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Reacting Against the Inevitable

guest post

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

This year’s Easter/Passover/Ramadan season has been interesting. For one thing it’s the second such holiday cycle during the COVID-19 pandemic. For another, it witnessed two developments that, at first glance seem contradictory.

The first: A Gallup poll revealed that fewer than 50 percent of Americans identify themselves as members of a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious institution. That is the smallest proportion since 1937, when Gallup first asked the question and 73 percent claimed to be so affiliated.

The second: Arkansas’ state legislature overrode Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill that would bar transgender girls from participating in school sports program and would keep health-service professionals from providing transgender-related health care to minors. Similar legislation is on the table in other states, and in others even more draconian measures are under review: Health care professionals who help young trans people get the care they need could face long prison sentences and the revocation of their licenses and certificates.

Although those two developments seem at odds with each other, it actually makes perfect sense that some states are trying to keep young transgender people from affirming themselves at the same time more Americans are dissociating themselves from churches.

Why is that?

Any time a major cultural or societal change is underway reaction to it can be fierce and even violent. Think of the Counter-Reformation, or the way cops and everyday citizens—let alone Klan members—tried, brutally, to resist the Civil Rights movement.

The bad news is, of course, that reactionary people and movements foment fear and hatred, and inspire or even embolden haters to all manner of violence, including murder. The silver lining, if you will, is that the virulence of their reaction is a sure sign that they are ultimately on the wrong, and losing, side of history.

At the dawn of the Civil Rights movement, for every white American who participated in a lynching or cross-burning, there were many more who accepted or rationalized Jim Crow laws as well as other, subtler kinds of discrimination. They might not have chased a black kid off their block, but they didn’t want the same black kid to date, let alone marry, their kid. They knew, deep down, that change was needed but “the time wasn’t right.”

Slowly, such people became aware of their own deeply-held, and often unconscious, assumptions and realized there was no rational basis for them. Moreover, they came to realize that the American system of apartheid was not only unjust and irrational; it benefited no one. The Loving decision not only righted a wrong; it aligned with the Constitution and simply made logical sense. The social order would not be broken by people marrying people of “different” races any more than it would be when members of those “different” races—or faiths or gender identities– entered schools, professions and neighborhoods that, previously, had been off-limits to them.

So, racist beliefs could no more be defended than rigid ideas about gender roles, identities and hierarchies with science, logic or law. The Loving decision deemed that “miscegenation” laws violated the Constitution; four and a half decades later, Robert Shelby, a conservative Republican judge in Utah, would declare that state’s laws defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman as unconstitutional (a pivotal moment, I believe, in the fight for marriage equality). In a similar vein, Asa Hutchinson—a Republican– vetoed an anti-transgender youth bill because, he said, its restrictions were “government overreach.” By the time those actions were taken, people had come to realize that gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be legislated or medicated away, and that racial purity is a myth at best and a lie at worst. (The human race began in Africa. That’s Anthropology 101.)

Those events, of course, have everything to do with Americans’ loosening relationship to churches and such: Nearly all of organized religion—especially Evangelical Christianity—is predicated on racial/ethnic hierarchies and rigid gender identities and roles. It’s pretty difficult to tell a woman to submit herself to a man, in her home or in a church, when she’s running a business or graduating at the top of her law school class. Even if it were possible or even feasible, there just isn’t any rational reason why a woman should stand back if she knows better about something than her male spouse or colleague—or why she should align herself with an institution where she is, at best, a second-class citizen and, at worst, a mere incubator.

Those who benefit from such systems of oppression are, of course, not happy to see the edifices that hold them up being dismantled, brick by brick, or eroded. They also worry that people, especially the young, are not interested in upholding those structures or institutions. The young make up a large portion of the religiously unaffiliated (“nones”), Gallup found.

It means that, deep down, religiously affiliated and reactionary folks know they aren’t going to find replacements for themselves among their children. So, they know that whatever they feel the need to do, they’ll have to do more of, with more intensity, for as long as they can. Their behavior will become more extreme, and they will do whatever they can to hold to their notions of gender, marriage, family and society. That means forcing those notions on everyone else through irrational prohibitions. The only way to get people to support such bans is to stoke their fears by invoking stereotypes, junk science and outright lies. And the only way to enforce those bans is through force. What I have just described culminated in Donald Trump’s judicial appointments: He chose jurists who oppose what most Americans want, including safe and legal access to abortion, the right to marry whomever they wish and to live in accordance with whatever they know to be true about themselves.

Those judicial appointments, the law Asa Hutchinson tried to stop and other retrograde actions and policies are thus part of a reaction against the inevitable: the secularization of the United States of America. Somehow it’s fitting that they came together during the Easter/Passover/Ramadan season.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Rural Northwest Ohio: Living in TrumpLand

Scores of Trump signs and flags permeate the landscape of rural northwest Ohio — almost six months after Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden. Nearly seven out of ten local voters voted for Trump in the 2016 and 2020 elections. President Biden is hated despite handing out thousands of stimulus dollars to local families and millions of welfare dollars to farmers. In the minds of most locals, socialists, commies, atheists, “illegals,” AOC, the Squad, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer are pawns of Satan, evil people who must be repelled at all costs.

