Tag Archive: Mike Pence

666: Beware of the Mark of the Beast

mark of the beast

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:11-18)

And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. (Revelation 19:19,20)

Most Evangelical Christians are literalists. When Evangelicals read the book of Revelation, they see the first four chapters as past history or representative of various ages and believe that the rest of the book prophesizes events that have yet to happen. Deeply influenced by dispensational, premillennial, pretribulational eschatology, Evangelicals believe that we are living in the last days; that the return of Jesus and the rapture of the church are imminent. Granted, most Evangelicals don’t live in ways that give credibility to their end-times beliefs, but theologically they believe that Jesus is coming soon! (Believe what I say, not how I live, Evangelicals say.)

Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, explained what will soon happen on earth this way:

We have never been closer to the end of the world than right now. It is, however, important to know that the Bible also talks about a new beginning when there will be no perversion, no terrorism, no war, no starvation… no problem of any kind. As Isaiah 11:9 says, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth. [But] it is going to get worse before it gets better.

Revelation 13 talks about spiritually dark times, the tribulation period. “Satan’s son” will emerge on the scene… “the man of perdition, the man of sin, the beast… best known as the antichrist… the most evil man who’s ever lived… history’s vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion.

Revelation 13:15-18: The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.

If you google the number 666, you’ll receive 543 million results. And you probably will find 543 million ideas about what it actually means. I don’t think anyone can answer this with complete certainly, but this much we do know… The antichrist is going to introduce a cashless society… The endgame of this is to cause people to engage in devil worship.

This scenario is unfolding before us.  The technology to make that happen is already here. The fact that the words of Revelation 13 were penned in the age of wood, stones, swords and spirit, makes this prophecy one of the powerful proofs of the inspired nature and reliability of God’s word that one could have ever imagined. Who could have predicted a one-world economic system that controls all commerce but God?

God knows the future just as well as we know our past. While we sometimes forget even our past, God knows the future with complete precision. Only God can tell what is going to happen, as Isaiah 46:9,10 says.

The real reform is some kind of a banking union where everyone signs on board, that there’s going to be some kind of a banking overlord, a banking union that everyone’s gonna have to bow down to. Can this actually happen? And the leader of it will be the antichrist, and he will have his mark.

The antichrist’s economic policy will be very simple. Take my mark and worship me, or starve to death… No mark, no merchandize… No seal, no sale.

The technology to do this is already here. A June 1, 2012 headline from New York Daily News read, “‘Human barcode’ could make society more organized.” The article said, “Microchip implants have become standard practice for our pets, but have been a tougher sell when it comes to the idea of putting them in people.”

Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags, known as RFID, that store all of the information in the passport as well as a digital picture of the owner. In 2002, an implantable id chip, called VeriChip, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The chip can be implanted in a person’s arm, and when scanned can pull up a 16-digit id number containing information about the user. However, it was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety. Am I saying that this technology will be the mark of the beast? No, I’m not. I’m just saying the ability to technically pull this off exists.

We don’t know when the tribulation period will begin, five or 20 years from now. But with the technology today, we know all this is “totally plausible.” But let’s not overreact. Not every stamp put on someone’s hand by some authority is the mark of the beast. Or, if an office building’s number is 666, that’s not the mark of the beast.

While we do not know exactly when the mark of the beast will appear, we know this though that a great delusion will come upon the world and many will believe the lie leading to their destruction, as 2 Thessalonians 2:9 warns. Destruction will happen “because they refused to believe the truth that would save them.” At the time of the tribulation, they will choose to believe in a lie that the antichrist is “God.”

Got all that?

I came of age in an era when Evangelicals believed that Jesus would come and rapture them away at any moment. Evangelical pastors and evangelists preached prophecy-focused sermons, reminding believers to be busy winning souls for their “redemption draweth nigh.” Congregants were told that it was likely that the antichrist was alive and would soon establish his satanic, one-world government on earth. Some Evangelical pastors tried their hand at predicting who the antichrist was and when Jesus would rapture all the True Christians®. Catholics, mainline Christians, Seventh Day Adventists, and Mormons were considered false Christians. Only those who believed the Evangelical gospel were saved and would soon be taken up into Heaven by Jesus, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

the rapture 3

Over time, rapture mania faded away. Evangelicals focused on building kingdoms in the present, and not the future coming of the kingdom of God. It’s rare to find Evangelicals these days who really believe that the next sound they could hear is Gabriel’s trumpet. One need only look at how Evangelicals live and how deeply they are immersed in the materialistic culture of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world to see that they don’t really believe Jesus’ return is imminent.

Silly stuff, right? Here’s why these things still matter. First, the federal government and many state governments have Evangelicals who are embedded within the halls of power. Trump is crass pussy-grabbing heathen who only uses Evangelicals for political gain, but Mike Pence is a true believer — a man who reads the book of Revelation literally and who believes that the second coming of Jesus will be ushered in by war in the Middle East. As Evangelicals watch the conflict between the United States/Israel and Iran/Iraq/Syria, they can’t help but think that Jesus is coming soon! Remember, the Evangelical view of the world ends with the battle of Armageddon; a divine reckoning of sorts; a war between God/Good and Satan/Evil. Evangelicals will be raptured away by the time of the battle of Armageddon, but most of the rest of us, having been led astray by the false prophet, will have taken the mark of the beast and will wage war against God.  God will slaughter us, ridding the world once and for all of non-Evangelicals.

The mark of the beast will be used to control and manipulate people. Most importantly, Evangelicals say, the mark of the beast will be used to control commerce. Want to get a hamburger at McDonald’s? You will have to have the mark. Want to buy or sell groceries, seeds, and other necessities? You will need the beast’s mark. I remember when grocery stores started installing barcode scanners. Why, Evangelical preachers lost their collective shit. I heard numerous prophecy “experts” say that barcodes were the precursor for the mark of the beast. And then it was RFID chips. And then it was DNA encoding. And then it was . . .

Evangelicalism continues to be infected by what I call tabloid/news headline preaching. During my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days, I would preach sermons straight out of the local newspaper. It was easy to connect paper headlines with this or that Bible verse. I later changed my eschatological beliefs and that put an end to such speculation, but millions and millions of Americans literally believe that Jesus is coming soon, and those of us who are not raptured away will be forced to accept the mark of the beast if we want to survive. Of course, if we do accept the mark, that means our souls are doomed, and after we die, we will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire with Satan.

rapture

Are you ready to get saved, dear readers? Jesus is coming soon — so said many an Evangelical. Surely, you don’t want to miss out on an eternity of bliss and perfection and endless praise and worship songs. Neglect your salvation, and you risk spend eternity with Christopher Hitchens, Steve Gupton — yes, I still miss him — Steven Hawking, Gandhi, Bruce Gerencser, and countless other heathens. I plan to remain an unrepentant atheist. As one reader told me, “heaven for the climate, hell for the company.” I am sixty-two years old. Evangelical preachers have spent my entire life saying that the coming of Jesus is right around the corner; that this or that world event is a sure sign of his imminent return; that the moral and social decay and secularization of the United States reflect the increasing influence of Satan on our country. How many times have you heard a homophobic Evangelical preacher say, “if God doesn’t judge the United States soon, he will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Evangelical preachers with all their doom and gloom warnings have become the little boy who cried wolf. Not only aren’t their congregants listening to them, neither are unbelievers. The Bible and its “prophecies” are no longer believable. “You just wait Bruce, God is going to prove you wrong,” Evangelical zealots say. Maybe, but I doubt it. The only hell I am worried about is the one we humans are creating through war and ignoring global climate change. One need only watch what is going on in Australia to see how quickly our planet could burn to the ground. One need only watch the violent acts of warmongers — in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East — to see how quickly millions of people could die. The notion that war stops war is absurd. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said decades ago (and I quote from memory, so forgive me if I don’t get Merton’s words exactly right) “war begets war. War only brings a cessation of hostilities. Only peace brings an end to war.”

We humans are the enemy, not fictitious deities, demons, and Bible characters. We need not worry about the rapture, the second coming of Jesus, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, or the Great Tribulation, any more than we need to worry about the events and people found in the Harry Potter books. WE have met the enemy, and it is US.

Did you grow up in a church that focused on eschatology? Did you worry about the rapture? Did you wonder if the return of Jesus was imminent? Did your pastor ever talk about the mark of the beast? Please share your astute thoughts and experiences in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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Trump, Israel, Golan Heights and the Evangelical March to Armageddon

armageddon

Comic by Kevin Siers

Warning! Snark ahead, mixed in with serious-as-a-heart attack political commentary, and seasoned with a few choice words for Donald Trump. You have been warned. Now, full steam ahead, matey.

Most Evangelicals believe that there is coming a day when Jesus will return to the earth and rapture away True Christians®. Once the true followers of Jesus are safe in God’s internment camp, Jesus and his Father will unleash on the inhabitants of earth the horrors recorded in the book of Revelation. After seven years of non-stop slaughter and devastation, the Great Tribulation will end with Jesus again returning to earth. Jesus will arrive on a white horse, bringing with him an army of angels. He will do battle with the Beast, False Prophet, and their followers. Jesus, of course, wins this battle. Jesus is a W-I-N-N-E-R!  He kills everyone remaining on earth, and then casts the Beast and False Prophet into the Lake of Fire. Jesus will then reign on earth for 1,000 years (the millennial reign of Christ). At the end of this period, the Beast and False Prophet will be let out of the Lake of Fire so they can once again deceive the inhabitants of earth. This leads to another epic battle against Jesus and the forces of evil, with Jesus winning once again. Jesus always wins in this story. Afterward, Jesus will make a heaven and a new earth for True Christians®. Everyone else is cast into the Lake of Fire where they will be eternally tortured by the Christian God. Never, ever forget that this God, knowing human bodies will not withstand the horrors of Hell, plans of giving every non-Christian a new fire-proof body. All the pain, without melting flesh and eyeballs, said the Son of God — supposedly.

Did you get all that? Now, Evangelical eschatology is more complex than what I wrote above — Evangelicals fight amongst themselves over the finer points of the End Times — but that gives you a good idea of what most Evangelicals believe will happen sometime very soon — but not before the last season of Game of Thrones.

Central to Evangelical eschatology is the belief that people currently living in Israel (and New York) are God’s chosen people; that they are Abraham’s descendants spoken of in Genesis 22:15-18:

 And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: [Abraham had agreed to murder his son because God asked him too] That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Evangelicals take these verses literally — kinda.  Evangelicals believe that these verses literally reference God’s chosen people, the Jews. Yet, they get all metaphorical when someone points out that these verses also literally say that the descendants of Abraham will be numbered as the “sand which is upon the seashore.”  One website estimates that there are about 5,000 billion billion (5 sextillion) grains of sand on earth’s beaches. According to a BBC news report, roughly 107 billion people have lived on earth. If we take the aforementioned Bible passage literally, this number should actually be more than 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Cue music, let the Bible literalists start dancing with their index fingers in their ears.

Not only does the Bible say how many Jews will live on earth, it also tells us exactly where they will live:

In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,1 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites. (Genesis 15:18-21)

According to the Bible, Moses — who took 40 years to cross a Walmart parking lot — led the Israelites out of Egypt to the land promised to Abraham. The location of that land is described this way in Numbers 34:

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadeshbarnea, and shall go on to Hazaraddar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea. And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border. And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor: From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad: And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazarenan: this shall be your north border. And ye shall point out your east border from Hazarenan to Shepham: And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east side of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward: And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land with the coasts thereof round about.

Got all that? Me neither. Fortunately, Wikipedia has a map of the land irrevocably promised to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.

the promised land

In May 1948, the nation of Israel was established with the blessing of the United States and other Western powers. Oh, and God approved too. This partitioning of land pushed Arabs into what is called the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The goal was to have independent Arab and Jewish states. This, of course has not happened. Instead, the Palestinians and Jews have been fighting one another for over five decades, leading to bloodshed and death. While both parties are to blame for the carnage, I can’t ignore the fact that Israel actively persecutes the Palestinian people, leading some people to charge Israel with genocide. One thing is increasingly clear, Israel has no plans to walk away from the West Bank and Gaza. This, and other parcels of Middle Eastern land, was promised to them by Jehovah. End of discussion.

In 1981, after military skirmishes in 1967 and 1973, Israel annexed from Syria a parcel of land called Golan Heights. Israel’s action was widely criticized at the United Nations, but Israel gave the international community a big fuck-you and said, this land is ours. End of story.

For the past seventy years, the aforementioned Bible verses have provided a foundation for the United States’ foreign policy towards Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East. Ponder that thought for a moment. Here we are, the greatest military power on the planet, and our foreign policy is determined by some verses in a religious text written by Bronze Age sheepherders. Evangelicals, in particular, loyally and resolutely support Israel. Many Evangelicals do so because the Bible says in Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

Millions and millions of American Christians believe that their health and prosperity depends on the United States supporting the nation of Israel. They fear God cursing them if the United States fails in their God-given blessing duty to the Jews. This is made worse by the fact that many of our political leaders buy into this nonsense. This is why Israel can literally get away with murder and the United States will not do anything. The U.S. continues to give Israel billions of dollars in military and foreign aid. Israel is a nuclear power, and they are because aid from the U.S. gave them the means to do so.

This brings us to President Donald Trump. Trump knows 81 percent of voting Evangelicals voted for him in 2016.  Ever the calculating psychopath, Trump knows that he will need the Evangelical vote again if he expects to be re-elected in 2020. The president has spent the past two years fawning over Evangelicals, giving them big wins on Supreme Court/federal court appointments, abortion, LGBTQ issues, and other hot button social issues. The man is a degenerate, but Evangelicals love him anyway. As long as he coddles Evangelicals and beckons to their every call, they will continue to love and support him. And in doing so, they have sold their souls to the devil and ceded any moral ground they may have previously held.

Evangelical Christianity has been co-opted by the Republican Party. Yes, there are pockets of progressive Evangelicals here and there, but they have been unable to mount an effective counter attack to Trumpism. My advice to progressive Evangelicals is for them leave their churches, taking their money with them. Start a new denomination or join up with mainline progressive Christians. The U.S.S. Evangelical is sinking with Captain Trump at the helm, and it’s time for thoughtful Evangelicals to abandon ship.

Since taking office, President Trump has made two decisions affecting Israel that have Evangelical preachers walking around with a perpetual boner. First, he recognized Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel. This decision, of course, caused outrage among Palestinians locally and Arabs/Muslims across the globe. This decision alone was enough to fuel a war in the Middle East. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed, mainly due to the fact that the United States has not yet officially moved its embassy to the City of David, Jerusalem.

Second, the president recently said that the United States recognizes that the Golan Heights belong to Israel, not Syria. When I heard this, I said to my wife, how stupid can this dumb ass be? Does he not know or care what might happen as a result of this decision? I know, I know, rhetorical questions. Trump is too stupid to know that one of the underpinnings of U.S. policy is the belief that one day the Christian God will fight and defeat non-Christians in the Battle of Armageddon; that this battle will take place in the Middle East. All the president cares about is his bank balance and getting re-elected. War? Sure, bring it on. War is good for the American economy!

The president may be clueless, but some of his cabinet members aren’t. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — an Evangelical Presbyterian Christian — was asked the following question during an interview on nutter Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN):

Today’s being Purim, a celebration. Jews worldwide and here in Jerusalem are talking about the fact that Esther 2,500 years ago saved the Jewish people with God’s help from Haman. And now 2,500 years later there’s a new Haman here in the Middle East that wants to eradicate the Jewish people like just like Haman did: the state of Iran. Could it be that President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from the Iranian menace?

Pompeo replied:

As a Christian, I certainly believe that’s possible. It was remarkable – so we were down in the tunnels where we could see 3,000 years ago, and 2,000 years ago – if I have the history just right – to see the remarkable history of the faith in this place and the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state remains. I am confident that the Lord is at work here.

Let this be a warning to those who revel in the thought of Trump being impeached. The next in line is vice president Mike Pence, also an Evangelical Christian. Unlike Trump, Pence is a cold, calculating, educated Fundamentalist. Both he and Pompeo, along with other Trump cabinet members and political operatives hold Evangelical eschatological beliefs. This should scare the shit out of us. Global warming? No worries, because if these Bible thumpers get their way the earth is going to be turned into the location for the theater production of Cormack McCarthy’s book, The Road.

Still think religious beliefs aren’t harmful and don’t pose a threat to the rest of us? Still think Evangelicals are a bunch of irrational people with quaint, but irrelevant, beliefs? If you have read this far, surely it has dawned on you that Evangelical eschatological beliefs pose an existential threat to the future of humanity. I am not overplaying my hand here. God’s chosen people, Israel, and God’s city on a hill, the United States, both have nuclear weapons. So does Russia. Do you know that millions of Evangelicals believe that a war against the United States and Russia is prophesied in the Bible? I don’t have enough time to wade into this issue, but let me be clear, once the first ICBM or other nuclear weapon is launched, the world as we know it ceases to exist.

Theology matters, my atheist and non-Christian friends. We must not ignore that which can lead to our demise. We must politically push back against political leaders and policies that find their power in the pages of the Protestant Bible. Our future depends on secularism winning its battle for the heart of soul of the United States. As long as Evangelicals continue to attack the separation of church and state and demand the establishment of a theocratic state — and make no mistake about it, Evangelicals want God-rule — we must roll up our sleeves and fight. Imagine what the world will be like if we don’t.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Guest Post: #ExposeChristianSchools Part 1

exposechristianschools

#ExposeChristianSchools, created by ex-evangelical Chris Stroop, has been trending on social media since Second Lady Karen Pence accepted a position at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia. Readily available on the school’s website is the agreement which parents of admitted students must sign. Included in the agreement is the paragraph as follows:

I understand the biblical role of Immanuel Christian School is to partner with families to encourage students to be imitators of Christ. This necessarily involves the school’s understanding and belief regarding biblical morality and standards of conduct. I understand that the school reserves the right, within its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a student if the atmosphere or conduct within a particular home, the activities of a parent or guardian, or the activities of the student are counter to, or are in opposition to, the biblical lifestyle the school teaches. This includes, but is not limited to, contumacious behavior, divisive conduct, and participating in, supporting, or condoning sexual immorality, homosexual activity, or bi-sexual activity, promoting such practices, or being unable to support the moral principles of the school. (Lev. 20:13 and Romans 1:27). I acknowledge the importance of a family culture based on biblical principles and embrace biblical family values such as a healthy marriage between one man and one woman. My role as spiritual mentor to my children will be taken seriously.

As a parent of a student, one must sign an agreement that one does not even condone homosexual or bisexual activity upon threat of expulsion. Additionally, the school teaches creation mythology instead of evolution, and of course, the school teaches typical Evangelical doctrines regarding sin and salvation through grace, along with “the rapture” eschatology.

I attended a fundamentalist Christian school much like this in grades 5-12 (1981-1988). My mom and grandparents heard a rumor that students living in my district would be bused to a mostly-minority community, so they acted fast to enroll me in the private (almost completely white) Christian school. Entering the school, all students were subject to a gender-based dress code and a comprehensive code of conduct. Girls were to “appear as God made them — feminine” (yes, I distinctly remember that description from the student handbook). There were strict guidelines for skirt length and sleeve length, and when we entered 6th grade the female teachers taught us how to go through physical contortions in front of a mirror to determine whether our clothing would properly cover us if we bent over or reached over our heads. Girls’ dress code also allowed for pants/slacks/culottes to be worn to extracurricular activities such as ballgames (but we were never to wear jeans – somehow denim is fine in the form of skirt, dress, jumper, or jacket, but it transforms into pure evil if it is cut into the form of women’s pants). Boys’ dress code included strict guidelines for hair length including a diagram in the handbook and the requirement for a belt to be worn and shirt tucked in at all times. No one was allowed to wear anything with obscenities, racial slurs, or the American flag.

We had a strict code of conduct that allowed the school to suspend or expel students for activities outside the school. Students could be suspended or expelled for having sex, for smoking, for drinking alcohol, for profane language, and for playing rock music on school grounds. There was a year when anyone caught going to the roller-skating rink would be suspended. During my tenure at the school, three boys were expelled for attending a party that served alcohol. A girl overheard the boys talking about it and turned them in. Naturally, we were in a culture that encouraged us to report behavior of other students to the administrators. Additionally, two girls were expelled for getting pregnant. One would think that pro-lifers would commend the girls for giving birth to their babies, but for some reason the administration thought that the correct course of action was to expel the girls. I suppose they wanted to remove the quite-visible reminder that the girls had participated in sexual activity.

To be fair, I was never told that I could not excel academically or take a class because I was female. It was clear that females were not allowed to preach, but we had a female high school principal. However, there were other things that we learned about being female. First, of course, was the emphasis on the dress code as described previously. Girls were sent home from school if their skirts were too short, too tight, or if their shirt was “too revealing” in some way. When I was in 6th grade, our health and physical education teacher taught us that the “perfect female form” had the dimensions of equal measurements of bust and hips with waist measuring ten inches less. Homework required that we take our measurements, and the next day she asked girls to raise their hands who had the “perfect female form” measurements. Three girls raised their hands — we all knew they were liars, but I remember feeling like a loser because at age twelve I had nowhere near the “perfect female form.” My entire life, I never had those measurements, though I have always been fit and active except while pregnant and postpartum. Those measurement parameters and their association with the “perfect female form” have stuck in my mind my entire life though.

Another traumatizing moment at school was in preparation for our senior class trip to Florida. Girls were allowed to bring one-piece swimwear on the trip, but we were only allowed to bring pieces approved by female faculty. I will never forget having to put on my two one-piece swimsuits while my female teachers examined them to determine if they were modest enough. They approved both suits, wrote down their descriptions which would be available to the female chaperones, and they told me I looked good. There are few incidents in my life that were as mortifying as this. I do not know what the requirements were for boys’ swimwear.

Our school had a culture of pointing out misbehavior/sin. Among students, people would comment upon other students’ failings “in a spirit of love” but really, we all knew it was just an opportunity for people to judge others and to highlight things they didn’t like to other students. As teachers were the authorities and in charge of correcting misbehavior, they were allowed to point out misbehavior at any time. There was a lot of watching, observing, and judging going on. Faculty sometimes even tried to prevent dating situations from occurring. One of my friends was a PK — preacher’s kid — whose father was friends with the headmaster of the school. The headmaster did not approve of my friend’s boyfriend (also a student at the school), so he approached my friend’s father who broke up the relationship.

Yet there was, of course, rampant hypocrisy. Teachers as part of their employment contract were not allowed to attend movie theaters. It was explained that observing students would not know whether a teacher was entering or exiting a rated-R movie, so in order to protect the testimony of the teacher, the teacher could not attend the movie theater. However, all the young teachers had memberships to the local video store, and they openly discussed movies with students. I never understood how it was acceptable for the teacher to rent movies from the video store, as by the same reasoning that students would not know whether a teacher was attending a rated-R movie, how could we know whether the teacher was renting a pornographic film? Additionally, I always found it odd that two female students married teachers from the school and wondered if any dating was going on while the girls were students.

Students were told that we received the best academic education available, but I learned when I went to a top ranked secular university that this was not necessarily the case. (One could argue that my education was good enough to gain admission to a top ranked secular school.) Of course, as a fundamentalist Christian school whose statement of beliefs included inerrant, inspired, and literalist view of the Bible, evolution was not taught in science courses. Our science textbooks were from Bob Jones University Press, and they included some odd rebuttals of evolution. One of the main rebuttals was that radiocarbon dating was contaminated and inaccurate on the magnitude of millions of degrees of error. The curriculum taught that the earth was only 6,000-10,000 years old and that God had created the earth with the appearance of age. Fossils existed due to upheavals that occurred during (the story of) Noah’s Worldwide Flood. I remember the explanation that spontaneous generation of life does not occur because rotten meat that produced maggots and flies meant that flies laid eggs in the meat, not that the rotting meat generated flies; therefore, evolution is false. It’s a fair analysis that flies lay eggs in rotting meat, but it has nothing to do with spontaneous generation of life – it just means that ignorant people who thought that rotting meat gave rise to maggots and flies had no understanding of the reproduction and gestation of flies. As for mathematics, our course path was a year behind the honors track at public or private secular schools, so those of us who were “advanced” students were a year behind other top students. History courses were taught from a Christian inclination, and I do not remember much mention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or of the civil rights movement. Our foreign language curriculum was not very rigorous, and I was required to repeat basic French in college in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement. What the school considered Advanced Placement courses were not the true Advanced Placement courses one finds in other schools in which an AP exam is administered for which one can earn college credit. On the positive side, our writing skills were impeccable as the school focused on constructing proper paragraphs and essays. My college literature professor pulled me aside after our first composition and asked me if I was sandbagging his course because my writing skills were beyond the level of other students in the class. I told him I was not offered another option and explained I had attended a private Christian school. I think he felt sorry for me as he allowed me to take a leadership role in the class.

Many of my teachers were kind, compassionate people who were dedicated to educating students. However, most newer, younger teachers did not last long at the school due to the low pay and the heavy course load — each middle school and high school teacher was required to teach a minimum of four individual classes, each with a separate course prep. The shortest tenure I recall is 5 weeks; a couple of teachers lasted through the first half of the year; the majority quit after the first year. The teachers who made it past the first two years generally stayed for a long time. Male teachers were required to prepare and preach sermons on chapel days (Tuesdays and Thursdays) in addition to teaching courses. A few teachers coached sports or drove school buses in order to make a little extra money, and all had summer jobs. The teachers chose life in a Christian school whereas most of the students did not — our parents and guardians chose for us.

Stay tuned for more about #ExposeChristianSchools.

The Danger of Bible Literalism

the bible says

I recently watched a miniseries on David Koresh, the Branch Davidians, and the horrific loss of innocent human life at Waco. The miniseries was a poignant reminder of the fact that bad things can happen when people believe the Christian Bible is the Word of God and is meant to be read literally and taken at face value.

Koresh was considered a cultist, but were his beliefs about the Bible that much different from countless Evangelical churches who say the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God; that every word of the Bible is to be obeyed and practiced; that God said what he means and means what he said (and in some sects continues to say in prophecies and dreams)? Think about the American religious landscape for a moment. Look at how Bible literalism affects (infects) everything from public discourse to governmental policy. Everywhere we look — IF we dare to do so — we see the tragic consequences of Bible literalism. Never mind the fact that the Bible is an ancient religious text of sketchy provenance and is chock full nonsense. That the Bible plays such a vital part in the ebb and flow of American life should frighten us. Why? Because if history teaches us anything, it teaches us that ruthless, conniving men can use the Bible and naivety of Christians to advance their agendas, leading to everything from slavery and war to colonialism and genocide. It is Bible literalism that lies behind efforts to criminalize homosexuality, ban birth control, make abortion illegal, and constitutionally ban same-sex marriage. It is Bible literalism that fuels the patriarchal movement, causing untold spousal and child abuse. It is Bible literalism that leads people to demand creationism be taught in public schools.

Just look at how often Bible literalism affects government at every level. A hundred years after the Scopes Monkey Trial and a decade after the Kitzmiller v Dover decision, and we still have Evangelicals clamoring for creationism to be taught in public schools. Worse yet, local and state governments gave the Profit of Creationism, Ken Ham, millions of dollars to build and operate a replica of Noah’s Ark. Without Kentucky politicians believing in Bible literalism, Ham would have been laughed out of the room. Instead, they gave a con artist millions of dollars so he could pick the pockets of the taxpayers of Kentucky and the visitors to his monuments to Evangelical ignorance.

Here in Ohio, Republican politicians who are Bible literalists are working as hard as they can to make abortion illegal. And unless the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts intervene, it is likely they will succeed — even though most Ohioans believe abortion should be legal. Why are legislators ignoring their constituents? Bible literalism.

donald trump bible

Donald Trump caused quite a stir when he announced that the U.S. Embassy in Israel was going to be moved to Jerusalem. Countless Evangelical preachers got an eschatological boner when Trump said this. Why? Bible literalism. And herein lies the biggest danger of Bible literalism. Trump — who has Evangelicals kneeling before his unzipped pants day and night — is more than willing to use Bible literalism to advance his agenda. Trump is a deranged narcissist who wants to return the United States to its so-called glory days. What’s Trump’s slogan? Making America GREAT Again. In his mind, the United States needs to reassert itself as a singular world power, and use any means necessary to do so. This is why his proposed budget gives the U.S. military billions in increased funding while cutting spending on everything from the social safety net to the EPA. Trump plans to dominate the world or die trying — taking the human race with him.

Proponents of Bible literalism see Trump as man who has been raised up by God for such a time as this (much like Esther). Believing that the rapture and the second coming of Christ could happen at any moment, Evangelicals are giddy over how Trump’s decisions could provoke Armageddon, the end of the world, and the return of Jesus to earth. Making Jerusalem the home of the U.S. embassy and following through with the move will most certainly result in violence, bloodshed, and death. As I write this post, Bible literalism fuels political and religious embers in the Middle East, embers that could turn into flames that engulf the world in World War III. Trump wants war because he thinks the United States, with him as Commander-in-chief, can whip anyone who dares to trifle with God’s chosen nation. Evangelicals, believing that Biblical books such as Daniel and Revelation are histories that have yet to happen, see God in Trump’s dick wagging. And when Israel, a proxy state for American imperialism, attacks Iran and the Persians retaliate with nuclear weapons, what then? When millions of people are killed and the earth is rendered uninhabitable, what then?  When life as we know it disappears with a push a few buttons, what then?

evangelical love for israel

What then? Why, Evangelicals will remind us that the Bible says ________________________; that everything that happens is according to God’s purpose and plan; that there is life after death, so no need to worry about dying if you know Jesus; that God, in the near future, plans to make a new heaven and new earth. Surely anyone with more than an ounce of sense can see how dangerous Bible literalism is. It’s all fun and games when we are talking about a big boat in Kentucky, but when Bible literalism influences and drives governmental policy and decisions, it should frighten us. This is why we must continue to wage war against Bible literalism. Such thinking must be driven from our governmental process and schools. Treating Bible literalism as nothing to worry about is every bit as ignorant as Bible literalism itself. We must never forget that history is replete with accounts of massive violence and death that were perpetrated because people believed what a religious guru or religious text said was true.

But Bruce, most Evangelicals don’t really believe in Bible literalism. Look at how they live, how they pick and choose what to believe and practice. Sure, but let their tribe be threatened, and all of a sudden what the Bible says (or what their pastors say it means) becomes vitally important. Watch how Evangelicals become prayer warriors the moment calamity strikes them. Do you think it will be any different when smart political operatives use the Bible to justify their military responses to perceived threats from North Korea, Iran, or Syria? Remember, George W. Bush believed the Iraq War was a holy war, a battle between good and evil. Where did he get such ideas? The Bible. We err in our thinking if we believe Americans can’t be manipulated as Germans were by Hitler. Look at how a sizeable percentage of Americans are impervious to facts about Trump and his nefarious agenda. Facts simply don’t matter. Trump was right when he said he could murder someone in the middle of the street and people would still vote for him. And who was it that gave the pussy-grabber-in-chief the White House? Evangelicals. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for the Trump-Pence ticket. What’s even scarier is the fact that if Trump is indeed impeached, a card-carrying Evangelical extremist, a true-blue believer in Bible literalism, Mike Pence, will become president.

Want to see what happens when religious literalism is wed to political power? Look at the Muslim world and the currents violence that has engulfed the Middle East and parts of Africa. Don’t think for a moment that a Christian version of this can’t happen in the United States. It can. I, for one, intend to do all I can to make sure that Bible literalism dies the swift death it so richly deserves, taking Fundamentalist Christianity with it. I would love to be the person who holds the pillow over the faces of Bible literalism and Evangelical Christianity as they draw their last breaths. I fear, however, due to my advanced age, that I will not have that opportunity. Maybe a Gerencser in the future will have this privilege — that is if Bible-believing Christians and their political operatives don’t destroy the world first.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: America, The Last, Best Hope of Earth by Mike Pence

mike-pence-donald-trump

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

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip of a speech given by Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

(video removed from YouTube)

Vice President Candidate Mike Pence Denies Evolution, Wants Public School Students Taught Creationism

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Here’s a 2002 video of  U.S. Representative from Indiana Mike Pence denying evolution on the House floor. Pence quickly reveals that he, like many creationists, doesn’t understand the meaning of the word theory. Pence does on to ask that other “theories” of beginnings be taught — you know like Biblical creationism. Pence is being disingenuous here when he says he want creationism to be taught alongside evolution. He wants no such thing, as he makes clear towards the end of his speech. Pence believes Genesis 1-3 is scientific fact, not just one theory of origins among many.  His grand hope is that everyone will one day know that evolution is false and creationism is true.

Video Link

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