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IFB Pastor John MacFarlane Says Non-Christians Manufacture Hope and Good Feelings — True Christians Don’t

hopeless without jesus

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — a church I attended in the 1960s and 1970s when Johnny was a little boy running around the church. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I have written about MacFarlane in the past:

Sadly, MacFarlane is a gift that keeps on giving. So deeply immersed in Baptist Fundamentalism and right-wing politics, the good pastor cannot comprehend, understand, or appreciate any other worldview or viewpoint but his own. So much so, that he doesn’t even try. Operating from a simplistic worldview — the Bible is TRUTH and Jesus is the answer to every problem — MacFarlane shows contempt for any other view but his own. As I have stated before, Fundamentalism breeds certainty, and certainty breeds arrogance. And MacFarlane is certainly that.

On August 30, 2022, MacFarlane wrote a post titled Grief Galore. What follows is an excerpt from McFarlane’s post (which is emboldened) and my lengthy response.

I wish that I could say that her [Angie Cartwright] life was changed by Jesus. However, nothing in her biographical story talks about anything remotely spiritual. Instead, she found others on social media her were hurting and she used her grief to start support groups that would help others through their pains and hurts. Getting people to open up and talk about their grief and feelings rather than burying them and covering them up with drugs and alcohol is cathartic.

MacFarlane’s “devotional” posts are formulaic. He takes a story from the “world” and makes a spiritual application. For this post, MacFarlane chose Angie Cartwright as his foil. Cartwright is the founder of National Grief Awareness Day, which is celebrated on August 30th each year. Cartwright suffered untold trauma in her life, including the suicide of her drug-addicted, alcoholic mom. MacFarlane goes to great lengths to catalog the sins of Cartwright and her mom, saying: “I wish that I could say that her life was changed by Jesus.  However, nothing in her biographical story talks about anything remotely spiritual.” In other words, Cartwright is headed for Hell unless she believes in MacFarlane’s peculiar version of God. No matter how much good she does trying to help people who have experienced trauma, all that matters to MacFarlane is whether she mentally assents to a set of theological propositions and prays the IFB-approved sinner’s prayer. This is the world MacFarlane lives in, a world where everything is reduced to Jesus.

It’s evident, at least to me, that MacFarlane sees no value in support groups and talking about trauma. In his mind, Jesus and a few prooftexts are all people need. Imagine going to such a man (who has no professional training in counseling outside of what he was taught at Bible college) when going through difficulties in your life and being told, JESUS! JESUS! JESUS! Let’s pray.

First Baptist congregants have been treated this way long before MacFarlane became pastor. Before him, Jack Bennett pastored the church for fifty years. Jack was married to Creta, sister to two of my uncles, Paul and Ed Daugherty. Creta’s parents, Mom and Pop Daugherty started the church in the 1950s. As a teen and young adult, I attempted to talk to Jack about things that were going on in my life. His response to me was the same as MacFarlane. Jack made no effort to help me. Worse, when I was trying to determine what Bible college to attend, I went to Jack for advice. He refused to give me any, leaving me with the impression that he didn’t think I was preacher material. Every summer I would come home from Midwestern Baptist College to my mom’s home. While there, I typically worked two jobs. I faithfully attended church and weekly tithed. Other young preachers who came home for the summer were given opportunities to preach. Not me. It became clear to me that I wasn’t wanted; that I was being judged for who my mother was.

It was during my time at First Baptist that my uncle raped my mother; the same uncle whom, decades later, MacFarlane would preach into Heaven. Jack knew the trauma I had experienced in my life: my mother’s repeated suicides, constant moves, and horrific dysfunction. Yet, I faithfully showed up for church Sunday after Sunday. I loved Jesus and the Word of God. Jack could have offered me a helping hand, but he did nothing. The only people in the church who genuinely tried to help me were Marv and Louise Hartman. And even then, after Louise got wind of my deconversion in 2008, she sent me a scathing letter, saying I was under the influence of Satan. Her words deeply wounded me. Our four-decade friendship did not survive.

MacFarlane, who has never experienced life outside of the narrow confines of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity, evidently has no idea why Cartwright — if she indeed does — doesn’t believe in God. He’s seemingly unaware of the various arguments against the existence of God. I was asked yesterday to list the primary reasons I don’t believe in God. I replied: the problem of evil, the problem of suffering, and the hiddenness of God. People who have experienced trauma in their lives will often say that these things (and others) are reasons why they don’t believe in the existence of the Christian deity. MacFarlane pays no mind to these powerful arguments against the existence of God. Just “believe” and all will be well.

Many of the people I knew back in my First Baptist days are dead and gone or have moved away. That said, I do know a few people that currently attend the church. I can confidently say that MacFarlane’s “all you need is Jesus” prescription has miserably failed. The lives of the people he pastors (and perhaps his own) are just as messy as those of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the World.

I am glad that people have others to talk to when they are hurting. Friendship goes a long way in helping us find stability in rocky times. But, how much better would it be if a person was able to go to JESUS, their Lord and Savior, and cry out to Him in their time of need?

….

Saved and lost alike experience grief, whether it be by death from natural causes or terrible tragedy. The difference is that the lost have to emotionally manufacture hope and good feelings. Their grief is placated through talking, counseling, medications, addictions, and a host of other things.

While MacFarlane grudgingly admits talking to a “friend” can be helpful, he asserts it would be much better if everyone cried out to Jesus in their time of need. MacFarlane, of course, mentions nothing about seeking help from competent secular counselors. He doesn’t believe in such things. JESUS is the answer to every question, the solution to every problem.

Following MacFarlane’s dangerous, harmful advice, people cry out to Jesus, pleading and begging for help. And when Jesus does what he always does — nothing — then what? Pray harder? Read more Bible verses?

MacFarlane says that non-Christians “emotionally manufacture hope and good feelings; that they placate their grief through talking, counseling, medications, addictions, and a host of other things.” In what way are Christians any different? Don’t they use religious beliefs and practices to manufacture hope and good feelings? In 1843, Karl Marx wrote:

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Isn’t this exactly what religion provides for people, including MacFarlane and the members of First Baptist Church? I subscribe to a utilitarian view of religion; that as long as people find value in beliefs, rituals, and practices, they will continue to worship their chosen deity. Once the cost outweighs the benefits, people will abandon religion and seek other beliefs that help them get through the grind of human existence.

Christians, including Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, are no different from the people they consign to the flames of Hell. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I counseled countless church members and people who didn’t attend one of the churches I pastored. Murder. Manslaughter. Incest. Sexual assault. Embezzlement. Theft. Domestic Violence. Child Abuse. Adultery, Fornication. Child Molestation. You name it, I heard it all. These people were good Christians; people who loved the Lord their God; people who faithfully attended church; people who tithed and gave offerings; people who daily read the Bible and prayed; people who tried to live according to the teachings of the Bible (as interpreted by their preacher). Yet, they had dark secrets, criminal secrets. And don’t get me started about preachers and their secrets or my own, for that matter. (Don’t read too much into that. I have been very open about my past, but I do withhold a few things that would be embarrassing to me and wife. None of us is an open book.) If Jesus is a cure-all, the end-all, the sum of everything, why are Christians so “sinful”?

People all around us are hurting and in pain. This is grief AWARENESS day. We need to be aware of the masses of people hurting and take them the comfort that Jesus offers.

It is true that people all around us are hurting and in pain — the “masses,” MacFarlane calls them. Instead of taking to them the “comfort that Jesus offers,” how about trying to offer real, tangible help? First Baptist is a well-to-do church with a couple hundred members. The church has the means to provide help to the “least of these.” They have the means to help the sick, lonely, crippled, hungry, hurting, and homeless. What do they do? Nothing. All they offer are empty religious platitudes. Believe! Pray! Trust! Rinse, wash, repeat. The church has no outreach into the community except through programs and ministries that are geared towards making fat sheep fatter. It’s all quite incestuous. And I am not suggesting that MacFarlane and First Baptist are special. They are not. Sadly, few Evangelical churches give a shit about the people Jesus cared about. In their minds, all people need is Jesus. Better to go to Heaven hungry than go to Hell on a full belly.

For any local preacher who is offended by my words, I ask that you provide two things: a list of community-focused ministries funded by your church and a copy of your church’s budget which reveals how much money actually goes towards ministering to the material needs of people outside of the church. I have been making this challenge to Evangelical churches since I started blogging in 2007. As of today, not one pastor responded. Why? Because each knows doing so will reveal how little his church does in the community; that his church is little more than a sheep pen for market-ready sheep.

Yes, people are hurting. Do something besides offering them a Jesus sandwich. People need REAL help. How about being the hands and feet of the Jesus you say you follow?

I am glad that Angie [Cartwright] was able to take her grief and use it to help others. But, more than anything, I hope that she has given her life to Jesus. That’s the source of real, genuine healing to all of our hurts.

MacFarlane compliments Cartwright for using her trauma to help others. I do the same. By telling my story, I give voice to countless other people who have had traumatic experiences in their lives — especially religious trauma. Readers know that I have first-hand experience with trauma. And for those who have corresponded with me privately, they know I listen. No platitudes. No easy, cheap solutions. Life is messy. Sometimes, the messes of our lives look like a hurricane went through them. When in the middle of such messes, the last thing we need is for someone to self-righteously tell us, “you know, if you just prayed to Jesus . . . .”

MacFarlane, one of the keepers of the Book of Life, subtly suggests that Cartwright is not a Christian, and as a result, she’s never experienced “true” healing. If only she had prayed to Jesus all would be well. In what way? What could Jesus have materially and physically done for her?

In a post titled, Dear Jesus, I wrote:

I was told by my pastors, Jesus, that you know and see everything. Just in case you were busy one day and missed what went on or were on vacation, let me share a few stories about what happened while we lived in Lima.

One night, Mom was upstairs, and I heard her screaming. She was having one of her “fits.” I decided to see if there was anything I could do to help her — that’s what the oldest child does. As I walked towards Mom’s bedroom, I saw her grabbing shoes and other things and violently throwing them down the hallway. This was the first time I remember being afraid . . .

One day, I got off the school bus and quickly ran to our home. I always had to be the first one in the door. As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed that Mom was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She had slit her wrists. I quickly ran to the next-door neighbor’s house and asked her to help. She summoned an ambulance, and Mom’s life was saved.

Mom would try again, and again to kill herself: slitting her wrists, overdosing on medication, driving in front of a truck. At the age of fifty-four, she succeeded. One Sunday morning, Mom went into the bathroom, pointed a Ruger .357 at her heart, and pulled the trigger. She quickly slumped to the floor and was dead in minutes. Yet, she never stopped believing in you, Jesus. No matter what happened, Mom held on to her tribe’s God.

Halfway through my fifth-grade year, Mom and Dad moved to Farmer, Ohio. I attended Farmer Elementary School for the fifth and sixth grades. One day, I was home from school sick, and Mom’s brother-in-law stopped by. He didn’t know I was in my bedroom. After he left, Mom came to my room crying, saying, “I have been raped. I need you to call the police.” I was twelve. Do you remember this day, Jesus? Where were you? I thought you were all-powerful? Why didn’t you do anything?

From Farmer, we moved to  Deshler, Ohio for my seventh-grade year of school. Then Mom and Dad moved us to Findlay, Ohio. By then, my parent’s marriage was in shambles. Dad never seemed to be home, and Mom continued to have wild, manic mood swings. Shortly before the end of ninth grade, Dad matter-of-factly informed me that they were getting a divorce. “We don’t love each other anymore,” Dad said. And with that, he turned and walked away, leaving me to wallow in my pain. That’s how Dad always treated me. I can’t remember a time when he embraced me or said, “I love you.” I would learn years later that “Dad” was not my biological father. I wonder, Jesus, was this why he kept me at arm’s length emotionally?

After moving to Findlay, Mom and Dad joined Trinity Baptist Church — a fast-growing IFB congregation pastored by Gene Millioni. After Mom and Dad divorced, they stopped attending church. Both of them quickly remarried. Dad married a nineteen-year-old girl with a baby, and Mom married her first cousin — a recent prison parolee. So much upheaval and turmoil, Jesus. Where were you when all of this was going on? I know, I know, you were there in spirit.

Mom and Dad may have stopped going to church, but I didn’t. By then, I had a lot of friends and started dating, so there was no way I would miss church. Besides, attending church got me away from home, a place where Dad’s new and improved wife made it clear I wasn’t welcome.

….

Jesus, you were my constant companion, my lover, friend, and confidante. I sure loved you, and I believed you loved me too. We were BFFs, right?  Sometimes, I wondered if you really loved me as much as I loved you. Our love affair was virtual in nature. We never met face-to-face, but I believed in my heart of hearts you were the very reason for my existence. When I doubted this, I attributed my doubts to Satan or me not praying hard enough or reading the Bible enough. I never thought for one moment, Jesus, that you might be a figment of my imagination, a lie taught to me by my parents and pastors. I was a true believer. That is, until I wasn’t.

At age fifty, I finally realized, Jesus, that you were a myth, the main character of a 2,000-year-old fictional story. I finally concluded that all those times when I wondered where you were, were in fact, true. I couldn’t find you because you were dead. You had died almost 2,000 years before. The Bible told me about your death, but I really believed that you were resurrected from the dead. I feel so silly now. Dead people don’t come back to life. Your resurrection from the dead was just a campfire story, and I had foolishly believed it. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Everyone I knew believed the same story. All of us believed that the miracles attributed to you, Jesus, really happened; that you were a virgin-born God-man; that you ascended to Heaven to prepare a mansion for us to live in after we die.

It all seems so silly now, Jesus, but I really did believe in you. Fifty years, Jesus. The prime of my life, I gave to you, only to find out that you were a lie. Yet, here I am today, and you are still “with” me. My parents, pastors, and professors did a good job of indoctrinating me. You are very much “real” to me, even though you lie buried somewhere on a Judean hillside. Try as I might, I can’t get you out of my mind. I have come to accept that you will never leave me.

MacFarlane is a product of his environment, so while my words may be harsh, I do genuinely feel sorry for him and the people he pastors. I can’t magically make their suffering, trauma, and grief go away. And neither can MacFarlane. Life is hard, and then we die. All he offers his people are band-aids to put over their gaping, bleeding physical and psychological wounds. Thanks, preacher, church members say, as their wounds continue to drain their life. Isn’t Jesus grand? MacFarlane says, and after quoting the prescribed verses from the King James Bible, he bows his head and says, let’s pray. And with that, Jesus has “helped” the sick, hurting, and dying. With that kind of help available, doctors, psychologists, social workers, and counselors might as well quit their jobs. Aint Jesus “grand,” indeed.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

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Bruce, Do You Believe Satan is Real?

Yes and no. Let me explain.

Satan, as a God-created entity who walks on the face of the earth seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), is a religious construct, a Bible character that billions of people believe exists. Evangelicals, in particular, believe in the existence of a literal Devil, along with demons. When asked for evidence for these claims, Evangelicals will often say that Satan and the hosts of Hell move and work in a spiritual dimension we cannot see. Think Frank Peretti’s novels: This Present Darkness and This Piercing Darkness. In this spiritual dimension, Satan and his demons wage war against God’s angels. Supposedly, this warfare affects Christians and unbelievers alike on planet earth.

Evangelicals point to the “evil” in the world: abortion, same-sex marriage, LGBT people, drunkenness, premarital sex, adultery, pornography, illegal drugs, socialism, humanism, atheism, Democrats, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden as proof of Satan’s existence. However, doesn’t this imply that God and the mighty hosts of Heaven are losing this battle big time? If God is omni-this and omni-that, shouldn’t he be able, with one flick of a finger, to defeat Jesus’ brother (according to Mormonism)? The existence of evil, however it is defined, seems, to me, anyway, to say that there is no God.

Now let me answer why I say, yes, Satan is real. Not the Bible Satan. Not the Satan in the minds of billions of Christians. Not the Satan that is promoted by hellfire-and-brimstone preachers on Sundays. Not of the Satan of popular fiction. The Satan –actually Satans — I am speaking of are flesh and blood human beings who do indeed walk on the face of the earth seeking whom they may devour. While most humans are decent people — even if we disagree with one another on all sorts of issues — there are people amongst us who are evil in thought, word, and deed. I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that Donald Trump is one such person. That Evangelicals were so easily sucked into Trump’s evil leads me to conclude that he is a false prophet, an antichrist. Trump, for political gain, ignored the COVID-19 crisis, allowing millions of people to become infected, and hundreds of thousands of people die. Trump, for political gain, separated immigrant families, putting their children in cages, and ultimately losing track of the ties between more than 500 children and their parents, such that authorities are unable to reunite the families. Trump is by all accounts a psychopath, a man with no empathy for anyone.

We see similar behavior among dictators, war lords, politicians, and even religious leaders. We cannot ignore the obvious: evil people exist, committing atrocious, vile acts against humans and our planet. Evil doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Evil requires human volition. It seems obvious to me that Donald Trump should never, ever be anywhere near the seat of power or the nuclear codes, yet millions and millions of people, including most of the Republicans in Congress, think Trump is a great man — the best president ever. Most voting white Evangelicals voted for Trump in the recent election, slightly less than the 81% of white Evangelicals who voted for him in 2016. Many of these Jesus-loving voters committed acts of sedition and insurrection on January 6, 2021. Who fomented this rebellion? Donald Jesus Trump.

This isn’t a matter of political differences of opinion. Trump and his fellow racists, bigots, and white supremacists want to destroy our Republic. Instead of using the political process to gain their objective as Democrats did, these people plan to use violence, murder, and destruction to achieve their goals. Congresspeople such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, to name a few, are intent on overthrowing the U.S. government and establishing a Christian theocracy. Are such people evil? It’s hard not to conclude that they are. While some Republican congresspeople are just political opportunists — looking at you, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Kevin McCarthy — there is an evil element within the party.

I have no fear of the Satan of the Bible. I fear this Satan as much as I do Voldemort — not at all. I do, however, fear the Satans who are working to destroy our nation. I fear what they will do if they ever truly gain the power of the state. When religion and state become one, freedoms are lost and people die. Some writers, myself included, have been warning anyone who will listen about the dangers of Evangelical theocratic tendencies and sympathies for years. For the most part, our words were ignored. Things are different now (just take a look at the plethora of mainstream news articles about Christian nationalism, as if journalists just stumbled upon this issue). The baby birthed by the Moral Majority over 40 years ago is now grown. Angry, armed to the teeth, and with minds filled with conspiracy theories, these white followers of Jesus are intent on burning America to the ground, building in its ashes a Christian America. Difficult days lie ahead, and we must be willing to call out evil people in our midst. While electing Joe Biden was certainly a welcome course correction, we haven’t won the battle, let alone the war. We must be cognizant of the Satans in our midst, and do everything in our power to send them back to Hell where they belong. And for God’s sake, someone lock the door.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Democrats are Just Plain Evil

rush limbaugh democrats evil

For years Republicans have not got it about the Democrat Party: They are just plain evil, along with a reprobate mind. The violent protests are perpetrated by the Democrat Party, and until these people start going to jail, it will only get worse.

The Democrat Party has a history of lawlessness – they own the KKK and started this organization to hinder the advancement of black Americans. The Democrat Party promoted the idea of single moms raising children without a dad.

Here are some people that should be in jail – Barack Hussein Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder. Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros.

President Trump and the First Lady are the most transparent people I’ve seen in my lifetime. President Obama claimed the same thing, yet told the press what they could and could not ask.

I believe Americans are waking up, and I hope the Democrat Party becomes extinct. If not, the United States of America as we know it will be destroyed internally. Without America in the picture, other nations will fall like dominos into the Social-Communist hellhole. Ultimately, what started in the Middle East will end in the Middle East. God and His people will be victorious.

— Ken Langdon, World News Daily, Democrat Party: Just Plain Evil, October 14, 2018

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Unsaved People are Evil Regardless of What They Do

john piper
John Piper

Pastor John, hello! When something huge and good happens in a society — like a faulty government system is fixed, or slavery is abolished, or minorities are given more equal treatment, or anything of the like — is God secretly at work in that moment inspiring things to happen? What is God’s role in positive social changes?”

Christian Good

Well first, let’s be sure that we have a distinctively Christian view of the term “positive social change.” Whenever we’re talking about change among unbelievers, the term positive must always be qualified in our minds so that we don’t stop thinking like Christians and simply think like unbelievers.

Christians know that all so-called positive deeds done from a heart of unbelief, or disregard for the glory of God, or disregard for the eternal good of people, or disregard for reliance upon the mercies of God in Christ, those deeds — no matter how beneficial they are in the short run for our prosperity or health or freedom — still are acts of rebellion against God, so they are not positive in the ultimate sense.

I’m assuming that when Jim asks about God’s role in positive social change, he means change for the short-term benefits of people, like rising material standards of living and greater health and more safety and more freedom to act out our convictions, even if the short-term benefits for society are not accompanied by spiritual awakening or faith in Jesus. So, that’s the question I’m asking. What’s the role of God in those kinds of societal changes? That’s what I assume he’s asking.

….

Here’s my conclusion in answer to Jim’s question “What is God’s role in positive social change?”

God is always involved. He is always ultimate. He is always decisive. This of course means, as anyone would immediately infer, that he’s also ultimate and decisive over the so-called negative social changes as well.

God rules all things either by his positive agency, more or less directly causing things, or by permission, which is equally wise and equally purposeful, since God knows what everybody is going to do, and he permits them to do evil.

— John Piper, Desiring God, What Part Does God Play in Positive Social Change? September 24, 2018

Gun Violence: Let’s Stop Blaming Evil When People Do Bad Things

guns dont kill people
Comic by Bigfoot Justice Comics

People are scrambling to find words to best describe the murderous actions of Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas last Sunday. What is known so far is that Paddock was a rich white guy who liked to gamble and was, at times, verbally abusive towards his girlfriend. At a loss to figure out why Paddock did what he did, the talking heads on Fox News have searched high and low for the answer, going so far as to blame his actions on his lack of religious faith. Other talking heads, missing the forest for the trees, wondered brainlessly out loud about whether it was time to increase security in hotels. How in the world did Paddock get so many guns into the hotel? they ask. Duh, geniuses, in his luggage and bags. Sean Hannity blamed the lack of firearms in the country concert crowd, not thinking about how having loaded handguns would have stopped Paddock from spraying the crowd with bullets shot from semi-automatic/automatic weapons hundreds of yards away. Blame. Blame everyone and everything except the one common denominator in EVERY mass shooting — handguns, assault rifles, and high-capacity magazines. Guns don’t kill people, people do. Or so goes the droning NRA mantra, anyway.

The latest person being blamed for the Las Vegas carnage is an entity called EVIL. Evil, much like Satan/Lucifer/Devil, is a religious construct meant to explain why people do bad things. Evangelicals believe all of us, from the moment our father’s sperm united with our mother’s egg, are sinners. We don’t become sinners, we are sinners. Thanks to Adam and Eve, who disobeyed God by eating fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil®, all of us, by nature, are sinners. But when it comes to really, really bad shit — gays getting married, women having abortion, Bill Clinton getting blow jobs in the White House, and Steven Paddock killing and maiming hundreds of people — many Evangelicals blame evil. It’s evil, not guns, that commits mass murder. Of course, Evangelicals — who are overwhelmingly Republicans — forget Mr. Evil when people fly planes into buildings. Then it is Muslims doing all the killing. They seem to have no problem determining who or what is behind such terrorism. However, when it comes to gun violence, many Evangelicals are deaf, dumb, and blind.

matt bevin you cant regulate evil
Tweet by right-wing Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin

Evil is not to blame for America’s problem with mass shootings — guns are. Jesse Berney, a writer for Rolling Stonehad this to say about blaming evil for what happened in Las Vegas:

It’s easy to call acts of horror “evil.” It’s comforting to ascribe an external, unknowable motive to events so terrible we can’t imagine a motivation.

The human mind is incapable of imagining what would drive a man to haul an arsenal of high-powered weapons into a hotel room, knock out a couple windows, murder dozens of people and injure hundreds more by spraying them with gunfire. So we call it evil. That settles that.

President Trump called the shooting in Las Vegas that left at least 59 dead and more than 500 injured “an act of pure evil,” and who’s to argue with him? If evil exists in this world, surely indiscriminately murdering faceless strangers from 300 yards away qualifies. Whatever drove Stephen Paddock to that hotel room that night would fall under any reasonable definition of evil.

But what if evil doesn’t exist in this world?

Of course people do terrible things. Examples are easy to find, from our own regrets to the most unimaginable cruelties. Paddock murdered dozens of people. The government of Myanmar, led by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is engaged in a brutal genocide against an ethnic minority. Every day children are exploited and abused. The world is an abattoir of violence and cruelty if you choose to do nothing but focus on the terror we visit on each other.

But evil? Evil as an independent reality, a thing-in-itself that urges people to action? “Evil” not as judgment of Paddock’s actions but as an explanation of them? That’s a fantasy, and it absolutely will lead to more shootings like these, more deaths.

When elected officials like Trump rely on “evil” to explain away mass shootings, they are following a deliberate strategy. Republicans know wall-to-wall coverage of these events are the best opportunity gun control advocates have to draw attention to the issue and save lives. But the GOP – beholden to the overhyped power of the National Rifle Association – have just one goal: pass zero bills restricting gun sales in any way. (In fact, the Republican leadership in the House is currently considering a bill that would make it easier to purchase both silencers and armor-piercing bullets.) They follow a few strategies like clockwork.

There are calls not to “politicize” these tragedies. They say it’s too soon, that it dishonors the victims and their families to bring politics into the discussion.

They claim specific gun laws wouldn’t have stopped this individual tragedy, because it’s not the right gun, or the perpetrator would have passed a background check – as though stopping some future mass shootings isn’t worthwhile if we can’t stop them all.

They claim criminals intent on breaking the law will just ignore gun laws anyway, as though that doesn’t apply to every law ever passed.

And they call these events “evil” to make them seem random and unpreventable. You can’t fight evil, after all. It’s invisible, incorporeal. It’s the perfect foil for politicians who don’t want to do anything. What are we going to do, pass a law to make evil illegal?

….

But the problem here isn’t evil. It’s not the devil. It’s us: human beings. We have motivations and justifications and rationalizations and reasons for everything we do. We don’t know why Stephen Paddock murdered those people. Maybe we never will. And maybe the sensible laws we could pass, like universal background checks and a ban on all assault weapons, wouldn’t have stopped someone so wealthy and motivated to commit horror. But it could stop someone else. It would save lives.

Blaming evil is an excuse to do nothing in the face of tens of thousands of gun deaths a year. Only a fraction of those deaths are the result of mass shootings like in Las Vegas. We can and should work to reduce all gun deaths, from suicides to accidents to crime-related deaths to massacres like Sunday’s. That means passing laws that keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. The only other option is to do nothing.

….

Almost 35 000 people a year are killed with firearms in the United States (and thousands more are wounded). Many of these deaths are suicides. Nineteen children a day are killed or maimed by gunfire. More people are killed by guns each year than are killed in automobile accidents. Government at every level has seen fit to regulate automobile use, hoping to reduce deaths and injuries from auto accidents. Remove automobiles from the equation and what happens? (Think real hard on that one, gun-lovers.) If guns are removed from the gun violence equation or restricted, guess what happens? Less gun violence, as Australia will attest.

What follows is a list of mass shootings I compiled from several recent news articles:

  • Fort Hood, November 5, 2009 — 13 dead, 30 wounded
  • Edmond, Oklahoma, August 20, 1986 — 14 dead, 6 wounded
  • San Bernardino,California December 2, 2015 — 14 dead, 22 wounded
  • San Ysidro, California, July 18, 1984 — 21 dead, 19 wounded
  • Killeen, Texas, October 16, 1991 — 23 dead, 27 wounded
  • Sandy Hook Elementary School, December 14, 2012 — 26 dead, 2 wounded
  • Virginia Tech University, April 16, 2007 — 32 dead, 17 wounded
  • Orlando,Florida June 12, 2016 — 49 dead, 58 wounded
  • Las Vegas,Nevada October 1, 2017 — 59 dead, 527 wounded
  • Tucson, Arizona, January 8, 2011 — 6 dead, 11 wounded
  • Seal Beach, California, October 12, 2011 — 8 dead, 1 wounded
  • Oakland, California, April 2, 2012 — 7 dead, 1 wounded
  • Aurora, Colorado, July 20, 2012, 12 dead, 58 wounded
  • Oak Creek, Wisconsin, August 5, 2012, 6 dead, 3 wounded
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 28, 2012 — 6 dead, 2 wounded
  • Brookfield, Wisconsin, October 21, 2012 — 3 dead, 4 wounded
  • Washington, DC, September 16, 2013 — 12 dead, 3 injured
  • Isla Vista, California, May 23, 2014, 6 dead , 7 wounded
  • Charleston, South Carolina, June 18, 2015, 9 dead
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015, 5 dead, 3 wounded
  • Roseburg, Oregon, October 1, 2015, 9 dead, 9 injured
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado, November 29, 2015, 3 dead, 9 wounded

american jesus
Comic by David Horsey

What’s the common denominator is these stories? Evil? White guys? Buildings? No! Guns — handguns, long guns, assault rifles, high-capacity clips. And what has Congress done about these mass shootings? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Fearing being primaried by right-wing, NRA-moneyed, Jesus-loving, flag-waving challengers, Republicans refuse to even talk about passing meaningful gun law reform. And sadly, many Democrats are no better. Fearing losing their seats to Republican challengers, Democrats cower in shameful silence before the gun lobby.

The United States has been fighting the war on terror for sixteen years. Congress has seen fit to give the US military trillions of dollars to fund the war on terrorism, all because 3,000 people died on 9/11. Yet, during this same time period, almost 500,000 people have died through gun violence and over a 1,000,000 people have been wounded. And Congress has done what, exactly?  Nothing. If Trump and congressional Republicans have their way, current gun laws will be loosened, making it easier for people who shouldn’t own firearms to have them Earlier this year, Congress made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase a gun. Even worse, Congress is contemplating abolishing the law that makes silencers illegal. Imagine how much damage Paddock could have done if his guns were equipped with shot-muffling silencers.

buying more guns
Comic by David Horsey

I am done listening to people who won’t or can’t see that we have a huge problem with gun violence in this country. I refuse to spend one more moment listening to people who think less regulation and more guns is the answer. Call me a pinko liberal or a Communist, I don’t care. I plan to do everything in my power to force government at every level to restrict gun sales and ownership. Some currently available firearms should be made illegal — assault rifles in particular. People shouldn’t be permitted to hoard firearms as Stephen Paddock did. LIBERALS ARE COMING FOR OUR GUNS! Gun rights activists scream, and my response is this: YES, WE ARE! It is high time we put an end to the gun culture in America with its attendant violence, carnage, and death. If Western nations such as Britain and Australia can strictly regulate firearms and drastically reduce gun violence, so can the United States. Whether we have the courage to do so, remains to be seen.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Fundamentalist Jeremy Wiggins: Non-Christians Don’t Believe in the Existence of Evil

evil

Writer Jeremy Wiggins, a frequent contributor to The Stand, the official blog of the American Family Association, suggests that non-Christians don’t believe in the existence of evil. Wiggins writes:

The world has a problem with evil in that it basically denies the existence of evil. Unless of course, you disagree with the world’s rejection of evil, then you are evil. Confused yet? I know I sure am.

….

Individuals commit acts of violence because of the evil within their hearts. Period. How do I know this is true? Because, without Christ, we are all evil. By refusing to acknowledge that evil exists, the world refuses to see when one religion teaches evil and another religion teaches to love one’s enemies. While the religion of Islam may teach the slaughtering of infidels, let us remember that Muslims, pagans, Buddhists, and all other people, religious or not, are going to face the judgment of God.

….

While the world may not recognize evil, we, as Christians, know it exists; it exists very close by indeed – mostly within ourselves. We recognize the inherent wickedness of man, and that no one is righteous apart from Christ. We also recognize that the only solution to the problem of evil is the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice is the only thing that stands between our eternal destination and theirs.

I don’t know of one non-Christian who denies the existence of evil. Not one. Evil exists. We know this because we observe its work and influence. What non-Christians reject is not evil in and of itself, but Wiggins’ naive, simplistic view of the world. Wiggins, wanting to absolve Evangelical Christianity of its Islamophobic tendencies and the complicity of the United States in birthing modern terrorism, says that evil is a heart problem. People commit evil acts because their hearts are wicked. Instead of attempting to understand the reasons for terrorism, Wiggins reduces the matter to one of belief. According to Wiggins, ISIS terrorists recently slaughtered Parisian concert-goers because their hearts are evil. If the terrorists would only repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus, all would be well. His argument, of course, ignores the fact that many terrorist acts  are committed by people who worship the Christian God.

Lewis Dear Christian Terrorist

Just recently Christian Lewis Dear shot up a Colorado Planned Parenthood Clinic, killing several people, including an Evangelical pro-life police officer. Surely Dear’s murderous rampage is an act of terrorism? Yet, here’s a man, Dear, filled with the Holy Spirit, committing an evil act. Should we reduce Dear’s actions to a matter of the heart? (I suspect that many Evangelicals secretly applaud Dear for doing what he did.) Or should we consider whether the recent inflammatory Planned Parenthood videos and subsequent Evangelical rhetoric and hysteria played a part in Dear’s decision to commit an act of domestic terrorism?

Wiggins, a Christian Fundamentalist, believes every person is born into this world a sinner. We don’t become sinners, we are sinners. According to Wiggins’ inspired, inerrant Bible, every person is dead in trespasses and sins. Every person is at variance with God. Every person is the sworn enemy of God, and unless each accepts this God’s Evil Solution™–the blood of Jesus–all will die in their sins and go to hell.

Taking Wiggins’ theology to its logical conclusion, every non-Christian is a potential terrorist. If, as the Bible saysthe heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it, doesn’t this mean that every non-Christian is evil? Of course, Wiggins doesn’t really believe this. No Evangelical does. Wiggins thinks certain people–Muslim terrorists (and perhaps Muslims in general)–are evil. Are there degrees of evil? Doesn’t the Bible say that God is no respecter of persons? Surely the Holy God of Evangelicalism doesn’t categorize sinners into different evil categories depending on their geographic location, ideology, and skin color? No, he doesn’t (actually he does, but I’ll leave that subject for another day), but Evangelicals like Wiggins certainly do.

While it would be easy to dismiss Wiggins’ words as the rantings of a simple-minded Evangelical, doing so misses the fact that his view has real-world implications. If terrorism is just really a matter of the heart, then the answer to the global terrorist threat is the slaughter of Middle Eastern Muslims. Kill the evil bastards, Evangelicals cry, and that will put an end to terrorism. (Oh the irony of the followers of the Prince of Peace advocating violence as the answer to anything!) Yet, despite the decade-and-a-half war on terrorism, the world is not one iota closer to eradicating terrorism.

While I have no objections to calling terrorists evil, I refuse to absolve Christian America of its own imperialistic, oil-driven terroristic tendencies. Crucial to ending the wars in the Middle East is getting Americans to understand the economic, social, political, and religious views that drive events in the Middle East. Simplistic views such as Wiggins’ reveal an ignorant understanding of how the world works. I wish everything  were as simple as Evangelicals think it is. But it is anything but simple, so we must continue to dig deeply into the reasons why a small percentage of Muslims are hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization. And while we are at it, let’s take a hard look at how the Evangelical view of the world fuels domestic terrorism. We truly cannot understand the complexity of terrorism until we are willing look at ALL the facts, not just those that line up with a literalistic, Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible.

Note

Jeremy Wiggins Bio: (link no longer active)

Jeremy Wiggins is a graduate of Liberty University with a B.A. of Religion and a Minor in Biblical Studies. A veteran of the United States Air Force, he and his wife were stationed at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, NV, where Jeremy was an F15 Avionics Technician. He has written for the AFA Journal, One Million Dads, and has also had his work quoted in World Net Daily and Christianity Today. He has served as a guest host of AFR Talk’s Financial Issues, Nothing But Truth, Exploring the Word, and AFA Today. Since 2009, Jeremy has served at the American Family Association to help restore America’s Biblical and moral foundations.

 

Bruce Gerencser