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Tag: Cultism

One Man’s Christianity is Another Man’s Cult

christian cult
Cult or Christianity? Who decides? By what standard?

James “Jim” Bellar pastors Dove Outreach Church in Waverly, Ohio, a church considered by many local Christians to be a “cult.” An article in The Athens Messenger, written by Cole Behrens, calls Bellar a “self-proclaimed minister and apostle.” The not-so-subtle implication by Behrens is that Bellar is the wrong kind of Christian, a cultist. Behrens evidently is not aware of the fact that countless Evangelical preachers are “self-proclaimed” ministers. There’s no main Evangelical headquarters, no governing or ruling authority. Anyone can become an Evangelical pastor/apostle/bishop/evangelist/missionary. Anyone can start an Evangelical church. Want to see capitalism and entrepreneurialism at work? Visit an Evangelical church. If giving men and women important-sounding titles is a sure sign a church is a “cult,” then tens of thousands of “Bible-believing,” Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching churches are “cults.”

Apostle Bellar is busy “retranslating” the Bible to a “faithful” rendition of the gospels for English-speaking people. When asked by what (or who’s) authority he was retranslating the Bible, Bellar replied:

God. The Holy Spirit. I don’t have to answer to any man. God. You have to answer to God yourself.

Valerie Trainer, a member of Dove Outreach, said:

He’s doing translations as God gives them to him, to be more perfected by the Lord — praise the Lord — but that’s a good thing. He’s an apostle, yes. Praise the Lord.

Oh my, Bellar is putting his own words into the Bible. Isn’t that exactly what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years? The Bible has always been an evolving book — often radically so — especially when you take into account the individual interpretations of billions of Christian clerics, church leaders, teachers, and run-of-the-mill congregants. If a cultist is someone who puts his own spin on the Bible or changes its words to suit him, why EVERY Christian is a cultist.

Athens Messenger writer Behrens found a cult expert, Stephen Kent, professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, to label Dove Outreach a “cult.” Kent stated the church doesn’t look like a “standard” Christian church. A “standard” church? As opposed to an “automatic” church? (Car joke, for those trying to figure out what I mean.) What, exactly, is a “standard” Christian church? By whose standard are we making this judgment?

Christian sects are, by nature, individualistic. This individualism continues at the congregation level. Sects have official statements of doctrine and practice. Yet, visit any of the churches in said sect, and you will find a diversity of beliefs and practices. There is no such thing as “standard” Christianity. There are endless Christianities. For as many Christians there are, there are Christianities. No two Christians agree on anything.

Kent went on to say:

This group appears to be way off the charts in relation to normative Christianity.

….

One has to be very careful about religious figures who claim unique godly authority because in doing so they place themselves above secular law. When people grant themselves extreme religious authority — then one has to wonder if that person is delusional or narcissistic.”

“Unique Godly authority?” You mean like pastor, deacon, evangelist, missionary, bishop, elder, prophet, priest, or king — all of which are found in the Bible, all of which are found in Christian sects and churches today.

I would think a news reporter and cult expert would know that countless American churches are patriarchal and authoritarian; that Dove Outreach is not special or unique in that regard.

Bellar denies Dove Outreach is a cult:

We are not a cult, I don’t run people’s lives. I preach the truth. And certainly, if I saw anything illegal, it would have been dealt with.

as does Trainer:

As far as I know, it’s a church that believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that’s all Jim has preached as long as I’ve gone there. So whatever you’re hearing out there about whatever — it’s not true.

I spent a few minutes today reading Dove Outreach’s official doctrinal statement. Everything in what the church calls The Foundational Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, is believed by American Christians everywhere — with a few quaint oddities concerning baptism. If this is the doctrine of a cult, every Evangelical church in America is a cult.

The church’s website defines “salvation” this way:

Romans 10:8-13
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
KJV

If this statement is cultic, every church I ever attended and pastored was a cult.

Based on my investigation, Dove Outreach promotes Bible literalism. Again, scores of Christians interpret the Bible literally, so such a practice is not unique. Cultic? Nope.

Dove Outreach is a Bellar-owned and operated church. Troubling? Sure, but not unusual. Lots of churches, Evangelical and mainline alike, are controlled by certain families. Sometimes, it’s the pastor’s family that controls a church — often for multiple generations. Other times, it is powerful families within a church that wield control.

Several Dove Outreach church members were recently indicted on sexual and physical abuse charges. According to The Athens Messenger, the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office argued in their indictments “that the font of their alleged behavior may have been “cult”-like beliefs stemming from what was being taught at Dove Outreach Church.

The Daily Mail reports:

An Ohio couple and two of their 19 children, who are adults, have been charged after their daughter who escaped the family came forward with a string of allegations against them.  

Robert Bellar, 54 and his wife Deborah Bellar, 49, face charges in connection with an ongoing sexual abuse investigation concerning their children. Two of their sons Jonathan Levi Bellar, 26, and Josiah Bellar, 24, have also been charged.

That came after one of Robert and Deborah’s daughters told The Athens Messenger she was forced to attend a ‘cult’ church run by her uncle, James Bellar, who would tell them their siblings would have to have children with one another in order to prepare for the apocalypse. 

Serah Bellar said: ‘All the kids would have to go, whether they wanted to or not— even if you were sick, you had to go, it didn’t matter. [sounds like every church I attended or pastored]

‘Anytime he’d say anything, I’d just kind of repeat it in my head, like, how messed up it kind of sounded. He’d always talk about the end of the world and how you’d reproduce with your siblings.’ 

That uncle denied the claims in a statement to Law and Crime, calling it a ‘complete lie’. James Bellar said: ‘I am a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stand as witness to the Truth. How people react to that is on them.’

….

Serah had been missing since April last year after escaping the alleged abuse; after turning 18-years-old she then posted to Facebook under a fake name detailing all of her allegations. 

They center on incidents said to have occurred between 2008 and 2016. Child services are said to have received reports but no formal action was taken. 

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said: ‘There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations. 

‘Serah was turned away by authorities every time she tried to report this abuse.’

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Liz Pepper accused her mother Deborah of ‘refusal to accept the fact that there was sexual abuse going on in the home and the conspiracy she then entered into to conceal that’.

She said she ‘has concealed witnesses…tampered with evidence and…continues a conspiracy to hide sexual abuse that has occurred in her home’.

Robert and Deborah are believed to have 18 biological children and one adopted child. 

They have each been charged with one count of engaging in corrupt activity, and two counts of endangering children, according to Athens County Prosecutor. 

The couple have each pleaded not guilty and were given $1 million bonds.  

Jonathan Levi Bellar is charged with gross sexual imposition. He is being held at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Josiah Bellar is charged with three counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition. He is yet to be arraigned. 

Again, the “C” word. Readers of this blog would agree with me when I say that beliefs have consequences. Anytime appeals are made to a divine religious text such as the Bible for justification, it’s possible to have bad or harmful outcomes. Apostle Bellar is accused of promoting incest, a charge he denies. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he was. Just read the Bible. Take it literally, and you can easily conclude that God, in some circumstances, approves (demands) incestuous sexual behavior. Evidently, The Athens Messenger reporter has not pondered where Cain and Abel got their wives? Hint . . . they married their sisters. They had children with their sisters. And on and on the incestuous behavior went. If you buy into the Evangelical Adam and Eve story, all of us are products of incest. And then there’s Jesus — the product of the Holy Spirit having forced sex with a teen virgin named Mary. If incest and perverse sexual relations are signs of cultism . . . well, you know where I am going with this.

One man’s Christianity is another man’s cult. Who decides which is which? What is allegedly going on sexually at Dove Outreach is abhorrent. However, as the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, such behavior does not make a sect/church a cult or a pastor a cultist. Bad people, do bad things, and use the Bible to justify their behavior.

I typically do not use the word “cult” in my writing. Sometimes, as I do with Bethel Church in Redding or the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I use the word for effect. In the strictest sense, all Christian sects and churches are cults. Whether a church is a cult, or pastor is considered cultic depends on perspective or deviance from a perceived norm. Thus, for the people at The Athens Messenger, the aforementioned cult expert, and the County Prosecutor, Dove Outreach is a cult, but First Baptist Church on the corner of High Street and Main is not.

One website explains the difference between a cult and a religion this way:

*Sigh* Really? I mean, really? Isn’t that Jesus, Abraham, Allah, Moses, Paul, or Buddha standing before worshipful devotees? The Abrahamic religions are, by definition, cults, founded by charismatic men. Apostle Bellar is just one more cult leader in a 2,000+ year line of cultists. To suggest Bellar or his church are unique in any way reveals a shallow, lazy understanding of Christian church history, doctrine, and practice.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

I am a Publican and a Heathen — Part Four

Jose Maldonado Bruce Gerencser Pat Horner
Pastors Joe Maldonado, Bruce Gerencser, and Pat Horner, Somerset Baptist Church, Fall of 1993

This series details my experiences as co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf Texas. In March 1994, I left a pastorate of eleven years and moved to Texas so I could co-pastor a thriving, growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church. The church was founded by Pat Horner. Horner and I became acquainted through a newsletter I published — The Sovereign Grace Reporter. In March 1993, I packed up my family — five children in the backseat and Polly, seven months pregnant, in the front — and drove to Texas to preach at Community’s annual Bible Conference. Polly and I were enthralled with the church and its growing, motivated, young membership. Later in the year, Horner called and asked me if I would be willing to come and work with him. After talking it over with Polly (and God), I decided that God wanted me to remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church. A few weeks later, in what can only be described as a deeply emotional experience, I change my mind about working with Horner. I telephoned Horner and told him that I believed that God was now telling me to come to Texas. Several weeks later, we drove to Texas to meet with the church membership. They overwhelmingly were in favor of me becoming one of their pastors. Little did I know that less than a year later I would be packing up my family and, with a broken heart, moving back to Ohio.

