Tag Archive: Salvation

Songs of Sacrilege: Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine

opus of a machine

This is the one hundred eighty-seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine.

Video Link

Lyrics

I’ve waited for gods to take me and save me in time,
But now I know this picture we hold of the holy was all in our minds.
Why should we worship those divine, the ones on the other side?
They’ll be just as fragile and helpless as us when we drown.

Misguided dreams and wasted prayers to the sky,
Hoping to ascend to the heavens and drink from the fountain inside.
As we pay this bitter price, we gain what we were denied.
There’ll be strength in our hearts as we march from this holy divide.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Still waiting to feel the warmth,
Sleeping in you and me.
Reach in and hold it, this golden light is calling.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

And we’ll uncover what we hold inside, becoming what we once called divine,
And walk down this road on our own to feet and know what it is to be alive.

It’s scary I know, letting it all go,
It’s easier to stay in a dream than fade to dust and bones.

We will be our very own halo,
A saviour is born,
Inside of you and me, it’s inside us all,

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Go,
Stand tall,
Don’t look back.
Be strong,
Be like stone.

Songs of Sacrilege: Who Will Save Your Soul? by Jewel

jewel

This is the one hundred eighty-sixth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Who Will Save Your Soul? by Jewel.

Video Link

Lyrics

People living their lives for you on T.V.
They say they’re better than you and you agree
He says “Hold my calls from behind those cold brick walls”
Says “Come here boys, there ain’t nothing for free”
Another doctor’s bill, a lawyer’s bill
Another cute cheap thrill
You know you love him if you put in your will but

Who will save your soul when it comes to the flowers now
Huh huh who will save your soul after all the lies that you told, boy
And who will save your souls if you won’t save your own?

We try to hustle them, try to bustle them, try to cuss them
The cops want someone to bust down on Orleans Avenue
Another day, another dollar, another war, another tower
Went up where the homeless had their homes
So we pray to as many different Gods as there are flowers
We call religion our friend
We’re so worried about saving our souls
Afraid that God will take his toll
That we forget to begin but

Who will save your soul when it comes to the flowers now
Huh huh who will save your souls after all the lies that you told, boy
And who will save your souls if you won’t save your own?

Some are walking, some are talking, some are stalking and kill
You got social security, but it doesn’t pay your bills
There are addictions to feed and there are mouths to pay
So we bargain with the devil, so evil, careful do they say
That you love them take your money and run
Say it’s been swell, sweetheart, but it was just one of those things
Those flings, those strings you’ve got to cut
So get out on the streets, girls, and bust your butts

Who will save your soul when it comes to the flowers now
Huh huh who will save your soul after all the lies that you told, boy
And who will save your soul if you won’t save your own?

Quote of the Day: Is Religion a Force for Good? by Christopher Hitchens

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects, in a cruel experiment, whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well. I’ll repeat that: created sick, and then ordered to be well. And over us, to supervise this, is installed a celestial dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea. Greedy, exigent—exigent, I would say more than exigent—greedy for uncritical praise from dawn until dusk and swift to punish the original sins with which it so tenderly gifted us in the very first place. However, let no one say there’s no cure: salvation is offered, redemption, indeed, is promised, at the low price of the surrender of your critical faculties. Religion, it might be said—it must be said, would have to admit, makes extraordinary claims but though I would maintain that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, rather daringly provides not even ordinary evidence for its extraordinary supernatural claims. Therefore, we might begin by asking, and I’m asking my opponent as well as you when you consider your voting, is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our skepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal? To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all the while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but of their parents and those they love. Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world, and can you name me a religion that has not done that? To insist that we are created and not evolved in the face of all the evidence. Religion forces nice people to do unkind things and also makes intelligent people say stupid things. Handed a small baby for the first time, is it your first reaction to think, “Beautiful, almost perfect, now please hand me the sharp stone for its genitalia that I may do the work of the Lord”?

— Christopher Hitchens, Munk Debate versus Tony Blair, November 26, 2010

The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer

Guest post by ObstacleChick

The number one goal of Evangelical Christian churches is to save souls from eternal damnation in hell. Therefore, the general plan of salvation is taught to children from a very young age. Terms like “getting saved,” “making a profession of faith,” “getting your heart/life right with Jesus” are bandied about quite a bit, all with the intention of making sure children and teens publicly announce that they have accepted Jesus into their lives as their personal Lord and Savior. Children are taught that we are all sinners; that as sinners our punishment in the afterlife is eternity in hell — a place of torment and fire and demons; that God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus to earth to die on a cross in our place — for our sins — and that he rose from the dead; that all we need to do to be saved from an eternity in hell is to pray to God/Jesus, confessing and repenting of our sins, and asking Jesus into our hearts. The “Sinner’s Prayer” is the typical vehicle to salvation, and there are many versions. Here are a few basic ones listed below:

Bill Graham Version

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior.

In Your Name. Amen.

CRU Version — Formerly Campus Crusade for Christ

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

The Sinner’s Prayer for Children

Dear God,  I know that I am a sinner. I know that you sent Jesus to be my Savior, and that He died on the cross to take the punishment for my sins.  I know that Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back someday. Please forgive me of all of my sins, and come into my life and change me. Please guide me in my life and help me to follow you for the rest of my life. Thank you for saving me and taking me to heaven when I die.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ministry-to-Children Sinner’s Prayer

Jesus – I know that you made me and want me to obey you with all my heart. I know I have disobeyed and wanted to be my own boss. I have thought and done things against your directions. I am sorry. I know that you gave up his life to save me from these sins and make me your child again. I accept your promises and ask you to please save me now and forever.

Amen.

Children’s Version from SBC Voices

Dear God, I know I’m a sinner. I know my sin deserves to be punished. I believe Christ died for me and rose from the grave. I trust Jesus alone as my Savior. Thank you for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

Among Southern Baptists, that’s all you need to do – once you’re saved, you’re always saved. You aren’t always in good standing with the Man Upstairs, but you’ll be safe from eternal hellfire and damnation.

chick tract 3

At some point, typically in childhood, people raised in Evangelical churches will pray the “Sinner’s Prayer.”  What follow is my list of Top 5 Reasons People Pray the Sinner’s Prayer.

Fear of Hell

Who wants to spend eternity being tortured by fiery flames in a place where the “worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44)? Eternity is a long time, longer than most of our human brains can comprehend.

chick tract 4

Pressure From Parents

Good Evangelical parents know that their number-one duty is to make sure their children are saved from eternal damnation in hell. Good parents CANNOT rest easy until they know that their child is safe from eternity in hell and that one day they will be reunited in the afterlife in heaven. My grandparents and my mom pestered me to death until I finally picked a day that I would go forward at the altar call and get it over and done with. (Note about myself: hell scared the hell out of me. But I do not like being told what to do, I like doing things in my own time and on my own terms, and if you pester me I will definitely not do whatever it is you pester me about. Also, at that age I did not like being the center of attention, and going forward to the altar in front of the entire church and having the whole congregation shake my hand was one of the least appealing things I could imagine doing.)

All Your Friends are Doing It/Emotional Appeal

If children have not made a public profession of faith in early childhood, they certainly will in adolescence or teenage years if their families consistently attend an Evangelical church. It isn’t uncommon for groups of adolescents or teens to make their profession of faith together at the end of a church retreat. Church retreats are designed to be fun but are also very emotionally oriented, as the youth pastor will talk about getting right with Jesus, living your life for Jesus, making sure you are following God’s will for your life early on so you don’t get into trouble and make a ton of mistakes in life. Youth pastors harp on the evils and dangers of rock music, alcohol, taking drugs, dancing, hanging with the “wrong crowd,” and having premarital sex.

Youth retreats would end each evening with an emotional altar call with many teenagers on their knees crying with the youth pastor and adult counselors chaperoning the retreat. It was common after a youth retreat for a long baptismal service to capture in baptism all those young, new converts for Jesus. The more teens who were baptized, the more successful the retreat.

Fear That You Didn’t Do it Right Before

I must have said the sinner’s prayer a dozen times during my teenage years, though I didn’t go to the altar again. The sinner’s prayer is so simple that sometimes I was afraid I didn’t do it right prior, or that it didn’t take, so just to be sure I would do it again just to reassure myself that I wouldn’t spend eternity in hell.

chick tract

A Desire to Fit In

In the church where I grew up, only members – that is, those who had been baptized in that particular church or who had moved their letter from an approved church – could participate in communion and in voting. I didn’t care about voting, but I sure cared about being able to take communion while all my peers were taking communion – the last thing a teen wants is to have to pass the communion plate while his or her friends are able to partake in the grape juice and wafers (or broken Saltine crackers if the congregation couldn’t afford the wafer tablets).

Does anyone notice how often feelings and emotions are manipulated with the salvation message? Fear is the biggest motivator – fear of hell primarily, fear of being separated from loved ones after death, fear of dying in the next three seconds and never getting a second chance. Without the fear of hell, I probably would have just gone down for an altar call, gotten baptized, and then I would have fit into the congregation. I don’t think I would have actually prayed a sinner’s prayer and meant it. Sure, I wanted to be a good person, but the fear of hell led me to pray the sinner’s prayer in private over and over and over again. I knew I had to go down to the altar call once, because the Bible said that we must do so publicly in order to be saved. And why would I – what would have been the reward for praying such a prayer without fear of eternal damnation in hell?

What was your experience with “getting saved” and praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”? Did you have any other reasons for praying the “Sinner’s Prayer”? Please let us know with a comment!

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Evangelical Pastor Michael Orten Defends Allowing Rapist to Work at His Church

blood of jesus

Thomas Hopper was convicted in the 1990s of raping and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old girl while holding a razor knife to her throat. He spent ten years in prison for his crimes.  Hopper was also convicted of criminal confinement, battery, and trespassing in the early 2000s. He was also arrested for stalking a high school student. Today, Hopper, a convicted sex offender, is a volunteer worker at Truth Apostolic Church in Madisonville, Kentucky. According to news reports, Hopper leads the church’s care ministry, and is responsible for its nursing home and bus ministry.

When asked about Hopper working at Truth Apostolic, Michael Orten, the church’s pastor, replied:

… this is a situation, if that girl chooses…it takes two to tango, okay?  So if that girl chooses to sleep with him, she’s just as guilty as he is.

Orten later stated:

He was mad and angry, both of them were on drugs. Yeah, that’s still his past. It ain’t like we don’t know nothing about this. Like I said, the media and people are ignorant when they want to turn around and dramatize or hurt somebody.

Orten said that Hopper’s past has been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. The past is in the past, and since Hopper is now a new creation in Christ Jesus:

So what you’re saying is, is the church is no good for forgiveness? Jesus Christ can’t save you? So if you steal a piece of candy from a store because you were young and stupid. And make stupid mistakes. You’re still a thief even though now you’re 40-years-old?

When asked by a reporter, Well, I think stealing candy is a little bit different than rape, Orten replied:

No, it’s not. No, it’s not. No, it’s not. It’s still sin. And if you get caught, there are consequences and you will pay.

Dear Pastor Orten, Yes, it is. Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

The church’s website currently returns a 404-page not found error message.

Taking the Gospel to the Ends of the Earth

mark 16 15

Many Evangelicals believe that Jesus will not return to earth until the gospel is taken to the ends of the earth. This belief is based on several Bible verses, particularly what is commonly called Jesus’ Olivet discourse:

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. (Matthew 24:3-14)

In Matthew 28:19, 20, Jesus tells his disciples — the eleven:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

As Jesus was getting ready to depart this earthly realm and return to Heaven, he gave his disciples one final command. His disciples asked him, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Jesus replied, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. And then he said:

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

These verses, as with all Bible verses, can be interpreted many different ways. Some Christian sects believe that these prophetic verses were fulfilled during the lifetime of the apostles. According to their peculiar interpretation, these verses have nothing to do with today. It sure would be nice if Christians treated the entire Bible this way; that it has nothing to do with today. Unfortunately, millions of Evangelicals believe these verses have EVERYTHING to do with today.

Most Evangelicals believe that Jesus will one day return to earth’s atmosphere and rapture every Christian. This catching-up of believers is said to be imminent; meaning that there is nothing prophetically preventing Jesus from returning this very moment. The date and time of Christ’s return is written in God’s Google Calendar, but no one else knows when that will be. God is the best surprise party planner ever; keeping the rapture’s date and time secret until the moment when Gabriel licks his lips, blows his trumpet, and God #1 says to God #2, go on to earth, boy, and get your children. And then, faster than a speeding bullet, the one and only King of Kings and Lord of Lords will, as 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says: descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God. At that moment:

The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thessalonians 4:16,17)

Other Evangelicals believe that two things keep Jesus from returning to earth.

First, the Antichrist must be revealed, and second, the gospel must be preached to the ends of the earth. I want to focus the remainder of this post on the necessity of the gospel being preached to everyone before Jesus can return to earth.

I came of age in an era when the fervor of Evangelicals was heightened by the belief that Jesus would return in their lifetime. I heard countless sermons about the rapture, the great tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ on earth, and the great white throne judgment. Preachers would speak of ‘Jesus tarrying’ so more souls could be saved. Such sermons were meant to stir the passion of listeners for lost souls.

jack van impe coming war with russia

Much has happened over the past forty or fifty years. Jesus, of course, did not return to earth as predicted by men such as Jack Van Impe and Hal Lindsey, and Evangelicals, thanks to Jerry Falwell,  discovered and fell in love with political power. Today, instead of winning souls and ushering in the return of Jesus, Evangelicals busy themselves with winning elections, passing right-wing Republican legislation, and doing their part to usher in, not the return of Jesus, but the reign of the antichrist, Donald J. Trump.

One Evangelical collective, however, believes God wants them to win two billion souls before Jesus comes again. Birthed in 2002, the Billion Soul movement is nearing the one billion hamburgers served, uh, I mean souls saved mark — 855,552,199, to be exact. The goal is to see two billion people converted to Christianity. And make no mistake about it, the Billion Soul movement is a mass conversion movement; the conversion of Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, and other non-Evangelicals to Evangelical Christianity.

The man behind the Billion Soul movement is James O. Davis, the founder of Cutting Edge International and the co-founder of the Global Church Network. In 2010, Davis was named in “Top Ten Christian Influencers In The World.”  So, Davis must be a somebody, but I have never heard of him. For readers who are as clueless as I am about Davis, here’s his brag stats:

His [James O.Davis] leadership includes:

  • A biannual Synergize! Pastors Conference, regional Synergize! Leadership Summits, plus the deployment of the Global Church Leadership
  • Summits in all major world regions. During international summits in 2007-2011, leaders committed to plant more than 5.5 million new churches.
  • An annual North American Conference On Biblical Preaching.
  • More than 50,000 pastors have attended these conferences and summits.
  • Before launching the Global Church Network, Dr. Davis served twelve years as the National Evangelists Representative for the National Assemblies of God world headquarters where he provided leadership for some 1,500 evangelists and equipped thousands of students for full-time evangelism.
  • Ministering more than 45 weeks per year to an average yearly audience of more than 125,000 people. In the last nearly 30 years, Dr. Davis has ministered face-to-face to more than 7,000,000 people in more than 121 nations.
  • Annual travel exceeding 250,000 miles with a combined total of nearly 8,000,000 miles.

The engine that drives the Billion Soul movement is the 500,000 churches that have said YES to being a Billion Soul church. What exactly is a Billion Soul church, you ask?  The movement’s website says a Billion Soul church:

  • Is a Synergizing Church that networks and partners with others to complete the Great Commission.
  • Is a Soul-Saving Church with a focus of doubling in size within ten to fifteen years.
  • Is a Seeking Church that prays for the Great Commission to be fulfilled.
  • Is a Sending Church that trains ministers to send into the harvest field and plants churches.
  • Is a Sowing Church that invests resources and finances in the Billion Soul Movement.

Of course, most of this soul-saving is going on outside of the United States, Europe, and Australia. Western countries have been thoroughly picked over by evangelizing vultures, so it is on Africa and Asia to find new suckers to fleece and “save.” And therein lies one the biggest problems I have with Evangelicalism — the pathological need to evangelize non-Evangelical cultures. Non-Christian countries are considered inferior. Their cultures and religions are worthless when compared to Christianity. Instead of respecting the beliefs and practices of other cultures, evangelizing Evangelicals hope to replace these beliefs and practices with Western Christianity.  Evangelicals see non-Christian cultures as blind and deaf to truth; the truth being that the only road to Heaven is paved with the blood of Jesus, and the only way to escape hellfire and damnation is to disavow false gods and, by faith, accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Imagine, for a moment, Hindu missionaries fanning out across the United States intent on delivering Christians from their ignorant ways. Imagine these zealots trashing your culture, beliefs, and practices, saying that the way to life, peace, and eternal rewards is the Indian way. Would American Christians be offended? How dare these people look down on us and denigrate the Red, White, and Blue, millions of Billy Bobs and Suzie Jeans would say. Leave us alone! We have a right to worship our God in peace, without being bothered and harassed by Hindu missionaries. Exactly. Why, then, do Evangelicals believe they are exempt from such common courtesies?

Evangelicals, of course, believe God has commissioned them (see aforementioned verses) to bug, harass, irritate, annoy, agitate, and torment non-believers. Invited or not, zealous Evangelicals shove Salvation Shit Sandwiches® in our faces, thinking that they are doing us a favor by “sharing” with us the “truth.” We should be very glad that most Evangelicals aren’t zealots. Most of them, in fact, are passive church attendees who are content to let the world go to hell. Now, take away their padded seats, air conditioning, and soft toilet paper in church bathrooms, then you’ll see people on fire for Jesus. Let their “felt” needs go unmet, and they will be lining up a voting block to oust the pastor. I live within thirty minutes of more than one hundred churches, yet in the eleven years I have lived in Ney, Ohio, not one Christian has ever knocked on my door and attempted to evangelize me or invite me to church. The Jehovah’s Witnesses stop every year or two, but no one else. If winning souls for Jesus is what it is all about, why do most Evangelicals NEVER, EVER share their faith? If this life is really all about preparation for the life to come, why does it seem that most Christians are in no hurry to leave planet earth? For all their talk of about salvation, death, and the life to come, Evangelicals seem to be quite content with the here and now. They speak of being ready to go; they just don’t want to be on the next train. If life after death is all that Evangelicals say it is, why do they do all they can to keep from dying. If heaven is “a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace,” why not let cancer have its way and give up on life? From my seat in the atheist pew, all I see are Christians who are very much in love with life and who are in no hurry to become worm food.

The next time you stumble into an Evangelical church for anything other than a funeral or wedding, pay attention to what everyone is talking about before and after the service. I guarantee you will hear very little chatter about winning a billion souls to Christ. Instead, those who worship the name above every name, Jesus, will be happily talking about family, grandchildren, sports, their latest vacation, and what they plan to eat for lunch. In other words, life.  And that’s a good thing. As long as Evangelicals are busy talking about Ohio State, deer season, high school football, crocheting, cat videos, and the Blizzard of ’78, they are not focused on attempting to make you and me numbers 855,552,200 and 855,552,201 on the saved list. THAT, is good news, indeed.

For your entertainment:

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About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Jesus Won the Super Bowl

sorry super bowl fans

As tens of millions of Americans did on Sunday, I watched the Philadelphia Eagles defeats the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Patriots were expected to win, so kudos to the Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson, and quarterback Nick Foles for doing their part to provide TV viewers with one of the best Super Bowls in history. Thanks should also go to Patriot head coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and his defense for allowing a back-up quarterback to thoroughly and completely rout the Patriot defense. Outside of missing a pass that would have led to an easy touchdown, Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady did all he could to win the game, setting several NFL Super Bowl offensive records in the process.

After the game, news reporters turned their attention to Eagles players, asking them how they beat the Belichick-Brady dynasty. Here’s some of what they said:

My faith in the Lord means everything. I’m a believer in Jesus Christ and that’s first and foremost. That’s everything. I wouldn’t be able to do this game without Him because I don’t have the strength to go out and do this. This is supernatural.

It’s also an opportunity to go out there and share what’s He’s done in my life. And it’s not about prospering at all. It’s about how He’s humbled me. In my weaknesses, He made me strong, 2 Corinthians 12:9. You know, whenever I was at my lowest, that’s where my relationship with Christ grew.

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles

I can only give the praise to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity. And I’m going to tell you something. I’ve got the best players in the world, and it’s a resilient group. I love this coaching staff. Mr. Lurie, the owner. And not only do we have the best fans in the world, we now have the best team in the world. Thank you guys.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson

Uh, I had better score. I mean, glory to God first and foremost. We wouldn’t be here without him. This team is amazing. I mean, each and every day we go out there, we love to practice, and I think that’s the foundation of this team. And wow, what a run it’s been.

Eagles receiver Zach Ertz

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Evidently, JESUS, and not the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl.

As I did research for the post, I stumbled across several articles detailing recent conversions of Eagles’ players to Evangelical Christianity. Both Nick Foles and fellow quarterback Carson Wentz view themselves as evangelists for Jesus. One report stated that at least five players have received Christian baptism in the team’s recovery pool and several more have been baptized in hotel pools.

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WND.com reports (no link due to possible virus threat):

In March, tight end Zach Ertz committed his life to Christ.

“I was baptized in March, got married the next day. Our marriage has been built on that foundation from the Word and Jesus and it’s changed my life. And just to have these guys hold me accountable on a daily basis has been phenomenal,” Ertz told CBN News.

A few months later, wide receiver Marcus Johnson was baptized in a North Carolina swimming pool ahead of a game against the Carolina Panthers.

Five teammates — linebackers Jordan Hicks, Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill, and wide receivers Paul Turner and David Watford — were baptized in the Philadelphia Eagles’ recovery pool late last year, according to reports.

The above mentioned article quotes Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich as saying:

I think it [Evangelical Christianity] helps you be a better teammate. Our primary calling in life as a Christian is to bring out the best in other people. That’s the primary message of Christianity. We’ve been created to glorify God. How do we do that? He gives us gifts and abilities, and we’re supposed to bring those out in other people.

The article also mentions that Evangelical Carson Wentz created a promotional video for a faith-based group that uses the Super Bowl as means to evangelize non-Christians. Wentz stated:

If you are a pastor anywhere in the world who’s looking to impact the people in your community, please consider inviting me and other NFL players into your church this Super Bowl weekend. I promise it will be something God uses to transform the people you are called to serve. And I believe for all eternity.

So there ya have it, JESUS won the Super Bowl. According to numerous Eagles players, it was Jesus who gave them the strength and ability to defeat the mighty Patriots. The Bible says, in ALL THINGS give thanks. And this is all these players are doing. They are just thanking Jesus for taking time out from healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, tending to victims of child sexual abuse, and ending war to influence the outcome of the Super Bowl. What an awesome God, right?

The New England Patriots also have a number of Evangelical players. However, none of them thanked God after the game for causing them to lose the game. If God picked the Eagles to win, that means he also picked a loser — the New England Patriots. If Evangelicals are to give God thanks for ALL THINGS, why do we never hear football players thanking God for their teams going down in defeat? Surely, Jesus is worthy of praise, regardless of the score? Or does the silence from the Patriots locker room reveal the truth about how Evangelicals view life; that all good things come from God and all bad things come from Satan or are the result of sin/personal failure; that Jesus is all about winners, not losers.

And when the Eagles fail to replicate their magical 2017 season? Will Jesus get the blame, or will the blame rightly rest on being outcoached, outplayed, or not having talented enough players to win the day? Evangelical sports figures make a mockery of their faith and their God when they attribute their wins to God. With all that is going on in the world today — a sure sign that the Evangelical God is on vacation or in the bathroom — surely God can’t be bothered with the outcomes of sporting events. Yet, players assure us that he is, reminding millions of Americans of the fact that when it comes to things that matter, God is nowhere to be found.

According to the Catholic chaplain for the Minnesota Vikings, God indeed cares about and watches the Super Bowl, but he is careful not to pick a winner:

There’s a lot of praying going on during these games. If the Super Bowl is important to 115 million people, it’s important to God…If you pray for victory, your team, you pray for loss of another. But God is the God of both sides.

Way to hedge your bets, Father — a typical Catholic response to the “hard” questions of life. Evangelicals will have none of that. God is the sovereign Lord over all, including who wins the Super Bowl. And on February 4, 2018, God determined that Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles would win the Super Bowl, and the New England Patriots would lose the game. Forget all the post-game analysis. God’s will for the game was an Eagles win and a Patriots loss. No need to critique player performance, coaching decisions, or the officiating. For at least one night, the thrice Holy God who created the universe in six days was an Eagles fan. Stay tuned for which team God will choose to win next year.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Clinging to Hope

jesus knocking on the doorA guest post by ObstacleChick

Humans can have great capacity for hope. The noun definition of hope is “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen; a feeling of trust.” The verb definition is to “want something to happen or be the case.” It is normal for people to desire better outcomes if things are not going well in their lives. Often people will go to extreme measures “hoping” for something good to happen. They may donate money to a religion or charity hoping that their deity will look kindly upon them and act in their favor (a modern-day version of offering a sacrifice). Some people with diseases may resort to alternative medicine, some of which may help and some of which may not help and perhaps may cause harm. People living in poverty can fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes, or they may squander money on lottery tickets hoping to hit the jackpot.

My mother was an extremely intelligent woman, born right before women started fighting for equal rights. My mom thought she had to become a homemaker, even though she was not really suited for that. As she was a National Merit Semi-Finalist in high school and 3rd in her high school graduating class, her guidance counselor suggested she should go to college. Being the passive, obedient girl that she was, she applied to a local university and attended for 5 semesters before dropping out to get married. Her marriage lasted a year, and she found herself with no degree and no real marketable skills. She could type well, was intelligent, and had good grammar, so she became a secretary. My mom then married an abusive man who did not want children, had a child (me), and was divorced not long after. With a dependent and no child support (as my father disappeared), my mom and I moved into her parents’ house. My mom was severely depressed but knew she needed to work to support us, so she went back to being a secretary. When I was 11 years old, she married my stepfather, who was also divorced. A year later, they had a child, and the rest of their lives they struggled financially.

After my mother’s second divorce, she started attending church at her parents’ Southern Baptist church. I suppose she was searching for several things – for friends, for comfort after a difficult divorce, for direction in where her life should go next, for meaning, for hope. My mom was at the time the only unattached divorced person attending our church regularly, and it was only when she married again several years later and brought her new husband to church that she was embraced more fully in the church community. Divorced women are often looked at as a threat by married religious women, as if the “depraved” divorced woman is so desperate for male attention that she is going to prey on all the good and decent Christian husbands.

My grandparents were firmly entrenched in the church – my grandfather as a deacon (at one point, chairman of the deacons) and my grandmother as a Sunday school teacher and Women’s Missionary Union teacher. My mom tried teaching children’s Sunday School one year, but she wasn’t really suited for that task. After she remarried, she brought my nominally Lutheran-raised stepfather to church.  After he was baptized (because apparently Lutheran baptism isn’t good enough), it didn’t take long for the church leadership to recruit him as an usher (because as a divorced man he could not serve as a deacon). My stepdad was a mild, quiet, and sweet man who was well-liked.

My mom and stepdad moved to a different community in the early 1990s and away from the Southern Baptist church they had attended. My grandfather had passed away, and my grandmother was no longer attending that church after she got “fired” from teaching Sunday school (that’s a story for another day). So they shopped around for another church. After trying out a couple of different churches, they finally settled on a small Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church. When I visited them for the holidays and attended their church, I asked my mom, “What are you doing attending an Independent Baptist church with all its legalism?” She said they liked the people, and I couldn’t really argue with her. Most of the people in the church were uneducated farmers, nice folks who loved Jesus and took to heart what the preacher said. It made me sad to see my mom and stepdad fall further down the hole into bigoted teachings, but there was nothing I could do. They had found the hope and community they craved. After a few arguments about homosexuals, in which my mom and I were on opposite sides of the fence, we decided not to discuss much in the way of religion anymore. I also tried to avoid political conversations as she believed that God only approved of Republican pro-life candidates and that while Democrats may be “saved,” they were for sure misguided. My husband and I attended a progressive Christian church for a while before giving up religion altogether and becoming agnostic atheists. Living over 1,000 miles from me, my mom wasn’t sure if we were participating in religion or not, but I think she suspected that we weren’t.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and went through radiation and surgery. She was cancer-free until 2009 when she was diagnosed with a recurrence just weeks before her own mother passed away from Alzheimer’s. After Grandma passed, my mom had a mastectomy, lymphadenectomy and chemotherapy treatment. My mom suffered from lymphadema in her left arm as a result of the lymphadenectomy, and she wasn’t consistent with her physical therapy — it was a nuisance and she didn’t want to be bothered. A couple of years later the cancer came back at her scar site, so doctors ramped up her chemotherapy. She got sicker and sicker with more and more side effects from the chemotherapy. But to her credit, she did continue to participate in the hobbies of jewelry-making and crocheting until just a few months before she died. She also sank deeper and deeper into religion, focusing on eschatology and study of what I can only describe as “Holy Land” Christianity. She became obsessed with what was going on in the Middle East, particularly surrounding Israel, and she watched a lot of Bible prophecy preachers. Like many other Christians, she was convinced that we were living in the “last days” before the coming of Christ. I guess that gave her some hope that she might be raptured away before succumbing to cancer.

My mom and I used to email a lot, which worked well for us because I could skip over the religious topics and respond to the actual events that were happening in her life. This particular entry below annoyed me though — it was written in January and she passed away in mid-November:

January 27, 2014: An odd thing happened today.  I was watching a Perry Stone program this afternoon.  He is a Bible scholar, writes books, has a TV program, and a large ministry in Cleveland, TN.  One or both of his parents were part Cherokee.  His father was a minister.  I have been watching Perry on and off and reading his books and watching videos by him for many years.  I just happened to cut his program on TV while he was teaching.  He broke into his program and said he had a message for someone.  He said this is something he rarely ever does (I’ve never seen him do that before).  He said there was a grandparent with cancer who wanted to live long enough to have some time to spend with their grandchildren and their daughter was pregnant.  He said that the health of that grandparent would get better and they would live longer.  I think he said the cancer would be healed, but I’m not sure about that.  Well, for several years I have prayed that I would keep living for awhile because I wanted to have time to be a good grandparent to my grandchildren.  I’ve been too sick to do much for them lately.  I wonder if, and hope that, he was talking about me.  One never knows.  God works in unusual ways sometimes.  I’ve been thinking lately about all 4 of my grandchildren.  I hope that each of them will be saved before I pass away. _______ [my brother]  was about 7, _______ [me] was 9, I think, and I [my mother]  was around 11 when each of us made some decision about Jesus.  We may not have much time left to make this decision.  Many people, both Christians and Jews, believe our time is short and the Messiah will come soon.  If one has done any studying about this and has been paying attention to world events, it is easy to come to that conclusion.

(For the record, I was 12 when I “made a profession of faith” and was baptized. My family had been pestering me and pestering me to “get right with God,” and I’m a personality who does not respond well to being told what to do, so I dug in my heels and wouldn’t do it. I also didn’t see why it had to be a public matter – shouldn’t it be between you and God/Jesus/Holy Spirit? But finally I couldn’t take the pestering anymore so I chose a date and went down front during the altar call to get it over and done. It was a relief to be left alone about the subject.)

First, I see that she was still clinging to hope that maybe, just maybe, God would cure her of cancer or at least let her live longer. Second, she was clinging to hope that all of her grandchildren would be “saved,” ostensibly so she could see them again in heaven. And third, she was hopeful that the Messiah would come soon (perhaps sparing her from suffering from cancer any longer but still with the positive outcome that she and all her “saved” family would meet in heaven).

As for whether we were all saved, it depends on which brand of Christian you ask. I was raised Southern Baptist and my husband was raised nominally Catholic, meaning that he was baptized as a baby and went through first communion, but nothing else. So per Catholic standards, both he and I would be “saved” because he was baptized in Catholic Church and I was baptized in a Baptist church which is on the approved list of Catholic-approved Protestant baptisms. By most Southern Baptist and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist standards, I was “saved” because of the “once saved always saved” rule but my husband was not. By no one’s standards are my children “saved” because they have never been baptized and do not believe in deities of any sort. My children are thankful not to have spent hours in religious education as many of their friends have, and they see religion as a waste of time. As my 15-year-old son says, when his friends ask about his religious proclivities, “we aren’t doing religion right now.”

My brother, his wife, and his 9- and 10-year-old sons fit into the “saved” category, having all made their “profession of faith” and being baptized (though my brother baptized his boys in the bathtub because he hasn’t found a church that he agrees with yet). I’m not sure if bathtub baptism by a layperson counts . . . but he’s comfortable with it, and as he is very into the angry Old Testament god, the grace of Jesus, first century Christianity (whatever he thinks that is), and eschatology, I guess he has done his research. He doesn’t know that we are atheists, and I’m afraid that knowledge would irreparably damage our relationship.

So how did I answer my mother’s query about our salvation? I merely answered that we were fine and that she shouldn’t worry about it. Really, all she wanted was the hope that she would see her grandchildren again in heaven one day.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Bible Scares the Gay Right Out of a Woman

my beliefs are right

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

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is an Anchored North video detailing a woman’s conversion from lesbianism. While the young woman in the video desperately wants to believe that the Evangelical God, by his oh-so-awesome grace, has delivered her from the “sin” of homosexuality, when in fact all that has happened is that she has allowed a few Bible verses to corrupt her thinking and scare her straight.

Video Link

The Bible Says No One Does Good — No Not One

no one is good

I recently posted an excerpt from an article written by Michelle Lesley detailing her view of the human condition. According to Lesley, humans — Christian and unbeliever alike — are:

You’re a dirty, stinking, rotten, rebellious sinner. You yell at your kids. You don’t submit to your husband. You act out of selfishness. You lie. You gossip. You covet. You bow down to your idols instead of to Christ. You sin against a holy and righteous God in a thousand ways every day in thought, word, and deed. Just like I do. Let’s put on our big girl panties and just admit it. (1 John 1:8,10)

Commenters rightly objected to Lesley’s trashing of human self-esteem and her debasement of human goodness. The question I want to answer today is whether Lesley’s theological beliefs have a Biblical basis. Liberal and Progressive Christians are angered and offended by Lesley’s words — and rightly so. That said, Liberals and Progressives have developed unique and, at times, intellectually incomprehensible ways to hold on to what the Bible says about the love, kindness, and mercy of God while, at the same time, pretending all the verses that support Lesley’s beliefs either don’t exist or mean something other than Evangelicals say they mean.

Both sides of the theological divide make things up as they go, shaping God and Jesus into a deity in their own image. No two Christians worship the same God. Personal beliefs and experiences shape and mold God into a being acceptable to each Christian. This is especially true in Evangelicalism where the priesthood of the believer — every Christian has direct access to God — turns each Christian into his own final authority. As a pastor, I had countless Christians take issue with something I said during one of my sermons. Sometimes, people would get so angry with me over what they believed was heresy that they would leave the church. More than a few congregants told me after confronting me and hearing my response, “well, pastor, we are just going to have to agree to disagree.” And so it goes, with every Evangelical thinking he or she is infallibly right. Armed with an inerrant, infallible Bible, written and given to them by a supernatural, infallible God, Evangelicals, with great certitude, believe they are absolutely R-I-G-H-T. When challenged to “prove” their contentions, they say, the Bible says _________________.

Lesley, if required, can easily find Biblical justification for her abhorrent, anti-human beliefs. The Bible can be used to prove almost anything. Asking ten Christians a theological question will elicit twelve opinions. The Bible says that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, yet, as any unbiased observer of Christianity can attest, modern Christianity has MANY Lords, MANY faiths, and MANY baptisms. The Bible says that Jesus’ followers will be known by their unity and love for each other. Yet, Christianity is rife with internecine warfare, bitter debates, and sectarian division.

Lesley believes, as do most Evangelicals, that Jesus, the virgin-born, sinless son of God, died on the cross for human sin. Jesus took upon himself our sin and suffered indignation, torture, and death that should have been ours. As our substitute, Jesus suffered the wrath of God that we deserved. His blood atonement on the cross appeased God, the father, and satisfied our sin debt. Through the death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead three days later, humans can find redemption/salvation/deliverance. The only way anyone makes it to Heaven after death is by and through Jesus Christ. (I speak broadly here, knowing that there is broad diversity within Christianity concerning Christ’s atonement. Arminians will view matters differently from Calvinists and Pelagians.)

Why do humans need salvation? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross? One word: SIN. According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. Evangelicals believe the Bible is God’s standard of objective morality. The definition of “sin” is determined not by human opinion, but by the Bible. God said__________, end of story. Evangelicals trace the human sin nature all the way back to Adam and Eve and the book of Genesis. Adam and Eve were created by God without sin, yet thanks to a talking, upright-walking snake (Satan) tempting them, Adam and Eve sinned against God and were cast out of the Garden of Eden. From that moment forward — five to six thousand years ago — all humans are born sinners.

It is from this understanding of the Bible that Lesley wrote what she did about her fellow humans. The Bible says that babies come forth from the womb speaking lies, that none of us has the capacity to do good, no not one. We are sheep who have gone astray. We, by nature, hate God and are at variance with him. These things, according to Lesley, can be said of atheist and Christian alike. The only difference is that the Christian has prostrated himself before God, confessed his sins, and asked Jesus to save and forgive him. Because the Christian has done so, Jesus stands between the sinner and God — who still hates sin and those who do it. When God looks at the saved sinner, all he sees is Jesus. Praise the Lord, right?

When the Michelle Lesleys of the world denigrate people, emphatically saying that humans are vile, awful people, they do so because that is how the Bible describes the human race. This provides yet another reminder that the Bible is an anti-human text best suited for the dustbin of human history. Perhaps it is time for Christians to band together and write a new Bible, one that better reflects our 21st century understanding of the world. Doing so would be an admission that the Bible is a human, not divine book, but everyone except Evangelicals and other conservative Christians already know this. The Bible, in its present form, represents the thinking of Bronze-age and first-century people. Despite what Evangelicals say, the Bible is not an unchangeable, timeless book. The Bible is not an inexhaustible text that gives readers something new every time they read it. Imagine how much better our world would be if a new Bible was written, especially if the text was based on modern sensibilities and knowledge.

Bruce, the Bible says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. How dare you suggest a new Bible be written! What’s next, a new Jesus? Well, now that you mention it…No need. Christians have been manufacturing new Jesuses for two thousand years. Lesley and her Evangelical friends think their version of Jesus is identical to First-Century Jesus/Bible Jesus, but an honest reading of the Bible reveals that whatever Christianity is today, it has very little, if anything, to do with an itinerant Jewish carpenter who walked the land of Palestine 2,000 years ago. That Jesus was swallowed up by the Apostle Paul’s Jesus, never to be seen again.

Lesley’s view of humanity has real world implications. Such thinking destroys self-esteem, often leading to psychological trauma. Countless former Evangelicals are in therapy due to the teachings mentioned in this post. This is why such beliefs must be exposed and repudiated. For people who still believe in God, there are better expressions of faith than that which is peddled by Lesley and her fellow Evangelicals. You don’t need to spend one more moment in a church where your sense of self-worth is pummeled with a Bible club, with the goal being the destruction of who you really are.

Did you grow up in a family/church that believed as Lesley does? How did these beliefs affect you psychologically? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.