Religion

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: John Piper’s Word Salad on Men With Long Hair

duck dynasty

Warning! Snark and abuse of John Boy Piper ahead.

Well, men should not wear long hair. At least, the apostle Paul says so. Why? Because nature says it’s unnatural. But how does Paul arrive at such a conclusion? Isn’t nature the reason why men can grow long hair in the first place? Today’s question comes from the one and only Dr. Andy Naselli, who asks this.

“Hello, Pastor John! Paul argues from ‘nature’ in both Romans 1:26–27 and 1 Corinthians 11:14–15. In Romans, Paul argues that same-sex passions and intercourse are ‘contrary to nature’ because they fundamentally rebel against God’s created design for sex. In 1 Corinthians, Paul asserts that ‘nature’ teaches that long hair on men and short hair on women are dishonorable. How do you reconcile those two passages?

“Is Paul using the word ‘nature’ in the same way? Or is he using the same word in different senses? It’s problematic to see Paul using ‘nature’ in exactly the same way in both passages. If you say they are both only cultural, then that opens the door to same-sex passions and intercourse being okay in other cultures. But if you say that they are both based on God’s created design, then you have to say that long hair on men and short hair on women are always wrong in every culture without exception. And, as a friendly reminder, Jonathan Edwards had long hair!”

….

First, let’s quote the two passages.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature [that’s the word Andy was referring to] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26–27)

Now, I think what Paul means by nature in this passage is who we are as male and female humans, designed by God with our built-in, God-designed natural differences — both physical, and more essentially, the deeper-than-physical, distinct realities of manhood and womanhood rooted in our God-designed male and female souls.

….

Now, that’s a long definition of nature, but you can pause and go back and listen to it rather than me repeating it here. The implications for Paul are that we should conform our sexual relations to what God has designed our natural bodies for and written on our natural male and female souls. Homosexual intercourse, Paul says, is contrary to this nature and so is shameful and dishonorable.

Now, here’s the text in 1 Corinthians 11 that Andy is specifically focusing on, dealing with how women may properly pray and prophesy in mixed gatherings in Corinth in the first century. Here’s what he says: “Judge for yourselves: is it proper” — prepōn in Greek: fitting, seemly. That’s an interesting ethical category for Paul. It’s very important. “Is it proper” — is it seemly, fitting — “for a wife [woman] to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature [same word as in Romans 1:26] itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering” (1 Corinthians 11:13–15).

So a women takes her hair, wraps it up, and puts it on her head for a covering. Now, the key statement is, “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is a disgrace for him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14).

Andy asks, “Is Paul using the word nature in the same way in these two texts? Or is he using the same word in different senses?”

….

Human males, left to nature, will have just as much hair on their heads as women, and more hair on their faces. If you think one way, you seem to get the opposite of what Paul’s saying. But Paul’s not stupid. He could feel his cheek — he’s not stupid.

I don’t assume that Paul is thinking that way. I think Paul is saying that nature — that is, natural, intrinsic maleness — inclines a man to feel repulsed and shameful for wearing culturally defined symbols of womanhood. Paul is saying that nature — that is, natural, built-in, God-given, intrinsic maleness — inclines a man to feel repulsed and shameful by wearing the culturally defined symbols of womanhood.

If I walked into church five years ago, while I was still preaching, wearing a dress, high heels, stockings, long floppy earrings, and lipstick, the elders should hustle me off to a side room and with dismay say, “Pastor, doesn’t nature teach you not to wear a dress?”

They would be right. It does. It would be horrifically contrary to my maleness. Nature does teach me that. This is the very same nature that teaches me that having sex with a man is shameful. But this is not because kilts in Scotland are sinful or that long earrings on men in Papua New Guinea are sinful. This is because whatever culturally defined accompaniments of femininity are in a culture, a man’s nature as a male will find this proper — that Greek word prepōn, the opposite of unseemly, improper, shameful, and repulsive.

….

Here’s my summary. Did nature teach the Corinthians that if a man wears long hair, it is a disgrace for him? Yes, it did. Nature did because the God-designed, healthy male soul revolts against clothing himself in symbols of femininity, just like the God-designed, healthy female soul revolts against presenting herself as a man. That revolt from nature is a God-given teacher.

— John Piper, Desiring God, Is It Wrong for Men to Have Long Hair?, August 20. 2018

Jesus, John get to the @#$%#* point. If a man’s hair makes him look like a woman it is a sin. The same goes for women. If their hairstyles make them look like a man, they are breaking God’s law. Question? WHO decides what is feminine and what is masculine? John Boy and his fellow Fundamentalists do. Piper throws a bunch of “exegesis” and “interpretation” — also known as Baptist word salad — at the issue and concludes that what determines whether a particular male or female hairstyle is sinful is Fundamentalist definitions of feminine and masculine. As always, the answer remains, WE decide. And that’s how worldlings do it too, John Boy. WE decide, and we’ve decided you can take your Fundamentalist claptrap and shove it up your … you know that place you and your fellow anti-homosexual buddies spend way too much time sniffing around.

I am married to a beautiful, sexy, maturing woman. In October, my wife will turn sixty. When we married, Polly had short hair. Later in our married life — after I got a message straight from Jesus and his Holy Word — Polly let her hair grow out. Not that she wanted to, but she obediently — based on her husband’s straight from the mouth of God preaching and head of the home leadership — let her hair grow. We had two young daughters, and they too let their hair grow out. Both of them were out of high school before a beautician’s scissors ever touched their long red hair.

After my long hair on women phase went the way of all such words from the Lord, Polly got her hair cut a bit shorter every time she went to the beautician’s shop.  Soon, the length of her hair crept up from her waist to her shoulders. And once she was free of Jesus and the Bible? Why, she’s right back to wearing her hair as she did when a young, brash redheaded boy came up to her and asked out on a date forty-plus years ago.  Funny how that all works out, eh?

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Woman Aren’t Equal to Men

keeping women in line

You may visit denominational churches and find women preaching, publicly teaching, or leading committees which frequently include men. This certainly seems fair given our modern, common social norms regarding gender equality. However, is this culture consistent with God’s Holy Word? We know what denominational churches [Shannon belongs to the Church of Christ] have to say about women preachers and leaders, but what does God say about it?

….

Some Bible believers may shrug off Paul’s command, contending this only represented his opinion or the norms of the 1st-century culture. However, please notice that this commandment was not rooted in Paul’s culture, but rather, the inspired reason sprang from the order established by two universal facts: The creation and the fall of man. The God-defined roles of men and women are therefore transcendent and apply to all of Adam and Eve’s descendants as far as the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin have spread.

….

Older women are to teach younger women to love and obey their husbands (Titus 2:3-5). This does not imply that this teaching was done in the assembly. It does not imply women can teach minor children the Word while the church is assembled. This does not imply that women can preach, teach, wait on the Lord’s table, lead prayer, or lead singing when men are not present. This does not imply that older women are to teach younger women the gospel or the doctrine of Christ. It does not imply younger women can teach what older women were commanded to teach. It does not imply women can teach the gospel by writing articles on the internet, in church bulletins, or by authoring sermon books, etc

….

In a generation and society where women are equal to men on so many levels, it is hard for many women to submit to man when it comes to handling God’s Word. Even so, God’s Word does not change from one generation to another. What was true for 1st-century Christian women is true for all other generations going forward. If anyone attempts to change God’s Word they shall be accursed!

— Al Shannon, Biblical Proof, Gender Based Responsibilities in the Church, August 19, 2018

Against the Next War by Paul Sunstone

no more war

The internet has made it now

Bound to happen

Tomorrow or the year after.

Bound to happen.

Maybe.

Up to you.

The politicians and the preachers,

The two dogs of the capitalist class,

Will once again want a war,

Just as they always do.

War to them is a gift, you see,

It’s not personal, it’s not their blood.

But war makes some folks rich

And you will never change that,

You will never change that,

Though the dogs will bark it’s not so.

A war of aggression

Against some people somewhere,

Most likely brown,

Most likely poor,

Most likely weak,

Most likely no real threat.

War for the sake of the banks

And for the merchants of death.

War for the sake of the pulpit,

And for the corridors of power.

But not a war for the sake

Of you and of me. We don’t count.

Our side is the one side

That has never counted.

Never.

That’s how war goes, it’s always been so

And it’s bound to happen again,

Soon happen again.

This is your world,

How it really is —

The world you think,

The world you were taught,

The gods want you to live in and love

Them more than you love each other.

In your world are great nations:

Nations the greatest in history,

Nations with the power of suns,

A thousands suns,

To do good, make truths come true

For even the poor man, the poor woman,

The poor child. Make truths come true.

But these nations,

Nations great and greatest,

Act only like whores,

Filthy whores,

Fucking folks raw,

Spreading their diseases,

Recruiting new girls,

Ever younger girls

To fuck you, to fuck all of you,

To fuck everyone.

This is your world

Your world without end.

But now someday you see

Someday now for once it will happen

For once it will stop

Stop the day they give a war

And you

You rise up, join hands

By the millions, possibly billions,

Linked together by the net

And by love, and by common sense.

At last,

At last you will rise, singing

“At last my spirit shall have water!

At last my cries shall be heard!

At last my thirst shall be slaked!”

Yes, you will rise up and you will say

In a voice thunderous and magnified

By the whole world joining in,

Say, “Those people are our friends,

We chat with them by day and by night.

We know their hopes, we know their dreams,

We know their troubles, we know their fears.

We know them, we know their names.

“Jane and Matthias. Terese and Sindhuja.

Mark, Parikhitdutta, and Min.

We even marry them now and then —

They shall not this time be murdered.

“You will not touch them,

Our brothers, our friends;

This once the bombs won’t fall.

This once the bombs won’t fall.

You politicians and preachers,

You capitalists and bankers all —

This once the bombs won’t fall.”

Yet you know it will ever be a dream

Just a dream, just a mere dream.

It will ever be a dream

If you, if we, keep on dividing,

Never uniting, never joining,

But instead just staying, just keeping,

To my echo chamber or to yours.

So let’s come together

Let’s come together,

Let’s come together.

So let’s come together

Before the nukes fall,

Before the demons fall.

Before we die in the winter,

And we come together

Never once come together at all.

 — Paul Sunstone, Against the Next War

Songs of Sacrilege: Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine

opus of a machine

This is the one hundred eighty-seventh 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 Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine.

Video Link

Lyrics

I’ve waited for gods to take me and save me in time,
But now I know this picture we hold of the holy was all in our minds.
Why should we worship those divine, the ones on the other side?
They’ll be just as fragile and helpless as us when we drown.

Misguided dreams and wasted prayers to the sky,
Hoping to ascend to the heavens and drink from the fountain inside.
As we pay this bitter price, we gain what we were denied.
There’ll be strength in our hearts as we march from this holy divide.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Still waiting to feel the warmth,
Sleeping in you and me.
Reach in and hold it, this golden light is calling.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

And we’ll uncover what we hold inside, becoming what we once called divine,
And walk down this road on our own to feet and know what it is to be alive.

It’s scary I know, letting it all go,
It’s easier to stay in a dream than fade to dust and bones.

We will be our very own halo,
A saviour is born,
Inside of you and me, it’s inside us all,

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Go,
Stand tall,
Don’t look back.
Be strong,
Be like stone.

It’s My Story and I’m Going to Tell It

this is my story

It is not uncommon for Evangelicals to question my motivations for blogging. I have the audacity to share club secrets; to point to where the bodies are buried. Worse yet, I call into question club beliefs and practices, daring to suggest they are irrational, mythical, or harmful. I am viewed as an enemy of Jesus and a hater of Christianity. Some Evangelicals even say that I hate Christians themselves — a Trumpian falsehood if there ever was one.

I have been called a liar, a man filled with pride who wants, needs, desires, and craves the approbation of my fellow atheists, non-Christians, and liberal Christians. On a few occasions, I have been accused of “being in it for the money.” I snarkily addressed this accusation recently in a post titled, Christian Man Attacks Me Because I Ask Readers to Monetarily Support My Work. Some Evangelicals have said over the years that my life story is fabricated; that they know people who know people who know people who say I never pastored ____________ church or lived in ______________ community. These conspiracy theorists — all Trump supporters, I suppose — ignore all evidence to the contrary and unjustifiably label me a liar.

Then there are the Evangelicals such as my former pastor friend Bill Beard, who oh, so politely ask me to not to share my story. Why? It’s harmful to people of faith, especially those who were once congregants in the churches I pastored. This concern is indeed valid, but if me telling my story causes loss of faith, what does that say about the staying power of their faith? Many Evangelicals find my unbelief disconcerting. One former congregant — who told me that he couldn’t be friends with me any longer because my deconversion caused him too much angst — said to me, Bruce, if YOU can lose your faith, anyone can. This congregant knew I was a mature follower of Jesus; a man who studied and knew the Bible; a man who lived out his faith day by day; a man whose family was governed by the complementarian, disciplinarian teachings of the Bible; a man who wasn’t afraid to stand for truth. Yet, I walked away from Christianity and I am now an outspoken atheist. My loss of faith causes doubt and questions, and the typical Evangelical answer for such things is to close your eyes, plug your ears, and repeatedly sing Jesus Loves Me.

I have been blogging for ten years now. I was a Christian when I started blogging, and readers who have been with me from the beginning have watched me journey from Progressive Christianity to atheism. They have watched me start and stop blogging several times, aware of how painful for me deconversion has been. They have watched as Evangelicals savaged me in their churches, on their blogs, and former iterations of this blog; watching as this savagery cut me so deeply that I bled out before their eyes. In time I would arise as a phoenix from the ashes, only to abandon my blog twelve or eighteen months later. Long-time readers will remember blogs such as Bruce Droppings and The Way Forward.

In the fall of 2014, I had yet again another meltdown and stopped blogging. Close friends waited to see if I would rise from the dead. In December 2014, I indeed — unlike Jesus who remains buried in a forgotten grave in Palestine — arose from the dead, ready once again to tell my story. In December 2018, this blog will be four years old. Imagine that, long time readers, FOUR YEARS OLD! Evangelicals haven’t stopped attempting to silence me, so why no classic Bruce meltdowns, why no running from the battle bruised and bleeding?

There are five reasons why this blog has survived:

  • I finally stopped giving a shit about what Evangelicals said or thought of me.
  • I finally understood that a lot of people really do love and support me and enjoy and appreciate my writing.
  • I finally stopped giving Evangelical zealots a platform in the comment section. The one comment rule for Evangelicals dramatically reduced stress levels. (See Comment Rules) Want to take Bruce Gerencser to the woodshed? Want to expose him as a liar, a fraud, or a servant of Satan? Get your own blog. (See Dear Evangelicals.) Keeping the comment section relatively free of Evangelical excrement has allowed a community to develop. Yes, this policy reduced the number of comments, but it allowed thoughtful unbelievers and doubters to comment without being savaged by Evangelicals. it also allowed me to focus on being a help instead of battling intransigent Fundamentalists.
  • A woman by the name of Carolyn came into my life. Almost three years ago, I received an email that basically said, I love your writing, but it needs some help; “help” being editing. From that point forward, Carolyn has edited most of the posts on this site, including old posts (if you see a post with a date — say 081615 — on the bottom, that means you are reading an old post Carolyn has edited.  Not only has her editing improved my grammar and overall writing, she has encouraged me to keep at it even when I feel like throwing in the towel. I will likely never meet her face to face, but she has become a dear friend. By the way, she edits my writing free of charge, a true act of friendship and kindness.
  • Several readers decided to take an active role in dealing with Evangelical comments. Their willingness to respond to these commenters has dramatically reduced my need to do so. Often, I just reply *sigh* — which means in the Greek “not this shit again!” — and leave it to them to challenge and engage Evangelical commenters.

Fundamentally, this blog remains a place for me to tell my story. I am one man with a story to tell, and I intend to keep telling it as long as I am physically able to do so. For Evangelicals who wish I would shut up and go the hell away, I say, sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. Evangelical churches frequently feature testimony segments, or they have big-name preachers and con-artists come to their churches to tell how God led them out of atheism and saved their souls. Some of these exaggerators-for-Jesus recount their lives as witches, new agers, mobsters, porn addicts, or homosexuals, and describe how Jesus delivered them from their sin and gave them eternal life. Some Evangelicals write books or start blogs with the express purpose of testifying to what Jesus has done for them. Other Evangelicals take to the streets, their places of employment, or go door-to-door, telling all who will listen about the wonderful, matchless grace of God. All of these people are doing what, exactly? Telling their story. And that is all I am doing.

Some Evangelicals don’t like how I have portrayed them in my writing. How dare you say that about me! How dare you say that about my pastor! How dare you say that about my church! How dare you air our past interactions! Why, Bruce, you make me look bad! Well, you should have treated me better, then. If you weren’t such a bully or an ass, the story I tell would be different. To the degree that you play a part in my life story, I am going to share that with readers. Instead of bitching, moaning, and complaining, either pray and ask Jesus to silence me or admit that you, much like yours truly, said and did things that were harmful to our congregants and families. I have found it cathartic to admit and own past bad behavior, and I challenge you to do the same. Your mileage may vary, but I plan to keep on writing. Consider my writing about you akin to you using me as a sermon illustration or a cautionary warning. Me writing about you is a cautionary tale of what happens when a man becomes a Fundamentalist sot; when one’s ability to reason and think critically is smothered by religious dogma, arrogance, and certainty. What’s good for the atheist is good for the Baptist preacher, yes?

I know it infuriates some preachers that this blog ranks first page for their name or the name of their church/ministry. (Polly’s family HATES that this site is prominently featured when people search for them or their church/ministry.) Sometimes, this site is first on the first Google page. That’s what four years of blogging have given me — increased readership, page views, email subscriptions, social media sharing, and high search ranking. I appreciate that people are willing to support and publicize my writing. As with all writers, I write to be read. All writers (and public speakers such as preachers) have a bit of narcissism in them. I want people to read my writing, even if they are raising Holy Heaven about what I have written.

The name of this blog is The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser: One Man’s Journey From Eternity to Here. I plan to keep telling my story until either Jesus comes again or I lose the ability to reason and write. My money is on dementia claiming me before Jesus does.

Thank you for being a reader of my writing. I find it humbling that anyone except Polly would want to read what I write. I will do my best in the days ahead to put out writing that is worthy of your support.

signature

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.

I Don’t Want to Die, I Just Want the Pain to Stop

pain to stopYet another visit to the doctor’s office, visit number eleven since November — primary care doctor, dermatologist, cardiologist, podiatrist, and today a visit to my orthopedic doctor. For the past six months or so, I have been having a problem with my right hip. I would get a dull ache in the hip and at times it would give out on me, sending me banging from wall to wall, much like a steel ball in a pinball machine. Over the past two weeks, the pain in my hip has gotten significantly worse, and on occasion I have been unable to walk without help or a cane. I thought, what the hell is going on now? Just what I need, another fucking problem to deal with!

My orthopedic doctor — a physician’s assistant — is a straight-shooting, no bullshit practitioner. He tells me the truth, and doesn’t promise medical miracles. I have osteoarthritis from my neck to my feet and in many joints in between. My doctor told me I have a wildfire spreading through my body. Surgery “might” help for some of your joint problems, he told me last time, but we could also make your problems worse and leave you in more pain. At a previous visit, he asked me how my right shoulder was. I have a labrum tear. I told him, it hurts, but I get by. He replied, see, here we are two years later and you are still getting by. If we had cut on you, things might have turned out worse for you. I appreciate his honesty.

