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Are You Interested in Writing a Guest Post?

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

This is How Dr. David Tee Sees Himself

david thiessen
David Thiessen is the tall man in the back

Recently, Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, took the Protestia site to task for their hateful, un-Christian behavior. Protestia, the one-time love child of disgraced Fundamentalist Baptist preacher J.D. Hall, is currently operated by David Morrill, Paul Brown, Brad Schoolfield, and Seth Dunn. Protestia is known for three things: their anti-abortion, forced birth views, their obsession with consenting LGBTQ people’s sex lives, and ferreting out perceived heresy within Evangelicalism and Christendom at large. In other words, Thiessen’s kind of “Christians.”

In a post titled An Answer to Op-Ed Article, Thiessen wrote:

We have no problem with that, if they actually did do some honest refuting and challenging doctrinal errors. What our one line under our quote above was referring to was HOW they were going about this ministry. It had nothing to do with their ministry or purpose.

We think they misunderstood what we wrote and instead of asking for clarification, they go and jump to conclusions and make assumptions about what we said. Of course, right now it is very difficult to get a hold of us due to some unfortunate actions by certain people.

So here is the clarification. Our words were referring to the name calling, the insults, and other derogatory terms used by Protestia in their identification, challenges, and refuting of those people they have found to be false teachers.

We find their terminology and its use to be very unbiblical and unChristian. In the different ministries that Protestia participates in, they are not excluded from any biblical rules of conduct towards believers or unbelievers.

We will not bring anyone back to the church or to the faith by insulting them. On occasion, we have done the very same type of ministry throughout the years. Yet, we refer to people as Mr., Mrs., Miss, Dr., and so on except for those gender identity-confused people who are referred to by their birth pronouns.

We do not hurl names, insults, or even write them as that sets a bad example for our readers and disobeys the biblical instruction ‘ soft answer turneth away wrath’. We do not care how nasty those people we identify get as we are to return good for evil.

….

There are a lot of false teachers running about saying things that are not biblical and just plain wrong. If you are going to challenge them, then challenge what they are saying instead of insulting them or ignoring what they have said because you have identified them as false teachers.

….

Give credible and legitimate information not personal attacks or ad hoc statements that put a black mark against your claims of being Christian. Jesus may have insulted the Pharisees, etc., but that does not give us permission to ignore the rules of behavior Christ laid out for us.

None of us are on his level and we should be very careful not to copy him without fully understanding more of why he said what he said. We are not free to insult but we are free to identify and refute, as well as challenge those who pretend to be Christian, yet say and do unChristian things.

Thiessen lacks any sense of self-awareness. He seemingly has forgotten the countless articles he has written about me and Ben Berwick. He evidently has forgotten about his comments and emails too.

A year ago, Thiessen sent me the following mail:

Our assessment of BG. We are not going to post this publicly so do not worry about being humiliated or embarrassed.

We have analyzed BG’s behavior and words for some time now and we see a developing identity. He is a person who was a low-level obscure independent Baptist preacher who certainly gets jealous and envious of others.

His Christian work seems to have been motivated by these desires as he used his own will and not Jesus’ in his ministry as well as his being critical of those more successful, popular, and less obscure counterparts.

Instead of humbling himself and correctly following Jesus, he followed his character trait and quit. That is not a sign of a good servant of God. He likes to stand in judgment of others grading their level of spirituality with a subjective ruler judging that those observed were not practicing the faith properly.

What exact standard he used is not known, but it was his own making and not God’s. Then instead of being the example, he walks away and condemns every Christin and God for failing to meet his ideals.

Now he is just a narcissist who hopes he gains the fame and popularity that escaped him when he was a Christian. he wants to leave a negative legacy behind so that people will think he was a great preacher and now a great blogger.

In reality, he remains obscure, uninfluential, and wants to be the center of attention like he has found something new and wonderful for the world, when he is just another unbeliever in a line filled with billions of unbelievers saying the exact same thing as every other unbeliever has said or is saying.

He is a sad and pathetic figure who needs to broadcast his failure to follow Christ to the end of the world and instead of being great, he makes himself a laughingstock. Someone who could not cut it.

And yes we are still sad that you walked away from your faith.

DR. [capitalizing it doesn’t make it so] David Tee

Evidently, Thiessen’s “insults” are different from those uttered by the “fine” Christians at Protestia. Thiessen also states “that does not give us permission to ignore the rules of behavior Christ laid out for us.” I fell on the floor and laughed for twenty minutes after I read this line. Go to Theissen’s TheologyArcheology: A Site for the Glory of God blog and read the plethora of posts he has written about me. You will search in vain for any evidence of Thiessen following the commands of Christ or demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23). This so-called man of God shows no regard for the teachings of Christ on how you should treat your enemies:

Ye [Derrick Thiessen] have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you [Derrick Thiessen], Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

The Message translation renders Matthew 5:48 this way: Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Grow up, indeed.

Thiessen continues to refuse to mention me or Ben Berwick by our names. He also refuses to properly link to the content he uses from our sites. Thiessen lies about us and routinely distorts and misuses our words, so I find it unbelievable that he can say, with a straight face that he always treats people with respect. He doesn’t, and the readers of this blog know he doesn’t. But, what do we know, right? He and God, the royal “we,” know the truth.

For the record, Theissen has written at least twelve posts about me since December 31, 2022 — one post every two days.

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Preventable Death of a Follower

guest post

Guest post by Troy

My brother’s story, an indictment of the Evangelical church’s response to Covid vaccinations.

In early December 2021, I got a call from my mother. “Jason has Covid and is in the hospital. When he takes off the oxygen, he can’t breathe at all.” When my mother asked him why he wouldn’t get vaccinated, his response was “God will take care of me.” And while I thought his prognosis was good, two weeks later he died. He was in his late 40s, the baby of our family, the father of two adult children, and the father and provider of three young children.

Jason had a hard start in life. He was my stepbrother, a part of the joining of two families who had both lost parents in accidents; he lost his mother when he was a toddler. He had some issues with auditory processing, and I think he had trouble with conversational nuance and connecting the dots. He’d end up telling people what he thought they wanted to hear. Possibly this was his path to becoming a follower. High school was tough on him academically, college was out, so the army looked like his only option. Just before going to the army, Jason was arrested for drag racing. It’s laughable to me, he had a junker car, and I don’t know the details, but I can’t imagine he was out challenging people to race . . . but it all makes sense if it is yet another instance of following. The judge dismissed the charges since he was going into the army. But despite “following orders” being the army mainstay, following didn’t help him in the army. His testing limited him to infantry, and along with this his infantry comrades, he (nor they) wasn’t always the most upstanding of characters. The example I’ll cite is that he was with someone who looked into a car and saw a set of golf clubs, checked the door handle, found it unlocked, and took the clubs. Of course, most people would argue with someone stealing from a stranger’s car, but not a follower. Apparently, there were other missing things, and guilt by association ended Jason’s stint in the army with a less-than-honorable discharge.

After the army didn’t work out, he ended up working at McDonald’s. This is where he met his wife and also where he ended up joining her Evangelical church. (Parents of one of my friends wondered if their misguided marriage was because they both got mad cow disease by working at McDonald’s!) The follower had found his bliss. He didn’t have to try to guess what people wanted of him, no nuance or inferences, just obey the simple, easy-to-follow instructions. He also finally had a church family of people that would accept him; his disability didn’t really matter, he was “Brother Jason” and all that mattered was the remarkable zeal that is unique to the convert. While the extremes of his church were completely out of the mainstream, my mother confided in me that she was glad, because he was a follower, that he had landed there. As the army experience demonstrated, there are worse people he could be following. There are always nefarious people who will take advantage of followers.

Things turned around for Jason when our dad got him a temp job at his union shop. Dad impressed upon him what he needed to do: work hard, always be on time, and you will become a fully contracted employee. He now had a high income to lavish upon his beloved church. He was living for the LORD, and while we were on opposite sides of the religious spectrum, I certainly was happy that he finally had success in life. That said, the church truly taxed him financially. He gave 20% of his income to the church, and ended up living hand to mouth, and had his house foreclosed upon. While he listened to Dad to get and keep the job, Dad couldn’t impress upon him the abstraction of good credit.

Sadly Jason’s wife passed away 15 years ago, which led him to the Philippines, where he remarried. He ended up getting hepatitis during a return trip to the Philippines. While he recovered enough to go back to work, there were lingering health effects that no doubt made him very susceptible to Covid.

Before I proceed with my indictment, I want to reminisce back to when we were kids. It’s the late 1970s and our family is off to church. If it were Sunday, we were packing six boys into the Suburban and we were in the pews, never early unless we forgot to change our clocks back to standard time, but we were there. We pull into the parking lot and I recognize some of the teens who were active in the youth group. They wave us over, “Good morning,” “Are you guys wearing seat belts?” The answer was a big NO; for one thing, absolutely nobody wore seat belts, and if we tried, we weren’t going to squeeze everyone comfortably into even a large vehicle like a Suburban. “Oh, okay, well, we’re going to have to give you a ticket! My dad grumpily reaches for his wallet and pays the few dollars for the “offense.” “We care about you, and we want you back next Sunday.” Believe me, next Sunday we all had our seat belts on.

Now let me contrast this with the Evangelical church. While some on the religious right (in particular Franklin Graham) advocate for the Covid vaccines, most are either neutral or actively — and sometimes vehemently — hostile to the vaccines. Currently, around 500 people die every DAY from Covid — about three times the number of people who die in traffic accidents. My indictment is as follows: The Evangelical church has failed its followers. By not encouraging their “flocks” to get vaccines, they have failed them. My brother isn’t the only one; earlier in the pandemic I’d routinely see go-fund-me campaigns for large families who had lost one of their (Evangelical) unvaccinated parents. I do know that some people at my brother’s church did get vaccinated. But was it actively encouraged? Did it make the sermon every week as alcohol did? What, then, is their excuse for this failure? Ignorance? I have a lot of problems with religion. But I have zero problems with “We care about you, and we want you back next Sunday.”

One of Jason’s adult sons wistfully wondered (on Facebook) if he was off to the Paradise he had always told them about. But if Evangelicals don’t know the here and now, I have zero confidence they know the hereafter.

Evangelical pastors, redeem yourselves; I implore you to encourage your followers to get vaccinated. Heaven will wait.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

There is No Hope for MAGA World

maga world
Cartoon by Pat Bagley

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away . . . And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (2 Thessalonians 2:3,11)

Millions and millions of MAGA Republicans have come under a strong delusion, believing that the twice impeached ex-president Donald Trump actually won the 2020 election. Many residents of MAGA (Make America Great Again) World think Trump is actually still the president; that he is actually controlling the military.

Recently, Daily Show correspondent Jordan Klepper went to a “Trump Rally, Not a Rally” to interview Trump’s most avid supporters. Listen, laugh, and weep.

Video Link

We are at a dangerous point in American history. Millions and millions and millions of Americans believe things that are not true. From Trumpism to QAnon to Creationism, large swaths of our country have bought into lies. And don’t think for a moment that if Trump isn’t the 2024 Republican presidential candidate, we are out of the proverbial woods. Candidates such as Ron Desanctimonous DeSantis, Mike Pompeo, and Nikki Haley are hardly any better. If anything, these candidates are even more dangerous. They don’t have the temperamental problems that Trump does, yet they are every bit as racist and bigoted as the ex-president. One need only watch what is going on in Washington D.C. with Republicans to see Christian nationalism and white supremacy on full display. My God, congressmen are espousing racist, bigoted, homophobic beliefs and conspiracy theories right on the floor of the House of Representatives. It is hard, at least for me, to see a better tomorrow in the short term. I fear our Republic is hanging by a fraying thread.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce, I Pray You Will Experience a Relationship with Jesus

peanut gallery

An Evangelical woman named Candida left the following comment on the post titled Wasted Years, Oh How Foolish . . . (all spelling and grammar in the original):

It’s a pity you went through this Bruce. Quite sad. Abd you’re quite right about lots of people in church whose lives are as ‘wasted’ as that of those outside church. That’s a reality.

I must say though there are also countless people whose lives have been changed, transformed, made meaningful by their encounter with Jesus.

There’s a big difference between encountering Jesus and being in church. You can be in church singing about, hearing about, maybe also preaching about Jesus without really encountering or knowing Him. If you know Jesus, you have a relationship with him, like the one you have with a wife whom you love and cherish. It’s real.

Many confuse activities in church with relationship with Jesus. There’s no love like His. I pray you, and all others who have abandoned the faith experience this relationship and this love first hand.

The Lord bless you. And everyone. And us all too.

Candida read all of one post and concluded that I never had a relationship with Jesus. Boy, I’ve never heard that before! 🙂 How could Candida possibly know the depth and quality of my relationship with Jesus? She doesn’t know me. She was not a member of one of the churches I pastored. How could she possibly know that I had “churchianity,” and not Christianity? I could spend days telling Candida how deeply I loved Jesus; how I devoted my life to serving and following him; that I taught my children to do the same. Would it make a difference in how she views me? Of course not. All she sees is Bruce, the Evangelical pastor turned atheist. Since I am an atheist today, that means I never was a Real Christian®. The fifty years I spent in the Evangelical church and the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches are dismissed with a wave of the hand. What Candida is saying, then, is that I am a liar; that what I say about myself and give testimony to is a lie. Why do Evangelicals find it so hard to take former Christians at face value? When Candida says, “I am a Christian,” I believe her. It’s her story to tell. I wish Evangelicals would grant me the same respect.

I have experienced the love of Jesus firsthand, as have thousands of readers of this blog. Much like marriages where couples fall out of love and divorce, we fell out of love with Jesus, finding that he was not the person we thought he was. And so we divorced him, seeking love in people and places we had long denied (because Jesus told us to do so): spouses, families, and self. We reconnected with humanity and nature, and in doing so we found love. Why would any of us want to return to a jealous, demanding lover?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Are There Contradictions in the Bible?

bible inerrancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Link

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

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

Books by Bart Ehrman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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

northern cheyenne indian reservation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native Sun News Today adds:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to a Facebook post by Josh Kolojeski:

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

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

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

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

With that information, my questions are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Montana Baptist Convention Executive Director Barrett Duke stupidly said:

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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All That Matters is Eternity

eternity

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

James Laurinaitis, former Ohio State Football Player, NFL Player

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

pastor steve walker

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

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

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

The Christian Post reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A total of 30 firearms were recovered from both homes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser