Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

I Give Up!

Do you find yourself explaining the same things over and over to people who cannot or will not comprehend or understand your point of view/opinion/worldview? I know I do. Every day, my writing is read by thousands of people, and no matter how often I explain myself, some people — looking at you Evangelicals, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, Fundamentalist Catholics, Right-wing Christians, Diehard Republicans — have heads filled with cement, leaving them unable to entertain any point of view/opinion/worldview but their own. The more certain people are of their rightness, the harder it is to reach them. Christian Fundamentalists, in particular, are absolutely certain that their peculiar beliefs came straight from God, and their practices are exactly how Jesus and the first-century church practiced New Testament Christianity. Some people are so obtuse that it is nigh impossible to meaningfully engage them intellectually. Talking to them is like beating your head up against a brick wall. You are bloodied and in pain, but you’ve not made a dent in their ignorance. And so today, I officially give up.

I give up trying to explain that I didn’t become an atheist because I was hurt by the church.

I give up trying to explain that I am not bitter over my past.

I give up trying to explain that I am not angry at the Christian God.

I give up trying to explain that I don’t hate the Christian God.

I give up trying to explain that I didn’t leave Christianity because I secretly desire to “sin.”

I give up trying to explain that I am not a worshiper of Satan.

I give up trying to explain I really was a committed follower of Jesus who believed the Bible from cover to cover.

I give up trying to explain that I really did wholeheartedly devote the first fifty years of my life to Jesus.

I give up trying to explain that I devoted most of my adult life to preaching the gospel and evangelizing sinners.

I give up trying to explain that atheism is not a religion.

I give up trying to explain that people can be moral and ethical without God.

I give up trying to explain that all morality is subjective.

I give up trying to explain that Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist.

I give up trying to explain that atheists don’t want to make Christianity illegal.

I give up trying to explain why I blog.

I give up trying to explain why I publish the Black Collar Crime series.

I give up trying to explain to creationists that the universe is not 6,024 years old.

I give up trying to explain to creationists that Adam and Eve were not the first humans.

I give up trying to explain to creationists that the world was never destroyed by a flood.

I give up trying to explain to literalists that they are not as literal as they think they are.

I give up trying to explain that the Bible is not an inerrant, infallible book written by the Christian God.

I give up trying to explain that Moses did not lead millions of Israelites from Egypt to Canaan.

I give up trying to explain that abortion is not murder.

I give up trying to explain that democratic socialism is not the same as Venezuelan socialism.

I give up trying to explain that communism and socialism are not the same.

I give up trying to explain that democratic socialists are not anti-capitalists.

I give up trying to explain the moral bankruptcy of Donald Trump.

I give up trying to explain that Donald Trump is a racist.

I give up trying to explain that Donald Trump is a sexual predator.

I give up trying to explain that I am not overweight because I eat too much or eat the “wrong” foods.

I give up trying to explain that my pain and debility are caused by actual diseases and medical disorders.

I give up trying to explain why I am depressed.

I give up trying to explain why auto racing on dirt is better than auto racing in asphalt.

I give up trying to explain why I don’t recycle.

And finally, I am too tired to continue with this list, so I give up …

Tomorrow, Loki willing, is another day. Who knows how long or short my “I Give Up” list might be.

What would you like to add to this list? Please share your “I give ups” 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.

Quote of the Day: The “Sophisticated” Theology of Non-Fundamentalist Christians

sophisticated theology

Skeptic:  Do you really believe that the universe was created in six days?

Sophisticated Christian:  Don’t be a silly literalist.  “Six days” is a metaphor for a very long, long period of time.

Skeptic:  Do you really believe that the entire earth was covered by water from a great flood?

Sophisticated Christian:  Don’t be a silly literalist.  When God said “the entire earth” was covered by flood waters that was metaphorical for a flood of the entire known world in which Noah lived.  It was a regional flood.  It was a flood of Noah’s entire world.

Skeptic:  Do you believe that all the many languages on earth derive from the Tower of Babel?

Sophisticated Christian:  Don’t be a silly literalist.  The story of the Tower of Babel is an allegory to demonstrate the power of God in the face of humankind’s sinful arrogance.

Skeptic:  Do you believe that Jonah really lived in the belly of a fish for three days?

Sophisticated Christian:  Don’t be a silly literalist.  This is another allegory.  It was told as an allegorical prophecy of Jesus’ burial in the tomb.

Skeptic:  Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born of virgin; that his father was a (holy) ghost; that he walked on water; turned water into wine; exorcised demons, sending them into a herd of pigs; healed blindness; raised people from the dead; flew to the pinnacle of the Temple with a devil; reattached a man’s severed ear to his head; and after he was publicly executed, came back to life, appeared to his former fishing buddies to share a broiled fish lunch; and finally, that he levitated off the top of a mountain into outer space where he currently sits on a golden throne as Lord and Master of the universe?

Sophisticated Christian:  Of course.  That is what the Bible literally says, you God-hating fool!

— Gary,  Escaping Christian Fundamentalism, Silly Atheist. Unlike You, Sophisticated Christians Can Distinguish When the Bible is Speaking Literally and Figuratively, July 16, 2019

Why Am I the Only One Who Changed My Beliefs?

bruce and polly gerencser 1978

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, in front of first apartment in Pontiac, Michigan, Fall 1978 with Polly’s Grandfather and Parents

Dr. Bart Ehrman, a former Evangelical Christian and now an agnostic, writes:

Two things have happened to me this week that have made me think rather intensely about the path I’ve taken in life, and how radically it has swerved from the paths of others who were like me at the age of 20. I emphasize “who were like me.”   The reality is that the path I was on already at 20 was (now I see) extremely weird, and to outsiders looks more than a little bizarre. I was a hard-core evangelical Christian dedicated to ministry for the sake of the gospel. Not exactly what most 20-year-olds (including any of my many high school friends) were doing at the time.  If ever I want a conversation-stopper at a cocktail party, all I need do is say something about my past.

Still, given that as my starting point, what happened next is even more highly unusual. And I was abruptly reminded it of it this week, twice.   First, on Monday I had a radio/podcast debate here in London on “Premier Christian Radio” (it is the leading Christian radio station in England) (not that it has a lot of competition, but it is indeed a high class operation) with another scholar of the New Testament, Peter Williams, one of the world’s experts on ancient Syriac as it relates to the Bible (both OT and NT), former professor at the University of Aberdeen and current head of Tyndale House in Cambridge.

I have known Pete for years; he is a committed evangelical Christian with a view of the infallibility of the Bible. Our debate was on the question of whether the Gospels are historically reliable (a topic of frequent recurrence on this blog, obviously) (some bloggers may think “interminable” recurrence). He thinks there is not a single mistake in the Gospels, of any kind.  I think there are. You’ve heard this kind of debate before, so I won’t be recounting the ins and outs (although they were quite different from those you’ve seen before; still, it won’t matter for this post).

The second thing that happened is that I received a Facebook post from a former friend (I emphasize “former” since we apparently are no longer friendly) and classmate of mine from my Moody Bible Institute days (mid 70s), in which he lambasted the fellow alumni from my graduating class for holding me in any kind of esteem. The implication of his lambast was that I’m the enemy of the truth and no one should respect me or my views. I haven’t talked with this fellow for over 40 years, but last I knew we were friends, on the same floor in the dorm and the same basketball team. OK, I couldn’t hit a jump shot, but still, is that reason to be upset four decades later?

In any event, these two events made me think hard about one issue in particular, one that I keep coming back to in my head, in my life, and, occasionally, on this blog: why is it that some people are willing to change their minds about what they hold most dear and important in their lives and other people retain their same views, come hell or high water?    Why do some people explore options and think about whether they were originally “right” or not (about religion, personal ethics, social issues, politics, etc.), and other people cling tenaciously to the views they were given when they were 14 years old? It’s an interesting question.

Because I changed my views on something near and dear to me and my then-friends, I’m a persona non grata in the circles I used to run around in. And granted, I have zero desire (OK, far less than zero) to run around in them now. But I don’t feel any animosity toward my former friends, or think they’re going to roast in hell because of their views, and wish that torment would begin sooner than later. I understand why they do (toward me), but it’s sad and disheartening.

….

What I’m more interested in is why I would have changed my mind and others like him absolutely don’t. Even scholars.  Their views significantly deepen, become more sophisticated, more nuanced – but the views don’t change. (My sense of my former classmates at Moody – at least the ones I hear about – is that their views don’t even deepen or grow more sophisticated; they literally think pretty much the same thing as they did when they were mid-teenagers, only now with more conviction and passion).

The reason I find the whole matter sad is almost entirely personal (I guess sadness by definition is). My former evangelical friends and current evangelical debate partners think I’m an enemy of the truth, when I’ve spent almost my entire weird journey trying to come to the truth. And so far as I can tell, they haven’t. I’m not trying to be ungenerous, but it does seem to me to be the reality.

I’ll try to put it in the most direct terms here: how is it at all plausible, or humanly possible, that someone can question, explore, look into, consider the beliefs they were taught as a young child (in the home, in church, in … whatever context) and after 40 years of thinking about it decide that everything they were taught is absolutely right? The views *they* were taught, out of the sixty trillion possible views out there, are absolutely right? The problem with these particular views (of evangelical Christianity) is that if they are indeed right, everyone else in the known universe is wrong and going to be tormented forever because of it.

I know most Christians don’t think this: I’m just talking about this particular type of Christian. And they don’t seem to see how strange it is that they are right because they agree with what they were taught as young children. Yes, they don’t see it that way. They think they are right because they agree with the Bible which comes from God so they agree with God and I (and everyone else on the planet) disagree with God. But the reality is that this is the view they were handed as young kids.

Dr. Ehrman brings up a question that I have long pondered “why am I different from my former Evangelical friends, parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry?” I spent most of the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. I attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Yet, in November 2008, I divorced Jesus. Several months later, I sent a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners to several hundred people who knew me well. From that point forward, I became known as Bruce, the Evangelical pastor who became an atheist. As a result of my deconversion, I lost scores of lifelong relationships. I learned quickly that what held our relationships together was the glue of fidelity to orthodox Christianity; that once I repudiated the central claims of Christianity and rejected the notion that the Bible was, in any way, an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, all pretense of friendship was gone. Today? I have two Evangelicals friends (and former parishioners), and even with them, I find that our relationships are strained due to their utterances on social media about the evils of atheism and not believing in Jesus. I ignore the things they post and say, but I do take it personally. And that’s it, for me, when it comes to connections to my Evangelical past.

I have known a number of Evangelical pastors over the years, and without exception, all of them say that they still believe and preach the truths we all held dear decades ago. Several of them have retired or left the ministry, but I have searched in vain for one ministerial colleague who lost his faith and is now an atheist or an agnostic. One is a lonely number, and I am it!  A handful of these “men of God” have moderated their Fundamentalist beliefs and practices, but the majority of them still hew to the old-time gospel. Many of these men still believe the same things they did when they were in Bible college over forty years ago. Dr. Ehrman has written numerous books about the nature of the New Testament text, and in doing so he has shredded the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. (I don’t mention inspiration here because it is a faith claim, whereas claims of inerrancy and infallibility can be empirically tested.) Either these Bible-believers — most of whom believe the King James Bible is the perfect, preserved Word of God for English-speaking people — have never read one of Dr. Ehrman’s books or they have, ignoring, discounting, or denying what he had to say.

I remember having a discussion years ago with a dear friend and colleague of mine about the notion that the King James Bible was inerrant. I provided him a list of words that had been changed in the 1769 revision of the KJV. I thought that telling him there were word differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions would open his eyes to the folly of translational inerrancy. Instead, he doubled-down and said that he wouldn’t believe the KJV had errors even if I could prove it did!  This conversation took place in the late 1980s. Thirty years later, this man, of course, is no longer friends with me, and he still believes that the KJV is inerrant and infallible. And based on a perusal of his church’s website, he still holds to the same doctrinal beliefs he had when he graduated from a small Ohio-based IFB Bible college in the early 1980s. I fondly remember the conversations we had over lunch about hot topics such as: Calvinism, pre-wrath rapture, divorce, and countless other subjects. My ex-friend always struck me as a man who valued and appreciated knowledge and intellectual integrity. Yet, despite decades of reading books and studying the Bible, he remains unmoved from his Fundamentalist beliefs. Why is that?

As long-time readers know, my wife’s father graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — the same college Polly and I attended — and worked for and pastored IFB churches until he retired. Polly’s uncle, Jim Dennis, attended Midwestern in the 1960s and pastored the Newark Baptist Temple for almost fifty years. Jim’s children are all in the ministry. His two daughters married Pensacola Christian College-trained preachers, and his son — also trained at Pensacola — is a pastor. And now, Jim’s grandchildren are heading off to Bible college. The third generation is attending institutions such as The Crown College and West Coast Baptist College. As I look at my wife’s family, I want to scream. Why is it that no one can see the error of Fundamentalist thinking; that no one can see that Evangelical beliefs cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained; that no one can see the psychological damage done by Fundamentalist thinking? What made Polly and me different from her Jesus-loving family? Why could we see what they cannot?

I do know that many Evangelical preachers take great pride in believing the same things today that they believed twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago. It’s almost as if they believe that God (and their pastors/professors) told them everything they needed to know in their twenties, and there’s no reason to revisit past beliefs. It’s as if these preachers are proud of the fact that “ignorance is bliss.” It’s not that these men don’t read books, they do. However, a quick inventory of their libraries reveals that they rarely, if ever, read books by non-IFB or non-Evangelical writers. These preachers know what they know, and there’s no reason to read anything that might change their beliefs. In fact, anything that might cause the least bit of doubt is suspect and considered the work of Satan.

For whatever reason, I was never one to sit still intellectually. I blame this on my mother. She taught me to read at an early age and helped me learn that the library was my best friend. Even as an IFB pastor, I read authors who were on the fringe of the movement, and my reading expanded well beyond Christian orthodoxy in the latter years of my time in the ministry. As a pastor, I devoted myself to reading books, studying the Bible, and making sure my beliefs aligned with what I was learning. This process, of course, led to numerous theological and lifestyle changes over the years. The boy who enrolled at Midwestern at age nineteen was very different from the man who walked away from the ministry at forty-seven, and Christianity at age fifty. In between these bookends were thousands and thousands of hours spent in the study. Whatever my critics might say about me, no one can accuse me of not taking my studies and preaching seriously. Noted IFB evangelist “Dr” Dennis Corle told me that my ministry would be best served if I just spent a few hours a week preparing my sermons, and spent the rest of my time soulwinning. I didn’t follow his advice. I believed then that the people who called me “preacher” deserved to hear quality, educated, well-crafted sermons. I could do this and STILL have time for soulwinning. I have since come to the conclusion that Evangelicalism is littered with lazy preachers who have little regard for their congregants; who barf up pabulum week after week, rarely spending significant time in their studies. And why should they, I suppose? If you KNOW that your beliefs are straight from the mouth of God, there’s no need to read books that might challenge said beliefs.

Several years ago, a former church member wrote to me about my loss of faith. She was sure she knew what the problem was and how I could get myself back on the proverbial sawdust trail. You see, according to her, all those books I read over the years were the problem. If I would just go back to reading only the B-I-B-L-E, then my faith would somehow magically reappear. In her mind, I knew too much, and that what I needed was some good old Baptist ignorance. Did not the Bible say about Peter and John in Acts 4:13:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Peter and John were thought to be unlearned, ignorant men, yet their lives revealed that they were men who had been with Jesus. Surely, being known for having been with Jesus is far more important than being known as a learned, educated man, right?

And at the end of the day, I can’t unlearn what I know. I refuse to limit my intellectual inquiries. I refuse to rest on what I know today being the end-all, the zenith of wisdom and knowledge. No, in fact, leaving Christianity has shown me how much I don’t know; that despite the countless hours I spent reading books, I have not yet scratched the surface of human knowledge and understanding. The best I can say is this, “I know more today than I did yesterday.” And to quote Buzz Lightyear, “To Infinity and Beyond!”

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.

Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Youth Pastor Christopher “Cody” Stutts Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

christopher stutts

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.

In February 2018, Christopher “Cody” Stutts, youth pastor at Westwood Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was accused of sexually abusing a child younger than twelve.

The Tuscaloosa News reported at the time:

A former youth pastor for a Birmingham church is accused of sexually assaulting a teenager.

Christopher Cody Stutts, 36, was charged with sexual abuse of a child younger than 12 and second-degree sodomy. Members of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit responded to a home in the 12000 block of Mulligan Drive Friday on a sexual assault call. A 14-year-old girl reported that Stutts had assaulted her on Friday and had been for the last three years.

Stutts remained in the Tuscaloosa County Jail Wednesday with bond set at $40,000.

He was fired from his position as a part-time youth pastor at Westwood Baptist Church in Birmingham.

In April 2018, Stutts was arrested again on additional sex crime charges.

Yesterday, Stuttz pleaded guilty to “one count of sexually abusing a child younger than 12.” He was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his crimes.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Raymond Vliet Accused of Conning Elderly Congregants

pastor raymond vliet

Raymond Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el General Baptist Church in Flushing, Michigan, (no web presence) stands accused of bilking an elderly parishioner out of tens of thousands of dollars. Authorities believe there could be more victims.  WNEM-5 reports:

Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el general Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township, faces charges of embezzling $20,000 to $50,000 from a vulnerable adult and committing a financial transaction without consent.

Sheriff Robert Pickell said the investigation started after a loan officer noticed something suspicious. Pickell said that happened when Vliet, who had power of attorney for a 91-year-old parishioner and his wife, went to a credit union to get a loan for a pontoon.

“The pastor convinced the victim’s wife before she died to sign over the modular home in the name of the church and it’s Beth-el general Baptist Church. And she did that because she was so taken in by the pastor. He was doing God’s work,” Pickell said.

The loan officer denied the loan request, and while researching, found Vliet also had power of attorney for other members of the church, Pickell said. That’s when she called the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Pickell said when the credit union turned down the loan, the pastor went to another place and did secure a loan. He also got a loan for another vehicle when he learned the 91-year-old man’s vehicle couldn’t pull the pontoon.

When a welfare check was done at the victim’s house, Pickell said officials noticed some things that just weren’t right.

Sheriff Pickell said, “That’s a pastor that should go to hell.” And all God’s people and atheists too said AMEN!

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Howard Geck Arrested for Failing to Report Child Abuse

dexter hensley

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.

In May 2019, Dexter Hensley, a member of Jasper Apostolic United Pentecostal Church in Jasper, Indiana, was arrested and charged with inappropriately touching minor children, ages 5-9. The Dubois County Free Press reported at the time:

Dexter Hensley, 61, is charged with allegedly touching children inappropriately. The incidents allegedly occurred at the Jasper Apostolic Church — the Jasper Christian Academy is also located at that address –sometime between 2012 and 2015. The victims were between 5 and 9 years old at the time of the incidents.

Hensley was arrested Monday; his home address in the court documents was listed as the church’s address on Hillside Drive in Jasper.

Court documents indicated Pastor Howard Geck at Jasper Apostolic Church found out about the alleged actions after they occurred.

An investigation into Hensley was opened while police were investigating a different allegation. During a forensic interview, the victim revealed incidents that had occurred at the church five to six years ago involving Hensley.

The victim also told police that about two years ago she had learned about incidents involving her sisters and had taken those concerns to her guardian. Court documents indicated the guardian reported the victim’s allegations to Geck at the church and was told that the issue had been taken care of.

Police spoke with the guardian, who stated the issue had been reported to the pastor, according to court documents.

Today’s news brings a not-so-shocking story about Howard Geck, pastor of Jasper Apostolic. Authorities allege that Geck was told about Hensley’s abhorrent behavior and did nothing. By Indiana law, “anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.”  Geck allegedly kept Hensley’s crimes to himself, and now he finds himself facing a class B misdemeanor — failure to report.

Channel 14 News reports:

Jasper Police say they learned Pastor Howard Geck was made aware of the allegations two-years ago, but failed to report them to authorities.

Geck was charged this week with failure to make a report, which is a class B misdemeanor. By Indiana law, anyone who has reason to believe a child has been abused must report it to law enforcement or DCS.

“The law requires that any individual, anyone, it’s not confined to teachers or pastors or doctors,” explains Dubois County Deputy Prosecutor Stephanie Smith. “It is any adult that has a reasonable suspicion that there’s been some kind of abuse. Whether it’s physical abuse, or sexual abuse, or neglect of a child needs to report it.”

The Dubois County Prosecutors Office is currently offering an amnesty program. From now until the end of July, anyone who has previously failed to report, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have happened, can do so without being charged.

I have long argued that one of the firsts steps authorities should take in combatting child abuse is to arrest AND prosecute clergymen who failed to report allegations of abuse. When preachers face the likelihood of criminal prosecution, jail time, and loss of reputation, maybe, just maybe, they will do the right thing. It is unlikely that the good pastor will spend any time in the pokey, but perhaps the Dubois County prosecutor’s shot across the bow is enough to put fear into the hearts of local preachers. I have no doubt that Geck is not the only preacher sitting on allegations and confessions of sexual misconduct.  It’s time to air the dirty laundry in Dubois County, Indiana.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: A Bible-Believing Christian is Socialism’s Worst Nightmare

eddie hyatt

Socialism, on the other hand, requires a powerful, centralized government for its implementation. This in turn requires a ruling elite, like the old Soviet politburo, that controls every facet of society, spreads the wealth around and enriches itself.

In socialism, which is rooted in Marxism, the God of the Bible is replaced by the god of the state. People no longer need God to help them deal with life; they can now look to the government to solve every problem and meet every need. Faith in God, therefore, is viewed as an enemy of the state.

his is why, during the 20th century, millions of Christians were imprisoned and put to death in socialist/communist regimes such as China, Cambodia, Cuba and the Soviet Union. This is why, alongside the rise of socialism/Marxism in modern America, there is a corresponding rise of hostility toward people of faith.

Have you noticed that the Democrat party seems to be moving further and further from any open identification with God and Christianity? This always happens as a people move from individual liberty to socialism. The god of socialism is a jealous god and will tolerate no rivals.

If you want to understand the passion of the new progressive wing of the Democrat party, this is it. They have visions of power. They have exchanged the God of the Bible for the god of power, which they envision being expressed through themselves in a powerful, centralized government.

The ultimate answer to the challenge of atheistic socialism in American today is not a political one but a spiritual one. America must return to the vision of the founders, who saw liberty and faith as being joined together in an indissoluble bond. They did not believe one could flourish without the other.

….

The Bible-believing Christian who takes his faith seriously is socialism’s worse nightmare. This is why we must pray for another Great Awakening across the land. This is why we must challenge the contemporary church to move beyond an entertainment culture and begin training people to be salt and light and live out their faith in this culture.

Eddie Hyatt, Charisma News, Why Liberty and Socialism Can Never Coexist, July 15, 2019

Baptists, the Holy Spirit, and Being Endued with Power From on High

pentecost

Cartoon by Kevin Frank

In Luke 24, we find the risen Jesus appearing to his eleven disciples and several other people, saying to them: “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” After Jesus uttered these words, He ascended to Heaven and hasn’t been seen since. From that moment forward, Christians have wondered what Jesus meant when he said his followers would be “endued with power from on high.”

I was taught growing up in Baptist churches that the power spoken of by Jesus was the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost); that prior to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came UPON God’s chosen ones but did not permanently live inside of them. Once Jesus was gone from the scene, he sent the Holy Spirit (comforter) to earth to live inside every believer. I was taught similar pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) in Bible college.

In Acts 2, we find the followers of Jesus gathered together on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Most Evangelicals believe that this was the moment that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer and endue them with Heavenly power. I am just kidding: most Evangelicals don’t agree on anything — Holy Spirit included. You would think receiving the Holy Spirit would be quite simple, but thanks to endless arguments and debates amongst those who claim to have ONE LORD, ONE, FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, Christian sects have all sorts of pneumatological beliefs. Let me share a few of them with you.

Many Baptists believe that the moment a person is saved, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence inside of them. Now, that’s only for people who are saved after the resurrection of Jesus. Those saved before the resurrection of Jesus — say people in the gospels and the Old Testament — the Holy Spirit came upon them when he needed to use them in some sort of powerful, supernatural way. Once this was accomplished, the Holy Spirit departed.

Other Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit has always lived in saved people — both before and after the resurrection of Jesus. These Baptists see a continuity between the Old and New Testaments. This belief is popular among worshippers of John Calvin.

And yet other Baptists believe that all saved people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but “special,” on-fire, sold-out Christians can receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit if they really, really, really beg God to give it to them. Some preachers I heard growing up called this being baptized with the Spirit.

Wander off into the Evangelical weeds and you will find all sorts of additional — and contradictory — beliefs about the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit the moment you are baptized by immersion. Other sects believe similarly, except the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. What is speaking in tongues, you ask? Ah yes, another belief Christians are hopelessly divided over.

Most Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is Demonic. Some Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is the ability to speak foreign languages you haven’t learned. Pentecostals, Charismatics, Apostolics, and some garden-variety Evangelical churches believe that speaking in tongues is some sort of babbling prophetic or prayer language; one that must be interpreted so hearers can understand; but then, maybe not — maybe it’s just a Heavenly prayer language that no one, including the speaker, understands. Turn on the TV and watch Christian programming and you will see plenty of speaking in tongues — interpreted and uninterpreted.

Back to the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit when you are saved, but if you want to want to have a close relationship with God, you need to beg him to fill you will his Spirit. Again, speaking in tongues or some other supernatural demonstration will be the requisite evidence for such fillings of the Holy Spirit.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I attended a number of southern-style camp meetings. It was not uncommon to “see” the Holy Spirit come upon people. They would start shouting, waving towels/hankies, running the aisles, walking on top of pews, and just about any other bit of religious craziness you can think of. I heard countless preachers say that the Holy Spirit gave them their sermons; that their preached words were straight from the Spirit himself. I had similar experiences while preaching. There were a few times when my sermons seemed to have some sort of special “zip” or anointing, and people responded to them in overtly emotional ways. One evening, in particular, I remember the service was overflowing with the Spirit. Sinners were saved and backsliders were reclaimed. Afterward, I was exhausted. God really used me for his purpose and glory, I thought at the time.

As you can see from this post, Christians have varied beliefs about the Holy Spirit and the outworkings of receiving said Spirit. It is these varied beliefs that make me wonder about the existence of God. If, as Christians believe, the Holy Spirit is essential to the salvation and the day-to-day lives of believers, why all the diverse and contradictory beliefs? Surely, God would want to make sure every Christian was on the same page when it came to the Holy Spirit, right? Yet, they are not, and the same could be said concerning virtually every other article of faith.

If, over the course of 2,000 years, we saw that Christians generally believed the same things, it might cause us to pause a moment and consider whether those beliefs are true. Instead, what we have is countless sects, each believing that their beliefs are true and all others false. This leads me to conclude that Christian religions are manmade, filled with internal and external contradictions. Either that or God loves confusion. Oh, wait, 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, God is NOT the author of confusion. If he’s not the author, who is? That’s right, humans are. And from this conclusion, it is clear: that religions — all of them — are human constructs; that the plethora of beliefs about the Holy Spirit reveals human engineering, not divine.

What were you taught about the Holy Spirit? Were you ever “filled” with the Holy Spirit? Did you ever speak in tongues? Please share your human utterances 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.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Socialism Violates All Ten Commandments

socialism in america

Socialism teaches that wealth should be held in common ownership, controlled by the state. Hence, the Democrats’ constant push to have government confiscate ever more income and power.

By contrast, the Bible teaches that God owns all things and that we’re merely stewards of His creation. When we look at each of the Ten Commandments, we see that they’re directly at odds with socialism.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

Socialism and its offshoots – communism, fascism, democratic socialism and National Socialism (Nazism) – enshrine the state above all other powers. There is no room for God, which is why socialists are in a permanent war with the church and are bent on creating a faith-free society.

You shall make no idols.

Idols are anything that takes the place of God in the hierarchy of values. Under socialism, sheer power over one’s fellow man is an idol. Another is building utopias – the unicorns of government because such perfect societies do not exist.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

When socialists take over a culture, it becomes depraved and perverse. To enforce their new immoral order, socialists openly blaspheme God and particularly Jesus Christ.

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Keep the Sabbath day holy.

Sundays are no different from any other day in socialist societies. In fact, people going to church on a Sunday are identified and often persecuted in places like communist China, where atheism is the official state religion. Even in our market-based society, materialism – a necessary precept of socialism – has pushed respect for the Sabbath to the margins.

Honor your father and your mother.

Socialism has been at war with marriage and family since the French Revolution in 1789.

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You shall not murder.

Many people misread this commandment as a broader order not to kill for any reason, which denies the moral difference between taking innocent human life and executing murderers. Socialists have long promoted abortion – the direct taking of an innocent human life – as a way to “liberate” women and men from parental responsibilities.

You shall not commit adultery.

In the 1960s, Americans became familiar with the term “free love,” but socialists have been promoting it heavily since the early 1800s. Sex outside marriage, prostitution, pornography and abortion all militate against marriage fidelity. Socialists deploy euphemisms like “choice” and “sex work” to cover the retreat from Biblical morality.

You shall not steal.

Socialism is grand theft. It uses the state to take earnings from productive people and redistribute it to create dependency and thus political power for those handing it out. Slavery is 100 percent taxation – when someone else controls the fruits of one’s labor. Socialist countries first control and then seize private property.

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You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This is not just about telling lies in a witness situation but also about using lies to advance one’s wellbeing. Socialism is built on a mountain of lies about human nature, which is why it eventually must resort to violence.

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You shall not covet.

Socialism’s main engine is envy, stoking resentment against others who have more, even to the point of using violence to get it.

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Coveting divinity got Satan kicked out of Heaven, and it’s what he and his minions continue to peddle in a variety of forms – including pride, envy and socialism.

Robert Knight, Townhall, Socialism Violates All Ten Commandments, July 2, 2019

Why Christian Fundamentalism is Hard to Shake

mindwipe men in black

Those who spent decades in Evangelicalism before deconverting often find it hard to completely rid the mind of Fundamentalist thinking. Wait a minute, Bruce, are you saying that Evangelicals are FUNDAMENTALISTS? Yes. Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) I have had countless Evangelicals attempt to persuade me that THEY are not Fundamentalists, but in the end, all they proved is that they were either liberal Christians masquerading as Evangelicals or — drumroll, please — FUNDAMENTALISTS! As the aforementioned post shows, all Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. Where Evangelicals tend to differ with one another is over what I call social Fundamentalism. For example, one Evangelical might be an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. He has all sorts of narrow, defined social rules by which he governs his life. Another Evangelical used to be an IFB preacher, but now, PRAISE JESUS, he is the pastor of a non-denominational Sovereign Grace church. He has abandoned many of his former social rules and brags about being free to drink beer, smoke cigars, watch TV, and even cuss a bit. See, he says, I am NOT a Fundamentalist. Except, he still is theologically. He still believes the Bible is inspired and inerrant. He still believes in the exclusivity of Christianity. He still believes that there is one true God — his — and salvation is only through the merit and work of Jesus. He still believes that non-Christians go to Hell when they die, even if he doesn’t believe that there are literal fire and brimstone in Hell. His theological beliefs scream FUNDAMENTALIST! And even if he has distanced himself from the rules, regulations, and standards of his IFB past, if you press him you will likely find that he still has quite a long list of behaviors he deems “sinful.” Thus, I stand by what I said, Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist.  Now that we have that issue out of the way . . .

Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of religious indoctrination. From the cradle to adulthood, Evangelicals are repeatedly taught what are believed to the tenets of the One True Faith®. For those of us raised in the Evangelical church, these beliefs were pounded into our heads day after day, week after week, and year after year. Not only at church either. Many Evangelical children attend Christian schools or are homeschooled. My wife and I homeschooled all six of our children. Using Bibliocentric curricula, our children were bombarded with Evangelical dogma. In our home, there was no escaping the Evangelical Jesus. Imagine, then, what this immersive approach does to the minds of children, teenagers, and adults. That’s why it is almost impossible to reach Evangelicals who have been raised this way. As long as they are certain their beliefs are right and everyone else is wrong, there’s no God but theirs, and the Bible is a divine roadmap/blueprint for life, there is little anyone can do to reach them.

But, Bruce, you were once an Evangelical and now you are an atheist, so it is possible to reach Evangelicals, right? Yes, but not until certain things happen.

First, Evangelicals must entertain the possibility that they could be wrong. As long as they are certain their beliefs are true and all other beliefs are false, no amount of argumentation will reach them. If, however, they have doubts and questions, well, then, it is possible to reach them. Not probable, but possible.

Second, once Evangelicals have doubts and questions, they must be willing to seek answers outside of their churches and circle of Evangelical friends. This is a crucial point. Remember, Evangelical pastors and churches believe the antidote to doubt is faith. The solution, then, is to cling to the basics, believing that God will, in time, make all things known. And if he doesn’t? Doubters are encouraged to keep on believing until the day comes in Heaven when their faith shall be made sight. Years ago, I heard an IFB evangelist say that resolute faith was the solution to doubt; that there would come a day when doubters would be glad they believed. That day, of course, is after death, when supposedly Evangelicals will finally learn how right they were, and gleefully rejoice over the fact that the Bruce Gerencsers of the world are burning in Hell. In other words, there’s a big payoff coming, so hang on. Is that not what Jesus said in Matthew 10:22: he that endureth to the end shall be saved?

Third, doubting Evangelicals must be willing to lose everything in their search for truth. Doubters must not settle for pat answers, proof texts, or personal anecdotes. They must be willing to follow the path wherever it leads, even if it leads them away from all they have ever known. Countless Evangelicals sit in churches or preach from pulpits, their minds filled with questions and doubts. Unwilling to venture away from the safety of their churches and beliefs, they condemn themselves to lives of — dare I say it? — quiet desperation. Only when they are willing to do whatever is necessary to answer their doubts and questions are they ready to begin their journeys away from Evangelicalism.

Many readers of this blog understand the path I have sketched above. Often, it is a long, arduous, painful road. And even after we have successfully extricated ourselves from Evangelicalism, we find that lifelong Fundamentalist indoctrination leaves behind vestiges of our religious past. I left Christianity in November 2008, but eleven years later Christianity is still hanging on in the deep, dark recesses of my mind. Of course, Evangelical apologists tell me that those niggling doubts are the Holy Spirit, that God has not yet abandoned me. That’s one answer, I suppose, but a better answer is that I was indoctrinated for almost fifty years, and it takes time to fully flush one’s mind of Fundamentalist thinking.

For several years after I deconverted, I would, from time to time, worry about whether I was wrong about Christianity. In the still of the night, I would have thoughts about God’s judgment and Hell. Bruce, if you are wrong, you are going to fry, I thought. But, as time went along, I had fewer and fewer thoughts about “eternity.” Now, when such thoughts pop up, I chuckle and ignore them. I know my mind is littered with memories of past religious beliefs and practices, so I expect their appearance from time to time. They are no different from the thoughts I have about girls I dated when I was a teenager. Nothing more than relics from my past.

I am often asked by ex-Evangelicals, when do the nagging doubts and fears go away? I tell them, it takes time. If you were an Evangelical for your entire life, you can’t expect to have a mind free of past beliefs overnight. There are no Men in Black neuralyzer mind wipes available for ex-Evangelicals. That said, filling one’s mind with non-religious learning can help. New, fresh knowledge helps push from our minds past religious indoctrination. That’s why I always encourage Evangelicals to read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. Knowledge in, junk out. The more you read, study, and know, the less past beliefs will have a hold over you.

How about you? Are you an ex-Evangelical? Were you raised in the Evangelical church? Do you still have what I call, an Evangelical hangover? Do you still have doubts or fears at times? Please share your thoughts 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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jose Aboytes Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison

pastor jose aboytes

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.

In March 2017, Jose Aboytes, assistant pastor of Palabra Miel Hispanic Church in Decatur, Illinois was charged with “seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.”

The Herald & Review reported at the time:

Jose Luis Aboytes, a former pastor of a church on the city’s east side, was charged Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court with seven felony counts for allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulting and abusing a girl younger than 13 during a period of seven months.

Aboytes, 58, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $250,000 bond, is facing one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, punishable by six to 60 years in prison, two counts of criminal sexual assault and four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

The victim told police she attended the Palabra Miel Hispanic Church, 3434 E. Wabash Ave., where Aboytes “began to sexually abuse her in an office in the church” about Sept. 16, 2015, said a request for an arrest warrant by Decatur Police detective Erik Ethell.
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The victim said the abuse “began with Jose touching her leg and progressed to sexual intercourse,” said the court document. The victim said that during choir practice “Jose would call her into his office,” where he would fondle and abuse her. She reported that the abusive conduct occurred during a period of several months. The adolescent girl told police she “took numerous cellphone photographs of her naked body and sent them to Jose’s phone.”

Detectives received more than 10 letters from the girl, in which Aboytes “expressed his love” for the victim, “in addition to knowing her age,” Ethell wrote in the court document. Aboytes “frequently asked (the victim) to destroy the letters after reading them.”

An intellectually disabled teen girl also reported to police that she had been abused by Aboytes, said the warrant request. She said that Aboytes would call her into his office, hug her and fondle her on top of her clothes. She told detectives that “Jose told her not to tell her parents about the conduct.”

In April 2019, Aboytes pleaded guilty to one Class X felony count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child. The Herald & Review reported:

Aboytes, 60, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one Class X felony count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, ending his trial on charges he raped and sexually abused a girl younger than 13 from his congregation.

The sentencing hearing is set for July 11 in Macon County Circuit Court. He faces between six and 60 years in prison, of which he would have to serve at least 85 percent.

….

The plea deal came on the third day of what was anticipated to be a four-day trial. As part of the deal, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault were dismissed, according to court records.

Opening the trial Tuesday, [Assistant State’s Attorney] Kurtz described Aboytes, who served as an assistant pastor at the church, as using the friendly nature of the congregation to prey on the child.

Kurtz described a pattern of sexual assault that started with touching and escalated to groping and, after Aboytes had picked up the child once from her home on the pretense of taking her to the park, ended with rape.

She said Aboytes wrote intimate letters to the child and persuaded her to send him erotic pictures of herself — pictures the girl’s parents eventually discovered that prompted them to call police.

Today, Aboytes was sentenced to 40 years in prison. The Herald & Review reports:

Jose L. Aboytes will have to serve the sentence at 85 percent before he is eligible for parole, which means the 60-year-old defendant will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. He had pleaded guilty to one count of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child under 13. Prosecutors have said the assaults took place between September 2015 and September 2016 while he was serving Palabra Miel Hispanic Church.

Aboytes had originally pleaded not guilty to one count of predatory criminal sexual assault, four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and two counts of criminal sexual assault at a jury trial that got underway April 23. But on the second day of the trial, Aboytes accepted a plea deal to admit to the single charge, and the others were dropped.

At his sentencing hearing today, Aboytes told the judge, “I have lost many things: I lost my home and I lost my wife for a small error, a mistake.”

A small error, a mistake . . .