Politics

Women, the Doormat of the Church

women doormat

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Many years ago, I was watching the Old Time Gospel Hour on TV. At the time, the Old Time Gospel Hour was the flagship program of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell.

Falwell was preaching about women and the Equal Rights Amendment.

I have never forgotten what he said:

We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women. We believe in putting women on a pedestal.

I remember thinking, at the time, that makes a lot of sense. The Equal Rights Amendment was viewed as an attempt to blur the lines between the sexes; to make our culture unisex, which was considered by Evangelicals to be a grievous, damning sin.

The Evangelical pastors of my youth and college years taught me:

  • Women are to submit to men.
  • Women are best suited to be mothers and keepers of the home.
  • Women are emotional and men are logical.
  • Women should be discouraged from going to college because graduating from college makes it less likely that a woman will be a good mother and keeper of the home.
  • If a woman is insistent on going to college and refuses to marry the nice boy who sits behind her in church, then she should go to a Christian college. Her career choices? Pastor’s wife, single missionary, or Christian school teacher.
  • Women are not suited for intellectual endeavors.
  • Women should not be involved in making major decisions. The decision-maker in the home is the husband. The decision-makers in the church are men, and political office is reserved for men.
  • Women are to conjugally perform whenever their husbands demand it. Being tired from feeding the children, changing diapers, cleaning the house, homeschooling the children, and making sure the king of the home’s every need and whim is met, is no excuse for not joyfully having sex for three minutes before her God-fearing husband falls off to sleep. If she doesn’t put out, she is risking her husband having an adulterous affair and it will be HER fault.

The above social strictures showed up in countless sermons. Is it any wonder so many Evangelical marriages are dysfunctional; that women schooled in such an environment have difficultly functioning in the real world?

Even in my marriage, I was a typical “I am the boss, chief decision-maker, you submit to me” husband. I made ALL the decisions. For twenty years this is how we “did” marriage. Gradually, as I became more liberal in my understanding of life, I realized how hurtful this was to women in general and to my dear wife in particular.

For many years, Polly found it hard to make decisions. She told me one time that she was “afraid to make decisions because she might make a wrong decision and then you’ll be mad at me.” I said “Yep. That’s the price of admission. Making decisions means you might piss someone off.” As a supervisor where she works, she is required to make decisions that inevitably leave one or more parties unhappy. When she comes home discouraged by the response of this or that person, I remind her of what Colin Powell said about leadership:

Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.

Bit by bit, I see Polly throwing off the bondage of yesteryear, but I do wonder if she’ll ever be totally free from teachings of the past — I know I’m not.  Submit. Obey. Do what your husband says. He is the head of the home. It is hard to shake such indoctrination.

Is marriage really a partnership when only one partner decides everything? Certainly, we each have strengths and weaknesses. I am not about to enter my wife’s kitchen. First, we will all starve. Second, she is a far better cook than I will ever be in ten lifetimes. On the other hand, I pay the bills, write the checks, and manage the money.  Thanks to my business background, I am good at handling money, bills, and debt, and I am able to analyze numbers on the fly. I do what I am good at and so does Polly. Our marriage is now a partnership of equals, each doing those things that best serve the partnership. (On a funnier note, she’d rather mow the grass and I’d rather clean the house.)

There is ONE area where I refuse to relinquish control: the remote control! It’s mine, dammit. Don’t touch it. If I died today, Polly would never watch TV again because she has no clue and little interest in how the remote works. She can run a sewing machine and do all sorts of intricate stitches, but ask her to change a TV program or set up a recording and suddenly she’s the young woman wooing her man, hoping he’ll do what she wants him to.

I digress…

How did Jerry Falwell’s superior rights for women work out practically in the church?

You be the judge. Does what follows seem superior to you?

  • Women sang in the choir and did special music numbers
  • Women played the piano and organ
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women worked in the nursery
  • Women taught children in Sunday school and Junior church
  • Women cooked food for potlucks and church meals
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women took meals to shut-ins
  • Women did any menial work at the church that needed done

This list looks very similar to what was expected of women at home.

Women were not permitted to be pastors, deacons, elders, or teach older children. They were not allowed to teach any group of people that had adult men in it. Doing so would violate the Biblical command for a woman to never usurp the place/authority of a man. After all, God/Jesus is a man, as were the apostles.  End of discussion.

Granted, there is great improvement in some sectors of the Christian church when it comes to how women are treated.  Women can now be pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, etc. Women teach theology at some Christian colleges. Thanks to feminism, women have a lot more opportunities than they did years ago. But the church still has a long way to go. Vast swaths of the Evangelical church still actively practice the repression of women. They sincerely believe they are following the teachings of the Bible when they do so. If God said it . . . end of discussion. As a result, thousands of churches continue to be man-only institutions.

One church I co-pastored wouldn’t even allow women to speak in a public congregational business meeting. If they had a question, they were required to whisper the question to a man and he would ask the question. I visited a Mennonite church years ago where the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Keeping to the mantra that women should never lead, when the congregation sang, the women always started singing one note after the men. That said, the singing was spectacular.

In the early 1970s, my mother gave me an important lesson in equal rights for all. She worked as a nurse’s aide for Winebrenner Nursing Home (now Birchaven Village), a Church of God-owned facility in Findlay Ohio. Female aides were paid less than male aides because the male aides did more of the “heavy” work. However, as my mom found out, both sexes did the “heavy” work.

So my Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner in federal court. At the time, to a fifteen-year-old Evangelical teenager, her behavior seemed silly and embarrassing. There were only a few coins difference in the wages, why bother? I thought at the time. I was so embarrassed when the lawsuit story hit the front page of the newspaper, complete with my mom holding a picket sign. But she was right. Winebrenner was discriminatory in their treatment of women. My mother filed a federal lawsuit under the Title 7 provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court agreed, and my mother won her lawsuit. While I was embarrassed while this was being aired out in public, I now see how brave my mother was; to stand up for what was right; to dare demand that women be treated equally.We still have a long way to go on the issue of equality. Women are still treated as inferior to men. The glass ceiling exists, regardless of whether troglodytes like Phyllis Schlafly can see it. Yes, things are BETTER, but we should not rest until we are a society that is blind to gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. Utopian? Perhaps. Justice and fairness require that we press forward even when it seems failure is certain. That’s one lesson my mom taught me, one that I will never forget.

