Criticize or judge an Evangelical preacher, and you likely will be told that preachers are called and anointed by God, and only God can judge them. Recently, an Evangelical commenter on a Black Collar Crime series post told me that it was wrong for me to expose these men of God; that it was up to God alone to deal with them. She even went so far as to quote the parable of the tares and wheat (Matthew 13:18-30), suggesting that clerics who are child molesters, rapists, abusers, and adulterers should remain in their churches. If God wants to remove these tares from among the wheat, it is up to him to pull these so-called men of God up by the roots.
I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. I attended an IFB college, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, and pastored several IFB churches in the 1980s. Throughout my time in the IFB church movement, I heard and was taught that preachers were untouchable, that criticizing pastors would bring the judgment of God down upon your head.
Those of us who spent significant time in IFB churches likely heard sermons from 2 Kings 2:23-24:
And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
The CEV translates this passage of Scripture this way:
Elisha left and headed toward Bethel. Along the way some boys started making fun of him by shouting, “Go away, baldy! Get out of here!” Elisha turned around and stared at the boys. Then he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Right away two bears ran out of the woods and ripped to pieces forty-two of the boys.
The recently anointed prophet Elisha was walking to Bethel. While on his journey, he came upon forty-two boys who mocked him for having a bald head. Elisha, a temperamental Baptist preacher, turned around, looked at the boys, and cursed (at?) them — in the name of the Lord, of course. God heard Elisha’s bitching and moaning, sending two female bears to attack and kill the boys. Moral of the story? Don’t mock a man of God. If you do, God might kill you.
Imagine being a child in an IFB church. Imagine hearing this story repeated over and over again. It should surprise no one that children grow up fearing their preachers (and God). Children are taught that they must respect the “man of God” no matter what. Thus, it is not uncommon for IFB children to reverence their pastors as if they are God himself. These children later marry and teach their own children to view their pastors as godly, holy, larger than life figures. I heard more than a few IFB preachers say that there was no greater job than being a pastor; that becoming the president of the United States would be a step down for them.
In December 2020, I wrote a post titled, The Gods Have Clay Feet: A Few Thoughts on Evangelical Pastors:
The Evangelical Christian church has many gods. While Evangelicals will profess to worship the true and living God — the God of the Bible — often their true object of worship is human and not divine. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of church government. Some churches have adopted an elder rule form of government. Regardless of what form of government a church adopts, there can be no doubt about who really runs the church. The CEO, the boss man, the head honcho is the pastor — also known as the senior pastor, executive pastor, and prophet, priest, and king.
The pastor is the hub upon which the wheel of the church turns. He (there are very few she’s) is the man who runs the show. He sets the course for the church. He is a modern-day Moses leading the church to the Promised Land. He is the visionary with a vision that the church is expected to follow. He is, after all, the man of God. He is divinely called by God, a call that cannot be explained with human words. He is the man of God, given a message by God, to speak to the people of God.
He is a man not to be trifled with. He has been anointed by God. He has been set apart by God to do the most important work in the world. His calling is higher than even that of the President of the United States. The congregation is reminded that the Bible says “touch not mine anointed.”
Touch not mine anointed . . . 1 Chronicles 16:22 says: Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. The Message translates this verse this way: Don’t you dare touch my anointed ones, don’t lay a hand on my prophets.
IFB preachers remind congregants that GOD SAYS they are NOT to ever TOUCH his anointed ones — pastors. Not literally “touch,” of course. These men of God want to warn people that it is a sin against the thrice Holy God to say bad things about them.
Earlier this week, I wrote a post titled, How Dare I Talk Smack About C.T. Townsend. Townsend is a well-known IFB evangelist and pastor. One of his acolytes, a Baptist preacher, took issue with a previous post I had written about Townsend. (Please see Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles, You Better be Mindful of Speaking Against a “Man of God”, and How Dare I Badmouth IFB Evangelist CT Townsend! Says Fundamentalist Christian.)
He sent me a scathing email, part of which said:
The BIBLE says to TOUCH NOT mine anointed. Be careful brother you are walking on dangerous ground. You know nothing about CT Towsend. The life He lives and what He says proves what’s in His heart I don’t know you but THE BIBLE SAYS Out of the abundance of the Heart the mouth speakerth What you say about GODs man exposes who You Are ! It’s funny to me that a child of satan thinks he’s so smart that he can judge a Great Man of GOD like CT Townsend. I will leave you with this Bible verse The FOOL hath said in his heart There is no GOD. THE BIBLE IS NEVER WRONG.
According to this Baptist preacher, Townsend is untouchable. Since God uses Townsend to save souls and do mighty works in his name, he’s above criticism and judgment. How dare I speak ill of the man. I am walking on “dangerous” ground — IFB-speak for “God is going to kill you!”
