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Category: Evangelicalism

Songs of Sacrilege: I Ain’t Afraid by The Klezmatics

This is the forty-second installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is I Ain’t Afraid by The Klezmatics,  an American klezmer music group based in New York City.

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus
I ain’t afraid of your Yahweh
I ain’t afraid of your Allah
I ain’t afraid of your Jesus
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

I ain’t afraid of your churches
I ain’t afraid of your temples
I ain’t afraid of your praying
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

Verse
Rise up to your higher power
Free up from fear, it will devour you
Watch out for the ego of the hour
The ones who say they know it
Are the ones who will impose it on you

Chorus

Verse
Rise up, and see a higher story
Free up from the gods of war and glory
Watch out for the threats of purgatory
The spirit of the wind wont make a killing off of sin
and satan

I aint afraid of the Bible
I aint afraid of the Torah
I aint afraid of the Koran
Dont let the letter of the law
Obscure the spirit of your love it’s killing us

I aint afraid of your money
I aint afraid of your borders
I aint afraid of your choices

I aint afraid of your Sunday
I aint afraid of your Sabbath
I aint afraid of your teachers

I aint afraid of your dances
I aint afraid of your music
I aint afraid of your children
I’m afraid of what you do in the name of your god

Songs of Sacrilege: Fly From Heaven by Toad the Wet Sprocket

This is the forty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Fly From Heaven by Toad the Wet Sprocket an American alternative rock band.

Video Link

Lyrics

Paul is making me nervous
Paul is making me scared
Walk into this room and swaggers
Like he’s God’s own messenger
Change the name of my brother
Change the things that he said
Says that he speaks to him
But he never even knew the man
But I’d give my life for him

Like water through my hands
You’d give him any ending
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again
To this world again

Take whatever you’re needing
Take whatever you can
We are broken from within
Run to another land

Water through my hands
Or is it just beginning
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again
To this world again

They took my brother
They ripped him from me
To twist his words as they did his body
Denied his family
Denied his beauty
To lay him down at the feet
Of those he couldn’t save
Couldn’t save, couldn’t save

Will it be the end
Or is he still ascending
But if he’s all you say
Would he fly from heaven
To this world again, to this world again

Who Was Jesus?

jesus

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

Tony asked

I’d like to hear your thoughts on Jesus: who exactly do you think he was? I’ve read back through your archives to see if you covered it before, and found some thoughts, but would love to hear your take on specifically what you think Jesus was about. I sat in church last week and heard the old “JESUS CHRIST WAS EITHER A LIAR, A LUNATIC, OR LORD!!” sermon. Yeah, whatever… I find those options to be extremely limiting and I don’t see what authority anyone has to demand we choose only one of those. I also realize we are confined by getting much of our historicity of Jesus from the scriptures that were written decades after his death, and surely seem to be agenda-driven. But still, would like to hear your thoughts. Thanks for your great work on this blog, Bruce! Always enjoy reading.

Tony asks a question that tends to stir up all kinds of controversy. Some atheists now think Jesus was a myth, that everything the Bible says about Jesus is fiction. I am not one of them. I think Bart Ehrman’s arguments in Did Jesus Exist: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth and How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee provide ample evidence for Jesus being a real person (and I have no desire to debate this issue).

Christians answer this question with all sorts of faith claims based on their interpretation of the Bible. As a non-Christian, I look to history, including the history found in the Bible, to determine who Jesus was. The Christian says, you mean who Jesus IS, right? No, that would be a faith claim. I know of no compelling evidence for the belief that Jesus, the son of God, resurrected from the dead and is now in heaven interceding on behalf of his followers. What the evidence does tell us is that a man by the name of Jesus lived in Galilee, was some sort of religious or political figure, and was likely executed. He lived, he died, end of story.

Some atheists think the Bible is a complete work of fiction. Again, I don’t agree with this position. I think within the Bible we can find historical facts. Granted, these facts are mixed in with distortions and fabrications, so I can understand why someone might say the Bible is historically unreliable. That said, I think most of what Christians say about Jesus has no proof outside of the Bible. Believing requires suspending reason and exercising faith. While the Christian is free to do so, I am not willing to accept that Jesus is who Christians claim he is based on the Bible says so.

Outside of the New Testament — a collection of books written by unknown authors 20 to 100 years after the death of Jesus — there is very little historical proof for the existence of Jesus. I can easily understand, if someone rejects the history found in the Bible and relies on secular sources alone, they might conclude that Jesus was a mythical being. Each of us must determine for ourselves if the evidence is sufficient to warrant thinking Jesus was a real person.

As textual critics and New Testament history scholars continue to punch holes in the Christian/Jesus narrative, some followers of Jesus are forced to reevaluate their beliefs. Sometimes, this leads to a loss of faith or, as in the case of the Evangelical, a move towards liberal Christianity. Sadly, the majority of American Christians could not defend their beliefs if their life depended on it. They wrongly think that the Bible narrative is true and that whatever their pastor tells them is rooted in historical fact. This is why books by Bart Ehrman and Robert M. Price are so deadly to faith. They confront the Evangelical with evidence their pastor or Sunday school teacher never mentioned. Once confronted, Evangelicals must determine how this evidence changes their view of God, Jesus, and Christianity. Some hold on to faith, others lose their faith or move on to sects that value scholarship over blind faith.

Personally, I consider Jesus’s sermon in Matthew 5-7 to be a powerful indictment of modern culture and much of American Christianity. I find great value in his teachings and the world would be well served if Christian and atheist alike embraced many of his teachings. Not all of them, of course, but I do find value in many of the things Jesus said. I can say the same thing about other moral/ethical writings, secular and religious.

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Ben Carson Refuses to Answer: Does the Bible Have Authority Over the Constitution?

flags near Fort Wayne Indiana
I saw these flags near Fort Wayne, Indiana. I wonder how many people driving by will notice the Christian flag flying above the American flag?

Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson, a Republican candidate for President, refused to answer a question concerning his view of the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. On , Chuck Todd asked Carson, “does the Bible have authority over the Constitution?” Instead of honestly answering YESCarson attempted to dance around the question

“That is not a simple question by any stretch of the imagination. I think probably what you have to do is ask a very specific question about a specific passage of the Bible and a specific portion of the Constitution. I don’t think you can answer that question other than out of very specific contexts.”

The religious right refuses to be honest about their intent. I hope this question will be asked at the upcoming Republican debate. It will be fun to watch the candidates all turn into Rick Perry, unable to give a cogent answer. Those in the know already know the answer: of course the Bible has authority over the U.S. Constitution. Silly Chuck Todd, surely he knows GOD wrote the Bible and every Word is straight from Jehovah’s printing press. There’s no book like the Bible, and even the U.S. Constitution pales when compared to it.

I doubt that every Republican candidate is a Bible thumper, but they all know they need the votes of the religious right to get elected. Offend the loony bin wing of the party and they will abandon you quicker than Newt Gingrich abandons a sick wife. The current slate of candidates is willing to say almost anything to win over their base, so be prepared for a lot of God talk during the debates.

Some of the candidates are theocrats who think the Bible DOES have authority over the U.S. Constitution. These candidates are a direct threat to our republic and I hope Republican voters will see them for what they are. Men such as John McCain and Mitt Romney were/are pragmatists, willing to say the right things to get elected. Once nominated/elected, such men tend to move towards the center in hopes of attracting independent and swing voters. The dangerous candidates are men like Ted CruzRick Santorum, and Scott Walker; men who put God and their peculiar religion before Country.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, the joining of church and state always leads to loss of freedom and bloodshed. When I entered the ministry in the 1970s, almost every Baptist preacher believed in a strict separation of church and state. Today? It’s hard to find a Baptist who is willing to say he does. Drunk on political power, Christians now demand that Caesar recognize that there is one true God, the Christian God. Like their counterparts in the Middle East, once these zealots gain the power of the state they will use it to institute a Christian form of government. Once they gain power over all three branches of government, non-believers should expect a loss of liberty as God’s chosen ones exalt the Bible over the Constitution.

I want to end this post with the words of a speech given by John F Kennedy on September 12,1960 to the Houston Ministerial Association. I would love to see every candidate for public office asked if they agree with Kennedy:

…While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in, and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a “divided loyalty,” that we did “not believe in liberty,” or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the “freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

And in fact ,this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died, when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom; and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey. But no one knows whether they were Catholic or not, for there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition, to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress, on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)— instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948, which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts. Why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their presidency to Protestants, and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France, and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser — in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the presidency — practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can “solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God.

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Defiance Family Fun Fest: Local Evangelicals Use ‘Fun’ to Evangelize Children

children choosing christ tent

If there is one thing I’ve learned about Evangelicals and conservative Christians, it is hard for them to get together and just have fun. Everything is a means to an end. It’s hip now for several local churches to go out in the community and “help” others. Dressed in their matching church advertisement shirts, out in the community they go to do good works for Jesus. Why is there a need to advertise the church or hand out printed materials with the church’s name on it? If it is all about Jesus, why not do these works anonymously? Instead, these social outreach programs are used as a means to evangelize and attract church members. While they certainly do some earthly good, the grand goal is to win souls to Jesus and increase the church roll.

Years ago, the churches I pastored sponsored numerous fun events for local teenagers. From all-nighters at the YMCA to roller skating and bowling, we would design activities sure to draw local teens. During every event we would have a time when we gathered everyone together and preach the gospel. You see, fun was not the objective, salvation was. Teenagers endured the preaching and high pressure evangelism because they knew that fun awaited them just beyond saying the sinner’s prayer.

Last Saturday was the inaugural Defiance Fun Fest. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind a paywall):

Several Defiance area churches are partnering with Ravens Care of Defiance to present the first ever Family Fun Fest, Aug. 1 from 4-7 p.m. at Diehl Park in Defiance…

Family Fun Fest is an opportunity for families to spend time together enjoying food, fun and friends, all for free. The event has been underwritten by the Defiance Police Officers Association, First Federal Bank, General Motors Defiance Casting Operations, Johns Manville, Midwest Community Federal Credit Union and The State Bank.

The idea started when Pastor Rick Rufenacht of First Church of God in Defiance talked with other pastors about working together on an event that would minister to people in the Defiance community. His church had done a similar family event the past six years, but he was looking for a greater impact on Defiance.

“I had attempted to get some pastors together to talk about doing ministry together and what that might look like,” said Rufenacht…

…Katye Katterheinrich, director of Ravens Care, loved the idea of a family event.

“There are so many adult events in our area, but this is an event geared toward families, and it’s free,” said Katterheinrich. “There are a lot of families that don’t get to go on vacation, that don’t get to go to the pool, that don’t always have these kind of opportunities. Ravens Care is supported by area churches, so working together on a family event with the churches, is really natural fit.”

Pastor Max Begley of Second Baptist Church in Defiance, is pleased to be a part of this event and the spirit of cooperation that has grown among the churches and with Ravens Care.

“Each individual church may not be able to do a family festival by itself because it may be limited by resources, so by coming together, we can do something better together that has a greater positive impact on the community,” said Begley. “Because Rick and his church had already been doing this, we agreed to work together to build on that, and once we did, it started coming together quickly.”

Several of my grandchildren attended the event.  According to the newspaper, Fun Fest included:

…large inflatable attractions, Zorbs, hot dogs, popcorn, sno cones, cotton candy, games, crafts by Lowes of Defiance, a karate demonstration, a demonstration from Iron Faith Fitness Center of Defiance, a photo booth, Defiance firemen and fire trucks, Defiance policemen and cruisers, Defiance County Sheriff’s Office, DARE and K-9 dogs.

What’s not to like, right? Sounds like a lot of fun and the proceeds went to support Ravens Care, a “Christian Ministry dedicated to meet needs in the community that are not being met by other agencies.”  I am all for any “ministry” or program that helps the least of these, but  works of charity should not be used a means to evangelize non-Christians. While Ravens Care, as far as I know, does not evangelize those they serve, the Family Fun Fest did.

Children were able earn coupons/tickets that could be turned in for rides on the inflatables. Guess what one of ways was that children could earn tickets?  Attending a gospel presentation at the ” ‘Choosing Christ’ tent for kids, (a program) designed to allow kids to learn the gospel message.” Hey kiddies, want to earn some tickets so you can go play on the big, fun rides? Just sit here and let us tell you about Jesus. As any adult who was evangelized like this as a child will tell you, what’s a little preaching and praying when you get to play games and do fun stuff when you are done. Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I know you died on the cross to save me from my sins. Come into my heart and save me. In Jesus name, Amen. Tickets please!

I did a cursory Google search for the Children Choosing Christ tent and I found out that this tent is used to evangelize at NW Ohio fairs and special events. While I was unable to find out what group or person owned the tent, I was told that the preaching in the tent was decidedly Evangelical, geared to evangelizing and converting impressionable children. In any other context we would consider such behavior predatory and harmful.

Holy Spirit Tells Jeremiah Johnson That Donald Trump is the Trumpet of God

donald trump

According to the CHARISMA website, Jeremiah Johnson is a prophetic minister. In other words, God talks directly to Johnson. Johnson, an elder at Heart of the Father Ministry in Lakeland, Florida, recently heard from God about Donald Trump: (link no longer active)

Trump shall become My trumpet to the American people, for he possesses qualities that are even hard to find in My people these days. Trump does not fear man nor will he allow deception and lies to go unnoticed. I am going to use him to expose darkness and perversion in America like never before, but you must understand that he is like a bull in a china closet. Many will want to throw him away because he will disturb their sense of peace and tranquility, but you must listen through the bantering to discover the truth that I will speak through him. I will use the wealth that I have given him to expose and launch investigations searching for the truth. Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election. You must listen to the trumpet very closely for he will sound the alarm and many will be blessed because of his compassion and mercy. Though many see the outward pride and arrogance, I have given him the tender heart of a father that wants to lend a helping hand to the poor and the needy, to the foreigner and the stranger.”

Well, one thing is for sure…Donald Trump is a blowhard, the next Herb Alpert of God’s brass band of fools.

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Get Right With God,Consult the Bible When Making A Decision, and Keep America Communist Free,

Now that’s a headline. What follows are photographs I shot while out and about in rural Northwest Ohio.

get right with god

I found this sign along U.S. Hwy 127 south of Sherwood, Ohio.  Recently, the Defiance Crescent-News featured an article written by Isaiah Ross about this sign:

Along U.S. 127 and Paulding County Road 424 is a cross that simply states: “Get right with God.” Amid word that the beloved cross would be removed, the past few weeks have been filled with heated emotional debate.

The cross was to be picked up by the American Sign Museum located in Cincinnati, whose founder Tod Swormstedt said the acquisition was supposed to be a birthday surprise from his girlfriend, Nancy Herbert. Herbert’s friend Cate O’Hara was heading up to Bryan with her daughter when she noticed the sign off the side of the road. O’Hara, knowing Swormstedt’s involvement with the American Sign Museum, contacted Herbert to inform her of the cross. The surprise was reportedly ruined when Swormstedt was notified of it after a local newspaper ran a historic account of the cross last week. However, Thursday morning, he received news that the sign was no longer available for pickup.

The cross was placed there by Rev. Harrison Mayes around 1966 in his journeys throughout the country. Mayes took to working in the coal mines at a young age, and when he was a young man, an accident caused him to be trapped in a mine. He prayed and prayed to God, vowing to live the rest of his life in God’s service if he survived the predicament.

His prayers were answered. Mayes made it through to fulfill his side of the covenant, so he took to his bike and used his building skills to construct, paint, and place his signs where he saw fit.

Through the course of his life, Mayes made many signs, each of which is large enough to be easily seen and read from the road. All of them share a similar message of being prepared and getting saved. Several signs stand erect in the greater region around his home in Fork Ridge, Tenn., but they are present in 22 different states. Some are as far north as northwest Ohio, where locals have seen the Cecil area cross and one that used to be near Antwerp before an accident destroyed it. As he knew his days were coming to a close, he began writing on his signs where he wanted them placed, in hopes someone would continue the efforts of his lifelong promise…

Across the road from the Get Right With God sign I found this billboard:

decision to make

Isn’t it good to know that the Bible is a one-stop shop for all your decision-making needs? Need to decide what to make for dinner? Check the Bible. Need to know if brown shoes go with blue slacks? Check the Bible. I’m sure that the billboard owner has a more spiritual intent in mind, something along the lines of getting saved.

Tuesday, Polly and I drove to Fort Wayne to attend the Dayton Dragons vs. Fort Wayne Tin Caps baseball game. I’ve been battling an upper respiratory infection for the past week or so, and by the time we got to the stadium I was in no shape to sit in 93-degree heat and watch a game. So we turned around and came home. Here’s a sign I photographed on a country road outside of Antwerp, Ohio.

keep america communist free

Ah yes, Joseph McCarthy lives on.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Pastor Bo Wagner Says A World Governed by the Bible Would be Wonderful

atheists read the bible

Bo Wagner, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church, Mooresboro, North Carolina, thinks the world would be a great place if everyone would just read the Bible and put it into practice:

The guidance found in the Bible does not work. Not because it is flawed, but because it is no longer even known. Society seems to have latched on to exactly two words from the Bible — “judge not” — and appears fairly oblivious to everything else within its pages.

That is a shame, because the counsel of Scripture actually does work when it is known and applied. And that brings my mind to an intriguing question: What if everyone knew about and applied the actual words of Scripture?

What if, for instance, every time someone is offended over a flag or a symbol or a mascot or some unintentional slight, we taught and applied the words of Psalm 119: 165: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Can you imagine the blessing of a society that is no longer professionally offended at almost everything?

What if each and every time a white who is racist against blacks or a black who is racist against whites had people of their own color quoting the words of Acts 10:34-35 to them: “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Can you imagine how quickly racism would go away if people used the words of Scripture to confront racists of their own color?

What if nations, especially ours, were forced to live within their means by a country full of people demanding adherence to sound scriptural principles of money management, such as having to live on a budget rather than on credit? Jesus said in Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”

If people of every creed and color and political party refused to ever elect anyone who ran a nation on credit, imagine the fiscally sound country we would have to leave our children and grandchildren.

What if every preacher suddenly remembered that one of his jobs is to do as God commanded Isaiah in Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”

Every preacher in the Bible, Old or New Testament, Jesus included, preached against sin. Jesus told a woman involved in sexual sin to “sin no more.” Imagine how clean and right our society could be if preachers stopped behaving as celebrities and instead started crying aloud against sin again.

What if every Christian started obeying Psalm 101:3: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” What if they turned off every filthy commercial and refused to shop at business who use them? What if they ceased to look at any form of pornography? What if they refused to allow impurity in their hearts through the eye gate? How much more power of God would be upon us.

And what if every Christian started living as if he believes that Jesus actually could come back today? He told us in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” How “Christ-like” would Christians actually be if they lived every day with the realization that it could be today?…

Wagner, a professor at Carolina Bible College, an unaccredited King James-only institution, thinks the Bible is the cure for what ails us. If we would just start reading and obeying the King James Bible, all would be well. Wagner thinks the controversy over racist mascots, the confederate flag, and the Black Lives Matter campaign could easily be solved if those who are offended would just stop being offended. In other words, let the racists do what they want. Wagner thinks that if more preachers preached against sin, there would be less sin. How’s that working out? In uncounted Baptist churches known for their stand against sin, accusations of sexual misconduct, theft, and child molestation have been levied against pastors, choir leaders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and everyday, run-of-the-mill Christians. It seems that the word of God provides no inoculation from sin. If Christians can’t/won’t live by the teachings of the Bible, why should the rest of us?

I seriously doubt Wagner wants non-Christians to just pick up the Bible and start reading it. Doing so would likely lead people to believe things that Wagner and his fellow Evangelicals consider heretical or sinful. Incest, rape, polygamy, murder, genocide, and slavery, to name a few, find support in the book Wagner wants everyone to read. I suspect what he really means is that he wants everyone to read the Bible through his Evangelical interpretive grid. Just reading the Bible without wearing Wagner Interpretive Glasses®  is not advised.

I actually agree with Wagner. I wish EVERY Christian would take the time to read the Bible from cover to cover. With a skeptical, critical eye, every Christian should read every word in the Good Book. Don’t ask a religious leader to guide you. Just read it. Don’t try to parse it though a particular sect’s interpretive lens. Just read it. Make a list of the things you didn’t know were in the Bible. Make a list of things that don’t make sense or offend your moral sensibilities. When finished, take your double-sided ten-page list to your pastor and ask him to answer your questions. Tell him you want answers, not faith.

And let the fun begin . . .

Notes

Carolina Bible College is affiliated with Macedonia Baptist College (link no longer active) and Bright Light Baptist Church. I found the websites for these entities not only to be poorly designed, but quite confusing. While Carolina Bible College does offer a handful of on-site classes, everything else is done through correspondence and online.  Undergraduate work is $15 a credit hour, postgraduate work is $30. The school offers up to 64 credit hours for life experience. The fee for life experience is $7.50 per credit. You can find the college’s handbook/catalog here (link no longer active).

Word of Mouth Publishers (link no longer active) is the publishing ministry of Bo Wagner. According to the ABOUT (link no longer active) page, Wagner has a doctorate from Carolina Bible College.

Bo Wagner Twitter.

Friendly Atheist article on Bo Wagner.

Roll to Disbelieve article on Bo Wagner.

2012 Shelby Star article on Bo Wagner.

Why Catholic Millennials are Leaving the Church

catholic church

Millennials, those born between 1981-2000, (there is some debate over the exact time frame) now ages 15 to 34, are less religious than their parents and grandparents. Why they are remains a subject of intense debate. Regardless of the reasons why, millennials are less likely to be a part of an organized religion than earlier generations. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, nones, those who are not affiliated with any religion, continue to increase numerically. 55 million Americans are now a none.  Granted, this is still a small percentage of the total U.S. population, but 34-36% of millennials are a none, compared to just 17% of their parents and 11% of their grandparents.

While the media tends to focus on millennials leaving Evangelical sects and churches, the Catholic church also has a millennial problem. Kaya Oakes, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a one time atheist who returned to the Catholic church of her youth,  had this to say about the Catholic church and millennials:

A new survey from Catholics for Choice on the opinions of Catholic millennials as regards doctrinal issues might make the church’s traditionalists want to brace themselves. But its findings are also somewhat unsurprising to anyone who spends time around younger Catholics, whose political and social leanings mirror the open-minded stances of their increasingly non-religious peers.

Birth control and abortion, arguably the Catholic church’s most contentious issues, are not always perceived in a negative light by young Catholics. Among those polled, more than half say abortion should be legal in “almost all” or “most” cases, and 31 percent say it should be legal in “just a few” cases. Only 17 percent say it should be illegal. 78 percent say birth control should be included in insurance coverage, no matter where a woman works.

In spite of the widely mocked Catholic Vote video of young people “coming out” as believing that marriage is between a man and a woman, marriage equality is embraced by Catholic millennials. 69% “strongly” or “somewhat” support legal same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the firing of multiple Catholic school teachers who are openly gay or lesbian or married to a same-sex partner, and the ensuing grappling over Catholic teacher contracts that explicitly prevent teachers from being open about their sexuality, younger Catholics have chosen the side of the teachers. 71% say Catholic schools should not be able to fire teachers for being LGBTQ. On gender in the church, Catholic millennials follow similar thinking, with 75% supporting women having an equal role in the church.

Pope Francis is popular among young Catholics, with only two percent having a negative view of him. But the American church hierarchy is not looked on so kindly, and there is an increasing emphasis on a separation between politics and religion. A full 80 percent of respondents said they felt no need to follow the bishops’ advice when it comes time to vote, and 77 percent said Catholic politicians were under no obligation to follow the bishops either.

They are also opposed by a wide margin to bishops withholding communion to the divorced and remarried, those who support legal abortion, and those who support marriage equality.

What’s missing from this survey, however, is the question of church attendance. How much are these Catholics who disagree with and question church teaching are actually showing up? Christian Smith, the head of the National Study of Youth and Religion at Notre Dame, says the situation with Catholic millennials participating in church culture is “in fact, grim.” Only 16% of millennials self-identify as Catholic according to Pew. That 16% is the group the church is struggling to hold on to.

So if they are increasingly choosing the liberal side in the culture wars, are they really still Catholic?…

…What is clear, however, is that the more young Catholics start to embrace marriage equality, safe and legal abortion, access to contraception, and the liberal side on many other issues in the culture wars, the more of those same Catholics will also drift away from a church they perceive as incapable of change.

Perhaps they’ll attend mass on occasion, and perhaps they’ll still call themselves Catholic, but in many ways, their faith will be a loose garment rather than a straightjacket.

growth of religiously unaffiliated 2014

age breakdown nones 2014

Songs of Sacrilege: Spirit in the Sky by Gareth Gates

This is the thirty-ninth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Spirit in the Sky by Gareth Gates, an English singer-songwriter.

Video Link

Lyrics

When I die and they lay me to rest
Gonna go to the place that’s the best
When I lay me down to die
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.

Prepare yourself you know it’s a must
Gotta have a friend in Jesus
So you know that when you die
He’s gonna recommend you
To the spirit in the sky
Goin’ up to the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best.

Never been a sinner I never sinned
I got a friend in Jesus
So you know that when I die
He’s gonna set me up with
The spirit in the sky
Oh set me up with the spirit in the sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Oh

Set me up to the Spirit in the Sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Goin’ on up to the Spirit in the Sky
That’s where I’m gonna go when I die
When I die and they lay me to rest
I’m gonna go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best
Go to the place that’s the best.

Bruce Gerencser