The Day Abraham Blew Himself Up at Emmanuel Baptist Church

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac

For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the mid 1970’s.  All dorm students were required to attend Emmanuel Baptist Church. Emmanuel was pastored by Tom Malone, the chancellor of Midwestern.

in the 1970’s, Emmanuel Baptist Church was a large church, one of the largest churches in the United States. The church ran buses all over the Pontiac/Detroit area. During my time at Emmanuel, the church operated 80 buses.

One of the bus riders was a young man name Abraham.

Abraham was a walking contradiction. He was a brilliant, crazy, mentally ill young man.

Abraham would walk up in back of people and snip hair from their heads. A week or so later Abraham would bring the person a silk sachet filled with the hair and his finger nail clippings.  Needless to say, most of us were freaked out by Abraham and kept a close eye on him.

One day there was an explosion at the church. Abraham had built a bomb and brought to church. He carried the bomb into the restroom and, whether accidentally or on purpose, the bomb detonated. It was the last strange thing Abraham ever did. The bomb blew Abraham to bits. One man who helped clean up the mess said bits and pieces of Abraham fell from the drop ceiling.

At the time, I thought all of this was quite funny. I thought “I guess Abraham won’t do that again.” Years later, my thoughts are quite different. The buses brought thousands of people to the services of the Emmanuel Baptist Church. Most of the riders came from poor and/or dysfunctional homes. Their need was great, but all we offered them was Jesus.

Jesus was the answer for everything. Except that he wasn’t. As I now know, the problems that people face are anything but simple and Jesus is not the cure for all that ails you. What Abraham really needed was residential treatment and psychiatric care. What he got was a Jesus that could not help him. In the end, his psychosis won.

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45 Comments

  1. Matt Martin

    Fucking hell Bruce! How utterly tragic.

    A timely reminder of how important properly funded mental health services are. Here in Australia our federal government has spent close $1 billion funding “chaplains” (almost all of them fundamentalists and evangelical loons) in state schools rather than provide properly counselling services for students.

    Reply
  2. Steve

    Sad story 🙁

    Reply
  3. Troy

    I’m rather impressed he had the wherewithal to build a bomb pre-internet. It is fortunate no one else was hurt. I’m not a fan of IFB churches obviously, but at least they were trying to serve the poor instead of following the money.
    Just curious, Bruce, did Midwestern have any famous alums besides you and Kent Hovind?
    IFB and others of their ilk are always asserting that their Christian education results in better quality people. Reminds me of a case in the late 80’s Brandon Carnell a student at Dixie Baptist Acadamey in Springfield twp Michigan (You may know them from the famous Jesus sign on I-75) killed his entire family at the age of 14. I’m just saying, if he had went to public school THEY would have had a field day. Did the oppresive IFB culture drive him to it?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yeah, there were a few men who pastored, at the time, larger churches. Charles Keen, First Baptist Church, Milford, Ohio is one that comes to mind. I’d have to think some more on and see if I can recall (Greek for pull from the dark recesses of my addled brain) other notable Midwestern attendees/alums.

      Dixie Baptist Academy, is that the school affiliated with Paul Vannaman’s church? He taught at Midwestern, was well liked. Vannaman died years ago in a drowning accident.

      Reply
      1. Troy

        My mistake it is Springfield Christian Academy and it is the school for Dixie Baptist, correct Paul Vannaman’s church. A friend of mine went there. They allowed him in even though he wasn’t a baptist. So I attended his graduation back in 1989. Sort of my first introduction to the I.F.B. including a three hour sermon from the head of the Michigan fundamentalists (I emailed them to get the name, they didn’t respond)

        Reply
  4. gimpi1

    So sad. This is one issue I have with many religious groups. What this sad, disturbed young man needed was care to address his mental health. What he got was a belief-system that he most likely couldn’t understand, and one that might well have blamed him for his illness and ostracized him further. It’s depressing that no one in this church thought about trying to find help for Abraham. I’m sure that many of the people in this church would have decried governmental intervention, claiming that the church community would step up and help each other, rather than relying on help paid for by taxes. Yet, when the rubber met the road, they did not step up to help one of their own. In my limited experience, they hardly ever do.

    Reply
    1. Kevin R. Douglas

      Abraham was brought to Emmanuel Baptist Church on a Sunday School bus , however he lived at a ” government operated halfway house “, that provided him with worldly counseling ,which obviously had no positive impact on him whatsoever. I know because I taught a Sunday School at Emmanuel for a group from the various halfway houses. Puting the blame on the Emanuel Baptist Church is pure anadulterated ignorance.Espesially since his halfway house government counseling had absolutely no benefit for him !

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        *sigh*

        Reply
      2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        And Emmanuel and Jesus did what for them, exactly?

        Next thing you are going to tell me is that ‘B Sunday School’ wasn’t for black kids.

        Reply
        1. Kevin R. Douglas

          I fail to see the relevancy of your comment about the ” ‘B Sunday School wasn’t for black kids ‘ “. First of all I don’t have any idea what a ‘B Sunday School’ is supposed to be. I am also puzzled as to why you could be so presumtuous as to what I would say or not say next.
          After reading much of what you wrote about the years of ministry , I’m not totally convinced that you are an athiest as you say you are.I see a man hurt by the “IFB” crowd and striking out against what you consider the source of that hurt.I can also see why you had constant conflict in all the Churches where you ministered. You do convey a very caustic attitude in your writings.That would be conducive to conflict.
          Concerning Abraham,I could write much because I knew him well.But I can’t take up all the space here ,that would be necessary to say it all.Suffice it to say my heart was broken when my friends B & C F told me of the horrible accident that ended his life.

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            B Sunday school was held in the afternoon. Its attendees were overwhelmingly black.

            As I told a previous commenter on this post, please limit your comment to Abraham/Emmanuel/Malone. I have zero interest in hearing your armchair psychoanalysis about my past and present state.

          2. Kevin R. Douglas

            All I can say is WOW ! , How sad & pathetic !!! This will be my LAST reply ! I have much more important ways of spending the valuable time God has aloted me.

      3. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

        Mr. Douglas, did you know Lawrence Walker? He worked the bus that brought Abraham to church every Sunday.

        Reply
        1. Kevin R. Douglas

          No,I didn’t know M.Walker. I graduated in 1975. I think you meant to write : ( formerly Walker ) not( formally Walker)!

          Reply
          1. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

            Yes you are right! A typo on my part.

  5. Monty

    My experiences with church in general is that they ascribe what we call mental issues to the person having a “spiritual issue” or “sin in their life”. This only furthers the already existing problem of mental illness. Churches will rarely address states of mental illness because it flies in the face of their beliefs.
    I know….my wife has a mental illness and I’ve witnessed one particular yong, married ladly who had a host of mental inesses and acted upon them.She wouldn’t go to a doctor and refused to take medicine for a long time because the church condones it. Well, wouldn’t you know it, once she had enough pain, she went to a medical professional (Ya know, someone who’s actually trained in these things), was diagnosed and once she started to take meds she actually started to feel better. Go figure!!!

    Reply
  6. Brian

    It is important to get professional help that is qualified in psych, not a relgious scholar! And even that does not work sometimes. The psychosis is sometimes beyond meds. I recently lost a friend of much of my life to schiz. She finally killed herself because she could not work out the removal of entities in her. They harmed her for years and finally she did away with her……. self. I do not believe in fairies or devils or Gods inhabiting us but I sure see how we can go woo-woo from early damage in our lives, even as early as the womb. Science is now revealing that very early trauma has life-long repercussions, brain changes that act as foundations for our years. The talented old man, Janov, writes a blog I find quite helpful in these matters. He has been around a good many years and acknowledges the science behind worthwhile treatment for people.

    Reply
  7. Victoria

    I attended Temple Christian school in Dallas, Texas from 7th to 11th grade . It was the cheapest private school in the Dallas area. They often took in kids who had been kicked out of the Dallas Independent school District just because they could play football as the principal worshiped football right next to God. These kids often had trouble sitting in class and learning I can think of numerous times in high school where fights with happened during class and the teacher would just keep teaching. The students who were fighting were not expelled. it created such an environment that it made it difficult for anyone to learn in classes. These young men who fought repeatedly really needed to be in a behavioral management program or therapy. Jesus and the Abeka/ACES curriculum did not improve their lives. But even in the case where Mr. Whittal and a couple young male students joked about torturing cats it was not taken seriously. Instead of recognizing that this was the beginning of sociopathic behavior the behavior was often laugh that and encouraged. Forgetting anything the Bible says about not coveting that which is not yours. Basically the entire school was a sham and little education actually occurred. Students who needed genuine help we’re not able to get it because prayer was supposed to solve everything. Little was done in the way of making the safer for female students. I was threatened with rape and nothing was done. Besides there was very much a boys will be boys attitude towards their behavior . In other words I think part of the reason for the rejection mental health care is a rejection of formal education. The placing of the Bible above all other forms of knowledge. Most teachers at the school did not have a four-year degree. And those that did have a four-year degree had one from the unaccredited Pensacola Christian College. Principal Laughlin and the teachers were delisional in thinking that all the problems at the school could be solved with prayer. Holding onto this delusion enabled the school to be in disarray . I left after the 11th grade. Many years later Mr. Whittal was shocked to discover that I was three credits away from attaining my undergraduate degree. I told him it was hardly shocking for a college dropout such as he to think such a thing.

    Reply
  8. Jo

    My brother died at the hands of drug addicts because he was an addict and he was an addict for thousands of reasons people use mainlining drugs. He sought mental health care and the same medication that helped a different biological family member, helped my little bro live without the extreme high’s and low’s. The family/church wanted him to find jesus.

    I wanted him to maintain sobriety, any old way he had to. Taking one psychotropic medication allowed him to be his normal self. The churches’ strong stand against mental health care created such extreme cognitive dissonance, he eventually quit taking the meds to “fit” with the family/church.

    I wonder how the pastor graduated Texas A & M with Honors but is dumb as a door-knob about mental health needs. If they faced the truth, half the church leaders (like in the listed YouTube video) would be forced into a loony bin! What they perceive as holy spirit is a lack of mental fortitude and we can tell if we listen to their actual words, squawking nonsense on YouTube.

    I can’t listen. Not anymore.

    Cite:
    https://youtu.be/LXqk-pJOuFw

    Reply
  9. Ahab

    Religious leaders need to be trained on how to identify and respond to people with mental illness — and that includes referring them to mental health services if necessary. All too often, faith is not enough.

    “Religion That Heals, Religion That Harms” is an amazing book that explores the ways in which toxic religion can exacerbate mental illness, as well as the ways in which healthy spirituality can bring comfort to people with mental health issues.

    http://www.guilford.com/books/Religion-That-Heals-Religion-That-Harms/James-Griffith/9781606238899

    Reply
  10. Tom

    I’m Tom Craig Jr. We attended Emmanuel. Can’t remember what year that was, but I was a young teen, I believe. I was in my front yard (Dover St) throwing the football around with a neighbor when the explosion happened that day. We were talking about spooky stories today at an office lunch, and I recalled the story of Abraham and the bomb and the finding of the cassette tape in the ceilings of the Fellowship Hall afterward. I decided to research the old story and found this post.

    They played the tape for the congregation one Wednesday night. Did you hear it?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Young

      I’m Sarah Young & I attended Emmanuel Baptist Church in the 70’s & 80’s… my dad Mr. Young drove s Sunday School bus for years there… I remember the Abraham incident.

      Reply
  11. Tom

    In another article, you show the Emmanuel BC building in its current, unlived in, overgrown, for-sale state with the intent, I believe, to show that its proof the church is shrinking. I’m not sure. You probably know the church split when Tom Malone Sr retired, and that’s how humans are. Of course, the building is not the church, right. You’ll find many of that old congregation spread around local Pontiac churches now. Unfortunately, it’s tough for another pastor to come in and take over after a man like Tom Malone Sr. and remain “in tune” with the congregation Malone cultivated. That’s just a fact of life and is seen all over the map in the U.S. That’s why it’s a meme to follow Christ and not Christians.

    So, while Christianity will shrink slightly in the U.S. in coming years, it’s growing worldwide. Islam will really take off worldwide. The religious “nones” will grow a bit in the U.S. and shrink worldwide by 2050.

    I’m curious about your backstory, so I’ll read back a ways. Thanks for posting.

    Our U.S. culture is certainly reflected in those numbers.

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      In third world countries, where poverty, deprivation, and lack of education are the norm I can’t help but agree that religion, of whatever form, will continue, and even thrive.

      In the US religion is already on the wane, though it is yet to pass a tidal point. In thirty years I would expect that in the US religious belief, of any kind, will be in the minority.

      Reply
  12. Billy Dean Walker

    It was my dad, or should I say my step-dad (didn’t know he was just my step-dad until him and my mom divorced 2 years after he graduated MBC in ’79 I believe) that brought Abraham to church every Sunday. He always wanted a pack bus but the only way he could get a bus full of people was to get people like Abraham to church. He was not much of a role model as a Christian, but I am glad the seed of Christianity was planted. His name is Lawrence Guy Walker. You may know him. My mom had the first deaf ministry at EBC.

    Reply
  13. Joe

    What disgraceful comments about servants who dedicated their lives to help others. Of the multitudes of people that were blessed by the ministries of Emmanuel and MBC your little knowledge of the Abraham event is clear from your account of the story and your past attitude towards his death. How easy it is to put down ministers of the past and lift yourself up. Shame.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Oh, the half has not been told, Joe. Do you really want me spill all the beans about what went on at Emmanuel and Midwestern? Shouldn’t these stories be told lest we make gods out of men who have clay feet? Or do you think sins should remain buried lest people find out that things were not as they seemed. Sorry, but I am unwilling to play the IFB charade, ignoring the tremendous psychological damage that was done to generations of people.

      I am one man with a story to tell. You can choose to accept my story, or not. I don’t care. Acting all butt hurt over my stories about my time in Pontiac (and my wife’s time there, along with her father and uncle) is your problem, not mine.

      Reply
  14. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

    It is sad what happened to Abraham. Would he have done it even if he was getting the help he needed from the church? Who knows. There can be a lot of ifs in any situation. What the church did or what the church didn’t do should not be a foundation that would drive someone away from God. IBF is full of people who make mistakes as any other denomination out there. Should we hinge on it and allow it to remove our faith and trust in God? God forbid! That is why God tells you and me to not put our wisdom in man but in Him (1 Cor.2:5). Why would God be at fault for something that man has done? Man has been making mistakes since the Garden of Eden. Was it God that turned you away from Him or man? The answer will always be man. I could have turned from God and the church many times. But you don’t throw away a bag full of apples just because you found one bad apple among many. You remove the apple and continue enjoy the rest. The faults of others God will judge. But don’t let them faults remove you from God for all eternity. Do you think that God will allow room for excuses as to why you left His side? You will be judged for your own actions, and your excuses will go unheard. It is taking more faith for you to continue to do what you are doing than it is to remain faithful to God. You Mr. Bruce have enough Bible in you to know that I am right. I’m sorry for whatever pain you feel the church has caused you. But the mistakes of the church God Himself will judge first as He states that judgement will come to the House of God first. What people have done let it be on them. Let repentance be in your heart and turn back to God before it is too late.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Did you bother to read the commenting rules? If not, please do so. If you have, why did you ignore them?

      Your comment has little to do with Abraham, Tom Malone, or Emmanuel Baptist Church. Please stick to the topic at hand. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that you can possibly say that I haven’t already heard a thousand and one times. No need for you to add your voice to the droning mass of zombies.

      Reply
    2. Brian

      Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker) wrote: “Why would God be at fault for something that man has done? ”
      Billy Dean Taylor, you are very correct to point out this fact but your following statements are rubbish. The reason God should not be blamed is because there is no God and people ought to try to take responsibility for what they do. Bringing someone already vulnerable into Christianity is a crime against that human being. Why would you do that to a young man already in trouble, bring him to a place where people are shamed and blamed and hurt for the almighty imaginary friend who is not there. You see, Billy Dean Taylor, the ministry you speak of is fashioned to undermine and injure people, to make them believe fantastical stories of Eden, of talking snakes and people mocked into believing they are fallen, worthless things unworthy of life and destined to be tortured forever. How dare you expose a human being who is already struggling to such horrors, such ugly beliefs as are espoused by evangelical Christianity. Why, you Bible-blind babbler!

      Reply
      1. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

        Since your statement is based on a no God theory, prove to me that God does not exist?

        Reply
        1. Geoff

          Is a no-god theory different to a no-unicorns theory, or no-pixies, or no- leprechauns…you get the point, I’m sure?

          Scientifically, it’s probably correct to say that the case is pretty strong that God doesn’t exist. That’s because science doesn’t work on ‘proof’ but on evidence, what’s known as Bayesian principles. But I don’t suppose they teach that at churh!

          Reply
        2. Brian

          Such a silly way to spend time, Billy Dean Taylor…. proof? The Bible proves itself because the Bible says… Don’t you get it? I have no desire to try to take away your imaginary friend. I know it is imaginary and you know it is not…. what a waste of time going on about it. I would rather talk about bee-keeping or Pablo Neruda: I grew up in a tree, (Pablo said) and should have something to say on the matter….
          Look that poem up, Billy Dean, and get back to me, I want to know what you think of it, what it brings to you.
          Would you do that for me?

          Reply
      2. Geoff

        Brian, I do have to agree. The convoluted ways in which the faithful defend God is painful. Something bad happens and it’s humans to blame, with many a mention of sin. Something good happens and, lo and behold, God is good. Even the extremes of 100 miners dead in a pit explosion, with one surviving, has them gushing about the ways of the Lord etc…but of course, give him credit for the one survivor.

        As I keep saying life can be great, it can be a bitch, and mostly it’s in between. That I can accept, but only if I take any sort of hands on God out of the equation. Without God much of life ceases to be mysterious. The rest I just say those words the faithful hate, but they should be made to stand in a corner and repeat daily, ‘I don’t know’.

        Reply
  15. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

    At least I finally got you to reply to one of my comments. My other comments had everything to do with Abraham and EBC and you have failed to reply. Do you only reply to comments that you can argue with? Does it make you feel better to argue about the sins of others, or what you feel are sins? Just because you have grown to not believe in them anymore doesn’t mean they were wrong. Most of the people you complain about in the church are long gone, but yet you are being held in bondage to them. You may be too old and stubborn to listen and there may be nothing I can say to get you to listen; but know this, you have been warned. If this is your heart, then your heart was truly never with God.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Bye, bye Billy.

      Reply
  16. Billy Dean Taylor (formally Walker).

    Do I must agree with you in order for me to remain on your list?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No, you mustn’t be an asshole. The problem with Fundamentalists is that they are part of a system of belief that turns such behavior into a badge of honor.

      This post is about an event that took place at Emmanuel Baptist Church almost 40 years ago. I told the story as I remember it. I have plenty of Emmanuel/Malone/Midwestern stories, by the way, stories that often help people understand their past experiences and the psychological damage done to them by Fundamentalist Christianity. I make no apology for telling my story. You are free to read or not read. You are NOT free, however, to keep preaching at me, at least not in the comment section of this blog.

      Comments on point are ALWAYS published.

      Reply
  17. Matt Martin

    I believe some years later (about 6) another bomb was found in concealed in the church in question. It was slated home to the unfortunate fellow named in this blog article.

    Reply
  18. M L Woods

    I attended EBC literally from birth til age 16. I also attended the attached Emmanuel Christian School (which was in the same building as MBC and Seminary) from K-2 and 7-10 grades. Unlike Bruce, I am not an atheist but have commented that I am surprised that I am not given the amount of “spiritual sewage” I endured there. Tom Sr. preached what I now call “relational justification” which means that anything his relations did was justified. Like a daughter who ran off, got married and Tom had it annulled during her junior year, yet she was able to graduate with honors (any other student would have been expelled). Or his brother who was the AD (nepotism at its finest) who was the only person I know who used Jack Daniels mouthwash (drinking sent you to Hell unless you were a Malone). I remember hearing Tom preach “separate but equal Christianity” which kept blacks out of the church except for one MBC student ( I remember his name after 50 years but will not use it). They used to have the MBC stooges (sorry I meant students) preach in our assemblies and again 50 years later I remember one saying “if you boys touch a girl somewhere that you shouldn’t, when you get to heaven you won’t have a hand.” I could go on, but I need to go throw up after thinking back to this travesty

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      My wife’s favorite story is being at the mall outside of the “ten mile limit” and seeing Joyce and her daughter wearing pants. ? The Malone’s youngest daughter dated a boy from the dorm. They didnt have to follow the dating rules other dorm students were required to obey. Plenty of stories from my Midwestern/Emmanuel days. I saw a photograph a year or so ago of the Malone’s youngest child. She had tattoos, which brought a chuckle and a smile to my face.

      I recently bought the biography of Tom Malone written by their oldest daughter. Talk about a sanitized version of Tom Malone’s life. Not surprising, I suppose. I may, if I have time, fill in some of the missing material.?

      Reply
    2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      My wife’s uncle,James Dennis, attended and graduated from Emmanuel Christian (in the 1960s). He, of course, also graduated from Midwestern, and spent the next fifty years pastoring churches — a church in Bay City for a few years and then the Newark Baptist Temple in Ohio. Jim loyally supported the school and was granted an honorary doctorate as a reward for his loyalty. Not sure what happened, but in the late 70s, Jim started sending students elsewhere. My wife’s father also graduated from Midwestern in 1976. By then, Emmanuel Christian was closed. My wife attended Oakland Christian School, graduating in 1976.

      Reply
    3. Rebecca

      I went to the church & my dad was a college student basically my whole childhood. I saw a lot of segregation there. They literally made my dad stop “soul winning” in the black areas & refused to let my mixed friend in the church. it broke her heart & pissed me off. My dad finally quit going because of it. There were so many hidden secrets & problems with the head members, that they shouldn’t be judgemental but hey those are usually the worst! Anyway, I hope you’re well.

      Reply
  19. Steve Petree

    I attended Emmanuel for a few years. The bombing I remember. The Malones were always decent to me, but I was only in H.S. then. The prorperty may have recently been sold. There are for some 40 yard dumpsters outside the main building and where the H.S. Sunday school was held. People will always let you down. Regardless. Had a interesting run in with Tom Jr. once though.

    Reply
  20. Rebecca

    I remember that!! The hole in the building was so amazing to me, as a kid. You probably knew my dad, Gary Mead. He went to school at Midwestern then.

    Reply

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