary to the Christian God and the Bible.

There is no hope of reaching people who thinks like this. Try as you might to reach them, their minds are walled off from anything that contradicts or challenges their worldview. For them, the lines are clearly drawn, and no amount of argument will change their minds. Until Fundamentalists are willing to venture past the lines they have drawn, there is no possible way for someone like me to move them away from their ill-informed, ignorant view of the world.

Songs of Sacrilege: Plastic Jesus by the King Earl Boogie Band

This is the eightieth 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Plastic Jesus by the King Earl Boogie Band.

Video Link

Lyrics

I don’t care if it
Rains or freezes
As long as I’ve got my
Plastic Jesus
Ridin’ on the dashboard
Of my car

Through my trials
And tribulations
And my travels
Through the nation
With my plastic Jesus
I’ll go far

Ridin’ down the thoroughfare
With a nose up in the air
A wreck may be ahead
But he don’t mind

Trouble comin’
He don’t see
He just keeps his eye on me
And any other thing that lies behind

With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car

When I’m in a traffic jam
He don’t care if I say damn
I can let all my curses roll

‘Cos Jesus’ plastic doesn’t hear
‘Cos he has a plastic ear
The man who invented plastic
Saved my soul

With my plastic Jesus
Goodbye and I’ll go far
I said with my plastic Jesus
Sitting on the dashboard of my car

An if I weave around at night
Policemen think I’m very tight
They never find my bottle
Though they ask

‘Cos plastic Jesus shelters me
For his head comes off you see
He’s hollow and I use him like a flask

Woa Woa Woa

Save me

I don’t care if it’s dark or scary
Long as I got magnetic Mary
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car

I feel that I’m protected amply
I’ve got the love of the whole damn family
Ridin’ on the dashboard of my car

With my plastic Jesus
I said goodbye
And I’ll go far

And I said with my plastic Jesus
I said sittin’ on the dashboard of my car

When I’m goin’ fornicatin’
I’ve got my ceramic Satan
Sittin’ on the dashboard of my car
Women know I’m on the level
Thanks to the wide-eyed stoneware devil
Sneerin’ from the dashboard of my car

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Holy by PVRIS

This is the seventy-ninth 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of  Holy by PVRIS.

Video Link

Lyrics

Yeah, you’ve got it all,
But you’ve got it all wrong.
No, you don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.
Oh I know,
You make it seem that you feel whole,
So they don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Yeah you put on a faith facade,
Think you’re holy when you’re not.
I hate to break it to you baby,
But you’re simply lost.
You can right all the wrongs just to feel you belong,
But simply calling out sins don’t bring you closer to God.
You’re just a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

And you say that I’ve got it all wrong.
‘Cause you just know I’m a poor unfortunate soul.

But there’s no way that there’s weight in the words that you preach,
When you’re claiming your faith and you contradict your speech.
So I sit here and listen to your tongue and cheek,
I know that when you sit and pray you’re only praying for keeps.
Cause you’re a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

You’re shallow and empty and filled with regret.
I think that chest must be heavy from that cross on your neck
You only wear ’cause you’re wary of what comes next after your death.
Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t know you’re just a po-oh-oh-oh
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate

And you’ve got it all (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’ve got it all wrong (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
No you’ll never know, never know, never know (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Jim Veitch, Pastor of Bible Truth Baptist Church, Rails Against the Boy Scouts and Homosexuality

What follows is a video clip from a sermon by Jim Veitch, pastor of Bible Truth Baptist Church in Griffin, Georgia. According to the church’s website, Bible Truth is a church that believes:

…in what the Bible teaches.  If the Bible says it’s sin, then we believe it’s sin.  If the Bible commands it, we believe it to be the commandment of God.  We strive to live out the commandments of the Bible in our lives as the Holy Spirit gives us power.

Evidently, Pastor Veitch’s King James Bible doesn’t have those verses that call gluttony a sin.

Video Link

Pastor Veitch is a typical southern Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. His camp meeting style of preaching is quite common in the south. If you would like to listen to more of Veitch’s preaching, please check out his page on sermonaudio.com. You can check out Bible Truth Baptist Church’s Facebook page here.

Back in my camp meeting days, I heard numerous sermons similar Veitch’s. Fundamentalist Baptist crowds eat up this kind of preaching.