Menu Close

Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher

tony soprano

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

(The terms “preacher” and “pastor” are used interchangeably in this article)

Several years ago, I binge-watched all 86 episodes of the HBO show The Sopranos. Once I started watching The Sopranos, I was hooked. I quickly found out that the HBO version was quite a bit more racy than the sanitized version currently found on various cable TV channels.

The main character in The Sopranos is New Jersey mafia boss Tony Soprano, played by the late James Gandolfini. As I watched episode after episode, it dawned on me that Tony Soprano would make a good Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher.

Now before I detail why Tony Soprano would make a good IFB preacher, I want to make sure every easily offended IFB preacher understands that I am not writing about ALL Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers. Yes, there are decent IFB preachers, just like there are non-pedophile Roman Catholic priests. However, the personality and character displayed by Tony Soprano is quite prominent among IFB preachers, so I have no qualms about painting with a broad brush; especially since little is done in IFB circles to deal with the Tony Sopranos in their midst.

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement is noted for elevating men to a religious version of rock-star status. Every year, conferences are held that showcase the rock-star preachers of the IFB church movement. These men are treated like gods. People sitting in the pew listening to their oration are awed by their preaching and their stories of God’s power and blessing. More than a few young preachers leave such conferences with their mind made up that they are going to pattern their ministry after So-and-So famous IFB preacher. After all, God gave So-and-So IFB preacher great success, surely God would do the same for the young preacher if he just followed in So-and-So IFB preacher’s footsteps.

Even among IFB preachers who are not on the conference circuit, rock-star status can be gained. I know, for a time, I had such status. From 1983-1994, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mount Perry, Ohio. I started the church from scratch and the church grew quickly. In a few years, I was advertising the church as “Perry County’s Fastest Growing Church” and “The largest Non-Catholic Church in Perry County.”

Pretty soon young and/or struggling preachers wanted to know my recipe for success. I humbly told them . . . “God,” and then I went on to list the six keys to my success:

  • Aggressive evangelism
  • Bus ministry
  • Regularly visiting in the homes of every church member
  • Great preaching
  • Attracting Christians who had the same vision I did
  • Marginalizing or running off church members who did not share my vision

Having rock-star status afforded me the opportunity to preach at other churches, conferences, youth rallies, and revivals. It would be dishonest of me not to say that I was quite enamored with my success. Yes, I believed it was God working through me, but it was I who was doing it. (I was 26 years old when I started the Somerset Baptist Church.)

IFB churches are almost always pastored by one man. Rarely do IFB churches have more than one senior pastor. Things like a plurality of elders or a church board are often preached against and considered unbiblical. Most IFB preachers I knew, including myself, bought into the Lee Roberson philosophy, Everything rises and falls on leadership. This meant that the success and failure of the church depended on me, the preacher.

Sadly, the focus on one man leads to all kinds of problems. In most IFB churches, the preacher has near absolute power and control over the church. Unless he preaches heresy, steals money, screws a deacon’s wife, or gets caught at the local strip club, his power will likely not be challenged.

The longer a preacher is at a church, the more power he accumulates. Often, when church members try to challenge the preacher’s control, they’ll be run out of the church. Obedience to the Man of God is expected, dare I say, demanded.

Three Bible verses are used to prop up the preacher’s authoritarian rule. After all, if it is in the Bible, it must be obeyed:

  • Saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. (Psalm 105:15)
  • Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you (Hebrews 13:17)
  • Rebuke not an elder . . . (1 Timothy 5:1a)
elisha bears

Never mind that these verses are taken out of context. Countless IFB preachers use these verses to remind church members that they are the men GOD has put in charge of the church. The pastor is the CEO, bwana, potentate, and king of the church. Messing with the preacher means you are messing with God. Church members are reminded about what happens when you mess with God’s man:

And he (Elisha) went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them. (2 Kings 2:23,24)

Mess with God’s man, challenge his authority, and you might get eaten by bears, or some other judgment might befall you.

In most IFB churches, the preacher is the cog around which everything turns. When church members are asked about where they go to church, they often say I go to Pastor So and So’s church. The preacher’s name is prominently displayed on the church sign, church advertising, and printed materials.

Sadly, many IFB churches, due to their preacher-centered structure, suffer serious decline or even closure when the preacher leaves. This is especially true for churches who lose their founding pastor. People are loyal to the man, and when the man leaves, so does their loyalty. If the church survives, it often faces attendance and offering decline as members seek out other IFB churches to attend. Many of the big name IFB churches in the 1960’s-1980’s did not survive the founding pastor leaving.  Those that did survive are but a shell of what they once were. (This same phenomenon is often seen in privately held corporations when the next generation takes over the company.)

Many IFB churches survive the founding pastor’s departure and the resultant attendance and offering decline. A new pastor comes in, states his new vision for the church, and things continue on. In time, the new pastor leaves and the whole process of upheaval and decline continues until the church gets a-n-o-t-h-e-r new pastor. The average church changes its pastor every 30-60 months. Some churches, after years and years of new pastors coming and going, close their doors.

With the above background in mind, let me now show you why I think Tony Soprano would make a good IFB preacher.

Tony Soprano is a charismatic person. He has a way of getting people to like him. People are drawn to him. He can manipulate people to get what he wants from them. Almost every episode of The Sopranos shows Tony Soprano manipulating women, fellow mobsters, family members, political leaders, business owners, and even his psychiatrist to get what he wants.

In Tony Soprano’s world, it is all about getting what he wants. As the boss on the New Jersey crew, he has absolute life and death power. He ruthlessly uses this power to have sex with women, amass large sums of illicitly gained money, and remove anyone who challenges his control of the New Jersey crew.

Tony Soprano is a textbook narcissist. It is all about him. Tony Soprano is, with rare exception, indifferent to the problems of others. All that matters to him is his continued control of the mob kingdom he and his father John and Uncle Jr. have built.  Anyone who gets in his way ends up in a shallow grave or wearing concrete boots at the bottom of the ocean.

Tony Soprano expects people to be loyal to him. No matter what he wants done — say, having his cousin’s fiancé murdered — he expects people to support him. He expects everyone to follow the Mafia Code of Conduct, (Wikipedia article on omertà) even though he, at times, ignores the code.

In Tony Soprano’s world, it is all about power and control. This even extends to his wife, children, and broader family. Tony Soprano is THE man and he expects everyone to bow to his wishes. As anyone who has watched The Sopranos knows, Tony Soprano has on-and-off problems with getting his wife and children to obey him.

Carmella, played by Edie Falco, Tony Soprano’s wife, throws him out of the house because of his philandering. When Carmella tries to file for divorce, she finds out that no divorce lawyer will take her case. Ultimately, she realizes that getting a divorce is impossible and she makes an uneasy peace with Tony.

Tony Soprano is the cog around which everything revolves. He expects everyone to tell him what is going on. Failure to do this often results in Tony punishing someone physically or monetarily, and in some cases, Tony punishes them by “whacking” (killing) them.

Occasionally, those close to Tony try to talk to him about his excesses or errors in judgment (such as Jackie, Silvo, Paulie, Chrissy, Johnny Sack, Hesh, and Bobby). In a few instances, Tony changes his ways, but most often Tony ignores those who try to correct him. Often, attempts made to challenge his actions or behavior result in Tony holding a grudge. Sometimes, these grudges end with the person being killed.

At times, Tony Soprano is conflicted over his behavior. He has twinges of guilt over his infidelity and his killing of once-loyal soldiers and friends. He often talks to his psychiatrist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi, played by Lorraine Bracco, about his guilt and misgivings. He is rarely completely honest with Dr. Melfi, and when she challenges him, he often explodes in anger and ends the therapy session.

I see in Tony Soprano the perfect Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. He is charismatic and friendly. He believes he is right and he is willing to use his power and authority to maintain his rightness. He is a chosen man, rising from the streets to mob boss. His testimony would be quite similar to many an IFB preacher’s testimony of salvation and calling.

Just as the IFB preacher appeals to the Bible as his sole source of authority, Tony Soprano appeals to the Mafia Code of Conduct to govern his actions. And like more than a few IFB preachers who ignore the Bible when it suits them, Tony ignores the Mafia Code of Conduct when he needs to.

Tony Soprano expects others to pay homage to him. He is, after all, the boss. So it is with many IFB preachers. They are the men of God, they are the de facto power and authority in the church. IFB preachers are often lavished with gifts, money, all-expense paid trips, new suits, etc. These things are considered proper expressions of the church’s love for their preacher. After all, where would the church be if Pastor So-and-So were not their preacher?

In many instances, the IFB pastor is regaled like Herod. In Acts 12:21-23 we find:

And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

While I don’t think there is a god that strikes anyone dead, rock-star preachers go the way of all men. They die and their power and authority die with them. That is, unless they pass their power and authority on to their son, a common occurrence in IFB churches.

In the final episode of The Sopranos, Tony is sitting in a café with his wife and son. His daughter is outside parking her car. Into the cafe walk several men who look suspicious. Due to an ongoing bloody war between the New Jersey crew and one of the New York mafia families, Tony is afraid they are going to try to kill him.

The episode ends with the doorbell of the café ringing as the door is opened. Tony Soprano looks up and then the screen goes dark. Viewers are left to wonder what happened. Was it Tony’s daughter coming through the door? Was it a hit-man?

Unlike Tony Soprano’s fate, we know what is happening to the IFB church movement. It is dying. While some IFB churches continue to attract people, countless other churches have closed their doors or changed their affiliation. Thousands of church members have fled IFB churches in hopes of finding a kinder, gentler, less authoritarian Christianity. Sadly, they often find out that there are Tony Sopranos in every denomination. Many IFB church members end up leaving Christianity altogether. Some embrace other religions or become humanists, agnostics, or atheists.

As I have stated many times before, I am not anti-Christian. I am well aware that there are many fine Christian churches and pastors. While I disagree with their beliefs, I recognize that many people desire and need religion in their lives. My primary beef is with authoritarian IFB churches and pastors and Evangelicals who use cult-like tactics to control people. My wish for the IFB church movement is a swift and sure death. There are better religious choices for people if they dare to look. Why continue to eat steak at Ponderosa (Pound-of-Gristle) when you can eat a thick-cut steak at Texas Roadhouse?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Masked in the City’s Bible Belt

williamsburg bridge

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I think I’m recovering pretty well from my bike accident. Heck, last Tuesday I even rode the 5 miles to my follow-up CAT scan. I hope it will confirm that I’m as well as I think I am!

The day after, I went for another, longer, bike ride. I needed it because, well, I’m a nearly-lifelong cyclist. Also, I wanted not to think about the CAT scan and to think about other things: It was a couple of days after the anniversary of my mother’s death.

Now I’m going to tell you something you may have figured if you’ve read my previous articles: I live, and grew up, in New York. Even though parts of the city, through gentrification and hyper-development, are becoming more homogenized, it is still a city of stark contrasts. It’s still possible, in some areas, to enter a completely different world simply by crossing a street.

This is especially true in Brooklyn, one of the city’s five boroughs. Today the name is practically a brand that, to much of the world, signifies hipness (if in an overly self-conscious way). If you spend any time in the waterfront neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, it’s easy to understand why: In cafes along Kent, Bedford and Driggs Avenues, where I rode, young men and women in tight jeans wash down their $15 slices of avocado toast (!) with $20 craft beers or cocktails.

These young people, nearly all of them childless, are hated or resented, or at least mocked, as “entitled millennials” because, for one thing, nearly all of them come from other parts of the United States and thus, in the eyes of some, can’t be “real New Yorkers.” (I would argue that is exactly what some don’t want to become. But that’s a subject for an entirely different article.) Also, many of them, even before the pandemic, didn’t seem to be doing any work to support themselves. The money for their avocado toast and drinks—and the condos in which many of them live—comes from elsewhere.

One thing I have to say for them, though: When they weren’t eating or drinking, nearly all of them were wearing masks. Of course, they weren’t covering their faces with those generic blue, white or yellow hospital masks: Some, I am sure, created their own face coverings, while others had them made by artisans or designers, whether in the neighborhood or elsewhere.

As I pedaled down Driggs, I rolled under the Williamsburg Bridge overpass as a train rumbled and clattered across. Many see the bridge as a sort of Mason-Dixon line, if you will, dividing North from South Williamsburg. One could also argue that Nostrand Avenue, where East Williamsburg begins, performs the same function. Like the line that separated the Union from the Confederacy, the areas north and west of the “lines” are richer, whiter and more educated (at least in a certain sense) than the areas on the other side.

My ride didn’t take me into East Williamsburg, though I ride into the area often. I will mention, however, that it is the last remnant of Williamsburg’s Puerto Rican community, which dominated the area for four decades or so after World War II. I did, however, spin my wheels south, into one of the two New York neighborhoods that most closely resemble a prewar shtetl.

I am talking about the part of Williamsburg below the eponymous bridge. The description in my previous paragraph is not an exaggeration: If you were to find yourself on the southern part of Driggs, or on Lee Avenue, late on a Friday or on Saturday, you’d have the place to yourself.

Since I was riding there on a Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t alone. The thing is, I was one of the few non-Hasidim in the area. Normally, I don’t mind that: At worst, I am ignored and can ride or go about whatever else I’m doing, undisturbed. On the other hand, the fact that I was cycling through the neighborhood on the day before shabat, I couldn’t help but to notice that I, and the other goyim in the area, were the only ones wearing masks. None of the Hasidic men and women covered their faces.

I noticed the same phenomenon as I pedaled further south, into Brooklyn’s other Hasidic enclave: Borough Park. There, I was even more isolated: I was, literally, the only goyim (all right, I’m an atheist; but in that community, any outsider is goy!) pedaling, walking or otherwise passing through the area. But that was not the only reason I felt as if I stuck out even more than I did in South Williamsburg: I grew up at the edge of Borough Park, where it borders Kensington. Half a century ago, when I was an altar boy (and manque transgender), the neighborhood was more or less evenly divided between Italian-, Irish- and Polish-Americans. Most of the men, including my father, were blue-collar workers who did as much overtime as they could so they could send me and my peers to the neighborhood’s Catholic school, which closed about 15 years ago. And we all went to the same church—which remains open mainly because of Hispanics who work in the neighborhood—on Sunday.

In my old neiIn my old neighborhood, none of the residents was wearing a mask. However, in a neighboring community, populated mainly by Bangladeshi Muslims, nearly everyone — male, female and otherwise — was.

I would like to think that the denizens of my old neighborhood would have covered their faces, if for no other reason than their reverence (really, a combination of fear and obsequiousness) for authority. The funny thing is that, for all of that they (and I, at the time—after all, I was an altar boy) unquestioningly obeyed our church and school, we knew enough to listen to secular authorities when they knew better. Unfortunately, my old neighborhood—along with South Williamsburg and a few neighborhoods dominated by Evangelical and Pentecostal churches—are this city’s “Bible Belt,” if you will. They believe that the power of their beliefs will protect them when the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci won’t. And even if their fealty to the Word of their God doesn’t keep them from succumbing to COVID-19, they believe that God (or Yahweh) “wants” them “now.”

Some pundits have, accurately, observed, that in the US, the choice to wear a mask—or not—during the COVID-19 pandemic breaks along political lines. In my city, though, it has more to do with religious faith—which, ironically is the political “fault line” in the Big Apple. My ride showed me on which side of the line I live.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

The Intolerant Christian God as Found in the Cult Classic Mars Attacks!

mars attacks

There’s a scene in Mars Attacks! — one of my all-time favorite movies — where the Martians meet with the President of the United States. The President, played by Jack Nicholson, says to the Mars ambassador:

Why… are you doing this? Why? Isn’t the universe big enough…for both of us? Ha ha ha ha. What is wrong with you people?

We could work together. Why be enemies? Because we’re different? Is that why?

Think of the things that we could do.

Think how strong we would be. Earth…and Mars… Together.

There is nothing that we could not accomplish. Think about it. Think about it.

Why destroy…when you can create? We can have it all, or we can smash it all.

Why can’t we…work out our differences? Why can’t we…work things out?

Little people…why can’t we all just…get along?

“Why can’t we all just get along?” The ambassador, with tears in his eyes, shakes hands with the President, only to have the hand disconnect and stab the President in the heart, killing him instantly.

Video Link

Prior to killing the President, the Martian Ambassador and his entourage met with Congress. The Ambassador gave a rousing Ack! Ack! Ack! speech, concluding with him and his support staff whipping out their ray guns and vaporizing Congress. Where are the Martians when you need them, right?

Video Link

Quite intolerant, these Martians. Every time I watch Mars Attacks! I can’t help but think of the Christian God and his intolerance towards any religion but his own. Jesus — who is God — is the Martian Ambassador in this story. Any other religion but the Christian faith is false, an affront to the thrice-holy God of the Bible. Instead of practicing the time-honored art of toleration, God the Father, and his son Jesus, command their followers to murder everyone who worships other deities (or no deities at all).

Christianity has a deep, vibrant, antisemitic, anti-Islamic stream running through its body. Evangelicals, who increasingly support President Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry, justify their hatred by pointing to how Muslim extremists harass, attack, kidnap, and murder Christians and other non-Muslims. I don’t disagree with their assessment of groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda, and numerous other Muslim extremists.

However, in becoming so fixated on Islam, Christians forget their own religion’s violence, their God’s command to slaughter all unbelievers, and the rise of violent (and deadly) white Christian extremism in the United States.

The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says in Deuteronomy 13:1-16:

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

If thou shalt hear say in one of thy cities, which the Lord thy God hath given thee to dwell there, saying,

Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;

Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;

Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.

And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the Lord thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.

But, Bruce . . . Don’t bother. Whatever attempt you plan to make to defend your God won’t work. This passage of Scripture is quite clear. No ambiguity here. The intolerant, genocidal God of Christianity commands his followers (the Israelites, at the time) to slaughter anyone — men, women, children, the unborn — who doesn’t worship him. It’s in the Bible, buddy, and you just need to own it.

So much for the uncondtional love of God. So much for God loving and accepting people where and how they are. No, God commands his followers to whip out their ray guns and vaporize anyone who doesn’t bow in fealty and devotion to him.

Time to sing, What a Mighty God We Serve.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Evangelical Sex in the City, And Country Too

casual sex

The Pew Research Center released a report last month that suggests what we have long known: Evangelicals screw around just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world — albeit with more guilt and fear.

Pew Research reports:

Many Christian traditions disapprove of premarital sex. And even though Christians in the United States hold less permissive views than religiously unaffiliated Americans about dating and sex, most say it’s acceptable in at least some circumstances for consenting adults to have sex outside of marriage.

Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable. Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants.

Among those who are religiously unaffiliated, meanwhile, the vast majority (84%) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable, including roughly nine-in-ten atheists (94%) and agnostics (95%) who say this. The religiously unaffiliated, also known as “nones,” are those who describe themselves, religiously, as atheist, agnostic or as “nothing in particular.”

When it comes to sex between unmarried adults who are in a committed relationship, the gap between Christians and the unaffiliated is less stark. A majority of Christians (57%) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable. That includes 67% of mainline Protestants, 64% of Catholics, 57% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition and 46% of evangelical Protestants.

Eight-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans (79%) say sex between unmarried adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable.

There’s less acceptance among Christians – and Americans in general – of a range of other sex and dating practices asked about in the survey, such as: having sex on a first date, exchanging sexually explicit photographs with other consenting adults, and having an open relationship (defined as a committed relationship where both people agree it’s acceptable to date or have sex with other people).

Evangelical Protestants are less likely than most of the other Christian groups in this analysis to find these practices acceptable.

“Evangelical Protestants are less likely than most of the other Christian groups in this analysis to find these practices acceptable.” No surprise here, right? Evangelicals are front and center in the culture war against any and all sexual practices except missionary position, heterosexual sex between monogamous married couples. Any other sexual behavior, including masturbation, is considered a grievous sin against God. How could it be otherwise? When you attend churches pastored by men who excessively focus on sexual sin in their preaching — while ignoring or hiding their own sexual peccadilloes — is it any wonder Evangelical churches are filled with people who think God will punish them for having “impure” sexual thoughts or daring to enjoy being a sexual being?

Based on the Pew Research report, it sounds as if an increasing number of Evangelicals are ignoring what their churches and pastors say about sex, and are experiencing the wonders of human sexual activity. Something tells me that God and his spokesmen on earth aren’t going to win this battle.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Pastor Olugbenga Oladejo: Missionary Position Only or You Will Go to Hell

olugbenga oladejo
Pastor Olugbenga Oladejo

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Olugbenga Oladejo is the pastor of Complete in Christ Church, an Evangelical congregation in Orton Waterville, Peterborough, England. The church’s website states, Complete in Christ Church is:

an end-time church dedicated to holiness, righteousness, prayers and deliverance ministries. We are committed to going to heaven and to minister to as many souls as are ready to go to heaven. We recognise the signs of the end as explained by our Lord Jesus Christ that the love of many shall wax cold (Matthew 24) as we can see in our days. Therefore we teach sinners to repent and children of God to be ready like the wise virgins (Matthew 25).

The Lord Jesus Christ set up this church to bring his children back to the ancient landmark which must not be removed. Proverbs 22:28. That is why in Complete in Christ Church we teach holiness and righteousness and abhor all forms of worldliness. We teach children of God to live holy life within and without. When you join us, our beginners class to discipleship class will show you biblical basis of holy living, Psalm15.

Our commitment to holy living is also extended towards outward appearance in our dressings as we discourage all forms of immoral dressings and bodily adornments among men and women.

Complete in Christ Church is a full deliverance ministries where prayers that move mountain are answered by our Lord Jesus Christ. Our services are always full of power of the Holy Spirit with apostolic signs and wonders. Holy Spirit will teach your hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by your arms (Psalm 18:34).

In complete in Christ Church we lift up and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ only in all we do For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Colosians2:9-10).

According to Pastor Oladejo, any married couple that has sex in any other position but the missionary position with the man on top will not inherit the kingdom of God. Doggie style? Hell! Masturbation? Hell! Your sex life may be hot now, but use any position but the missionary position and you will end up in hell!

Here’s some of the godly sex advice Oladejo gives to married people:

The lord told me, “look, when I asked my children to get married… on their matrimonial bed, they commit a lot of immorality.” He said I should tell them that they are not going to heaven. There is an everlasting covenant. Those who break that everlasting covenant are not going to make it into heaven.

Couples who practice the woman on top… I want to repeat this, because this is the warning he gave me….When you are with your wife, the lord has made man to be the head. Not the woman. So those men who enjoy their wife coming on top of them in the matrimonial bed, the lord says they are not coming to heaven at all...

The lord told me about those who practice like a dog. The lord did not to create you to behave like a dog on your matrimonial bed. Or like a cow. Or like a chicken.”

“If you are practicing hanging with your wife [bondage], you are inventing different styles… Don’t go and be hanging your wife. Don’t go and be hanging your husband. Do not try different styles: they do sex in different styles that are contrary to god.”

“Those who masturbate. That department [of hell] is for them. Those who give lustful pleasure to the flesh. Women who masturbate. Men who masturbate… The demons will come to them.” And while the masturbator “soul will cry,” the demons “will be laughing. And they will be happy.”

“The man should lie on top of the woman. The natural style, the one way god has given us as man and wife.”

Here’s the pastor’s video. The sex advice begins around the six-minute mark:

Let me conclude this post with a story told by Pastor Oladejo:

Humanity is lost to sin and now we are unable to see God. One day, I went to the a [sic] place called the Royal Mile in the City center of Edinburgh the capital of Scotland. I saw many people gather as a preacher was calling for repentance among men. 

One man stepped forward and identified himself as an athiest [sic] and that he does not believe in the existence of God. He told everyone that man was developed from Evolution. I saw the ignorance on the face of the man and I request to ask a question. 

My question was that if the theory of Evolution was true why did that happened only once. Why have we not seen another Ape developing to become humans again! The athiest [sic] could not answer the question but maintained that men came out of Ape.

One day you will face the Lord, even if you dont [sic] want to face him. That day is going to be fearful and terrible if you do not have Jesus in your life. It is important that you realised that ignorance will not be acceptable before God but God will judge you with only one thing, The BIBLE!! It is therefor [sic] in your best interest to go to your Bible and see what is written in it so that you can save your soul from eternal damnation.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Black Collar Crime: Primitive Baptist Pastor Benjamin “Gus” Harter Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

benjamin gus harter

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, Benjamin “Gus” Harter, pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs, Georgia, was accused of repeatedly sexually molesting a girl under the age of sixteen. He was later accused of molesting other girls.

11-Alive reported at the time:

An arrest warrant details how Harter is charged with molesting a girl under the age of 16, touching her inappropriately as she lay in his bed on multiple occasions across at least three years, from 2012 to 2015.

Harter was arrested on Friday, and is being held without bond.

….

Church officials confirmed parts of a winding, expansive biography: Harter and his wife joined religious communities in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Texas and even as far away as the Philippines.

They have five adult children in addition their adopted children and more than 20 grandchildren.

Before joining Ebenezer Primitive, Harter worked at several other churches in the Southeast, and most notably spent three decades with Bethany Primitive Baptist Church in Suwanee until 2000.

At that time, Harter left the church and moved with his wife to the Philippines.

While there, he led two churches and helped build many more. He and his wife also built an orphanage. They returned to the U.S. in 2008.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:

Benjamin “Gus” Harter, 80, had served as pastor of Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church in Sandy Springs since 2014, according to the church’s website. But Tuesday afternoon, tape covered Harter’s name on the sign outside the historic church. And Tuesday evening, an associate pastor said Harter was no longer pastor nor a member of the church.

Harter has led two churches and helped build dozens of others here and in the Philippines, where he and his wife built an orphanage. The Harters also adopted 19 children from the Asian country, according to his church biography, adding to their already large family.

….

Harter previously served as pastor of Bethany Primitive Baptist Church, now located in Suwanee, for nearly three decades beginning in November 1971. In the mid-1990s, Harter and his wife began traveling to the Philippines regularly to work with churches there.

He later resigned from Bethany church in May 2000 and moved with his family to the Philippines for several years, according to the Ebenezer Primitive Baptist website. In the Philippines, the Harters built an orphanage before returning to the U.S. in 2008. The couple adopted 19 children over the years, bringing them back to their home.

“For over 7 years, Gus traveled, taught, and served the fast growing primitive baptist congregations of the Philippines,” the church’s website states. “In that time he participated in the formation of over 100 new congregations and helped constitute over 60 as churches.”

After Harter and his family returned to the U.S., he served several months as co-pastor of a Texas church before returning to Atlanta and Bethany. He led the church through a move from Tucker to Suwanee.

In a 2012 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the pastor explained that the word primitive means original.

“We worship like they did when they came over from England. We’re very fundamental, and not charismatic,”Harter said. “The closest to us theologically is a reformed Presbyterian church.”

A Florida native, Harter completed undergraduate studies at Southeastern Bible College in Alabama, where he began serving as pastor of a small Methodist church, the AJC previously reported. He continued his education at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, where he first attended a Primitive Baptist church. Harter served as a pastor in Kentucky for two years and in Florida for seven years before moving to the Atlanta area.

In October 2019, 11-Alive reported on the additional charges levied against Harter:

A pastor already accused of molesting a girl under the age of 16 multiple times is now facing more charges of sex crimes involving minors, bringing the total number to three. 

Last month, Benjamin “Gus” Harter, 80, was arrested for one count of child molestation – accused of touching the 16-year-old inappropriately as she lay in his bed on multiple occasions across at least three years, from 2012 to 2015.

Now, the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office confirms two new charges of child molestation – one for each new alleged victim. The allegations, officials said, are similar to the previous one and happened within Forsyth County. Harter resides in Cumming, Georgia in Forsyth County.

In 2014, Reporter Newspapers reported on Harter coming to Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church:

I came here to make this historic church work,” he[Harter] said. “I don’t want to see it die.”

Ebenezer Primitive Baptist Church has fallen on hard times. First established in 1829, it sits on the corner of Roberts and Spalding Drives. But whereas it had over 1,000 people attend service in 1928, its membership dropped to an all-time low this spring.

“When I came, Edward Cagle [the previous pastor] was the only active member of the church,” Harter said. “But 27 people joined with me so we’ve got a basic start.”

Patsy Froy is one of the members who moved with Harter from Bethany Primitive Baptist Church to Ebenezer. “I’ve known him my whole life, basically,” she said. “He’s been there for funerals, babies being born, weddings. He’s a very influential person in my life.”

Harter plans on renovating the church as his first order of business. The current brick building stands across the street from the original church, which Harter said was taken apart by Union soldiers during the Civil War. The building as it is now is the church’s fourth reconstruction.

“I want to dress it up, but I don’t want to lose the antiquity of it,” said Harter. “It’s a beautiful church.”

He thinks that this beauty alone, coupled with the improvements, will help attract new members. But Harter also believes that the church offers something different.

“We are not contemporary, but we are unique,” he said. “Every service has 30 minutes of a capella singing, and about 45 minutes to an hour of expository preaching. And we have a potluck lunch after church.”

Primitive Baptists are known for the simplicity of their worship. No musical instruments are allowed in church, so members engage in Sacred Harp singing, a tradition where singers use their voices as instruments in four-part harmony. There are also no divisions by age or gender. This means that children attend services and are encouraged to participate in all activities.

Earlier this week, Harter pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation. The good pastor was sentenced to twenty years — five years in prison and fifteen years on sex offender probation.

11-Alive reports:

An 81-year-old man who was a pastor at churches in metro Atlanta and around the world is now facing the next five years in prison after admitting to child molestation charges.

According to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office, Benjamin Harter of Cumming, pleaded guilty of three counts of child molestation and was sentenced to 20 years — five years in prison with the remainder on sex offender probation.

It seems likely that Pastor Harter has a long track record of sexually molesting children. Ever the Calvinist, I suppose Harter can say that his predatory behavor was decreed by the sovereign God of John Calvin.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

One Million Moms Outraged Over Women Going Commando

cottonelle going commando

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

One Million Moms, the female outrage department of the American Family Association, are upset over a new Cottonelle ad that asks women to dare to go commando. Here’s what director Monica Cole’s press release had to say:

In Cottonelle’s newest advertising campaign “Dare to Go Commando,” a company spokeswoman asks individuals if they feel cleaner after using Cottonelle because of the ripple texture. The Cottonelle spokeswoman goes so far as to ask another woman if she feels clean enough to go commando now. The woman agrees and walks back into the restroom to return with her undies in a small shopping bag. The commercial ends with both women pulling down the waistbands of their pants just enough to reveal they don’t have panties on.

Cottonelle is encouraging consumers to go without underwear. Oh, please! This is ridiculous. This type of advertising is extremely inappropriate.

The tissue paper company also has a similar ad, “Go Cottonelle. Go Commando.” In this ad, the spokeswoman asks a man to go commando, and it ends the same way.

cottonelle promo photo
Cottonelle Promotion Photograph

Evidently, the women of One Million Moms want to hold on to their cotton Fruit of the Looms, and don’t want American women walking around sans underwear. They really should pay more attention. As a man who has seen plenty of female backside over the years, I can say that women have been going almost commando for years. These days, they can make dozens of pairs of underwear from a yard of material. I will leave it to female readers to decide whether going commando is more comfortable or appropriate. All I can say is that One Million Moms better not ask their husbands to support their effort. I’ve seen on the street Christian men, hand over one eye, carefully observing the female anatomy. I highly doubt they want to see the return of panty lines.

This is so silly, is it not? Of all the things one could be offended and outraged by, women not wearing underwear tops the list?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Black Collar Crime: IFB School Teacher David Beckner Pleads Guilty, Sentenced to Prison

david beckner

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2019, David Beckner, a former teacher at Gaylord Grace Baptist Christian School in Gaylord, Michigan, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a female student. The Gaylord Herald Times reported at the time:

David Beckner, 51, of West Virginia was arraigned Thursday afternoon in 87th District Court on eight criminal sexual conduct charges for allegedly abusing a teen girl in 2006 and 2007 in Otsego County.

Brendan Curran, Otsego County prosecutor, said the official complaint by Michigan State Police was filed June 13 for sex offenses committed upon a teen in Otsego County.

“I have charged David Wayne Beckner (presently residing in West Virginia) with seven counts of CSC 3rd degree and one count of CSC 4th degree, for seven sexual penetrations and one touching of a minor child who was a student of Beckner’s at the time their relationship began,” Curran said in an email.

According to a Michigan State Police news release Thursday evening, Beckner resides in Morgantown, West Virginia, and turned himself in Thursday. The release also said Beckner worked for the Grace Baptist Church from September 2004 until June 2007 before moving out of state.

….

Brianna Kenyon, a former Grace Baptist student, alleges that Beckner abused her as a minor and has publicly shared her story.

“When I grew up in that church, we’re all so isolated from the real world that I always thought I was the only one in the world, let alone in my church, that had ever had anything sexual happen to them. I was so alone for years and years; it wasn’t until I was (into adulthood) that I realized it actually happens a lot.”

Kenyon, 29, said she reported Beckner years ago for criminal sexual conduct to police and to the school’s pastor, Jon Jenkins, in 2011.

In an email, Jenkins said, it would be “a favorable outcome if justice can be achieved for Brianna.” He said, “Grace Baptist Church has always, and continues to stand in favor of justice for the victim.”

Previous Herald Times Freedom of Information Act requests returned no reports from the pastor or church to police of the alleged abuse.

Kenyon said the prosecutor at that time opted to not pursue the case and it was dropped.

….

Early this year, Ruthy Nordgren, now an adult, shared her story with the Herald Times and others publicly.
Nordgren is also a former Grace Baptist student and teacher Aaron Willand was convicted in 2016 of abusing her in Washington state.

Nordgren said she is also pursuing charges in Otsego County for abuse that she said happened when she was a student.

“And when Ruthy messaged me (about sharing publicly in the news), I thought, what could it hurt,” Kenyon said. “I couldn’t really get any justice for myself, and I figured if someone could be helped by my story and (they can see) here’s a girl that survived, and I do live a normal life and I do treat others well and I didn’t use this as a reason to be another monster.”

Grace Baptist Church is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

According to the Gaylord Herald Times:

Beckner joins the growing list of people with ties to Grace Baptist Church and school who have been convicted or accused of sexually abusing minors in the last 17 years. Another teacher, a bus driver, youth conference guest speaker and former congregation members are among those already convicted or facing criminal sexual conduct charges.

Despite all of this, Jon Jenkins remains the pastor of Grace Baptist. Last May, Jenkins celebrated his thirty-third anniversary at the church. He has “much” to be grateful for. (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Since the original story on David Beckner, Beckner has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10-15 years in prison.

9&10 News reports:

David Beckner was sentenced to 10 to 15 years behind bars for the third-degree sex crimes.

State police say it happened in 2006 while the victim was a 16- or 17-year-old student at Grace Baptist in Gaylord.

State police initially investigated the case in 2013, but the former Otsego County prosecutor did not file charges.

12-WBOY adds:

According to the Otsego County Prosecutor’s Office, David Beckner, 51, of Morgantown, had previously pleaded guilty to three of seven charges of sexual misconduct against a girl whom Beckner had contact with while she was his student.

Despite the charges coming from Michigan, Beckner was allowed to remain in his Morgantown home during the trial process on “liberty at bond” due to “medical issues,” rather than being remanded to Michigan, according to the prosecutor’s office.

….

During the sentencing, the victim in Beckner’s case took time to speak, and the judge took her words into consideration when he made his sentencing decision. The prosecutor’s office said the charges Beckner received usually bring a 5-year minimum sentence, but Judge George J. Metz gave Beckner a 10-year minimum sentence, instead.

After giving the sentence, Metz said, “There are various reasons for prison sentences: punishment, deterrence, protection of society and rehabilitation. In this case, only the first three apply,” according to the prosecutor’s office.

And Jon Jenkins? Well, he packed up his roadshow and moved to North Carolina to become the new pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Clayton. If you are unfamiliar with what has gone on at Grace Baptist under Jon Jenkins’ watch, please read the Aaron Willand story.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.