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Tag: Insurrection

Bruce, Do You Believe Satan is Real?

Yes and no. Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Evangelicals Try to Distance Themselves From the January 6, 2021 Insurrection

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Evangelical apologist Michael Brown wants the world to know that it wasn’t Jesus-loving Evangelicals that fomented insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Ignore the Evangelical rally that preceded the insurrection. Ignore the incendiary words for months by prominent Evangelical leaders, preachers, and writers. Ignore the Jesus flags, crosses, and Christian apparel. Ignore the Christian music that wafted across the concourse. Ignore the social media posts from Evangelicals who proudly shouted, I WAS THERE! Brown wants everyone to know that the violent, murderous insurrectionists were not real Evangelicals. This was not, according to Brown, a Christian insurrection.

David French calls bullshit on Brown’s disingenuous, facts-challenged denial. (And Brown ignores his own culpability in stoking the flames of Trumpism over the past four years.)

French writes:

We have to be clear about what happened in Washington D.C. on January 6th. A violent Christian insurrection invaded and occupied the Capitol.

Why do I say this was a Christian insurrection? Because so very many of the protesters told us they were Christian, as loudly and clearly as they could.

….

I saw much of it with my own eyes. There was a giant wooden cross outside the Capitol. “Jesus saves” signs and other Christian signs were sprinkled through the crowd. I watched a man carry a Christian flag into an evacuated legislative chamber.

I could go on and on. My colleague Audrey Fahlberg was present at the riot, and she told me that Christian music was blaring from the loudspeakers late in the afternoon of the takeover. And don’t forget, this attack occurred days after the so-called Jericho March, an event explicitly filled with Christian-nationalist rhetoric so unhinged that I warned on December 13 that it embodied “a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence.”

Are you still not convinced that it’s fair to call this a Christian insurrection? I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they charged the Capitol.

If that happened conservative Christians would erupt in volcanic anger. We’d turn to the Muslim community and cry out, “Do something about this!” How do I know we’d respond in that manner? Because that’s what we’ve done, year after year, before and after 9/11. And while there were many times when Christians painted the Muslim world with an overly-broad bigoted brush, it is true that violent insurrections do not spring forth from healthy communities.

That’s true abroad, and it’s true at home. During this summer’s riots, I wrote multiple posts detailing the extraordinary difficulty in quelling urban unrest once violence starts. Sometimes the unhealthy community is suffering from the effects of systemic injustice. Sometimes it’s dominated by outrageous and unreasonable grievances. Sometimes it’s infested with unhealthy fears and grotesque ambitions. Often there’s a combination of all these factors in play. But the violence always has a cause.

….

The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies. We’ll call them the enabling lies and the activating lies. And unless you deal with the enabling lies, the activating lies will constantly pollute the body politic and continue to spawn violent unrest.

What’s the difference between the two kinds of lies? The enabling lie is the lie that makes you fertile ground for the activating lie that actually motivates a person to charge a thin blue line at the Capitol or take a rifle to a pizza parlor.

Here’s an enabling lie: America will end if Trump loses. That was the essence of the Flight 93 essay in 2016. That was the core of Eric Metaxas’s argument in our debates this spring and fall.

Here’s another enabling lie: The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins.

And here’s yet another: The left hates you (this sentence sometimes concludes with the phrase “and wants you dead.”)

I could go on, but the enabling lies that have rocketed through the church for years share important characteristics. They not only dramatically exaggerate the stakes of our political and legal disputes, they dramatically exaggerate the perfidy of your opponents. Moreover, when the stakes are deemed to be that high, the moral limitations on your response start to fall away.

After all, when people believe our national destiny hangs in the balance, they often respond accordingly. Or, as I said in a December 4 newsletter warning about potential violence, “if you argue that the very existence of the country is at stake, don’t be surprised if people start to act as if the very existence of the country is at stake.”

….

And so the enabling lies spread. They poison hearts. They poison minds. They fill you with rage and hate, until along comes the activating lie, the dangerous falsehood that pushes a person towards true radicalism. How does a person come to the conclusion that cannibal pedophiles dominate Hollywood? Or that a vast conspiracy of politicians, lawyers, journalists, and tech executives (including conservative politicians, lawyers, and journalists) brazenly stole a presidential election?

You believe that when you know your enemy is evil. You believe that when you know they will destroy the country. In that context, fact-checks and rebuttals aren’t just wrong, they’re naïve. All too often, when you’re arguing with the person who believes the activating lie—the falsehood that immediately motivated them to take to the street—then you’ve already lost.

If the church plays whack-a-mole against Q and Stop the Steal while it tolerates and spreads enabling lies, expect to see the insurrection continue. Expect to see it grow. After all, “they” hate us. “They” will destroy the country. “They” will stop at nothing to see the church fall.

Rebutting enabling lies does not mean whitewashing the opposition. It does not mean surrendering your values or failing to resist destructive ideas. It does mean discerning the difference between a problem and a crisis, between an aberration and an example. And it means possessing the humility to admit when you’re wrong. It means understanding that no emergency is ever too great to stop loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you.

And the rebuttal has to come from within. The New York Times isn’t going to break this fever. Vox won’t change many right-wing minds. But courageous Christians who love Christ and His church have a chance. 

While I do not agree with everything French writes in his article, his central premise rings true. Central to the events of January 6, 2021 is American Evangelical Christianity.

Emma Green describes the connection between Evangelicalism (and Conservative Catholicism) and the insurrection in an Atlantic article titled, A Christian Insurrection.

Green writes:

The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government. The mob carried signs and flag declaring Jesus saves! and God, Guns & Guts Made America, Let’s Keep All Three. Some were participants in the Jericho March, a gathering of Christians to “pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity.” After calling on God to “save the republic” during rallies at state capitols and in D.C. over the past two months, the marchers returned to Washington with flourish. On the National Mall, one man waved the flag of Israel above a sign begging passersby to Say Yes to Jesus. “Shout if you love Jesus!” someone yelled, and the crowd cheered. “Shout if you love Trump!” The crowd cheered louder. The group’s name is drawn from the biblical story of Jericho, “a city of false gods and corruption,” the march’s website says. Just as God instructed Joshua to march around Jericho seven times with priests blowing trumpets, Christians gathered in D.C., blowing shofars, the ram’s horn typically used in Jewish worship, to banish the “darkness of election fraud” and ensure that “the walls of corruption crumble.”

The Jericho March is evidence that Donald Trump has bent elements of American Christianity to his will, and that many Christians have obligingly remade their faith in his image. Defiant masses literally broke down the walls of government, some believing they were marching under Jesus’s banner to implement God’s will to keep Trump in the White House. The group’s co-founders are essentially unknown in the organized Christian world. Robert Weaver, an evangelical Oklahoma insurance salesman, was nominated by Trump to lead the Indian Health Service but withdrew after The Wall Street Journal reported that he misrepresented his qualifications. Arina Grossu, who is Catholic, recently worked as a contract communications adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. (Weaver and Grossu declined to comment. “Jericho March denounces any and all acts of violence and destruction, including any that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021,” a PR spokesperson for the March wrote to me in an email after the publication of this article.) Still, they will have far more influence in shaping the reputation of Christianity for the outside world than many denominational giants: They helped stage a stunning effort to circumvent the 2020 election, all in the name of their faith. White evangelicals, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. Some of these supporters participated in the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. But many in the country hold all Trump voters responsible—especially those who lent him the moral authority of their faith.

….

“This is bigger than one election,” Grossu says on the Jericho March website. “This is about protecting free and fair elections for the future and saving America from tyranny.” Paranoid thinking abounded among the protesters in D.C.; the QAnon conspiracy has circulated within some evangelical circles. On Wednesday, the Jericho March account tweeted a screenshot of Trump condemning Vice President Mike Pence for not stopping the certification of the Electoral College votes. “A sad day in America,” it said, along with prayer-hands emojis. The march organizers were not mourning the attack on the Capitol. They were mourning the vice president’s refusal to help the president overturn the election.

Were all the insurrectionists Evangelicals? Of course not. That said, Evangelicalism was on prominent display, and those of us who have been following and writing about Evangelicalism for years knew that the baby birthed on January 6th was conceived decades ago in the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and the Moral Majority. Over time, culture warriors dropped all pretenses of spirituality, trading their Biblical beliefs for a bowl of political power. In 2016, 82% of voting White Evangelicals voted for an immoral, godless New York con-man named Donald Trump. In 2020, most white Evangelicals — knowing all they now know about Trump — voted once again for him.

Early in Trump’s presidency, Evangelicals tried to convince the American people that Trump was a Christian. James Dobson called the President a “baby Christian.” Trump gathered together prominent Evangelicals — led by crazed charismatic Paula White — and presented them as his “spiritual” advisory board. These preachers sold their souls for bowls of pottage. Trump, of course, was using them for political gain. He knew he needed Evangelicals to vote for him again if he hoped to win re-election.

Evangelicals have pretty much given up on calling Trump a Christian. All that mattered to them is that Trump delivered culture war victories on issues such as abortion and restoring Evangelicals to the head of the cultural table. Decades of separation of church & state progress went out the window, with Christianity being granted unprecedented access to government services and programs. Numerous federal agencies and cabinet positions were headed by Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote, voted to require:

a pill used in medication abortions must be distributed to patients directly by health providers and not by retail or mail-order pharmacies. A lower court temporarily suspended this requirement during the pandemic; the Supreme Court’s decision effectively reinstates the requirement.

Thanks to Trump, the Supreme Court now has a solid conservative Christian majority. It is likely, that the Roberts court will, in time, overturn Roe v. Wade — fulfilling the wet dream of millions and millions of Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics. We can also expect to see frontal assaults on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights. Trump may have lost the election, but he’s given Evangelicals historic victories in the culture war; victories that will negatively affect us for decades.

It should come as no surprise, then, that millions of Evangelicals who recently voted for Trump believe that the election was stolen from Trump; that the “deep state” is out to destroy all they hold dear. While they certainly weren’t the sum of the insurrectionists, they made up a substantial percentage of the white Americans who stormed the Capitol eight days ago. Apologists such as Brown are living in denial of what happened on January 6th. And until such men and women are willing to admit that they are a cancer eating away at the heart of our democracy, there can be no forgiveness or unity. I find it laughable to hear Evangelicals who encouraged sedition now calling on Democrats and people of color to ignore their treasonous behavior and unify with them for the “good” of our Republic.

What’s good for the United States is the arrest and prosecution of those who invaded the Capitol. Hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions should be forthcoming. Members of Congress that helped foment the insurrection should be immediately expelled, and, if warranted, prosecuted. Many of the shrillest voices promoting conspiracies in the Senate and House of Representatives were card-carrying Evangelicals. Ted Cruz? A Southern Baptist. Josh Hawley? A Fundamentalist Calvinist. Evangelicals are everywhere if you dare to pay attention.

There was a day when the religion of a politician was off-limits. We can no longer afford to ignore the connection between theological beliefs and political ambition. Josh Hawley, for example, is a Rousas Rushdoony-loving theocrat. His theological beliefs are a direct threat to our Democracy. And he is not the only Senator or Representative with such beliefs. We must not play nice with such people, all because we supposedly shouldn’t criticize the religious beliefs of others. Their beliefs are fair game, as are the beliefs of all of us. If beliefs affect how we think and act, should we not pay attention to them? After the events of January 6th, the answer to this question should be obvious.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

America’s Gun Culture in Light of the Recent Insurrection

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Years ago, I wrote a post about firearms and the importance of gun control laws. Boy, did I step in it, attracting all sorts of gun nuts and worshipers of the Second Amendment. I took the position then that we must do something about the dangerous, irrational, violent gun culture in America. Numerous mass shootings, school massacres, murders, and insurrections later, I still believe that the people of the United States MUST come to terms with the gun monster we have created by allowing the NRA and other pro-gun groups to impede meaningful, exhaustive firearm regulation. After recent armed insurrections at the U.S. Capitol and numerous state capitals, it’s evident that we must drastically change our firearm laws.

But, Bruce, the Second Amendment says . . .

Ah yes, the God of the American right. What, exactly, does the Second Amendment say?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

A well regulated militia, end of discussion. The Second Amendment has nothing to do with personal firearm ownership as it is currently practiced in the United States. At best, our well regulated militias are state National Guard units, and not Billy Bob and Joe Bob getting together with their white supremacist buddies and calling themselves a militia.

It is the duty of the law enforcement and the National Guard to protect the security of our free state, not people who have bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle or a Glock 9mm semi-automatic pistol at Dick’s Sporting Goods or their local gun store.

I grew up in a home surrounded by firearms. My dad was an avid gun collector. In the 1960s and 1970s, Dad had tables at local gun shows, buying and selling firearms and ammunition. After we moved to Arizona in the 70s, Dad opened a gun store in Sierra Vista. I worked many hours at the store, and had at my disposal everything from single-shot .22k Hornet rifles to .458 Winchester Magnum rifles. When I wanted to go hunting or do some target shooting, I either used my own guns or I borrowed one from the store.

In the 1960s, Dad got a visit from the ATF, alleging that he had violated the 1968 Gun Control Act with some of his firearm sales at a Lima, Ohio gun show. While he was not arrested, ATF agents told him that if he didn’t stop his illicit trade, they would charge him with federal crimes. Did Dad stop illegally peddling guns? I can’t know for sure, but I doubt it.

As an eleven-year-old boy, I vividly remember Dad sitting at the dining room table modifying an M1 Carbine so it would be fully automatic. After the modification, Dad and I went outside and lined up a bunch of tin cans on the fence. Dad then mowed the cans down with his now fully automatic M1. I have no idea what happened to this gun, or if Dad modified other M1s for interested buyers.

That’s my background, lest anyone suggest that I don’t know anything about firearms. I owned firearms well into the 1990s. I then sold my rifles, shotguns, and handguns. By that time, I had stopped hunting, and I lost interest in target shooting and owning guns in general. I do wish I hadn’t sold my bolt action Mossburg .410 shotgun with a modified choke. It was my first firearm purchase at the Lima gun show mentioned above. I was eleven and paid $21 for the shotgun.

What must we as a people do to put an end to the Second Amendment cult? What must we do to put an end to gun violence? What must we do to strip insurrectionists of their weapons of mass destruction? What follows are suggestions for radically changing America’s gun culture.

First, all firearms and ancillary equipment must be registered and entered into a national database that is accessible to law enforcement. Purchase requirements must be strengthened and waiting periods lengthened. These things must be changed at the federal level. State governments have shown that they are unwilling to do what’s necessary to protect the American people from gun violence. Here in Ohio, super-majorities of Republicans in the state legislature have turned the Buckeye State into the Wild, Wild West. Anything goes when it comes to firearms.

Second, certain firearms must be strictly regulated and, if need be, confiscated. Assault-style firearms must be banned, along with high-capacity magazines. Owners of such things should be given an opportunity to turn them in and receive fair market value for their weapons. If they refuse to turn in the guns, laws should be crafted that would seriously punish them if they are caught with the weapons in public.

Third, all state concealed carry laws should be repealed. No one should be permitted to carry a firearm in public. Allowance should be made for hunting and target shooting, but firearms used for such purposes must be secured separate from ammunition until they are readied for use.

Fourth, all private sales or transfers of weapons must be reported to local law enforcement, who then must update the federal database with the new information. Illegal firearm sales must be severely punished.

Fifth, every gun and ammunition sale should be taxed. Want to reduce the number of firearms in America? Tax sales at such a level that purchasers will think twice about buying more guns or boxes of ammunition.

Sixth, sales of things such as bulletproof vests, armor-piercing bullets, flash grenades, and arrest zip ties should be limited to law enforcement. Ammunition purchases should be limited. No one needs to own thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Seventh, all firearm owners must take comprehensive firearm training. This training must be repeated every five years. All firearms are required to be secured with a trigger lock or locked in a gun safe/box.

Eighth, Hollywood and game companies must be held accountable for their love affair with violence and firearms. This is one of those “think of the children” moments. Children with immature minds gain warped views of firearms, life, violence, and death when watching programming or playing video games that glorify these things.

Ninth, the Dickey Amendment must be repealed. For 25 years the CDC has shied away from conducting research on gun violence. That’s because in 1996 Congress passed the Dickey Amendment, a law that mandated “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the CDC may be used to advocate or promote gun control.” This silencing of research on gun violence serves to hide the true nature and extent of gun-related injuries and deaths.

The goal, long term, should be to adopt the Australian or British model of gun control. One thing I know for certain: we cannot continue on the path we are on. It’s only a matter of time before another mass shooting, school massacre, or, the gods forbid, an armed, bloody insurrection against the legally constituted government of the United States. These insurrectionists are not patriots. Their purpose is to overthrow federal and state governments, establishing a white theocracy. That the people who stormed the Capitol were determined to have no king but Donald Jesus Trump should scare the shit out of rational Americans. If the insurrectionists had turned right instead of left, we likely would have seen the execution of numerous senators and representatives. This mob was even calling for the head of Christian nationalist Vice President Michael Pence.

I have no doubt that armed insurrections lie ahead for Washington DC and many state capitals. We are possibly facing days like we have not seen since the Civil War. The difference is the insurrectionists are heavily armed and are able to inflict mass casualties. When mass delusion controls millions and millions of Americans, there’s no hope of reasoning with such people. Most of them are beyond facts. They have bought into lies that have so enraged them that they are willing to murder people in the name of “truth.” The short-term answer, then, is for insurrectionists to be met with and repelled by law enforcement and the national guard. Long term, the beast must be neutered and disarmed. The things I mentioned above would help in doing just that.

Let me be clear, I have no interest in debating members of the Second Amendment cult, NRA members, or people who think firearm ownership is an absolute right (no rights are absolute). For this post, I will invoke the one comment rule for members of the cult. Say your piece, and move on. I am more interested in hearing from people who are tired and fearful of the American gun culture; who are sick of all the threats of violence and murders; who fear that our democracy is in trouble and we must do everything in our power to turn back seditious insurrectionists out to destroy the United States as we know it.

The comment section is yours.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Christian Privilege Storms the Capitol

insurrection capitol 2

A guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Even though I’ve experienced a few things no one should have to, I have had privilege and still enjoy some privileges. I have lived a bit more than a decade and a half as a woman and have experienced “mansplaining” and all manner of microaggressions, in addition to outright discrimination and a sexual assault. But I realize that even though I grew up working-class and used a couple of scholarships, a few part-time jobs and the US Army to finance my post-secondary education, my path almost certainly would have been more difficult had I not been living as a male. (Mind you, I say that as someone who experienced a sexual assault in the Army a decade after experiencing serial sexual abuse from a priest.) Or if my skin had been a few shades darker. Or if someone could tell that the first language I spoke wasn’t English.

I was, and am, privileged in yet another way: I have visited twenty countries and lived in two. Of those countries, only two (including one in which I’ve lived) had not—until yesterday–experienced a violent overthrow of a sitting government or a violent attempt to prevent a newly-elected government from taking its place. Seeing how some people, decades or even generations later, still carry the trauma of successful and attempted coups helped me to understand—as corny as this sounds—what a privilege it had been to live in a country that had never experienced a coup, and had gone more than two centuries without its capital being sacked.

When the hordes of Trump-election-loss-deniers stormed the Capitol, I couldn’t help but to think about the privilege I’ve lost, and what I still have. The latter—or, perhaps more precisely, my awareness of my privilege—is the reason why I never could cast my lot with those who felt aggrieved enough to attack the seat of American democracy. On the other hand, the fact that I’ve lost some privilege in my life allows me to understand, to some degree, why those mobs behaved as they did.

Privilege makes your life easier but it doesn’t make your life worth living. However, at the moment you lose–or feel as if you’re losing–your privilege, it feels as if you are losing your rights. And, in such a wounded, vulnerable state, it’s too easy to see that others getting the same rights you’ve always had (voting, marriage, not getting fired or evicted–or denied a job or housing in the first place–because of your race or gender identity or expression) as having “special privileges” bestowed upon them, and to see those who would grant those rights as “enemies” or “aliens.” It’s easy to see the “others” as “taking” from you.

In other words, you feel like a victim. In other uprisings and insurrections, the rabble-rousers had legitimate reasons to feel victimized: They worked and paid their taxes, but they were still hungry and some leader said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” Or they were harassed, imprisoned or tortured for being poorer or darker, being of a different religion or not following the gender norms mandated by their ruling classes. Or they were taxed but not represented.

Nearly all the President’s storm troopers at the Capitol were white, and most were male. From what I could see, not many were hungry. (In my experience, hungry people don’t pose for many selfies.) Moreover, they seemed a bit older than the participants of other disruptions to the normal order. So, I believe that I’m making another reasonable guess in assuming that relatively few of them are burdened with student debt or have had their futures foreclosed by the economic upheavals of the past generation or so. While their wages may not have kept pace with those of, say, tech entrepreneurs and executives, they are not where they are because they were denied opportunities on account of their race, gender identity or expression—or religion.

Which brings me to this: another educated guess I can make about the mobs that stormed the Capitol is that most of the people involved were Christians in some fashion or another; many were Evangelicals. I can say this because, during the past few decades, utterly reactionary interpretations of the Bible—or, more accurately, fanatical, cultish devotion to the personalities offering said interpretations of the book they believe to have come directly from the mouth of God—have become one strand of the far-right’s DNA. (The other is White nationalism.) So, really it is no surprise that at least some in those mobs believed, with a certainty rarely seen among anyone else, about anything in the Western world, that they are carrying out the Will Of God, not to mention their Constitutional rights.

Anyone who is so fanatical believes that those who question, let alone try to stop them are persecuting them, and anyone who dies in the course of carrying out their fight is a martyr. So, if they are beaten, arrested, imprisoned or killed, it is proof that the powers-that-be are against them, and that they are as endangered as, supposedly, the early Christians were

The problem with their position is that it simply has no basis. No Christian can claim to be a “persecuted minority” in the United States, any more than a white cisgender heterosexual male can. If their preferred candidate didn’t win, it’s not the fault of the system, just as if they didn’t realize their youthful dreams of becoming professional athletes, entertainers or simply wealthy, they weren’t held back by some conspiracy funded by George Soros. Likewise, if they lost their old jobs because factories shut down or headquarters relocated, their black or brown or yellow neighbors aren’t to blame. Rather, they simply didn’t have the talents, skills or simply luck to fulfill their hopes and dreams: in other words, to leverage the privilege they have.

As someone who has had and lost privilege, I am conscious of what privilege I still have. I believe I can also recognize it in others. Most of the mob in the Capitol (which included, by the way, at least a few cops) have no idea of how much they still have, which is why they feel “their” country has been “stolen” from them when people different from themselves simply out-organized and out-voted them.

Speaking of voting: It’s not a privilege; it’s a right. And it’s not granted by God; it’s guaranteed in the Constitution. The only way to lose that right is (in at least some states) to be convicted of a felony, as those mob members may be when they are found. Whatever your privilege—and whether or not you believe in God, or at least the protesting mob’s vision of His Kingdom On Earth—you have it and I have it, as they do, even if they lose their privilege—of living their lives outside a prison cell.

In brief, the folks who stormed the Capitol were not victims. They also benefit from privilege they don’t realize they have but impute to others. Some of that privilege comes, for many, from accepting a paleolithic interpretation of a collection of late Bronze Age myths. The rest comes from being of (at least in their eyes) the right race, gender, and sexual identity. Until they understand as much, they will see themselves as victims and some will perpetuate the violence fomented by a public figure they worship as they exalt their God.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

A Few Thoughts About Donald Trump and the Insurrection

insurrection capitol

Much like every thinking American, I was struck with horror as the supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, forcing Congress members to flee for their lives. I was sitting on the couch watching MSNBC when Polly left for work at 5:15 PM, and I will still there when she returned at 2:30 AM. Then both of us watched as Congress certified the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, finally retiring at 4:00 AM.

I am sixty-three-years old. I have lived through Watergate, Vietnam, the killing of President John F. Kennedy, the 1968 race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, 9/11, and a host of smaller world-shattering events. None of these compared to what I witnessed yesterday happening in Washington DC. Perhaps time has softened how I view the effects of past events on my life, but in this moment, I thought our democracy was going up in smoke from a fire fueled by President Trump, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and other Trumpist Republicans. In the midst of this nightmare, Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff won their congressional races in Georgia, giving Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since 2004. A glimmer of hope, to be sure, but not enough to assuage my palatable fear as I watched armed white supremacists, Nazis, militia members, and other right-wing extremists take control of our temple of democracy, making a mockery of the rule of law.

The events of January 6, 2021, taught us how quickly people can be caught up in mass delusions; how Hitler-like charismatic leaders such as Donald Trump can inspire millions of people to do despicable things. That many of these insurrectionists were Evangelical Christians, should not be ignored. It’s clear to me that one mass delusion helped fuel another. These same people believe that Christianity is under attack, there’s a war on Christmas, and secularists and atheists are out to take over “their” country. On prominent display were followers of QAnon; people who are at war with the deep state; people who believe the US government is controlled by baby-eating pedophiles. Throw in a plethora of anti-science beliefs, and the mob that took over the Capitol yesterday is beyond reason. Anyone who has tried to reason with such people knows that they are beyond reason and facts. If people can uncritically believe that a virgin had a baby, a man resurrected from the dead three days after died, and the Bible is the very words of God and every word in it is true, it is not hard for them to embrace irrational (and dangerous) political ideologies. About all else, we have a truth crisis. Tens of millions of Americans have already bought into alternative explanations for what happened on Wednesday, including believing that the insurrection was fueled by ANTIFA masquerading as Trump supporters. I have several family members who have already bought into alternative explanations for what happened. No amount of evidence or facts will change their minds. Jesus is Lord, Donald Trump is God, and Democrats and secularists are Satanic.

I have no doubt that more violence from Trump supporters lies ahead. It’s only a matter of time before one of these people shoots a prominent politician or a group of them kill people whom they believe are evil, anti-patriotic socialists or communists (even though most Trump supporters couldn’t rationally define these ideologies). I have proudly worn the atheist and Democratic socialist labels for years. Recent events have caused me to question whether it is safe to continue to do so. Trumpist locals by and large know me as an outspoken heathen and liberal. These people, including one family member, are armed to the teeth. If rabid Trump supporters can do what they did in Washington DC on Wednesday, it is not far-fetched to think that local white supremacists and militia groups might commit acts of violence here in America’s heartland. Recent events have me seriously reconsidering owning a firearm; if for no other reason than to protect me and my family from harm. “What if” has now become reality.

I call on Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet secretaries to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the President from office. Donald Trump provoked insurrection; a violent attempt to take over the U.S. government. While I am, in the main, a proponent of free speech, Trump has crossed the line, as have some members of Congress. They must be held accountable for their crimes.

If Trump’s cabinet is unwilling to do what’s right, Congress has the duty and responsibility to impeach President Trump. They cannot just “let it go.” Trump committed seditious acts against the Federal Government. Congress and the Justice Department must make sure that no future President can attack the pillars of American democracy with impunity. Doing nothing says to the American people that such behavior is okay; that attempting to violently overthrow the government is an accepted form of protest. It’s not, and that needs to be made clear to every American, especially those who are flag-waving Trump supporters.

It is evident that the insurrection was well planned and that some members of the Capitol Police Department helped to facilitate the takeover of the Capitol. These police officers must be prosecuted for their crimes against the American people. That so few insurrectionists were arrested is nothing short of scandalous. The various law enforcement agencies must immediately use all their available resources to identify those responsible for what happened on Wednesday and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

It is also evident — as if we didn’t know this already — that there are two standards of justice in the United States. That thousands of white Trump supporters can take over the Capitol and only 53 people are arrested — mostly for curfew violations — while (for the most part) peaceful black protesters are met with overwhelming government-sanctioned violence shows how we are treated depends on the color of our skins. Imagine what would have happened if it were the supporters of Black Lives Matter who stormed the Capitol and took it over. Why, there would be blood flowing both outside and inside of the Capitol building. It’s time for thoughtful white people to understand that we have a systemic racism problem in America. I call on Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and the newly Democratic-controlled Congress to take immediate steps to put an end to violence against people of color. No band-aid approach. It’s time to make extensive, comprehensive, and just changes to virtually every aspect of law enforcement and the justice department.

While I want to believe that better days lie ahead, I do fear that our beloved country will spin into chaos if we do not firmly deal with the events of January 6 and then work hard to end the injustices that have plagued our country since its inception. It remains to be seen if President Biden, Vice President Harris, and a Democratic Congress are up to the task. Will we have four years of FDR or four more years of the same old shit, new day. The ball is in our court, Democrats. We have the power necessary to effect true, lasting societal change. And the first thing Senate Democrats must do is return majority rule to the Senate by eliminating the filibuster rule. This is your time Democrats. Don’t squander it as you did during President Obama’s first two years in office. Your actions will show whether or not you have the courage of your convictions; whether you are willing to put the American people first.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Bruce Gerencser