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IFB Pastor James Melton on Safe Sex and Wicked Fornicators

whoremonger van

James Melton is the pastor of Bible Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Sharon, Tennessee. The Christian Nightmares website made me aware of a tract written by Melton titled Safe Sex. Melton, because he can read and understand the King James Version of the Bible, considers himself a “sexpert.” According to Melton, “No one is more qualified to speak on the subject of safe sex than God Himself.”

Really? What does God really know about sex or “safe” sex? Only the second person in the Trinity, Jesus, was human, so only he could have had sex. Did Jesus, an unmarried man, have sex? I am sure that Melton would say, ABSOLUTELY NOT! We do have the curious case of the Holy Spirit, a Ghost, an incorporeal entity, impregnating a virgin by the name of Mary. According to the Bible, this is the only reference to any part of the Godhead having sex. And even here, did not the Holy Spirit commit fornication, having sex with a woman he was not married to? (As one commenter said, the Holy Spirit actually raped Mary, having sex with her without her consent.)

Melton likens having sex to buying a gun:

Picture, if you will, a man who purchases a gun. By law, this man has done nothing wrong in purchasing a gun. He is allowed to have a gun, and he is allowed to shoot the gun as long as he does so in a safe manner. However, he is not allowed to harm anyone with the gun or even threaten to do so. If he does, then he has abused his free privilege, and he will be punished. Rather than use the gun for legal purposes, he chooses to use it illegally, so he must pay for his crime. Even if the judicial system fails to punish him, people with common sense still know that he is a criminal and he deserves to be punished.

Sex works the same way. There is nothing wrong with a person enjoying sexual activity. God made us to desire sexual gratification, and He doesn’t frown upon us when we fulfill this desire His way, according to His word. However, when we ignore God’s laws and practice our own sexual preferences, we become criminals in God’s sight, and punishment will surely follow. Even when the sexperts say, “Use protection and you’ll be okay,” God never said it, and you will not be protected from His wrath. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7)

Let’s see, why am I permitted to purchase and own a gun? State and Federal law determine whether I am permitted to buy and own a firearm. If I do not meet the criteria, then it is not legal for me to purchase and own a gun. Now imagine if I went to the gun store and the dealer, as he was explaining to me what the law said about firearm purchase and ownership, he opened up a King James Bible and said, right here in God’s Holy Word it says __________________. Does the Bible have any authority when it comes to purchasing and owning a gun? As Pastor Melton, hypothetically said earlier, ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Melton does the equivalent when he interjects the Bible into a discussion about sex. State and Federal law determine who may legally have sex. We rightly protect children from having sex and we punish adults who manipulate teenagers so they will have sex with the former. We have ages of consent and sexual assault and rape laws. At one time, we had laws criminalizing adultery, fornication, and sodomy. While some states still have these laws on their books, thanks to the Courts, such laws are not enforceable. While Melton is free to believe and practice the moral strictures of the Bible, and through strong-arm preaching get others to also do so, the Bible is no authority when it comes to sex. No one can be criminally punished or imprisoned for disobeying what the Bible says about sex.

Melton has harsh words for those who cohabit without being married:

…This is just a sinful grown-up way of “playing house.”   A couple who lives together without marriage is a couple who has become habitual and irresponsible fornicators. She thinks he’s a wonderful man, yet he’s such a coward he can’t even ask her to be his wife. He thinks she’s a fine lady, yet she’s nothing more than a cheap prostitute who allows herself to be used for his sexual gratification in exchange for what seems to be a stable and secure home life. This make-believe game may fool people, but it doesn’t fool God. This is a sin, and it will be punished! God didn’t change His law just because someone started acting like married people. Either you are married or you are not married. If you are not married, yet you have sexual relations, then you are a wicked fornicator…

I am shocked by Melton’s liberal, Bible-denying view. While he calls a sexually active, cohabiting, unmarried woman a cheap prostitute and the couple, wicked fornicators, he doesn’t use the word whoremonger one time. So disappointed.

IFB preachers like Melton are fighting a losing battle when it comes to sex. Far stronger than the Holy Spirit or the outrage of the preacher is the human desire for sexual intimacy. While there are certainly many good reasons for waiting to have sex, the fact is,  most people don’t. Rather than shaming people for indulging their sexual desire, Melton’s church would be better served if he taught them how to responsibly handle their sexuality. Instead of threatening punishment from God for any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage, wouldn’t it be better to educate teenagers and young adults about birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and when it is “right” to have sex? Instead, Melton preaches the Puritanical IFB gospel of NO!

I get it, it IS in the Bible, but we are thousands of years removed from the writing of the Bible. It is NOT a timeless book of absolute moral instruction. Take, for example, masturbation. Many IFB preachers still preach against masturbation. It’s considered fornication with self. How boring, eh? We now know that masturbation is a good way to release sexual tension. It won’t make you blind nor will it make you sterile. Imagine how relieved the purity-ring-wearing teens in Baptist youth groups would be if they hear their pastors compassionately and honestly tell them that it is normal and healthy to masturbate. No shame, no guilt; just a wonderful THANK YOU JESUS release of sexual tension.

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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.

Domestic Violence in the IFB Church Movement

god domestic abuse

Let me begin by giving readers the definition of domestic violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline defines domestic violence as follows:

Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.

Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Does the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement have a domestic abuse problem? The short answer is Yes!

The IFB church movement is built on a foundation of psychological manipulation and abuse. This is seen in how parents discipline their children and how husbands lord over and control their wives. These behaviors are often modeled by IFB pastors, deacons, and church leaders as they manipulate, control, and dominate church members.

I know IFB readers of this blog are howling over what I have written here. How dare I suggest that the IFB church movement has an abuse problem. How dare I suggest IFB pastors and church leaders emotionally and mentally manipulate and control people. Child abuse? Domestic violence? Where do such things happen? says the IFB church member. I have never seen it.

And therein lies the problem. The abuse and violence are institutionalized to such a degree that it is considered normal. People are so used to seeing it that they never consider whether such behavior is appropriate. IFB church members are familiar with having their “toes stepped on.” They are accustomed to fire-and-brimstone, naming-names, calling-sin-“sin,” sermons. They are used to aggressive behavior from their pastors. It seems quite “normal” to them. Those of us who were raised in the IFB church movement understand this. It took us getting away from it to see how manipulative and abusive our churches, pastors, and families really were. The waiting rooms of mental health professionals are crowded with people whose mental wellness and self-esteem were ruined by Fundamentalism.

For those of us who spent decades in the IFB church, we know that the deep psychological scars left by our time in the IFB church will never go away. We learn to come to terms with our past and try to do the best we can going forward. We are marred, even broken, yet somehow, we find a way to pick up and move forward.

This is why some of us speak so openly about the IFB church movement and its manipulative and abusive tendencies. We don’t want ANYONE to experience what we experienced. When we see someone gravitating towards Fundamentalism we try to warn them as we would warn a person who is driving towards a cliff. Stop! Turn around!  Sadly, many people ignore these warnings and often pay a heavy price, emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically, as a result.

Domestic violence in the IFB church movement is widespread. Unfortunately, it is often not seen as domestic violence by those who are devoted church members. Instead, the use of domestic violence is often seen as being “true to the Bible” or being “a faithful follower of Jesus.” To understand this, we must first understand the theological underpinnings of such violence. Domestic violence often happens because husbands (it is almost always husbands who perpetrate domestic violence in the IFB church) want to be obedient to the Bible, Jesus, and the pastors’ dictates. Remember, in the IFB church, the voice of God sounds an awful lot like the voice of the Pastor.

Here is what many IFB pastors preach to their church members:

  • Christ is the head of the church and pastors are ordained by God to lead (and control) their churches.
  • The Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text that should be interpreted literally and explicitly obeyed.
  • Husbands are the head of their homes.
  • Wives are to submit to their husbands.
  • The highest calling for women is to bear children and to be a keeper of the home. Many IFB pastors discourage women from working outside the home or getting college educations (unless they go to an IFB college to get an MRS degree).
  • Husbands are the authorities, disciplinarians, and the kings of their homes. God holds them, like he did Adam, responsible for everything that goes on in their homes.
  • The Bible sanctions using violence when children disobey. If parents don’t spank, whip, or beat their children, it  means they are not willing to obey the teachings of the Pastor and the Bible. The rod of correction is meant to be used to drive wickedness out of the hearts of children.

Now, none of these things necessarily lead to domestic abuse. However, add to this the IFB church’s preoccupation with sin and the portrayal of God as a violent deity who will whip them if they disobey, and you have a recipe for not only domestic abuse but also child abuse. I have watched more than a few IFB church members and pastors beat the living hell out of their children with a belt, switch, or paddle. I remember hearing of one parent who picked up a 2×4 and beat his two teenage girls with it. Why? The teens deliberately disobeyed him by riding the church bus home instead of going home with him.

I have admitted my own violent, abusive methods of correcting my three oldest children. Fortunately, I abandoned these practices with my three youngest children. My oldest sons routinely got thrashed for disobeying their parents. I corrected them this way because I thought that is what God wanted me to do. The books I read said this was the proper way to discipline children, and every big-name preacher I heard preach said I was doing right by my kids when I whipped them. Is it any surprise then, with Bible-sanctioned brutality against children and a violent God who uses violence to chastise disobedient IFB church members, that violent behavior spills over into the relationships between husbands and their “submissive” wives?

I can’t say that I know of more than a few instances where IFB husbands physically beat their wives. I know of a few pastors’ wives who were physically abused by their pastor husbands. The pastors were men of God in the pulpit, but at home they were violent disciplinarians who ruled over their wives and children with a rod of iron. Most of the abuse I saw was more of the mental and emotional type. If their wives weren’t submissive enough or didn’t put out sexually, they would pay for it. If they dared to have ambition, wanted to work outside the home, or go to college, these “rebellious” wives would be brought to heel, reminded of God’s divine order for the home.

I have often said, I don’t know how ANY woman stays in the IFB church. Well, I do know. Women are afraid. They fear disobeying God, their husbands, and their pastors. They fear God will chastise them if they dare step outside the role God has allegedly ordained for them.  And so they stay and suffer the abuse.

Again, theology plays a big part in this. Many IFB pastors think that there are no grounds for divorce or that the only ground for divorce is adultery. Having a husband who is abusive, especially if it is emotional or mental abuse, is not grounds for divorce.

Let me give an illustration of how this is perpetuated from the pulpit:

Years ago the church I was pastoring joined together with other IFB churches to hold a joint revival meeting. The speaker was Bill Rice III. (I am almost certain it was Bill Rice but it could have been Pete Rice, both were associated with the Bill Rice Ranch.) One night, Bill Rice preached on  the subject of marriage and divorce. Rice did not believe there were any grounds for divorce. He said that even if a husband was beating on his wife, the wife should stay in the marriage. Perhaps she would win her husband to Jesus by her willingness to stay in the marriage. Rice intimated that saved husbands don’t beat their wives.

By the time of this meeting my views had already begun to change and I pulled our church out of the meetings. I was incensed that Rice was advocating a woman endure her husband beating on her, implying that God wanted her to do so.

As my wife and I traveled beyond the IFB church movement, we had to relearn what it meant to have a healthy marriage and family relationship. Ultimately, it took getting away from Christianity altogether for us to find wholeness.

I am not suggesting that every husband in the IFB church movement is abusive or that every father abuses his children when he disciplines them. I am suggesting that IFB theology encourages manipulation, violence, and abuse. Personally, I don’t think the IFB church movement is good for anyone. The extreme Fundamentalism found in the movement is psychologically harmful and people are better off finding other Christians sects to be a part of; sects that don’t view women as inferior, and don’t see children as chattel. I am of the opinion that the best thing that can happen to the IFB church movement is that it dies a quick death. It is dying, but it is dying slowly. I am all for smothering the movement in its bed.

Over the years, I have watched a number of women break free from domestic violence. They decided their own personal self-worth and happiness were more important than supposed obedience to God, the Bible, the pastor, and their husbands. Most often, gaining their freedom required them to divorce their husbands.

Let me head off those who might suggest that the reason there is domestic abuse and child abuse in the IFB church movement is that they misinterpret the Bible. I don’t think this is the case at all. Sadly. abusers are being consistent with their beliefs and literal readings of the Bible. After all, the Bible does command fathers to beat their children with rods. The Bible does command wives to be submissive to their husbands and be keepers of their homes. And let’s face it, the Bible is a written record of the violence God pours out and will yet pour out on all those who do not worship or obey him. The good news is that many Christians ignore or explain away vast parts of the Bible. They know beating children is wrong. They know demanding a wife submit to her husband is demeaning. They wisely reject such things.

Do you have a story to tell about domestic violence? What did you experience growing up in the IFB church? What went on in your IFB home when the doors were closed? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

What IFB Churches Believe About Divorce

god hates divorce

(I am reposting this article to better explain “Dr.” David Tee’s (David Theissen/TEWSNBN) horrible view of marriage, divorce, and domestic violence. Ben Berwick also responded to TEWSNBN’s claims here and here.)

Churches and pastors who identify with the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement generally believe that marriage is for life and that divorce is a sin. While you will find a variety of interpretations among IFB churches and pastors, I can safely say they hate divorce. The Bible says in Malachi 2:14-16:

Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he [God] hateth putting away [divorce]: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

The Bible says that God hates divorce. IFB Christians are fond of saying they “love what God loves and hate what God hates,” so it should come as no surprise, then, that the sin of divorce is roundly hated. Not as hated as, say, homosexuality, liberalism, sleeping during the pastor’s sermon, or women wearing pants, but definitely a top-ten sin.

There are generally four IFB positions on divorce.

Adultery is the Only Ground for Divorce

First, many IFB churches and pastors believe that there is one ground for divorce: adultery. In Matthew 19: 3-9, Jesus purportedly said:

The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Jesus is clear: the only valid reason for divorce is adultery. I should note in passing that only men were permitted to divorce their wives.

Adultery and Abandonment are the Only Grounds for Divorce

Some IFB churches and pastors believe there are two grounds for divorce: adultery and abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 states:

And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.  But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians that if a congregant has an unbelieving spouse who abandons him, the congregant has two choices: reconciliation or living single the rest of his life. Many IFB churches and pastors believe this passage of Scripture teaches that abandonment is also grounds for divorce. However, this passage only applies to mixed marriages, marriages where one spouse is a Christian and the other is not. Further, Paul makes it clear that if an unbelieving female spouse leaves her Christian husband, he is NOT to divorce her; that he must either be reconciled to her or remain single all the days of his life.

blood of jesus

Divorce for Any Reason is Permitted Before Salvation

Some IFB churches and pastors believe that divorce for any reason is permitted as long as it occurred before a person is saved. The thinking goes something like this: The moment a person prays the sinner’s prayer, he or she becomes a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. Salvation gives the believer new life. Past sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus and cast into the sea of God’s forgetfulness to be remembered no more. Thus, pre-Jesus divorce — and murder, sexual assault, and spousal abuse — doesn’t count against the new Christian. I remember one evangelist who came regularly to one church I pastored that had a divorce in his past; in his pre-Jesus life. He hid this from me and other pastors, knowing that many of us believed that the Bible taught preachers must be the husbands of one wife, not one wife at a time. Years later, I found out that his first wife was a thirteen-year-old girl he impregnated. They later divorced, but his ex-wife believes her preacher ex-husband still has an appetite for younger girls. When I questioned this man about his former marriage, he replied, “It’s under the blood, brother, it’s under the blood!” In other words, he refused to be held accountable for anything he did BC — before Christ.

There are No Grounds for Divorce

Some IFB churches and pastors believe there are no grounds for divorce; that the exceptions granted by Jesus and Paul were given due to the hardness of man’s heart; that God’s standard is “marriage until death do we part.” While allowance was made for women leaving their husbands if they regularly beat them, separating spouses were told that under no circumstances could they divorce and remarry. They were reminded that Jesus said: Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. In other words, remarry and you are an adulterer.

IFB luminary John R. Rice was asked, “Should A Divorced Woman Remarry Her Husband, Who Wants Her Back, Or Marry The Other Man She Is In Love With?” He responded:

She should remarry her husband. You see, when she was married first, she took a solemn vow to love, honor and obey . . . until death do us part. And the Bible clearly teaches that divorce is wrong. Even if the husband mistreated the wife (and of course all husbands and wives are human and fail in some degree), still she was his wife, she had promised to be with him until death, and God wanted her to obey her husband and love him and be true to him.

I think that if a wife will set out to obey her husband, she will find that love will increase. She will have to confess to God her sin of loving another man, and if in her heart she will honestly turn from that in repentance, then God will help her to love her husband and help the husband to forgive and love her. If things are not always easy, still the only way to happiness is to do right and have God’s blessing.

Satan always has some very attractive ways in sin. Sin is always attractive at first, but it always ends bad. The Bible says, ‘The way of transgressors is hard’ (Prov. 13:15). And, again, the Bible says in Numbers 32:23, ‘Be sure your sin will find you out.’ And Romans 6:23 says, ‘The wages of sin is death.’

First Corinthians 7, verses 10-13, says, ‘And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.’”

Now the thing to do is to believe that God will restore happiness and that He will help straighten things out. So give Him a chance to do that.

Rice’s answer was typical of what I heard as a long-time member and pastor of IFB churches.

In 1994, I was between pastorates and Polly and our six children and I attended an IFB church pastored by my best friend. One night, I went with him on a visitation call to a church family who was having marital problems. They were seriously contemplating divorce. My preacher friend made it clear to them that God hated divorce and that there were no Biblical grounds for divorce. He said, “You have two choices. Either reconcile or separate and remain unmarried.” In his eyes, getting a divorce and then remarrying was a grievous sin and grounds for excommunication. He went on to say, “God says, if you remarry, both you and your new spouse are adulterers.”

Later, on our way home, I questioned him about his position on divorce. I asked, “if they remarry, what is it that makes them adulterers?” He replied, “the sex act.” I said, “So, every time they have sex, they are committing adultery?” My friend paused for a moment — thinking this was another one of Bruce’s famous theological traps — and then said, “Yes.”  And sure enough, he walked into one of my traps. I replied, “So, no one who is divorced and remarried is a Christian? And anyone in your church who is divorced and remarried (I mentioned several couples by name) will spend eternity in Hell?” As he pondered my questions, I reminded him that the Bible said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

“If, as the Bible says, adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God,” I said, “then doesn’t that mean that divorced-remarried people — whom you say are adulterers — will NOT inherit the kingdom of God?” After a seemingly long period of silence, my friend said, “well, maybe I need to rethink my position.” Ya think?

Conclusion

Is it any wonder that divorced people feel out of place and marginalized in IFB churches? Worse yet, the aforementioned positions on divorce and remarriage can lead to women, in particular, enduring all sorts of abuse at the hands of their husbands. In October 2015, I wrote a post titled, Domestic Violence in the IFB Church. Here’s an excerpt from that post that illustrates the danger of taking a no-divorce position:

Years ago the church I was pastoring joined together with other IFB churches to hold a joint revival meeting. The speaker was Bill Rice III. (I am almost certain it was Bill Rice but it could have been Pete Rice, both were associated with the Bill Rice Ranch.) One night, Bill Rice preached on  the subject of marriage and divorce. Rice did not believe there were any grounds for divorce. He said that even if a husband was beating on his wife, the wife should stay in the marriage. Perhaps she would win her husband to Jesus by her willingness to stay in the marriage. Rice intimated that saved husbands don’t beat their wives.

By the time of this meeting my views had already begun to change and I pulled our church out of the meetings. I was incensed that Rice was advocating a woman endure her husband beating on her, implying that God wanted her to do so.

The teachings of the Bible on marriage and divorce reflect a time when women were viewed as chattel, as little more than property. There’s nothing in Jesus’ or Paul’s teachings on marriage/divorce that suggests they moved beyond the beliefs and practices found in the Old Testament. Jesus, being God, hated divorce; and the Apostle Paul? Well, he had a real problem with women in general. I have long asked, Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian? I wrote, at one time:

Why would any woman want to be an Evangelical Christian? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety: the right to vote, equal pay for equal work, the right to use birth control, the right to have an abortion, the right to divorce. While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made toward that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only. The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is that Christian patriarchal thinking still permeates our society.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women a weaker vessel. The Bible teaches that women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Simply put, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children, and as women age they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be good wives.

….

I am of the opinion that many women embrace Evangelical Christianity and continue in the church because of the social and family connection they have with others in the church. They are willing to put up with being considered second-class citizens as long as they can maintain those connections. I suspect this is due to the maternal instinct that most women have. Others have been so indoctrinated by the men in their life that they actually think they are inferior to men and meant to be their slaves. I’ve had more than a few conversations with women who cannot or will not see that they deserve a far better life than they now have.

As long as there are marriages there will be divorces. Sometimes, people marry the wrong person or find out their spouses were not the people they thought they were. The issues that can derail a marriage and lead to divorce are many. As a humanist, I desire peace and happiness for everyone. Sometimes, the only way for a married couple to find peace and happiness is to divorce. Yet, IFB churches and pastors would rather have couples spend their lives living in misery with people they do not love. Years ago, an older woman began attending the church I was pastoring at the time. After a few visits, I stopped by her home to get to know her better. I found out that she was married, but her husband was nowhere to be found. Later, a church member who knew her well told me, “Yes, she is married, but her husband lives in the second story of the house. They don’t speak to each other.” Come to find out, they had been living this way for twenty-five years. Why? The Bible says . . . The Bible says NO DIVORCE, so this couple had lived in the same home for twenty-five years, but apart from each other; much like boxers in the ring retreating to their respective corners. Sorry, but this is no way to live.

The good news is that Evangelical churches, in general, are becoming more accepting and tolerant of divorce. However, in the far-flung edges of the Evangelical universe, there are still churches and pastors who take a no-divorce position, demonize divorced people, and promote beliefs that can and do cause physical and psychological harm to women and children. (Yet, many of these same preachers support Donald Trump. Talk about hypocrisy.)

Are you a former IFB/Evangelical church member? What position did your church/pastor take on divorce? Did you get divorced while still a member of an IFB/Evangelical church? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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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.

Questions: Can a Mixed Marriage Between an Evangelical and Atheist Succeed?

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I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Michael asked:

Based on your deep learning and long experience, what do you see as the primary obstacle(s) in a marriage involving an evangelical (who came to the faith well after marrying) and an atheist/agnostic? And, given the scriptural warnings against such a union, how would you evaluate the chances for such a union to succeed? Thank you.

How often have you heard the statement “opposites attract”? Polly and I are very different from one another. She was a wallflower when we met, while I was, on the other hand, outgoing and talkative. Forty-three years later, Polly is still quiet and reserved, while I am, well, not that. 🙂 Over the years, an interesting thing has happened. Polly and I each developed hobbies and likes different from those of the other. But, we also developed hobbies and likes we share.

Both of us were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christians when we married. Twenty-nine years later, we walked hand-in-hand out of the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Today, I am an out-and-proud (and vocal) atheist. Polly is an agnostic who rarely talks about her unbelief. I can say this: her dislike of organized religion is much stronger than mine. I know, I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. I may be the outspoken atheist, but if I ever said to Polly, “let’s go to church today,” she would blister the paint off walls with curse words her IFB mother has never heard her say. 🙂

Our marriage has survived all these years because I am awesome. Or maybe I am delusional. 🙂 That was a joke, by the way. We share many common goals and ideals. We enjoy one another’s company. Our politics and religious views are similar. But, ultimately, it is the things we hold in common that are the glue that keeps our marriage together.

It is commonality, not differences, that typically attract one person to the other. This is why I recommend that people marry men or women who hold similar values, morals, and beliefs. Sure, all of us know couples with disparate values, morals, and beliefs who have been married for years. Such couples find a way to make things work. However, we also know numerous couples who divorced over dissimilar values, morals, and beliefs. No couple wants to spend their days arguing about politics, religion, or any of the other things that people argue about. And no couple wants to compartmentalize their lives, unable to talk with their spouse about certain things. (I deliberately paint with a broad brush. I know there are exceptions to the rule.)

I would never, ever recommend that an atheist marry an Evangelical Christian. The risk of conflict is too great. I am not suggesting that an atheist should never marry someone religious. It depends on the religion, how devout the person is, and the likelihood the person will become more religious over time. I know atheists who are married to mainline Christians. Their marriages seem to be successful and happy. Typically, the mainline Christian spouse is a universalist, so there are no worries about threats of Hell or evangelization. I have had two atheist friends die over the past two years. Both of my friends were outspoken atheists. What did their Evangelical families do after they died (one person was married, the other was not)? They ignored their final wishes and had funeral services for both of them. I have no doubt my friends were screaming and rolling over in their graves.

What about marriages where one spouse becomes an atheist or an Evangelical years later? Can such marriages “survive”? The short answer is yes. I know that some of the readers of this blog are in “mixed” marriages. They entered marriage equally yoked together as followers of Jesus. Then, years later, one of them lost their faith and deconverted. Some of the people I am talking about are “secret” atheists. Many of them even attend church on Sundays with their spouses and children.

That said, I have corresponded with numerous atheists who were/are married to Evangelical Christians. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to receive another email from them months or years later that says they have either separated or divorced. They either found they couldn’t make their mixed marriages work or decided that they didn’t want to spend any more time in a relationship where their significant other didn’t share their interests, values, and beliefs.

I have written several posts on this subject:

Let me conclude this post by addressing the “Scriptural warning against believers marrying unbelievers.” While I don’t care one wit about what the Bible says on anything, I do recognize that the Good Book occasionally offers sage advice. In the case of mixed marriages, the advice given in the Bible is generally sound.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Bruce and Polly Sitting in A Tree

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Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Cranbrook Gardens, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1978, two months before wedding.

Polly and I are celebrating our forty-third wedding anniversary today. Tomorrow, we plan to travel to Findlay, Ohio, and celebrate our anniversary at The Gathering, an upscale restaurant. Afterward, we will take a stroll along the Blanchard River at Riverside Park. Weather permitting, I hope to take a picture of both of us. It’s been two or three years since I have done so.

Last night, as I typically do on Wednesdays, I watched Matt Dillahunty’s show The Hang Up. At the end of the show, Matt takes what is called Super Chats from viewers. Any donation over $10 is read live on air. What follows is my $19.99 Super Chat. (Clip starts at 2:16:25 if the embed doesn’t work properly for you.)

Video Link

Thanks, Matt! And most of all, thank you, Polly, for forty-three mostly wonderful years. I love you!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser