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Category: Evangelicalism

IFB Pastor James Tester Sends Me a Message

pastor james tester

Today, I received a “wonderful” comment from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor James Tester. Tester pastors Triad Baptist Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1989, Tester moved to Hammond, Indiana to attend Hyles-Anderson College. In 1996, Tester left the Jack Hyles’ IFB mecca and moved to Longview, Texas to attend Texas Baptist College — an unaccredited college started by sycophant (ass-kisser, lackey, toady, bootlicker, fawner) Bob Gray, Sr., a Hyles-Anderson alum. After graduating from college, Tester worked for Bob Gray, Sr. at Longview Baptist Temple. In 2003, he was sent out by Longview Baptist to start a new church in Greensboro. North Carolina. (Just what Greensboro needed, another Baptist church, right?) Tester’s children both attended Texas Baptist College — now called Texas Independent Bapst Seminary and Schools.

As you will see from Tester’s comment, he’s a Bob Gray, Sr. fanboy, and much like his idol, he’s comfortable with passive-aggressive behavior and name-calling. I suspect Tester runs his church much like Gray, Sr. ran (lorded over) Longview Baptist back in the day. Today, Longview Baptist is pastored by Gray, Sr’s son. The church’s name has been changed to Emmanuel Baptist Church, and most observers believe the son has moved the church away from some of his father’s extreme behavior. It’s worth noting the Gray, Sr. no longer attends his son’s church. Make of that what you will.

With that background in mind, I give you Pastor James Tester’s comment (all spelling and grammar in the original). My commentary is indented and italicized:

Lol! Check out the author, look at his photo, read his bio and simply consider the source of this article! End of story!

What’s with IFB preachers and their obsession with my looks, weight, body shape, and penis size? Okay, maybe not that last one, but damn, these guys seem to think that if you don’t fit some sort of approved “look,” whatever you say can be dismissed out of hand.

What, in my bio, suggests that no one should listen to me? If anything, my bio reveals that I have a lot of preaching and ministerial experience; that I know what I am talking about.

What Tester is doing here is classic misdirection. Instead of actually interacting with what I have written (the message), he focuses on me personally (the messenger). All that matters is whether what I write is true or is an accurate portrayal of the IFB church movement in general and “Dr.” Bob Gray, Sr. in particular.

Tester says “end of story,” but I ain’t going anywhere. I will continue to expose the IFB church movement until I die. Just today, I had an investigative reporter from a major newspaper call me to talk about IFB churches and their pastors. I am always delighted to provide background information. Who better to get it from than a man who spent years attending and pastoring IFB churches?

Everyone that knows anything about an aggressive soul winning Independent Fundamental Baptist church knows that there are always disgruntles. You almost have as many walking out the back door as you have coming in the front door. There are always those that get offended at the preaching (truth) with many becoming bitter.

There were many times in the Bible where Jesus preached and the people were cut to the heart and drew Him to the edge of the city to stone Him and He escaped out of there hands. Conviction is powerful!

Tester admits that IFB church growth is a zero sum game; that as many people go out the back door as come in the front door. In fact, IFB churches continue to decline attendance-wise. Scores of large IFB churches are shells of what they once were or have closed their doors.

Tester would have us believe that the people leaving IFB churches are disgruntled; that when they could no longer stand getting their toes stepped on, they fled to friendlier confines.

While it is true, some congregants do become disgruntled and leave for other churches, but to suggest this is always the case is laughable. Men such as Gray, Sr., Jack Hyles, and James Tester psychologically abuse church members, bombarding them three times a week with preaching meant to inflict harm. People leave because they are tired of being abused.

Tester, true to form for IFB preachers, absolves Gray, Sr., Hyles, and I suspect, himself, from any culpability or accountability for how their preaching and behavior harms others.

I was there as a member in the most successful years of LBT through the early to late 90’s. I graduated TBC (The Bible College). I worked on staff in the early 2000’s. Sadly, I have seen people come and go. I personally know why many left. I have seen what they became after they left. It was shocking and very sad to see peoples lives totally destroyed, not by Brother gray or the preaching of truth but by sin and rebellion. The result was broken homes, divorced marriages, drug addiction, alcoholism, criminally convicted of crimes etc. Don’t blame God, the church or Bro. Gray for that.

Tester asserts that those who left Longview Baptist Temple have turned to sin and rebellion against God. Why, their departure from the IFB Mecca of Texas, led to broken homes, divorce, drug addiction, alcoholism, and criminal behavior. Can’t blame God or Gray, Sr. for how people turned out after they left Longview Baptist.

Lost on Tester is the fact that Gray, Sr. and Jack Hyles and countless other IFB pastors such as Steven Anderson and Tester himself, preach a truncated, bastardized gospel; a gospel called 1-2-3 repeat after me or decisional regeneration. Simply put, salvation is procured by assenting to a set of propositional truths and praying the sinner’s prayer. Nothing else is required or demanded from sinners. Just “believe,” and go on your merry way.

This kind of gospel, of course, makes no lasting difference, thus the constant turnover. As long-time readers know, Gray, Sr. was a consummate bean counter. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved. Based on my calculation of the number of people “saved” at Longview Baptist, every person in Longview, Texas is now saved.

The real enemy has always been Satan, sin and people like the author of this article that is trying to sow discord among the brethren.

Ah yes, the real enemies are Satan, sin, and Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as Bruce Gerencser. Again, Tester refuses to see things as they are, blaming others for the decline numerical decline of the IFB church movement.

Tester accuses me of “sowing discord among the brethren.” In other words, my writing causes turmoil among IFB preachers and congregants. And to that charge, I gladly plead guilty. Nothing would make me happier than to see the IFB church movement implode, and church members leave for churches that preach a healthier, kinder, loving faith. Who doesn’t want to put an end to the abuse, right? If every IFB church in the United States closed overnight, it would be a good day.

As for the author having many friends from the old LBT, I can only say, that birds of a feather flock to together. If they are truly “friends” then they are the same in many ways. Think about that for a second. The Bible says in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” No one that is a so-called friend to this author (who is a self proclaimed atheist) is right with God (Let that sink in). Anyone that is feeding this author with this kind of trash is like Simon in the book of Acts 8:23 when Peter said to him, “For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”

Yes, I have “spies” everywhere; people who share with stories about the IFB (and Evangelical) churches in their communities. One such person was the late Steve Gupton. Steve attended Texas Baptist College and the Longview Baptist Temple years ago. Others have contacted me and shared their own Bob Gray, Sr. horror stories. Don’t like people talking out of school? Treat people better. Stop verbally abusing and manipulating them.

I wonder if Tester has bothered to consider the fact that, according to his soteriology, I am still a Christian. I may be a “self-proclaimed atheist,” but according to the gospel preached by Gray, Sr., Hyles, and Tester, I am still a born-again Christian. Once saved, always saved, right? Sweet baby Jesus, Heaven will be my home someday. Tester will likely be my next door neighbor. Awesome!

I’m not surprised by this kind of junk being put out there, if this author was alive in Jesus day he would be saying the same kind of trash about Jesus. He would be criticizing the way Jesus spoke to the Pharisees when He called them a generation of vipers, saying that He is mean and not compassionate in His preaching. He would have written about that fact that He spent time with the sinners and the outcasts of the day saying that He has double standards and lives like those that He choses to be around. He would write articles slamming His doctrine saying that He was teaching and preaching against Old Testament law which is contrary to the writings of Moses. Jesus had many that falsely accused Him in His day. One of His right hand men that worked with him for years, Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. They came out of the woodwork at his mock trail and lied about Him, His teachings and His ministry.

Tester is suggesting that Jesus being persecuted in his day is the same as Bob Gray, Sr. and other IFB preachers being “persecuted” today. My, oh my, what a distorted view of one’s importance.

May this article be an encouragement to those who still believe the Word of God, go soul winning, and believe in the old time tried and proven paths of the KJB. The devil doesn’t like it when we obey Scripture, preach and live truth. That is why articles like this are written. We must be doing something right!

Tester thinks that my opposition to Gray, Sr. and the IFB church movement is proof of his and their rightness; that the only reason I write about them is that they must be doing something “right.”

I will leave it the astute readers of this blog to decide who is “right.” I can say that I have been contacted by scores of current and former IFB pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and church members over the years. Their stories paint a picture of a movement that can be best described as a cult. Tester, of course, will never believe that he is a cultist. Until some sort of personal or theological crisis causes a chink in his certainty, there is no way of reaching him (and others like him). Certainty breeds arrogance, as readers can see, Tester is full of both.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Fireworks and Medical Marijuana in Ohio

seniors smoke pot
Cartoon by David Granlund

Ohio has some strange laws when it comes to fireworks and medical marijuana. Ohio’s neighbor to the north, Michigan, is much more friendly towards fireworks and marijuana than the Buckeye state. Can’t beat Ohio State in football to save their lives, but Michiganders love smoking dope and shooting off fireworks.

Ohioans are not permitted to use fireworks, even though this law is routinely ignored or rarely enforced. We can buy fireworks in Ohio, we just can’t use them. The Ohio border with Michigan is littered with fireworks stores. Ohioans frequent these stores, buying large quantities of fireworks for their Fourth of July celebrations. Purchasers have to state that they will transport the fireworks out of state within forty-eight hours (Ohio Revised Code 3743.65). Wink, wink, sure. 🙂

The Dayton Daily News reports that Ohio might be entering the nineteenth century when it comes to fireworks:

Ohioans would be allowed to discharge consumer grade fireworks — firecrackers, Roman candles, bottle rockets and more — anytime, any day on their own property, according to legislation approved Thursday by the Ohio House.

The House voted 77-17 in favor of the measure, which now moves to the Senate for consideration. A similar bill is also pending in the Senate.

Lawmakers have long sought to clean up Ohio’s convoluted consumer fireworks law. Currently, Ohioans may purchase consumer grade fireworks but they aren’t allowed to possess or use them in Ohio. There is a long-standing moratorium on the number of fireworks licensed manufacturers and dealers.

The bill would eliminate the prohibition on possession and ignition of consumer grade fireworks and earmark a portion of taxes collected on sales for firefighter training programs.

Despite illogical existing law, safety advocates say lifting restrictions is the wrong way to go. The Ohio Fireworks Safety Coalition says there is no safe way to use fireworks and often it’s innocent bystanders, including children, who suffer injuries from amateur pyrotechnics.

….

House Bill 253 and Senate Bill 72, both pending in the Ohio Legislature, would lift the ban on consumers discharging such consumer fireworks. The bills would legalize “backyard” fireworks on private property year-round unless local governments pass restrictions.

Based on what Ohioans hear in their neighborhoods during the 4th of July, plenty of people are violating the current law. That could be a first degree misdemeanor with a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, but it rarely is enforced.

In 2016, medical marijuana was legalized in Ohio, albeit with numerous onerous, costly restrictions. (Please see Is Medical Marijuana Legal in Ohio?) Four years later, the program is largely seen as a failure, primarily due to the exorbitant prices charged for marijuana. Here in rural northwest Ohio, there are no medical marijuana dispensaries. Many local communities have enacted laws prohibiting dispensaries, and I don’t know of one local doctor who is willing to prescribe the drug. I had ONE conversation with my primary care doctor about the matter, and I learned quickly not to broach the subject again. I could get a doctor outside of this area to prescribe me medical marijuana, but I fear a random drug test by my primary care doctor — mandated by his practice — would throw my pain management into disarray. As it stands now, I have to jump through hoops just to get the Schedule Two drugs I am currently taking. I dare not risk having those drugs stopped, all because a drug test found marijuana in my system. Yes, this sucks. Welcome to the land of God, Guns, and Republicans. (Yes, religion, not science drives the anti-marijuana sentiments of many local physicians.)

I recently read a news story that reported that Ohio medical marijuana users were driving to Michigan to fill their prescriptions. Michigan marijuana is 50-90 percent cheaper than that which is sold at Ohio dispensaries. Even if I could get a medical marijuana prescription, I couldn’t afford it, and my health insurance does not cover marijuana.

I have thought about driving to Michigan to buy marijuana, but it remains a federal and state crime to transport it from Michigan back to Ohio. Some Ohioans have learned this the hard way. Nearby Fulton County sits on the border of Michigan and Ohio. The sheriff in Fulton County has been arresting people who bring marijuana across the state line, charging them with possession. That’s right. People with chronic illnesses and chronic pain are being arrested for trying to affordably alleviate their suffering.

The Columbus Dispatch reported two weeks ago:

Officials in Ohio’s medical marijuana industry have repeatedly said prices will fall once the state’s industry matures, and state figures tracking consumer costs support that notion.

But that state up north has a big jump on Ohio, having legalized medical marijuana more than a decade ago. In 2018, Michigan legalized recreational pot for residents over 21. (Sales began in December 2019.)

“Lots of people are crossing the border because Michigan is a mature market of 10 years,” said Jim Rice, a cardholder who lives near Cleveland and owns KAYA.IO, a cannabis transport company.

Bringing marijuana, even legal marijuana, across state lines is illegal. Ohioans can purchase the drug at a Michigan dispensary but are required to consume it before crossing back into their home state.

The two states are working on an agreement to let Ohio marijuana cardholders buy medicinal cannabis in Michigan and bring it back to their home state, but nothing is final.

Ohio provided a letter to medical marijuana cardholders that let them bring products from Michigan for 60 days after Ohio established a patient registry in December 2018 (the first dispensary opened a month later).

However, there was confusion among patients as to how long those letters lasted, said Tim Johnson, co-founder of the Ohio Cannabis Chamber of Commerce advocacy group.

It’s unclear how many Ohioans actually go to Michigan to buy marijuana, but in the spring a Michigan State University research group estimated that roughly 9% of the state’s legal cannabis is sold to out-of-state buyers, particularly those from Indiana and Ohio.

Ohio medical pot users risk arrest by shopping across the state line, and some card holders have said police in Fulton County, on the state line, were targeting them after they shopped in Michigan dispensaries and brought marijuana back into Ohio.

When questioned about high prices, Ohio’s medical marijuana industry officials point to a litany of regulations they must follow to comply with state law, and note that costs have fallen.

One unit of a marijuana product in Ohio was roughly $131 in the second week of July, down from nearly $800 per unit in June of 2019. The costs of specific products were not available.

A direct comparison between Ohio and Michigan prices is difficult because Michigan doesn’t track sales in the same way and prices for individual products vary, but patients say it’s clear.

“Things that cost $20 dollars here cost $5 there,” Rice said.

I love living in Ohio, but I wish Republican legislators — Republicans control virtually every major state political office — would put the interests of suffering Ohioans first. But, the overwhelming majority of these legislators worship Jesus, and if Jesus can suffer on the cross, what’s a little suffering for people with cancer, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and other illnesses? Just pray your pain away, right?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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According to Spaniard VIII, Atheists are Servants of Satan and Vile People

godless atheist

Spaniard VIII, a proud Fundamentalist Christian, runs a boutique blog titled, Spiritual Minefield: Exposing the spiritual landmines of the devil through the Word of God. Spaniard VIII attracts a small band of like-minded apologists, people who are unwilling or unable to see anything other than their peculiar brand of Evangelical Christianity — which they arrogantly and self-righteously call “True Christianity®.”

Spaniard VIII has written about me, long-time commenter John Arthur, and the readers of this blog now and again. He routinely lies about people and refuses to understand why people leave Christianity. In Spaniard VIII’s mind, everything is reduced to Satan and spiritual weakness. Atheists such as I were never True Christians®, and when life got hard, we left Christianity so we could “sin.”

Recently, Spaniard VIII wrote a post titled, (Part 10) The True Darkness of Atheism. Here’s some of what he had to say:

This John Arthur is full of hatred, bitterness, and rage against a righteous God, Jesus Christ because John Arthur is in darkness and serves his father the devil. If you notice that all these godless people hate the Word of God, proving its power and truth in it. Satan hates God’s Word because it saves those who believe in what it says about Jesus Christ. No wonder Satan’s followers also detest the Scriptures.

People who are godless, like atheists, have a pure hatred towards the Living God, Jesus Christ, who is the Savior of the world because Satan is their god. You see this with their vile and filthy mouth against Jesus Christ and His saints. If you are a Christian and have dealt with one, you know exactly what I’m talking about. There are even atheists who have committed their blogs to attack the person of Jesus Christ and even try to persuade believers, if they can, to abandon their Lord and Savior as they have done. They never had a spiritual backbone, the Holy Spirit, from keeping their faith from collapsing

….

Anyone who curses God by blaspheming and attacking God’s Word, calling the truth, a lie, and the lie [the theory of evolution] the truth, comes from demonic spirits who live in their hearts.

If you notice, when a fake Christian apostatizes, they become full of rage against Jesus Christ. Why does this happen? Well, what happens when the light is turned off? Darkness appears, resetting them to default, sin. The absence of light is darkness, not the other way around. So, when a person abandons God, darkness fills their heart, and you will see them get from somewhat good, to bad, then worse, and finally unapproachable with the gospel.

According to Spaniard VIII:

  • Atheists hate the Evangelical God
  • Atheists hate the Protestant Christian Bible
  • Atheists speak vile, filthy things against Jesus
  • Atheists speak vile, filthy things against True Christians®
  • Atheists have demonic spirits living inside of them
  • Atheists rage against the Evangelical God
  • Atheists are filled with darkness
  • Atheists are unapproachable with the Evangelical gospel

Calling me a “fake Christian” — meaning I never was a True Christian®, I never was a follower of Jesus — Spaniard VII says “I committed my blog to attack the person of Jesus Christ and even try to persuade believers, if they can, to abandon their Lord and Savior as I have done.” This, of course, is a lie, but Spaniard VIII is convinced that my goal as a writer to attack the dead Jesus and persuade his followers to become atheists. Evidently, telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity are attacks on Jesus and attempts to lead people away from the one true faith. Amazing the “power” I have over Jesus’ followers.

Spaniard VIII refuses to give the readers of this blog credit for thinking for themselves. I write, people read, and it is up to them to weigh the merits of what I’ve said. Have people deconverted after reading my writing? Sure. But I am not an atheist evangelist. As I have stated countless times before, my objective as a writer is to help those who have questions and doubts about Christianity and to help and encourage those who have left Christianity. I make no effort to evangelize, nor do I take my show on the road, commenting on Christian blogs or engaging believers on social media. I am never the initiator of contact. Having bullied and abused unbelievers during my preaching days, I am sensitive to the harm caused by such tactics.

Spaniard VIII also refuses to let atheists comment on his blog. He’s known for deleting the comments of anyone who disagrees with him. I suspect, deep down, he fears what “truth” other than his might do. So, he makes sure that the only “truth” his readers hear is his — or what he perceives is God’s. Granted, blog owners are free to make their own rules of engagement. I do so on this blog. However, Spaniard VIII walls off his blog from outside intrusion, not even allowing those he preaches against to comment.

Let me conclude this post with three comments lifted from Spaniard VIII’s latest blog post. I think readers will find them enlightening:

Caeli:

Only the Holy Spirit can reach the most calloused soul. There comes a time when being miserable becomes so miserable and for some, this becomes the pivotal point to salvation and to the believers, growth.

I can understand the temptation to abandon God when things blow up. As believers, we expect God to step in and when He allows us to go through the most trying times, it’s hard to see past the pain. But without the pain, we will never have an experiential grasp on the nature of choice, faithfulness, and above all, love. Jesus says, “Follow me” and to follow leads to no other road but one.

Londoninvestigates:

It’s best not to engage with these demonoids who hate. The same people who wanted Christ crucified.

Be true to yourself and Christ.

Spaniard VIII:

These series are for exposure, to show people what is in the heart of atheists.

Spaniard VIII says that he KNOWS what’s in the “heart” of atheists. First, what evidence does he have for his claim that atheists have “hearts?” Second, how does he KNOW what’s in the hearts of unbelievers? Third, why does he make no attempt to see atheists as they are, and not as the caricature he has built up in his mind? Fourth, does he really believe that atheists are vile, evil people, filled with Satan; that we are empty of love, kindness, and decency?

While I pointedly address Spaniard VIII’s errant beliefs, I have no doubt that he is a good husband and father. I know numerous Christians who are decent people, despite holding beliefs I consider irrational. Can he not see that I am more than an atheist; that I am a loving and kind husband (of 42 years), father, and grandfather; that I love my neighbors as myself and go out of my way to not cause harm to anyone — mosquitoes and flies excepted? Spiders, for example, co-inhabit with the Gerencsers. It is not uncommon for us to be watching TV and see a spider rappelling down from the ceiling. And then there was the mouse who entertained us a few years ago. We’d be watching TV and out he would pop, running across the top of the entertainment center, sometimes stopping to say, “how ya doing, folks?” My grandchildren have heard Grandpa’s lecture numerous times about not stepping on ants, pulling the wings off of insects, etc. I have a deep love and admiration for all living things. This is the kind of man I am, but unfortunately, all Spaniard VIII sees is a man he thinks is vile and wicked; a man condemned by his God and his peculiar interpretation of the Bible. Not to toot my own horn — oh, hell I am going to do it — Spaniard VIII is missing out on knowing (and understanding) a good man; he’s missing out on knowing people who may be unbelievers, but are some of those most loving, humane, and sympathetic people I know.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Evangelical “Prophet” Jeremiah Johnson Says Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in Hell

jeremiah johnson

According to the CHARISMA website, Jeremiah Johnson is a prophetic minister. In other words, God talks directly to Johnson. Johnson is an elder at Heart of the Father Ministry in Lakeland, Florida.

I have written a couple of posts about Johnson:

These two posts have been read thousands and thousands of times. While I think it is hysterical that Johnson is thought of as a “prophet,” it is evident, based on the traffic numbers for these two posts, that Evangelicals are paying attention to Johnson’s verbal flatulence.

Last Saturday, Johnson weighed in on the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Link

Here’s the text of “Prophet” Johnson’s “official response to the death of R.B.G.

“Parts of the American Church have become so lukewarm that they would have tried to comfort Jezebel on a sickbed that GOD himself threw her on! (Rev 2:22) They would have highlighted her accomplishments over the years and found the good in her. They would have found ways to celebrate Hitler and King Herod- all in the name of false justice and an unbiblical definition of love.

Folks, I’m going to keep sounding the alarm as long as I have breathe in my lungs… Too many American Christians have created a god made in their own image and not the God of the Bible. And for all those living under delusional “New Covenant” false grace that prevents God’s justice and wrath from being active, please look over these Scriptures.

John 3:36 The wrath of God is currently and continually abiding upon all those who reject Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Acts 5:1-16 Ananias and Sapphira (believers) are struck down dead for lying to the Holy Spirit.

Acts 12:20-24 King Herod is struck dead by an angel of the Lord for not giving God glory.

Acts 13:8-11 Elymas the magician is struck blind “by the hand of the Lord” for being a fraud and son of the devil.

Romans 1:18-24 The wrath of God is revealed toward humanity by allowing them to reap what they sow. “Therefore God gave them over”.

1 Cor 5:1-13 The immoral brother is judged and handed over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh.

1 Cor 11:27-34 Believers are judged and become sick, some even die, for not judging themselves before partaking of the Lord’s supper.

Hymenaeus and Alexander were delivered to Satan for Blasphemy 1 Timothy 1:20

Jezebel is thrown on a bed or violent sickness and those who commit adultery with her into terrible suffering, unless they repent of her deeds. Furthermore, I [Jesus] will strike her followers with a deadly disease, and then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts. I will repay each one of you what your deeds deserve.” (Rev 2:22 NET)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled repeatedly on the side of infanticide, partial-birth infanticide, homosexual ‘marriage’ (and officiated homosexual ‘weddings’), against religious liberties, and saw to it that the Supreme Court stopped dating their documents ‘In the Year of our Lord.’

Ginsburg has now discovered that there is a court higher than the one called ‘Supreme’ and she does not sit in the seat of the judge, but as the defendant.

She will answer to a holy God who remembers every ounce of bloodshed she is responsible for and every act of abomination she approved of. The justice of God knows no delay, and the law of God knows no limits.”

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).”

“…when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (Proverbs 11:10)

God will repay her according to the deeds she has done!

— Jeremiah Johnson

I have seen similar sentiments on social media in recent days. Evangelicals love it when well-known unbelievers/atheists die. This gives them an opportunity to pass judgment on their lives and consign them to eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. While Johnson lets his mythical God and errant, fallible Bible do the talking, make no mistake about it, he thinks Justice Ginsburg is presently being tormented by God in Hell. According to Johnson — err, I mean God — Ginsburg was a vile, evil person who was an enemy of True Christianity®. Instead of seeing her as a defender of the First Amendment, Johnson sees Justice Ginsburg as a threat to attempts to promote Christian nationalism (and she was).

As is always the case with Evangelical zealots, the important issues of our day are banning abortion and make it illegal, and turning back attempts to give LGBTQ people equal rights and protections under the law. I have no doubt that Johnson, a resolute Bible thumper, believes abortion and homosexual are capital crimes worthy of death.

Johnson’s latest screed is yet another example of why Evangelical Christianity is the most hated religion in America, right up there with Islamic suicide bombers.

There are days when I don’t want to publicize stories such as this one, but we must not let zealots such as Johnson hide behind the safety of their church and social media. Vile words such as Johnson’s must be dragged into the light for all to see. By exposing them, we are helping to push back attempts to turn the United States into an Evangelical Christian theocracy.

On a side note, Fundamentalist pastor J.D. Hall claims that Johnson stole his “prophecy” from an imprecatory message posted by him 12 hours earlier. Let the preacher war begin.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Does the Bible Command Parents to Beat Their Children?

dennis the menance being spanked

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The Bible speaks, you decide. And please, no revisionists who hilariously say that a “rod” is actually a shepherd’s crook used to gently guide the sheep (children) along.

The Bible says:

  • Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3
  • Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Colossians 3:20
  • In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding. Proverbs 10:13
  • He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24
  • Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. Proverbs 22:15
  • Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. Proverbs 23:13,14
  • A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back. Proverbs 26:3
  • The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. Proverbs 29:15
  • My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth, Proverbs 3:11,12
  • If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? Hebrews 12:7-9

These verses are often used to justify the brutal, violent beating of children and teenagers. God demands obedience, and children who refuse to obey should be beaten into submission. Through the centuries, countless Christian parents have used paddles, whips, hairbrushes, books, belts, or anything else that was handy, to beat their children. Better to beat them than lose them to the devil, right?

spanking

Most of us who were once Bible-believing, sin-hating, devil-chasing Evangelical literalists now see that our disciplinary methods were abusive, cruel, and ineffective. It’s hard to look back at how we disciplined our children as “unto the Lord” and not feel regret and shame. I know that’s how it is for me.

I was a stern taskmaster. I believed the Bible laid out the pattern I had to follow IF there was to be any hope of my children turning out well. I can now say that my children turned out well DESPITE the whippings I gave them. Their love, respect, and forgiveness overwhelm me. I don’t deserve it.

They know I was just doing what I thought God commanded me to do, but knowing that I inflicted unnecessary pain on my children is heartbreaking. I am often asked if I think all spanking — which is actually beating — is child abuse. In general, yes I do. I think there are better ways to discipline children than by hitting them. While I make some allowance for slapping a toddler’s hand now and again, I do not think hitting, punching, or slapping a child is the best way to get them to obey or conform.

Yes, the Bible says ___________________, and we who desire to live in a less violent world must be willing to say that the Bible is w-r-o-n-g. The authors of the Bible likely reflected the way children were disciplined during their time, but we have come to the place where we now know that beating children, for whatever reason, is not only unproductive, but it is also abusive.

spanking with belt

If you are a parent with young children, how do you discipline your children? I am an old man, the product of an era gone by, an era when violence against children was the rule and not the exception. If we truly want to live a nonviolent way of life, it must begin with our treatment of those who are innocent, weak, and vulnerable. If you had to give discipline advice to a young father or mother, what would you tell them? Please share your advice in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Creationist Ken Ham Needs to Buy a Dictionary

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and Ark Encounter is ever on the watchtower looking for a conspiracy he can gin up to rouse the faithful. Several years ago, Ham wrote that public school students were being taught to worship the sun. Here’s what he said:

Imagine if public school students in their science classes were encouraged to worship the sun. And yet this is happening! But how do they get away with it? Well, they just call worshipping the sun “science,” and then claim they can teach this “science” in the public schools!

You see, the following statement is allowed to be made (and is being made in a number of instances) to public school science students:

Our ancestors worshipped the sun. They were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the sun and stars because we are their children. The silicon in the rocks, the oxygen in the air, the carbon in our DNA, the iron in our skyscrapers, the silver in our jewelry—were all made in stars, billions of years ago. Our planet, our society, and we ourselves are stardust.

This statement was made by Neil deGrasse Tyson in the new Cosmos series. Evolutionists are encouraging teachers to use this series in public school classrooms.

revere

Evidently, Ham doesn’t know what the word revere means. While the word “worship” can be thought of as reverence, it is almost always used in a religious sense. Neil deGrasse Tyson is NOT using the word “revere” in a religious sense. Of course, Ham denies this because he believes atheism/humanism/secularism is a religion. Ham needs to buy himself a dictionary so he can learn what words such as “worship” and “revere” actually mean. Will he do so? Of course not. The coffers at Ham’s monuments to ignorance are running low. He needs to attract people to his creationist amusement park to keep his “ministry” afloat. Scaring Evangelicals is a surefire way to get them to Kentucky to get their fears allayed. For $44.99 a person, Christians can learn the “truth” about sun worship, and every other lie Ham peddles from atop of his creationist empire.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Don’t Cast Your Candy Bars Before Swine

clark bar
My Favorite Candy Bar

Recently, my wife’s cousin, and an Evangelical pastor in Newark, Ohio, posted the following on Facebook:

Do not be fooled! Class warfare, rioting, racism, defunding police, expansive government programs…these are the building blocks to socialism. These are reasons so many flee to America!!

I have known Polly’s cousin for over forty-four years. He was the ring-bearer in our wedding in 1978. Andy is an affable guy, the only preacher in Polly’s family that I get along with. We have had numerous conversations over the years. Never an angry word, though we have disagreed many, many times.

After reading Andy’s anti-socialism comment, I decided to respond, hoping that I could educate him about socialism, specifically democratic socialism. I suspect that I am the only atheist socialist Andy knows. The conversation quickly deteriorated when a friend of Andy’s named Tim — an Evangelical know-it-all, if there ever was one — decided to hijack the discussion and attack my atheism. He quickly started talking about evolution and morality, and even went so far as to tell me that I was an agnostic, not an atheist.

Long time readers likely know what I told this man: fuck off! In fact, I told him to fuck off twice. The discussion was about socialism, but he wanted to make it about me and my atheism. I refused to play, and here’s his final comment to me (paragraphs added for readability. Grammar and spelling as written).

Last comment, then tomorrow when i get up I will just block you; since you do not want to debate.

you are angry because evangelicals make truth claims. yet you are making truth claims also. there is a saying. everyone has a right to their opinion, but only those who are correct have a right for their opinion to be true.

socalism is the start of communism and nazism. socalism has always harmed the poor and middle class, and makes politicians rich royal leaders. socalism always worships government, as everyone has to worship something. you know it. thus why you attack me, for pointing out truth.

Last, there is truth. there is a creator. there is a God, and that God is the one true God of the Bible. I pray that you meet him one day, before you die; as that will be too late. if you truly seek truth there are hundreads of books taht not only show the truth of what I am saying, but gives all the evidence inside and outside of the Bible for what I am saying. the best, for someone that truthly seeks truth, is evidence that demands a verdict.

I pray one day you seek the truth and realize that it is not what you claim it to be.

Just another day in the alternate universe called Evangelicalism. That this man thinks Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, is the best book for someone like me shows that he doesn’t really know much about agnosticism and atheism, nor does he know anything about my background. McDowell’s arguments have been debunked numerous times. Had I thought this man had a rational, skeptical bone in his body, I might have engaged him, but since he doesn’t, I chose not to cast my candy bars before pigs.

The only thing that offended me was his claim that I am an agnostic, not an atheist. He refused to let me self-identify as an atheist. In his mind, agnostic and atheist are two different things. Had he been open to thoughtful, rational discussion, I would have educated him about why many professed atheists are agnostics and atheists. I have talked about this issued numerous times on this site. Some strong atheists disagree with me on the matter, but claiming to be an agnostic and an atheist is certainly within the orthodox pale of the most holy atheist religion. Yes, this knucklehead thinks atheism is a religion. Whatcha gonna do when faced with someone who thinks he knows everything, yet knows very little? At this point in my quickly fading life, “fuck you” seems to be an appropriate response.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Never Underestimate the Power of Jesus

there is power in the name of jesus

Often, atheists and agnostics grossly underestimate the power of Jesus. I am sure that some of you are already thinking or saying out loud, Bruce, are you nuts? Have you renounced atheism and become a follower of Jesus again? We don’t underestimate the power of Jesus because he doesn’t exist. End of story!

But he does exist, and I think many atheists and agnostics forget this. In our desire to rid the world of the damaging effects of religion, we often forget that Jesus is alive and well.

Now, the Jesus who is alive and well is not an actual, physical living human being, and neither is he an actual, physical God or Son of God. The Jesus who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is dead. The Jesus who, for thirty-three years, walked the roads of Palestine is dead. The Jesus spoken of in the Bible is dead. We know that dead people do not come back from the grave. We know that once a person is dead, he stays dead. Jesus is dead, and there is no chance that he is coming back from the grave.

But, Jesus is alive and well in the myths and beliefs of millions and millions of Christians. In the mythical Jesus, people find comfort, meaning, and hope. In the mythical Jesus, people find what they think is lacking in their lives, and quite frankly atheists and agnostics don’t have much to offer when it comes to what Jesus can offer a person.

But, Bruce, believing in Jesus is irrational. Believing in Jesus is as rational as believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. Totally correct, but this doesn’t matter.

When suffering and loss come our way, our rationality often doesn’t do us much good. When our lives are in a heap of ashes, knowing the evidence for God not existing does nothing to comfort us. When we are struggling to keep from drowning, the books written by Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, provide no help. All our rational, well-thought-out arguments do little for us when we are at those moments in life where the most precious thing to us is our next breath.

In these times, we look for comfort and hope. We look to those who love us and who are willing to do anything for us. In these times, our intellectual prowess does not matter. What we desperately want and need is a hand to hold on to, someone who will tell us it is going to be all right.

But, Bruce, shit happens and we are all going to die in the end. Atheists and agnostics don’t need sentimentality. Surely, we can face what comes our way with a rugged resolve, knowing we are right. Perhaps.

But is knowing we are right the most important thing? Is drawing our last breath knowing we were right about religion, God, Jesus, and the Bible really the grand objective?

Forget for a moment what you know about the Bible. Forget what you know about its teachings. If you were once a Christian, forget your experience in the church. Think for a moment about the essence of the Christian religion. What is the one thing that matters more than anything else? What is the one thing that allows millions of people to live in a state of cognitive dissonance? What is the one thing that allows Christians to shut off all the criticisms of Christianity and allows them to continue believing?

One word . . . Jesus.

The mythical Jesus, the Jesus of legend, the Jesus that is preached in countless Christian churches all over the world, this Jesus is the one thing that matters above all else.

Why is this? What is it about this Jesus for whom millions of people will abandon rational thinking? There is no proof for what the Bible teaches on most anything. Few of the events in the Bible have any historical foundation. Why does Jesus have such power over people?

Jesus offers salvation. Jesus offers friendship, love, and compassion. Countless drug addicts and alcoholics have abandoned their addictions because of Jesus. Gang members have forsaken their violent ways, and thieves have turned to gainful means of employment all because of Jesus. Only the most hardheaded and blind among atheists and agnostics would deny the fact that, for millions of people, Jesus makes a qualitative difference in their lives.

In Jesus, millions of people find meaning, purpose, and direction. In Jesus, they find the necessary strength to suffer and die. This Jesus promised to never leave them or forsake them, and no matter how hard we try to show that Jesus is AWOL in the lives of Christians, they still believe he is that friend that sticks closer than a brother.

I am sure there is some psychological or neurological explanation for why this is so, but such explanations have little value. People believe what they believe, and that is all that matters.

My wife’s parents are almost 85 years old. They are on the short side of life, and it is unlikely that either of them will still be living five years from now. When they die, I will mourn their deaths. I love them dearly. I will grieve over the loss of two people I have known most of my adult life. Good people. Loving people. Caring people. And yes, devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christians.

They believe that Jesus is with them through thick and thin. Jesus has been their faithful guide. According to them, Jesus has worked countless miracles for them. To them, Jesus is as much a part of their lives as the air they breathe.

I could point out to them all the times that Jesus wasn’t there for them. Where was Jesus when they miscarried? Where was Jesus when their daughter was killed in a motorcycle accident? Their life is filled with countless examples of Jesus leaving them for dead along the side of the road. He seems to always be around when they need a hundred dollars, but nowhere to be found when faced with job loss, economic troubles, or sickness. Yet, they still steadfastly believe.

Is it my place to expose their fraudulent Jesus? Is it my place to point out all the places that their friend Jesus was no friend at all? Perhaps I should buy them Bart Ehrman’s books for Christmas so they can know the truth about the Bible and Jesus? Why would I want to do this? Would their life be better without Jesus?

I can’t think of any way their life would be better without their mythical best friend. Their whole existence and being is invested in him, and they are trusting Jesus to be there when they are dying, to carry them home to their reward in Heaven.

None of this is true, BUT it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is what Jesus means to them, and what value he adds to their lives. If this Jesus gives their lives meaning, purpose, and direction, I have no right to disabuse them of their beliefs. If this Jesus gives them peace and comfort . . . who am I to take that away from them?

Sometimes, we atheists and agnostics, in our zeal to rid the world of the evil of Christian Fundamentalism, forget that most Christians are not theocrats trying to take over America. They have sincerely-held beliefs and, for them, Jesus adds value to their lives. Yes, we must battle Christian Fundamentalists who want to turn American into a Christian theocracy. Yes, we must battle attempts to teach creationism as science in public schools. Yes, we must battle attempts to codify Christian morals and ethics as the law of the land. We must battle any and all attempts to lessen the individual liberty we have to believe or not believe. But, beyond these things, it is not our place to rid the world of beliefs we think are silly or anti-intellectual.

We must remember, those of us who are writers, that the Evangelical Christians who come to our blogs to debate, evangelize, and attack are not typical believers. Zealots and apologists deserve all that we give them, and I have little tolerance for such people. But . . . I must never forget that most Christians are not like Bible thumpers. Most Christians are like my wife’s parents — people who love Jesus and want to live a good life.

All human beings want a life that has meaning and purpose. We want to be loved, and we want to know our lives mattered. In the end, we all die, and we will soon be forgotten by all but those who loved us. Let’s be careful in our zeal to rid the world of all the evils associated with religion, that we don’t lose those we love, that we don’t trade being right for those who will be there for us when we draw our last breath.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Faith and the Chair

dog in a chair

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I suspect that most of us who were raised in Evangelical Christianity have heard the faith/chair analogy. If you have not heard it before:

Faith is like deciding to sit in a chair. You don’t know that the chair will hold you, yet by faith you believe it will, so you sit down in the chair.

Quite deep theology there, brethren.

Here’s the problem with this analogy: sitting in a chair does not require faith at all. Let me explain it this way. I am a big man, so making sure a chair will withstand my considerable ass sitting in it requires me to use the scientific method of inquiry.

Before I ever sit in a chair, I ask myself, does this chair LOOK like it will hold me? Now looks aren’t enough, as I learned several years ago at a Toledo Olive Garden. After the hostess brought us to our table, I glanced at the chair and quickly sat down. Except I didn’t make it all the way down. As I started to put my weight on the chair, it kicked out from me and I landed flat on my back in the middle of Olive Garden. I hit my head on the cement floor and could not get up. The manager came running in to make sure I was all right. The only injury was to my pride. So, was the chair defective? Not at all. The chair had roller casters and I didn’t see them. As I started to sit down, the chair rolled out from underneath me and I fell. Because I didn’t pay attention to the construction of the chair, I ended up on the cement floor. This is what having faith in the chair got me.

Most of the time, when we go out to eat, I carefully check not only the construction of the chair, but the ingress and egress. As a disabled man, I want to know the lay of the land. Where’s the bathroom, can I easily walk to the bathroom, etc. As far as the chair is concerned, I rock the chair back and forth and side to side making sure it is solid, and I press on the seat, making sure it will hold me. I have been to more than one restaurant where I’ve had to ask for a different chair lest the one they wanted me to use leave me on the floor. The only thing worse than a chair breaking is the embarrassment that comes from it (though my editor suggests that getting injured would be worse).

Using the scientific method, I test a chair to make sure it will hold me. After I have done so, and it passes the tests, I feel confident that the chair will support my 6 foot, 330-pound body (Yes, I have lost 65 pounds since Thanksgiving). I have been a big man most of my adult life, and this method of determining chair worthiness has never failed me. The only time I have ever had a chair break is when I “faithed” it.

The faith/chair analogy breaks down in another way, because the chair is an inanimate object that I can see and touch. God can not be seen or touched, and believing in God requires blind faith.

This is one of the reasons I am an atheist. I see no evidence for the Christian God. Believing in such a deity requires faith, a faith I do not have. For me, seeing is believing, and I do not “see” the Christian God.

Hebrews 11:1,3 states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

What is Christian faith?

  • The substance of things hoped for
  • The evidence of things not seen

Perhaps the wording of the NIV will make it clearer:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Many Evangelicals get upset when someone suggests that their faith is a blind faith. But isn’t that exactly how Hebrews defines faith: believing without seeing; that faith is the proof of belief in that which can not be seen?

Creationists would do well to read Hebrews 11 the next time they try to scientifically “prove” creationism. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that believing God created the universe requires faith. It requires faith to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence for the formation of the universe, earth, and life. Creationists embarrass themselves and besmirch their religion when they try to make creationism fit into a scientific box. And when their efforts fail, what do they do? They retreat to the safety of faith, a place they should have stayed to start with.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Just As I Am, a Poem by Brian

just as I am

What follows is a poem by Brian. Raised in a Fundamentalist Christian home, Brian attended countless church services, heard countless sermons, and saw and participated in countless altar calls. My experiences are similar, except I was the one giving the altar calls. (Please see Walking the Aisle — A Few Thoughts on Altar Calls.)

Just As I Am

Ten-year-olds
a dozen of us lined up
at the front of the church
because the world
might just end today
and we have all sinned
Romans 3, verse 23
our fisted, hounded hearts
and the preacher
offering one last chance.
Streets paved with gold
stream liquid
through amber
stained-glass windows.
Some of us softly weep
awful doubt in ourselves
our Baptist Jesus
and the preacher walking
our line and shaking hands
as if we were grownup
and big enough to deal
with being caught
between heaven and hell
on a Sunday morning
and our walking right
into the arms of it
idiot-faced
crying along with the music.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, You are a Very Sad and Bitter Old Man

pastor steve proctor

Steve Proctor is the pastor of Westwood Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Westwood Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Springfield, Missouri. I was saved, baptized, and called to preach at a BBF congregation — Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — in the early 1970s.

Proctor came to this site via Google search. Proctor, as is common among his species, showed no interest in learning anything about me. (Please see the WHY? page.) He read all of two posts:

After spending ten minutes on this site, Proctor deemed himself sufficiently informed to comment on my psychological state and my age, along with throwing in a not-really-sorry for the “hurts” in my life that must have caused “this” — whatever “this” is — and a promise to pray for me.

Proctor’s comment — which he posted twice — patience pastor, patience — was succinct and to the point:

You are a very sad and bitter old man. I’m so sorry for the hurt in your life that must have caused this. I will pray for you.

Proctor uses the word “sad” not in the sense of depressed or discouraged, but to say that I am pathetic or a joke. He then says I am bitter. Knowing that he only read two posts on this site, I have no idea how this IFB Freud determined I was bitter. And for the record, I am not. I have debunked this claim numerous times, so I won’t do it again. I will say, however, that Proctor has zero evidence for his claim. First, he didn’t read enough of my writing to know anything about me. Second, he made no attempt to reasonably and politely interact with me. Instead, he just threw the word bitter out there, hoping to wound me. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but I’m immune from such juvenile attempts to cause harm.

Proctor goes on to call me an old man. He got that one right, but how is my advanced age relevant? Besides, doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are supposed to treat the elderly with honor and respect? Evidently, God’s commands don’t apply when commenting on an atheist senior citizen’s blog.

Proctor goes on to allege that some sort of hurt in my life caused “this.” Proctor doesn’t say what “this” is, but I assume “this” is my atheism and my opposition to Evangelical Christianity. Had Proctor bothered to have curiosity (please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait) about the man, the myth, the legend Bruce Gerencser, he likely would have found that I have addressed the “hurt” allegation numerous times. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but some sort of “hurt” didn’t cause me to divorce Jesus and walk away from Christianity. I deconverted for intellectual reasons, not emotional ones. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am more than happy to engage you on THOSE issues, if you are so inclined. Warning, I know the Bible well, have spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, and have preached more than 4,000 sermons.

Evidently, Proctor’s Bible is one of those new-fangled translations that leave words and verses out of the one true and perfect Bible — The King James Version. (That’s sarcasm, by the way. Proctor is King James-only.) The verse that seems to be missing from Proctor’s Bible is Proverbs 18:13:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

I love how The Living Bible translates this verse:

What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts!

God says that Pastor Proctor is shameful and stupid for judging me before knowing the facts. I agree with God.

Westwood Baptist’s website states:

At Westwood, we want you to feel at home and be part of our family. Westwood is a church with a heart where loving and caring friends will help you and your family grow in God’s grace.

On a page titled, A Word From the Pastor, Proctor says:

Here at Westwood, we are known as “A Church with a Heart.”  God has truly given our church a heart for people.  Our desire is to provide effective ministry to every person of every age from all walks of life.  From the moment you visit for the first time, we hope that you sense the love that fills our hearts.  More importantly, we hope that we are able to show you our Lord’s heart.

Sounds like a church pastored by a loving and caring man, a church with people who are filled with love. How do we square these advertising clichĂ©s with Pastor Proctor’s comment on this site? Where’s the love, pastor, where’s the love?

Proctor says he will pray for me. If he is the typical IFB preacher, he won’t do so. You see, “I will pray for you” is meant to convey judgment, that Proctor deems my life insufficient or damaged in some way. It is often an epithet preachers hurl at people they disagree with. They have no intention of seriously storming the throne room of Heaven on your behalf. That would be too much work. There are too many other unbelievers to vanquish and condemn to bother praying for them. That said, thousands of Evangelical Christians have said they are praying for me. Despite thousands and thousands of prayers asking God to save me, kill me, or chastise me, I remain an unrepentant atheist. Why, it is almost as if prayer doesn’t work.

I hope Pastor Proctor will remember this post the next time he leaves a stupid — to quote God’s Word — comment on someone’s blog. I hope he will stop being a Fundamentalist preacher, choosing instead to be kind, decent, thoughtful human being who sincerely tries to get to know people different from him — be they atheists, agnostics, humanists, socialists, liberals, or others.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Walking the Aisle — A Few Thoughts on Altar Calls

altar call first baptist church hammond
Altar Call at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana

Every head bowed, every eye closed.

Is God is speaking to you right now?

What is it God wants you to do?

Do you need to be saved? Step out from where you are and come kneel at the altar. Cry out to God. He will save you. Don’t delay. Behold, NOW is the accepted time and NOW is the day of salvation.

Do you need to get right with God? Don’t delay. Don’t wait for another day. Step out from where you are, and come kneel at an old-fashioned altar and do business with God.

Whatever it is God wants you to do, do it today.

As we sing the first verse of Just As I Am, you come. Don’t wait. You don’t have the promise of tomorrow.

Come…

Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I gave countless public invitations like the one above. The emphasis might have differed from week to week, but the focus was always on NOW, doing what God wants you to do without delay.

Sometimes, I would tell a poignant illustration that I hoped would drive home the importance of making a decision. My philosophy was clear:

  • There is a God
  • The Bible is truth
  • God hates sin
  • Salvation is through the merit and work of Jesus Christ
  • There is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain
  • No one has the promise of tomorrow
  • Death is certain
  • Decisions affecting our eternal destiny should never be put off

The invitation was the point in the service where I (God) brought everything together. It was the climax, the point where God showed his mighty power by saving sinners and calling backsliders back to the faith.

Thousands of people responded to altar calls given by me. I was pretty good at it. I knew what to say, and how to say it. I could read the emotions of those under the sound of my voice, and with a few well-placed words, get them to walk the aisle. What I called conviction back then is what I now call guilt. The Bible is a world-class book for making people feel guilty. And when people feel guilty (under conviction) they are ripe for manipulation.

In one church I pastored for 11 years, we had over 600 public professions of faith. We baptized hundreds of people. Rare was the Sunday when no one came forward during the invitation. (For many years, I gave invitations every time we held a service.)

On those rare weeks when no one stepped out for Jesus, I was often quite depressed. I thought, why didn’t anyone come forward? Maybe my sermon was poorly constructed, or perhaps God was punishing me because of some unconfessed sin in my life? In other words, God might send someone to Hell to get my attention.

The number of people responding to the invitation, like the number of people attending the church, is a measure that pastors use to judge themselves successes or failures. Church members judge the success or failure of their pastor by whether God is using his preaching to save people and reclaim backsliders. They also judge him based on the numeric growth of the church. In many ways, the church is no different from the corporate world, where corporations are judged a success or a failure based on economic output (stock price, revenue increase, increased productivity, bottom line profit).

Every church I ever pastored grew numerically. I was good for business. I knew I had good preaching skills. I knew I had “people” skills and that I was effective in reaching people with the gospel. I expected results. I expected God to work. I expected people to walk the aisle and do business with God. My modality in the church was similar to the manner in which I conducted myself in the business world. Over the years, I managed restaurants for Arthur Teachers, Long John Silvers, and Charley’s Steakery (along with a number of other management-level jobs). As a general manager, I was driven to succeed. Success was measured by net profit (a secular version of souls saved and church attendance growth).

Toward the latter third of my time in the ministry, I came to see that the altar call was a tool used by pastors to manipulate emotions, give the illusion that God’s power was on them, and that God was using them. I have no doubt that many pastors believe their own hype, I know I did. I came to see myself as a man used greatly by God. The proof was in the numbers.

When I stopped giving altar calls, many people responded negatively, and a few people even left the church. In their minds, an old-fashioned, Bible-believing church has altar calls. People should have an opportunity to respond to the sermon. People should have an opportunity to respond to the Holy Ghost’s leading. One former friend, a pastor, told me that he would never attend a church that didn’t give an altar call. Never mind that there is not one instance of an altar call in the Bible. Never mind that the history of the altar call can be traced back to Pelagian Charles Finney. In his mind, a good church was a church that gave altar calls. A church without altar calls was a liberal church that didn’t love souls.

billy graham crusade altar call
Billy Graham Crusade Altar Call

In the 1960s, evangelists such as Billy Graham popularized the altar call and brought it to the TV screen. Many of us remember seeing a Billy Graham Crusade on network TV. Who can forget the altar call, hundreds of people pouring out of the aisles making their way down to the front. What most people did not know is that MANY of the people responding to the invitation were actually Christian altar workers. They helped “prime the pump” with their movement forward, encouraging others to do the same. If you take the first step, God will help you take the rest . . .

When we are part of a group, there is pressure to conform to the group standard. This dynamic is quite evident in church. Individuality is discouraged. Dissent is frowned upon. I see the same problem in the secular world. Most human beings don’t want to stand out from the crowd, so they tend to embrace whatever the group standard is.

Personally, I try to fight such conformity. I will gladly sing the national anthem and recite most of the Pledge of Allegiance, but I’ll be damned if I will bow my head and take off my hat in an act of worship as some knucklehead prays for God to bless the race car drivers or a singer sings God Bless America during the seventh-inning stretch at a baseball game. That said, I have no doubt that I succumb to the group standard more than I care to admit.

Group conformity is not necessarily bad, but we must be careful we do not surrender our ability to reason and think for ourselves. The pressure to conform to a group standard in church often sucks the life, vitality, and joy from a person’s life. When the pastor gives an invitation and scores of people respond, the pressure to do likewise is very strong. Being right with God = walking the aisle. Standing in the pew and not walking the aisle = Not right with God.

Many years ago, I attended a Sword of the Lord Conference in the Canton, Ohio area. Curtis Hutson was one of the main speakers. He preached on the family, on fatherhood. At the close of his sermon, he gave an altar call that basically said “if you want to be a better father, you need to come to the altar and profess your willingness to do so” Hundreds and hundreds of men responded. I didn’t. I thought Hutson was being quite manipulative, so I refused to walk the aisle. Of course, I stood out like a sore thumb. People thought, I am sure, Either that guy thinks he is a better Christian than the rest of us, or he refuses to get right with God. Who doesn’t want to be a better father? Never mind that one prayer at an altar does not a good father make.

Pastors well-schooled in their craft and blessed with the ability to effectively communicate, can, if they are not careful, manipulate people. The altar call is just one of many tools that can be used for manipulation. What pastors call God is actually the pastor and his well-honed communication skills manipulating those listening to his sermon.

A public church service can be a dangerous place. Parents, with nary a thought, allow their children to be influenced by men expert in mental and emotional manipulation. Even adults, especially those who have “sin” problems in their lives, are susceptible to manipulation. Adults enter the church building burdened with the cares of life, and the pastor, with his well-chosen words, convinces them to respond to an altar call. Jesus is the answer! Hooked on drugs or booze? Jesus will set you free. Family a mess, headed for divorce court? Jesus will make things right. Come, don’t delay. And people, with lives burdened down by problems and adversity, rush to the altar thinking Jesus will fix everything for them. He doesn’t, and they are worse off than they were before. Why are they worse off? Because they will likely think or be told by the pastor that the lack of change is their fault. They didn’t pray hard enough, or perhaps they had some secret sin they are holding on to. God never gets the blame for failing to do what the pastor said he would do. It is ALWAYS the sinner’s fault, not God’s.

Let me ask you a question. Every head bowed, every eye closed.

Are you saved? Do you remember a definite time and place in your life where you repented of your sins and accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If not, raise your hand. No one is looking. This is just between you and God. Raise your hand, I want to pray for you.

I see that hand. And that one. Thank you, Ma’am. Thank you, Sir.

Lord, you see the hands that were raised. Save them, Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

In a moment we are going to sing Just as I Am.

If you raised your hand, I want you to step out from your pew and come to the front. Someone will meet you and will share with you what the Bible says about being saved.

Don’t delay.

That’s right, keep coming.

Are there others?

Even if you didn’t raise your hand, is there something you need to confess to God?

Come.

Do it now.

Don’t wait.

Dinner will wait.

Your soul is worth more than all the money in the world.

We are going to sing the last verse one more time. That’s it. Don’t neglect so great a salvation.

God doesn’t promise to always strive with you. One day his Spirit may no longer call and it will be too late for you . . .

Come . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.