Tag Archive: Coronavirus Pandemic

Living in the Land of Jesus, Guns, and Republicans: I Went Shopping at Meijer Today

meijer-covid-19

This post contains cursing. If you are easily offended by such language, I suggest you read something else.

Earlier today, we drove to nearby Defiance, Ohio to do some shopping at Meijer. I wondered exactly how locals would be acting now that Governor Mike DeWine has loosened or removed many of the restrictions that keep Ohioans sequestered at home. I say “wondered,” when, in fact, I knew exactly what I would see.

I live in the land of Jesus, Guns, and Republicans. And not just any Jesus. Sure, there are liberal and progressive Christians around here, but, for the most part, those who worship the dead Son of God are Evangelicals. Even those who attend mainline churches tend to skew to the right religiously. Atheists? Why, we are so rare that locals don’t even think we exist.

There are hundreds of churches in the quad-county area. I live in a community of 356 or so people. Within a few miles of my home there are three Church of God congregations, a Catholic church, a Methodist church, and two non-denominational churches. That’s why locals who haven’t read my writing assume I am a worshiper of Jesus. Several years ago, a woman engaged my daughter Bethany — who has Down syndrome — in a discussion about music at a high school basketball game. The woman asked, “so what kind of music do you like?” Bethany quickly gave her top five list of country bands. Then the woman said, “you like Christian music too, right?” Bethany said nothing. Much like her mother, she hates Christian music. I looked at the woman, gave her my fake smile, and said, “oh, we listen to all sorts of music.” And without missing a beat, I said, “should be a good game tonight.”

This woman, a devout follower of the Evangelical Jesus, had no place in her worldview for people who didn’t listen to Christian music. Imagine what her response might have been had I said, “We are atheists. We don’t listen to shitty Christian music.” Of course, I am too polite to do so.

I assume that local Christians have at least have been taught what is commonly called the TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS:

  • Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy heart, soul, and might (mind)
  • Thou shalt love your neighbor as thyself

I say “assume,” because, based on what I saw while shopping today, it is evident that local Christians have forgotten about loving their neighbors. I personally know several local progressive/liberal pastors. I know these men of God take seriously the Coronavirus pandemic and what can be done to lessen the spread of COVID-19. I do wonder, however, what local right-wing pastors are conveying to their congregants about the current pandemic. I suspect, not much.

I am sure someone is going to ask, “what does Evangelical Christianity have to do with what you experienced today?” Everything. You see, Evangelical theology breeds right-wing Republican/Libertarian political beliefs. All those old people who watch Faux News every night? They live here in Defiance, Williams, Henry, and Fulton counties. They have birthed children and have grandchildren who, having experienced little else but the white Evangelical monoculture of rural northwest Ohio, walk in their right-wing parents’/grandparents’ shoes. Want to know who to blame for the presidency of Donald Trump? Look no farther than rural northwest Ohio. Almost seven out of ten voting locals voted for Trump. Beliefs have consequences. Not only do Republicans control EVERY local/state/federal office, but their Jesus-infused political beliefs also infect every aspect of local life. And local Republicans are not the centrist Republicans I remember from back in the days when Jim Rhodes was governor and Howard Metzenbaum, John Glenn, and George Voinovich represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate. Thanks to the racist Tea Party rebellion against “Kenyan-born” Barack Obama, local Republicans have moved to the right, embracing immoral Libertarian politics. Many of these same people are militia-friendly gun owners who supported the recent armed takeover of the Michigan state house.

I can’t help but notice their memes and posts on social media decrying liberals, atheists, and virtually every action taken by the government to keep them safe during this pandemic. No conspiracy is too extreme for them. Bill Gates, as a modern-day Josef Mengele? The Chinese government behind the Wuhan virus? 5G causes COVID-19? Vaccines, the mark of the beast? I have seen every one of these crazy conspiracies touted on local Facebook pages. Good Christian people want the country opened up NOW! If doing so kills the neighbors they are supposed to love, so be it. All that matters to them is their “rights.” Ironically, most of the locals demanding freedom to do whatever they want, are anti-abortion, opposed to same-sex marriage, and oppose teaching evolution in public school science classes. Evidently, “freedom” only applies when their way of life is interrupted or impeded. I so wanted to ask these Libertarian dick-waggers, “do you mind if I strip off my clothes and stand on the sidewalk in front of your house while your children play in the yard?” Freedom, baby! It’s tyranny to restrict me in any way! Don’t like it? Stay in your house. Such is the absurdity of immoral, anarchist Libertarianism.

Yesterday, I heard a newscaster say that sixty-eight percent of people wear masks to protect themselves and others from exposure to the Coronavirus. I said to the TV — a common thing for me to do these days — where? Austin? Seattle? Not here, that’s for sure. Since March 7, I have gone to the store (hardware and grocery) six or so times. I have done my best to avoid mouth breathers, ordering online from Walmart, Amazon, Target, Chief Supermarket, Menards, Wayfair, CVS, New Egg, B&H, and several small companies when I can instead of going to brick-and-mortar stores. (You should see the mountain of cardboard we’ve accumulated in our garage.) Today’s trip was unavoidable. I know that every time we go to the store we risk infection, but it’s impossible for us to become hermits — even though such a life is appealing. All we know to do is limit exposure as much as we can, hoping the COVID-19 virus doesn’t track us down and kill us.

Today, roughly thirty percent or so of shoppers were wearing face masks. At Meijer, employees are required to wear masks, and every worker kept the letter of the law. I saw numerous employees, including one manager, with their masks pulled below their noses. I wanted to say, “you do know you breathe in and out of your nose, expelling whatever into the air?” I get it, wearing masks is uncomfortable and restricts breathing. To that I say, “tough shit.” Life is hard, period, right now, and we all have to adapt. Stop your whining.

As far as my fellow citizens were concerned, most of them were not wearing masks, and neither were they the least bit concerned about social distancing. (And to those who were wearing masks and trying to stay the fuck away from each other? Thank you, for loving your neighbor as yourself.) I saw numerous groups of mainly older people closely huddled together shooting the breeze. I wanted to go up to them and say, “are you guys idiots? You do know that you are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying, right?” Something tells me that doing so would have been a waste of time. Trump, Hannity, Ingraham, and their favorite TV preachers told them all the need to know about the Wuhan virus, end of discussion. Got any hydroxychloroquine or bleach?

What made things worse is that Meijer management decided to have its workers stock shelves on a Friday at 4:00 PM. Managers get from employees what they demand, so it seemed clear to me that managers were not that interested in making sure workers properly wear masks and practice social distancing. It’s impossible to stay six feet away from people if there are stockers and carts in the middle of aisles. The dairy aisle was the worst. Two women were stocking the coolers. They had THREE stock carts, plus a cardboard cart in the middle of the aisle, blocking traffic from both directions. I wanted to scream. Yes, I am angry, pissed off, and irritated. I am oh-so-tired of such carelessness and indifference.

Two things stood out during our shopping foray at Meijer. First, there were two morbidly obese seniors driving motorized carts through the store. They were together. Neither of them was wearing masks. One woman had a tank of oxygen perched on her basket in case she needed it. I thought, “talk about clueless. Death on wheels coming my way!” Second, there was a man in his early thirties with his significant other and several children. No mask, no surprise. He was a burly manly man. Real men don’t wear sissy masks. As I watched from a distance, the man sneezed, with gusto, not once, not twice, but three times. Three massive bursts of particles into the air. He made no effort to hold his sneeze or direct it into his arm or a cloth. Nope, this man just expelled his sneezes into the air. I am at a place in life where I consider such behavior criminal, no different than an HIV positive man having unprotected sex with someone. This man could have COVID-19 and not know it. Sure, he’s young, but young people DO die from this virus, and at the very least he could be an asymptomatic carrier. Whatever he was, he most certainly was an inconsiderate asshole.

I could write a lot more about our trip to Meijer today, but I will leave my raging storytelling here. I know that someone is sure to say, “Bruce, you should stay home! Sick? Aged? Not my problem. You need to quarantine, not me.” Fine. Are you going to make sure we have sufficient income to live? Are you going to make sure we have access to food, safely delivered to our home? Are you going to make sure we have medical care, including the delivery of our medications? “Of course not, Bruce! Freedom, baby! I get to live, and you, well sorry, but you don’t. Can’t worry about a ‘few’ old people dying.”

And come Sunday, these people who raised holy hell over supposed “death panels” a few years ago, will go to church, professing their love for Jesus and their fellow man. Disconnected from their words will be the reality of their behavior. Don’t tell me how much you love Jesus and your neighbor, show me. People who really love their neighbors will do everything they can to make sure the sick, elderly, and vulnerable are protected and cared for. That you refuse to wear a mask tells me that the only person you care about is self. I thought Jesus told his followers to deny themselves, to put God and others first? All I saw today was unmitigated selfishness.

I am an atheist, yet I live according to the grand truth that I should love my neighbor as myself. It matters to me if my neighbors, along with their families, get sick or die. The least I can do for them is wear a mask, wash my hands, and stay six-feet away. And to locals who only value their personal freedom and scream TYRANNY when asked to wear a mask? I say, “fuck you.”

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Federal Government has no Power to Respond to the Coronavirus Pandemic

david barton

Discredited Christian nationalist “historian” David Barton [is] now asserting that the federal government has no power to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Constitution puts all health care at the state level; it does not put it at the federal level,” Barton said during a recent interview. “So this was not a federal question; it is a state question. In the Constitution, you have 17 what are called enumerated powers. The Constitution says, ‘Federal government, here’s 17 things you’re allowed to do.’ And then in the Tenth Amendment, it says if it’s not one of those 17 things, it belongs to the states to deal with. Health care was one of those issues.” (Thanks to our friends at Right Wing Watch for the video.)

Barton seems unable to grasp that it’s not 1820 anymore. The Constitution and federal laws have changed over time, and there’s no longer any doubt that the federal government has the power – some would say the duty – to respond in the face of a public health emergency. (The fact that the current administration’s response has been hapless doesn’t negate that; it just makes it all the more obvious that we need to do a better job next time.)

What are Barton and his pals in the Religious Right up to here? Their main goal is to provide cover for President Donald Trump, their “I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Our-Lord-And-Savior” substitute. By pretending it was never Trump’s job to spearhead efforts to stop the spread of the virus to begin with, they hope to absolve him of all blame for the spiraling death toll. (Clever, right?) Unfortunately for the nation, their antics have the unpleasant side effect of putting us all in jeopardy.

Lying about the federal government’s responsibility in the face of a health crisis isn’t the Barton band’s only trick. Yesterday, a collection of Religious Right legal groups announced that they are forming a “hotline” pastors can call if they believe their religious freedom rights are being violated. (That is, if they’re angry that government agencies have ordered them to remain closed alongside everyone else.) The effort is led by a Barton associate named Rick Green.

— Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Christian Nationalists Are Spreading Fake News About The Federal Government And Coronavirus, May 14, 2020

IFB Preacher Gene Gouge Says He is in a War Against All Things Social

pastor gene gouge

Gene Gouge is the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hickory, North Carolina. Liberty Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. Gouge has been its pastor for over thirty years.

Recently Gouge made news headlines by saying the COVID-19 virus is much to do about nothing; little more than evil, communist propaganda.

WSOC-9 reports:

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Pastor Gene Gouge at Liberty Baptist in Hickory has been broadcasting his message of concern across the foothills — and he isn’t mincing his words.

“The news media is pure evil, communist propaganda,” Gouge said.

Not only has he attacked coverage of the pandemic but also whether or not the virus is truly a threat to the country.

“95% of everything that has gone on about the last month or two months is a mirage. It is an illusion, a delusion. It ain’t real,” he said.

Gouge believes the response to the pandemic is violating his congregation’s civil rights, so he put a sign outside his church asking the governor to stop the persecution of churches and Christians and to open the churches.

He believes people should be allowed to gather at places of worship.

“We believe this virus has been weaponized and has been used to hurt our country and hurt our constitution,” he said.

When Channel 9 asked him about the more than 50,000 deaths nationwide so far, the pastor responded, “You’re not going to develop an immune system by staying in the house and by wearing gloves and wearing a mask. People who are susceptible, cancer patients, elderly people no doubt should be extra precautions.”

After the above news story was published, Gouge took to the pulpit to “educate” congregants about the “war” he was fighting.

Here’s a partial transcript of what he had to say:

We are in a war. We are in a battle. I’ve said it from day one, we’ve been lied to, we’ve been manipulated, this virus has been weaponized to destroy this country, our nation, and the economy. And our states. We are at war. We are literally now being attacked.

….

We are at war. We are at war . . . The word social. I don’t know if you realize it or not, the word social is not even found in the Bible. The word social is a word of the world, it’s not a word that’s in the Bible. Any time that word social comes up it ought to throw up immediately a red flag of warning. I mean to us who are saved by the grace of God. Socialism. Socially. What’s a socialist? It’s one step from a communist. Amen. And then you got social reform. You know what social reform is? It’s the new coming, new world order. Then you got social medicine. That’s what we’ve heard about now ever since Obamacare. Social security. Don’t get mad at me. Social security is using the money, our money, to take care of us. that’s a scary thought, ain’t it? Social justice. I’ve been to Cuba. You see the billboard. Viva La Revolucion. Social Justice. And then social distancing. Oughta throw up a red flag just like that when it was used. You know what that is? Dividing the people. Dividing the people. You know what that basically is? It’s nothing more than communism. Communism is atheism. Atheism leads to Satanism. And I’m telling you this world is headed to a one-world religion of Satanism — the worshiping of Satan. You can read that in the book of the Revelation.

We’re at war. We’re at war.

Got all that? Gouge believes the word “social” is evil because the word is not found in the King James Bible. I wonder if Gouge thinks ice cream or potlucks are evil too since neither word is found in the Bible?

I wonder if Gouge owns a dictionary? Had he bothered to look up the word social, he would have found this:

social definition

Social sure sounds like church to me.

Gouge’s “social” rant is little more than a Trump campaign speech. Lies, half-truths, distortions, all meant to drive Gouge’s fake war agenda. I love his “atheism leads to Satanism” line. As any atheist would tell Gouge, atheism doesn’t lead to Satanism. Atheists believe Satan is a myth, and the only thing atheism has led them to is freedom from hearing nonsensical sermons such as this one.

Gouge believes that government-mandated social distancing is the persecution of Christians and churches. Here’s the message he put on the sign in front of his church:

Freedom Baptist Church Hickory North Carolina

Pastor Gouge says he is fighting a war. Based on my investigation, the only war Gouge is fighting is against science, reason, common sense, and loving your neighbor as yourself. If Gouge were alone in a cabin somewhere, his words could be easily dismissed as the rant of a deluded hillbilly. Unfortunately, Gouge has a following, people who hang on his every word. And this makes Gouge dangerous — a promoter of ignorance that can and does psychologically and physically harm others.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Evangelical Pastor Levi Skipper Tries to Explain Why God Allows Suffering

pastor levi skipper

Recently, Pastor Levi Skipper, the evangelism catalyst (oh the ministry titles Evangelicals come up with these days) for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB), wrote an article for the GBMB website. Titled, Why Doesn’t God Stop the Coronavirus: 4 Steps to Responding Well, the article attempts to answer the age-old question of why the Christian God allows suffering. I say attempts because as I shall show in this post, Skipper fails spectacularly in his defense of God’s honor, reputation, and name.

Skipper identifies the problem many people have with the notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God not only allowing the existence of the Coronavirus, but doing nothing about its spread and mortality.

Skipper writes:

Why doesn’t God stop the coronavirus? It’s a simple and yet profound question. As the body of Christ, we must be prepared to answer.

There is a perceived logical argument against God when looking at a crisis. You’ll see these argument arise especially during and in the wake of a crisis.

British comedian Stephen Fry delivered a vicious, scathing attack on the Judeo-Christian God when asked what he would say if it turned out, after he died, that God did in fact exist. He called this God a “maniac,” pointing to the large amount of unnecessary suffering in the world which he, by definition, created and allows (See More).

Don’t just gasp at that statement. This is the sentiment of millions of people today who choose either to reject God or deny His existence.

So how do they get to this mental state concerning God? The argument doesn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics. In fact, it is a very simple and even quite compelling argument.

God is all-powerful: He can do anything He wills.

God is all-loving: He cares with an intense love for His creation.

Suffering is a reality: We see suffering in the world now due to the Coronavirus Crisis.

Enter the problem: If there is a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he stop this coronavirus?

….

This leads to an inevitable conclusion: A God who is all-powerful and all-loving, as we see the God of Scripture, would never have created the world in which we live. Choosing to believe in Him requires closing one’s eyes to the suffering that surrounds us. Therefore, as some would hold, He must not exist. Or, if He does exist, there no way that He is both all-powerful and all-loving.

Skipper does a good job of framing the objection many people have with the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God and the existence of suffering. We know that if we had the same power and love as God, we would behave differently. Why does God silently sit by while people, along with animals, suffer?

Skipper rightly recognizes that this is a powerful argument used by atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers against Christianity. Personally, I consider it an unanswerable, unassailable argument against claims Christians make for their God.

Skipper states:

First, this will be an argument used against followers of Jesus. In fact, this will be an argument that will quickly silence many Christians.

Secondly, this argument will be used by the evil one to shake the faith of believers today.

Skipper worries that unbelievers will use this argument to quickly silence Christians. And he’s right. Countless Evangelical apologists have come to this blog to defend their deity’s honor. Their arguments are endless (and tiresome). However, when it comes to suffering (and the existence of evil) their defenses quickly flame out. As long as Evangelicals are tethered to the Bible — a book they believe is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — it is impossible for them to successfully defend God’s honor on this front. In particular, Bible literalism proves to a big problem in arguments about God and his culpability in human suffering. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals a God who is anything but kind, compassionate, and all-loving. If the Bible is one way we understand the nature of God, then it’s fair for non-believers to conclude that God is, to put it bluntly, a violent, judgmental prick.

Skipper begins his defense of the indefensible by saying:

God created a world in which love could exist. We read about this in Genesis 1.

….

We were created to love Him and one another. However, given the capacity to love means there is a capacity to choose. Had there been no choice to love it wouldn’t be genuine. Relationships would hold no meaning.

Terry Firma, writing for The Friendly Atheist website, responded to Skipper’s claim this way:

This has literally nothing to do with why God would allow or inflict pain, suffering, and death, but maybe Skipper is working up to it. I have to ask though: If love means having a choice, where does that leave a god who says he loves you, and if you don’t love him back, he’ll torture you forever?

It’s the same with Christians’ trite apologetics about free will.

Love me, insists the abusive husband or the sex-fiend kidnapper; and if the object of his warped affection can’t, or won’t, violence is sure to follow.

According to Skipper, the all-loving Christian God created humans to love him and love one another. This statement is, in and of itself, fraught with all sorts of problems. God didn’t create any of us with the capacity to love him. Surely, Skipper understands Evangelical Theology 101. The only two humans created to love the Christian God were Adam and Eve. Thanks to their fall into sin, none of us has an innate ability to love God. We are born into this world alienated from God. In fact, we naturally hate and despise God. That’s why we need to be born again. But, even here, can it really be said that God is an equal opportunity Savior? Of course not. Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that human salvation is predetermined; that it is God alone who chooses who may enter into a restored love relationship with him. And for those who won’t or can’t love God? The bloodthirsty God of the Bible reserves for us a room in Hell for all eternity. As Terry Firma rightly notes, God is akin to an abusive husband who says to his wife: love me or else.

Later in his defense of God, Skipper states:

The consequence of sin include suffering, pain, toil, and death. This is the reason suffering exists in the world today. An all-powerful and all-loving God created a world in which love could exist. Man chose not to love, and, therefore, sin corrupted the whole of creation ushering in evil, pain, and suffering. One author writes, “Ever since Adam and Eve fell, members of the human community have been thoroughly committed to their own well-being regardless of the cost to others.”

The sum of Skipper’s defense of God is that humans are sinners and that’s why they suffer. Again, none of us had a choice in this matter. God is playing a rigged game. He created Adam and Eve, knowing that Satan — whom he also created — would tempt them, causing them to break his law. God decided that everyone born after Adam and Eve would not have an opportunity to choose whether to eat fruit off the proverbial tree of good and evil. Everyone born after Adam and Eve comes into this world with a sin nature. This too is God’s handiwork. Remember, God is all-powerful. He could have acted differently, but he didn’t. Why is that? What kind of God allows suffering, pain, and death just so he can “save” a few people he determined to deliver from before the foundation of the world? (Ephesians 1:4) It’s all a game, is it not?

Skipper concludes his “defense” of the thrice holy God by saying:

God promises that those who know Him will be set free from the penalty, power and presence of sin. So, while the coronavirus is racing through the world, God has not forgotten us and is still in the business of bringing others into a relationship with Himself.

In other words, don’t count on God doing anything about human suffering. Much like Baal in 1 Kings 18, God is an absentee deity. Perhaps he’s sleeping, on vacation, or using the toilet. Skipper’s all-loving God may seem to not care one whit about human suffering — hey it’s humans’ fault, not mine, says God — but he does really, really, really want to save us.

Skipper tells his fellow Baptists to focus on evangelizing unbelievers. God’s in the soul-saving business! Amen? Amen! Of course, the big question Skipper leaves unanswered is this: why do Christians suffer and die just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world? If God is focused on saving people, what, exactly, is he saving them from? It’s evident that God is NOT saving Christians from suffering, pain, and death, so I ask again, what, exactly, is he saving them from?

It seems to me that the only thing God is saving Christians from is the mess he, himself, created. It’s the Biblical God who created Adam and Eve with the capacity to sin. It’s the Biblical God who created Satan, the tempter of Adam and Eve. God is the first cause of everything, is he not? Yet, Christians buy into the notion that they need “saving,” believing that their God will reward them — not in this life — in the afterlife with eternal love, peace, and bliss in Heaven. Well, that and they will never have to be around non-believers who dare to question God’s love of the human race. Those people will be tortured forever in the Lake of Fire. That’ll teach them to question the all-powerful, all-loving God.

Let me share the good news to Southern Baptists and other Evangelical Christians who may read this post. There is no God. Suffering exists for many different reasons, and no deity is going to show up and make things better. While some causes of suffering are beyond us, much of the suffering we face is of human origin, and it is within our power to ameliorate or eliminate suffering. We are the Gods in this story, and it is up to us to make a difference in the lives of others. While the origin of the Coronavirus remains unknown, we do have opportunities to lessen the suffering of our fellow humans during this pandemic. Praying to a non-existent or absentee deistic God accomplishes nothing, and neither does offloading life to some sort of nonexistent afterlife. The people we really need saved from are politically and religiously motivated zealots who think that pain and suffering are somehow good for us, or that they prepare us for eternity in a mythical Heaven. The idea that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is not true, as any chronic pain sufferer will tell you. Since we only get one go-round in this thing we call life, wouldn’t it be good for all of us if we reduce suffering as much as possible? Surely, lives relatively free of pain and suffering would be good for all involved. I know it would for me, anyway. How about you?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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.

COVID-19 Infections and Deaths Expose Faith Healers as Frauds

elmer gantry
Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

Cable and satellite TV subscribers are “blessed” to have numerous explicit Evangelical channels to watch. These channels are dominated by Charismatic faith healers, many of whom are fabulously rich. Con artists, the lot of them, their goal is fleece the flock while pretending to heal them of everything from cancer to cavities. As the Coronavirus pandemic sweeps the world, infecting and killing people of every race, religion, and social status, I have noticed that these faith healers seem impotent, unable to heal anyone of the virus. Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, a renowned fake healer, revealed his powerlessness over COVID-19 by cancelling all in-person worship services at his church. Johnson even shut down the church’s Healing Rooms, going to online healing instead. Why is that?

All across the world, Evangelical faith healers are powerless over COVID-19. Oh, they keep praying, anointing people with oil, and performing magic tricks, but their marks still get sick, and in some instances die. Their helplessness exposes for all the world to see the bankruptcy of faith healing. Rational, skeptical people have always known this, but I suspect that true-blue Charismatic believers are beginning to wonder if these so-called men of God are little more than modern Elmer Gantrys and Sister Sharon Falconers.

The Coronavirus pandemic also exposes Jesus himself as a fraud. Again, rational, skeptical people have always known that the miracle-working Son of God was a fraud; that the miracles recorded in the Bible are works of fiction. Yet, 2,000 years later, Charismatic (and Pentecostal) Christians still believe that Jesus, through the hands and prayers of Holy Ghost-filled preachers, can and does heal them. After all, Jesus did say to his disciples:

And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:7-8)

Just before allegedly ascending to Heaven, Jesus said to his followers:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:15-18)

Jesus’ brother James had this to say:

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. (James 5:13-15)

These Bible verses seem clear to me: preachers, evangelists, missionaries, and even common, every day Christians are empowered by God to heal the sick. Why, then, are they powerless when it comes to healing people of COVID-19?

It is obvious, at least to me anyway, that faith healers are frauds; that for all their supposed supernatural power and faith, they are unable to heal anyone from COVID-19. Will the Coronavirus pandemic be the seismic event that finally exposes these preachers for who and what they are: money-grubbing frauds? Will devoted Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians finally pull back the curtain and see that the divine wizard is but a man? Will they put their checkbooks away and let these so-called anointed prophets starve? I want to think that this is finally the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. I really, really, really want to believe that Charismatic and Pentecostal believers will be drawn to the light of reason and science. However, the Coronavirus pandemic will eventually fade into the fabric of human history, and when it does, faith healers will come up with a new shtick to rob Christians of their money. Perhaps if God would infect Kenneth Copeland, Jim Bakker, Bill Johnson, TD Jakes, Todd Bentley, Benny Hinn, Rodney Howard-Browne, Paula White, Pat Robertson, and others like them with COVID-19 and let them die horrible deaths while hooked up to respirators, maybe then believers would see the light.

I don’t wish COVID-19 on anyone, but a bit of karmic justice might put an end to the control faith healers have over so many people. Did you attend a Charismatic or Pentecostal church? Did you really believe faith healers could deliver you from your afflictions? If yes, what caused you to change your mind? Please leave your heavenly thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: IFB Preacher Keith Gomez Says Democrats are Demonic

pastor keith gomez

The Sounds of Fundamentalism 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 of sermon by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Keith Gomez, pastor of Northwest Bible Baptist Church and president of Providence Baptist College, both in Elgin, Illinois.

Video Link

No Need to Wear a Face Mask: When it’s My Time to Die, I’m Ready to Go

chick tract death

Like clockwork, my wife calls her mother every Sunday evening at 10:00 PM. They typically talk for an hour. Last Sunday, Polly asked her mom whether she was wearing a face mask when she went out in public. Mom replied, “no, I don’t need to wear a mask.” When Polly, out of concern for her eighty-four-year-old mother’s health and that of her father, told her mom, “look, you need to get a mask and wear it whenever you go out of the house.” Mom replied, “when it’s my time to die, I’m ready to go.” Polly angrily retorted, “and no one will be able to come to your funeral.” Mom smugly replied, “oh well, I won’t care. I’ll be dead.” And that was that . . .

It would be easy to dismiss Mom’s careless, reckless, stupid behavior as that of an old woman in poor health. However, there’s a deeper issue that I believe is driving her dismissal of common sense: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) theology and practice. Mom is the wife of a retired IFB pastor. She and Dad have attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio, on and off, since May 1976. You might remember me writing about their church several weeks ago. (Please see IFB Pastor Mark Falls Tries to Use Bible Verses to Guilt People into Attending Church during Coronavirus Pandemic and Understanding the Pastors Who Refuse to Close Their Churches During the Coronavirus Pandemic.) As of today, the Newark Baptist Temple is still holding in-person worship services on Sunday mornings! One person intimately connected to the Baptist Temple told me, “Mark Falls is an idiot.” To that I say, amen. Pastor Falls continues to put theology and politics before the health and welfare of his congregation and that of the local community. Here’s a Facebook video of the Easter service at the Baptist Temple:

Here’s a Facebook video of their most recent Sunday service.

As you can see, the pastor and his congregation seem unconcerned about COVID-19. No social distancing to speak of, no masks, or gloves. The good news is that Mom and Dad haven’t been back to church since I publicly called attention to their pastor’s abhorrent behavior. It’s also evident, based on building acoustics, that attendance is a fraction of what it typically is. (I find it interesting the cameraman never pans the crowd.) Fortunately, some church members have more common sense than their pastor and other church leaders.

Setting Falls’ anti-government ideology and IFB theology aside, why does he insist on putting his parishioners at risk?

As Pastor Falls was preparing to pray at the start of last Sunday’s service, he stated:

Amen. What a privilege to be at the Newark Baptist Temple this morning. We’re so glad to see each of you here, and we are thrilled to know that many are watching us at home as well. Isn’t it great to be able to sing I’m Saved, I’m Delivered? The greatest crisis in your entire life was your sin crisis. Because you are going to have to stand before God someday. And if the Lord can save us from that he can save us from anything.

And there is it is: “if the Lord can save us from that [sin], the Lord can save us from anything.” No need to concern yourself with the Coronavirus. The Lord, if he so wills, can and will deliver you from the virus. Jesus can do what doctors and scientists can’t do. He’s the great physician! No worries. . . . Hardened into this thinking is nascent fatalism. Oh, Falls and other Fundamentalists will deny that they are preaching fatalism, but it’s clear from their sermons, prayers, and actions, fatalism is exactly what they are preaching. In this instance, they are no different from Islamic imams who say, “Allah’s will be done.”

Now let me bring this post back around to what Polly’s mom said about not wearing a mask: “No, I don’t need to wear a mask. When it’s my time to die, I’m ready to go.” Her comment drips with the fatalism taught to her by the pastors of the Baptist Temple, both the late Jim Dennis and now Mark Falls.

Where does this fatalism come from? As with most beliefs within the IFB church movement, their fatalism rests on their peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Bible. An overarching teaching that infuses fatalism into everything IFB churches say and do is the belief that the Christian God is the sovereign Lord of all creation; that he holds the world in the palm of his hand; that nothing happens apart from God’s purpose, plan, and will. Thus, no need to worry. Jesus is on the job! Amen? Amen!

death

What is it that causes Polly’s mom to be so fatalistic about dying; so much so that she is willing to put not only her own health at risk, but that of her husband? I suspect that her fatalism can be traced back to Hebrews 9:27:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment

Here’s how this verse is typically interpreted in IFB circles. God is the giver and taker of life. When we are born, we come into the world with an expiration date; a death date. This date is fixed by God, and known only to him. No one dies before their appointed time. God knows the exact moment each of us is going to die. Not only that, he knows exactly how we are going to die. Thus, in Mom’s eyes, Jesus is on the job, and COVID-19 ain’t going to kill her unless God says so. And if God says so, there’s nothing she or anyone else can do about it.

Because of Mom’s intransigent fatalism, it is unlikely that we will ever see Polly’s parents again face to face. We are not willing to risk infection, all because of her stubborn unwillingness to take basic health and safety precautions. We expect to one day hear the phone ring, and at the other end someone will be telling us one or both of them are dead. Will it be COVID-19 that kills them? I don’t know. Both of them have serious health problems. A virus such as COVID-19 would make easy work of them. We wish they would at least take basic safety precautions, but they won’t. I suspect that a month from now they will join their church family after church down at the local Olive Garden for lunch. “See, we all survived! Glory and praise to Jesus!” And three or four weeks later? Some of them may learn that their God is not in control; that their God is no match for COVID-19, influenza, or any of the other countless bacteria and viruses trying to kill us. Biology and science trump religion every time. Too bad the people who most need to hear this will be dead.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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: IFB Preacher John Koletas Says the Coronavirus is a Good Thing

pastor john koletas

The Sounds of Fundamentalism 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 of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher John Koletas, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Troy, New York, saying that the current Coronavirus pandemic is a good thing.

Video Link

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Secularism to Blame for Young Adults Ignoring Stay at Home Orders

cameron cole

Media, government leaders, and adults have all expressed a great deal of frustration with the young people’s lack of compliance to social distancing during the Coronavirus Crisis. States shut down their beaches after pictures surfaced of college-age spring-breakers flooding the coastline in full violation of social distancing recommendations. Government leaders, healthcare authorities, media outlets, and the President of the United States himself have warned and implored young people to obey the quarantine regulations, if not for themselves, then for the sake of the vulnerable. Many in the media have expressed outrage that many (if not most) young people have completely ignored the mandates. 

My question for  is this: why are you surprised by their defiance? After all, they are being faithful followers of the prevailing pop-religion, “You Do You,” fed to them frequently through various media and institutions. With all authenticity, they are being “true to themselves.” They embody the sacred maxim, YOLO – You Only Live Once. 

“You Do You” combines radical individualism with moral relativism. This pop religion  involves each person developing and dictating his or her own ethical framework with individual happiness comprising the highest aim. After the these individual determinations, “being true to yourself” constitutes the real measure of virtue. 

To the extent that this incoherent moral system considers others, the primary rule involves supporting and enabling other people to be true to themselves. Whether that involves sexuality, gender, or other forms of self-expression, the primary responsibility of mankind and deepest promotion of human flourishing means affirming every person’s pursuit of authenticity. Intolerance — or not affirming another person’s self-engineered norms for ethics and self-expression — remains the carnal sin of the pop religion. You simply cannot resort to moral absolutes, whereby you tell a person what to do or suggest that their standards of self-expression may be harmful to themselves or society. 

Now we have a healthcare crisis on our hands, which requires virtually every citizen to think collectively. Even if we are young and healthy, we all absolutely must quarantine. We have to put the needs of the elderly, the immunocompromised, the diabetics, and those with respiratory conditions above our personal freedoms and wants. We must die to a “me first” individualism and comply for the greater good. Lives are at stake. 

Many young people, however, mainly those out from under parental supervision, just don’t seem to get it. They just don’t seem to care. They will not comply. 

…..

The Coronavirus Crisis creates an opportunity for our education on biblical ethics for our kids. Here are three steps I recommend taking:

(1) Point out the intellectual incoherence and pragmatic unworkability of moral relativism and “you do you” ethics.

We should never demean people; ideas, however, are fair game. Moral relativism is philosophically asinine and intellectually bankrupt. It sounds very appealing at the fleshly level, but objective reasoning demonstrates that moral relativism taken to its furthest extent ends in self-destruction, self-absorption, and anarchy. 

….

Our resistance to ethical action reflects a lack of trust in authorities, namely God. When the now infamous spring-breaker said, “If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying,” his statements reflected mistrust. The authorities are against me and my desire to have fun. All sin contains a belief that God is against us and is holding out on us. 

We should show kids that God gave us his law because he loves us and wants the best for us. Furthermore, God not only desires the best for us as individuals, he desires the best for all of society. God desires shalom, flourishing, and wholeness for the whole world. 

Let’s tell kids that our obedience to God’s law through the power of the Holy Spirit and out of faith in his grace are a part of something bigger: that obedience is part of God blessing and redeeming the world.

Cameron Cole, Rooted Ministry, The Ethical Lesson for the Young in the Corona-Crisis, April 16, 2020

COVID-19: Why the Evangelical God Always Wins

god is good all the time

One thing is for certain during the Coronavirus pandemic: COIVD-19 is no respecter of persons. COVID 19 infects and kills young and old, rich and poor, blacks and whites, Evangelicals and atheists. Evangelicals have long argued that the United States is a Christian nation; that we are a people uniquely chosen by God. If this is so, then a logical conclusion one can reach is that most of the people getting infected with COVID-19 and dying are Christians. Why isn’t God protecting his own? Surely this virus would be an excellent tool for God to use to wipe out atheists, agnostics, humanists, Muslims, and other nonbelievers. Why, then, are so many Christians dying, including pastors? (Please see Understanding the Pastors Who Refuse to Close Their Churches During the Coronavirus Pandemic.) How do Evangelical pastors explain the nondiscriminatory nature of COVID-19? This post will delve into the explanations pastors use to defend their God during times such as this.

Evangelicals believe that God is actively involved in his creation. God is a prayer-answering deity who is intimately involved in the lives of Christians. God knows exactly how many hairs are on our heads, and he controls every aspect of our lives on planet Earth. God determines who lives and who dies, and he even controls the weather. (Please see Is God to Blame for Weather that Kills People?) According to Evangelicals, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere. Allegedly, no matter where any of us goes, God is there. Having sex? Using the toilet? Masturbating? Making out in the back seat of a car? God, the ultimate voyeur, is watching. And not only is God watching, but he is also recording every deed every human commits. Think of that for a moment. Seven billion people live on earth, yet God is recording every thought, word, and deed, all the while hearing and answering every prayer uttered by Christians. I gotta say, God sure has a Type-A, workaholic personality. You would think that God would delegate some of this to angels, but based on every sermon I’ve heard on this subject, it is God alone who does these things.

which God praying to

You would think the present pandemic and widespread deaths would perhaps cause Evangelicals to at least think about their God’s culpability in what is going on. However, this sort of reevaluation is unlikely to happen. One thing is certain, whenever something happens that makes God look bad — and believe me he has a lot of bad press these days — Evangelical preachers will take to their pulpits in defense of God. No matter how tragic things become, God’s character and honor must always be defended.

You see, Evangelicals believe that God is good all the time; that God cannot do anything bad or evil. He is, after all, God, and he tells us in the Bible that he is a good God. And therein is the problem: the Bible. Evangelicals believe the Bible was supernaturally written by God, so whatever it tells about his character and behavior is true. When questioned about the parts of the Bible that cast God in an unflattering light; the parts where God is portrayed as a capricious, arrogant, violent, genocidal son of a bitch, Evangelicals are quick to quote Isaiah 55:8,9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, things are not as they seem to unbelievers. What do they know anyway? People such as myself are portrayed as apostates, reprobates, haters of God. Nothing we say about God or the Bible has any merit. Christians just need to trust that God always has their best interests at heart:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Evangelical preachers frequently remind congregants that God is good all the time and that everything in their lives works together for their good. Week after week this notion is reinforced, so that when tragedy, heartache, and death strike, God is always given a pass. Either God has a higher purpose or plan, or he is using circumstances to test them, try them, or lovingly correct them. God, then, is the “loving” father, who physically abuses his children, but when asked why he does so, God replies, “because I love them.” God is akin to a man who violently beats his wife every day, all the while telling her, I love you, I love you, I love you. Is such behavior really love? Of course not.

As long as Evangelicals view God in this light, they will never question his culpability in everything from mass shootings to pandemics and from wars to famine. On Sundays, with eyes closed and hands raised, Evangelicals sing Don Moen’s 1995 classic worship song, God is Good All the Time:

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

If you’re walking through the valley
And there are shadows all around
Do not fear, He will guide you

He will keep you safe and sound
He has promised to never leave you
Nor forsake you, and His word is true

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in the heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

We were sinners and so unworthy
Still for us He chose to die
Filled us with His Holy Spirit

Now we can stand and testify
That His love is everlasting
And His mercies, they will never end

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

Though I may not understand
All the plans you have for me
My life is in your hands
And through the eyes of faith
I can clearly see

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in the heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time.

Video Link

And as long as Evangelicals keep their eyes closed to the reality all around them, the “God is good” charade is maintained. Thus, when Evangelical preachers and church members are afflicted with COVID-19 and die, Hebrews 9:27 is quoted: it is appointed unto men once to die. It was their appointed time to die, Evangelicals say. They ran their race, kept the faith, and now God has called them home! All praise be to God! And when Evangelical children, young adults, and men and women in the prime of their lives die from the virus? Appeals are made to God’s unknowable purpose, will, and plan. No matter what happens, God always gets a pass. Why? Silly boy, God is good all the time.

It is only when Evangelicals dare to peek while singing God is Good All the Time, and truly look at things as they are, that doubts and questions begin to creep in. Is God really the deity the Bible claims he is? Is God really good all the time? What in my life says that God even exists? Does what I know about life reflect a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere? Or, does what I see and know suggest that either God is not intimately involved in his creation; leaving us to fend for ourselves, or doesn’t exist.

Sadly, far too many questioning and doubting Evangelicals stop peeking, fearing the consequences of their thoughts. They can’t bear the thought of a world without God; a life without the machinations of religion. The cognitive dissonance becomes so great that they run to the safety of the house of faith. It is there they find their fears allayed.

Fortunately, other Evangelicals go from peeking to opening both of their eyes wide. All of a sudden, the notion that God is good all the time is absurd. It is then that their carefully constructed houses of cards come tumbling down. Yes, a cold, indifferent, heartless world awaits them. Yes, it can be hard to accept that we alone can combat COVID-19; that science is our best and only hope for a cure; that our fate lies in the hands of fallible, frail humans. That, however, is reality. Not easy to swallow sometimes, but it’s the truth. And isn’t truth what we all should be seeking?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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.

Understanding the Pastors Who Refuse to Close Their Churches During the Coronavirus Pandemic

pastor-mark-falls
Mark Falls, pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio

I have watched more cable news in recent weeks than I have over the past ten years. My wife can say the same. Like it or not, our lives are consumed by the Coronavirus Pandemic, COVID-19, suffering, death, and the incessant, child-like tantrums of one Donald Trump. Our feelings run the gamut from anger to despair. We have done all we can to stay home and avoid contact with outsiders, yet we fear that the virus is still hunting us, and it is only a matter of time before it finds us. And when it does — and it may have already — how will our bodies respond? Will we end up in the hospital on a ventilator, dying alone.

These are dark, difficult times. Yes, the United States and world will come out on the other side of this pandemic, but the carnage left in its wake will take years to overcome. And until there is a vaccine readily available, we could see the continued spread of the virus months or a year down the road. There’s so much we don’t know, yet we do know that social distancing works. We know that masks and gloves offer some protection against spreading the virus.

Most Americans recognize that we are facing an existential threat; that it is crucial that we all do our part by distancing ourselves from other people. We know the large gathering of people can and do become super-spreaders of the virus. Churches, in particular, have played a significant part in the spread of the virus. Thus, governors across the country have asked churches to stop holding in-person services. Most churches have put the health and safety of congregants and communities first, and have prudently closed their doors. However, a small percentage of churches refuse to stop holding services. Why do they refuse to do the right thing?

As I look at the denominational and theological connections of these rebellious churches and their pastors, something becomes very clear to me. Almost every church fits into one of two categories:

  • Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches
  • Charismatic churches

What is it about IFB churches that make them more likely to refuse government orders to cancel their services?

IFB churches typically are anti-government. In fact, they hate the government. IFB pastors believe that the government has no power, control, or authority over them. “How dare the government tell us what to do or when and wherever we can have services!” IFB preachers say. Even those who have canceled their services are likely sitting at home seething over what they perceive is governmental control and overreach.

I have written about four IFB churches that refused to close their doors: First Baptist Church, Bryan Ohio (Local Church Continues to Meet on Sundays Despite the Coronavirus Pandemic), North Platte Baptist Church, North Platte, Nebraska (Dear Pastor Reeves, Let Me Explain to You Loving Your Neighbor as Yourself), Newark Baptist Temple, Heath, Ohio (IFB Pastor Mark Falls Tries to Use Bible Verses to Guilt People into Attending Church during Coronavirus Pandemic, and Maryville Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky (IFB Pastor Jack Roberts Refuses to Close the Doors of his Church). First Baptist finally saw the light. but the Baptist Temple, North Platte Baptist, and Maryville Baptist continue to hold services.

Easter Sunday, the Newark Baptist Temple gathered together to worship their God. You can watch a video of the service below. What you will quickly see is that no one is wearing masks or gloves, many people are ignoring the six-foot social distancing guideline, and congregants seem generally clueless of the fact that their singing, talking, and even breathing can and does expel the virus into the air.

What is it about Charismatic churches that make them more likely to refuse government orders to cancel their services?

While Charismatic churches can and do have anti-government sentiments, their refusal of governmental orders to cancel their services are more theological in nature. Charismatic preachers such as Tony Spell, Rodney Howard-Browne, and others, believe that their God is bigger than the Coronavirus; and that God will protect them from the virus; or God will heal them if they are infected.

Spell bussed people into his Easter service, effectively telling the State of Florida to go fuck themselves. Howard-Browne’s church found their insurance canceled, so they were unable to physically meet. Evidently, God is not better than property and liability insurance companies.

pastor tony spell
Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge

Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge in Louisiana had this to say about holding in-person church services:

Satan and a virus will not stop us God will shield us from all harm and sickness. We are not afraid.

Like any zealot or like any pure religious person, death looks to them like a welcome friend. True Christians do not mind dying. They fear living in fear.

I cannot baptize people in a livestream. I can not lay hands on people in a livestream. I cannot pray for people in a livestream, and this is our biblical command — to lay hands on the sick and when they recover baptize them by immersion in water, which we do every day.

Spell reveals his theological motivation for holding in-person services: prayer, the laying on of hands, and the healing of the sick. Spell’s Biblical basis for doing so is this:

  • They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:18)
  • Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (James 5:14)

According to Life Tabernacle Church’s website, divine healing is part of their apostolic DNA. Here’s what their doctrinal statement has to say:

God has made Himself known through the ages by miraculous healings and has made special provisions in the age of grace to heal all who will come to Him in faith and obedience. Divine healing was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ, especially by His stripes (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:16-17; I Peter 2:24). Jesus went everywhere healing those who were sick (Matthew 4:23-24), and He commanded His disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:8). He said concerning those who believe the gospel, “They shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:18). Mighty healings and miracles followed the disciples wherever the gospel was preached.

There is no sickness or disease too hard for God. Any of us, our children, or our friends can be healed by the power of God. “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall raise him up: and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:14-16).

“There’s no sickness to hard for God,” Tony Spell believes, and that includes Coronavirus and COVID-19. In Spell’s alternate reality? It’s God, not science that heals sickness and disease. Of course, the true test of such ignorance comes when Spell, a family member, or congregant gets sick and religious mumbo jumbo recited over them doesn’t work. What do they do? Run to the doctor/ emergency room/hospital for treatment. What happened to God being the mighty healer and deliverer? What happened to no sickness being too hard for God?

The refusal of IFB pastors and Charismatic pastors to morally do what’s right is belief-driven, and even if their haughty ignorance leads to people being infected with the virus, they will find ways to spin their rebellion against authority as some principled stand for God and country. What most people will see, however, is pigheaded preachers who have no regard for their churches or communities; preachers who put beliefs and positions over public health and safety.

Gerald O. Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Richmond, Virginia

Let me conclude this post with the stories of Gerald O. Glenn, pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Richmond, Virginia, and itinerant preacher and musician Landon Spradlin. Both were Evangelicals.

Glenn had this to say in a March 22 sermon:

I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus. You can quote me on that, you can quote me on that. I am essential, I’m a preacher — I talk to God!

Glenn believed that he was “essential” and that God was larger than the Coronavirus. Sadly, Glenn learned that he was not essential and God was NOT bigger than COVID-19. Glenn died a week after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

coronavirus hoax
Cartoon by Bill Bramhall

Landon Spradlin said the Coronavirus was not big deal; that it was overhyped by the media. Spradlin found out the hard way that COVID-19 is a big deal, and no, the media was not overhyping the pandemic. Spradlin went about preaching and singing, giving no regard to social distancing and avoiding groups of people. Spradlin said the virus would “come and go,” but what came and went was Spradlin. Twelve days after preaching at Mardi Gras and saying the virus would come and go, Spradlin died from COVID-19.

Sadly, the only way for recalcitrant IFB and charismatic preachers to see the danger of COVID-19 is infection and death, if not of them personally, then of someone dear to them. As long as these pastors can avoid the consequences of their sins, they will continue to act in ways and promote ideas that harm not only to church members but communities at large. Sadly, it’s going to take a few preachers getting infected and dying before the so-called men of God mentioned in the post and others see the light.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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IFB Pastor Jack Roberts Refuses to Close the Doors of his Church

pastor jack roberts

A small number of Evangelical pastors, showing no regard for the health and safety of their congregants and communities, refuse to cancel their services. One such man is Jack Roberts, pastor of Maryville Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Roberts, in his 70s, started Maryville Baptist in 1968. In 1980 he started Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope (M.I.C.A.H.). Roberts is a self-described Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. His church bio page states:

Dr. Jack Roberts was saved at Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fairdale, KY. He was licensed to preach by Oak Grove Baptist Church. In April 1966 he was ordained and accepted the pastorate position at Immanuel Baptist Church in Shepherdsville KY.

He has a B.A. and M.A. from Heritage University and a Doctor of Divinity from Victory Baptist Institute. In 1981 he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Sacramento Bible College.

In June 1968 after conducting an evangelistic crusade at Overdale School in Hillview, KY, he agreed to help start a local church in the Community. With the help of several preacher friends, the church was organized and he accepted the responsibility to serve as pastor of Maryville Baptist Church. In 1980 he led the congregation to begin a Christian school that is named Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope (M.I.C.A.H.). This became a vital part of Maryville Baptist Church since that time.

Dr. Roberts was a vital part of the Ten Commandments issue in Classrooms in Bullitt County School System. After Mr. Hatfield, superintendent of Bullitt County schools at that time, agreed to have them taken down due to pressure from the A.C.L.U.; Dr. Roberts led a three day prayer vigil. Several hundred students stayed out of school and attended one of the three sites around the County where the prayer meetings were held. Dr. Jack Roberts was also involved with the fight for church related Christian School movement in the early 1980’s. That Eventually led to change of legislation law. This led to the end of the Board of Education taking individual schools to court to try and close them.

Dr. Roberts and his wife Tootsie have five children, many grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren. His eldest son Denver, is an ordained pastor at Star Baptist Church in Williamsburg KY.

“Dr.” Roberts doesn’t have an earned doctorate from an accredited institution. Like many IFB preachers, his doctorate is an honorary degree. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor.) Such degrees are little more than statements of dick size among IFB preachers.

Marysville Baptist’s website describes the church this way:

Maryville Baptist Church is dedicated to bringing the Gospel of Christ to our community and the world.  We are an Independent, Fundamental Baptist Church using the authorized King James Bible as our final authority. Take a look around and see the work God is doing at M.B.C. We have been blessed to be a part of the Lord’s work and wish to share with you some of the exciting things here. We ask that you please keep us in your prayers, that God will use this site to bring more people to the Christ!

Maryville Independent Christian Academy of Hope, the brainchild of Roberts, uses Abeka curriculum — a ministry of Pensacola Christian College. The Academy’s general information page states:

The school day begins at 8:30 a.m. and dismisses at 3:00 p.m.  Students must wear the appropriate uniforms listed in our Student Handbook. MICAH stands firm on orderly behavior in the classroom, modesty in attire and in conduct.  All of MICAH’s rules and guidelines are taken from the King James Holy Bible.  Our standards are not from man but from God.

Got all that? Their rules and guidelines are straight from God and the one, true Bible, the KJV. Based on Internet reviews, I learned that teachers are not required to have degrees. No surprise, I suppose, when you have the KJV Bible. Written in 1611 and revised in 1769, the KJV Bible is all twenty-first-century Christian children need. Or so Pastor Roberts and his church think, anyway.

Roberts is a typical IFB preacher — arrogant, hardheaded, with little regard for anything or anyone but his infallible beliefs. As virtually every church around him wisely closed their doors to protect their congregants and larger communities from COVID-19 exposure, Roberts dug his heels in and said intends to keep holding services, even if state officials arrest him. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Roberts views himself as a fighter, a defender of the true faith, a warrior waging war against secular government authority. Roberts has spent most of his life fighting the government, so it should come as no surprise that he continues to do so now.

When asked about his refusal to stop holding services, Roberts stated, “It’s my life, and I feel like the Gospel is more important than anything else.” “It’s my life,” this troglodyte says. What a narcissist. It’s all about him, and not the lives of his congregants and neighbors. Roberts stubbornly refuses to understand that what he does personally can and will affect others. In fact, his careless actions could kill people.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear has publicly chastised Roberts for his illegal behavior. Roberts replied:

I might not ought to say it this way — whatever you put on the air is what I’m saying, all right — but our stupid governor says you can’t get together with your family for Easter. What are they going to do stand at my front door and see how many people goes in?

Roberts also said, and I quote, “I know everybody thinks I’m crazy. Maybe I am.” I will leave it medical professionals to ascertain whether Roberts is “crazy.” I am more inclined to believe that Roberts is just a garden variety IFB preacher; a man so immersed in his own personal narrative that he is indifferent towards everyone but himself. He is an IFB example of Donald Trump. If Roberts truly cared about his congregation, school children, and the people of Bullet County, he would immediately stop holding in-person services at Maryville Baptist Church. Of course, he will never do this. He has too much invested in his stand against the government and its Satanic emissaries. To do the right thing requires Roberts to admit that he is wrong. And that ain’t gonna happen, even if his self-righteous arrogance kills people. Fortunately, many of Roberts’ congregants have wised up to their pastor’s behavior. Last Sunday’s service according to the Courier-Journal, attracted a whopping fifty people. Wednesday’s service drew 40 people.

Here’s hoping come Easter Sunday, the people in the above video realize that their risen Savior commanded them to “love their neighbors,” and the best way to show that love is to stay home.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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.

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