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Gossip: The Things Preachers Say Behind Closed Doors

men gossip

Recently, Southern Baptist pastor Rick Patrick faced public outrage over comments he made in a private forum about women, sexual assault, and the #metoo movement. His words made it out into the wild, and Patrick was forced to apologize several times for his offensive statements. I am sure that Patrick thought his words would be protected, but as President Trump has learned, offensive words said in private often make their way to the Internet. Such is the nature of the digital age.

Evangelical pastors are noted for preaching sermons against gossip and crude speech. Growing up in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, I heard numerous sermons about gossip, off-color humor, swearing, and even the use of bywords. (See Christian Swear Words.) My pastors told me that Jesus heard everything I said, and that come judgment day, he would hold me accountable for my words. What these men of God didn’t tell me is that when they were behind closed doors with their colleagues in the ministry, they routinely failed to practice what they preached.

Years ago, I was a participant on a Reformed Baptist discussion group. The group was private and had pastors and elders in its membership. It was common for group members to talk — Greek for gossip — about problems in their churches or the difficulties they were having particular members. We talked about and said things that would have proved to be embarrassing had they been made public. This group, at that time, was the Reformed Baptist version of the Catholic confessional. What was said was considered sacrosanct.

One day, as I was searching the Internet, I came across the “private” discussions from the group. Evidently, a programming mistake had made the group’s posts public instead of private. Horrified, I immediately notified the group administrators, and they fixed the technical problem. I thought, at the time, if church members and non-group clerics ever saw what we said, why, there would be all sorts of outrage and calls for discipline. Fortunately, my find saved the group’s collective bacon.

I was a pastor for twenty-five years. During my teenage years and my years in the ministry, I attended numerous pastor’s fellowship and conferences. These events allowed men of God to hang out with their own kind, giving them opportunities to talk shop and air their grievances. Most of these events featured a meal, either at lunch or before the evening session. It was during these meals that pastors would gather in smaller groups and “talk.” I have heard and shared countless stories about church problems. The gathered pastors where expected to commiserate with gossipers, and, if warranted, offer advice.

Thanks to being in the ministry for so long, I had a lot of preacher friends, including a few men I considered BFF’s. I would often visit my friends at their church offices or we would arrange to meet somewhere for a meal. Without fail, our conversations would turn to this or that problem, this or that contrary member, or one of the never-ending problems facing IFB and Evangelical churches. These discussions were often chock-full of information disclosed in private counseling sessions by church members or things overheard on the grapevine. The thinking was that sharing private information with colleagues in the ministry was okay. Who’s going to know, right?

Of course, I would know, and when I would later be asked to preach at the churches of my friends, I would have thoughts of what they shared with me over lunch or at one of our fellowship/prayer times. One pastor friend kept a dossier on every church member he talked to. He had become the pastor of a church filled with conflict and strife. The previous pastor had been accused of sexual assault (he later left the church and pastored elsewhere) and his wife had been accused of dressing seductively. The deacons ran the pastor off, and in came my friend. As is often the case when young, inexperienced pastors — it was his first and only pastorate — take on troubled churches, they become sacrificial lambs. There was so much lying and deception going on that my friend decided to write reports of every conversation he had with church members. Much like James Comey did with his discussions with President Trump, my pastor friend kept intricate records of every conversation. He would share some of these conversation with me. This, of course, colored my view of these people. I knew many of them by name, so when I was in the presence of such-and-such person, I thought of what my friend had told me about them.

Another pastor told me about a conversation he had with an engaged couple. They wanted to know if having anal sex was a sin. They wanted to “save” themselves for marriage, so they thought having backdoor sex would be okay. No hymen was broken, so the woman would still be a “virgin” when she walked down the aisle. My pastor friend told them that they had to stop what they were doing; that anal sex was indeed a sin against God. My problem, of course, was every time I saw this couple (they never married) I thought of them having anal sex.

I could spend hours giving anecdotal stories about private things I heard and said when I was in the safe circle of my ministerial colleagues. Some of these men would come and preach for me, so I am sure they had the same thoughts I did. Oh, there’s the couple Bruce said hasn’t had sex in five years. Oh, there’s the man who confessed to having secret homosexual desires. Oh, there’s the teenager who got caught getting drunk and having sex in a motel room.

Christian church members should be aware of this fact: most pastors are gossips; most pastors are going to talk out of school; most pastors think sharing secrets with colleagues is all part of effectively “ministering” to others. Unlike professional counselors, pastors are not prohibited from repeating what was said behind closed doors. Many readers of this blog have likely heard sermons that made use of what was said to their pastors in private. Their pastor might not name names, but there’s no doubt about who’s the subject of his sermon/illustration. IFB preachers, in particular, are noted for preaching passive-aggressive sermons using information spoken to them in private. Smart, attentive congregants know when the pastor in his sermon is talking to or about them. Going through a tough time in your marriage and pondering divorce, and you talked to your pastor about your feelings? If, on the next Sunday, he preaches a thundering sermon on the sin of D-I-V-O-R-C-E, who do you think he is talking to? Pastors often use their pulpits as whipping posts, attacking rumors, allegations, and private conversations. In the pastor’s mind, God is “leading” him to share the truth. In fact, he is a gossip or rumormonger sharing things said in private.

I hope you will keep what I have written here in mind the next time you think about unburdening yourself to your pastor. Your troubles may be gossiped about, talked about among his ministerial colleagues, or turned into sermon illustrations come Sunday. While not all pastors have loose lips, many of them do, and since there is nothing that prohibits them from “sharing,” people should weigh carefully what they say to a pastor, understanding that he may not protect their privacy or he may consider shooting the breeze with his pastor friends as a safe way to share secrets and get advice about how best to handle problems. It is on this issue that the Roman Catholics are right. What’s said in the confessional is privileged. When I first started seeing a counselor, I asked him about how he treated our discussions. He told me they were privileged, and he would never divulge what I said to him (and when several of my children saw him, he never divulged to me what they said).

Did you ever have a pastor use what you said in private as fodder for a sermon, or did you find out later that he gossiped about you to his pastor friends or other church leaders? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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.

Southern Baptist Pastor Rick Patrick Reveals His True Character in Offensive Post

pastor rick patrick

Rick Patrick is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sylacauga, Alabama and the executive director of Connect316, a ministry devoted to combating the increasing influence of Calvinism on Southern Baptist churches and seminaries. Of late, the Southern Baptist Convention has been embroiled in controversy over comments made about women and domestic abuse by Paige Patterson, the troglodyte president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In 2000, Patterson gave an interview in which he counseled women who were being abused by their spouses to “pray” for their husbands and remain married to them. Patterson, a diehard Fundamentalist complementarian, illustrated his point with a story about how he had given that advice to a woman who had been repeatedly assaulted by her husband. Here’s what he had to say:

Returning some days later with two black eyes, the woman said, “I hope you’re happy.”

I said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I am happy. What she didn’t know when we sat in church that morning, was that her husband had come in and was standing in back, first time he ever came.

In 2014, Patterson related in a sermon how God created women “beautifully and artistically.” He shared with those in attendance a conversation he had with woman and her son. Tom Gjelten a reporter for NPR, writes:

Patterson has also come under fire for a sermon he gave in 2014 about how God created women “beautifully and artistically.” He related a conversation he had with a woman while her son and a friend were standing alongside. As they talked, a teenage girl whom Patterson described as “very attractive” walked by, and one of the boys said, “Man, is she built.”

The woman immediately scolded him, but Patterson said he interjected in the boy’s defense.

“I said, ‘Ma’am, leave him alone,’ ” Patterson recounted. ” ‘He’s just being biblical. That is exactly what the Bible says.’ ”

Yesterday, Washington Post reporter Sarah Pulliam Bailey, wrote about a woman who was “encouraged” by Patterson not to report an alleged rape:

She [the victim] said she had been dating the man she alleges raped her and had allowed him into her apartment the night she said he assaulted her. The two were kissing when he forced himself on her, she said. She said she reported it the next morning to the administrator who handled student discipline. That administrator then reported the incident to Patterson, she said, and she was required to meet with Patterson and three or four male seminarians she said were proteges of Patterson’s. She said she doesn’t remember the specific words Patterson used but that he wanted to know every detail of the rape.

Patterson and other administrators did not report the incident to the police, and she claims that Patterson encouraged her not to, as well, she said. The Post confirmed that a report was never filed with the Wake Forest Police Department.

The woman said she was put on probation for two years, but she doesn’t know why, saying it was perhaps because she was with another man alone in her apartment, which was against seminary policy.

“They shamed the crap out of me, asking me question after question,” said the woman, who attended the seminary until 2005 before dropping out for reasons she said were unrelated to the alleged incident. “He didn’t necessarily say it was my fault, but [the sense from him was] I let him into my home.”

The woman said she recalls Patterson telling her to forgive the man who allegedly raped her. The former roommate said the woman described the alleged assault to him shortly after it happened and later complained to him about her treatment by Patterson and seminary officials.

He was not present for her conversations with seminary officials.

“She wants people to know that this happened to her,” said the former roommate, who now works as an emergency room technician in Raleigh, N.C. “She wants people to know how Patterson is and how he thinks about women and abuse. For him to still be in power eats at her soul.”

The woman shared a letter written to her by Southeastern’s dean of students at the time. In the letter, dated April 9, 2003, Allan Moseley told the woman that she would be put on probation after the incident, with suspension or expulsion as possible next steps if there were subsequent behavior the school deemed inappropriate. “It is evident that your memories of moral lapses with [the alleged assailant’s name] cause you sadness and humiliation,” Moseley said in the letter.

….

Today, “outraged” Southwestern Baptist board members voted to remove Patterson as president of the seminary. He will still have some sort of title or position with the seminary. It takes more than a little misogyny for someone as prominent as Patterson to face banishment.

Some Southern Baptist pastors believe Patterson has been treated unfairly, and that his public lynching is the byproduct of the egalitarian, feminist-driven #metoo movement. Rick Patrick is one such man. In a post made in a private forum, Patrick posted this:

rick patrick post

Text:

This all reminds me of the time I saw a donkey being gang raped by Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, and Jonathan Merritt [five notable pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention]. As the only person who witnessed the act, I knew I should have reported it at the time, but I was afraid. That poor animal! No donkey should have to suffer like that. Sadly, it’s too late for Hee Haw. But after all these years, I cannot keep quiet any longer.

A short while later, Patrick removed his post and made an “apology” for its content:

rick patrick apology

Text:

Earlier today in a closed Facebook group, I made a poor attempt at satire and the crazy climate of our #MeToo world where accusations from years ago are dredged up and used as weapons to attack people. I attempted to use hyperbole and exaggeration to show that anyone can make even the most heinous charge against someone else, and the person charged will always be presumed guilty until proven innocent.

The post only remained up for about two minutes when I took it down realizing it was a poor and inappropriate attempt at humor, but by that time, certain people had already taken a screenshot and it had gone viral. I apologize to the people whose names I mentioned and for the reference to the donkey. It was wrong and inappropriate. I will not post anything like it again. I especially apologize to anyone who felt I was minimizing the reality of the genuine pain many victims have experienced. Even preachers make mistakes, and I made one today. I am truly sorry. Please forgive me.

Patrick, like many pastors, believes that accusations, allegations, and rumors of sexual abuse should be handled as law enforcement, prosecutors, and courts handle criminal acts. No one should say anything until an “investigation” is conducted. Of course, thanks to the Internet and social media, that’s not how things work today.

First, many victims of sexual abuse have gone to the authorities, only to find out that their allegations are either not taken seriously or they can’t be prosecuted due to statute of limitations. Some victims turn to their church or denomination for help, believing that surely followers of Jesus want justice for sexual abuse victims, and, in the case where the perpetrator is a pastor, youth leader, deacon, or some other church leader, victims think that churches and sects will stand with them and oust the abusers from positions of authority. What victims learn, instead, is that many churches and sects are more interested in protecting their “name” and covering their asses than they are making sure that sexual abusers never have an opportunity to prey on people again.

Is it any wonder, then, that sexual abuse victims turn to the court of public opinion for a hearing of their allegations? Patrick is oh, so worried about due process that he fails to understand what it costs women and men when they make public accusations against clergymen and other church leaders. Once they have gone public, concerted efforts are often made to discredit them and stop them from soiling the good name of Pastor ________ and his church. No person in her right mind, knowing what will happen to her, airs allegations of sexual abuse without them being true.

From time to time false allegations are made, but most of the time the stories told by abuse victims are substantially true. In the last eighteen months, I have published almost five hundred posts in the Black Collar Crime series. These posts detail the crimes committed by so-called men of God. While some of the stories report criminal behavior by Catholic clerics, my primary focus is on crimes perpetrated by Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, ministry workers, and other church leaders. Once brought to trial, these Jesus-loving criminals are almost always found guilty or they plead out. Where, oh where are all the falsely accused and falsely prosecuted stories, Pastor Patrick? Yes, they exist, but worries about a plethora of false allegations are unfounded.

The real worry is over getting social workers, law enforcement, and prosecutors to take seriously allegations of sexual abuse. The tide is turning, so to speak, but there is much that must yet be done when it comes holding sexual abusers accountable, even if, due to statute of limitations, they can’t be prosecuted. By publishing stories on these cases, I try to provide a readily accessible public record that can be easily accessed by churches, daycares, camps, schools, colleges — anywhere predators seek out new victims — before employing someone. Granted, as the recent story about Pastor Rick Orten shows, some churches believe the blood of Jesus washes away all the sins of the past, making it okay to hire rapists, child abusers, and pedophiles, but I’d like to think that most pastors and churches are against having such people in their midst. Christians are free to believe that God forgives sin and the blood of Jesus washes away iniquity, but if they care about their children and teenagers, they must never let wolves inside the doors of their churches, where they will have easy access to young, vulnerable congregants.

Both Patterson and Patrick have profusely apologized for their statements. Patrick later released another apology that said:

The issue I was addressing was the notion that a person appears to be, in the court of public opinion, guilty until proven innocent, in many cases. No, I do not think that #metoo people are crazy. I confess the timing of a specific charge today made me question the charge. But please let me say, and say very clearly, that I am deeply sorry for the hurt that victims of abuse have experienced. I myself was the victim of physical and verbal abuse as a child. I am indeed sensitive to their pain. I was intending to speak only to the presumption of guilt issue with my inappropriate use of humor. I am truly, truly sorry. I will learn from this, and it will not happen again. Please forgive me.

Should Patterson and Patrick be “forgiven” for what they said?  Evangelicals will, of course, accept their pleas for forgiveness. Once the proverbial pound of flesh has been extracted and numerous mea culpas issued, many Evangelicals will declare the matter settled, saying, Patterson and Patrick repented. Jesus forgave them, and we should too. Time to move on! There are souls to save, abortion clinics to picket, and same-sex marriage laws to overturn. This is what Evangelicals do, forgive, forget, and move on!

What people forget is that Paige Patterson and Rick Patrick are skilled public speakers. Neither man is a young preacher just starting out. They have both preached thousands of sermons and stood before countless crowds sharing their opinions and interpretations of this or that Bible verse or moral issue. Men such as Patterson, Patrick, and Bruce Gerencser — back in my preaching days — say what they mean. Their words are carefully chosen. In Patrick’s case, he KNEW his words would cause controversy, yet he said them anyway. Why? Because he wanted to the notoriety controversy would bring. He wanted to make sure everyone knew what he believed. He said what he intended say. His apology means nothing.

When preachers and politicians are forced to make public apologies for something they have said, I generally ignore their apologies. People tend to say what they really believe the first time, and their apologies are more about damage control than they are a sign of changed opinions. Does anyone really believe that these two aged Fundamentalist preachers have changed their views of women, marriage, and sexual assault? Of course not. The things said by Patterson and Patrick are reminders of the pervasive misogynistic, anti-women, anti-feminism beliefs found in the Southern Baptist Convention and other Evangelical sects. The problem is the religion, and Patterson and Patrick are its poster children. While these men will, for a time, face public outrage, they will weather the storm and continue on in the ministry, preaching the gospel and spreading the good news of complementarianism. Because, that’s what good Christians do.

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.

Dear Bruce, Did You Feel “Sad” After Losing Your Belief in the Afterlife?

calvin and hobbes death

Recently, a reader sent me the following question:

My question is this: after you became an atheist, did you feel “sad” (using sad for a lack of a better word) with your new belief that there is no hope of the afterlife, specifically the hope to see deceased loved ones again?

This is an excellent question, one that I hope I can answer adequately and honestly.

Deconversion — the losing of one’s religious faith — brings with it all sorts of emotions. It’s not uncommon for Christians-turned-atheists/agnostics to feel a deep sense of loss. This is especially true for people who spent years in the Christian church. I spent almost fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring Evangelical churches. Christianity and the ministry were the sum of my existence. Yes, I had a beautiful wife and six wonderful children, but they were not as important to me as God and the work I believed he called me to do. My life was consumed day after day, week after week, year after year, with evangelizing the lost, preaching the Word of God, and ministering to the needs of congregants. I had a large network of ministry colleagues, and I was very close to my wife’s family, of whom three were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastors, along with an evangelist and a missionary. From early morning to late at night, my life revolved around Jesus, the church, and the Bible. And then one day in November 2008, all of this was gone. Everything that gave my life purpose, meaning, and direction was gone. The men I counted as dear friends no longer spoke to me, and my wife’s family treated me as if I had some sort of dreaded disease. All I was left with, ironically, was all that really mattered: Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah and their spouses and children. It’s too bad that it took me much of my adult life to figure this out.

Ten years ago, I told family, friends, and former parishioners that I was no longer a Christian. For a time, I believed in the existence of some sort of deistic God, but over time I slid farther down the slippery slope of skepticism and reason until I realized that I was, in fact, an atheist (though technically I am an agnostic and an atheist). And once I realized I was an atheist, my next thought was, now what? (See Dear Family, Friends, and Former ParishionersDear Friend, and  the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.)

I remember many a sleepless night after I deconverted, my mind filled with fear, doubt, and sadness. I wondered, Bruce, what if you are wrong? What if the Christian God really does exist? Man, you are so going to burn in Hell. I worried about my wife’s increasing agnosticism, concerned that God would hold me accountable for her loss of faith if I was wrong. I often had thoughts about death and the meaning of life. Having lost all my social connections, I often wondered if I would ever have friends again. And so, for months, my thoughts focused on what I had lost, and not what I had gained. I conversed with several Evangelical-turned-atheist acquaintances, telling them about my restless thoughts. I was told, give it time. Things will, I promise, get better. And sure enough, they were right. As months turned into years, thoughts about God vanished, and in their place came thoughts of making the most of what years I had left. I lamented the fact that I had wasted most of my life chasing a phantasm, pursuing promises that would never be fulfilled. But lamenting that which I lost did nothing for the present. I had before me a wide-open path upon which to walk. No God stood in my way. Where I took my life post-Jesus was all up to me.

These days, the only time I have thoughts about God is when I am writing a post for this blog. God is now, for me, an academic exercise, as is the Bible. I know I have been given a great responsibility to be a help to people who are trying to extricate themselves from the pernicious vice-like grip of Evangelical Christianity. I have received countless emails over the years from people who need help freeing themselves from Evangelicalism. Sometimes, people are so ensnared that it is hard to see for them a clear path to faithlessness that doesn’t first cause great heartache. I have wept over emails detailing marriages that ended in divorce over a husband or wife sharing with their spouse their loss of faith, only to be told, if you ask me to choose between you and Jesus, I am going to choose Jesus. I have also wept over stories from people who were ostracized by their families over their atheism/agnosticism; sons and daughters who were told they were no longer welcome in their parents’ home or no longer invited to family holiday gatherings.

Walking away from Evangelicalism and embracing atheism/agnosticism can be costly. (See Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist.) Not only a must new atheist face social and familial fall-out from the deconversion, he or she must also wrestle with the implications of new-found beliefs. One such wrestling match is the loss of belief in the afterlife. The power of Christianity rests in its ability to convince people that everyone is a sinner, there is life after death, and the church is the sole salesman of the ticket required to gain entrance into Heaven. Remove the afterlife from the equation — threats of Hell and promises of Heaven — and Christian churches would empty out overnight.

My Dad died at the age of forty-nine. Mom killed herself at age fifty-four. My Dad’s parents died in the early 1960s. My Mom’s dad died in the early 2000s — good riddance, and my favorite grandmother died in 1995. I dearly miss my parents and my one grandmother. I so wish I could, at this juncture in my life, sit down with them and talk about life, past and present. But wishing doesn’t change the fact that they are dead and I will never see them again. Polly’s parents are in their eighties. Every time the phone rings, we wonder, is this someone calling to tell us Mom or Dad is dead? I have a younger brother and sister, neither of whom is in good health.

I have my own battles with chronic pain and illness. I know that most of my life is in the rear-view mirror. Over the weekend, I was setting up a new LED studio light in my upstairs photography studio. Polly was helping me. As I was working on the light, I decided to sit in my wheelchair. I started to sit down, only to have the wheelchair kick out from under me. I hit the floor, much to Polly’s horror, with a big thud. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything, but days later I am still dealing with the physical consequences of my fall. Polly and I both know that death could come at any moment. Until October of last year, Polly was a picture of good health. That picture quickly changed one morning when Polly woke me up, telling me that her heart was beating really fast. I checked her blood pressure, and sure enough her resting pulse rate was 180. Off to the emergency room we went. Polly was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, three months later she developed a bleeding problem that required surgery.

In recent months, both of us have talked about losing the other, trying to imagine how life would be without the other one. We make jokes, of course, because that’s what Gerencsers do. It is though humor we embrace the reality that someday, be it tonight or twenty years from now, the ugly specter of death is going to come knocking at our door. As realists, we know that only in this life will we have each other. One day, our hearts will break as one of us says goodbye to the other. We know that we shall never see each other again; that the only things that will remain are the memories we have of one another.

So, to answer the question posed at the start of this post, yes, there are times I feel sad about the permanence of death. Who among us hasn’t had thoughts of what it will be like when the light of your life turns dark. Just the other day, I was thinking about death and how it brings an immediate cessation of life. I know, not a deep thought. But, it got me thinking about how much time I waste doing things that really don’t matter or have little value. If the battery in the clock of my life is slowly running out, what is it that I want to do with what life I have left? My death will certainly cause sadness for my family and friends, but if, while I am alive, I do all I can to love them and enter into their lives in meaningful ways, then perhaps their sadness will be lessened.

It’s impossible to escape sadness and heartache in this life. If atheism has taught me anything, it has taught me life can be harsh, cruel, and unfair. This site’s ABOUT page leaves readers with the following advice:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

I hope I have, to some degree, answered the aforementioned question. If you are an atheist or an agnostic, how do you deal with thoughts about the finality of death, and the sadness that comes when thinking about never seeing your loved ones again? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Evangelical Pastor Michael Orten Defends Allowing Rapist to Work at His Church

blood of jesus

Thomas Hopper was convicted in the 1990s of raping and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl while holding a razor knife to her throat. He spent ten years in prison for his crimes.  Hopper was also convicted of criminal confinement, battery, and trespassing in the early 2000s. He was also arrested for stalking a high school student. Today, Hopper, a convicted sex offender, is a volunteer worker at Truth Apostolic Church in Madisonville, Kentucky. According to news reports, Hopper leads the church’s care ministry, and is responsible for its nursing home and bus ministry.

When asked about Hopper working at Truth Apostolic, Michael Orten, the church’s pastor, replied:

… this is a situation, if that girl chooses…it takes two to tango, okay?  So if that girl chooses to sleep with him, she’s just as guilty as he is.

Orten later stated:

He was mad and angry, both of them were on drugs. Yeah, that’s still his past. It ain’t like we don’t know nothing about this. Like I said, the media and people are ignorant when they want to turn around and dramatize or hurt somebody.

Orten said that Hopper’s past has been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. The past is in the past, and since Hopper is now a new creation in Christ Jesus:

So what you’re saying is, is the church is no good for forgiveness? Jesus Christ can’t save you? So if you steal a piece of candy from a store because you were young and stupid. And make stupid mistakes. You’re still a thief even though now you’re 40-years-old?

When asked by a reporter, Well, I think stealing candy is a little bit different than rape, Orten replied:

No, it’s not. No, it’s not. No, it’s not. It’s still sin. And if you get caught, there are consequences and you will pay.

Dear Pastor Orten, Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

The church’s website currently returns a 404-page not found error message.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Worker Joseph Potts Accused of Sex Crimes

joseph potts

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.

Joseph Potts, a volunteer youth worker at Jubilee Fellowship Church in Littleton, Colorado stands accused of sexually assaulting two teen boys.

Fox-31 reports that “Potts is being held in the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Detention Facility without bond.”

 

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Kenneth Lewis Facing Child Sexual Abuse Charges

kenneth 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.

Kenneth Lewis, a Catholic priest, is facing child sexual abuse charges stemming from an allegation that he sexually assaulted a thirteen-year-old boy while on trip. Lewis has been accused numerous times over the years of sexual abuse, but due to the statute of limitations, he was never prosecuted. Astoundingly, in 1995, after yet another round of sexual abuse allegations,  Lewis was allowed to continue in the ministry once he received “treatment.” According to Chicago Sun Times, Catholic officials ordered Lewis not to be alone with children. This is akin to a sugar addict working in a candy store being told not eat the merchandise.  The crimes Lewis is now accused of were allegedly committed in 2001. It seems, then, that whatever “treatment” Lewis received did not cure him of his predilection towards sexually abusing children.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Matthew Everly Charged with Physically Harming His Infant Daughter

matthew everly

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.

Matthew Everly, an associate pastor of worship arts with Eastview Church in Normal, Illinois, stands accused of causing physical harm to his two-month-old daughter. The infant’s injuries include a broken arm and two broken legs. Everly’s attorney Scott Kording stated:

Matt Everly is a wonderful and talented young man. The filing of these serious allegations visits great difficulty upon him and his family. In response, we ask that judgment be reserved until all the facts are known. He is innocent of these charges.

Everly’s church bio page states (from archive.org):

Ever since a short term missions trip to NYC in 2009 I have felt called to Worship Ministry. I have always loved music and have been passionate about seeing the Church give their lives in worship to our King. I have lived in Bloomington/Normal my whole life and in 2013 I began volunteering with the high school ministry. Shortly after I was asked to be on staff part time while finishing my Worship Ministry degree from Lincoln Christian University. Two years later and I have finished my degree moved to the Associate Worship Pastor position have and married my best friend Emily. God has been and is always incredibly faithful when we leave it up to His plan. On a free day you will find Emily and I hiking through Starved Rock State Park or hanging out with good friends. We are incredilbly [sic] blessed by the staff, leadership, and congregation at Eastview. We are thankful to be here!

While Mike Baker, the pastor of Eastview Church, refused to confirm whether Everly is still employed with the church, his name has been scrubbed from the church’s website.

Black Collar Crime: Australian Catholic Bishop Philip Wilson Covered Up Child Sexual Abuse

archbishop philip wilson

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.

Last week, Philip Wilson, the Archbishop of Adelaide, was found guilty of covering up child sexual abuse. He will be sentenced on June 19, 2018. Wilson pleaded not guilty, but the judge found the evidence against him compelling. After his conviction, Wilson stated, “I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today. I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.”

The charges against Wilson hail from his days as a young priest. Several children came to Wilson will allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priest James Fletcher. Wilson did nothing. Fletcher would continue to abuse children for decades until he was arrested and  convicted of nine counts of child sexual abuse in December 2004. Fletcher died in prison in 2006.

Frank Brennan, an Australian Jesuit priest, human rights lawyer and academic, stated:

I would think that the mind of Pope Francis at this stage would be that if there be a conviction of a bishop in relation to a failure to disclose abuse in circumstances where the state thought that was criminal activity, then I would think the mind of the pope would be that that doesn’t measure up in church terms either and that therefore it would be impossible for someone to remain in the job as a bishop.

There’s no doubt that Archbishop Wilson in recent years … has been one of the good guys. He has been one of the bishops in the Catholic Church who have been trying to clean things up

But this relates to when he was a young priest. Even someone like him who later got it back in those years was so confined by our culture that it would seem there was no disclosure.

Brennan seems to be saying that people shouldn’t be too hard on Wilson. His nondisclosure of the allegations was typical of the times; and that Wilson in recent years has been one of the good guys, someone who tried to hold priests accountable for their criminal behavior. Really? Where’s the evidence for this claim? How many pedophile priests were reported, arrested, and prosecuted for their crimes under his watch? How many other children found deaf ears when they reported being sexually abused?

According to Wikipedia, Wilson did not change his ways as Brennan alleges. In May 2010:

…. Wilson came under scrutiny regarding two incidents relating to sexual abuse in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

The first of these cases related to the alleged sexual assault of two girls in 1985 by Father Dennis McAlinden, a priest in the diocese. Wilson, the diocese’s vicar general at the time, was sent to speak to parents at the school where the assault was alleged to have taken place. The principal told the media that Wilson’s response was to remove McAlindon from his position and to provide help for him. In fact, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), “McAlinden was … transferred to a remote parish in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. Over the next decade he sexually assaulted five more girls under the age of 10”. In 1995, Wilson was again asked by Bishop Leo Clarke to deal with the case, requesting that he take statements from the alleged victims. Wilson took the statements and returned them to the bishop. The ABC reported that the statements were never provided to police and, instead, Clarke defrocked McAlinden, with the promise “that his ‘good name’ would be protected”. In a statement to ABC in 2010, Wilson said he told Clarke that McAlinden should have been confronted in 1985 and, that as far as he was aware, this had occurred. He denied involvement in McAlinden’s transfer to Western Australia or his defrocking.

Robert Stone, the magistrate who found Wilson guilty, had this to say about the Bishop’s crimes:

The likelihood of two young boys individually telling the accused [Wilson] of acts of sexual misconduct by another priest who the accused knows … are matters I am very confident would be remembered for a very long time. You have to ask why the accused did not do what he himself says he would do now [go to the police] in the same situation. The answer I believe relates to the accused having a sense of knowing what he was hearing was a creditable allegation. In addition, the accused wanted to protect the church and its image.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor David Pugh Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes

pastor david pugh

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.

David Pugh, the pastor of First Assembly of God in Phillipsburg, Kansas, pleaded guilty to indecent liberties with a child and sexual exploitation of a child. The court sentenced Pugh to thirty-two months in jail. Pugh resigned from First Assembly in May 2017.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Coach Dave Daubenmire Exposes His Racism For All to See

dave daubenmire

I am proud to be white.

….

But I am proud to be white and no matter how much you try to shame me you will not be able to make me recant. Beat me with a stick, ridicule me in public, email me all kinds of hateful comments, but you will not stop me from being proud of who I am.

It is like the story I heard about the young kindergartner who pinched his fellow classmate in a dispute.

“Tommy,” the teacher scolded. “You apologize and return to your seat.”

“OK Mrs. Jones, I’ll sit down. But I am still standing up on the inside!!”

Well, I am still proud on the inside. No matter how “racist” you say that I am.

Proud does not mean superior. Being proud of my heritage does not make me a racist…or a bigot…or a hater.

I am a proud nationalist. I think that our government should put the needs and the interests of Americans first. I didn’t realize that being a nationalist required identification with skin color. I hope all blacks are nationalists. I hope all Chinese are nationalists. I pray all Christians are nationalists. The fact that I happen to be Caucasian should not exclude me from being proud.

….

Racism is a made-up ideology.

….

I am proud of what I have done. I am proud of what I have overcome. I am proud of my heritage. Can someone please explain to me why that makes me a racist? Would everyone feel better if I were ashamed of being white? Sorry Chief. I ain’t gonna do it.

I’m proud of my heritage. I am proud to be white.

— Dave Daubenmire, Pass the Salt, I’m Proud to be White, August 27, 2017

The attack that’s going on in America today is against the white, heterosexual male. That’s the battle. If Satan can get control of the family, if they can get the white, heterosexual male removed from the scene, if they can get him ‘de-balled,’ if I will, if they can do that, there is nothing to hold back the forces of darkness in America.

It’s not racist, it’s the truth.

— Dave Daubenmire, YouTube Video, May 26, 2016

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Should a Christian black family be able to be in relationship with a Christian white family? Of course. Should a Christian American family be able to be in relation with an Asian Christian family? Of course. Does it require intermixing?

Today, interracial marriage would be considered honorable, when 40 years ago it would have been considered a disgrace,” he said. Now is it a disgrace or is it honorable? Has the mixing of culture been good for America or has it been bad? Is America stronger today than we were 40 years ago or are we weaker today? And could it be are we weaker today because multiculturalism is spiritual AIDS and has brought an infection into what was once a great Christian American culture?

— Dave Daubenmire, YouTube video, October 17, 2017

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Let me just lay it out there, because most people won’t say it because they don’t want to sound racist. Prince Harry’s wife is half-black. Now, wait a minute. That ain’t that royal bloodline lineage there, is it fellas? Isn’t there a little bit of mixed blood coming in there?

Did you see who performed the service? Was it the Bishop of Canterbury or some official WASPy guy? Was it? Did I miss something? Or did we see the ultimate—umm, how do I say this?—a blending of the races; one new world order, one-world government, the blending of the [races] in the House of Windsor coming together for the first time.

I’m going to tell you something, if there was any chance that Harry was ever going to be King of England, do you think they really would have let him just choose any woman he wanted? Of course not. So what’s the message that is being sent to us? … Is it a psy op that now, all of a sudden, sixth to the throne, he ain’t never going to be king, now it’s okay for the crown to be diverse?

— Dave Daubenmire, YouTube video, May 21, 2018

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And yet, Daubenmire still insists he is not a racist. Sorry, Coach, but if it walks, talks, and acts like a racist, it is a racist.

Thanks to Right Wing Watch for their recent article on Daubenmire’s racist beliefs.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Cameron Giovanelli Accused of Sexual Assault

cameron giovanelli

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.

Cameron Giovanelli, the president of Golden State Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution operated by Pastor Jack Trieber and North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, California, stands accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a church teenager when he was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk, Maryland. As of the writing of this post, no criminal charges have been filed. Giovanelli’s name has been scrubbed from Golden State’s website.

On May 11, 2018, the victim, Sarah Jackson, posted the following on Facebook:

sarah jackson facebook

Stacey Shiflett, the current pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Dundalk, Maryland — the church Giovanellli pastored when he allegedly assaulted Jackson — released the following video:

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There’s much about this video that irritates the living hell out of me, especially the fact that the pastor “investigated” instead of immediately calling law enforcement. If the allegations against Giovanelli are true, then he sexually assaulted a minor girl while he was in a position of authority over her. This action, in most states, is criminal. I also don’t like the fact that the pastor used the word “consensual” in describing the relationship between Giovanelli and the victim. Again, in most states, the relationship, legally, could not have been consensual. And the general IFB verbiage about ministry, loyalty, and the appeal to authority and personal experience, were, at least to me, unnecessary.  I do give Shiflett credit for one thing: he was willing to publicly call out Cameron Giovanelli, Jack Trieber, and Golden State Baptist College. Kudos for speaking the truth and letting the shit land where it may. Shiflett says in public what many of us have known for years: the IFB church movement tends to cover-up criminal behavior out of fear of damaging their “testimony.”  Here’s to hoping that the light that Shiflett turned on the IFB movement will lead to the exposure of other sexual predators who have been hiding in plain sight for years.

Update

I received an email from Pastor Shiflett about this post. He clarified his use of the word consensual and shared with me that his investigation was for his own peace of mind since Giovanelli was a friend and the former pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. He made it very clear that if such things happen at his church to a minor, it is immediately reported to law enforcement.  Shiflett, as you can imagine, has received a flood of emails, comments, etc. Most pastors would not do what he did, so he deserves a lot of credit for doing the right thing. That said, it should continue to trouble everyone that way too many pastors are either sexual predators/abusers or they go to great lengths to cover-up misconduct in their churches. Imagine how much better it might be for sexual abuse victims if their pastors not only listened to them but acted morally, ethically, decently, and responsibly on their behalf. Instead, abuse victims are often told to shut-up or are blamed for what happened. It is for this reason, that I continue to post Black Collar Crime stories, regardless of the threats and abuse hurled my way. Why? It’s the right thing to do.  I know this blog has high traffic numbers, and leveraging this traffic to expose alleged sexual abuse seems, at least to me, to be something I can and must do. On this point, I stand with Pastor Shiflett.

Golden State Baptist College released the following statement:

It has come to our attention that allegations of inappropriate conduct have been made against Cameron Giovanelli, a member of our staff. Upon receipt of the notice of the allegations, we immediately placed him on administrative leave of all activities and responsibilities, to conduct a thorough and honest investigation. During the course of that investigation, Cameron Giovanelli tendered his resignation to the ministry and his resignation has been accepted. All responsibilities of any nature whatsoever, were permanently and immediately terminated with receipt of his resignation. There were no allegations of wrongdoing of any nature that involved the ministries of North Valley Baptist Church or Golden State Baptist College. Please keep our ministry, the Giovanelli family and all others involved in your prayers.