Evangelicalism

A Lifetime of Studying the Seven Books of Harry Potter, the One True Wizard

Our Lord, Savior, and King, Harry James Potter, born of the virgin Lily

As a child, my parents took me to First Hogwarts Church — a sect committed to following the teachings of Harry Potter. Every Saturday, congregants would gather to hear the head wizard preach from one of the Harry Potter books. Prior to the head wizard’s sermon, everyone would stand, hold their magic wands high, and sing praises to the one true wizard Harry Potter. I remember feeling the presence of Harry in our midst. “Surely, Harry is with us!” the head wizard would say. And all the people would say, “Amen!”

Every Tuesday, my parents would take me to Tuesday School — a school where church youngsters were instructed in the ways of Harry and the Seven Books of Harry Potter. Teachers would use all sorts of visual aids and music to reinforce the grand truth that Harry is THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life.

As a teenager, I confessed before the church that I believed Harry was calling me to be a head wizard. After graduation from high school, I moved to Scotland and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Potter Theology. I spent the next six years studying the seven books that made up the inspired, inerrant, infallible Words of Harry. My favorite book was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Such a mighty wizard Lord Harry was. I was honored to worship his name and study his magnificent writings. Of all the books ever written, none was better than Harry’s. After all, only devotion to Harry and his writings leads to life eternal in the Great Hogwarts in the Sky. And I sure was devoted. Who doesn’t want to spend eternity watching Harry cast spells? Who doesn’t want to spend every moment of every day for millions and millions of years telling Harry how wonderful, mighty, and awesome he is? After all, he saved us from the cults of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. That alone is reason enough for us to prostrate ourselves before Harry and give glory to his name!

After graduating from Hogwarts School of Potter Theology, I returned to the United States, married, and started a Hogwarts Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Lynchburg was known for its cults — especially Thomas Road Baptist Church — a cult founded by Jerry Falwell and now pastored by his son Jerry, Jr. My goal was to win as many people as possible to the one true faith. I spent hours every day going door to door, telling Lynchburg residents about Harry and his seven books. On Sundays, I stood in front of Thomas Road or other non-Harry churches and handed out tracts containing excerpts from one of Harry’s book. I thought, “if people would only hear and accept the words of Harry, their lives would be transformed.” “Harry Saves!” I told everyone who would listen. Sadly, most people rejected the truth, choosing instead to worship a 2,000-year-old dead man named Jesus. How silly is that, right?

Every week or so, I would visit the local public schools and hand out chapter excerpts from the Seven Books of Harry Potter, hoping that they would ride our bus on Saturdays to First Hogwarts Church. “Come hear the words of Harry,” I told them. One school principal called the police on me, saying, “only the Gideons are allowed to hand out magic books at this school!”

seven books of harry potter

I was appalled by how the residents of Lynchburg lived their lives. Instead of following the moral and ethical teachings of Harry, the one true Wizard, people followed the teachings of a book they called the Bible. I tried to show them that the Bible was false, and that only the Seven Books of Harry Potter were true, but most of them refused to see the light. Many of them even believed that their God created the universe in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,023 years ago. “How silly,” I thought. Having spent thousands of hours reading and studying Harry’s words and that of the high wizards throughout history, I knew that Harry was the one true Creator — that the universe was billions of years old. Why couldn’t these Christians see the truth? All they needed to do was look to the night sky to see evidence of the mighty works of Harry, the Creator.

Over the years, my wife and I had seven children, one for each of the Harry Potter books. Our children were nurtured in the one true faith, and our oldest son followed in my footsteps and became a high wizard. He now pastors a Hogwarts Church in Rome. Our son hopes to bring Catholics to the light. He even dreams of converting the Pope to Potterism. “Dream big,” I told him. “With Harry all things are possible!”

I am now an old man, having spent my entire adult life reading, studying, and preaching the Seven Books of Harry Potter. I have memorized vast portions of Harry’s works, and I have even written several books about the teachings of Harry. Hogwarts School of Potter Theology uses my book, The Hidden Meanings of the Seven Books of Harry Potter, in their advanced classes. I am honored to have wizards-in-training studying my book. I only hope that they can see the deep, hidden meanings found in the Words of Harry. I know that if students will embrace my teachings, they will become first-rate wizards, able to perform many wonderful, mighty works with their wands. All praise be to Harry!

Does this story sound absurd to you? Of course it does. Why would anyone believe such nonsense? Yes, indeed, why WOULD anyone . . .

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.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Tony Shaw Accused of Sexual Assault

pastor tony shaw

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.

Tony Shaw, pastor of Ruby Valley Baptist Church in Sheridan, Montana, stands accused of sexually assaulting a teen church girl. Ruby Valley is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

The Montana Standard reports:

Authorities say a pastor at Ruby Valley Baptist Church in Sheridan had inappropriate contact with a 14-year-old girl in the basement of the church.

They arrested Tony Aaron Shaw, 55, on a felony complaint of sexual assault on Tuesday and he was taken to the Gallatin County jail, where he later posted $75,000 bond and was released.

Shaw, contacted by telephone, told The Montana Standard on Thursday that the allegation “had to do with how someone perceived something” and was false.

“It was nothing,” he said.

….

According to the complaint, someone performing work at the church witnessed Shaw having inappropriate contact with the girl in the basement of the church. Sheriff’s officials say they had received a prior sexual assault complaint involving Shaw.

Evangelical Swear Words

foxtrot cussing

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

At one time, Christians seemed to all agree that saying swear words was a sin, especially uttering blasphemous phrases like God dammit or go to hell. These days, in many corners of the Christian ghetto, swearing is now accepted. Even preachers are known to show their coolness and hipster cred by using choice words, not only in their conversations with others, but also in their sermons.

I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the Baptist churches I attended, saying swear words was definitely considered a sin against the thrice-holy God. Most of the preachers of my youth would quote Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, as justification for their prohibitions against cursing. These preachers never did explain how saying “shit” was “taking God’s name in vain.” I later came to see that this commandment had little to do with saying certain words. According to 17th Century Presbyterian theologian and pastor Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain meant:

We take God’s name in vain, [1.] By hypocrisy, making a profession of God’s name, but not living up to that profession. Those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity, as that name binds them to do, name it in vain; their worship is vain (Mat_15:7-9), their oblations are vain (Isa_1:11, Isa_1:13), their religion is vain, Jam_1:26. [2.] By covenant-breaking; if we make promises to God, binding our souls with those bonds to that which is good, and yet perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain (Mat_5:33), it is folly, and God has no pleasure in fools (Ecc_5:4), nor will he be mocked, Gal_6:7. [3.] By rash swearing, mentioning the name of God, or any of his attributes, in the form of an oath, without any just occasion for it, or due application of mind to it, but as a by-word, to no purpose at all, or to no good purpose. [4.] By false swearing, which, some think, is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment; so it was expounded by those of old time. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, Mat_5:33. One part of the religious regard the Jews were taught to pay to their God was to swear by his name, Deu_10:20. But they affronted him, instead of doing him honour, if they called him to be witness to a lie. [5.] By using the name of God lightly and carelessly, and without any regard to its awful significancy. The profanation of the forms of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known, his word, or any of his institutions; when they are either turned into charms and spells, or into jest and sport, the name of God is taken in vain.

Sure, in point number five, Henry mentions swearing, but what about points one through four: being a hypocrite, breaking a vow, rashly making an oath, and lying?  On Sunday, each of the churches I pastored gave parishioners and visitors an opportunity to come forward during the public invitation and get right with God, either by getting saved or confessing sin. I witnessed plenty of weeping and gnashing of teeth as people covered the altar rail with their tears (and snot). Oh God, I’m so sorry I lusted after Sister Susie this week, please forgive me. Dear Jesus, please forgive me for looking at porn. I promise to never, never look at a naked woman who is not my wife again. Dear God, I know that YOU know that I really didn’t stop smoking like I told the preacher I did. I’m so sorry for lying. I plead the blood of Jesus over my life and I promise to never, ever smoke another Marlboro. And, in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, the penitent church members would return to their “sin,” thus requiring a new round of weeping and wailing. Their vows to not sin were, according to Matthew Henry, taking God’s name in vain.

Many of us who use curse words use them when we are angry or upset. Sometimes, we use swear words to ameliorate a serious pain that we are having. I’ve learned that, after hitting my finger with a hammer, saying “God dammit!” really loud tends to lessen the pain. According to research presented to the British Psychological Society, swearing is an emotional language, and using it can make a person feel better. Perhaps the use of 506 expletives in 179 minutes as actors did in the movie Wolf of Wall Street is a tad bit excessive, but I know firsthand that cursing can, and does, have a cathartic effect on a person. While certainly those who swear must be aware of proper social conventions, swearing at the referee on TV who just hosed your favorite football team can be emotionally satisfying, and I highly recommend it.

A dear friend of mine from back in the days when we both were part of the Trinity Baptist Church youth group, laughs every time she hears me utter a swear word. She often replies, “I never thought I’d see the day when Bruce Gerencser said a swear word.” From the time I was saved at the age of 15 until I left the ministry, I never uttered one swear word, outwardly anyhow. I thought plenty of swear words but never verbalized them. To do so would have branded me as a sinner and as a man who didn’t have his emotions under control.

Evangelicals are every bit as emotional and angry as their counterparts in the world. Knowing that telling someone to “fuck off” would bring them rebuke and shame, Evangelicals have developed what I call Christian swear words. Christian swear words are expressions such has:

  • Shucks
  • Shoot
  • Darn
  • Dangit
  • Freaking
  • Crap
  • Gosh darn it
  • Son of a gun
  • Frigging
  • Shucky darn

As you can easily see, these words are meant to be replacements for the real swear words. This way, angry or emotionally upset Evangelicals can express themselves without running afoul of God’s FCC.

Years ago, a preacher who considered himself totally sanctified (without sin), was known for using the phrase, taking it to the hilt. He and I were quite good friends, and one day when he repeated his favorite phrase, I told him, you know that taking it to the hilt can be used as a sexual reference for sticking the penis all the way into its base (hilt). He was indignant that I would dare to suggest such a thing. He later learned I was right and apologized (Do you suppose it ever dawned on him that he had sinned by using this phrase after he said he no longer was a sinner?)

Swear words are just that: words. Social conventions dictate their use. I am a card-carrying member of the Swearers Club. I make liberal use of curse words, especially when speaking to officials from afar on a televised sporting event. Even Polly, sweet, sweet Polly, my wife, has devolved to my level. While I am careful when using swear words in public or around those who are easily offended, I refuse to be bullied into submission by the word police. I rarely use swear words in my writing, but I do so on occasion. It’s up to the individual readers to decide if a well-placed malediction is offensive enough to stop them from reading.

Sometimes, when responding to the emails persnickety Evangelicals love to send me, I deliberately use swear words that I know will euphemistically cause urine to flow from their genitals. They will respond with outrage as did fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jeff Setzer during a “discussion” on the post, The Legacy of Jack Hyles. When Jeff first commented on the Jack Hyles post, he was polite and respectful. However, during his last round of comments he decided to get more aggressive — a common ploy used by Evangelical zealots. When I determined that Setzer hadn’t taken the time to actually read my story, I responded to him by writing, “I encourage you to take the time to read my writing. The answers you seek can be found there.” And here’s the dialog that followed:

Setzer, in response to Brian, a former IFB pastor’s son: You can be wrong too, right along with all of the molesters. And like the victims of physical abuse, you are a victim of spiritual and intellectual abuse…that which is many times more difficult to overcome than mere physical abuse. Since the physical realm regularly confirms the Bible to be true, as well as other realms of evidence, I KNOW the Bible is truth. There is NO doubt whatsoever.

Bruce: Ah, now there’s the Christian asshole that every Fundamentalist eventually morphs into. This is your last comment.

Setzer: Do you know what profanity is? How about what kindness means? Or intolerance? “Last comment”? Can you not reason and share where your supposed point of rejection was, or perhaps you have built a wall, making a skin of a reason based upon woefully fallible men who set up themselves as authoritative? I’ll look up the posts to which you refer, but I haven’t seen any logic on here yet but rather emotion. You’ve come to a conclusion out of emotion and not logic. I’d be glad to communicate further with you if you’re open to logic and evidence and not being outright dismissive. Thanks for being willing to dialogue.

Bruce: After your first comment you were taken to a page that had the comment rules. You have violated the commenting rules and this is why I will not approve any further comments by you. My asshole comment is in response to your last approved comment. If you don’t like being called an asshole, don’t act like one.

You can read the rest of the sphincter-muscle stimulating comments here.

I am of the opinion that if a person doesn’t want to be called an asshole then he shouldn’t act like one. Setzer, ever the clueless Fundamentalist, was more concerned over me using profanity than he was how his words were being perceived by myself and others. Instead of becoming outraged over a word, perhaps God’s anointed ones should pay attention to how their own words and behaviors reflect on the good news they purportedly want everyone to believe.

As Setzer surely would have known had he bothered to spend time reading my writing, I rarely use curse words, and in the comment section I reserve their use for when Fundamentalists — and it is ALWAYS Fundamentalists — are showing how little fruit is growing on their spiritual trees. You know, the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Sometimes, preachers I mention by name in one of my articles write asking me to remove their name from my post. They don’t like being called out by name. My thinking on this goes something like: if you didn’t want to be cast in a poor light you should have treated me better. After all, the Bible does say, you reap what you sow, right? One offended preacher was upset that I mentioned that he impregnated and married his first wife when she was 13. Here’s a man who travels the countryside telling others how to live, yet he had, and may still have, a thing for young girls (and pastors who are still having him come to their church to preach need to know this).

Well, I think I’ve run out of words to type on the computer screen. I’ll see if I can refrain from offending Fundamentalists with my salty language. Nah, fuck that . . .

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.

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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.

Quote of the Day: “Sophisticated” Theology

sophisticated theology john loftus

My far-flung family is quite diverse.

John F. Haught is a renowned Catholic theologian who has produced a flood of erudite books.

….

He has attempted, for instance, to prove that survival-of-the-fittest evolution presents a “grand drama” orchestrated by God. All the ruthless slaughter of prey by predators, all the mass starvation of desperate victims who lose their food supply, even the extinction of 99 percent of all species that ever lived — are part of “an evolutionary drama that has been aroused, though not coercively driven, by a God of infinite love,” he wrote in the Washington Post. He added: “Darwin’s ragged portrait of life is not so distressing after all. Theologically understood, biological evolution is part of an immense cosmic journey into the incomprehensible mystery of God.”

Got that? God is incomprehensible — yet theology is sure his “infinite love” spawned nature’s slaughterhouse of foxes ripping rabbits apart, sharks gashing seals, pythons suffocating pigs and the rest of the “grand drama of life.”

What evidence supports this peculiar conclusion? None — just trust theology.

That’s why I’ve decided that there is no such thing as sophisticated theology. At bottom, the issue is simple: Either supernatural spirits exist, or they don’t. Either heavens, hells, gods, devils, saviors, miracles and the rest are real, or they’re concoctions of the human imagination.

It boils down to honesty. A truthful person shouldn’t claim to know things he or she doesn’t know. Theologians are in the business of declaring “truths” that nobody possibly can prove. They do so without evidence. In contrast, an honest individual admits: I don’t know.

….

Thomas Jefferson refused to let theology be taught at his new University of Virginia. He considered theological assertions to be “unintelligible abstractions . . . absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” He ridiculed the Trinity concept “that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one.”

Ambrose Bierce wrote: “Theology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumption and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure.” And legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken opined: “There is no possibility whatsoever of reconciling science and theology, at least in Christendom. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible; if he did not, then it is sheer nonsense.”

Of course, like every human phenomenon, religion should be studied by sociologists and psychologists. But theology itself consists of assertions about spirits. I can’t imagine why universities consider it a worthy field of scholarship.

– James Haught, Freethought Now, There’s little honesty in theology, May 13, 2020

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Federal Government has no Power to Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic

david barton

Discredited Christian nationalist “historian” David Barton [is] now asserting that the federal government has no power to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Constitution puts all health care at the state level; it does not put it at the federal level,” Barton said during a recent interview. “So this was not a federal question; it is a state question. In the Constitution, you have 17 what are called enumerated powers. The Constitution says, ‘Federal government, here’s 17 things you’re allowed to do.’ And then in the Tenth Amendment, it says if it’s not one of those 17 things, it belongs to the states to deal with. Health care was one of those issues.” (Thanks to our friends at Right Wing Watch for the video.)

Barton seems unable to grasp that it’s not 1820 anymore. The Constitution and federal laws have changed over time, and there’s no longer any doubt that the federal government has the power – some would say the duty – to respond in the face of a public health emergency. (The fact that the current administration’s response has been hapless doesn’t negate that; it just makes it all the more obvious that we need to do a better job next time.)

What are Barton and his pals in the Religious Right up to here? Their main goal is to provide cover for President Donald Trump, their “I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Our-Lord-And-Savior” substitute. By pretending it was never Trump’s job to spearhead efforts to stop the spread of the virus to begin with, they hope to absolve him of all blame for the spiraling death toll. (Clever, right?) Unfortunately for the nation, their antics have the unpleasant side effect of putting us all in jeopardy.

Lying about the federal government’s responsibility in the face of a health crisis isn’t the Barton band’s only trick. Yesterday, a collection of Religious Right legal groups announced that they are forming a “hotline” pastors can call if they believe their religious freedom rights are being violated. (That is, if they’re angry that government agencies have ordered them to remain closed alongside everyone else.) The effort is led by a Barton associate named Rick Green.

— Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Christian Nationalists Are Spreading Fake News About The Federal Government And Coronavirus, May 14, 2020

Bruce, You’re Not an Atheist

no such thing as an atheist

I recognize that telling my story publicly invites critique, criticism, and attack. I started blogging in 2007, and no matter where I am in my journey, there are people who think they “know” the real Bruce Gerencser; that they have pulled back the curtain of my life and exposed the real me. Never mind the fact that my critics rarely read my writing or make good faith efforts to truly understand my story. In their minds, they know everything they need to know about the man, myth, and legend, and they are ready to render judgment.

Evangelical zealots love to tell me that I never was a Christian; that my faith and devoted life as a follower of Jesus was a lie. Long-time readers know this claim irritates the hell out of me. By making this bald assertion, my Evangelical critics refuse to accept my story as told. Years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me, “Bruce, I know you better than you know yourself.” Sadly, more than a few Christians think they have the gift of divination; that they have some sort of innate ability to see the “real” me.

Occasionally — as was the case recently on the post Guilt: the Essence of Christianity — critics will take a different tack, suggesting that I am not an atheist; that I still believe in God, albeit a “different” God from the one from my Evangelical past.

Take a comment left by a woman by the name of Diane Villafane:

Thank you for being honest, and congratulations on taking a step ahead in your spiritual journey. I’ve been there and done that.

I wanted to add, I don’t think you are an atheist. You just came to a realization that God is not the anthropomorphic being described in the Bible.

Villafane read all of one post — which took her four minutes — and rendered judgment. She made no attempt to understand my story. Nope, she read a few hundred words and then concluded that despite what I say, I am NOT an atheist; that I have just changed concepts of God.

Why do some of my critics deny me the right to disbelieve?

Some people believe that there’s no such thing as atheists; that atheists deliberately suppress their knowledge of the existence of God. Evangelical presuppositionalists, in particular, say that the Christian God of the Bible has revealed himself to everyone through conscience, creation, and divine revelation (the Bible).

Others “sense” that I, deep down in my little ‘ole heart of hearts, still believe in God. These critics pick things out of my writing, seeing these nuggets as evidence of my continued belief in God. No matter what I say, they are convinced that I am still a Christian; or at the very least a believer in some sort a divine creator.

Some Evangelicals will argue that I can’t be an atheist because I profess to having been saved; that once a person is born again, he can never, ever, for any reason, lose his salvation. In their minds, I am a backslidden Christian, and, in time, God will chastise me and bring me back into the fold.

Here’s what I find interesting: everyone is entitled to their opinion and judgment about my past and present life — that is, except me. What I say doesn’t matter. “You SAY you are an atheist, Bruce, but I don’t believe you!” It is in moments such as this that I sigh. Is there no end to such stupidity? I know, I know, rhetorical question. As long as I put my story out there for the public to read, I am going to have people shape my storyline to fit their peculiar beliefs. All I know to do is to continue telling my story. If people refuse to accept my story at face value, there’s nothing I can do about it, other than utter a few choice swear words.

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.

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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.

You Say You Speak for God

angry preacher

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Millions upon millions of voices all clamoring at the same time, all uttering the same thing . . .

God says . . .

The Bible (God) says . . .

God is leading me to say . . .

God is telling me to tell you . . .

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, right?

Get a Baptist and a Catholic in the same room and let them duke it out over One Baptism. Infant baptism, adult convert baptism, or both?

Father, Son, Holy Ghost and these three are one. Surely everyone agrees? Not me, says the Oneness Pentecostal or the Apostolic.

Baptism saves. It doesn’t save. No, it’s water baptism plus speaking in tongues as evidence of Holy Ghost baptism that saves.

Communion is the Lord’s Supper, Baptists say. Other Christians says it is the Eucharist. Is it really the body of Christ, is it kind of the real body of Christ, or is it a memorial? Wine? Welch’s grape juice? Pepsi and Ritz crackers?

Pre-, Mid-, Pre-wrath-, Post-rapture and tribulation.

Pre-, A-, Post-millennial reign of Christ.

Dispensationalism. Non-dispensationalism. Hyper-dispensationalism.

Calvinism.

Arminianism.

Pelagianism.

Cessationist. Non-cessationist.

The Old Testament is for today. No it’s not.

The gospels are for today. No, they’re not.

New Perspective on Paul. No, Old Perspective.

Pauline or Peterine.

The Old Testament law is still for today.

No, it’s not.

Yes, it is, but only the Ten commandants.

No, only Nine commandments, and maybe the verses on tithing. Got to pay my salary, you know.

Only the words in red matter.

Only what Paul writes matters.

Did Paul write Hebrews?

Did Moses write the Pentateuch?

God created the universe in six literal twenty-four hour days. No, a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. No, God created the earth with apparent age.

Eternal Security. No, perseverance of the saints. No, preservation of the saints.

Can a Christian lose his salvation (fall from grace)?

Can I get my lost salvation back? Yes! No! It depends!

Hell.

Annihilation.

Purgatory.

Sixty-six books in the Protestant Bible. Catholics, Mormons, and Orthodox count differently, but they aren’t Christians, so who cares how many books are in their Bible.

So when you say:

God says . . .

The Bible (God) says . . .

God is leading me to say . . .

God is telling me to tell you . . .

Pray tell, why should we believe you?

How do we know that you have the faith once delivered to the saints?

Can you even answer the most basic of questions?

What is salvation? How is a person saved?

By grace?

By faith?

By works?

By faith, plus works?

By faith, plus works, and staying true to the end?

I can choose?

I can’t choose?

God chooses me?

I choose God?

Baptism saves?

Baptism doesn’t save?

You argue endlessly among yourselves, like toddlers fighting over a toy or Donald Trump and Mike Pence fighting over a Kentucky Fried Chicken drumstick.

The Bible SAYS!

God SAYS!

Our church SAYS!

Our confession SAYS!

Our catechism SAYS!

The Pope SAYS!

The Pastor SAYS!

There is one TRUE church and it is ours, countless denominations and churches say.

With us and heaven is your home. Against us and you fry. Choose right, lest ye die and burn forever!

Your lack of unity is the indictment against you.

Your lack of a singular voice is clear to all who can see beyond the threats of Hell and promises of Heaven.

You should not then be shocked when you try to tell non-Christians that God says or the Bible says and they smile and turn a deaf ear.

Oh wait, they are deaf because God made them that way.

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (Luke 8:10)

It’s God’s fault.

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.

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Why do Evangelical Preachers Talk AT People?

talking at someone

During the early morning hours, I often listen to podcasts, hoping that I will eventually fall asleep. Two of the podcasts I listen to are produced by the Atheist Community of Austin: Atheist Experience and Talk Heathen. Both are live call-in shows.

Early this morning, I listened to the latest episode of Talk Heathen, featuring hosts Eric Murphy and Dragnauct Sylvas. One caller into the show was an Evangelical preacher from North Carolina named Cole. Cole wanted to talk to Eric and Dragnaut about abortion. What he proceeded to do is expose for all to see that he is a Bible-thumping, racist bigot. If you doubt my assessment of the good pastor, please take the time to listen to the show clip below. As you will quickly see, Cole is a classic Evangelical anti-abortionist who has little regard for women.

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As I listened to Cole, it became abundantly clear to me that he was not really interested in having a discussion. He called in to preach the Word, to put a good word in for Jesus and his peculiar brand of Christianity. Cole saw Eric and Dragnauct as two ill-informed atheists who needed enlightened about THE way, THE truth, and THE life. Instead of talking to the hosts, Cole was talking AT them. Needless to say, this approach did not go over well with Eric and Dragnauct.

Cole’s call got me thinking about Evangelical preachers in general; how many ex-Evangelicals will tell you, if asked, that their former pastors talked AT them instead of TO them. This led me to a moment of self-reflection. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I preached over 4,000 sermons, witnessed to scores of people, and counseled hundreds of church members. I asked myself, “Bruce, how many of those people did you actually talk TO instead of AT?” Sadly, I came to the conclusion that much of my preaching and interaction with people was me talking AT them instead of TO them. Why is that?

Most Evangelical preachers, myself included, grew up in environments where “truth” was framed by their sects’, churches’, or pastors’ interpretations of the Protestant Bible. THE BIBLE SAYS and THUS SAITH THE LORD became mantras that defined reality. Preachers raised in such churches typically go to colleges and seminaries that reinforce these shibboleths.

The bedrock of Evangelical Christianity is the belief that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Every word of the Bible is true. Preachers are ordained (called) by God to preach, explain, and interpret the Bible for anyone and everyone who will listen. While these so-called servants of God will oh-so-humbly say that they are merely God’s mouthpieces, the fact is these men are the Evangelical equivalent of Buddhas, yogis, popes, prophets, and oracles. Having a direct line with God via the Bible and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, these men of God, with great certainty, believe they are divinely appointed truth-tellers. What does such certainty breed in these men? Arrogance. And it is arrogance that results in preachers talking AT people instead of TO them.

When Cole called into Talk Heathen last Sunday, his goal was to admonish, correct, and rebuke its hosts. Cole, filled with arrogant certainty, knew everything he needed to know about, well, everything. Cole is a man of God armed with the Word of God, certain that his beliefs are divine truth. People such as Eric and Dragnauct just need to listen to him, submit to his authority, change their thinking and way of life, and all will be well. Cole, err, I mean God, has spoken, end of discussion. Of course, Eric and Dragnauct refused to play by Cole’s rules, a fact he found quite irritating. (And is it not a good day when you can irritate the Heaven out of an Evangelical preacher?)

Spending decades in the ministry gave me the opportunity to enter into the lives of thousands of people. Many of these people would tell you that my preaching and teaching made a difference in their lives. Some of them even consider me their favorite preacher, despite the fact that I am now an outspoken atheist. While I am humbled by their kind recognition of my oratorical skills and genuine desire to help others, I can’t help but wonder how much more good I might have done had I talked TO people instead of AT them?

Several years ago, I had a discussion with a gay man who was a youth in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church I pastored for eleven years in southeast Ohio. This man also attended the church’s Christian school for five years. Since deconverting, I have been plagued with guilt over how my preaching harmed others. No matter how well-intentioned I was, my words materially affected the lives of my congregants. This man told me that I was being too hard on myself; that his parents, grandmother, and other church members wanted someone to tell them what to believe. In other words, they wanted someone to talk AT them. Instead of doing the hard lifting required by skepticism and intellectual inquiry, these devout Christians wanted and needed someone — me — to be their connection to God. They loved and trusted me, so, in their minds, “just do what Pastor Bruce says to do, and all will be well.”

While I appreciate being left off the hook, so to speak, I can’t help but wonder how much different their lives might had been if I listened TO them instead of talking AT them; if I had encouraged them to think for themselves and to pursue truth regardless of where the path led. Isn’t that what humanists and rationalists want for others? We know that religious indoctrination — especially in its Evangelical form — leads to dominance and control. We know Fundamentalism in all its forms is harmful to our species. My goal as a pastor was to make sure that all church members believed the same things. Deviance from the norm was considered heterodoxy, if not outright heresy. There was little to no room for differences of opinion and belief — on issues that really mattered, anyway. Evangelical preachers love to say that they promote intellectual inquiry, when, in fact, what they really promote is freethinking only within the four corrugated walls of the Christian orthodoxy box. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.) Anyone who strays outside of these narrow confines is rebuked, disciplined, or excommunicated.

You won’t find Evangelical preachers recommending Bart Ehrman’s books from the pulpit or in the Sunday bulletin. Doing so would destroy the foundation of Evangelical Christianity — an inerrant, infallible Bible. When preachers tell congregants, THUS SAITH THE LORD, they don’t want them saying, as Satan, the talking snake, said to Eve in the book of Genesis, “yea hath God said?” Doubts and questions are rarely welcome and are often viewed as Satanic attempts to destroy faith. When doubts and questions are permitted, it is expected that people will always come to the right conclusions. Coming to wrong conclusions means you aren’t listening or are in rebellion to God

It should come as no surprise, then, that Evangelical preachers talk AT people instead of TO them. Cole’s behavior, as well as mine, is all too typical. When you believe you are some sort of dispenser of infallible divine truth, how can it be otherwise? If there were someone who knew the truth about everything, wouldn’t it stand to reason that people should just shut up and listen to him, obeying his every word? No need to think, just submit. No need to engage in thoughtful discussion, allowing for disagreement or differences of opinion. God, through his chosen ones, has spoken. There are 783,137 words in the King James Bible. According to Evangelicals, every word is t-r-u-t-h. There’s not one error, mistake, or contradiction in the Bible. Proverbs 30:5 says, EVERY word of God is pure (flawless). No need to think about what the Bible says or doesn’t say — just believe. Believe what? Whatever the man of God says to believe. And that’s why Evangelical preachers talk AT people.

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.

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Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?

steamy romance
Pastor Bob shows Church Member Felicia How Much Jesus Loves Her

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

In October 2013, Doug Phillips, president of the now-defunct Vision Forum Ministries, confessed to church leaders that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Defenders of Phillips took to their blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to do damage control on the behalf of Phillips and the patriarchal movement. One such defender was Independent Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham, a man who is widely viewed as the African-American version of Doug Phillips.

A Christian woman by the name of Julie Anne posted an article on the Spiritual Sounding Board blog about the Doug Phillips scandal. Her post mentioned the following quote by Voddie Baucham:

Dennis, You ask, “How many times do we see this in Christian leadership?” The answer may surprise you, but it is actually quite rare. There are hundreds of thousands of churches in America. We hear of these types of things on a national basis when they happen to high profile people. However, considering the number of people in Christian leadership, the numbers are quite small. As to your other point, most men who go through something like this never recover. Of course, there are exceptions. Moreover, there are some circles wherein things like this, and much worse, are merely swept under the rug. However, in circles where leadership is taken seriously, it is very difficult for a man to come back from things like this. People have long memories, and tend to be rather unforgiving. (emphasis mine)

Baucham repeats the oft-told lie that clergy sexual misconduct is quite rare. I have heard this line more times than I can count. It is an attempt to prop up the notion that clergy are more moral and ethical than most people; that they are pillars of virtue and morality. Such claims are patently false.

In 2007, Dr. R.J. Krejcir of the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute, wrote a post detailing his study of clergy infidelity. Krejcir stated:

  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

So much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Numerous studies have been conducted concerning sexual infidelity among married people. The percentage varies widely, but it is safe to say that between ten and twenty percent of married people have been sexually unfaithful to their spouses. The percentage is higher for men than it is women.

We know that men of the cloth are not morally or ethically superior. In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 600,000 clerics. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion and Research, this total includes active clergy and “retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries.” This number does not include clergy who are affiliated with independent churches. If between ten and twenty percent of married people commit adultery, and clergy are no different morally from non-clergy, then this means that between 60,000 and 120,000 clerics have committed adultery.  Again, so much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Keep in mind, this is only the number of CONSENSUAL sexual relationships. Each month, the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter publishes dozens of reports of clergy misconduct on their Black Collar Crime Blotter page. I also publish for this site the Black Collar Crime series, featuring preachers who have been accused, arrested, charged, convicted, sued, or imprisoned for criminal acts, many of which are sexual in nature.  As we know from cases such as Bill Wininger, Bob Gray, and David Hyles, predatory clerics can and do prey on children, teens, and women for decades before they are caught.

