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Your Questions, Please

i have a question

Greetings, Earthlings.

It’s been three or so years since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would open the call lines and ask you to submit your questions, along with $100 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the world. Reason — praise be to Reason — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking to the ends of the earth. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want is questions; your pithy, erudite questions.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section. I will answer questions in the order they are received. You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

This post will remain pinned to the top of the front page until July 15th, after which time it will disappear into the bowels of this blog never to be seen again

Let the games begin.

Bruce

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Evangelical Professor Dennis Hensley Accused of Sexual Misconduct

dennis hensley

Dennis Hensley, a professor of writing at Taylor University — an Evangelical institution, stands accused of sexual misconduct. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports:

A Taylor University professor with Fort Wayne ties has resigned after multiple “significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct,” according to a statement from the Christian university in Upland.

The statement, posted online Thursday, does not detail the type of misconduct. But a Fort Wayne-area woman told The Journal Gazette she was the victim of an unwanted sexual advance from the professor, Dennis E. Hensley, more than a decade ago as a student.

Hensley taught professional writing at Taylor and is well-known in Christian-writing circles for scores of books and articles. He has been active speaking and teaching at Christian-writing conferences and has an online blog where he offers mentoring.

According to the statement, the university on three occasions received reports of alleged inappropriate conduct between 2004 and this year. Another surfaced this year.

The last three did not involve students or employees and were not related to the 2004 complaint, the statement said.

Hensley, who lives in Fort Wayne, taught at Taylor’s Fort Wayne campus before it closed in 2009. He resigned June 16, the same day he was told he was being suspended indefinitely while the university investigated the most recent complaint, according to Jim Garringer, director of media relations at Taylor.

The university’s statement says the resignation was “unsolicited and unconditional and we accepted it.” Garringer said he could not elaborate.

Reached by phone at home today, Hensley characterized leaving the university as retiring.

“I thought I should just take the high ground and retire, and just call it quits and let this thing die its own death,” Hensley said, noting he will turn 70 next month.

Hensley said the latest allegations arose out of the “Me Too” movement.

In Christian-writing circles, people may hold hands in prayer or hug one another in greeting or worship, he said. Discussions at a conference may have resulted in concerns being raised, he said.

The university statement said on all previous occasions when complaints were raised, Hensley has been “confronted” and “disciplined and cautioned.”

….

Former Taylor student Rachel Custer said she was the student in 2004. She gave The Journal Gazette a copy of an account of the incident she wrote within hours of it occurring. She reported to the dean of students that day, she said.

Custer said she was upset about being sexually assaulted by someone else earlier that day. She said she broke down in an office visit with Hensley, academic adviser for the professional writing program, whom she was consulting about her schedule. He took her hands, she said, and later pulled her into a hug and then kissed her on the lips.

At this point, accounts diverge. Hensley said Custer pulled him into a hug. He did not continue the story.

“I didn’t want any of it to happen,” she said, adding she was shocked. To her, he was a representative of the church, she said. “I thought he was a Christian man and I felt safe and he would never do anything like that.”

A writing conference leader and a Taylor professor approached her this year, and she again provided her information to administrators.

She now is asking if there are others who need support to contact her on Facebook and on Twitter.

“What I would like to see is Taylor taking some institutional responsibility for enabling him,” Custer said. “But that is not my main goal. My main goal is to support others and bring to light that this type of thing does happen in the church and Christian universities, and they have to find a way to deal with it.”

….

Taylor University released the following statement:

While it is Taylor University’s policy generally not to comment on personnel matters, we are making an exception in this instance. Fourteen years ago (2004), a complaint was filed against Dr. Dennis Hensley by a student. Although the investigation at that time yielded conflicting stories, Hensley was disciplined and cautioned. During the next 14 years, two potential conduct concerns came to the university’s attention, neither of which involved students or were related to the 2004 complaint. Hensley was confronted in both of these situations and disciplined.

Recently we were made aware of significant and credible allegations of serious misconduct by Hensley. Although these allegations did not involve Taylor students or employees, we promptly commenced an investigation, which included interviews and statements from those involved, and subsequently informed Hensley that he was suspended with immediate effect while the investigation was ongoing. On the same day that he was notified of his suspension, Hensley offered an unsolicited and unconditional resignation from Taylor University, which we accepted.

As a Christian institution of higher education, guided by biblical principles of truth, justice and grace, Taylor is grieved by any instance of predatory behavior or abuse of power. We hold accountable each member of our community with the expectation they adhere to the highest ethical, behavioral, and moral standards. We are committed to providing an environment of dignity, respect and safety for all members of our community.

Henley is the author of books such as:

  • Encountering Jesus: Modern-Day Stories of His Supernatural Presence and Power
  • Jesus in All Four Seasons: Having Christ as Your Life Coach
  • Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges of Today’s Business World

Hensley says he is taking the high ground; that the accusations against him are the result of the “Me Too” movement; that his physical familiarity with a former student was all about love for a fellow Christian. Sounds to me like Hensley was serious about spreading the love of Christ to young Christian women. What  I want to know is why Hensley “retired” if nothing was amiss. Why do so many of these “innocent” followers of Jesus abruptly resign or retire when facing supposedly false allegations of sexual misconduct?

Questions: Bruce, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Dave asked, As an Evangelical, How Did You Handle the Differences Between the OT and NT God?

The short answer is, I didn’t. As an Evangelical, I viewed God as this monotheistic whole; that the Old Testament characterization of God was one side of his nature, and the New Testament portrayal the other side of his nature. God, unlike humans, was able to love and hate at the same time. He could be the carrot or the stick. God was this perfect balance of emotions, never wrong, always acting according to his purpose, will, and plan. In those moments where I had a hard time reconciling the God of the OT and the God of the NT, I reminded myself that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and God’s way are not my ways. Who was I to object to anything that God did?

Believing the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, of course, boxed me in as to what I could or couldn’t believe. I believed the words of the Bible were straight from the mouth of God. Thus, when God commanded cruel, violent, or genocidal behavior, I had to say, God had his reasons. We have to trust God, believing that he knows what he is doing.

One of reasons I left Christianity is because I could reconcile the OT and NT God. Either they were two different deities, or the Christian God was a loving, kind madman. I knew that Christians deny the former, so I concluded that the God of the Bible was not a divine being I wanted to worship. Over the years, I have dealt with liberal Christians who only see God as a God of love, mercy, and kindness. They love the NT God, but even here is God really all that loving and kind?  I concluded that he is not.

In the NT, we have the violent death of Jesus on the cross. According to Evangelicals, God, the Father poured out his wrath on Jesus, his Son, to satisfy a longstanding debt: human sin. Everything that happened to Jesus came from his Father’s hand. What kind of father treats his son this way? What kind of father punishes his son for what someone else did? God, the Father, then, comes off looking like a serial killer who loves to inflict pain and suffering on his victims before he kills them.

We also have the book of Revelation. Evangelicals believe Revelation is a record of past history and future events. Someday soon, Evangelicals say, Jesus and his Father are going to unleash a house of horrors upon the Earth such as never has been seen. The earth will be destroyed and billions of people will die, including little children, unborn fetuses, and the developmentally disabled. The bloodshed, according to the Bible, will be so great that blood will flow through the streets the height of a horse’s bridle.

Once God is finished with the earth and its inhabitants, he will resurrect everyone who ever lived on our planet and divide them into two groups: saved and lost. The saved will live forever in God’s kingdom on a new earth. The lost will be fitted with bodies capable of enduring endless suffering and pain, and then cast into the Lake of Fire. Most of the people in the Lake of Fire will be there because of geography — living in places where people worshiped the wrong deity.

It seems to me, then, that the Christian God has always being capricious and violent; that he has always resorted to bloodshed to prove a point or get his way; that the OT and NT Gods are really one being with a split-personality disorder. What the Christian God needs is psychiatric help.

What Christians need to do is write a new Bible, excising the genocidal God from the story. Evangelicals, of course, would never approve of a rewrite. They need the violent God to justify the culture war and their belief that that they are the gleam in their Father’s eye. Imagine all the smug, self-righteous Evangelicals on Judgment Day. They want God to make non-Evangelicals pay for their unbelief. Open a can of whoop ass, Lord, and give it these filthy, reprobate sinners. They deserve an eternity of pain and suffering for not believing in the right God and not living by book, chapter, and verse. Pour it on, Lord. You are worthy!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Songs of Sacrilege: Amen by Halestorm

halestorm

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege: Amen by Halestorm.

Video Link

Lyrics

Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu
Can I get a
Uh hu

A fire’s gotta burn
The world is gonna turn
A rain has gotta fall
Fate is gonna call
But I just keep on breathing
Long as my heart is beating

Someone’s gotta hate
It’s never gonna change
Gets harder everyday
This is one hell of a place
Keep your heart from freezing
To keep yourself believing

But I won’t run
I’m not afraid
I’ll look em in the eye
Gonna hear me say
It’s…

My life
My love
My sex
My drug
My lust
My god it ain’t no sin
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
My grace
My church
My pain
My tears
My hurt
My god, I’ll say it again
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Life has gotta kill
Faith is gonna blind
Hope is gonna fade
The truth is gonna lie
Sometimes there’s no reason
To justify the meaning

But I won’t run
I’m not ashamed
It’s gonna take more than this for me to break

My life
My love
My sex
My drug
My lust
My god it ain’t no sin
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
My grace
My church
My pain
My tears
My hurt
My god, I’ll say it again
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?
Can I get it?
Can I get an Amen?

Songs of Sacrilege: No Rest For the Wicked by Cage the Elephant

cage the elephantThis is the one hundred seventy-ninth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege: No Rest For the Wicked by Cage the Elephant.

Video Link

Lyrics

I was walking down the street when out the corner of my eye
I saw a pretty little thing approaching me
She said, “I never seen a man, who looks so all alone
Oh, could you use a little company?
If you pay the right price, your evening will be nice
And you can go and send me on my way.”
I said, “You’re such a sweet young thing, why you do this to yourself?”
She looked at me and this is what she said:

[Chorus]
“Oh there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free
Oh no, I can’t slow down, I can’t hold back
Though you know, I wish I could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good”

Not even 15 minutes later I’m still walking down the street
When I saw the shadow of a man creep out out of sight
And then he swept up from behind, he put a gun up to my head
He made it clear he wasn’t looking for a fight
He said, “Give me all you’ve got, I want your money, not your life
But if you try to make a move I won’t think twice.”
I told him, “You can have my cash, but first you know I gotta ask:
What made you want to live this kind of life?”
He said:

“There ain’t no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free
Oh no, I can’t slow down, I can’t hold back
Though you know, I wish I could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good”

Well now a couple hours past and I was sitting in my house
The day was winding down and coming to an end
And so I turned on the TV and flipped it over to the news
And what I saw I almost couldn’t comprehend
I saw a preacher man in cuffs, he’d taken money from the church
He’d stuffed his bank account with righteous dollar bills
But even still I can’t say much because I know we’re all the same
Oh yes, we all seek out to satisfy those thrills

You know there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Money don’t grow on trees
We got bills to pay, we got mouths to feed
There ain’t nothing in this world for free
Oh no we can’t slow down, we can’t hold back
Though you know we wish we could
Oh no there ain’t no rest for the wicked
Until we close our eyes for good

A Flat Tire and the Existence of God

existence of god

While attending our family’s Fourth of July picnic, son number three — a certified mechanic — noticed that one of our car tires had a nail in its sidewall. IN THE SIDEWALL? Yes, in the sidewall. Not right at where the sidewall meets the tread either. This nail was embedded halfway between the tread and rim. I spent more time than I should have pondering how a nail ended up in the tire’s sidewall. On the tread? Sure. But, the sidewall? I concluded that it was likely someone vandalized the tire. I texted my son, thanking him for getting a new tire for us and telling him that I believed someone vandalized the tire. He replied:

No problem. I do what I can do when I can do it.  Yeah, seems a li’l fishy to me. I mean it’s possible, but highly unlikely LOL.

I replied, that’s what I say about God “Yeah, seems a li’l fishy to me. I mean it’s possible, but highly unlikely LOL.”

Black Collar Crime: Dominoes Continue to Fall Over Andy Savage Scandal

andy savageThe 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.

Earlier this year, Andy Savage, a pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, Tennessee admitted to the church that he had sexually assaulted a teen girl years ago at Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. Savage called the assault a “sexual incident.” Afterward, the Highpoint congregation gave Savage an ovation for being so open and honest — feel free to puke. And with that, Savage continued to work for Highpoint Church. Sin confessed, onward, upward Buzz Savage. Highpoint, by the way, knew of the sexual assault before hiring Savage. What’s a little sexual assault among friends, right?

Several weeks later, after outrage over Savage’s tone-deafness and lack of true repentance and sorrow, Savage resigned. Jules Woodson, the woman Savage sexually assaulted years ago, reported the assault to pastor Larry Cotton, then pastor of Woodlands Parkway Baptist. Cotton, as Evangelicals are wont to do, did nothing. In February, Cotton, now pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas, resigned, admitting that he should have reported Savage’s misconduct to law enforcement authorities. Savage will not be prosecuted for his alleged crimes due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Today, another domino fell in the Andy Savage scandal. Chris Conlee, the lead pastor and founder of Highpoint has resigned, saying that it was time for him to pass the baton to someone else.You can read Highpoint’s board’s statement: here. Again, prepare to puke. No mention is made of the Savage scandal.  Instead, the church plans to give Conlee a grand send-off, thanking him for all he has done for Highpoint.

The Andy Savage scandal is sickening from start to finish. No one, I repeat NO ONE, acted on behalf of the victim. Instead, what we see is cover-your-ass moves and attempts to move on without honestly and fully dealing with Savage’s criminal behavior. And here’s the thing: all of these “men of God” will land somewhere on their feet, ready and willing to WOW new churches. And the beat goes on, one victim at a time.

Questions: Bruce, What Are Your Views on Objective Morality?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Geoff asked, What are your views on objective morality?

The question asked by Geoff is complex and filled with nuance. Anytime I have addressed morality in the past, my writing has elicited all sorts of comments from atheists and Fundamentalists alike. It seems few people like or appreciate my worldview and my understanding of morality. As a Christian, I believed that the issue of morality was settled for me: God hath spoken. Shut the hell up and do what he commands! As a dutiful follower of Jesus, I attempted to follow not only the teachings of the Bible, but the direction of Holy Spirit who lived inside of me (or so I thought at the time).  Once I deconverted, I had to rethink my worldview. What was it I believed about morality in general? What was I it I believed about specific moral statements and standards? My understanding of morality has evolved over the past decade. I am, in no way, a finished product. I still have many questions about morality, and it is impossible to fully answer them in a blog post.

I readily admit that Christianity has deeply affected my understanding of morality. I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. As a result, Evangelical morality has seeped deeply into the dark recesses of my mind. While I try to distance myself from my past, its effects linger. Thus, there are times my moral views line up with those of Christians. This doesn’t mean, then, that I am a Christian. My views also, on occasion, line up with Buddhism and other religions. All this tells me is that religions have, in the past, played a big part in the evolution of human morality.

When someone asks me whether I believe in objective morality, what I hear them asking is whether I believe there are moral standards or moral absolutes. In the strictest sense, my answer is no. Morality is always subjective. Now that doesn’t mean countries, states, and tribes can’t have absolute moral standards. They can and do. All I ask is that believers in objective morality admit that their absolutes have changed over time, and that, in fact, the changing nature of their absolutes suggests that their morality is actually subjective. For example, there is a push in the United States to make eighteen the minimum age for marriage. This law, if passed, would be considered an objective moral standard. However, in the past, people were permitted to marry as young as age thirteen, and in some countries, children are betrothed to one another when they are still primary school age. If there’s such a thing as objective morality, then shouldn’t the age for marriage have been fixed from day one? That it hasn’t been shows the subjectivity of moral beliefs.

Morality is affected by tribal, cultural, and sociological influences. This means that all morality changes with time, including absolute, never-changing, God-said-it, it’s-in-the-Bible Evangelical morality. Evangelicals now do things that were considered sins — violations of objective morality — fifty years ago. Even Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) morality continues to change and evolve. Only those who are deliberately blind, people with fingers in their ears who say, nah, nah, nah, I can’t HEAR you, fail to see that morality is inherently subjective.

All of us belong to certain countries and tribes. As a U.S. citizen, I live in a country that supposedly values the rule of law. I say supposedly because Donald Trump’s abhorrent behavior and his penchant for ignoring the rule of law makes me question whether we indeed are still such people. Fascism is on the rise, and when it comes in full force it brings law by force, instead of WE THE PEOPLE deciding the laws that will govern us. For now, we are still a nation governed by laws shaped and enacted by legislators elected by voting Americans. These laws establish what we as a people believe is moral. These laws, over time, change. For example, at one time it was illegal to have an abortion; then in 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court legalized most abortions. Today, with the prospect of a right-wing Catholic being added to the Supreme Court, it is possible that laws regulating abortion will change, and women will be forced to revert to the days of coat-hanger, back alley abortions. The same can be said for much of the progress made on social and church/state issues over the past six decades. This ebb and flow shows that morality is subjective.

Theocrats, of course, despise the give and take of the legal process in democratic countries. They want a dictatorship, with the Christian (or Muslim) Holy book as the objective standard for morality. Theocrats demand that laws reflect their Fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible (or Koran). In their minds, their interpretations are one and the same with God’s will and commands. But, even for theocrats, their interpretations change over time, thus proving, once again, that morality is subjective.

Not only do governments establish moral norms, so do the tribes to which each of us belong. Whether at the group or family level, certain moral standards govern behavior. Now, keep in mind I am using the word moral in as broad of a way as possible. Divorce your mind from the religious constructs you have been taught, and see morality as the rules/laws/precepts by which we govern behavior. I suspect your family has certain moral standards, and those standards may or may not be different from mine. For example, I have lost readers over my refusal to stop using curse words in my writing. In their tribes, cursing is verboten or is considered in poor taste. In my tribe, it is okay to curse, except when young children are present or Polly’s IFB parents are visiting (though there have been times when a few damns, shits, and assholes have slipped out). When it is only adults in the room? Cursing is permitted, and be prepared to be schooled in sexual innuendo. Were the readers who demanded that I sanitize my writing “wrong”? Who determines what words are appropriate and what words are not? It should be clear to everyone that the words writers choose to use are subjective. Each tribe to its own.

My children are known for having what is called the Gerencser work ethic. This ethic was taught to them by their parents. Work hard. Eight hours pay for eight hours work. Do your best. Do it right the first time. Never accept good enough as a standard for acceptance. The reasons for these maxims are many, but regardless of how they came to be, they are deeply ingrained into the psyche of my adult children. My oldest son has taken one personal day at work in twenty years. His mom has taken zero. My younger children are not as zealous as their older siblings, but they still are known for being no-nonsense hard workers. This tribal ethos often brings them into conflict with other employees who have different work standards. For example, one son works in a department where the majority of the workers have already used half or more of their personal days. My wife supervises people who are already out of personal days with six months to go before they accrue new days. Years ago, my two oldest sons were asked by their fellow employees to slow down. Why? They were making less industrious employees look bad. My sons ignored their critics, choosing instead to follow the Gerencser work ethic (an ethic that can be found in many families, by the way). Both now hold management positions with their respective employers, as do their younger brother and mother. Does this make the Gerencsers better than other people? Depends on how “better” is defined, I suppose. All I know is that this very subjective work ethic is deeply embedded in my tribe. We behave this way because that what we have been taught to do.

Each of us also has personal moral standards; certain things we will and won’t do. I don’t expect other people to live by my moral standards. These rules of behavior — ever-changing — help me navigate the road of life. As a humanist, I look to the humanist ideal to provide moral guidance. This ideal, crafted by men and women, is inherently subjective, but it does address and support my worldview. I have no problem with Evangelicals wanting to live by their personal interpretations of the Bible. Go with God, I say. It is when Evangelicals demand that others live by their interpretations I have a problem.

As a post-Evangelical, I have been forced to reexamine my morality and worldview. For example, I am a pacifist. More specifically, I am proponent of non-violent resistance. Sounds like a moral absolute, right? I would like it to be, but the world is too messy for it be so; too gray, too challenging for me to say that I am, without reservation, a pacifist. Generally, I oppose violence, yet I love and support American football — organized violence. I wouldn’t take up arms to defend the United States, but I would defend my family against attack and harm. I face this same struggle with most moral issues. It’s too easy to write Ten Commandments and say obey. I choose, instead, to think about each issue, and then come to a reasoned conclusion.

Most people agree that we should avoid harming others. I think that’s a good place to start. But, even here, it is impossible to ever live a life that does not, at some point, harm others. Take vegans. They don’t eat meat for moral reasons. They don’t want to cause animals pain and suffering. Yet, providing vegans a non-animal diet still causes pain, suffering, and death. Earthworms, insects, and other animals die so farmers can provided vegans with yummy (I am being sarcastic here) soybeans. The goal, then, should be to promote the greatest good while at the same time causing the least harm.  We can then build on this foundation, asking “what is the best way for humans to govern themselves and live lives of love, peace, and harmony — pass me a joint, bro.”

Human morality is inherently subjective; a work in progress; a work that will never be completed; a work that will hopefully lead to a kinder, gentler tomorrow; a work that places great value on justice and kindness. Nirvana, it will never be, but we can have a better tomorrow if we want it badly enough. Unfortunately, internecine warfare between countries and tribes leaves me wondering if human progress is but an illusion, a pipe dream. Perhaps it is, but I see no other option than to work towards a better future for my progeny. This work requires of us hard discussions and debates about morality. Holy books or trade paperbacks are not the answer. We the people remain the captains of our ships, the masters of our destinies. God’s not coming to save us.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, Did Your High School Teach Evolution?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

ObstacleChick asked, “was evolution taught in the high school you attended?”

I actually attended four high schools in the 1970s:

I took biology in tenth grade. All that I remember about biology class at Rincon High was the labs; specifically dissecting a frog. Biology class at Findlay High dealt with the basics of biology, including evolution.

I was quite the Fundamentalist Baptist during my years at Findlay High School. I remember writing an English paper on the subject, Why I’m a Baptist. I received an A on the paper. My teacher’s only comment was the word interesting, written in red and underlined. In biology class, I was a royal pain in the ass, frequently injecting Biblical young-earth creationism into class discussions. When it came time to take tests, I would give the correct answers to the questions and then write what the Bible had to say on the matter. Here I was, sixteen years old, and my mind had already been ruined by Fundamentalism. As a result, the science I learned in public school didn’t stick. I was an unabashed, full-fledged, Bible-thumping, young-earth creationist. In my mind, every question could be answered with, the BIBLE says ______________.

As a pastor, on several occasions, I went after public school science teachers for teaching Darwinian evolution. When I got wind of church teens being taught evolution, I would march down to the local school and demand their religious beliefs be accommodated and respected. Usually, it was church parents, not students themselves, asking me to do something about evolution being taught. Teachers, not wanting conflict with a local preacher, accommodated my demands, often giving Christian students alternative work to do. In retrospect, I am sure the teens who attended my church were thoroughly embarrassed by being singled out.

In 1989, I started a private school for the children of the families who attended Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Creation science was taught in every grade. Evolution was only mentioned in passing, more of warning that its teachings were Satanic and contrary to the Word of God.

It was not until my post-Jesus days that I began to seriously study science. While I know a lot more than I did a decade ago, I am still, in every way, an ill-educated novice when it comes to the various scientific disciplines. I must, then, rely on experts to give me answers about this or that matter of science.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor John Finley Resigns After Old Sexual Misconduct Complaints Come to Light

pastor john finley

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.

The Bible says, be sure your sin will find you out. That’s certainly true for John Finley, pastor of Bartlett Hills Baptist Church in Bartlett, Tennessee. Thirty-seven years ago, while youth pastor at Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, Finley allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with at least two church teenagers — one fifteen and one seventeen.  In April, Finley resigned from the church, saying:

I made some poor choices and was involved with two females in inappropriate behavior. There was no sex. Both ladies were over 18. In the best interest of our church, I choose to resign immediately.

“Both ladies were over eighteen, ” Finley said, but the girls in question suggest otherwise.

The Star Telegram reports:

They were ages 15 and 17, they said, when the alleged abuse began at a Southern Baptist church in Fort Worth. It was true he hadn’t had sex with them, but he’d done more than kiss them, they said. He touched one’s breasts and put the other’s hand on his naked erection, they said.

The alleged abuse began 37 years ago at Travis Avenue Baptist Church, where Finley served as the youth minister for five years. Travis Avenue is well known in the Southern Baptist community, with strong ties to Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One of the women said she never told anyone about the abuse until college. The other tried once, telling a youth worker at the church. A rumor even reached a deacon. Still, Finley stayed at the church.

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It took 15 years’ worth of attempts to reach out to Bartlett Hills to get Finley to resign, according to the women and their advocates. Bartlett Hills leaders maintain that the two women were adults when the incidents took place.

Finley’s wife, Donna, told the Star-Telegram there had been no more than kissing and that both women were adults. She said her husband would not comment and provided the name of his lawyer, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

If you take the time to read the feature story about the allegations against Finely (written by Sarah Smith), you will learn that numerous church officials, pastors, and denominational leaders knew of Finley’s transgressions. Some of them did nothing, while others tried to draw attention to Finley’s inappropriate behavior. Both women have filed reports with the Fort Worth Police Department. I suspect that the age of the alleged crimes will preclude criminal prosecution.

Recently, Finley’s wife, Donna, said:

I can tell you for certain it was no more than kissing. She should be over this. She cannot live her life trying to destroy my husband.

Spoken like a true Southern Baptist. Jesus forgives and so should you. After all, he didn’t fuck you, so how bad could it have been for you? Time to move on! And that is exactly what the victims are trying to do; but in doing so, they want to hold Finley accountable for his behavior; behavior that likely includes other women who have not yet dared to speak of that which was done to them in secret.

Evangelical Pastor Dean Curry Faces More Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor dean curry

If you have not read my previous post on Dean Curry, please do so.

The News Tribune reports that Dean Curry, the former pastor of Life Center Assembly of God in Tacoma, Washington, is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct. Additionally the News Tribune story says that a former church board member, Julee Dilley, has filed formal complaints against Curry with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the state Human Rights Commission.

Dilly’s complaint details three incidents involving three female church members:

  •  An ongoing relationship with a married church member that turned physical.
  • An incident involving another married church member being visited by Curry late at night, discovered by the woman’s husband.
  • A female administrative employee who spoke of uncomfortable conversations with Curry that included comments on her appearance and discussions of his intimate relations with his wife.

Curry, of course, indignantly and with all the self-righteousness of Jesus cleansing the temple, denies these recent allegations. Curry stated:

More outrageous false accusations. Saddened to see some are opportunistically trying to hinder the forward work of the ministry. I categorically deny all of it.

One, two, three, six. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Nones, Dones, and Atheists

what is a none

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Recently, I have read blog post comments by people who describe themselves as former atheists who later turned to religion. Their description of the term “atheist” differs from what I think of when I use the term. Dictionary.com describes an atheist as “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” So as to not employ the “No True Scotsman” fallacy with regard to people who purport to be atheists-turned-religionists, I thought it would be a good idea to research the similarities and differences among people who are “nones,” “dones,” and atheists. What I found helped me to understand these demographics a bit better.

“Nones” is the name given by pollsters to represent the growing number of people who report that they do not identify with any particular religion; people who are indifferent towards organized religion. This seems to be a broad category that consists of a variety of different groups. Some people identifying as “nones” were not raised in religion, or had limited exposure to religion, and thus do not identify strongly enough with any one religion to don a religious label. Other “nones” used to be active in a religion, but are no longer affiliated with any particular sect or congregation. Some of those who are no longer affiliated with a particular congregation consider themselves to be “spiritual, but not religious” while others say they do not believe in the supernatural. There are some “nones” like my brother, who refuses to be part of a church congregation but who is very devout, choosing to follow wherever he believes “the Holy Spirit” or some other deity leads him. (Honestly, I am not sure if my brother would identify as a “none.” It would depend on the wording of the question, as he refers to himself as “a follower of Christ.”) Agnostics and atheists are “nones” by nature, as they do not identify with a religion. While agnostics and atheists characterize themselves as “nones,” not all “nones” may be characterized as agnostics or atheists. As you can see, the moniker “nones” encompasses a variety of people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs regarding the supernatural or deities.

The “dones” are people who were once very involved in a religion but who have chosen to walk away. They are often referred to as being “unchurched” or “dechurched.” While many (like my brother) retain their faith, they no longer attend traditional religious services. Some “dones” are a subset of the “nones” to the degree that they do not consider themselves members of a congregation, but they may still identify with a religion to the extent that they did not lose their faith. As I am an atheist and my brother is a devout though unchurched Christian, I consider us to be polar opposites in the “done” category.

Not to be forgotten are agnostics and atheists. Agnostics and atheists would fall into the category of “nones” in that they do not express affiliation with a particular religion. Some agnostics and atheists may be atheists by default, having not been raised in a religious household — my kids fall into this category. My kids can offer reasons why they do not believe in a deity or deities, but they do not feel strongly either positively or negatively toward any religion. Some default agnostics and atheists may not possess strong reasons why they do not believe in deities other than the fact that they were not indoctrinated into believing in the supernatural; other agnostics and atheists not raised in a religion may have strong arguments as to why they are atheists. Some agnostics and atheists were raised in a religious household, and we became “dones” to the extent that we are finished with religion and then took it a step further by ceasing to believe in deities. Those of us who are “nones,” “dones,” and agnostics or atheists have often studies a great deal about our former religion’s claims as well as history, archaeology, biology, mythology, and so forth. We seek evidence that either supports or does not support religious claims, and we can generally give reasons to support our claims that deities do not or are likely not to exist. Some of us who are “nones,” “dones,” and agnostics or atheists feel strongly that certain sects of religion are harmful to members and to those that members themselves persecute outside their religion.

Do you consider yourself to be a “none”, a “done”, an agnostic or atheist, or perhaps some combination?

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander Advocates Making Children Fearful by Beating Them

There is a huge mistake going on among many parents today. They don’t want to say “no” to their children. They don’t want to correct them. They don’t want to discipline them or use the rod on their bottoms for disobedience. They don’t want to link sin and pain together. They want to be their children’s friend instead of their parent. They want their children to have “freedom of expression.” This is not raising children in wisdom; for God’s Word tells us to raise our children opposite of this foolish way.

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We are still allowed to use a “rod” on children anywhere in America as long as it does not physically injure the child. I pray this never changes since this is biblical! Spanking must bring short-term pain to a child in order to accomplish long-term gain.

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I have personally witnessed parents who do not spank and discipline their children. Their children grow up to have little to no self-control and live a life of destruction. They don’t fear sin because they weren’t taught to fear it as a child. Most of them have grown old with many regrets.Yes, it’s usually the mother who doesn’t want to “harm” the child because women are more sensitive and emotional. I have also seen women interfere with their husbands’ discipline of the children and this is devastating for the children’s future. We must never be led by our feelings or emotions but live by the truth of God’s Word. The Lord knows that children need a rod when they misbehave because He knows the seriousness and the destructiveness of sin. The sooner parents nip this in the bud, the better for all.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Making Raising Children a Delight, July 6, 2018