Evangelicalism

Dear Family and Friends: Why I Can’t and Won’t Go to Church 

no church

To those who call me Bruce, Butch, Dad, or Grandpa:

In November 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. Since then, I have walked through the doors of a church three times, once for a baby baptism, and twice for a funeral. All three experiences left me angry and irritated.

The first service was a baby baptism at a local Catholic church. I thought, Bruce, ignore the bullshit, you are there to support your children. I was fine until the priest began exorcising the devil out of my granddaughter. I wanted to scream, but  I didn’t. After the service, I made up my mind that I would never again attend such a service. No baptisms, no confirmations, no dedications, no nothing. Nada, zero, zip. All of my children and extended family know this. Polly is free to attend any or none of these services, but I can’t and I won’t.

The last two services were funerals. One was the funeral of my sexual predator uncle. The local Baptist preacher preached my uncle right into heaven. (I wrote about that here: Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell) The second service was for Polly’s fundamentalist uncle. Nice guy, but the service was all about Jesus, complete with a sermon and call to salvation. Again, I wanted to scream, but I reminded myself that I was there to support our family.

I’ve decided I can suck it up and endure the Jesus talk for the sake of family. I know there are a lot of funerals in our future, that is if the rapture doesn’t take place. I wish it would so there would be no Christians left to bother me.  I’ll do my best to support my family in their hour of grief. Anyone that tries to evangelize me does so at their own risk. I refuse to be bullied by sanctimonious Bible thumpers who think they are salvation dispensing machines.

I’ve decided that I will walk through the door of a church for two events: funerals and a weddings. That’s it. I don’t do church and the sooner family, friends, and local Christian zealots understand this the better. If the event doesn’t say funeral or wedding, I ain’t going. I can’t and I won’t. If this causes someone to be angry, upset, or irritated, there is nothing I can do about it. That’s their problem.

You see, eight years ago I said to my family, you are free. Be who and what you want to be. Be/stay a Christian, choose another religion or philosophical system, or choose nothing at all. With freedom comes choice. It seems the religious love their choice. They find great benefit, purpose, and meaning, through their particular religion. That’s great. If it makes them happy, then I am happy. But, shouldn’t I be afforded the same freedom and happiness? Why shouldn’t my wife and I have the freedom to NOT participate in church services, rituals, and the like?

Suppose I worship the Cat God Purr. Once a year, all the Purrites get together at my house for a very special service. Part of our ritual is the sacrifice of a female cat. Like the Israelites in the Bible, we offer up a cat as our sacrifice to Purr. Afterward, we roast the cat and eat it, and in doing so we are taking into our body and soul the blood and body of Cat God Purr.

Now imagine me inviting my Christian family to the service. I let them know when the service is and how important it is to me for them to be there. I also let them know that I would like them to partake of the roasted cat so they too could have inside of them the blood and body of Cat God Purr. Can you imagine how they would respond?

First, in their eyes Cat Purr God is a false God. Second, the cat roasting ritual is barbaric and offensive. While I may invite them to the service, I would certainly understand if they didn’t come. Why? Because my God is not their God and I respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. I would never want to offend them.

It seems if one is an atheist, they are not afforded the same decency and respect. Did Polly and I become less of a person, parent, or grandparent the moment we stopped believing? Does our relationship with family and friends hinge on us sitting our ass in a pew for ten minutes or an hour? Frankly, I refuse to let any one circumstance harm a relationship. If someone asks me to go to a church service or a ritual and I say no and they never ask me again, it’s no big deal. However, once someone knows that I do NOT attend such services and they continue to ask me anyway, this tells me that they do not respect me.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the ministry. I’ve had enough church to last me ten lifetimes. The best way for the religious and the nonreligious to get along is for both sides to compartmentalize their beliefs. I don’t talk about religion/atheism/humanism with my Christian family and friends unless they ask. If they ask, I will gladly give my opinion or share my viewpoint. I am not going to invite them to hear Sam Harris speak, nor am I going to give them Bart Ehrman’s books. If they ask or want to know, that’s different, but if they don’t then I choose to focus on the other things we have in common and leave religion/atheism in the closet. Christian family and friends need to do the same. If I ask, then by all means tell me. If not, let’s focus on the things we have in common. Life is too short to have conflict over religion.

I subscribe to the when in Rome Do as the Romans Do rule. When I am at a Christian’s home and they offer up a prayer to their deity, I respectfully bow my head. It’s their home and they are free to do what they want. Yes, I have an opinion about God and prayer, but their home is not the place to share it.  The same goes for my home. We are not religious, we are not Christian. We don’t pray over our meals, nor do we give the gods one thought before we eat. While we do allow Polly’s dad to pray over the meal when he is here, that is out of respect for him. No big deal, just one more prayer hitting the ceiling. Thousands are already embedded in the paint, what’s one more.

When Christians come to my home, they shouldn’t expect me to change how I live or how I talk. I shouldn’t have to change the music I am listening to, change the TV channel, or remove books from the bookshelf. This is our home, and anyone, even family, who walks through the door is a guest. And the same goes for the Christian’s home. If I visit there, I don’t expect them to do anything different from what they normally do. I respect their space, their freedom.

Freedom is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, for many Christians it is a one way street called Their Way. They want the freedom to worship their God and practice their faith, but they don’t want to grant others the same freedom. Of course, I know why. They think they have the truth and Polly and I are on a false path that leads to judgment, hell, and eternal punishment. They don’t want us to continue driving on the highway to hell. But, here’s the thing…we don’t think we are on the highway to hell. Since we don’t believe there is a God, it naturally follows that we don’t believe in hell, judgment, heaven, or eternity. It’s up to us to determine what road we want to travel, and for Polly and I, we are quite happy to drive on the road named Reason.

Let me conclude this post with a personal thought about church services in general and why I can’t and won’t attend them.  First, I know the Bible inside and out. I have a theological education, an education that began at a Bible college and continued through the 25 years I spent pastoring churches. So, when I hear preachers and priests preach, I can spot the bullshit from a mile away. I also have little tolerance for preachers who lack the requisite skills necessary to craft a good sermon and deliver it. In my opinion, there’s lots of anemic, pathetic preaching these days. Second, I find many of the rituals offensive. Casting the devil out an infant? Washing away sin with water? Services that are all show and no substance? Vows that are uttered and become lies before the service is over?  Wine and wafers turning into real blood and flesh? Magic wand rituals and practices that pretend to make the past go away and make the present brand new? Preachers, pastors, bishops, and priests touching a person and conferring some sort of divine power? All of these things are offensive to me. They are reminders to me of the bankruptcy of religion and why I want nothing to do with it.

I know that I can’t force people to accept me as I am, but I can choose how and when I interact with them. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Laura and a grandmother called up complaining about her daughter-in-law. Dr. Laura told her to quit her bitching. If she didn’t, she risked not being able to see her grandchildren. That was good advice and I remembered it years later when my fundamentalist step-grandmother called me. I wrote about this in the post Dear Ann:

…For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you preceded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years,  I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train…

That’s what can happen when we push, badger, and cajole. I am an atheist, not a Christian and I suspect I will remain so until I die. My family and friends need to come to terms with this, and if they don’t then it’s on them if they ruin our relationship.

When our children married, we vowed that we would NEVER be meddling parents/grandparents. If we offer our opinion on something, we do it once. That’s it. Unless someone asks, we don’t say another word. Every person in my family has the right to live freely and authentically. Yes, they make decisions that I think are foolish, but it’s their life and they are free to live it any way they want. Whether it is Polly’s parents, our children, our daughter-in-laws, or our grandchildren, we don’t meddle in their lives. We want them to be happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.

All that I want is the freedom to live my life authentically. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

What Pastor Doug Wilson Thinks of Feminists and Homosexuals

screen shot christ church website

Screenshot from the Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho Website

Doug Wilson is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow Idaho, a professor at non-accredited New Saint Andrews College, and editor of Credenda Agenda magazine. Back when I was a Calvinist with theocratic leanings, I read Credenda Agenda religiously.

Today, a friend of mine sent me a quote from Doug Wilson’s book, Southern Slavery, As it Was. (his co-author was Steve Wilkins) Here’s what Wilson had to say:

“Sodomites parade in the streets, claiming that if we do not appropriate more money to study why people with foul sexual habits get sick, we are somehow violating their civil rights. Feminists, in rebellion against God, invert the order of the home established by God. They do so in a way that seeks to rob women of their beauty in submission and their security in being loved. For two decades, we have seen millions of unborn children slaughtered in abortion clinics. How did we get here, and what is the way out? The question cannot be answered fully without careful study of the War Between the States and the controversies surrounding it. Slavery was one of those controversies.”

You can read the entire book online (link no longer active).

Let this quote serve as a reminder that this kind of thinking is not the exclusive domain of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan. Bigots can be found in almost every sect; with the number of bigots growing increasingly larger the more conservative a sect is.

Wilson asks, which morality will it be, but same-sex marriage has nothing to do with morality. Allowing same-sex couples to marry affords them equal protection under the law and grants them the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Each of us have a right to privacy. Consenting adults have the right to engage in whatever sexual conduct that floats their boat without the government regulating the behavior. Theocrats like Wilson desire and demand that their interpretation of the laws found in the Bible be codified and made the standard for everyone.

I find it hard to see how this is any different from Muslims who want to institute Sharia law. As the quotes below will show, Wilson is quite willing to use the power of the state to enforce his version of Biblical law. Wilson also thinks that there may instances when execution is the rightful punishment for someone breaking his God’s law.

Such thinking should cause all of us to shudder. While Islam is center stage in our culture, proponents of God rule are working behind the scenes to destroy America’s secular foundation and legislate and enact a Christian version of sharia law.

Notes

Here’s a Wilson quote I found on The Wartburg Watch:

“You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. … I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”

Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about rape and marriage I found on the Love, Joy, Feminism blog:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.

This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about slavery I found on the Are Women Human blog: (link no longer active)

Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, [slavery] was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates…

The [WPA Slave] Narratives consistently portray an amazingly benign picture of Southern plantation life. Affection for former masters and mistresses is expressed in terms of unmistakable devotion. Testimony to the good treatment, kindness, and gentleness of many so-called “heartless slave holders” abounds. Many of the old slaves express a wistful desire to be back at the plantation.

Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care. In the narratives taken as a whole, there is no pervasive cry of rage and anguish.. abuses came from a distinct and very small minority.

Here’s Wilson’s take on the Boy Scouts allowing gay scouts:

I believe that certain unspeakable things will be going on in Boy Scout tents within about five years — with our current tolerance pimps making it all happen — and they will be things that could best be addressed by a judicious use of the strongest form of disapproval a culture has. While I believe that the judicial law of Moses ceased when the nation of Israel ceased, as the Westminster Confession teaches, I also believe the general equity of the law remains. I believe that the general equity of the law includes this strong rejection of homosexual behavior. I also believe that the law of the Old Testament was the model for our common law system, and our system should work in the same way.

By the way, no need for any comments saying that I have confounded homosexuality and pedophilia. I haven’t, and am just giving an example of the kind of same-sex behavior I could see supporting the death penalty for.

But look what I just did. I cited an application of Leviticus 20:13 that could still have broad societal consensus, even in these jaded days. This being the case, what you will have to do is bookmark this page, wait about ten years, and send your outraged cries up to the skies then. By that point, a large number of boys will have been ushered into the fellowship of these men, and there will have been at least two HBO series exalting the lifelong friendships that resulted, and it will then be obvious and apparent to all (in 2023) that I am an incorrigible hater.

Doug Wilson’s prepared remarks for his debate with gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan.

The American Family Association Runs Ad That Says Only God Can Define Marriage

protecting the sanctity of marriage

The American Family Association (AFA) ran an ad today in the Washington Post detailing their view on same-sex marriage. The full-page ad stated:

Marriage was neither manmade nor created by any law or Constitution. It was God’s plan and purpose for civilization from the beginning. He created man and woman as distinctly separate but inherently compatible; each unique yet sexually complementary – providing both the means for and the ideal relationship within which to raise children from that union.

Before you now is a great question: Will you bend what God designed merely to suit the desires of man, knowing that you do so at the expense of children, perhaps even civilization itself? If you decide to affirm marriage as between one man and one woman, you breath life into the natural order and stand as an example to generations that will arise after your decision. But if you decide differently, you are choosing a path that will put the state on a legal and administrative collision course with hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices who believe only God can define marriage. You would say by such a decision that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children, and that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose of marriage would now become illicit. You would be saying that God has no place in our public square and, in a nation founded to secure freedom for those being persecuted for their faith, such a decision would be a tragic irony. In so doing you would not only risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric, but also effectively delegitimize the very power of the court itself to rule justly.

Before you now is a great challenge: If your decision to resolve this matter forces same-sex marriage on America, you will have settled nothing. We urge the Court to adjudicate rightly that which is God’s alone to decide.

Let me break down the AFA’s position:

  • Only God can define marriage and he defined marriage as one man and one woman
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage means bowing to the desires of man
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm children
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm civilization
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose  of marriage is illicit
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage says that God has no place in the public square
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric
  • Legalizing same-sex marriage will delegitimize the power of the  Supreme Court to rule justly

In other words, legalizing same-sex marriage with destroy the United States and Western Civilization. The AFA ad is fear mongering at its best.

I find it interesting that  the AFA, a fundamentalist Christian group, trots out the generic God when it suits them. Last month, in an article titled Evangelicals and Their Duplicitous Argument for the Generic God, I wrote:

Evangelicals are quite specific when it comes to God. There in ONE God, their God, the triune God revealed in the Christian Bible. All other gods are false gods. While it is increasingly common for Evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians, it was not that long ago that most Evangelical churches and pastors believed the Roman Catholic church was the harlot of Revelation 17 and worshipers of a false God.  While it is encouraging to see some Evangelicals consider the thought that Catholics and Mormons might worship the same God as they do, the overwhelmingly majority of Evangelicals believe their God is the one, true God. No other gods need apply.

What I find interesting is how duplicitous Evangelicals can be when it comes to the mentioning of God in the founding documents of the United States, on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Evangelicals, knowing that the constitution forbids the establishment of a state church, argue before congress and the courts that the founding fathers spoke of a generic god, that the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is no god in particular.  And since the documents, laws, and the like use the word god in a generic sense, they do not violate the establishment clause or run afoul of the separation of church and state…

…Why is it that Evangelicals run from this fact when they speak before congress or the courts? Why do they argue that these mentions of God are generic and not a reference to any specific god? Again, the answer is quite simple. They know admitting that these documents use the word God is a specific sense weakens their argument for their continued use. If the Pledge of Allegiance or In God we Trust on our money reference a non-specific God, then it makes it harder for atheists and secularists to argue that these things are unconstitutional. (harder, not impossible)…

Wildmon’s and the AFA’s God is the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian God. All others Gods are false Gods. While their ad implies they support religious pluralism, behind the scenes they are working towards the implementation of a Christian theocracy. Wildmon and others like him are the Evangelical version of Muslims who want to see sharia law enforced throughout the world. In their mind, there is one law book, the Christian Bible. Think for a moment, what would America be like if the Bible was the law book? (Please check out Right Wing Watch to find out what Tim Wildmon really believes.)

The American Family Association, founded by the late Don Wildmon and now controlled by Tim Wildmon, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Here’s some of Tim Wildmon’s statements about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, courtesy of the SPLC website:

“What we reject is the idea that you can take homosexuality, which in the Bible is defined as a sin … it’s unnatural, it’s immoral, it’s unhealthy, and laud it and call it wonderful and say this is the same as heterosexuality. It is not. … We know this is a destructive lifestyle and behavior… .” Sandy Rios in the Morning,” AFA Radio, Oct. 2, 2012

“Our president is promoting the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and queer agenda like there is no tomorrow. God says homosexuality … should be repented of, not embraced and celebrated as a valid ‘alternative lifestyle’… . The Scripture shows us that God sometimes destroyed nations for their rebellion against his moral standards and their lack of repentance. It will happen to us as well if we continue down this path.” AFA Journal, July/August 2014

“Putting a man like [Michael] Sam, who says he is sexually attracted to men, in with all that beefcake seems unfair to the straight players and a distraction to Sam. … Would you put a heterosexual man in the locker room/showers with all the female cheerleaders?” Fundraising E-mail opposing Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, being allowed to play professional football, July 25, 2014

“They have these effeminate, a lot of them, actions. They walk like a girl, a lot of them. … [I]t makes you wonder, how did that develop, where does that come from?” “AFA Today,” AFA Radio, claiming he can recognize gay men by their mannerisms, as reported by Right Wing Watch on Jan. 31, 2014

Tim Wildmon also stated:

“The very idea of the entire nation sitting around and waiting to see if a handful of judges overturn traditional marriage with a nonchalant wave of the hand is absurd. We need to anchor marriage in a constitutional amendment, and we need to do it soon.”

On this point, I totally agree with Wildmon.  Since people like Wildmon are offended by the very thought of a gay person enjoying the same civil and legal rights as they do, they have the option of making their viewpoint the law of the land through a constitutional amendment. Doing so would Supreme Court proof the “sanctity” of heterosexual marriage. Why don’t Christian fundamentalists pursue this path of redress? Simple. They know that such an amendment would NEVER survive the ratification process. Article 5 of the US Constitution states:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

If the American Family Association is so certain that “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”, then is should be quite easy to get 38 state legislatures to ratify such an amendment, right?

Here’s what Tim Wildmon and other culture warriors know. According to a February 2015 CNN poll:

63% of Americans say that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the law as valid. That’s up from 49% in August 2010. Over that time, the share who see marriage as a constitutional right has climbed 15 points among Republicans to 42% and 19 points among Democrats to 75%

So much for  “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”.

As of today, no Evangelical, Mormon, or Roman Catholic has made a convincing argument showing religious or personal freedom would be reduced in any way if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. Churches would still be open, pastors would still be free to preach against fags, queers, and sodomites, and no church or pastor would be required to perform a same-sex marriage.

The feigned offense of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association is little more than the shrill, pathetic objections of a group of people who are losing their power and clout. America has evolved and they haven’t. There’s little that can be done to reach people who think like this. Armed with an infallible Bible given to them by a supernatural God, they are certain they are right. In their world, being right is more important than equal protection under the law and equal civil rights for all.

louis CK same sex marriage

Mark Biltz Accuses John Hagee of Stealing Four Blood Moons Revelation

blood moon

John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, recently released a movie based on his book Four Blood Moons. Charisma News reports:

Four Blood Moons is a theatrical one-night event exploring a rare lunar phenomenon that over the centuries has accompanied both tragedy and triumph for the Jewish people. From Pastor John Hagee’s New York Times best-selling book of the same name (750,000 copies in print from Worthy Publishing), Four Blood Moons is in theaters March 23.

“The heavens are ‘God’s billboard.’ He’s been sending signals to earth, and we haven’t been picking them up,” Hagee says. “Two blood moons, in 2014 and 2015, point to dramatic events in the Middle East and, as a result, changes in the whole world.”…

…Four Blood Moons combines Scripture, science, history and big-screen live action spanning centuries, including previous similar lunar occurrences and the earth-shaking changes around them. It also examines our current four-blood-moon cycle—and its possible meaning for Israel, the Middle East and the world.

An array of historians, religious scholars and commentators appear in Four Blood Moons and offer their insight—filmmaker, speaker and author Dinesh D’Souza; radio host and author Dennis Prager; and noted author and historian David Barton to name just a few.

“A blood moon occurs at a lunar eclipse when the earth comes between the sun and the moon,” Hagee said. “As the sun shines through our atmosphere, it throws a shadow on the moon, making the moon look red.”

Only three times in the past 500 years have four of these blood moons (or tetrads) occurred back to back and on major Jewish holy days. The fourth tetrad began April 15, 2014, on Passover. In October last year, the second blood moon appeared on the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as Sukkot). Blood moons in 2015 land on the same holy days…

…Four Blood Moons examines the biblical passages seemingly connected to these events—in Joel and Acts—where it says the “sun will be darkened” and the moon will appear as blood in advance of God’s world-changing action on earth.

Hagee points out that during this four blood moon cycle, all of which touch on Jewish holy days, a solar eclipse also will occur—a combination of events that will never repeat.

Whatever the results, audiences at Four Blood Moons will see a compelling and entertaining exploration of these spiritual, celestial and historical events. And they will leave the theater convinced that something is about to change that could impact us all.

World Net Daily (WND), home to every right-wing conspiracy writer on the planet,  is accusing Hagee of stealing the Four Blood Moons revelation. One Christian is accusing another Christian of stealing God’s revelation. Shocking! According to WND,  Mark Biltz, pastor of Church of All Nations in Tacoma, Washington, a Christian ministry taking the Torah to the Nations, is the one God gave the revelation to. On March 24, 2015, WND sent Hagee a Demand Letter. In the letter, WND demanded Hagee publicly retract his statements about being the receiver of the Four Blood Moons revelation and reedit the film giving Biltz proper attribution.

Joseph Farah, head wing nut at World Net Daily, had this to say on Sunday:

…Then in 2013, I learned that San Antonio mega-pastor John Hagee was coming out with a book called “Four Blood Moons.” I discussed it with Biltz and learned that the previous year he had entertained Hagee as a speaker at his church, El Shaddai Ministries in Bonney Lake, Washington. Hagee had founded an organization called Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, and Biltz was the Washington state chairman. At that event, Biltz briefed Hagee on the “blood moons phenomenon” and gave him a DVD teaching about it.

When the book came out in 2014, I was eager to read it – as was Biltz. Hagee had consulted with Biltz on the subject after the 2012 event at his church. We were both disappointed that Biltz was nowhere credited with the discovery of the phenomenon, though Hagee did recount his meeting with Biltz and explained, in a roundabout way, that the pastor had inspired the book by asking a question: “Have you ever considered the sun, moon and stars in the study of prophecy?” Hagee never mentioned that Biltz had thoroughly researched the blood moons phenomenon, presented on it over a period of four years on Christian television, spoken at conferences and produced DVD teachings. It had become Biltz’s most well-known accomplishment – his identity, if you will, around the world.

I suggested to Biltz that he write a book on the subject himself. After all, he was the expert. He was the discoverer. We also decided to make a documentary movie about the phenomenon. Both the book and the movie are called “Blood Moons.” Both came out in early 2014.

That would have been the end of the story had Hagee not decided to produce a movie of his own that debuted nationwide in theaters Monday in which he made the following statement: “The thing that compelled me to write the ‘Four Blood Moons’ was when I discovered the scientific fact NASA was pointing out that it happened in 1492 and it happened in 1948 and it happened in 1967 and it was going to happen in 2015.”…

…Biltz was interviewed for the movie and told the story of his own discovery of the blood moons phenomenon, but it was not included in the film. Instead, to any casual viewer of the movie, it seemed to me and Biltz, Hagee was representing himself as the discoverer.

One of my reporters was already assigned to do a story on the “Four Blood Moons” movie and had set up an interview with Hagee to discuss it. I asked him to change the direction of the questioning to focus on how Hagee got to write about and produce a major movie about the phenomenon. I also specifically asked him to explain Biltz’s role in his interest.

Hagee told the story of meeting Mark Biltz at the CFI event in his church in 2012 in a way that was shockingly similar to his explanation in the book – avoiding any mention of Biltz’s voluminous research on the subject and the fact that he had discovered it and thoroughly chronicled it over a four-year period prior to their meeting. In fact, Mark Biltz had become known alternately as “the blood moons pastor” and “Blood Moons Biltz.”

Pressed for more details on whether he or Biltz discovered the phenomenon, Hagee said he got the idea by studying the Bible and researching NASA’s historical charts of blood moon tetrads. There was no further mention of Biltz, and Hagee again used the “discovery” word: “It dawned on me that God is using the heavens as a billboard. And when I got on the Internet and discovered these four blood moons that had happened and would happen, I literally levitated out of my seat.”

Biltz and I decided it was time to clear the air with Hagee. It seemed to both of us that he was moving closer and closer to hijacking Biltz’s discovery with his immense audience and impressive marketing machine.

According to Charisma News, they have a copy of a letter sent to WND by Hagee spokesman Ari Morgenstern. In the letter, Morgenstern detailed the following errors:

…the errors are: (1) an allegation that Hagee asserted he was the “discoverer” of the four blood moons phenomenon; (2) an allegation that Hagee does not credit Biltz for his relevant efforts; (3) an implication that Hagee took the term “God’s billboard” from Biltz; (4) an allegation that Hagee used inaccurate dates in his discussions of previous tetrads (5) an implication that Biltz is not prominently featured in Hagee’s Four Blood Moons film; and (6) an allegation that Hagee supports so-called dual-covenant theology.

Based on these errors, Morgenstern is asking WND to correct the errors in the aforementioned articles. Morgenstern stated:

“Under normal circumstances, given their complete inaccuracy, I would expect both pieces to be removed with the publisher’s apologies, but as [Joseph] Farah is the driving force behind this narrative, the publisher of the outlet that posted the pieces, and WND has not even bothered to provide readers with the name of the author of the pieces, we’ve strayed quite far from normal circumstances.”

“While these facts clearly call into question WND‘s objectivity, they pale in comparison to the conflict of interest associated with Farah’s apparent financial stake in advancing this false narrative. Not surprisingly, in the piece, WND repeatedly advertises and links to purchase options of Biltz’s relevant book and film—which as the WND piece mentions, Farah is, respectively, publisher and producer (relevant screenshots are available upon request).”

As I read this story, I found myself having a vision of dueling prophets, each certain God gave to them the Four Blood Moons revelation. Prophets, walk forty paces, turn and fire. May the best prophet win. Of course, this story has little to do with revelations or prophets and everything to do with PROFIT and PREEMINENCE.

I ask, what would Jesus do?

Just another amusing day in the Evangelical Christian Ghetto. Personally, I am looking forward to the next blood moon, or what we call here in the Midwest a full moon or harvest moon. The next time the moon is large and orange in the sky, I plan to be outside with my camera and tripod hoping to shoot the moon in all its glory. Too bad Hagee, Farah, and Biltz will be too busy arguing over who owns the rights to the show to enjoy it.

John  Piper Says Holding Hands with God More Pleasurable than Getting Laid 10,000 Times

john piper

John Piper

John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, and the father of Christian hedonism, had this to say at the 2015 Desiring God Conference for Pastors:

“Look around in your life, in your church. How many Christians do you see bent with all their powers to know God more and more — more truly, more clearly, more sweetly? Or, rather, do you see thousands fighting graduate school sins with a grammar school knowledge of God?”

Some of you might say, ‘Wait, there are as many PhDs in theology who commit adultery as less-educated people.’ To which I would say, ‘Probably more.’ Why is it that people with PhDs in theology commit adultery? They don’t know God.”

“You can read theology 10 hours a day for 40 years and not know God as beautiful and all-satisfying — as the highest treasure of your life. Who cares about knowing God the way the devil knows God? He hates everybody. His knowledge of God helps him hate people.”

“We’re talking about knowing God here in 1 Thessalonians. They don’t know God. They don’t know God for who He is — infinitely valuable, infinitely beautiful, infinitely satisfying — why your soul was made. There are more pleasures at His right hand, more eternal joys in His presence, than you could have in 10,000 sexual trysts.

“The question is, do you know that? If you know that, sin will have lost its dominion in your life,”

No commentary from me. The headline is what came to my mind as I read the news story about Piper’s sermon. I know…so depraved.

040517

Luke 16: The Rich Man and Lazarus

rich man and lazarus

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.  And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:19-31)

Anyone raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church has heard numerous sermons from Luke 16:19-31. Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I preached from this passage many times.

The first question this passage raises is whether it is meant to be taken literally. Many Christians, increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of hell and sinners being tortured for eternity, say that this is a parable. However, it is clear from the text itself that Jesus did not mean for this to be taken as a parable.

In all the other parables uttered by Jesus he never mentions anyone by name. In this parable, the three main characters are:

  • A certain rich man (Dives?)
  • A certain beggar named Lazarus
  • Abraham

Jesus tells us the rich man was:

  • Clothed in purple and fine linen
  • Fared (ate) sumptuously every day

Lazarus, however, was:

  • A beggar
  • Crippled
  • Afflicted with sores that the dogs licked
  • Fed with crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table

Both Lazarus and the rich man died:

  • The rich man went to hell and was tormented by the flames of hell without a drop of water to drink
  • Lazarus was carried by  angels to Abraham’s bosom and was comforted

Generally, the Evangelical Christian church believes hell is in the bowels of the earth. In this passage of scripture, hell is a place separated from Abraham’s bosom by a fixed, impassable, great gulf. This gulf is not so great though that a person in one part cannot see the people on the other side of the gulf. The rich man was able to look across the great gulf and see Abraham.

This story details the concern the rich man had for his five brothers who were still alive. He wanted to make sure that they didn’t end up in hell.  He begged Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers about hell. Abraham refused and told the rich man his brothers had the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). If they wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would perish. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to warn them, but Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers wouldn’t heed the Word of God they would not heed someone who rose from the dead.

I find it interesting that Abraham says the living brothers should heed Moses and the Prophets, yet the Old Testament says little to nothing about hell or heaven. I also find it interesting that Abraham told the rich man that his brothers would not be persuaded even if a resurrected dead man, Lazarus, came to them to warn them about hell. Isn’t the linchpin of the Christian religion the resurrection of a man named Jesus from the dead? What better way to authenticate the Christian religion than Jesus physically revealing himself to the world. Think how much better it would be for Christians if every 20 years Jesus could make a brief appearance to remind people that he is still alive and kicking and is still busy building them mansions in the New Jerusalem.

Instead, we are told we must believe what the Bible says about the living, dead, now living Jesus, the son of God. As Luke 16 makes clear, the Abrahamic religions have always been text-based religions. The Bible says is not just the mantra of Evangelical Christianity, but also Liberal Christianity, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism cease to exist without their respective religious texts. Simply put, no Bible, no Christianity.

According to many Christian sects and pastors, when Jesus died he descended into hell. 1 Peter 3:18-20 says:

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:  By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Ephesians 4:7-10 says:

But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

Many Christian sects and pastors teach that hell and Abraham’s bosom were in the bowels of the earth. These were temporary holding places for the just and unjust. When Jesus resurrected from the dead and ascended to heaven he took the just with him. Those in hell remained there.

The early church believed Jesus descended into hell. The Apostles’ Creed says:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.  And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN.

A Third Century Syrian creed says: (link no longer active)

“who(Jesus)  was crucified under Pontius Pilate and departed in peace, in order to preach to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the saints concerning the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead.”

Luke 16:19-31 raises all kinds of sticky questions for Christians.

  • Why did the rich man end up in hell? The text seems to imply it was because he was rich. The New Testament makes it clear that few rich people make it to heaven (Luke 18:24-25)
  • Why did Lazarus end up in Abraham’s bosom? The text seems to imply it was because he was poor and suffered. Jesus reinforces this belief in the Beatitudes.
  • Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.  How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?
  • If, as some Christians believe, it is the soul or spirit that goes to the heaven or hell to await being united with a resurrected body, then, according to Luke 16:19-31, the soul has corporeal properties. Why then can we not see the soul of a person when they die?
  • How was the rich man able to withstand the flames and torments of hell without being burned up? This is a question many Christians run from since it suggests God specifically fits non-Christians with a soul/spirit and body that is specially suited for endless torment in the flames of hell. (this is the where the praise band begins to sing, Our God is an Awesome God)
  • The Word of God, (Moses and the Prophets) teaches that salvation is through obedience to God’s law and not by grace. If this is the case, what ultimately determined where Lazarus and the rich man ended up?  If Jesus (God) is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why is salvation in the Old Testament and the gospels different from salvation in the post-gospel New Testament?

The easy (and lazy) answer to these questions is to say that Luke 16:19-31 is a parable  and is only meant to be an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. However, I think it is intellectually dishonest to suggest that this story is a parable. When compared to the parables uttered by Jesus, it has little in common  with them.

Do you have a story to tell about a sermon on Luke 16:19-31? Was preaching on hell a prominent part of your or your pastor’s preaching?  Please use the comment section to share your experience

The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist

bruce and polly gerencser 1976

Freshman class, Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan 1976, Polly is first row on the left, Bruce is third row, eighth from the left.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College , an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution in Pontiac, Michigan. Polly also attended the college, as did her father, and uncle. While not as large or as prestigious as institutions like Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson, Tennessee Temple, or Pensacola Christian College, Midwestern is known for turning out men who are church planters and fierce defenders of the Word of God. Started in 1953 by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern once had an enrollment of over 400 students. These days, the enrollment is less than a hundred and in 2010 the college moved its location to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan.

At one time, Midwestern advertised itself as a character building factory. Over the past 62 years, this factory has graduated hundreds of men and women, each devoted to the fundamentals of the faith. While some of the students who attended Midwestern no longer wear the fundamentalists label, I do not know of one Midwestern attendee who is a liberal. Best I can tell, there is only one man who became a liberal and that is me. Certainly, many churches pastored by Midwestern-trained men are Evangelical and to the left of the fundamentalism taught by the college, but none of them, as far as I know, are liberal or progressive. Even more amazing, as far as atheism is concerned, I am the only person who attended Midwestern and entered the ministry as a Midwestern-trained preacher who is now an atheist.

i am special

I am soooo special.  From time to time, I see in the logs  search strings like “the Midwestern Baptist College preacher who became an atheist.”  Google? This site is #1. Bing? #1. I am as rare as real science exhibit at the Creationist Museum. I am sure there are others who attended Midwestern who no longer believe, but I am the only person who has dared to poke his head above the hole and say so.

The Bob Jones III Non Apology Apology

bob jones III

Recently, thanks to a petition by the gay rights activist group BJUnity, Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University, was forced to apologize for saying that homosexuals should be stoned to death. In 1980, Jones III told  the Associated Press (link no longer active):

“It would not be a bad idea to bring the swift justice today that was brought in Israel’s day against murder and rape and homosexuality. I guarantee it would solve the problem post-haste if homosexuals were stoned, if murderers were immediately killed as the Bible commands.”

According to WXLT, Jones III made this statement while “attending a meeting at the White House with other fundamentalist leaders to deliver a petition to protest extending the protections of the Civil Rights Act to homosexuals.”

While Jones III indeed apologizes for what he said (link no longer active), have his beliefs about homosexuality and same-sex marriage changed? Of course not. While this is certainty a small, hard-fought victory for BJUnity, the apology is meant to a be band-aid covering up the bigotry that is prevalent on the Bob Jones University campus. I am quite certain that, belief wise, the Jones’s and the administration of the University believe just like they always have. I am certain that they do not support equal protection under the law for gays. They remain steadfastly opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

BJUnity had this to say about the statement:

“This means a lot to us because it represents the beginning of a change in the rhetoric and conversation.”

I really wish this was true, but alas it is not. Bob Jones III, like his father and grandfather, remains a hateful bigot. He will certainly pay closer attention to what he says and where he says it, but any thought of the Jones’s or the University moving away from their beliefs about homosexuality is naïve. They remain unabashedly fundamentalist. They remain committed to inerrancy and literalism. In their mind, the Bible is THE standard for morality, and the Bible is clear: homosexuality is an abomination and the mark of a reprobate mind.

IFB Preacher Bob Gray Says “Buy My Book if You Really Care About Souls”

passion for souls

Snark ahead, you’ve been warned!

I ask you dear reader, do you care about lost and dying souls? If so, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, has a book or two he’d like to sell you. According to his blog, these books are so important that NOT buying them will result in more souls being lost for eternity. According to Gray:

…There are 400,000 plus churches of all types in our nation. If the Bible believing local churches would sharpen their soul winning tools and organize a strong Sunday School system we would see a reversal of our outreach to our worlds. Jesus is coming soon and we must have a second mile kick in order to finish our portion of the race for souls.

You can call xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxx-xxx-xxxx or email xxx@juno.com or xxx@me.com to order.  Do not put this off. The longer you delay the more souls we will lose. This one-two punch will help your local church in your outreach in your world.

Gray warns fellow Independent Fundamentalists Baptists (IFB) about the soon return of Jesus. Isn’t this same sorry trope IFB preachers have been using for decades in an attempt to light a fire under complacent church members?  Evidently, IFB churches are in a race and these books will help them start running faster so they “finish their portion of the race for souls.” Who are they racing against? Satan? Catholics? Muslims? Southern Baptists? Or is this just a Madison Fifth Avenue ploy to sell self published books?  Guilt+fear=more book sales.

The first book is written by David Hyles. Yes, THAT David Hyles. Titled, Jack Hyles’ Passion for Sunday School: Philosophies and Principles that Shaped His Pastoral Ministry, this book is all about the importance of having a Sunday school. And not just any Sunday school, but a Sunday school just like Jack Hyles had at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. (Please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles if you are not familiar with him) I think it is safe to say that this book will NOT mention Jack Hyles’ passion for his secretary or David Hyles’ passion for anyone wearing a skirt.

The second book is written by Gray. Titled, Passion for Souls: The Motivation, Message, and Methods of My Life as a Soulwinner, it details Gray’s soulwinning passion and methodology. Jeff Fugate, pastor of Clay Mills Road Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, had this to say about the book:

“This book is in my opinion the BEST book I have ever read on the matter of personal soul winning. It is encouraging, instructive, enjoyable and convicting. I recommend this book to new Christians as well as to seasoned soul winners. Thank you Dr. Gray for your example of personal soul winning and for putting your life’s work into this book.”

Evangelist John Hamblin adds:

“I’m thrilled that you are holding in your hands right now, this tremendous bound volume, “My Passion For Soul Winning” by my dear friend, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr.

I’ve said, as Andrew was the Apostle of Personal Workers in the days of the early church, Dr. Bob Gray, Sr. is the “Apostle of Personal Workers” in the present church”

Here is a principled fundamentalist, powerful preacher, published author and proficient soul winner, who has not only lead tens of thousands to Christ but also has trained and tutored tens of thousands of personal soul winners.

In this bound volume you will find the drive, desire, duty, determination and demeanor, of one, without question, of the most successful personal soul winners of our day.

The IFB church movement is dying on the vine. Countless churches have closed their doors and others face steep attendance decline.  IFB colleges that once had burgeoning enrollment now have a hard time keeping the doors open. You’d think that someone, anyone, would stop and ask WHY this is? Some IFB preachers blame worldliness, a catch-all phrase for church members who love HBO more than they love Jesus. Others develop a persecution complex, thinking that liberals, Obama, socialists, Democrats, Catholics, Southern Baptists,other IFB preachers who aren’t in their camp, and a host of other groups and people they demonize, are actively working against them.

The fault lies with everyone but them. Instead of recognizing that their “motivation, message, and methods,” no longer work, they just keep doing the same thing over and over and over hoping for a different outcome. They continue to preach against the same “sins” they were preaching against 40 years ago. The difference now is that it is harder to find people who are willing to be assaulted week in and week out with the King James bible.

Gray will surely sell some books. The IFB church movement is quite incestuous, so big name IFB preachers preach for one another, give each other doctorates, and buy each other’s books. It is a wheel that keeps on spinning…

If you are interested in buying a copy of Gray’s books, you can purchase them at Solve Church Problems.

 

Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics

bait and switch

Update: Former Faith Baptist Church youth pastor Malo Victor Monteiro arrested on sexual abuse charges.

Bruce Goddard pastors Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar California. Faith Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Here’s how they advertise themselves:

Malls are trendy, churches should feel timeless. With the forceful current of constant change sweeping over every part of our lives, people have the need to connect with something enduring and firm. We believe Christ designed the church to fulfill that need by representing an eternal kingdom and ageless truth with no need to imitate the culture. We want you to know that there is still a church that feels like a church. It will not feel like a rock concert, comedy club, or motivational seminar. It is not old-fashioned, as in 50 years ago, it is timeless, as in 2000 years ago.

IFB churches are noted for  bait and switch methods used to lure the uninitiated into their group. Often, they advertise themselves as being the friendliest church in town, and outwardly they often are. But, once a person becomes a part of the church, they often find out that things are not as they first appeared to be. Let me illustrate this with several paragraphs from Faith Baptist’s website.

On the I’m New page, we find this:

HOW SHOULD I DRESS?

There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC!

AM I EXPECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE OFFERING?

No. We do not invite you to FBC for your offering. We want our service to be a gift to you. We hope you will find a warm, family spirit in this place, truth from God’s Word, and a place where you can grow in God’s grace. Please do not feel any obligation to participate in the offering as a guest.

A literalist, normative, King James reading of these two paragraphs would lead a new person, one not initiated in the IFB way of life, to think that they could dress anyway they want and the church is not interested in their money. Yes, I see all of you former IFB church members laughing and rolling on the floor. This is what I mean by bait and switch: we love you just like you are, but once we have our claws into you we are going to rip you apart and remake you into what we, uh what God, wants you to be.

There’s a non denominational church not far from where I live that prides itself in being tolerant and accepting. Why, they have two gay people attending their church. But, here’s what the two gays might not understand. The love, tolerance, and acceptance is a ploy. They have no intention, over the long-term, of accepting them as they are. The church is willing to put up with having two vile, wicked homosexuals attending their church because they confidently believe that through the preaching and the fake “we love you” the two gays will get saved and realize that homosexuality is a BIG, BIG, BIG sin.

Here’s how the two gays can prove the sincerity of the church’s love, tolerance, and acceptance. Just ask to join the church or work in the nursery. Tell the pastor you’d like to work with the youth or in junior church. I hear you former Evangelicals snickering. Stop it! I guarantee you, this church will not allow two gays to become members or allow them to be anywhere near their children.

Bruce Goddard and Faith Baptist Church want first time visitors to see the “good” side of the church, the loving, tolerant, accepting side of the church. Come as you are, Bob and Mary, they will tell them, thinking to themselves, when We, I mean Jesus, gets a hold of you, he’ll let you know that wearing the clothes you have on today are a sin and an affront to God.

Bruce, perhaps Goddard and Faith Baptist are different. After all, you’ve never visited the church, so you can’t KNOW how they really are. I wish that was so, but IFB churches are quite predictable. Go to the church’s About Us page and take a careful look at the picture at the top of the page. Pay close attention to how people are dressed. This should tell you exactly what the church’s dress standard is.

Still not convinced? Here’s an article Bruce Goddard wrote for Old Paths Journal, (link no longer active) an IFB website that features the writing of men like Boy Gray Sr. and Allen Domelle:

Forgive my sarcasm, it simply fits this morning as I read and laugh at how messed up some men must get if they read their Bible. It makes me smile. This Book will mess with your mind unless you surrender to it. Amen! Just how do contemporary preachers read their Bible at all without gagging?

Proverbs 6 brings up some very uncomfortable issues. If God knew the politically correct times in which we would be living, I just do not think He would have written some things in the Bible. Consider these few verses:

Proverbs 6:23-25, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”

So, here is a matter of Bible reproof and a what the reproof deals with. Take a good look at how “off” God is in our contemporary world.

First of all, God thinks our preaching should contain reproof! Wow! Is that ever out-of-date! Then, the reproof should deal with these four things, can you believe it?

1. The wrong crowd: to keep thee from the evil woman.

2. Wrong speech: flattery.

3. Lust: now it is hard to have lust for a woman without it having to do with her looks. So this indicates preaching and reproof on appearance and what a man looks at.

4. The draw of a woman’s eyes: take thee with her eyelids.

That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at. How 1950ish!

If God only knew the times in which we would be living, I am sure He would have dropped this kind of thing about 1950 and changed our instruction to simply loving God, loving people and getting rid of the foolish “do’s and dont’s.“ Oh, well! When your God never changes I guess He is bound to be old-fashioned and out-of-step with the times.

Maybe God can read some modern blogs and visit some big name conferences to catch up with the men who really know what is going on. If only God had not said that His Word would not change, then I am sure God would drop this “legalism” and pushy stuff. Man! That was a mistake. Now, God is stuck with these old-fashioned statements. I guess it is good most modern preachers are not stuck on the Bible. Good thing they have enough sense to ignore the Bible when needed and do the “appropriate thing.”

Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks? I am sure it was not God Who brought us these modern enlightened prophets, but whoever it is, our world owes him…

Did you see the bait and switch? The church website says:

“There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC”,

Yet Goddard says in his article: (link no longer active)

“That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at…

…Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks?”

Need I say more?

Family Driven Faith Part Three

bruce and polly 2013

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2013

The article was first published in 2012 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

Eleven years have passed since I preached my last sermon and Polly was called the “pastor’s wife.” Almost seven years have passed since we determined to stop attending church. Now we are “unchurched”, casualties of a lifetime spent in Evangelical Christianity. Worse yet, at least according to our critics, we are now enemies of Christ and his church.

You see, we not only left the Church, we left Jesus. Regardless of how some Christians try to parse our lives through their peculiar theological system, we are two people who once were devoted, committed followers of Jesus, who are an atheist and an agnostic. We were saved and now we are lost.

Some people leave Evangelicalism, with its attendant fundamentalist beliefs and code of living, and try to remake their life according to a kinder, gentler view of God, the Bible, and their fellow humans. I view this like remodeling a house where the foundation and the basic framework remain the same. What’s changed is the siding and the paint on the interior walls, but everything else remains the same,

Many people leave the Evangelical church and join progressive or liberal Christian churches. They gain new labels for themselves, but, again, the foundation of their faith remains the same. Polly and I decided that we were not willing to slap some new siding on the house and remodel the interior. Instead, we burnt the house down, hauled the debris away, and started over.

Now I say we started over, but I recognize that since we think and remember, there really is no such thing as starting over with a blank slate. Deep in our minds are memories from 50 years spent in the Christian church and 25 years spent in the pastorate. These things will forever be with us. The good, bad, and indifferent; the wonderful experiences and the painful, hurtful experiences too. We are the sum of what we have learned and experienced in the past. While we like to think we KNOW where we will be months or years from now, the truth is we really don’t know what the future may bring or how our lives will be.

If someone told me a decade ago that I would be an atheist and Polly would be an agnostic, I would have suggested they seek immediate psychiatric help. As far as Christians go, and as far as Christian pastors and their wives go, Bruce and Polly Gerencser were as devoted and committed as any Christian or ministry couple. Yet, here we are, numbered among the godless, the most despised people in America.

When we decided to start over we knew that we were going to have to confront many personal and marital issues. Wiping the slate clean forced us to look at what we really believed about most everything. At times, the process made us fearful. What if we decided that we didn’t want to married to each other? Free to think and reason and to decide for ourselves what our moral and ethical foundation was, there was a real danger that this process could lead us apart.

Of great concern was how our children would view the new, and hopefully improved, Mom and Dad. They only knew us as parents who were 100% committed to Jesus and the church. They only knew us as strict, not sparing the rod, homeschooling parents. I can only imagine how great a struggle it was for them as they watched their parents not only leave all they ever knew, but repudiate it and embrace a godless worldview.

Former friends, parishioners, and fellow pastors reacted with horror and anger over our leaving the Christian faith. We have been accused of all sorts of things and our Christian past has been dissected, discredited, and discarded. We spent a lifetime building relationships with people and it only took saying, I don’t believe or I am an atheist, for all of those relationships to disappear. We paid a huge price for being honest and open about the journey we are on.

Over the past seven years, we have slowly built our new home. Our marriage not only survived, but it has thrived. Nirvana, it is not. We still fuss and fight. We still have personality quirks that drive each other crazy. But, at the same time, we are far more accepting and loving, not only towards each other, but towards humans in general.

Our lives are very different these days. My continued physical debility has radically changed how we live, how we earn a living, and what we can and can’t do. Since our “sin” list now fits on a matchbook cover, we are free to do many things and go many places that were verboten in our previous life. We are free to dance, drink, and party, even though we very rarely do so. It is liberating to enjoy life without having to wonder what God, the church, or our Christian friends think. We’ve met new friends, mostly through this blog and Facebook, who allow us the space and freedom to be who and what we really are.

Some Christians are likely to suggest that we left Christianity because we wanted the freedom to live however we wanted. Some might even suggest that we had a secret desire to sin, to live immorally and that’s the REAL reason we left Christianity. To some degree, they are correct.  However, we ultimately left Christianity for intellectual reasons.  We came to the conclusion that the claims of Christianity were not true and the Bible was not in any way a divine, God inspired book. We came to see that our lives had been built upon a foundation that was not true. Once the Bible was removed from the discussion, we were free to chart our own course; free to determine for ourselves what is moral and ethical; free to experience things and go places that were considered sinful for most of our lives.

Some readers, thinking we threw the baby out with the bath water, will say, But Bruce, you were a Fundamentalist Baptist.  Everyone knows how legalistic, how narrow-minded Fundamentalist Baptists are. This claim might have some merit IF we had remained Fundamentalist Baptists over the course of 25 years in the ministry. But, we didn’t. By the time I pastored my last church in 2003, I was a social gospel progressive, Sojourner loving, emergent church friendly, Democratic pastor. Many of my pastor friends labeled me a l-i-b-e-r-a-l.

The process that led us to where we are today began in the 1990’s. Fundamentalists tend to view things in a black and white manner. Saved/Lost. In/Out. Heaven/Hell. God/Satan. They remember the date/time/place God saved them and when people who think like this read that we are now atheist/agnostic/godless, they, judging us through their own experience, think we had some instantaneous experience where we went from saved back to lost.

That’s not how it worked for us. It was, and remains, a process. We fully expect that the process will continue until we die. We fully expect our journey will have many bumps, crooks, turns, and reversals. We have no doubt there will be times when we part ways and walk different paths from each other. That’s OK. We are free to be who we want to be. We are free to follow the path wherever it leads. No more thundering sermons telling us NO. No more Christian books telling us the evil of this or that human experience. No more living a life where the Bible is the compass and guide.

This does not mean that life is now easier for us. If anything it is harder. When the Bible was the standard by which all things were judged, we didn’t have to think as much. Just Obey. As the old song goes, Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey. Now we are forced to recognize that life is filled with gray and ambiguity and that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. We have learned to be indifferent towards many things.

bruce and polly gerencser 2013-2

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2013

This is how we have chosen to live our lives. We are happy and our love for one another endures. Our children have embraced the new Mom and Dad, even though some of them might question the path we are on. Each of our six children have charted their own course through life. None of them are Evangelical. To many people, our children are a huge disappointment, and Polly and I will answer to God for what we have done to our family. We, however, are proud of our children, proud of the lives they have chosen for themselves.

Polly and I are grateful that we have been given the opportunity to start again. We are cognizant of the fact that our story could have had a bad ending. But, it didn’t and we hope this new lease on life will be one we do not squander. We hope that our best days lie ahead.

Family Driven Faith Part Two

bruce and polly gerencser 2008

Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2008

This article was first published in 2011 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I taught parishioners that the the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. (a hierarchy) The Bible is clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them was marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home.

I taught men that God’s highest calling is for them to be a leader. Men are called by God to lead the church, the home,and the government. The strength or weakness of any nation, culture, church, or home depends on whether men are fulfilling their divine calling to lead.

Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. Children have one divine calling in life, obey!

This kind of hierarchical family structure has been a part of American society since the day the Pilgrims stepped ashore on the eastern coast of America. Over time, due to social, political, and economic pressure, the hierarchical family structure has weakened. As women gained the right to vote, began working outside of the home, and began using birth control, they realized they could live without being under the control and authority of a man. Modern American women are free to pursue their own life path, free to live lives independent of men. When women marry, they are no longer considered the help meet. They are equal partners in the marriage. Their values, beliefs, and opinions matter.

However, in the IFB church movement women still live in the 18th century. Bound by commands and teachings from an antiquated book, they live lives strangely and sadly out of touch with the modern world. Every aspect of family life is controlled by what the Bible teaches. Better put, their life is controlled  by what an authoritarian pastor and authoritarian husband/father say the Bible teaches.

I have no objection to a woman willingly choosing to live and participate in a hierarchical family structure. If an Amish woman wants to live as the Amish do, then I have no reason or right to object. It  is, however, difficult to determine if they willingly choose. Is it a free choice when there are no other options?

For my family and I, moving away from a hierarchical family structure was difficult. We had to relearn how to live. We had to examine sincerely held beliefs and determine if they still were applicable to the new way we wanted to live our lives. I realized that I had lorded over my family. I had dominated and controlled their lives, all in the name of Jesus. By doing so, I had robbed them of the ability to live their lives independently of my control. Every decision had to have my stamp of approval. Nothing escaped my purview. After all, God had commanded me to be the head of the home. Someday, I would give an account to God for how I managed the affairs of my family. I took the threat of judgment seriously.

The biggest problem we faced was that since I was the one who always made the final decision my children and wife lacked the skills necessary to make good decisions. My children quickly adapted to their new-found freedom, shouting a Martin Luther King Jr-like FREE, FREE AT LAST. However, my wife did not fare so well.

Raised in a fundamentalist home, her father an IFB pastor, Polly had spent her entire life under the thumb of someone else. She rarely had to make a decision because there was always someone else making decisions for her. To say our new-found freedom was difficult for Polly would be a gross underestimation. Suddenly, she was forced to make decisions on her own. For a time, she panicked when faced with making a decision on her own. Simple decisions, like what to order at the fast food drive-thru or whether or not to put gas in the car, were monumental decisions for her.(1)

Over time, Polly’s decision making skills improved. Several years ago, she was promoted to a supervisory position at local manufacturing concern. (2) One night, she came home from work all upset. She told me that she had made a decision about something and several people were now upset at her. I laughed and  told her, rule number one about making decisions. You will likely piss someone off. (3)

polly gerencser graduation 2012

Polly Gerencser, Graduating from Northwest State Community College, Archbold, Ohio

In 2010, Polly returned to college. She struggled at first, and it took quite a bit of willpower for me not to bail her out. Over time, she adapted to using the computer (she was computer illiterate) and doing the various things necessary to be a good college student. In 2012, Polly  graduated with an Associates of Arts degree from Northwest State Community College. I wept as I saw her walk down the aisle on graduation day. Her graduation was a reminder of how far both of us have come. (Polly actually has 5 years of college credit. Unfortunately, 3 of those years were spent at an unaccredited Bible college)

Polly was over 40 years old before she wore her first pair of pants. Same goes for going to the movie theater, drinking alcohol, cutting her hair short, reading a non-Christian romance novel, etc, etc, etc. As many people know, the IFB movement is all about what a Christian CAN’T do. Some of these choices were fearful choices, God lurking in the shadows of the mind, ready to punish her for making“sinful” choices.”

With change comes new life. In many ways, we have been “born again.” In 2005, I left the pastorate and we began a slow, painful process of examining our Christian beliefs. For many years, my family believed what I believed, went to church when I went to church, and obeyed any and every command I gave, complete with proof texts from the Bible . Now it is different.

I told my wife and six children that I was setting them free. I am no longer the spiritual head of the home or the patriarch of the family.  They are free to be whatever they want to be. I sincerely mean this. If they want to be Wiccan,Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, or atheist, I am fine with it. The bottom line is this: I want them to be happy. If they are happy, I am happy.

This last decision has caused quite a bit of controversy and conflict. Freed from my control, my entire family quickly abandoned the Evangelical church. I am now an atheist, Polly is an agnostic, and our children, for the most part do not attend church. (4) Religion is still a big topic of discussion in our family and I still like a rousing debate or discussion about religion, politics, or sports. The difference now is that there is no test of fidelity. No, “did you guys go to church today?” No, “what was the sermon about?” 

Our family remains a work in progress. As my wife continues to learn to make decisions, I have to learn not to make decisions. I am learning to shut up and allow them to make choices for themselves, even when I think their choices are ill-advised. I have a new rule I live by: If I think someone is making a bad decision on an important issue, I will voice my opinion, but that is the end of it. I stay out of my children’s business. They are responsible adults and I support whatever decision they make, even if I disagree with it.

We are far from a finished product. Polly still freezes at the drive-thru and I still know what I want before we pull into the restaurant. We still have the same peculiar character traits we’ve always had. You know,those things that annoy and bug the hell out of you. The difference now is that we have learned to embrace each other’s peculiarities, knowing that these are what make us unique individuals. (5)

It is good to be free.

(1) Even today she freezes at the drive-thru. We joke about it now, but her freezing hails from a day when I ordered everything.

(2) One of the first steps of freedom for Polly was getting a job, a job that she has held since 1997.

(3) I was well suited for the hierarchical family system and the pastorate. I am not afraid to make decisions. Snap decisions come easy for me. It felt very natural to me to make all the decisions. However, in the home, like at work, one person making all the decisions stunts the growth of others and when they are put into a position where they must make a decision they are often unable to.

(4) I am hesitant to label my children’s current beliefs. Two of my children attend the Catholic church with their wives. The rest of them, for the most part, do not attend church. I would not classify them as atheists or even agnostics. They are indifferent and still figuring out what they believe. It is exciting to watch, even if the IFB part of our extended family thinks we are committing spiritual suicide.

(5) I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Polly is happy with clutter. Ours is a match made in hell. For many years, my OCPD dominated everything. I have had to learn that while I have every right to want things perfectly ordered, everything in its place, Polly also has the right not to want things perfectly ordered, everything in it place. We each have personal spaces where we are free to practice our peculiar habits and traits. We know to stay out of each others “stuff”. In the common spaces, we try to find a happy medium, though I must admit I have a hard time doing this.  The clutter has decreased significantly since our last two children moved out 15 months ago.

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