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

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Pastor Tony Spell Lies About Evangelical Preachers Not Getting Stimulus Checks

pastor-tony-spell

Last Sunday, Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge, was interviewed on CNN by Victor Blackwell. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

BLACKWELL: You now are asking people who you know in your congregation who don’t have much, can’t even get to you without you picking them up to hand over the $1,200 stimulus check. Why?
SPELL: The Pastor Spell stimulus challenge is to help those who do not get stimulus such as evangelists and missionaries. So this morning, these evangelists and foreign missionaries who have not had payments for five weeks now will be in the service this morning where we’ll give them a large offering.
BLACKWELL: Hold on, pastor. Non-profits and faith-based ministries can apply for the paycheck protection program. You can get the –.
SPELL: We don’t want to.”
BLACKWELL: But that is your choice. I just made sure that I printed out these from the Small Business Administration website. You have the option. My question is and I’ll let you answer. I will let you answer, but to say that people who you know don’t have much, you have to go and pick them up to bring them to your church to then ask them to hand over the $1,200, the only money some people will have, and you have another option, why not give that money to them and why isn’t this a time for the church to give to those who do not have?

What follows below is a short video of what Pastor Spell calls his “stimulus challenge.” This video is the backdrop for Spell’s appearance in CNN. It’s hard not to conclude that Spell is a greedy son of a bitch; it is unlikely that his donation of his $1,200 stimulus payment caused him one bit of economic pain. (I would love to see Spell’s tax returns. I suspect they would be enlightening, to say the least.)

Video Link

Spell states with a straight face that evangelists and missionaries are not eligible to receive the $1,200 stimulus payments. This is a bold-faced lie. Evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are required to file federal income tax returns. Their churches, agencies, and ministries are required to provide them with an annual 1099 or W-2 so they can file their tax returns. The stimulus payments are based on the recipients 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return. Unless these clergymen are tax cheats, I am going to assume that all of them filed a tax return. And as long as their income fell within the stimulus payment limits, they received or will receive money from the government. Socialism, baby, gotta love it.

Spell wants to paint a picture of preachers who are suffering economically, and I have no doubt that some of them are. I know if the Coronavirus pandemic had happened in the early days of my ministry, we would have been destitute in a matter of weeks. Many preachers do live from hand to prayer to mouth. I have no problem with them receiving stimulus payments, even though I question whether the government should be materially supporting people whose sole source of income comes from their churches or ministries. Clergymen already receive several substantial tax breaks such as the housing allowance. That said, this is not a hill I am prepared to die on. If sending money to clergy and their families helps them through difficult times in ways that God cannot, I am all for it. What I have a problem with is Spell’s lie about the nature of clerical income; that evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are somehow, some way “different” from other American workers. They are not. Outside of the special tax breaks clergy (and churches) receive, they must pay the same taxes and file the same returns as the rest of us. As Joe Friday would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

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

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Do Christians Have the Absolute Constitutional Right to Worship God as They Please?

pastor-tony-spell

Last week, I mentioned the refusal of Pastor Tony Spell — pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge — to stop holding services, despite being ordered to do so by the governor of Louisiana, and his being charged with violating that order. Since then, Spell has been arrested and charged with assaulting a protester outside of his church. Spell was later released. After his release from what he called “prison,” Spell gave a short speech to fawning congregants who were camped outside of the jail awaiting his triumphant release.

Here’s what Spell had to say:

Video Link

Spell believes the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. My rights to have church and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my Creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police, and not my governor, John Bel Edwards.

I wonder if the writers and signers of Declaration of the Independence thought that citizens had the unalienable right to hold church services during a pandemic? I wonder if they thought that the right to gather in a building at 11:00 AM on Sunday for church supersedes the rights of other citizens to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?

Spell thinks he lives in a bubble, one where his actions do not affect others. He is what is called an autonomous man. Give me liberty or give me jail, he cries; all the while his immoral behavior puts his congregants and neighbors in harm’s way.

Spell and other rebellious, anti-government Evangelical pastors refuse to act in the best interest of their churches and their communities at large. Self-centered, egotistical narcissists, the lot of them, all that matters to them is taking a stand for the mythical Jesus.

Evangelicals love pastors who stand against what they wrongly believe are government attacks on their right to worship a dead man. Over the past three years, thanks to President Donald Trump and his merry band of Evangelical cabinet members and advisers, Evangelicals have become emboldened in their stand against government at every level. Sadly, we will see more public displays of rebellion in the days and weeks to come. The Coronavirus is not going away, and states hell-bent on reopening their economies will, several weeks from now, fuel an increase in COVID-19 infections. State governors will then be forced to either obfuscate or deny what is going on in their states or re-institute stay-at-home orders. This will lead, of course, to further rebellious acts by protesting Evangelical preachers. Welcome to Hell.

The First Amendment to U.S. Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Spell and his fellow patriot pastors believe that they have an inviolable right to freely practice their religion whenever, however, and wherever they want; that government has no right to limit their religious practice. However, I would ask, is this right absolute? Does the government ever have the right, dare I say responsibility, to limit the free exercise of religion?

Let me be clear. When Spell and other Evangelical preachers read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they read their religion into these documents. These so-called men of God are not pluralists. To the man, they believe the United States is a Christian nation — a people chosen by the Christian God to be a light and blessing to the world. Thus, while these preachers tolerate other religions, agnostics, and atheists, if they had their druthers, Christianity would be the official American religion and the Bible the rule of law.

cat god

Imagine if I were a worshiper of the Kat God, and one of the rituals I practiced was to stand on the sacred sidewalk in front of Evangelical churches, chant prayers to the Almighty Kat, and sacrifice puppies to him. Would Spell be okay with my free exercise of religion? Imagine if an Islamic congregation wanted to build a church right next to Spell’s church. Do you think he would support their free exercise of religion? Imagine any of a number of other scenarios where non-Christians practiced their religions in ways that harmed or offended Spell, his family, and his congregation. Would the good pastor shout, AMEN? I doubt it. Spell wants preferential treatment for his religion, Apostolic Christianity — a sect, by the way, that some Evangelicals consider a cult.

Spell deliberately refuses to acknowledge that government, for the sake of public health, safety, and welfare, has a duty to enact laws that regulate and limit the free exercise of religion — not so much at a personal level, but certainly when people congregate together. Churches are required to follow building and safety codes. Ask any pastor who has built a church building about how complex the laws are for new commercial construction or how strict safety and fire codes are. Spell and Life Tabernacle Church willingly submit to all sorts of government regulations. Refusing to obey these regulations would bring inspections, fines, and prosecution. Why? Because the government has a duty and responsibility to protect its citizens. And that is exactly what the state of Louisiana and local government officials are trying to do when enforcing stay-at-home orders.

Instead of obeying these orders, Spell and other anti-government pastors disobey the teaching of Jesus and the early Christian church. Jesus said that the law of God rested on two Great Commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. I always taught congregants that loving God required loving your neighbor. Don’t love your neighbor? You don’t love God. It’s clear, at least to me, that Spell doesn’t love his neighbors. If he did, he would abide by the stay-at-home orders. And if Spell doesn’t love his neighbors, it’s fair to ask if he really loves God. It is also far to ask, does his behavior reveal a self-centered man who only cares about self-promotion? You know my answer.

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

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Donald Trump’s Bible

donald trump bible
“Because if I’m there [the presidency], you’re [Christians] going to have plenty of power. You don’t need anybody else. You’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well. Remember that.”

Evangelicals desperately want to believe that Donald Trump is a Christian. For decades, Evangelicals clamored for God to give them a Christian president. Jimmy Carter? Christian, but the wrong kind. Bill Clinton? Christian, but he had that whole blue dress thing. Besides, he was a Democrat. George W. Bush? Christian, but he was too busy waging war to bother with Evangelical demands. Why he wasn’t even pro-life. Obama? Christian, but he was the unholy trinity of black, democrat, and liberal Christian. Not one of us, Evangelicals said. In November 2015, eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals helped elect Donald Trump as the forty-fifth president of the United States. Finally, Evangelicals believed they had a Christian president. Never mind the fact that Trump is a narcissistic liar who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals, a man who has been repeatedly accused of sex crimes. In his blessed heart-of-hearts, Evangelicals believe Trump is a Christian. James Dobson says that Trump is a “baby-Christian.” Instead of looking at the character of the man, Evangelicals divert attention to the president’s agenda. It is here that we see that Trump plays Santa Claus for Evangelical culture warriors. His policies, cabinet, and judicial appointments make it clear that Evangelicals are ruling the White House. It’s hard to walk down the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue without running into Evangelicals either praying, going to Bible study, or trying to subvert the U.S. Constitution.

For Evangelicals who still have a shred of decency left, I am sure that Trump’s awful behavior continues to bother them. Instead of admitting that they made a mistake voting for the most unqualified man ever to be president, Evangelicals search far and wide looking for anything that suggests to them that Trump is one of them. If Evangelicals can convince themselves that the president is a Christian, they will happily vote for him in November. He’s God’s man for such a time as this, Evangelicals tell themselves — even though Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic has been nothing short of a 9-11/Katrina-level disaster. Some Evangelicals even think that Trump is the reincarnation of King Cyrus.

The latest straw Evangelicals are grasping at has to do with a Bible sent to the president by his Scottish relatives. Evangelical evangelist Ron Susek explains the story this way:

1949. The Island of Lewis in the Hebrides (off the coast of Scotland) was struck by a revival that shook the islanders at the time, and in varying ways continues to impact the world to this day.

It began in the late 1940s on the small Scottish island of Lewis in the village of Barvas. Two Smith sisters, Peggy who was blind and Christine who was arthritic, began to pray. Peggy received a revelation that revival was coming.  Some Christian leaders met in a barn to pray, not for others, but for their own cleansing.  
 
Soon revival broke. A fifteen-year-old boy name Donald Smith proved to be a great prayer warrior who kept his heart close to God. He became involved in this famous Hebrides Revival which lasted three years.  
 
Years earlier, Mary Anne Smith MacLeod, niece of the two elderly women and a cousin of Donald Smith emigrated to America and met a young man named Frederick. They fell in love and married in January of 1936 and had five children: Mary Anne (Barry), Frederick Jr., Elizabeth (Grau), Donald and Robert.

The one elderly sister who had prayed for revival sent her Bible to America as a gift to Mary Anne, who subsequently gave it to her son, Donald.  Today, this Bible lies in her son’s office – the Oval Office – at the White House and it was one of the Bibles upon which he placed his hand to take the oath of office. Yes, President Donald Trump’s roots reach back to one of the greatest revivals in history.   
 
 No true believer has the right to withhold prayer for President Trump because of disagreement.  No flawless wonder has ever headed any nation.  Still, the Bible commands that we pray for those in authority (2 Timothy 2:2).

Remember God’s promise: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). 
 
Do not withhold heartfelt prayer for this President by comparing him to Jesus. We all fail that test. Begin praying for an awakening to sweep from the Oval Office to every corner of the land.

Evidently, Susek and other Evangelicals like him believe that this special Bible being in the proximity of President Trump is enough to affect him is a positive way. Christianity by osmosis, perhaps?

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) luminary Clarence Sexton, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Powell, Tennessee, and president of The Crown College, released a video titled Donald’s Bible. Five minutes long, the video features Sexton breathlessly and with tears in his eyes recounting the history of Donald’s Bible.

Video Link

Video Link

Evangelicalism has sold it soul for a bowl of pottage. Whatever moral and ethical influence they once had, it is now gone. In its place we find raw political power fueling the rise of an Evangelical theocracy in America. That’s why Evangelicals either ignore Trump’s licentious behavior or they try to find slivers of Christian faith in the man. This, then, gives them license to re-elect Trump, thus giving Evangelicals four more years to return the United States to Christian nation status; four more years to undo sixty years of social progress; four more years to enact their version of sharia law; four more years to ban abortion and destroy the wall of separation between church and state.

And is Trump loses the election? Hard to tell what ever-Trumpers will do. Hard to tell what Evangelicals will do when their Faustian bargain with the Devil comes to naught. Imagine their outrage if Biden wins the presidency and Democrats regain the majority in the Senate. Why, they will be living through the Great Tribulation, with no rapture in sight.

As far as Trump is concerned, I have a vision of him packing up the Oval Office, preparing for Sleepy Joe to sit in HIS chair. As he gathers up HIS Bible and coloring books, he looks at the Bible and says, a lot of good you did for me! And with that, he throws the Bible into the trash. A rightful ending to the presidency of the most wonderful, beautiful, bigly Christian president in American history.

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

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The Cult of Personal Freedom in the Donald Trump Era

michigan protest

Rabid Trump supporters spilled out into the streets in recent days, protesting stay-at-home orders in their respective states. We saw similar protests years ago from Tea Party members, and in more recent years from white supremacists. What’s the common denominators in these protests?

  • Anti-government sentiments
  • Gun ownership
  • Racism
  • Antisemitism
  • Libertarian politics
  • Anarchism
  • Conservative Christianity
  • Support of Evangelical culture war

I suspect more than a few of these protesters are also anti-vaxxers and homeschoolers. What holds this eclectic group together is that their God-given/natural/Constitutional rights are absolute, and no government — local, state, or federal — has a right to limit their rights.

florida protest

President Trump fueled insurrection over the weekend by tweeting out inflammatory comments to Democratic governors whose states have stay-at-home orders. Like red meat to a pack of dogs, these tweets were just what his devoted followers needed. “Trump is on our side,” protesters thought. Little do they know or care that Trump isn’t on anyone’s side. Trump, a narcissist and pathological liar, doesn’t give a damn about anyone except Donald J. Trump. One only need watch his daily press conferences to see that the president has no empathy for the American people. All that matters political power and financial enrichment.

Trump’s base continues to support him. It’s clear to anyone who is paying attention that there is literally nothing Trump can do to lose the fealty and devotion of his base. Try engaging Trump’s base on social media, and you will quickly learn how angry, vicious, and ignorant they can be — much like the president.

protest in kentucky

President Trump and stay-at-home-order protesters only care about one thing: self. They wrongly believe that their rights supersede the responsibility of government to protect the health, safety, and welfare of those they govern. These so-called patriots are willing to turn to violence to protect what they believe are their inviolable civil rights. In the days or weeks ahead, it would not surprise me if some gun nut defending his “rights” shoots a police officer or other member of law enforcement in “self-defense.” We must not turn a blind-eye to right-wingers who are talking about Second Amendment remedies. These faux-patriots believe that they have a duty and obligation to turn their guns on the government if and when their rights are limited or curtailed. In their addled minds, stay-at-home orders and shutting churches constitute TYRANNY! Of course, it is no such thing. The various restrictions of civil liberties in states across this country are for one thing and one thing alone: to protect the health and safety of state residents.

As I mentioned previously, most of these protesters are likely conservative/Evangelical Christians. You would think they would have heard sermons about selflessness and loving your neighbor as yourself, but evidently not. Their words and actions reveal selfishness found usually only among toddlers. Most of us outgrow our toddler years, learning that we have a duty to love and care for others; that sometimes we must be willing to curtail our personal liberties for the sake of others. This is simply the right thing to do.

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

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?

whining evangelical

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Many people think that Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are two different species of conservative Christianity. However, I plan to show in this post that Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist, and that the only issue is to what degree they are Fundamentalist.

Some of the confusion comes from the fact that there are Evangelicals, such as the Independent Fundamentalist (IFB) church movement, who proudly wear the Fundamentalist label. Thus, an Evangelical — say, someone who is a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church of America – rightly says, I am NOT like those crazy Fundamentalist Baptists. They see the extremism of the IFB church movement, condemn it, and by doing so think that they are not Fundamentalist.

The word Fundamentalist was originally used to describe a group of sects, churches, and pastors who took a stand against perceived theological liberalism in the denominations of which they were a part. From 1910 to 1915, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), published 90 essays that were published in a 12-volume set of books titled, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. (You can see a complete listing of the essays on Wikipedia.) These essays provided the theological foundation for the modern Fundamentalist movement.

The words “fundamentalist” and “fundamentalism” can also be used in a generic sense. While almost always used when describing the beliefs of religious sects, fundamentalist beliefs can also be found in politics, science, economics, and even atheism. The focus of this post is Christian Fundamentalism, particularly Protestant Fundamentalism.

There are two components to the Fundamentalism found in Evangelicalism:

  • Theological Fundamentalism
  • Social Fundamentalism

Theological Fundamentalism

All Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. What do Evangelicals believe?

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of the triune God.
  • Salvation is through the merit and work of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is the eternal, virgin-born, sinless, miracle-working Son of God who came to earth 2,000 years ago to die on the cross for the sins of humankind.
  • Jesus resurrected from the dead three days after being crucified. He later ascended back to Heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.
  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and salvation is gained only by putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
  • All non-Christian religions are false and many Christian sects have heretical beliefs.
  • There is a literal Heaven, a Hell, and Devil.
  • Saved people go to Heaven when they die and non-saved people go to Hell when they die.
  • Someday, Jesus Christ will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. The heavens and earth will be destroyed and God will make a new heaven and a new earth.

Evangelicals may quibble with one another over the finer points of this or that doctrine, but EVERY Evangelical believes what I have listed above. And it is these beliefs that make them theological Fundamentalists.

While it is true that liberal and progressive theology are making inroads within Evangelicalism, this does not mean that Evangelicalism is becoming less Fundamentalist. Liberal/progressive Evangelicals are outliers, and, in time, due to the inflexibility of Evangelical theology, they will either leave Evangelicalism and join liberal/Progressive Christian sects or they will become a bastard child subset within Evangelicalism.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is an Evangelical denomination, and thanks to the resurgence of Calvinism and right-wing politics within the denomination, the SBC is becoming more and more Fundamentalist. While the SBC does have a liberal/progressive wing, the majority of Southern Baptist churches are Evangelical. Rarely do denominations become more conservative once they start down the path of liberalism, but the SBC, over the course of the last few decades, has reversed the liberal slide and is decidedly more conservative today than it was 20 years ago. Many of the founders of the IFB church movement were Southern Baptists who left the SBC in the 1950s-1970s. Little did they know that the SBC would one day return to its Evangelical roots.

Many people would argue that Al Mohler is very different from the late Fred Phelps, yet theologically they have much in common. And this is my point. At the heart of Evangelicalism is theological Fundamentalism. People wrongly assume that church A is different from church B because of differences between their soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, preaching style, eschatology, music, etc. However, when we look closer, we find that both churches, for the most part, have the same doctrinal beliefs. This is why ALL Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists.

Social Fundamentalism

Social Fundamentalism focuses on the conduct, lifestyle, and social engagement of the Christian. An Evangelical looks at the rules, standards, and negativity of an IFB church that proudly claims its Fundamentalist moniker and says, SEE I am NOT a Fundamentalist. I don’t believe in legalism. I believe in grace, and I leave it to God to change how a person lives.

This sounds good, doesn’t it? However, when you start to poke around a bit, you will find that almost every Evangelical is a social Fundamentalist — the only difference between Evangelicals being the degree of Fundamentalism. This can be quickly demonstrated by asking those who think they are non-Fundamentalist Evangelical a few questions. Questions like:

  • Can a practicing homosexual be a Christian?
  • Can a homosexual man be a deacon or pastor in your church?
  • Can a same-sex couple work in the nursery together?
  • Do think it is okay for unmarried heterosexuals to engage in sexual activity?
  • Can a cohabiting heterosexual couple be a member of your church?
  • Do you think it is morally right for a woman to wear a skimpy outfit to church?
  • Is it ever right to have an abortion?
  • Do you think smoking marijuana is okay?
  • Do you think it okay for your pastor to smoke cigars and drink alcohol at the local bar?
  • Is it okay for someone, in the privacy of their home, to become inebriated?

By asking these questions, and a number of similar ones, you will quickly discover that the non-Fundamentalist Evangelical is a social Fundamentalist after all. While these Evangelicals may jeer and laugh at the crazy, extreme rules and standards of the IFB church movement, they too have their own set of non-negotiable social standards. They, like their IFB brethren, are social Fundamentalists. (please see An Independent Baptist Hate List.)

I am sure some Evangelicals will argue that their social Fundamentalism, like their theological Fundamentalism, comes straight from the B-i-b-l-e. Of course they do. ALL Evangelicals think their beliefs come straight from the Bible. The IFB pastor has a proof-text for everything he preaches against, as does the I am NOT a Fundamentalist Evangelical pastor. Both believe the Bible is truth, an inspired, inerrant, supernatural text. The only difference between them is their interpretation of the Bible.

Here in the United States, we have the perfect Fundamentalist storm of religious Fundamentalism and political Fundamentalism. The US is rapidly becoming an embarrassment as Fundamentalists demand their brand of Christianity be given special treatment, creationism be taught in the public schools, the Federal government be harnessed for the good of Christianity, and their interpretation of the Bible enacted as law. These Evangelicals are not harmless, and if not challenged at every turn, they will become the Evangelical version of the Taliban. One need only watch what Evangelical Trump cabinet officials are doing to see that this is true. I recognize that some Evangelicals are against political and social activism, but they are few in number. History is clear: when any religious group gains the power of the state, freedoms are lost and people die.

While I can applaud any move leftward within Evangelicalism, the only sure way to end the destructive influence of Evangelical Christianity is to starve it politically, socially, and economically. I am not so naïve as to believe that Evangelicalism will ever go completely away, but it can be weakened to such a degree that it no longer has any influence.

There are many Evangelical church members who are kind, decent, loving people. Many of them are generational Evangelicals, attending the same church their parents and grandparents did. I hope, by publicizing the narrow, often hateful, theological and social pronouncements of Evangelical leaders, and the continued inability of these leaders to keep their flies zipped up and their hands off the money, that Evangelical congregants will get their noses out of the hymnbook, turn their eyes from the overhead, and pay attention to what is really going on within Evangelicalism. I hope they will stand up, exit stage right (or left), and take their checkbooks with them.  When this happens, we will begin to hear Evangelicalism struggling for breath as it lapses into cardiac arrest.

On a completely different front, liberal/ progressive Christian scholars, writers, and bloggers, along with former Evangelical Christians such as myself, need to step up their frontal assault on the misplaced authority Evangelicals give to the Bible. We need more writers like Dr. Bart Ehrman, people who are willing to write on a popular level about the errancy and fallibility of the Bible. I firmly think that when Evangelicals can be disabused of their literalism and belief that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible text, they will be more likely to realize that Evangelicalism is a house of cards.

Remember, if it walks, acts, and talks like a Fundamentalist, it is a Fundamentalist. Evangelicals can protest all they want that I am unfairly tarring them with the Fundamentalist brush, but as I have shown in this post, their theological and social beliefs clearly show they are Fundamentalist. If they don’t like the label, I suggest they change their beliefs and distance themselves from Evangelicalism. They need not become atheists/agnostics if they leave Evangelicalism. Even though I was not able to do so, many former Evangelicals find great value and peace in liberal/progressive Christianity. Others find the same in non-Christian religions or universalism. If it is God you want, there are plenty of places to find him/her/it.

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

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Prophet Jeremiah Johnson: Dr. Tony Fauci is a Rat Who Must be Silenced

prophet jeremiah johnson

One of the most searched for and widely read posts on this site, is a post titled, Holy Spirit Tells Jeremiah Johnson That Donald Trump is the Trumpet of God. Written in July 2015, I quote Johnson as saying:

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.”

I said at the time:

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

Trump, of course, went on to become President of the United States.

Shortly after the November 2016 election, I wrote:

Shortly after Donald Trump was named the winner of the 2016 presidential election, scores of Evangelicals came to this site looking for Jeremiah Johnson’s prophecy about Trump, one that stated that he would become president. Johnson “prophetically” farted and now Evangelicals are stopping by to let me know how sweet it smells. Sadly, it is impossible to reason with people who believe God speaks through prophets, telling us what will happen in the future. It does not matter to them that these prophets are wrong most of the time and, according to the Bible, should be stoned to death. Looking for confirmation of their political, social, and religious beliefs, Evangelicals scour the internet searching for God sightings.

These are the same people who believe that, thanks to their prayers, the Christian God interceded in the presidential election, making sure that the racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, pussy-grabbing orange-skinned Trump was elected. What evidence do they have for this? None. Much as in the case when Evangelicals pray over lost keys and God leads them to the exact place they left their keys, there is no evidence answered prayers were instrumental in the election. White Evangelicals voted and this is one of the reasons, come January, that the New York Clampetts will take up residence in the White House.

If God answered Evangelical prayers for a Trump presidency, what does this say about the master Puppeteer? It says that the Evangelical God thinks that the behaviors and policies espoused by Christian Donald Trump and his traveling troop of imbeciles are copacetic. This means that the Evangelical God is fine with demeaning and sexually assaulting women, deporting millions of hardworking undocumented workers, torturing prisoners, and raining death upon the heads of helpless civilians who live in countries that “baby” Christian Trump deems to be anti-American.

If it is God who put Donald Trump in the White House, then surely it is fair to hold God accountable for the deeds of HIS presidential choice. If Evangelicals want me to believe that there is a God in the heavenlies whom they have on speed dial, then I am going to hold that same God accountable for what happens on Donald Trump’s watch.

Jeremiah Johnson — not related in the character with the same name in the 1972 movie featuring Robert Redford — is a self-described prophet and apostolic overseer of Heart of the Father Ministry in Lakeland Florida. Johnson is also the founder and director of Maranatha School of Ministry, a full-time, two-year, five-fold ministry training center that equips and sends out end-time messengers.

According to Johnson’s website:

In 2012, Jeremiah had an encounter in my church office where God said, “I am sending you”. A national and international itinerant ministry was birthed that has now taken him to more than 40 states and 25 nations around the world. The ministry receives more than 400 invitations a year for speaking engagements. JJM is a separate ministry organization with a separate office and staff that’s completely separate from Heart of the Father Ministry.

Since 2015, Johnson has been an unapologetic sycophant — look the word up, Evangelicals — of Donald Trump. For Evangelicals too lazy to look up the definition of sycophant, THE SAGE dictionary defines the word this way:

A person who tried to please someone in order to gain a personal advantage. Synonym: Ass-kisser, crawler, lackey, toady. Hypernym: adulator, flatterer. Hyponymn: apple polisher, booktlicker, fawner, goody-goody, groveler, truckler.

On March 30, 2020, Johnson unleashed another prophetic utterance on the world. Here’s what Johnson had to say on Facebook:

IS THERE A RAT IN THE WHITE HOUSE?

Prophetic Dream on 3/30/20

Last night in my dream, I found myself at a White House briefing with Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Dr. Anthony Fauci. The President was making an announcement to the United States regarding COVID-19. As he began to encourage the people with a message of hope and promise, suddenly, Dr. Fauci turned into a big rat the size of a human being. Alarmed, I ran to the side of the stage and saw a line of men dressed in fine clothes, many of them not American, who were standing behind the doctor handing him large sums of cash.

God spoke to me immediately in the dream and said, “Even now, there is a plot to turn the President into a political puppet when I have given him a prophetic anointing to decree with authority. The month of April will determine the re-election of Donald Trump as there is a satanic agenda being loosed upon the USA to cripple the economy and turn the people against the President. There are timeframes that will seek to be stretched and moved far beyond My plans”, says the Lord.

God continued to speak to me, “Watch the states! COVID-19 has opened up the door for great division and mutiny in the United States. Governors will oppose the President in the days ahead and there will be a great spiritual battle for this nation. You must understand that this battle is concerning ‘authority’. You must pray that Donald Trump does not receive any counsel except by those whom I have sent to him. For I will expose every agenda and every plot of the enemy in the coming season. Jezebel will be thrown down in Washington DC. That controlling, conniving, divisive, and seductive spirit that comes to castrate this President will not win. They could not impeach him, so now they will attempt to publicly assassinate him through trapping him in his words and speech. He will decree and then they will try to disarm. What comes out of the mouth of My people in these days will determine many days and seasons, says the Lord.”

I woke up from this dream and God speaking audibly to me at 3:30 am. I was gasping for air and immediately received an open vision in my bedroom of a muzzle being put on President Trump. I wrestled in the spirit realm for several hours fighting for the authority that God has given him to be manifested in the United States. I then wrote down several prayer points that I would like to share now for your consideration”

1. We must pray that any voices that President Trump is currently receiving counsel from concerning COVID-19 that are not from God would be silenced and exposed.

2. We must pray that any agenda, whether it be economic or political that is trying to attach itself to the COVID-19 pandemic would be torn down.

3. We must recognize that there is a fight for “authority” in the spirit realm. God has anointed this President and the decrees that he makes must not be disarmed and reversed by the enemy. Donald Trump made a decree that by Passover, many sectors and spheres would open up. Days later, that prophetic decree was overturned and reversed. The enemy is at work and an alarm must be sounded. Keep your eyes and ears specifically on this battle for his “words”.

4. We must pray that any muzzle trying to be placed upon Donald Trump’s mouth be broken. We are currently in the Hebrew year 5780 which is the year of the open mouth. May the President’s mouth be open and may he make righteous and wise decrees in the United States. May the Church open up their mouth and speak forth the word of God.

5. We must pray for the spirit of Jezebel to be thrown down in Washington D.C. This public assassination attempt on President Trump will not succeed. We must declare that any financial crisis and hardship that the USA endures will not turn people unnecessarily against him.

6. We must pray for our Governors and local authorities. Beware of the spirit of division and mutiny that will seek to cause confusion and chaos in the months ahead.

7. We must carefully guard our own mouths and choose to speak life, blessing, and prosperity over our cities and nation.

May we remember that our wrestle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

One online source comments and says, “Rats in dreams symbolize slavery and financial loss. It is believed that rats were programmed by Satan to put people into debt and commit great sin.” The intent is not to demonize Dr. Anthony Fauci, but rather we must recognize an agenda at work that is clearly contrary to the purpose and plans of God.

Johnson dares to say with a straight face:

It is believed that rats were programmed by Satan to put people into debt and commit great sin.” The intent is not to demonize Dr. Anthony Fauci, but rather we must recognize an agenda at work that is clearly contrary to the purpose and plans of God.

Of course Johnson demonizes Dr. Fauci. Johnson recognizes that Fauci is a direct contradiction to the lies which spew daily from President Trump’s mouth and the mouth of Vice President Mike Pence. Johnson has way too much religious capital invested in Trump’s presidency to call out the president’s lies. Johnson is all in, and that’s why he viciously goes after Dr. Fauci.

Let me conclude this post by warning Evangelicals. Your behavior during the Coronavirus Pandemic is on display for all the world to see. From vile utterances such as Johnson’s screed against Dr. Fauci to pastors who refuse to close their churches, it is clear that what really matters to many (not all) Evangelicals is political power. There is a payday coming, Evangelicals; that is, if the COVID-19 virus doesn’t kill you. History will not be kind to you. You are hastening your decline, and furthering the hatred many Americans have for Evangelical Christianity. Just remember, the Bible says in Hosea 8:7:

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.

You have sown to the wind, and you will, in time, reap a whirlwind. Consider this a prophecy from Bruce Almighty; one, that unlike Johnson’s, will most certainly come to pass.

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

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Evangelical Pastor Matt Trewhella Defies Government Order to Close His Church

matt trewhella and family

Most Evangelical pastors have prudently shut down their churches due to the Coronavirus pandemic. While this blog features critiques of Evangelicalism and often ridicules the excesses found within Fundamentalist Christianity, I do want to thank these pastors for putting the health and welfare of their congregants and communities first. Even some of the churches who, at the start of the pandemic, refused to close their doors, have now caved to the reality that their continued obstinance was putting people’s lives at risk. Better late than never, but I am not inclined to forget the churches and pastors who put their politics and theology about the health of family, friends, and neighbors.

A handful of Evangelical pastors continue to hold church services despite government suggestions or orders that they refrain from doing so. One such man of God is Matt Trewhella, pastor of Mercy Street Christian Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I learned about Trewhella’s behavior from a blog post written by uber-Fundamentalist and anti-government extremist Susan-Anne White. I have written about Ms. White several times in recent years:

That White thinks Matt Trewhella is a “courageous” pastor should come as no surprise. White thinks that the Coronavirus pandemic is much ado about nothing; a government plot to meant to take away civil liberties. On March 11, 2020, White posted a link to an article that suggested the coronavirus was little more than “fake news.” It is clear, at least to me, that Trewhella and White are two peas in a pod; fellow conspiracy theorists who are watching the world burn while pretending there’s no fire.

Trewhella operates the Defy Tyrants website. Trewhella, father of eleven children, calls himself a missionary to the pre-born.

Trewhella’s church bio page states:

In addition to being pastor of Mercy Seat Christian Church (founded in 1989) in the Milwaukee, WI area, Pastor Trewhella is also founder of the pro-life organization Missionaries to the Preborn, author of the book The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates: A Proper Resistance to Tyranny and a Repudiation of Unlimited Obedience to Civil Government, and lectures frequently on righteous resistance and the lesser magistrate doctrine.

Pastor Trewhella has been a passionate leader and laborer within the body of Christ since his conversion at age 17 in the inner city of Detroit. His integrity and innovative leadership within the pro-life movement [and now within the abolitionist movement] have inspired a generation to “love their neighbor as themselves”.

Though much maligned in the liberal media for his effective pro-life work, Pastor Trewhella’s reputation as a man of principle and great courage shine brightly to a generation so desperately in need of godly leadership. He and his wife Clara live in the Milwaukee, WI area. They have eleven children.

While the governor of Wisconsin has wisely ordered all churches to close their doors, Trewhella refuses to abide by the order. Instead of meeting at their normal gathering place, the Zoofari Conference Center, Trewhella has moved his carnival act to his home. You can, if you dare, view Trewhella’s recent sermon on the COVID-19 virus below.

Video Link

Just today, the good pastor said on Facebook:

God’s Word speaks to all matters of life, including the matter of quarantining. The Lord speaks of this in His law in Leviticus 13. And when we look at the law of God we see one thing that comes through loud and clear – you do NOT quarantine the whole of society – rather you quarantine the sick.

There is also a process in God’s law to follow to determine who is sick. You do not abridge the rights and freedom of everyone and shut down the whole of society. In this we see the goodness and grace of God’s law. God’s law is more gracious and protects freedom more than man’s law. God’s law doesn’t destroy the economy and lives of others. God’s prescription was intended to protect society not only from the disease, but from economic hardship upon those who weren’t diseased. You don’t abridge every other person’s freedom – you quarantine the sick.

Perhaps it time for me to pray an atheist imprecatory prayer:

Dear Lord,

We live in a day and hour of extreme ignorance and stupidity. Countless Evangelical and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastors are putting the lives of their congregants, families, and neighbors at risk Lord, all because they hate the governments you have ordained (Romans 13) and think you are commanding them to keep the doors of their churches open.

Since it is evident that these so-called men of God are immune to reason, science, and common sense, Lord I ask that you inflict them with the COVID-19 virus. Don’t kill them Lord, just make them wish they were dead. Please protect everyone around them from their Trumpian stupidity, Lord. No need for others to suffer due to their ignorance. May everyone see their affliction, Lord, as your judgment upon their lives. And when these monuments to ignorance recover Lord, may they testify to the world that they were wrong and that Lord Science and his Son Reason alone rule this earth.

To your name, I give all the glory,

Amen.

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

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: Evangelical Denial of Science Helps Fuel the Coronavirus Pandemic

katherine stewart

Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis.

….

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

….

It is fair to point out that the failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations. When the so-called private sector is supposed to have the answer to every problem, it’s hard to deal effectively with the very public problem of a pandemic and its economic consequences. But if you examine the political roots of the life-threatening belief in the privatization of everything, you’ll see that Christian nationalism played a major role in creating and promoting the economic foundations of America’s incompetent response to the pandemic.

For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have lined up with the anti-government, anti-tax agenda not just as a matter of politics but also as a matter of theology. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, one of the Christian right’s major activist groups, has gone so far as to cast food stamps and other forms of government assistance for essential services as contrary to the “biblical model.” Limited government, according to this line of thinking, is “godly government.”

When a strong centralized response is needed from the federal government, it doesn’t help to have an administration that has never believed in a federal government serving the public good. Ordinarily, the consequences of this kind of behavior don’t show up for some time. In the case of a pandemic, the consequences are too obvious to ignore.

— Katherine Stewart, The New York Times, The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals, March 27, 2020

The Bible Commands Christians to Stop Gathering During Coronavirus Pandemic

foot washing service at danielsville baptist church march 16 2020
Robert Burt, pastor of Danielsville Baptist Church, washing congregants feet. He likely is already infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Some Christians, mostly from the Evangelical, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) tribes, refuse to obey social gathering orders. Sometimes, as in Ohio, churches continue meeting because state governments have exempted them from gathering orders. (Please see Dear Governor DeWine, Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just last week, a Georgia Baptist preacher refused to shutter his church, held a foot-washing service, contracted the COVID-19 virus, is now in the ICU hooked to a ventilator.

Main Street News reports:

Danielsville Baptist Church posted the following statement on Facebook Monday: “Pastor (Robert) Burt has tested positive for COVID-19. Please pray for us all during this time of uncertainty. He is in Piedmont Athens in ICU and on a ventilator. Thank you for your prayers.”

The church also posted: “All people within the church have been contacted and know to self quarantine. We are sorry for the scare within the community. The preacher and his wife have not been out in the community in the last week. We ask for prayers for all of the community.”

….

In the meantime, 911 Director Brenan Baird said his office is working with Smith to trace those who may have been in contact with Pastor Burt. A March 16 post on the Danielsville Baptist Facebook page included two photos of Burt conducting a foot-washing service.

Danielsville Baptist has had what can be best described as a “come to Jesus” moment. Yesterday, the church posted on its Facebook page:

A reminder that God is in control and at work in a mighty way in the middle of this storm.

All activities at Danielsville Baptist are canceled .

No Sunday Morning services.

No Wednesday Night services

No clothes closet.

Please keep all the country in your prayers!!

I want to say to Danielsville Baptist and its pastor, you have reaped what you sowed. Galatians 6:7 says: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. You ignored what health officials were telling you, and now COVID-19 is at your doorstep and no amount of praying and saying God is in control is going to keep you from getting infected. Pastor Burt ignorantly and arrogantly put his misguided faith and theology before reason, science, and common sense. Now he and his fellow Christians will pay the price.

Having said that, I do hope Pastor Burt recovers and others infected by his negligence recover too. I may despise the level of stupidity demonstrated by this church and its pastor, but I genuinely do not want to see any of them get sick and die.

Danielsville Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today, the mayor of Danielsville, Michael Wideman, signed an executive order shutting down the town. The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

The pastor of a small Baptist church in downtown Danielsville has been hospitalized with the coronavirus and members of the church have been asked to self-quarantine, according to the church.

….

The city of Danielsville on Monday also issued an executive order signed by Mayor Michael Wideman that affects businesses and organizations citywide, including two other churches inside the city.

All restaurants, coffee shops and other places were food is served to the public are now limited to take-out, drive-through or delivery. Dining on the premises is prohibited.

Public gatherings of 10 people or more are also prohibited. All barbershops, hair salons and fitness training centers are limited to six people or less.

Danielsville, Georgia, population 560, is similar in size to the rural Ohio community I live in. Everyone knows each other. Virus exposure can quickly spread in such communities due to close human interaction at church, school, and local businesses. Danielsville or Ney, Ohio will likely never become epicenters of virus exposure like New York, but residents should love their neighbors as themselves — as Jesus commanded — and avoid contact with each other. That includes church. Refusing to do so is direct disobedience to the Word of God.

That’s right, after two weeks of fasting, praying, and deep, deep, I mean deep Bible study, I have found a verse that directly addresses the Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19 infection, and whether churches should listen to government health officials and cancel their services.

Here’s what I found in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God:

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. (Proverbs 22:3)

I love how the Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates this verse:

When you see trouble coming,
 don’t be stupid
 and walk right into it—
 be smart and hide. (Proverbs 22:3)

Surely, we all can agree that the Coronavirus is “trouble coming.” In fact, it has arrived in all fifty states. In New York, hundreds of people are dying. According to health experts, the United States is in the early days of the pandemic. Want to see what our future likely holds? Look to Italy. (Please see Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus.) The Bible says that anyone who sees the Coronavirus coming and walks right into it is “stupid.” Just today, our Stupid-in-Chief, Donald Trump, said that he hopes churches are PACKED on Easter. That’s right. Nineteen days from now, the President wants and expects churches to be filled with worshipers of the “risen” Jesus. Surely, people of reason and common sense see the absurdity and stupidity of such words. The President is tired of limiting gatherings. He’s got campaign rallies to attend (and make no mistake about it, thousands of people will show up if he holds rallies) and an election to win. Lacking any sense of empathy for the American people or the world at large, all Trump cares about is his image, hotels, and stock portfolio. By suggesting Christians pack their local churches on Easter Sunday, Trump is stupidly running into trouble. And when the virus continues unabated? Blame the Chinese or Barack Obama.

God, in the Holy Bible, commands Christians to be smart and hide from the Coronavirus. That’s right. God doesn’t say have faith and stand your ground. God doesn’t say to take authority over the virus and pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t affect you. GOD SAYS, BE SMART AND HIDE!

What’s the best way to hide from the Coronavirus? Stay home. Stay away from other people. Do everything you can to avoid contact with other people. It really is that simple.

And if you refuse to do so? God says you are stupid. ‘Nuff said, Amen? Can I get a witness?

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors

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

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Bill Muehlenberg’s Ignorant View of Socialism

Massive shortages of basic food items and everyday necessities like toilet paper. Lengthy lines of irritable shoppers outside of shops – at least the ones that are still open. Heavy rationing and constant government meddling with how we live. I can be talking about one of two things here: life under the corona crisis, or business as usual in socialist countries.

We are now all coming to terms with government lockdowns, rationing, shortages, and panic buying. That is pretty much a new experience for most of us in the West. But for those doomed to live in socialist paradises, this is just what life is like on a daily basis – and it has been for decades now.

….

So if that is what you are keen on, then keep foolishly championing politicians in the West like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Jeremy Corbyn. Keep denouncing capitalism while you enjoy all of its many benefits. Keep railing against the free market as you use its products to do so: smart phones, laptops, the internet, etc.

— Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch, If You Like the Corona Crisis, You’ll Love Communism, March 23, 2020

The Doctor We Need

C Everett Koop

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I am an atheist and a Democrat. Even so, the public official I have most respected, for most of my adult life, was a conservative Christian — and a rock-ribbed Republican.

If you are around my age, you have an image of him with a bushy, mustacheless beard. You remember him wearing what looked like a Naval Admiral’s uniform, or a suit with a brightly-colored bow tie that served as a diacritical mark highlighting his facial hair.

Most important, though, you remember the way he acted while he was on the national (and, for a time, worldwide) stage. That behavior was completely consistent with his professional ethos as well as his personal values.

His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981. Charles Everett Koo His name was Charles Everett Koop. Ronald Reagan, during his first year as President of the United States, nominated Dr. Koop as Surgeon General. Despite objections from feminists, LGBT people, and secularists, the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his confirmation late in 1981.

He would soon put their fears to rest. Although he personally opposed abortion because of his religious beliefs, he would not succumb to pressure from the Reagan administration to prepare a report stating that abortion is psychologically damaging to women. Ever the doctor (pediatric surgeon) and scientist, he said there simply wasn’t evidence to corroborate what the President wanted him to say. 

His stance seems even more consistent with his credo when you realize how active he was in championing the rights of the newborn. Although he was not personally involved with the case, he was motivated by the death of a six-day-old boy who was born with Down Syndrome and denied surgical treatment to correct his esophageal atresia and tracheoesophageal fistula. Before he became Surgeon General, he was, for more than three decades, the surgeon-in-chief at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, during which he saw increasing survival rates for babies with congenital maladies. During his last eight years, he never lost a full-term baby on whom he operated to correct esophageal atresia.

He would also call attention to the AIDS epidemic when the President would not utter the word “AIDS” in public. Liberal and LGBT groups criticized him for highlighting the dangers of sexual intercourse in general, and gay sex in particular, for spreading the disease. But he was also excoriated by religious conservatives and others for recommending mandatory sex education, beginning in the third grade.

Finally, he put his scientific knowledge ahead of the wishes of his boss when he called for stronger warnings against tobacco use. He infuriated some of the largest donors to the Republican Party—namely, cigarette makers—by issuing a report saying that nicotine has addictive qualities similar to those of heroin and cocaine, and should be treated as such.

After he left public life, he started a website that published articles that turned out to be little more than advertisements. Still, he deserves credit for his fealty to empirical evidence over the agenda of an administration, or even his own religious beliefs.

It seems that a Dr. Koop for this generation, if you will, has emerged. Like Koop, he is a physician and scientist. He, too, became a national public official during the Reagan Administration. He is also is resisting, quite publicly, a President and administration who deny science at every turn. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci became the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in 1984. He has remained in that position under six Presidents, turning down several offers to lead the NIAID’s parent organization, the National Institutes of Health. During his tenure, Fauci has been at the forefront of efforts to deal with HIV, SARS, Ebola and other contagious diseases. In 2003, the Institute for Scientific Information stated that during the previous two decades, Fauci was “the 13th-most cited scientists among the 2.5 to 3 million authors in all disciplines throughout the world who published articles in scientific journals.”

His current boss denied the threat of the coronavirus until a couple of days ago. Even after Donald Trump finally acknowledged the severity of the pandemic and the need to take unprecedented actions against it (and the economic disruptions it’s causing), he continued to blame the Chinese for it. And members of his administration insist that, while public gatherings and physical contact of other kinds have been banned in various cities and countries, church-goers won’t get sick by attending worship services, and that communion wafers and shared wine cups won’t transmit the virus.

Dr. Fauci, in another parallel with Dr. Koop, refutes those, and other, follies—and articulates his dire but accurate warnings—in clear, unambiguous language. The main difference, I believe, between the two men’s situations is that while most of the pressure on Koop came from “behind the scenes,” Fauci must make himself heard when his boss is an overbearing bully who is always trying to talk over him. Fortunately for us, Dr. Fauci, it seems, has been heard, loud and clear. 

So here is another case of history repeating itself: Drs. Koop and Fauci had to fight against religious superstition and plain-and-simple bigotry in the hope that empirical evidence would guide public policy. Unfortunately, if history teaches us anything, it’s that every public health crisis will need a Dr. Koop or a Dr. Fauci, whatever his or her ecumenical or political affiliations, to prevail against religious bigotry and political partisanship. People who were caught in earlier epidemics like the Black Death, unfortunately, did not have anyone like either of them.

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