Science

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.

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.

Dear Christian: YOU are the Problem, Not Your God

odin

Compare this picture to the descriptions of the Christian God in the book of Revelation. Similar?

Atheists do not hate God. While Evangelical Christians will certainly suggest otherwise, I do not know of one atheist who hates God. Think about it for a moment. Do atheists believe in the existence of the Christian God, or any other God, for that matter?  Of course not, so it makes no sense to say that atheists hate a non-existent, mythical being. Surely even the densest of Christians can understand this. If I asked Evangelicals, Do you believe in the existence of Odin, the Norse God? how do you think they would respond? I have no doubt Evangelicals would laugh and say, Odin is a mythical being. It would be silly of us to hate a being that doesn’t exist. Bingo. Just like the atheist and the Christian God.

Evangelicals often refuse to accept at face value what others say/believe about their God. When atheists deny the existence of the Christian God, Evangelicals say that atheists are suppressing their knowledge of this God. Supposedly, atheists KNOW that the Christian God exists, but they, having a hard heart and a seared conscience, deny his existence. Couldn’t the same be said of Christians who deny the existence of Odin?  Christians KNOW that the Norse God exists, but they refuse to accept this, clinging to a God who is no God at all.

The fact is, atheists do not hate God. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either deliberately ignorant of what atheists believe or are so blinded by their own beliefs that they cannot fathom any other belief but their own. Wait a minute, Bruce, Evangelicals say. If atheists do not hate God, then why do they spend so much time talking about God? Good question.

While atheists know that the Christian God is a myth, they also understand that much harm has been done in his name. It is not the Christian God that is the problem. God, divorced from his followers, is little more than an ancient explanation for human existence. Who cares, right? Myths, in and of themselves, have no power. The Harry Potter books tell a wonderful story of mystery and magic, but no one in his or her right mind thinks the stories are true. Imagine if a group of people believed that what was written in the Harry Potter books is some sort of divine message from God. Does the fact that this group of people believe the stories are true mean that they are? Of course not. So it is with Christianity. That people believe is no proof that something is true. Millions of people believe in the Mormon God, yet Evangelicals, for the most part, believe Mormonism is a false religion. I fail to see how Mormonism’s God is any different from Christianity’s God. Taken at face value, both myths are absurd.

The real issue for atheists is what Christians DO in the name of their God. It is Christians that are the problem, not their God. If Christianity was little more than a Kiwanis Club, I suspect that most atheist writers such as myself would put down their digital pens and turn their attention to other pursuits. However, because many Christians will not rest until the entire world worships their God and bows to their interpretation of an antiquated religious text, atheists, humanists, agnostics, and secularists are forced to do battle with Evangelical zealots. Believe me, I’d rather be writing about sports or photography, but as long as Evangelicals continue to clamor for a Christian nation governed by Christian laws, I intend to raise my objection to their theocratic ambitions.

Five years ago, I wrote a post titled, If Christianity Doesn’t Matter, Why Do You Bother With It? I think what I wrote then still applies today:

Bruce, if Christianity doesn’t matter, why do you bother with it?

Good question.

On one hand, Christianity doesn’t matter. The Bible doesn’t matter. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Church, none of it matters.

If Christians want to worship their God, I have no objection.  I subscribe to the “live and let live” school of thought. Each to his own. May Jesus be with you. May the force be with you. May nothing be with you. I don’t care.

However…

I do care about the influence Christianity has on our culture and government. I do care about the damage done to society in the name of the Christian God. I do care when people are hurt, maimed, and killed in the name of the Christian God.

When Christians want to turn the United States into a theocracy…It matters.

When Christians want their religion to have preference over any and all others…It matters.

When Christians demand atheists and agnostics be treated as the spawn of Satan…It matters.

When Christians attempt to teach religious dogma as scientific fact in our public schools…It matters.

When Christians attempt to force their religious moral code on everyone…It matters.

When Christians attempt to stand in the way of my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness…It matters.

When Christians abuse and molest children in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians wage wars thousands of miles away in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians mentally and emotionally abuse people…It matters.

When Christian expect preferential treatment because of who they worship…It matters.

As long as Christians continue to force themselves on others, and as long as they attack and demean anyone who is not a Christian…It matters.

As long as pastors and churches get preferential tax code treatment…It matters.

That said…

As to who you worship and where? It doesn’t matter.

As to what sacred text you use? It doesn’t matter.

I want all Christians to have the absolute freedom to worship their God.

And…

I want that same freedom to NOT worship any God or another God…

And as long as that courtesy is not extended to me and to every human being on the earth…

It matters.

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent News Concerning Recent Spate of Letters from Creationists

letter to the editor

What follows is a letter I submitted today to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. It should be published in a few days. I encourage readers to read a letter to the editor I wrote in 1999 about the same the subject. You will quickly see that my viewpoint has changed a wee bit over the past 17 years.

Dear Editor:

If I didn’t know any better, based on recent letters to the editor and church advertisements touting young-earth creationism, I would think that we are living in the 1920s — the era of the great creationist versus evolution debate.

We are almost 100 years removed from the Scopes monkey trial, yet Christian fundamentalists are still trying to hoodwink unwitting people into believing creationism is a scientific theory. Not only do they want the scientifically ignorant to believe that creationism is a scientific theory, Fundamentalists also want them to believe that it is the only explanation for the biological world.

Readers of the Crescent-News need to understand exactly what Christian fundamentalists are saying. According to them, the universe was created by the Christian God 6,020 years ago, in six 24-hour days. They also want you to believe that 2,000 years later God, in a genocidal rampage, killed every living thing with a flood, save Noah, his family, and two of every animal.

While these stories make for wonderful bedtime readings to children, they have no business being taught, outside of a comparative religion class, in the public school classroom. Creationism, along with its gussied-up sister intelligent design, is religious dogma, not biological science. I am of the opinion that any public school teacher found to be teaching creationism should immediately be removed from the classroom. We owe it to our children to make sure that they are taught sound scientific principles. God did it, is not such a principle.

I am sure my letter will bring howls and gnashing teeth from local Christian fundamentalists. They will, as they always do, cut and paste supposed rebuttals of evolution from bastions of ignorance like Answers in Genesis or The Institute of Creation Research. What they will fail to produce is peer-reviewed studies supporting their creationist claims. If creationists want to overthrow evolution, then I suggest they start publishing papers in non-Evangelical science journals. When the weight of the arguments become so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored, I have no doubt that scientists will declare creationism the winner.

This will never happen, of course, because creationism is theological in nature, not sound biological science. If people want to believe that a mythical God created the universe 6,020 years ago, fine. Ignorance is a permitted vice in a free society. But we should insist that public school children be taught science, and not long-discredited religious myths.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

1999 Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times by Bruce Gerencser: Evolution Incompatible with Christianity

adam or ape creationism

Published on March 18, 1999. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. I encourage readers to read a letter to the editor I wrote January 19, 2016 about the same the subject. You will quickly see that my viewpoint has changed a wee bit over the past 17 years.

Bryan Times:

I am writing in response to the recent editorial that suggested evolution is not being taught in public schools because teachers fear right-wing religious zealots. The zealots are portrayed as being anti-science and intellectually stunted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Evolution is a theory. Even the writer of the editorial admits such. Yet, just a few paragraphs later, he advocates teaching the theory as fact. He then states that man cannot understand biology without evolution.

What arrogant presumption and distortion of truth. Evolution is a theory of “how” things came into existence. It is, at its root, a faith religion that suggests a random existence apart from a divine being. Evolution demands that there is no God, no creator, and that man is nothing more than the most evolved of creatures. Man becomes nothing more than an animal that has evolved to a more mature state than that of other animals.

Evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity begins with the premise that God is, and whatever God says is true. The Bible is God’s revelation to man, and he reveals in the first three chapters of Genesis how this world came into existence. To deny the biblical record is to deny God and his revelation, and the result is eternal damnation. Christians fear being viewed as ignorant if they deny the teachings of evolution. They become just like the schoolteachers who fear the religious zealots. If God is who he says he is, and he meant what he said in the Scriptures, then let us not fear, but instead declare boldly “Thus saith the Lord.”

Bruce Gerencser, Pastor
West Unity, Ohio

15 Astounding Predictions for 2016 by Atheist Bruce Gerencser

end of the world

This is the time of year when Evangelical soothsayers, psychics, and Nate Silver (ESPN 538) make predictions for the coming year.  I thought, in keeping with the spirit of the New Year, that I, the atheist version of Carnac the Magnificent, would make a few predictions of my own. Here’s my 15 Astounding Predictions for 2016.

  1. Richard Dawkins will say something stupid.
  2. Neil deGrasse Tyson will say something brilliant.
  3. The Pope will not get laid.
  4. Evangelicals will continue to say the rapture is nigh.
  5. At least three Evangelical preachers will be arrested and charged with molesting children and 25 others will be accused of sexual misconduct.
  6. Evangelicals will continue to say atheists hate God and secretly want to have wanton, immoral sex.
  7. Franklin Graham will be exposed as a cross dressing transvestite.
  8. Evangelical Calvinists will continue to say their critics don’t understand Calvinism.
  9. Bart Ehrman will write another book. It will be titled Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented their Stories of the Savior. I predict it will be released on March 1, 2016
  10. Donald Trump will say bat-shit crazy stuff and his followers will love it.
  11. Evangelicals will continue to think that Christianity is under attack and that secularists are trying to make Christianity illegal.
  12. Tea Party Republicans will continue to think that the lame stream media controls America and that Muslim socialist Barack Hussein Obama is coming to take their guns.
  13. The day after Thanksgiving, Fox News will say that there is a War on Christmas.
  14. One Million Moms will continue to be outraged over nudity, cursing, and gay kissing on TV. This year they will find their lost remote and learn that if they push the channel button it changes the channel.
  15. Democrats will win the presidency, a sure sign that the Antichrist is preparing to usher in the new world order.

Is Ken Ham a Sincere Christian?

Ken Ham

I have been asked many times if I think creationist Ken Ham is a sincere Christian. It certainly would make things easier if  Ham were a money-grubbing Elmer Gantry. We could then dismiss him as a con artist and shake our head at those who are duped by his pleas for money to fight the secularist horde at the gate.  However, as I ponder my own one-time blind devotion to Jesus, I’m inclined to think that Ken Ham sincerely believes the Bible is a God-written science and history textbook. I’m sure there’s nothing that will convince Ken Ham, at the ripe old age of 64, that he is not absolutely right. Ham believes that God speaks to him and has called him to preach the creationist gospel. When people are certain God is on their side, there is little hope of disabusing them of their belief.

Now, we may rightly think Ham’s beliefs are ignorant and superstitious, but millions of people hold to similar beliefs, and we should at least acknowledge that they are sincere believers. Before we can understand Ken Ham, we must first understand his belief system. A lot of atheists and evolutionists fail to do this, foolishly attacking Ken Ham the person and not Ken Ham’s beliefs.

Ken Ham is a true-blue fundamentalist, and part of his religious DNA is the belief that the world will become more evil the closer we get to the rapture. Ham believes there are Satanic forces at work trying to destroy Biblical Christianity. Anyone who has been a part of the Evangelical church for any length of time knows how this kind of paranoid thinking permeates Evangelicalism. Atheism is on the rise in the West and Ham sees this as an attack by Satan on all he hold holds dear.  He fears that if he and his followers don’t repel secularism, atheism, evolution, and non-Fundamentalist Christianity, that America will be judged by God and destroyed.

Everything Ham does is an attempt to promote Biblical Christianity and turn back the unrelenting attack of Satan. Yes, Ham makes a good living off his work, and his promotion of young earth creationism attracts millions of dollars in fees and donations, but I suspect that Ham would still do what he does even if he isn’t financially remunerated.

I remember when I used to think like Ken Ham. It was never about the money. My goal was to preach the good news of the gospel to as many people as possible. I was willing to go to great lengths to serve God, even if it meant living in abject poverty. My calling in life was to obediently follow the teachings of the Bible and be a faithful messenger of God to a lost and dying world. There was a time in my life that Ken Ham and I would have been best buds.

When secularists, atheists, and scientists attack Ken Ham the person they make themselves  look bad. They need to focus on his beliefs. Using reason, they need to challenge his assertions, knowing that they may not cause Ham to change his beliefs. There are always doubting Christians lurking in the shadows, watching our behavior and reading our writing. These are people who are most likely to be swayed by sound intellectual arguments.

I may hate what Ken Ham believes and I may think those beliefs promote ignorance, but if my objective is to counter his beliefs, I must focus on what he teaches and not on his person (even when it is very hard to do so). To put it in religious parlance, I must be a good witness and I must always remember that people are going to judge me by the words I say and write. If I personally attack someone, I know that some religious readers will not hear what I have to say. And I don’t blame them.

My friend Kerry left a comment that I think sums up well what I am trying to say:

Name calling does nothing to advance the understanding between world views. I didn’t do it as a believer and I don’t do it as a non-believer in Christianity. I do, from time to time, rework the pithy little sayings so many Christians use, such as; “Love the sinner but hate the sin” which I change to “Love the believer but hate the belief.” For the various beatitudes that get quoted, I usually quote from Confucius or Buddha which sound the same but are a little bit different. They of course do not notice until I point it out to them and educate them on the fact that these sayings are some 600 years before God gave them to the Jews. There are ways to make the point about the facts we as atheists have embraced without doing it in a manner that closes off all minds and debate.

Notes

I am well aware of the fact that Ken Ham does not afford me the same treatment I’ve outlined in this post. While I find this irritating, I must be a better man than he is, if for no other reason than it points out that a person can treat others with decency without being a Christian. I wish more atheists would understand this. I know, it’s hard to be kind and decent towards people who think you are a reprobate and are headed for God’s S&M chamber in the bowels of the earth. If humanism is the way forward for the human race, then we must kill people with our kindness (and our facts).

 

Three Failed Ways Evangelicals Deal with Gay Church Members

homosexuals must repent

First Conservative Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Gene Youngblood, pastor.

According to the dictionary, a homosexual is someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction to (or sexual relations with) the same-sex. Evangelicals believe that all each of us is born a heterosexual male or female. In accordance with this errant understanding of human sexuality, they refuse to accept that anyone is born homosexual. They believe gays choose to be homosexual and engage in same-sex sexual behavior. According to their interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality, the engaging in sexual relations with a person of the same-sex, is a sin.

Some Evangelicals think a person can be attracted to the same sex and not commit sin. It is the act of homosexual sex that is the sin. If people who are attracted to others of the same gender abstain from same-sex sexual behavior,  it is possible for them to be considered Christian. However, anyone who engages in habitual homosexual sex is not a Christian. Since anal and oral intercourse are usually the way gays engage in sex, shouldn’t these very same practices among Evangelical heterosexuals land them in the same hell as the homosexual? Further, if homosexual sex is just one of many sexual behaviors that God condemns, why is it that the sins of adultery, fornication, and masturbation among Evangelicals are rarely treated identically to same-sex sexual behavior?

According to the Evangelical Christian interpretation of Romans 1, many (most, all) homosexuals have been given over by God to a reprobate mind. Reprobates are people such as myself who have crossed the line of no return when it comes to God’s mercy and grace. Reprobates are beyond redemption and will certainly burn in hell for all eternity.

To a large degree, Evangelicals are a sect of sexually repressed people. Evangelical church-goers spend their lives being told what they can and can’t do sexually (and the “can’s” and “cant’s” vary from church to church, pastor to pastor). The blazing red line in the sand is this: heterosexual sexual intercourse between a husband and his wife is the only permissible form of sex (preferably in the missionary position and for the purpose of procreation). Attempts to spice up one’s sex life is often met with condemnation and judgement. When Evangelical husbands or wives ask their spouse to engage in sexual behavior that is considered kinky, they expose themselves to accusations of having watched pornography. After all, where would an Evangelical get the notion to engage in kinky sex without having been exposed to it elsewhere?

This is the world Evangelicals live in.

Back in the R-E-A-L world, we know that people are sexual creatures. We have a natural desire for sexual intimacy. We also know that there are numerous sexual orientations, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. While we readily admit that environmental factors certainly affect our sexual desires, we also know that most of us are born with a certain sexual identity. I am heterosexual because I was born this way, and so it is for the homosexual.

It is a common occurrence these days to hear of an Evangelical who has been outed as a homosexual. Homosexual Evangelical preachers, evangelists, college professors, and para-church leaders, among others, are regularly exposed and either end up repenting of their sin or leaving Evangelicalism. Many Evangelical homosexuals spend their lives in the closet, secretly indulging their nature, all the while living their lives as a “normal” heterosexuals. Often they marry someone of the opposite sex, hoping this will “cure” them of their attraction towards the same-sex. They will engage in heterosexual sex, father or birth children,outwardly doing all the things heterosexuals are supposed to do. But inwardly they battle with who and what they really are. Frequently they are depressed, desperately struggling to maintain their Evangelical façade. Some even consider suicide, a sin only slightly less heinous to Evangelicals than homosexuality.

I suppose marrying away the gay works for some, but more often than not, this approach fails miserably. The homosexual feels trapped in a marital relationship that is not open and honest. Sometimes the spouse understands the dilemma and turns a blind eye to liaisons with people of the same sex. Sometimes the sexual hypocrisy reaches such a point that it results in divorce. Imagine the pain and suffering inflicted on heterosexual spouses, knowing that their significant other desires a man or a woman and not them. Envision the pain, agony, and confusion children go through when they discover one parent or the other is not heterosexual. The family and spouse have been indoctrinated with the Evangelical view of homosexuality that says such behavior is abhorrent and vile. Is it any wonder that mom or dad coming out of the closet often causes huge rifts? These fissures frequently cause irreparable damage to family relationships.

It is easy to understand, then, why many Evangelical closeted gays remain safely hidden in the darkened back of the closet. Loving their family more than life itself, they willingly hide who and what they really are. While I personally experience physical pain, I can only imagine the emotional and mental suffering endured by those forced to live a lie because the Evangelical God hates homosexuals,

Sometimes, Evangelicals who struggle with homosexuality are told they just need to pray. When they are tempted with same-sex sexual desires, they are told to pray away the gay. If they will just pray hard enough, have enough faith, and trust that God will not give them more than they can bear, they will surely be delivered from their same-sex attraction. And if they still have this attraction? It’s is their fault. They didn’t pray hard enough, have enough faith, or really believe that God would deliver them. No matter what, it’s their fault.

Imagine the same scenario for a heterosexual. We know that the majority of Evangelicals engage in premarital sex. Most Evangelical heterosexuals are not virgins when they walk down the aisle at the local Baptist church. Add to this number those who masturbate and it is clear very few Evangelicals actually keep the Bible’s puritanical, anti-human sexuality code. Imagine two Evangelical young adults, let call them Nathan and Abigail, regularly dating.  Over time, they become more physical with one another. Soon they find themselves rounding third and heading for home. What should they do? Pray? Have faith? Trust that God will provide them a way of escape (remember, masturbation is NOT a way of escape)?

It is likely that Nathan and Abigail will slide right into home. They will feel guilty afterward, promising God they will never, ever do it again. And then, just like a man who has a chocolate shake for the first time at Dairy Queen, who forever after yearns for a chocolate shake every time he passes a DQ, Nathan and Abigail want to have sex every time they engage in sexual intimacy. Once a person experiences sexual intercourse for the first time, there’s no going back.

Do you think fornicators Nathan and Abigail will be treated the same as two homosexuals when their sexual activity is exposed? Of course not.  All of the older adults at the local Baptist church understand youthful temptation and desire. They likely know from firsthand experience the guilt Nathan and Abigail are experiencing. As heterosexuals, they understand how such things happen. However, when it comes to two homosexuals sliding into home, they cannot begin to fathom such a thing. In their eyes, homosexuality is the one sin that is above every other transgression of God’s law.

Sometimes, Evangelical churches and pastors reluctantly admit that some church member are attracted to people of the same-sex. They might even grudgingly admit these people were born that way.  But, make no mistake about it, born this way or not, their homosexuality is condemned by the Bible, and such conduct is never permissible. God creates us with desires for the same-sex person, and then tells us we can’t act on them? Strange way to go about things, don’t you think? Evangelical homosexuals are told that they must live a sexually celibate life. They are never permitted to love someone, to know what it is to find sexual fulfillment in the embrace of their significant other. They must forsake what is essential to human nature and live like a celibate priest, all the while foregoing masturbatory relief (and we all know how well that works).

Evangelical homosexuals rightly consider marry away the gay, pray away the gay, and forced celibacy teachings to be an offensive denial of who and what they are. While many Evangelical homosexuals have strong faith in the Christian God and desire to worship him, they are usually forced to leave the church. The good news is that there are liberal and progressive Christian churches who will gladly accept them as they are.