Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Jesus Vacations

Recently, my wife received an email from a college student who worked for her one summer. This girl — an Evangelical Christian — wanted to let Polly know that she was raising $6,000 so she could go to a “secret” country and do illegal missionary work. The girl meant well, I am sure, but her email was a reminder to me of the Jesus Vacations® many Evangelicals take each summer to foreign lands to spread white American Christianity. Scores of Evangelicals take these trips each year, spending millions of dollars as Jesus tourists; convincing themselves that what meager, incidental work they do matters.

Why didn’t the girl’s church pay for her trip? If the goal is winning souls for Christ in a country that forbids such things, why not have the soulwinners or their churches pay for the trip? Instead, trip takers turn to people they know — family, friends, casual acquaintances, workmates — to cough up the money so they can take an unnecessary Jesus Vacation® to what they believe is the foreign mission field. Polly, of course, did not respond to the email, nor did she forward it others as the sender requested. In our Christian days, we didn’t support such wastes of energy and money, and as unbelievers we sure as Hell aren’t going to help American Evangelicals harass foreign non-Christians.

Jesus Vacations® are taken primarily by white middle-class Evangelicals. While certainly “some” good is accomplished; say, building housing, digging wells, and improving the welfare of people in poverty-stricken countries, the irony here is that many Evangelicals who minister to material needs while on their Jesus Vacations® won’t do the same in their own country. In their minds, Haitians are worthy of care, but poor blacks, whites, and Hispanics in impoverished areas in the deep south? Let them starve. Get a job! Mexicans on the American side of the border are criminals worthy of deportation, abusers of American goodness and largess. Mexicans south of the Rio Grande? Why, now they are a mission field; people worthy of missional attention from rich white Evangelicals.

After these Jesus-loving travelers return from their Jesus Vacations®, they will stand before their fellow congregants one Sunday and give a testimony of all the things they did for Jesus; of all the goodwill they spread to the poor; and, most of all, the number of people who prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to save them. Charismatic vacationers will regale their churches with claims of miracles, yet will not provide evidence for their claims. Year after year, Evangelicals take Jesus Vacations®, never considering whether they are really doing anything meaningful or whether the money spent for travel and other expenses could have been put to better use.

Jesus Vacations® tend to support the false notion that poor people of color in other countries need affluent white American Christians to help them and deliver them from Satan. Why not, instead, send the money to Christians who live in these countries and let them spend it helping their fellow citizens? Wouldn’t doing so be more cost-effective? Instead of fifty college students coughing up $6,000 each for a Jesus Vacation® — $300,000 — wouldn’t it be far better to send it to people who know their country and communities, and what needs people might have? Bruce, surely you know we can’t trust poor blacks with white people’s money! They need us – “us” being affluent white Evangelicals — to manage how the monies are spent. USA! USA USA!  JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!

mission trip

Comic by Tom Tapp

Of course, sending the money to the field and forgoing Jesus Vacations® will never happen. You see Jesus Vacations® give the appearance of doing good in Jesus’ name. These trips are feel-good, Hallmark-like experiences. They allow trip takers to oh-so-humbly brag about how Jesus used them to materially help and evangelize poor people of color. Praise be to Jesus! Look what I, uh, I mean, Jesus, did! The humble-bragging extends to pastors and older congregants too. Look at what WE did for Jesus! Look at how we helped those poor, helpless Haitians (and ignored the poor people who live next door to the church)! As with most things Evangelical churches do, no one will ever question the value of taking Jesus Vacations®. No one will ever ask, WHY do we take these trips every year? Oh no, you don’t: thou shalt not question. Summers are for vacation Bible school (VBS), youth camp, and Jesus Vacations® (and here in Ohio a day trip to either King’s Island or Cedar Point). And so it goes, year after year . . .

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Portland, Oregon City Leaders Consider Giving Non-Believers Civil Rights Protections

freedom from religion

Portland City Council plans to hold a hearing tomorrow on an ordinance that will grant atheists and other non-believers civil rights protections under Portland law. The summary of the ordinance states:

Amend Civil Rights Code to add non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism and non-belief to the definition of Religion (Ordinance; amend Code Chapter 23.01)

The City of Portland ordains: Section I. The Council finds that:

I . Discrimination on the basis of non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief exists in the City of Portland and the state law does not explicitly prohibit such discrimination against these groups. This change is necessary to clarify that disbelief, or lack of belief should be included in the protected class of “Religion” in order to provide every individual an equal opportunity to participate fully in the life of the City.

2. Providing protections for non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief promotes the intent of the Council to remove discriminatory barriers to equal participation in employment, housing and public accommodations in the City of Portland. Other cities, such as Madison, Wisconsin, have taken similar measures.

3. It is necessary to update citations to the Oregon Revised Statutes as cited in Chapter 23.01 to the most current version in order to maintain accuracy.

4. Updates to make language used in Chapter 23.01 more inclusive are also needed

According to a 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey, Portland is the most non-religious city in the United States. Forty-two percent of Portland residents self-identify as non-religious. Unsurprisingly, the most religious community in America is the Baptist stronghold of Nashville, with only fifteen percent of residents identifying as non-religious. Nationwide, almost one out of four Americans check NONE when asked their religious affiliation. This number continues to grow, scaring the shit out of Christian church leaders. Southern Baptists, in particular, are desperately trying to find ways to stem attendance loss. Millennials, especially, show an increasing indifference towards religion. I should note that being non-religious and being an atheist are not one and the same. All atheists are non-religious, but not all NONES are atheists. Most just don’t care about matters of faith. Most of my children fit in this category. They simply have no interest in organized religion. Do they believe in a deity of some sort? I don’t know, but I can tell you that such questions don’t interest them in the least.

According to Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the reason for the ordinance is simple:

Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated. We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the City.

Readers might be surprised to know that in many locales non-religious people do not have the same civil rights protections as the religious. At the Federal level, atheists have been forced to claim atheism is a “religion” in order to gain equal protection under the law. While atheists are growing in number and influence — much like the LGBTQ community — they often lack the same rights as religious people — especially at the state and local level. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion FoundationAmerican Atheists, the American Humanist AssociationAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union tirelessly fight for civil rights protection for non-believers, diligently challenging  separation of church and state breaches and discrimination against non-believers. These battles are fought daily, and the good news is that unbelievers are, for the most part, winning. This does not mean, however, that the playing field is fair and just for atheists and other non-believers. It’s not. The United States is a long way away from living up to its secular heritage. Religious sectarians are, by nature, exclusionary, demanding that their beliefs be given preferential treatment. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that the United States is a Christian nation, a bright shining city chosen by God to conquer the world with the Christian gospel and the teachings of the Bible. In their minds, atheism is a religion too, albeit a false, Satanic one. I laugh when an Evangelical says to me atheism is a “religion.” If atheism is, indeed, a religion, it is the only sect in American history without beliefs, buildings, clerics, and holy books. Atheism can be defined with one sentence: The disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. If atheism is a religion, it’s the only sect that doesn’t ask anything, including money, of its adherents. Maybe we should get the word out about the First Church of Atheism®. Keep your money, sleep in on Sundays, and eat succulent roasted babies for dinner. Better forget that last one, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see if Portlandian Christians object to the aforementioned proposed ordinance. In 2015, the city of Madison, Wisconsin, became the first community to pass a law making discrimination against atheists and other non-believers illegal. Local Christians said nothing. Channel 3000 reported at the time:

The vote amends the city’s equal opportunity ordinance, adding atheism as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“There are many categories that are protected,” Weier said. “And it did occur to me that if religion was then perhaps the opposite should be”

UW graduate student, and former Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president Chris Calvey was among the five atheists speaking in favor of the proposals.

They told the council stories of housing, employment, volunteer, community, and parental custody discrimination because of their non-belief in God, saying that fact has no bearing on their character, values or what type of job they do.

“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it. That people in my student group for example are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities. If that came up in a job interview that’s held against them,” Calvey said.

“Having it on the books, where we’re legally a protected class, that’ll make things much easier for atheists,” Calvey said. “And we’ll be able to be confident that at least if we’re honest about what we actually believe, then we have the law backing us up so we can’t legally be discriminated against.”

“It’s really making a big statement that we’re not going to put up with discrimination in the name of God. That being a believer doesn’t mean you can discriminate,” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor said.

If such a law were proposed here in the land of God, Guns, and Republican Politics, I am certain local Christians would be outraged, filling local newspapers with letters to the editor about how evil and un-American atheism is. I have been personally attacked in the pages of the Defiance Crescent-News by Evangelicals and Catholics outraged over my atheism, anti-Christian views, and liberal/progressive politics. (Please see My Response to Daniel Gray’s Lies.) One of the reasons I take photographs for the local school district is to put a real flesh-and-blood face on atheism. I want locals to be confused by what they know about me as a man and what their pastors say about evil, Satanic atheists. If Christians actually know an atheist, that relationship often changes their opinion about unbelievers. Behavior matters. I know, when it came to me and my hostility towards LGBTQ people, my beliefs didn’t change until I actually knew and befriended someone who was gay. The same goes for atheists. Take the time to get to know an atheist/agnostic/humanist/pagan or other non-Christian and you will find out that we are not much different from the people you sit next to in church every Sunday. We have the same wants, needs, and desires as you do, and it sure would be nice if we had the same civil rights protections too.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

I’ve Always Lied to Tell the Truth, A Guest Post by Brian

guest post

Guest Post by Brian

Reality is a complicated matter. Three people who appear to have been in the same place at the same time can easily produce three completely different stories about it. Words, then, have a pretty tough time, as they are the means by which we share, as simply or not, as we can, our Reality. I’ve always lied because I learned in the beginning that telling the bald truth was punishable, that it brought pain. Lying allowed me to avoid, or at least delay, the pain.

I was born into a family that served the Lord. First and foremost, beyond all else, the Master was served. It was Jesus-God who gave me life as he had given life to my parents, and of course my siblings. In the beginning, God . . . He created and sustained all and everything, me included.

How was I to know, when my mother pushed me from her womb, that all this was a big fucking lie from beginning to end? She was pregnant for the third time and when she attempted to sit up after delivering, the doctor told her to lie back down: “Please, please lie down! We aren’t finished yet. There’s another one coming . . .”

So it was that either myself or my brother joined his twin that day in 1952.

My mother had already given birth to my eldest sister a few years before, a toxic birth that put her into convulsions at home. Dad called an ambulance and they rushed her to the hospital and filled her with narcotics, severely compromising the whole process and leaving her firstborn brain-damaged, with a failure to thrive. She did appear somewhat as a normal baby but never developed as time passed and eventually had to be taken into full-time care at a provincial hospital. That was after my older brother was born more than year or so later, a robust baby who demanded what all babies do: mommy’s attention. After another pregnancy (me and my brother) it was clear that my older sister would not be getting the care she needed at home so the decision was made to give her over to provincial care. She lived more than fifty years, completely compromised, never able to speak or walk or use her arms. She died tragically in her fifties when a care worker, having routinely raised her in a sling for a bath, lowered her into scalding hot water. She did not die immediately but suffered third degree burns over two-thirds of her body. It took her a few days to finally give in and pass away.

Merciful Jesus. God in Heaven. My father had been preaching for a few years when my sister was born, and he trusted God with the experience of his fathering a toxic child whose life would be lived totally in-care, helpless. So, fifty-some years on, when she was lowered into the bath that would be her last, he said in the midst of his horrible pain, that God’s will is indiscernible, unknowable, and that we must realize that all things work together for good for those who know the Lord.

I was an adult when I lost my sister in this crazy and tragic accident, and I kind of went nuts over it. How could this ever happen? It was wrong, every way I looked at it. I phoned my mom and gently told her that I was calling a lawyer because . . . because . . . because . . . She listened and said that they would follow up. As a result of the death, new provincial legislation was passed to make it less likely that another killing would occur. My parents were given some money for their suffering and I claimed a settlement for myself, for a short term of therapy to deal with the loss.

But let me get back closer to my beginnings as a twin in the early fifties. When my brother and I were born, we had each other’s names. I was him and he was me. When my maternal grandma came to visit with my Baptist preacher grandfather, she changed our names, saying that my brother should be me and I should be my brother. My poor mother, after having remained unaware she was carrying twins, didn’t, by that time, give a rat’s ass who had what name and so I became my brother that day and he, me. This has always seemed to me somehow terribly significant, terribly symbolic of something or other but, as I have tried to share, reality is a mystery, a lifelong theater.

Let me leave this conundrum and go back a bit further, to approximately the ‘20s — the 1920s. It began on farms, both my mom and dad growing up fairly near one another, in rural Southern Ontario, Canada. My dad was the son of a farmer who had himself a large family and then eventually had to work off the farm to scrape together a living, leaving my barely-a-teen dad with the farm work. There were brothers but they found ways to leave so that dad was left with chores he did not enjoy at all. This might be partly a lie, as he refused to confirm or deny it. He would not talk to me much about his early farm life, only to say it was not good and that as he manned the horse-driven plow, the only thing that kept him going was searching the plowed earth as it was turned over, searching with all his might for Indian arrowheads. (Much of that part of the province was settled long before the white man by Natives, then called Indians, and dad collected many arrowheads in his hours of labor.) The years I am referencing here were pre-WWII, and life consisted of farm work, basic schooling and church attendance.

It was the church that offered my dad his freedom, and he enrolled in a Bible school to become a Baptist preacher. I am not sure what became of the farm when he made the choice to leave for the ministry, but I think it managed to carry on for several more years before it was given up. I don’t think my grandfather ever returned to work the land in any big way.

My maternal grandfather was a Baptist preacher, so mom grew up in a preacher’s home. The decades before the WWII were full of school and church life for my mom. She was a middle child and had both brothers and sisters. She left a diary from her high school days that my brother found among her things after she died last year and the diary revealed a young woman with strong feelings and a well-trained skill in writing around dangerous subjects and not revealing outright that which would be sinful and wrong. (My dear mother taught me to lie, I would say, taught me survival. My father withheld to survive, kept quiet and moved carefully.) In her diary, mom made it clear that any boy interested in being her friend in school would be vetted first by daddy and judged for his worthiness primarily by how much faith he showed and lived for all to see. People who did not attend church were unlikely to be good company at all and though they were part of the crowd at public school, they were always viewed through a Christian lens and kept at a safe distance.

Mom knew dad in those school days. He was a Christian, she thought for sure, but he was apparently not very social and kept pretty much to himself and a few other young men. (I think his time was fairly dominated with farm chores!) Even in those early mentions of my father in my mom’s diary, he revealed himself a loner and my mom applied her romantic wishes to that fairly blank slate. Dad fit the bill because he was a Christian. She thought he was smart-looking and when he chose ministry, mom set her sights on him. She made her own way toward independence by choosing the nursing profession, a perfectly acceptable choice for a young, unmarried Christian woman. It was a life of service that was acceptable and somewhat approved in the church, especially as it became clearer that war was coming again. Dad finished bible school — about three years of study. It was a rigorous teaching in Protestant doctrine with proud Baptist colors.

This was a time after the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy that swept America and resulted in Canadian Baptists choosing one side — the Convention — or the other side — ours, the true faith of the Union: those who held faithfully to the matters of inerrancy of scripture, the Atonement, the Resurrection and so forth, those essentials which, should they be abandoned, would lead us all down those dark path to eventual Satanic Atheism. In earlier Canadian history, we believers endured other splits too, and my dad clung to the Calvinist leanings of the old Regular Baptist days in his Bible school training. I surmise this from my memory of listening to his sermons, not from his sharing with me, because he refused to talk about his life. I made it clear to him by my rebellion as a teenager that I did not have a sincere interest in serving the Lord and so would use any information he shared with me regarding his history and ministry work, as fodder to attack what was not to be attacked but worshipped and adored.

Well, I certainly was morose and angry as a teen, depressed quite a bit and unable to feel free. My dad, being an isolated man, found it easier and better all around to remain a loner. He couldn’t help me — I knew that early on. He never really had a best male friend in his adult life and spent his time alone, reading. He collected religious books so that our simple home life was lined with them — cases and cases of mostly religious books, with a bit of literature thrown in, along with the popular cowboy writing of the time: Zane Grey and some Louis L’amour. I never did, and never have, read the cowboy stuff. We had a huge sculpted-cover, gold-page-edged Bible that was a job to even lift and marvel over. It had pictures too. I saw Daniel in the lion’s den!

Dad joined the air force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, just before the war and at the tail end of Bible School. He served on the prairies as an airplane technician, testing planes that had been serviced there. He did ground testing and hardly flew, though as a child he had spent time cutting out newspaper pictures of planes and collecting them in a scrapbook we discovered among his things as he aged. After his service, he married mom and they went into ministry and raised six kids.

My dad’s first church was one that he built himself, with the assistance of other men of faith. Dad had become a fine carpenter in his farm days and his skill was utilized fully in this new vocation. The church in its heyday had over a hundred members in a town that never broke ten thousand in population.

Mom worked as a nurse to supplement a lousy living in the ministry. I’m quite sure my dad never felt free to ask for a decent wage, nor would he believe God wanted him to ask. Instead, we lived by faith, and Mom’s hard work as a nurse.

It is my belief that God hates women and wants them eternally punished. I know this from watching how women are treated in churches, even those who call themselves modern and open. (I jest of course about God’s hate, because as far as I have seen, there is not now and never was a God. There are myriad concoctions called Gods invented by myriad people over time but I cannot believe in any of them.) As for women and God, things have changed for the better over the years but there are plenty of throwback Baptists and others out there busily holding to the Bible and routinely abusing women because they are well aware of God’s judgment on females from Eden onward. True love is following God’s will first and foremost. That which today I call open and blatant abuse of women, throwback religious men call the only true love in the world, the love of God for the weaker sex.

Even though dad took full advantage of God’s hatred for women, he did not relish bullying behavior. He believed in corporal punishment because he understood the scriptures as supporting it but he rarely exercised the option. Dad was not a physical abuser. He was not a man who raised his voice much beyond the pulpit, or even in the pulpit. My father’s failings had to do with what I would call ‘lack in life,’ what he did without, how he coped by being alone, being a loner.

I think of preachers as people who are communicators and who work on language and expression in order to convey the “message,” but my dad was not a communicator. He did not willingly talk much at all and preferred silence. He adored words — don’t get me wrong — words on a page that he could devour in silence. He never listened to music and had only an acceptable singing voice, not pleasing but not tone-deaf. Mom played the piano, somewhat unevenly, as her family grew, and she sang well too.

But what am I trying to do here by sharing these bits and pieces, this overview of life before and then during the time when I came along? It’s complicated. Some of it is probably lies I have told to survive. Reality is fluid and so we aim at a moving target in sharing our lives.

Mom and dad died last year, not more than a month or so between their exits into the ether. Dad was already quite demented but still smiling sometimes and it took him several weeks to realize mom was gone. He would look at me and his forehead would furl: “Mom’s gone to heaven now?” he would ask again and again and I would tell him that yes, she was gone, that she had died. Reality is a mysterious thing; have I said that too much? So how did he just up and die himself once the truth of mom’s passing was set in his head? Was his death, so close to hers, a fluke? Reality is not a simple thing to keep up with and those who say the Bible is a book God made simple enough for all to understand merely display their ignorance, and perhaps their inner wish that they had a clue about it. They are liars, startlingly similar to myself.

I am now retired, several years to seventy and an atheist without Jesus and his promise, and without his dad too. Being honest is not easy because I learned to lie in childhood to survive. I learned to parrot the correct words. I learned to hate myself for being bad.

I’m a ways down life’s road now and still too much a cliché, still not enough myself, not able to simply be. I watch children, little children being themselves and I marvel. I see in their free flight why we harm them, clip their wings and send them to training school.

I don’t believe in magic Jesus and sometimes wonder if more than half of the historical Jesus ever really lived at all. I wonder if there was a guy who drew attention, was bright and said some remarkable things, then drew the attention of bullies and was killed by them . . . and became a blank slate for humankind to write on. Perhaps the Bible is mostly graffiti. A lie too. Perhaps the Bible lies like I do or — no — better, much, much better.

But the Bible does not bear much attention in my life now and lacks pragmatic purpose, to say the least. We live in a time when our politics have become comic to the point of tragedy. Unless we can move beyond delusion and belief, we cannot allow ourselves to love our neighbors because we do not allow a basic love of self. There. I said it. I have played my card. We are not the selfish and fallen but the hated and abandoned and we finally have ourselves to answer for that lack. At what age in our lives do we finally become the author of our lives?

The man behind the curtain is finally only that one we see when we glance in a mirror.

I have come to believe that religion is not helpful. It is, as is often suggested, misguided and subject to human error. But that is because it is invented by imperfect beings who are always changing. Religion, or Belief, is not something that saves, but that depletes and spends uncontrollably, without reasonable balance. It demands that we admit we are basically evil and cannot help ourselves, and it has such power in our lack, the baggage of lack we carry with us, that we fully entertain outright abuse in our lives. We will listen to the first commandments and not balk and cry out a healthy “Bullshit!”

One of the most compelling proofs of our learned lack is the fact that children who are routinely beaten cannot even stand with themselves in their heart of hearts and have learned, through our lack as their elders, to take responsibility for the actions of the abusers who injure them. We have not been able as people to engender in our kids a basic right to own themselves and be free of taking responsibility for those who harm them. A beaten child always admits he is bad and so get beaten more. Children almost always share this when asked about being harmed. They believe they caused it and if they could only be better, then it would stop. We teach this in church every bit as much as we teach it from the bottom of a bottle of whiskey, every bit as much as an adult who punches to the head of a six-year-old child. Men do this harm far more than women, but it is not about gender, but about self-respect. Religion has been around far longer than any of us, and yet it has not accomplished the most fundamental and integral outcome. It has not modeled for us a basic, life-giving self-respect. It has co-opted our language and redefined words to fit “scriptural”’ ends but it has not looked after our innocence. We have been abandoned, and so have learned how to abandon ourselves. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Mohammed. Thank you God. There are so many religions that we have religions containing religions ad nauseum and all of them requiring our sustenance, our food and money, and all of them depleting our respect for ourselves and others.

Religion lies for a living. All religion. All Gods. Magicians are liars too but far more honest than any Pope. They trick your eyes and ears and make an honest living from it. Religion purports to be something other than what it is in pragmatic reality. It purports to save while in fact it spends, hoards and depletes. It purports to define and display the essence of love while it remains full of falsehood and deception.

My mom and dad loved me, loved all six of us kids with all the heart they could muster and it was good. It was far better than most experienced nearby us and I am forever thankful for what they accomplished. My parents loved us as all parents love, to the utmost, to the very best they can do, with everything they have . . . .

Now it must be acknowledged that everything my parents had included what they lacked in their own lives. I see as I get older that my father and much of his family suffered depression, untreated. My loner father treated his condition by becoming a preacher and my mom coped with being a Christian woman by marrying a preacher like her own father. The same subterfuge of her high school diary was perpetuated by finding a like structure in adulthood to carry on carrying on.

Both my parents were given over to God and in turn, they gave over their children. Of their five remaining children, only two were able to turn away from religion at all. The rest carry on the tradition with some variations in flavor but the basic ingredients the same old same old . . . .

And my journey? I was saved as a youngster, barely school-age, terrified and having nightmares about hellfire. I believed in God because I was told to and that was all there was as far as I could see. I learned at a very young age that I was a sinner and had to keep asking for forgiveness because I could hear swear words in my head and I stole some candy or did any of a million innocuous things that proved I was bad.
As I grew older, I grew more depleted and more sullen. I felt such anger, a generic misery that I understand now as my own body protesting the harm being done by our way of life. But then, back then I understood none of it. As a teen, I rebelled as much as I could, smoking dope and listening to Hendrix and Dylan. I tried like hell to drop out but could not quite accomplish it and always ended up at home again feeling dragged along and horrible.

Then, I figured it out. I realized that Jesus needed me to be myself and to follow only him and not any religion or way. I began my own private church, Brian’s church, and began to cherry-pick scriptures to be comfortable, to be able to still have Jesus and yet be done with the church as I knew it.

Honestly, really, in our heart of hearts, don’t we all invent our own church and our own God when we choose to throw the Faith dice? I think we do. I recently heard somebody say there are as many Christianities as there are Christians and that strikes me as on the mark.

As I grew tired with my own church inventions, I changed them up and continued on. I stopped attending churches except for the odd wedding or funeral. I found myself spending less time — less and less time — obsessing about these matters and even one day entertained the idea that I might not really believe in God at all. It was only for a second, though, and it haunted me so that I steered clear of it for years.

One day more than halfway through my life and long after I had fallen in love, married and had kids, I said quietly to myself, “I don’t believe.” Again, as before, I prepared to feel a blow to my sternum and to be flooded with fear. But nothing happened. Somehow, in the interim, in time passing, Elvis left the building and I stood there quite alone with my breath. The world glowed as I stood there and I tried it again: “I really just plain don’t believe.” Silence, normal pregnant silence, and the world was alive in my eyes. I stood there and felt a huge weight gone, just gone. Holy Jesus! This is honesty. I am being honest!

I once wrote a found-poem from a McDonald’s paper placemat. The placemat was targeting children and was simply numbered instructions that led the child to form a smile on their faces. At the end of the poem, the last point was the statement: “You are Happy!” I was indeed. Honest truth . . . I had been released!

I am free to honor myself and to honor innocence in all things. I declare wholeness and that we are not fallen creatures. I declare abandonment of restrictions on our vision, our journey in life. I declare that what the whole church has been unable to accomplish for centuries, Norm Lee has accomplished! (Norm was a teacher, an abused child almost killed by his dad, beaten to a pulp. He went on to dedicate himself to being a dad who would never harm his kids, never punish them but stay in healthy relationship with them and let them take the lead in their own lives. I had the great good fortune to know this man, who wrote a book called “Parenting without Punishing.”)

One person can change the direction of the world by saying the buck stops here. I will not harm as I was harmed. The basic message, perhaps, of Jesus’ Beatitudes was to live fully. When one strips away the references to the time and to a God, one is left with a very symbolic expression: feel truly and with passion. Honor yourself and others. Be blessed with life. Perhaps the Christ did just that, I don’t know, and if he said, Follow me, he meant live your life free and clear, without fear and without harming yourself and others. Be Norm Lee.

Know what I mean? Reality is a mystery to me.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Lorenzo Washington Accused of Sexually Assaulting Teenager

pastor lorenzo washington

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

Lorenzo Washington, pastor of Mt. Hill Missionary Baptist Church (also known as Mt. Hill Fellowship Community Church) in Aiken, South Carolina (and formerly the pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Grambling and St John’s Baptist Church in Newberry), stands accused of sexually assaulting a teen girl at a public school sporting event.

GoUpstate.com reports:

A pastor who has served several churches in South Carolina, including one in Spartanburg County, has been accused of sexually assaulting a Dorman High School student at an athletic event on the school’s campus.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lorenzo Renard Washington, 48, of Lexington, and charged him with third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and second-degree attempted sexual assault with a minor.

On Jan. 22, a Dorman student told school officials that a member of the booster club sexually assaulted her in a concession stand on campus, according to a statement from Lt. Kevin Bobo. The alleged attack occurred at a sporting event after normal school hours.

In an incident report, a Sheriff’s Office investigator wrote that Washington inappropriately touched the victim over her clothes and that he kissed her on her neck and mouth.

The school contacted law enforcement, and Washington was placed on trespass notice from all school events while the investigation was conducted, Bobo stated.

On Monday, a Sheriff’s Office investigator approached Washington, who denied the allegations, Bobo stated. Washington then canceled an appointment for a second interview.

Washington’s church bio page says:

Rev. Lorenzo R. Washington is the Senior Pastor of the Mt. Hill Missionary Baptist Church located in Montmorenci, SC. He is a proud native of Strawberry, SC and now resides in Lexington, SC with his beautiful wife the former, Jennifer L Jefferson of Beech Island, SC. He is the son of Mary Jane Washington and the late Primus Washington, and is the fifth child of six children. Rev. Washington is a proud husband, devoted father, former marine, and grandfather.

He commenced his preaching ministry under the tutorage of Rev. Dr. Terry Anthony King, overseer of Rock of Ages Baptist Church located in Greenville, SC, in October 2000. While under the leadership of Pastor King, he was licensed as an Associate Minister. Rev. Washington was the leading Armor Bearer for Pastor King and also the Young Adult Minister’s Counsel. In 2008, he was ordained by Rev. Terry L. Brown at the Center Rabun Baptist Church, Gray Court, SC.

Rev. Washington is the former pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Grambling, SC and St. John Baptist Church located in Newberry, SC. While serving within the various capacities, he served as secretary of the Spartanburg County Baptist Association, member of the Ordination Counsel, clergy liaison with the Newberry Police Department  for  the Wildlife Youth Program, and an active member of both local and state level Baptist associations. He also holds certification in the Old and New Testament and Biblical Studies from Empowerment Christian Studies.

In his spare time, Rev. Washington loves spending time with his family and laughing about the joys that this life continues to bring. He is a die hard Pittsburg Steelers and Clemson Tigers No. 1 Fan Club Member. Rev. Washington also serves on the Dorman High School Executive Booster Club Board and is responsible for mentoring young athletes while serving as the girl’s basketball representative in Roebuck, SC.

Rev. Washington’s focus scripture is Matthew 6:33, “but seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Washington’s LinkedIn profile

Washington’s Facebook profile

Black Collar Crime: 90-Year-Old Evangelical Man Accused of Sex Crime

sebastian solis

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

Sebastian Solis, a member of Soldiers of the Cross of Christ Church (Soldados De La Crus De Cristo) in Pasadena, Texas stands accused of touching a girl under a table — grabbing her buttocks. Oddly, a church member caught the assault on video, reporting it to — no not the police, silly boy — to their pastor and the girl’s father. Fortunately, the father reported the matter to the police. According to the police, the man touched the girl at least ten times, all at the church.

ABC-13 reports:

Court documents indicate the video shows the defendant sitting at a table, grabbing the buttocks of the girl, who was wearing a dress. Court records also show he allegedly moved his hands along her thigh and approached her crotch area.

The investigation, which began in November showed the defendant allegedly touched the girl at least 10 times, all taking place at the church on Austin Street.

Solis turned himself in this week. He is currently being held on a $10,000 bond. If he posts bond, he will have a protective order in place, and cannot contact the victim.

Clergy Sex Crimes: The Stunning Number of Black Collar Crime Reports

black collar crime

It should be clear to everyone by now that Evangelicalism has a huge problem with sexual abuse and sexual misconduct. Hopefully, the Black Collar Crime series has forever shut the mouths of those who self-righteously claim that Evangelicals don’t have the same sort of sexual abuse problem as the Catholics do. I hope, anyway — but way too many Christian zealots are oblivious to their flies being unzipped. Bob Gray, Sr, the retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, loved to rail against the Catholics over their sexual abuse scandal. Gray, Sr, blindly believed that Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches didn’t have such problems. Evidently, in the mind of Gray, Sr, IFB doctrine is a condom of sorts that protects preachers, evangelists, missionaries, youth pastors, and deacons from committing sex crimes. Of course, we now know that the condom has a hole in it, and IFB leaders are just as likely to molest children, assault teenagers, and sexually manipulate congregants as are Roman Catholic priests. Gray, Sr, knows this, but he ignores it, choosing instead to protect serial adulterer David Hyles and fellate a blow-up doll of accused adulterer Jack Hyles. Countless sex scandals have rocked the Hyles wing of the IFB church movement, yet little is said publicly by men such as Gray, Sr. Wouldn’t it be great if IFB newspaper The Sword of the Lord ran a regular Black Collar Crime column? You know, calling sin, sin, as IFB preachers are wont to do. It should be thoroughly embarrassing to Evangelicals that an atheist’s blog and the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s monthly newsletter do more good in this regard than The Sword of the LordChristianity Today, and CHARISMA Magazine combined.

Recently, Marja asked:

Thank you for your diligence with this [Black Collar Crime] series. You have collected so many examples of black collar crime it’s stunning. Did you have any inkling of this while you were a pastor? Do you think there is something uniquely Christian about this, as it were, or do you think this is a dynamic that is prominent in any community in which you have strong patriarchalism tied to imperatives of religious obedience?

The Internet has fundamentally and forever changed how the public hears of and responds to allegations of sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other sex-related crimes. The same can be said for offending pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, and traveling singers. Before the Internet, a preacher could commit all sorts of crimes, and, if not caught red-handed or reported to the police, he could escape punishment. Why? First, many parishioners simply refused to believe that THEIR pastor could ever do such things! This kind of thinking remains a problem to this day. I have posted more than a few stories about offending pastors that have attracted people heaven-bent on protecting their pastor. They will demand I take the post down, saying their pastor couldn’t have committed the crimes he is accused of. I try to remind them of the fact that, according to the Bible, King David was a “man after God’s own heart,” yet he had a sexual affair with Bathsheba and later had her husband murdered. Rarely does this work — these preacher-worshipers refuse to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Second, before the Internet, a God-loving, sin-hating predator could quietly leave one church and move on to fresh hunting grounds. His old church was glad he was gone, end of story. A good example of this is the sordid story of David Hyles. David was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. His father, Jack, was the pastor. At the time, First Baptist was the largest church in the United States. David was accused of having sex with teen girls and adult members. When his behavior reached a level where it could not be ignored, David was shipped off by his father to Garland, Texas to pastor Miller Road Baptist Church. The elder Hyles said nothing to people at Miller Road — a church he himself once pastored — leaving them in the dark about his son’s sexual proclivities. And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, David Hyles returned to his predatory ways, fucking his way through the church.

Third, IFB preachers/church leaders were taught to protect their church’s “testimony” at all costs. “There are souls in need of saving,” the thinking went. “If people find out about what our pastor/deacon/youth pastor/bus driver/school principal did, why they might not want to come to our church!” I know of countless scandals that were swept under the rug, all in the name of protecting the church’s reputation. Victims were often disbelieved and, far too often, blamed for what happened to them. Sometimes, church leaders would withhold from congregants allegations against their pastors. I know of one church which has had three sex scandals over the past twenty-five years, yet the pastor and church board have never given congregants a full accounting of what happened. The pastor, from the pulpit, encouraged people to “trust” him, that he was taking care of matters. This resulted, of course, in one man committing crimes TWICE at the same church over the course of two decades. So much for taking care of things.  Fortunately, the second offense landed the offender in prison.

Fourth, it was hard to get to local law enforcement and prosecutors to take seriously allegations of criminal sexual misconduct against clergymen. Pastors were often viewed as pillars of their communities, men of virtue, character, and moral integrity. Sadly, some legal authorities who should have known better, believed that clergymen were above the fray; that it was impossible for such “godly” men to commit such crimes. Case in point is the late Mack Ford. Ford operated IFB boys’ and girls’ homes — detention centers — in Louisiana. He was repeatedly accused of criminal behavior, yet he astoundingly escaped prosecution. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls.) Countless children were harmed by Ford and people employed by him, yet local authorities refused to investigate or prosecute.

These four things, and others, provided cover for clergy sexual misconduct — and other crimes too. Over the years, I would hear whispers about this preacher or that preacher, or hear that Pastor so-and-so suddenly resigned from his church in Ohio and moved in the night to Florida. Such men were accused of everything from molesting children to running off with their secretary, yet I know of only two men who were arrested, prosecuted, and served time in prison for criminal behavior. Sadly, far too many offending preachers had a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

While I don’t think such behaviors are uniquely a “Christian” problem, I believe that certain Evangelical beliefs and practices make such things more likely. First, Evangelicals are known for preaching against sex — any and all sex except for married, one man/one woman, monogamous, missionary-position sex. Puritanical views on sex breed sexual dysfunction and deviancy. It has been my observation that the louder some preachers preach against certain sexual sins, the more likely it is that they are doing the very things they preach against. One such preacher I know spent years having sex with his secretary every Saturday in his office. Bus workers would gather on Saturdays to visit their routes and canvass for new riders. After everyone left the building, the pastor and his lover would hit the carpet. Imagine this! Prior to having adulterous sex, this pastor would lead workers in prayer and give them a short devotional from the Bible. And then on Sundays, he would rain Holy Hell down on the heads of congregants, warning them that God hates sexual sin. (All pastors are hypocrites, but this man took the cake.)

bob gray jacksonville

Bob Gray, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, still clutching his King James Bible as he leaves jail

Second, Evangelical pastors wield great power — authoritarian and patriarchal in nature — over their congregations. Most churches are pastored by one man. In some Evangelical circles, pastors have total control over their churches, deciding everything from who can/can’t be a member to how the money is spent. (There are, by the way, Biblical proof texts supporting this kind of “rule,” but I’ll leave that to another day.) Suffice it to say that way too many churches are controlled and lorded over by their pastors. Now, this in and of itself doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal behavior, but some authoritarian pastors, drunk with power, do cross moral boundaries and commit crimes. It is not uncommon for Fundamentalist churches to be pastored by narcissistic men or sociopaths. Take for example the other Bob Gray — the former pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. This Gray molested children and preyed on women for fifty years. His church was one the largest in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. I considered him to be one the best pulpiteers I ever heard. I loved to hear him preach. (I vividly remember a sermon he preached on being filled with the Holy Spirit.) Gray was not found out and arrested until near the end of his life. He died awaiting trial for sex crimes. Gray ruled his church with a rod of iron. I have no doubt that there were whispers about “Bro. Gray” over the years, yet out of fear or not wanting to cause a scandal, people said nothing. Authoritarianism will do that, silencing people who see and know that their pastors are perverts or abusers.

Thanks to the Internet and to countless victims unwilling to be silenced, it is now much harder for Evangelical preachers to escape punishment for their crimes. With great courage, victimized men and women share their stories, even when the statute of limitations precludes their abusers from being prosecuted. Light dispels darkness, and as long as I am among the living, I intend to write about clergy sexual misconduct, publish first-person stories about clergy abuse, and publish Black Collar Crime posts. The Evangelical sex scandal is in its infancy. I have published over 500 Black Collar Crime stories. This, I am certain, is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: “Rejecting Jesus Should Be the Defining Symptom of Insanity”

john burton

John “Ain’t I Cool” Burton, “Expert” on the Mental State of Atheists and All Other non-Christians

Guest Post by ObstacleChick

My brother posted this article written by John Burton from the online Charisma Magazine:

One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.

Continually, as I watch the world go ’round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing?

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34a).

Almost with intentional naivete, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the upper room. Today, people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?

….

Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.

God’s love looks and feels very different than [sic] most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.

They haven’t heard God’s voice. “Call to me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

The author shows incredulity at the fact that so many people reject the resurrection, the “life-altering, healing, and glorious gift” given by Jesus. He cannot comprehend how dismissal makes sense. However, he gives us a list of reasons why unbelievers repudiate Jesus/God, each reason backed up by a lovely cherry-picked Bible proof text lifted out of its context, of course. (I didn’t list every single verse in the article). The author delivers his article with no small dose of smugness, self-righteousness, and superiority. For those of you atheists and agnostics who are concerned you may be insane in the membrane like me, sit back while I give you a summary of Mr. Burton’s incredibly long book promotion infomercial regarding the reasons surrounding the insanity of the poor deluded non-believer.

“They have no grid for the presence of God.” (I Corinthians 2:14) “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Mr. Burton refers to overwhelming emotions he experienced at a Christian conference, surrounded by others overwhelmed by emotion and attributing it all to the presence of God. It’s not uncommon for people to be overtaken by feelings, but many of us do not attribute feelings to the presence of a deity. Sometimes we just get giddy.

“They have never experienced a miracle.” “God worked powerful miracles by the hands of Paul. So handkerchiefs or aprons he had touched were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12).

The author states that he has witnessed more wonders and miracles than he cares to mention (but you may find some in his book to which he has provided a link for purchase). He states that non-believers explain “wonders and miracles” away through natural causes. Non-believers let that pesky little thing called “evidence” get in the way of a good old-fashioned miracle story.

“True peace, joy, and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.” “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11).

The author refers to seeing before and after photos of lost people who surrender their ever-loving souls to the power of Jesus and states that the “lost” cannot know freedom outside meeting and falling in love with Jesus. Because non-believers are all miserable excuses for humans and need a good Jesus-flooding to give them joy.

“They have settled for counterfeit love.”

Mr. Burton refers to another one of his books and provides a link for purchase to help readers discover how they too can hear the voice of God. One must hear God’s voice to feel that overwhelming supernatural love that is the only true love in the world, and all other types of love are counterfeit. He assures us that the voice of God is real, not a “weird, imagined sci-fi style message.” Non-believers live in radio silence and need Mr. Burton’s book so they can find the correct radio frequency to hear the authentic voice of God. Is it AM1430? Or AM1250? Better buy the book and find out!

“Dreams and visions are foreign to them.” “‘In the last days it shall be,’ says God, ‘that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.'” (Acts 2:17).

The author apparently has cool dreams all the time, and he states that God sometimes even talks to non-believers like the Apostle Paul and even *gasp* Muslims to give them an opportunity to surrender their ever-loving souls for eternity! I had a dream the other night about buying a house with an Olympic-sized indoor pool surrounded by a running track and a fully-equipped gym. But then I awakened to the reality of my treadmill, squat rack, and weight bench in the garage. Dang.

“They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.”

To make a long section short, Mr. Burton tells us that sin is bad, that God will turn away from us if we sin, that we need to live in the fear and love of Jesus in order to leave our sin behind so that God can love us again. Isn’t God great? If we fear him and leave our sin, he’ll conditionally love us again! By the way, here’s the list of sins from Galatians 5:19-21: adultery, sexual immorality, impurity, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousy, rage, selfishness, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. Got it? Good.

“They haven’t experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.”

I was wondering when the third member of the triumvirate would be mentioned, but here he is, the Amazing, the Awesome, the Invisible Holy Spirit! The author wants us to be baptized in the Holy Spirit rather than relying on positive thinking or going to counseling. He also wants a revival in Hollywood so that A-list stars are bathed in the power of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I guess Justin Bieber and Chris Pratt are too few in number, and Kirk Cameron and Kevin Sorbo don’t rate as A-list celebrities.

“The Word of God isn’t alive to them.”

In summary, read your Bible, but not intellectually – especially not intellectually. Mr. Burton avers that the Bible only comes alive when we are intimate with God. I really don’t want to think about what “intimate with God” means, but it brought to mind Bruce’s Black Collar Crime series . . .

“What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.”

Here we go, ladies and gentlemen, Christians’ favorite verse to explain why we need to abandon reason and evidence and just believe, damn it, believe!  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5).

“Their prayers have gone unanswered.”

Here we go with one of the loopholes for why prayers are unanswered. “We know that God does not listen to sinners. But if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” (John 9:31). Mr. Burton doesn’t want us to forget that it’s usually our fault if prayer isn’t answered. But don’t forget, God has his own ways that we are too foolish to understand, so God must be trusted.

“They are unconcerned about eternity.”

I don’t feel like typing out I Thessalonians 5:1-3 about the Lord coming like a thief in the night. But of course, here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number one threat of evangelical Christians – the threat of eternity in HELL!  Surely, you didn’t think he would leave that out! That’s Christians’ greatest weapon in their arsenal, appealing to people’s fear of everlasting torment in HELL.

“God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.”

Ladies and gentlemen, repent before it is too late because God will give up on you. Or maybe it’s Calvinism. I don’t know. But please know, readers, that Mr. Burton is terribly grieved when people reject Jesus.

Good luck convincing the American Psychiatric Association to include rejection of Jesus as a sign of insanity when they revise their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5.

I came away from Mr. Burton’s article with the conclusion that he believes that if one does not accept his list of Bible verses to support the concept that one must completely surrender one’s life to God in order to escape eternal punishment in hell, one is certifiably insane. Given that, I must respectfully declare myself in the words of Cypress Hill as “insane in the membrane”.

“Insane in the Membrane” by Cypress Hill

Video Link

The Voices of Atheism: Why Theists Can’t Convert Atheists by Genetically Modified Skeptic

genetically modified skeptic

This is the fourth installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features Drew, the Genetically Modified Skeptic. Enjoy!

Video Link

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Charles “Tiger” Aguon II Accused of Grooming Teen Boy

charles tiger aguon II

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

Pastor Charles “Tiger” Aguon II, headmaster/teacher at Kingdom Preparatory School in Auburndale, Florida, stands accused of grooming and sexually molesting a teen boy.

The Ledger reports:

PCSO investigators conducted an emergency forensic interview with the teen, who said Aguon simulated sex with him and touched his penis numerous times, with a specific occurrence in November and another in December.

During a monitored phone call between Aguon and the boy Tuesday, the teen told Aguon he felt uncomfortable and did not like when Aguon kissed and touched him.

Aguon then asked the boy, “Oh, the loving on you?” said Judd, referencing the phone call.

After the teen said he didn’t like it when Aguon touched his private parts, kissed him and bit his lip, Aguon then said, “You know I was only messing with you,” according to the arrest affidavit.

When the teen told Aguon a second time he did not like it, Aguon then said, “I’m sorry.”

Less than two hours later, Aguon was arrested at Kingdom Preparatory School around 1:30 p.m.

Judd said Aguon admitted to detectives that he knew his behavior was inappropriate, and that he should not have engaged in that type of behavior.

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Doug Edwards Pleads Guilty to Sexual Abuse of a Minor

pastor doug edwards

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

Last year, Doug Edwards, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ketchikan, Alaska and a recently retired home economics teacher at Ketchikan High School, was arrested and charged with six counts of sexual abuse of a minor.  According to KRBD, Edwards  sexually assaulted a fourteen-year-old church girl. Yesterday, Edwards pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse of a minor.

KRBD reports:

A former Ketchikan High School teacher pleaded guilty Wednesday to sexual abuse of a minor through a plea agreement that calls for him to serve six years in jail.

Doug Edwards was charged last spring with six counts of sexual abuse of a minor for groping a then-14-year-old girl’s chest at the school, at his home and at the church where he was a pastor. The plea agreement consolidates those six charges into one Class B felony.

Superior Court Judge William Carey explained what that means to Edwards and others in the courtroom.

“So what this does is consolidate all six into one conviction, however he is basically admitting the conduct in all of them,” Carey said. “And the fact that, even though there is one conviction, it looks like the fact that other acts, multiple acts, are consolidated into this, makes the sex-offender registration requirement lifetime as opposed to 15 years.”

After he’s served his time in prison, Edwards will be required to register as a sex offender, and update that registration every three months for the rest of his life.

The plea agreement called for a sentence of 18 years with 12 suspended. That leaves six to serve, but with “good time,” Edwards could be released after four years.

Songs of Sacrilege: Christmas Time in Hell by the South Park Team

christmas time in hell

This is the one hundred ninety-ninth 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 Christmas Time in Hell by the South Park Team.

Video Link

Lyrics

Satan: Well I tell you what,
Maybe we’ll have ourselves a little Christmas, right here.
C’mon everyone, gather `round!

String up the lights and light up the tree
We’re going to make some revelry
Spirits are high, so I can tell
It’s Christmas time in hell!

Demons are nicer as you pass them by
There’s lots of demon toys to buy
The snow is falling and all is well
It’s Christmas time in hell!

There goes Jeffery Dahmer,
With a festive Christmas ham
After he has sex with it,
He’ll eat up all he can.

And there goes John F. Kennedy
Caroling with his son
Reunited for the holidays
God bless us, everyone!

Everybody has a happy glow
Let’s dance in blood and pretend its snow
Even Mao Tse-Tung is under the spell
It’s Christmas time in hell!

Adolf, here’s a present for you.

Hitler: Oh? O Tannenbaum!

Satan: Yes, O Tannenbaum!

God cast me down from Heaven’s door
To rule in hell for evermore
But now I’m kinda glad that I fell
‘Cause It’s Christmas time in hell!

Here’s a rack to hang the stockings on
We still have to shop for Genghis Kahn!
Michael Landon’s hair looks swell!
It’s Christmas time in hell!

There’s Princess Diana
Holding burning mistletoe
Over poor Gene Siskel’s head
Just watch his weenie grow!

For one day we all stop burning
And the flames are not so thick
All the screaming and the torture stops
As we wait for old Saint Nick!

So string up the lights and light up the tree
We’re damned for all eternity
But for just one day all is well
It’s Christmas time in hell!

We’ve got to toast together, and make it quick!
We’ve gotta make room for Andy di*k.
Wake his mother and ring the bell

It’s Christmas time…

(Christmas time… Christmas time… Christmas time…)

Christmas time…

(Christmas time… Christmas time… Christmas time…)

It’s Christmas time in hell!

Merry Christmas Rooming House!

How My Relationships With Women Have Changed Post-Jesus

temptress

I grew up in a system of religious faith that taught me a negative view of women. Every Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and professor who instructed me in the True Christian Faith® taught me the following:

  • Women were created by God to be their husbands’ helpmeets.
  • Women are commanded by God to be keepers of their homes. Their primary tasks are housekeeping, cooking meals, caring for children, and spreading their legs whenever their husbands want sex.
  • Women, when compared to men, are weaker vessels and need the protection of males.
  • Men are the head of their homes and their wives are to submit to their rule and authority.
  • Women are temptresses, leading men (and teen boys) into sexual immorality.
  • Women have the duty to dress in ways to keep men from lusting after them. Women, then, are sexual gatekeepers.
  • Women cannot be pastors or serve in any church capacity that puts them in authority over men. Some of pastors and professors taught me that women were to be silent in church and were not permitted to participate in church governance.

These beliefs were modeled — albeit imperfectly and hypocritically — to me throughout my primary, secondary, and post-secondary years. It should come as no surprise, then, that once I began preaching and pastoring churches, I taught these beliefs to congregants. Multiple generations of people were taught by me that women were inferior, dangerous beings best suited for domestic work, teaching women, preparing church dinners, and staffing the nursery.  Women who violated these Biblical truths were viewed as rebellious towards God, their churches, and their husbands.

My wife and I lived by these beliefs for many years. Our home was what I would call a traditional IFB home. Not only did Polly care for the home, she also home schooled our six children. For five years, she taught our children and others in our church’s private Christian school. Polly did work in a church day care (Temple Tots, a ministry of the Newark Baptist Temple) and taught third grade one year at Licking County Christian Academy in Heath, Ohio. Polly received a lesser wage than male teachers because I was the head of our home; she was  not.

Ten years before we deconverted, Polly took a job cleaning offices at a local manufacturing concern. She works for this company today as a manager, recently celebrating twenty years on the job. By the time Polly started working at Sauder Woodworking, our marriage had evolved, taking on more of an egalitarian quality. Our quest for true marital equality and egalitarianism continues to this day. Old habits die hard, but we do work presenting an egalitarian model to our children and grandchildren. I suspect this late in the game we will never outlive the deep marks complementarianism has made on us personally and on our marriage.

It wasn’t until I deconverted that I was able to have female friends. As long as Jesus and I were best friends, I had no female friends. How could I, since I believed that some women were temptresses out to seduce and bed me? I had women I considered acquaintances, but I always kept them at arm’s length out of fear of being tempted to sin. I was taught to avoid the very appearance of evil. Thus, I was not permitted to enjoy the company of women if my wife was not present. No social interaction whatsoever was permitted. Of course, this kind of thinking cut me off from a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. When it came to the churches I pastored, I ran the show, and when serious decisions had to be made, it was the men who made them. Women were permitted to vote in business meetings, but there was no doubt about which sex and which member of that sex was in charge.

in 2008, I divorced Jesus. Once free of Christianity, I was then free to be friends with whomever I wanted, regardless of their sex (or sexual orientation). Now, this doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to the fact that close company with the opposite sex can and does lead to moral compromise. That said, I don’t “fear” women. I own my sexuality, so it’s up to me how and to what degree I interact with women. Both Polly and I are free to enjoy the company of the opposite (or same) sex, even though, quite frankly, we enjoy one another’s company the most.

Earlier this week, I had my beard trimmed. I was starting to look a lot more like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomer, than Santa Claus. Prior to this appointment, my hair — when I had any — and beard had always been trimmed by men. This time a woman trimmed my beard. I became casually acquainted with her (and her husband) several years ago as I photographed my grandson’s baseball games. Her son played on my grandson’s team. I have run into her many times since at baseball games, high school games, and school events. A month or so ago, I ran into her at a local high school basketball game. I knew that she cut hair, so I asked her if she trimmed beards. I told her my previous barber was quite a hack, and I was looking for someone to care for Santa’s beard. She told me she trimmed beards, so this week I had her cut mine. She did a wonderful job. I must admit that it felt strange having a woman not named Polly run her fingers through my beard. That said, she’s the beard trimmer for me.

As Polly and I were leaving, I told the woman who trimmed my beard, “you are the first woman to ever cut my hair or trim my beard in almost sixty-two years.” I did not tell her that it took divorcing Jesus for me to be comfortable with a woman who is not my wife touching my hair and/or beard. I believe she is religious, so I don’t want to have THAT discussion while she has scissors in her hand.

Did you avoid relationships with the opposite sex due to your religious beliefs? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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