This kind of thinking allows IFB preachers to behave any way they please. Even when caught in sin and debauchery, these preachers are often quickly forgiven or allowed to quietly resign and move on down the road to another church. Bad conduct is routinely covered up. Churches leave it to God to chastise and correct errant preachers. Told repeatedly that they must never touch God’s anointed, congregants can’t bring themselves to discipline and excommunicate erring pastors.
Surely, conduct can rise to the level where these men are no longer considered God-called, anointed preachers, right? Nope. Romans 11:29 says: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. The Message translates this verse this way: God’s gifts and God’s call are under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded. Never mind the fact that this verse is talking about Israel, not IFB preachers. This verse is why more than a few IFB Christians believe I am still a God-called preacher; that my health problems are the result of God’s chastisement; that God will one day use me again to win souls and advance his Kingdom. Once a Christian, always a Christian. Once a preacher, always a preacher. Or so the thinking goes, anyway.
Did you hear sermons from the verses mentioned in this post? How were preachers treated in your churches. Were you told to never “touch” God’s anointed ones? Please shares your experiences in the comment section.
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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Good morning, Bruce. It’s been decades since I went into a church where I’d hear such a thing as ” touch not.”. On the radio, especially the Salem Network where different programs are vetted by the pastor who own this company with his son, also a pastor ( both Southerners) you will hear threatening sermons by these radio personalities, where they’ll day gossiping about or complaining about pastors or elders, anyone in authority in a church, is indeed touching God’s anointed. It’s been some months now, but I know that’s one source for it,lol😆
Sorry,phone typos I can’t control !
Surprise, frauds make pretend rules that no one can question them.
I’m sorry, I just read the headline and, well:
Preacher: “Touch not my Anointed!”
Psychologist: “Okay, can you show me on the doll where your ‘anointed’ is?”
First, my mind went directly into the gutter about touching God’s anointed.
Second, how convenient for preachers to preach about how they were untouchable. License to abuse?
That type of philosophy is misguided. There are so-called pastors who need to be removed from the ministry as soon as possible whenever they are accused of financial misdeeds, sex offenses. physical abuse or any other type of malfeasance. There is such a thing as permanent disqualification from the ministry.
Why two she bears? Why not two he bears? Why not one he bear and one she bear? Frankly, I have never heard any preacher, minister, or priest deliver a sermon that involved she bears killing children——across my 68 years of life. This must be a uniquely IFB “thingie.” I guess the key question I would ask is “Why do IFB preachers feel so frightened, disrespected, and at risk that they have to preach sermons about the she bears?” I wonder how many IFB preachers know how screwed up their fundamentalist beliefs are, feel that other people outside the fundie circle can also see the failures they see, and they just wish their theology was something else that really warrants public respect?
Down south when I was growing up in a small town, five categories of people drew the greatest respect (more likely fearful fealty) from the local citizenry. Those people were the millionaire businessmen, medical doctors, school principals, attorneys, and church ministers. They were more than just notable citizens. They were sociocultural overlords assigned to keep the “little people” (every other person in town but them) on some local version of “the straight and narrow” sociocultural road, as locally defined by these few overlords. In the local school systems, the sons and daughters of these people were the cliquish social untouchables—-people too good to be seen out on a date with one of the common people students on a Friday or Saturday night. At school, they did not even talk to or make friends with the common people students—-too good to even be seen with one.
Somewhere along the line, over the past 50 years, the minsters of the gospel became of less and less and less and less importance to the adult overlords in many southern towns—-and perhaps American towns in general. I wonder how that happened—and why? I imagine the local church ministers really enjoyed their former positions of great power and high respect as overlords in their southern communities and really enjoyed rubbing well-greased elbows with the millionaires, doctors, lawyers, and school principals; the free invites to play golf at the expensive local country clubs, etc. Really. What happened to the church ministers, and how did they fall from sociocultural grace with their fellow overlords across the past 50 years?
I have to admit that I once heard a sermon about Elisha and the two she-bears. It was entitled something to the general effect of either ” Elisha and the youth gang” or ” The two she-bears and the youth gang.”. This sermon was not at an independent fundamental Baptist church. It was at an non-instrumental Church of Christ Congregation in a larger town in Central Illinois. This happened well over ten years ago. I was doing a lot of church hopping at the time. The sermon described the victims of the she-bears or God’s wrath as not being little boys but as either teenagers or men in their early to mid twenties. They were being described as not mocking Elisha so much as they were mocking God and so that is why God sent the two she-bears against the youth gang. It was also suggested that the 42 youths were not killed but they were pretty badly injured after the attack. I have read other Bible commentators giving the same interpretation. The way some teenagers are committing crimes, my guess is that some police departments would wish some she-bears would attack some of the more unruly teenage criminals infesting their towns.