Evangelicalism

Quote of the Day: The Rise of Christian Fascism

chris hedges

The greatest moral failing of the liberal Christian church was its refusal, justified in the name of tolerance and dialogue, to denounce the followers of the Christian right as heretics. By tolerating the intolerant it ceded religious legitimacy to an array of con artists, charlatans and demagogues and their cultish supporters. It stood by as the core Gospel message—concern for the poor and the oppressed—was perverted into a magical world where God and Jesus showered believers with material wealth and power. The white race, especially in the United States, became God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war became divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, became shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism became intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. The mega-pastors, narcissists who rule despotic, cult-like fiefdoms, make millions of dollars by using this heretical belief system to prey on the mounting despair and desperation of their congregations, victims of neoliberalism and deindustrialization. These believers find in Donald Trump a reflection of themselves, a champion of the unfettered greed, cult of masculinity, lust for violence, white supremacy, bigotry, American chauvinism, religious intolerance, anger, racism and conspiracy theories that define the central beliefs of the Christian right. When I wrote “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America” I was deadly serious about the term “fascists.”

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Tens of millions of Americans live hermetically sealed inside the vast media and educational edifice controlled by Christian fascists. In this world, miracles are real, Satan, allied with secular humanists and Muslims, is seeking to destroy America, and Trump is God’s anointed vessel to build the Christian nation and cement into place a government that instills “biblical values.” These “biblical values” include banning abortion, protecting the traditional family, turning the Ten Commandments into secular law, crushing “infidels,” especially Muslims, indoctrinating children in schools with “biblical” teachings and thwarting sexual license, which includes any sexual relationship other than in a marriage between a man and a woman. Trump is routinely compared by evangelical leaders to the biblical king Cyrus, who rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem and restored the Jews to the city.

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The ideology of the Christian fascists panders in our decline to the primitive yearnings for the vengeance, new glory and moral renewal that are found among those pushed aside by deindustrialization and austerity. Reason, facts and verifiable truth are impotent weapons against this belief system. The Christian right is a “crisis cult.” Crisis cults arise in most collapsing societies. They promise, through magic, to recover the lost grandeur and power of a mythologized past. This magical thinking banishes doubt, anxiety and feelings of disempowerment. Traditional social hierarchies and rules, including an unapologetic white, male supremacy, will be restored. Rituals and behaviors including an unquestioning submission to authority and acts of violence to cleanse the society of evil will vanquish malevolent forces.

….

Christian fascism is an emotional life raft for tens of millions. It is impervious to the education, dialogue and discourse the liberal class naively believes can blunt or domesticate the movement. The Christian fascists, by choice, have severed themselves from rational thought. We will not placate or disarm this movement, bent on our destruction, by attempting to claim that we too have Christian “values.” This appeal only strengthens the legitimacy of the Christian fascists and weakens our own. We will transform American society to a socialist system that provides meaning, dignity and hope to all citizens, that cares and nurtures the most vulnerable among us, or we will become the victims of the Christian fascists we created.

— Chris Hedges, Truthdig, Onward, Christian Fascists, December 30, 2019

Check Out Randy Withers’ Review of The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

worst blog

Randy Withers, a licensed professional counselor and clinical addictions specialist, recently wrote a review of The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Randy wrote:

Bruce Gerencser is an avid and prolific blogger who lives in rural Ohio with his wife of more than four decades. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in three different states but left the ministry in 2005. In 2008 he left Christianity as well. He now considers himself a humanist and an atheist.

His blog is about that journey, and why and how he chose the path he did. His blog, by the way, is enormous. He’s got something like 3,000 separate entries. I mean, good lord.

Bruce Gerencser is my hero. For one thing, he’s got a huge readership, many of whom are pissed off Evangelicals who seem to believe that Bruce just needs a stern talking to about his errant ways.

Bruce does a great job of interacting with his readers in the comment section of his blog, which he both reads and moderates. I’m impressed by this, given the sheer vitriol that many of his Christian readers express towards some of his life decisions. He has the patience of Job (sorry for the reference, Bruce), and a matter-of-fact wit that is straight-up hysterical.

You can read the rest of the review here.

I appreciate Randy’s kind and thoughtful words. Finally, someone who appreciates my sense of humor.  As far as his critique of this site’s ancient theme, he is right. Readers can expect a new theme and design in the near future — that is, if the rapture doesn’t take place first. Well, come to think of it, I will be left behind when Jesus comes to gather up his chosen ones, so I’ll have plenty of time to work on a new theme.

Please check out Randy’s website, especially 10 of the Absolute Best Mental Health Blogs You Need to Start Reading in 2020.

Here’s to a mentally healthy 2020.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Sentenced to Over 1,000 Years in Prison

acton bowen

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

(Please read Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Evangelist Acton Bowen Arrested on Child Sex Charges,  Black Collar Crime: Why Did Young Boys Need to be Protected from Evangelist Acton Bowen? Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Accused of Additional Sex Crimes and Black Collar Crime: District Attorney Says Evangelist Acton Bowen is a ‘Danger to Every Child in This Community’, and Black Collar Crime: Evangelist Acton Bowen Pleads Guilty to Sex Crimes for further information about Acton Bowen.)

In April 2018, Evangelical evangelist Acton Bowen was arrested on child sexual abuse charges.

AL.com reported at the time:

A well-known Alabama evangelist, public speaker and author was arrested in Hoover Tuesday on child sex charges.

Paul Edward Acton Bowen, a 37-year-old Gadsden native who now lives in Etowah County’s Southside community, was taken into custody by Hoover police about 12:35 p.m. The founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries is charged with second-degree sodomy, enticing a child to enter a vehicle or house for immoral purposes, and second-degree sex abuse. The victim was a young male, but police did not release his age except to say he is over 12 and under 16.

Hoover police Capt. Gregg Rector said the department’s Special Victim’s Unit first launched an investigation three weeks ago. The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office issued the warrants on Monday.

“This is certainly one of the more disturbing cases that we’ve investigated in quite some time,” Rector said. “Mr. Bowen is in a highly-respected position of influence and he is trusted by many. We believe he betrayed that trust in the worst kind of way.”

Bowen was taken into custody in Pelham and transported to the Hoover City Jail. He was moved to the Jefferson County Jail where he was released early Wednesday on $90,300 bond.

Rector said the victim in this case is an underage family acquaintance, “He is currently doing well and has been in a safe environment since police were first notified,” Rector said.

….

Bowen is president and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach. His bio says he served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The website says Bowen is a cohost of Top3 on the JuceTV Network in New York City.

“Everyone associated with JuceTV was shocked and disheartened to hear of the egregious allegations made against Acton Brown this week. Our prayers go out to those who may have been hurt and victimized,” a JuceTV spokesperson said in a statement to AL.com. “Mr. Brown made four appearances on JuceTV, an affiliate of TBN, the most recent last summer, but there are no on-going ties.”

The outreach website described Bowen as a regular contributor on Fox News as a correspondent on faith and religion. However, network officials say Bowen has never been employed or paid by Fox News.

It goes on to say he speaks up to 20 times a month at churches, disciple-now weekends, citywide crusades, camps, conferences, school assemblies and leadership seminars – giving him a live platform in front of more than 350,000 people.

acton bowen donald trump

Acton Bowen and President Donald Trump were Best Buds. I suspect, if asked about Bowen today, Trump would reply, “Never heard of the guy.”

Bowen was also charged with committing sex crimes in Florida. ABC 33/40 reported:

 The list of sexual abuse accusations against evangelist Acton Bowen has crossed state lines. Bowen was charged with lewd or lascivious battery in Bay County, Florida according to the local sheriff’s office.

The charge was filed on May 23rd. According to Florida state law, a person commits lewd or lascivious battery by engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age or encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sexual activity.

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After posting the two aforementioned stories, it was reported that, two days after Bowen’s arrest, his wife filed for divorce, stating that she “fears for her immediate safety from (her husband) and any third parties that may attempt to contact (her husband) as a result of the crimes for which he has been alleged to have committed.” Several days later, two of Bowen’s ministry board members, Trenton Garmon and Josh Dodd, resigned. Al.com reported that Bowen was required by his board to install the Covenant Eyes porn-blocking software on his computer. Why? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. A daily report was sent to his accountability partner. No mention is made of how board members ensured Bowen was not accessing pornography on other devices.

