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Category: Evangelicalism

J. Lee Grady’s Good Friday Porn

passion of the christ

This is the time of year when Evangelicals love to emphasize the bloody, brutal, violent death of Jesus. Many Evangelical preachers, evangelists, and writers will go to great lengths to turn Christ’s death into a Criminal Minds episode or a Christian version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Take J.Lee Grady, a writer for CHARISMA. Yesterday, CHARISMA published an article by Grady that is best described as Good Friday Porn. Here’s part of what Grady had to say:

When the movie The Passion of the Christ was released 12 years ago, Hollywood insiders mocked it because it offered a realistic—and extremely bloody—depiction of Jesus’ torture and death. Regardless of what you think of controversial director Mel Gibson, he did a masterful job of capturing the brutality of a first-century Roman execution.

I know some Christians who objected to the R-rated violence of Gibson’s movie, as if what happened to Jesus should be reduced to the sanitized charm of a Renaissance-era painting. But the truth is that what Jesus suffered on Good Friday was R-rated. It was spattered with blood and horrifying to watch.

Nobody performed an autopsy on Jesus’ mangled body after He was taken down from the cross. But doctors who have studied the Bible’s description of His death say the pain would have been beyond excruciating. In fact, the word excruciating means “out of the cross.” Jesus literally defined the worst pain anyone could feel.

His suffering began in Gethsemane, when God laid the sins of the world on His beloved Son. Hebrews 5:7 says Jesus offered up prayers “with loud crying and tears” during this moment of anguish. Luke’s Gospel says the agony was so strong that Jesus’ sweat “became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). The intense stress caused what physicians call hematidrosis, a condition in which blood seeps out of sweat glands.

After His arrest, Jesus was flogged so mercilessly that his skin was stripped off His back, exposing muscle and bone. The soldiers who tortured Jesus would have used a weapon called a flagellum—a whip that had several leather strands with lead balls or shards of bone attached to the ends.

The cuts inflicted by this whip could actually rip open the flesh and expose internal organs. Jesus would have lost a significant amount of blood after His scourging—and this would explain why He did not have the strength to carry His cross all the way to Calvary.

Matthew 27:28-29 says the Roman soldiers stripped Jesus naked and then twisted together a handmade crown made of thorns to mock His kingship. Bible scholars believe these thorns were extremely long and hard. When the thorns pierced the top and side of His head, Jesus would have most likely experienced what doctors call “trigeminal neuralgia”—piercing pain all over the head and face.

After this merciless abuse, Jesus was covered with a red robe and led to Golgotha. There, Roman soldiers drove seven-inch metal spikes into his wrists (most likely hitting the median nerve, causing more blinding pain) and then they rammed another spike into his feet.

At that point, doctors say, Jesus would have suffered dislocation of His shoulders, cramps and spasms, dehydration from severe blood loss, fluid in His lungs and eventual lung collapse and heart failure.

Yet Jesus refused to drink wine mixed with gall, a pain-killing solution offered to Him by his executioners (Matt. 27:34). He chose to endure the full impact of the pain.

He felt that pain for us.

Some victims of Roman crucifixion took as long as nine days to die, but Jesus’ death came in a matter of hours—probably because He had been flogged so cruelly before He was nailed to the rough wood. Victims of crucifixion typically developed serious dehydration because of a lack of blood and oxygen.

As Jesus took His last breath, He said: “It is finished.” He was actually quoting the last verse of Psalm 22, a psalm He recited throughout His torture. It is one of the most graphic prophecies about Christ’s suffering in the Old Testament—and Jesus knew it was about Him.

Jesus willingly poured out His blood on that cruel cross. It was an ugly, revolting, disgusting scene. We don’t have to downplay the violence or muffle the gut-wrenching cries. The Bible does not soften the impact or censor the cruelty of Jesus’s suffering. Isaiah 53:6 says: “But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”

Keep in mind that most of what Grady writes is personal opinion. He has no evidence for many of the claims he makes about the brutality of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Compare Luke 22,23 with what Grady has written and you will quickly see that he has turned the death of Christ into a Christian version of No Company for Old Men.

Why does Grady graphically depict Christ’s execution? Grady wants readers to know that Easter is not about fun, games, candy, and the Easter Bunny. Oh no, Easter is all about the brutalization of Jesus by God, the Father. Grady writes:

This Easter, please don’t settle for a G-rated, greeting-card version of the cross. Consider the depths of the agony Jesus experienced when He died for you. He took the pain we deserved.

There’s the reason — the substitutionary death of Jesus. Sinners need saving, can’t save themselves, so Jesus was brutally tortured, died, and rose again from the dead so sinners could have their sins forgiven and live in heaven after they die. Look at all that Jesus suffered for us! When Christians whine and complain about how hard it is to be a Christian in the most Christian nation on the face of the earth, they are often reminded of the Jesus’ gruesome death on their behalf. No one has ever suffered like Jesus, preachers say. Really? People face all sorts of horrible suffering, in every way as bad and as painful as that of Jesus. Of course, their suffering is due to sin. Jesus suffered because he was an awesome guy and wanted to start a cult. Jesus Suffering-1 Human Suffering-0

Grady wraps his bloody article in the clothes of Mel Gibson’s 2004 porno, The Passion of the Christ. I have not seen Gibson’s movie. By the time it arrived on the religious scene, I was on my way out the door of the Christian church. I do remember countless Christian luminaries saying that The Passion of Christ would be used by God to bring revival to America. According to Wikipedia:

The Passion of the Christ received enthusiastic support from the American evangelical community. Prior to the film’s release, Gibson actively reached out to evangelical leaders seeking their support and feedback. With their help, Gibson organized and attended a series of prerelease screenings for evangelical audiences and discussed the making of the film and his personal faith. In June 2003 he screened the film for 800 pastors attending a leadership conference at New Life Church, pastored by Ted Haggard, then president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Gibson gave similar showings at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church, Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship, and to 3,600 pastors at a conference at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Lake Forest. From the summer of 2003 to the film’s release in February 2004, portions or rough cuts of the film were shown to over eighty audiences—many of which were evangelical audiences. Gibson received numerous public endorsements from evangelical leaders, including Billy Graham, Robert Schuller, Darrell Bock, and David Neff, editor of Christianity Today. In an open letter published prior to the film’s release, James Dobson, the founder and chairman of Focus on the Family, endorsed the film and defended it against its detractors. Similar public endorsements of the film were received from evangelical leaders Pat Robertson, Rick Warren, Lee Strobel, Jerry Falwell, Max Lucado, Tim LaHaye and Chuck Colson.

Twelve years later, no revival. The movie — called by Roger Ebert the most violent movie he had ever seen — grossed over 600 million. Gibson, an anti-semitic, violent Catholic, made a killing off the movie, and everyone else moved on to the next big movie. Last week, Fox aired The Passion Live — a live two-hour show depicting the last hours of Jesus’ life. Surely, on a Sunday, tens of millions of Christians tuned into The Passion, right? Nope. According to TV Line:

Fox’s live-ish Sunday broadcast of The Passion drew 6.6 million total viewers and a 1.6 demo rating, down 46 and 63 percent from what the network’s Grease: Live delivered in January (albeit when there was no Walking Dead in the mix).

In fact, the Tyler Perry-hosted musical event placed even below NBC’s Peter Pan Live, which in December 2014 delivered 9.2 mil and a 2.4, on a Thursday.

Here’s what Grady and Fox need to understand: the death of Jesus is passé. Been there, done that — boring. In Grady’s case, he needs to understand that telling Bible stories filled with blood, gore, and violence no longer interests most Americans. We have The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Jesus’ death, no matter how graphicly it is displayed, is no match for modern TV dramas. Bruce, you are sooo going to hell for saying this. Yeah, about the hell thing…

An Opportunity to be Enlightened: Local Good Friday Service and Walking the Stations of the Cross

jesus death on cross

“These events are a great opportunity for people to be enlightened. Too many people get three hours off on Good Friday and don’t do anything about it. If they come to these events it could change their lives. God is trying to show us that we need to be ready for Christ’s return. This is still history in the making and people can still be a part of that history, it’s not too late.”

Apostle O. Michael Smith of Believer’s Church International, Defiance, Ohio

Every year, a handful of Defiance area mainline Protestant, Catholic, and ecumenical Evangelical churches get together for a community Good Friday service. This year’s service will be held from noon-3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Immediately following the service, Christians will gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the annual Stations of the Cross walk. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind paywall):

There will be 14 stops on the way, to read scripture and pray in remembrance of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Of the 14 stops, seven will be read and spoken in Spanish.

Father Eric Mueller of St. John Catholic Church had this to say about stations of the cross walk:

Good Friday truly is good, because Christ died for us on the cross and rose on Easter, giving us the gift of salvation that he freely offers to us. To celebrate as a Christian community with the Outdoor Stations of the Cross, we realize that our faith is such that we can take it out to the streets and be a witness to everyone, that we do believe in his death and resurrection.

The Stations of the Cross is a pilgrimage. For those of us who can’t go to the Holy Land, we walk here so we can recount the steps that Jesus took. This walk is a chance to be together with people from our community, and with Jesus, to not only understand his suffering, but to also understand the great love he has for us.

Christians doing Christian stuff on Good Friday…no big deal. What I find amusing is the notion that these events are some sort of statement affirming Christian unity. Most Defiance area churches do not participate in these events. Many local churches don’t even believe Catholics are Christian. Some Baptist churches not only consign Catholics to hell, they also doubt the Christianity of people attending liberal or mainline churches.

Father Muller thinks walking the Stations of the Cross is taking their Christian faith out to the streets as a public witness of belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I hate to break it to Muller, most people don’t give a shit. Many local businesses give employees Good Friday off or allow them to attend Good Friday services. Despite this, most locals — who are overwhelmingly Christian — will not be in attendance at either of the Good Friday events.

Apostle Smith thinks if people attend these events their lives could be changed. After all, Jesus is coming soon! What will be said that hasn’t been said countless times before? There’s not one person in Defiance County who hasn’t heard some version of the Christian gospel. Everyone knows who Christians say Jesus is and what supposedly happened to him 2,000 years ago. They know all they need to know, yet, come noon tomorrow most local residents will be busy living life, preparing for the REAL meaning of Easter — the Easter bunny, eggs, chocolate, and other candies. What Smith and his fellow religionists fail to understand is that, yes, people are becoming more enlightened, but this enlightenment is leading them away from, not towards organized religion. Despite all the religious pontificating from Republican presidential candidates that suggests otherwise, American Christianity is in decline — especially among millennials. There will come a day in the not too distant future that Good Friday services and walking the Stations of the Cross will be little more than relics of a bygone era.

A Pictorial Explanation of How Some Creationists View the Pre-Flood World

Creationist believe the earth is 6,020 years old. Based on a literal interpretation of God’s divine science textbook — the Bible — creationists believe God, 4,000 or so years ago, sent a worldwide flood that killed all life on earth except Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark. Many creationists believe that the world after the flood was very different from the one before. Those of us who came of age in the Fundamentalists churches of the 1960s and 1970s  likely remember preachers and conference speakers waxing eloquently about the “science” of the book of Genesis. Forced to stick to a literalistic interpretation of the Bible, these promoters of the creationist myth said that prior to Noah’s flood the earth was protected by a water canopy that kept the earth in an Edenic state. This perfectly controlled environment kept plants living without rain and allowed some people to have lifespans exceeding 900 years. (See Genesis 1:6-8, Genesis 2:6, Genesis 7:11)

Yesterday, my friend James McGrath posted a graphic that perfectly illustrates the vapor/water canopy theory.

earth before the flood

Enlightened creationists — an oxymoron — will scream foul, reminding me that most creationists no longer embrace the canopy theory. Fine, but I suspect that many older creationists still embrace the theory.  This theory is hardly “ancient” history. I heard preaching on it in the late 1980s. Every Evangelical preacher I knew owned copies of  Henry Morris’ and John Whitcomb’s 1960 book, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implication and Morris’ 1976 book, The Genesis Record, A scientific and devotional commentary on the book of beginnings. These two books, along with a King James Bible, were all Evangelical preachers needed to explain the universe.  What have creation “scientists” discovered that would cause creationists to now abandon the canopy theory? Or is the real issue that believing it makes them look like illiterate hillbillies? Craving acceptance by the larger religious community or desiring validation from the science community, creationists have abandoned a theory that was central to interpreting Genesis for much of the 20th century. Creationists are front and center in the attack on gay Christians who reinterpret the Bible to support their belief that God/Bible does not condemn homosexuality. How is abandoning the canopy theory any different? Did the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God change? How dare creationists abandon their interpretation of the Bible just because it makes them look illiterate!

CHARISMA Writer Complains X-Men: Apocalypse Rips off the Bible and Calls Jesus a Mutant

apocalypse

Jessilyn Justice, assistant news editor for CHARISMA, is upset that the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse movie calls Jesus a mutant. Even worse, the movie rips off the BibleJustice writes:

The latest installment in the X-Men franchise stirs the water of blasphemy by claiming Jesus was the original mutant—and that the Son of God is one in the same with other major religious figures.

“I’ve been called many things over many lifetimes,” says the titular character known as Apocalypse. “Ra, Krishna, Yahweh.”

The fictional story follows the omnipotent En Sabah Nur, later known as Apocalypse, who terrorizes the globe for centuries with his four horsemen.

“You are all my children, and you’re lost because you follow blind leaders, but I am here now. I’m here for you,” Apocalypse says.

Sound familiar? That’s not the only rip-off from the Bible…

Video Link

Here’s the thing: Jesus WAS mutant. He was a man and a God. Seems quite mutant to me. And as far as ripping off the Bible. As the movie trailer suggests, the authors of the Bible likely ripped off  beliefs and practices from other cultures and religions. Perhaps Justice, a 20-something, ought to spend some time studying the history of Christianity and the development of Biblical texts and doctrines.

I wonder if Justice has thought about how similar En Sabah Nur (Apocalypse) is to the Christian God of the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation?  Born 5,000 years ago, around the time Abe and his fellow sheepherders were cooking up Jehovah, En Sabah Nur spent time ” traveling around planet Earth, convincing civilizations that he is a deity (inspiring different myths as a result) and manipulating them into fighting wars.” (Wikipedia)  According to Wikipedia, Apocalypse “awakens from hibernation of thousands of years and decides to end humanity and to take over the world.” Kind of sounds like the Book of Revelation, yes? For seven years, the Christian God rains judgment, violence, and death upon the inhabitants of the earth — slaughtering most of the human race. Perhaps X-Men: Apocalypse is actually an accurate depiction of Jehovah and his mutant son Jesus.

Our Pastor Looked at Child Pornography and Took Inappropriate Pictures, but He’s a Really Nice Guy

father stephen pohl

I have known Stephen Pohl since the day he was born. I seriously doubt that these allegations will be proven. He said mass at my mothers [sic] passing and has been a friend to my family for over 50 years. It is painful because we are again seeing the pillory [sic] of another priest. Father Joe Hemmerly has been dogged by allegations all stemming from putting Lotion on the Sun Burn of a camper at the summer camp he ran. Many priests are unfairly targeted and I will be seriously surprised if these allegations pan out.

Father Stephen Pohl Supporter

Another day, another catholic priest is arrested/charged/convicted of sexually molesting children. In August, 2015, Stephen Pohl, 57, a pastor at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky was arrested and charged with the possession of child pornography. According to the Courier Journal, Pohl “admitted to accessing the pornographic images of nude underage boys on computers at the church rectory and office between January and August 2015.” In January, Pohl admitted his guilt and signed a plea agreement that could result in him spending 33 months in a Federal penitentiary. Pohl would also be required to register as a sex offender and face a “lifetime of supervision by the U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services.”

According to Courier-Journal report:

The federal case began after a 10-year-old St. Margaret Mary student told his mother that “Father Steve” singled him out at an after-school club to take a series of “weird” photos on his cell phone. The youth posed with his hands on his knees and legs spread apart, following the priest’s orders, according to the affidavit.

When the parents eventually confronted Pohl about the pictures, the affidavit details, they saw similar pictures of another child on the priest’s phone and reported it to law enforcement.

According to another Courier-Journal report, Louisville Metro Police Crimes Against Children Unit detective Dan Jackman is quoted as saying:

“One can clearly see up the child’s shorts and underwear,” Jackman wrote of one of the photos while another is “focused on the child’s genitals.”

You would think that St. Margaret Mary parishioners would be calling for Father Pohl’s head. Nope. According to WLKY, several Pohl supporters have written U.S. District Judge David Hale, asking him to be lenient when sentencing Pohl on March 29th. After all, Pohl is “presently working with a psychologist. It has assisted me in understanding what is happening here.” What is happening here? What is happening is that a Catholic priest is sexually attracted to boys and he got caught accessing internet child pornography. He also took photographs of young St. Margaret Mary boys. What more does anyone need to know? Pohl is a pedophile. Does anyone honestly think this was Pohl’s first time looking at child porn? Does anyone seriously think that he looked but didn’t touch? Not me.

While I don’t think Pohl should be locked away for life, I have serious reservations about any treatments that purport to “cure” pedophiles. If there is no cure, should men such as Pohl be permitted to roam free in public? Should they — after 20 hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers — be permitted to return to the church and have access to children? I hope not. Pohl should NEVER be permitted to be alone with children.

And what’s with those who write letters of support? I have noticed in other sex crime cases involving children/teenagers and clergymen that these predators always have supporters urging the courts to not be too hard on the convicted felon. Several years ago, Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, was convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to 12 years in prison. I was astounded by all the letters that were written in his support. Schaap’s supporters commented on this blog, suggesting that Schaap was not to blame for his crimes. He was tired, had medical problems, the girl seduced him, said Schaap supporters.

Why is that many Christians are unable to see people as they are? I suspect the main reason is cognitive dissonance. On Sundays, members see nice, loving, kind, and supportive Father Pohl or Pastor Schaap. During the week, these “nice” men are surfing child porn sites or shagging church teenagers. Every year, hundreds of “nice” preachers are arrested, charged, and convicted of sex crimes. How can these things be? cry church members. On Sundays, these men preached sermons, blessed the communion elements, and glad-handed with parishioners after services. During the week they visited the sick, cared for widows, and took groceries to the hungry. Everything about their lives said, these are “nice” men. Yet, in the shadows of their lives, these men committed crimes that Christians and atheists alike find reprehensible. The cognitive dissonance is so great that parishioners convince themselves that their sexual predator pastors and priests are misguided and weak — but still “nice” men. Yet, when asked if they would let their children or grandchildren spend an unsupervised weekend with these men, I suspect most parents and grandparents would emphatically say, NO!

I have long argued that the Christian notion of atonement and forgiveness gets in the way of people seeing sexual predators as they are — men who prey on trusting, defenseless children and teenagers. No amount of prayers, magic mumbo-jumbo at an old-fashioned altar, or confessions can erase the fact that these men committed heinous crimes. They are not “nice” men. They are sexual predators who deserve punishment for their crimes. Let the mothers of convicted sexual predators tell the courts how nice their sons are. That is what mothers do. Church members should spend their time helping the victims and making sure such crimes NEVER happen again. Louisville Catholics should be demanding a full accounting from diocese officials. What did they know and when did they know it? Were they aware of Pohl’s perverse desires? If they were, what steps did they take to make sure he no longer had access to parish children? As is the case in many Catholic parishes, sex crimes by priests are buried with the hope that they will remain so until the statute of limitations runs out. Just what Jesus would do, right?

Notes

Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP)

According to SNAP, “Stephen Pohl is at least the 65th Louisville Catholic cleric to be accused of child sex crimes.”

NO COMMENT: When Science and the Bible Conflict, Bible Right, Science Wrong

no comment

“Dr.” David Tee, a Fundamentalist Christian who supposedly has degrees in theology, church history, and archeology, says that when science and the Bible conflict the Bible is ALWAYS right. Tee writes:

Those who side with God on our origins, are not telling God anything. They are merely repeating what he told us about his creative act in the beginning. God never said he used science thus it is those who advocate for a scientific origins that are trying to tell God how he should have made the universe and life on this planet.

Whenever I read comments from those who have rejected Genesis 1 & 2 in favor of secular science, I see the same common theme. They are the ones doing exactly as they accuse those who believe God and who reject secular science’s alternatives. This never fails no matter what the topic or issue, those who reject God and his revelations, are always guilty of committing those errors.

….

The problem with this is, ‘solid science’ may not be telling the truth. Some one forgot to tell Pope Leo that there was a thing called right and wrong, true and false teaching and those biblical teachings apply to science as well.

The church is not opposed to solid science, it is opposed to the lies that secular science produces. Yes, science lies when it says that God and the bible is in error.

….

But if you using religion to do science, a field that says your religion is in error, then what good is your religion? It seems that the person who adopts this attitude has a faulty religious belief for it allows the holder to be taken away from that religious belief.Science is NOT God’s authoritative representative. The Bible is and when science says that authoritative work is not authoritative or correct, then there is something wrong with the science, not the Bible.

….

When it comes to the contents of the Bible, you either believe God or you don’t. There is no middle ground here. You get to choose Genesis and God’s revelation or secular science and its alternatives. Those who hold to a God driven evolutionary method are trying to have it both ways and they do not realize it but they are saying that they do not believe God or take him at his word.

God does not lie so why would he have his authors write something that did not take place if he used a different method?

I could find no online reference to Tee’s degrees. I assume he earned or bought them from some sort of Evangelical institution. Read “Dr.” David Tee for more information. When confronted over his use of “Dr.” this is how Tee responded:

dr tee 2

dr tee

Tee operates the Dakotas Christian Believers Arena and TheologyArcheology: A Site for the Glory of God

Fifteen Years of Marriage and Not One ‘Just the Two of Us’ Date

bruce and polly gerencser 1985
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

A few months after our first wedding anniversary, Polly and I packed up all of our worldly goods and moved to Newark, Ohio. We later moved to Buckeye Lake and then to the Southeast Ohio communities of New Lexington, Glenford, New Lexington — again, Somerset, Junction City, and Mount Perry. All told, we lived in Central and Southeast Ohio for fifteen years. During this time, I pastored churches in Somerset/Mount Perry and Buckeye Lake, Ohio. A consummate Type A workaholic, I neglected my wife and children. Thinking that all that mattered was serving Jesus, winning souls, and building churches, I worked day and night, rarely taking a day off. Work for the night is coming when no man can work, the Bible says. Jesus could return at any moment, I thought at the time. I want to be found busily laboring in God’s vineyard when Jesus splits the Eastern sky! Jesus said in Luke 18:8, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? When Jesus returned to earth, I wanted him to find me working hard at keeping the faith.

My children can testify to what I have written above. They watched their father walk out of the house in the morning, returning home later in the day, only to shower, change clothes, and head out the door once again, often not returning until they were in bed. For years, I worked a full-time secular job while also pastoring a church full-time. Even when I stopped working secular jobs and devoted all of my time to the work of the ministry, I still worked 60 plus hours a week.

Fifteen years of busting-my-ass for Jesus. Fifteen years of sacrificing family and body. Fifteen years, one vacation — a preaching engagement in Braintree, Massachusetts. Fifteen years, and not ONE, just the two of us date with my wife. Let that sink in for a moment. Not ONE date. Polly and I spent a good bit of time last night combing through our shared memories. We couldn’t come up with ONE instance of the two of us — sans children — going out on a date. Oh, we went to scores of special church events, Valentine’s banquets, and the like, but we never, not ONE time, got in the car, just the two of us, and went somewhere to spend an evening enjoying each other’s company.

I told Polly that it is a wonder that our marriage survived. While I was busy winning souls, studying for sermons, and building churches, Polly invested her time in raising our children. Now, I don’t want to paint a misleading picture. When I had time, I spent it with my family. We spent many a summer Saturday evening watching races at local dirt tracks. We also— in the early 1990s — took numerous day trips to West Virginia and Kentucky. Our older children have fond memories of crazy family road trips along the forgotten back — often unpaved — roads of Southeast Ohio and neighboring West Virginia. That said, what time I had for doing these kind of things was limited. Jesus ALWAYS came first.

While these memories remind me of the fact that I did spend time with my beautiful wife and children, I find myself saddened by the fact that I should have spent a lot more time with them, but didn’t. Southeast Ohio is a place of beauty, yet I rarely took the time to enjoy the scenery. Enjoying life was for those who didn’t take seriously the commands of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul centuries before, I wanted my life to be a testimony of single-minded devotion to Jesus. Better to burn out than rust out, I thought at the time. Some day, I will enjoy the scenery of God’s eternal kingdom! Did not the Bible say, prepare to meet the Lord thy God? There will be plenty time later to relax and fish along the banks of the River of Life.

My children and Polly have long since forgiven me for not giving them the time they deserved. They understand why I worked like I did, but I have a hard time forgiving myself for putting God, Jesus, the church, preaching, and winning souls before my family. No matter how often I talk about this with my counselor, the guilt and sense of loss remain. I suspect other super-Christians-turned-atheists have similar stories to tell. We sacrificed the temporal for the eternal. Now that we understand the temporal is all we have, it is hard not to look at the past with bitter regret. Particularly for those of us with chronic illnesses and pain, it is hard not to lament offering the best years of our lives on the altar of a non-existent God.

There is nothing I can do about the past. It is what it is, as I am fond of saying. All I can do is make the most of what life I have left. Fortunately, my six children and eleven grandchildren live less than 20 minutes away. Given an opportunity to do things differently, I do my best to spend time with them. Some days, it is difficult. To quote a well-worn cliché, my spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I know there will come a day when I will be in a wheelchair. It has been 18 months since I have driven a car. Forced to rely on others to haul my ass (and the rest of my body) around, I am unable to do all that I want to do. I do what I can, forcing myself — at times — to do things that I probably shouldn’t be doing. I know that this life is all that I have. As a Christian, I said, Only one life t’will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last. As an atheist, I see things differently. Only one life t’will soon be past. End of story. All that will remain are the memories I made with my family while I was alive.

And as far as the no date thing? I think Polly can attest to the fact that I have acquitted myself quite nicely. We now take short vacations, road trips, and go on frequent just the two of us dates. Are we making up for lost time? I think so. Polly has become my best friend. I genuinely enjoy her company, even when her driving puts me in fear of my life. We have a bucket list of places we would like to visit. Will we successfully check off everything on the list? Probably not. As we wander together through life, we continue to find places we want to check out. So much to see, do, and experience. Funny what you find when you take your eyes off the heavens and look at what is right in front of you.

Christian or Atheist?: I Wish my Critics Would Make Up Their Minds

not an atheist

Bruce, you never were a Christian! Bruce, you are still a Christian! Bruce, I doubt that you are a “real” atheist! That’s right, now I have people questioning whether I am an atheist. Quoting Shakespeare, a Christian recently told me, “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Evidently, because I write passionately about religion — particularly Evangelical Christianity — this proves that I still have some sort of latent religious belief. I wonder what I have to do to “prove” that I am an atheist? Sodomize Jesus on the communion table while pissing in the chalice and eating a ham sandwich? Use the Bible for toilet paper? Or how about seven years of writing about Christianity, Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement, atheism, and humanism. I can’t think of one thing I have written that would lead anyone to conclude that I am a Christian or that I have some sort of religious hangover.

This has been a common problem for me since I deconverted. Instead of accepting at face value what I say about my life — past and present — critics comb through my life looking for inconsistencies or contradictions. Several years ago, one Christian wrote on a discussion forum that my story “didn’t ring true.” He went on to say that he had contacted several people who lived in an area that I “said” I once pastored in and none of them had heard of me. Conclusion? I was lying.

I have given up trying to “prove” my life to people. I am the one who lived my life. I know what I know. When my autobiography is published later this year, I am sure that I will face a new round of scrutiny and criticism. I suppose I should be used to this by now. If I am going to write first person articles and books — naming names, dates, and places — I should expect to have my writing scrutinized. This is the price I pay for playing in the middle of the freeway during rush hour traffic.

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis

Genesis

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Jesus He Knows Me by Genesis.

Video Link

Lyrics

You see the face on the TV screen
coming at you every Sunday
see that face on the billboard
that man is me

On the cover of the magazine
there’s no question why I’m smiling
you buy a piece of paradise
you buy a piece of me

I’ll get you everything you wanted
I’ll get you everything you need
don’t need to believe in hereafter
just believe in me

Cos Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
and he’s been telling me
everything is alright

I believe in the family
with my ever loving wife beside me
but she don’t know about my girlfriend
or the man I met last night

Do you believe in God
cos that’s what I’m selling
and if you wanna get to heaven
I’ll see you right

You won’t even have to leave your house
or get outta your chair
you don’t even have to touch that dial
cos I’m everywhere

And Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
well he’s been telling me
everything’s gonna be alright

Won’t find me practicing what I’m preaching
won’t find me making no sacrifice
but I can get you a pocketful of miracles
if you promise to be good, try to be nice
God will take good care of you
just do as I say, don’t do as I do

I’m counting my blessings,
I’ve found true happiness
cos I’m getting richer, day by day
you can find me in the phone book,
just call my toll free number
you can do it anyway you want
just do it right away

There’ll be no doubt in your mind
you’ll believe everything I’m saying
if you wanna get closer to him
get on your knees and start paying

Cos Jesus he knows me
and he knows I’m right
I’ve been talking to Jesus all my life
oh yes he knows me
and he knows I’m right
well he’s been telling me
everything’s gonna be alright, alright

Jesus he knows me
Jesus he knows me, you know…

Songs of Sacrilege: Roll the Bones by Rush

This is the eighty-eighth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Roll the Bones by Rush.

Video Link

Lyrics

Well, you can stake that claim
Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
If they don’t take that game
And sometimes the winner takes nothing
We draw our own designs
But fortune has to make that frame

We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Why are we here?
Because we’re here
Roll the bones
Why does it happen?
Because it happens
Roll the bones

Faith is cold as ice
Why are little ones born only to suffer
For the want of immunity
Or a bowl of rice?
Well, who would hold a price
On the heads of the innocent children
If there’s some immortal power
To control the dice?

We come into the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Roll the bones

Jack…relax
Get busy with the facts
No zodiacs or almanacs
No maniacs in polyester slacks
Just the facts
Gonna kick some gluteus max
It’s a parallax…you dig?
You move around
The small gets big
It’s a rig
It’s action…reaction
Random interaction
So who’s afraid
Of a little abstraction?
Can’t get no satisfaction
From the facts?
You better run, homeboy
A fact’s a fact
From Nome to Rome, boy

What’s the deal?
Spin the wheel
If the dice are hot…take a shot
Play your cards. Show us what you got
What you’re holding
If the cards are cold
Don’t go folding
Lady Luck is golden
She favors the bold
That’s cold
Stop throwing stones
The night has a thousand saxophones
So get out there and rock
And roll the bones
Get busy!

Roll the bones

Why are we here?
Because we’re here
Roll the bones
Why does it happen?
Because it happens
Roll the bones

Annihilationism: Feel-Good Doctrine for Nice Christians 

john lennon imagine

Many Christians — especially those of a liberal/progressive bent — now believe that non-Christians will be annihilated after death. Queasy over the notion of their “Loving” God eternally torturing unbelievers in hell, these Christians say that God will instead obliterate non-Christians, wiping them from the pages of human existence. Some Protestant Christians think unbelievers will be tortured for a certain amount of time, and then, having satisfied God’s torture-lust, will be burned up and remembered no more.

While it is certainly possible to selectively read and interpret the Bible and conclude that God will annihilate non-Christians, the historic Christian position remains God torturing conscious people for eternity. In recent years, thanks to authors such as Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, and John Stott, Evangelicals have become more sympathetic towards annihilationism. The question I want to raise in this post is WHY they have become more sympathetic to this view.

What causes staunch, Bible-believing Evangelicals to abandon the doctrine of endless punishment? Have they changed their view as a result of diligently studying the Bible? While I am sure that some Evangelicals have abandoned this doctrine for intellectual reasons, the real reason is more emotional in nature. By carefully examining increasing Evangelical support for same-sex marriage, I think we can understand why many Evangelicals no longer think non-believers will be eternally tortured in hell (actually the Lake of Fire). Younger Evangelicals — having watched their parents and grandparents turn Evangelicalism into one of the most hated American religions — want to put a kinder, gentler face on Christianity. Many of them — deeply affected by postmodern thinking — have moved leftward, away from the culture war and the endless battles over doctrine. No longer wanting to be viewed in a negative light, younger Evangelicals strive to be accepted by the world. More accepting of evolution and science, tolerant, temperate Evangelicals genuinely want to be liked by others — bristling when lumped in with culture warriors and Fundamentalists.

john piper annihilationism

These worldly Evangelicals know and associate with people older Evangelicals have, in times past, consigned to the flames of hell. It is hard for them to look at Lesbian Angela, Gay Harper, and Atheist Laura and think these friends of theirs will be endlessly tortured by God. As in the case of gays and same-sex marriage, once people actually meet and know people who are happy unbelievers, their viewpoint often changes as well. Their parents and grandparents — fearing contamination by the “world” — walled themselves off from the influences of non-Christians. Younger Evangelicals — often educated at secular colleges — are more comfortable among non-Christians. Once exposed to the “world,” it is unlikely they will return to the Fundamentalism of their Evangelical forefathers.

As atheists, should we be appreciative that some Evangelicals think God will annihilate us some day, and not endlessly torture us? Ponder for a moment the fact that many annhilationists think God will — for a time — torture unbelievers before turning them into ash heaps. How is this really any better than eternal hellfire and damnation? The fact remains that the Christian God will reward or punish people based on beliefs. Believe the right things and a home in heaven awaits. Believe the wrong things and God will erase your name from the book of the living. I get it…many Evangelicals are tired of being viewed as mean and hateful, and Liberal and Progressive Christians are weary of being lumped together with Fundamentalists. However, the fact remains that annihilation is a form of punishment reserved for those who are members of the wrong religious club. This means that good people will be burnt to a crisp for no other reason than that their God was some other deity but Jesus. Forgive me if I don’t find such beliefs “comforting.”

Here’s the good news. Many Christians, having tried on annihilationism for a time, eventually realize that it is just endless punishment-lite. Once annihilationism is abandoned, universalism awaits. All paths now lead to eternal bliss, so there is no need to evangelize or argue doctrine. Imagine a world without theocratic demands of fealty, arguments over theology, or threats of God’s judgment. Why, such a world would be heaven on earth — a heaven where even atheists are welcome.

A Devil Worshiper Might Live Near You or Sit Next to You at Work, warns Jennifer LeClaire

barack obama satan worshiper

Jennifer LeClaire, senior editor for CHARISMA Magazine, is a Charismatic Christian version of Joseph McCarthy — the noted Communist hunter of the 1950s. Everywhere LeClaire looks, she sees Satan and his demon worker bees. In a March 18, 2016 article published on Charisma’s “news” site, demonphobic LeClaire warns that Satanism is on the rise. LeClaire writes:

Satanism is rising—and rising rapidly. Beyond shows like Lucifer that paint the devil as simply misunderstood and the distribution of Satanic Temple materials in some schools and the Satanic black mass at an Oklahoma City civic center and the monument to Baphomet in Detroit—these are just a few recent examples—there are the senseless deaths of young men like Edwin Juarez Palma.

Police in Mexico arrested a trio of Satanists who allegedly killed a friend in the process of trying to morph him into a vampire. Palma, the victim, was reportedly strangled, beaten and slashed in the neck before he died. The Satanists wrapped his body in a plastic bag and ditched him.

“Police say Edwin, known as Piwa, was killed after being fooled into taking part in an initiation ceremony to become part of a satanic cult called the Sons of Baphomet 1,” the Daily Mail reports. “Instead, he was tortured after having his hands tied behind his back after one of the alleged killers persuaded the others their victim should be sacrificed so he could return to life as a vampire.”

Clearly, these kids are deceived at best and deluded at worst. Two of the suspected killers are 18 and the other one is 25. According to Encyclopedia Satanica, the average age of a Satanist is 25 and most are single male Caucasians. Satanists are politically diverse, work a range of occupations and come from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant or agnostic backgrounds. Most were involved in other religions before they converted to the literal dark side.

Who knows? A devil worshipper might live near you or sit next to you at work.

By the best statistics I can find, there were 50,000 Satanists in the world in 1990, according to the Ontario Consultants of Religious Tolerance, and that number rose to as many as 100,000 in 2006. Of course, that was a decade ago—and a lot has changed in a decade. More recently, the Catholic Church warned of the rise of Satanism and the occult. And God’s Ghostbusters reports there are more than 200,000 registered witches and up to 8 million who have not officially unveiled themselves.

Dark forces are also invading Christianity. Three out of every 10 teenagers have played the Ouija board, had their palms read, and eight out of 10 have read horoscopes, according to a Barna Study called “Teens and the Supernatural.” The survey reports 29 percent of Christian teens did not see anything wrong with it. Eighteen percent said they read horoscopes, but do not think it really predicts the future. And another 8 percent said they read it, but feel guilty about it.

Clearly, the prince of the power of the air is working overtime and seeing the fruits of his labors. Books and movies about boy wizards captured the attention of a generation and a fascination with vampires is ultimately what some believe led to Edwin Juarez Palma’s demise. (Palma had interest in vampires as a hobby, according to news reports, allowing an open door for the Satanists to deceive him.) We know that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), but he’s really the father of lies (John 8:44) and he wants to take a [sic] many people to hell with him as he can. Palma was a victim of the devil’s empty words.

….

Got all that?

LeClaire warns readers that many Christian teenagers have “played the Ouija board, had their palms read” and have “read horoscopes.” Sadly, where most thinking people see entertainment, LeClaire sees dark forces out to steal the souls of unwitting people. Many readers of this blog can remember when they too thought that inanimate objects were demon-possessed and had the power to lead people into darkness. Who can forget the 1980s and all the hysteria over certain toys. Here is a video of Phil Phillips, author of Turmoil in the Toy Box, warning Christians about the demonic forces that lurk in toy boxes:

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The 1970s gave Evangelicalism the dangers of Satan-inspired rock music and backmasking. The 1980s and 1990s found Christians all worked up over the occult, Satanic human sacrifices, and ritual child abuse. Sadly, Evangelicals have a propensity for believing any explanation that helps them to understand what they perceive as the collapse of Christian America. Who and what gets the blame changes with time, but the perceived power behind it — Satan and his demons — remains the same. It is hard to believe — in the twenty-first century — that there are still people who think that the Devil and his minions lurk in the shadows, working to overthrow the Christian God.

church of satan

LeClaire thinks the increase of news stories about the Satanic Church is proof that Satanism is increasing. LeClaire seems ignorant of the fact that members of the Church of Satan do NOT worship Beelzebub. I wonder if demon hunter LeClaire has ever bothered to read the FAQ on the Church of Satan’s website? I doubt it. Had LeClaire read it, she would have found out:

Why do Satanists worship The Devil?

We don’t. Satanists are atheists. We see the universe as being indifferent to us, and so all morals and values are subjective human constructions.

Our position is to be self-centered, with ourselves being the most important person (the “God”) of our subjective universe, so we are sometimes said to worship ourselves. Our current High Priest Gilmore calls this the step moving from being an atheist to being an “I-Theist.”

Satan to us is a symbol of pride, liberty and individualism, and it serves as an external metaphorical projection of our highest personal potential. We do not believe in Satan as a being or person.

Do Satanists perform sacrifices?

No. We are atheists. The only people who perform sacrifices are those who believe in supernatural beings who would consider a sacrifice to be some form of payment for a request or form of worship. Since we do not believe in supernatural beings there is no reason for a Satanist to make a sacrifice of any sort.

Where would Christianity be without Satan? Created by God, Satan is Jehovah’s protagonist. Without Satan, how would Christians explain the existence of evil? Without the prince and power of the air, sin would lose much of its power. Without Lucifer, Evangelicals would lose the greatest excuse ever cooked up by religious fanatics — the devil made me do it!

Video Link

LeClaire thinks that much of the evil in the world can be attributed to Satan, demons, and their influence over people. As Joseph McCarthy did sixty years ago rooting out people he thought were Communists, LeClaire warns that Evangelicals could have neighbors or fellow employees who are devil worshipers. How will Christians know if Morningstar’s followers are nearby? LeClaire doesn’t say. Perhaps enlightened Evangelicals have some sort of spidey-like tingling that comes over them when Satanists are nearby. Or maybe the Holy Spirit warns Christians with some sort of radar-like beep that demons are near. I wish LeClaire would be clear. How can Christians KNOW when Satan and the Demonettes are playing nearby? From everything that I have read — reports of religious leaders committing horrible crimes — people have much more to fear if pastors, priests, and church leaders live nearby. Of course, LeClaire would respond by saying that predator preachers are under the influence of Satan and are being used by him to give Christianity a bad name. Funny how Le Claire and her fellow Evangelicals never become aware of Satan’s influence until AFTER a crime has been committed. I would think God would have some sort of advance warning signal set to alert Christians that certain pastors are under the influence of the Evil One. Surely God doesn’t want Christian children and teenagers raped, molested, or abused, right?

People need not fear Satan or God. Both are fictions of the human imagination. It is when we allow God, Satan, and their imaginary powers stand in for goodness and evil that we become deceived. As a humanist, I believe that the power to do good and evil rests solely with people. God and Satan become middlemen who rob humans of rewards for doing good and responsibility for doing bad. Once people break free of the Christian God and his sidekick Satan, they are then free to see and experience life as it is. Ouija boards? Horoscopes? Palm readings? Harry Potter? Wizards? Witches? Occult-themed movies? Harmless fun. I have yet to meet or know of person who was led over to the mythical dark side by Potter and his Hogwarts friends. To LeClaire and her fearful compatriots I say, SATAN IS NOT REAL! Repeat after me, SATAN IS NOT REAL! Yes, Satan has his own program on FOX, but the star of the show — Lucifer Morningstar — is actor Tom Ellis, not the mythical Bible character with the same name.

Of course, Fundamentalists such LeClaire will view this post as PROOF that Satan is real. Here’s Bruce Gerencser — once an Evangelical pastor — now saying that God and Satan are a myth. There is nothing I can do about such accusations. People prone to think inanimate objects have power and evil hides under every rock have lost the ability to think and reason. They will remain this way until they come to the place where they realize that they have built their entire lives on what Jon Stewart affectionately called: Bullshit Mountain.