Tag Archive: Drug Addiction

Vicodin is Better Than Jesus

jesus heals

There’s a masochistic vein that runs deep in the bedrock of Christianity. Believing that suffering and pain have higher purposes, many Christians will refuse narcotic pain medications even though taking them would provide immediate relief from many kinds of pain. Lurking in the shadows of this thinking is the notion that since Jesus — the sinless Son of God and redeemer of mankind — suffered unimaginable horrors on the cross, Christians should be willing to patiently and serenely face the just consequences for their sin: pain, suffering, and death. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend.) And if they are willing to follow in the steps of the Suffering Servant, then God promises to reward them with eternal life in Heaven; a life free of pain, suffering, and death. Thus, many Christians believe that suffering in the here and now is required if they expect to gain eternal life.

Pain is considered one of the consequences of the curse. Women, for example, have painful childbirth because Adam and Eve ate fruit from a forbidden tree. Genesis 3:16-19 says:

Unto the woman [Eve] he [God] said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Countless Christian women refuse epidurals — my wife included — and other means of reducing pain because they believe that suffering in childbirth is their just desserts for being sinners.

While much is made about Jesus healing people in the Bible, he actually healed very few people. Consider Lazarus:

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Lazarus suffered untold pain and agony — what the Bible calls “evil things” — yet Jesus didn’t lift a finger to feed him or relieve him of his suffering. Instead, Jesus uses Lazarus as a sermon illustration, a poignant reminder to everyone that pain relief awaits in the next life for those who passively suffer in this life. What’s a little bit of starving homelessness compared to a feast-filled lifetime living in a mansion (or room) in God’s Heaven?

Recently, a Fundamentalist Christian family member had surgery that left her in a good bit of pain. Thanks to the current war on opioids, the doctor prescribed her six days of Tramadol for her pain. While this drug certainly can help with light/moderate pain, it is not very effective for severe post-surgical pain (at least not at a one-tablet-every-six-hours level). One person sitting with us — also a devout Fundamentalist — encouraged the family member to take as little of the drug as possible. Whywhen I had a similar surgery, she said, all I took was Tylenol. After a few hours in post-op, the family member was sent home. As she settled in, she mentioned that she was in a lot of pain. How soon can I can another pain pill? she asked. Not for another three hours, my wife replied. I said, you don’t have to wait until six hours are up to take another one. It’s okay to take it every four hours if need be, and you can take Tylenol tooBoth? she incredulously replied. I said, yes, both. Dr. Bruce, on the job.

Many Christians Fundamentalists fear getting addicted to pain medications, so they won’t take them. They would rather suffer than risk addiction or dependence. Many of them have been taught that taking drugs is akin to sorcery. Seriously, Bruce? Yes, seriously. Let me give you an example of this thinking from the True Discernment blog:

The Greek word “pharmakia” literally means “drugs”, and appears five times in the New Testament: in Gal 5:20, Rev 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15.

“Pharmakia” is translated into our English Bible as either “witchcraft” or “sorceries”. We also get our English word “pharmacy” from the Greek word “pharmakia”.

In each of the above five passages, “pharmakia”, or “drugs” is listed as a work of the flesh of man as opposed to the Spirit of God working in us.

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The King James Bible translators translated “pharmakia” as “witchcraft”, because almost no one but witches and sorcerers used drugs 400 years ago. Drugs were most commonly used in pagan worship to hallucinate and to try to get in touch with evil spirits.

This can be serious stuff! In Rev. 21:8, God says that people who are continually characterized by drug use will have no part in the Kingdom of God.

Now many people think that when the New Testament speaks of drug use that it is only talking about Illegal drug use, but I believe it is also speaking of those people who call themselves Christians but are relying on Legal Prescription drugs.  Now I am not saying that everyone who has to take prescription drugs are [sic] part of the people that the New Testament is talking about here, but I have noticed the prevalent and growing disturbing trend within the church of “Christians using on a regular and continuing basis: mind altering prescription pain killers, anti-depressants, nerve pills , and also other strong prescription drugs that if the taker wanted to could not reduce or eliminate the use of  them via their own self control or a life style change.

I have even seen a person who was supposed to be heading up an addictive habit deliverance ministry who had Type 2 diabetes but refused to alter their eating habits but instead chose to rely on an insulin pump to control their sugar levels so the person could eat what they wanted and admittedly said so!  Yes there are people who have Type 1 diabetes and it wouldn’t matter if they altered their eating habits, they would still need to take insulin. But if you can control your eating habits but refuse to and have to rely on a drug because of your refusal then that is a sin. Not to mention the damage that too much unnecessary insulin dependence can do to your body over a long period of time.  How can you teach others how to be delivered of sinful addictive habits if you refuse to give up one yourself? Many people have the mistaken idea today that they need not bring their flesh under control where they are able to.

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When you mix, prescription drugs, a heavy emphasis on revelation and experiential and emotion driven religion over Biblical Doctrine and obedience to the word then you wind up with a church ripe for deception and lying spirits. The gateways to satanic influences have been thrown wide open. And that is what we are seeing in churches today.

The husband of the aforementioned family member has lived with horrific pain for years — made worse by a botched hip replacement. He should be on narcotic pain management, but because he fears becoming a drug addict, he refuses to ask for help. Instead, he takes Naproxen and suffers. Years ago, when Darvon was still on the market, he would take half a tablet two or three times a day, but only when his pain was really bad. Mustn’t take more than that lest he enter the gateway that leads to addiction to heroin or some other feared street drug, the thinking goes. Taking pain medications would give him quality of life, but thanks to deeply embedded religious beliefs, he will endure needless suffering and pain until he dies.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I visited countless sick, dying Christians in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and their places of residence. I saw horrific suffering, often exacerbated by refusals to take pain relieving drugs. Many of them saw their suffering as a sign of their true devotion to Christ. After all, the Bible says, he that endureth to the end shall be saved. The Apostle Paul encouraged Christians to patiently endure whatever came their way, and in doing so they would reap great reward. I witnessed “loving” children refuse to let their cancer-ridden parents have morphine because it made them lethargic or caused them to sleep all the time. In their minds, they wanted their moms and dads to go unto the darkness of endless night screaming the name of Jesus.

jesus the great physician

Christians fondly call Jesus The Great Physician, rarely asking what is so “great” about his medical practice. Sure, in the Bible we see Jesus healing a few people, but most of suffering people who came into contact with him went away unchanged. In John 5, the Bible records a story about a pool of water called Bethesda. It was believed that God would periodically send Angels to Bethesda to “stir” the water; to give it healing properties. The first person in the water after the angel stirred the water would immediately be healed of his afflictions. Scores of sick, dying people would gather near the water, hoping to be the first person in when God’s whirlpool began churning.

One day, Jesus came to the pool and noticed a man who had been sick and afflicted for thirty-eight years. This man hoped to one day be the first person in the pool, but because he couldn’t walk, others always made it to the water before him.  Jesus, having oh so great compassion on the man, said to him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. Immediately, the man was made whole. He took up his bed and walked away. Amazing, right? Jesus healed someone! Woo Hoo! And what about all the other sick people lying near the Pool of Bethesda? Jesus left them as they were. The Bible says that the crowd was such that Jesus quickly got out of there.

Sick and afflicted Christians live in hope that Jesus will one day stir the water of their life and miraculously heal them. Such healing never comes, of course, because Jesus has no power to do so. He’s dead, and has remained so for two thousand years. The only Gods who can heal are doctors and other medical professionals. They hold in their hands the power to deliver people from pain and suffering, or to at the very least reduce needless grief and misery. Of course, many Christians believe God uses doctors to heal. Yes, doctors learn medical skills, but it is God who gives them the wherewithal to competently use those skills to alleviate pain and suffering. God is much like President Trump, always wanting/demanding credit for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g good that happens. If this is indeed so, why the middleman? Why not just heal people? With Jesus, The Great Physician, in the operating room, who needs a surgeon or anesthesiologist.

Despite Christian preachers saying otherwise, Jesus is not returning to earth. There is no Promised Land® awaiting his followers. Revelation 21:4 promises:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their [Christians] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Jesus’ disciples believed he would come back in their lifetime. Here we are two thousand years later — in what can best be described as a long con — and Jesus is nowhere to be found. Perhaps, it is time for Christians to admit that he ain’t coming back. He ain’t coming back to take them to their heavenly pain-free reward. He ain’t gonna deliver them from pain and suffering. If this is so, and everything we can see and know says it is, then there is no glory is needlessly suffering. There’s no value in not taking pain medications or refusing to accept other pain-relieving modalities. In this life, Vicodin is better than Jesus. Narcotic drugs (or marijuana) will not make your life free of pain, but they can and will help, often giving life quality you would not otherwise have. The less pain we have, the more we can do in life. Surely, THAT is a worthy goal.

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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor’s Wife Heather Riggs Steals Church Funds to Buy Drugs

drug bust

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

Heather Riggs, the wife of the pastor of Victory Christian Church in Seelyville (Terre Haute), Indiana, was arrested last week and charged with “theft, check fraud, forgery, neglect of a dependent, dealing a Schedule I,II, or III controlled substance, and dealing a Schedule IV controlled substance.” In November 2016, the church’s youth director died of a heroin overdose.

This is a story that should remind us that despite all their talk of God and his awesome sin delivering power, Evangelicals face the same problems as the rest of us. The drug crisis continues unabated, both in and out of church.

WTHI-10 reports:

On Friday, police arrested 42-year-old Heather Riggs.

Riggs was an employee of Victory Christian Church in Seelyville.

According to court documents, the investigation started about two weeks ago when police arrested Jason Reed after a traffic stop.

Reed was in possession of a controlled substance.

Police say Reed told investigators he was selling drugs to Heather Riggs, adding she was using the church’s money to buy the heroin and pills.

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Police say they found text conversations on Reed’s phone dating back to November of 2016.

Those conversations allegedly discussed different locations to meet and the prices for the drug purchases.

While looking through the church’s bank records, police found 14 different occasions where Riggs wrote a check to Reed.

Police also learned Riggs wrote 140 checks to herself.

On Friday, police began to question Heather and her husband Shawn Riggs.

Shawn told police for a check to be written, there needed to be two separate signatures.

Shawn said there were three deacons at the church who could sign a check.

Shawn told police after an accountant left the church in 2016, Heather and youth pastor Jared Smith took over the church’s financial responsibilities.

Smith died after a heroin overdose in November of 2016, leaving Heather in charge of the money.

Shawn told police he was not aware of Heather’s heroin addiction.

He said he had not received a paycheck in several months, and didn’t question it because of the church’s financial issues.

When police started interviewing Heather, she said she first started talking to Reed in February of 2017, saying she met him while playing softball with the church team.

That is when police told her they had the phone records.

Police say Heather began talking with Reed the day after youth pastor Jared Smith passed away.

Investigators say Heather changed her story, saying she got Reed’s phone number from Smith’s cell phone and contacted him after Smith’s death to buy oxycodone.

She told police the first time she started using heroin was in a gas station parking lot in February 2017.

She told investigators she used church money to buy the drugs, telling police she forged the signature of her husband or one of the deacons to write the checks.

She admitted to falsifying the church ledger to hide her theft.

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When police asked her about two different occasions where she took two small children she was babysitting with her to Reed’s house to buy heroin, she said she only remembered doing it once.

Heather was arrested and charged with theft, check fraud, forgery, neglect of a dependent, dealing a Schedule I,II, or III controlled substance, and dealing a Schedule IV controlled substance.

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Mark Millers Stands Accused of Ripping-Off Parishioners

pastor mark miller

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

Mark Miller, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, was charged Monday with “two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses.” According to Miller, he has a drug and gambling addiction.

ABC-8 reports:

A former Sand Springs pastor now stands accused of swindling his parishioners out of thousands of dollars.

Mark Miller, 48, was taken into custody on Monday and charged with two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses over $500 or a con game after a year-long investigation.

For many, the news was a total shock.

“When you think about a pastor of a church and he’s stealing money from church members, it’s just shocking and sad,” said convenience store owner, MD Hossain.

Hossain says Miller would come into his store all the time, located right across the street from Broadway Baptist Church. He says Miller always seemed like a nice guy.

“He would buy drinks and gum,” said Hossain. “A very good customer.”

Now, the good customer and beloved former pastor of Broadway Baptist Church is facing allegations of conning parishioners out of thousands of dollars.

“It was $25,000 here, $12,000 there. It was significant,” said Captain Todd Enzbrenner with the Sand Springs Police Department.

According to the affidavit, Miller first started borrowing money in October of 2016. He allegedly told victims he needed the money to pay for his daughter’s college tuition but instead would use it on lavish things.

“He borrowed a large sum of money from a particular person, and then that victim tried to recoup the money several months later,” said Enzbrenner. “They found out that he was also borrowing money from other parishioners and using that money to go on expensive vacations.”

The affidavit also states Miller told detectives he had painkiller and gambling addictions. It says he would gamble the borrowed money to try to double it to pay back what he borrowed.

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Black Collar Crime: Is there a Connection Between Sexual Abuse by Clergy and Drug Addiction?

child sex abuse

What follows is an excerpt from an article that suggests that being abused by clergy often leads to substance abuse and addiction. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Stephen Huba, a reporter for Trib Live, writes:

A group of Catholic lay people and clergy is calling on Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic and other church hierarchs to acknowledge that the clergy sexual abuse scandal is feeding the opioid epidemic.

“He’s got to take some responsibility,” said Tom Venditti, founder of Faithful Catholics Against Pedophilia.

Venditti of Bolivar said he founded FCAP earlier this year to help victims of clergy sexual abuse and encourage them to stay in the Catholic Church.

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Venditti said he wanted to address “Malesic’s failure to acknowledge clerical sexual abuse as a doorway to heroin abuse and death.”

“We’re here specifically because one of the things you’re not going to hear tonight … is that the majority of victims of clergy sexual abuse become addicts, whether it’s to alcohol or heroin or other hard drugs,” he said.

Venditti said he supports Malesic’s push to involve the Catholic Church in solutions to the opioid epidemic but that more is needed. He said bishops should call on priests accused of sexual abuse to repent and resign.

“These men are not going to get to heaven if they don’t repent,” he said.

Malesic did not respond to Venditti’s claims, but diocesan spokesman Jerry Zufelt said, “The diocese is doing everything it can to protect its children, young adults and vulnerable adults from the evils of abuse.”

About FCAP, Zufelt said, “We support anybody who is working to help abuse survivors.”

Venditti cited two recent cases — one involving a retired priest in the Diocese of Greensburg and one involving a priest in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown — as proof that the problem of clergy sexual abuse is still not being handled effectively.

He alleged that a recent overdose victim in Johnstown had been sexually abused by Brother Stephen Baker, a Franciscan friar accused of abusing students at Bishop McCort Catholic High School in Johnstown from 1992 to 2001. Three Franciscan superiors were indicted in 2016 in connection with the case.

Baker was found dead of apparent suicide at the St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Jan. 26, 2013, days after the announcement of a multimillion-dollar settlement with his accusers. He was first accused of sexual abuse in 1988, but his superiors never reported allegations to police.

“All of the victims of clergy sexual abuse that I’ve dealt with are either suicidal or addicted to drugs or alcohol — every single one of them,” Venditti said.

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Middletown, Ohio Councilman Dan Picard Suggests Letting Drug Addicts Die

middletown ohio councilman dan picard

Middletown, Ohio Republican councilman Dan Picard wants to teach drug addicts a real-life lesson about drug abuse — overdose in Middletown and we are going to let you die. This story is a perfect example of what Republicans want to do when it comes to healthcare. Are you overweight? Diabetic? Do you have high blood pressure? Why should anyone pay for your medical care? Take care of it yourself – and if you can’t? Die. It is beyond me how anyone who cares about human welfare can continue to support Republicans, both at the state and federal levels. What we have is a clash of worldviews, one which puts people first, another which only concerns itself with money and bottom line. Perhaps Narcan is too expensive. Is it within the power of local, state, and federal officials to force drug companies to reduce the cost of the drug? According to Wikipedia, Narcan (Naloxone) costs less than $5 per dose. In the United States, the “price for a package of two auto-injectors in the US, however, has increased from $690 in 2014 to $4,500 in 2016.” Welcome to the perverseness of American capitalism and greed. Congress has the power to put an end to immoral price increases such as this one. Unfortunately, as long as drug companies are doling out millions of dollars in campaign donations to our elected officials, it is highly unlikely that anything will be done about the price of not only Narcan but drug prices in general.

Raw Story reports:

An Ohio city is considering whether dispatchers should send ambulances to every overdose call they get, after the number of overdoses this year has already exceeded last year’s total.

Dan Picard, a Middletown city councilman, proposed a “three strikes” limit for opioid addicts after the number of overdoses jumped from 532 last year to 577 so far this year, including 51 deaths, compared to 74 in all of 2016, reported the Journal-News.

“I want to send a message to the world that you don’t want to come to Middletown to overdose because someone might not come with Narcan and save your life,” Picard said. “We need to put a fear about overdosing in Middletown.”

The 61-year-old Picard, who isn’t seeking re-election, suggested issuing a court summons to overdose victims and requiring them to complete community service to work off the cost of their emergency medical services call and a dose of the life-saving Narcan drug.

If they fail to do so following two overdoses, 911 dispatchers could refuse to send help on their third call.
“If the dispatcher determines that the person who’s overdosed is someone who’s been part of the program for two previous overdoses and has not completed the community service and has not cooperated in the program, then we wouldn’t dispatch,” Picard told WLWT-TV.

The city councilman pointed out that cancer patients don’t get free chemotherapy, and he said patients suffering heart attacks don’t get free bypass surgery on an EMS run.

 

Wash, Rinse, Dry and Repeat: What Happens When Jesus Doesn’t Fix What Ails You

blood of jesusJesus told his disciples in John 15:5, without me, ye can do nothing, and in Matthew 19:26, Jesus said with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. The Apostle Paul told Athenian idolaters that one true God was he who gives to all men not only life and breath, but all things (Acts 17). In his New Testament writings, Paul, the founder of Christianity, advances the notion that God is the sovereign of the universe and that everything that happens is according to his purpose and plan. Paul cautions Christians about trying to live life in their strength, that doing so will end in failure. He wrote in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. The negative inference is clear, I can’t do anything without Christ, echoing Jesus’s words in John 15, without me, ye can do nothing.

Evangelicals believe that humans are inherently broken, born with a sin nature, and at variance with the Christian God. According to Evangelicals, everyone, from fertilized eggs in the womb to infants and from children to centenarians, is predisposed to sin — sin being the transgression of the law of God in thought, word, and deed. Countless human behaviors, especially those of a sexual nature, are, according to the Bible — an ancient religious text supposedly written by the Christian God —  are violations of God’s law. Unbelievers — people who have not asked Jesus to save them from their sins — are told that God hates sin and those who do it, and the only way to gain God’s favor is to prostrate oneself before the thrice holy God and confess that you are a worthless worm deserving of eternal punishment in hell; that the only person who can save you from your sin is Jesus. If you humble yourself before God, begging him for deliverance from your sin, God will forgive you of your sins. Once you have sufficiently humbled yourself before God and he has saved you, God, in the form of a spirit, takes up residence in your “heart.”

Once people have been saved, they are instructed to rely on God to lead and direct their lives. Their “sin natures” haven’t been eradicated, so Christians must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide them through a world bent on destroying them. Evangelicals are frequently reminded by their pastors of about the importance of studying the Bible, praying, and faithfully attending church. Yet, despite all of these things, Evangelicals continue to sin, often at levels equaling or exceeding that of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

Even those who are called men of God — people who supposedly have a close relationship with God — are not immune from sinning. These preachers of righteousness and holiness often commit the very sins they thunder against each and every Lord’s Day. And as the Black Collar Crime series reveals, preachers can and do rape, steal, molest children, and murder. Just last week, two Toledo area Evangelical pastors were arrested for grooming and trafficking a teenage girl. One pastor would frequently have sex with the girl in his church office, giving her $100-$300 to keep her mouth shut. According to WTOL-11, the thing that likely did the good pastors in was the one pastor’s request that the girl bring a friend so they could have a threesome. While defenders of all things Evangelical will say that while such reports are disturbing, most pastors don’t do such things; certainly they would be right, but what is never addressed is the how and why these things happen. If God is who Evangelicals say he is and the Holy Spirit lives inside believers, why is there so much sinning going on among Christians and their leaders? Why does rarely a day go by without one or more Evangelical preachers appearing in the news for some sort of sexual crime?  And these are just the ones caught with their pants down!

Evangelicals practice what I call wash, rinse, dry, and repeat. These followers of Jesus are commanded to daily confess their sin. I John 1:8-10 states:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Weekly, daily, and hourly Evangelicals plead with their sin-forgiving God to wash their “hearts” clean. Without any proof besides feelings of relief or words found in an ancient religious text, Evangelicals believe that sincere prayers of repentance are met with God’s forgiveness. With their sins forgiven, Evangelicals return to a world awash in sin, promising God that they will not succumb to temptation and the snares of Satan, Yet, moments or hours later, Evangelicals find themselves yet again in need of confessing their sins and seeking forgiveness from God. It is for this reason that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist luminary John R. Rice encouraged Christians to “keep your sin lists short.” Rice suggested that when Christians become aware they have sinned they should immediately stop and confess the sin and seek forgiveness. Since Evangelicals sin in thought, word, and deed, following Rice’s admonition would require them to continuously pray. If only the Bible had something to say about this. Oh wait, it does! 1 Thessalonians 5:17 states, praying without ceasing.

Recently, a person I know well was arrested for DUI and sentenced to ninety days in jail as a repeat offender. This man has had numerous arrests for a variety of crimes. Father to numerous children with several women, this man has spent much of his life battling drug addiction. Having had and lost countless well-paying jobs and having ruined his relationship with his family, this man likely will be homeless when he is released from jail. His life, a tragedy to behold, is a screaming example of the failure of Jesus to fix what ails the human race.

This man was raised in an Evangelical home, attended a private Christian school, and was surrounded by extended family who were preachers of the gospel. His parents lived what is best describe as up-and-down lives, in and out of church as they dealt with familial, marital, and employment problems. Counseled by pastors to GET RIGHT WITH GOD, they would return to the church, often coming to the church altar to confess their sin and renew their commitment to Christ. And for months or years their renewed devotion would give the appearance of a family happily in love with Jesus. And then, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, Satan and the lusts of the flesh — according to their pastors — would trip them up, causing them to fall headlong into sin. Often they would remain in the pigsty of sin for months or years before one of God’s men convinced them to return to church to do business with God. This endless cycle of sin, confess, repent, forsake, repeat was played out dozens of times over the years, leading to untold psychological and physical harm.

The drug-addict son, following what has been modeled to him by his family, has run from Evangelical church to Evangelical church, hoping to find the forgiveness of sins and victory over his many addictions. At these churches he is met at the door by preachers who promise him that Jesus can fix whatever ails him. GET RIGHT WITH GOD, he is told, by Evangelical family and strangers alike. If he will just confess his sins and seek forgiveness, Jesus will swoop in and give him victory over crack, PCP, meth, alcohol, and his love of sexual immorality. His devoutly Evangelical grandparents continue to pray, encouraging their sinful grandson to get back in church so he can get the help he needs.

This rolling train wreck has been going on for over a decade, with no end in sight. Those closest to him continue to encourage him to cast all his cares on Jesus, telling him that if he will do so, Christ will give him victory over his addictions. No one dares to suggest — I am not within his circle of influence — that Jesus and his deliverance peddlers are the problem; that Evangelical beliefs concerning human nature, sin, and forgiveness are actually hurting this man, not helping him; that the best thing he could do is get as far away as possible from Christian family members and preachers who are trying to “help” him; that the church and Jesus are in a codependent relationship with him, and are in no position to offering lasting help.

Those of us raised in the Evangelical church know well the wash, rinse, dry, and repeat way of living. Frequently reminded of our sins by preachers, evangelists, Evangelical writers, and the Bible, we spent countless hours confessing our sin and seeking God’s forgiveness. The churches we attended would call for special meetings where revivalist preachers would come in and stomp on our feet with old-fashioned hellfire and brimstone preaching. Countless time was spent on our knees crying out to God, pleading for forgiveness and deliverance from sins of commission and omission. Sufficiently revived, off we would go, ready to slay our adversary Satan, tearing down strongholds by and through the mighty power of God.

Over time, worldly complacency would set in, and we would need yet another reviving, another impartation of God’s mighty Spirit. Is it any wonder that many Christians weary of the sin, confess, repent, forsake, repeat process and give up or practice the time-honored Evangelical spiritual discipline of “fake it until you make it”? Spend enough time in Evangelicalism and you will learn expected behaviors, complete with a language code to be used to give the appearance of living life as a Jesus-loving, Satan-hating, sin-forsaking Christian. The Apostle Paul himself approved of this approach when he told the Church at Thessalonica to, abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

It is evident, at least to me, that Evangelicalism stands in the way of people truly dealing with and overcoming negative behaviors. Over its long history, the Christian church has used fear of judgment and punishment to keep people dependent on God for the forgiveness of behaviors deemed sinful by the church. Over time, the sin lists changed, but one fact remains: Evangelicals cannot find victory over sin in their own strength, and only God can forgive and deliver them. Failure to seek forgiveness results in God chastising (punishing) them for their sin. Want to avoid the punishment of the BDSM-loving God? Evangelicals are told to prostate themselves before God and beg for forgiveness.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to tell God to take a hike. What has he done for them anyway? Instead of granting them victory over sin, he keeps them dependent on him, often allowing temptations that cause them to fail. What we would think of a person who left meth on the nightstand of his guest room while his recovering drug addict friend was staying with him. Yet, this is exactly what God does. He tempts and tries, and even causes people to fail. Why? Because he wants Christians to love him more and seek his forgiveness. In other words, he is the abusive husband who beats his wife so she will love him more. As is often the case in matters of domestic abuse, removal from the immediate circumstance and divorce is often warranted. Perhaps Evangelicals need to tell God See ya later, and turn their attention to finding lasting solutions to issues such as drug addiction. Not only is Jesus not the solution, he is the problem. As long of Evangelicals refuse to see this, they will remain trapped in a constant state of wash, rinse, dry, and repeat.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Commits Insurance Fraud to Pay For His Drug Habit

pastor justin white

Justin White, pastor of First Christian Church in Columbus, Indiana was arrested today on “felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.”

The Republic reports:

A Columbus pastor who claimed his family was robbed of about $11,000 in cash and valuables while he was preaching at church has been arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Justin K. White, 38, 3255 Sunrise Drive, senior minister at First Christian Church since May 2011 is accused of arranging with a juvenile to stage the Dec. 18 burglary at his Skyview Estates home on the city’s northeast side in order to file an insurance claim for the lost items, court documents in the case state.

White is accused of having the burglary staged to obtain money from his insurance company to pay a drug debt, court documents state. The charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor relates to White being accused of seeking to have a juvenile commit an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, dealing in a narcotic drug.

White was arrested at 6:45 p.m. Friday at his home by Columbus Police detectives, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman. The charges were filed late Friday afternoon at the Bartholomew County Courthouse, from where a warrant for White’s arrest was issued soon thereafter.

According to White’s bio on the First Christian website: (link no longer active)

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always anticipated the Sunday morning worship gathering. There’s something thrilling that takes place when God’s people come together to offer our best to the Lord in praise, in fellowship, and in study. One of the most powerful parts of the worship service is when we open the Scriptures together to hear from God Himself. I feel humbled to stand and deliver messages from the Bible; it’s a role that I don’t take lightly, but am so thankful for the opportunity. By nature, I’m a teacher/preacher. I love the Scriptures, and I desire to help others grow in their understanding of its pages as well. My goal at the end of every sermon is not that the congregation remembers a joke, a story, or a particular phrase; my goal is for us all to come to know Christ in a clearer, fuller way.

One of my favorite word-pictures for the Church is found in 1 Corinthians 12:12 when Paul writes, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body…” I believe that Jesus Christ is the head of the church…the rest of us form the body. Out of this teaching, I believe the best way to lead is by serving together as a team. I believe that God has given me the gift to preach and communicate His Word, but that gift is not any more important than any other gift of the Spirit. As every part of the body plays a significant role, so every person in the Church is significant as well.

If you are new to the area or simply new to our church, I’d love to get to know you. I think you’ll find FCC a warm, welcoming place to connect with God and with others. Since arriving in Columbus in May of 2011, my wife, Michelle, and I have been so blessed and encouraged by such a loving and growing group of believers. We have three children–(names removed), and a Yorkie we’ve named Oliver. We love to travel, hike, play sports, eat, and share life with others. We are also die-hard fans for the Colts, Reds, and Indiana Hoosiers!

If there is a way I can help you along your spiritual journey, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We’d love to walk with you!

White’s home was “burglarized” on December 18, 2016 while he was busy preaching the word of God.  WTHR-13 reported at the time:

While Pastor Justin White and his family were at church Sunday, someone burglarized their Columbus home, stealing about $11,000 in valuables.

They also took something special from one of his children, and now children are helping to replace it.

At First Christian Church in Columbus, while Justin White spent Sunday in the sanctuary, thieves were preying on the pastor’s home.

“I was here preaching. We have two services,” Pastor White explained. “Everything was going on as normal and then we went home.”

The family noticed the garage door was open to their home. They soon learned someone broke in and ransacked the place sometime between 8:30 and noon.

“The fact that somebody knew where we were and chose Sunday morning to come in? It’s hard. It’s hard to swallow,” said Pastor White’s wife, Michelle.

“We went in and my son looked up and saw that our tv was gone and he said, ‘we’ve been robbed!’ Then we started walking through the house and we realized they had taken so much,” Pastor White said.

The criminals stole more than $11,000 worth of valuables, electronics, small appliances and jewelry, plus something even more personal from (name removed), the family’s youngest.

“She uses a big plastic bottle as a piggy bank and she said, ‘dad! My money’s gone’,” Pastor White said. “It was all gone except for one quarter. They left one quarter there. The rest was gone.”

The bottle was filled with change that the 7-year-old had saved to buy Christmas gifts, earned through chores over several months.

“As a mom, that’s really hard. She’s heartbroken and that’s when I get angry and frustrated,” Michelle said. “I can handle the stuff that was taken from us, but my kids are hurting and that’s the hardest part.”

But then this family had something amazing happen.

They started receiving bags full of coins, donated from neighbors and church members – not from the adults, but from the children.

“Ziploc bags full of coins to be put back in my daughter’s piggy bank,” Pastor White said. “One was anonymous. Another was from a staff member. A mom brought her two preschool daughters over and they had bags full of coins for (name removed). The fact that it comes from a child to a child makes it special.”

“That was the first moment that I cried yesterday when they showed up at our door wanting to give,” Michelle said.

….

He’s [White] also forgiven the thieves and says they’re always welcome in the house where he works – the house of God.

“There’s another way. You don’t have to live like this,” Pastor White said. “I feel for whoever did this.”

I guess White’s statement, “There’s another way. You don’t have to live like this. I feel for whoever did this.” has taken on a whole new meaning.

Update

The Republic added the following to their story:

However, as Columbus Police detectives looked into the burglary allegation, they determined there were no signs of forced entry at the home. The front door and two other doors on the ground floor were unlocked and undamaged, they said. And the thief or thieves had left untouched wrapped gifts under the family’s Christmas tree.

Officers later learned after obtaining a search warrant that White made a claim for the burglary loss the same day he reported it through the Cincinnati Insurance Co, seeking $11,460.75 in compensation, court documents state.

In an unrelated investigation, Columbus detectives obtained a search warrant for the home of the parents of the juvenile who was involved, who is only identified by initials in the court documents. The juvenile told officers that he had an addiction problem and had just gotten out of rehabilitation, court documents state. After repeatedly denying that he had burglarized White’s house, he told officers, “Justin has a very bad drug problem, too, and he’s been asking me to get him things for him since I was 15 years old on house arrest,” court documents state.

The juvenile said the “things” were drugs, specifically pain pills and heroin, court documents state.

The accused accomplice said he had met White for spiritual counseling when placed on house arrest at age 15 or 16 for possession of marijuana, court documents stated. White would come to the boy’s house at lunch time while both of his parents were at work, court documents state.

On his second visit, White asked if the boy could get him some marijuana for his aunt who had cancer, court documents stated. During the third counseling session, White asked for prescription pain pills; and eventually, White asked the boy to obtain heroin for him, court documents states.

At the time of the burglary, White owed the juvenile about $1,000, and had met with the juvenile in his car at a business parking lot to set up the burglary, court documents state.

White originally wanted the juvenile to do the burglary Dec. 16 while he was in Ohio for his grandmother’s funeral, but the juvenile rejected the idea because of the short notice, court documents states.

On the day of the burglary, the boy went to the White house with another juvenile, a female, who knocked on the door and the two walked in because it was unlocked. A pile of items was where White had told them it would be, court documents said, except for a large television which was also part of the deal White had made with the youth, court documents state.

The boy told detectives his primary way of communicating with White was through Facebook Messenger, with White deleting the messages after they were read, court documents states.

When detectives called White in to tell him that they had recovered some of the family’s property, officers read him his rights and asked him about his relationship with the male juvenile, court records state.

White told detectives that he had been meeting with the boy about drug-related matters — around the same time White had been seeing a doctor for headaches, and was put on hydrocodone, the court records state.

“And, uh, I had that first pill and I wanted the whole bottle,” White told investigators, court records state.

The doctor continued to refill White’s prescription and he told investigators he became addicted, court records state.

White told detectives he met with one of the accused accomplice’s friends, who was a dealer, and White began buying drugs from him, court records said.

“I’m not proud of this now. It was horrible,” he told detectives, court records state.

White admitted to detectives that on a Sunday night, July 27, 2015 he overdosed on heroin and Columbus Police officers administered naloxone, a drug-overdose antidote, which saved his life but resulted in White being sent to treatment at a Hazelden addiction-treatment center in Minnesota for 32 days in August 2015, court documents state.

White told investigators he was clean after the treatment and had been off drugs ever since, court records state.

During the interview, detectives repeatedly questioned White about his interactions with the juvenile boy and specifically about their communication on Facebook. During the interview, White repeatedly denied setting up the burglary and denied he had relapsed on drugs, court records state.

In January, detectives interviewed another juvenile male, who told them that White had messaged him on Facebook when the accused burglary accomplice was incarcerated in a juvenile detention center and had asked the second male juvenile to obtain pain pills for him, court records state.

That juvenile then began regularly selling pain pills to White along with heroin, court documents stated.

The second male juvenile told detectives that when White was on vacation and he needed drugs, White would send him to the his residence with the password to the garage and was told to get certain items to pawn or trade to the drug dealer, court records state. The boy would then drive to where White was vacationing to deliver the drugs, court records state.

Second Update

From a Sunday, March 26, 2017 The Republic report:

Justin K. White, senior minister at First Christian Church in Columbus, has resigned.

First Christian Church elders used Sunday morning services to announce White’s decision — which was submitted during a meeting with elders March 12, and accepted by them the next day.

White, who was arrested by Columbus police and charged Friday with two felonies — insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, had planned to tell the congregation during services today of his resignation, and explain what he’s been going through the past two years, said Steve Wiggins, chairman of the church’s elder board.

However, with the events that unfolded Friday — White’s arrest, filing of criminal charges against him, and his jailing — Wiggins made the announcement instead of White, he said.

During services this morning, church leaders explained their decision to wait on announcing White’s resignation until most church members returned to normal routines following the two-week spring break from school, with classes resuming Monday.

Wiggins said White told elders he decided to resign because it would be best for the church and himself, Wiggins said.

Third Update

The Republic reports:

A trial date has been set for a former Columbus pastor facing two felonies involving a burglary he is accused of staging at his home.

A plea of not guilty was entered for Justin K. White, 38, 3255 Sunrise Drive, who appeared Thursday in Bartholomew Circuit Court for an initial hearing before Judge Kelly Benjamin.

The judge set White’s jury trial date for 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, and a pre-trial hearing was set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 7.

White listened as Benjamin read the charges against him, felony insurance fraud and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which stem from a burglary White is accused of staging Dec. 18 at his Skyview Estates home.

White is accused of filing an insurance claim for the burglary when he staged it to obtain money to pay a drug debt, court records state. The charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor relates to White begin accused of seeking to have a juvenile commit an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult, dealing in a narcotic drug.

The Life-Changing Power of the Mythical Jesus

jesus changes livesJesus has the power to change lives. At one time, Jesus wrought change in my life, as he has for millions of American Evangelical Christians. Having spent 50 years in the Christian church, and 25 years as an Evangelical pastor, I witnessed first-hand the mighty power of the life-changing Jesus. I know of many alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, murderers, and thieves who are now exemplary citizens due to Jesus and his ability to change and transform lives. I know of a family member who, thanks to the Jesus, is now out of jail and no longer on drugs. Recently, this family member was baptized and he is now a faithful member of Crossroads Baptist Church, (link no longer active) a Southern Baptist church in Newark, Ohio. If “knowing” Jesus causes my nephew to stay off drugs, all praise and glory to the mythic powers of the son of God.

Those of us who were once card-carrying members of Club Jesus™ know firsthand the transformative powers of Jesus. While we are now atheists and agnostics, we cannot deny the fact that religion does have the power to transform substance abusers and criminals into model citizens. Wait a minute, Bruce. I thought atheists deny the existence of the Christian God? Correct. Here’s the thing that most atheists and Evangelicals fail to understand: the transformative powers of Jesus have nothing to do with whether Jesus is who Evangelicals and the Bible claim he is. Myths and stories can and do have great power to effect change. Politicians and preachers alike understand this, using myths and stories to bring about political, religious, social, and personal change.

American history is littered with stories about how sermons from a mythical book about a mythical God and his son Jesus produced great change. That this change was brought to be by belief in a mythical God is immaterial. All that is required is that people believe the myth to be true. This is why the mythic Jesus and his miracle-working supernatural power is still a powerful force in America. Substance abusers go to church, hear about the wonder-working power of Jesus, make a decision to turn their lives over to him, and their lives are transformed. While many “saved” substance abusers will return to their addictions, some do find lasting deliverance from their demons.

How then, should atheists respond to such stories? Perhaps we need to determine what is more important: destroying the myths or seeing lives put back on the right track. Take Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a program devoted to helping substance abusers get clean. AA’s appeal to a “higher power” drives many atheists nuts. Pointing to AA’s group and accountability dynamics, atheists rightly say that a “higher power” has nothing to with substance abusers kicking their habits. Fine, but participants “believe” God is helping them to work the program, to take another step forward in their continued sobriety. Are programs such as AA a crutch? Sure, but all of us, now and then, need crutches to helps us walk.

Should we ridicule and demean those who find help and support from religiously oriented institutions and programs? Isn’t the ultimate goal the betterment of society? Yes, I wish people could find help without getting entangled in the mind-numbing web of Evangelical Christianity. I wish my nephew and others like him could find help for their addictions without having to turn to Jesus and his emissaries on earth. But wishing changes nothing. Christianity still gives life, purpose, and meaning to a majority of Americans, and atheists such as I need to accept this. Until secularists, humanists, and non-Evangelical Christians can provide comprehensive help to people struggling with addictions, addicts have little choice but to turn to religiously-oriented programs. It matters not whether Jesus is who Christians claim he is. Addicts want and need help, and Jesus is ready and waiting to help them. If non-Christians want things to be different, then we must be willing to invest our time and money in developing “ministries” to help those in need. While good work is being done of this front, we are likely several lifetimes away from the day when the miracle-working Jesus is returned to his grave.

One of my sons had a substance abuse problem, one that resulted in him stealing medicine from his father.  I am proud to say that my son has been drug-free for a number of years. If religion played a part in restoring him to mental and physical wholeness, so be it. All I care about is that his life is back on track and he is a happily married and father to four awesome girls. He is gainfully employed and our once-fractured relationship is now restored. While he himself finds it frustrating to attend group meetings where Bible-thumpers remind him that the only reason he is clean is Jesus, he has no other option. While my son attends the Catholic church with his family and is a spiritual person, he no longer believes in the Evangelical version of God.

The nephew I mentioned earlier? I hope that he finds Jesus to be the addiction counselor that sticks closer to him than a brother. All that matters to me is that he finds mental and physical deliverance from methamphetamine. He has been down the Jesus path before, having made numerous professions of faith and rededications at the family church, the Newark Baptist Temple. None of these previous attempts worked, and in time my nephew found himself back in the gutter, homeless or in jail, losing countless jobs and destroying his relationships with family members in the process. I know that if he continues on this path it will only lead to continued misery and heartache, and likely result in incarceration and early death. If Jesus can help him break free of his addictions and turn him into a productive citizen, count me as one atheist who will say AMEN.

How Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain

sin can make you sick

Polly’s father is almost 80 years old. In poor health, suffering from severe spinal deterioration and arthritis, Dad has decided to have a total hip replacement. While Polly and I are absolutely against him having the surgery, it’s his life and he is free to do what he wants. Dad is in constant pain and he hopes that having the hip replaced will lessen his pain. The doctor gave no guarantees and, having worked with many hip replacement patients when I worked for Allegro Medical, a Phoenix based direct medical equipment supply company, I’m worried that the surgery could make his pain worse or land him in a nursing home. It’s hard to stand by and do nothing as parents make decisions like this, but Dad and Mom are competent to make this decision, so we will do all we can to love and support them. We remind ourselves that someday we will be where they are.

By now, you are probably trying figure out how the title of this post, How Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain, fits with what I have written so far. Let me explain. Dad was always a hard worker, often able to work circles around men half his age. He and I got along well because we both had that workaholic drive, the need to constantly be busy and get things done. However, at the age of 65, Dad was in an industrial accident that injured his back and required immediate surgery.

Soon, pain became an ever-present reality. Dad, having been taught that taking narcotics could lead to addiction, refused to take anything more than Tylenol or aspirin. Later in life, Naproxen was added to the mix as was Darvocet, a drug that was later removed from the market due to serious side effects. Dad would do his best to only take what he thought he needed, often only taking half a pill or going without taking anything for several days. No matter how often I reminded him that it would be better if he took the drugs regularly and on schedule, he continued to endure the pain rather than take the drugs as the doctor ordered.  A year or so ago, Dad’s doctor gave him a prescription for Tramadol and a few weeks ago he gave him a script for Oxycontin. Finally, I thought, he will find some relief for his pain and suffering. Sadly, that was not to be the case.

You see, Dad is afraid of becoming addicted and this is one of the reasons he is having a total hip replacement. In his mind, if he has the hip replaced, perhaps the pain will lessen and he won’t need to take the Oxycontin. No addiction, and God will be happy.  I would try to explain to him the difference between addiction and dependence, but I don’t think he’d hear me. Having been a narcotic user for over a decade, I know that I am dependent; I’m not an addict. I take the drugs as prescribed. I wish that Dad could see that being dependent is no big deal and that regularly taking Oxycontin will reduce his pain and improve his quality of life.  Unfortunately, thinking drug dependence is a sin keeps Dad from getting the full benefit of the drug.

This is a perfect example of how fundamentalist prohibitions cause unneeded suffering and pain. From preaching that says addiction (dependence) is a sin to viewing pain and suffering as some sort of test from God, many fundamentalists eschew drugs and treatments that would likely improve their quality of life. Better to suffer for Jesus, the thought goes, than to become dependent on narcotics. In just a little while, Jesus is coming again…so endure until you see your Savior’s smiling face.

As an atheist, I am deeply troubled by this kind of thinking. Since I think this life is the only one we have, we should do all we can to eliminate not only our own pain and suffering, but the pain and suffering of others. Since there is no heaven and no reward in the sweet by and by, why needlessly suffer? Better to become dependent on narcotics and have some sort of pain relief and improved quality of life than to go through life suffering, only to die in the end.  While I certainly think having a chronic illness and living with unrelenting pain has made me more compassionate, I don’t wish such a life on anyone, especially those I love.

How about you? Were you taught that taking narcotics and becoming dependent on them was a sin? Please share your story in the comment section.

Note

I pastored numerous people over the years who thought taking pain medications was a sign of weakness or lack of dependence on God. I watched one man horrifically suffer from bowel cancer, unwilling to take drugs for the pain. I’ve come to see that this is the Evangelical version of the Catholic self-flagellation.

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