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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Boys at Florida School Shooting Lacked “Masculinity”, Says Dave Daubenmire

dave daubenmire

This is the one hundred and seventy-first installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Dave Daubenmire saying that the boys at the recent Florida school shooting lacked “masculinity.”  Be prepared to watch two minutes of vile, offensive preaching by the king of assholes, Coach Dave Daubenmire.

Video Link

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Cameron McDonald Faces Civil Suit Over Misused Donation

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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 McDonald, pastor of Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, stands accused of “embezzling $100,000 of a church contribution.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

A Lexington pastor under scrutiny since last fall is now accused of embezzling $100,000 of a church contribution, according to a civil lawsuit filed by two church members.

The new lawsuit from James Keogh and Chad Martin filed Friday in Fayette County Circuit Court provides more specific details about the source of the heated dispute at Southern Acres Christian Church than did an earlier lawsuit that was dismissed while the church members tried to work with pastor Cameron McDonald.

Keogh and Martin accuse McDonald of embezzlement, unlawful conversion of funds and unjust enrichment in the civil complaint. An attorney representing McDonald earlier said no money had been misused and denied all allegations. Attempts to reach attorney Austin Wilkerson Tuesday were not immediately successful.

Keogh gave $170,000 to the church on Dec. 19, 2016, at McDonald’s urging and $100,000 was diverted to McDonald or his wife to help pay the mortgage on the couple’s $530,000 Jessamine County house purchased about five months earlier, according to the lawsuit. Keogh had specified the money was supposed to be used to pay off the church’s mortgage

“McDonald intentionally treated Keogh’s $100,000 as his own and diverted it to his own personal use, to the detriment of Keogh and the others, by failing to make the specified payment of mortgage debt he promised to make,” the complaint states.

According to the complaint, Keogh made a written demand for the return of the money, but McDonald did not comply or respond. McDonald was given a Feb. 15 deadline.

The court complaint states that Keogh is entitled to the return of the $100,000 because McDonald did not use it in the manner promised and agreed. The church mortgage of $144,000 was not paid off and the church was subsequently in debt due to the misuse of the money, according to court files and a police case report filed in November.

In addition to diverting the money, McDonald insisted his pastor compensation should be increased in the months that followed the purchase of the Jessamine County home and its 96 acres of land , the new lawsuit claims.

Last year, McDonald also insisted the church add his wife to the payroll, giving them a combined income of more than $100,000, the lawsuit states.

McDonald arranged last year for the removal of several of the church’s governing board of elders and appointed his wife and friend, pastor Tim Jones, to the new 3-person board that included himself, court documents show.

The complaint also alleges that McDonald fired the church’s officer manager to prevent her from being able to provide information about the church’s finances to law enforcement. No staff members other than McDonald and his wife are listed any longer on the church’s website.

Prior to the November lawsuit being dismissed, church attorney Wilkerson denied all allegations made against McDonald and the church and said all actions were taken in accordance with the Bible.

As tensions escalated, McDonald repeatedly barred some members from church. An off-duty Lexington police officer blocked some from entering the church during worship services.

Earlier this month, the church’s members voted 173-0 for a resolution removing McDonald as pastor and electing a new board of elders. In fact, the church members had to vote at a nearby park because they weren’t given access to church property; the church was locked during service that Sunday. Wilkerson, at the time, called the resolution illegal and contentious.

….

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor David Rowan Accused of Raping Teen Girls

pastor david rowan

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 Rowan, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Milton, Florida, stands accused of raping two teen girls.

ABC-2 reports:

A high-profile church pastor was charged with sexually assaulting two young sisters while he was in Murfreesboro, Tennessee for a religious conference.

Florida pastor David Rowan was arrested there Tuesday. He’s was indicted on rape, unlawful sexual contact and sexual battery by an authority figure.

The arrest stemmed from an alleged incident here in Middle Tennessee back in 2014. Rowan was a guest speaker at a religious convention in Murfreesboro.

Sex crimes detectives said he convinced the parents of two girls to let him take them to lunch. The family was seeking spiritual guidance from Rowan and trusted him.

Police said he brought the 14 and 15-year-old sisters to a local hotel where he took advantage of the situation and molested them.

Rowan is a well-known pastor in Milton, Florida, not far from Pensacola.

….

Rowan’s church bio page states:

The atmosphere in my childhood home was semi religious, leading to my philosophy by the time of my Navy enlistment in 1973 that all paths led to God—though because of my sins, I felt I could not go to heaven

My high school sweetheart and I were married in 1975, and by 1980 deteriorating circumstances in our home motivated us to take our two baby daughters and begin attending church.

Following Bible principles, our marriage improved, and I became a better man. My pastor told me that in light of these changes, coupled with the fact that I had gone forward in a church service as a nine year old boy, I must be saved. Further Bible study and application of the truths I learned brought me so much enjoyment that I began sharing these things with others.

Finally, in the fall of 1981, I enrolled in Tennessee Temple University to pursue pastoral studies and learned more wonderful truths, the two most notable of those being who Jesus really is and His wonderful gift of salvation. (Neither as a nine year old boy nor as a 25 year old man had I known these truths, but I concluded that God knew I would learn them later in life, so He went ahead and saved me when I was nine.)

After finishing my studies at Tennessee Temple University in 1985, I began my first pastorate, still clinging to that “nine-year-old” profession (whatever that was).

