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Tag: Jerry Falwell

The Voices of Atheism: What Christopher Hitchens Had to Say About the Death of Jerry Falwell

christopher hitchens
Christopher Hitchens

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Here’s what Christopher Hitchens had to say in a Slate article about Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher Jerry Falwell the day after his death on May 15, 2007:

The discovery of the carcass of Jerry Falwell on the floor of an obscure office in Virginia has almost zero significance, except perhaps for two categories of the species labeled “credulous idiot.” The first such category consists of those who expected Falwell (and themselves) to be bodily raptured out of the biosphere and assumed into the heavens, leaving pilotless planes and driverless trucks and taxis to crash with their innocent victims as collateral damage. This group is so stupid and uncultured that it may perhaps be forgiven. It is so far “left behind” that almost its only pleasure is to gloat at the idea of others being abandoned in the same condition.

The second such category is of slightly more importance, because it consists of the editors, producers, publicists, and a host of other media riffraff who allowed Falwell to prove, almost every week, that there is no vileness that cannot be freely uttered by a man whose name is prefaced with the word Reverend. Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get. Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. “Why, Reverend, come right on the show!” What a fool Don Imus was. If he had paid the paltry few bucks to make himself a certified clergyman, he could be jeering and sneering to the present hour.

….

Falwell went much further than his mad 1999 assertion about the Jewish Antichrist. In the time immediately following the assault by religious fascism on American civil society in September 2001, he used his regular indulgence on the airwaves to commit treason. Entirely exculpating the suicide-murderers, he asserted that their acts were a divine punishment of the United States. Again, I ask you to imagine how such a person would be treated if he were not supposedly a man of faith.

….

Like many fanatical preachers, Falwell was especially disgusting in exuding an almost sexless personality while railing from dawn to dusk about the sex lives of others. His obsession with homosexuality was on a par with his lip-smacking evocations of hellfire. From his wobbly base of opportunist fund raising and degree-mill money-spinning in Lynchburg, Va., he set out to puddle his sausage-sized fingers into the intimate arrangements of people who had done no harm. Men of this type, if they cannot persuade enough foolish people to part with their savings, usually end up raving on the street and waving placards about the coming day of judgment. But Falwell, improving on the other Chaucerian frauds from Oral Roberts to Jim Bakker to Ted Haggard, not only had a TV show of his own but was also regularly invited onto mainstream ones.

….

The evil that he did will live after him. This is not just because of the wickedness that he actually preached, but because of the hole that he made in the “wall of separation” that ought to divide religion from politics. In his dingy racist past, Falwell attacked those churchmen who mixed the two worlds of faith and politics and called for civil rights. Then he realized that two could play at this game and learned to play it himself. Then he won the Republican Party over to the idea of religious voters and faith-based fund raising. And now, by example at least, he has inspired emulation in many Democrats and liberals who would like to borrow the formula. His place on the cable shows will be amply filled by Al Sharpton: another person who can get away with anything under the rubric of Reverend. It’s a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it’s extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the “faith-based.

— Christopher Hitchens, Slate, Faith-Based Fraud:Jerry Falwell’s foul rantings prove you can get away with anything if you have “Reverend” in front of your name, May 16, 2007

Here’s a video of Hitchens explaining his view of Falwell to CNN host Anderson Cooper. Priceless. I mean priceless! 🙂

Video Link

HT: Wondering Eagle

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.

Quote of the Day: Jared Yates Sexton Explains President Trump’s Bible Stunt

trump holding bible

I’m going to provide some history of Neo-Confederate, white-identity, apocalyptic evangelicalism, what I call the Cult of the Shining City.

This is who Donald Trump was messaging yesterday with his bible stunt.

For starters, the Cult of the Shining City is not an organized group. The members, most of them, believe they’re just evangelicals. There are members with power who use them and manipulate them.

But there are millions of them, and they worship Donald Trump like a messiah.

None of this is tin-foil hat stuff. It’s not about smoky rooms. It’s the hidden history of how America’s Right has been coopted into an apocalyptic fantasy that currently threatens our safety and the safety of the world.

This is history, not conjecture. It’s how we got here.

Trump’s photo-op yesterday seemed bizarre to everyone but people who grew up in white-identity, apocalyptic evangelicalism.

This was a choreographed messaged that Trump is engaging in a holy battle on behalf of God and Christians, but also a possible call to violence.

Not every Cult of the Shining City member believes Trump is a messiah, but almost all believe he is a holy man fighting on their behalf.

The beliefs vary, but it is an apocalyptic cult that Trump has used to build his base.

To begin, we have to start with the Confederate States of America. Secession was done, in part, based on the belief that the North had violated God’s racist commandments.

They believed in “an Almighty God” who crowned white people as his champions on Earth.

The Confederate States of America was an explicitly Christian nation, in definition and practice. The society was built upon the idea that God was a white supremacist being who ordered whites to enslave lesser people.

White supremacist Christianity was the CSA’s reality.

Confederate preachers like Benjamin M Palmer warned of “perilous atheists” in the North who sought to betray the racist God’s white supremacy religion.

They preached that slavery and white supremacy were ordained by God and that the North was becoming devilish.

….

Jefferson Davis and other Confederate leaders blamed the people’s lack of faith in the racist God for their defeats, ordering days of humiliation and fasting in order to get right.

Failure was seen as God’s fury for disbelief in his white supremacist orders.

When the Civil War ended, it was seen as a reunification of culture, but the Confederate Christianity didn’t just go away. Southern preachers continued preaching that God was a white supremacist and that blacks were to be subjugated and enslaved.

It stills exists now.

One of the Southern preachers who believed in God-ordained white supremacy was Jerry Falwell, whose ministry held segregation as a Godly decree and any attempt toward equality the work of Satan.

Falwell called segregation a “line drawn by God” and warned that any attempt to desegregate or dismantle white supremacy was the work of the Devil and would draw God’s anger.

Like Confederate preachers of old.

Civil Rights protests gained the attention of Confederate Christians like Falwell, who charged that protestors were doing Satan’s work and were being “manipulated” by outside forces, including Communists and anarchists. It was a charge of spiritual war.

Despite popular history claiming Martin Luther King was beloved, he was treated like a satanic antichrist, using Christianity for nefarious purposes people like Falwell and segregationists claimed were Communist and devilish purposes.

Falwell aired his suspicions about MLK and disputed his social justice interpretation of the Bible.

To counteract, Falwell and others actively moved their faith toward hidden white supremacy through ideas of power and economic success.

All tenets of white supremacy.

The new Evangelical Right was white supremacist and Neo-Confederate in nature, but hid that prejudice behind the idea of morality and achieving success through the economic world.

Christianity was about power and profit. Fascistic pursuits behind a smiling veneer.

….

The Deep State conspiracy theory/Qanon is just New World Order, apocalyptic, Cult of the Shining City paranoia

All of it centers around white supremacy, Confederate philosophy, being challenged by evil conspiracies of Jewish interference, traitors, and minority manipulation.

In this fever dream, paranoid reality, Trump is a holy warrior, the last stand against a New World Order coup and the triumph of Satan over God in the holy country of America.

He has played this role to full effect and has been embraced as a faulty messiah.

….

Trump’s posing with the Bible yesterday was a signal that he is the holy warrior, the “chosen one” that many have called him. It’s to prepare the Cult of the Shining City followers for what they’ll see as a holy war of America, God’s chosen nation, against Satan’s forces.

Jared Yates Sexton, The Muckrake, author of the book AMERICAN RULE: HOW A NATION CONQUERED THE WORLD BUT FAILED ITS PEOPLE

Women, the Doormat of the Church

women doormat

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Many years ago, I was watching the Old Time Gospel Hour on TV. At the time, the Old Time Gospel Hour was the flagship program of Thomas Road Baptist Church and Jerry Falwell.

Falwell was preaching about women and the Equal Rights Amendment.

I have never forgotten what he said:

We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women. We believe in putting women on a pedestal.

I remember thinking, at the time, that makes a lot of sense. The Equal Rights Amendment was viewed as an attempt to blur the lines between the sexes; to make our culture unisex, which was considered by Evangelicals to be a grievous, damning sin.

The Evangelical pastors of my youth and college years taught me:

  • Women are to submit to men.
  • Women are best suited to be mothers and keepers of the home.
  • Women are emotional and men are logical.
  • Women should be discouraged from going to college because graduating from college makes it less likely that a woman will be a good mother and keeper of the home.
  • If a woman is insistent on going to college and refuses to marry the nice boy who sits behind her in church, then she should go to a Christian college. Her career choices? Pastor’s wife, single missionary, or Christian school teacher.
  • Women are not suited for intellectual endeavors.
  • Women should not be involved in making major decisions. The decision-maker in the home is the husband. The decision-makers in the church are men, and political office is reserved for men.
  • Women are to conjugally perform whenever their husbands demand it. Being tired from feeding the children, changing diapers, cleaning the house, homeschooling the children, and making sure the king of the home’s every need and whim is met, is no excuse for not joyfully having sex for three minutes before her God-fearing husband falls off to sleep. If she doesn’t put out, she is risking her husband having an adulterous affair and it will be HER fault.

The above social strictures showed up in countless sermons. Is it any wonder so many Evangelical marriages are dysfunctional; that women schooled in such an environment have difficultly functioning in the real world?

Even in my marriage, I was a typical “I am the boss, chief decision-maker, you submit to me” husband. I made ALL the decisions. For twenty years this is how we “did” marriage. Gradually, as I became more liberal in my understanding of life, I realized how hurtful this was to women in general and to my dear wife in particular.

For many years, Polly found it hard to make decisions. She told me one time that she was “afraid to make decisions because she might make a wrong decision and then you’ll be mad at me.” I said “Yep. That’s the price of admission. Making decisions means you might piss someone off.” As a supervisor where she works, she is required to make decisions that inevitably leave one or more parties unhappy. When she comes home discouraged by the response of this or that person, I remind her of what Colin Powell said about leadership:

Being responsible sometimes means pissing people off.

Bit by bit, I see Polly throwing off the bondage of yesteryear, but I do wonder if she’ll ever be totally free from teachings of the past — I know I’m not.  Submit. Obey. Do what your husband says. He is the head of the home. It is hard to shake such indoctrination.

Is marriage really a partnership when only one partner decides everything? Certainly, we each have strengths and weaknesses. I am not about to enter my wife’s kitchen. First, we will all starve. Second, she is a far better cook than I will ever be in ten lifetimes. On the other hand, I pay the bills, write the checks, and manage the money.  Thanks to my business background, I am good at handling money, bills, and debt, and I am able to analyze numbers on the fly. I do what I am good at and so does Polly. Our marriage is now a partnership of equals, each doing those things that best serve the partnership. (On a funnier note, she’d rather mow the grass and I’d rather clean the house.)

There is ONE area where I refuse to relinquish control: the remote control! It’s mine, dammit. Don’t touch it. If I died today, Polly would never watch TV again because she has no clue and little interest in how the remote works. She can run a sewing machine and do all sorts of intricate stitches, but ask her to change a TV program or set up a recording and suddenly she’s the young woman wooing her man, hoping he’ll do what she wants him to.

I digress…

How did Jerry Falwell’s superior rights for women work out practically in the church?

You be the judge. Does what follows seem superior to you?

  • Women sang in the choir and did special music numbers
  • Women played the piano and organ
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women worked in the nursery
  • Women taught children in Sunday school and Junior church
  • Women cooked food for potlucks and church meals
  • Women cleaned the church
  • Women took meals to shut-ins
  • Women did any menial work at the church that needed done

This list looks very similar to what was expected of women at home.

Women were not permitted to be pastors, deacons, elders, or teach older children. They were not allowed to teach any group of people that had adult men in it. Doing so would violate the Biblical command for a woman to never usurp the place/authority of a man. After all, God/Jesus is a man, as were the apostles.  End of discussion.

Granted, there is great improvement in some sectors of the Christian church when it comes to how women are treated.  Women can now be pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders, etc. Women teach theology at some Christian colleges. Thanks to feminism, women have a lot more opportunities than they did years ago. But the church still has a long way to go. Vast swaths of the Evangelical church still actively practice the repression of women. They sincerely believe they are following the teachings of the Bible when they do so. If God said it . . . end of discussion. As a result, thousands of churches continue to be man-only institutions.

One church I co-pastored wouldn’t even allow women to speak in a public congregational business meeting. If they had a question, they were required to whisper the question to a man and he would ask the question. I visited a Mennonite church years ago where the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Keeping to the mantra that women should never lead, when the congregation sang, the women always started singing one note after the men. That said, the singing was spectacular.

In the early 1970s, my mother gave me an important lesson in equal rights for all. She worked as a nurse’s aide for Winebrenner Nursing Home (now Birchaven Village), a Church of God-owned facility in Findlay Ohio. Female aides were paid less than male aides because the male aides did more of the “heavy” work. However, as my mom found out, both sexes did the “heavy” work.

So my Mom, ever the crusader, sued Winebrenner in federal court. At the time, to a fifteen-year-old Evangelical teenager, her behavior seemed silly and embarrassing. There were only a few coins difference in the wages, why bother? I thought at the time. I was so embarrassed when the lawsuit story hit the front page of the newspaper, complete with my mom holding a picket sign. But she was right. Winebrenner was discriminatory in their treatment of women. My mother filed a federal lawsuit under the Title 7 provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The court agreed, and my mother won her lawsuit. While I was embarrassed while this was being aired out in public, I now see how brave my mother was; to stand up for what was right; to dare demand that women be treated equally.We still have a long way to go on the issue of equality. Women are still treated as inferior to men. The glass ceiling exists, regardless of whether troglodytes like Phyllis Schlafly can see it. Yes, things are BETTER, but we should not rest until we are a society that is blind to gender, sexual orientation, race, and religion. Utopian? Perhaps. Justice and fairness require that we press forward even when it seems failure is certain. That’s one lesson my mom taught me, one that I will never forget.

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.

The United States Has an Evangelical Problem

evangelist don hardman
Evangelist Don and Laura Hardman, Somerset Baptist Church, Mt. Perry, Ohio, Late 1980s. Notice the huge flag. That should tell you all you need to know about my political and social agenda at the time.

In the late 1970s, Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, birthed a Christian political action group called the Moral Majority. Falwell, a graduate of Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, started Thomas Road Baptist — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution — in 1956. The church quickly became one of the largest churches in the United States. Today, the church claims it has almost 25,000 members. In 1971, Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College, now known as Liberty University. Liberty, an accredited university, is the largest Evangelical college in the United States. Most Evangelicals of my age likely remember Falwell’s weekly television program, The Old Time Gospel Hour. It was through his educational and media empire that Falwell pushed the Moral Majority’s agenda: to take back America for God.

In 1979, my wife and I attended a Moral Majority-sponsored outdoor “I Love America” rally at the Ohio State House. We later went to a pep rally of sorts held at a downtown Columbus location. All Polly remembers is discreetly breastfeeding our infant son during the rally. I, however, remember the thrilling speeches about returning the United States to its Christian roots. Dripping with manifest destiny and American exceptionalism, these speeches stirred my heart, and for many years, I devoted myself to waging what become known as the “culture war.”

In 1989, after successfully helping elect Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan to two terms as president, the Moral Majority disbanded. Falwell said at the time, “Our goal has been achieved…The religious right is solidly in place and … religious conservatives in America are now in for the duration.” Today, Evangelicals, having sold their souls for bowls of pottage, rabidly support Donald Trump, the most unqualified man to ever be president. Eighty-one percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. If the presidential election were held today, Evangelicals would, yet again, overwhelmingly vote for Trump. Even if Trump was thrown out of office, Evangelicals are satisfied that Christian America will be safe in the “godly” hands of Evangelical and True Believer® Mike Pence.

It is clear to anyone who is paying attention that Evangelicals have taken over not only the federal government but many state governments. Here in Ohio, Evangelicals (and conservative Catholics) rule the political roost. Now having a super-majority, Evangelicals — who are overwhelmingly Republicans — are able to enact their agenda at will, with only the courts standing in the way of them turning Ohio into a theocratic state. And now that Trump is packing the federal courts with conservative Christian jurists, the only recourse we have to beat back Evangelical sharia law may soon be gone.

Secularists love to point to studies showing that Evangelicalism is in numerical decline. While this is certainly true, that doesn’t mean the political power amassed by Evangelicals is in decline. It’s not, and as things now stand, it could take decades to undo all the damage done to our Republic by primarily white Evangelicals and their Mormon and Catholic cohorts.

I live in rural northwest Ohio. Donald Trump and the Republican Party dominate local and state politics. Local Democratic groups are largely ineffective or lifeless. And even among these groups, you will find that the conservative political beliefs espoused decades ago by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority have deeply influenced their thinking. I can tell you this much: true liberals around here are almost as rare as ivory-billed woodpeckers. Fearing social or economic retribution, what few liberals there are maintain a low profile. Of late, local Democratic operatives have taken to writing letters to the Defiance Crescent-News. While I appreciate their efforts — having been a regular writer of letters to local newspaper editors for almost 40 years — I fear that they operate under the delusion that their letters will change the minds of local Trump supporters. They won’t. At best, their letters to the newspaper remind other Democrats/progressives/liberals that they are not alone. Changing hearts and minds? Not a chance.

Due to the local sports photography work I do, I am connected with numerous locals on social media. Many of them are like me, using social media to share photos and cat videos. Others, however, regularly post things in support of Donald Trump. One woman, a relative of mine, went off on a rant over Trump’s impeachment, calling Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton all sorts of vile names. People such as I are routinely pilloried. I say nothing, having learned that talking politics on social media is a waste of time. Oh, it feels good to rip a right-winger a new one now and again, but to what end? Instead, I quietly unfriend such people. And it’s not just locals either. I am “friends” with several family members who routinely post all sorts of right-wing nonsense. No lie is too absurd to post, and no action by President Trump is so vile, extreme, or un-Christian that they won’t find a way to defend him.

Trump knows that the key to maintaining political power is convincing Evangelicals that he is a defender of Christian orthodoxy and a warrior in the battle against libtards, atheists, and socialists. So far, Evangelicals think that Trump is some sort of manifestation of God’s plan for Christian America. In the end, the joke will be on them, but by then the United States will lie in ruin.

The only way to beat back the Evangelical horde is for people of good will and reason to understand that Evangelical power and control is an illusion. As things stand today, atheists, agnostics, and nones are as large a demographic as Evangelicals. Hillary Clinton, a polarizing and weak presidential candidate if there ever was one, defeated Donald Trump by three million votes. Unfortunately, it is the arcane, outdated Electoral College that decides presidential elections, and not the popular vote. To keep Trump from being re-elected in 2020, millions and millions of new voters must be mobilized, and countless lazy Americans must be dragged from their beds to vote on election day. So far, nothing I have heard from the 3,023 people running for the Democratic nomination says to me that Democrats truly understand how to unseat Trump and take back congress. Maybe someone will rise to the top of the pile and mount an effective defense of American republicanism and secularism, but as of today, I have my doubts. If Democrats don’t figure it out soon, we are looking at four more years of Trump. Imagine the depths of the damage that will be done by Trump and his henchmen if they are given another term in office.

Democrats wrongly assume that our democracy can withstand whatever Trump and Company might do. While I thought this very thing at one time, I no longer believe it to be true. The United States is teetering on the edge of ruin and collapse. And this, remember, is exactly what Evangelicals want. Progressivism, secularism, pluralism, and socialism must be destroyed in order for the Evangelical Jesus to be enthroned as the king and ruler of the United States. Don’t believe it for one moment when Evangelicals “say” they don’t have theocratic ambitions. They do, as Evangelicals made clear in their racist attacks on Barack Obama, their unending attacks on LGBTQ people, their support of anti-immigrant, anti-poor policies, and their criminalization of abortion. Now that conservatives control the U.S. Supreme Court and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is living on borrowed time, Evangelicals know the time is ripe to roll back the social progress of the last sixty years. Want to know what a Christian America might look like? Take a look at countries ruled by Sharia law. Look at what’s going on in India today. Once a proud secular state, India now faces the establishment of a theocratic state by Fundamentalist Hindus — India’s version of Evangelicals.

Part of me wants to say, “Fuck it, I give up. I am going to die soon, and if death doesn’t get me, global climate change will.” Quite frankly, I am worn out. But then, I think of my children and grandchildren. What will they say about me if I give up now?

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Abortionists, Gays, and Secularists to Blame for 9-11 by Jerry Falwell

jerry falwell

This is the fifty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip taken from a Pat Robertson interview of Jerry Falwell. These words were uttered two days after 9-11.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser