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When God Dies

god is dead

Repost from 2015. Extensively edited, rewritten, and corrected.

For those of us who spent a significant part of our lives in the Christian church, our eventual defection from Christianity was an important and traumatic event in our lives. People who are still devoted followers of Jesus grossly underestimate the travail people go through when they finally come to a place where they realize God is Dead.

For years we sang praises to God. We prayed and read God’s sacred Word.  We devoted our time, talent, and money to the advancement of God’s kingdom.

We were not nominal believers. When the doors of the church were open, we were there. For those of us who were pastors, everything was secondary to our devotion to the work of the ministry. With great gusto we sang, “Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Soul for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.”

When we sang songs like All to Jesus I Surrender, we meant it. No part of our lives was untouched by our zeal, love, and devotion to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When evangelists called for people to come forward to pray, we were the first people down front on our knees before God.

We counted the cost and Jesus was worth it. We were, in every way, true-blue, on-fire, Holy Ghost-filled, sanctified slaves of Jesus.

The Bible said that we were the Bride and Jesus was the Bridegroom. We were happily married to Jesus. He was our best friend, our confidante, and lover. No one compared to Jesus. He was the sum of our existence.

And then one day, perhaps years of days, we found ourselves separated or divorced from the God we had loved and served. Irreconcilable differences were the official cause of our divorce.

The journey . . . We spent so much time talking about our destination that we spent little time discussing our journey. Now, all we seem to talk about is the journey we are on.

The journey takes us away from all that is familiar. All the trappings of our life with God become more distant as we walk, perhaps run, farther and farther away.

For many of us, we eventually reached a place where, to our utter surprise, we found out that God is dead.

Few ponder this thought without shedding tears and lamenting the loss.

Well-meaning Christians earnestly implore us to trace back our steps to that place where we lost our first love. They tell us God will not chase us, but if we will only return home our marriage can be saved and all will be forgiven.

But it is too late.

For us, the God of Christianity is dead, and like all of the many ideas shaped by human hands, this God can’t be resurrected from the dead.

We lament what we have lost, but we are hopeful about what we have gained.

It took the death of God for us to realize that life, this life, is worth living.

We refuse to surrender one more moment of time to a God made by humans; a deaf, dumb, and blind God who only exists in the imaginations of men who can’t bear the thought of this life being all there is.

But what about the God that is not made by man?

For the atheist, such a God does not exist. All gods are human inventions.

For the agnostic, for the deist, God remains a possibility, but in practice, even this God shows little or no life.

So on we go down an uncertain, but exciting, road.

Who knows what the future may hold. With no holy book, preacher, or God to lead the way, we are left with a wide-open road littered with the potholes of uncertainty. Uncertainty may, at times, cause us to fear, but we are also excited about the possibilities uncertainty brings.

Some day, perhaps today, tomorrow, or twenty years from now, we will face the ugly, unwelcome specter of death. As the COVID-19 virus stalks the human race, death seem all too close and real for us all.

Will we go to the grave with as much certainty as a person who believes that a life of eternal bliss awaits all who love God?

Will we be tempted, as our breath grows labored, to offer a feeble prayer to the God who died?

Will our final moments be those of integrity and commitment to what we said we believed?

Will we prove in death that what we believed was good enough to live by and good enough to die by?

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

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Praise God for AR-15s!

nathan rager

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a Twitter video clip of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Nathan Rager preaching at Independent Baptist Church of Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay Florida. Rager — a “real” man — loved the phrase, lily-livered liberals.

Video Link

Want to hear Pastor Rager’s view of the Coronavirus pandemic? You know you do. 🙂 He is definitely in favor of infecting as many people as possible. Get out there and go soulwinning, bless God! God is in control.

Video Link

Quote of the Day: Evangelical Denial of Science Helps Fuel the Coronavirus Pandemic

katherine stewart

Donald Trump rose to power with the determined assistance of a movement that denies science, bashes government and prioritized loyalty over professional expertise. In the current crisis, we are all reaping what that movement has sown.

At least since the 19th century, when the proslavery theologian Robert Lewis Dabney attacked the physical sciences as “theories of unbelief,” hostility to science has characterized the more extreme forms of religious nationalism in the United States. Today, the hard core of climate deniers is concentrated among people who identify as religiously conservative Republicans. And some leaders of the Christian nationalist movement, like those allied with the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has denounced environmental science as a “Cult of the Green Dragon,” cast environmentalism as an alternative — and false — theology.

This denial of science and critical thinking among religious ultraconservatives now haunts the American response to the coronavirus crisis.

….

By all accounts, President Trump’s tendency to trust his gut over the experts on issues like vaccines and climate change does not come from any deep-seated religious conviction. But he is perfectly in tune with the religious nationalists who form the core of his base. In his daily briefings from the White House, Mr. Trump actively disdains and contradicts the messages coming from his own experts and touts as yet unproven cures.

….

It is fair to point out that the failings of the Trump administration in the current pandemic are at least as attributable to its economic ideology as they are to its religious inclinations. When the so-called private sector is supposed to have the answer to every problem, it’s hard to deal effectively with the very public problem of a pandemic and its economic consequences. But if you examine the political roots of the life-threatening belief in the privatization of everything, you’ll see that Christian nationalism played a major role in creating and promoting the economic foundations of America’s incompetent response to the pandemic.

For decades, Christian nationalist leaders have lined up with the anti-government, anti-tax agenda not just as a matter of politics but also as a matter of theology. Ken Blackwell of the Family Research Council, one of the Christian right’s major activist groups, has gone so far as to cast food stamps and other forms of government assistance for essential services as contrary to the “biblical model.” Limited government, according to this line of thinking, is “godly government.”

When a strong centralized response is needed from the federal government, it doesn’t help to have an administration that has never believed in a federal government serving the public good. Ordinarily, the consequences of this kind of behavior don’t show up for some time. In the case of a pandemic, the consequences are too obvious to ignore.

— Katherine Stewart, The New York Times, The Road to Coronavirus Hell Was Paved by Evangelicals, March 27, 2020

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Secularists, Atheists, and Liberals to Blame for Coronavirus Pandemic

There is only a small minority of individuals who are grossly disobedient to God.[Actually, we are a larger percentage than Evangelicals.] Unfortunately for the vast majority of faithful individuals in America, too many of the unfaithful have been allowed by the faithful to gain high positions of influence in our culture: high positions in our government, our educational system, our media and our entertainment industry. This is tragic, unfortunate, and costly.

What is a great encouragement to me, ministering here in our nation’s capital, is witnessing the groundswell of faithful individuals who have been voted into office. If my calculations are correct, and I believe they are, there are more believers in Congress and the executive branch now than at any other time in modern American history! at any other time in modern American history!

I think great days lie ahead for our country as more and more evangelicals rise in their influence – you godly public servants [like Baby Christian Donald Trump] – who are working so hard to deliver us from the consequential wrath we are undergoing as a nation due in large part to the misdirection of those [atheists, agnostics, secularists, humanists, pagans, liberals, progressives, non-Christians] who are rebuked by God’s forsaking wrath.

— Ralph Drollinger, Founder Capitol Ministries and Trump Spiritual Advisor, Deranged White House evangelical blames ‘faithless’ for COVID-19, March 26, 2020

Another Day, Another IFB Tract That Uses Fear of COVID-19 to Evangelize People

seeking a cure

Last week, I wrote about a tract published by North Platte Baptist Church and its pastor William Reeves that used fear to evangelize people. (Please see North Platte Baptist Church Uses the Coronavirus Pandemic to Evangelize People and Dear Pastor Reeves, Let Me Explain to You Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself.) Today, a reader shared with me a new COVID-19 tract written by Paul Chappell, pastor of Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. Chappell is a well-known IFB pastor. He is also the president of West Coast Baptist College.

Titled Seeking a Cure, the tract states:

Hours before the world rolled into the new decade of 2020, a group of Chinese doctors worked tirelessly to understand the sickness they now found themselves treating. 

Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, noticed seven cases of an unusual virus, which he thought looked similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which had led to a worldwide epidemic in 2003. He was correct. What he did not know, however, was that this virus he had seen, while related to SARS (both are a coronavirus), was an entirely new virus, which would eventually be named COVID-19.

….

Meanwhile, the virus began to spread. On January 13, a case was reported in Thailand. On January 20, it showed up in South Korea. On January 21, it was discovered in the United States. By March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared it a pandemic. Now, the virus has infected every continent on the globe, except Antarctica. 

….

This, of course, is not the first pandemic that has swept our world. In fact, as our society searches for a cure for Covid-19, many have looked back to previous epidemics, such as the flu of 1918, to learn how practices such as social distancing can slow the virus’ spread. 

But even before 1918, or any of the other world-altering epidemics of the previous centuries, our entire world has been infected with a different kind of virus. This virus cannot be stopped by social distancing, for it is a spiritual disease — passed down to us from our planet’s first parents, Adam and Eve.

The Bible tells us . . . blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada

I recently read an article about a woman who lived to the age of 102, but had experienced what came to be known as the Spanish Influenza in 1918 at the age of 3. What saved her life—and undoubtedly the lives of others—was the white scarf tied to the family’s outside doorknob, alerting others that there was a quarantined patient inside. 

Even as a virus patient will only receive treatment if they acknowledge their condition, so we must acknowledge our need for Christ.  

Will you turn to Christ alone? Although Jesus already paid for our sin and offers us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Heaven, we must choose to receive his gift. We must stop trusting ourselves, our works, and our religions, and turn our full trust to Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sin. Health viruses will come and go, but in Christ you can have forgiveness and a home in Heaven that can never be taken away.

You can read the entire tract here.

It should not surprise me that preachers such as Chappell look for opportunities such as the Coronavirus Pandemic to preach their truncated fear-based gospel. I preached a similar gospel for many years. Put the fear of God, judgment, and Hell into people, and they will come running to Jesus. Or so the thinking goes, anyway. What I find shameful is how Chappell and others like him use a worldwide viral epidemic to promote their religion; that instead of focusing on helping people, they focus on saving them. That way, if people get infected with the COVID-19 virus and die, at least they were told the TRUTH before they died, right? Profiting from the fears of people is the worst of human behaviors. And believe me, Chappell wants to profit from the virus. Souls saved=new church members=increased offerings. Ding! Ding! Ding! Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

This kind of behavior by IFB preachers and their churches will never change. It’s part of their DNA. Without fear, IFB churches would empty out overnight. Without fear, Chappell’s congregants just might get snockered on Saturday nights, sleep in on Sundays, and, Loki forbid, church women might wear pants. Or better yet, they might seek out kinder, gentler expressions of Christianity; churches where love and kindness, not fear and judgment, permeate the air.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Why Churches Should Close Their Doors

mark palenske and his wife

In recent weeks, I have published a number of posts about Evangelical churches that refuse to close their doors over the Coronavirus Pandemic. Whatever their reasons for remaining open, the fact remains that these pastors and church leaders are risking infections and death by doing so. God is not going to save them from the COVID-19 virus. Far too many Evangelicals think that God will cause the virus to pass by their homes just as he did in Egypt long ago when the death angel claimed the firstborn child of every family. In their minds, they believe that faith, the blood of Jesus, and prayer, will provide them an inoculation against the virus. As countless Evangelicals are now finding out, such thinking is not only stupid and delusional, it is deadly.

Recently, Greers Ferry First Assembly of God in Greers Ferry, Arkansas held what was billed as a Kid’s Crusade. Whether this event was the infection point is unknown, but one thing is for certain: thirty-two church members, including the pastor and his wife, are infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Three days ago, Pastor Mark Palenske posted the following message on Facebook:

I know that some of you have wished for another update sooner than this, but sitting down at the computer is not my highest priority at this point. Dena and I are beginning to feel some improvement, but the pace of that improvement is much slower than we would like. Our primary symptom at this juncture is a lingering nausea that keeps us wanting stillness and very small amounts of food. We are 12 days beyond our initial symptoms at this point, so this is obviously not a short term situation. Thus far, we have 26 people connected to the church who have tested positive for Covid-19 and at least 16 more who have been tested and are waiting for results. Five of those 26 have been admitted to the hospital (including Dena, earlier in the week) and one more is being transported as I write. There was very little in my training for the ministry that covered the full measure of what our church family has dealt with in the past few weeks. The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously. An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else. I have two goals for this afternoon’s post. The first is that many are collecting reasons to fear, and I think that is counterproductive to our current challenge. There are many reasons for concern and we are being given large amounts of information daily that demands we carefully sift through it. Fear erodes our willingness to work together, and it steals the confidence of our youngest generation. Our lifestyle has not seen such sudden shifts in our routines or the influx of uncertainty that it has seen in the previous days. Any builder will tell you that the strength of the building lies within its foundation. It’s not hard to construct something quickly, but it takes more time to construct something that will last and endure hardship. Our country has ventured into a fickle and shallow society recently. We have applauded self-expression and overvalued individual human talent. Our culture revels in recreation (something that is not bad, but can be over-prioritized) and entertainment. In the process, we forgot what we were made of. Our foundation was built with a cooperative spirit and has motivated generations before this one to make sacrifices for the good of the whole unit. There have always been people who see the life of their fellow man as worth their efforts. I guess what I’m trying to tell you is that we live in a sturdy place. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, right now than where I am. I trust my fellow citizens to rise up and meet this challenge. We are not invincible, but we learned centuries ago that faith outweighs fear. We learned that God, when given a place in our homes and in our lives, orders our steps. I read this morning…”Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)My second goal is to try and alter the current of our social media tendencies. We can give into some real human frailties when we leap to conclusions and seek to injure an unknown individual or when we allow our rage to express itself without self-discipline at its core. Facebook, does not have to be negative! It does not have to inflict its will on the suffering or its opinion on someone with a very different perspective. It can be an incredibly useful tool to encourage and uplift. Let me explain. I would much rather tell you of the superstars that have fought side-by-side with my congregation during this battle, than highlight the obstacles that stood in our way. Two local doctors have gone well beyond their normal duties. It was because they were relentless and diligent, that we discovered the scope of what we are dealing with. There is wisdom in building a relationship with a physician and this circumstance proves that truth all over again. The medical world has their hands full. I remember the two nurses who met us out in the parking lot the day that we were tested. Their world changed in a single moment and they stood tall to the challenge. Let’s be patient with them at this time. They are doing their best, not only to help us return to our lives and our families, but to help them return to theirs as well. Dena and I receive a daily phone call from the state’s Department of Health. Each morning a ray of sunshine asks us how we are doing. We spent hours on the phone together going over each detail of our story. Retracing every step and sharing more information than we could imagine. They took that information and scoured our community for more that might have been affected. Our daily phone call from them won’t last forever, but I thank God for their help in all of this. They are dealing with an unpleasant reality that is testing their training and protocols, and if you ask me, they are doing so admirably. Mistakes and overlooked facts are bound to happen with something of this magnitude, but no one works in a circle of perfection. Not me! Not you! But it’s compassion and character that guides us through the tough times. I would also like to thank my neighbors and my fellow Cleburne County citizens. Your phone calls and care packages have been a God-send. We have lived here for 13 years (almost to the day) and you have been a family that we have cherished greatly. Long before the reality of this virus, we knew that you would step up for the community and we were not wrong! Lastly to the church and our family (both literal and figurative), you have been fantastic! Love is not just an emotion. It’s a series of thoughtful actions. We have felt and trusted in your love and will continue to let that love lead us forward. To anyone that reads this (I know that it’s long), I have a challenge for you. Fill Facebook with the names and faces of the heroes of this season. Tell others about how they impacted your life. Encourage! Uplift! Refuse to voice the negative and share hope with each other!!!

I wish nothing but the best for Pastor Palenske and his infected church members. I don’t want to see anyone get sick, and I certainly don’t want to see anyone die. That said, it must be pointed out that Palenske paints himself as a helpless victim, one filled with all sorts of wisdom and insight post-infection. Where was that wisdom and insight BEFORE thirty-two people were infected with the COVID-19 virus? Why was Palenske still holding church services and Kids Crusades as if all was right in the world? At the very least, Palenske and other decision-makers have to own their own culpability in this debacle. If services had been canceled and people had practiced social distancing, it is likely that this outbreak could have been avoided.

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors and the Coronavirus Pandemic in General

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

How Religion Obscures Seeing People as They Are

Reposted from 2015, edited, updated, and revised

Six years ago, Polly and I drove to Southeast Ohio to pay our respects to a man who was once a vital part of the church I pastored in Somerset. The family asked me to conduct the funeral and I was delighted to do so. Surprisingly, they asked for a non-religious service. It had been twenty years since I had seen this family face to face. In recent years, I have reconnected with some of the children via Facebook. It was good to see them, the children now in their 30s and 40s, with children of their own.

As I pondered what to say, I couldn’t help but think about the eleven years I spent as their pastor. They knew me when I was a fire-breathing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher and school administrator, and they were at the church when I became a Calvinist. They remembered my preaching, the rules, and the standards. They remembered my commitment to the God and the Bible. I hope they also remembered my goodness and kindness. While those things certainly provided the backdrop for our reconnection, they were not the substance of what I said at the service. Why? Because the past, with all its religious and Biblical trappings, would obscure the man we were honoring. I most wanted to talk about him.

You see, he was a good man. He was a friend who would do anything for me, any time, day or night. When I needed help, he always made himself available. While he could be temperamental at times, most of the time he was a kind, compassionate man. But these traits were obscured and mattered little years ago. Instead of seeing the man, I tended to see the sin. Isn’t that what we were taught to do? Holiness and purity were the objective, without which no man shall see the Lord.

He and I were different in many ways. When it came to sin, I could always hide my sin better than he could. Over time, preachers get good at hiding their failures. After all, they are supposed to be shining examples of spiritual maturity and holiness. No one wants a preacher who is just like everyone else. People want a Moses, a Paul, or a Jesus, someone to inspire them and show them the way. So preachers lie, giving the appearance that they, if need be, could walk on water. Deep down they know, that like everyone else, if they walked on water, they would drown. Strip away the clerical façade, and what you see is a man no different from those sitting in the pews.

I remember the first time Greg came to church. He was wearing a shirt that said Zig-Zag; and no, he didn’t roll his own cigarettes. This is a perfect picture of the kind of man he was. He had little pretense; what you saw was what you got. So when he sinned, he didn’t hide it well. I remember one Sunday afternoon he went to the movies with his wife. They saw Born on the Fourth of July. Now, this was a big sin at our church. No movies, especially R-rated movies. I could tell that he was a little antsy at evening service, but he said nothing about the movie. The next day at school, one of his children mentioned that Mom and Dad had gone to see a movie. I asked them, WHAT movie? They confessed, with nary a thought that they had just gotten their Dad in trouble. Of course, the good pastor that I was, watching out for his soul, I called him and asked him to come to my office so we could talk. Nothing like getting called to the principal’s office, right?

Before he started coming to the church, he had been an avid listener of rock and roll music. Well, at Somerset Baptist Church we didn’t listen to THAT kind of music! One day he came to church all excited. He had found out that there was music called Christian rock. He had bought a cassette tape of a group by the name of Stryper. (He loved the song To Hell with the Devil.) I took one look at the pictures on the cassette box and I knew that Stryper was nothing more than a tool used by Satan to deceive Christians. I told him it was a bad idea for him to listen to such worldly music. I think he was deeply discouraged by my “Godly” opinion. He thought he had finally found something that was not only Christ-honoring but that also met his desire to listen to rock music. I, the arbiter of what was Christ-honoring, knew better.

There were a lot of these sinful moments, and as I look back on it, I can see how discouraging it must have been for him. Most of the things I called sin were not sin at all. But, because I thought they were, they kept me from seeing the man for who and what he really was. My religion obscured this man’s humanity, as all religions do to some degree or another, Instead of seeing the man, I saw him through the lens of the Bible and my interpretation of it. My sin list and my dogma got in the way of me seeing this man as a flawed and frail good man. Like his preacher, he wasn’t perfect.

We spent a lot of non-religious time together, and it is from those times I drew the stories I shared with his family. Great stories. Crazy stories. Funny stories. Stories that testified to the kind of man he was. Yes, I could have shared the “other” stories too, but to what end? As I told Polly at the time, if we live long enough, we all will have moments in our lives that are less than stellar. We all have those times where we went the wrong way or made a bad choice, where we hurt others and hurt ourselves. But these stories are not who we really are. They are the exceptions to the rule, the reminder that no one is perfect, including Jesus.

So on that Saturday I mourned the loss of a man I once knew, but I also rejoiced with his family as we shared stories about the good man that he was. This was my first time doing a funeral where there were no religious expectations. No preaching, no need to get a word in for Jesus; no evangelizing or making everything about the church. On that spring day, in the hills of Southeast Ohio, we celebrated the life of a man whom others loved dearly. While his body will molder in the ground, Greg will live on in the memories we have of him. In the end, this is all the living have.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: Dear Evangelical Pastors, This is no Time for Civil Disobedience

james ellis iii

When municipalities began encouraging social distancing of at least six feet and capping attendance numbers for public gatherings, alongside other decisions of closure or limitation, many churches quickly turned to congregant-free video broadcasting of worship services or even drive-in-movie style worship in their parking lots. Other congregations – to the chagrin of many, both Christian and not – continued meeting in-person as scheduled, emphatic that they were simply going to trust God.

“My goodness gracious, if the people of God cannot display wisdom, resilience and calm, then who will?”

For me, the theological problem here is imagining that we are in some way doing God a favor when gathering face-to-face in Jesus’ name, as we normally do, for worship, Bible study and discipleship groups. Something is hugely awry when for the public good (which includes our congregations since they, too, work and live “in public”) and over a temporary period, postponing physical gatherings jars us so. It is as if we believe a mystical, magic medicine is produced through our corporate worship or that God isn’t the infinitely capable caretaker that Scripture attests, which renders, then, 10 or 11 o’clock Sunday mornings as the only time that heaven is open for business.

Frankly, it makes us, as Christians, look seriously out to lunch (to put it kindly). Believe me, I understand that cognitive dissonance during trying times is very real. We may feel like we are living in a movie because what is real still doesn’t feel that it should be. We can’t see the forest for the trees. I get it. But this is no time for civil disobedience, but rather for us to turn with confidence to the God we say we believe in.

— James Ellis III, Director of Student Ministries at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, Baptist News Global, March 25, 2020

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: IFB Preacher David Hyles Preaches Against Girls Wearing Pants

david hyles greatest men
Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a Twitter video clip of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher David Hyles explaining why his soon-to-be wife will only wear dresses. Keep in mind that Hyles, youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana at the time, was allegedly engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct with church girls. Way to keep it real, Brother Dave! I am sure all your victims were wearing dresses.

Video Link

Quote of the Day: Only Science Can Save Us from Coronavirus

betty anyanwu akeredolu

Indeed, Coronavirus has humbled the world’s religions and Nigerians whose lives depend on praying and fasting for miracles to happen in this digital world of science and technology.

When I said that I was more than convinced that religion is man-made and a bastion of sexism, which has subjugated women, festered gender inequality, stifled progressive thinking, retarded development and invariably added little or no value to our lives, I was called unprintable names.

 I remain unshakeable with my conviction.

This virus has proved me right, to a large extent. Nigerians, in particular, have invested so much in religion that amounted to nothing. Period!

Now that a deadly virus is ravaging the world, where do we look up to? Science or religion? It is glaring that the foreign religions over which we are killing ourselves in Nigeria have failed the world in this season of anomie and only science can save mankind.

Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of Nigerian Ondo State Governor, March 21, 2020

The Bible Commands Christians to Stop Gathering During Coronavirus Pandemic

foot washing service at danielsville baptist church march 16 2020
Robert Burt, pastor of Danielsville Baptist Church, washing congregants feet. He likely is already infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Some Christians, mostly from the Evangelical, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) tribes, refuse to obey social gathering orders. Sometimes, as in Ohio, churches continue meeting because state governments have exempted them from gathering orders. (Please see Dear Governor DeWine, Why are Churches Exempt from the Group Gathering Ban?) Just last week, a Georgia Baptist preacher refused to shutter his church, held a foot-washing service, contracted the COVID-19 virus, is now in the ICU hooked to a ventilator.

Main Street News reports:

Danielsville Baptist Church posted the following statement on Facebook Monday: “Pastor (Robert) Burt has tested positive for COVID-19. Please pray for us all during this time of uncertainty. He is in Piedmont Athens in ICU and on a ventilator. Thank you for your prayers.”

The church also posted: “All people within the church have been contacted and know to self quarantine. We are sorry for the scare within the community. The preacher and his wife have not been out in the community in the last week. We ask for prayers for all of the community.”

….

In the meantime, 911 Director Brenan Baird said his office is working with Smith to trace those who may have been in contact with Pastor Burt. A March 16 post on the Danielsville Baptist Facebook page included two photos of Burt conducting a foot-washing service.

Danielsville Baptist has had what can be best described as a “come to Jesus” moment. Yesterday, the church posted on its Facebook page:

A reminder that God is in control and at work in a mighty way in the middle of this storm.

All activities at Danielsville Baptist are canceled .

No Sunday Morning services.

No Wednesday Night services

No clothes closet.

Please keep all the country in your prayers!!

I want to say to Danielsville Baptist and its pastor, you have reaped what you sowed. Galatians 6:7 says: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. You ignored what health officials were telling you, and now COVID-19 is at your doorstep and no amount of praying and saying God is in control is going to keep you from getting infected. Pastor Burt ignorantly and arrogantly put his misguided faith and theology before reason, science, and common sense. Now he and his fellow Christians will pay the price.

Having said that, I do hope Pastor Burt recovers and others infected by his negligence recover too. I may despise the level of stupidity demonstrated by this church and its pastor, but I genuinely do not want to see any of them get sick and die.

Danielsville Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Today, the mayor of Danielsville, Michael Wideman, signed an executive order shutting down the town. The Athens Banner-Herald reports:

The pastor of a small Baptist church in downtown Danielsville has been hospitalized with the coronavirus and members of the church have been asked to self-quarantine, according to the church.

….

The city of Danielsville on Monday also issued an executive order signed by Mayor Michael Wideman that affects businesses and organizations citywide, including two other churches inside the city.

All restaurants, coffee shops and other places were food is served to the public are now limited to take-out, drive-through or delivery. Dining on the premises is prohibited.

Public gatherings of 10 people or more are also prohibited. All barbershops, hair salons and fitness training centers are limited to six people or less.

Danielsville, Georgia, population 560, is similar in size to the rural Ohio community I live in. Everyone knows each other. Virus exposure can quickly spread in such communities due to close human interaction at church, school, and local businesses. Danielsville or Ney, Ohio will likely never become epicenters of virus exposure like New York, but residents should love their neighbors as themselves — as Jesus commanded — and avoid contact with each other. That includes church. Refusing to do so is direct disobedience to the Word of God.

That’s right, after two weeks of fasting, praying, and deep, deep, I mean deep Bible study, I have found a verse that directly addresses the Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19 infection, and whether churches should listen to government health officials and cancel their services.

Here’s what I found in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God:

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. (Proverbs 22:3)

I love how the Contemporary English Version (CEV) translates this verse:

When you see trouble coming,
 don’t be stupid
 and walk right into it—
 be smart and hide. (Proverbs 22:3)

Surely, we all can agree that the Coronavirus is “trouble coming.” In fact, it has arrived in all fifty states. In New York, hundreds of people are dying. According to health experts, the United States is in the early days of the pandemic. Want to see what our future likely holds? Look to Italy. (Please see Lessons from Italy: Six Stages of Coronavirus.) The Bible says that anyone who sees the Coronavirus coming and walks right into it is “stupid.” Just today, our Stupid-in-Chief, Donald Trump, said that he hopes churches are PACKED on Easter. That’s right. Nineteen days from now, the President wants and expects churches to be filled with worshipers of the “risen” Jesus. Surely, people of reason and common sense see the absurdity and stupidity of such words. The President is tired of limiting gatherings. He’s got campaign rallies to attend (and make no mistake about it, thousands of people will show up if he holds rallies) and an election to win. Lacking any sense of empathy for the American people or the world at large, all Trump cares about is his image, hotels, and stock portfolio. By suggesting Christians pack their local churches on Easter Sunday, Trump is stupidly running into trouble. And when the virus continues unabated? Blame the Chinese or Barack Obama.

God, in the Holy Bible, commands Christians to be smart and hide from the Coronavirus. That’s right. God doesn’t say have faith and stand your ground. God doesn’t say to take authority over the virus and pretend it doesn’t exist or doesn’t affect you. GOD SAYS, BE SMART AND HIDE!

What’s the best way to hide from the Coronavirus? Stay home. Stay away from other people. Do everything you can to avoid contact with other people. It really is that simple.

And if you refuse to do so? God says you are stupid. ‘Nuff said, Amen? Can I get a witness?

Other Posts About Churches Refusing to Close Their Doors

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

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Bill Muehlenberg’s Ignorant View of Socialism

Massive shortages of basic food items and everyday necessities like toilet paper. Lengthy lines of irritable shoppers outside of shops – at least the ones that are still open. Heavy rationing and constant government meddling with how we live. I can be talking about one of two things here: life under the corona crisis, or business as usual in socialist countries.

We are now all coming to terms with government lockdowns, rationing, shortages, and panic buying. That is pretty much a new experience for most of us in the West. But for those doomed to live in socialist paradises, this is just what life is like on a daily basis – and it has been for decades now.

….

So if that is what you are keen on, then keep foolishly championing politicians in the West like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Jeremy Corbyn. Keep denouncing capitalism while you enjoy all of its many benefits. Keep railing against the free market as you use its products to do so: smart phones, laptops, the internet, etc.

— Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch, If You Like the Corona Crisis, You’ll Love Communism, March 23, 2020

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