Evangelicalism

How Will People Know Our Home is a ‘Godly’ Home?

spider-man

Snark ahead. If you are an easily offended Evangelical, please leave now before you feel a wedgie coming on.

Fundamentalist Nancy Campbell, blogger extraordinaire for the Above Rubies website, asks the question What Goes on in Your Home?  Campbell wants to know if people “feel” the presence of God when they come into a Christian’s home:

Do the people who come into your home feel the presence of God? Are your neighbors and those around you aware that your home belongs to God?…

…How will folks know your home is truly God’s home? It will be a house of prayer. Jesus said, “My house will be called a house of prayer.” Sadly, not much prayer happens in Christian homes today, but if our home is called by God’s name it will be filled with prayer. It will be filled with confessing the name of the Lord throughout the day. It will be filled with the riches of His Word. It will be filled with joy, singing, and God-inspired music. It will be filled with the inspiration of a mother who delights to be in her home, nurturing, feeding, and training her children to be God-seekers and God-lovers.

How are people on the earth going to know the name of the Lord? When they see our homes called by the name of the Lord. When they see that He lives in our homes. Everything comes back to the family and the home. We can get involved in all kinds of ministry, but if God doesn’t fill our homes, we miss the boat. It grieves my heart to see many people serving the Lord in different organizations and yet their families are in disarray…

Campbell thinks that a Christian’s home can give off some sort of God vibe, a feeling that resonates with the person entering the home. Evangelicals are taught that they have some sort spidey-sense that allows them to discern whether a person is a Christian. While their interpretation is out of context and does violence to the text, many Evangelicals think Romans 8:16 is a proof text for their Christian spidey-sense:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God

According to Evangelicals like Campbell, a Christian should be able to walk into a home and “sense” that they are in a bought by the blood, filled with the Holy Ghost, followers of J-E-S-U-S home. (please emphasize the word Jesus like Oral Roberts or Robert Tilton would) Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking; if the standard for a Christian home is that it exudes love, joy, peace, and kindness, well…I know of many homes that are like this and none of them are remotely Christian. I also know of uncounted Christian homes where the pretend game is on full display when other Christians are around, but as soon as their fellow Christians walk out the door the home reverts to some sort of Simpsons/Girls Gone Wild/Animal House/One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  home.  Anyone can fake it. I guarantee you that Polly and I could, come Sunday, put on our Sunday-go-to meeting clothes, dust off our KJV Bibles, and visit a nearby Evangelical church and everyone would think we are a wonderful Christian family; especially if we have Bethany the love magnet with us.  Everyone would “sense” that we are super-duper Christians on fire for Jesus, especially once they hear Polly and I lustily sing harmonies on whatever song the band is playing.  And their sense would be dead wrong.

The infallible marks of whether one is part of the Evangelical club is not some sort of seventh sense, can’t say sixth sense since six is the first number in the mark of Obama, 666. Evangelicals recognize one another by the clothes they wear, what bumper stickers are on the back of their car, what euphemisms a person uses in their speech, and how much Jesus Junk® is on display in a person’s car, home, and work place.  Ask any former Evangelical, they can spot an Evangelical family or a homeschooling family from a mile away.  Polly and I can be shopping at Meijer and we will see a family in the distance and both of us will say, homeschoolers. We will then laugh, remembering that we were, for many years, THAT family.

How do you know which car in the parking lot belongs to an Evangelical? It’s the car with a faded Ronald Reagan bumper sticker, Obama is the Anti Christ sticker, a partially removed George W Bush bumper sticker, a Ted Cruz 2016 sticker, an Abortion Stops a Beating Heart sticker, and a bumper sticker that advertises what church they attend. If you look closely, you will likely see a Bible in the back window, right where it landed when it was chucked there after church last Sunday. If you don’t see it in the back window, move closer to the car, acting like you are trying to steal it, and look down on the floor. You might see a Bible stuffed under the front seat, partially covered by a McDonald’s Big Mac wrapper.

Drive by their house and what will you see? Wind chimes with a small Christian cross as the chime ringer, a brightly colored gnome holding a sign that says Welcome! This is a Christian Home; a Jesus is Lord doormat, and out by the front of the house a sign that says Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, A Christian Lives Here, or Protect Religious Freedom, or some other sign recently purchased from one of the fear-mongering Evangelical parachurch groups.

Once inside their home, what will you see? Everywhere you look you’ll see Jesus kitsch, likely made by child labor in China or some third world country. From Bible verse signs and paintings by Christian alcoholic Thomas Kincade to clock chimes that play Sweet Hour of Prayer and potholders with Christian slogans, Jesus will be on display everywhere you look. In the bookcase you will notice deep intellectual books by Tim LaHaye, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, and Beth Moore and dusty, well worn copies of The Prayer of Jabez and The Purpose Driven Life. (What!! Harry Potter? Starting to wonder what kind of Christian home this is.) Even in the bathroom there will be no escaping Jesus. Try as you might to defecate in peace, Jesus and the trappings of 21st century Christianity will be staring you in the face. J-E-S-U-S is everywhere. (please say Jesus in the voice mentioned above)

team jesus

Visit them at their office, what will you see? You will likely  see a picture of their family sitting on the desk, but the picture will be housed in a frame that says. As For Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord. The calendar on the wall will bear the name of the church they attend or an Evangelical parachurch group they support. Perhaps there will be a Bible or the latest Christian get rich quick book sitting next to the family portrait.  The screen saver on their computer will have a picture of Jesus or a Bible verse. Everywhere you look you will see visible proof that the person who works in this cubicle is on Team Jesus.

And here’s the thing, all the things I’ve mentioned in this post that are meant to say to other Evangelicals, Hey, we are on the same team, mean nothing. I suspect the home Josh Duggar grew up in had plenty of Jesus Junk®. I suspect the homes of Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, Paula White, David Loveless, and Tullian Tchividjian, to name of few of the Evangelical pastors who have run into sexual “sin”, gave the appearance that they were devoted, spirit filled followers of Jesus. Yet, in real life they were fornicators, adulterers, abusers, and child molesters.

All that the Jesus Junk® tells you is that family has enough disposable income to invest in the trappings of Evangelicalism. The clothing and the outward appearance of a person tells you nothing about the what kind of person they really are. Anyone can play the Evangelical game. Give me a few days and I can take a Muslim family and turn them into Bob and Marsha Evangelical. The Evangelical shtick is easy to reproduce, so much so that anyone can do it. I regularly correspond with closeted atheists who attend an Evangelical church every Sunday with their believing spouse. Everyone thinks the atheist is a Jesus-loving, praise and worship singing Baptist.  I also correspond with several closeted atheist pastors. Everything about their life, including their demeanor, says to others, I am a follower of Jesus, Yet, if an Evangelical knew they were an atheist they would say the person is a follower of Satan.

Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t know what a person is made of.  While we can never know all there is to know about a person, we can, over time, observe their life, and come to a conclusion about the kind of person they are. Here’s what Evangelicals need to understand. Non-Christians are not interested in or wowed by the consumer culture on display in your home, car, or workplace. They aren’t interested in what takes place on Sunday Morning at the church you call home. They are not interested in your Ken and Barbie pastor. What does interest them is the words you speak and your behavior, not only in public, but also when no one is looking. How do you treat your spouse, children, and grandchildren? How do you act towards minorities, the weak, the defenseless, and the marginalized? How do you treat those who are not your flavor of Christianity or vote differently than you do? How do you respond to those who have no interest in your God and have told you please don’t? What do your non-Christian coworkers say about you?

These days, when I see an Evangelical whose life is a walking billboard for the Christian Ghetto, I immediately doubt they are what they say they are. They are trying too hard to be viewed as a Christian. They are like the car dealer who tells you he is the most honest dealer in town or the husband who tells everyone around him how faithful he is to his wife. I don’t trust those who have to publicize their virtuous character. Just live it and everyone will notice.

Polly and Bruce, Two Godless Peas in a Pod

bruce and polly gerencser 2015

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Summer 2015

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Kenneth asked:

I am currently married to a Southern Baptist woman who is likely never going to change her mind about her beliefs. I deconverted late last year and am now an atheist. I’m curious as to how your wife ended up an atheist seemingly around the same time as you? I guess deep down I want her to see my views as an atheist but if anyone knows how hard it is to talk to a Christian as an atheist, it is you. My question is, can you tell us more about how Polly came to the same conclusions as you during the time of your deconversion? Maybe she can give us some input too. In a lot of scenarios, one spouse is still stuck as a believer while both the atheist and theist struggle with now being in a “mixed” marriage — I’m in one of them now. Thanks!

I think the best way to answer this question is to explain what took place during the months before we stopped attending church.  When we stopped attending the Ney United Methodist Church neither of us would have said, I am not a Christian. After we decided we no longer wanted to be Pastor and Mrs. Bruce Gerencser, we spent a few years trying to find a church that took seriously the teaching of Jesus. Not finding such a  church frustrated us and led us to conclude that the Christianity of Jesus no longer existed and most churches were just different flavors of ice cream; same base ingredients with different added flavors. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

For most of 2008, I had been doing quite a bit of reading about the history of Christianity and the Bible.  From Bart Ehrman to Robert M. Price to Elaine Pagels, I read dozens of books that challenged and attacked my Christian beliefs. Polly and I spent many a night discussing what I had read. I often reading large passages of this or that book to her and we would compare what we had been taught with what these books said.  While Polly was never one to read nonfiction, she did read several of Bart Ehrman’s books. Over time, both of us came to the conclusion that what we had been taught wasn’t true. We also concluded that we were no longer, in any meaningful sense, a Christian. It was at this point I wrote the infamous Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.

For a time, both of us were content calling ourselves an agnostic. I soon realized that the agnostic label required too much explanation so I embraced the atheist label. While Polly still will not say she is an atheist, her beliefs about God, Christianity, and the Bible are similar to mine. She’s not one to engage in discussion or debate, content to go about her godless life without having to define herself. I often wish I could be like her.

When left Christianity I feared that Polly’s deconversion was a coattail deconversion; that she was following after me just like she was taught to do in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. Some of my critics, unwilling to give Polly credit for doing her own thinking and decision-making, have suggested that Polly was/is being led astray by me.  Fundamentalist family members have voiced their concern over Polly being drawn into my godlessness, rarely giving her credit for being able to think and reason for herself. Their insinuations only reinforce her belief that she made the right decision when she deconverted. Polly graduated second in her class and is quite capable of thinking for herself. Granted, this ability was quashed for many years thanks to being taught that she should always defer to me as the head of the home. That I was also her pastor only made things worse.

Where our stories diverge a bit is the reasons why we deconverted. While both of us would say we had intellectual reasons for abandoning God and Christianity, Polly’s deconversion had a larger emotional component than mine did. We’ve spent uncounted hours talking about the past, this or that church, and the experiences each of us had. Polly spent most of her married life under the shadow of her preacher husband. Now free to speak freely, I’m amazed at how differently she views our past. While I was the center of attention, heaped with praise and love, she was in the shadows, the afterthought, the one who had to do all the jobs church members had no time for. It should come as no surprise that her view of the 25 years we spent in the ministry is much different from mine.

As I’m writing this post I am thinking to myself, Polly needs to be telling this story. I can’t tell her story. While I can give the gist of it, I think it is better is she tells her story, that is if she is willing to do. I do know that she has no desire to relive the “wonderful” ministry years. She’s quite content to be free of God, the church, and the Bible, free to be just be Polly. Not Polly, the pastor’s daughter, not Polly, the preacher’s wife, just Polly. And I can say the same for myself. While I am noted for being a preacher turned atheist, an outspoken critic of Evangelicalism, I am content just to be Bruce. Most of our life was swallowed up by the ministry, so we are quite glad to be free and we enjoy the opportunity to live our lives on our own terms.

In many ways, our story is not typical. I’ve received uncounted emails from people who deconverted and are now in a mixed marriage. Like Kenneth, they want to share their unbelief with their spouse, but are unable to do so because of their spouse’s belief or because they fear outing themselves will destroy their marriage. (please see Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist.) Polly and I  fully realize that if one of us had remained a Christian it could have ended our marriage. We are grateful that we’ve been able to walk this path together hand in hand. The farther away we get from the years we spent in the ministry, the more we realize how good we have it. Our deconversion could have destroyed our marriage and alienated us from our children, but it didn’t. Instead, we’ve been given a new lease on life; the opportunity for each of us to seek our own path. We deeply love one another, have six wonderful children and ten grandkids, and are, in every way, blessed.

Notes

I will ask Polly to share her own thoughts about our deconversion process. No promises.

A few readers might remember that I started blogging in 2007 as a emergent church/progressive Christian. I wish some of those posts were still available because they would help trace that intellectual process that led to our deconversion.

An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma

bruce gerencser 1983

Bruce Gerencser, age 25, Ordination 1983, Emmanuel Baptist Church Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Contrary to what some of my critics say, I have no great need to convert others to what they derisively call the atheist religion. I’m quite content to live and let live. I fully recognize that many people find great value in believing in God and the afterlife. I even understand the deep emotional need such beliefs meet. Who am I to rob someone of anything that gives their life deeper meaning and purpose? It doesn’t matter whether their belief is true or if I think their belief is true. All that matters is that THEY think their belief is true and I have no pressing need to deliver people from their fantasies, delusions, or irrational beliefs.

As much as I think that I am a rational person driven by evidence and knowledge, I know I can, like any other human being, be led astray by false or misguided beliefs. No human being is a god when it comes to rational thinking. We all can and do fall off the wagon of rational thinking. As long as a religious person does not try to convert me,  I am inclined to leave them well enough alone. I suspect if the Christian religion was a private, pietistic religion practiced quietly behind the closed doors of homes and houses of worship, I would have little to blog about. Since it is anything but these things, I have plenty to blog about and I am inclined to push back at those who believe their beliefs should be the required beliefs for all, whether believed voluntarily or under threat of law.

For twenty-five years I was pastor to hundreds of people in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was their friend, counselor, and confidant. I married the young and buried the old. A few times, I buried the young and married the old. I led to them to faith in Christ. I baptized them. They looked to me to give them certainty and hope and a message from God that he loved them and cared for them.  Through every phase of life, I was there for them. That’s the life of a pastor. I cared for them, loved them, and even to this day I want only what is best for them. And this puts me in a real spot, what I call An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma.

I pastored my last church in 2003. In 2005 I left the ministry and 3 years later I left the Christian faith. By late 2009, I was self-identifying as an atheist. I am not a person that is hard to find. I have a unique last name. I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world. (ain’t I special)  My Google, Facebook, Twitter, and email contact information is readily available via any search engine. I guess what I am saying here is this; I am not an ex-Pastor in hiding. I am not trying to forget a past life and make a new life for myself. It’s not the simple.

Here’s my dilemma…

Former parishioners and Christian friends often try to touch base with me . They haven’t found this blog yet or read any of the other things I have written that are posted on the internet, so they assume I am still a pastor. A middle-aged woman, a woman I first met when she was a troubled teen, contacted me to let me know what a wonderful difference God was making in her life. She just knew I would want to know that FINALLY God was using her to help other people. Quite frankly, I AM glad God is using her to help other people. I am glad God has made her life better. I remember the tough time she had growing up, the great sorrows and difficulties she faced.

I didn’t respond to her inquiry. I didn’t want to open the door to her being discouraged or disillusioned. It is one thing if she stumbles upon this blog. If she dares to search a bit she will find the truth, but I would rather she come to it on her own and not by me telling her. I am not being a coward. Those who know me know I don’t play the coward’s part very well. But, at the same time, I still have a pastor’s heart. I don’t want to see people hurt. Maybe she will never find out I am an atheist. Maybe she will live a good life, thinking that Pastor Gerencser is proud of her. Such a small deception is one I will gladly commit if someone like her finds peace and purpose as a result of it.

It is one thing if an ex-parishioner or Christian friend comes after me like a hungry lion chasing a bleeding deer. Those who find out about my defection from Christianity and become angry, combative, defensive, and argumentative will find that I am quite willing to meet them in the middle of the road and do battle. If I am forced to do so, I will speak my mind and pointedly share what I believe. (or don’t believe) However, for those who are only looking for the man who loved them and nurtured them in the faith, I am not inclined to hurt them or cause them to despair.

Did You Know Atheism Will Make You Fat?

conservapedia bruce gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, The Fat Atheist

I have a Google alert set up for my name. This alerts me any time there is a mention of my name on any site indexed by Google. It’s interesting where my name shows up. Take Conservapedia, a website started in 2006 by American homeschool teacher and attorney Andrew Schlafly, son of conservative activist Phyllis SchlaflyThere is an entry for my name on Conservapedia. What an honor, right? Surely they are referencing my liberal political views, my defection from Christianity, or my defense of atheism? Nope. Conservapedia lists my name in an article on atheism and obesity. The article contends that atheism will make you fat and I am one example of this. I kid you not. I am listed right up there with a number of fat atheists I admire and respect, people like  Daniel Dennett, Nate Phelps, Robert M. Price, Matt Dillahunty, and Dan Finke. Also on the list are people like Isaac Asimov, Mao Zedong, Kim Jong-un, Kim II Sung, Kim Jong-il, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Leonid Brezhnev.

Should I bother to tell Conservapedia that I was fat before I became an atheist? Should I tell them that Evangelical Christian churches are filled with obese members? Nah, why bother. I certainly wouldn’t want to ruin Schlafly’s and Conservapedia’s atheist fantasy. I found this to be  so funny  that I am seriously considering returning to the Christian faith. If Jesus can make me healthy, wealthy, wise, AND skinny…count me in.

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The Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles

jack hyles 1973

Jack Hyles, 1973

Jack Hyles was pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana from 1959-2001. For many years, the church was the largest congregation in America. The church held a Pastor’s School and Youth Conference each year that brought thousands of people to Hammond to see first hand what God was doing through Dr. Jack Hyles. (See post The Legacy of Jack Hyles.)

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, no one was bigger than Jack Hyles. IFB churches and pastors measured success by:

  • Church attendance
  • Offerings
  • Souls saved

In these three areas Jack Hyles and First Baptist Church were the king of the hill.

jack and beverly hyles statute

Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

Like most IFB churches, First Baptist Church was owned and operated by Jack Hyles. No, Hyles didn’t literally own the church, but there was no doubt about one thing, this was the house Jack built. Hyles had unlimited power to rule the church as he saw fit, and even when caught in an inappropriate sexual relationship with his secretary, he was able to wiggle free, and remained pastor of First Baptist Church until he died on February 6, 2001.  A statute of Jack and Beverly Hyles can be found in the church courtyard, an ever-present reminder that First Baptist Church owes its existence to Jack Hyles.

People not raised, schooled, and indoctrinated in the IFB church movement often have a hard time understanding how Jack Hyles could wield such power over people.  It seems so “cultic” to them, and truth be told, there are elements of IFB belief and practice that are “cultic.” While the IFB church movement is not a cult in the classic sense, it does have beliefs and practices that are harmful to people emotionally and mentally. Because it is a movement built on a foundation of anti-intellectualism, pastors are given an inordinate amount of power over people. The pastor becomes the resident intellectual, even though he is likely no more educated than the people in the pew. The pastor is considered God’s chosen man, the man of God who speaks on God’s behalf. He is uniquely called by God to the ministry and he is to be obeyed. Failure to obey will bring judgment from God, at least according to IFB preachers. (Sermons on pastoral authority are quite common in IFB churches.)

Jack Hyles was considered a god in IFB church circles. He was also revered by many outside of the IFB church movement. People read his sermons in the Sword of the Lord, and cassette recordings of Hyles’ sermons made their way around the globe. He was the Big Kahuna, and when he spoke everybody listened. It is important to understand how popular Hyles was.  People would drive hours to hear him preach at a Sword of the Lord Conference. They would hang on his every word. After all, look at the size of his church. This is PROOF that Hyles and God were on a first name basis.  When it came time for the invitation, hundreds of penitent Baptists would stream down the aisle to the altar and prostrate themselves before Hyles, praying that God would forgive them of their sins and give them Holy Ghost power to do whatever Hyles was telling them to do.

It is hard for me to admit, even to this day, that I was a part of this; that the  churches I pastored participated in this. (I left the IFB church movement in the late 1980s.) It is hard to admit that I was caught up in a religion that encouraged worshiping men as gods. Hyles, like Bob Jones, even had a college named after him: Hyles-Anderson College.

Granted, any time a group of people gather together under a common belief or ideal, there is the tendency to elevate certain people to god-like status within the group. IFB churches do it, Evangelicals do it, and yes, even atheists do it. Look at the typical Atheist/Humanist conference and you see the same speakers over and over. To some degree, it is human nature to fawn over those we think are in some way unique, successful, or who have some sort of special insight.

It has been thirty years since I heard Jack Hyles preach. I heard him preach many times during the heyday of the IFB movement — the late 1960s to the late 1980s. I would attend Sword of the Lord conferences whenever I could . Sometimes, I drove several hours just so I could sit at the feet of great IFB luminaries such as Jack Hyles, Lee RobersonLester Roloff,  Bob Gray of Florida, Curtis HutsonJohn R. Rice and Tom Malone. (Malone was the President of Midwestern Baptist College, the college I attended from 1976-79. Lester Roloff was accused of promoting child abuse, and Bob Gray of Florida was arrested for molesting children.)

the captain of our team jack hyles

A poem written by a devoted follower of Jack Hyles

What was it about Jack Hyles that drew people to him (and God is not the right answer)?

Jack Hyles was a superb orator. He knew how to use words, cadence, volume, and inflection to deliver sermons that most preachers could never deliver. As oratorical specimens, his sermons were flawless.  His sermons rarely had much Bible in them since he typically preached textual or topical sermons, but his sermons were perfectly scripted, with each point and sub point in perfect harmony. When Hyles chased a rabbit down the rabbit trail, he did it on purpose. He was methodical and disciplined in his preaching.

