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Charisma News Spins a Story to “Prove” a Miracle

david and toni espinoza

Charisma News, the go-to source for charismatic excess (and outright lunacy) within Evangelicalism, recently published a story pimping the Christian fantasy show, Godwinks @ PureFlix.  “Godwinks” are, according to Charisma News, miracles performed by the Christian deity. One such “Godwink” involves Toni and David Espinoza of McAllen, Texas:

Rushnell [the host of Godwinks], who tells many of these “godwinks” stories in PureFlix.com’s series “Godwinks at Pure Flix,” recently revealed the most amazing miracle story he’s ever encountered.

He told “The Pure Flix Podcast” about how Toni and David Espinoza of McAllen, Texas, were once given some truly devastating news: David, who was 50 years old at the time, suffered from a heart that was working at just 10 percent capacity, and he desperately needed a transplant.

The family turned to pray—and then something absolutely incredible happened. Listen to “The Pure Flix Podcast” at the 6-minute mark to hear Rushnell explain:

“Toni … said, ‘We are going to pray together as a family. We’re going to get our church praying, we’re going to get everybody praying,'” Rushnell recounted.

Toni soon found herself feeling convicted because she realized she was essentially praying for someone else to die in order for her husband to receive a new heart.

That’s when she totally changed her mindset and made a major adjustment to her prayer routine: She asked God to fully heal her husband.

“She had prayed that God would completely heal David [and] that he would confirm it by making it snow on McAllen, Texas, on Christmas Day,” Rushnell said.

There was only one logistical problem with Toni’s belief that God would confirm the healing with a snowfall on Christmas: it had reportedly never snowed on Christmas in McAllen, Texas. In fact, there hadn’t been snow in the area in 109 years.

But, on Christmas Eve at 11:45 p.m., Toni looked outside and saw a white coating in her backyard: it had snowed for the first time in McAllen, Texas. While some might call it a coincidence, David went back for a heart appointment three weeks later, and his physicians were stunned.

“The doctors looked at the reports, they shook their heads and said, ‘We can’t explain this, but David—you are going to live for a very long time,” Rushnell said. “It was the most amazing godwink that I think I had ever heard.”

Yes, it did snow on December 24-25 2004. However, not only did it snow in McAllen, it snowed across much of Southern Texas. According to Wikipedia:

The most noticeable, and unusual, event associated with the storm was the snowfall it produced. Much of the snow fell in southern Texas, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, but some snow, albeit less deep, fell across southwestern and southeastern Louisiana. Any snowfall in these areas is extremely unusual, perhaps occurring once every twenty years, and these events are usually airborne flurries which melt on contact with the ground. In many places the snow stuck to the ground and accumulated to an appreciable depth. In Brownsville, Texas, snow fell to a depth of 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), the first measurable snowfall at the city in years, since the Great Blizzard of 1899.The fact that the snow accumulated overnight on Christmas Eve led to a White Christmas the next morning, something completely foreign to the region. Across all of southern Texas and in southwestern Louisiana, snow fell in places where it had not for anywhere from 15 to 120 years. Near the coast, in Corpus Christi, Texas, 5.2 inches (13 cm) of snow fell, more snow than in all previous recorded years combined. This was also the case in Victoria, Texas, where a significant 13.0 inches (33 cm) fell. New Orleans, Louisiana had its first white Christmas in 50 years. In addition to the unusual occurrence of snow inland, moderate to heavy snow was also reported over the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This is the first significant snow fall in Houston since February 12, 1960, when a snowstorm hit central and south Texas with eight to 10 inches of snow

This was a WEATHER event, not a “Godwink.” Science, people, science. It snowed in McAllen, Texas because atmospheric conditions were such that it snowed — no deity needed. As with most Bible-blinded Evangelicals, Toni and David Espinoza saw a miracle where there was none.

December 8, 2017, The McAllen Monitor reported yet another “blizzard,” one that left so little snowfall that weather officials could not measure it. Yes, it technically “snowed,” but here in the upper Midwest, such snowfalls don’t count. Yet, using Toni Espinoza’s logic, a McAllen resident somewhere could have claimed it as a “miracle”; that is if they had demanded God to whip out his divine penis and show it just for them on December 8, 2017.

According to the Charisma News story, it hadn’t snowed in McAllen, Texas in 109 years. I searched high and low for evidence for this claim, and all I found was the following on the National Weather Service website. It tells the WHY of the 2004 snow event:

The Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas experienced one of its most memorable Christmas Holidays ever. A rare combination of weather events developed in late December that produced several inches of snowfall, which in itself is quite rare in this region. However, to have snow fall on Christmas Eve and morning is a historical first according to the more than 150 years of weather data. This White Christmas is certainly one for the record books.

….

The freezing temperatures and snowfall were expected in South Texas and National Weather Service Offices were talking about the arrival of unseasonably cold temperatures prior to the holiday. Snowfall was mentioned as a possibility and as Christmas drew closer, snowfall became more likely as the weather forecast became more focused.

We need to look back to the week before Christmas in order to recap the details of this historic event. Signals from the numerical weather forecast models suggested a strong cold front and arctic air mass would move southward along the Rocky Mountains into Texas and eventually over the Lower Texas Coast. This cold front moved through Brownsville, Wednesday afternoon (12/22/2004). A second reinforcing surge of arctic air followed the initial front, dropping temperatures into the 30s and low 40s late Thursday (12/23/2004). Maximum temperatures on Friday (12/24/2004) were in the upper 30s to low 40s across the Rio Grande Valley. Widespread moderate rain covered much of the area with most locations reporting one half of an inch to nearly one inch of liquid precipitation (Figure 1, below). The cold rain began to taper off on Christmas Eve as temperatures began to fall below freezing

As the event began to unfold, the meteorologists at NWS Brownsville refined the precipitation forecast to account for rainfall changing to sleet or a rain/snow mix, and eventually changing to all snow for the overnight hours between December 24th and 25th. The first in a series of winter weather warnings and advisories – Freeze Warnings – were issued by the National Weather Service at 230 AM December 23rd. Around noon on Christmas Eve, the Freeze Warnings were upgraded to Winter Weather Advisories, which were subsequently upgraded to Winter Storm Warnings later that evening for Heavy Snow, continuing until the morning of December 25th when the snowfall finally ended.

All in all, the snowfall was greeted with joy and excitement since it has been almost 110 years since the last measurable snow fell in the city of Brownsville – and for that matter, much of the Valley.

Yes, snowfall in McAllen is a rare occurrence. Yes, it snowed on Christmas Day 2004. Yes, it has snowed since then, though not in measurable amounts. Thus, the best that can be said is that there had not been MEASURABLE snowfall amounts in McAllen in 109 years, and that this is due to climate and weather patterns, not God. I am confident in saying that there have likely been other “snowfalls” to hit McAllen besides the “blizzard” of 2017. Meteorological records only go back for 150 or so years, so it is an argument from silence to say that it has never snowed in McAllen before 2004. This story is just another example of Evangelicals desperately looking for a miracle where there is none. And as far as David Espinoza’s miraculous healing is concerned, neither Charisma News, God Winks @Pure Flix, or the Espinozas provided any evidence for the claim that David was miraculously “healed.”  People are just expected to, by irrational faith, BELIEVEWhen asked on the TODAY show about whether the chain of events was mere coincidence or divine intervention, God Winks host, Squire Rushnell, replied “You know what that shows? It shows that if you have faith and pray, Godwinks happen.” What it shows is that with faith people can and will believe almost anything. If Evangelicals want rationalists and skeptics to “believe,” they are going to have to cough up a lot more evidence than the aforementioned story.

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.

A Longer Statute Of Limitations for Reporting Sexual Abuse: Why It’s Necessary — And Not Enough

statute of limitations

Guest post by by MJ Lisbeth

New York City and State are often seen as liberal, progressive bastions in a conservative nation. Indeed, The Big Apple was a leader in passing laws to protect the rights of tenants, workers and LGBT people, and The Empire State legalized abortion and same-sex marriage before other states and the Federal Government got around to doing the same.

Even so, the city and state have other statutes that seem retrograde and even racist compared to other states. An example of racism is in voting: It’s more difficult to do than in just about any other city or state. And the things that make voting difficult almost invariably place the greatest burdens on the poor, and on ethnic and racial minorities.

Among the laws that are simply retrograde are the ones that governed the reporting of child sexual abuse. Currently, criminal or civil charges can be brought against an abuser until the victim’s 23rd birthday. Only Alabama and Mississippi have more restrictive regulations, while nine other states have no statute of limitations at all.

So why does one of the “blue” islands in a sea of “red” have laws that, frankly, do more to protect the perpetrators than the survivors? One could argue that New York passed such legislation a long time ago, when it didn’t seem quite so restrictive, and simply didn’t bother to change. That could be said about the state’s abortion laws, which allow the procedure up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy. When the law was passed, three years before Roe vs Wade, most states still didn’t allow abortion at all. But, after Roe vs Wade, the relative strength or weakness of New York law didn’t matter, because Federal rulings supersede state statutes.

Likewise, when the state’s current regulations about reporting child abuse were enacted, they may well have been more progressive than those of other states—if, indeed those states had them. Indeed, there was little or no discussion of the issue, and there was a common belief that the victim was somehow at fault—or, at least, should just “move on.” But now the time is long past to acknowledge the pain and suffering too many of us have carried—in some cases, for decades, or even to our graves—and to allow us to achieve whatever measure of justice may be available to us.

On Monday, the New York State Assembly passed, by a vote of 130-3, a bill that would allow prosecutors to bring criminal charges against a perpetrator until the victim’s 28th birthday. It would also give victims the right to sue until they turn 55. In the Senate, every single senator, Democrat and Republican, voted in favor of that same bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign into law.

If you want to know why this law is so necessary, all you had to do was watch—and, more important, listen—to the press conference that followed the vote in the state Capitol. It included testimony from survivors, some of whom were the very legislators who voted for the bill. A few of them were talking about their abuse for the very first time.

That grown men and women were breaking the silence around sexual abuse they experienced as children and teenagers is a measure of how the law is necessary—yet still inadequate. There are still many of us who grew up in places and times where such abuse wasn’t discussed because the authority of abusers wasn’t questioned. Moreover, whatever education we received included no lessons about our bodies: As I recounted in an earlier essay, when a priest molested me, I didn’t even know the names of the parts of my body he touched.

The incidents I can recall most vividly and terrifyingly happened between my ninth and tenth birthdays. I did not talk about them with anybody for nearly half a century. So, even with the new law, I would not be eligible to sue. Many other people my age, or older, are in similar situations.

If some lawyer for the Diocese of Brooklyn (where I was abused) is reading this, he or she is breathing a sigh of relief. There are surely many others like me (I’ve talked to a few), and the Diocese and Roman Catholic Church know it. So, I am sure, do many other religious organizations as well as insurance companies and the Boy Scouts of America.

Those organizations are the chief reasons why New York has taken so long to pass legislation to widen the statute of limitations for reporting child abuse. One thing about New York’s “liberalness” is that it allows freedom not only to racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, but also to reactionary religious sects. That is why, for example, ultra-Orthodox Jews can influence New York’s elections and public policy in ways they never could anywhere else in the United States. It has also, for nearly two centuries, given the Catholic Church influence it has never enjoyed anyplace else in the nation, save perhaps in Boston, Rhode Island and Louisiana.

Those religious organizations are also the reasons why the bill isn’t as strong as it could be. Lawsuits from survivors are already bankrupting dioceses in other parts of the country; the Archdiocese of New York and the Dioceses of Brooklyn and Buffalo surely know that they could suffer the same fate. I am sure that other religious governing bodies came to the same realization. Just two weeks before the bill’s passage, Cardinal Dolan wrote an opinion piece declaring that he had to protect the church from Governor Cuomo’s efforts to “single out the church and weaken its ministry.”

But the state’s bishops realized they were fighting a losing battle. They said they would support the bill as long as it applied equally to public and private institutions. Then Dennis Poust, one of their spokesmen, said the bishops would call for even stronger protections than the ones provided in the new Child Victims Act.

Those bishops, along with other religious leaders in the State, did everything they could to stop the bill from passing until they knew it was going to pass. But, just as Roe vs Wade galvanized anti-abortion activists, I believe that passage of the law—as welcome as it is, at least in comparison to what it’s replacing—will cause those bishops, as well as the clerical and lay leaders of other religious organizations, to do whatever they can to keep victims from exercising their rights under the law. That is why we, the ones who were abused by priests and other religious leaders, need to be as vigilant as pro-choice activists have had to be in the 46 years since Roe vs. Wade. Especially in “deep blue” New York.

Other posts by MJ Lisbeth

Sexual Abuse Victims Have the Right To Be Heard — Whenever They Are Ready

Forgiveness is Not Enough, When it Comes to Healing for Sexual Abuse Victims

Abuse and Alienation: In The Church, Away From Yourself

Why We Didn’t Tell

Off My Knees: A Victim Remembers

But He’s a Good Person

His Hunger for the Church

Everybody But the Church Understands

Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Eternally Shielded in Rome

Quote of the Day: Where Morality Comes From

dr jerry coyne

With few exceptions, most scientists and philosophers think that morality is at bottom based on human preferences. And though we may agree on many of those preferences (e.g., we should do what maximizes “well being”), you can’t show using data that one set of preferences is objectively better than another. (You can show, though, that the empirical consequences of one set of preferences differ from those of another set.) The examples I use involve abortion and animal rights. If you’re religious and see babies as having souls, how can you convince those folks that elective abortion is better than banning abortion? Likewise, how do you weigh human well being versus animal well being? I am a consequentialist who happens to agree with the well-being criterion, but I can’t demonstrate that it’s better than other criteria, like “always prohibit abortion because babies have souls.”

— Dr. Jerry Coyne, Why Evolution is True, More science-dissing: WaPo’s misguided criticism of “scientism”, January 29, 2018

Recommended Books by Dr. Jerry Coyne

Why Evolution is True

Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible

My friend Bob Felton recommends the book The Ethical Project by Philip Kitcher

Amazon’s listing says:

Principles of right and wrong guide the lives of almost all human beings, but we often see them as external to ourselves, outside our own control. In a revolutionary approach to the problems of moral philosophy, Philip Kitcher makes a provocative proposal: Instead of conceiving ethical commands as divine revelations or as the discoveries of brilliant thinkers, we should see our ethical practices as evolving over tens of thousands of years, as members of our species have worked out how to live together and prosper. Elaborating this radical new vision, Kitcher shows how the limited altruistic tendencies of our ancestors enabled a fragile social life, how our forebears learned to regulate their interactions with one another, and how human societies eventually grew into forms of previously unimaginable complexity. The most successful of the many millennia-old experiments in how to live, he contends, survive in our values today.

Drawing on natural science, social science, and philosophy to develop an approach he calls pragmatic naturalism, Kitcher reveals the power of an evolving ethics built around a few core principles—including justice and cooperation —but leaving room for a diversity of communities and modes of self-expression. Ethics emerges as a beautifully human phenomenon permanently unfinished, collectively refined and distorted generation by generation. Our human values, Kitcher shows, can be understood not as a final system but as a project the ethical project in which our species has engaged for most of its history, and which has been central to who we are.

Other Books by Dr. Philip Kitcher

Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism

 Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith

Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism

Quote of the Day: Why People Have Different Skin Colors

bridget alex

Human skin color reflects an evolutionary balancing act tens of thousands of years in the making. There’s a convincing explanation for why human skin tone varies as a global gradient, with the darkest populations around the equator and the lightest ones near the poles. Put simply, dark complexion is advantageous in sunnier places, whereas fair skin fairs better in regions with less sun.

That may seem obvious, considering the suffering that ensues when pale folks visit the beach. But actually, humanity’s color gradient probably has little to do with sunburn, or even skin cancer. Instead, complexion has been shaped by conflicting demands from two essential vitamins: folate and vitamin D. Folate is destroyed by the sun’s ultraviolent (UV) radiation. Whereas the skin kickstarts production of vitamin D after being exposed to those same rays.

Hence, the balancing act: People must protect folate and produce vitamin D. So humans need a happy medium dosage of sun that satisfies both. While the intensity of UV rays is dictated by geography, the amount actually penetrating your skin depends on your degree of pigmentation, or skin color.

That’s the basic explanation, proposed in 2000 and fleshed out since by anthropologist Nina Jablonski and geographer George Chaplin.

….

A range of skin colors evolved at different times, in different populations, as human spread across the globe. In addition to these genetic biological changes, groups have also developed cultural adaptations to deal with variable sunlight. For instance, we can consume diets rich in folate and vitamin D. We can also build shelters, wear clothing and slather sunscreen to block UV rays.

Skin color is one of the most obvious and (literally) superficial ways humans differ. But the evolutionary story behind this variation is shared: Over the course of human evolution, complexion evolved from light to dark to a continuous gradient, mediated by geography, genes and cultural practices.

Dr. Bridget Alex, The Crux, Why Did Darker and Lighter Human Skin Colors Evolve? January 28, 2019

See The Curse of Cain: Why Blacks Have Dark Skin

HT: Bob Felton at Civil Commotion

Quote of the Day: Why Women Have Abortions After 24 Weeks by Dr. Jen Gunter

dr jen gunterWho has abortions at 24 weeks and beyond?

Women who are very ill around 24 weeks where the fetus is not expected to survive and delivery is needed and avoiding a c-section (see above) is preferable. It may also be when there are fetal anomalies and a vaginal delivery is not possible, or, when it is.

Let me explain.

High blood pressure in pregnancy can lead to severe maternal and fetal health issues. It can require a very premature delivery to save the life of the mother. A good example is a woman at 26 weeks who needs to be delivered for her blood pressure — that is the cure, delivery. However, because of her high-blood pressure fetal development has been affected and her fetus is estimated to weigh 300 g, which means it can not live after delivery. She will be offered an abortion if there is a skilled provider. This is safer for her and her uterus than a delivery.

A lethal birth defect at 32 weeks. The plan is to let the fetus succumb after delivery. The pregnancy has anencephaly or any one of a thousand other catastrophic chromosomal or cellular collisions that can conspire against you in pregnancy. The pregnant person thought they could make it to their due date, but they just can’t take it anymore. Or maybe their blood pressure is sneaking up and the idea of risking their life for a non viable pregnancy is not what they want or their doctors recommend. They choose an induction of labor, which in this situation is an abortion because the pregnancy is being terminated.

Triploidy or mirror syndrome or a massive cystic hygroma or any other birth defect that can affect how the fetus is positioned and how it molds and bends to deliver vaginally. If you don’t know what these terms mean, then you are not qualified to discuss abortion at or after 24 weeks, so stop. Now.

In these situations (tripoidy, mirror syndrome etc.) the fetus can be laying lengthwise (not head or buttocks down) so labor is not an option. A c-section is needed for delivery. Maybe there are also health reasons a c-section is less than ideal. Maybe the pregnant person just doesn’t want a c-section for a non-viable pregnancy. If a person who is skilled to a D & X is available, the c-section can be avoided.

There are, of course, other cases. I tweeted about the above scenarios, but realized everyone who wasn’t a well-trained OB/GYN wouldn’t understand. So, now you know why we “just can’t do a c-section” in these cases — or if we did why a c-section would STILL BE AN ABORTION.

— Dr. Jen Gunter, Abortions at or after 24 weeks are sometimes needed medically. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, January 29, 2019

I am a regular reader of Dr. Gunter’s insightful and, at times, wickedly humorous blog. I encourage readers to check it out. If you love science and the faithful, truthful dissemination of facts, you love and appreciate Gunter’s writing.

Quote of the Day: The Facts About Late-Term Abortions by Dr. Jen Gunter

dr jen gunterHow many women have abortions after 24 weeks [the widely accepted age for viability]?

Very few.

Only 1.3% of the 638,169 abortions that happen each year in the United States occur at or after 21 weeks — so approximately 8,000. As I am an expert I can tell you most of these procedures happen before 24 weeks. Most are for fetal anomalies (birth defects) and maternal health, but a few are maternal request.

A couple of years ago I took a deep dive into how any abortions at or after 24 weeks occur. I looked at the states that had no gestational age limit and the best estimate I have (this data is not tracked by the CDC) is there are about 1,100-1,200 abortions at 24 weeks onwards in the United States.

— Dr. Jen Gunter, Abortions at or after 24 weeks are sometimes needed medically. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong, January 29, 2019

I am a regular reader of Dr. Gunter’s insightful and, at times, wickedly humorous blog. I encourage readers to check it out. If you love science and the faithful, truthful dissemination of facts, you love and appreciate Gunter’s writing.

The Curse of Cain: Why Blacks Have Dark Skin

megyn kelly quote white jesusHave you ever wondered why blacks have dark skin? Back in the days of my youth, my pastors believed it an important question to answer. Now, no one ever asked, “have you ever wondered where whites get their light skin?” What was vitally important was sussing out a definitive answer for why some people had black skin. The easy answers, of course, were melanin and proximity to the equator, but when you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, the right answer to this question must come from the Bible. After all, the Bible is God’s supernatural answer book. Whatever the Bible says about history and science is true. Now, the Bible never explicitly explains why blacks have dark skin, but since Adam and Eve were white, well, where did blacks come from?  No amount of white-on-white breeding will produce black children, so there must be a “Biblical” answer to why so many people have dark skin, right?

As a young Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, I was taught that Genesis 4 clearly revealed to any racist who wanted to know why blacks had dark skin. Genesis 4:15 says:

 And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.

Genesis 4 details the story of Cain murdering his brother Abel. One of God’s punishments of Cain was setting a “mark” upon him. More than a few Baptist preachers, especially Southern Baptist segregationists in the South, believed that this mark was God turning Cain’s oh-so-European white skin black. These Jesus-loving racists went to great lengths to trace the lineage of Cain down through history, showing — in their minds anyway — that Cain’s descendants had black skin. Of important note was the fact that Noah’s son Ham married a black descendant of Cain, thus continuing the curse down through human history. I knew of Baptist preachers who spent countless hours tracing the genealogy of Cain through the pages of the Bible. These preachers believed that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites, and were best suited for manual labor. Slavery in the United States was justified by Christian pastors who believed the Bible taught that blacks were a cursed race in need redemption. Slavery, then, was an act of benevolence — white slave owners giving their black charges a far better life than they would have had in Africa. This wretched thinking continues to drive how the United States interacts with countries with populations that are primarily non-white — you know, Trump’s “shit-hole countries.” These poor, inferior, ill-bred, ignorant people need our benevolence and help, even if it is given to them through military force or coup.

By the time I left Midwestern Baptist College in the mid-1970s, I had cleansed my mind of the racist training of my youth. Sadly, Midwestern was rife with students and professors who believed that blacks were inferior/cursed. I don’t believe the founder of the college, Tom Malone, held these views. After all, the college had a handful of black students, far more than Bob Jones University had at the time. Malone, by the way, was a graduate of Bob Jones College and came of age in Alabama in the 1920s. If he was racist, it wouldn’t have surprised me, but I never saw anything from him that suggested he was. The same couldn’t be said for the man who was in charge of the bus ministry. Under his watch, he cancelled all the bus routes to and from Detroit. These routes normally ran in the afternoon, bringing riders to what was called “B Sunday School.” Since most of the riders from Detroit were black, students considered the afternoon “B Sunday School” to be “Black Sunday School.”

All freshman students were required to work on a bus route. After I returned to college for my sophomore year, I quit the bus ministry, choosing instead to preach on Sundays at a drug rehabilitation center in Detroit. The bus director cornered me one day as I was leaving school and chastised me for quitting my bus route. He told me I had a bad attitude — no shit, Sherlock! The bus director got more than he bargained for. I replied, “And you are a racist! I know why you cancelled “B Sunday School!” We parted company, never to speak to one another again.

In the late 1980s, I attended a Street Preacher’s Conference in Washington, DC. While there, I met a man who was a rabid follower of IFB preacher Peter Ruckman. As we were fanning out from the Washington Mall, the man told me that he didn’t bother witnessing to blacks. “They don’t have souls, you know, so there’s no reason for us to witness to them.” I couldn’t believe what this many was saying. He was condemning to Hell a vast portion of the human race, all because they had the wrong color of skin. I told him I didn’t believe such nonsense, and then I quickly walked away.

Racism is alive and well in the IFB church movement, the Southern Baptist Convention, and Evangelicalism as a whole. Thanks to our White-Supremacist-in-Chief, President Donald Trump, racists driven deep into the closets of Evangelicalism have now found the light of day and are quite willing to vocalize their racism and bigotry. That a Christian member of Congress can ponder out loud his wonderment over white supremacy being a “bad” thing, and Christian Fox News hosts can say that there’s no racism in the United States, tells me that we are far from living in a post-racial world. And if God is for racism and bigotry, who are we to argue with the white Jesus, right?

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.

Evangelicals Love to Fuss and Fight

evangelical betrayal of jesus

Cartoon by Bob Englehart

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 15:34,35)

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. (1 Peter 3:8-11)

These Bible verses and others present a strong argument for unity and love being essential to Christian faith. The writer of 1 John makes it clear that anyone who does not love his brother is not a Christian. Several times in the New Testament, the Law and the Prophets is summed up thusly: love God and love your neighbor as yourself. In the Gospels, professing followers of Jesus are commanded to love even those who hate them. And speaking of unity, the writer of Proverbs 6 lists seven things God hates, one of which is “sowing discord among the brethren.”

Love and unity are essential to Christianity, yet rarely, if ever, demonstrated by Evangelicals. Instead, Evangelicals are known for fussing and fighting over everything from theology to music styles. Countless internecine wars have been fought over matters as trivial as hair styles, wearing jewelry, women wearing pants, which Bible translation to use, whether to give altar calls, and how often churches hold services. No matter is too trivial for Evangelicals to fight over. One need only look at how many Evangelical denominations there are and how fragmented individual churches are to see that Evangelicals never received the ‘Love and Unity” memo. And thanks to the Internet, the MMA machinations of Evangelicals are on display for all to see, complete with violent personal attacks on fellow Christians deemed heretics.

What’s heresy? In the Evangelical world, heresy is any belief different from mine. One need only watch Arminians and Calvinists go toe to toe over who has the “true” gospel. Each side casts the other as heretical, calling into question the opponent’s salvation. As a long-time Calvinist, I met numerous pastors who believed Arminianism was a false gospel and anyone who believed it was unsaved! And now that Calvinism has made huge inroads within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and has infected numerous SBC colleges and seminaries, non-Calvinistic Baptists are saying that John Calvin’s progeny are preaching a false gospel. Some go even so far to suggest that Calvinism leads to atheism!

Years ago, I pastored a church affiliated with the Christian Union (CU) denomination. In the early 1900s, CU suffered a schism over the doctrine of sanctification. This led to the establishment of a new denomination called the Churches of Christ in Christian Union. Both denominations have a strong, but aging/dying, presence here in Ohio. As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I witnessed numerous conflicts and church splits. While all Evangelicals are Fundamentalists theologically, (see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) some sects, pastors, and churches take it to the extreme. Such is the case with the IFB church movement. The narrower beliefs become the more likely it is that there will be division. One oft-told joke about how the IFB church movement got its start comes from a story about Abram and Lot in Genesis 13:

And Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south . . . And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together: for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle: and the Canaanite and the Perizzite dwelled then in the land. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.

Much like Abram and Lot, the IFB church movement came to be when they said to their former denominations or churches, you go your way and I’ll go mine. The IFB church movement was birthed from denominational battles over various points of doctrine and practice. Scores of churches and pastors left denominations such as the SBC and the American Baptist Convention, establishing their own fellowship groups or quasi-denominations. In the intervening sixty years, IFB churches and pastors have continued to squabble, resulting in a plethora of church splits and new, more “pure” groups. Each group believes they have the truth, and those who believe differently are either deemed heretics or erring brethren. This infighting is the main reason IFB churches tend to turn over their memberships every few years. The IFB churches I pastored had a steady stream of members from other churches visiting our services — church hoppers, I called them. These devoted followers of Christ were disgruntled or upset with their current churches, so they left, looking for greener pastures. One church I pastored took in over twenty-five members from one nearby IFB church. They loved my preaching, that is until they didn’t, and off they went to find a new church to attend. Many of them returned to their old church once the offending pastor left. Some of them were instrumental in starting new IFB or Bible Fellowship churches in the area.

I follow and read numerous Evangelical blogs and news sites. One thing is certain: Evangelicals continue to fuss and fight, not only with liberal/progressive Christians, mainline denominations, but amongst themselves. Proverbial blood runs in the streets, a never-ending stream thanks to perceived offenses and heresies. The last three decades have given rise to what is called “discernment ministry.” These ministries believe God has called them to be gatekeepers or monitors of the Book of Life. They alone know what the “truth” is, and they aren’t shy about calling out anyone and everyone who violates their standard of orthodoxy. Long-time readers — all the way back to 2007-2008 when I was still a Christian — might remember a previous iteration of this blog attracting the attention of “discernment” preachers such as the late Ken Silva and a man who called himself Pastor Boy (he is now divorced and no longer in the ministry). (Please see the post, Rob Bell and Homosexuals on Silva’s “discernment” blog.) I was working my way through what it was that I actually believed theologically, and these esteemed discerners of “truth,” and others like them, decided that I was a false prophet and a heretic. My later deconversion was proof to them that they were right about me; that I never was a True Christian®.

It seems to me that there is a huge disconnect between what the Bible says about love and unity and how Evangelicals practice their faith. Evangelicals are roundly condemned as preachers of hate, even more so since they climbed into bed with the Republican Party and Donald Trump. Millennials and Generation Z are leaving Evangelical churches in record numbers. Many of them are abandoning organized religion altogether, and an increasing number of them have become agnostics and/or atheists. Why are Evangelical churches hemorrhaging young adults? Separatism and anti-culturalism, along with social Fundamentalism — anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-public schools, anti-science, to name a few — are driving the train as it leaves the station. Evangelicalism is losing two generations of potential congregants, leading to widespread panic among church leaders and church growth gurus. Of course, Evangelical extremists see such departures as a good thing; that doctrinal purity is far more important than love and unity. Quality rather than quantity, they say.  We need to love what God loves and hate what God hates! Of course, the beliefs and practices they love and hate are, so ironically, the very things they say their God loves and hates.

I am well aware of what the Bible does and doesn’t say on these issues. I long ago concluded that the Bible can be used to prove anything, and that when asked which sect has the “truth,” I reply, all of them. They all have proof texts to support their versions of orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Thus, everyone is right. Here’s my advice to Evangelical truth seekers.  Want to find the “true” church? Choose the one which has the best potlucks.

Christianity in general, and Evangelicalism in particular, is split into thousands of sects, and countless independent congregations, each believing that they are the holders of the one true faith. Lost on Protestants and Catholics and Evangelicals and Mainline Christians alike is what their fussing and fighting says to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Where’s the love and unity? worldlings ask. Where are the believers who practice what the Bible says about love in 1 Corinthians 13?

What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others. What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud, or rude. Love isn’t selfish or quick tempered. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs that others do. Love rejoices in the truth, but not in evil. Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails! (CEV)

Where, oh where, can we find such faith? Not among Evangelicals, that’s for sure. I am an atheist for many reasons, one of which is the lack of love and unity among Christians. If I looked at Christianity as a whole and saw people loving God and loving their neighbors, I perhaps would pause and reconsider the value of being a follower of Jesus. If I saw a group united in doctrine and practice, I might, at the very least, ponder the historic claims of Christianity. However, all I see is the fussing and fighting, and this tells me that whatever Christianity might have been twenty centuries ago, THAT version of Christianity no longer exists. What we have today is a religious version of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). While it is unlikely that anything or anyone will successfully “save” me from atheism/agnosticism/humanism, if I truly saw love and unity in action, I might, at the very least, admire those who follow after Jesus. Until then, I will continue to treat Evangelicalism as a blight on the human race, a worldview that causes great harm. Want to change my opinion of you, Evangelicals? Repent.

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.

Pastor Thaddeus Matthews Promotes Twerking for Jesus

thaddeus matthews

Thaddeus Matthews, pastor of Liberation and Empowerment Ministries in Memphis, Tennessee, recently held a twerking contest at his church. Known as the “cussing pastor,” Matthews seems to have no problem with women shaking their assess for Jesus. Here’s video evidence:

Video Link

Sweet baby Jesus!

In 2012, Matthews was arrested on child pornography charges. In 2015, he was sentenced to five years of probation.

Matthews’ YouTube channel

Matthews’ Facebook page

Matthews’ Instagram page

Matthews’ Twitter account is currently suspended.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michelle Lesley Says It’s a Sin to Attend a Gay Wedding

michelle lesley

Sexuality in Western culture is a mess. Within the last hundred years or so, we’ve devolved from a society that had, broadly speaking, a general understanding of, and compliance with, the Bible’s parameters for sex to today’s sexual mores that barely stop short of child molestation and bestiality, and permits – even encourages – nearly every other form of perversion.

It can be difficult to know how to approach these issues which have been suddenly thrust upon us, and with which the average person – Christian or not – has very little experience. How are Christians to think about, believe, and address these issues in our families, churches, and communities? Do we just go with the “live and let live” flow of modern society? No. As with every other issue in life, our thinking, our words, and our actions must be shaped by and in submission to the authority of Scripture. Not public opinion. Not political agendas. Not our own personal feelings, opinions, and experiences. Scripture.

The Bible makes sexuality and gender identity very simple for us. God created two sexes of people– male and female¹. God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. God created human sexuality and confined its use to a man and a woman who are married to each other. Every form of gender identity or human sexuality that falls outside these parameters is sin.

….

Christians should not attend same sex weddings (or receptions, showers, bachelor parties, housewarmings, etc.) for any reason. (When it becomes legal, this will also apply to plural marriages and other unbiblical forms of “marriage”.) Regardless of your motives for attending, it appears to others and to the same sex couple as though you approve of their sin.

Often, the reason Christians will give for feeling they should attend a same sex wedding is that they are afraid declining to attend will cause the couple to cut off the relationship with them, closing the door to any future opportunity to share the gospel. But if you’re close enough to the couple to be invited to the wedding, shouldn’t you have already shared the gospel with them? Do you not trust that God can save someone, either immediately or in the future, from one instance of sharing the gospel? This person’s salvation does not rest on your shoulders. It can only be accomplished by the Holy Spirit, and only in His timing. And whether you have or haven’t yet shared the gospel with the couple, what could your attendance at the wedding accomplish other than creating confusion? How can you support their “marriage” by attending the wedding and then turn around later and tell them they need to repent of this sin?

Additionally, attending the wedding sends the message to your children, family, church, friends, co-workers and others that you approve of the sin of homosexuality. We all have people watching us to see whether we stand with Christ or with the world. It’s imperative that we set a godly example.

Yes, if you decline to attend the wedding, you might lose your relationship with that homosexual friend or loved one. But Christ calls us to separate ourselves from the world and be loyal to Him even if it costs us everythingincluding those we love the most.

— michelle Lesley, Discipleship for Christian Women, Throwback Thursday ~ Basic Training: Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Other Sexual Immorality, January 24, 2019

Why I Don’t Tell People I Was a Pastor

somerset baptist church 1985

Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and kids, 1985

I have worked many different jobs over the years; everything from selling vacuüm cleaners and life insurance to pumping gas and working as an auto mechanic. I worked more factory jobs than I can count. Well, I can count them, but I prefer not to bring up memories of mindless drudgery. Factory jobs paid good wages, but I couldn’t stand the repetitiveness of the work. Two years into our marriage, I applied for a restaurant management position with Arthur Treacher’s. Starting salary? $155 with flex overtime for every hour over forty-five. I instantly fell in love with the restaurant business, and six months after starting with Arthur Treacher’s I was promoted to general manager and transferred to the Reynoldsburg, Ohio store.

While I worked numerous and varied jobs over the years, I considered them a means to an end: making money and providing for my family. My true calling and ambition in life was to be a pastor. Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. For the most part, I loved being a pastor. I enjoyed preaching and working with people. I suspect that in another life I might have been a college professor or a social worker.

Early on, I noticed that many pastors used their position for material gain and upward social status. One of Polly’s young preacher cousins provides a good example of this. One day I called my in-laws and he answered the phone. This is Reverend James Overton. How may I help you? I snickered to myself, and said, Hey Jamie, this is Bruce. Is Mom or Dad there? I thought, Reverend James Overton? Really? I never played the Reverend game. I was comfortable with congregants calling me Bruce or Preacher. I also never asked for the “preacher discount” or special treatment. I had no regard for pastors who weren’t shy about announcing their clerical status, hoping that they would be granted discounts, free meals, or other special considerations.

I never told people out of hand that I was a pastor. Granted, a lot of people knew I was a preacher, but I never told strangers what I did for a living. I wanted to be considered an everyday guy.  The reason for this was simple. As soon as I told someone I was a pastor, a snap judgment was made about me. After I stopped pastoring churches in 2005, we looked for a church we could call home. All told, we visited over one hundred churches. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!) At virtually every church, the first or second question I was asked was “what do you do for a living?” Early on, I would tell people I was a pastor, but I noticed that people treated me differently if I did: reverently, respectfully, with careful distance. One Sunday after visiting yet another new church, I told Polly, I am sick of being asked what I do for a living. I think the next time someone asks me I am going to say, I’m sorry, but I don’t have sex on the first date!  Of course, I never did. I was too polite to ever say such a thing.

These days, I NEVER tell someone who doesn’t know me that I was a pastor. I don’t want to have to explain why I am no longer in the ministry. Yes, if someone does a web search on my name he or she will quickly find out I was once a pastor. However, I am not going to volunteer that information. I am not ashamed or embarrassed by my former life as a pastor. I have many fond memories of the years I spent in the ministry, along with a boat load of dark, harmful experiences too. What I want to avoid is being judged by people who don’t know me. Last night, I had a delightful discussion with the local high school principal. I don’t think he knows I was a pastor. We were talking about leadership and being visionary. I shared several stories from my ministerial past, but I did so without saying I was a pastor.

I just want to be an everyday country bumpkin. If I dare mention I was a pastor, well, people act differently. Like it or not, people see ministers as God’s representatives. People might use swear words, but let a pastor be nearby, all of a sudden the cursing stops — God is present! Same goes for racy or colorful stories. Even if I tell people I am an ex-preacher, they tend to act differently from the way they would if I were a farmer or factory worker. Of course, the same goes for telling people I am an atheist. My atheism is well-known, but I never tell anyone that I am an unbeliever. I prefer to live my life without being judged by my labels. I am being naïve, to be sure, but my life is much more than my labels: atheist, humanist, democratic socialist, etc. How about you? Are you more than your labels? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

Update on Polly

blogging

I want to thank everyone for their kind words and thoughts. Polly and I appreciate your support.

Five doctors, a CT scan, a MRI, colonoscopy, endoscopy, and countless blood tests later, two doctors — the surgeon and the gastroenterologist — believe she has ulcerative colitis and the hospitalist believes she has Crohn’s disease. It was interesting to hear each side argue their diagnosis. Biopsies, which are outstanding, will provide a definitive diagnosis. Either way, the initial treatment is the same.

Polly also has a liver/bile duct issue which remains unresolved. We should know more on that issue tomorrow. It may have been exacerbated by the widespread inflammation in her bowel.

As things stand tonight, Polly should be released on Sunday. When she was admitted on Tuesday, I feared she was dying; and left untreated she would have died. Thankfully, the ER doctor quickly narrowed down Polly’s symptoms and determined she needed to be admitted. Her other doctors have provided first-rate care, and, at times, comic relief. The change in Polly’s condition over the past thirty-six hours has been remarkable thanks to modern drugs, especially steroids and antibiotics. I’m grateful we live in a day when such things exist.

Thanks again for your wonderful support.

Bruce