Religion

Black Collar Crime: So Many Crimes, So Little Time Issue

arrested

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.

Daycare Director Allegedly Beats Child With Paint Stirrer

Shannon Jacobs, daycare director for Trinity Freewill Baptist Church and School in Greenville, North Carolina stands accused of beating a child with a paint stirrer. The school released the following statement:

As a ministry, when an allegation is made against an employee, our organization immediately removes that individual from any contact with children pending the outcome of the criminal matter, and we fully cooperate with parents, state officials, and law enforcement. We believe that if children are safe anywhere, they should be safe at church. As a matter of policy, Trinity reports all suspicions of potential child abuse to the authorities. We carefully interview and screen our employees and volunteers, and our leadership team works to maintain child protection policies based on best practices nationally and North Carolina State law. We believe that transparency, child safety, and accountability are essential for successful ministry, and we are fully committed to ministering to our students in a safe and responsible manner. As this matter involves the staff member administering a spanking, upon the advice of legal counsel and after prayerful deliberation, the Pastor and Deacon Board have decided to immediately discontinue any corporal discipline at the school and rely on other disciplinary measures for the students. Please understand that we have asked our staff to not discuss this matter while it is pending before the courts. This is our official statement.

Gary Bradley Allegedly Stole $20,000 From Mayfair Church of Christ’s Sunday Collections

Gary “Tripp” Bradley stands accused of stealing $20,000 from Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, Alabama. Bradley is the grandson of a man who pastored Mayfair Church for more than thirty years.

Youth Pastor’s Computers Seized in Search for Child Pornography

An unnamed youth director in Prague, Oklahoma had his computers seized by Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agents as part of a child pornography investigation. At this time, no charges have been filed.

First Baptist Church in Modesto, California Has a Sexual Abuse Problem

In February 2018, The Modesto Bee released a scathing report about pastor Brad Tebbutt sexually abusing several church teens in the 1980s. Last Saturday, The Bee published a story about megachurch (Highlands Church, Scottsdale, Arizona) pastor Les Hughey admitting he had sex with church teenagers in the 1970s. Both Tebbutt and Hughey were youth pastors at First Baptist Church (now CrossPoint Community Church) when they committed their crimes.

Hughey released the following statement:

Over 40 years ago, as a church intern in California, I sinned and harmed the most important relationships in my life. I was unfaithful to my God, my wife, and the ministry, and was rightly removed from that church. I engaged in consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff. With God’s help, my wife’s forgiveness, and discipline and counseling from church authority, I sincerely repented and we put our lives back in order. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to undo what happened, so I instead accept and live with the consequences, even now so many years later. My family and the authority over me at my church are aware of this history. I thank God for his forgiveness and grace.

Garth Stapley, a reporter for The Modesto Bee, writes:

Hughey’s statement to The Bee characterizes his infidelity as “consensual relations with fellow college-aged staff.”

They clearly were victims, two of the girls, now in their 50s, told The Bee.

“I was a good little girl and he was a powerful youth pastor,” said Tracy Epler, whose maiden name was Looney. “I knew I had to comply. And I knew it was wrong and I felt terrible but I didn’t know what to do about it.”

Epler, 59, now lives in San Luis Obispo County. Back then, she was a 17-year-old virgin, “very timid, quiet, very submissive,” she said, when Hughey, 23 and married two years, first had sexual relations with her. She felt alone, frightened and confused, and was terrified that anyone would find out, especially her parents, she said. “I was in an emotional prison that I didn’t know how to get out of,” she said.

“I always cried after (sex),” Epler said. “I cried afterwards in the bathroom because I’m cleaning myself and I don’t know what it is. (Crying) was my only release of being scared and sad and not knowing what was happening or why, and knowing it was terribly wrong. There was a huge sense of shame and guilt.”

Four women described Hughey as a handsome, charismatic young man in his mid-20s who made girls go weak in the knees and wowed huge worship crowds as he sang and played guitar. Ceres High School students felt particularly lucky that Hughey was in charge of activities at their campus, said Epler and Jane Berryhill, who ran programs with Hughey as Ceres High co-coordinator for First Baptist.

The four women, interviewed separately, all said Hughey and his wife would host youth staff meetings in their Modesto home to plan activities. As attendees left, his wife would go to bed and Hughey would encourage shoulder rubs with a remaining girl, all said.

“It was very subtle. It would become full back rubs, then closer to private parts,” said Berryhill, 62.

She would not let him fondle her, she said.

“The sexual involvement was a means to an end,” said another woman, now 59. “It was something I felt like I had to do to have (alone) time with him. I remember feeling used and guilty.”

She asked to remain anonymous because “I made peace with this long ago,” but granted a lengthy interview to corroborate the pattern cited by other victims.

A fourth woman said she engaged in full-body massages and was “ashamed and embarrassed” even though Hughey didn’t have sex with her. “The bulk of the responsibility falls on Les,” said the woman, asking not to be named. “He used his position and power to manipulate the vulnerable. I was a naive kid and he was a narcissistic ass.”

Epler said sex with Hughey went on about monthly for two years, until she was 19 and studying at Modesto Junior College. She often wished it would end, she said.

“I didn’t want to come over, but he would always say, ‘I won’t hurt you, I promise; let’s just talk,’ and I fell for that every time. It was about obedience and submissiveness. You had to. It was being obedient to God.”

….

Bill Hybels, Pastor of Willow Creek Church, Faces New Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

Bill Hybels, who recently resigned as pastor of Willow Creek Church in South Barrington, Illinois, faces new allegations of sexual misconduct. Willow Creek’s board released the following statement:

Dear Willow Family,

We have been diligently praying and processing how to best respond to recent events. Last night, we had another productive and encouraging Elder Meeting. We are unified and seeking God’s direction on next steps, and we felt it was important to communicate with you.

This has been such a difficult time. Our church has been facing one of the most challenging seasons in our history. In the midst of this time, you have been responding with love, grace, and an openness to engage in dialogue. We are so proud of you. You are living the Gospel. We are also especially proud of the staff. Not only have you gracefully demonstrated strength, you have also joyfully assumed additional responsibilities due to an accelerated transition of leadership.

Over the last several weeks, we have been in a process of deep learning, seeking clarity, and building a path toward reconciliation. Even though Bill is no longer in his role, our work to resolve any shadow of doubt in the trustworthiness of Willow Creek Community Church and its Elders is not done.

With the benefit of hindsight, we see several aspects of our past work that we would have handled differently, and we have identified several areas of learning. Moving forward, we have a renewed commitment to engaging well, listening deeply, and further developing a culture of transparency and accountability.

As a board, we unanimously agree there are several areas where we could have served you better:

We have at times communicated without a posture of deep listening and understanding. We are sorry that at times our process appeared to diminish the deep compassion we have for all those involved in these matters. We will do better in the future.

Bill acknowledged that he placed himself in situations that would have been far wiser to avoid. We agree, and now recognize that we didn’t hold him accountable to specific boundaries. We commit to strengthening the relationship of accountability with our church leaders in the future.

In hindsight, we wish we would have worked harder to collaborate with all parties that were impacted to bring clarity and reconciliation when accusations were first made. While attempts were made, we could have done more.

Additionally, we recognize that our board structure sometimes causes us to be slow in decision making. Our mandate as an elder board is to speak with a unified voice. Accordingly, we are not at liberty to release information publicly until we have everyone’s consent. As we continue to navigate this season, we are committed to providing regular updates to you that are transparent and informative.

Our desire is to serve you in the highest degree and humbly ask for your grace, patience, feedback, and prayer.

In the next 45 days we will intentionally pursue the following next steps:

We will fully support the new leadership team. We have great confidence in Heather and Steve and will further develop relationships with both leaders allowing for greater connectivity, transparency, and accountability.

We will examine allegations against Bill that have not been previously investigated by the Elder Board. We will respectfully reach out to each woman who has made an accusation, even if she has not brought her concerns directly to the Board. We commit that each woman willing to speak with us will be heard, and that we will respect her story. We commit that making steps toward understanding and toward restoring relationship will be our primary goals. We will seek wise counsel and work with experts, developing a collaborative process. We are identifying ways to ensure a safe environment for constructive dialogue tailored to each individual.

We will continue to methodically examine our church culture, enhancing policies and informal practices that support healthy and valuable working relationships between men and women. We will also examine our policies about how concerns are raised about senior leaders and make any necessary improvements.

We will review and modify Willow email retention policies to reflect the best practices of organizations that deal with sensitive data.

We will ensure that the Elders will be more available in person to answer questions and we commit to communicate as needed with the church.

We will walk alongside Bill in stewarding his season of reflection well and are committed to working together on appropriate next steps with him.

Finally, we commit to pray fervently for all involved. We humbly ask for your prayer and your grace as we move forward.

With you, we will continue to be focused on the mission of this church. We will continue to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength and mind.

Youth Pastor Ronald Starkey Found Guilty of Sexual Assault

Ronald Starkey, youth pastor at Perrin Baptist Church, was found guilty of sexually assaulting his then three-year-old adopted daughter. Starkey’s attorney asked for probation, but the court sentenced him, instead, to fifty years in prison.

Catholic Priest Kevin Wallin Sentenced to Sixty-Five Months for Drug Dealing

CT Post story

Baptist Pastor Joseph Marshall Charged With Assaulting a Police Officer

WEAR-TV report

Toledo Pastor and Family Found Guilty of Misdemeanors in Assault of Sunday School Teacher

Toledo Blade report

Songs of Sacrilege: Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery

ciaran lavery

This is the one hundred seventy-fifth 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 Songs of Sacrilege is Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery.

Video Link

Lyrics

Woke up in the afternoon again
Where you been? Where you been?
We go waltzing through the past
Everything is made to last
Maybe Jesus knows my name
I can’t be sure, I can’t be sure
I sin like an every day man
Nothing ever goes to plan

[Chorus]
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Living outside, living fast
‘Cause people wanna be alive and a part of the dream
It all lights up to a God they’ve seen
But I wanna be alive and a part of the dream
Ooh-oh-oh
Ooh-oh-oh

Night crawls through my window again
Let it in, I let it in
Not sure if this feeling’s gonna pass
So leave me where the shadows cast
Wonder if there’ll be a change
In everything, with everything
We sin everyday because we can
I’m afraid of what I am

The Bible Says Obey Those Who Have the Rule Over You

hebrews-13-17

Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals blindly believe and submit to whatever their pastors utter from the pulpit? During the last Presidential election, Donald Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Candidate Trump is now President Trump, so reasonable people can conclude that tens of millions of Americans, including eighty-two percent of white Evangelical voters, weren’t bothered by his committing-murder comment. Think of all the offal that has fallen from the man’s lips, yet millions of Republicans still think he is a Christian or, at the very least, a man God is using to restore Fundamentalist Christianity to its rightful throne.

These Trump voters are more often than not the same people who bow in reverence to self-appointed men of God; men who say they are called by God to preach and lead churches — yet their calling comes not from a deity, but from their own wants, needs, desires, and that of the churches they pastor. Skeptics wonder why these people don’t see though the con and think for themselves. All any of us needs to do is listen to what these preachers are saying to conclude that they are spouting harmful nonsense. Yet, otherwise intelligent people check their minds at the church door and give themselves over to men who will purportedly teach them truth and provide a blueprint for living. No need to think, just believe. No need to wrestle with questions and doubts, just have faith. Belief and faith, not just in the Christian God and the Protestant Bible, but also the words of pastors and evangelists who are given almost absolute power over congregants.

Evangelical churches are generally pastored by one man. This is especially true in Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. Some churches have a plurality of pastors (elders), but I have found that despite this plurality, there is always one man who has the final say. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of government. This means that the church membership has the final say on how the church is run, including who their pastor will be. The thinking goes, then, that if congregants want a new pastor, all they have to do is vote him out of office. However, rarely is getting rid of a pastor so simple, especially in churches that aren’t part of a denomination. If a church is a member of a particular denomination, the congregants can, if need be, call on denominational leaders to help remove a pastor from office. In independent churches, the congregation has the final say; that is, if the church hasn’t ceded its control to a board of elders or, as is the case in many megachurches, an outside board of directors (much like the corporations such church are patterned after).

Churches have governing documents, one of which is a constitution. The constitution details who is a voting member and how/when votes can be called. If a church wants to dismiss its pastor, it must follow the process detailed in its constitution. Many constitutions state that removing a pastor requires a two-thirds or three-fourths vote of the membership. This high standard makes it hard for congregations to fire their pastor. Even worse, pastors — if they are at a particular church for a long time — will attract loyal church members who will oppose attempts to remove him. The longer a man pastors a church, the harder it is to get rid of him. Over time, he becomes the hub around which everything turns. The pastor is viewed as God’s mouthpiece;  a man called by God to pastor that particular church. Is it any surprise then, that long-tenured pastors tend to become authoritarians?

Baptist pastors, in particular, are fond of talking about pastoral authority — the power by which they control the church. Bruce, I thought Evangelicals were people of the Book; that the Bible was sole rule for faith and practice? It is, and the Bible does indeed grant pastors authoritarian control over their churches.

The Bible says:

And he [God] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11,12)

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:7, 17)

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (1 Corinthians 16:15, 16)

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12,13)

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be ….One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:1,2,4,5)

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:17-19)

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (1 Peter 5:1.2)

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

(And yes, I realize these verses can be interpreted many different ways. But this is my sermon, so I decide what these verses mean!)

These verses and others have been interpreted to mean that God-called pastors have rule over the churches they pastor. Church members are obligated to submit to their pastor’s authority. Not doing so is considered rebellion and could bring judgment from God or excommunication. Most often, rebellious congregants are shown the door and told to find a church that meet their “needs.” It is not uncommon to find Evangelical churches that have high membership churn rates. Members who become tired of eating McDonald’s quarter-pounders leave and hit the drive-thru at Wendy’s. And on and on it goes. I pastored people who had been members of numerous churches before they came to one of the churches I pastored. These church-hoppers rarely stay for long. Initially, they will find their new churches to be delightful, but given enough time, they will find faults with their pastors and move on to greener pastures. The one thing that church hoppers never do is consider that they might be the problem. They place blame on the pastor or the congregation, often couching their objections in theological verbiage, but more often than not, they are difficult people or they easily bore.

Most Evangelical churches are a mix of new and old members. The longer someone stays in the church, the more they become conditioned to their pastor’s preaching, teaching, and leadership. This conditioning allows pastors to gain authority over congregants that in any other setting would be considered cultic. When you are taught their entire lives that the man standing behind the pulpit is called by God to deliver divine messages to them, it should come as no surprise that, bit by bit, they surrender their will and critical thinking skills. In time, pastors amass great power and control, and once this happens these leaders can and do muddle the minds of their charges, rendering them powerless to resist.

Worse, many Evangelicals want to be told what to believe and how to live their day-to-day lives. They come to church on Sundays to be inspired and taught the ways of God. This is why, when Evangelicals are quizzed about their beliefs, more often than not they either can’t give an answer or they simply regurgitate the beliefs of their pastor. As a pastor, I was often asked, what does your church believe? I would respond, I don’t know what the church believes. This is what I believe, and it is these beliefs that are the foundation of my preaching and teaching. Most congregants are not going to spend significant time studying the Bible. This does not make them bad Christians. The truth is, pastors have the freedom and luxury to read and study the Bible. Church members have full-time jobs, families, and countless responsibilities that limit the amount time they can devote to theological learning. Thus, most Evangelicals have a theology they have borrowed from their pastors. They know what their pastor knows, and unfortunately many Evangelical pastors are poorly educated. When a man believes God speaks through him, why should he study? When he believes that God puts His words in the pastor’s mouth and all he has to do is speak them, why bother with the words of mere humans? And if members dare to think for themselves and challenge something their pastor has said, they can expect to reminded that Pastor So-and So has authority over what is taught and members are expected to believe as he does or leave.

Church aisles are littered with the bodies of those who dared to challenge the man of God’s authority. Their deaths are their own fault. Don’t they remember their pastor quoting 1 Chronicles 16:22:  Saying, Touch not mine anointed [Hebrew for pastor], and do my prophets [Hebrew for pastor] no harm? Surely, they have heard the Bible story about some children who mocked the prophet Elisha?  2 Kings 2:23, 24 says:

And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Mess with the man of God, rebellious church members, and God might send bears to eat you alive, just like he did to the children who mocked Elisha. Simply put, mess with the pastor and he will have God fuck you up!

Is it any wonder that many people need therapy and counseling after extricating themselves from Evangelical churches? Those of us who spent most of our lives under the thumbs of authoritarian religious figures often spend years regaining a sense of self-worth. What’s worse for someone such as myself is that I not only was victimized by my pastors and teachers, I was also a victimizer. I taught and practiced what my pastors and professors taught me. I passed on to a new generation the dysfunction of my generation. The only good news in this sordid story, at least for me, is that I got off the crazy train and abandoned the damaging religious nonsense that controlled my mind for almost fifty years. Better late than never, I suppose, but I still lament the fact that I lovingly and sincerely caused untold harm to my family and the churches I pastored. By owning my past, I am in a better position to help people avoid a similar path. While I grudgingly and doubtfully admit that some religious expressions are less harmful than others, I can’t help but think that until the world reaches a place where it no longer has a need for deities, religion will continue to cause harm. This is especially true of Evangelical Christianity. It will be a good day when Fundamentalist Christianity draws its last breath. I will long be dead, but perhaps one of my grandchildren will have the privilege to hold a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face as it struggles to breathe. Good riddance, I say.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

Christians Aren’t as “Discerning” as They Think They Are

spiderman

Christians love to think that they have — thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — some sort of supernatural discernment power that allows them to ferret out the true spiritual condition of everyone with whom they come in contact. Evangelicals, in particular, believe they have some sort of God-given radar that locks on unknown believers and lets them know that they are fellow believers. This radar is a spiritual paternity test of sorts, letting Evangelicals know when one of their family is in the vicinity. I heard countless preachers say that the “spirits” of two or more believers recognize each other when they come in contact with each other.  Woo hoo! God’s children are in the house, baby!

Recently, a Christian who commented about unbelieving clergy still pastoring churches illustrated this point:

I also can’t help but think that living and walking out a lie every day is going to eventually take a psychological/emotional toll on anyone. I think it would also work against the pastor really being vulnerable or drawing close to his/her congregation for fear of letting something slip. Eventually people who are closer to the pastor will be able to discern that something just isn’t quite right here.

According to this Christian, she gets Spiderman-like tingly feelings that would let her know if a pastor is faking it. The idea behind her feelings is the notion that Christians can know a pastor well enough that any lying or dishonesty would peg their lie-meter, exposing the hypocrite for all to see. The problem with this thinking is that in real life that’s not how it works. Lying and deception are all too common, and even the most aware among us can be deceived. Believing that there is some sort of spiritual power that gives you laser-like discernment has no grounding in reality. Countless churches — from Liberal Christian to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist — have passionate, devoted teachers and preachers of the Word of God who are, without question, unbelievers. Some of them I know personally. A few unbelieving pastors have been using fake-it-’til-you-make-it (to retirement) for years. These men genuinely love their congregations, even though they think the Christian God is a work of fiction.

I hate to break it to Christians, but there is no such thing as a spirit of discernment. The reason, of course, is that we humans don’t have a spirit/soul. We are flesh and blood. Certainly, we develop certain psychological skills that allow us to read people, and we often have gut feelings about people. That Spiderman-like tingly feeling we have is the result of evolution and environmental/social conditioning, and not some of sort of divine gift given only to Christians. In fact, the belief that God gives you discernment skills tends to lessen your ability to see things as they are. Why? Because Evangelicals, in particular, develop complex ways of dealing with human behavior. Evangelicals talk of sin, forgiveness, and grace. They speak of accountability partners and allowing the Holy Spirit to perform its perfect work. Instead of seeing things as they are, Evangelicals allow theological nonsense to cloud their judgment.

This is why it’s no surprise that Evangelical churches have sexual abuse scandals, clergy misconduct, and all sorts of bad behavior that is washed away by the blood of Jesus and forgiven by the prayer-answering God. Instead of seeing that the youth pastor is way too friendly with several of his charges, loving, blind Christians see this behavior as him “ministering” to these girls. And when his “ministry” turns to rape, sexual assault, and other sex crimes, what then? As long as the predator still says he’s a Christian, forgiveness awaits.

Evolution-driven discernment cares not one whit for the offender’s religious inclinations. What matters is that an older man, a man with authority, took advantage of those he was supposed to love, care for, and respect. What mattered to him was his dick, not their welfare. The youth pastor, then, should never be permitted to be around youths again. Yet, as sure as the sun rises in the East, the youth pastor, once he pays for his crimes, will be forgiven and given another opportunity to serve God.  Why, some of his fellow Christians will testify on his behalf during his sentencing hearing, showering the judge with stories of how awesome the youth pastor is. There’s no divine discernment going on here. Just ignorance and a refusal to see things as they are.

It is time for Christians to stop pretending that they have some sort of special power that allows them to see things non-believers can’t see. It’s 2018. Time to put the intellect to work, making rational, thoughtful decisions. Unless Christians are willing to do so, they can expect to hoodwinked and taken advantage of. Just remember, it’s discerning Evangelicals who put Donald Trump, the Christian in the White House. Need I say more?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

Songs of Sacrilege: Goodbye, for Now by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-fourth 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 Songs of Sacrilege is Goodbye, for Now by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever.

Video Link

Lyrics

the reason it’s been so long since we talked
i’m not ready to show up and feel nothing
i don’t even feel sad anymore
i’m just always looking for your replacement

i still believe in love
like i believe in just war
i think it’s possible
but maybe just not anymore

so i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
so i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

so i’m back in the corner of this bar
just studying a glass and these faces
i’ve been looking for the one i lost
and for eternity in the wrong places

so either you aren’t real
or i am just not chosen
maybe i’ll never know
either way, my heart is broken

as i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
as i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

so you left me here to document the slow unraveling
of a man who burned the house down
where he kept everything
excommunication never made much sense to me
like abandonment to demonstrate how you’ll never leave
and yet you say

and i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
oh, i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

Songs of Sacrilege: Chasing Empty Mangers by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-third 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 Songs of Sacrilege is Chasing Empty Mangers by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever.

Video Link

Lyrics

the tiny christmas tree
the empty stockings hanging
the house devoid of chaos and life
while daddy’s getting drunk
the peanuts kids are dancing
there’s no star atop the tree tonight
’cause i’m taking what you give
the baby god returning
bringing peace to every house but mine

so another man takes the fall
just for doing all he could
in light of what you dreamed up
for your glory and another man’s good

oh god, what have i done
without your great permission
knowing fully of the end at the start
like a dirty goddamn trick
i either sin as i resist you
or i do it as i’m doing my part
so all my empathy
to judas and the devil
they were yours as much in light as in the dark

so another man takes the fall
just for doing all he could
in light of what you dreamed up
for your glory and another man’s good

so tonight i’ll watch the skies
for a sleigh and saint appearing
like a great star running out of space
on this drunken christmas eve
i gotta say that feels as likely
as any one of you three showing your face
so a toast to all my friends
who are lost and beat and bleeding
still chasing empty mangers out of faith

 

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Masimba Chirayi Accused of Murdering Woman, Thinking She was a Vampire

arrested

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.

Masimba Chirayi, a pastor with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect in Zimbabwe, stands accused of murdering church member Wendy Thinnamay Masuka. Over the weekend, while baptizing Masuka in a nearby river, Chirayi drowned the woman, thinking she was a “vampire possessed by demons.” According to New ZImbabwe, Chirayi thought Masuska was going to kill people, so he held her under water until he overpowered her (Greek for she stopped breathing).

Chirayi’s bail has been set at $50.

Unfamiliar with the Jowane Masowe Chishanu sect? You can find more information here and here.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast 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.

deerfield united methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield United Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, William Kriechbaum, pastor Facebook

I wanted to go inside to find more information about this Christ who died and rose again for the people of Deerfield United Methodist, but alas the doors were locked. The church wants passersby to know that it supports the United States and it armed forces. Good to know…

light of catholic church deerfield michigan light of catholic church deerfield michigan 3 light of catholic church deerfield michigan 2

Light of Christ Catholic Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Jeffrey Poll, pastor Website

Light of Christ Catholic wants passersby to know that they wish them peace, love, love and happiness at Easter and always. The irony here is the memorial to a dead soldier; an emblem of violence and death, and not peace, love, love and happiness.

deerfield free methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield Free Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Bill Fix, pastor Here’s what the church wants you to know about them:

The beautiful sanctuary of Deerfield Free Methodist Church is shown below. It is even more beautiful in person and I want to invite you to attend. Our campus is located at 572 East River Street in Deerfield, Michigan. We are part of the Southern Michigan Conference of the Free Methodist Church of North America. Our conference is a coalition of churches desiring to advance God’s Kingdom by including people from all walks of life. We invite you to join our church family this Sunday at 10 am. Prior to the church service we have complimentary refreshments in Aunt Bethel’s Cafe located in our Heritage Hal [sic]. Come as you are and enjoy a service that might change your life in a really good way!

I thought Christianity was all about Jesus? Evidently, at Deerfield Free Methodist the star attraction is its beautiful sanctuary, and not Jesus.

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast 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.

seventh day adventist church monroe michigan

Monroe Seventh Day Adventist Church, Monroe, Michigan According to the church’s Facebook page, its mission is: To grow as children of God, to nurture a family of God, to prepare others for the Kingdom of God.

Monroe Seventh Day wants passersby to know “its [sic] never to late to begin again.”  As I read this sign, I said to Polly, not if you’re dead.

bible fellowship church monroe michigan

Bible Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jim Walker, pastor  Facebook

hope church of monroe monroe michigan

Hope Church of Monroe, Monroe, Michigan, Gary Braden, pastor Facebook

christ love fellowship church monroe michigan

Christ Love Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan The church’s Facebook page says:

Christ Love Fellowship, a place where we help people build a relationship with God. We don’t place boundaries based on race, denomination, or background.

life bridge church monroe michigan

Life Bridge Church, Monroe, Michigan, Bill Rice, pastor Here’s what Life Bridge’s pastors want you to know about their church:

“A growing community of believers devoted to reaching the unchurched”

Life Bridge Church, located in Taylor, MI, is a young and growing church. Started in December of 2012, as a mobile church plant in Flat Rock, MI, it has been our mission to create a church that is inviting and approachable to people that don’t normally consider going to church. We teach Biblical truths in a relevant and powerful way. We believe these truths make a life-changing difference in your life, our community, and our world.

If you visit one of our services (get directions) this is what you’ll experience:

  • Casual Atmosphere
  • Weekend experiences that last for one hour
  • Friendly people
  • Thought-provoking messages based on the Bible
  • Great worship music
  • Safe & fun teaching for your kids
  • Next steps to help you follow Jesus

ONE HOUR experiences!  The perfect church for people who love NFL football or have short attention spans.

zion evangelical lutheran church monroe michigan

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monroe Michigan, Ross Ulrich, pastor Zion Evangelical is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). According to the church’s website, its mission is:

We follow the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), to make disciples through the Means of Grace God that has entrusted to us.

​To accomplish this purpose we seek to:

  • ​Nurture: by building one another’s faith through regular worship, study and the use of the Word and Sacraments.
  • Reach the Lost: by equipping our members with the knowledge to seek out those who do not know Christ and to carry God’s message to them.
  • Build Relationships:  by providing a variety of opportunities for Christian fellowship and mutual support.

The church also has a preschool and a K-8 school.

true gospel missionary baptist church monroe michigan

True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, John Bullard, pastor

full gospel assembly church monroe michigan

Full Gospel Assembly Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

stewart road church of god monroe michigan

Stewart Road Church of God, Monroe, Michigan, Joseph Byrd, pastor According to its website, Stewart Road is:

We are a Spirit-filled, multi-generational, and multi-cultural church focused on Word-centered teaching.  We are passionate about worship, and committed to discipleship.

Come and experience what it really means to follow Jesus alongside a community committed to Christ.

 

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast 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.

All of the churches in this post are Baptist churches located in Monroe, Michigan — a city of 21,000 people. Polly and I have never seen this many Baptist churches in a Northern community this size, especially when you consider that this post does not list all of the Baptist churches in Monroe. Baptists in Monroe have a supermarket full of choices when it comes to theology and practice — everything from Freewill Baptist to Primitive Baptist.

evergreen acres missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Evergreen Acres Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jacob Clawson, pastor.  Facebook

hope missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

monroe primitive baptist church monroe michigan

Monroe Primitive Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Elders Tom and Randy Pitney

faith baptist church monroe michigan

Faith Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Brian Southerland, pastor Website

kentucky park missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Kentucky Park Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Kenny Goins, pastor No Web Presence

first freewill baptist church monroe michigan

First Freewill Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Philip Wylie, pastor No Web Presence

Fear, Paranoia, and Superstition: Friday the 13th

friday the thirteenth

Last week, Janice Williams, a writer for Newsweek, churned out a bit of irrational nonsense about Friday the 13th. This nonsense made it into the newsletter sent out weekly by a local school near where I live. In this short post, I plan to dismantle Williams’ notion that the superstition surrounding the day stems from certain Christian beliefs; beliefs that I had never heard of until I read Williams’ article:

However, reasons why and how Friday the 13th got its unlucky association remain a mystery. But some do believe the superstitions and fear surrounding the date stem from religious beliefs and Christianity specifically.

It was the 13th guest at the Last Supper, Judas, who betrayed Jesus Christ, which led to Christ’s crucifixion, held on a Friday. Some biblical scholars also believe it was a Friday when Eve convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, and it was Friday the 13th when Cain committed the first murder, killing his brother Abel.

“Because Friday was the day of the crucifixion, Fridays were always regarded as a day of penance and abstinence,” Steve Roud, author of The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland, told BBC news Friday. “This religious belief spilled over into a general dislike of starting anything or doing anything important on a Friday.”

….

First, Williams suggests that the one of the reasons Friday the 13th being is an unlucky day is that Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, was the thirteenth guest at the Last Supper. This one is easy to debunk. Judas was numbered among the twelve disciples. Thus, it was Jesus, and not Judas, who was the thirteenth guest. And even if people can’t bear the thought of Jesus being associated with the unlucky number thirteen, why was Judas the thirteenth guest, and not Peter, James, John, or any of the other eight disciples? Second, I wonder if Williams is aware of the fact that some Biblical scholars believe that Jesus was crucified on Thursday, and not Friday? I doubt it. Had she done even the slightest bit of research for this filler article, she would have learned that more than a few scholars dispute the Friday-crucifixion-to-Sunday-resurrection timeline because the Bible says Jesus was in the grave for three days. It’s hard to get three days and nights out of Friday to Sunday, especially when you consider that Jesus, according to the Bible, had already risen from the dead by the time the women arrived to his tomb early Sunday morning.

Third, Williams says that some Biblical scholars believe that “it was a Friday when Eve convinced Adam to eat the forbidden fruit, and it was Friday the 13th when Cain committed the first murder, killing his brother Abel.”  Really? I spent fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring churches. I spent tens of thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading theological tomes, yet I never read one word about Cain killing Abel on Friday the 13th, nor did I read anything about Adam eating the forbidden fruit on a Friday. I searched the Internet in vain for SOURCE materials — you know ancients texts — that made this claim. All I found were unsupported mentions similar to those “revealed” in Williams’ article.

My first response is this: who makes this shit up? Really? What historical or textual evidence do they have for such claims? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The answer is little to none. I can’t wait for Bart Ehrman’s newest blockbuster book to come out — Numerology, The Hidden Secrets of the Bible Revealed! This thirteen-chapter, six-hundred-sixty-six-page book of blank pages is sure to blow the minds of superstitious Christians and unbelievers alike. Ehrman reveals that Lucifer had thirteen toes, along with other astounding, almost unbelievable, truths. Order it today from Amazon! Price? $13.00.

My second response is that I was unaware that Adam and Eve, along with every other fictional person in the Old Testament used Rolex watches and the Gregorian — or Julian for that matter — calendar to keep track of time and dates. The Julian calendar took effect on January 1, 45 BCE, and the Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian in the sixteenth century, well after the mythical events records in Genesis. Now before a “smart” Christian suggests that Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel used the Jewish Calendar, I should let readers know that the Hebrew calendar was not widely used until the Christian era. If you want to kill a bunch of brain cells, spend time reading about how religion can screw up something as simple as a calendar.

I have no doubt that there are Christians who believe this nonsense about Friday the 13th. One of the books that collected dust in my study during my preaching days was E.W. Bullinger’s book, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance. I tried numerous times to read this book — a preacher friend recommended I purchase this eye-opening, life-changing book — but alas! I found it to be hundreds of pages of delusional nonsense. For example, Bullinger spends twenty-seven pages detailing the importance of the number thirteen (and its connection to the number eight) in the Bible. Here’s a small faux-gold nugget of what he said:

EIGHT AND THIRTEEN TOGETHER, that we may afterwards compare and contrast the two. For this purpose we must consider the number thirteen here, and out of its otherwise proper order.

As to the significance of thirteen, all are aware that it has come down to us as a number of ill-omen. Many superstitions cluster around it, and various explanations are current concerning them.

Unfortunately, those who go backwards to find a reason seldom go back far enough. The popular explanations do not, so far as we are aware, go further back than the Apostles. But we must go back to the first occurrence of the number thirteen in order to discover the key to its significance. It occurs first in Gen 14:4, where we read “Twelve years they served Chedorlaomer, and the thirteenth year they REBELLED.”

Hence every occurrence of the number thirteen, and likewise of every multiple of it, stamps that with which it stands in connection with rebellion, apostasy, defection, corruption, disintegration, revolution, or some kindred idea.

The second mention of thirteen is in connection with Ishmael, Gen 17:25. He was thirteen years old when Abraham circumcised him and admitted him into the covenant to which he was a stranger in heart, and which ended in his rebellion and rejection.

We see it stamped upon the very fore-front of Revelation. For while the opening statement of Gen 1:1 is composed of seven words and twenty-eight letters (4×7), the second verse consists of fourteen words, but fifty-two letters; fifty-two being 4×13 tells of some apostasy or rebellion which caused the ruin of which that verse speaks.

….

The Scriptures concerning Judas Iscariot

  • Luke 22:3: “Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve” = 8359 (13×643)
  • Luke 22:47, “And he that was called Judas, one of the twelve” = 3458 (13×266)
  • John 12:4: “Judas Iscariot, he that should betray Him” = 4511 (13×347)
  • John 13:26: “Jesus answered, He it is to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon” = 19435 (13×1495) The last clause (“when,” etc.) = 7371 (13×567)
  • Matt 26:48: “Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; hold Him fast” = 9867 (13×759)
    So with Acts 1:16; Mark 14:44,45, and all the corresponding passages.

….

It is surely impossible to explain all this evidence on the doctrine of chances. There must be design. And design so perfect, so uniform, so significant can only be Divine. And being Divine is an unanswerable argument in favour of the verbal and even literal inspiration of the Scriptures of Truth.

Got all that? Don’t you feel “enlightened” now?

Bullinger was a nineteenth century Anglican clergyman. This numeral-obsessed preacher was also a dispensationalist — people who believe that history is divided into seven periods of time (dispensations), with each period except the last one ending in sin/failure/defeat. In some Evangelical circles, Bullinger is considered an ultra- or hyperdispensationalist due to his belief that the beginning of the Christian church traces back to Paul, and not the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 as “normal” dispensationalists believe.

For you who are not familiar with dispensationalism, here’s a chart detailing Bullinger’s seven dispensations:

According to Wikipedia, Bullinger had several other “interesting” beliefs:

Bullinger was a supporter of the theory of the Gospel in the Stars, according to which the constellations are pre-Christian expressions of Christian doctrine. He strongly opposed the theory of evolution [24] and held that Adam was created in 4004 B.C.[25] He was also a member of the Universal Zetetic Society, a group dedicated to believing and promoting the idea that the earth is flat.

Certainly, nonsensical beliefs about numerals (and the stars) is not the domain of Christian Fundamentalists alone. More than a few non-Christians over the centuries have believed numbers have meaning or significance outside of their use in mathematics. (Please check out the Mystical Numbers website for more information.) Professional sports players are known for believing that certain jersey numbers are lucky, and countless gamblers play their lucky numbers every day in hopes of hitting the jackpot.

We humans, in general, are attracted to patterns, including numerical ones. As someone who is afflicted with Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), I have spent countless hours in waiting rooms counting ceiling and floor tiles as I search for order. While such obsession is often harmless, the numerology nonsense put forth by Bullinger and the school newsletter mentioned above can cause people to behave irrationally. I have no doubt that many Westerners avoided doing certain things or going certain places on the latest Friday the 13th. I sure hope they didn’t see any black cats or walk under any ladders. Doing so would court certain disaster — or so some people believe, anyway.

Did you grow up in a home or attend a church that believed certain numbers had some sort of supernatural significance? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

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