Hyles told a lot of stories about himself, his mother, and his feats as a pastor-god. His stories often made up the bulk of his sermon. Young preachers such as myself hung on every word, every story. Here was a man mightily used by God. It was many years before I could divorce myself from my worship of Jack Hyles enough to see his sermons for what they really were; grandiose brag sessions of a narcissist. I also came to see that the stories Hyles told were often lies or distortions of the truth, though I am inclined to think that Hyles really believed his own narrative.

The IFB church movement prides itself on being anti-cultural. The movement is known for what it is against and not for what it is for. In his sermons, Hyles would rail against Southern Baptists, The National Council of Churches, Evangelicals, pants on women, alcohol drinking, sex, and any other ill he deemed “worldly” or contrary to the received truth of the IFB church movement.

hyles baptist church

Yes, there really is a Hyles Baptist Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, pastored by Ron Talley.

When Hyles would preach against these things, his words elicited deep emotional and physical response. People would shout or say Amen or Preach it, Brother Hyles. People would stream down the aisles to confess their sin, their disobedience to God. The Sword of Lord would report the “number” of people  who came forward. (The IFB follows a corporate model, dominated by numbers.) If you want to see how the numbers racket works, read Bob Gray of Texas’s blog. A Hyles disciple, trained at Hyles-Anderson College, he knows exactly how many souls have been saved under his ministry. He is the ultimate IFB bean-counter.

When preaching at a conference, Hyles would often have an afternoon Question and Answer time for preachers. Young, aspiring preachers, along with old struggling preachers, could ask Hyles questions about building a great church. I can’t tell you the number of times I saw Hyles eviscerate a preacher because he asked the wrong question. One time, a young preacher asked a question about how to choose a good youth director — not that Hyles would know since his son, serial adulterer, David Hyles was the youth director at First Baptist. Hyles asked the young man how big his church was and after the young preacher told him, Hyles belittled him and accused him of being lazy. The young preacher should have felt humiliated, but he more likely felt that “God” was speaking to him through Brother Hyles. Hyles, like many top shelf IFB preachers, could be a bully.

Hyles liked to give off an air of invincibility. His illustrations made him seem like a man who could charge into the flames of hell and come out without one hair singed on his head. He told illustrations such as:

There were two men playing tennis and at the end of the game, the loser graciously shook the hand of the winner.

Bro. Hyles, how do you handle losing (code for failure)?

Hyles would thunder, I don’t know, I’ve never lost.

And then he would preach forcefully and loudly about not being a loser, a quitter.

When you take all these things together, it is easy to see why Jack Hyles was, and still is, worshiped. Some consider him the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. I understand how people become mesmerized by the Hyles mystique. However, when a person puts some distance between himself and the IFB church moment, he starts to see that the movement is a man-centered, man-worshiping religion. Are their good, decent people in IFB churches? Sure. For whatever reason, they cannot or will not take off their blinders so they can see things as they really are. IFB-preachers-turned-atheists such as myself have little influence over them because they see us as traitors and God haters.

I wonder what it will take to finally bring the IFB house crashing to the ground? Evidently, sexual scandal won’t do it. Maybe it is too much to ask for. After all, the Roman Catholic Church has pedophiles running amok, yet faithful Catholics still show up for mass and give their money to the church.  It seems that we as humans quite easily ignore what is right in front of us.

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

Shrine built after Jack Hyles died, as always bigger than life.

For further information:

Read Andrew Himes’ book, The Sword of the Lord, The Roots of Fundamentalism in an American Family.

Read Bryan Smith’s Chicago Magazine article, Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church

Read the Legacy of Jack Hyles

Read the 1980s Biblical Evangelist story on the Jack Hyles scandal

During the uproar over Hyles’ illicit affair, loyal Hyles followers wore “100% Hyles” buttons to show their support for Hyles.

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Quiverfull: Birthing New ‘Helpers’ Into the World 

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

Quiverfull advocate Nancy Campbell recently encouraged young Christian women to obey God and continue having babies until God closes their womb. Evidently, some Quiverfull mothers are giving up and not letting God have his way with their womb. Can’t have that, so Campbell reminds mothers that the more children they have the easier it becomes:

…However, there is another fact that many young mothers don’t yet realize because they haven’t yet experienced it. And that is that it gets easier to have another child when you have older children. It’s not the mothers of six, seven, or more children who feel so overwhelmed.

What happens is your little children grow, and as you train them, they become such wonderful helpers. When a new baby comes into the home, instead of this little one adding a burden to the home, they bring more joy and blessing, not only to you, but the whole family. When you have children who are growing older, you have so many hands on deck to help–to hold the baby, to goo and gah at the baby and keep your baby smiling and laughing, to bring this and that to you while you are nursing, to help with the dishes and housework, to cook a meal, and to keep the home running smoothly. You are getting to the reward time of mothering…

Campbell reveals the dirty little secret of the Quiverfull movement, that having a large family requires older children to become surrogate mothers to younger siblings. Non-Quiverfull parents look at the Duggar family or the Bates family and ask, how does the mother properly care for all those children? She doesn’t. The real mothers are the older siblings who are tasked with everything from feeding their younger siblings and changing their diapers to educating their younger siblings and making sure they are dressed. While learning to care for younger children is not inherently bad, Quiverfull families often require older children to be full-time caregivers, robbing these children of the opportunity of enjoying childhood. Instead, their workload is viewed as preparing them for their future adult life as a Quiverfull family. From elementary age forward, these children are forced to take on roles meant for adults. Is it any surprise that some of them, as soon as they are old enough to do so, flee the Quiverfull cult?

Polly and I have six children, ages 36, 34, 31, 26, 24, and 22.  We have two distinct families, the three older boys and the two younger girls and boy. There is a five-year space between the two groups, at the end of which we adopted the Quiverfull belief concerning children. Devout Calvinists who believed God was sovereign over the womb, we determined to have as many children as God gave us. In rapid succession, the ever-fertile Polly popped out new little Gerencsers every 18-24 months. After the birth of our sixth child, the obstetrician told us that Polly should not have any more children. His words? She’s too pooped to pop. He warned that having another child could kill her.

When confronted with the reality of our theological beliefs, we decided to listen to the doctor and not have any more children. Polly had a tubal ligation and the Gerencser rabbit was killed. Did we betray our beliefs? Yes. Were we hypocritical? Yes. I had preached sermons that asked women who could no longer have children to pray that God would reverse their tubal ligation. I even implored them to come to the altar and cry out to God, asking him to open their womb so they could once again have the blessing of God on their life. I can only imagine the deep pain such sermons caused, a fact that haunts me to this day. Fortunately, God didn’t answer their prayers. Every closed womb stayed closed, all praise be to Jesus!

Our three oldest sons had to grow up in a hurry. While they have wonderful stories about childhood, about playing in the woods, riding bikes, and sword fights, they also have stories about being required to live in an adult world by the time they were ten. While they have accepted and come to terms with the why’s of their childhood, it doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t get to enjoy manying of the things non-Fundamentalist children get to enjoy. Not only were we part of the Quiverfull movement, we also home schooled and I was a pastor. All of our children, but especially our older children, were forced to live in an adult world much too soon. While it has made them mature and wise beyond their years and given them a strong work ethic, I can’t help but feel sorry for what they were deprived of growing up. No, they are not scarred for life, and all of them have grown up to be wonderful, productive adults, but nothing can change the fact that they missed out on a lot of normal childhood experiences because of their father’s job and their parent’s beliefs. I hope someday that several of them will put pen to paper or keyboard to screen and share how they view growing up in the home of Rev. Bruce and Polly Gerencser’s home.

If there is a silver lining for our family it is that Polly and I, along with our six children have escaped the cult and are now free to live our lives as we see fit. None of our children are Evangelical; most of them claim no religion, and those who do are live and let live Catholics. It’s refreshing to know that our ten grandchildren will not be raised under the curse of Evangelical Christianity and the various other beliefs that once enslaved our family. We’re pleased to watch our adult children allow their children to enjoy childhood, while at the same time teaching them the value of work and service to others. There’s nothing wrong with a teenager doing housework, cooking, or learning to change a diaper. After all, part of parenting is preparing children for adult life; and cleaning house, cooking dinner, and cleaning up a baby are all part of the “wonderful” adult experience. The difference now is that our adult children don’t expect their children to be stand-ins for them. Their is a balance that was not part of their life when Mom and Dad were lovers of Jesus, ardent home schoolers, and disciples of John Calvin.

Notes

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull Movement, please read Vyckie Garrison’s article, What is Quiverfull?

 

Focusing on Who Matters and not Wasting Time on Who Doesn’t 

cant change christian mind

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:13:

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

As a Christian, I tried to live by this verse, listening and investigating before I came to a conclusion or made a judgment about a person or a belief. I felt then, and I still do, that it is important to hear people out. Unfortunately, Evangelical Christians rarely grant me the same courtesy.

When an Evangelical leaves a comment meant to set me straight or pass some sort of God-enlightened judgment on my character or past/present life, I always take a look at the server logs to see what they have read. Without fail, they’ve read a post or three, formed an opinion, and are now ready to pronounce their God-directed judgment. In most instances they don’t even bother to read the ABOUT page or DEAR EVANGELICAL page or COMMENT RULES page. No need, they have a direct line to God and know all they need to know.

When I call them out on their lack of due diligence, they often lie, saying that they have read everything on this blog and are sufficiently educated in all things Bruce Gerencser. The logs don’t lie, but Christians sure do. If a person isn’t willing to invest the time and effort necessary to understand my story, I see no reason to indulge their ignorance. I give them one comment to say whatever they want. I know my writing constipates Evangelicals so I view their comment as an enema of sorts. By letting them say their piece, it clears out their constipation and they can them move on to some other blog or person they think is in need of hearing a good word from God.

I hope regular readers will understand if I don’t waste what limited time I have each day attempting to pour water through solid, cured cement. When Evangelicals use the contact form to email their missive from God, I try to be polite and let them know I have no interest in corresponding with them. In some cases I have to be blunt, as was the case recently when I told a repeated emailer, “let me be blunt, fuck off.”

Being accessible is important to me and this is why I have a contact page. Many atheist writers don’t have such a page because they don’t want to deal with reams of preachy or caustic emails from Evangelicals. I choose to endure the preachy or caustic emails because of the OTHER emails; those from people savaged and hurt by Evangelical Christianity; those from people trying to break free from the Christian cult.  They have been and will remain to be my focus.

While Evangelical commenters do provide, at times, entertainment and amusement, I’m not interested in spending time trying to disabuse them of their ignorance. As I have said many times before, until they are willing to consider that they could be wrong there is no hope for them. Their certainty and unwavering faith blinds them to anything other than what they perceive is THE way, THE truth, THE life. I’m content to let them read, if they dare to do so, what I have already written. If something I have written puts a chink in their armor then perhaps we can have a meaningful discussion. Until then, I have no intentions of wasting my time on argumentative, judgmental, holier than thou, sanctimonious, arrogant, self-righteous, pompous, smug, pontificating Evangelicals.

Twitter Discussion with a Christian: Accusations, Threats, and Silence

lisa elise on twitter

What follows is a brief discussion I had on Twitter with a Christian by the name of Lisa Elise. Lisa objected what I wrote in the post Jesus is the Only One That Matters.  Like all such discussions, this one ended with a threat and silence. Usually, I don’t respond to tweets from Christians. Discussions with Christians are 100% of the time, each and every time, an exercise in futility. In Lisa Elise’s case, I thought I’d twitter a bit and see what came of it. (slight editing for readability)

Lisa:Wow, bitter much?

Bruce:Ah bitterness, the first word used by zealots to marginalize a person and dismiss their argument out of hand…. what’s next? Anger,jaded, hurt? Anything but engaging the person’s argument.

Lisa:Or…You just seem bitter. Btw, liberals are the EXPERTS at marginalizing those who disagree with them.

Bruce:I just spent the day with my wife of 37 years, six kids, ten grandkids. Such a bitter experience I have without your Jesus.

Lisa:Then go to bed and relax. You seem quite angry and bitter, attacking a dead person and a person u don’t know on Twitter.

Bruce:Public writers, public critique, that’s the way it works. Want a private life? Don’t put stuff on the Internet.

Bruce:Evangelicals seem to get butt hurt anytime someone pushes back at their beliefs and ideas. Don’t like it? turn of the Internet

Bruce:I believe you tweeted me, yes? I didn’t attack you. I challenged your faulty judgment. Doesn’t the Bible say you should…refrain from judgment until you know a matter?

Lisa:U should know.U preached the Bible most of ur life,things didn’t go the way u wanted.Now u mock those who believe what u did.

Bruce:Critique, not mock. A fair number of Christians read my writing and find it helpful.

Bruce:I don’t have a prob with critique. Plenty of it on the Internet, including sermons that have been preached about me.

Lisa:You’ll meet Jesus 1 day. What a tragedy, to have preached him all your life & denied him in the end.

Bruce:Ah yes, the parting threat of judgment and hell. Sorry, I do not fear. 8 years of people like you have made me immune to threats.

Lisa:When u preached the gospel all ur life did u see it as threatening people with hell?

Bruce:Of course it is a meaningless threat. No God, no hell. The only person I fear is my wife.

Lisa:Why would u preach a false threat for 25+ yrs, yet now mock those who believe same thing? Seems strange.

Bruce:At the time I believed it to be true. New evidence, new conclusions.

Lisa:Evidence? Constantly criticizing those who don’t yet have your new found “evidence”. Hmmm.

Bruce:Evidence meaning investigating the claims Christians make for the Bible…evidence meaning taking a fresh look at Christian…belief and practice. Held up to the light of skepticism and reason, Christian belief comes up short.

Bruce:Constantly? A few hours a day is constantly?

Bruce:The Bible is not what Christians claim it is. Once free of its bondage and authority, I was free to see life in a new light.

Lisa:Bible can be hard to understand. Yet makes more sense than ANYTHING the world offers as answers to my existence.

Bruce:I don’t find it hard to understand. Spent thousands of hours reading and studying it, preaching over 4,000 sermons…but, by all means, show me that my reasoned conclusions are incorrect. (And show me doesn’t mean quoting the Bible)

Bruce:8,000,000 people think Mormonism make sense, yet Evangelicals consider them a cult. Hundreds of millions of people say Islam makes sense, yet Evangelicals say it is a false religion. When it comes to our existence, all we can know is what we see.

Bruce:Anything else requires faith, a faith I do not have. The central claim of Christianity is that a dead Jesus came back to life.

Bruce:Everything I see and know tells me that is not true. Feel free to believe this by faith, but I shall not do so without proof.

Silence

Rapture?

Silence

Jack Hyles Gives Advice on How to Raise a Girl

jack hyles

Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana

In chapter 20 of How to Rear Children, Jack Hyles, former of pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, gives his advice on making a lady out of girl:

The women’s liberation notwithstanding most men still want someone ladylike and feminine for a wife. To be sure, all good Christian men want submissive, feminine, ladylike, and godly wives. Yet, we live in a society which wants to homogenize the sexes. The boys wear make-up and the girls wear blue jeans. The boys wear flowered shirts while the girls wear work shirts. The fad is for the boys to be feminine and the girls to be masculine. Consequently, if parents rear a girl to be ladylike, they will be swimming upstream, going against the grain, and climbing uphill, but it can be done. If it is done, however, it will be on purpose and some of the following suggestions must be used in order to make a lady out of a girl.

1. Dress her like a girl. Let her have long hair. Let her wear lace and ribbons. Do not let her wear that which pertaineth to a man. Deuteronomy 22:5 says, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” The parent who wants to make a young lady of a daughter should see to it that she does not wear revealing clothes, but that she dresses modestly. I Timothy 2:9 and 10 says, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety: not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

This must be started early in the life of a girl. If she never wears pants for the first time, she will always wear skirts. If she never wears mini-skirts for the first time, she will always wear skirts of a modest length. In these days of hot pants, mini-skirts, and pant suits, may God give us some old-fashioned mothers and dads who well rear some sweet, feminine ladies for our boys and dress them accordingly.

2. Teach her strict obedience. Other chapters stress the fact that obedience is the most necessary ingredient to be required from the child. This is especially true in the life of a girl, for she must be obedient all of her life. The boy who is obedient to his mother and father will someday become the head of the home; not so for the girl. Whereas the boy is being trained to be a leader, the girl is being trained to be a follower. Hence, obedience is far more important to her, for she must someday transfer it from her parents to her husband.

This means that she should never be allowed to argue at all. She should become submissive and obedient. She must obey immediately, without question, and without argument. The parents who require this have done a big favor for their future son-in-law.

3. She should not be allowed to play alone with boys. The parents should see to it that she plays with other girls. This is important for many reasons. She should play only with toys that are uniquely for girls. This, by all means, should include dolls, doll clothes, housecleaning equipment, dishes, pots and pans, etc. She should participate in sports enough to become coordinated but she should not excel in sports. If later she marries a man who is very athletic, she could become more proficient in some particular sport that he enjoys, but if she becomes an expert in a sport that is usually associated with men and boys, it could prove embarrassing to her future husband, and for that matter, it could entice her to become more masculine than she ought to be…

…5. Teach her to be an intelligent listener and an articulate conversationalist. She should read a variety of good books and magazines and have a wide variety of knowledge. It should be obvious to any male with whom she is conversing that she is an intelligent listener and that she can understand and respond to his conversation. She should never seem to know as much as he does (even though she may actually know more) but enough to talk intelligently about his interests and to make him feel that his conversation is falling on receptive ears and an understanding mind. This means that she should learn all she can about everything, especially things that interest men. For example, she should know football, but she should not play it. There is nothing a man wants any more than to be understood by an intelligent listener.

The wise lady will never “take over” the conversation. She will add just enough to make a valuable contribution and to show her intelligence on the subject, but she will always make her man feel that he is the more knowledgeable…Though she should not be a football fanatic she should know enough about football to enjoy watching the game with her boyfriend, fiancée, or husband, if he so chooses. It should be obvious to him that she is enjoying the game and that she is knowledgeable about it, but that he can teach her even more.

6. Teach her to make her dad feel like a hero. A young lady that can treat her dad properly is more likely to treat her husband properly. If she makes her dad feel like a man when he is in her presence, she will not doubt make her husband feel like a man when he is in her presence. If the daughter is careful to refill Dad’s glass at the table, see to it that he gets the best chair, listen to him intelligently when he talks, participate intelligently, yet meekly in the conversion, she will someday transfer this to her husband and her husband will rise up and call her “blessed.”…

…8. Teach her not to be too forward to boys. A young lady should not initiate a correspondence. If she cars for a boy she may respond to him with courtesy and feminine reserve so as to let him know she like him, but she should not be the aggressor, neither should her respond except within the bounds of propriety and right. It certainly is not proper for a young lady to call a young man on the telephone for a social talk, If there is obvious business, it may be done with reluctance, but it should never be done when the call is strictly for social purposes.

9. Do not show off her talent to others. As is mentioned elsewhere in this book it is far better for a parent to compliment character than talent. Many children have been ruined because their parents were too proud of them and their performances. This not only hurts the child but it disgusts other adults. In such cases the child receives far too much attention and then wants it for the rest of her life. Hence, she becomes maladjusted. Let her gain her own attention by her performance. Let her attract her own audience by her own ability and opportunities, not by the insistence of a mother or father who is overly proud of a daughter.

10. Let her do things that enable her to be a necessary help to another who is in the limelight. This is very important for a young lady. That is why learning to accompany a soloist is good training for a girl. Learning to take dictation is also good training. Both of these things train her to be a necessary helper to someone who is in the limelight. The Bible teaches that a woman is made not for the limelight but to complement and supplement. Proverbs 32:23 says, “Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.”

The girl should be taught that her lot in life is to be obedient and helpful to her husband…

…11. Teach her to pull for her dad. The wise mother will teach the girl to make a hero of her father and always pull for him. She should pull for him in business and do all she can to help. She should pull for him in any athletic contest and do all she can to cheer him to victory. In everything he does she should stand on the sidelines and root for her dad. She is being taught to root for the biggest man in her life and to cheer and spur him on to bigger heights. When she is married she will transfer this to her husband and will be a great encouragement to him.

The mother must teach the daughter that when the father is a success the daughter is also a success. She is a very vital part in his success, and as a member of the team she can share the victory and the spoils. When this attitude is properly developed she will feel the same way when she is married. When the husband wins a victory it will be a team victory rather than a victory just for him.

12. Teach her to plan for a profession but to hope that it will not be needed. Mothers and fathers should teach their daughters to train for some kind of profession that is always in demand. There is always the possibility that the daughter will never marry or that she will become a widow with children to rear and will not remarry. Because of this she should plan to pursue some profession that will enable her to support herself and her children in any eventuality. She should be taught that if possible, she should not follow this profession when married. This gives her a dependence, if the opportunity arises to be dependent, but an independence if needed. There are many professions that a young lady could pursue such as that of a school teacher, beautician, secretary, nurse, etc.

13. Teach her the sanctity of the body. Teach her that boys should keep their hands off and that her body should be clean in every way. She should care for her body. She should be well groomed and physically clean. Then she should also be moral and virtuous. Talk with her about situations which arise in the lives of most young ladies. Teach her how to handle each situation. Explain to her that that is the reason she should not be in a car alone with a boy. Teach her what to do if improper advances are made. Let her be conscious of the fact that her body is a very sacred thing and should always be treated as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

14. Teach her to do feminine chores. As is mentioned elsewhere it is better for a girl to do the dishes than the yard, to wash the pots and pans than the car, to clean the bedroom rather than the garage. She should do the duties that she will do when she is married and a successful mother and wife…

…The most noble goal that parents can set for their daughters is to help them become Christians. The second most noble goal is to lead them to be ladies, for one of the great needs of our generation is Christian ladies…

 

Women, Don’t You Feel Special?

woman on a pedestal

In the early 1980′s, I heard Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist Baptist pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia say, We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women.  Falwell went on to say that the Bible actually elevates women on a pedestal and that equal rights for women would actually be a step down for them.  Evidently, Falwell’s Bible didn’t have the verses that gave approval to men treating women as property or the verses that countless Evangelical preachers have used to justify their “women should be ignorant, barefoot, pregnant, keepers of the home” preaching.

Yesterday, in a post titled Why Would Any Woman Want to Be and Evangelical Christian, I wrote:

Why would any woman want to be an Evangelical Christian? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety. The right to vote. Equal pay for equal work. The right to use birth control. The right to have an abortion. The right to divorce.  While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made to that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only. The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is that Christian patriarchal thinking still permeates our society.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women a weaker vessel. The Bible teaches that women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband. (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Simply put, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children and as women age  they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be a good wife.

You can read the entire post here.

Derick Dickens, in an article for the The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website, takes the same approach Falwell did thirty years ago. (Dickens is a graduate of Liberty University)  Dickens thinks that women, the weaker vessel, should receive high honor rather than equal rights. He goes on to blame many of the woes women have on feminism and their demand for equality. Dickens writes:

…It demands us to ask some serious questions.  Has the last century of women’s rights not touched the home?  Has women’s equality not turned the tide of divorce?  Has it not lifted women out of poverty instead of sinking them further into poverty?  Women’s equality has failed precisely because it is misplaced from the Biblical understanding of women.  It has failed precisely because it misunderstands the honor God has given to women.

In short, if you think women are equal to men, then you have too low of a view of women.  Women are not merely equal, they are to be honored and esteemed unlike that of a man.

Honoring women is not merely my opinion, but this is the Christian ethic.  It is why men traditionally bent on one knee to ask for a woman’s hand in marriage, men would open the door for her, and men willingly sacrificed their life to save a woman.

Granted, abuses have often taken place in our culture and previous cultures.  However, this should not be looked at with the ever critical eye that fails to realize all the facts of the situation.  There were abuses of the past because of mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality.

Rather than see these abuses subside, they have escalated in modern times.  For instance, women account for 75% of all people trapped in the slave trade.  For every three childhood victims of human trafficking, two are girls (Source: UNODC).  The heinous injustice brought upon girls and women should make our blood boil in anger and every decent human being cry out for the eradication of this evil.

The abuses that are easier to “live with” are those couched in the language of modernity.  Women, for profit and sale, are treated as sex objects on magazines and television.  Being remade to look nothing like they appear, women are donned in scant bikinis to sell products like beer, cars, football, and even tools.  Parts of our society have made women utilitarian.  This may be better than the sex slave trade but only by degree (Matthew 5:28)

What may be an attempt by some overreacting to abuses towards women has been an effort to make women completely the same as men.  In some cases, this has forced women to be a clone of their male counterparts, or in other cases forced men to be exactly like women.  In both cases, this is a travesty to women.

Women do not find their greatest worth in being like men but in being a woman.  It is her uniqueness that should be cherished, but not to the extremes either side tends to push her.  One celebrates the woman as having a utilitarian purpose in satisfying the sinful lusts of man, the other celebrates her distinct from her sexuality.

Both are wrong.  Both seek to diminish women from being what they were created to be–a woman.

In turning to the Scripture, we extinguish the often cited critique that women are not as smart or capable as men.  Proverbs 31, for instance, shows the virtuous woman as possessing gifts that would make most men jealous.  She is intelligent, resourceful, hard working, and respectful–a tremendous force of dignity and wisdom.

These qualities, though, should not make us treat women like men.  Women are to be treated distinctly like a woman.  Husbands are called to reflect towards these women a demonstration of the greatest love ever shown, a love that willingly died in her place (Ephesians 5:25).  For a man, he should represent her as a person worthy enough for us to die for, to present as pure, to uplift as glorious, and acknowledged as magnificent…

…In the Biblical Worldview, women have a dignity all their own that allows us, men, to selflessly serve until our dying days.  They are bone of our bone, flesh of our flesh, but they are much more.  They are women and for that reason we should give them a greater honor.

You can read entire article here.

Dickens speaks in glowing terms about how women are treated when the Biblical pattern for the sexes is followed. According to Professor Dickens, our culture’s unwillingness to follow this pattern has resulted in women being far worse off today than they were before equal rights for women and modern feminism convinced women that they had equal status in our culture. (As with equality for people of color, equality for women is still an unrealized goal. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go before we can say, women are equal.)

Dickens seems deliberately ignorant of history, both ancient history and American history. Rather than seeing the Bible and Christianity as the source of many of abuses and ill-treatment women have received, Dickens thinks “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the problem. Evidently, he can not see that perhaps Christianity and Bible wedded to “mankind’s inherent selfishness, pride, arrogance, and destructive personality” is the real explanation for the deplorable treatment of women throughout much of the history of the United States.

Dickens article is a poignant reminder that little has changed for Evangelical women. Their overlords continue to use the Bible to subjugate and control them. Sadly, for many Evangelical women, including my wife for many years, they know of no other world but one where the Derick Dickens of the world are their lords. These lords convince them, through words supposedly mouthed by God, that their highest calling in life is to be a weaker vessel; a wife, a mother, and a keeper of the home. Wanting any other kind of life is a step away from God’s wonderful, super-duper plan for their life.

So what do you think readers? I am especially interested in hearing from female readers. Do you desire to return to days before equality and feminism? Now that you are free from the strictures of the Bible, how has your life changed? For the better, for the worse? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Genesis 1-3: Who Was God Talking To?

creationism

The night before October 23, 4004 BC, God, you know, THE God, the one and only God, decided to create the universe. For the next six literal 24 hour days, God created the sun, moon, stars, planets, earth, animals, insects, fish,and plant life. Oh, and don’t forget God’s super-duper,special creation on day six:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Wait a minute…what’s this US thing all about? Do I detect polytheism? Whoever US is, they created a human man and woman in their image. (Genesis 2 says it was the LORD God that created Adam and Eve) After creating Adam and Eve, the God’s closed up their creation shop and went on vacation. This October 23rd we will celebrate the 6,019th anniversary of the first day of creation. Time for a new Hallmark card, yes?

Now I am being a bit silly here, but let me point out something very important. It is clear, based on Genesis 1:27, that there is more than one God involved in creating humans. Once we get to Genesis 3 we see that there is one God called LORD God. It is this LORD God that comes to the Garden of Eden to talk to Adam and Eve. It is this LORD God that tells Adam and Eve their punishment for eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. An interesting point here is that Adam and Eve can see God and talk to him, yet the Bible says that no man has seen God at any time.

After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and both knew, for the first time, that the other was naked. While we don’t know how long the time span was between the creation of Adam and Eve and their act of disobedience, it’s hard to imagine that neither Adam or Eve paid any attention to their partners nakedness. Surely they were created with a sex drive. Sooooo, I don’t know about you, but I think I would notice that the only other living person, the person who snuggled up to me around the Camp Eden campfire, was naked.

The LORD God, being the prude that countless fundamentalist preachers have said he is, was quite disturbed over Adam and Eve’s nakedness. The LORD God took it upon himself to get some clothing for Adam and Eve. He spotted a bear or maybe a buffalo or mountain lion, and in the first act of violence on earth, the LORD God killed the animals so he could make Adam and Eve clothes to wear. Using a process that humans to this day have not discovered, the LORD God killed the animal (s), dried and tanned the skin, and sewed the skins into clothing quicker than a Chinese sweatshop worker sewing a shirt for Walmart.

The LORD God then had a conference call with the other Gods. He said, look, remember those two humans we created? Remember the one rule we gave them? Yeah…those dumb asses picked fruit off the tree and ate it. Now they are like us, knowing good and evil. We need to do something immediately lest they eat from the Tree of Life. We don’t want them to do that, right? If they do, they will live forever, just like us. Can’t have humans living forever.

So the LORD God, acting on behalf of the other Gods, evicted Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. Of course, they didn’t want to go. After all, they only had one set of clothes. But, the LORD God was insistent and he drove them out of the Garden of Eden. To make sure that Adam and Eve could not eat from the Tree of Life, the LORD God put a flaming sword that turned every which way near the tree.

Reading Genesis 1-3 without importing Trinitarian theology into it presents a very different creation story than what countless Evangelicals have been told. Go back to the text and read it for yourself. Is what I have written here plausible? On what basis do we say there was just one God? Is it not just as plausible to say that there were more than one God, a LORD God and other Gods that were perhaps subservient to him/her?

But Bruce, in the first five days of creation the Bible say God (singular) created. True, but since humans weren’t created until day 6, who was God talking to on the first five days when the Bible says, and God said? Was he talking to himself? Perhaps he was talking to the other Gods, just like he did in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22?

And I am just getting started. Go back to the text, take off your Trinitarian, orthodox Christian glasses, and read it again. Is my story any less plausible than the one Evangelical children are taught in Sunday school?

Notes

There is textual evidence for God creating Eve AFTER the six days of creation in the second creation story found in Genesis 2. This conflicts with the first creation story in Genesis 1.

What Should We Do When Religious Freedom Leads to Child Abuse?

pastor gerald harris

Gerald Harris, pastor Crossroads Baptist Church, Sellersburg, Indiana

The fracas in Kentucky over Kim Davis’s refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has brought to the forefront the debate over religious freedom. Does a Christian and a church have the absolute right to practice their religion as they wish? While all of us would agree that religious freedom is one of the pillars of American democracy, is there ever a time when a church should be regulated? Should churches be free to practice their religion without ANY interference from federal, state or local government?

Consider the recent report of child abuse and neglect in Indiana. Authorities arrested Gerald Harris, pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church, Sellerburg, Indiana and church member Christopher Williams after it was reported that they were physically abusing students at Well of Grace Boarding Academy.

The Courier Journal reports:

A Sellersburg, Ind., pastor and fellow church workers are accused of beating multiple children in their care with a wooden paddle.

Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Jeremy Mull said the abuse occurred at Crossroads Baptist Church, led by Pastor Gerald Harris. It operates a boarding academy complete with dormitories and classrooms for mostly out of state students, he said.

While parents, teachers and caretakers are allowed to discipline children “in a legal way,” Mull said, the bruising allegedly seen on the children constituted criminal abuse.

“That’s the point where, in my opinion as a prosecutor, it crosses the line from appropriate discipline to a criminal battery,” he said.

Harris, 47, and Christopher Williams, 21, were both arrested earlier this week and face preliminary charges of battery and neglect of a dependent, said Clarksville Chief of Police Mark Palmer in a news release. Clark County Jail records indicate both live at the church.

Clarksville police and Child Protective Services did a welfare check at the church, 6109 Appleleaf Lane, Tuesday and interviewed children ranging in age from 8 to 19. They told investigators of “various forms of punishment,” Palmer said.

Five children told police they were “whipped with a wooden paddle,” according to a probable cause affidavit released Thursday.

An 8-year-old boy said Williams tied a rope around his waist and jerked him around “for not behaving.”

An 11-year-old boy with “very serious bruising” on his buttocks and legs told investigators he was also hit with the paddle by both Williams and Harris when he wet his bed.

The pastor allegedly made one 16-year-old stand before the other boys to be whipped with the paddle after Harris told him to keep reading his Bible and believed the teen gave him a smirk, the boy told police.

Students at the academy were also told they could not use the bathroom once the lights were turned off at night, according to the affidavit.

Kentucky law enforcement tipped off Clarksville Police after they learned of children from the boarding academy who were selling candy bars in Owensboro, Ky., Mull said. One of the children allegedly told a customer he feared he would be whipped if he didn’t sell enough candy.

All children have since been removed from the church and returned to their parents or Child Protective Custody, Mull said.

Williams appeared Thursday afternoon in Clark County Circuit Court in Jeffersonville, Ind., where he was advised of his rights by Judge Andrew Adams. Supporters of Williams who appeared in court declined comment. He is next due to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.

Harris bonded out of jail, Mull said, but will likely appear early next week in court when formal charges are filed against both. A probable cause affidavit represents only one side of the case.

Further charges could be filed as the investigation continues, Mull said, though he said he does not believe more adults harmed the children.

Mull said he currently knows little about the school, such as when it began operations, how out-of-state parents found out about the school or how many total students attended. “We’re looking at exactly what the arrangements were for keeping the kids, what the philosophy was, what the reasonings were for kids being here,” Mull said.

Clarksville Building Commissioner Ilpo Majuri also visited the property Tuesday and ordered the owners to cease 24/7, residential operations, he said. Owners of the church had come before the city at a board meeting a few years ago stating they were thinking of opening a school on the premises, but no rezoning ever occurred, Majuri said.

“I think they are trying to comply,” he noted…

…Katherine Taul said two boys from the school stopped by her Versailles, Ind. office in January selling candies and giving out cards with the church’s name and number.

“I wish I had asked the boys more questions,” she wrote to The Courier-Journal. “I remember trying to research the place, but wasn’t able to find much, which I also thought strange.”

According to the school’s Facebook page, the Well of Grace Boarding Academy “is a boys home under the authority of Crossroads Baptist Church.”

Its stated goals include “reaching school age boys heading down the paths of destruction” and “watching the transformation of unwanted, and seemingly ruined lives into Godly young men.”

Indiana government officials are outraged over the abuse charges and are vowing to investigate. However, since churches are free to do whatever they want under the umbrella of religious freedom, it should not surprise anyone that there are churches, following the teachings of the Bible about discipline, that promote, advocate, and demand using violence to correct wayward children.

In hollers and out-of-the-way places, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches and pastors, channeling the spirits of child abusers Lester Roloff and Mack Ford, continue to use child abuse, deprivation, and violence to educate and discipline wayward, rebellious teenagers. And it will continue to go on until the government does something about it.

As long as religious freedom trumps child welfare these kind of things will continue to happen. As long as pastors, churches, and parents are not held criminally liable for ritual child abuse, we will continue to hear of stories like the one mentioned above.

In many states, Ohio included, churches are free to operate schools and boarding homes without any government oversight. In Indiana, Hephzibah House, known for ritual child abuse, has been repeatedly investigated, yet its doors are still open. Until federal and state government put child welfare FIRST, Baptist preachers, thinking they have a direct pipeline to God, will continue to teach parents that God commands them to abuse their children; they will continue to operate “ministries” that beat the devil out of rebellious children.

Note

Gerald Harris started Crossroads Baptist Church in 2006, taking over the building that had belonged to Bible Independent Baptist Church.

From the Well of Grace Boarding Academy Facebook page:(link no longer active)

Here is our goals at Well of Grace Boarding Academy:

  • Reaching school age boys heading down the paths of destruction.
  • Telling them of Christ and teaching them the Word of God.
  • Helping them to have victory over addictions and their reckless living.
  • Training them to be involved in the local church ministries.
  • Teaching discipline, character, respect, and good work ethics.
  • Restoring their home relationships.
  • Watching the transformation of unwanted, and seemingly ruined lives into Godly young men.

Simply drawing and giving Water From the Well. John 4: 1-14

“It is easier to BUILD Boys and Girls than to REPAIR Men and Women!” -Dr. Clarence Doyle

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