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Matthew 25: Will There Be Any Evangelicals in Heaven?

evangelicals-heaven

Warning: I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not the type of Evangelical mentioned in this post, no need to whine, complain, moan, and object to my unfair characterization of your tribe. Perhaps you should ponder why you are still an Evangelical instead of feeling butt-hurt over being unfairly characterized. When Donald Trump was elected, that was your cue to run, run, run. Unless you have no legs or are in a wheelchair, I can’t think of one reason for thoughtful, decent, socially aware Christians to remain Evangelical. Note that this was initially written in 2018 and has been updated.

Many critics believe that Evangelicalism is imploding; that the baby birthed by the Moral Majority decades ago has now turned into a full-grown, power-hungry monster. Drunk with political success, many Evangelicals have abandoned all pretense of being followers of Jesus. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 — arguably the most unqualified, most vile man to ever sit in the Oval Office. In 2020, Evangelicals lined up and voted for Trump again. Trump made and continues to make a mockery of virtually everything Evangelicals supposedly hold dear, yet the former president continues to have widespread support in the Evangelical community. Trump is a pathological liar, capable of repeatedly contradicting himself in a matter of minutes. He is also guilty of trying to overthrow the Federal government. Showing all the marks of being a sociopath, the former president has no regard for women, children, the disabled, or, quite frankly, the human race. Trump is a one-man band, and all that matters to him is the fawning love he receives at campaign rallies and from positive news coverage. Trump continues to attack the very foundation of our democracy. He daily lashes out at the media — calling them fake, threatening them with punitive action. It is clear to all who are paying attention that Trump is in bed domestically and internationally with people out to destroy our country. Winning at all costs is what matters to Trump. Despite all these things, Evangelicals still overwhelmingly support porn-star-loving, pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump. It seems the disgraced ex-president was right when he said that he could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and people would still vote for him. It leaves me to wonder if there’s anything Trump could do that would cause Evangelicals to turn on him and demand an end to his reign. (And, no, Ron De Santis isn’t any better.) I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, the pathological need for a return to the mythical days when America was white, Christian, and heterosexual precludes most Evangelicals from ever seriously asking themselves the question, what would Jesus do?

The current state of affairs has me wondering if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven? I have my doubts. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

According to this passage of Scripture — and yes, I am well aware of all the ways Evangelicals use to get around the clear intent and implication of this passage — there is coming a day when Jesus will return to earth with his angels and sit upon the throne of his glory. At that time, he will gather humanity together and judge them, dividing them into two categories: sheep and goats. The sheep will be rewarded with eternal life, whereas the goats will receive everlasting punishment as their reward. How will Jesus determine who is in what category? Will it be, as Evangelicals contend, right beliefs that put them in the sheep pen, and wrong beliefs that land most of the human race — past and present — in the goat pen? Is right belief the true gospel Evangelicals preach? Or is there some other standard by which Jesus will judge the dead and the living on judgment day? The aforementioned passage of Scripture is clear; it is good works and not right beliefs that determine our eternal destiny. I have long argued that one must ignore much of the Gospels to conclude that good works have nothing to do with salvation. Note carefully what Jesus said would be his standard of judgment:

  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving drink to the thirsty
  • Taking in strangers and caring for them
  • Clothing the naked
  • Caring for the sick
  • Caring for those in prison

Considering the current state of affairs and Evangelicals’ continued support of the Republican Party and Donald Trump, it’s fair to ask if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven. In fact, I wonder if the largest section in Hell will be reserved for American Evangelicals. Using Jesus’ standard of judgment, there will be few Evangelicals in God’s eternal sheep pen. And it’s just not their support of Republican policy and President Trump that will land them in Hell. For decades now, Evangelicals have increasingly found themselves on the opposite side of the teachings of Christ. While Evangelicals revel in their love for zygotes, many of them show little interest in life after birth. Once born, children are left to the wolves, expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps before they even own a pair of boots. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support government-sponsored violence. Ever the flag wavers, Evangelicals continue to support the murderous actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and countless other countries. Drones rain violence and death from the sky, and Evangelicals say nothing, believing that part of making America great again is fighting them [Muslims] over there [Middle East] so we don’t have to fight them here. Evangelicals seem indifferent toward the maiming and killing of hundreds of thousands of children, women, unborn babies, and innocent bystanders. I wonder what Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would say about Evangelical support of these things? Something tells me that, much like asylum-seekers on our southern border, Evangelicals will be turned away at St. Peter’s gate. You see, it’s behavior that matters, not beliefs. Don’t tell me what you believe, show me!

Evangelicals not only support the American war machine, but they are staunch supporters of unbridled capitalism and its immoral destruction of our planet. Jesus had a lot to say about money, and something tells me that if Jesus were alive today, he and Bernie Sanders might be best friends. Greed rules virtually every aspect of American life, yet most Evangelical preachers never say a word. How can they, with their fancy churches, stained-glass windows, and multi-million-dollar church budgets? Something tells me that these modern moneychangers would find themselves at the end of Jesus’ whip as he overturned their media tables and soundboards. Think of all the good that could be done with the money Evangelicals spend on buildings, staff, and incestuous programs that do little more than entertain fat sheep — or fat goats. Evangelicals support the rich getting richer at the expense of working-class people. I wonder who Jesus would hang out with if he came back to earth today? The ruling class? The rich? The powerful? Big name preachers? I suspect, as the Joshua series of books — written by Catholic priest Joseph Girzone — so aptly showed, that Jesus would be found hanging out at the local pub and caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned — the very people Evangelicals have no time for. But Jesus, some Evangelical might say, we are having a worship service in your name tonight. Surely you will want to spend your time with us. Why, we even pray for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. And you know Lord, once a year our church has what we call Serve Day (a local church does just that). For five hours, we do good stuff for people. Don’t you want to join us, Lord, as we take five hours out of our busy masturbatory Jesus-worship schedule to give back to our community? I suspect that Jesus might inquire as to where all their money went; the money he gave them to do good works; the money he gave them to, you know, care for the weak, the poor, the disadvantaged, and marginalized.

Thanks to widespread ignorance concerning matters of science, many Evangelicals are also global climate-change deniers. Believing that the earth is six thousand twenty-six years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days, will ruin the best of minds. Besides, why worry about increasing sea levels, increasing temperatures, and wildlife habitat loss when the return of Jesus is imminent? To heck with the world, Evangelicals say, God is in charge of the weather, and if he wants increasing sea levels and increased temperatures, who are we to object?

Everything that I’ve written above will likely just piss off Evangelicals. I’m an atheist, humanist, pacifist, and a socialist, so Evangelicals will likely ignore what I have to say. I’m just a guy with an axe to grind. I hate God (just kidding — I don’t in any god), so it’s no wonder that I have it out for God’s chosen ones. However, Evangelicals might consider that perhaps I am right, and that their continued support of Republican politics, Donald Trump, capitalism, and a host of other anti-Christian behaviors might earn them a bunk in Hell. Perhaps Evangelicals need to consider Pascal’s Wager — you know, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, caring for strangers, and all the other things that Jesus said are the markers of a man or woman who follows after him, just in case Jesus really meant what he said. Yes, I am an atheist. The miracle-working Jesus of the Bible is a myth, but the human Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem and the shores of Galilee said some good things that Evangelicals might want to put into practice if they expect to be singing four-part harmony with the angels in the sweet by-and-by. And even if there is no Heaven or Hell, no afterlife, no judgment — don’t you want to be kind, thoughtful, and helpful to others? I know I do.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Why Evangelical Culture Warriors Don’t Really Believe in Freedom of Religion

the bible rock of gibraltar

Uncritically listen to Evangelical culture warriors and you will wrongly think they are strong supporters of religious freedom. They talk a good line when it comes to the First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. They may grudgingly admit that Article VI of the U.S. Constitution: no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, forbids a religious test for political office. However, they also say that the United States is a Christian Nation; that its laws are based on the Bible. Their theological and political beliefs put them in direct opposition to the Constitution. Their goal is nothing short of anarchy; the overthrow of the established political and social order. Abandoning evangelization and piety as the means of social transformation, these culture warriors have turned to politics to “save” America, and in the twice-impeached Donald Trump, they found the Lord and Savior. In 2016 and 2020, the overwhelming majority of white Evangelical voters voted for Trump. And if he runs in 2024, they will most certainly vote for him again.

On January 6, 2021, a violent mob tried to overthrow the U.S. government. Many of these treasonous “patriots” were Evangelical Christians. Their failed attempt does not mean Evangelicals have stopped trying to bring down the government and establish Jesus as King and Ruler and the Bible as the law of the land. Trump has become a useful idiot. If he is indicted and imprisoned — and he most certainly should be — other MAGA candidates such as Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz will arise as antichrists, hoping to reclaim America for the glory of God, and destroy what’s left of our democracy. Once they gain a firm grip on federal, state, and local governments, they will use their newfound power to advance their theocratic agenda. Once this happens, freedoms will be lost and people will die.

Reversing Roe v. Wade was never the end game. Next up is banning birth control and in vitro fertilization (IVF), abolishing same-sex marriage, criminalizing homosexuality, and legalizing teacher-led prayer and Bible reading in public schools. One need only to look at what’s going on in Texas with the allowing of donated “In God We Trust” posters to be hung in school classrooms to see what Evangelical culture warriors have in mind. Next it will be posters of the Ten Commandments. And then the Gideons will be let back in the doors to hand out Christian propaganda. From there, creationism will be taught in science classrooms, Biblical morality taught in health classes, and Christian rules of conduct required of all students. Currently, local schools here in rural northwest Ohio have given Lifewise Academy — an Evangelical “ministry” — unfettered access to elementary-aged students so they can indoctrinate them. Someone affiliated with Defiance City Schools said only seven students refused to attend the “voluntary” release-time classes.

Culture warriors are making noise about Critical Race Theory (CRT) being taught in schools — a bald-faced lie. They are calling for LGBTQ-friendly books to be removed from school libraries. Transgender people are also in their sights. No longer content to homeschool their children or send them to private schools, Evangelicals want to reclaim public schools for their God. How do they plan to do this? By electing like-minded candidates to school boards; by becoming missionary teachers and aides; by infecting every aspect of school life with their pernicious beliefs.

If people don’t wake up to their agenda, it will be too late. One need only look at the reversal of Roe v. Wade to see what can happen when Evangelical culture warriors get their way. Or look at what is going on in Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is requiring teachers to teach alternative American History and civics. What’s next, a real-life portrayal of the Man in the High Castle or The Handmaid’s Tale?

The next time an Evangelical culture warrior tells you that they believe in “religious freedom,” don’t believe them. Their version of “freedom” is much like their idea of “love”; one rooted in the belief that the United States is a Christian nation; that Jesus is the sovereign Lord of all things; that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God and is the moral, ethical standard for everyone; that the world would be a better place if everyone worshipped their peculiar version of God.

Evangelical culture warriors may smile at you and be the friendliest people in town, but behind their “I Love Jesus” facade lurk dangerous fascist beliefs. Atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, pagans, and other non-religious people are enemies of God. LGBTQ people are deviants, as are fornicators and adulterers. For the love of reason and freedom, read the Bible! Evangelical culture warriors really believe what it teaches. We should treat them as the threats they really are.

Unlike Evangelicals, I happen to actually believe in religious freedom. I also believe in a strict separation of church and state. People are free to worship whomsoever they want. Personally, I worship reason, skepticism, and Polly. However, when it comes to government, God and the Bible have no place. Certainly, people are free to have religious beliefs and hold political offices, but what they “believe” theologically and morally should play no part in governance. I mean none. I live in a small town of 356 people. The local council and mayor hold strong religious beliefs. I went to church with some of them back in the day. A medical marijuana dispensary enquired about establishing a business in town. The council and mayor quickly said no. Why? While no official statement was issued, I have no doubt their personal religious and moral beliefs played a big part in them saying no thanks. All that should have mattered is whether it was a legal business and how much tax revenue it would provide. Instead, the business was tentatively established down the road in a different community.

My eyes are wide open to what Evangelical culture warriors are doing. Are yours? They are hiding in plain sight, and I fear that many liberals and progressives are not paying attention or think Evangelical culture warriors are just a nuisance that will soon pass. They are not, they will not and our future depends on us identifying our enemy and fighting back.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Future of America: What I Learned at the Ohio License Bureau Troubles Me

voting

Today, we drove to the Ohio License Bureau in Defiance to renew the plates for our SUV. When we arrived, the place was crowded. We watched others come to the counter to do their business with the state as we waited our turn. During our time at the bureau, four young adults heard their number called and came to the counter to get their driver’s license or plates. Each of them was asked, “are you registered to vote?” and all said no. When asked if they would like to register to vote, these young adults said no. I saw in these young people the future of America. The oldest was twenty-nine, the youngest eighteen. Yet, they had already checked out of the political process. Why is that?

We know that young Americans are generally more liberal, more tolerant, and less religious than their parents and grandparents. They are the key to defeating Trumpism and fascism in this country. Yet, many of them have no interest in participating in the political process. Polly and I have six children. Mom and Dad have voted in every election since they were eighteen (1976 and 1975). We modeled to our children the importance of voting. Yet, two of our children have never voted. This distresses me to no end, especially when they bitch, moan, and complain when politicians do things they don’t like. Both of them tell me that they think the system is broken; that there’s no difference between the two parties; that nothing changes.

While it would be easy to rebuke these young adults for not doing their civic duty, perhaps we should spend our time listening to their reasons for not voting. Perhaps the system IS broken. Perhaps both parties ARE the same. It’s easy and convenient to look at the Republican Party — the party of fascism and Trump — and self-righteously list all the ways the Democratic Party is different from the Republicans. Different how? Both parties are in bed with corporate America. Both parties are warmongers. Both parties are out of touch with working-class people and people of color. I am not suggesting that the two parties are equivalent, but I refuse to buy the notion that the Democrats are the party of the people.

Joe Biden was elected for one reason: he wasn’t Donald Trump. He wasn’t my first choice, my second choice, nor was he my third choice. When I hear that Biden plans to run in 2024, I say, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Biden and the Democrats have bungled their way through the first two years of his term. Most galling are the unforced errors such as Biden’s indifference towards the effect of inflation, rising gasoline prices, and higher rent on working-class and poor people. Brittney Griner, a women’s professional basketball player, is being held in Russia. She was supposed to have a phone call recently with her spouse, a call that never happened. The state department fucked up this call, so it had to be rescheduled. Last week, the Biden administration threatened public schools with withholding money for school lunch programs if they didn’t comply with its interpretation of Title IX guidelines for LGBTQ students. Nice look. Submit or we will take away funding for providing free and reduced lunches. From the border problems in the south, to its mishandling of refugees, to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, to the war in Ukraine, all I see is incompetence. We liberals and progressives like to hang on to the morsels the Democratic Party throws our way, ignoring the decay, dysfunction, and rot.

Granted, there are structural issues that are strangling the life out of our Republic: the filibuster, the conservative Supreme Court, the military-industrial complex, global warming, and laissez-faire capitalism. Maybe these young adults see what we lifelong voters can’t or won’t see. We keep thinking the next vote will change things; that the next president and next congress will usher in a better tomorrow. And when that doesn’t happen, we repeat the same worn-out process over and over again. Maybe it is time for us to get off the merry-go-round.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why I Could Never Be a Republican

just say no republicans

I am politically progressive and liberal. I make no attempt to hide my democratic socialistic tendencies. I am a registered Democrat and a supporter of Bernie Sanders. I am an inconsistent pacifist. I am of the opinion that the United States has not fought a just war since the two world wars. And even with these wars, the United States, with its immoral nuclear bombings of Japan and its firebombings of Germany, has shown itself to be as violently ruthless as its enemies. The same goes for the United States’ use of napalm during the Vietnam War. (Please read Napalm: An American Biography by Robert Neer.)  Americans love to think of themselves as kind, goodhearted people who only resort to violence when backed into a corner, when in fact the United States, thanks to its colonialist, imperialistic, and nationalistic tendencies, is a nation whose history is steeped in the blood of innocents. (Please read The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America 1500-2000 by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.)

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, I was a registered Republican — the party of my tribe and religion. The reasons I am no longer a Republican are many. Let me list a few of them. These statements reflect my understanding of the Republican Party at the national level.  I realize that not all Republicans believe/support the positions that follow.

The Republican Party is and I am not:

  • Pro-life
  • Pro-Christian
  • Pro-gun
  • Pro-NRA
  • Pro-war
  • Pro-Israel
  • Pro-big business
  • Pro-Chamber of Commerce
  • Pro-dark money political contributions
  • Pro-unrestricted campaign contributions
  • Pro-charter schools
  • Pro-unregulated religious schools
  • Pro-Pledge of Allegiance
  • Pro-Christian nationalism
  • Pro-American expansionism
  • Pro-American imperialism and colonialism
  • Pro-military as the world’s policeman
  • Pro-Patriot Act(s) and other government intrusions into privacy
  • Anti-welfare
  • Anti-Environmental Protection Agency
  • Anti-Department of Education
  • Anti-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Anti-affordable college
  • Anti-separation of church and state
  • Anti-LGBTQ
  • Anti-affordable healthcare
  • Anti-single payer option health insurance
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-undocumented worker
  • Anti-Palestinian/Iranian/Afghan/Iraqi/Muslim/Russian
  • Anti-regulation
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-euthanasia
  • Anti-global warming/climate change
  • Anti-science
  • Anti-evolution
  • Anti-minimum wage
  • Anti-Black Lives Matter
  • Anti-atheism

And Best Hits of the Republican Party keep on playing.

And if these things aren’t enough, Republicans committed the biggest political crime of the modern era — electing Donald Trump president. And . . . four years later, knowing that Trump was a criminal who caused the deaths of thousands of people from COVID-19, and was unfit for office, Republicans tried to elect him again.

From 2016 to today, what have we learned about the Republican Party? With lips dripping with the blood of injustice, unfairness, and unequal protection under the law, the Republican Party has waged an all-out war against LGBTQ people, people of color, and anyone else who doesn’t fit in their narrow, defined ideological box. Whatever moderate, centrist politicians that once existed in the Republican Party no longer exist. Republicans are now the party of Trump, the fomenters of insurrection, culture warriors intent on turning the United States into a violent theocratic state.

It is for these reasons, and others, that I could NEVER, EVER be a Republican. They are the antithesis of everything I believe and stand for.

Readers should not assume from this post that I am pro-Democrat. I am not. I held my nose and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 for one simple reason: they weren’t Donald Trump. Neither Clinton nor Biden was my first, second, or third choice. (I voted for Bernie Sanders both times in the primaries.) Currently, I am considering leaving the Democratic Party, registering as an independent voter. I’m done with voting for the “lesser of two evils.” The Democratic Party is weak, feckless, and cowardly, given over to extremism instead of getting things done for the American people. Is there no whack-a-doodle position too extreme for Democrats? Evidently not. In many ways, extremists in the Democratic Party are not much different from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party. The two-party system is irreparably broken, controlled by corporate money and career politicians. The “house” needs to be razed so a just, equitable system can be built. The upcoming midterm elections will go a long way in helping me decide whether I am finally done with the Democratic Party. Here in Ohio, both at the state and local level, the Democratic Party is as dead and missing as Jimmy Hoffa.

Maybe none of this will matter. If warmongers in the Republican and Democratic Parties have their way, we could be living in a nuclear wasteland by Christmas. Thinking a war with Russia is “winnable,” and the use of tactical nuclear weapons will show the world we are still the only true superpower, our political leaders are leading us down a path that leads to heartache and devastation. Coming soon will be a push to expand funding for the military and security industrial complexes. To some degree, this already happened before the war in Ukraine. I can only imagine how much money the people who allegedly “keep us safe” and “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” will be clamoring for now that we are sending billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and NATO. Nothing like a military conflict — and make no mistake about it, we are waging war against Russia and Belarus — for the bottom line.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

If You Could Only Vote for a Conservative Atheist or a Liberal Christian, Who Would You Choose?

questions

Jack who blogs at Atheist Revolution, recently asked the following question:

If I had to vote for one of two hypothetical candidates, would I be more likely to vote for a liberal Christian or a conservative atheist?

Jack answered:

The liberal Christian would almost certainly be a better fit with my stance on most political issues than the conservative atheist. That would be a compelling reason to select them. But of course, the conservative atheist would not be a victim of the sort of superstition afflicting the liberal Christian. That would be appealing, especially considering how rare this is. So who would I choose if I had to pick one?

My answer to this question reveals something about my priorities. Were I to say that I’d pick the conservative atheist, it might mean that atheism was more important to me than most political issues. And picking the liberal Christian might mean that atheism was a lesser priority for me than these political issues. I suppose there could be other explanations for these decisions that wouldn’t necessarily support either of these interpretations.

So which candidate would I pick? I’d pick the liberal Christian. It might not be an easy decision, especially if this was someone who seemed to be actively promoting Christianity during the campaign. But I think I’d be much more likely to pick the liberal Christian because I’d be a lot more interested in how the person would govern than what they believed about gods.

I’m with Jack on this one. As a liberal/progressive/socialist/pacifist, I am always going to vote for the liberal or progressive candidate. Currently, I am a registered Democrat, having voted for Democratic candidates since 2000. From 1976 to 2000 I always voted Republican, except in 1976 when I voted for born-again Democrat Jimmy Carter.

These days, I am what I call a disaffected Democrat. It remains to be seen how I will vote in 2022 and 2024 — if I am still alive, that is. If I am dead, I will leave it to Polly to cast my vote. 🙂 I am somewhat of a reactionary voter. I voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 for one simple reason: they weren’t Donald Trump. Neither were my first, second, or third choice. I voted both times in the primary election for Bernie Sanders.

I am a dues-paying member of the Democratic Socialists of America. It is with this group my affections lie. That said, I am a pragmatist. Until we overthrow our broken, dysfunctional two-party system, there’s no chance we will elect a socialist. (And no, neither Joe Biden nor Barack Obama is a socialist. If you say they are, you are a fucking idiot who has zero understanding of socialism.)

How would you answer the question posed by Jack? Please leave your answer in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Do You Have Electile Dysfunction?

Do you have electile dysfunction (ED)? Watch the short two-minute video below to find out. 🙂

Video Link

This video was produced by RepresentUS, a group dedicated to passing “powerful state and local laws that fix our broken elections and stop political bribery. Our strategy is central to dismantling the root causes of inequities in our democracy, and ending political corruption, extremism, and gridlock.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Let’s Play Smear the Queer

smear the queer

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I attended a high school football game in which the fans on both sides of the field stood with hands over hearts as the band played our post-9/11 national anthem — God Bless America. This largely Evangelical, conservative, Republican crowd views religion and patriotism as one and the same. In their minds, the United States is a uniquely chosen and blessed nation, a people whose God is the deity found within the pages of the Bible. I doubt that any of these uber-patriotic Christians thought, as they stood to praise Jesus, that what they were doing turned faith into a political football to be tossed to and fro, according to the whims of our political elites. From their perspective, the United States has always been God’s Country®. Other religions are grudgingly permitted, and even atheists are allowed the freedom to live as they please, but no one should ever doubt that there is one true God, and J-E-S-U-S is his name.

Once the crowd was finished masturbating to the American flag and our country’s phallic “greatness,” they settled in to watch two-plus hours of rock-em-sock-em, mano-a-mano organized violence. Christianity quickly faded into the distance as each side cheered their team, calling on them to pummel their opponent into submission. Players were encouraged to hit hard, incapacitating their enemy. So much was on the line: future tales of gridiron glory and a conference championship awaited the team with the most points at the end of the game. As the game wore on, one team got the upper hand and handily beat their rival into the ground. From both sides of the field, the people who just an hour or so ago were singing praises to their God were now screaming and cursing at the officials. One offended fan even went so far as to attack one of the officials because he was fat, leading my son to say, what does the official’s weight have to do with the call he made?

After the game, as I walked to my car, a man and his son passed by me. As they did, the father asked the son what he had been doing during the game (many children “attend” football games, but don’t actually watch the event). The boy replied we were playing smear the queer. I thought, oh my God, here we are in the 21st century, and a boyhood game is STILL called, with nary a thought, smear the QUEER. The boy’s father said nothing, giving tacit approval to his son’s disparaging use of the word “queer.” I suspect the boy has never bothered to consider that using the word QUEER (or any other pejorative word for LGBTQ people) might be offensive. But the father knew better, and yet he said nothing. (and I know some LGBTQ people call themselves queers. That doesn’t mean non-LGBTQ people should use the word in a pejorative way.)

I am not surprised by the things I observed. After all, I live in rural northwest Ohio, a land primarily inhabited by heterosexual white Republican Christians; a land that gives white preference its color; a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world. While I thoroughly enjoy watching (and photographing) high school sporting events, I find the cultural trappings surrounding these contests to be disheartening. I know that most fellow locals have never ventured far from the farm fields, manufacturing facilities, and Christian churches of northwest Ohio. They are simply living out what they know, rarely, if ever, exposed to the complex, contradictory world that lies outside their borders. When those who live in a particular locality never come in contact with people different from them, and when the few who are different are dismissed and marginalized, it is no surprise that the locals think and behave the way they do. In their world, smearing a queer is just another childhood game; a game, however, that says much about place where it is played.

It goes without saying that not every local is as described above. I am deliberately painting with a broad brush. Over the past fifteen years, I have met a few liberal-minded locals who value pluralism and multiculturalism; people who know something about life beyond the flatlands and cornfields of rural northwest Ohio. Personally, I love the place I call home, even if I am not loved back. I appreciate the slowness of small-town life. I love living in a town where I never have to worry about being burglarized or murdered, and if I leave my car unlocked it will still be in the drive come morning. I don’t want readers to think that I hate where I live. I don’t. This is my home. My children and grandchildren live here, and it is for them I continue to confront local bigotry, racism, and religious extremism. I want them to have a better tomorrow.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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What Anti-Abortion Zealots Really Want

preaching anti abortion gospel lexington kentucky (5)

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In 2017, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker struck down an Alabama law that “enabled judges to put minors seeking abortions through a trial-like proceeding in which the fetus could get a lawyer and prosecutors could object to the pregnant girl’s wishes.” (CBS News)

According to CBS News:

Alabama legislators in 2014 changed the state’s process for girls who can’t or won’t get their parents’ permission for an abortion to obtain permission from a court instead. The new law empowered the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem “for the interests of the unborn child” and invited the local district attorney to call witnesses and question the girl to determine whether she’s mature enough to decide.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker sided Friday with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, writing that the law unconstitutionally and impermissibly imposes “an undue burden on a minor in Alabama who seeks an abortion through a judicial bypass,” and violates the girl’s privacy rights by enabling a prosecutor to call witnesses against her will.

Both the judge and the ACLU said they were aware of no other state with such a law.

Every state requiring parental consent for abortions involving minors must also have a “judicial bypass” procedure so that girls can get a judge’s approval in a way that is effective, confidential, and expeditious, the ACLU said.

The state had argued that the law was intended to allow a “meaningful” inquiry into the minor’s maturity and the process was still a “confidential, and expeditious option for a teenager who seeks an abortion without parental consent.”

The civil rights organization said it had the opposite effect, by enabling lawyers for the state or the fetus to subpoena the minor’s teacher, neighbor, relative or boyfriend to testify she’s too immature to choose an abortion, or that continuing the pregnancy would be in her best interest.

It is unclear how many such proceedings have happened since the law was enacted. Walker noted that a district attorney this summer opposed the abortion request of a 12-year-old girl who had been impregnated by a relative.

That Alabama legislators — most of whom worship the Evangelical Christian God — enacted such a draconian, anti-woman, anti-abortion law should surprise no one. Anti-abortionists will not rest until they have banned abortion, criminalized its practice, and granted personhood to human zygotes. In fact, most anti-abortionists object to abortion for any reason — including rape and incest. Some anti-abortionists even go so far as to oppose abortion even if the life of the mother is at stake, believing that God is the giver and taker of life, and if he wants the mother to live he will make it so.

Not only do anti-abortionists oppose abortion for any reason, an increasing number of them object to the sale and distribution of birth control, believing that God alone opens and closes the womb. These zealots, knowing that access to birth control reduces the need for abortion services, choose to let their peculiar interpretations of an ancient religious text trump what is best not only for women, but for the unwanted children they will bring into the world if they don’t have access to birth control.

Previously, I wrote that I no longer use the phrase pro-life to describe those who oppose abortion. The reason is simple. Anti-abortionists are only pro-life when it comes to the unborn. They will go to the ends of the earth to protect human zygotes and unborn fetuses, but once babies are born, anti-abortionists lose all interest in their welfare outside of throwing a few diapers and cans of formula the way of new mothers. Anti-abortionists are overwhelmingly Republican, supporting policies that harm countless people, including mothers and newborns. Anti-abortionists are overwhelmingly pro-war, pro-capital punishment, anti-euthanasia, anti-single payer/universal health care, and a host of other positions that should, in my mind, be inconsistent with people who hold a pro-life viewpoint. While I am sure that more than a few anti-abortionists are not as I describe here, the loudest voices in the movement support policies that are anti-family.

This is why it is impossible for those of us who support a woman’s right to an abortion to find common ground with anti-abortionists. Theologically driven, anti-abortionists will accept no compromise. Supporting abortion rights is, in the anti-abortionist’s mind, akin to supporting murder. I find it hard to work with people who think that, because of my views on abortion, I am a murderer. Even my support of morning-after drugs is viewed as advocating murder. In the eyes of anti-abortionists, the moment sperm and egg unite in the wombs of women, the results are human beings that should have the same constitutional and legal protections as I have. Insane! you say. Yes, but make no mistake about it, if anti-abortionists have their way, aborting a fetus will be considered premeditated murder, worthy, ironically, of the death penalty. Currently, anti-abortionists, as they continue their incremental assault on Roe v. Wade, are attempting to pass state laws that require burials for aborted or miscarried fetuses. According to the Guttmacher Institute, anti-abortionists continue to make it harder and harder for women to receive abortions. Currently:

  • Physician and Hospital Requirements: 38 states require an abortion to be performed by a licensed physician. 19 states require an abortion to be performed in a hospital after a specified point in the pregnancy, and 17 states require the involvement of a second physician after a specified point.
  • Gestational Limits: 43 states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy, with some exceptions provided. The allowable circumstances are generally when an abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health. 
  • Partial-Birth” Abortion: 21 states have laws in effect that prohibit “partial-birth” abortion. 3 of these laws apply only to post-viability abortions.
  • Public Funding: 16 states use their own funds to pay for all or most medically necessary abortions for Medicaid enrollees in the state. 33 states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of state funds except in those cases when federal funds are available: where the patient’s life is in danger or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. In defiance of federal requirements, South Dakota limits funding to cases of life endangerment only.
  • Coverage by Private Insurance: 12 states restrict coverage of abortion in private insurance plans, most often limiting coverage only to when the patient’s life would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term. Most states allow the purchase of additional abortion coverage at an additional cost.
  • Refusal: 45 states allow individual health care providers to refuse to participate in an abortion. 42 states allow institutions to refuse to perform abortions, 16 of which limit refusal to private or religious institutions.
  • State-Mandated Counseling: 18 states mandate that individuals be given counseling before an abortion that includes information on at least one of the following: the purported link between abortion and breast cancer (5 states), the ability of a fetus to feel pain (13 states) or long-term mental health consequences for the patient (8 states).
  • Waiting Periods: 25 states require a person seeking an abortion to wait a specified period of time, usually 24 hours, between when they receive counseling and the procedure is performed. Twelve of these states have laws that effectively require the patient make two separate trips to the clinic to obtain the procedure.
  • Parental Involvement: 37 states require some type of parental involvement in a minor’s decision to have an abortion.  Twenty-seven states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, while 10 require that one or both parents be notified.

Here in Ohio, most abortions are banned after twenty weeks. As of January 2021, Ohio law requires:

  • A patient must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure is provided. Counseling must be provided in person and must take place before the waiting period begins, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility.
  • Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment, or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Abortion is covered in insurance policies for public employees only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • Medication abortion must be provided using the FDA protocol.
  • The parent of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided.
  • Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest.
  • Most patients will undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion, since the provider must test for a fetal heartbeat. The patient will be offered the option to view the image.
  • An abortion may be performed at 20 or more weeks postfertilization (22 weeks after the last menstrual period) only in cases of life endangerment or severely compromised health. This law is based on the assertion, which is inconsistent with scientific evidence and has been rejected by the medical community, that a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy.
  • The state requires abortion clinics to meet unnecessary and burdensome standards related to their physical plant, equipment and staffing.

Since 2011, Ohio Republican governors John Kasich and Mike DeWine have signed into law scores of anti-abortion laws, resulting in the closure of most of Ohio’s abortion clinics. Nine remain. Showing that they will not be satisfied until ALL abortion is outlawed, Ohio anti-abortionists are attempting to pass a fetal heartbeat bill that, if enacted, will effectively ban all abortions in Ohio. 

Adopting a scorched earth policy where no quarter will be given, anti-abortionists despise anyone who dares to deviate from their extremist views. Those of us who support a woman’s right to choose have no hope of finding ways to meaningfully work with anti-abortionists to reduce the number of abortions. So, we go it alone, advocating for easy, free access to birth control and comprehensive sex education in public schools. Realizing that there will always be unwanted/accidental pregnancies — for whatever reason — we believe that access to morning-after drugs is essential.

Dark is the hour for those of us who support a woman’s right to choose, but we must not give in or lose hope. We must continue to fight, pushing back at every turn, until the gains made by anti-abortionists are overturned — either through legislatures or the judicial system.

Recently, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the U.S. Supreme Court [announced it] will hear a case to decide whether states can ban at least some abortions before fetal viability—directly challenging its decision in Roe v. Wade. The announcement to hear the case on a 15-week Mississippi abortion ban comes as abortion rights are already under unrelenting assault around the country, with states on pace to enact a record number of abortion restrictions this year.

Other posts on abortion

Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions

25 Questions for Those who say Abortion is Murder

Abortion: One Issue Voters

Preaching the Anti-Abortion Gospel

Is Abortion Murder? (A Rationalist’s Take)

Bruce, Do You Believe Satan is Real?

Yes and no. Let me explain.

Satan, as a God-created entity who walks on the face of the earth seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), is a religious construct, a Bible character that billions of people believe exists. Evangelicals, in particular, believe in the existence of a literal Devil, along with demons. When asked for evidence for these claims, Evangelicals will often say that Satan and the hosts of Hell move and work in a spiritual dimension we cannot see. Think Frank Peretti’s novels: This Present Darkness and This Piercing Darkness. In this spiritual dimension, Satan and his demons wage war against God’s angels. Supposedly, this warfare affects Christians and unbelievers alike on planet earth.

Evangelicals point to the “evil” in the world: abortion, same-sex marriage, LGBT people, drunkenness, premarital sex, adultery, pornography, illegal drugs, socialism, humanism, atheism, Democrats, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden as proof of Satan’s existence. However, doesn’t this imply that God and the mighty hosts of Heaven are losing this battle big time? If God is omni-this and omni-that, shouldn’t he be able, with one flick of a finger, to defeat Jesus’ brother (according to Mormonism)? The existence of evil, however it is defined, seems, to me, anyway, to say that there is no God.

Now let me answer why I say, yes, Satan is real. Not the Bible Satan. Not the Satan in the minds of billions of Christians. Not the Satan that is promoted by hellfire-and-brimstone preachers on Sundays. Not of the Satan of popular fiction. The Satan –actually Satans — I am speaking of are flesh and blood human beings who do indeed walk on the face of the earth seeking whom they may devour. While most humans are decent people — even if we disagree with one another on all sorts of issues — there are people amongst us who are evil in thought, word, and deed. I don’t think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that Donald Trump is one such person. That Evangelicals were so easily sucked into Trump’s evil leads me to conclude that he is a false prophet, an antichrist. Trump, for political gain, ignored the COVID-19 crisis, allowing millions of people to become infected, and hundreds of thousands of people die. Trump, for political gain, separated immigrant families, putting their children in cages, and ultimately losing track of the ties between more than 500 children and their parents, such that authorities are unable to reunite the families. Trump is by all accounts a psychopath, a man with no empathy for anyone.

We see similar behavior among dictators, war lords, politicians, and even religious leaders. We cannot ignore the obvious: evil people exist, committing atrocious, vile acts against humans and our planet. Evil doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Evil requires human volition. It seems obvious to me that Donald Trump should never, ever be anywhere near the seat of power or the nuclear codes, yet millions and millions of people, including most of the Republicans in Congress, think Trump is a great man — the best president ever. Most voting white Evangelicals voted for Trump in the recent election, slightly less than the 81% of white Evangelicals who voted for him in 2016. Many of these Jesus-loving voters committed acts of sedition and insurrection on January 6, 2021. Who fomented this rebellion? Donald Jesus Trump.

This isn’t a matter of political differences of opinion. Trump and his fellow racists, bigots, and white supremacists want to destroy our Republic. Instead of using the political process to gain their objective as Democrats did, these people plan to use violence, murder, and destruction to achieve their goals. Congresspeople such as Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Jim Jordan, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, to name a few, are intent on overthrowing the U.S. government and establishing a Christian theocracy. Are such people evil? It’s hard not to conclude that they are. While some Republican congresspeople are just political opportunists — looking at you, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, Kevin McCarthy — there is an evil element within the party.

I have no fear of the Satan of the Bible. I fear this Satan as much as I do Voldemort — not at all. I do, however, fear the Satans who are working to destroy our nation. I fear what they will do if they ever truly gain the power of the state. When religion and state become one, freedoms are lost and people die. Some writers, myself included, have been warning anyone who will listen about the dangers of Evangelical theocratic tendencies and sympathies for years. For the most part, our words were ignored. Things are different now (just take a look at the plethora of mainstream news articles about Christian nationalism, as if journalists just stumbled upon this issue). The baby birthed by the Moral Majority over 40 years ago is now grown. Angry, armed to the teeth, and with minds filled with conspiracy theories, these white followers of Jesus are intent on burning America to the ground, building in its ashes a Christian America. Difficult days lie ahead, and we must be willing to call out evil people in our midst. While electing Joe Biden was certainly a welcome course correction, we haven’t won the battle, let alone the war. We must be cognizant of the Satans in our midst, and do everything in our power to send them back to Hell where they belong. And for God’s sake, someone lock the door.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser