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Category: Religion

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Pastor Tim Crumitie Convicted of Murder, Now Facing More Murder Charges

tim crumitie

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.

In 2018, Tim Crumitie, former pastor of an unnamed church, was accused of the attempted murder of Kimberly Cherry along with the murder of Michael Gretsinger, Cherry’s boyfriend

The Charlotte Observer reported:

One of two bullets lodged in her head made it difficult for Kimberly Cherry to speak.

When asked by a 911 operator in August 2016 to identify the person who had shot her, Cherry’s halting voice seemed to teeter on the edge of consciousness. But her answer was clear.

“His name is Tim,” she said.

Sitting between his two attorneys, Tim Crumitie showed no emotion Monday morning as the voice of his former girlfriend – and an expected witness against him – wafted through the courtroom, opening the former minister’s first-degree murder trial in a haunting way.

The 52-year-old convicted felon is accused of the predawn ambush of Cherry and her boyfriend Michael Gretsinger in University City. Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Clayton Jones told the jury that after springing from behind the front door of the couple’s apartment, Crumitie fired two shots, execution style, into Gretsinger’s head. The Charlotte man died about 10 days later.

Crumitie then bound the arms of Cherry, put her in the passenger seat of her own car, and eventually drove her to his Rowan County home, Jones said, “figuring out what he wanted to do.”

Later that morning, Crumitie doubled back, Jones said, driving Cherry’s car to a construction site near her apartment. There, according to Jones, Crumitie shot her once in the back of the head. After Cherry fell to the ground, Jones said, Crumitie shot her again in the left temple.

Miraculously, Cherry was still alive when Crumitie put her in the trunk of the car and started driving again. Eventually the car stopped. At that point, Cherry popped the trunk and escaped, Jones said. A neighbor at the Ardmore Kings Grant apartments called 911.

Eventually, Cherry got on line. “Please send someone to help me,” she said.

If convicted of the murder charge, Crumitie faces a mandatory life in prison without parole. He is also charged with assault, kidnapping and attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Cherry.

….

How much they [the jury] will hear about Crumitie’s past before making that decision remains unclear.

On Monday, Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis cleared the way for prosecutors to mention that Crumitie served eight years in prison back in the 1990s for armed robbery and other crimes.

Crumitie also has been physically present or criminally linked to three mysterious shooting deaths over less than a decade – including those of his wife and a former business partner.

In 2005, while Crumitie was a Kannapolis pastor, he was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of Danny Johnson, who operated a flooring company next door to the church. Crumitie spent five years in jail before authorities dropped the charges, saying they lacked the evidence to take the case to trial.

Eight years later, Crumitie was the lone surviving witness to a double homicide inside the garage of his Concord home.

He told police that during an attempted robbery, James Blanks fatally shot Crumitie’s wife, Sharon, then shot Crumitie in the hand before Crumitie wrested the gun away and shot and killed Blanks in self defense. No charges were filed.

At the time of the 2016 shooting, Gretsinger’s family questioned why someone with Crumitie’s background was not in jail.

“It’s shocking. It’s frightening … Why is he out there?” Kim Gretsinger, the victim’s mother, told WCCB the day after the shooting.

In 2018, Crumtie was convicted of these crimes and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2020, Crumtie was charged with the murder of Anastasia Meaders.

Fox-46 reported:

A man who is linked to multiple open cases and has been serving a life sentence for the attempted murder of a Charlotte woman and killing her boyfriend is now charged with murdering her daughter, according to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office. 

Timothy Lavaun Crumitie, 54, has been charged with the death of Anastasia “Star” Talisha Meaders, whose skeletal remains were found on Jan. 15, 2019. 

Meaders’ remains were located a wooded area off Bridgewater Lane near Mooresville. Over a two-day period, deputies searched the wooded area locating approximately 70 human bones. The bones were taken to North Carolina Baptist Hospital where an autopsy was performed. The cause of death was ruled to be a gunshot wound to the head, deputies said. 

In October 2019, DNA extracted from teeth positively identified the remains as Meaders, who had been reported missing from Charlotte in August of 2016.

Meaders was last seen alive in Charlotte in June 2016. She was 29-years-old at the time of her disappearance, deputies said. Her vehicle, a black 2007 Chevrolet Impala, was located abandoned at Liberty Park in Mooresville in July 2016.

Liberty Park is a few miles from the location on Bridgewater Lane where Meaders’ remains were discovered, deputies said. 

Iredell County Sheriff’s Office detectives interviewed her family members and other witnesses which lead them to a possible suspect, Timothy Lavaun Crumitie.

Through the investigation, detectives determined Crumitie was convicted of the attempted murder of Kimberly Cherry who was Anastasia’s mother, along with the murder of Michael Gretsinger, Cherry’s boyfriend. Crumitie committed these crimes in August 2016 in Mecklenburg County, deputies said. He was convicted in 2018 and is currently serving a life sentence in this case. 

Anastasia Meaders was reported missing during the same time as the attempted murder on her mother, Kimberly Cherry. The last time Meaders was physically seen was June 17, 2016, at a beauty shop in Charlotte, deputies said. 

Phone records indicate Anastasia’s last communication was with a family member on June 24, 2016. Throughout the investigation, detectives were able to gather evidence and statements which indicated Crumitie was the last person to be seen with Meaders.

While gathering information about Crumitie, detectives learned he was the pastor of a church in Concord where he met Kimberly Cherry and Anastasia Meaders. 

In September 1989, Crumitie was arrested for armed robbery in Onslow County. He was convicted of this crime in March 1990. He was released in August 1998 after serving eight years in prison.

In September 2005, Crumitie was arrested for the murder of his business partner, Danny Kaye Johnson in Mecklenburg County. He spent five years in jail and was later released after the case was dismissed.

On July 3, 2013, Concord Police investigated the murder of Sharon Crumitie. Sharon was the wife of Timothy Crumitie at the time. She and a man named, James Blanks where at the scene of a reported robbery at the home of Timothy and Sharon Crumitie. The report says James Blanks was supposedly breaking into the garage of the home when he shot Sharon Crumitie in the head. Timothy Crumitie claimed he then wrestled the gun away from Blanks. During the altercation, Crumitie shot Blanks in the head after sustaining a gunshot wound to the hand.

In December of 2013, Crumitie’s home burnt to the ground. The resulting investigation determined the fire was intentionally set by Crumitie. He was arrested on March 24, 2014, for insurance fraud. In August 2014, Crumitie was arrested for fraudulently burning a dwelling and was convicted in December 2015.

In April of 2016, Crumitie was living with an older woman in Rowan County who died under “questionable circumstances.” Crumitie had befriended the elderly woman, and at some point during their year-long relationship, he became appointed as her power of attorney and executor over her estate.

Timothy Lavaun Crumitie is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Michael Gretsinger and the attempted murder of Kimberly Cherry.

On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020, Crumitie was served with an arrest warrant for the murder of Anastasia Meaders. 

The Statesville Record & Landmark reported:

Timothy Lavaun Crumitie, 54, who is currently serving a life sentence for a murder conviction, has been charged with homicide in the death of Anastasia “Star” Talisha Meaders.

The case follows an investigation that took more than a year and involved a lengthy series of tests to identify the victim.

On Jan. 15, 2019, detectives, deputies and Crime Scene Investigators with the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office responded to a wooded area off Bridgewater Lane near Mooresville in response to a report of human skeletal remains having being located, according to a news release.

A two-day search resulted in 70 human bones being collected. After an autopsy at the North Carolina Baptist Hospital, the cause of death was determined to be a gunshot wound to the head. Ten months later, the victim was identified as Meaders. She had been reported as missing in Charlotte in June 2016. She was 29.

Her vehicle had been found at Liberty Park in Mooresville in July of 2016, just a few miles from where her body was later found.

Detectives with the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office interviewed family members, and Crumitie was determined to be a suspect.

Crumitie was previously convicted of the attempted murder of Kimberly Cherry, who was Meaders’ mother, along with the murder of Michael Gretsinger, Cherry’s boyfriend. Crumitie committed these crimes in August of 2016 in Mecklenburg County. He was convicted in 2018 and is currently serving a life sentence, according to a news release.

Meaders was reported missing during the same time as the attempted murder on her mother. The last time Meaders was physically seen was June 17, 2016 at a beauty shop in Charlotte.

Phone records show her last communication was with a family member on June 24, 2016, according to a release. Throughout the investigation, detectives were able to gather evidence and statements which indicated Crumitie was the last person to be seen with Meaders.

While gathering information about Crumitie, detectives learned he was the pastor of a church in Concord, North Carolina, where he met Cherry and Meaders, the release states.

The following details were also outlined in a release from Iredell County Sheriff Campbell:

In April of 2016, Crumitie was living with an older female in Rowan County who died under questionable circumstances. He had befriended the elderly female, and at some point during their year-long relationship, he became appointed as her power of attorney and executor over her estate.

On July 3, 2013 Concord Police Department investigated the murder of Sharon Crumitie, who was the wife of Timothy Crumitie at the time. She and a man named James Banks were at the scene of a reported robbery at the home of Timothy and Sharon Crumitie. The report says James Banks was supposedly breaking into the garage of the home when he shot Sharon Crumitie in the head. Timothy Crumitie claimed he then wrestled the gun away from Banks. During the altercation, Crumitie shot Banks in the head after sustaining a gunshot wound to the hand.

In December of 2013, Crumitie’s home burnt to the ground. The resulting investigation determined the fire was intentionally set by Crumitie. He was arrested on March 24, 2014 on charges related to insurance fraud. In August 2014, Crumitie was arrested for fraudulently burning a dwelling and was convicted in December 2015.

In September 2005, Crumitie was arrested and charged with the murder of his business partner, Danny Daye Johnson, in Mecklenburg County. He spent five years in jail, and was later released after the case was dismissed.

In September 1989, Crumitie was arrested for armed robbery in Onslow County. He was convicted of this crime in March 1990. He was released in August 1998 after serving eight years in prison.

Crumitie is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Michael Gretsinger and the attempted murder of Cherry.

On January 21, Timothy Lavaun Crumitie was served with an arrest warrant on charges related to the murder of Meaders. Crumitie went before Magistrate S. Watkins who issued no bond on this charge.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Learning to Be Human Again After an Evangelical Lifetime of Self-Denial

self denial john macarthur

Originally written in 2009. Edited for grammar and clarity.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that the followers of Jesus must practice self-denial. “Self” is the problem — the flesh wars against the spirit, the spirit wars against the flesh. Far too many Christians, thanks to this teaching, live guilt-ridden lives. Guilt over giving in to the flesh, guilt over letting self have control.

It goes something like this . . .

Anger is bad. Anger is a sin. Yet, anger is a common, normal, even healthy human emotion. In fact, people who never get angry have either taken too much Zoloft or there is something seriously wrong with them. So Christians perpetually battle with anger, often becoming angry over being angry. They tell themselves the Holy Spirit lives inside of them. There are no reasons for them being angry. They need to get right with God. Prayers are uttered, sins are forgiven, slates wiped clean. Dammit, why did that idiot cut me off in traffic? Can’t he see that makes me angry?  Now I’ve sinned against God.

And like children on a merry-go-round, around and around Evangelicals go, from sin to forgiveness, sin to forgiveness, over, and over, and over again. Is it any wonder then, that many Christians live such conflicted, defeated lives?

Let me pose a question to my readers:

What if it all is a lie? What if the very premise of self-denial has no basis? What if envy, pride, lust, greed, anger, and the other venial and mortal sins are a normal part of the human experience? Perhaps self-denial is the problem and not the solution. The flesh, who we really are, is not evil. It just is.

Evangelicals profess to believe that God created everything, including the first two humans, Adam and Eve. The creator God gave to humankind emotions. Evidently, God thought emotions were a good, even a necessary part of being human. But along comes Christianity with its beliefs about original sin and depravity. All people are inherently sinful, broken, and living lives without meaning, purpose, or direction. Unless people accept the sin “fix” of the blood of Jesus, they will live lives of desperation, ultimately dying in their sins and going to Hell.

In accepting the sin “fix,” newly-minted Christians are expected to lay their lives at Jesus’ feet. They are told they must deny human nature, even going as far as to “die” to self. When Evangelicals get up in the morning and look in the mirror, the only face looking back at them should be the visage of Jesus. Yet, no matter how much they try, the only face they see in the morning is their own.

This is, of course, an impossible way to live. I have come to see that self-denial, at its basic level, is a lie. I can no more deny the emotions of self than I can survive without food and water. Certainly, emotions can run wild and there is always the danger of extreme and excess, but denial is not the answer.

I spent most of my life suppressing who I really am. Few people know the real me. The man they know is not who I really am. They only know the caricature. They know the façade. As I attempt to find the real me there is some ugliness. A life of repressed emotions, a life of self-control, once freed from the constraints of Christianity, tends to be like a wild horse freed from a stock pen. Once free, the horse will never willingly return to its prison.

Maybe you are saying to yourself, I could never let my emotions have free reign. If I allowed my emotions to control me, I would certainly do terrible things. Are you sure? Or is that just what you have been told?

