On the topic of morality, [Evangelical Frank] Turek couldn’t resist a Holocaust reference. He showed a photo of the Buchenwald concentration camp with stacks of dead bodies. He said,
If there is no god, this is just a matter of opinion.
The statement “I like chocolate” is just an opinion. By contrast, I wouldn’t call “I recommend we declare war” in a cabinet meeting just an opinion, but that’s a quibble. If Turek wants to say that both are conclusions grounded in the person making the statement and nothing else, I agree. The same is true for “the Holocaust was wrong.”
What alternative does Turek propose?
Turek imagines a morality grounded outside of humanity. He would probably agree with William Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality, “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.”
The other explanation for morality
But there’s no need to imagine Turek’s universal moral truth when we have a better alternate explanation: universally held moral programming. We’re all the same species, so we have similar responses to moral questions. That explains things nicely without the unsupported assumption of a supernatural being.
Turek confuses the degree of outrage (which, for the Holocaust, is quite high) with the degree of absoluteness. He seems to imagine that the more emphatically we think that the Holocaust was wrong, the more objective that moral opinion must be, but why imagine this? He provides no evidence to support universal moral truth or to reject the obvious alternative, universally held moral programming.
Let’s take a step back and consider his example. God allows 11 million innocent people to die in the Holocaust, and Turek thinks that this is an example supporting his side of the ledger?
Morality also changes with time. In the West, we’re pleased with our abolition of slavery and the civil rights we’ve established, but these aren’t universals. The modern views on these issues contradict the Old Testament’s, but none of us cling to the Old Testament view. Turek’s objective morality doesn’t allow change with time.
Morality vs. absolute morality
Turek listed things that must be true if God doesn’t exist. First, “The Nazis were not wrong.” If morality is an opinion, the Nazis had an opinion and the Allies had an opinion. We said they were wrong; they said we were wrong. Stalemate.
Nope—dude needs a dictionary. He’s confusing morality with absolute morality. I agree that the Nazis were not wrong in an absolute sense. But they were still wrong (from my standpoint) using the definition of morality in the dictionary, which makes no reference to an absolute grounding.
He continues his list with more examples of the same error: love is no better than rape, killing people is no different than feeding the poor, and so on. In an absolute sense, he’s right; he just hasn’t given any reason to imagine that morality is based in absolutes. Drop the assumption of absoluteness, and nothing is left unexplained.
Why the insistence on objective or universal or absolute morality? We don’t have any problem with shared (rather than absolute) ideas of other concepts like courage, justice, charity, hope, patience, humility, greed, or pride. Again, the dictionary agrees. None of these have an objective grounding, and the earth keeps turning just fine.
I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
Geoff asked, What are your views on objective morality?
The question asked by Geoff is complex and filled with nuance. Anytime I have addressed morality in the past, my writing has elicited all sorts of comments from atheists and Fundamentalists alike. It seems few people like or appreciate my worldview and my understanding of morality. As a Christian, I believed that the issue of morality was settled for me: God hath spoken. Shut the hell up and do what he commands! As a dutiful follower of Jesus, I attempted to follow not only the teachings of the Bible, but the direction of Holy Spirit who lived inside of me (or so I thought at the time). Once I deconverted, I had to rethink my worldview. What was it I believed about morality in general? What was I it I believed about specific moral statements and standards? My understanding of morality has evolved over the past decade. I am, in no way, a finished product. I still have many questions about morality, and it is impossible to fully answer them in a blog post.
I readily admit that Christianity has deeply affected my understanding of morality. I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. As a result, Evangelical morality has seeped deeply into the dark recesses of my mind. While I try to distance myself from my past, its effects linger. Thus, there are times my moral views line up with those of Christians. This doesn’t mean, then, that I am a Christian. My views also, on occasion, line up with Buddhism and other religions. All this tells me is that religions have, in the past, played a big part in the evolution of human morality.
When someone asks me whether I believe in objective morality, what I hear them asking is whether I believe there are moral standards or moral absolutes. In the strictest sense, my answer is no. Morality is always subjective. Now that doesn’t mean countries, states, and tribes can’t have absolute moral standards. They can and do. All I ask is that believers in objective morality admit that their absolutes have changed over time, and that, in fact, the changing nature of their absolutes suggests that their morality is actually subjective. For example, there is a push in the United States to make eighteen the minimum age for marriage. This law, if passed, would be considered an objective moral standard. However, in the past, people were permitted to marry as young as age thirteen, and in some countries, children are betrothed to one another when they are still primary school age. If there’s such a thing as objective morality, then shouldn’t the age for marriage have been fixed from day one? That it hasn’t been shows the subjectivity of moral beliefs.
Morality is affected by tribal, cultural, and sociological influences. This means that all morality changes with time, including absolute, never-changing, God-said-it, it’s-in-the-Bible Evangelical morality. Evangelicals now do things that were considered sins — violations of objective morality — fifty years ago. Even Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) morality continues to change and evolve. Only those who are deliberately blind, people with fingers in their ears who say, nah, nah, nah, I can’t HEAR you, fail to see that morality is inherently subjective.
All of us belong to certain countries and tribes. As a U.S. citizen, I live in a country that supposedly values the rule of law. I say supposedly because Donald Trump’s abhorrent behavior and his penchant for ignoring the rule of law makes me question whether we indeed are still such people. Fascism is on the rise, and when it comes in full force it brings law by force, instead of WE THE PEOPLE deciding the laws that will govern us. For now, we are still a nation governed by laws shaped and enacted by legislators elected by voting Americans. These laws establish what we as a people believe is moral. These laws, over time, change. For example, at one time it was illegal to have an abortion; then in 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court legalized most abortions. Today, with the prospect of a right-wing Catholic being added to the Supreme Court, it is possible that laws regulating abortion will change, and women will be forced to revert to the days of coat-hanger, back alley abortions. The same can be said for much of the progress made on social and church/state issues over the past six decades. This ebb and flow shows that morality is subjective.
Theocrats, of course, despise the give and take of the legal process in democratic countries. They want a dictatorship, with the Christian (or Muslim) Holy book as the objective standard for morality. Theocrats demand that laws reflect their Fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible (or Koran). In their minds, their interpretations are one and the same with God’s will and commands. But, even for theocrats, their interpretations change over time, thus proving, once again, that morality is subjective.
Not only do governments establish moral norms, so do the tribes to which each of us belong. Whether at the group or family level, certain moral standards govern behavior. Now, keep in mind I am using the word moral in as broad of a way as possible. Divorce your mind from the religious constructs you have been taught, and see morality as the rules/laws/precepts by which we govern behavior. I suspect your family has certain moral standards, and those standards may or may not be different from mine. For example, I have lost readers over my refusal to stop using curse words in my writing. In their tribes, cursing is verboten or is considered in poor taste. In my tribe, it is okay to curse, except when young children are present or Polly’s IFB parents are visiting (though there have been times when a few damns, shits, and assholes have slipped out). When it is only adults in the room? Cursing is permitted, and be prepared to be schooled in sexual innuendo. Were the readers who demanded that I sanitize my writing “wrong”? Who determines what words are appropriate and what words are not? It should be clear to everyone that the words writers choose to use are subjective. Each tribe to its own.
My children are known for having what is called the Gerencser work ethic. This ethic was taught to them by their parents. Work hard. Eight hours pay for eight hours work. Do your best. Do it right the first time. Never accept good enough as a standard for acceptance. The reasons for these maxims are many, but regardless of how they came to be, they are deeply ingrained into the psyche of my adult children. My oldest son has taken one personal day at work in twenty years. His mom has taken zero. My younger children are not as zealous as their older siblings, but they still are known for being no-nonsense hard workers. This tribal ethos often brings them into conflict with other employees who have different work standards. For example, one son works in a department where the majority of the workers have already used half or more of their personal days. My wife supervises people who are already out of personal days with six months to go before they accrue new days. Years ago, my two oldest sons were asked by their fellow employees to slow down. Why? They were making less industrious employees look bad. My sons ignored their critics, choosing instead to follow the Gerencser work ethic (an ethic that can be found in many families, by the way). Both now hold management positions with their respective employers, as do their younger brother and mother. Does this make the Gerencsers better than other people? Depends on how “better” is defined, I suppose. All I know is that this very subjective work ethic is deeply embedded in my tribe. We behave this way because that what we have been taught to do.
Each of us also has personal moral standards; certain things we will and won’t do. I don’t expect other people to live by my moral standards. These rules of behavior — ever-changing — help me navigate the road of life. As a humanist, I look to the humanist ideal to provide moral guidance. This ideal, crafted by men and women, is inherently subjective, but it does address and support my worldview. I have no problem with Evangelicals wanting to live by their personal interpretations of the Bible. Go with God, I say. It is when Evangelicals demand that others live by their interpretations I have a problem.
As a post-Evangelical, I have been forced to reexamine my morality and worldview. For example, I am a pacifist. More specifically, I am proponent of non-violent resistance. Sounds like a moral absolute, right? I would like it to be, but the world is too messy for it be so; too gray, too challenging for me to say that I am, without reservation, a pacifist. Generally, I oppose violence, yet I love and support American football — organized violence. I wouldn’t take up arms to defend the United States, but I would defend my family against attack and harm. I face this same struggle with most moral issues. It’s too easy to write Ten Commandments and say obey. I choose, instead, to think about each issue, and then come to a reasoned conclusion.
Most people agree that we should avoid harming others. I think that’s a good place to start. But, even here, it is impossible to ever live a life that does not, at some point, harm others. Take vegans. They don’t eat meat for moral reasons. They don’t want to cause animals pain and suffering. Yet, providing vegans a non-animal diet still causes pain, suffering, and death. Earthworms, insects, and other animals die so farmers can provided vegans with yummy (I am being sarcastic here) soybeans. The goal, then, should be to promote the greatest good while at the same time causing the least harm. We can then build on this foundation, asking “what is the best way for humans to govern themselves and live lives of love, peace, and harmony — pass me a joint, bro.”
Human morality is inherently subjective; a work in progress; a work that will never be completed; a work that will hopefully lead to a kinder, gentler tomorrow; a work that places great value on justice and kindness. Nirvana, it will never be, but we can have a better tomorrow if we want it badly enough. Unfortunately, internecine warfare between countries and tribes leaves me wondering if human progress is but an illusion, a pipe dream. Perhaps it is, but I see no other option than to work towards a better future for my progeny. This work requires of us hard discussions and debates about morality. Holy books or trade paperbacks are not the answer. We the people remain the captains of our ships, the masters of our destinies. God’s not coming to save us.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not one of “those” Evangelicals, then feel free to ignore what I have written. Or better yet, please explain to me why you are still an Evangelical. Surely, you don’t believe you can rescue Evangelicalism from itself.
My two favorite preachers are Jesse Custer (played by Dominic Cooper) on AMC’s hit series Preacher and Sidney Chambers (played by James Norton), an Anglican priest on Grantchester, a British period drama rebroadcast on PBS. Both men are doubters, preachers who understand the temptations of the flesh, and even, at times, give in to their wants and desires. In other words, unlike many of the self-righteous Pharisees who claim they speak for God, Custer and Chambers are worldly and quite human.
Both men question God’s existence, whether he answers prayer, and they wonder out loud if faith in God does more harm than good. Recently, I watched the four latest episodes of Grantchester. A repeating theme in Sidney Chambers’ struggles with faith is whether certain religious concepts (beliefs) cause suffering. Chambers is romantically involved with a woman, yet struggles with the vows he made to God and the church. This tension between desire and religious belief causes what Chambers calls suffering. It’s religion that says, thou shalt not have, yet supposedly the very God who says thou shalt not is the same God who created us with the desire for sexual intimacy and fulfillment. Chambers wants what he wants and, ignoring his beliefs, carries on a torrid affair. In the end, though, his commitment to the church and his desire to help others cause him to end his relationship with his lover. Whether Chambers will stay true to his calling until the end remains to be seen.
As I watched Grantchester, I pondered the notion that certain religious beliefs cause suffering, not only for ourselves, but for those who are close to us. I am an atheist, yet I readily admit that religious beliefs can and do provide many people with a sense of meaning, purpose, and direction. Viewed from an economic/cost-benefit perspective, Christians benefit from being part of a church and holding beliefs in common with their fellow congregants. As long as the benefits outweigh the costs, people will continue to engage in religious activities. It’s when the costs outweigh the benefits that people walk/run away from organized religion. When Christian faith becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth, people stop attending church; they stop giving their money to religious causes; they stop devoting time to religious exercises and activities.
Suppose you have a hamburger joint you love to frequent. You love their hamburgers, and their fries are awesome. Several times a week, you eat lunch at this hamburger joint, always using the drive-thru. One day, the restaurant staff messes up your order. You think, well, that happens from time to time. However, as time goes on, the staff continues to mess up your order — often putting cheese on your burger, even though you ask them not to. You complain to the manager, who says, I will make sure your order is made correctly.Here are a few coupons to compensate you for our mistakes.Great, you think. Problem solved. Unfortunately, the restaurant staff continues to mess up your order. And not only that, drive-thru wait times have doubled. One day, you wait fifteen minutes just to get your order, only to find out that for the millionth time they have put cheese on your hamburger. That it! you say. I am not going to eat here anymore. And off you go, searching for a new “best” hamburger in town. What happened? The costs (the wait time, wrong orders) outweighed the benefits (the “best” hamburger in town).
So it is with people and Christianity. For an increasing number of Americans, the costs of believing outweigh the benefits. Many Americans want to be viewed as kind, compassionate, thoughtful people. Who among us doesn’t want to be liked and respected? The problem for Evangelicals is that their commitment to Bible literalism and inerrancy forces them to defend behaviors and beliefs that are now considered immoral or indecent. In particular, younger Evangelicals have a big problem with how their pastors and churches treat LGBTQ people. They also have a problem with the increased politicization of the pulpit. Evangelical leaders are now calling for the abolishment of the Johnson Amendment — a regulation that forbids churches from partisan politicking as long as they are tax exempt. Taken as whole these things. and others, cast Evangelicalism in a bad light. Non-Evangelicals believe that Evangelicals are hateful bigots, even though many of them are not. Not wanting to be tarred with the same brush, many Evangelicals leave their churches — and some pastors leave their jobs, seeking out friendlier, more accepting churches. For these Evangelicals, the cost of believing outweighs the benefits.
The fastest growing sector of belief is that of the NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or who are indifferent towards religion. Evangelicals, in particular, are hemorrhaging younger adults. Evangelical talking heads are frantic over this generational loss. Well, except hardcore Fundamentalists. In their minds, quality is better than quantity. Sure it is. Just wait until the church pews are filled with aging, white-haired senior saints. You know, the Southern Baptist Convention. Once these people die off, then what? Without young adults, death is certain.
Gen X’ers and their parents love to bash Millennials; the snowflake generation they are called. Whatever shortcomings Millennials might have, one thing is for certain: they don’t have much love for organized religion. Why is this? Why are Millennials anywhere but church on Sundays? The blame squarely rests on the shoulders of Evangelicals and their cohorts in the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other conservative religious sects. These sects generally speak with one voice when it comes to issues such as premarital sex, homosexuality, abortion, same-sex marriage, and the matters affecting the LGBTQ community. It is this group who put Donald Trump in office, and most of the Millennials I have spoken to hate the President. They hate his treatment of undocumented immigrants, women, and LGBTQ people. They see his racism, bigotry, and support of the rich. And smack dab in the middle of this mess, Millennials see Evangelical Christianity.
Everywhere thoughtful people look, they see the suffering caused by religious beliefs. Evangelicals tell all who will listen that their God is the one true God and the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It is in the Bible that God — not man — sets forth how humans are to live. Never mind the fact that the last words of the Bible were written two thousand years ago. In the minds of Evangelicals, the words of the Bible are as fresh and relevant the latest New York Times bestseller. They have convinced themselves that the Bible is unique, that it is different from all other books. Its words are inexhaustible. According to Evangelicals, someone can read the Bible from cover to cover hundreds of times and never exhaust the wealth of materials found within its pages. If you only own one book, Evangelicals say, let it be the B-i-b-l-e.
What suffering, you ask, is caused by Evangelical religious beliefs? Beliefs are benign, hurting no one, many Evangelicals think. Tell that to LGBTQ people who have been hounded and attacked by Evangelicals, all for demanding equal protection under the law and the same civil rights heterosexuals have. Tell that to Transgender people who have faced attack and ridicule over which bathroom they use. Tell that to pregnant women who want to terminate their pregnancy but can’t have one because Evangelicals have closed down clinics and defunded Planned Parenthood. Tell that to people who want to die with dignity but can’t thanks to Evangelical opposition to euthanasia. Worse yet, Evangelicals are generally war-mongers, supporters of the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment, anti-immigrant, and anti-social safety net. It seems that the only lives Evangelicals care about are those still in the womb. Perhaps it would be better for me to point out which Evangelical beliefs don’t cause suffering and harm. Certainly there are teaching the Bible worthy of emulation and practice. The Sermon on the Mount comes to mind and does Matthew. Imagine how differently non-Christians might view Evangelicals if they dared to actually walk in the footsteps of the Jesus they say they love and follow?
Twenty-first century Evangelicals are quite free with their pronouncements about morality. Not content to just express their opinion, Evangelicals preface their moralizing with, THE BIBLE SAYS or GOD SAYS. In their minds, when God speaks, all discussion is over. There’s nothing worse than an Evangelical armed with certainty — a surety that breeds arrogance, bigotry, and hatred. In the 1970s, thanks to Moral Majority, Evangelicals got a taste of what could be accomplished with political power. Now drunk with this power, Evangelicals are demanding the United States be returned to its Evangelical roots. A people who once believed in a strict separation of church and state now act as if such a thing does not exist. President Trump, knowing that eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for him, goes out of his way to give God’s chosen ones the desires of their hearts. His cabinet is stocked with Evangelicals, most of whom have little experience in government.
Yet, despite their gain of political power, Evangelicals helplessly watch as their churches decline in attendance and their congregations age. Instead of asking why this is, Evangelicals double down on their moralizing. Life begins at fertilization! Abortion is murder. Homosexuality is against God’s order! It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve! Marriage is between a man and a woman! God is anti-LGBTQ! God is pro-death-penalty, pro-war, and pro-gun! Whatever the Republican talking point is for the day, you can be sure Evangelicals support the matter. GOP=God’s Only Party! God is a Republican! God! God! God! God!
Well, God dammit, how about we start paying attention to how much suffering these beliefs are causing? Millennials are paying attention, and that’s why they are exiting churches stage left and right. If Evangelicals have their way, abortions will, once again, be performed in back rooms and alleys. If Evangelicals have their way, LGBTQ people will be driven to the utter darkness of the closets from whence they came. If Evangelicals have their way, atheists will be silenced and God returned to his “rightful” place in public school classrooms. Yes to school prayer! Yes to Bible reading is the classroom! Yes to creationism being taught in science classes! Yes to churches, pastors, and parachurch groups having ready access to public school students! What Evangelicals want is a return to the glory days of the post-World War II 1950s. No matter how much suffering such a move causes, all that matters is that Evangelicals (and ostensibly, their God) get their way. Unwilling to pray and wait on God, Evangelicals have turned to politics to gain their desired objective. In doing so, they have forsaken whatever moral ground they once held. The moment Evangelicals voted President Pussy-Grabber into office, their moral authority was gone.
All that’s left now is a bloody political struggle for the future of our Republic. Key to this struggle is making sure Millennial and Gen Xers’s alike see the suffering cause by religion. Evangelicals are supposedly having their own #metoo moment. It’s hilarious (and oh so sad) to watch Evangelicals attempt to find final their moral voice. Evangelical sects, churches, and leaders have been covering up sexual misconducts for as long as I can remember. And now, all of a sudden, they have found their conscience? I don’t think so. Their current self-flagellation is all about appearance, about showing the public just enough contrition to make people think that Evangelicals are serious about sexual assault and sexual harassment. They are not. If they were, Evangelicals would, with great haste undo the huge mistake they made the first Tuesday in November 2016.
That’s not going to happen. Evangelicals are addicted to political power, and the only way to undo the suffering and damage caused by their beliefs is to strangle the life out of their churches and centers of power. Evangelical beliefs must be driven out of the public square, onto the fringes of American life. Evangelicals are free to preach their beliefs in the public square, but their sermons must not be given a pass. The suffering they cause must be exposed and preached from the mountaintops. Our future is at stake. Millions of Evangelicals support bombing Iran, nuking North Korea, and deny the existence of global climate change. Left to their own ways, Evangelicals will turn the world into Cormac McCarthy’s dystopian novel, The Road, or the latest sequel of the Mad Max movies. In their minds, no worries! Jesus is coming soon! Who cares what happens to the world. For those of us without such deranged eschatological ambitions, we must continue fight against anything that increases suffering. And from my seat in the atheist pew, Evangelicalism is a religious form of BDSM, with the only difference being the pain and suffering caused to others is not consensual. Evangelicals despise multiculturalism, and if truth be told, many Evangelicals are out-and-out racists. What they want is a white monoculture where their religion reigns supreme. Those of us who want the world John Lennon spoke of in Imagine only have one choice: we must push back and fight until the enemy to vanquished. We must no longer give our silent consent to ignorance and bigotry. Picture for a moment what the lyrics of Imagine might say if Franklin Graham, James Dobson, John Hagee, or Robert Jeffress wrote them. Is that the kind of future we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? I know I don’t.
As I re-read this post, I thought, people who don’t know me might conclude that I really, really, really hate Evangelicals. Let me be clear, I don’t hate Evangelicals as people. It’s their beliefs I hate. I love polecats. Cute critters. But, get too close to one and up goes the tail and you’ll soon be covered with N-butlymercaptan — an awful-smelling chemical spray that is very hard to get off your skin and clothing. Evangelicals are like pole cats. Nice people, as long as you don’t get too close to them and let them spray you with their N-Godsays beliefs. And it’s not even the beliefs, per se. If Evangelicals want to follow their peculiar interpretation of what they believe is God’s infallible Word, so be it. Think abortion is a sin? Don’t have one. Think same-sex marriage is a sin? Don’t marry someone of the same sex. Think adultery is a sin? Fine, keep your dick in your pants or put an aspirin between your legs. Think _______________ is as sin? Don’t do it! No one, I repeat NO ONE, is keeping you from being the most holy, sanctified person since the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus, the Christ. (There is ZERO persecution of Evangelicals in America, contrary to the hysteria preached from pulpits.) That’s how it works in a secular state. Evangelicals are free to be the best little Jesus-lovers they can possibly be, and atheists are free to live, lust, luxuriate, and love until death comes calling. How atheists or Evangelicals conduct their private lives does not materially affect the other. Again, that’s what’s so great about living in a secular state, one that places great value on freedom of and from religion. It’s when Evangelicals demand preferential treatment for their religion or demand that the Bible be codified into law, that people such as myself have a problem. I cannot and will not idly sit by while religious extremists turn the land of the free and home of the brave into a theocracy. Don’t tell me that’s not your intent; I know better. True-blue Evangelicals will not rest until King Jesus sits on the throne, not just in America, but across the world. I remain your neighbor, Evangelicals. You are indeed a pretty sight. But as the wind blows, I get a whiff of your smell. Then I know I must not rest, lest polecats take over the world.
President Trump I don’t think has admitted to having an affair with this person [porn actress Stormy Daniels]. And so this is just a news story, and I don’t even know if it’s accurate [Why does Graham believe pathological liar Donald Trump over Stormy Daniel?].
I believe at 70 years of age the president is a much different person today than he was four years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago [there’s no evidence for this being true]. He is not President Perfect [no shit Sherlock].
We certainly don’t hold him up as the pastor of this nation and he is not. But I appreciate the fact that the president does have a concern for Christian values, he does have a concern to protect Christians whether it’s here at home or around the world and I appreciate the fact that he protects religious liberty and freedom [gag me with a spoon].
Our country’s got a sin problem, and I believe if these politicians [Democrats and liberals] in Washington would recognize the moral failure of so many of their policies [hot button social issues] that maybe we could fix it [I thought only Jesus could fix our “sin” problem?].
Ernest Williams, a retired Presbyterian minister, blames the current spate of sexual harassment allegations on baby boomers. According to Williams, the free-love generation threw Christian morality to the wind, leading to all sorts of sexual perversion and misbehavior. Ironically, Williams is a Trump supporter. Evidently, helping to elect a pussy-grabbing, serial sexual predator to the highest office in the land is okay, but using coarse language, viewing pornography, and fucking contrary to the Intercourse Rulebook® — the Bible — is not. Williams is the textbook example of a hypocrite. Williams, as many of his ilk do, pines for a return to the glory days of the 1950s; days when women knew their place, gays were deep in the closet, and Christianity and its moral prohibitions ruled the land.
We’ve been battered for weeks now with allegations of sexual misconduct by U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in Alabama, and Rep. John Conyers of Michigan.
Add to those the smell of scandal surrounding a growing number of Hollywood personalities.
The media are talking about a “cultural shift” in the public’s attitude toward sexual morality.
Shock is being professed that leaders in the worlds of politics and entertainment are seeing the ends of their careers over the abuse of women in the workplace.
Of course, we recognize that such hanky-panky has been going on as far back as we can research.
… The other reason is that the “cultural shift” which the media are just now discovering happened in the 1960s and ’70s.
It was in the ’60s that I became a seminary student, and saw some of the changes occurring on the campus of a top-rung Ivy League university (Princeton).
I was not naive. I had been in the army, and was familiar with the sexual immorality which was flaunted by my fellow barracks-mates, and by the underground pornographic material which they mysteriously found somewhere despite its illegality.
But something new was happening.
This kind of immorality had been confined to the businesses that had constantly to keep a low profile and to bribe the authorities in order to operate.
But now it became open, visible and eventually mainstream.
When the movie, “Deep Throat” created a stir about 1970, it did not appear in an XXX-rated shack in a back alley, but in a first-run theater on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.
From that point, Hollywood increasingly purveyed the world-view of a whole new generation of producers whose heroes were people like Helen Gurley Brown and Hugh Hefner with their zeal for unrestricted sex-play.
There was an openly declared purpose to change our society and create a cultural shift.
Walk into a college classroom, or even your local middle school, and listen carefully, and you’ll see how successful they were.
The old norms of what was naughty and what was nice are gone.
The cultural shift took place some 50 years ago, and it blew away the cultural expectations for decency in language and sexual behavior that had been considered normal, even though some had always flouted them.
What the big mainstream media, whose professionals are part of the changed culture, have not realized is that there has always been about half the population who did not make the shift back then, and have continued to stand for traditional American values.
They are outraged to see obscene words, if not printed, then clearly indicated with initials and asterisks, on their TV screens.
They are outraged to see their elected officials engaging in conduct that they do not want as examples for their children and grandchildren.
They are outraged to see a man refusing to stand for the national anthem, or to be urged to do their “holiday shopping.”
And they are tired of being regarded as uneducated hicks who are hopelessly out of the times and out of the culture which for the elite has become normal.
These elite just couldn’t believe it when Donald Trump was elected U.S. president on a platform that seemed to them to appeal only to a few remaining and aging survivors of the old order.
The “cultural shift” they see now is not a shift at all for the Trump voters.
It is just the ongoing American tradition and people are thankful to the God in whom they still believe that they finally have someone in the White House who understands and shares their love of America.
It is those reared by the culture of the ’60s who consider “making love instead of war” to be normal, who can’t understand what is going on.
They see the rotten fruit of their culture in these celebrities, and not knowing that it was produced by the rotten tree of the sexual revolution, wonder where it came from.
There ya have it, baby boomers. Yet another cultural malady is that is your fault.
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.
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This is the one hundred and fiftieth 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 video clip by Dennis Prager. Prager is a Jew and proponent of Judaeo-Christian objective morality. At least in theory, that is. By being thrice married, twice divorced, Prager shows that he is a hypocrite when it comes to God’s objective moral standard concerning marriage and divorce. Shocker, I know.
I have on and off over the years subscribed to Sports Illustrated (SI). Published weekly, SI features stories about athletes and sports leagues. One issue every year is devoted, not to sports, but to the wonder of the female body. The Swimsuit Issue, as it is called, is chocked full of photographs of bathing suit-wearing models. SI chooses exotic locations for the photo shoots. The photographer part of me lusts over what can only be described as a dream gig — splendid locations and beautiful women, what’s not to like, right?
Over time, the bathing suits have become skimpier; a reflection of our society’s increasing comfortableness with nudity. Every year, Evangelical groups express their outrage over the Swimsuit Issue, and every year countless Baptist preachers rush to the mail box so they can preserve their SI copy before their wives get a hold of it. Evangelical morality police are not the only people who get a self-righteous hard-on over the Swimsuit Issue. So do Catholic groups such as Catholic Youth Apostolate:
That takes us to the other half of your question, one of swimsuit models on magazines. Again, the real question here is one of intent. Swimsuit catalogs exist to sell swimwear for women. One could safely say that these kinds of images should be harmless to someone striving to live chastity [sic]. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (we use this example because the SI Swimsuit Issue is the highest grossing, most widely distributed issue of their magazine every year… interesting, for a magazine that is supposed to be supporting a culture of sports fandom) exists to sell supermodels to men. No one purchases that particular issue of SI in order to buy a new swimsuit for his wife. The women in those magazines are styled and posed in such a way that could easily lead anyone viewing them to lust – they’re often topless, sometimes naked; posed not to show off the swimwear, but their bodies.
One might say, ‘But I’m just admiring their beauty, what’s wrong with that?’ The problem lies in JPII’s quote above – you can’t admire their full beauty as a human person, because you don’t know them. All you have to admire is their physical form, separate from their heart, mind, and soul, so it’s impossible not to objectify them. Furthermore, the women in those magazines don’t express the wide variety of God’s beauty in all men and women – all the women in those magazines are roughly the same size and shape, a cultural standard of ‘beauty’ that simply means ‘sexy’ and is impossible for the average woman to achieve. Beauty is much broader than the images displayed in magazines. It’s not that these images show too much, but too little.
Does this mean that if you happen to catch a glimpse of the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in the check-out line at the grocery store, you have sinned? Probably not. But in order to grow in the virtue of chastity, it would be wise to not pick it up and flip through the pages. In as little as two-tenths of a second, an image can be emblazoned in one’s memory for years. And Jesus would rather you not risk it, since he said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28). Again, make no provisions for the flesh…
This could just as easily of been written by an Evangelical preacher.
Back in my Evangelical preacher days, I would watch for the Swimsuit Issue to be delivered so I could throw it in the trash before I or one of my teenage sons was led into horrible sexual sin. One particular year, the magazine never arrived. Hmm, I thought at the time. I wonder what happened to it? Months later, while working on a vanity light in our master bathroom, I found the missing issue hidden above the cabinet. How did this magazine get here? I wondered. Come to find out, one of my sons had intercepted the magazine and hidden it. I made sure my mag-stealing son knew that he had sinned against God, and then I tore the magazine up and threw it away. Today, we heartily laugh about this story, but at the time, absconding with the magazine was viewed as a serious act of disobedience to God. I felt it my duty to make sure that my sons were not exposed to pornography, be it Playboy, Hustler, or the SI Swimsuit Issue.
Fast forward to today. Last Saturday, the 2017 SI Swimsuit Issue arrived in our mailbox. I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the magazine while we were driving to Defiance for our granddaughter’s basketball game. I didn’t have lustful thoughts or feel the need to masturbate or engage in sexual intercourse. Shouldn’t I have been filled with lasciviousness as I dared to gaze upon the exquisite bodies of the fairer sex? What’s changed between now and twenty years ago? Gone is the fear and guilt caused by the teachings of Evangelical Christianity about sin — especially sexual sin. As many former Evangelicals will attest, once the fear and guilt are no longer a part of the equation, things once considered “sin” can be enjoyed (or not, depending on one’s tastes and desires) without feeling like the reader just committed a heinous crime. Now that God, the Bible, and Evangelical moralizers no longer have my attention, I am free to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. What is most interesting is that, once something is no longer taboo, it often loses its power and draw.
I will leave it to Evangelical men to guiltily shuffle into the darkness with a flashlight to look at their copy of the Swimsuit Issue. I no longer need to deny myself pleasures, wants, and desires. I know that the Swimsuit Issue is not everyone’s cup of tea. Each to his own, right? No one is forced to look at the magazine. People are free to subscribe, not subscribe, or cancel their subscription over what they believe is Sports Illustrated’s promotion of “soft-porn.”
Did you, or your father, back in your Evangelical days, subscribe to Sports Illustrated? How was the Swimsuit Issue “problem” handled? Did your pastors preach sermons about the Swimsuit Issue? Do you know of anyone who committed adultery or fornication after perusing its pages? Do you know of anyone who, after viewing the scantily clad models, turned to pornography? (You know, the Swimsuit Issue acting as a gateway drug of sorts.) Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Biblical Marriage, God’s Unchanging Moral Standard
According to Jessilyn Justice, a writer for Charisma News, the United States is facing a perversion tsunami. Several weeks ago, the Daily Mail reported that a man who was given up for adoption now wants to have a sexual relationship with his birth mother. Monica Mares, 36, gave Caleb Peterson, 19, up for adoption at birth. She was sixteen at the time. Nineteen years later, mother and son reconnected, fell in love, and are now facing criminal charges due to their incestuous relationship. Here’s what the Daily Mail had to say about their relationship:
GSA [genetic sexual attraction] is defined as sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings, a parent and offspring, or first and second cousins, who first meet as adults. Mares said: ‘He is the love of my life and I don’t want to lose him.My kids love him, my whole family does. Nothing can come between us not courts, or jail, nothing. ‘I have to be with him. When I get out of prison I will move out of Clovis to a state that allows us to be together.’
Incest is a crime in all 50 states, but the specifics of the laws and punishment vary greatly from state to state. Mother-of-nine Mares said she would even give up the right to see her other children if she was asked to choose between them and her lover. The couple who currently live separately in Clovis, New Mexico – and are banned from having any contact with each other by the courts – first embarked on their love affair towards the end of last year. …. The couple was charged with incest – a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico – following the February 25th incident. They were arraigned and appeared jointly in court in April – but were held in custody for breaching their no-contact order. They were released on $5,000 bond and now face a trial by jury in September.
Currently Mares is not allowed to see any of her children or have any contact at all with Peterson.Yet she maintains that is has all been worth it. ‘It is every bit worth it,’ she said. ‘If they lock me up for love then they lock me up. There is no way anybody could pull us apart, and I really do love him. ‘It hurts he is far away. It hurts really bad. I wish I could see him, talk to him, but I can’t risk it.’
Peterson said he started falling love with his mom about a week after meeting her – but claims as he grew up with an adopted parents he never really saw Mares as his mother. ‘I never had anyone cook me meals or give me anything,’ he said. ‘I never got anything my entire life and she went out of her way to make me happy and after about a week or so I started having feelings for her and I guess I fell in love. ‘It went beyond a mother-son relationship I never really viewed her as my mom. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don’t. ‘I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn’t see her as my mom, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn’t feel wrong, it felt normal.’
Peterson claims it was him who made the first move not his mom. He recalls: ‘We were hanging out just talking and I looked at her and she looked at me and I kissed her. ‘It was a real kiss it had feelings behind it, there was a spark that ever since then it just stayed. ‘Honestly I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults – when it comes down to it.
‘She’s adult I’m adult I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this.’ …. Despite the immense opposition to the couple’s relationship, Mares and Peterson do have supporters in the community – including Dayton Chavez, Mares’ ex and father to two of her sons Moses, nine, and Joseph, 12.
He said: ‘I’ve told them I still love you guys either way. I support them. ‘I would like to see the government get out of their business and let them live a normal life – let them live how they want to live. ‘It would be different if it was a domestic violence situation but it’s not. ‘My point of view is they need to be allowed to live just how they are that’s what America is built on.’ …. The couple – who both have roots with Native American Apache tribes – is also being supported by Cristina Shy who runs www.lilysgardener.com, a support and advocacy website for related couples, also known as consanguinamorous people.
Cristina, who is involved in an illegal relationship with her half brother in Minnesota, said: ‘Our whole community is watching this case and looking for updates. ‘It needs to be brought to the attention of everybody in the country and people need to start thinking differently. ‘It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married they are accepted. ‘Well why not consanguinamorous people like us? We are all adults. We are not pedophiles, there’s no domestic issue we are in love, we want to be together but we are related. That shouldn’t be a deciding factor.’
Most readers of this blog likely think — at the very least — that this is a bizarre story. I have mixed feelings about the mother/son sexual relationship, but I suspect my discomfort is the result of my Fundamentalist Christian upbringing. If I believe that consenting adults should be free to have sex with whomever, wherever, and however, then, despite my conflicted feelings, I really should have no legitimate objection to Mares’ and Peterson’s relationship.
As soon as this story hit the news wire, Christians such as Jessilyn Justice were screaming, SEE! This is what happens when we let same-sex couples marry, legitimize homosexuality, and allow Transgenders use the bathroom of their choice! Unable to comprehend any other sexual relationships beside what they “think” is decreed in a bronze age religious text — the Protestant Bible — people such as Justice warn others about the dangers of the slippery slope that ultimately leads to every sexual perversion imaginable. Why, what’s to stop people from marrying their dogs, right?
Paul specifically warned about the evils of sexual immorality throughout his letters to the Corinthians and Romans.
Now, perversion rises as a mother wants an incestuous relationship with the son she gave up for adoption, according to The Daily Mail.
“If they lock me up for love then they lock me up. There is no way anybody could pull us apart, and I really do love him,” 36-year-old Monica Mares tells the online paper of her son, Caleb Peterson.
The couple faces a charge of incest, according to the Clovis News Journal. If convicted, they face hefty fines and years behind bars.
“I never had anyone cook me meals or give me anything,” Peterson tells the Daily Mail.
He continued: “I never got anything my entire life and she went out of her way to make me happy and after about a week or so I started having feelings for her and I guess I fell in love. It went beyond a mother-son relationship. I never really viewed her as my mom. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don’t. I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn’t see her as my mom, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn’t feel wrong, it felt normal.”
Perhaps the book of Romans is at play here, as Paul warned in chapter 1 that God would give people over to the lust of their hearts.
I find it laughable and quite entertaining that Justice opposes incest, yet she worships a God that used incest to advance his divine agenda on earth.
The Bible — the original Kinsey Report — certainly condemns incest. God, the arbiter of all things sexual, had this to say in his inspired, inerrant, infallible word:
None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. Leviticus 18:6-18
See! God says incest is a sin! Right there in the B-i-b-l-e. End of story. Later in Leviticus 18, God also condemns homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, and having sex with a woman when she is menstruating. In Leviticus 20, God says certain incestuous relationships — along with adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality — are capital crimes punishable by death. Strangely, if a man has sex with his uncle’s wife or has sex with his brother’s wife, their immorality is not punishable by death. (See Wikipedia article on Incest in the Bible.)
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Church at Corinth for having in its membership a man who was having sex with his mother. 1 Corinthians 5:1 states:
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
Paul commanded the church to excommunicate the man, delivering him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Surprisingly, Paul considered the incestuous man to still be a Christian (To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus).
The Apostle Paul, along with Jessilyn Justice, seems to ignorant of the fact that the Big Man Upstairs approves of incest — at least in certain circumstances. Here are six of the numerous incestuous stories recorded in God’s perfect Word:
Genesis 4-Where did Cain’s wife come from? Either Cain had sex with an unnamed sister or he had sex with his mother Eve.
Genesis 9-Ham has sex with his father, Noah.
Genesis 19-Two daughters have sex with their father, Lot, a man the Bible says was a righteous man.
Genesis 20-Abraham has sex with his half-sister Sara.
Genesis 38-Judah has sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar (the daughter of adulterous, murderous David, a man after God’s own heart).
Exodus 6-Amram has sex with his father’s sister Jochebed. She bore him two very famous sons, Aaron and Moses.
How Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis “Answer” the Incest Question
Christians are certainly free to object to incestuous relationships such as the one mentioned in this post. However, they don’t get to claim the high moral ground, saying that God says incest is a sin punishable by death. As I have clearly shown, God, at certain times and in certain circumstances, approves of or ignores incest. So much for God’s law being the perfect moral standard for all peoples, at all times. Evangelicals box themselves in when they demand that the Bible be recognized as the sole arbiter of morality. They are forced to come up with all sorts of creative ways to “explain” away the contradictions and absurdities found in the Bible. Christianity would be better served if Christians just admitted that there is some crazy shit in the Bible — especially in the Old Testament; and that the morality code of ancient sheepherders and fishermen has little relevance today.
If you have read this far, please allow me to reward your diligence with a video that I think you will find quite funny.
Recently, I received several emails and social media comments from Evangelicals complaining about my posting of public news reports detailing clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. One Evangelical preacher had this to say:
Do you feel some sense of gratification by posting articles exposing the “sins of evangelicals?” I have found you will search heaven and earth to publish smut on anyone who professes to be a Christian. Many of your posts are nothing but smear campaigns. You ought to be proud of yourself, pat yourself on the back, nominate yourself for an award. What a wonderful person you are. Kudos Bruce, keep up the smear campaigns, because no doubt in your heart it’s all justified and makes sense. One day Mr. Bruce there will be a reckoning, a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. I will go no further, but I know this, our God offers and extends GRACE to the repentant and guilty sinner. His undeserving favor offered through Calvary!
This man, over the past two years, has left numerous comments on my Facebook page, objecting to virtually everything I post. He is an Independent Baptist, an insufferable zealot who cannot or will not make any attempt to see things from any perspective other than his own. His latest comment was on a post about the arrest of David Farren, youth pastor at Anchor Church (link no longer active) in Texarkana, Texas. According to the Texarkana Gazette:
A youth pastor at Anchor Church in Texarkana was arrested Wednesday on three counts of sexual assault involving a teen girl. David Farren, 41, allegedly assaulted the girl when she was 16 and 17, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. The girl was allegedly a member of the youth group Farren headed. Miller County jail records show Farren was booked at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. He is expected to appear before a Miller County judge Thursday for an initial appearance, at which time bail will be set. First degree sexual assault is a class A felony in Arkansas. Each of the three counts Farren is charged with is punishable by six to thirty years in prison.
Texarkana Police Department detectives conducted an investigation after they were notified of sexual assault allegations. Detectives found that Farren had been sexually assaulting a female (who was 16 years when the assaults began) over a period of four to five months in 2013. At the time, Farren was a youth director at an area church.
The TPD says the charge is because Farren was a youth director, it “placed him in a position of trust or authority over the victim.”
David Wayne Farren, 41, appeared at the Miller County courthouse with Texarkana attorney Jason Horton for a first appearance on three counts of first degree sexual assault before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom. Horton handed the judge a motion asking that the case be sealed and that a gag order preventing police and court officials from speaking about the case be issued.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell expressed strong opposition to the gag order. “I don’t believe this case should be treated any differently than other defendants,” Mitchell said. “We’ve not put gag orders in place in these cases before.” Mitchell asked the court to order Farren to have no contact with minor females, other than immediate family. Horton responded by describing Mitchell’s request as “too broad.”
In response, Haltom reviewed a probable cause affidavit and noted that Farren’s alleged sexual misconduct occurred in a private home, not on Anchor Church property. Mitchell pointed out that Farren’s contact with the girl began when he was acting as her youth pastor. “We do believe there are additional victims that will come forward,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said Farren has worked at a number of area churches heading youth groups including Heritage Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist Church and Faith Baptist Church.
As is always the case with such charges, offenders — saintly pillars of morality and virtue — are vigorously defended by family, friends, and fellow church members. Supporters, armed with anecdotal stories, assure everyone that Pastor/Preacher/Bishop/Elder/ Deacon _____________ did not/could not do that for which he has been accused/arrested/charged. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, blinkered supporters demand that those who aren’t really in the know, forgo making any judgments about the offenders. In fact, rather than consider that their religious leaders could ever do what they are accused of doing, these woefully naive people suggest that perhaps the victims are the ones who should be blamed. In the case of David Farren, the victim was 16 years old when the sexual assaults began. See, says Farren’s supporters, she is almost of age. Why, I bet she came on to him or seduced him. In doing this. Farren’s supporters re-victimize the girl, ignoring the fact that Farren was in a position of trust or authority over the victim. This means the victim could not have given consent, regardless of her age. Farren, as an authority figure, is duty bound to keep his hands to himself and his pants zipped up. The no-sexual-contact rules that apply to doctors, lawyers, and social workers — those who work with the public and hold their trust — also applies to clergymen. They are held to a higher standard because of the vulnerability of those serve.
Several years ago, Jack Schaap, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana was accused of sexual misconduct with a teen girl he was counseling. (Please see What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused.) When the accusations were made public, Schaap supporters defended his honor with comments on social media, blogs, and news sites. Even after all the facts of the abuse were made known, Schaap’s defenders insisted that victim was to blame. Schaap is now serving a twelve year prison sentence for his crime.
Stories such as Schaap’s and Farren’s are quite common. While I have been accused of scouring the internet for “dirt” on clergymen, the truth is I don’t need to do so. Using Google Alerts, I receive multiple times a day news reports about church leaders being accused/arrested/charged/convicted of sexual crimes, spousal abuse, child abuse, theft, robbery, and even murder. These reports are everyday occurrences. And here’s thing: in the two years I have been posting these reports on this blog and social media, only one accuser was found to be lying. Credulous Christians think that the way things work is that a girl walks into a police station, accusing a pastor of sexually molesting her, and the police immediately arrest the offender. This is NOT how it works. In Farren’s case, this was the process used by law enforcement:
Sexual assault cases are investigated using the highest standard of care and consideration of all parties involved. Only when a majority of evidence is obtained is an arrest warrant approved by the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and issued by a Circuit Judge.
Knowing that merely being accused of sexual misconduct can ruin a pastor’s life, law enforcement makes sure they have a case before arresting the offender. In fact, I would suspect that clergymen abuse claims are treated with great deference, knowing that wrongly charging esteemed church leaders could embroil authorities in controversy. Accusations of sexual abuse are often hard to prove, and it likely that more clergymen get by with their crimes than are arrested and convicted.
There are several reasons why I think it is vitally important to publicize clergy sexual misconduct stories:
Rarely are clergymen arrested the first time they sexually molest or abuse a minor. Most often, there are more victims, so publicizing these reports makes other victims aware of their abuser’s arrest. If victims know their abusers have already been arrested, they are more likely to come forward and tell their stories to law enforcement.
Christian sects — particularly the Roman Catholic Church — are notorious for covering up sexual molestation and abuse claims. It is likely that the Catholic Church covered up thousands of abuse claims, protecting priests by sending them off to new parishes (new hunting grounds).
Evangelical churches are often independent. These churches have no denominational oversight. Sexual misconduct claims are often covered up or explained away. Offending pastors often leave one church and move on to a new church. This provides the offender with a new pool of potential victims.
There is no national database churches can check to see if a pastoral candidate has been accused of sexual misconduct or child abuse. Some clergymen are sexual predators, moving from church to church, leaving broken lives in their wakes.
Americans wrongly assume that churches are safe for their children to attend. They are not. Most congregants are decent, kind, trusting people. It is this naïve trust that makes their churches easy marks for sexual predators. Far too many churches take the testimonies of new pastors at face value. Oh, they love Jesus, trusting, congregants say. Why, their families are wonderful! Such fine Christian people!
Americans wrongly assume that churches exist for the teaching of morals. Publicizing sexual molestation and abuse reports serves as a reminder that churches are not bastions of moral purity.
As long as men of God keep “preying” on people, I intend to keep posting public news stories detailing their crimes. Instead of whining about my motives for posting these stories, I suggest Christians should spend their time making sure children, teenagers, and vulnerable adults are not abused, molested, and taken advantage of by church leaders. (Please see How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse? and Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)
Evangelicals are primarily known for the things they are against: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, socialism, atheism, humanism, liberalism, and Barack Hussein Obama. The farther you move to the right, the longer the lists become. Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, I heard countless sermons about this or that “sin.” Years ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon based on the text, neither give place to the devil. After reading the text the preacher spent the next 40 or so minutes listing all the things he was against. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List) Most of the preachers of my youth believed the following were sins: women wearing pants/shorts, men having long hair, dating couples have physical contact before marriage, listening to rock music or contemporary Christian music, going to the movie theater, using non-King James version translations, cursing. As a teenager, I believed that my pastors were against e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I am sure the teens of the churches I pastored said the same about me.
One of the first challenges I faced after leaving Christianity was determining a moral/ethical framework by which to govern my life. Let’s face it, having an inspired, inerrant Bible as the moral arbitrator makes life easy. No need to think about or ponder certain behaviors. God said ____________________, end of discussion. Lost on people who think this way is that it is not God speaking. If sermons are anything, they are preachers giving their personal opinions about what this or that Bible verse means. Opinions vary wildly, leading to one group of preachers saying particular behaviors are sinful and other group of preachers saying they aren’t. They fight among themselves, certain that their interpretation of an ancient religious text is infallible.
When I first deconverted, I was blessed to have for a friend a charismatic pastor who had also told Jesus to take a hike. He and I spent countless hours together, talking about Christianity, the Bible, and the ministry. We both laugh at how we acted and reacted back then. My friend got his ear pierced. He also got a tattoo. One day we were out and about and we saw a sign that said Parking Reserved for Pastor. A photograph was taken of middle fingers extended as we stood in front of the sign. I know, quite juvenile. But remember, Evangelicalism robbed us of much of our lives. We came of age in the late 1960s and 70s. While our non-Evangelical peers were enjoying love, peace, and rock and roll, we were in church praising Jesus. So in many ways, we are now living our teenage and young adult years now. We are experiencing things that our contemporaries experienced 40 years ago.
Now that Jesus, the Bible, and the screaming voices of preachers no longer guide us, we are free to do what we want. Several months ago, a Fundamentalist family member asked me why I was growing my hair so long. My response? Because I can. And when they see me again and notice that I am now sporting a bald head again, I am sure they will ask me why I shaved my head. The answer is the same. Because I can. The answer to every behavioral question is the same. Because I can.
Now, lest Evangelical zealots say I am preaching nihilism or licentiousness, I want to be clear: just because I can, doesn’t mean I will. What I am saying is that I don’t need a deity, a religious text, or self-righteous Evangelicals to tell me how to live. Using reason and common sense, I weigh each and every choice and decide accordingly. Well, most of the time, anyway. I can, at times, be impetuous, making decisions without taking time to weigh consequences. Most of the time, I survive my impetuous behavior with nary a scratch. There are those times when making rash decisions have had poor outcomes. When this happens, hopefully I learn from it. If my poor judgment harmed someone else, I do my best to make things right.
I think I will end this post here. Why? Because I can.
Does your Evangelical family and friends “question” some of your post-Jesus decisions? Have you ever said, because I can? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
This is the seventy-ninth 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 video clip produced by Wretched Radio.— the ministry of Todd Friel. I will leave it to readers to “explain” what this preacher “thinks” atheists can’t explain. Perhaps the real issue isn’t our inability to “explain” as much as it is the inability of most Evangelicals to “listen” to and “understand” how secularists, humanists, atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians understand morality.
Letter submitted to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News on April 11, 2016
Recently, Cal Thomas pontificated about the need for an objective standard of morality. Of course, Thomas, an Evangelical, believes the moral code found in the Bible is the true standard of morality. Thomas believes America is mired in a moral quagmire. Blaming liberals, secularists, and atheists, Thomas believes America’s only hope is for Americans to once again prostrate themselves before the Bible and promise resolute fealty to its author — God.
What exactly is the Bible’s objective moral standard? The Ten Commandments? Or is it the Nine, since most Christians no longer “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy?” Or, as dispensational Evangelicals suggest, is just the New Testament the standard for morality? If it is just the New Testament, then why do Evangelicals continue to condemn homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and abortion — none of which is mentioned in the New Covenant? And why do Evangelical pastors continue to collect tithes and offering each Sunday, a practice not found anywhere in the New Testament?
While Evangelicals will point their peculiar interpretation of the Bible to justify the notion that they are the holders of God’s standard of morality, any careful examination of their churches shows that Evangelical moral beliefs are every bit as subjective as their atheist/agnostic/secularist neighbors. There are over one hundred churches in Defiance County, and not one of them agrees with another about what is considered moral behavior.
On matters of greater importance: salvation, baptism, and communion, local churches fight among themselves, each believing that it has the keys to the kingdom. One church has been running weekly ads in the Crescent-News to remind locals that their church — a Campbellite congregation — preaches the true gospel. Down the street Baptists preachers remind congregants that the heretical followers of Alexander and Thomas Campbell were thrown out the Baptist church mid-19th century. It is the Baptists who have the true gospel. And so the internecine wars continue unabated since the day Jesus was buried in a pauper’s grave.
Atheists such as myself laugh when Evangelicals suggest that the Bible is the standard for morality. Seeing the utter confusion and contradictory beliefs among the various Christian sects, how can anyone know for sure who is right? My money is on none of them being right. As a humanist, I believe it is up to people — not religions — to determine the standards by which we want to govern our lives.