Tag Archive: Quiverfull

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Six

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Why I Became a Calvinist — Part One

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Two

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Three

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Four

Why I Became a Calvinist — Part Five

Sincerely held beliefs have consequences. This is especially true when it comes to Calvinism and the belief that God is the sovereign ruler and king over all. Simply put, Calvinists believe God is in control of everything. If God commands us to do something, we should do it without doubt or delay. God always knows what is best. To disobey God’s commands brings chastisement and judgment.

As my wife and I immersed ourselves in Calvinism, we came to believe that we should recognize God’s sovereignty in every area of our life, including the number of children we had. The Bible was clear, as were the books we read, that God wanted us to have a  quiver full of children. Psalm 127:3-5 says:

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

We stopped using birth control, believing that it was God who opened and closed the womb. We believed we would have exactly the number of children God wanted us to have. Two months later, Polly was pregnant, the first of three children she would bear from 1989-1993. You see, Polly was a fertile Myrtle. It seemed that all I had to do was look at her and she would get pregnant. We were well on our way to having ten or more children — the Duggars of Appalachia.

The first child born after our decision to let God control our family’s size was a redheaded girl with Down syndrome. While Polly’s mom was grateful that she finally had a granddaughter, she was adamantly against our plan to have as many children as God wanted us to have. She rightly argued that we were in no financial position to have the children we had, let alone any more. This led to family conflict and verbal warfare, which we ended with a long letter we wrote to Polly’s parents — complete with a book on the subject — asking them to mind their own business; that we intended to follow God’s will on the matter regardless of their objections.

Our next daughter — another redhead — was born two days after of first daughter’s second birthday. We had just learned that our oldest daughter had Down syndrome. Her facial features were mild, so doctors missed that she had Down syndrome. One night, we were at a Bible conference near Dayton and a nursery worker asked about our baby with Down syndrome. I was incensed! “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with our child!” Except there was. She was sixteen months old before she learned to walk. We were worried she had some sort of disability. Our Catholic family doctor, suspecting Down syndrome, sent Bethany to Ohio State University for genetic testing. Sure enough, she tested positive for Down syndrome.

Our doctor had us come to his office after it had closed, and sat and talked with us for an hour. We were devastated by Bethany’s diagnosis. Our doctor, with great love and compassion, helped us to see that Bethany was actually a blessing from God. This, of course, played right into our Calvinistic beliefs. It was God who gave us a child with Down syndrome, and it was up to us to trust him, believing that he knew what was best for us. (Please read What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity.)

In May of 1993, Polly gave birth to our sixth, and last, child. Her four previous pregnancies had been relatively easy, but this one not so much. Polly struggled during delivery. The obstetrician said she was worn out and, in his words” “to pooped to pop.” He told us in no uncertain terms that another pregnancy could kill Polly. Theologically-speaking, this posed a huge dilemma for us. We believed it was God alone who opened and closed Polly’s womb. She wouldn’t get pregnant unless it was according to God’s perfect plan. Shouldn’t we just trust him?

For the first time, we realized our beliefs had consequences; that trusting God could lead to Polly’s death. We had to ask ourselves whether we were willing to follow God no matter what. In time, the answer came. No, we weren’t willing to follow God no matter what; no, we weren’t willing to put Polly’s life at risk; no, we weren’t going to risk me losing the love of my life and our children losing their mother. This, of course, meant we refused to obey the Word of God; that we put reason and science before God and his Word. Welcome to cognitive dissonance.

For those in the quiverfull movement, we were sellouts, but to everyone else, it seemed we were acting reasonably and responsibly; that it was right and proper for us to listen to our doctor’s advice. This put an end to my preaching on quiverfull beliefs. Prior to this, I had excoriated church women for having tubal ligations or using birth control. To this day, I regret some of my preaching, especially when it came to family matters. I put my preacher nose in places where it did not belong, regardless of what the Bible said.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2

Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720 square foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

Having three children in the space of four years caused increased stress on our older three children. Money was already tight, and even more so now that our family size morphed from five to eight. We lived in a 12’x60′ mobile home — a hillbilly mansion if there ever was one. If weren’t for food stamps and Medicaid, along with the Earned Income Credit, we would have been destitute. As it was, we lived from hand to mouth, and sometimes the hand didn’t quite reach to the mouth. Had we been consistent Calvinists, we would have “let go, and let God,” but we refused to allow our family to sink further into poverty. Did this mean, at the time, that we weren’t trusting God as our Calvinistic beliefs demanded we should? Yes. Few Calvinists actually live according to all of the commands, precepts, and teachings of the Bible. Oh, they like to give the appearance of obedience, but Calvinists are Cafeteria Christians® just as other believers are.

By the late 1990s, I had begun to move away from the strident Fundamentalist Calvinism found in groups such as the Reformed BaptistsSovereign Grace Baptists, and the Founder’s Group among Southern Baptists. While my theology would remain influenced by Calvinism until the day I left Christianity, I no longer took it to the extremes detailed in this post. This has led some Calvinists to allege that I was never a “real” Calvinist. I laugh when I hear such criticisms, asking, “how many children do you have?” “Do you use birth control?” That’s what I thought, hypocrite.

This concludes the six-part series on why I became a Calvinist. I hope you found it helpful.

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull Movement, please read Kathryn Joyce’s book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.  Suzanne, a friend and long-time reader of this site, runs the No Longer Quivering website. It has troves of information about Quiverfull.

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.

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“Taking Her Myself” A New Trend in Quiverfull Courtship & Betrothal

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Guest post by Vyckie Garrison of No Longer Quivering.

Does God Hate Women? author Ophelia Benson shared a note written by a young patriarch describing his “biblical marriage.”:

As Bible-believing Baptists who hold to reformed theology, X and I believe that God is sovereign in choosing who will or will not believe in him, having chosen his people before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1), and that his selection is unbreakable and irresistible. If marriage is to mirror this principle, we believe that a woman has no right to select a husband for herself, but that she is to be chosen by a man and marriage is to be an unbreakable arrangement between the man and her father. Based on this reasoning, we have shunned a standard proposal and wedding ceremony, because if I had asked her to marry me (which I did not) then I would have given her the decision to marry me rather than selecting her and taking her myself. Furthermore, if we had exchanged conventional marriage vows, our union would have been based on X’s will and consent, which are not Biblical factors for marriage or salvation. Instead, I asked X’s father for his blessing in taking her hand in marriage. When he gave his blessing, X and I considered ourselves to be unbreakably betrothed in the sight of God. While we had initially intended to consummate our marriage after today’s symbolic ceremony, we instead did so secretly after private scripture reading, prayer, and mutual foot-washing.

As Quiverfull Believers dig ever-deeper into their Bibles in search of the truly “biblical model” for godly marriage, ideas about courtship and “betrothal” are becoming increasingly savage and brutish.  It would seem unlikely that Courtship standards could get even more oppressive considering that Christian notions of “biblical match-making” have already been taken to outrageous extremes.

Joshua Harris started a back-to-bible-living revolution among Christian young people when he advocated the courtship model in his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. What – no dating for teens? Now that’s a radical concept! As “bible believers” jumped on the bandwagon of father-led pairing of qualified young men and women in serious pursuit of marriage, popular Quiverfull patriarchs took biblical courtship to a new level of paternal domination as they pointed to Old Testament examples of “betrothal” as the very best way to ensure the future success of Christian marriage.

Jonathan Lindvall, teaching “God’s Design for Youthful Romance,” cited the betrothal of Matthew and Maranatha Chapman (link no longer active) as an ideal example of a “true romantic betrothal.”  Lindvall describes the crazy-making process by which Maranatha’s father, Stan Owen, orchestrated a year-long betrothal which was to be a “demonstration of Christ’s coming for His bride” based on the parable of the Ten Virgins.

Mr. Owen still faithfully directed both Matthew and Maranatha to avoid physical affection until their wedding. He particularly cautioned them to guard against impatience. Especially since Maranatha was rather young, their wedding might be quite a long way off yet. Though they hoped that the time would be soon, they nevertheless resigned themselves to the real possibility that the wedding could be a matter of years down the road, much like Jacob’s seven year betrothal to Rachel (Gen. 29:18-20). Yet they were both naturally quite motivated and energetically prepared in every way they could, as quickly as they could, just in case the wedding should suddenly be announced.

Not to be outdone in the “biblical examples of courtship and marriage” department, Michael Pearl counseled his daughter, Shoshanna, to forego a state-issued marriage license:

None of my daughters or their husbands asked the state of Tennessee for permission to marry. They did not yoke themselves to government. It was a personal, private covenant, binding them together forever—until death. So when the sodomites have come to share in the state marriage licenses, which will eventually be the law, James and Shoshanna will not be in league with those perverts. And, while I am on the subject, there will come a time when faithful Christians will either revoke their state marriage licenses and establish an exclusively one man-one woman covenant of marriage, or, they will forfeit the sanctity of their covenant by being unequally yoked together with perverts. The sooner there is such a movement, the sooner we will have a voice in government. Some of you attorneys and statesmen reading this should get together and come up with an approach that will have credibility and help to impact the political process.

Yeah … that’s “bible-believing” extremism for you – and it’s not enough to practice these ideals for themselves and their children, “biblical family values” must become the law of the land.

As a former Quiverfull believer, I used to get excited at the prospect of searching the Word and discovering greater “truths” and biblical principles – the implementation of which would bring my family increasingly closer to a truly God-honoring model of marriage and Christian home life.  At the same time, I secretly dreaded what the Lord might reveal to me next through Lindvall’s Bold Christian Living, Pearl’s No Greater Joy, and other “biblical family living” ministries.  Already I was obediently and faithfully having baby after baby to the obvious detriment of my health, submitting to my abusive husband, homeschooling, home birthing, home churching, foregoing all government assistance including potentially life-saving health insurance and food stamps, cutting off all outside relationships with family and friends who were not like-minded Quiverfull Believers …. honestly, the regimentation and isolation made for a harsh and demanding life.

“What’s next?” I frequently wondered to myself … ‘cuz my practice of Quiverfull was not “peculiar” enough already, I guess.

I am so grateful that I got out before I had a chance to discover the biblical principle of a man selecting and taking a wife for himself.  I am afraid, since the idea comes straight from scripture, I very well may have gone along with my daughters’ father coming to an “unbreakable arrangement” for a “godly” young man to “take them” in marriage.

Ugh.  It is a trap – a life-sucking quagmire – to attempt to order one’s family life according to a worldview which teaches that whatever is in the bible is necessarily “biblical” and normative for all times and all cultures.  I dread the thought that today’s Quiverfull daughters are now being taught that a young Christian woman “has no right to select a husband for herself, but that she is to be chosen by a man” and given no decision in the covenant agreement between her father and the man who will be taking her.

Note

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull movement, please read Kathryn Joyce’s book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarch Movement

Quiverfull: Birthing New ‘Helpers’ Into the World 

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

The three oldest Gerencser children with their Down Syndrome sister, 1990

Quiverfull advocate Nancy Campbell recently encouraged young Christian women to obey God and continue having babies until God closes their womb. Evidently, some Quiverfull mothers are giving up and not letting God have his way with their womb. Can’t have that, so Campbell reminds mothers that the more children they have the easier it becomes:

…However, there is another fact that many young mothers don’t yet realize because they haven’t yet experienced it. And that is that it gets easier to have another child when you have older children. It’s not the mothers of six, seven, or more children who feel so overwhelmed.

What happens is your little children grow, and as you train them, they become such wonderful helpers. When a new baby comes into the home, instead of this little one adding a burden to the home, they bring more joy and blessing, not only to you, but the whole family. When you have children who are growing older, you have so many hands on deck to help–to hold the baby, to goo and gah at the baby and keep your baby smiling and laughing, to bring this and that to you while you are nursing, to help with the dishes and housework, to cook a meal, and to keep the home running smoothly. You are getting to the reward time of mothering…

Campbell reveals the dirty little secret of the Quiverfull movement, that having a large family requires older children to become surrogate mothers to younger siblings. Non-Quiverfull parents look at the Duggar family or the Bates family and ask, how does the mother properly care for all those children? She doesn’t. The real mothers are the older siblings who are tasked with everything from feeding their younger siblings and changing their diapers to educating their younger siblings and making sure they are dressed. While learning to care for younger children is not inherently bad, Quiverfull families often require older children to be full-time caregivers, robbing these children of the opportunity of enjoying childhood. Instead, their workload is viewed as preparing them for their future adult life as a Quiverfull family. From elementary age forward, these children are forced to take on roles meant for adults. Is it any surprise that some of them, as soon as they are old enough to do so, flee the Quiverfull cult?

Polly and I have six children, ages 36, 34, 31, 26, 24, and 22.  We have two distinct families, the three older boys and the two younger girls and boy. There is a five-year space between the two groups, at the end of which we adopted the Quiverfull belief concerning children. Devout Calvinists who believed God was sovereign over the womb, we determined to have as many children as God gave us. In rapid succession, the ever-fertile Polly popped out new little Gerencsers every 18-24 months. After the birth of our sixth child, the obstetrician told us that Polly should not have any more children. His words? She’s too pooped to pop. He warned that having another child could kill her.

When confronted with the reality of our theological beliefs, we decided to listen to the doctor and not have any more children. Polly had a tubal ligation and the Gerencser rabbit was killed. Did we betray our beliefs? Yes. Were we hypocritical? Yes. I had preached sermons that asked women who could no longer have children to pray that God would reverse their tubal ligation. I even implored them to come to the altar and cry out to God, asking him to open their womb so they could once again have the blessing of God on their life. I can only imagine the deep pain such sermons caused, a fact that haunts me to this day. Fortunately, God didn’t answer their prayers. Every closed womb stayed closed, all praise be to Jesus!

Our three oldest sons had to grow up in a hurry. While they have wonderful stories about childhood, about playing in the woods, riding bikes, and sword fights, they also have stories about being required to live in an adult world by the time they were ten. While they have accepted and come to terms with the why’s of their childhood, it doesn’t change the fact that they didn’t get to enjoy manying of the things non-Fundamentalist children get to enjoy. Not only were we part of the Quiverfull movement, we also home schooled and I was a pastor. All of our children, but especially our older children, were forced to live in an adult world much too soon. While it has made them mature and wise beyond their years and given them a strong work ethic, I can’t help but feel sorry for what they were deprived of growing up. No, they are not scarred for life, and all of them have grown up to be wonderful, productive adults, but nothing can change the fact that they missed out on a lot of normal childhood experiences because of their father’s job and their parent’s beliefs. I hope someday that several of them will put pen to paper or keyboard to screen and share how they view growing up in the home of Rev. Bruce and Polly Gerencser’s home.

If there is a silver lining for our family it is that Polly and I, along with our six children have escaped the cult and are now free to live our lives as we see fit. None of our children are Evangelical; most of them claim no religion, and those who do are live and let live Catholics. It’s refreshing to know that our ten grandchildren will not be raised under the curse of Evangelical Christianity and the various other beliefs that once enslaved our family. We’re pleased to watch our adult children allow their children to enjoy childhood, while at the same time teaching them the value of work and service to others. There’s nothing wrong with a teenager doing housework, cooking, or learning to change a diaper. After all, part of parenting is preparing children for adult life; and cleaning house, cooking dinner, and cleaning up a baby are all part of the “wonderful” adult experience. The difference now is that our adult children don’t expect their children to be stand-ins for them. Their is a balance that was not part of their life when Mom and Dad were lovers of Jesus, ardent home schoolers, and disciples of John Calvin.

Notes

If you are not familiar with the Quiverfull Movement, please read Vyckie Garrison’s article, What is Quiverfull?

 

Right Wing Family Values and the World’s Greatest Freak Show

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Guest Post by Vyckie Garrison. You can find her blog at No Longer Quivering.

Do you remember when it first dawned on you that your relatives are all a bunch of crackpots and weirdos?  Seems like I was around 8 or 9 — my mother worked all night in the casinos and slept most of the day, leaving me alone to protect my naïve older sister from the depraved advances of Mom’s alcoholic boyfriends and worry about my big brother’s drug addiction. I couldn’t count on my grandparents to help — they were too preoccupied with their own divorce, dating, and remarriage dramas.

“Holy sugar,” I thought to myself, “these people are seriously messed up!”

That’s about the time the fantasies began.  My home, I imagined, was a three-ring circus — and my relatives were the freaks and the clowns.  In my daydreams, I was not really one of them.  No — surely, I was of aristocratic origin.  My REAL family were royalty in a faraway Kingdom and I was born a beloved Princess in a fancy castle with many servants and my own Fairy Godmother.  Somehow, I’d been separated from my blood kin as an infant — I was captured by gypsies and sold in a black market adoption — that’s how I ended up being raised by this group of crazies!

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The Bates Family

ABC’s Primetime Nightline recently aired a segment featuring the Gil & Kelly Bates family — a conservative, Evangelical mega-family of twenty.  The Bates, who are close friends of JimBob & Michelle Duggar of TLC’s “19 and Counting” fame, hold to the extreme fundamentalist ideals of the growing “Quiverfull movement.”

During the one-hour special, Gil, Kelly, and their children explained the family’s lifestyle which, to all modern appearances, represents a throw back to the imaginary 60′s-style “Leave It to Beaver” family combined with strict, Victorian Era sexual mores and the atavistic gender roles of ancient goat-herders. The Bates eschew all forms of birth control and adhere to the marriage model of the biblical Patriarchs — with Gil as family leader and Kelly as submissive “help meet.”  Kelly and the girls adorn themselves in modest, hand-sewn dresses, while Gil and his clean-cut sons teach bible study and participate in local Tea Party politics. Aren’t they lovely?  Don’tcha wanna be just like them?

I sure did!  I left home at 15 and embarked on a quest to recreate my long-lost perfect, happy family — my REAL courtly family, where I truly belonged.  After a false start involving marriage at 16, a baby at 19, and divorce after seven years of abuse rivaling the most astonishing freak show acts Mom’s circus family had ever performed — I remarried, found a “bible-believing” church, and worked hard within the Quiverfull counterculture to implement the best of the best biblical family values into our home life.  I had six more children. I homebirthed, homeschooled, and home-churched. I submitted to my husband and joyfully sacrificed my time, energy and talents to build him up and help him to succeed.  I published a “pro-life, pro-family” Christian family newspaper to inform and encourage other Christians to defend “Traditional Family Values.”

In 2003, we were honored as Family of the Year at the Nebraska Family Council’s “Salt & Light” awards. I’d finally made it! I had built my own Magic Kingdom where my husband reigned as King and I was his Queen, the children were our loyal subjects and we could all live happily ever after …

Like the Bates family, we were the perfect picture of the “biblical family values” fantasy — an idealistic vision of big, happy families: devoted husband and wife surrounded by a passel of respectful, obedient children — we were all sweetness and smiles.  It is this mesmerizing dream world which energizes and motivates Tea Party Republicans like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann to work tirelessly to implement the “pro-family” theocratic agenda into every aspect of American society: not only in politics, but religion, family, media, education, business and entertainment.

Fundamentalist Christians are convinced that contemporary American society is the World’s Most Spectacular Display of hideously mutated, diseased and anomalous freaks.  ”Step right up folks!” the preacher yells, “and witness a grotesque parade of ho-mo-sex-uals, lesbians, Wiccans, radical feminists, godless liberals, secular humanists, and …” (congregation gasps!) “Muslim extremists!!”

Simultaneously fascinated and horrified, respectable religious parents scramble to shield their innocent children’s eyes and ears from the depravity and corruption of “The World.”  They homeschool and form special Chastity and Creation Science clubs designed to insulate and isolate their vulnerable young from the miscreants and most depraved elements of popular culture.

It’s completely understandable and normal for preteens to create imaginary worlds — their own private, safe hideout where they can dream of nobility, of rising above and doing so much better than the clowns running the Big Top’s Museum of Mutantstrosities.  The grown-ups watch in silent, knowing amusement as kids disavow their relatives as “psychos” and “bozos.”

But when otherwise responsible, Christian adults in recent years set out on a mission to create a radically distinct way of life based on “biblical family values,” the resultant countercultural movement known as “Quiverfull” has become an all-too-real Hall of Mirrors horror show.

In my own life, perpetual pregnancies destroyed my health, and my indiscriminate acquiescence to my husband’s every whim transformed him from a loving father into a tantrum-throwing tyrant. Burnout and disillusionment led to abuse, neglect, family disintegration and a particularly nasty divorce.

When the dust settled, I took a good look at myself in the mirror.  I could no longer deny the strong family resemblance — I saw my mother in my own face staring back at me.  After all those years of fighting and denial, I had to finally accept the fact that I really am one of them — I belong to these crazy people.  I, too, am a conspicuous oddity — a bizarre spectacle and an embarrassment to my own noble children.

Funny thing is … these days, I don’t mind so much being associated with my misfit clan of circus freaks.  Life experience has given me perspective and a deep appreciation for the inevitable realities and desperate circumstances which deformed and mutated Mom and the rest of us into shocking and extraordinary creatures worthy of society’s disquietude and awe.

Black market adoption fantasies and youthful idealism are important wayposts on the journey to adulthood.  Rebellion against blatant injustice, hypocrisy, moral compromise and the myriad of other common grown-up failure is a healthy manifestation of a kid’s personal power and strong moral agency.  Arrogant and annoying, yes — but in moments of truth we have to admit, the kid’s got a point.

Society sucks.  Bigotry, racism, inequity, corruption, greed, depravity, malevolence, and all manner of evil abound. Let’s just face the fact that in many ways, the contemporary American social and political scene has devolved to become the World’s Greatest Freak Show.

No wonder Tea Party Patriot families like the Bates and the Duggars escape into their own personal fantasy-land.

Ironically, with maturity comes humility — along with a profound sense of connection and belonging to that wacky bunch of buffoons who share our DNA.  We see our people with new eyes.  Sure, Grandma’s got a beard and Uncle Stan is a charlatan — Aunt Betty’s such a lunatic, she may as well have two heads.  But in the end, they’re all we’ve got.  That perfect, royal family whom we imagined searched frantically for us for years and never gave up hope that one day we would return to our true home?  They’re not real.  Cousin Roger is real — never mind that he doesn’t have a lick of sense and the only thing he’s good for is shoveling elephant shit — he’s the one who truly understands you, knows all about you, and loves you anyway.

Tea Party family values are the fundamentalists’ desperate attempt to deny their own imperfections, vulnerability, and their inescapable mortality.  Sure it hurts that they look down on us regular folk — those of us who make no pretense of actually having our acts together — they avoid being seen out in public with us, they disown us, and they shrink away in fear of catching our cooties.

But take heart — perhaps they’ll grow up.

I did.  Not saying I don’t still sometimes get all starry-eyed and visionary over the possibility of influencing our society for the better — I’ve got a bit of spunk left in me and I’m doing what I can to stick it to The Man.  But I no longer think of myself as qualitatively different or “other” than all the rest of my fellow human beings — my family.  My freakish, crazy, wonderfully imperfect people.

I don’t believe in God anymore, but I still have faith.  I have hope and I trust that collectively, we’re all gonna make it — we are learning from our mistakes and growing more compassionate.  Our shared experiences make us wiser and I have confidence that better times are just ahead.

Are You a Porno Freak?

porno freak at work

Debi Pearl Wonders What Her Husband Michael is Doing Behind Closed Doors

Snark and adult humor ahead.

According to Michael Pearl, a defender of the Quiverfull movement and of ritual child abuse, anyone who wants to work quietly and privately in his office or study is a porno freak. Here’s what Pearl had to say in the June/July 2015 No Greater Joy magazine:

Never trust your children, and don’t trust your spouse if any activity seems suspicious. My wife and my staff have complete access to my computer. The main server is beyond my reach. It maintains complete records of all my activity. I am never locked in a room by myself to “do my work without being disturbed.” I don’t own a cell phone, but if I did my wife and my staff would be on the account and be able to review all of my activities. If any adult is less open than I describe, they are porno freaks and need to repent. Don’t doubt it. “Provide things that are honest in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17)

No, Michael, those of us who prefer to work quietly and privately are not porno freaks. I had six children and the only way I could productively read and study was to have a private office where I could work undisturbed. I did not spend my time surfing porn sites and masturbating. It’s called discipline and self-control, traits sadly lacking in the Evangelical church. Did I ever look at porn as a pastor? Sure, but having dial-up service severely ruined the thrill. I had to wait until my post-pastor days when I got broadband service to indulge my inner porno freak. I quickly found out that, for me, watching porn was boring. Seen one blow job, seen them all. Like drinking beer–been there, done that, yuk, no thanks. (Not that I think there is anything wrong with a man or woman viewing porn as much or as little as he or she wants.)

Michael Pearl is another example of a weak pathetic Evangelical man who fears he will fall to the temptations of a porn-filled internet if left to himself. Pearl fears that, if left alone behind closed doors, he will surf on over to quiverfullbabes.com and give in to his inner porno freak. Viewing women with dresses above their ankles and daring to show their feminine shape, Pearl fears losing control and masturbating until he is as blind as Bartimaeus.

Pearl writes about all the safeguards he has in place to keep him honest, yet anyone with decent computer skills can easily hack and overcome these safeguards. Wouldn’t the safest approach be to not have a computer or the internet? The Bible says, neither give place to the devil and abstain from all appearance of evil. Surely, even booting up a computer is giving place to the evil one, right? And on this point we see the hypocrisy of Michael Pearl. He really should get rid of his computer and avoid anything that has to do with the internet. “If any Christian is unwilling to do as I prescribe, then  he is a secret porno freak,” thus saith Bruce Almighty. The reason Pearl has a computer and internet access is because it is the only way he can spread his Quiverfull STD to the masses. It is the only way he and Debi can rake in money from people who buy into their pernicious teachings.

Come on Michael…be a real Christian, get rid of your computer and cancel your dial-up service.

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Pastor Billy Ball Says Using Birth Control is a Sin

faith baptist church sign

Faith Baptist Church, Primrose, Georgia, Billy Ball, pastor

Billy Ball pastors Faith Baptist Church (Sons of Thundr), an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Primrose, Georgia. Ball and the church are noted for their hatred of Sodomites and abortion. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Faith Baptist as a hate group. As I was perusing the church’s website, (link no longer active) I came across a booklet Billy Ball wrote on the subject of birth control. Here’s some of what Ball had to say:

Do you remember when there was very little difference, if any, between common sense and what the Bible had to say? Well, today the phrase “common sense” seems to be a means of justifying ourselves in satisfying our own selfish plans and living a lifestyle contrary to the life of faith!

The above statement at face value is innocent. As a matter of fact, it is very true in some areas of our lives. There are many things in life for which we should certainly plan, and I believe the Scriptures would even support us in doing so. However, there are also some things in life which God wants us to trust Him with totally. His plan for bringing human life into this world would certainly be placed in this category, if anything would.

Now, let’s think for a moment about this thing called birth control. Even the term itself sounds odd to the ear. Birth control, controlling birth, no matter how you say it, the key word is still control. You will find as we continue on with this study that, Scripturally, the only control that God gives a man or woman concerning birth is the decision to marry or not to marry. Beyond that, the Bible teaches that birth control belongs to God.

I challenge you to search the Scriptures for this ideology that man is to control birth. The only person who ever made an attempt in the Scriptures to control birth was judged in doing so. Other than that one example, the Bible is silent concerning others who held this belief…

…There was a time when people understood that when you got married, you expected children to be the normal, natural result of this union. As a matter of fact, marriage itself was considered by most people to be “starting a family”. So, yes, plan, if you are a Christian! Plan to get married and receive God’s gift of children. Or, on the other hand, plan to stay single if you do not desire children at this time. As far as I see in the Bible, there is no other legitimate way of controlling birth…

…So then, if the Bible teaches us that children are a gift from God, and a reward from Heaven; and if we know that God killed the only Scriptural example of those who support this heresy. And if we also understand the fact that if a man knoweth to do good and doeth it not, it is a sin unto him. James 4:17, KJV “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin”. Then based on the above argument alone, can we honestly say that birth control falls under the realm of personal liberty? Please explain how and where, by any stretch of the imagination, that any Christian can use the Bible to justify birth prevention as a personal liberty that is acceptable to God…

…”That’s the reason we have so much welfare now!” Yes, believe it or not, that is one of the common statements made by the modern day birth control advocates. However, this statement is actually a copout for not talking about the real issue regarding a lot of the welfare problems, which is abstinence. A good portion of those people should not be having sexual relationships anyhow! Sex, in the Bible, was reserved for those who were legally married. All other sexual behavior was, and still is, forbidden by the Scriptures…

…We are so used to implementing our “plan B”, while knowingly disobeying God’s “plan A”. So, instead of using man made birth control to solve the unwanted expense of unwanted children across this country, we should repent of the fornication and adultery that refers us to our “plan B” in the first place. That, my friend, will drastically reduce the dollars spent on those who don’t want to take responsibility for their lifestyles.

But to blame the welfare problem on those who let God decide how many children they have in a responsible Christian way is at best ridiculous! This is the same argument used for fixing your pet!…

…”It’s my body, so it’s my choice.” Now we really begin to see the thinking behind the birth control movement. If this statement sounds all too familiar, it is because you’ve heard it before from the abortion crowd. You see, the driving force behind the abortion proponents is this humanistic idea that we are our own gods and that we have the right to make our own decisions about our life and how we use our body. However, as Christians, our attitude should be that we are not our own, but that we have been bought with a price. I Corinthians 6:20 “For ye are bought with a price:”. The rest of that verse says “therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. Preventing children can never glorify God!

Now, please tell me how birth control, by any stretch of the imagination, can glorify God? You will say, “But preacher, we’re not talking about a baby, but a seed!” Exactly! But, did you know that the Greek word from which we get the word seed is the word sperma? This is where we get our word sperm. So, if the baby is a gift from God, according to Psalms 127, then the sperm also is God’s gift. God gave you the sperm to be used to bring offspring into the world. Now, we do know that there is a difference between the sperm and the baby after conception. But we must also realize that the potential for life is found in the God-given seed. Therefore, this shows that it is a very serious thing to interfere with His seed in any way.”

Ball wants readers to know that his booklet is straight from the Bible, an unassailable source of perfect truth, but only if it is a King James Bible. Ball wrote:

I know that there will be many who disagree with the contents of this booklet. However, as with any literature which I have written, I challenge any and all to take a King James Bible and Scripturally refute it. I’m still waiting!…

…It is disturbing to see the extent to which humanism has entered into our congregations. The sad part is, however, that many so called preachers will simply discount this teaching as “much to do about nothing.”…

…Finally, let me say that our church and my family have personally suffered for our stand on this clearly taught Bible issue. We know, however, that sound doctrine is about the only thing some men will not endure in these last days…

Poor Bro. Billy, persecuted just because he wants to keep women chained to the bed, submissive, ready, and willing for their husbands to come home and impregnate them. While Ball is not as eloquent as many of the spokesmen for the Quiverfull movement, his views are one and the same.

faith baptist church members

Faith Baptist Church, Primrose Georgia, members street preaching, calling on sodomites to repent

brandon wright crossroads baptist church

Brandon Wright from Crossroads Baptist Church, Zirconia, North Carolina, supporting Billy Ball after he was arrested for street preaching without a permit

Notes

According to a 2012 news article, Faith Baptist Church has about 130 members (link no longer active).

Wikipedia states the church is IFB. Several other news reports say it is Southern Baptist.

111616

Family Drive Faith Part One

bruce and polly gerencser 1985

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, Sweetheart Banquet, 1985

This article was first published in 2011 on No Longer Quivering Corrected, revised, and updated

For seven months in 2004, our family attended a vibrant, growing, family oriented church in Central Ohio. We thought we had finally found a church to call home. One Sunday, after the morning service, Polly (my wife) was talking with a group of women who were trying to get to know her a bit better. One of the women asked Polly what she did during the day, and she, without a moment’s hesitation, said “I work.” 

In a split second everything changed.  You see, in this church, none of the women worked outside the home. The pastor taught that it was a violation of God’s divine order for women to work outside the home. They could have home-based money-making enterprises, but they were not to work outside the home. From that day forward, the women of the church were stand-offish towards Polly. Never mind that Polly had to work due to her husband’s disability. Never mind her job was the only thing that stood between us and living on the street. All that mattered was that our family was not ordered according to God’s divine plan. We stopped attending this church a short while later.

In the 1990’s, I co-pastored a growing Sovereign Grace Baptist church in Texas. A young woman in the church professed faith in Christ and desired to be baptized. Customarily, candidates for baptism were asked to give a public testimony before being baptized. This posed a problem for this particular woman because her husband not only believed that the Bible taught a divine order for the sexes and the home, he also believed women should be silent in church. (His wife also wore a head covering.) She wanted to give a public testimony but she didn’t want to disobey her husband. This standoff went on for weeks until, one day, the woman came to my office in tears, lamenting that her husband was keeping her from following Christ. I agreed with her and counseled her to disobey her husband. She was baptized a short time later.

This church also believed that “church business” was the domain of men. When the church held business meetings, women were not allowed to speak. If they had a question they had to whisper their question to a man and then the man could ask the question on their behalf. Women were allowed to verbally ask for prayer and sing, but everything else was the domain of men. Very few of the women worked outside the home.

While I found both of these positions to be somewhat excessive and quite demeaning to women, I also believed that such positions could be proved from the Bible. While I didn’t take things as far as the aforementioned churches, I certainly believed that God had a divine order for the family and the church. I believed that God had ordained men to rule and women were to submit to male rule and authority. The highest calling for a woman was to marry, bear children, and be a keeper of the home. Children were to submit to their parents and obey every command given to them.

I believed the Bible taught a hierarchical system that must be kept to enjoy the favor and blessing of God. God, through his son Jesus, was the head over all things. Of course, what this really meant was that the Bible was the head over all things. Christianity is, above all else, a text-based religion. Without the Bible there is no Christianity. (in any meaningful sense of the word) As an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant words of God. The Bible was the final rule and authority for everything.

IFB pastors say that the Bible is the rule for everything, but what they really mean is that their interpretation of the Bible is the rule for everything. I cannot emphasize this point enough. At the heart of the IFB church movement, the Patriarchal movement, and the Quiverfull movement, is a literalist interpretation of the Bible by pastors. Pastors, the under shepherds of the church, under direct authority from God, have the singular responsibility of teaching the church what the Bible says. (or better put, what his interpretations are) The pastor, called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is the mouthpiece of God.

Practically speaking, the pastor is the final authority in the church. He is the law-giver, and he alone has the final say on virtually everything. The Bible is clear, the pastor is to rule the church and church members are to submit to his rule. Pastors spend significant time reminding the church that God says he, the pastor, is the boss. The common phrase used to define this is pastoral authority. (1)

In a hierarchical system, God and the Bible came first. Underneath God and the Bible is the pastor. Church members are taught that submitting to the pastor’s teaching and authority is pleasing to God and, if practiced, will bring the blessing of God.

As an IFB pastor, I taught church members that God and the Bible clearly defined the roles of men (husbands), women (wives), and children.  In my mind, the Bible was clear: the husband is the head of the home and the wife is commanded to submit to the authority and rule of her husband. Like the pastor in the church, the husband is the final authority in the home. It matters not if he is worthy of such responsibility. A husband is disobedient to God if he refuses to be the head of the home. The wife, if she refuses to submit to her husband’s authority, is a Jezebel and risks the judgment of God.

I taught women that God’s highest calling for them is marriage, having children, and keeping the home. I discouraged women from going to college. After all, why waste money going to college if you are going to be busy having children and keeping the home? I taught men that God’s highest calling for them is to be a leader. Men are called to lead the church, home,and the government.  The strength or weakness of any culture, church, or home depended on whether men were fulfilling their divine calling to lead. Children are at the bottom of the hierarchical system. They are under the authority of God, the Bible, the pastor, their father, and their mother. (And according to my younger sons, their oldest brother) Children have one divine calling in life, obey!

Polly and I have been married almost 37 years. We have six children. Our older children went to a Christian school for a few years and for 17 years we home schooled our children. For the first 20 years of  marriage, we followed the hierarchical system detailed above. For the most part, Polly didn’t work and I was the breadwinner. I pastored churches full-time but, due to the notoriously low pay in IFB churches, I also worked a number of secular jobs. For years on end, I worked 60-80 hours a week,and in doing so neglected my wife and children. Regardless of the neglect, I was still the authority in the home. I was the final answer for every question. I ruled our home with a rod of iron and my family feared me. Of course, I never called their fear fear. I called it a healthy respect for authority. I gave the orders and they obeyed.

For many years, my wife (2) and I followed the general tenets of the quiverfull movement.  Our children are ages 35, 33, 30, 25, 23, and 21. Between our 30-year-old and 21-year-old we embraced Calvinism and became persuaded that using birth control was a sin. We believed that God was sovereign and He opened and closed the womb. Who were we to stand in the way of God blessing us with more children?

Our first child born under the “let God have his way” form of birth control was a beautiful redheaded girl with Down Syndrome. Two years later, almost to the day,  we were blessed with another beautiful redheaded girl. 20 months later our youngest child, a son (should I call him beautiful?) was born.

Before we could blink, we had three more children, all in diapers. Polly was known in the family as Fertile Myrtle. I was persuaded that if I looked at her she would get pregnant. I have no doubt that we would have had 20 children if we had continued to abstain from using birth control.

Fortunately, Polly’s doctor intervened and told us in no uncertain terms that Polly’s last pregnancy had taken a huge physical toll on her and any future pregnancies could kill her. We decided, God’s will be damned, that we were not going to have any more children. I was considered a hypocrite for not trusting God in this matter, but I had no desire to be wifeless with six children. Sadly, my motivation was selfish. Several years later, Polly had a tubal ligation and the rabbit died.

In a future article, I plan to write about how the thinking mentioned in this post affected the churches I pastored and how it affected my family. I want to detail how this kind of thinking almost destroyed my marriage and how abandoning such thinking transformed my relationship with Polly and our children.

(1) Pastoral authority, IFB style, leads to dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives. Some churches recognize the problem with one man having so much power, so they have a plurality of elders or a board of elders or deacons. Sadly, all this does is make a group of men dictatorial autocrats ruling over and controlling virtually every aspect of church members lives

(2) I don’t like using phrases like my wife and my children. While most people see these phrases as harmless, they are a reminder of the past, a past where Polly and the children were treated like slaves and property. I try to avoid using these phrases, but in some instances they cannot be avoided.