Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe. If you don’t believe that Jesus existed, then he would be fiction. If he’s fiction, and you want to remove his name from everything then you need to remove every fiction name that there is across the country. That means we couldn’t say Superman welcomes you to town.
Texas city has at long last removed a “Jesus Welcomes You to Hawkins” sign that the Freedom From Religion Foundation objected to years ago.
Back in 2015, the state/church watchdog twice wrote to the city of Hawkins about the blatantly Christian sign on city property after receiving local complaints.
“The Establishment Clause prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages,” FFRF Associate Counsel Sam Grover noted. “The Supreme Court has been clear that the ‘First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”
The city of Hawkins violated this neutrality with a prominent governmental sign that proclaimed “Jesus Welcomes You” and endorsed belief in the pre-eminent figure of Christianity, FFRF pointed out. It sent a clear message to those with Christian beliefs that they’re favored community insiders and an equally clear message to those who believe differently that they’re not.
Then Hawkins-Mayor Will Rogers, the creative mind behind the sign, which he commissioned public school students to build, defended it with media statements such as “Jesus is not a religion, Jesus is in every religion across the globe. He’s in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism” and “If you don’t believe that Jesus existed, then he would be fiction. If he’s fiction, and you want to remove his name from everything, then you need to remove every fiction name that there is across the country. That means we couldn’t say ‘Superman welcomes you to town.’”
Fortunately, better sense prevailed in the rest of the city administration, and it heeded FFRF’s advice, albeit after many twists and turns.
The City Council voted to remove the sign after FFRF’s second letter, but then events headed in a strange direction after the mayor got into a long tussle with the city. He sued eight city officials and a bunch of other residents for supposedly resisting his attempts to root out corruption. Rogers settled the lawsuit but narrowly lost his re-election bid, with the sign playing a major role in the campaign.
Meanwhile, a group of supporters of the sign claimed that it was on private property, while the city contended that it had an easement to build a road on the land and, therefore, it was city-owned. The land turned out to be on the property of a funeral home that wanted nothing to do with the controversy, but then an entity called “Jesus Christ Open Altar Church, LLC” brought a lawsuit against the city after claiming to have bought the land from the funeral home. FFRF waited and watched while the lawsuit was underway. Finally, the city won that lawsuit on appeal and recently removed the sign.
FFRF is breathing a sigh of relief at this overdue victory for the U.S. Constitution — and for the rights of minority believers and nonbelievers in the community.
“We believe in justice for the good people of this country — even justice that is long delayed,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Finally, the city of Hawkins is in compliance with the law of the land — and has stopped sending a divisive and exclusionary message.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national nonprofit founded in 1978, has over 31,000 nonreligious members and several chapters around the country, including more than 1,300 members and a chapter in Texas.
LGBT activists are selling the lie to hundreds of thousands of individuals, that if they embrace their “true” identity as a homosexual or transgender person (or whatever their feelings tell them), they will find true freedom. But Jesus tells us,
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31–32, 34, 36)
Living the LGBT lifestyle leads to slavery to sin—it doesn’t give the freedom that it promises! Freedom (for any person) is only found in repentance and putting your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation. Then the Son, Jesus Christ, will set you free from the yoke of slavery and give you new and eternal life. That’s the message this culture desperately needs to hear!
This is the two hundredth and twelfth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.
Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Christ Jesus by Deer Tick.
I woke up next to the king
He got up, gonna fix me something
And it made me sick
How I can’t trust him, no I can’t trust him
Said the bottom of his belly
That’s where he would keep me
As I’m floating
And you get a brick
And you drop it down on me
Have you seen us
We’re down on our hands and our knees
And tell us what’s the reason
Like a heart that’s hung in the sky
A hard-on when I die
And you passed away
And that horizon never came, no it never came
It’s the time of the week
No one sees but me
As I’m drowning
And I struggle to breathe
It’s your face I don’t see
Please don’t leave us
If in peace you’ll keep us
Well then you should have believed us
Please let me inside
And hear out my desire
‘Cause soon I may die
Yes one day I will die
I’ll get eaten by the rust
You cremate and breathe the dust
And I’ll weaken your lungs
And I’ll bite off your tongue
Please don’t leave us
Down on our hands and our knees
Or I’ll never believe, no
As I’m drowning
And I struggle to breathe
It’s your face I don’t see
According to many Evangelicals, getting “saved” is better than any experience humans could possibly have. Is this really true? Or is it, perhaps, essential for Evangelicals to convinces themselves of this in order to justify claims that Jesus is the best friend, spouse, and lover anyone could ever have? Evangelicals are convinced — outwardly anyway — that their Jesus is the most awesome dude that ever walked on planet Earth; and even now from his Father’s third heaven, he continues to show that he is the best-God-ever. According to those who are saved and sanctified by the mighty blood of Jesus, their Savior, Lord, King, and Vending Machine Operator is da bomb. No matter how good, kind, and loving someone might be, no one is a match for J-E-S-U-S. Jesus H. Christ is the sum and end of everything. If Jesus was in the running for Man of the Year, he would win every year. No man, woman, or deity can compare to Jesus. Or so Evangelicals say, anyway.
What’s odd here is the fact that not one Evangelical has EVER seen Jesus. Two thousand years ago, Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross and crucified. While Jesus purportedly made a surprising return to life after being dead for 3 days, he disappeared a short time later, never to be seen again. Evangelicals allege that Jesus is now sitting on a throne in Heaven, busily hearing and answering their prayers; but they have no evidence outside of the Bible for this claim. Imagine a friend telling you that her spouse/boyfriend is an awesome person; that he is quite the lover; that no one in the entire world is as good as he is. Yet, when you ask, I would sure love to meet this hunka burning love of yours, she replies, You can’t. He’s invisible. What would your next thought be? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Rational people would encourage their friend to seek out professional psychiatric help. Yet, because loving the invisible Jesus is a religious belief, we are expected to, without judgment, smile and say, that’s nice.
Most Evangelicals enter into a saving relationship with Jesus one of two ways: either they grow up in the church or they have a crisis in their life and someone tells them, Jesus is the cure for what ails you! The latter tend to have powerful emotional experiences that they believe are Jesus delivering them from their crisis (sins). Sunday after Sunday, Evangelical preachers present Jesus as the elixir for the soul. Never mind the fact that humans don’t have souls. Most people believe they do, and that’s what makes them perfect targets for preachers promising invisible fixes for their invisible, sin-blackened souls.
Once people are convinced that Jesus has awesomely saved them from their sin, it is not much of a stretch to believe that their conversion experience is the best thing that ever happened. And people who have been conditioned this way go through life believing that nothing will ever measure up to that moment they prayed the sinner’s prayer and Jesus, by and through the power of the Holy Spirit, saved them. Making love, watching your first child be born, holding your first grandchild in your arms, and countless other awesome emotional experiences we humans have — none of them measures up to mouthing a prayer at a Baptist church altar or praying to the TV at the end of a Billy Graham Crusade.
Sunday after Sunday, the “Jesus is Awesome” trope is preached, sung, and reinforced. Is it any wonder, then, that many Evangelicals truly believe that getting saved is better than any other experience they could have? Even if some Evangelicals believe otherwise, they have to pretend that the three minutes of sex they had with Jesus is the best fuck ever. This, of course, leads to a paucity of experience; a life where no experience measures up the moment they were saved.
Unbelievers know, however, that life offers us all sorts of experiences — good, bad, and indifferent. And some of these experiences rise above the normality of life and make our Top Ten Experiences List. A few years ago, Polly and I attended a Darius Rucker concert in Fort Wayne. We had never been to a country concert, so we didn’t know what to expect. Boy, were we in for the time of our lives! There was a buzz in the arena from the start. When Rucker hit the stage and started singing, we found his performance to be every bit as powerful as anything we had ever experienced in church. And believe me, we had experienced the power and presence of the mythical Holy Ghost many times. Yet, here was a heathen — by Evangelical standards — bringing down the Shekinah Glory (the glorious presence of God) as he sang. For two hours, Polly and I, along with thousands of other people, were emotionally raptured away. It was an experience neither of us will ever forget.
I could spend the next hour detailing the salvation-level experiences I have had in my life; the difference being that these experiences are rooted in reality, not myth. As a photographer, I have witnessed and photographed moments in time that were breathtaking; every bit as awesome as walking the sawdust trail and getting saved. It’s too bad for Evangelicals that every experience in their lives post-salvation must be relegated to an inferior status. To do otherwise is to worship a false God. Anything put before the jealous Evangelical God is considered idolatry. Jesus alone deserves all the praise, honor, and glory. Yes, Evangelicals have all sorts of awesome experiences in their lives, but the praise, honor, and glory for experiencing them must always be given to Jesus. Life = Jesus. Or so Evangelicals say, anyway.
Many of us have likely heard an Evangelical preacher say, the most important decision you will ever make in your life is to get saved! Ponder that thought for a moment. Was the salvation experience I had at the altar of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay of such a nature that no other decision in life will be as important? Forty-seven years have passed since I asked Jesus to save me from my sin. I can say that while getting saved was certainly transformative, I have made countless decisions and had numerous experiences that were every bit as awesome as that moment in 1972.
As a non-Christian, I don’t have to measure life’s experiences by a momentary episode in time. My wife and I have made love countless times over the past forty years. Sometimes the sex was okay; other times is was good; and sometimes it was bed-frame-breaking, chandelier-rattling awesome. Imagine if I had to say that every sexual experience was not as good as the first time. While it was certainly thrilling to have sex for the first time, I have definitely experienced lovemaking that surpasses that first 100-meter dash. Awesome, but quickly over. And that’s the point I want to make to Evangelicals. Don’t make your salvation experience the end-all. Don’t believe what your preachers are telling you about life. If you are blessed with long life, you will have many wonderful experiences, experiences that are every bit as mind-blowing as Jesus. You will never feel this, however, as long as Jesus is lurking in the shadows. Don’t let Elwood P. Dowd’s pooka named Harvey get in the way of you experiencing all that life has to offer.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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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To begin with, we are extremely limited in our sources when it comes to knowing anything at all about the birth of Jesus. In fact, at the end of the day, I think we can’t really know much at all. Just to cut to the chase, I think that it is most probable that he was born in Nazareth in the northern part of what we today think of as Israel (back then, in Galilee), where he was certainly raised from the time he was a child. His parents were Jewish by birth, religion, culture. I’d assume their names were really Joseph and Mary. We don’t know anything about them other than the fact that Joseph may have been a TEKTON, which means that he worked with his hands, maybe with wood, or with stone, or with metal. Jesus also had brothers (four are named in one of our sources) and sisters, so it would have been a relatively large family and presumably living at or near the poverty line. Nazareth was an impoverished little hamlet.
Back to the sources. Our earliest accounts are in the New Testament. Two of the Gospels , Mark and John, say nothing of Jesus’ birth; the other two, Matthew and Luke are where we get most, but not all, of our traditions of Jesus’ birth from: the trip to Bethelehem, no room in the inn, the Shepherds, the wise men, the slaughter of the innocents, the flight to Egypt, etc. etc. These Gospels were written over fifty years after the events they narrate, and there is nothing to suggest that they had access to eyewitness reports, or to any reliable information at all. Both accounts contain several implausibilities, as we will see, and they are hopelessly at odds with one another on numerous points.
Finally, there are lots of things that we do not know about the birth of Jesus. As examples:
• We don’t know what year he was born. If he was indeed born during the reign of Herod the Great, then it would have had to be before 4 BCE, since that is when Herod died (creating, of course, the intriguing irony that Jesus was born four years Before Christ!)
• We don’t know what day he was born (it was not until the fourth century that Dec. 25 was chosen, so that Christmas could replace Saturnalia as the great holiday to be celebrated)
• We don’t know – as I will try to demonstrate in subsequent posts – anything about the virginity of his mother (how *could* we know? Anyone who thinks she was a virgin does so as an act of faith, but there’s no way to demonstrate anything like that historically; in theory, even if she told people she was a virgin, that wouldn’t prove it [of course!]; and there have been lots of people who claimed to be virgins who gave birth, either because they were self-deceived, or willing to deceive others, or unknowingly violated or … other options) or whether he was actually born in Bethlehem (I’ll argue that the answer is probably not).