I am responding to an article in the Dec. 12 issue of The Crescent-News by Mr. Bruce Gerencser titled, “GOP is now an ‘extremist party.’”
The title piqued my interest enough that I took time to read the entire article. I take no pleasure whatsoever in stating that I found the letter rather intellectually vacuous. (Wait a minute, saying that didn’t make me feel that badly at all.)
First of all, this was not really a letter against the GOP as it was against Christian morality. Anyway, it appears that Mr. Gerencser does not believe in any moral standards — at least not those of the Christian faith. Not only that, but I gather from the tone of his letter that he feels intellectually and morally superior to people that do. Well, then let me ask two questions:
1. If Gerencser doesn’t like God’s rules, then whose rules are we to use? His?
2. Doesn’t Gerencser have any rules or standards at all? Is there nothing that anyone can do that he would not approve of or try to stop? Think about it, if there is just one thing that he doesn’t approve (for example, Christian values), then he is just as bad as GOP Christians. If not, then who is he to set any rules or have any opinions at all? Again, if there is no God, then who makes up the rules?
But there is a much larger issue. His philosophy not only affects you and yours, it is affecting and destroying the heart of our nation. If there are no rules or standards, then no one is free and no one is safe.
Is everybody and everything to be constantly changed and believed by the latest and largest lobby group that arises? Would you like to set up a committee to make moral decisions according to the latest polls?
Mr. Gerencser’s beliefs and thought processes have been around since almost the beginning of mankind. He presents nothing new, modern or enlightened. All he is doing is what mankind has always done — not liking God’s rules, therefore thinking that God is wrong and mankind is right. He takes the place of God and is hell-bent on making God into his own image. As a Republican, I will pray for him.
This Letter to the Editor was recently published in the Defiance Crescent-News.
After the reelection of President Obama, Dr. Al Mohler, a noted right-wing Southern Baptist leader, told his followers that the American people had heard the right-wing message and rejected it.
Contrary to recent letters to the editor, the reason President Obama was reelected was not because right-wing Christians didn’t vote. They did vote, and as this election makes very clear, their numbers are no longer sufficient to carry a national election.
What is the message of the religious-right? Is it an inclusive message? Is it a message that broadly appeals to Americans?
The religious-right and the Republican Party are joined at the hip and the Republican Party’s unwillingness to sever this tie has led to embarrassing defeats in the last two Presidential elections.
Thanks to the religious right and the Tea Party, the Republican Party is now an extremist party dominated by white, aging, right-wing Christians. The Party is now known, like fundamentalist Christian churches are, for what they are against rather than what they are for.
As Mohler rightly understood, most Americans have rejected the right-wing exclusionary message. More and more Americans are coming to understand that mixing politics and religion is harmful to our Republic.
Groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group I proudly support, continue to point out the unconstitutional entanglement of church and state in our schools and government entities. Every month the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter reports legal victories in cases concerning the separation of church and state. The courts continue, much to the consternation of the religious-right, to reaffirm the legal fact the United States is a secular state and there is a strict wall of separation between church and state.
20% of Americans are now considered “nones”, people who are indifferent to religion or are atheists or agnostics. What is most encouraging is that this percentage jumps to 34% for young adults. Young adults increasingly reject the bigoted, exclusionary message of right-wing Christianity (and by extension the Republican Party). On issues like homosexuality, abortion, immigration, socialized medicine, and war, young adults reject the message and values of right-wing Christianity.
I am encouraged by the changing beliefs and values of American young adults. I am profoundly glad that my six children have rejected the narrow, judgmental, exclusionary right-wing Christianity they were raised in. I have great hope that my eight grandchildren will grow up to be loving, accepting adults who do not judge others based on their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.
In the Bible there is a story about King Belshazzar (Daniel 5). The Bible has this to say about Belshazzar’s kingdom: Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting. This is exactly what is happening in America. The right-wing Christian message has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Belshazzar lost his kingdom and exclusionary, bigoted right-wing Christians are losing theirs. This is good news for all who love freedom and liberty.
My answer to Bruce Gerencser’s letter in the Aug. 26 Crescent-News: Our god, our gain — your loss.
I will leave it to the readers of this blog to parse her six word jab at me.
While I have indeed suffered great loss as a result of leaving the Christian religion, what I have found on the other side far outweighs what I have lost.
I am sure Sue Flores is subtly suggesting with her “your loss” that I am going to burn in hell some day for my unbelief, but such threatenings have no power. I am a reprobate with a seared conscience. (according to the Bible) I may fear death but I do not fear what may come next.
Like the Israelites headed for the Promised Land, with the bondage of Egypt in their rearview mirror, I too have found the Promised Land. Why would I ever want to go back to the land of slavery and bondage? To avoid hell? Surely this is the only reason to consider returning to Christianity because I have found life outside Christianity superior in every way.
Since Hell and Heaven, along with the Christian God, are myths, there is no compelling reason for me to spend one moment considering what I would gain by returning to Jesus. I have found freedom, peace, and meaning among the godless. I can think of no rational reason I would ever want to be a Christian a-g-a-i-n.
And if there is a God and a Hell? At least I won’t have to spend eternity with the Sue Flores’s of this world.
What follows is a Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. It should be published in a week or two.
Who is this “our God” I keep reading about in the Letters to the Editor section of the Crescent-News? If the letter writers spoke of our flag, our country, our military, or our government, I would readily understand what they mean. As a citizen of the United States, I have a common connection with all other U.S. citizens. Our country belongs to all of us, contrary to what right-wingers think when then speak of taking back “their” country.
When the Star Spangled Banner is played, I remove my hat and turn my face towards the flag of my native land. However, when the national anthem of the “our God“ crowd, God bless America, is played, I refuse to bow in obeisance to the “our God.”
We have no “our God” in the United States. We may be one people, under one flag, willingly governed by those we elect to office, but we do not have a common God, a deity that every citizen must worship and obey.
Where in the U.S. Constitution is this “our God” mentioned? At best, the U.S. Constitution mentions a generic God, a deist form of a Creator God. Even then, the Founders of this Country, understanding the danger of having state-sanctioned religion, made sure that there was a separation of Church and State and no religious requirement for holding office. They made sure there was not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion. Christian, Atheist, and Muslim alike are equal in the eyes of the State.
So, I ask again, who is this “our God?” Of course every letter writer would say “our God” is the Christian God. Again, I would ask, which Christian God? The Trinitarian God of the Lutheran or the non-Trinitarian God of the Oneness Pentecostal? The Calvinist God or the Arminian God? Which of the thousands of Christians sects have the “our God?”
Christians bitterly disagree and separate from one another over matters like salvation, baptism, and communion. If Christians can not agree on these basic teachings how can there be a “our God?” The division and internecine warfare among Christians reveals the bankruptcy of the notion that there is a “our God.”
All that letter writers have is a personal God, a God they believe exists. I have no problem with them having a God or believing whatever they want to believe about that God. However, when they suggest that their personal God must be the God of all then I take issue with such a claim. As a citizen of a secular state that codified the freedom of and from religion in its founding documents, I object to any suggestion that there is a “our God” I must worship and obey.
Going down the “our God” road leads to violence, bloodshed, and a loss of freedom. Such a notion must be resisted at every turn lest we wake up one morning and find a Christian theocracy ruling the United States.
What follows is a response to my recent Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent News. You can read the letter here. This response to my letter is a good example of the way a lot of people think in rural, small town, NW Ohio. My response is in italics and indented.
Mr. Gerencser is trying to undermine the historical importance the Bible played in the building of our country’s government by villainizing it and by stating; “that the moral code of conduct of a particular religion has no business being codified into law within a secular state”.
Not at all. I readily admit the significant part the Bible played in the history and foundation of the United States. I also admit the McGuffey Readers played a vital part in the education of countless children in the United States. No one suggests that we should use McGuffey Readers in our schools today and the same should go for the Bible.
The Bible is an antiquated book, written thousands of years ago, for a people whose lives bear little to no connection with how we live in the 21st century. It is irrelevant. In fact, the Bible often stands in the way of us becoming a just and progressive society.
Look at who the culture warriors are. Most all of them have a Bible in their hand as they demand that the citizens of a secular state submit to the commands of their particular sect’s God. This kind of thinking should be offensive to all those who value democracy and freedom.
I readily admit the Bible played a part in the making of our laws. But then, there are a lot of laws that are contrary to what the Bible teaches. Why do we not see Christians demanding non-Biblical laws be repealed?
Besides, no Christian really wants the laws of the Bible codified as the law of the State. It would cramp their lifestyle. Imagine, no NFL football because of the command to keep the Sabbath.
What is the Bible? It’s a book, an inanimate object. Mr. Gerencser states that; “The Bible has been used in the past to justify all kinds of vile behavior.” The Bible itself is not responsible for any of the reprehensible acts that have been committed throughout history and have been justified by misquoting the Bible. It is the person behind the act that is responsible; not just for committing them but also for using the Bible in a lie to further their own agenda. No one will inherit the kingdom of God, if the Bible is to be taken literally. It is all of us, myself included. Why, because of our sin nature, and because of this we have all of these “vile acts” throughout history. But the Bible is not just a book, it is God breathed, meaning it came from God.
So which is it? Is the Bible an inanimate object or is it a God breathed (inspired) book?
You would have me believe that reprehensible acts have been committed by people who found justification for their acts misquoting the Bible. The Bible is not the problem, people are. I don’t have a problem with your thinking here.
However, because no two Christians can agree on what the Bible says and people routinely use their interpretations of the Bible to justify acts that sane people consider evil, we should be able to agree that the Bible should not be consulted at all when it comes to matters of State. How could we ever determine whose interpretation is right?
I want leaders who use reason and common sense when they make decisions on my behalf. I don’t want them consulting religious leaders or the Bible before they act. As leaders in a secular state they should only concern themselves with making decisions that are in the best interest of the American people. (hint: banning abortion, demanding creationism be taught in public schools, withholding civil rights from same sex couples, and requiring sectarian prayers in school are not in the best interest of the American people)
You want to take the Bible literally, be my guest. However, we live in a secular state and literal interpretations of the Bible or any interpretation of any religious text for that matter, should play no part in our government’s decision making process.
I am not suggesting that Christians can’t be a part of our government. Since the majority of Americans are Christians. (albeit in name only) I don’t expect them to become atheists when they take office. I do, however, expect them to act in the best interest of the American people.
I want leaders who seek the counsel of good men and women rather than trying to divine the teachings and prophecies of an antiquated book written thousands of years ago.
We the United States of America are not a secular state, but a constitutional republic. Our Founding Fathers created our government based upon the Constitution which was based upon three separate documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Bible. Because of this our government is controlled by the Constitution. That is why it is called a, “living, breathing document”. We have been a Christian nation from the very beginning and many of us still are. Because our Constitution was based upon the Bible, that our government is based upon the Bible and the only way to change that is to change the Constitution. Hence, the fight we have been having over the last several decades.
Uh…we are a secular constitutional republic.
Uh, most people of your stripe do not consider the Constitution a living , breathing document. I suspect you are misidentifying yourself here. Most people who hold your view take a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. Strict constructionists view the Constitution like they do the Ten Commandments, written in stone.
I believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document. Over hundreds of years, as our nation continues to grow, evolve, and mature, our understanding of the Constitution changes. In my view, it matters not what the Founders meant the Constitution to say. What matters is what it is interpreted to mean now. Our laws have evolved and changed over time and I can only hope they will continue to do so.
Mr. Gerencser also stated that, “Our legal system should reflect what is best for the American people. How best to live as a pluralistic people in a secular state.”
Do you know what the second sentence in his quote means? Pluralism is the theory that a multitude of groups should govern the United States, not the people as a whole. These groups or organizations include trade unions, civil rights activists, environmentalists and business or financial lobbyists.
I have no idea where you got your definition of pluralism.
Diane Eck of The Pluralism Project at Harvard University writes:
The plurality of religious traditions and cultures has come to characterize every part of the world today. But what is pluralism? Here are four points to begin our thinking:
First, pluralism is not diversity alone, but the energetic engagement with diversity. Diversity can and has meant the creation of religious ghettoes with little traffic between or among them. Today, religious diversity is a given, but pluralism is not a given; it is an achievement. Mere diversity without real encounter and relationship will yield increasing tensions in our societies.
Second, pluralism is not just tolerance, but the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference. Tolerance is a necessary public virtue, but it does not require Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and ardent secularists to know anything about one another. Tolerance is too thin a foundation for a world of religious difference and proximity. It does nothing to remove our ignorance of one another, and leaves in place the stereotype, the half-truth, the fears that underlie old patterns of division and violence. In the world in which we live today, our ignorance of one another will be increasingly costly.
Third, pluralism is not relativism, but the encounter of commitments. The new paradigm of pluralism does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind, for pluralism is the encounter of commitments. It means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship to one another.
Fourth, pluralism is based on dialogue. The language of pluralism is that of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism. Dialogue means both speaking and listening, and that process reveals both common understandings and real differences. Dialogue does not mean everyone at the “table” will agree with one another. Pluralism involves the commitment to being at the table — with one’s commitments.
I would also remind you that we do not have a government structure where the people as a whole govern. We elect people to represent us. If we like what they do while in office we reelect them. If we don’t we boot them out of office.
Majority rule democracy would quickly devolve into anarchy and oppression. Our current government structure rightly recognizes the right of minorities to find redress of their grievances.
We have all been witness to the glowing success of this in action over the last 3½ years. Just look at how certain groups within our government have tried to bail out the automotive industry and the housing market. All they have succeeded in doing is taking over the private market with an already failing model and enslaved our future generations with debt. A secular state remains neutral in matters of religion and treats all its citizens equal regardless of religion. Our Founding Fathers did not want our fledgling country to be sucked back into what they had just left where your religious stance could get you killed, and they wanted God to be the father of our nation. It all comes down to one thing: Do you believe in God?
Are you suggesting that the state should not be neutral in matters of religion? Are you suggesting that certain religions (I am assume the Christian religion) should receive preferential treatment? I assume you are advocating a Christian theocracy.
Yet, you turn right around suggest that our forefathers fled a theocracy to find freedom here in America. I am confused by your logic here, but then most Christian theocrats confuse me.
Where does the Constitution say the Christian God is the father of the United States?
Whether one believes in God is of no importance except for Christians who make believing in their God a matter of moral goodness. Since most of the evil acts perpetrated by the U.S. government over the course of its history were authorized by Christian men, it is proper and right for us to ask WHY anyone should think Christianity gives a person moral goodness?
I get it. God matters to you. The Bible matters to you. However, as a fellow citizen of the United States, God doesn’t matter to me and I find the Bible offensive and irrelevant. Since we are fellow citizens in a secular state we must find a way to co-exist. Telling me that I must bow to your God and follow your God’s law book is not co-existence, it is a declaration of war.
“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God.” — George Washington.
You do know that George Washington was a deist?
I will leave you with a few George Washington quotes of my own:
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause.”
“The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances, be made subservient to the vilest of purposes.”
What follows is a letter I sent to the editor of the Defiance Crescent News.
Cal Thomas is right about one thing. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality. The Bible is not ambiguous about homosexuality. It is a sinful behaviour that is the mark of a reprobate heart. If the Bible is taken literally, it is clear that no homosexual will inherit the kingdom of God.
And this is the very reason the Bible should not be used as a legal standard in the United States. Christians are free to live according to the dictates of the Bible, however, in a secular state, a particular religion’s moral code of conduct has no business being codified into law.
There are many moral strictures in the Bible that many moderns find abhorrent. The Bible has been used in the past to justify all kinds of vile behavior. Not too many years ago segregationists routinely quoted the Bible to justify their dehumanizing of the African-American race. We matured as a Nation and realized the Bible was wrong about slavery and the so-called inferior races.
In the same manner, the Bible is wrong about homosexuality. In fact, the Bible is wrong about many sexual matters. At best, the Bible is a religious text that promotes sexual repression and control. It is is book that is currently being used by single, white, Catholic men to deny women birth control and control of their own bodies. Christians who willingly submit to such anachronistic laws are free to do so, but Christian sects have no right to force, through the legal process, others to live by their moral code.
We say we are a Nation that believes in privacy but it seems that many Christians only support a right to privacy when what is being done in private lines up with their moral code. Simply put, Christians need to mind their own business when it comes to the sexual proclivities of others. What goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults is nobody’s business. Again, Christians are free to live according to their interpretation of the moral code of the Bible, but in a secular state they have no right to insist, through legal means, that others do so.
Homosexuals should have the same civil rights as any other American. Since marriage is a legal act licensed by the state, matters of religion have no place in the process. Two men, two women, or a man or woman should have the same freedom to marry. There is no civil reason for denying homosexuals the right to marry.
Christians need to realize that the United States is not a Christian nation. It never has been. Christianity does not deserve special status and certainly the Bible should have no weight when it comes to enacting law.
Our legal system should reflect what is best for the American people. How best to live as a pluralistic people in a secular state. Allowing homosexuals to marry and have the same civil rights as heterosexuals is absolutely essential as we mature as a nation.
Here is a wonderful video about the Reason Rally put together by the Thinking Atheist.
Here is a letter to the Editor I wrote to the Defiance Crescent-News today.
I waited in vain to see a Crescent-News report on the March 24, 2012 Reason Rally in Washington, DC. Over 20,000 people gathered on The Mall to give their support to the idea that America should be a country governed by reason rather than superstition and religious dogma. The Reason Rally crowd was comprised of atheists, agnostics, humanists, and secularists, every one of them with a love for America and its secular values and principles.
Noted speakers at the event included people like Richard Dawkins, David Silverman, Michael Shermer, James Randi, Dan Barker, Roy Speckhardt, Greta Christina, and Nate Phelps, son of homophobic Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps. Videos from people like Bill Maher and Penn Jillette were shown and musicians like Bad Religion and Tim Minchin played for the crowd. Adam Savage, co-host of the popular TV show Mythbusters, gave a passionate speech that encouraged and stirred the secular faith.
The Reason Rally was the American secularist movement’s coming out party. As the recent census showed, secularism is on the rise in America. As people turn away from religions that no longer provide the answers to life’s important questions, they are realizing that answers, hope, meaning, and purpose can be found in a non-theistic, humanistic way of life. With no promise of heaven or threat of hell, secularists are focused on improving the world we live in. We only have one life and we best be about living it. If we want a better future for our progeny we have no time to waste dreaming of promises of mansions in heaven.
I realize the Crescent-News leans towards the right politically and socially. The editorial page is so right-wing that it falls right off the right side of the page. That’s your right as a newspaper. I also realize you represent what the vast majority of Defiance area residents believe and support. However, you do have a duty to report the news and the March 24, 2012 Reason Rally was indeed news. It is news that is not going away. The Reason Rally was but first shot over the bow of Ship Christian Nation. We are here and we are not going away.
At a time in life when long-married couples ought to be enjoying what was once known as the golden years, a significant number are now calling their marriage quits and starting out again.
In fact the U.S. Census Bureau reports that a quarter of all divorces in 2007 involved couples wed more than 20 years.
“There are many life experiences that compound stress in a marriage — death in the family, job loss, relocation, a child with special needs or other attenuating circumstances — where a spouse looks for emotional support,” says Cheryl Kinnersley, PCCC, BCPCC, of Northwest Ohio Christian Counseling in Toledo.
“In this particular age group, a common complaint is, ‘You were not there for me,’ because one of the spouses has expectations of what the other should do.” In truth, she says, those expectations may not be realistic.
She has seen this situation often when one spouse has been active in the caregiving of an aging or sick parent. “The wife may think the husband should do ‘this,’ not realizing that he may be doing the best with what he has.”
Or, there may be the situation known as “empty nest syndrome,” in which the kids were a “buffer” and gave the couple a “joint focus.” She says, after that is removed it’s like, “I don’t know who we are as a couple when we’re not being parents, because they did not take the time to nurture their marriage before they had children.”
In her experience, women are usually the lynch pin in the marital bond. “Once the wife has said it is done, then the marriage is over. If she is willing to work on it, and still has hope, she will not initiate the divorce. But if she is through, it doesn’t matter what the husband does.”
There is a darker side to this gray divorce trend Kinnersley has found.
“Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of infidelity as well as emotional and verbal abuse. But I’m seeing more that has to do with porn and sexual addiction. They are rampant today.”
She says, typically one of the spouses is not aware that it has been going on as long as it has and generally waits for about six years before getting counseling. What puts it over the top is the discovery of the affair or pornography.
Some long-married couples try to choose a “time that is better,” she says, when their children are older or out of the home. “Or, I’ll hear, ‘I will wait to get myself in a position where I can make the break,” based on financial concerns.
“Divorce is very difficult on children at any age,” she confirms….
….There are many stages of personal development just as there are many stages in a relationship from the honeymoon period, to settling in and the child rearing years, says Kinnersley.
“Women are looking for what’s going to fulfill them after their hands-on role of mom is over, no matter if they worked outside the home or were a stay-at-home mom. They look at, ‘What do I want to do from here on out that will give me a sense of purpose and fulfillment?’ ”
Marrying again may not be the answer.
Kinnersley says that the divorce rate is actually higher for couples in consecutive marriages than those in their first marriage. Forest Institute of Professional Psychology estimates that up to 67 percent of second marriages end in divorce.
Kinnersley suggests reading Seven Desires of Every Heart by authors Mark and Debra Laser for couples of any age because it “focuses on how we are alike rather than how we are different,” and recommends professional counseling for any couple going through a rough patch.”
Where do I begin?
First, I am disappointed that the Crescent News made no effort to talk to local Christian counselors nor did they talk to any of the local, licensed psychologists or psychiatrists. Result? A piece on divorce that is horribly skewed by the religion of the interviewed counselor.
On her website Cheryl Kinnersley gives the following biographical information about herself:
I earned my Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology in 1975 from Olivet Nazarene University, and a Masters of Arts in Guidance and Counseling in 2003 from Bowling Green State University.
I’m an Ohio licensed Professional Clinical Counselor , member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and International Board of Christian Counselors. I am certified as a Professional Life Coach (AACC) and Professional Clinical Christian Counselor (IBCC). I have completed the Sexual Addictions Certificate program through the AACC.
While Kinnersley has a degree in psychology she is not a psychologist. She does hold a valid counseling license in the State of Ohio but her certifications are from decidedly Evangelical Christian organizations. (American Association of Christian Counselors) Kinnersley’s life coaching certification and Sex Addictions Certificate are also through the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Kinnersley’s interview is skewed from start to finish by her Evangelical presuppositions. If the Crescent-News wanted to print a balanced, comprehensive view of marriage and divorce in America it should have interviewed counselors from all walks of life and not just one Evangelical Christian counselor. Because of the failure of the reporter to broaden her reporting horizons the article is reduced to an advertising piece for Cheryl Kinnersley’s sole proprietorship counseling practice. Again, the Crescent-News could have interviewed any number of local counselors but chose not to.
Let’s look at what Kinnersley says in this article.
First, there is the a priori assumption that divorce is bad. (in Evangelical parlance it is a sin) As a Evangelical counselor Kinnersley is bound, first and foremost, by the teachings of the Bible. What does the Christian God say about the matter becomes the first question asked. (at least in the mind of the counselor)
Is divorce bad? Can we safely assume that continuing in a marriage is always preferable to divorce or that divorce is a sign of failure?
While I do not have any degrees in counseling, I do have a lifetime of anecdotal evidence, derived from being pastor to thousands of people, that suggests that while divorce can be a bad thing there are many times when divorce is the best thing for everyone involved. (and I come from a divorced family)
Instead of “this marriage must be saved” perhaps it is better to answer the question “why should this marriage be saved?” Lurking in the shadows is the question “why should people even marry at all?”
Kinnersley says that the divorce trend has a darker side. According to her:
Unfortunately, I’m seeing a lot of infidelity as well as emotional and verbal abuse. But I’m seeing more that has to do with porn and sexual addiction. They are rampant today.
Once again note the Christian presuppositions. (rarely are they ever stated but based on her training and certification they are clear) Her negative view of infidelity (adultery) and pornography flow from her Christian morality. Are her assumptions necessarily true? Is infidelity always wrong?
Marriage is a contract between two people. The married couple determines what the sexual boundaries are. When it comes to sex there is not a “one size fits all” view. I have pastored a few couples over the years where it was quite clear that they had an understanding. The wife wanted nothing to do with sex and she didn’t care where he got it as long as he didn’t tell her about it.
Dolly Parton has been married for 45 years. One key to her long marriage is:
“If we cheat we don’t know it, so if we do cheat, it’s very good for both us.I don’t want to know it, if he’s cheating on me. If I’m cheating on him, he wouldn’t want to know it. And if we do, if that’s what’s making it work, then that’s fine too.”
While sexual infidelity “may” be harmful to some marriages it is certainly not harmful to all. (Perhaps Ted Haggard and his wife would have been better off if they embraced his bisexuality) My wife and I made a commitment to each other 33 years ago. We have lived by that commitment even when tempted to do otherwise. (I have met a couple of women who saw trying to get a pastor to sleep with them as a badge of honor)
What about pornography and sexual addiction? Kinnersley, like many Christian counselors and a host of Evangelical pastors, overplays the significance pornography plays in our society. Are there men and women who are sex addicts, who are compulsive in their attraction to pornography? Sure, but that could be said of everything, not just pornography. I am far more attracted to a snickers bar than I am a 3 minute video clip at youporn.com.
Most of the men I have met who view pornography are not sex addicts. When treated as a “what some men do” kind of activity the inappropriateness (sin) (1) of it seems to fade. Granted if pornography viewing becomes obsessive, or the viewer demands their sexual partner perform like a porn star, then trouble may follow. I know a few couples where viewing pornography actually improved their marriage and sex life. Bottom line, there is no hard, fast rule about pornography. One man’s addiction is another man’s enjoyment. One couple’s marriage breaker is another couple’s marriage strengthener. Once again, bound by the Bible, Kinnersley must conclude that watching porn movies or reading pornographic magazines is a sin. Bottom line…..God said.
Do couples get divorced over one person’s porn habit or because their spouse is a sex addict? Sure, but I doubt it is as big of a problem as Christian counselors and pastors say it is. (2)
The Laaser’s, along with Cheryl Kinnersley, subscribe to the American Association of Christian Counselors Statement of Faith:
- There exists only one God, creator and sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and externally co-existing in three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- The Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are the inspired, inerrant and trustworthy Word of God, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of human beings, and the final authority for all matters about which it speaks.
- Human nature derives from two historical personas, male and female, created in God’s image. They were created perfect but they sinned, plunging themselves and all human beings into sin, guilt, suffering and death.
- The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ and his bodily resurrection provide the only ground for justification, forgiveness, and salvation for all who believe. Only those who trust in Him alone are born of the Holy Spirit and are true members of the Church; only they will spend eternity with Christ.
- The Holy Spirit is the agent of regeneration and renewal for believers in Jesus Christ. He makes the presence of Jesus Christ real in believers, and He comforts, guides, convicts, and enables believers to live in ways that honor Christ.
- Ministry to persons acknowledges the complexity of humans as physical, social, psychological, and spiritual beings. The ultimate goal of Christian counseling is to help others move to personal wholeness, interpersonal competence, mental stability and spiritual maturity.
This brief statement of required theological belief becomes the rules of the road for the counselor and her client as they travel down the road to mental, physical, and spiritual wholeness.
Here’s the bottom line for me. Angela Assaf and the Defiance Crescent- News did a poor job accurately reporting on the issue of marriage and divorce. This article belongs on the editorial page rather than page one.
Christians counselors should state very clearly their presuppositions when talking to prospective clients.(especially if the client is a non-Christian) I have no problems with Christians seeking out Christian counseling but I do think there should be full disclosure regarding the third party to every counseling session, the God of the Christian Bible.(3) Clients should be made aware of the importance of fidelity to the Bible in their journey to wholeness. (and I think secular counselors should make their clients aware of their methodology too)
Kinnersley and I agree on one thing. She recommends:
Professional counseling for any couple going through a rough patch
and I wholeheartedly agree.
(1) Key to Evangelical thinking is that humans have a “sin nature”, a nature in need of redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible defines sin as transgression of the law of God. (1 John 3:4)
(2) Remember Christian counselors primarily see Christian clients. Porn is a bigger than life problem because both the counselor and the client have the same moral and ethical standard. (the Bible) If the the Bible is removed from the discussion I suspect the issue changes dramatically. The question then becomes the appropriateness of porn in the individual’s life and in their marriage.
(3) I do think Christian counselors should lay all their cards on the table. When I sought out a counselor I called area counselors and asked them point blank what their view of the Bible was and how it influenced their counseling practices. Personally, I think people would be better served if they sought out a secular counselor or at least sought out a counselor who didn’t make the Bible a prominent part of their counseling practice. The Bible is part of the problem rather than the solution. (in my opinion)
What follows is a response to a recent letter I wrote to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. My comments follow the letter:
God is real! In response to Bruce Gerencser’s letter, my initial response was anger. It didn’t take long for pity to replace anger.
Obviously, you are mad at God for something and you are trying to discredit Him and his Word.
Whether you want to admit it or not, God is real and there is coming a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! I am glad this world is not my home, I’m just passing through. I’m looking forward to walking on the streets of pure gold and seeing my mansion He has prepared for me. My prayer for Mr. Gerencser is that he’ll get right with God before it is too late and he spends eternity in hell.
This world has a lot of problems, that much is true. I’m glad God holds it in the palm of his hand and wins the battle in the end.
It is always amazing what one atheist can do. Evidently my letter to the editor irritated Lang and it made her angry. I wonder if she confessed her anger as sin? Of course, she might have had the special kind of anger only Christians have, righteous anger. Righteous anger allows Christians to be nasty and abusive because they are doing it in God’ name.
As usual, the reason I am an atheist, according to Lang, is that I am mad at God. I am out to discredit God and His Word. Being mad at God (misotheism) is like being mad at the Easter Bunny. Neither exist, and with so many other targets worthy of my anger, why would I waste it on a fictional being?
Lang has a hard time understanding how someone like me becomes an atheist. Surely it must be because of some emotional wound or anger. No matter how many times I tell people that I am no longer a Christian because I do not believe the Bible to be truth, they still refuse to let that be the reason for my apostasy. It is all about the Bible, all has been, and always will be.
Am I trying to discredit God and the Bible? Of course not. I am all for letting God speak for himself and by doing so He discredits himself. The Bible, the revelation of God, is quite sufficient for discrediting God. I take the Bible as a find it and the God revealed therein is not a God I want anything to do with. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about this since the Christian God is a work of fiction, shaped by human beings.
Lang assumes that if she says God is real that I will somehow see the error of my way and embrace the Christian God. Now if she would share with me credible proof that the Christian God exists I might consider rejoining the club. Of course she can’t prove that God exists, no one can. Believing in a God requires faith, a faith I do not have.
Lang admits that the world has lots of problems. She also says that God holds the world in the palm of His hand. Evidently she never makes the connection between problems and palm of His hand. If the Christian God is holding the world in the palm of His hand (or as the Bible says by the word of His power) it seems to me that any problems we have are rightly God’s problems. God is so powerful that He holds the world in the palm of His hand but he is powerless against the works of Satan and human beings? (whom I assume Lang blames for all the problems) What a weak God the Christian God is.
Lang makes it clear unless I get right with God I am going to spend eternity in hell. That’s always the bottom line…Bruce repent or you are going to fry. Let me think about it……….Nope. I have no plans of repenting and all the threats of judgment or hell are not going to change my firm conviction on the matter. Even if there WAS a Christian God I am still not interested in worshipping Him. Who wants to worship a God who created most of the human race so He could damn them and burn them in the fires of hell for all eternity? Wow! What a mighty God Christians serve. A God who loves humanity so much that he punishes the vast majority of them with fire, brimstone, and worms that never die.
I have no problem with Lang and her sincere hope that she will spend eternity in a place where the streets are pure gold and everyone has a mansion. (even though the Greek is better translated rooms) Like her, I don’t want to die, and religion gives people hope and it makes life have purpose and meaning. That said, I don’t need such things. Religion, of any kind, has no value for me. I know death is certain and I am at peace with the reality that when I am dead I am dead. End of story. No Heaven. No Hell. Just d-e-a-d.
I find hope and purpose, not in a God or the sweet-by-and-by, but in those whom I cherish and love. My wife, children, grandchildren, and my extended family are enough for me. I have no need of a reward after death to give my life purpose and meaning. I am content to gain my reward in this life, the love of family is enough for me. What else is there?
What follows is another letter written to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News in response to my recent rebuttal letter:
This is in reply to Bruce Gerencser’s letter on Aug. 8. There is only one thing he wrote that I can agree with–that is you only have 500 words or less to respond to a letter that is full of untruths and assumptions.
Not everyone believes in God or the Bible. This is where the problem arises. Every other religion in the world talks about how their God or ways are the only way that’s right.Agnostics, from the Greek word agnostos means, “to not know/’ and agnostic is one who admits, “I don’t know.”
There is only one true God. This is the Being who made each and everyone of us in his likeness and gave us a mind and will of our own. This is the same God who inspired the prophets of old to write the Bible, His Word. The Bible may not be a supernatural book, but it is His Word. The last book was written 1,900 years ago and is still as relevant today as when it was written.
There is not one thing in the Bible that has ever been proved to be wrong. There are lots of books that report the Bible is in error, however, nothing in 1,900 years has ever proven it to be untrue. Maybe Bruce kept his Bible on the shelf with his ”classics” the 25 years he was pastor. I feel sorry for any congregation that had to listen to him,especially since he doesn’t believe in God or the Bible to be the divine truth.
lf you are not in the family of God, you belong to the god of this world. This pertains to everyone whose religion does not believe in the one true God. Satan would like each and every one of us to believe that he, hell, and God doesn’t exist. He wants us to believe that all other religions are the only way to go and there is no here-after.
With a humanistic worldview that focuses on the here and now, you don’t have to be good. You can do anything you want, take anything you want, because when you die that’s it. Bruce assumes Christians have no life, no joy, not living and loving. He said they trudge through a wicked world in search of heaven or eternal reward. If this is what he did, no wonder he became agnostic.
God means different things to different people. No two Christians have all the same rules to follow. That’s one reason different views exist. I don’t know about you but I would rather not live in a world that doesn’t believe in God. It would be everyone for themselves, anything goes. If it feels good, do it. You can look and see what is happening in the United States today and it doesn’t take long to figure out we are headed away from God and in the wrong direction.
Finally, a letter writer that doesn’t use Pascal’s Wager…
R.L. Wellman believes my rebuttal letter to be full of untruths and assumptions. His response shows that he doesn’t understand Christianity or unbelief nor did he read my letter carefully.
Wellman preaches two different gospels in his letter. One is the Christian Gospel and the other is the gospel of universalism. He seems to say that as long as a person believes in God that’s all that matters. But, he then contradicts his universalism by appealing to a thoroughly sectarian book, the Christian Bible. I will assume he really considers himself a Christian, since a true universalist would not bother with replying to my rebuttal letter.
Wellman says that not believing the Bible or believing in God is where the problem lies. He never says why this is so. Instead he spends a good bit of his letter trying to prove the Bible is truth. Wellman realizes what some Christians refuse to accept. Discredit the Bible and Christianity crumbles.
I find Wellman’s view of the Bible very confusing. In one sentence he says the prophets were inspired by God and in the very next sentence he says the Bible is not a supernatural book. Which is it? If the Bible is inspired by God then it is indeed a supernatural book. (above and beyond that which one hold to be natural)
Wellman says the Bible is God’s Word, and I assume,since Wellman is a believer in the Christian God, it is his Word too. I wonder if Wellman actually believes and embraces every word of the Bible? I know Christians say they do, but I never have met a Christian who really believed ALL of the Bible, or who didn’t try to explain away some of the more difficult teachings of the Bible.
I suspect Wellman is pro-life. If I asked him if it was OK to kill unborn children, he would most likely say Yes. It is murder.
The spider smiles as the fly nears his web.
I would then ask Wellman if it is OK for God to kill unborn children?
God doesn’t do that.
The fly inches closer.
Yes he does.
Remember when God killed every living human being in the world with a flood, save Noah and his family? Most scholars believes millions of people died in the flood. Were there any pregnant women who perished in the flood?
The spider enjoys his fly snack.
That’s the God of the Bible. A genocidal, temperamental God who often acts contrary to the very laws he commands his followers to keep. Yet, Christians repeatedly tell an unbelieving world….God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
I could share illustrations like this all day.
Wellman says nothing in the Bible has been disproved in 1900 years. Wellman speaks of books that say the Bible has errors or is filled with internal contradictions but these books are all wrong. I wonder if Wellman has read any of these books? Has he read any of Bart Ehrman’s books? Or is the Bible without error because Wellman says it is?
The Bible inerrancy that Wellman subscribes to simply can not be sustained. Both Bart Ehrman and Robert Price, along with countless other writers, show very clearly that the Bible, whether in it present English form, or as found in a plethora of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, is errant and filled with contradictions. Wellman needs to spend some time doing a bit of reading on this subject. If he will do his homework he may still save some degree of belief in the Bible but he will no longer make foolish statements about a text written thousands of years being perfect.
Wellman repeats an oft told myth……..without religion a person does not need to be good. I think what he means to say is that Christianity and the Bible is what keeps people from committing heinous crimes. In other words, the only reason he isn’t a murderer, a rapist, or a thief is because of his Christian faith and his belief in the Bible.
Wellman’s argument suggests that he believes most crime in this Country is committed by agnostics, atheists, and non Christians. I do hope he knows that most of the crimes committed in this Country are committed by people who believe in the Christian God. I did a fair bit of prison ministry years ago. Most of the prisoners I came in contact with were “believers”. Almost 80% of Americans believe in the Christian God.
When is the last time the newspaper headline has read “Atheist Arrested for Molesting Children” or “Agnostic Kills Her Husband” ? Certainly, atheists and agnostics can, and do, commit terrible crimes,but the vast majority of crimes committed in this country are perpetrated by people who say the believe in the Christian God. (daily the news has stories of crimes perpetrated by pastors and priests)
Wellman asserts that the only reason that people do good is because of the threat of the afterlife. Threats of divine judgment and heaven and hell are the motivations for doing good. I assume then, that Wellman’s motive for doing good is fear.
Wellman laments the direction America is headed. The Christians rule this country. They have the power. 80% is a pretty big majority. It is convenient to blame nontheists, but we have no power to control or change anything in this country. Atheists and agnostics make up 4% of the population. We are a growing segment of the population but we are generations away from being even a significant minority.
Granted most Christians are no different from atheists or agnostics when it comes to living their day to day lives. The actual number of true blue, willing to die for the faith Bible thumpers is quite small.
Wellman admits what I have known for a long time………every Christian has their own rules (beliefs) and that’s why there are so many different Christian viewpoints. Yet, Wellman wants me to believe there is one, divine, perfect book by which all of us are to govern our lives. How is it that every Christian reads the same book yet none of them have the same rules (beliefs)? If the Holy Spirit is the teacher and guide for every Christian how is it possible to have sundry and contradictory beliefs?
Wellman can not fathom a world without God. In fact he is quite certain he would not want to live in such a world. I would assume, once again, that Wellman’s God is the Christian God. Yet, Wellman continues to live in just such a world. The majority of people in the world do not believe in the Christian God. Granted most of the world believes in some God or another, but most people do not believe in the Christian God.
Like most of the previous letter writers Wellman takes a moment to take a swipe at me personally. Wellman seems to think, as many other letter writers do, “once an agnostic, always an agnostic.” Better to think this than contemplate a true man of God walking away from the Christian faith. Wellman would like to believe I left my Bible on the shelf with the classics when I was a pastor, but I bet if we both whipped out our Bible study penises mine would be John Holmes sized and his would be found under searches for “small penises”. (please allow me a bit of perverse pleasure here)
I will leave it to my parishioners to testify as to whether or not my preaching and teaching was worth listening to. For 25 years I never failed to have a congregation to preach to and that speaks for itself.