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The Pastor as Gatekeeper and Why Evangelical Churches Continue to be Rocked with Scandals

gatekeeper

As the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical churches have just as big of a problem with sexual abuse, rape, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct as Catholic churches do. Thanks to the internet and increasing awareness of sexual abuse, people are now more willing to speak out, and if warranted, report their assaults to law enforcement. Some victims are turning to civil courts to extract justice from their abusers and those who facilitated a climate where sexual predators could prey with impunity. Churches and their leaders are learning that it is quite expensive to ignore or cover up allegations of sexual impropriety.

I am convinced that we have yet to see the full depth and breadth of criminal conduct that has gone on behind the closed doors of countless Evangelical churches. As I think about the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, including twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, I am increasingly grieved over how little churches and pastors did to address allegations of sexual misconduct. Victims were routinely disbelieved or accused of lying. Why Deacon Bob would never do such a thing, Sally. Why are you lying? Sometimes, victims were believed but told to forgive their abusers. Jesus forgave you, Sally. Shouldn’t you forgive Pastor Billy Bob? Other times, predators were run out of the church, and told never to come back. He’s gone now, Sally. It is time to move on. That is what Jesus would want you to do. What rarely, if ever, happened was the arrest and prosecution of offending pastors, youth pastors, evangelists, missionaries, deacons, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, and congregants.

I can only remember one instance where a predator was accused, arrested, and convicted of his crime, and this only happened after he was caught a second time sexually assaulting a teen boy. Even then, after “justice” was served, he joined up with a new Evangelical church and is “faithfully” serving Jesus. As a pastor, I regularly attended pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was not uncommon to hear whispers and stories about this or that pastor being accused of sexual misconduct. I would hear stories about pastor so-and-so abruptly leaving his church, only to find out later that he was caught at a motel with a church teenager or was fucking the choir director’s wife. One pastor was having sex with his secretary in his church office every Saturday while devoted members were out knocking on doors, inviting people to come to church and hear their “godly” on-fire pastor preach.  He was run out of the church, but later surfaced, as Jack Hyles’ son David did, in another community busily “serving” Jesus.

Years ago, a concerned congregant told me that an unmarried man who had been attending our church was inviting young boys to spend the weekend with him on his farm. I investigated the issue and concluded that the man was probably a pedophile. What did I do? I ran the guy out of the church. I angrily told him that I knew exactly what he was. I also called the pastor of another Evangelical church the man attended and told him about the allegations. He agreed that the man, who is now dead, was likely a pedophile. Both of us thought we had done our duty by protecting church children from a predator. However, neither of us reported it to law enforcement, knowing that doing so would embroil our churches in controversy and harm the reputation and “testimony” of our respective churches. I now know that I did not do all I could have and should have done.

There were other instances of allegations of sexual misconduct or physical abuse, where I reported matters to the appropriate authorities. Later in my ministerial career, a man confessed to me that he had viciously murdered his girlfriend. I immediately called the police, who I knew were looking for him, and he was arrested. The man is now serving a life sentence in an Ohio penitentiary. Early in my ministerial career, my father-in-law, with whom I worked as assistant pastor, came to me and told me that a congregant had confessed to shaking his infant baby to death. At the time, the cause of death had been attributed to SIDS. I told my father-in-law that he should immediately report the crime to the police. He did, and the man was arrested and convicted of manslaughter.

Over my ministerial career, I became aware of child abuse on several occasions. One church member beat his children with a 2×4. One man who rode our church bus with his children, chained them to a radiator when they disobeyed. Another bus family allowed their young children to watch porn in the mornings while they slept in. I could go on and on . . . . Often, I reported these things to law enforcement or Jobs and Family Services (JFS) Other times, I tried to work my pastor magic. In retrospect, I should have reported every abuse report to the proper authorities.

child sexual abuseThe common thread running through the anecdotal stories above and current allegations/crimes is that often pastors serve as gatekeepers for their respective churches. Congregants are encouraged to bring ALL reports of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior to their pastor. It is up to the pastor, then, to decide whether the authorities should be called. Keep in mind, pastors are not lawyers, nor do they have investigatory authority and skills as law enforcement professionals do. Unfortunately, pastors are often treated as a jack-of-all-trades. Most Evangelical pastors are not qualified to provide competent, professional counseling to congregants, yet, countless congregants are counseled by pastors who know little more than to quote Bible verses. Pastors are often considered vast repositories of wisdom and advice. Few congregants ponder whether their trust is misplaced. When pastors hear of accusations that could tear their church asunder, their natural inclination is to protect their churches’ reputations, thinking that in doing so they are protecting God.

Pastors wrongly think that they and their churches are indispensable parts of their local communities. Why, if scandal rocked the church, it would ruin our “testimony,” pastors think. There are souls to be saved and chicken dinners to be served. And just like that, pastors rationalize keeping wraps on all sorts of sexual misconduct, including the sexual and physical abuse of children. Where, oh where, are pastors who are willing to sacrifice everything to stand alongside victims of abuse? Is it not better for a church to close its doors than for it to silently stand silently by while sexual crime goes unpunished? No pastor, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or congregant should be above the law. Yes, making allegations public can and will cause harm to churches and the families of abusers. But, the only way to stamp out sexual abuse in churches is for people in the know to be willing to report allegations to law enforcement and child protective services.

It is time for churches to take the gate keys away from pastors and other church leaders. It is time for congregants to be instructed to take their allegations to law enforcement and let them determine whether crimes have been committed. The duties of pastors are simple: preach, teach, and eat chicken and pie at potlucks. When pastors hear whispers of sexual misconduct that could be criminal in nature, they should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200. These men of God should IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone and call law enforcement (and if a police officer attends the church, he should NOT be the person to whom the alleged crimes are reported). Pastors shouldn’t investigate, call a board meeting, accuse the perpetrator, or pray about it. All of these things can wait until law enforcement has been contacted. The only people who matter are the victims. Yes, an allegation doesn’t equal guilt, but it not up to pastors and other church leaders to determine guilt; that’s for police and prosecutors to do.

Local prosecutors can help prod pastors and churches along by prosecuting them if they fail to report alleged sexual abuse. Many states consider pastors and church leaders mandatory reporters, who are REQUIRED to immediately report sexual abuse allegations; not investigate and then report, not pray and then report, not get your ducks in a row and then report; not huddle with the church board and then report. Throwing a few pastors in jail for not reporting might help other pastors “see the light” concerning sexual abuse.

The days of covering up allegations of sexual abuse are over. Pastors and churches who ignore this, do so at their own peril. From jail time to million-dollar awards, pastors and churches are learning that not only did Jesus take a dim view of those who harm children, so do those of us who believe that children deserve protection from those who dare to prey on them in the name of God.

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

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Local Attorney Calls Me a Noted Flaming Liberal and I Feel Warm All Over

facebook and twitter

Several years ago, I posted a letter I wrote to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News about black Defiance College football players kneeling for the National Anthem to social media.

Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Editor,

I write to lend my support to the Defiance College football players who have knelt during the playing of the national anthem. I commend them for their courage, knowing that most local residents oppose their actions. Their continued protest has brought calls for discipline, including expulsion from school. I commend college administrators and coaches for not bowing to public pressure to silence protest. These students, along with their counterparts in professional sports, need to be heard. Their protests have nothing to do with respect for the military or flag.

What lies behind their kneeling is inequality, injustice, and racism. While these issues might seem to locals to be the problems of urban areas, the truth is that we denizens of rural Northwest Ohio have our own problems related to these things. I recently participated in a forum discussion on racism in Northwest Ohio. Having lived most of my sixty years of life in this area, I can say with great certainty that we are not immune from charges of racism and injustice. We may hide it better, covering it with white, middle-class Christian respectability, but it exists, nonetheless.

Years ago, my family and I walked into a church towards the end of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly white woman — a pillar of the church. She was telling the class that her grandson was not getting playing time on the college football team because blacks got all the playing time. She reminded me of a retired white school teacher I knew when I lived in Southeast Ohio. At the time, we had a black foster daughter. I had just started a new church in the area, and we were looking for a house to rent. This school teacher had a house available, so we agreed to rent it. When it came time to pick up the keys, she told us she decided to rent to someone else. We later learned that she said she wasn’t going to have a ni***r living in her house.

These stories are apt reminders of what lies underneath our country respectability. It is time we quit wrapping ourselves in the flag, pretending that racism, inequality, and injustice doesn’t exist. Our flag and anthem represent many things, but for many Americans, they represent oppression and denial of human rights; and it is for these reasons, among others, that players kneel.

Bruce Gerencser

Ney, Ohio

Many white — we’re not racists — locals have been in an uproar over the players not kneeling. In their minds, the players are disrespecting veterans and the flag — regurgitating Donald Trump’s lie. Never mind that the players say their protest is about inequality, injustice, and racism — locals know better. The faux outrage has reached hysterical levels on social media — especially on two local Facebook groups.

As is my custom, not wanting to waste my time trying to change the hearts and minds of people who already think they know everything, I stayed out of the discussions. One discussion, however, was so egregious that I decided to say my piece. Here are several screenshots of my short interaction with a local lawyer. Enjoy!

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Just another day in rural, white, Christian, Trumpist northwest Ohio

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

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Missing Heaven by Eighteen Inches

eighteen inches head heart

Most Evangelical Christians believe humans are tripartite beings comprised of body, soul, and spirit. Some Evangelicals believe humans are bipartite beings — body and soul. According to the doctrines once delivered to the saints by Billy Graham, every human has an eternal soul. No one has ever seen a soul, but that doesn’t stop Evangelicals from asserting that it exists. Evangelicals believe in all sorts of fanciful, mythical things:

  • Jesus’ mother was a virgin whom God impregnated.
  • Jesus died and resurrected from the dead three days later.
  • Jesus healed blindness with dirt and spit.
  • Jesus turned water into wine.
  • Jesus walked through walls and walked undetected through a crowd.
  • Jesus walked on water.
  • Jesus raised people from the dead.

These are just a few of the myths Evangelicals believe are true, so it is not a stretch of their imagination to believe that humans have souls. Ask an Evangelical WHERE their soul resides, he or she will most likely point to their heart. One the favorite church hymns of my youth was the song He Lives! The first verse and chorus go like this:

I serve a risen Saviour, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.

He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me
along life’s narrow way.
He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.

You ask me [the Christian] how I KNOW He [Jesus] lives? He lives within my heart.

It is the soul, then, that must be saved. It is the soul that goes to Heaven after death, awaiting the day when it is united with a new body. Evangelical preachers implore congregants to be soulwinners. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1970s. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution that prided itself in training soulwinners to reach sinners with the gospel. Students were required to attend chapel daily. One song that was frequently sung during chapel went like this:

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry

“Souls for Jesus!” we’ll fight until we die

We never will give in while souls are lost in sin

“Souls for Jesus!” is our battle cry

Students fanned out over the Pontiac-Detroit area looking for souls in need of saving. Each week, students were required to report how many souls they won to Jesus. Many students quickly learned the art of speaking “evangelistically” — inflating the number of notches on the grips of their gospel guns. After graduation from Midwestern, many students started new churches or pastored established churches. Their goal remained the same as it was in college — win souls. I pastored a church in Southeast Ohio that had over six hundred souls saved over an eleven-year period. Children were bused to the church so trained soulwinners could share the gospel with them and pressure them to get saved. While this was going on in the church annex, I was busy preaching the gospel to teens and adults in the church sanctuary. A “good” Sunday was defined by the number of souls saved. A “bad” Sunday was when no one walked the aisle to be saved.

Most Evangelicals think that the soul is separate from the mind. Long-time readers have witnessed countless zealots tell me that I was never a Christian; that I had HEAD knowledge, not HEART knowledge; HEAD salvation, not a HEART salvation. The head (mind) is where the intellect resides. According to these zealots, I had an intellectual understanding of Jesus, but not a heart understanding. When asked how the heart “thinks” apart from the mind, Evangelical eyes glaze over, revealing that they have no idea about how someone can have head knowledge but not heart knowledge of Jesus. They just know it is true because their preachers say it is. Religious faith will do that to people – it results in them believing things that would be considered signs of mental disturbance in any other setting.

People raised in Evangelical churches have likely heard a sermon or two (or five hundred) on people missing Heaven by eighteen inches. Eighteen inches is the distance between the mind (intellect) and the heart (where the soul resides). Paul Empet explains it this way:

Can anyone actually get that close to heaven and yet hear the Lord say, “I never knew you: depart from Me”?

However, this will be the terrible fate of many professing Christians in our churches today. Some of these people are even in responsible positions in the church, but they only have a “head” or intellectual-acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. Tragically enough, even teachers, preachers, and religious workers are not exempt from the possibility of the chilling indictment above.

The distance between the head and the heart is 18 inches. Unfortunately, a “head” knowledge of Jesus Christ—fully knowing and giving mental assent to the plan of salvation…without a “heart” acceptance that brings the personal relationship that the Bible demands—avails nothing to anyone.

Listen to Paul’s heart cry concerning Israel as he spoke under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” He was speaking about misdirected efforts, energies expended in the strength of the flesh but not under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The lack of power today in many of our churches, as well as the lack of power today in the lives on many professing Christians, can be laid directly to this.

It is only as we see ourselves in the mirror of God’s Word as without excuse and without hope, utterly lost and undone, that the truth of the Scriptures convicts us, for the bible clearly reveals that this is how God sees us.

Then, when the wonderful truth of the Gospel brings us to recognition of our own sinfulness, and in true repentance we cry out to God asking forgiveness and help, asking Him to come into our hearts, not our heads, we experience the new birth.

Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” The Bible also tells us that “He that hath the Son hath [eternal] life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”

Also, the Bible promises “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Christ wants your heart, not just your head because “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

It is vitally important that you make sure it is not just head knowledge and mental assent you have given to Jesus Christ. He needs your complete trust so that you can be truly born again.

Eighteen inches can mean eternity with Christ or an eternity without Christ. Are you sure of your personal relationship to Him? Why not settle the question in your heart once for all right now?

Bruce, this is nonsense, nothing more religious gobbledygook. Yes, it is, but millions and millions of Americans believe this to be true. They KNOW in their heart of hearts that Jesus is their Savior and the Holy Ghost lives inside of them — I assume residing in the same place as the soul. These born-again Christians have what is called a “know-so salvation.” The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:12 ” for I know whom I have believed” Evangelicals are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have souls and that their souls have been “saved” by Jesus. And they have a tape measure to prove it.

Do you remember hearing sermons about head versus heart knowledge/salvation? Please share what’s on your heart — sorry I couldn’t help myself — in the comment section. Perhaps someone can answer this for me: if an Evangelical has a heart transplant, does he or she have to get saved again? And if an atheist receives a transplanted heart from an Evangelical, does this make him or her a Christian?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: United Methodist Youth Pastor Christopher Reyes Accused of Sending Sexually Explicit Photos to Underage Girl

christopher reyes

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.

Christopher Reyes, a youth pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Marco Island, Florida, stands accused of sending sexually explicit photos to an underage girl.

The Marco Eagle reports:

A former youth pastor at a Marco Island church faces charges involving a three-year period where he asked for nude photos involving a girl.

Police arrested Christopher Jaime Reyes, 26, a youth pastor at Wesley Methodist Church of Marco Island, following an investigation that found he exchanged photos of a sexual nature with an underage victim.

According to police, Reyes solicited nude photographs of the victim and sent her explicit photos of himself. Reyes is also accused of attempting to meet the juvenile on several occasions.

….

He faces charges of “transmission of material harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment” and “soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct using computer services or devices.”

Reyes was employed at the church from 2016-2021.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Death and the Afterlife: Things Evangelical Preachers Say That Aren’t in the Bible 

heaven and hell

One thing Christians have in common with non-believers is the fact that they will someday die. Death is the great equalizer. No matter our wealth and status, or lack thereof, there will come a day when each of us will draw his or her last breath. No second chances, no do-overs. All of us, at one time or the other, have pondered our mortality. The older we get, the more we think about death. As my health continues to decline, I have thought about my end. The last few days, in particular, have been difficult and challenging. I’ve found myself thinking, “do I want to do this anymore”? So much pain, so much nausea, and vomiting, so much fatigue . . . Death becomes, in my mind, a release from suffering.

It should come as no surprise then that most people turn to religion to find answers about death and the possibility of an afterlife. All the major religions of the world teach that there is life after death, be it in a resurrected or reincarnated form. Being the rational creatures we are, we can’t bear thoughts of no longer existing. Countless Evangelicals have asked me, surely you believe that there is SOMETHING after this life? Other Evangelicals have told me that they would have no reason to live if there weren’t life after death.

Sunday after Sunday, tens of millions of Americans gather in church buildings to worship a God that purportedly not only forgives their sins but gives them eternal life in Heaven after they die. If religious belief was only of value in this life and paid out no after-death benefits, I suspect many of the people pledging fealty and devotion to the Christian God on Sundays would instead spend the first day of the week engaging in recreation, working in their yards, or relaxing. Remove sin, fear, judgment, and eternal life from the script and I have no doubt that most churches would find themselves not only without congregants, but without preachers too.

Generally, the orthodox Christian belief about the afterlife goes something like this: each of us dies, physically remains in the grave until Judgment Day, at which time God will bodily resurrect the just and unjust from the dead, judge them, and either send them to God’s eternal kingdom (Heaven) or the Lake of Fire (Hell) for eternity. The former is a blissful place where there is no sin, pain, suffering, or death, whereas the latter is a dark place where its inhabitants face horrific pain and suffering. Both the just (saved) and unjust (lost) will be fitted with new bodies (creations) that never die, and for those cast in the Lake of Fire, their bodies will be able to withstand never-ending torment.

Now, seek out one hundred Evangelicals and ask them about death and the afterlife, and they will tell you something like this: after death, Christians go to Heaven, and non-Christians go to Hell.  Does what I have written here remotely sound like what I wrote in the previous paragraph? Nope. Most Christians believe that the moment after they close their eyes in death, they will awake in Heaven and be in the presence of God. The Bible, supposedly the final authority on all matters pertaining to life, death, and the afterlife, does not teach that Christians go to Heaven the moment they die. Neither does it teach that non-Christians go to Hell immediately after death. Instead, every person who has ever died presently lies rotting in the grave, awaiting the resurrection of the dead.

It’s not so sexy to tell people that their reserved rooms in Heaven and Hell will remain empty until Resurrection Day.  Peter? James? Judas? Moses? David? Abraham? Isaac? Jacob? Adam? Eve? John, Paul, George, and Ringo? Your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles? None of them is or will be in Heaven or Hell until the trumpet of God sounds and Jesus returns to earth to judge the living and the dead.

Yet, every Sunday, Christian preachers remind congregants of what awaits them after death: Heaven for the saved, and Hell for the lost. Unsaved people are implored to get saved lest they die and split Hell wide open. Christians are encouraged to work hard for Jesus and promised great rewards in Heaven if they do so. Preachers tell wonderful stories about Heaven and horrific stories about Hell, reminding people that the sum of life is knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Attend Christian funerals and you will often hear preachers outright lie about the afterlife. I have yet to hear a preacher say that the dearly departed went to Hell. In every instance, preachers found some sliver of faith/belief to hang on to, thus justifying their preaching the subject of their funeral sermon into Heaven. Worse yet, preachers and family members will speak of Granny running around Heaven or Mom, Dad, and Rover looking down from Heaven watching their loved ones. I have heard countless Christians say that some close family member of theirs was “with them” as they did this or that. None of these hopeful ideas is supported by the teachings of the Bible. Granny isn’t running around in Heaven. Her body lies in the grave, awaiting the Resurrection. As nice as it sounds, and the warm, fuzzy feelings such thoughts give, no one is watching us from Pearly Gates.

Of course, as an atheist, I am firmly persuaded that death is the end-all. To misquote Hebrews 9:27And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this . . . nothing. I have one life to live and it is quickly passing by. It seems like yesterday that my wife and I, ages nineteen and twenty-one, were standing at the front of the Newark Baptist Temple altar, reciting our wedding vows to one another. Youthful in body and ready to take on the world, we had no thoughts of growing old. Yet, here we are, soon celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary, and in June I will turn sixty-five. Now our thoughts turn to end-of-life matters: retirement, healthcare, and what to do with the few years we have left.  My older readers know exactly what I am talking about. Who among us hasn’t lain in bed listening to the beat of our heart or the ticking of the clock? We know that each beat and each tick take us one moment closer to our last day among the living.

Bruce, if you don’t think there is life after death, why then did you spend most of this post talking about what Christians believe about death and the afterlife? This post is a plea to preachers to tell people the truth about life after death. First, preachers should tell people that they cannot know for certain whether there is life after death; that all that Christians have to go on is what is written in the Bible; that the belief that people live on after death is solely a matter of faith; that there is no evidence for claims that people live on in eternity after they die. Second, preachers should stop telling people lies about what happens the moment after someone dies. Stop with the whimsical stories about what dead people are doing in Heaven. Tell the truth: Granny lies rotting in the grave until Jesus comes to get her. If preachers are going to tell mythical stories about the afterlife, the least they can do is accurately state what the Bible says on the matter. Of course, doing so might cause people to lose hope, but Christians need to know that there is NOT an immediate payoff after death.

Let me conclude this post with an excerpt from a Time Magazine interview of Christian theologian N.T. Wright:

TIME: At one point you call the common view of heaven a “distortion and serious diminution of Christian hope.”

Wright: It really is. I’ve often heard people say, “I’m going to heaven soon, and I won’t need this stupid body there, thank goodness.’ That’s a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.

TIME: How so? It seems like a typical sentiment.

Wright: There are several important respects in which it’s unsupported by the New Testament. First, the timing. In the Bible we are told that you die, and enter an intermediate state. St. Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else has yet. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will experience a whole new life: not just our soul, but our bodies. And finally, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels say, “Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven.” It says that Christ is coming here, to join together the heavens and the Earth in an act of new creation.

TIME: Is there anything more in the Bible about the period between death and the resurrection of the dead?

Wright: We know that we will be with God and with Christ, resting and being refreshed. Paul writes that it will be conscious, but compared with being bodily alive, it will be like being asleep. The Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish text from about the same time as Jesus, says “the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,” and that seems like a poetic way to put the Christian understanding, as well.

TIME: But it’s not where the real action is, so to speak?

Wright: No. Our culture is very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what I’ve called the life after life after death — in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth. Jesus’ resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will “awake,” be embodied and participate in the renewal. John Polkinghorne, a physicist and a priest, has put it this way: “God will download our software onto his hardware until the time he gives us new hardware to run the software again for ourselves.” That gets to two things nicely: that the period after death is a period when we are in God’s presence but not active in our own bodies, and also that the more important transformation will be when we are again embodied and administering Christ’s kingdom.

Wright: Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are we are all going to heaven. They all say, Jesus is raised, therefore the new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.

TIME: That sounds a lot like… work.

Wright: It’s more exciting than hanging around listening to nice music. In Revelation and Paul’s letters we are told that God’s people will actually be running the new world on God’s behalf. The idea of our participation in the new creation goes back to Genesis, when humans are supposed to be running the Garden and looking after the animals. If you transpose that all the way through, it’s a picture like the one that you get at the end of Revelation.

TIME: And it ties into what you’ve written about this all having a moral dimension.

Wright: Both that, and the idea of bodily resurrection that people deny when they talk about their “souls going to Heaven.” If people think “my physical body doesn’t matter very much,” then who cares what I do with it? And if people think that our world, our cosmos, doesn’t matter much, who cares what we do with that? Much of “traditional” Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won’t be going up there to him, he’ll be coming down here.

TIME: That’s very different from, say, the vision put out in the Left Behind books.

Wright: Yes. If there’s going to be an Armageddon, and we’ll all be in heaven already or raptured up just in time, it really doesn’t matter if you have acid rain or greenhouse gases prior to that. Or, for that matter, whether you bombed civilians in Iraq. All that really matters is saving souls for that disembodied heaven.

TIME: Has anyone you’ve talked to expressed disappointment at the loss of the old view?

Wright: Yes, you might get disappointment in the case where somebody has recently gone through the death of somebody they love and they are wanting simply to be with them. And I’d say that’s understandable. But the end of Revelation describes a marvelous human participation in God’s plan. And in almost all cases, when I’ve explained this to people, there’s a sense of excitement and a sense of, “Why haven’t we been told this before?”

What are some of the other things that Christians say about death, Heaven, and Hell that either aren’t in the Bible or are distorted by preachers? Please share them in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

According to Evangelical Pastor Dax Hughes, Life Without Jesus is Disastrous

life without Jesus

A common trait of Evangelicals is their insistence that life without Jesus is miserable, meaningless, empty, and void of happiness. Now, thanks to Dax Hughes, current or former pastor of Heartland Worship Center — a Southern Baptist congregation — in Paducah, Kentucky, we have a new word to add to the list: disastrousHughes writes:

Life without Christ is disastrous. Check your soul and you will see it is true. We all know this deep down that there is something more for us beyond ourselves and his world.

Hughes asks readers to check their souls. Fine, where is my soul? How can I access it? Is my soul like the check engine light on my car, where, when something is wrong with my automobile, the electronic control module (ECM) trips a code and causes the orange CHECK ENGINE light to appear? If the answer is yes, where is my CHECK SOUL light? Maybe the reason I can’t see it is because my soul is black like my heart.

There is no evidence for the claim that humans have a soul. Evangelicals insist that everyone has some sort of ethereal eternal soul that leaves our body when we die, only to be reunited with our body when our bodies are resurrected so we can stand before God and be judged. According to Hughes, everyone KNOWS deep down — wherever the heaven deep down is — that is there is more for us than the here and now. Sorry Dax, I don’t know any such thing. All I “know” is that life is short and then we die. I have plenty of evidence for this claim of mine. What does Hughes offer up for his claim? Assertion. That’s what Evangelicals do — they assert without proof that their beliefs are infallibly true. Filled with self-righteous certainty, zealots such as Hughes cannot imagine any other truth claim but their own. I know, based on what I can see with my eyes and understand through observation, that humans are born, live, and die. End of story. There is no evidence for the claim that life continues in some other form after death. No one, not even Jesus, has come back from the dead. After thousands of years of people living and dying, it is safe for us to conclude that when people die they stay dead. It is for this reason that I give the following advice on my ABOUT page:

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

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

Hughes goes on to list his top ten reasons life without Jesus is a disaster. My response in indented and italicized.

You need to be perfect to meet God’s standard and you can’t even get close by your own efforts.

There is no God so we need not worry about meeting “God’s standard” — Greek for Hughes’s personal interpretation of the Christian Bible. Humans are infallibly flawed. The best any of us can do is to love others and treat people with kindness, decency, and respect. When we behave badly, we need not seek out a mythical God’s forgiveness. Instead, we should seek out the forgiveness of those we have offended. God and religion are middlemen that complicate relationships.

You waste your whole life pursuing stuff and people that never brings you real joy and peace.

Remember, Hughes thinks life is disastrous without Jesus. Would he listen if I told him that atheists and other non-Christians have joy and peace, along with meaning and purpose? Probably not. Evangelicals are walled off from any worldview but their own. For Evangelicals, life begins and ends with Jesus, the Bible, and faith. Think for a moment about how much of life Evangelicals miss when they narrow their living down to only Jesus matters. Think of all the stuff and people they miss out on because they are busy brown-nosing Jesus. It is Evangelicals who have shallow lives, lives un-lived because of what this or that Bible verse says. In what other realm of life do we think it is okay for a bronze-age religious text to dictate the terms of life? The world would be much better off if the Bible was put on the shelf with other ancient, outdated, irrelevant books. At the very least, Christians should update the Bible so that it is applicable to the 21st century. Evangelicals need to stop trying to convince themselves that the Bible is a timeless book filled with unsearchable riches. I know that this claim is not true because I, unlike many Christians, actually took the time to read and reread the Bible numerous times. I don’t need to read it again to know what it says.

You are trying to find purpose in life without ever connecting with the only one who can give you real purpose. (It is like playing chess without the king on the board.)

*Sigh.* Hughes cannot imagine any other way of looking at the world but his own. If he could, he would notice that the majority of the human race finds meaning and purpose in life without “connecting” with the Christian God. I have no problem with people such as Hughes “connecting” with their God, but it is offensive for them to suggest that the lives of others have no purpose without becoming followers of Jesus and Hughes’ flavor of Christianity. Billions of people are a living testimony to the fact that what Hughes says here is not true. It might be true for him, but most people have no need for Jesus or Christianity. Life is good without God.

Being religious in order to clean up is about as beneficial as putting perfume and nice clothes on a corpse and calling it full of life.

Hughes is attempting to advance the claim that what true Christians have is a relationship not a religion. I hate to break it to Hughes, but Christianity is a religion made up of thousands of sects. Suggesting that Christianity is not a religion is as absurd as playing chess without a king (see Hughes’ illustration above).

Your enemy is stronger than you and can beat you down every time without divine intervention.

Who is this enemy Hughes speaks of? Satan? Carbohydrates? I assume Hughes is speaking of the Devil, another mythical being in Christianity’s panoply of myths. As with the existence of God, there is no evidence for the existence of the Devil. Saying THE BIBLE SAYS is not evidence. If Hughes has evidence for the existence of Lucifer, by all means he should share it. The existence of evil is not proof of Satan’s existence. All its existence proves is that humans are capable of doing bad things — no devil needed.

You were made to bring glory to God and you are trying to give it to someone or something else and it’s making you miserable inside.

I was made through my father and mother having intercourse. An egg united with a sperm and nine months later Bruce was born. If anyone deserves credit for my existence, they do. Mom and Dad are dead, so I can’t thank them for bringing me into this world, but I can spend the rest of life giving credit to whom credit is due. As a humanist, I believe that I should praise, compliment, and thank people who do well. When a server at a restaurant takes care of our dining needs, should we dial up the restaurant’s corporate office and thank them for the great service? Of course not. It is the cook who made our food and the server who brought it to our table who deserve credit for the quality of our dining experience.

Hughes wrongly thinks that non-Christians spend their lives being unhappy and miserable. Perhaps Hughes should spend some time talking with atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians. I think he will find that we are, for the most part, a happy lot. Yes, chronic pain and illness make my body feel miserable, but I choose to embrace and enjoy life despite my pain.

You place all your emphasis on living it up for the 70 years or so on earth and give no emphasis or preparation for the eternity you will have left after this life.

Hughes is correct on this point. I plan on living it up until I die, knowing that this is the only opportunity I will have to do so. If not today, when? I feel sad for Evangelicals who choose to refuse themselves the pleasures of this world in the hope that they will get some sort a divine payoff after they die and enter God’s Trump Tower — Heaven Location®. Of course, dead Evangelicals will not know what they have missed out on. They will, like all of us, die, and that will be the end of the matter. They will have no chance to reflect on an un-lived life. Henry David Thoreau was right when he said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I fear that many Christians will come to the end of life only to find, as Thoreau says, that they have not lived.

You are blind, unaware, ignorant, and deceived and you think you can figure out your meaning on this earth on your own.

To this point, all I can say is that the grand project of humanity is to find meaning and purpose. We need no God or religion to guide us. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes wide and walk forward, embracing the tests and challenges that come our way. If we live long enough, we will most likely learn something about ourselves, others, and this planet we share. My grandchildren marvel over Grandpa knowing so much stuff. Well, I have been walking the path now for almost sixty-five years. I would hope, by now, that I have learned a thing or three. There is much that I do not know, and I will likely run out of life before I figure out the ways of women, but I can humbly say that through hard work and diligence and hell of a lot of reading, I know a bit about this life.

I find it offensive that Hughes suggests that I and my fellow heathens are blind, unaware, ignorant and deceived, all because we reject his anti-human religious beliefs (and we reject Christianity because we have weighed it in the balance and found it wanting).

You will face a terrible judgment by the most powerful judge of all time who has overwhelming proof against you and can give the most devastating punishment and you are willing to take a chance that it will all go in your favor without any real reason to believe so except that you want it to be ok.

Hughes attempts to uses the well-worn trope Pascal’s Wager. Memo to Dax: Never, ever use Pascal’s Wager. It is a lame, dumb, stupid, ignorant, silly, and asinine argument. How can anyone know that Hughes’ deity is the right one? To be safe, shouldn’t we embrace all the religions of the world? Shouldn’t Hughes become a Buddhist, Muslim, and a Catholic just in case the one true God is NOT the Evangelical God? Better safe than sorry, right?

You think you are pretty good compared to most of the world when your wickedness just looks different than yours [sic].

I have no idea what Hughes is saying here. Do I think I am better than some people? Absolutely. Do I think I am better than everyone? Of course not. Believing so would be arrogant, especially since I know quite a few wonderful people — starting with my wife, children, grandchildren, and many of the people I have met through this blog, to name a few. The world is filled is with godless people who just so happen to be kind, loving, and compassionate. Their wonderfulness needs no deity or divine instruction. I would argue that Evangelical belief often makes Christians unkind and unloving, lacking compassion for anyone who is not like them. One need only look at the culture wars and the recent presidential election to see that many Evangelicals are mean, nasty, arrogant, self-righteous, hateful, and vile. What religious group is at the forefront of the war against LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage? What religious group is behind the anti-immigrant hatred that currently permeates our culture? Everywhere I look, I see a religion that is all about power, wealth, and control. If Evangelicalism is all about Jesus, Evangelicals might want to figure out where they left him. Evangelical behavior suggests that Evangelicals practice a do as I say, not as I do religion. As long as Evangelicals continue to wage war on those the Bible calls “the least of these,” it has nothing to offer the American people.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Insanity of the ‘Life Begins at Fertilization’ Movement

aaron wilson

The goal of the pro-life movement is to make ALL abortion illegal. They will not stop their war against women until fertilized eggs receive the same constitutional protections afforded post-birth humans. Using the incremental approach, pro-lifers have successfully made it impossible for women in many states to get an abortion. Some zealots even go so far as to say that birth control should be outlawed. I have no doubt that once the U.S. Supreme Court is at full strength that zygote warriors will attempt to re-litigate Roe v. Wade.

I have written several articles on abortion you might find helpful:

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

25 Questions for Those who say Abortion is Murder

Why it is Impossible to Talk to Pro-Life Zealots About Abortion

Frozen Embryos: If Life Begins at Conception

Tristan Vick also wrote an article for this site on abortion titled, Is Abortion Murder? (A Rationalist’s Take).

Several years ago, The Gospel Coalition — a Fundamentalist, Calvinistic, parachurch group — published an article by Aaron Wilson titled, What Christians Should Know About Embryo Adoption. That’s right, EMBRYO ADOPTION.  Tens of thousands of children need adoptive families, yet people such as Aaron Wilson are focused on rescuing frozen embryos — who are, in their minds, human beings with constitutional rights — from being criminally murdered. Here’s some of what Wilson had to say:

A hallmark of the evangelical church in America is the backing of a pro-life worldview. As such, abortion clinics and the politics that govern them are primary areas of focus in this important cause. However, there’s another front that often gets overlooked in the fight for life: the state of the thousands of children who remain cryogenically frozen as human embryos following in-vitro fertilization cycles.

A growing Christian response to this issue is the life-affirming answer of embryo adoption.

If you haven’t heard of embryo adoption, you’re not alone. Even though thousands of children in the United States could immediately benefit from this act of love, many people—Christians included—remain unaware of this adoptive need.

Because embryo adoption can be confusing, here are six answers to common questions.

1. What is embryo adoption?

Embryo adoption is a way to care for children who, for lack of a better phrase, are “left over” and kept in a cryogenic state following an in-vitro fertilization cycle. Through embryo adoption, an adopting mother gives these children a chance at birth by allowing their embryonic form to be thawed and transferred to her uterus. If one or more implant, the mother then carries and births the child (or children) though she is not genetically related to them. Embryo adoption is often referred to as pre-birth adoption.

2. Isn’t embryo adoption the same thing as in-vitro fertilizatio (IVF)?

No. In many ways, it’s the opposite. In-vitro fertilization creates life as a form of reproductive technology. Embryo adoption is a response to the fact that life has already been created and that it needs a womb to continue developing the way God intended babies to grow.

3. How many embryonic babies exist in cryopreservation?

In the United States alone, a projected 700,000 children exist as frozen embryos. Of these, an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 are available to be adopted. That number grows every week. These statistics reflect two pressing needs: A movement of families who are willing to adopt and an awareness of the life-affirming options available to parents who already have remaining embryos.

4. Is embryo adoption really adoption?

Because the U.S. government doesn’t agree with the Bible’s claim that life begins at fertilization, embryo adoption isn’t considered legal adoption in America. The government only sees human embryos as cells, and so treats embryo adoption as a mere transfer of property. As such, many fertility clinics prefer “embryo donation.”

Biblically informed Christians, however, shouldn’t shy away from using life-honoring terms. Just as Jesus was adopted by Joseph in a preborn state (not received as a donation from God), Christians should honor life by using theologically accurate language.

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6. How can I care for frozen children?

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Inform. Most people have never heard of embryo adoption. Those who have often confuse it with IVF. Much adoption evangelism needs to take place inside the church on behalf of these frozen lives. Share embryo adoption articles on social media. Talk with friends. Do research. Talk to your elders and your small group about ways your church can be involved in the mission field that is embryo adoption.

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Adopt. The most powerful way to care for these tiniest of children is to personally open a womb and a home to them. A great place to start is to check out the website of the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

When God Became an Embryo

Jesus didn’t leave his throne for a manager, at least not directly. He first left his throne nine months earlier for a womb.

How much grander is the story of the incarnation when we realize the Son of God went from ruling the universe to becoming the smallest, most dependent, most microscopic form of human life. The God who authored a world that can’t be measured, humbled himself into a form that can’t be seen.

And this same God who became a human embryo to save sinners would have his church stand up for the many human embryos regularly discarded or frozen indefinitely. Consider how you can expand your pro-life passion toward the littlest lives by championing the cause of embryo adoption.

As someone who believes women should have the unrestricted right to an abortion pre-viability, Wilson’s article is a reminder of the impossibility of working with pro-lifers to reduce the number of abortions. Unable to differentiate between a blob of cells and a human life, pro-lifers obstinately refuse to compromise their beliefs. This is why I no longer waste my time arguing or debating with members of God’s Zygote Squad®. Their Fundamentalist religious views have blinded them to the horrific damage caused by their incessant assault on reproductive rights. They will not rest until Ozzie and Harriett, Leave it to Beaver, and the Duggars are the gold standard for American families.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers by John R. Rice

john r rice and jack hyles
John R Rice of Sword of the Lord Fame and Jack Hyles

Excerpt from the sermon Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers by John R. Rice, editor of the Sword of the Lord, circa the 1970s.

1st Corinthians 11:3-15 tells us that since the man is the head of the woman, and there is a fundamental difference between men and women, that difference should be symbolized in the ways men and women wear their hair. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head …For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. … For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels…Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.

Throughout the Bible it is stressed that men and women are different. A man is not like a woman. A woman is not like a man. It is a sin for a woman to try to appear like a man. God has one place for a man and a different place for a woman. For this cause, in Deuteronomy 22:5 we are commanded: “A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” It is a sin for women to appear masculine. It is equally a sin for men to appear effeminate. In fact, 1 Corinthians 6:9 names some of the unrighteous that “shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” And among the adulterers and fornicators and drunkards and thieves and covetous and extortioners, God put the effeminate. To be effeminate is a horrible sin in God’s sight.

And the first sin with which God chided Adam, after the fall, was this: “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife…”

I say, God has given man one position and woman another position and this difference in their position should be shown by men having short hair and women long hair. “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (1 Corinthians 11:4,5). And verse 6 continues: “For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.”

Man is made in the image of God. God is a masculine God. The masculine pronoun is used of God everywhere in the Bible. That foolish and unscriptural title given by a woman preacher, Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, “Our Father-Mother God,” dishonors God. God is not effeminate. God is not feminine, but masculine. And man is made in the image of God. On the other hand, a woman is not made so much in the image of God, but in the image and as a mate to man. So the Scripture says: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”

Blessed is the woman that remembers this; her glory is in being a help to a man, and in submission to her husband or her father. And long hair is the mark of this submission, the mark of this femininity.

A man should not pray or prophesy with his head covered. That would dishonor his head, says the Scripture. Men instinctively know that it is shameful to wear hats in public service, and reverent men remove their hats when they pray. Likewise, men instinctively know that they ought not to have long hair. A man has short hair, and this symbolizes the fact that he can approach Jesus Christ freely and that he takes the responsibility as the head of his home.

On the other hand, a woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head. Now look at verse 15 and you will see plainly that God is not talking about a woman wearing a hat or veil. Verse 15 says: “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.” A woman, when she prays, should have a covering, some symbol that marks her as an obedient and surrendered wife or daughter. Her long hair is given her for a covering, and a woman who does not have her head covered in that way dishonors her head. And verse 6 says that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn, and she ought to be covered. This symbolic covering or veil for a woman is long hair. Long hair is a mark of a woman’s womanliness in God’s sight, and is plainly given her for that express purpose, as verse 15 says.

….

In the eleventh chapter of 1 Corinthians we find a remarkable teaching which ought to stir the heart of every woman. The Lord says, “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.” The word power here means authority. A woman ought to have a symbol of her husband’s authority or her father’s authority on her head. That is, a woman should wear long hair to indicate that she is submissive to the authority God has put over her. And this special reason mentioned here for a woman having long hair is that angels look on, and for their sakes a woman needs to have long hair.

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So angels are all round about us. And they are surpassingly concerned about our lives. Our eyes are blinded! We think that the other world, the unseen world and spirit beings are far, far away, but that is not true. And how angels do listen when a woman kneels to pray! For the sake of angels who always are near, Christian women should especially be careful to have long hair–“because of the angels,” the Scripture says.

How are angels concerned about a woman’s hair? I think that not only would angels be grieved by this mark of rebellion against husband or father and against God, but angels would be tempted, likewise, to rebel.

We know that some angels are fallen. I understand the Bible to teach that Satan himself was Lucifer, an archangel who became ambitious and rebellious and said, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” (Isaiah 14:13). He wanted to be like God (Isaiah 14:14), and was not willing to be subject, just as many women want to be equal to their husbands instead of being subject to them. And Satan fell. So a great group of angels fell, too. Rev. 12:4 may suggest that a third of the angels fell. I do not know how many. But actually, these angels are now chained in darkness, awaiting judgment (2 Pet. 2:4). Angels can fall, and in the past angels have fallen into sin.

This is especially sad when we remember that Christ never became an angel and did not die for angels. There is nothing said in the Bible about the redemption of fallen angels. If God has any plans for saving angels, He has not revealed them to us.

What sins did angels commit when they fell? They did not get drunk. They did not commit adultery, for it seems that angels are sexless beings who neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt. 23:30). We suppose that heavenly angels, accustomed to the beauty and glory of Heaven, are never covetous. No, the sin of angels is the sin of rebellion.

Thus, when a woman with bobbed hair and a rebellious heart comes to pray, angels who are near and see her head and see her heart are tempted to sin; are tempted to commit the sin which such women commit, the sin of rebellion against authority. Because of the angels, every woman should wear long hair and be careful that she does not have a rebellious heart lest she should be a curse to the angels God has sent to be our ministers and guardians.

From this Scripture it becomes evident how hateful is the symbol of bobbed hair to God. And how it reveals the stubborn self-will of the modern woman who is no longer willing to take the place God assigned to godly women. I beseech the reader that if you are a woman you consider how God must feel toward this mark of rebellion, bobbed hair. No wonder that 1 Corinthians 11:5 says that every woman with a bobbed head has a dishonored head. And 1st Corinthians 11:6 says that it is a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven and that she ought to have a covering. And 1 Corinthians 11:15 says that long hair is given her for this covering.

….

The modern woman wonders why now she must chase a beau down, as her mother never did. The modern woman wonders why men do not rise up on the bus or streetcar to give her a seat. The modern woman wonders why some men feel so free to curse in her presence, and to use language that no respectable woman of the past generation ever heard. Yes, the modern, masculine, pants-wearing, cigarette-smoking, bobbed-haired woman has fallen from her pedestal. She is not reverenced by men as her beautiful and modest mother was.

These days men have come to feel that if a woman will not fill a woman’s place, she shall not have a woman’s protection and respect. Men desert their wives as never before in the world. Very few men nowadays feel reverently about a woman’s body. Boys who have dates with these bobbed- haired, smoking, strong-willed, modern girls, expect to kiss them and fondle them as they please, or to kick them out of the car to walk home. The man who marries a modern woman marries a woman who expects to vote like a man, smoke like a man, have her hair cut like a man, and go without restrictions and without chaperons and obey nobody. A man who marries such a woman, I say, does not expect to support her. The modern girl is very often expected to work and help make a living.

In 1 Pet. 3:7 husbands are commanded to give “honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel.” When women cease to admit that they are the weaker vessels as God’s Word says they are, then they lose this honor that men through the centuries have delighted to give to women. I say, the honor, the deference, the courtesy, the protectiveness that practically all men, good and bad, once offered to good women, has almost disappeared!

Oh, women, what have you lost when you lost your femininity! When you bobbed your hair, you bobbed your character, too. Your rebellion against God’s authority as exercised by husband and father, has a tendency, at least, to lose you all the things that women value most. If you want reverence and respect from good men, if you want protection and a good home and love and steadfast devotion, then I beg you to take a woman’s place! Dress like a woman, not like a man. Have habits like a woman. And if you want God to especially bless you when you pray, then have on your head a symbol of the meek and quiet spirit which in the sight of God is of such great price.

….

On the matter of submitting to authority, there are frequently those who “seem to be contentious.” Self-will dies hard, even in a Christian. We want our own way. Some of the Christians who were servants and slaves thought that now they were Christians they need not obey their masters. And children felt that now they were saved, they were equal to their parents. Citizens felt that they now need not obey their heathen rulers, and wives naturally felt themselves equal to their husbands. Were they not saved just the same way? Were not all members of the body of Christ alike? But to such people the Lord plainly gave command as you see in Colossians 3:18-25, Ephesians 5:22-6:9, and elsewhere.

No doubt some wives wanted now to cut their hair and act like men. And perhaps some men encouraged it. Some men do now. But to all such Paul said, “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” No custom of bobbed hair was allowed for women in New Testament churches. Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, who had more to do with founding churches and their control than any other man who lived, plainly said that this custom was never recognized and never allowed. Bobbed hair is unscriptural, and the idea of it was utterly repugnant to New Testament Christianity.

After all, dear woman, if you are a Christian, if you love the Lord Jesus, if you acknowledge Him as the Master of your life, then His command ought to settle the whole question. To please Him, trusting Him to make it worth while, I would start out to be the kind of woman that this Scripture pictures. I would, with a surrendered heart, submit myself to the authority God has placed over me, whether of husband or father. I would have a symbol of my femininity on my head, long hair picturing my submission to the will of God. When I prayed, I would not be a temptation to the angels nor an affront to God. And I would have the glory, the feminine beauty, that every true and godly woman has when she is wholly submitted to the will of God and when that pure heart and meek and lovely spirit are indicated in the way such a woman dresses and speaks and lives and wears her hair.

Is it really hard to decide when you know exactly what the Bible says you ought to do?

Here is a video of the six daughters of John R. Rice singing at  the Sword of the Lord National Soul-Winners Conference, Cobo Hall in Detroit, 1978. I was in attendance at this conference. I was a student at nearby Midwestern Baptist College.

Video Link

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

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The Emotional Effects of Divorcing God

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Evangelicals-turned-atheists are often accused by Christian zealots of being angry and/or bitter. The goal is to dismiss the intellectual reasons people deconvert, painting former Evangelicals as emotionally damaged goods. By doing this, Evangelicals are free to say things such as, you are just mad at God or my all-time favorite, someone hurt you. Of course, this argument works both ways. Few Christian converts convert solely for intellectual reasons. I have heard hundreds of salvation testimonies over the years, and every one of them had an emotional component. In fact, for some testifiers, that’s all their testimony had. I’ve even seen deader-than-dead Calvinists get a bit emotional when talking about the wonders of being chosen by God from before the foundation of the world.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists were devoted, on-fire, committed followers of Jesus Christ. They were, in every way, True Christians®. These former Evangelicals loved Jesus, often daily spending time praying, reading and studying the Bible, and sharing their faith. Thoroughly committed to God’s Kingdom, they liberally gave their time and money to their churches. Some of them went further still, answering the call of God to be pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and teachers. When critics question my devotion, I find myself thinking, would anyone live the way I lived if they didn’t really believe what they were selling? Of course not.

For many Evangelicals-turned-atheists, Jesus had seeped into every fiber of their being. The words that flowed from their mouths spoke often of Jesus and the wonders of his grace. Married to Jesus, they only had eyes for him. Satan and the world would sometimes cause them to stray, but these followers of Jesus were quick to seek forgiveness, knowing that sin marred their relationship with God. Their motto was only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. Better to burn out than rust out for Jesus, they cried.

And yet, these followers of Jesus no longer believe. Instead of attempting to understand their stories, critics focus on their emotions. I have had hundreds of Christians tell me that I am angry, bitter, jaded, or hurt. For a long time, I refused to admit that emotions played a part in my deconversion. I wanted my decision to leave Christianity to be judged on an intellectual basis, not an emotional one. Through counseling, I was able to see that it was okay for me to be angry and bitter. It was okay for me to feel hurt by the words and actions of those who once considered me their friend, pastor, or colleague in the ministry.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists go through an angry phase. As these former servants of the Most High God reflect on their failed marriage to Jesus, they become angry over the time and money they spent chasing a lie. It is perfectly normal to feel this way. The same can be said for bitterness. As I reflect on the thirty-three years I spent preaching the gospel, I can’t help but be bitter as I think about the sacrifices made by my family and me for the sake of the “cause.” I gave up everything to follow Jesus, choosing poverty over wealth and deprivation over comfort. And now, I face the consequences of these choices.

The key, for me anyway, is to channel my emotions into my writing and helping people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left. If every blog post of mine was an angry rant against Christianity, atheists and Christians alike would soon tire of me and move on. If I spent all my time whining and complaining about how bad my life now is thanks to Christianity, why before long even my wife would stop reading.

My point is this: emotional responses to leaving Christianity are absolutely normal. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The key is what to do with those emotions. It’s not healthy to spend life angry and bitter. I met plenty of such people in the churches I pastored; bitter, angry, mean people who took out their “love” for Jesus on anyone who dared to cross them. Instead, let your emotions fuel your passion for a better tomorrow — one not dominated by ignorance and religious superstition. Start a blog, write a book. Do whatever YOU want to do. Now that you are freed from guilt-inducing Christianity, you are free to throw yourself into whatever floats your boat. Want to take your anger and channel it into being an atheist stripper named Darwina? Go ahead. The only person standing in your way is you!

And sometimes, just because you can, it is okay to tell overbearing, deaf, in-your-face Evangelicals to go fuck themselves. Then, kiss your significant other and say, Life is good!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser