Tag Archive: Evangelicalism

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander’s Sexual Assault Fantasy

lori alexander

Women were much safer when they lived under their father’s roof until marriage (IF they had a good father) and then under their husband’s roof when married (IF they have a good husband). Feminism has made women unsafe. They have fought for women to attend universities. Are women safe in the universities? “Sexual assault on college campuses is a common problem that often goes unreported. It includes any unwanted sexual activity, from unwanted touching to rape. Alcohol and drugs often play a role in sexual assault on campuses.” They have fought for women to have careers. Is the workforce safe for women? “Workplace sexual harassment is widespread, with studies estimating that anywhere from almost a quarter to more than eight in ten women experience it in their lifetimes.”

As you can see, women attending universities and having careers have made women much more unsafe than they were living under their fathers’ roof and then their husbands’.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Women Are More Unsafe These Days, August 3, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Woodstock was a Secular Worship Service

As I watched the new PBS film and revisited the 1970 documentary, it struck me that Woodstock was a fundamentally religious event: a worship service for a secular age; a liturgy of liberation where the object of devotion was not God, but freedom. The event signaled the dawn of a new spiritual ethos that would extend far beyond the world of hippies: a rejection of authority in almost every sense except for the authority of the expressive self. 

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Among the ways Woodstock marks a key moment in Western cultural history is that it helped solidify the move of transcendence and religious awe from the church and institutional religion, into the realm of popular culture. After Woodstock, the outdoor music festival became a key liturgy of secular religion: sacred spaces of communion with nature and fellow man, where music and drugs and alcohol contribute to feelings of physical elevation, emotional escape, and spiritual transformation.

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Woodstock lives on, both in its legacy for the world of music festivals but also as a microcosm of the 1960s cultural revolution that still shapes our world today.

The reverberating echo of Richie Havens’s “Freedom!” is still our culture’s rallying cry. The impulse to “look within” for transcendence remains pervasive—if not in acid trips and gurus, then in mindfulness apps and “wash your face!” self-help. 

Meanwhile, progressivism is still trying to figure out how to reconcile the dual values of unrestrained personal autonomy and “help each other” communal responsibility, as well as how to speak with moral authority on pet causes (LGBT rights, global warming, abortion rights) despite having built itself on the (inherently unstable) foundation of anti-authoritarianism. 

And just as the masses at Woodstock longed for an “alternative city” where they could be known and understood, singing praises (of sorts) with one voice, so do the masses today. The lost souls who flocked to Woodstock were looking for meaning, just as their 21st-century counterparts are when they crowd into stadiums, theaters, concert halls, national parks, or wherever they go to “worship.” 

These pilgrims are looking for something more. Revival. Purpose. Transcendence. Something of substance. What can Christians do to present the local church as a place where spiritual wanderers might find these things? Because even as the Western world became more secular, the religious impulse never went away. The human need to worship never fades, as Woodstock’s “worship service” so vividly shows. 

But worship satisfies only when its object is utterly and eternally worthy. That’s why, when all the secular liturgies of this age fail to satisfy, the church of Jesus Christ will still be there—singing to the same God she always has, with words and rituals that have outlasted countless cultural trends and countercultural zeitgeists.

— Brett McCracken, The Gospel Coalition, Woodstock was a Secular Worship Service, August 3, 2019

A Decade Removed from Leaving Christianity, My Wife’s Mom Finally Asks Her if She Believes in God

believe-in-god

Polly and I attended church for the last time in November, 2008. While I was quicker to embrace the atheist moniker than Polly, she intellectually, at least, didn’t believe in the existence of God. In recent years, she has been more open about her lack of belief, but even now she’s quite reserved when compared to her word-generating-machine husband. That said, we are both on the same page when it comes to the existence of the Christian God.

Polly’s father is a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976 — the same year his daughter enrolled for classes. Dad and Mom moved south to Newark, Ohio where Dad became the poorly-paid assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. The Baptist Temple was pastored by Jim Dennis. Jim was married to my mother-in-law’s younger sister. Dad would later pastor a church in nearby Buckeye Lake. After this church closed, Dad and Mom returned to the Baptist Temple, the church they call home to this day,

Talking about things has never been Mom and Dad’s forte. When we left the ministry in 2005 and Christianity in 2008, Mom and Dad never said a word — NOT ONE WORD! (even after receiving Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners). That is, until today. As most of you know, Polly is having surgery tomorrow to remove bladder cancer and repair a fistula. An hour or so ago, Polly’s mom called her at work. This is the gist of their conversation:

Mom: I have never asked you before, but do you think like Bruce does?

Polly: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, like do you still believe in God?

Polly: No, Mom!

Mom: How can you not? You asked Jesus to save you when you were seven! [actually, it was at age five]

Polly: I’m fine, Mom.

Mom: Well, we pray for you and Bruce and the kids [all heathens, in her eyes, by the way], a lot!

End of discussion.

Polly texted me, “Sigh, OMG! How many years did she have to ask?”

Polly texted me later “Pretty sure she was more upset than me! If she didn’t want to know, she should have kept quiet! I told her I had excellent specialists taking care of me. I mean, seriously! What’s Jesus going to do for me?”

This is the first and only time Polly’s parents have asked about our loss of faith. They had a decade to ask, yet never, ever said a word outside of the constant reminders, “we are praying for you!” I suspect Mom felt led by the Holy Spirit to call her daughter. Knowing that Polly was having surgery, Mom wanted to make sure where her daughter stood with the Christian God. I am quite sure she didn’t expect to hear Polly say she didn’t believe in God. Mom and Dad and their former pastor, the late Jim Dennis, have always believed that I have a larger-than-life influence over Polly. There was a time that that was true, but those days are long gone — as in, twenty-five plus years gone. Polly is her own person, and able to make decisions for herself — including whether she believes in the existence of God.

Polly enters the hospital tomorrow trusting that skilled medical professionals will do their best to remove the cancer and fix the bladder side of the fistula. We are confident that they will succeed in this endeavor. Mom fears for Polly’s soul. All I want is for the love of my life to come home safe and sound.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Quote of the Day: Why the Phrase “Separation of Church and State” is Not in the Constitution

separation of church and state 2

What these persons fail to understand is that it would have been redundant to include such a phrase [separation of church and state] in the Constitution. The document as a whole embodies the view that government is not to meddle in religious matters. The federal government is given very specific, limited powers only over various secular matters. It has no powers relating to religion. The government is secular both in its origin (the consent of the governed) and its function. The government and religious institutions are completely separate and have nothing to do with each other. To insist that the Constitution doesn’t mandate separation of church and state because it doesn’t contain that phrase is more preposterous than a person who is not named as a beneficiary in a will insisting he has a claim on the estate because the will does not specifically exclude him by name.

Dr. Ronald Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do, December 2014

Purchase The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do

Quote of the Day: Secularism and Evangelical Bigotry

separation of church and state

Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Evangelical Christians continue to represent a sizeable percentage of the current president’s base support. To those who have watched evangelicals spend “the last 40 years telling everyone how to live, who to love,” and “what to think about morality,” the continued alliance with this president makes evangelicals the “biggest phonies” in all of politics. Indeed, the behind-the-scenes details of how a “thrice-married, insult-hurling” president obtained the endorsement of the evangelical hierarchy are as lewd and hypocritical as one might expect.

As much as the hypocrisy of evangelicalism can be mocked and exposed however, there exists a kernel of truth lurking behind the claim that evangelicals are supporting this president out of fear. It is simply impossible to deny that institutionalized persecution of religious ideas by public universities has occurred. Thankfully, this persecution has been continuously challenged and overturned in the courts.

The fact that persecution of religious ideas can and has occurred in our society however, does not even remotely suggest that intolerance is a uniquely “secularist” problem. In fact, intolerance of dissent and censorship of opposing views has been a general feature in religious institutions for thousands of years. Moreover, the same intolerance and censorship evangelicals claim they hate so much when it occurs in “secular” institutions is expressly embraced at the largest Christian colleges in the United States today, such as Liberty University. Does this past and current existence of intolerance in religious institutions mean that religion is inherently intolerant? No, because human bias exists generally in all human institutions, a fact the framers of the Constitution knew all too well and the exact reason why they chose to embrace secularism.

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For example, David French, who I would argue is a moderate evangelical, has argued recently that we should be wary of European immigration because those countries have a “secular-bias” that will “alter American culture in appreciable ways.” In answering this nonsense from French, it is important to acknowledge that such a statement amounts to nothing less than vile bigotry.

To illustrate, imagine for one second how French would react if a liberal pundit on MSNBC  said we should avoid immigrants from Christian-majority countries because America is steadily becoming more secular. Is there any doubt French would find such a statement to be a reflection of bigotry against Christians based on ridiculous notions that they are somehow incapable of assimilating into American culture? Yet he felt no issue disparaging and demeaning immigration from a whole continent based entirely on whether they held certain religious beliefs or not. Why? Because for all too many evangelicals, non-belief is simply not viewed with the same respect as religious belief, despite the fact that our Constitutional free conscience liberty makes no distinction. Put simply, it is nothing less than disgraceful the level of bigotry that evangelicals impose on the none-religious. Until and unless the religious stop lying about the nature of secularism, falsely depicting it as the ultimate evil, I fear such bigotry will continue to increase.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The False Demonization Of Secularism, July 30, 2019

“Those” Christians are Crazy: I’m Not That Kind of Christian

crazy christian

Cartoon by Adam Ford

This blog attracts all sorts of readers, from ardent Fundamentalists to atheists. I long ago stopped trying to figure out why this or that group reads my writing. I am just happy that ANYONE does. Most of my focus is on Evangelical Christianity. Liberal and progressive Christians, along with fringe Evangelicals, enjoy my critiques and takedowns of religious beliefs they consider insane. Such people will often leave comments that say, “Those Christians are crazy. I’m glad I am not that kind of Christian!” In their minds, Fundamentalists are crazy, and real Christians would never believe such things. Rejecting the God of wrath, liberal and progressive Christians assert that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Any belief that’s not consistent with “God is love” is wrong — regardless of what the Bible says. Thus, when Fundamentalists thunder and rage against sin, consigning billions of people to the flames of Hell, liberal and progressive Christians say, God is love! While I certainly appreciate the love and kindness injected into Christianity by such a view, I find it intellectually lacking. Only by dismissing or reinterpreting vast portions of the Bible can one come to the singular conclusion that God is love. God is “love,” but he is also a vindictive, mean, capricious son-of-a-bitch. Both Gods are in the Bible, but liberal and progressive Christians choose to ignore the latter. (And it could be argued that Christian Fundamentalists have lost all sense of God’s love.)

When Fundamentalists preach creationism or claim the earth is flat, liberal and progressive Christians rightly say, “those” Christians are crazy. Yet, when pressed on their own beliefs, most of them admit that they are to some degree or another theistic evolutionists. Seventy-five percent of the people of the United States believe that God, either by direct action or guided evolution, created the universe. (Please see Jerry Coyne’s post, Secularism on the rise: new Gallup poll shows that 40% of Americans are young-earth creationists, 33% are theistic evolutionists, and 22% are naturalistic evolutionists)  So, then, it seems that “crazy” is just a matter of degree. Sure, theistic evolution as a belief is better than nonsensically believing that the universe is 6,024 years old, but it is hardly a scientifically rigorous system of thought.

Fundamentalists are known for being literalists — people of the Book. They aren’t, but that’s how they perceive themselves. Fundamentalists, much like liberal and progressive believers, are cafeteria Christians. Down the Bible line they go, picking and choosing what they want to believe. This is why we have millions of Christianities and Jesuses. Each believer makes and molds Jesus in his or her own image. The only difference, really, between Fundamentalists and liberal/progressive Christians is the foods they put on their trays — each believing that their food choices best represent Jesus and historic Christianity. Good luck trying to figure out which group is right. While I prefer liberal and progressive Christianity due to its harmlessness, I find Christianity, in general, irrationally and intellectually stupefying. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am convinced that more than a few liberal and progressive Christians are actually atheists/agnostics. Many liberal and progressive believers have jettisoned more of the Bible than did Thomas Jefferson, yet, for some reason, they hang on to Christianity. Fear? Family connections? The need for spirituality? I don’t know. I can’t speak to the reasons why people refuse to let go of the bones of faith. What I do wish they would do is at least be honest about their beliefs, hermeneutics, and how they rationalize the teachings of the Bible — rejecting literalism when it’s embarrassing, yet clinging to it when it comes to Jesus, saving faith, and life after death. And perhaps therein lies the crux of their faith: the need to believe that there is more to life than the here and now; that death is not the end.

Liberal and progressive Christians think Evangelicals are nuts. Who in their right minds believes as Fundamentalists do? liberals and progressives think. But, to those of us who are no longer Christians, we see craziness in Evangelicalism and liberal/progressive Christianity alike: a virgin teenager being impregnated by the Holy Ghost and giving birth to a God-man, that God-man working countless science-defying miracles, dying on a Roman cross, resurrecting from the dead, and ascending to Heaven. Every liberal and progressive Christian I know, along with every Evangelical, believes that Jesus was the Son of God, died for human sin, and resurrected from the dead. These three claims alone are, to unbelievers, absurd. So, when liberal and progressive believers say, “those” Christians are crazy, what atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers see is a matter of degree. We recognize the world is a better place the more liberal and progressive religions become, but we can’t ignore the “craziness” that is found in every system of faith.

To my liberal and progressive Christian readers, I say this: I would love to have you explain your worldview, how you understand the Bible, and what hermeneutics you use to interpret the Bible. I would love for you to explain to readers how you make Christianity work for you. I mean it. I am more than willing to grant you the floor and let you explain why you still believe. I am certain that the unbelievers who frequent this blog will give you a fair hearing and treat you with love and respect. We fight a common enemy — Fundamentalism. On that, we can agree. All I am asking for is for liberal and progressive Christians who are willing to do so, to explain “why” they continue to put their faith and trust in Jesus — and by extension Christianity. If you would like to write a guest post, please send your submission to me via the Contact form.

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.

Josh Harris Renounces Christianity: Will Acronyms Send You to Hell?

josh harris

Josh Harris, the best-selling author of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” (Harris’ repudiation of the book) and former pastor with Sovereign Grace Churches (formerly Sovereign Grace Ministries, formerly People of Destiny), recently announced that he and his wife were separating. Not long after announcing his separation from his wife of twenty-one years, Harris — a one time five-point Calvinist — announced to the world that he was no longer a Christian. Harris wrote:

I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.

Harris’ admission of unbelief has caused all sorts of controversy, and True Christians® have been quick to not only condemn Harris, but also consign him to the flames of Hell. As long-time readers of this blog know, cross True Christians® and they will eviscerate you from their pulpits and on their blogs, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I left the ministry almost fourteen years ago, and left Christianity altogether in November 2008 — before social media was widely used by zealots to strip naked those who leave and parade them through the public square. My detractors took to their pulpits and blogs (please see Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser), along with endlessly stoking gossip about me at preacher’s meetings. Harris, unfortunately, comes out of the proverbial unbelief closet in a day when critics have seemingly endless ways to abuse, attack, and gaslight those who dare to leave the True Christian® club.

Grayson Gilbert — who considers himself relevant and reformed — writes:

For Joshua Harris, this journey didn’t lead to an embrace of Progressive “Christianity”–not yet at least. In the end, it looks much the same, sans the false notion one can deny the text and remain a Christian. For that, I earnestly think he is more forthright than many of his predecessors who have left the Evangelical world. His embrace of the sexual anarchy that is homosexuality, departure from men’s roles in ministry, etc., is but the cherry on top of his apostasy. Surely, if one departs wholly from “all the measurements [they] have for defining a Christian,” it is little wonder they would likewise depart from the biblical sexual ethic, or any biblical ethic.

Nevertheless, it is an incredibly sad thing to witness. Here you find a man married for twenty plus years announce his divorce amicably, as if the separation of what God joined together is as low-key as returning an unwanted grocery item to the store. Just a few days later we then find the stoic picture by a serene lake and scenic mountains, announcing his departure from the faith. Truly, it is a breathtaking view of the handiwork of our Creator and one who stands before it as if to say, “It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

I look upon it, read, and grieve for how casually he has thrown away the preciousness of the gospel. Here we have the opposite of Matt. 13:44-46, where a man experiences the blessings and benefits of living amongst the wealthy sojourners who sold all they had in order to gain riches eternal, all the while not tasting the goodness of Christ. He may have chewed upon it; his mouth may have even salivated–yet he spit it out, all the while never tasting of it. He labored, toiled even, for years–yet never for the sake of the gospel or out of a love for Christ.

This is where it gets particularly difficult for those who remain as they reconcile with the fact that the worst part about being deceived is that the deceived are never truly aware they are deceived. They acted like a Christian. They looked like a Christian. They did and said Christian things; and yet the apostle John just simply says of them, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19, NASB). Surely, they might, “…feel very much alive, and awake, and surprisingly hopeful,” yet they are dead, sleepers, and without any hope at all.

If you’ve never witnessed someone apostatize firsthand, this episode involving Joshua Harris is but a minor twinge of sadness. Surely, we can grieve from afar–but none will grieve as much as those close to him who will continue on in Christ. We can lament the fact that he dangles over the pit of hell by the slenderest of threads, held only by the stablest of hands in the Sovereign One. We can contemplate the significance in the difference a single breath can make, as it is but one breath to the next that holds the distinction between salvation and damnation. But we will never contemplate those truths with as much gravitas as the young man who looked up to Joshua Harris as his pastor, or the blossoming young couple he led through pre-marital counseling, or the elderly widow he took the time to speak to on Sunday mornings prior to service.

There is a vast difference between knowing of the apostate and knowing the apostate–and these are those whom should be the focus of our prayers. If you didn’t know, these are the same people who dealt with the fallout of sexual abuse amongst their midst, under the leadership of CJ Mahaney. Mahaney caught the most media attention for these scandals, but as many have come to reveal years afterward, former leadership is likewise culpable for mishandling abuse victims (and criminals). Pray for these people. They have surely endured the crucible in many ways and this simply piles on top of an already burdened people. Nonetheless, we still need to be in prayer for others under his influence, that they do not follow in his example of making a shipwreck of their faith.

In other words, Harris is an LGBTQ-loving apostate who was never a Christian. Boy, I sure have heard that refrain a time or two. Okay, more times than I can count. But that’s what True Christians® do. As soon as someone strays outside of the narrow confines of their peculiar box, out comes 1 John 2:19:

 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Josh Harris leaving the confines of the box proves he never was a true box-dweller; his departure reveals to those still in the box who the True Christians® really are. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

Yesterday, an Evangelical zealot named Marcus Pittman — who uses the ImKingGinger handle on social media — unleashed the following tweet:

tweet from imkingginger marcus

For readers who live outside of the Evangelical bubble, you might not be aware that Southern Baptists, Fundamentalist Calvinists, and other Evangelical groups are currently embroiled in controversies over social justice (definition of social justice warrior) and the recognition and acceptance of LGBTQ people. On one hand, it is hilarious to watch saved, sanctified, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost “followers” of Jesus devour one another, fighting amongst themselves like toddlers over toys. On the other hand, however, people are being hurt by these skirmishes. While I have mixed emotions about Josh Harris and I think he has much to atone for, I do sympathize with him as he attempts to move on with his life post-Evangelicalism. It remains to be seen to where Harris ends up. He may end up an atheist in the style of Bart Campolo, or he may follow a path similar to that of Rob Bell. Who knows? It’s Harris’ life, and he’s free to follow the path wherever it leads.

As Evangelicalism faces increasing pressure from within by Christians who believe in social justice and reject Evangelicalism’s rightward political bent, True Christians® such as Pittman respond by painting such people as “fake Christians.” According to Pittman, Harris’ embrace of social justice and LGBTQ people shows without a doubt that Harris was never a Christian, and unless he repents he will burn in Hell for eternity. In taking this approach, Pittman reveals what many of us have long known: Evangelical salvation is based on right beliefs. BELIEVE THIS, and thou shalt live is the gospel preached by Pittman and others like him. For Calvinists, believe the right things and persevere to the end and you will make it to Heaven. Believe the wrong things, and Hell is your final destination. Now, Pittman will argue that the real issue is the authority and teachings of the Protestant Bible — THE BIBLE SAYS! However, the Bible is hardly unambiguous in its teachings, as 2,000 years of Christian church history clearly shows. Calvinists and Arminians have been fighting for hundreds of years over what the Bible teaches about salvation, and neither side has budged an inch. Christian sects constantly fight amongst themselves, with each sect believing it has the truth. Rarely does a week go by without another internecine battle breaking out among God’s chosen ones. Pittman likes to think that his beliefs are the one true faith, but at best all they are is his personal interpretation of an ancient religious text. That he is willing to condemn Harris to eternal pain, suffering, and torture at hands of his angry, righteous God says more about him than it does Harris. In Pittman’s mind, there’s coming a day when he and his fellow Evangelicals will gather along the rim of the Lake of Fire to watch as God throws everyone they tweeted against into pit. With smug smiles on their faces, these self-righteous servants of God will say, see, motherfuckers, we told you what would happen if you crossed us!

I wish Josh Harris nothing but the best. His books and work in the pastorate hurt a lot of people. I hope he will deeply reflect on his past and do what he can to make amends. As a former Evangelical pastor myself, I can tell Harris that coming clean about the past and being honest about the damage Evangelicalism causes can go a long way in undoing the damage you caused. Can’t make the past go away, but at very least you can apologize to those you harmed and help others who are trying to extricate themselves from Evangelicalism.

Note

Here’s an excellent takedown of Grayson Gilbert (and others) by David Davis. Gilbert expressed a similar view about the late Rachel Held Evans as he does Harris.

Pittman uses the CRT acronym in his tweet. I have no idea what it means. Cathode Ray Tube? Critical Race Theory? Cadaveric Renal Transplant? You choose one.

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: Reformed Baptist Pastor Tom Chantry Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison

pastor tom chantry

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

In May 2019, Tom Chantry, the former pastor of Miller Valley Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, was convicted on four charges of child molestation.  The CV Bugle reported:

The skies turned dark, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and hail rattled the Yavapai County Superior Court Wednesday while jurors decided the fate of former Prescott Baptist minister Thomas Chantry.

Two hours later, 12 members of that jury, one by one in open court, confirmed their guilty verdict in each of the four charges of child molestation that happened more than two decades ago. It took seven hours over two days for the jury to reach its verdict.

“If you tell, God is going to punish you. If you tell, you’re not going to go to heaven,” Chantry told his 11-year-old victim, Deputy County Attorney Susan Eazer explained to jurors in her closing arguments.

Chantry’s bond was revoked Wednesday. During the aggravated circumstances stage of the trial, immediately after the verdict, the jury determined that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim, according to Eazer.

The victim felt shame, confused, felt it was his fault, the prosecutor said. The victim felt fearful the defendant was going to do this to other children, Eazer argued. She said the victim was angry at his parents for not protecting him from the minister.

Chantry’s attorney, Ryan Stevens, argued against the aggravated circumstances verdict because the state did not present any psychological evidence that Chantry caused emotional harm to the victim.

But the jury agreed with Eazer not to continue bail, and after the hearing the minister walked out the side door of the courtroom with officers behind.

The minister has been accused of multiple instances of abuse and molestation involving the children in his former congregation.

During a trial last summer, a Yavapai County Superior Court jury was deadlocked on the four molestation charges by just one juror and this is a retrial of that case, Eazer said.

During the trial last summer, Chantry was tried on a total of five felony charges of child molestation and three aggravated assault charges.

Jurors determined he was guilty on two of the aggravated assault charges and not guilty on one aggravated assault charge and one molestation charge.

Chantry is also facing nine other charges involving child abuse and molestation in another case.

In June 1995, Chantry became the new pastor at Miller Valley Baptist Church. Accusers and their families first reported incidents of abuse to the church but no reports were made to the police until 2015.

Eazar ended the two-week trial Wednesday, arguing in her closing arguments that the jurors should believe the witnesses’ testimony, including the testimony of the single victim in this case, who is now a grown man with children.

However, Stevens argued in his closing statement that the witnesses for the victim brought “personal agendas, family agendas, biases and prejudices.” He said the witnesses in this trial contradicted themselves when compared to their testimony in previous cases and cited several examples.

Stevens argued that the four molestations charges that Chantry is facing are not about allegations of “spanking.”

“Excessive spanking: That’s for another courtroom, on another day.” This case is about the “touching” of the victim in certain body areas, he said.

The defense attorney also questioned the quality of the witnesses’ memories of alleged incidents from more than 20 years ago.

The defense attorney also said there was no medical or scientific evidence to corroborate the victim’s testimony. There was no thorough police investigation, he added.

“They (the witnesses) have knowledge of spankings,” Stevens told the jury.

“And you look at the actual evidence that is paper-thin, this, ladies and gentlemen, is not what ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt’ looks like, to convict a person of child molesting.”

In her rebuttal to Stevens’ closing arguments, Eazer took exception at Stevens’ comment that spankings “have nothing to do with this case.”

What the defense never explained is why the minister would be spanking these children in this manner, Eazer argued. She asked why the defendant would deny the spankings, other than say they were light taps, she asked.

“Wouldn’t it be a little too creepy for the defendant to have pulled down the pants of children in his congregation, spanked them excessively, with objects repeatedly, leave marks, for things like spelling errors grammatical errors,” Eazer pointed out, “Why would each of those children describe those spankings,” she asked the jury.

“The spankings again are the gateway into the molestation,” Eazer said.

“You can’t get to what he did” to the victim without talking about the spanking, she said,

Eazer pointed out that the minister even got permission from the victim’s family to discipline children by spanking them, using his church influence, to let the victims know he was in “control.”

“Why did he do it? Motive.” Eazer said. “It was actually very brilliant in a sadistic and pedophilia perhaps way.”

Chantry showed the victim who was in control, he got joy from inflicting pain, watching the victim’s bottom turn red and this gave the minister an excuse to do what his motive and his intent was: “To touch this little boy,” the prosecutor said.

Eazer stressed that the witness did not come up with their stories about the minister together and that they should be believed even two decades later. She argued there is no reason to make up these stories just because they are angry at the minister. The testimony is not the kind of attention these witnesses and victims seek, she added.

Chantry, the son of Reformed Baptist luminary Walter Chantry, was sentenced last week to 24 years in prison.

Here’s several pages from the State’s Sentencing Memorandum:

chantry sentencing document

chantry sentencing document 1

chantry sentencing document 2

For detailed coverage of Chantry’s trial and conviction, please check out the Thou Art the Man blog.

“It Must be a Miserable Thing to be an Atheist,” Says an Evangelical Christian

spaniardviii victor

Recently, a Christian Fundamentalist man who hides behind the SpaniardVIII moniker wrote his latest post in a series on atheism. (I responded, writing a post titled Do Atheists Really Love to Wallow in Sin?) One of SpaniardVIII’s readers, Victor, commented:

It must really be a miserable thing to be an atheist. It is true that they have made themselves willing tools in the hands of Satan to antagonise God and His followers. What a pity!

So much wrong in three little sentences. How is it possible that atheists have made themselves “willing tools in the hands of Satan?” Atheists don’t believe in the existence of deities or devils — Satan included. Making ourselves such would be akin to standing in the yard next to a shovel and asking it to make us spades. Silly, right? So is the suggestion that atheists have made themselves tools in the hands of Satan. Have Victor or SpaniardVIII ever seen Satan? Of course not. He is little more than a fairytale character used by Evangelicals in their attempts to scare people. Watch out Christians! Satan-filled atheists wander to and fro seeking whom they may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Watch out Christians. Satan-filled atheists present themselves as angels of light, but they are, in fact, wicked, vile, evil people. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Why, did you know atheists pickle fetuses and eat them once a year on Halloween; that atheists secretly desire to molest children; that atheists are reprobates, and you know what that means, they are p-e-r-v-e-r-t-s. (Romans 1) And so it goes. Shameless Christians, forgetting the Good Book condemns bearing false witness (Romans 13:9), lie about atheists and defame their character.

Why do Evangelicals act this way towards atheists? The short answer is that for Evangelicalism to have value, there must a clear distinction between good and evil; Christian and atheist. Evangelicals present themselves as pillars of moral virtue — that is until they are caught with their pants down, and then they are just like the rest of us, they say — so it necessary for atheists and other non-believers to be portrayed as people lacking morally and ethically. The Christian life is presented as the most awesome experience ever — all praise be to J-E-S-U-S — so it is necessary for atheists and other non-believers to be portrayed as having empty lives lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. Thus, to Victor and his sidekick SpaniardVIII, atheists are miserable people. I assume the focus of the word miserable is on how atheists live their lives; or how Evangelical zealots THINK atheists live their lives, anyway.

I hate to break it to Victor, but I have lived on both sides of the fence. I knew plenty of miserable Christians. I witnessed countless followers of Jesus living miserable lives, either by choice or due to the circumstances of life. I see nothing in Christianity that inculcates people from misery. Perhaps what Victor means is that compared to the life he has with Jesus, atheists have miserable lives. How can he know that? By what standard does he determine someone is miserable or is living a worthless life?

I am sure Victor, as an Evangelical Christian, measures the lives of others — especially atheists — according to his peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Christian Bible. Throw in a large dose of projection, and it is easy to see how Victor comes to the conclusion atheists are miserable. When Jesus is your end-all, it’s no wonder non-Christians are viewed as being lacking in some way or the other. Atheists, in particular, aren’t shy about telling Victor and other zealots like him that their beliefs are rooted in fantasy; that the Jesus they love, adore, and worship, lies dead somewhere on a Judean hillside; that the only thing awaiting Christians after death is darkness, silence, and decay. Is it no wonder, then, that the Victors of the world view atheists the way they do?

atheists sad

Here’s the problem with Victor’s Bible-blurred view of atheists. We are not, in general, miserable or unhappy. We daily strive to live happy, fulfilled lives, knowing that this life is the only one we have. Sure, we have problems, just like Christians do. We have days when we are asses and other days when we are saints (as in Saint Hitchens, Saint Gupton, Saint Hawking). Often, our lives are admixtures of good, bad, and indifferent deeds. We are, above all else, human. What atheists know that Evangelicals seemingly don’t, is that we are not “better” (or worse) than anyone else. We are, in every way, fellow travelers on the road of life, each of us walking the path set before us.

Victor pities atheists, not because of shared humanity, but because they don’t believe as he does. For Victor, life starts and ends with Jesus and the Bible. If anyone deserves pity, it is him. He has chosen a life of paucity, a life reduced to endlessly masturbating before the throne of Jesus; a life reduced to worshipping a mythical deity; a life where only one book matters, the Bible. Why would anyone in his or her right mind what to live this way? Remove threats of judgments and Hell and promises of Heaven and eternal bliss, and I guarantee you Victor’s life would be very different.

As long as fear and judgment are motivators, the Victors of the world will continue to say atheists are miserable. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing their own misery, Christian zealots jump up and down, holler, and point at atheists, saying LOOK AT HOW MISERABLE THEY ARE! Classic misdirection. I hate to break it to Victor, but with or without Jesus, misery can and does come our way. Live long enough, and Mr. Misery and Ms. Heartache are going to make an appearance in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Should atheists say to the Christian man dying from cancer, “it must be a miserable thing to be a Christian, to have given your whole life to a lie and now you are dying!” The atheists I know would never be so heartless, cruel, and indifferent. Yet, Victor thinks it’s okay — not knowing anything about the people he condemns — to say to atheists, such miserable people you are. 

This post leaves me wondering what is it in Evangelical Christianity that causes followers of Jesus to lose all connection with their fellow humans? There will come a day when I will draw my last breath. I can only imagine how Evangelical pastors and bloggers will respond upon hearing of the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser’s death. Look at how Christopher Hitchens and Steven Hawking were savaged after their deaths. Not long ago, Rachel Held Evans, a devout Christian, suddenly died at age 37. Her death was viewed by some within the Evangelical community as being some sort of divine retribution from the Evangelical God for Evans’ supposed heresy: Evans decapitated, her head placed on a pike for all to see, a reminder of what happens to those who stray from the narrow confines of the Evangelical box. Why can’t Evangelicals just act like decent, thoughtful human beings, even towards those who believe differently from them? See misery in the lives of others? Embrace their pain and lift them up, even if they worship your God, a different God, or no God at all. Surely, the fleshly, frail bond we have with one another transcends our tribes and teams, no? It should, but unfortunately, the Victors of the world refuse to remove their Bible-glasses long enough to see themselves and their fellow primates as they are.

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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Is Evangelism All About Winning Souls?

knock on door

Neil Carter recently wrote a post about evangelism that piqued my interest. Neil talked about how most evangelistic efforts do little to reach the “lost,” and are really more about tribal identification than saving sinners from the flames of Hell. Neil illustrated this with a question and answer that was posted on Quora.

Someone asked: “Why do people get angry when I try to share the word of God with them?”

A man by the name of Doug Robertson responded:

The entire process is not what you think it is.

It is specifically designed to be uncomfortable for the other person because it isn’t about converting them to your religion. It is about manipulating you so you can’t leave yours.

If this tactic was about converting people it would be considered a horrible failure. It recruits almost no one who isn’t already willing to join. Bake sales are more effective recruiting tools.

On the other hand, it is extremely effective at creating a deep tribal feeling among its own members.

The rejection they receive is actually more important than the few people they convert. It causes them to feel a level of discomfort around the people they attempt to talk to. These become the “others.” These uncomfortable feelings go away when they come back to their congregation, the “Tribe.”

I pondered, for a moment, my past evangelism efforts, and I concluded that Neil and Doug are right; that my soulwinning efforts and those of the churches I pastored did little to save sinners. The majority of the people converted under my ministry voluntarily came to church, heard me preach, and then walked down the aisle to be saved after I psychologically and emotionally manipulated them, and not through community evangelistic outreaches.  (Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles, Walking the Aisle — A Few Thoughts on Altar Calls, and Why Evangelical Beliefs and Practices are Psychologically Harmful — Part One)

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I attended an IFB college to train for the ministry, and while there I married the daughter of an IFB preacher. IFB churches and preachers are known for their aggressive approaches to evangelism, and I was no exception. The IFB churches I pastored typically had several evangelistic outreaches each week. Year-round, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, we would go door to door — much as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do — and try to evangelize people. On Saturdays, we would also go on bus visitation. While our purpose was primarily to bribe children with candy/toys so they would ride one of our busses the next day, we did have occasional opportunities to “share” the gospel.

Several times a year, I would invite evangelists to come hold meetings at the churches I pastored. These meetings ran five to fifteen days in length. The goal was to “revive” the congregation and “evangelize” the community. When we had an evangelist in town, we went door-knocking every day. These concentrated evangelistic efforts gave the hired guns an opportunity to WOW us with their soulwinning skills. The pressure was on them to birth new babies for Jesus.

bruce-gerencser-street-preaching-september-7-1990

Front page photo, Times-Recorder, September 7, 1990, preaching on a downtown street corner, Zanesville, Ohio

In the 1980s and 1990s, IFB evangelist Don Hardman would come to our country church and hold fifteen-day protracted revival meetings. (Please see The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman, A Book Review, Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman, A Book Review, and My Life as a Street Preacher) Don was a street preacher, and it wasn’t long before he turned me into a street preacher too. Instead of going door to door, we would go to nearby communities, stand on a street corner, hand out tracts, and preach as loud as we could. After Don moved on to his next gig, I continued preaching on the street. I tried, without success, to get my colleagues in the ministry to go along with me. To the man, these preachers of the gospel told me that they weren’t “called” to preach on the street. At the time, I saw their refusal as cowardice, an unwillingness to preach like Jesus, the disciples, and the Apostle Paul did in the early days of the Christian church.

I stayed in hyper-evangelism mode well into the 1990s. Even after embracing Calvinism, I continued to busy myself evangelizing sinners. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that I finally threw in the towel and abandoned my aggressive evangelism tactics. Why did I stop? The short answer is this: knocking on doors and preaching on the street resulted in very few, if any, converts. The overwhelming majority of salvation decisions were made by people who voluntarily attended one of our church services. Every so often, knocking on doors resulted in someone getting saved, but as I look back on these experiences, I have concluded that the only thing these supposed new converts got saved from was us! Not wanting to be seen as impolite, they prayed the sinner’s prayer, asking Jesus to save them, so we would leave them alone and move on to someone else. Praise Jesus, preacher! I have been delivered . . . from YOU!

For the most part, my evangelistic efforts were failures. Sure, I shared the gospel with hundreds of people, but few of them got saved. My soulwinning techniques were perfect — those I was taught at Midwestern Baptist College. I was passionate and zealous, devoting countless hours to evangelizing the lost. Why, then, did I fail so miserably? The short answer is that people found my methods offensive and wanted nothing to do with me, my church, or what I was peddling. Of course, this played right into my martyr’s complex. You see, as Neil made clear in his post, my soulwinning efforts were never really about saving souls. What knocking on doors and preaching on street corners did was separate me and the churches I pastored from the “world.” Their rejection only reinforced the notion that what we preached was the truth; that our tribe was the one true church. The more sinners rebuffed my soulwinning efforts, the more I felt that I was right. There’s nothing like persecution to “prove” the rightness of your beliefs and practices.  When people slammed doors in my face or cursed at me, I felt closer to Jesus. When a man tried to hit me with his truck while I preaching on a street corner in Zanesville, Ohio, I felt glad that I was worthy to suffer for the Lord, and even die for him. Mockery and cursing only made me glad that I could “suffer” for Jesus. The Apostle Paul suffered great indignities as he publicly evangelized sinners. (2 Corinthians 11) Suffering in like manner put me in the company of the greatest Christian ever known. What an honor, I thought at the time.

Over the past decade, I have engaged in countless discussions with Evangelical Christians. Many of them came to this site hoping to evangelize me. (Please see IFB Evangelist’s Wife Says She Loves Me, And God Does Too! and Dear Charlie, I’m Only Going to Say This Once) Despite their efforts, I remain an unrepentant, apostate atheist. I have often wondered, did these zealots really think that I was a promising prospect for Heaven? Did they really think their cliché-laden, Bible verse-filled shticks would cause me to drop on my knees, repent, and ask Jesus to save me? Think of all the possible targets for evangelization. Why go after someone like me? There’s no chance in Heaven or Hell that I would ever return to Evangelical Christianity. Yet, they continue to try. Why is that?

Most apologists know deep down that I am not going to repent and return to Christianity. It’s not going to happen . . . However, by trying to evangelize me, they feed their martyr complex; they reinforce their belief that the world hates God, Jesus, the Bible, their church, and them personally. Foundational to Evangelical faith is the belief you are absolutely right, and that all other religions are false. My rejection of their evangelistic overtures reminds them that their tribe is God’s chosen people; that their beliefs and practices are the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). The more that the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world turn them away, the more certain they are that their beliefs are the right. Our hostility and dismissal just prove to them that out of all the religions in the world, they chose the right one; that someday soon Jesus is coming again, and then all the people who said NO to their evangelistic efforts will pay the price for rejecting their efforts. Picture in your mind millions of smiling Evangelicals surrounding you as you are cast into the never-ending flames of the Lake of Fire. Their last words to you? See, I told you . . .

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: Former IFB Principal Laverne Fox Charged with Sex Crimes

busted

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.

(Previous posts about Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California and its pastor Bruce Goddard: Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo Victor Monteiro Accused of Sexual Abuse, Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Victor Monteiro Pleads Not Guilty to Sex Crimes, Black Collar Crime: IFB Youth Pastor Malo “Victor” Monteiro Sentenced to Five Years in Prison, and Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait and Switch Tactics)

Former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian school principal Laverne Fox was arrested on July 1, 2019, in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Fox faces extradition to California, where he will face two counts of lewd acts with a child and two other sexual misconduct charges.

Fox was the principal at the private school operated by Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

After his [Laverne Fox] accuser, Kathy Durbin, told pastor Bruce Goddard in 1992 about the sexual abuse and grooming she faced over a span of two years by Fox, Goddard moved Fox to First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

….

Durbin told the Star-Telegram that Fox began grooming her for sex at a young age. In public Facebook posts, she wrote how she thought she had a father-daughter type relationship with Fox.

She realized later that was part of the grooming, she wrote. Fox began having sex with her when she was 15.

During the 1992 conversation with Goddard, Durbin said she dramatically told him that Fox and her had kissed so he would know something more was happening. She was disturbed and confused by the encounters.

Durbin was later forced to attend counseling and write an apology to Fox’s wife.

 

Do Atheists Really Love to Wallow in Sin?

atheists-wallow-in-sin

I just love it when Evangelicals tell the world what it is atheists believe and how they live their lives. One such Evangelical is SpaniardVIII, a man obsessed with dissembling about atheism. He has been publicly challenged and corrected over and over again, but as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, SpaniardVIII will be right back at it, slandering atheists and misrepresenting atheism. Evidently, his Bible does not contain the verse that says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Today, Spaniard VII asserted:

Look, their [atheists] so-called no evidence for God cry is so outlandish that in reality, they don’t reject God for no evidence [for there is an abundance of it], but their rejection of God is based solely on emotions. They cannot comprehend how God can bring judgment on any nation.

The reason an atheist cannot understand what righteous judgment is, because they reject what sin stands for. For them, sin is a way of life which they love to wallow in like a swine to mud. The world which comprises of people like atheists [haters of God] and those who want nothing to do with Jesus or the real Jesus have a deep hatred for God’s punishment on sin because that is why they live for. The heart of the world is pure darkness and devoid of anything good that pleases God.

….

John 3:19-21 [Emphasis Added]

19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light [Jesus who is the truth] has come into the world, and people [like the atheists] loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things [through the lust of the flesh] hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed [to hide their true intentions]. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth [those who believe in Jesus Christ and hold on to God’s Word] comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

SpaniardVIII thinks that when atheists ask for evidence of the existence of the Protestant Christian God of the Bible, what we are really doing is trying to cover up our deep-seated desires to “sin.” No matter how often Evangelicals-turned-atheists tell their stories and attempt to explain why they no longer believe in the existence of God, Evangelicals such as SpaniardVIII will dismiss their testimonies and explanations out of hand. There has to be some OTHER reason for our loss of faith, they wonder. What could it be? Sin! (Please see the posts on the WHY? page)

I can’t even begin to number the times one Evangelical apologist or another has told me that the reason I left the ministry and later left Christianity was due to some sort of dark, secret sin in my life; that if the truth was told about me, everyone would see that I never was a Christian. And so the deconstructions go . . .

SpaniardVIII is right when it comes to how atheists view the notion of “sin.” Sin is a religious construct, and as such, atheists reject it out of hand. For Evangelicals, sin — supposedly — is transgression of the law of God (I John 3:4). I say supposedly because no two Christians agree on what exactly constitutes the law of God. The Ten Commandments? The Nine Commandments? The 613 Laws in the Old Testament? The New Testament? The Old and New Testaments? Or, perhaps the antinomians are right, and none of the Law of God is applicable in this present day of grace.

Take any behavior called “sin” — a sin such as homosexuality — and you will find diverse Evangelical opinions on the matter. Evangelicals are increasingly divided on homosexuality, with many Christians embracing inclusivism and equal protection under the law, while others believing the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a heinous sin against God and humanity, one worthy of severe punishment. Some Evangelicals even think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up, incarcerated and, in some cases, executed!  Both sides of this debate appeal to God and the Bible as justification for their position. Who is right? If Evangelicals can’t agree amongst themselves over what is and isn’t sin, why should the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world listen to them?

Of course, SpaniardVIII is a special, short-bus kind of Christian. He’s a Bible-believer®, a literalist who knows exactly which human behaviors are sins and which are not. Want to know if something is a sin? Just ask him. And in doing so, SpaniardVIII, in effect, becomes God. He confuses his peculiar interpretation of a fallible, errant, contradictory ancient religious text with the voice of God. SpaniardVIII believes God talks to him, thus affirming that his interpretations of the Bible are “truth.” In any other setting, hearing voices lands you in a psych ward, but because the voice is supposedly the one true and living God, it’s considered perfectly “normal” not only hear God’s voice, but to have conversations with him.

Thus, atheists look at the Evangelical notion of “sin” and objective morality and laugh. Not only do Evangelicals not have an exclusive standard of morality, but their lives betray the fact that they do not practice what they preach; that they are works in progress; that they are not perfect. Never mind the fact that the Bible Evangelicals say they believe says that Christians are to be perfect even as their Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Never mind the fact that the same Bible says that Christians have the same mind as Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). Never mind the fact 1 John 3:8 says: He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. Do Christians sin? Yes, in thought, word, and deed. Do Christian men look at women with lust in their hearts; even SpaniardVIII? Yes! Then, they are, as the Bible says, adulterers (Matthew 5:28). And, drumroll, please, the Bible says that people who commit adultery and other sins will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. Take Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Sure sounds like a lot of Christians I have encountered over the years. Much like SpaniardVIII, they rail against the “sins” of others, condemning them to hellfire and brimstone, all the while hiding their own sins behind the “precious” blood of Jesus. Countless Evangelicals have committed horrible crimes (See Black Collar Crime series), yet all they need to do to find complete, unconditional forgiveness is follow 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Just confess and forget, baby!

I am sure you have seen the glaring contradictions between the aforementioned Bible verses. Which is it? Is forgiveness from sin and a new lease on life just a prayer away? Or are Christians who sin of the devil, and will not inherit the Kingdom of God? You see, when you appeal to the Bible as an infallible standard of right behavior, contradictions abound. SpaniardVIII, then, is forced to play Bible Gymnastics©, hoping to escape drowning in the Sea of Contradiction®.

It is for these reasons and others that atheists reject the notion of “sin.” Now, this doesn’t mean that atheists don’t have moral and ethical standards — they do. SpaniardVIII’s Bible literalism and entrenched Fundamentalism keeps him from thinking critically and objectively about morality. Instead, morality is reduced to “The Bible (or my interpretation thereof) says ________.” Atheists and other non-believer are forced, on the other hand, to think and reason about human behavior. What is “good” and “bad” behavior? How do we determine which behaviors are which? This usually leads to thinking about the objective and subjective nature of morality and human behavior. For example: is sex between consenting unmarried adults wrong? SpaniardVIII would say, absolutely, the Bible says ________. Atheists, however, would need more information before saying whether this behavior is wrong. Atheists, with their rejection of religion-based moral standards, are forced to critically think about human behavior. It’s not that atheists — most of them anyway — are hedonistic libertines. We just have standards of human behavior that differ from that of moralizers such as SpaniardVIII.

Now, SpaniardVIII asserts — again, without evidence — that atheists reject Bible-based morality because they want to wallow in sin. Is this true? Are atheists really the “sinners” SpaniardVIII portrays them to be? Sure, some of them are, but then the same thing can be said about Evangelicals too. As with any group, human behavior varies within the group. Some atheists are awful people, but I can tell you this after a decade of interacting with the godless: most of them are thoughtful, loving, caring people. Sure, they can, at times, do bad things, but the general arc of their lives is towards the humanist ideal. Unlike Evangelicals, atheists don’t have a Get Out of Sin Jail Free card. All atheists can do is admit their bad behavior and do what they can to make restitution. We don’t need a middle man — God — to get between us and people our behavior has harmed. Our goal is to be better people today than we were yesterday.

SpaniardVIII’s atheists-love-to-sin straw man is rooted in his need to project moral superiority. The fact remains that atheists generally want to be good and decent people. I know this is hard for Evangelical zealots to rationalize, but most atheists just want to live and let live. We want to work, enjoy life, love our spouses, children, and grandchildren, make a difference in the world, and watch some football on TV, if we are so inclined. Our rewards come in this life, not the life to come.

I suspect that most atheists’ lives compare quite favorably to those of Christians. Outside of my language being a bit — okay, a lot — more colorful and my TV viewing habits having changed, my life is not much different from when I was a pastor. The difference, of course, is that my “sin” list is much smaller — 3×5 card — and  I no longer negatively judge others who behave differently from me. I am a heterosexual man. I don’t “understand” same-sex attraction. However, I don’t need to. You see, whom people love, marry, or fuck is none of my business. I don’t have to “understand” someone’s life in order to respect and understand them. Take SpaniardVIII. If he was content to quietly and privately live his life according to his interpretation of the Bible, I would have no objection. Each to his own, I say. As long as someone is not harming others — and therein is the rub with Evangelicalism — or forcing them to live by their moral standard, I am fine with how he or she wants to live. However, this is not how SpaniardVIII lives his life. Oh no, he demands that his religion and moral standard be lived by everyone. He genuinely believes that his thoughts and words are “solely based on scripture and not on anyone’s opinion or theology but only on what scripture clearly reveals with the help of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he feels justified in demanding everyone bow in fealty to his God.

It is at this point that atheists push back. We demand evidence for SpaniardVIII’s claims, yet none is forthcoming. Instead, he offers up Bible prooftexts and personal opinions and interpretations. Atheists don’t reject his moralizing because they want to wallow in sin. Far be from it — though wallowing can be a lot of fun. We reject the messenger and his message. We see through the man and his beliefs. SpaniardVIII wrongly thinks that atheists say to themselves, ” We will not have this God rule over us,” when in fact, what we are saying is this: “We will NOT have SpaniardVIII and his contradictory, anti-human interpretations of a Bronze Age religious text rules over us.” We are free, and we intend to stay that way! Having left the bondage and paucity of Egypt and finding intellectual and personal freedom in the Land of Canaan, we have no intention of returning to the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt. It’s not that atheists want to “sin.” They have just found a better way to live — living that doesn’t require obedience to a mythical deity and an irrelevant religious text. And THAT’S what pisses off the SpaniardVIIIs of the world. They look over the proverbial fence and see atheists living the good life and they can’t help but yearn to join us. But they can’t. As long as they believe in the Evangelical God, lives of repressive self-denial are expected lest they find themselves under the chastisement of God. The issue here, then, is not atheists wallowing in “sin” — it’s envy; Evangelicals secretly wishing they could “sin” too. To that I say, come join us! I promise you that atheists really aren’t child molesters who eat fetuses offered up in worship to Satan. We are everyday people who love life, knowing that this is the only one we will ever have.

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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