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Donald Trump Plans to Use “Socialism” to Ameliorate Effects of Tariffs on Farmers

trump tariffs and farmers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Local newspaper editorial pages frequently feature letters from right-wing Republican Christians attacking what they believe is the Devil’s economic policy — socialism.  Never mind the fact that few if any of these people could articulately and comprehensively define socialism and differentiate between the various types of socialism. Never mind the fact that the United States has always been to some degree or the other a socialist state. Never mind the fact that many of these letter writers participate in and benefit from socialist programs: Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, public roads, public infrastructure, veteran benefits, Food Stamps, vaccines and flu shots, public education, public parks, etc. These letter writers clamor for a libertarian world where government has little to no role to play outside of national defense.  Envision, if you dare, such a world; a world where the moment you pull out of your driveway onto the road, you are required to pay a toll because all roads are privately owned. Imagine a world without laws and regulations; a world without the EPA and FDA; a world governed by one rule: “let the buyer beware.”

Donald Trump, the buffoon currently inhabiting the White House, is waging a trade war, mainly against China. Using punitive, excessive, and unnecessary tariffs, Trump is causing all sorts of economic and social harm. No one has suffered more under Trump’s delusions than American farmers. Grain prices are plummeting, and will only get worse, especially if China punitively cuts off farm imports from the United States and turns to other countries to meet their needs. Farm bankruptcies are on the rise, leading to further agricultural operation consolidation.

Local TV news programs have been featuring local farmers whining about what Trump’s tariffs are doing to their bottom lines. Farmers already operate on razor-thin margins, so I understand them not wanting to face continued financial loss. The irony here is that most local farmers are registered Republicans and voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. It’s their chosen one who is saying to them, “bend over and take it like a man.” Trump and his on crack economic advisors, of course, know that rural white Midwestern voters are key to their hope of winning in 2020. Lose farm country and one of 2,022 Democratic candidates running for office will be the next president of Christian America. That’s why Trump has been spending billions of dollars subsidizing American farmers. Not that this is anything new. Farmers have always been on the government teat, suckling price guarantees and other programs meant to stabilize prices and ensure profitability. Farmers benefit from commodity buybacks, government-sponsored insurance programs, land set-aside payments, etc. You know, s-o-c-i-a-l-i-s-m.

Last week, Trump asked for an additional $15 billion in socialist funding for farmers. This is in addition to the $12 billion already allocated for socialist relief checks currently being sent to “suffering” farmers, including large, multi-million-dollar agricultural operations. Why should farmers alone get welfare checks from the U.S. Treasury? Trump’s tariffs are causing all sorts of harm to local manufacturing concerns, including the company that employs my wife and several of our children. Shouldn’t these companies also benefit from Trump’s socialist largesse?

Come November 2020 — as sure as corn, soy beans, and wheat spring forth from Ohio farmland — local farmers will line up at polling stations to vote for Donald Trump. No matter what the man does — and war with Iran is looming on the horizon — he will get their vote. Why? He’s their great white hope, the only man who can stave off atheistic socialism from taking over the world. Cognitive dissonance abounds in America’s heartland, and Trump and his fellow Republicans count on this so they can continue their pillage and destruction. Their goal remains what it has always been: to continue to accumulate vast sums of wealth at the expense of working-class, poor Americans.

Duping Americans into believing that socialism is some sort of evil that will destroy all that is holy and good is key to Republicans holding on to power, both at the state and federal level. One of my objectives as a writer is to help people see that Republican economic policies are harmful to the American people and actually impede social and economic progress. Laissez-faire capitalism has miserably failed, and it’s time for a new economic system to take root and flourish.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Irish — And The World’s — Reveille

guest post

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

‘History’ Stephen said, ‘is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.’

That is one of Jonathan’s favorite quotes. Knowing what I’ve come to know about him, it’s not difficult to understand why: the history from which Stephen is trying to awake in James Joyce’s Ulysses is the same history in which Jonathan (not his real name) came to be. To some extent, it is also my history.

Jonathan is a co-worker of mine, and we have been working on a project. That is how I have come to know a bit about him, and he’s come to know a few things about me. It shouldn’t have surprised either of us to find parallels in our backgrounds.

We both grew up in communities where nearly everyone went to mass in the same Catholic parish. My education was remarkably similar to his, though I received mine in a Catholic school across the street from the church and his took place in a “public” school. Most of my teachers were Dominican sisters. I got a heavy dose of religious instruction and was brought, with my schoolmates, to confession every Friday in the church. We now chuckle about standing on line at the confessional and thinking about what sins we would confess — at age eight.

As an altar boy, I served in the First Holy Communion mass for one of my schoolmates. A couple of weeks later, I served at the funeral of her older brother who was killed in Vietnam. I also served at my brother’s confirmation and, a few days later, the wedding of an older sister of a boy who was confirmed with my brother. I always felt that much in the lives of our community centered on the church.

I would later learn that there are many such communities all over the United States. The churches at their cores might be Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist or some other denomination. They nonetheless dominate the social as well as spiritual lives of those hamlets, villages, towns and urban enclaves in much the same way my former Catholic church cast its net around my old neighborhood.

Even so, those communities, numerous as they are, could never compare to what Jonathan lived in. It’s something that, even with my background, I have difficulty imagining: a whole country in which everyone belongs to, if not the same parish, then at least the same church. “In Ireland, you didn’t just go to church,” he explains. “You were always in the church, wherever you went, whatever you did.”

Jonathan grew up in Ireland during the 1980s and early ‘90s: two decades or, if you prefer, a generation, after my upbringing. At that time, the Catholic Church was still the de facto government, education system and provider of social services. “There really wasn’t any secular education in Ireland at that time,” he observes. Even most “public” schools, like the one he attended, were run, in fact or in essence, by the church. He got an hour a day of religious (indoctrination) instruction, as I did. That teaching was compulsory in all Irish schools of the time, he says. On the other hand, had my parents enrolled me in the public school of our urban American neighborhood, religious education would not have been part of my curriculum.

Another striking similarity between my education and his is that, while instruction in most subjects was rigorous, it included nothing about our bodies—or, of course, evolution. Had I attended public school, I might have learned something about Darwin’s ideas though, to be fair, given the times, I might not have had anything resembling sex education. In contrast, there was really no way Jonathan, in his country, in his time, could have learned anything about the way humans or other animals evolve, reproduce or take care of themselves.

Jonathan left Ireland in the mid-90s, just before it experienced its first (and perhaps only) economic boom — and the church started to lose its grip. He’s been back a few times, mainly to visit family and friends, but has no regrets about leaving, he says. For one thing, he pursued graduate studies and a career that would have been all but unavailable in the Ireland of his youth. Oh — and he met and married a beautiful biracial woman.

Also, he says, even though many of Ireland’s young today find the Church, and religion generally, “irrelevant,” there is still a “residue of religiosity,” mainly among older people and in the countryside. That is one reason, he says, the country was “convulsed” by the sex abuse scandals in ways that people in other European countries or the US can barely imagine. While the young don’t attend church and many don’t believe, the Church still runs schools like the one Jonathan attended. And hospitals. And orphanages. And many other organizations and institutions on which people depend for finding employment and housing, getting healthcare and other things most people consider part of living.

The church had an even tighter grip on Ireland during Jonathan’s youth, not to mention in earlier times. In few other countries was Catholicism as much a part of a person’s identity as it was in Ireland until a generation or so ago. One reason the Church was able to take such a hold of the populace is that, for centuries, their British occupiers tried to obliterate all signs of native culture. Speaking, let alone teaching, Gaelic became illegal. As in Poland during the Cold War and earlier occupations, the Church was the only organized opposition to oppression, mainly because it was the only opposition that had help from outside the country: Priests could go to France, Spain or Germany for their training. Thus, for the people, their religion became a bulwark against a foreign power that sought to subsume their identities. That, from what I’ve read — and what Jonathan has told me — is the reason the Irish held so fiercely to a religion that did as much to oppress them as any occupying army.

If a hierarchical structure like the church can use its representatives’ putative relationship with God to exploit those who are younger, weaker, poorer or in any other way more vulnerable than themselves in a country like the United States, the horrors they could inflict on poor Irish people are unimaginable to most of us. Even the most devout or impoverished American Catholics have never depended on the church for their identity or even sustenance in the way an everyday Catholic in Ireland did just a generation ago, i.e., in Jonathan’s time.

The “residue” of which Jonathan speaks was left by that captivity. Let’s call it what it is: slavery. Just as African-Americans still must extricate themselves from the detritus of their ancestors’ bondage, the Irish today are still living with the debris of the Church (and colonialism). And, although the young have made great strides (for example, four years ago Ireland became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote, largely because of the young), they are still awakening to the nightmare of their history: their parents’ and grandparents’ oppression by the church.

Waking from a nightmare is difficult. It is not — contrary to how it may seem — the waking itself that’s difficult. Rather, it’s the nightmare that causes difficulty because it terrifies and tires us. At least the nightmare can end if we wake up.

And so it is with the church sex-abuse scandals, in Ireland and elsewhere. People see it as a tragedy or scandal when it comes to light. But the real tragedy, the real scandal, as Jonathan points out, is that the sex abuse went on, in the Magdalene orphanages, in the monasteries, in the schools and, of course, in the parishes, for centuries—during Jonathan’s lifetime, my lifetime, his parents’ and grandparents’ lifetimes, their grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ lifetimes, and during the lifetimes of their forebears. They lived the nightmare; we have lived it; now we are waking from it. Jonathan knew he had no other choice. Nor do I.

