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Category: Evangelicalism

James Dobson Tries to Scare Evangelicals into Voting for Trump Again

james dobson monster

James Dobson, 84, is an Evangelical Christian, psychologist, and author. In 1977, Dobson founded Focus on the Family. For those of us raised in Evangelical churches, Focus on the Family was very much a part of our lives. Dobson’s books and radio broadcasts were wildly popular. Many Evangelical families read or owned Dobson’s most popular books, Dare to Discipline (1970) and The Strong-Willed Child (1992).

According to its 2019 Annual Report, Focus on the Family had almost $100,000,000 in revenue. This number is been static for a least a decade, reflecting the fact that Focus on the Family has been unable to grow its donor base. In 2017, to protect the confidentiality of their donors, Focus on the Family declared itself to be a church. Astoundingly, the I.R.S. did not object to the organization’s reclassification as a church.

In 2010, Dobson left Focus on the Family and established Table Talk — an Evangelical non-profit. Dobson also started a new radio program that is currently heard on 300 stations.

Dobson is known as a strident culture warrior. Reflecting his Fundamentalist theological and social beliefs, Dobson opposes LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage, abortion, and premarital sex, to name a few. Over the years, Dobson has become increasingly political, a shrill the-sky-is-falling, doom-and-gloom prognosticator of the destruction of America unless it returns to God.

In 2008, in an attempt to discourage Americans from voting for Barak Obama, Dobson wrote his infamous “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America. Today, this letter is difficult to find, so I have reproduced it below in its entirety. (Focus on the Family “disappeared” the letter. I found it in PDF format on World News Daily.)

Begin Letter

October 22, 2012

Dear friends,

I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words, O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.

The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far- Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.

The Supreme Court

On January 20, 2009, President Obama’s inauguration went smoothly, and he spoke eloquently of reaching out to Republicans who would work with him. Even in the next month, when Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens announced they would step down from the Supreme Court, nobody was very surprised – Ginsburg was already 75 years-old and in ill health, and Stevens was 88. President Obama nominated two far-Left, American Civil Liberties Union-oriented judges, and the Democratic Senate confirmed them quickly. They are brilliant, articulate and in their early 40s, so they can expect to stay on the court for 30 or 40 years. But things seemed the same because the court retained its 4-4 split between liberals and conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.

The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to create laws from the bench. The four conservative justices who remained — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — were suddenly in the minority.

Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court.

The three remaining conservatives (known as “originalists” because they hold that the meaning of the Constitution is its “original public meaning”) kept objecting that the role of the Supreme Court should not be to create laws but only to interpret the Constitution and the laws that had been passed by Congress and the state legislatures. But the six liberal justices paid no attention. They decided cases in light of their understanding of the needs of society, and they took more and more precedents not from the U. S. Constitution but from international laws.

From the end of 2009, Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito have been constantly outvoted 6-3, and they are essentially powerless. It might be 20 or 30 years before enough new appointments could be made to change the far-Left dominance of the Supreme Court.

Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.

Same-sex “marriage”

The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual “marriage” was a “constitutional” right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex “marriage” violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Suddenly, homosexual “marriage” was the law of the land in all 50 states, and no state legislature, no state Supreme Court, no state Constitutional amendment, not even Congress, had any power to change it. The Supreme Court had ruled, and the discussion was over. This was a blatant example of creating law by the court, for homosexual “marriage” was mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, nor would any of the authors have imagined that same-sex “marriage” could be derived from their words. But it just followed the precedents that had been set by state supreme courts in Massachusetts (2003), California (2008) and Connecticut (2008).

President Obama repeated his declaration that he personally was against same-sex “marriage”, but he told the nation there was nothing he could do. The Supreme Court had ruled, and it was now the law of the land. The president asked the nation to support the decision.

After that decision, many other policies changed, and several previous Supreme Court cases were reversed rather quickly — raising the question, “Is America still the land of the free?”

(1) Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys. (This was to be expected with a change in the court, since the 2000 decision Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts as a private organization to dismiss a homosexual scoutmaster, was a 5-4 decision, with Stevens, Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer dissenting even then.)

It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.

(2) Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.

Many Christian teachers objected to teaching first-graders that homosexual behavior was morally neutral and equal to heterosexuality. They said it violated their consciences to have to teach something the Bible viewed as morally wrong. But state after state ruled that their refusal to teach positively about homosexuality was the equivalent of hate speech, and they had to teach it or be fired. Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired, and there are hardly any evangelical teachers in public schools any more.

Non-Christians found this hard to understand. “Why not just teach what the school says even if it’s not your personal opinion? So what? We can’t have every teacher deciding what he or she wants to teach, can we?”

But the Christian teachers kept coming back to something Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). And they quit by the thousands, no matter the personal cost, rather than commit what they believed to be a direct sin against God.

In addition, many private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.

(3) Adoption agencies: “The land of the free”? There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York 7and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses. Just as the Catholic Charities adoption agency had closed down for this reason in Massachusetts in 2006, so all similar agencies across the United States have now closed down rather than violate their consciences about the moral wrong of homosexual behavior.

Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with “narrow” or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.

(4) Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.

(5) Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed broadcasting and print restrictions that were in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.

(6) Doctors and lawyers: “The land of the free”? Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine, following the reasoning of a decision of the California Supreme Court in North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Benitez), which was announced August 18, 2008. As a result, many Christian physicians have retired or left the practices of family medicine and obstetrics & gynecology. Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.

(7) Counselors and social workers: “The land of the free”? All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide “professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling” for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.

(8) Homosexual weddings: “The land of the free”? Church buildings are now considered a “public accommodation” by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and anti- discrimination lawsuits.

(9) Homosexual church staff members: “The land of the free”? While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as part- time youth pastor or director of counseling. Those that have rejected homosexual applicants have had their tax-exempt status revoked, and now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun to impose heavy fines for each instance of such “discrimination,” which, they say, is “contrary to the U.S. Constitution as defined by the Supreme Court.” These fines follow the pattern of a precedent-setting case in February 2008, in which the Diocese of Hereford in the Church of England was fined $94,000 (47,000 UK pounds) for turning down a homosexual applicant for a youth ministry position.

(10) Homosexuals in the military: One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to compensate for past discrimination), and all new recruits, and all active-duty and reserve personnel, are compelled to take many hours of “sensitivity training” to ensure they demonstrate positive attitudes toward those with different sexual orientations and practices. Anyone who seems hesitant or who objects is routinely passed over for promotion. In addition, any chaplain who holds to an interpretation of Scripture that homosexual conduct is morally wrong and therefore does not espouse “mainstream values,” is dismissed from the military. This is not “the land of the free” for them.

Religious speech in the public square

(11) High schools: “The land of the free”? High schools are no longer free to allow “See You at the Pole” meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both “proselytizing” and involves “worship,” special categories of speech which, as liberal Justice John Paul Stevens argued in his dissent in Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001), should not be allowed in public schools, since it is in a different category from other kinds of speech. (Justice Souter filed a similar dissent, which Justice Ginsburg joined). The new 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court followed his reasoning and outlawed any use of school property for any kind of religious meeting, even outside of normal school hours. In addition, Christian students cannot raise religious objections to curriculum material that promotes homosexual behavior.

(12) Church use of school property: “The land of the free”? Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose. Most of these churches have been unable to find any suitable place to meet. Public libraries and public parks are similarly excluded from allowing churches to use their facilities. Once again, the reasoning of liberal Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg in 2001 in Good News Club (see above) was able to garner 6-3 support with the new court.

(13) Campus ministries: “The land of the free”? Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist.

After the Supreme Court ruled that “proselytizing” speech and “worship” speech did not have the same First Amendment protection as other speech, and after it declared same-sex “marriage” to be the law of the United States, a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote “hate speech” and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies. Their staff members are no longer allowed on university property. The only ministries allowed to function on campuses are “non- discriminatory” ministries that agree to allow practicing homosexuals and members of other religions on their governing boards. With the new Supreme Court appointed by President Obama, the long years of liberal opposition to these evangelical ministries finally bore fruit, and only liberal ministries are left on campuses.

(14) Pledge of Allegiance: “The land of the free”? Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th CircuitU. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.

Abortion

(15) Freedom of Choice Act: Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, “The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund).

This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically. The Freedom of Choice Act also reversed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, so infants can be killed outright just seconds before they would be born. States whose laws were overturned challenged the law in court but it was upheld by the Obama Supreme Court. “The land of the free”? There is no freedom for these infants who are killed by the millions.

(16) Nurses and abortions: “The land of the free”? Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences. A number of Christian nurses challenged their loss of jobs in court, but the Supreme Court ruled that medical professionals do not have the freedom to refuse nonessential, elective care on the basis of conscience. In its decision, the Supreme Court followed the reasoning of the California Supreme Court in the 2008 Benitez case (see section (6) above).

(17) Doctors and abortions: “The land of the free”? The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and obstetrics, and many have retired.

Pornography

(18) Pornography: “The land of the free”? It’s almost impossible to keep children from seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts. The court applied more broadly the “Miller test” from the 1973 decision in Miller v. California, by which a work could not be found obscene unless “the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value.” In the 2011 decision, the court essentially found that any pornographic work had some measure of “serious artistic value,” at least according to some observers, and thus any censorship of pornographic material was an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment. In addition, all city and county laws restricting pornography were struck down by this decision. As a result, pornographic magazines are openly displayed in gas stations, grocery stores and on newsstands (as they have been in some European countries for several years).

Gun ownership

(19) Guns: “The land of the free”? It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for self- defense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). In the new decision, a response to test cases from Oregon, Massachusetts, and Vermont, the court adopted the view of the Second Amendment that had been defended in Heller by the four liberal justices, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer.

In this new decision, the court specified that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a “well regulated militia” in the various states. To those who argued that this view was not the “original intent” of the framers, they pointed to a long history of dispute over the interpretation of the expression and then said that, in any case, the Constitution was an “evolving” document that must change with the times, and so what may have been applicable in 1790 need no longer be decisive. Therefore they allowed cities and states to limit gun ownership to active-duty military personnel and police officers. Citizens in those areas who are discovered owning guns have been subjected to heavy fines and imprisonment. Inner-city violent crime has increased dramatically.

Education

(20) Home schooling: “The land of the free”? Parents’ freedom to teach their children at home has been severely restricted. The Supreme Court, to the delight of the National Education Association, followed the legal reasoning of a February 28, 2008, ruling in Re: Rachel L by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California (although that ruling was later reversed). In the later case, the Supreme Court declared that home schooling was a violation of state educational requirements except in cases where the parents (a) had an education certificate from an accredited state program., (b) agreed to use state-approved textbooks in all courses, and (c) agreed not to teach their children that homosexual conduct is wrong, or that Jesus is the only way to God, since these ideas have been found to hinder students’ social adjustment and acceptance of other lifestyles and beliefs, and to run counter to the state’s interest in educating its children to be good citizens. Parents found in violation of this ruling have been subject to prosecutions for truancy violation, resulting in heavy fines and eventual removal of their children from the home. Thousands of home schooling parents, seeing no alternative in the United States, have begun to emigrate to other countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, where home schooling is still quite prevalent.

President Obama’s response to the Supreme Court

After many of these decisions, especially those that restricted religious speech in public places, President Obama publicly expressed strong personal disapproval of the decision and said that the Supreme Court had gone far beyond what he ever expected. But he has also stated repeatedly that he had sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and, now that the Supreme Court had ruled, he had no choice but to uphold the law, for these decisions were the law of the land.

Military policy

In his role as commander in chief, President Obama has been reluctant to send our armed forces to any new overseas commitment.

(21) Iraq: “The home of the brave”? President Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and began regular withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, completing it in the promised 16 months, by April 2010. All was peaceful during those months, but then in May 2010, Al-Qaida operatives from Syria and Iran poured into Iraq and completely overwhelmed the Iraqi security forces. A Taliban-like oppression has taken over in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of “American sympathizers” have been labeled as traitors, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The number put to death may soon reach the millions.

Al-Qaida leaders have been emboldened by what they are calling the American “defeat” and their ranks are swelling in dozens of countries.

(22) Terrorist attacks: “The home of the brave”? President Obama directed U.S. intelligence services to cease all wiretapping of alleged terrorist phone calls unless they first obtained a warrant for each case. Terrorists captured overseas, instead of being tried in military tribunals, are given full trials in the U.S. court system, and they have to be allowed access to a number of government secrets to prepare their defense.

Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe. President Obama in each case has vowed “to pursue and arrest and prosecute those responsible,” but no arrests have been made. However, he has challenged the nation to increase foreign aid to the poorer nations that were the breeding grounds for terrorism, so people could have an opportunity to escape from the cycles of poverty and violence in which generations had been trapped.

(23) Russia: “The home of the brave”? As Vice President Joe Biden had predicted on Oct. 20, 2008, some hostile foreign countries “tested” President Obama in his first few months in office. The first test came from Russia. In early 2009, they followed the pattern they had begun in Georgia in 2008 and sent troops to occupy and re-take several Eastern European countries, starting with the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. President Obama appealed to the United Nations (UN), taking the same approach he had in his initial statements when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008: “Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war,” and “All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis,” But Russia sits on the Security Council, and no U.N. action has yet been taken.

Then in the next three years, Russia occupied additional countries that had been previous Soviet satellite nations, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, with no military response from the U.S. or the U.N. NATO heads of state have severely condemned Russia’s actions each time but they could never reach consensus on military action. Liberal television commentators in both the U.S. and Europe have uniformly expressed deep regret at the loss of freedom of these countries but have also observed that “the U.S. cannot be the world’s policeman.”

President Obama’s popularity dropped somewhat after each of these crises, but media criticism was remarkably muted. And Vice President Joe Biden reminded the nation that on October 20, 2008, he had predicted that Russia might be one of “four or five scenarios” where an “international crisis” would arise. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy,” he said. And Obama will have to make “some incredibly tough decisions,” and that “it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”

(24) Latin America: President Obama has also moved to deepen U.S. ties and U.S. trade with communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, regimes that had long enjoyed the favor of far-Left factions in the Democratic Party. Several other Latin American countries seem ready to succumb to insurgent communist revolutionary factions funded and armed by millions of petrodollars from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

(25) Israel: “The home of the brave”? In mid-2010, Iran launched a nuclear bomb that exploded in the middle of Tel Aviv, destroying much of that city. They then demanded that Israel cede huge amounts of territory to the Palestinians, and after an anguished all-night Cabinet meeting, Israel’s prime minister agreed. Israel is reduced to a much smaller country, hardly able to defend itself, and its future remains uncertain. President Obama said he abhorred what Iran had done and he hoped the U.N. would unanimously condemn this crime against humanity. He also declared that the U.S. would be part of any international peacekeeping force if authorized by the U.N., but the Muslim nations in the U.N. have so far prevented any action.

Health care

(26) Health care systems: The new Congress under President Obama passed a nationalized “single provider” health care system, in which the U.S. government is the provider of all health care in the United States, following the pattern of nationalized medicine in the United Kingdom and Canada. The great benefit is that medical care is now free for everyone — if you can get it. Now that health care is free, it seems everybody wants more of it. The waiting list for prostate cancer surgery is 3 years. The waiting list for ovarian cancer is 2 years. Just as the Canadian experience had shown prior to 2008 with its nationalized health care, so in the U.S. only a small number of MRIs are performed — down 90% from 2008 — because they are too expensive, and they discover more problems that need treatment, so they are almost never authorized.

(27) Limited care for older Americans: “The land of the free”? Because medical resources must be rationed carefully by the government, people older than 80 have essentially no access to hospitals or surgical procedures. Their “duty” is increasingly thought to be to go home to die, so they don’t drain scarce resources from the medical system. Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.

Taxes, the economy and the poor:

Many Christians who voted for Obama did so because they thought his tax policies were fairer and his “middle-class tax cuts” would bring the economy out of its 2008 crisis. But once he took office, he followed the consistent pattern of the Democratic Party and his own record and asked Congress for a large tax increase. He explained the deficit had grown so large under President Bush, and the needs of the nation were so great, that we couldn’t afford to cut taxes.

And several of Obama’s economic policies have hurt the poor because they have decreased production and increased inflation and unemployment. Here is what happened:

(28) Taxes: Tax rates have gone up on personal income, dividends, capital gains, corporations, and inheritance transfers. The amount of income subject to Social Security tax has nearly doubled. The effect on the economy has been devastating. We have experienced a prolonged recession. Everyone has been hurt by this, but the poor have been hurt most. In dozens of cities, there are no jobs to be found.

It turns out that the people President Obama called “the rich” were not all that rich. They were just ordinary people who worked hard, saved, and built small businesses that provided jobs and brought economic growth. They kept inventing new and better ways to produce things and bring prices down. They produced the goods and services that gave us the highest standard of living in history. They provided the competition that kept prices low. And the top 50% of earners were already paying 97% of income taxes collected by the U.S. government in 2006.

President Obama increased their tax burden so much that many business owners decided they didn’t want to work any harder when the government was taking so much away. “The land of the free?” Not for the most productive workers in the American economy. Just as nearly 2 million citizens in the decade prior to 2008 had moved out of California and New York when the Democrats had control and kept raising state taxes, many of these entrepreneurs have moved their money, their factories, and often themselves, overseas. So many jobs have been lost that welfare rolls have swelled, and President Obama is calling for more taxes to meet the needs of those without work.

However, Obama’s tax bill still included “tax credits” for the lowest 40% of earners, who were said to “need the most help.” Since the bottom 40% were not paying any federal income taxes in the first place, these “tax cuts” were actually a gigantic redistribution of income, a huge welfare payment, a way to “spread the wealth around,” as Obama told “Joe the Plumber” on October 13, 2008.

When critics objected that Obama’s tax policies were leading to inflation and unemployment, he responded that our goal should not be merely to increase America’s materialism and wealth and prosperity, but to obtain a more just distribution of wealth, even if it costs everybody a little to achieve that important goal.

(29) Budget deficit: The federal budget deficit has increased dramatically under President Obama, in spite of higher tax rates. Increasing tax rates on “the rich” did nothing to reduce the deficit because the economy shrank so much with reduced investment that the total dollars collected in taxes actually decreased — even though most people’s tax rate is now higher. As numerous economists had predicted, higher tax rates meant that the government took in less money. When reporters asked Obama why he still favored higher taxes on the rich when it brought in no more money, he replied that it was important that the rich pay their fair share.

(30) Union organizing: “The land of the free”? In 2009, Congress passed and President Obama quickly signed a “card check” program that nullified the requirement for secret ballots when voting on whether workers wanted a union shop. Now the union has to get signatures from a majority of workers in any business, and unions around the country are using strong-arm tactics to intimidate anyone who stands in their way. Several industries are completely unionized, and prices of goods produced by those industries have shot up as a result.

(31) Energy: World demand for oil continues to climb, and prices keep going up, but President Obama for four years has refused to allow additional drilling for oil in the United States or offshore. Gas costs more than $7 per gallon, and many Democrats openly applaud this, since high prices reduce oil consumption and thus reduce carbon dioxide output. But working Americans are hit hard by these costs.

Nuclear energy would provide a substitute for oil in some cases, and could generate electricity to power electric cars, but environmentalist legal challenges have prevented the construction of nuclear plants, and the courts have been leaning so far in a pro-environmentalist direction that nobody expects the construction of nuclear plants for several decades, if ever.

Obama keeps reminding people we cannot guarantee it will be safe.

As for coal, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to implement strict new carbon emission standards that drove many coal-powered electric plants out of business. The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation. The price of electricity has tripled in places like California, which also faces rolling blackouts during peak energy periods. The impact on our economy, and our homes, has been devastating.

Talk radio

Through the actions of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress, Democrats were able to largely silence the largest source of conservative opposition: talk radio.

(32) Fairness Doctrine: “The land of the free”? By the summer of 2009, the five-member FCC was controlled by Democratic appointees – including a chairman appointed by President Obama. The “Fairness Doctrine” became a topic of FCC consideration following pressure from Democratic congressional leaders who initially did not have sufficient votes to pass the measure. The FCC quickly implemented the “Fairness Doctrine,” which requires that radio stations provide “equal time” for alternative views on political or policy issues.

As a result, all radio stations have to provide equal time to contrasting views for every political or policy-related program they broadcast by talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, Janet Parshall, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt, and broadcasters like Dr. James Dobson. Every conservative talk show is followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal “watchdog” group. Many listeners gave up in frustration, advertising (and donation) revenues dropped dramatically, and nearly all conservative stations have gone out of business or switched to alternative formats such as country or gospel or other music. Conservative talk radio, for all intents and purposes, was shut down by the end of 2010.

In order to solidify the Fairness Doctrine at the FCC, Congress in 2010 passed, and President Obama signed, legislation making it permanent.

Many legal scholars had predicted the Fairness Doctrine would be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the liberal Obama court upheld it easily. Of course, this bill fit the deeper purpose of the liberal-Left wing of American politics, which trumps all other purposes, and that is getting and increasing its power so as to impose its agenda on the nation. It was not surprising the liberal Supreme Court went along.

Christian publishers

(33) Christian books: After the Supreme Court legalized same “sex marriage,” homosexual-activist groups targeted three large Christian book publishers that had publications arguing that homosexual conduct was wrong based on the teachings of the Bible. The activists staged marches and protests at Barnes & Noble stores around the country, demanding the stores remove all books published by these “hate-mongering” publishers. Barnes & Noble resisted for a time, but the protests continued, there was vandalism and secret defacing of books, and eventually the cost was too great and Barnes & Noble gave in. The same thing happened at Borders and other chains. Then they staged a massive nationwide computer attack on Amazon.com, with the same demands, and the same result. As a result, those evangelical publishers could no longer distribute any of their books through any of these bookstore chains. Any Christian publisher that dares to print works critical of homosexual behavior faces the same fate. As a result, several Christian publishers have gone out of business.

Prosecution of Bush administration officials

(34) Criminal charges against Republican officials: In his first week in office, Obama followed President Clinton’s precedent and fired all 93 U.S. attorneys, replacing them with his own appointments, including the most active members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). President Obama argued this was not a selective political action like what President Bush had done, because Obama had fired all of them, conservatives and liberals alike.

The Justice Department soon began to file criminal and civil charges against nearly every Bush administration official who had any involvement with the Iraq war. During his campaign, Senator Obama said, “What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued.” In order to facilitate these proceedings, President Obama rescinded President Bush’s executive order that had prevented presidential papers from being released, and millions of pages of previously secret White House papers were posted on the Internet. ACLU attorneys have spent four years poring over these papers looking for possible violations of law. Dozens of Bush officials, from the Cabinet level on down, are in jail, and most of them are also bankrupt from legal costs.

Where is the opposition?

Has America completely lost God’s favor and protection as a nation? If it has, is this surprising? How can God continue to bless a nation whose official policies promote blatant violation of God’s commands regarding the protection of human life, and sexual morality? Why should God bless any nation that elects officials who remove people’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech and freedom even to raise their own children? His Word says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).

Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn’t resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations.

The same question written in “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key in 1814 rings in the air: O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Now in October 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, the answer to that question is “No.” Our freedoms have been systematically taken away. Many of “the brave” are in jail. We are no longer “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

How did this happen?

When did this all start? Christians share a lot of the blame. In 2008, many evangelicals thought Senator Obama was an opportunity for a “change,” and they voted for him. They did not realize Obama’s far-Left agenda would take away many of our freedoms, perhaps permanently (it is unlikely the Supreme Court can be changed for perhaps 30 years). Christians did not realize that by electing Barack Obama — rated the most liberal U.S. senator in 2007 — they would allow the law, in the hands of a liberal Congress and Supreme Court, to become a great instrument of oppression.

Many people thought he sounded so thoughtful, so reasonable. And during the campaign, after he had won the Democratic nomination, he seemed to be moving to the center in his speeches, moving away from his far-Left record. No one thought he would enact such a far-Left, extreme liberal agenda.

But the record was all there for anyone to see. The agenda of the ACLU, the agenda of liberal activist judges in their dissenting opinions, the agenda of the homosexual activists, the agenda of the environmental activists, the agenda of the National Education Association, the agenda of the global-warming activists, the agenda of the abortion-rights activists, the agenda of the gun-control activists, the agenda of the euthanasia supporters, the agenda of the one-world government pacifists, the agenda of far-Left groups in Canada and Europe – all of these agendas were there in plain sight, and all of these groups provided huge support for Senator Obama. The liberal agenda was all there. But too many people just didn’t want to see it.

Christians didn’t take time to find out who Barack Obama was when they voted for him.

Why did they risk our nation’s future on him? It was a mistake that changed the course of history.

What about our faith?

Personally, I don’t know how we are going to get through tomorrow, for these are difficult times. But my faith in the Lord remains strong. I still believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). I still believe “kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). I still believe our salvation comes from no earthly government for “there is salvation in no one else” than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). I still believe God is sovereign over all history, and though I don’t know why he has allowed these events, it is still his purpose that will ultimately be accomplished. He alone can say of all history, “There is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Sincerely,

A Christian from 2012

End Letter

As you can see — that is if you read this far — Dobson attempted to stoke mass homophobic, nationalist hysteria. Of course, he failed to do so. Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008 and 2012.

If anything, this letter provides a snapshot of the core ideas that drive the Evangelical war against secularist social progress.

james dobson donald trump

Dobson continues to foment hysteria among Evangelicals. Here’s what he had to say in his August 2020 newsletter:

As I write this newsletter, voters across this nation are only a few short months away from the next general election. What an ominous time this is for our 244-year-old republic. Its future hangs in the balance. The choices we make on November 3rd will send this nation down one of two dramatically different paths. The wrong decision will be catastrophic. I agree with former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who said recently that the next election will be “the most important since 1860.” He also warned that if we appease or ignore the violence and anarchy occurring in the streets, it might be the end of civilization as we have known it. Those are sobering words coming from a man who has stood at the pinnacle of national power.

….

Why have I recounted our Civil War history and the election of 1864 at this time in our history? It is for two reasons. The first is to consider some striking similarities between then and now. Our nation is divided like no time since the Civil War. Lawlessness and anarchy stalk the cities as angry mobs riot, burn, loot, rob, and kill innocent bystanders. Cultural monuments are being destroyed. Scores of people have been shot. Our courageous police officers are being brutally attacked by the same people they have vowed to protect. A man and his son stopped to ask for directions, and he was gunned down on the spot. A one-year-old baby was shot in the stomach while he sat in his stroller. The child died at the hospital.

What began as a justified and lawful protest in response to George Floyd’s senseless murder by a rogue police officer has morphed into violence for the sake of violence. Hatred flows in the streets, including vitriol directed at the President of the United States or anyone who dares to support him or his policies. Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religious liberty are being trampled.

There is also widespread belief that violence and anarchy are being organized and funded by powerful forces that are maneuvering America toward a socialist dictatorship. There is always a kingmaker behind such lawlessness. Most disturbing is open talk of another civil war. It is troubling to even utter those words. The last time Americans faced off against each other, 600,000 soldiers died. May God forbid it from happening again.

During the revolution of the 1960s, I recall a ubiquitous bumper sticker that read, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” It was a catchy phrase that made sense to those who opposed the Vietnam War. But my reaction to it then and now is “What if they gave a war and only one side came?” That question keeps me awake at night. There are multiple millions of passive Americans out there today, many of them Christians, who are clueless about what is happening to their homeland. They are losing something precious and irreplaceable. Do they not understand that their children and those who are yet to be born will live in tyranny if we fail them on our watch? Countless young men and women have laid down their lives on battlefields around the world to protect liberty and our way of life. Now, what they purchased for us with their blood is slipping away. Disengaged people won’t lift a finger to preserve this great land. They won’t take even a few minutes to go to their polling places to vote. There are also thousands of pastors who won’t allow voting registration tables in the lobbies of their churches. Don’t they know or care that America is on the ropes? Hordes of angry anarchists are salivating over the next election, hoping to push America over a cliff. If they succeed, as Newt Gingrich said, Western civilization will never recover. Is there anyone left who believes some things are worth dying for? Aren’t there patriots out there such as Patrick Henry who said in defiance of British tyranny, “Give me liberty or give me death!”? That was the spirit during his day. The Declaration of Independence closed with these words endorsed by the signers, “We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They knew they would be hanged if they lost the war. Why did they do it? Because they loved their country enough to die for it.

How I pray for the emergence of silent, intimidated Americans who will come out of their hiding places to let their voices be heard on Election Day 2020. There must be tens of thousands of ministers in our midst who, like the Black Robed Regiment of the Revolutionary War, will strip off their clerical garb and fight valiantly for religious liberty. If these men and women of faith and conviction don’t come to the rescue of their country, it is doomed.

During the Civil War, untold soldiers gave their lives to preserve the integrity of the United States of America and to end the tragedy of slavery. Here is the question of the hour: Are you and our brothers and sisters willing to carry the bloodstained banner around which our predecessors rallied? We will know the answer on November 3rd.

That brings us to the second reason I have addressed the Civil War and the election of 1864. It is to remind us that voting matters. Each presidential campaign has been important, but some have had jaw-dropping and nation-shaping consequences. I believe we are at such a pivotal moment now. You can be certain that America will be forever changed by the political party that gets its supporters to the polls. They will win the day—and the future.

Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have a record of not showing up on Election Day. It is unbelievably sad. As many as 75 percent of them sit on their hands, apparently assuming that their votes don’t matter. They are wrong. Voting ALWAYS matters. George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 by 537 votes in a nation of 130 million registered voters. Many down-ballot contests have been won or lost by a single vote.

I plead with you to register and vote in this presidential election. I won’t try to tell you who to vote for because you can figure it out for yourselves. But I will suggest how you might evaluate the situation we face. I’ll close with seven critical issues that have stunning significance for the nation. Please think hard about them, and then go to the polls.

1. The Next Generation

There is a fierce battle being waged now in the nation’s classrooms for the hearts and souls of our children and grandchildren. Those of us who are passionately committed to the Judeo-Christian system of beliefs are losing our kids right before our eyes. They are being force-fed a radical curriculum that is godless, anti-American, and sexually perverse. Make no mistake, the left and secular culture are manipulating the minds of your sons and daughters every day of the year. I urge you to be extremely careful about those whom you set in power over your children. Protect them with your very lives.

2. The Sanctity of Human Life

All life is sacred and is a gift from Almighty God. But as you know, America has the blood of innocents on its hands. Since 1973, more than 60 million babies have been murdered through abortion and countless lives have ended by euthanasia. This is the most tragic holocaust in the history of the world! Some states have even passed laws allowing wounded and suffering infants to lie alone on porcelain trays after somehow surviving unsuccessful abortions. They will die without the comfort of their mothers’ breasts. If that doesn’t touch your heart, you are without compassion. I hope you will not cast a single vote for any politician who supports such wickedness.

3. Marriage and Family

The family is God’s original building block for society. Marriage continues to serve as the foundation for every dimension of human life. Everything of value rests on it, including procreation and the care and training of children. If that ground floor is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure of civil society will come crashing down. But listen carefully: powerful and highly funded forces, including LGBTQ and other leftist entities, are determined to destroy the family as an institution. It is already on its knees, and its future is grim. Before you vote, find out what position the candidates have taken on this issue. Then vote accordingly.

4. Religious Liberty

The first item listed in the Bill of Rights addresses the issue of religious liberty. All the other enumerated rights flow from that fundamental freedom. That is why it is alarming to recognize that this right to worship and honor God as we choose is under vicious attack today. The courts have done the greatest damage, but now an entire sub-culture is trying to bring down the Christian faith. Whether it has invaded your private world or not, it is at your front door. It was this primary concern that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War in 1776. We can’t compromise one jot or tittle within that fundamental right. Fight for it with every ounce of your strength and determination. Don’t let the government close the doors of your church or tell you when you can sing praises to the Lord Almighty. They have a devious agenda, and it is dangerous. Be ready to go to the mat in defense of what you believe. And let this passion influence how you cast your ballot in November. Here I stand. Will you join me?

5. Capitalism v. Socialism

It is difficult to believe that for the first time in American history, our nation appears to be thinking about trading our democratic way of life for the tyranny of socialism. I can hardly catch my breath. Could we really consider abandoning the beloved system of government that was designed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people? Is it true that up to 40 percent of millennials and others are prepared to surrender their liberties in exchange for the absolute authority of the state? Democracy and capitalism have made ours the most powerful and successful nation in the history of the world. Are we really considering scuttling the system that has served us for 244 years in exchange for what some people call “free stuff?” I pray not! But that option awaits you in the polling booth.

6. The Judicial System

Given recent rulings, we know that judicial overreach has almost ruined this great nation. Justices and judges are constitutionally charged to interpret the law, not make law. But again, and again, they have overstepped their authority and brought us atrocities such as abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the so-called “separation of church and state,” which doesn’t appear in the Constitution. Most recently, the Supreme Court handed down one of its most egregious rulings since Roe v. Wade. It is the case of Bostock v. Clayton County. This decision was not based on constitutional law but on the whims of six justices. It created a new legal definition of sex out of thin air. Lawyers tell us that this ruling will affect every dimension of culture and haunt the nation as long as it endures. Please don’t vote for politicians who will expand, rather than limit, the power of the judiciary.

7. The Nation of Israel

Scripture tells that those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Our prayer is that the next Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. will continue to promote and cultivate a vibrant bond of friendship with the nation of Israel, which is our only ally in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and all forms of racial discrimination are inherently evil, and we condemn them categorically. We are a nation that is dedicated to “freedom and justice for all” (The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance).

I could list dozens of other issues that should be considered as we vote on November 3rd. I will end with this final statement from Abraham Lincoln.

Dobson is, at the very least, consistent. The difference between 2008 and today is that our culture has moved on from Dobson and his fellow preachers of bigotry, Christian nationalism, and American exceptionalism. Now, this doesn’t mean the Evangelical dog has no bite. It does. Come November, the American people have the opportunity to defang the Evangelical dog, rendering it unable to cause further harm to our Republic. In other words, we must VOTE, setting in motion the process of undoing our march towards fascism. Our nation will not survive four more years of Dobson’s junk-yard dog, Donald Trump.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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 good-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 life. 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

A Letter to My Friends: There is Peace Without Certainty

guest post

Guest post by Bill Mathis. Bill retired from careers in YMCA camps and foster care. He is the author of four novels with two more in progress. The following is a revised letter he once sent.

Dear Friends,

Some of you asked how—after years of being an evangelical Christian, after being raised in a fundamentalist/evangelical pastor’s home, after raising my own children in the faith—how can I now call myself a secular humanist? An atheist. What happened to me?

The answer is a long one. I am working on an essay that goes into more detail, but it is taking some time. So, let me first address the comments that some of you were praying for my repentance.

Listen. My siblings and I were bred, born, suckled, weaned, and raised on a diet of Biblical literalism. We had no choice. We were not the only ones raised this way and I do not hold it against my loving parents. However, critical thinking about the Bible was not a part of our upbringing. And sadly, it rarely is in fundy-evangelical homes.

I’m a slow learner. (Save your comments, please.) Now, at age 72, my past 10 years have been a journey of personal exploration. In the process of recognizing and accepting I am gay, I sincerely investigated the Bible. At first, about homosexuality. However, the more I investigated, the broader my search became. You may not know or remember that in high school and college I was a journalist. One of my degrees is an associate’s in journalism. In my explorations about the Bible, I tried to keep the five W’s and an H in mind: who, what, when, where, why and how.

The more I read and the wider I researched, the more I came to recognize the importance of the writer’s culture and the context from which they were writing. This became even more meaningful when I began writing novels. Authors and editors write and arrange things to fit their point of view or desired message. I am now persuaded that the mostly unknown Biblical writers were not writing for us today, two to three thousand years later. And that applies to way more than just about homosexuality.

Some of you have prayed for my repentance. I have repented, but differently than what you prayed for. I must be honest and blunt. I am not repenting for being gay or living with a man I love.

However, over time, I have repented for the years I worshipped the Bible—for not recognizing it was written by bronze and iron-age men trying to figure out life while they clung to their tribalism. By men who were trying to survive occupation, who often were trying to control others as they passed down myths and legends. Some stories were mythologies from other cultures and past centuries. Some were from word of mouth shaped to tell a story, prove a point, and were not based on the evidence, or the lack thereof. Naturally, their god had to be the greatest and the most miraculous.

I regret never questioning how those writers, and they alone, could define God. I didn’t ask myself why our religious beliefs are primarily dependent upon where we are born in the world. I never thought about why an all-powerful god didn’t reveal himself/herself to the entire world in a message each person could understand and then choose to accept or reject. I stuffed my concerns about the evidence of science proving the ignorance of the Bible’s authors. Ignorance not because of their stupidity, but because they didn’t have the information that has since accumulated. I never questioned that the New Testament writers may have had differing agendas, even what years their works were written or in what order chronologically. Why did I trust and consider the words of ancient writers over the proven results of science, medicine, archeology, anthropology, history, and all the other ‘ology’s that explain our solar system, our earth and our history?

More so, why did I assume the theologies and precepts of fundamentalism and evangelicalism were the only way to God?

Lastly, why was my sense of judgmental, evangelical superiority of knowing the only way to God so strong? For that I am truly sorry.

I came to realize that most of my beliefs were just that. My beliefs.

I no longer take the Bible literally. There’s too much evidence to take it literally. However, I do try to take some of it literately. Literately, it contains beautiful, inspiring collections of poetry, history, dreams, myths, truths and stories written by men based upon their lives and experiences at their time in history. The Bible is also filled with immorality, prejudice, genocide, and it supports slavery and theocracy—to name a few negatives. Those ideas, visions, superstitions and stories were eventually compiled through a political process to become a religion enforced by government and power.

Valerie Tarico, an author and blogger I highly recommend, writes that moving away from fundamentalism is like peeling an onion. And that’s what I’ve been doing. Slowly stepping away a layer at a time from idolizing something man made. Today, for me, we have too much information, knowledge, and facts to blindly cling to and insist on millennia old beliefs and fears.

So, again, that’s where I’m at. Even with my layers of fat and lack of former beliefs—with one foot on a banana peel and the other near the grave—I am at peace and content with my life. More so than ever. And I’m not done learning!

That’s why it is my desire for fundies and evangelicals to peel their fingers away from their eyes and step back – just a little– from the intensity and certainty of some of their beliefs.

There is peace without certainty.

Take care,

Love,

Bill

Quote of the Day: Why So Many New Testament Textual Critics are Evangelicals

bart ehrman

Here’s a good question about why so many New Testament textual critics (those who study the manuscripts of the New Testament) are evangelical Christians.

….

The interesting thing about the discipline is precisely what this questioner is suggesting. Evangelical Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God down to its very words make up the majority of New Testament textual critics. By a (very) large margin. And so the question is why?

….

So why do evangelicals so frequently go that route?  I would say that, as a rule, it is for one of three reasons.

First: theology.  It is precisely because of their theological convictions that many evangelicals want to devote their lives to knowing what the NT authors originally wrote.  If the original words of the Bible were inspired by God, then it is important to know what those words were.  Scribes occasionally (OK, often) changed the words.  But who cares what some anonymous scribe thought or wanted to say?  We want to know what GOD wanted to say!  And so we have to figure out which words come from scribal changes and which from God.  We can throw out the former and will revere the latter.  Any time a verse is worded in different ways, only one of those ways is original (assuming the original itself wasn’t lost along the way, so that *all* we have are various kinds of changes); we need to figure out which one it is.  For me, personally, this was THE MAIN REASON I wanted to become a textual critic.

Second: apologeticsThe term “apologetics comes, as you might suspect, from the word “apology,” which in this context decidedly does not mean saying you’re sorry.   Apology in its technical sense refers to a “reasoned defense” of a view  – say an ideological perspective, a philosophical position, or a religious claim.  Christian apologists make, or try to make, intellectual arguments for their religious views, trying to show, for example, what the actual evidence is that Jesus was really born of a virgin or raised from the dead, or that the human race was created not evolved, or that the Bible is the word of God without mistake.  In some periods of Christian intellectual history – including right now, as we speak – one reason often adduced for doubting that the Bible is the inspired word of God is that it doesn’t seem to be all that important, or even plausible, that God inspired the words of the Bible if we don’t’ know what the words are.  Evangelicals who go into textual criticism often do so in order to be able to show that we know the original words and that therefore there is no reason for doubt: we have the very Word of God.

Third: professional career.  Graduate students in New Testament studies, just like graduate students in any academic discipline, almost always do a PhD because they want to have high-level credentials and respect from colleagues in what they do.  There are very few disciplines in which a person’s theological views create real and serious difficulties.  If you are a Mormon, or Buddhist, or observant Jew – nothing about your personal religious views should have much bearing on your ability to do a PhD in physics, or anthropology, or French literature.  Your views do not prevent you from accepting the widely held premises of your discipline.

….

The problem is especially intense, though, in the (much smaller) field of New Testament studies. There are certain assumptions, views, ideas, approaches, methods that simply do not work well with conservative evangelical understandings of the Bible.  If you think the Bible is without mistake of any kind, it is very difficult to engage in the kind of critical study of the New Testament that is promoted in research universities and non-Christian colleges (whether Princeton or Florida State or Appalachian State University, or Swarthmore, or Kenyon College or … or pick your secular school….) – work that admits that Paul may not have written Colossians, or that John may not be historically accurate, or that Luke has a different view of salvation from Mark, or that many of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels are based on oral traditions that were altered over the years.   And that makes it difficult for evangelicals to get a PhD in many areas within New Testament studies.  But not all.

….

A problem arises only when this kind of work gets turned on its head into some kind of “apology” for evangelical causes, as if showing what an author probably wrote originally has anything to do with whether what he wrote is true or not.  Textual criticism cannot say a single thing about the truth claims of an author’s text, about whether he was right or wrong.  It can only (try to) show what the author originally wrote.  People who claim that knowing what an author wrote somehow shows that what the author wrote is right (even if these people have have PhD’s in the field) are simply being duplicitous or stupid (or both).

And unfortunately, there are some of those out there, at least among the evangelical crowd, who sometimes say such crazy things as “we can trust the New Testament because we have more manuscripts than for any other ancient document.”  Good grief.   Our decision to trust an author is never based on the number of copies of his book.

— Dr. Bart Ehrman, Why Do Are So Many Textual Critics Evangelicals? July 26, 2020

Why Accepting Evolution is Incompatible with Christianity

bible vs evolution

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

As much as some people might try, it is impossible to square evolution with Christianity. Even embracing theistic evolution requires a significant amount of intellectual gymnastics in order to reach the conclusion that the Christian God is behind evolution. In my opinion, theodicy — the problem of evil and suffering —  presents an insurmountable problem for theistic evolutionists. Why would a God, any God, choose such a violent, painful, deadly way to create?

Jerry Coyne, a biologist and a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago in the Department of Ecology and Evolution, writes:

…It is in fact different from asking whether one believes (“accepts” is a better word because “believe” implies a religious-like faith) in theory of gravity or generality relativity, and the reason is obvious. The theories of gravity and relativity don’t impinge on anyone’s religious beliefs. Evolution carries implications that no other science does—save, perhaps some branches of cosmology. It implies that humans evolved by the same blind, materialistic, and naturalistic process involved in the evolution of every other species, and so we aren’t special in any numious sense. It implies that we’re not the special objects of God’s creation. It sinks the “design” argument for God—the most powerful argument in the canon of Natural Theology. It implies that we were not endowed by God with either a soul or moral instincts, so that our morality is a product of both evolution and rational consideration. It implies that much of our behavior reflects evolved, genetically-influenced propensities rather than dualistic “free will.” It implies that even if God did work through the process of evolution , He did so using a horrible and painful process of natural selection, a form of “natural evil” that doesn’t comport well with God’s supposed omnibenevolence…

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: God Requires Christian Couples to Have Children

john piper

It is normal, beautiful, fitting, natural, and normative, according to Scripture, both explicitly and — I would say — implicitly in many places, for a married couple to have children. This was God’s plan from the moment of creation; it was part of what was “very good.” “God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”

….

This is the whole drift of God’s word: children are a gift; children are a blessing. When they are withheld, it is a heartache — sometimes even a judgment.

….

What a sadness when many modern women, shortsightedly I think, choose to forgo that blessing, while millions would literally give their right arm to have it. That’s observation number one: it’s just the way Scripture leans.

….

Of course, we don’t know whether we will have a disabled child or not, who changes our lives forever. Of course, we don’t know whether a child will break our heart with unbelief. Of course, we don’t know if our child will live six hours and then die. And of course, we do know that our children will demand enormous, focused attention. We do know that to raise a child in the Lord demands spiritual desperation and prayer and focus and attention. We do know that there will be financial demands from our lifelong commitment to this child. We do know that there will be thousands of hours that you must deny yourself an immediate felt need in order to do good to this child.

But from the standpoint of God’s word, none of those possible heartaches and none of these guaranteed stresses are reasons not to have children, because the Bible does not share the modern viewpoint that the aim of life is the avoidance of hardship. On the contrary, the assumption of the Bible is that through many tribulations we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22), and that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness (James 1:3), and that there’s joy to be found through giving ourselves away. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

In other words, almost all the arguments for not having children are built on a worldview radically different from the Bible’s worldview.

….

There’s another problem with presuming to think that we can do more good by not having children — like, for climate change. The problem is: we simply do not know whether our child will be a debit or a credit to the human race — a curse or a blessing, a taker or a giver. We don’t know. He may be a freeloader with a big carbon footprint, or he may be the genius who invents the very means of saving millions of lives. Who do we think we are? My goodness, who do we think we are to predict that our children will be a loss rather than a gain for the world, and for the glory of Christ, whom we can believe and pray to?

We don’t know, and it’s not our business to know. Our business is to give them life and raise them up and do what we can to build into them every dream and every possibility and power and blessing for the world — and for the glorifying of God.

And my final observation is that not one couple in a thousand decides to have children by sitting down and calculating the effect of their child on global warming, or the replacement rate for the population so that thirty years from now the workforce will be big enough to sustain the aged, or whether we will certainly have enough resources to establish the child in a fruitful location. It just doesn’t happen that way — not for 99 percent of couples. And I’m suggesting it shouldn’t happen that way; we’re not smart enough for it to happen that way, and the Bible doesn’t encourage us to have children with that mindset.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Are Christian Couples Required to Have Kids? August 3, 2020

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Satan Behind Protesters

michael brown

It’s no surprise that rioters in Portland burned Bibles this past weekend. As I’ve said for weeks now, the spirit behind the riots is the spirit of lawlessness. It is anti-God and anti-Christ, and that’s why synagogues and churches have also been targets.

When it comes to the Bible, for some, it is the ultimate symbol of oppression. Of religious tyranny. Of abusive authority.

It is the evil book on which America was founded, and it should be burned, along with the American flag. It is racist, homophobic and misogynist. It supports genocide and apartheid, and it the divinely sanctioned manual for slave owners. To the flames!

Such is the mentality of the radical left, as reflected in groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter (speaking, again, of the organization, in distinction from the truth that Black lives matter).

….

There is something else that is animating these rioters and, as we have argued before, it is not from above but from below. And, just as an ideological line can be traced from Saul Alinsky to the leadership of Black Lives Matter, an ideological line can be traced from Alinsky to Satan.

….

What we are seeing, then, in these riots, is ultimately an attempt to cast off the rulership of God. In the words of the rebellious kings in Psalm 2:3 (NIV) (speaking against the Lord and the Davidic monarch who ruled over them): “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” We will not have God rule over us!

That’s why Bibles are being burned. It is an open expression of hostility to the Judeo-Christian God and Judeo-Christian values. It is the thumbing of the nose to divine authority. It is overt rebellion.

— Michael Brown, Charisma News, And Then They Burned the Bibles, August 5, 2020

Why Some Professed Atheists Return to Jesus

true happiness found in jesus

Earlier this week, an acquaintance of mine let it be known on Facebook that he had repudiated agnosticism and returned to Christianity. This man had previously been a Christian, had divorced Jesus, and now they are back together again.

His evidence for reclaiming his lost faith is as follows:

  • The testimonies of other Christians; that these transformative spiritual experiences convinced him that the Christian God is real, and that he will work in someone’s [nonbelievers] lives if they open up their hearts to him.
  • The testimonies of people who encountered dark spiritual forces when dabbling in the occult shows evil spiritual forces exist; that these evil spiritual forces are behind certain bands and movie producers; that these bands and producers are getting their inspiration from something outside of themselves

My Facebook acquaintance goes on to say that while he is embracing Christianity again, he rejects:

  • Eternal Hell
  • Penal Substitution (a theory about Jesus’ atonement, believed by most Evangelicals)
  • The notion that people choose their sexuality

In other words, he has become a cafeteria Christian, picking and choosing what he wants to believe; embracing only doctrines that finds emotionally palatable.

Let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with agnostics or atheists returning to Christianity. It’s their lives, their journeys, so it’s not my place to stand in the way of them finding some sort of personal happiness and meaning. That said, I do question how one goes from Christianity to atheism/agnosticism and back to Christianity again. I do question what it was that caused them to lose their faith to start with; and why, now, those evidences are no longer valid or compelling. I do question what it is they found compelling now about Christianity that they didn’t find compelling before.

I started blogging in 2007. Over the course of thirteen years, I know of a handful of atheists/agnostics who have returned to Christianity and worshiping Jesus. Very few people, once they deconvert, return to that which they left behind. It happens, but it is rare. One man, a former Evangelical preacher, became an ardent, vocal atheist. His writing was quite caustic, but, at the time, I thought he was just working through his feelings about his religious past. Many ex-Evangelicals, in particular, go through an angry phase, especially when they realize their pastors, churches, or college professors lied to them about Christianity, Jesus, and the Bible. I know, I can say — “been there, done that.”

One day, I went to this ex-preacher’s blog and found an announcement that he had found the TRUE Christian faith — Calvinism. For a time, the man became a raging disciple of John Calvin. Eventually, he landed in a psychiatric hospital. His blog was deleted, and I was unable to reach him.

It seems to me that most of the people who abandon atheism/agnosticism and reconnect with Christianity do so for reasons other than evidence. Either Christianity is true or it is not. Either the Bible is the Word of God or it is not. Either there is a Heaven and Hell or there’s not. Either humans are sinners in need of supernatural salvation or they are not. The evidence, at least to me, is clear: the central claims of Christianity cannot be rationally sustained. “Believing” requires faith; that which is deeply rooted in our feelings, not truth, facts, and evidence.

I suspect that atheists/agnostics who return to Christianity do so for emotional reasons. Perhaps they want and need that which Christian faith provides; namely meaning, purpose, social connection, and the promise of eternal life in Heaven after death. To put it bluntly, some people simply can’t live with the naked, stark realities of atheism; of a world that can be cold and indifferent; of a life that is transitory and finite — a life that ends the moment we draw our last breath. Unable to forge a life of meaning and purpose post-Jesus, Christians-turned-atheists-turned-Christians return to that which is familiar to them. My Facebook acquaintance had thousands of religions and spiritual practices to choose from, yet he returned to his former faith. Why is that? Familiarity and comfortability.

I, too, yearn at times for that deep, abiding, satisfying sense of certainty, comfort, and hope that my former faith gave me. I miss the social connections and the career satisfaction that being part of a Christian church gave me. However, I can’t ignore the evidence that tells me that Christianity — especially Evangelicalism — is built on a lie; that the central claims of Christianity cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained; that the Bible is not, in any way supernaturally inspired, inerrant, or infallible; that humans are not inherently sinful and in need of salvation; that there is no Heaven or Hell. No matter how I feel, the facts at hand tell me that Christianity is not true. And at the end of the day, truth matters to me.

I wish my Facebook acquaintance well. I trust, to quote the great prophet Bono, that he finds what he is looking for.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Are You Interested in Writing a Guest Post?

guest post

I am always interested in having people write guest posts for this site. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please use the contact form to email me. You can choose any subject. If you are a Christian, you can even write a post telling me how wrong I am about God, Christianity, and the Bible.

Have a story to tell about your life as Christian and subsequent deconversion? Testimonies are always welcome. I have found that readers really appreciate and enjoy reading posts about the journey of others away from Evangelicalism. Perhaps you are someone who has left Evangelicalism, but still believes in the existence of a deity/energy/higher power. Your story is welcome too.

If you worried about grammar or spelling, don’t be. Carolyn, my ever-watchful editor, edits every guest post before it is published. If she can turn my writing into coherent prose, trust me, she can do the same for yours.

Anonymous posts are okay.

Several readers have emailed me in the past about writing guest posts. I am w-a-i-t-i-n-g. 🙂 Seriously, if you have something you would like to say, I am more than happy to post it here. The ball is in your court.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

The Strange Saga of NBA Star Jonathan Isaac

jonathan isaac

Guest post by Steven S.

Many people do not think I am a fan of sports. That could not be further from the truth. My dad is a scout for high school basketball. His love and passion for the game influenced me tremendously. I love all kinds of basketball. I think it is the most graceful and progressive sport out there. That opinion was reinforced when the NBA recently resumed games this past week. The latitude the NBA allowed the players to highlight their messages and causes, especially as it relates to the Black Lives Matter movement, was moving and inspiring. The first game back, all the players kneeled in solidarity. It was enough to move me to tears.

Then something happened. One of the players in the next game: a young man from the Orlando Magic named Johnathan Isaac refused to kneel for the anthem or wear a jersey with a social justice message printed on it. The media outlets wondered, what could make Isaac break so drastically from the pervading sentiment of the league? What was his reasoning? Was his motive a well-thought, finely-nuanced work? Most folks withheld their criticism until Isaac had a chance to speak.

When Isaac did eventually speak, here is what he said:

For me Black lives are supported through the gospel. All lives are supported through the gospel. We all have things that we do wrong and sometimes it gets to a place that we’re pointing fingers at who’s wrong is worst. Or who’s wrong is seen, so I feel like the Bible tells us that we all fall short of God’s glory. That will help bring us closer together and get past skin color. And get past anything that’s on the surface and doesn’t really get into the hearts or men and women.

What does this sound like if not a religiously-influenced and misguided attempt to evangelize and make a stand for Jesus? What does it sound like if not a paean to the “All Lives Matter” crowd of Evangelicals? What does this sound like but an equivocation of the grievous sins of White supremacy and privilege, police brutality, slavery, racism, and discrimination with sins like adultery and not going to church on the Lord’s Day?

How could something like this go so wrong? Of course, Mr. Isaac has the right to believe and act as he wants. I will defend his right to act as he did, but I will dissect the religious toxicity behind it.

For too long, Christianity, especially Evangelicalism, has been used as a shield from the wrongdoings our society has committed in the past and present. Isaac’s actions fit into that larger picture. All sins are equal in the eyes of God, now that we are washed in the blood and saved. Jesus is the answer. The Gospel is the great uniter. It all seems so simple. Win enough hearts to Christ and all the ills of this world will be wiped out. It would all be so great if these beliefs, held by tens of millions, weren’t so deluded.

Our actions in the here and now matter. What happens in the here and now matters. Attempting to distract and deflect from that is what Evangelical Christianity does best. Isaac’s statement takes away from the special, critical gravitas of the here and now, placing it on a someday when every knee has bowed and every tongue has confessed. It is a very myopic worldview that extends no empathy to those of other beliefs or nonbelievers.

The whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and suThe whole idea that Christianity will help bring us closer together and supersede skin color is laughable. Christianity has driven people apart for over twenty centuries. People used Christianity to justify torture, murder, and owning others as property. How someone can expect that process to not continue is beyond me. Christianity does not change, but instead amplifies the kind of person a believer already is, albeit perhaps in a milder form today than in previous centuries.

Isaac’s words effectively cast a pall over one of the most critical movements to ever spring up in our nation to lead us toward grappling with and addressing the White privilege and supremacy inherent in all of our institutions. They diminish the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and the many other Black lives lost to White vigilantism and police brutality.

While Mr. Isaac is undoubtedly a phenomenal basketball player, he is not so phenomenal at seeing how his actions hurt instead of help our nation heal from the tragedies White supremacy has inflicted on this country. My hope is that he educates himself with the help of his teammates on why his actions, instead of providing hope, provided a sense that he was grandstanding for Jesus. I sincerely hope Mr. Isaac can one day see how disrespectful his actions were to a movement and league that wants nothing more than for the oppressed to have the same rights as their oppressors.

Since the writing of this post, Isaac has torn his ACL and is out for the season.

Should Parents Choose a Religion for Their Children?

catholic education

Most American children do not choose which, if any, religion they want to follow. (Please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) Children, almost without exception, adopt the religion of their parents and family. Often, religious worship is part of the ebb and flow of family and community life, so it should come as no surprise that children embrace that religion. And therein lies the problem. Most Americans believe that worshiping God is important, and many of them take it a step further in believing that it is essential that their children worship a specific God, namely the Christian God.

In most Christian sects, children are encouraged to make a conscious choice to worship Jesus. In the Catholic church, children, often as young as 7 years old, go through the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. In the Lutheran church, children, usually around the age of 12, go through the rite of confirmation. In the Evangelical church, children are encouraged to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is not uncommon to hear adult Evangelicals say that Jesus saved them when they were 5 or 6 years old. In the Baptist church, it is not uncommon to hear testimonies of youthful conversion and a re-dedication to that conversion during teenage years.

Regardless of the Christian sect and its initiation practice, young children are encouraged, and often expected, to embrace the tribal God. Many secularists, including myself, think that children should not make the choice of a particular religion until they are old enough to rationally do so, say, teenage years or older. If, as most Christians say, believing in and worshiping Jesus is vitally important, then shouldn’t children wait to embrace Christianity until their reasoning skills are such that they can intellectually understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus and a member of a particular church?

Many Christian sects either baptize or dedicate infants, resulting in that particular sect putting its mark upon the infant. They are saying, in effect, this baby is ours.  From that point forward, children are indoctrinated in their parent’s religion. While many Christian sects hide their motivations for indoctrinating young children, Evangelical groups such as Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF), are quite clear about why they go after young children. Thirty years ago, David Shibley, a  proponent of CEF methodology, wrote about the importance of evangelizing children:

I want my two young sons to have bland testimonies – no sensational stories about rescue from drugs, perversion and rebellion.

I want it to be natural for them to trust the Lord Jesus early for salvation and then to trust Him for everything thereafter. I believe in the validity of child evangelism.

For one thing, statistics are on its side. 19 out of 20 Christians receive Christ before the age of 25. After that, the odds against conversion become astronomical.

Early conversion saves not only a soul, but potentially points an entire life toward service to God and man. In 15 years of ministry I’ve met no one who is sorry he came to Christ early in life. I’ve encountered many who are sorry they didn’t….

Shortly before his second-century martyrdom at age 95, Polycarp said, “86 years have I served the Lord.” 18th Bible expositor Matthew Henry was converted at the age of six, hymnwriter Isaac Watts at nine.

W.A. Criswell, pastor of the large First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, was saved when he was eight. Evangelist Stephen Olford came to Christ on his 7th birthday.

65% of those enrolled in America’s largest seminary Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were converted before their teens.

Children are reached more easily than adults. Jay Kesler, president of Youth for Christ International, has well said, “Any evangelism after high school isn’t evangelism. It’s really salvage.”

Young children are notably tender. Their sincerity is never in doubt. Their heart attitudes contribute to genuine conversion. And Jesus told adults that they must become as children to experience the new birth (Matt. 18:3).

True, children who make an early profession of faith sometimes struggle with assurance and make a second public commitment later. They often say, “I didn’t know what I was doing the first time.” More likely, however, the personal worker attending the child didn’t know what he was doing.

We need not fully understand the Gospel to be saved; we need only believe and receive it. What adult fully comprehends the rationale or the magnitude of redemption?

Some argue that children are unable to stay true to their commitment. Yet the late English preacher Charles Spurgeon noted, “Out of a church of 2,700 members, I have never had to exclude a single one who was received while yet a child. Teachers and superintendents should not merely believe in the possibility of early conversion, but in the ferquency (sic) of it.”

Child evangelism assists in the formation of character. The Bible clearly teaches that man’s only capability for good lies in the imputed righteousness of Christ. We do not expect unconverted adults to act like Christians. The same should be true for children.

Christians seem to be the only ones who believe they should wait to influence children’s minds. Advertisers don’t wait. Child abusers don’t wait. Neither do humanist educators, false religions and cults, or Satan.

The church that reaches its children has a better chance of reaching its adults. Often newly-converted children win their parents and grandparents to the Lord. Those children grow up to be adults who can nurture their own families to faith in Jesus Christ.

Lest we forget, Christianity is always just one generation from extinction. We must reach the coming generation with the Gospel.

The late G. Campell (sic) Morgan, for many years pastor of London’s Westminster Chapel, said that the church that always seeks the child is the church that is “seeking the Kingdom … A vision of the desire for the Kingdom of God is the master passion in all work for children.”

Trudi Bils, wife of Steve Bils, the one-time executive director for CEF in Northern Colorado, wrote an article in 1990 for the Grace in Focus Newsletter titled “Can Children Be Saved?” detailing the importance of evangelizing children when they are young:

To many of us, this is a ridiculous question. For in fact, we were saved as children. Statistics are on our side as well, revealing that 85% of Christians made the decision to trust Christ somewhere between the ages of four and fourteen. Further, those of us who have been actively learning and practicing the discipline of soul-winning have probably led a child to Christ, perhaps even one of our own….

Though some have tried to alter or add to the meaning of the word believe (mentioned as the sole condition for salvation over 150 times in the New Testament), its definition remains as God intended it. “What faith really is, in biblical language, is receiving the testimony of God. It is the inward conviction that what God says to us in the Gospel is true. Faith is… taking God at His word. It is nothing less than this. But it is also nothing more.”

This is a message that is all inclusive — no strings attached. Even, and especially, a child can grasp this message and place his faith in Christ for eternal life, and many do.

R. A. Torrey said, “It is almost the easiest thing in the world to lead a child from five to ten years of age to a definite acceptance of Christ. . . . The younger the children are when you seek to lead them to make an actual acceptance of Christ, the easier the work will be, and the more satisfactory” (from Frank G. Coleman’s, The Romance of Winning Children [Cleveland, OH: Union Gospel Press, 1973], p. 14). Thank God for the faithful witnesses who led me–and perhaps you–to Christ at an early age!

Sam Doherty, a man who has dedicated his entire life to evangelizing children, wrote a handbook for Child Evangelism Fellowship titled U Can Lead Children to Christ: A Step by Step Guide for Counsellors of Children (link no longer active). Doherty lists four reasons why it is imperative that Christians evangelize children:

  • Children can be saved
  • Children need to be saved
  • Children are open to the gospel
  • A Child Saved is a Life Saved

According to Doherty:

  • They (children) are spiritually dead
  • They have a sinful nature which shows itself in
    sinful acts
  • They are outside God’s Kingdom
  • If they have reached the age of accountability
    they are under God’s condemnation

Doherty believes that once children reach the age of accountability, the age when children know the difference between right and wrong, they are in danger of going to Hell if they don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. What parent wants his or her child to go to Hell, right? So then, it should come as no surprise that many Evangelicals press their children to profess faith in Jesus at a very young age.

peter ustinov on religious indoctrination

Let me give you an example of how this works in the Evangelical church. Ron Adkins was the pastor of the Methodist church a few blocks from my home. This church was the last church my wife and I attended before we deconverted in 2008. According to Ron’s bio on the Ney/Farmer United Methodist Church website, he was saved at the age of seven and his wife asked Jesus into her heart at age eight. Should it come as any surprise, then, that all four of the Adkins’ children were saved at age five?

In the type of Baptist churches in which my wife and I grew up, children are sent to Sunday school and children’s church so they can be exposed to the church’s teachings on Heaven, Hell, Jesus, salvation, death, and God’s judgment. Children are often emotionally and mentally coerced into asking Jesus into their hearts. Children’s church teachers will often ask their young pupils: do you want to go to Hell when you die? or how many of you want to go to Heaven when you die? What young, immature and impressionable child doesn’t want to avoid the flames of Hell or enjoy the wonders of Heaven?

In many ways, Evangelicals who evangelize children are like door-to-door salesmen selling their customers on the importance of owning their product and the danger of putting off a buying decision to another day. Years ago, I sold Kirby vacuüm cleaners. I would praise the virtues of the grossly overpriced vacuum, trying to get prospective customers to see how much better their lives would be if their households owned a Kirby. If the positive approach failed to work, I’d resort to the methods meant to show them how poorly their current vacuüm was working. I’d even go so far as to use my demo Kirby vacuüm to sweep the prospective customer’s bed, showing them all the dead skin and “mites” the mighty Kirby removed from their bed. The goal was always to get the customer to make an impulsive decision. And this is exactly what happens in many Evangelical churches. Uninformed children are wowed with the wonders of Heaven and threatened with the horrors of sin and Hell. Most children who are exposed to these kinds of sales techniques will “choose” to get saved.

Once children are saved, their parents and churches continue to indoctrinate them in their sect’s particular teachings. Remember, these children do not have the rational capacity to make this choice, nor have they been exposed to alternative religions. Are confirmed, initiated, or saved children really making an informed decision to believe the central tenets of Christianity? Of course not. They lack the requisite intellectual skills necessary to make such a decision. Wouldn’t it be better to expose children to a variety of religions, along with humanism and atheism, and allow them to make a reasoned choice of which to follow when they are old enough to do so?

Unfortunately, what is best for children often collides with the objectives of organized religion: increasing membership and income. To put it bluntly, the goal is asses in the seats and money in the offering plate. Without a steady stream of people who were indoctrinated as children and teenagers, churches would suffer declines in attendance and offerings. While Christian sects, churches, and parents argue that they are most interested in making sure children believe in Jesus, the truth is that they know without young, impressionable, and easily-manipulated children being assimilated into the church, Christianity would die. If they wait until children are in their teens to indoctrinate them in the ways of Jesus, they know they run a huge risk of children leaving the church when they reach adulthood.

In fact, things are so bad for American Christian churches that adults, despite being immersed in the teachings of Christianity, are leaving the church anyway. The percentage of “nones”— those with no religious identification — and the increase in the indifference of young adults towards religion has resulted in much hand-wringing in the Christian community. What should we do, pastor after pastor asks. Our churches are getting increasingly older and young adults are leaving and never coming back. These pastors know that if they don’t do something to stem to tide of young adult membership loss, their churches will close and they will be forced to get real jobs.

What prompted me to write this post is an article on ESPN about whether children should be permitted to play high-impact sports. Dr. Bennet Omalu, “the first to publish findings linking head injuries, particularly concussions, to the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players,” thinks children should not be permitted to play high-impact sports “until they reach the legal age of consent, usually 18.”  In a New York Times article on the subject, Dr. Omalu states:

Our children are minors who have not reached the age of consent. It is our moral duty as a society to protect the most vulnerable of us. The human brain becomes fully developed at about 18 to 25 years old. We should at least wait for our children to grow up, be provided with the information and education on the risk of play, and let them make their own decisions. No adult, not a parent or a coach, should be allowed to make this potentially life-altering decision for a child.

We have a legal age for drinking alcohol; for joining the military; for voting; for smoking; for driving; and for consenting to have sex. We must have the same when it comes to protecting the organ that defines who we are as human beings.

If children are not old enough to understand the risks of playing football, and, as Dr. Omalu says, if they should be prohibited from playing it until age 18, shouldn’t the same hold true for indoctrinating children in the teachings and practices of a particular religion? Shouldn’t they be of age and have all the relevant facts before they make a decision to embrace a God, or no deity at all?

While it is naïve to expect Christian parents to keep their children away from their tribe’s religion, society should require them to not unduly indoctrinate their children. That we don’t reflects the fact that we give Christianity a pass on almost everything when it comes to children. We allow Christian parents to pull their children out of public schools so they can be indoctrinated by evangelists, posing as teachers of knowledge, for their particular sect’s beliefs. We also allow Christian parents to homeschool their children. Millions of American children are homeschooled or attend Christian private (and parochial) schools. These children are taught reason-defying myths such as the virgin birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and wine and crackers miraculously turning into Jesus’ blood and flesh once they are prayed over. They are regularly reminded that they are sinful, broken humans in need of forgiveness and salvation, and that Heaven awaits them if they believe, and Hell awaits if they don’t. These types of teachings do incalculable emotional harm to children, often resulting in low self-esteem or psychological problems.

Worse yet, these children are taught lies about the natural world they are very much a part of.  Many Evangelical homeschool parents and private schools teach children that the earth is 6,023 years old, evolution is a lie, and the teaching of the Bible accurately reflects the one and only way to understand the world. While parents and teachers will most likely teach their wards science, they often teach a Christianized version that repudiates biological evolution. They also, thanks to a literalistic reading of the Bible, reject most of what cosmology, archaeology, and geology tell us about the age of the earth and the universe. As a result, children who have embraced this kind of indoctrination are crippled intellectually. Ask any secular college or university professor how difficult it is to reason with children who have been indoctrinated with Fundamentalist Christian beliefs. The intransigence of these students is heartbreaking. Stunted intellectually, they often go through life ignoring vast swaths of human knowledge because it does not fit the narrow confines of what they were taught as a child. Of course, this is EXACTLY what Christian churches and their leaders desire: intellectually-neutered people who continue to look to them for answers.

Zoltan Istvan, the author of the novel The Transhumanist Wager, believes that it should be illegal to religiously indoctrinate children under the age of 16. In a September 2014 Huffington Post article titled Some Atheists and Transhumanists are Asking: Should it be Illegal to Indoctrinate Kids With Religion? Istvan wrote:

Religious child soldiers carrying AK-47s. Bullying anti-gay Jesus kids. Infant genital mutilation. Teenage suicide bombers. Child Hindu brides. No matter where you look, if adults are participating in dogmatic religions, then they are also pushing those same ideologies onto their kids….

A child’s mind is terribly susceptible to what it hears and sees from parents, family, and social surroundings. When the human being is born, its brain remains in a delicate developmental phase until far later in life.

“Kids are impressionable,” said Dr. Eunice Pearson-Hefty, director of the Teaching Environmental Science program of Texas’ Natural Resource Conservation Commission. “Anything you tell them when they’re real small can have a lasting impression.”

It’s only later, when kids hit their teens that they begin to think for themselves and see the bigger picture. It’s only then they begin to ask whether their parent’s teachings make sense and are correct. However, depending on the power of the indoctrination in their childhood, people’s ability to successfully question anything is likely stifled their entire lives…

…”Religion should remain a private endeavor for adults,” says Giovanni Santostasi, PhD, who is a neuroscientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and runs the 10,000 person strong Facebook group Scientific Transhumanism. “An appropriate analogy of religion is that’s it’s kind of like porn–which means it’s not something one would expose a child to.”

Unfortunately, even though atheists, nonreligious people, and transhumanists number almost a billion people, it’s too problematic and unreasonable to imagine taking “God” and “religion” out of the world entirely. But we do owe it to the children of the planet to let them grow up free from the ambush of belief systems that have a history of leading to great violence, obsessively neurotic guilt, and the oppression of virtually every social group that exists.

Like some other atheists and transhumanists, I join in calling for regulation that restricts religious indoctrination of children until they reach, let’s say, 16 years of age. Once a kid hits their mid-teens, let them have at it–if religion is something that interests them. 

16-year-olds are enthusiastic, curious, and able to rationally start exploring their world, with or without the guidance of parents. But before that, they are too impressionable to repeatedly be subjected to ideas that are faith-based, unproven, and historically wrought with danger. Forcing religion onto minors is essentially a form of child abuse, which scars their ability to reason and also limits their ability to consider the world in an unbiased manner. A reasonable society should not have to indoctrinate its children; its children should discover and choose religious paths for themselves when they become adults, if they are to choose one at all.

While I think we are several generations away from neutering the effect religion has on American children, we do owe it to them make sure they are taught to think critically. I’ve long been a proponent of junior high children and older being required to take classes in world religions, logic, and philosophy.  This would expose their evolving minds to methodologies and thought processes that will enable them to make informed choices about religion. Doing so will certainly swell the ranks of the non-religious, and it is for this reason the religionists will fight tooth and nail any attempt to remove them as the sole arbiter of religious belief.

The fight is on and I’m convinced that skepticism and reason will win the day.

Notes

Both my wife and I first made professions of faith at age five. As is the custom in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches, both of us made rededication decisions as teenagers.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Evangelical Salvation: The 4/14 Window

age when evangelicals become christians

My friend Gary recently mentioned a National Association Evangelical (NAE) article about when Americans become born-again (Evangelical) Christians. Here’s what the NAE post had to say:

Thirteen is the average age that members of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) became Christians, according to the NAE’s (2015) spring poll. The median age when NAE members became Christians is 11.

Evangelicals believe that salvation is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. Each person is invited to accept God’s forgiveness, which is freely offered to all who believe.

The majority of the respondents (63 percent) accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord while they were 4-14 years old, in what is known as the 4/14 Window.

The 4/14 Window describes the opportunity for evangelization within the 4-14 age range, suggesting that most people who become Christians do so during those ages. A 2004 Barna Group study indicated that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43 percent), and that two out of three born again Christians (64 percent) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.

Responses of the NAE Asks You poll ranged from six weeks old to 50 years old. The NAE member with the six-week old conversion noted that his tradition holds to baptismal regeneration, which links salvation to the rite of baptism. The person who came to Christ at 50 was also baptized as an infant, but said that he fell away for many years, became a Christian later in life, and now serves as a pastor.

While the poll revealed a few denominational distinctives regarding salvation, comments provided by NAE members demonstrated the unique ways in which individuals come to saving faith. Some became Christians through the ministry of the Good News Club, InterVarsity, Vacation Bible Schools and revivals. Several people identified the specific place of their conversion from the kitchen table or grandmother’s home to the campfire of a Christian camp or altar of a local church. Many noted the family member, pastor or friend who led them to the Lord. And there are some who can not recall a specific date or place, echoing one respondent: “I can’t remember a time in my life where I did not identify as a Christian.”

Most Evangelicals make salvation decisions between the ages of 4 and 14. Astoundingly, 98% of Evangelicals asked Jesus to save them before the age of 30. In other words, “we must get them while they are young, or we won’t get them at all.” This is why Evangelical churches have Sunday schools, youth programs, children’s churches, vacation Bible schools, and sundry other programs used to “hook” salvation prospects while they are young. The older a person becomes, the more likely it is that they will not get saved; that they will reject in part or out of hand the claims made by Evangelical sects, pastors, and parents. Once children reach their teenage years, it becomes increasingly hard to evangelize them. Why? They can think for themselves. They are developing critical thinking skills. They are more skeptical about the religious claims made by their pastors and parents.

Are you a former Evangelical? Or a current one, for that matter? At what age did you first profess faith in Jesus? Did you have multiple salvation experiences? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.