Just when I think I have heard every possible explanation for my past and present life, a Christian will cook up a new explanation that he believes properly explains my story line. Unwilling to let me tell my story — while demanding I accept their testimony of faith in a dead man named Jesus — these diviners of truth think they know me better than I know myself. Take Doug, who sent me an email today that stated:
I just really stumbled on your site today . You r not an atheist or agnostic you and I both know that is not true . You just have become very bitter some where along the line. What triggered that only u know . The things u at one time believed u still believe . it is sad that u have taken the stand u have . The Bible states that it is possilble to even forget u have been saved by allowing bitterness to come n . U r n my prayers !
Let me summarize Doug’s divination of my mind:
I am not an atheist and I know it.
I am not an agnostic and I know it.
I am a Christian who has become bitter.
What triggered this bitterness, only I know.
What I once believed, I still, deep down in my heart of hearts — down where the Holy Ghost is snoozing away — believe.
I have forgotten that I am saved because I have allowed bitterness to come into my life.
Got all that?
First, Evangelicals such as Doug confuse directness with bitterness. I say what I mean, and mean what I say. There is nothing in my writing that suggests bitterness. Only Evangelicals who can’t square my life with their theology say I am bitter. Now if someone said I was angry or irritated, that would be different. Anger is a normal human emotion, so when racist-in-chief Donald Trump does some of the things he does, yes, it sure as hell angers me. I’ve learned to harness my anger and turn it into words and actions. I have found it is better to embrace my anger than pretend it does not exist, or to think that being angry is a sin or weakness. But bitterness? Not a chance. Ask those who knows me if I am bitter and they will tell you no. Being bitter is just not who I am.
Second, I am an atheist. Say that real, real s-l-o-w: Bruce Gerencser is an atheist. Shouldn’t I be the one to determine who and what I am? If I say I am an atheist and my beliefs and actions are consistent with atheism, shouldn’t my self-identification be taken at face value? Imagine me saying to Doug, You are not a Christian Doug, You know it, and I know it. Doug would be offended, as he well should be. If Doug says he is a Christian, then I should accept what he says, especially if his beliefs and actions are consistent with Christianity
Third, no I do not believe what I once believed. I don’t know how any person in his right mind can read my writing and conclude that I still believe what I once did. I had several belief changes as a Christian, so what beliefs specifically do I still believe? My beliefs in 1976 when I entered college were very different from my beliefs as a pastor in 1989, and my beliefs in 2003 when I pastored my last church were different from my beliefs in 1989. He who attempts to judge my beliefs at a certain point in time will likely be wrong. My beliefs continue, even today, to evolve and change. Old beliefs are challenged, corrected, and abandoned. New beliefs are embraced and believed until new evidence and knowledge forces change. Even at the ripe old, curmudgeonly age of sixty, I still have the capacity to learn new things. New sex positions, for example. Learning them of course, doesn’t mean I can do them. Just tonight, I attended an Ohio high school football game. I’ve attended over the years more games than I can count, yet, until tonight, I had never watched a game that ended in a tie, forcing overtime. So tonight, as my ass cheeks froze on cold aluminum bleachers, I watched two teams battle it out in overtime, and in doing so I learned what the rules were for an overtime high school game.
One aspect of learning new things is the discarding of previous beliefs. I once was an Evangelical Christian. My theology was orthodox in every way. Today? I no longer believe in the existence of the Christian God. I no longer believe Jesus is God, nor do I believe he was virgin born and resurrected from the dead. Jesus was a man who lived and died two thousand years ago, end of story. I reject all the cardinal beliefs of Christianity, yet somehow, according to Doug I, still believe what I once believed. Pray tell, how is that so? Who better to know what I believe than yours truly?
Third, I have not forgotten I am saved. I know exactly when I was saved because I was there when Jesus saved me, and I know when I lost my salvation too, almost nine years ago. But Bruce, the Bible says once saved, always saved. Once Jesus saves you, you are forever his! What the Bible says is immaterial. After all, millions of Christians believe the exact opposite, that Christians can fall from grace, losing their salvation. Some Christians believe that once you have lost it you can never get it back. Regardless of how someone interprets the Bible and what soteriology they extract from its pages, shouldn’t I be the final arbiter on this side of the grave as to whether I am a Christian or not? Surely, it’s up to me to decide who and what I am.
So to all the Christian Dougs of the blogosphere I say this: don’t think you can know me better than I know myself. You don’t. My wife of almost forty years knows me best, yet she doesn’t know everything about me. I see a counselor on a regular basis. He knows things about me that no one else knows. You know, things such as my secret desire to be a slinky, kinky cross dresser, complete with panties with the days of the week on them and red stiletto heels. Picture that in your mind, readers! I wonder if published pictures of me in drag would change Doug’s mind about my s-a-l-v-a-t-i-o-n? If so, get ready Facebook. High resolution photographs are on their way!
John Yelton, a Baptist pastor and traveling preacher, was arrested earlier this year and charged with child abuse. Yelton did not appear for his court appearance and was on the lam for months until he was apprehended this week in Panama City, Florida.
A former North Carolina pastor on the run from child abuse charges for months has been tracked down in Panama City by his bondsman, according to official reports.
John Yelton, 36, faces charges of child abuse, false imprisonment and communicating threats after his arrest. He is accused of using his position as a North Carolina preacher to target women and then abuse them, officials reported.
Bay County court records also indicate Yelton pleaded no contest in July to a local domestic battery charge and was sentenced to a year of probation.
Yelton denied all of the charges but left town shortly after, skipping out on $6,500 bond. After learning of his disappearance, a bail bondsman tracked Yelton to Panama City, where he was working at a local manufacturing job. The bail bondsman took Yelton into custody and transported him back to North Carolina.
Note: I realize this is a long post, but it was impossible for me to address the issue of racism in 1,200 words or less. I hope you will read to the end, and then share your thoughts in the comment section. I would also appreciate you sharing this post on social media.
Donald Trump. What more can be said about the orange-haired toddler currently inhabiting the White House. Fair-minded people see Trump as a narcissistic psychopath whose entire approach to policy and governing can be summed up in one word — winning. In recent weeks, mental health professionals have begun to question the president’s sanity and mental fitness. Could it be that the millions of people who voted for my dick-is-bigger-than-your-dick Trump were duped by a man who is mentally unfit for office? Or is Trump more like Jack Nicholson’s character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest — a man who is artfully manipulating the system for his own good. Looking at the tax overhaul plan released today by Trump, I would suggest the latter. The president is asking Congress to reduce the number of tax rates, while also reducing the rate on the highest tax bracket from thirty-nine percent to thirty-five. Trump also wants Congress to do away with the estate tax, drastically reduce corporate tax rates, and fundamentally change how American corporate profits earned overseas are taxed. The big winners in the president’s plan are millionaires, billionaires, and large corporations. In other words, Trump wins big, to the tune of millions of dollars a year in reduced taxes. And when he dies his vast estate would be passed on to his heirs tax-free. Talk about winning. Trump wins on both sides of the grave.
None of the above surprises me in the least. Trump is the culmination of forty years of Republican attempts to gut the federal government, impoverish the states, and reward wealthy capitalists for their political support. Begun by Saint Ronald Reagan with what George H.W. Bush called voodoo economics, Republican economic policies are now such that there can be no doubt that their end game is the enslavement of the working class and poor and the enrichment of the corporate oligarchs who now rule (and own, bought and paid for with campaign donations) federal and state governments. And these haters of progressive values are not finished. We still have Paul Ryan and his Tea Party cohorts masturbating to a statute of Ayn Rand with Adam’s Smith invisible hand. These despisers of the poor will not rest until all the social progress gained since World War II is returned to the “hell” from whence it came. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Gun Control Act, Welfare, Food Stamps, Obamacare — gone, gone, gone! In its place is a resurgent wild west where corporations are free to misuse and abuse their employees, pollute waterways, foul the air, and donate millions to politicians who do the bidding of their business overlords (along with a military tasked to protect corporate interests across the globe).
Underneath the anti-human policies mentioned above is a subtle, and, at times, not so subtle, racism. There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that President Trump is a racist. And white supremacists, Steve Bannon of Breitbart fame, David Duke of the KKK, and the white marchers that took to the streets of Charlottesville think so too. White America — eighty-two percent of white Evangelicals vote for Trump — overwhelmingly voted for President Winner. While this in and of itself isn’t proof that Trump is a racist — after all, the overwhelming majority of blacks for voted Barack Obama — the president’s speeches, policies, executive orders, and Tweets — despite the token blacks at his Ain’t I Wonderful pep rallies — reveal that the man is indeed someone who is, at the very least, indifferent to matters of race. While some on the left want to give the president the benefit of the doubt, suggesting that he is a non-politician learning on the job, I am not one such person. Eight months of living in the swirling vortex of a Donald Trump presidency has shown me that the man is a racist.
If I had any doubts about Trump’s racism, events that have transpired over the last week have put an end to them. He is, without a doubt a racist. First, there’s the president’s verbal and Twitter attacks of black NFL and NBA players. My counselor and I were talking about this very matter today, and he asked me if I noticed how Trump artfully moved the reference point of discussion. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee, it was to protest racial injustice and police brutality against people of color. Over the weekend, hundreds of black (and white) NFL athletes refused to stand for the National Anthem. Their reasons for protesting range from racial injustice and police violence against blacks to Trump calling them sons of bitches and demanding team owners fire them. Trump moved the discussion goalpost by changing the point of reference from race to patriotism. The protests had nothing to do with race, according to the president, and everything to do with disrespecting the American flag. Trump did the same thing when he was sharply criticized for his atrocious tone-deaf comments after the white-supremacist-driven carnage in Charlottesville. The protest wasn’t about race. Oh no, the marching whites in Charlottesville were protesting the left’s attack on their Southern way of life, complete with Confederate flags and Civil War monuments. By turning these protests on their head, Trump hopes to avoid being labeled a racist. Sadly, many of his followers have followed right along with him, asserting that neither they nor President Make-America-Great-Again are racist.
Want to see how racist many people in America still are? Just turn to the comment sections on news sites and blogs, or slog through posts and comments by Herr Donald supporters on social media, and you will see George Wallace-worthy — I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever — racism. From support of Trump’s racist immigration policies and his callous indifference to the suffering of non-white Puerto Rico to their defense of his on attack black athletes and whites who oppose his policies, these dog-whistle-hearing sycophants show that we are generations away from living in a post-racial society.
If you doubt these issues are about race, let Steven Colbert of The Late Show fame,The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, and Nick Wright from ESPN put your doubts to rest.
I am sixty-years old. I grew up in a flag-waving, John Birch Society-supporting, Evangelical home where racism was never far from the surface of day-to-day life. My parents moved to California in the 1960s. It was there that they were exposed to the virulent racism at the heart of American exceptionalism, Christian nationalism, and ideologies trumpeted by Richard Welch, Jr, the founder of the John Birch Society, 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and Democratic/Independent candidate George Wallace. I have no doubt that the preaching of their pastor, Tim LaHaye, from the pulpit of Scott Memorial Baptist Church helped to stoke my parents’ rage against blacks, Mexicans, Martin Luther King, Jr, the Black Panthers, the United Nations, Vietnam War protesters, and anyone and everyone who ran afoul of their white sensibilities.
It should not be surprising, then, that their eldest son, picked up on and adopted their beliefs. As a first-grader in the San Diego public school system, I took several of my mother’s books to school, one of which was None Dare Call it Treason by John Stormer. One of the books had graphic photographs of violence perpetrated by Communist Russia. I primarily brought the book to school so I could show my fellow classmates the photos. My teacher quickly confiscated the books and sent them home with me at the end of the day with a note saying the books were to remain at home. I am sure my parents were proud of my preaching of right-wing gospel.
As a young adult, I frequently told racist jokes. While I often had to hide my racist views of blacks in public, in private conversations with fellow white restaurant managers I would lament the laziness of black employees. Even in our foster care provider days when we had a black teen girl living with us, I saw myself as a benevolent white out to help a helpless black girl. I was, without a doubt, the son of Robert and Barbara Gerencser, warriors for all things Christian and white.
My views on race began to change while this black girl lived in our home. In 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. Needing local housing, we arranged to rent a farm-house from a retired teacher. The day we called to pick up the keys for the house, this virtuous pillar of all things Christian told us that she was going to rent the house to a family member instead. This, I later learned, was a lie. The truth was that she discovered we had a black foster child living with us, and according to someone who knew her well, she “wasn’t going to have a nigger living in her house.” We moved, instead, to New Lexington, thirteen miles south of Somerset. There we enrolled our foster daughter in the local public school. She was the only student of color in the school. Needless to say, this made her a target of racist rednecks who made her short stay there a living hell. Eventually, our foster daughter was returned to the system in hopes of her being placed in a home located in a more racially diverse area.
During the almost twelve years I pastored Somerset Baptist Church, my understanding of the complexities of race and the systemic problems faced by people of color began to change. I wish I could say that I had a Damascus road experience and the racist blinders over my eyes immediately fell off, but alas I can’t. It took years and years for my racist tendencies to fade into the fabric of racial equality and inclusion. And even to this day, I am not certain that I am blind to skin color. Several weeks ago, I participated in forum discussion on the subject, Does Racism Exist in Northwest Ohio? (You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.) My answer was, yes, and I gave several examples to bolster my point; that underneath the white Christian veneer of rural Ohioans is a latent Obama-hating, affirmative action-hating, racism waiting to be unleashed. Last November, seven out of ten voting locals voted for Donald Trump. Confederate flags were unfurled for all to see. Racism, once buried safely below rural respectability, was legitimized and encouraged to rise to the occasion. The result is there for all to see on social media and on the editorial page of the Defiance Crescent-News.
During the aforementioned forum discussion, I mentioned an example of how Mr. Progressive, Mr. Color Blind Bruce Gerencser still had deeply buried racist tendencies. Several months back, while driving by Galilee Baptist Church on Ottawa Street in Defiance, I remarked, that’s where blacks go to church. True, Galilee is primarily attended by blacks, but when I drove by the next dozen or so churches, why didn’t I say, that’s where whites go to church? This illustration might seem quaint or not worthy of mention in a discussion on racism, but to me, it revealed that I still, to some degree, saw things from a racist perspective. I suspect that I will spend the remaining days of my life continuing to root out deep-seated prejudices towards people of color.
My wife, Polly, grew up in a family where racism was multi-generational, especially on one side of her family. I don’t remember Polly’s parents making strong racist statements, but their view of blacks revealed itself when they negatively talked about “colored” people. Why was skin color germane to the stories? Does it matter whether the wino, homeless man, thief, or murderer was black? Shouldn’t the crime or behavior be the focus of discussion? Yes, that’s how it should have been, but a racial designation was always attached when the perpetrator was a person of color.
Over the years, Polly and I heard family members tell countless jokes and stories about blacks. Sometimes, the stories were about how their white churches, in a paternalistic way, helped out this or that black family or how the white colonialist missionaries they supported were helping poor, ignorant blacks see the truth of the white Jesus gospel. Several discussions revolved around whether missionaries should require new black converts to dress and behave like Western whites. The answer, of course, was yes. Western Christianity was viewed as superior to African and Caribbean norms. Women were expected to wear bras, men ties, and everyone was to sing hymns the way they were sung at First Baptist Church. Black culture was a problem to be eradicated, not embraced, and missionaries were tasked with westernizing — in Jesus’ name, of course — their target groups.
A recent social media dust-up I had with the sixteen-year-old son of Polly’s Fundamentalist preacher cousin made me realize that the racism in her family is multi-generational. In a post titled Christmas, 1957-2014, I talked about the 2010 Christmas gathering for her immediate family. I wrote:
Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and through the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism made for an uncomfortable evening.
Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Odd Lots. The grandchild of one of Polly’s uncles asked him what the plate was for. He replied, to go poo-poo on, poo-poo being the fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us
Fast forward to 2017, the grandchild mentioned above is a Fundamentalist Christian teenager, a staunch supporter, as were the three generations before him, of right-wing extremism. Recently, the boy raged against those (blacks) who refuse to stand for the National Anthem during pre-game ceremonies at professional sporting events. The latest protests, which he perceived was dishonoring of the military, the American flag, and the Christian way of life, resulted in him attacking those who refused to stand.
Here’s what the boy posted several weeks back:
Several days ago, he posted a similar screed.
Generally, I treat Facebook as a place to hang out with like-minded family and friends. I avoid political and religious discussions, preferring to look at shared photographs and cat videos. If I happen to inadvertently befriend someone outside of our extended family who is a Trump supporter or a right-wing Christian extremist, I quickly unfriend them. Life is too short for me to spend time wading through rivers of Trumptastic bullshit. Things are, however, a bit more dicey with family members. Polly and I, by far, are more progressive and liberal than many of the people we call family. When it comes to religion, we are the only out-and-out unbelievers in the bunch. While a handful of family members voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, most of them vote Republican, and having had enough of the Kenyan-born socialist Obama, voted for Donald Trump over Clinton in 2016 (a few voted for Gary Johnson).
Knowing this about our extended family, I avoid political discussions with them, choosing to alternately laugh and cry over the lies and distortions they post on their Facebook walls. For whatever reason, yesterday I decided to respond to the aforementioned comments. Here’s what I said:
My response, predictably, brought out lit Tiki torches, resulting in this reply:
Let me summarize the boy’s argument:
There is no such thing as racism
There is no such thing as white privilege
Whites are the ones being discriminated against
I, foolishly thinking I could make a saint out of Malcom X at a KKK rally, replied:
Needless to say, the shit hit the proverbial fan and it is still, today, spraying across the social media. The boy told me I was ignorant, and the boy’s mother, with whom I have had several skirmishes over her ignorant posts about atheists, sent me a red-hot message, letting me know that my comments were out of line, that I was a bitter old man, and that their family was NOT racist — we know black people! I attempted to respond to her, but, by then, she had blocked me.
I would have asked her, if your family is not racist, where did your son get his abhorrent racist beliefs? Dad? Mom? Grandpa? Church? (I featured the racist comments of one woman who attends the church this boy’s father pastors in a post titled, Christian Fundamentalist Shares the Sweet, Sweet Love of Jesus on Facebook. This boy did not come up with these beliefs in a vacuüm. He was taught these things in word and deed.
Needless to say, this Facebook altercation destroyed what little relationship Polly or I had with this particular family. And that’s fine. Perhaps, one day this boy will have an epiphany about his views on patriotism and race, along with his views on LGBTQ people, same-sex marriage, liberalism, and socialism, and vaguely remember his curmudgeonly old “bitter” atheist cousin once removed and his attempts to show him a better way. For now, he remain a textbook example of how racism and bigotry can affect multiple generations of people — even those who, with infectious smiles, say, Jesus loves you, and he has a wonderful plan for your life.
For those of you who are still talking to your uber-patriotic, flag-waving Republican/Evangelical/Conservative/Right-Wing/Tea-Party friends and family, how have they responded to Donald Trump’s racist comments and protests by black NFL players? Please share your pithy thoughts in the comment section. If you are a supporter of dotard Donald Trump, don’t bother. I’m all Trumped out.
A former Clarke County pastor today pleaded guilty to charges of raping, sexually abusing and sodomizing multiple young girls.
Mack Charles Andrews Jr., 55, will serve 15 years in prison as part of the plea agreement.
Andrews was expected to stand trial starting today on charges involving multiple minors in the late 80s and into the 90s when he was pastor of the First United Pentacostal Church in Thomasville and principal of Faith Christian Academy.
Andrews was arrested on Oct. 3, 2013 on multiple counts of rape, sexual abuse, attempted rape, sodomy and sexual torture, according to court records. He is being held at the Clarke County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Warrants filed by Thomasville police at the time of the arrest outline charges involving multiple minors in the late 80s and into the 90s.
Investigator discusses Mack Andrews case David Connor shares his thoughts on the convicted former pastor. In September, one of Andrews’ accusers shared with AL.com her story of alleged abuse. That victim said she was victimized from age 7 until she was 12.
The day after that article was published, the judge in the case issued a gag order preventing attorneys and witnesses in the case from talking with reporters or posting details of the case on social media.
That victim, who now lives out of state, did not return to Alabama to participate in the trial, District Attorney Spencer Walker said. Four other victims, however, agreed to the plea deal.
A Huntsville pastor is accused of failing to report sexual abuse of a child who allegedly was fondled by a now-former sheriff’s deputy.
Michael Walker, pastor of Southside Baptist Church, was released from the Madison County Jail on $500 bail early this morning, records show.
Walker failed to report abuse that Roland Campos, a former deputy, is accused of committing against a 12-year-old girl, police said.
“Investigators have since learned through follow-up investigation that the victim reported the abuse to Walker and he refused to notify law enforcement or (the Department of Human Resources),” Huntsville police Lt. Stacy Bates wrote in a news release. “The law requires anyone acting in a capacity such as Walker to report this type of alleged criminal activity.”
Police said Walker was made aware of the abuse in March. Campos was arrested in August on two felony counts of sexual abuse. He is free on bail.
Campos resigned amid a sheriff’s office internal investigation of the allegations. Huntsville police have handled the criminal case.
“Michael Walker is not guilty and looks forward to presenting his side in court,” Walker’s attorney, Jonathan Pippin stated in an email to AL.com.
The victim in a sexual abuse case against now-former Madison County sheriff’s investigator Roland Campos was 12 years old when the 63-year-old lawman fondled her, court documents allege.
Campos, a longtime sheriff’s investigator, resigned Friday just before he was booked into the Madison County Jail on two felony counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
Police have said the victim, a young girl, is a family member of Campos. Huntsville police Lt. Stacy Bates earlier this week told AL.com that HPD was called to investigate after the sheriff’s office was notified about the child’s allegations. The report was made Friday around 3 p.m., but the alleged abuse occurred months earlier, police have said.
About three hours after police were called, Campos resigned. He was a 10-year employee of the sheriff’s office, where he investigated white-collar crimes, like fraud and identity theft.
Campos was booked into the jail by 8 p.m. and released on $10,000 the next day.
“Anytime you have an employee that is involved in any criminal activity, it’s shocking,” Madison County sheriff’s Lt. Brian Chaffin said at a news conference earlier this week. “Not only is it shocking, it’s painful. We had a meeting this morning. You can see it on everybody’s faces. It’s never a good thing when one of your own ends up in jail. But, of course, we have to do our job and we’re going to continue to do our job.”
Campos isn’t the first person in his family to be charged with sex crimes. His son, also named Roland, was sentenced to two terms of life in prison without parole in 2014 for sodomizing a 5-year-old girl while he was reportedly dating the victim’s mother.
Campos’ brother, Russell Leland Campos, was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 in 2011. Those charges were dropped in 2014 when the alleged victim in the case was unable to testify due to the “ongoing effects of psychological trauma.”
I wish more prosecutors would hold pastors and churches accountable for not following mandatory reporting laws. As story after story on this blog has shown, far too many “men of God” and churches hide abuse accusations, choosing to protect reputations over helping abuse victims hold their abusers accountable for their crimes.
A former pastor will spend 30 days in jail after admitting this week to sexually abusing a minor more than a decade ago.
Eric Dave Jones, 49, pleaded guilty on Monday in Haywood County Superior Court to indecent liberties with a child, a felony that could carry up to nearly two years in prison. Instead, in addition to a month of time in county jail, Jones will serve 90 days of house arrest and three years of supervised probation.
He’ll be required to submit a DNA sample and register as a sex offender for 30 years, according to a court judgment.
By pleading guilty, he won’t be charged for any other allegations related to the case.
The judgment said Jones, a Bryson City resident, began sexually abusing the victim in 2002. The victim was 9 years old at the time.
“The root of me telling people is because I know it’s not my fault that he’s done what he’s done and that he is a predator,” said the victim, now 25 and living in Cherokee. The Citizen-Times does not identify victims of sexual assault.
“I just felt like as long as I didn’t tell, I was giving them the opportunity to continue those actions to someone else.”
Public records show Jones was a pastor in Western North Carolina. The victim said he most recently worked at Beaver Creek Baptist Church in Andrews before resigning after his arrest earlier this year.
A phone number listed for the church was disconnected Thursday.
The victim said Jones was a longtime family friend.
“I’m glad he pleaded guilty,” she said. “Because he is. I think I got as much justice as I could. I’ll never get back what he took or what he’s caused, or the time that’s been lost on the just the emotional effect.”
Scores of American Christian parents believe that the Harry Potter books are a door to sorcery and the occult. Fearing that their children will turn into warlocks, witches, or sorcerers if they read the books, these parents refuse to let their children check the books out from the public or school library. My Evangelical ex-daughter-in-law is one such parent. She refuses to let her children read the books, whereas their father has no problem with them doing so. These grandchildren, ages eleven and nine, are voracious readers, as are our other grandchildren. We encourage them, as we did their parents, to read, read, read. So far, most of our grandchildren have advanced (high school, college level) reading skills. Polly and I are delighted to see their love of books.
When the Harry Potter books first came out, I was still an Evangelical pastor. I was somewhat concerned with the content of the books, so I had Polly read the books first. The books passed the Polly Test with flying colors. Our younger children read the Potter books several times over the years, and our grandchildren are now reading those very same well-worn copies.
While Polly and I were hardcore, devout followers of Jesus, when it came to what we allowed our children to read, we were indifferent liberals. Our older sons can testify to the fact that they were allowed to read books that many homeschooling Evangelical parents would have disproved of. This contradiction baffles me to this day. I don’t know why we let them read whatever they wanted to read, but we did. And, as best I can tell, they are better off because we did. Of course, a few Evangelicals likely will say that the Gerencser family’s rejection of the one true faith is directly connected to our liberal/secular reading habits. Books ruined us!
When I deconverted in 2008, I received a letter from a former parishioner that told me in no uncertain terms that books led to my loss of faith. She told me that I needed to return to reading only the Bible. If I would do so, she was sure my faith would return. I did not heed her advice.
Were you allowed to read whatever you wanted? If not, what books were on your parent’s banned-books list? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
Warning! I know some readers love my atheism, but hate my politics. If you are a supporter of President Trump, you might not want to read this post. I certainly wouldn’t want you to have a stroke. Thus warned, read at your own risk!
Unless you have been hiding in a nuclear fallout shelter out of fear of a Donald Trump-fueled war with North Korea, you know that numerous National Football League (NFL) players refused to stand for the playing of our national anthem — The Star Spangled Banner. Overwhelmingly black, these men of conscience are protesting not only Donald Trump’s racist Twitter attack and offensive campaign speech that targeted protesting players, but also issues such as Trump’s support of white supremacy and the continued use by police of deadly force against innocent or unarmed black Americans. Following in the steps of Colin Kaepernick, (please read Why I Stand With Colin Kaepernick) these players are using their place in the public spotlight to call attention to racial discrimination, inequality, and hostile government actions against people of color.
Many Republicans believe that racism no longer exists in post-Obama America. Americans elected and re-elected a black president in 2008 and 2012. A black man being elected president serves as proof to a culture steeped in white privilege that racism either no longer exists or is not that big of a deal. Yet, as events in Charlottesville showed, racism is alive and well. Thanks to the election of racist dog-whistler-in-chief, Donald Trump, white supremacist groups, the KKK, Nazis, and bigoted Evangelical Christian nationalists have, without fear, preached the old-time gospel of white superiority.
Donald Trump revealed how tone-deaf and blind he is on matters of race when he used Twitter and a campaign speech over the weekend to attack protesting black players, both in the NFL and the National Basketball Association (NBA). Here’s what President Trump had to say at a political rally for U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange:
Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!” You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, “That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.” And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in this country.
When the NFL ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be they like watching what’s happening… with yours truly. They like what’s happening. Because you know today if you hit too hard—15 yards! Throw him out of the game! They had that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! They’re ruining the game. That’s what they want to do. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.
But you know what’s hurting the game more than that? When people like yourselves turn on television and you see those people taking the knee when they are playing our great national anthem. The only thing you could do better is if you see it, even if it’s one player, leave the stadium, I guarantee things will stop. Things will stop. Just pick up and leave. Pick up and leave. Not the same game anymore, anyway.
Trump also took to Twitter, his favorite tool for sending his words of genius out to the American public:
“…NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”
“If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!’
“Roger Goodell of NFL just put out a statement trying to justify the total disrespect certain players show to our country.Tell them to stand!”
Supporters of Trump were quick to defend his words. What follows is a compendium of pro-Trump statements.
First up is hypocrite Rex Ryan, former coach of the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills. Ryan had this to say over the weekend about Trump’s statements:
“I’m reading these comments and it’s appalling to me, and I’m sure it’s appalling to almost any citizen in our country. It should be. Calling our players SOBs and all that stuff. That’s not the men that I know. Men that I know in the locker room, I’m proud to be associated with those people. I apologize for being pissed off, but guess what, that’s it. Because right away, I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for and all that because I introduced him. I never signed up for that. I never wanted that. That doesn’t mean I support 100-percent of the things he says, and clearly this is a case.”
Just last year at a Trump campaign rally, Ryan had this to say about the future president:
“There’s so many things I admire about Mr. Trump, but one thing I really admire about him is, you know what, he’ll say what’s on his mind. But so many times, you’ll see people, a lot of people want to say the same thing. But there’s a big difference. They don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it, but they don’t have the courage to say it.
“And Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it, and that’s why I respect him. And you know what? So do the people of New York. This man, he’s one of the greatest businessmen, obviously, that we can ever remember. There’s no question about that.”
Some Trump officials came out in support of his attack on black NFL players:
“The owners should have a rule that players should have to stand and have respect for the national anthem.This isn’t about Democrats, this isn’t about Republicans, it’s not about race, it’s not about free speech. They can do free speech on their own time.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin
“Look, I think the NFL is an issue where the president has made a case that, as we’ve talked about, there are coaches across this country, at high-school level, who are penalized and disciplined for leading their players in prayer. And yet, you see an issue in the NFL where the media champions those who are taking a knee to disrespect the American flag. That is a dichotomy that most Americans can’t understand and for good reason. And the president’s raising attention to that. Well, he’s making the case that, in many cases, there are generations of Americans who have fought and died to protect our freedoms and fought and died for the red on that flag that represents the blood that’s been sacrificed by so many Americans. And what the president is doing is saying, “This is not the appropriate place to raise your social activism.” And I think he’s made the case that you have a First-Amendment right, if you wish, to protest the flag. But owners have a First-Amendment right, as well. They have the First-Amendment right to fire those players, if they so choose.
White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short
“I think if the debate is really for them about police brutality, they should protest the officers on the field that are protecting them instead of the American flag,”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Nor wanting to be left out of the limelight, some Evangelicals unapologetically supported the pussy-grabber-in-chief:
“There’s a whole lot of talk going on about taking a knee during our national anthem. Yesterday even Stevie Wonder said he was taking not one knee, but two “for America.” I can tell you how getting on our knees could make a real difference—not in protest or in pride, but in PRAYER. Praying for each other, praying for unity, and praying for this great nation and our leaders. “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore” (Psalm 105:4).”
God bless Richard Petty, Richard Childress, and NASCAR owners for doing the right thing. They told their employees that if they disrespected the flag or the national anthem, they would get them a ride on a Greyhound bus! I think NFL owners should take a lesson from them! Do you agree?
I don’t know about you, but it’s just about time for a boycott of the NFL. At the very least, we should all agree to turn off and/or walk out of ANY game where ANY player of ANY color kneels or sits during the playing of our National Anthem. They exercise their free speech by kneeling, we exercise ours by turning them off. Much respect to the players who did not kneel, and to Jags owner Shad Khan who locking arms and standing. Good job. Everyone else, you’re fired. Go take a knee in the unemployment line.
I agree with our president on this issue, but my protest has nothing to do with Donald Trump. I am boycotting the NFL because I refuse to be used as a pawn in what is obviously a well thought out plan to divide America along racial lines.
So go ahead and kneel all you want during the National Anthem, and raise your fist in the black power salute because guess what? I won’t be watching you do it. And guess what else? I just happen to think there will be more than a couple of million other true patriots of this great nation not watching you along with me.
It’s difficult to see athletes, many of whom are black, who are paid tens of millions—some hundreds of millions of dollars for their contract to play football, stand against our country and our president, dismissing the interests of the fans who in fact pay their salaries. And it’s also difficult to see them essentially standing on a flag that so many gave their lives for. And that so many of us love, and are proud of. It is about the president. And it is about disrespect for our country. In fact, in the game yesterday between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens in London, American players kneeled during the American anthem, then stood during “God Save The Queen, Britain’s national anthem. How would McDonalds respond if the kid working at the drive through window, after taking your money, announced he was going to lecture you about his social beliefs and concerns before he would give you your burger? If the football players are calling for acceptance of the homosexual agenda—and some are, after taking the money of tens of millions of biblical Christians, they are asking us to disavow biblical teachings on the matter, including the teachings of Jesus Christ Himself. The same would apply to abortion. If the players are truly advocating for women’s rights, they could encourage the millions who watch them play to become a Christian. Christianity has done more to elevate the value of women than any other belief system in the history of the world.
Gary Randall, president of Faith and Freedom
“It is a deliberate undermining of another American institution. I’ve been convinced from the time I was a young guy that American boys play football. American boys play football, they don’t play soccer. They play soccer in Europe, they play soccer in Russia, they play soccer in Japan; in America, we play football. You look at what’s going on all across society [and] they’re doing everything they can to destroy football. Mommies aren’t letting their little boys play football anymore” because of concerns about concussions. You don’t want to get hurt? Well, quit riding in a car. There are a lot more concussions in cars than ever were on a football field, I can promise you that. You’re afraid you’re going to get hurt? Quit walking down steps. People break their legs all the time walking down steps. We’ve got to see exactly what’s going on. America’s sport is being destroyed right in front of us.”
Dave Daubenmire, former football coach
And of course this is all meant to divide America. It’s social engineering by the globalists to make whites racist. You know what whites are is lazy, candy-ass, politically correct trash. There’s not much worse in this country than white people, to get to the end of the day. They’re the ones all saying the white people are the devil.They’re the ones that came up with this race-baiting to make everybody racist. I don’t want to give an anti-white rant, but if you want one I’ve got one because I’ve been watching who’s been leading all of this. And they’re a bunch of sociopaths. And I’m sick of them.”
I’m all for exercising Constitutional Rights, but this new trend is alarming. Standing honors those who have given their lives for the freedoms that we now enjoy—freedoms that allow these individuals to make millions of dollars and never have to worry about retirement or hard work. Our arrogance, as a nation, is mind-boggling. “We have forgotten God, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own” (Abraham Lincoln)….Today, entertainers mock God and America, the church is silent and passive and the courts have taken it upon themselves to assume the role of a law-making body, rather than a protector of the Constitution; they have become political rather than constitutional. The wall of separation of church and state that was designed to protect America’s freedoms has now imprisoned her…One of my great concerns is for the pulpits of America. Many are exchanging truth for tolerance, boldness for balance, and conviction for cowardliness. We don’t want to offend; we might lose our audience. But we are not to seek the applause of men but the applause of God.
Pastor Shane Idleman
I think what these players are doing is absolutely wrong. These players ought to be thanking God that they live in a country where they’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking a knee like they would be if they were in North Korea.
Pastor Robert Jeffress
Unsurprisingly, given their flag-waving, white, redneck demographic, a few NASCAR luminaries came out in support of Trump:
“Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over. I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”
“Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period. If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.”
“I would sit down with them and say it’s the wrong thing to do that [take a kneel], and many people, including myself, view it as an affront to our great country. If there is disenchantment towards the President or a few bad law enforcement officers, don’t have it cross over to all that is still good and right about our country.”
Andy Murstein, principle owner of Petty Motorsports
And finally, leave it to Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a man who has made millions off the backs of black players, to oppose players sitting for the National Anthem:
“I do not think this is the place to express yourself in society as we recognize the American flag. So that’s not the place to do anything other than honor the flag and everybody that’s given up a little bit for it.”
Trump certainly has a constitutional right to say whatever he wants, and so far, he has exercised that right to its fullest, giving Americans a clear picture of his narcissistic personality and Make America Great (and White) Again view of the world. Unlike many on the left, I do not support silencing hate speech. Trump, along with his white supremacist supporters, have the right to pour vitriol and hate upon the heads of liberals, socialists, people of color, immigrants, and anyone else deemed un-American or inferior. However, with the right of free speech comes the freedom of others to respond, and respond they did over the weekend:
“We will never back down. We no longer can afford to stick to sports. This union … will never back down when it comes to constitutional rights of our players as citizens as well as their safety as men in a game that exposes them to great risks.”
NFL Players Association executive director De Maurice Smith
“The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters we’ve experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell
“The behavior of the President is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. If you do not Condemn this divisive Rhetoric you are Condoning it!!”
Richard Sherman, player for Seattle Seahawks
“I can’t take anything our Celebrity in Chief says seriously. He’s a real life clown/troll”
George Iloka, player for the Cincinnati Bengals
“It’s disappointing that Trump is the president and talks the way he talks, though. It’s just incredibly disappointing. Rick and I had never been real political people, but prior to when all of the campaigning was going on, I mean, it didn’t take more than a minute to realize we didn’t want Donald Trump in the presidency. The guy is not all there, and I can’t tell you how shocked we were when he won, but we have been pretty vocal about it since long before Colin took a knee. So, we have some pretty strong feelings about that part of things. To see this man that you have no respect for, basically because of all that he’s done in this presidency so far, slandering my kid publicly.”
Teresa Kaepernick, Colin Kapernick’s mother
“The idea of civil discourse with a guy who is tweeting and demeaning people and saying the things he’s saying is sort of far-fetched. Can you picture us really having a civil discourse with him? It was an actual chance to talk to the president After all, he works for us. He’s a public servant. He may not be aware of that, but he is a public servant, right? So maybe as NBA champions, as people in a prominent position, we could go in and say, ‘This is what’s bothering us, what can we do about this? How about the irony of, ‘Free speech is fine if you’re a neo-Nazi chanting hate slogans, but free speech is not allowed to kneel in protest? No matter how many times a football player says, ‘I honor our military, but I’m protesting police brutality and racial inequality,’ it doesn’t matter. Nationalists are saying, ‘You’re disrespecting our flag.’ Well, you know what else is disrespectful to our flag? Racism. And one’s way worse than the other.”
Steve Kerr, coach of the Golden State Warriors
“As a team, we have decided we will not participate in the national anthem. We will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country. Out of love for our country and in honor of the sacrifices made on our behalf, we unite to oppose those that would deny our most basic freedoms. We remain committed in continuing to work towards equality and justice for all. Respectfully, the players of the Seattle Seahawks.”
The battle for racial justice is far from over. I suspect that the skirmish over the weekend is the first of many battles that will be fought over matters of race, equality, and what kind of country America wants to be. Some Trump supporters have argued that recent protests are all about hatred for the President. I am sure more than a few Americans hate the President. I know I do. I can’t wait for the day when either Robert Mueller or voters run Donald Trump out of office. The man is, in every way, unfit for office, a divisive individual whose simplistic worldview focuses on one word — winning. Trump is the classic playground bully, out to attack and pummel anyone and everyone who crosses him. If the President was just an oft-bankrupt billionaire reality star, few Americans would pay attention. However, Trump and his minions currently hold the keys to the kingdom. They have in their hands the power to cause untold suffering, heartache, and death. Those of us who value freedom, democracy, progress, and civil rights for all must not grow weary in well-doing. If we quit now, we are turning America over to racists, fascists, and theocrats. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I do what I can to make America a better place to live — a place where people are no longer judged according to the color of their skin or the balance of their checking account.
I recently participated in a forum discussion on Racism in Northwest Ohio. You can listen to the podcast here. The podcast is also available on iTunes.