What stood out in the AL.com report is the following statement by Garmon:

We requested that he never be alone with any female other than his wife. And we requested that he never be alone with a male minor which I considered to be someone under 16 years old. I was told that these minimums were being followed. Yet, in light of the allegation, it appears that the Guardian Policy was not always honored. This is not to imply criminal guilt by any means, yet our policy was not abided by. As you may be aware he has publicly denied the criminal allegations.

Why did Bowen’s board specifically require him to never be alone with boys under the age of sixteen and never be alone with females regardless of their age, other than his wife?

acton bowen anniversary gift to wife

After his arrest, Bowen said he was completely innocent of all charges:

I have not done what I am accused of and have not acted inappropriately in any way. My family and I trust the legal system and the people who are entrusted with the duty of protection each of our rights. I believe the truth will stand and I will be vindicated of this false accusation. We ask that each of you keep everyone involved in this process in your prayers.

AL.com reported:

In his first public statement, Bowen said he wanted to say “thank you” to the countless number of people who have prayed for his family. “My wife, Ashley, and I along with our incredible family are so grateful for your prayers,” he said.

“I’m also thankful for the countless calls of support from those who have walked a lot of life with me and know me best,” he said. “Your steadfast, unshakable support gives me strength. For almost 20 years (since I was 18) my life has been committed to serving Jesus by serving people.”

“When this accusation was made known to me I was hurt, confused, and heartbroken,” he said. “Prior to the arrest only one side of the story was heard.”

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On Monday, the “innocent” Acton Bowen pleaded guilty to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving victims between the ages of 13 and 16. I wonder if his praying supporters will now admit that Bowen is a sexual predator; that it is likely Bowen sexually molested other children who have not yet reported their abuse to law enforcement? Is it too much to ask that God’s people, in unison, condemn Bowen for his heinous behavior? I jest. Bowen’s supporters will scurry away in the night like cockroaches when the light is turned on, but few will take to social media or blogs to publicly excoriate Bowen. Forgive, forget, and move on. That’s what Evangelicals do.

AL.com reports:

An Alabama evangelist pleaded guilty this morning in an Etowah County courtroom to 28 counts of sexual abuse involving six victims.

Paul Acton Bowen, charged in both Jefferson County and Etowah counties, was facing criminal charges, including enticing a child for sexual act, sodomy, traveling to meet a child for sexual act and sexual abuse involving six different victims between the ages of 13 and 16.

He was first arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 and has remained jailed since then.

The 39-year-old Bowen is a Gadsden native and founder of Acton Bowen Outreach Ministries.

Bowen entered a blind plea to the Etowah County charges, meaning he could face the maximum for each offense, including up to life in prison. Circuit Judge Debra Jones will set a hearing for sentencing later, during which Bowen’s lawyers could present mitigating evidence toward any sentencing. Jones was hearing the case after several Etowah County judges recused themselves from the case. Bowen’s ex-wife was the daughter of an Etowah County judge.

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Bowen served for 12 years in a local church, led a citywide student Bible study in Gadsden and was also the host of xlroads TV, a worldwide broadcast viewed weekly by millions of teens and adults in every city in America and over 170 countries around the world.

The Etowah County charges dealt with young boys who told investigators that after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways not only in Etowah County but during trips to different states and abroad.

Bowen remains in jail, awaiting sentencing. He faces up to life in prison for his crimes. Bowen still faces charges in Florida.

Last Friday, Circuit Judge Debra Jones sentenced Bowen to 1,008 years in prison for sexually abusing six teenagers.

AL.com reports:

Circuit Judge Debra Jones presided over the case after several Etowah County judges recused themselves. Bowen’s ex-wife is the daughter of an Etowah County judge.

Moments before being sentenced, Bowen, standing in shackles, looked out on a packed courtroom and apologized in a trembling voice, both to his own family and the victims, for years of sexual abuse. “The shame and guilt I feel is overwhelming and has been for a long time,” he said. “My heart was never wanting to hurt anybody but my mind was not well.”

Family members and victims wept as Jones slowly read out the maximum sentence and fine on every count. Each sentence is to run consecutively – rather than concurrent.

Bowen still faces trial in Jefferson County on three felony charges of traveling to meet a child for sex, enticing a child for a sexual act and sodomy. Trial is set on those charges for April 20, 2020. If Bowen ever should be released from jail on his Etowah County convictions – which prosecutors said was unlikely – he would be considered a “sexually violent predator,” which means he would face a 10-year probationary period.

….

The Etowah County charges dealt with young boys who told investigators that, after they met Bowen through his ministry, they were abused in several ways not only in Etowah County but during trips to different states and abroad. The young male victims told investigators the misconduct lasted months, and sometimes years.

One of the victims, a teen boy over the age of 12 but under the age of 16, said Bowen exposed him to sexual intercourse from 2006 through 2009. Another victim claims the abuse happened from 2014 through 2017, and yet another reported to lawmen that he suffered the abuse in 2018.

In the sentencing hearing, which lasted more than an hour in Etowah County, District Attorney Jody Willoughby read out one victim’s impact statement. That victim, who said his abuse happened from the age of 12 to 15, said he saw Bowen as a “cool guy” who provided him with nice clothes, money and took him on trips, while at the same time, engaging in abuse.

“I could convince myself I was living the good life,” he wrote, “even as I was trying to suppress it.” But the victim said he developed a drinking problem that led to blackouts as he attempted to forget the pain and shame of abuse, seeing himself as “damaged goods.” This led to problems trusting others, difficulty opening up to his wife, and “a divide between me and my God” because of Bowen’s role as a pastor.

“He is a wolf in sheep’s skin,” the man wrote. Another wrote that Bowen “did his best to ruin the lives of other young men.” Another victim was prepared to testify in court, but chose not to, too overcome by emotion. Willoughby said this shows how important Bowen’s guilty plea was, in that victims were not required to relive the abuse on the stand.

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Police have said the victim in the Jefferson County case is a Hoover boy under the age of 16 and over the age of 12 who is a family acquaintance of Acton Bowen. Court records in the Jefferson County case say Bowen engaged in sexual intercourse with the teen boy, and enticed him into getting into a 2010 Jeep Wrangler for the purpose of sodomy.

Bowen was first arrested by Hoover police in April 2018 on charges involving one male teen and later by Etowah County authorities in the case involving the other six victims.

Authorities have said they believe there are other victims who still have not been heard from. After the hearing, Willoughby said he would prosecute any other cases.

“There’s not a question in my mind,” he said. “If anyone is out there who wants to come forward, please let law enforcement know. We will get justice, justice will be had.”

Just before sentencing, Bowen quoted the book of James, saying “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” He said at church functions, he would often have people tell him they wished they could be like him.

“Inside my heart, I kept saying, ‘I’m the biggest sinner in the room,’” he said. “My pride kept me from asking for help. I’m so sorry.”

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Loren Copp Sentenced on Sex Crime Charges

loren copp

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

The following story will leave you shaking your head, wondering how the pastor in question was able to do what he did.

In April 2017,  Loren Copp, an Evangelical pastor, owner of DoJo Pizza, and all-round con-artist was arrested on charges of producing child pornography. The River Front Times reported at the time:

Loren Copp, the Dojo Pizza owner targeted in a long-running criminal investigation, was arrested Thursday afternoon on charges of producing child pornography.

Federal agents took the 47-year-old into custody about 3:45 p.m. outside the Bevo Mill church where he once taught karate, ran a pizza restaurant, operated a school and raised four teenage girls, according to a witness and his attorney.

The federal complaint claims investigators searched “multiple types of digital media” and discovered an image of a minor performing oral sex on Copp and another of Copp having vaginal sex with the girl. The minor, listed as “Jane Doe 1” in the document, identified Copp as the man in the photos, according to the complaint. She says she was about twelve in the first photo and fifteen or sixteen in the second.

Copp was lured on Thursday to the dojo, which had been boarded up since a law enforcement raid in October, by a city building inspector who called to say someone had broken in, Copp’s friend John Albrecht tells the Riverfront Times.

Copp had asked his friend to drive with him, because he worried he was being set up, Albrecht said.

….

Copp was the subject of an RFT feature story in December after a series of federal raids on Dojo Pizza. He was taken into police custody for a couple of days in October on suspicion of child endangerment, but he was released without charges.

He has maintained his innocence, blaming the investigation on a disgruntled former live-in volunteer who he’d ejected from the dojo. Court documents filed in support of the early raids revealed police were investigating accusations of human trafficking, alleging Copp forced the teens to work for free in the pizzeria. He denied the charge. The girls were staying him because their parents were on drugs, imprisoned or otherwise unable to care for them, he said. Two of the girls had lived with him so long, they called him their father, and he considered them his daughters.

Parents, visitors to the dojo and one of the girls interviewed by the RFT supported him.

The charges of production of child pornography are new.

Agents who’d previously raided the dojo, a former church in October and November, had been seen taking evidence boxes and computers from the building.

In interviews, Copp has suggested investigators have been trying to set him up and possibly planted evidence. He noted neighbors claim to have seen men who appeared to be law enforcement officers climb in through a back window before one of the raids.

Twenty-four hours after Copp’s arrest, The River Front Times reported:

Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp arrived handcuffed and shackled at the ankles on Friday in federal court for his first appearance since his arrest on child pornography charges.

His attorney had dropped him overnight. Some of his strongest supporters have backed away now that the FBI says it has photographic proof he sexually abused a girl over the course of several years, starting with a stomach-churning snapshot of the two of them in a sex act when she was just twelve years old.

Until a series of law enforcement raids in October and November, he’d lived with four teenage girls in a converted church at 4601 Morgan Ford Road in Bevo Mill where he taught karate, established a school and operated a pizzeria.

Federal authorities claim they found the pornographic photos on a computer hard drive seized during one of the raids. Investigators showed the pictures to the girl on Wednesday, and she identified herself and Copp, according to the criminal complaint released on Thursday following his arrest.

Tauna Cowin, whose two oldest daughters lived with Copp most of their lives, says she cried all night after reading the newly revealed allegations.

“If he did do this, I hope he rots in jail,” she told the Riverfront Times. “I’m sorry, but I hope he rots in jail.”

Cowin knew Copp, a former pastor, through her kids’ school and church. When she was losing her home about a decade ago, she sent a son and the two girls to live with him and his wife at the time. The boy eventually moved on, but the girls stayed and began calling Copp “Dad” even though he wasn’t their biological father.

Cowin says the girls previously told her Copp never abused them, but she hadn’t talked to them since his arrest. They have been in foster care since the Dojo Pizza raids last fall.

“I just don’t know how to freakin’ take this,” Cowin said through tears. “It’s hitting me hard. I thought I knew this man, he was my pastor.”

Copp was the subject of an RFT feature story in December and has claimed he was just helping kids whose parents couldn’t take care of them.

Attorney Justin Meehan, a longtime martial artist, had advised Copp for free in the months after the raids. Law enforcement affidavits had described Copp as the target of a “Labor Trafficking and Sexual Abuse” investigation, allegations that the lawyer thought lacked much in the way of support.

He has a policy of not taking on clients who are accused of hurting kids, but a fellow martial artist vouched for Copp, and Meehan eventually agreed to get involved — with the caveat that he’d walk if there was more to it than a weak trafficking case.

Meehan felt “blindsided” Thursday when he learned prosecutors were now pursuing a charge of producing child pornography, he said. True to his word, he has decided to cut ties with Copp.

Copp also owned and operated Ma-ji Ryu Christian Karate Association. City officials seized DoJo Pizza’s building to satisfy a $13,940 tax liability. The building was bought at sheriff’s auction for $35,714.

Copp’s past is filled with accusations of malfeasance and financial misconduct. In 2013, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

Bargain hunters snapped up 40 years of Southwest Christian Church’s history last weekend. Tables, chairs — even pots and pans used for countless fellowship meals — were sold off as part of the church’s closure.

Southwest Christian has been wrangling with a tangle of debt tied to a failed $2 million church expansion that congregants helped finance. The project sits unfinished at 1694 Smizer Station Road, near Highway 141.

Now the remaining congregants who haven’t scattered will gather Sunday for one final service at a church some have attended for two generations.

At first glance, it seems like a tragic but familiar tale of a church getting too ambitious, growing faster than it ought.

But Douglas Lay, a former pastor at the church, is among those who tell a different story.

By his account, Southwest Christian historically played it smart, avoiding debt and making do with its aging and modest building.

At least it did until it ran into Loren Copp — a pastor and builder with a history of failed financial dealings.

“He left them up a creek without a paddle,” said Lay, who led the church in the late 1990s. “There are good people there.”

Copp, who became the church’s pastor in 2007, was the pastor when Southwest Christian decided to support the expansion project that would include a Christian high school, even though similar efforts in St. Louis County had failed in recent years. It started out at $1.5 million, then grew to $2 million.

Church members helped pitch in on the expansion by buying bonds, using the existing building as collateral.

Today, the project is stalled, mired in mediation with the original developer and lien holders claiming they haven’t been paid.

Copp has since moved on.

….

Church leaders knew that the building project would be a major undertaking. But they believed they had a plan that would both underwrite the expense and satisfy the church’s goal to expand its outreach.

Under the plan, the new Christian high school would lease the expanded church building during the week.

And to help funnel students to the school and broaden the church’s ministry, some members supported an existing K-8 school Copp was involved with in south St. Louis.
Both schools are called Living Faith Christian Academy and are governed independently from the church by Copp’s own nonprofit — Ma Ji Ryu Christian Karate Association. Copp uses his martial arts skills to minister.

In 2011, Copp touted the high school project, saying it would open that fall. He brushed off skeptics, who pointed to other failed school projects in the area.

The schools would be funded by tuition, not church donations.

“This is a school that is going to be run as a business,” he told the Post-Dispatch at the time, adding: “If it doesn’t work, you’ll have a story to write.”

The high school did open. But students could only meet in certain sections of the building because the project was incomplete.

A 2011 St Louis Post-Dispatch story had this to say about Copp’s checkered past:

His [Copp] past, however, is marked with bankruptcy, unpaid bills and allegations of deception and poor management.

Illinois records show he owes nearly $10,000 in child support. When he moved to St. Louis in 2003, lawsuits and unpaid bills from Ohio, Indiana and Illinois followed, nipping at his ankles. Most stemmed from construction projects Copp started and never finished.

Problems continued here at Stocker Construction, which fired him from a residential construction manager position in 2006 for severe losses on projects Copp oversaw, said a representative of the now-defunct company.

A year earlier, a judge approved a negotiated settlement of $203,400 to satisfy a suit brought against Copp by the Illinois attorney general. The sum was said to be a portion of what nine customers were owed.

Copp filed for bankruptcy in St. Louis around that time and has repaid just a token amount.

“If he is so conscientious about a soda, how does he feel about our house and other people’s houses that he walked out on with hefty sums of money?” said Ofelia Nikolova, 54, a party in the lawsuit and a former assistant professor in French at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “Tell him to come back and pay me. I’ll take $50,000.”

March 3, 2018, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported:

A former pastor and owner of a St. Louis pizza restaurant and martial arts studio facing federal child sex charges will represent himself at his trial next week.

Loren “Sensei” Copp will have standby counsel, but told U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig Monday that he wanted to represent himself.
He faces nine counts in all, including production, attempted production and possession of child pornography and the use of interstate facilities to persuade or coerce a minor to engage in sexual activity.

Copp has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He also provided a list of five alibi witnesses in a court filing that says they will testify that he was not “at the scene of the crime” on specific dates.

That scene, according to prosecutors, was a combination pizza shop, martial arts studio and youth shelter at 4601 Morganford Road that was raided multiple times in the fall of 2015 after claims that Copp was not adequately caring for or paying underage employees.

DoJo Pizza operated as a nonprofit to support free karate classes, its website once said.

Investigators said they found child porn during the searches, and subsequent charges claim Copp sexually abused multiple young girls.

One was between 10 and 13 when Copp first fondled her, prosecutors say in court filings. He later raped her, they say, and she couldn’t accurately count the number of times she was abused. Filings say Copp also made videos of the sex acts, and she witnessed him abusing another resident of the shelter. He had child porn featuring the first teen and another underage girl, and also tried taking photos of two girls undressing, prosecutors say.

Prosecutors have also said they will use statements Copp made to a fellow inmate at the St. Charles County Jail and phone calls and emails from his time behind bars awaiting trial.

….

On April 11, 2018, Copp told the court he is innocent and that there’s an explanation for the child porn on his computer. Copp was later found guilty of eight counts of sex crimes against underage girls.

Yesterday, Copp was sentenced to sixty-five years in federal prison. He previously rejected a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for fifteen years.

KMOV-4 reported:

According to prosecutors, several underage girls lived at Dojo Pizza, which is located on Morganford in the Bevo Mill neighborhood. Copp either had sole custody or care of the girls because their parents were incarcerated or homeless, authorities said. Copp groomed, sexually abused, and raped two young girls who had been in his custody since 2009.

The sexual acts were recorded on a cell phone or video recorder.

Copp allegedly forced the girls to work at the pizza shop and did not pay them appropriately or provide consistent food. He is also accused of threatening to kick the girls out when they didn’t work, which would leave them homeless.

During the trial, evidence of Facebook messages between three girls and a fake account Copp used pretending to be a 13-year-old girl named “Chrissy”. The profile picture on the account was of a young girl. Investigators found that photo on Copp’s computer along with other pornographic images of the three victims that were sent to “Chrissy” Facebook page.

Investigators found conversations that referenced sexual acts that occurred between the three girls. In addition, subscriber information and backup emails used for the “Chrissy” Facebook account, as well as a Yahoo email account, were linked to Copp.

2020: My Plans for this Blog in the Year Ahead

worst blog

Thank you for reading The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser in 2019. Readership numbers were up over last year, and I hope this will continue in 2020.

Over the coming months, I hope to:

  1. Change and update the site theme
  2. Update broken links
  3. Update and refresh Facebook page and Twitter
  4. Finish off orphan series
  5. Start podcasting
  6. Update and expands and repost some of the posts from 2015
  7. Continue to write about Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, and clergy crime (Black Collar Crime series)

Sometime, sooner than later, I must make a decision about what to do with the daily digest mailing list. Over the past two years, MailChimp has increased the cost of its service by 40% (25% rate increase last month) over the past two years. While the raw subscriber numbers show 931 subscribers, the metrics show that less than 10% of subscribers read one or more posts on any given day. It is likely that I will move the mailing list to Automattic’s Mailing list service via Jetpack. Readers may have to re-subscribe, and I am sure that a few readers will be pissed off by the move. Sorry about that . . .

Health willing, I hope 2020 is the best year ever for this blog. Your kindness and support are appreciated.

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2019: By the Numbers

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What follows are the traffic statistics for 2019.

Statistics

Page Views: 851,666
Mailing List Subscribers: 931
Posts Written: 661
Posts from December 2014 to Date: 4,174
Comments from December 2014 to Date: 24,781

Top Twenty Commenters

  1. ObstacleChick
  2. Brian
  3. Brunetto Latini
  4. GeoffT
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  47. Comment Policy
  48. Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona
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Here’s to a numerically successful 2020.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Atheism: A Deadly Worldview Conference

godless atheist

Knox Reformed Presbyterian Church in Mechanicsville, Virginia is hosting a conference titled Atheism: A Deadly Worldview Conference. Featuring Tony Curto, Ozzie Osgood, Dustin Segers, and Jeffrey Waddington, the conference will cover rip-roaring subjects such as:

  • Defining Worldviews: Atheism, Christianity and Pushing the Antithesis
  • The Fool Says, “There is no God”: The Foolishness of Unbelief
  • Engaging Atheists: A History of Apologetic Methodologies
  • Atheistic Bread: How the Diet of Atheism Leads to Death
  • The Problem Atheists Have with the Problem of Evil
  • Distorting the Bible to Their Own Destruction: How Atheists Mishandle the Bible
  • Christian Theism as the Foundation for All of Life

The conference will be held on March 6-7, 2020. Cost? $30. Anyone under the age of twenty-one is free.

Knox Presbyterian is a Fundamentalist church affiliated with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) sect.

A conference on atheism without any atheist speakers. Sounds like two days of religious indoctrination and apologetics training instead of a serious attempt to understand what and how atheists think. At least the conference title is right. Atheism IS a deadly worldview, but not in the way or for the reasons the elders of Knox Presbyterian and conference speakers think it is. We are coming for your children! Beware . . .

The United States Has an Evangelical Problem

evangelist don hardman

Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Late 1980s. Notice the huge flag. That should tell you all you need to know about my political and social agenda at the time.

In the late 1970s, Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, birthed a Christian political action group called the Moral Majority. Falwell, a graduate of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, started Thomas Road Baptist — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution — in 1956. The church quickly became one of the largest churches in the United States. Today, the church claims it has almost 25,000 members. In 1971, Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College, now known as Liberty University. Liberty, an accredited university, is the largest Evangelical college in the United States. Most Evangelicals of my age likely remember Falwell’s weekly television program, The Old Time Gospel Hour. It was through his educational and media empire that Falwell pushed the Moral Majority’s agenda: to take back America for God.

In 1979, my wife and I attended a Moral Majority-sponsored outdoor “I Love America” rally at the Ohio State House. We later went to a pep rally of sorts held at a downtown Columbus location. All Polly remembers is discreetly breastfeeding our infant son during the rally. I, however, remember the thrilling speeches about returning the United States to its Christian roots. Dripping with manifest destiny and American exceptionalism, these speeches stirred my heart, and for many years, I devoted myself to waging what become known as the “culture war.”

In 1989, after successfully helping elect Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan to two terms as president, the Moral Majority disbanded. Falwell said at the time, “Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and … religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration.” Today, Evangelicals, having sold their souls for bowls of pottage, rabidly support Donald Trump, the most unqualified man to ever be president. Eighty-one percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. If the presidential election were held today, Evangelicals would, yet again, overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Even if Trump was thrown out of office, Evangelicals are satisfied that Christian America will be safe in the “godly” hands of Evangelical and True Believer® Mike Pence.

It is clear to anyone who is paying attention that Evangelicals have taken over not only the federal government but many state governments. Here in Ohio, Evangelicals (and conservative Catholics) rule the political roost. Now having a super-majority, Evangelicals — who are overwhelmingly Republicans — are able to enact their agenda at will, with only the courts standing in the way of them turning Ohio into a theocratic state. And now that Trump is packing the federal courts with conservative Christian jurists, the only recourse we have to beat back Evangelical sharia law may soon be gone.

Secularists love to point to studies showing that Evangelicalism is in numerical decline. While this is certainly true, that doesn’t mean the political power amassed by Evangelicals is in decline. It’s not, and as things now stand, it could take decades to undo all the damage done to our Republic by primarily white Evangelicals and their Mormon and Catholic cohorts.

I live in rural northwest Ohio. Donald Trump and the Republican Party dominate local and state politics. Local Democratic groups are largely ineffective or lifeless. And even among these groups, you will find that the conservative political beliefs espoused decades ago by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority have deeply influenced their thinking. I can tell you this much: true liberals around here are almost as rare as ivory-billed woodpeckers. Fearing social or economic retribution, what few liberals there are maintain a low profile. Of late, local Democratic operatives have taken to writing letters to the Defiance Crescent-News. While I appreciate their efforts — having been a regular writer of letters to local newspaper editors for almost 40 years — I fear that they operate under the delusion that their letters will change the minds of local Trump supporters. They won’t. At best, their letters to the newspaper remind other Democrats/progressives/liberals that they are not alone. Changing hearts and minds? Not a chance.

Due to the local sports photography work I do, I am connected with numerous locals on social media. Many of them are like me, using social media to share photos and cat videos. Others, however, regularly post things in support of Donald Trump. One woman, a relative of mine, went off on a rant over Trump’s impeachment, calling Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton all sorts of vile names. People such as I are routinely pilloried. I say nothing, having learned that talking politics on social media is a waste of time. Oh, it feels good to rip a right-winger a new one now and again, but to what end? Instead, I quietly unfriend such people. And it’s not just locals either. I am “friends” with several family members who routinely post all sorts of right-wing nonsense. No lie is too absurd to post, and no action by President Trump is so vile, extreme, or un-Christian that they won’t find a way to defend him.

Trump knows that the key to maintaining political power is convincing Evangelicals that he is a defender of Christian orthodoxy and a warrior in the battle against libtards, atheists, and socialists. So far, Evangelicals think that Trump is some sort of manifestation of God’s plan for Christian America. In the end, the joke will be on them, but by then the United States will lie in ruin.

The only way to beat back the Evangelical horde is for people of good will and reason to understand that Evangelical power and control is an illusion. As things stand today, atheists, agnostics, and nones are as large a demographic as Evangelicals. Hillary Clinton, a polarizing and weak presidential candidate if there ever was one, defeated Donald Trump by three million votes. Unfortunately, it is the arcane, outdated Electoral College that decides presidential elections, and not the popular vote. To keep Trump from being re-elected in 2020, millions and millions of new voters must be mobilized, and countless lazy Americans must be dragged from their beds to vote on election day. So far, nothing I have heard from the 3,023 people running for the Democratic nomination says to me that Democrats truly understand how to unseat Trump and take back congress. Maybe someone will rise to the top of the pile and mount an effective defense of American republicanism and secularism, but as of today, I have my doubts. If Democrats don’t figure it out soon, we are looking at four more years of Trump. Imagine the depths of the damage that will be done by Trump and his henchmen if they are given another term in office.

Democrats wrongly assume that our democracy can withstand whatever Trump and Company might do. While I thought this very thing at one time, I no longer believe it to be true. The United States is teetering on the edge of ruin and collapse. And this, remember, is exactly what Evangelicals want. Progressivism, secularism, pluralism, and socialism must be destroyed in order for the Evangelical Jesus to be enthroned as the king and ruler of the United States. Don’t believe it for one moment when Evangelicals “say” they don’t have theocratic ambitions. They do, as Evangelicals made clear in their racist attacks on Barack Obama, their unending attacks on LGBTQ people, their support of anti-immigrant, anti-poor policies, and their criminalization of abortion. Now that conservatives control the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is living on borrowed time, Evangelicals know the time is ripe to roll back the social progress of the last sixty years. Want to know what a Christian America might look like? Take a look at countries ruled by Sharia law. Look at what’s going on in India today. Once a proud secular state, India now faces the establishment of a theocratic state by Fundamentalist Hindus — India’s version of Evangelicals.

Part of me wants to say, “Fuck it, I give up. I am going to die soon, and if death doesn’t get me, global climate change will.” Quite frankly, I am worn out. But then, I think of my children and grandchildren. What will they say about me if I give up now?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Do You Really Have to Ask if Bethel Redding is a Cult?

beni and bill johnson bethel redding

Bill and Beni Johnson, senior pastors Bethel Redding.

In 2016, I wrote a post titled, Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult. Since that time, thousands and thousands of people (Almost 14,000 viewers in 2019, 18,000 in 2018, 24,000 in 2017, and 17,000 in 2016) have come to this site seeking information about Bethel Redding, an Evangelical megachurch in Redding, California pastored by Bill and Beni Johnson. Over the past seven days, almost 2,000 people have accessed the Bethel Redding post. Why all the interest in Bethel Redding?

Bethel Redding and its leaders have an outsized influence on Evangelical churches, especially Charismatic congregations. While Bethel’s core doctrines are Evangelical, its peripheral doctrines are anything but, and anyone with an ounce of sense should be able to look at their beliefs and conclude that Bethel is a dangerous cult. Granted, all sects and churches are, by definition, cults. Christianity, in particular, is an ancient blood cult. The difference between Bethel and its affiliates and other Evangelicals churches is that Bethel’s beliefs about the work of the Holy Spirit can and do cause psychological and physical harm. Many Christian churches are quite benign, little more than social clubs for likeminded people. Bethel, on the other hand, is a world-spanning club with all sorts of magical, secret rituals. One such ritual is currently in the news.

Bethel Redding and its pastors believe that they have the power to raise people from the dead. That’s right, they believe they can reanimate corpses that have been dead for hours and days. On December 15, 2019, Bethel worship leader and songwriter Kalley Heiligenthal asked for urgent prayer after doctors pronounced her two-year-old daughter, Olive Alyane, dead. Heiligenthal wrote:

We’re asking for prayer. We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power. We need it for our little Olive Alayne, who stopped breathing yesterday and has been pronounced dead by doctors. We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life. Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.

Prophetess Christy Johnston wrote:

Friends, we are joining the Bethel family in a global movement of prayer for this little one, Olive. Ever since we heard yesterday morning, I have been praying prayers of resurrection over this little girl. We serve a miracle working God, and all night in my sleep, I kept hearing the words, ‘Talitha Koum’… little girl, I say to you, get up from the sleep of death in Jesus Name and WALK! I looked up her name meaning just now, Olive Alayne. Olive- ‘evergreen’, which speaks of LIFE in EVERY SEASON. Alayne – ‘AWAKENING’ and ‘dear child.’ ! Lets decree together over her, O-LIVE the AWAKENING breath of Jesus, dear child!
・・・
Our God is the God of miracles, and nothing is impossible for Him! We are asking you, our global church family, to join with us in prayer and in declaring life and resurrection over @kalleyheili and @apheiligenthal’s daughter, Olive Alayne. Kalley, Andrew, and Elise, we stand with you in faith and in agreement for Olive’s life!

Bethel pastor Kris Vallotton shared Heiligenthal’s request on Facebook, saying:

Please join us as we pray in bold faith for a miracle for our own Kalley an [sic] Andrew Heiligenthal.

Thousands of Bethelites left comments such as these:

In JESUS name, and by the power of Holy Spirit , I command the spirit of death to leave Olive now! I speak resurrection LIFE into sweet Olive’s body now in JESUS name and I declare Olive will live and not die and declare the works of the LORD !

Olive… we say you will live and not die in Jesus’ name. Brain – wake up! Heart – wake up! Blood of Jesus we thank you that you speak now throughout every part of Olive the resurrection power and life and unity of our Lords words – wake up!

Praying and interceding from home today. God, we speak life to Olive! You are the God of Miracles! Do it again Papa raise Olive from the dead!

Come back to life, little babe! Jesus walked out of the grave, walk out with Him!!

Jesus raised our daughter from the dead not once, not twice, but three times! I am believing that for Olive! And it is so.

Jesus raise Olive to life in your name Lord! We declare life and liberty in this beautiful child. You have a plan and purpose for Olive. Bring her life, restore her soul, heaven come down. Unite the body to pray for her and see a mighty miracle in the name of Jesus Christ! Bring a testimony to the world Lord of your resurrection power Jesus! Fill our hearts with belief in Jesus name. Amen!

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for breathing the breath of life back into this child’s body. We command her spirit to return to her body, and thank you, Holly Spirit, for quickening and making alive her mortal body right now, in Jesus’ mighty name. We thank you for miracles, signs, and wonders coming forth from the life of this precious little girl. May she be a testimony of your faithfulness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Her name is Olive???? She will LIVE!!! The very olive tree sprouts new life… Jesus— we ask the same, by your authority… Resurrection power— gives birth to resurrection life— we join together— as one body— to the LIFE of Jesus! Rise up little Olive!!!!

Holy Spirit come and blow the breath of God unto her lungs, neurons we command you to fire, heart we command to pump!! We claim healing in Jesus Name!!

I rebuke the spirit of death off this child. Jesus bore all sickness and disease and lack for this child. He is healed and whole and well. All parts are straight from the warehouse to Olive. God bless you all.

I command the spirit of death to lift off Olive’s little body right now!!! She will live and not die! Breath of Life breathe in her nostrils right now!! In the mighty name of Jesus Christ!!!! HOLY SPIRIT invade that room tight now!!! Hallelujah God we cry out to You! The Giver if life!!! Hallelujah Lord!!!

Four days later, the child is still dead, yet True Believers® continue to delusionally believe that Jesus is going to resurrect Olive from the dead:

I commend the blood of Jesus over her right now in Jesus name every demonic Spirit every Spirit of Witchcraft every sickness every disease every thing that’s trying to choke her out I lose it right now in Jesus name we command healing power to rise up in her right now in Jesus mighty name amen.

Still praying. I feel God tell me to connect more and more to this. The power of Christ’s resurrection is the power that cancels everything. I keep studying scripture and my heart is full of such promises.

We partner with Him by being wise as kings and seeking out the connections. I’m back 3 major events so far and I will not stop until God tells me to stop. Do I ever love God!

I raise a Hallelujah! IN Jesus’ resurrection power I speak LIFE over Olive. Raise up, and live your Destiny Olive.

Covered by the blood of Jesus we are declaring Life over Olive Alayne in Jesus precious name. Thank you Father that you answer to our prayers in Jesus name Amen!

23yrs ago, our 14 mo old baby girl was dead and came back to life on a quiet Winter night to NOW worship AT BETHEL with with Olive’s parents. Olive, Sweetheart, come back and tell us what you know.

Bethel Redding has a “Dead Raising Team.” Let that sink in for a moment.

bethel redding dead raising team

According to The Dead Raising website, Dead Raising teams:

The DRT offers a service of support to any family that is grieving the loss of a loved one. In addition to giving the bereaved spiritual and emotional support, our team of trained ministers will offer prayers of resurrection on behalf of the deceased. Handling each situation with the utmost sensitivity, our team travels to the funeral home, morgue, or family’s home where the deceased is being kept. Upon arrival, we spend time in prayer with the family, as well as the deceased. We will stay as long as we are needed.

Since it was started in late 2006, the DRT has comforted families in the midst of grief, as well as having 15 resurrections to date as a result of their prayers. If this is a service that you would like to make use of in the midst of your pain, please contact us as soon as possible.

Nothing is impossible with God. – The DRT

Fifteen alleged “resurrections” in thirteen years. That’s roughly one reanimated corpse per year. Think of all the prayers that these Deadraiser’s have prayed, and what, exactly, do they have to show for it? Fifteen alleged “resurrections.” No evidence for these science defying resurrections is provided on the Dead Raising website. Until I see solid, verifiable scientific evidence for their claims, I remain skeptical.

The death of any child is tragic, regardless of the religious inclinations of their parents. Sadly, Bethel Redding and its leaders used Olive Heiligenthal’s death as a means to promote their fanatical beliefs. That Olive remains dead is no surprise. That’s what dead people do — stay dead. Reason and common sense tell us that once people die, they stay that way, and all the prayers and magic tricks in the world won’t change that fact.

If you had any doubts about whether Bethel Redding is a cult, the church’s latest foray into raising the dead should put an end to your doubts.

Notes

Bethel’s senior pastor, Bill Johnson, explains why they believe dead people can and do come back to life.

evangelicals at white house december 6 2019

On Friday, December 6th, forty Evangelical preachers and worship leaders gathered at the White House to pray for “baby Christian” President Donald Trump. Seven of those gathered: Brian Johnson, Jenn Johnson, Sean Feucht, Luke Hendrickson, Kiley Goodpasture, Dominic Shahbon, and Jeremy Edwardson were affiliated with Bethel Redding.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Evangelicals Wear Jesus-Themed Clothing

jesus is my savior

I live in the United States of Jesus H. Christ. The Christian blood cult has over 300,000 temples scattered across America. Every temple has at least one high priest who performs weekly rituals and instructs members in the tenets of the one true religion. These temples are subdivided into sects. Evangelicalism is one such sect.

In 2016, the Evangelical blood cult was largely responsible for electing Donald Trump as president of the United States. Eighty-one percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Trump. If another presidential election were held today, most of these people would likely vote for Trump again. The president is a lying narcissist who committed impeachable acts against the United States. He has the sexual morals of an alley cat in heat and has been accused of rape and sexual assault by numerous women. You would think, then, that the Evangelical cult would oppose Trump on moral grounds alone. Sadly, Evangelicals have sold their souls for a bowl of pottage, and they go to great lengths to defend Trump, even if it means lying or distorting the truth. Evangelicals have, in effect, become whores for their pimp, Donald Trump. The president pretends to care about Evangelicals, supporting their social agenda, but make no mistake about it, Trump sees Evangelicals as a means to an end. Once they are no longer useful, he will cast them away like an empty Whopper wrapper.

This unholy alliance between the Evangelical cult and the Republican Party is on display everywhere. One need look no farther than the t-shirts and other apparel Evangelicals wear. Much like LGBTQ people, Evangelicals want non-believers to know that they are out, loud, and proud. Evangelicals want people to know that they are on Team Jesus® or that they resolutely support God’s anointed man, modern-day King Cyrus, Donald Trump. Why do Evangelicals wear such clothing?

Virtually everyone in the United States knows about Jesus and the Christian blood cult. I live in a tri-county area that is home to over 300 hundred Christian temples. I doubt Sir Henry Stanley, of Stanley and Livingstone fame, could find one person in this area who has never heard about Jesus or doesn’t know that “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Yet, everywhere I look I see Evangelicals wearing Jesus-themed shirts. Some local Evangelical churches have custom t-shirts printed advertising their temple for congregants to wear. Surely, congregants know one another, so why the shirts?

Go to Evangelical homes and what do you find? Automobiles sporting religious bumper stickers, anti-abortion or religious cliché signs in their yards; and inside, walls and tables covered with Evangelical kitsch. What’s with all the Jesus Junk®? On one hand, who cares, right? Evangelicals are free to wear whatever they want. Want to show your support of our Pervert In-Chief? Have at it. Want to advertise the local temple you attend? Go ahead. Want to identify yourself as a follower of a virgin-born, resurrected-from-the-dead miracle worker named Jesus Christ? Fine, by me.  All that I ask is that you don’t delude yourself, believing that you are all decked out with Jesus so the lost, dying world will hear the gospel and be saved. You see, the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world don’t care about you being a walking billboard for Jesus or your temple. What matters to them is how you treat others. What matters is what you say about LGBTQ people, immigrants, Democrats, liberals, mainline Christians, Catholics, atheists, Muslims, people of color and anyone else who is different from you. What do your social media pages say about your “love” and “compassion” for others? Your behavior tells us everything we need to know about you and your beliefs. Is it any surprise that Evangelicalism is one of the most hated religions in America? You reap what you sow, Evangelicals.

Why, then, do Evangelicals wear Jesus-themed clothing? The same reason any of us wears themed clothing. When I wear a Cincinnati Reds or Cincinnati Bengals hat/shirt, I do so because they are my teams. It’s my way of saying to fellow Reds and Bengals fans that I am on their team. Evangelicals wear what they wear because they want other Evangelicals to know that they are on the same team. I am sure readers are wondering if I wore Jesus-themed clothing back when I was an Evangelical Christian and pastor. The short answer is no. I have never worn a Jesus shirt, put Christian cliché bumper stickers on my cars, or hung religious kitsch on the walls of our home. I preferred to let my life do the talking. Besides, if I was driving like a maniac, I didn’t want anyone to know there was a Christian behind the wheel. Just saying . . .

All of us are free to advertise the people and groups we identify with. Want to be an out-and-proud Trump supporter or atheist, by all means, do so. We live in a country where citizens are free to proclaim their beliefs. Oh wait, not really. You see, Evangelicals believe their cult is the one true faith. Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. In their minds, the United States is a Christian nation, founded and governed by the triune God and the Protestant Bible. They expect and demand preferential treatment for their cult (and scream PERSECUTION when denied). That’s why Evangelicals love Donald Trump. He is willing to trample over the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Civil Rights Acts, and the separation of church and state so Evangelicals can have their way. Evangelicals want to be free to advertise and promote their blood cult; but let non-Christians do the same, and there’s no end to their faux-offense and outrage. Evangelicals want the freedom to push their beliefs anywhere and everywhere, yet when atheists and other non-Christians ask for the same rights, Evangelicals scream bloody murder. “How dare they attack our precious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” “How dare they mock Christianity.” “How dare they want to put up a winter solstice display next to the créche on the courthouse square.” One need only watch Evangelical outrage over the Hallmark Channel’s pro-gay wedding advertisement or Chik-Fil-A’s change of heart about supporting anti-LGBTQ groups to see how Evangelicals view the world. The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issues of prayer in secular public schools decades ago, yet Evangelicals continue to infiltrate our schools and push their sectarian agenda. Evangelicals continue to demand that public school children be taught “Biblical” sex education and creationism. Evangelicalism may be dying — and it is — but they have no intention of going quietly into the night.

As Evangelicals continue to push their theocratic demands in the public square, it’s hard not to see people wearing Jesus-themed apparel as enemies of secularism, pluralism, and freedom. History tells us that when church and state are one, freedoms are lost and people die.  I try to look on a person’s heart, and not their clothing when sizing them up, but I am tired of dealing with self-righteous, prattling Evangelicals. There are times, I admit, when I see someone wearing a Jesus shirt or some other flashing neon sign advertising their peculiar beliefs, that I just say to myself, “there’s another asshole for Jesus.” When I see an Evangelical sitting in a coffee shop wearing a Jesus or Trump shirt and reading the Bible or a religious book, I want to say to them, “Dude, don’t you know you should wear pants in public?” Without saying a word, this person is telling me all I need to know about them. He might be a “good” person, a great father, an awesome husband, and help the poor, but all I see is his Bible-approved circumcised dick hanging out.

Put your dick away, Evangelicals, and focus your attention on following the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount. (A sermon, by the way, in which Jesus declared what was required of those who said they were his followers.) Jesus said in that sermon: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16) That they (the world) may see what? Your good works, not your Jesus shirt. Do you really think that Jesus would have worn a t-shirt that said “This Blood is for You” or some other nonsensical Evangelical cliché? I think not.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, You Ruined Your Children When You Walked Away From Jesus

oldest-gerencser-children

Oldest Three Boys with Oldest Daughter, Front pew Somerset Baptist Church, Circa 1990

My wife and I have six adult children. Our children are gainfully employed and we have good, close relationships with all of them. Our children were raised as PK’s — preacher’s kids. Growing up as the children of the pastor wasn’t easy. Both congregants and their father held them to a higher standard than that of other children. My children knew that their behavior would directly reflect on me — warranted or not. As a result, my children were generally respectful, polite, and well-behaved. I have often wondered if they liked this life that was chosen for them. None of them has said one way or the other, but I do wonder if they would have preferred a “normal” childhood (however “normal” is defined).  Perhaps, one of these days my daughter or one of my sons will write a guest post for this site, sharing their thoughts about what it was like growing up as the children of Rev. Bruce Gerencser, a devout Evangelical pastor. Or maybe, just maybe, my children prefer to let their childhoods lie buried in the past, never to be resurrected again. Their stories are theirs alone to tell. The same goes for Polly.

After my wife and I divorced Jesus, I heard from former colleagues in the ministry and parishioners who had a message for me from Jesus: YOU ARE RUINING YOUR FAMILY, BRUCE! Polly was never blamed for anything. Always Miss Perfect! 🙂 I was the head of the home, I was told, so I was responsible for how their lives turned out. It’s been eleven years since we attended church for the last time. Our children, at the time, were age 15, 17, 19, 24, 27, and 29.  All of them were old enough to decide for themselves when it when came to God, Christianity, the Bible, attending church, etc. Three of them were married and had children. Yet, according to my critics, it’s my fault for their loss of faith. Granted, Mom and Dad not going to church, Dad not preaching, and Jesus/Bible/church not being the focus of discussion 24/7 certainly confused them. I have been accused of turning my children over to the wolves by just cutting them loose after I deconverted; that I owed it to them to steer them in the “right” direction, even if I didn’t want to head that way myself. Here’s the thing: my children were old enough to think for themselves. Steering them in the right direction meant giving them the freedom to be whomever and whatever they wanted to be — no strings attached. Some of my children were already at the back door of the church, ready to push it open and walk away. All my deconversion did was give them freedom — you’re free, cheezy bread, you’re free!

Video Link

Fundamentalist family members believe that if I would have just kept serving Jesus and preaching the Word, that all of my children would still be attending Evangelical churches, would still be worshiping Jesus, and would still be part of the machinations of church life. I can’t help but feel my mother-in-law’s disappointment when she quietly shakes her head over our “worldliness” and that of our children. How worldly are we? Why, we drink alcohol and cuss. That’s about it. Well that, and watch HBO. Yes, two of my sons have gone through divorces, but am I to blame for their failed marriages? I think not. Sure, our family is more boisterous now that Jesus isn’t the center of attention, but we are not degenerates. This Sunday, our family will gather at our home for Christmas — twenty-four, in all.  We will all cram into our 12’x18′ living room to watch the opening of gifts. Someone will suggest, as they always do, that the windows need to be opened and we need to build on an addition to our home. Jokes will follow, and Dad will abused by his sons. One thing is for certain, crammed as the room shall indeed be, it filled with love. The focus will be on family, not religion. “But, Bruce, JESUS is the reason for the Season!” Really? No, he’s not, not even in Evangelical homes. Oh sure, there will be prayers and Jesus talk, but once those things are dispensed with, it’s on to fun, food, and fellowship. The Gerencser family just so happens to enjoy the fun, food, and fellowship, sans Jesus. Several of our children will attend mass over the Christmas season, but for the most part they will focus their time and energy on their families. You see, whatever they think of me leaving the ministry and my subsequent loss of faith, they understand that what really matters is family. And if I can be faulted for teaching my children (and grandchildren) anything it is this: family matters.

younger-gerencser-children

Youngest Children, Defiance, Ohio, Circa Late 1990s, Early 2000s.

When the substance of this life is boiled away and you are on your deathbed, what will matter the most to you? Your money? Your car? Your home? Your looks? Your material possessions? I doubt it. I know, for me at least, that what matters are Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, Aalyiah, Victoria, Karah, Levi, Emma, Guin, Gabby, Morgan, Charlee, Lily, Alayna, Ezra, my daughters-in-law, my son-in-law, Polly’s parents, and my brother and sister. From there, I have a few friends who are dear to me. These people make up the sum of my life. I labor under no illusions. I will never be an award-winning Sports Illustrated photographer or be remembered for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I know when I die that I will, over time, be forgotten by most of the people with whom I have crossed paths. I will become little more than a historical footnote. Perhaps this blog will live on after I die, but who will pay to keep it operating, and who will take care of its day-to-day administration? It, like everything in life, will eventually fade away. Everything in life is transitory, but a vapor, the Bible says, that appears for a moment and vanishes away. I remember sitting in school classrooms on cold winter days, aimlessly watching the steam from boiler radiators rise up and dissipate. That’s life. When Polly, our children, and our grandchildren share their favorite Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories at my lakeside memorial, I hope they will have good things to say about me, and a few ribald, silly things too. In that moment, they will learn that all we really have is our memories. Treasure them, for they too, over time, will fade away.

As for former colleagues in the ministry, former church members, and Evangelical family members who continue to paint me as Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa — a man who ruined his family — all I can say is “talk to the hand.” Well, I “could” say a lot more than that — I love the F word these days — but why bother? It’s too late in the game for me to worry about catcalls from the stands; to worry about arrogant, judgmental Christians who cannot or will not see how blessed the Gerencser family really is without Jesus.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Should Non-Religious Parents Lie to Their Children About Death?

should we indoctrinate our children

Erica Komisar, a licensed clinical social worker in New York City, writes:

Nihilism is fertilizer for anxiety and depression, and being “realistic” is overrated. The belief in God—in a protective and guiding figure to rely on when times are tough—is one of the best kinds of support for kids in an increasingly pessimistic world. That’s only one reason, from a purely mental-health perspective, to pass down a faith tradition.

I am often asked by parents, “How do I talk to my child about death if I don’t believe in God or heaven?” My answer is always the same: “Lie.” The idea that you simply die and turn to dust may work for some adults, but it doesn’t help children. Belief in heaven helps them grapple with this tremendous and incomprehensible loss. In an age of broken families, distracted parents, school violence and nightmarish global-warming predictions, imagination plays a big part in children’s ability to cope.

I also am frequently asked about how parents can instill gratitude and empathy in their children. These virtues are inherent in most religions. The concept of tikkun olam, or healing the world, is one of the pillars of my Jewish faith. In accordance with this belief, we expect our children to perform community service in our synagogue and in the community at large. As they grow older, young Jews take independent responsibility for this sacred activity. One of my sons cooks for our temple’s homeless shelter. The other volunteers at a prison, while my daughter helps out at an animal shelter.

Such values can be found among countless other religious groups. It’s rare to find a faith that doesn’t encourage gratitude as an antidote to entitlement or empathy for anyone who needs nurturing. These are the building blocks of strong character. They are also protective against depression and anxiety.

In an individualistic, narcissistic and lonely society, religion provides children a rare opportunity for natural community. My rabbi always says that being Jewish is not only about ethnic identity and bagels and lox: It’s about community. The idea that hundreds of people can gather together and sing joyful prayers as a collective is a buffer against the emptiness of modern culture. It’s more necessary than ever in a world where teens can have hundreds of virtual friends and few real ones, where parents are often too distracted physically or emotionally to soothe their children’s distress.

I wanted to scream after I read Komisar’s article. I thought, “are you really this stupid?” “Did you bother to talk to atheist parents and their children?”  “Are you really equating atheism with nihilism?” “Are you really advocating lying to children about one of the most profound issues we humans struggle with — death?” “Are you really suggesting that parents pass on a faith tradition to their children as some sort of inoculation against depression?” “Are you aware of the psychological damage caused by religions, especially fundamentalist religions such as Evangelicalism, Islam, conservative Catholicism, and right-wing Jewish sects?” “Are you aware of the fact that many atheists are humanists, and humanism provides a moral, ethical, and social framework for them?”

Komisar would have us believe “in an individualistic, narcissistic and lonely society, religion provides children a rare opportunity for natural community.” Natural? Are you kidding? What’s “natural” about eating the body of Jesus and drinking his blood? What’s “natural” about believing God is three, yet one; that the universe was created 6,024 years ago; that dead people can come back to life; that the Bible stories about a miracle-working man named Jesus are true; that people can be roasted in a furnace and not be harmed; that the earth was covered with water just a few thousand years ago; that the Holy Spirit lives inside of people and is their teacher and guide; that premarital sex, homosexuality, and a host of other human behaviors are sins, and unless forsaken, will bring the judgment of God down upon their head?  Sorry, but Komisar really didn’t think the issue through before she wrote her article for the Wall Street Journal.

What more troubling is the fact that Erica Komisar is a licensed social worker and counselor. I suspect her approach to religion is very much a part of her counseling methodology. I wonder what Komisar would say to depressed atheists or agnostics? Go to church? Find a religion to practice, even if you have to fake believing? Jesus F. Christ, such thinking is absurd.

Now to the question, “should parents lie to their children about death?” Komisar suggests that parents use religious language to comfort children about death, either their own or that of their loved ones. Better to lie to children about where recently departed grandma is than to tell them the truth: Grandma is dead and you will never see her again. Cherish the memories you have of her. Look at photographs of her, reminding yourself of the wonderful times you had with her.

Komisar would rather children live in blissful ignorance than face reality. Grandma is in Heaven with Gramps. Grandma is running around Heaven with her loved ones. Grandma is no longer suffering. She is right beside Jesus, enjoying a pain-free existence. Bollocks!

While I can see avoiding the subject of death with young children, by the time they are in third or fourth grade, they should be ready to face the realities of life. People die. Some day you will die. That’s why Grandpa Bruce wrote this on his blog:

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

I have six children, ages 26 to 40, and twelve grandchildren, aged 18 months to nineteen. I dearly love my family. If 2019 has taught them anything, it is this: Mom and Dad and Nana and Grandpa are feeble, frail humans. Both of us faced health circumstances that could have led to our deaths. Shit, we are in our sixties. Most of our lives are in the rearview mirror. Even if we live to be eighty, seventy-five percent of our lives are gone. Saying that our best days lie ahead is nothing more than lying to ourselves. We remember our twenties and thirties. We remember the days when we had the proverbial tiger by the tail. Those days are long gone. My mom died at age 54. Dad died at age 49. Polly’s parents are in their eighties. Both of them are in poor health and will likely die sooner than later. I mean, a lot sooner than later. It is insane for my adult children to lie to their progeny about their grandparents and great-grandparents. I want my grandchildren to know that I love them and that I wish I had fifty years of life left so I could watch their children’s children grow up. But, I don’t. When I come to their basketball game, play, band concert, or school program, I do so because I want them to have good memories of me. I want them to remember that I was there for them. I know that the ugly specter of death is stalking me, and one day my children will be forced to tell their children that Grandpa is dead. I don’t want them lying to their children about my post-death existence. I plan to be cremated and have my ashes scattered on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan — a place where the love of my life and I experienced a “perfect” day. Hopefully, being involved with the disposal of my final remains will impress on my grandchildren the importance of living each day to its fullest. Death, when we least expect it, comes for us one and all. Better to face this fact and live accordingly than to believe that Heaven and eternal bliss awaits us after we die.

Let me conclude this post with an excerpt from a 2018 NPR article titled Teaching Children To Ask The Big Questions Without Religion:

Emily Freeman, a writer in Montana, grew up unaffiliated to a religion . . . She and her husband Nathan Freeman talked about not identifying as religious — but they didn’t really discuss how it would affect their parenting.

“I think we put it in the big basket of things that we figured we had so much time to think about,” Emily joked.

But then they had kids, and the kids came home from their grandfather’s house talking about Bible stories.

Nathan acknowledges that this came from a good place, and his father was acting in concern. “He feels like these lessons encapsulate a blueprint for how to move through life. And so of course, why wouldn’t we want our children to have those lessons alongside them as they travel through the world?”

But while Nathan and Emily wanted their kids to learn about love and compassion, they didn’t want them to hear Bible stories. When the boys were so young, the certainty of those stories felt like indoctrination.

“They trust everything that you tell them,” Emily observed. “About how their body works, about how the world works. How a cake suddenly becomes a cake from a bunch of ingredients on the counter — everything!”

….

People often, as you may expect, would leave religion during the rebellious teenage years — [ professor Christel] Manning says the baby boomers were the first generation to do this in fairly large numbers. But about half of them went back after they got married.

“If I’m single, and I have a certain spiritual or secular outlook, that’s my personal thing,” Manning explains. “But when I form a family, then there are other people who become stakeholders in this process.”

In addition to the spouses themselves, there are often parents and other family members who want influence, and kids who want answers. These are some pretty big questions — kids are asking about life and death, right and wrong, and who are we?

The answer to these questions was often found in religion. But this isn’t holding true for the current generation of parents. They aren’t returning to religious affiliation — or affiliating in the first place.

In the Freeman family’s case, did the grandparents need to be worried? According to Manning, the data on growing up without religion are mixed. Some studies show that children growing up in a faith community experiment less with drugs and alcohol and juvenile crime. And some show that kids raised without religion are more resistant to peer pressure, and more culturally sensitive.

“But,” as Manning points out, “and this is a big but — we don’t know if it’s religion that benefits the children, or if it’s just being part of an organized community, with other caring adults that regularly interact with your child.”

Manning — who raised her own child without religion — notes that there are lots of ways to raise a child to be moral and religion is only one of them.

“I’d say from what we know now, both a religious and secular upbringing can have both benefits and risks for children.”

For some unaffiliated parents, like Emily Freeman, raising children outside of a definitive religious construct can be very valuable, by empowering them in not knowing.

….

For some people, religion can provide these answers. For others, it’s a sacred space to explore not knowing. Parents like Emily Freeman try to help their kids find their own voice in the conversation. About belief, about what’s right, about their values as a family.

“They don’t spend all day wondering why zebras have stripes. We just look it up on the phone. And boom — wonder, done!” laughs Freeman. “So I love this idea of giving them open-ended, unanswerable questions. And saying, who knows? And people you love can believe different things than you do, and that’s OK.”

….

Are you an atheist, agnostic, or non-religious? What have you taught your children about death? Do you think it is okay to lie to children about death? Please share your deep thoughts and advice in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

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