Evangelicalism

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Queen and Freddy Mercury are Servants of Satan

joe schimmel

Warning! A boat load of Bruce Almighty snark ahead. Evangelicals easily offended would be wise to move on from this post immediately. You’ve been warned. No whining later if you decide to read on.

This is the one hundred and ninetieth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Joe Schimmel, pastor of Blessed Hope Chapel in Simi Valley, California, detailing how QueenFreddie Mercury, and Adam Lambert are all servants of Satan.

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Now let’s listen to one of my favorite praise and worship songs, Bohemian Rhapsody

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Trailers for the new movie Bohemian Rhapsody

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And, finally, since I really, really, really want to give the mythical Devil/Satan/Beelzebub his due — all hail the Evil One, right? — let me conclude this post with a video of Queen’s 1985 Wembley Stadium Live AID concert. Awesome, oh so awesome, even to this day!

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Have you seen the movie Bohemian Rhapsody? Please share what you thought in the comment section. Are you a Servant of Satan, uh, I mean a Queen fan, what’s your favorite Queen song? Have you ever seen them in concert? Freddie Mercury era? Adam Lambert era? Come on, you heathens, let’s give it up for Queen and Freddie Mercury!

Think of all the rock bands that will be in Hell. Man, the Devil really does have all the good music — Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Christopher Hitchens too. Imagine an eternity of weekend singalongs with all your favorite bands, and compare that to what will be going on in Heaven — endless prostration before a deity who demands you praise him in masturbatory fashion over, and over, and over again. No thanks!

Schimmel is just the latest Fundamentalist preacher using the “evils” of rock music in an attempt to scare people into Heaven — a mythical place that only exists in the minds of Evangelicals. Preachers have been using this shtick since I came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. It didn’t work then, and it sure as hell doesn’t work now. What’s next? Backmasking? Record/CD/mp3 burning parties?  How did the whole Christian band replacement thing work out? You know, if you like *blank* secular band, you will like *blank* Christian band. Breaking Bob Larson out of the nursing home so he can reprise his “Evils of Satanic Rock Music” tour? Young people just listen to CCM AND secular music now, and based on my unofficial local observations, Christian young adults handily prefer secular rock/hip hop/pop over Christian music. The truth is, a lot of Christian music s-u-c-k-s — little more than rip-offs of secular artists. Decades ago, Christian rocker, Larry Norman asked, why should the Devil have all the good music? Have you noticed, no one is asking this question anymore? Why? Because, they have learned that the Devil really does have all the good, great, awesome, phenomenal music.

Man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden: An Ancient Labor Relations Tale?

adam eve cast out of garden of eden

A guest post by Bob Felton. Bob blogs at Civil Commotion

Sometime around 1800 B.C., an Akkadian stoneworker chiseled into rock a remarkable story.

It seems there were two ranks of gods, important gods who made all the decisions, and lesser gods who did all the work. One day, assigned to dig some canals, the hot and dirty and tired worker-gods decided to go on strike; “You are killing us,” they complained.

The impasse was broken by this proposal: the important gods would create a new creature to do the hard labor, man, but the leader of the strike had to be sacrificed. It was so agreed, and man was created from the dust, the water, and the blood of the sacrificed god.

But, as so often is the case, there was a fly in the ointment — the men were noisy at night, and the gods weren’t getting proper rest. After several warnings, the gods decided to get rid of men and sent a flood to drown them all. Only one man and his family survived, Atrahasis.

It’s easy to see in this tale the roots of two of the Old Testament’s best-known stories, the Creation and Fall, and Noah’s flood.

Now skip forward almost 4000 years to a story that is true, to the copper mines in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There, the mines employ thousands of laborers imported from all over the world; newspapers are published daily in more than a dozen different languages.

In June of 1913 the miners — who live in company-owned housing on company-owned property, buy their food at company-owned stores, and earn less than $2/day — call a wildcat strike. At Christmas they are still out, and on Christmas Eve they gather on the second floor of Italian Hall for a meager Christmas party for their children.

Soon after things get going, a strikebreaker enters the hall and shouts “Fire!” There is a panic, the door at the bottom of the stairs doesn’t open and there is a crush; seventy-three people, mostly women and children, die. The most widely-read local newspaper is owned by a mining company, and it becomes a tale of unruly foreigners impinging upon the prerogatives of a benevolent company. Nobody is ever prosecuted for the shout of “Fire!”

The story of the Italian Hall disaster shares a lot with the story of Atrahasis and the Fall. Instead of gods, there are mining companies and bosses; the men are imported, not created, to labor; there is disobedience — striving to live and enjoy life; there is even a serpent, the strikebreaker who shouted “Fire!”

And in all three stories there is cruel punishment without appeal.

I estimate the odds of a Bronze Age storyteller making up something that has so much in common with a labor relations disaster four millennia later as … zero. Atrahasis, and the story of the Fall, are undoubtedly allegorical blame-the-victim accounts of prehistoric misfortunes similar to the real-life Italian Hall disaster. They should not be read as literally true, but they are true in the narrow sense that they are accounts of the ancient human conflict between the powerful and the powerless.

Notice this, too: In all three stories, men threaten the power of the gods/bosses. In Genesis, this is made explicit (Gen 3:22-23, KJV): “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.”

“… the man is become as one of us …” He threatens us, challenges us, cannot be trusted to quietly and submissively do as he is told. He must go.

I’m sure it has an odd sound to many, but I read Genesis’ tale of the Fall as an ancient labor relations tale. And with Augustine’s invention of Original Sin, Christianity put itself on the side of the bosses, the Establishment’s demand for unconditional obedience — where it has been ever since.

Bruce, You Are a Crypto-Christian, Posing as an Atheist

atheist section in heaven

Cartoon by Mike Lynch

Earlier, I posted an article about how many Evangelicals contend that I never was a True Christian®; that I never met the REAL JESUS. Unsurprisingly, I often get similar treatment from hardcore — dare I say, Fundamentalist — atheists. According to these atheists, I am crypto-Christian, posing as an atheist; that deep down I am still a follower of Jesus — or at the very least want to be. In their minds, all religion is bad, and the Abrahamic religions are the worst of the bunch. That I am an accommodationist and believe Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical figure says to them that I really haven’t left Christianity behind. That I have good things to say about my Christian past, and I am willing to commend Christians when they do good in Jesus’s name, is more proof to them that under my atheist veneer beats the heart of a man who is having a secret affair with Christianity.

Years ago, I attended an atheist meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that featured theologian and atheist Robert M. Price. I thoroughly enjoyed Price’s lecture. During the Question and Answer period, one man — an outspoken atheist — challenged Price’s respect for certain aspects of Christianity. The man said, tell me one good thing Christians have done in 20 centuries that couldn’t have been done without religion. This led to a brief back and forth between Price and his accuser. Sadly, nothing Price said made any difference to this man. He was a Fundamentalist, and one of his cardinal doctrines was that all religion was bad. He was settled in his beliefs about Christianity. He and I later got into an email skirmish about the matter. I concluded, then, that I was an atheist, but I am was not one of THOSE atheists. I hold to this sentiment today.

Tim O’Neill, an acquaintance of mine, is also often accused of being a crypto-Christian. Tim blogs at the History for Atheists website. If you are not a reader of Tim’s writing, I encourage you to check out his site. Good stuff. Mythicist Richard Carrier says this about fellow atheist O’Neill:

Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. an asscrank …. a hack …. a tinfoil hatter …. stupid …. a crypto-Christian, posing as an atheist …. a pseudo-atheist shill for Christian triumphalism [and] delusionally insane.

Ouch, right?

I have received numerous emails over the years from atheists angered over my friendliness towards Christianity (or my liberal political beliefs). Funny, isn’t it? Evangelicals think I am hostile towards Christianity, and some atheists believe Jesus is my secret fuck buddy. Can’t win, so I don’t try. Both sides use the No True Scotsman argument to suggest that I never was or I am not part of their club. Fortunately, my mother and my Evangelical training taught me to stand on my own two feet and not be a company man. I am more than willing to listen to honest, thoughtful critiques of my beliefs, but demand that I believe this or that or risk losing my Atheist Card, and you will learn how recalcitrant I can be. Evangelicals can at least threaten me with their mythical Hell. What are atheists going to threaten me with? Loss of their support? Loss of their comments?  Please. I am almost sixty-two years old. I am a confirmed curmudgeon. Want to be friends with me? Fine, but you take me as I am. If not, that’s okay. I have more than enough atheist, agnostic, humanist, and pagan friends to carry me safely to my grave. I am too old to worry about making new atheist BFF’s.

I will continue write about the excesses and dangers I see in American Evangelicalism. I will continue to point out hypocritical clerics in the Black Collar Crime series. I will continue to push back against the unholy alliance between church and state. And yes, most of all, I will continue to tell my story. What I won’t do, however, is hate people just because they are religious, even if they are Evangelicals. I live in an area where seven out of ten people are registered Republicans and virtually everyone believes in Jesus. If I want to happily and quietly live in rural northwest Ohio, then I must be willing to get along with people of faith. I choose to love my neighbor as myself. I choose to have a good testimony before my Christian neighbors. I want my way of life, my words, and my friendliness towards them to be confusing. I want my life to be in direct conflict with what their pastors say atheists believe and how they live. Does anyone seriously think that I would make any difference in my community if I loudly, publicly, and angrily preached from the housetops, Jesus Never Existed! Why, they would think I was a loon.

The other day, a local Democratic party worker, who is a devoted Catholic and a friend, stopped by my home while she was out canvassing. She told me as she leaving, Bruce, you may be an atheist, but you have gospel values. I smiled as she said this to me, thanking her for the kind words. Should I have given her a lesson on where atheists derive their morals and values? Of course not. What she was telling me is that she appreciated my pro-human progressive values. I am sure my atheism doesn’t compute for her, but the manner in which I live my life and the way I am willing to speak out when it matters tells her what kind of man I am. That Fundamentalists — Christian or atheist — can’t or refuse to see and accept me as I am is their problem, not mine.

On occasion, I am asked why I seem to live on the fringe of the atheist movement. Perhaps, this post better explains why I do so. I have decided to be my own man, tell my story the best I know how, and leave the results up to God, uh I mean . . .

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Bruce, You Never Knew the REAL Jesus

who is the real jesus

I have been accused hundreds of times over the years of never having been a True Christian®. The gist of this accusation is that I met, worshiped, and followed a counterfeit Jesus. If I had I encountered the REAL JESUS and put my faith and trust in him, I would have become a True Christian® and would still be a follower of Christ to this day. The Bible gives cover for this argument when it says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:19)

According to Evangelicals who say I never met the REAL JESUS, the angels of light in my life — parents, pastors, professors — were actually tools of Satan used by him to deceive me. And true to my training, I then became a false angel of light too — deceiving the churches I pastored and pulling the wool over the eyes of my colleagues in the ministry; that is, if any of them knew REAL JESUS themselves.

The fact that I no longer profess to be a follower of Jesus is further evidence that I never met the REAL JESUS. Had I met the REAL JESUS, I would have continued in the faith; I would have continued pastoring churches. That I now stand in opposition to Christianity and the teachings of the Bible is clear evidence to Evangelicals that whatever Jesus I followed over my fifty years in the Christian church, he was not the REAL JESUS.

A good example of this thinking can be found in the recent blog comments by Rod Rogers:

Yes, but you now claim that you are not a christian and therefore you never were a christian, right? You have painted your self into a corner. Either you were a liar for years or you are lying now; but you have to choose. My point is that God is always God or there never was a god. You have claimed both. Very sad.

Bruce, you don’t go from preaching God’s word, studying and praying daily and then wake up one day and say God never existed. That never happens. Somewhere you came to a place where God didn’t meet your expectations. I don’t know where that happened but it happened.

“Each aspect of my life must be judged in its context.” Ok, YOU said you were a Christian, said you were a preacher. In that context, were you preaching the truth or preaching a lie? Preaching a lie makes one what? “All I am saying is that I once was a Christian just like you, and now I’m not.” And all I am saying is that by your own admission you believed in once saved always saved. Now you don’t believe in God at all. By you own theology you yourself believed either you were not saved to begin with or you preached a lie. You are in a corner.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Either you never were a child of God or you still are.

Bruce, it doesn’t matter what happened when. The only thing I am assuming is that you are telling the truth when you say that you were an IFB. If you were ever IFB then you believed in OSAS. You just don’t want to admit the truth. Your comment, “It’s like saying, I’m divorced now, so that means I never was married”?”, has nothing to do with my comment; its Non Sequitor.

I’m 64 years old and have met a lot of people and you are the only one who claims to have lived at the foot of the cross and woke up one day and renounced it. Sorry, I don’t believe that.

Rod is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). As such, he believes in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”  According to this doctrine, once a person is saved, he can never fall from grace, never lose his salvation. Built upon a foundation of intellectual assent to a set of theological propositions, most proponents of “once saved, always saved” believe that I am still a Christian; that I am just backslidden or out of the will of God. I say most, because some “once saved, always saved” believers can’t bear to fathom that someone who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29) can still be a Christian. If I am not now a Christian, in their minds, that means I never was a Christian; that in decades of pastoral experience I never came in contact with the REAL JESUS.

Calvinists fall into “once saved, always saved” crowd, albeit they believe that a person must endure to the end (death) to be saved; and even then, some people who thought they were saved will wake up in Hell, realizing that they never were one of the elect. What a con job, right?  Much like many in the “once saved, always saved” IFB crowd, the Calvinists who knew me have concluded that I never met the REAL JESUS. If I had met the REAL JESUS, I would still be in church, availing myself of means of grace. That I am now an outspoken opponent of True Christianity® is proof to them that I was a false Christian.

In 1994, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church — an independent Calvinistic congregation — in Elmendorf, Texas. While at Community, I became friends with Jose Maldonado, pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church. I had met Joe in the fall of 1993 when he and Pat Horner — my soon to be co-pastor — came to preach a conference at the church in Ohio I was pastoring at the time.

I resigned from Community in the fall of 1994. You can read more about that debacle in the series titled, I Am a Publican and a Heathen. After leaving Community, I had no further contact with Maldonado. Imagine my surprise, then, to hear that Maldonado, sixteen years after our last contact, took to the pulpit to let people know that I was now an atheist; a man who never knew the REAL JESUS.

Here’s a short audio clip of Maldonado “exposing” me as a false prophet:

You can listen to Maldonado’s four-part sermon series or read transcripts of his sermons here.  You also might find interesting the post titled, Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.

The hilarious thing in the whole “Bruce met a false Jesus” saga, is that “once saved, always saved” Baptists and Calvinistic Baptists bitterly oppose one another, each believing the other preaches a false gospel. In other words, each side believes the other has never met the REAL JESUS.

As you can see, the core theological problem for both groups is that True Christians® are eternally saved. The Bible says in John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who hear the voice Jesus and follow after him are given eternal life, and are held safe in his hand. No man is able to pluck Christians out the hand of Jesus. The problem with this argument, of course, is my life as a Christian clearly shows that I heard the voice of Jesus and followed after him. There’s nothing in my storyline that remotely suggests that I was following after a false Jesus; that I was a sheep in wolves clothing; that I was a false prophet. Yet, here I am today, having safely jumped out of the hand of Jesus, an out-and-proud apostate. “How can these things be?” Evangelicals ask themselves. Zealots such as Rod refuse to accept my story at face value, suggesting that there is some part of my story I am not sharing lest I give away the “real” reason I am no longer a Christian. This leads people to concoct all sorts of conspiracies about my loss of faith.

How about we let Occam’s Razor tell the story here: I once was a Christian and now I am not; I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not; I devotedly loved Jesus and now I don’t; that the telling of my story is an honest, forthright reflection of my life as a Christian and an Evangelical pastor — theology be damned.  Christians holding to Arminian theology believe followers of Jesus can do fall from grace. In their minds, I am just one more sad example of someone who chose not to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Works for me.

Here’s what I know for sure, I once was saved and now I am not. It really is that simple. It is not up to me to help Evangelicals square their theology with my testimony. Can’t make my story fit in the narrow confines of your rigid theological box? Tough shit, not my problem. I have no doubt I met numerous times the REAL JESUS. A mythical being, to be sure, but I most certainly had a torrid love affair with this Jesus for most of my adult life. Just as I would never doubt a sincere Christian’s testimony of faith, all I ask is that Evangelicals grant me the same courtesy. This will never happen, of course, because their theology bars them from doing so. Their intransigence reveals the real truth behind this discussion; that the question has never been meeting the REAL JESUS; that what really matters is believing the right sectarian doctrines; that Evangelicalism is inherently a text-based system; that what really determines entrance into Heaven is checking off the right boxes on the Beliefs Checklist. The Evangelical gospel is this: BELIEVE THESE DOCTRINES AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED. It’s never been about the REAL JESUS.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Knowledge

tree of knowledge

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. — Thomas Gray

A little learning is a dangerous thing. — Alexander Pope

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. — Confucius

Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed. — Terry Goodkind

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. — L. Frank Baum

Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse. — African Proverb

Knowledge is power. — Francis Bacon

In Sunday School, children learn the story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind. When I was a child, the Sunday School teacher would read the story to us – and if we were lucky, she would populate a felt board as the story unfolded. Typically, after the story, some sort of craft or game would follow, helping to reinforce the lessons contained in the story. Sunday school was fun, but as an adult I can see how much indoctrination occurs in such a setting.

The story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind is quite brilliant in that it attempts to explain the following to people who lacked explanations to their questions about their origins. The story tackles the following topics:

  • the origins of humans;
  • the presence of good and evil in the world;
  • what happens if people disobey their deity;
  • why women have been treated as second-class citizens;
  • why people desire to have sex;
  • why childbirth is so painful;
  • why the serpent slithers on the ground and why so many people have an antipathy for it;
  • why there is death;
  • why people wear clothes;
  • why we cannot return to a perfect world on earth;
  • why we have to work and why it is hard.

I am many years removed from learning these Bible stories and more than a decade removed from church attendance. Looking at some of these stories years later, as an atheist, I see aspects of the story that I had not considered before. It is also interesting to look at these stories in terms of mythology and not as the literal historical fact that Biblical literalists profess.

One thing I find fascinating today is the concept of the Tree of Knowledge. In Sunday School, it was described as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were instructed that they could eat of any tree in the garden except for this tree, for if they did, they would “surely die.” It is hard to understand how newly-created humans who have no experience, no education, no knowledge, could comprehend concepts such as “good,” “evil,” and “death.” Maybe the deity or deities “created” their brains already programmed with certain concepts, instincts, tools necessary for survival, but the story does not explain any of that. Carl Jung posited the concept of “collective unconscious,” the supposed part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious. There is no evidence of the existence of “collective unconscious,” though it is an interesting concept to ponder.

But let’s return to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The phrase literally translates as the tree of knowledge of good and evil from the Hebrew language. But the pairing of opposites may be an example of merism, a literary device that depicts meaning by pairing direct opposites – and in this case, it could be a merism that denotes “everything.” Some scholars believe that the merism does not denote a concept of morality but is merely inclusive of “everything.” In any case, many Christian sects teach that Adam and Eve were punished for their disobedience, and that the punishment carried forth through all Adam and Eve’s descendants — including those of us who are alive today. I have not heard preachers expand upon the concept of Adam and Eve being punished for seeking and acquiring knowledge, though some may have. It is true that there are plenty of Bible verses that warn against seeking worldly or carnal knowledge, and knowledge of content outside the spiritual is denigrated. Human knowledge itself is denigrated as being inferior to the knowledge of God. I searched online for a comprehensive list of Bible verses that denigrated knowledge and could not find one such list, but I found many verses in both testaments denigrating knowledge. I also found a variety of verses that state that true knowledge can only be found through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If one considers the Tree of Knowledge as symbolic of knowing everything, then why was it that god or gods did not want the humans to have knowledge of everything? Was God meaning to protect the humans or was he trying to prevent them from attaining knowledge? And why would God try to prevent humans from acquiring knowledge? There is so much good that has come from humankind’s attainment of knowledge. We have learned more about how the world works, how to prevent diseases, how to harness the earth’s resources for better living conditions, how to increase our crops and how to supply fresh water. However, we have also learned more efficient ways to kill our fellow humans, and we have polluted the earth. We have created borders to exclude our “tribes” from one another. It is said that with much knowledge comes much responsibility. Perhaps the creators of this myth, ancient though they were, understood the great power and great danger of knowledge when conscientious stewardship is not applied.

From my own personal experience, knowledge of the world outside the Evangelical bubble was key to my deconversion process. In fundamentalist religions, people are warned against the outside world, often prohibited from owning certain books or gaining access to the internet and discouraged from attending secular schools. The outside world is labeled as evil, with pastors/rabbis/imams railing against the dangers to be found in the outside world. Some religions scare their members with images of demons and hell lurking around every corner, to be found in each book or library or website. The goal of fundamentalist religions is to retain its membership — to indoctrinate a new generation — and to do that, they must convince their followers that TRUTH can only be found within the safe confines of their fundamentalist religious world. As my friend who was raised in Reform Judaism commented when I told her the story of my upbringing in Evangelical Christianity, it’s a cult designed to keep its members trapped within.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil can be, then, symbolic of all the exposure one encounters outside the confines of fundamentalist religion. I have eaten from that tree. I can no more unsee or unread or unlearn the ideas I found outside those confines any more than I could uneat a fruit. I could try to purge it from my mind as one might try to purge a food or poison from one’s body, but the effects of exposure are not easily reversed. At least, for me they could not be. Nor would I desire a different outcome.

What do you think about the myth of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Do you see this story as a warning about misuse of knowledge, or do you see it in another way? Please let us know in the comments.

Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles

ct townsend

As part of my responsibilities as a critic of Evangelical Christianity, I read Christian blogs and news sites and listen to sermon and music videos. Hey, someone has to do it! Better me than you, right? Yesterday, I spent some time swimming in the waters of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement — my spiritual home for many years.  While doing the backstroke, I stumbled upon a website for IFB evangelist C.T. Townsend.

Here’s a video of Townsend and his wife Becky singing a duet at Trinity Baptist Church in Asheville, North Carolina. IFB luminary Ralph Sexton is the pastor of Trinity. Both C.T. and Becky are the progeny of IFB preachers.

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Here’s another video of C.T. Townsend singing at Victory Baptist Church in North Augusta, South Carolina.

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And here’s Townsend singing at the North Florida Tent Meeting — circa 2009. Baptists love the Blood™ almost as much as the Catholics do!

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If you carefully watch these videos, you will see that listeners find the music emotionally stirring. This results in a lot of emotional outbursts and movement by congregants down to the front of the church to pray. Are these things “God moving” or are they the result of emotional manipulation and cultural expectations? I contend it’s the latter.

Here’s a video clip of Townsend preaching a sermon titled, The King Has One More Move at Rubyville Community Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. The video clip starts around the 26 minute mark.

Video Link

As you will see from this video, Townsend uses certain preaching techniques to manipulate listeners into making a decision for Jesus. In the last five minutes of the video, Townsend whips the crowd into an emotional frenzy, and then scales their fervor down so he can give an invitation. I watched a handful of his sermon videos, and he uses the same technique in each one.

There’s nothing in these videos that surprises me. Townsend is a product of IFB (and Southern Baptist) culture and practice — particularly in the South. I don’t know him personally, but I have heard and seen his methods and mannerism many times in the sermons of other IFB preachers. There was a time early in my ministry when I preached in a similar manner. My results were akin to those of Townsend.

The spirited, emotional songs are meant to prime the pump, so to speak; to prepare listeners for the sermon that follows. Already emotionally manipulated by the music, congregants are more open to what preachers such as Townsend have to say. The goal is always the same: to bring people to the place where they are willing to walk the aisle and make a decision; whether to get saved, confess one’s sin, rededicate one’s life, or surrender to some sort of calling.

I am in no way suggesting that C.T. Townsend is an Elmer Gantry-like con man. He is a product of his environment. Spend some time in the Deep South attending camp meetings, youth rallies, and revival services, and you will see countless C.T. Townsends using similar emotionally manipulative techniques to elicit desired emotional responses.

Townsend and other preachers like him will object to my characterizations of their methodologies, attributing everything to the power and work of the Holy Spirit. It’s all God, they will say. However, one-time insiders such as myself know better. These preachers, whether consciously aware of it or not, are psychologically manipulating people. (Please read Walking the Aisle — A Few Thoughts on Altar Calls)

Let me conclude this post with a video of a young man singing a solo at the Carolina Youth Rally. C.T. Townsend is a featured speaker at the event. As you will see, children are also used to emotionally manipulate listeners. I have no doubt that this young man will someday walk the aisle and say, God is calling me to be a preacher. And so the cycle continues.

Video Link

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

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Independent Baptist Songs: Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill

ira stanphill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Jeanne Johnson and Friends.

Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stamphill

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Though often tempted, tormented, and tested
And like the prophet my pillow’s a stone
And though I find here no permanent dwelling
I know He’ll give me a mansion my own

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Video Link

This song is based on John 14:1-3:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Unfortunately, for Evangelicals, the Greek word translated mansion in the King James Version should have been translated rooms. Instead of Evangelicals getting their very own mansion in Heaven some day, what they will really get is a room at God’s YMCA dormitory. The way Evangelicals fight amongst themselves, communal living should make for great entertainment. Imagine Fred Phelps being in the same vicinity as Billy Graham.  Sure will be fun to watch from Hell.

About Ira Stanphill:

Stanphill  (February 14, 1914 to December 30, 1993) was an Assemblies of God pastor, singer, and Gospel songwriter. A gifted musician, he was already playing piano, organ, ukulele and accordion by age 10. By the time he reached 17, he was composing and singing, participating in revival crusades, prayer meetings, and tent campaigns. He graduated from the Junior College in Chillicothe, Missouri, and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. As a singing evangelist, he preached all over America and in over 40 other countries. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and published his autobiography, This Side of Heaven, in 1983.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Democrats are Atheists Says Steve Van Nattan

steve van nattan

Democrats are Atheists. They may claim a religion, but in their souls they hate God, and they love murder. They are absolutely terrified that Roe and Wade will be revisited, and the conservative leaning Supreme Court will come to the rescue of unborn babies and rule against abortion. Democrats virtually live to see babies killed, and they crave news every day that another man has been emotionally and professionally destroyed by a feminazi making sex abuse accusations.

It is time for Americans to see that The Democratic Party, and the Atheist Evolutionists of America are one and the same animal. They hate God.

This is why Hillary, Obama, and all the Liberal Democrat leaders are all talking about “Freedom of worship” instead of freedom of religion. You see, religion is something that defines your zeal, and religion is found in the soul of man. Worship is something you do in a piece or real estate which is licensed by the IRS to do business. Once religious freedom is vested in a worship place, under the auspicious of the IRS, religious zeal can be outlawed in public life.

Thus, Liberal Progressive Democrats, and Atheist Evolutionists, are raging mad and belching hate non-stop. They live for one thing….. to kill God.

— Steve Van Nattan , Baalam’s Ass Speaks, Angry Atheists and Evolutionists, November 4, 2018

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Republicans Are More Godly Than Democrats Says Phil Robertson

phil robertson

This is the one hundred and eighty-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of an interview of Duck Dynasty’s quacker-in-chief Phil Robertson.

Video Link

Sacrilegious Humor: A Tour Through American Evangelical Hell by Christian Nightmares

christian nightmares

Warning! Video clip contains coarse language and sexual references.

This is the fifty-fifth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s comedy bit is by Christian Nightmares. I double-dog dare you to watch all thirteen minutes of this video.

Video Link

Quote of the Day: Thoughts on Morality by Bob Seidensticker

bob seidensticker

On the topic of morality, [Evangelical Frank] Turek couldn’t resist a Holocaust reference. He showed a photo of the Buchenwald concentration camp with stacks of dead bodies. He said,

If there is no god, this is just a matter of opinion.

The statement “I like chocolate” is just an opinion. By contrast, I wouldn’t call “I recommend we declare war” in a cabinet meeting just an opinion, but that’s a quibble. If Turek wants to say that both are conclusions grounded in the person making the statement and nothing else, I agree. The same is true for “the Holocaust was wrong.”

What alternative does Turek propose?

Turek imagines a morality grounded outside of humanity. He would probably agree with William Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality, “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”

The other explanation for morality

But there’s no need to imagine Turek’s universal moral truth when we have a better alternate explanation: universally held moral programming. We’re all the same species, so we have similar responses to moral questions. That explains things nicely without the unsupported assumption of a supernatural being.

Turek confuses the degree of outrage (which, for the Holocaust, is quite high) with the degree of absoluteness. He seems to imagine that the more emphatically we think that the Holocaust was wrong, the more objective that moral opinion must be, but why imagine this? He provides no evidence to support universal moral truth or to reject the obvious alternative, universally held moral programming.

Let’s take a step back and consider his example. God allows 11 million innocent people to die in the Holocaust, and Turek thinks that this is an example supporting his side of the ledger?

Morality also changes with time. In the West, we’re pleased with our abolition of slavery and the civil rights we’ve established, but these aren’t universals. The modern views on these issues contradict the Old Testament’s, but none of us cling to the Old Testament view. Turek’s objective morality doesn’t allow change with time.

Morality vs. absolute morality

Turek listed things that must be true if God doesn’t exist. First, “The Nazis were not wrong.” If morality is an opinion, the Nazis had an opinion and the Allies had an opinion. We said they were wrong; they said we were wrong. Stalemate.

Nope—dude needs a dictionary. He’s confusing morality with absolute morality. I agree that the Nazis were not wrong in an absolute sense. But they were still wrong (from my standpoint) using the definition of morality in the dictionary, which makes no reference to an absolute grounding.

He continues his list with more examples of the same error: love is no better than rape, killing people is no different than feeding the poor, and so on. In an absolute sense, he’s right; he just hasn’t given any reason to imagine that morality is based in absolutes. Drop the assumption of absoluteness, and nothing is left unexplained.

Why the insistence on objective or universal or absolute morality? We don’t have any problem with shared (rather than absolute) ideas of other concepts like courage, justice, charity, hope, patience, humility, greed, or pride. Again, the dictionary agrees. None of these have an objective grounding, and the earth keeps turning just fine.

— Bob Seidensticker, Cross Examined, Frank Turek’s Criminally Bad C.R.I.M.E.S. Argument: Morality, November 26, 2016

Books by Bob Seidensticker

Cross Examined: An Unconventional Spiritual Journey

A Modern Christmas Carol

 

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Michele Bachmann Preaches the Right-Wing Political Gospel

michele bachmann

This is the one hundred and eighty-eighth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of a campaign sermon by Michele Bachmann.

Video Link

Text Excerpt:

This isn’t about political parties. This is about whether or not we are going to yield ourselves to a mighty God—for his sovereignty, for his glory, for his power, and whether or not this nation will continue to reflect his biblical values from this shining city on the hill, all across the world. That’s the only reason that this nation has been singularly blessed throughout the entirety of its life.

We are privileged to be here in this city as proxies for his huge election that is about to happen. Because just like two years ago, when we asked God for a reprieve in this country, he gave us a reprieve. We’ve had unparalleled growth—never seen growth like we’ve seen over the last two years in this country. You’d never know it listening to the radio or looking at news sources, but it’s been unparalleled what’s happened.

Video Link

On Monday, Bachmann delivered a prayer at an event held at right-wing loon Harry Jackson, Jr’s Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland.

Here’s an excerpt:

Because, Lord, we ask that none but godly men and women would rule. We ask you for those godly men and women, oh Lord God almighty, we ask that you would do what no man thought could be done. Lord, they have started some of the voting in some of the states, but tomorrow is going to be the whole enchilada. And so, Father, we ask in the midst of that voting, that your will would prevail. …

You have a purpose and a plan for the United States of America. And we say nothing will thwart your plan for this country. And that’s why we come before you and say, ‘Satan, you will be bound in Jesus’ name. You will be bound, you and your minions, and you will not prevail in this election.’

We pray, oh God, against deception. We pray against delusion. We pray against every vile dart of the enemy that is thrown against the church of the Lord our God, and we say you will not prevail.

And instead we loose the holy angels of your kingdom to go about on assignment, to and fro across this nation, from Maine to International Falls, Minnesota, to Seattle, down to San Diego, and down to Miami, to Brownsville, Texas, all down the Mississippi, across this nation, that you would send your angels, Father, to bring about righteousness and holiness and justice.

And that you would confound the one who comes to kill, steal and destroy. There will be no killing tomorrow. There will be no stealing tomorrow. There will be no destroying tomorrow.

We are reclaiming this nation for the kingdom of Almighty God. We reclaim this kingdom. You cannot have this kingdom, Satan, this is God’s kingdom. And we preach that into every voting booth in this nation. That is not your territory, Satan. Get your hands off of every ballot and every voting booth!

And instead, Lord, you go in there. You take your people in there. Take your holy people in there to cast a holy ballot, a ballot that would honor your name.