Evangelicalism

Hey, It Ain’t My Fault, Says God

it aint my fault

Recently, CHARISMA News posted a story titled How Holy Spirit Prepared This Woman for Her Leukemia Diagnosis. While I certainly sympathize with this woman who has a life-threatening illness, her recounting of what God told her about her affliction provides an excellent example of the schizophrenic, contradictory view many Christians have of God. Here’s what the Holy Spirit — the favorite “God” of Charismatics — purportedly said:

Here, you are about to walk through something. I didn’t do it to you. I’m not causing this. You know, a good Father doesn’t inflict pain on His children, but you’re about to walk through something. But do you trust that I’ve already been where you’re going? Do you trust that I’ve already walked the journey you’re about to walk?

As an atheist, I don’t believe in the existence of deities. Thus, when Christians say they talk to God and God talks to them, I know the only voices they are hearing are their own; and that the only answered prayers are those that are fulfilled by those doing the praying. In other words, for many people, prayer is a mental activity of great value; one that leads them to believe that their peculiar God is not only hearing their prayers, but answering them. There’s no evidence for the claim that God hears and answers prayers. Either you believe he does, or you don’t. Either you have faith, or you don’t. Any cursory examination of one’s prayer life will lead even the most devoted petitioner to conclude that either God doesn’t exist or he is indifferent to the plight of his children. If God is anything, he is like Robert Tilton. You may remember Tilton as the TV evangelist who was caught removing the cash/checks from prayer requests sent to him, and throwing the unread requests in the dumpster.

I know that nothing I say will reach Evangelicals who sincerely believe God is their best friend/buddy/lover. For such people, they just “know” that their God is listening to and talks to them (in a still small voice). They just “know” that the triune God is personally and intimately involved in their lives, even though the evidence suggests otherwise. These beliefs are reinforced weekly at countless Evangelical houses of worship, and on social media, news sites, and blogs. Everything believers hear and read tells them that their presuppositions about God, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are true. An atheistic curmudgeon such as myself will be dismissed out of hand as a hater of God/Christianity/Christians. All I know to do is point out the contradictions and absurdities in their claims.

The woman with leukemia in the CHARISMA article believes God told her:

  • You are going to walk through “something.”
  • Whatever happens, I didn’t cause it.
  • Whatever happens, I didn’t do it.
  • A good Father doesn’t inflict pain on his children.
  • Trust me.

God could have immediately healed this woman, but he didn’t. Why? Why do Evangelicals go through untold pain and suffering, all the while believing that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives; that God only wants what “best” for them?  It seems to me, that Jesus, the Great Physician has great diagnostic skills but is a miserable failure when it comes to stopping pain and delivering Evangelicals from physical afflictions. Well, except for death, anyway. The Bible says Jesus holds the keys to life and death. Based on the obituaries I read, God’s not into healing people. But, killing them? Now that’s a gig he can get into.

Evangelicals supposedly believe God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. In other words, God is all-powerful and sees, hears, and knows everything. Evangelicals supposedly believe God is the sovereign creator and ruler of the universe; that nothing happens that isn’t according to God’s purpose and plan. Evangelicals supposedly believe that God is intimately involved in their lives. How do we square these commonly held beliefs with what the Holy Spirit allegedly said to the woman with leukemia?

According to the Bible, God uses pain, suffering, and loss to test, try, and chastise his children. Unless God has outsourced these things, he alone is responsible for what this woman went through, and what every Christian goes through when facing the various maladies that afflict the human race. If God is not responsible for these things, who is? And should whomever the person/being is be the God we worship? Shouldn’t worship be reserved for whoever is in charge?

The real issue is that Christians such as this woman know that believers with cancer and other dreaded diseases put God in a bad light. Evangelicals say God loves and cares for them, hears their every prayer, and promises to never leave or forsake them. It is clear, at least to me, that God is nothing, if not indifferent and negligent. Again, this woman knows how things look, so she goes out of her way to defend God’s honor and to exempt him from any culpability. God said, Hey, don’t blame me for your leukemia. I didn’t do it!

According to this woman, the Holy Spirit told her that God never inflicts pain on his children. Evidently, her Bible must not contain the plethora of verses that show a violent God raining down all sorts of pain and suffering on Christians and non-Christians alike. And if the Bible is not enough evidence, go any Evangelical church and you will find countless people in pain — be it physical or emotional. The Holy Spirit lied to this woman. Pain is very much a part of the human experience. One’s faith or lack thereof does not exempt one from pain and suffering. If God is who Evangelicals say he is, then he’s to blame for the afflictions of the human race.

The voice this woman heard in her head was her own. The Holy Spirit’s words reflect how she views God, not some message from him. At best, God “speaking” to her is a coping mechanism; a way to make sense of what she was going through. All of us find ways to deal with pain and suffering — even atheists. The difference for the atheist, of course, is that he or she lives in a world where human afflictions are explained scientifically, and not through appeals to magic. It sucks that this woman had leukemia. However, any healing that comes her way will be the result of human instrumentality, not divine intervention. For the atheist, in science we trust. While certain forms of spirituality might have a cathartic effect, when it comes to treatment, what we need are trained medical professionals, not ancient imaginary deities.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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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Bruce, You are a Liar

garfield liarLet me say from the start: I have, on occasion, lied. I am human, so it really would be a lie for me to say that I have never stretched the “truth,” told little white lies, whoppers, or an occasional big, fat black lie. (Why is it that black is the color always used for the really bad things in life?) I have lied on purpose, by accident, and told a few stories that were exaggerations I am sixty-two years old, and having lived on planet earth for 22,720 days, is it any surprise that I have told a lie or two or three hundred? Of course not. No one reaches the sunset years of life — including born-again Christians — without telling a few lies. That said, I rarely lie. In my day-to-day relationships with my wife, children, grandchildren, and my fellow homo sapiens, I do my best to be truthful and honest. I expect the same from others.

Over the years, I have developed skills that help me detect when someone is lying to me; when they are spinning a yarn; when they are regaling me with Grade-A bullshit. With family, I am pretty good at reading their body language. Polly, in particular, is not a very good liar. I can usually spot her untruths from a mile away. Me? I am not a very good liar, either. That’s why we rarely lie to each other. Oh, we might color the “facts” to present a certain narrative to each other, but generally we are plainspoken.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me address the Evangelicals who think anything I say that doesn’t fit within their narrow, defined theological and cultural box must be a lie. When it comes to telling my story, I try to be a truthful, honest storyteller. Granted, I don’t tell readers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I have secrets; things I have never told anyone, including Polly and my counselor. No, I haven’t murdered anyone, molested children, or robbed a bank, but I have done embarrassing things in my life that I am not comfortable with sharing with others. That said, I do my best to be an open book; transparent and honest. Thus, it irritates the Hell out of me when Evangelicals question, doubt, and deconstruct everything I write. Instead of accepting what I say at face value, zealots are Heaven-bent on stripping my story bare and exposing me as some sort of charlatan or deceiver.

Several years ago, one Evangelical preacher told anyone who would listen that I had NEVER been a pastor; that he had talked to someone who lived in rural northwest Ohio during the time I was pastoring churches, and that person had never heard of me! In his mind, that meant I was a liar; that I had never been a pastor. I have had more than a few pastors attempt to discredit me, telling people that I was a liar. At first, such accusations bothered me, but not any longer. I have learned that two people can look at the same events and circumstances and come to different conclusions. My siblings and I have different views of our childhood. Sometimes, I wonder if we are even related!  People can see things from different perspectives, and this colors their understanding. I am sure that can be said of the people I pastored over the years. Congregants who loved/liked me generally spoke well of me. Those who hated me or really, really, really disliked me tended to say negative things about me. I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but I know several former parishioners who would accelerate, hoping to run me over, if they say saw me in a crosswalk. Such is life, right? I used to care incessantly about what people thought of me. Today? Not so much. If being a public writer has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t please everyone. Read my writing long enough, and you are sure to see something that will piss you off.

I have concluded that Evangelicals who call me a liar do so because it allows them to dismiss my story out of hand. What better way to not have to deal with the truth, than to attack the messenger and discredit him? There’s nothing I can do to stop people from attacking my character. That said, one fact remains: thousands of people read this blog, and that suggests to me, at least that many readers think my story is true and helpful. And that’s good enough for me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Are you on Social Media? 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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Rick Iglesias Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor rick iglesias

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Rick Diego Iglesias, the former senior pastor of Pleasant Valley Church in Winona, Minnesota, has been charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault, including heightened charges because the good pastor held a position of authority over the victim.

The Winona Post reports:

In late July, Winona Police Department investigators interviewed the alleged victim, who reported that he or she was repeatedly abused and raped over roughly three years, from 2010 to 2012, according to the criminal complaint.

Iglesias served as the senior pastor at Winona’s Pleasant Valley Church from 1994 to 2014 and more recently worked as a pastor in Mars, Penn. In a statement, Pleasant Valley Church Senior Pastor Chad Ellenburg called the news “devastating.” He wrote, “We are heartbroken for [Iglesias’] wife, Nancy, and son, Brennan, as we cannot imagine the pain and devastation they are experiencing at this time. We are also hurting for the victim, but thankful that they had the courage to come forward. We are praying for them as well as anyone who might be affected here at Pleasant Valley or in this community.”

“We are also deeply grieved that our former pastor, by his actions and deception, failed to faithfully represent Jesus Christ and his Gospel,” Ellenburg continued. “We have done, and will continue to do, everything we can to fully cooperate with the authorities. We will also continue to support and pray for the family, the victim, and those who will carry the responsibility of pursuing justice in this situation.”

Iglesias faces 30 years in prision, if convicted.

In 2007, Iglesias was interviewed by Trevin Wax for a The Gospel Coalition article. TGC has removed the article from their site, but I was able to find a cached copy of the interview. Here’s an excerpt:

I began by asking Rick about his spiritual background and his call to ministry. Rick grew up in a family environment that took seriously the commands of God. Though his family was Roman Catholic, Rick believes his early family life equipped him for future service in the way that “God was honored, prayer was valued, the church was central and service to others was modeled.” Rick’s religious upbringing shaped his values and experiences.

Rick came to saving faith in Christ during his freshman year in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. During those years in college, Rick was discipled by other Christians and through his experiences he received a “greater vision for God’s purpose in the world and my part in that.”

As he began participating in local church ministry and foreign mission trips, Rick began to sense the Lord speaking to him about a calling to full-time ministry. To clarify this call, Rick spent extended times in the Word seeking to discern God’s call on his life. “I recall spending a weekend away during my senior year in college with a pastor friend, and as he prayed over me, he prayed a simple prayer, but one that the Lord used at that point in my life: ‘Rick, be like Jesus! Have compassion on the troubled, helpless crowds that have no Shepherd! Be ashamed to die until you have won a major victory for the unreached of the world.’” God used the encouragement and support of godly men around Rick to clarify his calling. “I’ve always believed that you need a specific call not to be in ministry. God calls us to change the world. I believe He called me through circumstances, the Word, people in my life, and an inner peace that continues to this day,” he says boldly. Though Rick understood that God had called him to the ministry, he had some doubts as to how that would all take place. He served full-time at a church for seven years in a college ministry before going to seminary. His journey to seminary was a leap of faith, for he had no money, time, or desire to devote four years to study. Yet, the Lord spoke through his Word and through the generosity of faithful Christians supplied all his financial needs while in seminary.

“Every time that God has spoken and I have tried to respond with obedience, He has more than met me where I needed Him to be,” he testifies.

Rick has never faced any doubts about being in full-time ministry, although rough leadership meetings or discouraging emails occasionally threaten to steal his focus. During the tough moments of ministry, Rick is sustained by the transformation he sees taking place in his people’s lives. “We have front row seats to the life-transforming acts of God!” he says. Being in ministry is a privilege.

When asked about the necessary character traits that Scripture demands of church leaders, Rick mentions two that encompass many others: a passion for God and a compassion for people. “If you have a passion for God, you will be honest and faithful, and you will love the Word, live out your faith, and develop a whole host of traits that God calls us to exhibit as we walk with Him. If you have compassion for people, you will be compassionate and patient, passionate toward the lost, and a whole host of other traits that we need to model in our relationships with people.” The rubric of “loving God” and “loving people” comes from Jesus himself. Therefore, Rick believes that our character traits will come from this perspective.

Rick’s personal struggle is maintaining an “all-consuming passion for God” every day. Though he prays and spends time in the Word, he finds that a burning passion for God’s presence often eludes him. Rick’s goal is to “be connected to Jesus each and every day, to walk so closely that I hear his heartbeat for the lost, for the least, for the lonely, for those that he places in my path.” Keeping that desire at the forefront of his spiritual life is his deepest struggle.

Rick mentions several ways he protects himself from temptation. He meets with two pastor friends every week for accountability. “I have been meeting with these pastors for over 12 years now, so we are transparent and free to share some of the ugliest aspects of our lives,” he says. He also has safeguards on the computer to ensure that internet pornography does not become a snare. He carries a small card in his wallet that lists all the blessings that come from his ministry and what would happen if he were to fall. “Remember – temptation is an opportunity to do good!” he says.

When asked about temptations that plague other ministers, he lists off character flaws and actions such as selfishness, pride, being an overbearing authority figure, compromising integrity, lack of sexual purity, and lacking balance between ministry and family.

…..

Iglesias resigned from Pleasant Valley Church in 2014. The Winona Post reported at the time:

Although he seems too humble to admit it, Rick Iglesias is the kind of man who cannot walk into a room without a few people rushing over to greet him with a strong handshake or an enthusiastic hug. Iglesias’ magnetism can be attributed to many things, from his friendly demeanor to his ever-present grin, but for many, it is his service as lead pastor of Pleasant Valley Church (PVC) for 20 years that stands out above all. “Our focus is to have a real, strong community presence,” Iglesias said. “[We try to have a] positive impact on the community in many ways.”

After resigning from his position this past fall, Iglesias is still very much active in the Winona community, evidenced from his time spent at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) talking to Spanish classes, as well as the abundance of people who make an effort to stop and thank him for his service over the years. His continued community involvement is not surprising; Iglesias and his wife Nancy have called Winona and PVC home since moving to Southeast Minnesota from suburban Chicago in October of 1994. For the past 20 years they have built a life together that includes their son, Brennan, a senior at WSHS, so it will be a bittersweet moment when Iglesias and his family move sometime after Brennan’s graduation in the spring. “When my wife and I came to Winona, we wanted to get involved in the community,” Iglesias explained. “We want to give back to Winona as much as we can.”

Over his tenure as lead pastor Iglesias has helped to shape the lives of people across many demographics, but he admitted to holding a special affinity toward young adults in the community, including college students and those with young families. “We have really strong ministries with youth,” he explained. “We try to make Christianity practical and accessible.” Prior to arriving in Winona, Iglesias worked at a college ministry, and was surprised at the lack of involvement between the church and Winona State University, Saint Mary’s University and Minnesota State College–Southeast Technical. “Here’s a town with three colleges and frankly, there was not a lot going on,” Iglesias remembered thinking. “We need to focus on the next generation.” In the coming years Iglesias, along with fellow PVC administrators and members, focused on how to involve the younger population of Winona, and started initiatives such as ministries aimed at middle school, high school and college students, Monday night contemporary service, and classes to help with money management and other life skills. “I’ve had college students come up to me and tell me ‘PVC has made all the difference [in] my college experience,’” Iglesias said. “There is no success without successors.”

….

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: There are No Atheists

there is no such thing as an atheist

Atheists claim that they don’t believe in God. But God, according to the Bible, doesn’t believe in atheists.

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The Bible teaches that there are no atheists; there are only people who suppress the truth about God in their unrighteousness. Romans 1 teaches that people know intuitively and from creation that there is a Creator, but they choose to pretend as though they don’t believe.

….

Of course, [Brad] Pitt is just affirming the Bible. Atheism is an act. Deep down, there are no atheists. There are only spiritualists and supernaturalists who reject truth as a means to place themselves as Lord and Savior of their own life.

At least Pitt was honest…atheism is for actors, both amateur and professional. Every person knows intuitively that supernaturality exists.

— Pulpit & Pen, In GQ Interview, Brad Pitt Admits Atheism Is Just an Act, Doesn’t Really Exist, September 17, 2019

How Does God Do It?

all powerful god

Warning! Honey wagons full of snark ahead, sure to offend Evangelicals, MAGA supporters, and prayer warriors.

Have you ever wondered how God does what he does — allegedly, anyway? God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. According to Evangelicals, their deity is an all-powerful God who is present everywhere, and sees, hears, and knows everything. Think about all the things we humans do each and every day, including the stuff we don’t want anyone to see. No matter where we are, the Evangelical God is watching us, and recording our thoughts, words, and deeds — pen and paper, digital or VCR? This God is also, supposedly, in the prayer-answering business. Now, the Evangelical God doesn’t answer Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, or Mormon prayers; that is unless their prayers are for forgiveness of sin and salvation. God only answers the prayers of True Christians®. Think, for a moment, about the billions of prayers that are sent Jesus’ way every day; every prayer a demand for a blessing, help, forgiveness, or travel directions. And if Evangelicals are to be believed, EVERY prayer is answered one of three ways by God: yes, no, not now.

It seems to me that there is not enough time each day for God to get his work done. Maybe that’s why most prayers go unanswered, and those that “seem” answered sure look a lot like self-fulfilled answers. Perhaps God is too busy watching our every move and recording each of them with indelible ink into the Book of Life or some other divine book to be bothered with feeding the hungry, ending war, stopping mass shootings, and healing the sick. Are not cemeteries flashing advertisements that remind us that God is a lousy faith healer; that God is best known for being deaf, blind, and indifferent?

President Donald Trump — a Christian and frequent metaphorical sex partner of Jerry Falwell, Jr. — believes he is the hardest working man to ever live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet, we know better. Trump is a slacker who spends his days watching Fox News, tweeting, eating fast food, playing golf, and undoing everything President Obama did during his presidency. So much Trump should be doing, yet he spends most of his time saying and doing things that help no one, ignoring the pleas of the poor, sick, and homeless. Much like God, wouldn’t you say? God doesn’t heal your dying loved ones, but blessed be the name of the sweet baby Jesus, he sure helps countless grandmas find their lost keys or snag parking spots by the front doors of their favorite grocery stores.

praying pope francis

Cartoon by David Granlund

Catholics say that Pope Frank is the vicar of Christ — Jesus’ representative on earth. Now, according to Evangelicals, Catholics aren’t Christians, so the Pope CAN’T be Jesus’ right-hand man. That got me thinking. Maybe, Donald Trump is Christ’s representative on earth. He’s a Christian man. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for him in the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s been compared to some of the great leaders of the Bible; a man who is unusually blessed and empowered by the triune God of Christianity. And if Trump is the God-ordained CEO of planet Earth, is he not, as God is, accountable for all the unanswered prayers? Trump can do anything but fail. Evidently, anything doesn’t include the prayerful pleas of immigrants. Surely, this is enough of a reason to vote the man out of office in 2020. Not that anything will change, prayer-wise. If God is anything, he’s fair when it comes to ignoring prayers. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents alike find that God is nowhere to be found.

It’s possible, I suppose, that God uses his angels to keep the machinery running. He might even use Satan and demons to help. Is that not what God did when he wanted to teach a man named Job a lesson? It was Satan who meted out God’s punishment of Job, including afflicting him with boils, killing his children, and destroying his residence and means of income. The Bible says Satan walks about the earth seeking whom he may devour. Evangelicals don’t believe that Satan can hear their prayers, but what if Jesus and Lucifer — brothers according to Mormonism — have an old-fashioned country party-line; and Lucifer is always on the line listening to the secret prayers of Evangelicals. This might explain why so many Evangelical preachers plead with God to deliver them from pornography and other sexual sins, yet they keep committing the same bad behaviors over, and over, and over again. These men of God ask Jesus to keep them pure, but sneaky Lucifer hears their prayers and somehow, some way, causes their holy fingers to type hotchristianbabes.com in Chrome and click GO. If only God had a private line.

Bruce, you are quite a snarky smart ass tonight. What point are you trying to make? Do I always have to have a point? Okay, you got me. Yes, I have a point. I want Evangelicals to think about the claims they make when it comes to their God. Is God really an all-powerful deity who is present everywhere, and sees, hears, and knows everything? What evidence do they have for making such claims? Doesn’t the evidence suggest that God is not omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; that the only God answering prayers is us? Doesn’t the evidence tell us that the change we want in the world will only come through our actions, and not those of an invisible, non-involved God? If we want Trump removed from office, it’s up to us to do it. Hunger, poverty, war, global climate change, sickness, disease, and the Cincinnati Bengals winning the Super Bowl? None of these things is the purview of the Gods — be it the Evangelical God or any other deity. We alone have the power to make the earth a better place to live. We alone have the power to restore sanity to Washington. We alone have the power to provide every child with a better tomorrow. We know, based on the evidence at hand, that the Evangelical God is not the answer. And it’s a pretty safe bet that none of the other extant Gods is the answer either. Perhaps it is time to chuck organized religion in the dustbin of history and chart a new course. If scientists are right about global warming and unchecked population growth, time is running out for the human race — and dogs and cats too. Perhaps it is time to give the humanistic ideal a spin. Christianity, along with its Abrahamic brothers Islam and Judaism, has had centuries to make the earth a better place to live. Surely, it is fair to say that on balance these religions have failed, and they know it.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Are you on Social Media? 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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: True Christians Don’t Commit Suicide

Lately, in the news, there have been an assistant pastor, a pastor’s son, and other Christians who have committed suicide. Some Christians say that they are in heaven, others that they are in hell. The question is, where are they and what exactly does the Bible say about suicide?

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Suicidal thoughts are not self-generated but comes from an outside source. A person’s mind is equipped with self-preservation. Jesus said that Satan only comes to kill and to destroy. 

Suicide is murder and shows no faith but hopelessness while a person with Christ, has hope. Through Christ, we will overcome any satanic attack because our strength comes from the Lord. A “Christian” who commits suicide never had the Holy Spirit living inside of him in the first place and has been defeated by the enemy, convincing him to commit self-murder. The Scripture is very clear on the issue, a person who has committed suicide shows that they are still from the world and are dead in their sins but those who are born again have overcome the world. 

— SpaniardVIII, Spiritual Minefield, Can A Christian Commit Suicide And Go To Heaven?, September 17, 2019

Black Collar Crime: Jason Ramsey Pleads Guilty to 50 Child Sex Charges

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jason Lee Ramsey, a church-going man from Rocky Point, North Carolina, pleaded guilty Monday to 50 child sex charges. Ramsey befriended  the victim at church. She was 13 at the time. This led to three years of sexual misconduct. Ramsey will spend 30 years in prison for his crimes.

Star News Online reports:

Ramsey befriended the victim at church when the victim was 13. A year later he began raping her, and carried on a sexually explicit correspondence with her for the next three years.

When she turned 18, the victim told her parents about the abuse, which took place in both New Hanover and Pender counties.

“Thanks to the bravery of this victim, a child predator is going prison for nearly three decades,” David said in the release. “The Kure Beach Police Department conducted a stellar investigation, which made this plea possible and spared the victim the trauma of having to testify in court.”

An investigation by local detectives who trained at the National Computer Forensics Institute uncovered sexually explicit images and texts on Ramsey’s computer, leading to additional charges.

In addition to decades in prison, Ramsey will have to register as a sex offender for life.

The name of the church is not mentioned in any public news reports.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Yunior Beltres Accused of Rape

yunior beltres

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Yunior Beltres, pastor of Evangelistic Ministry of Columns of Fire (Ministerio Evangelistico Columnas de Fuego) in Miami, Florida, stands accused of repeatedly raping two young girls in his bedroom and forcing them to witness each other’s assault.

The Miami Herald reports:

Yunior Beltres, a 54-year-old citizen of the Dominican Republic, was charged with two counts of sexual battery on a minor, police said. The alleged victims are 9 and 10 years old.

The girls, whose relationship to Beltres was not disclosed, reported the abuse to police in July. They said the assaults occurred in May and June at his home in the 300 block of Northeast 118th Terrace in Miami.

….

The congregation, also known as Ministerio Evangelistico Columnas de Fuego, is located on the second floor at 2052 NW 22nd Ct. in Miami, according to state records. Beltres has been affiliated with the organization since at least 1996, according to the records.

A woman who answered the phone number listed for the religious organization on Friday said that Beltres was a pastor at the congregation and that the accusations against him were false. She did not provide her name and hung up on a reporter.

In the voice greeting for the phone number, Beltres identifies himself as a pastor and wishes blessings on his callers.

Black Collar Crime IFB Pastor Garry Evans Found Not Guilty on All Charges

pastor garry evans

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In October 2017, I posted a story detailing sexual abuse allegations against Garry Evans, pastor of Rushville Baptist Temple in Rushville, Indiana.  Rushville Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

RTV-6 reported at the time:

A 72-year-old pastor in Rush County is accused of molesting multiple young children in his congregation.

Garry Evans, Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple was arrested Wednesday evening during a traffic stop.

According to court documents, the investigation began after a 3-year-old child who attends the church told her mother that Evans had taken her into his office to give her candy then “pulled his pants down” and made her touch his genitals.

Shortly after the investigation began another mother came forward saying her 7-year-old and 5-year-old claimed they had also been touched by the pastor. Both girls told investigators that “The Pastor” gives the kids candy when they go into his office alone, and touches them or makes them touch him. The youngest girl told investigators that it started happening after she started kindergarten in August.

And another mother with two young girls at the church also came forward with a similar story.

Rushville Police Chief Craig Tucker said a woman also came forward and said she had been molested by Evans decades ago, in a different community. That woman helped police pursue the new cases, but it is unclear if charges can be sought in hers.

Evans is charged with three counts of child molestation, four counts of sexual battery and five counts of child solicitation. He is currently being held without bond at the Rush County Jail.

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In November 2017, the Rushville Republican reported:

The Rush County Prosecutor’s Office filed more charges Thursday against Garry Evans, the Pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple Church. The new charges stem from allegations from a new alleged victim, identified in Court filings as a six-year-old. The new charges include Child Molesting, a Level 4 Felony, and Child Solicitation, a Level 5 Felony.

Evans previously was charged with Child Molesting, Child Solicitation, and Sexual Battery involving five alleged victims. Evans posted the $20,000 bond soon after it was set by the Judge. Along with the new charges, the Prosecutor filed a motion to increase Evans’ original bond. Rush County Prosecutor Phil Caviness explained that the fact that these charges bring the number of alleged victims to six justifies a higher bond than the standard Level 4 Felony case, and added that his office was seeking Evans to be monitored by the Rush County Community Corrections Program if he is released on bond. “We feel that given the charges, GPS monitoring and protective orders for all of the alleged victims and their families are important conditions of bond in this case,” Caviness said.

Court documents indicate that these new alleged incidents occurred sometime between the Fall of 2016 and Summer, 2017, but were disclosed after the first charges were filed against Evans. Trial for these charges currently is scheduled to begin on Feb. 20, 2018.

After these latest charges were filed, Evans attempted to commit suicide.

In February 2018, Evans was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. His wife was also arrested. The Herald-Tribune reported at the time:

A report of criminal trespass received by the Rushville Police Department Jan. 29 led to the arrest of Pastor Garry Evans, 72, and his wife Gay Evans, 70.

The elder Evans had been released from jail after posting a $20,000 bond following his initial arrest in October 2017 regarding a number of allegations of inappropriate activity with minors, according to earlier editions of the Rushville Republican. A condition of his bond required that Evans be placed on GPS monitoring by the court.

Although innocent until proven guilty, Evans was initially charged last fall with three counts of child molestation, a Level 4 felony; four counts of sexual battery, a Level 5 felony; and five counts of child solicitation, a Level 6 felony.

Additional allegations and charges were filed with the courts in November 2017 when another minor child came forward. Following the second arrest, Evans, the longtime pastor of the Rushville Baptist Temple, unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life and, as a result, was hospitalized for an extended period of time.

The couple’s most recent legal troubles began when the pair appeared Jan. 28 at a Rushville residence stating they wished to see a family member they believed to be inside. The tenant reported they would not leave until they spoke with the individual. The tenant and complainant in the case informed the Evanses that they were not welcome at the property and needed to leave. The couple refused and demanded to speak with the relative.

Following several attempts to get them to leave, the complainant stated that she felt threatened and retreated into the residence, where she retrieved a firearm. The woman returned to the door and again told the couple to leave, but they refused. At this time, Gay Evans attempted unsuccessfully to take the firearm from the resident. The complainant then locked herself inside and stowed the firearm.

A few moments later, the resident observed Garry and Gay Evans looking in a vehicle on the property. The complainant then chased the pastor and his wife off her property with a baseball bat.

As a result of the incident, warrants were issued for the arrest of Garry Evans and Gay Evans for criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor.

The pair were taken into custody Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 30. During the course of the arrest, Gay Evans became verbally abusive and physically resistant toward officers and as a result was additionally charged with resisting law enforcement, a Class A misdemeanor.

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Earlier this month, Evans’ trial began, culminating with the jury acquitting him on all counts. As of today, the prosecutor’s office has not made a public statement in relation to Evans’ acquittal.

The Clergy Project will Soon Pass 1,000 Members

the clergy project

The Clergy Project, a non-profit organization started in 2011 to provide support, community, and hope to current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs, will soon pass 1,000 members. While I was already out of the ministry (2005) and a vocal atheist (2008), I was one of The Clergy Project’s early members. Over the past eight years, I have recommended several liberal, mainline, and Evangelical clergy to the Project. Most of these contacts came through this blog. Today, I continue to correspond with a number of doubting/unbelieving pastors and church leaders. Several years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me that I was a liar; that “Bible-believing” pastors would NEVER leave Christianity. I said, “what about me?”  “Well, Bruce,” he replied, “you never were a Christian, so you don’t count!” Whether ex-Christian pastors such as myself “count,” an increasing number of clergy are walking away from the pastorate and Christianity. Others, having lost their faith, are still active in the ministry. “What hypocrites,” I have been told. “If they no longer believe, the fakers should immediately resign.” Easier said than done when your family, career, and entire life are wrapped up in the tentacles of the church. I don’t know of a sect that has an exit program for clergy who no longer believe. In most churches, professed atheism or agnosticism — or even doubts and questions in some settings — is a one-way, same-day ticket out the back door of the church house. I know men and women who were ruined financially after being exposed as unbelievers. Many pastors live in church-provided housing. Imagine being told you have to immediately move out of the parsonage. Where do you go? Where will you find shelter for your family? How will you pay your rent and utilities? Often medical insurance and retirement income play a big part in unbelievers deciding to “fake it until they make it.” It’s no simple task to extricate oneself from that which has dominated your life for years. In my case, I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. While I didn’t have concerns over income, insurance, or retirement, (I was paid poverty wages, never had insurance, nor did I have a retirement program. I was trusting Jesus to care for me until the end; he proved to be a deadbeat caretaker.), I did wonder and worry about the future. My life was so wrapped up in the work of the ministry that I didn’t know what I was going to do post-Jesus. Scores of clergy find themselves in similar circumstances; no longer believers, yet still financially and materially connected to the church. It is for people such as this that The Clergy Project was created. If you are a current or former pastor who no longer believes, I encourage you to join The Clergy Project.

While I am no longer as active in the Project as I would like to be, I fully support their mission and work. These days, my focus is on Evangelicals who have doubts or questions about Christianity or people who have left the faith altogether. When I come in contact with pastors, evangelists, missionaries, worship leaders, deacons, youth pastors, or Christian college professors who no longer believe, I encourage them to check out The Clergy Project. Once they have gone through the approval process, unbelieving church workers have access to all sorts of help, including a private, secure forum. While I don’t participate in the forum as much as I would like, I have found it to be an excellent source for friendship and camaraderie.

The Project has a private Facebook group for its members, as well as a public page. You can find the personal stories of some of the Project’s members here.  And finally, Linda LaScola, one of the founders of The Clergy Project, operates a blog titled  Rational Doubt: With Voices from The Clergy Project.  Rational Doubt features posts by Project members — including yours truly.

If you have any questions about The Clergy Project, please leave your question in the comment section or send me an email.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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: Jarrid Wilson is in Hell, Says Elizabeth Johnston

This week, I read that Jarrid Wilson, Christian megachurch associate pastor and mental health advocate, committed suicide the day before National Suicide Prevention Day.

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Can we just slow down for a minute and have a very important, life and death conversation about suicide and the conditions one must meet to enter heaven for all eternity? Are there conditions? Does everyone go to Heaven who wants to go there, regardless of their actions? Or are there conditions one must meet to inherit the greatest promise ever given to man, namely, eternity with our Savior in a place of unending righteousness, peace, provision, and joy?

Doesn’t scripture say that “no murderer will enter the kingdom of God”? Isn’t suicide murder of one’s self? Doesn’t the Bible say that “murderers will have their part in the lake of fire”? Isn’t the last act of a person committing suicide, self-murder?

Please know that it horrifies me to have to write this! I’m horrified that grieving people who know Jarrid . . .would be offended by this discussion. But what about God’s Word? What about those who are planning right now to ingest that bottle of pills and end it all?

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Is it possible that Jarrid Wilson found a place of repentance moments before he breathed his last breath? Absolutely! Is it possible that Jarrid, after having gone too far in the suicide process and unable to rescue himself, cried out to God in repentance for his sin? Yes, it is possible and I pray that happened.

….

To tell a watching world, as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that killing yourself will get you a ticket to heaven (as long as you had faith), is not only unbiblical, but dangerous and reckless. If my children were sitting in a church or funeral service, where such a reckless proclamation was made about someone who killed themselves, I would have to escort my children out of the room and pray that no permanent harm be done to them with this toxic thinking. We have yet to see the tragic results of mishandling this crisis. What are we thinking? I pray to God that no one else loses a loved one because of the countless number of people who admire Pastor Jarrid.

— Elizabeth Johnston, Activist Mommy, An Open Letter To Pastors In The Wake Of Young Megachurch Minister’s Suicide, September 13, 2019

Dear Evangelicals, This is NOT a “Gotcha” for Atheists

teaching creationism

Several days ago, I received the following email from an Evangelical man:

So where did it all come from. The known universe before the bang?

Over the past decade, I have received scores of emails from Evangelicals posing this very question or something similar. Evangelicals think that this question is some sort of “gotcha” question atheists can’t answer; that by being unable to answer this question, atheists show the bankruptcy of atheism.

I am going to surprise the man who wrote this email by answering his question: I DON’T KNOW! No one knows where “it” came from; where the universe came from before the Big Bang. Atheists can’t answer this question, but neither can Christians. Saying GOD DID IT! is a faith claim, as is quoting verses from Genesis 1-3. To quote the great intellectual and scholar Ken “Hambo” Ham, “Were you there?” Ham loves to use this line of illogic when challenging evolutionists and other scientists. Since these learned men and women didn’t observe firsthand the beginning of the universe (and what became before the Big Bang), they can’t possibly “know” what happened. However, what’s good for the proverbial goose is good for the gander. When Evangelicals say GOD DID IT! it is fair for scientists to ask, “Were you there?” If not, then Christians cannot possibly know whether the Christian God created the universe or exists outside of space and time. These are faith claims, not science.

Of course, Ham and other creationists resort to special pleading to defend and justify their beliefs. The Bible is different from any other book, Evangelicals say. Written by God through human instrumentality, the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible. Thus, we can KNOW who created the universe and when and how he did it by reading the Bible! The problem with this argument is that there is no evidence for the claim that the Christian God wrote the Bible. There’s a plethora of evidence, however, that suggests the Bible is the work of fallible men. Believing the Bible was written by God and is somehow, in some way, a one-of-a-kind divine text requires faith. Deep down, creationists know this, and that’s why Answers in Genesis, Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research, and dozens of other groups, spend countless hours trying to make science “fit” the creationist narrative. Faith is not enough for these zealots. They desperately want respectability and are willing to lie, distort scientific facts, and misrepresent science to get it. Yet, despite all their “scientific” work, creationism remains a matter of faith, not science.

Creationists can no more answer the aforementioned questions than atheists can. The difference between Evangelicals and evolutionists (a derogatory term often used by Evangelicals as a label for science in general) however, is that scientists continue to work towards answering the question of how the universe began and explaining what existed before the Big Bang. Science may never satisfactorily and completely answer these questions, and I am fine with that. Not every question — presently — is answerable. Evangelicals, armed with arrogance and certainty, think the Bible reveals to them everything they need to know about life. “The Bible says” becomes the answer to countless complex, difficult science questions. The underlying issue is that Evangelicals need to be right; to have “Biblical” answers for every question. Evangelicals have become the insufferable man at a party who dominates the discussion and has answers for every question. Or at least he thinks he does, anyway.

Let me conclude this post with this: atheism and evolution are not the same, any more than atheism and liberalism are the same. Atheism is defined this way: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. While it is certainly true that many atheists are evolutionists and political liberals, that cannot be said of all atheists. Atheism is a singular statement about the existence of deities. From there, atheists go in all sorts of ways.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Are you on Social Media? 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.