House we rented in White Birch, a wooded community north of Farwell, Michigan. At the time, I was pastoring Victory Baptist Church, Clare Michigan 2003
House we rented in White Birch, a wooded community north of Farwell, Michigan. At the time, I was pastoring Victory Baptist Church, Clare Michigan 2003
Depression Sea is roiling today, my mind is twisting, turning, and dying.
She knows, she always knows. My face and body language tell a story she’s read time and again.
She worries that this time the story might have a different ending.
I’m at the doctor’s office.
Wasn’t I here last month? I already know the answer, having made the trip eight times and the year isn’t even half over.
As we wait for the nurse to call my name, we play the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®.
Playing the game allows me to change the monotonous, deadly channel that keeps playing over and over in mind.
We look at one another, smile, and begin the game.
The game always has the same answers, but we like to play anyway.
In the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®, we take shared places and experiences and meld them into one. A fantasy, to be sure, but who knows, maybe we’ll strike it rich, rob a bank, or write a book detailing where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.
Spring in Ohio, with its promise of new life and flowers.
Fall in Ohio, with its crisp air and changing colors.
Winter in Arizona, no snow for us, we survived the Blizzard of 78.
Summer in the Upper Peninsula , nestled as close to our Canadian friends as possible.
Our rented house from White Birch, Michigan, with a 1970 green Nova SS sitting in the drive.
Bruce putting water in 1970 Nova SS, March 1976, somewhere in Kentucky
Package these things together and magically move them to the eastern seaboard, to a small, out-of-the-way fishing community on the shore of the Atlantic.
Turn the house so it fronts the Ocean, allowing us to sit on our deck and watch the sunrise and the fishing boats making their way to the secret spots known only to those whose hands and face bear the weathered look of a lifetime spent fishing.
Nearby live our children and grandchildren. Not too close, yet not so far as to be beyond an invite to a Saturday night BBQ.
This is Bruce and Polly’s fantasy.
She remains worried, wondering if the slough of despondency will bury the man she loves.
All I want is for the pain to stop.
Is that too much to ask?
I already knows the answer. I always knows the answer.
The nurse calls my name and I haltingly walk to the exam room.
No weight gain, medications the same, pulse 78, and blood pressure just a little high. Refills ordered, sure is hot, hate the humidity, how’s Bethany, he’ll be in to see you soon.
The doctor walks through the door and sits near me. Eighteen years we’ve danced to this tune, both of us now dance much slower than we once did.
The doctor thinks I am chipper today, better than last month. Little does he know what I’m really thinking. We talk about the Reds, Todd Frazier, Johnny Cueto, and the All Star game. I promised the nurse that we wouldn’t do our thing, our thing being shooting the breeze while other patients wait. I lied. He’s behind and I’m to blame.
We shake hands and afterward I put my hand gently on his shoulder. I tell him, see you in two months. This sounds like a lie, a hollow promise with no hope of fulfillment.
I want to live.
I want to die.
We stop at St. John’s produce tent and buy some local strawberries. $3.50 a quart. We buy some Georgia peaches too, which will turn into pies for Sunday. The strawberries will top the angel food cake she will make in the morning; just like every other June 19th for the past thirty-seven years.
Bruce and his mom, July 1957
June 19, 1957, in a building years ago torn down and replaced with a new one, at 9:01 AM I drew air into my lungs for the first time. A new life born into poverty in a nondescript rural Ohio community, delivered by a doctor who also worked as a veterinarian.
The path is now long and how much path remains is unknown.
Will the game be called today or will we get to play, for the nth time the Bruce and Polly Fantasy Game®?
I’m still betting on playing the game.
For those who struggle with chronic pain and illness, a birthday can often lead to deep depression, a reminder of all that has been lost. While the healthy focus on all they have, those in pain and who suffer from years of chronic debility can, and often do, focus on how much they have lost. Yes, it is wonderful to have a sliver of life to hold on to, to have a spouse, children, and grandchildren who love you, but nothing can ameliorate the sense of loss.
This is not a cry for help. I am just talking out loud with friends.
Dating Profile Sent to Me by an Atheist Friend of Mine
Snark, Snark, Snark Ahead!
I’m confused. Why does this heterosexual woman want to date gay men? If a man, any man, loves Jesus, who is a man, more than he does a woman, doesn’t that make him gay? And since there is no such thing as a gay Christian, this woman might as well give up now. Cuz, if she is looking for a man who desires, wants, needs Jesus more than a woman…
I’m sure there are a few I love Jesus more than I will ever love you girl men out there, but do you really want to marry a Jesus-loving man and start life as number 2 on his love list? Cuz, number 2 on his love list will turn into number 2 pretty quick.
Any man who says that he loves a man whom he has never seen more than a real, live, anatomically blessed, sexy woman is either lying so he can score or he is delusional. Again, not sure that this guy would be marriage material. Any woman wanting and getting a man who will love Jesus more than he loves her is going to be sorely disappointed.
Honey, let’s have hot missionary sex tonight, the Christian newlywed wife says. Her Jesus loving husband responds, how dare you ask me to have sex with you. I am saving myself for Jesus!
Evidently, this woman has not read 1 Corinthians 7. Paul says a lot of crazy shit about marriage in 1 Corinthian 7, but since it is in the holy, unadulterated, inerrant, inspired word of God, let’s allow God to speak:
…He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: but he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.
This woman needs to understand that if a man really does love Jesus more than he love women, then he should never ever marry. According to the aforementioned passage of Scripture, when a man marries a woman, his first priority is to the things of the world and how he may please his wife. It’s right there in the Good Book. So, this means that his wife comes before Jesus. God said it, I didn’t.
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?
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 gun. 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 gun purchase and ownership, 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 them. 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. I love hearing a Baptist preacher using the word WHOREMONGER. Here’s my favorite Baptist preacher (25 second clip) :
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 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 gospel of NO!
I get it, it IS in the Bible, but we are 2,000 or more 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 the Baptist youth group will be if they hear their pastor compassionately and honestly tell them that it is OK to masturbate. No shame, no guilt; just a wonderful THANK YOU JESUS release of sexual tension.
The Bible is clear on this subject. The Bible, the infallible, inspired Word of God that millions of Evangelicals SAY they believe says:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is not an ambiguous or hard to interpret passage of Scripture. It means exactly what it says. Believers (Christians, followers of Jesus) should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. The Bible describes marriage as “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleaveunto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:27)
One would think bought by the blood, Bible believing Evangelicals would, because of their love for Jesus, obey what God has commanded. God calls on every single Christian to be like Tim Tebow, a virgin until the day they marry a fellow believer of the OPPOSITE sex.
But, in another, all to typical, example of the fact that Evangelicals only believe the Bible when it fits their lifestyle and ignore it or explain it away when it doesn’t, the Christian Partner for Life website (website is no longer active) gives this advice;
Finding your husband or wife can be quite a process. Often, whether through school or elsewhere, we meet people in our lives who are not committed Christians. A common question that we receive is: “Is it OK to date someone who is not committed to Christianity?” While many advisors and ministers that we encounter have said definitively “NO,” we think it is important to have a more secular view of the situation. If you have a great connection with someone, and they would potentially want to explore raising your future family with predetermined beliefs, we see no reason to object….
….We believe that marrying a non-Christian or a non-practicing Christian is not a definitive “no” answer, as is commonly taught. Would you rather stay single or marry a loving and wonderful person who is agnostic of Christian beliefs? If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass, we think the possibility of marriage should very much exist. If a relationship is based upon love, trust and mutual respect, there is a good chance that a marriage will succeed, regardless of religion.
The caveat to this question becomes whether your future spouse is willing to raise a family the way that you would like to. Would your future spouse be open to raising your children as committed Christians? If so, we think that a relationship could work…
In other words, ignore the Bible.
The Bible says that nonbelievers are dead in trespasses in sin. Unbelievers are at variance with God, vain in their imaginations and haters of God. Unbelievers are bad people, After all, their father is the devil himself.
Yet, John at Christian Partner for Life says “If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass” then perhaps it would be OK to marry them. How can an unbeliever have a great moral compass? According to the Bible, they can’t.
Here’s what I think…unbelievers are hotter…And baby, when it comes to chasing after hotness, let the Bible be damned darned.
All silliness aside, John’s post at Christian Partner For Life is just another reminder that Evangelicals, for all their bluster about the Bible being truth, really don’t believe it.
Now for MY marriage advice for unbelievers.
Actually, the Bible gives some pretty good advice here. In most circumstances it would be unwise for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical. Unless the believer is willing to live as an unbeliever then it is probably unwise to marry. I can hear the howling now, Evangelicals everywhere are screaming, HOW DARE YOU EXPECT A BELIEVER TO DENY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE AS AN UNBELIEVER!! I bet it seemed OK to most Evangelicals when John suggested the very same thing when he suggested making sure the unbeliever would be willing to raise future children as believers. Evangelicals seem to always expect OTHERS to compromise so they can be true to their beliefs, but they rarely seem to be able to compromise their beliefs for the sake of others. The message is clear: my beliefs matter, yours don’t.
Generally, it is a bad idea for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical, especially if their prospective marriage partner’s family is Evangelical too. If you marry anyway, you are sure to have conflict over issues like:
Baptizing or dedicating the children
Praying over meals
Having family devotions
What entertainments to participate in
What movies to watch
You will also likely subject yourself to a life of “I am praying for you” and subtle attempts to win you to Jesus.
It is almost impossible for an Evangelical to NOT talk about their faith. (nor should they be expected to) This is why the Bible actually gives sound advice about an unequal yoke.
Contrary to the little ditty, opposites attract, successful marriages are usually built on the things that the husband and wife have in common. While my wife and I are very different, we do have many things in common. We cultivate our common values and beliefs, and with things we differ on we leave each other free to pursue those things.
Over time, the things a couple differs on can become something both like or agree upon. When Polly and I married she was a sports atheist. I was a jock. I mean one of THOSE kind of guys. I played sports year-round for the first ten years of our marriage. Age, knee problems, and a busy church ended my sports playing career. Polly made a good faith effort to enter into my world. For a long times. her ignorance was quite amusing, but bit by bit she became conversant in sports-talk. I did not reciprocate. I still do not know how to sew or put the toilet seat down.
We still have a lot of things that we do not hold in common and that’s OK. But, the bedrock of our marriage of almost 37 years is the values, beliefs, and likes we hold in common. I believe it would be very hard for an Evangelical and an unbeliever to find common ground to build a successful marriage. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.
On this issue I am much more of a Bible believer than John at Christian Partner for Life. Granted, I see the principle taught in scripture from the other end of the equation, but it still is good advice. When it comes to the foundational issues of life and the philosophies we live by, having a common mind is always best. Certainly, compromise is possible, but willingly chucking your beliefs (whatever they might be) for love will usually leave you disappointed, and if you are not careful may land you in divorce court.
If you are in an unequally yoked marriage or relationship, how do you make it work? Please leave your thoughts in comment section.
As regular readers know, I read and monitor a number of right-wing Christian websites and blogs. Some days, it is hard to do. Of late, the hysteria over same-sex marriage has resulted in uncounted Bible thumpers making pronouncements of doom and judgment. Filled with homophobic rage and bigotry, these false prophets are doing all they can to cause the faithful to fear. The gays are coming, the Gays are coming, these modern-day revolutionaries cry out, ignorant of the fact that the gays have always been among us. The only difference now is that gays no longer fear what the religious-right can do to then. Out of the closet they came and they have no intentions of returning.
The real issues aren’t homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics are losing their seat at the head of the cultural table and they don’t like it. Relegated to the back of the room, little more than an afterthought, they whine, scream, and complain that nobody is paying attention to them. They blame secularism, atheism, and liberal Christianity for the rise of homosexuality in America, but the real blame rests on their shoulders. Thirty or so years ago, the religious-right traded piety and holiness for political power. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they decided to wage a war against any and all who oppose their morals, ethics, and beliefs. Instead of being counter cultural, the religious right decided to assault their fellow citizens and force them to believe in their God and obey the teachings of the Christian Bible. What is now happening is that secularists, atheists, humanists, liberal Christians, and even Evangelicals and Catholics, are pushing back, realizing that if the religious-right gets their way on same-sex marriage they will not be satisfied until the Bible is enshrined as law and the Christian flag flies of the U.S. Capitol. In others words, theocracy is their goal.
What follows is a handful of the hysterical statements made by those warning that God’s judgment is coming if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. Enjoy!
“I believe there is a war on religious liberty in the United States of America. And this war is not targeting people of the Muslim faith, it’s not targeting people of the Jewish faith or the Hindu faith or the Buddhist faith. This war on religious liberty is targeting people of the Christian faith.”
“The United States Supreme Court may presently make a decision discarding marriage as an unalienable (natural) right. By defect of reason and respect for the Constitution, the decision will return the people of this country to the condition of constantly impending war characteristic of the human condition when and wherever the just premises of government are abandoned.
A decision degrading the natural right of marriage, endowed by the Creator, to the status of a fiat right, fabricated by government, will be unconstitutional on the face of it, because it disparages an antecedent right, retained by the people, which disparagement is explicitly prohibited by the U.S. Constitution’s Ninth amendment. Under present circumstances, the decision will also invite conflict on account of the openly flaunted prejudice of two of the justices participating in it..
…If the United States Supreme Court presumes to impose any redefinition of marriage on the states, respectively, or the people, without addressing the issue of unalienable right it involves, with reasoning that respects God-endowed right (which is the logic by which the American people asserted, and still claim to possess and exercise, sovereign authority over themselves), the Court’s decision will be an attack on the very foundation of constitutional government, of by and for the people of the United States. It will be a high crime and misdemeanor that effectively dissolves the just bonds of government between and among the states, and among the individuals who compose the people of the United States. It will therefore be just cause for war.
Like the Dred Scott decision that heralded the onset of the first Civil War, the Court’s action will bring the nation to the brink, whence “nothing but confusion and disorder will follow. …” If the justices do not tread carefully, their temerity could very well set in motion the death throes of what is still supposed to be their country. “Forbid it, Almighty God!”
“Now the communists rule this nation and everywhere communism takes control, they go after the churches and they kill the pastors and they demolish the church buildings and they reeducate the church children. That’s what’s coming to America. It’s already started.”
“We are at the end of the road as a nation. If the Supreme Court dares to defy Almighty God one more time, I’m telling you it will be the last time.”
“I believe I am speaking under the unction of the Holy Spirit. I’m telling you there will be swift, sudden and devastating consequences for the United States of America. America will be brought to its knees, there will be pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country. The word that I hear in my spirit is ‘fire.’ I do not know if it refers to riots or looting or war on American soil or a fireball from space. I simply know that a sweeping, consuming fire will come across the United States of America and this country will be charred and burned.”
“Life may change radically in 60 days. I’m talking about the fast-moving, radical homosexual movement that has captured control of the American political system, the corporate world, the news media, the entertainment industry and the educational system. This is a takeover and it is anti-God, it is anti-Christ. The same-sex marriage case before the U.S. Supreme Court is not about same-sex marriage, it is about the criminalization and the elimination of biblical Christianity in the United States of America.”
“Brace for impact if it goes against God’s divine order of marriage…”
…Now to attempt to change that which is eternal and forever fixed by the Creator is to do nothing less than make the claim that you are God. This is very wrong and very dangerous, and the Supreme Court of these United States is now considering taking this very same dangerous step.
While there are many conclusions that can be drawn as we witness this cultural degradation, one comes most immediately to my mind. When a culture discards the Word of God as the standard for what is right and what is wrong, and relegates these determinations to fallen men, the results are as predictable as they are terrible.
In the time of the founding of America, when a Biblical worldview was predominant in the American people, this connection between following the commandments and peaceable existence was clearly known, easily understood and evidentially experienced in the American culture. Undoubtedly, living prosperously by living righteously is what Jefferson meant when he used the phrase “pursuit of happiness”.
Psalm Two warns that when the judges and the rulers of the earth throw off God’s law and take it upon themselves to make their own rules for right and wrong, they will be dashed to pieces like a rod of iron striking a clay pot.
Regrettably we seem to be setting ourselves up for this very lesson. Unless our government officials start obeying God and stop “playing god,” this is a lesson we will experience fully…
Liberty Counsel chairman Matt Staver “urged the owners of an Oregon bakery who were fined for violating the state’s non-discrimination law when they denied service to a gay customer to refuse to pay the fine in an act of civil disobedience against an “unjust law.”:
“If the government wants to come in and put Rosa Parks on the back of the bus, Rosa Parks shouldn’t move to the back of the bus. If they are wanting to take Christians and put you on the back of the bus because of your faith, you shouldn’t voluntarily walk to the back of the bus.”
“There is nothing historically or throughout our long history of Judeo-Christianity that says that someone who’s got dark skin can’t marry someone who’s got white skin or lighter color skin. That’s never been rooted in our history, that’s never been rooted in natural law, that’s never been rooted in millennia of human history. Marriage is objectively, to use a philosophical term, ontologically, the union of a man and a woman. If you can’t get that right, good grief, how can you be a judge on any court?”
The “abomination of desolation” that was prophesied by Daniel, Jesus, and the first century apostles could have been translated “the abomination that desolates.” Because homosexuality is referred to as an abomination in Scripture, and its impact on Western culture is so quickly and profoundly desolating the moral fabric of Western civilization, it is to be expected that many will start to consider this “the abomination that desolates.”
Who could have dreamed just two decades ago that we would have major cities celebrating “Days of Decadence” with all manner of perversions being performed and flaunted openly in our streets? Who would have thought that such a moral and religious nation could fall so quickly to the ultimate national depravity spoken of in Isaiah 5—calling what God calls “good,” “evil,” and what God calls “evil,” “good,” while the dishonorable are honored and the honorable are dishonored? Is that not precisely what has happened to America in just the last generation?
The meltdown of morality in our military could be happening even faster. Just a few years ago, the U.S. military was such a bastion of morality and integrity that adultery was considered grounds for dismissal because one’s vows had been broken. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the handwriting on the wall that a devastating change was coming. But who could have foreseen the pace of the desolation of our military since homosexuality was openly allowed in the ranks? It moved quickly from everyone having to accept it, to everyone having to celebrate it if you expected any further promotions, to now being forced out if you do not celebrate it.
Christians are now openly discriminated against, if not persecuted, in the U.S. military. Not only are some of the best and brightest leaving the military, they are no longer choosing it as a possible career.
The same is taking place throughout government services on all levels, as well as corporations, education, and the media, as was once the case for a long time in arts and entertainment. Now, with a single Supreme Court decision it could be that Christians, Muslims, and Jews that honor their books as the word of God will not be able to “buy, sell, or trade” in America without the constant threat of losing your business, or your position and livelihood, because of an offended homosexual.
Even if this is not “the mark of the beast,” it will be for those who are now losing what they, in some cases, have given their lives to build, because they would not compromise their religious convictions in order to buy, sell, or trade. If the Supreme Court decision falls the way it is expected to, we can be sure that very soon every Christian in America will have to make a similar choice between obeying the Word of God or this beast.
Matt Staver, Rick Santorum, Kenneth Blackwell, Steve Deace, Bradlee Dean, John Eidsmoe, Joseph Farah, E.W. Jackson, Rods Parsley, Paige Patterson, Andrew Sandlin, Ed Young, Larry Tomczak, Jerry Prevo, Janet Porter, Tim Lee, Richard Land, Peter LaBarbera, Phil Burress, William Boykin, Robert Jeffress, Tim Wildmon, Don Wildmon, Mike Huckabee, Franklin Graham, Harry Jackson, James Dobson, and a cast of thousands, signed the Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage:
We stand together in defense of marriage and the family and society founded upon them. While we come from a variety of communities and hold differing faith perspectives, we are united in our common affirmation of marriage.
On the matter of marriage, we stand in solidarity. We affirm that marriage and family have been inscribed by the Divine Architect into the order of Creation. Marriage is ontologically between one man and one woman, ordered toward the union of the spouses, open to children and formative of family. Family is the first vital cell of society, the first government, and the first mediating institution of our social order. The future of a free and healthy society passes through marriage and the family.
Marriage as existing solely between one man and one woman precedes civil government. Though affirmed, fulfilled, and elevated by faith, the truth that marriage can exist only between one man and one woman is not based on religion or revelation alone, but on the Natural Law, written on the human heart and discernible through the exercise of reason. It is part of the natural created order. The Natural Law is what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., referred to as a higher law or a just law in his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail.
Marriage is the preeminent and the most fundamental of all human social institutions. Civil institutions do not create marriage nor can they manufacture a right to marry for those who are incapable of marriage. Society begins with marriage and the family.
We pledge to stand together to defend marriage for what it is, a bond between one man and one woman, intended for life, and open to the gift of children.
The institutions of civil government should defend marriage and not seek to undermine it. Government has long regulated marriage for the true common good. Examples, such as the age of consent, demonstrate such a proper regulation to ensure the free and voluntary basis of the marriage bond. Redefining the very institution of marriage is improper and outside the authority of the State. No civil institution, including the United States Supreme Court or any court, has authority to redefine marriage.
As citizens united together, we will not stand by while the destruction of the institution of marriage unfolds in this nation we love. The effort to redefine marriage threatens the essential foundation of the family.
Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State. This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.
Conferring a moral and legal equivalency to any relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman, by legislative or judicial fiat, sends the message that children do not need a mother and a father. As a policy matter, such unions convey the message that moms and dads are completely irrelevant to the well-being of children. Such a policy statement is unconscionable and destructive. Authorizing the legal equivalency of marriage to same-sex couples undermines the fundamental rights of children and threatens their security, stability, and future.
Neither the United States Supreme Court nor any court has authority to redefine marriage and thereby weaken both the family and society. Unlike the Legislative Branch that has the power of the purse and the Executive Branch which has the figurative power of the sword, the Judicial Branch has neither. It must depend upon the Executive Branch for the enforcement of its decisions.
As the Supreme Court acknowledged in the 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, its power rests solely upon the legitimacy of its decisions in the eyes of the people. If the decisions of the Court are not based on the Constitution and reason, and especially if they are contrary to the natural created order, then the people will lose confidence in the Court as an objective arbiter of the law. If the people lose respect for the Court, the Court’s authority will be diminished.
The Supreme Court was wrong when it denied Dred Scott his rights and said, “blacks are inferior human beings.” And the Court was wrong when Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in Buck v. Bell, “three generations of imbeciles are enough,” thus upholding Virginia’s eugenics law that permitted forced sterilization. Shamefully, that decision was cited during the Nuremburg trials to support the Nazi eugenic holocaust.
In these earlier cases, the definition of “human” was at issue. Now the definition of “marriage” is at issue. The Constitution does not grant a right to redefine marriage — which is nonsensical since marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman. Nor does the Constitution prohibit states from affirming the natural created order of male and female joined together in marriage.
We will view any decision by the Supreme Court or any court the same way history views the Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell decisions. Our highest respect for the rule of law requires that we not respect an unjust law that directly conflicts with higher law. A decision purporting to redefine marriage flies in the face of the Constitution and is contrary to the natural created order. As people of faith we pledge obedience to our Creator when the State directly conflicts with higher law. We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross this line.
We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.
It is April 29, 2015. Two hundred and twenty six years ago this day, George Washington readied himself for the first ever presidential inauguration, to take place the following day, the day America as we know it came into existence, with a president’s hand resting on the Word of God. That day would conclude with America’s first government gathering in prayer to dedicate the nation’s future into God’s hands.
A century and a half earlier, another seminal event took place on the same day. On April 29, 1607, the voyagers of the Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, gathered together in prayer at Cape Henry to set a wooden cross in the sands of Virginia Beach, and dedicate the new civilization to the will and purposes of God.
America’s biblical foundation would be reaffirmed over and over again by its forefathers, from the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, to the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, to the leaders of the first American colonies who declared publicly and in writing that the new commonwealth had come into existence solely for the glory and purposes of God.
No historian can rewrite that. No president can expunge it. And if a thousand angels swore on a thousand bibles that this was not the case, it would in no way alter the fact – that this American civilization was conceived, established, dedicated, and founded on a biblical cornerstone; America was brought into existence for the will and purposes of God.
On this night, over two hundred years ago, George Washington held in his hand the first ever presidential address. In that address was a prophetic warning: It was this:”the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself hath ordained.” In other words, if America should ever turn away from God and His ways, if it should ever disregard His eternal rules of order and right, then His blessings, the smiles of Heaven, would be removed from the land.
It was an ancient warning. It had been given in Hebrew words by the prophets to the kingdom of Israel. But Israel turned away from God and disregarded His eternal rules of order and right.
They drove God out of their government, out of their public squares, out of their culture, and out of the lives of their children. They worshiped idols and served other gods. They celebrated immorality and persecuted the righteous. They lifted up their children on the altars of foreign gods. And the blessings of God were removed from the land and replaced with judgment.
It is two and half thousand years later, and America has made the same mistake. We, too, have turned away from God. We, too, have driven Him out of our government, out of our public squares, out of our culture, and out of the lives of our children. We too have profaned the sacred and sanctified the profane. And we, too, have killed our most innocent, over fifty five million of our unborn children, and our collective hands are covered with blood. What we were warned never to do, we now have done.
And now we gather in the city named after the one who gave that prophetic warning. And yesterday, in this city, in the building that sits across from this hill, the justices of the Supreme Court took up their places on the bench to decide whether America should strike down the biblical and historic definition of marriage. The very fact that such an event took place is, in itself, a sign that the America of Washington’s warning is here and the day of which he warned is now.
We have become a civilization in spiritual schizophrenia, a nation at war against its own foundations. The Supreme Court opens its sessions with the words: “God save the United States and this Honorable Court.” But if then this honorable court should overrule the word of God and strike down the eternal rules of order and right that Heaven itself hath ordained, how then will God save it?
Supreme Court Justices, can you judge the ways of God? Can you, with manmade verdicts, overrule the eternal laws of God? There is another court, and there is another judge. And before Him, all men and all judges will give account. If a nation’s high court should pass judgment on the Almighty, should you then be surprised if the Almighty should pass judgment on that court and that nation.
In the Book of Jeremiah, it is written: “Has a nation ever exchanged its gods… Yet my people have exchanged their glory for that which cannot help them.” Let us not pretend as to what we are now doing. We are doing exactly that which Israel did on the altars of Baal. We are exchanging our God for idols, our light for darkness, and our glory for that which cannot save us. Are we ready to risk that which comes on the other side of that exchange, the day when the blessings of Heaven are removed from the land?
We began with a word from the president of our nation’s first days. So I now speak a word to the president of our nation’s most recent days. Each time I have spoken here, I have asked a question. Now I will answer it. “Mr. President, with all respect that is due, ‘What happens if one assumes the presidency by placing his left hand on the Word of God, and then, with his right hand, enacts laws that war against the very same Word of God on which he laid his hand? Such an act invokes the judgment of the Almighty.
To swear an oath on the Word of God in which it is written “Defend the weak” and “Do not murder,” and to then to not defend the weak, to not protect the unborn from harm, but, instead, to advance their murder, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
To swear an oath on the Word of God, in which it is written, “Do not cause your brother to stumble,” and then to seek to force those who uphold the Word of God to transgress the Word of God, by partaking in the killing of the unborn and the celebration of sin, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
And to swear an oath on the Word of God, in which it is written, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people,” and then to take part in leading a nation away from “the eternal rules of order and right that Heaven itself hath ordained,” and against the very Word of God on which you laid your hand to swear that oath, is to invoke the judgment of the Almighty.
When the leaders of ancient Israel turned away from God, when they abolished His precepts, and broke His covenant, they did so in the shadow of Moses, whose voice cried out to them in warning.
“Mr. President, when you address the nation from this house, look up. Look up above the Senators and Representatives, above the Supreme Court Justices, and above the invited guests – and you will see a face – the only full visage on that wall – looking back at you. It is the face of Moses.
And if that face could speak, it would say this: “No king can overrule the laws of God, no order can annul the order of God, and no judgment of man can stand against the judgments of God. Invoke not His judgment. But choose life. And lead in the way of repentance. Invoke the grace of God, that He might have mercy on this land.”
We have come to a most critical moment. As Elijah stood on top of Mount Carmel and cried out to Israel in its hour of decision, in between two altars and two gods, his voice now cries out to America and says to us, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Seventy years ago, the Chaplain of the United States Senate, cried out in the same voice, and said to this nation, “If the Lord be God, then follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him… and go to hell!”
Tonight, America stands at the crossroads. And as Elijah came to the summit of Mount Carmel to make a declaration, we have come this night to Capitol Hill to declare… that our God… is not Baal. Our God… is not Molech. Our God… is not government. Our God… is not money. Our God… is not power. Our God… is not pleasure. Our God… is not political correctness or any other manmade thing.
We have come to this hill to declare… that there is only one God – And He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the God of Israel and of all nations. And He alone is the Rock upon which this nation has come into existence.
And from this high place we make this declaration: We will not bow down our knees to Baal. We will not bow down our knees to political correctness. We will not bow down our knees to a morality that is as shifting as wind swept sand. We will not bow down our knees to the laws and precepts of rebellion or to the sacred cows of moral apostasy. We will not bow down our knees to the idols of man. We will not bow down to Baal.
We will bow down our knees only… to the Lord our God, come what may, and we will have no other gods before Him.
For some trust in chariots, and some trust in princes, some trust in supreme courts, and some trust in white houses, some trust in governments, and some trust in wall streets, some trust in powers, and some trust in idols.
But we will trust in the name of the Lord our God, in the name above all names, above all kings, and above all powers. We will trust in the only name given by which we can be saved.
We will trust in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, the King of all kings, the Lord of all lords, the Judge of all judges, the Light of this World, the Glory of Israel, the foundation stone upon which this nation came into existence, and the only answer, the only chance, and the only hope America has, that it might once again shine with the light of the fire of the presence of the glory of the Living God … and not … go to hell!
The Family Research Council (FRC), part of the hysteria wing of the Republican Party, has published a church bulletin insert (link no longer active) Evangelical churches can use this Sunday to promote Christian heterosexual, one man-one woman marriage. Tony Perkins is the president of FRC and Jerry Boykin is vice president. Need I say more?
Imagine for a moment, that you are sitting in the pew of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. You are 16 years old and sitting next to you is your 17-year-old girlfriend. As with any normal teenager, you are sitting as close as possible to your girlfriend and the two of you are holding hands.
The pastor is getting ready to preach and he asks everyone to turn to 1 Corinthians 7:1,2. With a thunderous voice, the pastor says, THE BIBLE SAYS:
Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1,2)
and THE BIBLE ALSO SAYS:
Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
All of a sudden, the pastor turns your way, looks at you and your girlfriend, and then slowly turns back to his sermon notes. You feel guilty, so you unclasp your hand from your girlfriends and you scoot a few inches away from her.
Welcome, to just-another-Sunday-morning service at First Independent Baptist Church of Bible, Believersville, Ohio.
In the real world, teenage boys and girls hold hands, put their arms around each other, and kiss each other. We also know that some of them engage in intimate sexual activity. But at First Independent Baptist Church, any physical contact between unmarried teenagers or unmarried young adults of the opposite sex is strictly prohibited.
The thinking goes something like this: fornication, the intimate sexual contact between unmarried people, is a SIN. Committing fornication requires touching, so the best way to avoid fornication is to keep unmarried teenagers or single young adults from touching each other.
Over the years, I told countless teenagers that no girl ever got pregnant without holding hands with a boy first. I repeatedly told them that holding hands leads to familiarity and before you know it you’ll be having sex. So the answer is, no touching.
When I was a teenager, my pastor preached against boys and girls touching each other. Now, this doesn’t mean we didn’t touch each other, it just means that we did our touching away from the sight of the pastor, youth director, deacons, and other church adults.
We turned it into a game. The pastor said we couldn’t touch each other, so while choir practice was going on we would find out-of-the-way places to neck. It was almost like a challenge: we dare you to catch us.
From the age of 14 until my wedding day, I kissed a few girls, put my arm around them, and held their hands. But, that’s where it stopped. Both my wife and I were virgins when we married in 1978.
Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac Michigan. The college had a strict no-touch rule. The rule was called the six-inch rule. (about the width of a hymnbook) Young men and women were expected to keep 6 inches away from each other at all times. Failure to do so resulted in severe discipline.
Living in a dorm filled with normal, hormone-raging, heterosexual men and women made the six-inch rule a real challenge. Most of us learned how to discreetly break the rule, and when we went out on double dates we learned to double date with couples who were six-inch rule breakers as we were.
About the gateway issues with card playing . . .I’m not psychologist but I do believe if you restrict normal human behavior in one way, normal human behavior will come out in another. When at Hyles Anderson we were all told to not touch the opposite sex. I mean, no hand holding (which was fine with me and the IFB church I was in before I left for HAC). But no touching through a pen either, like tapping on a shoulder.
We are social beings and I do believe we need touch to stay alive. When at HAC, since all of the women were not allowed to touch a man on his hand or to tap his back with a pen, guess what happened? The dean of woman (Miss Belinda) said she noticed a LOT of petting going on between the women. In chapel, women would sit next to women and they’d pet each other’s hair, they’d stroke each other’s leg. And she was right – all of that behavior was happening. But my question is why? Probably due to the human need for basic touch. Since the women were not allowed to hug their own blood brother on campus, nor to hold hands for 5 seconds, nor to tap a man on the back with a pencil. . .is it any wonder that the women found a way to get physical touch in their lives? It is normal to want a hug and to rub someone’s bad when they are hurting. By repressing opposite sex touching, they encouraged same-sex touching and it was very evident.
Ponder for a moment being exposed to this kind of environment. Is it any wonder that people coming out the IFB church movement often have to deal with emotional, mental, and sexual dysfunction?
When you are constantly told that a normal human desire is sinful, it is bound cause psychological damage. Being normal heterosexuals, we could only suppress our desires for so long, so we found creative ways to get around the rules and the ever-watchful eyes of those charged with keeping us from fornicating.
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, February 1978 The irony of this picture is that we were allowed to break the rule while the photographer took the picture.
In a chapter of The Fundy World Tales I wrote:
Another time I was written up for breaking the six-inch rule. The six-inch rule was a rule meant to keep unmarried men and women from getting too close to each other. Six inches is about the width of a songbook or a Bible and unmarried students were not allowed to be closer than a songbook or a Bible from each other.
I was on the college basketball team. One day during practice I slapped at a basketball and severely dislocated a finger. I was rushed to the emergency room and the doctor was able to fix the dislocation. I’m left-handed and the dislocation had occurred on my left hand.
Every male student was required to wear a tie to class. I found it very difficult to tie a tie with one hand, so one day I asked my fiancé to tie my tie for me. In doing so we broke the six-inch rule. Someone anonymously turned us in for breaking the six-inch rule and we had to appear before the disciplinary committee to answer the charges against us.
We each receive 25 demerits for breaking the six-inch rule. We were warned that if we broke the six-inch rule again we would be expelled from school. Little did they know that we had been breaking it for quite some time.
Most dormitory students lived for the weekend. Students could only date on the weekends. Double dating was required and no student could go farther away than 10 miles from the dormitory. This was called the 10 mile limit. No physical contact between students was allowed. No kissing. No holding hands. No physical contact whatsoever.
Most students tried to adhere to the rules for a while. Some, like my fiancé and me, kept the six-inch rule religiously until we went home for our first Christmas break. While home on Christmas break were allowed to act like normal young adults who were in love. We held hands, kissed, necked, and pretty much acted like any other couple mutually infatuated with one another.
Once the genie was out of the bottle it was impossible to put her back in. When we returned to Midwestern we realized we could not continue to keep the six-inch rule. So for the next 18 months we sought out couples to double date with that had the same view of the six-inch rule as we did. We had to be very careful. Choose the wrong couple to double date with and you could end up getting expelled from school.
Rules such as the six-inch rule put the dormitory students in a position of having to lie and cheat just to be able to act like normal young adults. Many students ended up getting campused (not allowed to leave the campus or date) or were expelled because they broke the six-inch rule.
Illicit sexual activity was quite common among dormitory students. There was always a lot of gossip about who was doing what, when and where. During the spring of my sophomore year many of us rented apartments in the Pontiac area. We were all planning to get married over the summer, and since apartments were hard to come by, we rented them as soon as we found them.
Unfortunately the apartments turned into a big temptation for some couples. They began using the apartments as safe places for sexual activity. I could give you the names of several well-known preachers and their wives who lost their virginity at one of these apartments. Some of these preachers are now known to rail against sexual immorality. It seems they have forgotten about their own sexual immorality many years ago.
Is it any wonder that many of us who were raised in this kind of sexually repressed environment require counseling? Being you are told over and over that certain basic human needs and desires are sinful leads to overwhelming guilt and despair (and remember masturbation, self-pleasuring, was also a sin).
This is one of the reasons why I think the IFB church movement is emotionally and mentally harmful. My advice to everyone in an IFB church is that they RUN as fast as they can away from the church of which they are a part. Get out before they so fuck up your mind that it requires years of therapy to regain any sense of self-worth and emotional balance.
How about you? Did you spend your teenage years in an IFB church? Did you attend an IFB college? How did you deal with the no-physical-contact rule? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Today, a friend of mine sent me a quote from Doug Wilson’s book, Southern Slavery, As it Was. (his co-author was Steve Wilkins) Here’s what Wilson had to say:
“Sodomites parade in the streets, claiming that if we do not appropriate more money to study why people with foul sexual habits get sick, we are somehow violating their civil rights. Feminists, in rebellion against God, invert the order of the home established by God. They do so in a way that seeks to rob women of their beauty in submission and their security in being loved. For two decades, we have seen millions of unborn children slaughtered in abortion clinics. How did we get here, and what is the way out? The question cannot be answered fully without careful study of the War Between the States and the controversies surrounding it. Slavery was one of those controversies.”
Let this quote serve as a reminder that this kind of thinking is not the exclusive domain of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church and the Phelps clan. Bigots can be found in almost every sect, with the number of bigots growing increasingly larger the more conservative a sect is.
Wilson asks, which morality will it be, but same-sex marriage has nothing to do with morality. Allowing same-sex couples to marry affords them equal protection under the law and grants them the same civil rights as heterosexuals. Each of us have a right to privacy. Consenting adults have the right to engage in whatever sexual conduct that floats their boat without the government regulating the behavior. Theocrats like Wilson desire and demand that their interpretation of the laws found in the Bible be codified and made the standard for everyone.
I find it hard to see how this is any different from Muslims who want to institute Sharia law. As the quotes below will show, Wilson is quite willing to use the power of the state to enforce his version of Biblical law. Wilson also thinks that there may instances when execution is the rightful punishment for someone breaking his God’s law.
Such thinking should cause all of us to shudder. While Islam is center stage in our culture, proponents of God rule are working behind the scenes to destroy America’s secular foundation and legislate and enact a Christian version of sharia law.
“You might exile some homosexuals, depending on the circumstances and the age of the victim. There are circumstances where I’d be in favor of execution for adultery. … I’m not proposing legislation. All I’m doing is refusing to apologize for certain parts of the Bible.”
A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.
This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.
Here’s a Doug Wilson quote about slavery I found on the Are Women Human blog: (link no longer active)
Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, [slavery] was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates…
The [WPA Slave] Narratives consistently portray an amazingly benign picture of Southern plantation life. Affection for former masters and mistresses is expressed in terms of unmistakable devotion. Testimony to the good treatment, kindness, and gentleness of many so-called “heartless slave holders” abounds. Many of the old slaves express a wistful desire to be back at the plantation.
Slave life was to them a life of plenty, of simple pleasures, of food, clothes, and good medical care. In the narratives taken as a whole, there is no pervasive cry of rage and anguish.. abuses came from a distinct and very small minority.
I believe that certain unspeakable things will be going on in Boy Scout tents within about five years — with our current tolerance pimps making it all happen — and they will be things that could best be addressed by a judicious use of the strongest form of disapproval a culture has. While I believe that the judicial law of Moses ceased when the nation of Israel ceased, as the Westminster Confession teaches, I also believe the general equity of the law remains. I believe that the general equity of the law includes this strong rejection of homosexual behavior. I also believe that the law of the Old Testament was the model for our common law system, and our system should work in the same way.
By the way, no need for any comments saying that I have confounded homosexuality and pedophilia. I haven’t, and am just giving an example of the kind of same-sex behavior I could see supporting the death penalty for.
But look what I just did. I cited an application of Leviticus 20:13 that could still have broad societal consensus, even in these jaded days. This being the case, what you will have to do is bookmark this page, wait about ten years, and send your outraged cries up to the skies then. By that point, a large number of boys will have been ushered into the fellowship of these men, and there will have been at least two HBO series exalting the lifelong friendships that resulted, and it will then be obvious and apparent to all (in 2023) that I am an incorrigible hater.
The American Family Association (AFA) ran an ad today in the Washington Post detailing their view on same-sex marriage. The full-page ad stated:
Marriage was neither manmade nor created by any law or Constitution. It was God’s plan and purpose for civilization from the beginning. He created man and woman as distinctly separate but inherently compatible; each unique yet sexually complementary – providing both the means for and the ideal relationship within which to raise children from that union.
Before you now is a great question: Will you bend what God designed merely to suit the desires of man, knowing that you do so at the expense of children, perhaps even civilization itself? If you decide to affirm marriage as between one man and one woman, you breath life into the natural order and stand as an example to generations that will arise after your decision. But if you decide differently, you are choosing a path that will put the state on a legal and administrative collision course with hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices who believe only God can define marriage. You would say by such a decision that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children, and that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose of marriage would now become illicit. You would be saying that God has no place in our public square and, in a nation founded to secure freedom for those being persecuted for their faith, such a decision would be a tragic irony. In so doing you would not only risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric, but also effectively delegitimize the very power of the court itself to rule justly.
Before you now is a great challenge: If your decision to resolve this matter forces same-sex marriage on America, you will have settled nothing. We urge the Court to adjudicate rightly that which is God’s alone to decide.
Let me break down the AFA’s position:
Only God can define marriage and he defined marriage as one man and one woman
Legalizing same-sex marriage means bowing to the desires of man
Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm children
Legalizing same-sex marriage will harm civilization
Legalizing same-sex marriage says that mothers and fathers together are no longer relevant in the lives of children
Legalizing same-sex marriage says that religious expression about the sanctity and purpose of marriage is illicit
Legalizing same-sex marriage says that God has no place in the public square
Legalizing same-sex marriage will risk another Roe v. Wade tear in our cultural fabric
Legalizing same-sex marriage will delegitimize the power of the Supreme Court to rule justly
In other words, legalizing same-sex marriage with destroy the United States and Western Civilization. The AFA ad is fear mongering at its best.
Evangelicals are quite specific when it comes to God. There in ONE God, their God, the triune God revealed in the Christian Bible. All other gods are false gods. While it is increasingly common for Evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians, it was not that long ago that most Evangelical churches and pastors believed the Roman Catholic church was the harlot of Revelation 17 and worshipers of a false God. While it is encouraging to see some Evangelicals consider the thought that Catholics and Mormons might worship the same God as they do, the overwhelmingly majority of Evangelicals believe their God is the one, true God. No other gods need apply.
What I find interesting is how duplicitous Evangelicals can be when it comes to the mentioning of God in the founding documents of the United States, on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Evangelicals, knowing that the constitution forbids the establishment of a state church, argue before congress and the courts that the founding fathers spoke of a generic god, that the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is no god in particular. And since the documents, laws, and the like use the word god in a generic sense, they do not violate the establishment clause or run afoul of the separation of church and state…
…Why is it that Evangelicals run from this fact when they speak before congress or the courts? Why do they argue that these mentions of God are generic and not a reference to any specific god? Again, the answer is quite simple. They know admitting that these documents use the word God is a specific sense weakens their argument for their continued use. If the Pledge of Allegiance or In God we Trust on our money reference a non-specific God, then it makes it harder for atheists and secularists to argue that these things are unconstitutional. (harder, not impossible)…
Wildmon’s and the AFA’s God is the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian God. All others Gods are false Gods. While their ad implies they support religious pluralism, behind the scenes they are working towards the implementation of a Christian theocracy. Wildmon and others like him are the Evangelical version of Muslims who want to see sharia law enforced throughout the world. In their mind, there is one law book, the Christian Bible. Think for a moment, what would America be like if the Bible was the law book? (Please check out Right Wing Watch to find out what Tim Wildmon really believes.)
The American Family Association, founded by the late Don Wildmon and now controlled by Tim Wildmon, is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Here’s some of Tim Wildmon’s statements about homosexuality and same-sex marriage, courtesy of the SPLC website:
“What we reject is the idea that you can take homosexuality, which in the Bible is defined as a sin … it’s unnatural, it’s immoral, it’s unhealthy, and laud it and call it wonderful and say this is the same as heterosexuality. It is not. … We know this is a destructive lifestyle and behavior… .” Sandy Rios in the Morning,” AFA Radio, Oct. 2, 2012
“Our president is promoting the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered and queer agenda like there is no tomorrow. God says homosexuality … should be repented of, not embraced and celebrated as a valid ‘alternative lifestyle’… . The Scripture shows us that God sometimes destroyed nations for their rebellion against his moral standards and their lack of repentance. It will happen to us as well if we continue down this path.” AFA Journal, July/August 2014
“Putting a man like [Michael] Sam, who says he is sexually attracted to men, in with all that beefcake seems unfair to the straight players and a distraction to Sam. … Would you put a heterosexual man in the locker room/showers with all the female cheerleaders?” Fundraising E-mail opposing Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, being allowed to play professional football, July 25, 2014
“They have these effeminate, a lot of them, actions. They walk like a girl, a lot of them. … [I]t makes you wonder, how did that develop, where does that come from?” “AFA Today,” AFA Radio, claiming he can recognize gay men by their mannerisms, as reported by Right Wing Watch on Jan. 31, 2014
Tim Wildmon also stated:
“The very idea of the entire nation sitting around and waiting to see if a handful of judges overturn traditional marriage with a nonchalant wave of the hand is absurd. We need to anchor marriage in a constitutional amendment, and we need to do it soon.”
On this point, I totally agree with Wildmon. Since people like Wildmon are offended by the very thought of a gay person enjoying the same civil and legal rights as they do, they have the option of making their viewpoint the law of the land through a constitutional amendment. Doing so would Supreme Court proof the “sanctity” of heterosexual marriage. Why don’t Christian fundamentalists pursue this path of redress? Simple. They know that such an amendment would NEVER survive the ratification process. Article 5 of the US Constitution states:
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
If the American Family Association is so certain that “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”, then is should be quite easy to get 38 state legislatures to ratify such an amendment, right?
63% of Americans say that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry and have their marriages recognized by the law as valid. That’s up from 49% in August 2010. Over that time, the share who see marriage as a constitutional right has climbed 15 points among Republicans to 42% and 19 points among Democrats to 75%
So much for “hundreds of millions of Americans from all religions and faith practices…believe only God can define marriage”.
As of today, no Evangelical, Mormon, or Roman Catholic has made a convincing argument showing religious or personal freedom would be reduced in any way if the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage. Churches would still be open, pastors would still be free to preach against fags, queers, and sodomites, and no church or pastor would be required to perform a same-sex marriage.
The feigned offense of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association is little more than the shrill, pathetic objections of a group of people who are losing their power and clout. America has evolved and they haven’t. There’s little that can be done to reach people who think like this. Armed with an infallible Bible given to them by a supernatural God, they are certain they are right. In their world, being right is more important than equal protection under the law and equal civil rights for all.
Eleven years have passed since I preached my last sermon and Polly was called the “pastor’s wife.” Almost seven years have passed since we determined to stop attending church. Now we are “unchurched”, casualties of a lifetime spent in Evangelical Christianity. Worse yet, at least according to our critics, we are now enemies of Christ and his church.
You see, we not only left the Church, we left Jesus. Regardless of how some Christians try to parse our lives through their peculiar theological system, we are two people who once were devoted, committed followers of Jesus, who are an atheist and an agnostic. We were saved and now we are lost.
Some people leave Evangelicalism, with its attendant fundamentalist beliefs and code of living, and try to remake their life according to a kinder, gentler view of God, the Bible, and their fellow humans. I view this like remodeling a house where the foundation and the basic framework remain the same. What’s changed is the siding and the paint on the interior walls, but everything else remains the same,
Many people leave the Evangelical church and join progressive or liberal Christian churches. They gain new labels for themselves, but, again, the foundation of their faith remains the same. Polly and I decided that we were not willing to slap some new siding on the house and remodel the interior. Instead, we burnt the house down, hauled the debris away, and started over.
Now I say we started over, but I recognize that since we think and remember, there really is no such thing as starting over with a blank slate. Deep in our minds are memories from 50 years spent in the Christian church and 25 years spent in the pastorate. These things will forever be with us. The good, bad, and indifferent; the wonderful experiences and the painful, hurtful experiences too. We are the sum of what we have learned and experienced in the past. While we like to think we KNOW where we will be months or years from now, the truth is we really don’t know what the future may bring or how our lives will be.
If someone told me a decade ago that I would be an atheist and Polly would be an agnostic, I would have suggested they seek immediate psychiatric help. As far as Christians go, and as far as Christian pastors and their wives go, Bruce and Polly Gerencser were as devoted and committed as any Christian or ministry couple. Yet, here we are, numbered among the godless, the most despised people in America.
When we decided to start over we knew that we were going to have to confront many personal and marital issues. Wiping the slate clean forced us to look at what we really believed about most everything. At times, the process made us fearful. What if we decided that we didn’t want to married to each other? Free to think and reason and to decide for ourselves what our moral and ethical foundation was, there was a real danger that this process could lead us apart.
Of great concern was how our children would view the new, and hopefully improved, Mom and Dad. They only knew us as parents who were 100% committed to Jesus and the church. They only knew us as strict, not sparing the rod, homeschooling parents. I can only imagine how great a struggle it was for them as they watched their parents not only leave all they ever knew, but repudiate it and embrace a godless worldview.
Former friends, parishioners, and fellow pastors reacted with horror and anger over our leaving the Christian faith. We have been accused of all sorts of things and our Christian past has been dissected, discredited, and discarded. We spent a lifetime building relationships with people and it only took saying, I don’t believe or I am an atheist, for all of those relationships to disappear. We paid a huge price for being honest and open about the journey we are on.
Over the past seven years, we have slowly built our new home. Our marriage not only survived, but it has thrived. Nirvana, it is not. We still fuss and fight. We still have personality quirks that drive each other crazy. But, at the same time, we are far more accepting and loving, not only towards each other, but towards humans in general.
Our lives are very different these days. My continued physical debility has radically changed how we live, how we earn a living, and what we can and can’t do. Since our “sin” list now fits on a matchbook cover, we are free to do many things and go many places that were verboten in our previous life. We are free to dance, drink, and party, even though we very rarely do so. It is liberating to enjoy life without having to wonder what God, the church, or our Christian friends think. We’ve met new friends, mostly through this blog and Facebook, who allow us the space and freedom to be who and what we really are.
Some Christians are likely to suggest that we left Christianity because we wanted the freedom to live however we wanted. Some might even suggest that we had a secret desire to sin, to live immorally and that’s the REAL reason we left Christianity. To some degree, they are correct. However, we ultimately left Christianity for intellectual reasons. We came to the conclusion that the claims of Christianity were not true and the Bible was not in any way a divine, God inspired book. We came to see that our lives had been built upon a foundation that was not true. Once the Bible was removed from the discussion, we were free to chart our own course; free to determine for ourselves what is moral and ethical; free to experience things and go places that were considered sinful for most of our lives.
Some readers, thinking we threw the baby out with the bath water, will say, But Bruce, you were a Fundamentalist Baptist. Everyone knows how legalistic, how narrow-minded Fundamentalist Baptists are. This claim might have some merit IF we had remained Fundamentalist Baptists over the course of 25 years in the ministry. But, we didn’t. By the time I pastored my last church in 2003, I was a social gospel progressive, Sojourner loving, emergent church friendly, Democratic pastor. Many of my pastor friends labeled me a l-i-b-e-r-a-l.
The process that led us to where we are today began in the 1990’s. Fundamentalists tend to view things in a black and white manner. Saved/Lost. In/Out. Heaven/Hell. God/Satan. They remember the date/time/place God saved them and when people who think like this read that we are now atheist/agnostic/godless, they, judging us through their own experience, think we had some instantaneous experience where we went from saved back to lost.
That’s not how it worked for us. It was, and remains, a process. We fully expect that the process will continue until we die. We fully expect our journey will have many bumps, crooks, turns, and reversals. We have no doubt there will be times when we part ways and walk different paths from each other. That’s OK. We are free to be who we want to be. We are free to follow the path wherever it leads. No more thundering sermons telling us NO. No more Christian books telling us the evil of this or that human experience. No more living a life where the Bible is the compass and guide.
This does not mean that life is now easier for us. If anything it is harder. When the Bible was the standard by which all things were judged, we didn’t have to think as much. Just Obey. As the old song goes, Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey. Now we are forced to recognize that life is filled with gray and ambiguity and that sometimes there is no right or wrong answer. We have learned to be indifferent towards many things.
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2013
This is how we have chosen to live our lives. We are happy and our love for one another endures. Our children have embraced the new Mom and Dad, even though some of them might question the path we are on. Each of our six children have charted their own course through life. None of them are Evangelical. To many people, our children are a huge disappointment, and Polly and I will answer to God for what we have done to our family. We, however, are proud of our children, proud of the lives they have chosen for themselves.
Polly and I are grateful that we have been given the opportunity to start again. We are cognizant of the fact that our story could have had a bad ending. But, it didn’t and we hope this new lease on life will be one we do not squander. We hope that our best days lie ahead.
As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I taught parishioners that the the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children. (a hierarchy) The Bible is 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 was 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 is for them to be a leader. Men are called by God to lead the church, the home,and the government. The strength or weakness of any nation, culture, church, or home depends on whether men are 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. Children have one divine calling in life, obey!
This kind of hierarchical family structure has been a part of American society since the day the Pilgrims stepped ashore on the eastern coast of America. Over time, due to social, political, and economic pressure, the hierarchical family structure has weakened. As women gained the right to vote, began working outside of the home, and began using birth control, they realized they could live without being under the control and authority of a man. Modern American women are free to pursue their own life path, free to live lives independent of men. When women marry, they are no longer considered the help meet. They are equal partners in the marriage. Their values, beliefs, and opinions matter.
However, in the IFB church movement women still live in the 18th century. Bound by commands and teachings from an antiquated book, they live lives strangely and sadly out of touch with the modern world. Every aspect of family life is controlled by what the Bible teaches. Better put, their life is controlled by what an authoritarian pastor and authoritarian husband/father say the Bible teaches.
I have no objection to a woman willingly choosing to live and participate in a hierarchical family structure. If an Amish woman wants to live as the Amish do, then I have no reason or right to object. It is, however, difficult to determine if they willingly choose. Is it a free choice when there are no other options?
For my family and I, moving away from a hierarchical family structure was difficult. We had to relearn how to live. We had to examine sincerely held beliefs and determine if they still were applicable to the new way we wanted to live our lives. I realized that I had lorded over my family. I had dominated and controlled their lives, all in the name of Jesus. By doing so, I had robbed them of the ability to live their lives independently of my control. Every decision had to have my stamp of approval. Nothing escaped my purview. After all, God had commanded me to be the head of the home. Someday, I would give an account to God for how I managed the affairs of my family. I took the threat of judgment seriously.
The biggest problem we faced was that since I was the one who always made the final decision my children and wife lacked the skills necessary to make good decisions. My children quickly adapted to their new-found freedom, shouting a Martin Luther King Jr-like FREE, FREE AT LAST. However, my wife did not fare so well.
Raised in a fundamentalist home, her father an IFB pastor, Polly had spent her entire life under the thumb of someone else. She rarely had to make a decision because there was always someone else making decisions for her. To say our new-found freedom was difficult for Polly would be a gross underestimation. Suddenly, she was forced to make decisions on her own. For a time, she panicked when faced with making a decision on her own. Simple decisions, like what to order at the fast food drive-thru or whether or not to put gas in the car, were monumental decisions for her.(1)
Over time, Polly’s decision making skills improved. Several years ago, she was promoted to a supervisory position at local manufacturing concern. (2) One night, she came home from work all upset. She told me that she had made a decision about something and several people were now upset at her. I laughed and told her, rule number one about making decisions. You will likely piss someone off. (3)
Polly Gerencser, Graduating from Northwest State Community College, Archbold, Ohio
In 2010, Polly returned to college. She struggled at first, and it took quite a bit of willpower for me not to bail her out. Over time, she adapted to using the computer (she was computer illiterate) and doing the various things necessary to be a good college student. In 2012, Polly graduated with an Associates of Arts degree from Northwest State Community College. I wept as I saw her walk down the aisle on graduation day. Her graduation was a reminder of how far both of us have come. (Polly actually has 5 years of college credit. Unfortunately, 3 of those years were spent at an unaccredited Bible college)
Polly was over 40 years old before she wore her first pair of pants. Same goes for going to the movie theater, drinking alcohol, cutting her hair short, reading a non-Christian romance novel, etc, etc, etc. As many people know, the IFB movement is all about what a Christian CAN’T do. Some of these choices were fearful choices, God lurking in the shadows of the mind, ready to punish her for making“sinful” choices.”
With change comes new life. In many ways, we have been “born again.” In 2005, I left the pastorate and we began a slow, painful process of examining our Christian beliefs. For many years, my family believed what I believed, went to church when I went to church, and obeyed any and every command I gave, complete with proof texts from the Bible . Now it is different.
I told my wife and six children that I was setting them free. I am no longer the spiritual head of the home or the patriarch of the family. They are free to be whatever they want to be. I sincerely mean this. If they want to be Wiccan,Christian, Buddhist, Pagan, or atheist, I am fine with it. The bottom line is this: I want them to be happy. If they are happy, I am happy.
This last decision has caused quite a bit of controversy and conflict. Freed from my control, my entire family quickly abandoned the Evangelical church. I am now an atheist, Polly is an agnostic, and our children, for the most part do not attend church. (4) Religion is still a big topic of discussion in our family and I still like a rousing debate or discussion about religion, politics, or sports. The difference now is that there is no test of fidelity. No, “did you guys go to church today?” No, “what was the sermon about?”
Our family remains a work in progress. As my wife continues to learn to make decisions, I have to learn not to make decisions. I am learning to shut up and allow them to make choices for themselves, even when I think their choices are ill-advised. I have a new rule I live by: If I think someone is making a bad decision on an important issue, I will voice my opinion, but that is the end of it. I stay out of my children’s business. They are responsible adults and I support whatever decision they make, even if I disagree with it.
We are far from a finished product. Polly still freezes at the drive-thru and I still know what I want before we pull into the restaurant. We still have the same peculiar character traits we’ve always had. You know,those things that annoy and bug the hell out of you. The difference now is that we have learned to embrace each other’s peculiarities, knowing that these are what make us unique individuals. (5)
It is good to be free.
(1) Even today she freezes at the drive-thru. We joke about it now, but her freezing hails from a day when I ordered everything.
(2) One of the first steps of freedom for Polly was getting a job, a job that she has held since 1997.
(3) I was well suited for the hierarchical family system and the pastorate. I am not afraid to make decisions. Snap decisions come easy for me. It felt very natural to me to make all the decisions. However, in the home, like at work, one person making all the decisions stunts the growth of others and when they are put into a position where they must make a decision they are often unable to.
(4) I am hesitant to label my children’s current beliefs. Two of my children attend the Catholic church with their wives. The rest of them, for the most part, do not attend church. I would not classify them as atheists or even agnostics. They are indifferent and still figuring out what they believe. It is exciting to watch, even if the IFB part of our extended family thinks we are committing spiritual suicide.
(5) I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) and Polly is happy with clutter. Ours is a match made in hell. For many years, my OCPD dominated everything. I have had to learn that while I have every right to want things perfectly ordered, everything in its place, Polly also has the right not to want things perfectly ordered, everything in it place. We each have personal spaces where we are free to practice our peculiar habits and traits. We know to stay out of each others “stuff”. In the common spaces, we try to find a happy medium, though I must admit I have a hard time doing this. The clutter has decreased significantly since our last two children moved out 15 months ago.
As anyone who spent any time in an IFB church can tell you, divorce is forbidden. The thinking goes…God hates divorce and God intends for marriage to be between one man and one woman for life. While IFB church members do divorce from time to time, it is not a common occurrence.
For months now, rumors have been flying over the marriage of Cindy Schaap and Jack Schaap. Are they still married? Did they get a divorce? Well, wonder no more, you who are looking for the latest dirt on the Hyles/Schaap crime family. According to a document sent to me today, on May 28, 2014, Cindy Schaap was granted a divorce from Jack Schaap.
Let me be clear, I have no problem with Cindy Schaap divorcing her husband. No one should be forced to remain married to someone they no longer want to be married to. Whatever her reasons, it is her decision, end of story. What interests me is how her divorce will be “explained” within the Kingdom of Jack Hyles and the broader IFB church movement.
Later this week, I plan to write a post about marriage and divorce and how IFB churches handle divorce.