The night before October 23, 4004 BC, God, you know, THE God, the one and only God, decided to create the universe. For the next six literal 24 hour days, God created the sun, moon, stars, planets, earth, animals, insects, fish,and plant life. Oh, and don’t forget God’s super-duper,special creation on day six:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Wait a minute…what’s this US thing all about? Do I detect polytheism? Whoever US is, they created a human man and woman in their image. (Genesis 2 says it was the LORD God that created Adam and Eve) After creating Adam and Eve, the God’s closed up their creation shop and went on vacation. This October 23rd we will celebrate the 6,019th anniversary of the first day of creation. Time for a new Hallmark card, yes?
Now I am being a bit silly here, but let me point out something very important. It is clear, based on Genesis 1:27, that there is more than one God involved in creating humans. Once we get to Genesis 3 we see that there is one God called LORD God. It is this LORD God that comes to the Garden of Eden to talk to Adam and Eve. It is this LORD God that tells Adam and Eve their punishment for eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. An interesting point here is that Adam and Eve can see God and talk to him, yet the Bible says that no man has seen God at any time.
After Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit their eyes were opened and both knew, for the first time, that the other was naked. While we don’t know how long the time span was between the creation of Adam and Eve and their act of disobedience, it’s hard to imagine that neither Adam or Eve paid any attention to their partners nakedness. Surely they were created with a sex drive. Sooooo, I don’t know about you, but I think I would notice that the only other living person, the person who snuggled up to me around the Camp Eden campfire, was naked.
The LORD God, being the prude that countless fundamentalist preachers have said he is, was quite disturbed over Adam and Eve’s nakedness. The LORD God took it upon himself to get some clothing for Adam and Eve. He spotted a bear or maybe a buffalo or mountain lion, and in the first act of violence on earth, the LORD God killed the animals so he could make Adam and Eve clothes to wear. Using a process that humans to this day have not discovered, the LORD God killed the animal (s), dried and tanned the skin, and sewed the skins into clothing quicker than a Chinese sweatshop worker sewing a shirt for Walmart.
The LORD God then had a conference call with the other Gods. He said, look, remember those two humans we created? Remember the one rule we gave them? Yeah…those dumb asses picked fruit off the tree and ate it. Now they are like us, knowing good and evil. We need to do something immediately lest they eat from the Tree of Life. We don’t want them to do that, right? If they do, they will live forever, just like us.Can’t have humans living forever.
So the LORD God, acting on behalf of the other Gods, evicted Adam and Even from the Garden of Eden. Of course, they didn’t want to go. After all, they only had one set of clothes. But, the LORD God was insistent and he drove them out of the Garden of Eden. To make sure that Adam and Eve could not eat from the Tree of Life, the LORD God put a flaming sword that turned every which way near the tree.
Reading Genesis 1-3 without importing Trinitarian theology into it presents a very different creation story than what countless Evangelicals have been told. Go back to the text and read it for yourself. Is what I have written here plausible? On what basis do we say there was just one God? Is it not just as plausible to say that there were more than one God, a LORD God and other Gods that were perhaps subservient to him/her?
But Bruce, in the first five days of creation the Bible say God (singular) created. True, but since humans weren’t created until day 6, who was God talking to on the first five days when the Bible says, and God said?Was he talking to himself? Perhaps he was talking to the other Gods, just like he did in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22?
And I am just getting started. Go back to the text, take off your Trinitarian, orthodox Christian glasses, and read it again. Is my story any less plausible than the one Evangelical children are taught in Sunday school?
There is textual evidence for God creating Eve AFTER the six days of creation in the second creation story found in Genesis 2. This conflicts with the first creation story in Genesis 1.
The guidance found in the Bible does not work. Not because it is flawed, but because it is no longer even known. Society seems to have latched on to exactly two words from the Bible — “judge not” — and appears fairly oblivious to everything else within its pages.
That is a shame, because the counsel of Scripture actually does work when it is known and applied. And that brings my mind to an intriguing question: What if everyone knew about and applied the actual words of Scripture?
What if, for instance, every time someone is offended over a flag or a symbol or a mascot or some unintentional slight, we taught and applied the words of Psalm 119: 165: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Can you imagine the blessing of a society that is no longer professionally offended at almost everything?
What if each and every time a white who is racist against blacks or a black who is racist against whites had people of their own color quoting the words of Acts 10:34-35 to them: “God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Can you imagine how quickly racism would go away if people used the words of Scripture to confront racists of their own color?
What if nations, especially ours, were forced to live within their means by a country full of people demanding adherence to sound scriptural principles of money management, such as having to live on a budget rather than on credit? Jesus said in Luke 14:28-30: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”
If people of every creed and color and political party refused to ever elect anyone who ran a nation on credit, imagine the fiscally sound country we would have to leave our children and grandchildren.
What if every preacher suddenly remembered that one of his jobs is to do as God commanded Isaiah in Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
Every preacher in the Bible, Old or New Testament, Jesus included, preached against sin. Jesus told a woman involved in sexual sin to “sin no more.” Imagine how clean and right our society could be if preachers stopped behaving as celebrities and instead started crying aloud against sin again.
What if every Christian started obeying Psalm 101:3: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.” What if they turned off every filthy commercial and refused to shop at business who use them? What if they ceased to look at any form of pornography? What if they refused to allow impurity in their hearts through the eye gate? How much more power of God would be upon us.
And what if every Christian started living as if he believes that Jesus actually could come back today? He told us in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” How “Christ-like” would Christians actually be if they lived every day with the realization that it could be today?…
Wagner, a professor at Carolina Bible College, an unaccredited King James-only institution, thinks the Bible is the cure for what ails us. If we would just start reading and obeying the King James Bible, all would be well. Wagner thinks the controversy over racist mascots, the confederate flag, and the Black Lives Matter campaign could easily be solved if those who are offended would just stop being offended. In other words, let the racists do what they want. Wagner thinks that if more preachers preached against sin there would be less sin. How’s that working out? In uncounted Baptist churches known for their stand against sin, accusations of sexual misconduct, theft, and child molestation have been levied against pastors, choir leaders, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and everyday, run-of-the-mill Christians. It seems that the word of God provides no inoculation from sin. If Christians can’t/won’t live by the teachings of the Bible, why should the rest of us?
I seriously doubt Wagner wants non-Christians to just pick up the Bible and start reading it. Doing so would likely lead people to believe things that Wagner and his fellow Evangelicals consider heretical or sinful. Incest, rape, polygamy, murder, genocide, and slavery, to name a few, find support in the book Wagner wants everyone read. I suspect what he really means is that he wants everyone to read the Bible through his Evangelical interpretive grid. Just reading the Bible without of wearing Wagner Interpretive Glasses® is not advised.
I actually agree with Wagner. I wish EVERY Christian would take the time to read the Bible from cover to cover, With a skeptical, critical eye, every Christian should read every word in the Good Book. Don’t ask a religious leader to guide you. Just read it. Don’t try to parse it though a particular sect’s interpretive lens. Just read it. Make a list of the things you didn’t know were in the Bible. Make a list of things that don’t make sense or offend your moral sensibilities. When finished, take your double-sided ten-page list to your pastor and ask him to answer your questions. Tell him you want answers, not faith.
And let the fun begin…
Carolina Bible College is affiliated with Macedonia Baptist College and Bright Light Baptist Church. I found the websites for these entities not only to be poorly designed, but quite confusing. While Carolina Bible College does offer a handful of on-site classes, everything else is done through correspondence and online. Undergraduate work is $15 a credit hour, postgraduate work is $30. The school offers up to 64 credit hours for life experience. The fee for life experience is $7.50 per credit. You can find the college’s handbook/catalog here.
Word of Mouth Publishers is the publishing ministry of Bo Wagner. According to the ABOUT page, Wagner has a doctorate from Carolina Bible College.
In this post I want to deal with Churches that Abuse: Why Good People Do Bad Things. This post deals with a very difficult and controversial subject. It is easy for us to understand evil actions in a church when they are committed by evil people: wolves in sheep clothing. It’s much harder for us to understand evil actions in the church when the evil is committed by individuals who are generally considered good people…
Let me digress for a moment and lay some groundwork for what I will say next. Evangelicals believe:
The Bible is the inspired word of God and is sufficient for faith and practice. I am deliberately avoiding the various arguments about inspiration, inerrancy, etc. Every Evangelical believes the Bible, to some degree or another, is God’s truth. If they don’t they are not Evangelical.
That what the Bible teaches is to be believed, obeyed, and practiced.
The Bible is to be, with rare exception, read in a literal sense.
The pastor is called by God to preach and teach the Bible to the church membership. I am well aware that a minority of churches have multiple pastors or elders, but the majority of churches are pastored by one person.
As I mentioned in the previous posts in this series, when we add these things together we end up with a church that believes everything written in the Bible. Its members believe they are to live by teachings of the Bible. They believe the most important thing in the world is to be obedient to God.
God has given them a man or a woman (most often a man) to teach and guide them in the teachings of the Bible. The pastor is linchpin of the church. He is the main cog upon which the machinery of the church turns. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance the pastor plays in what people believe and practice. The amount of power that a pastor has is astounding.
How do pastors gain such power over people?
People want to believe that when they go to church they are safe. After all, they are surrounded by people who love Jesus and who seem to sincerely follow the teachings of the Bible. The “it’s what is inside that counts” sounds nice, but in most churches everything is measured by what can be seen and experienced. If people “look” Christian then they “are” Christian. If they “act” Christian then they “are” Christian. People enter the pastor/parishioner relationship with their guard down. They trust the pastor. Surely, he has their best interest at heart.
This is why, when charges of abuse are brought against their pastor, it is hard for churches to accept that their pastor is an abuser. “He wouldn’t do such things.” “He is a man of God.” “He is kind and loving.” “He would never do anything to hurt the church or his family.” Looking in from the outside, the level of denial seems astounding, but church members are taught to be loyal. They are taught to stand firm no matter the circumstance. If they didn’t see it, it didn’t happen.
I know of countless church scandals where the facts of the scandal were not in dispute, yet many members refused to believe the facts. They steadfastly denied reality. When the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church, Hammond Indiana (at one time the largest church in America),was charged with infidelity, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement was divided into two groups of people; those that stood with Hyles and considered all the evidence against him to be false or circumstantial and those who believed Hyles was guilty of the things he was accused of.
The evidence was overwhelming. I have no doubt that Hyles did what his accusers said he did. Yet, the 100%-Hyles people — those who actually wore buttons that said “100% Hyles” — won the day. Thousands of people left the church, but Hyles survived the scandal and pastored the church until his death. After his death, his son-in-law Jack Schaap pastored the church. He, too, found himself accused of sexual misconduct. Unlike his brother-in-law David Hyles, who got away with having sex with numerous female church members, Jack Schaap was found guilty of having sex with a minor and is now serving a twelve-year prison sentence.
Hyles had what we called the “Hyles Mystique.” Jack Hyles had god-like qualities. He was a super-Christian, a super-pastor who somehow got thirty hours out of every twenty four hour day. He preached at conferences every week, preached at his church on Sunday and Wednesday, counseled dozens and dozens of people each week and still had time to be a wonderful father and husband. His preaching was inspiring and he had command of the pulpit like few other preachers. Surely, such a man could not “sin” or “abuse” other people. I was quite the Hyles fan, but I later came to see that Hyles was a narcissist and a serial liar.
In the Evangelical church, pastors are considered to be a step above the rest of the human race. They are God-called, God-inspired men who speak on behalf of God. They have vast knowledge of the Bible and they have an answer for every question. If the God/Bible/Pastor doesn’t have the answer to a question…well that’s never happened.
Church members are taught that the Bible is God’s divine answer book. In the Bible Christians will find everything they need that pertains to life and godliness. If it is not in the Bible, it is not worth knowing. Say what you will about evangelicals, but many of they take seriously the teachings of the Bible. They read it and study it, desiring to know how to live their lives in conformity to its teachings.
Church members are taught toNOT trust their own reasoning. They are taught to NOT trust the vain philosophies of this world. Out in the world Satan walks to and fro seeking whom he may devour. This is why church members are discouraged from reading books or magazines that are not written by approved Christian authors. They dare not open their mind to the world, and by living this way they ultimately lose their ability to rationally think and, over time, to spot error and contradiction. Skeptics do not make good Christians. The Bible, or should I say, the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible, becomes the only thing that matters.. This is fertile ground for the seeds of abuse to grow and mature.
Sunday after Sunday, people gather together in Evangelical churches to listen to their pastor expound and illustrate his interpretation of the Bible. They think they are doing so with an open mind, but instead they have closed off their mind to everything except what their pastor teaches. Since he is the man of God, he is explicitly trusted by almost everyone.
Before I go on, I need to say that I think most pastors are honorable people. I think they, as I did, entered the ministry with the best of intentions. They sincerely want to help people and to teach people how to live according to the teachings of the Bible. Regardless of my beliefs about God, the Bible, and Christianity in general, I greatly respect pastors who selflessly work hard to minister to their churches.
Most churches are pastored by one person. Churches with multiple pastors or multiple staff members make up a small number of the total number of churches. Even in large churches, with numerous staff members, there is usually one person who is THE pastor. Take a look at the mega-churches. Tens of thousands of church members and dozens of staff members, yet the churches are labeled as John MacArthur’s, Rick Warren’s, Bill Hybels’ church, etc. No matter how many elders are on the board, there is no doubt whose church it is.
No matter the size of the congregation, the church revolves around the pastor. He the head honcho, the bwana, the chairman of the board. The pastor has tremendous power granted to him by the church body. In many churches, the power that a pastor has is almost absolute. Granted, a church CAN dismiss a pastor, but rarely are disaffected church members willing to get into a turf war with the pastor. In every church there is a core group of people who are on the pastor’s side. Disaffected church members find it difficult to take on the pastor and those who support him.
As time goes on, the pastor, whether on purpose or not, tends to consolidate his power/authority in the church. He becomes the go-to man for everything, even things that have nothing to do with the Bible or the church. The pastor may even deceive himself about this. He may see this as the church and pastor maturing together like an old married couple.
I am sure you have heard the line absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, this is often the case in many churches. Over time, the pastor becomes a monarch ruling from a throne. First Baptist Church becomes John Smith’s church. The pastor’s name is on the sign, the church letterhead, and every piece of literature put out by the church. If the church is a corporate body, with every member being an essential part, why does it matter what the pastor’s name is?
The answer is quite simple. In America we are attracted to personalities. We live in a culture that puts a great premium on star power. As a result, people view pastors as stars and personalities. As with actors and political personalities, when a pastor begins to believe the hype about himself, he has taken the first step to being an abuser. Filled with pride and arrogance, the pastor begins to actually believe what people say about him. “Great sermon pastor.” You are the best preacher I have ever heard.” “What a powerful man of God you are!”
The pastor and the church are complicit in providing a fertile ground for abuse to occur. While ultimately the abuser is the one who must give an account for his abuse, the church is complicit to the degree that it failed to see all people, INCLUDING the pastor, as mere humans. Pastors are capable of committing the same sins and behaving the same way as church members and non-Christians.
Trust is a good thing. Generally, we should trust one another. However, there is a difference between eyes-wide-open trust and blind trust. Closing off one’s mind to the possibility that good people can do bad things is irresponsible. Every week there are news reports of good people doing bad things. Sometimes it is bad people acting like good people doing bad things, but sometimes it really is good people doing bad things.
Good pastors are capable of doing bad things. I have pondered the WHY of this for a long time. I want to conclude this post with a few thoughts on the “why” of pastors that abuse. Why to good men do bad things?
First, they believe the hype about themselves. Pastors foolishly begin to believe the accolades that are thrown their way. Pretty soon they begin to think, I AMSOMEBODY. This is especially true if the pastor is a gifted communicator or has great people skills. They forget that Bible says pride goeth before a fall. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his rise to power and fall should be burned into the mind of every pastor. The book of Daniel records Nebuchadnezzar saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” Many an Evangelical pastor has uttered a similar statement, only to be ruined by his arrogance and pride. (see Tony Soprano Would Make a Good Independent Baptist Preacher)
Second, they think they are more knowledgeable than they really are. The longer a pastor serves in one church, the more willing people are to come and talk to the pastor about the troubles they are facing. Most pastors have little or no training in counseling or psychology. Even when they do have training, most often they are trained to view the Bible as the answer to every problem. When I was a pastor, rare was the day that someone didn’t come to me and say “can we talk.” I counseled hundreds of people over the years. Evangelicals have the same problems as non-Christians do. Sometimes they have MORE problems than non-Christians, due to literalist interpretation of the Bible. The Bible does not make life easier to live. It’s commandments, rules, and regulations are often a source of conflict and mental/emotional stress.
This is complicated further by the pastor’s interpretation of the Bible. In the hyper-fundamentalist wing of the Evangelical church, you will find lengthy codes of conduct said to be taken straight from the bible. This code of conduct is enforced through the preaching of the pastor. (see An Independent Baptist Hate List and The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook) Many times, the pastor’s own personal code of conduct is presented as the standard by which everyone else must live. After all, the pastor got it right from the Bible! (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalist?)
As I look back over twenty-five years in the ministry, I now realize the churches I pastored had far more dysfunction than I was willing to admit. My staunch, literalist stand on the teachings of the Bible caused some of this dysfunction. Thinking the Bible is the answer to what ails us is not only ignorant, it can be dangerous. This dysfunction was furthered by my own arrogance as I allowed myself to become THE answer man. I could justify myself by saying that many of the people I pastored were lazy Christians. They were quite willing to accept whatever answer I gave them. One church member, when asked “what do you believe?” answered, “I believe whatever the preacher believes.” Brutal, but honest.
Most church members read the bible devotionally and never spend a moment studying the doctrines they say they believe. Of course, I now see that this is essential to the long-term survival of Evangelical Christianity. Ignorance is bliss or, in Evangelicalese, ignorance is faith. When Evangelicals embark on an intellectual journey to truly understand Christianity and its teachings, they often end up leaving the faith or embracing some form of liberal Christianity. Evangelical Christianity is not well served when looked at with the microscope of reason and fact. For this reason, pastors encourage their parishioners to read only approved books, and they are encouraged to only send their kids to approved Evangelical colleges. This is vitally important for keeping the ship afloat. Non-approved books and non-approved colleges usually cause trouble and often lead to people leaving the church. Knowledge is power.
Over the years, I counseled a number of people who needed immediate psychological or psychiatric help. At the time, I despised the mental health profession. I viewed them as tools of Satan. Instead, I gave people lame, unhelpful advice from the Bible. Instead of helping them, I abused them with the Bible. Several church members had nervous breakdowns and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. I viewed this as their fault, their unwillingness to trust God and obey his commandments. Those who had a nervous breakdown later left the church. They found out that what I was selling was snake oil. I proclaimed Jesus as the cure and they found out he wasn’t.
When given the opportunity, I tell young pastors to stick to doing what they were trained to do. Leave mental health issues to the professionals trained to deal with them. The same could be said of many things pastors counsel others on without having the proper training to do so.
Third, the pastor thinks of himself as being impervious to sin. He is, after all, the man of God. He is the servant of the Most High. He has his Ephesian 6 armor on 24/7. Pastors can begin to think that they are invincible, that they are above the fray. They really should know better, but arrogance and pride blinds them from seeing themselves as they really are. As this point, the pastor lacks self-awareness and is extremely vulnerable to self-deception and open to doing things considered sinful and abusive.
Pastors have a legal, ethical, and moral obligation to act appropriately and responsibly. The Bible, in 1 Timothy 3, sets a high moral and ethical standard for pastors, as do the laws of most states.
Here in Ohio, a pastor is considered a person of authority. He can be held criminally liable for not reporting abuse or for violating the trust of a parishioner. Let me give an example. If church member Joe has an affair with church member Sue, the Bible calls their behavior adultery. However, when a pastor has an affair with a congregant the Bible still calls the action adultery, but the law calls his behavior an abuse of authority. Uncounted pastors end up in prison because they ignored their moral, ethical, and legal obligations to church members.
Pastors who commit sexual sin with a church member are abusing the trust given to them by the person. The state recognizes this and accordingly criminalizes such actions, Pastors, due to the sensitive nature of their interactions with congregants, put themselves in situations where the potential for sin and abuse is great. They often see people at their worst. The conscientious pastor acts appropriately, giving what help he can and recommending secular services for those things he can’t help with. The abusive pastor sees vulnerability as an opportunity to take advantage of a church member. Such pastors are rightly considered the lowest of the low, like dog shit on the bottom of a shoe. Preying on the weak and the vulnerable might work in Darwin’s survival of the fittest, but in the church members rightly expect their pastor to treat them ethically and morally.
Let me share a personal story that I believe will help illustrate what I am trying to say. One spring day, a young woman who used to attend the church came to my office dressed provocatively. Her parents still attended the church, but she had left the church, off to sow her wild oats. She had a short, tight skirt on and when she sat down and crossed her legs she definitely had my attention. It didn’t take me long to realize what her intentions were. In her mind, the best way to get back at her parents was to screw the preacher and ruin his ministry and the church. Fortunately, I realized what was going on and had my wife come into the office with us.
In no way do I intend to present myself as a pillar of moral virtue. I wasn’t then and I am not now. In the above-mentioned story, I was fortunate that I did not take a bite of the forbidden fruit. I just as easily could have. If I had, I would have been guilty of abusing this young woman. Never mind her attempt to seduce me. As a pastor, I was the one who had the responsibility to act appropriately in every circumstance. That’s what the Bible teaches and what the law demands.
A number of the readers of this blog were abused in Christian group homes and boarding schools. Their stories of abuse still bring me to tears. How did these people, children at the time, end up in abusive settings? In almost every circumstance it began with their pastor. Let’s face it, troubled teens are not easy to deal with. But, we must remember that “troubled teen” in an Evangelical context does not mean the same thing as it does elsewhere. A “troubled teen” in an Independent Baptist church might be nothing more than a teen who listens to rock music, drinks a beer now and again, fools around with her boyfriend, or admits to trying pot. This, of course, explains most everyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Evangelical children are taught to obey authority, especially the authority of their parents and pastor. When parents have a child or a teen they can’t control–and I readily admit there are some kids that need help beyond what parents can provide — they most often seek out counsel from their pastor. When teens end up in a Christian group home or boarding school, they almost always end up there based on the recommendation of their pastor. In my opinion, when these kids are sent off to a group home and abuse happens, the pastor bears just as much responsibility as the abusers. He is culpable because he is the one who recommended a home, such as New Bethany Home for Girls, Hephzibah House, or the Roloff Homes. Our legal system recognizes this, equally punishing the bank robber and the person who drove the getaway car. (See Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls and Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sins.)
Truth be told, pastors often are just as trusting as church members. Parents come to them seeking help for their “troubled teen.” The pastor remembers that “so and so” from college runs a group home, so he gives the parents the phone number for the home, thinking he has done all he needs to do, The pastor has NOT done his due diligence. He should thoroughly check out any place he is recommending to parents with “troubled teens.” The same could be said for Christian colleges. Many Christian colleges are purveyors of institutionalized abuse, yet pastors blindly recommend these colleges to prospective students. Rarely, does anyone consider how the bizarre codes of conduct at many Christian schools affect the minds of the students sent there. Pensacola Christian College goes so far as to withhold giving the student and their parents the complete list of rules and regulations until the student is on campus. Pastors are responsible for the people, places, and things they recommend. Ignorance is not an excuse.
A new Girl Scouts of the USA policy states it will extend membership to boys who identify as girls…
…This means girls in the organization will be forced to recognize and accept transgenderism as a normal lifestyle. Boys in skirts, boys in make-up and boys in tents will become a part of the program. This change will put young innocent girls at risk.
Adults are willing to experiment on our kids – both the boys who are confused and the girls who will wonder why a boy in a dress is in the bathroom with them…
Girl Scouts is proud to be the premiere leadership organization for girls in the country. Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis, with the welfare and best interests of the child and the members of the troop/group in question a top priority. That said, if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.
Simply put, if a child is recognized as a girl by their family and school and lives culturally as a girl, the Girl Scouts will allow the child to be a part of their group. OMM refuses to admit that matters of sexual orientation and sexual identity can be fluid and complex and that biologically sexuality is nuanced and complex. In their mind, God made male and female, end of story. If you are born with a penis you are a male and if you are born with a vagina you are a female. However, if you have done any reading on sexual orientation and sexual identity, you know that, thanks to science, matters orientation and identity are complex. These days, to be conversant on these issues, one must understand terms like heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual,pansexual,polysexual, androphilia, gynephila, intersex, cisgender, transsexual, transgender, etc. In the simplistic world of the OMM, God, through genetic voodoo makes humans male or female. However, God’s genetic voodoo act can result with in a child being born with the “wrong” genitals or other chromosomal aberrations. God must have been having a bad day, eh? ( Transgender, Intersex, Sexual Orientation)
As with seemingly every American culture conflict, Christian fundamentalism and literalistic interpretations of the Bible are the primary agitators. Science continues to undermine and discredit fundamentalist beliefs. Christian fundamentalists have two choices: they can grudgingly accept the findings of science or they can ignorantly and blindly wage war. Sadly, most fundamentalists choose the latter. Until the light of reason finds a way into their mind, there is no hope of reaching them. All we can do is keep them from hurting others. Like children with scissors, we need to make sure that OMM’s scissors have blunt ends so they can’t hurt themselves or others.
To understand dinosaurs, we need to look at what the Bible teaches us about Earth’s history. We also need to recognize that the word dinosaur wasn’t invented until 1841, as a word for a particular group of land animals. According to Genesis, God created everything in six, literal, 24-hour days. Land animals were created on Day Six of Creation Week .
Since dinosaurs are land animals (some people think that certain flying and marine reptiles were dinosaurs, but these actually aren’t classified as dinosaurs), they must have been created on Day Six as well. Originally all dinosaurs, like everything else, were created vegetarian . They didn’t begin to eat meat until after Adam and Eve rebelled against God.
The reason we have a number of dinosaurs buried in sedimentary layers is because of the global Flood described in Genesis 6–8. This catastrophic Flood would have ripped up miles of sediment, trapping and burying creatures that weren’t on the Ark as it was re-deposited. These creatures turned into fossils that we dig up today. After the Flood, dinosaurs died out for many of the same reason species die out today: changes in climate, habitat, lack of food, human predation, and so on.
Dinosaurs aren’t a mystery when you start with the history recorded in God’s Word. The Bible perfectly explains dinosaurs. They are just another example of the incredible variety of creatures that God created in the beginning…
Simply put, since God created everything, and the universe is only 6,019 years old, God not only created dinosaurs, they roamed the earth at the same time as Adam and Eve.
For Ham, it’s not about the science. In Ham’s world, the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible book. When it speaks to matters of science, it is absolutely, infallibly correct. No matter what science tell us, no matter what archeology tells us, no matter what geology tells us, no matter what biology tells us, the BIBLE trumps all of them.
Let this be a reminder of why it is a waste of time to talk to, debate, or argue with young earth creationists. Their minds are shut off to anything but their narrow, literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Arguing science with them never works. Until they come to see that the foundation of their system of belief, the Bible, is not what they claim it is, there is no hope for them. Before Jerry Coyne can do his job, Bart Ehrman must do his. Until the Bible is shown to be errant and fallible, their interpretations will remain inerrant and infallible.
For seven months in 2004, our family attended a vibrant, growing, family oriented church in Central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly (my wife) was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.”
In a split second everything changed. You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.
In the 1990’s, I co-pastored a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.
This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question they had to whisper their question to a man and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.
While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.
I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible there is no Christianity. (in any meaningful sense of the word) As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant words of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything.
IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under shepherds of the church, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching the church what the Bible says. (or better put, what his interpretations are) The pastor, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the mouthpiece of God.
Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority. (1)
In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible came first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.
As an IFB pastor, I taught church members that God and the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. In my mind, the Bible was clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.
I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home,and the government. The strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. (And according to my younger sons, their oldest brother) Children have one divine calling in life, obey!
Polly and I have been married almost 37 years. We have six children. Our older children went to a Christian school for a few years and for 17 years we home schooled our children. For the first 20 years of marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked 60-80 hours a week,and in doing so neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer for every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fearfear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.
For many years, my wife (2) and I followed the general tenets of the quiverfull movement. Our children are ages 35, 33, 30, 25, 23, and 21. Between our 30-year-old and 21-year-old we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?
Our first child born under the “let God have his way”form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down Syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day, we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. 20 months later our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful?) was born.
Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had 20 children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.
Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Sadly, my motivation was selfish. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and the rabbit died.
In a future article, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.
(1) Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives
(2) I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances they cannot be avoided.
It is quite easy to predict how Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham will react to a new scientific discovery. It doesn’t matter what the discovery is, Ham will judge its veracity based on whether it bolsters his literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3. If it does, he loudly proclaims that the new discovery proves God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days, 6,019 years ago. If it doesn’t, Ham, filled with the righteous indignation of an Old Testament prophet, declares that scientists are wrongly interpreting the data, using wrong methods, or are secret agents working for secularists who want to rid the world of Christians.
Ham is upset about a recent study published by the Arizona State University Institute of Origin about a human jawbone discovered in Ethiopia in 2013: The Guardian reports:
A lower jaw bone and five teeth discovered on a hillside in Ethiopia are the oldest remains ever found that belong to the genus Homo, the lineage that ultimately led to modern humans.
Fossil hunters spotted the jaw poking out of a rocky slope in the dry and dusty Afar region of the country about 250 miles from Addis Ababa.
The US-led research team believes the individual lived about 2.8m years ago, when the now parched landscape was open grassland and shrubs nourished by tree-lined rivers and wetlands.
The remains are about 400,000 years older than fossils which had previously held the record as the earliest known specimens on the Homo lineage.
The discovery sheds light on a profoundly important but poorly understood period in human evolution that played out between two and three million years ago, when humans began the crucial transformation from ape-like animals into forms that used tools and eventually began to resemble modern humans.
“This is the the first inkling we have of that transition to modern behaviour. We were no longer solving problems with our bodies but with our brains,” said Brian Villmoare at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.
The new fossil, found at a site called Ledi-Geraru, has a handful of primitive features in common with an ancient forerunner of modern humans called Australopithecus afarensis. The most well-known specimen, the 3m-year-old Lucy, was unearthed in 1974 in Hadar, only 40 miles from the Ledi-Geraru site. But the latest fossil has more modern traits too. Some are seen only on the Homo lineage, such as a shallower chin bone…
…Other researchers agree. In a separate paper published in Nature, Fred Spoor at University College, London, reports a virtual reconstruction of a Homo habilis skull. “By digitally exploring what Homo habilis really looked like, we could infer the nature of its ancestor, but no such fossils were known,” said Spoor. “Now the Ledi-Geraru jaw has turned up as if on request, suggesting a plausible evolutionary link between Australopithecus afarensis and Homo habilis.”…
Ken Ham has a problem with any number that has more than four digits, that is unless it is a tax credit from the state of Kentucky, then he likes the number 18 with six zeroes. Since scientists are using numbers with lots of zeros to date the jawbone, Ham has published an article repudiating the recent find:
Headlines are buzzing with news about the oldest known human in the fossil record. The specimen—half a lower jawbone with five teeth—was found in the Ledi-Geraru research area in Ethiopia and has been recently reported in the journal Science. This jaw was found in 2013 about 12 miles from where “Lucy” was originally discovered. Lucy, of course, is an extinct ape called Australopithecus afarensis, and evolutionists believe Lucy was an important step in human evolution.
Officially dated at 2.8 million years, the Ledi jaw has been assigned a date midway between the “most recent” specimens of Australopithecus afarensis and the “oldest” examples of human fossils, Homo habilis. Researchers have not been able to determine the Ledi jaw’s species, but they are convinced it is a species of Homo. Its discoverers are touting it as a transitional form, a missing link between Lucy and Homo.
Now, we’ll post a more comprehensive article about the Ledi jaw next week. Our qualified AiG researchers will describe for you the anatomy of the new fossil and how it compares to the jaws and teeth of apes like Lucy and those of humans. But as much as the evolutionary community is raving about the convenient timeline connecting Lucy, the Ledi jaw, and later humans, many of their conclusions are based on the unverifiable dates assigned to it. And like all such millions-of-years claims, these dates are totally dependent on assumptions and worldview-based interpretations of radiometric dating methods. They are calling some of the Ledi jaw’s features “primitive” and others “advanced” because they assume that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors along this timeline.
You see, your worldview determines how you interpret the evidence. These scientists have a secular worldview, and they start with the assumption that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors so that’s what they see..
…But what does the Bible tell us? God made all kinds of land animals as well as Adam and Eve on Day Six of Creation week about 6,000 years ago. He made animals to reproduce and vary only within their created kinds. And this is confirmed through observational science. God made the first man, Adam, in His own image on that same day, from “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7)—not through evolutionary processes and ape-like ancestors. He also made the first woman from the man (from Adam’s side). Obviously Christians cannot claim God supposedly used evolution as some try to do! No matter what evolutionary scientists claim about fossils like this, the truth is it is that while a fossil could be human or could be an ape, it could never be a transitional form…
For Ham, it’s never about the science. The Bible says…end of discussion. No matter what scientists find, if the new discovery contradicts Ham’s literalist interpretation of Genesis 1-3, “qualified AIG researchers” will find some way to discredit the discovery. Their entire worldview depends on their ability to keep modern science contained within the matchbox of young earth creationism. Scientists long ago lit a match and set fire to this box, but Ham and others like him, sit in the ashes of their ignorant beliefs and continue to pretend the box is still whole.
Is there any hope of reaching someone who is a creationist? Sure. Thousands of former creationists read this blog. They, at one time, had beliefs similar to those of Ken Ham, so they are a testimony to the possibility of change. But the only way for this to happen is to destroy the foundation these errant beliefs are built upon. Until creationists are willing to let go of literalism and the inerrancy of the Bible, there is no hope of reaching them. They have walled themselves off from anything that does not fit with their fundamentalist beliefs.
Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and the Creationism Museum and a defender of young earth creationism, stated in a recent radio interview that the state of Kentucky is treating him like a second class citizen. According to Ham, by refusing to give him $18 million worth of tax incentives for his latest project, the Ark Encounter theme park, state officials are attacking his right to speak and worship freely.
Ham’s legal battle with the state of Kentucky over tax incentives is just the latest in a long string of controversies swirling around Ham’s creationism empire. Ham has spent most of his life being “persecuted” by scientists, secularists, humanists, atheists, liberal Christians…well by anyone who doesn’t think and believe just like he does. Ham gins up controversy so those who support him will be “righteously angry” and continue to support his moneymaking enterprises.
Last Monday, Ham was a guest on Janet Parshall’s radio program. (Parshall, a fundamentalist Christian, “is the host of the Christian talk show In the Market with Janet Parshall, which is broadcast on the Moody Radio network.”) During the program, Ham stated:
“If we don’t do something about this it’s like the old idea of the frog in the water that you can boil it up and boil it to death and it doesn’t you’re doing it because it keeps accommodating to the temperature around it. If Christians just keep accommodating and allowing this to happen more and more, we will lose that free exercise of religion.”
I wonder if Ham, Parshall, or those who listened to the program on Moody Radio, know that the boiled frog story is bad science. Probably not. Since creationists jettison any science that doesn’t fit within the framework of a literalist interpretation of the Bible, I guess it would be too much to ask them to research the story before using it as a metaphor for Christian inaction and acclimation to culture.
If you plunge a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you place the frog into cool water and slowly heat it to boiling, the frog won’t notice and will slowly cook to death. So claims the myth. Indeed, everyone—from corporate consultants to politicians to environmental activists—cites the frog fable as proof that people often don’t see change happening and cannot deal with it in the aftermath.
So how did this myth begin? Maybe it arose because frogs are cold-blooded. We humans are warm-blooded: our internal thermometers measure the local temperature, and then we shiver or sweat to maintain a body temperature of around 37 degrees Celsius. But a cold-blooded frog maintains the temperature of its immediate environment. Perhaps somebody once wrongly thought that this meant frogs had an inferior or inadequate thermometer…
Second, a frog would notice the water getting hot. Dr. Victor Hutchison, a herpetologist at the University of Oklahoma, has dealt with frogs throughout his professional life. Indeed, one of his current research interests is “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles.” Professor Hutchison states, “The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ [the maximum temperature an animal can bear] of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water.”
So real-life experiments show that the frog-in-boiling-water story is wrong. If only this fact could make it into real life, too.
After doing some reading on the boiled frog myth, I found a study that best describes Ham’s use of the myth:
As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.
Hey, I’ve come up with a new metaphor for creationism.
Any day now, I expect Ham to come out with an Answers in Genesis defense of the boiled frog story. Like the voice of God speaking to Moses on the Mount, the utterances of Ken Ham are treated as infallible by his cult followers. Ken Ham, like the Bible and God, is never, ever wrong.
The easiest way for Ham to prove the boiled frog story is to conduct a frog boiling study. Oh wait, Ham doesn’t do research. He’s too busy preaching the Gospel of Genesis 1-3, also known as The Bible According to Hammy®, to take any time to conduct a study. With millions of dollars at stake, there is no time for bothering to speak scientifically when pretending to be a scientist on the radio. Souls are at stake. The future of America and Western Civilization depends on the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. If these beacons of ignorance are closed, what would Christian schools and homeschoolers do for science class field trips?
Perhaps one of Ham’s followers might say, yes, the science of the story is wrong, but the moral story behind the metaphor is correct. Oh, you mean like the B-I-B-L-E? Let the stammering begin…
The boiled frog story has been used by people of every political, social, and religious persuasion. I even know one redheaded preacher who used it years ago in his sermons.
All young-earth creationists are literalists, that is except when they aren’t. Let me illustrate this for you.
Six times in Genesis 1 the Bible says, the morning and even were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth day. Young-earth creationists are emphatic that these days were literal 24 hour days.
In Genesis 2:1, the Bible states that on the seventh day God ended his creative work. According to other verses in the Bible, God rested on the seventh day. So God only rested one, literal 24 day? I don’t know of any young-earth creationist who believes this.
And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Did Adam eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Did Eve? Of course they did. Did they die on the very day they ate the proverbial apple? Nope. According to Genesis 5:5:
and all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.
Do you see the point I am making? Young earth creationists are literalists until it contradicts their interpretation of the Bible, then all of a sudden Adam dying on the day he sinned is meant to be taken metaphorically or the word day really means a period of time.
I will repeat what I have said countless times: no one, not even Ken Ham, takes every verse in the Bible literally. Whenever it suits them or whenever it will bolster their argument, Evangelicals are quite willing to abandon literalism.