Voddie Baucham’s suggestion that there is not a problem with clergy infidelity is a denial of the facts on the matter. As with the Catholic church, Protestant and Evangelical churches have their own sex scandals. Evangelicals love to point to the Catholic church’s sex scandals, all the while ignoring their own increasing problems with sexual infidelity, sexual abuse, and predatory clergy.

Most clerics are faithful to their spouses, and most of them are not sexual abusers or predators. That said, there are tens of thousands of preachers who can’t keep their pants zipped up, and there are thousands of pastors who use their position of authority to abuse and prey on those who trust them. No amount of deflection or misdirection will change this fact.

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.

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Marriage is a Threesome, Says Evangelical Doug Weiss

threesome

According to Charisma News, Doug Weiss is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I never heard of Weiss until today.

Weiss wrote a post for Charisma titled, 7 Dangerous Myths That Can Kill Your Marriage. Standard Evangelical drivel intermixed with common sense advice. However, what I found interesting was Weiss’s claim that every Evangelical heterosexual marriage is a threesome.

Weiss writes:

Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is by far the most dangerous paradigm for a Christian marriage. This is 100% a secular idea and will ruin the foundation of your marriage. Marriage is between God, man and woman. God made marriage, and He is an integral person in a Christian marriage. If He is not actually enjoyed in your marriage, you have bought into a secular paradigm.

…..

My gender entitles me to … In Christ there is no male or female (Gal. 3:28). Using your gender for hierarchy or control is not only sad, it’s dangerous. Marriage is between three people—the King of kings, God, is the only king in your marriage. All others are servants of Him and each other.

According to Weiss, “most dangerous paradigm for a Christian marriage” is the secular notion that marriage is between a man and a woman. Wait, isn’t that exactly what Evangelical culture warriors have been clamoring for since the 1980s; that marriage is between one man, one woman for life? Now, it seems, that “Biblical” marriage is a threesome among a man, woman, and the voyeuristic Evangelical God. That’s right, Evangelicals. God is now your fuck buddy.

Weiss spectacularly fails in his understanding of the secular (humanist) view of marriage. Secularists don’t, in the main, believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Secularists were front and center in the battle for justice and equal protection under the law for LGBTQ people. We resolutely supported same-sex marriage, and we continue to support the right of men and women to enter into consenting sexual relationships with whomever they wish. Heterosexual marriage between a man and a woman is but one type of relationship secularists approve of. Why, we even approve of real threesomes between likeminded people.

Weiss, much like Michelle Lesley. about whom, I wrote earlier, preaches the gospel of self-denial. What YOU want, need, or desire doesn’t matter. The standard for all relationships is the Bible, or better put, the interpretation of the Bible by men and women who feel duty-bound to control the relationships of others.

Years ago, my best friend and I — a fellow preacher — were talking about sex. I let him know that when Polly and I had sex we liked to listen to the Carpenters — the old secular CD we owned. My friend was troubled by my “liberal” approach to fucking. He and his wife only listened to hymns while having sex. I thought, at the time, I can’t imagine listening to “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” or “Victory in Jesus” while having sex. It’s not that I didn’t have a Christian ethos when it came to sex, I did. However, I didn’t think it was necessary to turn our bedroom romps into praise and worship services.

My former friend would likely agree with Weiss’ contention that Biblical marriage is a threesome among a married man, woman, and God. According to Evangelicals, “God” is a triune being: Father, Son (Jesus), and the Holy Ghost. I wonder which part of the Godhead is in charge of threesomes?

this was your life

According to Weiss, God is the KING of heterosexual Evangelical marriages. Dammit, can’t Evangelicals even fuck in private without their God sticking his nose in their business? Weiss, says no. While Weiss believes secularist beliefs turn marriages into twosomes, this runs contrary to Evangelical orthodoxy. God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere at one time. Allegedly, we can’t escape God. He is on the job, 24/7, watching every sex act, and writing down for future reference who fucked whom, when, where, and how. Come judgment day, God will replay our lives — ala Jack Chick’s, This Was Your Life — and call us into account for every sex act that wasn’t according to the strictures and rules of the Bible. Boy, some of you have a lot to answer for. 🙂 Not me. Not my wife. Well, outside of listening to Karen and Richard Carpenter while we had sex in our Christian days and listening to rock groups such as Halestorm when we are in the mood for a raucous romp. And then there’s . . . well, shit, I guess our This Was Your Life video will be quite risque, dare I say, pornographic.

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If forced to choose between the music of Fanny Crosby or Lzzy Hale, I am going to play Hale and Halestorm every time. Maybe that’s just me, but something tells me I am not alone. Even Evangelicals prefer twosomes to God creepily peering over their shoulder while they go down on their lover.

Weiss believes that if you are not “enjoying” God in your marriage — and I assume that means “enjoying” God while having sex — that you have “bought into a secular paradigm.” A secular paradigm is what, exactly? Do Evangelicals have different biologies from unbelievers? Are Evangelical sex and marriage really any different from that of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world? Or is the Bible just a facade of sorts meant to cover up the fact that Evangelicals live lives no different from their counterparts in the world?

Weiss, Lesley, and countless other cultural warriors want to control human behavior — especially sexual behavior. Think, for a moment, about all the “sins” in the Bible or the behaviors Evangelicals deem sinful. How many of them are sexual in nature? Why do Evangelical preachers and leaders have such an obsession with sex? One word: control. What three base desires do we all have? Hunger, thirst, and sexual intimacy. Evangelical gatekeepers have given up on trying to control eating and drinking habits, so they focus on sexual habits. Think about all the sermons you heard over the years about sex. Yet, despite all the pro-hetero, God-she-and-thee-make-a-threesome preaching, Evangelicals continue to do their own thing sexually. The only difference between Evangelicals and secularists is the former have a lot more guilt after acting on their natural, healthy wants, needs, and desires. In fact, this guilt leads to all sorts of dysfunction within Evangelical marriages, It seems to me that couples would be a lot better off if God and the Bible were checked at the bedroom door. I know for Polly and me, our sex life became richer and fuller once we abandoned Christianity and embraced the evils of humanism. Desire and mutual satisfaction were what mattered, not what God, Jesus, Paul, Moses, or John said in the Bible. Freed from the chains of Evangelical bondage, we enjoy one another sexually without concern over whether God approves.

Did you have a threesome marriage? How did your sex life change post-Jesus. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

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Inquiring Evangelical Minds Want to Know: Do Women “Lust” After Men?

michelle-lesley-vile-sinner

Building on her atrocious post titled, You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It, Evangelical Michelle Lesley released a screed yesterday that purported to answer the question, “do women ‘lust’ after men?” As a former Evangelical pastor, I always assumed that Christians believed that women lusted just as much as their male counterparts. However, I learned that some Evangelicals don’t believe women can lust. Take the question that precipitated Lesley’s sermon to “dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious [Evangelical] sinner [s]”:

In the past, I’ve had lots of trouble wondering about my desire and tendency to look at, and get excited by, physically attractive men, especially men who reveal a lot of themselves in underwear modeling and soft-core porn. I think this is a sin, but I’m not sure.

I’ve gotten mixed reactions when I’ve mentioned this to people. There are some who say that, yes, this is the sin of lust. Yet there are others who have told me that women cannot possibly struggle with lust, only men do. I once dealt with one particular man who was very dogmatic that God created men and women to be tempted differently, and that lust is not a temptation women deal with, so he dismissed my struggles with this subject.

When I tried to search Scripture, using Matthew 5:28, it would also seem that this is a male-only sin. So is it OK for me to keep looking at male models, including underwear modeling and soft-core porn?

According to this woman, only men can “lust.” In fact, Jesus made that very point in Matthew 5:28:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Evidently, the male pronoun in this verse means that Jesus is only talking to men, not women. It’s MEN who lust and commit adultery in their hearts, not women. This, of course, is an irrational hermeneutic, making much of the Bible irrelevant for women.

Lesley spends an inordinate amount of time building up to her answer, telling the questioner:

This is an awesome question for three reasons. First, you’re concerned about whether or not you’re sinning with the aim of mortifying this behavior if it is a sin. Second, you’re not relying on your own feelings, opinions, or experiences to determine whether or not this is a sin, you’re turning to Scripture to find out. Those are both very encouraging things. They demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is working in your heart to sanctify you and make you more like Christ.

Lesley then goes on to say that while men certainly lust more than women do — it’s their nature — women can and do lust after men. And why do women lust? Here’s Lesley’s answer:

A hundred years ago, it would have been unthinkable to see advertisements featuring nearly naked men, or strip clubs with male dancers, or pornography aimed at women, so readily available and with so little shame attached. And at that time there were probably far fewer women who struggled with the sin of lust.

These days, it’s right there on your phone or computer or TV or at the bachelorette party for your friend. Lust, lewd behavior, and lurid talk by women are actually encouraged by the feminist movement. (If men are going to objectify women with lust and porn, we’re going to objectify them right back. Really? This is equality? The right to sink to the same depth of degradation as the scuzziest of men? No thanks.) Watch any sitcom or drama on TV. You’ll see it soon enough. And, of course, there’s money to be made by making women into consumers of porn and other sexual material, so the businesses that peddle these things encourage women to lust as well. All of which means that today, just a hundred years later, far more women are struggling with the sin of lust.

So we can see that the reality is that lust is a temptation experienced by some women, even though men are more prone to it.

According to Lesley, women lust more now than yesteryear because of — drum roll, please — FEMINISM. That’s right, dirty, filthy feminists are leading Evangelical paragons of moral virtue astray. When it comes to men lusting, the typical subject of blame is women. If women only dressed a certain away, Christian men would refrain from wanting to fuck them in the pews during the singing of Just as I Am. Teen Evangelical boys would maintain their virginity — technically, since all Evangelical boys and men masturbate — until their wedding days if girls would hide their sexuality and feminine shape with Little House on the Prairie dresses. Women are viewed as gatekeepers, and it is up to them to protect the moral virtue of weak, pathetic horn dog Evangelical men.

Evangelical women, on the other hand, are ravaged not by men, but by secularism and feminism. Television, in particular, is to blame for Evangelical women lusting after men who are not their husbands.

Lesley concludes:

Jesus came to die on a cruel rugged cross to pay for the sins of the flesh. He would never have thought of using another person to gratify His own selfish desires. How could we?

Is lust a sin for women too? Absolutely. Stop it. Repent. Receive the merciful grace and forgiveness Christ offers.

When Evangelicals talk about sexual lust what do they mean? Lust is desiring someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse for sexual gratification. It’s looking at someone and saying, “nice, I would like to fuck you.” Thanks to 2,000 years of anti-human, anti-sex teaching, Christianity has caused countless Evangelicals to spend their lives wallowing in guilt, fearing that God will judge or chastise them for looking at someone’s ass and saying, “nice.” Taught that they are hopeless, helpless, powerless sinners, Evangelicals cast themselves on the supposed mighty power of Jesus — a Jewish preacher who never lusted, never had sex with a woman (or a man). As ex-Evangelicals know, Jesus is powerless when it comes to stemming human want, need, or desire. Ask yourself, who wins? Jesus or an erect penis? Jesus or a body flush with sexual desire? Sorry, but Jesus is no match for raging hormones.

Instead of causing all sorts of psychologically harmful guilt and fear, perhaps it is better to consider whether sexual want, need, and desire are normal and healthy? Is it normal for me to see an attractive woman (or man) and appreciate their beauty? As someone who believes in the importance of owning one’s sexuality, I am capable of sexually desiring someone without acting on that desire. That’s what grown-ups do. Forty-two years ago, I made a commitment to my wife to be sexually faithful to her. She made the same commitment to me. This commitment guides how I behave sexually. This doesn’t mean I can’t look, view porn, or watch TV with provocative sexual content. One of the interesting aspects of our post-Jesus marriage is that Polly and I are free to express ourselves sexually. In fact, I find it interesting to see the type of men whom Polly finds attractive. She really has a thing for gay guys. Having conversations about these things is no threat to our relationship. We are comfortable in our own skins sexually.

People marry for all sorts of different reasons. Not every couple marries for sex. I pastored several Christian couples over the years who married for companionship and financial security. One woman had no interest in sex. She was fine with her husband meeting his “needs” outside of their marriage. Since marriage is a contract between two people, it’s up to them to determine the sexual parameters of their relationship. What goes on between consenting adults is no one’s business but theirs.

Human biology tells us that it is normal and healthy for men and women to want, need, and desire sexual intimacy. This intimacy can take all sorts of shapes and forms. As long as it between consenting adults, why should anyone care about what goes on behind closed doors? Evangelical preachers, including female preachers such as Lesley, rage against premarital, extramarital, and LGBTQ sexual activity. Teens and young adults are commanded to keep themselves “pure” until their wedding days. No sex, no masturbation — just lots of praying and cold, cold, cold showers. As former Evangelicals know, the prohibitions against premarital sex failed spectacularly. Why? Sex is what humans do. Allegedly GOD made us this way. Why would God make us this way if he didn’t want us to act on our sexual needs and desires? If having sex is as natural as eating and drinking, why all the religious prohibitions against sex? One word: control. Lesley rages against secularists and feminists because both refuse to be controlled.

And therein is the essence of Lesley’s writing. Evangelical women are vile sinners, and if left to themselves they would fuck their way through the church. The only way to stop this from happening is to control them through fear and guilt. Imagine what Evangelical churches and marriages might look like if women were free to express themselves sexually? Talk about fun times at First Baptist Church! Of course, this is will never happen. The only way for women (and men) to be their authentic sexual selves is for them to exit their churches and the strictures of Evangelical dogma.

matt bomer

Lust isn’t the problem, religion is. Sure, some men and women can and do have inordinate sexual desires. And how such desires affect people personally and the relationships they have with others matters. However, this is not what Lesley and her fellow prohibitionists are focused upon. Oh no, they are worried about women ringing their doorbells while having thoughts of Matt Bomer. They are worried about normal, healthy sexual behavior. Why? The answer is always the same: The BIBLE says . . . For Evangelicals, the Bible is the equivalent of Master’s and Johnson’s books on human sexuality. Think about it for a moment: Evangelicals are governed sexually by an ancient Bronze age religious text; governed by the supposed pronouncements of a God no one has ever seen; governed by the words of an unmarried man who lived and died 2,000 years ago and was never seen again; governed by a man named Paul who, by all accounts, was a misogynist; governed by the sermons of men who don’t practice what they preach. Instead of “thinking” about their own sexuality, Evangelicals conform — at least outwardly — to their churches’ and pastors’ peculiar interpretation of the Bible. The goal? Obedience. Without said obedience, Evangelical churches would empty out overnight.

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.

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Why does Michelle Lesley Try so Hard to Demean Other Women?

michelle-lesley-vile-sinner
Michelle Lesley

Some atheists and other non-Evangelicals are indifferent towards the beliefs and practices of Evangelical Christians. Who cares? such people say. However, as someone who swims in the Evangelical swamp daily, I can tell you that Evangelical beliefs and practices can and do materially harm others.

Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) As with all forms of religious Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, at the very least, causes psychological harm to its practitioners. And in some cases, Evangelical beliefs lead to physical harm — spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, self-abuse to name a few.

Central to the psychological harm caused by Evangelicalism is the belief that all humans are vile sinners. According to Evangelicals, every human is born into this world a sinner at variance with God. Every person is the enemy of God, a hater of all that is good. Even after salvation/conversion/new birth, Christians are still affected and marred by sin. This is why Evangelical Christians are told repeatedly that they must deny self and submit to the arcane, anti-human teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by Evangelical sects and clerics).

An apt example of this thinking can be found in the writing of Michelle Lesley, a homeschooling Evangelical mother of six children. Today, Lesley shot a double-barrel load of “God wants you to know you are shit” at her readers, reminding them of how the thrice-holy God really views them. Titled, You’re Not Awesome…and You Know It, Lesley piously stated:

You’re not awesome or great or imbued with some radical purpose or potential that will magically make your life phenomenal and give you oodles of self esteem once you discover it.

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

….

Ladies, stop listening to this hearts and flowers, cotton candy, pump up your ego so you’ll feel better about yourself dreck, and put your faith and hope in the One who will never let you down. The One who looked at all your nasty thoughts and evil deeds and said, “I’m going to the cross for her anyway.” The One who sees all your daily faults and failures and is still willing to forgive when you repent. The One who’s faithful to you even when you’re not faithful to Him.

Stop focusing on how great you are – because you’re not – and put your focus on Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is. Because if you’re feeling bad about yourself, it’s not because you don’t have a high enough self esteem. It’s because you don’t have a high enough Christ esteem.

Got that? Lesley wants EVANGELICAL women to know, “You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. . . Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it.” If Lesley thinks this way about her fellow tribe members, imagine what she thinks about the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Lesley calls on her readers to abandon and deny self and put their focus on “Christ and how great, and awesome, and superfantastic, and terrific He is.” Does anyone doubt that Lesley has a life-sized photo of Jesus H. Christ above her bed and on her bedroom ceiling? Great, awesome, superfantasic, and terrific Jesus. He always hits the G spot. God spot . . . 🙂

While I am tempted to dismantle Lesley’s claims about the dead man named Jesus, I want to stay focused on the harm caused by Evangelical beliefs and practices. Imagine spending your teen years, married years, and every moment of every day hearing words similar to those written by Lesley. Remember, Lesley is not saying anything new here. Decades ago, a young Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor named Bruce Gerencser regularly pummeled congregants with similar dogma. How could I have done otherwise? I heard similar things my whole life, including at Bible college. The books that I read and the conferences I attended all reinforced the awfulness of the human condition. The only difference between the saved and lost was Jesus. 1 Peter 4:18 says:

And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

Evangelicals believe that True Christians® are “scarcely” saved, with just enough salvation to make it through the pearly gates after death. In fact, point out bad behavior by Evangelicals, and you will be reminded that Christians aren’t perfect, they are works in progress. That’s why believers needed to be reminded of their wretchedness and propensity towards sinful behavior. Exactly, then, what good is Jesus? If this is the best Jesus has to offer sinners, what good is he? If the new birth leaves Evangelicals no different from their atheist neighbors save their room reservation in God’s Trump Hotel after they die, pray tell what good is Christianity? If faith is not truly transformative, why bother? If Evangelicals are as vile as Lesley says they are, why would I want to be a member of their club? 

Is it any wonder, then, that many Evangelicals — especially women — go through life psychologically marred and wounded? Spending your life being told you are a worthless piece of shit will do that to you. That’s why many ex-Evangelicals need extensive professional counseling. Personally, I had no sense of self. Bruce Gerencser had been swallowed up by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. I had no idea who I really was. In fact, I still battle these things to this day. And so does my wife. How could it be otherwise? A lifetime of anti-human conditioning will do that to you.

The good news is that both Polly and I are learning day by day to embrace self. We have learned that many of the behaviors that Evangelicals call sins and affronts to God, are anything but. We used to have extensive sin lists. Today, our “sin” lists fit on a post-it note. Progress, to be sure, but wounds from our Evangelical pasts run deep. Will we ever be whole again? I doubt it.

I continue to work towards the marginalization and death of Evangelicalism because I know firsthand the harm it causes. I suspect many of the readers of this blog have similar testimonies. If you do, please share them in the comment section.

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.

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