Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Victor Trevino, Jr. Accused of Sex Crimes

victor trevino jr

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

In June 2019, Victor Trevino, Jr, a youth pastor at The Bread House South in Lansing, Michigan, was accused of sexually assaulting two minor girls.

WILX-10 reported at the time:

A youth pastor at a church in Lansing has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor in 2 separate cases. Victor Albert Trevino Jr. has been arraigned on a total of 15 charges between the two cases.

Trevino is a youth pastor at the Bread House South church. Prosecutors say he had inappropriate contact with a minor between 13 and 16 years old. They also say Trevino repeatedly tried to convince her to have sex with him. He’s facing 9 charges in the Lansing case.

In August 2019, Trevino waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

WILX-10 reported:

WILX reported in June, 2019, that a girl younger than 14 came forward with allegations that Trevino repeatedly molested her at his family home in Holt.

She said Trevino often hosted sleepovers for kids from church.

The girls said he touched her inappropriately six times between October, 2018, and March, 2019.

After the girls mother was informed, she took her daughters phone and recorded pictures and videos on Snapchat from Trevino that included images of male genitalia.

Black Collar Crime: Mennonite Aid Worker Jeriah Mast Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Minors

jeriah mast

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.

Earlier this year, Jeriah Mast, a former Mennonite aid worker for Christian Aid Ministries in Berlin, Ohio, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing five minor boys. More charges await him in Haiti.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported at the time:

Jeriah Mast, 37, of Millersburg, Ohio, was indicted Monday by a Holmes County grand jury for offenses that occurred in that county, according to the indictment. Mr. Mast turned himself in to the Holmes County jail on Tuesday evening and is being held on a bond of $250,000 cash surety, according to the jail. He is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday afternoon.

He faces seven felony charges of gross sexual imposition and seven misdemeanor counts of sexual imposition.

He is accused of sexual offenses against five different minors.

he charges of felonies are for alleged offenses against minors under 13, and the charges of misdemeanors are for alleged offenses against minors under 16. The indictment says that the offenses took place between 1999 to 2008.

A Haitian court is seeking Mr. Mast’s return to that country for him to face similar allegations. He left Haiti this spring after allegations arose of his sexually abusing minor boys over a period of years. A Haitian attorney told the Post-Gazette he represents five alleged victims of Mr. Mast.

Christian Aid Ministries of Berlin, Ohio — which is supported by various Mennonite, Amish and related groups — said in an earlier statement it “promptly discharged” Mr. Mast earlier this year when it learned of recent allegations against him in Haiti. He has not yet returned to appear before the Haitian court in the city of Petit-Goave to face the allegations.

Both Christian Aid Ministries and Mr. Mast’s church said he made confessions of sexual offenses.

The ministry placed two of its leading staff members on leave last month after its board learned that they knew as far back as 2013 that Mr. Mast had confessed to “sexual activity with young men that had taken place several years prior,” yet allowed him to remain at work for the ministry until this year.

Did you catch the fact that two Christian Aid Ministries staff members were put on leave for failing to report Mast’s predatory sexual activity with young men? Put on leave? Really? How about firing and excommunicating them for helping to facilitate the ongoing abuse of Haitian children?

Today, Mast pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two Holmes County, Ohio boys. Per the plea agreement, Mast will serve no more than five years in prison for his crimes.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:

Jeriah Mast, 38, of Millersburg, Ohio, had faced 14 counts alleging he abused five minors between 1999 and 2008. On Wednesday, 12 counts were dismissed as part of a plea agreement. Mr. Mast pleaded guilty to two felony counts of gross sexual imposition in connection with molesting two boys.

One incident happened in late 1999 or early 2000 and involved a 12-year-old boy; the second happened in 2005 or 2006 and involved an 11- or 12-year-old boy, Holmes County Prosecutor Sean Warner said during the hearing at the Holmes County Courthouse.

Mr. Mast denied that he abused the boy in the first incident — in which the boy’s mother said she walked into her son’s bedroom to find Mr. Mast under a blanket with her son — but he nevertheless pleaded guilty.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine, although both the prosecution and defense as part of the plea agreement recommended he serve no more than five years in prison.

Holmes County Judge Robert D. Rinfret emphasized in a hearing Wednesday that he was not bound by that sentencing recommendation.

“This is horrendous,” Judge Rinfret said of the crimes. “This is awful.”

Sentencing was set for Nov. 5.

The Ohio charges were filed in July after Mr. Mast confessed to the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office in May that he abused boys over a period of about 15 years in both Ohio and Haiti, where he was working for Christian Aid Ministries, a Berlin, Ohio, organization supported by various Mennonite, Amish and related groups.

Mr. Mast told authorities that he abused four victims in Holmes County; a fifth victim — the one Mr. Mast denies abusing but pleaded guilty to — later came forward.

Mr. Warner, the prosecutor, said Wednesday that the plea agreement was offered in large part because further investigation of Mr. Mast’s May confession showed that all but two of the victims were 13 or older at the time of the abuse. That meant five of the seven felony charges Mr. Mast had faced became misdemeanor charges — and that meant the charges were beyond the statute of limitations to prosecute.

Please see the Post-Gazette series Coverings for complete coverage on Mast’s crimes and sexual abuse within Amish/Mennonite communities.

The Good and Bad of Midwestern Baptist College

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977

Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977, Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet

Recently, a man named Steven Tassell left the following comment:

I attended Midwestern from 1973-1979

I had my problems however I’m not trying to destroy anyone. If you had a problem with sex at school that was on you. I was a chaplin [sic] for USAF, taught school at Fort Knox and I’m a pastor with my Doctorate in counseling. So instead of telling the bad because any school has that tell the good.

Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-1979. Polly’s father attended the college from 1972-1976. None of us knows a Steven Tassell. Now, that doesn’t mean he didn’t attend Midwestern. There were a number of married students who attended the college that neither Polly or I personally knew. We were dorm students for two years, marrying during the summer between our sophomore and junior years.

I attempted a cursory search on Tassell’s name. That, too, returned very little information, save a dated church listing, several funeral listings, and a Linkedin profile for a Steven Tassell who attended Midwestern, Faith Baptist College, and is currently a support supervisor at a Walmart Tire and Lube. I am uncertain as to why Tassell felt the need to recite his “important” work history, especially since it bears no relevance to the post he commented on. Tassell says he had a “Doctorate” in counseling. As readers know, most Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers sporting doctorates either “earned” them at unaccredited schools or through online classes, or were given an honorary degree. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor) I have no idea if Tassell’s doctorate was earned at an accredited institution. My gut tells me no.

Now, to Tassell’s comment. In classic passive-aggressive fashion, Tassell stated, “I had my problems, however I’m not trying to destroy anyone.” He, too, had “problems” while attending Midwestern, but unlike Bruce, the atheist, he’s not trying to destroy anyone. I find it interesting that, according to Tassell, by telling my story and sharing my experiences as a student at Midwestern, I am trying to destroy people. Tassell suggests that I not speak of the bad things that happened at Midwestern and only speak of the good that I saw and experienced. That I refuse to only tell half the story makes me, in Tassell’s eyes, a bad person. How dare I speak poorly of the college, Dr. Tom Malone, my professors, or my fellow students. Just tell GOOD stories, Bruce! Sorry, but I can’t do that. I decided twelve years ago to be an honest, open, transparent storyteller. If that meant casting a bad light of myself and others, so be it. How can readers ever understand my experiences at Midwestern if I only tell them the good stuff? Honesty demands telling the truth, as best I remember it.

I have many fond memories of the three years I spent at Midwestern. Dorm life, even at an IFB college, was a blast!  I will never forget the fun, crazy times I shared with my fellow dorm students. Three weeks after moving into the dorm, I asked a preacher’s daughter named Polly if she wanted to go out on a date with me. She said yes, and forty-three years later, we are still going on dates, loving one another’s company, and roundly irritating the Hell out of each other. Ah, marital bliss.

I could spend hours sharing stories about the good times I experienced at Midwestern. Doing so, of course, would make Tassell happy. Just focus on the positive. Unfortunately, the bad experiences left an indelible impression on my life and that of my wife. For the first time, we saw the ugly, nasty, judgmental underbelly of the IFB church movement. Should I ignore the gay teacher who groomed younger male dorm students? Should I ignore the affair between the wife of the dean of men and a teacher? Should I ignore the rampant illicit sexual activity by dorm students; people who are now pompous, arrogant moralizers? Should I ignore the oppressive rules and repressive disciplinary system? Should I ignore the weak academics and unqualified teachers? Should I ignore the teacher who taught an IFB form of eugenics? Should I ignore the racism of one of the church’s pastors? (All dorm students had to attend nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church, pastored by Tom Malone.) Should I ignore the fact that Tom’s Malone’s wife and children violated the rules the rest of us were expected to obey, under threat of expulsion? Should I ignore being forced to quit a well-paying job, all because the business owner and Tom Malone had a falling out? Should I ignore . . .  You see, it takes the good and the bad to tell a complete story. And as long as I continue to tell my story, I intend to look at the entire structure, and not just the facade that gives readers a false picture of my life, Midwestern Baptist College, and the IFB church movement. That’s the prerogative of the storyteller.

(Please see other posts about Midwestern Baptist College)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Black Collar Crime: Baptist Pastor Curtis Brown Accused of Rape

pastor curtis brown

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.

Curtis Brown, pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel (church website has been disabled) in Albuquerque, New Mexico, stands accused of sexually assaulting a five-year-old boy.  Grace is a King James-only Missionary Baptist congregation. Brown resigned after his arrest. According to news reports, Brown pastored Grace Baptist for over eighteen-years.

KRQE reports:

Curtis Ray Brown has been charged with criminal sexual penetration and criminal sexual contact of a minor. The charges stem from an August 23, 2019 incident in which authorities say Brown sexually abused the boy while he stayed at his home overnight.

A criminal complaint states that the boy would spend Tuesday afternoons after school with Brown and details that after staying with Brown, the 5-year-old boy told his father of his “secret.”

According to police, the child’s father then confronted Brown, who allegedly didn’t deny the allegations, and told the child’s father “it just happened,” and “started in the shower one day.”

The child’s father told authorities of a Facebook messenger “group chat” in which the child’s mother, Brown, and other members of his family are a part of, and that Brown had allegedly apologized for his actions.

Screenshots of the chat message were provided to police and were transcribed in the criminal complaint which reads in part:

“I know no amount of words or actions can undo the damage that I have done. I can only express my shame and disgust in what I have done. I am truly sorry for what I am putting our family through. “

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Christopher Cox Pleads Guilty to Sexual Misconduct

pastor christopher cox

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.

On March 30, 2019, Christopher Cox, pastor of Long Lake Church in Traverse City, Michigan, was arrested and charged with luring two men to his office and raping them after incapacitating them with methamphetamine and GHB.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reported:

Michigan State Police investigators interviewed a 19-year-old man who claimed Cox contacted him March 12 looking for a “drug buddy,” according to court records. Cox promised the man — who was homeless at the time — drugs and women if he came back with Cox to his home, the man claimed.

Cox gave the man meth to smoke and “CBD shots,” making the man “extremely inebriated,” according to a probable cause statement. Cox raped the man numerous times over the course of several hours that night, according to the account.

The accuser said Cox dropped him off at Safe Harbor the following morning, threatening to kill him if he told anyone about the night prior.

Records show the accuser went to Munson Medical Center where a sexual assault exam revealed bruising and redness “consistent with anal trauma.”

Mike McDonald, chairman of Safe Harbor’s executive board, said homeless people are much more likely to be victimized than the average person.

“It’s appalling to me that something like this could happen to anybody under any circumstances, especially by someone who purports to be a minister,” McDonald said.

A second man told troopers that Cox gave him meth sometime in October 2018 at Cox’s office in Traverse City — Moeggenberg did not immediately know the location. Like the account given by the other man, Cox gave the man meth and waited until he was high, drunk and incapacitated before assaulting him, despite the man’s efforts to fight him off, records show.

The man told Michigan State Police troopers that Cox stopped several hours later, claiming he had to get back to his wife and child.

“Based on what I know, I would be surprised if there weren’t more victims,” Moeggenberg said.

A search of Cox’s home and office uncovered items like lubricant, male enhancement pills, a blindfold and nylon webbing police suspect was used for bondage, records show.

They also found lighters, glass pipes, single-use syringes, meth and a substance police believe was GHB, known as the “date rape drug,” according to records. Moeggenberg said investigators also seized electronic devices. MSP’s Computer Crimes Unit searched the devices recovered during the March 18 search and uncovered “additional evidence,” according to a press release.

Yesterday, Cox pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle reports:

Christopher Cox, 41, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree criminal sexual conduct in a plea deal that dismissed a laundry list of charges — including three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, extortion, delivering/manufacturing meth and three counts for possession of child porn.

A third-degree CSC carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and requires registration as a sex offender. Initial charges could have netted a life sentence.

Jesse Custer Tells God: We Would All be Better Off Without a Needy Little Bitch Like You

jesse custer and god

Jesse Custer and God

One of our favorite television programs is the AMC hit Preacher. The show is based on a comic book series created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Over its four seasons, Preacher was a Three Stooges-like finger in the eye of Christianity. Wikipedia describes the premise of the show this way:

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking preacher who, enduring a crisis of faith, becomes infused with an extraordinary power. He embarks on a quest to better understand his new gift and literally find God, alongside his trigger-happy ex-girlfriend, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and new vampire friend, Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun).

Last Sunday, we watched the show’s finale, and boy was it a doozy! Jesse finally found God. Jesse’s life was filled with heartache and tragedy. God, played by Mark Harelik, told Jesse that everything that happened in his life was because he (God) loved him. And what God wanted in return was Jesse’s love. In what had to be the most epic line of the show, Jesse, told God NO! and then said, “We would all be better off without a needy little bitch like you.” (God became quite angry and homicidal when Jesse refused to love him.)

While Jesse’s words seem harsh, anyone who honestly reads the Bible and takes it as written has to conclude that God is a narcissistic deity who created humans for one purpose: to eternally love and worship him. God is purportedly all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. He is the creator, the sovereign ruler over all. Christians love to talk up the power and strength of their God. Humans are reminded that they are vile snakes in need of salvation; and that without God saving them, their lives are worthless, meaningless, and without purpose. If humans want a life worth living, God demands that they accept the blood sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, and commit themselves to loving and worshipping God all the days of their lives.

Heaven is the grand payoff for followers of Jesus. And what exactly will Christians do in Heaven? While preachers tell all sorts of fanciful fictions about what Heaven will be like, one thing is for certain: Christians will spend eternity prostrating themselves before the Christian God and praising him for being such a wonderful, magnificent, awesome God. This masturbatory worship will not be optional. Preachers remind congregants about all that Jesus did for them through his bloody death on a Roman cross and his resurrection from the dead three days later. Those of us raised in Evangelical churches have likely seen a preacher or two illustrate the love of God by spreading his arms wide, imitating Jesus hanging on the cross. Just think of how much Jesus loves you, preacher’s say. If Jesus gave his life for us, shouldn’t we give our lives to him?

preacher

Tulip, Jesse, and Cassidy

Have you ever wondered why any of this nonsense is necessary? Again, read the Bible without straining it through the spin of orthodox Christianity; without having preachers and theologians “explain” the text to you. Is the God of the Bible worthy of our love, worship, and devotion? I think not. Thus, it is not surprising to hear Jesse Custer say to God, “We would all be better off without a needy little bitch like you.”

An increasing number of people are realizing that they would be better off without the Christian God. All any of us needs is one another. If we are going to love someone, let it be our family, friends, and neighbors. If we are going to worship someone, let’s worship people who are worthy of our devotion. On occasion, I have told Evangelical zealots that my God is my wife, Polly. If anyone is worthy of my love and worship, she is. I have spent two-thirds of my life living with this God. She is better in every way than the God of the Bible. Polly has never demanded that I love and worship her, but over time, she won me over. The Christian God, on the other hand, did what, exactly, for me? Has he ever cooked me a meal, ironed my shirt, or any of the other countless things Polly has done for me over the past forty-three years? As I look back over my life, I see countless acts of love, mercy, and kindness done on my behalf by others. Where was God? Oh, he was there all the time, Evangelicals say, but just saying something doesn’t make it so. Generation after generation of people are told this and that about God and all his wonders. It is only when we take a hard look at life that we see that the God we have been told about is nowhere to be found. The only gods we see look very much like us.

In the end, Jesse Custer learned that God was not who and what he thought, and he didn’t need God to make it through life. A decade ago, I came to the same conclusion. Whatever “God” may or may not be, I’ve learned that I don’t need he/she/it; that if I must claim a God, her name is Polly.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Bruce, Do You Have Faith?

faith michael nugent

Recently, a Christian man asked me if I had “faith.” Before I answer his question, it is necessary to define the word faith. Faith means trusting or relying on someone or something; having confidence in a person or plan; loyalty or allegiance to a cause or person. Christians, however, load the word “faith” with all sorts of religious baggage. There’s a big difference between saying I have faith that the sun will rise in the morning, and saying I have faith that Jesus will miraculously heal me from cancer. The former can be understood through science, evidence, and personal experience, whereas the latter claim is without foundation and proof. The former relies on believing what we know to be true, whereas the latter relies on believing despite evidence to the contrary. The former rests on reason, the latter on fancy. There’s a plethora of evidence for the rising of the sun each day, whereas there’s no evidence for Jesus healing people from cancer. Is it possible that Jesus heals people from cancer? Well, anything is possible, but such a notion has no rational foundation. Thus, Jesus healing people from cancer is wild speculation without factual evidence. Christians saying, I KNOW JESUS HEALED ME, is not evidence since no proof of the claims can be provided.

Either one believes Jesus heals, or one doesn’t. Such a belief requires great faith. The sun coming up in the morning, however, is easily provable by scientific evidence, photographic evidence, and personal experience. I turned sixty-two in June. The sun has arisen 22,733 times since my birth at Cameron Memorial Hospital in June, 1957. I am confident that the sun will appear again tomorrow, and if I am alive, I will see it. Can I know for sure that the sun will arise in the morning? No, but based on past experience, I am relatively certain it will. Thus, I have faith the sun will rise in the morning.

The definition of Christian faith is found in Hebrews 11:1-3, 6:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.  For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear . . . But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

For the Christian, faith is hoping for, and the evidence of, things not seen. Is not the essence of Christianity believing, having faith in things that cannot be seen? Millions of Americans “talk” each day to a God whom they have never seen. I have long argued that the main reason I am not a follower of Jesus is that I do not have requisite faith necessary to do so. I have looked at the evidence for the central claims of Christianity, and I have found them lacking. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am unwilling to put my faith in something that has little, if any, proof. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that the Protestant Christian Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. How do Evangelicals know this claim is true? They don’t, but by faith, they believe anyway — despite everything Dr. Bart Ehrman says in his books. The same could be said of the virgin birth of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead, and the countless miracles he purportedly worked. Remember, the Bible only records a sliver of the miracles performed by Jesus. The author of the gospel of John said in chapter twenty-one, verse twenty-five:

 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Hyperbole? Exaggeration? Not if you are a literalist and an inerrantist. According to Wikipedia, the Library of Alexandria contained upwards of 100,000 books. According to John, this is nothing when compared to all the books that should have been written about the life, works, and miracles of the man, myth, and legend, Jesus Christ. Jesus was such a prodigious miracle worker that the known world couldn’t contain all the books written about his exploits. Yet, contemporary historians and writers were silent concerning Jesus and his traveling magic show. Despite this deafening silence, Christians, by faith, believe Jesus did these things. Is such faith rational?

So, yes, as an atheist, I have faith, but not the kind of faith Christians have. My faith rests on a foundation of reason and evidence. Recently, my wife was hospitalized for three weeks. Polly had major abdominal and bladder surgery. All told, Polly was off work for almost two months. It was a scary, heart-wrenching moment to helplessly watch as Polly was wheeled away by surgical staff. I wondered, with tears in my eyes, will this be the last time I see the love of my life alive? Maybe, as was the case with my father decades ago, but I put my faith in the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nursing staff. These well-trained professionals were skilled at performing these surgeries, and I was confident that there would be a successful outcome.

What if I had, on the other hand, prayed and put my faith in Jesus, the God-man whom Christians call the Great Physician? How could I ever know whether Jesus was actually behind Polly’s successful surgeries? Scores of Christians at the church Polly’s parents attend were praying for a successful outcome. How could they ever know it was Jesus who “healed” her? Well, Bruce, look at the outcome. Wait a minute, wasn’t it medical professionals, performing to exacting standards, who healed Polly? (Imagine the outcome if Polly relied on prayer alone!) Well, um, sure, but it was God who gave them the ability and strength to do so. And your proof for this claim? I just know that’s what happened. By faith, I believe. Surely, readers can see the difference between my faith and that of the Christian.

Yes, I have faith, but my faith is different from that of the typical Christian. Our foundations are different. My faith is built on reason and rationality, giving me the confidence to believe this or that will happen. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, rests on naked faith; an irrational faith that says, believe despite evidence to the contrary. Is that not exactly what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years? Jesus is coming soon!, every generation of Christians has confidently said. Yet, twenty-one centuries later, Jesus still has not returned to earth. Is it reasonable or rational to believe Jesus’s return is imminent? Of course not. The exant evidence tells us that Jesus lies buried somewhere in Palestine. He’s d-e-a-d, end of story. Yet, countless Christians believe that not only is Jesus alive, he will return to earth very soon to establish his eternal Kingdom. Is not such belief (faith) irrational? Without faith, Christianity crumbles into nothing. I know there are Evangelical apologists who vociferously argue that their faith is reasonable and rational. These “sophisticated” Christians use all sorts of outlandish arguments to “prove” their claims, but I see little difference between their faith and that of the uneducated Christians. Press either of them enough, and they always retreat to the safety of irrational faith.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Charismatic Preacher Perry Stone Checks Phone While Speaking in Tongues

perry stone

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Charismatic preacher Perry Stone checking his smartphone while speaking in tongues. I wonder if God was texting him?

Video Link

Evangelizing the Lost: Do You Have Blood on Your Hands?

bloody-hands-of-christians

Liberal and Progressive Christians tend to let their “little lights shine” through their good works. Evangelicals, on the other hand, believe they are commanded by God to verbalize the Christian gospel to every human being. (And I am not saying Evangelicals don’t do good works. They do. However, their focus is different from non-Evangelical Christians.) The Bible says in Matthew 28:19,20:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15 says:

And he [Jesus] said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

These verses are commonly called the Great Commission.

Let me chase a rabbit for a second, and then return to the subject at hand. Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. When Jesus says, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” they believe his words to be a command they are expected to follow.

Regardless of how often Evangelicals say they believe EVERY WORD OF THE BIBLE, none of them really does. Evangelicals pick and choose which Bible verses to believe. Mark 16 is a wonderful of example of Evangelical selectivity. The three verses immediately following the Great Commission say:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

Please note what the precious, holy, perfect Bible says:

  • You must be baptized to be saved
  • Signs will follow those who believe and are baptized
  • True believers will cast demons out of other people
  • True believers will speak with new tongues
  • True believers will handle venomous snakes and not be hurt
  • True believers will drink poison and not be hurt
  • True believers will lay hands on the sick, and they will be healed

Let me ask readers this: based on the seven marks of a True Believer® above, how many Christians do you know?

Context sure can be a bitch! Okay, rabbit sufficiently chased now; let’s return to the Great Commission.

Evangelicals believe every human being, past and present, belongs in one of two categories: saved or lost. Evangelicalism is exclusionary by nature and design. Either you are a True Christian®, or you are not; either you are headed for Heaven, or you are headed for Hell. Our eternal destiny is black and white: either you are saved, or you are lost. The goal, then, is to move as many people as possible — including people who “say they are Christians —  from the lost category to the saved category. That’s the essence of the Great Commission, and it is for this reason some Evangelical churches, pastors, and congregants push their version of the Christian gospel on other people. Unbelievers are supposed to view their rude impositions as love. “I love you so much that I am going to annoy until you realize you are a hell-bound sinner in need of the salvation freely offered by Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead three days later.” Countless Evangelical zealots have come to this blog and attempted to evangelize you and me. They believe that their boorish harassment is “love.” “I love you enough, Bruce, to tell you the truth,” Evangelical evangelizers tell me. Evidently, the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry wasn’t enough to educate me on the finer points of the Evangelical gospel. That’s sarcasm, by the way. It’s been a long, long time since an Evangelical has told me something I haven’t heard before. Trust me, I know everything there is to know about what is necessary to be saved. I just can’t do snake handling and drinking poison. Sorry, but I will just have to go to Hell.

einsteins witnesses

I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. IFB churches are known for their hyper-evangelism efforts. Success is measured by souls saved. Yet, most IFB church members rarely, if ever, verbally share their faith with non-believers. Oh, they will give them religious literature or invite them to church, but sharing the Evangelical gospel face-to-face with family, friends, neighbors, and strangers? They leave that to their pastors, evangelists, and on-fire-for-God soulwinners. Why do most congregants keep the Evangelical gospel to themselves? Much like the rest of us, they like to respected and well thought of. What’s a sure way to piss people off? Get in their faces, preaching your peculiar brand of Christianity. Few of us like pushy religious zealots. That’s why I was never very good at confrontational evangelism. I was content to do my evangelizing through my preaching — be it in church or on the street. Now, that doesn’t mean I never won any souls for Christ while out on visitation, I did. It’s just that I was never comfortable with bugging and harassing people, especially when I knew that they were not the least bit interested in what I had to sell.

Why, then, did I, week after week, knock on doors, hoping to save sinners and add them to our church membership? One word: FEAR. I was afraid that God would hold me accountable for not doing everything in my power to reach the lost. One Bible passage, in particular, fueled this fear, Ezekiel 3:17-19:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

“But his [the sinner’s, the wicked man’s] blood will I require at that hand.” As an Evangelical pastor, I didn’t want to have the blood of sinners on my hands. I didn’t want Jesus on judgment day parading before me the sinners I failed to evangelize. I didn’t want to hear their screams in Hell, knowing that I never told them the truth! Let this kind of thinking get deep down into your psyche; it can change how you view others. Instead of seeing my Catholic neighbor as a good man, a kind man, who helped me on many occasions, I saw him as a sinner in need of saving; a good lost man. Such thinking ruins one’s ability to see people as they are, and to understand the boundaries that decent, thoughtful people respect. That’s why the most obnoxious people at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other Evangelical high holy days such as Mother’s Day are Christians who feel duty-bound to evangelize everyone they come in contact with. Nothing else matters except standing before Jesus someday free of the blood of sinners.

I used Ezekiel 3:17-19 and Ezekiel 33:7-9 in my sermons to guilt congregants into showing up on Tuesdays and Saturdays for visitation and soulwinning. In the weeks leading up to revivals, I would passionately remind church members of their duty to their family, friends, neighbors, and workmates. “Do you want to stand before God on judgment day with blood on your hands?” I’d ask. Heads would bow, and congregants would grimace. “Point made,” I thought. Yet, come revival time, most of the evangelizing was done by me, the evangelist, and a handful of sold-out, on-fire, bug-the-Hell-out-of-people members. No matter how much I tried to shame congregants into verbalizing the gospel to others, most church members left evangelization to the hired help.

Did you attend a hyper-evangelistic church? Did your pastor try to guilt church members into witnessing? Were you a soulwinner? Why not? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce, Do You Hate God?

hate god

Originally posted June 2, 2015. Corrected, updated, and expanded.

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 “their” God. I spend a lot of time writing things that are negative about God and religion, so surely I must HATE God. Maybe some atheists do hate God, but I don’t. It is a 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 kinds of questions are worthy of friendly, thoughtful, pointed 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, that there is no God. As a man who spent fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five 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 meantime,  I remain agnostic on the God question and live my day-to-day life as an atheist. Reason, humanism, family, friends, baseball, photography, 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 twenty-first-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 first-century Palestine.

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 that of Jesus. 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 or not.

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. Their beliefs and policies would likely be condemned by Jesus of Nazareth they purportedly worship. Millions of Christians considered voting for these men, thinking they were voting for God’s man. (Please see Why I Hate Jesus.) And that’s precisely what Evangelical voters did in November 2015, electing “baby Christian” Donald Trump as president. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Trump. By doing so, Evangelical Christians traded their souls for a bowl of pottage, choosing power over morality, ethics, and decency.

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 dying are given preferential treatment? If Jesus were alive today, do we really think he would go to an American church? I don’t.

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, and I suspect many of the readers of this blog do too. As atheists and agnostics, we don’t have many meaningful opportunities or outreaches to help others. Imagine the help we could lend to churches focused on helping others instead of building kingdoms in this life.

I wonder if there is any room in the world for itinerant atheist 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, and not people. For the most part, I despise Evangelical Christianity. To Evangelicals, words in a book are more important than loving their neighbors and helping the poor, hungry, and homeless. 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, immigration, gun rights, combatting socialism, refuting global warming, evolution, and getting Republicans elected, than trying to make a real difference in the lives of the “least of these.”  Thinking evangelizing someone is more important than feeding and clothing them (better to go to Heaven with an empty belly, than Hell with a full one, the thinking goes), 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 my 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 the teachings of Jesus seriously, they would merge, sell off the excess real estate, and use the money to help the poor, sick, and disadvantaged. If churches took the teachings of Jesus seriously, they’d fire all the professional Christians, forcing them to get real jobs. In doing so, these professional Christians would be forced to reengage with a world they lost connection with once they became gatekeepers and waitstaff at the local Evangelical churches.

If churches took the teachings of Jesus seriously, they’d stop programs that are little more than crack for religious junkies. These addicts 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 spouses, children, family, and neighbors. 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. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.) My hatred is reserved for those who value theological fealty, fidelity, and conformity more than they do people. Such thinking caused the burning of people at the stake and the slaughter of countless 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 attempt the subjugation and control others in the name of their God. Thinking they are oracles who have 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 freedoms 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 the teaching of the socialist Jesus seriously, but so far all I see is ice cream. Various flavors, but all ice cream. (Please see But, Our church is DIFFERENT!)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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