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Words Matter

words

When you say homosexuality is an abomination…you are saying your homosexual son and neighbor are abominable.

When you say all non-Christians will go to hell when they die…you are saying your non-Christian mother, son, and neighbor will be tortured by God in the flames of the hell for eternity.

When you say abortion is evil, sick, and murder…you are saying those who are pro-choice are evil, sick murderers.

When you say Christians are idiots…you are saying your Christian mother and grandfather are idiots.

When you say people on welfare are lazy, good for nothing bums…you are saying your out-of-work cousin with cancer is a lazy, good for nothing bum.

When you say atheism is immoral…you are saying that your atheist daughter and cousin are immoral.

You can’t divorce your words from their implications.

Words matter.

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Why Catholic Millennials are Leaving the Church

catholic church

Millennials, those born between 1981-2000, (there is some debate over the exact time frame) now ages 15 to 34, are less religious than their parents and grandparents. Why they are remains a subject of intense debate. Regardless of the reasons why, millennials are less likely to be a part of an organized religion than earlier generations. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, nones, those who are not affiliated with any religion, continue to increase numerically. 55 million Americans are now a none.  Granted, this is still a small percentage of the total U.S. population, but 34-36% of millennials are a none, compared to just 17% of their parents and 11% of their grandparents.

While the media tends to focus on millennials leaving Evangelical sects and churches, the Catholic church also has a millennial problem. Kaya Oakes, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a one time atheist who returned to the Catholic church of her youth,  had this to say about the Catholic church and millennials:

A new survey from Catholics for Choice on the opinions of Catholic millennials as regards doctrinal issues might make the church’s traditionalists want to brace themselves. But its findings are also somewhat unsurprising to anyone who spends time around younger Catholics, whose political and social leanings mirror the open-minded stances of their increasingly non-religious peers.

Birth control and abortion, arguably the Catholic church’s most contentious issues, are not always perceived in a negative light by young Catholics. Among those polled, more than half say abortion should be legal in “almost all” or “most” cases, and 31 percent say it should be legal in “just a few” cases. Only 17 percent say it should be illegal. 78 percent say birth control should be included in insurance coverage, no matter where a woman works.

In spite of the widely mocked Catholic Vote video of young people “coming out” as believing that marriage is between a man and a woman, marriage equality is embraced by Catholic millennials. 69% “strongly” or “somewhat” support legal same-sex marriage.

In the wake of the firing of multiple Catholic school teachers who are openly gay or lesbian or married to a same-sex partner, and the ensuing grappling over Catholic teacher contracts that explicitly prevent teachers from being open about their sexuality, younger Catholics have chosen the side of the teachers. 71% say Catholic schools should not be able to fire teachers for being LGBTQ. On gender in the church, Catholic millennials follow similar thinking, with 75% supporting women having an equal role in the church.

Pope Francis is popular among young Catholics, with only two percent having a negative view of him. But the American church hierarchy is not looked on so kindly, and there is an increasing emphasis on a separation between politics and religion. A full 80 percent of respondents said they felt no need to follow the bishops’ advice when it comes time to vote, and 77 percent said Catholic politicians were under no obligation to follow the bishops either.

They are also opposed by a wide margin to bishops withholding communion to the divorced and remarried, those who support legal abortion, and those who support marriage equality.

What’s missing from this survey, however, is the question of church attendance. How much are these Catholics who disagree with and question church teaching are actually showing up? Christian Smith, the head of the National Study of Youth and Religion at Notre Dame, says the situation with Catholic millennials participating in church culture is “in fact, grim.” Only 16% of millennials self-identify as Catholic according to Pew. That 16% is the group the church is struggling to hold on to.

So if they are increasingly choosing the liberal side in the culture wars, are they really still Catholic?…

…What is clear, however, is that the more young Catholics start to embrace marriage equality, safe and legal abortion, access to contraception, and the liberal side on many other issues in the culture wars, the more of those same Catholics will also drift away from a church they perceive as incapable of change.

Perhaps they’ll attend mass on occasion, and perhaps they’ll still call themselves Catholic, but in many ways, their faith will be a loose garment rather than a straightjacket.

growth of religiously unaffiliated 2014

age breakdown nones 2014

Why is the Evangelical God Silent?

letter to the editor

What follows is a letter I sent today to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News:

Dear Editor,

There seems to be no end to the sermons printed in the editorial section of the Crescent-News. Intractable warriors for the Evangelical God preach against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism, humanism, secularism, and atheism. Letter writers claim to know the mind and will of God on every matter, warning that failure to heed their preaching will result in God pouring out his judgment and wrath on the United States.  They warn that two people of the same sex marrying will bring an end to Western civilization. Yet, it seems that their preaching is falling on deaf ears.

Several months ago, St John’s United Church of Christ came out of the closet and declared themselves to be an open and affirming church. This means gays and same-sex couples are welcome at St. John’s. When I read the news report, I could hardly believe it. I thought, have I been beamed away to an alternate universe, to a county where people are not judged for who they love or how they express intimacy? No, right here in Defiance County, a church that is not ashamed to welcome one and all.

Young adults are increasingly gay friendly and are no longer interested in the bigoted, homophobic religion of their parents. Some of them join the ranks of the nones, those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards organized religion. On many of the issues that seem to cause Evangelicals great consternation, young adults show that they think love, fairness, justice, and compassion are more important than dogma and literalism.

When I read  the letters from Evangelicals, I see an aging group of people desperately trying to regain power and control over a culture that has little interest in what they are selling. 40 years ago, instead of focusing on personal piety and good works, Evangelicals sold their soul to groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association. They traded their place in the community for political power. They abandoned reason and rationality and became the purveyors of ignorance and bigotry. And now they are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Come June, despite millions of Evangelical prayers, conferences, rallies, and sermons, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. I wonder how Evangelicals will respond? Will they turn to the heavens and ask God why he turned a deaf ear to their prayers? Will they point the finger at their homophobic rhetoric and bigotry? I doubt it.  It will be atheists like me, liberals, socialists, and the Kenyan-born usurper in the White House that will be blamed for their inability to return America to the love, joy, and peace of the 1950’s.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. They call out to the heavens asking their God to show his power and act on their behalf. Yet, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems their God is either deaf or on vacation.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

A Day of Public Indecency: Exposing the National Day of Prayer

national day of prayer 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015 is the annual National Day of Prayer.  On April 17, 1952, “President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer (NDP) must be declared by each subsequent president at an appropriate date of his choice.” In 1988, the law was amended, setting the first Thursday in May as date for the NDP. While the NDP is supposed to be a day when people of all faiths come together to pray, it has been co-opted by Evangelicals. While certainly people of various faiths will gather to pray on Thursday, it will be Evangelicals and conservative Catholics that get all the media attention. Instead of following the command of Jesus to pray in secret, Evangelicals will gather at county courthouses and government buildings and metaphorically expose their 13.316 inch prayer penis for everyone to see. On this day, Evangelicals want everyone to know that the United States is a Christian nation, that the one true God is the Christian God, and that they are God’s chosen people.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force is an Evangelical organization:

  …whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.

Shirley Dobson, wife of Christian fundamentalist James Dobson, is the chairwoman of the Task Force.  In a recent letter to NDP volunteers, Dobson stated:

“We are contending with threats from those both here at home and abroad who aim to do us harm, and immoral practices and unsound principles run rampant throughout the culture. With this in mind, there’s an especially urgent need for God’s people to ask for His guidance for the days ahead.”

For those not schooled in the fine art of Evangelispeak®, immoral practices=abortion, homosexuality, sex before marriage, and same-sex marriage. Unsound principles=evolution,humanism, atheism, secularism, and socialism.

According to Dion Elmore, spokesman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force:

“This is an American thing; this is not a Christian thing. Congress solidified a tradition of the Founding Fathers, who fought for religious freedom to gather in churches and groups. We encourage Americans to get out and pray for your nation, if you are a person of faith. We realize some people aren’t, and we’re not trying to force it on them.”

Really? An American thing? What section of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights mentions the NDP as an “American thing.”  While ONE of the reasons the Founding Fathers fought the British was religious freedom, it certainly wasn’t THE issue that drove colonialists to pick up arms and rebel against Britain. In fact, in many of the original 13 states, anti-religious freedom founding documents and laws were adopted, often enshrining Christianity as the state’s official religion. The notion that the United States was founded on religious freedom is a myth, as any cursory reading of American history will show.

The chairman of the 2015 National Day of Prayer is Jack Graham, fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, a mega church located in Plano, Texas. Graham suggests that Evangelicals Christians, at 12:00 P.M. EST, recite the following prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We come to You in the Name that is above every name—Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Our hearts cry out to You.

Knowing that You are a prayer-answering, faithful God—the One we trust in times like these—we ask that You renew our spirits, revive our churches, and heal our land.

We repent of our sins and ask for Your grace and power to save us. Hear our cry, oh God, and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may walk in obedience to Your Word. We are desperate for Your tender mercies. We are broken and humbled before You. Forgive us, and in the power of Your great love, lift us up to live in Your righteousness.

We pray for our beloved nation. May we repent and return to You and be a light to the nations. And we pray for our leaders and ask that You give them wisdom and faith to follow You.

Preserve and protect us, for You are our refuge and only hope. Deliver us from all fears except to fear You, and may we courageously stand in the Truth that sets us free. We pray with expectant faith and grateful hearts.

In Jesus’ name, our Savior. Amen.

Why is it necessary for millions of Christians to utter the same words at exactly the same time? Perhaps God has a busy schedule on Thursday and can only spare one minute to hear the repetitious prayers of his chosen people. How will success be judged? How will Evangelicals know that they got through to the Almighty?  I guarantee you that there is ONE thing that every praying Evangelical wants under his prayer tree…the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman.

According to Randall Murphree, editor of the American Family Association Journal:

The late Leonard Ravenhill spoke these sobering words, startlingly apropos for contemporary America: “The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray.”

We have become self-sufficient, depending on our own abilities. We hold aloft our trophies, proclaiming, “Look what we have earned!” We neglect the gracious Giver of all gifts. We have become self-satisfied, prideful in our meaningless, material accomplishments. We rest pampered and apathetic in the arms of affluence. We forget the One who offers true satisfaction.

We have become self-righteous, basking in the sunlight streaming through our stained glass windows. We ignore the God of whom Paul wrote, “[T]hey did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own”…

…If we do not confess the sins of our critically ill culture, the illness could be terminal. Time and time again, God has judged nations by the character of His people. When His people failed to repent, their nations fell. America’s believers – preachers and plumbers, janitors and judges, editors and educators, broadcasters and brick masons – must spend time before God Almighty, confessing and repenting…

As you can see, lots of generic theological words hide the real reason for this year’s National Day of Prayer.  There will be few prayers uttered about the wars in the Middle East, global climate change, immigration, starving children, or the homeless. Little will be said  about most of the perplexing problems facing 21st century humans. None of these things matter to most Evangelicals. What does matter is outlawing abortion, criminalizing homosexuality, and banning same-sex marriage. What does matter is re-instituting government sponsored prayer in public schools, posting the Ten Commandments on classroom walls, and teaching school children the earth is 6,019 years old. What matters most of all is taking back the United States from Kenyan-born, socialist negro Barack Obama and those who are Democrats, socialists, atheists, humanists, pagans, and liberal Christians. Theocracy remains the ultimate goal and they will not rest until the Christian flag is hoisted over the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that Sharia,Biblical Christian law, is the law of the Land.

I wish Evangelicals would be honest and stop couching their agenda in flowery, generic, non-offensive theological terms. Forget Jack Graham’s suggested prayer and get to the point:

Dear God, Dammit, we want our country back and we want it back now. We beseech you oh Lord, please kill all the homos, transvestites, abortion doctors, Muslims, atheists, and anyone else who refuses to bow a knee to Jesus and admit that the United States is one nation under the Evangelical God.  As in days of the Old Testament, send a plague upon the heathen and kill them all, sparing the Koch Brothers, Waltons,  and all the other job creators. Enrich hell with their flesh, and may the smell of their burning flesh be a sweet Uncle Ray’s BBQ savor in your nostrils. Oh Lord, burn down every house of worhsip except those where the one true Evangelical gospel is preached. You know which one that is, right Lord? I know you kind of got confused when you wrote the Bible. As in the days of the Old Testament, send fire from heaven and burn alive all the false prophets, especially atheist false prophets. Lord, what we really want is a Disney Park country just for true red white and blue Republican Christians. Please Lord, we need your help because no one is paying attention to us. Let the world know that you are still the same bad-ass God who drowned the entire human race in a flood and that we are your oh-so-special children.

Thanks, Jesus.

Amen.

 

Satan is Behind the Push in Ohio to Legalize Marijuana

jesus

According to Bryan, Ohio resident L. Jay Nafziger, Satan, the head toker himself, is behind efforts to legalize marijuana in Ohio. Nafziger had this to say in a letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News:

Did legalizing alcohol in the USA make our world a better place to live in? Why not ask one of the thousands  who have had a loved one tragically killed by a drunk driver.

Did legalizing abortion make the world a better place to live in? Definitely not for the millions of unborn children who never had the chance to live outside the womb.

Has legalized tobacco smoking made the world a better place to live in? Long before medical science “proved” that cigarette smoke is not good for the smoker or anyone else, good, old-fashioned, outdated, uncommon, common sense could tell a person that drawing smoke of any kind into your lungs over a period of time will probably cause problems.

So who is to say that legalizing pot will make the world a better place to live in? Time and time again, many FDA  approved “safe” prescription drugs have been pulled off the market because they were found to be “not so safe” after all.

I will admit that I think it is hypocritical for any government, society or culture to accept and allow alcohol, abortion and tobacco while not allowing marijuana. But then, on the other hand, how about this gateway drug thing? If marijuana is legalized, why not heroin and methamphetamine, and why limit prescription drugs?

Why not get rid of all hypocrisy and judgement and let anyone do anything they want to at anytime as long as they are not “hurting” someone else? And it could all be so good for the economy! Did you just detect my sarcasm?

The greatest evil of all is not alcohol, abortion, tobacco or marijuana, but Satan himself, the father of lies. One of his biggest lies is that we (human beings created in the image of God) can/should disregard the laws (ten commandments) of God (creator of the universe and everything in it) and instead, find happiness and fulfillment in life by “doing our own thing if it feels good, do it.” Then, when we get into trouble and aren’t feeling so good, he (Satan) offers us a short term solution or “fix” like alcohol, abortion, tobacco or marijuana, which can ultimately cause us more pain and dissolution than we had in the beginning.

My  new,  progressive,  updated,  upgraded,  evolved  mindset of 2015 says, “No, do not legalize pot.” Any outdated mindset that keeps another “evil” from being legalized is far better than any updated mindset that says “smoking marijuana is good for you.” How can a person know for sure that they are not being lied to, not by just another human being but by Satan himself?

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. John 3. 17.

Jesus is the way, not cannibas. Jesus is the truth, not cannibas. Jesus is the light, not cannibas.

I think Nofziger’s letter speaks for itself. He asks “did you just detect my sarcasm?” No, but I did detect the signs of a fundamentalist lobotomy.

I have several questions for Nofziger. If God is the creator of everything, who created marijuana? And tobacco? And alcohol? If drinking alcohol is a sin, was Jesus sinning when he drank wine and turned the water into wine? What about the verses in the Bible that suggest giving a sick and dying man alcohol to ease his suffering? If marijuana can ease the suffering of someone, shouldn’t they be permitted to use it?

I did like the last sentence of his letter: Jesus is the way, not cannibas. Jesus is the truth, not cannibas. Jesus is the light, not cannibas. Ignoring the fact that Nofziger misspelled cannabis, I think Christians churches should start an evangelistic campaign that touts the superiority of Jesus to being high on marijuana. Get High on Jesus!

reefer madness

Reefer Madness

Bruce Gerencser