Community Baptist Church believed that since the church had to approve entrance into their membership, no one could leave the church without their permission. Leaving without church approval was viewed as a betrayal of the covenantal relationship between members. People who left the church or stopped attending were routinely disciplined (Matthew 18:15-20), resulting in ex-communication. The church believed that excommunicated members were to be considered publicans and heathens — thus the title of this series. The only way disciplined members could remove this “mark” (Titus 3:10,11,Romans 16:17, and 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15)  was to humbly come before the church, admit their sin, and plead for reinstatement.

Horner was a former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, a fact that he, to this day, likes to hide. The reason this is important is that while Horner disavowed IFB theology when he embraced the five points of Calvinism, he continued to believe that God-honoring churches were to be ruled by pastors (elders). While Community had a plurality of elders, it was quite clear that Horner was the elder above all others. Looking back on my decision to co-pastor Community, I now know that I grossly overestimated the ability of both Horner and myself to work with each other. Both of us had spent our careers as men who controlled every aspect of the churches we pastored. We may have had elders and deacons who were supposedly equal in power and authority, but these officeholders were little more than façades that covered up ego-driven, authoritarian rule. While I did not remain such a pastor, it is, to this day, hard for me to think about how controlling I was. I know that authoritarianism robs people of self-determination and self-worth. Lording over people and treating them as subjects in one’s own little kingdom causes great psychological harm. I suppose, then, me facing church discipline at the hands of Horner was some sort of karmic justice. The monster that I had fed and used to control “sinful” church members finally devoured its creator. All I can do now is to use my experiences as a platform to help others who have been emotionally eviscerated by pastors and churches who believe that God has given them absolute control over the lives of others. While I am hesitant to say such beliefs and practices are cultic — who wants to admit they were a cultist? — any fair-minded person would conclude that they are.

During my time at Community, I participated in several public disciplinary meetings, including one in which I was in charge of the proceedings. Errant members were disciplined for all sorts of “sins,” but most of them were excommunicated because they stopped attending church. Since these dropouts did not notify the church (Horner) about leaving, they were, by church vote (almost always a rubber stamp to Horner’s request) removed from the membership. In many instances, other local Calvinistic churches refused to accept as members those who had been excommunicated. The only way for excommunicated members to join a new church was for them to return to Community and confess their “sin” before the congregation. Once duly humbled, these wayward members would then be granted a release from their membership. They were then free to join up with a new church. This applied, of course, only to sound Calvinistic Baptist churches. Members leaving to join up with non-Calvinistic churches were not granted releases. Horner believed that Calvinism was the true gospel, and that non-Calvinistic churches were heretical and taught a false gospel. This thinking permeated the church. I was asked on several occasions if I believed that Arminians (Methodists, Free Will Baptists, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, et al.) were Christians. I did my best to sidestep such questions, knowing that saying yes would cause church conflict. One leader in the church would later remark after I left that he knew I was never a “real” Calvinist. This man did not like me emphasizing God’s love. He preferred Jonathan Edwards’ brooding, violent, sin-hating God.

As I mentioned above, I was in charge of one of the disciplinary meetings. Horner had gone to Mexico for a few weeks to do missionary work, so it was up to me to make sure that the authoritarian machine was firing on all eight cylinders. During this time, I began to have problems with Wayne Hendricks — a man who had been ordained by the church and was supposed to be helping me at the church I planted in Floresville. Hendricks (married to Horner’s sister-in-law, I believe) was unhappy with Horner and with me, revealing, at least in my mind, at the time, that he had a “rebellious” heart. This man was disloyal and refused to submit to pastoral authority, so I determined that the best course of action was to strip him of his ordination. After several conference calls with Horner, in which he agreed with my assessment, I brought the matter before the church and Hendricks was defrocked. He would later humble himself before “God” and have his ordination reinstated. (The very threat of discipline was often enough to get church members to change their behavior.)

In early October 1994, after all the events described in Part Three of this series, Horner decided to bring me before the church for the purposes of discipline and possible ex-communication. Several days before this meeting a few church members pleaded with me to make things right with Horner. They knew that ex-communicating me had nothing to do with sin. This was all about two arrogant, self-righteous, bull-headed men who couldn’t get along with each other, yet I was the one who had to make things right. They knew that this was a power struggle over who would control the church, a power struggle I knew I couldn’t win. And it is for this reason I decided not to attend the disciplinary meeting.

I knew that some church members preferred me over Horner. Many of them found my congenial, at times humorous, preaching appealing. I knew that if I decided to stay in San Antonio and start a new church, that some people would join with me. And it is for this reason that I chose not to stay and start a new church. I can say with a little bit of pride that, over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I never experienced or fomented a church split. Members would come and go, but I never had a large group of people leave at one time with the express purpose of starting a new church. While causing a split at Community would have been in some ways gratifying — a poking of my fingers in the eyes of Pat Horner — I knew that church splits rarely grew into successful, growing congregations.

It took Polly and me a few days to pack our belongings in a U-Haul truck. Several church members helped us load our worldly goods on the truck, and a few others stopped by to plead with us to attend the disciplinary meeting scheduled for Saturday. Some of them were quite emotional, weeping as they begged me not to go. I told all of them that nothing good would come from the disciplinary meeting. Horner had his mind made up. Either Bruce Gerencser was going to submit himself to the will of Almighty Pat or he was going to kick his ass out of the church. I refused to submit myself to Horner’s slander of my character, knowing that he had spent days making sure that key church members would vote his way. As anyone who has ever been a member of a Baptist Church knows, there are cliques and power groups within the church. Identifying these groups and appealing to them is the best way for a pastor to get what he wants. I had practiced this very method in the churches that I pastored. Since Horner had all his ducks in a row, it was futile for me to defend myself. As Kenny Rogers sang (The Gambler), You’ve got to know when to hold ’em / Know when to fold ’em / Know when to walk away / And know when to run. I knew that I did not have a winning hand, so I folded and moved back to Ohio.

Around 6 o’clock on an early October Saturday night, the Gerencser family tearfully drove out the long lane from their church-provided home to Labus Road. As we drove by the church, we passed a parking lot filled with cars. The meeting called for the purpose of dealing with the “Bruce Gerencser problem” was underway, and as I predicted, the church excommunicated me. To this day they consider me a publican and a heathen. My later loss of faith is proof to many of them that the decision they made on that October night in 1994 was right. Ironically, the church did not excommunicate Polly or our children. The church (Pat) determined that they were under my control and unable to think for themselves. This, of course, is exactly how I viewed the church. Under the control of Pat Horner, they pretty much did what he told them to do. My excommunication was a done deal the moment I stood up to Horner, and he then determined that he would smack me down like a defiant teenager.

After returning to Ohio, I exchanged several nasty letters with Horner, the type you would expect from a couple who had gone through an acrimonious divorce. In later years, after a lot of reflection and soul-searching, I made several attempts to reconcile with Horner, hoping that in doing so it would put an end to all the gossip and lies that were being spread by not only him, but other leaders in the church. Horner would have none of it, saying that the problem I had was with the church, not him. After trying several times to smoke the proverbial peace pipe, I gave up, believing, at the time, that the record would be set straight when we got to Heaven. Since I now know that there is no Heaven or God to adjudicate our disagreement, and Horner is unwilling to admit his part in my decision to resign from the church, all I am left with is this series of blog posts. People will believe what they want to believe. All I can do is tell my side of the story.

Horner left Community four years after I did, starting several churches and leaving them. Best I can tell, he is a missionary in India, perhaps Nepal. Pastors Tim Conway and José Maldonado, both former members of Community Baptist Church, have in recent years publicly “exposed” Bruce Gerencser for who he really is. (Please read Jose Maldonado Says I Never Was a Christian and Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.) Evidently, in their eyes, my current atheism is a threat, and like their former fearless leader, Pat Horner, they want to do what they can to eliminate my influence on others. Sadly, for them anyway, their attempts to do so have miserably failed. This series of posts has been read by tens of thousands of people. In recent years, I have received letters from people who were also disciplined by Horner and Community Baptist Church. While all of these people are still Christians, they appreciated my willingness to shine the light on the horrific disciplinary practices used by many Calvinistic pastors and churches. An untold number of good people have been psychologically harmed by hammer-wielding pastors out to bludgeon them into submission.

