Tag Archive: Christianity

Songs of Sacrilege: Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery

ciaran lavery

This is the one hundred seventy-fifth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Everything is Made to Last by Ciaran Lavery.

Video Link

Lyrics

Woke up in the afternoon again
Where you been? Where you been?
We go waltzing through the past
Everything is made to last
Maybe Jesus knows my name
I can’t be sure, I can’t be sure
I sin like an every day man
Nothing ever goes to plan

[Chorus]
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh-ooh
Living outside, living fast
‘Cause people wanna be alive and a part of the dream
It all lights up to a God they’ve seen
But I wanna be alive and a part of the dream
Ooh-oh-oh
Ooh-oh-oh

Night crawls through my window again
Let it in, I let it in
Not sure if this feeling’s gonna pass
So leave me where the shadows cast
Wonder if there’ll be a change
In everything, with everything
We sin everyday because we can
I’m afraid of what I am

Lori Alexander Says Beating Children is God’s Approved Way of Controlling Children

spanking with beltRecently, Christian Fundamentalist Lori Alexander took to her blog to promote beating children as God’s approved way of controlling children.  In particular, Alexander objects to Dr. Spock’s no-violence approach to effectively raising children into responsible adults. Alexander will have none of that. Beat your kids, she says. God demands that parents use a rod on the backside of rebellious children. Not beating your children means you love them more than you love God; that you are more concerned with their welfare than you are being obedient to the violent tribal deity of the Bible.

Here’s some of what Alexander had to say:

Dr. Spock: “[Physical punishment] certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” (p. 173)

Lori Alexander: This is in direct contradiction to what God tells us in His Word. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Oh, but the rod isn’t a physical instrument,” people will tell me. Really? Please study all of the verses that mention the rod and you will see that this isn’t true. How does God discipline us? Is He only positive and encouraging? No! “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Chasten means “to correct by punishment; to punish; to inflict pain of reclaiming an offender; as, to chasten a son with a rod.” Scourge means “to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.” Who are we to think we know better than God? No, God doesn’t mean that we should physically abuse our children in any way. [actually, he does] We use the rod of correction as a tool to make them obey and this teaches them self-discipline which benefits them for life. Many things in God’s Word have been taken to extremes and have caused harm for people. This is not God’s way. His way ends in peace and goodness not in evil and harm.

Spock: “My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.” (p. 173)

Alexander: On the contrary, pain and fear are great motivators for good as I shared in the above verse about how God disciplines us. My children were all spanked when they sinned against us or others and none of them were bullies or got into physical fights with others. They were kind to others, respected authority, and were a joy to raise. A one year old can’t comprehend “liking people” as much as they can quickly comprehend a small amount of pain that is swiftly administered for disobedience.

Spock: “I don’t think physical punishment is necessary or particularly effective.” (p. 215)

Alexander: It sure has been for centuries before you wrote your book, Dr. Spock. Children were much better behaved than they are now. God’s ways will always trumps man’s ways.

Spock: “All schools should be friendly, creative places like the best I’ve seen. We should wean ourselves away from physical punishment.” (p. 33)

Alexander: When I went to elementary school, the principal had a wooden paddle in his office and he used it! Children were well-behaved for the most part. There was nothing going on like there is in the schools today. A swat on the back side is a quick, effective method against disobedience.

Spock: “Recently I visited a small private school . . . with the idea of asking children . . . what advice to parents they’d like me to incorporate in the forthcoming revision of Baby and Child Care. In a thoughtful mood, the class was unanimous that parents should not hit their children. . . One child added that if you’re crying and your parent tells you to stop and then hits you when you don’t stop, it only makes you cry more.” (p. 229-233)

Alexander: And asking children how they should be disciplined is a wise thing? If he asked adults how they would like their government to run, I’m sure some immature adults would say that they shouldn’t be put in prison for abusing drugs, driving drunk, and getting tickets for speeding and running red lights. Children do NOT know best how they should be raised. Why not interview parents of adult children who are now upstanding citizens and ask how they raised their children instead?

Spock: “I hope American parents can outgrow the conviction . . . that physical punishment is necessary to bring up well-behaved children. . . There are parts of the world where it has never occurred to any adult to strike a child. I have known personally or professionally dozens of families in which the parents never lifted a hand–or otherwise punished or humiliated their children–and yet the children were ideally cooperative and polite. Children are eager to be ever more grown up and responsible.” (p. 13)

Alexander: Yes, I am sure parents can raise good children without ever spanking them but it takes a lot more time, energy, and effort and to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen many who are successful at it. In order for spankings to work, a parent must be consistent, firm, and loving. It doesn’t work without these three key ingredients. [In other words, busy parents beat their children so they will have time to do other important things such as reading the Bible and going to church.]

Spock: “There are several reasons to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right. Some spanked children then feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one reason there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation.”

Alexander: No, it teaches children that they must obey and respect the authority in their lives, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and government which is a good thing. My children never beat up on the smaller ones. If they did, they would have been spanked and would have never done it again!

The patriarchy lives on, and the children cry.

The Bible Says Obey Those Who Have the Rule Over You

hebrews-13-17

Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals blindly believe and submit to whatever their pastors utter from the pulpit? During the last Presidential election, Donald Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Candidate Trump is now President Trump, so reasonable people can conclude that tens of millions of Americans, including eighty-two percent of white Evangelical voters, weren’t bothered by his committing-murder comment. Think of all the offal that has fallen from the man’s lips, yet millions of Republicans still think he is a Christian or, at the very least, a man God is using to restore Fundamentalist Christianity to its rightful throne.

These Trump voters are more often than not the same people who bow in reverence to self-appointed men of God; men who say they are called by God to preach and lead churches — yet their calling comes not from a deity, but from their own wants, needs, desires, and that of the churches they pastor. Skeptics wonder why these people don’t see though the con and think for themselves. All any of us needs to do is listen to what these preachers are saying to conclude that they are spouting harmful nonsense. Yet, otherwise intelligent people check their minds at the church door and give themselves over to men who will purportedly teach them truth and provide a blueprint for living. No need to think, just believe. No need to wrestle with questions and doubts, just have faith. Belief and faith, not just in the Christian God and the Protestant Bible, but also the words of pastors and evangelists who are given almost absolute power over congregants.

Evangelical churches are generally pastored by one man. This is especially true in Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. Some churches have a plurality of pastors (elders), but I have found that despite this plurality, there is always one man who has the final say. Most Evangelical churches have a congregational form of government. This means that the church membership has the final say on how the church is run, including who their pastor will be. The thinking goes, then, that if congregants want a new pastor, all they have to do is vote him out of office. However, rarely is getting rid of a pastor so simple, especially in churches that aren’t part of a denomination. If a church is a member of a particular denomination, the congregants can, if need be, call on denominational leaders to help remove a pastor from office. In independent churches, the congregation has the final say; that is, if the church hasn’t ceded its control to a board of elders or, as is the case in many megachurches, an outside board of directors (much like the corporations such church are patterned after).

Churches have governing documents, one of which is a constitution. The constitution details who is a voting member and how/when votes can be called. If a church wants to dismiss its pastor, it must follow the process detailed in its constitution. Many constitutions state that removing a pastor requires a two-thirds or three-fourths vote of the membership. This high standard makes it hard for congregations to fire their pastor. Even worse, pastors — if they are at a particular church for a long time — will attract loyal church members who will oppose attempts to remove him. The longer a man pastors a church, the harder it is to get rid of him. Over time, he becomes the hub around which everything turns. The pastor is viewed as God’s mouthpiece;  a man called by God to pastor that particular church. Is it any surprise then, that long-tenured pastors tend to become authoritarians?

Baptist pastors, in particular, are fond of talking about pastoral authority — the power by which they control the church. Bruce, I thought Evangelicals were people of the Book; that the Bible was sole rule for faith and practice? It is, and the Bible does indeed grant pastors authoritarian control over their churches.

The Bible says:

And he [God] gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11,12)

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1)

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:7, 17)

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth. (1 Corinthians 16:15, 16)

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves. (1 Thessalonians 5:12,13)

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be ….One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (1 Timothy 3:1,2,4,5)

Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. For the scripture saith, thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. (1 Timothy 5:17-19)

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; (1 Peter 5:1.2)

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28)

(And yes, I realize these verses can be interpreted many different ways. But this is my sermon, so I decide what these verses mean!)

These verses and others have been interpreted to mean that God-called pastors have rule over the churches they pastor. Church members are obligated to submit to their pastor’s authority. Not doing so is considered rebellion and could bring judgment from God or excommunication. Most often, rebellious congregants are shown the door and told to find a church that meet their “needs.” It is not uncommon to find Evangelical churches that have high membership churn rates. Members who become tired of eating McDonald’s quarter-pounders leave and hit the drive-thru at Wendy’s. And on and on it goes. I pastored people who had been members of numerous churches before they came to one of the churches I pastored. These church-hoppers rarely stay for long. Initially, they will find their new churches to be delightful, but given enough time, they will find faults with their pastors and move on to greener pastures. The one thing that church hoppers never do is consider that they might be the problem. They place blame on the pastor or the congregation, often couching their objections in theological verbiage, but more often than not, they are difficult people or they easily bore.

Most Evangelical churches are a mix of new and old members. The longer someone stays in the church, the more they become conditioned to their pastor’s preaching, teaching, and leadership. This conditioning allows pastors to gain authority over congregants that in any other setting would be considered cultic. When you are taught their entire lives that the man standing behind the pulpit is called by God to deliver divine messages to them, it should come as no surprise that, bit by bit, they surrender their will and critical thinking skills. In time, pastors amass great power and control, and once this happens these leaders can and do muddle the minds of their charges, rendering them powerless to resist.

