Let a tornado or flood devastate a community, and local pastors are often the first ones called to help the community understand the devastation and destruction. Let a student shoot up the local high school, and local pastors are called upon to help students cope with the senseless violence. Let a school bus carrying high school athletes veer off the road, resulting in the death of several notable students, and local pastors are asked to come to the school and console and support grieving students. No one bothers to ask: WHY should pastors be called for support when tragedy strikes? What possibly could pastors offer people other than a shoulder to cry upon?
In rural Northwest Ohio, the place of my birth and current residence, Evangelical pastors are routinely called upon to give help when tragedy strikes. I have to ask, what could Evangelical pastors possibly say that would help anyone make sense of tragedy? These men of God literally have nothing to offer but meaningless clichés:
God has a perfect plan.
God never gives us more than we can bear.
God will take this tragedy and turn it into something good.
God loves us and only wants what is best for us.
Just trust God and you will get through this.
All things work together for good for those who love God.
Overcome by grief. people rarely challenge these false claims:
If God knows, why did he let it happen?
How could God’s perfect plan include wiping out our town?
How could God possibly take the death of __________ and turn into good? Wouldn’t “good” have been letting ________ live?
How could God really love us and let this happen?
When confronted with such questions, Evangelicals pastors respond with more clichés such as just trust God or just believe. Why don’t these pastors tell grieving people the truth: shit happens and often we don’t know why things happen like they do? Instead of sheltering people from the harsh realities of life, perhaps it is better if they hear the truth: life is hard and cruel and sometimes good people die. Instead of portraying tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods as acts of God, how about telling people the real reason such things happen? It is science, not Christianity that provides the answer to WHY these things happen. When a student murders his fellow classmates, perhaps it is better to focus on the senselessness of gun violence. Anything but giving students empty non-answers. Perhaps what pastors really need to do is put an arm around those feeling loss and love them. Forget the sermonizing and just love those who are hurting. Imagine how people might respond if pastors said, I don’t know. But Evangelical pastors will NEVER do this. They are expected to have answers — and they arrogantly think they do — and to provide help to those who are grieving. Speaking the truth is NOT in their repertoire. For them, every answer begins and ends with God and the Bible.
I would like to see communities STOP calling on pastors for help when tragedy strikes. First, many pastors have very little professional counselor training. Just because a person is a pastor doesn’t mean that he is qualified to counsel people. In fact, it is safe to say that MOST Evangelical pastors have no business counseling people (outside of giving spiritual advice). Taking several “Biblical” counseling courses does not a counselor make. Communities and schools would be better served if they turned to secular counselors or religious leaders with extensive counseling training for help. People are best helped when they are gently brought face to face with the realities of life, senseless death, and natural disasters.
As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent months.
Zion’s Lutheran Church, Defiance, Ohio, Timothy Reynolds, pastor. Zion’s Lutheran is affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Tim is a friend of mine, so I won’t be too snarky about his church’s sign. While the message certainly reflects orthodox Christian belief concerning sin, my first impression was to say, no the heart of sin is RELIGION. Remove religion — specifically Christianity — from the human experience and the notion of original sin and the need for redemption go away. Mankind is no longer viewed as broken and in need of fixing. While the concepts of evil and bad behavior would remain, I suspect our “sin” lists would become much smaller.
The Gathering Place, Defiance, Ohio, Richard Buttermore, pastor. The Gathering Place is a nondenominational church. According to its website, The Gathering place is:
a place for Christian believers to who want to experience the presence of God and mature in their faith and relationship with the creator. What is taught here are promises God has given to us and the walk of life required to reap these promises. We are not here to pass judgement on others about what they have done in the past but to help one another progress towards a better life through Jesus. Everyone is on a different page in their walk with Christ and here we gather to have fellowship amongst other believers where we can come for healing in the physical and the mental aspects of our lives. It is through the power of Jesus who spoke it from the beginning in which we are capable of doing these things so come check out what God is doing here in Defiance.
It is is only March, but I was tempted to give The Gathering Place the Stupidest Church Sign of the Year Award®. I decided to wait. We plan to go a lot of traveling this year, so we could yet stumble upon church signs that would knock The Gathering Place off the Stupid Church Sign Leaderboard.
One side of The Gathering Place’s marquee says, Be an Organ Donor, Give Your Heart to God. So, according to the sign, when people become Christians they give their the blood pumping organ in the upper left side of their chests to God. If we take this literally, how is the Christian God any different from the God of South American tribes centuries ago? Tribal priests would cut the hearts out of people and offer them to their God. If people literally give their hearts to the Christian God, doesn’t that mean they will be d-e-a-d after doing so? Perhaps The Gathering Place means for the sign message to be taken in a Biblical or metaphorical sense. But even here, the sign distorts what the Bible actually says about the heart. The Biblical heart is not the blood pumping organ that is central to our existence. A careful study of the word heart reveals that the word means mind or the seat of human will. Proverbs 23:7 says, For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
There are Christians who will dig their literalist heels in on this matter and refuse to accept that the word heart does not mean the organ. I have one question for them. If a Christian has a heart transplant, does that mean he loses his salvation and has to get saved all over again?
The other side of The Gathering Place marquee says, One Nation Under Me, God. Meant to be a statement affirming Christian nationalism, my dirty, carnal, atheistic mind thought, so…God likes to be in top?
Readers might be surprised to learn that I am frequently contacted by Evangelicals who think I am still a Christian. They send me their prayer requests, ask for donations, ask for church recommendations, or have some pressing theological question they would like me to answer. Several Evangelicals have even wanted me to help them get the victory over sexual sin! Showing an utter lack of curiosity (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.) they assume I am a member of the Jesus Club™. Imagine their surprise when they find out I am a God-hating, baby-eating, Satan-worshiping, sin-loving atheist. One woman sent me a long email about how wonderful she thought I was — a true brother in Christ. And then, less than a day later, she sent me another email expressing her dismay over me being an atheist. The cognitive dissonance this caused her was so overwhelming that she didn’t know what to do. Surely an atheist couldn’t say or write anything that would “speak to her soul,” yet that is exactly what my writing did for her.
I am always amused when Evangelicals suggest that now that I am an atheist I no longer understand the Bible or Evangelical Christianity. They assume that the moment I said I no longer believe, God sent a supernatural vacuüm cleaner to earth and sucked five decades of knowledge out of my brain. After all the BIBLE says, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Now that I am a “natural” man, I no longer understand the Bible. This argument is so absurd that I don’t even try to respond. I know what I know, regardless of my “spiritual” condition.
Just this week I received an email from an Evangelical praising me for showing the vileness of the song My Church. The letter writer wrote, with a subject of Great Job!:
You probably don’t need to hear this, but I just this week heard the “My Church” song and was disgusted. I wanted to look up the lyrics to talk about in a lesson at church and found your sight[sic]. What you are doing is awesome.
A short while later, the letter writer, after checking out my awesome Christian blog, sent me this:
I just emailed you and I’m sorry for wasting your time. At a glance I thought you were someone who loved God and saw things the same way I do. I am not going to say things you already know, nor come to a level that some on your pages have as far as trying to belittle your opinion. Those actions are not very Christian, but at the same time i felt I needed to let you know that after reviewing your blog I see I was hasty in my earlier email and hope the furthest away from you continuing in this work. Though your desire is for this to not happen; I do pray that God will help you in health but more importantly find your way to him.
And…just like that I went from AWESOME to a bad man in need of salvation.
I am an expert at post tagging. Each day, upwards of twenty-five percent of my blog traffic comes from search engines. Most of these searches are performed by Christians. Each day hundreds of people come to this site thinking they are reading the writing of a brother in the Lord. Thanks to every post being appropriately and religiously tagged, my writing is usually well-ranked by Google and Bing. Of course, subject matter helps. When Evangelicals want to know if it is a sin for a man to have long hair, they usually end up at this site. And that is good, right? Knowledge is the only cure for Fundamentalism.
Every day, without fail, I spend time reading numerous Evangelical Christian blogs and websites. Doing so allows me to stay informed about what goes on in the insane asylum. One such blog is the Isaiah 53:5 Project — a site I have used as blog fodder numerous times before. Today, a man by the name of James wrote a post titled, Not Enough Evidence God. (link no longer active) I thought, oh boy, this ought to be good.
James starts out by saying that this post is a repost of one of the blog’s most-read articles. He goes on to say “If you think there is no evidence to support Christianity, you may want to think again. I thought, okay, James is going to present evidence that supports the existence of the Christian God. Perhaps he is even going to present evidence to support a virgin having a baby, dead people coming back to life, and a man walking through walls. Sadly, James left me quite disappointed. No cigarette after reading this post.
James quotes 19th-century atheist Bertrand Russell’s response to the question, What will you say some day when God asks you, why didn’t you believe in me? Russell replied: “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!’” Again, James raises the issue of evidence. I thought, here it comes. Finally, an Evangelical is going to give the evidences for the existence of the Evangelical version of the Christian God. Once again, James leaves me disappointed.
According to James, Russell’s answer is, and I quote, “loaded with problems.” I thought, okay, loaded with problems. James is now going to unpack his powerful arsenal of proofs and slay the mighty dragon of atheism. My body tingled with excitement as I pondered what was coming next. I thought, oh how I want to be a Christian again. Finally, someone is going to give me sufficient reasons to believe the Christian narrative. And, just like that, James, ever the tease, left me, yet again, disappointed.
After James’ coitus-like build-up, I was expecting a rousing defense of Christianity. Instead, James showed that he was a virgin and in but a few moments the deed was done. The only evidence James gave for the existence of the Christian God was the tired, worn out Evangelical trope, the Bible says __________. That’s right — for all his talk about evidence, James gives none. Lest you doubt that I am accurately reporting James’ magnum opus, here is exactly what he had to say:
Problem number one is what God Himself has to say. I don’t think He minces any words here. [emphasis added]
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
– Romans 1:20
Let that sink in a minute then ask yourself if Russell is making the arrogant mistake of blaming his lack of belief on the failure of a divine being who can do no wrong and gave humanity no excuse.
Are you making the same mistake Russell did? If so, how do you think the conversation at judgment will go?
You: “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!”
God: “…without excuse.”
Seems fairly cut and dry to me.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
– Proverbs 26:12
That’s it. According to James, the Bible says God reveals himself through creation, and that by looking at creation, humans know that God exists. Those who look at creation and do not see God are deliberately ignoring what is plain for all to see. Thus, those who refuse to acknowledge God are without excuse. As I read this, I thought, That’s it, James? Come on, surely you have more evidence for God than this?
When someone uses Romans 1:18-21 as “proof” for the existence of God, I quickly grant them their assertion. Fine, I say. I accept your claim that creation reveals to everyone the existence of God. Usually, Evangelicals are taken aback when I do this, but they fail to see that what I am really doing is setting a trap.
After I admit that someone could look at creation and conclude God exists, I then ask, which God? The Evangelical usually quickly responds with, why the one true God, the Christian God. I then ask them, what is there in creation that tells anyone that the Christian God created everything?What proof is there for the God of the Christian Bible being the creator God? What is the bridge that gets us from creation revealing that there is A GOD to that God being THE GOD of Evangelical Christianity? There is nothing in the universe that shows the Evangelical God created everything. At best, creation testifies to there being some sort of deistic God. When I look at the stars at night, I can easily understand how someone might conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe. However, I see no evidence in the sky that tells that this God is the Evangelical God.
Eventually, Evangelicals will finally say, the Bible says ________________. And just like that we are right back to where we started. James’ non-evidence evidence falls flat on its face because the real issue is not what the universe tells us, but whether the Bible is what Evangelicals claim it is. I have long argued that the best way to disabuse Evangelicals of their Fundamentalists beliefs is to attack the foundation of those beliefs — the Bible. And not just the Bible, but their interpretation of the Biblical text. The goal should be to convince Evangelicals that the Bible is not what they think it is. Specifically, Evangelicals need to be shown that the Bible is NOT an inspired, inerrant, infallible text.
The biggest problem is that Evangelicals have been brainwashed into rejecting out of hand any claim that casts doubt on the veracity and authority of the Bible. When the mythical Satan tempted the mythical Adam and Eve in the mythical Garden of Eden, he said to them, Yea, hath God said (Yes, even Satan uses King James English)? Evangelicals see challenges to the accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible as modern-day equivalents of Yea, hath God said? Thus, it becomes very difficult to breach the inerrancy wall that surrounds Evangelical minds. Not impossible, but hard. This is why when Evangelicals attempt to argue with me about something I wrote, I ask them, have you ever read any of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books? (Please check out our bookstore for a list of Ehrman’s books.) I have yet to have an Evangelical answer yes. Often, they will say they have read reviews of his books or Dr. so-and-so’s take-down of the agnostic Bart Ehrman’s books. When pressed to read several of Ehrman’s books, most Evangelicals reply, I don’t need to. I have the Bible. And therein lies the problem. Until Evangelicals are willing to at least entertain thoughts of the Bible not being what they claim it is, there is no hope for them. If Evangelicals are willing to honestly and studiously read Ehrman’s books, I am confident that they will be disabused of the notion that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. Until the Jameses of the world are willing to wrestle with the history, nature, and complexity of the Biblical text, there is little hope of delivering them from their Fundamentalist beliefs. While I think someone can remain a Christian after reading Ehrman’s books, it is impossible for them to remain an Evangelical. The evidence provided by Ehrman is so overwhelming that those saying they are still Evangelical after reading his books are living in a state of denial.
They might not publically acknowledge their fear of God’s judgment because of their pride and their love of sin but deep down inside, they know God exists. They are simply suppressing that knowledge (Rom 1:18). I remember an unbeliever sitting next to me on a jet and we were circling the airport and waiting to land because there were tornadoes nearby and the storms had large hail as well as severe wind shear. As the jet kept circling, other planes began to circle around the airport too, waiting for the tornado warnings to expire. The longer we were in flight, the more other jets were in the area and the lighter our jet became (using up fuel), the more it was tossed right and left and up and down. After this experience, the man next to me asked me about God. I sensed his fear of dying made him fear God’s judgment, knowing that he was living a sinful life (as he acknowledge to me). Unbelievers can only have “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb 10:27) in near-death experiences and that’s the only fear of God they will ever know unless they repent. In the back of their minds they know that “our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Heb 12:29) and that after death, they will be judged (Heb 9:27).
Imagine, for a moment, if atheists told Christians that believers know deep down that there is no God. Why, there would be outrage. How dare atheists invalidate their personal experiences! How dare atheists suggest that Christians do not know what they believe! Yet, Evangelicals routinely tell atheists that their unbelief is a charade; that atheists deep down (deep down where?) know that God exists. Atheists are rightly offended over such dismissals of their beliefs and personal experiences. If Christians can know in whom they have believed (2 Timothy 1:12), then atheists can certainly know in whom they have NOT believed.
I am an atheist because I do not think there is sufficient evidence for the existence of gods. I am not suppressing knowledge that tells me Jack Wellman’s version of God exists. How can Wellman possibly know that the creator God is Jehovah/Jesus — his preferred deity? What in the natural world screams to all who dare to listen that the Evangelical God created the universe 6,020 years ago? Evangelicals such as Wellman believe the Evangelical God exists because the Bible says he exists. Based on this presupposition, Evangelicals then interpret scientific data so it lines up with what God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible word says. Wellman, typical of most Evangelicals, closes his mind to anything that contradicts his Fundamentalist worldview. Such people are not seekers of truth. They think they have found the truth and have no need to consider any data that contradicts their version of truth. I can tell Wellman this much: provide evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible and I will believe. It really is that simple.
Will such evidence be forthcoming? Of course not. Wellman knows that most Christians-turned-atheists have already critically examined the evidence for the Christian God and found it wanting. What new evidence could possibly be forthcoming? In Luke 16 — the story of the rich man and Lazarus — Abraham tells the rich man — who is in hell — that unless his topside brothers listen to Moses and the prophets, they too will end up in hell. In other words, unless unbelievers heed what the Bible says they will go to hell when they die (technically they will go to the grave, not hell, and await Judgment Day). According to the Bible, God is not planning on sending a sign so people will believe (which is interesting since many Evangelicals keep saying God is giving America signs concerning his disfavor and coming judgment). God gave the world the Bible, end of story. Believe what it says or go to hell. That is, IF you can believe it, since salvation requires God giving the sinner the power to believe. No one, according to Arminians and Calvinists, believes unto salvation until God gives them eyes to see and ears to hear.
Wellman and his fellow Evangelicals refuse to accept that many atheists are quite knowledgeable about the Bible. After all, I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. Raised in an Evangelical home and trained at an Evangelical college, I know the Bible inside and out. I carefully weighed the Evangelical God and his errant, internally contradictory Bible on the scale of reason and found them wanting. If Wellman wants to bring atheists to the light then I suggest he do something other than quote Bible verses and make false assertions about unbelievers.
Speaking of false assertions, Wellman states that atheists do not “publically acknowledge their fear of God’s judgment because of their pride and their love of sin.” Pride? Really? What does pride have to do with atheism? Does Wellman really think atheists refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Christian God because they are too proud to do so? I assume he thinks atheists are too proud to admit they are wrong. Here’s the problem with such an argument: for atheists who were once Evangelicals, pride would have kept us in the fold. However, putting great value on truth, Evangelicals-turned-atheists refused to let cultural or family pride get in the way of their examination of Christianity. If anything, it is Evangelicals who have a pride problem. Tens of millions of Evangelical are little more than cultural Christians. It is pride (and fear) that keeps cultural Christians in the fold. If they were honest, cultural Christians would admit that they too see little evidence for the existence of the Christian God. Their lives are living proof that many Evangelicals are, in fact, atheists or agnostics. The Jack Wellmans of the church are the minority.
Wellman also states that atheists refuse to acknowledge the Evangelical God because of their “love of sin.” Countless Evangelical preachers — regurgitators of unverifiable nonsense — make the claim that atheists have secrets; that atheists are actually licentious, vile sinners. Can atheists behave badly? Absolutely. But, based on daily news headlines, it seems that it is Evangelicals that have a sin problem. Atheists, refusing to be bound by an irrelevant ancient religious text, are often quite open about their “sins.” Evangelicals, on the other hand, are taught to hide their sins under the mythical blood of Jesus. Just pray and ask for forgiveness, Evangelicals are told by preachers, and your sin debt will be wiped clean. What a way to avoid accountability for bad behavior. No need to air one’s dirty laundry. Just pray and move on to the next sin-filled night. Who is being more honest? Atheists who say, this is how we live our lives or Evangelicals who hide and obfuscate who they really are, pretending to be some sort of saints? Give me honest atheists every time.
Nothing I write in this post will crack Wellman’s cement-filled head. Now in the sunset years of life, Wellman has too much invested to walk away. In the not-too-distant future, the Evangelical God will either rapture Wellman away or call him home to be with Jesus. Or so Wellman thinks. Oh how I wish that Christians, immediately after death, could come back to life long enough to tell us that there is NOTHING that lies beyond the grave. Or at the very least, tell us that it was Wakan Tanka and not the Evangelical God who met them when they crossed to the other side. Since no one, including Jesus, comes back to life after dying, Evangelicals will continue to believe that a sweet payoff awaits them after death.
Last week, the National Football League (NFL) held its annual scouting combine. Eli Apple, an Ohio State standout, attended the event, which is meant to showcase the talents of NFL hopefuls. During one of the interview sessions, Atlanta Falcons secondary coach Marquand Manuel asked Apple, “Do you like men?” Manuel’s question caused quite an uproar, resulting in the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff being required to take an NFL-approved social training class. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said Manuel received additional training. Most people think that a player’s sexuality is irrelevant. All that should matter is what players do while on the playing field.
“First of all, who are the counselors? Are they bringing in people from groups like GLAAD, which is a homosexual activist group — which is bigoted against Christians? Are they bringing in anti-Christian homosexual activists to be their so-called advisors?”
First, why would it matter whether a counselor holds a negative view of Christianity (actually Evangelical Christianity)? Isn’t the ONLY issue the fact that a person’s sexual identity and preferences are out of bounds and have no bearing on whether a player is NFL material? LaBarbera needs to understand that people of his ilk are no longer in control of our culture’s understanding of human sexuality. Most Americans now know at least one person who is gay. They are no longer willing to damn to hell friends, family, and work colleagues who just so happen to be gay. As with many former homophobes, my view of homosexuality changed once I met and befriended someone who batted from the wrong side of the plate.
Second, I am convinced that those who scream the loudest about the sin of homosexuality often are closeted gays themselves. In the same One News Now article, LaBarbera stated:
“I saw — I think it was a hockey game — where they had the kissing cam, and it was two guys kissing. And our kids are there. Do we want our sons and daughters to think it’s okay for two people of the same sex to kiss? It’s not okay! It’s immoral! It’s wrong!”
I wonder, is LaBarbera really “offended” by two men kissing, or does their kiss cause some sort of sexual stirring — one that must be suppressed lest the true Peter LaBarbera be forced out of the closet? My money is on the latter. Every time I see a picture of LaBarbera I think, this guy is a closeted gay.
Here’s to hoping that contumacious LaBarbera will have a Ted Haggard moment. The Evangelical closet is chock-full of gays — male and female. Those who take the high moral road often drive off a cliff, crashing and bursting into flames, exposing for all to see their lies and hypocrisy. When these crashes happen, the world rightly laughs and ridicules the fallen saints—not because of their religion, but because they dared to think that they were morally superior to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.
For readers who might not be familiar with LaBarbera, here is a partial list of things he has said about gays:
“Only a decaying society pretends that homosexual relationships are morally equivalent to normal, male-female couples.”
“God detests homosexual practice and so we should expect that, since this is a sin movement, we should expect that they lie and are often nasty.”
It’s almost as if homosexual sodomy was created to spread disease.”
“My test is [to] substitute another sexual sin and see if it makes sense. Would we be talking about a survey of porn-using Christians or incestuous Christians? That sounds stark, but that’s, I believe, the appropriate biblical analogy.”
“I think there are Christians who struggle with the sin of homosexuality — but proud homosexual Christians? That’s an oxymoron to me in the same way as I would say proud adulterous Christians,” he adds. “And so, I think we have to be very careful because I see the tactic of the Emergent Church and the Christian left is to start talking more and more about ‘gay Christians,’ and what they end up doing is demonizing the so-called ‘Religious Right’ and saying that the Religious Right is all wrong in the way it has talked about homosexuality.”
“And have you considered the likelihood that some of the homosexuals will request sex-change procedures? I know for a fact that a significant percentage of my Law School class was undergoing sex-change therapy or surgery.”
“During my enlisted service, homosexuals seemed to be a clumsy lot. They had a tendency to repeatedly fall headfirst down an engineroom ladder. Some were even known to trip on deck and “fall” overboard.”
“If we get to pick and choose which laws we uphold, which laws are next on the line to ignore? Carnal Knowledge? I would think a service man or woman who has sex with a minor (Carnal Knowledge) could perform military duties as well, if not better, than a homosexual.”
“This is what’s going to happen all across the country the more homosexuality is promoted by the armed services. I would venture to say that someday, we’ll see servicemen marching in uniform in a sexual sin parade like what we saw here in San Diego. So the fact is homosexuality, in other words sin, does not stay in its closet; it always wants to boast and be prideful.”
Let me conclude this post with a video of Dan Savage’s masterful four minute take down of LaBarbera — also known as Porno Pete.
Hello to all and much love. My name is Melvin Heiniger and I am the pastor at Green Chapel Redeemed Church. Thank you so much for taking 5 minutes to visit our website. I truly believe that every individual must evaluate their life. and make one very important decision . What will happen to me when I pass from this life? Will I go to a place called Heaven, or wind up in a place called hell where there awaits only suffering and pain. Some may say that if we do good things, we will go to heaven. According to the Bible, That is not so.
Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
1 John 1:8-9 says, “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I guess now we know that we all make mistakes.
Now for the Great news! John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” Wow… isn’t it nice to know we don’t have to worry anymore! Romans 10:13 says “for whosoever shall call upon the name of the lord, shall be saved.” That “Whosoever” means YOU!!
I must ask, do you know Jesus as your Lord and savior? If not, do you want to? Is something inside of you saying “this feels right?” I hope you will say this little prayer with me and accept Jesus!
Just say, Jesus, I repent of my sins and make you my lord. I believe you came and died for me. Then arose that I could make Heaven my home. Help me be what you have called me to be!!! Congratulations. You are now a Christian!
Welcome to the family of God! Please feel free to call and share your life changing experience with me! God bless and keep you!
Good news! I prayed the prayer and I am now a — drum roll, please — Christian!
Lakeview United Methodist Church, somewhere on a back road in Northeast Indiana, Michael Lamarr, pastor.
The church does not have a website. I have awarded Lakeview the Crooked Lettering of the Year Award, given to the church that can’t be bothered to cash in a certificate of deposit to pay for a professionally lettered sign.
Lick Creek Church of the Brethren, Bryan, Ohio, Dr. Nancy Berkheiser, interim pastor. Organized in 1853 — the first church organization in Williams County — Lick Creek is known for “steak suppers, homemade ice cream and made from scratch apple dumplings.”
According to the church’s website, Lick Creek “follows the teaching of Jesus.” The church’s mission is to “provide spiritual direction, unity and purpose to all people by continuing the work of Jesus Christ peacefully, simply, together.”
If I were asked to give advice to this church, I would tell them…immediately, without delay, gather up the book the stupid sign message came from and burn it. Baseball bears no resemblance to Lent and Easter. In the future, THINK before putting a lame message on the sign. Hint: 99.99 percent of church sign messages are lame. Don’t make it easy for unbelievers to make fun of your sign. Will the Lick Creek church listen? Of course not. Putting stupid ass messages and clichés on church signs is the in thing to do.
Movement Church, Glenwood Middle School, Findlay, Ohio, Eric Ferguson, lead pastor. Movement Church is a cool, hip Evangelical church for millennials (based on photos on the church’s website). According to Movement’s website, the church is:
a place for people to learn more about God, no matter what stage he or she is at in seeking God. The church places a strong emphasis on connecting to the community with outreach and volunteer projects.
Movement Church, similar to countless other Evangelical churches established over the past two decades, wants to put a friendly face on Christianity. However, as country folks will tell you, you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, and Movement Church — based on their doctrinal statement — is no different theologically than nearby Fundamentalist churches Trinity Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church. Behind the nice smiles and promises of kindness and servanthood lies commitment to the inerrancy of scripture and the eternal damnation of all those who refuse to join the movement.
Faith Baptist Church, Ottawa, Ohio. No pastor name or website available.
Faith of the Apostles Church, Paw Paw, Michigan, David Harn, pastor. Faith of the Apostles periodically has a service called Jammin for Jesus — a diverse worship experience you won’t want to miss. According the church’s website, Faith of the Apostles members believe:
WE BELIEVE the Bible to be the infallible Word of God.
WE BELIEVE in JESUS ONLY, the visible expression of the invisible God.
WE BELIEVE in one God whose Name is JESUS, who is Father in Creation, Son in Redemption and Holy Ghost the Comforter.
WE BELIEVE in water baptism by immersion in the Name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.
WE BELIEVE in receiving the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in other tongues as on the day of Pentecost.
WE BELIEVE in living a Holy and Sanctified life apart from which one cannot please God.
WE BELIEVE in the Rapture, when our Lord Jesus Christ will appear to catch away His Church.
WE BELIEVE in the Resurrection of the dead and the Final Judgment wherein all who were not in the first resurrection will be judged according to the deeds done in the body.
WE BELIEVE in a real HEAVEN with Eternal Life and a real HELL with Eternal Damnation.
Based on their statement of beliefs, I suspect Faith of the Apostles is some sort of Jesus-only apostolic or Pentecostal church.
Redeemer Covenant Church, Arlington, Ohio, Caleb Hackworth, pastor. Redeemer is a Reformed (Calvinistic) Baptist church affiliated with FIRE — Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals. Buzz words abound: Reformed, Baptistic, Congregational, Integrated Family Worship, Word of God Preached with Authority — Producing Real Worship and Community. The church is currently studying the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Redeemer is also a part of the Northwest Ohio Reformation Society and the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Put it all together and what you end up with is a Calvinistic, Independent, theologically Fundamentalist Baptist church.
It is not often that an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher of the stature of Dr. not-a-real-Dr. Bob Gray, Sr., exposes for all to see the way he really does the work of the ministry. While I appreciate Gray’s “honesty,” something tells me that he won’t appreciate this blog post.
There was a day when the job description for Evangelical pastors included things such as preaching, teaching, visiting the sick and the elderly, marrying the young and burying the old. These days, Evangelicals pastors, especially those who pastor megachurches, inspire and encourage church members. Every Sunday, church members file into the sanctuary hoping to get their weekly fix of Jesus. Pastors, knowing they must rev up congregants to keep them happy and tithing, resort to all sorts of tricks to make sure felt needs are met and every person leaves the sanctuary all jacked up on Mountain Dew, I mean Jesus. This type of ministry has turned church members into spectators.
Down in Longview, Texas, things are different at the Longview Baptist Temple — a sin-hating, devil-fighting, King-James-Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. The Gray clan — Bob Gray, Sr., and Bob Gray II — have little interest in inspiring, motivating or encouraging church members. Death is certain, hell is real, and Jesus is coming soon, preach the Grays, and they have no time to coddle church members. According to Gray, Sr.’s recent blog post, God-called preachers should drive their church members to do what they want them to do. Gray wrote:
The more I think about the subject of driving people the more I realize how we badly have missed the boat regarding this. In every other area of life we taut [sic] and praise the people who are driven and do drive others for a cause.
We celebrate a coach who drives his team to victory, but criticize the pastor who drives his church to reach their city for Christ. We praise the teacher who drives her students to study harder to get good grades, yet slander the pastor who drives his people to fulfill the great commission as they are commanded to do. We rejoice over the parent who drives their child to practice their musical instruments so that they can become accomplished musicians, but we demonize the pastor who drives his people to give more to God.
Let me ask you a question. Is winning the lost less important than winning the national championship? Tell me why Nick Saban can drive his Alabama football team to win and we love it, but we criticize the preacher for driving his people.
It seems that Gray, now 70 years old, has failed to learn that rarely does driving people result in long-term success. When people feel they are constantly being pushed to do, do, do, and do some more, they will, over time, tire of it and seek rest and relaxation somewhere beyond the incessant pushing of their drug-dealer pastor. I wonder if Gray, Sr. has ever thought about the thousands of church members he has driven right off a cliff? Tens of thousands of people have been won to Jesus through the soul-winning efforts of sheepdog Gray and Longview Baptist Temple (LBT) sheep. Shouldn’t the auditorium of LBT be teeming with members by now? Surely, 30 plus years of driving congregants to give, give, give and win souls, win souls, win souls, should result in overflow attendance on Sunday; yet attendance at LBT is a smidgen of what it once was. Longview Baptist Temple used to regularly publish its attendance numbers, bus rider numbers, and number of souls saved. Today? These numbers are no longer shared with the public. If continually driving church members is the way to do the work of the ministry, why does attendance at LBT continue to decline?
Where did preachers such as Bob Gray, Sr. get the notion that church members must be driven to accomplish great things for God? For many years, Jack Hyles — pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana — held an annual Pastor’s School. Thousands of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers and church members flocked to Hammond to sit at the feet of Hyles. First Baptist — at the time, the largest church in the world — was the crown jewel of the IFB church movement. Numerous preachers — Bob Gray, Sr. included — took to heart Hyles’ preaching and returned home to drive their churches to give, give, give, and win souls, win souls, win souls. The result? In the 1970s and early 1980s most of the Top One Hundred churches in attendance were IFB churches. Today? Only a handful of IFB churches are on the list. None is anywhere near the top of the list, having been displaced by friendlier, generic Evangelical churches.
The blame for the decline of the IFB church movement rests at the feet of Jack Hyles and those who followed in his steps. Hyles taught these so-called men of God to verbally, emotionally, and mentally abuse church members. As one aged IFB preacher said years ago, We hit our people over the head with the sin stick so often that they duck when we begin to preach. For years, Sunday after Sunday, IFB church members filed into churches such as Longview Baptist to hear preachers tell them that they were never doing enough. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry, sang the Midwestern Baptist College student body when I attended there in the 1970s. Today, the school has a handful of students, and the church which students were required to attend — Emmanuel Baptist Church — is no longer in existence; a church, by the way, that once exceeded 5,000 in attendance.
Thousands of souls were saved through the work of Midwestern college students. Required (driven) to evangelize, students fanned out across the Pontiac and Detroit area, knocking on doors and offering the one-two-three- repeat-after-me IFB gospel to those who dared to answer their knock. Freshmen students, filled with zeal and unaware as to how the soul-winning game was played, were those most likely to devote themselves to saving the lost. By the end of their first year, students who had been repeatedly berated at church, college chapel, and Saturday bus meetings over their poor souls-saved numbers, learned how to lie about their soul-winning conquests. Students were required to report each week how much time they spent evangelizing the lost and how many people were saved. Midwestern even held soul winning contests. Won souls were carefully tabulated and the best soul-winners had their names affixed to a chart.
Many IFB churches have moved on from their hyper-soul-winning days. As members began to burn out, attendance numbers declined. These IFB preachers — considered compromisers by men such as Gray — say they are now focused on quality and not quantity. Other IFB preachers, refusing to admit that they have burned through several generations of church members, continue to drive their churches — demanding more and more from fewer people. The numbers are against them, and in time churches built on the Hyles model of sheep-driving will collapse, and the remaining sheep will scatter, finding pastors and churches who treat them like people instead of a commodity. Whatever my feelings are concerning religion, I consider that those who choose to believe should be treated with respect. After all, they are the ones doing the work and paying the freight. Without them, preachers would be forced to sell vacuum cleaners and hamburgers to make ends meet.
Gray, Sr. recently took to his blog to whine about people saying he drives church members. Gray wrote:
Recently it has been brought to my attention that someone who once worked side-by-side with me in my ministry has criticized me to several men for having “driven” my people rather than leading them. Now, normally I would actually consider that to be a compliment. However, it was obvious that it was not said as a compliment but as a criticism.
It is interesting that someone who would claim to be a friend would say what my enemies also have said about me. This is not something new. Nor is it something that concerns me other than for the fact that it came from a source I would have trusted. Plus it confuses people as to what good leadership is.
People who are told they are “hurting” after being so-called “driven” never knew it until they were told so. We are basically lazy by nature and anyone who will feed that will have to be critical of prior leaders who were driven because of a cause. It is an insult to those who gave their lives to a cause to say they were “driven” without a choice in the matter.
So, I say to those who accuse me of driving my people, you are right, I did drive my people. I drove them to do what’s right. I drove them to obey the Great Commission. I drove them to sacrifice for the cause of Christ. I drove them to put the Kingdom of God above themselves. I drove them to be the Christians they should be.
This is the eighty-fourth 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 God, Paper, Scissors by Paul Cusick.
This graphic perfectly illustrates the puritanical culture found in many Evangelical churches. Women are considered lust magnets, sure to attract weak, pathetic Christian men who have little control over their sexual desires. Starting with primary school age, females are taught to never, ever expose any of the sexual parts of their bodies–breasts, cleavage, bare shoulders, legs, and ass. In other words, girls and women are expected to dress similar to burka-wearing Muslims. The only difference is the head covering.
This kind of thinking robs Evangelical girls and women of any sense of self-worth. Like pornographers, modesty Nazis reduce females to commodities that must be protected and hidden until it is time to put them on the (marriage) market.
The most astounding fact about this picture is that it comes from Harding University — a Churches of Christ-affiliated institution. It is hard to imagine — in the twenty-first century — grown women willingly submitting themselves to this kind of male-driven body control. Yet countless young women attend Evangelical colleges and universities that have rules which govern virtually every aspect of their lives. Such control would be impossible without women being indoctrinated as young children and teenagers by pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and parents.
Just remember girls. Regardless of what you think, IT’S THE RULES.
Uplift Camp Dress Code — Summer Youth Camp held (and sponsored) at Harding University (Note that the majority of the rules apply only to women.)
Youth ministers and sponsors are responsible for their group (adults included) complying with the dress code for Uplift. You should have a meeting with all participants and make sure they understand the dress code BEFORE they pack for Uplift. The dress code will be enforced. If you have students or adults who are out of dress code, we will come to you or a sponsor to address the issue. If there are offenses while at Uplift, it will be your responsibility to see that all in your group meet dress code. You may need to take your campers to Walmart, Goodwill, etc. to find suitable clothing.
All clothing must have sleeves (guys and girls). Sleeveless clothing is not allowed under any circumstances, even recreation time. This includes sundresses, tank tops, sleeveless blouses, athletic shirts, and cut-off T-shirts.
No visible midriffs. Clothing that exposes any part of the mid-section when standing, sitting or bending over is not allowed. All tops should be long enough to be tucked in.
Shorts must be fingertip length at least when standing straight, arms to the side. This is measured from the shortest part of the shorts. Nike-style running shorts are not allowed, even if they are long enough.
Skirts and dresses must come down to the top of the knee.
Skin-tight or otherwise revealing clothing is not allowed. Low-cut shirts, spandex, tight jeans, halter tops, etc. are not acceptable. Leggings do not count as pants. If your outfit is against dress code without leggings, it is against dress code with them.
Shocker!! Harding University has students who are gay. Students operate a site called HU Queer Press: The State of the Gay — “a self-published zine that aims to give voice to the experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding.”
For many people, being RIGHT is crucial. Evangelicals place a premium on being RIGHT. After all, THE Bible says, Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Evangelicals, hanging their entire existence on a definite article, spend inordinate amounts of time making sure that their eternal destiny is settled. Life is viewed as little more than preparation for the life to come. No matter what happens, Evangelicals know that God will grant them a divine payoff the moment they die. Heaven is their goal, and reaching God’s Trump Hotel requires Evangelicals to believe the right doctrines. Right beliefs lead to heaven, wrong beliefs lead to hell.
No Bruce, Evangelicals say, we believe that salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life are gained through the merit and atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is through JESUS, not right beliefs that sinners are saved. While Evangelicals love to preach up salvation by grace, underneath all their talk about the freeness of salvation lies a rigid set of beliefs.
Evangelicals love to quote John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
However, what Evangelicals really mean when they quote this verse is this:
For God so loved the world, that he gave sinners the right beliefs, that whosoever believeth the right doctrines should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Ask former Evangelicals if being right was of any importance to them and the churches they attended. Ask them if significant time was spent making sure church members believed the right doctrines. If their experiences were anything like mine, they will say that there were certain doctrines which were considered essential to Christianity— inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation through Jesus alone, heaven, hell, physical return of Jesus to earth, to name a few. Believe, and thou shalt be saved. Don’t believe, and thou shalt be considered heterodox, heretical, or unsaved.
Recently, an Evangelical sent me an email that contained one sentence: Bruce, what if you are wrong — again? The author assumes that atheism is my destination, that I have intellectually arrived and no further inquiry is required. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I walked out of the doors of church seven years ago, I left behind being right on the church’s altar. From that day forward, my life has been one of seeking and exploration. My goal is not to be right as much as it is to drink deeply at the well of human existence.
Now, this does not mean that I don’t value truth. I do, but my search for it is no longer has as its goal some sort of metaphysical payoff. As an Evangelical, I diligently read and studied the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke of KNOWING whom I have believed, and that is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to intimately know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — Jesus Christ. I spent thousands of hours immersed in the Bible and prayer. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, the Bible said, and I wanted to be a spiritual seeker and door knocker. These days, I still do a fair bit of reading and study — as my health allows — but I no longer feel pressed to make sure I am right. I want to be right, but I know that — unlike the Bible — the pool of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is so great that I will likely leave most of it untouched by the time I die.
I spent 50 years in the Christian church. While I am sure there are things that I do not know about this or that branch of Christianity, when it comes to Evangelicalism I have exhausted the subject matter. It has been years since Evangelicals have used original arguments in their attempts to woo me back into the fold. Most public Evangelicals-turned-atheists will say the same. Instead, Evangelicals trot out well-worn, easily refuted arguments, thinking that they have won the day. Sorry Evangelicals, until you come up with something new, I am content to ignore you and move on to new and exciting ideas.
While I have shut the book on Evangelicalism and Christianity, this doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. While I am certain that the Gods created by humans are no Gods at all, there could come a day when I am presented with new data concerning the existence of a God or Gods. Who knows, right? I doubt it, but I it certainly is “possible” that our alien overlords could make themselves known some day and I will have to admit that I was wrong — again. Until then, I plan to keep walking on the path of reason, science, and skepticism. And if I find out I am wrong? I will likely write a blog post detailing the data that turned my beliefs on their head.
How about you, Evangelicals? Are you willing to openly engage the vast bookstore of literature that challenges the truthfulness and veracity of Christianity? Are you willing to follow the path wherever it leads? Are you willing to call into question those beliefs you hold dear? Are you willing, if the path leads to such a conclusion, to abandon Christianity? Are you really a seeker of truth, or are you just looking for data that reinforces your beliefs? Are you willing to lose your salvation for the sake of intellectual honesty? Or does the comfort that comes from certainty trump intellectual pursuit?
If you answer NO to these questions, I understand. That said, don’t tell me that you are a seeker of truth. A truth-seeker is one who is willing to follow the path wherever it leads. You are not willing to do this. Until you are willing consider the possibility of being wrong, you will remain safely lodged in the Evangelical castle of certainty. Millions will join you in its safe confines, but I hope, some day, that you will venture outside of the castle’s secure walls, and enter the wild, woolly, and wonderful world of reason.
This is the eighty-third 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.
You know Christie Something happened a long time ago in Haiti And the people don’t wanna talk about it They were under the heel of the French And they got together and they swore a pact to the devil They said we’ll serve you If you’ll get us free from the French True story And so the devil said okay it’s a deal And ever since then they have been cursed
Shake the hand of my imaginary friend See the trouble he gets in Can’t be traced back to me He can’t pretend at the slightest of his when He has the power to suspend our rules of morality And when he gets angry he can make the lion cry He can help me win the fight with his power Yes he speaks to me and it’s always positive Cause I can just ask for forgiveness and it’s over
[Chorus:] So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said What God said, what God said Don’t you put the blame on me I’m doing what God said What God said, what God said
So you’re praying for the death of the president of the united states Do you think it’s appropriate to say something like that or… I’m not saying anything what I’m doing is repeating what God is saying In the name of the one who made us all I will hide behind these walls from my enemy By the power bestowed from up above I will conquer you because it is my destiny And with the righteous hand I will bring you to your knees I will strip you of your freedom without mercy And when the earth quakes and the blood runs in the sand There will be no final stand for the unworthy
[Chorus:] So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said What God said, what God said Don’t you put the blame on me I’m doing what God said What God said, what God said
I stand on a mountain top on a solid rock I stand on abundance truth and I won’t be moved And when I come to claim my victory I’ll repeat what was told to me
[Chorus:] So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said What God said, what God said And he speaks to only me I know what God said What God said, what God said