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Religion, History, Violence, and Adolph Hitler by Ben Berwick

guest post

Guest post by Ben Berwick. Ben blogs at Meerkat Musings.

Allow me to preface this post with the warning that this topic is a sensitive one. The depictions of violence are quite graphic, and quite brutal. Discussions of this nature can easily become heated, for we are talking about cherished beliefs and ideals. We are talking about historical figures of much notoriety.

Some background. This post grew out of discussions over at Silence of Mind. Whilst Silence of Mind himself has proven to be intractable and quite unreasonable, another participant, Citizen Tom, proved to be, if not agreeable to my position, cordial and civil in discussing it.

It is fair to say, judging from a brief read-through of Tom’s site, and he and I will likely not agree on many things. That is normal, that is life. It might be difficult to find common ground, or reach a consensus, but that does not make it impossible, and we all might learn something along the way. In the time since those early conversations with Tom, I have already had cause to reconsider a few things, and at the very least, thinking about the phrasing of my arguments.

With all of that out of the way, what is the purpose of this post? It concerns morality, how it is, heh, ‘divined’. It concerns how we view good, and evil, and in what name we act on what we see as good, and evil. I am rambling, for this post covers a lot of ground, and distilling it all into a single sentence is proving difficult.

A History of Bloodshed

SoM argued that atheists lack morality, for atheism is responsible for more deaths than any other form of ideology. He cited Stalin as an example. SoM would not be the first person to conflate atheism and communism, and therefore incorrectly blame atheism for Stalin’s murderous regime. His motive was to suggest that atheism is amoral, or even immoral. ‘Stalin was an atheist, Stalin was evil, therefore all atheists are evil’. SoM also sought to point out that Stalin and Mao (a follower of Marxist and communist ideals) proved atheism is more violent, by virtue of a greater death toll than religious ideology. Therefore, not only did he falsely equate atheism with communism to make atheists look bad, he proved ignorant of several important factors.

During the era of the Crusades (furious wars of religious ideology, between Christians and Muslims, pagans, and even other Christians), the weapons of war were nowhere near as sophisticated or powerful as they are today. There was a smaller population, and they lived in smaller cities and rural areas. It stands to reason that a holy war, waged with the weaponry of a modern military, among today’s densely-populated urban and suburban cities and towns, would be as devastating as any major war. SoM ignored this, and ignored the point about the Crusades.

Apologies to Tom, for it would feel like I am tackling SoM’s arguments all over again, and expecting Tom to respond to those points. There is some overlap, which I will come to.

Biblical Commands for Bloodshed

Christianity has a long and violent history (it’s not the only religion in this boat, but Christianity quickly became the central point of discussions in SoM’s post). Is this violence because of, or in spite of, what the Bible contains?

The Old Testament is filled with violent commands from God. The Bible is often held as the inerrant Word of God, and to some Christians, is to be taken literally as well. We are often told that we cannot judge God by human standards of morality. Is that because so many people would reject the ‘morality’ on display in passages like this, if read in isolation? Imagine you did not know of God, and for all you knew, the following were said by a human being:

1 Samuel 15:2-3This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

If we heard Numbers 18:2-3, and thought it were another human being who had spoke, what would we think? Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony. They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the Tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both they and you will die.

What would you think if you heard Isaiah 13:15-16 in isolation? This appears to relate to the treatment of prisoners of war. Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.

Numbers 31:14-18: Moses was angry with the officers of the army–the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds–who returned from the battle. “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the LORD in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

I think we can all generally agree that showing mercy to a vanquished enemy is a good quality. Sparing the lives of civilians is an imperative, and the treatment of women in this passage? It would be considered abhorrent to any good person.

Yet some Christians believe these actions are justifiable, and even good, when carried out at God’s command. These extremists are the ones who would have gleefully been at the frontlines of the Crusades, slaughtering others in the name of God. It is no wonder that there has been so much violence in the name of Christianity, when the Bible is full of it.

A Moral Compass

Bearing in mind the Biblical instructions for bloodshed, and how much conflict Christianity has been involved in throughout its history, is it right or fair to suggest that atheism is immoral?

Which is not to say that Christianity, or other religions, are automatically immoral. There are some terrifying, horrific events in religious texts, but there are good and kind notions to be found within them as well. Some people draw comfort from them, and who I am to say they shouldn’t? 1 Peter 4:8: Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Thessalonians 5:11: Therefore encourage one another to build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Humans can be tribal. We will gravitate towards like-minded groups, and sometimes, this can polarise us. Our instinctive, intrinsic need to create communities and belong is no bad trait, yet it means it is all too easy for us to see outsiders to our community as inferior or threatening. We feel the need to remove them as a danger, and that might involve blinding ourselves to how people are individuals. We are, as a species, very good at generalising, and often in a demonising sort of fashion. I dare say I have been guilty of this in the past, and I cannot say with certainty that I won’t unwittingly fall into that trap in the future.

One method of generalising is to point to an individual, or a small group within a community, and say ‘that person is immoral, therefore the entire community is immoral’. SoM appeared to operate with such a policy when he referenced Stalin, and the deaths incorrectly attributed to atheism. I’ve seen this sort of fallacy used elsewhere too, against atheism, and against religions. SoM and Tom both objected to a particular example of a Christian who committed some terrible atrocities, yet SoM in particular held up Stalin as an atheist and said ‘this is atheism and what it does’. More on that later.

Organised religion is often held up as a moral compass, with rule to live by, rules that civilisation needs. ‘Thou shall not kill’ is an obvious example of one of the Ten Commandments. However, do we need a commandment to tell us not to kill? Without it, would human beings lack the moral centre that makes killing abhorrent to most of us?

To put it another way, if the only reason you do not lie, cheat, steal or kill, is because a holy book told you not to do these things, how certain are you of your morality? If your faith in your beliefs is shaken or even destroyed, do you think you would become a murderer the day after?

There is another angle to consider. There are millions of atheists and agnostics in the world, hundreds of millions. Countries such as the Czech Republic have a high percentage (over 50%) of people who consider themselves irreligious. Sweden, Japan, and South Korea are in a similar situation. These countries are not morally bankrupt wastelands of corruption (in fact, Japan is one of the safest countries on earth). It would be too simplistic to say that atheism is the reason these countries tend to rate quite highly on quality of life indexes, because atheism is nothing more than the absence of religious belief. On the other hand, it does go to show that countries with large percentages of atheists are not consumed by what some Christians consider to be immorality. Nor are atheists demonstrably amoral.

Morality Always Comes From God?

One of the arguments Tom put forward is that atheists were imbued with Christian standards of morality, whether they know it or not, and whether they accept it or not. Tom regards this as the Truth. It is certainly an explanation for why hundreds of millions of atheists and agnostics are not slaughtering people left, right and centre, but it is also completely and utterly unprovable. I may well be imbued with morality via a supreme being, but how can I show this? I can’t. I have no means to verify this. It is a convenient form of answer, yet also meaningless. I can just as easily say my morality was granted to me by the pantheon of Norse Gods. Perhaps it was given to me by the spirits worshipped by Native Americans. Who can say for certain? Tom, and other Christians, ask me to take this on faith, but I deal with what is tangible.

There is evidence that our concept of morality is the result of evolution. I quote from Frontiers for Young Minds, and a post from Jean Decety and Jason M. Cowell:

How do we distinguish good from evil, right from wrong, just from unjust, and vice from virtue? An obvious answer is that we have learned to do so through socialization, that is, our behaviors were shaped from birth onward by our families, our preschools, and almost everything we contacted in our environments. Morality is an inner sense of rightness about our behavior and the behavior of others. How we feel, think, and act about the concepts of “good” and “bad” are all parts of our morality. For example, hitting another person for any reason is seen as bad, while sharing something we like with another child who is sad is considered good. Morality is so deeply rooted in the fabric of our everyday lives that it seems hard to imagine a society without any moral rules. Indeed, observations made by scientists who study different societies around the world have shown that, despite cultural and individual differences, all human beings have some sense of right and wrong.

When we use the word “morality” we are generally talking about ideas of justice, fairness and rights, and the rules we have about how people should treat one another. Consider the following: as a reward for finishing your homework, you have been given 10 marbles that you really like. You are then told about a poor child who would not be able to get any marbles, even though he did his homework too. However, you have the option to give some of your marbles to the poor child. What would you choose to do? Most children would naturally share some of their marbles with a poor child and would also be surprised if another child received more than 10 marbles after doing the same amount of homework! This shows that children understand both fairness and justice. As humans, when we consider how we or others should share something we have been given, we tend to take into account both how much of a reward someone deserves for the “work” they did and whether rewards are evenly split between individuals.

Interesting isn’t it? From a very young age, and across countries and cultures, we seem to instinctively understand what is fair and what is unjust. The theists will tell us this is because God filled our souls with these concepts. However, these concepts are found outside of humans. Animals, with no concept of God and lacking the capacity for the concept, have display indications of what we define as moral behaviours:

Natural observations of animals in the wild and research in laboratories show us that a number of “building blocks” of moral behavior can be found in animals. For instance, many animals exhibit behaviors that benefit other members of their species. Such prosocial behaviors refers to any behavior intended to benefit another individual. (meaning behaviors that are good for others), like helping each other and caring for offspring, have been seen in rodents and primates. Rats will help other distressed rats that have been soaked with water, and it will also choose to help a cage mate that is in distress before obtaining a food reward. Chimpanzees will help each other and share with each other, but only when they benefit from the sharing, as long as the costs are minimal and the needs of the other chimpanzees are clear. Chimpanzees also collaborate and form alliances in fights or when hunting. Capuchin monkeys have even been shown to react in a negative way when they see other monkeys being treated unfairly.

Babies show indications of morality:

When we see early signs of morality in young babies, this provides strong evidence for the evolutionary roots of morality, because babies have not yet had much time to be influenced by their environment. Psychologists who study human development have shown that human babies enter the world ready to pay attention and respond to social stimuli, such as voices and faces, and that babies begin forming social relationships during the first year of life. Young children provide comfort and assistance to both other children and adults in emotional distress. For instance, when they see their mothers in pain, 18-month-old toddlers show comforting behaviors (such as hugging, patting, and sharing toys). As infants develop and become more able to analyze what is going on around them, they even have the ability to recognize when a person in their environment is treating another person badly. At a young age, infants are quickly able to figure out whether the consequence of a behavior is good or bad, suggesting that their genes are involved and that experience and learning are not the only causes of moral development. At just 3 months of age, infants spend more time looking at a puppet character that has previously acted in a nice way than at one that acted in a negative way, suggesting that infants prefer those who “do good things.” By 6 months of age, this preference is stronger, with children not only looking more at helpful and nice puppet characters but also actually reaching for them. By 12 months of age, infants begin to understand the concept of fairness. When these infants witness cookies being shared, they expect an equal number of cookies to be given to all of the people involved.

So, it would seem that animals and very young children instinctively understand some concepts of sympathy, sharing, and fairness. Some Christians (not all) believe that babies are born sinful (co-incidentally, some Christians believe this justifies the slaughter of children in some of the Old Testament’s more barbaric verses). They believe young children are lacking in morality. To quote:

Parents understand that it doesn’t take long for a baby to being acting sinfully. They cry out of selfishness, they learn to say “no” to their parents, they hoard their toys and refuse to share.

Others might claim that babies are born without a sin nature in the womb, and remain sinless until they commit a sin after birth; but again, this is not what we find in the Bible.

David writes in Psalm 51, “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Babies in their mother’s wombs are developing sin natures as they develop physically, and they commit sinful actions after birth.

This seems to jar with the study that demonstrates infants are capable of showing comfort to those in distress. Then again, our behaviour is part instinct, and part learned. Babies – especially new-borns (my daughter was a new-born once!) – need a lot of attention, they would not survive without it, so it stands to reason they will cry to get that attention. That isn’t ‘sinful’, that is a survival instinct. As they grow and develop, they learn from their parents. They take their cues from the people around them, and yes, they might sometimes misbehave, as they test the limits of what they can get away with, from time to time. They also combine their instinctive sense of right and wrong with what they learn from the people around them. All of this supports the evolution of morality, which comes from our nature as social animals, and the desire to build and protect communities as a result.

All that being said, can I say with certainty that there is no higher power, directing matters behind the scenes? The truth is, I don’t know. Whilst SoM has labelled me an atheist (it never occurred to him to ask where I actually stand), I consider myself an agnostic. I do not claim to know for sure that there is no supreme being of some kind. The universe is vast, there are plenty of mysterious, unsolved events in the world, and maybe there is something out there that’s created us, directed us, and quietly embedded us with what makes us ‘us’. Whether or not that ‘something’ is the Christian God, is another matter. It cannot be proven, or demonstrated, via empirical means. On the other hand, evidence exists to show that morality can be driven by evolution, and therefore the argument that atheists cannot have a moral compass is on shaky ground.

Conflating Atheism and Communism

A common theme of the discussions between myself, SoM and Tom, was to suggest that atheism and communism are one and the same, or at least, that communism is a product of atheism, and therefore atheism is responsible for the actions undertaken in the name of communism.

This is a fallacy. Atheism is merely the absence of belief. Atheism is not a political ideology, and is not responsible for the rise of Marxism and communism. Karl Marx’s dissatisfaction with society and his critical views on religion would have existed before the rise of Marxism, and existed afterwards, yet note that revolutionary political ideologies were not springing up because of this. Atheism existed before the rise of Marx’s radical agenda, and existed afterwards, and note that violence was not erupting because of it.

This brings me to a pertinent point. You do not hear of people killing (or for that matter, preaching) in the name of atheism. Atheism is not a form of political ideology and it is not (as some incorrectly argue) a religion. Atheism is only the absence of belief. In contrast, people kill in the name of their religion all the time. That isn’t to say that religion is the cause, but it is interesting that people like SoM (who admitted he would kill me if God told him to) are quick to suggest the absence of belief is why people kill, and then defend the presence of belief in killers, through all kinds of mental gymnastics.

Hitler’s Faith

All of this brings me to my next section. SoM had no problems with attacking an entire group of people over the actions of a handful of historical figures (and as we have established, he did so under misleading pretences). Perhaps unsurprisingly, he took a hypocritical issue with the mention of Hitler’s beliefs.

Adolf Hitler was raised as a Christian, and his book, Mein Kampf, referenced Christianity and his beliefs on numerous occasions. In documented discourse, Hitler’s religious views appear to be quite fluid, at times critical of Christianity, at times believing that true Christianity had been corrupted, and yet referring to atheists as ‘animals’. It would not be fair to suggest that Hitler = Christian and therefore all Christians = Hitler. It could be that Hitler was not a Christian. I am willing to modify (mollify?) my original position regarding this, as a result of further reading. However, Hitler was not an atheist either, contrary to any suggestion of such.

Conclusions

It would be far from fair to say that all Christians have the same, frightening, literal interpretation of the Bible (the interpretation that can find no wrong in God’s blood-soaked actions of the Old Testament). There are many Christians who quietly ignore the Old Testament completely. Whether that is the right thing for a Christian to do is not for me to say. However, Christianity as an organised religion has a lot of historical blood on its hands (as do a number of organised religions).

In terms of providing a moral way to live, is Christianity better than atheistic, humanist moral codes? Wrapped up in that question is another question, what is moral? We can delve into the morality of opposing same-sex marriage versus accepting it. We can consider the morality of women’s rights in a secular society, versus a religious one. The religious would argue there are objective standards for morality on these and other issues. The irreligious would argue that these are subjective, dependent upon the beliefs (or lack thereof) of individuals.

Is society better when religion has more influence? I don’t think so. I expect Tom would not agree, and as I said right at the start of this, that’s normal. I will also say that I have no problem with people wanting to have religion in their lives, but it should never be forced upon anyone. I’m British, but the principle of separation of Church and State in the US is an important bulwark against a theocratic regime, and theocracies tend to be quite oppressive. Choice matters, freedom matters.

To sum it all up, I would argue that atheists, as a group, do not lack morality.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Quote of the Day: Do Free Markets Bring Peace Between Countries?

free market

One of the most enduring ideas in economics is that free markets bring peace between countries. It comes from the notion that commerce drives humans to follow their mutual material interests rather than make destructive war due to passions.

This was the animating force behind the U.S. granting China its “most-favored-nation” trade status in 2000, which allows for free trade and economic cooperation. Republicans and Democrats alike assured the public that the deal would bring “constructive engagement” and expose communist China to America’s “ideals” of democracy. Where are we today? Beijing has moved closer to authoritarianism, economic competition is fiercer than ever, and American and Chinese diplomatic relations are near a crisis point, with both countries brandishing threats of war. Free trade has brought some peace, but it has not brought lasting friendship between the world’s two superpowers.

The same point could be made for Russia. Germans clearly thought that free trade for Russian oil would bind Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy to democratic Europe and lead it toward a more prosperous and open society. Instead, it weakened democratic Europe’s capacity to respond to Putin’s dictatorship and his bloody invasion of Ukraine.

Does this mean that the old idea of a “gentle commerce” of free markets, famously espoused in the French Enlightenment, is dead? Perhaps it never really existed. History shows that free markets can be a basis for friendship between powerful nations, but they are far less successful at securing peace and democracy than many have hoped. In fact, the noble talk of the free market was sometimes simply an excuse to engage in the kind of “great power” competition that too often leads to war and plunder.

….

When British free marketeers managed to liberalize their own markets with the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, it heralded a laissez faire era in Britain but did not bring international peace. Richard Cobden, the famed free market leader of the Anti-Corn Law League, believed that free markets, pacifism, industrial know-how, Christianity and good work ethics would lead Britain to home-grown prosperity for the working man. Indeed, the very confidence and wealth that buoyed so many British to believe in the superiority of free markets was grounded in colonial ideals and wealth. The British colonial leader John Bowring used evangelical terms, claiming that imperial force and laissez faire economics could only bring good: “Jesus Christ is free trade,” he exclaimed, “and Free trade is Jesus Christ.” But the Pax Britannica of the Empire was based on gunboats, violent coercion and the pillaging of riches from colonialized nations. It is now estimated that Britain stole more than $40 trillion from India alone during the hundred-year rule of the Raj.

And while empire created a free trade zone for the British, it also sparked an almost constant series of colonial wars — from the more than 100 years of war with France in the eighteenth century, to another century of overseas wars with peoples and states in the Caribbean, China, India, Burma, New Zealand, Persia and Africa. Indeed, to gain free market agreements with Latin American countries, Turkey and China, the British relied on military threats. Free trade remained based on naval might. While some British free marketeers called for an end to the reliance on colonialism, confident that free trade agreements with other industrial powers brought peace and advantage to industrially superior Britain, Britain’s competitors began to see that if they wanted the free trade and imperial advantages enjoyed by Britain, they too would need to arm.

In 1905, the Cambridge critic of free market economics William Cunningham prophetically warned that the militarization of Japan, Russia and Germany was in direct response to Britain’s one-sided imperial free market and that it could lead to world wars. These countries could not compete with Britain, so from the 1870s to the 1890s, Russia, Italy, Germany, France and America were putting up tariffs against what they considered Britain’s domination of world commerce. Hungry for Britain’s empire and markets, Europe moved toward world war.

When World War I arrived, it could be seen as either a product of protectionism and trade war, or, as Cunningham said, a reaction to imperial free market Britain’s dominance. In any case, with rising nationalism and communism, hope for universal free trade faded. The most famous of the Austrian free market thinkers, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, formed their free market thought in response to rising socialism, but also in reaction to the Nazi regime which forced them to flee Austria to the United States. Both thought that the state was the ultimate danger to peace, but in the end, when World War II was over, the American state bankrolled the rebuilding of Britain, France, Germany and Japan, using the Marshall Plan to rebuild, but also to dictate democracy to, former foes, and, in doing so, to create the most successful economies of the modern age. Paradoxically, the United States provided well over $150 billion in today’s dollars to European countries, and more than $20 billion to Japan, as well as backing government intervention into these economies, to lay the groundwork for a future democratic free trade zone.

During the Cold War, America’s massive military kept the peace among its industrialized, democratic partners, while waging a cold and hot war against communism around the globe. U.S. government support, peace, prosperity and free trade were the dividends for America’s allies. But the global conflict with communism again meant that it took war and government support to establish democracy and, potentially, free markets through the GATT agreements that began in 1947 and expanded throughout the 20th century.

Even when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, a real possibility for peace emerged with the normalization of relations between America, Russia, Europe, India and eventually China. During this period, free markets expanded — but even in peacetime, military budgets have exploded under presidents of both parties. And still, with much of the world embracing free trade, the United States again went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, spending trillions of dollars, and, one might argue, squandering its own free market peace dividend.

Now we arrive at a more perilous moment. Democracy is in retreat around the world. The global economy seems poised for a recession. And war has broken out in Europe, while tensions rise between the U.S. and China. Meanwhile, public skepticism about free trade is surging in this populist moment. Can free markets keep the peace? We must hope they can. However, history shows that free trade is often in the eye of the beholder, anyway. Ultimately, a military based pax or deeper common interest might be necessary to keep commerce and the world on gentle terms.

— Jacob Soll, Politico, One of the Most Famous Ideas in Economics Is Wrong, October 5, 2022

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Why Have Evangelicals Changed Their Minds About the Separation of Church and State?

wall of separation of church and state

My slogan’s “Jesus, guns, and babies.”

Jesus because that’s our First Amendment right. It’s the right to worship Jesus Christ freely. It’s why we have a country. Don’t talk to me about separation of church and state. Church and state was written because the state has no business in our church. But we are the church. We are the church, and we run the state, and Georgia’s sovereign, and we’re running the state with Jesus Christ first.

— Kandiss Taylor, a Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate

I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years, primarily as an Independent Baptist and later as a non-denominational Christian. While my theology evolved and changed over the years, one belief stayed with me from childhood to today: the separation of church and state; that there is a wall between religion and government, a wall that must never, ever be breached. As a young preacher, my pastors and professors taught me the importance of this wall. I carried this belief into the ministry. I strongly believed that church and state were two separate spheres, both ordained by God. As a pastor, I stayed out of the government’s business, and I expected the government to do the same with the churches I pastored. When the government tried to stick its nose in our business, I forcefully pushed back. I thought it important to not only defend the wall of separation between church and state, but also to make sure it was maintained and, if need be, repaired. And here’s the thing, every one of my ministerial colleagues believed the same. We believed that societal transformation came from winning souls. Most preachers maintained a strict separation between their personal politics and their theology. While I would preach on social issues, I always did so from a theological perspective. While most of the people I pastored were Republicans (if they voted at all), some of them were Democrats or Independents (especially in churches with union members). Did I ever cross the line and politick from the pulpit? Yes, but as a rule, I kept my partisan politics out of my preaching. (I was a staunch Republican for twenty-five years. In 2000, I left the Republican Party, voting Democrat for the first time.)

Here we are fifty years later . . . many Evangelical preachers no longer believe in a strict separation of church and state. Some even say that there is no such thing as the separation of church and state; that Christians have a duty to reclaim America for Jesus and establish the Bible as the law of the land — a Christian form of sharia law. What changed?

Over time, Evangelicals learned that just saving souls wasn’t going to effect the moral and political changes they wanted. So they turned to raw political power to achieve their goals, and in doing they sold their souls for bowls of pottage. Starting with the Moral Majority in the 1980s and moving to the plethora of theocratic parachurch organizations today, Evangelicals are using the power of the state to force people to conform to their religious beliefs. Since 2015, Evangelicals have abandoned all pretense, sacrificing ethics and morality on the altar of political expediency and power. (Just look at their unapologetic support of pathological liars Donald Trump and Herschel Walker.) Left to their own devices, Evangelicals will use any means necessary, including violence and bloodshed, to establish their corrupt version of the Kingdom of God on earth. One needs to only look at the January 6, 2021 Insurrection to see this played out in real time. Numerically, Evangelicalism is dying, but they now control the Republican Party and the Supreme Court, and for this reason, we must see them as an existential threat to our democracy. Make a list of your top ten bat-shit crazy Republicans. What do they all have in common? All of them are Christians. Most are Evangelicals, and the rest are conservative Catholics. At every level of government, Evangelicals now have control. The wall of separation of church and state, in their minds, is a misunderstood relic from the eighteenth century; a relic that has no relevance today.

So what do we do? Is it too late? Have Democrats/liberals/progressives ceded ground that they cannot regain? Can we vote our way out of this mess? Is Civil War waiting in the wings? Are we watching the decline and destruction of American democracy?

I see the problem. I see how we got here. I am not sure, however, we can reclaim what has been lost. Has cancer been spreading for decades in our society, and now it is so far advanced that it is untreatable? Is there anything we can do to turn back the fascists at the gate? Or will none of this matter because Joe Biden and his fellow warmongers, Republican and Democrat alike, have brought war to our shores?

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Many IFB Preachers Don’t Have Peaceful, Contented Lives

for sale sign emmanuel baptist church pontiac
For Sale Sign in Main Entrance Door, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Pontiac, Michigan

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is a subset under the broad banner of Evangelicalism. IFB pastors and congregants tend to be theological, political, and social extremists. While their theological beliefs differ little from garden variety Evangelicals, how they engage and interact with the broader religious and secular cultures sets them apart from other Evangelicals.

Millions of Americans attend IFB churches. Millions more attend IFB-like churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. In the late 1960s through the early 1980s, many of the largest American churches were IFB congregations. As our society moved leftward socially and morally, IFB pastors and institutions dug in their heels and refused to adapt or change. Thinking the methods they used were timeless truths that must be religiously practiced, IFB churches hemorrhaged members, losing them to churches that were not as intolerant or extreme. By the 1990s, once-filled megachurch auditoriums were empty, resulting in more than a few IFB churches filing for bankruptcy or closing their doors.

In the mid-1970s, my wife and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was started in the 1950s by Alabamian pulpiteer Tom Malone. Malone pastored nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, which at the time was one of the largest churches in America, boasting thousands each week in attendance. Midwestern was never a large college, but the institution was noted for turning out preachers and church planters. By the late 1980s, Midwestern and Emmanuel Baptist were in serious numerical and financial free fall. Eventually, Emmanuel closed its doors and Midwestern became a ministry of an IFB church in Orion, Michigan.

What happened to Emmanuel Baptist continues to happen to IFB churches today. IFB pastors, with few exceptions, are Biblical literalists who refuse to believe anything that contradicts their Fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. IFB pastors, to the man, believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Some pastors even go far as to say that only the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God; that other translations are the works of Satan. Literalism and inerrancy are considered cardinal doctrines of the faith. This has resulted in IFB pastors and churches believing in all sorts of absurdities. IFB pastors are, without exception, creationists. Most of them are young earth creationists, believing that God created the universe in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,025 years ago. Bible stories meant to illustrate greater spiritual truths are often taken literally, resulting in IFB adherents believing, among a host of absurdities, that the earth was destroyed by a universal flood 4,000 or so years ago, the sun and moon stood still (Joshua 10:13), and all humans trace their lineage back to two people — Adam and Eve.  Their commitment to literalism forces IFB pastors to defend fantastical things. If the Bible says it, it’s true. End of discussion!

While there is some eschatological diversity within the IFB church movement, literalism demands that pastors believe and teach that the events recorded in the book of Revelation will one day literally take place. Most IFB church members believe that the return of Jesus to earth is imminent. A wide, deep apocalyptic river runs through the IFB church movement, leading to extreme love and devotion to God’s chosen people, Israel. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital excited IFB preachers — yet another “sign” that the return of Jesus is nigh. That this move could ignite the entire region and lead to war, is of little concern to IFB preachers. They believe that things must continue to get worse; that Jesus won’t come back to earth until the world stage is set for his triumphal return. This means that a war of epic proportions must occur, ending in Armageddon. While IFB preachers might not admit it out loud, I am certain many of them would welcome nuclear war, believing that such a war will make the world ready to embrace first the anti-Christ and then later Jesus when he returns to earth on a literal white horse to defeat the anti-Christ and Satan.

IFB pastors and churches are politically right-wing. If a survey were conducted with IFB adherents, I suspect surveyors would find that church members overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, and are anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-same-sex marriage, and very much in favor of returning prayer and Bible reading to public school classrooms (even though many of them either home school or have their children enrolled in Christian schools). In earlier years, the IFB church movement believed there was a strict separation of church and state. Today, many IFB pastors and churches no longer believe the wall of separation exists, and that the United States is a Christian nation — a country chosen by God. This thinking can be traced back to the late 1970s when IFB megachurch pastor Jerry Falwell, along with Paul Weyrich, started the Moral Majority. Since then, scores of IFB pastors have used their pulpits to advance certain (almost always Republican) political policies and candidates.

Bruce, I thought this post was about why IFB preachers (and many within their congregations) don’t have peaceful, contented lives. It is, but I felt it necessary to show how IFB pastors think and view the world before explaining why so many lack peace and contentment in their lives. If the IFB church movement is anything, it is anti-culture. IFB pastors see themselves as prophets or watchmen on the walls, warning all who will listen that God is real, the Bible is true, and Hell awaits all those who reject the IFB way, truth, and life. IFB preachers think it is their duty to wage war against Satan and the enemies of God. I can only imagine how hysterical IFB preachers are over LGBTQ acceptance, same-sex marriage, and the increasing prominence of atheism. Anything that challenges their beliefs must be refuted and turned back. Add to this the internecine warfare IFB churches are famous for, and it should come as no surprise that pastors find themselves constantly battling the “world”; the “forces of darkness and evil.”  Every dawn brings a new day with new battles that must be fought. Not only must IFB preachers wage war against Satan, cults, false Christianity, liberalism, and secularism, but they must also fight against those in their own movement who want to make IFB churches more “worldly.”

The battles, then, never end. Day in and day out, IFB pastors are in fight mode. And those who are not? They are labeled compromisers and hirelings only concerned with money and prestige. Is it any wonder then that IFB preachers rarely have peaceful, contented lives? Their lives are in a constant state of turmoil. Satan and the world are pushing against their beliefs and values at every turn. Not fighting back is considered cowardly, a betrayal of everything IFB believers hold dear. Go to any town in America with an IFB church and ask mainline pastors how they view the local IFB pastor and church. In most instances, mainline pastors will say that local IFB churches have extreme beliefs and seem to thrive on controversy. IFB pastors are viewed as outliers on the fringe of Christianity — haters and dissemblers who have no tolerance for anyone but those who adhere to their narrow beliefs and practices.

Separation from the world and separation from erring Christians is a fundamental doctrine within IFB churches. This too leads to never-ending angst and stress. Concerned over encroaching “worldliness,” IFB pastors often have long lists of rules (church standards) congregants are expected to follow. (Please read The Official Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Rulebook.) While the rules vary from church to church, they are meant to inoculate church members from becoming infected with “worldly” ideas.  The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Corinth, said:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

1 John 2:15-17 states:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Verses such as these fuel IFB separatist beliefs and practices. The world is evil and must be, with few exceptions, avoided at all costs. This is why IFB pastors and institutions are at the forefront of the Christian school and home school movements. What better way to avoid worldliness than to wall off families and children from the influence of “worldly” schools?

I am sure that many, if not most, IFB preachers would disagree with me when I say they don’t have peaceful contented lives. However, I would ask them to consider whether their constant battles against sin, worldliness, liberalism, and compromise have robbed them of the goodness, peace, and contentment life has to offer; that constantly being at odds with not only the “world,” but also fellow Christians, is bound to exact an emotional toll. Thinking you alone stand for God, truth, and righteousness requires constant diligence lest compromise and “worldliness” creep in. Aren’t you tired, preacher, of being constantly at war with everyone and everything around you? Maybe it is time for you lay down your weapons of war and rejoin the human race. Countless former IFB pastors and church members have done just that. Tired of the constant turmoil and unrest, they finally said ENOUGH! and walked away. Most of them found kinder, gentler forms of faith, and a handful of ex-IFB believers have embraced agnosticism or atheism. Scary, I know, but not having to constantly be on guard lest Satan gain the advantage is worth the risk of judgment and Hell. I am sure God will understand. A wild, wonderful world awaits those who dare to lay down their Fundamentalist beliefs and walk away. If you are ready to say ENOUGH! and want help plotting a life of peace and contentment, I would love to help you do so.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Did You Know I am a Traitor, Communist, Marxist, a Danger to America, and an Awful Writer Too?

adam stockford facebook

Last month, I wrote a post titled MAGA Mayor Adam Stockford Says Hillsdale, Michigan is a “Traditional Values” Community. Stockford is the mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. Over the weekend, Stockford posted my article on his Facebook page. Of course, his MAGA-loving followers were quick to go for my jugular. One such neck-slitter was a retired soldier named Ronald Cook.

Cook made no attempt to interact with what I wrote, choosing instead to hurl invectives my way. I gave his comment and private messages the gravitas they so richly deserved. Enjoy! 🙂

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Here are several other comments left by Stockford’s devotees.

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All told, 90 people from Hillsdale read my post. Only three of them read more than one page. Not one of them clicked on the ABOUT page or the WHY? page. In fact, some of them couldn’t bear to finish reading my article. Yet, by reading one post about Adam Stockford and Hillsdale College, people such as Cook concluded I am a traitor, communist, Marxist, anti-American anti-Christ. And I am a bitter, piss-poor writer too. Let me give these fine folks a bit of the Bible: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13)

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Evangelical Culture Warriors Don’t Really Believe in Freedom of Religion

the bible rock of gibraltar

Uncritically listen to Evangelical culture warriors and you will wrongly think they are strong supporters of religious freedom. They talk a good line when it comes to the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. They may grudgingly admit that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, forbids a religious test for political office. However, they also say that the United States is a Christian Nation; that its laws are based on the Bible. Their theological and political beliefs put them in direct opposition to the Constitution. Their goal is nothing short of anarchy; the overthrow of the established political and social order. Abandoning evangelization and piety as the means of social transformation, these culture warriors have turned to politics to “save” America, and in the twice-impeached Donald Trump, they found the Lord and Savior. In 2016 and 2020, the overwhelming majority of white Evangelical voters voted for Trump. And if he runs in 2024, they will most certainly vote for him again.

On January 6, 2021, a violent mob tried to overthrow the U.S. government. Many of these treasonous “patriots” were Evangelical Christians. Their failed attempt does not mean Evangelicals have stopped trying to bring down the government and establish Jesus as King and Ruler and the Bible as the law of the land. Trump has become a useful idiot. If he is indicted and imprisoned — and he most certainly should be — other MAGA candidates such as Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz will arise as antichrists, hoping to reclaim America for the glory of God, and destroy what’s left of our democracy. Once they gain a firm grip on federal, state, and local governments, they will use their newfound power to advance their theocratic agenda. Once this happens, freedoms will be lost and people will die.

Reversing Roe v. Wade was never the end game. Next up is banning birth control and in vitro fertilization (IVF), abolishing same-sex marriage, criminalizing homosexuality, and legalizing teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools. One need only to look at what’s going on in Texas with the allowing of donated “In God We Trust” posters to be hung in school classrooms to see what Evangelical culture warriors have in mind. Next it will be posters of the Ten Commandments. And then the Gideons will be let back in the doors to hand out Christian propaganda. From there, creationism will be taught in science classrooms, Biblical morality taught in health classes, and Christian rules of conduct required of all students. Currently, local schools here in rural northwest Ohio have given Lifewise Academy — an Evangelical “ministry” — unfettered access to elementary-aged students so they can indoctrinate them. Someone affiliated with Defiance City Schools said only seven students refused to attend the “voluntary” release-time classes.

Culture warriors are making noise about Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools — a bald-faced lie. They are calling for LGBTQ-friendly books to be removed from school libraries. Transgender people are also in their sights. No longer content to homeschool their children or send them to private schools, Evangelicals want to reclaim public schools for their God. How do they plan to do this? By electing like-minded candidates to school boards; by becoming missionary teachers and aides; by infecting every aspect of school life with their pernicious beliefs.

If people don’t wake up to their agenda, it will be too late. One need only look at the reversal of Roe v. Wade to see what can happen when Evangelical culture warriors get their way. Or look at what is going on in Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is requiring teachers to teach alternative American History and civics. What’s next, a real-life portrayal of the Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale?

The next time an Evangelical culture warrior tells you that they believe in “religious freedom,” don’t believe them. Their version of “freedom” is much like their idea of “love”; one rooted in the belief that the United States is a Christian nation; that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all things; that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God and is the moral, ethical standard for everyone; that the world would be a better place if everyone worshipped their peculiar version of God.

Evangelical culture warriors may smile at you and be the friendliest people in town, but behind their “I Love Jesus” facade lurk dangerous fascist beliefs. Atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, pagans, and other non-religious people are enemies of God. LGBTQ people are deviants, as are fornicators and adulterers. For the love of reason and freedom, read the Bible! Evangelical culture warriors really believe what it teaches. We should treat them as the threats they really are.

Unlike Evangelicals, I happen to actually believe in religious freedom. I also believe in a strict separation of church and state. People are free to worship whomsoever they want. Personally, I worship reason, skepticism, and Polly. However, when it comes to government, God and the Bible have no place. Certainly, people are free to have religious beliefs and hold political offices, but what they “believe” theologically and morally should play no part in governance. I mean none. I live in a small town of 356 people. The local council and mayor hold strong religious beliefs. I went to church with some of them back in the day. A medical marijuana dispensary enquired about establishing a business in town. The council and mayor quickly said no. Why? While no official statement was issued, I have no doubt their personal religious and moral beliefs played a big part in them saying no thanks. All that should have mattered is whether it was a legal business and how much tax revenue it would provide. Instead, the business was tentatively established down the road in a different community.

My eyes are wide open to what Evangelical culture warriors are doing. Are yours? They are hiding in plain sight, and I fear that many liberals and progressives are not paying attention or think Evangelical culture warriors are just a nuisance that will soon pass. They are not, they will not and our future depends on us identifying our enemy and fighting back.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

MAGA Mayor Adam Stockford Says Hillsdale, Michigan is a “Traditional Values” Community

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I have put what I learned at Hillsdale College into practice. I very much look to my education there when it comes to passing policy and in my interactions with the state and federal government.

I’m not gonna take the vaccine. They’ll have to shoot me or drag me to the hospital.

Hillsdale, Michigan mayor Adam Stockford

Last Saturday, my wife, Polly, and I took a steam train trip from Edon, Ohio to Hillsdale, Michigan. Operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society using the rails of the Indiana Northeastern Railroad, the train traveled west from Edon to Steubenville, Indiana before turning northeast. We traveled through the Indiana communities of Pleasant Lake, Angola, Fremont, and Ray, and then the Michigan communities of Montgomery, Reading, and Hillsdale. We spent six hours on the train, with a three-hour layover in Hillsdale. Most of the people sitting near us had never been to Hillsdale. Polly and I have been to Hillsdale numerous times over the past fifty years.

Hillsdale, a town of 8,000 people is home to Hillsdale College, an unapologetically Fundamentalist Christian school. According to Wikipedia, Hillsdale has 1,486 undergraduate students. Hillsdale College is known for its anti-government theocratic beliefs. In 1984, Hillsdale withdrew from the Federal Student Aid program, and in 2007 it stopped accepting Michigan state assistance. Hillsdale’s budget is funded through tuition, private funding, and endowments.

David Jesse, a journalist for the Detroit Free Press, recently had this to say about Hillsdale College:

Hillsdale, to the delight of conservatives and the consternation of liberals, has continued to burnish its conservative credentials. It has worked closely on education matters with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee

“The college’s belief in genuine classical education and its deep admiration for the principles of the American Founding, as espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, has made it a target for those who oppose such challenges to the status quo of what is now taught in most American institutions of higher education,” Hillsdale spokeswoman Emily Davis told the Free Press, adding that Hillsdale wants all students, not just those in Michigan, to have a quality education. “Hillsdale College has been dedicated to pursuing truth and defending liberty since 1844 and has no plans of retreating from that noble effort.”  

….

The most liberal of liberals and the most conservative of conservatives could agree on this: Hillsdale College is conservative with a capital C.

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Take the reaction to news media reports of Hillsdale President Larry Arnn’s comments attacking teachers, education, diversity administrators and others at a private event with Tennessee’s Republican governor. Hillsdale is helping to set up a chain of charter schools in the state. Liberals attacked the comments, raising alarm about what they say is the rise of uber-conservative forces. Conservatives defended Arnn, saying he was simply speaking the truth. Hillsdale has also become heavily involved in Florida politics, partnering with GOP leaders there in a major push to change what is taught — and how.

Founded in 1844, Hillsdale has a long history of traditional conservative values. One of its earliest presidents was among the founders of the Republican Party in nearby Jackson. In the 1980s, after the Grove City College court case, Hillsdale completely withdrew from accepting any federal funds. After controversy and scandal in the late 1990s, the college has rebounded. 

“In an age when most institutions change as rapidly as the highly volatile spirit of the moment, we remain true to our founding principles and mission. People recognize the difference,” said David Whalen, the former provost and current associate vice president for curriculum and a professor of English. “Students and families want college, not pseudo-education.”

….

“Hillsdale keeps its values the same because they are embedded in the mission — a treasured mission that is not ours to alter or ignore,” Whalen said. “Hillsdale College faculty, students, and staff are here in service of the mission, not to bend it on a whim nor according to the idol of the day.

“I know we have students who applied or transferred here because they are worried about other colleges and universities — they became disillusioned about institutions that simply go through the motions.”

Hillsdale’s goal is to prepare, indoctrinate, and produce the next generation of Evangelical culture warriors. Hilldale may be small attendance-wise, but they have an outsized, dangerous influence on the Republican Party. Their goal is to take the United States back for God. Of late, Hillsdale’s focus is on public/charter schools.

Earlier this month, Phil Williams, a reporter for Channel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee reported:

The people trying to get taxpayer funding for those privately-operated schools endorsed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee are now trying to convince the public they’re separate from Hillsdale College.

That’s the conservative Michigan college at the center of controversy over its president’s view of public school teachers.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates has discovered new evidence that reveals the true Hillsdale connection, including more hidden-camera video from the reception hosted by Hillsdale president Larry Arnn for Lee.

That’s the same video where Arnn famously declared that public school teachers come from “the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges.”

Following the release of that controversial video, three Tennessee school boards voted down applications from the Hillsdale-affiliated American Classical Education to open charter schools in their districts.

American Classical has now appealed to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.

Facing a firestorm of criticism across the state, the charter management organization tried to distance itself from Hillsdale.

“They distanced themselves and reassured me that they were not part of Hillsdale, that there was no association or affiliation,” Rutherford County school board chair Tiffany Johnson told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

And when the Jackson-Madison County school board in West Tennessee rejected the group’s application, American Classical filed an appeal with the state claiming “ACE is a separate organization from Hillsdale College” and “none of those individuals” who appeared before the board “is or ever has been employed by Hillsdale College.”

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But go back to the hidden camera video, where Arnn had appeared with Gov. Bill Lee.

“We started a charter management organization because we don’t take any money from the government,” Arnn told the audience.

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Here, the Hillsdale president boasted about how, when the charter management organization needed a CEO, he had personally recruited Hillsdale graduate Joel Schellhammer, who had plans for the business world.

“I said, you’re going to have to put that off,” Arnn recounted.

“He said, why? I said you are going to start a charter management organization. And he said, what’s that? And I replied, you’ll figure it out.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates also obtained a contract that Hillsdale signed with another charter school operator, showing that the college expects to be “the first and primary source of models, resources and guidance” for school operations; that, in the search for a principal, Hillsdale would take the lead and notify the school of the names and contact information for potential candidates; and that Hillsdale would provide teacher education “of a duration, scope and location to be determined by Hillsdale.”

While the contract says the final decisions would rest with the charter school operator, Hillsdale would retain the right to revoke its relationship with the charter school if it did not like those decisions.

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In fact, the nine people listed in the appeal as board members included the Hillsdale chief of staff, the Hillsdale vice president of finance, the Hillsdale vice president of admissions, a member of the Hillsdale board of directors, the former superintendent of the college’s own private Hillsdale Academy and two Hillsdale graduates.

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“There is support for curriculum, professional developments, operations, who’s going to be doing the oversight, who is going to be providing the resources, who’s the financial backer. It’s all directly tied to Hillsdale,” said Kelly Chastain, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

The deputy superintendent for Jackson-Madison County said that, when American Classical Academy was asked how they would deal with teacher shortages, their answer revealed even greater ties.

“They talked about that they typically have about 80% of their teaching at charter schools would come directly from Hillsdale,” Williams said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, “Their teachers would come from Hillsdale?”

“They said about 80 percent would come from Hillsdale College where they are graduates. That was one of the ways they were able to retain teachers a lot better than most places.”

In addition, an article in the Hillsdale college newspaper noted that the new CEO “wants ACE’s schools to be places where Hillsdale graduates apply for jobs.”

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He also called the group’s work “an extension of the mission of the college.”

As for the controversy surrounding Hillsdale, school officials insist that was not a driving force as they followed state guidelines for reviewing charter school applications.

“Their affiliation with Hillsdale is not important to us,” Jackson-Madison County’s Vivian Williams said.

“It’s important to us that we follow the state of Tennessee scoring rubric and that we are, in reviewing that, providing the best possible education for our students.”

NewsChannel 5 Investigates noted, “But for them to deny a close relationship with Hillsdale, it’s just not honest.”

“That’s correct,” Williams answered. “It’s not honest.”

Adam Stockford, the mayor of Hillsdale is a graduate of Hillsdale College, and MAGA proud. Thus, it is somewhat surprising that the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society did not vet Stockford before putting a letter from him, speaking on behalf of the city of Hillsdale, in the materials it handed to train riders.

Stockford wrote:

We like to think Hillsdale is a special place where we are more concerned with heritage and history than the next big thing. We take great pains to teach our children traditional values, and we guard the historical integrity of our downtown with vigor. We look to the future by protecting the past.

Stockford’s dog whistle was loud and clear. I wonder what LGBTQ, atheist, agnostic, pagan, and liberal Christian residents think about Stockford’s “traditional” values? “Traditional” is Greek for white, Christian, Bible-based morality. “Traditional” is Greek for culture war values such as anti-LGBTQ, anti-transgender, anti-abortion, and a host of other right-wing red meat issues.

Stockford, who is running for reelection, hilariously had this to say on his Facebook page:

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Stockford should be honest about his motivations and agenda. “Traditional” values are all about “social issues.” If “social issues” are a distraction, why are Hillsdale College and Evangelicals in general obsessed with them?

Hillsdale College continues to turn out Evangelical culture warriors. As these warriors fan out across our nation, their goal is to reclaim America for their God; to promote Christian morality; to advance Biblical “truth” claims; to restore the United States to the glory days of the 1950s. Denying the fact that the United States is a secular nation with a strict wall of separation of church and state, these culture warriors are intent on establishing Jesus, who is a strict constitutionalist, as king and ruler.

Their political-religious agenda, an unholy, ugly conjoined twin if there ever was one, is a direct threat to the future of our country. One need only look at the reversal of Roe v. Wade to see the harm these people can cause. And they are not done. As someone who intimately follows and writes about the machinations of Evangelical churches, preachers, and institutions, it is clear to me that they have turned their focus to local, county, and state politics. Largely successful in their attempts to win local and state elections, these culture warriors, crying FREEDOM!, will not stop until they have obliterated our democracy.

Stockford may object to my portrayal of him, but any time someone talks about “traditional values,” I hear them loud and clear.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

IFB Pastor John MacFarlane Threatens Liberal Politicians, Overturning Roe v. Wade was Just the Beginning

first baptist church bryan ohio

Recently, John MacFarlane, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, warned liberal politicians that he and his fellow Bible thumpers are coming for them; that overturning Roe v. Wade is just the start. MacFarlane wrote:

Now, almost 50 years later, we can see where and how this country is divided.  It’s not about political parties and red v. blue.  We are a nation divided over the Bible and God, the One in whose image we are created.  And this division is getting deeper every day!  To call a ruling that supports life as cruel, outrageous, and heart-wrenching is egregious in and of itself.

Such statements from our national leaders ought to cause every blood-bought born-again believer to stand up and say, “This ruling isn’t the only change that’s happening.  There’s going to be more.  A LOT more!”

Is this devotional political?  Absolutely — and I make no apology for it.  The reason that it’s political is because the politicians have insisted on sticking their noses into issues of values, morality, and truth.  Rather than accepting what God says, they’ve chosen to go against it, forcing the Christians to rise up and to take some stands.  We MUST obey God rather than man.

Dear liberal politician, you have given the Christians no choice.  Edmund Burke’s famous statement is true.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  It’s time for GOOD men and women – especially GOD’s men and women to arise and do the right thing!

MacFarlane is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, a Trumpist who supports and defends every plank in the culture war agenda. Along with his fellow forced birthers, MacFarlane had the orgasm of a lifetime when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing states to effectively ban abortion. I suspect MacFarlane makes no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother; that, if he had his way, certain birth control methods and in-vitro fertilization would be outlawed too. MacFarlane’s goal is to facilitate returning the United States to the glory days of the 1950s; the days when abortion and birth control were illegal; the days when women were barefoot and pregnant; the days when blacks knew their place, Mexicans went back to where they belonged after picking our crops, and homosexuals never left their pitch-dark closets; the days when public school teachers led their students in prayer and read the Bible to them; the days when Joseph McCarthy spent his waking hours ferreting out commies; the days when IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the pledge and currency; the days when “Biblical” Christianity ruled supreme.

Based on what MacFarlane has written here, he either rejects or has a faulty understanding of the separation of church and state. The United States has a secular government. No amount of quotes from professional liar David Barton will change this fact. While it is likely MacFarlane opposes the Taliban and other extremist Islamic governments, he seems to be okay with Sharia law in America as long as it follows his interpretation of the Protestant Christian Bible.

MacFarlane says the Federal government should accept what God says in the Bible and govern accordingly. Of course, MacFarlane is quite selective about what laws, precepts, and commands he wants the government to follow. Not one Evangelical zealot wants the government to enforce all 613 Biblical laws. Does MacFarlane want the adulterers, fornicators, child molesters, and disobedient children among his congregation executed? Does he want atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics, and all other non-Evangelicals arrested, tried, convicted, and executed? Shall I go on?

The Bible is a dangerous book in the hands of theocrats such as John MacFarlane. They must NOT be trusted with the reins of government. If theocrats are allowed to gain control, freedoms will be lost and people will die. When the MacFarlanes of the world say that overturning Roe v. Wade is just the beginning, we should believe them. If the January 6th insurrection has taught anything, is that MacFarlane and his fellow theocrats are dangerous and will use violence to achieve their goal of a Christian nation.

What, exactly, have Evangelicals been forced to do? I can’t think of one thing. No, what’s going on here is that Evangelicalism is in numerical freefall. NONES are on the rise. Young adults are leaving Evangelical churches in droves. Evangelicals have lost their dominance and control, and they don’t like it. So, instead of loving God and loving their neighbors as themselves — you know, the two great commandments — Evangelicals have turned to raw, naked political power to advance their agenda. How else can we explain so many Evangelicals voting for Donald Trump — twice?

Sixty years ago, Barry Goldwater said:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

An unattributed quote says:

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

Make no mistake about it, the Christian nationalist horde is at the gate, and Pastor John MacFarlane is standing there with them. John is a well-respected pastor. By all accounts, he is a friendly, winsome man. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is promoting beliefs and practices that are materially harmful not only to me and my family personally but also to hundreds of millions of non-Evangelical Americans.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser