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Category: Evangelicalism

Beware of “Nice” Evangelicals Who Ask Questions About Your Tattoos

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

I have written numerous times about how Evangelicals use fake friendships to evangelize non-Christians:

My Evangelical critics might argue that I have it out for Evangelicals; that I can’t see the “good” Evangelicals do; that Evangelicals sincerely care about people. Believe what you will, but one thing I know for sure: Evangelical zealots are notorious for using disingenuous methods and subterfuge to achieve their God-ordained goal: winning lost souls to Jesus. No other group of Christians — Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses excepted — is willing to use fake friendships to achieve a religious objective. I am friends with several mainline Christian pastors. Not one time have these men and women attempted to evangelize me. We are friends for friendship’s sake.

I am convinced that Evangelicals have a pathological need to make other people to be just like them; to seek, force, and demand conformity to their peculiar religious beliefs. Evangelical zealots see every non-Christian as an evangelization target, a prospect for Heaven, a prospective (tithing) church member. The goal remains what it has always been: to recruit new club members.

Lest readers think that I have developed this opinion post-Jesus, people who were following me back in 2007 know that I was quite vocal about Evangelicals and their nefarious evangelism methods. Readers from that time likely remember my interaction with an emergent church pastor named Iggy. Iggy was bragging about what he and his church were doing for the local community. If I remember right, they were handing out free flower pots to people. I asked if the pots had the church’s name on them and if locals were given church advertising brochures along with the pots. After Iggy admitted that yes, the pots had the church’s name on them, and yes, people were given church advertising brochures, he attempted to defend his actions by saying they were genuinely trying to make friends with people in their community.

Then, as now, I objected to what I considered less-the-honest methods to evangelize people; that the goal wasn’t friendship, but saving the lost and gaining new church members. This led to Iggy and me having an epic war of words, one in which I had a profanity-laced meltdown (for which I later apologized).

I share this story to emphasize the fact that I objected to Evangelicals using fake friendships to evangelize then, and I still object today. Whether I was a Christian or an atheist, it matters not. I despise people who attempt to befriend others for ulterior reasons. All I ask is that Evangelicals be upfront about why they are doing what they are doing. In other words, stop the Trojan horse evangelism practices. Have the “soldiers” get out of the wooden horse and declare themselves: we are here to ravage you in the name of the one true Lord and King, Jesus.

This brings me to the a Gospel Coalition post about yet another way to evangelize non-Christians. Written by Erin Wheeler, wife of Brad Wheeler, the pastor of University Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Wheeler writes:

“I like your ink,” I say casually as I walk past the woman in my exercise class. “Thanks,” she mumbles, eyeing me with that look.

It’s the look people give when someone notices their tattoo. They wonder if the person really means the compliment, or if they just happened to notice their purposely and permanently pigmented skin.

At the gym, our conversation continues for a bit. She tells me her tattoo reminds her of a family member she lost a few years ago. I tell her I got my tattoo to remember how God saved my marriage at a time when I thought we might not make it. I have interactions like these frequently: at the gym, at the coffee shop, at the community pool. As a Christian, I’m hoping these tattoo conversations might lead to a more important conversation. A conversation about the gospel.  

As we go through our days, looking to speak to others about Christ, maybe it’s time we considered how asking about someone’s tattoo could be intentionally evangelistic

….

Tattoos present a marvelous gospel opportunity for us. As my coworker, a former tattoo artist, said, “99 percent of people get a tattoo for a reason. There’s a story behind the artwork.” And that, my Christian friend, is an open door! Why not walk through it?

….

Why not ask the barista you order coffee from each morning (whose name I hope you know by now), “Hey Sam, I’ve noticed that tattoo on your arm and have been thinking about it. What is it exactly?” Depending on how he responds, follow up with, “What made you decide on that design?”  

Or how about a coworker or neighbor you’ve gotten to know a bit? Why not take the risk of possibly sounding nosy or weirdly curious: “Hey Laura, I’ve seen those words on your wrist. What made you choose those? I’m curious.” And then shut your mouth and listen. There’s a story behind that tattoo. 

Even if they don’t share their story with you right then and there, it might be the thing God uses to open a door and give you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. It’s amazing what you can learn about somebody with that simple prompt. 