Evangelicals are taught that there is a slippery slope that must be avoided at all costs. The Bible says that Christians should avoid the very appearances of evil; that every thought, word, and deed must be brought under control. The slippery slope argument goes like this: look at an attractive woman and say nice ass and you are on the path to becoming a rapist. If Evangelicals entertain anger in their hearts, according to the slippery slope theory, they are well on the way to becoming murderers. Many Evangelicals believe drinking alcohol is a sin. One drink and they are on their way to becoming alcoholics. Extreme? Sure, but Jesus said that Christians should pluck out their eyes or cut off their hands if they cause them to sin. Sounds pretty extreme to me.

Evangelical church members get a steady diet of sermons about the importance of denying the flesh. They are warned that if they give in to their desires, they are setting in motion things that will lead them to disaster. It is the same logic that suggests that watching violence on TV makes people violent, or that viewing porn turns men into sexual deviants. Countless hours are spent in therapy trying to undo such thinking.

Do some people who watch violent TV programs commit assault and murder others? Sure, a very small percentage pick up firearms and kill people. But the overwhelming majority of people can watch a horror flick without turning into Freddy Krueger. Do some men who look at pornography become child molesters or rapists? Sure, but again, most men can look at naked women on a computer screen and not turn into sex offenders.

Most of the former Evangelicals I have met through this blog have had to go through an extended period of reconnecting themselves with self. They have to relearn what it means to be human. They have to dredge up thoughts and emotions that have lain buried for years in the bottomless pit of repressive Evangelical faith.

The journey out of Evangelicalism is one of rediscovering who and what we are. This trek is exciting, frightful, ugly, and often contradictory, but it is honest and authentic. Shouldn’t that be the goal for all of us?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Medicine Satan Uses When He has a Cold

Did you know that Satan, also known as the Devil, Beelzebub, Evil One, and Morningstar, has a special medicine he uses when he catches a cold? Currently manufactured and sold by the Monticello Drug Company, 666 Cold Medicine, when taken as directed, is sure to knock the heaven right out of a cold.

666 cold medicine
666 cold medicine 2
666 cold medicine 5
666 hand fan
666 Cold Medicine Hand Fan
666 cold medicine 3
666 Cold Medicine Office 1987
666 cold medicine 4
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Dear Christian: YOU are the Problem, Not Your God

odin
Compare this picture to the descriptions of the Christian God in the book of Revelation. Similar?

Atheists do not hate God. While Evangelical Christians will certainly suggest otherwise, I do not know of one atheist who “hates” God. Think about it for a moment. Do atheists believe in the existence of the Christian God, or any other god, for that matter? Of course not, so it makes no sense to say that atheists hate a non-existent, mythical being. Surely, even the densest of Christians can understand this. If I asked Evangelicals, Do you believe in the existence of Odin, the Norse God? how do you think they would respond? I have no doubt Evangelicals would laugh and say, Odin is a mythical being. It would be silly of us to hate a being that doesn’t exist. Bingo. Just like atheists and the Christian God.

Evangelicals often refuse to accept at face value what others say/believe about their God. When atheists deny the existence of the Christian God, Evangelicals say that atheists are suppressing their knowledge of this God. Supposedly, atheists KNOW that the Christian God exists, but they, having a hard heart and a seared conscience, deny his existence. Couldn’t the same be said of Christians who deny the existence of Odin?  Christians KNOW that the Norse God exists, but they refuse to accept this, clinging to a God who is no God at all.

The fact is this: atheists do not hate God. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either deliberately ignorant of what atheists believe or are so blinded by their own beliefs that they cannot fathom any other belief but their own. Wait a minute, Bruce, Evangelicals say. If atheists do not hate God, then why do they spend so much time talking about God? Good question.

While atheists know that the Christian God is a myth, they also understand that much harm has been done in his name. It is not the Christian God that is the problem. God, divorced from his followers, is little more than an ancient explanation for human existence. Who cares, right? Myths, in and of themselves, have no power. The Harry Potter books tell a wonderful story of mystery and magic, but no one in his or her right mind thinks the stories are true. Imagine if a group of people believed that what was written in the Harry Potter books was some sort of divine message from God. Does the fact that this group of people believes the stories are true mean that they are? Of course not. So it is with Christianity. That people “believe” is not proof that something is true. Millions of people believe in the Mormon God, yet Evangelicals, for the most part, believe Mormonism is a false religion. I fail to see how Mormonism’s God is any different from Christianity’s God. Taken at face value, both myths are absurd.

The real issue for atheists is what Christians DO in the name of their God. It is Christians that are the problem, not their God. If Christianity was little more than a Kiwanis Club, I suspect that most atheist writers such as myself would put down their digital pens and turn their attention to other pursuits. However, because many Christians will not rest until the entire world worships their God and bows to their interpretation of an antiquated religious text, atheists, humanists, agnostics, and secularists are forced to do battle with Evangelical zealots. Believe me, I’d rather be writing about sports, photography, or train collecting, but as long as Evangelicals continue to clamor for a theocracy governed by Biblical law, I intend to raise my objection to their theocratic ambitions.

Eleven years ago, I wrote a post titled, If Christianity Doesn’t Matter, Why Do You Bother With It? I think what I wrote then still applies today:

Bruce, if Christianity doesn’t matter, why do you bother with it?

Good question.

On one hand, Christianity doesn’t matter. The Bible doesn’t matter. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Church — none of it matters.

If Christians want to worship their God, I have no objection.  I subscribe to the “live and let live” school of thought. Each to his own. May Jesus be with you. May the force be with you. May nothing be with you. I don’t care.

However . . .

I do care about the influence Christianity has on our culture and government. I do care about the damage done in the name of the Christian God. I do care when people are hurt, maimed, and killed in the name of Jesus.

When Christians want to turn the United States into a theocracy . . . It matters.

When Christians want their religion to have preference over any and all others . . . It matters.

When Christians demand atheists and agnostics be treated as the spawn of Satan . . . It matters.

When Christians attempt to teach religious dogma as scientific fact in our public schools . . . It matters.

When Christians attempt to force their religious moral code on everyone . . . It matters.

When Christians attempt to stand in the way of my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness . . . It matters.

When Christians abuse and molest children in the name of their God . . . It matters.

When Christians wage wars thousands of miles away in the name of their God . . . It matters.

When Christians mentally and emotionally abuse people . . . It matters.

When Christians expect preferential treatment because of who they worship . . . It matters.

As long as Christians continue to force themselves on others, and as long as they attack and demean anyone who is not a Christian . . . It matters.

As long as pastors and churches get preferential tax code treatment . . . It matters.

That said . . .

As to who you worship and where? It doesn’t matter.

As to what sacred text you use? It doesn’t matter.

I want all Christians to have the absolute freedom to worship their God.

And . . .

I want that same freedom to NOT worship any God or another God . . .

And as long as that courtesy is not extended to me and to every human being on earth . . .

It matters.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

A Few Thoughts About Mental Illness and Depression

bruce and mom 1957
Bruce and his mom, July 1957

Originally written 2011, edited, corrected.

At the age of fifty-four, my mother turned a .357 magnum Ruger revolver toward her chest and pulled the trigger. The bullet tore a hole in her heart and in a few moments she was dead. Mom had tried to kill herself many times before. This time she succeeded (please see the post Barbara).

When I was eleven, Dad had to call for an emergency squad because Mom had taken several bottles of prescription drugs. They rushed her to the hospital and pumped her stomach, and she survived to die another day. Later in the year, Mom and the neighbor lady were in a serious automobile accident in Lima. I say accident because it is possible that Mom pulled into the other lane of traffic, allowing the truck to hit them.

Mom made a third attempt on her life that same year. I came home from school and found Mom lying unconscious on the floor with blood pooling around her body. She had slit her wrists. Yet again, the emergency squad came, and her life was saved.

As best I can tell, Mom had mental problems her entire life. She was bright, witty, and well-read, but Mom could, in a split second, lapse into angry, incoherent tirades. Twice she was involuntarily committed to the Toledo State Mental Hospital, undergoing shock therapy numerous times. None of the treatments or drugs worked.

In the early 1960s, my parents found Jesus. Jesus, according to the Bible, healed the mentally ill, but, for whatever reason, he didn’t heal Mom. The mental health crises I have shared in this post, and others that I haven’t shared, all occurred after Mom put her faith and trust in the loving Jesus who supposedly had a wonderful plan for her life. Mom died believing Jesus was her Savior. To this day, I lament the fact that I didn’t do more to help her. Sadly, I saw her mental illness as an inconvenience and an embarrassment. If she just got right with God, I thought at the time, all would be well. If she would just kick her drug habit, I told her, God would be there to help her. What she really needed was for her eldest son to pick her up, hold her close, and love her. I will go to my grave wishing I had been a better son, that I had loved Mom and my family more than I loved Jesus and the church.

findlay ohio 1971-1974
Mom, Bruce, and friend, Findlay, Ohio, summer 1971

Mom was quite talented. She played the piano and loved to do ceramics. Her real passion was reading, a habit she happily passed on to me. (Mom taught me to read.) She was active in politics. Mom was a member of the John Birch Society, and actively campaigned, first for Barry Goldwater, and later for George Wallace.

My parents divorced when I was fourteen. Not long after the divorce, Mom married her first cousin, a recent parolee from a Texas prison (he was serving time for armed robbery). He later died of a drug overdose. Mom would marry two more times before she died. She was quite passionate about anything she fixed her mind upon, a trait that I, for good or ill, share with her. In the early 1970s, Mom was an aide at Winebrenner Nursing Home in Findlay, Ohio. Winebrenner paid men more than they paid women for the same work. Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. The Federal Court decided in her favor.

We moved quite often, and I have no doubt this contributed greatly to Mom’s mental illness. She never knew what it was to have a place to call home. Our family lived in one rental after another, never stopping long enough to buy a home. I lived in sixteen different houses by the time I left for college at the age of nineteen.

I have always wondered if my parents were ever happily married. Mom and Dad were married by an Indiana Justice of the Peace in November 1956. At the time of their marriage, Mom was eighteen and pregnant. I learned a year ago that Dad was not actually my biological father. Dad meant well, but the instability of their marriage, coupled with us moving all the time, caused my siblings and me great harm. Dad thought moving was a great experience. Little did he know that I hated him for moving us around. New schools (seven different school districts). New friends. Never having a place to call home. No child should have to live this way.

From the time I was five until I was fourteen, my parents were faithful members of a Baptist church in whatever community we lived in. The Gerencser family attended church every time the doors were open (I have attended over 8,000 church services in my lifetime). Mom would play the piano from time to time, though she found it quite stressful to do so. One time, much to my embarrassment, she had a mental meltdown in front of the whole church. She never played again. For a time, Dad was a deacon, but he stopped being one because he couldn’t kick his smoking habit. I suspect the real reason was that he was having an affair.

No matter where we lived or what church we went to, one thing was certain: Mom was mentally ill and everyone pretended her illness didn’t exist. Evangelical churches such as the ones we attended had plenty of members who suffered from various mental maladies. For the most part, those who were sick in the head were ignored, marginalized, or told to repent.

In 1994, I co-pastored a Sovereign Grace Baptist church in San Antonio, Texas. (See the I am a Publican and a Heathen series.) One day we were at a church fellowship and my wife came around the corner just in time to hear one of the esteemed ladies of the church say to her daughter, you stay away from that girl, she is mentally retarded. “That girl” was our then five-year-old daughter with Down syndrome. This outstanding church member’s words pretty well sum up how many churches treat those with mental handicaps or illness. STAY AWAY from them!

Many Christians think mental illness is a sign of demonic oppression or possession. No need for doctors, drugs, or hospitals. Just come to Jesus, the great physician, and he will heal you. After all, the Bible does say in 2 Timothy 1:7: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. If someone is mentally unsound, it’s the person’s fault, not God’s. Get right with God and all will be well.

I have suffered with depression for most of my adult life. I am on the mountaintop one moment and in the valley the next. Plagued with a Type A personality, and being a consummate workaholic, I am often driven to despair. Work, Work, Work. Go, Go, Go. Do, Do, Do. I have no doubt that the way I lived my life as a Christian contributed to the health problems that now plague me. While I was busy burning the candle at both ends for Jesus, my body was screaming STOP! But I didn’t listen. I had no time for family, rest, or pleasure. Work for the night is coming, the Bible says. Better to burn out for Jesus than rust out, I told myself. And now, thanks to living this way for much of my adult life, I am a rusting 1957 Chevrolet, sitting on blocks, awaiting the day when the junkyard comes to tow me away.

For many years, I hid my depression from the outside world. While Polly and my children witnessed depression’s effect on their husband and father, church members never had a clue. I have often wondered how parishioners might have responded had I told them the truth. I suspect some church members would have seen me as a fellow depressive, but others would likely have questioned whether I was “fit” to be a pastor.

In 2008, a few months before I deconverted, I told a pastor friend that I was really depressed. Instead of lending me a helping hand or encouraging me, he rebuked me for giving in to the attack of Satan. He told me I needed to confess my sin and get victory over it immediately. A lot of Christians think just like this (former) pastor friend of mine. (Please see Dear Friend.)  Depression is a sign of weakness, and God only wants warriors and winners.

barbara gerencser 1956
Barbara Gerencser, 1956

Going to see a counselor was the single most important thing I have done in the last ten years. It took me leaving the ministry and departing from Christianity before I was willing to find someone to talk to. Several times, while I was still a Christian, I made appointments with counselors only to cancel them at the last minute. I feared that someone would see me going into the counselor’s office or they would drive by and see my car in the parking lot. I thought, My God, I am a pastor. I am supposed to have my life together.

Indeed, it took me leaving the church, the pastorate, and God to find any semblance of mental peace. I have no doubt some readers will object to the connection I make between religion and mental wellness, but for me, there was indeed a direct correlation between the two.

I still battle with depression, but with regular counseling and a (forced) slower pace of life, I am confident that I can live a meaningful, somewhat peaceful life. As many of you know, I have chronic, unrelenting pain. I have not had a pain-free day in over twenty years (my days are counted as less pain, normal pain, more pain, and off the fucking charts pain). The constant pain and debility (I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, an incurable stomach disease, last year) certainly fuel my depression. My counselor says she would be surprised if I wasn’t depressed from time to time.  Embracing my depression and coming to grips with the pain and debility is absolutely essential to my mental well-being. This is my life. I am who I am. I accept this, and I do what I can to be a loving, kind, and productive human being.

To my Christian readers I say this: sitting near you in church this coming Sunday will be people who are suffering with mental illness. Maybe they are depressed. They hide it because they think they have to. Jesus only wants winners, remember? Pay attention to other people. The signs are there. Listen to those who you claim are your brothers and sisters in the Lord. Embrace them in the midst of their weakness and psychosis. While I don’t think a mythical God is going to heal them, I do think that loving, understanding friends can be just the salvation the mentally ill need.

It is not easy being around those who are mentally ill. Let’s face it, depressed people are not fun to be with. We are not the life of the party. When I am in the midst of mental and emotional darkness, I am not the kind of person most people want to be around. I become withdrawn, cynical, and dark. These attributes, coupled with the physical pain I endure, can, at times, make me unbearable to be around. It is at these moments when I need the help of others. Sadly, most people, including my family and friends, tend to pull away from me when I need them the most. I understand why they do so, but the loneliest place on earth is sitting alone in the darkness of night wishing you were dead.

How do you respond to people who are mentally ill? How do you respond to those who are depressed?  Perhaps you suffer from mental illness or depression. Do you hide it? How are you treated by others? If you are a Christian, how are you treated by your church and pastor? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Preaching: The Ruminations of a Former Evangelical Pastor — Part Two

bruce gerencser 2002
Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Part Two of a Two-Part Series (part one)

Many Christian sects, and certainly every Evangelical sect, believe that pastors are called by God to preach the gospel. Pastors are ordained by the particular church or denomination of which they are a part. Through their ordination,  the church or denomination is saying we recognize God’s calling in your life.

According to Evangelicals, the Bible is a supernatural book given to them by a supernatural God. God calls pastors to read and study God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word so they will then be able to stand before their congregations and proclaim “thus saith the Lord.”  These men of God are often viewed as people who have a direct line to God. When a church member is confused about what the Bible says, he or she most often seeks out the pastor for clarity. Like mythical oracles, pastors are expected to have ready answers for any question they might be asked.

Most Evangelicals believe in the priesthood of the believer. This means they believe that every Christian has direct access to God. However, as with many things in the church, the stated beliefs are often contradicted by what actually goes on in the church. Instead of directly accessing God, many Christians expect their pastor to be an intermediary between them and God. After all, the pastor is a mature Christian, a font of wisdom and Biblical knowledge, right? Or so many congregants think.

The pastor’s supposed intimate connection with God plays a big part in how parishioners view his sermons. In their eyes, the sermon is a direct message from God. The pastor is just God’s mouthpiece. God could have used an ass to speak as he did in Numbers 22, but he used the pastor instead (that is, until the pastor upsets them, at which time he becomes an ass). When the pastor stands before the congregation the people have an expectation that they are going to hear from God. The pastor expects God to use his sermon to speak to the heart of every person. He desires God to use his sermon to reclaim backsliders and save the lost.

Preaching is not just an intellectual exercise. There is a huge emotional component in preaching, not only for the pastors, but also for those who are listening to sermons. Emotion is often ascribed to God moving, God working, or God calling. I have preached in numerous services where it seemed evident God was in our midst. Emotional levels were high. People were weeping. People were coming down the aisle to the altar to pray. It was evident to everyone that God was using my sermon to bring repentance, renewal, and revival.

Any cursory reading about the First and Second Great Awakenings will reveal that emotions played a huge part in the success of these campaigns. The Evangelical movement can trace its lineage, to some degree, back to revivalist machinations of the 18th and 19th centuries. Emotions have always played a monumental part in any significant move of God (as revivals, awakenings, and movements are called). This should not be surprising since we are, by nature, emotional beings.

What we have here is a perfect storm. A supernatural God, a supernatural book, a God-called, church-ordained pastor, and a congregation of emotional human beings. If the pastor is good at his craft, he knows how to use all of these things to his advantage. The pastor is not necessarily manipulating the emotions of the congregation on purpose. Most pastors grew up in the church. By the time they start preaching they have sat in countless church services and heard hundreds of sermons. Their understanding of how to preach is shaped by the church environment and religious culture they grew up in.

The longer a pastor is in the ministry the more he is keenly aware of what “works.” He becomes more discerning about what his congregation “needs.” What “works” is coupled with what the congregation “needs” and the result is often described by parishioners as God speaking to their hearts. The fundamental problem here is that it is impossible to know whether the “feeling” a person has is God. The deeply affected person believes it is God, but must accept such a claim by faith.

A commenter on a different post wrote:

I don’t believe in Jesus because of arguments for the trustworthiness of the Bible. I believe in Him because I have a relationship with Him-I have heard His voice and I feel His presence. And I am aware that sounds vague and illogical, but I also know that no one can invalidate my experience.

This comment goes to the heart of the difficulty in trying to present an alternative viewpoint to Christians. They know what they have experienced. They were there when Jesus saved them, and they know that their experiences are “real.” It is almost impossible to move people away from their subjective experiences. Rarely do objectivity and facts win a battle against religious subjectivity and faith.

As I look back on the 25 years I spent in the ministry, I have come to see that I used my sermons to manipulate people (and I am not necessarily using the word manipulate in a negative sense). Spend enough time with a group of people and you will learn their strengths and weaknesses. Eat meals with them, pray with them, visit in their homes, and educate their children, and you will certainly know a lot about the people you pastor. With this knowledge at hand, sermons can be crafted to help the congregation (sermons are never preached in a vacuüm). It should come as no surprise, then, that people think that the pastor is preaching right at/to them. This is not God speaking to the particular parishioner as much as it is a human being who has good discernment skills, skills finely tuned by interacting with thousands of people over the course of many years.

Do I think God used me to speak to people? At the time I did. However, I now know that what people were responding to was a well-crafted sermon preached by a sincere man who knew the needs of his congregation. I knew the power of emotions and used them to God’s my advantage. I heard preacher after preacher do the same thing. I was not an anomaly. I was a young man raised in an environment that put a premium on powerful, emotional preaching.  I was encouraged to study the great preachers of the faith, men like Charles Spurgeon, DL Moody, Billy Sunday, John Wesley and Charles Finney. When I became a Calvinist, I studied the great Calvinist preachers, men like Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd Jones, George Whitefield, and Rolfe Barnard. The way I preached was a result of the environment I grew up in and the men I considered my role models.

Because of the power ascribed to sermons, there is a real danger of abuse. The sincere pastor can quickly turn into a huckster who desires to advance his own agenda. Even well-meaning pastors can do this. Have problems in the church? Have people upset with a decision you made? Preach on pastoral authority. Offerings down? Preach on tithing. Want a raise? Preach on the laborer being worthy of his hire or an elder being worthy of double the salary. Better yet, get an evangelist to come in and preach on these things. That way you can blame the evangelist if people are upset about the sermon subject matter.

Liberal or mainline pastors find discussions like this quite amusing. For the most part, they see the ministry as a profession, one used by God, but not in the way Evangelicals think it is.  Most liberal/mainline pastors have far more education than their Evangelical counterparts. And their sermons often reflect it: dry, boring, meaningless exercises in intellectual nothingness. What happened to their passion, their emotions? Preaching without emotion and passion is not worth listening to. A preacher ought to give 100% of himself to the sermon. I can admire a pastor’s passion without necessarily agreeing with his message. I don’t believe God exists, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a well-crafted, passionately-delivered sermon.

From 2002 through 2008, my wife and I visited over a hundred churches. Most of the sermons we heard were forgettable, and sadly a lot of them were downright awful. We did hear a few pastors who took their calling seriously. It was evident that they worked very hard to deliver a good sermon. Regardless of what I believe about Christianity, I admire any person who works hard at his craft. I may despise the message, but I can still appreciate the way the messenger goes about his work.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Preaching: The Ruminations of a Former Evangelical Pastor — Part One

bruce gerencser 2002
Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Part One of a Two-Part Series (part two)

For many Evangelical church attendees, the manner in which the pastor gets his sermons has an aura of wonder about it. How does he, week after week, come up with sermons that speak directly to them? Where do these sermons come from? How are they prepared? In this two-part series, I will focus on pastors and their preaching.

I have little respect for lazy-ass preachers who rarely, if ever, spend any time crafting their own sermons. Week after week they rip off the work of others and pass it off as their own. They scour the Internet looking for sermons to preach. They subscribe to sermon clubs that provide them with new sermon material. They buy sermon outline books or lectionaries and use them to prepare sermons that they then pass off as their own; anything that allows them more time for schmoozing with their fellow clergymen at the local golf course or diner. In any other profession, they would be considered thieves.

Let me give a few examples of what I’m talking about.

In 2005, my family and I visited for a number of weeks at a local nondenominational church. On our second visit, I began to sense something wasn’t right about the pastor’s sermons. He quoted a lot of Scripture, but his quotations were from various Bible translations. Lots of them. I thought “hmm . . . there’s something about this that seems familiar.” I went home and consulted the mind of God (aka the Google) and my suspicions were quickly confirmed. The pastor was ripping off the sermons of Rick Warren and preaching them as his own, word for word. We visited this church half a dozen times and the pastor never preached an original sermon of his own. Ironically, one Sunday the pastor asked for testimonies from congregants and several people stood up and praised Jesus for how wonderful the pastor’s sermons were. I thought “If they only knew.”

For several years, on an off-and-on basis, we visited the local Episcopal church. When the parish priest was there the sermons, as a rule, were excellent. However, there were many Sundays when the priest was absent, and at those times the sermons ranged from mediocre to absolutely dreadful. The worst ones were the sermons that were taken from books, magazines, or lectionaries and read to the congregation (These sermons reminded me of some of the worthless college classes I took where the professor read the textbook to us). The justification for reading the sermon was “Hey, it is better than nothing.” No, it wasn’t.

In 1984 I invited a pastor I knew come to the church I was pastoring to hold a week of special meetings. He asked me what I wanted him to preach. He then proceeded to list off numerous sermons of other preachers which he had memorized — famous sermons by noted preachers. I was shocked by his willingness to rip off the sermons of others and pass them off as his own. I told him I would rather he preach his own material. Little did I know, at the time, that using sermons preached by others was a common practice.

Many pastors recycle their sermons. The average Baptist pastor changes churches every 2-3 years. No need to craft new sermons, just reuse the sermons you preached before. If they worked well in Ohio, surely they will work well in Texas, right? I remember one well-known evangelist named Phil Shuler who kept long silver cases filled with recordings of his previous sermons. After collecting his sermons for many years, he would just pick a recording to re-familiarize himself with the sermon and then preach it that night. Rarely did he preach new material.

One more example: in the mid-1980s, I managed a Christian bookstore in Newark, Ohio for Bill and Peggie Beard. Over the course of my employment, I came into contact with dozens of pastors from a variety of denominations. I was astounded by how many pastors bought sermon outline books or lectionaries. I was beginning to wonder if any preacher crafted his own sermons!

Now, I don’t necessarily blame a pastor for using bought sermon outlines or reading verbatim from a lectionary. Truth is, there are a lot of pastors who lack good communication skills and, in many cases, they received little training in proper sermon construction and delivery. I think some pastors know they suck at preaching, so they do what they can to limit their suckiness.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution started by Tom Malone in 1954. Every preacher-in-training was required to take speech and homiletics. The speech class was pretty much a waste of time, and very little of the instruction transferred over to the art of preaching a sermon. In fact, my homiletics teacher, Levi Corey — a world-class preacher — told the class on day one that we needed to forget everything we were taught in speech class.  According to him, preaching a sermon was all about the text and the pastor’s ability to deliver it passionately. Outlines and illustrations were essential to successfully delivering a sermon.

Years ago, I was acquainted with a pastor who had horrible preaching skills. He was a Bible college graduate, yet he didn’t even know how to make a sermon outline. I tried to show him how to make a basic outline, but he had a hard time understanding the process. His approach was quite simple: read the text, chase rabbits, bring it back to Jesus, pray, and give an altar call. I never heard this man preach a coherent sermon. While he had great people skills, his preaching, at every point, was lacking.

There are a lot of preachers like the man mentioned above. Poorly trained or lacking the requisite skills necessary to effectively communicate with others through a well-preached sermon, they go from church to church killing everything they touch. They may have great people skills, but if they can’t preach passionately and effectively, they often do more harm than good.

Far too many men become preachers because someone told them that their gift of gab made them great candidates for the ministry. The truth is, running on at the mouth is not a gift at all, especially in the pastorate. All of us have heard those sermons that drone on and on and on. Don’t blame the preacher. Blame the person who told him he would make a great pulpiteer.

By the way, what I have said here also applies to other teaching-related jobs in the church such as Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or bible-study leader. I’ve had to sit through more aimless, heresy-ridden, ill-prepared Sunday School lessons than I care to remember. One man, my high school Sunday school teacher, told me that he studied his lesson on Saturday night while he was sitting in the bathtub. As this man’s class on Sundays proved, a lack of preparation yields a barren crop.

Here’s my point: the ability to preach and teach is a gift (not in a supernatural sense) just like the ability to do virtually anything else people do. Each of us has things we do that come easily to us. We enjoy it. And if we are smart, we will further develop the things we enjoy. Far too many people spend their lifetime trying to become things they will never be good at. It’s less than honest to tell everyone they can be anything they want to be. The sky is not the limit, and, no, not everyone can become President. A lot of men enter the ministry lacking the requisite skills necessary to be a good preacher. They simply are in the wrong profession, but since they believe GOD called them to the ministry, they refuse to admit that maybe they might be better off doing something else.

Many pastors would have you believe that their sermons come directly from God. I know I believed this for many years. I was certain that God was leading and directing me to preach on a particular Biblical text. I believed that God was guiding me through the delivery of the sermon all the way to the altar call. I was simply God’s mouthpiece.

As I look back over the thousands of God-inspired sermons I preached, I can now see who it was that was guiding me. It wasn’t God. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was me. Through my own thought processes, I decided what the church needed to hear. Sometimes I had an agenda that I wanted to advance and what better way to do so than to couch my agenda in “Thus saith the Lord” terms.

Preaching came easy for me. I loved the intellectual aspect of preparing the sermon. I loved to read and study, preparing my mind for delivering the sermon. I devoted hours of study to virtually every sermon I preached (though I also was quite comfortable preaching extemporaneously). While most preachers won’t admit it, lest they give the impression that they are taking praise and glory away from God, they love the attention that preaching brings their way. As a person who has struggled with self-esteem issues his entire life, I found the love, respect, and adoration showered on me by parishioners quite affirming.

Remembering my preaching is one of the things that makes my defection from the Christian faith so troubling for many former parishioners. As Baptists, we believed once saved, always saved (eternal security, perseverance of the saints). This means that once people put their faith and trust in Jesus they can never, ever lose their salvation. People are left, then, with either believing I am still a Christian or that I never was. Neither choice sits well with them, especially for those who heard me preach and viewed me as someone who played an important part in their spiritual formation.

I’ve been criticized for a lot of things I did as a pastor, and rightly so. I was arrogant, narrow-minded, and rarely put up with dissent. I ran off a lot of good people. That said, few people have ever criticized my preaching. For the most part, the people I pastored found my sermons well crafted, worth listening to, and, at times, quite humorous and entertaining.

Hundreds and hundreds of people made public professions of faith as a result of my sermons. Lives were changed and people were delivered from sins. If I was never saved, what does that say about all the fruit I gathered over the course of 25 years in the ministry? If by their fruits ye shall know them, surely I proved that I was a great fruit grower?

I have no doubt that I could, even as an atheist, go to a church and preach a sermon that everyone would find inspirational and entertaining. I’m sure those listening to me would think God was speaking through me or using me to touch their hearts. What if I then told them I was an atheist? How would they explain their response to my oratorical gem?

Effective preaching requires passion and charisma.  Two of our recent presidents are good examples of what I mean here. Forget the party affiliation or platform for a moment. Who would you rather listen to giving a stump speech? Barack Obama or George W Bush?

Good preaching moves people to go beyond themselves. Good preaching inspires and motivates. A good example of this is Martin Luther King, Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. And this is why preachers who excel at their craft are so dangerous. The potential for abuse and manipulation is great. Far too often, parishioners check their minds at the church door. When the winsome, charismatic pastor preaches they soak up his words like a sponge. If they are not careful and cognizant of the potential for manipulation they can easily be led astray. (Please see Should a Christian Preacher Turned Atheist Stop Using His Public Speaking Skills?)

I still like hearing a well-crafted sermon. I respect people who attempt to excel at what they do. Sadly, I have heard more sorry, pathetic, poorly-crafted, rabbit-trail sermons than any one person should ever have to listen to. I feel sad for church members who have to sit under this kind of preaching week after week. In fact, they sit under it long enough that they begin to think that their preacher’s pathetic sermons are the norm.

Why I am being so hard of preachers? Why should I, a card-carrying atheist, give a rat’s ass over the quality of sermons in the Christian church?

First, preaching is what I did for many years and I still like to talk about it.

Second, I think people should do what they do well. I hate half-assed wherever I find it, whether it be in the pulpit or the local fast-food restaurant.

Third, I realize that the world is always going to be predominantly religious. If that is so, I think people of faith should have leaders that thoughtfully and honestly teach them the beliefs of their particular religions. They deserve to have leaders who are passionate about what they do. Sadly, in many denominations, the higher a man rises in the denominational hierarchy the more worthless he becomes. Does anyone consider any of the popes a great orator?

I know this post is pretty pointed. I am of the general opinion that the United States is awash in mediocrity. It seems everything has been turned into an audition for American Idol or America’s Got Talent. People are told that they can be whatever they want to be, so they become what they want to be and not what they ought to be. Result? School teachers who can’t teach. Retail workers without basic people skills. And yes, preachers who can’t preach.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

UPDATED: Black Collar Crime: Muslim Tutor Muhammad Hasan Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Sexually Abusing Two Girls

muhammad hasan

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.

In 2018, Muhammad Hasan, a Muslim business owner who offered private Quran instruction, was accused of sexually abusing two female students.

The Oregonian reported at the time:

Investigators have arrested a man who’s accused of abusing two girls who were clients of his religious instruction business, Tigard police say.

Muhammad L. Hasan ran AICQ (American Islamic Center for the Holy Quran), a Tigard business that offered private Quran instruction, the city’s police department said in a news release. He was indicted last week and arrested Wednesday.

Hasan’s indictment lists six counts of first-degree sex abuse and a single count of third-degree sex abuse. He’s accused of kissing one of the girls on multiple occasions and touching another’s breast or breasts, according to the document.

In January 2019, Hasan pleaded guilty to two child sex abuse charges involving two girls who were his students. One was 17 years old, the other was 9 years old. Hasan was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

KGW-8 reported:

A man who taught children about the Quran at his private business in Tigard is going to prison for four years after pleading guilty to sex abuse charges.

Last month, Muhammad Hasan pleaded guilty to two child sex abuse charges involving two girls who were his students. One was 17 years old, the other was 9 years old.

Megan Johnson, senior deputy district attorney for Washington County, said the 17-year-old felt “shocked, confused, guilty, stuck, and frozen” during the abuse. Before the investigation, the two girls did not know about what was happening to the other. Both studied Quran memorization with Hasan for a year or two at his business, the American Islamic Center for the Holy Quran (AICQ). The abuse occurred in Hasan’s office in 2016.

Tigard police heard about the incidents involving both girls around the same time in 2017 and began investigating.

Johnson said through the course of the investigation, detectives found similar reports against Hasan in Vancouver, Washington. Detectives were met with road blocks. The situation had been handled within the community. Hasan was no longer teaching in the Vancouver Muslim community, and it seemed no one wanted to officially go on the record to make a report.

Now, investigators are worried that there could be more victims.

Johnson said this particular child sex abuse case is the most difficult one she, her office, and the Tigard Police Department have encountered. People have been hesitant to speak out about such a well-loved person.

But on Friday, Judge Theodore Sims handed down Hasan’s sentence: four years in prison. He is now a registered sex offender for life. Hasan is not allowed to have contact with any minors, with the exception of his 16-year-old daughter.

Throughout his sentencing, Hasan sat stoic with an interpreter beside him.

“This is a sad case for so, so, many reasons,” said Johnson as she began speaking in court.

“The pain [the victims] have suffered at his hands is remarkable,” she said.

The pain is from both the abuse, but also the violation of trust. Hasan was adored and trusted in the community.

“That enabled you to victimize some kids and got you into a position of trust in the community, which you violated,” said Judge Sims told Hasan.

Hasan’s lawyer, in court, asked the judge to factor in the good he has done in the community in trying to bridge the gap between Muslims and people of different faiths. Hasan briefly spoke through his interpreter.

He said he would make his best effort to be a good citizen and serve the community when he is released from jail. Hasan touched on his religious goals, that people of different faiths live in harmony.

He also requested that he serve out his time in the Washington County Jail, and if he had to go to prison, he wanted to have his own cell.

Johnson said it’s unlikely he’ll get what he wants. At no time did Hasan apologize.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Evangelical Beliefs

daniel dennett quote

One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I, at one time, believed things that I now know to be untrue. These fallacious beliefs had a deleterious effect on not only my life, but the lives of my wife, and the people who called me pastor. While everyone concerned would agree that we have escaped the consequences of my beliefs relatively unharmed, I can’t help but think how life might have been different had I not fallen for the greatest con game of all time: Evangelical Christianity.

On one hand, if I had not been raised in the Evangelical church nor attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college, I never would have met my wife. Perhaps, in an alternate timeline, I might have met a woman with the same beauty, charm, and kindness as Polly. Perhaps, I say. I remember another woman I dated before Polly. I was madly in love with her, yet, as I look back on our torrid, tumultuous relationship, I know that had we married, we likely would have killed each other — literally. Choosing a different path doesn’t necessarily bring a better outcome. The old adage isn’t always true: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This I know for sure: I spent most of my life believing things that are not true. And not just believing these things, but putting them into practice. It’s one thing to believe the Christian God exists, but it is a far different thing, based on that belief, to devote one’s life to serving and worshiping this God. And not just serving him on Sunday, the day when he demands fealty from his followers, but as a devoted slave, I served this God day and night; day after day, year after year, for almost 50 years. This God, found only within the pages of an ancient religious text, promised that he would care for me in this life, and after death, he would grant me eternal life in a glorious pain-free Heaven.

Daniel Dennett is right: There’s no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to folly. Indeed, a life of folly. While I can, if given sufficient libations, cry over the spilled milk of my life, I choose, instead, to use my past life as a soldier for Jesus as a cautionary warning to all who dare to follow in my steps. I stand along the road of life waving my arms, hoping to turn sincere followers of this God away from the bridge-less chasm that awaits on the road ahead. Take another path, I passionately warn. Sadly, most of this God’s slaves will ignore my warnings, thinking that I am the one who is deceived and in need of saving.

There are other people similar to myself, who, due to their blind devotion to religious belief, squandered the best years of their lives. How can we not regret giving the years when we were strong, healthy, and full of life, to a mythical deity? And worse yet, how can we not regret giving our time, talent, and (lots of) money to the human-built religious machine that drives over all who dare to get in its way?

Like other survivors of the Evangelical con, I have made an uneasy peace with my past. I have many regrets over how I spent most of my adult life. I know there’s nothing I can do about the past. I choose to learn from my past experiences, using them to fuel my writing, in the hope that I can, in some small way, play a part in bringing Evangelicalism to an ignominious end. While I will not live long enough to see its demise, I hope that one day one of my descendants will be the person who holds a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face and finally smothers him to death.

What follows is Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs. Most former Evangelicals will certainly find this list to be quite similar to theirs.

  1. The Bible is a God-inspired text, inerrant and infallible
  2. The universe was created in six twenty four hour days and is 6,024 years
  3. God talks to me
  4. The story of the supernatural Jesus — all of it
  5. There is an unseen Frank Peretti-like spiritual dimension inhabited by angels and demons
  6. There is a shadow government, a Satan influenced cabal that runs the world
  7. Demons possess people and inanimate objects such as toys
  8. Satan uses certain styles of music to control the masses
  9. Mental illness is caused by sin
  10. Government schools destroy the minds of students

My Evangelical journey began and ended with the Bible. My devotion to God was fueled by the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired text. This text was inerrant and infallible, and the God who wrote it meant for me to obey its commands and teachings.  Not only did this God expect me to obey, he also commanded me to teach others to do the same. And so I did. Thousands of people sat under the sound of my voice, hearing me declare that loving, serving, and worshiping the Evangelical God was the way to peace, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

Everything in my life flowed from my commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. As Baptists are fond of saying: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me!  My journey out of Evangelicalism was complete when I came to realize that what I once believed about the Bible was not true; that my worldview was built upon an irrational, intellectually lacking foundation. Once the Bible lost its magical power over me, other beliefs, like the ones mentioned above, quickly unraveled. When my mind was finally unfettered by the Evangelical delusion, I was then free to seek truth wherever it may be found. No longer was I walled in by a set of beliefs that forced me to embrace irrationality. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box) And much like most Evangelicals-turned-atheists/agnostics, I am grateful that skepticism, reason, and knowledge have set me free.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser