Religion

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

salem cass united methodist church findlay 2019

Salem Cass United Methodist Church, Findlay, Ohio, no pastor listed.  (Facebook page) The church’s website is hacked.

good hope lutheran church arlington ohio 2019

Good Hope Lutheran Church, Arlington, Ohio, Steve Ramsey, pastor.

I assume Good Hope is trying to reach age 60 and older farmers with their 7:30 a.m. worship service? That’s the earliest service time I’ve ever seen.

williamstown first brethren church williamstown ohio 2019

Williamstown First Brethren Church, Williamstown, Ohio, no pastor listed. (Facebook page)

Williamstown First Brethren wants passersby to know that the message preached at their church doesn’t change. In fact, it has transformative power. This church is over 125 years old. Does anyone really believe their message has never changed? Even Fundamentalist churches can’t claim their message never changes. It does. The problem, of course, is that when you are in a religious bubble, everything seems static, and change is often hard to see.

grace united methodist church dunkirk ohio 2019

Grace United Methodist Church, Dunkirk, Ohio, David Roy, pastor. (No Web Presence) According to the Kenton Times, Pastor Roy is 22 years old. My first thought after I read Grace UMC’s sign was “premature ejaculation?”  What’s too soon? Don ‘t make us come to your church . . . just tell us.

walnut grove united methodist church kenton ohio 2019

Walnut Grove United Methodist Church, Kenton, Ohio, Douglas Flinn, Sr, pastor.

The church’s website states:

Our mission is to Invite all people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, grow in their faith and commitment and to serve our communities  and beyond.

Our vision is for Walnut Grove to be a lighthouse showing people God’s unconditional love. We will do this by helping them meet needs and improve their life skills. As people recognize God’s love for them, they will find a safe harbor in a relationship with Jesus Christ

WGUMC understands a disciple of Jesus Christ to be a person who is committed to following Jesus in their heads; is continually being changed by Jesus in their hearts; and is committed to living out the mission of Jesus with their hands.  Being a disciple is a process that never ends!

Lots of religious gobbledygook. What I want to know is this: does WGUMC’s unconditional love extend to LGBTQ people?  The United Methodist denomination is divided on social hot button issues such as GBTQ people as pastors/members and same-sex marriage.  How I interpret WGUMC’s sign message, “Build Others Up, Don’t Tear Them Down,” depends on whether LGBTQ people are really unconditionally accepted as they are. If not, then the Bible and the church tears people down. The Bible is littered with negative, anti-human commands. These teachings do nothing to affirm or build-up people. The Bible is a powerful weapon that can be used for good or bad. Sadly, far too often, the Bible is used as a tool to bludgeon and harm.

Independent Baptist Songs: When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

soul strirring songs and hymns

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Bill Gaither and Friends.

Video Link

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,
and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
when the saved of earth shall gather
over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

Refrain:
When the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

On that bright and cloudless morning
when the dead in Christ shall rise,
and the glory of his resurrection share;
when his chosen ones shall gather
to their home beyond the skies,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

Let us labor for the Master
from the dawn till setting sun,
let us talk of all his wondrous love and care;
then when all of life is over,
and our work on earth is done,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

The Story Behind the Song

He loved young people and tried to win them for Christ. One day, as he passed through an alley, he met a ragged fourteen-year-old girl. She was the daughter of an alcoholic. He invited her to his Sunday school and youth group and she began to attend.

However, one day when he took roll, the girl did not respond. Each child had to say a Scripture verse when his or her name was called. James saw a lesson in her silence. “I spoke of what a sad thing it would be when our names are called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, if one of us should be absent.”

He was not the kind of man to let the matter die with a moral lesson. After Sunday school, he went to his pupil’s home to find out why she had not showed up for class. He found her dangerously ill and sent for his own doctor–they still made house calls then. The doctor said that she had pneumonia. Since that was before the days of antibiotics, death was highly likely.

James returned home. He tried to find a song to fit the thought of a heavenly roll call but could not locate one. An inner voice seemed to say, “Why don’t you write one.”[Black then wrote When the Roll is Called Up Yonder]

I remember the Sunday School teachers of my youth “calling the roll.” Not that he needed to do so. How hard could it have been to look over the seven or so boys seated there and not know who was or wasn’t present. One church I attended in my teen years would have the Sunday School Superintendent go to each class and collect the attendance books and offerings. Baptists can’t do anything without passing the plate. The purpose of taking the roll was primarily an evangelistic tool. Teachers were expected to visit the homes of those absent from the Sunday School. Not that any teacher ever visited my home. No need. I was at church every time the doors were opened, and that included Sunday School.  I even got pins for “perfect attendance.” My, oh my, aint God proud of me!

About James Black:

James Milton Black was born on August 19, 1856 in South Hill, New York. He acquired an early musical education in singing and organ playing and knew such famous songsters of his day as Daniel Towner and John Howard. Around 1881, he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he carried on Christian work through the Methodist Episcopal church. Teaching music during the week, he was a song leader, Sunday school teacher and youth leader in his spare hours. In addition to all this work, he edited hymnals.

Songs of Sacrilege: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch

five finger death punch

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.

Video Link

Lyrics

I spoke to God today, and she said that she’s ashamed.
What have I become, what have I done?
I spoke to the Devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame.
And I understood, cause I feel the same.

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I heard from God today, and she sounded just like me.
What have I done, and who have I become.
I saw the Devil today, and he looked a lot like me.
I looked away, I turned away!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I’m not defending, downward descending,
Falling further and further away!
Getting closer every day!

I’m getting closer every day, to the end.
To the end, the end, the end,
I’m getting closer every day!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

Why I Didn’t Help Him

orthodox jewish boys

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Sometimes I recall occasions when I didn’t help someone.

There were the times I couldn’t, whether because I didn’t have the resources or simply didn’t know how.

Other times, I simply didn’t; the situation seemed too complicated or I just didn’t want to get involved. Or I was afraid.

That last explanation applies to the way I dealt with something Moishe told me. (Please see the post The News Makes Me Think About Him.)

He was a student in the yeshiva where I taught for a year. For months, he circled around me before he asked whether we could talk. We did, and he complained about the restrictiveness of his community. Finally, in despair, he revealed that a rabbi in his synagogue was sexually abusing him.

I expressed sympathy—or, more precisely, I channeled my anger into words of understanding. I asked whether he told anyone else. He shook his head: “He made me promise not to tell anybody.”

Were my words coming out of his mouth? I felt as if my lips were moving in sync with his. If they were, I don’t know whether he noticed.

He didn’t ask me not to tell. At least, I don’t recall that he did. But there was no way that I would, even if I could. Perhaps he understood that; I understood his fear because it was my fear.

At that time, I had not told anyone about the sexual abuse I’d experienced at the hands of a priest. Even if I had the language for it—which no kid of my age in that place and time had—I couldn’t have described it for anyone.

For the same reasons, Moishe didn’t talk to anyone besides me. Even if I’d had the words, it would have been my word against the priest’s. Moishe had the words in spite of his community’s and school’s effort to keep him from knowing them. Still, it would have been his word against the rabbi of his synagogue—and the rabbis who ran the school and surely would have sided with Moishe’s abuser. And my word, as an outsider, would have no more weight—actually, probably less than—Moishe’s.

That, of course, is another reason why he told me. He knew I wouldn’t tell, because I really couldn’t. Because I was afraid, as he was.

Quote of the Day: Theological Beliefs Force People to Endure Needless Suffering

assisted suicide

Cartoon by Ted Rall

Granting dying patients the power to determine when their lives will end has long been a serious point of contention with some American religious groups who view these right to die laws as government embracing a “culture of death.” Well-known right to die activists such as Jack Kevorkian have countered that religious ethics should not subvert sound medical reasoning. As of now, the argument against establishing right to die laws remains the dominant American position as only six states and the District of Columbia currently allow physicians to prescribe medications that hasten death. Another, more blunt way to put it, is that a theological belief is forcing millions of families and individual Americans to endure needless suffering that most of us spare our pets.

On its face, the religious objection to right to die laws is based on an otherwise morally praiseworthy worldview that all human life is sacred. Understanding how this seemingly positive belief became the chief impediment to ending so much needless human suffering presents a great lesson in the underlying conflict between science and dogmatic belief.

To be clear, I do not think this conflict needs be a zero-sum game. Indeed, the Constitution provides a great blueprint for how religious faith and science can interact in the same space to overall mutual benefit. Moreover, a strong argument can be made that a constant state of tension is how our market of ideas should function under. That said, I do agree with the critics of dogma such as neuroscientist and author Sam Harris in one very important respect; the main problem with dogma, no matter how benign, is that it is unresponsive to new evidence and discoveries.

The practical issue is the period in which most religious scripture takes place is centuries apart from the time period when modern science came about. Therefore, it is utterly impossible for scripture to take into account the evidence that modern science has produced. This places literal, dogmatic interpretation of spiritual text often in conflict with readily provable realities that modern science has revealed. For instance that the earth is billions, not thousands of years old. Often times, the descriptive conflict between religious dogma and modern science does not bear any direct impact on the everyday lives of most. When the subject matter spills into medical ethics however, the debate can have very real consequences.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The Right to Die, March 12, 2019

Black Collar Crime: Mormon Bishop David Moss Arrested on Sex Crime Charges

david moss

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

David Moss, a Mormon bishop at the Mill Pond Ward in Lehi, Utah, was arrested last month in a human trafficking sting.

Fox-13 reports:

Detectives say 51-year-old David N. Moss, using the alias “Pilot”, contacted women he believed to be prostitutes on social media. Moss told the women he could manage them, which he claimed was different from being a pimp.

Officers say Moss told the women he could protect them, help them avoid police, and book their clients on their behalf. He told the women he had “run” other girls in the past.

Moss ultimately met with the two undercover officers, and during that meeting he showed them cash and said he was “not opposed to paying” for services, detectives allege. He also detailed ways to avoid police and at that point forcibly grabbed one woman’s hand and placed it on his genitals.

The document states Moss then unzipped his pants and exposed himself to the two undercover detectives.

….

Detectives wrote that Moss’ current position as a religious leader and his prior work as a vice squad cop in St. George gave them reason to worry there may be more victims out there.

….

Moss was booked into jail for the Lehi incident on charges of exploiting a prostitute, patronizing a prostitute, sexual battery, and two counts of lewdness.

Moss was a former police officer. He was in charge of the vice squad for the St. George Police Department. According to Fox-13:

Capt. Mike Giles, St. George Police, said Moss previously supervised their vice squad but resigned his position in their department seven years ago. He said Moss was involved in a consensual sexual relationship that had “an on-duty component” but was not in any way related to the current allegations Moss faces.

Giles said Moss resigned after his case went to a pre-determination meeting but before any recommendation for termination was made.

 

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

good question

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

What follows is a list questions from the search logs. These questions are a handful of the thousands of Google search queries people use to get to this site. In this post, I plan to “answer” these “important” questions. Let these search questions remind you of how Evangelical beliefs can and do psychologically harm people. If this is not the case, then why-oh-why would a rational person ask such questions? No, my friend, Evangelical beliefs hinder critical thinking. How could they not? When a Bronze Age religious text is your go-to book, is it any surprise people end up fretting over the things mentioned in these questions?

Snarkiness and cussing ahead! You have been warned. Now, go and sin!

Is Bethel Church in Redding, California a cult?

Yes, Bethel Church in Redding is a cult. Every crazy, irrational Evangelical/Charismatic belief and practice can be found at Bethel. Bethelmania has spread far and wide, it seems.  A nearby church pastored by Tim and Lisa Hacker has changed its name to Bethel. The Hackers, members of the Bethel Leaders Network, believe God wants them to “make things on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

My advice to people wanting to hook up with the nutters at Bethel Church in Redding is simple: RUN!

Please read Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult.

Why are Evangelicals so mean?

Evangelicals are mean because their God is mean. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Mean God.” This God is the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the universe; meaner than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Why are Evangelicals so hateful?

Evangelicals are hateful because their God is hateful. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Hateful God.” This God is the most hateful asshole in the universe; more hateful than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Where is David Hyles today?

Hopefully, David Hyles is under a rock somewhere, fearing further exposure of his vile and criminal behavior. Why would anyone want to know where Hyles’ is today? Passionately unrepentant, Hyles is attempting a comeback of sorts.  My goal in life is whack him on the head every time he pops his head up from the rock he is currently hiding under.

Please read UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been RestoredDavid Hyles Says My Bad, JesusIs All Forgiven for David Hyles?Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome, and Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

Is kissing your boyfriend a sin?

Think about this question for a moment. Humans are naturally sexual beings. It is very human to desire to kiss someone you are attracted to. If God is your creator, why did he give you sexual desire and then expect you not to act on it? Silly, right?  Any church/sect that demands you refrain from kissing before marriage is a cult. My advice? RUN!

Please read Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend? and Hey Girlfriend: Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend?

What is the name of the Ohio preacher who became an atheist?

Bruce Gerencser. You can find everything you would ever want to know about him here. Beware! Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers believe Gerencser is a tool of Satan, a destroyer of the faith once delivered to the saints. His writing has been known to cause fear, doubt, gas, and loss of faith.

How do atheists handle death?

Every atheist is different, so I can’t speak for all atheists. That said, death is inevitable. It stalks all of us, and will one day — all too soon — catch us. Worrying about death is a waste of time. Here’s the advice I give to people to ask such questions:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please read How Does an Atheist Handle the Death of a Loved One?

Who won’t make it to Heaven?

No one will make it to Heaven. Heaven (and Hell) are fictional places used by clerics to ensure congregants remain faithful. They use a carrot-stick approach. Heaven is the carrot, and Hell is the stick. Without the promise of eternal life in Heaven (or the threat of Hell) after death, most churches would close. Why bother with getting up on Sundays, giving ten percent of your income to the church, and listening to boring sermons if there’s no life after death?

Why are black women more loyal to their pastors than their husbands?

I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that black female Evangelicals are quite devoted to their pastors and churches. Pastors can commit all sorts of crimes, yet there is Sister Bertha and the Missionary Union standing behind them, faithful unto the end. I suspect this has to do with being taught to submit to male religious authorities.

Perhaps someone who spent years in a black church can better answer this question.

Why do some pastors stop believing in God?

Where oh where to I begin? Please read the posts on the WHY page for more information on why I divorced Jesus in 2008.

Is Christopher Hitchens in Hell?

Of course not. There is no such thing as Hell, silly boy. Please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell

Is it a sin for a man to have long hair?

I see IFB preachers are still preaching against long hair on men. Any man focused on your physical appearance is a cultist (and a creep). His goal is to control you though demanding you look and dress a certain way. Please read Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

Was Jack Hyles a false prophet?

The short answer is yes.  Please read The Legacy of Jack HylesThe Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still MattersThe Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles, and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Is the IFB a cult?

Yes. All churches and sects, by definition, are cults. That said, IFB churches and pastors often use psychological manipulation and religious indoctrination to control congregants. My advice is simple: RUN! There are plenty of kinder, gentler, human-affirming flavors of Christianity. Check them out. You need not stay in the IFB cult.

Here’s the dictionary definition of the word cult:

  • An interest followed with exaggerated zeal.
  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals.
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false.
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices.

Need I say more?

Should IFB wives obey their husbands without question?

Back in my IFB days, I would have said yes, with one qualification: wives do not have to obey commands that are contrary to the Bible. That said, men are far smarter than women, stronger too. I read that in the Bible, so it must be true, right? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Should churches get rid of their youth programs?

Yes, immediately. Don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200. Please read Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments

Why are Baptists not allowed to play cards?

Many Baptists think playing cards of any kind is a sin. The first church I worked in almost had a split over card playing. Here’s how one Fundamentalist site explains why card playing is sinful:

Playing cards, like reading your horoscope, has become a joke or just a game. However, the Lord does not look at it as a joke or game. There are serious consequences for reading your horoscope as well as using cards or just having them in your home. It has been said that nicknames for a deck of cards is “The Devil’s Bible” and “The Devil’s Picture Book”. At one time the church took a strong stand against the card game. Until recently preachers and churches warned about the dangers of cards.

Some of the most common places you will find a deck of cards (besides our homes) will be with prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, murderers, in taverns, brothels, prisons, insane asylums, gambling dens, etc., but never at a prayer meeting.

The king represents Satan, Prince of Darkness, usurper and foe of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ten card is for the Spirit of lawlessness, in opposition to the moral law in the Word of God. In 1300, clubs were the chief weapons used by murderers, therefore this suit represents the Spirit of Murder and death by violence. The jack represents the lustful libertine, from pimp to adulterer and whoremonger, a moral leper whose chief ambition is to gratify sensual fleshly lusts. The queen represents Mary, Mother of Jesus, but in the card language she is called Mother of Harlots. The joker represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Joker means fool and therefore Jesus is held up to ridicule. The joker is said to be the offspring of licentious jack and the queen, Mother of Harlots.

All other cards also have hidden obscene and blasphemous meanings. Nine-tenths of all gambling today is done with these cards. Witches, psychics, and satan-worshipers use playing cards for divination and to cast spells and curses. Born-again believers should not want to be in contact with such a tool of Satan. In Deuteronomy 7:26 we are told not to have abominable things in our homes. It will bring a curse on you and your household. It is time that Christians clean house and destroy the hidden works of darkness.

Is it ever okay to lie?

Yes. Please read Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Is masturbation a sin?

Many Evangelicals believe masturbating is sinful. In their “clean” minds, since masturbation requires “lust” for matters to rise to the occasion, it is a sexual sin rooted in pride. Not pride over penis size. Everyone knows Evangelical men have small dicks (and Evangelical women never, ever ring the Devil’s doorbell). Since masturbation is generally a solo act, it is wrongly focused on prideful self-gratification. Besides, masturbation will make you blind.

Again, such beliefs are all about control. Evangelicals hold to Puritanical beliefs on sex. No sex before marriage, and that includes masturbation. Silly, I know, but many people believe masturbation to be every bit as sinful as fornication.  If this is so, skip spanking the meat and go straight to intercourse. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun!

Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!

Is Game of Thrones pornographic?

No, and only people who have never seen porn think it is. Yes, GOT has a good bit of nudity (and dragons). But, pornographic? Nope. Want to see REAL porn? Ask your pastor for a list of his favorite porn websites. Maybe, the both of you can check them out together. Nothing better for the soul than searching YouPorn with your preacher.

What religion approves of incest?

Christianity. It is, after all, in the Bible.

How do you witness to an atheist?

You don’t. True-blue atheists are NOT good evangelistic targets, especially if they were previously Christian. There are so many souls in need of saving. Why not go after the low-hanging fruit instead of wasting your time with people who know the score and have zero interest in your Gods?

Please read How to Witness to an Atheist

Is wearing leggings a sin?

No. Now, it may not be becoming for you to wear them. Spend an evening at the local Walmart and you see women who should never, ever attempt to put their size 22 ass in a size 12 pair of leggings. That’s just my personal opinion, so if you want to wear leggings, go for it. Don’t let ANYONE tell you how to dress, especially religious authority figures. Remember, their goal is not social propriety, it’s control.

Please read Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Wearing Leggings is a Sin

Why do liberals hate Evangelicals?

I am a liberal and I don’t hate Evangelicals. I do, however, hate Evangelical beliefs. I know a lot of nice, kind, thoughtful Evangelicals who have horrible, anti-human, anti-progress, anti-science beliefs. Such beliefs deserve a swift death, and I plan to do my part in smothering the life out of them. To use a common Evangelical cliché: I love the Evangelical, but hate the beliefs.

Why doesn’t God stop abortion?

Good question, why doesn’t he? Keep asking yourself that question until you exit the church doors into the fresh air of reason and freedom. God doesn’t stop abortion because he can’t. God doesn’t exist, so how can he stop anything? That why there is war, starvation, sexual violence and other calamities. It’s up to us to fix these problems, not God.

Where is Bruce Gerencser?

Right here. Not dead. Not in Hell. Seek and ye shall find. And please, God dammit, spell my last name correctly when you are using a search engine to locate me. Gerencser, how hard can it be? It’s Hungarian by the way, not that I am, in any way, Hungarian. I am the milk man’s son.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

How American Taxpayers Subsidize Churches and Ministers

free-money-for-pastor-waltRight-wing Christian Republicans love to talk about the importance of religious freedom, and how liberals and atheists are hell-bent on destroying this freedom. Listen to Evangelical talking heads and you would think that the martyrdom of American Christians is just around the corner; that if atheists have their way, Christians will be rounded up and imprisoned in WWII-type internment camps. Of course, none of these things is true. Christians are free to worship Gods where they wish, in any manner they wish, without government intrusion. Christians are free to stand on street corners and preach their versions of the gospel. Christians are free to start new churches, proselytize, and do any of the things they have done for the past two hundred years. Similar to the cheesy bread in the Domino’s commercial, you’re FREE Christians, you’re FREE.

Video Link

What HAS changed is that Christianity is no longer given a seat at the head of the American culture table. Evangelicals, along with conservative Catholics, are butt-hurt over their loss of influence and power. In a last-ditch attempt to regain their glory days, many Christians have turned to politics. Now spiritually bankrupt, Evangelicals have abandoned Jesus and turned to their true God: Republican politics. Eighty-two percent of voting Evangelicals voted for pussy-grabber-in-chief Donald Trump. Without their vote, Hillary Clinton would be president. Worse yet, Evangelicals have spent the last two years defending and supporting a man who can only be described as a sociopathic, narcissistic liar. But, hey, he’s a “baby” Christian, right?

Secularism and religious indifference are on the rise in the United States, and young Americans are fleeing organized religion in droves. Evangelicals feel their power slipping away, and they don’t know what do. So, much as did Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, Evangelicals see demons — and liberals, socialists, communists, and atheists — under every bed. What they, in fact, see are delusions cooked up in the minds of Evangelical preachers. The fall of American Christianity rests on Christians themselves, not secularists or atheists. Certainly, we are enjoying the bonfire, but it’s Evangelicals who gathered the wood and set it on fire. How about some hot dogs or marshmallows?

Secular legal groups have now set their sights on how government unconstitutionally subsidizes Christian churches, pastors, and educational institutions with taxpayer money. That’s right, atheists and Fundamentalist Christians alike help support Christian churches through their payment of taxes. I, for one, am tired of financially supporting religious institutions. It’s time for churches, parachurch groups, Christian colleges, and other religious institutions to pay their own freight.

Here are some of the ways ALL of us currently support Christian churches, pastors, and religious schools:

  • Churches are, by default, tax exempt. There are no forms to file or reports to be sent in to the IRS. Any group of people can gather together, call themselves a church, and the IRS will consider them tax exempt. Churches are, by default, EXEMPT from all filing requirements. A church is a church because it is a church. End of discussion. Or so says current tax law.
  • Churches in most states are exempt from paying real estate and sales taxes.
  • Monetary or in-kind donations to churches are tax exempt.
  • Pastors can claim what’s called a housing allowance. This allowance allows churches to designate their pastors’ rent/mortgage, utilities, home repairs, and other housing expenses as part of their housing allowances. Claiming a housing allowance allows pastors to drastically reduce their taxable income. Some pastors claim ALL their income as housing allowance, thus reducing their taxable income to ZERO.
  • Pastors can also opt out of Social Security. That’s right. Pastors can pay little or no income tax and no social security tax. Jesus F. Christ, what an awesome deal!
  • Pastors can buy cars through their churches, and have their churches pay all the expenses, further lowering their taxable income. Other expenses such as book and computer purchases can be made through the church, lowering a pastor’s taxable income. The goal is to give the evil government as little money as possible. Zero taxes paid and a big fat Earned Income Credit refund is the wet dream of countless Evangelical preachers.

I was a pastor for twenty-five years, and I can tell you this: any pastor who is paying income tax needs to get a better accountant. The U.S. Tax Code provided numerous ways for churches and clergy to avoid paying taxes.

It is time for us to end all tax subsidies for churches and clergymen. Churches should be forced to PROVE they are charitable organizations before receiving tax-exempt status. Good luck with that, churches. Churches should be required file the same tax forms and pay the same taxes as businesses. No more hiding the truth about the golden calf of American Christianity. And while we are at it, it is time for pastors to pay the same taxes as everyone else. Both churches and pastors should pay their fair share. The United States is a secular country, and as such, we should stop supporting Christian churches, pastors, and educational institutions with tax money.

Evangelicals clamor for religious freedom, and I am all for giving it to them. The government has no business subsidizing religious institutions and their leaders. It’s time to set the cheesy bread free!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

The Voices of Atheism: Christopher Hitchens on the Story of Abraham and Isaac

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

This is the fifth installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features Christopher Hitchens. Enjoy!

Video Link

Independent Baptist Songs: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

ira stanphill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is I Know Who Hold Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by The Isaacs.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine
For it’s skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don’t know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood.

Video Link

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow is one of the songs Baptists sing when life is shitty.  When your life is swirling the toilet bowl, sing songs about the care and promises of God and the Heaven that awaits born-again Christians. Think of this as religious Valium, except Valium is real and Heaven is not.

About Ira Stanphill:

Stanphill  (February 14, 1914 to December 30, 1993) was an Assemblies of God pastor, singer, and Gospel songwriter. A gifted musician, he was already playing piano, organ, ukulele and accordion by age 10. By the time he reached 17, he was composing and singing, participating in revival crusades, prayer meetings, and tent campaigns. He graduated from the Junior College in Chillicothe, Missouri, and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. As a singing evangelist, he preached all over America and in over 40 other countries. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and published his autobiography, This Side of Heaven, in 1983.

Religion, Death, and the Afterlife: The Death of Derek Sheldon

derek sheldon roadside memorial 4

As many of you know, Polly and I travel the highways and byways of northwest Ohio, northeast Indiana, and southeast Michigan looking for photography opportunities. I have developed an interest in how we as Americans — particularly Midwesterners — memorialize life and death.  Of special interest is the various means religious people use to remember the dead. This interest might seem odd for someone who is an atheist, but I am attracted to roadside memorials and cemeteries. From time to time, I plan to share a few of the photographs I’ve shot while stalking death.

I shot these photographs at a roadside memorial for the late Derek Sheldon.

derek sheldon roadside memorial

derek sheldon roadside memorial 2

Derek Sheldon, a senior student at Elmwood High School in Bloomdale, Ohio, was tragically killed in an automobile accident on October 1, 2015. According to the Sentinel-Tribune:

Derek Arthur Sheldon, 17 of Bloomdale passed away on October 1, 2015, near Bloomdale.

He was born in Findlay on October 3, 1997, to William and Kimberly (Workman) Sheldon and they survive.

….

Derek was a senior at Elmwood High School where he played basketball and baseball. He was a member of the honor society, loved working with younger children during summer baseball, and enjoyed sports of any kind.

While I find roadside memorials psychologically and sociologically interesting, death at such a young age is always tragic.

 

 

 

Going All the Way for Jesus: Being an All-In Type of Person

all in

A commenter on my recent post, Jesus Said: Go Sell All That You Have and Follow Me, described me as an “all-in” type of person. I have often thought about being an all-in person. Was I always this way or did external forces turn me into that kind of person? I have rummaged through the first fifteen years of my life and concluded that I was NOT naturally an all-in kind of person. The best of example I found comes from my team sports experiences. I played Little League baseball, Pony League baseball, city league basketball, and one forgettable year of junior high football. I thoroughly enjoyed playing sports. I had enough talent to garner me a spot on teams, but my seat on the bench was usually right next to the water boy. Basketball was the only exception. I was a starter. This fact, however, shouldn’t be taken as a statement of my basketball prowess. If anything, all it says is that some of my teammates weren’t very good. I was a starter, then, on a very average team.

As I comb through my past sports experiences, one fact comes to light, regardless of the sport: I was never an all-in player. Sure, I would be at every practice and play pick-up games with neighborhood boys, but I was never the type of player who worked day and night on his skills. I enjoyed the fun and camaraderie that sports afforded me, but I was never going to be a lone gym rat, for example, shooting hundreds of shots a day to work on my foul shooting. My dad showed no interest in my athletic efforts. I don’t remember a time when he tossed the ball with me in the yard or attended one of my games. I want to think, surely, that he attended one or more of my games, but I have no recollection of him doing so. It was my grandmother who bought me my first baseball glove (and ball). I do have several memories of Grandma Rausch and my mom attending some of my Pony League games. I vividly remember hearing Grandma loudly telling the umpire while I was batting, THAT WASN’T A STRIKE! Never mind that I couldn’t have hit it even if it was. I was a terrible hitter, often used as a late-inning defensive replacement or a pinch runner (I am left-handed, and I was, in the day, a speedy base runner). I was never going to be Babe Ruth or even Mario Mendoza.

I can safely conclude, then, that I was NOT an all-in person in my younger years. However, as I turn my thoughts to my life from the time I was saved and baptized at age fifteen though my first decade in the ministry, I see a very different Bruce Gerencser. I see that once I became a Christian and declared I was called by God to be a preacher, I was all-in when it came to matters of faith. My transformation took place during the same time my parents divorced and my dad married a girl four years older than I. Yes, you read that right. She was 19. My father was 36. His new wife had given birth the previous year, leaving me wondering if the child belonged to my dad. Nonetheless, my familial circumstances greatly changed the year I got saved. My parents and siblings quit attending church, leaving me as the only Gerencser still a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I disconnected from my family, and directed most of my time and energy into attending church, working on a bus route, learning how to be a preacher, and running around with my church friends. The church became my family. I spent as little time at home as possible, often not coming home until it was time for bed.

During this time period, Bruce Turner, the youth pastor at Trinity, became a surrogate father of sorts. (Please read Dear Bruce Turner.) I have nothing but good things to say about Bruce. He was a real help to me at a vulnerable time in my life. That said, he was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, and his theology, worldview, and way of living made a deep impression me. By the time I was sixteen, I was an all-in IFB Christian — a True Believer®. When Trinity would host Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings, I would skip school so I could listen to the big-name IFB preachers of the day. Not one of my church friends joined me. I was alone when it came to a thirst for hearing these men of God. I am sure my church friends, if I asked them to comment on my younger years, would point to the changes that took place in my life after Jesus and I became best buddies. Not that I was no longer a fun-loving, humorous, girl-chasing redhead. I was, but my conduct and language changed, as did the kind of girls I was interested in. I only dated girls from the churches I attended, but after I was saved, I looked for girls who were as serious about their faith as I was. My first serious girlfriend after I was saved was the sixteen-year-old preacher’s daughter — Charlotte Brandenburg.

I was all-in with Jesus, so it made sense for me to only date girls who had similar motivations. The last girl I dated, of course, became my wife. We shared similar sentiments about spiritual matters and what it was God wanted us to do with our lives. And for the first three decades of our marriage, I was an all-in pastor, a man who demanded total commitment from himself, his family, and the churches he pastored. I had little tolerance for laziness, and I had no time for golf-playing ministerial colleagues. There were souls to save, churches to build. How could I devote one moment of time to the pleasures of the world while people still needed to hear the Evangelical gospel? Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of someone who was free from temptation and “sin.” I wasn’t, but the arc of my life was bent towards holiness, preaching the gospel, and doing all I could to help people mature in the faith. I often heard preachers talk about “balance.” For many years, I rejected calls for “balance,” choosing instead to devote most of my time and effort into the work of the ministry. Better to burn out than rust out, I proudly told myself.

As I look at the overall arch of my life, I can see how being all-in has helped me when it came to computers, photography, and writing. I tackled all three of these things without any training, choosing a path of self-education. I continue to work on knowing more about these things. I most certainly want to be a better writer and photographer. Computers? I just want the damn things to work when I push the “on” button. In other areas of my life, thanks to chronic illness and pain, I have learned to let go and let Loki. I am still learning to “not give a shit” about some things, even if all-in Bruce still wants to dive into the deep end of the pool. Maybe at age sixty-one, I am learning “balance.”  Or maybe, I have learned that it is okay to not be all-in on some things; that it’s okay not to know everything about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.