While my time at Community Baptist left psychological scars that remain to this day, I do believe that being excommunicated helped make me into the man I am today. When I arrived at Community, I was on a path that was sure to harm not only myself and my family, but also those who lovingly called me pastor. With Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church, I was able to experience firsthand the logical conclusions of my authoritarianism and Calvinistic beliefs. I can only imagine what I might have become had I continued on this path. Thankfully, being filleted and hung out to dry forced me to take a hard look at my life and beliefs. My excommunication was my first step towards leaving Evangelicalism. I would late realize how damaging authoritarianism was, not only to me and my family, but also to the churches I pastored. While I remained, to a large degree Evangelical, my view of people and my interaction with them greatly changed. I owe Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church a great debt of gratitude for helping me become a better man, ultimately leading me to renounce my Christian faith and embrace atheism. While they most likely view my de-conversion as a sure sign that I never was a Christian, I am grateful that Horner and the church were instrumental in forcing me to take a hard look at the kind of man I was and how my beliefs were harmful to others. My only regret is that the same did not happen for Horner. He remains unapologetically a hard-core Fundamentalist Sovereign Grace Baptist preacher. The damage that he has personally caused is great (and some more painful stories are best left untold). Perhaps, members of his family or former congregants will dare to tell their stories, and maybe then Horner will have his own come-to-Jesus reckoning. I have done my best to be honest and open about the time I spent at Community Baptist Church. I willingly admit my culpability in the problems between Pat and me. Peel away all the theology and what is left is a story about two thirty-something Type-A, authoritarian men who could not or would not find common ground to work with each other. Their failure to do so is a story that has repeated itself numerous times in countless churches. Despite appeals to the Bible and God, one truth remains: people are people. Pastors such as Horner and I can easily be driven by personal wants, needs, and desires. In our case, both of us wanted to be the king of the hill, and as anyone who has ever played the game knows, there can only be one king.

In 2018, Community Baptist Church celebrated its thirty-fifth anniversary. Community published a book, edited by Lynne Tagawa, detailing their history. I will conclude this series with a review of this book, along with a few comments about a video released by the church at the same time.

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

good question

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

What follows is a list questions from the search logs. These questions are a handful of the thousands of Google search queries people use to get to this site. In this post, I plan to “answer” these “important” questions. Let these search questions remind you of how Evangelical beliefs can and do psychologically harm people. If this is not the case, then why-oh-why would a rational person ask such questions? No, my friend, Evangelical beliefs hinder critical thinking. How could they not? When a Bronze Age religious text is your go-to book, is it any surprise people end up fretting over the things mentioned in these questions?

Snarkiness and cussing ahead! You have been warned. Now, go and sin!

Is Bethel Church in Redding, California a cult?

Yes, Bethel Church in Redding is a cult. Every crazy, irrational Evangelical/Charismatic belief and practice can be found at Bethel. Bethelmania has spread far and wide, it seems.  A nearby church pastored by Tim and Lisa Hacker has changed its name to Bethel. The Hackers, members of the Bethel Leaders Network, believe God wants them to “make things on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

My advice to people wanting to hook up with the nutters at Bethel Church in Redding is simple: RUN!

Please read Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult.

Why are Evangelicals so mean?

Evangelicals are mean because their God is mean. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Mean God.” This God is the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the universe; meaner than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Why are Evangelicals so hateful?

Evangelicals are hateful because their God is hateful. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Hateful God.” This God is the most hateful asshole in the universe; more hateful than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Where is David Hyles today?

Hopefully, David Hyles is under a rock somewhere, fearing further exposure of his vile and criminal behavior. Why would anyone want to know where Hyles’ is today? Passionately unrepentant, Hyles is attempting a comeback of sorts.  My goal in life is whack him on the head every time he pops his head up from the rock he is currently hiding under.

Please read UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been RestoredDavid Hyles Says My Bad, JesusIs All Forgiven for David Hyles?Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome, and Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

Is kissing your boyfriend a sin?

Think about this question for a moment. Humans are naturally sexual beings. It is very human to desire to kiss someone you are attracted to. If God is your creator, why did he give you sexual desire and then expect you not to act on it? Silly, right?  Any church/sect that demands you refrain from kissing before marriage is a cult. My advice? RUN!

Please read Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend? and Hey Girlfriend: Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend?

What is the name of the Ohio preacher who became an atheist?

Bruce Gerencser. You can find everything you would ever want to know about him here. Beware! Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers believe Gerencser is a tool of Satan, a destroyer of the faith once delivered to the saints. His writing has been known to cause fear, doubt, gas, and loss of faith.

How do atheists handle death?

Every atheist is different, so I can’t speak for all atheists. That said, death is inevitable. It stalks all of us, and will one day — all too soon — catch us. Worrying about death is a waste of time. Here’s the advice I give to people to ask such questions:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please read How Does an Atheist Handle the Death of a Loved One?

Who won’t make it to Heaven?

No one will make it to Heaven. Heaven (and Hell) are fictional places used by clerics to ensure congregants remain faithful. They use a carrot-stick approach. Heaven is the carrot, and Hell is the stick. Without the promise of eternal life in Heaven (or the threat of Hell) after death, most churches would close. Why bother with getting up on Sundays, giving ten percent of your income to the church, and listening to boring sermons if there’s no life after death?

Why are black women more loyal to their pastors than their husbands?

I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that black female Evangelicals are quite devoted to their pastors and churches. Pastors can commit all sorts of crimes, yet there is Sister Bertha and the Missionary Union standing behind them, faithful unto the end. I suspect this has to do with being taught to submit to male religious authorities.

Perhaps someone who spent years in a black church can better answer this question.

Why do some pastors stop believing in God?

Where oh where to I begin? Please read the posts on the WHY page for more information on why I divorced Jesus in 2008.

Is Christopher Hitchens in Hell?

Of course not. There is no such thing as Hell, silly boy. Please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell

Is it a sin for a man to have long hair?

I see IFB preachers are still preaching against long hair on men. Any man focused on your physical appearance is a cultist (and a creep). His goal is to control you though demanding you look and dress a certain way. Please read Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

Was Jack Hyles a false prophet?

The short answer is yes.  Please read The Legacy of Jack HylesThe Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still MattersThe Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles, and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Is the IFB a cult?

Yes. All churches and sects, by definition, are cults. That said, IFB churches and pastors often use psychological manipulation and religious indoctrination to control congregants. My advice is simple: RUN! There are plenty of kinder, gentler, human-affirming flavors of Christianity. Check them out. You need not stay in the IFB cult.

Here’s the dictionary definition of the word cult:

  • An interest followed with exaggerated zeal.
  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals.
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false.
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices.

Need I say more?

Should IFB wives obey their husbands without question?

Back in my IFB days, I would have said yes, with one qualification: wives do not have to obey commands that are contrary to the Bible. That said, men are far smarter than women, stronger too. I read that in the Bible, so it must be true, right? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Should churches get rid of their youth programs?

Yes, immediately. Don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200. Please read Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments

Why are Baptists not allowed to play cards?

Many Baptists think playing cards of any kind is a sin. The first church I worked in almost had a split over card playing. Here’s how one Fundamentalist site explains why card playing is sinful:

Playing cards, like reading your horoscope, has become a joke or just a game. However, the Lord does not look at it as a joke or game. There are serious consequences for reading your horoscope as well as using cards or just having them in your home. It has been said that nicknames for a deck of cards is “The Devil’s Bible” and “The Devil’s Picture Book”. At one time the church took a strong stand against the card game. Until recently preachers and churches warned about the dangers of cards.

Some of the most common places you will find a deck of cards (besides our homes) will be with prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, murderers, in taverns, brothels, prisons, insane asylums, gambling dens, etc., but never at a prayer meeting.

The king represents Satan, Prince of Darkness, usurper and foe of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ten card is for the Spirit of lawlessness, in opposition to the moral law in the Word of God. In 1300, clubs were the chief weapons used by murderers, therefore this suit represents the Spirit of Murder and death by violence. The jack represents the lustful libertine, from pimp to adulterer and whoremonger, a moral leper whose chief ambition is to gratify sensual fleshly lusts. The queen represents Mary, Mother of Jesus, but in the card language she is called Mother of Harlots. The joker represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Joker means fool and therefore Jesus is held up to ridicule. The joker is said to be the offspring of licentious jack and the queen, Mother of Harlots.

All other cards also have hidden obscene and blasphemous meanings. Nine-tenths of all gambling today is done with these cards. Witches, psychics, and satan-worshipers use playing cards for divination and to cast spells and curses. Born-again believers should not want to be in contact with such a tool of Satan. In Deuteronomy 7:26 we are told not to have abominable things in our homes. It will bring a curse on you and your household. It is time that Christians clean house and destroy the hidden works of darkness.

Is it ever okay to lie?

Yes. Please read Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Is masturbation a sin?

Many Evangelicals believe masturbating is sinful. In their “clean” minds, since masturbation requires “lust” for matters to rise to the occasion, it is a sexual sin rooted in pride. Not pride over penis size. Everyone knows Evangelical men have small dicks (and Evangelical women never, ever ring the Devil’s doorbell). Since masturbation is generally a solo act, it is wrongly focused on prideful self-gratification. Besides, masturbation will make you blind.

Again, such beliefs are all about control. Evangelicals hold to Puritanical beliefs on sex. No sex before marriage, and that includes masturbation. Silly, I know, but many people believe masturbation to be every bit as sinful as fornication.  If this is so, skip spanking the meat and go straight to intercourse. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun!

Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!

Is Game of Thrones pornographic?

No, and only people who have never seen porn think it is. Yes, GOT has a good bit of nudity (and dragons). But, pornographic? Nope. Want to see REAL porn? Ask your pastor for a list of his favorite porn websites. Maybe, the both of you can check them out together. Nothing better for the soul than searching YouPorn with your preacher.

What religion approves of incest?

Christianity. It is, after all, in the Bible.

How do you witness to an atheist?

You don’t. True-blue atheists are NOT good evangelistic targets, especially if they were previously Christian. There are so many souls in need of saving. Why not go after the low-hanging fruit instead of wasting your time with people who know the score and have zero interest in your Gods?

Please read How to Witness to an Atheist

Is wearing leggings a sin?

No. Now, it may not be becoming for you to wear them. Spend an evening at the local Walmart and you see women who should never, ever attempt to put their size 22 ass in a size 12 pair of leggings. That’s just my personal opinion, so if you want to wear leggings, go for it. Don’t let ANYONE tell you how to dress, especially religious authority figures. Remember, their goal is not social propriety, it’s control.

Please read Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Wearing Leggings is a Sin

Why do liberals hate Evangelicals?

I am a liberal and I don’t hate Evangelicals. I do, however, hate Evangelical beliefs. I know a lot of nice, kind, thoughtful Evangelicals who have horrible, anti-human, anti-progress, anti-science beliefs. Such beliefs deserve a swift death, and I plan to do my part in smothering the life out of them. To use a common Evangelical cliché: I love the Evangelical, but hate the beliefs.

Why doesn’t God stop abortion?

Good question, why doesn’t he? Keep asking yourself that question until you exit the church doors into the fresh air of reason and freedom. God doesn’t stop abortion because he can’t. God doesn’t exist, so how can he stop anything? That why there is war, starvation, sexual violence and other calamities. It’s up to us to fix these problems, not God.

Where is Bruce Gerencser?

Right here. Not dead. Not in Hell. Seek and ye shall find. And please, God dammit, spell my last name correctly when you are using a search engine to locate me. Gerencser, how hard can it be? It’s Hungarian by the way, not that I am, in any way, Hungarian. I am the milk man’s son.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony Alamo

tony susan alamo

Sundance TV is currently showing the series Ministry of Evil: The Twisted Cult of Tony AlamoAlamo and his wife Susan were popular Evangelical evangelists and TV preachers in the 1970s-1990s, and are still revered by many people. Ministry of Evil details the Alamos’ rise out of the Jesus Movement of the 1960s to cultism and, later, Tony’s incarceration for sexually assaulting children. The program is a disturbing look at how easily and quickly Evangelical churches can become full blown cults. The seeds of cultism can be found in virtually every Evangelical church. That why I consider Evangelicalism a psychologically and, at times, physically harmful sect. No, I am not saying all Evangelical churches/sects are cults, but many of them are. As I watched Ministry of Evil, it was easy for me to pick out the similarities between the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and Alamo’s Pentecostalism.

Tony and Susan Alamo are dead but, sadly, their cult lives on. (Tony died in prison in 2017.) For some True Believers®, no amount of evidence will convince them that their prophets (and gods) are false.

My editor suggested that I define for readers my use of the word cult. According to TheSage VII dictionary, a cult is:

  • An interest followed with exaggerated zeal.
  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals.
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false.
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices.

Most religions, then, are cults. Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, Islam, and Roman Catholicism most certainly are, as are many other sects and churches.  Of course, these groups don’t they are cults. In their minds, cults are other sects beside theirs; other beliefs beside theirs. Every sect believes they are right, and all other sects are false. Welcome the wonderful world of religion!

Note

TheSage dictionary is the primary dictionary I use when writing. You can purchase it for $10 — a worthy investment.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Why do Evangelicals Flee One Cult, Only to Join Another?

cult of apple
Cartoon by Mike Luckovich

One of the hardest things I had to come to terms with was the fact that my parents raised me in a cult; that I was a member of a cult; that I attended a college operated by a cult; that I married a girl who was also a member of a cult; that I spent thirty years evangelizing for a cult and pastoring its churches. Worse yet, as devoted cult members, my wife and I raised our six children in the way of the cult, in the truth of the cult, and in the life of the cult. Most religions, to some degree or the other, are cults. The dictionary describes the word cult several ways:

  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extreme, or false [who determines what is unorthodox, extreme of false?]
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremists, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices

As you can see from these definitions, Christianity is a cult. In particular, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and Evangelicalism in general are cults. I rarely use the word cult when describing Evangelical beliefs and practices because the word means something different to Evangelicals. In their minds, sects such as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Moonies, and Catholics are cults. Some Evangelical churches bring in cult specialists to teach congregants about what is and isn’t a cult. Countless Evangelicals have read Walter Martin’s seminal work, The Kingdom of the Cults. Martin’s book was considered the go-to reference work when it came to cults. Martin defined a cult this way: a group of people gathered about a specific person—or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible. In Martin’s mind, any group of people who followed a person’s misinterpretation of the Bible made up a cult. Of course, Martin — a Fundamentalist Baptist — was the sole arbiter of what was considered a misinterpretation of the Bible. Written in 1965, The Kingdom of the Cults included sects such as the Seventh-day Adventism, Unitarian Universalism, Worldwide Church of God, Buddhism, and Islam. Martin also believed certain heterodox Christian sects had cultic tendencies. I am sure that if Martin were alive today, a revised version of The Kingdom of the Cults would be significantly larger than the 701 pages of the first edition. Martin and his followers, much like Joseph McCarthy, who saw Reds under every bed, saw cultism everywhere they look — except in their own backyards, that is.

Over the years, I have heard from numerous college classmates and former parishioners who wanted me to know that they had left cultic IFB churches and joined up with what they believed were non-cultic Evangelical churches. These letter-writers praised me for my exposure of the IFB church movement, but they were dismayed over my rejection of Christianity in general. In their minds, I threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater; that if I would just find a church like theirs I would see and know the “truth.” I concluded, after reading their testimonies, that all they had really done is trade one cult for another.

Take, for example, my college classmates. Most of them were raised in strict IFB homes and churches. Some of them had pastor fathers. Later in life, they came to believe that the IFB church movement, with its attendant legalistic codes of conduct, was a cult. As I mentioned in my post titled, Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? there are two components to religious fundamentalism: theological fundamentalism and social fundamentalism. Most Evangelicals are both theological and social Fundamentalists, even though some of them will deny the latter. My college classmates, in leaving the IFB church movement, distanced themselves from social fundamentalism while retaining their theological fundamentalist beliefs. They wrongly believe that by rejecting the codes of conduct of their former churches, they were no longer members of a cult. However, their theology changed very little, and often they just traded a “legalistic” code of conduct for a “Biblical” one. These “non-legalists” revel in their newfound freedoms — drinking alcohol, going to movies, wearing pants (women), saying curse words, smoking cigars, having long hair (men), listening to secular music, using non-King James Bible translations, and having sex in non-missionary positions, to name a few — thinking that they have finally escaped the cult, when in fact they just moved their church membership from one cult to another. When the core theology of their old church is compared to their new church few differences are found.

I can’t emphasize this enough: regardless of the name on the door, the style of worship/music, or ecclesiology, Evangelical churches are pretty much all the same. Many Evangelicals consider Westboro Baptist Church to be a cult. However, a close examination of their theology reveals that there is little difference between the theology of the late Fred Phelps and his clan and that of Southern Baptist luminary Al Mohler and his fellow Calvinists. Ask ten local Evangelical churches for copies of their church doctrinal statement and compare them. You will find differences on matters of church government, spiritual gifts, and other peripheral issues Christians perpetually fight over, but when it comes to the core doctrines of Christianity, they are in agreement.

Calvinists and Arminians — who have been bickering with each other for centuries — will vehemently disagree with my assertion that they are one and the same, but when you peel away each group’s peculiar interpretations of the Bible, what you are left with are the historic, orthodox beliefs expressed in the creeds of early Christianity. There may be countless flavors of ice cream, but they all have one thing in common: milk. So it is with Evangelical sects and churches. During what I call our wandering years, Polly and I attended over one hundred Christian churches, looking for a church that took seriously the teachings of Christ. We concluded that Evangelical churches are pretty much all the same, and that the decision on which church to attend is pretty much up to which kind of ice cream you like the best. No matter how “special” some Evangelical churches think they are, close examination reveals that they are not much different from other churches. This means then, that there is little-to-no difference theologically between Christian cults. Codes of conduct are different from church to church, but at the center of every congregation is the greatest cult leader of all time, Jesus Christ. (See But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Go back and read the definitions of the word cult at the top of this post, and then read Walter Martin’s definition of a cult/cult leader. Is not Jesus a cult leader? Is not the Apostle Paul also a cult leader? Is not the sect founded and propagated by Jesus, Peter, James, John, and Paul, and propagated for two thousand years by pastors/priests/evangelists/missionaries a cult? Is not the Judaism of the Old Testament a blood cult, as is its offspring, Christianity? Surely a fair-minded person must conclude that Christianity is a cult. Regardless of denomination, peculiar beliefs, and differing codes of conduct, all Christian churches are, in effect, cult temples, no different from the “pagan” temples mentioned in the New Testament.

Disagree? By all means, use the comment section to explain why your Christian/Evangelical/IFB sect/church is not a cult, but other sects and churches are. Why should your beliefs and practices be considered truth and all others false? Hint, the Bible says is not an acceptable answer (nor are worn-out presuppositional tropes). All cultists appeal to their religious texts for proof that their beliefs and practices are “truth.” Why should anyone accept your sect’s book as “truth?” Why should anyone believe that Jesus is the way, truth, and life or that the Christian God is the one true God?

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser