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Breaking News: IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Admits to Driving Church Members

bob gray driving sheep
IFB sheepdog Bob Gray, Sr. driving church members (sheep) to give, give, give and win souls, win souls, win souls.

It is not often that an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher of the stature of Dr. not-a-real-Dr. Bob Gray, Sr., exposes for all to see the way he really does the work of the ministry. While I appreciate Gray’s “honesty,” something tells me that he won’t appreciate this blog post.

There was a day when the job description for Evangelical pastors included things such as preaching, teaching, visiting the sick and the elderly, marrying the young and burying the old. These days, Evangelicals pastors, especially those who pastor megachurches, inspire and encourage church members. Every Sunday, church members file into the sanctuary hoping to get their weekly fix of Jesus. Pastors, knowing they must rev up congregants to keep them happy and tithing, resort to all sorts of tricks to make sure felt needs are met and every person leaves the sanctuary all jacked up on Mountain Dew, I mean Jesus.  This type of ministry has turned church members into spectators.

Down in Longview, Texas, things are different at the Longview Baptist Temple — a sin-hating, devil-fighting, King-James-Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. The Gray clan — Bob Gray, Sr., and Bob Gray II — have little interest in inspiring, motivating or encouraging church members. Death is certain, hell is real, and Jesus is coming soon, preach the Grays, and they have no time to coddle church members. According to Gray, Sr.’s recent blog post, God-called preachers should drive their church members to do what they want them to do. Gray wrote:

The more I think about the subject of driving people the more I realize how we badly have missed the boat regarding this. In every other area of life we taut [sic] and praise the people who are driven and do drive others for a cause.

We celebrate a coach who drives his team to victory, but criticize the pastor who drives his church to reach their city for Christ. We praise the teacher who drives her students to study harder to get good grades, yet slander the pastor who drives his people to fulfill the great commission as they are commanded to do. We rejoice over the parent who drives their child to practice their musical instruments so that they can become accomplished musicians, but we demonize the pastor who drives his people to give more to God.

Let me ask you a question. Is winning the lost less important than winning the national championship? Tell me why Nick Saban can drive his Alabama football team to win and we love it, but we criticize the preacher for driving his people.

It seems that Gray, now 70 years old, has failed to learn that rarely does driving people result in long-term success. When people feel they are constantly being pushed to do, do, do, and do some more, they will, over time, tire of it and seek rest and relaxation somewhere beyond the incessant pushing of their drug-dealer pastor. I wonder if Gray, Sr. has ever thought about the thousands of church members he has driven right off a cliff? Tens of thousands of people have been won to Jesus through the soul-winning efforts of sheepdog Gray and Longview Baptist Temple (LBT) sheep. Shouldn’t the auditorium of LBT be teeming with members by now? Surely, 30 plus years of driving congregants to give, give, give and win souls, win souls, win souls, should result in overflow attendance on Sunday; yet attendance at LBT is a smidgen of what it once was. Longview Baptist Temple used to regularly publish its attendance numbers, bus rider numbers, and number of souls saved. Today? These numbers are no longer shared with the public. If continually driving church members is the way to do the work of the ministry, why does attendance at LBT continue to decline?

Where did preachers such as Bob Gray, Sr. get the notion that church members must be driven to accomplish great things for God? For many years, Jack Hyles — pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana — held an annual Pastor’s School. Thousands of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers and church members flocked to Hammond to sit at the feet of Hyles. First Baptist — at the time, the largest church in the world — was the crown jewel of the IFB church movement. Numerous preachers — Bob Gray, Sr. included — took to heart Hyles’ preaching and returned home to drive their churches to give, give, give, and win souls, win souls, win souls. The result? In the 1970s and early 1980s most of the Top One Hundred churches in attendance were IFB churches. Today? Only a handful of IFB churches are on the list. None is anywhere near the top of the list, having been displaced by friendlier, generic Evangelical churches.

The blame for the decline of the IFB church movement rests at the feet of Jack Hyles and those who followed in his steps. Hyles taught these so-called men of God to verbally, emotionally, and mentally abuse church members. As one aged IFB preacher said years ago, We hit our people over the head with the sin stick so often that they duck when we begin to preach. For years, Sunday after Sunday, IFB church members filed into churches such as Longview Baptist to hear preachers tell them that they were never doing enough. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry, sang the Midwestern Baptist College student body when I attended there in the 1970s. Today, the school has a handful of students, and the church which students were required to attend — Emmanuel Baptist Church — is no longer in existence; a church, by the way, that once exceeded 5,000 in attendance.

Thousands of souls were saved through the work of Midwestern college students. Required (driven) to evangelize, students fanned out across the Pontiac and Detroit area, knocking on doors and offering the one-two-three- repeat-after-me IFB gospel to those who dared to answer their knock. Freshmen students, filled with zeal and unaware as to how the soul-winning game was played, were those most likely to devote themselves to saving the lost. By the end of their first year, students who had been repeatedly berated at church, college chapel, and Saturday bus meetings over their poor souls-saved numbers, learned how to lie about their soul-winning conquests. Students were required to report each week how much time they spent evangelizing the lost and how many people were saved. Midwestern even held soul winning contests. Won souls were carefully tabulated and the best soul-winners had their names affixed to a chart.

Many IFB churches have moved on from their hyper-soul-winning days. As members began to burn out, attendance numbers declined. These IFB preachers — considered compromisers by men such as Gray — say they are now focused on quality and not quantity. Other IFB preachers, refusing to admit that they have burned through several generations of church members, continue to drive their churches — demanding more and more from fewer people. The numbers are against them, and in time churches built on the Hyles model of sheep-driving will collapse, and the remaining sheep will scatter, finding pastors and churches who treat them like people instead of a commodity. Whatever my feelings are concerning religion, I consider that those who choose to believe should be treated with respect. After all, they are the ones doing the work and paying the freight. Without them, preachers would be forced to sell vacuum cleaners and hamburgers to make ends meet.

Note

Gray, Sr. recently took to his blog to whine about people saying he drives church members. Gray wrote:

Recently it has been brought to my attention that someone who once worked side-by-side with me in my ministry has criticized me to several men for having “driven” my people rather than leading them. Now, normally I would actually consider that to be a compliment. However, it was obvious that it was not said as a compliment but as a criticism.

It is interesting that someone who would claim to be a friend would say what my enemies also have said about me. This is not something new. Nor is it something that concerns me other than for the fact that it came from a source I would have trusted. Plus it confuses people as to what good leadership is.

People who are told they are “hurting” after being so-called “driven” never knew it until they were told so. We are basically lazy by nature and anyone who will feed that will have to be critical of prior leaders who were driven because of a cause. It is an insult to those who gave their lives to a cause to say they were “driven” without a choice in the matter.

….

So, I say to those who accuse me of driving my people, you are right, I did drive my people. I drove them to do what’s right. I drove them to obey the Great Commission. I drove them to sacrifice for the cause of Christ. I drove them to put the Kingdom of God above themselves. I drove them to be the Christians they should be.

 

Songs of Sacrilege: God, Paper, Scissors by Paul Cusick

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is God, Paper, Scissors by Paul Cusick.

Video Link

Lyrics Link

Dear god I hope you’ve got your ears on,
I wanna tell you something that you
wouldn’t believe.
There’s children dying in the gutters.
Tell me why you hide your heart up your sleeve?

You never come down here.
You never show yourself, is it fear?
You never prove yourself.
When you’re needed you disappear.

Who sins?
Who chooses?
Who wins?
Who loses?

My god – is bigger than your god.
Your god – is better than my god.
My god – thinks he is your god.
But is god – but is god better than me?

My god – does no more than your god.
Your god – does no less than my god.
My god – thinks he’s the one god.
But is god – but is god better?
We’ll see…,

And they say – that my god forgives more
than your god, forgives more than me.
And they say – that my god accepts more
than your god, accepts more than me.

You never come down here.
You never show yourself, is it fear?
You never prove yourself.
When you’re needed you disappear.

Who sins?
Who chooses?
Who wins?
Who loses?

Your god is kinder. My god is finer.
Your god is wiser, but my god’s older.
Your god is smarter. My god is sharper.
Your god is better, but my god’s greater

My god, your god, my god, but is god?

Godly Gertrude and the Harding University Dress Code

Godly Gertrude

This graphic perfectly illustrates the puritanical culture found in many Evangelical churches. Women are considered lust magnets, sure to attract weak, pathetic Christian men who have little control over their sexual desires. Starting with primary school age, females are taught to never, ever expose any of the sexual parts of their bodies–breasts, cleavage, bare shoulders, legs, and ass. In other words, girls and women are expected to dress similar to burka-wearing Muslims. The only difference is the head covering.

This kind of thinking robs Evangelical girls and women of any sense of self-worth. Like pornographers, modesty Nazis reduce females to commodities that must be protected and hidden until it is time to put them on the (marriage) market.

The most astounding fact about this picture is that it comes from Harding University — a Churches of Christ-affiliated institution. It is hard to imagine — in the twenty-first century — grown women willingly submitting themselves to this kind of male-driven body control. Yet countless young women attend Evangelical colleges and universities that have rules which govern virtually every aspect of their lives. Such control would be impossible without women being indoctrinated as young children and teenagers by pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and parents.

Just remember girls. Regardless of what you think, IT’S THE RULES.

Notes

Harding University Dress Code 2015-2016

harding university dress code 2003-2004
Harding University Dress Code 2003-2004
Uplift Camp Dress Code — Summer Youth Camp held (and sponsored) at Harding University (Note that the majority of the rules apply only to women.)

Youth ministers and sponsors are responsible for their group (adults included) complying with the dress code for Uplift.  You should have a meeting with all participants and make sure they understand the dress code BEFORE they pack for Uplift. The dress code will be enforced. If you have students or adults who are out of dress code, we will come to you or a sponsor to address the issue. If there are offenses while at Uplift, it will be your responsibility to see that all in your group meet dress code. You may need to take your campers to Walmart, Goodwill, etc. to find suitable clothing.

  • All clothing must have sleeves (guys and girls). Sleeveless clothing is not allowed under any circumstances, even recreation time. This includes sundresses, tank tops, sleeveless blouses, athletic shirts, and cut-off T-shirts.
  • No visible midriffs. Clothing that exposes any part of the mid-section when standing, sitting or bending over is not allowed. All tops should be long enough to be tucked in.
  • Shorts must be fingertip length at least when standing straight, arms to the side. This is measured from the shortest part of the shorts. Nike-style running shorts are not allowed, even if they are long enough.
  • Skirts and dresses must come down to the top of the knee.
  • Skin-tight or otherwise revealing clothing is not allowed. Low-cut shirts, spandex, tight jeans, halter tops, etc. are not acceptable. Leggings do not count as pants. If your outfit is against dress code without leggings, it is against dress code with them.

Shocker!! Harding University has students who are gay. Students operate a site called  HU Queer Press: The State of the Gay — “a self-published zine that aims to give voice to the experiences of gay and lesbian students at Harding.”

 

Bruce, What if You Are Wrong — Again?

afraid of hell

For many people, being RIGHT is crucial. Evangelicals place a premium on being RIGHT. After all, THE Bible says, Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  Evangelicals, hanging their entire existence on a definite article, spend inordinate amounts of time making sure that their eternal destiny is settled. Life is viewed as little more than preparation for the life to come. No matter what happens, Evangelicals know that God will grant them a divine payoff the moment they die. Heaven is their goal, and reaching God’s Trump Hotel requires Evangelicals to believe the right doctrines.  Right beliefs lead to heaven, wrong beliefs lead to hell.

No Bruce, Evangelicals say, we believe that salvation, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life are gained through the merit and atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. It is through JESUS, not right beliefs that sinners are saved.  While Evangelicals love to preach up salvation by grace, underneath all their talk about the freeness of salvation lies a rigid set of beliefs.

Evangelicals love to quote John 3:16:

 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

However, what Evangelicals really mean when they quote this verse is this:

 For God so loved the world, that he gave sinners the right beliefs, that whosoever believeth the right doctrines should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Ask former Evangelicals if being right was of any importance to them and the churches they attended. Ask them if significant time was spent making sure church members believed the right doctrines. If their experiences were anything like mine, they will say that there were certain doctrines which were considered essential to Christianity— inspiration of the Bible, the deity of Christ the virgin birth, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, bodily resurrection of Christ, salvation through Jesus alone, heaven, hell, physical return of Jesus to earth, to name a few. Believe, and thou shalt be saved. Don’t believe, and thou shalt be considered heterodox, heretical, or unsaved.

Recently, an Evangelical sent me an email that contained one sentence: Bruce, what if you are wrong — again?  The author assumes that atheism is my destination, that I have intellectually arrived and no further inquiry is required. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I walked out of the doors of church seven years ago, I left behind being right on the church’s altar. From that day forward, my life has been one of seeking and exploration. My goal is not to be right as much as it is to drink deeply at the well of human existence.

Now, this does not mean that I don’t value truth. I do, but my search for it is no longer has as its goal some sort of metaphysical payoff. As an Evangelical, I diligently read and studied the Bible. The Apostle Paul spoke of KNOWING whom I have believed, and that is exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to intimately know the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — Jesus Christ. I spent thousands of hours immersed in the Bible and prayer. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, the Bible said, and I wanted to be a spiritual seeker and door knocker. These days, I still do a fair bit of reading and study — as my health allows — but I no longer feel pressed to make sure I am right. I want to be right, but I know that — unlike the Bible — the pool of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding is so great that I will likely leave most of it untouched by the time I die.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church. While I am sure there are things that I do not know about this or that branch of Christianity, when it comes to Evangelicalism I have exhausted the subject matter. It has been years since Evangelicals have used original arguments in their attempts to woo me back into the fold. Most public Evangelicals-turned-atheists will say the same. Instead, Evangelicals trot out well-worn, easily refuted arguments, thinking that they have won the day. Sorry Evangelicals, until you come up with something new, I am content to ignore you and move on to new and exciting ideas.

While I have shut the book on Evangelicalism and Christianity, this doesn’t mean that I have all the answers. While I am certain that the Gods created by humans are no Gods at all, there could come a day when I am presented with new data concerning the existence of a God or Gods. Who knows, right? I doubt it, but I it certainly is “possible” that our alien overlords could make themselves known some day and I will have to admit that I was wrong — again. Until then, I plan to keep walking on the path of reason, science, and skepticism. And if I find out I am wrong? I will likely write a blog post detailing the data that turned my beliefs on their head.

How about you, Evangelicals? Are you willing to openly engage the vast bookstore of literature that challenges the truthfulness and veracity of Christianity? Are you willing to follow the path wherever it leads? Are you willing to call into question those beliefs you hold dear? Are you willing, if the path leads to such a conclusion, to abandon Christianity? Are you really a seeker of truth, or are you just looking for data that reinforces your beliefs? Are you willing to lose your salvation for the sake of intellectual honesty? Or does the comfort that comes from certainty trump intellectual pursuit?

If you answer NO to these questions, I understand. That said, don’t tell me that you are a seeker of truth. A truth-seeker is one who is willing to follow the path wherever it leads. You are not willing to do this. Until you are willing consider the possibility of being wrong, you will remain safely lodged in the Evangelical castle of certainty. Millions will join you in its safe confines, but I hope, some day, that you will venture outside of the castle’s secure walls, and enter the wild, woolly, and wonderful world of reason.

[signoff]

Songs of Sacrilege: God Said by Anthony David

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is God Said by Anthony David.

Video Link

Lyrics

You know Christie
Something happened a long time ago in Haiti
And the people don’t wanna talk about it
They were under the heel of the French
And they got together and they swore a pact to the devil
They said we’ll serve you
If you’ll get us free from the French
True story
And so the devil said okay it’s a deal
And ever since then they have been cursed

Shake the hand of my imaginary friend
See the trouble he gets in
Can’t be traced back to me
He can’t pretend at the slightest of his when
He has the power to suspend our rules of morality
And when he gets angry he can make the lion cry
He can help me win the fight with his power
Yes he speaks to me and it’s always positive
Cause I can just ask for forgiveness and it’s over

[Chorus:]
So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said
What God said, what God said
Don’t you put the blame on me I’m doing what God said
What God said, what God said

So you’re praying for the death of the president of the united states
Do you think it’s appropriate to say something like that or…
I’m not saying anything what I’m doing is repeating what God is saying
In the name of the one who made us all
I will hide behind these walls from my enemy
By the power bestowed from up above
I will conquer you because it is my destiny
And with the righteous hand
I will bring you to your knees
I will strip you of your freedom without mercy
And when the earth quakes and the blood runs in the sand
There will be no final stand for the unworthy

[Chorus:]
So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said
What God said, what God said
Don’t you put the blame on me I’m doing what God said
What God said, what God said

I stand on a mountain top on a solid rock
I stand on abundance truth and I won’t be moved
And when I come to claim my victory
I’ll repeat what was told to me

[Chorus:]
So you can’t put the blame on me I’m doing what God said
What God said, what God said
And he speaks to only me I know what God said
What God said, what God said

Songs of Sacrilege: No Laughing in Heaven by Ian Gillan

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is No Laughing in Heaven by Ian Gillan.

Video Link

Lyrics

I used to be a sinner, used to have my cake and eat it
They warned me of my fate, but I was quite prepared to meet it
You’ll go to Hell they smiled at me
And told me of the roaring fires
But I was happy living wild
And fueling my own desires
I was a wild man
Drinking, smoking and messing around with women
Lots of women
No, not swimming, women

I wanna go to Heaven
The place to be is right up there
I wanna go to Heaven
It’s gonna be good so I won’t despair

I decided to reform and pray
Beg mercy for my soul
I prayed in church
Threw away my bad habits
Prayed out of church
Adopted an entirely different role
I gave my money to the poor until I was poor
But at least I ensured that I would go up there
Instead of down below to the Inferno
Where the evil flames of desire
Burned higher and higher and higher

I’m gonna go to Heaven
Paid my dues so I’m getting in
I’m gonna go to Heaven
It’s looking good if I abstain from sin

I knocked on the pearly gates
Neatly side-stepping the long queue
Waved hi to St. Peter
Who checked my card and let me through
I smiled, threw my hands in the air
Laughed and got arrested
They said hey man, you’re in the wrong place
Your behaviour is a disgrace
Here we pray every hour, on the hour
Read extracts from the Bible and look solemn’
What, says I, no party?
No party?
Let me out

Let me out of Heaven
I got it wrong, no I can’t stay here
No laughing in Heaven
Let me out, I just can’t stay here

Well I ran around in the state of shock and panic
This wan’t what I expected
Here was what looked like a bunch of manic depressives
Can I get a transfer, I screamed
But no, once you’re in Heaven, you’re here for good
The good of your soul, but that’s no good for me
If you want to go to Hell you’ve really got to be bad
Okay, okay, I’ll be bad
Too late
What do you mean too late
Too late
No
In the meantime

Let me out of Heaven
I’ve got it wrong, no I can’t stay here
No laughing in Heaven
Oh God, it’s awful here
Going crazy in Heaven
Take me out and let me go to hell
No laughing in Heaven
Don’t laugh, this place is Hell

The Night I Set My Life on Fire

our father's house west unity ohio
Bryan Times Advertisement for Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Family and close friends know that I can be temperamental and impetuous. I am quick to make decisions, and doing so has, for the most part, served me well. There are those times, though, when making snap decisions has resulted in me doing things that I later regret. The story that follows is one such instance.

I have not written much about my time as pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I plan to devote a chapter in my book to this church. After resigning from Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette, Ohio, I took the Bruce Gerencser Traveling Preacher Show five miles south to West Unity, a small community south of the Ohio Turnpike, and started a church. I spent seven years pastoring Our Father’s House. We bought the old West Unity library and began holding services in September of 1995. At its inception, the church was called Grace Baptist Church. After conflict over the use of praise and worship music and non-cessationism (the belief that charismatic spiritual gifts are valid today) resulted in five families leaving the church, we decided to rename the church Our Father’s House. By this time, I had theologically made a move to the left. I wanted the church’s name to reflect our belief that sectarianism was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. After the name change, we had the front door lettered with “The Church Where the Only Label That Matters is Christian.”

During the last three years of my time at Our Father’s House, I became increasingly disenchanted with Evangelical Christianity. Deeply influenced by authors such as Thomas MertonWendell Berry, and John Howard Yoder, I embraced pacifism and changed my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. I now see know that the seeds of my unbelief were planted during this period of time.

One night, after a long, depressing self-reflection on Evangelicalism and my part in harming others in the name of God, I gathered up all the ministry mementos I had collected over the years, piled them in the yard, doused them with gasoline, and set them on fire. In a few minutes, 20 years of sermons notes, recorded sermons, letters, and church advertisements went up in smoke. At the time, I found the consuming fire to be quite cathartic. This was my way of breaking with my past. Little did I know that 8 years later I would torch the rest of my ministerial and Christian past and embrace atheism.

Today, I sure wish I still had the things I turned into a pile of ashes in the backyard. I have no doubt my sermon notes and recorded messages would provide information and context about the decades I spent as an Evangelical pastor.

Evangelical Missionary Matthew Durham Sentenced to 40 Years in Prison for Molesting Children

matthew durham

Evangelical missionary Matthew Durham was sentenced Monday to 40 years in prison for sexually molesting children while working at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya. Durham, 21, “engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years.” Casi Marlowe, a writer for Dead State, reports:

A U.S. federal court passed a 40 year prison sentence on a former missionary from Oklahoma for molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage. Twenty-one-year-old, Matthew Lane Durham, was accused of molesting eight children at the Upendo Children’s Home in  Nairobi, Kenya in 2014.

Although Durham claimed he did not molest the children, prosecutors revealed he told staff members at the children’s home that he had been possessed by an “evil spirit.” He also claims he doesn’t remember the crimes.

During a preliminary hearing, prosecutors revealed that a live-in caretaker at the orphanage said the children reported that Durham either touched them sexually or encouraged them to touch themselves while he watched. According to a criminal affidavit, Durham was confronted by the founder of Upendo along with several church members, where he allegedly confessed to his crimes.

Despite pleading not guilty to 17 charges last June, a federal judge found Durham  guilty on seven counts, including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. However he was acquitted on three of the counts by US  District Judge David Russell in January because the judge felt prosecutors failed to establish enough evidence that Durham had engaged in sexual acts with with (sic) one of the victims.

Prosecutors argued Durham used his position as a missionary to win the trust of the children in order to prey on them. But Durham’s attorney claimed his handwritten and taped confessions were coerced.  Officials at the children’s home only reported Durham to the authorities after sending him home to the United States.

….

In 2014 Durham told friends that he was possessed by a demon. Here are several screenshots of text messages Durham sent to his friends prior to his return home from Kenya.

durham text 1

durham text 2

durham text 3

Link to PDF of messages

Here is several screenshots of part of the July 18, 2014 amended Federal criminal complaint against Durham:

durham statement 1

durham statement 2

Full text of amended criminal complaint

Readers might remember my posts on Durham after he was arrested in 2014. Durham will be an old man before he is released from prison. I hope his story will serve as a warning to Evangelicals who use their position of authority to abuse, sexually assault, molest, and rape those who trust them to do no harm.

Notes

Durham attended and graduated from Crossings Christian School , an Evangelical institution located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. His mother is a fourth grade teacher at Crossings.

2014 Heavy story on Durham

2014 Christian Post story on Durham

Another 2014 Christian Post story on Durham

2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

Another 2015 KFOR.com report on Durham’s trial

2016 PDF file of judge’s decision to dismiss three of the charges against Durham

Video of Durham’s confession to children’s home director

Video Link

 

Arizona Republican House Legislators Offended over Juan Mendez’s Secular Prayer

juan mendez
Arizona House Democrat Juan Mendez.  Representative Mendez is an atheist.

What follows is a video of Arizona House Democrat Representative Juan Mendez offering a secular prayer at the start of the legislative session. The video also shows the reaction of Christian Republican legislators to Representative Mendez’s prayer. Only one legislator defended Mendez’s prayer — assistant Democratic leader Representative Bruce Wheeler. I was astounded to hear Wheeler — a Roman Catholic — state that Catholic legislators are not permitted to attend the weekly Arizona House Bible study. Let this video be a reminder of what happens when Evangelicals ignore the law and carve out special rights for their religion.

Video Link

Thanks to my heathen buddy Jim Schoch — a resident of Arizona — for making me aware of this video.

Here is what Arizona Capital Time writer Howard Fischer had to say about the matter:

A top House leader slapped down a Democratic lawmaker today for using the time set aside for prayer to instead give thanks for diverse beliefs — including the belief there is no higher power.

Majority Leader Steve Montenegro declared that Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, had violated House rules that require that each day’s session begin with a “prayer.” That’s because Mendez, an atheist, used the time to talk about the “pluralistic society.”

And he made a point of saying that, from his perspective seeking divine intervention or hoping for a place in the afterlife is unnecessary.

“We need not tomorrow’s promise of reward to do good deeds today,” Mendez said. “For some may seek the assistance of a higher power with hands in their air, there are those of us that are prepared to assist directly, with our hands to the earth.”

That invocation, Montenegro complained, left the House without the required prayer. So House Speaker David Gowan, who clearly was prepared for the dust-up, called the Rev. Mark Mucklow — who conveniently was on the House floor — to fulfill the obligation.

Mucklow obliged, with a lengthy prayer asking God to direct and lead lawmakers. And to put a point on what was missing before, he asked that “at least one voice today say, ‘Thank you, God bless you and bless your families.’ “

Then other lawmakers began piling on Mendez.

Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said the time at the beginning of the session is set aside for prayer. He said lawmakers have a right to say anything else they want — but only after the prayer.

“I’m saddened and offended that a member of this body would knowingly disregard our call for prayer and our House rules,” he said. Finchem said there needs to be a time for prayer, “lifting this body up to the God that we speak of when we say our Pledge of Allegiance.”

“We are ‘One nation under God,’ “ Finchem said. “This republican form of government came out of the Book of Exodus,” he continued, saying “it is a matter of fact.”

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she believes the First Amendment is important.

“Not everybody in this room is Christian or Mormon or Jewish,” she continued. “I think it’s important we respect each other.”

But she said Mendez was wrong in using the time for the prayer for his invocation.

“It’s not time to be proselytizing even if you’re proselytizing something that’s not a religion,” Townsend said.

“I personally took offense at some of the words that were said,” she continued.

Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he was upset about Mendez saying that while some look to a higher power that others help directly. He said Mendez was “impugning not me, but in a small way millions of people, women and men that are part of our pluralistic society that use their faith and their belief in a God … they allow to guide them in serving directly, every day and all day.”

Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said he doesn’t personally believe as does Mendez.

“But he has every right to say and voice what he said on the floor today,” he said.

Montenegro pointed out that he put out a memo earlier in the session spelling out what is acceptable as a prayer under House rules. And he said what Mendez said does not comply.

“Prayer, as commonly understood and in the long-honored tradition of the Arizona House of Representatives, is a solemn request for guidance and help from God,” Montenegro wrote in that memo. He said anything else — including a moment of silence — does not meet that requirement.

Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said he doesn’t need a memo to know that what Mendez said is not a prayer.

“We know what it looks like, we know what it is,” he said.

“We also know what it looks like when someone is desecrating or mocking someone else’s beliefs,” Petersen said. And he said those who want to do that using his or her freedom of speech, they can — but not during the time reserve for prayer.
….

 

British Fundamentalist Susan-Anne White’s List of Politically Correct Words

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

Readers might remember my war of words a few months ago with a British (Northern Ireland) Fundamentalist by the name of Susan-Anne White. (Please see Susan-Anne White Thinks I’m a Despicable, Obnoxious, Militant, Hateful Atheist) White, a textbook example of what happens when Fundamentalism seeps into the deep recesses of your brain, is so Fundamentalist that even fellow extremists think she is too extreme.

Yesterday, White picked up her mighty digital pen and wrote a blog post about political correctness and the use of certain words. In her post, White presents a list of words that should never, ever, not one time, be used by Christians. Here is the list:

Below this list are the words Christians (and those non-Christians who can still think for themselves) should use and which were, in a time long gone, in everyone’s vocabulary at some time or other.
DO NOT USE
Ms (sic)

Spokesperson, Chairperson etc (sic)

Partner (except when combined with the words “business” or “marriage” as in business partner or marriage partner)

Pro-choice

Sex worker

Racist

Sexist

Ageist

Islamophobia

Homophobia

Transphobia (and NEVER EVER refer to a man pretending to be a woman as “she” and vice versa)

Climate change denier……….and so on ad nauseum

After listing words she believes should never be uttered by Christians, White then gives what she calls her sane list of words — words that should be used regularly by followers of Jesus:

Now for the SANE list of words

Miss or Mrs (sic)

Spokesman or Chairman etc (sic)

Boyfriend or girlfriend or live-in boyfriend or girlfriend

Pro-abortion (pro-choice is a euphemism for abortion)

Prostitute or whoremonger

Racist should only be employed in cases of actual racism such as Nazi hatred of the Jews and the KKK hatred of black people

I am at a loss as to how to adequately express my disdain for her post, so I thought I would write Susan-Anne White a short note. Readers should find my note to be an admixture of humor, snark, and sadness. White will likely see my note in a different light.

Dear Ms. White,

I see that you are a spokesperson for a particular pernicious and intellect-killing form of Christian Fundamentalism. At first, I thought that you were just a single crazy lady, a woman who has spent too much time talking to her cats. Imagine my surprise when I learned that you have a partner by the name of Francis. While I have never seen a photograph of Francis, knowing of your acerbic homophobia and hatred of same-sex marriage, I think it is safe for me to assume that Francis is a he, not a she.

As  I read your list of PC words, I came to the conclusion that you hate the use of these words because, for the most part, they accurately describe you as a person. You ARE a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, climate change denier who hates sex.  Evidently, you aren’t getting laid, and if you can’t get any ice cream at the Dairy Queen, you don’t want anyone to have any. 

Like you, Ms. White, I call things like I see them. It is disheartening to see you, or anyone for that matter, so filled with hate and bigotry that you are unable to enjoy your brief existence on planet Earth. While you rage against atheists, liberals, sodomites, and all those who dare run afoul of your undies-bunching Fundamentalism, the clock continues to tick — an ever present reminder that your life is swiftly passing by. Ask yourself, Ms. White, who have you won over to your side? Who has been persuaded by your hate and verbal violence? Point me to those who support your bigotry. Surely, if God is on your side, your fellow British/Irish-people will acknowledge this and thank you for speaking the truth. Why the silence? 

Perhaps the real issue Ms. White is not truth, but instead a deep-seated need to be right. Now in the sunset years of life, you want validation. You have invested your entire life in a false narrative, and refusing to see this, you continue to seek affirmation of your beliefs. Finding no church worthy of your attendance — in the manner of the nineteenth century Calvinistic Bible teacher AW Pink — you seclude yourself, not only from the world, but also from those who gladly carry the name Christian. And here you are, all alone, with only dutiful Francis standing by your side. Can you not see the bankruptcy of your beliefs? Or are you so blind that all you see is Susan-Anne White and her intransigent beliefs? 

You make it easy for writers such as myself to mock you and ridicule your beliefs. While such sardonicism is warranted, I feel sorry for you. You have spent your entire life raging against things that do not matter. Offended by words such as those found in your list, you have reduced your life to an increasingly narrow and extreme set of beliefs. Unable to enjoy the privileges and blessings of life, you trudge on, believing that God will, after death, reward you for standing against political correctness. Can you not see that you have lost all sense of the teachings of Jesus and the Christian gospel? 

I know that it is impossible for me to reason with you. Like a stubborn mule, your face is set against anything or anyone who dares to challenge your truncated Fundamentalist beliefs. All I can do is point out the absurdities of your message, showing what Fundamentalism does to someone who deeply drinks from its poisoned, foul well. 

The Right Reverend Bruce Gerencser

Evangelicals and Their Hocus Pocus Magic Book

bible magic book

Evangelicals believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It is, in every way, a supernatural book written by a supernatural God. Its pages purportedly contain words that have magic power. While Evangelicals deny that the Bible is in any way a magical book, their recommendation of it belies their denial.

Evangelicalism is a text-based religion. The 66 books of the Protestant Bible are the foundation of every Evangelical belief. Remove the Bible, and Evangelicalism crumbles and falls to the ground. This is why scholars such as Bart Ehrman are so deadly to evangelical faith. What happens when Evangelicals learn that the Bible is not what their Christian forefathers, parents, teachers, and pastors claim it is? What happens when Evangelicals learn that the Bible is not inspired, nor is it inerrant nor infallible? What happens when Evangelicals learn that the Bible has internal contradictions and is riddled with mistakes and errors? What happens when Evangelicals learn that virtually all of their cherished beliefs are subject to debate and question? What happens when Evangelicals learn that the history found in the Bible is suspect and the creation story is a lie? What happens when Evangelicals, troubled by doubts and fearful of losing their faith, ask pastors, church leaders, and Christian friends for help?

Doubting Evangelicals naturally turn to people of faith to help them with their fears and doubts. Who better to help allay their troubles than those who have walked the Christian path before them. Surely they have struggled, having questions and doubts about the veracity of the Bible and its teachings, the doubters think. So they naïvely seek out the counsel of those they have entrusted with their spiritual welfare. Sadly, they quickly learn that questions and doubts are not welcome, and that toeing the theological line is more important than finding honest answers to sincere questions. These doubters immediately find out that fidelity to orthodoxy and resolute commitment to what is perceived to be the faith once delivered to the saints is all that matters. For all their talk about having freedom in Jesus, Evangelical pastors and church leaders demand cult-like sameness from those who are church members. People who refuse to blindly submit are most often marginalized or excommunicated. These supposed men of God, fearing that doubts and questions could wreak havoc to their churches, do all they can to make sure that dissidents have no opportunity to spread their “lies” among congregants.

A pastor friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is going through a crisis of faith. Several years ago, he and I briefly crossed swords over the Bible and its teachings. Our discussions ended with us each going in separate directions. Several months ago, out of the blue, he contacted me about the struggle he was having with certain Evangelical theological beliefs. While some atheists might see this as an opportunity to make a convert for godlessness, I am more concerned with helping my friend continue his journey, wherever it might lead. My goal has never been to make converts. Having been exactly where my friend now is, I have first-hand knowledge of the gut-wrenching struggle he is going through. To be confronted with the notion that everything you once believed might be a lie can, and does, cause great emotional and mental distress.

My friend has shared with me some of the discussions he has had with pastors and fellow Christians. I am astounded by how often he has been told to set reason and intellect aside and just have faith. Just believe Brother Horatio — not his real name — and all will be well! But try as he might, Horatio has found it impossible to turn off his brain and just faith-it.

Recently, one man asked him if he would be willing to commit to just reading the Bible for the next 90 days. No other books, no blogs, no discussions with outside sources, just read the Bible. The thinking behind this request is that the Bible has some sort of magical power, and that if my friend will just immerse himself in its pages his doubts, fears, and questions will dissipate and he will find himself once again following after Jesus.

I walked away from Christianity in November 2008. In the initial months after my deconversion, I was inundated with emails from pastor friends and former parishioners pleading with me not to give into this temptation from Satan. Recognizing that secular books were a big part of my deconversion, my pastor friends and former parishioners asked me to stop reading these books and to commit myself to only reading the Bible. They were certain that if I just stopped reading Bart Ehrman and other non-Christian authors and start reading the book-above-all-books — the Bible — that I would soon see that Satan was using these other writers to lead me astray. Little did they know that it was the Bible itself that played a big part in my deconversion. Taking a fresh look at beliefs that I had held for five decades forced me to conclude that the Bible was not what Evangelicals say it is. While I certainly think that the Bible has some moral and ethical value, it is now very clear to me that it is in no way an inspired, inerrant, infallible book written by the Christian God.

Evangelical zealots need to understand that telling people who have spent their lifetime studying and reading the Bible to just “read the Bible” is patently offensive. Having preached through most of the books of the Bible, I think it is safe for me to say that I have a thorough understanding of the Biblical text. Unlike most Evangelicals, who never seem to have the time to read God’s love letter to humanity, I devoted myself to reading every book, every chapter, and every word of the Bible. I did this numerous times over the course of my 50 years in the Christian church — especially as a pastor. I am not ignorant of the Bible’s teachings and neither is my pastor friend. The Bible is the problem, not the solution.

Suggesting that the Bible is some sort of magic book is ludicrous. It would be quite easy for me to prove the falsity of such claim. All I would have to do is devote myself to reading the Bible every day for 90 days, or whatever faith-renewing time frame is appropriate. And when no change takes place, where will Evangelicals place the blame? On God and his magic book? Of course not. The blame will rest on me. God is above and beyond culpability. If the magic words found in the Bible fail to restore me to faith it is because of some defect in me, not in God and his supernatural book.

Over the years, numerous Evangelicals have written to tell me that I just needed to — in faith — ask God to reveal himself to me. If I would do this, they were certain that Jehovah would, in no uncertain terms, make himself known. Humoring such people, I often pray their suggested prayers. Despite praying, the heavens remain silent. God is to blame, right? Maybe I am not one of the elect or perhaps I have committed the unpardonable sin. Whatever the reason might be, the blame never rests with God. It is always my fault. I did not have enough faith when I prayed, because if I had had enough faith then God would have revealed himself to me. That he did not shows that the fault lies with me, not God.

While I certainly think that most of the people asking me to read the Bible or to pray the prayer of faith sincerely want to be a help to me, they should understand that I cannot be swayed by metaphysical claims requiring faith. Either one believes or one doesn’t. It is not that I do not want to believe as much as it is I cannot believe. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to set aside reason and rational thought and believe ancient religious stories written thousands of years ago. Since it is unlikely that any new evidentiary argument for the existence of the Christian God and the veracity of the Bible is forthcoming, I hope that Evangelicals will understand when I reject requests to read their magic book or incant magical prayers. I am no longer willing to accept such childish requests that require me to shut off my mind and just believe.

Game Review: Christianity Ver 3.0

game of christianity

Guest post by Clay. Please check out Clay’s blog, Life After 40: A Blog About Life, Music, and Leaving Christian Fundamentalism.

[Inspired by a very humorous Amazon review for the Book of Mormon, I decided to post my “game” review for the current version of Christianity]

The game of Christianity is quite old but it has some really compelling hooks to lure you in. It can become quite addictive, especially if you are exposed at a very young age. Most agree it’s particularly compelling when played in large groups. I participated in the game for over 3 decades but I gave it up a few years ago. I still have many family and friends who insist on playing despite the game’s many issues. I’ve heard Minecraft or Skyrim are both better.

For those who have never played: You start by rejecting your current real-life character in a very self-deprecating ritual of sorts. Tearful sobs and pleas for mercy to an imaginary sky ghost will help to validate the new character you’ll be forming. Bonus points are awarded if your old character is especially naughty or heinous. Those who are gifted story tellers can quickly advance a few levels by telling older players the details of past naughty exploits. The old timers relish in that sort of thing. I’m not sure why.

Once you’ve created your new character, please note that it can be quite difficult to locate a clan that you can feel comfortable playing with. There are over 40,000 variations of clans so choosing one can be a daunting task. Unfortunately, that mission is made even harder since many of the clans claim they alone are the one “True Clan” and joining any other group can mean permanent disqualification and exile from the game (at least according to some). A few players give up when they discover this complexity.

Like most games, there’s a master guide-book but each clan interprets the rule book quite differently. Even though significant portions of the guide were written by a collection of unknown authors, tribal feuds erupt rather frequently over the master guide book. A number of clans have attempted to bring harmony to this chaos by releasing new and improved guide books which attempt to fix past errors. These new editions often employ more modern vernacular but many of the older clans insist that only King Jim’s version is valid. This is especially odd since Jim’s version has a great many errors, but in spite of this, many older players tend to ridicule anyone who claims that the modern guide books are better. Occasionally, players who are well versed in it all try to expose the numerous contradictions and flaws contained therein, but this sort of action can quickly get a player banned. Flame wars are frequent and quite hostile at times.

The game is open to different styles of play. Many prefer the lite version, or the “pay as you go” mode. By putting a few dollars into the game plate on a semi-regular basis, your character can remain viable, albeit your character’s life gauge will stay near death unless you take further action. On the other end of the scale, there are many deeply committed game players. These individuals sink enormous amounts of time and money into their roles. These guys often become teachers, or guides, as they prefer. A few even turn it into a full-time gig but the pay can be dishearteningly low unless you become especially popular. Many of us know of a former full-time player named Bruce from Ohio who gave it his all for a long time. He now helps to caution those who take the game too seriously as he once did. There are also some full-time giggers who earn astounding amounts of money by tricking other players into donating significant in-app funds to their game account by promising a large gold payout to these gullible souls in a later stage of the game. Many of us try to caution new gamers about this risk, but our warnings go unheeded.

The game is open to both male and female, however female players are often told to remain silent during clan meetings and assume a subservient character. A small minority of female players even wear dainty little white caps during game play. It’s quite an odd sight. The attire for gamers can really vary and its routinely based on the particular clan you hang with. Some insist on dressing up in very lavish robes for sacred game ceremonies. Others prefer casual clothing but a person can find themselves banned for wearing immodest attire. The game can also get especially hostile to those who like to play with the same sex. Despite that odd animosity, I used to play with a group that liked to wash the naked feet of other same-sex players. This would happen just before “the sacred initiation” of level 12 in the game.

As an older game, it has gone through a number of mutations and variations. A majority prefer to play on Sundays, but a small minority insist that only Saturday is the appropriate day to play, and anyone who disagrees will be banished into everlasting game-darkness. There are also ongoing arguments over appropriate drinks, music and movie viewing habits.

Tensions frequently run high between those who still play the game vs. the former participants. It’s a very divisive sort of thing. Whenever someone who no longer plays says something even slightly derogatory about the game to current players, these individuals cry “hater!” and quickly dismiss the naysayers as never having been True Gamers. I myself played for nearly 32 years and I often spent over 5% of my gold on in-game purchases just to get anywhere. The promises outlined in the master guide-book indicated a 10-fold return to faithful game players, but only if they endured to the end. I eventually realized the game was rigged by a bunch of old uneducated geezers who made it all up some 2000 years ago. I’ve met many other players who have quit. A few have gone on to play a different game but most (like me), became so disillusioned that we’ve given up any similar sort of game entirely. I must say, I am much happier now.

For anyone considering this game, please do some honest research beforehand. Be leery of taking a current gamer’s word for it. They have quite the confirmation bias. So think carefully before committing your life and hard-earned money.