Tag Archive: Charismatic

Evangelical Mark Virkler Says Christians Need to Abandon Rational Thinking

mark virkler

Mark Virkler, an Evangelical pastor and founder of Christian Leadership University — an unaccredited online institution, recently wrote an article for CHARISMA titled, Tell-Tales Signs You Have Bought Into ‘Satan’s Truth.’ Virkler, who sports a “Dr.” in front of his name, believes that the biggest problem facing Christians today is that they use wrong approaches for determining truth. I suspect the word “truth” means something different to Virkler from what it does me, but that aside, I totally agree with him about Christians using wrong tools and methodology for determining what is factual and true. Unfortunately, the recommendations I would make to Christians, Virkler rejects, believing they are the Satanic tools used to lead Christians astray.

Virkler begins his post by listing several approaches to truth that he has abandoned — supposedly for the “truth” he is going to reveal later.  Virkler, at some point in his life, abandoned:

  • If dad said it was true, it was true.
  • If my teacher said it was true, it was true.
  • If my college professor said it was true, it was true.
  • If science said it was true, it was true.
  • If one or several double-blind studies said it was true, it was true.
  • If my doctor said it was true, it was true.
  • If my interpretation of the Bible said it was true, it was true.
  • If reason and logic said it was true, it was true
  • If my senses told me it was true, it was true.

According to Virkler, rationalism and humanism are methods Satan recommends to Christians as they search for “truth.” Virkler writes:

Figure it out yourself! Satan offered Eve his approach for discovering truth: You don’t really need these walks with God every day (in other words, you don’t need revelation knowledge or direct encounter with God), for “you can know” (see Gen. 3:5). That temptation has developed into two false philosophies for knowing:

“You” = Humanism: “Life centers in man’s human capacity”
“Know” = Rationalism: “Life centers in man’s reasoning capacity”

Following is an excerpt from John G. Lake’s article, The Power of the Name:

“In the beginning, man’s spirit was the dominant force in the world. When he sinned, his mind became dominant. Sin dethroned the spirit and crowned the intellect. But grace is restoring the spirit to its place of dominion. When man comes to realize this, he will live in the realm of the supernatural without effort.”

Rationalism and humanism are two false gods I worshipped and followed during the early years of my Christian life.

….

It was a tremendous battle to defeat these two false gods, as they were deeply entrenched in my life through my culture, my education, my natural disposition to be a thinker as well as my “Christian training” which taught me to work hard to keep God’s laws.

What, you might ask, does Virkler recommend in the place of humanism and rationalism? I am so glad you asked! Are you ready, boys and girls? Drum roll, please! Virkler recommends walking with God under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. That’s right. Just let God lead the way and “truth” will be yours! Imagine a college student buying into Virkler’s logic. No need to study, no need to prepare. Just pray and follow the Holy Spirit’s leadership when you take your finals. God will show you the way!

Virkler sums up his God-approved approach to truth this way:

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, guides you into all truth (see John 14:17; 16:13).

So the Bible is clear: it is the Holy Spirit Who will guide us into all truth. It’s amazing how I had diminished the work of the indwelling, illuminating Holy Spirit and replaced His work with my mind, my theology, my brain and my understanding of Scriptures. I now set aside my false gods of humanism, rationalism and biblicism and honor what Jesus has said and modeled in Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit Who is continuing to reveal all truth to me. Everything the Holy Spirit reveals will be compatible with Scripture, even though it may not be detailed in Scripture.

Notice carefully what he says: the Holy Spirit … will guide us into all truth. Not some truth; not just Biblical truth; not just Christianity-related truth; no, he believes a mythical being who supposedly lives inside every Christian guides believers into A-L-L TRUTH — if they let her, anyway. Christians, then, don’t need reason or critical thinking skills. All they need is Jesus and his ghostly buddy, the horn player in the three-piece band, the Holy Spirit.

Virkler’s nonsensical (and dangerous) approach to truth (facts) is embraced by millions of American Evangelicals. Instead of using the brain the good Lord supposedly gave them to intellectually, rationally, critically, and skeptically study a matter, Christians just pray, maybe read God’s answer book, and trust that a non-existent poltergeist will lead them to all truth.

Virkler’s approach is more insidious and dangerous because he is running an online college (with his wife, daughter, and son) that purports to train adults for the ministry. Want to earn a doctorate in counseling?  Here’s the course list:

  • COU202 Counseled by God
  • COU203 Cornerstones of Communication
  • COU301 Prayers That Heal the Heart
  • COU305 Parenting for Success
  • REN103 Communion With God
  • REN105 Father Heart of God
  • REN204 Naturally Supernatural
  • REN206 Increasing the Anointing
  • REN207 Healing Anointing
  • REN310 Wisdom Through Dream Interpretation

Does anyone think by taking these classes (and I assume all the undergraduate Bible courses) that a recently minted Doctor is prepared and qualified to counsel anyone more than a pet hamster? Of course not. In fact, I seriously doubt this training qualifies a person to counsel said hamster. Now, with all that Holy Ghost power at his disposal, I suppose he could try to raise old George, the hamster, from the dead. Now THAT would be entertaining!

According to Virkler, his educational approach differs from that of the “world.” Instead of teaching students knowledge, Christian Leadership University trains students to sense God and live in the Spirit. Students are expected to NOT independently use their minds. Get your mouth off the floor. I am not exaggerating here:

We have a choice when we come to learning: We can eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or we can eat from the tree of life. Both trees were present in the Garden of Eden. One was forbidden and one was allowed. We were forbidden to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and encouraged to eat from the tree of life.

What is the tree of knowledge? What is the tree of life? May I suggest that the tree of knowledge is the independent use of our minds, where we try to figure out for ourselves what is good and what is evil. Even if we use the Holy Scriptures in our pursuit of this knowledge, we can still run amuck. The Pharisees did. Paul did. But then he learned that he needed the revelation of the Holy Spirit to help him interpret Scriptures

….

As I was perusing Christian Leadership University’s website, I came across a local connection on their faculty page, “Dr.” Karen King. King pastors New Beginnings Ministry in nearby Fayette, Ohio. King actually has a degree from Defiance College — a nearby accredited institution. All her post-graduate work and degrees, however, came from — you guessed it — Christian Leadership University (CLU).  This is a common ploy by such institutions. Faculty members may have undergraduate degrees from accredited institutions, but their post-graduate degrees all come from CLU. Some CLU professors have done all of their post-high school work through Christian Leadership. Virkler has a bachelor’s degrees from Roberts Wesleyan College, but his two post-graduate degrees come from unaccredited Bible colleges.

Virkler will likely argue that human accreditation means nothing; that it falls under the humanistic, rationalistic approach Satan uses to deceive people. I would argue that CLU owes its students an education, one that teaches them critical thinking skills; one that values knowledge. Instead, students are taught to value supernatural revelation and God whispering in your ear. Is it any wonder that it is almost impossible to reach and reason with people who have been infected with this kind of thinking? Gnostic at its core, CLU teaches students that they possess an inside track with God; that the Holy Spirit will give them special knowledge and understanding, none of which the educated people of the world possess. Want to see what this baby looks like when its full grown? Take a look at Bethel Redding. No belief or practice is too extreme. When objectivity, rational thinking, skepticism, and critical thinking are deemed unimportant, why, anything is possible.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Tunnel of Fire, a New Charismatic Practice

 

charismatic faith healer

This is the one hundred and seventy-sixth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism features clips of a new Charismatic practiced called Tunnel of Fire. Charismatic churches are always on the look out for new methods and gimmicks to arouse the passions of congregants. The Tunnel of Fire is one such practice.

Fire Tunnel With Todd White at The Sound The Alarm Youth Conference, Orlando Florida 2016

Video Link

Video Link

Bethel Church, Redding, California

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Video Link

 

Testimony Time: The Blue Light Special at Somerset Baptist Church

blue light special kmart

Older readers might remember shopping at the stores of discount retailer Kmart and seeing what was commonly called a “blue light special.” Blue light specials were sudden discounts offered to shoppers during their shopping experience at Kmart. A store employee would roll a cart with a police-like blue light attached to a pole near the aisle where the sudden discount was going to be offered. At the customer service desk, another employee would announce to shoppers, for example, “ATTENTION KMART SHOPPERS! There’s a blue light special going on right now on GE light bulbs in aisle three!” The employee in charge of the blue light would switch it on. and with its flashing/rotating light, the blue light would guide customers to their exciting just-for-them discount on light bulbs. Woo-hoo!

For eleven years in the 1980s and 1990s, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. I started this church in 1983, and remained its pastor until I resigned and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 1994 to become the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church. For a few years, Somerset Baptist was the largest non-Catholic church in Perry County. The church was known for its fiery redheaded preacher and its International Harvester-colored red and creme buses that bused in church attendees from Muskingum, Perry, and Fairfield counties. Reaching high attendances in the low 200s, this country church reached thousands of people for Christ.

The church also attracted more than a few people who had — in my Baptist eyes, anyway — screwy beliefs. One such person was the mother of a woman who was a member of the church (along with her husband and two children). I had visited this woman and her husband several times at their home, hoping that they would join their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in worshiping Jesus at the “fastest growing church in Perry County” — as the church’s sign said, anyway. I knew the woman had some charismatic tendencies, but I thought I could preach all that nonsense right out of her if she would only give me the opportunity to do so.

For those of you who are not aware of what charismatic beliefs are, let me describe them this way: all the miraculous spiritual gifts found in the Bible — healing, raising the dead, speaking in tongues, to name a few — are in force today. The favorite gift of charismatics is speaking in tongues — an unintelligible prayer language God gives to people who are filled/anointed/baptized with the Holy Ghost. As a Baptist, I believed that when a sinner was saved he received all of the Holy Ghost, and there was no more of Him to have. All Christians needed to do was utilize the power that was already within them. Charismatics tended to be an emotionally excitable lot, at least while worshiping Jesus. (I preached at several Charismatic/Pentecostal churches during my tenure at Somerset Baptist.) In their minds, babbling nonsense they believed was given to them by the Holy Ghost was a sign of God’s presence and power. Just turn on any of the dozens of national Christian TV channels and in short order you’ll see tongues-speaking on display.

The woman I mentioned above was a babbler, and this worried me a bit, but I thought that my Bible-saturated preaching would deliver her from charismaticism. Not only did this woman speak in tongues, she also believed that Jesus spoke to her, audibly. That’s right, this woman had conversations with a mythical entity she believed was the Jesus of the Bible.

As was our custom for many years, the church has a testimony time on Sunday evenings. This was time allotted for church members and visitors to stand up and share with everyone in attendance what Jesus had done for them over the past week. Sometimes, these brag-on-Jesus times turned into narcissistic, look-at-what-I-did-done-do for Jesus sessions. Often, testimony time was a time for congregants to lie about their relationship with God. One dear woman, who had been a smoker her entire adult life, stood up one Sunday and praised Jesus for delivering her from the filthy sin of smoking. We had a quite a praise-fest that night, thanking our Lord for delivering Sister R from her addiction. Years later, I learned that Sister R had, in fact, never stopped smoking, and that the only reason she said that she did was so she could have the appearance of a victorious Christian life like the rest of us. Oh, if she had only known that NONE of us, including her preacher, had victory over sin, she might not had felt compelled to lie. Sister R felt so guilty about not being as spirit-filled as the rest of us that she was willing to lie to her friends about her deliverance from smoking. Not long ago, Sister R died of cancer. I do hope that she found peace and rest. While her smoking most certainly contributed to her death, she had other qualities that deserved praise and admiration. Sister R was a kind, compassionate woman, but sadly, in the IFB church she attended, all that mattered was her sinful habit. As her dumb ass preacher used to say, smoking won’t send you to hell, but it sure will make you smell like you have been there! (Please read  Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Dinosaurs, and the SIN of Smoking)

On one particular Sunday night, the charismatic lady mentioned above decided to attend church with her daughter. She had visited several times before, and let it be known that she really liked my “old-fashioned” preaching. Prior to my sermon, I asked if anyone had a good word they wanted to put in for Jesus. Several people raised their hands, signifying that they wanted to brag a bit on their Lord and Savior. The charismatic woman excitedly raised her hand, anxious to let everyone know about a recent encounter she had with Jesus. When it came time for her to testify, she popped up  from her seat and said this (as recounted from thirty years ago):

I was asleep last night, and all of a sudden I awoke, feeling a “presence” in my bedroom.  As I stood to see this presence, my eyes saw a blinding blue light. Now, I knew that Satan could present himself as an angel of light, so I spoke to this light, saying, If that’s really you Jesus, please make yourself known to me. And right then and there I heard, Attention K-Mart Shoppers! (Okay, that last sentence was a bit of literary fiction, also known as preaching.)  And right then and there I heard a voice that said, it’s me, Jesus. Praise, the Lord. I knew then that the presence in my room was Jesus.

For those of you raised in the IFB churches, imagine my homicidal thoughts as this woman was regaling congregants with her version of a blue light special. I was oh-so-happy when she stopped testifying, and later let it be known among church members that her testimony was NOT an approved meeting with Jesus. We Baptists only talked to Jesus in English, and only while we were on our knees praying; and even then our talks with Jesus had to align with what the Bible said. In other words, ATTENTION CHURCH MEMBERS! There will NOT be any blue light specials at Somerset Baptist Church.

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.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalist Religion by Andreea Nica

 

preaching anti abortion gospel lexington kentucky (3)

According to a recent study, those who have a stable religious or secular identity generally report greater well being; however, those who consider leaving religion but stay, tend to experience poorer mental health over time, compared to those who are more consistent in their religious and nonreligious identities. Which begs the question of how leaving impacts well being—particularly for those raised in a religion.

By now many of us are familiar with the data on the “nones.” Nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (18-29) are religiously unaffiliated, and they’re nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The primary reasons are skepticism in the teachings of religion (60%), a less religious upbringing (32%), or issues with religious teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people (29%).

But a subset of these growing religious nones has lacked examination—those who have left fundamentalist religions. Underexplored is how disaffiliation from fundamentalist groups impact family relations and friendships, as well as the stressors involved in ‘coming out’ as a nonbeliever.

Important to clarify, is that strict, fundamentalist, or “high-cost” religious groups have distinct characteristics of absolutism, fanaticism, and conformity. Absolutism means that religious individuals have a high commitment to and willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the religious group’s goals or beliefs; Conformity entails obedience and discipline of religious members; and Fanaticism is conceived of as one-way communication versus a dialogue between leadership and members.

Leaving fundamentalist, strict religions can have negative health consequences, both perceived and actual, that manifest in the body and mind. Research shows that individuals who come out to family members, specifically as an atheist—a strongly stigmatized identity in the U.S., only slightly more popular than Muslims—report that families often react with anger and rejection, as communication deteriorates and distrust grows. While research is somewhat limited on individuals’ experiences leaving religion more broadly, and coming out to family and friends, it’s generally assumed that there are significant stressors involved that impact well being.

I interviewed individuals who left fundamentalist religious groups, or, what I call, ‘exiters,’ and found that they all have complex stories of ‘exiting’ and ‘coming out’ out to their families. These individuals left religion for different reasons, but some common themes included pursuit of personal freedom not found in the religion, shifts in ideological values that put them at odds with religion, and lack of acceptance for who they were or who they wanted to become in their religious communities.

Religious immersion

The ‘exiters’ I interviewed described their experience in religion as immersive, consisting of a significant time commitment, a high degree of participation, and intense involvement.

Heather, a 29-year-old female exiter of evangelical Christianity, explains her religious experience as deeply connected to family and friends in the community:

I was raised in the church, attending services as far back as I can remember. As a child, we would attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. As a teenager, I became highly involved in the youth ministry and served on the leadership team, where I continued to attend Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and mid-week services. The church was a significant part of my family’s identity. It was our primary form of community and where I built many lasting friendships.

Lena, a 29-year-old, female, and exiter of The Church Universal and Triumphant, a new age religious cult, echoes:

There were three weekly important Church services of about 2-3 hours each that I attended with my parents. My school was run by the Church so every day was started with a 30-minute services. I took Holy Communion classes every Sunday afternoon for 2 months one summer when I was 8 or 9. There were four major holy events—“Conferences”—when everyone would gather on the main Church campus and spend a week purely in Church praying and listening to the Church leader. On my own, I prayed every night before bed, blessed my food, prayed whenever I was driving in a car, and did rosaries every night for a good 6 or 7 years. I listened to the Church leader on audiotape in the background when doing homework or falling asleep after about 10 years old and the sound of prayer was constant.

Katie, a 34-year-old, female, exiter of a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group highlights:

The church services were known for extreme emotional highs. Worship would last several hours and would be used to work the church members into an emotional frenzy. Often people would dance while waving large flags, some would kneel, some would openly cry, some would be seized with uncontrollable laughter. These behaviors were thought to be the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Losing family and friends

A 30-year-old male, former devout member of an evangelical Christian community, as well as former music leader and church staff member, shares his experience leaving religion and coming out as gay. Ted expressed that although most of his family members are no longer religious, his friendships were deeply effected.

I experienced a certain degree of shunning from several very close friends. We still communicate, but they have definitely put a wall between our relationship. They no longer include me as one of their own. I’m familiar with that guarding because I used to put similar walls up with people who were not part of my religious community as well, so I recognized it right away.

Lena described for me coming out as a nonbeliever to family and friends as a gradual process:

I still haven’t come out to my mother though I imagine she suspects or knows…We used to be close and talked every day into my twenties. Now I call her maybe every three months and talk to her for less than 30 minutes. I find that talking to her and hearing the language of the Church in all her sentences produces a great deal of anxiety. I talk to my sister even less. Whenever I speak with my mother at any length she tells me I am on the wrong path…Lots of microaggressions that often devolve into crying. My sister has let me know that she’s given up on me and she hopes someday I wake up. I think she pities me… I told my father never to speak to me again when I was 24 and have had no contact with him since then, though every few years or so I Google his name to see what he is doing.

Lena’s experience coming out to friends shared a similar sentiment with Ted’s narrative:

I have lost contact with an entire friend group of 10 years. I simply stopped contacting them and not a single one of them has reached out to me either by phone or Facebook to see how I am. There were a good 5 people in that friend group that I thought I was very close to, but since I stopped attending Church events, none of them have contacted me though I know they are all still involved in the Church.

Heather describes her coming out as a nonbeliever to family as “difficult and still a work-in-progress” and further explains:

During my several years [in] transition from religious to nonreligious, I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my beliefs with family and friends. Since discussing matters of faith had been a focal point of these relationships (i.e., praying for each other, encouraging each other with scriptures, etc.), my silence created feelings of distance among family members where strong connections used to exist. My mother expressed disappointment that she could no longer pray with me and longingly recalled the days when I would share scriptures and words of encouragement with her.

Katie shares her departure from a charismatic, non-denominational Christian religious group:

In the last two years that I was a Christian, I struggled with depression and panic attacks. I often received prayer and anointing of oil for my depression and panic. I found myself crying at church, not because I was feeling the ecstasy of God, but because I was overwhelmed with the fact that God would not heal me. I tried everything, including paying hundreds of dollars to have one-on-one healing sessions to expel demons and cut demonic ties from and my family’s past sins. These things still didn’t work and I began to have suicidal thoughts, which I eventually admitted to my primary doctor. I was started on anti-depressants, and for the first time in years, I felt happy. My faith was shaken. God didn’t heal me but these pills did. I quit going to church.

Katie’s relational losses echoes others’ narratives:

The majority of my friend network was from my church and when I stopped going to church, my Christian friendships stopped. I just stopped hearing from them, and it was as if I did not exist at all. I lost most of my friends, and that was extremely painful. I realized that the friendships, based on deep spiritual experiences together, had no foundation like a normal friendship did…I was able to come out to friends who had also left their faith, and we were able to create an actual friendship based on our mutual experiences.

….

— Andreea Nica, Religion Dispatches, The Forgotten Nones: The High Cost of Fleeing Fundamentalist Religion, March 12, 2018

The Gift of Prophecy: Bruce Almighty Has a Prophetic Dream

cloth diapers

I am a regular reader of the Charisma News website. I read this site, not because I want to, but because it is required reading for the writing I do for this blog. Every day, I skim through or read hundreds of blog posts and news articles posted to Evangelical websites. If I find something that I think might provide fodder for a future blog post, I forward a link to the article to my email inbox. I could, if I wanted to, focus solely on Charisma News. The amount of Jesus/right-wing bullshit they generate each day is astounding.

Charisma loves to feature the so-called prophetic utterances of Charismatic pastors, prophets, and evangelists. In a June 29, 2017 article, Charisma featured a prophecy by John Mark Pool, a man who believes he has been called to “Teaching, Training and Activating the Body of Christ in the Apostolic/Prophetic Five-fold Ministries for the release of the Saints to do the work of the ministry.”  Here’s what Poole, under the influence of the Holy G-h-o-s-t, had to say:

Our nation of America is being shaken! When the enemy’s hand is revealed, the righteous right hand of God will demonstrate His lifting up a standard against evil for His bride. This is dealt with in very visible ways such as recent special elections won for the conservative platform, chaos in Europe and fake news finding nothing in their continual witch hunts in plans to destroy God’s choice for our current president, Donald Trump. What will remain is a shaking that multiplies our country with God’s fruitfulness. Remember, the enemy is now in exposure for God’s closure!

Our nation was birthed to be one nation under God where, in our new land, we could be free to worship God in His kingdom without tyrannical oppression of an earthly king. The enemy has tried everything to take us under a false kingdom of darkness, to overpower us and take our nation out of its destiny. Yet, it has only exposed the deep state of darkness and is being drained, exposed and removed!

God is now answering many thousands of appeals to heaven. We are definitely going to see darkness get darker and are being set up for the intense light of God’s glory to outshine evil. God will now close the door of the enemy’s attempt at overthrowing our founding roots to be a Christian nation! We are now partnering with the King of kings together to advance God’s kingdom in a fresh wind of fire for a new desire!

I heard the Lord say, “The law of God will again override the plans of the enemy!

On the same day, CHARISMA also featured a prophecy by Johnny Enlow:

I believe we are about to see the shift that I said would happen around July 4th (our patriotic songs time) and you will see it much harder for the fowl birds of the “dirty birds” media to sack President Trump. They gave it their all in the first half of the year, but they are now beginning to get “gassed” because of the relentless moving forward of Trump and his administration.

Expect this July 4th shift to be significant even though the enemy will keep attempting against their “swamp being drained.” However, the swamp is going to be drained like an unplugged cesspool. There is still a lot of arguing because all haven’t clearly seen the players at the bottom of the swamp. Some crooks are hiding under other crooks, but even that is not going to work for very long.

It is a monumental overhaul that God has called for at this time and “you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Trump is simultaneously a lead instrument for the overhaul [and] also symbolic of the drastic overhaul coming to everything as we accelerate into reformation days. It is a time of aggressive change towards advanced kingdom purposes. God is on your side only if you are on His side. He loves you unconditionally, even if you are not on His side, but things are not going to go well for you if you stay on your side. It is time to shift to His side.

Recently, I had a dream — dare I say a prophecy — that I want to share with readers. I am uncertain as to what this dream means. I will leave readers to hear the words of Bruce Almighty (my prophet name) and interpret them accordingly. After all, my dreams are every bit as prophetic as Pool’s and Enlow’s and a hell of a lot more entertaining.

I fell into a deep sleep after hours of wrestling with Satan’s emissary — pain.

My mind was taken back to the days when my wife and I were young. Several of our children were in cloth diapers. We visited First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. They were meeting in multi-purpose building. As we walked into the room, we passed by my uncle, Paul Daugherty. He nodded and kept walking. As we neared our seats, Polly turned to me and gave me a soiled diaper she had put in a bread bag. I took the diaper and put in my suit coat pocket.

A short time later, just before the service started, I stuck my hand in my coat pocket only to find that the bread bag had not been tied and now I had baby poop all over my fingers.

I got up and quickly made my way to the bathroom. As I was washing my hands, in walked the twin brothers, Mark and Luke Gray who were serial killers on the TV show The Following.

And then I woke up.

Why do We Dream? at How Stuff Works

Psychology Today article titled, Why Do we Dream?

Note:

My editor wondered if younger readers might not know what the graphic is. For those of you raised on Pampers, those are cloth diapers. If there’s a Heaven above, then my wife, Polly, will certainly gain entrance. Six children, and cloth diapers for every one of them. We had a diaper service for all of two months with our first son. (Again, for younger readers, a diaper service was a company that picked up your dirty diapers, washed and dried them, and then returned them to your home.) After cancelling the diaper service, Polly spent the next fourteen years washing cloth diapers. Surely, if anyone is a saint, she is.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Gilbert Deya Deported to Face Child-Trafficking Charges

gilbert deya

Gilbert Deya, a British/Kenyan Evangelical pastor, was deported to Kenya to face child-trafficking charges.

The BBC reports:

The UK has extradited a self-styled Kenyan pastor, who claimed he created miraculous pregnancies, to Kenya to face child-trafficking charges.

Gilbert Deya’s extradition came after he failed in his decade-long legal battle to remain in the UK.

He denied charges of stealing five children between 1999 and 2004 when he appeared in court in Nairobi.

Concerns were first raised about the conduct of Mr Deya, who ran a church in London, in a BBC investigation in 2004.

Infertile or post-menopausal women who attended the Gilbert Deya Ministries church in Peckham, south-east London, were told they could have “miracle” babies.

But the babies were always “delivered” in backstreet clinics in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Mr Deya later moved to Scotland, and was arrested in Edinburgh in 2006 under an international arrest warrant issued by Kenya.

His Gilbert Deya Ministries is being investigated by the UK Charity Commission for alleged mismanagement.

“Our statutory inquiry into Gilbert Deya Ministries is ongoing. We are currently considering the implication of Gilbert Deya’s extradition on our investigation,” the commission said in a statement.

  • A former stonemason who moved to London from Kenya in the mid-90s
  • Set up the Gilbert Deya Ministries as a registered charity, with African and Asian branches
  • Known for his blend of charismatic, performance-style preaching
  • Had income of £652,800 ($858,000) for the financial year ending December 2015
  • Spent £609,300
  • Described by UK Labour MP David Lammy as a “modern-day snake-oil salesman”
  • Says he was consecrated as an Archbishop by a US evangelist in 1992

When the BBC asked Mr Deya during its 2014 investigation how he explained the births of children with DNA different to that of their alleged parents, the 65-year-old Mr Deya said: “The miracle babies which are happening in our ministry are beyond human imagination.

“It is not something I can say I can explain because they are of God and things of God cannot be explained by a human being.”

Kenya’s police spokesman Charles Owino told the BBC that Mr Deya had arrived in Nairobi aboard a Kenya Airways flight following his extradition.

Mr Deya had opposed his extradition, saying he feared being tortured and sentenced to death.

In 2007, his wife, Mary, was sentenced to two years in prison in Kenya after being convicted of stealing a baby.

In 2011, she was sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted of stealing another child.

Desperate women, some past the menopause and others who were infertile, were convinced that being prayed for by Mr Deya and travelling to Kenya would result in a child.

….

According to Wikipedia:

Deya was born in the morning of 2 February 1952 in Juja, Kiambu County, outside of Nairobi and was the eleventh child in a family of fifteen children. He belongs to Luo tribe ans his name “Juma” means Sunday, which is the day he was born. His father, Samuel Oyanda Deya was a sisal plantations worker from Bondo working in Juja. His parents were never meant to be a couple because his mother, Monica Nono Deya, declined the arranged marriage with his father.

He attended primary school but the school preacher dropped out because of bullying and poverty. He started preaching Jinja, Kampala, in Uganda, where he beat up a woman for hitting the children of his sister and worked there as a porter.

He married his 14 year-old wife, Mary Anyango, when he was at 21 on 27 December 1958. They gave birth to fifteen children in total. He started the “Salvation of Jesus Christ Church” in 1976.

He was ordained by the United Evangelical Church of Kenya and styles himself “Archbishop”. He was an evangelist in Kenya in the late 1980s to early 1990s, but moved to the UK, establishing Gilbert Deya Ministries in 1997. The ministry now has churches in Liverpool, London, Birmingham, Nottingham, Luton, Reading, and Manchester, Sheffield and in 2006 acquired a building and planning permission in Leeds. The church claims to be “the fastest growing Ministry in the UK and worldwide”

The Gilbert Deya Ministries claim that Deya’s powers allow him to be able to cause infertile women to become pregnant. Mr Deya claims that “through the power of prayer and the Lord Jesus” he has helped sterile women give birth. In the UK, one woman is claimed to have had three children in less than a year. The women travelled to Kenya in order to “give birth”.

Deya’s wife, Eddah (also known as Mary Deya), was arrested during November 2004 in Nairobi and charged with stealing children. Ten children, none of whom had any genetic connection to the Deya family, were found at Mr Deya’s House. Twenty babies have been placed in foster care in Kenya after DNA tests showed they had no connection to their alleged mothers. Rose Atieno Kiserem, a former pastor with Deya’s ministry was jailed along with Mrs Deya. Upon her release from jail, Kiserem confessed that the ‘miracle babies’ were “a hoax created by the Deyas and their accomplices to deceive me and other God-fearing people.”

Deya has a warrant out for his arrest in Kenya for the trafficking of babies out of the country. The Kenyan police have alleged that the ministry is a baby-snatching ring, and they have petitioned for his extradition from the UK. Mr Deya is seeking political asylum from his base in Glasgow. He was arrested by police at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in 2006.

In November 2004 the High Court in the UK ruled that a ‘miracle baby’ in London was the victim of child trafficking, and that the supposed miracle displayed was a ruse in order to generate funds from a “deceived congregation”. Mr Justice Ryder ruled that in order to maintain the illusion of a genuine birth, the child’s ‘mother’ was seriously assaulted “and a live child who had been born to another family was presented to her as her child.” He also ruled that “[the baby’s] birth as described was a falsehood not a miracle.”

On 13 December 2006, Mr Deya was arrested in London by the Metropolitan Police. A police spokesman said Gilbert Deya was detained under an arrest warrant issued by Kenyan authorities, who had charged him with child abduction and trafficking. He was ordered by a court on 8 November 2007, to be extradited from the UK to Kenya to face five counts of child stealing.

Deya appealed against extradition on the grounds that he might face torture in Kenya, but in late 2008 his case was rejected by the High Court and leave to appeal to the House of Lords was refused. It was reported in April 2010 that Deya was still in England and that David Lammy, Deya’s MP, had enquired of the government why he had not yet been extradited. Lammy was concerned that justice was being denied to several of his constituents who were victims of the trafficked babies fraud. The Home Office responded that it was still considering representations from Deya’s solicitors that sending him to Kenya would breach his human rights.

In September 2011, news reports indicated that all avenues of appeal had been exhausted and Deya would now be extradited to Kenya.

In December 2011, a court in Kenya cleared Mary Deya of obtaining registration for five children irregularly.

The London Evening Standard reported on 21 October 2016 that Deya had applied for a judicial review of the decision to extradite him.

On 12 July 2017, Premier Christian Media reported that the High Court had refused Deya’s application for a judicial review and that he would be extradited.

On 3rd August, 2017, Deya was extradited from the UK to Kenya to face child trafficking charges. He was immediately arraigned in court force child trafficking offences.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Todd Coontz Accused of Tax Fraud

todd coontz

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Fake Dr. Todd Coontz, pastor of Dominion Family Worship Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (church’s website is a parked domain) and CEO of Rockwealth Ministries stands accused of “failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations.”

WSOC-9 reports:

A televangelist and so-called “prosperity preacher” with ties to Charlotte has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Pastor Todd Coontz is accused of failing to pay taxes and filing false tax returns, as well as hiding assets that were paid for by donations. The U.S. attorney said, “This is a classic example of, ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’”

….

As a cable TV evangelist, Coontz promised financial miracles for people who sent money to his ministry.

“You need to plant the $273 recovery seed. I’m only going to give you two to three minutes to respond,” Coontz once told his viewers.

Coontz posted videos on Twitter as recently as Wednesday, promising financial blessings to the faithful.

“Suddenly miracles are happening. I want to work with your faith for quick things, swift things,” Coontz said in the video.

In February 2013, a Channel 9 investigation revealed some of Coontz’s own “blessings,” which included a $1.38 million condo at a building on the corner of Providence and Sharon Amity roads. In the garage of that building was his Ferrari and his Maserati.

A federal criminal indictment on Thursday pointed to those exact same assests in Channel 9’s investigation.

The condo was purchased by Coontz’s Rockwealth Ministries as “parsonage” for him, according to the indictment. The court documents said the cars were also titled in the name of the ministry.

The U.S. Secret Service started looking into Coontz and Rockwealth Ministries as a result of the Channel 9 investigation.

The indictment revealed delinquent tax returns from as far back as 2000. From 2010-2013, Coontz owed more than $326,000 in taxes.

Investigators said he also hid his income from the Internal Revenue Service by cashing checks he received from churches and ministries for travel and speaking engagements and then claiming that same travel as business expenses.

The indictment also revealed he used business funds to pay for personal expenses, such as more than $227,000 for clothes, $140,000 at restaurants and more than 400 charges at movie theaters.

Coontz’s defense attorney, Mark Foster, said the indictment makes allegations but isn’t proof.

“He’s otherwise is a good man,” Foster said. “He’s tried to do the right thing all his life and he has no criminal record. We’re going to fight this out.”

….

Statement from Coontz’s attorney:

“William Todd Coontz has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Charlotte on several criminal tax charges.  Coontz unequivocally asserts his innocence of these charges.

A grand jury is tasked only with determining whether there is probable cause to believe that a defendant has committed a federal crime. The government presents its evidence to the grand jury in secret and the defense cannot be present. Thus, the grand jury’s indictment of Coontz is not a determination of guilt — it is merely a preliminary finding that is necessary before the federal government can prosecute someone.

The government has chosen to make a statement to the press about Mr. Coontz’s indictment. It must be remembered that Todd Coontz is presumed innocent. Todd Coontz has retained veteran federal criminal defense attorney Mark Foster to represent him in this case and will vigorously defend himself against these charges. Todd Coontz has always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father and minister.  He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS.

We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges.

Mark Foster, Attorney at Law”

todd coontz fundraising

Fundraising pop-up from Rockwealth Ministries website

The Rockwealth Ministries BIO (bullshit) page for Coontz states:

Pastor, Evangelist, Television Host, Author,Humanitarian, Philanthropist, Businessman are some words others use to describe Dr. Todd Coontz.

Dr. Todd Coontz’s life of service to God began at age 10 when he dedicated his life to the Lord at the altar in a small country church.  “I’ll go where You want me to go, God … I’ll say what You tell me to say… I’ll do whatever You want! I am yours!” The following night he preached his first sermon on Moses and the Ten Commandments, having just watched the classic movie by the same title. The prayer he prayed in that little chapel changed the course of his life and launched him into more than four decades of ministry and preaching the gospel around the world!

As the Founder/Pastor of Dominion Family Worship Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he proclaims the message of the gospel and The Great Commission to the body of Christ. He loves God’s people and is committed to building a church where everyone is welcome. His ministry extends beyond the local church through his daily television broadcast, FAITH NOW, which reaches 90 million homes in the US and airs globally in over 200 countries. Millions have been touched, inspired, educated, and motivated to become everything God desires for them through his multi-faceted ministry.

A published author with more than 10 books and several best-selling titles, Dr. Coontz ministers effectively on the topics of faith, finances, and building people. As a noted faith teacher and captivating communicator, Dr. Coontz is passionate about the principles of Biblical Economics outlined in the Covenant found in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. His objective is to teach God’s people how to qualify, receive and manage wealth based upon Scriptural principles, including those from Deuteronomy 8:18.

In addition to his many endeavors, he finds time to travel internationally with some of the most renown “Generals of Faith” and can be seen on the largest television networks, including TBN, Daystar, INSP, Word Network, and more. He is also the Founder of RockWealth International Ministries, the Owner of Legacy Media, Inc., a media and publishing company, and holds an Honorary Doctor of Ministry Degree from Kingsway University.

Dr. Todd Coontz is a minister of the gospel with a heart for God’s people … a humanitarian committed to feeding underprivileged children … and a man of God who lives what he preaches!

An April 3, 2018 WBTV-3 story reports:

The trial is underway for a former Charlotte minister who was indicted for reportedly failing to pay his taxes.

According to prosecutors,Todd Coontz skirted the IRS for years. Federal prosecutors say Coontz allegedly failed to pay taxes and filed false tax returns.

He was the minister of Rock Wealth International Ministries from 2010 to 2014, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Coontz’s website states he is a pastor, evangelist, television host, author, humanitarian, philanthropist and a businessman.

From 2000 to 2014, Coontz consistently failed to make timely payments on his taxes and sometimes owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, investigators said. According to the Observer, Coontez under-reported his income on his tax returns “by not including as income payments made by his corporations and ministry for his personal expenses.”

Coontz also would allegedly get people to make checks out to him personally for speaking engagements, the Observer reported.

The Observer reported that Coontz “enjoyed a life of luxury” and claimed his $1.5 million condo and his luxury vehicles as business expenses. In addition, he allegedly also claimed a boat, clothing purchases, entertainment purchases and $140,000 in meals as business expenses, the Observer reported.

When announcing the charges in 2017, U.S. Attorney Jill Rose said this case was “a classic example of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.'”

“As a minister, Coontz preached about receiving and managing wealth, yet he failed to keep his own finances in order. Coontz will now receive a first-hand lesson in ‘rendering unto Caesar’ that which is due,” Rose said.

The Observer reported that Coontz wrote several books about finances.

Coontz’s lawyer, Mark Foster, said he “always endeavored to follow the law and to be a good citizen, father, and minister. He trusted others to manage his finances and taxes for him and was shocked to find out he was under criminal investigation by the IRS,” the Observer reported.

“We expect that after hearing all the evidence, a jury will fully vindicate Mr. Coontz by finding him not guilty of all charges,” Foster told the Observer in 2017.

….

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Brooke Covington Tries to Beat the Gay Out of a Man

brooke covington

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Brooke Covington, a minister with Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, North Carolina, is standing trial on kidnapping and assault charges. Prosecutors allege that Covington and other church members tried to beat the gay out of congregant Matthew Fenner.

The Daily Mail reports:

One of five people charged with beating a fellow church member to expel homosexual demons admitted in court that she started the physical assault by slapping the man.

Sarah Anderson testified Friday that she told other leaders at Word of Faith Fellowship she thought Matthew Fenner was unclean and sinful.

Minister Brooke Covington is standing trial on kidnapping and assault charges.

Anderson says Covington began the confrontation by screaming at Fenner after a January 2013 service at the church in Spindale, North Carolina.

She says she then slapped Fenner, and then Covington and about 30 others joined in, slapping, beating, choking and screaming at the man for two hours.

….

Previously when Fenner testified, he said he thought he was ‘going to die’ when members of the evangelical church beat and choked him for two hours to expel his ‘homosexual demons.’

Fenner, 23, said Covington pointed out his sexual orientation, saying, ‘God said there is something wrong in your life.’

Fenner said he had cancer as a child and had a biopsy one week before he was assaulted.

‘I’m frail and in my mind, I’m thinking, “Is my neck going to break, am I going to die?”’ Fenner said.

Prosecutor Garland Byers said during opening statements that Covington ‘directed and participated in’ the assault.

Covington’s lawyer, David Teddy, tried to poke holes in Fenner’s testimony, noting that Fenner praised the church in his high school graduation speech and visited a Word of Faith Fellowship church in Brazil.

‘Before I got to Word of Faith, my life was filled with sin,’ Teddy said, quoting from the transcript of one of those speeches.

Teddy also said Fenner never told anyone to stop hitting him. ‘When you’ve been emotionally abused, you cannot say stop,’ Fenner said.

Complaining would have made the punishment worse, Fenner said.

During opening statements, Teddy said the congregation gave Fenner routine prayer that lasted no longer than 15 to 20 minutes. When the prayer was over, Fenner ‘hugged everybody and left the church,’ Teddy said.

As part of an ongoing, two-year investigation into abuse of Word of Faith Fellowship congregants by church leaders, The Associated Press interviewed four former church members who say they witnessed Fenner being attacked.

Based on interviews with 43 former members, documents and secretly made recordings, it was reported in February that Word of Faith Fellowship congregants were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to ‘purify’ sinners by beating out devils.

The church has scores of strict rules to control congregants’ lives, including whether they can marry or have children. Failure to comply often triggers a humiliating rebuke from the pulpit or, worse, physical punishment.

Members can’t watch television, go to the movies, read newspapers or eat in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol. If church leaders believe a congregant has sexual or dirty thoughts, they can be accused of being ‘unclean’ and be punished, the former members said.

….

The sect was founded in 1979 by Jane Whaley, a former math teacher, and her husband, Sam, a former used car salesman.

Under Jane Whaley’s leadership, Word of Faith Fellowship grew from a handful of followers to a 750-member congregation in North Carolina, and another nearly 2,000 members in churches in Brazil and Ghana.

Word of Faith denies the accusations made against the church and Covington. You can read their responses here.

Carol’s Story: Seeking Life Along The Way — Part Two

the way international

Guest post by Carol. For many years, Carol was a member of The Way.  You can read Carol’s blog here.

Introduction

I originally wrote the following narrative two to three years after leaving The Way, in 2007 and 2008, dividing it into several parts. Between 2008 and 2016 I made some revisions and added my health story (written in 2005) as an Addendum. In April, 2017, I began expanding the narrative with more specific personal accounts, which may continue as an on-going project. Within the body of the narrative, I provide links to further information and to memoir pieces I’ve written about certain incidents or time periods. It’s a long read. But, in another sense, not. It covers over forty years.

I hope the narrative gives a glimpse (1) of some of the reasons folks join “cults” or similar groups, (2) of consequences that can result from following authoritarian and elitist groups, and (3) that even decades-long true believers can change.

I got involved with The Way International in September, 1977, at the age of eighteen and exited 28 years later in October, 2005, at the age of forty-six.  The journey continues…

1960’s -1977: Why would anyone joint a cult?

I wasn’t raised with a specific church doctrine, but my family attended a Methodist Church and Camp-meeting with some regularity in my younger years. From about age eight years old and into my teen years I was fascinated with the supernatural, reading books on UFOs, playing with Ouija boards, intrigued by witchcraft, and dabbling with astrology. I attended some sort of Baptist revival with a friend when I was maybe ten; I remember going up for the altar call. When I was around eleven years old, I saw a movie about Nicky Cruz, The Cross and the Switchblade, which led me to read Cruz’s book, Run Baby Run. Cruz’s story made an impression on me; it seemed authentic as opposed to a religious facade. Around twelve years old I attended a Methodist confirmation, but to my recollection never completed the requirements.

Around thirteen years old I read the four gospels and concluded that Jesus Christ was the biggest egomaniac that ever walked. However, I did like the poetic flow of the gospel of John. I continued to read parts of the Bible during my early teens; my opinion didn’t change. In the Old Testament I read about a vengeful God who annihilated people. Of the folks I talked with about the Bible, no one could satisfactorily explain the contradictions to me. I could argue most Bible believers into a corner, and for some reason I enjoyed it. Understandably, I rejected the Bible as an ultimate authority, but thought it contained some truth, alongside other religions.

Also at thirteen years of age I fell in love for the first time and gave my whole self, body and soul, to my young teenage lover. I craved attention and touch, to be wanted, and to please. I was involved with four such all-encompassing relationships between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. In the second of these relationships, I was a victim of physical abuse. I ended that relationship after about one year which coincided with the ninth and final hitting session; that time I fought back. At the time I did not reveal the physical abuse to anyone; I was embarrassed and didn’t want people to think badly of him or me. He was a “jock” four years older than I; I was a cheerleader. I decided then to switch peer groups and to become friends with the “freaks.”

In late spring, 1974, at fifteen years of age, I began experimenting with drugs. Three months later, I became romantically involved with one of the main high school drug dealers. We were never in short supply of mind-altering substances. In October, 1974, we ate seeds from datura stramonium (Jimson weed). I lived a four-day sleepless nightmare filled with hellish hallucinations while strapped to a bed in ICU. My boyfriend was restrained with a straight jacket. Yet, even after the stramonium nightmare, we continued experimentation with various kinds of hallucinogens — LSD, windowpane, blotter acid, mescaline, MDA, and a few others. (Click here to read about datura stramonium and click here to read a two-part series about my experience.)

Most of my psychedelic experiences caused me to feel at one with the universe, in harmony with all creation. But then as the months passed the trips began to turn bad. The feeling of tripping lingered even without having dropped any acid. I became paranoid and withdrawn.

Needless to say, I had many thoughts of insanity. My saving thought was, If I was insane I wouldn’t know it. At that point, in desperation for my sanity after spending over a year in my chemically-induced spiritual search, I quit experimenting with drugs and turned to Transcendental Meditation (TM).

In late summer, 1975, at sixteen years old, I got 100% involved with TM, volunteering at the TM Center, assisting with classes and initiations, and planning to attend the Maharishi Mahesh University in Iowa after high school graduation. Within eight months of starting TM I broke the relationship with my dealer boyfriend. He got busted a few months later.

A little more than one year into TM, I met my next boyfriend (four years older than I) and moved in with him the summer before my senior year of high school. He was faithfully involved with a small Baptist Church. Yet, he smoked pot on an almost daily basis, and we cohabitated, “living in sin” for ten months. Because I wanted to please him I dropped my involvement with TM and decided I’d try to believe the Baptist doctrine which was difficult for me, especially the hell-fire teachings. Almost every Sunday I found myself at the altar in tears of shame, wondering if I was “saved.”

We had wedding plans for June, 1977, a few weeks after I graduated from high school. But in May I broke the engagement; I couldn’t come to terms with belief in a God of damnation. I felt that for our marriage to work I had to believe. I was also struggling with mood swings, depression, and feelings of low self-worth.

I was eighteen years old. I felt driven to find “the truth,” to discover God, to find my way “back to the garden.”

Some may wonder about parental guidance through these years. For whatever reasons, I had few disciplinary boundaries while growing up. (Plus, it was the 1960s and 1970s.) I also apparently developed some issues with abandonment. In the 1960s, Mom spent extended time as an in-patient for manic depression (now known as bipolar disorder). Dad was challenged with anger issues, possibly as a result from a brain injury due to a serious car wreck prior to starting the family. Like most of humanity, my parents were good people who went through some hard times, handling life as best they could.

Looking back, I see that those circumstances influenced choices I made in seeking elsewhere to fill certain unmet physical, emotional, and familial needs. Yet these were also rich times spent freely exploring nature and life. From the age of four and into my teen years, I spent most of my free time playing outside. From my mid-elementary years and up I was a latch-key kid. I am the youngest of three children.

In 1961, when I was around two years old, our family moved from Daytona Beach, Florida, to the foothills of North Carolina. My parents lived in that NC home until their deaths, Dad in 1996 and Mom in 2009.

Our neighborhood was full of kids. We rode bikes all over the place and played pick-up football, softball, and rolly-bat. I loved to run and played lots of tag, relays, and Sardines (a hide-and-seek game). We regularly camped outside in our yards or select places in the surrounding woods. We directed our own play; adults were seldom involved.

Our neighbor owned and boarded horses. The large pasture stretched behind our house. I fell in love with horses and rode almost daily until I was around thirteen years old. Sometimes I’d even go for a ride before school. I loved grooming horses and caring for them. My parents bought me my first pony when I was six years old. His name was Dynamite. I later owned Princess and then Black Eagle. I liked riding bareback and pretending I was a Navajo or Cherokee Indian. Other times Marie, my horse-riding friend, and I would pack saddle bags and pretend we were explorers.

Shortly after the split from my fiancé in May, 1977, I moved onto a farm with a hippy family who had moved to the North Carolina foothills from New York. I dabbled with Transcendental Meditation (again), the teachings of Ram Dass, yoga, and a group that followed The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ.

In June, I visited a cousin with the purpose of accompanying him to a Wicca meeting. He ended up having to work, so I spent the day with my aunt with whom I attended a small Charismatic gathering. At that meeting, I heard speaking in tongues for the first time. That day I was led into tongues and began to see a different side to the scriptures.

I returned to the farm and told my yoga-hippie friends that they didn’t have to do all that meditation to be one with God — “Just believe on Jesus Christ and speak in tongues!”

I became engrossed in the scriptures, trying to understand and craving to comprehend the “breadth and length and depth and height,” “to know the love of Christ,” and to be “filled with all the fullness of God.”

I began reading and rereading Acts and the Pauline epistles, mainly Ephesians through Colossians. I drove over an hour one way to attend church services where I had been led into tongues. The message at this church was different from what I’d been exposed to at the Baptist Church. The theme was love, grace, mercy, and understanding. Not to mention, they had good music!

I was full of questions and wanted to understand the Bible and be able to reconcile at least a majority of the contradictions. I decided to attend college focusing on biblical studies and counseling. I also had an interest in service work with either VISTA or The Peace Corps.

I chose a college that had “spirit-filled” connections, Montreat College near Black Mountain, North Carolina, in the heart of Billy Graham country.

During my few months at Montreat I attended Montreat’s Presbyterian Church services along with various flavors of Charismatic meetings in the local vicinity. However, the same insecurity and shame that I experienced in the Baptist Church again haunted me. I couldn’t seem to find satisfactory answers to my questions nor a remedy for my shame.

I became friends with some students at Montreat who were considered to be spiritually mature. We met regularly for prayer meetings. Talk went on qualifying who was spiritual enough to be allowed at these assemblies. Looking back, these meetings mainly served to achieve an emotional high with some participants being slain in the spirit and speaking in tongues out loud and uncontrollably. During one of these sessions I had to leave because I felt like I was tripping; I felt paranoid and dirty. I don’t think I went to any more prayer sessions after that one.

Montreat would invite well-known Christian leaders to speak with the students. It was a small school, so students were able to personally meet and interact with the guests. Jackie Buckingham was one of those guests. She and her husband, Jamie, were personal friends with Nicky Cruz. Jamie was Nicky’s co-author of Run Baby Run. As Jackie shared some of the miracle stories, my heart burned within me to know God and his power like she described.

On one occasion Ruth Graham visited the college campus. I attended a small gathering with about twenty young ladies and Mrs. Graham. We met in an informal living room setting attired with a few upholstered chairs for seating and the rest of us on the floor. It was very comfortable. I asked Mrs. Graham questions regarding speaking in tongues and the holy spirit field. Her answer was that she simply didn’t know the answers. I thought to myself, If Ruth Graham doesn’t know, who does?

Around this time is when I found The Way.

Fellowship meetings with The Way were tender and welcoming and didn’t involve the frenzied, spirit-filled confusion I was experiencing at some of the Charismatic gatherings. At Way Fellowships I witnessed what I had read in sections of Acts and the Pauline epistles: all things common, decent and in order, fruit of the spirit, greeting with a holy kiss.

I enrolled and took The Way’s Power for Abundant Living  Foundational and Intermediate Classes, which were combined the first time I sat through “the Class.” I drove a three-hour round trip, from Montreat to Hickory, for almost each of the fifteen sessions; though some sessions were combined over a few weekends.

For once I was getting answers to many of the questions that plagued me. Apparent contradictions in the Bible were explained. I learned that I was righteous before God and that I had “sonship rights.” I began to memorize King James scriptures, repeating them over and over in my mind convincing myself of “the truth.” I was finally learning God’s will for my life. Jesus promised, “Seek and ye shall find.” I had found it. Or so I thought.

Friends from the prayer group at Montreat warned me that The Way was a cult. I considered their words and read about The Way in cult literature. It appeared to me that those who claimed The Way was a cult based that conclusion mainly on the fact that The Way did not believe Jesus is God. Until shortly after starting college I never realized that Christians believed that Jesus is God. At the time, I was stunned that anyone would think such a thing, that a man could be God. Therefore, the main thrust of The Way being a cult because it was non-trinitarian didn’t concern me much.

In my college Old Testament history class I wrote an answer in response to an essay question on a test asking to compare Old Testament faith with New Testament faith. My essay was based on research from The Way. I received an A+ on that essay with a note from my professor, “Excellent research. I have questions about some of your findings.” Having been warned The Way was a cult I felt too uncomfortable to ever approach the professor on the matter.

The prayer-group friends subjected me to a type of interrogation with an emphasis on the Trinity. We met in a small classroom. There were five of them and one of me. Four of them were standing with one at the chalkboard writing. I was seated. Their examination included questions, authoritarian proclamations, and accusations regarding The Way and its “devilish doctrines.” I recall a couple of them raising their voices at me, I think in an attempt to wake me from what they considered my delusion and to save me from the “cult.” I felt attacked, cross-examined, and scared.

Not long after that incident my college roommate, who suffered with mental illness, was found in the parking lot trying to pick sparkling diamonds out of the glitter in the pavement. She had also recently begun using the window instead of the door to exit and enter our college dorm room. The prayer-group friends who had interrogated me blamed me for tainting my roommate and causing her to get “possessed with demons,” all because I was attending a Way Class and Fellowships. I was the only student at Montreat involved with The Way.

These were the people warning me that The Way was a cult? I guess it takes one to know one. Jesting aside, I believe these friends’ intentions were good. But their approach, for obvious reasons, sent me running in the other direction.

I mailed a handwritten letter to Dr. Wierwille (Wierwille received his “doctorate” in 1948 from an unaccredited seminary, Pikes Peak Bible Seminary, which was located in a house in Manitou Springs, Colorado), the founder and president of The Way, whom I had listened to for forty-five hours on audio tape as he taught the combined Foundational and Intermediate Classes. I shared with him what had happened with my prayer-group friends. I never expected to hear back. But I did. I received a typed letter in an envelope with a return address from “The Teacher” in New Knoxville, Ohio. He commended me for my stand and wrote, “When people throw dirt at God’s Word, all they do is get their hands dirty.”

I finished my first semester at Montreat College and then dropped out to study and serve with The Way.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Jews Will One Day be Jealous Over Christian Wealth by Cindy Jacobs

cindy jacobs

This is the one hundred and forty-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip from a sermon by Charismatic Cindy Jacobs, founder of Generals International.

Video Link

I’m Thinking About Returning to Christianity

bruce-gerencser-comes-back-to-jesusDid the post title get your attention?

Several days ago, as I pondered ways to generate income, I thought, I can’t be a porn actor or stripper, but maybe I could return to what I know — preaching and pastoring churches. What do you think, dear readers? Should I tell Jesus, sorry Dude, I was wrong. I repent of my evil blog posts and reaffirm my membership in the One True Faith®? I know, Lord, that the calling of God can never be taken away, so I plan to start a brand new church in sinful, dark Defiance, Ohio. There’s  lots of Christian churches in Defiance, Lord, but none of them is pastored by a man with a testimony such as mine. Imagine, Lord, what I can do for Y-O-U!

Perhaps the Lord will tell me that there are enough churches in Defiance. While I certainly would be disappointed, I know there are other “opportunities” for me in the Lord’s vineyard. How about a traveling evangelistic ministry, Lord?

A former charismatic pastor by the name of Jim is a dear friend of mine. He and I have a lot in common, including a lifetime spent loving, worshiping, and serving a fictional deity. Jim now lives in Arizona, but I have had thoughts about how he and I might be able to make a lot of money by putting our past ministerial skills to work. I thought, we should get a big tent, a trailer to hold the tent and ministry essentials, and an expensive motor home to pull the trailer and provide creature comforts for Jim and Bruce — two humble, suffering servants of J-EESUS.  On the side of the motor home we could put life-size pictures of Preachers Jim and Bruce, along with the name of our scam, I mean ministry — (please leave possible ministry names in the comment section).

Off we would go, night after night, telling our stories of deliverance from godlessness. Jim, having the gifts of healing and exorcism, could lay hands on people, delivering them from atheistic demons. I could, having the gift of helps, pray for people, all the while sticking my hand in their pockets books and back pockets. Oh, sorry sister, I didn’t mean to give you The Donald®! Throw in a hot worship band with a sexy leader – why, I bet we could be rolling in cash in a matter of weeks! After each night’s show, uh I mean mighty move of God, Jim and I could go back to the motor home and talk about what great deeds our God hath done. One for me, one for you. One for me, one for you.

Does anyone doubt that preachers Jim and Bruce could successfully fleece the flock? I know I don’t. I guarantee you that either of us could dust off our Bible, put on our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes, go to an Evangelical church and preach a soul-saving, sin-chasing, bringing-down-the-Shekinah-glory sermon that would leave parishioners praising our anointing and begging us to preach again (in many ways, good preaching is like good sex – always keep them begging for more).  We know how to look the part, play the game, and put on our “Christian” veneer.  The skills honed over a lifetime didn’t disappear the moment we said we no longer believed. If women can fake orgasms, I am quite certain Jim and Bruce can fake being filled with the Spirit.

Lest a handful of readers miss that this post is Bruce in snark-modeNo, I am not considering a return to Christianity. That ship sailed and fell off the edge of Ken Ham’s flat earth. Christianity, in all of its forms and nuances, is firmly in my rear view mirror. While it saddens me to leave so much cash on the table, I know that integrity, honesty, and truth matter more than money. I will continue to be an itinerant preacher of secularism, humanism, and skepticism, regardless of whether it pays well. In this regard, I am no different from the Evangelical Bruce Gerencser. The message and helping people are far more important than making a buck. Yes, I need to make money….I’m thinking….how about a stripper Santa Claus. What do you think, Polly? Women stuffing twenties in my 3x G-string? Tis the reason for the season, I say.

Snark-off.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: I’m Filthy Rich, PRAISE JESUS! by Jesse Duplantis

jesse-duplantis

This is the one hundred and thirty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a compilation video made up of clips of Jesse Duplantis.

Video Link