Worse, many Evangelicals want to be told what to believe and how to live their day-to-day lives. They come to church on Sundays to be inspired and taught the ways of God. This is why, when Evangelicals are quizzed about their beliefs, more often than not they either can’t give an answer or they simply regurgitate the beliefs of their pastor. As a pastor, I was often asked, what does your church believe? I would respond, I don’t know what the church believes. This is what I believe, and it is these beliefs that are the foundation of my preaching and teaching. Most congregants are not going to spend significant time studying the Bible. This does not make them bad Christians. The truth is, pastors have the freedom and luxury to read and study the Bible. Church members have full-time jobs, families, and countless responsibilities that limit the amount time they can devote to theological learning. Thus, most Evangelicals have a theology they have borrowed from their pastors. They know what their pastor knows, and unfortunately many Evangelical pastors are poorly educated. When a man believes God speaks through him, why should he study? When he believes that God puts His words in the pastor’s mouth and all he has to do is speak them, why bother with the words of mere humans? And if members dare to think for themselves and challenge something their pastor has said, they can expect to reminded that Pastor So-and So has authority over what is taught and members are expected to believe as he does or leave.

Church aisles are littered with the bodies of those who dared to challenge the man of God’s authority. Their deaths are their own fault. Don’t they remember their pastor quoting 1 Chronicles 16:22:  Saying, Touch not mine anointed [Hebrew for pastor], and do my prophets [Hebrew for pastor] no harm? Surely, they have heard the Bible story about some children who mocked the prophet Elisha?  2 Kings 2:23, 24 says:

And he [Elisha] went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Mess with the man of God, rebellious church members, and God might send bears to eat you alive, just like he did to the children who mocked Elisha. Simply put, mess with the pastor and he will have God fuck you up!

Is it any wonder that many people need therapy and counseling after extricating themselves from Evangelical churches? Those of us who spent most of our lives under the thumbs of authoritarian religious figures often spend years regaining a sense of self-worth. What’s worse for someone such as myself is that I not only was victimized by my pastors and teachers, I was also a victimizer. I taught and practiced what my pastors and professors taught me. I passed on to a new generation the dysfunction of my generation. The only good news in this sordid story, at least for me, is that I got off the crazy train and abandoned the damaging religious nonsense that controlled my mind for almost fifty years. Better late than never, I suppose, but I still lament the fact that I lovingly and sincerely caused untold harm to my family and the churches I pastored. By owning my past, I am in a better position to help people avoid a similar path. While I grudgingly and doubtfully admit that some religious expressions are less harmful than others, I can’t help but think that until the world reaches a place where it no longer has a need for deities, religion will continue to cause harm. This is especially true of Evangelical Christianity. It will be a good day when Fundamentalist Christianity draws its last breath. I will long be dead, but perhaps one of my grandchildren will have the privilege to hold a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face as it struggles to breathe. Good riddance, I say.

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.

Christians Aren’t as “Discerning” as They Think They Are

spiderman

Christians love to think that they have — thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit — some sort of supernatural discernment power that allows them to ferret out the true spiritual condition of everyone with whom they come in contact. Evangelicals, in particular, believe they have some sort of God-given radar that locks on unknown believers and lets them know that they are fellow believers. This radar is a spiritual paternity test of sorts, letting Evangelicals know when one of their family is in the vicinity. I heard countless preachers say that the “spirits” of two or more believers recognize each other when they come in contact with each other.  Woo hoo! God’s children are in the house, baby!

Recently, a Christian who commented about unbelieving clergy still pastoring churches illustrated this point:

I also can’t help but think that living and walking out a lie every day is going to eventually take a psychological/emotional toll on anyone. I think it would also work against the pastor really being vulnerable or drawing close to his/her congregation for fear of letting something slip. Eventually people who are closer to the pastor will be able to discern that something just isn’t quite right here.

According to this Christian, she gets Spiderman-like tingly feelings that would let her know if a pastor is faking it. The idea behind her feelings is the notion that Christians can know a pastor well enough that any lying or dishonesty would peg their lie-meter, exposing the hypocrite for all to see. The problem with this thinking is that in real life that’s not how it works. Lying and deception are all too common, and even the most aware among us can be deceived. Believing that there is some sort of spiritual power that gives you laser-like discernment has no grounding in reality. Countless churches — from Liberal Christian to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist — have passionate, devoted teachers and preachers of the Word of God who are, without question, unbelievers. Some of them I know personally. A few unbelieving pastors have been using fake-it-’til-you-make-it (to retirement) for years. These men genuinely love their congregations, even though they think the Christian God is a work of fiction.

I hate to break it to Christians, but there is no such thing as a spirit of discernment. The reason, of course, is that we humans don’t have a spirit/soul. We are flesh and blood. Certainly, we develop certain psychological skills that allow us to read people, and we often have gut feelings about people. That Spiderman-like tingly feeling we have is the result of evolution and environmental/social conditioning, and not some of sort of divine gift given only to Christians. In fact, the belief that God gives you discernment skills tends to lessen your ability to see things as they are. Why? Because Evangelicals, in particular, develop complex ways of dealing with human behavior. Evangelicals talk of sin, forgiveness, and grace. They speak of accountability partners and allowing the Holy Spirit to perform its perfect work. Instead of seeing things as they are, Evangelicals allow theological nonsense to cloud their judgment.

This is why it’s no surprise that Evangelical churches have sexual abuse scandals, clergy misconduct, and all sorts of bad behavior that is washed away by the blood of Jesus and forgiven by the prayer-answering God. Instead of seeing that the youth pastor is way too friendly with several of his charges, loving, blind Christians see this behavior as him “ministering” to these girls. And when his “ministry” turns to rape, sexual assault, and other sex crimes, what then? As long as the predator still says he’s a Christian, forgiveness awaits.

Evolution-driven discernment cares not one whit for the offender’s religious inclinations. What matters is that an older man, a man with authority, took advantage of those he was supposed to love, care for, and respect. What mattered to him was his dick, not their welfare. The youth pastor, then, should never be permitted to be around youths again. Yet, as sure as the sun rises in the East, the youth pastor, once he pays for his crimes, will be forgiven and given another opportunity to serve God.  Why, some of his fellow Christians will testify on his behalf during his sentencing hearing, showering the judge with stories of how awesome the youth pastor is. There’s no divine discernment going on here. Just ignorance and a refusal to see things as they are.

It is time for Christians to stop pretending that they have some sort of special power that allows them to see things non-believers can’t see. It’s 2018. Time to put the intellect to work, making rational, thoughtful decisions. Unless Christians are willing to do so, they can expect to hoodwinked and taken advantage of. Just remember, it’s discerning Evangelicals who put Donald Trump, the Christian in the White House. Need I say more?

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.

Songs of Sacrilege: Goodbye, for Now by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-fourth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Goodbye, for Now by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever.

Video Link

Lyrics

the reason it’s been so long since we talked
i’m not ready to show up and feel nothing
i don’t even feel sad anymore
i’m just always looking for your replacement

i still believe in love
like i believe in just war
i think it’s possible
but maybe just not anymore

so i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
so i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

so i’m back in the corner of this bar
just studying a glass and these faces
i’ve been looking for the one i lost
and for eternity in the wrong places

so either you aren’t real
or i am just not chosen
maybe i’ll never know
either way, my heart is broken

as i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
as i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

so you left me here to document the slow unraveling
of a man who burned the house down
where he kept everything
excommunication never made much sense to me
like abandonment to demonstrate how you’ll never leave
and yet you say

and i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
oh, i say goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now
goodbye, for now

Songs of Sacrilege: Chasing Empty Mangers by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-third installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Chasing Empty Mangers by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever.

Video Link

Lyrics

the tiny christmas tree
the empty stockings hanging
the house devoid of chaos and life
while daddy’s getting drunk
the peanuts kids are dancing
there’s no star atop the tree tonight
’cause i’m taking what you give
the baby god returning
bringing peace to every house but mine

so another man takes the fall
just for doing all he could
in light of what you dreamed up
for your glory and another man’s good

oh god, what have i done
without your great permission
knowing fully of the end at the start
like a dirty goddamn trick
i either sin as i resist you
or i do it as i’m doing my part
so all my empathy
to judas and the devil
they were yours as much in light as in the dark

so another man takes the fall
just for doing all he could
in light of what you dreamed up
for your glory and another man’s good

so tonight i’ll watch the skies
for a sleigh and saint appearing
like a great star running out of space
on this drunken christmas eve
i gotta say that feels as likely
as any one of you three showing your face
so a toast to all my friends
who are lost and beat and bleeding
still chasing empty mangers out of faith

 

Why It’s Hard for Evangelicals to Change Their Beliefs

goodbye hello

Have you ever wondered why so few Evangelicals walk away from the faith? Have you ever wondered why many Evangelicals leave one toxic, harmful church, only to join another pestiferous church that continues the damage and harm of the previous church? Have you ever wondered why, no matter how much evidence skeptics and atheists provide to the contrary, Evangelicals will still hang on to the belief the Bible is a supernatural book written by a supernatural God; and that no matter how many Bart Ehrman book recommendations former believers make to them, Evangelicals will still cling to Jesus, the old rugged cross, and the empty tomb?

Nellie Smith, a writer for Religion Dispatches and a former Evangelical, recently wrote about why it is almost impossible to argue Evangelicals out of their faith:

And here’s the thing: it was the dissolution of a world. People who didn’t grow up in the American evangelical bubble often don’t realize what they’re demanding when they ask an evangelical to accept a fact that is contradicted by their church’s interpretation of the Bible. To those bought in—excepting, perhaps, that small demographic of Christians who identify as evangelical and are truly progressive—evangelicalism is not a collection of facts. It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

And, for an evangelical, there are no small doubts: growing up in many evangelical churches means to be told, repeatedly, that the devil will always seek a foothold, and once you give him one you’re well on the road to hell, to losing your faith, to destroying your witness. That’s scary stuff. To begin to doubt evangelicalism is not simply a mental exercise. For many like me, it’s to feel a void opening, the earth dropping out from beneath you. It’s to face the prospect of invalidating your entire existence.

So know this when you talk to an evangelical: in attempting to persuade them to your point of view—even on a topic that seems minor to you—you’re not asking for them to change their mind, you’re asking them to punch a hole in the fabric of their reality, to begin the process of destroying their world. And, as anyone who has had the experience knows, world-destroying is not fun. It is, frankly, terrifying.

That’s not to say that realities can’t change. Mine did. But few individuals can be argued out of an entire worldview. Realities shift when ideas bloom and ideas are slow and patient, creeping in through unguarded portals and establishing themselves without much fanfare. However well-intentioned you are, bludgeoning people with fact after argument after fact will only entrench them in their position and reinforce a perception of being persecuted by the world.

As Smith said, realities can and do change, but change is hard and the older people become the harder it is for them to abandon their faith.

Many of the readers of this blog were once devoted followers of Jesus, members of sin-hating, Bible-believing, soul-saving Evangelical churches. More than a few of you were once pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, Christian college professors, or Christian school teachers, yet there came a time when you renounced your faith and walked away from Jesus and the church. While scores of church-going Evangelicals deconvert in their teens and twenties, by the time people reach their forties and fifties, it is less likely that they will abandon their faith. I have corresponded with numerous unbelievers in their forties and fifties who still attend church every Sunday. In some instances, these unbelievers are still in the ministry. They no longer believe the Christian narrative, yet they give the appearance that they are tight with Jesus. Why do these faux-saints believe one thing, but say another? I know of several Evangelical churches that are currently pastored by unbelievers. How can these men, week after week, lie and pretend?

Years ago, the secular counselor I see told me that someone walking away from not only Christianity, but their life’s vocation, at the age of fifty is almost unheard of. Why is that? What makes it almost impossible for older Evangelicals to make a one-hundred-eighty degree turn and walk out of the church, never to return?

Imagine, for a moment, how much of my life I invested in Evangelical Christianity. Imagine how many thousands of hours I spent in worship, devotion, and service for the Christian God. Imagine spending thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading Christian tomes. Imagine preaching thousands of sermons and leading numerous souls to Christ. Imagine a life consumed by the things of God. For most of my adult life, I tried my best to follow the teaching of Christ and to lead others to do the same. Yet, almost a decade ago, I abandoned everything I held dear and started what essentially amounted to a new life sans Jesus, the church, and the ministry. Why would anyone blow up his life as I did?

I know that my story is an outlier, that most fifty-year-old preachers stay the course until Jesus takes them home to glory. Most older doubting Thomases bury their doubts and motor on, giving the appearance that they are still one of the faithful. Why? Why not proclaim your unbelief far and wide as I did with a letter titled, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners?

Smith, as I and other former Evangelicals do, views Evangelicalism as a self-contained bubble:

It is an entire reality, based not on logic but on a web of ideas, all of which must be wholeheartedly accepted for any of it to work. It is complete unto itself, self-contained, self-justifying, self-sustaining. It’s your community, your life, your entire way of thinking, and your gauge for what is true in the world. Evangelicalism feels so right from the inside.

Everything makes perfect sense when you are in the bubble. Attacks from the outside are viewed as Satan’s attempt to destroy your faith. I spent almost fifty years in this bubble. My life had design, structure, and order. My calling gave my life purpose and meaning. All of my friends and many family members lived in this bubble too. I was married to a woman who was a lifelong bubble-dweller. Together, we brought six children into the world, and the only life they knew was within the bubble. Life, from a holistic point of view, was grand, exactly as God wanted it to be. And yet, one day, after days, weeks, and months of anguish and heartache, I walked out of the bubble and said, I no longer believe. A short time later, my wife left the bubble too. Over time, our children made their own peace with the past, with each of them going their own way. The good news is that none of them are Evangelicals. The curse has been broken.

In a matter of months, I lost almost everything I held dear: my career, my ministerial connections, and my purpose and direction. Most of all, I lost friendships decades in the making. The losses I suffered were great, and even today I lament all that was lost; not because I want back that which was lost, but because there’s now a huge hole in my life that was once filled by God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. At my age, I don’t know if I will ever fill this hole. Perhaps the best I can do is shovel in some backfill and construct a bridge that carries me to the other side.

The next time you find yourself frustrated by an Evangelical who refuses to see the “light,” just remember what you are asking him or her to give up. Consider, for a moment, the great price he (or she) will pay if his doubts or loss of faith are publicized. I know what divorcing Jesus cost me, and I would never say to anyone, follow in my steps. While I am convinced that Christianity cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained, I understand why people hang on despite their doubts or loss of faith. Ask yourself, are you willing to lose everything you hold dear? I know I am fortunate in that my wife deconverted when I did and that my children accepted and embraced my abandonment of Christianity. I have corresponded with numerous ex-Evangelicals who lost their marriages and families when they deconverted. When their spouses were asked to choose between them and Jesus, they chose the latter. I know of children who have abandoned an unbelieving mother or father, choosing instead to follow after Jesus. And the same can be said of children who abandon their family’s faith, only to then find themselves excommunicated from their parents’ homes. Evangelicals love to talk about the high cost of being a Christian, but the same can be said for those of us who were once saved and now we are lost.

How old were you when you left Christianity? Did you find it hard to leave the bubble? If your family is still believers, how is your relationship with them? If you had to do it all over again, would you have still left the faith? Or would you have “played the game,” choosing instead to hang on to family and societal connections? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

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On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

deerfield united methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield United Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, William Kriechbaum, pastor Facebook

I wanted to go inside to find more information about this Christ who died and rose again for the people of Deerfield United Methodist, but alas the doors were locked. The church wants passersby to know that it supports the United States and it armed forces. Good to know…

light of catholic church deerfield michigan light of catholic church deerfield michigan 3 light of catholic church deerfield michigan 2

Light of Christ Catholic Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Jeffrey Poll, pastor Website

Light of Christ Catholic wants passersby to know that they wish them peace, love, love and happiness at Easter and always. The irony here is the memorial to a dead soldier; an emblem of violence and death, and not peace, love, love and happiness.

deerfield free methodist church deerfield michigan

Deerfield Free Methodist Church, Deerfield, Michigan, Bill Fix, pastor Here’s what the church wants you to know about them:

The beautiful sanctuary of Deerfield Free Methodist Church is shown below. It is even more beautiful in person and I want to invite you to attend. Our campus is located at 572 East River Street in Deerfield, Michigan. We are part of the Southern Michigan Conference of the Free Methodist Church of North America. Our conference is a coalition of churches desiring to advance God’s Kingdom by including people from all walks of life. We invite you to join our church family this Sunday at 10 am. Prior to the church service we have complimentary refreshments in Aunt Bethel’s Cafe located in our Heritage Hal [sic]. Come as you are and enjoy a service that might change your life in a really good way!

I thought Christianity was all about Jesus? Evidently, at Deerfield Free Methodist the star attraction is its beautiful sanctuary, and not Jesus.

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

seventh day adventist church monroe michigan

Monroe Seventh Day Adventist Church, Monroe, Michigan According to the church’s Facebook page, its mission is: To grow as children of God, to nurture a family of God, to prepare others for the Kingdom of God.

Monroe Seventh Day wants passersby to know “its [sic] never to late to begin again.”  As I read this sign, I said to Polly, not if you’re dead.

bible fellowship church monroe michigan

Bible Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jim Walker, pastor  Facebook

hope church of monroe monroe michigan

Hope Church of Monroe, Monroe, Michigan, Gary Braden, pastor Facebook

christ love fellowship church monroe michigan

Christ Love Fellowship Church, Monroe, Michigan The church’s Facebook page says:

Christ Love Fellowship, a place where we help people build a relationship with God. We don’t place boundaries based on race, denomination, or background.

life bridge church monroe michigan

Life Bridge Church, Monroe, Michigan, Bill Rice, pastor Here’s what Life Bridge’s pastors want you to know about their church:

“A growing community of believers devoted to reaching the unchurched”

Life Bridge Church, located in Taylor, MI, is a young and growing church. Started in December of 2012, as a mobile church plant in Flat Rock, MI, it has been our mission to create a church that is inviting and approachable to people that don’t normally consider going to church. We teach Biblical truths in a relevant and powerful way. We believe these truths make a life-changing difference in your life, our community, and our world.

If you visit one of our services (get directions) this is what you’ll experience:

  • Casual Atmosphere
  • Weekend experiences that last for one hour
  • Friendly people
  • Thought-provoking messages based on the Bible
  • Great worship music
  • Safe & fun teaching for your kids
  • Next steps to help you follow Jesus

ONE HOUR experiences!  The perfect church for people who love NFL football or have short attention spans.

zion evangelical lutheran church monroe michigan

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Monroe Michigan, Ross Ulrich, pastor Zion Evangelical is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). According to the church’s website, its mission is:

We follow the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20), to make disciples through the Means of Grace God that has entrusted to us.

​To accomplish this purpose we seek to:

  • ​Nurture: by building one another’s faith through regular worship, study and the use of the Word and Sacraments.
  • Reach the Lost: by equipping our members with the knowledge to seek out those who do not know Christ and to carry God’s message to them.
  • Build Relationships:  by providing a variety of opportunities for Christian fellowship and mutual support.

The church also has a preschool and a K-8 school.

true gospel missionary baptist church monroe michigan

True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, John Bullard, pastor

full gospel assembly church monroe michigan

Full Gospel Assembly Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

stewart road church of god monroe michigan

Stewart Road Church of God, Monroe, Michigan, Joseph Byrd, pastor According to its website, Stewart Road is:

We are a Spirit-filled, multi-generational, and multi-cultural church focused on Word-centered teaching.  We are passionate about worship, and committed to discipleship.

Come and experience what it really means to follow Jesus alongside a community committed to Christ.

 

 

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

road trip

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon during our travels.

All of the churches in this post are Baptist churches located in Monroe, Michigan — a city of 21,000 people. Polly and I have never seen this many Baptist churches in a Northern community this size, especially when you consider that this post does not list all of the Baptist churches in Monroe. Baptists in Monroe have a supermarket full of choices when it comes to theology and practice — everything from Freewill Baptist to Primitive Baptist.

evergreen acres missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Evergreen Acres Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Jacob Clawson, pastor.  Facebook

hope missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan No Web Presence

monroe primitive baptist church monroe michigan

Monroe Primitive Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Elders Tom and Randy Pitney

faith baptist church monroe michigan

Faith Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Brian Southerland, pastor Website

kentucky park missionary baptist church monroe michigan

Kentucky Park Missionary Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Kenny Goins, pastor No Web Presence

first freewill baptist church monroe michigan

First Freewill Baptist Church, Monroe, Michigan, Philip Wylie, pastor No Web Presence

Will There be Any Women in Heaven? Hint, the Answer is No!

philippians-3-20Caution! Snark ahead! You have been warned.

One of the more bizarre beliefs found within the confines of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement is that there will be no women in Heaven. That’s right, ladies, there will be NO females in Heaven. The thinking goes something like this: God, the father is male and Jesus is male. In Heaven, Christians will receive perfect resurrected bodies just like Jesus’. Thus, everyone in Heaven will be a thirty-three-year-old male. This means, of course, that God promotes and supports Transgenderism for women. Time to get your male on, ladies. Prepare now for eternity in Heaven as a m-a-n.

The late Peter Ruckman, a noted IFB preacher and defender of the King James Bible, had this to say about women in Heaven:

This means that every saved woman in the body of Christ is indwelt by a MAN, at least as far as sexual designations are concerned. Someday, the saved woman will be fashioned “LIKE UNTO HIS GLORIOUS BODY” (Philippians 3:21). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)

This would mean that every saved woman in the body of Christ will eventually become a THIRTY-THREE AND ONE-HALF YEAR OLD, SINLESS MALE (Phil. 3:20-21). She would be a perfect replica of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). (Bible Believers’ Bulletin. May 1986, page 3)So up in Heaven, ladies, you are going to be a 33 1/2-year-old male just

like your Saviour. If that seems odd or peculiar or distasteful to you Christian ladies, just remember that you have a man living inside of you (1 Tim. 2:5 cf. Col. 1:27), and that your destiny as a child of God is to be conformed to that man’s image (Romans 8:29). (The Book of Luke: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 636)

Since every Christian in the Body of Christ has a MAN inside him (or her) (Colossians 1:27; John 1:12) and is PREDESTINED to be conformed to the image of that man (2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:1-4; Philippians 3:21), there is no question at all about the future state of every Christian in the Body of Christ, except in the minds of Hebrew and Greek professors and the “vast majority of conservative, Bible-rejecting blockheads.” The believer will appear in glory as a 33-year old sinless male. (22 Years of the Bible Believer’s Bulletin Vol. 1 “The AV Holy Bible” page 110)

Moreover, everyone in heaven is a male…The woman is a “womb-man,” a man with a womb.
(The Books of First and Second Corinthians: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series, page 343)

The indication is that the only people who get a glorified body like Jesus Christ are people in the Church Age. The only people who get a 33-year-old sinless [male, see p. 596] body are people saved in the dispensation of grace. All others get their eternal life by partaking of a tree, and they go into eternity male and female, exactly like Adam and Eve were before they fell. (The Book of Revelation: The Bible Believer’s Commentary Series page 587)

Is it any wonder then, that in IFB churches who hold such views, women are lorded over by misogynistic men who think God has given them the right, duty, and responsibility to lord over the fairer sex?

My question is whether there will be women in Hell? I wasn’t able to find any IFB preacher taking up this subject, but I did find a few words from their fellow misogynists in Islam. The Islam Question and Answer site says:

Praise be to Allah.

It was narrated from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that women will form the majority of the people of Hell. It was narrated from ‘Imran ibn Husayn that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I looked into Paradise and I saw that the majority of its people were the poor. And I looked into Hell and I saw that the majority of its people are women.”

(Narrated by al-Bukhari, 3241; Muslim, 2737)

With regard to the reason for this, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was asked about it and he explained the reason.

It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allah ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “I was shown Hell and I have never seen anything more terrifying than it. And I saw that the majority of its people are women.” They said, “Why, O Messenger of Allah?” He said, “Because of their ingratitude (kufr).” It was said, “Are they ungrateful to Allah?” He said, “They are ungrateful to their companions (husbands) and ungrateful for good treatment. If you are kind to one of them for a lifetime then she sees one (undesirable) thing in you, she will say, ‘I have never had anything good from you.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhari, 1052)

It was narrated that Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) said:

“The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) went out to the musalla (prayer place) on the day of Eid al-Adha or Eid al-Fitr. He passed by the women and said, ‘O women! Give charity, for I have seen that you form the majority of the people of Hell.’ They asked, ‘Why is that, O Messenger of Allah?’  He replied, ‘You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religious commitment than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you.’ The women asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah, what is deficient in our intelligence and religious commitment?’ He said, ‘Is not the testimony of two women equal to the testimony of one man?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Is it not true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?’ The women said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘This is the deficiency in her religious commitment.’”

…..

And Allah knows best.

For Fundamentalist Baptist and Muslim women alike, Hell is their religion, and Heaven is getting as far away from it as possible.

No matter what women say or do in IFB churches, they will always be considered second-class citizens; inferior to men because the Bible says that women are weaker than men and more prone to emotional silliness. Women can’t be preachers, teachers of adults, elders, deacons, or political leaders. According to some IFB preachers, women just aren’t suited for such jobs. God wants women to submit to their husbands and pastors, and busy themselves with house-cleaning, cooking, raising children, and working in the church nursery. For these women, their husbands are their bosses, and it’s their duty to submit to them as unto the Lord. Ponder that thought for a moment. How does Jesus want you to submit to him? With love, commitment, and strict obedience. In patriarchal homes there is a strict order: Jesus, pastor, husband, wife, children, and dog. Upsetting this order, according to preachers of complementarianism, brings God’s judgment. No marriage is a good one without it being perfectly aligned with God’s order for the church and home. Or so preachers say, anyway.

Some IFB women endure such treatment for the sake of their children. It is not uncommon to see such women divorce their husbands once their children are out of the house. I suspect other women take the he that endureth to the end shall be saved approach. They willingly suffer being misused and abused, believing that God will reward them in Heaven for their sacrificial obedience.

But what if Peter Ruckman and his fellow misogynists are right; that women will be turned into men once they arrive at the pearly gates? Think about that fact for a moment, ladies! Imagine spending your life putting up with shit from men, only to find out when you get to Heaven that God hates you too and plans to turn you into a thirty-three-year-old man. Isn’t God’s plan wondrous?

My advice to IFB women is this: RUN! Flee the mind-numbing, psychologically damaging preaching of IFB pastors. If need be, tell your IFB husband that he has two choices: FLEE or separation/divorce. Life is too short for women to give it all up to the wants, whims, needs, and desires of religiously motivated men. There’s no Christian Hell or Heaven awaiting, ladies, so now is the time to make for yourselves your own heaven and hell on earth; hell for the men who demean you and heaven for yourself and those value you as people.

I shall wait for God’s anointed ones to show up and object to what I have written here. The BIBLE says ___________, they will say, and in doing so they will prove, yet again, that the Bible can be used to prove almost anything; that Peter Ruckman with his belief that there will be no women in Heaven is just as credible and believable as Christians who suggest otherwise. Evangelical Christianity is, in effect, a paint-by-number board without numbers. Believers can freely use — thanks to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — whatever colors they want to paint their picture. How dare anyone suggest that their particular picture is not a representation of True Christianity®.

Black Collar Crime: Protestant Navy Chaplain Loften Thornton Videotaped Having Sex Outside of Bar

loften thornton

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.

Loften Thornton, a Protestant Navy chaplain, was recently videotaped having consensual sex with a woman outside of a New Orleans bar.

Ramon Vargas, a reporter for The New Orleans Advocate, writes:

New Orleans may have a libertine reputation, but what happened last month just outside the Crown & Anchor bar in Algiers Point was too much for owner Neil Timms.

Right in plain view of his surveillance camera, he said, a Navy chaplain, Capt. Loften Thornton, and his female companion were having sex.

“It was the fact that it was a chaplain and it was in public” that upset him, Timms said.

So he handed over video of the tryst to authorities at the nearby Marine Forces Reserve base in Algiers. The chaplain was fired a few days later, officials said.

According to Timms, he’d met Thornton a couple of times before at the British-themed Crown & Anchor and understood he was a chaplain at the Marine Forces Reserve base about a mile away in Federal City.

Timms said people at the bar noticed Thornton and a woman slip outside of the bar on Pelican Avenue together on March 15. Somebody in the bar walked around the corner, saw Thornton and the woman having sex, and asked them to stop, which they did, Timms said.

Timms said he reviewed his security video, realized the act had been recorded and notified the Federal City base. He said he believed the encounter was consensual but was still alarmed that it involved a military chaplain.

In a statement Wednesday, the Corps said that Lt. Gen. Rex McMillian, the Marine Forces Reserve commander, fired Thornton on March 20 “due to a loss of trust and confidence.” The statement did not specify what triggered the dismissal, citing an ongoing investigation.

A report Wednesday in USA Today, however, cited two anonymous Department of Defense sources who said authorities “were examining” footage showing Thornton having sex with a woman outside the Crown & Anchor, which is popular with members of the military in New Orleans, especially on the west bank.

Attempts to contact Thornton on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Thornton became a Navy chaplain in 1992, according to USA Today. Officials said he is a Protestant chaplain.

….