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Tag: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

IFB Pastor James Melton on Safe Sex and Wicked Fornicators

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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.

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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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce, Were You Transphobic as an Evangelical Pastor?

transgender sin

Transphobic: having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

The short answer to this question is yes. I am sixty-four years old. My upbringing, political identification, and my Fundamentalist religious beliefs all led to me adopting transphobic, homophobic, and racist ideas. To some degree, I was a product of my time. But I refuse to dismiss my past beliefs with a wave of the hand, saying, hey, it was the 60s and 70s. I can point to my parents and how they raised me, religious indoctrination, and social conditioning as mitigating factors, but I still must own the fact that I was not a good person when it came to what I believed about LGBTQ people. What I am today bears little resemblance to what I was as an Evangelical pastor. If there is anything redemptive in my story it is this: true moral and ethical change is possible. Yes, change is hard, and all of us are resistant to making fundamental changes in our beliefs and practices. But just because change is hard doesn’t mean it is impossible.

I spent much of my life as someone who was:

  • Born again Fundamentalist Christian
  • Bible Literalist
  • Patriarchal
  • Republican
  • Christian Nationalist
  • Pro-Life
  • Homophobic
  • Transphobic
  • Racist
  • Pro-War
  • Detroit Tigers fan
  • Green Bay Packers fan

Today, I am:

  • An Agnostic Atheist
  • Egalitarian
  • Democratic Socialist
  • Pacifist
  • Pro-Choice
  • Pro-LGBTQ
  • Cincinnati Reds fan
  • Cincinnati Bengals fan

Family, friends, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members who knew me in the 70s, 80s, and 90s are often shocked by what I have become. How is it possible that Pastor Bruce Gerencser, a defender of True Christianity®, Bible Truth, Christian Nationalism, and the Culture War, is now a Bible-denying Atheist, an Anti-War, Liberal, Commie, Socialist? How can these things be?

My beliefs began to change in the 1990s, first when I stood against the first Iraq War, and later when I publicly rebuked notable Evangelical culture warriors (those who followed in the steps of Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority) for abandoning the gospel for the sake of raw political power. In 2000, I left the Republican Party, voting for my first Democratic candidate for president. It would be eight more years before I left Christianity and embraced atheism.

Clearing my mind of transphobia was a long, slow process. Earlier this year, I wrote a post titled Meeting My First Gay Person. Here’s an excerpt from this post:

As a card-carrying-member of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I often preached sermons condemning homosexuality. According to my infallible interpretation, the Bible condemned homosexual sex. Being the faithful Bible preacher that I was, I thought it important to preach against man-with-man, woman-with-woman sex. Never mind the fact that I did not personally know anyone who was gay. Well, I had my suspicions about several people — Polly’s late uncle comes to mind — but as far as actually knowing someone who was gay? Not one. I would learn years later that several of the students in our Christian school were gay or bisexual. Consider this statistic. I was a raging homophobe who railed against homosexuality and sexual “sin” in general. Yet, one-third of the students in our school were either gay or bisexual. Add to that the students who likely engaged in premarital sex, and I think I can safely say my preaching did little to change hearts and minds on sexual identity and activity.

In March of 1994, I left a church I had pastored for almost twelve years and moved to San Antonio, Texas to co-pastor Community Baptist Church. This move proved to be a disaster, and in the fall that same year, we packed up our belongings and moved to Frazeysburg, Ohio. With the help of Polly’s parents, we bought a newish manufactured home — a $25,000 upgrade from our previous mobile home.

We lived in Frazeysburg for six months. Needing immediate employment, I turned to restaurant management. I was hired by Charley’s Steakery (now called Charleys Philly Steaks) to be the general manager of their franchise at the Colony Square Mall in Zanesville. I continued to work for this restaurant until March 1995, when I assumed the pastorate of Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette.

The restaurant I managed had a drink refill policy for mall employees. If employees stopped at the restaurant with their cups, we refilled them free of charge. Some employees would stop every day they worked to get their large plastic cups refilled. One such employee was a man who worked at a nearby store.

This man was in his twenties. The first time I personally refilled his cup for him, my infallible, never-wrong (I am joking) gaydar went off. I thought, “OMG, this guy is gay. What if he has AIDS?” Quite frankly, I am surprised he didn’t see the disgust on my face. Maybe he did, but ignored it. I dutifully put ice in his cup, filled it with pop, and handed it back to him. After he walked away from the service counter, I would quickly run to the kitchen and thoroughly wash my hands, fearing that I might catch AIDS.

Over time, this man and I struck up casual conversations. He was quite friendly, and truth be told, I liked talking to him. As I got to know him better, I found that I no longer was disgusted or worried about getting AIDS. I even stopped washing my hands after serving him. What changed?

My theology didn’t change. And neither did my irrational fear of gay people. Coming to where I am today, a supporter of LGBTQ rights with numerous gay and transgender friends, took years. What needed washing was my proverbial heart, not my hands.

I spent much of my life in a political, theological, and social bubble. Sure, I was a kind, thoughtful, loving man, but make no mistake about it, if asked what I believed about LGBTQ (for a time I refused to use the word gay) people, I would turn into a smiling, hateful bigot.

It was not until I began leaving the Evangelical bubble that I was able to see a world outside of my own. The Internet opened up a whole new universe to me, forcing me to confront and deal with my deep-seated prejudices. And then came this blog (in all its iterations), a wide-open door to a wild, wooly world. I now have LGBTQ friends, but more importantly, meeting people different from me has forced me to come to terms with how I viewed them. Again, actually meeting, knowing, and befriending transgender people changed how I viewed them. I can’t emphasize this enough. Exposure to people different from us is the first step in rooting out hatred and bigotry from our lives.

I am not one who says that I am free of all past prejudices. I am not. A lifetime of indoctrination and conditioning is not easily overcome. All I know to do is try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

High Intensity Church

ifb

Dan Beecher, an ex-Mormon and atheist podcaster, described Mormonism as “high intensity church” — religious practice that takes up an inordinate amount of your time and money. This is a good description of my experience attending and pastoring Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. High intensity, indeed.

IFB pastors expect congregants to be all-in. Anything less and you will be labeled as a backslider, carnal, or “worldly.” Church members are expected to attend church every time the doors are open:

  • Sunday School
  • Sunday morning service
  • Sunday evening service
  • Midweek service

True Christians® are expected to:

  • Read and study the Bible every day
  • Pray multiple times a day
  • Daily witness to non-Christians

Further, congregants are expected to

  • Give 10% of their income to the church
  • Give money above the tithe to the bulding fund, missions, revival offerings, etc.

According to IFB preachers, every church member should find a ministry in which to serve. Some ministries require hours of personal time each week. Put all these things together, and what you have is a good example of “high intensity church.” Throw in listening to sermons on cassette tapes or digital media, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, and buying Jesus junk at Hobby Lobby, and it’s hard not to conclude that many IFB pastors and church members spend virtually every waking hour serving “Jesus.” Even when taking time out for rest, relaxation, or entertainment, Jesus is lurking in the shadows.

Live long enough in such a religious environment and one can lose all sense of self and proportion. Promised mansions in Heaven after they die, IFB Christians sacrifice the present in hope of some sort of divine payoff later. That’s why many former IFB church members think they “wasted” much of their lives “serving” God/Jesus/Church. What do they have to show for giving their time, talent, and money to their churches? Wasted years that can never be regained.

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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

How I Missed Hale-Bopp

guest post

A Guest Post by Ian

I recently discovered a podcast called Here Be Monsters. I was trying to find a funny story I had heard a couple of years ago on public radio. The story involved someone dressing up as a Sasquatch and a dog called Motley Crüe Jon Bon Jovi. It’s an entertaining story that you can find here.


I really enjoyed re-hearing the story and thought there might be some other stories I’d enjoy, so I started listening to random episodes. I enjoyed some, while others didn’t really catch my interest. But the presentations were excellent and I loved the audio quality. The sounds are very crisp and the music is relaxing.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, and I’m listening to an episode about Marshall Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate cult.

In the story, they talk about the Hale-Bopp comet. For those who don’t remember, or who weren’t born then, Hale-Bopp was a new comet that was bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, and it was visible for 18 months. This was during 1996-1997. The Heaven’s Gate cult thought a spacecraft was following the comet and most of them committed suicide, thinking that was the way to leave their bodies behind and join the spacecraft.

Eighteen months is a long time to be able to see a comet, but I never saw it, because I didn’t know about it. The only time it came into my small world view was when the members of Heaven’s Gate committed suicide. You see, at that time, my family didn’t have a TV, get the newspaper or listen to the news on the radio. The only time I heard news was when something big happened. Usually, the pastor would mention something he heard about on the news, or another member of the congregation, who had a TV, would say something, and then it was always filtered through the lens of Calvinistic philosophy. The big news stories were always talked about with the smug assurance that God had ordained everything that happens and that sinners were always getting their just rewards. I look back and find that disgusting. There was no compassion and no understanding, just black and white judgment. Heaven’s Gate was mentioned because they were “lunatics” who were preordained to this fate and further proof that we were the only ones with the true gospel. What I have come to realize over the years is that I missed out on so much news, which becomes information, from my mid-teens through my mid-30’s. Admittedly, a lot of the news was bad, but it was news. All of it was information that I could have learned from. I might have made better choices in my life, if I had more knowledge of the world around me. I watch Netflix documentaries now, and I can’t believe all that passed me by. Granted, I have lived my whole life in Alaska, so many national news stories didn’t always make big headlines here, but the stories were there. I just had no clue. Sometimes, when I discover a missed story, I feel like an explorer finding a new ocean or mountain. I’ll be amazed that this huge thing was here, and I just now found it.


And, the little bit of news I did follow was always looked at through a very critical lens. All news had to fit into my church’s narrow view of the world. Waco, Ruby Ridge, Elian Gonzalez, these were huge things talked about in my church, but the focus was always on the wrong thing. We feared the government because we thought they were going to put us all into concentration camps due to our beliefs. Maybe too many of us had watched the A Thief in the Night series, because we were all describing the kinds of scenarios shown in the films. The bigger picture was that ego and bad decisions ruled the day in these tragedies. The government didn’t care what we believed; the church I attended then still exists, although it has moved locations and is much smaller. In the early and mid-90’s though, we were sure Janet Reno had her personal eye on each of us.

By downplaying the news and filtering what we did know, the church was able to keep us uneducated. If I’m uneducated, how can I know to question anything? I felt stupid, because I would get to work, and people would be talking about things that I had no clue about. (For the younger generation, the Internet was in its infancy in this time. I couldn’t just Google it.) And, by constantly bashing the government and “taking a stand,” how many churches brought unnecessary federal, state, and local attention to themselves? If you complain the government hates you long enough, you’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So many IFB/Calvinistic/Southern Baptist-type churches get by right now by just being quiet. The federal government knows they don’t follow all the rules, they know tax evasion is going on, they know church board members use offerings as their own personal incomes, etc. The government just doesn’t care. It has too many other things to worry about, until they become something to worry about. Meanwhile, church members are being fed the story the pastor wants them to hear and never question anything.

Because of the church, I had warped views of events that happened, and it has taken years of looking into things for myself to figure out what the real tragedy in the stories was. Because of the church, I missed an 18-month chance to see a historic comet. a comet that will be forever linked, in my mind, to tragedy and not to how cool it would have been to see with my naked eye. Because I missed so much, I made sure I talked about current events with my kids, even when I was still a believer. I don’t want them to turn 40 and find out about a major event that they missed while watching Netflix.

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 contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser