Anne Reed is a staff writer for the American Family Association (AFA). AFA is a fundamentalist Christian ministry started in 1977 by Methodist minister Don Wildmon. Wildmon’s son Tim now runs the operation. In order to write accurate, timely articles, I must monitor the ruminations of the religious-right. I don’t like doing so, but it is a necessary part of my job. Every day, I must wade through hundreds of articles that I consider racist, bigoted, conspiratorial, or bat-shit crazy. Thus, I subscribe to AFA’s newsletter, The Stand.
Anne Reed thinks the government should regulate homosexuality because Michelle Obama is concerned about childhood obesity and has used the power of government to change how children eat at a school. In her mind, gay sex should be regulated just like school lunches. I can see your face now. Huh, there is no connection between these two things? Remember Reed is a fundamentalist. Reason and logic are not her strong suit.
…CDCP has also reported a wealth of reliable and disturbing facts about the effects of homosexual behaviors, particularly among males. Gay and bisexual men represent only about two percent of the U.S. population but accounted for three-fourths of all estimated new HIV infections annually from 2008 to 2010. Wow! That is an extreme and unmistakable health risk associated with homosexual behavior.
In 2010, the same year the Let’s Move campaign kicked off, African American men accounted for more than double the number of estimated new infections in other ethnic groups. And young African American gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24 are especially affected by HIV. But where’s the compassion for these young men? Where’s the determination to bring about necessary lifestyle changes?
And somehow President Obama expresses no concern for those who wish to change that extremely risky behavior. Rather, he wants to model decisions made in California, New Jersey, and DC banning licensed professionals from offering and providing conversion therapy for minors who seek to change their same-sex attractions and behavior.
While gluttony, laziness, and ignorance can certainly lead to a life of disease and early death, so can misguided sexual desires. This is clear. If the Obamas really understand and care about the importance of teaching a child correct behaviors at an early age when it comes to nutrition and exercise, why is the concept inapplicable when it concerns damaging sexual cravings and behaviors?
Have you ever watched a movie scene where one actor withheld a helping hand from another whose grip was slipping from the edge of a tower or building? It goes against everything we know to be right and good. We don’t just let somebody fall into a pit of destruction when it’s within our power to help.
First, let me say that Anne Reed is being disingenuous. As a Christian fundamentalist and a political right-winger, Reed doesn’t want the government regulating anything. Well, execpt the “sins” listed in the Bible, then she wants the government to be a terror to evil and an executor of wrath on those who do evil.
Second, being gay is not a choice. Evidently, Reed thinks a person chooses to be gay just like she chooses a bag of potato chips at the local store.
Third, the students eating lunch are CHILDREN and parents, school boards, and government has a vested interest in making sure children eat a nutritious lunch. How a gay has sex is determined by attraction, preference, and desire. Surely Reed knows that heterosexuals have anal and oral sex too? Those engaging in gay sex are consenting teenagers and adults. They are mature enough to make rational sexual choices. Children, with immature minds, would choose to have a lunch of candy bars, Captain Crunch, and ice cream. For a beverage Pepsi wins over milk every time. Since we know many children aren’t ready to make responsible eating choices, adults make the choice for them. Gays do not need help choosing who to have sex with.
Fourth, yes HIV does affect the gay population far more than it does the heterosexual population, But, it DOES affect the heterosexual population, so using Reed’s illogical logic, should heterosexual sex be regulated or forbidden? After all, it would keep heterosexuals from getting HIV.
According to the CDC, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections each year. One out of every 300 Americans is infected with HIV. Compare this to one out of ten Americans having diabetes. It seems to me that Reed should be writing about the diabetes epidemic that is ravaging the Christian church. Perhaps the government should step in and ban church potlucks and ban churches with bus ministries from giving out candy to riders. Think of the children, Anne!!
Fifth, the overwhelming majority of sexually transmitted diseases are contracted by white, Christian heterosexuals. Again, using Reed’s illogical logic, shouldn’t Christianity and heterosexual sex be strictly regulated or forbidden? We know that Evangelical and conservative Christian churches often given the sexually active horrible advice about sex and birth control. Perhaps Baptist youth groups should be banned because of their promotion of “just say no.” Doesn’t “just say no” encourage sexual irresponsibility, resulting in a loss of virginity, STD’s, and unplanned pregnancies?
It took me all of a few hundred words to strip Anne Reed naked and expose the bigotry and hate that lies behind her beliefs. It’s not about public policy or what is best for children. Reed’s God, in an inspired, inerrant, infallible work of fiction, has decreed that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is an abomination. This same God, in the same book, said that homosexuals should be executed. Of course, he also thought adulterers and fornicators should be executed too. Man, that sure would drastically reduce church attendance numbers, wouldn’t it? Imagine God killing every adulterous, fornicating Baptist. Why, I know some IFB churches that would have to close their doors. Their pulpits would certainly be empty if God got all righteous and killed adulterers and fornicators.
Let me end this post with three comments left on Reed’s article by loving, concerned Christians:
“Thanks Anne Reed for a brave attempt at juxtaposing M. Obama’s “Let’s Move” program with the proliferating spread of HIV among, of all things, gay and bisexual men. Hmm…this data from the CDC obviously cannot be examined critically by anyone in the Obama administration because that would be tantamount to exposing the skeletons in homosexuals’ closets. This administration makes the rules, changes the rules as necessary to reap the greatest amount of political gain, and then shushes anyone who challenges the rules.” (Bruce has one comment: So HIV infections started when the Kenyan-born Muslim atheist socialist Obama took office)
“There is also alarming stats that have recently been released on the “transgendered” community with articles such as this: “High HIV burden identified in transgender women,” Baral S. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;13:214-222; Correlates of HIV Infection Among Transfemales, San Francisco, 2010: Results From a Respondent-Driven Sampling Study, American Journal of Public Health, August 2013. There are also mental health issues that can be associated with this lifestyle: Anxiety and Depression in Transgender Individuals: The Roles of Transition Status, Loss, Social Support, and Coping, Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, June 2013.” (Bruce has one comment: Transgender individuals have anxiety and depression? Shock. I wonder why? Looking at you AFA)
“God says that He gives the Homosexual who in the heart and mind reject what is good for what is evil over time giving them over to a reprobate mind to not know the difference since they do not care ! And God gives them a just recompense in the flesh ! Perhaps a memo to their flesh to not mind what is bad nor differentiate that which is bad from what is good as they desired mentally they receive physically as well – Auto – Immune Dificiency Syndrome?” (Bruce has one comment: Sounds to me like HIV and homosexuality is God’s fault. After all, isn’t he the one giving them over to a reprobate mind?)
A Washington couple who died when a large concrete slab fell from a highway overpass onto their pickup truck were youth ministers in their 20s and parents to a 6-month-old baby.
Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died when a concrete barrier fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath an overpass in Bonney Lake, Washington, James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPoint Foursquare Church, said.
“It’s a tragic event,” Ludlow said Tuesday. “In the blink of an eye, inhale and exhale, and they’re in the presence of God.”
Construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the state Route 410 overpass in Bonney Lake, when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell to the roadway below around 10:30 a.m.
“We were just heading down the street … and I could hear three snaps and down it went on top of the truck,” witness Dawn Nelson, who was riding in a car behind the pickup, told KING-TV of Seattle. “There was nothing anyone could do. It was just surreal.”
It was not immediately known what caused the “very heavy” concrete structure to fall. Bonney Lake police, the state Department of Transportation and representatives from contractor WHH Nisqually are investigating.
City spokesman Woody Edvalson said the material that fell was part of the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100.
Bonney Lake is about 30 miles southeast of Seattle.
Flowers, a cross and a teddy bear have been placed near the overpass. Both the span and road underneath reopened. Debris from the concrete slab is still on the ground, however.
Ludlow described the Ellis family as “great people” who were loved by kids in the church’s congregation….
What a tragedy, a poignant reminder of how quickly one’s life can be snuffed out.
“It’s just crazy as a friend. I just can’t wrap my head around it, and that does have to do with how random and how freakish the accident was.”
“It feels unbelievable because a split second on either side the cement slab would have fallen right in front of them and they would have been fine or behind them and they would have been fine. What I do know is that there’s no answer to the logic of it and there’s no answer to the question why.”
“We do know God is good; He’s just so good. He’s going to pull goodness out of this situation somehow, even though right now that just feels illogical. And there’s also comfort knowing that they’re with Jesus and they’re comforted and they’re covered by His grace and power now.”
The One News Now report goes to say “The worship pastor adds they know God is sovereign even when it doesn’t make sense.”
According to Lance and Eastpointe Foursquare Church, the Ellis family was smashed to death because the Christian God decreed it to be so. God is the giver and taker of life and he determined it was time for Ellis’s to die. Not content to quietly kill them in their sleep, he dropped a concrete barrier weighing thousands of pounds on top of them as they drove near an overpass. What should we say about a God who behaves in such a horrific manner?
Lance, seeking for answers as to WHY God killed his friends, believes that the sovereign God he loves and worships only does good and he will surely use this tragedy for a greater purpose. What Godly purpose requires the sacrifice of a young father, mother, and their child? How is this any different from the Aztec Indians sacrificing humans to their God?
Lance’s comments betray the mental and emotional battle that rages in his mind. He wants to believe God is sovereign, God is love, God only does good, yet his dear friends are dead. In the aforementioned article, Lance stated that the accident “just feels illogical.” When viewed in a religious context, he is right. How can someone say God is love and God only does good, knowing that the death of the Ellis’s is anything but loving and good? I am sure that cognitive dissonance afflicts many of those trying to make sense of this tragedy.
As a humanist, I don’t think the accident was illogical. The Ellis family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Such things happen every day in every country of the world. 13 years ago, a Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and three young children, were driving along an Indiana road when a tree toppled over smashing their car. The father, mother, and two children were killed. Baptist Press reported:
A small-town Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and two small children were killed Jan. 1 when a dead tree fell on top of their car, crushing the passenger compartment.
Stanley Paul Jones, 46, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland, was killed along with his wife, Beth Ann Hobbs Jones, 39, and two of their children, Lauren, 6, and Tyler, 10.
Another daughter, Emily, 4, survived and was listed in fair condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital.
There appeared to have been no wind or other circumstances that caused the tree to fall just as Jones’ car was passing underneath on the two-lane road.
How do you explain the deaths that came a few hours into the new year?
Jones was westbound on Hancock County Road 100 South, approaching the intersection with County Road 200 West, about seven miles east of the church he served. There are woods in the area. A dead tree, said to have been 5 feet in diameter, fell just as Jones’ vehicle was passing underneath, according to Hancock County deputies.
“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tragedy,” said William Smith of Cumberland Christian Church, who knew Jones and helped his church. “There’s no explanation for it, but we believe that an all-knowing God is in control of everything.”…
There’s that sovereign God again, the God who is all-knowing and controls everything. Again, like the Ellis family, the Jones family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. But, in both cases, there are humans who are culpable for what happened. While the concrete barrier falling was an accident, someone was operating the machinery that resulted in the fall. Same goes for the Jones family. The dead tree that killed them was on someone’s property. They likely knew it was dead and could topple over, yet they did nothing about it. The state of Indiana is also culpable. It is their responsibility to make sure that trees along the right-of-way are sound. If they are not, they should be removed lest they topple over and hit a passerby.
Rare is the circumstance where no culpability can be found. I have had several near brushes with death, and in every instance a human was to blame. We recognize that we live in a danger-filled world, where living to old age is as much about luck as it is genetics. For the Ellis and Jones families, their luck ran out and three children and four adults died.
Imagine these families tooling down the road without a care in the world. Maybe they were like Polly and I years ago. We’d spend hours in the car singing hymns and praise and worship songs. Sometimes, we sang along with a cassette tape or a CD. Just praising Jesus, worshiping the wonderful, loving God of the universe. And then, BAM, the sovereign God of Christianity drops a cement barrier or a tree on top of the car. What kind of God behaves like this? Perhaps Christians need to tell God to please leave them alone; that they are fine without his love, care, and protection.
The Ellis family, according to Shane Lance, is in the presence of Jesus. Theoretically, isn’t this what many Christians live for? Whether by rapture or death, the Christian is free from the world controlled by the prince and power of the air, Satan. Life is little more than preparation for heaven. The Bible says, prepare to meet the Lord thy God. Since the present life is transitory and fleeting, the Christian focuses on laying up treasures in heaven. Testimonies are given, expressing the desire to absent from the body and present with the Lord. If heaven and being in the presence of Jesus is the end game, shouldn’t Christians rejoice upon hearing the stories mentioned in this post? Why all the sadness, grief, and despair? Perhaps, even the Christian has their doubts about what lies beyond the grave. They know what the Bible says, what their pastor says, and what their “heart” tells them, but reality tells them something far different.
I am not certain whether the atheistic/humanistic way of looking at tragedies and death is better, but it is brutally honest. I fully understand the appeal of religion in times of tragedy. People want to desperately believe that their life matters, both now and beyond the grave. While there is no rational proof for such claims, faith allows the believer to set reason aside and cling to hope. The atheist and the humanist must embrace life as it is. Sometimes, life can be harsh and ugly, as in the case of the Ellis family. No thoughtful atheist would ever wish such a tragedy on anyone, but we know that things like this do happen and they may some day happen to us.
Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted for their faith. ISIS has slaughtered thousands of Christians and Muslims, all because they had the wrong religious belief. Shameless Evangelical preachers and right-wing politicians have used these killings as an opportunity to provoke fear in their followers. These preachers of fear live in a delusional world where being required to bake a cake for a gay couple is the equivalent of having your head lopped off by ISIS. American Evangelical Christians have a persecution complex, stoked by horror stories about the atheist, secularist, humanistic, socialist horde taking over THEIR country. (please see The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right, Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance County, Ohio and Is President Obama Anti- Christian?) With great mockery and ridicule, I laugh at American Christians who think they are being persecuted. Those who promote such things deserve the disdain dished out to them by both the religious and non-religious.
That said, the beheading of Christians in the Middle East has American Christians asking if they would be willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ. Billy Watkins, a Christian and a writer for The Clarion-Ledger had this to say:
I can’t explain why.
Perhaps it doesn’t require an explanation.
But as the calendar quickly moved toward today — Easter Sunday — the more an image flashed in my mind: 20 Egyptian Christians and one other man, forced to their knees on a Mediterranean beach by members of ISIS on Feb. 15 and asked one by one if they believed in Jesus Christ.
Each answered yes, knowing the consequences.
All 21 were beheaded….
…It made me look inside myself, perhaps deeper than I’ve ever looked before.
It made me face the question: If I were in a similar situation, would I have the faith and the courage to look the ISIS cowards in the eye and say, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”
Knowing those would be the last words I ever said. Knowing the torture I was about to experience. Knowing my family and friends would grieve over my death. Knowing this life, which I can only comprehend as a struggling human, would end.
I would like to say yes, I would have the strength.
But do any of us really know until we are put in that situation?
To help me have some comparison for my struggle with this, I reached out to eight friends.
I asked them how they pictured themselves answering that question with a knife to their throats.
Some answered by email, others by Facebook message. Each provided food for thought. And I must commend them for digging deep inside their souls to help provide their answers.
•One of the first I received: “This is very hard. I have tears. No, I am crying … I want to scream yes to those butchers. I believe in Jesus Christ!!!! But when I think of never seeing my husband, my family, my grandchildren, my grandchildren to come, I have to pause. More tears … ”
•Friend No. 2 wrote, “I believe each Christian would always be ready to say, ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.’ However, after watching two beheadings on YouTube, it gave me pause for thought. How could I possibly endure torture and a painful, slow death for my beliefs? My next thought was, ‘But that’s what Jesus did for me. Would he expect any less of me?’ ”
•Friend No. 3: “There is a peace I believe God gives you in that situation. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, twice, to let this cup pass from his wrath … I might say the same prayer, but in the end I would submit to God’s plan.”
•Friend No. 4: “This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. Under the circumstances, I cannot imagine what I would do … it is always easier to sit in your living room and be convinced of your own virtues under the proposed circumstance. I also know I can rationalize decisions and I can waffle between what I want I know to be true … I could see this part of me rationalizing that it’s more important for me to live for any or all of the following …” My friend named his wife, children, extended family and church.
“I have so much to live for that lying to people who want to kill me is easily excused … (But) the scenario you describe is no time for rationalizing. It is a test … I hope I would get it … I want to be counted among those who would forgo this life for the better eternity to come.”
“Last point,” he wrote. “Hearing about the death of these 21 men has mattered to me — and not for the reason the killers wanted. It encourages me to live a life worthy of my calling. They died for Christ. May I at least live for him?”
•Friend No. 5 wrote, “In facing a gruesome, wicked, evil death, my faith would still be in God. I hope and trust that such a painful ordeal would be ultimately redeemed and used by God for his purposes. Therefore, such a death is not in vain.”
•Friend No. 6 was equally sure of his answer: “Faith is all you have left in that situation. To reject your faith would leave you with nothing — even if you lived. I can say unequivocally I would not reject my belief in Christ. If I did, I would be dead even though I lived. The other thing I know is that I would not die passively. I would fight with all my being. I would not let them dictate the terms of my death.”
•Friend No. 7: “When you reach the most terrifyingly vulnerable moment of your life, you’re stripped to nothing but the things no can take away … the core beliefs that have driven every decision you’ve ever made. Ultimately, I would rather die outwardly professing my faith, with my death serving as a testament to those beliefs …
“But then I think of my child, of helping teach him those beliefs … If being a coward and lying to save my life means I’ll have the opportunity to raise a Godly man, so be it … Maybe this isn’t the right answer. But doing the right thing often means forgoing interests of the present so you can protect interests of the future.”
•Friend No. 8: “Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote, ‘And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?’
“This world doesn’t afford many civilians the chance to die well for something that matters … it sounds cavalier, but I would be humbled and honored to be put in a situation where I had to choose between my life and the one thing that means most to me — my faith in Jesus Christ … I have a passion for this world, and ultimately the honestly amazing and blessed life that I’ve been given.
“I believe if he brings us to that place of choice, he gives us the grace to handle it if we remember that he is the ultimate source of everything … it’s not the end, it’s the beginning … let me go how he would take me, and let his will be done.”
This is what I believe: If I were put in that situation, I believe Jesus Christ would bathe me with a peace beyond human comprehension…
Those of us who were once Christians have asked the questions that Billy Watkins asks in his article. If it came to it, would we have been willing to die for Christ? Having grown up in a religious culture where persecution was touted as a sure sign of one’s faith, I had moments when I questioned whether I would stand up for Christ no matter what happened. Preaching on the street brought me into contact with people who wanted to do me bodily harm. One man deliberately aimed his truck at me, hoping to run me over. Over the corner curb he came, hoping to silence the Baptist street preacher. Fortunately, he missed.
In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist IFB) church, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is required reading. Written in 1563 by John Foxe, the book is “a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland.” The first edition of the book was titled “Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church.”
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is often used to prove that true Christians have always been persecuted for their faith. If the book was made into a movie, many modern-day Evangelicals would refuse to watch it due its violence and gore.
“After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”
These days, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is not widely read outside of Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Amish, and Mennonite circles. Part of the reason for this is because John Foxe’s credibility has been called into question. Wikipedia states:
The author’s credibility was challenged as soon as the book first appeared. Detractors accused Foxe of dealing falsely with the evidence, of misusing documents, and of telling partial truths. In every case that he could clarify, Foxe corrected errors in the second edition and third and fourth, final version (for him). In the early nineteenth century the charges were taken up again by a number of authors, most importantly Samuel Roffey Maitland. Subsequently Foxe was considered a poor historian, in mainstream reference works. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica accused Foxe of “wilful falsification of evidence”; two years later in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Francis Fortescue Urquhart wrote of the value of the documentary content and eyewitness reports, but claimed that Foxe “sometimes dishonestly mutilates his documents and is quite untrustworthy in his treatment of evidence”.
In contrast, J. F. Mozley maintained that Foxe preserved a high standard of honesty, arguing that Foxe’s method of using his sources “proclaims the honest man, the sincere seeker after truth.”The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Foxe’s work is “factually detailed and preserves much firsthand material on the English Reformation unobtainable elsewhere.” It was typical, however, in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries to treat Foxe’s text as “not to be trusted….If not the father of lies, Foxe was thought to be the master of inventions, and so readers of the Encyclopedia [sic] Britannica were advised and warned.”
Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others. He compiled an English martyrology from the period of the Lollards through to the persecution of Protestants by Mary I. Here Foxe had primary sources to draw on: episcopal registers, reports of trials, and the testimony of eyewitnesses. In the work of collection Foxe had Henry Bull as collaborator. The account of the Marian years is based on Robert Crowley’s 1559 extension of a 1549 chronicle history by Thomas Cooper, itself an extension of a work begun by Thomas Lanuet. Cooper (who became a Church of England Bishop) strongly objected to Crowley’s version of his history and soon issued two new “correct” editions. John Bale set Foxe onto martyrological writings and contributed to a substantial part of Foxe’s ideas as well as printed material.
Foxe’s book is in no sense an impartial account of the period. He did not hold to later centuries’ notions of neutrality or objectivity, but made unambiguous side glosses on his text, such as “Mark the apish pageants of these popelings” and “This answer smelleth of forging and crafty packing.” David Loades has suggested that Foxe’s history of the political situation, at least, is ‘remarkably objective’. He makes no attempt to make martyrs out of Wyatt and his followers, or anyone else who was executed for treason, except George Eagles, whom he describes as falsely accused.”
Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography, called Foxe “a passionate advocate, ready to accept any primâ facie evidence”. Lee also listed some specific errors and suggested that John Foxe plagiarized. Thomas S. Freeman observes that, like a hypothetical barrister, Foxe had to deal with the evidence of what actually happened, evidence that he was rarely in a position to forge. But he would not present facts damaging to his client, and he had the skills that enabled him to arrange the evidence so as to make it conform to what he wanted it to say. Like the barrister, Foxe presents crucial evidence and tells a side of the story which must be heard, but his text should never be read uncritically, and his partisan objectives should always be kept in mind.”
By the end of the 17th century, however, the work tended to be abbreviated to include only ‘the most sensational episodes of torture and death’ thus giving to Foxe’s work ‘a lurid quality which was certainly far from the author’s intention’…
…Acts and Monuments was cannibalized for material to warn of the dangers of Papistry and, in Foxe’s name, also to undermine resurgent High Church Anglicanism. The author’s credibility and the text’s reliability became suspect, then, for both Catholic and Anglican Church defenders. Samuel Roffey Maitland, Richard Frederick Littledale as well as Robert Parsons and John Milner, mounted campaigns to disprove Foxe’s findings. Maitland’s and others’ critiques helped to awaken increasing antagonism toward intolerance in the public conscience.Combined with professionalized academic dissociation, left no voices to speak in Foxe’s defence, and reduced Foxe’s historical credibility such that “no one with any literary pretensions…ventured to quote Foxe as an authority.”John Milner, defender of the “old religion” (Catholicism), authored several tracts, pamphlets, essays, and Letters to the Editor: “Dear Sir…”; using all public means available to him for declaring that abuse of Englishmen was occurring “frequently”, ipso edem, the defamation and harassment of Catholics in England – a treatment not similarly visited on Sectarian communities or the Quakers.
Milner’s life project to discredit ‘Foxe’ was polemical—that was the point of arguing: to persuade people to see things as the speaker constructed or, at least, to seeing some merit to his case. Before the Houses of Parliament in the years of Milner’s and others activism, were bills for relieving English Catholics of tax penalties (for being Catholic), having to tithe to the Anglican Church, and relief from imposition of the Oath that stood between any Catholic and a government position.
…While Moss admits that Christians were persecuted on and off throughout the first 300 years of church history, she thoroughly debunks the claim that Christians were always persecuted. In fact, many of the instances of persecution were actually prosecutions…
…Throughout the book, Moss details how many of the source documents for the stories about Christian martyrs were embellished, and, at times, fabricated out of thin air. Even some the saints revered by the Catholic church have histories that call into question their authenticity. I was quite surprised and delighted that Moss, a professor at a Catholic university, did not shy away from the controversies surrounding the mythic stories of the Catholic church.
Moss also details how some of the ancient martyr stories were actually borrowed from other cultures and religious traditions. There were times when I thought Moss was stretching these connections a bit, but I found the chapter, Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Traditions, to be quite fascinating…
While Billy Watkins ponders whether he would be willing to lay his neck on the line for Jesus, I want to ponder the notion of a God who asks his followers to die for him. While most of us can readily understand dying for the sake of family or trying to help our fellow man, what are we make of a religion and a God that puts great value on dying for one’s faith? While Christians will likely say that their martyrdom allows them to give a final testimony to God ‘s love and grace, I do wonder about a God who could save someone from having their head chopped off and does nothing. What would we think of a man who stood by while his wife or children were violently attacked and killed? Dying for one’s family is recognized by all to be a heroic act. But, dying a religious belief? Wouldn’t be better to lie and live than to tell the truth and die? Unlike the Muslim, the Christian martyr receives no special reward for dying. Why die when you can live?
At the heart of this discussion is the way Christians are conditioned to accept martyrdom. Church members are regaled with stories of Christians dying for their faith. Pastors preach inspiring sermons about the martyrdom stories in the Bible, complete with modern-day illustrations of Christians dying for their faith. Christians are reminded of the greatest martyr of all time, Jesus. If Jesus willingly died for us, shouldn’t we be willing to die for him, says the local Baptist preacher. And all God’s people said, AMEN!
I wonder if these stories would be enthusiastically believed if church members found out many of them are a lie or half-truth? Pastors remind their flock that a True Christian® must be willing to die for their faith. These pro-martyrdom pastors subtly suggest that a person who cowers when faced with martyrdom should not expect forgiveness or a home in heaven when they die. God is the giver of life and death, and if he wants to have the Christian’s head lopped off, dare anyone object? The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has a right to do whatever he wants with the Christian’s life:
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Romans 9:20,21
Well, I object. There is no religious belief worth dying for. I question what kind of God would do such a thing to someone he calls his child? I know I would do everything in my power to keep my wife, children, and grandchildren from being harmed, even if it meant losing my own life. It seems quite perverse to me for a God or a religion to ask or demand someone’s death just so the world could see their faith. Wouldn’t LIVING by faith be a better testimony than DYING for faith?
What I have written here should not be taken as a dismissal of the persecution many Middle Eastern Christians face on a daily basis. I abhor all such killing and fully support the United States effort to put an end to such needless bloodshed. The goal should be for everyone, regardless of belief, to worship freely without the threat of harm or death. The children of Abraham: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, have histories soaked in the blood of their followers. Perhaps it is time for them to quit trying to subjugate one another. Perhaps it is time to put an end to jihads, crusades, and holy wars. 2,000 years of bloodshed lead me to believe that there must be a better way. Perhaps it is time for peaceful co-existence, leaving it to God to settle matters after death.
As an atheist, it greatly troubles me to see someone give their life for a religious belief. Knowing that the God they are dying for doesn’t exist, it pains me to see them sacrifice everything for nothing. We should weep when we see the young offered up to God as sweet-smelling sacrifice. Is such a God worthy of worship? I think not. Life is worth living, even if it means, in the moment, lying about one’s faith. Christians need to reorder their importance list, moving God down the list behind family. If death comes in protection of one’s loved ones, so be it. But to die for a religious belief, to satisfy the blood lust of the Christian God? Can we even fathom such an abhorrent demand? I know I can’t.
But Bruce, you are not a Christian. How dare you tell Christians what should be important to them! I am not doing so. I am asking them to question their belief in a God who demands his followers be willing to die for him. I am asking them to reconsider what it is that is most important to them. If the Christian is still willing to die for their faith, fine. But, they should not expect me to rejoice over their death or understand their motives.
Religious schools are as old as religion itself, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping the “God” in education(g). But when college students are sent to live at a Christian school where their every move is monitored, well, there is a certain potential for things to get weird. Pensacola Christian College, for instance, has come under fire for what has been described as a cult-like atmosphere, along with the little matter of not having any accreditation at all.
We spoke to one former student who we’ll call “Lilith.” She attended PCC and told us…
…The most traumatic event in Lilith’s tenure at Pensacola Christian College occurred in the spring of her freshman year. She and her boyfriend had sneaked away to enjoy a rare moment of nuzzles, because no physical touching was allowed between genders at all. Well, someone must have seen them in this obscene act of awkward adolescent pecking, because shortly thereafter …
“I received a call slip in my mailbox ordering me to the dean’s office,” she says. “I remember that it was really weird, because it came on a Sunday.” When she got there, she found a waiting room full of other fallen women. “When I was called into the office,” she says, “the dean and one of her assistants were waiting. ‘How are you?’ they asked. ‘How are you feeling?'” She told them she felt fine, and they cut right to the chase. “We’re concerned about your health. We’re concerned you might be pregnant.”
That seemed unlikely to Lilith, a currently menstruating virgin. “They told me ‘People said you’ve been feeling sick and vomiting in trash cans,'” which was only slightly less confusing, because she had never been that sick the whole time she had been at school. When she explained all of these things, they asked “Would you be OK with taking a pregnancy test to prove your innocence?” That’s verbatim what they said, as if pregnancy was a crime.
Lilith had a feeling that not being OK with it wouldn’t be OK, so after five hours of being called in and out and asked all kinds of questions presumably with a flashlight in her face, she was marched down to a bathroom to take the (obviously negative) test. This was during a busy time of day, when there were tons of students in the halls, all watching her being trotted out to take her pee of shame…
…Let’s go back to the school’s spontaneous pregnancy check for a moment. “What makes me the most upset is that no one ever talked to my boyfriend,” she says. “He was completely blameless not just in their eyes, but in the eyes of the whole school. It was the entire culture.” Women were blamed for everything, even for (as Lilith later found out) being raped. That link is to an account by former student Samantha Field, who was sexually assaulted and then told later that she needed to repent.
But the double standard for men and women wasn’t just an unspoken part of the culture — it was overtly stated in the rules. For instance, women were flat-out not allowed to work certain jobs on campus. This wasn’t some abstract wage gap situation, involving invisible forces like social pressure and hiring managers who quietly shuffled her application to the bottom of the pile. They took female applications for landscaping or security jobs and politely handed it right back to them. (A woman? Using hedge clippers? Just as in the final days of Sodom!)
And please note that if she wasn’t happy with her on-campus job prospects, she couldn’t just go out and apply to be waitress. Only men were allowed to work off-campus, which sucked because the pay and hours were usually a lot better. Women could only work approved (usually unpaid) internships, which didn’t do much for their pantyhose fund, so they were forced to choose from the slim on-campus offerings.
Even in the seemingly gender-neutral field of broadcasting, which is what Lilith majored in, male genitalia was required just to announce the college basketball games. “I asked and asked and asked, ‘Why can’t a girl do this?’ and they just said, ‘They just won’t let you.'”…
More than a few of the readers of this blog are former Pensacola Christian College (PCC) students. Polly and I have family members who attended PCC and some of them are still closely connected to the College. I have no doubt that the aforementioned story is factual. I’ve had numerous private discussions with former PCC students. Their stories bear witness to the truthfulness of “Lilith’s” story.
HT: Richard Marlowe for making me aware of this article
I just don’t understand how you could just decide you don’t believe any longer. I as you know am a Christian and I could never or would never lose my faith in God, but if I did I would like to think that it would be some type of horrible thing that happened to me to cause me to lose my faith in God. I am not judging you I am just curious as to what happened to cause you to question and then lose your faith. You were such a good preacher, I learned so much from you I just don’t understand what happened. Please help me to understand.
I am quite sympathetic to those who once called me pastor/preacher. I know my deconversion causes them great pain as they attempt to reconcile the man of God they once knew with the atheist I am today. In some cases, the pain and cognitive dissonance is so great that they can’t bear to write or talk to me. One former pastor friend, Bill Beard, told me that I should keep my deconversion story to myself lest I cause others to lose their faith. (Please read Dear Friend.)
I try to put myself in the former parishioners’ shoes. They listened to me preach, interacted with me on a personal level, and considered me a godly man. Perhaps I won them to Christ or baptized them or helped them through some crisis in their life. Maybe I performed their wedding or preached the funeral of their spouse or child. My life is intertwined with theirs, yet here I stand today, publicly renouncing all I once believed to be true; an atheist, an enemy of God. How is this possible, the former parishioner asks?
The email writer asks if some horrible thing happened to cause me to lose my faith. The short answer is no. Seven years removed from deconverting and eleven years since I preached my last sermon, I can now see that there were many factors that led me to where I am today. As with all life-changing decisions, the reasons are many. I could point to my disenchantment over the deadness, shallowness, and the emptiness of Evangelicalism, I could point to my loss of health and the poverty wages I earned pastoring churches. I could point to how fellow pastors and parishioners treated me when I left the ministry and later began to question my faith. (Please read Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) I could point to my knowledge of lying, cheating, adulterous pastors. I could point to my anger towards those who readily abandoned me when I had doubts about the veracity of Christianity. I could point to the 100+ churches we visited as we desperately tried to find a church that took seriously the teaching of Jesus. (Please read But Our Church is Different.) I could point to the viciousness of professing Christians, people like my grandparents who put on a good front but were judgmental and hateful towards my family and me. (Please read Dear Ann.) I could point to my bitter experience with Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas. (Please read I Am a Publican and a Heathen.) All of these things played a part in my deconversion, but the sum of them would not have been enough to cause me to walk away from Christianity.
Last year, I wrote a post titled Why I Stopped Believing. I think an excerpt from this post will prove helpful in answering the question of why I no longer believe:
Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. I always made more money working outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did five years before I deconverted, I suffered no economic consequences.
I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright, Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical belief in the inerrant, inspired word of God. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.
I tried for a time to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.
(I make a few shekels if you click on the above links and buy the books)
I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. I say this to keep someone from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______, So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS. My thirst for knowledge – a thirst I still have today, even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain – is what drove me to reinvestigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible. This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang on to some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe. (See Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and Dear Friend.)
The hardest decision I ever made in my life was that day in late November of 2008 when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life believing and doing was gone. In a sense, I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past six years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological implications continues to grow. Now that I am unshackled from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with various Christian/atheist/humanist blogs and publications, and this is enough to keep me up to date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.
If I had to sum up in two sentences why I no longer believe I would say this:
I no longer believe the Bible is an inspired, infallible, inerrant, God-given text. I no longer believe as true the central claims of Christianity; that Jesus is the son of God, who came to earth to die for our sin, resurrected from the dead three days later, and will some day return to earth to judge the living and the dead.
The email writer comes from a Baptist background. A conundrum for her is to theologically square my past with the present. There is no doubt that I was a Christian for 50 years. I was a devoted, sincere, committed follower of Jesus. I preached to thousands of people during the 25 years I spent in the ministry. Not one parishioner or colleague in the ministry ever doubted that I was a Christian. I was far from perfect, but I was, in every way, a believer.
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987
Those who say I never was a Christian make a judgment based on their theology and not by how I lived my life for 50 years. Baptists must do this because they believe that a person, once saved, cannot fall from grace. The doctrine of eternal security/once – saved- always – saved/perseverance of the saints requires them to conclude I am still a Christian or I never was. The few former parishioners and colleagues in the ministry who are Arminian in belief have no problem explaining my trajectory from Evangelicalism to atheism. I once was saved and I fell from grace.
Here’s what I know: I once was a Christian and now I am not. For those who once called me pastor/preacher, they should know that when I was their shepherd I was a Christian. What good I did and what benefits my ministry brought them came from the heart of a man who was a devoted follower of Jesus. Those experiences, at the time, were real. While I have written extensively on how I explain my past and the experiences I had, former parishioners should content themselves with knowing that I loved and cared for them. While I had many shortcomings, my desire was always to help others. This desire still motivates me today.
Like the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading for the Promised Land, so it is, for me. My Promised Land is atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. While I will always have great fondness for many of the people I once pastored, I am not returning to Egypt, the house of bondage. Christianity and the ministry are a distant sight in my rear view mirror. While I will always appreciate the love and approbation of the people I once pastored, I am not willing to “repent” of atheistic beliefs. My mind is settled on the nature of the Bible and the claims of Christianity. I fully recognize that billions of people find value, meaning, and purpose in religion, but I do not.
I have no desire to cause believers to lose their faith. I am just one man with a story to tell. Over the past seven years, I have not even once tried to “evangelize” believers in the hope that they will lose their faith and embrace atheism. Yes, I do write about Evangelicalism and atheism, but people are free to read or not read what I write. If they have doubts about Christianity or have recently left Christianity, then my writing is likely to be of some help to them. If they write me asking questions or asking for help, I do my best to answer their questions and help them in any way I can. Over the years, hundreds of such people have written me. Have some of them deconverted? Yes. But, deconversion has never been my goal. Instead, I view myself as a facilitator, one who helps people on their journey. It’s their life, their journey, and I am just a sign post along the crooked road of life.
Former parishioners need to understand that Bruce and Polly Gerencser are the same people they have always been, except for the Christian part. We are kind, decent, loving people. We love our children and our grandchildren. We strive to get along with our neighbors and be a good influence in the community. We are now what we were then: good people.
Several weeks ago, a Christian fundamentalist by the name of Matt stopped by this blog to let me know what God and Matt thought about me. After a week of comments, I finally banned Matt. You can read his comments here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. After I banned Matt, he wandered over to the Quakers and Jesus: A Spiriruality of Love, the blog of my Australian friend John Arthur.
Watching John and Matt go back and forth has been quite entertaining. I’ve learned John is far more patient than I am and Matt is an intractable fundamentalist who is certain he is absolutely right. (please read The Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists) In all the discussion on this site and John’s, Matt has not changed or moderated his viewpoint. He is certain he is right. Why? Because he can read the Bible for himself. He has no needs of books, because he has THE book.
Most of Matt’s comments can be found on a post titled Is Your Religion Kindness? While there are any number of comments that I could respond to, I want to focus on one comment Matt left today:
The wrathful God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament is a false dichotomy. The love of God is the central feature of both. The story of the entire Bible is a story of grace. It is a concept foreign to every other religious worldview, but central to christianity.
First, Matt lets it be known that there is one true religion, his. Now we don’t know for sure what that religion is because Matt refuses to say. My money is on Baptist or Church of Christ.
Second, Matt believes that the love of God is the central theme of both the Old and New Testament. This line of argument is often used in an attempt to negate the charge that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. According to Matt, there is one God, a God of love and grace. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, the Bible is one long, sweet, and enduring love story. However, such a view is based on either a selective reading of the Bible or an attempt to make the Bible fit the love/grace paradigm. As I will clearly show, not only is the God of the Bible not a God of love and grace, he is actually a vindictive, temperamental, genocidal, son of a bitch. (John’s view is to reject the Old Testament God and embrace the Jesus of the New Testament)
One the reasons people deconvert is their inability to reconcile the Old Testament God with the Jesus of the New Testament. While Jesus is certainly a much improved God, particularly if one sticks to the gospels or the sermon on the mount, Jesus reverts to the God of the Old Testament in the book of Revelation. Revelation is 17 chapters of God/Jesus opening can after can of whoop ass and pouring it out on the earth. The slaughter and violence of God/Jesus far exceeds anything humanity, animals, and the earth has ever experienced. Billions of people will be killed, their only sin being the worship of the wrong God. Even the Jews, Jesus’s people, will face slaughter. Only those saved during the tribulation and subsequently martyred will escape the Lake of Fire.
Here’s a few of the things God/Jesus promises to do come the end of the world:
1/4 of the inhabitants of earth will die of starvation
Hail and fire mingled with blood will fall on the earth
1/3 of the trees will be destroyed
All the green grass will be destroyed
1/3 of the seas will turn to blood
1/3 of the ships will be destroyed
1/3 of marine life will be destroyed
1/3 of the waters will be made undrinkable
1/3 of the sun, moon, and stars will be darkened
Locusts that sting like a scorpion will sting earth’s inhabitants
1/3 part of earth’s inhabitants will be killed by smoke, fire, and brimstone
Seas will be turned to blood and all marine life will die
Heat will scorch earth’s inhabitants
Earth’s inhabitants will be afflicted with painful sores
Islands and mountains will collapse
Large hail will fall on the earth
Everyone left?They will be slaughtered when Jesus returns to earth
I complied this list by briefly scanning the book of Revelation. There are many more things I could have added, but this list should suffice to prove that the God of “love” in the New Testament reverts to his Old Testament ways, killing everyone who does not worship him.
In the Old Testament, even a primary age Sunday school student could prove false the notion that the God of the Old Testament is a God of love and grace. The 39 books of the Old Testament are a testament to the genocidal rage and violence of the Judeo-Christian God. One need only read Genesis 6-8, Noah’s Ark and the Flood, to see how God responds to those who get on his bad side. God drowns millions of men, women, children, infants, and unborn babies, saving only Noah and his family. Where is God’s love and grace in this story? This is an ancient version of the modern airliner crash, 250 killed, 1 survived, story. Christians focus on the miracle of the one survivor, ignoring the fact that God killed 250 people.
God continued his murderous ways when he slaughtered everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah, save Lot and his family. Then in the book of Exodus, we find God killing all the firstborn sons in Egypt. Only those whose had animal blood applied to their doorposts escaped God’s killing spree. When Israel left Egypt, headed for the Promised Land, God commanded them to kill almost everyone who stood in their way. God especially had it out for the Canaanites, ordering the Israelites to kill them whenever they encountered them.
Shall I go on? If you want to read more about God the serial killer’s handiwork, please read Top 20 Evil Bible Stories by Luke Muehlhauser.
There is no possible way for a rational person to maintain that the Old Testament God is a God of love and grace. I know every argument used by Evangelicals in an attempt to make their God look good. All of them fail miserably. The God of the Old Testament, if he were human, would be sitting on death row awaiting execution for murder and genocide. If he were human, none of us would want him as a family member or friend.
The dichotomy between the Old Testament and New Testament Gods is one of the reasons I deconverted. I suspect the same could be said for many atheists and agnostics. If being a Christian requires embracing, accepting, and loving the God of the Old Testament, no thanks! I have often wondered whether the Christian church rues the day they decided to make the Old Testament part of the canon of Scripture. Imagine how simpler Christianity would be to defend if the Old Testament was tossed into the dustbin of human history. But, the Old Testament is a part of the canon, and Evangelicals are left with the task of defending their psychopath Father. Good luck with that.
Imagine a person having no exposure to Christianity one day stumbling upon a book called the Old Testament. Would this person, by only reading this book, come to the same conclusions as Evangelicals? Would they find the Christian God of love and grace? That a rhetorical,question, BTW.
Hey Girlfriend, when you feel tempted to hug your boyfriend, hug your dad, brother, sister, or an old lady in the church. Nothing quenches sexual desire like hugging a male family member or ancient Sister Bertha, right?
Apparently I’m not the only one who has wondered how God can satisfy when all I want is a pair of strong arms to hold me close. Here’s what Rebecca wrote me:
“The biggest thing I think my crush can give me that God can’t is his strong arms wrapped around me. Although my crush has yet to hold me in his arms, his physical closeness sends shivers throughout my body. I know that God is always there for me . . . but sometimes my feelings get the better of me, and all I want to do is be wrapped up in my crush’s arms and attention.”
“I think what always gets me is that God isn’t physically there like a guy is. He can’t wrap his arms around me. Sometimes I just want that.”
And finally, Isabella said:
“I have often thought, I wish God could come down here and give me a big bear hug. Then I would really be in love with Him.”
But here’s the thing . . . He has come down! And while He was here, He picked up kids and cradled them in His arms. (You have to admit, that shows a tender heart—few guys walk around doing the same thing!)
I know He’s not physically here now…But one day soon, we will see Him. We will be with Him.
When Christ comes again to “marry” the Church, His Bride, He will likely hold us too…
…Now that is something to look forward to! Jesus Christ is not an idea; He is a Person. A Divine Person with arms and legs and beautiful probing eyes. He loves you. Enough to spread His arms wide in order to bleed so you might be healed. And if you have put your trust in His death and resurrection on your behalf, you will soon see and know Him fully.
So in the meantime, as you wait for Him, by all means, hug! No, not your crush. Hug your dad. Hug your mom. Hug your brothers and sisters. Hug your friends. Hug those old ladies at church…
I wonder if Hendricks has heard about the Christian side hug, a type of hug sexually aware young people can give one another without causing lust?
The Christian side hug is a means by which young Christians can show affection for each other without engaging in possibly tempting and impure front-to-front contact.
Instead of hugging face-to-face, the huggers stand side-by-side, and can be facing either the same way or in opposite directions. Unlike frontal hugging, side hugs minimize the risk of an eternal damnation which could result from possible incidental contact with a boob or penis of somebody to whom one is not married.
For extra affection, the side hug may be accompanied by a few non-contact blessing pats. If even the side hug is too intense, you can work up to it coyly with this elaborate sequence of gestures. There’s even a Christian side hug rap, which attracted the attention of The Young Turks. The degree of parody and satire intended in the rap version is unknown, but that doesn’t make it any better.
Recently, I wrote about the Six Inch Rule, a regulation used at the college Polly and I attended to keep young adults from touching one another. It proved to be a dismal failure. I don’t know of one couple who lived in the Midwestern Baptist College dorm when Polly and I did that didn’t violate the spirit and the letter of the six-inch rule. Something tells me, oh like common sense, that teenagers and young adults are still failing at keep the touching prohibitions of Evangelical moralizers like Paula Hendricks. Why, you ask? Simple. We are sexual beings and we desire physical, intimate contact with others. All the Jesus in the world won’t quench sexual desire. When it comes to choosing between sexual intimacy and Jesus, my money is on sexual intimacy.
What makes writers like Paula Hendricks so harmful is that they encourage teen girls and young women to act against their nature. They encourage them to repress their sexual desires. Sadly, when these girls later marry, they often bring a warped view of physical intimacy and sex into the marriage. (and men can do the same) Marriage is tough enough without starting life with sexual dysfunction. Instead of teaching teenagers and young adults to repress their sexual desires, they should be encouraged to responsibly act on their desires, starting with a hug or a kiss. If there is more to the relationship, then they can determine where to go from there.
Contrary to Paula Hendricks’s horrible advice, hugging is not a gateway to sexual intercourse. Teenagers and young adults can sexually experiment without having intercourse. And if they decide to slide into home base, the best advice to give them is on how to be sexually responsible and use birth control. Of course, this advice must be given to them BEFORE they are rounding third and heading for home. In fact, before they even get to first base, wouldn’t it be better to prepare teenagers and young women for their sexual future?
Steven Anderson pastors an Faithful Word Baptist Church, an IFB church in Tempe, Arizona. The Anderson’s have added one more child since this photograph was taken.
Steven Anderson is the pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Tempe, Arizona. Anderson’s bio states:
Pastor Steven Anderson was born and raised in Sacramento, CA. At age 18, he travelled throughout Germany and Eastern Europe for 3 months serving in local independent Baptist churches, studying foreign languages, and getting experience in the ministry. It was on this trip that he met his future wife, Zsuzsanna, while out soul-winning in the streets of Munich, Bavaria. He eventually lead her to the Lord, and they were married shortly thereafter. They have been married for over 13 years, and God has blessed them with 7 beautiful children.
Pastor Anderson started Faithful Word Baptist Church on December 25, 2005. He holds no college degree but has well over 140 chapters of the Bible memorized word-for-word, including approximately half of the New Testament. Today, most Baptist churches are started by Bible colleges. However, the Bible makes it clear that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, not a school. Faithful Word Baptist Church is a totally independent Baptist church, and Pastor Anderson was sent out by a totally independent Baptist church to start it the old-fashioned way by knocking doors and winning souls to Christ.
God has blessed Faithful Word Baptist Church tremendously. Thousands have been saved, many have been baptized.
Faithful Word Baptist Church is a congregation of a hundred or so members, thirty of which are children They meet in a building located at 2741 W Southern Ave, Suite #14, Tempe, Arizona. As you can tell from this Google Earth graphic:
Faithful Word is located at a busy Tempe intersection. Their building is not some Jim Jones-like compound out in the boonies. They are right smack dab in the middle of Tempe, Arizona, a growing community of 168,000 people.
Anderson is well-known for his YouTube Videos. According to the church’s website, these 1,200 videos/mp3 sermons have been downloaded over 8,000,000 times. Anderson has put together a video tour of Faithful Word and during the video he explains some of the things that are important to the church. As you will be able to see if you watch the nine minute video, Anderson, is a polite, soft-spoken man. He is a family man who loves Jesus, his wife, children, and Faithful Word Baptist Church.
In the video, Anderson shares the things that make Faithful Word different from other churches. Thing like:
They only sing old hymns and spiritual songs
They only use the 1611 version of the King James Bible
They believe in preaching the whole Bible
They believe in preaching hard against sin
They have family integrated services, no age segregated classes
They have a nursery and mother’s room that are used to nurse infants and train children to sit in church (the sermon is piped in and a window allows mothers and children to see the preacher)
They make Bibles, sermon CD’s and videos, available free of charge to anyone who wants them
Faithful Word has a Spanish class for members learning to speak Spanish. Since Arizona has a large Hispanic population, Anderson believes it is important for church members to speak Spanish. By learning Spanish they are better able to evangelize Hispanics.
According to Anderson, outside of the preaching the whole Bible, the most important thing is reaching Arizona with the true gospel. Faithful Word has what Anderson calls a Small Town Soulwinning Map. This map shows all small/rural communities in Arizona, places Anderson has targeted for a blitz-like evangelization effort. Church members spread out all over the the small community and knock on every door, witnessing to all who answer.
Anderson also mentioned the church’s effort to evangelize all of Phoenix. According to him, every day church members knock on doors, witnessing to all who answer. Their goal is to knock on the door of every home in Phoenix. Church members go neighborhood by neighborhood, marking off on a map those areas that have been evangelized. According to Anderson, thousands of people have been saved through the efforts of Faithful Word Baptist Church.
While most IFB pastors are pretribulational and premillennial, Anderson and Faithful Word are posttribulational and prewrath rapture. They believe Christians will go through most of tribulation, only to be raptured out just prior to God’s final judgment and wrath. This belief was made popular in the early 1990’s by Marv Rosenthal. The church offers a video they made, produced by Paul Wittenberger, titled After the Tribulation. They recently released another video titled New World Order: Bible Versions. According to Wittenberger’s bio page:
Paul Wittenberger is a filmmaker, artist and activist, was born in Michigan but spent his early childhood in the West African nation of Liberia. After returning to the United States and completing his early education, Paul studied film at Full Sail University. His upbringing in West Africa gives Paul a unique perspective, which he brings to his art.
In early 2010 Paul teamed up with producer G. Edward Griffin to make a film that would bring the issue of geothermal engineering, or “chemtrails,” to the forefront. “What in the World are They Spraying?” opened in of October 2010 to great success and controversy. Paul’s second feature length documentary was released in 2012. “The Great Culling: Our Water” exposes how fluoride in our drinking water is neither safe nor effective. It is, in actuality, a toxic byproduct of the phosphate industry called hydrofluorosilic acid.
After “The Great Culling: Our Water,” Paul teamed up with Steven Anderson to Produce three back to back films, “After the Tribulation,” “The Book of Revelation,” and “New World Order Bible Versions.”
Paul currently resides in the Los Angeles, California, area where he continues to make documentaries and educate people on the New World Order deception.
After thoroughly investigating Steven Anderson and Faithful Word Baptist Church, I have concluded that they are a typical IFB pastor and church. There is nothing in their beliefs that can’t be found in other IFB and Evangelical churches. While their eschatology makes them an outlier, every other belief fits well within the IFB/Evangelical box.
Tonight, I want to preach this sermon. And you have probably never heard a sermon like this before. Actually, you probably have if you have been coming to church here for a while. But you know what? Here is my sermon, why I hate Barack Obama. That’s my sermon tonight, because Barack Obama is coming to town tomorrow morning.
Barack Obama is coming to town. And he is going to be here tomorrow morning. Who knew that he was coming to town? I didn’t know. I just found out recently with his health care and everything like this.
And I’m going to tell you something. I hate Barack Obama. You say, well, you just mean you don’t like what he stands for. No, I hate the person. Oh, you mean you just don’t like his policies. No, I hate him…
…You are going to tell me that I’m supposed to pray for the socialist devil, murderer, infanticide who wants to see young children and he wants to see babies killed through abortion and partial-birth (INAUDIBLE) everything? You are going to tell me I am supposed to pray for God to give him a good lunch tomorrow while he’s in Phoenix, Arizona?
No. I am not going to pray for his good. I am going to pray that he dies and goes to hell…
…What goes around comes around. You love violence. You hate that which is right. You love to harm others. You love to hurt or kill the unborn or the innocent or the righteous. He is saying, God is going to bring that upon your own head, because whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
Now, turn back to Psalm 58 and let me ask you this question. Why should Barack Obama melt like a snail? Why should Barack Obama die like the untimely birth of a woman? Why should his children be fatherless and his wife a widow, as we read in this passage?
Well, I will tell you why. Because, since Barack Obama thinks it is OK to use a salty solution, right, to abort the unborn, because that’s how abortions are done, my friend, using salt — and I would like to see Barack Obama melt like a snail tonight…
The same God who instituted the death penalty for murders is the same god who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals, sodomites and queers! That’s what it was instituted for, okay? That’s God, he hasn’t changed. Oh, God doesn’t feel that way in the New Testament … God never “felt” anything about it, he commanded it and said they should be taken out and killed.
You know why God wanted the sodomites in the Old Testament to be killed? You know why every good king of Israel, the Bible says they got rid of the sodomites in the land? You know, the good kings that came after the bad kings who had allowed the sodomites to infest their land, they had infiltrated … King Asa got the sodomites out of the land, Jehoshaphat exterminated the sodomites that were left from the days of his father, Asa. Why? Because the sodomites are infectious, that’s why. Because they’re not reproducers, that goes without saying, they’re recruiters.
How are they multiplying? Do you not see that they’re multiplying? Are you that blind? Have you noticed that there’s more than there were last year and the year before, and the year before that? How are they multiplying? They’re reproducing right? No, here’s a biology lesson: they’re not reproducers, they’re recruiters! And you know who they’re after? Your children. Remember you dropped off your kids last week? That’s who they’re after. You drop them off at some daycare, you drop them off at some school somewhere, you don’t know where they’re at. I’ll tell you where they’re at: they’re being recruited by the sodomites. They’re being molested by the sodomites. I can tell you so many stories about people that I know being molested and recruited by the sodomites.
They recruit through rape. They recruit through molestation. They recruit through violation. They are infecting our society. They are spreading their disease. It’s not a physical disease, it’s a sin disease, it’s a wicked, filthy sin disease and it’s spreading on a rampage. Can’t you see that it’s spreading on a rampage? I mean, can you not see that? Can you not see that it’s just exploding in growth? Why? Because each sodomite recruits far more than one other sodomite because his whole life is about recruiting other sodomites, his whole life is about violating and hurting people and molesting ’em…
… I’m here to preach the Bible. And I’m sick to death — hey, let me tell you something. Our country is run by faggots. You know who wrote this 700-billion-dollar bailout bill? You know who was the man who was the architect of the bailout? His name is Barney Franks, he is a pedophile, he has been arrested for uh, interacting with boys that are in their teenage years when he’s in his 50s, it’s in the news, he’s been arrested for it. He is a pedophile, he is a homosexual, he has stood up in the floor of the sacred halls of justice and said,’I am gay, I am a sodomite.’
That’s Barney Frank, that’s who just sold our country into fascism. That’s who just sold our corporations to the government. That’s who sold out our country, a faggot! And I’m here to tell you something! I’m not going to stand for it, and let a faggot run the church! It’s bad enough that we’ve got a bunch of faggots running the government!
Here’s a video clip of a sermon preached in November 2014 where Anderson says the Bible gives the cure for AIDS:
For you who can’t stomach Anderson’s video, his cure for AIDS is quite simple: kill all of them. No need to spend billions of dollars on AIDS research. Just kill everyone who has AIDS and that will put an end to it. I assume Anderson believes that almost everyone who has AIDS is a homosexual.
Again, I have not read or heard anything from Pastor Steve Anderson and the Faithful Word Baptist Church that I have not heard countless times in IFB/Fundamentalist/Evangelical churches, colleges, conferences, and preacher meetings. Granted, Anderson lacks the smooth-talking, salesman skills of most preachers, but his beliefs can be found preached in thousands of churches. He may use coarse, inflammatory words, but the message is still the same: repent or go to hell. Anderson is no different from culture warriors who think abortion is murder, homosexuality is a sin, and President Obama, atheists, agnostics, humanists, Democrats, liberals, progressives, and socialists are the spawn of Satan.
As I mentioned in a recent post titled Hello Bruce, I’m A Nice Evangelical, no matter how the Evangelical smiles and is kind, decent, and polite, their believes are abhorrent. Millions of “nice” people think homosexuals are perverts. Millions of “nice” people think that atheists are child molesters and servants of Satan. Millions of “nice” people think abortion is murder. Millions of “nice” people think their unbelieving neighbors, friends, spouse, children, and grandchildren will go to hell when they die. Millions of “nice” people believe that God will fit unbelievers after they die with a body that can survive torture in a lake of fire for eternity. Millions of “nice” people think the United States is a Christian nation, that prayer and the ten commandments should be allowed in public schools, that the earth is 6,019 years old, that global warming is a hoax, and sex before marriage is a sin.
Knowing what I know about Evangelicals and their beliefs, I have concluded that Pastor Steven Anderson and Faithful Word Baptist Church are not in any way special. They may not play the nice game like downtown First Baptist Church, but their beliefs are similar. As I have stated many times before, strip the façade from people like Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church, Steven Anderson and Faithful Baptist Church, Bob Gray and Longview Baptist Temple, Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church, Peter Ruckman and Bible Baptist Church, Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Baptist Bible Fellowship, General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC), Independent Fundamental Churches of America (IFCA), John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Franklin Graham, many Southern Baptist churches, and a plethora of Evangelical parachurch organizations, and you will find that they all have a shared belief. While they may disagree on orthopraxy, eschatology, soteriology, baptism, etc, the beliefs than bind them are far more than the beliefs that separate them.
While Pastor Steven Anderson is roundly criticized and ridiculed by Christian and non-Christian alike, his video and sermons have been downloaded 8,000,000 times. Even if most of the downloads were by people opposed to Anderson, I suspect that many of the downloads were by Christian preachers and church members who agree with him. Like it or not, the Steve Anderson’s of the world are many. And it is for this reason those of us who believe in reason, rationalism, skepticism, humanism, and science must continue pushing back against Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. We dare not ignore preachers like Steven Anderson and Ken Ham. They are like a brain cancer that eats away the parts of the brain that help us think and reason. No matter how nice they may be, it is their beliefs that cause untold heartache and damage.
You can view all of Anderson’s YouTube videos here and here. You can check out his sermon transcripts here.
You can read Anderson’s wife’s blog here. She lists several like-minded churches, Verity Baptist Church, Sacramento, California, Word of Truth Baptist Church, Prescott, Arizona and Steadfast Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas. As you will find out from her blog, Zsuzsanna Anderson has the same beliefs as her husband, a man she thinks is the greatest pastor in the world. You will also find that she is a loving mother who thinks she is doing what’s best for family.
Faithful Word Baptist Church had a record attendance of 172 last Sunday, April 5, 2015
Several times a month, I get an email from an Evangelical who wants to let me know that they are not like “other” Evangelicals. They want me to know that there are Evangelicals who are nice, polite, decent, kind, and respectful. That’s great, their mother taught them well. However, I think these “nice” Evangelicals aren’t really as nice as they would have me believe. They desperately want to be viewed in a good light, thinking if I just knew that there are “nice” Evangelicals that I would fall on my knees and call of Jesus to save me.
If I am feeling up to it, I will respond to the “nice” Evangelical’s email with a few questions. Questions like:
Do you believe believing in Jesus is the only way for a person to have their sins forgiven?
Do you believe there is one true God?
Do you believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text?
Do you believe that a person must be saved/born again/become a follower of Jesus to go to heaven when they die?
Do you believe that a person who is not saved/born again/a follower of Jesus goes to hell when they die?
The answers to these questions will quickly reveal that the “nice” Evangelical is no different from Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Bob Gray Sr, Bryan Fischer, James Dobson, or Franklin Graham. The “nice” Evangelical and the nasty, hateful Evangelical share the same beliefs. The former comes in a nicer package, but inside the package is the same abhorrent, vile beliefs.
Sometimes, the “nice” Evangelical will be coy about their beliefs. When pressed on the question of God torturing non-Christians in hell/lake of fire for eternity, they often reply that they leave such things up to God. They want me to know that they don’t judge, they just l-o-v-e others. However, if they believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then they already know what God says on the matter. Non-Christians will go to hell when they die. Atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists will go to hell when they die. Most of the readers of this blog will go to hell when they die. Most of my Facebook friends will go to hell when they die. Most of Twitter followers will go to hell when they die. And, to make it quite personal, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and most of their children will go to hell when they die.
The “nice” Evangelical, if they are truly a Bible-believing, Jesus loving Evangelical, is boxed in by their beliefs. There is one God, the Christian God, one way of salvation, Jesus, and hell awaits all of those who reject him. This is why I respect someone like Fred Phelps more than I do the “nice” Evangelical. Someone like Phelps just tells non-Christians how it is. They make no effort to hide their beliefs. Their forwardness allows me to know exactly where I stand with them. No need for us to play the pretend friend game or make nice with each other.
Sometimes, the “nice” Evangelical will take a psychological approach. They view me as one who has been wounded by the nasty, hateful, judgmental Evangelicals. They read a few of my blog posts and determine that I have been hurt in some way and that this is the reason I am not a Christian. In their mind, they think if they are just really, really, really, nice to me that I will overwhelmed by their niceness and fall in love with Jesus all over again. Since they think Jesus is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, they can’t imagine someone NOT wanting to become a follower of their Jesus. They see Jesus patiently knocking on the door of my heart, pleading for me to let him in. Isn’t this the same Jesus who says that if I DON’T open the door that he is going to torture me for eternity in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, a place where the worm dieth not? Isn’t this the same Jesus who will fit me with a special body after death so that no matter how severely he tortures me I can never die?
While there is certainly a truckload of harm and hurt in my Evangelical past, the reason I am not a Christian is because I do not believe the claims of Christianity to be true. I don’t believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. I don’t believe Jesus was God, virgin born, a miracle worker, or resurrected from the dead. I don’t believe God created the world nor do I believe in sin. Simply put, I reject everything one must believe to be a Christian. No matter how “nice” an Evangelical is to me, I do not buy what they are selling. Salvation requires faith, a faith I do not and will not have.
Look, I am glad that many Evangelicals are nice people. I am glad they treat me and others like me with kindness, decency, and respect. Their behavior certainly make the world a better place. I suspect their behavior is a reflection of their training and culture more than it is their beliefs. I am glad someone taught them to be a decent, thoughtful person. I do, however, wish they would stop wasting their time by trying to “nice” me to Jesus. I have no interest and I think their time would be better spent teaching Evangelicals how to behave in public. As blog comments, news articles, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and personal emails show, there are a lot of Evangelicals who don’t the first thing about the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Instead of trying to save people who don’t want to be saved, “nice” Evangelicals should spend their time getting fellow Evangelicals saved.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Independent Baptists/Independent Fundamentalists Baptists (IFB) are taught to be anti-cultural, to hate the world. For all their talk about salvation by grace, Independent Baptists preach a works gospel. If church members don’t obey the Bible, specifically the pastor’s interpretation and application of the Bible, they are considered rebellious, out of the will of God, backslidden or WORLDLY.
A bought-by-the-blood, sanctified, sold-out, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost, King-James-Bible-carrying Independent Baptist shuns the world. Instead, he embraces an alternative-world, also known as the church family. Being a good member of the church family requires conformity to the pastor’s (I mean God’s) dictates. If the pastor hates something you better hate it. After all the Bible tells us we should love what God loves and hate what God hates. Funny how people mistake the pastor for God.
What follows is a list of things I told church members they should hate. This list evolved over time, hitting its peak in the early 1990s and it slowly shrank after that. I find this list quite embarrassing, but it is what it is.
Contemporary Christian music
Rock and Roll music
Long hair on men
Short skirts on women
Pants on women
Shorts on women
Liberal Christian colleges
Effeminate male preachers
Church members who disagree with the pastor
World Council of Churches
National Association of Evangelicals
The Living Bible
The number one hate for the Independent Baptist? Self!
The Bible says we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. Human beings, according to the Bible, are wicked, vile, evil, depraved sinners. We deserve having the wrath of God poured out on our heads. We deserve judgment and hell.
Jesus, the son of God, came to earth, died on the cross, and rose again from the dead, so we could have our sins forgiven and go to heaven when we die. Once God saves us, we are to spend the rest of our life groveling before a thrice-Holy God, praising him for delivering us from our wickedness.
Every week Independent Baptists go to church and listen to their pastor tell them more things they need to do, more works they need to perform, more laws to obey. Do this, do that. If you really, really love Jesus you will______________, their preacher says.
Loud sermons. Pulpit pounding. All for dramatic effect. It’s as if God is trying to pound the preacher’s words into their head. Evidently the Holy Spirit works better if the preacher yells and is theatrical.
Is it any wonder that many of people raised in such an environment have low self-esteem? Many Independent Baptist preachers even preach AGAINST having self-esteem. Church members are taught to hate self so God can get all the glory. We wouldn’t want a human being taking credit for anything, right? Well, there’s one thing church members can take credit for. Any good that happens — God gets all the credit. If bad things happen or someone screws up, it is all on us. God ain’t taking any credit for the bad stuff.
I have spent the last ten years trying to find myself. The flesh and blood Bruce Gerencser who spend a lifetime in the Evangelical church is dead. My being, my self-worth, was swallowed up by God, the church, and the ministry. My life was defined by the call of God. Nothing else mattered.
I left the ministry and told God to take a hike. At the time of our divorce, God and I were not on speaking terms. God owes me some money, but he refuses to pay up. All I asked for was some of the treasure I had in heaven. Since I am going to hell when I die, I thought it would be nice to have the treasure now so I could get some good use out of it.
Bit by bit I am finding out who I really am. It is not always pretty, but it is authentic. Some people don’t like the new Bruce Gerencser. They want the old Bruce back. They still cling to the hope that my apostasy is just a phase and that I will come back and be a better than ever pastor. What a testimony I could have. I could milk the “From Preacher to Atheist to Preacher” story for all its worth.
There is no going back. The Apostle Paul taught me to run the race that is before me and that is what I am doing. The longer I run, the more distant Christianity appears. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I DO know what lies behind and I have no desire to return to the leeks (onions) and bondage of Egypt.
Anyone can start a church. In most cases, the new church will be considered tax exempt by federal, state, and local government.
The IRS lists the following generic (albeit very Christian sounding) characteristics of a church:
The term church is found, but not specifically defined, in the Internal Revenue Code. With the exception of the special rules for church audits, the use of the term church also includes conventions and associations of churches as well as integrated auxiliaries of a church.
Certain characteristics are generally attributed to churches. These attributes of a church have been developed by the IRS and by court decisions. They include:
Distinct legal existence
Recognized creed and form of worship
Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
Formal code of doctrine and discipline
Distinct religious history
Membership not associated with any other church or denomination
Organization of ordained ministers
Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study
Literature of its own
Established places of worship
Regular religious services
Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young
Schools for the preparation of its members
If a group of people generally exhibit these characteristics they are considered a Church by the IRS. State laws are different from federals laws and vary from state to state.
A Church is not required to file for 501c3 status to be tax exempt. 501c3 status does grant certain additional benefits to the church, BUT it is not required for tax exemption.
Congress has enacted special tax laws applicable to churches, religious organizations, and ministers in recognition of their unique status in American society and of their rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Churches and religious organizations are generally exempt from income tax and receive other favorable treatment under the tax law; however, certain income of a church or religious organization may be subject to tax, such as income from an unrelated business.
Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. To qualify for tax-exempt status, such an organization must meet the following requirements:
■ the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes, ■ net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder, ■ no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation, ■ the organization may not intervene in political campaigns, and ■ the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.
Churches that meet the requirements of IRC section 501c3 are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Now, get out there and start a church. You can do it!
Bruce, surely it is more complicated than that? I assure you, it is not. I’ve thought about starting a new sect, The Church of Bruce Almighty®. Donations would be tax-deductible and my church could buy buildings, property, cars, and other essential ministry tools and not pay tax.
A boy dreams of being a major league baseball player some day. His parents were both athletes in their younger years, having some success at the high school and college level,
As a youth, he grew quickly, seemingly always a head taller than everyone else. He seemed more agile than others his age. He was fast on his feet, quick with his mind, and excelled at the game of baseball.
Tee-Ball. Little League. Pony League. High School Baseball. College Baseball.
At every level, he excelled.
Finally, his big day came.
A Major League baseball team makes him their number one draft pick.
It’s not long before he works his way through the minor leagues, and two years after being drafted he makes his Major League début.
He is an instant sensation, quickly showing everyone that he is an all-star in the making.
One night, during a game where he went 4-4, hit a home run, drove in 3 runs, and stole a base, the TV broadcaster explains the greatness of this talented baseball player.
He has a God-given talent to play like he does.
Nary a person will question such an utterance.
It seems if people excel in life it is because God has blessed them or God has given them a special dose of talent.
Few are the people who excel in life. Most of us have a few things we are good at and we try to nurture those things the best we can. We know we will not be remembered for any great feat, nor will the record book make any mention of us. We live, we love, we die, and then we are forgotten.
It would seem that God doesn’t want most of us to be stand outs or superstars. Evidently God only has a chosen few he blesses with God-given talent.
How does the nontheist explain the baseball player mentioned above? If it is not God-given talent what is it?
All of these are a better explanation than God-given talent.
We demean people when we reduce their hard work to something God gives them. The few things I am good at in life are the result of my diligence, commitment, and hard work. Granted, these things come easy for me, BUT I still work hard to cultivate and improve the talents I have. I suspect it is the same for you too.
I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due.
The all-star baseball player helps propel the home team to the World Series. They handily win the series and the little boy, now a grown-up all-star player is voted the series most valuable player.
As he is interviewed after the last game of the series, he says “I want to thank God____________________.”
And I say to myself or the TV, No I want to thank YOU. Thank you for playing hard. Thank you for hustling on every play. Thank you for working hard every day to be the very best player you could be.
This subject reminds me of my all time favorite TV prayer. Jimmy Stewart, in the movie Shenandoah, uttered the following prayer at the dinner table:
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked Dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel. But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food were about to eat. Amen.
And all the atheists said AMEN.
Many Christians have been taught that without God/Jesus they can do nothing. Their very breath and motor skills come from God. God feeds them, clothes them, gives them a job, gives them a spouse, gives them children, and gives them, well gives them everything. Jesus said in John 15:5, without me ye can do nothing. Many Christian take this verse to mean that without Jesus they can do absolutely NOTHING. Technically, they don’t really believe this. After all, they do sin. Does God gives them the power and ability to sin? Well, that’s different, Bruce. Sin comes from Satan or the flesh. God, who created everything and gives us the breath of life and the ability to exist, gets the credit for the good but not the bad, right? Good=God, Bad=Satan and the Flesh. But, if God is sovereign, if he is the creator of everything, isn’t he also responsible for sin and the bad things that happen? I thought God has the whole world in his hands and the universe exists because of him?
I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due. If someone can show me God did this or that or God gave so and so talent, then I will gladly give God the credit. One question. Which God? How do we know it is the Christian God handing out the talent? Does the Christian God put a Made by Jesus label on those he gives talent to? So many questions…