In response to my questions, I’ve heard people’s whole life stories. I’ve had a man tell me about his tattoo in memoriam for the infant daughter he tragically lost. Others have shared their love of nature—or “Mother Earth” as they called it. I even had a fellow nurse explain her love for Dr. Who because of how he cared for others, particularly the innocent. According to her, that’s what led her into nursing. Even if someone doesn’t remember getting their tattoo, that drunken night or wild weekend is part of their story. 

We can respond to each of these stories with gospel truth. Jesus, the ultimate caregiver, has made a way for the dead to come to life through his own death and resurrection. He knows what suffering is like. He can identify with the broken. He’s the Creator and Sustainer of this amazing world. All we see, he has made. He’s the master storyteller, and he’s at the center of it all. 

Why not use a tattoo story as a bridge to invite others to become a part of God’s larger story?

Do you have tattoos? If you do, remember this post the next time an Evangelical strikes up a conversation with you about your body art. Evangelical zealots want to evangelize you so they can put another notch on the proverbial handle of their gospel six-shooter. Yet another sinner slain for Jesus, Brother Billy Bob says to himself. Perhaps unbelievers need to get tattoos that say “Fuck Off” or “No, I am Not Interested in What You Are Selling” or Born-Again Atheist.” Or maybe just wear garlic around your neck to ward off the Evangelical vampires who want to drain the life out of you.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Why Do Many Evangelical Preachers Think Causing Offense is a Virtue?

offensive preaching

For those of us raised in Southern Baptist, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Freewill Baptist, and Holiness churches, we are oh-so-familiar with what is commonly called in such churches “hard preaching.” or “stepping on toes” or “calling out sin” or “naming names.” Hard preaching is almost always loud and animated, often with pulpit pounding and foot stomping. Preachers who preach this way — as I did early in my ministry, emulating (or imitating) preachers from my youth or big-name pastors/evangelists whom I admired — take pride in offending people. Calling out specific sins in the congregation or attacking preachers, colleges, and parachurch organizations by name often offends. But, that’s okay in the preacher’s mind, cuz he’s just preaching the Word. Jesus and the Apostles offended people with their words, why shouldn’t I?, Fundamentalist preachers think. Offending people gets their attention, or so the thinking goes, anyway.

Over the years, I have shared with readers numerous offensive emails and comments from Evangelicals. These so-called followers of Jesus could have been polite and respectful while sharing their disagreements with my writing, but having attended churches pastored by men who love to offend, they think the best way to reach me or get my attention is to use offensive words. When called out on their behavior, such people often say that they are just speaking truth; that their words are straight from the Word of God; that my being offended is a sign of conviction. Thinking the adage “you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar” is a conspiracy theory, abrasive, bombastic Evangelicals think “you will catch more sinners with offensive speech than kindness.” In their minds, if you leave a church service without broken toes, bloody lips, and bruised faces, the man of God ain’t doing his job.

Imagine growing up in such an environment, three services a week of hard preaching. Imagine fear, guilt, and judgment being served up at every church service. Imagine your pastor calling out your sins by name. Talk about a self-esteem killer, a wound that runs so deep that all you see in the mirror every morning is a vile, worthless sinner who would split Hell wide open if it wasn’t for Jesus saving him.

The purpose of the body of Christ is to love, show compassion, and extend grace. Certainly, preachers need to teach the Bible and help congregants apply it to their lives, but how they do so speaks volumes about the kind of person they really are. When the Bible is used as an offensive weapon, bloody carnage is left in its wake. Evangelical churches are filled with hurt and wounded people; people who sincerely love Jesus. Their spirits are battered and bruised, and the person who did this to them stands in the pulpit every time they attend church. And the sad thing is that people think this abuse is normal. How could they think otherwise? Long-term conditioning and indoctrination give them a warped view of “normal.” I know for my partner, Polly, and me, it wasn’t until after we deconverted that we saw, for the first time, how much psychological harm our five decades in Evangelicalism caused us. Counseling office waiting rooms are filled with people who have/had pastors who loved to offend.

It seems obvious to me that being an asshole is not a virtue, but sadly, for many Evangelical preachers, their “obvious detector” is not working. Either that, or they love being mean to people.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Are Evangelical Churches Really “Nondenominational?”

nondenominational

One way Evangelicals hide their beliefs and practices is to self-identify as “nondenominational.” Sectarian affiliation carries certain baggage that may turn some people off, especially if they have had negative experiences with a particular denomination. Using the nondenominational label gives people unfamiliar with Evangelicalism a false impression of a church or pastor. Nondenominational says to people that a particular church or preacher has no sectarian connection or beliefs. This, of course, is patently untrue.

Most nondenominational churches are independent (or quasi-independent) Baptist assemblies that typically have congregational government structures. All one needs to do is look at a church’s official statement of belief to see that there is no doctrinal difference to speak of between First Baptist Church and Praise Cathedral and Bible Baptist Church and Bada Boom Bada Bing Jesus is Lord Assembly. Each church might be Charismatic, Pentecostal, Calvinistic, or Arminian, or have differing views on eschatology, pneumatology, or other secondary issues, but their core doctrinal beliefs and practices are similar, if not identical.

Evangelicalism is defined by certain foundational beliefs and practices. Thus, Evangelicalism is a Christian sect divided according to peculiar secondary beliefs. And yes, I am aware that some churches and pastors elevate these secondary beliefs to the level of what people must believe to be a Christian. For example, some Calvinists think Arminians are unsaved and some Pentecostals think “Christians” who aren’t baptized by immersion or who don’t speak in tongues aren’t saved either. Evangelicalism is, in every way, a denomination in the same way the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a denomination. Churches may be independent or loosely affiliated, but their beliefs and practices suggest they are denominational.

A common ploy among Evangelical churches is for congregations to drop their denominational names. This is especially true for churches affiliated with the SBC and the Assembly of God. The goal is to give off the appearance of being nondenominational and hopefully lessen the negative opinions people have of denominations.

I have previously shared that while Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches are “independent,” they do affiliate with one another, just as Southern Baptists do. (Please see Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps.) IFB churches have horrible reputations. What better way to distance a church from being viewed this way than to change its name and remove IFB from all church literature and advertising? King James Baptist Church becomes Bible Believer’s Community Church and Victory Baptist Church becomes Faith Bible Church. Nothing changes except the name.

our father's house west unity ohio
Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio 1995-2002. We were a nondenominational church in name only. Theologically we were a Baptist congregation, with a Calvinistic twist.

Lifewise Academy — an Evangelical parachurch organization — exploits a quirk in federal and state law to establish release-time Bible classes for Ohio public school students. Currently, over 170 school districts have Lifewise programs! How in the hell did this happen? Lifewise tells two lies to school boards and superintendents:

  • We are a nondenominational program
  • We teach children morals and ethics

Lifewise is, in fact, Evangelical. I mean 100 percent, unabashed Evangelical. Lifewise doesn’t teach generic morality and ethics; it teaches explicitly Evangelical dogma. Internal Lifewise documents reveal that the organization’s number one goal is to evangelize students perceived to be unsaved. If Lifewise is nondenominational, children of all sects would be welcome, and no attempt would be made to “save” them. That’s not what’s happening. Suppose your child is Roman Catholic or attends a Unitarian congregation. Will they be considered “Christians?” Maybe, by some of the teachers, but Lifewise’s internal documents suggest that such children are ripe for conversion. According to Lifewise, there is one gospel (theirs) and one plan of salvation (theirs). A Catholic child who thinks baptism and confirmation “save” her is deceived (by Satan himself). Catholicism is a false religion, the whore of Babylon. The Unitarian child? My God, he thinks all roads lead to God and Heaven and good works are what matter. He definitely is deceived. Lifewise’s grand plan is to make every child a good Evangelical and make sure that they are attending a “good” Bible-believing church.

The next time a Christian tells you she is nondenominational, ask yourself what she is trying to hide? If she is a Baptist or a Pentecostal or a Charismatic, why doesn’t she proudly wear her denominational name tag? What doesn’t she want you to know or see? Don’t take my word for it. Go visit a local Southern Baptist congregation and then visit a church that says it is nondenominational. Set aside music and preaching differences, paying careful attention to their beliefs and practices. Don’t pay attention to secondary issues that separate them. Once the peripheral stuff is peeled back, you will likely find a Baptist church with a congregational ecclesiology. The nondenominational label is little more than a magic trick clerics and sects use to hide their sectarian distinctives. Don’t be fooled.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Testing God: Putting Out a Fleece

fleece

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judges 6:36-40)

Let me give you a bit of context. The Israelites, those oft-sinning followers of Jehovah, disobeyed God and he punished them severely for their sins:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. (Judges 6:1-6)

Jehovah impoverished the Israelites because of their sins. Modern-day followers of the Christian God must really be living right because they are definitely not impoverished.

For seven years, Jehovah pummeled his followers with the judgment stick. At the end of the seven years, the Israelites cried out to God and he sent a prophet to ask them if they had had enough of his judgment.

After the prophet left, an angel came to an Israelite named Gideon. The angel and Gideon had a conversation:

Angel: The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Gideon: Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 

Angel (or Lord): Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

Gideon: Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 

Angel (or Lord): And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Gideon: If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 

God gave Gideon the sign he requested and he went forth to be a messenger for God, for a while.

It seems that Gideon’s skeptical side kept getting in the way. He wanted to make sure it really was Jehovah speaking to him, so Gideon asked God to prove to him he really was God.

Gideon put a fleece of wool on the floor. He said if the fleece was wet in the morning and it had not rained (or dew covered the ground) outside he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was wet in the morning. Did Gideon believe God? Nope. Skeptical Gideon asked for more evidence.

Gideon reversed the fleece experiment. He said if the fleece was dry in the morning and there was dew on the ground outside, he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was dry in the morning.

God allowed Gideon to test him multiple times (read Judges 7 to see more of Gideon’s God tests). Evidently, Gideon had a faith that required authentication and proof.

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement I grew up in, putting out a fleece was common practice. Putting out a fleece was a way of “testing” God or finding out the “will of God.”

Like casting lots and drawing straws, Christians use putting out a fleece as a way to make decisions. In 1979, I was looking for a job, so I applied for a restaurant management job with a company in Findlay, Ohio. They told me they had an interest in me working for them and they would get back with me with their final decision. At the time, we were living in Montpelier, Ohio. We were thinking about moving to Newark, Ohio, the central Ohio community where Polly’s parents lived. What should we do? Restaurant manager in Findlay or move to Newark?

So, I put out a fleece. I prayed, “God if you want me to take the restaurant manager job then have the company call me by ____________. If they don’t call, I will take that as a NO from you.”

The call didn’t come, so we packed everything up and moved to Newark. The funny thing? The restaurant company called a day or two AFTER the fleece deadline and offered me a well-paying job. I stood by what I had divined through putting out the fleece.

Silly, I know.

Christians often use this kind of thinking without even recognizing it. Such and such will happen in their life and they take that as “proof” that God is moving and working in their lives. I have heard countless prayers where a person said “I was praying for _________________ and sure enough God came through. What an awesome God we serve!”

Never mind that there are multiple explanations for _________________ happening. Even when unexplainable things happen, why is it assumed that it is God making things happen? Unexplained things are just that — unexplained.

Sadly, many Christians wait for God to work, move, come through, or bless them. As a result, they are robbed of the ability to make decisions on their own. Unless they can “sense” God working, they refuse to make a decision. Or they make a horrible decision because they have a feeling they call “God.”

For the non-Christian, reason, common sense, experience, and advice from others, is usually sufficient for making a decision. Sometimes, when it is necessary to make a quick decision, we have to “go with our gut.” Going with our gut, however, is not the same as going with God (article on Psychology Today about this subject).

How about you? Do you have any “putting out a fleece” stories to share?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Does the Bible Really Say “Thou Shalt Not Judge?”

thou shalt not judge

The short answer is this: no, it doesn’t.

And if it actually did, it is the one command every Christian breaks on a daily basis.

I am sure you have been in one of THOSE arguments, debates, or discussions; the one where you express your opinion about a matter and someone shrieks, YOU ARE JUDGING!

Why of course you are judging.

We all judge each and every day of our lives. Common sense tells us this is so.

People who use the stop judging line are trying to control the debate and stifle any opinion other than their own. If you agree with the person you are wonderful, but if you disagree with them you are judgmental.

I wish these don’t judge people would at least be honest when they open their mouths, post something on Facebook, write a blog post, etc. They need to preface each public pronouncement with:

I am not interested in what you think. If you disagree with me, I will consider you to be a judgmental person, and if you continue, I might even throw a fit, and if you really, really keep at it, I will SHOW you . . . I will unfriend you on Facebook. TAKE THAT!

Let’s settle one thing right here, right now. You judge, I judge, we all judge. What matters is HOW we judge, what standard we use for judging.

And that, by the way, is exactly what the Bible says.

Evangelical Christians, by far, are the whiniest people on earth when it comes to judging. With Bible in hand, they make all sorts of judgments. They judge who is saved and who is lost. They judge what sin is and isn’t, and they really like to judge sexual sin (a sign that they have not gotten laid lately).

Yet, when others turn their judgment back on their heads, they loudly protest, saying, the BIBLE says, thou shalt not judge.

Let’s look at what the Bible actually says:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Most people stop at Matthew 7:1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?  Don’t judge others if you don’t want to be judged yourself.

This one verse is foundational for those who think we should tolerate any and every belief a person might have. The toleration at all costs crowd thinks every person is autonomous and has a right to say whatever he or she wants. Free speech reigns paramount. And that’s true. However, that does not preclude others from saying your beliefs are irrational, anti-science, racist, bigoted, hateful, stupid, ignorant, hilarious, or that you personally are full of shit. Free speech applies to everyone, does it not?

Generally, I think toleration is a good idea, but when individuals or groups bring their ideas into the public square, any notion of toleration must be put aside. In a democracy like ours, we fight our battles in the public arena. Citizens bring their ideas to the public square in the hope of finding like-minded people to join their cause. Often they do, but in the public square they also find those who oppose their cause. And so competing causes, ideas, and beliefs clash with one another and wage war against each other in the public square. Over time, it is hoped the best cause, idea, or belief wins (and I speak with gross generalization here).

It is likely the winner’s cause, idea, or belief will have been altered by those who challenged it. Through this bloody give and take, we progress and move forward as a people.

Religion does not play well in this kind of environment. Religion is based on revealed truth, on dogma. In the United States, the dominant religion is Christianity, a religion founded on truth that cannot be altered or changed. This is why Christians do not fare well in the public square. They have little capacity for change. To contemplate change, they must consider that they or their God are wrong. As we look through the lens of 2,000 years of Christian history, we know that the Church has indeed adapted and changed. But, it should be noted that this kind of change takes a much longer time than it does with other people and groups. Christianity is nothing if not arrogant and intractable about its truth.

On the other hand, the scientific method fits well in this kind of environment. Scientist A says _____________________, and Scientists B, C, and D take exception, and through the scientific method set out to challenge, refute, or modify what Scientist A said. It doesn’t take centuries to root out errors.

Note what the Bible says in Matthew 7:2-5, the verses few Christians ever bother to read. (Many Christians subscribe to the ignore what doesn’t fit my agenda, worldview, way I want to live, or my personal rules of interpretation.)

Verse 2 says:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

For WITH WHAT JUDGMENT YE JUDGE, ye shall be judged. The Bible is quite clear. It is a given, we all make judgments, so when we judge, whatever standard of judgment we use, that same standard of judgment will be used by others when they judge us.

The Bible even addresses the method we use to judge when it says with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. In modern vernacular the Bible is saying, however you dish out judgment, expect it to be dished back to you the same way.

Over the course of my seventeen years of blogging, people have left tens of thousands of comments on various iterations of my blog. Currently, almost 48,000 comments have been left on this blog since December 2014. A small percentage of comments were left by Evangelical Christians with nasty dispositions, people who were so filled with certainty that they had no tolerance for any differing viewpoint. (I can count on one hand the non-Christians who acted similarly.) They knew the truth and their objective was to tell me that I was wrong, deceived, blind, lost, headed for Hell, an enemy of God, etc. In their worldview, there is no room for doubt or not knowing.

These know-it-all Christians tend to be arrogant, bombastic, and lacking in basic social graces. Of all the different types of people I have met on the Internet, theirs is the type that most often gets under my skin (perhaps because I was just like them once in my life). At one time, I responded “in kind” to this kind of commenter. Using Bible terms, I just meted out to them what they meted out to me. These days, I tend to follow another biblical admonition: don’t cast your pearls before swine.

Well, enough of chasing that rabbit trail. (The preacher in me still lives.)  Back to Matthew 7:1-5.

Verses 3 and 4 say:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

The Bible teaches that we should first consider our own lives, our own faults, our own inconsistencies, and for my Christian readers, our own sins, before we consider the deficiencies of others.

As is often the case, we tend to be able to see the smallest of matters in the lives of others (the mote, the small sliver), all the while not being able to see the biggest of matters in our own lives (the beam). Before we judge others, we should carefully judge ourselves, engaging in self-reflection – taking an inventory of our own lives. As the old Baptist evangelist once said, draw a circle on the floor, stand in the middle of the circle, and judge everyone in the circle. This kind of judgment will fundamentally change how we judge others. As we carefully plumb the depths of our own being, we will likely become more understanding of those with whom we disagree. This doesn’t make the disagreements go away, but it does help us to see that we are ALL capable of embracing ideas that are faulty or dangerous.

judge not

Does this mean we shouldn’t judge others? Of course not. Notice what verse 5 says:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

If we judge ourselves first, we will then be able to better judge the actions, words, ideas, and beliefs of others. The hypocrite ignores his own life and focuses on others. We see this all the time with Evangelical pastors. You know the type: they thunder against sin, most often sexual sin. They eviscerate all those who dare transgress the Bible’s sexual standard. Yet, in their own lives, they do the very things they condemn. (Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Bob Gray, Jack Hyles, Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Jim Bakker, Eddie Long, and too many Catholic priests to count, just to name a few. Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

Those who shout the loudest over the peccadilloes of others often commit those very same sins in the privacy of their homes, offices, motel rooms, or back seats of their cars. They are hypocrites of the first degree.

The Bible, from start to finish, clearly teaches that Christians are to judge others. It never teaches, thou shalt not judge. It DOES teach judging righteously. It does teach using a proper standard of judgment. It does teach a judgment that begins with self.

“But, Bruce, you are not a Christian.” No, I am not. I wrote this post to tell those Christians who love to scream “DON’T judge” to shut the Hell up. They need to read the Bible they say they believe. Better yet, they need to PRACTICE the teachings of the Bible they say they believe.

As an atheist, I can glean some helpful guidance from Matthew 7:1-5. It stresses the importance of self-judgment before taking on the task of judging others and their ideas and beliefs. I need to be reminded of my own shortcomings (sorry Christians, no sins for me) and motives. I need to be reminded that I am, as are those I oppose, a fallible, frail human being. I can be w-r-o-n-g.

The comment section awaits your judgment of this post.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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How I Answered Science Questions When I Was an IFB Pastor

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is . . . I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, I and the world I was a part of were insulated from secular science. As a pastor, I rarely had someone ask me a science question, and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately and literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it in six 24-hour days, 6,027 years ago
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right. Always, without exception.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

Besides the Bible, we Fundamentalists had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in Evangelical circles. I do not doubt that if I were still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum — Ken Ham’s monument to ignorance — so we could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored were largely insulated from the world. Many of the children were homeschooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially wicked secular colleges. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children, and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks — books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher. My wife and I also homeschooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

As a pastor, the few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says . . .

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says . . .

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands and thousands of American churches and pastors who hold similar views. The United States is one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific facts. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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IFB Pastor Jack Hyles Tells Unsubmissive Woman to Kill Herself

Jack Hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt from Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

This is every man’s right. Each has only one life to live. God looks down and sees that every man is incomplete. God gives a man a woman, and that woman is supposed to complete that man. If you fail to do it, it won’t be done. If he dies without ever having it, it’s because you didn’t give it to him. You have taken from him what is every man’s right. Every man’s right is to have a completer. That’s why God made you!

A lady came to my office not long ago and I gave her this truth. She said, “I’m not going to do all that stuff.”

I said, “I’ll give you an alternative suggestion.”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Go over here to the bridge over the Chicago River and jump off.”

“What?”

“Go jump in the river.”

“Why?”

I said, “You’d go to Heaven, and your husband wouldn’t have to live in hell!” Listen to me, especially you young ladies, you unmarried ladies, you ladies who haven’t been married long. I’m trying to help you. I’m not trying to take any freedoms away from you. I’m trying to give you a liberty that you’ll never enjoy unless you become what God has made you to be.

I said to that lady in my office for counsel, “Look, you are standing in the way. Your husband is a good man. He’s not going to have anybody else. You’re standing in the way of your husband ever having a completer. You’d be a lot better off, young lady, in the early days of your marriage, if you would go over and jump off the bridge so your husband can have in his lifetime someone to complete the circle.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser