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Tag: Incest

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeffrey Zizz Charged With Sex Crimes Against His Children

arrested

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

Jeffrey Zizz, former pastor of Calvary Chapel in North Thurston, Washington, stands accused of first-degree incest, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree child molestation, second-degree rape of a child, second-degree child molestation, third degree-rape of a child, two counts of third-degree child molestation and second-degree attempted rape. Zizz’s alleged victims are his children.

The Olympian reports:

Jeffrey Kian Zizz, a military veteran, turned himself in to Lacey Police on Oct. 21 and vaguely confessed to “sexual misconduct” in his home, according to court documents. He pleaded not guilty to nine specific crimes during his arraignment on Tuesday, Nov. 2. The nine counts include: first-degree incest, first-degree rape of a child, first-degree child molestation, second-degree rape of a child, second-degree child molestation, third degree-rape of a child, two counts of third-degree child molestation and second-degree attempted rape.

On Oct. 22, Thurston County Superior Court Judge John Skinner found probable cause for six of the nine crimes Zizz’s was ultimately charged with and set bail at $250,000. A pretrial services screening of Zizz did not find any prior criminal convictions. Zizz became pastor at Calvary Chapel North Thurston in June 2019, according to a church Facebook post. The church holds services at Northwest Christian Academy in Lacey.

Law enforcement were told church pastors and elders “were aware of the allegations and as a result he is no longer a pastor,” according to court documents. In a statement, current Pastor Sam Christensen at Calvary Chapel North Thurston acknowledged Zizz’s was an employee and confirmed he is no longer affiliated with the church. “We were deeply grieved upon hearing of this news and we seek and pray for healing for the family,” Christensen said. “We are available to law authorities if they have questions, but since the issues involved do not appear to involve the church, and since there is an ongoing investigation, we have no further comment to make.” The alleged crimes described in court documents only involve his children and make no mention of other potential victims. A probable cause statement from the perspective of law enforcement described the events leading up to Zizz’s arrest.

Zizz’s attorney contacted a Lacey police officer on Oct. 12. During the meeting, the attorney told the officer that Zizz wished to turn himself in for numerous sexual assaults he committed “over the years” involving his children. The attorney also informed the officer that Zizz admitted to attempting to sexually assault one of his children while intoxicated a week prior, according to the statement. The incident reportedly prompted Zizz to confess to his attorney. In the days after the meeting, the statement says law enforcement interviewed Zizz’s wife and children about the alleged assaults. The children confirmed graphic details during those interviews, per the statement. On Oct. 21, the statement says Zizz turned himself in at the Lacey Police Department and explained there was “sexual misconduct” in his home involving his children. He reportedly said he wanted his children to tell the truth and believed they would, per the statement.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

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.

Is Incest a Sin?

cain and abel wives

Most Evangelicals believe that the earth was created 6,023 years ago, and the first two human beings on the planet were Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. It is assumed that Adam and Eve also had daughters who are not mentioned in the Bible. The reason this is assumed is that Cain and Abel had wives and children. The question then that must be asked is this: where did Cain and Abel‘s wives come from? Since there were no people on earth before Adam and Eve, the only answer is that Cain and Abel‘s wives were their sisters.

The Bible is clear: incest is a sin. If God is a moral being, absolute perfection, explain why he used incest to propagate the human race. Doesn’t this mean that God broke his own moral commandments? If God is against homosexuality, fornication, and adultery — sins which lead to eternal damnation and Hell — as Evangelicals say he is, why would God ever condone or use incest as a means to advance his purpose and plan?

When Evangelicals are asked about why God used incest to propagate the human race, they typically give one of three answers:

  • Mystery — we just don’t know.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, and God‘s thoughts are not our thoughts.
  • God used incest for a time, and once the human race was growing, he banned incest, calling it a grievous sin (only to allow it again after the Flood for a time with Noah’s family).
  • God had not yet given the command against incest (or rape, adultery, fornication, bestiality, etc).

Answering the question, “why is incest wrong?” Christian Fundamentalist “Dr.” David Tee (known in real life as David Thiessen) wrote:

Because God decided to make it wrong at the right time when genetic deformities will arise and ruin his creation. This may seem like a flippant answer but it is not. God was protecting his creation from the ills that come from inbreeding.

To illustrate this sexual harassment was recently made illegal but all those who practiced sexual harassment prior to that event did nothing legally wrong. You cannot judge or condemn people (or God) based upon actions after the fact. In other words, the people who did sexual harassment when it was legal, did not commit illegal or wrongful acts. They are still innocent people even though eventually the act was declared illegal.

Tee states, “this may seem like a flippant answer.” Ya, think? Either incest is immoral, or it’s not. Either God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent or he’s not. Supposedly, God is sovereign. He knows everything from beginning to end. If this is so, wouldn’t have God known that there would be genetic birth defects? Couldn’t God have manipulated human DNA to eliminate this problem? Or better yet, couldn’t he have created numerous families, each with unique DNA? Instead, the moral architect of the universe used behavior he says is sinful to propagate the human race.

When you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, such questions pose all sorts of problems for you. When you believe the Bible should be read literally, and that the history and science found within its pages are true, you are forced to defend incest and all sorts of immoral behavior. When you believe God’s moral law is absolute, incest committed by Cain and Abel proves to be an insurmountable problem.

I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. The incest question bothered me the entire time I spent in the ministry. I could not square incest in the book of Genesis with God‘s commands other places in the Bible. I concluded this was a mystery, and that someday, in Heaven, God would reveal his reasoning for permitting incest for a time. This is a common hermeneutic used by Evangelicals to not answer hard questions.

Are you a former Evangelical? How did you answer the incest question? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

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.

One Man’s Christianity is Another Man’s Cult

christian cult
Cult or Christianity? Who decides? By what standard?

James “Jim” Bellar pastors Dove Outreach Church in Waverly, Ohio, a church considered by many local Christians to be a “cult.” An article in The Athens Messenger, written by Cole Behrens, calls Bellar a “self-proclaimed minister and apostle.” The not-so-subtle implication by Behrens is that Bellar is the wrong kind of Christian, a cultist. Behrens evidently is not aware of the fact that countless Evangelical preachers are “self-proclaimed” ministers. There’s no main Evangelical headquarters, no governing or ruling authority. Anyone can become an Evangelical pastor/apostle/bishop/evangelist/missionary. Anyone can start an Evangelical church. Want to see capitalism and entrepreneurialism at work? Visit an Evangelical church. If giving men and women important-sounding titles is a sure sign a church is a “cult,” then tens of thousands of “Bible-believing,” Jesus-loving, gospel-preaching churches are “cults.”

Apostle Bellar is busy “retranslating” the Bible to a “faithful” rendition of the gospels for English-speaking people. When asked by what (or who’s) authority he was retranslating the Bible, Bellar replied:

God. The Holy Spirit. I don’t have to answer to any man. God. You have to answer to God yourself.

Valerie Trainer, a member of Dove Outreach, said:

He’s doing translations as God gives them to him, to be more perfected by the Lord — praise the Lord — but that’s a good thing. He’s an apostle, yes. Praise the Lord.

Oh my, Bellar is putting his own words into the Bible. Isn’t that exactly what Christians have been doing for 2,000 years? The Bible has always been an evolving book — often radically so — especially when you take into account the individual interpretations of billions of Christian clerics, church leaders, teachers, and run-of-the-mill congregants. If a cultist is someone who puts his own spin on the Bible or changes its words to suit him, why EVERY Christian is a cultist.

Athens Messenger writer Behrens found a cult expert, Stephen Kent, professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, to label Dove Outreach a “cult.” Kent stated the church doesn’t look like a “standard” Christian church. A “standard” church? As opposed to an “automatic” church? (Car joke, for those trying to figure out what I mean.) What, exactly, is a “standard” Christian church? By whose standard are we making this judgment?

Christian sects are, by nature, individualistic. This individualism continues at the congregation level. Sects have official statements of doctrine and practice. Yet, visit any of the churches in said sect, and you will find a diversity of beliefs and practices. There is no such thing as “standard” Christianity. There are endless Christianities. For as many Christians there are, there are Christianities. No two Christians agree on anything.

Kent went on to say:

This group appears to be way off the charts in relation to normative Christianity.

….

One has to be very careful about religious figures who claim unique godly authority because in doing so they place themselves above secular law. When people grant themselves extreme religious authority — then one has to wonder if that person is delusional or narcissistic.”

“Unique Godly authority?” You mean like pastor, deacon, evangelist, missionary, bishop, elder, prophet, priest, or king — all of which are found in the Bible, all of which are found in Christian sects and churches today.

I would think a news reporter and cult expert would know that countless American churches are patriarchal and authoritarian; that Dove Outreach is not special or unique in that regard.

Bellar denies Dove Outreach is a cult:

We are not a cult, I don’t run people’s lives. I preach the truth. And certainly, if I saw anything illegal, it would have been dealt with.

as does Trainer:

As far as I know, it’s a church that believes the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that’s all Jim has preached as long as I’ve gone there. So whatever you’re hearing out there about whatever — it’s not true.

I spent a few minutes today reading Dove Outreach’s official doctrinal statement. Everything in what the church calls The Foundational Principles of the Doctrine of Christ, is believed by American Christians everywhere — with a few quaint oddities concerning baptism. If this is the doctrine of a cult, every Evangelical church in America is a cult.

The church’s website defines “salvation” this way:

Romans 10:8-13
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
KJV

If this statement is cultic, every church I ever attended and pastored was a cult.

Based on my investigation, Dove Outreach promotes Bible literalism. Again, scores of Christians interpret the Bible literally, so such a practice is not unique. Cultic? Nope.

Dove Outreach is a Bellar-owned and operated church. Troubling? Sure, but not unusual. Lots of churches, Evangelical and mainline alike, are controlled by certain families. Sometimes, it’s the pastor’s family that controls a church — often for multiple generations. Other times, it is powerful families within a church that wield control.

Several Dove Outreach church members were recently indicted on sexual and physical abuse charges. According to The Athens Messenger, the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office argued in their indictments “that the font of their alleged behavior may have been “cult”-like beliefs stemming from what was being taught at Dove Outreach Church.

The Daily Mail reports:

An Ohio couple and two of their 19 children, who are adults, have been charged after their daughter who escaped the family came forward with a string of allegations against them.  

Robert Bellar, 54 and his wife Deborah Bellar, 49, face charges in connection with an ongoing sexual abuse investigation concerning their children. Two of their sons Jonathan Levi Bellar, 26, and Josiah Bellar, 24, have also been charged.

That came after one of Robert and Deborah’s daughters told The Athens Messenger she was forced to attend a ‘cult’ church run by her uncle, James Bellar, who would tell them their siblings would have to have children with one another in order to prepare for the apocalypse. 

Serah Bellar said: ‘All the kids would have to go, whether they wanted to or not— even if you were sick, you had to go, it didn’t matter. [sounds like every church I attended or pastored]

‘Anytime he’d say anything, I’d just kind of repeat it in my head, like, how messed up it kind of sounded. He’d always talk about the end of the world and how you’d reproduce with your siblings.’ 

That uncle denied the claims in a statement to Law and Crime, calling it a ‘complete lie’. James Bellar said: ‘I am a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and stand as witness to the Truth. How people react to that is on them.’

….

Serah had been missing since April last year after escaping the alleged abuse; after turning 18-years-old she then posted to Facebook under a fake name detailing all of her allegations. 

They center on incidents said to have occurred between 2008 and 2016. Child services are said to have received reports but no formal action was taken. 

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said: ‘There was an absolute systematic failure in handling these accusations. 

‘Serah was turned away by authorities every time she tried to report this abuse.’

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Liz Pepper accused her mother Deborah of ‘refusal to accept the fact that there was sexual abuse going on in the home and the conspiracy she then entered into to conceal that’.

She said she ‘has concealed witnesses…tampered with evidence and…continues a conspiracy to hide sexual abuse that has occurred in her home’.

Robert and Deborah are believed to have 18 biological children and one adopted child. 

They have each been charged with one count of engaging in corrupt activity, and two counts of endangering children, according to Athens County Prosecutor. 

The couple have each pleaded not guilty and were given $1 million bonds.  

Jonathan Levi Bellar is charged with gross sexual imposition. He is being held at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Josiah Bellar is charged with three counts of rape and two counts of gross sexual imposition. He is yet to be arraigned. 

Again, the “C” word. Readers of this blog would agree with me when I say that beliefs have consequences. Anytime appeals are made to a divine religious text such as the Bible for justification, it’s possible to have bad or harmful outcomes. Apostle Bellar is accused of promoting incest, a charge he denies. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he was. Just read the Bible. Take it literally, and you can easily conclude that God, in some circumstances, approves (demands) incestuous sexual behavior. Evidently, The Athens Messenger reporter has not pondered where Cain and Abel got their wives? Hint . . . they married their sisters. They had children with their sisters. And on and on the incestuous behavior went. If you buy into the Evangelical Adam and Eve story, all of us are products of incest. And then there’s Jesus — the product of the Holy Spirit having forced sex with a teen virgin named Mary. If incest and perverse sexual relations are signs of cultism . . . well, you know where I am going with this.

One man’s Christianity is another man’s cult. Who decides which is which? What is allegedly going on sexually at Dove Outreach is abhorrent. However, as the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, such behavior does not make a sect/church a cult or a pastor a cultist. Bad people, do bad things, and use the Bible to justify their behavior.

I typically do not use the word “cult” in my writing. Sometimes, as I do with Bethel Church in Redding or the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I use the word for effect. In the strictest sense, all Christian sects and churches are cults. Whether a church is a cult, or pastor is considered cultic depends on perspective or deviance from a perceived norm. Thus, for the people at The Athens Messenger, the aforementioned cult expert, and the County Prosecutor, Dove Outreach is a cult, but First Baptist Church on the corner of High Street and Main is not.

One website explains the difference between a cult and a religion this way:

*Sigh* Really? I mean, really? Isn’t that Jesus, Abraham, Allah, Moses, Paul, or Buddha standing before worshipful devotees? The Abrahamic religions are, by definition, cults, founded by charismatic men. Apostle Bellar is just one more cult leader in a 2,000+ year line of cultists. To suggest Bellar or his church are unique in any way reveals a shallow, lazy understanding of Christian church history, doctrine, and practice.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

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.

Ken Ham Approves of Brothers Having Sex With Sisters

ken ham incest chart

Ken Ham, the CEO of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and Ark Encounter, believes that at the beginning of the world 6,024 years ago, incest was approved by God.

Ham writes:

…Perhaps no woman mentioned in Scripture has caused more confusion among Christians. Despite the fact that we have regularly addressed this issue in numerous books, articles, and presentations, the issue of Cain’s wife is still one of the most common questions we receive. Who was she, and why have so many believers struggled to give a biblical answer to this inquiry?

The simple answer is that Cain married his sister or another close relation, like a niece. This answer may sound revolting for those of us who grew up in societies that have attached a stigma to such an idea, but if we start from Scripture, the answer is clear.

1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Adam was the first man. Genesis 3:20 states that Eve was the mother of all the living.(NASB), and Genesis 5:4 reveals that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters (besides Cain, Abel, and Seth).

There were no other people on earth as some have claimed. God did not create other people groups from which Cain chose a wife, as we are all made of one blood (Acts 17:26). If He had made others, these people would not have been able to be saved from their sins, since only descendants of Adam can be saved—that’s why it was so important for Jesus to be Adam’s descendant.

Doesn’t the Bible forbid marriage between close relations? It does, but the laws against marrying family members were initially given as part of the Mosaic covenant, approximately 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. Due in part to genetic mistakes [God made a mistake?], these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.

But that’s incest! In today’s world, this would be incest. But originally there would have been no problem with it. Looking back through history, the closer we get to Adam and Eve, the fewer genetic mistakes people would have, so it would have been safer for close relatives to marry and have children.

Christians who have a problem with this answer need to remember that Noah’s grandchildren must have married brothers, sisters, or first cousins—there were no other people (1 Peter 3:20, Genesis 7:7). Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:2). Isaac married Rebekah, the daughter of his cousin Bethuel (Genesis 24:15), and Jacob married his cousins Leah and Rachel. Clearly, the Bible does not forbid the marriage of close relatives until the time of Moses…

Ham’s argument is necessary if one reads the Bible literally. In Ham’s world, the earth is 6,024 years old, and evolution is Satan’s lie. However, in the aforementioned post, Ham reveals that he is not really as much of a literalist as he claims to be.

Ham says Cain married his sister or niece. Where does the Bible say this? Where does the Bible say Cain married anyone? Perhaps people didn’t get married in Cain’s day. Perhaps Cain actually had sexual relations with his mother. Why doesn’t Ham mention this as a possibility? Ham repeats the same story when trying to explain where the children of Noah’s grandchildren came from.

According to Ham, a law against incest was not necessary until 2,500 years after God created Adam and Eve. The reason? “Genetic mistakes, these laws were necessary to help protect offspring from mutations shared by both parents.” Again, where does the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible say this? Shouldn’t Ham follow the mantra: where the Bible speaks we speak, and where the Bible is silent we are silent?

How is a particular human behavior not sinful for 2,500 years, and then, all of a sudden, it becomes sinful? How can an immoral act ever be moral? Does this mean God changed his mind? Does this mean God permitted immorality so he could accomplish a greater good? I thought Jesus (God) was the same yesterday, today, and forever? Doesn’t Ham’s explanation lay waste to this “Biblical truth?”

Sooooo many questions . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

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.

Lot, the “Righteous” Man

lot fleeing sodom

And [God] delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them [Sodom and Gomorrah], in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2 Peter 2:7,8)

The story of Lot begins with him traveling with his uncle, Abram, to the land of Canaan. Both Lot and Abram had sizable herds of livestock, and this led to conflict between the two. The contention reached a level that Abram said to his nephew:

. . . Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left. (Genesis 13:8,9)

Lot, whom the Bible calls a “righteous” man:

. . . lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar. Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. (Genesis 13:10,11)

We see right away that Lot had a covetous eye. When given a choice, Lot chose the well-watered plains near Sodom and Gomorrah. Abram and Lot lived in a patriarchal culture, one where the elder Abram should have taken the best land. Instead, for whatever reason, Abram deferred to Lot, and his nephew took advantage of him.

Lot likely knew about Sodom and Gomorrah’s reputation, yet he chose to “pitch his tent toward Sodom.” Why is that? Lot was married and had several married and unmarried daughters. Why would be willingly move his family to Sodom? Perhaps covetousness caused him to turn a blind eye to what was best for family. Yet, the Bible calls Lot a “righteous” man.

In Genesis 19, we have a story that reveals a good bit about “righteous” Lot:

And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground; And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night. And he pressed upon them greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat. But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. And they said, Stand back. And they said again, This one fellow came in to sojourn, and he will needs be a judge: now will we deal worse with thee, than with them. And they pressed sore upon the man, even Lot, and came near to break the door. But the men put forth their hand, and pulled Lot into the house to them, and shut to the door.

By the time two angels arrive in Sodom to see Lot, he had become quite comfortable with his status and place in Sodom. As the angels arrived at the city gate, Lot arose from his seat and welcomed them. Knowing the sexual proclivities of the men of Sodom, Lot encouraged the angels to come to his home and spend the night with him. At first, the angels said they would spend the night on the streets. Lot, knowing what would happen to them if they did, pleaded with the angels to take him up on his offer. Finally, they relented.

Later that night, the younger and older men of the city surrounded Lot’s home and demanded that he give the angels to them so they could have sex with them. Lot said to the crowd, “I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly.” Okay, good so far, right? Just what you would expect a Jesus-loving “righteous” man to do. However, Lot didn’t stop there. Here’s what he said next:

Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:8)

Instead of standing his ground against the boys and men at his door, “righteous” Lot attempted to appease them by offering his two virgin daughters to the men. Lot said, “do ye to them as is good in your eyes.” What kind of man and father was Lot? What kind of man offers up his young daughters for sexual gratification? How can Lot be considered a “righteous” man? The men at Lot’s door refused his offer and demanded that he turn over the angels to them. Instead, the angels smote the men with blindness.

In Genesis 19, the Bible tells us that the pro-life God finally had enough with Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain, and decided to destroy them — men, women, children, animals, and unborn fetuses. The angels told Lot that it was time for him to gather up his family and leave the city. Lot’s married children refused to leave. The angels grabbed ahold of Lot, his wife, and his two virgin daughters and led them outside of the city. The Lord said to Lot: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” (Genesis 19:17)

Righteous Lot didn’t want to leave, so he made a deal with God:

Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. (Genesis 19: 8-20)

Lot and his family fled Sodom and headed for Zoar. God promised that they would be safe in Zoar. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife wasn’t paying attention when the Lord told them not to look behind them as they left. Lot’s wife turned her head to longingly look back at her home, and God smote her dead by turning her into a pillar of salt. In the New Testament, the writer of the gospel of Luke tells readers in 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife.” Why did the author want readers to remember Lot’s wife? Based on the context found in chapter 17, Lot’s wife was an example of someone who sought to save her life; a person who put self above God.

After “righteous” Lot and his daughters arrived in Zoar, God rained fire and brimstone down on Sodom, Gomorrah, and other cities, killing every living thing. Zoar, “righteous” Lot’s safe haven, was spared punishment, but it was not long before Lot feared for his life and left the city. “Righteous” Lot moved to a mountain cave with his two daughters. One night, righteous Lot’s daughters decided that they wanted to have babies, so they got their father drunk and had sex with him. Both of them were ovulating, and both got pregnant the first time they had incestuous sex with “righteous” Lot. (Genesis 19:31-38)

I ask you, dear readers, what in this story says to you that Lot was a “righteous” man? What I see is a covetous man who valued property and place over family; a man who put his family in harm’s way; a man who violated his daughters, impregnating both of them. Does anyone really believe that Lot was so drunk that he didn’t know he was fucking his daughters? If Lot truly was that drunk, it is unlikely he could even have sex. I suspect the author of Genesis wanted to protect “righteous” Lot’s reputation, so, as men have been doing from time immemorial, he put the blame on the women.

A righteous man is moral and just, yet it is evident from the Bible that Lot was anything but. Why, then, does the Apostle Peter call Lot a “righteous” man? Evangelicals explain away Lot’s profane life by saying that Lot was “righteous” because of the righteousness of Jesus, and not anything good that he had done. This same argument is used to defend adulterous, murderous King David, whom the Bible calls a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22)

If religious faith does not result in moral and ethical transformation, what good is it? James seemed to understand this when he said that “faith without works is dead.” What were the works James was talking about? In James 2, the Apostle spoke of doing right by the poor and disadvantaged; that doing so was a sign of true faith. Consider these words:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

Compare these words to the behavior of Trump-loving Evangelicals. Are these lovers of Jesus righteous? Not according to the Bible. In Matthew 25, Jesus purportedly told people what were the marks of being a True Christian®:

  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving drink to the thirsty
  • Taking in strangers (immigrants?)
  • Clothing the naked
  • Visiting people in prison

Notice that Jesus said nothing about beliefs. True Christianity® is measured by good works, not doctrinal fidelity.

Based on this standard, how many Americans are truly Christians? From my seat in the atheist pew, what I see is a form of Christianity that focuses on right beliefs; that Lot and David are considered “righteous,” not because of their behavior, but because of what they believed. All that matters is having beliefs deemed orthodox. Is this the kind of Christianity Jesus envisioned?

Did you ever hear sermons about Lot? How did your pastors explain the Bible calling Lot a “righteous” man? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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Bruce Gerencser