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Your Questions, Please

i have a question

Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a while since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would, once again, open the call lines and ask readers to submit their questions, along with $66.66 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the universe. Reason — praise be to Reason! — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking and skepticism to infinity and beyond. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want are questions; your pithy, short, erudite questions. Please try to ask questions that you think I haven’t answered before.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section of this post. I will answer questions in the order they are received; that is unless you are a bigly donor. Readers who shower me with cash, checks, gold bullion (ouch), Bitcoins, and restaurant gift cards just might be moved to the front of the line or be sent a 13×19 glossy photo of me pole dancing at the Big Bear Strip Club — “might” being the operative word. (Long-time readers who know and understand my humor, sarcasm, and snark know whether I am speaking factually. Everyone else? Keep on dreaming of Bruce Almighty swinging on a brass pole wearing only his shorts, suspenders, and wingtips.)

You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

Please do not answer the questions. In the past, well-intentioned commenters have answered the questions, making my responses moot. Once I answer the questions, feel free to give your own answer.

Let the fun begin.

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

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

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

RBG: Her Faith in Justice

ruth bader ginsberg

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s pioneering work will be long remembered. But the visual image of her that most of us have, and will retain, is of her diminutive frame draped in a robe d’avocat adorned with jabots chosen for agreements, dissents or other occasions of a jurist’s life.

Her sartorial choices, while distinctive, were also fitting (pardon the pun): They, like modern feminism, originated in France. So did the Enlightenment, which inspired notions of les droits l’homme et du citoyen—and, if indirectly, la laicite, the policy that, while not expressly prohibiting religious expression, has had the effect of eliminating public religious remarks by politicians and most other French public figures.

Justice Ginsburg never disavowed the Jewish faith in which she was raised. In fact, she sometimes cited Old Testament verses such as “Justice, justice shall you pursue” as guiding principles. She did not, however, try to shape the law or society in her, or anyone else’s, interpretation of a holy text. Rather, her faith seemed to be a fire within her that fueled her efforts at bringing about justice.

Another, perhaps more important, difference between the role religion plays in the words and actions of many American public figures and the role it played in Bader Ginsburg’s life is this: While public figures who are overtly Evangelical (and most other kinds of ) Christians are acting from privilege they don’t realize they have (in brief, entitlement), Ginsburg, as a daughter of people who fled pogroms only to face anti-Semitism in America, was acutely aware of her status as an underdog and outsider—yet did not share the “persecution complex” that afflicts too many who don’t realize their favored status.

Now I am going to share something I never would have understood had I not spent the first part of my life as male: It is too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that other people are being gifted with “special” privileges or treatment when they are simply getting the same rights everyone else has. I know I was guilty of it; perhaps I still am, sometimes. As a woman who attended an Ivy League school on full scholarship and graduated at the top of a law school in another Ivy League institution, Bader Ginsburg couldn’t help but to understand as much: Law firms wouldn’t hire her because she was a woman: A man “needed” the job more than she did.

One thing that makes Bader Ginsburg a hero is that she didn’t allow the intentional or unwitting sexists to destabilize her sense of herself. I have no doubt that any number of people tried to “gaslight” or sexually harass her. (About the latter, she mused, “What woman of my age hasn’t experienced it?”) I can’t get into her mind, but I don’t think I’m inaccurate in thinking that she understood that, ultimately, one cannot attain personhood, let alone equality, without a sense of one’s self, defined by one’s self and no one else.

That, as I understand it, is a core principle of the Enlightenment—and of the Founding Fathers of the United States, at least as they understood what it means to be a human being (i.e., white, male and a property owner). If you cannot define who you are, on your own terms, there is simply no way to have sovereignty over your mind or body. As someone who came to terms with childhood sexual abuse (by a priest) and sexual harassment and assault as an adult, at a late date in her life, this knowledge is now as vital to me as air, water and food.

In short, if you do not have the freedom to think and come to conclusions based on the evidence before you, and to say “No” when those rights are being denied to you, your mind and body are in someone else’s power. In other words, you are a slave. And when you are a slave, there is no justice.

So, whatever role her inherited faith played in her personal and professional life, her defense of rape victims, the right to an abortion and equal pay for equal work, and her fight against any and all forms of discrimination—and for the right to follow or reject her faith, or any other– are all part of a quest for justice. For that, I am grateful. And, I am sure, Theodore Herzl would approve just as much as Simone de Beauvoir or Voltaire would.

Unlike too many American legislators and public figures, she did not use her position to ram her religious beliefs down other people’s throats. Rather, her faith in the justice she pursued guided her work. For that, I am grateful.

Quote of the Day: Donald Trump’s Rules of Life and Leadership

evangelical support for donald trump
Cartoon by Dan Wasserman

Here are the Trump Rules, distilled from conversations we have had with countless people close to the president, some of whom have studied him for years:

  • Your brand should piss someone off. The worst thing you can be is milquetoast, bland. He wants some people to have a viscerally negative response to him and what he’s doing, because he bets that’s going to harden support on the other side.
  • Crisis is a powerful weapon — fire it indiscriminately. “Forget planning,” a source said. “Wake up every morning, survey the battlefield, let your gut instinct lead you to a crisis to exploit, bet that no one else can thrive in the chaos the way you can. Ratchet up the pressure until everyone else’s pipes burst.”
  • You can create your own truth. Just keep repeating it.
  • Accuse the accuser. A source who’s spent hundreds of hours working with Trump puts it this way: “He has a history of accusing people of whatever he’s being accused of. Collusion? Democrats colluded on the dossier! Blue wave? Red wave coming!”
  • Fear trumps friendship. Trump wants his inferiors to fear him and hold him in awe. He likes watching them duke it out in front of him.
  • Loyalty trumps talent. Case in point: Michael Cohen. No serious person would employ Michael Cohen as their personal attorney — a point Trump has belatedly acknowledged himself. But as Cohen used to say, he’d “take a bullet” for Donald Trump. Oops.
  • Never admit you are — or did — wrong.  Trump’s #MeToo advice, per Bob Woodward’s “Fear”: “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead.”

— Jonathan Swan, Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, Axios, The Trump Rules for Life and Leadership, September 11, 2018

Quote of the Day: Churches Are Becoming Organizations by Robert Ingersoll

robert g ingersoll

Churches are becoming political organizations… It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed. The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave. All laws for the purpose of making man worship God, are born of the same spirit that kindled the fires of the auto da fe, and lovingly built the dungeons of the Inquisition. All laws defining and punishing blasphemy — making it a crime to give your honest ideas about the Bible, or to laugh at the ignorance of the ancient Jews, or to enjoy yourself on the Sabbath, or to give your opinion of Jehovah, were passed by impudent bigots, and should be at once repealed by honest men. An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment. It strikes me that God might write a book that would not necessarily excite the laughter of his children. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that a real God could produce a work that would excite the admiration of mankind. Surely politicians could be better employed than in passing laws to protect the literary reputation of the Jewish God.

— Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses, 1879

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Raising White Christian Boys in a Culture That Hates Them

scott alan buss

You just don’t talk about white people, boys or not, as if they’re somehow deserving of equal consideration and treatment in America when we all know that every other gender (of which one is real), every other ethnicity, and every other religious perspective is totally deserving of “special consideration” above and beyond what “Christian white boys” in America ought to have or even expect.

You aren’t supposed to notice, and certainly not speak out against, the fact that American culture has been systematically programmed to embrace and promote an attitude of open hostility, discrimination, and disdain for several groups, with particular hostility acutely focused on Christian white boys, who literally embody the sin of being several problematic things all at once, namely: Christian, white, and male.

To be not only a male, but a young male in America, makes you the target of an anti-Christian educational system and a pagan pop-culture designed to feminize and castrate you by various means, including the mass prescription of mind altering drugs (and I mean literally mind altering – the brain is radically altered by these things) to compensate for and/or crush the more “annoying” aspects of maleness in youth.

To be a Christian – an actual Bible-believing Christian – in this culture makes you a fringe kook even in most “conservative Christian” churches. To actually believe in Jesus as Lord over everything in His creation for real is to be a relic of America’s Calvinistic past that it’s anti-Calvinistic/anti-Christian present can’t seem to ditch fast enough or impugn loudly enough.

I mean what kind of racist, sexist, homophopic, islamophobic, transphopic, global warming denying white devil do you have to be in America these days to dare to publically acknowledge that your children are, um, white, and that said whiteness is totally cool and good?

….

Yes, my children are white.

Really white.

Glow in the dark white.

They make Dracula look tanned and SPF 100 seem reasonable.

You get the picture.

The very white picture.

Now on to more important things…

Like open discrimination.

As in: If you’re a white boy or man in America, it is 100% A-Okay (and virtuous even) for you to be openly discriminated against through any number of “special considerations” given to everyone who is not like you.

Every other gender (of which one is real) gets preferential treatment.

Every other ethnicity (of which all are a part of one race – the human race) get’s preferential treatment.

Every other religious worldview gets preferential treatment.

As a Christian white boy and Christian white man in America, you are and will be uniquely targeted for attack, criticism, discrimination, and blame.

Scott Alan Buss, AKA Fire Breathing Christian, Raising Christian White Boys In A Culture Programmed To Hate Them, November 22, 2017

Note

Buss is a Calvinist. He attends Christ the King Church in Centerville, Tennessee.

Bruce Gerencser