Menu Close

Category: Evangelicalism

The Four Ws of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Church Movement

four-ws-ifb

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement began in the 1950s as a response to theological liberalism among American and Southern Baptists. Pastors pulled churches out of their respective denominations and declared themselves INDEPENDENT. In the 1960s and 1970s, many of the Top 100 churches in America, attendance-wise, were IFB churches. The largest church in the country was an IFB church — First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, pastored by Jack Hyles. All across America, IFB big-shots held conferences to motivate and inspire preachers to do great exploits for God. Emphasis was placed on growing church attendance. The late John R. Rice, an IFB evangelist and the editor of The Sword of the Lord, is famous for saying, there’s nothing wrong with pastoring a SMALL church — for a while. Rice, Hyles, and countless other big-name IFB preachers believed a sure sign of God’s blessing on a church and a pastor’s ministry was an increase in attendance — especially a steady stream of unsaved visitors filling the pews.

IFB churches used poor children as a vehicle by which to drive up attendance. Bus ministries were all the craze in the 1960s-1980s. IFB megachurches ran hundreds of buses, bringing thousands of people — mostly poor children — to their services. Churches ran all sorts of promotions and gimmicks to attract bus riders — world’s largest banana split, hamburger Sunday, and free bike giveaway, to name a few. Once at church, children were shuffled off to junior church programs. Teens and adults usually attended the main worship service. IFB churches often had programs to “reach” deaf people and the developmentally disabled (or “retard church,” as it was called back in the day). The goal of all of these programs was to bring hordes of unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines to the church so they could hear the gospel and be saved.

I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio for eleven years. I started the church in 1983 with sixteen people. By the end of 1987, church attendance reached 206 — quite a feat in a poverty-stricken rural area. Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in the county. At the height of the church’s attendance growth, we operated four Sunday bus routes. Each week, buses brought in a hundred or so riders, mostly poor children from the surrounding four-county area. We also ran a bus route on Sunday nights for teenagers. For several years, Somerset Baptist Church was THE place to be. There was a buzz in the services as visitors got saved and baptized. All told, over 600 people put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And that was the primary goal. A good service was one during which multiple sinners came forward to be saved and repentant Christians lined the altar getting “right” with God.

During my IFB years, I attended numerous soulwinning conferences. These meetings were geared towards motivating pastors and churches to win souls for Christ. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the 1970s. One of the songs we sang in chapel went something like this:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry
Souls for Jesus we’ll fight until we die
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry

Midwestern held annual soulwinning contests. The student bagging the most souls for Jesus received an award. Founded by Tom Malone, the pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, in the 1950s, Midwestern’s goal was to turn out soulwinning church planters. Students were required to attend church at Emmanuel. This provided the church with hundreds of people to run their bus routes, Sunday school, and other ministries. During the 1970s, Emmanuel was one of the largest churches in the United States, with a high attendance of over 5,000. (Today, Emmanuel is defunct.) Everything about the church and college revolved around evangelizing the lost. Students were required to evangelize door-to-door, seeking out lost sinners needing salvation. My favorite story from my days pounding the pavement in Pontiac came one Saturday when a young couple decided to give the two young preacher boys banging on their door a surprise. You never knew how people might respond to you when you knocked on their doors, but this couple so shocked us that we literally had nothing to say. You see, they answered the door stark naked!

What follows is the Four Ws plan many (most) IFB churches followed when I was a pastor: Win them, Wet them, Work them, Waste them. The Four Ws are still followed today, even though the IFB movement as a whole is dying, with decreasing attendance, and fewer and fewer souls saved and new converts baptized.

Win Them

The goal is to evangelize unsaved people. “Unsaved” includes Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Hindus, and countless other liberal or non-IFB sects, along with atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, Satanists, and anyone else deemed “lost.”  My goal as a pastor was to go out into the community and knock on every door, hoping that I could share the gospel with locals. I implored church members to invite their family, friends, and neighbors to church so they could hear me preach and, hopefully, be saved. When we went out on street ministry, the goal was the same: preaching the gospel and winning the lost. When we had revival meetings, members were expected to attend every service and bring visitors with them. Again, the grand objective was bringing people to faith in Jesus Christ. Soulwinning is the lifeblood of the IFB church movement. (This is not necessarily a criticism on my part. The Bible seems to teach that Christians are to win souls. IFB churches take this charge to heart; most other churches don’t.)

Wet Them

The first step of “obedience” new converts are told about is baptism by immersion. New converts are encouraged to be baptized right away. Typically, IFB churches have a lot more new converts than they do new baptisms. There is a joke that goes something like this: why do IFB churches baptize people the same Sunday they are saved? Because most of the new converts will never attend church again! IFB churches typically go through a tremendous amount of membership churn. It is not uncommon for churches to turn over their entire memberships every five or so years. I was taught by seasoned pastors not to worry about churn. Just make sure more people are coming in the front door than are leaving out the back door.

Work Them

Once people were saved and baptized, they are given a to-do list: pray every day, read the Bible every day, attend church every time the doors are open, tithe and give offerings, witness, and find a “ministry” to work in. Many IFB congregants are pilloried over not working hard enough for Jesus. Pew warmers are subjected to guilt-inducing sermons, reminders that Christians should want to be found busy working for Jesus when he comes again. No matter how much I tried to get congregants to join me in the work of the ministry, most of them showed up on Sundays, threw some money in the offering plate, listened to my sermons, and repeated the same things week after week. There was, however, a core group of people who drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak. Along with their pastor, they worked, worked, worked. The same group attended every service, gave most of the money, and staffed the church’s ministries. They were, as I was, True Believers®. (Many of the regular readers of this blog who were former IFB Christians were True Believers® — people who worked nonstop to win souls and staff their churches ministries.)

Waste Them

Eventually, the work, work, work pace wears out even the best of people, myself included. I have no doubt my health problems began back in the days when I believed it was “better to burn out for Jesus than rust out.” I worked night and day, as did the people who followed in my steps. Over time, preacher and parishioners alike ran out of steam. Ironically, the steam venting happened at Somerset Baptist around the time I embraced Calvinism. It was Calvinism, in many ways, that rescued me from the drive and grind of the IFB church movement. Over time, church attendance declined as we stopped running the buses and people moved on to other, more “exciting,” churches. Instead of being focused on evangelization, I set my sights on teaching congregants the Bible through expository preaching. We still were evangelistic, but gone were the days when we were focused on numbers. It was Calvinism that allowed me to take a deep breath and relax a bit.

People aren’t meant to work night and day. Eventually, they burn out. That’s what happened to me. I truly thought Jesus wanted me to work non-stop for him. However, I learned way too late that we humans need rest and time away from the grind. Many of my pastor friends figured this out long before I did. I considered them lazy, and indifferent to the lost in their communities (and some of them were). However, they understood the importance of maintaining their health and spending time with their families. While I eventually came to understand the importance of these things, I wasted the better years of my life.

Were you an IFB pastor or church member? Did your church follow the four Ws? Please share your thoughts, insights, and experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Banality of Evil in America

guest post

Guest Post by Larry

There are truly evil individuals in this world, people whose crimes cannot be explained as anything but the workings of an evil person. The mass shooter, the greedy financial criminal, and the sex abuser are just a few of the innumerable examples. However, these people and their acts tend to be visible and infrequent. Far less visible, but far more common, are the “ordinary” people who commit evil acts every day. Today we have a phrase for this: the “banality of evil.”

The phrase “banality of evil” was coined by philosopher Hanna Arendt. She was referring to the absolute indifference shown by Adolph Eichmann to the horror in which he was complicit when he organized the transport of tens of thousands of human beings to their deaths in the concentration camps. His only concern was being a good civil servant, getting ahead in the Nazi party, and pleasing his boss. Eichmann committed these acts of evil without the slightest thought or concern that he was doing something terrible. To him, it was just a civil service job and he was just following orders. To all outside appearances, he was an ordinary person, not a sadist or deranged monster and he did these horrible things with no apparent evil intention. The utter ordinariness of the man was astounding. This is the most frightening aspect of all. He seemed just like everyone else. And yet, he and thousands of other ordinary people committed these horrible acts without a second thought. Viewed in this context, the Banality of Evil may simply mean that evil occurs when ordinary individuals are put into corrupt situations that encourage their conformity. Is this all it is? Probably not.

We then say “wait a minute. This happens everywhere, all the time.” We see the same banality of evil in America, not just in individuals but in the institutions that are supposed to take care of us. America is becoming an uncaring and brutal bureaucracy that is more intent on keeping the wheels of the “machine” running than the welfare of the people that are caught and crushed in its gears. For the sake of expediency and maintaining the status quo people are sacrificed. We see it everywhere we look.
The current immigration policy at the southern border is broken and has become a symbol of the horrors of a mindless and evil bureaucracy. This is a bureaucracy more concerned with upholding a policy intended to “deter” immigration than minimizing the pain and suffering that it inflicts on its victims. This is evil of the worst kind, the evil of utter uncaring and stunning indifference. This evil allows children to die in custody awaiting medical attention. This system allows children as young as one year old to be separated from their families and put in cages where they have to sleep on foam mats with only aluminum emergency blankets. This system allows hundreds of children to be “lost” in the system, unable to be located or reunited with their parents. And finally, yes, this is the immigration system that, today, allowed children to be held in vans for up to 36 hours waiting to be reunited with their parents. This is the system that allowed 900 people to be crammed into a space intended to hold 125 people in an El Paso detention center. This is clearly a concentration camp mentality in present-day America.

There are three justice systems in this country. One if you are White, one if you are Black, one if you are rich and powerful. Examples of the third are everywhere: Jeffery Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and, of course, Donald Trump. All these men got more than just the benefit of the doubt from our legal system. With armies of lawyers, they got special deals and preferential treatment at every turn. These lawyers are adept at gaming the system so that nothing gets done and their client walks. The regular guy gets jailed. About 1,000 people are killed by police in America every year. A disproportionately large portion of them are Black. Rarely, if ever, are police held to account for these deaths. The George Floyd killers are the rare exceptions. Most of the time, they go uninvestigated by any independent third party. The word of the cop is taken as the gospel truth, and the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card, qualified immunity, is used to get away with murder. Injustice is everywhere.

Religion is supposed to save our souls and enrich our lives by teaching us a better way of living. Religion has given us many good things. It has given us a moral code from which our laws are derived. It is also the source of a huge amount of pain and suffering. Our Puritan history has left us with a legacy of guilt and shame that is perpetuated to this day in so many ways. Organized religion is at the center of all of it. Catholic, Protestant, and to an extent, some Jewish sects, all fill our lives with rules and demands that are impossible to meet. When they are not met, we are labeled as shameful, lazy, lewd, evil, sinful, and we are punished. All the while the real evil of the people running the “house” goes unchecked. They sweep their excesses under the rug and play the “I am more virtuous than you” game. When caught, they sing the “forgive me, I am a sinner” song. So we do as they have taught us and forgive. And they go back to doing it again because they know that the system they run will protect them. They force religion down our throats and behind closed doors they commit the worst evils while quoting Scripture. It continues to boggle my mind how these people can see “demonic/satanic” evil under every bed, around every corner, but at the same time be totally blind to their own everyday evil. They are willfully blind to the evil of their actions, decisions, and beliefs and will justify horrendous things in the name of God, religion, and protecting the church. Thus, the church becomes the center of much human evil.

These examples are, sadly, only three among many. The conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which will fill our country with unwanted children that they will be the last to support and protect. They block any and all gun legislation, and in effect value guns before the lives of children. They endanger the future of the planet itself and all of us by denying climate change, all for the benefit of the fossil fuel industry that funds their elections. They are more interested in keeping their jobs than saving the planet.

No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good that he seeks. – Mary Shelley

The most terrifying aspect of this is the fact that, once again, all of this is being implemented by ordinary people, not monsters. Evil need not exist only in evil individuals. No one wakes up in the morning and says “it’s a great day. I think that I’ll be extra evil today.” They are intelligent, educated, rational people with families and children of their own. You have to ask, “How does this happen? How can they do this?” They do this because they are part of a draconian system that, little by little, robs them of empathy, humanity, and capacity to feel. It robs them of the capacity to see their own evil. For the sake of conformity, the paycheck, and advancement, they repress and compartmentalize their basic goodness (whatever basic goodness they have left), normalize the atrocities, and become mindless bureaucrats. All compassion and sympathy are erased. They implement the worst horrors without apparent remorse or a second thought. Like Eichmann, they are civil servants just following orders. They are just doing their jobs. They are ordinary people committing atrocities in an evil broken system, doing horrible things in our name, not because it is patriotic or right, but because it is expedient and they are just following orders. Their worst crime is they are unthinking drones unable or unwilling to see their complicity in this evil, unthinking in that they are incapable of seeing past the superficial, seeing the true nature of their acts. Bestselling author, M. Scott Peck (The Road Less Traveled), wrote a book on personal evil titled “People of the Lie” where he shows that one of the hallmark characteristics of these people is their inability to see their own evil. They have completely rationalized any awareness out of consciousness. They have become blind, deaf, and dumb to the consequences of their own actions. They have, in short, become blinded by their beliefs, by their ideology. This is the lie they tell themselves.

Very few monsters exist – “More dangerous are the common man, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions,” – Primo Levi

One must remember above all that evil can and does exist in normal individuals when they buy into and are captive to evil ideologies. Christian nationalism is one such ideology. Militant Islam is another. Racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and homophobia are all evil beliefs bought into by ordinary people. As a cautionary note, we have to remember that the Holocaust was implemented by tens of thousands of ordinary Germans just “doing their job,” following the Fuhrer and being good Nazis. They believed they were right. They believed they were serving the greater good. False as it was, this was their ideology and they firmly believed it. This was their lie.

Americans are arrogant to think that we are somehow fundamentally different from or better than the Germans of the Nazi era. We are not. We are ordinary people just like they were. We are captives of our own “evil’ ideologies just as they were. Trickledown economics, Deep State conspiracies. Blacks are inferior. Jews control the world’s finances. America was founded as a Christian nation. Socialism is taking over America. All lies. All bought into by ordinary Americans.

The mob that stormed the Capital on January 6th was largely ordinary people who bought into the lie that the election was stolen and they were defending freedom in America. This was their belief, their ideology. It was a lie for sure, but a lie so deeply rooted that the truth was rendered irrelevant.

The consequences of this are catastrophic. We are a country of ordinary people spiraling down to some dark evil place, blinded by the lies we are told, and the ideologies being fed to us by our trusted messengers. The harm that we are inflicting on ourselves will last for generations. We are all ensnared by these lies, and at this moment, there is no way out of the trap. These lies are turning all of us into unthinking drones, trapped in partisan tribes, unwilling and unable to see the larger picture, unable to see our own evil. If anyone thinks that we are incapable of committing atrocities, they are wrong.

This is the “banality of evil” in America just as Hanna Arendt intended the phrase. This is what America really is.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

1957-2020: Christmas Memories

christmas tree new lexington 1985
Our Christmas Tree, 1984, New Lexington, Ohio

Christmas has played a part in my life ever since I entered the world in June of 1957. In this post, I want to detail some of my memories of Christmas.

As a child, Christmas at the Gerencser home was a typical American Christmas. Family, food, and gifts. While there were never many gifts, my siblings and I always received several presents from our parents. My Dad filmed many Christmases with his 8mm movie camera. Sadly, after Dad died in 1985, the movies were either lost or destroyed.

In the 1960s Christmas at our home changed, and not for the best. My grandfather on my mom’s side remarried. My grandmother remarried several times, but was divorced by the late 1960s. My grandparents on my Dad’s side died in 1963. Grandpa Gerencser died February 1, 1963 and Grandma Gerencser died a month later on March 5. I was left with Grandpa and Grandma Tieken and Grandma Rausch for Christmas, and they didn’t get along.

robert gerencser 1950's
Christmas, Dad with his 8 mm Movie Camera

In the 1940s, Grandpa Tieken and Grandma Rausch went through an acrimonious divorce — a divorce that resulted in neither parent being deemed fit to raise their children. They had two children, my mother Barbara, and her brother Steve. Their hateful acrimony was on full display in the 1960s when Bob and Barbara Gerencser gathered for Christmas with their three children — Butch (that’s me), Bobby, and Robin. Into our family gathering would come the grandparents, teeth bared, hateful towards each other — likely fueled by alcohol. The fighting got so bad that it became necessary for us to have two Christmas gatherings, one for each grandparent.

In the summer of 1970, we moved from Deshler, Ohio to Findlay, Ohio. In the spring of 1972, my parents divorced. Dad would marry a 19-year-old girl a few months later, and Mom would marry her first cousin — a recent Texas prison parolee. From this point forward until I entered college, I have no recollections of Christmas. I am sure we celebrated Christmas. I am sure we had a tree, perhaps gave gifts, etc., but I have no recollection of it.

In the fall of 1976, I left Bryan, Ohio, and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll at Midwestern Baptist College, a Fundamentalist Christian college noted for training men for the ministry. In September of 1976, I began dating a beautiful 17-year-old freshman girl named Polly. She would be the last girl I dated, and two years later, in July of 1978, we married.

My first Christmas with Polly was in 1976. I drove from Bryan, Ohio, to Polly’s parent’s home in Newark, Ohio. Polly’s Dad, the late Lee Shope , was the assistant pastor at the Newark Baptist Temple, an IFB church pastored by her uncle Jim Dennis. The Shope/Robinson/Dennis family Christmas was a multifamily affair, with two sisters joining together to have the celebration. Christmas of 1976 was held at the home of Jim and Linda Dennis.

Being Polly’s boyfriend, I was a topic of discussion and inspection. Needless to say, I failed the inspection. I vividly remember Polly’s uncle letting the whole church know that I was there visiting Polly. He said, “Bruce and Polly have a shirttail relationship. We just don’t know how long the shirttail is.” While I have no doubt Jim was trying to be funny, Polly and I were thoroughly embarrassed. This coming year we will celebrate 45 years of marriage –so the shirttail has proven to be quite long and resilient.

As I entered the Dennis home, I was taken aback by how many gifts there were. Underneath the tree and flowing out from its trunk were countless gifts, more gifts than my siblings and I received our entire childhood. The number of gifts– what I would later label an “orgy to consumerism” — continued unabated for many Christmases.

Polly’s family was littered with Fundamentalist preachers — her dad, uncle, and grandfather, along with cousins who later became preachers or married one. They made sure they put a good word in for Jesus before the gift opening commenced. Every Christmas, one of the preachers, which later included Polly’s cousins and nephew, gave a short devotional reminding everyone that the birth of Jesus was the real meaning of Christmas. Interestingly, even though I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years, I was never asked to give the devotional. Make of that what you will.

After Polly and I married in 1978, we began to develop our own Christmas traditions. We spent Christmas Eve with Polly’s parents and Christmas Day with either my family in Bryan, Ohio, or with my Mom at her home in Rochester, Indiana, and later Columbus, Ohio. Polly’s family Christmas continued to be marked by the gift-giving orgy and lots of great food. Christmas with my Mom and family was a much more measured affair. Mom made sure her grandkids got several gifts, as did my grandparents and Aunt Marijene. Christmas at Mom’s house continued until around 1990 when she and her husband Michael moved to Michigan. The move was sudden and unexpected, and I came to understand later that they likely moved due to Michael’s shady business dealings with people who threatened to kill him.  Mom would commit suicide in April 1992, while living near my sister in Quincy, Michigan. Please see Barbara.)

Christmas 1983. Polly and I decided to have Christmas with my extended family at our home in Glenford, Ohio. I only remember two things from this Christmas: Grandpa and Grandma Tieken being their usual judgmental, pushy selves and Mom being upset with me because I made her go outside to smoke. This would be the first and last time my extended family came to our home. For the next decade, not one member of my extended family came to our home, save several visits by the Tiekens — whose visits were excruciatingly unpleasant and psychologically harmful. (Please see Dear Ann and John.)

Over time, I drifted away from my extended family. I began to see them as outsiders — people in need of salvation. I regret distancing myself from my family, but as with everything in the past, there are no do-overs. We continued going to my Mom’s for Christmas until she moved to Michigan. We continued going to Polly’s parents’ home for Christmas until circumstances forced us to stop going. I will detail those circumstances in a moment.

In the late 1980s, I came to the conclusion that Christmas was a pagan holiday, a holiday that no sold-out, on-fire Christian should ever celebrate. I unilaterally gave away all our Christmas decorations and we stopped giving our children gifts for Christmas. It’s not that we didn’t buy our children anything, we did. Our children, to this day, will joke that Christmas for them came when the income tax refund check showed up. Living in poverty with six children resulted in us, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit, receiving a large income tax refund. When the check arrived — an annual large infusion of cash into our bank account — we bought our children everything they needed — with “needed” being the operative word. While we bought our children clothes, shoes, underwear, and the like, we bought them very few toys. We left it to grandparents to buy those. We did make sure they had bicycles, BB guns, and firearms, but very few toys. Living as we did, 8 people in a 720-square-foot, battered, old trailer, required our children to spend a significant amount of time outside. Toys became whatever the kids picked up in the yard or woods. I have often wondered, looking at the wealth of toys our grandchildren have, if our children are not compensating for their childhood. I know, as we buy for our grandchildren, that we are.

During my “Christmas is a Pagan Holiday” years, I routinely disparaged the gift orgy that went on at Polly’s parent’s home.  At the time, I thought the money being spent on gifts could be better spent on evangelizing the lost. While I would later move away from the view that Christmas is a pagan holiday, I never lost the belief that many Christians are quite hypocritical when it comes to Christmas. Jesus is the Reason for the Season and Wise Men Still Seek Him, devout Christians tell us, but their orgiastic celebration of the true meaning of Christmas — consumerism — betrays what they really believe. After all, conduct reveals what we truly believe, right?

Over time, I allowed — remember, we were patriarchal in family structure — Polly to resume a low-key celebration of Christmas in our home. We had to buy new decorations because I gave all away our old antique decorations given to us by our mothers. For a time, we had an artificial Christmas tree. Since we moved back to rural Northwest Ohio in 2005, we have bought our tree each Christmas from the Lion’s Club in Bryan.

With my parents being dead, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Polly’s parents. This abruptly changed in 2010. I left the ministry in 2003 and we abandoned Christianity in November 2008. In early 2009, I sent out my family-shattering letter, Dear Family Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter fundamentally changed our relationship with Polly’s IFB family.

Christmas of 2009 was best remembered by a huge elephant in the middle of the room; that elephant being Polly and me and the letter I sent the family. No one said anything, but the tension was quite noticeable.

2010 found us, just like every year since 1978, at Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. This would be the last Christmas we would spend with Polly’s parents and her extended family. We decided to blend into the background, and besides short pleasantries, no one talked to us. Not that they didn’t want to. We found out later from one of our children that Polly’s uncle wanted to confront me about our defection from Christianity. Polly Mom’s put a kibosh on that, telling her brother-in-law that she had already lost one daughter and she was not going to lose another (Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All.)

I appreciate Polly’s mom being willing to stand up to the man who is generally viewed as the spiritual head of the family (and a bully). I am glad she put family first. If Polly’s uncle had confronted me there surely would have been an ugly fight. Whatever our differences may be, I deeply respect Polly’s parents. They are kind, loving people, and I couldn’t ask for better in-laws.

Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and throughout the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism behind it made for an uncomfortable evening.

Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Big Lots. One of Polly’s uncle’s grandchildren asked him what the plate was for. He replied, “to go poo-poo on” — poo-poo being the Fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life with James Dennis.)

On our way home the next day, I told Polly that I couldn’t do it anymore and she said neither could she. We decided to stop going to Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. We do try to see her parents during the holiday season, but we no longer attend the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Making this decision saddened us, but we knew we had to make it. (By the way, our children still attend the Christmas Eve gathering.)

We moved back to Northwest Ohio in July of 2005. Since then, our family has gathered for Christmas at our home on the Sunday before Christmas. Doing this allows our children to avoid conflicts with their spouses’ family plans for Christmas.

These days, Christmas for Polly and me is all about family, especially the grand kids. For us, Christmas has become a celebration of love, a celebration of the gift of a wonderful family. While we do not believe in the Christian God, we still enjoy Christmas music and all the other trappings of the Christmas season. It’s a cultural thing — no need to complicate things with religious demands and obligations. When twenty-three people pile into our grossly undersized living room to open presents, we are reminded of how good we have it.

This Christmas, thanks to a raging pandemic, our children and grandchildren will not be at our home celebrating with us. We have all our shopping done, and we plan on Christmas Eve to deliver our grandchildren’s gifts to their homes. Well, their driveways, anyway. It’s hard not to feel lonely this holiday season, but I hope by next Christmas COVID-19 will be behind us.

How about you? How has the way you celebrate Christmas changed over the years? If you are now a non-Christian, how do you handle your Christian family? Please leave your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Dr. David Tee Starts the Year with a Bang — As in Shitty-Shitty Bang-Bang

david thiessen
David Thiessen is the “small” tall man in the back

Dr. David Tee, whose real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, fired up his IBM-286 PC somewhere in a basement in the Phillippines and sent a year-end post about Bruce Gerencser and atheism to the blogosphere using a dial-up modem. Using his vast Neanderthal skills — my apologies to Neanderthals — Thiessen blathered on about four of my recent posts: Atheists are Leading the World Astray, “Normal” is a Just a Setting on a Washing Machine, The Age of Consent, and Is it Ever Okay to Lie? Thiessen did, at least for this post, stop using my content without linking to it. He did, however, refuse to call me by my name, leaving his ten readers uninformed as to who the “BG” character is.

What follows are Thiessen’s unedited comments about the content of the aforementioned posts. Enjoy. 🙂

Start of Thiessen’s words

We do not condemn the owner of the BG website as we know he was tricked and deceived into giving up his faith and salvation. But he continues to put mis-information about life, God and the Christian life & faith.

….

Their ‘worldview’ may be stripped of heaven and salvation but it is not based in reality. So far, the only thing the atheist can provide to support their statements and claims is mere denial. That is all they have, as they have no evidence to prove their claims true.

We have been waiting for years for them to pony up but the can’t. They can appeal to science but so far what science has only accomplished is to prove the scriptures correct.Any alternative claim science makes is unverifiable.

….

We will use the term ‘normal’ in a broader sense. Most people who do abnormal things, believe abnormal things and try to live alternative lifestyles want to feel accepted. They also feel that they are normal.

However, they are not as God has set the standard for normal and it is up to people to make sure they know what that is and ask God to help them get there. LGBTQ preferences are NOT normal. Being any type of fanatic is not normal thinking.

Normal is not just a setting on a washing machine. It is a standard that helps everyone see who needs help and who does not.

….

This is the problem with many unbelievers. They want to see everything black and white so they do not have to do any work to understand what God is saying to them. One way to determine when a child can have sex is if they are old enough to marry.

No one can have sex outside of marriage. But since God gave us intelligence and let us explore his creation, we can turn to science who tells us that the child’s body is not ready for sex until puberty has passed.

….

Sex with children is wrong and sex outside of marriage is wrong. All the passages of the Bible that speak on these issues will let a person know that Pedophilia is wrong.

God will say what people want to hear, they just have to be ready to understand what God is saying when he does not use the words people expect or want to see. It is sin that drives men and women to have sex with children and outside of marriage.is wrong. 

One needs to check their lusts and have Jesus cleanse them from that sin for them to see clearly what the Bible says about sexual relationships.

….

To answer the question in that article’s title- NO, it is never okay to lie. Jesus never lied and we, according to Paul, need to be like Jesus. The Bible also tells us that ‘we are not to lie one to another’ & ‘not to bear false witness’. 

If you look at those verses and in their context, you will not find any escape routes that allow lying. Sorry women, if you are going to add hidden meanings to your questions, then we have no sympathy if your feelings are hurt.

Men and women are not to lead their husbands or wives, or children, to sin against God. it is wrong to ask those loaded questions as it leads to having people sin. We would rather have your feelings hurt than disobey God.

When women ask if a hat looks good or not, or if their jeans make them look fat, men are responding to the topic in the question. They are NOT making remarks about the women in those hats, jeans, and other clothing. They are answering the question you posed.

Men will still accept you as you are, but they also want you to know how you look in those clothing items. It is not a rejection of you but letting you know how you look and it may or may not be appealing.

We have seen a lot of women out in public, who have not asked our opinion about their hairstyle, lip color, clothing, fashion look etc., who make us wonder how they could consider themselves pretty with what they have on.

To let someone go out like that in public is worse than hurting their feelings as more people will be laughing behind their backs at them because they were not stopped. When answering these types of questions, make sure to tell the truth with love and not brutal honesty. Use a little tact as long as it is honest and not disobeying God.

The Nazi Germany and hiding the Jews is a difficult question but if we remain true to God’s word, then we would not be able to lie even if it meant people losing their lives if we told the truth.

….

We are to obey God and lying is not obeying God, and this includes those little white lies people tell.

End of Thiessen’s words

I want to comment on one thing Thiessen said:

It is never okay to lie. Jesus never lied and we, according to Paul, need to be like Jesus. The Bible also tells us that ‘we are not to lie one to another’ & ‘not to bear false witness’. 

….

We are to obey God and lying is not obeying God, and this includes those little white lies people tell.

Lacking any sense of self-awareness, Thiessen doesn’t see the fingers pointing at him as he condemns ALL lying. Here’s a guy who has routinely borne false witness about me and Ben Berwick, and continues to lie about his name and his past — a past that includes abandoning his family. What I “see” is a hypocrite.

Happy New Year, David. May the Force Be With You. All praise to Loki in 2023.

signature
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Nashimen McKinnon Convicted of Taking Indecent Liberties with a Child

nashimen mckinnon

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.

In 2018, Nashimen McKinnon, youth pastor at Antioch Bible Fellowship in Fayetteville, North Carolina,  was accused of taking indecent liberties with a child.

The News & Observer reported at the time:

A Cumberland County youth pastor is accused of taking indecent liberties with a child during a sleepover he hosted at his Hope Mills home.

Nashimen McKinnon, 30, of Pleasantburg Drive is charged with three counts of indecent liberties with a child, according to arrest records. McKinnon told deputies he is a youth leader at Antioch Bible Fellowship.

McKinnon called the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office on Jan. 1 and told a deputy that he “touched a child five to six months ago,” according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. McKinnon said he lay beside a girl on the floor during a sleepover for church youth last July and inappropriately touched her over her clothes.

An investigation following McKinnon’s admission found that he inappropriately touched the same girl on at least two other occasions at church-related events. Deputies said McKinnon also said he sent the girl inappropriate text messages as recently as December.

ABC-11 adds:

The sheriff’s office said McKinnon contacted deputies on January 1 and asked for a deputy to come to his home because he had “touched a child five to six months ago at a sleepover.”

Deputies went to McKinnon’s home on Pleasantburg Drive in Hope Mills and completed a report and then took him for an interview at the Law Enforcement Center.

Deputies said McKinnon told them that at the sleepover, he lay next on the floor next to a minor and touched her breasts and buttocks on top of her clothing. McKinnon said he did not know whether the victim was aware of his actions. McKinnon also stated that he sent the victim inappropriate text messages in December 2017.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation revealed at least two other instances, at church-related events, where McKinnon is suspected of inappropriately touching the victim.

According to the North Carolina Offender Registry, McKinnon was convicted on April 11, 2018, and given probation. He is a registered sex offender. Why McKinnon received probation is unknown.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Christopher Lawton Sentenced to Prison for Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl

pastor christopher lawton

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.

In February 2021, Christopher Lawton, the former pastor of Lamplight Christian Church– an independent, non-denominational Christian congregation — in Greenfield, New Hampshire, was charged with thirty felony counts of sexual assault.

The Union Leader reports:

A former pastor who tried to start a church in Greenfield is charged with 30 felony counts of sexually abusing a child in his congregation.

Christopher D. Lawton, 43, of Francestown Road, allegedly assaulted the girl between 2015 and 2016 while he was her pastor.

Lawton was initially charged in October on 10 counts. The investigation continued and a grand jury recently handed up scores of new indictments.

The enhanced felony charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault accuse Lawton of using his position to coerce the alleged victim. Each count carries a 10- to 20-year prison term.

The new charges allege that the abuse took place in Francestown, Greenfield and Peterborough, according to the indictments. No affidavit has been made available in the case, and there are few public details outside of the indictment sheets.

Lawton tried to start a church in Greenfield around 2015, renting the town’s historic Meeting House for his services. He reportedly had a small congregation of 20 to 30 people before a domestic violence arrest in 2015.

Greenfield Police Chief Brian Giammarino has said the 2015 arrest brought Lawton and the sexual abuse allegations to the attention of police. The victim in that case left town, according to Giammarino, and the case fell apart.

However, it was during that domestic violence investigation that police learned of the sexual assault accusations, according to Giammarino.

The alleged victim denied there was anything inappropriate in the relationship with Lawton, Giammarino said. Two years later, the victim came forward and report the alleged sexual abuse, Giammarino said.

Earlier this year, Lawton pleaded guilty and was later sentenced to 7-15 years in prison.

Yahoo News reports:

Christopher Lawton, 44, received 7 1/2 to 15 years in state prison in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester in April on concurrent sentences for eight counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. Judge N. William Decker also imposed 10- to 20-year suspended sentences on eight additional counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault. The suspended sentences are concurrent to each other but consecutive with the other sentences.

Lawton pleaded guilty to those 16 charges, which allege he abused his authority as a pastor several years ago to coerce a teenage girl into sexual acts on several instances between January 2015 and June 2016. Prosecutors dropped more than a dozen additional felony sexual-assault charges as part of a plea agreement.

New Hampshire’s age of consent is generally 16. But under state law, it is a felony to abuse a position of authority to coerce someone under 18 into sexual acts. It is also a felony for a therapy provider to engage in sexual activity with a client of any age through coercion or otherwise unethical behavior. Prosecutors charged Lawton under both provisions, citing a “pastor counseling relationship” he had with the girl.

According to Greenfield selectboard meeting minutes from October 2014, Lawton ran an organization called the Lamplight Christian Church, and sometimes rented space at the Greenfield Meeting House to hold Bible study and worship services on Sunday.

As part of his sentences, the judge ordered Lawton to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18 and not to provide teaching or counseling services. If he successfully completes sex-offender treatment in prison, 2 1/2 years will be removed from the sentence he is serving, according to court documents.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

The Lies Evangelicals Tell Themselves About Atheists

liar liar pants on fire

It is common for Evangelicals to lie to themselves when confronted with facts and evidence that does not fit their worldview. One need only look at their theological beliefs to see how lies are routinely used to prop up beliefs that can no longer be intellectually and rationally supported. It’s the twenty-first century, not the sixteenth, yet Evangelicals continue to use past justifications to support their outdated, irrational, anti-human beliefs. In other words, they lie to themselves.

So it is for Evangelicals when it comes atheists. Let me illustrate how Evangelicals see atheists with a screen capture from an Evangelical discussion forum. I can’t remember which forum I found this, but it was either the Fundamental Forums, the Baptist Board, or the Puritan Board — three peas in a pod:

how evangelicals view atheistsA

According to this Evangelical dullard, atheism makes people angry, hopeless, and self-destructive. Sound familiar? This statement, of course, has no grounding in reality. This is a lie the man tells himself; a necessary lie in order for his worldview to make sense. In his worldview, the world is neatly divided into two categories: saved/lost, in/out, black/white, Heaven/Hell. Atheists, then, are lost and headed for Hell. Their refusal to believe in the Evangelical God is a sign of a reprobate mind; people who have been turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (Romans 1,2).  Fair enough, I suppose. That’s what the Bible says, right? I can’t fault Evangelicals for believing the Bible; even though they conveniently not-believe-it when it suits them. What people such as myself find irritating is the attacks on our character. Oh, you are an A-T-H-E-I-S-T?  Well, that means you live a life without meaning, purpose, and direction. You love to sin. No matter how often atheists correct this false notion, Evangelicals remain steadfast in their beliefs about atheists. No matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary, Evangelicals continue to lie to themselves about atheists. Why?

Evangelicals are convinced that they are, in God’s eyes, special; that Jesus has chosen to save them by his grace; that everything that happens in their lives is according to their God’s purpose and plan for them; that Heaven awaits them after they die — God’s reward for their faith and obedience. In order for these things to be true, atheists must be viewed as their enemies; people who hate God; people who follow Satan; people who have hopeless, empty lives; people who love to sin against the thrice holy God of the Bible. Of course, none of these things is true. The evidence at hand suggests that atheists on the whole live lives filled with purpose and meaning. Atheists don’t hate God or follow Satan, because they do not believe either exists.

For Evangelicals, atheists are evil personified. It’s been that way, in particular, ever since avowed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair successfully challenged the constitutionality of prayer and Bible reading in public schools. From the 1960s forward, atheists have become more vocal about their godlessness, and are far more willing to publicly and legally challenge the theocratic tendencies of Evangelicals. Groups such as American AtheistsFreedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Humanist Association have increasingly challenged Evangelical church and state violations in the courts — and have won. Things are so bad now for Evangelicals that even Satanists — who are atheists — are challenging the preferential treatment Evangelicals receive from the local, state, and federal government.

In reaction to what Evangelicals believe is a frontal assault on Christianity, they go out of their way to paint their atheistic enemies as bad, even evil, people. Atheists are called all sorts of names and tagged with all sorts of reprehensible behavior. Sure, there ARE atheists who are awful people, but talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Evangelicals have plenty of bad behavior going on in their own ranks, right? Evangelicalism is roiling with sexual abuse scandals and other sex crimes perpetrated by so-called men of God. (Please see the Black Collar Crimes Series.) Evangelicals have lost any sense of high moral ground, and are now considered the most hated religion in America. Many younger Americans believe Evangelicals are a hate group — people who despise LGBTQ people. Yet, despite all of this, Evangelicals continue to lie to themselves about atheists (and other non-Evangelicals). After all, if atheists have lives just as good and as meaningful as Evangelicals, why be a Christian? If atheists demonstrate the “fruit of the Spirit” without believing in said Spirit, what does that say about Christianity? If atheists love their spouses, love their children, hold down jobs, and contribute to their communities, what does that say about the claims Evangelicals make for their lives being “transformed” by the power of God? It seems to this atheist that Evangelical Christianity doesn’t offer anything that can’t be found outside of religion. Once the Bible with its Bronze Age foolishness loses its authority and power, people are free to craft meaningful, purposeful lives on their own terms. This scares the shit out of Evangelicals. And instead of accepting the fact that atheists are every bit as good, moral, and ethical as Evangelicals are, they lie to themselves as the man did in the above quotation.

There was a time when I would try to correct such false notions about atheists. I have, however, come to the place where I realize that until Evangelicals are willing to stop lying to themselves and are willing to see things as they are, there’s no hope of changing their minds. As long as their pastors preach thundering sermons and write scathing blog posts about the “evil” atheists, their lies will be reinforced. Who are they going to believe? Atheists, in their own words, or their pastors? Until Evangelicals come to the place where they rationally and skeptically weigh what their pastors say, they will continue to believe the lies that are told about atheists. There’s nothing we atheists can do about this except to continue living our lives in ways that give atheism a good name.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Romans 3: What the Bible Says About the “Human Condition”

Evangelicals believe that all humans are born sinners, at variance with God, and headed for Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. Evangelicals get their view of humanity straight from the Bible — a collection of books they believe is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. In their minds, the Bible is different from all other books. Divine in nature, perfect, and true, the Bible reveals to us God, the “human condition,” and what all of us must do to have right standing with the Christian deity and avoid eternal damnation in Hell. According to Evangelicals, atheists and other non-believers deliberately reject the truths of the Bible because they desire to live sin-filled lives. Never mind the fact that Evangelicals also live sin-filled lives. You see, they have an out — Jesus. No matter what terrible things they do, forgiveness and restoration are but a prayer away:

If we [Evangelicals] confess our sins, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

No bad behavior (sin) is beyond God’s forgiveness. King David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband murdered so he could have her for his own, yet he is called a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) We need only turn to the modern-day fall-from-grace/forgiveness stories of men such as Ted HaggardJimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, David Hyles, and countless other “fallen” Evangelical preachers to see how the process works. Those of us who were once Evangelicals have first-hand experience with the sin/forgiveness, wash/rinse/repeat process by which we procured continued right-standing with God. Daily and twice on Sundays, we confessed our sins to God and asked for his complete, total, buried-in-the-deepest-sea forgiveness:

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

And each and every time, God — or so we believed anyway — granted us forgiveness. Catholics had the confessional, and we Evangelicals had the altars, prayer meetings, and devotional times. In fact, forgiveness was so readily available that all we had to do is send up a quick prayer to Jesus. We could be at work, driving our cars, or cleaning up after masturbating to porn; it mattered not. All God required was for us to say “my bad, Jesus, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” And just like that our sin slates were wiped clean. Awesome, right?

Evangelicals believe they are hopeless and helpless apart from God’s grace. While Evangelicals often present themselves as superior to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, and other non-believers, when confronted with their own “sinfulness” they reply, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace!”  According to their doctrine, the only thing that keeps Evangelicals from spending eternity in the Lake of Fire with Hitler, Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, Barack Obama, and Bruce Gerencser is the moment in time they repented of their sins and asked Jesus to save them. Evangelicals see themselves as sinners who just so happened to have pushed the right button on the Eternal Hell Fire Insurance Policy® Dispensing Machine.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 3 reminded Christians and unbelievers alike of their true nature. Here’s how Paul describes the “human condition”:

  • None of us is righteous (vs. 10)
  • None of us understands (vs. 11)
  • None of us seeks after God (vs. 11)
  • None of us does good (vs.12)
  • All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory (vs. 23)

Paul goes on to describe the “human condition” this way:

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Paul in Romans 3 and other places reminds Christians that the only difference between them and non-Christians is faith (Ephesians 2:8,9 and Hebrews 11); faith in Jesus as the propitiation for sin (Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2); faith in the God-man who died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5); faith in the Jesus who promised to forgive us of every sin — past, present, and future.

Is it any wonder Evangelicals live such schizophrenic lives? On one hand, God commands them to live morally, ethically, and righteously, and even commands them to be as perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Yet, on the other hand, they are repeatedly reminded by Paul and other Biblical authors that it is impossible for them to keep, follow, and practice that which God commands. Thinking this way leads to all sorts of emotional stress. Evangelicals may be “sinners saved by grace,” but their behavior suggests that their lives are long on sin and short on grace. One need only read the Black Collar Crime series to see how such thinking affects Evangelicals. So-called men of God — pastors, deacons, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders — praise the wonders of God’s grace on Sundays, all while they are fucking their secretaries, sexually abusing boys and girls, seducing church teenagers, and otherwise engaging in behaviors that most people consider wrong. “Oh Bruce,” Evangelical apologists say, “these stories are the exception to the rule!” Really? You might want to read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare? before defending God’s spokesmen. You might also want to talk to pastors who are willing to be honest about their own “sinful” behaviors and that of their congregations — that which has been confessed to them in secret.

“Fine, Bruce,” Evangelicals say. “Are atheists any better?” To that question I reply, yes and no. Atheists don’t believe in “sin.”  Most atheists reject Evangelical moralizing about “sin” and instead focus on good and bad behavior. While atheists certainly have smaller “sin” lists, they do believe that certain behaviors can be categorized as good or bad, along with many behaviors being neither good or bad. Most atheists are humanists, and their humanism gives them a moral, ethical, and practical foundation for living one’s life. Atheists recognize that some of their brethren are despicable human beings, every bit as bad as the men of God detailed in the Black Collar Crime series. They also recognize that humans are capable of doing good without the help of imaginary deities.

If atheists reject the Christian view of the “human condition” and forgiveness, how then do they deal with bad behavior? I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can share how I and other atheists I personally know handle personal acts of bad behavior. When we act inappropriately or cause harm to others, we confess it, ask forgiveness from whomever we harmed, and if necessary, make restitution. We recognize that none of us is perfect, and we can, at times, say and do things that hurt others. We own our behavior and vow to act better going forward. If our bad behavior has caused material or social harm, we make amends. One of the reasons I write about the things I do is because I believe I have a moral and ethical responsibility to own past bad behaviors; that the harm I caused to congregants must be atoned for; that the harm I caused to my wife and children must be made right. Simply put, wrongs must be made right. I can’t undo the past, but I can own past bad behaviors, and vow to be a better man, husband, and father. I will, most certainly, fail in this endeavor, but each day of my life I will try to be a better person than I was the day before. No magical wiping of the slate clean, no religious incantations to a mythical God, just an honest, heartfelt commitment to being good. Is that not all that any of us can do?

To Evangelicals I say, leave your harmful religion behind. Humanism provides a far better way to live one’s life. And it’s a lot less stressful and a hell of a lot more fun.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: The American War Machine and the Complicity of the Democratic Party

chris hedges

By Chris Hedges, excerpted from a Salon article titled How the Democrats Became the Party of Endless War

The Democrats position themselves as the party of virtue, cloaking their support for the war industry in moral language stretching back to Korea and Vietnam, when President Ngo Dinh Diem was as lionized as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is now. All the wars they support and fund are “good” wars. All the enemies they fight, the latest being Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, are incarnations of evil. The photo of a beaming Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris holding up a signed Ukrainian battle flag behind Zelenskyy as he addressed Congress was another example of the Democratic Party’s abject subservience to the war machine.

The Democrats, especially with the presidency of Bill Clinton, became shills not only for corporate America but for the weapons manufacturers and the Pentagon. No weapons system is too costly. No war, no matter how disastrous, goes unfunded. No military budget is too big, including the $858 billion in military spending allocated for the current fiscal year, an increase of $45 billion above what the Biden administration requested.

….

There once was a wing of the Democratic Party that questioned and stood up to the war industry: Senators like J. William Fulbright, George McGovern, Gene McCarthy, Mike Gravel and William Proxmire and House members like Dennis Kucinich. But that opposition evaporated along with the antiwar movement. When 30 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus recently issued a call for Biden to negotiate with Putin, they were forced by the party leadership and a warmongering media to back down and rescind their letter. Not that any of them, with the exception of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, have voted against the billions of dollars in weaponry sent to Ukraine or the bloated military budget. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan voted present.

….

This lust for war is dangerous, pushing us into a potential war with Russia and, perhaps later, with China — each a nuclear power. It is also economically ruinous. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven U.S. debt to over $30 trillion, $6 trillion more than the U.S. GDP of $24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spend more on the military than the next nine countries combined, including China and Russia. Congress is also on track to provide an extra $21.7 billion to the Pentagon — above the already expanded annual budget — to resupply Ukraine.

“But those contracts are just the leading edge of what is shaping up to be a big new defense buildup,” The New York Times reports. “Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.”

The Democratic Party, which under the Clinton administration aggressively courted corporate donors, has surrendered its willingness to challenge, however tepidly, the war industry. 

“As soon as the Democratic Party made a determination, it could have been 35 or 40 years ago, that they were going to take corporate contributions, that wiped out any distinction between the two parties,” Dennis Kucinich said when I interviewed him on my show for The Real News Network. “Because in Washington, he or she who pays the piper plays the tune. That’s what’s happened. There isn’t that much of a difference in terms of the two parties when it comes to war.”

….

In his 1970 book “The Pentagon Propaganda Machine,” Fulbright describes how the Pentagon and the arms industry pour millions into shaping public opinion through public relations campaigns, Defense Department films, control over Hollywood and domination of the commercial media. Military analysts on cable news are universally former military and intelligence officials who sit on boards or work as consultants to defense industries, a fact they rarely disclose to the public. Barry R. McCaffrey, a retired four-star army general and military analyst for NBC News, was also an employee of Defense Solutions, a military sales and project management firm. He, like most of these shills for war, personally profited from the sales of the weapons systems and expansion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the eve of every congressional vote on the Pentagon budget, lobbyists from businesses tied to the war industry meet with Congress members and their staff to push them to vote for the budget to protect jobs in their district or state. This pressure, coupled with the mantra amplified by the media that opposition to profligate war funding is unpatriotic, keeps elected officials in bondage. These politicians also depend on the lavish donations from the weapons manufacturers to fund their campaigns.

Tech giants, including Amazon, which supplies surveillance and facial recognition software to the police and FBI, have been absorbed into the permanent war economy. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle were awarded multibillion-dollar cloud computing contracts for the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability and are eligible to receive $9 billion in Pentagon contracts to provide the military with “globally available cloud services across all security domains and classification levels, from the strategic level to the tactical edge,” through mid-2028.

Foreign aid is given to countries such as Israel, with more than $150 billion in bilateral assistance since its founding in 1948, or Egypt, which has received over $80 billion since 1978 — aid that requires foreign governments to buy weapons systems from the U.S. The U.S. public funds the research, development and building of weapons systems and purchases them for foreign governments. Such a circular system mocks the idea of a free-market economy. These weapons soon become obsolete and are replaced by updated and usually more costly weapons systems. It is, in economic terms, a dead end. It sustains nothing but the permanent war economy.

“The truth of the matter is that we’re in a heavily militarized society driven by greed, lust for profit, and wars are being created just to keep fueling that,” Kucinich told me.

In 2014, the U.S. backed a coup in Ukraine that installed a government that included neo-Nazis and was antagonistic to Russia. The coup triggered a civil war when the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, the Donbas region, sought to secede, resulting in over 14,000 people dead and nearly 150,000 displaced, before Russia invaded in February. The Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to Jacques Baud, a former NATO security adviser who also worked for Swiss intelligence, was instigated by the escalation of Ukraine’s war on the Donbas. It also followed the Biden administration’s rejection of proposals sent by the Kremlin in late 2021, which might have averted Russia’s invasion the following year. 

This invasion has led to widespread U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia, which have boomeranged onto Europe. Inflation ravages Europe with the sharp curtailment of shipments of Russian oil and gas. Industry, especially in Germany, is crippled. In most of Europe, it is a winter of shortages, spiraling prices and misery.

“This whole thing is blowing up in the face of the West,” Kucinich warned. “We forced Russia to pivot to Asia, as well as Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. There’s a whole new world being formed. The catalyst of it is the misjudgment that occurred about Ukraine and the effort to try to control Ukraine in 2014 that most people aren’t aware of.”

By not opposing a Democratic Party whose primary business is war, liberals become the sterile, defeated dreamers in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground.” 

Note: It is evident, at least to me, that the United States is fighting a full-blown proxy war in Ukraine against Russia. It is also evident that most of our political leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, fully support this proxy war, regardless of the issues Hedges raises in this article.

President Biden and the Democrats just passed and signed into law a $1.7 trillion budget. Almost $1 trillion will go to the military and security agencies. Billions more will go to Ukraine, Israel, and other foreign countries. No expense will be spared when it comes to maintaining and expanding our dying Empire. Too bad there isn’t any money left for the American people; for those who are living paycheck to paycheck; for those facing astronomical medical bills IF they have insurance at all; for our schools; for our roads and bridges — to name a few pressing needs. Our nation is dying from misplaced priorities.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: What Would the United States be Like if it Was Like Israel?

juan cole

By Dr. Juan Cole, Informed Comment

What would the United States be like if it was like Israel?

After the most recent election is held, the president comes out and says that settling North America is the exclusive privilege of white Christians. He is determined to make some parts of the U.S. whiter and more Christian by giving incentives for people to move there. He names Detroit and the south side of Chicago, the state of Hawaii, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole oil-rich lands in Oklahoma.

Only white Christians are allowed to be cabinet secretaries and congressional majority and minority leaders.Non-white non-Christians like Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar are expelled from the House for their inflammatory speeches questioning white privilege. The citizenship rights of all Native Americans outside the original 13 colonies are revoked and they are put under martial law.

In this future Christian Zionist America, the U.S. has invaded Canada and occupied British Columbia, including Vancouver and the Great Bear Rainforest, a First Nations reserve. That is another place the president says there have to be more white Christian people, displacing the Wuikinuxv Nation, the Heiltsuk Nation, the Haida Nation and other first nations tribes. Vancouver residents from Hong Kong have their citizenship revoked and are expelled back to China. Washington State is now connected to Alaska, which the president maintains is necessary to the security of the U.S., given that you can see Russia from there. The U.S. army goes back to using conscription to have enough troops to patrol Vancouver and the rest of the province.

The new president then announces that ultimately British Columbia will be formally annexed to the United States, making the fifty-first state and renamed White Columbia. He says, however, that Washington only wants the land and real estate, and that British Columbians will never be given U.S. citizenship.

Ottawa’s vehement protests against this Yankee land grab are disregarded, and Canada is reminded of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Washington vows that Canada will never be allowed to have a nuclear program of its own.

When armed gangs from Vancouver manage to fire some rockets at Seattle, the U.S. Air Force scrambles F-18s and bombs the city, bringing down apartment buildings. People in Kitsilano are called and given an hour to get out of their homes before they are bombed. The U.S. also bombs the airport and stops any flights out of Vancouver, and forbids people in British Columbia to go out in fishing boats since they pose a security hazard. What with being able to see Russia and all.

The president appoints the head of the Southern Baptist Convention to oversee Christianity in the United States, and to decide who is a white Christian. Only Southern Baptists are considered Christians. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics are declared ineligible to have “Christian” written on their identity cards. They can be American citizens, just as non-whites can, but they are second-class citizens.

The new president declares that white Christian businesses don’t have to serve gay people or trans people or single women who are dressed indecently and in the company of unrelated men. One of his cabinet secretaries suggests that white Christian physicians shouldn’t have to treat gays, either.

The president of Christian Zionist America declares that all oppressed white Christians around the world, such as the Afrikaaners in South Africa and the Germans in Brazil, are free to come to the United States and will be given citizenship immediately. They would be wise to become Southern Baptists and get properly baptized on arrival, though. They will be given government help to appropriate resources from non-whites and non-Christians, especially in First Nation reserves in British Columbia and in Asian-majority neighborhoods in Hawaii and Los Angeles.

Stamps are issued honoring Dylann Roof (who shot down African-Americans) and Wade Michael Page (who shot down U.S. Sikhs),

Both inside the U.S. and in its occupied territory in the northwest, 33 million settlers, ten percent of the population, will be mobilized to establish apartment complexes in these places. Only white Christians will be allowed to live in them. They will be built on land confiscated from its present owners. The white Christian settlers will be allowed to walk around with assault rifles and defend themselves from any attacks from the angry owners of the land and other resources that the settlers have just helped themselves to.

Any local non-white person who makes a fuss about all these outsiders moving in and taking their land and petroleum will be put in federal penitentiary and kept in solitary, without charge or trial, for as long as the local white Christian sheriff wants. This includes children and minors. Sometimes to teach them a lesson, bulldozers will be brought in and their family homes will be destroyed. If they try to rebuild, the home will be demolished again, hundreds of times if necessary.

These African-Americans, Latinx people, Asian-Americans and indigenous North Americans will be reminded that settling North America is an exclusively white Christian right.

Note: I do a lot of writing about the theocratic tendencies of Evangelicals. Israel, with its recent political changes, seems intent on establishing a full-blown theocracy; one where Palestinians are not welcome. I suspect many Evangelicals think what is happening in Israel is a blueprint for what they would like to see happen in the United States.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser