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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor William Oswald Accused of Sex Crimes

william oswald

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.

William Oswald, the former pastor of Dunn’s Chapel Church in West Columbia, South Carolina, stands accused of sexually assaulting two minors numerous times over the space of several years. He faces up to life in prison if convicted.

WBTV-3 reports:

A former pastor of Dunn’s Chapel Church in South Congaree is charged with 12 counts of criminal sexual conduct with a child, after two victims came forward last week.

William Oswald, 56, was denied bond on Wednesday morning and remains jailed at the Lexington County Detention Center ahead of his next court appearance in May.

According to investigators, two victims allege the sexual abuse took place between 1996 and 2001 at Dunn’s Chapel Church, where Oswald was a pastor. According to the incident report, the victims described in graphic detail the alleged sexual assaults, each stating they were assaulted more than a one hundred times during the time period. The victims said the alleged abuse began when they were around the age of eight and continued until their early teens.

he two victims were inside the courtroom Wednesday morning during Oswald’s bond hearing. One said she feels empowered by stepping forward and reporting the alleged abuse.
“I just finally feel safe because he’s not going to be able to touch me again or get out,” she said. “Over the years he just always manipulates the situation so no matter how many boundaries you try to put up he ends up getting back in and he can’t do that anymore, I hope.”
The victim said she knows of other victims that have yet to come forward. South Congaree Police said there are likely other victims in different jurisdictions.

….

“I know of several already, some that are still too afraid to speak,” she said.

She said she wanted to speak in hopes of encouraging other victims to step forward.

“There’s hope and it’s okay to speak and even if it takes you a while and years to feel safe and be separated enough it’s okay to speak, you can feel safe again,” she said.

Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Richard Mick Faces New Trial, Out on Bond

richard mick

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 2016, Richard Mick, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Sandusky, Ohio was convicted of child rape and sentenced to life in prison. I previously wrote about Mick’s trial here. In 2018, an Ohio appeals court overturned Mick’s conviction. The Sandusky Register reported at the time:

An Ohio appeals court said a Sandusky pastor previously sentenced to life in prison for child rape must receive a new trial.

Richard Mick, 56, who was sentenced in Erie County Common Pleas Court in 2016, had his conviction overturned Friday by the Sixth District Court of Appeals. A jury originally found Mick guilty of four felony charges of rape and gross sexual imposition.

Mick, formerly a pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church, appealed his conviction after his trial was notably marked by his then-attorney K. Ronald Bailey refusing to participate in the trial.

Bailey, in 2016, argued the trial should have been delayed, and Judge Roger Binette held him in contempt of court after Bailey told Binette he was “not participating” in the trial. Bailey eventually served a 30-day sentence in the Erie County jail for the contempt charge.

Bailey did not respond to requests for comment Friday afternoon.

Mick’s appeal, filed by his new Cleveland-based attorney, Russell Bensing, alleged Bailey’s refusal to participate in the trial violated his right to effective counsel, according to the appeal.

The appeals court agreed with Mick, according to a court opinion written by Judge Thomas Osowik.

“Although Mick could have waived his constitutional right to counsel, the record shows he did not,” Osowik said.

There are not any court dates set following the overturned conviction Friday.

Mick has another pending court case in Erie County Common Pleas Court, where he faces more counts of gross sexual imposition, according to court records. He has a pretrial in that case set for May 16.

Mick’s new trial is scheduled for June 3. Last week, Mick posted an $80,000 bond and was released from jail.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Anthony Haynes on Trial for Child Sex Trafficking

anthony haynes

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.

Previous posts about Cordell Jenkins, Anthony Haynes, and Kenneth Butler: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Cordell Jenkins Accused of Sex Trafficking Children, Black Collar Crime: Another Toledo Evangelical Pastor, Kenneth Butler, Accused of Sex Trafficking, Black Collar Crime: Three Toledo, Ohio Evangelical Pastors Indicted on Child Sex Trafficking Charges, Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Kenneth Butler Pleads Guilty to Child Sex Trafficking Charges, Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Cordell Jenkins Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking, Black Collar Crime: Wife and Stepdaughter of Pastor Anthony Haynes Accused of Kidnapping Victim

In late 2017, Evangelical pastors Cordell Jenkins, Anthony Haynes, and Kenneth Butler were indicted on charges of conspiracy to sex traffic children. The indicted men were affiliated with Abundant Life Ministries and Greater Life Christian Center, both in Toledo, Ohio.

Since then, Jenkins and Butler pleaded guilty. Haynes, on the other hand, decided to roll the dice and take his case to trial. The Star Tribune reports:

A minister who promised a woman he’d take care of her daughter began having sex with the teenager daily and later encouraged two other pastors to have sex with her as well, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Anthony Haynes could face up to life in prison if he’s convicted of child sex trafficking and other charges. The two other Toledo-area pastors charged in the investigation have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors said during the opening of Haynes’ trial that he first had sex with the girl when she was 14. They said the evidence against him includes text messages, photos, voice mails and DNA evidence from his church where the girl said they often had sex.

Haynes’ attorney told jurors that the allegations are shocking, but there’s not enough evidence to prove the trafficking and conspiracy charges he faces.

Attorney Pete Wagner also said Haynes may have had a questionable relationship with the girl, but he didn’t coordinate or take part in trafficking her to the other ministers. He also said there was no paying for sex.

Prosecutors say the girl had a difficult childhood and was sexually abused by a relative.

Haynes pledged in front of his congregation to protect her and serve as a father figure, but he began grooming her for sex when she turned 14 and first forced her to perform sex acts in front of him, said Michael Freeman, an assistant U.S. attorney.

They had sex day after day, often at a motel or his church, the Greater Life Christian Center in Toledo, and Haynes would give her cash, Freeman said.

After about a year, Haynes introduced her to Kenneth Butler, another pastor, and he also began having sex with her, Freeman said.

Sometimes, the two men joked about the arrangement, prosecutors said. One text shown in court that prosecutors say was sent by Butler to the girl said: “You better be nice and naked when I get there.”

Prosecutors said the girl next met Cordell Jenkins, a minister who founded his own church in Toledo and built a large following until it closed after his arrest.

The FBI has said in court documents that Jenkins had sex with two girls at his home, church office and a motel and often recorded the acts with his phone.

Haynes, prosecutors said, encouraged the relationship with Jenkins.

Today, Haynes took the stand. The Toledo Blade reports:

Anthony Haynes sobbed as he took the stand in federal court Wednesday, claiming he was manipulated by a teenage girl and he took the fall for sexual relationships between her and two other pastors.

….

Federal prosecutors rested Wednesday morning and the case was turned over to Mr. Haynes’ defense attorneys, Peter Wagner and John Thebes, calling Mr. Haynes to the stand — where he denied having a sexual relationship with the girl or encouraging her to have sex with the other pastors.

Mr. Haynes testified Wednesday that the girl threatened the pastor, saying she would tell people he was molesting her if she did not get things — like a cell phone.

….

dditionally, he said he knew the girl was having sexual relations with Butler and Jenkins, and he lied to federal investigators because he “was covering up for people,” he said. He previously told investigators that he had sexual relations with the teenage girl, took nude photos of her, and sent nude photos of her — but that was a false statement, he testified on Wednesday.

“I was tired. People don’t know what I was dealing with. Outside looking in, I look like the biggest monster,” Mr. Haynes said.

“I’m not no freak, I’m not a pervert. I’m an innocent family man with flaws and issues and I’m trying to get back to my family and children,” he added before breaking down into tears.

Mr. Haynes testified he eventually closed his church because the “secrets” of Jenkins and Butler were becoming too much. He said he never reported the incident to police.

….

Federal prosecutor Alisa Sterling asked Mr. Haynes how his and Butler’s sperm both got onto a small carpet sample. Mr. Haynes said he and his wife had sexual relations at the church and Butler also had a key to the building.

Ms. Sterling also showed Mr. Haynes a series of text messages between him and the girl, including ones referencing them having sex at the church and her being sore following the act.

He could not recall sending her sexually explicit photos and said some messages were taken out of context. He also claimed his social media account was hacked when a conversation between the two consisted of a conversation about a threesome.

….

Earlier this week, prosecutors called a series of FBI agents involved in the case; the victim’s school guidance counselor; a family friend who purchased her an iPhone for her 17th birthday; Mr. Haynes’ co-defendant, Kenneth Butler; and the victim.

The now 19-year-old woman in the case outlined a lengthy history with the pastors beginning with Mr. Haynes when she was 14, she said Tuesday. She moved in with the Haynes family in 2014, she testified.

The woman — who provided poised and direct answers during questioning — said Mr. Haynes began having sex with her at his church when she was a teenager before later introducing her to pastors Kenneth Butler and Cordell Jenkins, encouraging her to engage in sex acts with them.

 

Taking Back America For God: How Evangelical Christians View the World

taking back america

What follows are the lyrics for the Southern Gospel song, We Want America Back. Written by Fundamentalist Christian Jeff Steele, this song succinctly reveals how Evangelicals view the world. It’s scary to think that anyone thinks this way, let alone tens of millions of Americans. Jeff Steele is a member of The Steeles.

Something is wrong with America.
She once held the Bible as her conscience and guide.
But we’ve allowed those who hold nothing to be sacred,
Like Sodom of old, to push morals aside.
Where are the men who once stood for right?
And the women who championed their cause?
We must return to the values we left,
Before this country we love is totally lost.
We want America back.
We want America back,
From those who have no self-control,
We want America back.
This nation is like a runaway train,
Headed down the wrong track,
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back.

Narrative to be used (before singing Stanza 2):

I love America. But I do not love what she has become.
Scripture has said, Blessed is a Nation whose God is the Lord,
and America has forgotten the Godly foundation upon which she was built… Something is wrong
Our children are asked to attend public schools that in many cases resemble war zones,
without even the most basic right of any soldier… the right to pray to the God of heaven.
Many times a wild-eyed, drug-addicted, gun-carrying teenager is allowed to stay in school,
while our Supreme Court decided to expel God from the classroom over thirty years ago.
Something is wrong. Television daily bombards the senses of our nation with the idea that wrong is right,
that the abnormal is normal, that the abhorrent is acceptable, and that what God calls an abomination is
nothing more than an alternate lifestyle. And it’s had an effect. Thirty years ago, the number one television
program in America was “The Andy Griffith Show.” Look what we have today. Something is wrong.
When our government can pass out contraceptives to children is school without parental consent,
and yet the Gideons can no longer pass out the Bible on campus . . . something is wrong.
When our leaders can tell your children and mine that premarital sex is alright as long as it’s safe. . . yes . . .
something is wrong. And I for one am ready for a change. I will say to my government, “I’m not raising
dogs at my house; I’m raising children . . . created in the image and likeness of almighty God.
And I’m going to teach them the Bible. If the Bible says it’s right . . . it’s right.And if the Bible says it’s wrong . . . it’s wrong.”
The only hope that America has is that Godly men and women of character
will stand together as one might army and declare to the immoral, the impure, the obscene and the foul,
“Your days of unlimited access the minds of America are over.
The army of God, that has been silent for too long, is taking America back!”

Stanza 2:
We want America back.
We want America back,
From those who have no self-control,
We want America back.
This nation is like a runaway train,
Headed down the wrong track,
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back.
It’s time for the army of God to arise,
And say we want America back!!

Here is a video of this song. It is being sung by Barbara Fairchild and her husband Roy Morris at a 2012 Patriotic Rally. Please take the time to view the video. Listen carefully to the ad libs that are added to the spoken part of the song. Still think religious beliefs are harmless?

Video Link

Trump, Israel, Golan Heights and the Evangelical March to Armageddon

armageddon

Comic by Kevin Siers

Warning! Snark ahead, mixed in with serious-as-a-heart attack political commentary, and seasoned with a few choice words for Donald Trump. You have been warned. Now, full steam ahead, matey.

Most Evangelicals believe that there is coming a day when Jesus will return to the earth and rapture away True Christians®. Once the true followers of Jesus are safe in God’s internment camp, Jesus and his Father will unleash on the inhabitants of earth the horrors recorded in the book of Revelation. After seven years of non-stop slaughter and devastation, the Great Tribulation will end with Jesus again returning to earth. Jesus will arrive on a white horse, bringing with him an army of angels. He will do battle with the Beast, False Prophet, and their followers. Jesus, of course, wins this battle. Jesus is a W-I-N-N-E-R!  He kills everyone remaining on earth, and then casts the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire. Jesus will then reign on earth for 1,000 years (the millennial reign of Christ). At the end of this period, the Beast and False Prophet will be let out of the Lake of Fire so they can once again deceive the inhabitants of earth. This leads to another epic battle against Jesus and the forces of evil, with Jesus winning once again. Jesus always wins in this story. Afterward, Jesus will make a heaven and a new earth for True Christians®. Everyone else is cast into the Lake of Fire where they will be eternally tortured by the Christian God. Never, ever forget that this God, knowing human bodies will not withstand the horrors of Hell, plans of giving every non-Christian a new fire-proof body. All the pain, without melting flesh and eyeballs, said the Son of God — supposedly.

Did you get all that? Now, Evangelical eschatology is more complex than what I wrote above — Evangelicals fight amongst themselves over the finer points of the End Times — but that gives you a good idea of what most Evangelicals believe will happen sometime very soon — but not before the last season of Game of Thrones.

Central to Evangelical eschatology is the belief that people currently living in Israel (and New York) are God’s chosen people; that they are Abraham’s descendants spoken of in Genesis 22:15-18:

 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: [Abraham had agreed to murder his son because God asked him too] That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Evangelicals take these verses literally — kinda.  Evangelicals believe that these verses literally reference God’s chosen people, the Jews. Yet, they get all metaphorical when someone points out that these verses also literally say that the descendants of Abraham will be numbered as the “sand which is upon the seashore.”  One website estimates that there are about 5,000 billion billion (5 sextillion) grains of sand on earth’s beaches. According to a BBC news report, roughly 107 billion people have lived on earth. If we take the aforementioned Bible passage literally, this number should actually be more than 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Cue music, let the Bible literalists start dancing with their index fingers in their ears.

Not only does the Bible say how many Jews will live on earth, it also tells us exactly where they will live:

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,1 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18-21)

According to the Bible, Moses — who took 40 years to cross a Walmart parking lot — led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham. The location of that land is described this way in Numbers 34:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea. And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border. And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad: And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border. And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham: And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward: And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.

Got all that? Me neither. Fortunately, Wikipedia has a map of the land irrevocably promised to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.

the promised land

In May 1948, the nation of Israel was established with the blessing of the United States and other Western powers. Oh, and God approved too. This partitioning of land pushed Arabs into what is called the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The goal was to have independent Arab and Jewish states. This, of course has not happened. Instead, the Palestinians and Jews have been fighting one another for over five decades, leading to bloodshed and death. While both parties are to blame for the carnage, I can’t ignore the fact that Israel actively persecutes the Palestinian people, leading some people to charge Israel with genocide. One thing is increasingly clear, Israel has no plans to walk away from the West Bank and Gaza. This, and other parcels of Middle Eastern land, was promised to them by Jehovah. End of discussion.

In 1981, after military skirmishes in 1967 and 1973, Israel annexed from Syria a parcel of land called Golan Heights. Israel’s action was widely criticized at the United Nations, but Israel gave the international community a big fuck-you and said, this land is ours. End of story.

For the past seventy years, the aforementioned Bible verses have provided a foundation for the United States’ foreign policy towards Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. Ponder that thought for a moment. Here we are, the greatest military power on the planet, and our foreign policy is determined by some verses in a religious text written by Bronze Age sheepherders. Evangelicals, in particular, loyally and resolutely support Israel. Many Evangelicals do so because the Bible says in Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Millions and millions of American Christians believe that their health and prosperity depends on the United States supporting the nation of Israel. They fear God cursing them if the United States fails in their God-given blessing duty to the Jews. This is made worse by the fact that many of our political leaders buy into this nonsense. This is why Israel can literally get away with murder and the United States will not do anything. The U.S. continues to give Israel billions of dollars in military and foreign aid. Israel is a nuclear power, and they are because aid from the U.S. gave them the means to do so.

This brings us to President Donald Trump. Trump knows 81 percent of voting Evangelicals voted for him in 2016.  Ever the calculating psychopath, Trump knows that he will need the Evangelical vote again if he expects to be re-elected in 2020. The president has spent the past two years fawning over Evangelicals, giving them big wins on Supreme Court/federal court appointments, abortion, LGBTQ issues, and other hot button social issues. The man is a degenerate, but Evangelicals love him anyway. As long as he coddles Evangelicals and beckons to their every call, they will continue to love and support him. And in doing so, they have sold their souls to the devil and ceded any moral ground they may have previously held.

Evangelical Christianity has been co-opted by the Republican Party. Yes, there are pockets of progressive Evangelicals here and there, but they have been unable to mount an effective counter attack to Trumpism. My advice to progressive Evangelicals is for them leave their churches, taking their money with them. Start a new denomination or join up with mainline progressive Christians. The U.S.S. Evangelical is sinking with Captain Trump at the helm, and it’s time for thoughtful Evangelicals to abandon ship.

Since taking office, President Trump has made two decisions affecting Israel that have Evangelical preachers walking around with a perpetual boner. First, he recognized Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. This decision, of course, caused outrage among Palestinians locally and Arabs/Muslims across the globe. This decision alone was enough to fuel a war in the Middle East. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed, mainly due to the fact that the United States has not yet officially moved its embassy to the City of David, Jerusalem.

Second, the president recently said that the United States recognizes that the Golan Heights belong to Israel, not Syria. When I heard this, I said to my wife, how stupid can this dumb ass be? Does he not know or care what might happen as a result of this decision? I know, I know, rhetorical questions. Trump is too stupid to know that one of the underpinnings of U.S. policy is the belief that one day the Christian God will fight and defeat non-Christians in the Battle of Armageddon; that this battle will take place in the Middle East. All the president cares about is his bank balance and getting re-elected. War? Sure, bring it on. War is good for the American economy!

The president may be clueless, but some of his cabinet members aren’t. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — an Evangelical Presbyterian Christian — was asked the following question during an interview on nutter Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Today’s being Purim, a celebration. Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman. And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran. Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

Pompeo replied:

As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible. It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.

Let this be a warning to those who revel in the thought of Trump being impeached. The next in line is vice president Mike Pence, also an Evangelical Christian. Unlike Trump, Pence is a cold, calculating, educated Fundamentalist. Both he and Pompeo, along with other Trump cabinet members and political operatives hold Evangelical eschatological beliefs. This should scare the shit out of us. Global warming? No worries, because if these Bible thumpers get their way the earth is going to be turned into the location for the theater production of Cormack McCarthy’s book, The Road.

Still think religious beliefs aren’t harmful and don’t pose a threat to the rest of us? Still think Evangelicals are a bunch of irrational people with quaint, but irrelevant, beliefs? If you have read this far, surely it has dawned on you that Evangelical eschatological beliefs pose an existential threat to the future of humanity. I am not overplaying my hand here. God’s chosen people, Israel, and God’s city on a hill, the United States, both have nuclear weapons. So does Russia. Do you know that millions of Evangelicals believe that a war against the United States and Russia is prophesied in the Bible? I don’t have enough time to wade into this issue, but let me be clear, once the first ICBM or other nuclear weapon is launched, the world as we know it ceases to exist.

Theology matters, my atheist and non-Christian friends. We must not ignore that which can lead to our demise. We must politically push back against political leaders and policies that find their power in the pages of the Protestant Bible. Our future depends on secularism winning its battle for the heart of soul of the United States. As long as Evangelicals continue to attack the separation of church and state and demand the establishment of a theocratic state — and make no mistake about it, Evangelicals want God-rule — we must roll up our sleeves and fight. Imagine what the world will be like if we don’t.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Caremark “Congratulates” Us for Having Lots of Medical Debt

family out of pocketCaremark, the online drug service owned by pharmacy giant CVS, handles part of the drug benefit for Polly’s group health insurance plan. Caremark tracks insurance-approved medical expenditures with a graphic on their website. This graphic shows how much money you have paid in a particular year for out-of-pocket medical expenses. This year, the maximum out-of-pocket is $6,750.

The company Polly works for pays about $18,000 a year per employee to provide each employee with medical insurance. On top of that, married employees with children pay $3,900 a year for insurance — $150 every two weeks. This means that if an employee reaches the maximum out-of-pocket this year, the total cost of health insurance is almost $29,000.

The past fifteen months have been a medical nightmare for Polly. And we are not done. She now has serious bladder pain, and is getting up in the night numerous times to use the bathroom. She’s up more often than I am during the night, and that’s tough to do since my prostate/bladder just love making life miserable for me. In previous years, I have had my own medical nightmares, leading to exorbitant medical expenditures. Over the past decade, we have met the maximum out-of-pocket five times; all while trying to make ends meet on Polly’s income. (That’s why me being able to draw Social Security beginning in June will be a big help to us.)

Polly’s insurance provider finally paid the last of her bills from her January hospitalization for acute ulcerative colitis. This put us over the maximum out-of-pocket for the year. Woo hoo! right? The good news is that everything is FREE — to us anyway — the rest of the year. The bad news is that we have accumulated $6,750 of new medical debt over the first ten weeks of 2019. On top of that is the $50 a month we have to pay for Lialda, a drug Polly will be on the rest of her life. When the gastroenterologist first prescribed Lialda, we took the script to the local Meijer Pharmacy, only to find out it would cost $890 a month. Well, that sure as hell wasn’t going to happen, regardless of its benefit to my suffering wife. We simply couldn’t afford it without being forced to sleep in our car. Fortunately, we found a service that works with lower income families to provide expensive drugs for them at a reduced cost. Prescription Hope was able to procure the drug for $50 a month. Since the cost of the drug is not run through insurance, we will have to the monthly cost regardless of meeting our maximum out-of-pocket for the year. I plan to contact the insurance about being reimbursed for the $50 a month cost. We do have a tax-free HSA account. Polly’s employer kicks in $138.47 every two weeks and we set aside another $100.

As the above graphic shows, Caremark congratulated us for reaching our maximum out-of-pocket. This, evidently, is what Caremark is congratulating us for: in 2019, 30 percent of our net income will go towards medical costs. That’s the “prize” for reaching the maximum out-of-pocket finish line. And this doesn’t include dental costs.

I look towards the future and ask myself, how will we manage? I don’t have an answer. I told my counselor that I had finally figured out how to get our medical costs under control: death. I am grateful that we can still keep our head above water financially, but if medical costs continue to increase (and they have increased every year over the past decade), it leaves me wondering how in the hell we are going to make it. Of course, the answer is single-payer insurance/socialized medicine. While there are a handful of champions of this cause in Congress, Republicans and many Democrats are in the pockets of insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations. Our political leaders actively work against our best interests, health-wise. This leaves the rest of us scrambling to figure out how to pay the price for living.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Liars for Jesus: Evangelical Preachers and Their Sermons, Stories, and Testimonies

liar liar pants on fire

Evangelical preachers, regardless of their theological flavor, are liars. I have known a number of Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and professors in my lifetime. Without exception, these men of God, at one time or another lied to their congregants or ministerial colleagues. Now, this doesn’t mean that they set out to deliberately obfuscate or deceive — though some did — but the fact remains these so-called men of God played loose with the truth. I plan to deliberately paint with a broad brush in this post, so if you just so happen to be the Sgt. Joe Friday of Evangelicalism, please don’t get upset.

One way preachers lie is by withholding truth. On Sundays, pastors stand in pulpits and preach their sermons, giving congregants a version of truth, but not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Evangelical preachers enter their pulpits with an agenda, an objective. Their agendas affect how they interpret the Bible and what they say in their sermons. The Bible, then, becomes a means to an end, be it saving the lost, calling congregants to repentance, raising money, or advancing pet projects.

This means that Bible verses are spun in ways to gain desired objectives. Instead of letting the Bible speak for itself, the text is manipulated and massaged in the hope that congregants will buy what their pastors are selling. And make no mistake about it, there’s little difference between pitchman Billy May and the preacher down at First Baptist Church in Podunk City. Preachers are salesmen with products to sell, and the goal of a well-crafted sermon is to get hearers to sign on the dotted line. (Please see Selling Jesus.)

Another way preachers lie is by giving the appearance that their sermons are God’s opinion on a matter. God speaks through God’s man as he preaches God’s infallible Word, or so the thinking goes, anyway. However, every preacher’s thinking is colored by his past religious experiences, education, and culture. Pastors regurgitate what they heard their pastors preach while growing up, what their professors taught them in college, and what they read in theological books. Every Evangelical preacher walks in a certain rut, interpreting the Biblical text as others do in that rut. Birds of a feather flock together, the old saying goes. Christianity consists of thousands and thousands of sects, each with its own peculiar spin on the Bible. Countless internecine wars are fought over minute points of doctrine and practice. Only within the Christian bubble do these things matter, but boy, oh boy do they matter! Evangelicals, in particular, are known for their bickering over theology and how followers of Jesus should live. This fact is a sure sign, at least to me, that Christianity is not what Evangelicals say it is. If there is one God, one Jesus, and one Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer, it stands to reason that Christians should all have the same beliefs. That they don’t suggests that there are cultural, sociological, and geographical issues at work. How else can we explain the theological differences between sects, churches, and individual Christians? Why, Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion/Eucharist/Lord’s supper.

Most preachers know about the diversity of theology and belief among Christians, yet they rarely let it be known to their congregations except to call other beliefs false or heretical. It is clear, at least to me, that the Bible teaches a number of “plans of salvation”; that both the Arminians and Calvinists are right; that both salvation by grace and salvation by works are true. Why don’t preachers tell the truth about these things? Is it not a lie to omit them — the sin of omission?  If Christianity is all that Evangelicals say it is and Jesus is all-powerful, surely Christians can handle being given the truth about the Biblical text, church history, and the varied theological beliefs and practices found with Christianity. If pastors want to be truth-tellers, they must be willing to tell congregants everything, including the stuff that doesn’t fit a particular theological box. Imagine how much differently Evangelicals might act if they were required to study world religions and read books by authors such as Bart Ehrman. That will never happen, of course, because it would result in most preachers losing their jobs due to attendance decline and lost income. Truth is always the enemy of faith.

Atheists such as myself know the value of wide exposure to contrary beliefs. After all, our deconversions often followed a path of intense and painful intellectual inquiry. In my case, it took years for me to slide to the bottom of the slippery slope of unbelief. Along the way, I made numerous stops, hoping that I would find a way to hang on to my belief in God. I found none of these resting places intellectually satisfying. I wanted them to be, but my commitment to truth wouldn’t let me. In the years since, I have encouraged doubters to follow their paths wherever they lead. Meet truth in the middle of the road. Don’t back up or try to go around. Do business with truth before moving forward. This is, of course, hard to do, because it requires abandoning previously held beliefs when new evidence is presented. It requires admitting you were wrong. And therein is the rub for many Evangelical preachers: they have spent their lifetimes being “right” and preaching their rightness to their church congregations. To admit they were wrong would cause their metaphorical houses to tumble. So instead of telling the truth, Evangelical preachers lie. They lie because they have careers, congregations, and denominations to protect.

And finally, some Evangelical preachers lie in their sermons, stories, and testimonies because they never let the truth get in to way of telling a good story. I have heard countless testimonies and sermon illustrations, and the vast majority of them were embellished at some point or the other. Not that this is a great evil. We all do it, Christian or not. My problem with Evangelical preachers doing it is that they present themselves as pillars of moral virtue and arbiters of truth. When you ride your horse on the moral high road, you should expect attempts will be made to push you down the ravine to where the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world live.

Preachers know that there’s nothing like a good story to seal the deal with people listening to their sermons. Believing that “the end justifies the means,” preachers shape and mold their stories and testimonies in ways that best lead to desired outcomes. For those of you who were raised in Evangelical churches, think about some of the salvation testimonies you heard on Sundays. Fantastical stories, right? Almost unbelievable! And in fact, they aren’t believable. All of us love a good story, but when trying to convince people that a particular sect/church/belief is truth, surely it behooves storytellers to tell the truth. Instead, preachers color their stories in ways that people will be drawn into them. Every story and every sermon is meant to bring people to a place of decision. A preacher has wasted his time if his sermon hasn’t elicited some sort of emotional response. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this. Politicians, sportscasters, and preachers — to name a few — all use the power of stories to draw people in and get them to make a decision — be it to get saved or vote. Any preacher worth his salt knows how to manipulate people through their use of stories. A boring sermon is one that is little more than a dry, listless lecture. Gag me with a spoon, as we used to say. Give me someone who speaks with passion and uses the power of words to drive home his or her message. As a pastor, one of my goals was to inspire people, not put them to sleep.

Sometime during my early ministerial years, I stopped expecting preachers to be bold truth tellers. I listened to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) conference speakers Jack Hyles, Curtis Hutson, Tom Malone, and others tell stories that were embellished or outright lies. Hyles, in particular, lied more often than he told the truth. He is famous for telling people how many people he counseled every week. Much like President Trump, Hyles’ statistics didn’t hold up under scrutiny. Hyles could have told conference attendees that he counseled a number of people each week, but instead he led conference attendees to believe that he counseled hundreds and hundreds of people every week. He wanted people to see him as some sort of super hero; an Evangelical Superman. The same goes for his soulwinning stories. While there may have been an element of truth in his stories, they were so embellished that only Kool-Aid-drinking Hyleites believed them to be true.

Such is the nature of preaching. Does this mean that preachers are bad people who can’t tell the truth? Certainly, some of them are. More than a few Evangelical churches are pastored by con artists who want to scam their congregations, troll for children to molest, or seduce naïve church women. Most preachers, however, are decent, thoughtful people who genuinely believe in what they are selling. They want to save souls and help congregants live better lives. Often raised in religious environments where embellishing truth or outright lying was acceptable, these preachers preach in the ways that were modeled to them. Isn’t that what we humans are wont to do? We tend to follow in the footsteps of our parents and teachers. There is nothing I have said in this post that will change this fact. All I hope to do is warn people about what they hear preachers saying during their sermons. Tom Malone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan and founder of Midwestern Baptist College, one time said during a sermon, “I’m not preaching now, I’m telling the truth!” Dr. Malone meant to be funny, but what he really did, at least for me, is reveal that what preachers preach may not always be the truth. Judicious hearers should keep this mind the next time they listen to this or that preacher regale people with their fantastical stories. Remember, it’s just a story, an admixture of truth, embellishment, and lie. In other words, good preaching. Amen? Amen!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Was Jesus a “Real”Man?

american jesus

It is not uncommon to hear Evangelicals say that Jesus was a “real” man; that Jesus understood while on the earth, and in Heaven today, what it means to be a “real” man. Evangelical churches and parachurch groups frequently have services and conferences where the manly Jesus is worshiped. In this world, Jesus scratched his balls, farted and laughed, watched football, hunted deer, fished, and loved MMA. You know, all the things “real,” red-blooded, bark-at-the-moon-crazy American Evangelical men do. Feminists and unsubmissive, bossy wives are blamed for turning Evangelical men into pansies — limp-wristed men who cower in fear. Feminists live disobedient lives, choosing careers over marriage and family. Complementarianism is God’s standard, “real” men say. “Time for Evangelical women to return to their homes and start cleaning, cooking, spreading their legs on demand, and having lots of babies.” “Let “real” men do all the hard thinking and lifting.” Let “real” men run things.” “We’re here to love and protect you, ladies.”

For “real” men, macho masculinity is the gold standard. Dare to deviate from this standard as a man and your masculinity will be called into question. Worse, behind your back these “real” men will wonder if you are gay — the unpardonable sin. The cure for effeminate behavior, macho men say, is for light-in-the-loafers men to follow after Jesus — a “real” man. Makes sense, right? If there was ever a “real” man, it was Jesus. Or so Evangelicals believe, anyway.

Think for a moment about the life of Jesus. Ask yourself, “was Jesus a “real” man — as defined by modern Evangelical ball-scratching finger sniffers”? Consider:

  • Jesus had long hair — effeminate, sinful hair according to the social standards of many Evangelical sects
  • Jesus wore women’s clothing — women wore long dresses, men wore shorter dresses, a violation of the Law of God
  • Jesus spent three years traveling the countryside with a group of mostly single men. (Do that today and your heterosexual manliness will be called into question.)
  • Jesus spent three years sleeping with men
  • Jesus never had a girlfriend
  • Jesus never masturbated
  • Jesus never had sex
  • Jesus never had a boner
  • Jesus never romantically kissed a woman
  • Jesus never attended a sporting event

Shall I go on? You see, Jesus was nothing like the “real” Evangelical men of today. We don’t even know for sure if Jesus ever urinated or defecated. The Bible, in fact, tells us very little about Jesus’ humanity. We know Jesus had a mother, father, siblings, and likely grew up in a poor home. We also know Jesus drank wine. We know Jesus’ father was a carpenter, but we don’t know if Jesus had any physical skills. The Bible records all sorts of miraculous things Jesus purportedly did, yet after three years he had less than 200 followers. His own family didn’t follow him, and even went so far as to ask him to take his magic show away from their town. “Jesus, you are embarrassing Mom and Dad,” his brother James allegedly said. “Please go to somewhere else and heal the sick!”

manly jesus

I am sure that “real” men will be incensed upon reading this post. How dare I besmirch the “manliness” of the Son of God. “Look at all that Jesus suffered on the cross,” “real” men say. “Look at his pain and suffering!” I dealt with this violent porn fantasy in a post titled I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend:

The narrative [Kirsten] Ryken [a writer for the Fundamentalist website The Gospel Coalition] spins is one often heard when Evangelicals try to explain pain and suffering: my suffering is next to nothing compared to the pain and agony Jesus suffered on the cross. In the minds of Christians such as Ryken, there’s no human suffering that can be compared to what Jesus faced on Calvary. This worn-out, tiresome trope gets repeated over and again by Evangelicals who never THINK about what they are actually saying. Jesus is the bad-ass suffering servant, Evangelicals would have us believe; but in fact Jesus’ suffering was minuscule compared to what countless people face every day.

Yes, Jesus was beaten and his beard was plucked from face. Yes, he was nailed to a Roman cross and suffered great indignity (that is, assuming the gospel narratives are true). But how long did Jesus actually suffer? Days? Weeks? Months? Years? Nope. How about less than a day? Then he died, descended to hell and hung out with its inhabitants, and then he resurrected from the dead good as new save the nail prints in his hands and feet. Pray tell, based on what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Jesus’ suffering, how was his pain in any way worse than that which any human has ever experienced? By all means, compare Christ’s suffering to what children face when having radiation and chemotherapy treatments to eradicate cancer from their bodies. Go ahead, compare his suffering to that of people in burn units with third degree burns over most their bodies. Jesus may have faced intense levels of pain for a short amount of time, but how does his suffering compare to the pain of people who suffer with debilitating, chronic illnesses for years?

Jesus knew that his time of suffering would be short and sweet, and then he would die. Imagine a body wracked with pain day in and day out, years on end, with no relief in sight. I suspect such people might be willing to suffer what Jesus did if they knew afterward their bodies would be free from pain. I know I would. I would trade places in a heartbeat with the “suffering” Son of God if it meant come Sunday morning my body was no longer wracked with pain. And I suspect I am not alone in my blasphemy.

I don’t think for a moment that my short post will change Christian thinking on this subject. Ryken desperately needs a suffering Jesus to make sense of her own pain. Without Jesus, she is left with what? Shit happens? And to that I say “yes.” None of us is guaranteed a pain-free life. Genetics, environmental factors, personal choices, and yet-unknown factors go into what diseases we contract and what pain we suffer. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said in his book Mortality, ” . . . To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not? . . .”  Why me, indeed.

According to the man standard set by “real” Evangelical men, Jesus was not a “real” man. In fact, one could argue that Jesus might have been gay. Can you imagine what would happen to the heads of “real” men if Jesus was, indeed, queer? Why, they would explode like those of the Martians in Mars Attacks! You see, “real” men have molded and shaped Jesus into their own images. And it’s not just “real” men Evangelicals. All followers of the Son of God follow a Jesus that looks, thinks, and acts just like them. This is why there are millions and millions of Jesuses (and Christianities). Throw in buffet-style readings and interpretations of the Bible, and what we end up with are Jesuses that seem an awful lot like us. Jesus is the ultimate chameleon, able to fit every sect, church, and Christian’s view of the world. This is why many Christians believe God hates LGBTQ people, Muslims, and liberals, yet other Christians believe Jesus loves LGBT people, Muslims, and liberals. And between these two worldviews are countless points of difference. Jesus, then, is like a paint-by-number portrait where each painter chooses what color corresponds with each number. “Jesus was white!” Megyn Kelly famously said. For her paint-by-number portrait of Jesus, she changed the brown/olive Mediterranean skin color to European white.

Theology and social conditioning force “real” Evangelical men to paint a mental and physical picture a certain way. Too bad there weren’t digital cameras back in 30 CE. Too bad a contemporary didn’t sketch Jesus or describe him. Too bad Jesus — who was likely illiterate — didn’t leave behind any writings. All we have are the gospels, none of which were written by Jesus, none of which were written during his lifetime. That’s why modern Christians are forced to make a Jesus in their own image, according to their own beliefs and experiences. And that’s fine, by the way. Thousands and thousands of people “know” Bruce Gerencser. They read this blog, and having never met me, they develop a mental picture of who and what I am. The same goes for the readers of this blog. I have met a few of you face to face, but I will go to the cremation furnace without ever truly “knowing” 99.9 percent of you. I interact with a small number of readers in the comments, on social media, and through text messages. I have made judgements about who and what you are. Now, these impressions of mine might bear a resemblance to the “real” you, but then again, maybe not. The only sure way I can know you (and you me) is for us to meet face to face and for us to spend significant time with each other. And even then, can we really totally and completely know someone?

“Real” men nonsense actually causes great psychological and societal harm. Instead of letting men be themselves, with unique wants, needs, and desires, Evangelical “real” men force other men to play according to their rules. Countless men endure sports because “real” men demand they do so. Countless men are married to women because “real” men love breasts and vaginas. And on and on it goes. And the worst part about all of this is that males who don’t fit the Evangelical “real” man standard suffer in silence, unable to say publicly they wept at the end of The Notebook or love Project Runway.

Life is too short to live in ways that deny who and what we really are. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay to have different wants, needs, and desires. Love monster trucks? Super! Love quiet walks in the woods and sunsets? That’s fine too. There’s no need for any of us to conform to a religious or cultural norm. Love others and be true to self. Dare we ask any more of anyone?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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: Christian Man Repeatedly Rapes Woman, His Pastor Puts in a Good Word For Him

thomas jackson

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.

Without fail, it seems, pastors can be found putting in a good word for parishioners convicted of sex crimes. Why is it pastors feel a need to speak on behalf on sexual predators? God forgives and forgets, these pastors might say, and so should we. To that I say, bullshit. The only person who is in the position to forgive is the victim. We as a society must hold such people accountable, not only legally, but in the court of public opinion. There are some crimes that are so heinous that there can be no redemption. Punishment is in order, end of story.  Such is the case of Michigan City police officer Thomas Jackson.

Today, a tearful Jackson was sentenced to 36 years in prison for repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman. The Michigan City News-Dispatch reports:

Jackson admitted during his first jury trial to having engaged the 25-year-old in vaginal, oral and anal sex on various occasions and at different locations over the course of approximately two years when she was in her early twenties.

During that trial, he was acquitted of one count of rape, and the jury hung on the remaining three counts.

A new jury in his second trial delivered guilty verdicts on all three remaining counts in December.

“I wish I could go back and undo everything, and I pray, one day, that (the victim and her family) do forgive me,” Jackson cried from the defense table Friday. “ . . . I’m so sorry and I’m so ashamed of what happened.”

According to the probable cause document in the case, the victim possesses the emotional and mental capacities of a child between the ages of 10 and 12.

For that reason, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule drew parallels between Jackson’s rape case and cases of child molesting.
“Intellectually, a child was sexually abused – repeatedly,” Roule said of Jackson’s victim.

Jackson’s lawyer called on several people to put in a good word for his client. While the News-Dispatch story does not give the exact words spoken by Jackson’s pastor, it did say:

The defense called multiple witnesses to testify on Jackson’s behalf, including his former pastor, a childhood friend and the field officer who handled Jackson’s case when he was on pretrial probation. All three talked of what they perceived to be Jackson’s high moral character or spirituality.

High moral character or spirituality? Really? I know we live in a Trumpian world now, where everything is turned upside down, but surely rational people would say that repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman and high moral character/spirituality are incompatible. Someone with high moral character does not rape a child. Jackson, by his actions, showed he is anything but moral or spiritual. And from my seat in the atheist pew, there is nothing Jackson can do in this life to redeem himself. Perhaps, Jackson loved puppies and was nice to his kids. He might have been a wonderful police officer. None of those things matters. His crime was such that any goodness in his life was obliterated by his vile actions. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once a pastor at a sentencing hearing stood before the court and said, “this man is a vile miscreant who deserves everything he gets, and if I had my way he would be locked up until he dies”? Why is it that so-called men of God can never rise to the occasion? Does their theology stand in the way; the necessity of forgiving all who sin? Perhaps they fear causing harm to the perpetrator’s family. Fine, then say nothing. Surely that is a better path than choosing to paint a sexual predator as a moral/spiritual man who happened to take a wrong turn.

Judge Michael Bergerson didn’t buy the whole “Jackson was a moral/spiritual man” line of thinking:

The repeated rape of [the victim] on the whim of the defendant over the course of several years is hard to fathom and evidence of a depraved mind.

Notwithstanding his position as a Michigan City Police officer, as a human being, the defendant had a duty to protect a person with obvious cognitive disabilities who had been entrusted to his care, custody and control. In doing so, the defendant transgressed a boundary of sickening proportions.

For further context on this story, please read this South Bend Tribune story from September 2018. The woman’s parents, in my opinion, showed a lack of awareness and discretion in allowing their daughter to have a relationship with the married Jackson.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of northwest Ohio, southern Michigan, and northeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

salem cass united methodist church findlay 2019

Salem Cass United Methodist Church, Findlay, Ohio, no pastor listed.  (Facebook page) The church’s website is hacked.

good hope lutheran church arlington ohio 2019

Good Hope Lutheran Church, Arlington, Ohio, Steve Ramsey, pastor.

I assume Good Hope is trying to reach age 60 and older farmers with their 7:30 a.m. worship service? That’s the earliest service time I’ve ever seen.

williamstown first brethren church williamstown ohio 2019

Williamstown First Brethren Church, Williamstown, Ohio, no pastor listed. (Facebook page)

Williamstown First Brethren wants passersby to know that the message preached at their church doesn’t change. In fact, it has transformative power. This church is over 125 years old. Does anyone really believe their message has never changed? Even Fundamentalist churches can’t claim their message never changes. It does. The problem, of course, is that when you are in a religious bubble, everything seems static, and change is often hard to see.

grace united methodist church dunkirk ohio 2019

Grace United Methodist Church, Dunkirk, Ohio, David Roy, pastor. (No Web Presence) According to the Kenton Times, Pastor Roy is 22 years old. My first thought after I read Grace UMC’s sign was “premature ejaculation?”  What’s too soon? Don ‘t make us come to your church . . . just tell us.

walnut grove united methodist church kenton ohio 2019

Walnut Grove United Methodist Church, Kenton, Ohio, Douglas Flinn, Sr, pastor.

The church’s website states:

Our mission is to Invite all people to become disciples of Jesus Christ, grow in their faith and commitment and to serve our communities  and beyond.

Our vision is for Walnut Grove to be a lighthouse showing people God’s unconditional love. We will do this by helping them meet needs and improve their life skills. As people recognize God’s love for them, they will find a safe harbor in a relationship with Jesus Christ

WGUMC understands a disciple of Jesus Christ to be a person who is committed to following Jesus in their heads; is continually being changed by Jesus in their hearts; and is committed to living out the mission of Jesus with their hands.  Being a disciple is a process that never ends!

Lots of religious gobbledygook. What I want to know is this: does WGUMC’s unconditional love extend to LGBTQ people?  The United Methodist denomination is divided on social hot button issues such as GBTQ people as pastors/members and same-sex marriage.  How I interpret WGUMC’s sign message, “Build Others Up, Don’t Tear Them Down,” depends on whether LGBTQ people are really unconditionally accepted as they are. If not, then the Bible and the church tears people down. The Bible is littered with negative, anti-human commands. These teachings do nothing to affirm or build-up people. The Bible is a powerful weapon that can be used for good or bad. Sadly, far too often, the Bible is used as a tool to bludgeon and harm.

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Six

no-quiverfull

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Two

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Three

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Four

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Five

Sincerely held beliefs have consequences. This is especially true when it comes to Calvinism and the belief that God is the sovereign ruler and king over all. Simply put, Calvinists believe God is in control of everything. If God commands us to do something, we should do it without doubt or delay. God always knows what is best. To disobey God’s commands brings chastisement and judgment.

As my wife and I immersed ourselves in Calvinism, we came to believe that we should recognize God’s sovereignty in every area of our life, including the number of children we had. The Bible was clear, as were the books we read, that God wanted us to have a  quiver full of children. Psalm 127:3-5 says:

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

We stopped using birth control, believing that it was God who opened and closed the womb. We believed we would have exactly the number of children God wanted us to have. Two months later, Polly was pregnant, the first of three children she would bear from 1989-1993. You see, Polly was a fertile Myrtle. It seemed that all I had to do was look at her and she would get pregnant. We were well on our way to having ten or more children — the Duggars of Appalachia.

The first child born after our decision to let God control our family’s size was a redheaded girl with Down syndrome. While Polly’s mom was grateful that she finally had a granddaughter, she was adamantly against our plan to have as many children as God wanted us to have. She rightly argued that we were in no financial position to have the children we had, let alone any more. This led to family conflict and verbal warfare, which we ended with a long letter we wrote to Polly’s parents — complete with a book on the subject — asking them to mind their own business; that we intended to follow God’s will on the matter regardless of their objections.

Our next daughter — another redhead — was born two days after of first daughter’s second birthday. We had just learned that our oldest daughter had Down syndrome. Her facial features were mild, so doctors missed that she had Down syndrome. One night, we were at a Bible conference near Dayton and a nursery worker asked about our baby with Down syndrome. I was incensed! “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with our child!” Except there was. She was sixteen months old before she learned to walk. We were worried she had some sort of disability. Our Catholic family doctor, suspecting Down syndrome, sent Bethany to Ohio State University for genetic testing. Sure enough, she tested positive for Down syndrome.

Our doctor had us come to his office after it had closed, and sat and talked with us for an hour. We were devastated by Bethany’s diagnosis. Our doctor, with great love and compassion, helped us to see that Bethany was actually a blessing from God. This, of course, played right into our Calvinistic beliefs. It was God who gave us a child with Down syndrome, and it was up to us to trust him, believing that he knew what was best for us. (Please read What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity.)

In May of 1993, Polly gave birth to our sixth, and last, child. Her four previous pregnancies had been relatively easy, but this one not so much. Polly struggled during delivery. The obstetrician said she was worn out and, in his words” “to pooped to pop.” He told us in no uncertain terms that another pregnancy could kill Polly. Theologically-speaking, this posed a huge dilemma for us. We believed it was God alone who opened and closed Polly’s womb. She wouldn’t get pregnant unless it was according to God’s perfect plan. Shouldn’t we just trust him?

For the first time, we realized our beliefs had consequences; that trusting God could lead to Polly’s death. We had to ask ourselves whether we were willing to follow God no matter what. In time, the answer came. No, we weren’t willing to follow God no matter what; no, we weren’t willing to put Polly’s life at risk; no, we weren’t going to risk me losing the love of my life and our children losing their mother. This, of course, meant we refused to obey the Word of God; that we put reason and science before God and his Word. Welcome to cognitive dissonance.

For those in the quiverfull movement, we were sellouts, but to everyone else, it seemed we were acting reasonably and responsibly; that it was right and proper for us to listen to our doctor’s advice. This put an end to my preaching on quiverfull beliefs. Prior to this, I had excoriated church women for having tubal ligations or using birth control. To this day, I regret some of my preaching, especially when it came to family matters. I put my preacher nose in places where it did not belong, regardless of what the Bible said.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2

Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720 square foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

Having three children in the space of four years caused increased stress on our older three children. Money was already tight, and even more so now that our family size morphed from five to eight. We lived in a 12’x60′ mobile home — a hillbilly mansion if there ever was one. If weren’t for food stamps and Medicaid, along with the Earned Income Credit, we would have been destitute. As it was, we lived from hand to mouth, and sometimes the hand didn’t quite reach to the mouth. Had we been consistent Calvinists, we would have “let go, and let God,” but we refused to allow our family to sink further into poverty. Did this mean, at the time, that we weren’t trusting God as our Calvinistic beliefs demanded we should? Yes. Few Calvinists actually live according to all of the commands, precepts, and teachings of the Bible. Oh, they like to give the appearance of obedience, but Calvinists are Cafeteria Christians® just as other believers are.

By the late 1990s, I had begun to move away from the strident Fundamentalist Calvinism found in groups such as the Reformed BaptistsSovereign Grace Baptists, and the Founder’s Group among Southern Baptists. While my theology would remain influenced by Calvinism until the day I left Christianity, I no longer took it to the extremes detailed in this post. This has led some Calvinists to allege that I was never a “real” Calvinist. I laugh when I hear such criticisms, asking, “how many children do you have?” “Do you use birth control?” That’s what I thought, hypocrite.

This concludes the six-part series on why I became a Calvinist. I hope you found it helpful.

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull Movement, please read Kathryn Joyce’s book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Suzanne, a friend and long-time reader of this site, runs the No Longer Quivering website. It has troves of information about Quiverfull.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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