IFB Church Member Takes Issue With a Post I Wrote about Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

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:

Video Link

And here’s a video clip of Hutson’s daughter’s singing at a 2014 teen campmeeting:

Video Link

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.

I responded:

Tim,

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:

Bruce,

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.

Tim

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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

print

Subscribe to the Daily Post Digest!

Sign up now and receive an email every day containing the new posts for that day.

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Powered by Optin Forms

16 Comments

  1. Rachel m Cornejo

    I am new to Christianity, but I also have always been interested in many other religions like
    Muslim etc.

    I only read the Bible as a teen because of the rampant sex. Our neighborhood bookmobile gave me access to the Bible including ,”Everything you should know about sex”.

    My only experience with evangelicals is watching them roll on the floor dressed to the nines and a daughter who is now a born again who now sees me as a Devil., who would have thought.

    Anyhow I do enjoy your blog, keeps me thinking not mindless.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    As I was reading, I was thinking, ah yes, let’s roll out the typical religious person’s response.

    1) you weren’t a real Christian
    2) my god is totally real and I know it because the Bible says so and god wrote it (further emphasis by stamping one’s little footie)
    3) some version of Pascal’s wager
    4) often a parting shot about how one day you will be sorry as said deity totally punishes your sorry ass, na na na na boo boo, thank you very much.

    Reply
  3. Dell

    I have followed your blog for a while, and this is one of the best posts. It’s clear that you put a lot of research & thought (christians would add “prayer”) into your writing. This must be exasperating and emotionally exhausting.
    But what interests me is that you sustained it faithfully yet without excessive rancor? Why and how do you do this? I think you may have blogged why you do some time ago but I must have missed it. Is a form of atonement for years of living a myth? Or is it just good personal therapy? (Not to minimize the latter). I ask because there are many very important causes to promote, yet activists in these causes sometimes get burnout while you are still rather patiently speaking truth to fools (and hopefully more than a few formerly fooled future wise people).
    How do we answer the “angry atheist” accusation? This is an issue of disagreement even amount atheists. Live and let live vs activist.
    My thought is what you are doing is a very important contribution to public knowledge. For example, I know of at least one elderly lifetime christian who when he finally saw some of Bart Ehrman’s videos on the Teaching Company asked “why didn’t anyone ever tell us this before?).
    But this work obviously comes at a cost to you. How do you maintain it?
    Hopefully you inspire others to do likewise, but athiesm does not have the usual social props and organization to keep it going as religion does. That’s why what you do is important.

    Reply
    1. Dr. R

      Dell, I’m not Bruce and can’t answer for him, but one thing you said touched a nerve. I am an angry atheist. I am very much an angry atheist, and I am not ashamed to be an angry atheist. I am not angry at God, as that would be just as productive as being angry at Bigfoot. But I am angry at Christianity. Bloody hell, am I angry at Christianity! I could list a dozen, nay, a hundred reasons why I am angry at Christianity. (I suppose many of us could, especially former Christians.)

      Reply
      1. Brian

        I agree with the Dr. above….. grrrrrr…… I have lost so many kin to Gawd delusion.

        Reply
  4. Brian

    I had a John Holmes-sized Christian faith.

    My oh my, yer on the tenure-track now. They might not award you the Nobel Prize for Literature this year sir but I say to you that it is only because of scandal!
    Tim, Get a job and get a life? That, sir, is the IFB code for Fuck Off! Why don’t you get honest sir? Do you really think your shallow view of things even has a point with which to prick the prick? I am so happy to have left your boy’s club and embraced life. Let us prey…

    Reply
  5. maura hart

    old white men, young girls brainwashed. thank goodness these old white men will be dying off.

    Reply
  6. Matilda

    What a first rate response, Bruce.
    Now de-converted, I try to lead an honest life and treat all my fellow humans with respect However, I read Patheos Non-Religious blogs a lot and was part of a series of comments by folk who said, like me, they lurked there to enjoy the wonderful, clever, rational and sometimes humorous takedowns of fundy trolls. And, as has been said before, how in earth do fundies think they will convince anyone of the rightness of their cause by their gratuitous rudeness? And when will they stop believing they only have to slam us with a few words from the bible (KJV often) and we heathens will immediately see the error of our ways and fall on our knees. We’ve read it 50 or more times and, as Neil Carter said on his blog, many of us deconverted not because we were ‘lukewarm’ x-tians, but because we took our faith very very seriously, we gave it our all and, try as we might, realised, some of us with horror, couldn’t reconcile this god of love with the cruelty and brutality described in our once beloved bibles.
    Love the bloodwashed thing too!

    Reply
  7. Steven

    Wait what does he mean by “all of your little friends on your blog?” I’m quite large actually and take offense to that statement.

    Reply
  8. Rachel

    What strikes me most about Tim’s responses to you, Bruce, is how childish they are. That tantrummy, “You’ll be sorry” tone. It’s so common in the speech of many religious people, esp when they feel under attack (which, let’s face it, they often do.)

    And it’s such a reveal about their own psychology.

    When I look back at the adults I knew in the Catholic circles my parents moved in when I was a child and teenager, I struggle to think of more than one or two adults whom I would not describe, at best, as immature. Quite a few of them were university-educated, in well-paid jobs, yet when it was anything to do with religion, they were whiny, approval-seeking, neurotic kids. And the two adults I’m thinking of who were NOT like this left the Church in disgust at how it treats people.

    Reply
  9. Dell

    Dr R & Brian,
    I hear you and my comment was in no way intended as a critique of righteous anger. There probably needs to be a bit more of it. But how does it work for you to be angry? Does it give relief? Or like Dawkins is it tragically contributing to disease? (We don’t hear as much from him after his stroke).
    It takes all voices, the angry and the calm voices of reason, each under different circumstances appeal to different people. Hopefully the primary goal is to raise awareness in sleepy headed brainwashed folks without putting them into full crusade mode.
    By the way, I can think of a religion that has caused more current worldwide societal grief than christianity does currently, so it is important to keep things in perspective. Western culture needs all the allies it can muster against barbarism.

    Reply
  10. Dell

    PS it might be therapeutic for me to let a few things that anger me about christianity (feel free to add your own):
    1) Wasted time in church
    2) Bizarre financial values designed to enrich church and make one feel guilty for wanting wealth
    3) Parochial boarding schools that taught ceation science and glossed over sex ed completely

    What I’m not angry about:
    1) Many christians are genuinely nice people
    2) No bullying or violence in parochial schools
    3) Music
    4) A full day off once a week with built in social activities and support system (if you complied with expectations)

    Reply
    1. Becky Wiren

      No bullying in parochial school? I taught in one over 30 years ago and yes, there is bullying. Because bullying is part of human nature. Now, if you want to say there is LESS bullying due to smaller classes, I could see that.

      Reply
  11. Connie

    I’m extremely angry although not a Christian or Atheist. My anger is righteous, it is the fuel which keeps me warm when I see constant examples of injustice perpetrated upon citizens of the USA who happen to be blessed with melanin.

    I don’t hate, although it would be so easy. No, I maintain my anger, carefully honing my weapons (words in this case) to ensure I work for the good of all and may it harm none.

    That said, extreme Christians like Tim derserve my anger as they believe people like me don’t deserve the protection of the First Ammendment. People like Tim draw my ire because they wield their holy book like a weapon yet haven’t read through anything but the red bits. Ignorant creeps like Tim sure know how to dish out the insults but if you pay them back in kind they whine and cry about persecution.

    If citizens like Tim would follow the rules my anger would die. Since they believe rules are for thee and not for me… well I foresee a bonfire for the next few years.

    Reply
  12. Dell

    Becky, if you taught in a parochial school and thought bullying was “part of human nature” no wonder you had bullying!
    I can honestly say that I was probably someone who would have been bullied at most public schools yet I never remember being bullied. Nor do can I think of others that were. Faculty wouldn’t stand for it.
    I’ve noticed a tendency recently in education to just give up and not expect good behavior from kids. This revealed itself at a music concert where a middleschool class school trip talked constantly throughout the performance until the intermission when an usher asked the teachers to quiet down there naturally chatty kids who were obviously unprepared to attend a symphony.
    The teachers went full defense mode:. These kids are from underprivileged families yada yada. I overheard the entire conversation and could not restrain myself, I said, loud enough for the kids to hear, the usher is right! These kids are smart and old enough to keep quiet during the concert. They just weren’t properly prepared or don’t listen to you. The entire second half of the concert not a single kid made a peep.
    I don’t entirely blame teachers (laws and parents make teachers impotent these days) but teachers have a lot to do with what is seen in schools these days. They try to be kids friends not their instructor.

    Reply
  13. GeoffT

    Obviously Tim is a total fool, that goes without saying and is unlikely to be contested by many.

    One comment, however, did stand out for me. He asserted that it takes more faith not to believe in Christ than to believe?! I’ve heard this comment in reference to god (though, even then, it’s utter nonsense) but never to ‘Christ’, who is an entirely culture based myth.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You have to agree to the comment policy.