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Bruce, What Do You Think of Russell Earl Kelly and His Position on Tithing?

tithing

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Byroniac asked:

Bruce, have you ever heard of Russell Earl Kelly and his book, “Should the Church teach tithing?”. And if so, do you plan to blog about it? I promoted it as much as I could, and got ZERO attention for it, probably because I was not important enough to be noticed or because wherever I go I seem to become the proverbial black sheep. Considering that I have lost every single popularity contest I have ever been in, both inside and outside the church, I suppose this is not surprising. Anyways, even as a freethinker now, I still agree with the majority of what this guy teaches about tithing, to the best of my memory.

For readers who are unfamiliar with Russell Earl Kelly:

Russell Earl Kelly is an American Christian theologian, apologist, author, speaker and blogger. He writes nonfictional theological books. Russell is best known for evangelizing and debating why tithing 10% to one’s church is not a Christian obligation…

Russell graduated Cum Laude from Sprayberry High in 1962. From June 1962 until June 1966 he was in the U. S. A. F., received 22 semester hours in Chinese Mandarin at Yale University and was soon promoted to the Transcription Department while serving in Taiwan. Russell graduated Cum Laude from Southern Missionary College in Tennessee in 1976, now called Southern University Of Seventh Day Adventist, and served two churches in Georgia, four in North Dakota and one in South Carolina.

Although legally blind since 1989, Russell subsequently completed a Th. M.. and a Ph. D. at independent Baptist-oriented Covington Theological Seminary in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia in August 2000. His dissertation was on the subject of tithing. From that dissertation came his first book, Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine. His second book is Exposing Seventh-day Adventism, published in 2005. His third book, From Gethsemane to Ascension, An Ultimate Harmony of the Gospel, Easter and Resurrection Plays, February 2008, is in conversational style…

You can check out Kelly’s horrible looking Front Page/Windows 95 era looking website here. According to Sitemeter, the site averages about 500 page views a day. You can read his blog here.

Kelly is a 70-year-old New Covenant Independent Baptist who loves to put PhD after his name and talk about tithing. One would think that Kelly has a degree from a respected university, but he doesn’t. He earned his PhD at Covington Theological Seminary, an unaccredited Independent Baptist institution in Ft Oglethorpe, Georgia. Want a doctorate? It will cost you $2,395. Work required? 40 credit hours and a 25,000 to 50,000 word thesis. You can check out Covington’s catalog here.

I have made my view of unaccredited IFB doctorates quite clear in the post IFB Doctorates: Here a Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor. That said, education aside, Byroniac’s question is about Kelly’s view on tithing. While I have not read Kelly’s book, I do think his view on tithing is generally correct. Kelly states:

New Covenant giving is: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, regular and motivated by love for God, fellow Christians and lost souls. Do not burden or curse God’s poor who struggle to feed and shelter their family. Although there is no set percentage for Christians to give, all should give sacrificially or lower your standards of living in order to further the reach of the Gospel.

Kelly, like many Independent Baptists, is a dispensationalist. There is no possible way for one to be a dispensationalist and still believe tithing is for today. There’s nothing in the New Testament that remotely teaches that Christians should give 10% of their gross income to the church (the storehouse). Preachers who believe in tithing must use Old Testament proof texts to prop up their beliefs. IFB preachers pretty much ignore the commands of the Old Testament except for the verses on tithing, women wearing men’s clothing, and sodomy. Many preachers added to the tithe requirement demands for special offerings and Faith Promise missionary offerings. It is not uncommon to see poor IFB church members giving 10-20% of their income to the church, believing that if they did so God would open the windows of heaven and pour them out a blessing. Like their faith healing counterparts, IFB preachers promise wonderful blessings from God if people will just open their wallet and give an above 10% offering to God.

While I think that Earl Kelly, based on what I have read on his blog and website, is full of himself, I do think he is essentially correct when it comes to tithing and what the New Testament teaches about giving. His teachings haven’t caught on because, for many churches, abandoning the tithe would bankrupt them and force their preacher to get a real job. Preachers have a vested interest in maintaining good cash flow and the tithe is the best way to do so.

When Polly and I were first married, we were tithers. We also gave a lot of money to missions and every time the church took a special offering we gave liberally. I would preach sermons on tithing, rebuking those who were stealing from God. I would preach from Malachi 3:8-10 sermons about those who robbed God:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

As my theology began to evolve and I was influenced by New Covenant theology and Calvinism, I came to see that tithing was an Old Testament command no longer in force. This change in belief was helpful because it allowed me to put an end to me receiving a pittance of a salary and then making it even more of a pittance by giving a tithe and offering. It made no sense for me to tithe when the church was not even paying me a living wage. Now, in the end, we often gave more than 10% of our income to the church or to parachurch ministries. Instead of seeing the church as the bank through which all funds must go, we gave some money to the church and then helped ministries and individuals as God led us to do so. Buying a homeless man a meal was just as important as giving the church $20.

Generally, I think most churches have way too much money and are poor stewards of what they do have. I had a banker in Somerset, Ohio tell me one time that I would be shocked if he told me how much money many of the local churches had on deposit. He told me this because he thought the church I pastored was different, knowing that we rarely had a $100 checking account balance.

I was of the opinion that money was meant to be spent. Yes, take care of the church building, fund ministries, and pay the preacher. Anything above that should be spent on ministering to others. The last church I pastored was sitting on a pile of money and the first thing I did was help them spend it. They had so much money in the bank that they hadn’t balanced the checkbook in years. I balanced the account for them and found that they had $5,000 more than they thought they did. In the seven months I was there, I had the church spend money on remodeling the building. Quite frankly, it was a dump. Of course, the church was fine with spending the money. Doing the actual construction work? A handful of men did all the work. Most of the members were quite happy to let others do the work. They were too busy bitching about the remodel to help, complaining about everything from wall and carpet colors to lighting. I lasted seven months and was so glad “God” led me elsewhere.

Do you have a tithing or giving story to share? I’d love to hear it. Please share your story in the comment section.

Note

You can download Kelly’s book here.

Paul Cohen thinks Kelly is a false prophet.

Bruce, What Do Think of the Marjoe Gortner Story?

young marjoe gortner
Marjoe Gortner

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

Hi Bruce .. what do you think of the Marjoe story?

For those not familiar with Marjoe Gortner:

Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner (generally known as Marjoe Gortner; born January 14, 1944 in Long Beach, California) is a controversial former evangelist preacher and actor. He first gained public attention during the late 1940s when his parents arranged for him at age four to be ordained as a preacher, due to his extraordinary speaking ability; he was the youngest known in that position. As a young man, he preached on the revival circuit and bought celebrity to the revival movement.

He became a celebrity during the 1970s when he starred in Marjoe (1972), a behind-the-scenes documentary about the lucrative business of Pentecostal preaching. This won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Documentary Film. This documentary is now noted as one of the most vehement criticisms of Pentecostal praxis…

…Hugh Marjoe Ross Gortner was born in 1944 in Long Beach, California, into a long evangelical heritage. The name “Marjoe” is a portmanteau of the biblical names “Mary” and “Joseph”. His father Vernon was a third-generation Christian evangelical minister who preached at revivals. His mother, who has been labelled as “exuberant”, was the person who introduced him as a preacher and is notable for his success as a child. Vernon noticed his son’s talent for mimicry and his fearlessness of strangers and public settings. His parents claimed that the boy had received a vision from God during a bath, and started preaching. Marjoe later said this was a fictional story that his parents forced him to repeat. He claimed they compelled him to do this by using mock-drowning episodes; they did not beat him as they did not want to leave bruises that might be noticed during his many public appearances.

They trained him to deliver sermons, complete with dramatic gestures and emphatic lunges. When he was four, his parents arranged for him to perform a marriage ceremony attended by the press, including photographers from Life and Paramount studios.Until his teenage years, Gortner and his parents traveled throughout the United States holding revival meetings,[7] and by 1951 his younger brother Vernoe had been incorporated into the act. As well as teaching Marjoe scriptural passages, his parents also taught him several money-raising tactics, including the sale of supposedly “holy” articles at revivals. He would promise that such items could be used to heal the sick and dying. He was however for the majority of his childhood unknown and “relatively insignificant” as an evangelist, as he found fame much later from his documentary…

…Gortner spent the remainder of his teenage years as an itinerant hippie until his early twenties. Hard-pressed for money, he decided to put his old skills to work and re-emerged on the preaching circuit with a charismatic stage-show modeled after those of contemporary rock stars, most notably Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. He made enough to take six months off every year, during which he returned to California and lived off his earnings before returning to the circuit.

In the late 1960s, Gortner experienced a crisis of conscience about his double life. He decided his performing talents might be put to better use as an actor or singer. When approached by documentarians Howard Smith and Sarah Kernochan, he agreed to let their film crew follow him during 1971 on a final tour of revival meetings in California, Texas, and Michigan. Unbeknownst to everyone involved – including, at one point, his father – he gave “backstage” interviews to the filmmakers between sermons and revivals, explaining intimate details of how he and other ministers operated. The filmmakers also shot his counting the money he had collected during the day later in his hotel room. The resulting film, Marjoe, won the 1972 Academy Award for best documentary…

If you have not watched the documentary Marjoe, I encourage you to do so. While it is over forty years old, it still provides a behind the scenes look at what goes on in pentecostal and charismatic tent meetings, revivals, and healing services.

Video Link

Video Link

As a Baptist, I had a healthy mistrust and hate for all things pentecostal and charismatic. I saw their preachers as charlatans and false prophets. A good friend of mine and fellow non-believer was a charismatic pastor for twenty years. We never could have been friends while we were in the ministry because I thought people like him were being used by Satan to deceive the masses.

When it comes to stories like Marjoe, the question I have is whether the person was sincere. Were they a true blue believer? Did they really believe they could heal people? Did they really believe God used them to work miracles? In Marjoe’s case, he was conditioned and indoctrinated by his parents to believe that he really had these gifts. Were his parents true blue believers? That’s the bigger question. Were they just passing on the gifts to their talented, precocious son or were they con artists, Elmer Gantry-like hustlers for God?

Thanks to modern technology and dogged investigative reporters, we now know that many of the pentecostal and charismatic evangelists are frauds. People like Peter Popoff, Ernest Angley, Robert Tilton, WV Grant, Leroy Jenkins,Bob Larson, and Benny Hinn are hustlers out to fleece the flock of God. Many of the prosperity gospel preachers are con-artists who have found a way to become fabulously rich off the pain, suffering, and poverty of others. One quick way to judge an evangelist or ministry is to look at their checkbook. Where’s the money going? Whose being enriched by the “ministry” of Bro Heal Them All? In the case of Marjoe, not only did he make quite a bit of money, so did his parents. The family business was hustling for Jesus and it paid quite well. In the end, Marjoe’s father ran off with the cash and left his son and wife behind.

When I was in college, I cleaned a local Sweden House restaurant. One night, a couple of pentecostal evangelists had rented one of the banquet rooms for a healing service. After the service, not knowing I was standing around the corner, I heard the evangelists bitterly complaining about how poor the offering was. This was my first taste of money driven Christianity. As I would learn later, Baptists had their own problem with money-grubbing con-artists, men who preached up a storm only so it would rain twenty-dollar bills. I think the average Christian would be shocked to find out how many of the preachers they love, trust, and support are in it for fame and money. I know of several well known IFB preachers who retired from the ministry as millionaires. Ain’t God good?

In the mid 1970’s, I lived in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked for a local grocery store. Every week, several van loads of Pentecostals would come into Food Giant to shop. They were from Miracle Valley, Arizona, the home of evangelist AA Allen. Allen, an alcoholic died in 1970 after a heavy drinking binge. He was 59. The van loads of long dressed women were from one of the Miracle Valley pentecostal ministries or colleges. This was my first exposure to Pentecostals. At the time, I thought, nice looking women, too much clothing. My girlfriend, at the time, wore skirts and dresses that were in keeping with style of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s In other words, I could see her legs.

As I was doing some research for this post, I came upon an interesting story on Wikipedia about one of the pentecostal groups that took up residence in Miracle Valley:

In 1978-80 approximately 300 members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) moved from Mississippi and Chicago. They purchased property in the subdivision on the north side of Highway 92 across from the bible college. Thomas was a former disciple of Allen’s at MVBC and attempted to purchase it after his death. Over the following two years numerous conflicts arose between the church and its members, and the local community and law enforcement on the other. Tensions escalated when it was discovered that five young children of church members had died over the previous year, with one and possibly four due to the church’s refusal to seek medical attention. Faith healing was a major component of the church’s teachings. Conflicts also arose when the church refused access to parents and law enforcement in retrieving he children of at least two families who had been illegally transported to the Valley against their parents’ wishes. Racial tensions arose between the African American church members and the mostly white residents. In late 1982 a variety of incidents with law enforcement culminated when local sheriff deputies, with backup by state law enforcement, attempted to serve bench warrants for the arrest of 3 members of the church. A large group of church members confronted the officials and in the ensuing “shootout” two church members were killed and seven law enforcement officers were injured. One church member and one sheriff’s deputy would later die of their injuries. The church and its members departed Miracle Valley in early 1983.

My brother lives near Miracle Valley in Tombstone. He was, at one time, the marshal of Tombstone. He can tell all kinds of stories about all kinds of crazy that went on in out-of-the-way places in Cochise County, Arizona.

I attended a charismatic healing service in the mid 1980’s at the Somerset Elementary School in Somerset, Ohio. At the time, I was pastor of the Baptist church and I want to see firsthand what went on at a healing service. The show was quite intense and towards the end the evangelist started going down the rows laying hands on people. Next to me was an old scruffy woman with dirty and greasy hair. When the evangelist came to her, he looked at her head and kept his hand a few inches above it. Right then and there I knew that this guy was a con artist. What, a bit of greasy hair going to keep you from healing someone? When he came to me, I gave him my keep on moving look. I wonder, did I miss out on God healing me? Am I cursed with sickness to this day because I didn’t let Elmer Gantry’s cousin lay hands on me?

Here’s my take on Marjoe, pentecostal evangelists, and faith healers. I think some of them are true blue believers. Indoctrinated from an early age, they sincerely believe what they are preaching. When it comes to the money they make, they view it as God blessing them. But, I also think that a large number of preachers, evangelists, and faith healers are scam artists, frauds who have found a way to make lots of money without doing much work. They are, at best, entertainers, at worst they are predators who prey an ignorant, gullible Christians.

1972 Roger Ebert Interview with Marjoe.

Marjoe Gortner by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman

Note

If you happened to watch the videos above and see the emotional craziness that went on at Marjoe’s meetings, I should let you know that I saw similar behavior at Baptist revival meetings, preacher’s meetings, camp meetings; especially those held south of the Mason-Dixon line. The only difference? Everyone spoke in English. I’ve seen aisle running, pew jumping, flag waving, shouting, and screaming at countless old-fashioned revivals or camp meetings. I’ve seen churches and preachers collect Kentucky Fried Chicken buckets of cash; thousands of dollars collected for “the Lord”,

Ken Ham’s Ark Project Shows He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham is the CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum. Ham is also working on a project called The Ark Encounter, a Noah’s Ark theme park. Ham is a Bible literalist who believes the universe is 6,019 years old. Ham believes that Genesis 1-3 accurately and completely explains how the universe came into existence. In his mind, evolution is a lie spawned by Satan to deceive the masses. If asked if he believes in the inerrancy, infallibility, and sufficiency of Scripture, Ham would reply with a resounding YES!  But, I have conclusive proof that Ken Ham does NOT  believe in the sufficiency of the Christian Bible. I know this is shocking, but it is time for me to expose young earth creationist Ken Ham as a Bible-denying liberal.

ark plans

In a recent blog post, Ham had a picture of engineers going over the plans for the Ark Encounter project. WHAT?, I thought to myself. Why does Ham need plans for the Noah’s Ark replica? Isn’t God’s word sufficient for the building of the Ark?  God made it very clear how he wanted the Ark built, from its composition to its size:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it. (Genesis 6:14-16)

Surely this is enough information for a 21st century engineer and construction company to build the Ark? Surely they don’t think their knowledge is superior to that found in the inspired, infallible, inerrant, Word of the thrice Holy God who said in the book of John the Revelator, chapter 22:

If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

How dare Ken Ham go against the authority and sufficiency of the Words of God!! How dare he make up his own plans and ignore the plans of God, the divine architect!  I am calling Ken Ham out on his Bible-denying Noah’s Ark plans. I am calling on  One Millions Moms,  American Family AssociationFamily Research CouncilFocus on the FamilyHSLDABob Jones UniversityLiberty UniversityOhio University and all the other colleges on the Ken Ham approved list of creationist colleges, to cut ties with Ham over his denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  I am calling on Evangelical Christian schools and homeschoolers to stop buying Answers in Genesis materials and stop taking field trips to the Creation Museum. For God’s sake man, THINK OF THE CHILDREN!  What’s next? Building a replica of the New Jerusalem and ignoring God’s architectural and engineering plans? Ham must be stopped lest others follow in his pernicious ways!

Note

For the Bible literalists who read this post and are outraged, please look up the word satire in the 1828 edition of Webster Dictionary.

 

Sacrilegious Humor: God is Drunk at a Party by Jim Jefferies

This is the first installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is God is Drunk at a Party  by Jim Jefferies, an Australian stand-up comedian, actor and writer.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Joseph Smith American Moses by The Book of Mormon Cast

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Joseph Smith American Moses, sung  by the cast of the Broadway play, The Book of Mormon.

Warning! Song contains curse words.

Video Link

Lyrics

And now we wish to honor you with
The story of Joseph Smith, the American Moses

Well, this is very good, praise Christ

Mormon

I’m going to take you back in time
(Mormon)
To the United States, 1823
(Mormon)

A small and odd village called Upstate New York
(Upstate)
There was disease and famine
(So sick)

But also in this village lived a simple farmer
Who would change everything
His name was Joseph Smith

Hiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiya Joseph Smith, American Moses
Praise be to Joseph, American prophet man

Aye, my name is Joseph Smith
And I am going to fuck this baby
What?

No no Joseph, don’t fuck the baby
Joseph Smith, don’t fuck the baby

Suddenly the clouds parted
And Joseph Smith was visited by God
Joseph Smith, do not fuck a baby
I will get rid of your AIDS, if you fuck this frog

Hiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiya

Joseph Smith fucked the frog God gave him
And his AIDS went away
Then a great wizard named Moroni came down
From the Starship Enterprise

Joseph Smith, your village is shit
You shall lead the villagers to a new village
Take these fucking golden plates

Away

And on the plates were written the directions to a new land
Sal Tlay Ka Siti
(Sal Tlay Ka Siti)
Joseph tried to convince all the villagers
To follow him and his golden plates

Liberation, equality
No more slavery for Upstate Mormon people

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m gonna lead the people
(We head West)

We gotta stick together
(Mormons)
We gotta help each other
(We’re Mormons)

And so we climb the mountain
(We head West)
And we cross the river
(We head West)

And we fight the oppression
(Mormons)
By being nice to everyone
(We are Mormons)

Not so fast Mormons, you shall not pass my mountain

Down from the mountain look who comes
The American warlord Brigham Young

Yes, I am Brigham Young
I cut off my daughter’s clitoris
That made God angry so he turned my nose
Into a clit for punishment

Brigham Young, his nose was a clitoris
What will you do Joseph, will you fight the clitoris man

Not fight him, help him

Oh

Joseph Smith took his magical fuck frog
And rubbed it upon Brigham Young’s clit face
And behold Brigham was cured

Joseph Smith magical AIDS frog
Brigham Young, frog on his clit face

Brigham Young was so grateful
He decided to join the Mormons on their journey

Compassion, cutesy
Let’s be really fucking polite to everyone

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m gonna lead the people
(We head West)
We gotta stick together
(Mormons)

Now comes the part of our story that gets a little bit sad
(Oh)
After traveling for so long, the Mormons ran out of fresh water
And become sick with dysentery

Water go to the water, water go to the cup
Cup go to the stomach, shit come out the butt
Shit go in the water, water go in the cup
Shit go down the stomach, shit come out the butt

Ugh, oh fuck
Oh no, the prophet Joseph Smith is now getting sick

Shit go in the water, water go in the cup
Cup go to the thirsty, shit go to the stomach
Blood come out the butt, blood go in the water
Water go in the cup, cup go to the tongue
Shit blood in the stomach, shit blood in the mouth
Shit blood on the insides, water come out the butt

Brigham Young you must take the golden plates
And lead the Mormons to the Promised Land
Plghh
Desperation, mortality, loss of faith

I got de golden plates
(Gold plates)
I’m got to lead the people
(We head West)
We gotta stick together

Even though their prophet had died
The Mormons stuck together
And helped each other and were really nice
To everyone they came across

And then one day the Mormons finally found
Sal Tlay Ka Siti
(Sal Tlay Ka Siti)
And there, the Mormons danced with Ewoks
And were greeted by Jesus

Welcome Mormons
Now, let’s all have as many babies as we can
And make big Mormon families

Fuck your woman, fuck your man
This is all part of God’s plan
Mormons fuck all that they can
We’re in Salt Lake City land

Thank you, thank you but now we are fucking
Thank you, thank you, but God wants us fucking
Thank you, thank you, but get back to fucking
Thank you, thank you, God

Joseph Smith fuck frog
Brigham Young clit face
Shit come out the butt
Jesus says fuck, fuck
Mormons

 

Come Get Your Miracle at The Church on Fire

Several weeks ago, Polly and I were in Fort Wayne to attend a baseball game. Polly made a wrong turn and we ended up driving by The Church on Fire, a United Pentecostal church. United Pentecostal churches are also called oneness churches because of their denial of Trinitarian theology. Here’s a few photographs of the church’s sign and its unique roadside prayer box.

church on fire fort wayne 2015-3

church on fire fort wayne 2015-1

church on fire fort wayne 2015-2

 

Why is the Evangelical God Silent?

letter to the editor

What follows is a letter I sent today to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News:

Dear Editor,

There seems to be no end to the sermons printed in the editorial section of the Crescent-News. Intractable warriors for the Evangelical God preach against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism, humanism, secularism, and atheism. Letter writers claim to know the mind and will of God on every matter, warning that failure to heed their preaching will result in God pouring out his judgment and wrath on the United States.  They warn that two people of the same sex marrying will bring an end to Western civilization. Yet, it seems that their preaching is falling on deaf ears.

Several months ago, St John’s United Church of Christ came out of the closet and declared themselves to be an open and affirming church. This means gays and same-sex couples are welcome at St. John’s. When I read the news report, I could hardly believe it. I thought, have I been beamed away to an alternate universe, to a county where people are not judged for who they love or how they express intimacy? No, right here in Defiance County, a church that is not ashamed to welcome one and all.

Young adults are increasingly gay friendly and are no longer interested in the bigoted, homophobic religion of their parents. Some of them join the ranks of the nones, those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards organized religion. On many of the issues that seem to cause Evangelicals great consternation, young adults show that they think love, fairness, justice, and compassion are more important than dogma and literalism.

When I read  the letters from Evangelicals, I see an aging group of people desperately trying to regain power and control over a culture that has little interest in what they are selling. 40 years ago, instead of focusing on personal piety and good works, Evangelicals sold their soul to groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association. They traded their place in the community for political power. They abandoned reason and rationality and became the purveyors of ignorance and bigotry. And now they are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Come June, despite millions of Evangelical prayers, conferences, rallies, and sermons, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. I wonder how Evangelicals will respond? Will they turn to the heavens and ask God why he turned a deaf ear to their prayers? Will they point the finger at their homophobic rhetoric and bigotry? I doubt it.  It will be atheists like me, liberals, socialists, and the Kenyan-born usurper in the White House that will be blamed for their inability to return America to the love, joy, and peace of the 1950’s.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. They call out to the heavens asking their God to show his power and act on their behalf. Yet, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems their God is either deaf or on vacation.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

A Day of Public Indecency: Exposing the National Day of Prayer

national day of prayer 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015 is the annual National Day of Prayer.  On April 17, 1952, “President Harry S. Truman signed a bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer (NDP) must be declared by each subsequent president at an appropriate date of his choice.” In 1988, the law was amended, setting the first Thursday in May as date for the NDP. While the NDP is supposed to be a day when people of all faiths come together to pray, it has been co-opted by Evangelicals. While certainly people of various faiths will gather to pray on Thursday, it will be Evangelicals and conservative Catholics that get all the media attention. Instead of following the command of Jesus to pray in secret, Evangelicals will gather at county courthouses and government buildings and metaphorically expose their 13.316 inch prayer penis for everyone to see. On this day, Evangelicals want everyone to know that the United States is a Christian nation, that the one true God is the Christian God, and that they are God’s chosen people.

The National Day of Prayer Task Force is an Evangelical organization:

  …whose purpose is to encourage participation on the National Day of Prayer. It exists to communicate with every individual the need for personal repentance and prayer, to create appropriate materials, and to mobilize the Christian community to intercede for America’s leaders and its families. The Task Force represents a Judeo Christian expression of the national observance, based on our understanding that this country was birthed in prayer and in reverence for the God of the Bible.

Shirley Dobson, wife of Christian fundamentalist James Dobson, is the chairwoman of the Task Force.  In a recent letter to NDP volunteers, Dobson stated:

“We are contending with threats from those both here at home and abroad who aim to do us harm, and immoral practices and unsound principles run rampant throughout the culture. With this in mind, there’s an especially urgent need for God’s people to ask for His guidance for the days ahead.”

For those not schooled in the fine art of Evangelispeak®, immoral practices=abortion, homosexuality, sex before marriage, and same-sex marriage. Unsound principles=evolution,humanism, atheism, secularism, and socialism.

According to Dion Elmore, spokesman for the National Day of Prayer Task Force:

“This is an American thing; this is not a Christian thing. Congress solidified a tradition of the Founding Fathers, who fought for religious freedom to gather in churches and groups. We encourage Americans to get out and pray for your nation, if you are a person of faith. We realize some people aren’t, and we’re not trying to force it on them.”

Really? An American thing? What section of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights mentions the NDP as an “American thing.”  While ONE of the reasons the Founding Fathers fought the British was religious freedom, it certainly wasn’t THE issue that drove colonialists to pick up arms and rebel against Britain. In fact, in many of the original 13 states, anti-religious freedom founding documents and laws were adopted, often enshrining Christianity as the state’s official religion. The notion that the United States was founded on religious freedom is a myth, as any cursory reading of American history will show.

The chairman of the 2015 National Day of Prayer is Jack Graham, fundamentalist Southern Baptist pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church, a mega church located in Plano, Texas. Graham suggests that Evangelicals Christians, at 12:00 P.M. EST, recite the following prayer:

Heavenly Father,

We come to You in the Name that is above every name—Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Our hearts cry out to You.

Knowing that You are a prayer-answering, faithful God—the One we trust in times like these—we ask that You renew our spirits, revive our churches, and heal our land.

We repent of our sins and ask for Your grace and power to save us. Hear our cry, oh God, and pour out Your Spirit upon us that we may walk in obedience to Your Word. We are desperate for Your tender mercies. We are broken and humbled before You. Forgive us, and in the power of Your great love, lift us up to live in Your righteousness.

We pray for our beloved nation. May we repent and return to You and be a light to the nations. And we pray for our leaders and ask that You give them wisdom and faith to follow You.

Preserve and protect us, for You are our refuge and only hope. Deliver us from all fears except to fear You, and may we courageously stand in the Truth that sets us free. We pray with expectant faith and grateful hearts.

In Jesus’ name, our Savior. Amen.

Why is it necessary for millions of Christians to utter the same words at exactly the same time? Perhaps God has a busy schedule on Thursday and can only spare one minute to hear the repetitious prayers of his chosen people. How will success be judged? How will Evangelicals know that they got through to the Almighty?  I guarantee you that there is ONE thing that every praying Evangelical wants under his prayer tree…the U.S. Supreme Court affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman.

According to Randall Murphree, editor of the American Family Association Journal:

The late Leonard Ravenhill spoke these sobering words, startlingly apropos for contemporary America: “The self-sufficient do not pray, the self-satisfied will not pray, the self-righteous cannot pray.”

We have become self-sufficient, depending on our own abilities. We hold aloft our trophies, proclaiming, “Look what we have earned!” We neglect the gracious Giver of all gifts. We have become self-satisfied, prideful in our meaningless, material accomplishments. We rest pampered and apathetic in the arms of affluence. We forget the One who offers true satisfaction.

We have become self-righteous, basking in the sunlight streaming through our stained glass windows. We ignore the God of whom Paul wrote, “[T]hey did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own”…

…If we do not confess the sins of our critically ill culture, the illness could be terminal. Time and time again, God has judged nations by the character of His people. When His people failed to repent, their nations fell. America’s believers – preachers and plumbers, janitors and judges, editors and educators, broadcasters and brick masons – must spend time before God Almighty, confessing and repenting…

As you can see, lots of generic theological words hide the real reason for this year’s National Day of Prayer.  There will be few prayers uttered about the wars in the Middle East, global climate change, immigration, starving children, or the homeless. Little will be said  about most of the perplexing problems facing 21st century humans. None of these things matter to most Evangelicals. What does matter is outlawing abortion, criminalizing homosexuality, and banning same-sex marriage. What does matter is re-instituting government sponsored prayer in public schools, posting the Ten Commandments on classroom walls, and teaching school children the earth is 6,019 years old. What matters most of all is taking back the United States from Kenyan-born, socialist negro Barack Obama and those who are Democrats, socialists, atheists, humanists, pagans, and liberal Christians. Theocracy remains the ultimate goal and they will not rest until the Christian flag is hoisted over the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes that Sharia,Biblical Christian law, is the law of the Land.

I wish Evangelicals would be honest and stop couching their agenda in flowery, generic, non-offensive theological terms. Forget Jack Graham’s suggested prayer and get to the point:

Dear God, Dammit, we want our country back and we want it back now. We beseech you oh Lord, please kill all the homos, transvestites, abortion doctors, Muslims, atheists, and anyone else who refuses to bow a knee to Jesus and admit that the United States is one nation under the Evangelical God.  As in days of the Old Testament, send a plague upon the heathen and kill them all, sparing the Koch Brothers, Waltons,  and all the other job creators. Enrich hell with their flesh, and may the smell of their burning flesh be a sweet Uncle Ray’s BBQ savor in your nostrils. Oh Lord, burn down every house of worhsip except those where the one true Evangelical gospel is preached. You know which one that is, right Lord? I know you kind of got confused when you wrote the Bible. As in the days of the Old Testament, send fire from heaven and burn alive all the false prophets, especially atheist false prophets. Lord, what we really want is a Disney Park country just for true red white and blue Republican Christians. Please Lord, we need your help because no one is paying attention to us. Let the world know that you are still the same bad-ass God who drowned the entire human race in a flood and that we are your oh-so-special children.

Thanks, Jesus.

Amen.

 

Does Evangelicalism Encourage Weakness and Passivity?

hopeless without God

Recently, Aliyah Burton, a homeschooled 14-year-old, wrote a guest post for the Lies Young Women Believe website. Titled, Does the Maker of the Stars Want to Use You, the post reveals a troubling aspect of Evangelical thinking about how to live life. Burton wrote:

My heart has been hurting a bit these days because I know I have so much inside of me that needs to change. I don’t know how God’s going to work it all out. Things like pride, resentment, and arrogance build up in me, reminding me I’m still so broken.

I have these conversations with God, telling Him I have nothing left that’s any good at all. I probably sound a little like this: “I gave you all I thought you wanted. . . . Wait, what was that? . . . You want everything? Even the worst parts?” I run and hide, sometimes, from the God who made me.

I still wonder about this: Does He really want to see my brokenness? Does He really want to do something with me? Have you ever felt like that?..

I read God’s Word because I know He’s not going to take my excuses for an answer. I know He’s going to keep reassuring me as He did to Jeremiah . . .

“I know you”

“I have still chosen you.”

“I’m the One who made you this way, don’t you think I know how to use you?”

The way he said it made me laugh, but this truth rang clear to me: God is in charge, not me. Yet my itty-bitty human brain seems to think the Maker of the stars needs my permission to work in and through me.

I read God’s Word because I need to be reminded that He wants to use me, even when it doesn’t feel like that could possibly be true…

My initial response was one of sadness. Here’s a bright 14-year-old girl and she has already lost her ability to think rationally. Not only has she surrendered her ability to reason and think, she thinks the Evangelical God talks to her.

Here’s a girl sitting in her bedroom sad over the fact that she is not the person God wants her to be. She is plagued by pride, resentment, and arrogance, knowing that these things are a reminder of how broken she is. Ponder this thought for a moment. Here’s a girl who already thinks she is broken. That’s what the Evangelical teaching on original sin does to a person. It makes them see themselves as broken and in need of repair. And who can repair them? No one but God. This girl has been taught that she is helpless and hopeless without God, unable to do anything on her own.

Does she really have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem? Only she can answer that, but I suspect that her angst is fueled by the preaching and teaching at her church and her home school education. Minor character flaws are blown up into transgressions against a thrice-holy God. If she really does have a pride, resentment, and arrogance problem, then she need not passively, obediently wait for God to fix her.  She is not weak, nor broken, and it is within her power to change her ways. Prideful? Stop! Resentful? Stop! Arrogant? Stop!

Far too many Evangelicals go through life thinking they are helpless, broken people who need God’s help to do anything. This kind of thinking makes them weak and passive, always waiting for God to forgive them, deliver them, show them a better way, or give them strength. Instead of relying on self, they are taught to rely on a non-existent God who supposedly never leaves them or forsakes them and sticks closer to them than a brother. They are reminded that the Bible says:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5,6)

They are also reminded that Jesus said in John 15:5:

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Evangelicals are told, You can’t do ANYTHING without Jesus. He is your strength. The very breath you have comes from him. Don’t trust your own reasoning, don’t trust the reason of any mere human. Trust God, lay your life at his feet, and let him direct your life. Remember, Jesus said we are to deny self. We don’t matter. Jesus is the end all. Jesus taught us to pray, God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. Not our will, but his.

This is why uncounted Evangelicals are waiting for God to change them, correct them, or show them what to do. Marriage problems? Out of work? Health problems? Job problems? Conflict with children, spouse, coworker, neighbor, or friend? Financial trouble? Just wait and let God show you the way. Just wait and God will return your phone call. Just wait and God will use his mighty wonder-working power to conform your life into the image he wants it to be. And while they are waiting, life continues to move forward. Waiting on God becomes an excuse, a way of sidestepping personal responsibility, a way of ignoring character flaws.

Every one of us are responsible for our own behavior. There’s no God fix coming for what ails us. If it is important to us to be good, to treat others with decency and respect, then we will do what’s necessary to make these things happen. I have little patience for the prayers of the helpless. They have been neutered by religious teachings that have robbed them of their will. Taught to deny self, they trust in a deity that has no power to help them. The only person that can change ME is the person staring at me in the mirror.

Note

I am not against waiting, thinking, or meditating before making a decision. Haste is just as bad as passivity. When I need to make a decision or change something in my life, I try to give the matter careful consideration. But, when I act, it is me acting, not some outside source of power. As a humanist, I recognize that the buck stops with me and my fellow Homo sapiens.

Songs of Sacrilege: Has Anybody Seen JC? by Jeff Ollerhead

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Has Anybody Seen JC?, sung  by Jeff Ollerhead, a singer–songwriter from Liverpool, England. Best I can tell the lyrics are of unknown origin. The song has numerous verses as the lyrics below show.

Video Link

Lyrics

Chorus
Has anybody seen J C
J C, J C, J C, J C.
Not since Easter Sunday,
Riding on a Donkey.
Has anybody seen J C
J C, J C, J C, J C

Virgin born, head of thorn
Resurrects the dead at dawn

That J C, he’s divine
Changes water into wine.

Virgin Mary, She’s the most
She’s been fucked by the Holy Ghost

Cleans up temples it is said
Raises spastics from their bed

J C, He’s so cool
Boogies across my swimming pool

Took three loaves and five fish
Feed five thousand piece of piss

Lots of songs, raises cheers,
In the charts two thousand years

Holes in hands, Holes in Feet,
Carries his cross down the street,

Holy Ghost, He’s the most,
Gets them pissed on wine and toast,

Banished fear and gave us hope,
Went one better than the Pope,

Love he gave, faith he took,
Still the Worlds best selling book,

Save our souls, fun we poke,
Sorry God its just a joke.

J C stands five foot nine,
Plays scrum half for Palestine.

Arms out wide, feet are tied,
It’s hard to boogie when your crucified.

Bruce Gerencser