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Why It’s Hard for Evangelicals to Change Their Beliefs

goodbye hello

Have you ever wondered why so few Evangelicals walk away from the faith? Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals leave one toxic, harmful church, only to join another pestiferous church that continues the damage and harm of the previous church? Have you ever wondered why, no matter how much evidence skeptics and atheists provide to the contrary, Evangelicals will still hang on to the belief the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God; and that no matter how many Bart Ehrman book recommendations former believers make to them, Evangelicals will still cling to Jesus, the old rugged cross, and the empty tomb?

Nellie Smith, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a former Evangelical, recently wrote about why it is almost impossible to argue Evangelicals out of their faith:

And here’s the thing: it was the dissolution of a world. People who didn’t grow up in the American evangelical bubble often don’t realize what they’re demanding when they ask an evangelical to accept a fact that is contradicted by their church’s interpretation of the Bible. To those bought in—excepting, perhaps, that small demographic of Christians who identify as evangelical and are truly progressive—evangelicalism is not a collection of facts. It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

And, for an evangelical, there are no small doubts: growing up in many evangelical churches means to be told, repeatedly, that the devil will always seek a foothold, and once you give him one you’re well on the road to hell, to losing your faith, to destroying your witness. That’s scary stuff. To begin to doubt evangelicalism is not simply a mental exercise. For many like me, it’s to feel a void opening, the earth dropping out from beneath you. It’s to face the prospect of invalidating your entire existence.

So know this when you talk to an evangelical: in attempting to persuade them to your point of view—even on a topic that seems minor to you—you’re not asking for them to change their mind, you’re asking them to punch a hole in the fabric of their reality, to begin the process of destroying their world. And, as anyone who has had the experience knows, world-destroying is not fun. It is, frankly, terrifying.

That’s not to say that realities can’t change. Mine did. But few individuals can be argued out of an entire worldview. Realities shift when ideas bloom and ideas are slow and patient, creeping in through unguarded portals and establishing themselves without much fanfare. However well-intentioned you are, bludgeoning people with fact after argument after fact will only entrench them in their position and reinforce a perception of being persecuted by the world.

As Smith said, realities can and do change, but change is hard and the older people become the harder it is for them to abandon their faith.

Many of the readers of this blog were once devoted followers of Jesus, members of sin-hating, Bible-believing, soul-saving Evangelical churches. More than a few of you were once pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, Christian college professors, or Christian school teachers, yet there came a time when you renounced your faith and walked away from Jesus and the church. While scores of church-going Evangelicals deconvert in their teens and twenties, by the time people reach their forties and fifties, it is less likely that they will abandon their faith. I have corresponded with numerous unbelievers in their forties and fifties who still attend church every Sunday. In some instances, these unbelievers are still in the ministry. They no longer believe the Christian narrative, yet they give the appearance that they are tight with Jesus. Why do these faux-saints believe one thing, but say another? I know of several Evangelical churches that are currently pastored by unbelievers. How can these men, week after week, lie and pretend?

Years ago, the secular counselor I see told me that someone walking away from not only Christianity, but their life’s vocation, at the age of fifty is almost unheard of. Why is that? What makes it almost impossible for older Evangelicals to make a one-hundred-eighty degree turn and walk out of the church, never to return?

Imagine, for a moment, how much of my life I invested in Evangelical Christianity. Imagine how many thousands of hours I spent in worship, devotion, and service for the Christian God. Imagine spending thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading Christian tomes. Imagine preaching thousands of sermons and leading numerous souls to Christ. Imagine a life consumed by the things of God. For most of my adult life, I tried my best to follow the teaching of Christ and to lead others to do the same. Yet, almost a decade ago, I abandoned everything I held dear and started what essentially amounted to a new life sans Jesus, the church, and the ministry. Why would anyone blow up his life as I did?

I know that my story is an outlier, that most fifty-year-old preachers stay the course until Jesus takes them home to glory. Most older doubting Thomases bury their doubts and motor on, giving the appearance that they are still one of the faithful. Why? Why not proclaim your unbelief far and wide as I did with a letter titled, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners?

Smith, as I and other former Evangelicals do, views Evangelicalism as a self-contained bubble:

It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

Everything makes perfect sense when you are in the bubble. Attacks from the outside are viewed as Satan’s attempt to destroy your faith. I spent almost fifty years in this bubble. My life had design, structure, and order. My calling gave my life purpose and meaning. All of my friends and many family members lived in this bubble too. I was married to a woman who was a lifelong bubble-dweller. Together, we brought six children into the world, and the only life they knew was within the bubble. Life, from a holistic point of view, was grand, exactly as God wanted it to be. And yet, one day, after days, weeks, and months of anguish and heartache, I walked out of the bubble and said, I no longer believe. A short time later, my wife left the bubble too. Over time, our children made their own peace with the past, with each of them going their own way. The good news is that none of them are Evangelicals. The curse has been broken.

In a matter of months, I lost almost everything I held dear: my career, my ministerial connections, and my purpose and direction. Most of all, I lost friendships decades in the making. The losses I suffered were great, and even today I lament all that was lost; not because I want back that which was lost, but because there’s now a huge hole in my life that was once filled by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. At my age, I don’t know if I will ever fill this hole. Perhaps the best I can do is shovel in some backfill and construct a bridge that carries me to the other side.

The next time you find yourself frustrated by an Evangelical who refuses to see the “light,” just remember what you are asking him or her to give up. Consider, for a moment, the great price he (or she) will pay if his doubts or loss of faith are publicized. I know what divorcing Jesus cost me, and I would never say to anyone, follow in my steps. While I am convinced that Christianity cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained, I understand why people hang on despite their doubts or loss of faith. Ask yourself, are you willing to lose everything you hold dear? I know I am fortunate in that my wife deconverted when I did and that my children accepted and embraced my abandonment of Christianity. I have corresponded with numerous ex-Evangelicals who lost their marriages and families when they deconverted. When their spouses were asked to choose between them and Jesus, they chose the latter. I know of children who have abandoned an unbelieving mother or father, choosing instead to follow after Jesus. And the same can be said of children who abandon their family’s faith, only to then find themselves excommunicated from their parents’ homes. Evangelicals love to talk about the high cost of being a Christian, but the same can be said for those of us who were once saved and now we are lost.

How old were you when you left Christianity? Did you find it hard to leave the bubble? If your family is still believers, how is your relationship with them? If you had to do it all over again, would you have still left the faith? Or would you have “played the game,” choosing instead to hang on to family and societal connections? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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: Unnamed Anglican Priest Prayed for Forgiveness as He Raped Teenager

sexual assault

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.

ABC News (Australia) reports that an unnamed Anglican priest has been accused of repeatedly raping a teen girl in the 1980s. While raping the girl, the priest allegedly asked God to forgive him. Here’s an excerpt from the victim’s court testimony:

The court heard the priest told her to pray hard for her dog and stare at the altar, before allegedly pulling her on to his lap.

She told the court he then said: “It’s not like you haven’t done this before” before raping her.

“I thought if I stayed really still it would be over soon. So I stayed really still.”

The court heard the priest muttered “please God forgive me” repeatedly during the alleged sexual assault.

If true, this priest is one sick puppy. I am not familiar with Australian law. Perhaps a reader who lives in Australia can explain why the priest was not named in the news report.

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Masimba Chirayi Accused of Murdering Woman, Thinking She was a Vampire

arrested

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.

Masimba Chirayi, a pastor with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect in Zimbabwe, stands accused of murdering church member Wendy Thinnamay Masuka. Over the weekend, while baptizing Masuka in a nearby river, Chirayi drowned the woman, thinking she was a “vampire possessed by demons.” According to New ZImbabwe, Chirayi thought Masuska was going to kill people, so he held her under water until he overpowered her (Greek for she stopped breathing).

Chirayi’s bail has been set at $50.

Unfamiliar with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect? You can find more information here and here.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Douglas Rivera Pleads Not Guilty on Sexual Assault Charges

pastor douglas rivera

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.

(You can read my previous post about Douglas Rivera here.)

Yesterday, Douglas Rivera, pastor of God’s Gypsy Christian Church in Glendale, California, pleaded not guilty to committing a lewd act against an eleven-year-old Chinese girl.  Rivera insists he is innocent, saying “I did not do nothing wrong. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”  An NBC-4 report states that Rivera exposed himself to two minor girls and inappropriately touched one of them. Video evidence puts Rivera at the scene of the alleged crimes. NBC-4 reports:

Prosecutors say Rivera drove to the Vanllee Hotel and Suites, at 1211 E. Garvey St., and parked his truck in front of a room where two young girls were staying on Feb. 7. Prosecutors allege he exposed himself to the girls before entering the hotel room and inappropriately touching one of them.

The girls had opened the door, believing it was their chaperone, according to police.

Authorities released surveillance video and still shots of the suspect, which they said resulted in numerous calls from people who are part of or associated with God’s Gypsy Christian Church. The callers said they believed the man was Rivera, who subsequently proclaimed his innocence in a video shot before he surrendered on Feb. 11 to Covina police, tearfully asking people to keep him in prayer.

Rivera’s bail has been set at $1.1 million.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Accused of Additional Sex Crimes

acton bowen

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.

(Please read Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Arrested on Child Sex Charges and Black Collar Crime: Why Did Young Boys Need to be Protected from Evangelist Acton Bowen? for further information about Acton Bowen.)

Evangelical Evangelist and youth conference speaker Acton Bowen, an avid supporter of pussy-grabber-in-chief Donald Trump, finds himself, yet again, facing accusations of sex crimes. Bowen is now accused of sexually assaulting four additional minors. ABC reports that Bowen had a three-year sexual relationship with a teen girl. Last week, Bowen’s wife of two years filed for divorce, saying she “fears for her immediate safety from (her husband) and any third parties that may attempt to contact (her husband) as a result of the crimes for which he has been alleged to have committed.” The judge agreed, granting Bowen’s wife a temporary retraining order, giving her sole access to their home.

Bowen’s latest brush with the law finds him accused of sexual abuse, sodomy, and enticing a child. According to ABC-33, Etowah County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Natalie Barton said, when asked if she believed there were more victims, “Absolutely. We do believe that there are more victims out there. Some of them may choose to come forward on their own.”

Bowen and his supporters continue to say that all the allegations are false. What was once a smoldering camp fire is now a blazing wildfire.

No Body Here, Says Business Sign

Polly and I recently traveled to southeast Michigan to visit Sterling State Park and the surrounding area. Here’s a sign I saw on a local business in Monroe, Michigan.

no body here

I am happy to report that there was no body at this business. I do wonder though, should I have called the business and made an appointment to leave a body? My body? Polly’s body? A random body?

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

deerfield united methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield United Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, William Kriechbaum, pastor Facebook

I wanted to go inside to find more information about this Christ who died and rose again for the people of Deerfield United Methodist, but alas the doors were locked. The church wants passersby to know that it supports the United States and it armed forces. Good to know…

light of catholic church deerfield michigan light of catholic church deerfield michigan 3 light of catholic church deerfield michigan 2

Light of Christ Catholic Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Jeffrey Poll, pastor Website

Light of Christ Catholic wants passersby to know that they wish them peace, love, love and happiness at Easter and always. The irony here is the memorial to a dead soldier; an emblem of violence and death, and not peace, love, love and happiness.

deerfield free methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield Free Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Bill Fix, pastor Here’s what the church wants you to know about them:

The beautiful sanctuary of Deerfield Free Methodist Church is shown below. It is even more beautiful in person and I want to invite you to attend. Our campus is located at 572 East River Street in Deerfield, Michigan. We are part of the Southern Michigan Conference of the Free Methodist Church of North America. Our conference is a coalition of churches desiring to advance God’s Kingdom by including people from all walks of life. We invite you to join our church family this Sunday at 10 am. Prior to the church service we have complimentary refreshments in Aunt Bethel’s Cafe located in our Heritage Hal [sic]. Come as you are and enjoy a service that might change your life in a really good way!

I thought Christianity was all about Jesus? Evidently, at Deerfield Free Methodist the star attraction is its beautiful sanctuary, and not Jesus.

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

seventh day adventist church monroe michigan

Monroe Seventh Day Adventist Church, Monroe, Michigan According to the church’s Facebook page, its mission is: To grow as children of God, to nurture a family of God, to prepare others for the Kingdom of God.

Monroe Seventh Day wants passersby to know “its [sic] never to late to begin again.”  As I read this sign, I said to Polly, not if you’re dead.

bible fellowship church monroe michigan

Bible Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jim Walker, pastor  Facebook

hope church of monroe monroe michigan

Hope Church of Monroe, Monroe, Michigan, Gary Braden, pastor Facebook

christ love fellowship church monroe michigan

Christ Love Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan The church’s Facebook page says:

Christ Love Fellowship, a place where we help people build a relationship with God. We don’t place boundaries based on race, denomination, or background.

life bridge church monroe michigan

Life Bridge Church, Monroe, Michigan, Bill Rice, pastor Here’s what Life Bridge’s pastors want you to know about their church:

“A growing community of believers devoted to reaching the unchurched”

Life Bridge Church, located in Taylor, MI, is a young and growing church. Started in December of 2012, as a mobile church plant in Flat Rock, MI, it has been our mission to create a church that is inviting and approachable to people that don’t normally consider going to church. We teach Biblical truths in a relevant and powerful way. We believe these truths make a life-changing difference in your life, our community, and our world.

If you visit one of our services (get directions) this is what you’ll experience:

  • Casual Atmosphere
  • Weekend experiences that last for one hour
  • Friendly people
  • Thought-provoking messages based on the Bible
  • Great worship music
  • Safe & fun teaching for your kids
  • Next steps to help you follow Jesus

ONE HOUR experiences!  The perfect church for people who love NFL football or have short attention spans.

zion evangelical lutheran church monroe michigan

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monroe Michigan, Ross Ulrich, pastor Zion Evangelical is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). According to the church’s website, its mission is:

We follow the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), to make disciples through the Means of Grace God that has entrusted to us.

​To accomplish this purpose we seek to:

  • ​Nurture: by building one another’s faith through regular worship, study and the use of the Word and Sacraments.
  • Reach the Lost: by equipping our members with the knowledge to seek out those who do not know Christ and to carry God’s message to them.
  • Build Relationships:  by providing a variety of opportunities for Christian fellowship and mutual support.

The church also has a preschool and a K-8 school.

true gospel missionary baptist church monroe michigan

True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, John Bullard, pastor

full gospel assembly church monroe michigan

Full Gospel Assembly Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

stewart road church of god monroe michigan

Stewart Road Church of God, Monroe, Michigan, Joseph Byrd, pastor According to its website, Stewart Road is:

We are a Spirit-filled, multi-generational, and multi-cultural church focused on Word-centered teaching.  We are passionate about worship, and committed to discipleship.

Come and experience what it really means to follow Jesus alongside a community committed to Christ.

 

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

All of the churches in this post are Baptist churches located in Monroe, Michigan — a city of 21,000 people. Polly and I have never seen this many Baptist churches in a Northern community this size, especially when you consider that this post does not list all of the Baptist churches in Monroe. Baptists in Monroe have a supermarket full of choices when it comes to theology and practice — everything from Freewill Baptist to Primitive Baptist.

evergreen acres missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Evergreen Acres Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jacob Clawson, pastor.  Facebook

hope missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

monroe primitive baptist church monroe michigan

Monroe Primitive Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Elders Tom and Randy Pitney

faith baptist church monroe michigan

Faith Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Brian Southerland, pastor Website

kentucky park missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Kentucky Park Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Kenny Goins, pastor No Web Presence

first freewill baptist church monroe michigan

First Freewill Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Philip Wylie, pastor No Web Presence

Will There be Any Women in Heaven? Hint, the Answer is No!

philippians-3-20Caution! Snark ahead! You have been warned.

One of the more bizarre beliefs found within the confines of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement is that there will be no women in Heaven. That’s right, ladies, there will be NO females in Heaven. The thinking goes something like this: God, the father is male and Jesus is male. In Heaven, Christians will receive perfect resurrected bodies just like Jesus’. Thus, everyone in Heaven will be a thirty-three-year-old male. This means, of course, that God promotes and supports Transgenderism for women. Time to get your male on, ladies. Prepare now for eternity in Heaven as a m-a-n.

The late Peter Ruckman, a noted IFB preacher and defender of the King James Bible, had this to say about women in Heaven:

This means that every saved woman in the body of Christ is indwelt by a MAN, at least as far as sexual designations are concerned. Someday, the saved woman will be fashioned “LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY” (Philippians 3:21). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)

This would mean that every saved woman in the body of Christ will eventually become a THIRTY-THREE AND ONE-HALF YEAR OLD, SINLESS MALE (Phil. 3:20-21). She would be a perfect replica of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)So up in Heaven, ladies, you are going to be a 33 1/2-year-old male just

like your Saviour. If that seems odd or peculiar or distasteful to you Christian ladies, just remember that you have a man living inside of you (1 Tim. 2:5 cf. Col. 1:27), and that your destiny as a child of God is to be conformed to that man’s image (Romans 8:29). (The Book of Luke: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 636)

Since every Christian in the Body of Christ has a MAN inside him (or her) (Colossians 1:27; John 1:12) and is PREDESTINED to be conformed to the image of that man (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:1-4; Philippians 3:21), there is no question at all about the future state of every Christian in the Body of Christ, except in the minds of Hebrew and Greek professors and the “vast majority of conservative, Bible-rejecting blockheads.” The believer will appear in glory as a 33-year old sinless male. (22 Years of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin Vol. 1 “The AV Holy Bible” page 110)

Moreover, everyone in heaven is a male…The woman is a “womb-man,” a man with a womb.
(The Books of First and Second Corinthians: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 343)

The indication is that the only people who get a glorified body like Jesus Christ are people in the Church Age. The only people who get a 33-year-old sinless [male, see p. 596] body are people saved in the dispensation of grace. All others get their eternal life by partaking of a tree, and they go into eternity male and female, exactly like Adam and Eve were before they fell. (The Book of Revelation: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series page 587)

Is it any wonder then, that in IFB churches who hold such views, women are lorded over by misogynistic men who think God has given them the right, duty, and responsibility to lord over the fairer sex?

My question is whether there will be women in Hell? I wasn’t able to find any IFB preacher taking up this subject, but I did find a few words from their fellow misogynists in Islam. The Islam Question and Answer site says:

Praise be to Allah.

It was narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that women will form the majority of the people of Hell. It was narrated from ‘Imran ibn Husayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I looked into Paradise and I saw that the majority of its people were the poor. And I looked into Hell and I saw that the majority of its people are women.”

(Narrated by al-Bukhari, 3241; Muslim, 2737)

With regard to the reason for this, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked about it and he explained the reason.

It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I was shown Hell and I have never seen anything more terrifying than it. And I saw that the majority of its people are women.” They said, “Why, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Because of their ingratitude (kufr).” It was said, “Are they ungrateful to Allah?” He said, “They are ungrateful to their companions (husbands) and ungrateful for good treatment. If you are kind to one of them for a lifetime then she sees one (undesirable) thing in you, she will say, ‘I have never had anything good from you.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1052)

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to the musalla (prayer place) on the day of Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr. He passed by the women and said, ‘O women! Give charity, for I have seen that you form the majority of the people of Hell.’ They asked, ‘Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?’  He replied, ‘You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religious commitment than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.’ The women asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is deficient in our intelligence and religious commitment?’ He said, ‘Is not the testimony of two women equal to the testimony of one man?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Is it not true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religious commitment.’”

…..

And Allah knows best.

For Fundamentalist Baptist and Muslim women alike, Hell is their religion, and Heaven is getting as far away from it as possible.

No matter what women say or do in IFB churches, they will always be considered second-class citizens; inferior to men because the Bible says that women are weaker than men and more prone to emotional silliness. Women can’t be preachers, teachers of adults, elders, deacons, or political leaders. According to some IFB preachers, women just aren’t suited for such jobs. God wants women to submit to their husbands and pastors, and busy themselves with house-cleaning, cooking, raising children, and working in the church nursery. For these women, their husbands are their bosses, and it’s their duty to submit to them as unto the Lord. Ponder that thought for a moment. How does Jesus want you to submit to him? With love, commitment, and strict obedience. In patriarchal homes there is a strict order: Jesus, pastor, husband, wife, children, and dog. Upsetting this order, according to preachers of complementarianism, brings God’s judgment. No marriage is a good one without it being perfectly aligned with God’s order for the church and home. Or so preachers say, anyway.

Some IFB women endure such treatment for the sake of their children. It is not uncommon to see such women divorce their husbands once their children are out of the house. I suspect other women take the he that endureth to the end shall be saved approach. They willingly suffer being misused and abused, believing that God will reward them in Heaven for their sacrificial obedience.

But what if Peter Ruckman and his fellow misogynists are right; that women will be turned into men once they arrive at the pearly gates? Think about that fact for a moment, ladies! Imagine spending your life putting up with shit from men, only to find out when you get to Heaven that God hates you too and plans to turn you into a thirty-three-year-old man. Isn’t God’s plan wondrous?

My advice to IFB women is this: RUN! Flee the mind-numbing, psychologically damaging preaching of IFB pastors. If need be, tell your IFB husband that he has two choices: FLEE or separation/divorce. Life is too short for women to give it all up to the wants, whims, needs, and desires of religiously motivated men. There’s no Christian Hell or Heaven awaiting, ladies, so now is the time to make for yourselves your own heaven and hell on earth; hell for the men who demean you and heaven for yourself and those value you as people.

I shall wait for God’s anointed ones to show up and object to what I have written here. The BIBLE says ___________, they will say, and in doing so they will prove, yet again, that the Bible can be used to prove almost anything; that Peter Ruckman with his belief that there will be no women in Heaven is just as credible and believable as Christians who suggest otherwise. Evangelical Christianity is, in effect, a paint-by-number board without numbers. Believers can freely use — thanks to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — whatever colors they want to paint their picture. How dare anyone suggest that their particular picture is not a representation of True Christianity®.

My Life as a Street Preacher — Part Three

somerset baptist church mt perry ohio street preaching schedule

My primary focus as a street preacher was to loudly preach the gospel so that passersby could clearly hear me and ponder my words. Doing so, required me to make sure I preached from a spot that used nearby buildings to amplify my voice. Making sure that vehicle noise didn’t drown out my voice was also important. The goal was to be clearly heard one block away from where I was preaching. Some men didn’t have a voice suited for street preaching. My voice, on the other hand, had tonal qualities that allowed it to carry and to be easily heard farther down the street. My mentor, Don Hardman, also had a voice that carried.

Preaching six to eight times a week, over time, took its toll on my voice. I, at one time, had a nice tenor voice. For many years, I led the music in the churches I pastored, and Polly and I would, on occasion, sing special numbers. Our three oldest sons not-so-fondly remember being roped into singing Jesus is Coming Soon with their mom and dad. (These sons later started playing guitar and bass, and became quite proficient musicians.) While I will still belt out this or that tune, my frequent preaching gave my voice a roughness from which I have not recovered to this day.

Publicly standing on a street corner with Bible held high, preaching to passersby, I naturally attracted a lot of attention. Previously, I mentioned my interaction with law enforcement and business owners. I also had opportunities to interact with several news reporters. A reporter for the Newark Advocate wrote a story about my street preaching and my use of Christian school students to hold signs and hand out gospel tracts. As I reflect on the quotes that were in the article from Somerset Baptist Academy students, I find myself thinking these children sounded an awful lot like the children of Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan. My notoriety as a Fundamentalist street preacher and pastor also gave me opportunities to share my views in Zanesville Times Recorder. I wrote frequent letters to the editor, decrying the very sins and behaviors cultural warriors decry today. My letters attracted a lot of attention — so much so that editor of the Times Recorder asked me to write a regular column for the paper’s editorial page.

Of course, not all Christians were thrilled about my street preaching. They thought of my street preaching was vulgar speech, unworthy of the name Christian. More than a few “followers” of Jesus were embarrassed by my preaching. I reminded them that Jesus, Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, and other followers of Jesus were street preachers. Some of the most revered names in American Christianity were street preachers (open-air, public) too: John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, D.L. Moody, and George Whitfield, to name a few. British preachers such as William Booth and Charles Spurgeon were also street preachers. The question then, for me was, why every pastor wasn’t a street preacher? Not one of my colleagues in the ministry joined me on the streets. They preferred the safety and the security of preaching to the choir than the wildness and unpredictability of the streets. Some of these men of God attempted to use the “I’m not called” copout, but I reminded them that Jesus commanded us to take the gospel to the whole world, and staying comfortably inside the four walls of the church, safely evangelizing the few unsaved people who wandered in, was not what Jesus had in mind. Truth be told, I think some of my fellow pastors were embarrassed by my street preaching. One year, I spent an evening preaching to the crowd attending the Bryan Jubilee in Bryan, Ohio. A pastor whom I knew well was also at the Jubilee, but he spent the night pretending he didn’t know me. I thought, at the time, Peter denied Jesus too.

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Jimmy Hood, Charity Rescue Mission, Columbus, Ohio

While my preaching was loud, direct, and filled with Bible verses, I did not attack people or call them names. I preached a simple version of the gospel, reminding people that hell was real, death was sure, and only Jesus saved. Other street preachers were not as respectful as I was. Some men loved calling names and arguing with people. One Saturday, I was preaching near the City Center Mall in Columbus, Ohio with the late Jimmy Hood and a group of men from his church. While we were preaching, several Mormon missionaries engaged some of the men in discussion. Soon, the discussion became heated, with the Baptists vehemently arguing with the Mormons. The missionaries politely excused themselves from the discussion and walked away. The Baptists jeered and shouted repeatedly, there goes the MORONS! Their caustic behavior angered me to such a degree that I told the men who were with me that we were heading for home; that I wasn’t going to be a part of any group that treated others as Jimmy Hood’s men treated the Mormons.

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I briefly was friends Jed Smock, the infamous college campus preacher. Jed had a small church in Columbus, and he asked me to preach for him, which I did. I later observed Jed street preaching, and after doing so I concluded that I wanted nothing to do with him. Jed loved to call names and berate people. On several occasions, Jed got his ass kicked for calling college women whores. Jed and I may have shared a commonality of having been street preachers, but our methodology was very different. Jed’s approach was to attack and warn, whereas I took a friendlier approach, desiring to engage people in thoughtful discussion. Our end goal desire was the same: to evangelize the lost. Jed, along with his fire-breathing wife Cindy, continue to preach at numerous college campuses. Their shtick hasn’t changed. (The Smocks, by the way, believe in sinless perfection. That’s right, they don’t sin. According to them, they haven’t sinned in years.)

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Sometimes, my street sermons led to conversations long after I was finished preaching. Let me conclude this post with a story I think readers will find entertaining.

One spring day, I was preaching on a street corner in downtown Zanesville with Polly and our children. Pulling up to the traffic light near my corner with his window down was a young man I knew from seeing him race dirt track cars at Midway Speedway in Crooksville, Ohio. I knew I had less than two minutes to preach to him, so I quickly tailored my message to the man, reminding him that race car drivers needed Jesus too, and hell awaited them if they did not repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. The man had a shocked look on his face. How does that preacher “know” I am a race car driver? Several weeks later, I ran into him at a car show and he let me know that I had scared the living shit out if him. I chuckled a bit, and then I told him that I was a regular patron of Midway Speedway, and that I had seen him race many times. The man laughed, and then we spent a few minutes talking about racing. I am sure diehard street preachers will say that I should have pressed the man on his need of Christ, but I decided, instead, to be an ordinary, decent human being. By this time, my Calvinistic theology had affected my approach to street preaching and calmed some of the angst I had over humanity needing salvation.

Stay tuned for Part Four.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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: Presbyterian Youth Pastor Andrew Dickson Accused of Sex Crimes

pastor andrew dickson

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.

Andrew Dickson, the youth pastor for Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri, was arrested yesterday and charged with two counts of statutory sodomy.  The Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Dickson admitted fondling and having oral sex with a minor.

Dickson was immediately fired from the church and his name has been scrubbed from the church’s website.  According to an archived copy of Central Presbyterian’s website, Dickson’s official title was director, student ministry.  The church is an Evangelical congregation affiliated with Evangelical Presbyterian Churches.