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The Christian Music Business

david meeceI am sure someone will object to the title of this post and say, Christian music is not a business, it is a ministry, it’s ALL ABOUT J-E-S-U-S!  It’s a ministry when the musician is willing to go anywhere for a love offering. It is a business when they have contracts, riders,  and demand a certain amount of money. For the most part, the Christian music business stopped being about Jesus a long time ago.

Years ago, I contacted the booking agent for the contemporary Christian group FFH about holding a concert at our church. I had checked their calendar and noticed that they had a few off days and would be near our church in West Unity, so I thought I would see if they were willing to come and sing at our church.

Not a chance. The booking agent told me that they had a $5,000 minimum. I was astounded by this. I thought, if I promoted the concert right we would likely take in about $2,000. Surely this would be enough money for FFH, especially since it was on a weekday. The booking agent proceeded to lecture me on the Christian music business, about how groups like FFH only have a limited window of opportunity to make their money. He then asked me how would I like to preach for just a love offering. I then got to school him about how I had spent my entire life preaching with no monetary expectation in return.

All told, I preached for 33 years. Not one time did I say to a church or to someone who wanted me to hold a meeting, I must have X amount of dollars. I never said no, and I preached more than one meeting over the years where it cost me more to drive back and forth to the meeting than I received in the love offering. This was never a problem for me, and according to some of my friends and family, I SHOULD have made money more of an issue.

I asked the booking agent for FFH to take my request to the group. He told me that he would not do this. Why? Because, he said, they would likely say Yes! If I let them, they would sing for free.

Over the years, I booked many musicians to come sing  at the church I was pastoring at the time. As a result, I learned a lot about the “business” side of Christian music. I met a lot of wonderful people who were willing to come and sing for little more than a promise. As a small church pastor, I did my best to promote the concerts and the church usually supplemented the love offering to make sure the musician (s) were given a decent offering.

In the late 1990’s, I decided to use concerts as a way to promote the church. I thought if outside people attended a concert that they might be interested in our church and start attending. While the concerts did draw large crowds, not one person ever became a part of our church as a result of attending a concert.

sierraI put on a concert at Hilltop High School in West Unity, Ohio featuring the group contemporary Christian group Sierra. I decided to sell tickets for the event, advertised it heavily, and sold 400 tickets, at 8.00 a piece. Sierra charged us $4,000 plus expenses to come sing for us. All told, the church lost $2,000.00 on the concert.

Another time, I put on a Southern Gospel concert at Hilltop Middle School, featuring The Sojourners Quartet from Kentucky and a local group called The Overcomer’s. This concert was well attended by what I call the blue-hair crowd. They loved the concert so much that their love worked out to about $2.00 a head when the $400 love offering was counted. Again, the church lost a substantial amount of money. I quickly learned that elderly people were of the not a bad show for a buck’ giving mindset.

I pastored Grace Baptist Church, renamed  Our Father’s House, in West Unity for seven years. In addition to the above concerts, the following Christian groups came to our church to sing:

David Meece

Annie Herring (formerly of Second Chapter of Acts)

The Mast Brothers

The Toney Brothers

NIA

along with a handful of local groups.

The Mast Brothers, a southern gospel group, were the easiest to work with and Annie Herring, by far, was the hardest. When Herring came to our church, it was quite evident that she was put out at having to sing at such a small venue, even though there were more than a hundred people crowded into our little storefront church. David Meece? Eclectic, strange, and he borrowed a Bible of mine and permanently highlighted and underlined verses in it. He didn’t ask me if he could do this, and had he asked me I would have said no. As a result, I had to buy a new Bible.

I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in SE Ohio for 11 years. During this time, a number of southern gospel groups came to the church and sang. One group, The Songsmen Quartet, a local group from the Lancaster area, was a church favorite, holding at least one concert a year for many years. The group broke up (and may have later started up with different people) after two of the group members got friendly with each other and committed adultery.

robbie hinerMy favorite concert while at Somerset Baptist Church took place in the mid-1980’s when Robbie Hiner came to sing for us. At the time, Hiner worked for Jerry Falwell at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia. Hiner was a regular on Falwell’s nationwide TV program, The Old Time Gospel Hour.

Several hundred people from all over SE Ohio, came to hear Hiner sing. The building was packed. Hiner made no demands or requests, sat down at our old, beat up church piano, and just started singing. In between songs, he shared funny stories, and from start to finish, this was the best Christian concert I ever attended. After the concert, Hiner hopped into his car, I believe it was an old, high mile Mercedes, and drove on down the road.

There is a certain group of Christians I call diesel sniffers. These kind of people don’t support a local church, and they travel from church to church listening to their favorite  Christian singing groups. They throw a few dollars in the plate and walk out the door of the church blessed! They subscribe to the Singing News so they can find out when their favorite groups with be near where they live. These kind of people wouldn’t walk across the street to share their faith, but they would drive two hours to hear their favorite quartet sing.

There is a lot of fakery in the Christian music business. I suppose this inevitable due to the fact that they travel from church to church, venue to venue. They develop a routine, a shtick. Where they get into trouble is when their routine or shtick extends to their spirituality or their emotional responses. Years ago, I went with a church member to hear The McKamey’s sing.  There was one song where one of the female singers kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. I thought, God just touched her heart. A week later, the church member and I heard The McKamey’s again at a huge gospel sing. Same song, and at the exact same point in the song, the female singer kicked off her shoes and had an emotional, supposedly spiritual, outburst. The woman wasn’t being “blessed.” Her display was rehearsed and meant to elicit an emotional response from the audience.  Reason? Stirred emotions lead to open wallets.  I saw this kind of rehearsed, fake, insincere, emotional manipulation countless times at southern gospel, contemporary Christian, and Christian rock concerts. They used the same tactics and manipulations that I did as a pastor. Sincere? Perhaps, but it is still emotional manipulation and it often results in people doing things they wouldn’t normally do, things like giving large sums of money, running the aisles. going to the altar, etc.

kingsmen quartet

Over the years, I talked to several people who were Christian music industry insiders. One man traveled for a time with The Kingsmen Quartet. He told me that I would be shocked if I knew what really went on behind the scenes at southern gospel concerts; from musicians getting liquored up before taking the stage, to Christian groupies willing to bed their favorite gospel singer. These concerts are so man-centered, hey look at me, I am singing for Jesus, that it should come as no surprise that people got caught up in all kinds of illicit behavior. In other words, they were human.

Late into my time as a pastor and as a Christian, I realized that Christian concerts were entertainment. As much as the musicians tried to sell me on their music being a ministry, I realized it was just religious oriented entertainment, no different from the Darius Rucker concert Polly and I attended last year. Once I came to this conclusion, I was free to just sit back and enjoy!

Someone is  going to ask who my favorite Christian groups were/are. Here is my Top Eleven List:

and Steve Camp before he turned into a first-rate, blowhard, asshole Calvinist.

This list, BTW, is a great way to view my path through Christianity, from fundamentalism to the questions and doubts of musicians like Derrick Webb. I still listen to Christian music from time to time. I don’t believe a word of it, but I do enjoy it, a relic from my past. Polly? Won’t touch the stuff…hates it! I usually wait until she is at work to play it.

Reformers Unanimous: Is This Where Josh Duggar is Getting ‘Treatment’ For His Sex Addiction?

duggar family reformers unanimous
Is Reformers Unanimous where Josh Duggar is seeking treatment for his porn addiction?

I originally wrote this article in October 2013. Since it is rumored that Josh Duggar is seeking addiction treatment at Reformers Unanimous (RU) Residential Recovery Center in Rockford, Illinois, I thought readers might be interested in what I have written here. Since I originally wrote this article, RU has changed their website and some of the links no longer work.

Reformers Unanimous is the Fundamentalist Baptist version of a self-help group for church members who have addiction issues and “life” problems. Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio, Monclova Road Baptist Church in Monclova, Ohio, and High Street Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio,  have a Reformers Unanimous chapter.  According to the Reformers Unanimous (RU)  website, RU has 680 chapters in the United States and twelve foreign countries.

The Newark Baptist Temple website describes the purpose of RU this way:

Stories of Victory: RU tired of hearing the “war stories” of people who have no real freedom in their life? If so, try RU! Every week, our students share how God has changed their lives through real-life, relevant stories.  This weekly 40 minutes of encouraging testimonies will get your weekend started off just right.

Great Teaching: RU tired of talking about problems and doing nothing about them? If so, try RU! Every RU class ends with a 30-minute teaching lesson that will explain valuable principles from the Bible that are integral to your recovery process.

Complete Curriculum: RU tired of being told what’s right and not being given the tools to determine what is right? If so, try RU! We have one of the best comprehensive curriculums in America.  It is one of the best-selling, too!  Thousands of people have used our curriculum to learn the truth about addictions and Christian apathy.  For more information see the back cover for our personal recovery curriculum.

Motivational Awards: RU tired of trying to find the stamina to do the right thing in the face of mounting adversity? If so, try RU! We will not only encourage you and help you to do the right thing, but we will also motivate you to do so.  Though an award system is just a small way of doing this, it is evidence of a program that believes in acknowledging accomplishment and rewarding participation.

Free Personal Counseling: RU tired of having to get advice from people who know little about your struggles, or RU tired of having to pay hourly fees to hear yourself talk? If so, try RU! We offer free group and individual spiritual counseling on a wide variety of topics from addiction, to marriage, to finances, to family, and many other areas.  You will have a leader, a helper, a director, an even the pastor.  The pastor of this hosting church could make himself available to support your many needs in life.

Well-trained Local Leadership Staff:  RU tired of attending programs where the leaders and volunteer workers have the same problems as you? if so, try RU!  Our leaders have been set free from the power of sin and can speak openly about it.  They do not seek anonymity.  They proclaim earnestly that Jesus is the reason for their freedom, and they have been well-trained to use our program and its tools to get that salvation message to you and to those whom you love.

Exciting Children’s Program: RU tired of trying to find someone to help you with your child’s issues while you are still trying to deal with your many issues in life?  If so, try RU! We will not only care for your children while you attend our class, but we will entertain, teach, and develop your children to help them avoid the same pitfalls that ensnared many of us.  They will enjoy games, prizes, snacks, play time, awards, great teaching, and many other things.  Our “Kidz Clubs” are the weekly highlight of most every child that attends.

Residential Treatment Centers: RU tired of trying to find residential treatment that is effective and affordable? If so, try RU! We operate a beautiful 100-bed facility for men and a gorgeous 40-bed facility for women at our headquarters in Rockford, Illinois.  We are also aware of many RU type transitional homes that may be available for your use.  To learn more, visit ruhomes.org.

Local Church Support: Steven Curington believed, as does the pastor whose church hosts our meetings, that the local church is God’s support group.  It is designed by God to meet the spiritual needs of all people.  When the spiritual needs of people are met, then other needs fall in line and become easier to manage.  We as a program, strongly encourage you to visit the church that hosts this meeting for addicted people.  Something must be different about this church if they are so willing to have this program for you.  Why aren’t others?

Reformers Unanimous also operates treatment centers they call Schools of Discipleship. According to RU’s Schools of Discipleship website, the treatments centers offer:

…a six-month intensive discipleship program for men and women with troubled lives. We provide a reconstructive learning atmosphere where the non-functioning person can be trained in a supportive environment of discipleship consisting of: study, mentoring, Bible education, and work place training.

RU’s website states that the Schools of Discipleship program has a 80% success rate after one year and 79% of those who are “victorious over addictions” are gainfully employed after one year.

Reformers Unanimous is operated by North Love Baptist Church in Rockford, Illinois. Dr. Paul Kingsbury (calling himself Dr. because he has an honorary doctorate from Ambassador Baptist College, a college founded by IFB pastor Ron Comfort) is the pastor of True Love.  Kingsbury was called to preach under the ministry of Jack Hyles, attended Maranatha Baptist Bible College, and graduated from Hyles-Anderson College.

RU has a medical staff that (link no longer active):

advise Pastor Kingsbury, and the North Love Baptist Church on decisions that arise in the ministry related to health care for the addicted, mental health, communicable diseases, and medical liability.

The medical staff doctors are Dr. Morris Harper, Dr. George Crabb, Dr. Timothy Gaul, and Dr. Maureen Gaul.  Crabb is located in Florida, the other three doctors are located in Pennsylvania. (as far as I could ascertain from a cursory web search)

RU also has an advisory board made up of nine men, including Illinois State Senator Dave Syverson.  There are no women on the advisory board.

Until a few years ago, I had never heard of Reformers Unanimous (RU). My former drug-addict son asked me if I knew anything about RU. He had  attended a RU meeting with his cousin at the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio. I told him I had never heard of RU. He then told some “interesting” stories from the RU meeting he attended.

After hearing this, I decided to take a closer look at RU. The rest of this post will focus on a booklet published by RU titled DSM One: Diagnostic & Spiritual Manual. This booklet provides a birds eye view of RU’s addiction philosophy.  DSM One is written by RU medical staff advisory doctor George Crabb.

On the copyright page, Reformers Unanimous attempts to stop people like me from reviewing their literature by stating:

Any written or published critique, whether positive or negative, may not quote any portion of this book without written permission of the publisher to avoid any discrepancies in context.

After contacting my crack legal team, I am confident that RU’s attempt to scuttle a review of their materials has no legal basis and is contrary to the doctrine of fair use. (See Electronic Frontier Foundation FAQ) This review is done on a non-commercial basis and is meant to be a critique of the teachings found in DSM One.

According to the back cover of DSM One, the purpose of the book is:

Churches today, along with Reformers Unanimous (RU) chapters around the world, are filled with hurting people struggling with serious personal problems. Many church and RU leaders find they are unprepared to deal with these people that have very serious non-physical problems because the psychiatric world has proclaimed themselves to be the master of this domain. As a result, psychiatric terminology has invaded the church and their RU programs. Most Biblical counseling training provides little to no education regarding these terms and little to no training on what the Bible says about these non-physical problems. Dr. Crabb’s desire in writing this booklet is to help the Christian leader understand the practical implication of these terms and what the Bible says about these non-physical problems of life. Dr. Crabb takes the mystery out of these terms and clearly presents the Biblical viewpoint.

The purpose of Reformers Unanimous and the DSM One is to help IFB church members (virtually all the RU chapters are sponsored by IFB churches) who are hurting and struggling with serious personal problems. Crabb and RU is concerned that the psychiatric world and its terminology has invaded IFB churches and the RU program. The DSM One book is RU’s attempt to give pastors the tools necessary to help church members who have “serious non-physical problems.”  Crabb wrote the DSM One to help pastors and church leaders “understand the practical implication of these terms and what the Bible says about these non-physical problems of life.”

According to the back cover, the DSM One book, “takes the mystery out of these terms and clearly presents the Biblical viewpoint.”  While it is “slightly” encouraging to see IFB churches admit they have the same problems that the “world” has, it is their methods and desired outcomes that I have a problem with.

The DSM One has sixteen chapters and three appendices. The book covers:

  • Philosophy of Psychiatry
  • Abnormal
  • Addiction
  • ADHD
  • Bulimia
  • Codependency
  • Depression
  • Guilt
  • Kleptomania
  • Multiple Personality Disorder/Disassociated  Identity Disorder
  • OCD
  • Pedophilia
  • Phobia
  • Shame
  • Tourette’s Disorder

The appendices cover:

  • Seven Biblical Things to Do on a Daily Basis
  • The Best Way to Study Your Bible
  • Reformers Unanimous Ten Principles

If I had to sum up RU’s position:

  • The Bible has the answer for every problem you are facing
  • The reason you are _______________________ (fill in with one of the disorders/problems mentioned above) is because you are unwilling to submit to God and the authority of His Word, the Bible
  • True, lasting victory over ______________________ can only come through submitting oneself to the teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by RU, George Crabb, and the local church pastor)

Dr. George Crabb, the author of DSM One, has little to no training in the field of psychiatry. He is an osteopathic internist and states he is a member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.  Crabb is an IFB pastor’s son. His father was the pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Warren Michigan.  When I originally wrote this post I was able to find active web links for Antioch Baptist Church and Antioch Baptist Academy. Those links no longer work. (I did find that there was a sex scandal that resulted in the pastor, Christopher Settlemoir, being arrested, convicted, and sentenced to 7-15 years in prison for child sexual assault. The victim sued the church and you can read the sad, sordid story here.)

The lack of psychiatric training is not surprising for those of us raised in the IFB church movement. The psychiatric and psychology community are routinely demonized by IFB pastors and are considered tools of Satan used to keep people from submitting to the authority of God and the Bible. Crabb is pretty much like the actor in the Holiday Inn commercial. He is not a psychiatrist, but he is a Bible-believing Christian with a medical degree. Since Crabb believes virtually all mental health problems are a problem of not submitting to the authority of God and the Bible, there is no need for any serious training in the mental health field.

Notes

Gawker article on Josh Duggar and Reformers Unanimous

Entertainment Tonight article on Josh Duggar and Reformers Unanimous

Rockford Register Star reports:

The Duggars have a history with Reformers Unanimous, speaking at its national conference in Rockford in October 2014. But, Brad Woodbury of the organization’s development team would not confirm that Duggar entered treatment in the Forest City.

Woodbury went on to say that the residential program, which costs $7,500, is voluntary and work-based. Members are responsible for tasks like cooking and construction. Reformers Unanimous in Rockford has men’s and women’s residential treatment programs, with room for 40 men and 20 women. The length of stay in its long-term addiction treatment center is approximately eight to 10 months.

“The residential program is for people who need to be in a place where they can grow in their relationship with Christ,” Woodbury said. “We do not focus on the addiction. It’s about your walk with Christ.”

Songs of Sacrilege: Your God by Cheryl Wheeler

This is the fifty-fourth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please  send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Your God by Cheryl Wheeler.

 Video Link

Lyrics

Is your God the same God who’s working with the Pope?
Is it the same God suspicious of Tinky Winky?
Is it the God corralling virgins into herds of 72,
deciding where to send them when the glorious martyrs are through?

Is your God the same God who’s burning the science books
and trampling lives to hoist the right to life signs?
Or is he running the breeding program from the Temple by the lake
till one big in-bred family will be an entire state?

Are they his priests who can’t keep from buggering little boys?
Is it your cash retaining their attorneys?
I guess he had to overlook the nastiness with the tykes,
to keep the grace of marriage from the clutches of fags and dykes.

Is your God the same God who won the Superbowl?
I hope it’s not that loser God the Eagles had.
Or is your’s the God decreeing all the women wear a sack,
and presiding over stonings and beheadings in Iraq?

Is your God commanding you
to tell everybody what to do,
to kill your brain and praise his name
and bury the bastard who’s not the same,
and spew your heinous and hateful shit
like something holy was driving it
to take over all the earth and skies above?
Oh mercy, whatever happened to the GOD of love?

Songs of Sacrilege: One True God by Austin Lounge Lizards

This is the fifty-third installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is One True God by The Austin Lounge Lizards from Austin, Texas.

 Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Sunday in Reality by Cynthia Carle

This is the fifty-second installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Sunday in Reality by Cynthia Carle.

Video Link

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Wages of Sin by The Rainmakers

This is the fifty-first installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Wages of Sin by The Rainmakers, a Kansas City, Missouri-based original rock band.

Video Link

Video Link

Lyrics

I was praying last night when an angel broke the line
She said “I’m gonna have to put you on hold for a time”
I said “Hold like Hell, let me talk to the Boss”
She said “Sorry sucker (sinner), it’s the Boss’s day off”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was two bucks an hour and working weekends

I was ignoring the thief who was lashed to the cross
He cried “Help me get this son-of-a-bitch off”
I said “I would if I could, I can’t so I won’t
Well I wouldn’t want you messing your hair up, so don’t”
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was all the lumber you can carry, all the nails you can bend

The wages of sin, the price that you pay
Is worrying and fretting every second of the day
If Heaven is guilt, no sex and no show
Then I’m not sure if I really want to go, Oh

The wages of sin, the reward of fear
Is worrying and fretting every second of the year
The Church and the State, your God and Countrykind
One gets your body, the other gets your mind

Mary, Mary Magdalene, how ’bout a date?
You’ve been wasting your time staying up so late
Your boyfriend’s dead, the word is you’re a whore
Just about then I heard a knock on the door
And I realized then that the wages of sin
Was a bad reputation and too many friends

The wages of sin (repeats)

Are You a Christian?

what is a christian

JC Ryle, a 19th century Anglican Bishop, wrote a tract about the marks of a Christian:

But still after every allowance, here we find boldly painted six marks of being born of God. Here is an inspired Apostle writing one of the last general epistles (1 John) to the Church of Christ, telling us that a man born of God, Does not commit sin, Believes that Jesus is the Christ, Does righteousness, Loves the brethren, Overcomes the world, and Keeps himself. I ask the reader to observe all this.

The Bible basis for what Ryle says is found in I John:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.

If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Denominations, pastors, and individual Christians explain, or should I say explain away, these verses in a variety of ways. Some take the verses exactly as they are written, even though their lives are a direct contradiction to what the verses say. Others go to the Greek text and say that these verses say one thing in the English text but another thing in the Greek text. They do a lot of explaining to get away from what the English text clearly says. It seems to me that the writer of 1 John (and keep in mind some scholars think 1 John is a fraudulent text) is very clear. You SAY you are a Christian? Here is the standard to judge yourself by. Do you measure up? If not, you are NOT a Christian.

1 John contradicts other books of the Bible. 1 John and the book of James set a very different standard for what a Christian is than Paul does in his writings. Christians go to great lengths to harmonize, smooth over, and mediate the conflict, but since I am not a Christian I have no need to make everything “fit.”

I ask myself, if a person who had never had any contact with Christianity was stranded on an island and only had the book of 1 John to read, what conclusions would they come to? Would they say that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works lest any man should boast? I doubt it.

So much of what is called true, orthodox “Christianity” is actually someone’s interpretation of what the Bible says.  As the centuries click by, the interpretations become more complex and varied. It is almost impossible to get a Christian to see that what they call true, orthodox Christianity is actually a man-made religion, shaped and molded over centuries.  For the most part, modern Christianity is Paul’s version of Christianity and not Jesus’ version. I suspect the essence of the Judaistic Christianity of Jesus has been irretrievably lost.

Some may ask, since I am an atheist, why do I bother with matters concerning the Bible and Christianity? First of all, I like talking about these things. Second, our culture is deeply influenced and sometimes controlled by Christianity, and how Christians interpret the Bible affects our culture. Third, Christians tend to evangelize and preach at non-believers, so it is fair to hold them to the same standard they hold others to. Based on the verses above, it is quite evident that no Christian measures up to the Bible standard of what it means to be a Christian. Thus, no Christian is a true Christian.

I also know there are a lot of readers who are somewhere between leaving Christianity and agnosticism/atheism. They are still struggling with what they believe or don’t believe. Do they still believe the Bible, and if they do what parts? Do they believe Jesus existed at all? If they do, do they believe what the Bible says about him? Post like this one are meant to help them settle some of the issues they are struggling with.

For those of you who are or were a Christian, how did you or your pastor explain the 1 John verses mentioned above?

Repost, revised and corrected

The Anatomy of an Unaccredited Christian School

pace cartoon
clip from PACE used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers

Originally written in 2014

In this post, I want to take a look at State Line Christian School, an unaccredited fundamentalist Christian school that is operated under the auspices of the Lewis Ave Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. I know nothing about this school or church, and everything I write in this post has been gleaned from the church’s or school’s website.

Lewis Avenue Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church pastored by Steve Hobbins. Pastor Hobbins has been the pastor of the church since 2008. Prior to that, his father was the pastor for 37 years. Like many IFB churches, Lewis Avenue is a franchise operation, handed down from father to son.

In 2001, the church built a 1,300 seat auditorium. I found nothing on the church’s website that states their actual attendance.  Interestingly, I found nothing on their website that stated what they believed. There is one page (link no longer active) that details how a person can go to heaven when they die. Here is the prayer they suggest a sinner pray:

Dear Jesus,

I know I’m a sinner, I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. AMEN

Lewis Avenue operates a bus ministry, along with a seniors ministry, singles ministry, mentally handicapped ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, a teen ministry that focuses on soulwinning, and a Spanish ministry. The church also has a Reformers Unanimous chapter.

The centerpiece of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church’s plan to train future IFB leaders is the State Line Christian School. The school’s about page states (link no longer active):

When State Line Christian School opened in 1973, Pastor Hobbins’s vision was to open not just a private school, but a Christian school, one that held the beliefs of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church and the other churches in the Greater Toledo area. The school is Baptist-based with a strong emphasis on evangelism.

State Line started with just a K-4 and K-5, but added grades every year, until they graduated their first class in 1980. It is considered a preparatory school for college – a student’s core classes are chosen for him, and each student gets four years of English, math, and science. The school uses A Beka Book curriculum. State Line has been successful in preparing its students in that better than 90% of graduates go on to pursue college…

State Line is an unaccredited Christian school that uses A Beka Books, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, for their curriculum.  For one child in grade 1 through 12, the tuition cost is $4,000 plus an enrollment fee and an additional costs fee. Total cost for one child? Around $4,100.  For families with two children enrolled the tuition cost is $6,250. Four children? $8,250. The State Line website does not mention if there is an additional tuition cost for more than four children. If a family is delinquent (link no longer active) in making their tuition payments for more than 45 days, their children will not be permitted to attend the school. If payment arrangements are not made, the school will “pursue any and all action to
collect past due money.”
If this step is taken, a 20% fee is added to the amount owed.

Pastor Steve Hobbins is the superintendent and Joshua Newbold is the principal. Both Hobbins and Newbold attended an unnamed, and I assume unaccredited, Bible college. According to the hard to find listing of school staff (no link on school website), the school has 21 teachers:

Out of 21 teachers, only one is certified by the state of Michigan.

State Line Christian School operates under the laws of the Michigan for non-public schools:

  • They are not required to use any particular textbook
  • Their school/church  properties and buildings are exempt from personal and real estate tax
  • They are required to do criminal background checks on all employees
  • They are not required to keep school records
  • They are not required to be accredited by any recognized accrediting body
  • They are not required to use certified or college educated teachers

At one time, Michigan law stated:

  • Teacher certification is optional. A teacher may qualify to work in a nonpublic school in one of the following three ways: obtain a Michigan Teaching Certificate; obtain a substitute, full year, or emergency teaching permit; obtain a bachelor‘s degree.
  • Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code R 390.1142 (full-year permit); R 390.1143 (substitute permit); and R 390.1144 (emergency permit).
  • Teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e., a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first eight grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich.Comp. Laws §§388.552; 388.553.

In 1993, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the above provision was unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. In  People v. DeJonge, a lawsuit filed by the fundamentalist Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 for DeJonge and invalidated the requirements mentioned above. Thus, State Line is under no statutory requirement as far as their teachers are concerned, and this is why most them have degrees from unaccredited fundamentalist Christian colleges.

Like all fundamentalist Christian schools, State Line has a strict code of conduct. While I was unable to find a copy of their student manual online, which is not uncommon for fundamentalist schools that want to hide their rules from prying eyes, I did find a 7th-12th grade student conduct agreement form (link no longer active) which must be signed by the student, the school administrator, and the student’s parent. The student must answer in the affirmative or negative to the following questions/statements:

  • Do you attend church regularly? Where?
  • Do you have any objections to saluting the United States Flag, the Christian Flag, or the Bible?
  • Do you understand that the goals and standards of State Line Christian School are based on principles found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
  • Have you read our Student Handbook carefully?
  • Is there any standard you do not understand? If answered yes, Which one?
  • Will you dress according to the standards of State Line Christian School?
  • Will you establish and have a daily time for devotions?
  • Will you honestly agree to keep all the school’s rules and respect authority without being critical and find fault?
  • Do you want to attend State Line Christian School?

After answering these questions, the student must READ ALOUD:

“As a student of State Line Christian School, I WILL NOT cheat, swear, smoke, gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, use indecent language, use drugs, or behave in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. I WILL maintain Christian standards in courtesy, kindness, morality and honesty. I WILL strive to be of unquestionable character in dress, conduct and other areas of my life. I WILL attend all weekly services of my church unless providentially hindered. I am willing by the enabling of God to refrain from anything good or bad which might cause others to stumble, to bring reproach to the cause of Christ, to cause disrespect to the glory of God, or to be a negative influence in the character development of myself or others. I will at all times seek to maintain a careful discipline and diligence in the pursuit of my academic opportunities. I will cooperate with those in authority over me and will personally maintain respect for properly placed authority.

I realize that keeping the standards depends upon my attitude and spirit towards the goals of Christian Education. My spirit depends upon my heart commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the goals He wants for me during my stay at State Line Christian School.

There is much evidence from Pastors, Christian Educators, and Christian Counselors across our nation that bad music, Hollywood movies,television, and bad companionship affects the character, spirit and performance of students. Any evidence that a student is under the influence or control of such will result in disciplinary measures.

While these standards will be strictly enforced, it needs to be understood that we are far more interested in a student’s spirit and attitude than outward conformity to the standards with a rebellious spirit. The student should know that attitudes show just like actions and will be approved or disapproved.

There are tens of thousands of churches like Lewis Ave Baptist Church and thousands of these churches have schools that are just like State Line Christian School. Thousands of American children are being educated in unaccredited schools, taught by non-certified teachers. These schools use fundamentalist Christian textbooks that teach evolution is a myth and promote American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism. Some of these schools don’t even use textbooks, using instead a self-guided curriculum published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) or Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

Secularists and humanists think educating children is vitally important. Having an educated populace is for our common good, and it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure every child is adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated. We expect the goverment to regulate schools in such a way that they provide a quality education for every child.

Fundamentalist Christian churches and schools have lobbied legislators and have used lawsuits to demand exemption from state laws that regulate what they can and can not do. In many states, they have been quite successful and this is why there are schools like State Line Christian School. Here in Ohio, any church can start a non-charted, unaccredited religious school. There are no regulations for such schools, and for families who choose to home school, the regulations are few. In others words, many states and local jurisdictions have abdicated their responsibility to regulate and investigate many of the schools that educate their children. (see How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio)

Even worse, right-wing politicians are working hard to pass voucher laws that enable private Christian schools to receive state funding with little or no oversight.  Thousands of American children have their private, religious education paid for by taxpayers. These voucher programs have caused a huge census and financial drain for many public school systems.

I put this post together so readers could see how a typical fundamentalist Christian school operates. I do not know anyone at State Line Christian School or Lewis Ave Baptist Church. They came up in a web search I was doing and I decided that they would be a good example of a non-accredited, private, fundamentalist Christian school.

Should these schools (and home schools) be permitted to operate outside the purview of federal, state, and local authorities? Should they be exempt from the laws that public schools must follow? Should we “trust” these schools to properly educate children without making sure they do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

My opinion? ALL schools should be strictly regulated by federal, state, and local government. They should receive NO public funding unless they are. I have no objection to religiously motivated private schools or homeschooling as long as they are properly regulated. We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.

If the Bible is God’s Word

guest-post

Guest post by Exrelayman

If the Bible were God’s word:

  • It would be perfectly engrossing. You would love reading it.
  • It would be perfectly clear. There would not be any disagreement anywhere about the meaning of any verse or passage.
  • It would be perfectly persuasive. People of any other faith would convert immediately upon reading this clear and persuasive message.
  • It would perfectly distributed to all the cultures of the world simultaneously, in their own language.
  • It would be perfectly indestructible. Neither years nor flood nor flame could mar or destroy it.
  • It would be perfectly original and accurate in all that it says.

In brief, it would be a perfect revelation proceeding from a perfect God.

And what do we observe in the real world:

  • Very hard to force yourself to slog through it. Most who profess Christianity don’t struggle through all the begats and directions for making temple garments. Very inferior to myriads of mere human novelists.
  • Earnest disagreement about what it actually says has led to thousands of differing denominations. Not so clear then.
  • It needs a bit of help. Pastors must spend Sundays being persuasive. Persuasive hymns and apologetics are needed. Heaven and hell must be dangled as carrot and stick to evince coercion through hope and fear and not clear evidential persuasion.
  • Given at one part of the world, the gospels especially,  through unknown biased writers at unknown places and times.
  • As susceptible to decay and destruction as any other book.
  • Sadly imitative, many other dying and resurrecting savior gods from surrounding cultures preceded the Christ story. The Old Testament stories largely derive from antecedent cultures also. Flatly in conflict with what science has discovered about the age of the Earth and the evolution of life upon it. Flatly contradictory with its own self in numerous places.

At each expectation of what the revelation of a perfect and powerful God would be like, the Bible fails. Now these expectations are admittedly subjective, so that each one of them might be arguable. But cumulatively they become, at least as I see it, irresistible. Thus the verdict that it is not a divine document, but is shown by its own nature to be the product of ignorant and superstitious men writing in ignorant and superstitious times.

The Love of God

love of god 2

Dear Human,

Let me, the one true and living God, show you my love by

Starving you

Burning your house down

Killing your children

Sending a tornado to destroy your community

Giving you a terminal disease

Giving you a child with a severe birth defect

Taking your health away

Reducing you to poverty

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

At times, I might even send other humans to

Rape you

Burn your village down

Spray agent orange on your village

Nuke your city

Falsely imprison you

Rob you

Murder your wife

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

There is nothing I won’t do to get you to love me

I will test you, try you, and destroy you, all so you will see that I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life

If necessary, I will reduce you to sitting in an ash heap scraping the puss from the boils that cover your body

I want you to know that I am the one true and living God

I do all these things, not to you, but for you

Surely, you can see that I love you

With much love and affection

GOD

Blog News: I Need Your Help

help

Good news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Bad news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Good news, because I write to be read. Bad news, because I had to move this site to a faster server, resulting in a substantial bump in costs.

Increased Costs

As readership numbers increase, site speed slows. Last week, thanks to Facebook and Reddit sharing and thousands of new readers, this site crashed and became intermittently unresponsive, forcing me to upgrade my service package with Flywheel. I am now on a service package that costs $75 a month.

flywheelDue to previous denial of service attacks, brute password attacks, and two successful hacks of this site, I decided to move The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser to a managed service company. Some of you may remember a year or so ago before I took the blog down that I was receiving thousands of spam comments a day. When I restarted this blog last December, I contracted with  a company named Flywheel. Flywheel  takes care of all the updates and security so I can focus on writing. I’ve found the folks at Flywheel quite friendly and extremely helpful. Every time I’ve emailed or called them they have been quite friendly and helpful. BTW, I now have a Flywheel affiliate account.

I’ve got to find a way to recover at least some of the costs for operating this blog. While I do receive a handful of donations each month, they rarely cover costs. Not only do I have server costs, but I also use WP Touch Pro, a premium mobile plugin and theme. Since the majority of readers now access this site on mobile devices, it is important that they are served pages that can easily and quickly be read on whatever device they are using.

I am uncertain about what to do going forward. While I can absorb the increased cost for a few months, it is doubtful that I will be able to do so over the long-term. Should I start using advertisements? I do have an Amazon affiliate account and it generates around $10 a month. Thousands of clicks, far fewer purchases. Should I try to maximize my Amazon affiliate account? Set up a bookstore? Use more aggressive advertising? Pimp myself out on the back lot of the local truck stop?

I do know that I do NOT want a blog littered with advertisements. I hate going a site where I am greeted with numerous advertisements, so I don’t want to turn this site into an advertisement site that has a blog attached to it.  If you have any suggestions, please send me a private email.

Facebook

My Facebook page has become an increasing source of traffic and reader engagement. There was a time when conversations were limited to the comment section, but now there are comments on Facebook and other social media that are every bit as important. I want to make sure I do my best to interact with readers wherever they read one of my posts, but I am finding, in the case of Facebook, that it won’t be long before I am unable to keep up.

Every post I write is posted to my Facebook page. This page is separate from my personal Facebook account. I also post news stories, articles, and blog posts I think readers might find thought provoking or a reminder of how much crazy there is in Evangelicalism. In order to keep up with things, I am looking for several people to help me administrate the Facebook page.  The ideal person would be someone who is conversant in all things Evangelical and is able to thoughtfully engage Evangelical critics without wanting to beat them to death with a copy of the King James Bible. I could also use the help of someone who has a science background. I get a lot of science questions that I do not have sufficient training to answer. If you would like to help administer my Facebook page, please sent me a private email.

Guest Posts

I am looking for readers who are willing to write a guest post.  The subject matter is of your own choosing. I’d love to have some first person stories, testimonies about leaving Christianity or deconverting.  Anonymous stories are welcome, as are stories that were previously published elsewhere. If I can get enough guest posts lined up, this will allow me to take a break for a few days so I can get the videos I promised recorded.  If you have a guest post you’d like to submit, please use the contact form to do so.

As always, thank you for reading.

Bruce

Nancy Campbell Says Christians Shouldn’t Call Their Children Kids

gerencser granddaughters
Eight of our grand kids, who recently spent the night at Nana and Grandpa’s house. What a wonderful herd of goats.

Snark ahead

Fundamentalist Christian Nancy Campbell says Christians shouldn’t call their children kids. Campbell, who operates the Above Rubies website, had this to say:

The most common word for “children” in our society today is the word “kids.” Is this a word that God has chosen to call our children? We do not see it anywhere in the Bible in relation to children. In fact, if you check the 1928 Webster’s Dictionary you will not find this word for children. “Kids” is a modern word, which has been added in later years.

I have to confess that for a long time, I also used this word. I did not like the word and never felt that it was right, but I succumbed to the trend around me. How easily we do things just because everyone else is doing them, without thinking whether it is actually the best thing to do!

However, there came a time when I was challenged. I read an article about a sheep farmer in New Zealand. This farmer had diversified into raising goats, as well as sheep, and he noticed an interesting comparison. The ewes remained close to their lambs, watching them while they fed. He noticed, however, how the goats herded their young together in one spot on a knoll of a hill and left them while they went off to forage for the day. They did not provide the same individual attention which the sheep gave to their offspring.

My mind ticked over as I read this, but before I accepted it, I thought I should check out if it was really true. I asked my father who is an authority on sheep. He was the World Champion Sheep Shearer in his younger days and has shorn over a million sheep in his lifetime.

“Yes,” he said, “Sheep will never go further than earshot from the little lambs.”

I was very challenged. Has “kids” become the accepted word for children today, because we have become a generation of “goat mothers”? Instead of staying close to their lambs, thousands of mothers drop them off at nurseries and daycare, leaving their little “lambs” to fulfill their own careers. This is “goat mothering.” No wonder we call our children “kids”!..

…After realizing all this I decided that I did not want to be part of the goat company. I did not want to impose the goat character upon my children. Our children should be different from the children of the world. I therefore made an effort to stop using the word “‘kids.” And now I hate to hear other people using it.

Let’s start a revolution and eliminate the word “kids” from our society!

I’ve got a better idea. Let’s start a revolution and eliminate crazy fundamentalists ideas from our society! I just checked an old Webster Dictionary and it didn’t have words like computer, internet, website, or blog. Using Campbell’s dictionary logic, shouldn’t Christians refrain from using a computer, accessing the internet, building a website, or having a blog?  Oh Bruce, that is stupid. Yep, it is, just like Campbell’s assertion that calling children kids is akin to saying they are goats.

In Part Two of her anti-kids-word article, Campbell lists a number of “Biblical” names parents could call their children:

  • Gifts
  • Blessings
  • Heritage of the Lord
  • Fruit of the Womb
  • Beloved Fruit of the Womb
  • Rewards
  • Arrows
  • Olive Plants
  • Sons who are Mature Plants
  • Daughters who are Polished Cornerstones
  • Signs and Wonders
  • Lambs
  • Work of God’s Hands
  • Godly Seed
  • Glory
  • Crown

Campbell forgot one…tax deduction.

Fundamentalist  Catholic Marian Horvat thinks calling children kids is vulgar:

It was in the 1960s and 1970s that a slang term began to be introduced in certain circles that were trying to be up-to-date and modern. I am talking about the introduction of the word ‘kids’ used to refer to children…

…The word is all-pervading – “Buy Big Kids or Little Kids shoes or boots.” The implication, of course, is that we are all kids – frolicking little goats that never grow up. Then there is the “Big Songs for Little Kids” – gospel music for little goats?

Even nice restaurants, museums and exhibitions have taken to using the term: “Kids’ meals available,” “Kids under 12 enter free.” Book titles justify the word for parents and offspring: we have Real Kids’ Readers, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Everything Kids’ Cookbook, and so on.

I realize that there will be critics who think I am overstating the ills of saying kids and not children. “There she goes again, making a mountain out of a molehill, nitpicking about what to call your kids as the world falls apart around us.”

Children, not kids, please… No, I am not just being finicky and pernickety. There are certain principles at stake in the matter.

Today we hear much about the importance of the dignity of man. At the same time, we adopt language, customs and dress that persistently reduce the dignity of men and women.

Need I recall the daily clothing of men and women – the unisex sweat suit, the tiresome blue jean and t-shirt, the perpetual tennis shoes – that diminish the dignity of men and erase differences in professions and social levels? Not to mention the immoral women’s fashions that give even teenage girls the appearance of women of the street, not children of God.

Our customs have likewise been transformed: Gone are the formal greetings, the polite address of Mr. Jones or Miss Greene, gentlemen opening doors for ladies, and so on. The list is interminable and gloomy for those – like my good Readers – who oppose the hippy Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and do all they can to oppose and fight it in the ambiences of their own homes.

But the Cultural Revolution does not just influence customs and clothing. The same leveling, vulgarizing trend has found its way into daily language, habituating a generation to accept common and egalitarian forms of speech. Men and women are addressed ambiguously as guys. Persons are said to crack up instead of laugh. They are no longer described as blushing, but turning red. Instead of distinguishing an event with an appropriate adjective, everything is cool – to the point that the word has no meaning. And children are, of course, just kids.

Young goats… Unfortunately, the term applies in many cases. Many children prance around, careen and react spontaneously to every stimulus or feeling like mountain goats, instead of well-disciplined boys and girls. Perhaps there is a lesson in the tendencies to be learned here: If you anticipate your children acting like young goats, call them kids. If you want your offspring to behave with decorum and Catholic manners, please call them children…

The damnable 1960s and 1970s, they are to blame for everything.  We baby boomers sure have fucked up the world. Children are now routinely called kids. Surely this is a sure sign of the coming goat apocalypse, a time when children who were called kids turn into zombie-like goats and cause untold havoc and destruction.  I beg parents to stop calling their children kids before it is too late!!