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Tag: Independent Fundamentalist Baptist

Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps

camps

To properly understand the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, you must first understand the IFB concept of camps. In the IFB, a camp is the tribe to which you belong. It is a membership group that is defined by such things as what Bible version is considered the “true” Word of God, what college the pastor attended, approval or disapproval of Calvinism, open or closed communion, or ecclesiastical, personal, and secondary separation. Many IFB camps will have multiple “positions” that define their group, and admission to the group is dependent on fidelity to these positions. Many pastors and churches belong to more than one camp.

IFB churches, colleges, parachurch organizations, evangelists, missionaries, and pastors are quick to state that they are totally independent of any authority or control but God. Much like the Churches of Christ, the IFB church movement is anti-denomination and any suggestion that they are a denomination brings outrage and denunciation.

The IFB church movement found its footing as a reaction to the perceived liberalism in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the American Baptist Convention. In the 1970s and early 1980s, I heard IFB luminaries such as Jack Hyles go on preaching tirades against the Southern Baptist Convention. Hyles would run down a list of the top 100 churches in America, attendance-wise, and proudly remind people that the list contained only a handful of Southern Baptist churches. Hyles made it clear that the attendance numbers were proof that God was blessing the IFB church movement. Hyles, along with other noted IFB preachers, encouraged young pastors to either infiltrate Southern Baptist churches and pull them out of the Convention or start new independent churches.

It should come as no surprise, then, that many local Southern Baptist churches, under the direction of their area missionaries, would not accept resumes from men trained in IFB colleges when there was a pulpit vacancy. They rightly feared that if they hired an IFB-trained man, he might try to pull their churches out of the Convention. This was not paranoid thinking. Almost every IFB pastor who came of age in the 1960s-1980s heard sermons or classes on how to infiltrate a denominational church and change it or take it over. Pastors were schooled in things such as diluting the power base. They were told that one of the first things they should do as a new pastor is determine who the power brokers were. Could they be brought over to the pastor’s way of thinking? If so, he should befriend them. If not, he should work to marginalize their power by adding pastor-friendly men to church boards and by flooding the church membership with new converts. The goal was to further cripple denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention and to establish IFB churches in every community in the United States.

For decades, this plan worked and countless churches abandoned their denominational affiliations and became IFB churches. Added to this number were thousands of new IFB churches that were planted all over the United States. The IFB church movement, as a collective whole, was a religious force to be reckoned with. Their rape-and-pillage policy left carnage and destruction in its wake, not unlike the Charismatic movement during the same time period.

Despite taking over countless churches, starting new churches, establishing colleges, and sending missionaries across the globe, the IFB church movement could not maintain its meteoric growth. Over time, internal squabbles, scandal, doctrinal extremism, worship of personalities, charges of cultism, and a changing culture eroded what had been built.

IFB pastors were quite proud of the fact that many of the largest churches in America were King James-loving, old-fashioned, fire-and-brimstone preaching IFB churches. Today, there is only one IFB church on the Top 100 list — First Baptist Church of Hammond.

Outside of Jerry Falwell’s church, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia — now a Southern Baptist congregation — none of the IFB churches on the Top 100 list in 1972 have as many people attending their churches today as they did in 1972. Some, such as Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pontiac, Michigan — the church I attended while in college — and the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, have closed their doors. Others, such as the Canton Baptist Temple, Akron Baptist Temple, Landmark Baptist Temple in Cincinnati, Ohio, Highland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida are mere shadows of what they once were.

In 2008, only one IFB church was on the Top 100 Churches list:  First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. They were listed as the 19th largest church in the United States, with a weekly attendance of 13,678.  This attendance number is less than their average attendance number in 1976.  Outreach Magazine lists NO IFB churches on their 2017 Top 100 Churches list. This does not necessarily mean that there are no IFB churches that are large enough to make the list. I suspect many of the larger IFB churches have stopped bragging about their attendance numbers or they don’t want to be grouped together with churches they consider “liberal.” 

Most of the IFB colleges that saw meteoric growth during the 1960s-1980s, now face static or declining enrollment numbers. Some have even closed their doors. Publications such as the Sword of the Lord, the IFB newspaper started by John R Rice, have lost thousands of subscribers. Everywhere one looks, the signs of decay and death are readily evident. A movement that once proudly crowed of its numerical significance has, in three generations, become little more than an insignificant footnote in U.S. religious history. While millions of people still attend IFB or IFB-like churches, their numbers continue to decline and there is nothing that suggests this decline will stop.

Many current IFB leaders live in denial about the true state of the IFB church movement. They now convince themselves that the numeric decline is due to their unflinching, uncompromising beliefs and preaching. Upton Sinclair wrote:

It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

I think this aptly describes what is going on among the leaders of the IFB church movement. Their continued power, control, and economic gain depend on them maintaining the illusion that the IFB church movement is healthy and still blessed by God. However, the facts on the ground clearly show that the IFB church movement is on life support and there is little chance that it will survive. Those who survive will liberalize, change their name, and try to forget their IFB past.

Every IFB church, pastor, and college has what I call a camp identity. While they claim to be Big I Independent, their identity is closely connected to the people, groups, and institutions they associate with.

Some IFB churches and pastors group around colleges such as Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, Cedarville University, Baptist Bible College, The Crown College, Maranatha Baptist University, Texas Independent Baptist Seminary, West Coast Baptist College, Massillon Baptist College, or Hyles Anderson College. Others group around specific doctrinal beliefs, as do Sovereign Grace Baptists, Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America, or the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelical Churches. Some, such as Missionary Baptists and Landmark Baptists group around certain ecclesiastical beliefs.  Still others group around missionary endeavors. There are also countless churches that are IFB churches — churches such as John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church — but refuse to claim the IFB moniker. The Bible church movement, IFB in every way but the name, has fellowship groups such as The Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

Some of these groups will likely object to being considered the same as other IFB groups. Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptists will most certainly resent being talked about in the same discussion as the Sword of the Lord and Jack Hyles. But many Reformed and Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors come from an IFB church background. While certain aspects of their theology might have changed, much of the IFB methodology and thinking remains. Some of the most arrogant, mean-spirited pastors I ever met were Sovereign Grace or Reformed Baptist pastors. They may have been five-point Calvinists, but they were in every other way Independent Fundamentalist Baptists.

Most people don’t know that groups such as the Southern Baptist Convention and the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches are really fellowship groups of like-minded pastors and churches. While they have many of the hallmarks of a denomination, their churches and pastors remain, for the most part, independent, under no authority but the local church (and God).

IFB churches and pastors trumpet their independent nature and, as their history has clearly shown, this independence has resulted in horrible abuse and scandal. But, despite their claim of independence, IFB churches and pastors are quite denominational and territorial. They tend to group together in their various camps, only supporting churches, colleges, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries, that are in their respective camps.

In 1983, I started the Somerset Baptist Church in Mount Perry, Ohio. I contacted Gene Milioni, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church — the church where I was saved and called to preach — and asked him about the church supporting us financially. Milioni asked me if I was going to become a part of the Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship. He wanted to know if the church was going to be a BBF church. I told him no, and he told me that I could expect no support from Trinity unless I was willing to be a BBF pastor. I ran into similar problems with other pastors who demanded I be part of their camp in order to receive help.

Only one church financially supported me: First Baptist Church in Dresden, Ohio.  First Baptist, pastored by Midwestern Baptist College grad Mark Kruchkow, sent me $50 a month for a year or so. Every other dime of startup money came from my own pocket or the pockets of family members. I learned right away what it meant to be a true Independent Fundamentalist Baptist.

Over the years, I floated in and out of various IFB camps. I attended Ohio Baptist Bible Fellowship meetings, Midwestern Baptist College meetings, Massillon Baptist College meetings, Sword of the Lord conferences, Bill Rice Ranch rallies, and the Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship. For a few years, I attended a gathering of Calvinistic Baptist pastors called the Pastor’s Clinic in Mansfield Ohio. When I pastored in Texas, I fellowshipped with like-minded Sovereign Grace Baptist pastors.

Every group demanded something from me, be it money, commitment, or fidelity to certain beliefs. If I were to be part of the group, I was expected to support the colleges, churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries the group approved of. Stepping beyond these approved entities brought disapproval, distance, and censure.

The next time an IFB church member or pastor tries to tell you he is an INDEPENDENT Baptist, I hope you will remember this post. Take a look at the colleges, missionaries, churches, and pastors, the IFB church member or pastor supports. It won’t take you long to figure out what camp they are in, and once you figure out what camp they are in, you will know what they believe and what they consider important. The old adage, birds of a feather flock together, is certainly true when it comes to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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IFB Pastor Bruce Goddard and His Bait-and-Switch Tactics

bait and switch

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Bruce Goddard pastors Faith Baptist Church in Wildomar, California. Faith Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Here’s how they advertise themselves:

Malls are trendy, churches should feel timeless. With the forceful current of constant change sweeping over every part of our lives, people have the need to connect with something enduring and firm. We believe Christ designed the church to fulfill that need by representing an eternal kingdom and ageless truth with no need to imitate the culture. We want you to know that there is still a church that feels like a church. It will not feel like a rock concert, comedy club, or motivational seminar. It is not old-fashioned, as in 50 years ago, it is timeless, as in 2000 years ago.

IFB churches are noted for bait-and-switch methods used to lure the uninitiated into their group. Often, they advertise themselves as being the friendliest church in town, and outwardly they often are. But, once a person becomes a part of the church, they often find out that things are not as they first appeared to be. Let me illustrate this with several paragraphs from Faith Baptist’s website.

On the I’m New page, we find this:

HOW SHOULD I DRESS?

There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC!

AM I EXPECTED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE OFFERING?

No. We do not invite you to FBC for your offering. We want our service to be a gift to you. We hope you will find a warm, family spirit in this place, truth from God’s Word, and a place where you can grow in God’s grace. Please do not feel any obligation to participate in the offering as a guest.

A literalist, normative, King James reading of these two paragraphs would lead a new person, one not initiated in the IFB way of life, to think that they could dress any way they want and the church is not interested in their money. Yes, I see all of you former IFB church members laughing and rolling on the floor. This is what I mean by bait and switch: we love you just as you are, but once we have our claws into you we are going to rip you apart and remake you into what we, uh what God, wants you to be.

There’s an Evangelical church not far from where I live that prides itself in being tolerant and accepting. Why, they have two gay people attending their church. But, here’s what the two gays might not understand. The love, tolerance, and acceptance are a ploy. They have no intention, over the long-term, of accepting them as they are. The church is willing to put up with having two vile, wicked sodomites attending services because they confidently believe that through preaching and the fake “we love you just as you are” schtick,  the two gays will get saved and realize that homosexuality is a BIG, BIG, BIG sin. In other words, Evangelical salvation turns LGBTQ people into heterosexuals. Praise Jesus!

Here’s how the two gays can prove the sincerity of the church’s love, tolerance, and acceptance. Just ask to join the church or work in the nursery. Tell the pastor you’d like to work with the youth or in junior church. I hear you former Evangelicals snickering. Stop it! I guarantee you, this church will not allow two gays to become members or allow them to be anywhere near their children.

Bruce Goddard and Faith Baptist Church want first-time visitors to see the “good” side of the church, the loving, tolerant, accepting side of the church. Come as you are, Bob and Mary, they will tell them, thinking to themselves, “when we, I mean Jesus, get a hold of you, he’ll let you know that wearing the clothes you have on today is a sin and an affront to God.”

Bruce, perhaps Goddard and Faith Baptist are different. After all, you’ve never visited the church, so you can’t KNOW how they really are. I wish that was so, but IFB churches are quite predictable. Go to the church’s photo page and take a careful look at the pictures. This should tell you exactly what the church’s dress standard is.

Still not convinced? Here’s an article Bruce Goddard wrote for Old Paths Journal, (link no longer active) an IFB website that features the writing of men such as Bob Gray Sr. and Allen Domelle:

Forgive my sarcasm, it simply fits this morning as I read and laugh at how messed up some men must get if they read their Bible. It makes me smile. This Book will mess with your mind unless you surrender to it. Amen! Just how do contemporary preachers read their Bible at all without gagging?

Proverbs 6 brings up some very uncomfortable issues. If God knew the politically correct times in which we would be living, I just do not think He would have written some things in the Bible. Consider these few verses:

Proverbs 6:23-25, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.”

So, here is a matter of Bible reproof and a what the reproof deals with. Take a good look at how “off” God is in our contemporary world.

First of all, God thinks our preaching should contain reproof! Wow! Is that ever out-of-date! Then, the reproof should deal with these four things, can you believe it?

1. The wrong crowd: to keep thee from the evil woman.

2. Wrong speech: flattery.

3. Lust: now it is hard to have lust for a woman without it having to do with her looks. So this indicates preaching and reproof on appearance and what a man looks at.

4. The draw of a woman’s eyes: take thee with her eyelids.

That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at. How 1950ish!

If God only knew the times in which we would be living, I am sure He would have dropped this kind of thing about 1950 and changed our instruction to simply loving God, loving people and getting rid of the foolish “do’s and dont’s.“ Oh, well! When your God never changes I guess He is bound to be old-fashioned and out-of-step with the times.

Maybe God can read some modern blogs and visit some big name conferences to catch up with the men who really know what is going on. If only God had not said that His Word would not change, then I am sure God would drop this “legalism” and pushy stuff. Man! That was a mistake. Now, God is stuck with these old-fashioned statements. I guess it is good most modern preachers are not stuck on the Bible. Good thing they have enough sense to ignore the Bible when needed and do the “appropriate thing.”

Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks? I am sure it was not God Who brought us these modern enlightened prophets, but whoever it is, our world owes him…

Did you see the bait and switch? The church website says:

“There is not a dress code at FBC for members or guests. Our ministry leaders and many of our church family dress in more traditional “Sunday” dress; however, our main goal is that you would feel welcome and comfortable on your visit here at FBC”,

Yet Goddard says in his article: (link no longer active)

“That sure sounds like God wants some serious instruction on how a gal looks, how she acts and warning a young man about that woman. It appears God is so archaic that He thinks we ought to warn young men about the danger of flattering words and forward woman. It appears God is so out-of-touch that He wants us preaching to young men about what and who they look at . . .

Where would we be if we only had an old-fashioned Bible, and we were having to find our path without these men who know better than to preach on appearance, flattery, forward women and the things at which a man looks?”

Need I say more?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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You Can do It: How to Start an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church

start ifb church

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Warning! Lots of snark and sarcasm ahead!

John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste recently graduated from an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college. After three or four years of superficially studying the Bible, John received his degree in Jesus-Loving, Devil-Chasing, Sin-Hating Pastoral Ministry. Now what?

Graduates are encouraged to go into all the world — well mainly the United States — and win souls for Jesus. The best way to do this is to start a new church.

Here is what John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste needs to do to start a brand spanking new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church.

First, find a town where there are churches on every corner and convince yourself that ALL of those churches are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music.

Second, confuse your own desire and ambition with the Holy Spirit leading you and God calling you to start a new church.

Third, rent a meeting place or building. Make sure you get the building as cheaply as possible. If the building owner is a Christian, lay a spiritual guilt trip on him to get him to lower the rent and then invite him and his family to the first service.

Fourth, put a puff piece in the newspaper telling locals why you are starting a new church in their community. DON’T tell them that you think ALL the other churches in town are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music. You want to be able to poach members from other churches later, so it is important no one knows what you really think of every other church in town.

Fifth, every day pray that God will bless your endeavor. Convince yourself that God put you in the community to win everyone to Jesus, and that without you they will all go to hell.

Sixth, tell your wife and children that you love them, but they are going to have to understand that Jesus comes first, and you will have to neglect them in order for a GREAT church to be built. Also, tell them that they will have to mow the churchyard, clean the church, play the piano, work in the nursery, teach Sunday School, and anything else you ask them to do. Try to explain to them that, yes God called YOU, but he expects you to bring luggage.

Seventh, much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, knock on every door in town and witness to everyone who dares to answer. Lie to them by saying, I am not here to take you from your church home. All that is important is that you know Jesus as your Savior. Don’t let them know that if they get saved you will expect them to come to the church that cared enough to lead them to Jesus. And get baptized. And attend services every time the church doors are open. And tithe. And obey every edit uttered by you from the pulpit.

Eighth, run some ads in the local newspaper and put up flyers on every public bulletin board. Church-hopping members (please see The Fine Art of Church Hopping) from nearby IFB churches will notice the ads and see this as “God leading them” to leave their churches. This is the quickest way to start a new church. And just remember, when they leave your new church a few years later for a newer church, that you were willing to sacrifice your integrity for numerical gain.You are now ready for your first service. Remember one thing: most new church plants fail, especially IFB churches. Perhaps, it would be better if you join up with one of the other churches in town and help them. Silly me, you will never do that. You are a God-called, Holy-Spirit-powered, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, and such a calling deserves its own church, and a BIG sign that says, in BIG type, JOHN BAPTISTE, PASTOR.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Baptist Campmeeting Time

faith baptist camp
Faith Baptist Campmeeting, Resaca, Georgia

A Campmeeting is a scheduled time when Christian people get together for a few days or a week of concentrated preaching and singing. Some campmeetings are held at churches, while others are held at campgrounds. People often stay at the campgrounds or rent motel rooms. Meals are often provided for attendees.

Most campmeetings take place south of the Mason-Dixon line. I attended my first campmeeting at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Rossville, Georgia. A pastor friend of mine from an IFB church east of Columbus invited me to go to the campmeeting with him and several men from his church.

Our trip from Columbus to Rossville was frightening, to say the least. My pastor friend was quite a control freak. He insisted on driving the entire 500 miles to the campmeeting. What was frightening, you ask? My friend knew one speed — fast — often driving in excess of 90 miles per hour. What made matters worse was the fact that my friend spent most of the trip with his head turned to the right, talking to me in the front seat. I spent most of the trip hanging on for dear life. Needless to say, I never went anywhere with him again. We later had a falling out. My friend took issue with some of my theology, and decided he could no longer “fellowship” with me. He is now divorced, and no longer in the ministry. (He replaced a pastor who was caught having sex with his secretary in the church office while congregants were out visiting their bus routes.)

Besides the white-knuckle ride to Rossville, several things stand out about the trip and campmeeting.

At the time, I was quite the Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. I had a long list of things I would not do out of wanting to maintain a pure testimony bAt the time, I was quite the Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. I had a long list of things I would not do because I  wanted to maintain a pure testimony before God and man. One thing I would not do is eat at restaurants that served alcohol. That meant, of course, the only place I could get a steak was at Ponderosa. Remember their streaks? Yeah. Not good. Thank God for atheism and Texas Roadhouse.

Several hours into our trip, my pastor friend decided it was time to stop for lunch. He, of course, didn’t have a problem eating at restaurants that served alcohol. So he and his fellow church members chose a restaurant that served booze. I explained my “conviction” to him, and asked that he choose an alcohol-free establishment. Instead, he laughed at me and said I could sit in the car. So, I did. Needless to say, our relationship went south from there.

What stood out the most to me was the campmeeting itself. The campmeeting featured numerous notable IFB preachers. The preaching itself was challenging, convicting, and quite entertaining. What was bizarre was the behavior of many the attendees. The services from start to finish were emotionally charged. Both the music and preaching stoked emotions, leading to behaviors I had never seen before (I was 31 at the time). I saw grown men (and a few women) running the aisles, standing on the pews, waving towels and Bibles, hooting and hollering, and egging the preachers on with shouts of AMEN! and PREACH IT, BROTHER! What I experienced was the Baptist equivalent of a Pentecostal/Charismatic church meeting — without the speaking in tongues. I found the first night to be quite troubling, but by night three, I had joined the nonsense.

The next year, I took a group of people from Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio to a campmeeting at Midway Bible Baptist Church in Fishersville, Virginia. This was, and still is, the home church of Evangelist Don Hardman.

Somerset Baptist was located in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. Some of the people who went to the campmeeting with me had never been out of southeast Ohio. One woman openly wept as we crossed the bridge over the Ohio River into West Virginia.

This campmeeting was more structured than the one in Georgia, but had similar preaching and music. One thing that stood out to me was how many of the church’s members had cancer and serious illnesses. I later wondered if the area was some of sort of environmental cancer cell.

I also attended one IFB campmeeting in Ohio, held at Fellowship Baptist Church in Lebanon. Fellowship Baptist owns and operates the Fellowship Tract League. As with the meeting in Rossville, the preaching and music at Fellowship Baptist’s campmeeting were emotionally stirring. This led to all sorts of crazy behavior. Normal for regular campmeeting attendees, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-crazy to first-timers.

Fellowship Baptist provided free housing and meals for those in Fellowship Baptist provided free housing and meals for those in attendance. I brought Polly and our children to the campmeeting. Her first night at the meeting was definitely an eyeopening experience for her, as she had never experienced worship southern-style. The churches I pastored were quite staid emotionally, so being around a bunch of people hollering, shouting, standing on pews, and generally acting like they were on crack was quite a phenomenon.

Two things stand out from this campmeeting. First, when we walked into our motel room, there was a used condom on the floor. Ugh. Second, the motel offered free HBO. I was quite anti-TV at the time, and fearful that I might be tempted to watch the Home Barf Office — as I often called HBO in my sermons. To keep myself from giving in to sin, I broke one prong off of the TV’s plug. Yeah, I know, bizarre behavior, but try to understand my actions in light of the Bible verses that say:

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

In my IFB mind, breaking off the electric plug prong was the equivalent of plucking out my eye or cutting off my hand. The goal was to abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

By the early 1990s, I had moved on from IFB campmeetings to staid, emotion-free Reformed Baptist/Sovereign Grace meetings. While some attendees would say AMEN when agreeing with the preacher, everyone stayed in their seats. Overt emotional expressions were frowned upon.

It is clear, at least to me, that worship style and practices are driven by cultural and tribal norms, not God/Holy Spirit. Have you ever been to a campmeeting? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Is IFB Preacher Jack Schaap a “Model” Prisoner?

jack schaap 2

In 2012, Jack Schaap, the son-in-law of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, was fired from his job as pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Schaap was accused of having an illicit sexual relationship with a teenage church girl he was counseling. Schaap later pleaded guilty, admitting “he had sex with the girl, the girl was under his care or supervision, and he used a computer to persuade the girl to have sex with him illegally.”

Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

In 2014 Schaap’s lawyers asked the U.S. District Court to vacate his 12-year prison sentence. Why? His lawyers argued that his sentence should be mitigated because the girl he victimized was “aggressive” and had prior sexual experience. In other words, it was her fault that Schaap was a pathetic, weak man who took sexual advantage of a teen girl with whom he had a professional pastoral relationship. His lawyers also argued that Schaap received ineffective counsel during plea agreement and sentencing proceedings. His request was denied.

Earlier this month, Schaap petitioned the court for early release on compassionate grounds, citing the poor health of his elderly parents and sister as justification for his release.

According to Schaap, he has been a “model” prisoner.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Schaap has worked toward being “a model prisoner,” with an “excellent work record with my prison bosses,” he wrote. Schaap also said he is in a vocational apprenticeship sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

For several months last year, Schaap wrote he was able to serve as chaplain “preaching in chapel and conducting the communion service for the Protestant inmates” when the prison didn’t have a chaplain.

He also teaches a business plan workshop class and Bible classes in the chapel, Schaap wrote.

“Throughout my time here I have counseled men who had no place to go upon release and have helped get them connected to church-sponsored missions and other alternate care places throughout the country,” Schaap wrote.

In a post earlier this month titled IFB Pastor Jack Schaap Asks for Release from Federal Prison, Says He’s A Good Boy Now, I wrote:

In other words, Schaap is using the “good boy” argument, revealing he has continued to act like an IFB preacher while imprisoned. Years ago, I said when Schaap is released from prison, he will find some way to re-enter the ministry. The calling of God is irrevocable, the Bible says, and I have no doubt that Schaap still views himself as a man of God who just had a little David and Bathsheba bump in the road. Asked about his plans if released — besides caring for his sick sister and elderly parents — Schaap plans to “work to empower missionaries around the world, establish independent missionary schools to train the nationals, and help to establish churches.” I suspect he is presently working with some IFB preachers and fan boys to make this happen.

Remember, in the IFB world, all that’s necessary to wipe the sin slate clean and get a brand-new start is to pray to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) (Please see David Hyles Says, “My Bad, Jesus”.) Schaap will have plentiful opportunities to preach and evangelize once released from prison. He will likely follow in the footsteps of his brother-in-law, David Hyles, believing that no sin is beyond the grace and forgiveness of God; that no one dare suggest that he is no longer qualified for the ministry.

Thanks to a post by former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) devotee Eric Skwarczynski, we now know that Schaap has been anything but a model prisoner.

In a document asking for Schaap’s compassionate release request to be denied, U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II wrote:

“Defendant describes in detail the health challenges his parents are facing. Id. at 1. The government verified the accuracy of those claims by speaking directly with Defendant’s mother, who explained that although she and her husband have the means to move to an assisted living facility, she strongly prefers to remain at her home and hopes to be cared for by Defendant. Defendant makes additional claims in his motion, however, that the government does dispute. He claims he asked for a pre-indictment plea to “show [he] accepted full responsibility and to avoid a lengthy trial period which [he] felt would be detrimental to [his] congregation and to prevent any other staff personnel from being indicted.” Id. That statement is inaccurate in two respects. Defendant did not ask for a plea; rather, the government offered him a pre-indictment and he signed it after sitting through a presentation of the government’s overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Second, contrary to Defendant’s claim, there was never any chance that a member of his staff would be indicted. Although a staff member did drive the victim across state lines at Defendant’s request, that individual had no idea that he intended to engage in illicit sexual conduct with the girl once out of state. Accordingly, the staff member did not engage in criminal conduct of any kind. Similarly unconvincing is Defendant’s claim that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” at the time. Id. If that were true, why arrange for someone else to drive the victim across state lines? And why download a program specifically designed to delete photographs and then use it to destroy pictures of his sexual encounters with the victim? Further, it appears doubtful, given his failure to mention the victim in his motion and his attempt to USDC IN/ND case 2:12-cr-00131-TLS-PRC document 75 filed 06/19/20 page 6 of 13 7 blame the victim in his post-conviction petition, that Defendant truly does “realize the seriousness of [his] crime and accept[] responsibility for it,” as he now claims. Id. Finally, the government obtained evidence from the BOP that tends to refute Defendant’s claim that he has “strived to be a model prisoner” while incarcerated. See Exhibit 1, filed herewith. In 2013 – the year after he was sentenced by Judge Lozano – Defendant admitted putting his “hand under [the] jacket and in the crotch area of a female visitor,” for which he was disciplined. Id. And a year later, Defendant admitted “writing [a] letter and mailing [it] out of [the] facility [where he was housed] to be mailed back in.” Id. Interestingly, when confronted about this latter violation, Defendant “denied knowing it was not allowed” (id.) – much like he now claims that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” by arranging for someone else to transport a minor to Michigan and Illinois so he could have sex with her.”

You can view Schaap’s prison disciplinary record here.

As readers can clearly see, Schaap is not only a liar, but he refuses to accept responsibility for his behavior. Schaap thinks that saying, “I didn’t know” is a credible defense for his lawbreaking. At an early age, I was taught (and later taught my children) that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Schaap has a habit of claiming ignorance when he finds himself accused of criminal behavior or violating prison rules.

In his latest attempt to get out of jail, Schaap (speaking of his sexual assault of a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling) stated:

Although there were extenuating circumstances and I did not know I was violating the law, the fact is I did violate the letter of the law and I did plead guilty. I realize the seriousness of the crime and accepted responsibility for it.

” I did not know I was violating the law,” and “I did violate the letter of the law,” Schaap said.

In the aforementioned post I wrote earlier this month, I said:

What extenuating circumstances? Schaap seduced a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling. Schaap had the girl driven across state lines so he could have sex with her. Schaap took advantage of the victim, all so he could fulfill his lustful, vile desires. I see zero extenuating circumstances. What we have here is a man who refuses to own his behavior and face the consequences of said behavior.

Schaap says that he broke the “letter” of the law, that, at the time he was having sex with a minor church girl he didn’t know he was breaking the law. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! So Schaap thought it was morally and ethically permissible to have sexual intercourse with a teen church girl he was counseling? Is this the argument his request for release hangs upon?

Any reasonable person reading this story will conclude that Jack Schaap, esteemed pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way; that he put his perverse sexual desires above the psychological and spiritual care of a girl who called him pastor. His behavior, in my eyes, remains despicable and indefensible. And as such, he should serve every bit of his 12-year sentence.

Schaap spent most of his adult life telling Christians and unbelievers alike that the Bible is God’s divine law book, and that ignorance of its teachings is no excuse. Countless Hyles-Anderson students were severely disciplined for breaking the college’s rules. Imagine a student coming before Schaap and Jack Hyles and saying, “I didn’t know that having sex with my girlfriend in the back of the church bus was wrong.” Why, fire from Heaven would be called down upon the student’s head. Students were expected to know and follow the rules to the letter. Evidently, Schaap is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, hypocrite.

Over the past three years, I have published almost 700 stories about clergy criminal behavior — mostly sex crimes. I am currently sitting on several hundred more stories that I need to investigate and publish as part of the Black Collar Crime Series. Most of these stories feature Evangelical preachers and church leaders. A common thread that runs through these stories is the refusal of so-called men of God to admit they have committed crimes (and sinned against God). Worse yet, are church members who refuse to accept that their pastors committed heinous crimes. Even after their pastors are convicted (or plead guilty) and are sentenced to prison time, many church members refuse to see things as they are.

I have no doubt that Schaap has numerous supporters; people who think his victim was a conniving, seductive whore who was used by Satan to take down the man of God, (please see The IFB River Called Denial and What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused) and that Schaap is the victim, not the teen girl he sexually assaulted.

Those of us who no longer drink IFB Kool-Aid (or never have) see the Schaap saga for what it is: the story of an arrogant, self-righteous preacher who sexually took advantage of a naive, vulnerable minor. He knew the law. He knew the risks. He knew exactly what he was doing. And that’s why Schaap should remain behind bars.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977
Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977, Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet, the only time we were allowed to be closer than six inches apart.

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution in Pontiac, Michigan. Polly also attended the college, as did her father and uncle before her. While not as large or as prestigious as institutions such as Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple, or Pensacola Christian College, Midwestern is known for turning out men who are church planters and fierce defenders of the Word of God. Started in 1953 by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern once had an enrollment of over 400 students. These days, the enrollment is less than a hundred, and in 2010 the college moved its location to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan.

At one time, Midwestern advertised itself as a character building factory. Over the past 67 years, this factory has graduated hundreds of men and women, each devoted to the IFB faith. While some of the students who attended Midwestern no longer wear the Fundamentalists label, I do not know of one Midwestern attendee who is a liberal. As best I can tell, there is only one man who became a liberal, and that is yours truly. Certainly, many churches pastored by Midwestern-trained men are Evangelical and to the left of the Fundamentalism taught by the college, but none of them, as far as I know, are liberals theologically. Even more amazing, as far as atheism is concerned, I am the only person who attended Midwestern and entered the ministry as a Midwestern-trained preacher who is now an atheist.

i am special

I am soooo special.  From time to time, I see in the logs search strings such as “the Midwestern Baptist College preacher who became an atheist.” Google? This site is number one, top of the page. Same with Bing.  Even when generically searching for “Midwestern Baptist College Pontiac” this site is listed twice on the first page, fifth and sixth, respectively. I am quite sure that the prominence of my writing in search engine results for Midwestern irritates the hell out those who still profess fealty to the IFB religion and who still view the late Tom Malone as a demigod.

I am as rare as a real science exhibit at Ken “Hambo” Ham’s Creationist Museum. I am sure there are others who attended Midwestern who no longer believe, but I am the only person who has dared to poke his head above the proverbial ground and say so.

Are you a former Midwestern attendee or graduate who is no longer a Christian? I would love to hear from you. Please use the Contact Form to send me an email. Much like the search for extraterrestrial life, surely, somewhere there’s another former Midwestern student who no longer believes. I’m listening. . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Making of a Fundamentalist: First Baptist Church, Bryan, Ohio — Part Two

first baptist church bryan ohio
First Baptist Church, Bryan, Ohio

My memories of Christian Fundamentalism began in the 1960s as a member of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. Established in 1954, First Baptist was originally affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, but later become an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. The pastor I remember most is Jack Bennett. Bennett was married to the sister (Creta) of two of my uncles (Ed and Paul Daughtery who married two of my dad’s sisters, Helen and Mary Gerencser). Bennett would pastor First Baptist for thirty-one years. After retiring in 1999, Bennett handed the reigns to John MacFarlane, who currently pastors the church. Bennett died in 2002. His wife died in 2017.

To say that I had a complicated relationship with Pastor Bennett would be a gross understatement. Bennett, who had difficulties walking as a result of polio, always made a point to talk to me at church, but his conversations seemed perfunctory and distant. This could have been a result of his personality, but as a boy who grew up under his ministry, I never felt we were close. What few serious interactions we had were, from my perspective, were quite negative.

Bennett drove a white Cadillac. Every two or years he would by a new car, always a white Cadillac. It became clear to me that Bennett didn’t want to call attention to his new car purchases, so he always bought automobiles that looked the same as his previous car. There were on and off rumbles in the church over how much money Bennett was making, so I am sure he didn’t want to draw attention to himself.

Bennett was a topical/textual preacher. I can’t remember a time when he preached an expositional sermon. On this point, Bennett was typical of his generation. I didn’t hear an expositional sermon for the first time until the early 1980s. IFB pastors are known for topical/textual preaching. This, unfortunately, leads to theological ignorance. When the Bible is never systematically taught and preached from the pulpit, how can it be otherwise?

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, I moved in and out of First Baptist Church several times. When I returned to Bryan from Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio in May, 1974, I had been saved and called preach 18 months previously. I thought, after my return to First Baptist, that Pastor Bennett would be proud to have another preacher boy in the church. Unfortunately, Bennett went out of his way to discourage me from acting on my calling. Why?

I have often pondered the Why? question. Why did Bennett nurture other young preacher boys in the church, but not me?

Two reasons stand out to me.

First, Bennett didn’t like my mom’s way of life. Mom and Dad had divorced in the spring of 1972. We were living in Findlay at the time. Mom later moved back to Bryan, renting an apartment on Center Street, two blocks from First Baptist. I lived with mom from the age of 17 until I left for Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in 1976, at the age of 19.

After Mom and Dad divorced, both of them stopped attending church. While they claimed to be Christians, church was never a part of their day-to-day lives. Mom lived what we called in IFB circles a promiscuous life. A steady parade of men came through Mom’s life. I suspect this fact upset Pastor Bennett, so much so that one Sunday after church, he sent his wife to Mom’s apartment to set her straight.

I typically walked to and from church. That Sunday, I noticed Bennett’s white Cadillac sitting in front of our apartment. Jack was sitting in the car while his wife, Creta, went upstairs to preach at my mother. Before I could even make it to door, out came Creta angry and flustered. She said to me, “Your mom needs to get right with God!” And with that she stormed off. By the time I got upstairs, my mom was in a fit of rage. I mean rage — and rightly so. Here’s a pastor and his wife who hadn’t had any interaction with my mom, yet they took it upon themselves to attack her for her way of life. I have often wondered what Mom said to Creta while she was pontificating about morality. I wonder if she mentioned the fact that Creta’s fine Christian brother had raped her five years before?

Second, Pastor Bennett thought of me as wild. “Wild” was a label given to IFB teens who were perceived to be worldly or loved to have fun; those who didn’t play by the rules. In Bennett’s eyes, I was wild because I didn’t participate in the church’s Word of Life youth program, ran around with fellow wildlings Dave Echler and Randy Rupp, drove my cars way too fast, and I loved the girls. In other words, I was a typical boy in the 1970s. Never mind the fact I attended church every time the doors were open, daily read my Bible and prayed, and regularly witnessed to non-Christians.

On several occasions, Pastor Bennett called me into his office and lectured me about my alleged bad behavior. One time, I reminded him that I planned on going to Bible college the following year. I asked him for advice concerning which college to attend. To this day, I remember what he said to me, “Bruce, I have no advice to give you.” And that was that, end of discussion.

A year later,I left Bryan and enrolled in classes at Midwestern. Pastor Bennett had no parting words, no words of encouragement for me. At the time, his indifference and coldness towards me really hurt. Fortunately, a deacon in the church, Bob Boothman, threw a going-away party for me and had me preach to my friends. This would be the only time I would ever preach at an event associated with First Baptist.

The next two summers I returned to Bryan, worked summer jobs, and regularly attended First Baptist. Unlike other young preachers who were afforded opportunities to preach, Pastor Bennett never asked me to do so. Why?

In 1983, I started an IFB church in Somerset, Ohio. Wanting to foster a better relationship with Pastor Bennett, I asked him to come preach for me for a few days. (Yes, I am sure Freud would have fun with the WHY behind me asking Bennett to preach for me.) The few days we spent together were uneventful. Again, Bennett cool and distant. We shared no meals together, and Bennett cloistered himself his motel room each day until it was time to come to the church. Needless to say, I was disappointed that we couldn’t find a way, as fellow pastors, to forge a meaningful relationship.

During my time at Somerset Baptist Church, First Baptist celebrated one of its anniversaries. The church threw a big party at the local school. One of the church families I was close to, Marv and Louise Hartman, called and invited me to the party. We gladly made the four-hour trip from southeast Ohio to attend the gala.

During the program, the church recognized all the preachers in attendance, fawning over those who had been called to preach while attending First Baptist. Guess whose name wasn’t mentioned? That’s right, mine. It was only later, after Louise Hartman said something about my omission that I was recognized. Quite frankly, that embarrassed me more than not being mentioned in the first place. I was an afterthought, an inconvenience that wouldn’t go away.

And why didn’t I go away? I think, deep down, I wanted to accepted and respected by the church and Pastor Bennett. I so wanted to be one of them. Alas, that was never going to happen.

This series will continue to focus on my experiences with First Baptist Church and its pastor Jack Bennett. I’m sure daring to tell these stories out loud will upset some current/former members and pastors of the church. How dare I speak ill of the dead — or the living, for that matter? These stories need to be told, and now is the time.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Martyrdom: Is Any Religion Worth Dying For?

christian martyrdom

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted for their faith. ISIS has slaughtered thousands of Christians and Muslims, all because they had the wrong religious belief. Shameless Evangelical preachers and right-wing politicians have used these killings as an opportunity to provoke fear in their followers. These preachers of fear live in a delusional world where being required to bake a cake for a gay couple or giving the same civil rights to LGBTQ people as to heterosexuals is the equivalent of having your head lopped off by ISIS. American Evangelical Christians have a persecution complex, stoked by horror stories about the atheist, secularist, humanistic, socialist horde taking over THEIR country. (Please see The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right.) With great mockery and ridicule, I laugh at American Christians who think they are being persecuted. Those who promote such things deserve the disdain dished out to them by both the religious and non-religious.

That said, the beheading of Christians in the Middle East has American Christians asking if they would be willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ. Billy Watkins, a Christian and a writer for The Clarion-Ledger had this to say:

I can’t explain why.

Perhaps it doesn’t require an explanation.

But as the calendar quickly moved toward today — Easter Sunday — the more an image flashed in my mind: 20 Egyptian Christians and one other man, forced to their knees on a Mediterranean beach by members of ISIS on Feb. 15 and asked one by one if they believed in Jesus Christ.

Each answered yes, knowing the consequences.

All 21 were beheaded….

…It made me look inside myself, perhaps deeper than I’ve ever looked before.

It made me face the question: If I were in a similar situation, would I have the faith and the courage to look the ISIS cowards in the eye and say, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”

Knowing those would be the last words I ever said. Knowing the torture I was about to experience. Knowing my family and friends would grieve over my death. Knowing this life, which I can only comprehend as a struggling human, would end.

I would like to say yes, I would have the strength.

But do any of us really know until we are put in that situation?

To help me have some comparison for my struggle with this, I reached out to eight friends.

I asked them how they pictured themselves answering that question with a knife to their throats.

Some answered by email, others by Facebook message. Each provided food for thought. And I must commend them for digging deep inside their souls to help provide their answers.

One of the first I received: “This is very hard. I have tears. No, I am crying … I want to scream yes to those butchers. I believe in Jesus Christ!!!! But when I think of never seeing my husband, my family, my grandchildren, my grandchildren to come, I have to pause. More tears … ”

Friend No. 2 wrote, “I believe each Christian would always be ready to say, ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.’ However, after watching two beheadings on YouTube, it gave me pause for thought. How could I possibly endure torture and a painful, slow death for my beliefs? My next thought was, ‘But that’s what Jesus did for me. Would he expect any less of me?’ ”

Friend No. 3: “There is a peace I believe God gives you in that situation. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, twice, to let this cup pass from his wrath … I might say the same prayer, but in the end I would submit to God’s plan.”

Friend No. 4: “This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. Under the circumstances, I cannot imagine what I would do … it is always easier to sit in your living room and be convinced of your own virtues under the proposed circumstance. I also know I can rationalize decisions and I can waffle between what I want I know to be true … I could see this part of me rationalizing that it’s more important for me to live for any or all of the following …” My friend named his wife, children, extended family and church.

“I have so much to live for that lying to people who want to kill me is easily excused … (But) the scenario you describe is no time for rationalizing. It is a test … I hope I would get it … I want to be counted among those who would forgo this life for the better eternity to come.”

“Last point,” he wrote. “Hearing about the death of these 21 men has mattered to me — and not for the reason the killers wanted. It encourages me to live a life worthy of my calling. They died for Christ. May I at least live for him?”

Friend No. 5 wrote, “In facing a gruesome, wicked, evil death, my faith would still be in God. I hope and trust that such a painful ordeal would be ultimately redeemed and used by God for his purposes. Therefore, such a death is not in vain.”

Friend No. 6 was equally sure of his answer: “Faith is all you have left in that situation. To reject your faith would leave you with nothing — even if you lived. I can say unequivocally I would not reject my belief in Christ. If I did, I would be dead even though I lived. The other thing I know is that I would not die passively. I would fight with all my being. I would not let them dictate the terms of my death.”

Friend No. 7: “When you reach the most terrifyingly vulnerable moment of your life, you’re stripped to nothing but the things no can take away … the core beliefs that have driven every decision you’ve ever made. Ultimately, I would rather die outwardly professing my faith, with my death serving as a testament to those beliefs …

“But then I think of my child, of helping teach him those beliefs … If being a coward and lying to save my life means I’ll have the opportunity to raise a Godly man, so be it … Maybe this isn’t the right answer. But doing the right thing often means forgoing interests of the present so you can protect interests of the future.”

Friend No. 8: “Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote, ‘And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?’

“This world doesn’t afford many civilians the chance to die well for something that matters … it sounds cavalier, but I would be humbled and honored to be put in a situation where I had to choose between my life and the one thing that means most to me — my faith in Jesus Christ … I have a passion for this world, and ultimately the honestly amazing and blessed life that I’ve been given.

“I believe if he brings us to that place of choice, he gives us the grace to handle it if we remember that he is the ultimate source of everything … it’s not the end, it’s the beginning … let me go how he would take me, and let his will be done.”

This is what I believe: If I were put in that situation, I believe Jesus Christ would bathe me with a peace beyond human comprehension…

Those of us who were once Christians have asked the questions that Billy Watkins asks in his article. If it came to it, would we have been willing to die for Christ? Having grown up in a religious culture where persecution was touted as a sure sign of one’s faith, I had moments when I questioned whether I would stand up for Christ no matter what happened. Preaching on the street brought me into contact with people who wanted to do me bodily harm. One man deliberately aimed his truck at me, hoping to run me over. Over the corner curb he came, hoping to silence the Baptist street preacher. Fortunately, he missed.

christian martyrdom 2

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is required reading. Written in 1563 by John Foxe, the book is “a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland.” The first edition of the book was titled “Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is often used to prove that true Christians have always been persecuted for their faith. If the book was made into a movie, many modern-day Evangelicals would refuse to watch it due its violence and gore.

The preface of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library edition of the book states:

After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.

These days, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is not widely read outside of Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Amish, and Mennonite circles. Part of the reason for this is because John Foxe’s credibility has been called into question. Wikipedia states:

The author’s credibility was challenged as soon as the book first appeared. Detractors accused Foxe of dealing falsely with the evidence, of misusing documents, and of telling partial truths. In every case that he could clarify, Foxe corrected errors in the second edition and third and fourth, final version (for him). In the early nineteenth century, the charges were taken up again by a number of authors, most importantly Samuel Roffey Maitland. Subsequently, Foxe was considered a poor historian, in mainstream reference works. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica accused Foxe of “wilful falsification of evidence”; two years later in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Francis Fortescue Urquhart wrote of the value of the documentary content and eyewitness reports, but claimed that Foxe “sometimes dishonestly mutilates his documents and is quite untrustworthy in his treatment of evidence”.

In contrast, J. F. Mozley maintained that Foxe preserved a high standard of honesty, arguing that Foxe’s method of using his sources “proclaims the honest man, the sincere seeker after truth. “The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Foxe’s work is “factually detailed and preserves much firsthand material on the English Reformation unobtainable elsewhere.” It was typical, however, in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries to treat Foxe’s text as “not to be trusted….If not the father of lies, Foxe was thought to be the master of inventions, and so readers of the Encyclopedia [sic] Britannica were advised and warned.”

Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others. He compiled an English martyrology from the period of the Lollards through to the persecution of Protestants by Mary I. Here Foxe had primary sources to draw on: episcopal registers, reports of trials, and the testimony of eyewitnesses. In the work of collection Foxe had Henry Bull as collaborator. The account of the Marian years is based on Robert Crowley’s 1559 extension of a 1549 chronicle history by Thomas Cooper, itself an extension of a work begun by Thomas Lanuet. Cooper (who became a Church of England Bishop) strongly objected to Crowley’s version of his history and soon issued two new “correct” editions. John Bale set Foxe onto martyrological writings and contributed to a substantial part of Foxe’s ideas as well as printed material.

Foxe’s book is in no sense an impartial account of the period. He did not hold to later centuries’ notions of neutrality or objectivity, but made unambiguous side glosses on his text, such as “Mark the apish pageants of these popelings” and “This answer smelleth of forging and crafty packing.” David Loades has suggested that Foxe’s history of the political situation, at least, is ‘remarkably objective’. He makes no attempt to make martyrs out of Wyatt and his followers, or anyone else who was executed for treason, except George Eagles, whom he describes as falsely accused.”

Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography, called Foxe “a passionate advocate, ready to accept any primâ facie evidence”. Lee also listed some specific errors and suggested that John Foxe plagiarized. Thomas S. Freeman observes that, like a hypothetical barrister, Foxe had to deal with the evidence of what actually happened, evidence that he was rarely in a position to forge. But he would not present facts damaging to his client, and he had the skills that enabled him to arrange the evidence so as to make it conform to what he wanted it to say. Like the barrister, Foxe presents crucial evidence and tells a side of the story which must be heard, but his text should never be read uncritically, and his partisan objectives should always be kept in mind.”

By the end of the 17th century, however, the work tended to be abbreviated to include only ‘the most sensational episodes of torture and death’ thus giving to Foxe’s work ‘a lurid quality which was certainly far from the author’s intention’…

…Acts and Monuments was cannibalized for material to warn of the dangers of Papistry and, in Foxe’s name, also to undermine resurgent High Church Anglicanism. The author’s credibility and the text’s reliability became suspect, then, for both Catholic and Anglican Church defenders. Samuel Roffey Maitland, Richard Frederick Littledale as well as Robert Parsons and John Milner, mounted campaigns to disprove Foxe’s findings. Maitland’s and others’ critiques helped to awaken increasing antagonism toward intolerance in the public conscience. Combined with professionalized academic dissociation, left no voices to speak in Foxe’s defence, and reduced Foxe’s historical credibility such that “no one with any literary pretensions…ventured to quote Foxe as an authority.” John Milner, defender of the “old religion” (Catholicism), authored several tracts, pamphlets, essays, and Letters to the Editor: “Dear Sir…”; using all public means available to him for declaring that abuse of Englishmen was occurring “frequently”, ipso edem, the defamation and harassment of Catholics in England – a treatment not similarly visited on Sectarian communities or the Quakers.

Milner’s life project to discredit ‘Foxe’ was polemical—that was the point of arguing: to persuade people to see things as the speaker constructed or, at least, to seeing some merit to his case. Before the Houses of Parliament in the years of Milner’s and others activism, were bills for relieving English Catholics of tax penalties (for being Catholic), having to tithe to the Anglican Church, and relief from imposition of the Oath that stood between any Catholic and a government position.

While it is true that Christians throughout the 2,000-year history of the church have been martyred, it is also true that martyrdom stories have been grossly exaggerated, often little more than hagiography. Catholic scholar Candida Moss, former professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, took a careful look at early Christian martyr stories in her book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.  (You can read my review of The Myth of Persecution hereHere’s an excerpt from my 2013 review:

…While Moss admits that Christians were persecuted on and off throughout the first 300 years of church history, she thoroughly debunks the claim that Christians were always persecuted. In fact, many of the instances of persecution were actually prosecutions…

…Throughout the book, Moss details how many of the source documents for the stories about Christian martyrs were embellished, and, at times, fabricated out of thin air.  Even some of the saints revered by the Catholic church have histories that call into question their authenticity. I was quite surprised and delighted that Moss, a professor at a Catholic university, did not shy away from the controversies surrounding the mythic stories of the Catholic church.

Moss also details how some of the ancient martyr stories were actually borrowed from other cultures and religious traditions. There were times when I thought Moss was stretching these connections a bit, but I found the chapter, Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Traditions, to be quite fascinating…

While Billy Watkins ponders whether he would be willing to lay his neck on the line for Jesus, I want to ponder the notion of a God who asks his followers to die for him. While most of us can readily understand dying for the sake of family or trying to help our fellow man, what are we to make of a religion and a God that put great value on dying for one’s faith? While Christians will likely say that their martyrdom allows them to give a final testimony to God ‘s love and grace, I do wonder about a God who could save someone from having their head chopped off and does nothing. What would we think of a man who stood by while his wife or children were violently attacked and killed? Dying for one’s family is recognized by all to be a heroic act. But, dying for a religious belief? Wouldn’t it be better to lie and live than to tell the truth and die? Unlike the Muslim, the Christian martyr receives no special reward for dying. Why die when you can live?

christian martyrdom 3

At the heart of this discussion is the way Christians are conditioned to accept martyrdom. Church members are regaled with stories of Christians dying for their faith. Pastors preach inspiring sermons about the martyrdom stories in the Bible, complete with modern-day illustrations of Christians dying for their faith. Christians are reminded of the greatest martyr of all time, Jesus. If Jesus willingly died for us, shouldn’t we be willing to die for him? says the local Baptist preacher. And all God’s people said, AMEN!

I wonder if these stories would be enthusiastically believed if church members found out many of them are lies or half-truths? Pastors remind their flocks that True Christians® must be willing to die for their faith. These pro-martyrdom pastors subtly suggest that a person who cowers when faced with martyrdom should not expect forgiveness or a home in Heaven when they die. God is the giver and taker of life, and if he wants to have a Christian’s head lopped off, dare anyone object? The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has a right to do whatever he wants with the Christian’s life:

 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Romans 9:20-21

Well, I object. There is no religious belief worth dying for. I question what kind of God would do such a thing to someone he calls his child? I know I would do everything in my power to keep my wife, children, and grandchildren from being harmed, even if it meant losing my own life. It seems quite perverse to me for a God or a religion to ask or demand someone’s death just so the world can see their faith. Wouldn’t LIVING by faith be a better testimony than DYING for faith?

What I have written here should not be taken as a dismissal of the persecution many Middle Eastern Christians face on a daily basis. I abhor all such killing and fully support efforts to put an end to such needless bloodshed. The goal should be for everyone, regardless of belief, to worship freely without the threat of harm or death. The children of Abraham – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – have histories soaked in the blood of their followers. Perhaps it is time for them to quit trying to subjugate one another. Perhaps it is time to put an end to jihads, crusades, and holy wars. Two thousand years of bloodshed lead me to believe that there must be a better way. Perhaps it is time for peaceful co-existence, leaving it to God to settle matters after death.

As an atheist, I am greatly troubled to see people give their lives for a religious belief. Knowing that the God they are dying for doesn’t exist, I am pained to see them sacrifice everything for nothing. We should weep when we see the young offered up to God as sweet-smelling sacrifice. Is such a God worthy of worship? I think not. Life is worth living, even if it means, in the moment, lying about one’s faith. Christians need to reorder their importance list, moving God down the list behind family. If death comes in protection of one’s loved ones, so be it. But to die for a religious belief, to satisfy the blood lust of the Christian God? Can we even fathom such an abhorrent demand? I know I can’t.

But Bruce, you are not a Christian. How dare you tell Christians what should be important to them! I am not doing so. I am, however, asking them to question their belief in a God who demands his followers be willing to die for him. I am asking them to reconsider what it is that is most important to them.  If the Christian is still willing to die for their faith/God, fine. But they should not expect me to rejoice over their death or understand their motives.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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, You Were Never an Evangelical

bruce gerencser false jesus

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, a Christian comes up with a new argument to deconstruct, discredit, and minimalize my story. Yesterday, a man who considers himself the smartest man in the room told me that none of the churches I pastored were Evangelical; that, in fact, all of them were cults, and I was a cult leader. How this real man of genius came to this stupid conclusion is beyond me, but I thought I would make an attempt to respond to his baseless assertions.

First, let me list the churches I pastored and their denominational affiliations:

  • Montpelier Baptist Church — GARBC
  • Emmanuel Baptist Church — IFB
  • Somerset Baptist Church — IFB, Reformed Baptist
  • Community Baptist Church — IFB, Sovereign Grace
  • Olive Branch Christian Union Church — Christian Union
  • Our Father’s House — Non-denominational
  • Victory Baptist Church — Southern Baptist

I also preached revival meetings, youth rallies, and special services for varying flavors of IFB and non-denominational churches, along with churches affiliated with the GARBC, Baptist Bible Fellowship, Freewill Baptists, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, Church of the Nazarene, and Christian Union.

Every one of these churches and sects was Evangelical in doctrine and practice — without exception. No amount of deconstruction or gaslighting will change this fact.

Every church and denomination had an official statement of doctrine. I was required to embrace and preach the doctrines found in these statements. I did so without objection. Why? Because I believed these things, at the time, to be true.

Take the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, the official doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, the doctrinal statement of the National Association of Evangelicals, the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. I wholeheartedly embraced all of these documents.

Let me give Pastor Bruce Gerencser a test to determine if he really was a circumcised Evangelical:

  • Do you believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God? Yes
  • Do you believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Yes
  • Do you believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory? Yes
  • Do you believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential? Yes
  • Do you believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life? Yes
  • Do you believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation? Yes
  • Do you believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ? Yes

Taken from the official doctrinal statement of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Anyone suggesting that I was never was an Evangelical is an agenda-driven liar out to obfuscate my past.

If this man still doubts my Evangelical creds, I offer him up unassailable proof: I have Jesus & Bruce 4ever tattooed on my back — my Evangelical tramp stamp.

So there . . . 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused

if you didn't see it it didn't happen
If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

When Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — now a convicted felon — was accused of having a sexual relationship with a teenager in his church, apologists for the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and the Hyles/Schaap crime family came out in force to defend their own. They told me things like:

  • He is a man of God and he wouldn’t/couldn’t do such a thing
  • The girl was a whore
  • The girl seduced him
  • The girl was “almost” of age
  • If Schaap hadn’t taken her across the State line, the sex would have been consensual

Before I deal with these claims, let me remind readers of how Schaap groomed this girl; how he emotionally manipulated her so he could have sex with her. Here are some of the messages that Schaap sent the girl:

From a birthday card

I can’t get you out of my mind. I keep thinking about how much I enjoy talking with you, how great you look when you smile, and how much I like your laugh. I daydream about you off an on all day, replaying pieces of our conversation . . .laughing again about funny things you said or did. I’ve memorized your face and the way you look at me . . . it melts my heart every time I think about it. And I catch myself smiling when I imagine what will happen the next time we’re together. You must be something really special, because I can’t remember the last time I felt so strongly about someone. Even though neither of us knows what the future holds, I know one thing for sure – you’re one of the very best things that’s happened to me in a long time.

From a handwritten letter

Hi [Jane Doe],

Because my time with you is so limited, I find great comfort in writing to you. Certainly it is no substitute for being with you – nothing is – in fact, being with you is unlike anything I have ever experienced.

You have a gift of making me feel more alive and more happy than I have ever felt! THANK YOU! I’ve been doing much thinking about you – our brief journey together has been like a spiritual allegory (a story that illustrates a truth . . .

Your life began to deteriorate w/ actions + activities that were self-destructive + that would have brought great tragedy eventually. Then, as your Pastor, I began to counsel you [unintelligible] you to God, the truth, and to a better path of living – that’s what we call Righteousness. Almost immediately, I felt such a profound tug in my heart for you – an intense desire to pull you away from destructive habits + to pull you into pure love + acceptance. I felt the only hope I had to truly make that difference was to pull you 1st to myself – if I could get you to trust me + open your heart to me. I could not have anticipated or hoped for what happened.

You opened your heart wide to me – you made me more than a Pastor/Rescuer – you made me your friend your confidant, your beloved. You gave me your trust, your heart, your love, + your affection. [Unintelligible] must feel when a sinner makes Him more than a Savior – he/she makes Him a beloved lover + friend. I have never felt so truly loved in my life. It is a feeling that is incomprehensible! (off the charts)In our “fantasy talk,” you have affectionately spoken of being “my wife.” That is exactly what Christ desires for us. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!

I tried to craftily catch your heart so that I could lead you into a better life. You have caught my heart + I have never felt so loved by anyone! Thank you[Jane Doe]. Thank you for the privilege of helping a struggling teenager. Thank you for opening your heart. Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your love. My hope and prayer is that someday you will comprehend what an impact you have made on your Pastor and friend.

[Jane Doe] you have such a wonderful life ahead of you. I must be careful not to spoil that with any of my selfish fantasy desires. It would be grossly unkind to you for me to hold you captive in any fashion. When we get scared, Jesus sends His spirit to live within us. But He does not personally live with us. He waits until we have fully matured before he takes us to Heaven to live with Him. Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceedingly so – sorta like [name redacted] (sp?) or a young child dying too young.

I must follow the example of Christ. I have espoused you to Him as a chaste virgin. You are pure + lovely + perfect in His eyes. Now you must mature in His grace until the time he brings you to Himself. Until then, I am here to guide you + help you. [Unintelligible] your heart.

I could only wish you would carry my love for you with you + in you forever. For me to wish for more would only be hurtful to the beautiful life He has planned for you. I will die 10,000 deaths knowing I cannot have you in my life as I would desire. But I would far rather die those deaths than to hurt you in any way by injuring your future.I would gladly do anything for you + I must lay down my life – my desires – for you

I will ALWAYS be here for you [Jane Doe]!! Always And I will carry you in my very soul as a part of me forever. I ‘ve never met anyone like you. Please keep on becoming what you are becoming now. I’ve tried to point you in the right direction. PLEEEAASSE don’t ever go back to what you were when we found each other. That would put my soul in Hell!

I promised you I would do anything to help you – and I have shown you what I mean by that. I still promise you I would do anything TO HELP YOU but I be me let + can you when see to by stop time- time from Text you! hurt would that anything do>part of your life + decision-making. But live your life – the life God has for you. Be 17 + enjoy this great stage of life. I’ll always be watching + always be pulling for you. I will always love you –

FOREVER! Your BFF, Pastor.

From another handwritten letter

Hey Baby, Hope you slept well.

I’m sitting at my table reading the Words that help me through powerful emotions that are surging through me. I miss my Bible Reading partner. It was fun to have our Bible Study yesterday morning. I Have my good music on – “I will trust in You” + the “Power of the Cross.” Good music drives me to the Scriptures to find the strength to go forward when my emotions want me to “freeze” time + go back to yesterday.

No matter how glorious the past, the future is the only direction we can go without dying inside. The past 3 days w/ you were beyond my imagination :! But what I hope you take from this wk. is more than the “magic” we enjoyed but also some better understanding of how incredibly important + special + awesome you are to Jesus! I wanted you to feel + know how much He loves you! I wanted to let some of the hurt + headache – the bad hurt – out of your heart.

This week, [Jane Doe], I tried to climb into your heart and write the graffiti of the Gospel on the walls. I wanted to spray paint in Neon colors that you are Priceless + Precious + are “off the charts” important – yes – to me personally -but especially to OUR Savior Jesus Christ. I’m reading my Bible now to draw a little closer to God – even if it’s a millimeter closer – because if we both get a little closer to Him, we also get closer + stronger + deeper w/ each other.

Every relationship not built around that truth eventually must die – that’s what happened w/ you + J. And that’s why afterwards you pursued “dead” things + “dead”relationships. My passion this week was to show you a living relationship + how to keep it alive! [Jane Doe], however, whenever God takes our love, we never have to[unintelligible] to each other. Keep pursuing Good and we keep living because He is Life!!

I have a special gift for you that I want to give you Sunday if you would stop by my office when you arrive. Also, I really want you to download the App Olive Tree Bible Reader when you get it, I’ll teach you how to use it.These days w/ you are tattooed on my heart + in my mind – Forever!

But these days, also gave me great insight to the profound needs of my teens + young adults. You’ve helped me. Finally, I want to thank YOU for giving me something I was not planning to receive. Through you, I have felt very loved by God. I gave Him my heart when I was 5, I gave Him my life when I was 17. And yes I love Him + know Him +understand much about Him, but, sometimes I just need to “feel” His love in away that only He can provide . . . and this week, through you, I have “felt” His love.

I absolutely cannot thank you enough!! It is obvious to me that God must trust you very much. He gave you the work of caring or ministering to His servant- just as the angel ministered to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemine. Of course,you have been given enormous responsibility. The Scriptures do not tell us what the Angel said, how he arrived or how he left + apparently no one knows to this day – 2000 years later – what happened. That’s a very wise Angel! And so are you, Baby! 1432444!!!!!

From the Sentencing Memorandum of Jack Schaap.

Jack Schaap is not an outlier when it comes to sexual misconduct and abuse in the IFB church movement. His father-in-law Jack Hyles and his brother-in-law David Hyles preceded him at First Baptist in Hammond. Jack Hyles had a least one inappropriate sexual relationship and David Hyles had dozens. The list of abusers and predators that were trained by Jack Hyles and Hyles-Anderson College is long. Taken cumulatively, they make one think there is something very wrong in Hammond and other IFB schools and churches.

bill wininger
Bill Wininger, former pastor of Kingsway Baptist Church

In 2013, Bethany Foeller Leonard alleged that Bill Wininger, pastor of King’s Way Baptist Church, Douglasville, Georgia, molested her 20 years ago when he was the pastor of North Sharon Baptist Church, Grass Lake, Michigan. Several other women came forward and added their voices to Leonard’s accusation. Due to the statute of limitations, Wininger will never face justice for what he did in Michigan, but Leonard”s accusation did result in his resignation from King’s Way. In an unrelated case, Wininger was arrested and charged with four counts of misdemeanor battery of a female church member. He was sentenced to probation and court-ordered counseling.

When Leonard first made her accusation, apologists for Pastor Bill Wininger loudly defended him and said Leonard was lying. Some of you may remember the comments and emails I received when I first wrote about Bill Wininger being outed as a sexual predator.

Apologists for the IFB church movement and Bill Wininger couldn’t call Bethany Foeller Leonard and the other women sluts, whores, home wreckers, or church destroyers. After all, they were little girls, the age my granddaughters are now, when the abuse took place. So, they had to take a different approach when defending the most holy IFB church and Bill Wininger. They attempted to use the time-honored if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen defense to silence those of us who aired Bill Wininger’s secrets.

Take Jason, a young man who vociferously defended the IFB church movement, King’s Way Baptist Church, and Bill Wininger, even though he said he was not a part of the IFB church movement.  Here is what Jason had to say about the accusations (spelling in the original, emphases mine).

First Comment

Wow. I haven’t heard this much wining in a long time. It’s sad when Christians contribute to the pussifacation of America. I would be ashamed if this is how I had to get 15 mins of fame. When I first saw this I thought this was a joke but then I realized you people are serious. There are consequences that come with attacking a man called by God. Everyone who is pointing a finger needs to realize that no person is blameless. I have not seen one bit of proof that proves any of these theories. My advice… Shut up and worry about your own life and let ALMIGHTY GOD worry about everyone else

Second Comment

The definition of pussifacation is the state in which a society becomes less and less tough. As a whole men and women in America are becoming this way. For example I recently read about a man who’s daughter was allegedly molested. 20 years later he decides to say something about it. To me this man has no backbone whatsoever and has joined many others in the realms of weak and pathetic. Maybe you should talk to ________. She has shown more backbone in here by standing up for herself and the people she loves. My father taught me to be a man. You asked me what if this happened to your daughter. Let me explain that it would never happen to my daughter simply because child molesters target weak people. This is how they get away with what they do. There would be no getting away with anything should this happen to my daughter and justice would not begin 20 years later. IF any of your accusations hold any truth which I doubt considerably then you should get real life smoking gun evidenced and prosecute. Obviously you dont have this or you wouldnt be wasting time here.

Third Comment

Actually I am not in the ifb. I know this crushes your idea of how narrow minded I must be. However I do not see the point of targeting them out specifically or even more so targeting a single church which seems to be what is happening here. Cassandra the point is that without physical evidence of child molestation BW is innocent of this accusation. Without physical evidence of rape BW is innocent of this accusation as well which means that IF another woman was involved it was consensual.

Bruce how else would a woman excuse a relationship with a married man but pawn it off as “molestation”? In this day and age nothing is personal cultural suicide. You give me the evidence that supports these accusations and I will have concern for these alleged victims. Until then I will support innocence until proven guilty by a court of law. I will not take your moth to the flame approach just because someone made an accusation. Didn’t you say “After all, the lies told about a person always make for better news than the truth”? Sounds to me like you have your own koolaid for people to drink. I stand by my words. A year from now they will not be foolish nor will they 10 years from now. You dont want to hear what I have to say because you cant combat it. You deflect everything like you have no idea what to say. Its obvious that you have no idea what to do about my voice so you dismiss me. Sorry to ruin your pity party but there are 2 sides to every story. Here is a thought for you. Instead of blasting away at a man or a church or an entire religion why not open a thread that actually helps people who are truly victims? If your intentions are pure it would not matter what religion or church or person it happened with. Not all victims are from a church or a specific religion. You may even sound like you really care about them instead of sounding like a bitter ex-church member who is using this to harp on the ifb.

Let the words of the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul, the late Jack Hyles, state the official IFB position on abuse:

the-hyles-rule

If you have not read the posts If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen, I encourage you to do so.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The IFB River Called Denial

jack schaap 2

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In 2012, Jack Schaap, pastor of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was fired over a sexual relationship he had with a sixteen-year-old girl. The teen was in the church’s Christian school and Schaap was “counseling” her. Schaap was later arrested and convicted, and is now serving a 12-year sentence in a federal penitentiary. (You can read the texts, letters, and cards Schaap sent to this girl here.)

Several decades ago, Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, was accused of having an affair with his secretary. The evidence for his affair was overwhelming, but the church rejected the evidence and Hyles remained the church’s pastor until his death.

Sexual and financial scandals are quite common in the IFB church movement. Pastors have sexual affairs, molest children, surf porn sites, cavort with prostitutes, lie, cheat, and steal. They are, in every way, just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines they condemn in their sermons. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, church bus workers, Christian school workers, and every-day church members are just like unsaved worldlings too. If the curtain was ever pulled back, it would expose for all to see that IFB pastors, leaders, and members are no different from atheists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Mormons, Methodists, or Southern Baptists. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

IFB Christian are human beings, capable of doing good or bad things. They are capable of being good, decent, kind, loving people, and they are also capable of being evil, unkind, indecent, and unloving. Much like all of us, they have the power to choose what kind of person they want to be. No matter what their theology tells them about the depraved, sinful condition of the natural, unregenerate, unsaved human heart, they KNOW they have the power to be whatever kind of person they want to be. They KNOW that there are countless atheists, deists, non-IFB Christians, and Catholics who are good, decent, kind, loving people, all without believing the King James Version of the Bible is the Word of God or believing in the IFB God at all.

Every IFB church and pastor has its own list of things they consider sins. Besides the “big” sins such as adultery, fornication, and homosexuality, IFB churches have rules (standards) about things that many non-IFB Christians might not consider a sin. Things such as:

  • Watching TV
  • Listening to secular music or Contemporary Christian music
  • Going to the movies
  • Gambling, playing cards
  • Men and women swimming (mixed bathing) together
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Cursing or using bywords
  • Women wearing pants or shorts
  • Women wearing anything that reveals their “shape
  • Long hair on men, short hair on women

Over the years, I heard IFB pastors, including myself, say the following things were sins:

  • Wearing wire-rim glasses
  • Having a beard
  • Having a mustache
  • Wearing any clothing with “worldly” advertising
  • Going to stock car races
  • Sending your children to a public school
  • Using any Bible except the 1611 King James Bible
  • Not having a Sunday evening or midweek service
  • Not having an altar call
  • Using recorded (canned) music for church specials
  • Marrying a non-IFB Christian
  • Going to a non-IFB college
  • Having non-IFB friends
  • Working on Sunday
  • Letting your children play sports on prayer meeting night or Sunday
  • Not giving at least 10% of your money to the church, along with extra offerings for revivals and missions
  • Eating in restaurants that serve alcohol
  • Allowing women to pray while men are present or teach anyone other than women or children

The IFB church movement prides itself on being “better” than other Christian sects and the “world.” Their literalist belief system and their list of sinful behaviors are the standard every IFB church member is expected to live by. For all their talk about salvation by faith and grace, their religion is all about works, as is every religion, to some degree or the other. They will tell you that a person does not have to do any works in order to be saved, but ask them if a person who refuses to live by the above standards is a Christian and they will likely say, I doubt it.

In the IFB world, “true” Christianity is determined by how well a person adheres to the church’s/pastor’s interpretation of the Bible and whatever list of “standards” they have. Some allowance is given for differences of opinion, but not much. Church members who don’t conform are labeled as worldly, carnal, weak, fleshly, or backslidden.

The stated moral and ethical standard is high — impossibly high. Remember what I said earlier about IFB pastors, leaders, and church members being just like the rest of us? Well, this poses a real problem for them. They take the high moral ground, believing they are superior to everyone else, including other Christians. They consider themselves pillars of moral virtue. But they are not, and when pastors, leaders, and church members get in trouble, as in the cases of Jack Schaap and Jack Hyles, they have a real dilemma on their hands. Their moral and ethical failures expose the bankruptcy of their claim of superiority. Their behavior shows that the IFB emperor has no clothes.

The right thing to do would be to admit their failures, confess their “sins,” and come down from Mount “I am Holier than Thou.” Of course, doing this would mean that they are just like the rest of us, and that ain’t gonna happen.

The IFB scandal starring Jack Schaap and First Baptist Church in Hammond provides for us an excellent example of HOW IFB churches handle having their “humanness” exposed.

First, they deny.  When the Schaap scandal first became public, IFB commenters on blogs, news sites, discussion forums, and social media were quick to deny that Schaap had done anything wrong. The accusations were lies, they said, and they were certain that Schaap was completely innocent.

Second, they marginalize. When they could no longer deny the reality of the Schaap scandal, they turned to letting everyone know that Schaap was a “sinner” just like everyone else, and while his “fall” was regrettable, people should not judge the IFB church movement or First Baptist Church negatively. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bushel. Actually, it can and does.

Third, they attack the critics. Instead of owning the scandal, many IFB defenders decided to attack those who reported the scandal or wrote negative things about Schaap, Jack Hyles, First Baptist Church, and the IFB.

Across the blogosphere, in discussion forums, in blog comments, and emails, the defenders of the IFB attempted to ameliorate the scandal by attacking people such as me. They couldn’t dismiss my impeccable IFB credentials, so they attacked me personally or they dismissed me out of hand because I am an atheist. Why should anyone listen to what Bruce Gerencser has to say, they write. He’s a God-hater. He’s bitter, angry, and has an ax to grind. Besides, he never was a “real” Christian. They try to discredit the messenger so they won’t have to deal with his/her message. The goal is direct attention away from the facts.

Fourth, if all else fails, they attack the victim. Let’s not forget that there is a victim in the Jack Schaap scandal. Schaap’s “sin” was not a victimless one. He had sexual relations with a minor in his church.

Jack Schaap was 56 years old when he traveled across state lines to sexually liaison with a sixteen-year-old church girl. The victim was young enough to be his granddaughter. As a grown, mature man, he should have been in control of his sexuality. Surely he KNEW it was morally, ethically, and legally wrong to have sex with this girl. Schaap had the power to control the relationship he had with this girl. He was the grownup in this story; he was the “man of God”; he was a married man with children; he was the one with everything to lose.

If he had overt sexual desire — a need to get laid — he could have sought out the help of a professional sex worker.  I am sure there are plenty of adult establishments in the Chicago area that Schaap could have gone to in order to get his sexual need met. More than a few IFB pastors have availed themselves to the services of prostitutes. But Schaap chose, instead, to sexually violate a trusting church girl.

In the sleaziest of attempts to justify Jack Schaap’s behavior, his defenders attacked the girl. One commenter on this blog suggested the girl was a slut, that she seduced Schaap. She wrote:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

I responded:

Bullshit.

It doesn’t matter how hot she was or whether or not she flaunted herself before him.

He is a grown, mature man, a few years younger than I. By now, he should have learned how to deal with temptation and keep his penis in his pants.

It is reported that he was counseling this girl. If this is true, then he abused his power and authority and, here in Ohio, could be held criminally liable.

Whatever the girl’s faults, she is not the problem in this story.

She responded:

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

And, I responded:

You mean stealing pathetic, poor Christian men who have been taught they are helpless creatures unable to withstand sexual temptation? How about teaching them to be accountable for their own sexual behavior? They have a choice, do they not? Or are they so weak that the slightest temptation turns them into sexed crazed maniacs who are unable to control their lust?

The only right answer to the Jack Schaap scandal, the Jack Hyles scandal, or any other church scandal, is IMMEDIATE, COMPLETE disclosure. Instead of trying to cover the matter up or trying to make it disappear, churches should show they take these kinds of things seriously. What First Baptist Church in Hammond needed was a Penn State moment. They needed to come to terms with fifty years of cover-ups and denials. The deacons and church membership needed to own their own culpability in the Schaap scandal. They are the ones who did nothing about Jack Hyles and his serial-adulterer son David. They are the ones who allowed an abusive, controlling, cultic environment to develop in the church. They are the ones who, like lemmings, sat and listened to Schaap’s preaching, shouting Amen. They are the ones who practiced the Jack Hyles Rule, if you didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.

Instead of having a Penn State moment, First Baptist Church called in attorney David Gibbs, the Ray Donovan-like fixer of IFB scandals. Gibbs has fixed and sanitized countless IFB sex scandals. Instead of encouraging churches to come clean, Gibbs helps them minimize fallout and loss. The goal is not restitution or helping the victims. Instead, it is all about protecting the church’s testimony.

David Gibbs’s law firm, the Christian Law Association, advertises itself this way:

The Christian Law Association exists to preserve Christian liberty for your children and grandchildren.

CLA received in excess of 100,000 phone calls annually, not counting the thousands of pieces of correspondence from those who are in some way facing legal difficulties for doing what the Bible commands. These cases involve Christians arrested for witnessing to others in public, public school students being told they do not have the right to read their Bibles at school, churches being excluded from communities, Christians being fired for sharing their faith at work, and thousands of other shocking assaults on our precious religious freedoms. CLA provides free legal services based in part on the generosity of God’s people.

Missing from this description is helping pastors and churches manage scandal and marginalize victims. Missing is their motto: Protect the Church’s Reputation at All Costs! Minimize Financial Payouts so the Church can Continue to Win Souls for Jesus.

jack and beverly hyles statute
Jack and Beverly Hyles statue

The Joe Paterno statues at Penn State have been pulled down as a public act of contrition, but the Jack Hyles statute remains, a reminder of who it was that built First Baptist Church. One can only hope that public scrutiny will force the IFB church movement to own their “sins” and that dramatic change will be made, resulting in a reduction of predatory acts against children and teenagers. One can hope, but as of today, it is business as usual in the alternate universe called the IFB church movement.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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IFB Pastor Bob Gray, Sr. Pines for the 1950s

woman wearing jeans

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In May 2014, Bob Gray Sr., retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple in Longview, Texas, took to his blog pulpit to whine and complain about church women no longer obeying Deuteronomy 22:5:

The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

That’s right, Brother Bob is upset about Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church women wearing pants. Of all the things a pastor could or should be worried about, Gray is concerned about women wearing what he perceives to be men’s clothing. Gray writes:

… Did we somehow become lost and confused as to what the issue was really about? Does it really not matter if men dress differently than women and women than men? Is it really important that there be a distinctiveness between masculinity and femininity? The issue wasn’t as much about pants as it was principle. He was looking at a much bigger picture than most. Perhaps we saw the issue to vaguely. Perhaps we missed the point entirely.

Many men [pastors] who once agreed on the issue of pants have now changed their position. Perhaps the position was too small or too narrow in the first place. Perhaps pants in and of themselves was not the issue. Perhaps the real issue was the matter of the distinctiveness between the attire of men and women. Pants gave us a focal point for the real issue, which was that men ought to dress like men and women like women.

Has that changed? Does it matter? Should we care if boys dress like girls? Should it matter to us if girls dress like boys? Is it really relevant? There has always been a focal issue that rallied us behind a principle. Long hair on men rallied us against rebellion, which was the bigger issue. Pants was the focal point for the principle of women not dressing like men. Yet when it comes to the issue of women wearing pants we seem to have missed the point. What is the point? The point is the Bible principle.

What is the Bible principle? The principle is that men should dress like men and women should dress like women. Has that changed or is the Bible still true? Should men wear clothing that pertains to a woman? Should women wear clothing that pertains to a man?…

… Distinction was brought to a higher level in the New Testament. (I Timothy 2:9) Deuteronomy 22:5 has been elevated to “modest” clothing.  No skinny jeans here! The Bible principle is for today.

So, if the principle is still true why are we criticizing those who took a stand regarding women wearing pants? I for one must allow others to disagree on the issue, but I’m concerned when they ignore the importance of the Bible principle upon which we built that position. If we lose the principle then we lose the purity of the Scripture.

If we begin to criticize those who took a stand then we should be explaining how we then are carrying out that principle. What should women wear that which a man shouldn’t? What should men wear that women shouldn’t? Does it matter? It has to because it is covered in his word…

… What is the distinction? If you tell me my position is wrong then simply explain to me what the distinction is that you are making between the attire of men and the attire of women. I’ll be satisfied with that.

If you’re going to criticize me because I have put some kind of distinction into the principle then tell me what your distinction is based upon that same principle. Whether Deuteronomy 22:5 means pants on women or not it must mean something? What does it mean? Explain it…

…Let’s face it the breaking down between the sexes has taken place. We no longer have the distinctions we once had between men and women including the way they dress. Dr. Hyles and others warned us of this danger more than they warned us of women wearing pants. He warned us of the danger of losing the distinction between the sexes. Pants was a symptom of the issue, but many have turned this against those who warned of the true danger….

…Tell me pastor what should women wear, or does it matter? What should men wear? Does it matter? This is not legalism. This is applying principles to our lives. There’s a legitimate reason that we took the positions we took. I’m saddened by the condition of our country, but I am not surprised. Same sex marriage is a result of the casual way we have dealt with issues in our country and even in many churches…

… So, now I put the responsibility back on your shoulders. Tell us what to do? If there’s no problem then there’s nothing to worry about, but I think we all know there is a problem. Dr. Hyles was right. The unisex movement is a satanic pursuit to blur the lines between the roles and identity of men and women. How do we fix it? What’s the standard going to be? Is there going to be no standard? I think it’s time to give it a second thought.

If the pastor’s wife has no distinction in her dress, then no wonder the pastor has lock-jaw and is like the Ant-Artica [sic] and frozen at the mouth.  This makes it difficult to lead a local church let alone a movement…

That’s right, women wearing pants is a “satanic pursuit to blur the lines between the roles and identity of men and women.” Perhaps these slutty, pants-wearing Baptist women need to channel Flip Wilson and say, The devil made me do it.

Gray considers himself an old-fashioned IFB preacher. Old-fashioned for Brother Bob is the 1950s:

Then I go into some of our churches and find myself wondering who is standing for the Bible principle of distinction in God’s house.  The decline of American morality is reflected in our distinction.  The decline of our churches is also reflected in our dress distinction.  50 years ago it was not so in public and for sure it was not so in our churches.

The Mrs. Cleaver look was in almost every home in 1950’s. Not so in either the home or the house of God, in a lot of cases, in this new Millennium.  If God wanted a distinction in the Old Testament how much more does He desire it in the New Testament.

You see, preachers like Gray pine for the 1950s; the time before the free love and the rock-and-roll generation. He yearns for the days when women were pregnant housewives, homosexuals stayed in the closet, and birth control was illegal. He yearns for the days before the Civil Rights Act, Gun Control Act, and the EPA. He yearns for the racist days of his youth, a time when there was order and everyone knew their place. I can only imagine what Gray thinks about the protests today.

I feel sad for preachers like Gray. They have spent a lifetime preaching on frivolous issues such as pants on women, short skirts, long hair, rock and roll, contemporary Christian music, and premarital sex. (See An Independent Baptist Hate List.)  The narrowness of their preaching makes it impossible for them to back up. To do so would be considered compromise, a sure career killer in the IFB church. So, they remain in their little boxes, unable to join the world that past them by decades ago,

Gray, without realizing it, revealed what the REAL reason is for all the preaching against pants and short skirts on women:

If you are an honest person you will have to admit that females in public have taken the half off sale seriously. Hip hugging skinny jeans revealing mid riffs. I travel every week of the world around this great nation of ours. It is embarrassing for a man who is doing the best he can to keep his heart right with all of the female flesh on display.

Thanks to seven decades of Puritanical preaching and rules, IFB men have been turned into pathetic weaklings unable to handle their own sexuality. They’ve been told their entire lives that women are Jezebels, seductresses out to lure them into bed. They’ve been taught that the reason men give into their weakness and have lustful thoughts is because women refuse to cover up their flesh. If only women would stop wearing pants, short skirts, shorts, and halter tops, and stop wearing clothing that accentuates the female shape, why horn-dog IFB teenagers and men would not have a problem with lust. As any woman who has attended an IFB church knows, women are considered sexual gatekeepers who are tasked with keeping boys and men from masturbating and committing fornication or adultery. If IFB burka-wearing women fail as gatekeepers and men lust after them, it is their fault. Remember, in IFB churches, women are to blame for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

This kind of thinking is as old as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis. When God confronted Adam about eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam replied:

The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.

Adam, like countless IFB preachers, blamed the woman.

What Bob Gray and other IFB preachers have done is turn out generations of men unable to handle their own sexuality. The slightest bit of female flesh brings a rise in their pants and soon their thoughts turn to banging Sister Sue in the church pew. When Jack Schaap, former pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, was arrested and convicted for having sex with a minor in his church, many IFB preachers blamed the girl. (Please see IFB Pastor Jack Schaap Asks for Release from Federal Prison, Says He’s A Good Boy Now.)

In the post titled, The IFB River Called Denial, I wrote about what one IFB-loving woman had to say about the slut that took down Jack Schaap. Here’s what she said:

So…what about the teenage girl? How hot was she? How hard did she pursue him? We all know young girls flaunt everything these days to get what they want. a rise from any man they can. especially one in the limelight (our a uniform!) They don’t care if he’s married our not, or if he’s her best friends dad. it’s really sad.young girls are a whoring in our churches.

You men and women be careful. She is closer than we think. the world is full of young sluts stealing our husbands and sons! Praying for Cindy!

You see, even the women in IFB churches make excuses for the lustful behavior of men and teenage boys. These church-going, Jesus loving sluts are out to steal their husbands and sons. It’s their fault, right? If they just dressed like the women on Little House on the Prairie, all would be well.

It should come as no surprise that the IFB church has a big problem with sexual abuse and misconduct. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) These poor men can’t help themselves. Instead of learning how to responsibly handle their sexuality, they are taught that lustful, carnal thoughts and behaviors are not their fault. If the pastor ends up having sex with his secretary on his office floor, it is the secretary’s fault. I knew of one pastor who would, for years, send out the bus workers on visitation, and then he and his secretary would use that time to have sex in his office. When the truth came out, you know who was to blame? The secretary.

Every man must be accountable for his own sexuality. Teenage boys should be taught sexual responsibility. They should also be taught that it is okay to have appropriate physical contact with the opposite sex. (See Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.) They need to be taught that desiring a woman is normal, as is sexual arousal.  Exposure to normal sexual feelings and desires will do wonders for the teenage boys of the church. Instead of repressing these feelings and desires, they should learn to how act on them ethically and responsibly. And my God, preachers, teach them to put Ecclesiastes 9:10 into practice: Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might . . .

IFB preachers such as Gray take virile teenage boys and turn them into eunuchs. Don’t look, don’t touch, don’t masturbate, don’t look at scantily clad women on the TV or Internet. These boys are treated like toddlers, who then grow up to be infantile men.

By his own admission, Gray has a problem keeping his thoughts pure. Who’s to blame for this? Women. Instead of accepting responsibility for his lustful thoughts, he blames scantily clad women. Gray’s an old man now; surely he can contain himself when he see an attractive young woman? Evidently not. Once I left Evangelicalism and its Puritanical, oppressive, against-human-nature sexuality, I no longer feared what looking at an attractive woman might do to me. I can now enjoy the beauty without turning into the beast. As my wife has told me more than a few times, you can look, but don’t touch. I am confident that I can handle my sexuality and I know many of the men who read this blog would say the same. Once freed from the infantile, emasculating rules of the IFB church movement, we are now free to be the sexual beings we are meant to be. All praise be to Eros.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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