Ten or so miles north of where we live, a Trump worshiper planted the following signs on Highway 15:

trump supporter rural northwest ohio (1)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (2)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (4)
trump supporter rural northwest ohio (3)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Poking Geri Ungurean, An Evangelical Conspiracy Theorist

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Geri Ungurean is an Evangelical conspiracy theorist. You can read here rants at the Absolute Truth from the Word of God: Jesus Has Every Answer blog. Ungurean is a Trump-supporting, anti-vaxxer, anti-masker hater of George Soros — who is Satan personified. Ungurean believes that Facebook and WordPress are out to get her due to her “truth” telling. I will leave it to readers to peruse her site and determine how truthful she is. I am of the opinion that Ungurean is a liar and full of shit. And the other day, I told her so:

geri ungurean comment

As you can see, I used Ungurean’s name to comment. 🙂

In classic tinfoil hat fashion, Ungurean turned my comment into a conspiracy theory:

You see, this person created a gmail account using my name. My gmail is grandmageri422.

This morning I wrote an email to this imposter. I told him/her that I forgave them and that I only had one response:

(Lengthy Plan of Salvation deleted)

God knows who the person is who responded to my article on George Soros.

I am asking the readers to Pray for this person. Yes – let’s corporately send prayers up to heaven asking our Lord to reach this person for Him!

First, I did NOT create a Gmail account in Ungurean’s name. This is a lie, and she knows it. Second, if she actually sent an email to the fictitious address I used, it should have bounced back to her. She would then KNOW that I did NOT create a new account in her name. Third, Ungurean published her FULL Gmail address on a public blog. This is really a bad idea. I was able to leave several more snarky comments in Ungurean’s name. Just having a bit of fun while I slowly die. Might as well leave this life being a pain in Evangelical asses, right?

My main beef with Ungurean is that she is a liar, that she deliberately spreads things she knows are not true (or should know if she did a bit of legitimate research). Ungurean is not stupid, but she has so deeply immersed herself in Evangelical dogma and right-wing conspiracy theories that she has lost the ability to think critically. Her writing is a good example of the pernicious nature of Fundamentalist thinking.

I genuinely feel sorry for Ungurean. She’s my age, a grandmother, so I know it is unlikely that anyone can say anything to change her mind. That’s what Fundamentalist religious beliefs will do to your mind. I know that was the case for me. Your beliefs keep you from seeing any “truth” but yours. And when you are in the Evangelical bubble, it makes perfect sense. Your beliefs and practices perfectly align with the “truth” of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, saying to you, Praise Jesus! I am right. To those outside of the bubble, however, you are viewed as a bast-shit crazy lunatic. That’s why many Evangelicals-turned-atheists can only shake their heads in disbelief and shame when they think about what they used to believe and how they lived their lives. I once was Geri Ungurean, so I understand where she is coming from. That said, I was a liar and full of shit then, as she is now. And that’s the truth.

Let me conclude this post with some of the comments on Ungurean’s blog about my comment. Funny stuff, to say the least:

Dale:

Keep preachin’ it girl! Heap those loving truth burning coals on their heads. People like this live on hate not love. If they knew Christ they would know real love. It’s not “feelie” or “gimmie” type love but love based on true commitment. John 15:13 describes the commitment part of real love & He did that for us undeserving sinful jerks. He loved us first, He saves us from God’s wrath, He sanctifies us, He keeps us, He takes us with Him at death, He keep us forever with Himself, He cannot ever lose any of his sheep. An excellent deal, and its free. He paid the entire price & He guarantees it FOREVER! The clear Gospel msgs we send to people like this may go unheeded but the Lord will on “J” day present these msgs as evidence against them. They will be without excuse.

Oh yeah keep the correspondence simple, its obvious this person’s vocabulary is very limited.

Jim:

Geri, whoever wrote you was a sick person. Keep preaching it. God/Jesus loves you. You are a very brave woman that you wrote many articles that were proven FACTS!!! Satan and demons hate the truth. The world are getting darker and darker. Time is short. I truly believe the rapture is very near. I pray this year, 2021!!!!!!

You will getting a crown in the Heaven.

Marianne:

I am praying also for this person now.

Bryan:

Take all of this as a ‘back-handed compliment’ from the “father of lies.” You have SO rattled his cage, so to speak, that he has resorted to plain old simple forgery and abuse. Then you’ve responded with Love and concern for the poor soul who satan has manipulated to attack you – it’;s pathetic really. As i often say to he enemy-of-our-souls “Is THAT really the best you can do?” (with as much contempt as i can muster.) If THIS is satan’s “master plan” to shut you up, then you have absolutely NOTHING to worry about!

I agree with my brother “Keep heaping on the burning coals” of Love, Compassion and concern, plus relentless resistance of the devil’s doomed strategies, then watch him FLEE!

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Tears as the Work Begins

joe biden inauguration
joe biden inauguration

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

Sometimes I cry at the end of a bike ride. The tears might trickle from a well of joy: The ride was particularly delightful because I’d climbed a mountain or covered a long distance, or the bike or my body felt particularly good. Or I may simply have ridden through an interesting place or on a beautiful day. Other times, though, the cry is cathartic: During my ride, I might have been working something out in my mind or letting out some kind of frustration.

Yesterday I shed tears of release. They felt, somewhat, like the ones that have rolled down my cheeks after a ride that works out my psyche as well as my body: salty as a tide but cleansing like the rain.  

But I hadn’t ridden. I had planned to get out on my bike, but instead I listened to the speeches and performances during of the presidential inauguration. I wasn’t expecting much: even before Trump campaigned for the presidency, I was rather cynical when it came to political candidates’ or office holders’ words. Even their most absurd claims or outrageous lies no longer enraged me: They all seemed part of their stock in trade. Never was I moved–as some claimed to be by “Ask not what your country” (I was about two years old when JFK made that speech!) –or by anything an office-seeker or -holder said on the stump.

Yesterday, though, I couldn’t help but weep while listening to Joe Biden’s inaugural speech. He doesn’t have the oratorical skills of JFK or Obama, and his words, while important and wise, weren’t as stirring as those of Amanda Gorman, the young poet who followed him. In hearing him, though, I knew this: I’d survived. We had survived. Those tears, the tension leaving my body, were the same as what I’d felt after the most traumatic events of my life–or, more precisely, the moment when I’d processed them, whether through finally talking or writing about them, or going on a ride.  

In fact, I can pinpoint two other occasions when my tears felt like the ones I shed yesterday, and when I felt the same kind of taut energy leaving my shoulders: when I talked and wrote honestly, for the first time, about my gender identity and when I first revealed my experience of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest.

Only my cat witnessed my catharsis yesterday. She gave me the best cuddle any pet has ever given me, and I thought she would hold yet another of my secrets. Other humans, I thought, might find my response to yesterday’s events was melodramatic. This morning, however, I described my experience to a friend I encountered on my way back from the store. “I’m not surprised,” she assured me. “Other people are saying they feel as if an abusive relationship is ending.” After what seemed like an interminable pause, she continued, “So do I. But the real work is about to begin.”

I know exactly what she means. Telling someone, for the first time, how I really experience my body and the world, and about those encounters with a priest in the parish where I was an altar boy, were starting points that led to years of unraveling, undoing and rebuilding: processes that continue to this day, through my writing, developing mutually supportive relationships—and cycling, of course.

I am going for a ride later today. Although I will pedal along familiar streets and roads, the path ahead is just beginning—and, as best as I can tell, won’t end. All I can do is to keep going, Yesterday, Joe Biden and Amanda Gorman told us that not only is it what we must do; it is all we can do. All I know is that tears—whether cathartic or joyful—and tension will be released. They are the signals that we have survived and therefore have no choice but to move forward.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Evangelical Man Calls Me a Fascist Over Recent Gun Control Post

lol

I have written a major post on gun control exactly twice over the past twelve years. Americans love their guns, and anything that threatens to limit or take them away brings anger, fury, and attack. One commenter on my latest gun post had this to say about me:

Bruce, it appears that you are quite fascist in your views. Those who don’t see things as you need to be silenced and regulated. It also appears that you are just an extremist. Before your deconversion, you were an Evangelical extremist. Now you are an Anti-Christian left-wing political extremist.

I replied:

Ahh, you hurt my feelings.

You said, “Before your deconversion you were an Evangelical extremist.” You might want to read my story before making rash, uninformed judgments.

I make no apology for my political beliefs. I support using the political process to advance a liberal/progressive worldview. Evidently, only Christians are allowed to do so? By all means, Geoffrey, I will meet you in the arena of the public square. Let’s do battle, but please leave your guns at home. May the best ideas win.

Geoffrey (Geoff) is an Evangelical Christian. I assume from his comment that my ideas about gun control caused him to forget who he is talking to. Geoff has been reading this blog on and off for five years. Have I ever written ANYTHING that remotely suggests that I am a fascist? (Please see Wikipedia article on Fascism.) Of course not. Not one word. I suspect I upset Geoff with my liberal anti-Second Amendment beliefs. Instead of engaging me on the issues I raised, Geoff decided to personally attack me, suggesting that I want to regulate and silence those who disagree with me. This, on its face, is absurd, and Geoff knows it. He is an Evangelical, yet for the past five years, I have allowed him to comment on this site. This is definitely not how I typically handle Evangelical commenters. I did not regulate or silence him, though I did, at times, strongly disagree with what he had to say.

When I write posts such as America’s Gun Culture in Light of the Recent Insurrection, I expect people to disagree with me. I know people have all sorts of ideas about guns. Fire away. But personal attacks, or hurling a derogatory epithet my way? To quote the esteemed Bengals philosopher Ocho Cinco, Child, please. (Ocho Cinco explaining what Child, please means.)

I get it. Some readers love my atheism and hate my politics. If I wrote about politics all the time, I am sure some readers would stop reading. That said, I also know that a number of readers generally agree with my political views. As a writer, my objective is NOT to please people, to make them really, really, really like me. I have a point of view about religion and politics that may or may not resonate with this or that reader on any given day. All I know to do is tell my story and share my worldview. It is up to readers to decide whether what I write speaks truth to them.

Have a good week, comrades. I am off to a meeting of local fascists, also known as Trumpists.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Evangelicals Try to Distance Themselves From the January 6, 2021 Insurrection

evangelical philosophy

Evangelical apologist Michael Brown wants the world to know that it wasn’t Jesus-loving Evangelicals that fomented insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Ignore the Evangelical rally that preceded the insurrection. Ignore the incendiary words for months by prominent Evangelical leaders, preachers, and writers. Ignore the Jesus flags, crosses, and Christian apparel. Ignore the Christian music that wafted across the concourse. Ignore the social media posts from Evangelicals who proudly shouted, I WAS THERE! Brown wants everyone to know that the violent, murderous insurrectionists were not real Evangelicals. This was not, according to Brown, a Christian insurrection.

David French calls bullshit on Brown’s disingenuous, facts-challenged denial. (And Brown ignores his own culpability in stoking the flames of Trumpism over the past four years.)

French writes:

We have to be clear about what happened in Washington D.C. on January 6th. A violent Christian insurrection invaded and occupied the Capitol.

Why do I say this was a Christian insurrection? Because so very many of the protesters told us they were Christian, as loudly and clearly as they could.

….

I saw much of it with my own eyes. There was a giant wooden cross outside the Capitol. “Jesus saves” signs and other Christian signs were sprinkled through the crowd. I watched a man carry a Christian flag into an evacuated legislative chamber.

I could go on and on. My colleague Audrey Fahlberg was present at the riot, and she told me that Christian music was blaring from the loudspeakers late in the afternoon of the takeover. And don’t forget, this attack occurred days after the so-called Jericho March, an event explicitly filled with Christian-nationalist rhetoric so unhinged that I warned on December 13 that it embodied “a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence.”

Are you still not convinced that it’s fair to call this a Christian insurrection? I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they charged the Capitol.

If that happened conservative Christians would erupt in volcanic anger. We’d turn to the Muslim community and cry out, “Do something about this!” How do I know we’d respond in that manner? Because that’s what we’ve done, year after year, before and after 9/11. And while there were many times when Christians painted the Muslim world with an overly-broad bigoted brush, it is true that violent insurrections do not spring forth from healthy communities.

That’s true abroad, and it’s true at home. During this summer’s riots, I wrote multiple posts detailing the extraordinary difficulty in quelling urban unrest once violence starts. Sometimes the unhealthy community is suffering from the effects of systemic injustice. Sometimes it’s dominated by outrageous and unreasonable grievances. Sometimes it’s infested with unhealthy fears and grotesque ambitions. Often there’s a combination of all these factors in play. But the violence always has a cause.

….

The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies. We’ll call them the enabling lies and the activating lies. And unless you deal with the enabling lies, the activating lies will constantly pollute the body politic and continue to spawn violent unrest.

What’s the difference between the two kinds of lies? The enabling lie is the lie that makes you fertile ground for the activating lie that actually motivates a person to charge a thin blue line at the Capitol or take a rifle to a pizza parlor.

Here’s an enabling lie: America will end if Trump loses. That was the essence of the Flight 93 essay in 2016. That was the core of Eric Metaxas’s argument in our debates this spring and fall.

Here’s another enabling lie: The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins.

And here’s yet another: The left hates you (this sentence sometimes concludes with the phrase “and wants you dead.”)

I could go on, but the enabling lies that have rocketed through the church for years share important characteristics. They not only dramatically exaggerate the stakes of our political and legal disputes, they dramatically exaggerate the perfidy of your opponents. Moreover, when the stakes are deemed to be that high, the moral limitations on your response start to fall away.

After all, when people believe our national destiny hangs in the balance, they often respond accordingly. Or, as I said in a December 4 newsletter warning about potential violence, “if you argue that the very existence of the country is at stake, don’t be surprised if people start to act as if the very existence of the country is at stake.”

….

And so the enabling lies spread. They poison hearts. They poison minds. They fill you with rage and hate, until along comes the activating lie, the dangerous falsehood that pushes a person towards true radicalism. How does a person come to the conclusion that cannibal pedophiles dominate Hollywood? Or that a vast conspiracy of politicians, lawyers, journalists, and tech executives (including conservative politicians, lawyers, and journalists) brazenly stole a presidential election?

You believe that when you know your enemy is evil. You believe that when you know they will destroy the country. In that context, fact-checks and rebuttals aren’t just wrong, they’re naïve. All too often, when you’re arguing with the person who believes the activating lie—the falsehood that immediately motivated them to take to the street—then you’ve already lost.

If the church plays whack-a-mole against Q and Stop the Steal while it tolerates and spreads enabling lies, expect to see the insurrection continue. Expect to see it grow. After all, “they” hate us. “They” will destroy the country. “They” will stop at nothing to see the church fall.

Rebutting enabling lies does not mean whitewashing the opposition. It does not mean surrendering your values or failing to resist destructive ideas. It does mean discerning the difference between a problem and a crisis, between an aberration and an example. And it means possessing the humility to admit when you’re wrong. It means understanding that no emergency is ever too great to stop loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you.

And the rebuttal has to come from within. The New York Times isn’t going to break this fever. Vox won’t change many right-wing minds. But courageous Christians who love Christ and His church have a chance. 

While I do not agree with everything French writes in his article, his central premise rings true. Central to the events of January 6, 2021 is American Evangelical Christianity.

Emma Green describes the connection between Evangelicalism (and Conservative Catholicism) and the insurrection in an Atlantic article titled, A Christian Insurrection.

Green writes:

The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government. The mob carried signs and flag declaring Jesus saves! and God, Guns & Guts Made America, Let’s Keep All Three. Some were participants in the Jericho March, a gathering of Christians to “pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity.” After calling on God to “save the republic” during rallies at state capitols and in D.C. over the past two months, the marchers returned to Washington with flourish. On the National Mall, one man waved the flag of Israel above a sign begging passersby to Say Yes to Jesus. “Shout if you love Jesus!” someone yelled, and the crowd cheered. “Shout if you love Trump!” The crowd cheered louder. The group’s name is drawn from the biblical story of Jericho, “a city of false gods and corruption,” the march’s website says. Just as God instructed Joshua to march around Jericho seven times with priests blowing trumpets, Christians gathered in D.C., blowing shofars, the ram’s horn typically used in Jewish worship, to banish the “darkness of election fraud” and ensure that “the walls of corruption crumble.”

The Jericho March is evidence that Donald Trump has bent elements of American Christianity to his will, and that many Christians have obligingly remade their faith in his image. Defiant masses literally broke down the walls of government, some believing they were marching under Jesus’s banner to implement God’s will to keep Trump in the White House. The group’s co-founders are essentially unknown in the organized Christian world. Robert Weaver, an evangelical Oklahoma insurance salesman, was nominated by Trump to lead the Indian Health Service but withdrew after The Wall Street Journal reported that he misrepresented his qualifications. Arina Grossu, who is Catholic, recently worked as a contract communications adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. (Weaver and Grossu declined to comment. “Jericho March denounces any and all acts of violence and destruction, including any that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021,” a PR spokesperson for the March wrote to me in an email after the publication of this article.) Still, they will have far more influence in shaping the reputation of Christianity for the outside world than many denominational giants: They helped stage a stunning effort to circumvent the 2020 election, all in the name of their faith. White evangelicals, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. Some of these supporters participated in the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. But many in the country hold all Trump voters responsible—especially those who lent him the moral authority of their faith.

….

“This is bigger than one election,” Grossu says on the Jericho March website. “This is about protecting free and fair elections for the future and saving America from tyranny.” Paranoid thinking abounded among the protesters in D.C.; the QAnon conspiracy has circulated within some evangelical circles. On Wednesday, the Jericho March account tweeted a screenshot of Trump condemning Vice President Mike Pence for not stopping the certification of the Electoral College votes. “A sad day in America,” it said, along with prayer-hands emojis. The march organizers were not mourning the attack on the Capitol. They were mourning the vice president’s refusal to help the president overturn the election.

Were all the insurrectionists Evangelicals? Of course not. That said, Evangelicalism was on prominent display, and those of us who have been following and writing about Evangelicalism for years knew that the baby birthed on January 6th was conceived decades ago in the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and the Moral Majority. Over time, culture warriors dropped all pretenses of spirituality, trading their Biblical beliefs for a bowl of political power. In 2016, 82% of voting White Evangelicals voted for an immoral, godless New York con-man named Donald Trump. In 2020, most white Evangelicals — knowing all they now know about Trump — voted once again for him.

Early in Trump’s presidency, Evangelicals tried to convince the American people that Trump was a Christian. James Dobson called the President a “baby Christian.” Trump gathered together prominent Evangelicals — led by crazed charismatic Paula White — and presented them as his “spiritual” advisory board. These preachers sold their souls for bowls of pottage. Trump, of course, was using them for political gain. He knew he needed Evangelicals to vote for him again if he hoped to win re-election.

Evangelicals have pretty much given up on calling Trump a Christian. All that mattered to them is that Trump delivered culture war victories on issues such as abortion and restoring Evangelicals to the head of the cultural table. Decades of separation of church & state progress went out the window, with Christianity being granted unprecedented access to government services and programs. Numerous federal agencies and cabinet positions were headed by Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote, voted to require:

a pill used in medication abortions must be distributed to patients directly by health providers and not by retail or mail-order pharmacies. A lower court temporarily suspended this requirement during the pandemic; the Supreme Court’s decision effectively reinstates the requirement.

Thanks to Trump, the Supreme Court now has a solid conservative Christian majority. It is likely, that the Roberts court will, in time, overturn Roe v. Wade — fulfilling the wet dream of millions and millions of Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics. We can also expect to see frontal assaults on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights. Trump may have lost the election, but he’s given Evangelicals historic victories in the culture war; victories that will negatively affect us for decades.

It should come as no surprise, then, that millions of Evangelicals who recently voted for Trump believe that the election was stolen from Trump; that the “deep state” is out to destroy all they hold dear. While they certainly weren’t the sum of the insurrectionists, they made up a substantial percentage of the white Americans who stormed the Capitol eight days ago. Apologists such as Brown are living in denial of what happened on January 6th. And until such men and women are willing to admit that they are a cancer eating away at the heart of our democracy, there can be no forgiveness or unity. I find it laughable to hear Evangelicals who encouraged sedition now calling on Democrats and people of color to ignore their treasonous behavior and unify with them for the “good” of our Republic.

What’s good for the United States is the arrest and prosecution of those who invaded the Capitol. Hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions should be forthcoming. Members of Congress that helped foment the insurrection should be immediately expelled, and, if warranted, prosecuted. Many of the shrillest voices promoting conspiracies in the Senate and House of Representatives were card-carrying Evangelicals. Ted Cruz? A Southern Baptist. Josh Hawley? A Fundamentalist Calvinist. Evangelicals are everywhere if you dare to pay attention.

There was a day when the religion of a politician was off-limits. We can no longer afford to ignore the connection between theological beliefs and political ambition. Josh Hawley, for example, is a Rousas Rushdoony-loving theocrat. His theological beliefs are a direct threat to our Democracy. And he is not the only Senator or Representative with such beliefs. We must not play nice with such people, all because we supposedly shouldn’t criticize the religious beliefs of others. Their beliefs are fair game, as are the beliefs of all of us. If beliefs affect how we think and act, should we not pay attention to them? After the events of January 6th, the answer to this question should be obvious.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

America’s Gun Culture in Light of the Recent Insurrection

australian gun control

Years ago, I wrote a post about firearms and the importance of gun control laws. Boy, did I step in it, attracting all sorts of gun nuts and worshipers of the Second Amendment. I took the position then that we must do something about the dangerous, irrational, violent gun culture in America. Numerous mass shootings, school massacres, murders, and insurrections later, I still believe that the people of the United States MUST come to terms with the gun monster we have created by allowing the NRA and other pro-gun groups to impede meaningful, exhaustive firearm regulation. After recent armed insurrections at the U.S. Capitol and numerous state capitals, it’s evident that we must drastically change our firearm laws.

But, Bruce, the Second Amendment says . . .

Ah yes, the God of the American right. What, exactly, does the Second Amendment say?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia, end of discussion. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with personal firearm ownership as it is currently practiced in the United States. At best, our well regulated militias are state National Guard units, and not Billy Bob and Joe Bob getting together with their white supremacist buddies and calling themselves a militia.

It is the duty of the law enforcement and the National Guard to protect the security of our free state, not people who have bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle or a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol at Dick’s Sporting Goods or their local gun store.

I grew up in a home surrounded by firearms. My dad was an avid gun collector. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dad had tables at local gun shows, buying and selling firearms and ammunition. After we moved to Arizona in the 70s, Dad opened a gun store in Sierra Vista. I worked many hours at the store, and had at my disposal everything from single-shot .22k Hornet rifles to .458 Winchester Magnum rifles. When I wanted to go hunting or do some target shooting, I either used my own guns or I borrowed one from the store.

In the 1960s, Dad got a visit from the ATF, alleging that he had violated the 1968 Gun Control Act with some of his firearm sales at a Lima, Ohio gun show. While he was not arrested, ATF agents told him that if he didn’t stop his illicit trade, they would charge him with federal crimes. Did Dad stop illegally peddling guns? I can’t know for sure, but I doubt it.

As an eleven-year-old boy, I vividly remember Dad sitting at the dining room table modifying an M1 Carbine so it would be fully automatic. After the modification, Dad and I went outside and lined up a bunch of tin cans on the fence. Dad then mowed the cans down with his now fully automatic M1. I have no idea what happened to this gun, or if Dad modified other M1s for interested buyers.

That’s my background, lest anyone suggest that I don’t know anything about firearms. I owned firearms well into the 1990s. I then sold my rifles, shotguns, and handguns. By that time, I had stopped hunting, and I lost interest in target shooting and owning guns in general. I do wish I hadn’t sold my bolt action Mossburg .410 shotgun with a modified choke. It was my first firearm purchase at the Lima gun show mentioned above. I was eleven and paid $21 for the shotgun.

What must we as a people do to put an end to the Second Amendment cult? What must we do to put an end to gun violence? What must we do to strip insurrectionists of their weapons of mass destruction? What follows are suggestions for radically changing America’s gun culture.

First, all firearms and ancillary equipment must be registered and entered into a national database that is accessible to law enforcement. Purchase requirements must be strengthened and waiting periods lengthened. These things must be changed at the federal level. State governments have shown that they are unwilling to do what’s necessary to protect the American people from gun violence. Here in Ohio, super-majorities of Republicans in the state legislature have turned the Buckeye State into the Wild, Wild West. Anything goes when it comes to firearms.

Second, certain firearms must be strictly regulated and, if need be, confiscated. Assault-style firearms must be banned, along with high-capacity magazines. Owners of such things should be given an opportunity to turn them in and receive fair market value for their weapons. If they refuse to turn in the guns, laws should be crafted that would seriously punish them if they are caught with the weapons in public.

Third, all state concealed carry laws should be repealed. No one should be permitted to carry a firearm in public. Allowance should be made for hunting and target shooting, but firearms used for such purposes must be secured separate from ammunition until they are readied for use.

Fourth, all private sales or transfers of weapons must be reported to local law enforcement, who then must update the federal database with the new information. Illegal firearm sales must be severely punished.

Fifth, every gun and ammunition sale should be taxed. Want to reduce the number of firearms in America? Tax sales at such a level that purchasers will think twice about buying more guns or boxes of ammunition.

Sixth, sales of things such as bulletproof vests, armor-piercing bullets, flash grenades, and arrest zip ties should be limited to law enforcement. Ammunition purchases should be limited. No one needs to own thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Seventh, all firearm owners must take comprehensive firearm training. This training must be repeated every five years. All firearms are required to be secured with a trigger lock or locked in a gun safe/box.

Eighth, Hollywood and game companies must be held accountable for their love affair with violence and firearms. This is one of those “think of the children” moments. Children with immature minds gain warped views of firearms, life, violence, and death when watching programming or playing video games that glorify these things.

Ninth, the Dickey Amendment must be repealed. For 25 years the CDC has shied away from conducting research on gun violence. That’s because in 1996 Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, a law that mandated “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This silencing of research on gun violence serves to hide the true nature and extent of gun-related injuries and deaths.

The goal, long term, should be to adopt the Australian or British model of gun control. One thing I know for certain: we cannot continue on the path we are on. It’s only a matter of time before another mass shooting, school massacre, or, the gods forbid, an armed, bloody insurrection against the legally constituted government of the United States. These insurrectionists are not patriots. Their purpose is to overthrow federal and state governments, establishing a white theocracy. That the people who stormed the Capitol were determined to have no king but Donald Jesus Trump should scare the shit out of rational Americans. If the insurrectionists had turned right instead of left, we likely would have seen the execution of numerous senators and representatives. This mob was even calling for the head of Christian nationalist Vice President Michael Pence.

I have no doubt that armed insurrections lie ahead for Washington DC and many state capitals. We are possibly facing days like we have not seen since the Civil War. The difference is the insurrectionists are heavily armed and are able to inflict mass casualties. When mass delusion controls millions and millions of Americans, there’s no hope of reasoning with such people. Most of them are beyond facts. They have bought into lies that have so enraged them that they are willing to murder people in the name of “truth.” The short-term answer, then, is for insurrectionists to be met with and repelled by law enforcement and the national guard. Long term, the beast must be neutered and disarmed. The things I mentioned above would help in doing just that.

Let me be clear, I have no interest in debating members of the Second Amendment cult, NRA members, or people who think firearm ownership is an absolute right (no rights are absolute). For this post, I will invoke the one comment rule for members of the cult. Say your piece, and move on. I am more interested in hearing from people who are tired and fearful of the American gun culture; who are sick of all the threats of violence and murders; who fear that our democracy is in trouble and we must do everything in our power to turn back seditious insurrectionists out to destroy the United States as we know it.

The comment section is yours.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.

Christian Privilege Storms the Capitol

insurrection capitol 2

A guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Even though I’ve experienced a few things no one should have to, I have had privilege and still enjoy some privileges. I have lived a bit more than a decade and a half as a woman and have experienced “mansplaining” and all manner of microaggressions, in addition to outright discrimination and a sexual assault. But I realize that even though I grew up working-class and used a couple of scholarships, a few part-time jobs and the US Army to finance my post-secondary education, my path almost certainly would have been more difficult had I not been living as a male. (Mind you, I say that as someone who experienced a sexual assault in the Army a decade after experiencing serial sexual abuse from a priest.) Or if my skin had been a few shades darker. Or if someone could tell that the first language I spoke wasn’t English.

I was, and am, privileged in yet another way: I have visited twenty countries and lived in two. Of those countries, only two (including one in which I’ve lived) had not—until yesterday–experienced a violent overthrow of a sitting government or a violent attempt to prevent a newly-elected government from taking its place. Seeing how some people, decades or even generations later, still carry the trauma of successful and attempted coups helped me to understand—as corny as this sounds—what a privilege it had been to live in a country that had never experienced a coup, and had gone more than two centuries without its capital being sacked.

When the hordes of Trump-election-loss-deniers stormed the Capitol, I couldn’t help but to think about the privilege I’ve lost, and what I still have. The latter—or, perhaps more precisely, my awareness of my privilege—is the reason why I never could cast my lot with those who felt aggrieved enough to attack the seat of American democracy. On the other hand, the fact that I’ve lost some privilege in my life allows me to understand, to some degree, why those mobs behaved as they did.

Privilege makes your life easier but it doesn’t make your life worth living. However, at the moment you lose–or feel as if you’re losing–your privilege, it feels as if you are losing your rights. And, in such a wounded, vulnerable state, it’s too easy to see that others getting the same rights you’ve always had (voting, marriage, not getting fired or evicted–or denied a job or housing in the first place–because of your race or gender identity or expression) as having “special privileges” bestowed upon them, and to see those who would grant those rights as “enemies” or “aliens.” It’s easy to see the “others” as “taking” from you.

In other words, you feel like a victim. In other uprisings and insurrections, the rabble-rousers had legitimate reasons to feel victimized: They worked and paid their taxes, but they were still hungry and some leader said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” Or they were harassed, imprisoned or tortured for being poorer or darker, being of a different religion or not following the gender norms mandated by their ruling classes. Or they were taxed but not represented.

Nearly all the President’s storm troopers at the Capitol were white, and most were male. From what I could see, not many were hungry. (In my experience, hungry people don’t pose for many selfies.) Moreover, they seemed a bit older than the participants of other disruptions to the normal order. So, I believe that I’m making another reasonable guess in assuming that relatively few of them are burdened with student debt or have had their futures foreclosed by the economic upheavals of the past generation or so. While their wages may not have kept pace with those of, say, tech entrepreneurs and executives, they are not where they are because they were denied opportunities on account of their race, gender identity or expression—or religion.

Which brings me to this: another educated guess I can make about the mobs that stormed the Capitol is that most of the people involved were Christians in some fashion or another; many were Evangelicals. I can say this because, during the past few decades, utterly reactionary interpretations of the Bible—or, more accurately, fanatical, cultish devotion to the personalities offering said interpretations of the book they believe to have come directly from the mouth of God—have become one strand of the far-right’s DNA. (The other is White nationalism.) So, really it is no surprise that at least some in those mobs believed, with a certainty rarely seen among anyone else, about anything in the Western world, that they are carrying out the Will Of God, not to mention their Constitutional rights.

Anyone who is so fanatical believes that those who question, let alone try to stop them are persecuting them, and anyone who dies in the course of carrying out their fight is a martyr. So, if they are beaten, arrested, imprisoned or killed, it is proof that the powers-that-be are against them, and that they are as endangered as, supposedly, the early Christians were

The problem with their position is that it simply has no basis. No Christian can claim to be a “persecuted minority” in the United States, any more than a white cisgender heterosexual male can. If their preferred candidate didn’t win, it’s not the fault of the system, just as if they didn’t realize their youthful dreams of becoming professional athletes, entertainers or simply wealthy, they weren’t held back by some conspiracy funded by George Soros. Likewise, if they lost their old jobs because factories shut down or headquarters relocated, their black or brown or yellow neighbors aren’t to blame. Rather, they simply didn’t have the talents, skills or simply luck to fulfill their hopes and dreams: in other words, to leverage the privilege they have.

As someone who has had and lost privilege, I am conscious of what privilege I still have. I believe I can also recognize it in others. Most of the mob in the Capitol (which included, by the way, at least a few cops) have no idea of how much they still have, which is why they feel “their” country has been “stolen” from them when people different from themselves simply out-organized and out-voted them.

Speaking of voting: It’s not a privilege; it’s a right. And it’s not granted by God; it’s guaranteed in the Constitution. The only way to lose that right is (in at least some states) to be convicted of a felony, as those mob members may be when they are found. Whatever your privilege—and whether or not you believe in God, or at least the protesting mob’s vision of His Kingdom On Earth—you have it and I have it, as they do, even if they lose their privilege—of living their lives outside a prison cell.

In brief, the folks who stormed the Capitol were not victims. They also benefit from privilege they don’t realize they have but impute to others. Some of that privilege comes, for many, from accepting a paleolithic interpretation of a collection of late Bronze Age myths. The rest comes from being of (at least in their eyes) the right race, gender, and sexual identity. Until they understand as much, they will see themselves as victims and some will perpetuate the violence fomented by a public figure they worship as they exalt their God.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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.