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Tag: COVID-19 Virus

Masked in the City’s Bible Belt

williamsburg bridge

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I think I’m recovering pretty well from my bike accident. Heck, last Tuesday I even rode the 5 miles to my follow-up CAT scan. I hope it will confirm that I’m as well as I think I am!

The day after, I went for another, longer, bike ride. I needed it because, well, I’m a nearly-lifelong cyclist. Also, I wanted not to think about the CAT scan and to think about other things: It was a couple of days after the anniversary of my mother’s death.

Now I’m going to tell you something you may have figured if you’ve read my previous articles: I live, and grew up, in New York. Even though parts of the city, through gentrification and hyper-development, are becoming more homogenized, it is still a city of stark contrasts. It’s still possible, in some areas, to enter a completely different world simply by crossing a street.

This is especially true in Brooklyn, one of the city’s five boroughs. Today the name is practically a brand that, to much of the world, signifies hipness (if in an overly self-conscious way). If you spend any time in the waterfront neighborhoods of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, it’s easy to understand why: In cafes along Kent, Bedford and Driggs Avenues, where I rode, young men and women in tight jeans wash down their $15 slices of avocado toast (!) with $20 craft beers or cocktails.

These young people, nearly all of them childless, are hated or resented, or at least mocked, as “entitled millennials” because, for one thing, nearly all of them come from other parts of the United States and thus, in the eyes of some, can’t be “real New Yorkers.” (I would argue that is exactly what some don’t want to become. But that’s a subject for an entirely different article.) Also, many of them, even before the pandemic, didn’t seem to be doing any work to support themselves. The money for their avocado toast and drinks—and the condos in which many of them live—comes from elsewhere.

One thing I have to say for them, though: When they weren’t eating or drinking, nearly all of them were wearing masks. Of course, they weren’t covering their faces with those generic blue, white or yellow hospital masks: Some, I am sure, created their own face coverings, while others had them made by artisans or designers, whether in the neighborhood or elsewhere.

As I pedaled down Driggs, I rolled under the Williamsburg Bridge overpass as a train rumbled and clattered across. Many see the bridge as a sort of Mason-Dixon line, if you will, dividing North from South Williamsburg. One could also argue that Nostrand Avenue, where East Williamsburg begins, performs the same function. Like the line that separated the Union from the Confederacy, the areas north and west of the “lines” are richer, whiter and more educated (at least in a certain sense) than the areas on the other side.

My ride didn’t take me into East Williamsburg, though I ride into the area often. I will mention, however, that it is the last remnant of Williamsburg’s Puerto Rican community, which dominated the area for four decades or so after World War II. I did, however, spin my wheels south, into one of the two New York neighborhoods that most closely resemble a prewar shtetl.

I am talking about the part of Williamsburg below the eponymous bridge. The description in my previous paragraph is not an exaggeration: If you were to find yourself on the southern part of Driggs, or on Lee Avenue, late on a Friday or on Saturday, you’d have the place to yourself.

Since I was riding there on a Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t alone. The thing is, I was one of the few non-Hasidim in the area. Normally, I don’t mind that: At worst, I am ignored and can ride or go about whatever else I’m doing, undisturbed. On the other hand, the fact that I was cycling through the neighborhood on the day before shabat, I couldn’t help but to notice that I, and the other goyim in the area, were the only ones wearing masks. None of the Hasidic men and women covered their faces.

I noticed the same phenomenon as I pedaled further south, into Brooklyn’s other Hasidic enclave: Borough Park. There, I was even more isolated: I was, literally, the only goyim (all right, I’m an atheist; but in that community, any outsider is goy!) pedaling, walking or otherwise passing through the area. But that was not the only reason I felt as if I stuck out even more than I did in South Williamsburg: I grew up at the edge of Borough Park, where it borders Kensington. Half a century ago, when I was an altar boy (and manque transgender), the neighborhood was more or less evenly divided between Italian-, Irish- and Polish-Americans. Most of the men, including my father, were blue-collar workers who did as much overtime as they could so they could send me and my peers to the neighborhood’s Catholic school, which closed about 15 years ago. And we all went to the same church—which remains open mainly because of Hispanics who work in the neighborhood—on Sunday.

In my old neiIn my old neighborhood, none of the residents was wearing a mask. However, in a neighboring community, populated mainly by Bangladeshi Muslims, nearly everyone — male, female and otherwise — was.

I would like to think that the denizens of my old neighborhood would have covered their faces, if for no other reason than their reverence (really, a combination of fear and obsequiousness) for authority. The funny thing is that, for all of that they (and I, at the time—after all, I was an altar boy) unquestioningly obeyed our church and school, we knew enough to listen to secular authorities when they knew better. Unfortunately, my old neighborhood—along with South Williamsburg and a few neighborhoods dominated by Evangelical and Pentecostal churches—are this city’s “Bible Belt,” if you will. They believe that the power of their beliefs will protect them when the recommendations of Dr. Anthony Fauci won’t. And even if their fealty to the Word of their God doesn’t keep them from succumbing to COVID-19, they believe that God (or Yahweh) “wants” them “now.”

Some pundits have, accurately, observed, that in the US, the choice to wear a mask—or not—during the COVID-19 pandemic breaks along political lines. In my city, though, it has more to do with religious faith—which, ironically is the political “fault line” in the Big Apple. My ride showed me on which side of the line I live.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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If It’s God’s Will for Me to Get COVID-19 . . .

robert montanelli broken arrow

If it is God’s will that I get coronavirus, that is the will of the Almighty. I will not live in fear.

Robert Montanelli, Trump Rally Attendee in Tulsa, Oklahoma

On Saturday, President Donald Trump held a pep rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump bragged about how filled the Center would be, saying that 1,000,000 people requested tickets to his rally. Trump even planned for a huge outside crowd. All told, 6,200 people attended the indoor rally, and outside? Several dozen people, such sparse numbers that Trump canceled plans to address them after the main rally. Trump promised a John Holmes-like crowd. Unfortunately, as is often the case with the President, reality was much smaller than promised (just ask Stormy Daniels).

One attendee at the rally was Robert Montanelli from Broken Arrow — a Tulsa suburb. Montanelli wore a red “Keep America Great” hat and an oft-washed “Crooked Hillary for Prison” tee-shirt. When asked why he refused to wear a mask, Montanelli, with Trump-like bravado, said:

If it is God’s will that I get coronavirus, that is the will of the Almighty. I will not live in fear.

While the New York Times article that quotes Montanelli doesn’t mention his religious affiliation, his words have an Evangelical feel to them. I suspect the overwhelming majority of rally attendees were white Evangelicals. While I spotted a few blacks in the crowd, it was evident, at least to me anyway, that this water fountain was meant for Bible-quoting white Americans.

I suspect more than a few Trump supporters in attendance agreed with Montanelli: no masks needed. God is in control of everything, including the Coronavirus pandemic, and if they (or anyone else, for that matter) are infected with COIVD-19, God is to blame, not them. Of course, Evangelicals never use the word “blame” when speaking of their God’s sovereign, decretive acts, but if God holds the world in the palm of his hand, and is in control of everything, then “blame” is appropriate.

Evangelicals believe God is the first cause of everything, the creator of the universe. Thus, God is to blame for COVID-19. God is to blame for every infection and death. And yes, God should be credited for magically keeping some people from getting infected and/or dying.

In April, I wrote a post titled, No Need to Wear a Face Mask: When it’s My Time to Die, I’m Ready to Go. Here’s an excerpt from this post:

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 . . .

….

Because of Mom’s intransigent fatalism, it is unlikely that we will ever see Polly’s parents again face to face. (Several weeks ago, we met them a public park for lunch. Seven hours round trip, two-hour visit.) 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.

Fatalism is a foundational plank of Evangelical Christianity. Everything in life is predetermined and controlled by God. No need to worry about the Coronavirus pandemic or getting infected with COIVD-19. No need to worry about ending up in the ICU hooked up to a ventilator, dying alone. Everything that happens to you is according to God’s perfect plan for your life. So what if you get infected, suffer, and die? JESUS suffered and died for you — he suffered bigly compared to your suffering — and thanks to his resurrection from the dead, a room in Heaven’s exclusive Trump Hotel awaits you after death.

Of course, Evangelicals such as Montanelli don’t really practice what they preach. Oh, they piously talk about God being in control, but their day-to-day lives reflect the fact that they are the ones controlling their destiny. They may shoot prayers up to the ceiling God, asking for divine direction and favor, but their lives reveal that they are ones answering those prayers.

I suspect that Montanelli looks both ways before pulling into an intersection. I suspect when he goes to the doctor, that he expects to be treated with modern medical techniques. Imagine the doctor saying, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. Let’s pray and ask God to heal you.” Why, Montanelli would rightly be upset. I suspect that every aspect of Montanelli’s life is controlled not by God, but self. Why then, did he refuse to wear a mask, saying that whether he dies or not is up to God?

Montanelli worships at the feet of the baby Christian Donald Trump. The president refuses to acknowledge or practice CDC or WHO guidelines. He wants to project manly power and strength, even though he has a hard time holding a glass or water or walking down an airplane ramp. Trump’s latest rally was one long infomercial for how great he is. Should it be surprising, then, that Trump’s followers try to emulate him? Montanelli’s bravado is not so much about God and Christianity as it is his need to act like his hero. Sure, Montanelli is a believer, but the central figure in this story is Donald J. Trump, not God.

And if Montanelli contracts COVID-19? Will he “let go and let God?” Will he passively trust that God will, come what may, take care of him? Will he seek medical care? Will he take whatever drugs doctors prescribe? Will he encourage his family members to wear masks? Something tells me that when faced with serious illness and death, Montanelli will do everything in his power to stay alive.

And his boy Trump? Much like God, he will be AWOL. Montanelli will learn that he is on his own, that his life rests not in the hands of Jesus, but in the hands of qualified medical professionals.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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: Pastor Marlon Bolton “Predicted” Coronavirus Pandemic

prophet fire
Pastor Marlon Bolton, AKA Prophet Fire

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 Evangelical pastor Marlon Bolton, AKA Prophet Fire, telling congregants he predicted the Coronavirus pandemic, the stock market crash, and food shortages.

The Miami New Times reports:

It was only a matter of time before peak-Florida characters started to emerge amid the coronavirus crisis.

A lot is going on with this one: Videos recently posted on YouTube show Marlon Bolton, a pastor who’s also the vice mayor of Tamarac, claiming his church predicted the COVID-19 pandemic weeks before Chinese authorities even identified the novel coronavirus strain.

“We prophesied,” Bolton told as many as 20 congregants during a March 22 service at Praise Experience Church of North Lauderdale. “We prophesied about the stock market crashing. We even prophesied about the shortage of food in this season. Very accurate.”

….

During the service, Bolton said God told him to direct congregants to make “seed donations” to help the church’s finances during the pandemic.

“You can go ‘Hallelujah’ to Cash App,” the pastor said.

….

Seed donations refer to money that donors send a church in hopes they’ll reap what they sow. Televangelists have made millions from such donations.

Bolton asked church members to donate a minimum of $100 and as much as $317. The preacher said God showed him that seven plagues are “destined for our land.”

“If you give seed offerings, I believe you’ll be covered for these plagues,” Bolton said.

He added that being cash-strapped is no excuse for not donating. Saying you don’t have money when it’s right there in your bank account is “the plan of the enemy to thwart the purpose of God” and prevent people from being successful, Bolton claimed.

In other videos, Bolton has pushed products, such as a “covenant lotion” made with olive oil and “the most expensive oils from Israel.” The regular price for the products is $500, he told church members, but he offered it for a discounted $100.

“You tuck it in your purse, tuck it in your wallet,” Bolton says, “and when that jezebel comes after you, you open it and anoint yourself.”

Bolton is the pastor of Praise Experience World Outreach Church in North Lauderdale, Florida. Bolton, astoundingly, is also the vice mayor of Tamarac, Florida.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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 Blood is on Their Hands

bloody hands

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Three weeks ago, my cousin passed away.

I learned of his death in a text from his sister. Seeming to anticipate my question, she said it had nothing to do with COVID-19. Rather, he had fallen asleep for the last time.

By today’s standards, he was young to have died that way. Still, it somehow wasn’t a surprise: Given his condition, it’s almost surprising that he made it into his mid-50s. He never learned how to speak or feed himself; he never acquired the basic day-to-day skills most of us have — whether through instruction or osmosis — by the time we’re about three or four years old. Lacking in motor control, he could not walk without supervision, and even with help, those walks were brief. Other kinds of exercise were out of the question, so he — who was naturally big — became obese, which may have led to other conditions he developed.

For most of his life, he was institutionalized. In fact, he was a patient at one of the most notorious mental hospitals — Willowbrook State School, in Staten Island, New York — when a local Eyewitness News reporter exposed conditions that would have made Hard Times seem like Pollyanna. (I once told someone, only half-jokingly, that my cousin helped to make Geraldo Rivera famous.) At the time of his death, my cousin — whom I’ll call Randall — had been living in a group home for more than half of his life.

Although he didn’t succumb to COVID-19, his demise seems — at least to me — connected to a colleague, a student and a friendly acquaintance of mine who died that way. And their deaths all made me angry for the same reason.

My aunt was a devout Roman Catholic who later became an Evangelical Christian. When Randall was a toddler and his sister — whom I’ll name Lorinda — was entering school, they had serious problems. Randall, as I mentioned, wasn’t developing in normal ways. Lorinda, on the other hand, was very intelligent and articulate, but had difficulties that, as it turned out, were related to her vision. Then, as now, my aunt believed that faith and prayer could heal. That also meant that her children’s maladies were a signal from God that she had been, in some way, sinful. In the milieu in which I grew up — pre-Vatican II Catholic in a post-Vatican II world — such beliefs were still common.

Lorinda nearly went blind. Only intervention from a social worker got her the treatment she needed. That same social worker helped to secure a place for Randall at Willowbrook, apparently unaware of its dire conditions. To be fair, at that time, half a century ago, there was little, if any, effective treatment available anywhere in the US for profoundly retarded people.

My anger over what Lorinda and Randall endured at such a tender age re-surfaced with the deaths of my colleague, student and friend because, at bottom, one cause of their deaths was misguided and manipulated religious faith. One reason why leaders at every level of government in the United States have responded to the threat of COVID-19 in ways that were ineffectual, duplicitous, or simply callous is pressure from fundamentalist religious organizations, whether Evangelical Christian in “red” states or Ultra-Orthodox Jews (whose political and social stances are all but identical to those of Evangelical Christians) in large “blue” cities. Some of those leaders are fundamentalists; others, like the President, have allied themselves with the Christian equivalents of Wahhabis because they know their election (or re-election) prospects depend on doing so. That is why mayors, governors, and the President have been willing to throw science to the wind and allow religious gatherings — as if such congregations are any less likely to spread the virus than, say, a concert, art opening, or sporting event.

I am angry today because cynical, rapacious political and religious leaders are still playing on people’s insecurities, and stoking their fears, to inculcate them with disproved notions about who or what is causing illness and pandemics—and how to deal with those things. The blood of my cousin, colleague, student and friend is on their hands.

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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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 Evangelist Dennis Corle Says Tony Fauci is a Liar

“Dr.” Dennis Corle

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) evangelist Dennis Corle preaching against Barack Obama, the Clintons, and Dr. Tony Fauci. Corle has Dr. before his name, so he really, really, really knows what he is talking about.

In the 1980s, Corle preached several meetings for me at Somerset Baptist Church in Mt Perry, Ohio. He also preached a meeting for my father-in-law at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Buckeye Lake. Boy, do I have some stories to tell.

Corle is quite the bean counter. Here’s what he has to say about his IFB prowess on his bio page:

In his ministry he has had over 71,336 saved and 19,422 baptized. He has seen thousands of young people surrender for full time ministry many of whom are presently serving the Lord full time as well as thousands of members added to independent Baptist Churches during his meetings.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Are Atheists More Fearful Than Christians?

fearing death
Cartoon by Allan Tracy

What’s with Evangelical apologists and their insistence that atheists, agnostics, and other unbelievers, are more fearful than Christians? Last week, I wrote about Clay Jones’ assertion that everyone fears death except Christians. I conclusively showed that fearing death is common to the human race, and Christians are in no way exempt from fear.

Last week, faux-historian David Barton was on “Stand in the Gap,” a radio program produced by the American Pastors Network. Barton shared his “expertise” on past epidemics. Speaking of the 1633 smallpox epidemic, Barton stated that Christians during that time didn’t panic because of their belief in God:

But the difference was they were much more grounded with God. As you look across Massachusetts, as you look across the New England areas, so many of those guys had come here on the Bible, on religious liberty. And for them death was, that was a step into eternal life. Today, this is the most secular America has ever been. And so, we’re watching governors and mayors respond out of fear and panic, and shutting down stuff that’s never been shut down before because they’re just scared to death somebody’s going to die. And so, the confidence of courage is really what we don’t see right now nationally.

“Stand in the Gap” host Sam Rohrer added:

But a point you made there, I think is worth touching on. And that is the worldview of people at that time caused them not to panic or to fear because of the fear of death. Because they knew, as we know as believers, that if we are to pass away, we’re only going to step from here into eternity with the Lord. And that’s what we want to do. But for those who do not know the Lord, or have rejected a biblical worldview understanding of God and redemption, they frankly have a reason to fear at these days.

Wow. They had reason to fear back there, but they did not because of belief in God.

Barton later added:

So, what we see right now is a fear of death. And we’re seeing people go to excessive extremes because they are scared to death of dying, because this is all they know, is what’s here. They don’t know of an afterlife, they don’t even understand that there will be an afterlife, whether it’s Heaven, Hell, or whatever they choose. It’s their choice through Christ. So that’s one thing that stands out to me is, is the whole culture was built around understanding that you are going to go into eternity. Are you ready to go into eternity? And so, the response is quite different public policy wise. If you’re surrounded with leaders who understand a biblical worldview, what you do is call for days of prayer and fasting, if we can get a hold of God on this and get God to intervene then we can see an end to this.

What evidence do Barton and Rohrer provide for their assertions? None. I see no evidence for the claim that atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians fear death any more than Christian do. Right-minded people in this time when COVID-19 is infecting and killing people left and right should be fearful that they are next. Feel a cold coming on? Have a fever? Fell achy all over? Have a cough? Is it allergies? Or have you been infected with a deadly virus that has infected more over 1,000,000 Americans, with a death toll that will soon surpass the total deaths in the Vietnam War? Reasonable people would, at the very least, be concerned that they might become infected. And for those of us, Christian or not, with comorbidities, we have every reason to fear that this virus is stalking us, and if it catches us it could kill us.

Barton, Roherer, and Jones would have us believe that certain theological beliefs inoculate Christians from normal human feelings. The promise of life after death and a home in Heaven, according to these apologists, are sufficient to ward off fear. Sure, I can see how such a promise might cause some Christians to deny reality. These very same delusions fuel lifetimes of weekly church attendance. These very same delusions are a catalyst for lifetimes of self-denial. This or that behavior is “sin.” Can’t do that lest I risk losing my home in Heaven. Or so Christians think, anyway.

What do we know about religious people in general? Despite their commitment to God, religious texts, theological constructs, worship, and conforming to exacting standards of conduct, believers are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. And when it comes time to die, religious people fear the unknown just like the rest of us do. Oh, they may hide their fear because that’s what everyone expects them to do, but psychologically they fear the end of the only life they have ever known.

Barton states non-Christians, “are scared to death of dying, because this is all they know, is what’s here.” Are atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers scared to death of dying? I am sure some are. Others resolutely embrace their end. Yes, knowing that the only life we will ever have is coming to an end brings all sorts of feelings. However, are we really “scared” to any greater degree than those who worship the Christian God or some other deity? I think not.

I will soon be sixty-three years old. I have been battling chronic health problems for twenty-four years. I have had several brushes with death, one of which a doctor told thirty-four year old Bruce and his wife, “if your immune system doesn’t kick in, there’s nothing we can do for you.” I had been battling mononucleosis for several months. My primary care doctor missed that I had mono, thinking that I was battling something else. Following course after course of antibiotics with no cure, the doctor ordered a mono test. It came back positive. Several days later, my temperature spiked to 104 degrees, landing me in the hospital. My liver and spleen were swollen, and my immune system was so trashed that my tonsils and adenoids were pure white. Fortunately, my immune system did win the battle. However, as I lay in my hospital bed, my mind pondered dying so young and whether there really was life after death. This was, for me, the first time, I felt my mortality. As a committed Evangelical Christian, I believed that Heaven awaited me on the other side of chilly Jordan. However, I did fear what I did not know. Isn’t that a normal human response to the unknown; to the prospect of impending death? Was I less than Christian for fearing death? I think not.

Zealots such as Barton, Roherer, and Jones need people to believe what they are peddling. Their incomes and lifestyles depend on convincing people that there’s an afterlife, and, as Jesus promised, eternity in Heaven awaits all those who worship the right God. They dare not admit their own fears or doubts lest they are forced to get real jobs. Imagine what would happen to Christian sects and churches if their teachers and leaders admitted their doubts as to life after death. Why, churches would empty out overnight. Without the carrot, there is no reason to endure the stick.

As with most people, I am in no hurry to die. Some days, I am weary from daily battling chronic pain. I have thoughts of eternal darkness without pain; of the peace, comfort, and deliverance the grave brings. But then I think of Polly, our children, and our grandchildren. And in that moment, I am reminded that I have much to live for; that the only life I will ever have is this one. And so I arise and face the day. Death will certainly come for me, sooner than later. But until then, I plan on enjoying life and doing what I can to make this world a better place for others.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Do Christians Have the Absolute Constitutional Right to Worship God as They Please?

pastor-tony-spell

Last week, I mentioned the refusal of Pastor Tony Spell — pastor of Life Tabernacle Church: The Apostolics of Baton Rouge — to stop holding services, despite being ordered to do so by the governor of Louisiana, and his being charged with violating that order. Since then, Spell has been arrested and charged with assaulting a protester outside of his church. Spell was later released. After his release from what he called “prison,” Spell gave a short speech to fawning congregants who were camped outside of the jail awaiting his triumphant release.

Here’s what Spell had to say:

Video Link

Spell believes the Declaration of Independence states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. My rights to have church and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ are endowed to me by my Creator, not my district attorney, not my chief of police, and not my governor, John Bel Edwards.

I wonder if the writers and signers of Declaration of the Independence thought that citizens had the unalienable right to hold church services during a pandemic? I wonder if they thought that the right to gather in a building at 11:00 AM on Sunday for church supersedes the rights of other citizens to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness?

Spell thinks he lives in a bubble, one where his actions do not affect others. He is what is called an autonomous man. Give me liberty or give me jail, he cries; all the while his immoral behavior puts his congregants and neighbors in harm’s way.

Spell and other rebellious, anti-government Evangelical pastors refuse to act in the best interest of their churches and their communities at large. Self-centered, egotistical narcissists, the lot of them, all that matters to them is taking a stand for the mythical Jesus.

Evangelicals love pastors who stand against what they wrongly believe are government attacks on their right to worship a dead man. Over the past three years, thanks to President Donald Trump and his merry band of Evangelical cabinet members and advisers, Evangelicals have become emboldened in their stand against government at every level. Sadly, we will see more public displays of rebellion in the days and weeks to come. The Coronavirus is not going away, and states hell-bent on reopening their economies will, several weeks from now, fuel an increase in COVID-19 infections. State governors will then be forced to either obfuscate or deny what is going on in their states or re-institute stay-at-home orders. This will lead, of course, to further rebellious acts by protesting Evangelical preachers. Welcome to Hell.

The First Amendment to U.S. Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Spell and his fellow patriot pastors believe that they have an inviolable right to freely practice their religion whenever, however, and wherever they want; that government has no right to limit their religious practice. However, I would ask, is this right absolute? Does the government ever have the right, dare I say responsibility, to limit the free exercise of religion?

Let me be clear. When Spell and other Evangelical preachers read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they read their religion into these documents. These so-called men of God are not pluralists. To the man, they believe the United States is a Christian nation — a people chosen by the Christian God to be a light and blessing to the world. Thus, while these preachers tolerate other religions, agnostics, and atheists, if they had their druthers, Christianity would be the official American religion and the Bible the rule of law.

cat god

Imagine if I were a worshiper of the Kat God, and one of the rituals I practiced was to stand on the sacred sidewalk in front of Evangelical churches, chant prayers to the Almighty Kat, and sacrifice puppies to him. Would Spell be okay with my free exercise of religion? Imagine if an Islamic congregation wanted to build a church right next to Spell’s church. Do you think he would support their free exercise of religion? Imagine any of a number of other scenarios where non-Christians practiced their religions in ways that harmed or offended Spell, his family, and his congregation. Would the good pastor shout, AMEN? I doubt it. Spell wants preferential treatment for his religion, Apostolic Christianity — a sect, by the way, that some Evangelicals consider a cult.

Spell deliberately refuses to acknowledge that government, for the sake of public health, safety, and welfare, has a duty to enact laws that regulate and limit the free exercise of religion — not so much at a personal level, but certainly when people congregate together. Churches are required to follow building and safety codes. Ask any pastor who has built a church building about how complex the laws are for new commercial construction or how strict safety and fire codes are. Spell and Life Tabernacle Church willingly submit to all sorts of government regulations. Refusing to obey these regulations would bring inspections, fines, and prosecution. Why? Because the government has a duty and responsibility to protect its citizens. And that is exactly what the state of Louisiana and local government officials are trying to do when enforcing stay-at-home orders.

Instead of obeying these orders, Spell and other anti-government pastors disobey the teaching of Jesus and the early Christian church. Jesus said that the law of God rested on two Great Commandments: loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. I always taught congregants that loving God required loving your neighbor. Don’t love your neighbor? You don’t love God. It’s clear, at least to me, that Spell doesn’t love his neighbors. If he did, he would abide by the stay-at-home orders. And if Spell doesn’t love his neighbors, it’s fair to ask if he really loves God. It is also far to ask, does his behavior reveal a self-centered man who only cares about self-promotion? You know my answer.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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: 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.