(During this time, two Bible passages kept bothering me: Matthew 7:21-23 in which the Lord disclaims certain individuals performing works in His name, and Ephesians 1:13, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” “What did I believe when I said I believed?” was the recurring question haunting my mind.)

Through the Scriptures, God revealed to me that I was a lost sinner. He then used them further to give me additional knowledge I desperately needed and opened my understanding to the point that I rested in the finished work of Christ for mankind’s redemption.

After 10 years of church and ministry, I was truly “born again” and have never doubted or questioned the sufficiency of the suffering of Christ Jesus on my behalf.

Like Apollos in Acts 18, my “calling” is to keep preaching that Jesus is the Christ who died and paid for the sins of the whole world.

Dear Pastor Russ Dean, Let Me Explain to You Why so Many Atheists Are Angry

pastor russ dean

Pastor Russ Dean and Family (and dog)

Dear Pastor Dean,

You recently wrote the following for Baptist News Global:

For a couple years I’ve been having an intellectual battle with atheists. Not all of them, but the people I refer to as “evangelical atheists.” They are angry and passionate and just as religiously cocksure as the fundamentalist believers they despise.

Or maybe it’s all believers they despise. To them we are all weak-minded and superstitious and pathetically out of touch. If only we’d grow up. If only we’d get an education. If only we had a fraction of their intellectual depth, we would give up our tribal, backwoodsy notions of “God.”

As you can tell, I’m a little passionate about this.

I’m not so much offended by their insulting condescension — though it wouldn’t hurt them to be a little nicer — if only for tactical purposes. As we say in the South, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

More to the point, I’m disappointed by their argument against God. While purporting to be so intellectually superior, too many atheists take on only the worst of religion. If I positioned an argument against only 5th-grade science or against those scientists who had used their knowledge to master the atomic bomb or build Internet viruses or promote biological warfare, I could make a pretty good argument against the inanity and wickedness of science, too.

So it is either disingenuous to argue only against religious fundamentalism, or it’s embarrassing for such smart people to be so uninformed about the true variety and richness of religion. Too often atheists ignore the traditions of vigorous intellectual pursuit which can be found in the theological explorations of all of the world’s religions.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe in the same god many atheists don’t believe in!

….

Between these two disheartening poles, angry atheists on one hand and fundamentalist Christians on the other, it’s not the muddled mush of some middle ground I’m seeking — which makes staking a claim to “free and faithful” even more difficult.

I want to take a few moments to respond to some of the things you mention in your post about angry atheists.

American atheists tend to respond to the dominate religion of their culture — Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicalism dominates everything from state and federal governments all the way down to local school boards and city councils. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, American Humanists, and Americans for Separation of Church and State spend countless hours dealing with Evangelical breaches of the wall of separation between church and state. Often, these groups are forced to sue schools and governments to stop their violations of the U.S. Constitution. I live in rural Northwest Ohio, a place dominated by God, Guns, and Right-Wing Republican politics. The aforementioned groups could spend the next year here litigating church and state violations. Imagine, for a moment, being an atheist in such a place. Imagine having to sit and watch as Evangelicals trash the Constitution. Imagine not being able to find employment because many businesses don’t want to employ an atheist. Imagine a place where every officeholder is a Republican who loves Jesus, the Bible, and Friday night football. Imagine hearing of sermons where atheists are described as haters of God, child molesters, possessed by demons, and tools of Satan. Imagine being one of only a few atheists who are willing to push back against Evangelical zealots, standing in for others who fear loss of employment, family, and friends if they dare say they don’t believe. Imagine being forced to be a secret atheist lest it ruins your marriage. Imagine pretending to be a Christian and attending church so your spouse and family won’t question your beliefs and judge you harshly.

What I have described above is real life for many atheists. You might want to walk in their shoes before you slap the “angry” atheists label on them. I wonder, would you be angry if you had to live in denial of who and what you are? What if the shoe were on the other foot, and it were Christians who were treated in this manner. How would you respond then? You speak from a seat of privilege. While that privilege is increasingly being challenged, Christians still have the seat at the head of the table. Last fall, I attended a secular coffee house concert where a Christian musician started to tell a faith-based story. She paused for a moment, perhaps pondering the appropriateness of her evangelizing, and then said, well, we are all Christians here, right? I wanted to shout, HELL NO, WE ARE NOT ALL CHRISTIANS. Instead, I mumbled something to my wife and kept quiet. The musician’s statement reflects commonly held sentiment here in Northwest Ohio. I suspect the same could be said of the South and Midwest. Jesus is the king of the hill, and if you want to be fully embraced by your community you better at least pretend to be a Jesus Club® member.

You object to atheists responding to what you call the “worst of religion.” I assume that you think your version of Christianity is a better version, and perhaps it is. You and your church are progressive socially and politically. You have many beliefs that I admire. Yes, I said admire. I’m sure we could work together in turning back Donald Trump’s Evangelical followers as they attempt to establish a theocratic government. While I am not sure of your view of the culture war, I suspect on this front too we could find common ground to work together. I am pro-choice, yet I am more than willing to work with people of faith who object to abortion for moral reasons. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a Christian willing to accept my help. Instead, I am labelled a murderer who is worthy of death.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I grew up in the Independent Baptist/Evangelical church. I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I even pastored a Southern Baptist church for a time (not a pleasant experience). I am quite conversant in Christian theology, in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Progressive Christians tend to paint themselves as different from Evangelicals. Often they are, but I have also found that if I dig a bit I will sometimes expose Evangelical beliefs at their core. For example, take the doctrine of eternal punishment. This is the one doctrine that many of my fellow atheists and I have a problem with. Not that we think there is Hell, but that there are Jesus-loving people who look at us and say, unless you believe as I do, unless you are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity in a lake of fire being tortured by God day and night. Worse yet, the God whom Evangelicals say loves everyone plans to give all non-Christians a new body after death so they can withstand endless burning and torture.

Whatever your beliefs might be, Pastor Dean, the only doctrine that really matters to me is whether you believe that I will spend eternity in Hell (or be annihilated) because I am an atheist; because I do not find the evidence for Christianity compelling. If you believe that, yes, I will spend eternity in Hell, then I have a hard time seeing you as a decent person. I am a kind, loving, thoughtful man. I’ve been married for forty years. I love my wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren. While I am far from perfect, I would be more than happy to compare good works with the best of God’s chosen ones. Yet, if there is a Hell, none of this matters. All that matters is that I have the “right” beliefs — as if Christians themselves even know what these right beliefs are. Belief in Hell, then, is the standard by which I judge Christians. If they believe only certain people will go to Heaven after death, then I have zero interest in being friends with them. Thinking your neighbor deserves to be tortured for wrong beliefs or human behaviors deemed “sinful” is offensive. Surely, you can see how atheists might become angry over Christians dismissing their lives in this manner. Granted, atheists aren’t worried about going to Hell because Hell doesn’t exist, but like most humans, we do desire to be well thought of by others. We very much want to part of the communities we live in.

Most of the atheists I know aren’t angry. They just want to live and let live. They want to live authentic lives filled with meaning and purpose (and not have Christians tell them there is no meaning and purpose in life without the Christian God). Unfortunately, literalism and certainty drive many Christians to evangelize anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe as they do, atheists included. Readers of this blog know that I am not an evangelist for atheism. I write about my past experiences as an Evangelical pastor. I also critique Evangelical Christianity, calling into question beliefs and practices they swear are straight from the mouth of God. I know Evangelicalism inside and out, and readers tend to trust my opinions. That said, I don’t care one way or the other if someone becomes an atheist. I consider any move away from Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist) a good thing. I view myself as a facilitator who helps people as they journey along the road of life. To use a worn-out cliché, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

My writing is widely read by religious and non-religious people, and it attracts legions of Evangelical zealots. These zealots call me names, attack my family, and even threaten me with death. These “loving” people of God are hateful and mean-spirited, some of them going so far as to attempt to hack my site or crash it with DDOS attacks. You see, Pastor Dean, your backyard has plenty of shit in it too. How about we both agree that angry Christians and angry atheists do not represent Christianity and atheists as a whole? How about we agree not to use social media as the measuring stick for determining the demeanor of Christians and atheists as a whole? I am sure that, like me, you can become angry. Anger is, after all, a human emotion. After leaving Christianity, I actually had to reconnect with my emotions. I had to learn that it was normal to be angry. What mattered is what I did with my anger. I spent fifty years dying to self/crucifying the flesh. The real me was swallowed up by Jesus and the ministry. It was refreshing, post-Jesus, to be human again. I am still in the process of reconnecting with the real Bruce Gerencser.

Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email or a blog comment from Christians who think they can psychoanalyze me by reading a few blog posts. These mind readers just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am bitter, angry, and hate God. No matter how much time I spend responding to them or explaining myself, they still heap judgment upon my head. Years ago, I told my counselor that I was perplexed by this treatment. Here I would share my journey and answer their questions and these followers of the thrice holy God would still heap judgment and condemnation upon me. Why? I wondered. My counselor laughed and told me, Bruce, you wrongly think they give a shit about what you believe. They don’t. He, of course, was right. Evangelicals, for the most part, aren’t interested in my story or what I believe. What matters is winning me back to Jesus. What matters is winning a victory for Team Jesus®. What matters is vanquishing the atheist preacher and his “followers.”

Perhaps, by now, Pastor Dean, you can sense and understand why I might be justifiably angry if I chose be. However, I choose not to be angry. Life is too short for me to spend it arguing with people who aren’t really interested in what I have to say.  Let me concludes this post with the advice I give to everyone who stumbles upon my blog:

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.

Please feel free to contact me when you have a question about atheists and their beliefs. You and I are never going to agree on the God question and the veracity of Christianity, but we can both do our best to understand each other. When given the opportunity, I do my best to call out atheists when they wrongly represent Christian belief. Facts matter, and atheists should be factual in their representations of Christian belief and practice. I ask that you do the same. I am considered by more than a few atheists to be too friendly with religious people. Since most people worship some sort of deity, it would be foolish for me not to be friendly to people of faith. All I ask is that religious people grant me the same courtesy.

Be well, Pastor Dean.

Bruce Gerencser

P.S. I also could have written thousands of words about how I was treated by colleagues in the ministry and former congregants after they found out l left the ministry and left Christianity.  Needless to say, these so-called men of God and sanctified church members revealed for all to see the ugliness and hate that lies just under the surface of Evangelical Christianity. I find myself asking, why in the hell would I ever want to be a Christian again? Why would I want to around people who treat people in such dehumanizing ways? Forget whether the Christian narrative is true. If Christians can’t be people of love, compassion, and peace, they have nothing to offer unbelievers.

Note

Pastor Dean’s bio states:

Russ Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. A native of Clinton, S.C., and a graduate of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned a D.Min. degree from Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been in church ministry for 30 years, and they have served as co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. He is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue, and when he isn’t writing sermons or posts for Baptist News Global you’ll find Russ in his shed doing wood working, playing jazz music, slalom or barefoot water skiing, hiking and camping, or watching his two teenage boys on the baseball field.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of almost 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

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Thoughts and Prayers Won’t Solve Gun Violence

thoughts and prayers

Cartoon by Kristian Nygard

Mass Shooting in the United States from 1990-February 2018

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mass shootings 2

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Source: Mother Jones

Three decades of mass of shootings; over 300,000 homicides; over 600,000 suicides. According to Wikipedia, 1.4 million Americans have been killed using firearms between 1968 and 2011.Wikipedia also states:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed by guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

By some estimates, Americans own over 300 million firearms, yet most households and individuals do not own a gun. Surprisingly, at least to me, is the fact that most Americans are reticent about banning guns or enforcing strict firearm laws. This disparity shows how effective the NRA and gun lobby are at getting their message out. Like it or not, the United States is a nation of guns. Add to our personal weapon caches the vast weapons of violence, carnage, and death used by our military, and it is hard not to conclude that we are a violent people who love weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. government searched everywhere for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They, of course, found none. Perhaps the search for such weapons should start here within our borders and homes.

What is needed is comprehensive gun control legislation. (Please read Another Day, Another School MassacreBruce, you are WRONG! Guns don’t kill people, people do! Really? Are you so stupid that you cannot see the insanity of such an argument? Cars don’t kill people, people do!  Yet, we have all sorts of laws and regulations that govern car ownership and use, including testing and licensing requirements. We wisely, in the name of public safety, regulate automobile ownership and use, yet many gun owners demand the right to own any kind of firearm, without restriction. Such thinking is a threat to public health and safety in much the same way as are people driving unlicensed, unregulated automobiles on highways, streets, and country roads.

Month after month, year after year, angry, often mentally ill, people use firearms to slaughter their fellow Americans. Every time such carnage happens, Republican/conservative political leaders offer up “thoughts and prayers” while reminding us that guns are not the problem. If the outrage from the survivors of the latest school shooting is any indication, younger Americans are waking up to the reality that guns ARE the problem. Emperor NRA stands before them and says, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and banning guns won’t stop mass shootings. These angry students wisely reply, BULLSHIT! They can see that the Emperor has no clothes. They see, oh so clearly, that unrestricted gun use and ownership is one part of the problem, along with the lack of mental health care for troubled teens and adults.

These young people are saying, NO MORE THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS! We want immediate and decisive action on gun control. It remains to be seen whether their outrage can be turned into a movement, one that perhaps mimics the student anti-war protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, protesting students helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War — a decade of immoral American violence and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. I hope that today’s protesting students can put such pressure on the U.S. government that it will force our political leaders, after hundreds of thousands of firearm deaths, to finally enact strict, comprehensive gun control laws.

Black Collar Crime: Youth Pastor Maurice Frazier Faces Sex Crime Charges

maurice frazier

Maurice Frazier, youth pastor at Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church (no website) in Indianapolis, Indiana, stands accused of “numerous felony charges of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.” Frazier claims he is a “sex addict” and can’t help himself.

Fox-59 reports:

A former youth pastor and registered sex offender is accused of molesting a 14-year-old girl.

The United States Attorney announced 51-year-old Maurice Frazier is facing numerous felony charges of sexual exploitation of a child and possession of child pornography.

The suspect met the victim while working with Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church on 38th St.

….

According to the indictment, Frazier met the 14-year-old victim through his work as a youth pastor and began communicating with her through social media.

Frazier is alleged to have secretly met with the victim between 15 and 20 times engaging in sexual activity at various locations around Indianapolis, some include his residence, his vehicle and in a church office.

Prosecutors also claim Frazier enticed the victim to produce pornography images of herself through a cell phone and sent them to him.

He is alleged to have sent her numerous images of himself in sexually explicit poses. The indictment further states he said he would leave the area if they were discovered and he could retaliate against her if the victim reported the activity to authorities.

….

The exact timeline of the alleged sex crimes with the teen aren’t clear, but Frazier hasn’t worked at the church in years following an arrest in 2011, when prosecutors charged Frazier with sexually assaulting female coworkers when he worked at the Marion County jail.

“He grabbed me and kissed me. I pushed him off,” said one accuser in 2011. “You know anywhere he could get his hands, I was constantly pushing him off and pushing him off.”

According to court records in the 2011 case, Frazier admitted his crimes and went on to say he is “a sexual addict and can’t help it.”

Frazier is already on the states Sex Offender Registry and remains incarcerated…

….

Prosecutors say if Frazier is convicted on the new federal charges, he could be facing decades behind bars.

….

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Donald Biggs Pleads Guilty to Sex Crime

donald biggs

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.

Donald Biggs, youth pastor at Mtn. Church in Medford, Oregon, pleaded guilty Friday to “one count of transporting with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.”

The Mail Tribune reports:

A former Medford youth pastor faces 10 to 15 years in prison after admitting he secretly recorded a juvenile in a bathroom.

In a U.S. District courtroom in Medford filled with youths, parents and church leaders he betrayed, Donald Courtney Biggs, 39, pleaded guilty Friday to a single felony count of transporting with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

The guilty plea spares Biggs, formerly a youth pastor at Mtn. Church in downtown Medford, and dozens of victims Biggs allegedly recorded in secret, from a weeks-long trial that was set to start later this month.

In his green Jackson County Jail uniform, Biggs made no statements and avoided eye contact with the audience. No victims made statements during the hearing, but U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken told victims she will allot as much time as needed to accommodate them at a sentencing hearing currently set for June.

Biggs has remained lodged in the jail since January 2015 following an investigation of inappropriate texting with minor girls in the church, according to earlier news reports.

The reports of inappropriate texting with minor girls led investigators to find recordings of adult and juvenile women in various stages of undress, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Potter, who is prosecuting the case.

The single charge specifies that Biggs recorded a juvenile exiting the shower during a March 2013 church trip to Huntington Beach, California, Potter said. As part of the negotiated agreement, nine other transportation and child pornography charges were dropped.

….

Outside the courthouse, Mtn. Church lead pastor and founder Jim Wright expressed a mix of anger, faith in the justice system and the need for forgiving hearts as he supported victims and parents. At his services last weekend, after recent news updates brought feelings about the case back to the surface, he cautioned his congregation not to let healthy anger become bitterness.

“I’ve been walking these families through this for three years,” Wright said, adding later that children in his congregation, many now young adults, “have had to walk through incredibly deep valleys.”

Wright also expressed frustration, which he said was mostly for the families, that Biggs dragged out his case since early 2015. He said he believes Biggs pleaded “under the notion of a deal, not a contrite heart.”

Though Wright put his congregation’s feelings of betrayal far ahead of his own, Wright said Biggs had been someone he trusted. Biggs had been Mtn. church staff for roughly six years, but Wright had known Biggs for close to two decades. Wright started Mtn. Church 11 years ago.

….

On February 7, 2018, the Mail Tribune reported:

Three years after a Medford church burglary sparked the seizure of dozens of videos of minors undressing inside his home, a former youth pastor is scheduled to stand trial on child pornography charges in federal court later this month.

A judge denied a motion Tuesday to reschedule Donald Courtney Biggs’ Feb. 26 trial, according to filings in U.S. District Court in Medford. Dozens of witnesses will be called to testify against the former Mtn. (Mountain) Church youth pastor in a trial anticipated to last two weeks.

Recent filings by U.S. attorneys provide new details in the case against Biggs, 39, alleging he secretly took videos of minor girls changing at his home during church events and on church trips to California between June 2012 and March 2014. Biggs faces nine counts of using or attempting to use a minor to produce a visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, and three counts of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

The more than 40 witnesses federal prosecutors intend to call include minors Biggs had been tasked with supervising at church activities, their parents and church employees.

Minors who participated in church activities are anticipated to testify that Biggs often encouraged “messy” activities or pranks that would require kids to change or shower during church activities, and would advise girls to bring a change of clothes, according to prosecutors. At church camps, Biggs allegedly would design “punishments” such as covering a kid in syrup and flour.

Minor girls and minor boys would use different bathrooms, and boys were often ostracized or isolated from the group, court documents allege.

Other witnesses U.S. attorneys have interviewed describe one-on-one meetings between Biggs and minor girls at the church and coffee shops, the documents say. Biggs would pick up minors from school to take them to lunch without parents’ knowledge or consent, would give girls back and shoulder rubs, would instruct girls to lie to their parents about where they were going, and would buy them clothes, the documents claim. Biggs allegedly texted some girls several times a day with phrases such as “love you to the moon and back,” “You are beautiful,” “I love you” and “Missed you last night,” according to court documents.

Inappropriate text messages sparked the investigation, according to a document filed Monday.

At the end of November 2014, police first investigated Biggs following a report of inappropriate texts between him and a minor, but police prematurely closed the investigation without reading the messages after the victim’s father told police there was nothing wrong.

Police reopened the inquiry Dec. 26, 2014, when the church relayed a letter from a victim’s grandparent alleging Biggs used “coercion techniques,” saying at different times he’d buy the girl clothing, solicit photographs or tell the girl “she made him sad or made him cry.” Biggs allegedly used software to wipe the contents of his phone before submitting the device to a digital forensic search, according to court documents.

When confronted, Biggs allegedly threatened that the church “would go down in flames” if they got him in trouble, according to a church employee prepared to testify. The church placed Biggs on leave by the beginning of January 2015.

Medford police arrested Biggs Jan. 15, three days after he triggered the church’s burglary alarm allegedly to steal computer hard drives. During police questioning, prosecutors say, Biggs made admissions that shifted investigators’ focus toward recordings.

….

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Richard Shaka Drunkenly Drives Wrong Way and Kills Young Woman

pastor richard shaka

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.

Richard Shaka, retired pastor of All Nations Christian Assembly in Minneapolis, Minnesota , stands accused of drunkenly driving the wrong way on a Minnesota Highway, killing 30-year-old Jenna Bixby.

CBS Minnesota reports:

Today we’ve learned much more about the driver who was going the wrong way down a Twin Cities highway last night when he killed the driver of another car.  The wrong-way driver was a pastor of a church. The victim was a 911 dispatcher.

The State Patrol says 30-year-old Jenna Bixby was driving to work at the Minneapolis 911 Center around 8 last night when the crash happened. Investigators say a driver was going north in the southbound lane of 252 in Brooklyn Center.

They say that driver is Richard Shaka, the pastor of a Northeast Minneapolis church — and they believe he had been drinking and driving.  He is now in critical condition at North Memorial.

State Patrol officers say when they got on a scene, they smelled alcohol coming from Richard Shaka’s body and they plan to seek a charge of criminal vehicular homicide.

Since Jenna Bixby was a little girl, she’s had a lifelong passion for emergency responders.  She got her degree in law enforcement then got a job as a 911 dispatcher with the city of Minneapolis.

“She loved helping other people, that’s why she was working in 911 dispatch,” her husband Dan told WCCO.

From his home, Jenna’s traumatized husband explained what happened Saturday night.

“She was on her way to work to help other people, to answer these types of calls for car accidents and anything else that — other emergencies that people need help with,” he said.

And suddenly an emergency call came in on her behalf. It was too late, Jenna Bixby was gone. The Bixbys have police scanners in their home so Daniel had heard the call himself.

“When the two state troopers showed up at my door, I knew, they didn’t have to tell me,” he said.

It was a fatal accident. A driver was driving the wrong way and hit Jenna head on.

Turns out that 72-year-old driver was well-known in the local faith community. His name is Richard Shaka. Pastor Baba Letang now leads the church he retired from, All Nations Christian Assembly.

“He was the one who started this church, brought so many people together over the years,” he said. “He’s touched a lot of lives including my own life.”

Pastor Baba didn’t know the details of the crash until we told him. His face froze when heard a young woman lost her life.

“This is sad,” he said in disbelief.

Pastor Baba says he never knew of his friend drinking alcohol.

“I would be shocked to be very honest with you,” he said. “I can’t believe it, I mean you mentioning it I can’t believe that alcohol would be an issue here.”

….

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor Anthony Morris Charged with Aggravated Robbery

pastor anthony morris

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.

Anthony Morris, pastor of St. Paul’s AME Zion Church in Toledo, Ohio, along with his wife (Zelda) and daughter (Kamali), have been charged with aggravated robbery.

The Toledo Blade reports:

A downtown Toledo pastor and his family are accused of robbing a Sunday school teacher at the church over the weekend.

St. Paul’s AME Zion Church Pastor Anthony Morris, 49, along with his wife, Zelda Morris, 46, and 19-year-old daughter Kamali Morris, are each charged with aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony.

Nickema Turner, 39, of Maumee was teaching Sunday school at the church, 954 Belmont Ave., when the younger woman grabbed her by the hair, according to a Toledo police report.

Mrs. Morris then began punching Ms. Turner, police said. The pastor also pushed Ms. Turner to the ground, according to the police report.

During the assault, Mrs. Morris is accused of dumping items from Ms. Turner’s purse and taking them.

Ms. Turner attempted to recover her belongings when Mr. Morris allegedly pulled out a gun and pointed it at her, police said. The woman told police the pastor threatened to kill her.

Two prescription bottles, a Taser, and a cell phone were taken from Ms. Turner’s purse, according to the police report. The cell phone was recovered, but the glass was broken.

The Morris family, who reside in the 3000 block of Evergreen Road, fled the church before police arrived. The couple have been arrested, though the daughter has yet to be located, according to Toledo police.

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Do School Shootings Happen Because the Evangelical God is Banned From Public Schools?

god banned atheist pigEvangelicals often claim that the reason for school shootings is that the Christian God has been banned from public schools. According to Evangelicals, all sorts of maladies afflict our society due to the fact that prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments have been litigated out of public schools. If only people would see the importance of the Christian God (and only the Christian God) in educating children and return him to his rightful place, why all sorts of societal ills would disappear overnight. The same argument is made for banning abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage and any of the other hot-button issues Evangelicals deem a threat to their God and way of life.

This argument, of course, is patently false. God isn’t banned from public schools. I attend several local high school girls’ basketball games each week in the winter month. Many of these games have prayer times by led by players before and after the games. Such student-led prayers are legal. I don’t care for the prayers, and I refuse to stand silently in the stands until the prayers are done. Not my God, so I am not going to give my approval to such bawdy displays of religiosity. That said, students are free to pray, read the Bible, and have a Ten Commandments book cover. Teachers are free to do the same during their breaks or other times when they are not teaching their students. What schools and teachers are not permitted to do is advance or evangelize for sectarian religious beliefs.

Most local schools have Christian student groups, including groups associated with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (an Evangelical ministry whose goal is to “present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church”). Youth for Christ has an active presence in many schools. Local churches are free to rent/use school facilities. Over the years, new church plants have used local school buildings as their meeting places. Local school boards are dominated by Christians, and I suspect most teachers profess some form of Christian faith. It seems, then, that the Christian God is alive and well in public schools.

What upsets Evangelicals is that they can no longer demand preferential treatment for their religious cult. If Satanist, atheist, or secular students want to start student-led clubs, they are free to go so. If Satanists on school sports teams want to offer a prayer up to Beelzebub before the start of the game, they are free to do so. Evangelicals want exclusivity and it irritates the heaven out of them that other sects and groups are given equal status.

What kind of God allows children to be murdered, all because his adult followers aren’t allowed to proselytize public school students? What a vindictive, petty God this is, akin to a man who burns down a house with his ex-wife and children in it, all because his ex wouldn’t let him in the door. Such a God is not worthy of worship. Worse yet, are Evangelicals of a Calvinistic bent who believe school shootings are all part of some sort of perverse cosmic plan. According to Calvinists, these children were murdered because God willed it to be done. It is God who ultimately fires the bullet that kills us all.

Such a God is an abomination, one unworthy of worship, love, and devotion. This is one of the things that makes it clear such a God does not exist. A moral, loving God would neither be an instrument of murder, nor would it stand by while children (and teachers) are killed by deranged gunmen. What the school shootings tell us is that the Christian God is either a work of fiction or he is too busy to be bothered with the pain and suffering of his creation. If God has the powers Evangelicals say he does, he could have stopped Nikolas Cruz from killing seventeen and wounding four of his fellow students (including several school staff members). That God did nothing is a sure sign that he doesn’t exist. Evangelicals love to tell us mere humans that we are sinners deserving judgment from their God and eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Yet, I suspect many of us sinners, if given the opportunity, would have done all we could to protect children from murder. Unlike God, we value life, especially that of those who are in the early years of this wonderful experience we call life. That it was humans, not God, who tried to protect children from slaughter is yet another reminder of the fact that God is, at best, an absentee father who has no interest in his children.

If the root cause of mass shootings is the Evangelical God being kicked out of our culture and schools, how then do Evangelicals explain the shooting at an Evangelical Baptist Church that claimed the lives of twenty-six God-fearing souls? How then do Evangelicals explain Dylan Roof’s murder of nine Christians while they were praying at church? Surely, the people killed in these shootings were devoted followers of Jesus, yet God, as he does in EVERY case, stood by and did nothing. In fact, based on demographics, it is likely that many of the students murdered in the school shootings over the past three decades were believers in the Christian God. What possible reason could be given for the Christian God — he who holds the keys of life and death — wiping these people off the face of the earth?

Well, you know Bruce, God’s ways are not our way.

No shit, Sherlock. And you wonder why atheism is growing?

God is not going to fix the school shooting problem. It’s up to us, just as is everything else in life. Waiting for God to act is a fool’s errand, one that leads to countless heartaches. We are the Gods in this morality play, and it is time we exercise our divine powers and put an end to gun violence. It’s time to run the NRA and their Republican lackeys out of town. It’s time we recognize that guns are instruments of death, and a country without 300 million of them would be a better place to live. While a total gun ban will never be implemented in the United States, we can ban weapons capable of causing horrific bloodshed in short amounts of time.

Or we can put prayer and Bible reading back in the public schools….

Another Day, Another School Massacre

gun control

Cartoon by Scott Bateman

The latest school massacre took place in Florida. A nineteen-year-old former student opened fire as school was dismissing, killing seventeen students and teachers. I watched one of the cellphone videos that was shot during the shooter’s maniacal rampage. I listened as teenagers whimpered and screamed, hoping that they would avoid injury or death. I wept as I watched the video, but my sorrow quickly turned to anger. I knew that before the sun rose on a new day that several things would happen:

  • Democrats would call for stricter gun control laws.
  • Republicans would say now is not the time to talk about stricter gun control laws.
  • The NRA would decry the shooting, but reject any and all calls for gun control reform.
  • Evangelical Christians would flood social media with “thoughts and prayers” comments.

What do we know about school shootings? Is there a pattern or some sort of common denominator? You bet there is. Let me list a few of them:

  • The shooters are overwhelmingly young, white male students. Many of them come from dysfunctional homes.
  • Many of the shooters had mental health problems, often untreated.
  • The shooters were either bullied or viewed as social outcasts, not fitting into the cliques that dominate public school life.
  • The shooters used the internet to access materials that helped them plan the shootings.
  • The shooters used the internet to research past shootings, often finding inspiration from the carnage perpetrated by other shooters.
  • The weapon of choice is the AR-15 or similar type guns.
  • Most shooters used large capacity clips for their weapons of choice.
  • Most shooters had large amounts of ammunition on hand.

Now, after reading this list, is there anything that our government leaders can do to put an end to the violence? Yep, there is, but unfortunately, thanks to the NRA and a number of congressional Republicans, what should be done will be ignored. These cowards will, instead, call for armed school guards and extensive school security. Some of these NRA-fearing men and women will even call for the arming of school teachers and custodial staff. After all, what better way to put an end to school shootings than add more guns to the equation, right? What could possibly go wrong?

The NRA — a Chihuahua-sized group with a Rottweiler bark — and its lackeys will remind Americans that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, suggesting that gun ownership without restriction is a sacred right that must never, ever be infringed upon. Democrats will point at the Trump administration, blaming them for doing nothing about school gun violence. They will rightly point out that a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation that made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase firearms. What these self-righteous liberals forget is that Democrat Barack Obama inhabited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for eight years, and in his time there nothing was done to meaningfully combat school shootings. So please, stop with the political finger-pointing. Both parties are neck-deep in the blood of school children, and they should be ashamed of themselves for their paralytic inaction.

I grew up in a home where shooting firearms were very much a part of life. My dad was a police reservist, and my brother was the Marshall of Tombstone, Arizona, for many years, and also a detective. I started shooting guns and hunting while I was still in elementary school. I bought my first gun — a bolt-action Mossburg .410 with a modified choke — at the age of twelve. I, at one time, owned numerous shotguns, high-powered rifles, and a smattering of handguns. When I was a young man, my dad owned a gun store in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked in the store from time to time, and on weekends I would accompany my dad as he set up tables at area gun shows. Dad’s store gave me access to a plethora of firearms to shoot, everything from a .458 Winchester Magnum to a .22K Hornet. I enjoyed hunting and target shooting with my dad, one of the few things we did together.

I wrote the above so that unaware readers would know that I am not some Commie liberal out to take away everyone’s gun. I do not currently own any firearms, choosing instead to do my shooting with a camera. That said, I don’t look down my nose at people who own guns, nor do I think they are to blame for school shootings.  Solving gun violence in schools requires political courage and moral certitude. It requires our rulers to act in the best interest of the people, and not the interests of the NRA, Winchester, Remington, Smith and Wesson, or Glock.

people killed school shooting

Some of the people killed in the Florida school shooting

So what can be done?

First, universal background checks must be strictly enforced, connected to a nationwide database. Gun purchasers should be screened for prior convictions of violent crimes, especially domestic violence. Gun purchasers should be screened for mental health issues. Mental health providers should be required to flag patients with mental health issues which make them a danger to themselves or others. The U.S. military and the VA should be required to flag all soldiers who are being treated for PTSD or other mental disorders that make them a danger to themselves or others.

Second, all guns should be licensed. All new purchases should have a seven to fourteen-day waiting period, allowing sufficient time for background checks to be performed. A database of those who purchased and those who owns guns should be available to law enforcement.

Third, all open-carry and concealed-weapon laws should be repealed, putting an end to the Wild West mentality in many states and communities. Only law enforcement should be permitted to carry firearms in public.

Fourth, the manner in which the government and insurance companies handle mental health treatment must be changed in ways that make it possible for people to get prompt, ongoing, and comprehensive care.

Fifth, school leaders must address the ongoing bullying crisis in public schools. Teachers must be taught to be aware of bullying and to take steps to stop it when they see it happening.  While I suspect it is impossible to put an end to cliques, school must do a better job fostering inclusiveness. Perhaps it is time to put an end to the jocks-rule mentality that dominates most schools.

Sixth, semi-automatic firearms such as the AR-15 should be immediately banned. Any firearm capable of firing large volume bursts should be banned. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to own military-style firearms.

Seventh, large (high) capacity magazines and clips should be immediately banned. There is no legitimate need for owning guns with large capacity magazines, nor is there any reason for owning clips holding dozens of rounds of ammunition. It also goes without saying that bump stocks such as the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre should be outlawed.

Eighth, politicians should be banned from taking financial or in-kind donations from the NRA and the gun lobby. The NRA, along with the Ted Nugents of the world, are part of the problem. These promoters of the means of violence should not be given larger-than-life influence over the political process. (As my editor mentioned to me, this would surely not pass constitutional challenge. Fine. Let’s reverse the effects of Citizens United. Let’s make public the names of ALL campaign donors. Let’s ban corporate donations, soft money, and the other endless ways politicians hide who and where donations are coming from. In fact, let’s federally fund elections and limit campaigning as Great Britain does to a short time before time election day. In other words, GET THE FUCKING MONEY OUT OF POLITICS!)

If the United States wants to put an end to gun violence in general and school shootings in particular, it must look at how countries such as Great Britain and Australia have crafted their gun control laws and act accordingly. Tinkering at the edges, making meaningless, superficial changes to gun laws is not the answer. The rest of the Western world looks at the United States and thinks that the Yanks have gone bonkers. Can they not see what must be done to put an end to gun violence in their schools? Those of us who don’t suck at the teat of the NRA know what must be done. It is up to us to force our political leaders to stop the blood flowing in the hallways of our schools. If our elected officials won’t act, then it is time for us to get men and women who will. Doing nothing or next to nothing is not the answer.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Showing Breasts While Breastfeeding Tempts Men to Lust

lori alexander

Many young women today believe that it’s fine to nurse a baby in public and have other men see their breasts because feeding a baby is much more important than what men think or being modest and this is why breasts were created. I disagree. In my grandmother’s generation, women were always careful to cover themselves when they nursed their babies. It was the same for my mother’s generation. They wouldn’t have dreamed of allowing other men besides their husbands to see their exposed breasts.

My generation was modest about this as well. My friends always covered themselves up when they nursed their babies. This generation is different. Nakedness no longer brings them shame and nursing a baby is “natural” and so are breasts, so no big deal, right? Wrong.

You can bet I sure wouldn’t want a woman coming into my home and openly showing her breasts to my husband while nursing her baby. I nursed four babies for over a year and no man besides my husband ever saw my breasts. God commands that older women teach the young women to be discreet and part of being discreet and shamefaced is not drawing attention to ourselves and covering up.

….

Nakedness and shame continually are linked together in the Bible. “…and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear” (Revelation 3:18). We are not to show our nakedness just because we live in a culture that tells us it is acceptable. We are to be discreet in all of our behavior, yes, even when nursing our babies. If most of the generations before this generation could do it, so can you. Breasts are not to be displayed in public by godly women for any reason.

 

Yes, breasts are sexual for men or God wouldn’t have written this in His Word: “Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love” (Proverbs 5:19). Men are highly attracted to women’s breasts no matter how much women don’t want this to be true. I wouldn’t even nurse in front of my sons if they were older than five years old. No, breasts are to be covered and private. It’s what God has called us to do

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Women Showing Their Breasts While Breastfeeding, February 2, 2018