Warning! Snark ahead.
In November 2018, I wrote a post titled, Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles. In that post, I took a closer look at the ministry and methodology of IFB evangelist CT Townsend:
As you will see from this video, Townsend uses certain preaching techniques to manipulate listeners into making a decision for Jesus. In the last five minutes of the video, Townsend whips the crowd into an emotional frenzy, and then scales their fervor down so he can give an invitation. I watched a handful of his sermon videos, and he uses the same technique in each one.
There’s nothing in these videos that surprises me. Townsend is a product of IFB (and Southern Baptist) culture and practice — particularly in the South. I don’t know him personally, but I have heard and seen his methods and mannerism many times in the sermons of other IFB preachers. There was a time early in my ministry when I preached in a similar manner. My results were akin to those of Townsend.
The spirited, emotional songs are meant to prime the pump, so to speak; to prepare listeners for the sermon that follows. Already emotionally manipulated by the music, congregants are more open to what preachers such as Townsend have to say. The goal is always the same: to bring people to the place where they are willing to walk the aisle and make a decision; whether to get saved, confess one’s sin, rededicate one’s life, or surrender to some sort of calling.
I am in no way suggesting that C.T. Townsend is an Elmer Gantry-like con man. He is a product of his environment. Spend some time in the Deep South attending camp meetings, youth rallies, and revival services, and you will see countless C.T. Townsends using similar emotionally manipulative techniques to elicit desired emotional responses.
Townsend and other preachers like him will object to my characterizations of their methodologies, attributing everything to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. It’s all God, they will say. However, one-time insiders such as myself know better. These preachers, whether consciously aware of it or not, are psychologically manipulating people.
Recently, a woman outraged over my post, sent me an email. Here is what she said:
You can mock my friends all you want but you are not bringing glory to God with your mixed up antics. CT is a fabulous preacher and there’s nothing better than a fire and brimstone sermon. I guess you are a watered down, sugar coated, feel good type. The Burlington Revival was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my 43 years on this earth. To badmouth someone who genuinely cares about people not going to hell is sickening and disturbing, to say the least. Jealousy is an ugly thing. I seen one person comment somewhere that the Sunday morning services at New Hope had empty pews. WRONG!!!! They have over 500 members and the camera only focuses up thru the middle section. There are three sets of pews. You need to STOP bashing fellow Christians. God is not the author of confusion.
As you will notice, this woman made no effort to find out who I was. (Please see ABOUT page and WHY? page.) All she knew was that somebody was, in her eyes, dissing the man, the myth, the legend: CT Townsend. She wrongly assumes that I am a “fellow” Christian. Why is it many Evangelicals can’t be bothered to check out who I am? How hard can it be to do so, right? When I read/hear someone for the first time, I always do a background check. On Fridays, my wife and I religiously watch Real Time with Bill Maher. Most weeks, Maher has guests on his show that are unknown to us. The first thing we do is a Google search on their names. Doing this helps us better understand the new guests — their upbringing, journey, politics, and religious beliefs. Numerous times we have learned that a guest is an atheist — a delightful surprise, to be sure. Why can’t Evangelicals such as this letter writer do the same? Are these not the same people who demand people read and study the Bible before criticizing it? Why can’t they do the same with my Holy Words®?
That I am not, in the eyes of the letter writer, bringing “glory to God” is a badge of honor I wear proudly. My goal as a writer is to be open, honest, and factual, bringing glory to the truth, and not a mythical deity. My post about Townsend was meant to illustrate how people are easily manipulated in many Evangelical sects/churches. I refrained from labeling Townsend a con-artist, choosing instead to put the blame on his upbringing. Townsend does what he does because that’s all he knows. I suspect the letter writer comes from a similar background. Her love of “fire and brimstone sermons” speaks volumes. The only people who love such psychological abuse are those who have been conditioned to accept verbal ill-treatment as deserved or as a message from God.
The letter writer, not knowing that I am an atheist, goes on to say that I must be one of that kind of Christian who loves “watered down, sugar coated, feel good” sermons. She also adds that I am sick and disturbed. How dare I criticize a God-called, Holy Spirit-empowered evangelist who does all he can he rescue people from the pit of H-e-l-l! The problem, of course, is that Townsend is trying to save people from a place that does not exist. There is no Heaven, no Hell, no resurrected Jesus, and, for that matter, no Christian God. Townsend, then, is on a fool’s errand, spending his time rescuing people from vicious attacks by Elwood P. Dowd’s pooka named Harvey. Townsend may be a wonderful person, but the snake oil he’s selling cures no one.
The letter writer accuses me of being “jealous.” Jealous of what, exactly? My writing has a far wider reach than Townsend’s preaching, and the soul-saving I do actually has real-world consequences. Unlike Townsend, the Hell I deliver people from — Fundamentalist Christianity — is real, as is the Heaven I expose them to: offering seekers a new life based on reason and skepticism; a new life rooted in intellectual inquiry and freedom. I do, however, envy Townsend’s pearly white teeth, suits, coiffed-look, and bank account. Who says religion doesn’t pay?
I suspect the letter writer was angry when she wrote to me. How else do I explain her railing against a comment about New Hope that appears nowhere in this site? Any hoo . . .
She goes on to tell me that I need to “STOP bashing fellow Christians.” Again, I am not a Christian. And further, there is nothing in the original post that could be remotely construed as “bashing.” All I did was utilize Townsend’s schtick to illustrate how certain music and preaching styles are used to psychologically manipulate people. The letter writer made no effort to engage me on the actual content of my post. She perceived that I was attacking one of her idols, and in her mind, she was obligated to stand up for him. Mission accomplished, but nothing she wrote changes my educated opinion about the various tactics used by IFB and other Evangelical churches/pastors/evangelists to manipulate people. Remember, the goal is always the same: win them, wet them, work them, and waste them. (Please see The Four Ws of the IFB)
The letter writer concludes her sententious email with “God is not the author of confusion,” a quote from 1 Corthinians 14:33. I have no idea what she means by this quote, especially since, in context, the verse has to do with proper order and function in Christian churches, and not blog posts by atheists. This is the same passage of Scripture that says:
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
As a man who is a thrice ordained preacher — Baptist, Universal Life, Church of the Latter Day Dude — who sees the world as his “church,” how dare she say a word to me! Silence! I say, silence! Just kidding. Emails and comments are always welcome, even from clueless Evangelicals. My goal is to end confusion, not cause it. Two thousand years of sectarian Christianity have led to all sorts of confusion and harm. Through my writing, I hope to bring clarity and understanding and deliver Evangelicals from intellectual and cultural bondage. My “prayer” for the letter writer and others like her, is that they will see that what they think is “truth” is actually a myth, and what they believe is freedom is actually bondage. I am sure CT Townsend is a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious guy, but he’s also a peddler of mythical falsehoods and an anti-human view of the world. I know the letter writer won’t “hear” me today, but I remain hopeful that she will one day see the light. Until then, I plan to keep on preaching the ancient gospel of reason.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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I have found that I can’t really have a rational discussion with anyone who believes in a literal H-E-L-L and that all but the E-LECT are going there. Their mean, vindictive deity is a reflection of who they want to be.
It is astonishing that the writer didn’t even try to find out who you were though. That’s lazy and disrespectful.
Oh I get it now. You are an ex pastor turned atheist. Thanks for posting my email online. You look like a fool even more than I thought. I don’t know what your deal is but you will find out very soon that the Jesus you hate is soon to return. If you are still alive, mark my words buddy, you will bow and confess He is Lord. How can you turn away? You can’t look around and see Bible prophecy playing out? You just want to place blame on somebody else. You are pathetic. And no, I don’t care to know anything about you. You obviously was never born again and sure as hell shouldn’t have been behind a pulpit. I can only imagine the souls in hell that followed after you. There was a rich man in NC that was an unbeliever all his life. On his deathbed his housekeeper once again tried to get him to accept Christ. He refused. He couldn’t even set up he was so weak. One day while cleaning in his room he sat straight up and began to scream. My feet are burning….my feet are burning!!!! He jumped up out of that bed….ran thru the house…out the front door and fell over dead in the yard. His feet hit hell before his soul left. You are going to hell…make no mistake. Keep on.
Thank you for commenting.
I did not post your email address online. I did, however, use your email as fodder for this post.
Please learn to read. On the contact page, I warn people such as yourself:
If you are an Evangelical Christian, please read Dear Evangelical before sending me an email. If you have a pathological need to evangelize, spread the love of Jesus, or put a good word in for the man, the myth, the legend, please don’t. The same goes for telling me your church/pastor/Jesus is wonderful. I’m also not interested in reading sermonettes, testimonials, Bible verses, or your deconstruction my life. If you email me anyway, I reserve the right to make your message and name public. This blog is read by thousands of people, so keep that in mind when you email me whatever it is you think “God” has laid upon your heart. Do you really want your ignorance put on display for thousands of people to see?
Your comment says it all. Keep preaching your gospel, sister.
Karen, I’m sure you mean well…no, actually I’m lying. You don’t mean well at all.
Oh, and I don’t for one minute believe your story. What is it about evangelical Christians that they feel forced to lie so much?
So, it’s that famous Christian love? Where you hurl insults and imprecations against someone you hate, who you deem as unworthy? I don’t believe a word of your atheist dying story. And your “loving kindness” doesn’t impress me as having much to do with anything Jesus said. If there was a Satan, I’d think you were much closer to him than Bruce. At least Bruce cares about other people as long as they are kind and decent to others.
Oh, Dear Karen!
What a load of nastiness you are spewing! How rude! I remember this awful crap all too well. Yeah, I’m saved once again… from thinking like you do. What a horrible thing to say to people… that they are going to hell. Why is it horrible? Because you believe it and seem to relish the fact. Actually, if you allow REASON into your mind, you will have the bliss that I enjoy right now! Yes! The only reason the Bible warns against “leaning upon thine own understanding” is because once one actually THINKS as they read, one realizes this fundamentalist crap is all a bunch of bullshit.
Hope you find reason some day.
I love the smell of unfounded vindictive triumphalism in the morning.
Yes, Karen, you figured it out. Bruce is an ex-pastor turned atheist. (It’s a lot more common than you probably think.) There are, in fact, a lot of ex-Christians who read this blog – and a few Christians as well.
But you’re so busy being angry at Bruce and smug about our eventual fate that you’re missing a wonderful opportunity here. All these unbelievers, all these lost souls, and instead of showing us the love of Christ you’re demonstrating that your brand of Christianity makes people petty, nasty, and small. And then you go telling us a scare-story that wouldn’t even impress a bunch of schoolchildren sitting around a campfire.
Do you really think that happened? When? Where? What was the fellow’s name? Can you verify it? Is there documentation? Witnesses? Or are you making things up? If you’re passing along things you heard from other people without knowing for sure that they’re true, is that any better than lying?
I’ll tell you honestly that the reasons why I’m not Christian have very little to do with whether Christians in general are good or bad people. But I will tell you that you, right now, are not making them look good.
TYPICAL ARROGANT, X-TIAN POS YOU ARE……..You’re nothing special, you’re a penny/ dozen!
I simply love it when Christians want to lecture others on Christianity when they flagrantly violate the principles of the religion they claim to follow.
Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6, ESV: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
What a wretched viper this women is.
And she is in danger of Hell too.
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
So Karen you can see Bruce in Hell 😉
And I have to note that your behavior is very unBiblical . You have no authority to teach a man. Read below
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
I hope for the sake of your salvation you have had at least one child, of course within the context of a proper Christian marriage.
She has anecdote though so I guess she is in the right 😉
Maybe she should care to explain how she knows it was the Hell of Yahweh the rich man went too and not the Hell of Allah. We need to be careful with such important matters snicker snicker.
I don’t get the fury our commenter Karen displays. She sounds delighted that unbelievers go to hell, and that Bruce will especially. Even in my most Christian period, as a devoted Catholic child, I was crushed at the thought of anyone going to hell. If you think about it, Catholic Purgatory is a damn comforting theology. I’m sure I would have bailed from Christianity in outrage much earlier if I’d been raised believing that everyone who wasn’t a certain type of Christian was going to hell. Hell was reserved for people who were truly evil.
As an unbeliever, I’m glad that no one will spend eternity in hell, because no finite lifetime, however evil, should earn the person an infinite punishment.
I suspect Karen is angry over my posts about someone she reveres. That I am an atheist makes it easier for her to justify attacking me. Instead of engaging me on the substance of my post, she went after my character. Sadly, this happens way too often. Karen is 43-years-old, yet she hasn’t learned how to interact with someone she disagrees with.
Jesus Loves You even though You Don’t Believe in Him. My Prayer is that You find The Truth. I would rather take my Chance in believing in Heaven and hell. I definitely don’t want to take a chance going to hell. I’m Church of God, and I have experienced The Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Meaning of True Love. I Love You and Pray that You find God in Your life.
Diedra, dead or imaginary people are incapable of loving anyone. And who are you to speak for Jesus, mortal? How presumptuous. Can’t Jesus speak for himself…
…Oh, that’s right; he can’t. He’s either 2000 years dead, or was just a figment of a Gospel writer’s imagination.
And I don’t believe for one flippin’ moment that you experienced the Holy Spirit. Stupid imaginary git, messing with people’s minds to “convict” them — blighter’s as bad as Satan. (Come to think of it, I’ve never seen the two of ’em together…) 😀
Wow, Karen! You have confirmed everything I have ever thought about your type of Christian. Bruce has not been exaggerating one bit!
Keep up the good work of discouraging people from joining your Christian club.
To Karen, the obnoxious Fundamentalist on steroids,
Why would a compassionate, caring and loving God send anyone to suffer eternal torment in body and soul in hell for finite sins committed by finite persons in finite time? Are you demented? Is your mind so filled with hatred for atheists that you think of us as sub-human persons made in the likeness of a God of compassion?
Why are you attacking Bruce who points out the emotional damage that Fundamentalists can do to others? Why do you approve of the psychological manipulation of congregations to accept Jesus when people are perfectly capable of reading the bible without being manipulated by hyper-Fundamentalist preachers?
Are you incapable of showing empathy and kindness towards others? You are a first class jackass who appears incapable of recognizing the damage you are doing to Christianity. But, if you continue to act the way that you have here in the church that you attend, you will drive further people out of the church into the “nones”. Then if your church is as bad as you are, the church deserves to have more people leave.
Correction of error. To Karen, the Fundamentalist.
You seem to think of atheists as sub-human persons rather than, as your bible tells you, persons created in the image or likeness of God who is love.
A stake should be driven through the heart of Christian Fundamentalism. It’s one of the most abhorrent religions ever created by humans. The aim is not to drive a stake through Fundamentalists, but Fundamentalism. Its ideas lead to religious oppression of those who come under the rule of many of its leaders. And if people fall for its delusions, they will also be oppressed. To gain freedom, you need to flee the religious oppression that you appear to be under.
This is a serious question, Karen, how many folk do you know who’ve converted because you expressed your disapproval of them and/or their worldview or lifestyle? Hint: It’s unlikely anyone will ever do so because of your rudness to them. (You catch more flies with honey than vinegar I’m told.) And I nearly choked on my coffee at that feet story……..Citation for it?……. I thought not.
I need not explain myself to you fools. Yes……God called you fools. My God said not to cast my pearls before swine so I’m done here.
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ (Psa.14:1). Notice what it doesn’t say. The person who says in his heart that there is no God is a fool. It also doesn’t say that the person who believes in God is not a fool.
Fools exist among some believers as well as some atheists. There are wise people among atheists who are far from being fools and Bruce is a wise person as well as being intelligent and far from being a fool.
You, on the other hand are behaving foolishly on the internet by calling atheists swine. Jesus never calls atheists swine. Doesn’t he say “Be compassionate just as your heavenly Father is compassionate because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked”? Bruce is not a wicked person. He is kind. He’s an atheist and he is an example of a wise and intelligent atheist who loves other persons and treats them with dignity. Why don’t you do that? Jesus calls you to do that but you treat some of Jesus’ words with contempt.
This stance is unBiblical Karen.
1 Peter 3:15
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
Certainly I don’t see any respect and gentleness in Karen. And she should be willing to answer our questions and certainly shouldn’t be ducking and running from us .
I think I know what is going on here. Karen is actually a disciple of the Devil simply pretending to be a Christian. This would explain her ignorance of the Bible and unBiblical behavior.
God warned us about this:
2nd Corinthians 11:14
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.
God called us fools? Let’s see him say that to my face.
All he has to do is show up, and I’ll acknowledge my foolishness.
But, Karen? God isn’t the only one. You called us fools, too – you didn’t just tell us that God did, you made the accusation yourself. And by your own scripture, that puts you in danger of Hell too. (Matthew 5:22) So I assume we can look forward to seeing you there?
Here’s Karen’s latest zinger:
Leave me the heck alone fat boy. Anyone that says there is no God doesn’t have all of his marbles. Your cheese has slipped off your cracker.
She seems to forget that she emailed me. What she didn’t expect is that I would respond. IFB zealots can be brutal, as she has shown in her comments. In fact, the nastiest comments I have ever received have come from IFB women.
I suspect they are mad at you for criticizing various preachers they have a crush on.
If we are swine, at least we will smell like bacon when we roast. As everyone knows, bacon makes almost anything better, allegedly. Now for the pearl casting part they are probably fake anyway so go ahead and keep them.
Karen, you are so far from being a disciple of Christ, methinks you need to repent of your sins, in case you too end up in hell.
In fact Karen, you are the reason people are turned off Christianity. Maybe you’re the antichrist?
My atheist prayer for you, is that one day you’ll see the light and become a loving fellow human being. Until then please reserve your vitriol from off Bruce’s website.
Oh… maybe take a bit more time to read and THINK.
Hey Karen. What do you make of this piece? http://churchandstate.org.uk/2017/05/has-evangelical-christianity-become-sociopathic/?fbclid=IwAR1kNr1H0qt1LgKQVNJ2KY8BrslfFiegigOb2oeNyZ2FPZJDqaEddF8CcB8
Matthew 5:22? Anybody?. . .Anybody?. . .Bueller? (Karen)
That verse, evidently, doesn’t apply when attacking atheists. God says we are fools, thus many Christians believe they are free to do the same.
Any more from our dear Karen??
Or did she decide to stop risking hell by trying to instruct a man in violation of the 2nd chapter of 1st Timothy and by calling us fools.
Wow, that’s some mighty fine fruit of the spirit you’re exhibiting, Karen. The vitriol, the name-calling, the anger and seething hatred. Lovely. Oh, wait, that’s not what the bible calls fruit at all though. Might want to check yourself, dear.
You may wish hell for Bruce and the rest of us, but I wish logic and reason for you.
I don’t care who you are really, but you are dead wrong in you ideology of The preachers that preach the truth. The truth hurts and people run from the truth especially when it may take away their pleasures of sin.
You Mr Bruce And folks like you are why people will not ever know the truth and the good news….
I wish you well in living your “it’s ok world” and follow TV preachers such as Joel ( smiley ) Osteen and lead people to believe everyone is going to heaven with no repercussions …..You are Sad..I will pray for you and those that are lost and think like you.
Both Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 read, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Some take these verses to mean that atheists are stupid, i.e., lacking intelligence. However, that is not the only meaning of the Hebrew word translated “fool.” In this text, the Hebrew word is nabal, which often refers to an impious person who has no perception of ethical or religious truth. The meaning of the text is not “unintelligent people do not believe in God.” Rather, the meaning of the text is “sinful people do not believe in God.” In other words, it is a wicked thing to deny God, and a denial of God is often accompanied by a wicked lifestyle. The verse goes on to list some other characteristics of the irreligious: “They are corrupt; their deeds are vile; / there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14 is a study on the universal depravity of mankind.
Many atheists are very intelligent. It is not intelligence, or a lack thereof, that leads a person to reject belief in God. It is a lack of righteousness that leads a person to reject belief in God. Many people do not object to the idea of a Creator, as long as that Creator minds His own business and leaves them alone. What people reject is the idea of a Creator who demands morality from His creation. Rather than struggle against a guilty conscience, some people reject the idea of God altogether. Psalm 14:1 calls this type of person a “fool.”
Psalm 14:1 says that denying God’s existence is commonly based on a desire to lead a wicked life. Several prominent atheists have admitted the truth of this. Some, such as author Aldous Huxley, have openly admitted that a desire to avoid moral restraints was a motivation for their disbelief:
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.” ― Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means
Belief in a divine Being is accompanied by a sense of accountability to that Being. So, to escape the condemnation of conscience, which itself was created by God, some simply deny the existence of God. They tell themselves, “There is no overseer of the world. There is no Judgment Day. I can live as I please.” The moral pull of the conscience is thus more easily ignored.
Trying to convince oneself there is no God is unwise. The point of “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” is that it is an impious, sinful heart that will deny God. The atheist’s denial flies in the face of much evidence to the contrary, including his own conscience and the universe he lives in.
A lack of evidence of God’s existence is not the true reason atheists reject a belief in God. Their rejection is due to a desire to live free of the moral constraints God requires and to escape the guilt that accompanies the violation of those constraints. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them . . . so that people are without excuse…Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…They exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:18–25).