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Tag: Adultery

Short Stories: The Worst Mother’s Day Ever

mothers day

Mother’s Day is a special time at Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. It’s the one Sunday out of the year when the whole service is dedicated to women. Churches often give gifts to mothers in attendance, especially flowers. My favorite gift for church women on Mother’s Day was carnations. During this oh-so-special service, men and children are reminded of how they should love their mothers and praise Jesus for giving them such a wonderful, godly presence in their lives. And then comes the annual sermon for women from Proverbs 31:

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Passing mention will also be made to other Bible verses that have been used to keep women in their place — barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen — for two thousand years. Throw in a couple of verses about women submitting to their husbands and male-only leadership, and the sermon is complete; and whatever joy the $1 carnation brought into their lives is muted by the Biblical reminders of their true status before God and man.

As a pastor, I saw Mother’s Day as an evangelization opportunity. I encouraged church members to invite their mothers to church, especially unsaved mothers. I promised them that if they would do all they could to get their mothers in church on Mother’s Day, I would do my best to share the gospel with them in between my points on Godly womanhood. Sometimes, I would plan a mother-daughter banquet the day before Mother’s Day. I would have the men of the church prepare a fancy meal for those in attendance. Feeding large numbers of mothers and their daughters afforded me the opportunity to put my restaurant skills to use. I became the general of the kitchen, making sure that everything was cooked according to plan. After the meal, a guest speaker would remind the mothers and daughters in attendance of their duties before God and man. It was the only day on the church calendar when church women would be afforded the opportunity to hear a female speaker (not a preacher, not a preacher, not a preacher, DAMMITA SPEAKER!)

One Mother’s Day — I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio, at the time — I decided I would recognize all the mothers in attendance. Numerous women stood as I asked mothers to stand so we could honor them with applause and $1 carnations. I then asked those who were standing to say how long they had been married and how many children they had. I planned to give special gifts to the oldest mother, the youngest mother, the mother with the most children, and the mother who had been married the longest. It took all of about thirty seconds for me to realize that I had made a horrible mistake.

Here’s what happened . . .

Sister Iris, how many children did you have and how long were you married, I asked? I was never married, but I have three children. (Imagine what my IFB face looked like the moment she uttered these words.) Sister Delorse? I am not married, I’m divorced, and I have two children. (Iris and Delorse were blood sisters.) At that moment, I wanted to commit hari-kari. I thought, I need to hurry this along, knowing that there were other unwed mothers and divorcees ahead in Bruce’s nightmare of a conga line.

Finally, the repudiation of all my preaching against premarital sex and divorce was complete, and all that was left for me to do was preach my sermon, give a brief invitation, utter a benediction, and usher my family and me the hell out of Dodge. Needless to say, I never asked women again to share how long they were married and how many children they had. Polly and I laugh about this now, but it was not funny at the time. My moralizing had been exposed, and the only feeble argument I could make was that all their sinning took place before they were saved. Praise Jesus, none of them had sexual intercourse post-Jesus, or so I told myself anyway. I would later come to the realization that, despite all my sermons against sexual sin, congregants were still, in the privacy of their bedrooms, car back seats, and motel rooms, having sex with people to whom they aren’t married to. I would later pastor an unmarried woman who wanted to have a baby without marrying a man. She paid a neighbor man to sleep with her so she could get pregnant. She succeeded. Unfortunately, she bore a child with a serious birth defect — a sure sign to many of God’s disfavor.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Evangelicals and Their Obsession With Sexual Lust

lust

Evangelicals have a huge problem with what they call sexual lust. Countless sermons, books, and website articles are devoted to helping Christians overcome lust. Rarely, if ever, do Evangelicals ask WHY they have a lust problem. Why do men and women filled with the Holy Spirit need to be constantly reminded of their propensity to lust? With God living inside of you (there’s a joke waiting to be told), I would think that victory over lust or any other sin would be but a thought or prayer away. If God himself can’t keep Evangelicals from sexually desiring other people to whom they are not married, what hope is there for the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world?

Perhaps the real issue is that Evangelicals mislabel and misunderstand sexual lust. Thanks to Jesus for telling his followers in Matthew 5:27,28: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, Evangelicals think that if they look at a man or woman and desire them then they have committed adultery in their hearts. Is it any wonder that some Evangelicals, upon realizing they have committed adultery in their hearts, decide to physically have sex with whomever they are “lusting” after? If you are going to think it, you might as well do it.

What is lust, anyway? A simple definition is this: having a craving, appetite, or great desire for. Based on this definition, all humans lust, and there is nothing inherently wrong with sexually lusting after a man or a woman. What complicates the matter for Evangelicals is that they are duty-bound to live according to the laws, commands, precepts, and teachings of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — as interpreted by their churches and pastors. The Bible, then, and not an English dictionary, defines what lust is. The inconsistent, arbitrary, contradictory moral code found in the Bible becomes the standard by which the triune God demands people live — in theory anyway. As any observer of Evangelicalism knows, Evangelicals don’t walk what they talk. Here they are, filled with the Holy Spirit and holding in their hands God’s blueprint for living, yet they fail miserably at being different from the big, bad “world.” Why is that?

The first problem is that Evangelicals view themselves as sinners; weak, powerless, helpless people, who, without the saving grace of Jesus, would be given over to their sinful desires. Evangelicals believe humans are inherently broken and need fixing; and only God, through the atoning work of Jesus, can repair them; and this fixing is a moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day process. Sin is always at the door, threatening to destroy their lives, Evangelicals think. Powerless, they cry out to Jesus for help, and in his good time, if at all, Jesus supposedly rides in on his white horse and delivers them from their sins. And if Jesus doesn’t arrive in time and Christians fall or run into sin? Forgiveness and a clean slate are but a prayer away: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9. Thus, for Evangelicals, there’s no reason for them to own their behaviors and be accountable for their actions.

colossians 3:5

The second problem comes when you embrace the Evangelical concept of sin and inherent helplessness with strict adherence to what’s written in the Bible. Instead of understanding that it is normal and healthy to sexually desire others, Evangelicals label their desires “sexual sins” such as adultery or fornication. Worse yet, even thinking about these desires, according to Jesus, is adultery. Imagine living in a world where the very thought of another person’s sexual desirability is considered heinous behavior worthy of eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Is it any wonder Evangelical men and women go through life laden with guilt and fear? Is it any wonder so many Christians act out on their desires, often crossing the line from normal human behavior to criminality? One need only to read the Black Collar Crime series to see that Evangelicals have a huge problem with sexual sin — especially sex with minors or, as in the case of pastors, people with whom they have professional relationships. A pastor having consensual sex with someone other than his wife violates the Evangelical God’s moral code, but outside of Christianity such behavior, at worst, leads to divorce. Consensual sex between unmarrieds is normal, healthy, and expected, but, for Evangelicals, such behavior is called fornication – an accursed sin worthy of eternal damnation. Masturbation and viewing pornography are also considered serious sins by most Evangelicals.

The focus should be on sexual behaviors that harm others. If there is no harm to others, and all parties are adults who consent to the sexual behavior, there should be no condemnation of the sexual behavior. Extramarital sex is generally considered bad behavior, but a married couple could have an “understanding,” making what Evangelicals consider adulterous normal. The rules I live by are quite simple:

  • I made a commitment to my wife forty-four ago when I stood at the church altar and said that she would be my one and only. Polly and I, on that day, entered into a contractual relationship governing our sexual behavior. I live by that commitment. Do I desire other women? Do I find other women attractive? Do I even have thoughts about having sex with them? Yep. I am a normal, healthy human being. But I don’t act on these desires. Why? I pledged my troth to my wife, and I plan on keeping that vow.
  • Whatever people do sexually behind closed doors, as long as it is consensual, is none of my business. I don’t understand why some people enjoy BDSM, but I don’t have to understand it to find it acceptable human behavior. Each to his own as long as the parties involved freely consent.

Simply put, I mind my own business.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, are plagued with all sorts of rules governing their sex lives. Worse yet, these rules have different interpretations depending on whom their pastor is, where they attend church, and what sect their church belongs to. When Evangelical men and women see someone to whom they are sexually attracted, they immediately feel guilty and worry about committing adultery in their hearts. Instead of seeing such behavior as normal and healthy, Evangelicals fear God’s judgment if they fail to avert their eyes and repent of their inordinate desire.

Several years ago, an Evangelical psychologist by the name of Douglas Weiss barfed up a post titled 10 Powerful Tips to Stay Lust-Free. The article was pretty much standard Fundamentalist fare: pray, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and keep a journal of your lustful behavior. Weiss did, to his credit, speak of Evangelicals owning and changing their behavior. These points seemed quite humanistic, so I do wonder how Weiss squares personal accountability with what the Bible says about sin and human helplessness without God.

I did find tip number eight quite humorous:

Simply put a rubber band around your wrist and when you start to lust, snap it hard.

Currently, you are giving your brain positive reinforcement when you lust. You escape reality, you feel desired, you fantasize and sometimes even receive a chemical reaction in your brain from the risk and excitement you feel. When you positively reinforce your brain, it will heighten your desire to repeat that behavior.

The rubber-band technique creates a negative reinforcement for lust and sends your brain the message: I don’t want to do this anymore.

Of course, Weiss is giving advice for combating a behavior — lust — that only exists in the minds of Evangelicals. I see a theological contradiction with Weiss’s advice. If Evangelicals are to snap the rubber band when they start to lust, doesn’t that mean they have already sinned? Isn’t lust sinful, regardless of whether the Christian is at the start, middle, or end of the lusting process? Shouldn’t the lustful Christian immediately stop sinning, drop on his knee, and give God a blo- uh I mean pray for forgiveness?

Imagine, for a moment, Pastor Joe sitting at his office desk studying for Sunday’s sermon. Pastor J, as his followers love to call him, is planning on preaching a ten-point sermon titled How to Live a Lust-Free Life. J-Man, as church teens fondly call him, clicks on Firefox, and once it loads he opens an incognito window. Pastor Joe wants his study materials to be between him and God, and by using an incognito window, he leaves behind no trace of what websites he has visited. Pastor Joe navigates to youporn.com, telling himself, what better way to understand lust than “studying” the content of porn sites. As the tenth photo loads, Pastor Joe remembers he is wearing a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. He starts snapping the band repeatedly, thinking that the pain from having a rubber band snapped on his wrist will cause him to turn from his computer screen. Alas, it does not. Soon, Pastor Joe is overwhelmed by what he has seen. I’m lusting, he cries, but no amount of self-awareness — or rubber bands — keeps Pastor Joe from masturbating. Soon orgasm brings release, and with release comes an overwhelming sense of religiously driven guilt. Oh Lord, I am so sorry for my sin. Please forgive me! Jesus, of course, forgives Pastor Joe, just as he has every other time. Or so we are told, anyway. Pastor Joe is forgiven by God because he says he is forgiven. In fact, every time Pastor Joe “sins” God forgives him. A weak, helpless man I am, says Pastor Joe. Deliver me from my lust, Jesus! What a miserable existence, but the fictional story I’ve told here happens countless times a day behind closed doors. And it will continue to happen until Evangelicals realize that their religion is the problem. Their belief system has turned them into pathetic weaklings who believe they have no control over their emotions or sexuality.

Evangelicals don’t need rubber bands. Does anyone really believe that snapping yourself with a rubber band is going to keep you from acting on your sexual desires? This is absurd. The only thing that controls your sexual desires is YOU. Not God, not Jesus, and certainly not a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. What’s required here is personal responsibility and accountability. Determine what is good and bad sexual behavior and act accordingly. The Bible, with its sexually repressive teachings, is not the answer, and neither is any of Weiss’s tips for living a lust-free life.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Socialism Leads to Sexual Perversion

e calvin beisner

Back in 1987, World magazine published an article by veteran journalist Garry John Moes that asked, “Is there a connection between Socialist doctrine and the homosexual rights movement?”

That striking lead disturbed me. While the article presented clear evidence that there is, in fact, such a connection, it didn’t answer a corollary question: Why is there a connection between homosexuality and socialism?

Why, for instance, did Plato endorse both socialism and homosexuality? Why, today, are many homosexuals — and others in the LGBTQIA+ movements — also socialists?

Back then I set out to answer that question in another article in World titled “Denial of Distinction: Socialism’s Roots and Sexual Deviance.” Its lessons are even more relevant today than they were 35 years ago.

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A fundamental biblical doctrine revealed here is that there are real, abiding, basic distinctions in this world. Some religions — Hinduism and Buddhism, animism and spiritism — believe that all is fundamentally one, that there are no distinctions at the root of reality. Not Biblical Christianity. For the Bible, one is not two; evil is not good; light is not darkness; bitter is not sweet.

When God’s vineyard becomes indistinguishable from the wild vines around it, He tears down its hedge or wall. He will not permit a false distinction to remain. That is why God insists that evil and good, light and darkness, sweet and bitter not be confused with each other.

To those who deny such distinctions — who say that the Church can be like the world, who obscure the distinction between good and evil — to them, God says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight!” As if to say, “They may be wise in their own eyes, but not in Mine. I am the Judge before whom they must stand. They may overlook distinctions, but I will not!”

What joins socialism with homosexuality and all forms of sexual perversion? They all run against, consciously or subconsciously, of the biblical doctrine of fundamental distinctions.

Biblical thinking recognizes a distinction between Church and world. The church is God’s private property, “a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9), and it has a hedge or wall of doctrines and ethics built around it to distinguish it from the world. It must not do what the world does, but must perform God’s judgments and statutes, in which it finds life (Leviticus 18:3-5).

Just as the Bible insists that God has property in the Church, so it insists in the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” that people have property that must be distinguished from everyone else’s property. Socialism denies that distinction, claiming that everything belongs to everyone. In so doing, it breaks down a wall of distinction by which God orders reality, and to avoid chaos it reverts to another kind of order: totalitarianism. The Bible also insists that property is a just reward for work, not to be divided equally among all people regardless of their contribution to its production (Luke 19:12–26; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Again, socialism denies this fundamental distinction, insisting on an impossible equality of economic condition.

What of sexuality? The Bible insists that God made man male and female, and that the distinction must be upheld. Neither adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22), nor fornication (Deuteronomy 22:23-29), nor transvestism (Deuteronomy 22:5), nor homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22), nor bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), let alone transgenderism, may be condoned among the people of God. Adultery and fornication, polygamy and polyandry, and polyamorism, deny the distinction between one’s spouse and all other members of the opposite sex. Homosexuality and transgenderism deny the distinction between male and female. Bestiality, with its religious roots in polytheistic evolutionary doctrines of the origin of the world and mankind, denies the distinction between human beings and animals.

Socialism and all forms of sexual perversion have this in common: they attack fundamental distinctions God has built into creation. Where they come into closest ideological contact is in denying the exclusivity of certain relationships. Socialism denies the exclusivity of property as belonging to one person or family and not to others. Sexual perversion denies the exclusivity of sexual relations to marriage between one male and one female.

Distinctions are fundamental to biblical thought: distinctions of order and chaos, light and darkness, good and evil, animal and human, female and male, saved and damned, Church and world, holy and unholy. So are distinctions of work and sloth, individual and community, private and communal property, freedom and slavery, lawfulness and unlawfulness, variety and uniformity.

Each in its own way — socialism and sexual perversion — denies such distinctions. They rebel against the fundamental orders of God’s creation. They must not be countenanced among God’s people — now, any more than 35 years ago.

— E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.,Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, The Christian Post, Denying the binary: Why socialism and sexual perversion go hand in hand, June 24, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Red Collar Scandal: Evangelical Pastor Tavner Smith Accused of Having Affair With Female Church Employee

pastor tavner smith

The Red Collar Scandal Series relies on public news stories for its content. If you read a story about an Evangelical preacher who can’t keep his pants zipped up, please send it to Bruce Gerencser.

Tavner Smith, pastor of Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, stands accused of having an affair with a female church employee.

Smith’s bio states:

Pastor Tavner is dedicated to encouraging people to live to their fullest potential. Above anything else, he desires to lead others to know God for Who He really is: a Father Who loves us right where we are and Who has an amazing plan and purpose for our lives.

Pastor Tavner worked as the Student Pastor of a church in Greenville, SC, and traveled around the U.S. as a youth evangelist. In 2008, he became the Executive Student Pastor at Redemption World Outreach Center (now Redemption) in Greenville, SC.

There, he became the understudy to Pastor Ron Carpenter Jr., who remains Pastor Tavner’s mentor today. During his time at Redemption, Pastor Tavner founded Unite Ministries, which focused on bringing churches together throughout the state of South Carolina.  God developed Unite into one of the largest monthly youth services in The United States at the time: it served over 3,000 students—from all walks of life and denominations—who gathered together for the sole purpose of putting their differences aside and lifting up Jesus’ name.

In 2012, Pastor Tavner moved to Chattanooga, TN, because of his radical obedience to God’s plan, and started a move of God through Venue Church.

The Daily Mail reports:

A Tennessee megachurch pastor was discovered half-naked with a married co-worker by stunned worshippers – only to claim that they’d innocently been cooking chili, and had stripped down after accidentally spilling it. 

Last November, volunteers at the Venue Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, paid a surprise visit to Pastor Tavner Smith at his house – but discovered the pastor wearing only his boxers, with a married church employee in a towel. 

The unnamed woman was married to another worker at Venue Church. Video circulating online is said to show the blonde woman – seen only from the rear – looking cozy with Smith, who divorced his wife last year, at a local restaurant. 

Speaking of the chili incident, an unnamed worshipper told the Daily Beast: ‘I don’t think none of us was that dumb. If she dropped chili on her clothes, why are you in your boxers? Was y’all like, throwing chili at each other?’

Rumors of the pastor’s alleged affair had been swirling for months. One former church member told the Daily beast she had given Smith the benefit of the doubt for quite awhile.

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As the rumors began to circulate, some church members began asking questions. One church member said she spoke to the the pastor and the church employee who was allegedly having an affair with, and they both denied having an affair.

But something still felt off, she said. Then she received a video from another church member. It showed smith and the female employee sitting together for a bit when it appears they go in for a kiss. 

‘At that point we were just kind of like, ‘OK that’s the physical evidence,’ the former attendee told the Daily Beast. ‘That was the moment that we were like, ‘That’s what we needed. 

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Smith called a meeting to address the video, which had circulated online. He refused to answer questions directly and denied any affair took place.

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Rumors began circulating about an alleged affair and in 2021 Smith and his wife filed for divorce. The split was finalized Dec. 22, the same day the Chattanooga Free Press reported that eight Venue employees had quit.  

The pastor made his announced on Instagram that he would be taking a ‘sabbatical’ in order to ‘fill up, spend time with God, and get some counseling.’  

The Daily Beast added:

And former staffers, members, and volunteers told The Daily Beast they are still struggling to come to terms with the maelstrom that left one of the country’s fastest-growing mega churches in shambles.

“Everyone used to say, ‘Venue is a cult, Venue is a cult,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not,’” the volunteer who witnessed the chili incident told The Daily Beast. “And now as I look back I’m like, ‘I don’t think I was in a Godly place.’”

To hear Pastor Smith tell it, he came to Chattanooga by divine intervention. In 2012, as a lowly student pastor at Ron Carpenter’s massive Greenville, South Carolina, megachurch, Smith says he was called by God to move his wife and kids to Tennessee and start a church of his own, in the hollowed-out building of an old Sam’s Club. He claims he was once banned from the mall for recruiting there eight hours a day, and that he recruited hundreds of new members by dropping 50,000 eggs from a helicopter on Easter Sunday. (The egg drop, of course, was God’s idea.) By 2015, Venue was on Outreach Magazine’s list of fastest-growing churches in the country; by 2020, it had campuses in two states and pulled in nearly 2,000 people on a given Sunday.

The services at Venue are standard megachurch fare, where sermons are preceded by rock shows complete with strobe lights and fog machines, and the preaching is heavy on “prosperity gospel”—the idea that donating to the church will increase your own financial fortunes. When Smith takes the stage—usually in a hoodie or a trendy button-down and ripped jeans—he is greeted with a standing ovation. When he makes a joke or preaches something especially meaningful, he is met with a chorus of amens. (At least one volunteer said they were encouraged to respond audibly to Smith’s sermons so the crowd would, too.)

The sermons are heavy on Smith’s personal life, usually consisting of tales of how he overcame insurmountable odds and how you can do it, too, if you accept Jesus Christ as your savior—and donate 10 percent of your income to Venue. In one sermon, Smith insisted that whenever he speaks, “heaven moves” and “angels pay attention.” In another, he claimed God created time zones in order to space out people’s prayers.

“People [in Chattanooga] say, ‘Don’t drink the orange KoolAid,’” one former volunteer said, referring to the vibrant color of Venue’s logo. “They really say that.”

Smith’s sermons also lean heavily on recruitment. Many of them feature stories of him haranguing strangers—a sad young waitress, the real estate agent who sold him the church—into joining the congregation. (They always say yes; they usually cry.) Before Christmas last year, he told his flock to do whatever they could do to pack people into the pews, including leaving baked goods on neighbors’ doorsteps. “If you’ve invited people 72 times and they’ve all but cussed you out and told you to leave them alone,” he instructed, “one more time, invite them to Christmas at Venue Church.”

Once the neighbors got to Venue, there was another message waiting for them: Donate, donate, donate. Attendees said Smith preached over and over about tithing, or the practice of giving a portion of your income to the church every week. Many churches address tithing as a suggestion, but attendees said Smith treated it like an obligation.

“They kept on saying, ‘Bring your friend, bring your friend, bring your friend,’” said the former volunteer, who said she donated up to $300 a week to the church as a high schooler. “And then you get there and it’s like, ‘Oh gosh, he’s preaching on tithing again.’”

The message appears to have worked. Financial records for the church itself are unavailable, but property records show the building alone is worth $4.9 million. A child support worksheet in Smith’s divorce proceedings lists his monthly income as $16,666. According to other divorce records, Smith and his ex-wife owned three houses in and around Chattanooga worth $981,330 combined, and maintained a real estate investment account worth $20,000.

Colt Helton, a church volunteer of more than seven years, said Smith flaunted his growing wealth over the years through designer duds and new cars. After a while, Helton said, he stopped recognizing the church he had joined. “The whole church kinda turned into this kinda shoe and jersey fetish,” he remarked.

But it was the beginning of the pandemic when things really started to change. In early 2020, the usually clean-shaven Smith started growing out his hair and beard, getting new tattoos and piercing his ears. The most noticeable change was how much time he started spending with a certain female employee. Starting that year, one former volunteer said, Smith and the employee seemed “conjoined at the hip.” One volunteer said she saw them having frequent one-on-ones in his office, another she noticed them posting effusive comments on each other’s social media. Rumors began circulating that the two appeared to be having an affair.

The chatter was troubling, but Smith and Venue had accrued a lot of goodwill. Almost everyone who spoke to The Daily Beast credited Venue with turning their life around somehow; by reintroducing them to God or saving their marriage or giving them a community. Volunteers and employees went through strenuous courses and signed strict pledges that bound them together; they were rewarded with seats at the front of the church and beautiful team retreats in the woods. At the beginning, at least, Smith spent quality time with attendees and counseled them through their issues, even giving one couple gift cards so they could take themselves out on date night. “It was super-personable, I felt like people really cared about me,” said one woman who started volunteering with the church in 2016. “Honestly, I kind of did feel like it was God speaking to me at certain points in my life.”

Slowly, however, members started noticing a trickle of long-time staff members leaving the church. First was a campus pastor who’d come from South Carolina, one former volunteer recalled. Then—according to multiple former members—a number of full-time staff exited at the end of 2020. Smith and the female employee continued to spend the bulk of their time at church together, while Smith’s wife became increasingly scarce. But whenever anyone confronted the two about the rumors, they denied anything was going on. “It was almost like we were smacked in the face with a pie and then it was just getting all smothered in,” one longtime volunteer said. “Like, lemme make sure I get that pie allll over your face.”

In January 2021, Smith announced to the congregation what many staff and volunteers already suspected: He and his wife were splitting for good. He said the board had asked him to take a break from preaching and attend six weeks of counseling. But two weeks later, according to multiple former attendees, he was back at the pulpit, claiming God had told him to return.

….

Smith and his wife filed for divorce in May of last year; the split was finalized Dec. 22, the same day the Chattanooga Free Press reported that eight Venue employees had quit. Reports vary on exactly how many staffers remained, but the result was the same: In-person services in Chattanooga were briefly suspended, and the Georgia campus was shuttered entirely. On Instagram, Smith announced that he would be taking a “sabbatical” in order to “fill up, spend time with God, and get some counseling.” He said he would return in February.

Tavner Smith has yet to publicly admit to an affair, but the divorce documents make his ex-wife’s position clear. On her side of the paperwork, she plainly lists the reasons for the split as “adultery.” On a proposed parenting plan, she suggests that the female employee not be permitted around the children at any time, including during church services. (This part did not make it into the finalized parenting plan.) She also requests records of all payments to the woman from Venue Church in 2020 and 2021, as well as records of any of her credit card statements paid off by the church during that time. The employee’s husband filed for divorce this month; his proposed parenting plan suggests none of their children be allowed to attend Venue Church.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Slut-Shaming Unmarried Pregnant Baptist Women

sexual sin

It is commonly believed by most Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church members that unmarried members are virgins and that they do not masturbate or have lustful thoughts. Listening to preaching multiple times a week, daily reading the Bible, and praying — along with cold showers — are sure antidotes for sexual sin. When the preacher’s daughter someday marries the deacon’s son, everyone will think that both of them are pure as the driven snow, with thoughts of only serving Jesus. This is the myth that is promoted in Baptist sermons, books, blogs, and websites. It has no basis in reality, but people sure do believe it. After all, if getting saved turns sinners into new creations and gives them a desire to love and follow Jesus, why, any thought of hormone-raging Fundamentalist young adults engaging in any sort of “promiscuity” is preposterous. As is often the case, reality paints a far different picture.

In recent years, a plethora of Fundamentalist ministries have begun ministering to those with addiction problems. Based on the number of ministries geared towards helping Christians addicted to porn, one can easily conclude that Evangelicalism has a huge porn problem — easily the size of John Holmes, AKA Johnny Wadd. If Jesus is the cure, the solution, and the answer for what ails the human race, why are there so many Christians committing what Evangelicals consider sexual sins? Why are there so many IFB preachers and church leaders who can’t keep their pants zipped up or have Google search histories that would make Hugh Hefner blush? Why are the biggest hypocrites on Sunday the men standing behind the pulpits of Evangelical and IFB churches?

No matter how many moral scandals rock Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement (please see the Black Collar Crime Series), their pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, bloggers, and culture warriors continue to present Christianity as some sort of superior way of living. Never mind studies and anecdotal stories that suggest otherwise, these purveyors of Evangelical “truth” continue to say that Jesus is the only way to keep unmarried young adults from committing fornication. Just say YES to Jesus and NO to physically and emotionally satisfying romps in the hay.

fornication

So what happens when church teenagers and young adults ignore the moral standard or, in a moment of understandable passion, give way to sexual desire and fulfillment? Most of the time, as long as the keepers of the chastity belts do not find out, these fornicators and pleasurers will continue to engage in behaviors that — according to their parents, churches, and pastors — will land them in Hell. As one aged preacher tried to impress on us young preachers: a stiff prick has no conscience. Once aroused, sexual desire usually wins the battle. On those Sundays when pastors rage against immorality, frothing at the mouth and pounding the pulpit as they wage war against normal, healthy sexual behavior, those who have given into their desires will be drowned in seas of guilt, shame, and fear. Sometimes these fornicators will make their way down to the front of the church, and kneeling at an old-fashioned altar, they will promise God that they will never, ever spank the monkey, ring the bell, or engage in any behavior remotely considered sexual. If need be, they will pluck out their eyes. Yet, come Saturday night they will be tempted to break their vow. While some will hold out, most will engage in the very “sins” they confessed the week before. Why? Not because they are in any way morally inferior or weak. Much like drinking and eating, desiring sexual fulfillment is an essential part of what makes us human. It is these preachers of sexual abnormality who are the problem. Instead of teaching sexually aware young adults how to handle their sexuality and how to engage in thoughtful, satisfying sex, these deniers of human nature do everything possible to shame and guilt people into obedience.

Since no one in Evangelical churches is committing fornication and everyone is waiting to have sex until they are married, there is really no need for church young adults to be taught about birth control. As a result, it is not uncommon for church girls to get pregnant or for young adults to come down with sexually-transmitted diseases. How do pastors and churches respond when such things occur? Often, not very well.

I want to conclude this post with several stories that I think will illustrate how some Evangelical churches handle sexual indiscretions.

One of the teenage girls in the first church I worked for, Montpelier Baptist Church, became pregnant. Here is how the pastor, Jay Stuckey, handled it. He told the girl that she must immediately marry the father. She was also told that because she was no longer a virgin, she forfeited her right to a church wedding. Only her family would be permitted to attend the wedding. No announcement would be made to the church about it. And if these prohibitions were not bad enough, the pastor informed the pregnant teen that she would not be permitted to wear a white dress. She had sullied the name of Jesus, and as a result she would be required to wear an off-white dress. Much like wearing a red A, it would be clear to everyone that this girl had violated the holiness of God. Marked forever as one who could not wait, she would carry shame the rest of her adult life. Perhaps, in time, her fellow church members would forget her scandalous behavior, but, for now, she had to bear the weight of her indiscretion. The severity of the punishment was meant to be a deterrent. Church girls, seeing how severely _______ was punished would think twice before letting some boy have his way with them.

One church I know of required exposed fornicators and pregnant unmarrieds to stand before the church and confess their sins. I remember one young woman weeping uncontrollably as she admitted having the sex that led to her pregnancy. Sadly, this kind of slut shaming still goes on today. Described as church discipline, it is really an attempt — through fear, shame, and guilt — to make sure that any other prospective fornicators toe the line. Who wants to stand before the church and have her — it is almost always teen girls and young women — secrets exposed for all to see?

fornication

As many former pregnant out-of-wedlock Evangelical women will attest, some churches subscribe to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind way of handling fornication. Unmarried young women who find themselves in the family way are often shipped off to Christian boarding schools or homes for unwed mothers. Since their pregnancies are viewed as acts of rebellion against God, the Bible, and Evangelical morality, it is hoped that intensive authoritarian indoctrination and control will force slutty Baptist women to see the error of their way and recommit to following the Evangelical moral code. While they can never regain their virginity — unlike salvation, once virginity is lost it can never be regained — these fornicators can have their sexual indiscretions washed in the blood of Jesus. Once washed in his blood, their lives will once again be pure.

While I may have been a card-carrying Evangelical and a subscriber to narrow moral strictures, I never heaped shame, guilt, or fear upon the heads of those who failed to measure up. Part of the reason was that I knew about the moral failings of more than a few Evangelical preachers. I also knew that I was not without sin. I readily admit that my preaching — at times — was quite hypocritical. As many Evangelical preachers do, I sometimes used the pulpit as a way to confess my sins and atone for them. What better way to assuage one’s guilt and shame over a perceived moral failure than to admit before the church — in a generic, nonspecific way — that I understood their moral struggles and failures. More than a few church members were upset by my honesty concerning lust. These faux pillars of moral virtue wanted a preacher who could be inches away from a hot naked woman and not be tempted to touch. They wanted a man who was above the fray, a man so holy and righteous that having a front-row seat for a wet T-shirt contest would not cause arousal or heightened sexual desire. After admitting that I knew what it was like to lust after a woman, the super saints moved on to other churches, oblivious to the fact that their new pastors were no different from me. Now I am in no way suggesting that I cheated on my wife. I didn’t. But I am saying that I always understood what it was to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. One time, my child-molesting Evangelical grandfather publicly objected to a sermon I preached on the sin of mixed bathing (swimming). He told me that he could go down to the beach and look at women wearing bikinis and never have a lustful thought. I looked at him and told him that I did not believe him and that perhaps he needed to be examined by a doctor. I do not believe for a moment that a man — in particular an Evangelical man — could watch a Sports Illustrated swimsuit photoshoot and not have sexual thoughts. Thinking otherwise is a denial of human nature and abnormal. I knew then, as I do now, that it is normal and healthy to have sexual thoughts, and that having these thoughts does not make someone a bad person.

As an Evangelical pastor, I frequently counseled members who had some sort of moral failing. While I certainly held to the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible’s moral teachings, I understood that no one was perfect. People are going to make mistakes — including having sex before marriage and getting pregnant. When one of the unmarried women of the church found herself pregnant, I did not berate or heap shame upon her head (though I am sure my preaching likely had this effect). Once the deed was done, there is no way to undo it. The only question that mattered was now what? Instead of publicly shaming unmarried women — again, men are almost always given a free pass — I did what I could to help them make the most of a bad situation. What possible good could ever come out of publicly humiliating someone because of some sort of moral failure? Surely it is better to help them pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

Of course, I now understand that the real solution is to distance oneself from religious moralizing and puritanical sexual beliefs. These Bible-thumping liars help no one. Guilt, shame, and fear only lead to more of the same. The solution is to get away from those whose goal in life is to destroy human nature and self-worth. The 1960s birthed a sexual revolution that continues to this day. There is no going back, and the sooner Evangelical churches and pastors understand this the better.

Having lost the battle against heterosexual immorality, Evangelicals are now focused on LGBTQ people and their “sins” against God. Preaching with all their might about those evil queers, Sodomites, perverts, and reprobates, these keepers of moral purity fail to see that they are driving scores of millennials and thoughtful older people away from their churches. To these preachers of puritanical morality I say, keep up the good work.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Three Failed Ways Evangelicals Deal with LGBTQ Church Members

homosexuals must repent
First Conservative Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Gene Youngblood, pastor.

Note: I don’t typically use the word homosexual in my writing due to the fact that the word is used in a pejorative sense among Evangelicals. I use the word in this post because I want to attract Evangelical readers through various search engines.

According to the dictionary, a homosexual is someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction to (or sexual relations with) the same sex. Evangelicals believe that each of us is born a heterosexual male or female. In accordance with this errant understanding of human sexuality, they refuse to accept that anyone is born homosexual. They believe gays choose to be homosexual and engage in same-sex sexual behavior. According to their interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality is a soul-damning sin.

Some Evangelicals think a person can be attracted to the same sex and not commit sin. It is the act of homosexual sex that is a sin. If people who are attracted to others of the same gender abstain from same-sex sexual behavior, it is possible for them to be considered Christian. However, anyone who engages in habitual homosexual sex is not a Christian. Since anal and oral intercourse are usually the way gays engage in sex, shouldn’t these very same practices among Evangelical heterosexuals land them in the same Hell as homosexuals? Further, if homosexual sex is just one of many sexual behaviors that God condemns, why is it that the sins of adultery, fornication, and masturbation among Evangelicals are rarely treated identically to same-sex sexual behavior? Why the obsession with how and with whom LGBTQ people have sex?

According to the Evangelical Christian interpretation of Romans 1, many (most, all) homosexuals have been given over by God to a reprobate mind. Reprobates are people such as myself who have crossed the line of no return when it comes to God’s mercy and grace. Reprobates are beyond redemption and will certainly burn in Hell for all eternity.

To a large degree, Evangelicals are a sect of sexually repressed people. Evangelical church-goers spend their lives being told what they can and can’t do sexually (and the “can’s” and “cant’s” vary from church to church, pastor to pastor). The blazing red line in the sand is this: heterosexual sexual intercourse between a husband and his wife is the only permissible form of sex (preferably in the missionary position and for the purpose of procreation). Attempts to spice up one’s sex life are often met with condemnation and judgment. When Evangelical husbands or wives ask their spouses to engage in sexual behavior that is considered kinky, they expose themselves to accusations of having watched pornography. After all, where would an Evangelical get the notion to engage in kinky sex without having been exposed to it elsewhere?

This is the world Evangelicals live in.

Back in the R-E-A-L world, we know that people are sexual beings. We have a natural desire for sexual intimacy. We also know that there are numerous sexual orientations, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, non-binary, and others. While we readily admit that environmental factors certainly affect our sexual desires, we also know that most of us are born with a certain sexual identity. I am heterosexual because I was born this way, and so it is for the homosexual.

It is a common occurrence these days to hear of an Evangelical who has been outed as a homosexual. Gay Evangelical pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, youth directors, college professors, and para-church leaders, among others, are regularly exposed and either end up repenting of their sin or leaving Evangelicalism. Many Evangelical homosexuals spend their lives in the closet, secretly indulging their nature, all the while living their lives as “normal” heterosexuals. Often they marry someone of the opposite sex, hoping this will “cure” them of their attraction towards the same-sex. They will engage in heterosexual sex, father or birth children, outwardly doing all the things heterosexuals are supposed to do. But inwardly they battle with who and what they really are. Frequently they are depressed, desperately struggling to maintain their Evangelical façade. Some even consider suicide, a sin only slightly less heinous to Evangelicals than homosexuality.

I suppose marrying away the gay works for some, but more often than not, this approach fails miserably. The homosexual feels trapped in a marital relationship that is not open and honest. Sometimes the spouse understands the dilemma and turns a blind eye to liaisons with people of the same sex. Sometimes the sexual hypocrisy reaches such a point that it results in divorce. Imagine the pain and suffering inflicted on heterosexual spouses, knowing that their significant other desires a man or a woman and not them. Envision the pain, agony, and confusion children go through when they discover one parent or the other is not heterosexual. The family and spouse have been indoctrinated with the Evangelical view of homosexuality that says such behavior is abhorrent and vile. Is it any wonder that Mom or Dad coming out of the closet often causes huge rifts? These fissures frequently cause irreparable damage to family relationships.

It is easy to understand, then, why many Evangelical closeted gays remain safely hidden in the darkened back of the closet. Loving their family more than life itself, they willingly hide who and what they really are. While I personally experience physical pain, I can only imagine the emotional and mental suffering endured by those forced to live a lie because the Evangelical God hates homosexuals. And make no mistake about it, he DOES hates LGBTQ people.

Sometimes, Evangelicals who struggle with homosexuality are told they just need to pray. When they are tempted with same-sex sexual desires, they are told to pray away the gay. If they will just pray hard enough, have enough faith, and trust that God will not give them more than they can bear, they will surely be delivered from their same-sex attraction. And if they still have this attraction? It’s is their fault. They didn’t pray hard enough, have enough faith, or really believe that God would deliver them. No matter what, it’s their fault.

Imagine the same scenario for a heterosexual. We know that the majority of Evangelicals engage in premarital sex. Most Evangelical heterosexuals are not virgins when they walk down the aisle at the local Baptist church. Add to this number those who masturbate, and it is clear very few Evangelicals actually keep the Bible’s puritanical, anti-human sexuality code. Imagine two Evangelical young adults, let call them Nathan and Abigail, regularly dating.  Over time, they become more physical with one another. Soon they find themselves rounding third and heading for home. What should they do? Pray? Have faith? Trust that God will provide them a way of escape (remember, masturbation is NOT a way of escape)?

It is likely that Nathan and Abigail will slide right into home. They will feel guilty afterward, promising God they will never, ever do it again. And then, just like a man who has a chocolate shake for the first time at Dairy Queen, who forever after yearns for a chocolate shake every time he passes a DQ, Nathan and Abigail want to have sex every time they engage in sexual intimacy. Once a person experiences sexual intercourse for the first time, there’s no going back.

Do you think fornicators Nathan and Abigail will be treated the same as two homosexuals when their sexual activity is exposed? Of course not.  All of the older adults at the local Baptist church understand youthful temptation and desire. They likely know from firsthand experience the guilt Nathan and Abigail are experiencing. As heterosexuals, they understand how such things happen. However, when it comes to two homosexuals sliding into home, they cannot begin to fathom such a thing. In their eyes, homosexuality is the one sin that is above every other transgression of God’s law.

Sometimes, Evangelical churches and pastors reluctantly admit that some church members are attracted to people of the same sex. They might even grudgingly admit these people were born that way.  But, make no mistake about it, born this way or not, their homosexuality is condemned by the Bible, and such conduct is never permissible. God creates us with sexual desires and then tells us we can’t act on them? Strange way to go about things, don’t you think? Evangelical homosexuals are told that they must live a sexually celibate life. They are never permitted to love someone, to know what it is to find sexual fulfillment in the embrace of their significant other. They must forsake what is essential to human nature and live like a celibate priest, all the while foregoing masturbatory relief (and we all know how well that works).

Evangelical homosexuals rightly consider marry away the gay, pray away the gay, and forced celibacy teachings to be an offensive denial of who and what they are. While many Evangelical homosexuals have strong faith in the Christian God and desire to worship him, they are usually forced to leave the church. The good news is that there are liberal and progressive Christian churches that will gladly accept them as they are.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Then and Now: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

kate upton 2017 swimsuit issue cover
Kate Upton, 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model. (See Upton interview here)

Warning! PG-13, slightly adult conversation ahead!

I have on and off over the years subscribed to Sports Illustrated (SI). Published weekly, SI features stories about athletes and sports leagues. One issue every year is devoted, not to sports, but to the wonders of the female body. The Swimsuit Issue, as it is called, is chocked full of photographs of bathing suit-wearing models. SI chooses exotic locations for the photoshoots. The photographer part of me lusts over what can only be described as a dream gig — splendid locations and beautiful women. What’s not to like, right?

Over time, the bathing suits have become skimpier, reflecting our society’s increasing comfortableness with nudity. Every year, Evangelical groups express their outrage over the Swimsuit Issue, and every year countless Baptist preachers rush to the mailbox so they can preserve their SI copy before their wives get a hold of it. But, of course, Evangelical morality police are not the only people who get a self-righteous hard-on over the Swimsuit Issue. So do Catholic groups such as Catholic Youth Apostolate (link no longer active):

That takes us to the other half of your question, one of swimsuit models on magazines. Again, the real question here is one of intent. Swimsuit catalogs exist to sell swimwear for women. One could safely say that these kinds of images should be harmless to someone striving to live chastity [sic]. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (we use this example because the SI Swimsuit Issue is the highest grossing, most widely distributed issue of their magazine every year… interesting, for a magazine that is supposed to be supporting a culture of sports fandom) exists to sell supermodels to men. No one purchases that particular issue of SI in order to buy a new swimsuit for his wife. The women in those magazines are styled and posed in such a way that could easily lead anyone viewing them to lust – they’re often topless, sometimes naked; posed not to show off the swimwear, but their bodies.

One might say, ‘But I’m just admiring their beauty, what’s wrong with that?’ The problem lies in JPII’s quote above – you can’t admire their full beauty as a human person, because you don’t know them. All you have to admire is their physical form, separate from their heart, mind, and soul, so it’s impossible not to objectify them. Furthermore, the women in those magazines don’t express the wide variety of God’s beauty in all men and women – all the women in those magazines are roughly the same size and shape, a cultural standard of ‘beauty’ that simply means ‘sexy’ and is impossible for the average woman to achieve. Beauty is much broader than the images displayed in magazines. It’s not that these images show too much, but too little.

Does this mean that if you happen to catch a glimpse of the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in the check-out line at the grocery store, you have sinned? Probably not. But in order to grow in the virtue of chastity, it would be wise to not pick it up and flip through the pages. In as little as two-tenths of a second, an image can be emblazoned in one’s memory for years. And Jesus would rather you not risk it, since he said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28). Again, make no provisions for the flesh…

This could just as easily of been written by an Evangelical preacher.

Back in my Evangelical preacher days, I would watch for the Swimsuit Issue to be delivered so I could throw it in the trash before one of my teenage sons or I was led into horrible sexual sin. One particular year, the magazine never arrived. Hmm, I thought at the time. I wonder what happened to it? Months later, while working on a vanity light in our master bathroom, I found the missing issue hidden above the cabinet. How did this magazine get here? I wondered. Come to find out, one of my sons had intercepted the magazine and hidden it. I made sure my mag-stealing son knew that he had sinned against God, and then I tore the magazine up and threw it away. Today, we heartily laugh about this story, but at the time, absconding with the magazine was viewed as a serious act of disobedience to God. I felt it my duty to ensure that my sons were not exposed to pornography, be it Playboy, Hustler, or the SI Swimsuit Issue.

Fast forward to 2017. The SI Swimsuit Issue arrived in our mailbox. I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the magazine while we were driving to Defiance for our granddaughter’s basketball game. I didn’t have lustful thoughts or feel the need to masturbate or engage in sexual intercourse. Shouldn’t I have been filled with lasciviousness as I dared to gaze upon the exquisite bodies of the fairer sex?  What’s changed between now and twenty years ago? Gone is the fear and guilt caused by the teachings of Evangelical Christianity about sin — especially sexual sin. As many former Evangelicals will attest, once the fear and guilt are no longer a part of the equation, things once considered “sin” can be enjoyed (or not, depending on one’s tastes and desires) without feeling like the reader just committed a heinous crime. Now that God, the Bible, and Evangelical moralizers no longer have my attention, I am free to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. What is most interesting is that, once something is no longer taboo, it often loses its power and draw.

I will leave it to Evangelical men to guiltily shuffle into the darkness with a flashlight to look at their copy of the Swimsuit Issue. I no longer need to deny myself pleasures, wants, and desires. I know that the Swimsuit Issue is not everyone’s cup of tea. Each to his own, right? No one is forced to look at the magazine. People are free to subscribe, not subscribe, or cancel their subscription over what they believe is Sports Illustrated’s promotion of “soft porn.”

leyna bloom
Leyna Bloom, 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model

2021 brings us an SI Swimsuit issue featuring a Transgender woman. Evangelical culture warriors are losing their collective shit over this. OMG, how dare Sports Illustrated portray a transgender person as “normal.” In their minds, this is just another sign of the collapse of Western Civilization, a sign of the imminent return of Jesus. Perhaps, SI should do a Women of Faith swimsuit issue. Would that make Evangelicals happy? Finally, “modestly” dressed women to lust over. Or maybe they should do a Gay Men of Faith swimsuit issue for all the repressed gays in Evangelical churches. Here’s what I know. Preachers Bobs all across America will buy the latest SI swimsuit issue so they can gather “information” for next Sunday’s sermon on the LGBTQ people. And with only God and Satan listening in, these preachers will lustfully say themselves, “I wonder if she still has a dick”?

Did you, or your father, back in your Evangelical days, subscribe to Sports Illustrated?  How was the Swimsuit Issue “problem” handled? Did your pastors preach sermons about the Swimsuit Issue? Do you know of anyone who committed adultery or fornication after perusing its pages? Do you know of anyone who, after viewing the scantily clad models, turned to pornography? (You know, the Swimsuit Issue acting as a gateway drug of sorts.) Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Let’s Play the Evangelical Never, Ever Game

game show

Several years ago, The Foundations of Morality blog posted an article by “Dr.” David Brown that gives seven reasons why Christians should NEVER, EVER drink alcoholic beverages (links have been removed due to the malware they serve up):

  • Drinking leads to drunkenness
  • The Bible condemns strong drink
  • In Bible times what Christians drank was sub-alcoholic, basically purified water
  • It will call others to stumble
  • It harms our bodies which are the Lord’s
  • Alcohol is addictive
  • Believers are kings and priests separated unto God

Are you ready, contestants? It’s time to play The Evangelical Never, Ever Game.

Using David Brown’s “logic,” I can come to the following conclusion:

  • Eating food leads to gluttony
  • The Bible condemns gluttony
  • Gluttony will cause others to stumble
  • Gluttony harms our bodies
  • Eating food is addictive

Conclusion? Don’t eat food.

Wasn’t that fun? Let’s play another round.

  • Sex leads to fornication and adultery
  • The Bible condemns fornication and adultery
  • Fornication and adultery will cause others to stumble
  • Fornication and adultery harm our bodies (not really, but Christians think they do)
  • Sex is addictive

Conclusion? Don’t have sex.

Isn’t this game fun?  Feel free to continue playing the game in the comment section.

“Dr.” David Brown is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. You can check out his blog here.  First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

IFB Preacher David Hyles’ Latest Sex Scandal

david hyles at monument for his dad
David Hyles, at a Memorial Marker to His Dad. I think the Phallic Design is Fitting.

David Hyles, the son of the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, finds himself yet again embroiled in a sex scandal. I have written about Hyles many times:

Yesterday, Preacher Boys Docs and Stop Pastoral Abuse reported that David Hyles allegedly was carrying on sexually with a young woman online.

Eric Skwarczynski wrote:

On Sunday, October 11, 2020, Jonathan Grisham Burchfield of Stop Pastoral Abuse received messages from a woman in her young twenties, who alleged an online relationship with the now 67 year old David Hyles.

He would contact her from a variety of accounts, using aliases like David Jaxson and David Miller.

He made claims that his wife had passed away. This information is not true. 

When reading the messages, Hyles acts as you would expect – some messages referencing meetings he was preparing to speak at, while others are purely sexual in nature.

“I will shut my door and we can masturbate together… hehehehe,” David wrote. 

Her response, “And there’s allowed there at your office?”

David’s personality shines through yet again, “I am the boss.” “I can do what I want.”

Among the myriad of messages that reflect a long running, deceitful and manipulative relationship are dozens of selfies from David Hyles. Pictures that she would be unlikely to possess unless truly sent by him.

It’s important to recognize that, simultaneously to manipulating this young woman, he was financing himself off of the backs of churches. A true charlatan, using ministries, church members, and every other person in his life as pawns to his advantage.

Is this particular situation illegal? No. But it’s a reflection of his moral character and his uncanny ability to lie without remorse or without consideration of impact it will have on the lives he toys with.

Hyles has evaded culpability and accountability for his decadent behavior for over 40 years. He continues to hide behind the “blood of Jesus,” and says that if Jesus has forgiven him, so should everyone else. I will leave it to Hyles’ victims to forgive him. All I know to do is to make sure that people know what kind of man David Hyles really is. That IFB preachers continue to support Hyles is beyond belief; a reflection of the esteem and worship wrongly given to the Hyles name.

David Hyles may love puppies, but when it comes to women, he is a serial abuser and adulterer. I would not trust him alone in a room with my wife, daughters, or granddaughters. He is, in every way, a bad man, and I will continue to hold this opinion until Hyles comes clean about 40 years of sexual misconduct, including involvement in acts that are criminal.

I’ll leave readers with a screenshot of Hyles’ messages to his latest mark.

david hyles screenshots 2020

Could these messages and photos be fake? Sure, it’s possible. However, when it comes to Hyles, I’m confident that what we see here is another example of the “real” David Hyles.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Bruce Gerencser