The good news from today’s visit is that my hip is fine. The bad news is that the ever-narrowing disc spaces in my lower back are affecting the nerves that control my hip’s movement. Pressure on these nerves is causing my hip to give way. This is why when I sit for a long time, I can hardly stand straight and the hip doesn’t work as it should. Once I stand for a while and get straightened up posture-wise, the pressure on the nerves is decompressed and everything works as intended.

There are days when I just want to put an end to it all. People who suffer with chronic illnesses and endure unrelenting pain often have thoughts about suicide. Well-meaning people tell me that they are praying for me, or that I need to put mind over matter. I love it when someone tells me, you know, there are people who are worse off than you. And this helps how, exactly? There will always be people who are sicker than I am or have more pain than I do. And there are countless people who are in good health, and their biggest pain is a zit on the end of their nose or a backache from too much headboard banging. Each of us lives in a contained world unto ourselves. My health problems and my pain are mine alone to bear. Just think of Jesus’ suffering, Bruce. He did it all for you, Christians tell me. What, a day or so of pain, a long weekend, and then a pain-free body? Jesus had it easy I would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Let Jesus walk in my shoes for a while — not that he can, he’s dead. Conjuring up an imaginary suffering deity as a way to “encourage” those who are in real pain is not any more helpful than that same God spitting on the dirt making some mud, and using it to restore a blind man’s sight. Forget the theatrics. If Jesus is really the Great Physician, what’s he been up to for the past two thousand years? I know a lot of people who sure could use his help. His inattention makes me wonder if he is actually dead, and what’s really going on here is that the Christian church has been playing a con-game for the past twenty centuries. Just keep praying. Jesus will heal you — some day.

suffering and pain

People with chronic pain have often suffered for years. Their lives are an endless repeating of the movie Groundhog Day. I endure the day, collapse in bed, spending several hours getting to sleep, only to start the process all over again the next day. And pain is just one of the plethora of issues I must deal with every day. I am not complaining. I accept life as it is, doing what I can to lessen my suffering. I don’t expect my doctors to work miracles, nor do I anticipate waking up one day and finding myself miraculously healed. That’s not how things work in the real world. Thousands and thousands of prayers have been offered on my behalf, and I spent the better part of twenty years daily asking God for healing. As the mythical Christian God is wont to do, he remained silent.

When I write about suicide, people immediately worry that I am about to pull a David Foster Wallace. Not today, my friend, not today. All I am saying here is that chronic illness and pain drive people to ponder ending their lives. In fact, it is totally normal to have such thoughts. It’s not that I want to die — I don’t. I want to live. I want to watch more sunsets over Lake Michigan with the love of my life. I want to eat Polly’s food and make love to her. I want to hear Bethany laugh while watching a stupid movie. I want to go to stock car races and baseball games with my sons. I want share Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family. I want to watch my grandchildren come of age, go off to college, and perhaps have families of their own. I want to watch the trees, bushes, and plants Polly and I have planted grow to maturity, covering our yard with summer beauty and shade. There are so many things I want to do, yet when my body is wracked with pain, all I can think is this: PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

You see, that’s what healthy people don’t understand. It’s not that people such as myself want to die, we just want the pain to stop. Oh, how I yearn for a day  — just one day — of waking up in the morning pain-free. Some of you reading this post know what I am talking about. You understand longing for a day without pain, yet you know such hope doth fantasies make. For the present, we live between the one certain cure — death — and a life of finding meaning and purpose. For me personally, writing, photography, family, and hoping the Cincinnati Reds will, one more time in my lifetime, win the World Series, are those things which give me meaning and purpose. When I devote my energies to those things. thoughts of suicide diminish. That said, suicidal thoughts will never, ever go away, and I have, through anguish and tears, thought on more than one occasion this year, ENOUGH! But today I say to myself, LIVE. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. For now, I focus on the things that matter, hoping they continue to provide reasons for living.

I know the goodness in you will urge you to try to encourage me in the comment section, a text, or an email. There’s no need, friends. This is just me talking out loud and being brutally honest about life. I may die today, but it will not be by my own hands. My sister has a project she needs her wise, aged, technologically savvy smart-ass of a brother to take care of (she reads my blog, so I just had to say that).  I can’t leave her in a lurch. And besides, NFL football starts soon. How about them Bengals?

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.

When Christians Use Social Media

social media

Guest Post by ObstacleChick

As I grew up in a Southern Baptist church and attended an Evangelical Christian school (which was more or less IFB in doctrine), I have a lot of connections on social media who are still hardcore, committed fundamentalist evangelical Christians. Every time I check my news feed, I am sure to see at least one Christian-themed post or meme. Here are a few I have seen in the past three days, complete with my interpretation of what the poster is saying.

**(Insert “Seriously” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“I’m being an annoying jerk and am going to make a snarky comment showing why I am right to continue to be an annoying jerk. Because I’m right. And you’re not. And it’s totally what Jesus would do.”

**(Insert “Invisible” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“I can’t see, touch, or prove God exists, but I’m going to give you reasons why he totally does that can’t be disputed because there’s no evidence since none of these things actually occurred — God saved you from these awful things. Yay team God!”

**(Insert “Judgment” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“In case your intention was not to accept my version of Jesus Christ and to continue to live in what my church, pastor, and almighty God and I consider to be sin, here is a subtle threat. Because fear and threats are so totally effective in winning over converts who are scrolling through social media.”

**(Insert “Can’t” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“Evangelical Christianity tells me that I’m too weak and worthless to do things on my own but that Jesus is omnipotent, so I have to pray really hard so that Jesus can help me accomplish difficult tasks.”

**(Insert “Battle” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“Because Evangelical Christianity never allowed me to grow up and become an adult or to gain confidence in my abilities, I have to repeat an arsenal of mantras to get me through the tough times. Because Jesus/God can beat up mean old Satan!”

**(Insert “Hospital” meme here)**

Interpretation:

“Apostates, atheists, and other people who aren’t True Christians® call us Warriors for Jesus hypocrites so here is my snarky response. Take that, you meanie apostates, atheists, and non-True Christians®. Na-na-na-na boo-boo.”

Now it’s your turn! Let’s have a little fun and make some creative interpretations!

 

Black Collar Crime: So Much Crime, So Little Time Issue

black collar crimes

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.

james ronnie messer

Pastor James “Ronnie” Messer Charged With Rape

James “Ronnie” Messer, pastor of Crossway Worship Center in Morristown, Tennessee, was arrested and charged with aggravated statutory rape and sexual battery by an authority figure.

Knox News reports:

The girl’s sister reportedly told police the 17-year-old girl rode with the pastor to the Crossway Worship Center, after their plans to go swimming in the Hartford area were derailed by swift and muddy water.

The pastor reportedly led the girl through the Worship Center’s rear entrance to a room across from the men’s restroom where he raped her.

The pastor told police he thought the assault against the underage girl was consensual, according to the report.

The good pastor thought the assault was consensual. Since when is having sex with minor church girls who are under your authority EVER consensual?

mark aderholt

Southern Baptist Missionary Mark Aderholt Charged With Sexual Assault

Mark Aderholt, a former employee of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and International Mission Board missionary, has been charged with sexually assaulting a seventeen-year-old girl.

The Baptist Press reports:

Aderholt, 46, was arrested July 3 in South Carolina and booked into the Tarrant County, Texas, jail July 9 on charges of sexual assault of a child under 17, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported. He was released today (July 10) on bond.

The IMB told Baptist Press today (July 16) it learned in 2007 of allegations Aderholt had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old in 1996-97 while he was a 25-year-old student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served with the board from 2000-08.

The IMB conducted an internal investigation in 2007, and the matter was set to go before the board of trustees, “which, at that time, was the only group with the authority to terminate a member of our missionary personnel,” IMB spokesperson Julie McGowan said in written comments. But Aderholt resigned on his own “before the Board could vote on the recommendation from the investigative team that included both men and women.

….

The IMB’s 2007 investigation, including two days of interviews with the alleged victim, led an IMB team to conclude at the time that Aderholt “engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship” with a teen in 1996-1997, that the victim “suffered as a result” and that Aderholt “was not truthful” with the IMB “about the full extent of the relationship,” according to correspondence to Miller from IMB general counsel Derek Gaubatz published July 13 by the Star-Telegram.

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board investigated, concluded the allegations were credible, and did what all good Southern Baptist church leaders do: NOTHING! In fact, Aderholt continued to be a missionary and work in several capacities for the SBC until he was finally outed over his alleged crime.

Here’s a Star-Telegram feature article by Sarah Smith about Aderholt’s alleged sexual misconduct. Here’s another Sarah Smith article about Aderholt.

Imam Ahmed Raza Murders Boy With an Iron Rod

Imam Ahmed Raza  allegedly beat a young student of his to death with an iron rod. The Express Tribune reports:

A minor boy died after being subjected to physical torture by an imam at a mosque in Shalimar on Tuesday.

Police identified the victim as Abdul Ahad, who would go to the mosque where he was taught by the imam of the mosque, Ahmed Raza.

Reportedly, a few days ago Raza had beaten the child with an iron rod. When the child returned home, his condition deteriorated. His family admitted him to Kot Khwaja Saeed Hospital from where doctors shifted him to Lahore Mayo Hospital.

However, despite medical intervention, Ahad succumbed to his injuries. A police team transferred his body to the morgue for an autopsy. They also collected forensic evidence and recorded eye witness statements.

After the incident, the accused fled the area. The victim’s family lodged a complaint against the imam. Police apprehended Raza from Gujranwala and are investigating the matter further.

brian kenyon jr

Pastor Brian Kenyon Jr. Accused of Video Voyeurism

Brian Kenyon Jr, pastor of Deltona Church of Christ in Deltona, Florida, was arrested and charged with video voyeurism after a congregant reported Kenyon Jr. took a photo up her dress.

WFTV-9 reports:

The victim said she was meeting with Kenyon in his office, along with his children, and he asked her to put his youngest child into a car seat. The victim said that when she bent over, she felt skin against her leg, turned around and found Kenyon bent over directly behind her.

Deputies said the victim noticed Kenyon was holding his cellphone and it had a red light on.

Deputies say when the woman and members of the church confronted him about it he called it a misunderstanding and said he had “pornography problem.”

When they confronted the pastor about it again 11 days later, deputies say the pastor had some sort of spiritual awakening and confessed to the act saying a “dark moment” came over him.

They say he claimed to delete the photo. He was promptly dismissed from the church.

kathryn goff

Church Secretary Kathryn Goff Steals $20,000 From Beverly Hills Community Church

Kathryn Goff, the secretary for Beverly Hills Community Church in Beverly Hills, Florida was arrested and charged with stealing $20,000 from the church.  The Citrus County Chronicle reports:

Between June 2017 and April 2018, Goff, a paid employee and not a member of the church, allegedly addressed 38 checks to herself from the church’s bank account, totaling $19,426.59.

As secretary, she was allowed to write checks, but not sign them. An investigation by Citrus County Sheriff’s Office detectives determined that she would write checks with realistic amounts and record their payees in church logs as utility or service companies. Then she would take the checks to the bank and fill in her name as payee, writing in the memo line that it was for extra duties that the church never asked her to do.

kenneth marshall

Evangelical Youth Leader Kenneth Scott Marshall Indicted on Child Sex Crime Charges

Kenneth Scott Marshall, a volunteer youth leader at Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Cobbs Creek, Virginia has been indicted on child sex crime charges.

ABC-13 reports:

The Mathews County Sheriff’s Office found out about the accusation in June. Deputies said it involved a 15-year-old boy and Kenneth Scott Marshall, 36. Marshall worked with young people at Cornerstone Fellowship Church. During the course of the investigation, deputies conducted several interviews and collected evidence that they found supported the allegations.

Prosecutors presented evidence to a grand jury on July 16 which led to two indictments against Marshall. The indictments were for Aggravated Sexual Battery of a Minor through the Use of Mental Incapacity or Physical Helplessness and Forcible Sodomy of a Minor through the Use of Mental Incapacity or Physical Helplessness.

The church released the following statement:

Scott Marshall was a volunteer working with the youth at the church. Upon learning of the allegations in June, which did not occur at the church, he was immediately removed from his volunteer position and from any contact with our youth pending the outcome of the sheriff’s investigation.

pastor fernando hernandez

Evangelical Pastor Fernando Hernandez Accused of Sexual Abuse

Fernando Hernandez,  pastor of It’s a Challenge Church in Brownwood, Texas stands accused of repeatedly molesting several young girls.  Brownwood News reports:

According to the documents filed, an investigation began November 23, 2016 when the Brownwood Police Department was advised of a possible sexual assault. During a subsequent interview, the child told investigators Hernandez put his hand down her pants and touched her genitals. The child stated “this happened every time she went to Hernandez’s home,” according to the report. Hernandez also allegedly told the child not to tell anyone or he would go to prison.

On July 18, 2018 another child made an outcry of abuse. In the affidavit, the child reportedly told investigators Hernandez assaulted her by touch and exposed himself, asking the child to touch his genitals. The child’s mother told investigators she had “always wondered why (Child Victim #2) acted strange towards Hernandez.”

The affidavits also report testimony with a member of Hernandez’s family who said they do not leave children alone with Fernando due to past allegations of sexual abuse.

Based on the aforementioned news report, it sounds like Hernandez has a history of putting his hands where they don’t belong. Yet, despite knowing this, people continue to attend his church and consider him a man of God. Nobody’s perfect, right?

According to a page titled Fernando’s Dream, Hernandez is a “doctor.” This page states:

In 1990 Fernando began working in the community of Plainview and Brownwood Texas. He worked with the schools in these communities in doing assembly presentations and also offering an after school program he developed called “It’s A Challenge!” He began to reach out to many students and changed many of their lives with these assemblies and programs. He showed the students that they had a greater purpose than getting involved in drugs, gangs and violence, that they too could dream a better life for themselves.

In 1991 and 1992, Dr. Hernandez was awarded “The Volunteer Award” for the outstanding service of his assemblies and “It’s A Challenge” programs that literally helped hundreds of students transition from middle school to high school and caused the high drop out rate to decrease in those areas. By 1994 Fernando was helping thousands of BISD students weekly in his volunteer service and “It’s A Challenge” program.

Fernando began to get national recognition for his positive student programs. In 1998, encouraged by his family, friends and other prominent people within the community, Fernando exposed his life’s story worldwide. In 2001, Fernando and his student life changing programs were featured in HOME LIFE a prominent family magazine publication.

Today, Both Fernando and Lorena went back to school to obtain their Masters and Doctorate in Christian Theology. Thet continue to personally help countless thousands of people by sharing their story of poverty to triumph. They help students by sharing with them about making right choices and giving them inspiration to hope and dream for their lives. They talk about choices and consequences. They challenge students in a powerful, thought provoking way. They deliver a powerful message to students to never give up, to reach their destiny, to stay in school, to go to college, to get a degree and to make their dreams come true! Their message resonates with the students to stay away from drugs, alcohol and violence, to respect others, to respect teachers, principals and the authorities. Their message is not just a slogan or token cliche but a powerful dream which is guaranteed to burn in the hearts of young people to truly “fight to do what’s right!”

I wonder if that “fight to do what’s right” includes fighting to keep your hands out of the pants of children?

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Kevin Berry Accused of Child Sex Crime

pastor kevin berry

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.

Kevin Berry, pastor of First Christian Church in Sedgwick, Kansas, stands accused of taking indecent liberties with a child — a felony.  The Witchita Eagle reports:

After allegations were made against Berry in September, the church sent an Oct. 8 letter to churchgoers informing them that Berry was being investigated and saying the “church leadership firmly supports our pastor (Kevin Berry).”

The letter said Berry voluntarily chose to no longer participate in children’s activities at the church while he was under investigation.

Summer and Curtis Peters, whose children attended the church’s youth group, said they don’t think Berry actually refrained from participating in children’s activities.

A video posted on the church’s YouTube account two months after the letter was sent shows Berry narrating a children’s Christmas pageant. Near the end of the video, a woman says that Berry and his wife helped write the children’s play and were “such a vital part of all of this.”

The Peterses, who attended Berry’s church until the fall, said their teenage children were regular attendees of the youth group but stopped going after they saw how church leadership handled allegations against Berry.

….

The complaint filed in Harvey County District Court says the alleged crime occurred around mid-September.

The Peters family’s concerns with Berry began in September, when a neighbor told them to check if their own teenage daughter was OK.

The couple then spoke with a youth leader, who is no longer with the church, and several children, asking if anything at church made them feel uncomfortable.

What the children said “raised flags” about inappropriate behavior on the part of the pastor, Curtis Peters said. Later that Sunday evening, as rumors buzzed through the town of fewer than 2,000, church members, elders, children and the pastor gathered to discuss the concerns.

“When the kids saw the pastor in the room, they truly felt uncomfortable,” Summer Peters said. “They were scared to say anything, scared to speak up.”

Elders in the church chastised the concerned parents, including the Peterses, and acted as if the children were lying, Summer Peters said.

It was implied that law enforcement was not needed, Curtis Peters said.

“From that point on, it just didn’t seem like the church really was concerned about the kids as much as they were about the pastor,” Curtis Peters said. “I don’t feel like they really did anything to distance the pastor from the situation.”

Shocker, right? The church believes the pastor and not the victim. This story is played out over, and over, and over again. The church has taken down its website and Facebook page. Time to run and hide lest their deeds be exposed for all to see.

Berry’s church bio states (from Google cached page:

Kevin Berry began ministering in Sedgwick on December 1st, 2015.  He came from Amoret Christian Church in Amoret, Missouri where he ministered for 6 years.   Kevin attended Ozark Christian College for his bachelor’s degree and Cincinnati Christian Seminary for his master’s degree.  He is married to ****** and they have one daughter, ******.

Kevin has a passion for truth and great relationships.

On July 15, 2018 the church released the following statement on Facebook:

The First Christian Church of Sedgwick has accepted Kevin Berry’s request to be placed on administrative leave to give him time to work through the charges he is facing. The church board has taken the position to continue their support of Kevin at this time.

The church’s Facebook page later stated that the good pastor went to personal counseling and received further training on leading and appropriate interaction with children and youth.

You can read the criminal complaint here.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Former Atheist Howard Storm Says Atheists Are Ignorant

howard storm

This is the one hundred and eighty-second installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism features a video clip of atheist-turned-Evangelical Howard Storm talking about an out-of-body experience that took him to hell. Storm spins a fantastical story, yet he thinks atheists are the ignorant ones?  Storm says if atheists will just ask Jesus if he is real and sincerely ask him to come into their lives, he will indeed show us that he is real and come into our lives. Go for it! atheist friends.

Video Link

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Man Dies, Soul Goes to Hell, Satan Laughs at Him

This is the one hundred and eighty-first installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism features a video clip from a Christian man who says he died, his soul went to hell, Satan laughed at him, and then, drum roll please, Jesus swooped down and saved him. The man in the video says several times that he knows people won’t believe him, but what happened is true!  His proof? Cuz he says so.

Video Link