Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Bruce, the Pornographer: Why I Really Left the Christian Faith

this was your life

Evangelical Christian apologist William Lane Craig writes, in response to a question about doubt (link no longer active);

…..Be on guard for Satan’s deceptions. Never lose sight of the fact that you are involved in a spiritual warfare and that there is an enemy of your soul who hates you intensely, whose goal is your destruction, and who will stop at nothing to destroy you. Which leads me to ask: why are you reading those infidel websites anyway, when you know how destructive they are to your faith? These sites are literally pornographic (evil writing) and so ought in general to be shunned. Sure, somebody has to read them and refute them; but why does it have to be you? Let somebody else, who can handle it, do it. Remember: Doubt is not just a matter of academic debate or disinterested intellectual discussion; it involves a battle for your very soul, and if Satan can use doubt to immobilize you or destroy you, then he will.

I firmly believe, and I think the Bizarro-testimonies of those who have lost their faith and apostatized bears out, that moral and spiritual lapses are the principal cause for failure to persevere rather than intellectual doubts. But intellectual doubts become a convenient and self-flattering excuse for spiritual failure because we thereby portray ourselves as such intelligent persons rather than as moral and spiritual failures. I think that the key to victorious Christian living is not to have all your questions answered — which is probably impossible in a finite lifetime — but to learn to live successfully with unanswered questions. The key is to prevent unanswered questions from becoming destructive doubts. I believe that can be done by keeping in mind the proper ground of our knowledge of Christianity’s truth and by cultivating the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives….

First, Craig describes infidel websites like mine as:

  • A tool of Satan used to destroy the souls of Christians
  • Pornographic (evil writing)
  • Something that, in general, should be shunned

Craig readily admits that websites like mine can cause a Christian to doubt their faith. While I have no interest in converting any Christian to atheism, I do think the tenets of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible should be carefully investigated. If my writing causes a Christian to question and have doubts…good!

If Christianity is worth believing it will withstand any questions or doubts a believer might have. If Christianity is what it claims to be, then websites like this one will do little to no harm. Of course, I am think that Christianity is NOT what it claims to be and that is one the reasons people are leaving the faith in droves.

Second, Craig attempts to dismiss people like me by calling our testimony of loss of faith a Bizarro-testimony. (not to be believed) Craig contends we lost our faith, not for intellectual reasons, but because of spiritual or moral failure.  Craig believes former Christians use intellectual doubts as a cover for moral or spiritual failure. In doing this, Craig moves the focus from Christianity and the Bible to the individual. According to Craig, I am no longer a Christian because of some moral lapse or spiritual deficiency in my life.

I will leave it to Detectives for Jesus to ferret out my moral or spiritual failures. I doubt they will find much to hang me by, but I will readily admit that I, like every other Christian and pastor, had moral and spiritual failures. After all, since I STILL had a sin nature, moral and spiritual failure was sure to happen, right? That said, I have no affairs lurking in my closet, just in case someone thinks moral failure=screwing a church member.

Craig lives in a world of willing delusion. He refuses to accept the fact that many of us, especially those of us who were pastors, left the ministry and the Christian faith for intellectual reasons. I have written many times about this subject. The primary reason I left the Christianity was because I no longer believed the Bible was the Word of God. I no longer believed the Bible was “truth.” I no longer believed that the central character of the Bible, Jesus, was who the Bible says he was. (and I use the word “was” because I don’t believe Jesus “is”)

I didn’t have a moral or spiritual collapse that led to me leaving the Christianity. Instead, I decided to investigate again the claims of Christianity and its divine Holy Book. Conclusion? I weighed Christianity and the Bible in the balances and found it wanting. (Daniel 5:27)

At the end of the day, it really is all about the Bible.

The Christian Get Out of Jail Free Card

blood of jesus

If you have ever played Monopoly, you know how important it is to have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You never know when you might need to play the card.

Every Christian, regardless of the sect, gets one “Get out of Jail Free” card. This card is also known as the blood of Jesus.

According to Christian teaching, the blood of Jesus cleanses a sinner from their sin. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;
For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Ephesians 1:7 says, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Through the blood of Jesus sin is atoned for; through the blood of Jesus is the forgiveness of sin. Baptist readers of this blog have sung the old church standard, Nothing But The Blood, many times:

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For my pardon, this I see,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
For my cleansing this my plea,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Nothing can for sin atone,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
Naught of good that I have done,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Refrain sung after every verse

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Exactly what does the blood of Jesus do for the sinner? It covers, erases, does away with their sin. According to 2 Corinthians 5:17:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Through the blood of Jesus, a sinner becomes a new creature (creation), old things pass away and everything becomes new. In an instant a sinner, no matter how wicked and vile they are, can have the slate wiped clean.

God, through the blood of  God (Jesus) ,forgives and forgets. Perverts, wife beaters, tax cheats, thieves,murderers, Josh Duggar, Dennis Hastert, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, and Newt Gingrich are quite happy to find out that the blood of Jesus provides for them a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. The blood-cleansed sinner can shout from the mountaintop, Free, Free, Free at Last! In a moment, all their past transgressions are “under the blood.” Psalm 103:12 says:

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

A popular Christian song, My Sins are Gone, pretty well sums up the Christian’s feeling about the blood of Jesus and their sin:

You ask me why I’m happy so I’ll just tell you why
Because my sins are gone
And when I meet the scoffers who ask me where they are
I say my sins are gone

They’re underneath the Blood on the cross of Calvary
As far removed As darkness is from dawn
In the sea of God’s forgetfulness that’s good enough for me
Praise God! my sins are gone

When bloodbought Christians are confronted by those they have hurt in the past they often say, that’s under the blood. This means, sorry God has forgiven me for that sin and I am not accountable for it any longer. PRAISE JESUS!!

My mother was sexually molested as a child by her father. He later became a washed in the blood, fundamentalist Christian who never missed an opportunity to remind everyone that Jesus could forgive them of every sin! My mother confronted her father over what he had done to her as a child. His reply?

That’s under the blood,God has forgiven me!

My mother, in a fit of rage, let him know that SHE hadn’t forgiven him. But, that didn’t matter. As long as the blood of Jesus had paid her father’s sin debt, no further confession or restitution was needed. He went on to live the Christian good life, never one time saying to my mother, I am sorry. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch before he became a Christian and he was a mean son-of-a-bitch after his sin debt had been cleansed by Jesus’ blood.

What about sins committed AFTER a person becomes a Christian? Each sect has their own plan for renewing the “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Catholics use the confessional and transubstantiation to free themselves of responsibility for their sins. The blood of Jesus covers everything, including molesting children. Baptists use daily prayer and the church altar as places where a Christian can appropriate the blood of Jesus and get a fresh start. The Bible says in First John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

No matter what the Baptist has done, absolution is only a prayer away. Do the same sin tomorrow, no problem, just pray and start over again. I know some of the more pious among the Baptists will object and say that when a Christian confesses their sin they are to forsake it, but personal experience and observing Baptists for many years tells me that do the same sin tomorrow, no problem, just pray and start over again, is typically how Baptists handle their “sin problem.”

As an atheist, I don’t have a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card. When I do bad (I don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin) things there is no God to excuse me, so I must own my actions and, if possible, make things right. Granted, my sin list is much smaller now. Once I was set free from the shackles of God’s law, Biblical law, or whatever the hell the pastor says is sin  law, I was finally able to begin freely living my life . No blood atonement needed. No catchy songs about the blood covering all my transgressions.

Every day, I make decisions that affect how I live my life and every day I have the choice to live a decent, honorable life. Every day, I come up short and it is in those moments that I must say, I am sorry and, if needed, make restitution.

For my mother, one I’m sorry would have covered a multitude of sins. Too bad Jesus and His blood got in the way.

World Renowned Clothing Designer Zsuzsanna Anderson Brings to Market King James Virgin Bathing Suit

World renowned Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) clothing designer Zsuzsanna Anderson has brought to market a new line of bathing suits that is sure to strike fear in the heart of bikini designers everywhere. As a lifelong observer of the female body, I predict that Anderson’s new line of bathing suits will result in 17th century women everywhere groveling before their husbands, begging them to buy them a 100% Lycra/Spandex King James Virgin bathing suit.

I know God-fearing culotte wearing Jesus loving women are peeing their white full-bodied underwear in anticipation of seeing what the King James Virgin bathing suit looks like, so without further snark I give you:

I know you want to own a King James Virgin bathing suit, so, before these $80 testaments to sexual repression and shame are sold out, go to Cute and Covered and buy yours today.

In 2016, Anderson plans to design and release what she is calling her greatest work yet, Faithful Word Chastity Belts. Embroidered with  verses from the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, these belts are sure to keep frisky, sexually repressed unmarried Baptist men from impregnating you. Get one now because we know there was only one virgin birth.

Zsuzanna Anderson did not compensate me in any way for writing this glowing, heartfelt review of her latest designs. Personally, I can’t wait to buy Polly a King James Virgin bathing suit. I am sure she’ll be excited to own one.

Pastor William ‘Pete” McCullers Arrested in Dothan, Alabama

william pete mccullers

Pastor William ‘Pete’ McCullers with his wife Linda

William ‘Pete’ McCullers, associate pastor of Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida, was arrested today in Dothan, Alabama. McCullers is expected to be charged “with at least 10 counts of lewd and lascivious acts on four children under 12 years old.” The church has no website and their Facebook page has been disabled.

McCullers, age 64, graduated from high school in 1968. Think about that for a moment.  This guy is an old man. What makes a man who is grandfather age molest young children? Those of us who have spent years reporting on and working with sexual abuse victims know that it is unlikely that these children are McCullers first victims.  Now that McCullers has been arrested, it will be interesting to see if other victims come forward.

tabernacle of praise church chipley

Tabernacle of Praise Church, Chipley, Florida

Google Maps Street View

Dear Kristen Welch, How to Make Sure Your Teen Age Son Can’t Handle His Sexuality

avert your eyes

Kristen Welch, author of Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to Jesus When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough and Don’t Make Me Come Up There: Quiet Moments For Busy Moms, recently wrote a blog post titled, To the Middle School Girls at the Pool Who Told My Son He was Hot. (link no longer active) Welch and her family went to the community pool and lo and behold there were girls there with bikinis on! I know, hard to believe. According to Welch, some middle school girls with bikinis on told her middle school son that he was hot. I wonder if these middle school girls really had bikinis on or if they just had bathing suits that were too skimpy for Welch’s Christian taste. I also wonder what age the girls were. Twelve or fourteen going on fifteen?  Middle school is usually defined as grades sixth through eighth. In my day, back when Ken Ham got off the Ark, middle school was called Junior High. The school I attended housed grades seven through nine. So, were these girls barely out of diapers or were they menstruating females who are sexually aware? The same questions could be asked of Welch’s son. How old is he? Is he spit ball and bra snapping middle school age or is he sexually aware, desiring the attention of the fairer sex age?

kristen welch

Kristen Welch, We are That Family blogger

According to Welch:

…Maybe you didn’t see that my son was with his family at the community pool the other day, playing catch with his dad. Maybe you didn’t understand that he didn’t want to hang out with you when you kept bumping into him and following him around. Maybe you didn’t notice he was averting his eyes every time you walked by in your bikini.

Maybe that’s why you walked up to him and said loud enough for his splashing sister to hear, “You are hot. My friend thinks so, too.”

Maybe you didn’t see my son’s cheeks flame and watch him look to his father for help or hear him mumble “like I care” or see him get out of the pool to move away from you. Maybe not…

Here’s my first question. If you are a Christian family, what are you doing at the community pool? Surely, Welch and her husband had to know that various forms of nakedness would be on prominent display at the pool? I find it interesting that it seems to be no big deal for Welch’s pubescent son and middle age husband to be in an environment that is sure to stir sexual passion. Instead, Welch focuses her ire on a group of bathing suit clad middle school girls for telling her son he is hot.

The middle school girls who dared to make Welch’s son feel like any normal heterosexual teenage boy would want to feel, will never read Welch’s post. Until yesterday, I hadn’t ever heard of Kristen Welch and the We are That Family blog. Several of my fundamentalist relatives posted this article to Facebook, saying how wonderful it was. Evidently, there must be a lot of Christian families with middle school sons who are hot and have girls hitting on them all the time.

The real purpose of Welch’s post is to whine and complain about the bad, bad world we live in, a world Welch describes as:

…a culture where anything goes. And sometimes it’s confusing to know how to handle all the messages media throws at you when the world you live in supports your right to do whatever you want.

Truth changes more often than the weather and it’s getting harder and harder to stand on anything absolute.

Welch assumes the middle school girls are confused, lacking truth, and are products of a culture where anything goes and you can do whatever you want.  She sees their behavior as the product of a decadent culture, but I see it as sexually aware girls who think a boy at the public swimming pool is attractive. It’s much to do about nothing. Instead of writing a whiny post, perhaps Welch should take the time to teach her son how to gracefully handle his holy hotness. When one of the girls said “You are hot. My friend thinks so, too”, all Welch’s son had to do is smile, say thanks, and walk away. Those girls would have put Master Welch on their A List.

You see, according to Welch, these girls are making it hard for her son to “live a godly life.” Once again, it’s the girls’ fault. This is a common refrain in Evangelicalism. Our sons and fathers are weak, pathetic horn dogs and girls and women need to cover up lest they have impure thoughts and mentally fornicate. Welch writes:

…We are working really hard to teach our son to live a pure life. We are encouraging him to bounce his eyes away from bikini-clad bodies.  We are raising him to be noble. We are praying for him to have integrity. We are advising him to look into a girls eyes and not cleavage. We are warning him about sexting…

So, did Welch take her son to a public swimming pool so he could work on his eye averting skills? Why not go all the way and take him to the strip club? Perhaps it could be a father/son outing. The Bible says to abstain from (avoid) the very appearance of evil and the Psalmist said, I will put no wicked thing before my eyes.  I suspect Welch believes that wearing a bikini is sinful and wicked, so why put your son (and husband) in a position where they could sin and commit mental fornication?

I know I have written about this many times, but it bears repeating here. Instead of blaming women for the sexual failures of male Evangelicals, how about teaching them to responsibly handle their sexuality? Grow up, be a man. Attractive women are everywhere. Biologically, sexually aware males want to have sex with sexually aware females. It’s human nature. Instead of demanding women cover up, how about teaching male Evangelicals how to be around attractive females without getting a boner and sinning against God. (and perhaps going blind)

In two years, I will be sixty years old. I am officially an old man. When I went to school, there were no Christian schools and home schoolers were few and far between. As a somewhat attractive Christian boy who was certainly attracted to nice looking girls, I had to learn to how to handle my sexuality and maintain my technical virginity until my wedding day. I dated a handful of church girls and a few outside of the church. I knew what it was to hold hands with a girl, put my arm around her, kiss her, and feel my sexuality rising, all without ravaging her.  I was then, and I am still today, responsible for my sexuality. While I now know that if I had rounded third and headed for home it would not have been a “sin”, it was my choice and my wife’s choice to wait until our wedding night to cross the plate and scoring a winning run for Team Gerencser. Had we waited much longer to be married, we likely would not have been virgins on our wedding day. If we had succumbed to our desires, thanks to our Evangelical religious beliefs, we would have felt guilty, sure that God was going to strike us dead. What should have been a normal sexual experience for an adult couple in love was turned into something to be feared until we said I do.

Welch needs to teach her son and all her children to handle their blossoming sexuality. Saying thus saith the Lord, avert your eyes lest ye turn into an Evangelical horn dog is not the answer. Welch is right, the rules of sexual engagement have changed. Now there’s sexting that provides instant visual gratification. Again, it’s up to the smartphone user to control their use. If a teenager can’t act responsibly…here’s the shocker…take their damn phone away. Personally, I think adults, who have forgotten what it was like to young, have blown the sexting issue way out of proportion. Recently, a sexting scandal made the front page of our local newspaper. You’d have thought local police had broken up a child pornography ring. Instead, it was sexually aware teens sending inappropriate texts and pictures, no different from lifted shirts and dropped pants in the 1970’s. We survived, even if we are blamed for all the decadent sexual behavior now on display in America.

1,500 words to say to Kristen Welch, quit your whining and teach your son to grow up and embrace his sexuality. If he has impure thoughts or gets frisky with a middle school bikini babe at the public swimming pool, teach him to accept responsibility for his behavior. Do your best Mom to not turn out another weak, pathetic Evangelical man who can’t bear to see cleavage without having thoughts of banging the woman on the spot. We have enough of these kind of men. They are likely sitting near you at whatever church you attend.

Thus saith, Bruce Almighty.

Notes

If you want a good example of supposed Evangelical moral superiority, please read the comments on Welch’s post. Welch closed the comments “due to a few personal attacks that I’m contributing to the “rape culture” and accusing me of being shameful and disgusting (you get the point).” She forgot slut shaming.

Pastor Corey Butler Blames Pop Up Ads for Child Pornography on His Computer

corey butler 4

“Dr.” Corey D. Butler, pastor of Jesus is the Way Christian Center, DeKalb, Illinois

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.

Another day, another Evangelical pastor caught in some sort of sex scandal. Today’s black collar criminal is Corey Butler, pastor of Jesus is the Way Christian Center in DeKalb, Illinois. The 34-year-old Butler was arrested after the “Illinois Crimes against Children Task Force learned child pornography was being distributed from a computer at Butler’s address.”  Butler was charged with “possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.”  If convicted Butler could spend up to 30 years in prison. While Butler admits being on an adult porn site, he denies possessing or distributing child pornography.

Butler is represented by attorney Tom Benno. Benno stated :

“He admitted to being on the porno site, which is absolutely inappropriate because he’s a pastor. What I was led to believe is it was all pop-ups.”

“For him to get a $10,000 debond, which means $1,000 and an ankle bracelet, it leaves me to believe that it’s not a slam-dunk case. If he really was a predator, if he really was a pedophile, I wouldn’t have taken the case. But more importantly, the judge would not have let him out.”

Benno needs to use a little bit of imagination here. I can think of other reasons why Butler received such a low bond. Some judges think that pastors are pillars of virtue and morality, incapable of molesting children, sodomizing teenagers, or looking at and distributing child pornography. As regular readers of this blog know, pastors are capable of evil, immoral, despicable behavior. In fact, it seems, anecdotally, that Evangelicalism has a big problem with pastors who molest children, have sex with teenagers, carry on with church members, or surf porn sites as they prepare their Sunday sermon. Pastors are, in every way, human. They are not special, nor are immune to temptation. Just like the uncircumcised, unwashed Philistines they try to convert, pastors are capable of behaving in ways that most decent people consider “sin” or wrong.

According to Katie Smith of the Daily Chronicle:

In an interview with DeKalb police after his arrest, Butler admitted to possessing the material, as well as allowing others to view and download it, according to court records.

Butler said he now denies ever possessing or distributing child pornography, and admits only to visiting an adult porn site.

Aside from the possibility of pop-up ads, Benno said Butler might be the victim of a set-up.

“A lot of time there are stings,” he said. “There are also things called entrapment, where they go on the site, they pose as kids and the post stuff up there. All the person has to do is click once and they go, ‘we gotcha.’ ”

Ah yes, the good pastor was entrapped. While entrapment is certainly a possibility, usually those who scream entrapment are trying to avoid personal responsibility for their behavior. Butler admits to being on an adult porn site, yet he continues to preach at his church.  Hey pastor, no matter how much porn you look at during the week, we know that Jesus is with you on Sunday! Sadly, the fact that he is still preaching is a perfect illustration of how many church members, when their pastor finds himself is a sticky wicket, refuse to see the man of God as a flawed, frail human who is quite capable of doing what he is accused of. Again, pastors are not above the fray. They are not morally superior. The “qualifications” for a pastor are found in 1 Timothy 3. I’ve never met one pastor, including myself, who met the qualifications set forth by the Apostle Paul. These qualifications are not goals to obtain or ideals, The Bible says is 1 Timothy 3:2, a bishop then must be. Not hope to be, but must be. Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals and their pastors to admit that regardless of what the Bible, God, or the Apostle Paul says, pastors are cut from the same cloth as the rest of us. Some of them can behave in ways that result in them being thrown in the hoosegow, not because they were preaching the gospel, but because they are lacking morally and ethically,

In 2011, Butler faced public scrutiny over stating on school board election nominating papers that his name was Dr. Corey Butler:

Butler says he received a degree from Northern Illinois University, and master’s and doctorate degrees from New Song Christian University, although no information about a school with that name could be found online. NIU officials say they have no record of him receiving a diploma.

He said his degrees were earned through Open Door Church in Hammond, Ind., which he said is run by a college accredited through another institution. Butler said he did not remember the name of the accrediting institution.

“My degrees are exclusively religious degrees,” Butler said. “They are for the purpose of ministry. I did not go to what some would call a ‘traditionally’ accredited university such as Northwestern or things of that nature.”

Butler explained he never received a diploma after never officially withdrawing from some classes in his final semester, which then lowered his GPA, he said.

“My NIU degree is a lot of pish-posh because I fulfilled all of the graduation requirements through NIU,” Butler said.

In other words, Butler is lying. Either he has the degrees he says he has or he doesn’t. Instead of producing his diplomas, transcripts, or contact information for the schools, Butler cues the music and starts a one man dance. It’s quite clear Butler is a liar, and if he will lie about his educational background, a lie that has no legal ramifications, he most certainly will lie about possessing and distributing child pornography.

Here’s “Dr.” Butler’s info from LinkedIn:

corey butler

corey butler 2

There is no internet listing for New Song Christian University. According to the aforementioned news report, Butler said his degrees came from An Open Door Church in Hammond, Indiana. Why then are they not listed on his LinkedIn page?  Based on what information is available, it is unlikely that Butler has any degrees and is guilty of repeatedly lying about his educational acumen. Again, if a man will brazenly lie about his education, a “sin” that has no legal ramifications, one could easily conclude Butler would most certainly lie when facing criminal charges that could send him to prison. Even if Butler is found innocent, would anyone want a pastor who can’t tell the truth? Evidently, in DeKalb, Illinois, at least for the people who gather at the Holiday Inn on Sunday to hear Butler preach, the answers is YES.

This isn’t a matter of Butler making a mistake. The Jesus is the Way Christian Center website states:

Dr. Corey D. Butler, a native of Chicago Illinois was called to preach at the age of four years old. Dr. Butler formally began his ministry at the age of 12 when he preached his first sermon in 1992 Dr. Butler matriculated through the Chicago public school system and graduated from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL. Dr. Butler also completed the Masters and Doctorate program at NSCU.

During his tenure at Northern Dr. Butler organized a campus bible study ministry named Jesus Is The Way Campus Outreach Ministry. In 2003 pursuant to his graduation from N.I.U., Dr. Butler spoke with his Pastor and Spiritual Father Dr. Meredith D. Shackelford who confirmed and affirmed his pastoral call. Dr. Shackelford Later That year Dr. Butler was Officially Ordained and Installed as Founder and Senior Pastor of Jesus Is The Way Christian Center.  In the summer of 2004 Jesus Is The Way Christian Center held it first services as a church. Dr. Butler accepted his call to the office of the Apostle and now serves as establishmentarian and presiding Apostle of the Fountain of Life Fellowship.  Dr. Butler in his apostolic capacity serves as spiritual father, advisor and covering for churches nationally and internationally.

Dr. Butler has and apostolic mandate to Teach, Train, Impart, Activate and Release the members of the Body of Christ into their destinies…

As I was looking for other information about “Dr.” Corey Butler, I stumbled upon a Ministry of Helps Application for Jesus is the Way Christian Center. Evidently, if someone wants to be involved in the ministry of the church or leadership capacity they must meet the following qualifications:

corey butler 3

Evidently, “illegitimate sexual habits” doesn’t include surfing porn sites and downloading and distributing child pornography.  I also found it interesting that the application mentioned tithing twice. A perfect story, played out by numerous men in various cities, all which seem to have two crucial components, sex and money. I hate to be blunt, but it really is all about the penis and the Benjamins.

Notes

Butler’s pastor and spiritual father is “Dr.” Meredith Shackelford. Shackelford has a doctor of ministry degree degree from Friends International Christian University (FICU), an unaccredited institution incorporated in Arkansas and located in California.  According to FICU’s website:

FICU is an International University with more than forty affiliate centers across the United States and around the world. Friends International Christian University has one of the most preeminent alumni in the world. A few of our graduates are Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potters House, Bishop Clarence E. McClendon, Harvest Fire Ministries & Siloam Bible College Ron Kenoly- Award Winning Singer/Songwriter, Helen Baylor – Grammy Nominee, Ira Hilliard – The New Light World Outreach and Worship Centers, Bishop Don Meares, President of ICLC, to mention a few.

FICU offers lifetime learning credits,  a sure sign that an institution is either a diploma mill or lacks rigorous academic standards. The doctor of ministry program costs $3,600 plus the cost of books. There is no thesis requirement and the class schedule includes such heavyweight classes as:

  1. Leadership & Church Management
  2. Rational Pastoral Theology
  3. Advanced Homiletics I
  4. Advanced Homiletics II
  5. Ministry Internship
  6. Church Records
  7. The Church Library
  8. Church Officers
  9. Sacred Music Philosophy
  10. Sacred Music Methodology and Pedagogy
  11. Sacred Music Contemporary
  12. Practicum In Sacred Music
  13. Advanced Choreography II
  14. Creative Project in Religious Dance
  15. Philosophy Of Religious Dance
  16. Practicum In Religious Dance
  17. Advanced Audio Production & Editing
  18. Advanced Video Production & Editing
  19. Advanced International Missions Communications
  20. Independent Study in Audio Communications

Here’s Corey Butler’s testimony of call to the ministry (link no longer active):

In 1998 just prior to starting his college career then, Minister Corey D. Butler received a prophetic word from his pastor, Apostle Meredith Shackelford and the Prophetic Presbytery of An Open Door Church. The word stated in no uncertain terms that Min. Butler would not look for bible studies to attend but he would start them. It was from this prophetic word that Minister Butler was apostolically released to fulfill his purpose in DeKalb. Almost one year later Minister Butler was sitting with friend talking about the word when the Lord spoke to him clearly, Its Time. This word brought back the vivid words that were spoken over his life the year prior.  There was uneasiness in his spirit so he immediately conferred with his pastor for permission, instruction and direction. With the apostolic approval of his leader and his release God begin the prophetic journey of Jesus Is the Way Christian Center…

…Time progressed and God revealed himself in many ways to Minister Butler and Jesus is the Way Ministries. In May 2003 now, Elder Butler completed his matriculation at NIU and graduated. While leaving DeKalb there was a feeling of incompleteness because there was no one to continue the work that he has started.  The summer that preceded his graduation was trying. Elder Butler was in a state of confusion, but in a miracle moment at the An Open Door Churchs Anniversary Elder Butler and Apostle Shackelford walked pass each other pivoted and they both turned. Apostle Shackelford spoke two words Go Preach! It was from this prophetic word that the certainty of Jesus Is the Way Ministries was obtained.  Returning to NIU in the fall, Elder Butler proceeded to speak with his leader before he left for DeKalb.  This conversation was a sudden, yet pivotal shift for Elder Butler. While in conversation with Apostle Shackelford, God had instructed Shackelford to ordain Elder Butler and release him to start his own work. This word was not well received by Elder Butler, but after God spoke firmly and said Who are you to argue with my will! He abdicated.  The work began on the new church. As he left Shackelfords office God spoke and said Jesus Is the Way Christian Center.  It was from this place the labor began to organize the new church.  The fall of 2003, marks the beginning of Jesus Is the Way Christian Center.

Butler’s attorney, Tom Benno, is a “professional wrestler  in the Gladiator Aztecs Lucha Libre International league known as GALLI.”

Bruce, Do You Hate God?

hate god

On one level, this is a silly question. Since I do not think there is a God, if I hated God I would be hating a nonexistent entity. This would be akin to hating Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. However, I understand why religious people might think someone like me hates God. I spend a lot of time writing things that are negative about God and religion, surely, I must HATE God. Maybe some atheists do hate God, but I don’t. It is an non-issue for me.

As a writer, my focus is on religion. Religion is the human attempt to answer what I call the “hard” questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the essence, the substance of life? Is there life after death?  What gives life meaning and purpose? These are not easy to answer. I realize many atheists will say “no evidence”… end of discussion, but I think these kind of questions are worthy of friendly discussion. The problem is many religious people can’t discuss these questions in a friendly manner. Thinking their God and belief system is truth, they condemn and marginalize anyone who thinks differently.

While I think evolution is the best answer to the “where did we come from” question, I am not at all satisfied with the answers science gives when dealing with the something rather than nothing question.Even Bill Nye, in his debate with creationist Ken Ham, admitted that, so far, science hasn’t answered the question of where the first particle came from. Of course Ham, a man with cement in the place where his brain once sat, jumped up and down and said, TEACHER, TEACHER, I KNOW THE ANSWER!  IT’S FOUND IN THE B-I-B-L-E. Ham thinks the question is answered  whereas Nye is willing to say, We don’t know, but we continue to try and find the  answer this important question.

I am an atheist because the evidence tells me, at this present moment, there is no God.As a man who spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the pastorate, I am well versed in the teachings of the Bible and the one, true, and holy Evangelical faith. There’s no possible argument an Evangelical could make that I have not heard. It is not evidence that I am lacking. I have weighed all the available evidence in the balance and found it wanting. I am convinced, based on the available evidence, that the Evangelical God is a work of fiction and that Christianity is an admixture of myths, legends, oral traditions and religious teachings.Maybe someday a deity of some sort will reveal itself to us. If so, I will consider this new evidence just like I have the evidence for the plethora of human religions. I doubt this will happen, so I am not going to spend any time worrying about it. In the mean time,  I remain agnostic on the God question and live my day-to-day life as an atheist. Reason, humanism, family, friends, baseball, and writing are enough for me, no God needed.

My hatred is reserved for certain aspects of some religions. Since I live in the United States, my experience has primarily been with the Christian religion, especially the Evangelical form of Christianity. While I think the essence of Christianity can provide value and substance for some people, even in our modern, scientific world, I am convinced that 21st century Christianity is so far afield from its original intent that it has ceased to be Christianity at all. How does the Christianity of today, in any of its various forms, remotely resemble the teachings and faith of Jesus, the poor, itinerant  do-gooder of 2,000 years ago?

Part of the problem is that early in the history of the Christian church the Christianity of Jesus was subjugated by the Christianity of Paul.  The modern version of Christianity we see today is Paul’s version of it and not Jesus’s. It is doubtful, at least in my mind, that we can ever recover what Jesus wanted Christianity to be. We can’t know if he even wanted to start a new religion. Perhaps all he wanted was to reform Judaism.  We can’t appeal to the Bible because it has been corrupted by errors, corrections, additions, and outright fraudulent changes. At best, we might be able to peer within the pages of the Bible and get a general idea of who Jesus was and what he was all about. And we can do this regardless of whether we consider Jesus divine.

When I look at American Christianity what do I see? I see power and wealth. I see arrogance. I see machinery. I see everything but what I should see. Where is Jesus? Where are the good works? Look at the 2016 Republican slate of presidential candidates. Jesus lovers, the lot of them, all trying to see who has the biggest Evangelical dick. Yet, their beliefs and policies would likely be condemned by Jesus of Nazareth. Millions of Christians will vote for these men, thinking they are voting for God’s man.

It seems that most churches and pastors are focused on building a kingdom, not in heaven but here on earth. Why all the fancy, expensive buildings? Why all the programs designed to keep fat, lazy sheep happy?  Why does most of the income go to maintain  buildings, pay staff, and provide programs for people who are already Christians? What happened to outreach to the “least of these?”  Where can I find a church where the poor, sick,homeless, and ignorant are given preferential treatment? If Jesus were alive today do we really think he would go to an American church?

Even though I don’t believe in the Christian God nor do I think the Bible is divine truth, I could see myself going to a church that took seriously the teachings of the man named Jesus. (and yes, I am aware that some of his teachings are contemptible) I still have a heart filled with compassion for the poor, sick, and marginalized.

I wonder if there is any room in the world for atheist itinerant preachers?  While I couldn’t preach the Christian gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, I could preach a humanist gospel, a gospel that says salvation is found in the goodwill, mercy, and compassion we have for others. I could point to the teachings of Jesus, Buddha and Bruce Almighty and show how the relevant parts of their teachings can help make us better human beings.

My hatred is reserved for any religion that is focused on power and wealth rather than people. For the most part, I despise  Evangelical Christianity. To the Evangelical, words in a book are more important than loving their neighbor and helping the least of these.  They prefer the narrowness of their religion to the wideness of human love, mercy, and compassion. They would rather concern themselves with abortion, same-sex  marriage, and getting Republican elected than trying to make a real difference in the lives of the “least of these.”  Thinking evangelizing someone is more important than feeding their hunger and clothing their back, Evangelicals are viewed by non-Christians in the same light as door knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and siding salesmen.

My beef is not with God because I don’t think there is a God. My beef is not with Christians who are serious about loving and helping others. My disdain, and at times anger, is reserved for those who have no regard for the plight of the poor and the sick, who only care about building a kingdom here on earth. No matter how much they talk about the future kingdom of God, their actions betray their true ambitions.

If churches took seriously the teachings of Jesus they would merge, sell off the excess real estate, and use the money to help the poor, sick, and disadvantaged. If churches took seriously the teachings of Jesus, they’d fire all the professional Christians, forcing them to get a real job. In doing so, these professional Christians will be forced to reengage with a world they lost connection with once they became the gatekeeper and waitstaff at the local Evangelical church.

If churches took seriously the teachings of Jesus they’d stop the programs that are little more than crack for religious junkies. These junkies bounce from church to church, program to program, service to service, hoping to get a Jesus fix. They are narcissists who have forgotten that what really matters is loving their spouse, children, family, and neighbor. They’ve traded the church for their common, dirty connection with the world. Sheltered from sinners, they listen to sermons that remind them of how wonderful it is in the church and how bad it is out there.

I don’t hate God. My  hatred is reserved for evil done in the name of God. My hatred is reserved for those who value fidelity and conformity more than they do people. Such thinking burned people at the stake and slaughtered uncounted heretics. Given a chance here in America, Evangelicals with theocratic impulses would enact and enforce a Christian version of Sharia law. I hate all who dare to attempt to subjugate and control others in the name of their God.  Thinking they are an oracle who has THE truth, they demand everyone else bow to their truth. Willing to use violence and the power of the state to force others to embrace their God and Holy Book, they cause deep hatred and resentment. Thinking they are being hated for their beliefs, what they are really being hated for is their unwillingness to allow others to have the same freedom they demand for themselves.

As I look at American Christianity, I search in vain for one good reason that I would/should become a Christian. Maybe there is a group somewhere that takes seriously the teaching of the socialist Jesus, but so far all I see is ice cream. Various flavors, but all ice cream. (Please see But, Our church is DIFFERENT!)

Are You a Porno Freak?

porno freak at work

Debi Pearl Wonders What Her Husband Michael is Doing Behind Closed Doors

Snark and adult humor ahead.

According to Michael Pearl, a defender of the Quiverfull movement and of ritual child abuse, anyone who wants to work quietly and privately in his office or study is a porno freak. Here’s what Pearl had to say in the June/July 2015 No Greater Joy magazine:

Never trust your children, and don’t trust your spouse if any activity seems suspicious. My wife and my staff have complete access to my computer. The main server is beyond my reach. It maintains complete records of all my activity. I am never locked in a room by myself to “do my work without being disturbed.” I don’t own a cell phone, but if I did my wife and my staff would be on the account and be able to review all of my activities. If any adult is less open than I describe, they are porno freaks and need to repent. Don’t doubt it. “Provide things that are honest in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17)

No, Michael, those of us who prefer to work quietly and privately are not porno freaks. I had six children and the only way I could productively read and study was to have a private office where I could work undisturbed. I did not spend my time surfing porn sites and masturbating. It’s called discipline and self-control, traits sadly lacking in the Evangelical church. Did I ever look at porn as a pastor? Sure, but having dial-up service severely ruined the thrill. I had to wait until my post-pastor days when I got broadband service to indulge my inner porno freak. I quickly found out that, for me, watching porn was boring. Seen one blow job, seen them all. Like drinking beer–been there, done that, yuk, no thanks. (Not that I think there is anything wrong with a man or woman viewing porn as much or as little as he or she wants.)

Michael Pearl is another example of a weak pathetic Evangelical man who fears he will fall to the temptations of a porn-filled internet if left to himself. Pearl fears that, if left alone behind closed doors, he will surf on over to quiverfullbabes.com and give in to his inner porno freak. Viewing women with dresses above their ankles and daring to show their feminine shape, Pearl fears losing control and masturbating until he is as blind as Bartimaeus.

Pearl writes about all the safeguards he has in place to keep him honest, yet anyone with decent computer skills can easily hack and overcome these safeguards. Wouldn’t the safest approach be to not have a computer or the internet? The Bible says, neither give place to the devil and abstain from all appearance of evil. Surely, even booting up a computer is giving place to the evil one, right? And on this point we see the hypocrisy of Michael Pearl. He really should get rid of his computer and avoid anything that has to do with the internet. “If any Christian is unwilling to do as I prescribe, then  he is a secret porno freak,” thus saith Bruce Almighty. The reason Pearl has a computer and internet access is because it is the only way he can spread his Quiverfull STD to the masses. It is the only way he and Debi can rake in money from people who buy into their pernicious teachings.

Come on Michael…be a real Christian, get rid of your computer and cancel your dial-up service.

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Evangelicals Use ‘We Are All Sinners’ Argument to Justify Sexual Abuse

josh duggar

One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that a fifteen-year-old teen boy touching the genitals of five little girls is criminal. One would think decent, thoughtful people would agree that we should do all we can to protect children from those who will use them for sexual gratification. One would think that decent, thoughtful people would agree that covering up and not prosecuting sexual abuse is not in the best interest of the victims or society.

One would think…and you’d be wrong. I have been astounded by Evangelical excuses, justifications, explanations, and dismissals of Josh Duggar’s criminal sexual assault of five girls. Consider for a moment the universal condemnation of Congressman Dennis Hastert over his decades- old sexual abuse of a student of his. According to Hastert’s indictment, he paid a male student $1.7 million “in order to compensate for and conceal his prior misconduct against” him. Hastert used money to cover up his criminal behavior just as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar used their influence to cover up their son’s crimes. Why is one universally condemned and the other explained away as a teenager playing doctor, a “youthful mistake,” or “that’s what boys do”?

Let me illustrates this with three Facebook comments made by Fundamentalist Christian, Quiverfull defender, Duggar and Bill Gothard loving Rick Boyer:

rick boyer 1

rick boyer 2

rick boyer 3

Let me cut through all Boyer’s super spiritual, holier-than-thou, braggadocious, religious bullshit. He is using the “we are all sinners” argument to defend, excuse, justify, and explain a 15-year-old boy putting his hands on little girls vaginas and a grown man who manipulated and sexually molested girls and young women.

It seems that any time a darling of Evangelicalism finds himself in a compromising or criminal position, the first excuse trotted out by his defenders is “we are all sinners.”  While I don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin, for the sake of this post, I am going to accept as valid the notion of sin. I will then, in the rest of this post, gut the “we are all sinners” argument.

First, we may all be sinners but most of us don’t sexually molest children or groom and assault girls and young women. Such behaviors are deviant and vile and deserve punishment. We the people, through our elected officials, have enacted laws that protect children and vulnerable adults from predators like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard. Thanks to the statute of limitations and a big help from law enforcement, neither of them will be prosecuted. The fact that they are not being prosecuted doesn’t mean that they are not guilty. Both admitted their behavior, though their admissions leave a lot to be desired. One would think that this would be enough for people like Rick Boyer, but it isn’t.

Imagine if Richard Dawkins, who was abused as a child, was accused of molesting five little girls. Why the Evangelical outrage would be swift and earsplitting. Evangelicals would demand his prosecution and would write voluminous blog articles about Dawkins’s crimes against children being proof that there is no morality without God. And here’s the thing: atheists such as myself  would demand Dawkins be prosecuted. Because the issue is CHILD ABUSE and not obtuse, never-ending arguments about sin, God, and morality.  We have laws, and we expect people to obey them. Both Duggar and Gothard broke the law. They got by with their crimes because people covered up their behavior. It wasn’t until a victim made her story public or an investigative reporter sussed out the facts, that the public  learned about their crimes. And, as a person who thinks the rule of law is important, and that protecting children is a key part of a just society, I expect people like Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard to be prosecuted for their criminal behavior.

Second, Rick Boyer blames all the outrage on pagans and gullible Christians. This is blame-shifting extraordinaire, a game played by those who want to deflect criticism or judgment. Anyone who has raised children has seen this game played. Johnny gets caught throwing food at Sally and when his Mom confronts him he says, but Rudy, Johnny’s little brother, was throwing food too. Mom rightly replies, but I am talking to you, Johnny, about what you did, not what Rudy did. The wise parent does not let her children blame- shift. Those who do end up having children like Rick Boyer.

I thought Evangelicals were the personal-responsibility wing of Christianity. Since their politics are overwhelmingly right-wing, they have demanded Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton accept responsibility for what was done on their watch. BENGHAZI BENGHAZI BENGHAZI, is the nightly cry of Faux News, and uncounted Evangelicals want President Obama impeached and Hillary Clinton criminally prosecuted. Yet, when it comes to Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, many Evangelicals are strangely quiet about “personal responsibility.” Why is this? Why has this been the case my entire life? Big name Evangelical gets in trouble and his defenders flock to internet and protect their boy. No matter the crime, they are quick to justify and forgive. I wonder if they would be so understanding or forgiving if it were their daughter or granddaughter who was sexually molested by Josh Duggar or Bill Gothard? Something tells me that they would be calling for the perpetrator’s head to be cut off as swiftly as Geoffrey cut off Ned Stark’s head in Game of Thrones.

Third, it seems that no matter what an Evangelical superstar does, the God of forgiveness and the blood of Jesus provide a get-out-of-jail-free card. While Evangelicals will feign concern for the victims, their real concern is for the perpetrator. He’s a star and is so important to God and his work here on earth that anything and everything he does must be forgiven. No matter the crime, the sin slate must be wiped clean. After all, King David, a man who committed adultery, was a polygamist, and had a man murdered so he could have his wife, is called in the Bible, a man after God’s own heart. If King David can have his slate wiped clean and be best buds with God again, surely the same can happen for Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard.

Sadly, Evangelical beliefs about sin, atonement, and forgiveness turn Evangelicals into lobotomized lemmings unable to see things as they are. What we have with Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard are clear cases of sexual abuse and abuse of power. Every non-lobotomized person knows this. The facts aren’t in dispute, yet many Evangelicals blithely preach up the love, grace, and forgiveness of God as an excuse for heinous behavior that is rightly condemned by Christian and atheist alike. It’s only Evangelicals who are defending these men. Why is this?

Most Evangelicals believe that the forgiveness of ANY sin is but a prayer away. The Bible says in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let me use an extreme example to explain Evangelical thinking about sin and forgiveness. There are eight people in the Roberts family. The Roberts’ are a Christian family, noted for their love and devotion to Jesus. Well, except for Becky. Becky is sixteen and she has a boyfriend who is not a Christian. Her parents demand that she break up with Clint and never see him again. They remind her that the Bible says that believers are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers and God says premarital sex is a sin. Becky continues to see Clint, often sneaking out of the house late at night, meeting Clint at their “special” place. Over time, Becky  becomes so angry at her parents and their constant Bible- quoting and judgmental attacks on Clint that she decides  to kill her family, all seven of them. Her boyfriend, enthralled with Becky and the sex they shared, says he would be willing to help her kill her mother, father, and six siblings. And one night, that is exactly what they did.

According to people like Bill Boyer and other grace and forgiveness Evangelicals, forgiveness for Becky is only a prayer away. She was a love struck teenager, kinda like Josh Duggar, and even though she did horrible things, one simple, heartfelt prayer will wipe away the blood of her dead family. Isn’t God awesome?

Oh Bruce, such a fantastical story, one that would never happen in real life. Really?  Then you have never heard of 16-year-old Evangelical teenager Erin Caffey who is serving two life sentences plus twenty-five years for the slaughter of her mother and two brothers and the attempted murder of her father in 2008. You can read about the case here. Let me ask readers, would you or could forgive your daughter for slaughtering your entire family? Yet, according to Evangelical belief, forgiveness is not only just a whispered prayer away, it is demanded by God regardless of the circumstance.

Erin Caffey’s father Terry, being the good Christian that he is, forgave his daughter and the boyfriend and two friends that murdered his two children and wife. Here’s what Caffey had to say:

“I planned my own suicide. I decided that when I got well enough to travel, I was going back to my property, and I was going to end it. So when that day came, I went back there and stood on the ashes and began to cry to God. I said, ‘God, I don’t understand why you took my family. Why did you do this? I just don’t understand.’

“No sooner than I said that, I looked down and saw this scrap piece of paper from a book. It was burned around the edges. I picked it up, and it read, ‘I couldn’t understand why you would take my family and leave me behind to struggle along without them. I may never totally understand that part of it, but I do know that you are sovereign. You are in control.’ When I read those words, I was like, ‘Wow.’ It brought me to my knees.”

“People ask me, ‘How could you forgive your daughter and how could you forgive those who murdered your family?’ I am not trying to justify anything. This is my daughter.”

Sadly, because of Evangelical indoctrination, Terry Caffey has lost the ability to  feel anger and hate. As a father, I understand the love a father has for his children, but every child can cross a line where no love and forgiveness remains for  him or her. Evangelicals have had drilled into their heads the idea that they must love unconditionally and forgive any and all who transgress against them. Besides, some day, in the sweet by and by, Terry will be reunited with his murdered children and wife. And Erin will be there too, maybe with her fellow murderers who found Jesus while in prison. One big happy murdered family reunion. Until their reunion in God’s Big House, Terry Caffey travels America telling his story. Caffey has a ministry called A Cross America Ministries: Enabling Today’s Youth to be Tomorrow’s Christian Leaders. He has written a book, been the subject of a People Magazine feature, been on the Dr. Phil Show, and has a new wife and kids.

I wonder, if there were no heaven, would Terry Coffey be so forgiving? Would Evangelicals be so willing to forgive and forget the crimes of Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, and uncounted other Evangelical superstar abusers and perverts, if there were no divine payoff in heaven? Evangelicals are taught that forgiveness is mandatory. As God has forgiven them, so are they to forgive others. Now, in real life, the forgive- everyone requirement is often ignored. As those of us who were in the Evangelical church for many years know, some of the most mean, nasty, vile, unforgiving people can be found at First Baptist Church on Sunday morning at 11:00 a.m. And some of them are standing at the pulpit.

Fourth, man this post is getting way too long, but let me take some time to point out the hypocrisy of Evangelicals like Rick Boyer. If two consenting adult men have sex, Evangelicals are outraged. If two consenting adult lesbians get married, Evangelicals are outraged. From gay sex to non-married hetero-sex to teenage blow jobs, Evangelicals are outraged. Quoting a plethora of Bible verses that many of them ignore in secret, and calling on God to judge America, but just don’t judge them, they demand Biblical justice be meted out to these unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines. What happened to grace and forgiveness? Well Bruce, Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard confessed their sins, God forgives them, and they promised to never, ever, one time, I mean never, never ONE time, touch a little girl or young woman again. Those queers, adulterers, and fornicators refuse to stop their sin, so there is NO forgiveness for them!

Way too many Evangelicals naïvely believe that people like Josh Duggar, Bill Gothard, Jack Schaap, Geronimo “Pastor G” Aguilar, David Hyles, Jimmy Swaggart, John Paulk, Jack Hyles, Paul Crouch, Douglas Goodman, Ted Haggard, Earl Paulk, Paul Barnes, Lonny Latham, Michael Reid, Todd Bentley, Tony Alamo, Eddie Long, Gilbert Deya, Coy Privette, Joe Barron, George Rekers, David Loveless, Isaac Hunter, Sam Hinn, Paula White and uncounted other Evangelical superstars, have stopped doing what got them in trouble.  Why should they stop screwing church members, abusing children, and acting in ways most respectable people would consider decadent? Just pray, be contrite, promise never to do it again, wink, wink, and all is well.

What these modern-day Elmer Gantrys have learned is that Evangelicals are gullible, always ready to love, forgive, and forget. Perhaps some of them have learned their lesson and stayed on the straight and narrow, but my gut and six decades of exposure to Evangelicalism tells me that what has really has happened is that they have learned to be more careful. I am of the opinion that all the God, praying, and forgiving in the world won’t fix a child molester. Pedophilia, hebephilia, and ephebophilia aren’t curable. Those who desire and molest children will continue to do so until they are stopped. Anyone who thinks Josh Duggar’s or Bill Gothard’s behaviors are one- time events, never to be repeated, is either ignorant or fell on his head when  he was a kid. This is why I support  the incarceration of child molesters. Children will never be safe as long as we treat child molesters as sinners that can be fixed by God, prayer, and forgiveness.

Is Josh Duggar a pedophile? I don’t know. I do know he molested five girls and this is enough for me to say that he should never be allowed near children. Mark my word, in a few years Josh Duggar will write a book and start a ministry that will extol the wondrous grace of God; how that God forgave and delivered Duggar from his sins. And many Evangelicals will embrace him as the father did the prodigal son. All will be forgiven and no one will consider whether Josh Duggar might be a pedophile who should never, ever be allowed to be near children again.

Notes

Three excellent articles on this subject: Homeschooling Activist Defends Josh Duggar Against ‘Pagans’ Attacking Him  (link no longer active) and HEAV’S Rick Boyer Defends Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, Claims “Abuse is the New Racism” and Listen-Up Ovaried Americans: Quiverfull Boss Biblesplains How This Whole Morality Thing Works

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UPDATED: Rudolph Walls, The Friendly Pastor Who is a Registered Sex Offender

friendly chapel dillon

Friendly Chapel, Dillon, South Carolina. Rudolph Walls, Pastor

The story that follows is a perfect example of why people should, by default, be skeptical when a pastor comes to town to start a new church. If a man is going to an established church, the church can request a criminal background check. However, when the same man starts a new church, no background check is needed. It’s his church, his business, and people just have to trust that he is what he claims to be. In the case of Rudolph Walls, pastor of Friendly Chapel in Dillon, South Carolina, trusting the pastor means having a registered sex offender and a convicted child molester as your pastor. Released from prison in the 1990’s, Walls eventually became a pastor, ending up at Friendly Chapel in Dillion. Proving that a leopard can’t change his spots, Walls was arrested again for criminal sexual conduct with a minor.

WMBF News reports:

A pastor and registered sex offender was arrested Thursday morning in Dillon County for criminal sexual conduct involving two victims under the age of 16, according to officials.

Rudolph Walls, 64, is facing two counts of criminal sexual conduct, third degree, after several people came forward to file complaints…

….Walls is being held at the Dillon County Detention Center, and he may appear in municipal court Friday morning for a bond hearing. Officials at the detention center confirmed Walls is a chaplain, but could not specify where he is employed.

A resident in the area confirmed that Walls is a pastor at the Friendly Chapel on Main Street in the city of Dillon.

Rudolph Walls is listed as a registered sex offender in the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. He was convicted of indecent liberty with a minor in 1989, and was released in 1997.

pastor rudolph walls

Pastor Rudolph Walls

Not only was Walls convicted in North Carolina in 1989 for indecent liberty with a minor, he is also currently a chaplain for the Dillon police department. The good pastor had the complete trust of the church and the police.

In a 2014 news release for an upcoming women’s conference, Walls is listed as BISHOP Rudolph Walls, Sr.  Friendly Chapel is an unaffiliated store front church, so exactly what was Walls bishop of?

Walls is currently charged with “criminal sexual conduct involving two victims under the age of 16.” The victims, both boys, were members of Friendly Chapel. A relative of one of the boys stated that the boy trusted Walls, and Walls was considered a role model for the boy.

This story is a poignant reminder of why I tell parents they shouldn’t let their children out of their sight while at church. According to news reports, the sexual assaults took place at the church. Call me a cynic, but I simply no longer trust people who say they are working for God. Unless they have been vetted and thoroughly investigated, I would NEVER allow them to have private, personal access to children or teenagers. Sadly, in Walls’ case, since he started the church, there was no way to find out if he was who and what he claimed to be.

Perhaps it is time for pastors to be required to submit to annual state and federal background checks.The same should be required of anyone in the church who has contact with children or teenagers. A database could be compiled that would allow prospective church members and law enforcement to search for any  previous criminal arrests and/or convictions. This should be a nationwide database so someone like Walls can’t  move from one state to the next to avoid detection.

It should be clear to all that we can no longer trust churches or the clergy with our children. Every day I read another new report of a pastor, priest, elder, or deacon sexually molesting or preying on church children. Day after day, the reports pile up in my email inbox. From the Catholic church sex scandal to Rudolph Walls to Jack Schaap, predators who call themselves men of God prey on church children. While Christians will likely say that these predators are outliers, the proverbial bad apple, I am convinced that apple barrel has far more bad apples than Christians are willing to admit. The Bible says that judgment must begin at the house of God. It’s time for sects, churches, and individual church members to clean up their own backyard. Instead of raging against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, premarital sex, and adultery, how about making a serious effort to address sexual abuse in the church.

Notes

Friendly Chapel is located in Dillon, South Carolina. Walls is a registered sex offender in Chadbourn, North Carolina. These two communities are 40 miles apart.

dillon sc to chadbourn nc

rudolph walls registered sex offender

rudolph walls registered sex offender 2

Walls’ address in the North Carolina Registered Sex Offender Database is listed as 226 Old Stake Rd in Chadbourn, North Carolina. Based on Google Earth, this is the address for the parking lot of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Chadbourn. Jerry Ganus is the pastor of the church. I found no website for Mt. Zion. I did find numerous funeral notices that listed Ganus as the officiant. I have no idea if there is any connection between Mt. Zion Baptist Church/Jerry Ganus and Rudolph Walls. My gut tells me there is. In the comment section, a commenter stated that Walls’ mother is a member of Mt. Zion.

According to another commenter, there is a road that runs through the church parking lot and Walls lived (lives) in a house on this road.

226 old stake road

UPDATE, December 3, 2015:

Raw Story reports:

…Police charged 64-year-old pastor Rudolph Walls in May with two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the third degree against two children under the age of 16.

Walls had previously insisted he was not guilty of any crime — but this week he pled guilty to criminal sexual conduct with a minor and failure to register as a sex offender.

Judge Markley Dennis sentenced him to 15 years behind bars. The sentence is the maximum allowed under the law.

“Obviously, we agree with and are appreciative of the court’s imposing the maximum sentence,” prosecutor Shipp Daniel said. “This is a terrible case perpetrated by a man whose position as a pastor makes it that much more heinous. Unfortunately, 15 years is all he could get.”…

Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 3

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

In my last post on this subject I wrote:

In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject.  It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people: wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people…

Let me digress for a moment and lay some groundwork for what I will say next. Evangelicals believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various  arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If they don’t they are not Evangelical.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, when we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.

God has given them a man or a woman (most often a man) to teach and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people?

People want to believe that when they go to church they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.

This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for churches to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe the facts. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana (at one time the largest church in America),was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement was divided into two groups of people; those that stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.

The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church.  He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year prison sentence.

Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities.  He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty hours out of every twenty four hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.

In the Evangelical church, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question…well that’s never happened.

Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about evangelicals, but many of they take seriously the teachings of the Bible. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.

Church members are taught to NOT trust their own reasoning. They are taught to NOT trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading  books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters.. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.

Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.

Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people.  I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want  to help people and to teach people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.

Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total number of churches. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at the mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’  church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.

No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He  the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board.  The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss a pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.

As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.

I am sure you have heard the line absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many churches. Over time, the pastor becomes  a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?

The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors and political personalities, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.”  “What a powerful man of God you are!”

The pastor and the church are complicit in providing a fertile ground for abuse to occur.  While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account  for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it failed to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving the same way as church members and non-Christians.

Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible.  Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes it is bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes it really is good people doing bad things.

Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?

First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AM SOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?”  Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher)

Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to the pastor about the troubles they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk.” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and mental/emotional stress.

This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalist?)

As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.

Most church members read the bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and they are encouraged to only send their kids to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.

Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.

When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.

Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blinds them from seeing themselves as they really are. As this point, the pastor lacks self-awareness and is extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.

Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and  responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.

Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Uncounted pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.

Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the person. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.

Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed provocatively.  Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats.  She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs she definitely had my attention.  It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.

In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.

A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But, we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an Independent Baptist church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, explains most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.

Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastor. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control–and I readily admit there are some kids that need help beyond what  parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home, such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (See Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)

Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he  gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do, The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students.  Rarely, does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the student and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the student is on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.

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Churches That Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things and Why Bad People Do Bad Things Part 2

elmer gantry

Is Your Pastor an Elmer Gantry? Are You Sure? How Can You Know?

In the first part of this post I dealt with Churches That Abuse: Why Bad people do Bad things. I wrote:

Churches attract all kinds of people with varying motivations for being a part of a particular religion. I spent fifty years in the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. When it comes to other religions, I only know what I read in the media. The experiences and observations I share in this post come from the fifty years I spent in those churches, first as a parishioner, and later as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years in the pastorate, pastoring churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas.

While I am no longer a Christian or a pastor, I do keep myself informed about the Independent Baptist/Non-Denominational/Evangelical church. Just because I no longer believe doesn’t mean that my experiences and observations are now, suddenly, invalid or lack value. Some Christians try to marginalize or invalidate my writing by suggesting that since I am no longer a Christian, or may have never been a Christian (their view), my experiences and observations can safely be ignored or ridiculed. I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide whether what I write has value. I suspect, knowing my readers as I do, that what follows will resonate with many of them,

The Christian church attracts people with ulterior motives. Generally, Christian people are very trusting. When someone gives a testimony of redemption, most Christians readily embrace the lost sheep that is now found. Tales of addictions, sexual immorality, prison, violence, and the like find a sympathetic ear with most Christians. The worse the sinner, the greater the testimony of God’s wonderful, saving grace.

There is no doubt that many sinful, fallen people have found deliverance through what they believe is the saving work of Jesus Christ. Many vile people now live productive, grace-filled lives as born again Christians.  They are to be commended for the change that has taken place in their lives. While I no longer embrace the Christian church and its message of saving grace, I am quite ready to admit that religion transforms and changes multitudes of people.

Because Christian people are trusting and accept people at face value, they are an easy mark for people who have evil intentions. In among the sheep are criminals, thieves, child abusers, and sexual deviants, to name a few. These people make an outward show of Christianity, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves seeking sheep to devour. This is true not only in the local church, but also in Christian camps, group homes, and Christian schools.

Churches make it easy for deceivers to set up camp in their midst. The deceivers quickly embrace the church family, begin to regularly attend services, and even give money to the church. They are soon embraced as brother or sister. Before too long they are given access to places of responsibility within the church. They now have access to the treasures of the church. (monetary, physical, spiritual)

In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject.  It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people; wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people.

How does a good person — a  pastor, deacon, or Sunday school teacher — go from a life as a devoted follower of Jesus to engaging in acts of abuse and perversion?  It is easy to dismiss these people as people who secretly were always abusers, but what if they weren’t?  What caused them to turn from being a follower of Jesus to being an abuser?

I will not offer any iron-clad answers to this question. I do want to suggest that there are teachings and ideologies within many Christian groups, especially those of Evangelical or Fundamentalist persuasion, that are instrumental in turning good people into abusers. They become Good People who do Bad Things.

My focus is on the churches I am most familiar with: Independent, Fundamentalist, Evangelical, and Baptist churches. I could spend the next hour detailing the heinous acts of people I personally know; men and women considered to be devoted followers of Jesus who became abusers of the very people they were supposed to love and care for.

I do not want this post to come off as a justification for the behavior of abusers. When 9-11 happened our focus was rightly on the terrorists who murdered thousands of people. Over time, a few people tried to raise questions about WHY the terrorists did what they did. Some people have no interest in pondering or answering the WHY question. “Who in the hell cares WHY they did it. We know they did it and that is all that matters.” I understand this sentiment, but refusing to ask the WHY question leaves us open to a repeat of the 9-11 attack. Dealing with the terrorists motivations just might reduce the number of terrorist attacks.

Multitudes of people have gone through their own personal 9-11.  They have been attacked, abused, and often emotionally and spiritually destroyed by people they trusted. Their tales of abuse are heart-wrenching, and I have no problem understanding their hatred for those who abused them. What I want to gently do is try to understand WHY the abuse happens. I will understand if you say, “Let them all rot in hell. I don’t care what their reasons were, or why they did what they did.” I have not walked in your shoes so I have no right to tell you how you must respond to these issues. But, I do think answering the WHY question is very important when it comes to reducing emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual abuse.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. I believe I can give some answers to the WHY question. I want to look behind the abuse and see what led good people to become abusers. I am convinced there are things within the DNA of Christianity that lends itself to breeding and growing abusers, especially within the Evangelical  church.

What are the reasons a person joins a church?

  • They are born into the church. At a later date they make a public profession of faith and are baptized.
  • Their family has always attended a particular church, so they, keeping with family tradition, join the family church.
  • They get married and their spouse attends a particular church. They join the church their spouse attends. It is important for couples to be on the same page spiritually, or so they are told.
  • They move into a new community and find a church of like faith to join.
  • They are dissatisfied with the current church they are members of and they are looking to join a church that best meets their needs.
  • They think there is no church that meets their needs or standard of belief so they start their own church.
  • They are friends of someone who attends a particular church. They visit the church, like what they see, so they join their friend’s church.
  • They attend a church, hear the preaching, fall under conviction of their sins, and  are  saved. They are baptized and become members of the church. They are called “new converts.”

What I have listed above pretty well covers the reasons why a person becomes a member of a particular church. I recognize the reasons I mention lack nuance, but I think they will suffice for what I plan to write later.

There are uncounted people who are not a part of organized religion. They are part of fellowship groups, cell churches, home churches, study groups, etc. While these groups are detached from the organized church, they are just as capable of being abusive as any group mentioned above. I know of home churches that are just as fundamentalist, if not more so, than any independent, fundamentalist Baptist church.

Every church and denomination has its own orthodoxy and its own orthopraxy.  When trying to determine why good people do bad things, we must first look at what a particular church or denomination believes and practices. This is essential to understanding why people, in the name of God, people who are committed followers of Jesus, abuse other people, often doing despicable things to those they are supposed to love and protect.

Most Evangelical churches teach:

  • The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth.  If they don’t they are not Evangelicals.
  • That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
  • The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
  • The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.

When we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God. They also believe that God has given them a man or a woman to teach them and guide them in the teachings of the Bible: namely, the pastor. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.

How do pastors gain such power over people? I will answer this question in part three of this series.

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