Why Evangelical Christianity is Dying

trump loves jesus

Cartoon by Bob Englehart

Evangelicalism is dying. Oh, Evangelicals still make lots of noise and have a stranglehold on the Republican Party, but their grip on America is weakening and, in time, their hold will falter, leading to epic collapse. The Week reports:

While 63 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are white Christians, only 24 percent of those under the age of 30 are, a group far outnumbered by the 38 percent of young adults who are unaffiliated. Unless there’s some kind of dramatic Christian awakening that produces millions of converts, that means that in the future the ranks of Christians in general and white Christians in particular are likely to shrink.

This won’t happen any time soon, but that train is a coming, and nothing can stop it. Younger Evangelicals, in particular, are exiting their churches stage left, never to return. Those who remain tend to be more liberal politically, socially, and theologically, than their parents and grandparents. These cradle Evangelicals will, in time, seek out the friendlier confines of Liberal/Progressive Christianity. The late Rachel Evans is a good example of an Evangelical who tried to change things from within, but failing to do so, left the church of her youth and became an Episcopalian.

death of evangelicalism

What drives the slow death of Evangelical Christianity?

Evangelical Hatred of LGBTQ People

Evangelical hatred for LGBTQ people is well-known. See an anti-LGBTQ bill and you will find Evangelicals lurking in the shadows. Older Evangelicals lived in a world where homosexuals stayed in the closet where they belonged. Younger Evangelicals have LGBTQ friends. Exposure to people who are different from them makes it hard for them to condemn people to Hell for being “different.” The more that Evangelical young adults read, travel, and attend secular universities, the more likely it is that they will abandon the Evangelicalism of their childhoods.

Evangelical Support of Racist Immigration Policies

American Evangelicals generally support the anti-immigration policies of Donald Trump and the Republican Party. Older Evangelicals tend to live in white monocultures where exposure to non-white people is limited or non-existent. Younger Evangelicals are more likely to know and be friends with people of color. Again, exposure to people different from them forces younger Evangelicals to question the racist beliefs of their parents and grandparents.

Evangelical Support of Creationism

Most Evangelicals believe God created the universe in six twenty-four-hour days. Older Evangelicals are more likely to believe Genesis 1-3 is the de facto scientific explanation for how the universe came into existence. Younger Evangelicals, exposed to non-religious science curriculua, are less likely believe the old Evangelical canard: God Did It! They know the universe is billions of years old, and that evolution best explains the natural world. The more science training young Evangelicals receive, the more likely it is that they will cast aside creationism and its gussied-up cousin, intelligent design.

Evangelical Rhetoric on Abortion

Evangelicals are the power behind the culture war. Most younger Evangelicals grew up in churches where sermons frequently focused on this or that cultural hot-button issue. Abortion is one such issue. Younger Evangelicals are more likely to be pro-choice or support exceptions for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities, and the life of the mother. The continued war against the number one way to end abortion — birth control — is confusing and contradictory to younger Evangelicals. Not wanting to wait until marriage to have sex, many younger Evangelicals know how important the use of birth control is.

Evangelical Opposition to Same-Sex Marriage

Evangelicals stand at the forefront of opposition to same-sex marriage. Younger Evangelicals, believing you can’t help but love who you love, are less likely to have a problem with gay marriage. Again, this goes back to being exposed to people different from themselves. Many younger Evangelicals personally know same-sex couples, and these personal connections make it hard/unlikely for them to oppose same-sex marriage.

Evangelical Denial of Global Climate Change and Global Warming

Evangelicalism is front and center in the global climate change debate. Older Evangelicals, in particular, often believe climate change/global warming is a myth or something not to worry about because God is on the job. Younger Evangelicals see firsthand what violent storms, floods, melting ice caps, and rising temperatures are doing to their planet. They are angered by the “que sera, sera” approach to life of older Evangelicals; tired of “I’m going to die soon” or “the rapture is imminent” indifference from their parents, grandparents, and older church members.

Evangelical Insistence that the Bible is Inerrant

Evangelicals traditionally believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Most older Evangelicals believe their Bibles are they very words of God. Many younger Evangelicals, however, have serious questions and doubts about the nature of the Biblical text. The non-answers they receive from their churches/pastors don’t measure up to their expectations. And when questions go unanswered, young Evangelicals turn to the Internet for answers, finding evidence that their pastors, parents, and Sunday school teachers are lying about the Bible These seekers wonder, “what else are our pastors lying about?”

Evangelical Support of President Donald Trump

In 2016, eighty-one percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Without their votes, Hillary Clinton would have won the election. Younger Evangelicals tended to vote for liberal/progressive candidates, candidates that better reflected their worldview. Record numbers of young Evangelicals voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Younger Evangelicals see that their pastors, parents, and grandparents were willing to sacrifice moral principles to gain political power, and it disgusts them. In 2020, the party that captures this voting bloc will win the election.

Put all of these things together, and what you have is a religious sect that no longer represents younger Evangelicals; a sect that sold its soul for political expediency and power. While scores of younger Evangelicals leave Evangelicalism, never to return, others yearn for a religion that matters.

They are increasingly concluding that Evangelicalism is irredeemable, so they leave. I fully expect this exodus to increase, leading to the eventual death of Evangelical Christianity.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Black Collar Crime: Independent Baptist Worship Pastor Kurt Stephens Busted in Prostitution Sting

kurt stephens

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.

Kurt Stephens, the pastor for worship and administration at Palmetto Baptist Church in Piedmont, South Carolina, was arrested earlier this month in a prostitution sting. Palmetto Baptist quickly scrubbed Stephens from their website, but he lives on in cached Google pages. Stephens’ church bio states:

Kurt Stephens has served as the Pastor for Worship and Administration at Palmetto Baptist Church since its start in 2010. Kurt’s primary role is to lead in executing plans and programs that support the mission and vision of the church. Kurt also oversees the operations of the church relating to finance, facilities, and building plans.

Prior to joining the church planting team at Palmetto, Kurt served as the Operations Manager at SoundForth Music for four years. In addition to his role at SoundForth, Kurt also worked for two years as Account Manager at Your Creative People, a digital branding firm in the upstate. He previously served as Worship Pastor for a combined total of eighteen years at Oakwood Baptist Church, Anderson, SC; and Berean Baptist Church, Lilburn, GA.

As part of the leadership team, Kurt teaches, pastors, and leads Palmetto in heartfelt worship. His desire is to win unbelievers, and strengthen, encourage, and support the hands of those who serve through music and the Word. Kurt and his wife, ****, are the proud parents of three children: *****.

According to LinkedIn, Stephens is a graduate of Bob Jones University.

Based on a cursory review of information available on the Internet, I have concluded that Palmetto Baptist is an Independent Baptist congregation.

Black Collar Crime: Reformed Baptist Pastor Tom Chantry Convicted of Child Molestation

pastor tom chantry

Tom Chantry, the former pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, was convicted on four charges of child molestation.  The CV Bugle reports:

The skies turned dark, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and hail rattled the Yavapai County Superior Court Wednesday while jurors decided the fate of former Prescott Baptist minister Thomas Chantry.

Two hours later, 12 members of that jury, one by one in open court, confirmed their guilty verdict in each of the four charges of child molestation that happened more than two decades ago. It took seven hours over two days for the jury to reach its verdict.

“If you tell, God is going to punish you. If you tell, you’re not going to go to heaven,” Chantry told his 11-year-old victim, Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer explained to jurors in her closing arguments.

Chantry’s bond was revoked Wednesday. During the aggravated circumstances stage of the trial, immediately after the verdict, the jury determined that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim, according to Eazer.

The victim felt shame, confused, felt it was his fault, the prosecutor said. The victim felt fearful the defendant was going to do this to other children, Eazer argued. She said the victim was angry at his parents for not protecting him from the minister.

Chantry’s attorney, Ryan Stevens, argued against the aggravated circumstances verdict because the state did not present any psychological evidence that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim.

But the jury agreed with Eazer not to continue bail, and after the hearing the minister walked out the side door of the courtroom with officers behind.

The minister has been accused of multiple instances of abuse and molestation involving the children in his former congregation.

During a trial last summer, a Yavapai County Superior Court jury was deadlocked on the four molestation charges by just one juror and this is a retrial of that case, Eazer said.

During the trial last summer, Chantry was tried on a total of five felony charges of child molestation and three aggravated assault charges.

Jurors determined he was guilty on two of the aggravated assault charges and not guilty on one aggravated assault charge and one molestation charge.

Chantry is also facing nine other charges involving child abuse and molestation in another case.

In June 1995, Chantry became the new pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church. Accusers and their families first reported incidents of abuse to the church but no reports were made to the police until 2015.

Eazar ended the two-week trial Wednesday, arguing in her closing arguments that the jurors should believe the witnesses’ testimony, including the testimony of the single victim in this case, who is now a grown man with children.

However, Stevens argued in his closing statement that the witnesses for the victim brought “personal agendas, family agendas, biases and prejudices.” He said the witnesses in this trial contradicted themselves when compared to their testimony in previous cases and cited several examples.

Stevens argued that the four molestations charges that Chantry is facing are not about allegations of “spanking.”

“Excessive spanking: That’s for another courtroom, on another day.” This case is about the “touching” of the victim in certain body areas, he said.

The defense attorney also questioned the quality of the witnesses’ memories of alleged incidents from more than 20 years ago.

The defense attorney also said there was no medical or scientific evidence to corroborate the victim’s testimony. There was no thorough police investigation, he added.

“They (the witnesses) have knowledge of spankings,” Stevens told the jury.

“And you look at the actual evidence that is paper-thin, this, ladies and gentlemen, is not what ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ looks like, to convict a person of child molesting.”

In her rebuttal to Stevens’ closing arguments, Eazer took exception at Stevens’ comment that spankings “have nothing to do with this case.”

What the defense never explained is why the minister would be spanking these children in this manner, Eazer argued. She asked why the defendant would deny the spankings, other than say they were light taps, she asked.

“Wouldn’t it be a little too creepy for the defendant to have pulled down the pants of children in his congregation, spanked them excessively, with objects repeatedly, leave marks, for things like spelling errors grammatical errors,” Eazer pointed out, “Why would each of those children describe those spankings,” she asked the jury.

“The spankings again are the gateway into the molestation,” Eazer said.

“You can’t get to what he did” to the victim without talking about the spanking, she said,

Eazer pointed out that the minister even got permission from the victim’s family to discipline children by spanking them, using his church influence, to let the victims know he was in “control.”

“Why did he do it? Motive.” Eazer said. “It was actually very brilliant in a sadistic and pedophilia perhaps way.”

Chantry showed the victim who was in control, he got joy from inflicting pain, watching the victim’s bottom turn red and this gave the minister an excuse to do what his motive and his intent was: “To touch this little boy,” the prosecutor said.

Eazer stressed that the witness did not come up with their stories about the minister together and that they should be believed even two decades later. She argued there is no reason to make up these stories just because they are angry at the minister. The testimony is not the kind of attention these witnesses and victims seek, she added.

Chantry, the son of Reformed Baptist luminary Walter Chantry, is scheduled to be sentenced on July 19, 2019.

For detailed coverage of Chantry’s trial and conviction, please check out the Thou Art the Man blog.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Daniel Heath Faces State and Federal Sex Crime Charges

pastor daniel heath

Daniel Heath, the associate pastor of First Baptist Church — affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship — in Wilson, North Carolina, stands accused of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and coercion and enticement of a minor. The Wilson Times reports:

A Wilson pastor and a volunteer youth baseball coach accused of sexual exploitation of a minor now faces a federal charge in connection to the case.

A Texas grand jury indicted 33-year-old Daniel Franklin Heath on one count of coercion and enticement of a minor, according to a unsealed federal indictment obtained by The Wilson Times. That indictment was handed down Wednesday. Heath, a former associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Wilson, was arrested a day earlier on the charge of first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

According to the Texas federal indictment, Heath used an LG model cellphone to “persuade, induce, entice and coerce,” a minor to “engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating a visual depiction of such conduct, knowing that such depiction would transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce.”

Federal authorities say activity occurred from December of 2017 until April 11 of this year, according to the indictment out of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division. Heath could face 10 years to life in prison if convicted on the federal charge.

….

Heath’s arrest warrant in Wilson alleges that he did “encourage” a 16-year-old girl to “engage in sexual activity, perform sexual activities to herself for the purpose of producing material containing a visual representation depicting this activity, the defendant knowing the character and content of the performance and material.”

Church members were also seated inside the courtroom Friday.

Heath is currently being held on a $500,000 secured bond in the Wilson County Detention Center.

….

The Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted the Wilson Police Department in April regarding Heath, who was the subject of an ongoing investigation, officials have said.

On Tuesday, the police department’s FBI Task Force detective assisted FBI agents in executing a search warrant at Heath’s home in Wilson, according to officials. Based upon evidence gathered at the scene, authorities arrested and charged Heath on that same day.

Black Collar Crime: Methodist Pastor John McFarland Accused of Sex Crimes

pastor john mcfarland

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.

John McFarland, pastor of Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, California, stands accused of sexually assaulting seven children. Prior to his tenure at  Orangethorpe, McFarland was the pastor of Surf City Church in Huntington Beach from 2011 to 2016, Fountain Valley United Methodist Church in Fountain Valley from 1988 to 2016, and from 1981 to 1988, he was the pastor of Calexico United Methodist Church in Calexico — all located in California. McFarland was also a chaplain for 20 years for the Fountain Valley Police Department until his retirement a few years ago.

A press release from the office of the District Attorney of Orange County states:

A man who served as a head pastor at several Southern California churches faces 11 child molestation charges for victimizing seven children ranging in age from five to 15 years old.

John Rodgers McFarland, 67, of Fullerton was arrested on May 9, 2019. He is charged with seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, and four felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor between the ages of 14 and 15.

Prosecutors allege the molestations for the current offenses occurred between 2003 and 2017.

McFarland is currently being held on $2 million bail at the Orange County Jail. He faces a maximum sentence of 179 years to life if convicted on all counts.

KTLA reports:

The defendant was previously arrested on suspicion of child molestation in Escondido last December after a girl came forward to report the alleged abuse, according to the Fountain Valley Police Department.

During the investigation into that case, police said they uncovered “evidence that McFarland abused other victims.”

He was arrested again Thursday, according to the DA’s office.

McFarland is suspected of abusing the children between 2003 and 2017, during which time he served as a pastor at several churches in Orange and San Diego counties, prosecutors said.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheism is Dying Says Catholic Zealot Shane Schaetzel

shane schaetzel

Want to read a primer on “Bad Christian Arguments Against Atheism?” Just read Catholic Zealot Shane Schaetzel’s post titled, There is a God. Here’s an excerpt of Schaetzel’s “brilliant” prose.

The defining religion of the 20th century was Atheism. I say “was” because even though the number of Atheists continues to grow in Western civilisation, the idea itself is obsolete. While the mantra of the 20th century was “God is dead,” the mantra of the 21st century will be “Atheism is dead” and that will be painfully obvious within a few decades. Before its end, the 21st century will become the most religious century in modern history.

The Atheism of the 20th century was defined by the ideas of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx in the 19th century. From these two men, the Marx-Darwinian ideology would spawn the systematic murder of over 100,000,000 people in the 20th century under Communism and Nazism. (And that’s not even counting the wars spawned by these ideologies, which amounted to over a hundred million more.) The bloodiest century in the history of the world was given to us by institutionalised Atheism. No other century can compare, and if we add up all the casualties and holocausts caused by religions throughout the history of the world, they don’t hold a candle to the bloodbath given to us by Marx-Darwinian Atheism.

Atheists have been with us since the dawn of time. There is really nothing new about the idea of Atheism. What made the 20th century different, however, was the militant nature of the Marx-Darwinian brand. You see, prior to the 20th century, Atheists were usually just considered the typical village idiot. Every village had one, just like every village had a town drunk. Often they were the same person. However, in the 19th century, with the publication of just a few widely popular books, Karl Marx was able to give Atheism a systematic social-political worldview, backed by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. This gave Atheism an appearance of social-political-scientific legitimacy. In other words, Marx and Darwin made it intellectually fashionable to be an Atheist. I say the “appearance” of social-political-scientific legitimacy because as science, politics and sociology would later discover, it’s just an illusion. The end result was the worst bloodbath in the history of the world, lasting a whole century, coupled with the complete destruction of Western Civilisation (Christendom) and the apparent ascendancy of Islam as a major world religion. For the first time in a thousand years, we are now looking at the real prospect of Europe becoming a new Islamic stronghold, all thanks to the century-long progression of Marx-Darwinian Atheism.

….

While mainstream society continues to follow the obsolete 19th-century scientific basis of Marx-Darwinian Atheism, it’s just a matter of time before mainstream society eventually catches up with 20th-century science. When that happens, and it’s already starting, Atheism will be put back on track to becoming the rare and comical ideology of the village idiot. Just give it a hundred years. By the dawn of the 22nd century, the world will be more religious than anything we’ve seen in centuries.

— Shane Schaetzel, Complete Christianity, There is a God,  May 1, 2018

Should Religiously Motivated Good Behavior Play a Part in Sentencing, Commutation, Clemency, or Parole?

donnie johnson

Seventh-day Adventist minister Donnie Johnson

In 1984, Donnie Johnson brutally murdered his wife by stuffing a 30-gallon trash bag down her throat until she suffocated. The Commerical Appeal reported last week:

More than a year and a half before her death, Connie Johnson had purchased a life insurance policy with Donnie Johnson as primary beneficiary, according to legal documents. After Connie Johnson’s death, both Donnie Johnson and a sister made claims for $50,000.

In 1984, Donnie Johnson was working at Force Camping Center in Memphis. Connie Johnson had worked there too until about 18 months before her death, according to a newspaper article, when she decided to stop because her daughter was entering school.

It was there that Donnie Johnson killed his wife, suffocating her by shoving a plastic bag down her throat. A Shelby County medical examiner said during the trial that she had cuts and bruises on her head, that she bled internally and had fought back.

“There was testimony that she would have been conscious during the terrifying ordeal and that from one to four minutes would have elapsed before she expired,” wrote Tennessee Supreme Court Justice William Harbison in an opinion affirming the judgement of the trial court. “The homicide was inhuman and brutal to an almost indescribable degree.”

Johnson was convicted and sentenced to death. He is scheduled for execution this Thursday.

Thirty years ago, Jimmy Pitt started a Seventh-day Adventist Bible study at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. Johnson was one of his converts (1985). Johnson later became a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and currently leads Bible studies at the prison and ministers to other inmates who are on death row.

Now that Johnson’s date for meeting the Grim Reaper is approaching, several Christian zealots have been working hard to keep the convicted murderer alive. Why? He is a new man in Christ Jesus. That’s right. J-e-s-u-s, the man, myth, and legend, who purportedly washes all sins away through his blood. Never mind the fact that the Bible says several times that murderers shall NOT inherit the kingdom of God. Mustn’t let the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God get in the way of a feel-good story; a story of redemption.

Furman F. Fordham II, pastor of Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Church in Nashville, Tennessee, told the Tennessean:

He [convicted murderer Donnie Johnson] has been leading and serving in such a way that what he’s doing in there is the exact kind of ministry that we would definitely ordain someone for out here.

I was accustomed to being at different churches where you’d have a prison ministry, but I had never seen one of the prisoners leading it. We were his assistants.

The wife of the late Jimmy Pitt said of Johnson:

Don is one of those people that is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and he will share that with any and everybody that gives him an opportunity.

I used to be fairly set on if you did the crime, you pay the price. I really would love for him to get clemency of some sort because there’s always forgiveness.

Pastor Fordham believes Johnson should be spared due to his decades-long religious transformation:

Transformation is real. This is a new gentlemen. He just is. And I think that there should be room for that caveat to be considered and I think that is why in our state constitution the governor can press pause.

Should jailhouse conversion be grounds for sentence commutation, clemency, or parole?  Would a Muslim, atheist, humanist, witch, or pagan inmate be afforded the same opportunities? How many death row inmates have Pastor Fordham and his merry band of Christians advocated for in the past? Or is their advocacy predicated on Johnson being on their team?

I am a pacifist. On principle, I oppose the death penalty, period. That said, when Governors and parole boards are considering sentence commutation, clemency, or parole, there should be a strict separation of church and state. Religious conversion is quite easy to fake. What’s the empirical standard by which to judge whether someone is “really” a born-again, saved-by-the-blood Christian? Can their good works ever ameliorate the brutality of their crimes?

I support the commutation of Donnie Johnson’s sentence, but not because he is a super-duper, oh-so-awesome Christian. He could be a Muslim terrorist for all I care, or a Baptist. I oppose state-sanctioned murder, be it in prison kill houses or on the battlefields in the Middle East. That the followers of Jesus can’t come to such a conclusion is, in my opinion, astounding and in direct contradiction to what the Bible teaches on the matter.

Johnson’s son, Jason, sees his devoutly religious father in different light, saying: “He’s an evil human being. He can talk Christianity and all that. “That is all my father is. That’s all he’s ever been, is a con man.”

pastor david richards jr

David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee.

Sometimes, judges let convicted criminals off easy because of their supposed love for JESUS before they committed their crimes. Take David Richards Jr, pastor of My Father’s House Church of God in Lenoir City, Tennessee. Richards was convicted of repeatedly raping his 14-year-old daughter. Prosecutors argued the severity and heinous nature of the crimes deserved a minimum of seventy-two years in prison, but the judge thought otherwise and gave Richards a 12-year prison sentence. Judge Steven Sword defended his light sentence by extolling all the good things Richards did in the community, including starting a Bible study while in jail awaiting trial. Again, would a “good” atheist, Muslim, humanist, or pagan receive similar treatment?

Sword gave Richards this sentence, even after hearing him refuse to take responsibility for his crimes. Instead, Johnson blamed his daughter:

I stand before you convicted of crimes I did not commit. I simply believe the system just erred in this case. I’m not sure why I’m here. . . but I assume it’s for His [the Christian God’s] purpose.

The Knoxville News reports:

David Richards took the stand in his own defense, painting his accuser as a defiant teenager who first made her allegations of sexual abuse amid his attempts to impose strict rules for his children.

Forensics found Richards’ semen on the victim’s bed frame, leaving little doubt that he was guilty. Jurors agreed, convicting Richards on nine felony counts, including rape, incest and sexual battery by an authority figure.

David Thompson, Richards’ fellow pastor at My Father’s House, doesn’t believe he’s guilty:

I find it impossible for me to believe he’s guilty of this. His business needs him. His family needs him. Our church needs him.

In fact, over thirty fellow church members packed the courthouse to show their love and resolute support Richards.

How do we explain their continued support of Richards even after hearing testimony that put Richards’ penis in the vicinity of the victim’s bed? Some reports have suggested that Richards’ daughter was “rebellious,” and this necessarily proves she is lying or trying to get even with her father. However, the knowledge that My Father’s House is a Fundamentalist Christian congregation should cause anyone buying this argument to ponder for a moment the fact that “rebellion” in such congregations is defined very differently from the way in which the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world define it. As former inmates at Baptist group homes such as New Bethany or Roloff Homes can attest, rebellion was defined as any act of disobedience, including skipping church, not reading the Bible or praying, going to movies, smoking, drinking beer, having sex, or listening to rock music. I suspect that the victim’s “rebellion” is far different from the behaviors that land teens in criminal detention centers. Whatever it might have been, it must be viewed through the lens of his or her religious background. And even then, her supposed bad behavior should play no part in discussions about her father’s crimes. That some of Richards’ fellow Christians are bringing the victim’s ill-behavior up suggests that they are straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel in hopes of finding justification for their unwillingness to believe their pastor could be a rapist. Can anyone say cognitive dissonance?

The victim, Amber Richards, had this to say about her father:

I wanted to throw my body away. Not a day goes by that I don’t, in some way, think of what he did to me. . . I firmly believe if given the opportunity, he would victimize another young girl.

Too bad thirty-plus members of My Father’s House and their pastor David Thompson didn’t hear a word Amber Richards had to say.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Catholics Were the ”Original” Christians

shane schaetzel

It seems strange to have to say that Catholics are Christian but to a growing number of Evangelical Protestants (particularly in the Anglosphere) it needs to be pointed out. Catholic Christianity is Complete Christianity. In fact, we Catholics were the first Christians because we Catholics were the original Christians. Sadly, a lot of Catholics have apparently played into this word-trap as well, referring to Catholics as “Catholics” and to Protestants as “Christians.” What they’re doing, inadvertently, is giving credit to the false notion that Catholics are not Christians and Protestants are. It’s a terrible situation that currently exists, and this blog is aimed at putting an end to it — forever.

You see, the word Catholic simply means “universal” or “all-embracing” or “including a wide variety of things.” In other words “complete.” It was used in the late first century to describe the actual Church established by Christ and his apostles, which spanned the ancient world, in contrast to many sectarian groups which only followed the teachings of a specific leader or were limited in membership to geography or ethnicity.

….

In modern times, within the last 200 years or so, groups of Protestants began breaking away from their mainline denominations and national churches, and a good number of them began calling themselves Evangelical. Later, they began using the terms “nondenominational” or “Born-Again” or “Bible Christians.” Some of them insisted on just calling themselves “Christians” without any adjective to describe or define them. In time these non-descriptive Evangelicals started using the word “Christian” to compare/contrast themselves with other Christians using different names. A large number of these non-descriptive Evangelicals referred to themselves as “Christian” and to members of the Catholic Church simply as “Catholics” as if these two words (Christian and Catholic) has nothing in common at all. Thus, in great swaths of Anglophone societies, many Evangelical Christians do not believe that Catholics are Christian. This is ridiculous!

— Shane Schaetzel, Complete Christianity, Are Catholics Christian? May 12, 2019

Barbara

barbara tieken 1940s

My Mom, Barbara Tieken, 1940s

Born in rural Missouri to parents who were drunks and constantly fought

Barbara suffered the indignity and shame of being molested by her father

A heinous act he never acknowledged or apologized for

When he became a Christian his past was under the blood

God may have forgiven him

But she never did

barbara and steve tieken 1940s

Barbara and Steve Tieken 1940s

She was a beautiful child who grew up to be an attractive woman

A woman who attracted the attention of men

At seventeen she found herself pregnant

At the age of eighteen she married

Did she marry the father of her baby?

There are doubts

barbara gerencser 1956

Barbara Gerencser, 1956

She found her husband to unreliable, never able to keep the bills paid

He moved her from house to house, town to town, and state to state

Along the way she birthed another boy and then a girl

She loved to read and was passionate about politics

She wrote letters to the newspaper, a staunch defender of right-wing Conservatism

She campaigned for Barry Goldwater and George Wallace

Like so many white, rural Americans of her time, she was a racist

She loved to cook

When her oldest son started playing baseball she came to his games

Her son’s father couldn’t be bothered

When she was thirty-one, her brother-in-law raped her

Her oldest son was home sick from school when it happened

So much trauma

Is it any wonder she had mental problems?

Psychiatrists

Pills

Mental hospitals

Attempted suicides

Rage

Depression

Slit wrists, the kitchen floor, a pool of blood, her oldest son found her

Yet, she lived

Over time, her body collapsed, rendering her an invalid

barbara gerencser 1957

Barbara Gerencser, 1957, Holding her newborn son Bruce (Butch)

By then, her oldest son was a preacher

She was proud of him

He was not proud of her

She was an embarrassment, a pill junkie, she just needed to get right with God

Four marriages

Numerous men in and out of her life

Yet, she never lost her mental acuity or thirst for knowledge

She watched the news day and night, ever ready to rage against those she disagreed with

She told her oldest son she wanted him to do her funeral and she wanted everyone to sing the Star Spangled Banner and say the Pledge of Allegiance

barbara tieken 1950s

Barbara Tieken, 1950s

Over time, her oldest son came to accept her as she was

He would come to Columbus and take her shopping or to the doctor

She didn’t like his driving

Her phone was often disconnected

Her latest husband, just like everyone before him, couldn’t keep the bills paid

The oldest son’s father died from surgery complications at age forty-nine

Her oldest son had to call the police to give her a message since her phone was disconnected

Awhile later, in a pouring rain, she called from a phone booth

They talked and wept together

And then she moved to Quincy, Michigan, six hours away

Her oldest son only saw her a few times after the move

They talked on the phone every month or so and wrote to one another

After church one Sunday, her oldest son answered the phone at his house

His aunt was on the other end of the phone

He heard what he never hoped he would hear

His mom was dead

She had turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, and ripped a hole in her heart

In a moment, her heart stopped and the life drained from her body

Her oldest son wonders why, but at the same time he knows the answer

The graveside service was an exercise in profound, excruciating grief and denial

The preacher son could barely speak

There would be no singing of the Star Spangled Banner or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance

Even in death she was ignored and denied

Her father spoke of Jesus

Her son saw only a father who molested his daughter and scarred his mother

She was fifty-four when she died

Her son misses her

Oh how he wishes for a do-over

To tell her, I love you

To proudly show off his grandchildren

But all he is left with is emptiness, pain, and regret

And memories

barbara gerencser 1978

Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978