Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Dear Christian Woman: Is your Facebook Profile Photo Causing Men to Lust?

cleavage

Fundamentalist Christians rarely miss an opportunity to point out ANOTHER behavior that is a sin or causes others to sin.

Several years ago, Trisha Ramos  wrote:

No doubt our Facebook pages can be a witnessing tool for the Gospel and with the advancement of modern technology and all the various social media venues, we don’t even have to leave the house to be a witness for the Lord. In fact, why else have a Facebook, but to tell of the Lord’s wondrous deeds and call others to turn from their sins and trust in the Savior, Jesus Christ. I’m sure there are many other reasons why we have Facebook pages but in the midst of it all, proclaiming the gospel should be the chief aim for any follower of Christ.

To show this more clearly, when you accept a friend on Facebook, typically the very first thing they do is view your pictures. In fact, sometimes that’s all they may do. They quickly skim through them to see how you look and what you’ve been up to for the past decade or two and then off they go, onto the next person’s page. It reminds me of the ol’ adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This saying refers to the idea that a picture communicates something. Sometimes it communicates too much. So with that in mind, when was the last time you went through your Facebook pictures and asked yourself, “Is this modest?” or “What am I communicating to my ‘friends’?” and “Would I want my brothers and sisters in Christ looking at theses pictures?”

Ladies, this is especially for us. If you are a professing Christian and if you haven’t done this already, here’s something practical that you can do: Go through every picture on your Facebook (This may take time depending upon how many pictures you have, but it will be worth it since on Judgment Day you will give an account to the Lord for all of these things) and if you are dressed in an immodest manner, hit ‘Delete!’

If you need help with deciphering what is modest and what is immodest, ask a modest sister in your local church for help, or a godly older women who can give you wise counsel, or ask your husband (assuming that he has biblical standards for modesty). And if all else fails and you have no one else to go to, well then, there’s always me and I’ll be quick to toot my modesty horn.

For starters, here’s a few specific areas that might help you out, let’s begin with cleavage. Ladies, if you are showing cleavage, hit ‘Delete’ as fast as you can! I don’t care how “cute” you look or if someone else posts to pic of you or if it was way back in your BC (before Christ) days. This is not acceptable in any circumstances for a woman who professes to follow Christ. Simply delete the picture or ‘Un-tag’ yourself.

If you have photos of you or your friends in bikinis, hit ‘Delete’ as quickly as you can and don’t look back. Or if your mid (midriff) section is showing hit ‘Delete’ please. And short shorts are a no no, so you know what to do with that, ‘Delete, delete, delete’. And then check your heart and ask yourself, “What is it within me that desires to present myself in this manner?” and “What does this speak of the condition of my heart?”

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel…” 1 Timothy 2.9a

Like the Pharisees of old, modern-day fundamentalists major on the minor. Cleavage is everywhere these days. Women have two breasts and the space between them is cleavage. Women have had cleavage for as long as I can remember. It is utterly amazing that anyone would give one moment of time to the issue of women showing their cleavage. Cleave away dear women, cleave away, I say!

Are Christian men so weak that any show of cleavage causes them to lust? Maybe I am too old, but when I see cleavage my first thought is “are the breasts real?”  I am glad to be free from the Puritanical shackles of fundamentalist Christianity. As a man, I am grateful that I have the freedom to say “nice” in the presence of my wife and not get a lecture on “if your eye offends you pluck it out.” It is refreshing to hear my wife say “that’s a nice looking guy.”  No fear of infidelity. No fear of moral compromise.

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We are sexual beings. It is quite normal to “look” and even speak out loud what we are thinking as we look. It is the Christian who is abnormal, living under fear of judgment or disapproval if they dare embrace and express their sexuality. I know the morality police will tell me that I am a licentious, lascivious person who has been given over to the lusts of the flesh. According to them, I am a reprobate who is beyond the influence of God. (Romans 1)

There is a lot of sexual dysfunction in the Evangelical church. Blogs like the one mentioned above help reinforce this dysfunction by teaching women to treat their body in ways that diminish their sexuality or turn their sexuality into something to be ashamed of. Christian men are viewed as helpless and weak, turned into horn dogs by the slightest bit of cleavage or leg. Evangelical women are taught that it is their job to keep these poor, helpless men from lusting and falling into sin. Time to cover up, head to toe…wait a minute…isn’t there another place in the world where women are required to do the same?

Note

Trisha Ramos is married to Emilio Ramos, teaching pastor of Heritage Grace Community Church in Frisco, Texas.

Dear Evangelical: Tell Me the Truth, Am I Headed for Hell?

hell

Bruce: Five years ago, 152 Pakistanis were killed in a plane crash.

Evangelical: I hope they all knew the Lord.

Bruce: Why does that matter?

Evangelical: Well, if they didn’t know the Lord they probably went to hell.

Bruce: Probably?

Evangelical: Well…some of them might have trusted Jesus just before they died. I don’t know their hearts. God is the judge.

Bruce: It is likely the plane passengers were Muslim. Most likely the last word on their lips was ALLAH. Do Muslims go to heaven when they die?

Evangelical: Only if they believe in Jesus.

Bruce: Muslims do not believe Jesus is the way, truth and life.They do not believe salvation is found in Jesus Christ. So, did the Muslim plane passengers go to hell when they died?

Evangelical: I am not their judge. It’s between them and God.

A lot of Evangelicals are increasingly uncomfortable with what the Bible says about hell. According to inspired, inerrant Word of God,  all non-Christians go to hell when they die. They will be tormented day and night for eternity. All Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists will burn forever because of their rejection of Jesus Christ. Many Evangelicals even add Catholics, liberal Protestants, and universalists to the thou shalt burn list.

Let me remind readers what the Bible says about hell (collated from several Christian websites):

  • A place of weeping and gnashing of teeth – “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).
  • A place of darkness – “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).
  • A place of torment – “And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:23).
  • A place of sorrow – “The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death prevented me;” (2 Samuel 22:6).
  • A place of everlasting destruction – “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;” (II Thessalonians 1:9).
  • A place where humans are tormented with fire and brimstone – “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).
  • A place where fire is not quenched – “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44).
  • A bottomless pit – “And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit” (Revelation 9:2).
  • A place of no rest – “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name” (Revelation 14:11).
  • A lake of fire – “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:14).
  • A place of hopeless of unsatisfied desires – “And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame ” (Luke 16:24). The rich man wanted water but could not get any.

The Bible, as interpreted through the lens of Evangelicalism, is very clear on the matter of hell and why people end up there after they die. Even those who have never heard about Jesus Christ will burn in hell forever. It’s their fault for not knowing, even though no one ever told them about Jesus.  According to the Calvinist, before God created the first human he decided where each of us would bunk when we die. The elect go to heaven, the non-elect go to hell.

According to the Evangelical score card, the overwhelming majority of people, past, present, and future, end up in hell when they die. This is God’s righteous judgment of those who did not repent of their sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Wait a minute, what about the people who lived before the birth of Christ?  Where did they go when they died? Let the explaining and theological gymnastics begin.

Yet, when it comes right down to it, when confronted face to face with someone such as I — a person who once professed Christ, who once preached the gospel of Christ — many Evangelicals have a hard time telling me I’m headed for hell. They convince themselves that I am just confused or backslidden. They are certain the Holy Spirit will straighten me out and in no time I will be back preaching at First Baptist Church of Somewhere.

For some people, particularly those who are Christian friends or former parishioners, the notion of Bruce Gerencser going to hell is quite preposterous. A few of my friends have told me they find my defection from Christianity quite unsettling. If I can fall away then anyone can fall away. If I am headed for hell, will they be next?

I’ve attended many funerals over the years. I have only been to one funeral where the preacher had guts enough to say that the deceased went to hell. In every other instance some anecdotal story was told to give the living the impression that the deceased was now in heaven with all his dead loved ones (please read Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?). No matter how vile or evil the person was, he went to heaven when he died. People can live most of their lives as  atheists, but because they asked Jesus into their heart as a child, they go to heaven when they die. What a sweet deal, right?

Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God? Do you believe it is truth? Do you believe that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ? Do you believe Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life?  If so, it’s time for you to be honest about what you believe. It’s time to speak the truth. It’s time to own what the Bible says.

If what the Bible says about salvation, heaven, and hell is true, then these claims are also true:

  • All Muslims are headed for hell
  • All Buddhists are headed for hell
  • All agnostics are headed for hell
  • All atheists are headed for hell
  • All who have not trusted Jesus Christ as their personal savior are headed for hell
  • All who reject the truth claims of the Bible are headed for hell
  • All Catholics are headed for hell
  • All liberal Protestants are headed for hell
  • All universalists are headed for hell
  • All homosexuals are headed for hell
  • Bruce, YOU are headed for hell

If you are not willing to consign to hell most of the billions of people who have lived on this earth, then it is time for you to stop saying you believe the Bible is truth; that you believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Just remember, once you admit that you only really believe certain parts of the Bible, you have started down a slippery slope that could lead you to where I am today. Then you too will be headed for hell, just like me.

I write this post as a challenge to my Christian readers, friends, and former parishioners. What do you really believe? Do you really think I’m headed for hell? Do you really believe God will fit me with a special fireproof body so he can torture me for eternity? Don’t try to evade the question by saying things like, I don’t know your heart or only God knows for sure. If one can know from the Bible what salvation is, then certainly it seems people should be able to know if they don’t have it. And if they don’t have salvation, they are certainly going to hell.

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Why ‘THE BIBLE SAYS’ is Not a Good Argument

 

the bible says

Back in the late 1980s, I did a lot of street preaching in places such as Newark, Zanesville, and Lancaster, Ohio. One day, while I was preaching on the courthouse sidewalk in Newark, two Mormon missionaries came up to me and wanted to talk. I said, fine, as long as we limit our discussion to the King James Bible. They told me they couldn’t do that because the King James Bible AND The Book of Mormon were both authoritative. Because I was unwilling to accept their assertion that The Book of Mormon was authoritative, there was no point in them trying to talk to me. These missionaries presupposed that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and the King James Bible were both God’s word.  Unless I was willing to accept their presuppositions, no meaningful discussion could take place. So it is with Evangelicals who demand that I accept the Christian Bible as authoritative.

Over the years, numerous Evangelicals have come to this blog and tried to use THE BIBLE SAYS argument to show me the error of my way. Bruce, it says _________________ right here in John, Romans, Acts, James, Revelation, Genesis, or Jude. They assume (presuppose) that I accept the Bible as authoritative; that I accept the Bible as the standard for truth. I don’t, and neither do many (most) of the people who read this blog. These defenders of the Holy Evangelical Faith® fail to understand  that I have studied the history of the Bible and the claims it makes and I’ve come to the conclusion that the Bible is not an authoritative book; that it is not in any way a supernatural or divine text. At best, it is a collection of books written by unknown authors trying to explain their understanding of the world. If Evangelicals understood this rather than asserting that the Bible is an inerrant, inspired, infallible book, we might be able to have a meaningful discussion. Instead, they pull the Bible out of the bookcase and demand that it be treated as THE book above all books. They demand the Bible be accepted as THE truth above all truth. I reject this assertion and do not think the Bible is any way superior to any other literary work.

No matter how loud someone says THE BIBLE SAYS it carries no weight with me. Why should I grant the Bible the authority Evangelicals claim for it? Well, because THE BIBLE SAYS! Exactly. This is circular reasoning and the reason it’s impossible to have a thoughtful, rational conversation with an Evangelical.

THE BIBLE SAYS lots of things modern Christians no longer believe. No Evangelical is really 100% THE BIBLE SAYS. I don’t know of an Evangelical pastor, evangelist, missionary, deacon, Sunday school teacher, or pew warmer who believes and practices every word of the inerrant, inspired, infallible Word of God. All Evangelicals develop their own system of interpretation, and with this system inconvenient or difficult verses are explained away or reinterpreted. What Evangelicals really consider authoritative is their own personal interpretation and opinion. This is why I think there’s no such thing as the faith which was once delivered to the saints or one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, One God. Two thousand years removed from the death of Jesus, what we have is not Christianity in the singular sense, but Christianities, with every Evangelical having his or her own understanding of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.

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We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town

 

we love people

Have you ever read an Evangelical or Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church advertisement or sign that said  First Baptist Church, The Friendliest Church in Town or We LOVE People? No one ever bothers to ask, so are all the other congregations in town churches that hate people and are unfriendly?

Churches that talk about their love for people and how friendly they are sincerely think these advertising slogans true. To them, shaking hands with visitors, making them feel at home, and letting them know where the nursery and bathrooms are, shows that they are a people loving, friendly church. The question I ask is this, WHY does this or that church love people and befriend newcomers? What is their motive for being so loving and friendly?  Most often, their motive is to win lost souls to Jesus, resulting in increased attendance. And more people=more money in the offering plate. Like any business, their goal is to gain customers, increase revenues, and expand the business.

Ask any Evangelical pastor or church member if their church loves people and they will say, Of course we do! We love people like Jesus loved people. We love our neighbors like we love ourselves. But, this is no disinterested love. This is a love that has an ulterior motive. It is a love that has conversion and assimilation as its goal. Just ask them if a lesbian woman in a same-sex marriage can join the church or teach Sunday school and you will find out quickly how little they actually love other people.

Their Jesus is a Jesus that loves people so much that he does not leave them where they are or as they are. Their Jesus changes and transforms people, so their objective is to love and befriend people so that might be saved (changed and transformed) and become a part of their church. That’s what their Jesus is all about, making more church members. (Matthew 28:19,20)  Sounds crass, but any Evangelicals pastor who tells you church attendance numbers don’t matter is lying.

Compare the Evangelical love for people to a love that accepts people as they are and where they are. There is a big difference between the Evangelical love for people and loving and befriending people with no expectation of return. In some liberal/mainline churches I think such an approach to love and friendship exists, but I’ve never seen it in the Evangelical or IFB church. And I just know a commenter is going to scream that THEIR church is different. Sure it is.

Once a unaware newcomer is friended and loved to Jesus and made a part of the church, it is on to new people to pretend friend. For those taken in by the friendliest church in town advertising campaign, they quickly learn that the church is no more or less friendly than any other church or social group. In every church there are kind, decent, friendly people. There are also people, sometimes the pastor, who are mean, nasty, and unfriendly. Sadly, in churches that are more fundamentalist, the church’s initial friendliness quickly dissipates and is replaced with demands to conform, legalism, and a quick unfriending if you do not fall in line.

Ask anyone who has deconverted. What happened to all those friends they had while attending the friendliest church in town? Once a person leaves the church they often find out how unfriendly the church really is. They find out that friendship was a lure, a scam. The true nature of a church is revealed by how it treats those who leave the church, regardless of their reason for leaving.

What Baptists Mean When They Use the Phrase Old-Fashioned

old fashioned baptist church

Statement from website for Green Pond Baptist Church, Carl Hall, pastor

Many Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches advertise themselves as an “old- fashioned” church. Many IFB preachers call themselves an old-fashioned preacher. What do they mean when they say they are an old-fashioned church or an old-fashioned preacher?

An old-fashioned church is one that yearns for the past, usually the 1950s. In their mind, if society and Christianity would return to the 1950s all would be well. In the 1950s, Negroes knew their place, women were barefoot and pregnant, birth control was hard to come by, abortion was illegal, homosexuals and atheists were in the closet, and Joseph McCarthy terrorized Americans with attempts to root out communism. In the 1950s, we fought a war against communism, teachers still prayed and read the Bible in school, creationism was considered good science, and Christianity controlled the public space.

Then came the rebellious1960s and 1970s,  and everything changed. Fifty years later, blacks no longer know their place, whites are becoming a minority, couples no longer get married,  women have access to birth control, homosexuals and atheists are out of the closet, a Kenyan-born Muslim socialist communist black man is president, abortion is legal, school prayer and Bible reading is banned, creationism is considered religious dogma, same-sex marriage is legal, and Christianity is no longer given a preferential seat at the head of the cultural table.

From the fundamentalist Christian’s perspective, I readily understand why they yearn for the old-fashioned days of the 1950s. The 1950s were a time when their brand of Christianity was the norm. Now they are fighting to be heard. Uncounted church members have left, seeking out the friendlier confines of generic Evangelicalism. Instead of hard preaching against sin, Christians clamor for pastors who will “feed” them and minister to their felt needs. Most of all, they want to be entertained. Nones and atheists are increasing in number, and more and more people consider themselves spiritual and not religious. Pluralism and secularism are on the rise and cultural Christianity is the norm and not the exception.

So what’s an old-fashioned Baptist church like? Their services are quite traditional, traditional meaning how it was in the 1950s. The focus is on “hard” preaching, often from the King James Version of the Bible. The goal is to convert sinners and strengthen church members so they can withstand the wiles of the devil. Everything the old-fashioned Baptist church does is a throwback to yesteryear — an era when preachers preached hard, hymns were sung, altar calls were given, couples stayed married, women saved themselves for marriage and the kitchen, and the Christian church was the hub around which the community revolved.

Millions of Americans attend some sort of an old-fashioned church, even if the Baptist name is not over the front door. They love the respite their church gives them from the evil, sinful, atheistic Obama-inspired world they live in. They love the certainty they hear in their pastor’s sermons. They are glad to be a part of a group that thinks just like they do. For those who desire to live in the 1950s, an old-fashioned church fits the bill. It heals their angst and gives them peace. It does not matter if their beliefs are true or whether their practice accurately reflects the 1950s. People finding value, hope, peace, and direction does not require truth. All it requires is faith and them believing their “old-fashioned” version of Christianity is true. This is this power of myth.

Dear Neighbor, A Letter From An Evangelical Who Lives Near You

flags near Fort Wayne Indiana

I saw these flags near Fort Wayne, Indiana. I wonder how many people driving by will notice the Christian flag flying above the American flag?

Dear Neighbor,

I live two houses down from you, the red house with blue shutters and white trim. Though we have never met, I want to “share” a few things with you that will hopefully make us closer as neighbors. I really want to have a personal relationship with you, your wife, and those two darling kids I see playing in your yard, but there’s some things you need to understand first.

I am a born again Christian. This means that I have trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal savior. In humble obedience to the call of Jesus, after I was saved I was scripturally baptized by immersion. Through my baptism I told the world (well I really only told the two hundred Christians who were there that day) that I am a follower of Jesus. I am a member of  EXCITE® Church. We meet every Sunday at 11 A.M. over at Secular Nation High School.  We are really a Southern Baptist church, but we don’t use the word Baptist in our name because non-Christians have a negative opinion of Baptists.

I am a church deacon and my wife, Betty Lou is part of the worship team. Both of us also help with EXCITE® for Kids, a program meant to coerce little children into making a salvation decision. Our pastor told us that the younger a person is saved the more likely it is they will stay in church once they become an adult. We take him at his word and do all we can to make sure every child says the sinner’s prayer and asks Jesus into their heart before the age of ten.

Betty Lou and I, along with everyone in our church, believe that the Holy Christian Bible is a supernatural book inspired by God. There are no mistakes, errors, or contradictions in the Bible. Our pastor told us that the Bible is different from any other book ever written. God wrote the Bible, humans wrote every other book. It’s important you understand and believe this. If you don’t, the rest of my letter won’t make any sense to you.

The Bible says that every person must accept Jesus as their personal savior. If they do so they will go to heaven when they die and if they don’t they will go to hell. Every human must make a choice to accept or reject Jesus Christ. So, I ask you dear neighbor, have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?

I don’t know what your religious beliefs are. Are you a born-again Christian?  You need to understand that there is one true God and religion, my God and my religion. And I don’t really have a religion like Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, and Atheists do. I have a relationship. Me and Jesus are tight. We’re brothers, yet he is also my father. It’s complicated and I really don’t understand it, but it is in the Bible and if it’s in the Bible that means it is 100% God-certified true.

If you are not a born-again Christian then I hope you will fall on your knees right now and pray the following prayer:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.  Amen.

Did you pray this prayer? Did you really, really, really, really, really mean it?

If so, congratulations!! You are now a born-again Christian and will go to heaven when you die. Isn’t that awesome?

Now that we have that out-of-the-way, you need to know some others things that will help you as a new Christian:

  • Be baptized by immersion as soon as possible (hint, hint at EXCITE® Church)
  • Join a Bible believing, Bible preaching church (hint, hint EXCITE® Church)
  • Start reading the Bible every day (start with the book of John)
  • Pray every day

I probably shouldn’t be telling you this next one since Pastor Amos likes to spring it on new members, but I just know you’ll be excited about this, so I thought I’d tell you. Jesus gave his all so you could be saved and the least you can do is give back to him a portion of your income as proof that you really, really love Jesus. Now, Jesus really doesn’t need this money, but his churches do, so when you come to EXCITE® Church on Sunday, please drop at least 10% of your gross income into the offering plate. I promise if you do this God will open up the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing. And if you want an even bigger blessing, give more money.  Pastor Amos likes to say, you can’t out give God!

I should probably also tell you that true Christians, also known as the people who are members of EXCITE® Church,  love what God loves and hate what God hates. At EXCITE® Church, Pastor Amos lets us know every Sunday who is on the Official Hate List. Currently, the Top Ten spots on the hate list are held by:

  1. The U.S. Supreme Court for legalizing same-sex marriage
  2. Barack Hussein Obama
  3. Homosexuals
  4. Abortionists
  5. Barack Hussein Obama
  6. Atheists
  7. Hollywood, except when they make a movie starring Kirk Cameron or Stephen Baldwin
  8. Barack Hussein Obama
  9. Demoncrats (Did ya catch that DEMON-crats? Ha! Ha!)
  10. Those who engage in any form of sex except heterosexual intercourse between a man and woman who are married to each other

If by some small chance you decided to NOT pray the sinner’s prayer, then I need to tell you that you are the enemy of God and are headed for hell. If you refuse this wonderful offer of salvation and die,  then God will have no recourse but to equip you with a fireproof body and torture you in hell for all eternity. Surely, you don’t want to spend eternity being burned by fire and having worms infest your body?

And if you don’t pray the sinners prayer and become an awesome Christian just like me, then we can’t be friends and our children can’t play with each other. The Bible commands us to avoid people like you, lest you rub off on us and we commit sin. I really want to be friends with you and your family, but you must become a Christian first. If you don’t, then I will have to shun and look down on you like I do Atheists, Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Buddhists, Liberal Protestants, Humanists, Secularists, Barack Obama, Democrats and….well everyone who doesn’t believe like I do.

Perhaps you drove by my house the other day and saw my flag pole, you know the one with the American flag and Christian flag. Now, I know that no flag should fly above the Stars and Stripes, but since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Sodomites can legally be married, I thought it important to remind everyone about who this Country REALLY belongs to.

I hope you prayed the sinner’s prayer. I just know that you want your sins forgiven and you want a home in heaven where you can spend eternity with people who think just like me. Would that be awesome? No one in their right mind would refuse such an awesome soul-saving, sin-forgiving deal, right?

Saved by the precious blood of Jesus,

Archie S. Sanctimonious

Do Atheists Wants to Turn the United States Into an Atheist Nation?

anti atheist sign

The short answer is no!

I do not know of one atheist who is working to turn the United States into an atheist nation. I do know a number of atheists who are working very hard to stop theocrats from turning the United States into a Christian nation.

Most atheists want neutrality. Theocrats want authority, domination, and control. When it comes to government and public education, atheists want Christian dogma checked at the door. Atheists want science taught without creationism and other mythical Bible stories being part of the curriculum. Christians are free to learn about creationism at home or their house of worship.They are also free to home school their children or send them to a Christian school. However, when it comes to the public schools, evidence-based science is the only science that should be taught in the classroom. Atheists expect public school classrooms to be free of sectarian prayers, Bible readings, and attempts to proselytize school children.

Atheists want oaths and prayers to God banished from the halls of Congress and any place our secular government does its business. Atheists want the first amendment and the separation of church and state strictly applied. Atheists know that the United States is a secular state and they expect the government to function as a secular state.

Atheists promise to fight attempts to use government funds and programs to support churches and private religious schools. Atheists promise to work to end church tax exemption, clergy tax exemption, and the clergy housing allowance. The fight is direct and to the point…there is no place in the United States for state sanctioned, state funded religion.

Atheists respect the right of religious people to believe what they want and they ask Christians to extend atheists the same courtesy. Atheists have no desire to turn the United States into an atheist state and they sure as hell do not intend to let theocrats turn the United States into a Christian state. Atheists know that history clearly shows that when church and state are one, people die and freedom is lost.

Note

I speak generally about atheists and atheism. I know I can not speak for all atheists.

Right Wing Family Values and the World’s Greatest Freak Show

guest-post

Guest Post by Vyckie Garrison. You can find her blog at No Longer Quivering.

Do you remember when it first dawned on you that your relatives are all a bunch of crackpots and weirdos?  Seems like I was around 8 or 9 — my mother worked all night in the casinos and slept most of the day, leaving me alone to protect my naïve older sister from the depraved advances of Mom’s alcoholic boyfriends and worry about my big brother’s drug addiction. I couldn’t count on my grandparents to help — they were too preoccupied with their own divorce, dating, and remarriage dramas.

“Holy sugar,” I thought to myself, “these people are seriously messed up!”

That’s about the time the fantasies began.  My home, I imagined, was a three-ring circus — and my relatives were the freaks and the clowns.  In my daydreams, I was not really one of them.  No — surely, I was of aristocratic origin.  My REAL family were royalty in a faraway Kingdom and I was born a beloved Princess in a fancy castle with many servants and my own Fairy Godmother.  Somehow, I’d been separated from my blood kin as an infant — I was captured by gypsies and sold in a black market adoption — that’s how I ended up being raised by this group of crazies!

bates family

The Bates Family

ABC’s Primetime Nightline recently aired a segment featuring the Gil & Kelly Bates family — a conservative, Evangelical mega-family of twenty.  The Bates, who are close friends of JimBob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting” fame, hold to the extreme fundamentalist ideals of the growing “Quiverfull movement.”

During the one-hour special, Gil, Kelly, and their children explained the family’s lifestyle which, to all modern appearances, represents a throw back to the imaginary 60′s-style “Leave It to Beaver” family combined with strict, Victorian Era sexual mores and the atavistic gender roles of ancient goat-herders. The Bates eschew all forms of birth control and adhere to the marriage model of the biblical Patriarchs — with Gil as family leader and Kelly as submissive “help meet.”  Kelly and the girls adorn themselves in modest, hand-sewn dresses, while Gil and his clean-cut sons teach bible study and participate in local Tea Party politics. Aren’t they lovely?  Don’tcha wanna be just like them?

I sure did!  I left home at 15 and embarked on a quest to recreate my long-lost perfect, happy family — my REAL courtly family, where I truly belonged.  After a false start involving marriage at 16, a baby at 19, and divorce after seven years of abuse rivaling the most astonishing freak show acts Mom’s circus family had ever performed — I remarried, found a “bible-believing” church, and worked hard within the Quiverfull counterculture to implement the best of the best biblical family values into our home life.  I had six more children. I homebirthed, homeschooled, and home-churched. I submitted to my husband and joyfully sacrificed my time, energy and talents to build him up and help him to succeed.  I published a “pro-life, pro-family” Christian family newspaper to inform and encourage other Christians to defend “Traditional Family Values.”

In 2003, we were honored as Family of the Year at the Nebraska Family Council’s “Salt & Light” awards. I’d finally made it! I had built my own Magic Kingdom where my husband reigned as King and I was his Queen, the children were our loyal subjects and we could all live happily ever after …

Like the Bates family, we were the perfect picture of the “biblical family values” fantasy — an idealistic vision of big, happy families: devoted husband and wife surrounded by a passel of respectful, obedient children — we were all sweetness and smiles.  It is this mesmerizing dream world which energizes and motivates Tea Party Republicans like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to work tirelessly to implement the “pro-family” theocratic agenda into every aspect of American society: not only in politics, but religion, family, media, education, business and entertainment.

Fundamentalist Christians are convinced that contemporary American society is the World’s Most Spectacular Display of hideously mutated, diseased and anomalous freaks.  ”Step right up folks!” the preacher yells, “and witness a grotesque parade of ho-mo-sex-uals, lesbians, Wiccans, radical feminists, godless liberals, secular humanists, and …” (congregation gasps!) “Muslim extremists!!”

Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, respectable religious parents scramble to shield their innocent children’s eyes and ears from the depravity and corruption of “The World.”  They homeschool and form special Chastity and Creation Science clubs designed to insulate and isolate their vulnerable young from the miscreants and most depraved elements of popular culture.

It’s completely understandable and normal for preteens to create imaginary worlds — their own private, safe hideout where they can dream of nobility, of rising above and doing so much better than the clowns running the Big Top’s Museum of Mutantstrosities.  The grown-ups watch in silent, knowing amusement as kids disavow their relatives as “psychos” and “bozos.”

But when otherwise responsible, Christian adults in recent years set out on a mission to create a radically distinct way of life based on “biblical family values,” the resultant countercultural movement known as “Quiverfull” has become an all-too-real Hall of Mirrors horror show.

In my own life, perpetual pregnancies destroyed my health, and my indiscriminate acquiescence to my husband’s every whim transformed him from a loving father into a tantrum-throwing tyrant. Burnout and disillusionment led to abuse, neglect, family disintegration and a particularly nasty divorce.

When the dust settled, I took a good look at myself in the mirror.  I could no longer deny the strong family resemblance — I saw my mother in my own face staring back at me.  After all those years of fighting and denial, I had to finally accept the fact that I really am one of them — I belong to these crazy people.  I, too, am a conspicuous oddity — a bizarre spectacle and an embarrassment to my own noble children.

Funny thing is … these days, I don’t mind so much being associated with my misfit clan of circus freaks.  Life experience has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the inevitable realities and desperate circumstances which deformed and mutated Mom and the rest of us into shocking and extraordinary creatures worthy of society’s disquietude and awe.

Black market adoption fantasies and youthful idealism are important wayposts on the journey to adulthood.  Rebellion against blatant injustice, hypocrisy, moral compromise and the myriad of other common grown-up failure is a healthy manifestation of a kid’s personal power and strong moral agency.  Arrogant and annoying, yes — but in moments of truth we have to admit, the kid’s got a point.

Society sucks.  Bigotry, racism, inequity, corruption, greed, depravity, malevolence, and all manner of evil abound. Let’s just face the fact that in many ways, the contemporary American social and political scene has devolved to become the World’s Greatest Freak Show.

No wonder Tea Party Patriot families like the Bates and the Duggars escape into their own personal fantasy-land.

Ironically, with maturity comes humility — along with a profound sense of connection and belonging to that wacky bunch of buffoons who share our DNA.  We see our people with new eyes.  Sure, Grandma’s got a beard and Uncle Stan is a charlatan — Aunt Betty’s such a lunatic, she may as well have two heads.  But in the end, they’re all we’ve got.  That perfect, royal family whom we imagined searched frantically for us for years and never gave up hope that one day we would return to our true home?  They’re not real.  Cousin Roger is real — never mind that he doesn’t have a lick of sense and the only thing he’s good for is shoveling elephant shit — he’s the one who truly understands you, knows all about you, and loves you anyway.

Tea Party family values are the fundamentalists’ desperate attempt to deny their own imperfections, vulnerability, and their inescapable mortality.  Sure it hurts that they look down on us regular folk — those of us who make no pretense of actually having our acts together — they avoid being seen out in public with us, they disown us, and they shrink away in fear of catching our cooties.

But take heart — perhaps they’ll grow up.

I did.  Not saying I don’t still sometimes get all starry-eyed and visionary over the possibility of influencing our society for the better — I’ve got a bit of spunk left in me and I’m doing what I can to stick it to The Man.  But I no longer think of myself as qualitatively different or “other” than all the rest of my fellow human beings — my family.  My freakish, crazy, wonderfully imperfect people.

I don’t believe in God anymore, but I still have faith.  I have hope and I trust that collectively, we’re all gonna make it — we are learning from our mistakes and growing more compassionate.  Our shared experiences make us wiser and I have confidence that better times are just ahead.

Yes Virginia, Some Christians are Crazy

demon of stupidity

Every once in a while, I read something that reminds me that there are Christians who believe things that in any other context would get them placed in a straight jacket and thrown into a padded room.

Jim Croft is a deliverance minister. According to Croft’s website (website no longer active):

Jim Croft’s ministry career spans four decades. The renowned Bible scholar, Derek Prince mentored Jim. Early on, it became apparent that Jim was an anointed Bible teacher and minister of physical healing and deliverance from evil spirits.

Croft is known worldwide for his unique ability to share profound biblical truths in a simple and interesting way that encourages people to incorporate the truths into their everyday lives. One of his primary delights is to train and liberate laymen into fulltime ministry. There are at least 40 ministries functioning globally that came up under his tutelage.

Jim has ministered in more than 40 nations. His books and articles have been translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, French, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Armenian, Farsi and Swahili. He has written 13 books. The most recent are: The Muslim Masquerade; Faith’s Decision For The Abundant Life; Heaven on the Links; Charismatic Superstitions and Misconceptions; Dysfunctional Doctrines of the Hyper-Religious; The Heritage Factor; Miracle of Miracles; Bless the Chosen; and Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons.

Croft is considered by many to be a foremost authority on Islamic Issues. He ghostwrites books and newsletters for several international ministries specializing in ministry to Muslims. Each week Jim’s Bible studies are translated into the various languages of the Middle East for distribution among secret house churches in closed Islamic nations.

Jim founded Good News Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It was the home church of Derek Prince. Jim serves as a pastor of pastors and on a number of ministry boards including that of Derek Prince Ministries. He currently pastors a network of house churches and is the senior pastor of Gold Coast Christian Church of Boca Raton, FL.

Croft says this about himself on his Facebook page:

I have authored 13 books. Invisible Enemies: How to recognize and defeat demons is the most recent . It’s a great read for those who have ongoing unresolved issues and those who have inlaws whom they suspect might be hosting uninvited passengers. I also ghostwirte books and articles for varius ministries. My emphasis of life is to be naturally supernatural. (spelling errors in the original)

According to the Gold Coast Christian Church website (link no longer active), the home church Croft pastors:

God is not boring! Christianity is not a religion designed to revolve around man-made rules. Redemption through faith in Christ paves the way for people to enjoy God; their relationships with His people; and to become the type of people whom God enjoys. Therefore, it is our conviction that all of life is spiritual. God enjoys His people when they are involved in their vocations, recreations and families as much as He does as when they are engaged in religious activities. Every aspect of life can be enhanced through one’s spirituality. Proof of one’s devotion to God is not determined by interjections of religious language into every conversation 24/7. We believe that God’s purposes are best served when people take the relaxed stand of becoming naturally supernatural. Our leaders teach our folks to minister salvation and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the unconverted in an unobtrusive manner during the routine events of everyday life. By the leading of the Lord, hearing someone in a store checkout line saying they feel ill can turn into a spontaneous healing event. It can be accomplished without the fanfare of a revivalist’s campaign. If you are looking for biblical Christianity without the religious hype, we could be a safe haven for you.

With this biographical background information in mind, here’s an excerpt from an article Jim Croft  wrote for CHARISMA. The title of the article is When Demons Attack Your Children With Sickness. Croft is an older man, so the story he tells about his daughters took place decades ago. Here’s what he had to say:

Our two oldest daughters, Kari and Sharon, were born with serious asthmatic conditions. Regular medical treatments kept them functional. Then, shortly after I became a Christian, Prudence and I prayed for the Lord to heal them. We thank God that He erased every symptom from their lives.

The situation with our third daughter, Holly, was quite different. She was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit at an early age. Nonetheless, her health history and certain aspects of her behavior puzzled us. None of the symptoms she exhibited was alleviated until she received deliverance ministry at the age of 5.

Holly had a stubborn streak that was uncharacteristic of her siblings. In the area of health, she did not respond to prayers for healing in the same way as her older sisters. For instance, all of the girls would catch the sniffles and we would pray for them simultaneously. Invariably, Kari and Sharon would be completely healed within several hours of our prayer—or they would recover fully within a day or two at most. But that was never the case with Holly. Her condition always seemed to worsen…

…Prudence and I grew weary from concern, sleepless nights and enormous medical bills. Above all, we were both disappointed by the fruitlessness of our prayers for her healing. And we were mystified that our every attempt to help her cultivate a more agreeable attitude failed.

One evening, Prudence came to me full of optimism. She told me that while she had been praying about Holly’s condition, the Lord had given her a spiritual revelation. He had reminded Prudence of several pertinent facts. Holly had been born under traumatic circumstances. First, she was more than a month premature. After her birth, she was hospitalized with a life-threatening respiratory ailment. In addition, after the delivery, Prudence had approached death’s door due to massive hemorrhaging.

As she shared all this with me, Prudence beamed with confidence. She was certain she had heard from the Lord.

“Jim, God gave me a vision of demons of infirmity and death entering Holly during her birth. The reason she doesn’t respond when we anoint her with oil and pray is because we are dealing with evil spirits, not routine sicknesses. We must take authority over them and cast them out in the name of Jesus.”

As Prudence spoke, something like inner agreement clicked within my spirit. I knew that what she was saying was absolutely on-target. We were very familiar with seeing people liberated from evil spirits, and I was filled with hope sensing that we were on the brink of a breakthrough for our child. Prudence and I both agreed that the best approach was immediate action. So we asked Holly to sit down with us in the living room for a talk.

As we all sat on the couch together, I explained to her as best I could what we were going to do. “Honey,” I said gently, “God has shown Mommy that there are some naughty spirits inside of you that make you sick all of the time. Daddy is going to tell them to come out of you in Jesus’ name.”

Holly looked a little unsure. Prudence slipped her arm around Holly’s waist, and I continued to explain.

“I’m going to speak very firmly to those nasty spirits while I’m looking at you, and I’m going to tell them to come out. It may sound as though I’m angry, but I’m not mad at you. We know you want to be a healthy and good girl. I am mad at the devil and the mean spirits that make you sick.”

Holly nodded at this point, seeming to understand, so I went on.

“I want you to look straight at me. When I tell the spirits to leave, you just open your mouth a little bit and breathe them out through your mouth.”

At that, Holly again looked puzzled. I thought to remind her of her experience of being baptized with the Holy Spirit. “Holly, do you remember how you breathed in the good Holy Spirit?” She nodded. “Well, after I tell the bad spirits to come out of you, I want you to huff and puff them out so the good Holy Spirit will have more room.”

What happened next was astonishing. As soon as I commanded the demons of death and infirmity to come out of my daughter, she gagged as though something were lodged in her throat.

Her tiny frame shook convulsively. Her face went ashen white, and her eyes rolled back into her head with only the whites showing. She then collapsed on the couch as though dead. In fact, she actually looked like a little corpse. But rather than panicking in concern at her appearance, I picked her up and began to laugh and sing and thank the Lord. I knew the troubling entities were gone.

Suddenly, Holly opened her eyes and smiled shyly up at me. She looked different. Her face was bright and her eyes were clear. Prudence and I knew in that moment that Holly was free from the chronic sicknesses and demonic forces that had attempted to snatch her life…

Now go

puke

How God Reminds Us Every Day That We Are Little More Than Worms

original sin

Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Issac Watts, Alas! and Did my Savior Bleed

Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good-above all, that we are better than someone else-I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.
Psalm 22:6

How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?
Job 25:6

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Romans 7:24

Original sin

Vile

Wicked

Hater of God

Worthy of torture and death

According to the Bible, we are the lowest of low, little more than a dung beetle or a worm. Thanks to Adam and Eve eating fruit from a tree in the Garden of Eden, every human being is born a sinner, a hater of God worthy of having the judgment and wrath of God poured out on their head. None of us can escape this condemnation. As soon as the egg unites with the sperm in the womb of a woman, a new vile and repulsive sinner is created.  We don’t become sinners, we are sinners. Or so says Christianity.

What better way to attract and keep congregants than to convince them that they are broken, helpless, hopeless sinners who need glued back together with Jesus glue that can only be found at First Baptist Church on Main Street Anywhere, Ohio. And when the Jesus glue doesn’t last and bits and pieces  of one’s life start breaking off, congregants are told to go to confession or walk the sawdust trail to an old-fashioned altar and get a resupply of Jesus glue.

And the cost for this wonderful, sin erasing Jesus glue? EVERYTHING. Your life, possessions, money, and family now belong to God. If it wasn’t for the Jesus glue, the Christian would still be like Humpty Dumpty, a pile of brokenness at the bottom of the wall. Since Jesus paid the ultimate price for sin, the least the groveling sinner can do is obediently follow him until they die. If they do this, then Jesus will give them a room in God’s Trump Hotel, a room they will rarely use since they will be spending most of their time praising and worshiping God. And even in heaven there will be a final judgement for every Christian, a time when God will comb through the events of the Christian’s life, reminding them of all the times they sinned and how lucky they are that God is allowing them to enter his heaven.

After several weeks of rain, we’ve finally gotten a break and are able to work in the yard and garden. Weeds are growing prolifically, and I am certain I heard them laughing at Polly and I as we, with aching muscles and bones, reached down to pull them up from the ground. I was so fatigued and in pain today that I laid on the ground and crawled along the flower beds pulling weeds. As I was doing this, I contemplated the wonders of  Christianity. That was sarcasm, BTW. These Bible verses came to mind:

 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Genesis 3:17-19

If you like to grow things, you know that weeds come with the territory. If you don’t pull them, they will take over and soon your yard looks like a movie set for a post-apocalyptic thriller titled The Revenge of  the Weeds.  As you pull the weeds, just remember that weeds are a reminder from God that you are a vile worm, worthy of death. If you are a Christian, every weed you pull is a reminder of how vile you were before God saved you. Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t apply salvation like Roundup? One application and the weeds are dead. One application of Jesus and all sin is eradicated. Why wouldn’t God do this? Wouldn’t it make life more enjoyable, not only for Christians, but God? Surely, God gets tired of Deacon Bob going to the altar every Sunday to confess his child porn habit?

Today, we celebrate Independence Day. Wouldn’t this be a good day to cast off the belief  that we are broken sinners in need of salvation and forgiveness?  Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for, scratch that, and then you’ll be dead. Enjoy life, living each moment to its fullest. As a man in his late fifties with declining health, I know that the ugly specter of death is stalking me. If I don’t enjoy life NOW…when will I do so? Since no life awaits me beyond the grave, shouldn’t I make the most of this life? Proverbs 27:1 says:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Good advice, but not for the reasons Christians think. This verse stresses to the Christian the importance of being saved, of having sins forgiven, and preparing to meet God face to face. As an atheist, I read this verse and it says that life is short. There is no promise of tomorrow and no one knows what might happen. So, live! Live each moment of every day as if it is your last, because some day, sooner than you think, it will be.

My Life with Bill Gothard Part Three

guest-post

This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

Quite recently a friend of mine was found dead. We’re still not sure of the cause of death. It’s difficult to believe she intentionally committed suicide without leaving a note to her very beloved family. She was one of the most devoted mothers I’ve ever known and left four children and five grandchildren and many friends and other relatives, all who loved her immensely. She was my co-worker, my friend, my ‘happy hour’ buddy and was always good for a laugh or a chug. My heart is heavy; my stomach has been in knots for days. I will miss her greatly.

Her passing has renewed a few conversations in my mind I’ve been mulling off and on for several years. My next few posts will deal with some very personal issues but I think issues that must continually be brought to light in order for change to occur.

It seems the whole of Fundamentalism (including Gothard) reject the fact that depression exists and those who experience are not to blame. I grew up with a very depressed mother. I believe my father is depressed as well although he exhibits different symptoms (as men normally do). After their abusive childhoods and cultic/religious teachings full of blame and condemnation, depression is no surprise. My mother’s father was a depressed man. He turned to alcohol to ‘deal’, thereby circumventing displaying for his children alternative coping skills. My mother did not utilize alcohol. She had Jesus and a Bible full of verses to tell her what a horrible, rotten person she was and that even her good deeds were as filthy rags to him who died in her stead; if it weren’t for his death she would be nothing; and she was the reason God’s only Son suffered….and on and on it goes. If that’s not the most depressing ‘Good News’ I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is.

One of the first stories I remember hearing Gothard relay to his audience was about a woman who had left a plastic bag in her infant son’s bedroom. While he was sleeping, a breeze blew the plastic bag into the baby’s bed and suffocated him. I can’t imagine losing one of my children, but knowing my choice not to pick-up the plastic bag is what took his life would haunt me forever. Of course, this woman was plagued with guilt and Gothard’s remedy was to remind her that all her sins were nailed with Jesus on the cross. Was that woman’s choice that cost her son’s life a sin? No. A bad decision? Yes.

But this seems to be the mind of Gothard: that every possible life choice or decision (seemingly major or minute) is a misstep in the eyes of god. Those who live under this teaching and believe it rack up hours and days, years & lifetimes of doubt, fear and guilt. It’s a vicious cycle I observed continuously as a child. My mother – beautiful, capable, classy and stylish- was never good enough for anyone in her own eyes. The condemnation was always there, but then she had the audacity to go and be human – feel emotions, speak her mind, react in anger or frustration and then the guilt would accumulate and we’d find verses written on 3×5 cards around the house or on the chalkboard in the school room reminding her of who she was ‘in Christ’ (only), not as a person who was loved and could choose to love herself without the permission of any ‘Savior’; accept her humanity (and that of others); to choose happiness. No, it was a constant search for affirmation and still is.

Even as a child, I remember feeling huge pangs of guilt and fear over small ‘sins.’ And in Gothard world, just about everything can be a sin. Any thoughts, feelings or behaviors that didn’t fall under the realm of his particular brand of ‘godliness’ were stressed over, creating compulsiveness I still find difficulty shaking. Most people in my family seem to possess a disposition for depression. When you are reared to believe ‘Jesus is enough’ and not taught to utilize positive coping skills, instead internalizing all the ‘sinful bad’ and shameful emotions, you become an accident waiting to happen. I internalized so much and created a very dark, depressed, narrow-minded world by the time I was 21 leading me to seriously consider taking my own life. I’m not sure why I didn’t but that day, I began a new journey out of the old thought patterns, belief system and mindsets that had led to so much bondage instead of the freedom purported by those I love and trusted.

Not too long ago, I was mopping the living room floor alone, enjoying the peace and quiet. I was in a good mood; I’d had accomplished a lot that day (always good for a happy high) and all of the sudden, out of nowhere, came a flood of depression, unhappiness and fear in such dark contrast to the sunlight I was feeling just seconds before. Tears escaped my eyes before I could not hold them back. At that point I realized the flood of depression and negative emotion I experienced was in no way related to my previous moments of happiness and that I had the say-so over the gloominess. I get to acknowledge its presence in my life, forego the guilt and blame and conquer its hold. That day was a life-changer for me. I came to a new state of POWERFUL self-awareness in my life and a new desire to find the strength to adequately cope with whatever comes my way.

It is not arrogance to believe you are worth whatever it takes to make this life YOUR BEST LIFE. It is not selfishness to take care of YOUR emotional, physical, spiritual self. Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is okay to acknowledge depression and get whatever help you may need. Depression is not a sin and never was.

I wrote this post in honor of my friend and for any and all of you reared within the condemning confines of Fundamentalism and Gothard’s teachings and who continue to self-flagellate, allowing those teachings to instill fear, obligation and guilt. My friend was one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever known. She was constantly doing for others and may have forgotten about herself in the process. Perhaps she did not learn how to cope; to confess her humanity to others instead of constantly trying to please & make everything ‘look’ good on the outside, discounting her own sadness and fears by focusing on the thoughts and needs of others. While I don’t know for sure, my own experience with Gothard has created some difficult hurdles as I continue to learn how to manage my emotions and thoughts and not berate myself over my own humanity (faults, weaknesses, commissions/omissions, etc.). For every person set free from the stronghold of Gothard’s teachings, there is something to share, something to be learned.

How have you learned to cope with your depression and negative thoughts stemming from cultic teachings?

My Life with Bill Gothard Part Two

guest-post

This series was written a few years ago, but since Gothard has been in the news of late, I thought readers might find it interesting.

A guest post series written by Anonymous

My parents really are nice people. After hearing some of the personal stories of some of my Gothard and Fundamentalist friends and watching families closely, all-in-all I feel pretty lucky. There was never any indication my parents were total mental nut cases, just two people trying way too hard. If their goal was to get a little further from the emotional and spiritual dysfunctions and effects of alcoholism or to give their children good memories, the ability to think reasonably and logically with compassionate hearts, they somehow succeeded in spite of Gothard’s dogma and the pressure placed on those who accept his self-proclaimed utopia. One interesting facet of this is they tried so hard and burdened us with so many rules and regulations and a mindset void of balanced thought, I think I could have easily become an alcoholic as I sorted through the pain and the brainwash. It’s been a long time coming, but I feel I’ve finally learned it’s okay to be a normal, run-of-the-mill person with hopes, dreams, strengths & weaknesses, failures, successes and a ‘sin nature’ who enjoys a balanced, pleasurable (gasp!) life. As I read the comments from my last post, I realized that only those who have experienced the effects of Gothard and Fundamentalism completely understand the difference between the issues we deal with that may have some similarity to common bumps in the road of life. Fundamentalists and Gothardites also deal with a huge GOD factor and resulting doctrines and beliefs which place fear at the forefront of every decision-fear of being wrong, of doing evil, of simply looking evil (which has numerous definitions in that world). If you think emotional blackmail in human relationships is cruel, try worshipping a god who utilizes it hypothetically himself and actually through your parents and environment.

I was in 2nd – grade when my parents decided to home educate us. My dad told me and my sister together and my sister or I asked if that meant our mom would buy red pencils. When I told my activity table in Sunday school one of my friends commented, “Cool! Does that mean you get to raise your hand and go to the bathroom anytime you want?” If only our experience were that simple. The thoughts of children- so guileless and unaffected; why would a parent ever accept the idea their child needs to be anything other? Life hits hard & head-on as it is and usually too early. Why not let kids be kids while adding layers of kindness, hope, courage, simplicity, strength, love, acceptance, logic and tolerance so that when the realities of life can no longer be ignored and tenacity must be forged in its fires, those nurtured qualities come alive & hold them even when mommy and daddy are no longer present? But allowing kids to be kids doesn’t work out well when you’re trying to raise an army. I must have been 7 or 8 when I told my aunt she would go to hell for wearing pants. If you think it’s evil the words ever left my lips, imagine being a child and already thinking those horrible thoughts about people you loved, triggered by a mere article of clothing. Yes, this was my mind, my world at a young age. My parents, prime candidates for Gothard’s inclusive teachings, started with his Basic Seminar (more later) and led to utilizing his home education program, Advanced Training Institute International.

Different than Bible-BASED home education curriculum, ATI is Bible-CENTERED (Bible being the textbook). If you understand the mindset of a family who would be attracted to ATI, this distinction is essential – Bible-based isn’t good enough if Bible-centered is available. Wisdom Booklets, based on a specific verse or passage of Scripture (Wisdom Booklet #1 beginning with The Sermon on the Mount), are provided linking Science, Math, Social Studies and Character Studies to the passage in some way. Fortunately, my parents supplemented the Wisdom Booklets with other curricula so that my siblings and I all graduated with the state required courses completed, therefore acquiring a better education than many die-hard ATI’ers. I have known personally some who brushed-off all other avenues of learning and education and focused only on their Biblically-based studies. I’ve overheard many ATI mothers and fathers voice their (non)education goals and dreams for their children. I know one girl whose father finally relented, allowing her to attend a local, forward-thinking, private, very high-quality institution with the understanding she attend classes without gaining credit. What a loss. This may not seem so strange if you realize the objective of ATI is to raise children who are virtually untouched by the ‘world’, its ideas, processes and practices. This mentality disparages traditional education of any kind. Liberal-arts, secular and even Fundamentalist Christian colleges (BJU, PCC, CCC, etc.) are not entertained as options for post-secondary education. Criticism from the outside and the ‘harsh’ expectations of existence (I say that tongue-in-cheek), led Gothard to establish Telos International which does provide some basic coursework for secondary education as prep for their Programs of Study. One glance at those websites will give you a good overview of the absurdity that is ATI. Fortunately or unfortunately (it could go either way), I convinced my parents God had called me to a Fundamentalist college, an experience I was mentally, socially, spiritually and emotionally unprepared for.

While in ATI, my family started every weekday morning with a Wisdom Search , a family Bible-study digging deeper into the ‘truths’ of the Wisdom Booklet we were studying. Most mornings Every morning, all I wanted to do was a grab a red pencil and commence voracious eye stabbing. My siblings probably would have too had they not been more lethargic than I some days. ATI parents believe they are doing ‘good’; they are giving their children a gift, a better way, a better life than the hopeless and meaningless existence they perceive surrounds them. I don’t know why neither one of my parents, both formally educated individuals, did not clue-in one of those sleepy mornings-my dad droning on while our heads bobbed listlessly, contributing occasionally to the conversation attempting to convince them we were awake and attentive during those few seconds we nodded off into leftover dreams-IT WASN’T WORKING. Those few seconds seemed like hours. Those days, years. Those years seem like centuries ago. And I’ve only just begun.

Read Part Three