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Short Stories: The Worst Mother’s Day Ever

mothers day

Mother’s Day is a special time at Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. It’s the one Sunday out of the year when the whole service is dedicated to women. Churches often give gifts to mothers in attendance, especially flowers. My favorite gift for church women on Mother’s Day was carnations. During this oh-so-special service, men and children are reminded of how they should love their mothers and praise Jesus for giving them such a wonderful, godly presence in their lives. And then comes the annual sermon for women from Proverbs 31:

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.  She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Passing mention will also be made to other Bible verses that have been used to keep women in their place — barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen — for two thousand years. Throw in a couple of verses about women submitting to their husbands and male-only leadership, and the sermon is complete; and whatever joy the $1 carnation brought into their lives is muted by the Biblical reminders of their true status before God and man.

As a pastor, I saw Mother’s Day as an evangelization opportunity. I encouraged church members to invite their mothers to church, especially unsaved mothers. I promised them that if they would do all they could to get their mothers in church on Mother’s Day, I would do my best to share the gospel with them in between my points on Godly womanhood. Sometimes, I would plan a mother-daughter banquet the day before Mother’s Day. I would have the men of the church prepare a fancy meal for those in attendance. Feeding large numbers of mothers and their daughters afforded me the opportunity to put my restaurant skills to use. I became the general of the kitchen, making sure that everything was cooked according to plan. After the meal, a guest speaker would remind the mothers and daughters in attendance of their duties before God and man. It was the only day on the church calendar when church women would be afforded the opportunity to hear a female speaker (not a preacher, not a preacher, not a preacher, DAMMITA SPEAKER!)

One Mother’s Day — I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio, at the time — I decided I would recognize all the mothers in attendance. Numerous women stood as I asked mothers to stand so we could honor them with applause and $1 carnations. I then asked those who were standing to say how long they had been married and how many children they had. I planned to give special gifts to the oldest mother, the youngest mother, the mother with the most children, and the mother who had been married the longest. It took all of about thirty seconds for me to realize that I had made a horrible mistake.

Here’s what happened . . .

Sister Iris, how many children did you have and how long were you married, I asked? I was never married, but I have three children. (Imagine what my IFB face looked like the moment she uttered these words.) Sister Delorse? I am not married, I’m divorced, and I have two children. (Iris and Delorse were blood sisters.) At that moment, I wanted to commit hari-kari. I thought, I need to hurry this along, knowing that there were other unwed mothers and divorcees ahead in Bruce’s nightmare of a conga line.

Finally, the repudiation of all my preaching against premarital sex and divorce was complete, and all that was left for me to do was preach my sermon, give a brief invitation, utter a benediction, and usher my family and me the hell out of Dodge. Needless to say, I never asked women again to share how long they were married and how many children they had. Polly and I laugh about this now, but it was not funny at the time. My moralizing had been exposed, and the only feeble argument I could make was that all their sinning took place before they were saved. Praise Jesus, none of them had sexual intercourse post-Jesus, or so I told myself anyway. I would later come to the realization that, despite all my sermons against sexual sin, congregants were still, in the privacy of their bedrooms, car back seats, and motel rooms, having sex with people to whom they aren’t married to. I would later pastor an unmarried woman who wanted to have a baby without marrying a man. She paid a neighbor man to sleep with her so she could get pregnant. She succeeded. Unfortunately, she bore a child with a serious birth defect — a sure sign to many of God’s disfavor.

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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Evangelicals and Their Obsession With Sexual Lust

lust

Evangelicals have a huge problem with what they call sexual lust. Countless sermons, books, and website articles are devoted to helping Christians overcome lust. Rarely, if ever, do Evangelicals ask WHY they have a lust problem. Why do men and women filled with the Holy Spirit need to be constantly reminded of their propensity to lust? With God living inside of you (there’s a joke waiting to be told), I would think that victory over lust or any other sin would be but a thought or prayer away. If God himself can’t keep Evangelicals from sexually desiring other people to whom they are not married, what hope is there for the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world?

Perhaps the real issue is that Evangelicals mislabel and misunderstand sexual lust. Thanks to Jesus for telling his followers in Matthew 5:27,28: Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart, Evangelicals think that if they look at a man or woman and desire them then they have committed adultery in their hearts. Is it any wonder that some Evangelicals, upon realizing they have committed adultery in their hearts, decide to physically have sex with whomever they are “lusting” after? If you are going to think it, you might as well do it.

What is lust, anyway? A simple definition is this: having a craving, appetite, or great desire for. Based on this definition, all humans lust, and there is nothing inherently wrong with sexually lusting after a man or a woman. What complicates the matter for Evangelicals is that they are duty-bound to live according to the laws, commands, precepts, and teachings of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — as interpreted by their churches and pastors. The Bible, then, and not an English dictionary, defines what lust is. The inconsistent, arbitrary, contradictory moral code found in the Bible becomes the standard by which the triune God demands people live — in theory anyway. As any observer of Evangelicalism knows, Evangelicals don’t walk what they talk. Here they are, filled with the Holy Spirit and holding in their hands God’s blueprint for living, yet they fail miserably at being different from the big, bad “world.” Why is that?

The first problem is that Evangelicals view themselves as sinners; weak, powerless, helpless people, who, without the saving grace of Jesus, would be given over to their sinful desires. Evangelicals believe humans are inherently broken and need fixing; and only God, through the atoning work of Jesus, can repair them; and this fixing is a moment-by-moment, hour-by-hour, day-by-day process. Sin is always at the door, threatening to destroy their lives, Evangelicals think. Powerless, they cry out to Jesus for help, and in his good time, if at all, Jesus supposedly rides in on his white horse and delivers them from their sins. And if Jesus doesn’t arrive in time and Christians fall or run into sin? Forgiveness and a clean slate are but a prayer away: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, the Bible says in 1 John 1:9. Thus, for Evangelicals, there’s no reason for them to own their behaviors and be accountable for their actions.

colossians 3:5

The second problem comes when you embrace the Evangelical concept of sin and inherent helplessness with strict adherence to what’s written in the Bible. Instead of understanding that it is normal and healthy to sexually desire others, Evangelicals label their desires “sexual sins” such as adultery or fornication. Worse yet, even thinking about these desires, according to Jesus, is adultery. Imagine living in a world where the very thought of another person’s sexual desirability is considered heinous behavior worthy of eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Is it any wonder Evangelical men and women go through life laden with guilt and fear? Is it any wonder so many Christians act out on their desires, often crossing the line from normal human behavior to criminality? One need only to read the Black Collar Crime series to see that Evangelicals have a huge problem with sexual sin — especially sex with minors or, as in the case of pastors, people with whom they have professional relationships. A pastor having consensual sex with someone other than his wife violates the Evangelical God’s moral code, but outside of Christianity such behavior, at worst, leads to divorce. Consensual sex between unmarrieds is normal, healthy, and expected, but, for Evangelicals, such behavior is called fornication – an accursed sin worthy of eternal damnation. Masturbation and viewing pornography are also considered serious sins by most Evangelicals.

The focus should be on sexual behaviors that harm others. If there is no harm to others, and all parties are adults who consent to the sexual behavior, there should be no condemnation of the sexual behavior. Extramarital sex is generally considered bad behavior, but a married couple could have an “understanding,” making what Evangelicals consider adulterous normal. The rules I live by are quite simple:

  • I made a commitment to my wife forty-four ago when I stood at the church altar and said that she would be my one and only. Polly and I, on that day, entered into a contractual relationship governing our sexual behavior. I live by that commitment. Do I desire other women? Do I find other women attractive? Do I even have thoughts about having sex with them? Yep. I am a normal, healthy human being. But I don’t act on these desires. Why? I pledged my troth to my wife, and I plan on keeping that vow.
  • Whatever people do sexually behind closed doors, as long as it is consensual, is none of my business. I don’t understand why some people enjoy BDSM, but I don’t have to understand it to find it acceptable human behavior. Each to his own as long as the parties involved freely consent.

Simply put, I mind my own business.

Evangelicals, on the other hand, are plagued with all sorts of rules governing their sex lives. Worse yet, these rules have different interpretations depending on whom their pastor is, where they attend church, and what sect their church belongs to. When Evangelical men and women see someone to whom they are sexually attracted, they immediately feel guilty and worry about committing adultery in their hearts. Instead of seeing such behavior as normal and healthy, Evangelicals fear God’s judgment if they fail to avert their eyes and repent of their inordinate desire.

Several years ago, an Evangelical psychologist by the name of Douglas Weiss barfed up a post titled 10 Powerful Tips to Stay Lust-Free. The article was pretty much standard Fundamentalist fare: pray, read the Bible, memorize Scripture, and keep a journal of your lustful behavior. Weiss did, to his credit, speak of Evangelicals owning and changing their behavior. These points seemed quite humanistic, so I do wonder how Weiss squares personal accountability with what the Bible says about sin and human helplessness without God.

I did find tip number eight quite humorous:

Simply put a rubber band around your wrist and when you start to lust, snap it hard.

Currently, you are giving your brain positive reinforcement when you lust. You escape reality, you feel desired, you fantasize and sometimes even receive a chemical reaction in your brain from the risk and excitement you feel. When you positively reinforce your brain, it will heighten your desire to repeat that behavior.

The rubber-band technique creates a negative reinforcement for lust and sends your brain the message: I don’t want to do this anymore.

Of course, Weiss is giving advice for combating a behavior — lust — that only exists in the minds of Evangelicals. I see a theological contradiction with Weiss’s advice. If Evangelicals are to snap the rubber band when they start to lust, doesn’t that mean they have already sinned? Isn’t lust sinful, regardless of whether the Christian is at the start, middle, or end of the lusting process? Shouldn’t the lustful Christian immediately stop sinning, drop on his knee, and give God a blo- uh I mean pray for forgiveness?

Imagine, for a moment, Pastor Joe sitting at his office desk studying for Sunday’s sermon. Pastor J, as his followers love to call him, is planning on preaching a ten-point sermon titled How to Live a Lust-Free Life. J-Man, as church teens fondly call him, clicks on Firefox, and once it loads he opens an incognito window. Pastor Joe wants his study materials to be between him and God, and by using an incognito window, he leaves behind no trace of what websites he has visited. Pastor Joe navigates to youporn.com, telling himself, what better way to understand lust than “studying” the content of porn sites. As the tenth photo loads, Pastor Joe remembers he is wearing a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. He starts snapping the band repeatedly, thinking that the pain from having a rubber band snapped on his wrist will cause him to turn from his computer screen. Alas, it does not. Soon, Pastor Joe is overwhelmed by what he has seen. I’m lusting, he cries, but no amount of self-awareness — or rubber bands — keeps Pastor Joe from masturbating. Soon orgasm brings release, and with release comes an overwhelming sense of religiously driven guilt. Oh Lord, I am so sorry for my sin. Please forgive me! Jesus, of course, forgives Pastor Joe, just as he has every other time. Or so we are told, anyway. Pastor Joe is forgiven by God because he says he is forgiven. In fact, every time Pastor Joe “sins” God forgives him. A weak, helpless man I am, says Pastor Joe. Deliver me from my lust, Jesus! What a miserable existence, but the fictional story I’ve told here happens countless times a day behind closed doors. And it will continue to happen until Evangelicals realize that their religion is the problem. Their belief system has turned them into pathetic weaklings who believe they have no control over their emotions or sexuality.

Evangelicals don’t need rubber bands. Does anyone really believe that snapping yourself with a rubber band is going to keep you from acting on your sexual desires? This is absurd. The only thing that controls your sexual desires is YOU. Not God, not Jesus, and certainly not a Lust-Free Life Rubber Band®. What’s required here is personal responsibility and accountability. Determine what is good and bad sexual behavior and act accordingly. The Bible, with its sexually repressive teachings, is not the answer, and neither is any of Weiss’s tips for living a lust-free life.

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.

Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate — Oh Yes, They Do!

trading eternal life for an orgasm

People raised in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches have heard countless sermons on what the Bible says about sex. Teenagers are warned about the dangers of petting, and many IFB churches forbid unmarrieds from having any physical contact with each other. Young men are characterized as weak horn-dogs and young women are viewed as gatekeepers who are responsible for any untoward sexual advances made by sexually aware men. Young women are given strict orders concerning how to dress and behave to ward off young men from having sex with them. One thing is certain: if a young IFB woman has sex with a man, it is almost always her fault.

IFB churches often have lengthy and complex rules that are used to keep unmarrieds from having sex. These rules follow young adults to the IFB colleges they attend. Here we have institutions filled with eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old men and women who, with hormones raging, are expected to refrain from physical contact with the opposite sex. This includes: no holding hands, no kissing, no hugging, no putting one’s arm around another, or sitting too closely to someone of the opposite sex. My wife and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1970s. We were expected to maintain a six-inch distance from each other at all times. Even after we married, we were expected to refrain from public displays of affection lest we cause unmarried dorm students to “sin.” (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

One would think that IFB pastors and college leaders would approve of masturbation as a way of dealing with pent-up sexual frustration. Unfortunately, masturbation is also a sin. As an IFB teenager, I heard pastors who warned church teens about the dangers of masturbation, including, — oh yes they did! — warning that masturbation will make you blind. Now lest you think it’s just crazy IFB preachers who have a problem with masturbation, consider this quote by Evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll:

First, masturbation can be a form of homosexuality because it is a sexual act that does not involve a woman. If a man were to masturbate while engaged in other forms of sexual intimacy with his wife then he would not be doing so in a homosexual way. However, any man who does so without his wife in the room is bordering on homosexuality activity, particularly if he’s watching himself in a mirror and being turned on by his own male body.

And then there’s this excerpt from The Village Church’s website:

If one was [sic] to scan the horizon of current evangelical thought he or she would find a number of conclusions on the matter of masturbation. There are some who would claim that it is inherently neutral or even innately good and thus would teach that it is an appropriate way to express gratitude for sexual desire. Others would say that it is a veiled form of homosexuality, or that it is a clear violation of God’s law and thus always sinful. The spectrum is wide and the positions are quite varied.

Scripture never overtly addresses the issue of masturbation and thus any non-careful treatment of this topic must be avoided. If we define sin merely as transgression of God’s law then we might conclude that since Scripture does not explicitly prohibit the particular act of masturbation, it must therefore be non-sinful. However, sin is not merely transgression of the Scriptures, but also a transgression of the character and intent of God. As marriage is the only God-ordained means of expressing sexual intimacy, it would seem perfectly acceptable to declare masturbation a sinful act. This paper will seek to specify some common wisdom regarding masturbation and then commend a few questions which must be considered to faithfully examine the act.

  • Sexual immorality is specifically declared to be sinful.
  • Lust is specifically declared to be sinful.
  • Masturbation does not typically quench sexual desire, rather it intensifies it. As with most things, the more you feed it, the more it grows. In general, masturbation becomes habit forming and enslaves us to desires for greater sexual relief through greater self-indulgence rather than greater self-control. While the Spirit produces in us the fruit of self-control, the flesh desires indulgence and release. Self-control is not ascetic discipline, but is instead the response of a proper understanding of God’s creative design for our bodies.
  • Masturbation is outside of God’s intended design for sexual relations. Sex was created to be experienced between a man and woman who are joined together into the one flesh relationship of marriage; masturbation is taking the sexual desire reserved for this relationship and seeking to fulfill it through our own means. Masturbation sets a very destructive pattern for marriage. It places the emphasis on self pleasure rather than the desire for two to experience the fulfillment of sexual union together.
  • Masturbation is typically lustful – whether that be overt lust direct toward another or a lustful desire for relief.
  • Masturbation does not typically stir our affections for the Lord, rather it robs them.

….

It seems to the pastors and elders of The Village Church that masturbation is prohibited for a couple of reasons. First, we would prohibit the act based upon the provision of marriage as the only appropriate institution in which to express sexual intimacy. If you burn with lust or desire sexual intimacy, get married (1 Corinthians 7:9). Such is the gracious and holy prescription for sexual desire, the only prescription afforded by the Creator of all good desire. Second, we would counsel abstinence due to the overwhelming and innate relationship between masturbation and lust. Lust is extremely serious and not to be taken lightly, dismissed, or played with.

The Village Church is a Southern Baptist megachurch pastored by Matt Chandler. Chandler is also part of The Gospel Coalition — a Fundamentalist group with Calvinistic leanings. Men such as Danny Akin, Alistair Begg, Bryan Chapell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Ligon Duncan, Kent Hughes, Erwin Lutzer, Albert Mohler, Russell D. Moore, David Platt, John Piper, Philip G. Ryken, and Sam Storms are/were members, as were the infamous Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney. I can safely say that all of these men likely approve of Chandler’s anti-masturbation message. Ironically, Chandler is currently on “leave” from his church for having an inappropriate online relationship with a woman.

Jason DeRouchie, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also believes masturbation is sinful. DeRouchie, writing for the Desiring God website, says:

Many medical professionals treat masturbation as a natural part of human development, and some church leaders have attempted to supply practical and theological reasons to masturbate. From a biblical perspective, however, I do not believe this approach pleases God, and I have seen the devastation that such a practice brings to both singles and marrieds alike.

….

When people reach orgasm outside the covenant-confirming act of lovemaking in marriage, the act becomes solely self-seeking, divorced from its purpose of creating intimacy. Sexual expression through orgasm should be an overflow of a desire for a spouse, not merely for a feeling or experience.

….

As noted, orgasm outside the marriage bed removes the relational, intimate nature of sexual expression, which is at the core of its purpose (1 Corinthians 7:2–3, 5). Refraining from masturbation helps to purify one’s appetites (1 Corinthians 9:27). It helps to ensure that a person’s desire to make love with his or her spouse is for nurturing covenantal intimacy through service and honor, and through receiving love from him or her (Matthew 20:28; John 13:14–16). It reminds couples that their spouse is not given as an object to be exploited, but rather as a covenant partner to be provided for, protected, and respected (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; see also Genesis 2:24).

….

Masturbation outside the marriage bed does not glorify God because evil desire always fuels it.

Whatever we do — including all forms of sexual expression — we are to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Whether tagged as covetousness, lust, or sensuality, misplaced and mistimed desires do not glorify God, and failure to glorify God is always sin (Romans 3:23; 14:23). Paul thus charges, “Glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

In God’s good design, marital love is the only justified context for one to enjoy a sexual craving for orgasm, for only in this sphere does one glorify God by pointing to the beautiful union of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:31–32). From this perspective, evil desire fuels all sexual expression outside the marriage bed, including masturbation, so we must treat all such acts as sinful and as deserving of hell (Matthew 5:29–30; Mark 7:20–23; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:17, 19–21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5–6).

….

Jesus urged his followers to guard themselves from lustful masturbation, and Paul called Christians to control their sexual parts in holiness and honor.

Only “the pure in heart . . . shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Jesus appears to link masturbation with lust when he declares that looking at a woman with lustful intent is sin, and then charges his disciples to take extreme measures with their eyes and hands, so that they will preserve themselves unto life (Matthew 5:27–30). Similarly, Paul stressed that holiness seen in sexual purity was God’s will for every person, and then he urged believers to control their sexual parts in holiness and honor rather than in lust.

Masturbation outside the marriage bed witnesses a lack of self-control and is therefore sin.

Self-control is a new-covenant fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23), a discipline that pleases God, nurtures hope for eternal life, and frees one from fear of future punishment (Romans 8:6–9, 13; 2 Timothy 1:7). Lack of self-control is sin and enables greater influence by the evil one (Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 7:5). Intentional orgasm outside the marriage bed through masturbation witnesses a lack of self-control and is therefore sin.

….

In light of these realities, I believe that anyone who masturbates outside the marriage bed sins and insults God’s glory in Christ. As men and women of God, therefore, may we not engage in it. Instead, may we look to our Lord for help and seek to honor him with our bodies by allowing our only outlet for sexual desire to be the covenant-nurturing intimacy of marital lovemaking (Job 31:1). May we also intentionally lead our children in such paths of righteousness for Christ’s name’s sake.

….

Please look up all the Bible verses given by De Rouchie. I’m sure you’ll want to immediately refrain from masturbating lest God tosses you in Hell for doing so.

ted cruz masturbation

And finally, here’s what Focus on the Family has to say about masturbation:

The point, as we see it, is the larger meaning and purpose of human sexuality. The Bible has two important things to say about this: first, sex is central to the process by which husband and wife become one flesh (Genesis 2:24); and second, sex and marriage are intended to serve as a picture or symbol of the union between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:31, 32). Sex, then, isn’t intended to be “all about me.” Rather, it’s designed to function as part of the give-and-take of an interpersonal relationship.

These theological perspectives should inform and shape our approach to the practical problem of masturbation. It’s important that we avoid heaping guilt on teenagers who find the urge to masturbate almost uncontrollable, and who might be driven to spiritual despair as a result. At the same time, we should do everything we can to help adolescents, young adults and married couples see that self-gratification is inconsistent with the purpose, goal and basic nature of sex. We shouldn’t condemn anyone for masturbating, but neither should we encourage them to continue in the habit. Why not? Because God has created men and women to experience sexual fulfillment on a much higher level – within the context of a marital relationship – and we don’t want anything to jeopardize their chances of knowing that joy to the fullest extent.

In connection with this last thought, it’s important to add that masturbation, due to the powerful hormonal and psychological components of human sexual behavior, can often become extremely addictive. Individuals who fall prey to this addiction may end up carrying it with them into adult married life, where it can become a serious obstacle to healthy marital intimacy. Further, masturbation is frequently involves indulging in sexual fantasy; and fantasy, if we are to believe the words of Jesus (Matthew 5:28), does represent a very serious breach of a person’s mental and spiritual purity.

What can be done to break this pattern? In many cases, masturbation originates as a self-soothing behavior. In other words, it’s a way of coping with pressures and seeking to meet the basic human need for peace, security, comfort and reassurance. If you have a problem with masturbation, you may want to keep this in mind and ask yourself whether it might be possible to replace this negative behavior with a more legitimate method of addressing the underlying need. For example, by talking things over with a friend, reading an engaging book, listening to music, pouring yourself into a constructive project or serving other people. Ultimately, the pain a person is trying to anesthetize through the practice of masturbation is just another manifestation of the “God-shaped vacuum” that exists at the center of every human heart. Only a relationship with the Lord can fill that empty space in a deep, lasting and satisfying way.

….

sin of masturbation

Yet, for all their preaching against the sin of Onanism, virtually all Evangelical teens, young men, and even married men, masturbate. I can’t speak to the level of masturbation among Evangelical women, but I suspect there is a lot more ringing of the devil’s doorbell going on than church leaders think there is.

Being raised in an anti-masturbation church environment caused quite a bit of problem for me as a teen and unmarried adult. Despite all the preaching against touching the opposite sex, when given the opportunity to make out with my girlfriend (or fiancée), I did so lustily. While I was a virgin when my wife and I married, I found myself rounding third and heading for home not only with Polly, but also with a girl named Anita. (The rest of my dating relationships were casual and of short duration.)

I was eighteen years old when I started dating Anita. She was twenty, a college student at a Conservative Baptist college in Phoenix, Arizona. Anita and I, for five short months, had a torrid relationship. She was much more experienced sexually than I was. On more nights than I can remember, we would park along a dark, rarely-travel back road and watch the night sky. Of course, we also did a lot of necking. Our intimacy stirred my sexual passions to such a degree that I would go home after dates and spend time praying to God for forgiveness, thanking him for not allowing us to give into our sexual desires. For me, not giving in included not masturbating. Anita and I later went our separate ways, but I’ll never forget the time we spent together.

Polly and I met as freshmen at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I was nineteen, she was seventeen. I planned on playing the field at college, but meeting Polly changed everything. I was quickly smitten by her beauty and quiet demeanor, and thus began our two-year battle with Midwestern’s Puritanical dating and physical contact rules. We refrained from breaking the rules for a time, that is until I went to visit Polly at her parent’s home in Newark, Ohio over Christmas break (1976). It was there, in Polly’s parent’s apartment complex laundry room, that we had our first kiss. Dating students were expected to keep the rules even during Christmas and summer break. No one, and I mean no one, did so.

Once back at Midwestern, Polly and I were faced with a dilemma. We wanted to continue touching and kissing each other; you know, as dating teens and young adults are wont to do. This meant we would have to secretly break the rules. We sought out couples to double-date with who were not averse to physical contact on dates. The vast majority of dating students — with but a handful of exceptions — broke the rules. Some students even slid into home and had sexual intercourse.

The Midwestern dorm was a den of raging hormones. With masturbation forbidden and touching the opposite sex grounds for expulsion, what were dating students to do? Why, they broke the rules with impunity, causing a repeating cycle of “sin,” guilt, repentance, and promises to God. I don’t know of anyone who successfully stopped breaking the rules once they started. IFB young adults were very much like their counterparts in the world — 1960s-1970s world. We, like our peers, wanted sexual intimacy without fear and guilt.

Masturbation, then, was common among male students in the Midwestern dorm. Each dorm room had two or three students, so “secretly” masturbating was out of the question (and there were enough dysfunctional Pharisees around that doing so would have been reported to the dean of men). With masturbating in their rooms out of the question, many male dorm residents used the privacy of the men’s showers to get sexual relief. More than one IFB luminary suggested quick, cold showers to ward off masturbatory temptations. Each dorm room had a periodic responsibility to clean the dorm bathrooms, including the showers. We used to joke about the sticky, slimy “stuff” in the showers. Yuck, I know, but have you ever been in a male dormitory shower room? You don’t want to go there!

IFB preachers and their Evangelical counterparts continue to preach against the sin of masturbation. Despite all their preaching, masturbation remains widely practiced. Why? Masturbation is a harmless, effective way to find sexual release. Wanting to obey God (and their preachers), Evangelical unmarrieds do their best to refrain from sexual intercourse before marriage. It’s cruel to say no sex before marriage and, at the same time, say masturbating is a sin.

how to stop masturbating

What really should happen, of course, is for Evangelical churches and colleges to begin endorsing safe, responsible sexual intimacy among unmarrieds. With the average age for young people marrying reaching twenty-seven, it is absurd to expect them to refrain from sex for ten to fifteen years before they tie the knot. Bruce, that’s FORN-I-CAT-ION, a horrible sin in the eyes of the thrice holy God.  Whatever “it” is or isn’t, preaching abstinence doesn’t work. Much like non-believing young adults, Evangelical unmarrieds, more often than not, have had sex before marriage. Instead of heaping guilt upon their heads, preachers, how about teaching young adults to embrace their, as you say, “God-given” sexuality? Maybe then, young adults might be less likely to flee the confines of Evangelical Christianity. I know, I know, the Bible says. Perhaps, it is time to rewrite or update the Good Book, striking from its pages all the sexually repressive rules and regulations. Imagine how much more attentive young adults might be on Sundays if they were able to have guilt-free sex the night before. And you too, Preacher Man. Think of how much easier your job will be if you don’t have to spend time railing against normal human sexual behavior — you know the behavior you engaged in back when you were a virile young man.

Were you raised in the IFB or Evangelical church? How did your church/college handle the subject of masturbation? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

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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Just Remember Girls, No One Ever Got Pregnant Who Didn’t Hold Hands with a Boy First

angry preacher

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (I Corinthians 7:1-2)

The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth that unmarried men should not touch women. Touch not, want not, right? If men couldn’t contain their sexual desires, then to avoid fornication, they were to marry. In other words, marriage was a considered a cure for horniness. Countless Evangelicals have been taught that if they cannot contain their sexual desires — remember masturbation is a sin — then they should seek out someone of the opposite sex to marry. Hey Betty, I am horny. Will you marry me? 

Many Evangelical preachers use I Corinthians 7:1-2 as justification for the Puritanical rules they use to regulate physical contact between unmarried teenagers and young adults. I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. I was a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship (BBF), and First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, also an IFB congregation. Public displays of affection were forbidden. This prohibition forced church teens to turn to secretive means to show their “love” to their boyfriend or girlfriend. We learned how to hold hands in church or on the church bus so no one could see us. There was something exciting about flaunting the rules, even more so when we spent time necking in out-of-the-way church hallways or in the shadows of the parking lot. My favorite necking time was Wednesday evenings when the adults were having choir practice. Church teens were left to their own devices, and many of us used the time for fornication-lite. One girl I dated for a short time told me recently that I was the first boy who kissed her — in the back of the church while the adult choir was practicing Bill Gaither’s song, He Touched Me. 🙂

I had many such dalliances, but that is as far as they went. I was a true believer, so I limited my physical intimacy with the opposite sex to hand-holding and kissing. I was one of the few summer-of-love children who didn’t get laid before marriage. Conversations in recent years with people who were in the youth group with me have revealed that there was a lot of fucking and sucking going on, but none involving preacher boy Bruce Gerencser. I assumed, at the time, that everyone was on the straight and narrow as I was. I now know that their spirits were willing, but their flesh was weak. 🙂

In the fall of 1976, I entered Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. A dark-haired beauty by the name of Polly also enrolled for classes. Polly’s goal was to find herself a preacher boy to marry. I thought of college as being a place of plentiful dating opportunities, and I planned to play the field. I dated a girl by the name of Peggy for several weeks and then turned my romantic interest towards Polly. We quickly hit it off, even though we had little in common. She was a quiet, shy preacher’s daughter. I was a motormouth with a bit of a rebellious streak. Polly would tell me later that she thought of me as her “bad boy.” Polly’s parents saw me as a bad boy too; bad as in not good for their innocent daughter. They spent the next eighteen months trying to discourage our relationship, even going so far as to tell Polly that she couldn’t marry me. A short time after this papal edict, Polly informed her parents that we were going to get married with or without their blessing. This was the first time Polly stood up to her parents. If my mother-in-law had to sum up her son-in-law in one sentence, I suspect she would say, Bruce is “different” and he ruined our daughter.

Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution. Established by Dr. Tom Malone in the 1950s, Midwestern had a strict code of student conduct. Single students were required to live in the dormitory, and every aspect of dorm life was strictly regulated. Students could only date on the weekends and had to double-date. Dating couples were not permitted to touch each other — no hand-holding, kissing, snuggling, or other displays of affection. Keep in mind, most of the dorm students were ages 18-30 — the raging hormones years. And it was the 1970s, the freaking 1970s!

i would rather be fornicating

Single students were expected to keep at least six inches distance from the opposite sex — six inches being the width of a church hymnbook. (Please read Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule.) Breaking the six-inch rule brought severe punishment. Repeated infractions resulted in expulsion. While there were a handful of couples who self-righteously obeyed the letter of the law, most students quickly learned who they could double-date with without getting in trouble for holding hands with or kissing their date. More than a few students rounded third and slid into home, with several girls becoming pregnant — or so it was rumored anyway. Students caught fornicating were immediately expelled from school.

Polly and I married after our sophomore year. A year later, we left Midwestern and moved to Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. A few weeks after our move, I became the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist Church — a young, growing IFB church. After spending seven months at Montpelier Baptist, I resigned and we moved to the Central Ohio community of Newark. Polly’s dad was the assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. Her uncle, the late James Dennis, was the pastor. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis.) We joined the Baptist Temple, and when Polly’s father decided to start a new church in nearby Buckeye Lake in 1981, we joined him. I became his pastoral assistant (primarily working with the youth of the church), a position I held until June of 1983.

In July of 1983, I started a new IFB church in Somerset, Ohio — thirty miles south of Newark. I would pastor Somerset Baptist Church until March of 1994. At every stop during my young ministerial career, I was exposed to and worked with men who believed it was a grave sin for unmarried teens and young adults of the opposite sex to touch each other. I carried this belief into my first full-time pastorate. Church teens likely remember Pastor Bruce preaching against all forms of physical/sexual intimacy between unmarried people. I am sure they remember me famously saying — oh how I wish I could forget — “no girl ever got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first!” (Yes, I really did say this, and I did so many times!)

I viewed hand-holding as a sexual gateway drug. I thought that if I could shame teens and young adults into not touching one another (or not touching themselves), then there would be no fornicating going on and no teen pregnancies. I pastored Somerset Baptist for eleven years. During that time, no unmarried church female became pregnant. Does this mean that none of the church unmarrieds was having sex? Of course not. Having talked with a handful of church teens who are now in their 30s and early 40s, I now know that they were lustily ignoring my preaching. I am grateful that there were no unwanted pregnancies that I knew of, though I suspect several girls might have gotten pregnant and secretly had abortions.

Is it any wonder that so many IFB married couples have sexual dysfunction? What in my preaching taught these couples a healthy, scientific, rational view of sex? Nothing that I can think of. Instead, I used guilt and shame in my attempts to get them to conform to an anti-human, irrational view of human sexuality. Thousands of Evangelical preachers continue to preach the Thou Shalt Not Touch gospel to church teenagers. Ironically, these preachers didn’t heed this gospel when they were teens, and they surely have to know that neither will their church teenagers. Hormones, need, and desire win every time. Wouldn’t it be far better to teach unmarrieds how to own their sexuality, preparing them for the day when they engage in sex for the first time? I know, the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says, but Christians have been trying to live by Puritanical beliefs about sex for centuries. How is that working out? Perhaps it is time to shelve the Bible with its archaic sexual prohibitions and embrace a healthy, natural view of sex. Sorry preachers, but everyone IS doing it. You can live in denial all you want, but the fact remains that by age twenty-one, eight out of ten teenagers have had sex, including teens in your congregation. And now that people are waiting until their mid-twenties to marry, I can safely say that most of the singles listening to your antiquated sermons have likely engaged in some form of sexual activity.

Were you raised in an Evangelical/IFB church? How did your pastor handle I Corinthians 7:1-2? What do you remember your pastor saying about necking and premarital sex? Did you feel shame and guilt when your pastor preached about sex? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Socialism Leads to Sexual Perversion

e calvin beisner

Back in 1987, World magazine published an article by veteran journalist Garry John Moes that asked, “Is there a connection between Socialist doctrine and the homosexual rights movement?”

That striking lead disturbed me. While the article presented clear evidence that there is, in fact, such a connection, it didn’t answer a corollary question: Why is there a connection between homosexuality and socialism?

Why, for instance, did Plato endorse both socialism and homosexuality? Why, today, are many homosexuals — and others in the LGBTQIA+ movements — also socialists?

Back then I set out to answer that question in another article in World titled “Denial of Distinction: Socialism’s Roots and Sexual Deviance.” Its lessons are even more relevant today than they were 35 years ago.

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A fundamental biblical doctrine revealed here is that there are real, abiding, basic distinctions in this world. Some religions — Hinduism and Buddhism, animism and spiritism — believe that all is fundamentally one, that there are no distinctions at the root of reality. Not Biblical Christianity. For the Bible, one is not two; evil is not good; light is not darkness; bitter is not sweet.

When God’s vineyard becomes indistinguishable from the wild vines around it, He tears down its hedge or wall. He will not permit a false distinction to remain. That is why God insists that evil and good, light and darkness, sweet and bitter not be confused with each other.

To those who deny such distinctions — who say that the Church can be like the world, who obscure the distinction between good and evil — to them, God says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight!” As if to say, “They may be wise in their own eyes, but not in Mine. I am the Judge before whom they must stand. They may overlook distinctions, but I will not!”

What joins socialism with homosexuality and all forms of sexual perversion? They all run against, consciously or subconsciously, of the biblical doctrine of fundamental distinctions.

Biblical thinking recognizes a distinction between Church and world. The church is God’s private property, “a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9), and it has a hedge or wall of doctrines and ethics built around it to distinguish it from the world. It must not do what the world does, but must perform God’s judgments and statutes, in which it finds life (Leviticus 18:3-5).

Just as the Bible insists that God has property in the Church, so it insists in the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” that people have property that must be distinguished from everyone else’s property. Socialism denies that distinction, claiming that everything belongs to everyone. In so doing, it breaks down a wall of distinction by which God orders reality, and to avoid chaos it reverts to another kind of order: totalitarianism. The Bible also insists that property is a just reward for work, not to be divided equally among all people regardless of their contribution to its production (Luke 19:12–26; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Again, socialism denies this fundamental distinction, insisting on an impossible equality of economic condition.

What of sexuality? The Bible insists that God made man male and female, and that the distinction must be upheld. Neither adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22), nor fornication (Deuteronomy 22:23-29), nor transvestism (Deuteronomy 22:5), nor homosexuality (Leviticus 18:22), nor bestiality (Leviticus 18:23), let alone transgenderism, may be condoned among the people of God. Adultery and fornication, polygamy and polyandry, and polyamorism, deny the distinction between one’s spouse and all other members of the opposite sex. Homosexuality and transgenderism deny the distinction between male and female. Bestiality, with its religious roots in polytheistic evolutionary doctrines of the origin of the world and mankind, denies the distinction between human beings and animals.

Socialism and all forms of sexual perversion have this in common: they attack fundamental distinctions God has built into creation. Where they come into closest ideological contact is in denying the exclusivity of certain relationships. Socialism denies the exclusivity of property as belonging to one person or family and not to others. Sexual perversion denies the exclusivity of sexual relations to marriage between one male and one female.

Distinctions are fundamental to biblical thought: distinctions of order and chaos, light and darkness, good and evil, animal and human, female and male, saved and damned, Church and world, holy and unholy. So are distinctions of work and sloth, individual and community, private and communal property, freedom and slavery, lawfulness and unlawfulness, variety and uniformity.

Each in its own way — socialism and sexual perversion — denies such distinctions. They rebel against the fundamental orders of God’s creation. They must not be countenanced among God’s people — now, any more than 35 years ago.

— E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.,Founder and National Spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, The Christian Post, Denying the binary: Why socialism and sexual perversion go hand in hand, June 24, 2022

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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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1998: Statements Concerning Social Issues

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

Slightly edited for spelling and grammar

What follows is an excerpt from the Constitution of Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio. I started Our Father’s House in 1995. I pastored the church for seven years.

Statements of Morality, Ethics & Doctrine

Homosexuality

We as a church believe homosexuality to be a sinful and wicked behavior. (Romans 1) Such behavior is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and no practicing homosexual will be admitted as a member of the church.

Living Together

We as a church believe that a man and woman living together (as husband and wife) without being legally and morally joined together as husband and wife are living in a state of fornication and/or adultery. (Exodus 20) Such behavior is contrary to Scripture and no couple living in such a manner will be admitted as member (s) of the church.

Abortion

We as a church believe that abortion (that is non-spontaneous or not a medical emergency) is a sin and such action is murder. (Exodus 20) We believe an anti-abortion stance is consistent with the morality and ethics of Scripture and no one may be a member of the church if they promote or advocate abortion.

The Gifts of the Spirit

We as a church affirm a non-cessationist view of spiritual gifts. We believe that God spiritually gifts His people for the evangelization of the lost and for the mutual edification of the body of Christ.

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.

Red Collar Scandal: Catholic Priest Chanel Jeanty Fathers a Love Child

chanel jeanty

The Red Collar Scandal Series relies on public news stories for its content. If you read a story about an Evangelical preacher who can’t keep his pants zipped up, please send it to Bruce Gerencser.

Recently, it became known that Chanel Jeanty, a “celibate” priest at Saint James Catholic Church in North Miami, Florida, fathered a love child.

KMIZ-17 reports:

The Archdiocese of Miami announced the pastor of a South Florida church has learned he fathered a child.

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According to the Archdiocese of Miami, Monsignor Chanel Jeanty, pastor of Saint James Catholic Church, fathered a child from a relationship that ended over a year ago.

The news was made public on Tuesday but the Archdiocese of Miami and the pastor were made aware of the situation in late December.

The Archdiocese of Miami released a statement reading in part, “Monsignor Chanel Jeanty has already sought God’s forgiveness and he is asking for the forgiveness of his parishioners, who will be disappointed when they learn of his lapse.”

Parishioners came to the defense of Monsignor Chanel Jeanty.

One Parishioner said that he has been asking for forgiveness, which was heard throughout the day.

“We are human, we can all make mistakes, and we are willing to forgive Monsignor because he’s always there for everybody and he always tries to do his best,” said parishioner Marie Pierre.

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.

Slut-Shaming Unmarried Pregnant Baptist Women

sexual sin

It is commonly believed by most Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church members that unmarried members are virgins and that they do not masturbate or have lustful thoughts. Listening to preaching multiple times a week, daily reading the Bible, and praying — along with cold showers — are sure antidotes for sexual sin. When the preacher’s daughter someday marries the deacon’s son, everyone will think that both of them are pure as the driven snow, with thoughts of only serving Jesus. This is the myth that is promoted in Baptist sermons, books, blogs, and websites. It has no basis in reality, but people sure do believe it. After all, if getting saved turns sinners into new creations and gives them a desire to love and follow Jesus, why, any thought of hormone-raging Fundamentalist young adults engaging in any sort of “promiscuity” is preposterous. As is often the case, reality paints a far different picture.

In recent years, a plethora of Fundamentalist ministries have begun ministering to those with addiction problems. Based on the number of ministries geared towards helping Christians addicted to porn, one can easily conclude that Evangelicalism has a huge porn problem — easily the size of John Holmes, AKA Johnny Wadd. If Jesus is the cure, the solution, and the answer for what ails the human race, why are there so many Christians committing what Evangelicals consider sexual sins? Why are there so many IFB preachers and church leaders who can’t keep their pants zipped up or have Google search histories that would make Hugh Hefner blush? Why are the biggest hypocrites on Sunday the men standing behind the pulpits of Evangelical and IFB churches?

No matter how many moral scandals rock Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement (please see the Black Collar Crime Series), their pastors, church leaders, Sunday school teachers, evangelists, bloggers, and culture warriors continue to present Christianity as some sort of superior way of living. Never mind studies and anecdotal stories that suggest otherwise, these purveyors of Evangelical “truth” continue to say that Jesus is the only way to keep unmarried young adults from committing fornication. Just say YES to Jesus and NO to physically and emotionally satisfying romps in the hay.

fornication

So what happens when church teenagers and young adults ignore the moral standard or, in a moment of understandable passion, give way to sexual desire and fulfillment? Most of the time, as long as the keepers of the chastity belts do not find out, these fornicators and pleasurers will continue to engage in behaviors that — according to their parents, churches, and pastors — will land them in Hell. As one aged preacher tried to impress on us young preachers: a stiff prick has no conscience. Once aroused, sexual desire usually wins the battle. On those Sundays when pastors rage against immorality, frothing at the mouth and pounding the pulpit as they wage war against normal, healthy sexual behavior, those who have given into their desires will be drowned in seas of guilt, shame, and fear. Sometimes these fornicators will make their way down to the front of the church, and kneeling at an old-fashioned altar, they will promise God that they will never, ever spank the monkey, ring the bell, or engage in any behavior remotely considered sexual. If need be, they will pluck out their eyes. Yet, come Saturday night they will be tempted to break their vow. While some will hold out, most will engage in the very “sins” they confessed the week before. Why? Not because they are in any way morally inferior or weak. Much like drinking and eating, desiring sexual fulfillment is an essential part of what makes us human. It is these preachers of sexual abnormality who are the problem. Instead of teaching sexually aware young adults how to handle their sexuality and how to engage in thoughtful, satisfying sex, these deniers of human nature do everything possible to shame and guilt people into obedience.

Since no one in Evangelical churches is committing fornication and everyone is waiting to have sex until they are married, there is really no need for church young adults to be taught about birth control. As a result, it is not uncommon for church girls to get pregnant or for young adults to come down with sexually-transmitted diseases. How do pastors and churches respond when such things occur? Often, not very well.

I want to conclude this post with several stories that I think will illustrate how some Evangelical churches handle sexual indiscretions.

One of the teenage girls in the first church I worked for, Montpelier Baptist Church, became pregnant. Here is how the pastor, Jay Stuckey, handled it. He told the girl that she must immediately marry the father. She was also told that because she was no longer a virgin, she forfeited her right to a church wedding. Only her family would be permitted to attend the wedding. No announcement would be made to the church about it. And if these prohibitions were not bad enough, the pastor informed the pregnant teen that she would not be permitted to wear a white dress. She had sullied the name of Jesus, and as a result she would be required to wear an off-white dress. Much like wearing a red A, it would be clear to everyone that this girl had violated the holiness of God. Marked forever as one who could not wait, she would carry shame the rest of her adult life. Perhaps, in time, her fellow church members would forget her scandalous behavior, but, for now, she had to bear the weight of her indiscretion. The severity of the punishment was meant to be a deterrent. Church girls, seeing how severely _______ was punished would think twice before letting some boy have his way with them.

One church I know of required exposed fornicators and pregnant unmarrieds to stand before the church and confess their sins. I remember one young woman weeping uncontrollably as she admitted having the sex that led to her pregnancy. Sadly, this kind of slut shaming still goes on today. Described as church discipline, it is really an attempt — through fear, shame, and guilt — to make sure that any other prospective fornicators toe the line. Who wants to stand before the church and have her — it is almost always teen girls and young women — secrets exposed for all to see?

fornication

As many former pregnant out-of-wedlock Evangelical women will attest, some churches subscribe to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind way of handling fornication. Unmarried young women who find themselves in the family way are often shipped off to Christian boarding schools or homes for unwed mothers. Since their pregnancies are viewed as acts of rebellion against God, the Bible, and Evangelical morality, it is hoped that intensive authoritarian indoctrination and control will force slutty Baptist women to see the error of their way and recommit to following the Evangelical moral code. While they can never regain their virginity — unlike salvation, once virginity is lost it can never be regained — these fornicators can have their sexual indiscretions washed in the blood of Jesus. Once washed in his blood, their lives will once again be pure.

While I may have been a card-carrying Evangelical and a subscriber to narrow moral strictures, I never heaped shame, guilt, or fear upon the heads of those who failed to measure up. Part of the reason was that I knew about the moral failings of more than a few Evangelical preachers. I also knew that I was not without sin. I readily admit that my preaching — at times — was quite hypocritical. As many Evangelical preachers do, I sometimes used the pulpit as a way to confess my sins and atone for them. What better way to assuage one’s guilt and shame over a perceived moral failure than to admit before the church — in a generic, nonspecific way — that I understood their moral struggles and failures. More than a few church members were upset by my honesty concerning lust. These faux pillars of moral virtue wanted a preacher who could be inches away from a hot naked woman and not be tempted to touch. They wanted a man who was above the fray, a man so holy and righteous that having a front-row seat for a wet T-shirt contest would not cause arousal or heightened sexual desire. After admitting that I knew what it was like to lust after a woman, the super saints moved on to other churches, oblivious to the fact that their new pastors were no different from me. Now I am in no way suggesting that I cheated on my wife. I didn’t. But I am saying that I always understood what it was to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. One time, my child-molesting Evangelical grandfather publicly objected to a sermon I preached on the sin of mixed bathing (swimming). He told me that he could go down to the beach and look at women wearing bikinis and never have a lustful thought. I looked at him and told him that I did not believe him and that perhaps he needed to be examined by a doctor. I do not believe for a moment that a man — in particular an Evangelical man — could watch a Sports Illustrated swimsuit photoshoot and not have sexual thoughts. Thinking otherwise is a denial of human nature and abnormal. I knew then, as I do now, that it is normal and healthy to have sexual thoughts, and that having these thoughts does not make someone a bad person.

As an Evangelical pastor, I frequently counseled members who had some sort of moral failing. While I certainly held to the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible’s moral teachings, I understood that no one was perfect. People are going to make mistakes — including having sex before marriage and getting pregnant. When one of the unmarried women of the church found herself pregnant, I did not berate or heap shame upon her head (though I am sure my preaching likely had this effect). Once the deed was done, there is no way to undo it. The only question that mattered was now what? Instead of publicly shaming unmarried women — again, men are almost always given a free pass — I did what I could to help them make the most of a bad situation. What possible good could ever come out of publicly humiliating someone because of some sort of moral failure? Surely it is better to help them pick up the pieces and move on with their lives.

Of course, I now understand that the real solution is to distance oneself from religious moralizing and puritanical sexual beliefs. These Bible-thumping liars help no one. Guilt, shame, and fear only lead to more of the same. The solution is to get away from those whose goal in life is to destroy human nature and self-worth. The 1960s birthed a sexual revolution that continues to this day. There is no going back, and the sooner Evangelical churches and pastors understand this the better.

Having lost the battle against heterosexual immorality, Evangelicals are now focused on LGBTQ people and their “sins” against God. Preaching with all their might about those evil queers, Sodomites, perverts, and reprobates, these keepers of moral purity fail to see that they are driving scores of millennials and thoughtful older people away from their churches. To these preachers of puritanical morality I say, keep up the good work.

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.

Three Failed Ways Evangelicals Deal with LGBTQ Church Members

homosexuals must repent
First Conservative Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Gene Youngblood, pastor.

Note: I don’t typically use the word homosexual in my writing due to the fact that the word is used in a pejorative sense among Evangelicals. I use the word in this post because I want to attract Evangelical readers through various search engines.

According to the dictionary, a homosexual is someone who is attracted to a person of the same sex. Homosexuality is the sexual attraction to (or sexual relations with) the same sex. Evangelicals believe that each of us is born a heterosexual male or female. In accordance with this errant understanding of human sexuality, they refuse to accept that anyone is born homosexual. They believe gays choose to be homosexual and engage in same-sex sexual behavior. According to their interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality is a soul-damning sin.

Some Evangelicals think a person can be attracted to the same sex and not commit sin. It is the act of homosexual sex that is a sin. If people who are attracted to others of the same gender abstain from same-sex sexual behavior, it is possible for them to be considered Christian. However, anyone who engages in habitual homosexual sex is not a Christian. Since anal and oral intercourse are usually the way gays engage in sex, shouldn’t these very same practices among Evangelical heterosexuals land them in the same Hell as homosexuals? Further, if homosexual sex is just one of many sexual behaviors that God condemns, why is it that the sins of adultery, fornication, and masturbation among Evangelicals are rarely treated identically to same-sex sexual behavior? Why the obsession with how and with whom LGBTQ people have sex?

According to the Evangelical Christian interpretation of Romans 1, many (most, all) homosexuals have been given over by God to a reprobate mind. Reprobates are people such as myself who have crossed the line of no return when it comes to God’s mercy and grace. Reprobates are beyond redemption and will certainly burn in Hell for all eternity.

To a large degree, Evangelicals are a sect of sexually repressed people. Evangelical church-goers spend their lives being told what they can and can’t do sexually (and the “can’s” and “cant’s” vary from church to church, pastor to pastor). The blazing red line in the sand is this: heterosexual sexual intercourse between a husband and his wife is the only permissible form of sex (preferably in the missionary position and for the purpose of procreation). Attempts to spice up one’s sex life are often met with condemnation and judgment. When Evangelical husbands or wives ask their spouses to engage in sexual behavior that is considered kinky, they expose themselves to accusations of having watched pornography. After all, where would an Evangelical get the notion to engage in kinky sex without having been exposed to it elsewhere?

This is the world Evangelicals live in.

Back in the R-E-A-L world, we know that people are sexual beings. We have a natural desire for sexual intimacy. We also know that there are numerous sexual orientations, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, non-binary, and others. While we readily admit that environmental factors certainly affect our sexual desires, we also know that most of us are born with a certain sexual identity. I am heterosexual because I was born this way, and so it is for the homosexual.

It is a common occurrence these days to hear of an Evangelical who has been outed as a homosexual. Gay Evangelical pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, youth directors, college professors, and para-church leaders, among others, are regularly exposed and either end up repenting of their sin or leaving Evangelicalism. Many Evangelical homosexuals spend their lives in the closet, secretly indulging their nature, all the while living their lives as “normal” heterosexuals. Often they marry someone of the opposite sex, hoping this will “cure” them of their attraction towards the same-sex. They will engage in heterosexual sex, father or birth children, outwardly doing all the things heterosexuals are supposed to do. But inwardly they battle with who and what they really are. Frequently they are depressed, desperately struggling to maintain their Evangelical façade. Some even consider suicide, a sin only slightly less heinous to Evangelicals than homosexuality.

I suppose marrying away the gay works for some, but more often than not, this approach fails miserably. The homosexual feels trapped in a marital relationship that is not open and honest. Sometimes the spouse understands the dilemma and turns a blind eye to liaisons with people of the same sex. Sometimes the sexual hypocrisy reaches such a point that it results in divorce. Imagine the pain and suffering inflicted on heterosexual spouses, knowing that their significant other desires a man or a woman and not them. Envision the pain, agony, and confusion children go through when they discover one parent or the other is not heterosexual. The family and spouse have been indoctrinated with the Evangelical view of homosexuality that says such behavior is abhorrent and vile. Is it any wonder that Mom or Dad coming out of the closet often causes huge rifts? These fissures frequently cause irreparable damage to family relationships.

It is easy to understand, then, why many Evangelical closeted gays remain safely hidden in the darkened back of the closet. Loving their family more than life itself, they willingly hide who and what they really are. While I personally experience physical pain, I can only imagine the emotional and mental suffering endured by those forced to live a lie because the Evangelical God hates homosexuals. And make no mistake about it, he DOES hates LGBTQ people.

Sometimes, Evangelicals who struggle with homosexuality are told they just need to pray. When they are tempted with same-sex sexual desires, they are told to pray away the gay. If they will just pray hard enough, have enough faith, and trust that God will not give them more than they can bear, they will surely be delivered from their same-sex attraction. And if they still have this attraction? It’s is their fault. They didn’t pray hard enough, have enough faith, or really believe that God would deliver them. No matter what, it’s their fault.

Imagine the same scenario for a heterosexual. We know that the majority of Evangelicals engage in premarital sex. Most Evangelical heterosexuals are not virgins when they walk down the aisle at the local Baptist church. Add to this number those who masturbate, and it is clear very few Evangelicals actually keep the Bible’s puritanical, anti-human sexuality code. Imagine two Evangelical young adults, let call them Nathan and Abigail, regularly dating.  Over time, they become more physical with one another. Soon they find themselves rounding third and heading for home. What should they do? Pray? Have faith? Trust that God will provide them a way of escape (remember, masturbation is NOT a way of escape)?

It is likely that Nathan and Abigail will slide right into home. They will feel guilty afterward, promising God they will never, ever do it again. And then, just like a man who has a chocolate shake for the first time at Dairy Queen, who forever after yearns for a chocolate shake every time he passes a DQ, Nathan and Abigail want to have sex every time they engage in sexual intimacy. Once a person experiences sexual intercourse for the first time, there’s no going back.

Do you think fornicators Nathan and Abigail will be treated the same as two homosexuals when their sexual activity is exposed? Of course not.  All of the older adults at the local Baptist church understand youthful temptation and desire. They likely know from firsthand experience the guilt Nathan and Abigail are experiencing. As heterosexuals, they understand how such things happen. However, when it comes to two homosexuals sliding into home, they cannot begin to fathom such a thing. In their eyes, homosexuality is the one sin that is above every other transgression of God’s law.

Sometimes, Evangelical churches and pastors reluctantly admit that some church members are attracted to people of the same sex. They might even grudgingly admit these people were born that way.  But, make no mistake about it, born this way or not, their homosexuality is condemned by the Bible, and such conduct is never permissible. God creates us with sexual desires and then tells us we can’t act on them? Strange way to go about things, don’t you think? Evangelical homosexuals are told that they must live a sexually celibate life. They are never permitted to love someone, to know what it is to find sexual fulfillment in the embrace of their significant other. They must forsake what is essential to human nature and live like a celibate priest, all the while foregoing masturbatory relief (and we all know how well that works).

Evangelical homosexuals rightly consider marry away the gay, pray away the gay, and forced celibacy teachings to be an offensive denial of who and what they are. While many Evangelical homosexuals have strong faith in the Christian God and desire to worship him, they are usually forced to leave the church. The good news is that there are liberal and progressive Christian churches that will gladly accept them as they are.

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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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IFB Pastor James Melton on Safe Sex and Wicked Fornicators

whoremonger van

James Melton is the pastor of Bible Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Sharon, Tennessee. The Christian Nightmares website made me aware of a tract written by Melton titled Safe Sex. Melton, because he can read and understand the King James Version of the Bible, considers himself a “sexpert.” According to Melton, “No one is more qualified to speak on the subject of safe sex than God Himself.”

Really? What does God really know about sex or “safe” sex? Only the second person in the Trinity, Jesus, was human, so only he could have had sex. Did Jesus, an unmarried man, have sex? I am sure that Melton would say, ABSOLUTELY NOT! We do have the curious case of the Holy Spirit, a Ghost, an incorporeal entity, impregnating a virgin by the name of Mary. According to the Bible, this is the only reference to any part of the Godhead having sex. And even here, did not the Holy Spirit commit fornication, having sex with a woman he was not married to? (As one commenter said, the Holy Spirit actually raped Mary, having sex with her without her consent.)

Melton likens having sex to buying a gun:

Picture, if you will, a man who purchases a gun. By law, this man has done nothing wrong in purchasing a gun. He is allowed to have a gun, and he is allowed to shoot the gun as long as he does so in a safe manner. However, he is not allowed to harm anyone with the gun or even threaten to do so. If he does, then he has abused his free privilege, and he will be punished. Rather than use the gun for legal purposes, he chooses to use it illegally, so he must pay for his crime. Even if the judicial system fails to punish him, people with common sense still know that he is a criminal and he deserves to be punished.

Sex works the same way. There is nothing wrong with a person enjoying sexual activity. God made us to desire sexual gratification, and He doesn’t frown upon us when we fulfill this desire His way, according to His word. However, when we ignore God’s laws and practice our own sexual preferences, we become criminals in God’s sight, and punishment will surely follow. Even when the sexperts say, “Use protection and you’ll be okay,” God never said it, and you will not be protected from His wrath. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)

Let’s see, why am I permitted to purchase and own a gun? State and Federal law determine whether I am permitted to buy and own a firearm. If I do not meet the criteria, then it is not legal for me to purchase and own a gun. Now imagine if I went to the gun store and the dealer, as he was explaining to me what the law said about firearm purchase and ownership, he opened up a King James Bible and said, right here in God’s Holy Word it says __________________. Does the Bible have any authority when it comes to purchasing and owning a gun? As Pastor Melton, hypothetically said earlier, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Melton does the equivalent when he interjects the Bible into a discussion about sex. State and Federal law determine who may legally have sex. We rightly protect children from having sex and we punish adults who manipulate teenagers so they will have sex with the former. We have ages of consent and sexual assault and rape laws. At one time, we had laws criminalizing adultery, fornication, and sodomy. While some states still have these laws on their books, thanks to the Courts, such laws are not enforceable. While Melton is free to believe and practice the moral strictures of the Bible, and through strong-arm preaching get others to also do so, the Bible is no authority when it comes to sex. No one can be criminally punished or imprisoned for disobeying what the Bible says about sex.

Melton has harsh words for those who cohabit without being married:

…This is just a sinful grown-up way of “playing house.”   A couple who lives together without marriage is a couple who has become habitual and irresponsible fornicators. She thinks he’s a wonderful man, yet he’s such a coward he can’t even ask her to be his wife. He thinks she’s a fine lady, yet she’s nothing more than a cheap prostitute who allows herself to be used for his sexual gratification in exchange for what seems to be a stable and secure home life. This make-believe game may fool people, but it doesn’t fool God. This is a sin, and it will be punished! God didn’t change His law just because someone started acting like married people. Either you are married or you are not married. If you are not married, yet you have sexual relations, then you are a wicked fornicator…

I am shocked by Melton’s liberal, Bible-denying view. While he calls a sexually active, cohabiting, unmarried woman a cheap prostitute and the couple, wicked fornicators, he doesn’t use the word whoremonger one time. So disappointed.

IFB preachers like Melton are fighting a losing battle when it comes to sex. Far stronger than the Holy Spirit or the outrage of the preacher is the human desire for sexual intimacy. While there are certainly many good reasons for waiting to have sex, the fact is,  most people don’t. Rather than shaming people for indulging their sexual desire, Melton’s church would be better served if he taught them how to responsibly handle their sexuality. Instead of threatening punishment from God for any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, wouldn’t it be better to educate teenagers and young adults about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and when it is “right” to have sex? Instead, Melton preaches the Puritanical IFB gospel of NO!

I get it, it IS in the Bible, but we are thousands of years removed from the writing of the Bible. It is NOT a timeless book of absolute moral instruction. Take, for example, masturbation. Many IFB preachers still preach against masturbation. It’s considered fornication with self. How boring, eh? We now know that masturbation is a good way to release sexual tension. It won’t make you blind nor will it make you sterile. Imagine how relieved the purity-ring-wearing teens in Baptist youth groups would be if they hear their pastors compassionately and honestly tell them that it is normal and healthy to masturbate. No shame, no guilt; just a wonderful THANK YOU JESUS release of sexual tension.

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.

Bruce Gerencser