Tag Archive: Sin

If Atheism Leads to Hedonism, So Does Calvinism

hedonism

Evangelicals-turned-atheists are often accused of deconverting because of a secret desire to sin, to live wickedly. I have had countless Evangelical apologists accuse me of hiding the real reason I left Christianity: some sort of “secret” sin. Supposedly, atheists are hedonists — pagan pleasure seekers. While it is certainly true that my sin list got a lot smaller post-Jesus, I suspect my life measures up quite well against the lives of Christians who ignorantly believe that atheists are morally inferior to followers of Jesus. Sure, atheism freed me from guilt over many of the behaviors I at one time considered “sin.” I no longer feign holy outrage when I see naked women or gay romance on TV.  I no longer have to beat myself up when I’m less of a man than I could be. I am quite self-aware, and usually don’t have a problem recognizing when I have been an ass or caused harm to someone else. When I understand that I have failed in some way, I don’t pray, seeking a mythical God’s forgiveness. Instead, I do what I can to apologize and, if necessary, make restitution. I then do my best to not repeat said behavior. As all humans do, I fail every day. That said, knowing what I know about Christians, I am confident that my way of life and morals compare favorably to that of saved, sanctified, bought-by-the blood, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Evangelicals. And I can say the same about most of the atheists I know. We are not hedonists, nor do we lurk in the shadows waiting for opportunities to rape, murder, molest children, or root for the New York Yankees. Quite frankly, most atheists — myself included — live uninteresting lives. I may joke about being a stripper named Santa, but my real life is quite banal.

If atheism leads to hedonism, then Christianity — especially Calvinism — does too.  Recently, I published a guest post titled The Cruel Message of Calvinism. Jean left the following comment:

I have often wondered–if you actually believe in predestination, what is keeping you from unbridled hedonism, if that appeals to you? After all, if you’re saved, you’re saved; and if you’re damned, there’s nothing you can do about it, anyway. Nothing you can do will help anyone else, in the long run, either. Why live a life of rugged virtue, if it isn’t going to gain you anything at all?

The doctrine of predestination (and election) teaches that God, before the world began, chose who would and wouldn’t be saved. The only people who will be saved are those chosen, drawn, and called by God.  Even Arminians, to some degree or the other, believe human salvation is predetermined by God. It is God alone who saves. In other words, the salvation game is rigged. Since salvation can never rest on human merit and good works, it is up to the Christian God, through the merit and work of Jesus, the son of God, on Calvary’s cross, to save sinners from their sins. Further, God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is the sovereign of the universe, and everything that happens is according to his purpose, plan, and decrees. Nothing happens unless God wills it or allows it to happen.

hedonism 2

As you can see, both Christianity and atheism can lead to hedonism. Evangelicals will argue that the Holy Spirit lives inside of them, and is their teacher and guide. Supposedly, having God living inside of you inoculates you from “sin.”  However, as causal observation of Evangelicals and stories such as those found in the Black Collar Crime Series tell us, the Holy Spirit is really bad at his job. Go read comments by Jim on the post Church of Christ Preacher Al Shannon Says Women Who Dress Immodestly Risk Rape by Lustful Men. (Also see Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Al Shannon Says Modern Women Wear the Attire of Harlots) Jim says he is a Bible-believing Christian. Ask yourself, does his behavior reflect the belief that God, the Holy Spirit is his teacher and guide? Supposedly, the Holy Spirit gives believers the words to say when witnessing. If that’s true, based on Jim’s comments, the Holy Spirit is an arrogant bully and troll. (And if Jimbo dares to object to my characterization of his boorish behavior, I can quote a dozen Bible verses that condemn his behavior.)

The only difference between atheists and Christians is that Christians wallow in helplessness before their imaginary deity, seeking his/her forgiveness. Atheists cut out the middleman — God — and seek the forgiveness of those they have hurt, promising to do better the next time.

Are you an atheist? Do you desire to live a hedonistic life? How is your life different post-Jesus? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: OMG! I Had Sex With My Girlfriend

i would rather be fornicating

John Piper was asked:

“Hello, Pastor John. I’m a listener in the Middle East. I slept with my girlfriend two days ago and now we are both hurt and feeling dirty, cheap, and ashamed. We cannot even look at ourselves. We are both born-again believers in Christ, but we were lured into temptation.”

“Is there any hope that we might become pure again and be healed from our sin? I know the blood of Jesus covers every sin, but how can we get our relationship’s purity back again? Or is that permanently gone? What do we do now?”

Here’s Piper’s response:

I think this young man from the Middle East is beginning in the right place. He is, it seems, appropriately shattered, meaning he understands something has been irrevocably lost. He and his girlfriend will never be able to go behind this sexual encounter and undo it. They have lost something very precious.

I begin this way, even though it may sound hard, because I feel a tender and jealous concern for those who are listening who have not lost their virginity. It is a very precious thing for men and women. The world views it as weakness — silly, in fact.

God views it as a very great strength and beauty beyond compare. I am just as eager to help listeners maintain their sexual purity and virginity before they lose it as I am to help those who have lost it recover the purity that Christ makes possible. That is why I am beginning the way I am beginning.

I think this young man is beginning in the right place. He is broken. He knows that a beautiful thing has been lost, and he knows that the blood of Jesus covers every sin. This is a good place to begin.

Those who take their sins lightly and treat the blood of Jesus as a kind of quick fix have never seen the true costliness of what Jesus did to purchase their purity. So, let me simply make a few observations that might prove redemptive and hope-giving to our friend from the Middle East and his girlfriend.

….

Marriage has its special rewards for faithfulness, and singleness — chaste, holy singleness — has its special rewards for faithfulness. Married people can glorify God in some ways that single people can’t, and single people can glorify God in some ways that married people can’t. This is not a matter of inferiority or superiority. Singleness and chastity are a very high calling in God’s mind. That is the first thing.

— John Piper, Desiring God, I Slept with My Girlfriend — Now What?, August 18, 2019

Do Atheists Really Love to Wallow in Sin?

atheists-wallow-in-sin

I just love it when Evangelicals tell the world what it is atheists believe and how they live their lives. One such Evangelical is SpaniardVIII, a man obsessed with dissembling about atheism. He has been publicly challenged and corrected over and over again, but as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, SpaniardVIII will be right back at it, slandering atheists and misrepresenting atheism. Evidently, his Bible does not contain the verse that says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.”

Today, Spaniard VII asserted:

Look, their [atheists] so-called no evidence for God cry is so outlandish that in reality, they don’t reject God for no evidence [for there is an abundance of it], but their rejection of God is based solely on emotions. They cannot comprehend how God can bring judgment on any nation.

The reason an atheist cannot understand what righteous judgment is, because they reject what sin stands for. For them, sin is a way of life which they love to wallow in like a swine to mud. The world which comprises of people like atheists [haters of God] and those who want nothing to do with Jesus or the real Jesus have a deep hatred for God’s punishment on sin because that is why they live for. The heart of the world is pure darkness and devoid of anything good that pleases God.

….

John 3:19-21 [Emphasis Added]

19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light [Jesus who is the truth] has come into the world, and people [like the atheists] loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things [through the lust of the flesh] hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed [to hide their true intentions]. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth [those who believe in Jesus Christ and hold on to God’s Word] comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”

SpaniardVIII thinks that when atheists ask for evidence of the existence of the Protestant Christian God of the Bible, what we are really doing is trying to cover up our deep-seated desires to “sin.” No matter how often Evangelicals-turned-atheists tell their stories and attempt to explain why they no longer believe in the existence of God, Evangelicals such as SpaniardVIII will dismiss their testimonies and explanations out of hand. There has to be some OTHER reason for our loss of faith, they wonder. What could it be? Sin! (Please see the posts on the WHY? page)

I can’t even begin to number the times one Evangelical apologist or another has told me that the reason I left the ministry and later left Christianity was due to some sort of dark, secret sin in my life; that if the truth was told about me, everyone would see that I never was a Christian. And so the deconstructions go . . .

SpaniardVIII is right when it comes to how atheists view the notion of “sin.” Sin is a religious construct, and as such, atheists reject it out of hand. For Evangelicals, sin — supposedly — is transgression of the law of God (I John 3:4). I say supposedly because no two Christians agree on what exactly constitutes the law of God. The Ten Commandments? The Nine Commandments? The 613 Laws in the Old Testament? The New Testament? The Old and New Testaments? Or, perhaps the antinomians are right, and none of the Law of God is applicable in this present day of grace.

Take any behavior called “sin” — a sin such as homosexuality — and you will find diverse Evangelical opinions on the matter. Evangelicals are increasingly divided on homosexuality, with many Christians embracing inclusivism and equal protection under the law, while others believing the Bible clearly teaches that homosexuality is a heinous sin against God and humanity, one worthy of severe punishment. Some Evangelicals even think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up, incarcerated and, in some cases, executed!  Both sides of this debate appeal to God and the Bible as justification for their position. Who is right? If Evangelicals can’t agree amongst themselves over what is and isn’t sin, why should the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world listen to them?

Of course, SpaniardVIII is a special, short-bus kind of Christian. He’s a Bible-believer®, a literalist who knows exactly which human behaviors are sins and which are not. Want to know if something is a sin? Just ask him. And in doing so, SpaniardVIII, in effect, becomes God. He confuses his peculiar interpretation of a fallible, errant, contradictory ancient religious text with the voice of God. SpaniardVIII believes God talks to him, thus affirming that his interpretations of the Bible are “truth.” In any other setting, hearing voices lands you in a psych ward, but because the voice is supposedly the one true and living God, it’s considered perfectly “normal” not only hear God’s voice, but to have conversations with him.

Thus, atheists look at the Evangelical notion of “sin” and objective morality and laugh. Not only do Evangelicals not have an exclusive standard of morality, but their lives betray the fact that they do not practice what they preach; that they are works in progress; that they are not perfect. Never mind the fact that the Bible Evangelicals say they believe says that Christians are to be perfect even as their Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Never mind the fact that the same Bible says that Christians have the same mind as Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). Never mind the fact 1 John 3:8 says: He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. Do Christians sin? Yes, in thought, word, and deed. Do Christian men look at women with lust in their hearts; even SpaniardVIII? Yes! Then, they are, as the Bible says, adulterers (Matthew 5:28). And, drumroll, please, the Bible says that people who commit adultery and other sins will NOT inherit the Kingdom of God. Take Galatians 5:19-21:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Sure sounds like a lot of Christians I have encountered over the years. Much like SpaniardVIII, they rail against the “sins” of others, condemning them to hellfire and brimstone, all the while hiding their own sins behind the “precious” blood of Jesus. Countless Evangelicals have committed horrible crimes (See Black Collar Crime series), yet all they need to do to find complete, unconditional forgiveness is follow 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Just confess and forget, baby!

I am sure you have seen the glaring contradictions between the aforementioned Bible verses. Which is it? Is forgiveness from sin and a new lease on life just a prayer away? Or are Christians who sin of the devil, and will not inherit the Kingdom of God? You see, when you appeal to the Bible as an infallible standard of right behavior, contradictions abound. SpaniardVIII, then, is forced to play Bible Gymnastics©, hoping to escape drowning in the Sea of Contradiction®.

It is for these reasons and others that atheists reject the notion of “sin.” Now, this doesn’t mean that atheists don’t have moral and ethical standards — they do. SpaniardVIII’s Bible literalism and entrenched Fundamentalism keeps him from thinking critically and objectively about morality. Instead, morality is reduced to “The Bible (or my interpretation thereof) says ________.” Atheists and other non-believer are forced, on the other hand, to think and reason about human behavior. What is “good” and “bad” behavior? How do we determine which behaviors are which? This usually leads to thinking about the objective and subjective nature of morality and human behavior. For example: is sex between consenting unmarried adults wrong? SpaniardVIII would say, absolutely, the Bible says ________. Atheists, however, would need more information before saying whether this behavior is wrong. Atheists, with their rejection of religion-based moral standards, are forced to critically think about human behavior. It’s not that atheists — most of them anyway — are hedonistic libertines. We just have standards of human behavior that differ from that of moralizers such as SpaniardVIII.

Now, SpaniardVIII asserts — again, without evidence — that atheists reject Bible-based morality because they want to wallow in sin. Is this true? Are atheists really the “sinners” SpaniardVIII portrays them to be? Sure, some of them are, but then the same thing can be said about Evangelicals too. As with any group, human behavior varies within the group. Some atheists are awful people, but I can tell you this after a decade of interacting with the godless: most of them are thoughtful, loving, caring people. Sure, they can, at times, do bad things, but the general arc of their lives is towards the humanist ideal. Unlike Evangelicals, atheists don’t have a Get Out of Sin Jail Free card. All atheists can do is admit their bad behavior and do what they can to make restitution. We don’t need a middle man — God — to get between us and people our behavior has harmed. Our goal is to be better people today than we were yesterday.

SpaniardVIII’s atheists-love-to-sin straw man is rooted in his need to project moral superiority. The fact remains that atheists generally want to be good and decent people. I know this is hard for Evangelical zealots to rationalize, but most atheists just want to live and let live. We want to work, enjoy life, love our spouses, children, and grandchildren, make a difference in the world, and watch some football on TV, if we are so inclined. Our rewards come in this life, not the life to come.

I suspect that most atheists’ lives compare quite favorably to those of Christians. Outside of my language being a bit — okay, a lot — more colorful and my TV viewing habits having changed, my life is not much different from when I was a pastor. The difference, of course, is that my “sin” list is much smaller — 3×5 card — and  I no longer negatively judge others who behave differently from me. I am a heterosexual man. I don’t “understand” same-sex attraction. However, I don’t need to. You see, whom people love, marry, or fuck is none of my business. I don’t have to “understand” someone’s life in order to respect and understand them. Take SpaniardVIII. If he was content to quietly and privately live his life according to his interpretation of the Bible, I would have no objection. Each to his own, I say. As long as someone is not harming others — and therein is the rub with Evangelicalism — or forcing them to live by their moral standard, I am fine with how he or she wants to live. However, this is not how SpaniardVIII lives his life. Oh no, he demands that his religion and moral standard be lived by everyone. He genuinely believes that his thoughts and words are “solely based on scripture and not on anyone’s opinion or theology but only on what scripture clearly reveals with the help of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, he feels justified in demanding everyone bow in fealty to his God.

It is at this point that atheists push back. We demand evidence for SpaniardVIII’s claims, yet none is forthcoming. Instead, he offers up Bible prooftexts and personal opinions and interpretations. Atheists don’t reject his moralizing because they want to wallow in sin. Far be from it — though wallowing can be a lot of fun. We reject the messenger and his message. We see through the man and his beliefs. SpaniardVIII wrongly thinks that atheists say to themselves, ” We will not have this God rule over us,” when in fact, what we are saying is this: “We will NOT have SpaniardVIII and his contradictory, anti-human interpretations of a Bronze Age religious text rules over us.” We are free, and we intend to stay that way! Having left the bondage and paucity of Egypt and finding intellectual and personal freedom in the Land of Canaan, we have no intention of returning to the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt. It’s not that atheists want to “sin.” They have just found a better way to live — living that doesn’t require obedience to a mythical deity and an irrelevant religious text. And THAT’S what pisses off the SpaniardVIIIs of the world. They look over the proverbial fence and see atheists living the good life and they can’t help but yearn to join us. But they can’t. As long as they believe in the Evangelical God, lives of repressive self-denial are expected lest they find themselves under the chastisement of God. The issue here, then, is not atheists wallowing in “sin” — it’s envy; Evangelicals secretly wishing they could “sin” too. To that I say, come join us! I promise you that atheists really aren’t child molesters who eat fetuses offered up in worship to Satan. We are everyday people who love life, knowing that this is the only one we will ever have.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Songs of Sacrilege: Sin Wagon by the Dixie Chicks

dixie chicks

This is the two hundredth and fifth 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 Sin Wagon by the Dixie Chicks.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
He pushed me ’round
Now I’m drawin’ the line
He lived his life
Now I’m gonna go live mine
I’m sick of wastin’ my time
Well now I’ve been good for way too long
Found my red dress and I’m gonna throw it on
‘Bout to get too far gone

[Chorus]
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Need a little bit more of my twelve ounce nutrition
One more helpin’ of what I’ve been havin’
I’m takin’ my turn on the sin wagon

[Verse 2]
On a mission to make something happen
Feel like Delilah lookin’ for Samson
Do a little mattress dancin’
That’s right I said mattress dancin’

[Chorus]
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Need a little bit more
Of what I’ve been missin’
I don’t know where I’ll be crashin’
But I’m arrivin’ on a sin wagon

[Bridge]
When it’s my turn to march up to old glory
I’m gonna have one hell of a story
That’s if he forgives me
Oh, lord please forgive me

[Chorus]
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Need a little bit more of that sweet salvation
They may take me
With my feet draggin’
But I’ll fly away on a sin wagon
I’ll fly away on a sin wagon

Romans 3: What the Bible Says About the “Human Condition”

Evangelicals believe that all humans are born sinners, at variance with God, and headed for Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. Evangelicals get their view of humanity straight from the Bible — a collection of books they believe is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. In their minds, the Bible is different from all other books. Divine in nature, perfect, and true, the Bible reveals to us God, the “human condition,” and what all of us must do to have right standing with God and avoid eternal damnation in Hell. According to Evangelicals, atheists and other non-believers deliberately reject the truths of the Bible because they desire to live sin-filled lives. Never mind the fact that Evangelicals also live sin-filled lives. You see, they have an out — Jesus. No matter what terrible things they do, forgiveness and restoration are but a prayer away:

If we [Evangelicals] confess our sins, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

No bad behavior (sin) is beyond God’s forgiveness. King David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband murdered so he could have her for his own, yet he is called a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) We need only turn to the modern-day fall-from-grace/forgiveness stories of men such as Ted HaggardJimmy Swaggart, and Jim Bakker to see how the process works. Those of us who were once Evangelicals have first-hand experience with the sin/forgiveness, wash/rinse/repeat process by which we procured continued right-standing with God. Daily and twice on Sundays, we confessed our sins to God and asked for his complete, total, buried-in-the-deepest-sea forgiveness:

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

And each and every time, God — or so we believed anyway — granted us forgiveness. Catholics had the confessional, and we Evangelicals had the altars, prayer meetings, and devotional times. In fact, forgiveness was so readily available that all we had to do is send up a quickie prayer to Jesus. We could be at work, driving our cars, or cleaning up after masturbating to porn; it mattered not. All God required was for us to say “my bad, Jesus, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” And just like that our sin slates were wiped clean. Awesome, right?

Evangelicals believe they are hopeless and helpless apart from God’s grace. While Evangelicals often present themselves as superior to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, and other non-believers, when confronted with their own “sinfulness” they reply, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace!”  According to their doctrine, the only thing that keeps Evangelicals from spending eternity in the Lake of Fire with Hitler, Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, Barack Obama, and Bruce Gerencser is the moment in time they repented of their sins and asked Jesus to save them. Evangelicals see themselves as sinners who just so happened to have pushed the right button on the Eternal Hell Fire Insurance Policy®.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 3 reminded Christians and unbelievers alike of their true nature. Here’s how Paul describes the “human condition”:

  • None of us is righteous (vs. 10)
  • None of us understands (vs. 11)
  • None of us seeks after God (vs. 11)
  • None of us does good (vs.12)
  • All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory (vs. 23)

Paul goes on to describe the “human condition” this way:

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Paul in Romans 3 and other places reminds Christians that the only difference between them and non-Christians is faith (Ephesians 2:8,9 and Hebrews 11); faith in Jesus as propitiation for sin (Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2); faith in the Jesus who died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5); faith in the Jesus who promised to forgive us of every sin — past, present, and future.

Is it any wonder Evangelicals live such schizophrenic lives? On one hand, God commands them to live morally, ethically, and righteously, and even commands them to be as perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Yet, on the other hand, they are repeatedly reminded by Paul and other Biblical authors that it is impossible for them to keep, follow, and practice that which God commands. Thinking this way leads to all sorts of emotional stress. Evangelicals may be “sinners saved by grace,” but their behavior suggests that their lives are long on sin and short on grace. One need only read the Black Collar Crime series to see how such thinking affects Evangelicals. So-called men of God — deacons, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders — praise the wonders of God’s grace on Sundays, all while they are fucking their secretaries, sexually abusing boys and girls, seducing church teenagers, and otherwise engaging in behaviors that most people consider wrong. “Oh Bruce,” Evangelical apologists say, “these stories are the exception to the rule!” Really? You might want to read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare? before defending God’s spokesmen. You might also want to talk to pastors who are willing to be honest about their own “sinful” behaviors and that of their congregations — that which has been confessed to them in secret.

“Fine, Bruce,” Evangelicals say. “Are atheists any better?” To that question I reply, yes and no. Atheists don’t believe in “sin.”  Most atheists reject Evangelical moralizing about “sin” and instead focus on good and bad behavior. While atheists certainly have smaller “sin” lists, they do believe that certain behaviors can be categorized as good or bad, along with many behaviors being neither good or bad. Most atheists are humanists, and their humanism gives them a moral, ethical, and practical foundation for living one’s life. Atheists recognize that some of their brethren are despicable human beings, every bit as bad as the men of God detailed in the Black Collar Crime series. They also recognize that humans are capable of doing good without the help of imaginary deities.

If atheists reject the Christian view of the “human condition” and forgiveness, how then do they deal with bad behavior? I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can share how I and other atheists I personally know handle acts of bad behavior. When we act inappropriately or cause harm to others, we confess it, ask forgiveness of whomever we harmed, and if necessary, make restitution. We recognize that none of us is perfect, and we can, at times, say and do things that hurt others. We own our behavior and vow to act better going forward. If our bad behavior has caused material or social harm, we make amends. One of the reasons I write about the things I do is because I believe I have a moral and ethical responsibility to own past bad behaviors; that the harm I caused to congregants must be atoned for; that the harm I caused to my wife and children must be made right. Simply put, wrongs must be made right. I can’t undo the past, but I can own past bad behaviors, and vow to be a better man, husband, and father. I will, most certainly, fail in this endeavor, but each day of my life I will try to be a better person than I was the day before. No magical wiping the slate clean, no religious incantations to a mythical God, just an honest, heartfelt commitment to being good. Is that not all that any of us can do?

To Evangelicals I say, leave your harmful religion behind. Humanism provides a far better way to live one’s life. And it’s a lot less stressful and a hell of a lot more fun.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Songs of Sacrilege: Nothing’s Right by Birdtalker

birdtalker

This is the two hundredth 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 Nothing’s Right by Birdtalker.

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Lyrics

Verse 1]
Tell me again what makes a good man
Is he free of blood on his hands?
Does he only say what anyone can?
Is he clean lines and Puritan?

[Chorus]
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right

[Verse 2]
Tell me again how you can talk to God
And how he tells you what to do
And how you’re sure it’s not your own damn voice
Disguised as something absolute

[Chorus]
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right

[Bridge]
The bonds of friendship and brotherly love
The silver linings of holy dove
Sometimes it all just takes try and done

[Chorus]
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right

Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right
Sometimes I feel like nothing’s right

Steven Anderson’s “New” IFB Movement Erupts Into a Food Fight Over Donnie Romero

steven anderson

I recently wrote a post detailing the resignation of Donnie Romero from Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Romero’s wife had called Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona to come to Fort Worth and help deal with her husband and his sinful behavior. According to Anderson, his wife accused him of cavorting with prostitutes, smoking weed, and gambling. Romero admitted his sins and duly resigned from the church, telling them that he and his wife planned to stay on as members.

Anderson and Romero are part of a group they call the “New” IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist). Founded and controlled by Anderson, the ‘New” IFB church movement believes that the “old” IFB church movement has moved away from its core beliefs and practices. While this is true is some instances, there is very little difference between the churches of these groups. Both groups are cultic; both are Evangelical in doctrine; both are conservative politically; both practice personal separation (from the world) and many of the churches practice secondary separation (refusing to fellowship with churches/pastors who have connections with compromising churches/pastors/colleges); both are evangelistic; both believe the Bible is inerrant (and many use only the King James Bible); both believe they alone are True Christians®. One thing is for certain, Steven Anderson is the de facto pope of the “New” IFB church movement.

Anderson quickly made his way to Stedfast Baptist and just as quickly appointed a new pastor by the name of Jonathan Shelley. Shelley currently pastors Pure Words Baptist Church in Houston, Texas — a “New” IFB church. Shelly’s bio page states:

Pure Words Baptist Church is an independent fundamental King James only baptist church pastored by Jonathan Shelley. Jonathan married his wife, ****, in 2009 and they have three children, ****, ****, and ****.

Jonathan was raised in a Christian home and saved at age five and baptized at age 14. He grew up in large non-denominational churches and had a zeal of God but not according to knowledge. Before his first son was born, Jonathan began to diligently study the Bible and realized he needed to make some changes. He soon became King James only and eventually started to attend an independent fundamental baptist (KJV Only) church in his area. Jonathan was rebaptized in 2015 at Arden Road Baptist Church. In 2016, Jonathan moved to Faithful Word Baptist Church to train to be a pastor. During this transition Jonathan has been blessed to have had the opportunity to preach over 150 sermons, lead soulwinning marathons, go on mission trips to Jamaica and Mexico, and memorize dozens of chapters of the Bible.

Jonathan’s vision is to reach the entire Houston area with the gospel, train soulwinners, develop and send out evangelists and pastors, and reach foreign countries with the gospel.

Anderson will argue that Shelley was appointed by the church, not him, but it’s clear that Anderson wanted his man to be pastor, and he persuaded the men of the church to ordain Shelley and make him their pastor. I say the men of the church, because the women of the church had no say in the matter. Anderson held a three-hour meeting with the men of Stedfast Baptist, a meeting women and children were not permitted to attend.

The choice of Shelly as pastor has caused a bit of controversy among “New” IFB churches. Unbeknownest to me until yesterday was the fact that Donnie Romero was also the pastor of a mission church in Jacksonville, Florida called Stedfast Baptist Church of Jacksonville, and of Stedfast Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. According to Anderson, most of Romero’s “sinful” behavior took place in while he was visiting the church in Jacksonville. Anderson also alleges that money is missing from one or more of the churches.

adam fannin

Adam Fannin

Into this junior-high lunch room food fight comes a man by the name of Adam Fannin. Fannin leads the congregation in Jacksonville, and according to Anderson is best buddies with Donnie Romero. Anderson subtly implies in one video that Fannin may have involved himself in Romero’s sinful behaviors. What’s hilarious about this mess is that the various parties have taken to calling each other out with YouTube videos. Here are a few of the recent videos posted to YouTube. Enjoy!

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These videos clearly show that the “New” IFB church movement is no different from the old one. Bickering children, they are. The good news is that the women won’t be blamed for what’s happening. Oh wait, the latest rumor is that Romero’s wife is culpable in his “sinful” behavior. True IFB behavior: let a preacher get caught in sexual sin and there will always be someone who will blame his spouse or the person he had sex with. According to many of the YouTube comments, Romero is a true hero, a man of character for admitting his “sins.” Gag me with a spoon, will ya? There is nothing noble about Romero’s post-scandal behavior. He got caught. End of story.

Anderson preached at Stedfast Baptist Church today, solidifying his position as pope of the “New” IFB. In his sermon he called the church in Jacksonville trash; trash that needed to be taken out. What a man of God, right? Here’s the video of the church service and Anderson’s sermon:

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michelle Lesley Says It’s a Sin to Tell Children Santa is Real

jesus santa

We have raised our five year old to know that Santa Claus isn’t real. Now that he’s getting old enough to have conversations with his little friends, how do we explain to him what to say to them when they talk about believing in Santa? I don’t want him to crush their dreams but I also don’t want to teach him to perpetuate the lie for his friends.

This is a great question, and one my husband and I also had to address with our own children, since we raised them to know that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Before I tackle your question, I’d like to address Christian parents who tell their children Santa Claus is real, that he is the one who brings their presents, etc.

I’m sure you have the best of intentions and only want to make Christmas fun for your children, but when you tell them these things about Santa Claus, you are lying.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage. Excerpted from: The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

And this reader has raised another ripple effect of your sin of lying. You’ve now put your brothers and sisters in Christ in the difficult position of figuring out how not to blow your cover when their child (who knows the truth) interacts with yours. Do they teach their child to take part in your lie, or do they risk their child telling the truth, disappointing your child and possibly angering you? And think about the pressure on a five year old child to try to keep something like that a secret, knowing someone will be disappointed if he doesn’t. You’ve created a no-win situation for people you are supposed to self-sacrificially love, encourage, and edify.

Our sin always negatively affects others.

Michelle Lesley, Mailbag: My Kid Knows the Truth About Santa. What if He Tells His Friends Who Don’t ?, December 3, 2018

Leave it to Christian Fundamentalists to suck the magic and fun out of Christmas (and Easter too).

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Non-Christians Have Debased Minds

romans 1 28

Homosexual behavior, in particular, demonstrates the exchange of what is good and natural according to God’s created order for that which is evil and unnatural. Thus, it is an especially blatant form of idolatry, of telling the Creator that one will not have Him as Lord but will worship and serve the creature (Rom. 1:24–27). This sexual twisting, however, is not the primal sin of humanity; rather, it is the ethical outworking of the fundamental transgression, namely, the refusal to honor and thank God (vv. 18–23).

Furthermore, homosexual behavior is not the only way our fundamentally idolatrous dispositions show themselves. As we will see in tomorrow’s study, there are innumerable ways in which idolatry bears unethical fruit. Today’s passage, however, introduces the vice list Paul provides in Romans 1:29–31, reminding us once again of the root of all evil.

The Apostle explains that God hands people over to a “debased mind to do what ought not to be done” as a consequence for failing to acknowledge Him (v. 28). If we will not have the Lord at the center of our hearts and minds, then God is content to give us over to our idols. To acknowledge God is to retain Him as our foremost concern and love, to respond to Him with thanksgiving and worship as He has revealed Himself in creation. Acknowledging God with our minds means that we think properly and reason correctly based on His revelation (see 12:1–2). If we do not do this, we will be unable to think correctly about God and make good decisions based on His will. Since we have rejected the Lord, this is the condition in which we find ourselves apart from divine intervention. John Calvin comments, “As they chose not to continue in the knowledge of God, which alone guides our minds to true wisdom, the Lord gave them a perverted mind, which can choose nothing that is right.”

This does not mean that the unbelieving mind is incapable of reason or that it has lost all capacity for logical thought. Instead, it means that the unbelieving mind cannot glorify God in its thinking. It can deduce from creation that there is a holy God whom we should worship and thank, but it cannot make us worship and thank Him as we ought. There remains a point of contact between the believing mind and the unbelieving mind that allows us to present evidence for God’s existence and the Christian faith. Paul himself assumed as much (Acts 17:22–34). Yet apart from the work of the Spirit, we will take that evidence and pervert it. We will justify the unjustifiable and reason ourselves away from the Lord.

— Ligonier Ministries, Table Talk , Humanity’s Debased Mind

Is Satan Real?

satan clutching the world

Yes and no. Satan is real to the degree that people believe he is. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that Satan is a living, breathing fallen angel. Evangelicals are Biblical literalists, so when they read what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Satan, the Devil, or Beelzebub, they believe what they are reading is non-fiction and biographical in nature. In their minds, Satan is every bit as alive as Jesus. He is a roaring lion who walks on the face of the earth seeking whom he may devour. Satan is a tempter who finds great joy in causing Christians to fall into sin. The number one excuse Evangelical preachers give when accused of sexual misconduct? No, not “I DIDN’T DO IT!” No, not “I thought she was eighteen.” No, the number one excuse given by Evangelical preachers is, to quote Flip Wilson, “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!” 

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According to Evangelicals, Satan has a large army of demons, and in legion with one another, they do their damnedest to tempt Christians to sin against God. Satan dangles the wares of the world in front of them, and in moments of weakness, they give in and sin. Much like the red scare in the 1950s McCarthy era, Evangelicals see Satan under every bed. Try as they might to bind him and cast him out, Satan continues to afflict God’s chosen people. He is their arch nemesis.

Believing Satan is real allows Evangelicals to escape personal responsibility for bad behavior. The thinking goes is that if Satan had not led them astray they wouldn’t have sinned. Dammit, Satan. If you hadn’t tempted me, I never would have had sex with my secretary! Just exchange “sex with my secretary” with whatever sin they are accused of committing. Wait a minute. I thought Evangelicals are indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t having God living inside of you provide an inoculation against sinning? How is it possible that the voice of Satan drowns out the voice of God? Evangelicals regularly attend church and do all the religious stuff they are expected to do, yet they continue to sin in thought, word, and deed. What gives?

Of course, Evangelical preachers have all sorts of answers for the continued Satan-fueled sinfulness of Christians, one of which is that they are a work in progress (sanctification) and God is not finished with them yet. Fine, I can understand that. We all grow and mature as we age. None of us is the person today that we were when we were in our twenties. However, it is Evangelicals who demand non-Christians perfectly obey the moral teachings of the Bible. Who is the primary driver and funder of the culture war? Evangelicals. Who is it that has a hard-on over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex? Evangelicals. Hear a voice screaming long and hard in the public square about “immorality”? Who is it? An Evangelical. Everywhere we look we find Evangelicals who feel they are the morality police. Yet, these same people don’t practice what they preach.

If Evangelicals can use Satan as an excuse for their bad behavior, why can’t non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and pagans do the same? After all, the Bible says that non-Christians have been taken captive by Satan and he does whatever he wants with us. Which makes sense, as the Bible also says that Satan is our father. Damn parental training, right? If only God had been our father . . . oh, wait, he doesn’t seem to be a very good daddy either.

Here we are, it’s 2018. We live in an enlightened scientific world. You would think that believing Satan is real would be banished to the dustbin of human history. Unfortunately, Evangelicals still live in a world where a real Satan is required to explain evil and behaviors deemed to be sin. Over the past decade, I have been told by Evangelicals countless times that I am a tool of Satan. How else to explain my deconversion from Christianity? Satan made me do it!

As an atheist, I firmly believe that culpability for good or bad behavior rests with the person committing the act. While there may be mitigating factors, we are the ones who do what we do. We are responsible for our actions. Imagine how different Evangelical churches might be if personal accountability was preached? Instead, congregants are told that they are broken and need of saving, and even after Jesus saves them, Satan lurks in the shadows ready and able to tempt them to “sin.” Church members are encouraged to continually prostrate themselves before God, begging for his care and protection. Paul reminded first century Christians that they were powerless without Jesus; that the Christian life is one of constant battle with Satan and the flesh. Preachers tell congregants to attend church every time the doors are open, tithe, pray, tithe, read the Bible, tithe, and fast, and maybe, just maybe, when Sister Verily Voluptuous walks down the aisle, they might be able to withstand having “impure” thoughts. And you Christian ladies, the same goes for you too. Don’t think for a moment you are exempt. Your longing looks at Brother Wellhung Hunkubut have been noted! Time to follow the lust-prevention plan mentioned above.

I have long argued that Evangelical doctrine infantilizes church members; that it teaches them they are powerless and weak and in need of constant religious care; that without Jesus they will run headlong into sin and act just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Hey, don’t tar us worldlings with that brush! We’re better than that, and when we aren’t we accept responsibility for our bad behavior; all without God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Christianity, and preachers. Granted, our “sin” lists are much smaller than those of Evangelicals, but we can and do behave in ways that are harmful to others. When I harm others, I apologize and, if necessary, make restitution. No Satan or “flesh” to blame, no God from whom to ask forgiveness. I am to blame, end of story.

I am sure some smart-ass Evangelical will attempt to argue that good behavior requires God/Christianity/Bible, but based on my observations of the Evangelical landscape, that methodology is not working out too well. It seems to me that neither God, nor Christianity, nor the Bible is stemming bad behavior. Catholic and Evangelical churches alike are overrun with pedophiles and skirt chasers, and Christians watch porn at the same levels as their counterparts in the world. Christians seem to, in every way, live their lives in the same manner as those they damn to hell for not believing Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Light. But, Bruce, a recent study said Christians are HAPPIER! Take that! Yeah, delusion will do that to you. Eighty-one percent of voting Evangelicals voted for the worst American president in American history, so it is clear that their happiness, at least politically, is derived from lies. And I readily admit that the promise of a room in God’s Trump Hotel® in the afterlife might make me happy too, but there is no evidence for the fulfillment of such a promise. We live, we die, end of story. Solemn, at times depressing? Sure, but life is what it is. You can either choose to live in a fantasy world, or you can see things as they are, and not how religious gurus tell you they will be some day.

Did you attend a church where Satan was alive and well? Did you fear Satan? Where you tempted by his wiles and devices — or thought you were anyway? Please share your stories in the comment section!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Unsaved People are Evil Regardless of What They Do

john piper

John Piper

Pastor John, hello! When something huge and good happens in a society — like a faulty government system is fixed, or slavery is abolished, or minorities are given more equal treatment, or anything of the like — is God secretly at work in that moment inspiring things to happen? What is God’s role in positive social changes?”

Christian Good

Well first, let’s be sure that we have a distinctively Christian view of the term “positive social change.” Whenever we’re talking about change among unbelievers, the term positive must always be qualified in our minds so that we don’t stop thinking like Christians and simply think like unbelievers.

Christians know that all so-called positive deeds done from a heart of unbelief, or disregard for the glory of God, or disregard for the eternal good of people, or disregard for reliance upon the mercies of God in Christ, those deeds — no matter how beneficial they are in the short run for our prosperity or health or freedom — still are acts of rebellion against God, so they are not positive in the ultimate sense.

I’m assuming that when Jim asks about God’s role in positive social change, he means change for the short-term benefits of people, like rising material standards of living and greater health and more safety and more freedom to act out our convictions, even if the short-term benefits for society are not accompanied by spiritual awakening or faith in Jesus. So, that’s the question I’m asking. What’s the role of God in those kinds of societal changes? That’s what I assume he’s asking.

….

Here’s my conclusion in answer to Jim’s question “What is God’s role in positive social change?”

God is always involved. He is always ultimate. He is always decisive. This of course means, as anyone would immediately infer, that he’s also ultimate and decisive over the so-called negative social changes as well.

God rules all things either by his positive agency, more or less directly causing things, or by permission, which is equally wise and equally purposeful, since God knows what everybody is going to do, and he permits them to do evil.

— John Piper, Desiring God, What Part Does God Play in Positive Social Change? September 24, 2018

Catch-All Bible Verses: I Will Set No Wicked Thing Before My Eyes

calvin and hobbes tv 2

Last week, I wrote a post entitled, Catch-All Bible Verses: Is the Human Body the Temple of the Christian God? Today I want to deal with another catch-all Bible verse, Psalm 101:3:

I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Evangelical preachers love this catch-all verse because it allows them to demand of congregants abstinence from seeing and using things or having contact with people, churches, and ministries they have deemed “wicked.”  Whether something is wicked is determined by the pastor’s personal interpretations of the Bible, social, cultural, and religious experiences, and personal preferences. In other words, something is wicked because the pastor says it is, end of story. Since he is the man of God, the one chosen by Jesus to lead and teach the church, congregants are expected to believe and follow his “Biblical” pronouncements. If he says a certain behavior or inanimate item is wicked, then congregants are expected to nod their heads up and down and say, Amen brother, preach it!

Things labeled “wicked” are considered off-limits — Kryptonite to true Christians. Congregants, wanting to be obedient to God and his man, the pastor, bow — at least outwardly — to the subjective pronouncements of church leaders. Diversity of opinion and freedom are discouraged, if not outright forbidden. Congregants are expected to fall in line, obey, and follow Pastor Pied Piper. People who dare to think for themselves and publicly disagree with the man of God are told to either conform or leave. In some churches, non-conformity is viewed as rebellion against God’s established order. Erring congregants are brought before the church to be critiqued, judged, and disciplined. People are given two choices: excommunication or submission.

In 1994, I found myself, as the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, at odds with my fellow pastor, Pat Horner. (See I Am a Publican and a Heathen.) I disagreed with Horner — the founder of the church — on a number of issues, and due to the increasing hostility of our disagreements, I decided to resign from the church and move back to Ohio. Horner informed me that I couldn’t resign and that since the church decided whether I could be a member, it was up to them to decide whether or not I could resign. I, of course, refused to obey his pronouncements. I packed up my family and our meager belongings and returned to Ohio. As we were leaving, Horner had gathered congregants together for a disciplinary meeting. The subject? What to do about the Bruce Gerencser problem. I was deemed wicked and rebellious by Horner and his sycophants, and after the “facts” were presented, the church excommunicated their co-pastor. In their minds, my refusal to play by Horner’s rules was grounds for excommunication. To this day, the church continues to consider me a heathen. My current atheistic beliefs and lifestyle are proof to them that excommunicating me was the right thing to do. Polly and our six children were not excommunicated. Horner and the church decided that my family was under my satanic control, and should not be held accountable for my “sins.”

My excommunication is a good example of a pastor determining what is “wicked” and then demanding that congregants not set that wicked thing before their eyes; the wicked thing being a flesh-and-blood human being. This catch-all verse can be used to label people, inanimate objects, and behaviors “wicked.” Pastors, then, are able to bend and mold congregants to their wishes; that is, unless they have a rebellious member such as Bruce Gerencser. Then, church discipline is used to cut the offender from the church and put the fear of God into the hearts of congregants.

The churches I pastored, with one exception, didn’t excommunicate rebellious church members. Instead, I was the gatekeeper. I determined who stayed and who had to go. If I determined through much prayer and fasting — just kidding, my determinations were based on my personal opinions, beliefs and practices — that someone was no longer a good “fit,” I would encourage them to seek out a church that would better meet their needs.

Over the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I ran off a lot of good people whose only crime was that they disagreed with me on a matter of doctrine or practice. Instead of embracing differences of belief and practice, I demanded fealty to my beliefs, interpretations, and practices. For many years, I believed it was sinful to own and watch TV. In my mind, if there was ever a human invention that was wicked, it as the television. I am sure Polly and my children can remember our TV being unplugged and having a piece of paper taped over the screen that said, I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled, The Preacher and His TV. Here’s some of what I had to say:

My wife and I married in 1978. One of our first purchases was a used tube console color TV that we purchased from Marv Hartman TV in Bryan, Ohio. We paid $125. We continued to watch TV for a few years, until one day I decided that watching TV was a sin. This was in the mid-1980s. After swearing off watching TV, I decided that no one, if he were a good Christian anyway, should be watching television. One Sunday, as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt Perry, Ohio, I preached a 90-minute sermon on the evils of watching television and going to the movies. I called on all true Christians to immediately get rid of their TVs and follow their preacher into the pure air of a Hollywood-free world.

To prove my point, I gathered the congregation out in front of the church for a physical demonstration of my commitment to following the TV-hating Jesus. I put our TV in the church yard and I hit it several times with a sledge-hammer, breaking the TV into pile of electronic rubble. Like the record burnings of the 1970s, my act was meant to show that I was willing to do whatever it took to be an on-fire, sold-out follower of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Just before I hit the TV with the sledge-hammer, a church member by the name of Gary said to me, Hey preacher, if you don’t want that TV I’ll take it. How dare he ruin my sin-hating demonstration! I thought at the time. I gave Gary a scowling look and proceeded to knock the devil right out of the TV. I am happy to report that not one church member followed in my TV-hating footsteps. What church members did do is make sure that their televisions were OFF when the man of God made an appearance at their home.

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From 1998 through 2005, I purchased and got rid of at least six television sets. I gave one TV to the local crisis pregnancy center. I also gave one set to my son. The rest I sold at a loss. Why all the televisions? you might ask. Simple. After watching TV for a time, like a moth to a flame, I was drawn towards watching shows that I promised God I would never watch. Dear Lord, I promise I will only watch G or PG rated programming, and if there is any nudity, cursing, or gore I will immediately turn off the TV. No matter how much I wanted to be holy and righteous, I found that I loved watching programs that contained things that I considered sin.

My “sinning’ would go on for a few weeks until the guilt would become so great that I would say to God, you are right God. This is sin. I will get rid of the TV and I promise to never, never watch it again. Out the TV would go, but months later I would get the hankering to watch TV again and I would, unbeknownst to Polly, go buy a television.

It is clear now that my beliefs made me mentally and emotionally unstable. I so wanted to be right with God and live a life untainted by the world, yet I loved to watch TV. One time, after I came to the decision to get rid of yet another TV, Polly arrived home from work and found me sitting on the steps of the porch, crying and despondent. I hated myself. I hated that I was so easily led astray by Satan. I hated that I was such a bad testimony. Look at ALL that Jesus did for me! Couldn’t I, at the very least, go without watching TV for the sake of the kingdom of God?

I have written before about my perfectionist tendencies. I wanted to be the perfect Christian. God’s Word said to abstain from the very appearance of evil. Psalm 101:3 was a driving force in my life: I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Television was a wicked thing, I told myself, yet I continued to battle with my desire to watch sports and other programs on TV. Needless to say, the advent of internet, brought into our home a new way for me to be tempted to sin against the thrice holy God I pledged to serve, even unto death. I’m sure that my children will remember me putting a sign above our computer that quoted Psalm 101:3. This was meant as a reminder that we should NEVER view inappropriate, sinful things on the internet.

My three oldest children, now in their 30s, continue to rib me about my TV-crazed days. One of them will periodically ask if I am ready to get rid of our flat-screen TV. Their good-natured ribbing hails back to the day when their Dad acted like a psycho, buying and selling televisions. At the time, I am sure they thought I was crazy, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

….

calvin and hobbes tv

I replayed the aforementioned battle over TV numerous times in my life. The object of my righteous anger changed, but the end result was the same: that which I deemed wicked had to go, and if congregants really, really, really loved Jesus, they would agree with me and excise from their lives that which the man of God labeled sinful. The goal was holiness, so who wouldn’t want to be as pure and holy as possible? Congregants would try to conform to my pronouncements, but for the most part all this did was turn their lives into a game. Church members lived one way at church or in my presence and another way when away from the Holy Spirit — AKA the Preacher or Pastor Bruce. Little did they know that I did the same. Try as I might to live out the teachings of the Bible and to strictly govern my life according to my interpretations of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, I failed too; not because of a lack of desire or commitment; but because I set for myself and others an impossible standard. I was human, as were the people I pastored. Much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, Evangelicals have wants, needs, and desires. They do what they do because they are human. No matter how much Evangelicals preach, pray, and deny their humanity, in time their “flesh” wins.

And that’s okay. Life is meant to be lived, not denied. Evangelicals love to say, only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. The humanist version, however, goes like this, only one life, twill soon be past, and then you’ll be dead. There’s no God, Jesus, church, or preacher to please. All that really matters is this present life. Love, laugh, and enjoy your brief existence on planet Earth. It’s the only one you’ll ever have. Each of us determines for ourselves how we want to live. As an atheist, I still have  certain “wicked” things I won’t set before my eyes; you know, things such as women with size 20 bodies in size 10 spandex, fat men like me parading around in public with no shirt, and Fox News. That’s about it. Each to his own, I say.

Did you grow up in a church where Psalm 103:1 was used to label things, people, and behavior wicked? Did your pastor demand congregants live according to his moralistic pronouncements? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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