Last November, I posted a short video clip of a worship service at Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Middle Tennessee Baptist is pastored by Tony Hutson, the son of the late Curtis Hutson, the one time editor of the Sword of the Lord — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist newspaper and publishing house.
Here’s the video in question:
And here’s a video clip of Hutson’s daughter’s singing at a 2014 teen campmeeting:
Several days ago, a member of Middle Tennessee Baptist Church left the following comment on the original post:
There is bible for everhtbing [sic] that went on in the video. You have no right to get on here and go against Brother Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church. Those girls are not brainwashed, they are bloodwashed. If you would repent and be saved by the grace of God, you wouldn’t mind the shouting and praising that you call yelling and screaming. If you didn’t like that…you will not like what happens in Heaven when we praise Jesus Christ our Lord.
Where, oh where, do I begin.
First, I have every right to go against “Brother Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church.” It’s called freedom of speech. Personally, I think Tony Huston is a bully and a thug. In other words, he is a great example of an IFB preacher.
Second, I have already repented, and I have been gloriously saved by the grace of God. Surely, you believe in once saved, always saved? I’m a Christian, brother, according to your theology. Of course, I don’t claim to be a Christian. I am an atheist. But, I was a Christian for 50 years, so I know just a little bit about Christianity — especially your flavor of the one true faith.
Third, I know screaming and hollering when I see it. I also know culturally conditioned religious expression when I see it too. The behavior shown in the video is typical for southern Baptist churches. I have attended camp meetings in the south, and watched grown men act like drug addicts on meth. Such behavior is culturally learned. In the north, such behavior is rare. Why is that? And the northern churches that are more expressive? They have a pastor who was raised — drum roll, please — in the south.
Fourth, have you been to Heaven? If not, how can you possibly know what is or will be going on in Heaven? You don’t. All you are doing is projecting your personal religious experiences on to what the Bible says about Heaven (not that Heaven exists, it doesn’t). By all means, provide Biblical proof texts for your assertion that the culture in Heaven will be just like the one found at Middle Tennessee Baptist Church. I’ve read the Bible a time or two or fifty, and I don’t recall reading anything that remotely sounds like Sunday night church with Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church.
Fifth, I do like the cliché, they are not brainwashed, they are bloodwashed. I might use that for a new blog post.
Have a good day. Thank you for commenting.
Bruce, a sinner saved by reason
The man then sent me the following email:
You said that I was using the Bible to express my beliefs about Heaven? That’s what a Christian is supposed to do. There are numerous verses about shouting with a loud voice unto the Lord. You were never saved by the way. If you can say that you received Christ and then say that you are an atheist…you are lost. It takes more faith to believe He does not exist. At the end of the day Brother Tony and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church are winners. I must add that I do attend the church and I am proud of it. We get to praise God and come to a place to worship and be cleaned and refreshed to serve God. If God is not real ( which He is of course), and you live your life the way you want that is all well and good. I’ll live mine the way I want by going to church all the time and worshipping Him. We both win in that situation. Yet, if He is real..and we live like I stated before, I win. You’ll spend eternity in hell and I’ll be in Heaven. Who really wins in the long run? You can make fun of my pastor and my church all you want to sir. You are just proving the Bible to be true that “the fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” God’s going to judge you and all of your little friends on your blog. Get a job and a life, and stop making fun of people who have one.
I want to conclude this post with my public response to this man’s email.
First, I did not say you were using the Bible to express your beliefs about heaven. In fact, I said the opposite; that you will search the Bible far and wide for justification of the practices shown in the videos and come up empty; that what you consider “Biblical” worship is actually culturally driven religious expression, the result of generations of immersion in southern Baptist Fundamentalism.
Second, how can you possibly know if I was saved or not? Are you God? This is the point where I get into a Baptist version of a dick measuring contest. Would you like to compare your present life with my past life? Would you like to compare sincerity, faith, or good works? Would you like to compare my devotion to preaching, evangelicalism, prayer, and Bible study to yours? I am confident that you will find that I had a John Holmes-sized Christian faith, and that critics such as yourself have what I would call a Donald Trump-sized faith.
I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I pastored Evangelical churches — including IFB churches — for twenty-five years. I was, in every way, a sold-out, on-fire, devoted follower of Jesus Christ. You will search in vain to find a congregant or ministerial colleague who thought, at the time, that I was not a Christian. Everyone thought I was a committed believer. Either I deceived thousands of people or your judgment is wrong.
I realize that you cannot square my present unbelief with your IFB belief in the security of the believer — once saved, always saved. That’s not my problem. All I know is this: I once was saved, and now I am not. And I am not alone. Countless readers of this blog were once Holy Ghost-filled followers of Jesus Christ, and now they are atheists, agnostics, Pagans, and a plethora of other non-Evangelical beliefs. You can deny this all you want, but we exist and we are not going away.
The argument you use to justify me believing in your God despite a lack of evidence for his existence is called Pascal’s Wager. Please do some study on its usage and why it is not the slam-dunk argument you think it is. I am sure Pastor Hutson teaches his church to use Pascal’s Wager when talking to unbelievers, but it is an ineffective argument and it actually makes a mockery of Christian faith.
Should non-Christians believe Christianity is true just because there is a slim bettor’s chance that the Christian God exists? Should the motivation of non-believers converting to Christianity be the threat of hell after death? And if people are to get saved “just in case,” shouldn’t they also become Muslims, Hindus, Catholics and Buddhists or embrace any of the thousands of other religions concocted by human imaginations? If the objective is for people to cover all their bases — and their asses — why have you not done the same with other religious faiths? Surely, you don’t want to risk going to an Islamic or Hindi hell, do you? Wouldn’t it better to praise Allah AND Jesus, and not risk worshiping the wrong God? If you want me to do this, shouldn’t you do the same?
Who is the fool here, Tim? I have followed the path wherever it leads, and it has brought me to a place where I am confident that the Christian God does not exist. Have you thoroughly investigated the claims of Christianity? Have you read books by authors who are not Fundamentalists? Have you read any books about the nature of the Biblical text; that it is not an inspired, inerrant, infallible book? Do yourself a favor. Read up on this subject. Let me recommend a few books by New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman for you to read:
You need to understand that calling me a fool and threatening me with your God’s judgment and hell have no effect on me. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting. (Please read Why) I have read the Bible from cover to cover dozens of times and spent thousands of hours studying and preaching its words. My loss of faith stems from me taking the Bible seriously. I came to a place where I finally realized that the Christian narrative no longer made sense. (Please read The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) I hope you will invest serious time in truly understanding the Bible. Read a couple of the books mentioned above, and then we can talk.
Again, thank you for commenting.
Bruce, a sinner saved by reason
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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.