Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Songs of Sacrilege: Fellas Get Out the Way by Scott Cook

scott cook

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Fellas Get Out the Way by Scott Cook.

Video Link

Lyrics

No lyrics publicly available

It Only Took One Drop of Jesus’ Blood to Save Us

blood of jesus

Recently, I listened to a southern gospel song by the Mark Trammel Quartet titled, One Drop of Blood. The premise of the song is this: it only took one drop of blood to save our souls.

Video Link

Ray Boltz, a contemporary Christian artist, also sang a song titled, One Drop of Blood.

Video Link

The premise of Boltz’ song is the same: it only takes one drop of blood to save us from our sin (and defeat Satan). Is this notion of human salvation only requiring one drop of blood theologically correct? Was all that was required of Jesus the equivalent of blood glucose level test finger stick? Why all the savagery and violence if all that was required was a boo-boo on Jesus’ leg?

Lurking behind the “one drop of blood” idea is the belief that Jesus’ blood was magical, unlike human blood. This idea was popularized years ago by Fundamentalist radio preacher M.R. DeHann in the book, The Chemistry of the Blood. DeHaan wrote:

It is not Eve’s blood which flows in the veins of mankind but ADAMS. That is why it is ADAM’s sin and not Eve’s which all men inherit. Sin is in the blood, and transmitted in the blood of man and in the flesh. Since the LIFE is in the blood according to the Scriptures, and the wages of sin was death, sin affected the blood of Adam and caused him to die. Because sin is a disease of the blood, it can be cured by the application of sinless blood, for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. As the first Adam’s sin corrupted the blood of the entire human family, so the pure sinless blood of the last Adam makes atonement for the sin of the world. “For without shedding of blood is no remission . . .” “It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” It was not  Eve’s sin which affect us although Eve sinned before Adam did. It was the SIN of ADAM which brought death upon the whole race because it is ADAMS blood that transmits original sin and it is for this reason we are not called the SEED OF THE WOMAN but we are ADAM’S SEED. ONLY  Jesus is called the Seed of the woman, because He was born of a woman without one drop of human blood in His veins, and thereby could avoid the sin of Adam which is only transmitted through the blood which the male contributes to his offspring. Jesus could have a human body, but one drop of Adam’s blood would have made Him a sinner just as you and I. There was then only one remedy for SIN and that was sinless blood and only one could supply this, even the sinless Son of God.

….

The blood of the Lord Jesus is sinless blood, and since it is sinless, it is incorruptible, for sin brought corruption, and where no sin is there is no corruption. In our next message, we shall point out how the blood which flowed in Jesus’ body was sinless and how He escaped having one single drop of Adam’s human blood within Him. Every drop of blood which flowed in Jesus’ body is still in existence just as fresh as it was when it flowed from His wounded brow and hands and feet and side. The blood that flowed from His unbroken skin in Gethsemane, the blood that was smeared about His back as the cruel, weighted thongs cut through His flesh as the flagellator scourged Him, the blood that oozed out under the thorny crown and flowed from His hands, His head, His feet was never destroyed for it was incorruptible blood.

….

Although the body of the Lord Jesus Christ lay in the tomb in death for three days and three nights, no corruption had set in for that body contained incorruptible blood. Lazarus being dead only one day more was said by his sister to be STINKING with corruption, but this one saw no corruption because the only cause of corruption, SINFUL BLOOD, was absent from His flesh. That blood, every drop of it, is still in existence.

….

After Christ had made the atonement, He arose from the tomb, and then as the eternal High Priest, ascended into heaven to present the blood in the Holy of Holies where God dwells, and that blood is there today pleading for us and prevailing for us. The priest in the Tabernacle never spoke a word. All he did was PRESENT THE blood, and that was enough. MAYBE there is a golden chalice in heaven where every drop of that precious blood is still in existence, just as pure, just as potent, just as fresh as two thousand years ago.

….

How wonderfully God prepared for the virgin birth of His Son. When He created woman He made her so that no blood would be able to pass from her to her offspring. That blood is the result of the male. Since Adam was the federal head of the race, it is HIS BLOOD which transmits Adam’s Sin. In order to produce a sinless man and yet be the son of Adam, God must provide a way whereby that man would have a human body derived from Adam but have not a drop of Adam’s sinful blood. Right here is the scientific biological reason for the sinlessness of the Man Christ Jesus. Some have tried to answer the question, “How could He be sinless and yet born of a woman?” by making Mary the “Immaculate Virgin.” That, however, does not answer the question of how JESUS was sinless since it is through the male that the bloodline runs.

Not only is this a scientific fact, but it is plainly taught in Scripture that Jesus partook of human flesh without Adam’s blood.

….

Conception by the Holy Ghost then was the only way the Virgin Birth could be accomplished. Mary contributed the body of Jesus and He became the “seed of David according to the flesh.” The Holy Spirit contributed the Blood of Jesus. It was sinless blood. It was Divine blood. It is Precious Blood for there has never been any other like it.

….

There is a Second and a more potent reason still. The blood was God’s only purchase price of redemption. When man sinned, something happened to his blood, for “the life . . . is in the blood.” Instead of incorruptible and, therefore, deathless blood, Adam’s blood corrupted through sin and became subject to death. To redeem this DEAD sinner, life must be again imparted. The only remedy for death is LIFE. This life is in the blood and so blood must be furnished which is sinless and incorruptible. Now none of Adam’s race could do this. For in “Adam all died.” “All have sinned and come short.” The angels could not furnish that blood for they are spirit beings and have neither flesh nor blood. There was only one, yes, ONLY ONE, who could furnish that blood, the virgin-born Son of God, with a human body, but sinless supernatural blood, inseminated by the Holy Ghost. In a previous message we showed scientifically that every drop of blood in an infant’s body is the contribution of the male parent, while the mother furnished all the flesh of that little body. Jesus’ body was of Mary; His blood was by the Holy Ghost. This sinless, supernatural blood was the only price of redemption God could accept, without violating the integrity of His holy nature. Death can only be banished by life. A blood transfusion must be performed and provided.

….

This is not one millionth as wonderful as what God did nineteen centuries ago. Then there was one Man who gave ALL His sinless blood on the Cross of Calvary. There a BLOOD BANK was opened and into that bank went the blood of the Lord Jesus. It suits every type, avails for everyone and is free to all who submit to its “transfusion” by the Holy Spirit. All you need to do is apply for it by FAITH. We must add chemicals to the blood in our blood banks to preserve it, and then it eventually deteriorates just the same, but no preservatives need be added to His Precious blood, for it is INCORRUPTIBLE and sinless. Not one drop of that blood was lost or wasted. It is INCORRUPTIBLE.

DeHaan, a medical doctor, founder of the Radio Bible Class, and co-editor of the monthly devotional guide Our Daily Bread, believed that the blood of Jesus was not human in nature, but some sort of supernatural blood given to Jesus through Eve by the power and agency of the Holy Spirit. Got all that? I suspect that it is this thinking that lies behind the idea that our salvation only requires one drop of Jesus’ blood.

In the 1980s, John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, got into a brawl with Bob Jones University and numerous Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (among others) preachers over his claim that it was Jesus’ death, and not his blood that was necessary for our redemption. Man, it was a wonderful time. I heard numerous sermons about MacArthur’s liberalism and apostasy — ironic since MacArthur remains a hardcore Fundamentalist to this day. MacArthur and his critics went back and forth for years on the matter, leading MacArthur loyalist Phil Johnson to write the following:

Does John MacArthur “deny the blood of Christ?”

….

No, it is not true, and it never has been. The allegations are ridiculous—perhaps originally based on a thoughtless misunderstanding, but now clearly fueled by a deceitful malevolence.

The controversy was originally ignited by a supposed “news” item written by Bob Jones, Jr. in the April 1986 issue of Faith For The Family (a Bob Jones University-sponsored magazine). Jones quoted some remarks MacArthur had originally made in a live Q&A session at Grace Community Church sometime in the early 1970s. MacArthur’s comments had been transcribed and published in the May 1976 issue of the Grace Church newsletter “Grace Today.” The Jones article cited the comments without any documentation, and without noting that they were from a ten-year-old source.

In the BJU article, Jones quoted MacArthur as saying, “It is not His bleeding that saved me, but His dying.” Jones then cited Hebrews 9:22 (“without shedding of blood is no remission”) and intoned, “MacArthur’s position is heresy.”

On June 13, 1986, MacArthur wrote to Bob Jones III, complaining that the magazine had taken snippets of his remarks out of context and deliberately made them seem sinister. MacArthur assured the magazine’s editors that he absolutely affirms the necessity of the shed blood of Christ for atonement and explained that the point he was trying to make in the quoted excerpt was merely that the saving efficacy of Christ’s blood is not because of some property in the blood itself, but rather because Christ had poured it out in death as a substitute for sinners.

….

Plainly, MacArthur was not denying that Christ literally shed His blood. He was not denying that the literal shedding of blood was a necessary aspect of the atonement. His only point was that the efficacy of Christ’s blood lies not in some property of the blood itself, but rather in the fact that Christ shed it in death, and such a death was the price of atonement for our sin.
Moreover, if the blood of Christ is in any sense “eternally preserved” in heaven, it would be in the glorified body of the risen Lord, not in a bowl or a vial where it is perpetually offered or literally applied to sinners in some way.

After an exchange of correspondence in which MacArthur thoroughly and carefully explained his original remarks, Jones wrote on October 16, 1986, saying, “I believe the position [MacArthur] has taken in this matter is a heretical position, and all the correspondence in the world is not going to affect my convictions on that point.”

Nonetheless, BJU officials soon began trying to downplay the controversy. They were clearly embarrassed by some of the squalid half-truths that were beginning to circulate among fundamentalists. They also now had a file of correspondence from MacArthur clarifying his position, making it clear that he was orthodox. Even Jones, Jr. declined to give any rational or biblical reasons for continuing to regard MacArthur’s view as “heresy.” But he was obstinately committed to his original verdict, and by his own admission, “all the correspondence in the world [was] not going to affect” his thoughts or public statements on the matter. Instead, BJU as an institution attempted a quiet retreat from the fray.

Look again at the point MacArthur was attempting to make in the first place: When Scripture speaks of Christ’s “blood,” the expression is normally a reference to His sacrificial atoning death, not the actual red and white corpuscles. And the vivid language in our hymns about the cleansing ability and “wonder-working power” of the blood and “a fountain filled with blood” is not meant to be taken literally. There is no magical or mystical cleansing property in the red fluid, and there is no container of blood in heaven that is somehow literally applied to sinners. Such language is meant to speak of Christ’s sacrificial atonement—just as when Paul spoke of “the preaching of the cross” he had in mind the death of Christ, not the literal wooden instrument on which the Savior died. We’re not to think a piece of wood is the point of our preaching. What happened on that cross is what is efficacious for our salvation, not some magical power in the wood itself. Similarly with the blood of Christ: it is the violent pouring out of blood in Christ’s sacrificial death that saves us, not some supernatural property of the fluid itself—just what MacArthur said in the first place.

The obvious truth of all that has escaped a few militant fundamentalists who have no clear concept of the biblical notion of blood atonement, but who revel in labeling anyone who is not part of their group a heretic. They continue to insist that MacArthur is actually denying the efficacy of Christ’s blood.

My take, at the time as a young IFB preacher, was that MacArthur was right: that it was the death of Jesus and not his blood that provided salvation for sinners; that yes, Jesus shedding his blood was essential to salvation, but without his death — also known as three-day vacation — the shedding of his blood was in vain. Now, I didn’t utter out loud or preach about my agreement with MacArthur. Doing so would have been ecclesiastical and personal suicide. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend)

In a 1988 letter to his followers, MacArthur wrote:

Clearly, though Christ shed His literal blood, many references to the blood are not intended to be taken in the literal sense. A strictly literal interpretation cannot, for example, explain such passages as John 6:53-54: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

It would be equally hard to explain how physical blood is meant in Matthew 27:25 (“His blood be on us, and on our children”); Acts 5:28 (“[You] intend to bring this man’s blood upon us”); 18:6 (“Your blood be upon your own heads”); 20:26 (“I am innocent of the blood of all men”); and 1 Corinthians 10:16 (“The cup of blessing . . .is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?,” KJV).

Clearly the word blood is often used to mean more than the literal red fluid. Thus it is that when Scripture speaks of the blood of Christ, it usually means much more than just the red and white corpuscles—it encompasses His death, the sacrifice for our sins, and all that is involved in the atonement.

Trying to make literal every reference to Christ’s blood can lead to serious error. The Catholic doctrine known as transubstantiation, for example, teaches that communion wine is miraculously changed into the actual blood of Christ, and that those who partake of the elements in the mass literally fulfill the words of Jesus in John 6:54: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Those who have attacked me seem to be espousing the same kind of mystical view of the blood that led the Catholic Church to embrace transubstantiation. They claim that the blood of Christ was never truly human. They insist on literalizing every New Testament reference to Jesus’ blood. They teach that the physical blood of Christ was somehow preserved after the crucifixion and carried to heaven, where it is now literally applied to the soul of each Christian at salvation.

We are not saved by some mystical heavenly application of Jesus’ literal blood. Nothing in Scripture indicates that the literal blood of Christ is preserved in heaven and applied to individual believers. When Scripture says we’re redeemed by the blood (1 Pet. 1:18-19), it is not speaking of a bowl of blood in heaven. It means we’re saved by Christ’s sacrificial death.

In the same way, when Paul said he gloried in the cross (Gal. 6:14), he did not mean the literal wooden beams; he was speaking of all the elements of redeeming truth. Just as the cross is an expression that includes all of Christ’s atoning work, so is the blood. It is not the actual liquid that cleanses us from our sins, but the work of redemption Christ accomplished in pouring it out.

MacArthur believed that behind the venomous attacks from Fundamentalist preachers was DeHaan’s “miracle blood” teachings found in the book The Chemistry of the Blood. IFB preachers are noted for their rabid hatred of Roman Catholicism. MacArthur does a good job of connecting the “supernatural” blood belief of DeHaan with that of Catholics and their belief in transubstantiation — where communion wine and wafer actually become the literal blood and body of Jesus. That said, MacArthur and his followers have plenty of their own absurd beliefs in connection with the blood of Jesus. While MacArthur says that many of the Biblical mentions of Jesus’ blood are metaphorical in nature, it is, last I looked, through Christ’s bloody sacrifice, death, and subsequent resurrection from the dead, that the elect (MacArthur is a Calvinist) are washed from their sins. The whole notion of original sin and our need of salvation is absurd. The squabble between MacArthur and the “miraculous blood of Jesus” crowd is just Kabuki theater. The bigger issue is that Evangelicals of all stripes continue to debase their fellow humans, demanding they submit to the teachings of an ancient blood cult lest their vengeful God torture them in Hell for eternity.

I am left wondering what Christian Mark Trammel would say to Christian Ray Boltz about “one drop of blood” saving humans from their sins. I assume Trammel, an Evangelical, believes homosexuality is a sin. Boltz, an out-and-proud gay man, does not. (Please see Evangelicals and the Gay Closet: Is Ray Boltz Still a Christian?) I wonder, “which” drop of the blood of Jesus saved whom? Is it the same miraculous blood that saved Trammel that saved Boltz? Or does being gay disqualify someone from the application of Jesus’ blood? Must Botlz repent of his “sin” in order to have one drop of the blood of Jesus applied to his sin account? Or is Jesus cool and okay with LGBTQ people worshiping him? I guess we will never know since we all we are left with are the ancient contradictory writings of the Bible. When it comes to the blood of Jesus, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Fundamentalist Pastor JD Hall Brags About Breaking the Law

jd hall

Pastor Jordan “JD” Hall, a breaker of Montana law and God’s.

According to British uber-Fundamentalist Susan-Anne White, Jordan “JD” Hall, pastor (elder) of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana and the operator of Pulpit & Pen, bragged in an email about texting while driving. In a July 2019 post, White wrote:

We had cause to contact an American Pastor this week and when he responded to us he did not address us at all. He typed two or three lines of a non-response to our questions and that was it.

We sent another e-mail to take him to task for his lack of courtesy and his failure/refusal to answer the questions we put to him.

He responded by apologising for his lack of formality which he explained was due to the fact that he was driving at 70mph whilst texting his response to us.

We were horrified to think that he was putting himself and other drivers and pedestrians in danger whilst he responded to our e-mail.

We contacted him again and informed him that if he texted whilst driving in Northern Ireland he would be a lawbreaker.

NI law states that “It is illegal, while driving, to pick up or use a hand-held mobile phone or similar device.”

The Pastor’s responses to our rebuke of his cavalier attitude to his potentially dangerous driving were as follows,

“This is ………… where we have freedom and don’t like nanny-state serfs and peasants telling us what to do while driving. So yes, I text and drive.”

“We prefer liberty OVER safety on this side of the pond.” (He capitalised the word OVER for emphasis)

To spare this fellow’s blushes, we will not name him or his State.

Today, after “suffering” in silence for six months, the pedantic White decided to out Hall as the unnamed pastor:

Pastor Jordan Hall is the Pastor referred to in our post below. He was not identified in the post but the time has come to reveal all.

He cannot be reasoned with because he does not like anyone telling him what to do.

He prefers “liberty over safety,” despite the fact that he is a danger on the roads and could kill himself or someone else. In addition to texting whilst driving at 70mph, he does not wear a seat belt!

In his most recent sermon at his church (Fellowship Baptist, Sidney, Montana) he condemned abortion, and rightly so, but he cannot see that it is hypocritical to condemn abortion whilst he is endangering other human beings by his dangerous driving.

We informed him that we are going to name him, and he responded with,

“I’m perfectly fine with the entire world knowing I text and drive. I also refuse to wear a seatbelt because I don’t like being told what to do.”

What a rebellious, arrogant and defiant man!

He is also liberal on drugs, stating that he is “100% for the legalisation of marijuana and all substances.”

This is outrageous!

….

Susan-Anne White, a True Christian, So True She Can’t Find Any Church Pure Enough For Her

Readers may remember the run-ins I have had with White in the past. (Please see Susan-Anne White Thinks I’m a Despicable, Obnoxious, Militant, Hateful AtheistBritish Fundamentalist Susan-Anne White’s List of Politically Correct Words, The BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene: Susan-Anne White Condemns Women Who Have Preemptive Surgery and The Infamous Fundamentalist Susan-Anne White Has Given Up on Blogging.) It doesn’t surprise me that she is making a mountain out of a molehill; though I do love the fact that it is Fundamentalist Asshole of the Year® JD Hall she is going after. Always fun to watch Fundamentalists devour one another.

White says that Hall can’t be reasoned with and doesn’t like anyone telling him what to do — as if White is any different from Hall. Child, please. Hall and White are two peas in a pod. Both of these servants of the most high God scour the Internet in hopes of finding the smallest offenses by fellow Christians. Granted, White hasn’t badgered someone into committing suicide as Hall reportedly did, but she’s hardly a shining example of a loving, kind, compassionate follower of the Prince of Peace.

Both White and Hall believe, in theory, that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I say in theory because their public dust-up violates all sorts of Biblical commands about how believers are to treat one another and how they are to handle disagreements with fellow Christians. And on a more hysterically serious note, Hall’s Bible must not contain Romans 13:1-3:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

The Message, my favorite paraphrase, puts Romans 13:1-3 this way:

Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it’s God’s order. So live responsibly as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

By texting and driving Hall is NOT violating Montana law. He is free to drive like an idiot and put the lives of others at risk. You go boy! Way to be good example of a follower of Jesus. However, it is illegal in Montana to not wear a seatbelt while driving or riding in a moving automobile. And by deliberately violating the law of the land, Hall is disobeying God’s clear commands in Romans 13:1-3. As a Christian and a pastor, Hall is duty-bound to obey the law. Worse yet, by violating the law and the commands of God, Hall is no longer fit to be an elder of Fellowship Baptist Church. In 1 Timothy 3, the Apostle Paul said that bishops (elders/pastors) must be blameless, of good behavior, and have a good report (testimony/reputation) with unbelievers.  Hall’s behavior fails on all three counts. Since Hall is living in serious unrepentant “sin,” I call on the membership of Fellowship Baptist Church to immediately remove him as pastor. My God, people, set the standard. If you let Hall break the seat belt law, what’s next? His complicity in the death of a troubled teen? It’s time to stop sin in its tracks!

To Susan-Anne White: what I wrote above is snark and sarcasm. I don’t give a rat’s ass about Hall’s driving habits or your outrage over his behavior. Think of all the things you could be “worrying” about, yet you are focused on getting a pound of flesh out of Hall over his texting while driving.

Now pass me some popcorn.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Talkin Anthropocalypse Blues by Scott Cook

scott cook

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Talkin Anthropocalypse Blues by Scott Cook.

Video Link

Lyrics

No lyrics publicly available

Songs of Sacrilege: Under the God by David Bowie and Tin Machine

david bowie

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Under the God by David Bowie and Tin Machine.

Video Link

Lyrics

Skin dance back-a-the condo
Skin heads getting to school
Beating on blacks with a baseball bat
Racism back in rule

White trash picking up Nazi flags
While you was gone, there was war
This is the west, get used to it
They put a Swastika over the door

Under the God, under the God
One step over the red line
Under the God, under the God
Ten steps into the crazy, crazy

Washington heads in the toilet bowl
Don’t see supremacist hate
Right wing dicks in their boiler suits
Picking out who to annihilate

Toxic jungle of Uzi trails
Tribesmen just wouldn’t live here
Fascist flare is fashion cool
Well, you’re dead, you just ain’t buried yet

Under the God, under the God
Under the God, under the God

As the walls came tumbling down
So, the secrets that we shared
I believed you by the palace gates
Now the savage days are here

Under the God

Under the God, under the God
One step over the red line
Under the God, under the God
One steps into the crazy, crazy

Crazy eyed man with a shot gun
Hot headed creep with a knife
Love and peace and harmony
Love you could cut with a knife

Under the God, under the God
Under the God, under the God

Songs of Sacrilege: Loving the Alien by David Bowie

david bowie

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Loving the Alien by David Bowie.

Video Link

Lyrics

Watching them come and go
The Templars and the Saracens
They’re traveling the holy land
Opening telegrams

Torture comes and torture goes
Knights who’d give you anything
They bear the cross of Coeur de Leon
Salvation for the mirror blind

But if you pray all your sins are hooked upon the sky
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear

Prayers they hide the saddest view
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

Thinking of a different time
Palestine a modern problem
Bounty and your wealth in land
Terror in a best-laid plan

Watching them come and go
Tomorrows and the yesterdays
Christians and the unbelievers
Hanging by the cross and nail

But if you pray all your sins are hooked upon the sky
Pray and the heathen lie will disappear

Prayers they hide the saddest view
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And your prayers they break the sky in two
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

You pray til the break of dawn
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)
And you’ll believe you’re loving the alien
(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

(Believing the strangest things, loving the alien)

I’m “Broken” Jesus, Please “Fix” Me

fix me jesus

Key to Evangelical soteriology is the belief that all humans are inherently broken — evil, vile, sinful, enemies of God. The only way that people can gain salvation and inherit eternal life is to admit that they are broken and in need of fixing. It is through Jesus alone — the great fixer – that sinners can be saved. Older readers might remember the days when every community had a one-stop fix-it shop. GE toaster stop working? Black and Decker drill power switch broken? Motorola radio tuner on the fritz? Take it to the local shop, and Bob will make it good as new. So it is with Jesus. Is your life broken? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. The Bible SAYS your life is broken, end of discussion. You might be the kindest, most loving person in the world, you are still broken. According to Evangelicals, deep in your black heart of hearts lies sin and corruption. You might not be a drug addict, alcoholic, prostitute, homosexual, adulterer, fornicator, or New York Yankees fan, but you are still a sinner who is headed for eternal hellfire and damnation unless you admit your brokenness and let Jesus “fix” you.

No person can become a Christian, according to Evangelicals, unless they come clean to God about their brokenness. None of us is without sin, so, as the old hillbilly Baptist preacher said, “you might as well cough it up and admit it.” Of course, God already knows you are broken. He created you that way. I know, I know, crazy stuff, but it is in the Bible, so it’s true!  God knows every sin you will ever commit — past, present, and future. All Jesus wants from you is for you to grovel before him and admit your brokenness. Just admit that you are a worthless piece of shit who deserves eternal torture in the Lake of Fire, and then, and only then, is it possible for Jesus, the Fix-it Man®, to apply the super glue of eternal salvation to your life.

And here’s the thing, even after Jesus fixes you and you become a full-fledged member of the One True Faith®, you are still broken. Bruce, I thought Jesus was the divine fix-it man? In what can only be described as a first-rate con job, Jesus doesn’t fix all of you when he repairs you. Sure, you have been regenerated and redeemed, but you still have what Evangelicals call a sin nature. Thought your sin nature would go away when Jesus wonderfully, gloriously saved you and washed you from head to toe in his blood? Think again. In fact, as a newly minted Christian, you will find that the very same “sins” you struggled with before you became a Christian are still very much alive. That’s why Evangelicals “sin” just as often and to the same degree as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. One need only read the posts in the Black Collar Crime Series, to see how true this is. The very “men of God” who stand in front of church congregations on Sundays preaching against sin, often commit the very same sins during the week. I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I preached thousands of sermons during that time. Before every sermon, I would silently pray, confessing my sins to Jesus, and asking him to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. That way, my “heart” was always right with God as I preached. Or so I told myself, anyway. How could I call out sins, name names, and step on toes if my own sin slate hadn’t been wiped clean? I preached three and four times a week, and without fail I prayed to Jesus, asking him to wipe clear my sin account. The late Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist John R. Rice believed in the frequent confession of sin, thereby, in his words, “keeping your sin list short.” I am not sure how “short” my sin list was compared to Rice’s, but I did what I could to keep my sinning down to what would fit on a  yellow 8″x14″ legal pad.

The Evangelical, then, goes through life broken, always in need of fixing. Not only that, but many Evangelicals practice a form of self-flagellation called “brokenness.” Spiritually aware Evangelicals beg God and plead with him to “break” them. Taught to see sin within every crevice of their mind and life, Evangelicals ask God to rip away their pride and self-worth, exposing their sinful behavior. The goal is to reduce believers to tears; to reduce them to piles of ashes; to leave them prostrate before the thrice Holy God. You see, according to Evangelicals, God doesn’t want or need you or anything you can do. His goal is to break you down and turn you into a needy, helpless child. It is only then that God can use you. Christians are mere vessels through which God, through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, does whatever he wants. Sounds like a SYFY show, does it not? Aliens inhabit human corpses and use them to take over the world.

According to the Bible, followers of Jesus are his slaves.  In a 2007 sermon titled, Slaves for Christ, Evangelical megachurch pastor John MacArthur said:

Being a slave of Christ may be the best way to define a Christian. We are, as believers, slaves of Christ. You would never suspect that, however, from the language of Christianity. In contemporary Christianity, the language is anything but slave language. It is about freedom. It is about liberation. It is about health, wealth, prosperity, finding your own fulfillment, fulfilling your own dream, finding your own purpose. We often hear that God loves you unconditionally and wants you to be all you want to be. He wants to fulfill every ambition, every desire, every hope, every dream.

….

Well, if you read the New Testament in its original text, you would come away stunned, really, by how different the original text is from any English version that you’ve ever read, whether King James, New King James, New American Standard, ESV, NIV and you can name all the rest. All of them, virtually, have found a way to mask something that is an absolutely critical element of truth. In fact, the word “slave” appears in the New Testament 130 times in the original text. You will find it once in the King James, once the Greek word “slave” is translated slave. You will find it translated “slave” a few other times in other texts, like the New King James text and even the New American Standard text. And it will be translated “slave” when, one, it refers to actual slavery, or two, it refers to some kind of bondage to an inanimate reality.

But whenever it is personalized, the translators seem unwilling to translate it “slave.” For example, in Matthew 6:24 Jesus said this, “No man can be a slave to two masters.” What does your Bible say? “No man can serve two masters.” The favorite word for slave is servant, favorite English word. Very often bondservant is used, which tends to move in the right direction but is not exactly slave. You have a word used 130 times in the New Testament. You have other uses of that word with a preposition, sundoulos, which means fellow slaves, used about a dozen times. You have the verb form used another approximately a dozen times. So you have at least 150-plus usages of just three of the words and there are others in the group with the root doul, D-O-U-L in English for doulos.

There are about twenty established English translations of the New Testament, about twenty. Only one of them, only one of them always translates doulos slave, only one and it is a translation of the New Testament written by a formidable scholar in New Testament Greek who studied the original papyri, and things like that, by the name of E.J. Goodspeed. Have you ever heard of Goodspeed translation? Goodspeed is a well-known scholar. For fifteen years he was a pioneering professor of New Testament Greek at the University of Chicago. The Goodspeed translation always translates doulos as slave. And when you read it, it gives you an entire different sense of our relationship to Christ. You do have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, you are His slave. That’s putting it as simply as I can put it.

There are six words, at least, for servant, doulos is not one of them. There is diakonos from which we get deacon; oiketēs related to oikos, house, a house servant; Pais, having to do with one who serves by instructing the young; hupēretēs, a low-level, third level, under servant, literally an under-rower, the third level on a galley slave, someone who pulled an oar down at the bottom of a great ship; leitourgos, another kind of service usually associated with religion; paidiskē and maybe misthios that can be translated minister.

There are plenty of words for servant. There’s only one word for slave, doulos and sundoulos. Yet, in the history of the evangelical translation of the Greek into the English, all the translators consistently have avoided the use of the word. Now you might suggest that, therefore, it’s disputed, that maybe doulos isn’t quite as clearly slave. But that’s not the case. But they avoid it nonetheless. Doulos is not at all an ambiguous term. They are trying to avoid something. It’s not about a lack of linguistic information, it might well be a lack of courage, conviction.

As I said, they will use slave if it literally refers to a slave, a physical slave. Or if it refers to bondage to an inanimate object, like being a slave of sin, or a slave of righteousness. But when it comes to being a personal relationship with God or Christ, they back away from the word slave inevitably and use some form of the word servant. This is a matter of preference in all cases to accommodate. And we ask; to accommodate what? Well I suppose to accommodate the stigmas attached to slavery.

You would understand that. When you give somebody the gospel, you are saying to them, “I would like to invite you to become a slave of Jesus Christ. I would like to invite you to give up your independence, give up your freedom, submit yourself to an alien will, abandon all your rights, be owned by, controlled by the Lord.” That’s really the gospel. We’re asking people to become slaves. I don’t hear a lot of that slave talk today, do you? We have, by playing fast and loose with the word doulos, managed to obscure this precise significance and substantial foundation for understanding biblical theology.

Think, for a moment, about all I have written in this post; how I’ve described how Jesus views humans before and after they become Christians. If the only worth someone has comes from Jesus, why would anyone want to become a Christian? The only reason I can think of is the fear of Hell. We humans wonder what, if anything, awaits us after death. Christianity seizes on this question and turns it into a way to control people, keep church coffers filled, and clerics employed. Evangelical preachers emphatically say — without knowledge — that there is a Heaven and a Hell, that all of us have eternal souls, and we will spend eternity in one place or the other. Want to spend eternity with Jesus, his angels, your dead loved ones, and Donald Trump? You have to bow before the invisible Jesus and admit you are a wretched, broken sinner. Refusing to do so will land you in Hell with the Devil, his angels, and Barack Obama. And after tapping out MMA-style to Jesus, the greatest fighter of all-time, you then must be willing to serve as his slave until you die. And here’s the kicker: even after you die and go to Heaven, you will still spend your life in worshipful servitude to God. That’s right, it was never about you in this life, nor will it be about you in the life to come. It’s all about J-e-s-u-s. Hard not to call Jesus a narcissist. What’s with needing people to continually fawn over you and praise your awesomeness? You’d think that having millions of angels singing your praises day and night would be enough.

I am sure this post will cause more than a few Evangelical zealots to reach for their Preparation H. How dare I paint Jesus/salvation/Christianity in such a negative light! Just remember, John MacArthur, a preacher many people believe is the best Bible expositor of our time, said that to be a Christian is to be a slave. Ask yourself, is that the kind of life you really want; one devoted day and night to slavish service of a thirty-three-year-old single man? No thanks.

Let me conclude this post with the lyrics and a video of the gospel song, Fix Me, Jesus:

Fix me Jesus, fix me
Oh fix me, oh fix me, oh fix me
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Fix me for my home on high
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Fix me for the by and by
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Fix me for my starry crown
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Fix me for a higher ground
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Oh fix me, oh fix me, oh fix me
Fix me Jesus, fix me
Fix me Jesus, fix me
(Fix me Jesus)
Oh fix me

Video Link

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

The Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists

intractable

Originally written in March 2015. Expanded and edited.

If you have not read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? please do so. This will help you understand my use of the word Fundamentalist.

Thanks to this blog, social media, and breathing air, I come in contact with Christian Fundamentalists every day. They comment on my blog, send me tweets, leave Facebook comments, send me emails. I’m like a human shit pile on a hot summer day. Fundamentalist flies are drawn to me and there’s little I can do about it. As a former Evangelical, an out-of-the-closet atheist, and a writer, I know that dealing with Christian Fundamentalists is part of my job description.

I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I started and stopped several times, with every stoppage predicated by the behavior of Christian Fundamentalists and how their actions affected my health and mental wellbeing. Over the years, I’ve gotten mentally and emotionally stronger, my skin has thickened, and I am pretty much impervious to the petty, childish, boorish, ignorant behavior of Fundamentalists. When I am up to it, I might engage them a bit, but most of the time I let them piss on my doorstep and ignore them. When they don’t get the desired response from me, they usually head off to another fire hydrant they can whiz on. (Yes, I am full of metaphors today!)

Some Fundamentalists have upped their game and turned to electronic means of bullying. Readers may remember all the problems I had several years ago with spambots sent my way by a Fundamentalist zealot. At one time, I was receiving 1,500 spam comments a day. This was a concerted effort by someone to frustrate me and cause me grief. During this same time period, I had someone repeatedly try to access the blog log-in. Now, this happens routinely a dozen or so times a day, but this time was different. They attempted to log in thousands of times a day. The good news is they failed. My login remained secure and no spam made it to the live site.

Currently, I receive a hundred or so spam comments a day. Quite manageable. In most cases, it’s drive-by spammers wanting to either infect my computer with a virus or make my penis larger. In the case mentioned above, it was a directed attack. Someone deliberately wanted to cause me problems, perhaps even cause me to stop blogging. A great victory for Team God, yes? Yea God!

My Facebook friends may remember someone setting up a fake account in my name. They then gained access to my Friends list (my fault since I had it set to public) and sent them a new friend request. About twenty-five of my friends friended the fake Bruce Gerencser, and after they did, they got a private message from the fake account. The message? A Christian one, meant to witness to them. Fortunately, several dozen friends contacted me about the fake account, and in less than an hour Facebook shut it down. For future reference, I am the only Bruce Almighty Gerencser in the world. If we are already connected through social media, any other Bruce Almighty is a false one.

The one thing I have learned from this is that Christian Fundamentalists, for the most part, are intractable. Intractable is not a word used very often, so let me give you the dictionary definition:

intractable

Definition from TheSage Dictionary and Thesaurus, Published by Sequence Publishing

This word perfectly describes most of the Fundamentalists I come in contact with through this blog and on social media. Certainty has turned them into nasty, arrogant, hateful individuals who have forgotten what their Bible says about the fruit of the spirit and how they are to treat others. Safe behind their digital shields, they violently brandish their word swords, caring little about what damage they might do. Worse yet, they fail to realize or don’t care that they are pushing people away from Christianity. Why would I ever want to be a part of a religion that allows and encourages the maltreatment of others?

As a pastor, I always taught church members that our actions spoke louder than our words. How we treated others determined how our beliefs would be judged. While I may have been a Fundamentalist for many years, I never treated people like I’ve seen Fundamentalists treat me and others. As I mentioned in the comment rules, they are people who haven’t learned to play well with others. They are the schoolyard bullies, demanding that all bow to their God and their interpretation of the Bible.

I know there is no use trying to shame Christian Fundamentalists into acting like they have graduated preschool. If ten years of blogging have taught me anything, it is that I can’t change how Fundamentalists think or act. But, Bruce, you were a Fundamentalist, as were many of the people who read this blog, and you changed! True enough, but I also know how hard it is to change.

The majority of Fundamentalists will believe what they believe until they die. Why? Because their entire life is wrapped up in their belief system. They are in a self-contained bubble where, in their minds, everything makes sense. If you have not read, The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box, please do so. I think you will find both posts helpful in explaining the Fundamentalist bubble. Until a person is willing to at least consider that there is life outside of the bubble, there is no hope for them.

I am convinced that inerrancy — the belief that the Bible is without error — keeps people chained to the Fundamentalist God. Armed with an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible, given to them by the supernatural God who wrote and autographed it, they go into the “world” and wage war against all who disagree with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. If you want to see this belief in action, read the comments on The Bob Jones III Non-Apology Apology, If You Don’t Believe the Bible You Can’t be Saved, and Family Driven Faith Part Two. One commenter was so certain he was right and smarter than the rest of the class, that he had no need to read a book or any of my other blog posts. He was right, end of discussion.

Those of us who were once Christian Fundamentalists understand Fundamentalist pathology. After all, we wuz one of them. We know how certain and arrogant we once were, full of God and shit. We would have remained this way had it not been for an event, life circumstance, book, website, or blog. When one of these things poked a tiny hole in our bubble, we tried our best to patch the hole. But, try as we might, none of the patches would stick, so our bubble deflated. In rushed the “world” with its knowledge. From that day forward, we knew we could no longer stay in the bubble that had been our home for as long as we could remember. Our Fundamentalist Christian friends and family, along with our pastors and colleagues, tried to patch and re-inflate the bubble; but it was too late. Much like a horse escaping its pen, we were free, and once free we were not coming back.

My purpose in life is NOT to debate, fight, or argue with Christian Fundamentalists. It is a waste of time to do so, and since I have so little time left on this earth, I don’t want to waste it casting my pearls before swine. I’d rather spend my time helping those who find themselves outside of the Fundamentalist bubble. Confused, hurt, looking for help and answers, they are looking for someone whom they can turn to for love and support. I want to be that someone. I also want to help and be friends with those who have already transitioned away from religion. They want to know what a post-God life looks like. Through my writing, I try to be a help. A small help, a temporary help; whatever they need from me, I try to provide. I am not a guru, nor do I have all the answers. At best, I am a bartender, willing to spin a yarn, tell my story,  provide entertainment, and listen to the woes, cares, and concerns of others.

Through this interaction, I gain something too. Not another church member or notch on the handle of my gospel six-shooter. I have no church or club, I am just one man with a story to tell. But I do gain support and strength from those who make this blog part of their day-to-day routine. Sometimes this blog is a cheap form of therapy; other times it is a raucous Friday night at the bar with friends. As people ride along with me on the Bruce Gerencser Crazy Train®, they have gone from acquaintances and readers to friends. Perhaps, this has become another bubble for me, but if it is, I do know there is an entrance and exit that allows me the freedom to come and go as I please. Freedom — a word I never really understood until I saw God, the church, the ministry, and the Bible in the rearview mirror.

Email Post Subscriptions

Enter Your Email Address to Subscribe to All Blog Posts

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right

persecution

Originally published in 2015. Edited and expanded.

As of today, there is NO religious persecution in the United States. Every citizen is free to worship any or no God. All citizens are free to worship when, where, and how they wish. I know of no law that prohibits the free exercise of religion. The United States, when it comes to religion, is the freest nation on the face of the earth. Yet, despite the evidence, many on the religious right think they are being persecuted, and if liberals have their way Sharia law will be instituted and Christianity will be outlawed. If the socialist/communist/liberal/Democrat horde is not repelled by King Trump and his mighty army of Evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons, Christians will be persecuted, incarcerated, and possibly killed — just as the Jews were in World War II.

Think I am kidding?  What follows is an excerpt from an article written by American Family Association (AFA) author and CIO Jim Shempert titled America’s Future: Christian Persecution. (AFA has removed the article from their site.) What graphic did AFA and Jim Shempert choose for the article?

prison camp survivors

That’s right, Shempert and AFA think that Christians will soon be treated much like the Jews, gypsies, and mentally handicapped were treated by Hitler and the Nazis in World War II.

Here’s what Shempert had to say:

…This blog is intended for the Church. If you are not a Christian, and your only goal is to tear down Christianity, you can stop reading here.

Church, Christianity is under attack all across the globe. The persecutions of the Church are definitely not the same but they all have the same root. Imagine trying to be a Christian in Iraq/Syria/anywhere south of Turkey right now… Standing for your faith will be met with loss of property, threats, beatings, and death. These are common occurrences. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to go to Google. Type in “Middle East Christian persecution” and hit “search.” In literally half a second, Google will return to you 1.1 million articles/pages on persecution of Christians in the Middle East. To focus on a different area, go back to Google and search for “Christian persecution in Africa.” In .6 seconds, you are greeted with 2.5 million articles/pages that deal with Christian persecution in Africa.

Now, the current resident of the White House believes that the atrocities committed by Muslim terrorist groups are not indicative of all Muslim people. Here’s a potential fire starter: I happen to agree with him there. Personally, I believe the Muslim faith to be incorrect in its focus. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no man cometh unto the Father but by Him. As those Muslims must surely think that I am wrong in my focus. However, I do not think that all Muslims are terrorists, or that they are all on jihad. I also don’t believe the line that these extremist groups are not focused around Islam. I know that the resident of the White House likes to continue his crusade against Christianity by reminding us that at one time, horrible atrocities were committed by those who claim the name of Christ. His problem, and all those who claim moral equivalency, is that he is unable to call EVIL what it is: EVIL. He is able to quickly tear apart Christianity, and say that America was never a Christian nation, but he is unable to say that Islamic terrorism is evil.

I’ve had a long conversation with a friend on this, and we came to the conclusion that if any group that claims Christianity starts cutting off people’s heads while singing “Just as I am,” the first people to respond will be Christians. We will police our own. The soldiers sent to stop them will probably be Christians, at least in some part. Rest assured, the current White House, will seek great joy in touting that it is CHRISTIANS doing this. “See…they are doing it too!” A 5 year old child has more intellect and intelligence.

The point is… American is no longer a Christian nation. Those are hard words to hear. They were even harder to type. That’s not to say that it never was. America was built around Christian principles, with Christian men and women leading it. Those who claim otherwise are just repeating a Goebbels lie: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” The nation that I grew up in, is no more. Being viewed as an evangelical Christian now, is to be seen as a leper. “Those close minded, bigoted, judging Christians.” “Why don’t you just love? That’s what Jesus did.” (That one usually comes from someone who hasn’t opened a Bible since grade school) “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That’s Matthew 7:1 for any of you that use it. You might want to continue down chapter 7 to verses 15-20. Might do you some eternal good…

…What’s the next step for those who only want their ears tickled? To silence those who don’t! Anyone who preaches the Light, will be resisted by the darkness. Offensive words will be created to describe them and shouted over and over and over until the masses begin to repeat them. They will be chastised in the media, lose their jobs, their businesses, their property, their ability to live their lives the way they choose. The assertion that they are ignorant will be constantly repeated. Their very freedom will be threatened. Oh wait, that’s already happened…

Martin Niemoller was a pastor in Germany during the Nazi regime and also a concentration camp survivor. He is remembered most for this quote:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Ronald Reagan is by far the greatest president of my lifetime. He said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Those words could never be truer than they are today. As Christians, we are at a crossroads in America. We can stand up, and let our voices be heard. We can fight at the ballot box for the rights that we were always guaranteed. Or, we can continue to allow our anti-Christian government to destroy the basic tenants of our faith. The choice is ours…

…What happens to those of us that resist? How long before we become “enemies of the State?” How long before we are sent to “camps” for re-education? Sound crazy? The German people in the ‘30’s would have said the same thing. In a few short years, millions would be imprisoned and executed for their faith…

…I live in relationship with Jesus Christ as my Savior. My life is forfeit. If it is His will that I must be sacrificed for my stand for His Name, then so be it. Even Jesus didn’t turn away from death when presented with it. He was obedient to the end.

American Christian, most of the rest of the world knows this already, from experience. But there is coming a day when to identify as a Christian in America will bring consequences…

I love it when groups like AFA use Martin Niemöller’s quote to suggest that what happened in Hitler’s Germany will soon happen here. Here’s the problem: no one has come for the socialist, trade unionist, or Jew. Yes, many on the political and religious right fight against socialism and trade unions, but no one would suggest that the religious right is persecuting socialists or union members. They most certainly are not persecuting the Jews. The religious right loves Israel — well at least until Jesus comes back to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation and slaughters all the unbelieving Jews.

We live in a free country. While I think personal liberties are under attack by corporate, military-industrial complex, and surveillance-industrial complex interests, I have no fear of being persecuted or jailed if I oppose those interests. Much like Evangelical Christians, atheists are free to write about, attack, critique, and make fun of religion. I don’t fear the government breaking my door down and arresting me for something I have written.

Unfortunately, when one lives in a country where freedom of belief and practice are ensconced in its founding documents and law, the slightest denial of freedom or the slightest inconvenience can be viewed as an attack on freedom and personal rights. The religious right thinks legalizing same-sex marriage and justice and equal protection under the law for LGBTQ people is an infringement of their religious rights. However, allowing same-sex couples to marry in no way infringes on a person’s right to believe and worship as they see fit. Legalizing same-sex marriage changed nothing for Christians.  Christians are still free to pray, read the Bible, evangelize, attend a house of worship, and — get this — forbid LGBTQ people from being members in their church. Nothing in federal or state law required churches and or clerics to accept LGBTQ members or perform their wedding ceremonies.

No clergyperson will ever be required to marry a same-sex couple. Since marriage is a secular function of law, a pastor is free to choose whom he will or won’t marry. It is the marriage license, not the ceremony, that gives a marriage legal force. This is why public officials must issue marriage licenses to heterosexual and same-sex couples alike. They are acting on behalf of the state, a secular institution. If they cannot, according to their conscience, fulfill their legal obligation to issue a marriage license to all who request one, then they should resign. Their resignation is not persecution. All of us have beliefs and moral and ethical values that might, in some circumstances, preclude us from holding certain jobs. Not being able to hold those jobs is NOT persecution.

We are less than a year away from the 2020 presidential election. The United States faces many pressing and trying issues: war, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, government debt, rampant opioid addiction, runaway medical insurance costs, etc. Instead of whining and screaming about “fake” persecution, I wish the religious right and their representatives in Congress would reach across the aisle and meaningfully try to find a solution to the pressing issues of the day.

The American Family Association, and other right-wing religious groups like them, know that their followers must constantly be poked lest they become apathetic and stop sending donations. What better way to wake people up than to scream PERSECUTION!  Until Christians realize groups like the AFA are manipulating them for political and financial gain, they will continue to be outraged every time they are told they need to be outraged. (The outrage machine One Million Moms is an arm of the AFA. Please see the 2015 report I wrote titled, Follow the Money: The American Family Association and their Support of the Gay Agenda) Until they are willing to actually think for themselves and thoroughly investigate the issues without checking in with Fox News first, there’s little hope of meaningful dialog.

“But Bruce, same-sex marriage and homosexuality is wrong!” Why? Without referencing the Bible, please defend your anti-LGBTQ position. I have yet to have someone successfully defend the prohibition of same-sex marriage and homosexuality without appealing to their religious beliefs and a sacred text such as the Christian Bible. Once religion is removed from the equation, there is no reasonable argument to be made for prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying or for permitting people to legally and freely engage in same-sex relationships.

That said, I still believe in the American political process. Christians are free to work towards a federal constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They have the same rights and privileges as I do. Let’s duke it out in the public square. Of course, the religious right doesn’t want to do this, knowing that they would likely never get enough states to approve a constitutional amendment. So, instead, they whine and complain about PERSECUTION!

The real issue here is that Christianity is losing its preferential place at the cultural table. For most of our country’s existence, the Christian religion has been seated at the head of the table. This is natural, of course, since most Americans self-identify as Christian. However, more and more Christians are moving to the left politically and religiously, especially young adults. More and more Americans no longer have any religion. Atheism, agnosticism, humanism, secularism, religious indifference, and “none of the above” continue to increase. Like it or not, right-wing Christians must recognize that they no longer have the political and social power and clout they once had. If they don’t like this, I suggest they get busy attracting new people to their cause. Good luck with that.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Five More Questions from an Evangelical Pastor

good question

An Evangelical pastor whom I have known for over forty years recently sent me some questions, the answers to which appear below. He previously asked me some questions which I answered in a post titled, Four Questions from an Evangelical Pastor. I found his questions sincere and honest, unlike many questions I receive from Evangelicals. Far too often, ulterior motivations lurk behind some questions, but I don’t sense that here. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find my answers helpful.

Are there different levels of atheism? 

The short answer is no. Atheism is defined thusly: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. Unlike Christianity — a hopelessly fragmented group — all atheists agree on one thing: atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. From that point, atheist beliefs go in all sorts of directions.

There’s also what is commonly called the Dawkins Scale: the spectrum of theistic probabilities. Famed biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins spoke of this seven-level spectrum in his popular book, The God Delusion:

  • Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of Carl Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”De facto theist.
  • Very high probability but short of 100%. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”Leaning towards theism.
  • Higher than 50% but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”Completely impartial.
  • Exactly 50%. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”Leaning towards atheism.
  • Lower than 50% but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
  • De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  • Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

Atheists debate amongst themselves Dawkins’ scale, and whether agnostics are, in fact, atheists. Agnostics believe that the existence of God, of the divine, or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. (Wikipedia) Another definition of agnosticism is as follows:

In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational. (Richard Rowe, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

I should mention in passing what I consider a distant third cousin of agnosticism: deism. Wikipedia describes enlightenment deism this way:

Enlightenment deism consisted of two philosophical assertions: (a) reason, along with features of the natural world, is a valid source of religious knowledge, and (b) revelation is not a valid source of religious knowledge. Different deist authors expanded on these two assertions to create what Leslie Stephen later termed the “constructive” and “critical” aspects of deism. “Constructive” assertions— assertions that deist writers felt were justified by appeals to reason and features of the natural world (or perhaps were intuitively obvious) — included:

  • God exists and created the universe.
  • God gave humans the ability to reason.

“Critical” assertions— assertions that followed from the denial of revelation as a valid source of religious knowledge— were much more numerous. They included:

  • Rejection of all books, including the Bible, that are claimed to contain divine revelation.
  • Rejection of the incomprehensible notion of the Trinity and other religious “mysteries”.
  • Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies, etc.

True Christianity

All deists rejected the Bible as a book of divine revelation. If you define “a Christian” as a person who accepts the stories in the Bible as true, divine revelations, the deists were not Christians. They rejected the miracle stories in the Bible and rejected the divinity of Jesus. Many, however, accepted Jesus as an actual historical person and held him in high regard as a moral teacher. (This position is known as Christian deism and was Thomas Jefferson’s motive for assembling his famous Jefferson Bible.) On the other hand, if you define “a true Christian” as a person regards the historical human person Jesus as a great moral teacher and attempts to follow Jesus’ moral teachings, many deists considered themselves to be true Christians. Some deists were of the opinion that Jesus taught timeless moral truths, that those moral truths were the essence of Christianity, and since those truths are timeless they predate Jesus’ teachings.

I have long believed that someone could look at the night sky and conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe; and that after creating the universe, this deity said, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” This God is unknowable and non-involved in our day-to-day lives. Believe in this deity or not, it exists. Some readers of this blog will call this deity divine energy or power. Of course, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that what we call “life” is, in actuality, a Westworld-like alien game simulation. Once I was freed from the authority and bondage of the Bible, I was free to think more freely about human existence. Who knows, maybe “reality” is an illusion.

Here is my take: I am an agnostic and an atheist. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists. It is possible, though unlikely, that a deity of some sort might reveal itself to us someday. Possible, but improbable. For me, it is all about probabilities. (And the probability of the existence of any deity, let alone the Evangelical God, is minuscule.) On the Dawkins scale I am a six. The currently available evidence leads me to conclude that there is no God or gods. I am open to the possibility of the existence of one or more deities should evidence of their existence ever be provided, but, until then, I live my day to day life as an atheist. The only time thoughts about God enters my mind is when I am writing for this blog.

That said, let me be clear: I am not an anti-theist. Some atheists are vociferously and stridently anti-religion. I am not one of them. This has led to all sorts of criticisms and attacks from what I call the fundamentalist wing of atheism. On occasion, I have had anti-theists tell me that I am not a True Atheist®. I laugh when such arguments are made, thinking, “is this not the same argument Evangelicals use against me when they say I was never a “True Christian®?”

Do all atheists rely strictly on science and history for answers?

Strictly or solely? No. Once we move from the base definition of atheism, atheists go in all sorts of directions philosophically, politically, socially, and even religiously. Yep, you will run into atheists who view themselves as “spiritual.”  I have been blogging for almost thirteen years. I have met all sorts of atheists. Recently, several pro-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual atheists/agnostics have commented on this blog. I don’t understand their viewpoints and logic, but I don’t have to. Atheists are free to meander every which way from “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” One can be an atheist and be irrational; and believe me, more than a few atheists are as dumb as rocks. Some atheists will comment on this blog and leave me scratching my head and saying “huh?” I rarely respond to such people. I let them say their piece, hoping my silence will tell them all they need to know.

This would be a good point to mention the fact that many (most?) atheists are humanists. There’s nothing in atheism that gives a person moral or ethical grounding. Atheists look to humanism to find a framework by which to live their lives. The Humanist Manifesto remains the best summary of humanism:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

To answer my friend’s question, the Humanist Manifesto states:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Do all atheists believe in evolution?

Since I am not party to what all atheists believe, I can’t speak authoritatively on the matter. I can say that all of the atheists I know generally accept biological evolution as a scientific fact. While the word “belief” can be used in a variety of ways, in the context of evolution, atheists don’t believe in evolution. Belief, in this context, much like with religion, implies the use of feelings to come to a conclusion. Most atheists I know would say that their acceptance of evolution and other scientific conclusions rests on evidence, facts, and probabilities, not their feelings.

For most of my life, I was illiterate when it came to science. I believed that Genesis 1-3 told me all I need to know about biology, cosmology, and the like. God created everything just as it is recorded in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible — end of discussion. I had a few creationist-oriented Evangelical apologetical books in my library. All these books did for me was affirm that I was “right.”  It wasn’t until I was disabused by Dr. Bart Ehrman and others of the notion that the Bible was some sort of perfect, supernatural book that I was able to question what it was exactly I believed about science.

One of the first books I read on this subject was biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Another helpful book by Coyne is titled, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. For someone still in the Evangelical tent, books by physicist Dr. Karl Giberson might be helpful: Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution and The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Giberson’s support of evolutionary biology ultimately led to his dismissal from Eastern Nazarene College in 2011. Both Giberson and Dr. Francis Collins remain controversial figures within Evangelicalism, with more than a few Evangelicals saying that neither man is a Christian. I have my own doubts about whether Giberson or Collins are actually Evangelicals, but I am content to let people self-identify as they please.

Bruce, what do you believe about our existence?

Let me be clear, I am not a scientist. I know a hell of a lot more about science today than I did a few years ago, or when I was a Bible-believing preacher, but that doesn’t mean I can speak authoritatively on matters of science. I continue to educate myself, but at my age, I will likely run out of time before I master any specific scientific discipline. I hope that that one or more of my grandchildren will do so and become what their grandfather could not. Many of my grandchildren are straight-A students, so I have high hopes that some of them will enter STEM programs post-high school.

I know where I am lacking knowledge-wise, and I do my best to not speak beyond that which I know. Want to talk about the Bible, Evangelicalism, theology, photography, or Windows-based computers? You will find that I generally know what I am talking about. However, when it comes to biology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, archeology, and other scientific disciplines, I am, in every way, a novice. It is for this reason that I rely on experts to tell me what I need to know about science. Smart is the person who values expertise. I have certain scientists I trust to tell me the truth. “So, Bruce, does this mean you put “faith” in what they say?” Yes. Many atheists shy away from the word faith because of its religious connotations. However, I refuse to let religion hijack certain words. Faith means “confidence in a person or plan.”  There are scientists that I put great confidence in; when they speak, I listen. No, these men and women are not infallible, but they have given their lives to understanding this or that science discipline, so I trust what they say.

In Christianity, there is so much disagreement! How about among atheists?

There’s no doubt that Christianity is the most fragmented religion on the planet. I have long argued that if Christians were unified theologically that I might at least pause for a moment when considering the “God question.” However, there are thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each with its own version of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This disunity says to me that Christianity is very much of human origin.

I wish I could say that atheism is monolithic, and everyone thinks and believes the same things. Sadly, atheism is quite divided too. Not so much on the core belief: “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” Every atheist I know believes this statement to be an accurate definition of their view on God or gods. However, recent years have brought attempts by some to expand the definition of atheism to include social justice issues. This spawned a group called Atheism+. While there was a moment when I thought Atheism+ might be worthwhile, I quickly thought better of it after seeing who it was that was driving this attempt to redefine atheism. Socially and politically, I am as liberal as you come, but I saw Atheism+ as a purity test; an attempt to divide atheism between us and them. I concluded that the proponents of Atheism+ were using methodologies eerily similar to those I saw in Evangelicalism. No thanks. And let me be clear to Atheism+ flag-wavers, I have zero interest in re-ligating this issue with you in the comment section. Been there, done that, still bleeding.

Here’s one thing I know about most atheists. We can heartily disagree with one another and later enjoy each other’s company at a pub or restaurant. Back in my Evangelical days, every disagreement had eternal significance. Not so with most atheists. I don’t understand how an atheist can support Donald Trump or the present iteration of the Republican party, but I am not going to let that affect our relationship (if we have one). I have booted several pro-Trump atheists off this site, not because of their politics, but because they were assholes. And as much as I hate to admit it, there are atheist assholes; people who don’t play well with others; people who think throwing feces at people on social media is “good conversation.”

I hope I have adequately answered my Evangelical friend’s questions.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: True Christians are Persecuted in America

That true Christians will be despised, hated, attacked and persecuted is a given. [No, it is not a given, as I’m sure comments will show.]

….

And remember I started this article by speaking about “true Christians”. Fake Christians of course will know nothing about what is being discussed here. They will be getting along with the world just fine. So of course they will not experience persecution. As John R. Rice once put it, “The world never burned a casual Christian at the stake.”

Here I want to deal with the situation in the West. A few preliminary remarks: First, some will scoff when I and others speak of persecution in the West. Sure, we are not being tortured, beheaded and killed for our faith as is often the case overseas.

Not yet, at least. But when a person is forced out of his job because of his Christian beliefs, or heavily fined, or even incarcerated for periods of time, those types of suffering and hardship are very real indeed. I know some of these people, including those trying to feed their families but who have been unable to work for long periods of time because of their Christian beliefs.

The second thing to point out is that we need to see the big picture. We need to have a bit of historical awareness. It is easy to not see aright when we look only to today and to our local situation. But we need to see the bigger picture and what is happening not just now, but over a period of time.

From that sort of perspective, we find that genuine anti-Christian bigotry and persecution is not only happening in the West, but it has been ramping up for decades now. Things really are getting worse in this regard, and if we don’t wake up to what is happening, it may soon be too late for warnings like this to be penned.

For many years I and others have been trying to sound the alarm and alert people to the increasing persecution of Christians, often taking the form of the culture wars. As the culture around us becomes more and more ungodly, immoral and hostile to our faith, we can only expect to be respected less and less and vilified and harassed more and more.

….

As I have said so often now, we have moved from being a Christian culture to a post-Christian culture to an anti-Christian culture. Long gone are the days when we could happily get along with the world and expect their blessing and endorsement of our beliefs and values.

Make no mistake, there still are some churches and denominations in the West today that DO have the full blessing and approval of the world. But they are apostate churches and church leaders. They are those who have long ago sold their birthright for the desire to be loved and accepted by the world.

They are the ones fully on the pro-abortion bandwagons, on the pro-homosexuality and trans bandwagons, and on the interfaith bandwagons. The world loves them because they have the same values and mindset as the world does. They are not counter-cultural as the true church of Jesus Christ will always be.

— Bill Muehlenberg, Culture Watch, The Stages of Christian Persecution, January 16, 2020

Is Jesus the Only Reason Christians Succeed in Life?

god gives us all things

Evangelicals are taught that without Jesus their lives are “nothing.” Jesus said to his followers in John 15:5: I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. The Apostle Paul testified in Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. The negative inference is this: as Christians, without the strength Jesus gives us, we can do nothing. Speaking to a group of unbelievers, Paul said this about the Christian God: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; (Acts 17:28)

Tonight, LSU plays Clemson in the college football title game. Regardless of who wins, players and coaches will praise the Christian God for their victory; believing that without God, they could have never accomplished what they did on the field.

Yesterday, I read a blog post written by Kristen Welch titled, It’s Because of Jesus. Here’s what Welch had to say:

There’s only one reason we’re still together,” I told my husband quietly as we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner one night.

He stopped loading the dishwasher and looked at me, “What?”

“There’s only one reason we are still married and our home is semi-functional,” I said louder, over our kids arguing about what to watch on TV.

“And happy?” He said sarcastically with a laugh. “Honey, what are you talking about?”

I reminded him of the week of bad news we’d heard in our circle of community. There were just too many announcements of friends our age divorcing, and destructive behavior from their defiant kids and one too many defeated leaders in the same kind of work as us, throwing in the towel.

“There’s nothing really different from us than from this family or that one. There’s only one reason it’s not us divorcing, dealing with wayward kids or dropping out of the non-profit world.”

I had his full attention.

I swallowed the lump in my throat. The answer made me want to weep right there in the kitchen.

“It’s Jesus. He’s the only reason,” I said softly and handed him another plate to load.

We were quiet for a moment–chewing on the truth hanging in the air between us. We have had plenty of reasons over the years to give up on each other; to call it quits on Biblical parenting, to find jobs that were easier. More than once, it would have been easier to just walk away than stay and fight.

But we didn’t survive those seasons because we made good choices or because we were good people. And it’s important to acknowledge that our sacrifices, self-denial and sad attempts to hold it all together–didn’t somehow work.

No, we are defying the odds because of Jesus. Simply. Profoundly. Because of Jesus. And we both knew it.

According to Welch, the ONLY reason for their successful marriage is Jesus. Not their good choices, just Jesus. Not their sacrifices, self-denial, or attempts to hold their marriage together, just Jesus.

Welch’s post is a good reminder of the effectiveness of Evangelical indoctrination. Starting when Evangelicals are children, and continuing Sunday after Sunday through adulthood, they are reminded by their pastors and teachers of their worthlessness without Jesus. Worse yet, Evangelical preachers tell their congregants that Jesus is the only thing keeping them from a life of debauchery. Why, without Jesus, a life filled with booze, drugs, sexual immorality, divorce, and voting Democrat awaits them. Jesus, supposedly, is a prophylactic against the “world.” He alone keeps Christians from contracting STDs — Secular Transmitted Diseases.

If there’s one Evangelical doctrine I despise, it is this one. My wife and I wallowed in the pit of helplessness most of our lives. Daily we pleaded for Jesus to give us strength and guidance. We prayed that every decision we made was according to his perfect plan and will. (Romans 12:1-2) When the pit turned into a shit-filled, overflowing septic tank, we blamed ourselves for ignoring the leadership and direction of the Holy Spirit. “Wait a minute, Bruce. I thought the Bible said that Christians couldn’t do anything without Jesus. Why are you to blame when things turn out bad?” Ah, Good question, Obi-Wan Kenobi. If God is the sovereign Lord over all and controls everything, how can anything happen that is not according to his purpose, plan, and will? If it is in Jesus that humans have their strength, movement, and being, is he not culpable when things end up a disaster? Either God/Jesus is who Evangelicals say he is, or he’s not. God is either omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, or he’s not.  Evangelicals say that God is the Creator of the universe and holds the earth in the palm of his hand. Yet, science and just paying attention tells us that these claims are false. Either God is a shitty project manager, has given his workers control over his projects, or he doesn’t exist. My money is on the latter.

I do a lot of sports photography. Right now, it’s basketball season. I typically attend three or four high school basketball games a week. I have shot games at almost every school in rural northwest Ohio. I’ve seen good, bad, and average players and teams. Having played basketball myself into my early thirties, I have a good eye for spotting not only exceptional talent but also deficiencies — defensive, offensive, ball-handling, shooting. I am particularly interested in how players handle adversity; say, when their opposition puts on a full-court press or puts a pesky, physical defender on them the whole night. Anyone can make shots or free throws when shooting around before the game. It’s when the game is on the line when the mettle of a player is revealed.

When players succeed, is their success due to the most awesome three-point shooter ever, Jesus? I mean, can anyone slam dunk the basketball better than God? Ugh. Their success comes not from their faith in the triune God, but from a combination of genetics, drive, practice, and natural talent. Players who excel at a given sport do so because they work day and night at becoming the best player possible. A player need not have Welch’s Jesus to succeed. If a player wants to praise Jesus, fine. But, make no mistake about it, it’s their hard work and effort that made them into a successful athlete.

Welch, oh-so-humbly, believes that the only reason she and her husband are still married today is because of Jesus. I have no idea what kind of marriage the Welches have, but this I know: their marriage’s success rests on their shoulders, and theirs alone. Countless Evangelical couples who love and follow Jesus just as much as the Welches do end up divorced. Why is that? Perhaps the truth about marriage is that it really is a crap-shoot; perhaps successfully living with one person for years, having children together, and facing suffering and loss together is due, not to Jesus, but to luck. Yes, luck. How else do we explain two couples with similar marital resumes, one married for decades, another divorced?

Polly and I have been married for going on forty-two years. We started dating when we were seventeen and nineteen. Here we are, all these years later, still blissfully and happily married. We should write a book, right? Maybe we could title the book: Seven Steps to Keep from Murdering Your Spouse. That’s right. You see, Polly and I both know that we are lucky to still be married. Both of us can point to circumstances that could have destroyed our marriage. Was it Jesus that kept us from divorce? Of course not. If anything, we are fortunate we didn’t divorce because of Jesus. Polly would likely say that Jesus and I carried on an illicit affair for decades. It got so bad that Jesus even slept in our bed — a threesome. (Please see It’s Time to Tell the Truth: I Had an Affair)

The list of marital pressure points is endless, from health problems to children to loss of faith. Polly and I know we are lucky to still be married, and happily so. Sure, we took the vows we made seriously. We genuinely love and like one another. However, lots of “loving” couples end up divorced. Where Welch sees Jesus, I see a plethora of things that keep married couples together. I know of one couple who was married for over sixty years. Wow, they must have really loved one another, right? Nope. The husband was a violent, skirt-chasing rapist. The wife endured because she planned on outliving her wretched husband so she would get all the money. She succeeded, by the way, only to end up in a nursing home with dementia. Too bad she will never remember how she outlasted that asshole husband of hers.

Some marriages last because of children. I suspect we all know couples who stay married for the sake of their children. Why is it some couples divorce after twenty or twenty-five years of marriage? Often, they waited until the children were out of the house before they decided to call it quits.

What I am saying is this: the success or failure of a marriage rests on numerous factors. To suggest, as Welch does, that having a successful marriage and steering clear of divorce court is solely due to Jesus is, at the very least, lazy thinking. When asked to make a list of the reasons for their successful marriages, the Welches and other Evangelical couples write one big word: JESUS. I want to believe that Welch knows better; that deep down in her heart of hearts she knows that she is still married today because of hard work and a healthy dose of luck.

Sometimes, marriages fail. How many Christians do you know who are in miserable marriages, helplessly waiting for Jesus to come through for them? Instead of cutting bait and admitting that they married the wrong person or no longer love their spouse, Evangelicals will suffer in silence, believing that doing so is what Jesus, the Awesome One, wants of them. On my About page I answer the question, If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be? Here’s what I wrote:

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.

Forget whom “Jesus” says matters or what the Bible says, the only ones who matter are those whom you and you alone think matter. Life is too short to spend it trying to shore up a house built on a rotting foundation. You are not a “nothing,” and any preacher or religion that tells you differently is out to cause you harm. My advice? Run. Seek out people and relationships who value you as a person; people who see your work and effort; and yes, people who see how lucky you are.

Were you taught that without Jesus you were “nothing?” How did this affect you as an adult? Your marriage? Your relationships with your children? If you have been married for a number of years, to what do you attribute the success of your marriage? Please share your wisdom in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

%d bloggers like this: