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Are You Interested in Writing a Guest Post?

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I am always interested in having people write guest posts for this site. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please use the contact form to email me. You can choose any subject. If you are a Christian, you can even write a post about how wrong I am about God, Christianity, and the Bible.

Have a story to tell about your life as a Christian and subsequent deconversion? Testimonies are always welcome. I have found that readers really appreciate and enjoy reading posts about the journey of others away from Evangelicalism. Perhaps you are someone who has left Evangelicalism, but still believes in the existence of a deity/energy/higher power. Your story is welcome too.

If you worried about grammar or spelling, don’t be. Carolyn, my ever-watchful friend and editor, edits every guest post before it is published. If she can turn my writing into coherent prose, trust me, she can do the same for yours.

Anonymous posts are okay, as are articles previously posted elsewhere. If you have written something for your own blog and would like to post it here, please send it to me.

If you have previously written a guest post, I am more than happy to publish another one from you. Some readers have become regular contributors. It’s important for readers to hear from other writers from time to time.

Several readers have emailed me in the past about writing guest posts. I am w-a-i-t-i-n-g. 🙂 Seriously, if you have something you would like to say, I am more than happy to post it here. The ball is in your court.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

bible inerrancy

Millions of Americans believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This belief is the foundation of much of the nonsense spouted by Evangelical culture warriors and Republican politicians. In their minds, the Bible is written by God and is perfect in every way, including matters of science and history. Blinded by lifetimes of Fundamentalist indoctrination, they believe that no one has ever proved the Bible has mistakes, contradictions, or errors. The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, The B-i-b-l-e. BIBLE! Or so the popular Evangelical song goes anyway. No matter what other books say, if their words contradict the Bible, then they are wrong. God can never, ever be wrong, so that means the only book he ever wrote can’t be wrong either.

Those of us who are ex-Evangelicals turned atheists/agnostics/humanists/pagans/liberal Christians know how the belief that the Bible is inerrant negatively affects the ability to reason and think critically. What belief underpins creationism, flat-eartherism, hatred of LGBTQ people, and opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, birth control, family planning, socialism, gambling, drug use, alcohol drinking, women working outside of the home, women wearing pants, long hair on men, rock music, and Game of Thrones — shall I go on?  Without people believing the Bible is some sort of infallible religious text, most of these “beliefs” turn into personal opinions. It is only when the Bible is vested with inerrant divine authority that it becomes a dangerous weapon in the hands of preachers and congregants alike.

Of course, the Bible is not inerrant, nor is it infallible. Whether one believes the Bible is inspired is a matter of faith, not fact, so this aspect of belief is beyond empirical inquiry. Several years ago Dr. Bart Ehrman, a New Testament scholar at the University of North Carolina, posted an article on whether the Bible has contradictions (behind paywall). Here are three of the four of contradictions Ehrman listed:

I start with one that may seem completely unimportant, but is, to me, a clear contradiction. In Mark 5:21-24 a man named Jairus approaches Jesus in distress.  His daughter is “very ill.” He wants Jesus to come heal her so she doesn’t die.  Jesus agrees to go, but before he can get to Jairus’s home, he is delayed by a woman who herself desperately needs to be healed (5:25-34).  While Jesus is dealing with her – it takes a while – someone comes from Jairus’s house to tell him that it is too late, the girl has now died (5:35). Jesus comforts Jairus, goes, and raises her from the dead. Matthew also tells the story (Matthew 9:18-26).  But in this case …Matthew also tells the story (Matthew 9:18-26).  But in this case Jairus comes to Jesus to tell him that “My daughter has just now died” (9:18).  He wants him to raise her from the dead.   Jesus goes and do so.

So the contradiction: when Jairus comes to Jesus: does he want him to heal his sick daughter, who unfortunately dies before Jesus can get there? Or does Jairus come only after the girl is dead, wanting Jesus to raise her from the dead?

Of more importance, but a famous one. Matthew and Luke both give a genealogy of Jesus that is strictly patrilineal: father to son, going back for generations (Matthew 1:1-16 starting with Abraham and bringing the family line down to Joseph, Jesus’ alleged father; Luke 3:23-38 starting with Joseph and taking the family line the other direction, all the way past Abraham to Adam).

Question: Who was Joseph’s father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, and so on –all the way back to King David? Was it Jacob, Mathan, and Eleazar … (Matthew 1:15-16)?  Or was it Heli, Matthat, and Levi… (Luke 3:23-24).

In considering the question, note: both genealogies are *explicit* that this is the line of Joseph (not, for example, Mary; or the brother of Joseph; or someone else.  Joseph).  And note, these are not simply alternative names for the same people: most of the names are *completely* different from one another, all the way back to David. That’s because in Matthew Joseph is the descendant of David’s son Solomon; in Luke he is the descendant of a different son, Nathan.  Moreover, the genealogies are patrilineal – not traced through mothers but explicitly through fathers to sons.

More complicated. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 2:1-23), he is born in Bethlehem.  Nothing indicates that his parents came from anywhere else to get there: there is no story here of a trip from Nazareth to register for a census only to find there was “no room in the inn.” They simply are in Bethlehem. When the wise men come to worship the child, the King of the Jews, Herod, learns of Jesus’ existence, and he sends the troops to kill him (2:16-18). Joseph is warned in a dream, and he takes Jesus and Mary and they travel, on foot, to Egypt, where they remain until Herod dies (2:13-15, 19-23). When they return home, though, they cannot return to Bethlehem (presumably their home, since there would be no other reason to ponder coming back there), and so relocate in Nazareth. In Luke’s account (Luke 2:1-39) Joseph and Mary are from Nazareth and they end up in Bethlehem because of a census in which “the entire world should be enrolled” (Luke 2:1).  Mary is pregnant, full term, and happens to give birth while they are there.  After Jesus is circumcised (2:21), and brought to the temple (2:22), they perform the sacrifice required for women who have given birth in order to return to ritual purity (2:24). This is to follow the law laid out in Leviticus 12:2-8; the sacrifice was to happen 33 days after the circumcision (so 40 days after birth).  As soon as that is completed, they return straight to Nazareth (2:39).

There is no word in Luke about King Herod’s decision to have the child killed or of the flight of the holy family to Egypt.  And so, the contradiction:  if Luke is right that 40 days after Jesus’ birth, the family returned directly to Nazareth, how can Matthew be right that they instead went and stayed in Egypt until the death of Herod?

If you want to learn more about the text of the Bible and Christian church history, I encourage you to join Dr. Ehrman’s blog. The annual membership fee is $29.95, with all proceeds going to charity.

Video Link

Remember, it only takes one error, contradiction, or mistake to bring the inerrancy house tumbling down. Most educated Evangelical pastors know that the Bible isn’t what they claim it is, yet Sunday after Sunday they stand before their congregations and say, THUS SAITH THE LORD! These liars for Jesus know they would be unemployed and the pews would be empty if congregants ever learned the truth about the Biblical text.

I have had a number of Evangelical preachers and laypeople come to this site, certain that their Bibles (and beliefs) were infallibly true. As I always do, I asked them to read several of Bart Ehrman’s books. There is no value is trying to engage zealots if they won’t, at least, look at the evidence for the claim that the Bible is NOT an inerrant, infallible text. Over the past fifteen years, I have only had one person read Dr. Ehrman’s books and still believe the Bible is inerrant. Everyone else was forced to admit that the Bible was not what Evangelicals claim it is. Sometimes, this resulted in loss of faith. Other times, people held on to their faith, but moved on to religious environments that valued intellectual inquiry and facts. Want to destroy the hold Christian Fundamentalism has on our country? Disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is some sort of perfect text, different from all other books. Once Evangelicals see that the Bible is not what their preachers and teachers say it is, they will be forced to determine whether they can trust anything their leaders say.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Pastor Dean Smith Accused of Sex Crimes Against Minor Girls

northern cheyenne indian reservation

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Dean Smith, pastor of Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, stands accused of sexually assaulting at least four girls aged twelve and younger on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Morning Star Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

The United States Attorney’s Office: District of Montana released the following statement:

A Lame Deer pastor appeared on a summons for arraignment today on sexual abuse charges alleged to have occurred on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Dean Alan Smith, 66, a pastor, pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with one count of aggravated sexual abuse, one count of abusive sexual contact and three counts of abusive sexual contact by force and of a child. If convicted of the most serious crime, Smith faces a maximum of life in prison, a $250,000 fine and not less than five years of supervised release.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Judge Cavan continued Smith’s release with conditions pending further proceedings.

An indictment, filed on Dec. 9, alleges that between 2017 and 2019 near Lame Deer, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 1, to engage in a sexual act by using force and that Smith knowing caused Jane Doe 1 to engage in sexual contact by using force. The indictment further alleges that between 2017 and 2019, Smith knowingly caused a person, identified as Jane Doe 2, who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force. In addition, the indictment alleges that between 2019 and 2020, Smith knowingly caused persons, identified as Jane Doe 3 and Jane Doe 4, both who had not attained the age of 12, to engage in sexual contact by force.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.

Native Sun News Today adds:

In January 3, 2023, Dean Alan Smith, pastor of over twenty years at the Morning Star Baptist Church in Lame Deer, Montana, pled not guilty to federal charges filed the month before.

According to local media, Smith, age 66 was charged with sexually abusing four girls on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation between 2017 and 2019. Questions remain if there are other victims, as Smith served as a pastor on the reservation for years. That branch of the Baptist Church once had a private school for elementary students on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

A local support group of Northern Cheyenne advocates is asking other possible victims to come forward under the guidance of tribal members Hadley Shoulderblade and Diane Spotted Elk. “We demand justice for the victims and are trying to build funds for compensation,” these leaders recently posted on Facebook.

The Morning Star Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist Congregation, sits on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Executive Director of that congregation said they have been in contact with the local church.

“One member of the church has been very open about what they are dealing with. I have let them know we are here to help the girls who have made these claims find the way to healing themselves,” said Montana Baptist Convention Executive Director Barrett Duke.

“The harder area is not in our cities but in the rural areas,” Duke Said. “They think they know the person. They are a little slower, I think, to adopt some of the processes to identify potential predators.”

Tribal leaders told Smith he is no longer welcome on the Reservation.  The local Morning Star Church held a meeting to that same effect, issuing a public statement via Facebook: “The Church is a body of people, not to be judged by the actions of one. We will continue our mission, though now it will be harder.”

The United Ministerial Association of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation also met and demanded Pastor Smith’s resignation. “This is very unfortunate and not in keeping with our mission,” they told the Northern Cheyenne community in a written statement.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case while Smith remains free on bond with conditions including his not being allowed around children. According to local sources, Smith has left the Reservation, his whereabouts not certain. If found guilty Smith could face life imprisonment, at $500,000 fine and registered as a life-long sexual offender.

Morning Star Baptist released a statement that said, in part:

The Church is a body of people, not to be judged by the actions of one.

According to a Facebook post by Josh Kolojeski:

I was the Site Director of the Northern Cheyenne Youthworks site in Lame Deer in 2016. In the final two weeks of the summer, three of my female staff members were informed by a member of the community that Dean Smith “took (a child’s) virginity,” and were advised by another member of the community to not be alone with Dean and to not let kids near him because he touches them.

I was off-site at a funeral for that day and that weekend, so my Area Director was there as the acting Site Director. The staff members verbally told him what they were told and reported it to the Boys and Girls Club that we were partnering with. When I returned to site on Sunday, they also reported it to me and I reported it again to my Area Director.

On one hand, we didn’t want to ruin Dean’s reputation if the information was simply unsubstantiated rumors. On the other hand, we wanted to make sure we were also reporting this information to people better equipped to investigate. In hindsight, we should have also reported it to the BIA, although we later learned that Dean had already been reported by someone in the community before our summer began. In order to promote a culture of safety, I told the staff members they didn’t have to attend his church for the final two Sunday’s of the summer, and I also went on the prayer walk that Dean led with the high school students each week, because the staff member that typically attended the prayer walk with Dean and the students was no longer comfortable doing it, understandably.

I also wanted to make sure full-time staff at Youthworks knew about the information that was reported to us so that they could ask more questions and re-evaluate whether or not to partner with Dean for 2017 and beyond. As I mentioned before, three members of the staff and I all reported the information to our Area Director, who was also the full-time Area Director for that site among others at the time. Additionally, I could be mistaken, but I’m 95% sure if you check my end of summer Site Director paperwork from 2016, you will see I made mention of Youthworks possibly reconsidering it’s relationship with Dean. In a section asking about anything that needed to be looked in on for future summers, I believe I said something along the lines of “three of my staff members heard rumors in the community about Pastor Dean that we reported to our Area Director, so Youthworks may want to look further into those rumors before partnering with him again in 2017.”

With that information, my questions are:

1. Did Youthworks take any action steps based on the reports made by the 2016 Site Staff?

2. If so, what action steps were taken and what information was considered when the decision was made to continue partnering with Dean in 2017, 2018, and 2019?

I understand that conducting a deep investigation is outside the purview of Youthworks, and I also know that the full-time staff that work and have worked at Youthworks are tremendous people and whatever was done or not done was obviously not out of malicious intent. But I’d also like to know what, if anything, informed Youthworks’ decision to keep sending staff and high school youth group students his way in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

I’d also like to add that one of the three aforementioned staff members has lived in or near Lame Deer since her summer with Youthworks. Another one of those staff members worked for Youthworks in Lame Deer again in 2017. They reported more information they learned to the 2016 Area Director, their 2017 Site Director, and their 2017 Area Director, who were all subsequently told that nothing could be done based off rumors. However, in July 16th, 2020, Youthworks posted a video of Pastor Dean talking about the Northern Cheyenne reservation. When two of the teammates saw this video, they emailed Youthworks and again reported the allegations that had been reported to them and told them that they were shocked to see the video of Dean being shared by Youthworks (I don’t know if it was also produced and created by Youthworks). In this case, Youthworks did respond directly to the two staff members, and the higher up’s had a. video call with the pair to discuss the allegations. Youthworks also deleted the video and contacted authorities, sounding the alarm either to the FBI directly or to an entity that ran it up the ladder to the point that it reached the FBI, and the former site staff was contacted by the FBI.

Perhaps an investigation was already ongoing, or perhaps Youthworks 2020 report to authorities sparked the investigation. In either case, that report from Youthworks to authorities would have been beneficial in 2016. If an investigation was already ongoing, law enforcement could have informed Youthworks that there was an active investigation and that it might be in their best interest to stop their partnership with Dean. If the report is what sparked the investigation, then the investigation could have been started four years earlier.

In those four years, Dean was allowed to continue to work with Youthworks staff and participants, continue to foster children (including, in 2017, four girls and one boy that spent a lot of time at our housing site and that the Youthworks staff in 2016 had really bonded with), and he was able to continue to run his Vacation Bible School.

I loved each of my four summers with Youthworks, and I don’t regret my experiences. Working with Youthworks truly had and still has a positive influence in my life and on my spiritual journey, and it matured me in positive ways. I also know that there was probably more I could have done during our final two weeks in Lame Deer as well. But I also think this statement leaves out key information of initial reports being made to Youthworks as early as 2016, and whether it was through miscommunication up the ladder or through disbelief, I think Youthworks dropped the ball in this instance.

Memo to the church. Sorry, but you will be judged by the actions of your pastor (and your denomination). How is it possible that no one in the church knew what was going on or saw things that were concerning? Maybe no one knew anything, but until law enforcement fully investigates, I hope the church will understand if we don’t give it a pass. Further, it seems clear from the aforementioned comment by Josh Kolojeski that YouthWorks needs to be investigated too.

Montana Baptist Convention Executive Director Barrett Duke stupidly said:

They think they know the person. They are a little slower, I think, to adopt some of the processes to identify potential predators.

Said seems to blame the church. Does he really believe that smaller, rural churches have a bigger problem with clergy sexual abuse than larger churches? Really? Said seems to not be paying attention to what is going on in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Does anyone seriously believe that these four girls are Smith’s first and only victims? I think not.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

All That Matters is Eternity

eternity

To me, there’s nothing that trumps my faith in Christ — not even an NFL career. Everything I have on this earth is borrowed. All that really matters is eternity. God has blessed me with a platform and with an opportunity to do something that I love to do. Out of my gratefulness, I give all that I have as if He’s the only One watching.

— James Laurinaitis, former Ohio State Football Player, NFL Player

Evangelicals often tell atheists that the lives of unbelievers lack purpose, meaning, and direction. However, based on the quote above by Evangelical Christian James Laurinaitis, it is Christians who live empty lives. According to Laurinaitis, nothing in this life really matters. Everything we have on earth is borrowed (from God). Only eternity matters.

Of course, Laurinaitis doesn’t really believe this. He was a three-time All-American football player at Ohio State University. Laurinaitis went on to play for eight years in the NFL. Just today, Laurinaitis was hired as a graduate assistant for the Ohio State football program. Now thirty-five, Laurinaitis has had a full life. The sum of his experiences suggests his life BEFORE eternity matters. If it didn’t; if living in light of eternity is all that matters, then why did Laurinaitis play football? Why get married and have children? Should not the single focus of Laurinaitis be evangelizing the lost? Hell is hot. Death is certain. There are souls to save.

If Evangelicals really believe that eternity is all that really matters, they sure don’t live like it. By all accounts, apart from what they do on Sundays, Evangelicals live lives indistinguishable from the lives of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, and other people labeled Hell-bound sinners by Evangelicals. How about we agree that all humans have meaningful, purposeful lives — however each of us defines these terms? If Laurinaitis wants to spend his days on earth worshipping Jesus and slavishly devoting his life to him, that’s fine. However, just because atheists don’t want to do the same doesn’t mean their lives are lacking in any way.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Steve Parker Charged with Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering

pastor steve walker

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

[Parker] confessed to leading a double life and having two houses where he kept his godly life and criminal behavior separate. The house in Tulalip is where he conducts his criminal behavior and has a girlfriend. . . At the second home, Parker lived with his wife and mother-in-law, along with approximately 14 other people living on the property

Steve Parker, the director of Nest Ministries and the founder and executive director of Omni-Manna Services, both located in Arlington, Washington was charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine as well as fentanyl and methamphetamine. He was also charged with counterfeiting controlled substances, maintaining a vehicle for drug trafficking; money laundering, and conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine, fentanyl, and/or cocaine. All the charges are felonies.

The Christian Post reports:

Just over a year ago, as he was pictured on Facebook officiating a wedding, Washington pastor and grandfather Steve Parker was praised as an “amazing man of God.” Earlier this month, however, detectives in Skagit County arrested Parker, who allegedly had a stockpile of guns and drugs, after getting a tip that he was on his way to becoming “a high level drug dealer,” and his clean-cut family knew nothing about his double life.

On his Facebook page, Parker, 57, introduces himself as “a new convert, a soul in the midst of spiritual growth. A fish on the line.” He also lists himself as the director at NEST Ministries and founder and executive director of Omni-Manna Services, which is a supportive employment and housing service.

“We work within Snohomish County for those who have had troubled pasts, addictions, or just down on their luck. With the help of ProviderOne we are able to help find employment and low cost housing while counseling our clients through the process,” the Omni-Manna Services website says.

On Facebook, there are wholesome photos of Parker with family and friends and even a video of him belting out an inspiring rendition of Andrae Crouch’s “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.”

In court records reviewed by The Christian Post, the Skagit County Interlocal Drug Enforcement Unit said they got a tip from sources in November 2022 that Parker had been distributing controlled substances in the counties of Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom.

“Information obtained from these sources is that Steve Parker has started to become a higher level drug dealer and that he possesses firearms, and deals fentanyl powder, fentanyl pills, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine,” an affidavit of probable cause explains. “Sources told detectives that Steve Parker is a pastor and that he has a business that helps people with addiction problems by assisting them with housing and jobs, although he deals drugs as well.”

On Jan. 19, as he drove his 2002 Subaru in Mount Vernon, police swooped down on Parker and found him with approximately two ounces of fentanyl powder and a loaded handgun. Deputies also noticed he had a live feed camera on his phone, and he turned it off as they were contacting him.

Acting later on a search warrant, detectives searched the Subaru and discovered more than 2.7 pounds of methamphetamine, some 2,000 counterfeit pills, another ounce of fentanyl powder and cocaine.

“Parker admitted the drugs were cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. Detectives also located packaging material commonly used in the distribution of drugs along with drug scales,” the affidavit says. “Parker also admitted he knew fentanyl was a very dangerous drug, and he has provided Narcan to an overdose victim in the past.”

Parker further told police that he needed multiple drug suppliers because he sources were not consistent and “bragged about being a good drug dealer, saying he is good at business.”

He also confessed to leading a double life and having two houses where he kept his godly life and criminal behavior separate.

“The house in Tulalip is where he conducts his criminal behavior and has a girlfriend. During the search warrant, detectives located several firearms and discovered there were surveillance cameras both inside and outside the home,” court records note.

At the second home, Parker lived with his wife and mother-in-law, along with approximately 14 other people living on the property.

“Parker said they did not know about his criminal activities. That was confirmed by detectives while servicing a warrant at that home,” investigators note.

A total of 30 firearms were recovered from both homes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Trent Holbert Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to a Minimum of Seven Years in Prison

pastor trent holbert

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Trent Holbert, pastor of The Ridge Church in Black Mountain, North Carolina, was charged in October 2021 with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense. The Ridge Church is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Kentucky Today reported at the time:

Trent Holbert, 41, former pastor of The Ridge Church, was arrested last month and has been charged with one count of indecent liberties with a child and two counts of statutory sex offense, the Biblical Recorder reported. He was previously the pastor of Epoch Fellowship Church in Owenton, Ky., as late as 2017.

….

Both The Ridge Church and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina have released statements condemning Holbert’s alleged actions.

“Trent Holbert has resigned from his position as the head pastor of the Ridge Church,” said a statement released Friday from church elder Drew Wheeler. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the family of our former head pastor and the families of all of those involved. The care and protection of children and minors is a biblical and moral mandate that is taken seriously by the Ridge Church. We do not condone such actions as the alleged, and our prayers are with the victims of any such abuse.”

The North Carolina convention’s statement, released Thursday, said leaders were “deeply grieved” by the charges.

“As a pastor, Trent has been a speaker at convention-related events for adults in the recent past,” the statement said. “He underwent background and reference checks prior to his participation in those events. We are not aware that he had any contact or dealings with minors as part of those events. The care and protection of children and minors is both a biblical and moral mandate that we take very seriously. We are praying for everyone who has been impacted by these alleged heinous crimes. N.C. Baptists are offering support to the local association and the church as they face these challenging times, as well. We stand with any and all victims of abuse and are committed to cooperating with authorities during their investigation. We encourage you to contact the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office if you have any relevant information.”

According to WLOS news, on May 18, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at Holbert’s residence. During the execution of the warrant, Holbert was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile, and electronic devices were seized from the home.

Holbert’s church bio page (which has been scrubbed from the church’s website) states:

Pastor Trent is a gifted communicator and a relational junkie. He loves people and gets his fix from being a positive part of their lives. His ministry mindset is holistic. He believes that God’s plan and design for humans doesn’t stop at spiritual needs. He holds a degree in theology, but as a certified personal trainer and holistic health coach, Trent teaches us how to know our Creator better through optimal physical, emotional, and spiritual health. You can hear him weekly on the Fit For the Kingdom Podcast.

Black Mountain News article on Holbert starting The Ridge Church.

In October 2021, ABC-13 reported:

Newly returned warrants allege Trent Holbert groomed the teen by first befriending her parents who joined The Ridge Church.

Investigators said, because the parents had limited means, Holbert offered their daughter a bedroom in his home and began buying her undergarments as the two started a relationship.

Warrants also allege Holbert asked the teen’s parents to sign a parental waiver so that he would be able to take care of her in case they died. Investigators said Holbert called DSS on the teen’s parents as well, accusing them of neglect. Warrants show a DSS worker found this claim to be unsubstantial.

On May 18, 2021, detectives with the Special Victims Unit of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at a residence on Tucker Road in Black Mountain. During the execution of the search warrant, Holbert was arrested. He resigned from the church in June.

This week, Holbert pleaded guilty and will spend a minimum of seven years in prison.

The Citizen Times reports:

A former Black Mountain pastor has pleaded guilty to attempted statutory sexual offense, ensuring that he will spend at least the next seven years behind bars.

Judge Sharon Tracey sentenced Trent Brandon Holbert, 43, to serve between 94 and 173 months imprisoned, according to Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams’ office. The victim approved of the plea, according to Williams. Williams announced the plea in a Jan. 25 tweet.

In search warrants reported on by the Citizen Times in 2021, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office said that Holbert – former pastor at The Ridge Church – schemed against the victim’s parents.

The Sheriff’s Office began investigating after the parents contacted deputies about their child “engaging in a secret and sexual relationship with their former pastor,” one search warrant said. 

Holbert bought the victim gifts, including clothes, underwear and feminine hygiene products. A search warrant said that he also gave the child one of his T-shirts after she told him that she had a bad dream so “his smell would help (the child) sleep.”

When Holbert reported the child’s parents to the N.C. Division of Social Services with allegations of neglect, the claims were found to be unsubstantiated.

According to one of the search warrants, Holbert asked the parents to sign a waiver giving him parental rights if they died. They declined and said the request bothered them. 

According to a Google search, The Ridge Church has closed its doors.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: The Bible is NEVER Wrong Says Answers in Genesis

bible inerrancy

Most people who go to church grow up mainly hearing the Bible on Sundays, learning Bible stories in Sunday school, and hearing preaching from the pulpit. But then many of them go to schools where the education is purely secular and at least sometimes may be overtly hostile to the Bible. This leads to the impression that “religion” is subjective, emotional, and personal, while the “real world” belongs to the secularists.

One of the main battles of biblical creation is showing that this dichotomy is false—the Bible accurately speaks about the real world. Its events do not happen in Neverland but can be placed in time and space so accurately that archaeologists have been able to use it like a map of the ancient world. In fact, the Bible is inerrant—meaning that when something conflicts with the Bible, we can confidently say that it is never the Bible that is wrong.

….

The Bible is, in fact, the most-studied and fact-checked book of history. And there is not one instance where the Bible has been proven wrong about a place, event, or people group it described. Of course, because the Bible is inerrant, we can be confident that it never will be shown to be wrong about anything.

While the Bible is a historically accurate book, it is more than a history book, and Christianity’s core claims about Christ’s identity as the Son of God and his resurrection from the dead are matters of faith. However, there is a solid basis for that faith; it is not subject to a personal emotional experience.

— Answers in Genesis, Christianity is Objectively True, January 27, 2023

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Short Stories: The Perry County Dump

somerset baptist church 1989

In July 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

In 1985, we bought an old abandoned brick Methodist church building five miles east of Somerset. Built in 1831 and located on the top of Sego Hill, the building had been abandoned years earlier. Purchased for $5,000, the building needed extensive repairs. One of the first things we had to do was haul away truckloads of junk that had been left behind by the Methodists and debris that had accumulated from the years of being left open to the elements.

Being fairly new to the area, I asked one member where the landfill was. He told me, I’ll haul everything to the “Perry County Dump” and it won’t cost anything!” I thought, “great!” Over the next several weeks, this man — who later would drive one of our bus routes — dutifully hauled numerous pickup truck loads of junk to the dump. Finally, the last load was delivered. I thanked the man for hauling everything away, and then moved on to helping another congregant level the floor in the main building.

Later that year, I was tooling down a gravel/dirt road south of the church and came upon a ravine where someone had been illegally dumping junk and refuse. As I looked more closely at the littered ravine, I noticed several items that looked just like the junk hauled from the church. Sure enough, what the man had called the “Perry County Dump” was actually an illegal dumping site. This man didn’t think twice about doing this. It’s what he had always done, and “no one ever said anything,” he told me! Needless to say, I said something, telling him that it was NOT okay to dump junk at the “Perry County Dump”; that in the future anything hauled for the church would have to be taken to the real landfill. The man never understood “why” he couldn’t use the “Perry County Dump,” but he agreed to use the landfill in the future.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Is the Bible Inerrant?

inerrancy

Evangelicals believe that the Protestant Christian Bible is their God’s inspired, inerrant, and infallible words. “Inspired” is a faith claim for which there is no evidence. Either you believe the Bible is inspired by God or you don’t. “Inerrant” and “infallible” are claims, however, that can be investigated by Christians and non-Christians alike. Is the Bible actually without error? Is the Bible really infallible (incapable of error)?

As a student at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s, I was taught the transcription theory. Holy men of old, as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, wrote down, word for word in Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, the words of God. Some professors believed that the inspired writers of the Bible fell into a trance as they put pen to paper, writing down the exact words of God. Other professors and chapel speakers were uncertain as to the actual transmission process. They just knew that the end product was the very words of God.

I was also taught at Midwestern that inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility applied to translations too. Well, actually one translation: the King James Version (either the 1611 edition or the 1769 revision). While there was some behind-the-scenes debate over whether the KJV was “inspired,” there was no debate over whether the KJV was inerrant and infallible.

Peruse the websites of churches pastored by Midwestern grads and you will typically find a sentence that says “_______ Baptist Church only uses the King James Version.” Some churches proudly advertise in their printed materials and on their signs their fealty to the KJV.

Some Midwestern pastors take a different approach. Take First Baptist Church in Milford, Ohio (pastored for many years by my best man, Bill Duttry). Their doctrinal statement states:

We believe in the authority of Scripture. We believe that the Bible is the plenarily and verbally inspired, inerrant, living Word of God. We believe that God has divinely and faithfully preserved His Word for all people today in the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Textus Receptus. We use only the Authorized King James Bible for faith and practice in English.

According to this statement, what is inspired, inerrant, and infallible is the Masoretic text (Old Testament) and the Greek Textus Receptus (New Testament), not the King James Bible. Does that mean that First Baptist of Milford believes the KJV is errant and fallible? No. Note carefully the words “God has divinely and faithfully preserved his Word.” Many Evangelicals believe that God has somehow, some way, over the past 2,000 years preserved his Words in the thousands of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and subsequent translations. Not all translations, of course, just those that were translated from certain manuscripts. Typically, such churches and pastors accept translations based on what is called the Received Text — a family of Greek manuscripts that were used to translate the King James Bible. They reject the Alexandrian (Wescott and Hort) line of manuscripts, believing translations that were translated from these manuscripts are inferior or even Satanic.

inerrancy test

First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, pastored by John MacFarlane, believes:

We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as verbally inspired of God, inerrant in the original writing and of supreme and final authority in faith and life. II Timothy 3:16-17.

We accept only the King James version for public instruction in the church.

First Baptist has an article on its site written by Pastor Michael Bates titled Why Do We Use the KJV?

The English translation issue has caused no small stir among conservatives and evangelicals today.  It is not our desire to be contentious about this issue, but we do desire to preach and teach with clarity.

It is our conviction that the whole translation debate hinges on three basic questions that must be answered in the following order:

1. Has God preserved His inspired Word? In fact, has He even promised to do so?  If God has not promised to preserve His words—and all of them, then all discussions regarding which Hebrew & Aramaic or Greek Text is superior and which translation is best is all academic, at best.

To this question we answer in the strongest affirmative possible.

….

2. If it is preserved, where is it preserved?  Is it preserved in any specific Text or in all the texts or in only the so-called “oldest and best manuscripts?”  One should expect to locate God’s words if they are preserved.

We believe that those texts often referred to as the Traditional Text, known more commonly as the Ben Chayyim Masoretic text of the Old Testament and the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, hold those preserved words.

….

3. Do the Lord’s churches in the English-speaking world have a faithful, accurate translation of that preserved Word that they can call reliable?

The last English translation of the Hebrew and Greek texts listed above was done in the seventeenth century by the translators of what has come to be called the King James Version of the Bible (known also as the Authorized Version), first published in 1611.  Most, if not all, of the modern versions have been translated out of a different Greek text in the New Testament called the Eclectic Text or the Critical Text.  We reject these texts as only containing the Word of God. Furthermore, the Hebrew text underlying these modern versions is different from that used by the KJV.

Therefore, a local church must make a decision guided by the Scripture as to which translation is in fact God’s words in their language based upon its underlying text.  We recognize that God did not breathe out English words, but the inspired words He did breathe out have been accurately and correctly translated into our language in the King James Version.

Once you move beyond King James-only churches, you find Evangelical congregations and pastors who believe certain English translations are faithful and reliable, not inerrant and infallible. These churches and pastors believe that it was the original manuscripts that were inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Of course, the glaring problem with this position is the fact that these manuscripts do not exist. All we have are copies of copies of copies, some of which dates centuries after their recorded events.

A Biblical Archeology Society article titled Dating the Oldest New Testament Christian Manuscripts states:

The New Testament that we read today in many different translations is not based on one single manuscript of the original Greek text. Why? There simply is no such thing as a complete text of the New Testament that we could date to the apostolic times, or even two or three centuries after the last of the apostles. Extant manuscripts containing the entire Christian Bible are the work of medieval monks. The modern scholarly editions of the original Greek text draw on readings from many different ancient manuscripts. As a result, the New Testament presented in any of our Bibles does not correspond to a single, authoritative ancient manuscript.

The oldest surviving examples of the New Testament come to us, instead, as fragments and scraps of papyrus excavated (mostly) in Egypt. How old are the oldest of these biblical fragments, and why does it matter whether they were written in the first or the fourth century?

At best, the extant manuscripts are errant, fallible approximations of the original manuscripts. If the manuscripts are errant and fallible, then the translations made from them are too.

Evangelicals preachers and professors who say the Bible is inerrant and infallible are either uneducated or deliberately misleading people. In my case, I was uneducated. I was thirty years old before I learned that the King James Bible was not inerrant. It would take many more years of study before I concluded that the Bible — both at the translation and manuscript level — contained errors, mistakes, and contradictions. While I still believed the Bible was the Word of God, I came to see and understand its human nature and fallibility.

Most educated Evangelical preachers know the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. Anyone who carefully studies the Bible, both in its original languages and in English — knows that there are textual problems that cannot be explained away. They also know that there are internal conflicts and contradictions that cannot be harmonized. Why, then, do Evangelical preachers not share these things with their flocks? Why do they hide the fallible human nature of the Bible?

the bible rock of gibraltar

Most Evangelical laypeople believe that the Bible they carry to church on Sundays and read during the week is without error. No one has ever told them the truth about the nature and history of the Biblical text. Evangelical preachers pride themselves on being truth-tellers. Why don’t they tell church members the truth about the Bible? One word: fear. They fear that if they did people would lose faith in God, the church, and the Bible. Imagine being called on to account for hiding the truth from their churches. People would leave, offerings would drop, and many preachers would end up looking for new employment. Not wanting turmoil and controversy, pastors, instead, try to maintain the status quo. This, of course, is getting harder to do thanks to the Internet. Evangelicals can easily find articles and books that challenge their beliefs about the Bible. Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books, in particular, have forced countless Evangelicals to rethink what they believe about the history and nature of the Bible. If you have not read any of Ehrman’s books, I encourage you to do so:

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

I am confident that if Evangelicals will openly and honestly read Ehrman’s books, they will be disabused of the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Of course, there will always be Evangelicals who are so closed-minded that there is no hope of reaching them. Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, is a case in point. Thiessen recently wrote a blog post titled The Bible is Inerrant and Infallible:

If one wants to question the Bible, then they are questioning its author. There is no way to separate the two. Many unbelievers will say that science has disproven the Bible many times over. That has never been done.

What the people ignore or miss when making that statement is that there is no one or no thing in history that has appointed science to be an authority over the Bible and its content. Neither God nor Jesus has made that appointment or taught anywhere that the Bible is submissive to science, or any research field.

There are no other supernatural beings that can make that appointment either. Science is subject to the Bible and not its lord. No matter what scientific method you use, especially bible criticism, historical-critical thinking, and so on, these methods do not get to the truth nor are they superior to God and his word.

God does not make mistakes, he does not lie, he does not perform magic, he does not play games, and he does not mislead. What he has written in the Bible is without error and it is accurate and true.

In the book, Dr. Lindsell mentions that some of those who hold to the errancy and fallibility of the bible will also clarify their comments by adding that the Bible is inerrant and infallible when it comes to salvation but it is not when it comes to history and science.

But those people are trying to have their cake and eat it too. of course, they will say the parts about salvation are infallible, etc., because they want to go to heaven and not end up in hell. The Bible is either infallible and inerrant in all of its content or it is not.

There is no middle ground and all Christians have to make a choice here. That argument claiming only salvation is inerrant, etc., is like saying your wife is a little bit pregnant. Either she is or she isn’t. There is no middle ground.

You either believe God or you don’t.

Thiessen is a hardcore Fundamentalist — proudly so. He is certain that his beliefs are 100 percent right. His beliefs are every bit as inspired (by the Holy Spirit), inerrant, and infallible as the Bible itself. I have been reading Thiessen’s writing for several years now. I have yet to see him admit that he was wrong; that he made a mistake. Instead, he spends his time pointing out how wrong other people are — atheists and Christians alike.

There are lots of Thiessen-like preachers in the world; men who are either uneducated or who believe that it is more important to protect sectarian dogma than it is to tell people the truth. Thiessen began his post by mentioning Harold Lindsell’s 1976 book, The Battle for the Bible. Lindsell was an Evangelical author and scholar, one of the founders of Fuller Theological Seminary. Lindsell’s seminal book played an instrumental part in the battle for the soul of the Southern Baptist Convention. I read and re-read The Battle for the Bible several times in the late 1970s and 1980s, not because I doubted the Bible, but because I wanted to know how “liberals” viewed the Bible. At the time, I believed liberals were apostates or false Christians; tools of Satan who were destroying the faith of Evangelicals. I viewed these scholars as enemies of God. What I didn’t do is read their books. I had lots of books in my library that promoted and reinforced the Evangelical view on the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. It would take decades of study — including reading the books of authors I had previously deemed false prophets — before I finally saw the light. The only way to reach Derrick Thiessen and countless other inerrantists is to get them to read books that challenge their sincerely held beliefs. I remember asking Thiessen if he had ever read any of Bart Ehrman’s books. Thiessen tried to intimate that he had “read” Ehrman, but when pressed on the issue, I found out he had read articles and blog posts about Ehrman’s books, not the actual books themselves. Thiessen is hardly alone in this matter. Evangelical preachers are notorious for their opposition to all sorts of things without ever actually doing their homework. They just regurgitate what one of their preacher friends or favorite authors have said in their books or on their blogs.

Nothing in this life is without error, and that includes the Bible. One can still believe in God and be a Christian without an inerrant Bible. Sixteen centuries of followers of Jesus didn’t have an inerrant, infallible Bible. Were they True Christians? Of course, they were. I double-dog dare you to argue that salvation requires the right beliefs about the Bible. Oh, please, make my day by claiming that someone can’t be born again unless they hold to a certain viewpoint about the Bible. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Youth Pastor Adam Lewis Arrested on Child Porn Charges

adam lewis

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Adam Lewis, a youth pastor at Rock Mountain Lakes Baptist Church in McCalla, Alabama, a school teacher, and a wrestling coach, stands accused of possession of child pornography.

AL.com reports:

A Pelham middle school teacher and wrestling coach who also doubled as the youth director of a McCalla church was arrested and jailed Wednesday on child porn charge.

Adam Jeremy Lewis, an eighth grade teacher at Pelham Park Middle School and an assistant coach for the school’s wrestling team, was charged with possessing child pornography. He was released from the Shelby County Jail after posting $15,000 bond, jail records showed.

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Lewis was also youth director at Rock Mountain Lakes Baptist Church in McCalla.

The church said Lewis is no longer working there and that Lewis and his family “need our prayers in a major way.”

“This is a devastating moment for our church family, but I know God is working,” the church said in a message to parishioners on its Facebook page.

Rock Mountain Lakes Baptist released a statement yesterday, asking prayer for Lewis and his family. No mention was made of children portrayed in the alleged pornographic images.

rock mountain lakes baptist church
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Selling Jesus

going steady with jesus

Several years ago, on a cold, wet Ohio winter day, a door-to-door hustler for Erie Construction knocked on our door, asking if we would be interested in receiving a vinyl siding estimate. I said, “sure.” I knew we either had to side or repaint our home, so I thought, here’s my opportunity to get our first estimate.

On the appointed day, two Erie Construction salesmen showed up at 1:20 p.m. for our 1:00 p.m. estimate. STRIKE ONE. Don’t be late. I have plenty of things to do on any given day, and if I set time aside to hear your sales pitch, BE ON TIME!  Neither salesman apologized for being late. I gave them a pass, though it is not uncommon for me to tell tardy salesmen, “sorry, you missed your window of opportunity. Maybe later.” Of course, this usually pisses them off. And I care how much? Not at all. BE ON TIME!

Having spent most of my adult life selling Jesus, I am quite familiar with the techniques used by salesmen to get me to sign on the dotted line. The only difference between selling religion and siding/vacuĂĽm cleaners/automobiles is the product. The goal is the same. Get the customer to buy your product, be it Jesus with an eternal warranty or Erie Construction premium siding with an original owner lifetime warranty.

The salesmen entered our home and sat down at our dining room table. One man carried the props, and the other, the alpha closer, carried a portfolio of “magic” papers with which he would later attempt to WOW us. The alpha closer did ninety-nine percent of the talking. He asked us questions about our backgrounds, family, and employment. It was Sales 101. Get to know the prospective mark. Attempt to befriend them. Use the information given to you to develop a bond. I used this very technique hundreds and hundreds of times as I traveled the highways and hedges of the communities in which I pastored, seeking to sell salvation to people I considered “lost.”

One humorous moment occurred when the salesman asked us what we did for a living. After Polly recited her rĂ©sumĂ©, the salesman turned to me and asked what I did for a living. I gave my typical answer: “I am retired and I own a photography business.” Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, this answer satisfies salesmen and busybodies alike. Not this time. The salesman asked, “Bruce, what did you do before you retired?” Remember, the word “retired” in my vocabulary means “I left the ministry and Christianity.” The word covers up shit I don’t want to talk about to strangers. I paused for a moment, thinking how best to answer the man’s question. I was already irritated by their tardiness, so I thought, how about a bit of snark?  I said, “I was a pastor for twenty-five years. I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.” I then continued, saying, “don’t read anything into that. God and I had a falling out and we are not on speaking terms.”

When salesmen find out I was a pastor, it is common for them to change their behavior. Anything to make a sale, right? As I often do, I made sure I used several swear words during our discussion. This was me saying, “I ain’t one of THOSE preachers, God dammit!” Fortunately, no further questions were asked. Both salesmen asked if they could measure the outside of our home. I said, “sure.” Off they went, returning ten or so minutes later, measurements in hand, ready to present to us the best siding deal on planet earth.

The alpha salesman continued his pitch by telling us the benefits of doing business with a AAA company such as Erie Construction. Evidently, he never thought an old curmudgeon such as I would bother to fact-check his claims. After they were gone, I consulted GOD — the Internet — and found out that Erie Construction was NOT a AAA company. I am sure they have thousands of satisfied customers, but they also have customers who were not satisfied with their work due to missed job start/finish dates, shoddy workmanship, and poor warranty work.

As a seller of Jesus, I too shared with prospects the wonders of the Son of God. Evangelicalism was, in my mind at the time, a AAA company, offering the forgiveness of sin, eternal life after death, and peace, purpose, and direction in this life. Who wouldn’t want to buy what I was selling, right? Most of my evangelizing took place pre-Internet. I didn’t have to worry about negative reviews of Jesus, Evangelicalism, me personally, or the church I was pastoring at the time. I relied on people taking my word for it. Today? Thanks to the world wide web, Evangelicalism has been exposed for what it is: a psychologically harmful con job; a system of belief that robs people of their humanity and their money.

The alpha salesman breathlessly shared with us the wonders of Erie Construction’s premium grade one-hundred percent vinyl siding. He spent significant time dissing his competition and their inferior siding, even though he later admitted Erie sells “inferior” siding too. “Buy cheap siding and it only lasts five to eight years,” he told us. The salesman also discounted the value of repainting our home. Polly and I, along with our younger children, painted it ourselves over two summers — 2007, 2008. I told the salesman that we were thinking about hiring someone to paint our home. Eleven years had passed since we painted our home. The intervening years had been unkind to us physically, so Polly and I painting our home was out of the question.

The salesman sensed that we were weighing “siding versus paint,” so he quickly pulled out his “magic” papers and showed us why painting our home was not cost-effective. His statistics were grossly inflated for the area we lived in. I told him, “look, I am not in good health, so I am not going be around twenty years from now.” The salesman quickly rebuffed my mortality claim, saying, “oh you’ll be around for a long time!” STRIKE TWO. I replied, “no, really, I am on the short side of life.” The salesman wouldn’t hear of it, telling me that I had a long life ahead of me. At this point, I almost said, “Look dude. You need to listen to me. I am not long for this life. If I make it to seventy, I’ll be happy.” I said nothing, deciding that I wanted to get their price for siding our home.

As a salesman for Jesus, I reminded prospects that my Jesus was the one true God, and that the salvation I was selling was the only one to promise true forgiveness of sin and eternal life after death. My “siding” was superior to that which other sects and churches were selling. I often told people, “has anyone else ever cared about you enough to knock on your door and share the Good News® with you?” Of course, I knew it was unlikely anyone but the Mormons or the Jehovah’s Witnesses had ever tried to evangelize them. Those sects were cults. I was representing the white American Jesus and Christianity. No one had a product like mine.

Finally, it came to time for the salesman to close the deal. He started using heavy-handed sales techniques, hoping that he could entice us into biting. His price? $25,000! Keep in mind, we already have new windows, doors, soffits, and gutters, so his estimate was just for the siding. His estimate, astoundingly, did not cover our small outbuilding. He asked us what we thought of the price, and I replied, “that’s a good bit more than we expected. I had thought the estimate would come in closer to $12,000-$15,000.”  “Quality costs,” the salesman told us. He proceeded to use the fact that we drive a new car as a reason why we should have Erie side our home. “It’s evident you value quality in an automobile. Surely, you want the same for your home!” I thought, “yeah and your siding almost costs as much as our car!” (This summer we finally had our house painted. Cost? seventy-five percent less than Erie’s siding estimate.)

The alpha salesman attempted numerous times to get us to sign on the dotted line. Each time, I told him, we are not prepared to make a decision today. Evidently, he was hard of hearing, because no matter how often I said, “not today,” he came back at us with a slightly different angle, hoping we would say “yes.” Somewhere in this process, I said to myself, “STRIKE THREE!” I wasn’t going to do business with Erie regardless of their price. The salesman even tried to appeal to my vanity, saying I could take photos before and after and Erie would pay me to use them on their website. “What,” I thought, “$500?” I said nothing, and the salesman finally intuited that we weren’t going to buy siding from him. His demeanor was that of the air being let out of a balloon. And with that, he and his sidekick packed up their props and exited stage right.

As a seller of the Evangelical Gospel, I pressured people into praying the sinner’s prayer. I warned them of the dangers of delay. “No one knows what might happen tomorrow,” I said. “Do you really want to risk God’s judgment and eternity in Hell?” I would remind them that this might be the only time they had an opportunity to buy God’s miraculous covers-everything siding, uh I mean salvation. Whether from the pulpit or at their front door, I reminded sinners of the urgency of covering up their sinfulness with Jesus’ premium salvation, complete with an eternal warranty. Most people said, “no thanks,” but over the course of twenty-five years, hundreds and hundreds of people said, “yes!”  Some of them found great value in what I was selling. Most converts, however, found out that the “siding” I was selling was not as good as I said it was. The storms of life came their way and often ripped their “siding” away, exposing the fact that Jesus was NOT the “friend who never will leave you” as I promised he was. What they found, instead, was a religion that demanded their fealty and money. Most of them, eventually, said, as we did to Erie Construction, “no, thanks!”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser