Tag Archive: Baptist

What’s the Point of the Black Collar Crime Series? — Nobody’s Perfect

christians arent perfect black collar crime series

A man who lives not far from my home left the above comment on my Facebook page (if you have not yet LIKED the Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser page, I would appreciate you doing so.) Based on a bit of social media stalking, I have determined the commenter is retired and is a King James-Only Baptist. That he is a Baptist gave me a bit of context as I determined how best to respond to his comment. Last year, emergent church guru Brian McLaren said:

I feel that the role of Baptists — not Cooperative Baptist Fellowship but other Baptists — in doing harm to our nation and world is so great. I really feel well-meaning, sincere people who are deeply committed to the term ‘Baptist’ are often at the forefront of being careless about the environment. They are often at the forefront of being hateful towards Muslims. They are often at the forefront of promoting — unconsciously very often — white supremacy and continuing harm being done to racial minorities. We don’t even need to mention the harm being done to LGBTQ persons.

….

I think one of our great challenges in the Christian religion at large is for Christianity to grow up, to be a world religion meaning not just an American religion and certainly not just a southern or rural American religion, but a religion that grapples with all the challenges of our interconnected world.

In my mind, the underlying issue is actually patriarchy. We could talk about white Christian supremacy, but at the core of this is white, Christian, patriarchal supremacy. It’s a way of organizing life around powerful men.

A whole lot of people are wondering, can the Christian religion extract itself from patriarchy, or is belief in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit so inherently patriarchal that Christians actually believe in a patriarchal universe?

….

Watching the success of Donald Trump win over especially white people, and especially white Christians and especially white evangelical and Baptist Christians, in my opinion this is a pivotal moment.

Baptists, those damn Baptists. Their theology fuels the continued support of the pussy-grabbing, adulterous president of the United States, Donald Trump. Franklin Graham and Robert Jeffress — both are Baptists — continue to defend Trump against accusations of rape, sexual assault and adultery. It was primarily the Baptists who held the line of defense for Independent Fundamentalist (IFB) Baptist pervert Roy Moore. (Keep in mind, many generic Evangelical churches are Baptist in everything but their name.) According to Baptist theology, there’s no sinful act that can kick you out of the family of God once Jesus has saved you and the Father has adopted you into his family. This is why more than a few Evangelicals believe that I am still a Christian. Once saved, always saved; once married to Jesus, no divorce. This is why serial killers Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy went to heaven when they died. No matter the sin, if your soul has been washed in the blood of Jesus, you are forever a child of God.

Thus, for the aforementioned commenter, there’s no good reason for publishing the Black Collar Crime Series. Yes, Evangelical pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, worship leaders, and church congregants can and do rape women, sexually assault children, and commit all sorts of sexual crimes, and as long as these saved-by-grace Christians are in the flesh, they can and do sin. But, no matter what they do, God will forgive them. That’s what so w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l about Evangelical soteriology; forgiveness is only a prayer way.

Evangelicals are frequently reminded of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” No matter what Evangelicals do, the most-awesome-God-ever stands ready and willing to grant forgiveness. Awesome, right? No matter how heinous the crime or behavior, Evangelicals are just a prayer away from a clean slate.

The commenter reminds me that all of us are sinners, and that Christians often continue to sin after they are saved. If this is so, why bother to get saved; why read the Bible, pray, tithe, and attend church on Sundays if the new birth doesn’t turn sinners into new creations (as the Bible says it most certainly does)? Of course, according to the commenter, sinning Evangelicals aren’t really to blame for their sinfulness — Satin is. Those damn satin sheets I just knew that they would lead to the fall of the human race. Humor aside, I’m sure the commenter meant SATAN was to blame for the sexual sins and crimes detailed in the Black Collar Crimes Series. Doesn’t the Bible say of believers, “greater is he (God) that is in us than he (Satan) that is in the world?” Doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are overcomers and have victory in Christ? Doesn’t the Bible say that Evangelicals who sin are of the Devil and Christ does not abide in them? Doesn’t the Bible say that faith without (good) works is dead (and I assume sexually assaulting children and raping women are not good works)?

It seems, then, that the commenter has a problem with the Bible. Perhaps his bankrupt Baptist theology has warped his thinking, leading him to believe that Christians can be perverts and adulterers and still make it to God’s Trump Hotel in the Sky®. I wonder if he has read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

And such were (past tense) some of you, the Apostle Paul says.

Revelation 21:27 and 22: 14,15 says:

And there shall in no wise enter into it [New Jerusalem] any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

But, what do I know, right? According to the commenter, Satan has deceived me, bringing me down to the level of Evangelical Christians — his words, not mine. Say it isn’t so! How dare the commenter drag me into the Evangelical gutter. My humanistic morality teaches me that raping women, sexually assaulting church teens, and abusing children are bad/harmful behaviors. I value people and, as such, I would not abuse/assault/harm others. I don’t need salvation, and I sure as hell don’t need forgiveness from a mythical deity. I’m more in the Tony Baretta school of life: Don’t do the crime if you don’t want to do the time. (Too bad Robert Blake didn’t follow his own advice.) To the Evangelical sexual abusers, child molesters, and rapists I say this: if you don’t want to be featured in the Black Collar Crime SeriesDON’T DO THE CRIME! It’s really that simple.

Why, then, is there an ever-widening Evangelical sexual abuse scandal? The short answer is this: Baptist theology; the very theology espoused by the aforementioned commenter. When people believe they are weak, helpless sinners in need of God’s power and forgiveness to make it through the day, what do you expect? Churches are filled with people who believe they can’t help themselves; that the flesh and Satan keep them from doing right. Their lives consist of a constant cycle of sin/forgiveness. You might remember what one Catholic priest said when he was arrested for abusing boys: I asked for forgiveness after every time I abused a boy. Evangelicals do the same when they pray for forgiveness AFTER they have harmed others.

God, I have an idea. How about getting the Holy Spirit — who supposedly lives in every believer, teaching, guiding, and directing them in righteousness and holiness (talk about bad job performance!) — to stop believers from harming others BEFORE they do so! Surely, an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, always-present God can act like a pre-crime bureau for Christians, stopping them from committing crimes before they do them. How hard can it be, God?

As for the WHY of the Black Collar Crime series, let me conclude this post with an excerpt from a previous post titled, Why I Write The Black Collar Crime Series :

I realize that these reports are often dark and depressing, but the only way to dispel darkness is to turn on the lights. Clergy who prey on congregants — especially children — must be exposed, prosecuted, convicted, and sent to prison. By leveraging this blog’s traffic and publishing these reports I am serving notice to law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges: we are paying attention, and if you fail to provide justice for victims, we will hold you accountable.

Sadly, many clerics have enormous power over people. How else do we explain that repeat abusers of children and sexual predators such at Lester Roloff, Jack Patterson, and Mack Ford — to name a few — never spent a day in jail for their crimes? Mack Ford, in particular, spent decades physically and psychologically destroying teenagers, yet, thanks to his connections in the community, he was never prosecuted for his crimes.(Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for GirlsTeen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your SinWhat Should We Do When Religious Freedom Leads to Child Abuse?)

Sometimes these seemingly untouchable predators are brought to justice, but not before the public puts pressure on law enforcement and prosecutors, forcing them to act. The sordid story of abuse at Restoration Youth Academy is case in point. Decades of reports about abuse were filed with local law enforcement, yet nothing was done. Yes, they finally acted and the perpetrators are now in prison, but what do we say to the hundreds of children and teenagers who were ritually abused before prosecutors got around to doing their job?

I am sure that this series will bring criticism from Evangelical zealots, reminding me that accused/charged clerics are innocent until proven guilty. While they are correct, all I am doing is sharing that which is widely reported in the news. In the nine years I’ve been writing about clergy misconduct, I can count on two fingers the number of pastors/priests/religious leaders who were falsely accused. Two, out of hundreds and hundreds of cases. The reason for so few false accusations is that no person in his or her right mind would mendaciously accuse a pastor of sexual misconduct.

People often believe that “men of God” would never, ever commit such crimes. One common thread in the crimes committed by Jack Schaap, Bill Wininger, Josh Duggar, David Farren, and a cast of thousands, is that family and fellow Christians were absolutely CERTAIN that these men of God could/would never commit the crimes with which they were charged. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence, their supporters, with heads in the sand, refuse to believe that these servants of Jesus did the perverse things they are accused of. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were AbusedEvangelicals Use ‘We Are All Sinners’ Argument to Justify Sexual Abuse)

Secondary reasons for this series have to do with exposing the lie that Evangelicalism is immune to scandal. I remember when the Catholic sex scandal came to light. With great glee and satisfaction, Evangelical preachers railed against predator priests and the Catholic Church who covered up their crimes. Now, of course, we know that Evangelicalism is just as rotten, having its own problem with sexual abuse and subsequent cover-ups. Evangelicals love to take the high moral ground, giving the perception that their shit doesn’t stink. Well, now we know better. Not only does Evangelicalism have a sexual abuse problem, it also has big problem with pastors who can’t keep their pants zipped up. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

To the commenter I say, instead of getting all peachy-preachy about the Black Collar Crime Series, how about focusing your outrage on the sex crimes and cover-ups that are being committed by pastors, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, choir directors, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, janitors, bus drivers, preschool teachers, school principals, high schoolteachers, and church board members in scores of Evangelical churches, including Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregations. Instead of being all worked up over the messenger, how about focusing on the message? Ask yourself, what would Jesus do? Don’t know what Jesus would do? Let me leave you with Jesus’ words in Mark 9:42: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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Why Pentecostals Speak in Tongues and Baptists Don’t

tongues

Graphic from A Beer for the Shower

There is no such thing as “Christianity” — as in a singular group encompassing all Christians. The Bible says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, yet Christians have spent the last two thousand years trying to prove that their peculiar beliefs are the one, the only one, the one TRUE CHRISTIANITY®. Every Evangelical sect, every Evangelical pastor, every Evangelical church member thinks their beliefs are right. This kind of thinking is fueled by the belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible book, written through human instrumentality by God himself. It should come as no surprise that many Evangelicals, believing that they hold in their hands the very words of God, are cock-sure that what they believe is exactly what God meant when he had holy men of old write the this or that passage of Scripture. Armed with certainty, Evangelicals have no place for doubt. Doubt is of the devil! preachers say. I’m standing on the promises of God, praise Jesus! Just remember, it was SATAN who said to Adam and Eve, yea hath God said (yes, he spoke in King James English). God has spoken, end of story.

If, as Evangelicals says, God has inerrantly and infallibly spoken, why is it, then, that Evangelicals have such varied and contradictory beliefs? If, two thousand years after the purported resurrection of Jesus from the dead, all Christians had the same theological beliefs, I might at least pause to consider whether the claims of Christianity are true. Instead, there are countless Christianities, each with its own beliefs. Worse yet, there are countless Jesuses, with every Christian molding and shaping a Jesus in his or her own image. (Please read Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation? and Is There Only One Plan of Salvation?) Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion. If Christians can’t come to a consensus about what constitutes the one truth faith, why should anyone pay attention to them?

Let me illustrate this by answering the quandary Why Pentecostals speak in tongues, and Baptists don’t.

First, the Baptists.I grew up in the Baptist church so I am quite familiar with how Baptists view tongues-speaking. TONGUES-SPEAKING IS SATANIC, STRAIGHT FROM THE PIT OF HELL! There, end of discussion. I was taught, and later taught others, that speaking in tongues was a temporary sign gift given to Jesus’ disciples so they could spread the good news of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Once the canon of Scripture was completed, the need for tongues went away. Evidently, once Christians of the fourth century had for their reading pleasure all sixty-six books of the King James Bible, God no longer used tongues to speak to people.

The Pentecostals, on the other hand, believe that speaking in tongues is very much for today; that it is normative for spirit-filled Christians to speak in unknown languages. Several sects go even so far as to say that one of the evidences of salvation is speaking in tongues. Don’t speak in tongues? You aren’t saved! One Pentecostal man told me, upon hearing I was a Baptist preacher, Baptists wouldn’t know the Holy Spirit if he met them in the middle of the road. In other words, Baptists were blind to work and power of the H-o-l-y Ghost.

Years ago, I got into a heated discussion with a Pentecostal preacher over speaking in tongues. I gave him all the standard Baptist arguments and he gave me all the classic Pentecostal arguments. Back and forth we went, neither of us winning the day. I am sure we parted company each believing that he had been victorious. Ha! I showed him!

Such conflicts as the one mentioned above are quite common. Why do Pentecostals believe in speaking in tongues, but Baptists don’t? Both sides use the Bible as proof for their beliefs. GOD HATH SPOKEN, both sides say. If God has indeed spoken, why the contradictory beliefs? God seems quite schizophrenic, telling the Baptists one thing and the Pentecostals something different. Surely, if God and the Bible are as Evangelicals claim they are, there would only be one truth, not many.

The only way to adequately answer this question is to carefully examine the matter from an environmental and sociological perspective. (Please read Why Most Americans are Christian.) Look at the religious environments people grow up in and you will have a good idea why they believe as they do. Look at their tribal and social influences, and it becomes clear that Pentecostals speak in tongues and Baptists don’t because these were the beliefs they were exposed to. They believe what they do because they couldn’t believe otherwise.  While not a hard and fast rule, most often Baptists beget Baptists and Pentecostals beget Pentecostals. While Evangelical adults certainly can and do change churches, most often then look for churches of “like” faith. When people change churches, they most often seek that which is familiar to them. Not always, of course. Sometimes, Baptists do become Pentecostal tongues-speakers and Pentecostals become starched, English-only Baptists. These, however, are exceptions to the rule.

Perhaps Christians will one day figure out exactly what is the one true faith. I doubt it, but as someone who believes in probabilities, it is possible, say .0001 percent, that God’s chosen ones will finally figure out exactly what it takes to be a member of their club. Until then, buy some popcorn, pull up a seat, and enjoy the show.

Bruce, If You Don’t Believe in Jesus Anymore, Who Do You Think Called You Into the Ministry?

emmanuel baptist church 1983

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio, Bruce Gerencser’s ordination April 1983

I recently received the following email:

I read your blog. Thanks for sharing. I have been an Evangelical Christian since I was 5. I accepted Jesus of the Bible at that time. When I read your “Why I Hate Jesus”, it made me sad. I couldn’t help but think that you have had a lot of pain from people who profess Jesus Christ and that Jesus Himself has let you down. I did have a question. On your ABOUT page, the question was “when were you called into the ministry. ” If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?

In this post, I want to focus on the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?”

This is a fairly common question I am asked when someone is trying to square my current atheistic life with that of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. I believed that it was GOD who called me into the ministry, but now I believe that this same God is a fiction. If God doesn’t exist, who is it then that spoke to my “heart” as a fifteen-year-old boy, telling me that I was to be a pastor, a preacher of the good news of the gospel?

The Evangelical culture I grew up in emphasized the importance of boys and girls growing up to be full-time servants of Jesus Christ. Children and teenagers were encouraged to pray and ask God if he wanted them to devote their lives to the ministry, be it as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary. Parents were challenged to give their children over to God, as Hannah did with Samuel, in hopes that he might see fit to use them in a mighty way to advance his Kingdom. Pastors considered it a sign of God’s favor if boys and teenagers were called to preach under their ministry. Like the gunslingers of yesteryear, pastors put a notch on their gospel gun every time a boy surrendered to the ministry.

Being called to full-time service means you are special, uniquely chosen by God to do his work. From the moment a boy says, preacher, I think God is calling me to preach, he is treated by the church as some sort of extraordinary human being. I heard countless preachers say that being called into the ministry was the greatest calling in the world; that becoming President of the United States would be a step down from the ministry. Preacher boys — as young men who are called into the ministry are often nicknamed — are quickly given preacher things to do. No time is better than NOW, I was told, to start serving God and preaching his Word. I preached my first sermon to the Junior High Sunday school class two weeks after I stood before the church and said, God is calling me to be a preacher. I spent the next few years honing my preaching skills at youth meetings, nursing homes, and any other place that didn’t mind hearing the ramblings of an inexperienced, uneducated boy preacher. By the time I delivered my last sermon in April 2005, I had preached thousands of messages, often preaching three or more sermons a week.

What I have written above is key to answering the question, “If you don’t believe in Jesus anymore, who do you think called you into the ministry?” Since I do not think God exists, the only way I can possibly answer this question is from and environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological perspective. It is important to remember that it is not necessary for God to exist for people to believe that he does. Billions of people believe in a supernatural deity/force that does not exist. Every day, billions of people will pray to, worship, and swear allegiance to deities that cannot be seen, heard, or touched. These deities can, however, be felt, and it is these feelings that lead people to believe that their invisible God is indeed real. Thus, I KNOW that God called me into the ministry because I “felt” him speak to me. This is no different from the 5-year-old Bruce Gerencser believing that Santa Claus somehow came down the chimney every Christmas Eve and put presents under the tree just for him. Of course, time, experience, and knowledge caused me to see that my beliefs about Santa were false, as they did  when it came to my beliefs about God.

These religious feelings and beliefs of mine were reinforced by the Bible. Various verses in the Word of God speak of men who are called to be pastors/elders/bishops/missionaries/evangelists. Variously interpreted by Christian sects, all agree on one point: God calls boys/men (and in some cases, girls/women) into the ministry. This calling is essentially God laying his hand on someone and saying, I have set you apart for my use. Church youngsters are regaled with stories about men and women called by God who did great works. From the Bible, stories of the faith-driven exploits of Noah, Moses, David, Gideon, Elijah, Elisha, Joshua, the apostles, and Paul are used as reminders of what God can and will do for those willing to dedicate their lives to serving him. Church children are encouraged to read the biographies of men (and a few women) mightily used of God. I heard more than a few preachers say, look at what God did through Charles Spurgeon, John Wesley, Dwight Moody, Bob Jones, John R. Rice, Billy Sunday, Adoniram Judson, Andrew Fuller, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, Jack Hyles, B.R. Lakin, and countless other servants of God. Who knows what God might do through you if you will dare to surrender your life to him. What young preacher boy wouldn’t want to someday be used by God like these men?

I spent thirty-three years believing that God had called me to preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ; that this calling was irrevocable; that misery and judgement (and perhaps death) awaited if I failed to obey God. The Apostle Paul said in First Corinthians 9:16:

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

As with Paul, Bruce the Evangelical preacher had a burning desire to the preach the gospel; to tell as many people as possible that Jesus alone can save them from their sin; that there is a hell to shun and a heaven to gain; that what is a man profited if he gain the world and lose his soul. I shed countless tears over the lost — both in and out of the church. I spent untold hours praying for revival to break out in America, spreading to the ends of the earth. Believing Jesus was coming back to earth soon, I devoted myself to making sure as many people as possible heard the gospel. I thought, at the time, my duty is to tell them. It is up to God to save them. For many years, my evangelistic zeal burned so hot that I preached a minimum of four sermons a week, along with preaching on the streets and holding services at the local nursing home and county jail. To quote the motto of Midwestern Baptist College — the institution I attended in the 1970s — Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry. We Never Will Give in While Souls are Lost in Sin, Souls for Jesus is Our Battle Cry!

My burning the candle at both ends wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t believe that God had called me into the ministry and was speaking to and through me. I believed that this God existed. I may never have seen or audibly heard God, but I felt his presence in my life. I “heard” the Holy Spirit speaking to me, leading me, and teaching me truth. These experiences of mine were verified by what I read in the Bible and Christian biographies and what I observed in the lives of my pastors, teachers, and mentors. Most of all, they were verified by the work God accomplished through my preaching and leadership. How then, knowing these things, can I now believe that God is a work a fiction; that my ministerial experiences were the work, not of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, but the works of a quite-human Bruce Gerencser?

The deconversion process afforded me the opportunity to step back from my life and view it from a distance. As I looked at my parents’ religious, theological, social, and political leanings and that of the pastors of the churches we attended, it would have been shocking if I hadn’t, as a teenager, professed that God was calling me into the ministry. At age five, while we were living in San Diego and attending Scott Memorial Baptist Church (Scott Memorial was pastored by Tim LaHaye), I told my mother that I was going to be a preacher someday. Not a baseball player, policeman, or garbage truck driver — a preacher! This, of course, pleased my Mom. (Ironically, neither my mother or father ever heard me preach.) When people talked about the angst they had over trying to determine what they wanted to do with their lives when they grew up, I had no frame of reference. I never wrestled with what I wanted to be as an adult. I always wanted to be a preacher, and by God’s wonderful, matchless grace, that is exactly what I became. Everything I experienced in my life led me to the monumental day at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio when, with tears and trembling, I told the church God was calling me into the ministry. Scores of fellow church members shouted Amen! and later hugged me, telling me that they were going to pray for me. I am sure that more than a few people had mixed feelings about my calling. Really Lord? Are you sure you can use this temperamental, ornery redheaded boy? I have often wondered what my peers thought as I went from the boy who told the youth director to fuck off! to a young man who loved Jesus, carried his Bible to school, handed out tracts to his unsaved friends, went soulwinning, worked on a bus route, and occasionally preached at Sunday evening youth meetings. The old Bruce, who wore frayed jeans, boots, and tee-shirts to church, gave way to the New Bruce, who wore preacher clothes, including ties. What’s next? Swearing off girls? Anyone who knew me as a preacher boy knows I resolutely obeyed the Baptist Rulebook®. (Please read The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) I didn’t smoke, drink, cuss, listen to rock music, or engage in premarital sex. I had plenty of girlfriends, but I drew the line at kissing, holding hands, and putting our arms around each other. My commitment to virginity was part of my devotion to God. As much as I wanted to have sex, I willingly took many a cold shower, keeping myself pure until my wedding day.

Most Baptist preachers will likely say that they just KNEW God was calling them to preach. If they are still Christians, I am sure they attribute their feelings to supernatural intervention. It’s all because of J-E-S-U-S, not me, I’m sure they’ll say, yet the signs in front of their churches say Rev. So-and-So, Pastor. You see, the whole notion of being called by God is rooted not in the supernatural, but in earthly human experiences. My Baptist faith taught me to call my interest in the ministry a calling from God, but in truth, it was the natural outcome of my upbringing and experiences. My entrance into the preaching fraternity was never in doubt. How could I not have become a preacher?

There is nothing in my story that requires the actual existence of a supernatural deity. All that is required is that I, along with the other players in my life, believe God exists. For my first fifty years of life, I believed that the Evangelical God was every bit a real as the sun, moon, stars, and earth. And now I don’t. Does this invalidate my years in the ministry? Of course not. All that has changed is my perspective and how I see my trajectory from a sinner to a Holy Spirit-led follower of Jesus Christ. Instead of God being the first cause, I now know that environmental, psychological, cultural, and sociological influences molded me into the man who would one day preach thousands of sermons in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Congregants called me Pastor Bruce, Rev. Gerencser or Preacher — the man God who spoke the Word of God to the people of God. I now know who I really was…his name is Bruce.

[signoff]

Baptizing E.T., Mork, Alf, and Worf: Alien Baptism

alien baptism

If I were to ask Christian readers to define alien baptism, I suspect very few could do so. Alien baptism? Baptizing creatures from other planets? Baptizing people who are not legal residents of the United States? Nope. In the ersatz world inhabited by Independent Baptists, alien baptism is the re-baptism of people who were saved and baptized in churches other than Independent Baptist churches. If Methodist Joe Smith and his family move to Purity, Kentucky and want to join the local alien-baptizing Baptist church, they would be required to be re-baptized before being permitted to join the church and take communion. Now if an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) family moves to Purity, they would not need to be re-baptized. Well, most of the time anyway. The new church pastor, before accepting them as members, would make sure that their previous church was a like-minded Baptist church. If their old church was an IFB church but had different doctrine, the new church might require them to be re-baptized. Got all that?

Then there are churches that are commonly called Landmark (Baptist Brider) Baptist churches. These churches typically treat all other churches as alien, thus requiring new members coming from another church to be re-baptized. Landmark Baptists also practice close or closed communion. Churches that practice close communion will allow people who are visiting from a like-minded church to take communion. Most Landmark Baptist churches take communion (Lord’s Supper) every Sunday. Some Landmark Baptist churches practice closed communion. No one outside of the local church membership is permitted to take communion. Years ago, I preached for Jose Maldonado and the Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church in San Antonio, Texas. When it came time for the church to take communion, Joe whispered to me, we practice closed communion, brother. In other words, I could preach at the church, but not take communion with them. Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of the Landmark Baptists.

trail of blood chart

The Trail of Blood Chart, showing that the Baptist Church is the True Church (Full size here)

These type of churches, similarly to the Roman Catholic Church, believe in Baptist successionism (Baptist perpetuity). Wikipedia defines Baptist successionism this way:

Baptist successionism (also known as “Baptist perpetuity”) is one of several theories on the origin and continuation of Baptist churches. The tenet of the theory is that there has been an unbroken chain of churches since the days of John the Baptist, who baptized Christ, which have held similar beliefs (though not always the name) of current Baptists. Ancient anti-paedobaptist groups, such as the Montanists, Paulicians, Cathari, Waldenses, Albigenses, and Anabaptists, have been among those viewed by Baptist successionists as the predecessors of modern-day Baptists.

To simplify things for readers: John the Baptist baptized Jesus, so that made Jesus a Baptist. Jesus baptized the disciples, so that made them Baptists too. This means that first Christian church was Baptist (First Baptist Church of Jerusalem). So there ya have it, the Baptist church is the one, true, historic church.

The Campbellite movement (Restoration movement) of the 19th century which birthed the Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ, found its roots in the Baptist church. Thomas and Alexander Campbell, in an attempt to restore the Baptist church to its apostolic roots, contended that baptism was required for salvation. The Baptists believed that baptism was an outward sign that one has been saved, whereas the Campbells believed baptism was salvific, that sins were washed away in the waters of baptism. Today, Churches of Christ and Baptist churches bitterly fight over which church is practicing New Testament baptism. Most of the debate centers on the word FOR (Greek word eis) in Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The Baptists believe the word for means because your sins have been remitted. Churches of Christ believe the word for means in order to have your sins remitted. Back in the days when I pastored churches in SE Ohio, I would preach sermons against the Churches of Christ. I would then take tapes of the sermons and mail them to local Church of Christ preachers. And they would do the same, refuting my Baptist ecclesiology and soteriology.

But Bruce, doesn’t the Bible says, ONE Lord, ONE Faith, and ONE Baptism? Doesn’t this mean that all Christian baptism is legitimate in the eyes of God? Silly you, to think such things. ONE baptism? Why that is Baptist baptism. All other baptisms are — drum roll please — alien baptisms.

Why Baptists Refuse to Believe I Once was a Christian

saved or lost

My story poses a real problem for Baptists.  According to Baptist soteriology (doctrines pertaining to salvation), once nonbelievers are saved (born again, becomes a Christian), they can never lose their salvation. This belief is called once saved always saved, eternal security, or the perseverance/preservation of the saints.

All Baptists, except Free-will Baptists, believe that once a person is saved there is nothing a Christian can do nothing to lose his or her salvation. John 10:28, 29 says:

And I (Jesus) give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

This is why some Baptists believe I am still saved. No matter what I do, Jesus will never disown me. No matter how much I blaspheme God, Jesus will never leave me or forsake me. It is like getting  married without having any provision for divorce. Once married, you are married for life. No matter what the husband or wife does, be it adultery or physical abuse, their marriage cannot be dissolved. So it is for me. No matter what  I say or do, I am still saved. God might chastise me or even kill me, but there is nothing I can do to get God to let me out of my eternal life contract.

Of course, this kind of thinking is silly and some Baptists realize this, leading them to take a different approach to my life. Instead of once-saved-always-saved, they say I never was saved.  According to them, I never really put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. While I may have outwardly given evidence that I was saved, inwardly I knew that I really wasn’t. I was a faker, a pretender, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. My becoming an atheist is proof to them that I never really was a Christian. In their mind, I always was an atheist.

In a post titled, The Logical Consequences of You Never were a Christian, I wrote:

People who believe a Christian can not fall from grace are forced to dismiss me as a life-long deceptive servant of Satan. For 36 years I deceived every Christian, every church member, every pastor, every evangelist, every Christian college professor I came in contact with; and most of all I deceived my entire Christian family.

No one, over a span of 36 years, ever said “I think Bruce Gerencser is not a Christian.”  Think about this for a moment. Think of the deception necessary to pull this off.

  • I preached thousands of sermons…all preached in the power of the flesh.
  • I  prayed thousands of prayers, none of which was ever heard by God.
  • Hundreds of people who made professions of faith did so after hearing the preaching of a deceiver, a follower of Satan.
  • Hundreds of people who were baptized by me were immersed by a charlatan;  a man who rejected the  vows confessed during a baptism.
  • I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Every person I counseled received counsel from a false prophet.
  • Every moment spent in private prayer, every moment spent in devoted study of the Word of God, all the time spent in devotion to the living Christ was spent as a person no better than Judas.

The truth is, Baptists (along with Evangelicals who eschew the Baptist label but have a similar soteriology) are in bondage to their theology. To admit I once was a Christian means that their belief about eternal security is false. Instead of admitting that I once was a Christian, keepers of the Book of Life  scour my life looking for defects in my story. They then exploit these defects to show I really never was a Christian.

Years ago, I was co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. When we moved to Texas, another family, Larry and Linda Johnson,who were members of the church I pastored in Ohio, moved with us. Every person joining Community Baptist had to give a credible testimony of faith in Jesus Christ. Larry told his salvation story to  Pat Horner, my fellow pastor.  Pat became alarmed over what Larry told him. Larry used language to describe his faith that most Baptists didn’t use. He talked more about God than he did Jesus. Pat took this as evidence  Larry might not really know Jesus. I assured him this was not the case. Larry was a good man who took matters of faith seriously.

So it is with some Baptists who read this blog. Instead of accepting my story at face value, they look for things in my story that don’t line up with their own experience. They then conclude I never really was saved. They go to great lengths to deconstruct my life, poking and prodding, looking for anything that will invalidate my claim of once being a Christian. And guess what? They always find what they are looking for.

When people are committed to upholding certain theological belief at all costs, they end up thinking and saying things that are silly. So it is when people say I never was saved or that I am still saved. The only way anyone can judge the validity of a person’s life is by how he lives. I told parishioners countless times over the years, we give evidence of faith in Christ by how we live not by what we say we believe. This fact seems to be forgotten by my critics. Look at my life as a Christian and as a pastor.  What in my conduct and lifestyle remotely suggests I was not saved? If I wasn’t a Christian then it is fair to ask if anyone is.

Part of the problem is that I am willing to talk about my failures as a Christian and as a pastor.  I am willing to admit that I sinned, that I did things considered wrong by most Baptists. These confessions are taken as proof that I never was saved. Evidently, the perfection standard applies only to Jesus and Bruce Gerencser. None of the people I pastored or the men I considered colleagues in the ministry was perfect.  Because they are still professing Christian means they are judged by a different standard than I am. They are allowed to be sinful, yet saved, but I am not.

Thousands of people read this blog. Many readers are former Evangelicals. If I asked them what was the one thing that Christians said that offended them the most they would likely say, Christians who dismiss my past life by saying I never was a Christian. Sadly, many Christians fail to see, or don’t care, how offensive such a line of thinking is.

Put the shoe on the other foot. Suppose atheists began going through a Christian’s life with a fine tooth comb, pointing out discrepancies or contradictions in his life story. Imagine being told, it is evident you never really were saved. I suspect they would be quite offended by such a statement.

Here’s what I know…I once was saved and now I’m not.

What Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase Old-Fashioned

old fashioned baptist church

Statement from website for Green Pond Baptist Church, Carl Hall, pastor

Many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches advertise themselves as an “old- fashioned” church. Many IFB preachers call themselves an old-fashioned preacher. What do they mean when they say they are an old-fashioned church or an old-fashioned preacher?

An old-fashioned church is one that yearns for the past, usually the 1950s. In their mind, if society and Christianity would return to the 1950s all would be well. In the 1950s, Negroes knew their place, women were barefoot and pregnant, birth control was hard to come by, abortion was illegal, homosexuals and atheists were in the closet, and Joseph McCarthy terrorized Americans with attempts to root out communism. In the 1950s, we fought a war against communism, teachers still prayed and read the Bible in school, creationism was considered good science, and Christianity controlled the public space.

Then came the rebellious1960s and 1970s,  and everything changed. Fifty years later, blacks no longer know their place, whites are becoming a minority, couples no longer get married,  women have access to birth control, homosexuals and atheists are out of the closet, a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist communist black man is president, abortion is legal, school prayer and Bible reading is banned, creationism is considered religious dogma, same-sex marriage is legal, and Christianity is no longer given a preferential seat at the head of the cultural table.

From the fundamentalist Christian’s perspective, I readily understand why they yearn for the old-fashioned days of the 1950s. The 1950s were a time when their brand of Christianity was the norm. Now they are fighting to be heard. Uncounted church members have left, seeking out the friendlier confines of generic Evangelicalism. Instead of hard preaching against sin, Christians clamor for pastors who will “feed” them and minister to their felt needs. Most of all, they want to be entertained. Nones and atheists are increasing in number, and more and more people consider themselves spiritual and not religious. Pluralism and secularism are on the rise and cultural Christianity is the norm and not the exception.

So what’s an old-fashioned Baptist church like? Their services are quite traditional, traditional meaning how it was in the 1950s. The focus is on “hard” preaching, often from the King James Version of the Bible. The goal is to convert sinners and strengthen church members so they can withstand the wiles of the devil. Everything the old-fashioned Baptist church does is a throwback to yesteryear — an era when preachers preached hard, hymns were sung, altar calls were given, couples stayed married, women saved themselves for marriage and the kitchen, and the Christian church was the hub around which the community revolved.

Millions of Americans attend some sort of an old-fashioned church, even if the Baptist name is not over the front door. They love the respite their church gives them from the evil, sinful, atheistic Obama-inspired world they live in. They love the certainty they hear in their pastor’s sermons. They are glad to be a part of a group that thinks just like they do. For those who desire to live in the 1950s, an old-fashioned church fits the bill. It heals their angst and gives them peace. It does not matter if their beliefs are true or whether their practice accurately reflects the 1950s. People finding value, hope, peace, and direction does not require truth. All it requires is faith and them believing their “old-fashioned” version of Christianity is true. This is this power of myth.

The Christian Get Out of Jail Free Card

blood of jesus

If you have ever played Monopoly, you know how important it is to have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You never know when you might need to play the card.

Every Christian, regardless of the sect, gets one “Get out of Jail Free” card. This card is also known as the blood of Jesus.

According to Christian teaching, the blood of Jesus cleanses a sinner from their sin. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Ephesians 1:7 says, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Through the blood of Jesus sin is atoned for; through the blood of Jesus is the forgiveness of sin. Baptist readers of this blog have sung the old church standard, Nothing But The Blood, many times:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain sung after every verse

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Exactly what does the blood of Jesus do for the sinner? It covers, erases, does away with their sin. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Through the blood of Jesus, a sinner becomes a new creature (creation), old things pass away and everything becomes new. In an instant a sinner, no matter how wicked and vile they are, can have the slate wiped clean.

God, through the blood of  God (Jesus) ,forgives and forgets. Perverts, wife beaters, tax cheats, thieves,murderers, Josh Duggar, Dennis Hastert, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, and Newt Gingrich are quite happy to find out that the blood of Jesus provides for them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The blood-cleansed sinner can shout from the mountaintop, Free, Free, Free at Last! In a moment, all their past transgressions are “under the blood.” Psalm 103:12 says:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

A popular Christian song, My Sins are Gone, pretty well sums up the Christian’s feeling about the blood of Jesus and their sin:

You ask me why I’m happy so I’ll just tell you why
Because my sins are gone
And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are
I say my sins are gone

They’re underneath the Blood on the cross of Calvary
As far removed As darkness is from dawn
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me
Praise God! my sins are gone

When bloodbought Christians are confronted by those they have hurt in the past they often say, that’s under the blood. This means, sorry God has forgiven me for that sin and I am not accountable for it any longer. PRAISE JESUS!!

My mother was sexually molested as a child by her father. He later became a washed in the blood, fundamentalist Christian who never missed an opportunity to remind everyone that Jesus could forgive them of every sin! My mother confronted her father over what he had done to her as a child. His reply?

That’s under the blood,God has forgiven me!

My mother, in a fit of rage, let him know that SHE hadn’t forgiven him. But, that didn’t matter. As long as the blood of Jesus had paid her father’s sin debt, no further confession or restitution was needed. He went on to live the Christian good life, never one time saying to my mother, I am sorry. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch before he became a Christian and he was a mean son-of-a-bitch after his sin debt had been cleansed by Jesus’ blood.

What about sins committed AFTER a person becomes a Christian? Each sect has their own plan for renewing the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Catholics use the confessional and transubstantiation to free themselves of responsibility for their sins. The blood of Jesus covers everything, including molesting children. Baptists use daily prayer and the church altar as places where a Christian can appropriate the blood of Jesus and get a fresh start. The Bible says in First John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

No matter what the Baptist has done, absolution is only a prayer away. Do the same sin tomorrow, no problem, just pray and start over again. I know some of the more pious among the Baptists will object and say that when a Christian confesses their sin they are to forsake it, but personal experience and observing Baptists for many years tells me that do the same sin tomorrow, no problem, just pray and start over again, is typically how Baptists handle their “sin problem.”

As an atheist, I don’t have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. When I do bad (I don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin) things there is no God to excuse me, so I must own my actions and, if possible, make things right. Granted, my sin list is much smaller now. Once I was set free from the shackles of God’s law, Biblical law, or whatever the hell the pastor says is sin  law, I was finally able to begin freely living my life . No blood atonement needed. No catchy songs about the blood covering all my transgressions.

Every day, I make decisions that affect how I live my life and every day I have the choice to live a decent, honorable life. Every day, I come up short and it is in those moments that I must say, I am sorry and, if needed, make restitution.

For my mother, one I’m sorry would have covered a multitude of sins. Too bad Jesus and His blood got in the way.