Currently, this blog is hosted by NameCheap, the registrar I use for my domains. It is a cheap package, so the cost is right, but page load times are way too slow for my liking. So, at around 1:00 AM EST, I plan to switch over to Flywheel, the company I used before. You should notice a big change in page load speeds. I hope that the changes will propagate quickly, but there could be some sporadic unavailability tomorrow. I apologize for this if it happens to you. Any unavailability will be temporary.
After tomorrow, if you still can not access the site please let me know. You may want to flush your browser cache before contacting me. Sometimes, an outdated browser cache can result in page errors. (as can an incorrect IP address in the DNS cache, though this rarely a problem)
I suspect most of us who were raised in fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity have heard the faith/chair analogy. If you have not heard it before:
Faith is like deciding to sit in a chair. You don’t know that the chair will hold you, yet by faith you believe it will, so you sit down in the chair.
Quite deep theology there, brethren.
I read an Evangelical blog post the other day that used this analogy, so it is still out there being used by Evangelicals zealots to wow the ignorant.
Here’s the problem with this analogy; sitting in a chair does not require faith at all. Let me explain it this way. I am a big man, so making sure a chair will withstand my considerable ass sitting in it requires me to use the scientific method of inquiry.
Before I ever sit in a chair I ask myself, does this chair LOOK like it will hold me? Now looks aren’t enough, as I learned several years ago at a Toledo Olive Garden. After the hostess brought us to our table, I glanced at the chair and quickly sat down. Except I didn’t make it all the way down. As I started to put my weight on the chair it kicked out from me and I landed flat on my back in the middle of Olive Garden. I hit my head on the cement floor and could not get up. The manager came running in to make sure I was all right. I was. The only injury was to my pride. So, was the chair defective? Not at all. The chair had roller casters and I didn’t see them. As I started to sit down, the chair rolled out from underneath me and I fell. Because I didn’t pay attention to the construction of the chair, I ended up on the cement floor. This is what having faith in the chair got me.
Most of the time, when we go out to eat, I carefully check not only the construction of the chair, but the ingress and egress. As a disabled man, it is important for me to know the lay of the land. Where’s the bathroom, can I easily walk to the bathroom, etc. As far as the chair is concerned, I rock the chair back and forth and side to side making sure it is solid and I press on the seat making sure it will hold me. I have been to more than one restaurant where I’ve had to ask for a different chair lest the one they wanted me to use breaks. The only thing worse than a chair breaking is the embarrassment that comes from it.
Using the scientific method, I test a chair to make sure it will hold me. After I have done so, and it passes the tests, I feel confident that the chair will support my 6 foot, 360 pound body. I have been a big man most of my adult life and this method of determining chair worthiness has never failed me. The only time I have ever had a chair break is when I “faith” it.
The faith/chair analogy breaks down in another way because the chair is an inanimate object that I can see and touch. God can not been seen or touched and believing in God requires, to some degree, blind faith.
This is one of the reasons I am an atheist. I see no evidence for the Evangelical Christian God. Believing in such a God requires faith, a faith that I do not have. For me, seeing is believing, and I do not “see” the Evangelical God.
Hebrews 11:1,3 states:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
What is Christian faith?
The substance of things hoped for
The evidence of things not seen
Perhaps the wording of the NIV will make it clearer:
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Many Evangelicals get upset when someone suggests that their faith is a blind faith. But isn’t that exactly how Hebrews defines faith, believing without seeing; that faith is the proof of belief in that which can not be seen?
Creationists would do well to read Hebrews 11 the next time they try to scientifically prove creationism. Hebrews 11 makes it clear that believing God created the universe requires faith. It requires faith to ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence for the formation of the universe, earth, and life. Creationists embarrass themselves and besmirch their religion when they try to make creationism fit in a scientific box. And when their efforts fail, what do they do? They retreat to the safety of faith, a place they should have stayed to start with.
I am a DISH Network subscriber. DISH is currently involved in contract disputes with CNN and Fox News. This has resulted in these channels being pulled off DISH Network. This is inconsequential to me because I do not watch TV news. I rely on websites and blogs to get my daily news fix.
TV news is a dinosaur facing extinction. Young adults, who are the coveted demographic for advertisers, no longer turn on the TV to listen to the news. Instead, they go to internet to find out what’s happening in the world. As a result, the demographic of those who still watch TV news is old, white, rural, and Christian. I mentioned this fact the other day on a satellite discussion group and I was accused of being a racist. Yep, because I dared to mention that the viewership of Fox News is overwhelmingly white Christian senior citizens in the rural Midwest, that makes me a racist.
Fox News’s ratings among 25- to 54-year-olds is the lowest it’s been in 12 years, even as the cable channel remains the highest-watched of all its competitors.
In May, Fox News attracted an average of 264,000 primetime viewers in that key demographic. The last time their 25-54 ratings were so low for a single month was August of 2001, or just before the September 11th attacks. Although Fox News’s individual shows continue to win out over their competitors, May produced decade-low numbers for their primetime and morning hosts, particularly in the 25-54 demographic used by advertisers. And that’s why those figures matter so much: Fox News’s audience is still relatively huge, but it’s taking in smaller numbers of the only viewers ad buyers pay attention to.
The New York Timestook a look at the results for Bill O’Reilly’s show, which remains popular with overall audience of 2.1 million viewers. But in the key demographic, he averaged just 313,000 viewers, a small percentage of his overall pull. His show’s median viewer age is now 72.1, which is a high. That’s part of a trend. Fox News’s viewership is aging out of that key demographic, even as the overall median age of cable news viewers remains high: the median ages for the three cable networks in May were 62.5 (MSNBC), 62.8 (CNN), and 68.8 (Fox News)…
So yes, Grandma is watching TV news, but, for the most part, her children and grandchildren are not.
Fox News attempts to sell itself as a news organization that is “fair and balanced.” Bill O’Reilly reminds Grandma that, “we report, you decide.” As most readers of this blog know, TV news in general and Fox News in particular, is anything but fair and balanced. This is why many of us call Fox News Faux News.(and I am not suggesting that blogs and websites are any better. They do give us more choices by which to determine what the facts are.)
Let anyone doubt that Fox News is a right-wing, ideologically driven news organization, look at what program DISH Network chose to replace Fox News. It chose Glenn Beck’s right-wing, Mormon fundamentalist, conspiracy driven program The Blaze.
Cars as they drive through the sleepy rural town we call home.
Folk music softly plays in the background, a nightly ritual that lulls my lover to sleep.
The wind is blowing briskly as the wind chimes sing their harmonies into the snowy night.
I can feel the cold draft from the wind as is pushes its way through the window frame of our 140 year home.
She is covered up, trying to warm herself as cold air blows over her head.
She lies beside me, just as she has these 36 years.
I look over at her and remind myself of what a great life we’ve had.
We have faced many battles that left us bruised and bloodied, but we survived. That’s what we are — survivors.
The Bible is right, there is a love that endures. She and I have that enduring love. Until death do us part, we promised each another one hot July day so many years ago.
Recent events have brought us face to face with our mortality, my mortality.
What if it is cancer? What if the hourglass is close to running out? Dare we ponder our own mortality and bitter end?
Come what may, I’ve had a good life. Whether I live till Christmas or another 20 years, I am grateful for the life she and I have shared.
Almost 40 years ago, a beautiful young girl dared to flirt with a brash redheaded boy. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, we lie here in the stillness of the night, our lives shaped and filled by our shared experiences.
I think of our children and our grandchildren. I want to wake her up and say, we did well, that we have more treasure than the richest man on earth.
I won’t wake her, she needs her sleep.
I hope she knows that I love her.
It’s almost 5 AM and I can feel the drugs beginning to win the battle. Sleep will soon come and if I awake another day will be mine.
I decided I need some virtual human contact so I signed up for a personal Facebook account. This will be the place I hang out with family and friends, so don’t expect deep discussions about atheism or religion. Expect light discourse, pictures of the grandkids, and exposure to the “rest” of what makes up Bruce Gerencser. If you would like to be friends, you can friend me here.
As far as Twitter is concerned, I am not a big Twitter fan but I know others are, so I will do my best to accommodate the Twitterites by posting my writing to Twitter. You can follow me here. Please don’t expect long 140 character discussions. I am not built for such discussions. I get too snarky. I am better suited for long, friendly discussions over coffee, wine, or a good meal.
You can tell a lot about a church without ever attending a service. All you have to do is read the sign in front of the church and it will tell you all you need to know. I love taking photographs of church signs, and now that I have an iPhone, I no longer need to take my DSLR with me every time we go out to eat or shop.
The iPhone camera is quite adequate for snapping photographs of church signs, so I plan to publicize, through my blog, the theology and message of some of the Evangelical churches Polly and I drive by on our trips to here and there.
The sign begs the question, how can we know God, not just any God, but the God of the Ottawa Missionary Church, inhabits our future? No one has ever seen or lived the future, much like no one has ever seen God. All we have to go on is words written down in a book by unknown authors thousands of years ago.
The next church, Faith Assembly of Believers, located at 1604 E Main St Ottawa, Ohio has a double-faced sign that catches passerbys coming and going. The church has no website. Larry Bibler pastors the church.
Faith Assembly of Believers, Ottawa, Ohio
This sign is believable only if you think the earth is 6,000 years old and believe it didn’t rain for the first several thousand or so years. Noah was 600 years old when he entered the ark. Noah’s father Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born, lived 777 years , and died 5 years before the worldwide flood of Genesis 6-8. Noah and his father account for almost a millennium. And we still have to account for the ages of Methuselah, Enoch, Seth, Cain, and Adam to name a few. So quit your whining Californians. Your drought? Nothing compared to no rain for over two millennia.
Faith Assembly of Believers, Ottawa, Ohio
While I couldn’t find a church website, God, also known as Google, did tell me a few things about Faith Assembly Believers and its pastor, Larry Bibler.
In George Washington’s farewell address, he declared that two pillars were sustaining the nation, keeping it strong and free; one is religion and one is morality.
Pastor Larry Bibler, of Faith Assembly of Believers, sees this sentiment as absolutely true, yet something the country has gotten away from. That’s why he and his wife Jan, along with other concerned citizens, have formed the Ottawa Patriots and held a Tea Party on the Courthouse lawn July 4.
“People are frustrated about what’s happening in America and this gives them an opportunity to do something about the condition of America,” said the Pastor. “We wanted to come up with something local going out to communities” in and around Putnam County.
Bibler said the whole purpose was to make the people realize that they need to get back the Constitution, back to God and back to prayer…
…Bibler says the efforts of the group are based on the principles and values of Glenn Becks 912 project, found at theglennbeck912project.com. The project promotes the sacredness of family, justice, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, faith, and values like honesty, charity, courage and personal responsibility to name a few.
So, if you are lost, Pastor Bibler and Faith Assembly of Believers have just the road map for you. For those who want to freely travel down the road of life without Jesus GPS (gospel positioning system) plotting your way…beware…the road you are on leads to death, judgment, and hell. But, the ride sure is fun.
Imagine a story that goes like this…One day a young man walks up to a young woman and says:
I love you and I want to marry you. I know we have never met before but I really, really, really love you and if you will love me back I have a wonderful plan for your life. I will be by your side 24 hours a day. In fact, you will never be free of me because I promise to never leave you or forsake you. I know you don’t know me from Adam, but if you will love me and never forsake me, I will be your BFF.
Suddenly, the young man’s face turns dark, and with a stern, threatening voice he says to the woman:
And if you don’t accept my proposal of love and lifelong commitment, I promise to make your life miserable. I will afflict you, burn your house down, and reduce you to Job’s ash heap. I will make your life so bad that you will wish you never had been born.
Any normal woman would recoil and run from such a man. Who would ever want to love such a person, one who offers conditional love, a love that promises violence and death if not requited? Yet, this is exactly the love that many Evangelicals try to sell to non-Christians.
Over the past 8 years, various people have taken it upon themselves in an email, blog comment, Facebook comment, tweet, letter to the editor, sermon, or blog post to emphatically tell me “Bruce, You Are Wrong!!” Be it my liberal politics, the teams I root for, or my humanistic, atheistic beliefs, these beacons of absolute truth are infallibly certain that I am wrong.
Let me confess right away that I have been wrong many, many, many times. I bet you didn’t know that did you? In fact, there is not a day that goes by that I am not wrong in some moment, circumstance, or detail.
Over the past eight years, various people have taken it upon themselves in an email, blog comment, Facebook comment, tweet, letter to the editor, sermon, or blog post to emphatically tell me ”Bruce, You Are Wrong!!” Be it my liberal politics, the teams I root for, or my humanistic, atheistic beliefs, these beacons of absolute truth are infallibly certain that I am wrong.
Let me confess right away that I have been wrong many, many, many times. I bet you didn’t know that, did you? In fact, there is not a day that goes by that I am not wrong in some moment, circumstance, or detail.
Usually, when someone writes me to tell me I am wrong they have a deeper, more sinister meaning for the word wrong. For the most part, I write about religion. Occasionally, I write about politics, education, sports, photography, and other sundry subjects, but religion and all its trappings is my main focus. I spend a great deal of time telling my story, detailing my journey, as only a good, humble, narcissistic ex-pastor can. This blog, whatever else it may or may not be, is “Bruce’s Story, Told by Bruce, According to Bruce, the best he can remember it.”
When I am telling my story, my understanding of the journey I am on, I have little patience for those who tell me I am wrong. They dissect my life with the razor knife of their own experiences and beliefs and determine that I am/was not what I say I am/was. They tell me I was never saved, never a Christian, never a real pastor, and I suspect someday someone will even challenge my circumcision.
These kinds of people want to control my storyline. They want to set the standard by which my life, the one I lived, the one I am living now, is judged and it infuriates them when I won’t let them do so. I refuse to allow my story to be co-opted, controlled, or judged by any other standard than my own experiences. It is my life and I know what I believed, how I lived, and I am certain I know my life better than anyone who only had this blog to judge me by. My dear wife of 36 years is my best friend and she knows me pretty well, but she doesn’t know every part me.
Foolish is a person, armed with only printed words on a computer screen, who judges a person’s life in any meaningful way. I certainly want people to enter into my story, in fact I invite them in. But, my readers are just visitors. They only know what I am willing to let them know. If my wife or my counselor can not pierce the inner sanctum, don’t think for a moment any visitor can.
Sometimes, charges of being wrong are hurled my way because of something I have written about Christianity, the ministry, the Bible, or some other facet of Western, organized Christianity. They vehemently disagree with my interpretation of a particular verse in the Bible or they object to particular word usages, words like Christian, evangelical, or fundamentalist.
What is the foundation of their charges against me? Why their own beliefs and interpretations or the beliefs and interpretations of their particular sect. Ultimately, the Bible becomes the focus of these kind of accusations.
I am wrong because I have misread, misunderstood, misapplied, or distorted what the Bible teaches. How do they know this? Because the accuser reads, understands, and applies the Bible differently from myself and we all know that every Evangelical (and Catholic and Muslim zealots) is infallible in his or her understanding of a book written by many, unknown people thousands of years ago.
I could be wrong. In fact, I am quite certain that some of my interpretations are wrong. I have no way of proving whether they are. All I have is my mind and my ability to read, and using these skills, I try, to the best of my ability, to discern what a particular text in the Bible says. People are free to differ with me, but why should it be assumed that I am wrong and my critic is right? How do we make such a determination?
The Bible has the unique ability to be whatever a person wants it to be. Most people have a bit of Thomas Jefferson in them, scissors in hand, cutting out the things they disagree with or the things that weaken their positions or beliefs. The short of it is this…if you need to prove something, go to the Bible. You will likely find the answer you are looking for.
I am quite aware of the fact that I read the Bible differently from the Christians who think I am wrong. The one-up I have on them is that I used to read the Bible as they do. I understand their hermeneutics and theology and I am well aware of their interpretations. That said, I have no compulsion to read the Bible as an Evangelical or a progressive/liberal Christian would read the Bible. I have no great need to make the Bible fit in a systematic theology grid. Instead, I try to read the Bible like the average, unenlightened Bruce would read the Bible. I try to transport myself back in time in hopes of getting a historical and cultural perspective on the passage I am reading.
In the book of Genesis God says “let us make man in our image.” When I read this passage I say to myself this says there is a plurality of Gods. Let US. As I read the Old Testament it is very clear to me that the Israelites were polytheistic and over time became monotheistic (or as oneness-Pentecostals would assert about Trinitarian Christians, they still ARE polytheistic).
Of course, those who think I am wrong say, but the New Testament says______ and they import their Trinitarian theology into the Genesis text. That’s all well and good if you are Christian, but I am not. I am quite free to read the Bible as it is written without forcing myself to put all the pegs in the right holes. The Christian has the burden to make it all fit, not I.
I may be wrong, but it is a leap of faith to assume that because I am wrong, you are right. There is no way to “prove” who is right or who is wrong when it comes to the Bible. Baptists and Campbellites (Church of Christ) spar often over one Greek word, eis, in Acts 2:38. Who is right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all the arguments from both sides of the fence. Who is right? All people have to determine for themselves what they believe about God, the Bible, truth, and religion. This blog is simply my take on these things.
Seriously, the amount of skin I have in this game gets less and less every day. Talking about the Bible and what it purportedly teaches is all fun and games. Since the Bible no longer has a mystical hold on me, I am quite free to ignore it at will. I am free to be wrong because being wrong about the Bible is like being wrong about picking the wrong players for a fantasy football league (not the end of the world).
My bigger focus is on those who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity. I try to be a good example of a person who successfully broke free and left Christianity. I do not call on people to follow me or to do what I did. All I am is one guy with a story. If my story helps someone, if it gives them the strength to take the big step they need to take, then I am grateful and humbled by being a small measure of help. However, if all I do is piss you off and make you think you have scabies, perhaps your short life would be better served reading other things besides this blog. Telling me I am wrong will not bring the effect you desire. I will gladly admit to being wrong. Next?
Perhaps you are really hanging out here because, deep down, uncertainty is pulling at you, and you are trying to suppress it by lashing out at the poor, deluded, deceived, ignorant Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist named Bruce. Beware of uncertainty, for uncertainty is the path to my world.
The Gerencser Family, circa 1950s Front: Robert (my Dad) and Irene Middle: Grandpa Paul Rear: Paul (Paulie), Grandma Mary, Mary, and Helen
My grandparents immigrated from Hungary in the early part of the 20th century. I don’t know much about them. I was six years old when they died in 1963. Paul was born in 1888 and died of a heart attack in February of 1963. Mary, six years younger than her husband, died of a heart attack six weeks later.
Paul and Mary Nemett Gerencser (grr IN’ sir or grinsir) immigrated through Ellis Island and settled in Ohio. (I don’t think Paul and Mary were their given names.) I think they originally settled in the Akron/Cleveland area and then moved to northwest Ohio. Best I can tell from what few official records remain, Paul and Mary Gerencser owned a farm in Defiance County, lost it, and then bought a farm in Williams County on the northwest corner of Williams County Road 14 and Williams-Defiance County Line Road.
Grandma Mary Gerencser, 1919
Paul and Mary Gerencser had six children: Irene, Paul Jr, Steven, Helen, Mary, and Robert. Steven died in a farming accident as a young boy. Irene died in 2009 at the age of 87. Paul (Paulie) died in 2012 at the age of 88. Robert, my father, died in 1987 at the age of 49. Mary and Helen, both in their 80s, are still living.
The Gerencser homestead was torn down decades ago. The new owners built a ranch home in its place. The old farmhouse was a white two-story structure. I do remember a few things about the house. There was an enclosed back porch and Grandma kept big sacks of flour and sugar on the porch. I also remember the wood-fired stove. I think there was a water pump at the kitchen sink. The house did not have indoor plumbing. There was an outhouse for necessary daily functions.
Mary, Paulie, Paul, Robert Gerencser, 1940s
I do have a vivid memory of the creek that ran a few hundred yards from the back of the house. One year, Beaver Creek overran its banks and flood waters turned a portion of the low-lying farm ground into a lake. To a little boy the flood water looked like a huge lake but I am sure it was probably much smaller.
I don’t remember anything about my grandparents’ demeanor. I do remember they spoke Hungarian to each other. I don’t know if they spoke English in the home. My father, aunts and uncle, were schooled at the nearby one room school-house that sat on the southeast corner of Williams County Road 14 and US Highway 6. The one room school-house was torn down many years ago. My dad also went to school at Farmer, Ney, and Bryan. I do not know where any of my aunts or uncle attended school.
Mary and Robert Gerencser, 1930s
Paul and Mary Gerencser settled in northwest Ohio, Williams County, because a number of Hungarian immigrants already lived here. Derek Harvey, a Toledo, Ohio man, wrote an interesting article about the Hungarians who settled in NW Ohio:
An important immigrant group to Toledo and Northwest Ohio were the people that came from the area in Central Europe known as the Magyars. This area stretched from Poland to the North to Belgrade in the southern region. The area would also encompass the large area known as Transylvania. (No Dracula jokes) With the redrawing of borders after the first World War much would have been considered Hungary would have changed. Many large populations after this time would live in Romania, Slovakia and northern Yugoslavia. Some groups prior to World War 1 would be misidentified as Hungarians.
The largest group of this ethnic group 1.7 million came to the United States starting in 1880. Many would locate in the Birmingham neighborhood in Toledo. In 1900 there were almost 17,000 people living in Ohio that claimed this nationality. By 1920 the number would increase to 73,181. The primary group of immigration was males under the age of 30. Almost 90% of them were literate, but would take dangerous jobs that involved using their hands. This job areas in Toledo included automotive, glass and railroad industries. They tended to only come to the United States temporarily and over 50% would return to their homeland. Many would come back or just stay.
The religion of the Hungarians in Toledo was Catholic. Their home church in town St Stephen’s Catholic Church. The early population of this church was almost all Hungarian. This is a valuable place to check for church records for people of this nationality. The church was the center of their socialization activities. It would later become the center of their fraternal organizations. In Toledo a popular event was the Grape Harvest Festival and the Easter egg sprinkling. These groups and events played a important part of the assimilation of Hungarians into the fabric of Toledo. Family units in Hungarian early life extended beyond the immediate family. It was referred to as the “sib” and included aunts, uncles, cousins and godparents who might not be relatives.
A common practice after 1910 was for Hungarian families to take in recent immigrants primarily males. The husband and the boarders would work outside the home while the women would take care of the chores necessary for maintaining a household. The diet would lean towards meat and very few dairy, fruit or vegetables. Wonderful opportunities exist for more understanding of Hungarians genealogy. Great strides have taken place in many parts of the United States to get a better understanding of this group. There heritages are being preserved and new resources are being discovered daily.
From time to time I will run into local Hungarians who remember my dad or my aunts and uncle. Mary and Helen sang on the radio in the 1940s and every so often someone will ask me if I am related to them. When someone notices my last name and asks me, are you related to ____________, the answer is always yes. All the Gerencsers in northwest Ohio are related to one another. I have second and third cousins in the Chicago, Benton Harbor Michigan, and Akron/Cleveland area whom I have never met. Locally, I have a few first and second cousins.
Grandma Mary Gerencser with the Family Cat, Pickles.
When my aunt with Alzheimer’s was over at our house last year, she didn’t know who the woman in the picture was but she with delight said, oh there’s my cat Pickles.
I am not certain what my grandparent’s religion was, but I suspect they were Catholics.
I regret not taking time to know my family history while those who could tell it to me were still alive. My dad died 25 years ago and my grandparents died over 50 years ago. Such is the lament of a man growing old. As death comes nearer and nearer to my door, I think more and more about the past. I wonder…what was it like for my dad to grow up on a farm? I will never be able to ask questions like this. Sometimes, when we drive down US 15/127 to Bryan, I gaze off to the left as we pass the Williams-Defiance County Line. I try to picture my grandparents, my dad, and my aunts and uncle, working the ground and taking care of the farm. I wonder about their hardships, about the hard work it took to eek out a living from the flat land of Williams County Ohio
I have lots of questions…
*dates and ages are approximate. My recollections are not what they once were. One reason for writing this post is to have a written record of these things before I some day can no longer remember them.
Fundamentalist Al Mohler has his panties in a knot a-g-a-i-n. This happens so often that Mohler recently had to have a pantiedectomy to remove over a dozen pairs of panties that were permanently ensconced in his rectum. It is always something with Mohler, the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This time, Mohler is upset about a Newsweek article on the Bible.
The feature article, The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin, is written by Kurt Eichenwald. Mohler notes that Eichenwald has, in the past, written for The New York Times and Vanity Fair. In other words, Mohler wants his followers to know that Eichenwald is a l-i-b-e-r-a-l.
Mohler contends that Eichenwald is out of his element in writing about the Bible. Evidently, being an investigative reporter is not sufficient to write about the Good Book. I suspect Mohler thinks that only theologians and people who actually believe the Bible is anything more than a fiction book should be the only ones worthy of writing about the Timeless Word of God®.
It always amuses me when people like Mohler play the “you are not qualified” card. Mohler is quite the hypocrite. He routinely writes on subjects he is not qualified to write on; subjects like politics, medicine, art, and science. According to Mohler’s website:
A native of Lakeland, Fla., Dr. Mohler was a Faculty Scholar at Florida Atlantic University before receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He holds a master of divinity degree and the doctor of philosophy (in systematic and historical theology) from Southern Seminary. He has pursued additional study at the St. Meinrad School of Theology and has done research at University of Oxford (England)
Best I can tell, Mohler has no serious training in science, politics, medicine, or art, yet he is somehow “qualified to write on these issues. Of course, I understand why. Evangelical pastors have the ear of God and are qualified to pontificate on any issue “God” wants them to. Evangelical pastors are noted for knowing everything there is to know about anything and everything. Doubt me? Just ask one of them.
I think Mohler is more than qualified to write on a variety of subjects. He is an older man with a lot of education. But then, so is Eichenwald, and that’s my point. Just because Eichenwald is not an Evangelical Christian or a college trained theologian doesn’t mean he is not capable of writing an article about the Bible. He can read and is an investigative reporter and he is well equipped to write on most any subject he puts his mind to.
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
They are God’s frauds, cafeteria Christians who pick and choose which Bible verses they heed with less care than they exercise in selecting side orders for lunch. They are joined by religious rationalizers—fundamentalists who, unable to find Scripture supporting their biases and beliefs, twist phrases and modify translations to prove they are honoring the Bible’s words.
This is no longer a matter of personal or private faith. With politicians, social leaders and even some clergy invoking a book they seem to have never read and whose phrases they don’t understand, America is being besieged by Biblical illiteracy. Climate change is said to be impossible because of promises God made to Noah; Mosaic law from the Old Testament directs American government; creationism should be taught in schools; helping Syrians resist chemical weapons attacks is a sign of the end times—all of these arguments have been advanced by modern evangelical politicians and their brethren, yet none of them are supported in the Scriptures as they were originally written.
The Bible is not the book many American fundamentalists and political opportunists think it is, or more precisely, what they want it to be. Their lack of knowledge about the Bible is well established. A Pew Research poll in 2010 found that evangelicals ranked only a smidgen higher than atheists in familiarity with the New Testament and Jesus’s teachings. “Americans revere the Bible—but, by and large, they don’t read it,’’ wrote George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli, pollsters and researchers whose work focused on religion in the United States. The Barna Group, a Christian polling firm, found in 2012 that evangelicals accepted the attitudes and beliefs of the Pharisees—religious leaders depicted throughout the New Testament as opposing Christ and his message—more than they accepted the teachings of Jesus.
Newsweek’s exploration here of the Bible’s history and meaning is not intended to advance a particular theology or debate the existence of God. Rather, it is designed to shine a light on a book that has been abused by people who claim to revere it but don’t read it, in the process creating misery for others. When the illiteracy of self-proclaimed Biblical literalists leads parents to banish children from their homes, when it sets neighbor against neighbor, when it engenders hate and condemnation, when it impedes science and undermines intellectual advancement, the topic has become too important for Americans to ignore, whether they are deeply devout or tepidly faithful, believers or atheists.
This examination—based in large part on the works of scores of theologians and scholars, some of which dates back centuries—is a review of the Bible’s history and a recounting of its words. It is only through accepting where the Bible comes from— and who put it together—that anyone can comprehend what history’s most important book says and, just as important, what it does not say.
“These manuscripts were originally written in Koiné, or ‘common’ Greek, and not all of the amateur copyists spoke the language or were even fully literate. Some copied the script without understanding the words. And Koiné was written in what is known as scriptio continua—meaning no spaces between words and no punctuation. So, a sentence like weshouldgoeatmom could be interpreted as ‘We should go eat, Mom,’ or ‘We should go eat Mom.’ Sentences can have different meaning depending on where the spaces are placed.For example,godisnowhere could be ‘God is now here’ or ‘God is nowhere.’”
But Kurt Eichenwald’s essay is not ground-breaking in any sense. These arguments have been around for centuries in some form. He mixes serious points of argument with caricatures and cartoons and he does exactly what he accuses Christians of doing — he picks his “facts” and arguments for deliberate effect.
Newsweek’s cover story is exactly what happens when a writer fueled by open antipathy to evangelical Christianity tries to throw every argument he can think of against the Bible and its authority. To put the matter plainly, no honest historian would recognize the portrait of Christian history presented in this essay as accurate and no credible journalist would recognize this screed as balanced.
Oddly enough, Kurt Eichenwald’s attack on evangelical Christianity would likely be a measure more effective had he left out the personal invective that opens his essay and appears pervasively. He has an axe to grind, and grind he does.
But the authority of the Bible is not the victim of the grinding. To the contrary, this article is likely to do far more damage to Newsweek in its sad new reality. Kurt Eichenwald probably has little to lose among his friends at Vanity Fair, but this article is nothing less than an embarrassment. To take advantage of Newsweek’s title — it so misrepresents the truth, it’s a sin.
Mohler thinks Eichenwald has an axe to grind. And Mohler doesn’t? His weekly missives are one long lesson in the art of axe grinding. How about we all admit we each have axes to grind? Let’s look beyond what may be over the top characterizations by Eichenwald and deal with the one salient fact he makes clear; the Bible is a horribly misrepresented, misunderstood book. Most Christians are ignorant about the history of the Bible and its teachings. Most Christians spend very little time reading and studying the Bible. Even among Evangelicals, people who love to claim they are people of the Book, Bible literacy and serious study of the Bible is lacking.
I suspect Mohler yearns for the day when churches, pastors, colleges, and seminaries controlled the flow of information. Before the internet, people didn’t have access to websites that dismantle, discredit, and obliterate the arguments pastors and theologians make for the Bible and its teachings. Unbelief is on the rise, the none’s continue to grow, and Bart Ehrman’s books are New York Times bestsellers. Information about the history of the Bible and its teachings can no longer be contained within the four walls of the church or seminary.
The bigger problem is that Christians, especially of the Fundamentalist and Evangelical stripe, now know that their pastor has been lying to them. Their pastor knew that the Bible is not an infallible, inerrant, or inspired book, he knew it contained errors, mistakes, and contradictions, yet he hid these things from parishioners. Conscientious Christians are right to wonder about what else their pastor isn’t telling them? Maybe it is time to check out other expressions of faith that don’t denigrate people over their gender, sexuality, or politics.
The internet will be the death of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity in America. Certainly Christianity will survive, but its future form will be much different from the Bible thumping days of the19th-20th century. Evangelicalism is dying. Mohler’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), continues to lose members. Actual church attendance and baptisms are in decline and the average congregation is filled with those over 50. On any given Sunday, over half of the people who are on the membership roll of a Southern Baptist church are nowhere to be found. (check the bed or the lake) SBC leaders fear they are losing a whole generation of young people. Instead of looking inward for the reason this is so, they blame it on American culture, Hollywood, emergent theology, etc. They seem unable to see that the real problem is irrelevance and an inability to answer the hard questions presented by science. Young adults continue to seek truth but they no longer look to the church for the answers.
Men like Al Mohler will continue to rage against the machine, blaming anyone and everyone but himself. At his funeral he will be eulogized as a stanch defender of the faith and the nursing home crowd in attendance will feebly say Amen.
Like everything that is of human construction, death, change, and rebirth are sure to come to American Christianity. It remains to be seen what Christianity will look like when my grandchildren are my age. That is, if the rapture hasn’t happened and carried all the real Christians® away.
1971-1972 was an eventful period for me. I was saved at an Al Lacy revival meeting, baptized, and called to preach. My parents divorced and remarried. I missed almost a month of school due to coming down with mumps and chicken pox. What a year, right?
I also saw a doctor for unexplained pains in my joints, especially my toes and elbows. The pain was so bad I couldn’t throw a baseball and THAT was a big deal to me at the time. The doctor said I was having “growing pains”. I did grow a lot in 9th and 10th grade, over 7 inches, so growing pains, at the times, made sense. I now know that the doctor didn’t know what was wrong with me and gave me a meaningless diagnosis.
If that wasn’t enough, some of the neighbor boys and I decided to go swimming in one of the nearby ponds along I-75. The pond was dug out when they needed dirt for overpass construction. I had fished this pond many times, and in the winter the neighbor boys would skate on the pond and play hockey.
A day or so after swimming in the pond, we all came down with mysterious blisters on our skin. My parents took me to the ER and one of the boys had to hospitalized. Doctors theorized that we are “exposed” to something in the water. We later found chemical barrels that had been dumped in the pond. I have often wondered what I was exposed to on that warm summer day in 1971?
And, I must not forget, 1971 was the year I was stung by a bee and had to be rushed to the ER because my air way was swelling shut and my eyes were swollen shut. Evidently, I was allergic to bees. (I am still allergic but less so since I had allergy shots years ago)
When I was 18, I started having swelling in my big toes. The Arizona doctor said I had gout. Other doctors, years later, said I didn’t have gout. At the time of my original diagnosis I had high uric acid levels, the telltale sign for gout. Years later, my uric acid levels were normal. So, did I really have gout? I don’t know.
As I got older, doctors treated me for chronic bronchitis and arthritis. One doctor told me the arthritis was the price I paid for playing contact sports. Years later, a different doctor told me the first doctor was full of crap. Yes, I now had arthritis in my shoulders, back, feet, and hands, but there was no way to KNOW if it was caused by contact sports. Dueling doctors, the bane of the chronically ill who are looking for answers.
In 1989, I came down with pneumonia. The doctor wanted to hospitalize me, but we didn’t have insurance so he agreed to treat me at home as long as I came to see him every few days. Years later, I had another bout of pneumonia, along with several bouts of pleurisy.
In 1991, I began to feel tired. The doctor thought I had a virus of some sort. This went on for weeks and weeks until the doctor decided to do some tests. He found out I had mononucleosis. I was 34 years old and mono can cause serious problems for adults. It did for me.
The doctor put me on a herpes drug. Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, and since herpes is caused by the same virus the doctor though the drug might help. It didn’t and a week later Polly rushed me to the ER in Zanesville, Ohio where they immediately admitted me. I had a high fever and my spleen and liver were swollen. There was so much infection in my system that my tonsils and adenoids were white.
An internist came in to see me and told me that my immune system was crashing and that if it didn’t pick up there was nothing they could do for me. This was the moment, THAT moment, when I realized, for the first time, that I was mortal. Prior to this moment, dying never crossed my mind. I had a family and church to take care of and I had thought of and no time for dying.
After my release from the hospital, I spent about a month in bed. I lost over 50 pounds. From this point forward, I became more susceptible to viruses. It seemed then and still does today that I catch any and every bug that is floating around.
Pain Always Looks Good on Other People
The strangest thing to come out of the mono episode was my normal body temperature changed. My new normal is 97 degrees. This poses a problem any time I get a new nurse and have a fever. She will take my temperature and say, it’s up a little, 99.8 degrees. I will then mention that my normal body temperature is 97 degrees, so 99.8 degrees for me is like 101.4 degrees for a normal person. Sadly, most nurses ignore me.
In 1996, I began to feel tired all the time. I mean really, really tired. And my muscles hurt. I went to one doctor who basically told me it was all in my head. I went to another doctor, the doctor who is still my primary care doctor, and over the next year he concluded I had Fibromyalgia. Since 1997, my primary diagnosis has been Fibromyalgia.
For about 10 years, my symptoms would come and go, always there but not always prominent. Being a work-a-holic with a Type A personality, having Fibromyalgia certainly cramped my ability to burn the candle at both ends, but I learned to manage my symptoms. Well, not really. I would work, work, work and then crash. I continue to repeat this cycle today. I have never been very good at taking it easy or resting. Of course, now it is different for me because I can no longer put mind over matter. My body has the upper hand and it controls many aspects of my life. I manage, but I no longer have the ability to ignore what my body is telling me.
In 2007, I began having neurological problems that my doctor doubted were Fibromyalgia related. I now had numbness in my face and thighs and I was losing muscle strength. A 15 minute walk in a store proved to be (and still does) a very painful and debilitating experience. By the time I am done walking, my thighs are numb, yet they are burning. The numbness and burning subside once I sit down in the car.
My primary care doctor sent me to Toledo to have a complete battery of tests, including a lumbar puncture. He wondered if I had multiple sclerosis. The tests came back inconclusive, and two brain scans later I am no closer to knowing what is causing the neurological problems. Some day my tombstone will read, Died of Hell if I Know Disease.
Today, the pain and debility continue to render me a shell of the man I once was. While I am grateful for still having most of my mental faculties (outside of the short-term memory problems I have, I do miss Bruce Almighty, the man with a strong body and a strong grip, able to do whatever he put his mind to. Those days are long gone and all the wishing in the world won’t bring them back. But, wishing is what old men do, especially those whose bodies are racked by the ravages of disease.
Age has added diabetes and high blood pressure to my plate. A slight bit of good news? My recent A1C level was 6.5. This means my diabetes is well controlled. Yea!
Recent months have brought new problems. I detailed those in a previous post. Tomorrow, I have an MRI and hopefully we will then know if it is something, maybe something, or nothing. After my recent CT scan, I spent significant time reading about pancreas and gallbladder problems. My doctor knows I will always educate myself. I want to be an informed patient.
I had an appointment with him a few hours ago. Refills, a new prescription for the horrible constipation I now have. I asked him what he thought about the CT scan results. He said he didn’t want to speculate and wanted to wait for the MRI results. Hopefully, he will receive the results sometime late tomorrow and call me.
I asked my doctor if the MRI could definitively determine if I had pancreatic cancer or a pancreatic cyst. He said, yes. I told him I had done a fair bit of reading on the subject. I laughed a bit and said, my diagnosis ranges from watch and wait to it sucks to be you. The doctor smiled. He knows my diagnosis is correct. If it is pancreatic cancer, it does suck to be me. He hopes it is not. If it is, then it is likely I will have to have a biopsy done. He also thinks I will need to have my gallbladder removed.
I am detailing my story to hopefully give readers some sort of context for understanding the health problems I have. For me personally, I wonder how I got to where I am today? Did my current health problems find their root in 1971-72 and it has taken all these years to bear fruit? Perhaps mononucleosis altered my immune system? Was I exposed to a cancer causing chemical in pond water 40 plus years ago?
I don’t think I will likely ever know. I do subscribe to the cumulative effect theory. Environmental exposure, eating habits, poverty, and genetics added together have brought me to where I am today. It’s not one thing, it’s everything, everything being life. We all have to die of something and my something has made itself known. (that is if I don’t trip over the cat in the middle of the night and break my neck)
Recently, someone asked me if I was worried about the possibility of having cancer? (I have already had cancer, skin cancer) They said, answering for me, how could you not be worried, right? Just asking this question reveals they don’t know me very well or haven’t been paying attention. Worry is not part of who I am. I am stoic about life, perhaps even a bit fatalistic. If I have cancer I can’t change that I have it. Worrying and fretting does me no good. In fact, it increases my pain levels. So, I try to channel my inner Buddha and relax. Life is what it is and all I can do is take what comes. Yes, if it is cancer, I will have decisions to make. If it is not cancer, I will still have decisions to make. Either way, I will educate myself and make informed decisions. Isn’t that all any of us can do?
Last night, several of my sons, grandson, and I attended the Buffalo Wild Wings Holiday Classic Championship Game at Defiance College. The game featured two local high school teams, the Wauseon Indians and the Tinora Rams. The game was closely contested until the end when Wauseon pulled away from Tinora. The final score was 52-38.
I love attending high school basketball games. Three of my grandchildren are enrolled in the Tinora school district, and several more will likely enroll in the coming years. I hope to live long enough to see several of my grandchildren play sports at Tinora.
#22, Noah Castle, #22, Tyler Risner
When I attend high school sporting events, I find myself drifting back to the days when I played sports. I was never much of an athlete, good enough to make the team, but never good enough to be a starter. When I attended small rural schools I was usually good enough to make the team. However, once we moved to the big city and I enrolled in Findlay High School, I rarely made it beyond the first or second cut. Fortunately, living in a larger community afforded me the opportunity of playing city league basketball and baseball. Regardless of my own nominal athletic ability, I love watching the games.
With the games come the fans. Most fans at the high school level are polite and respectful. Outside of reminding the officials of perceived wrong calls, most fans are there to cheer on the students of their school district. I am the rare fan that attends games just because there is a game being played. Most fans are either graduates of one of the schools playing the game or have children or grandchildren on one of the teams.
#22, Noah Castle, #5 Zac Robinson,#30, Carter Bzovi,#32, Jacob Miller,#Unknown
Last night, a totally sober fan of the Wauseon Indians decided to make an ass of himself near the end of the game. As Wauseon began to pull away from Tinora, this fan decided to start verbally abusing the Tinora players. Towards the end of the game, he took to attacking one player in particular, focusing on the player’s weight. (#32 in the dark/green jersey)
Evidently, either this man is a bully and his fellow Wauseon fans are afraid to tell him to shut the hell up, or they think his abusive behavior is funny. I, for one, thought it was despicable.
#32, Jacob Miller
After a couple of minutes of listening to his abusive taunts, I started to stand and turn towards him. I felt a firm hand on my leg and my son said, leave it alone, Dad. You see, my sons know that I despise such people. I think they ruin the game environment and I don’t think them paying $6.00 for a ticket gives them the right to be an asshole.
Fortunately, the game ended a few moments later. If this man had continued blathering, I have no doubt I would have put him in his place. Guys like him are bullies who use words to abuse and attack others. While college and professional players are expected to ignore such fans (and I have a problem with it at this level too), such behavior has no place at high school sporting events.