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Fundamentalist Indoctrination: Is Television an Idol in America?

tv-is-evil

In August 1989, my wife, Polly, and I, along with several members of Somerset Baptist Church, the church that I was pastoring at the time, started teaching fifteen church children at Somerset Baptist Academy (SBA). SBA was a non-chartered, tuition-free Calvinistic Baptist school. It was the only non-Catholic religious school in Perry County. Polly and I did most of the teaching, spending hours each day teaching K-12 students English, writing, spelling, reading, math, history, science, Bible, and computer literacy. In addition, parents in the church helped teach classes such as home economics, shop, and small engine repair. One dear lady in the church, Delorse, watched our three youngest children eight hours a day so we could teach the church’s children.

SBA was a one-room school. Using standardized testing and other criteria, students were put in particular classes according to their academic abilities. Thus, we had several high school students taking math with third graders. No one was shamed over this. The goal was to meet each student where they were academically. While SBA, its administrator (me), and its teachers had many flaws, we did well when it came to teaching students the basics. Adults who were young children at SBA in the 1990s, to this day, thank Polly for teaching them to read. Unfortunately, no such praise comes my way. ūüôā Students called me “Preacher.” I was a stern taskmaster who demanded obedience, who meted out discipline when students failed to comply. While I have MANY fond memories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist, I also have many regrets. Fundamentalism causes harm. I was a victim, but I also was a victimizer. I plan to write more posts about SBA in the future. Maybe I can get some of the students, three of whom are my children, to share their SBA experiences, safe from having to write out KJV Bible verses as punishment or memorize the 1989 London Baptist Confession of Faith and Catechism.

In the late 1980s, a Fundamentalist man, whose name remains lost in the deep recesses of my mind, wrote several anti-culture books and offered them free to churches. One book had a red cover, and the other was blue. He sent me two cases of books to distribute to church members. The following report, written by my eleven-year-old son, Jason, on January 11, 1990, was a review of one of the chapters in these books — I assume on the evil of television.

Polly and I owned a TV when we married in 1978. Unfortunately, by the mid-1980s, “God” had convicted me of the sin of watching “Hellivision.” So out to junk pile went the TV until the late 1990s. If you want a bit of insight into my thinking about TV during this period of time, please read The Preacher and His TV.

The following report by my son shows how religious fundamentalism deeply affects the thinking of children raised in such environments. Religious indoctrination is not harmless. Jason, of course, is blameless. Not now, buddy. ūüôā Much like his father and mother, Jason was psychologically affected by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) thinking and Bible literalism. Children are products of the environments and cultures they grew up in. The good news is that parents and children alike can overcome religious indoctrination. The Gerencser family is living proof of this claim. Either that or Satan/Antichrist has control of us. ūüôā

This report was slightly edited for grammar, spelling, and readability.

Yes, the television is an idol. We worship the TV every time we turn it on and watch it. The Devil is behind the television. It was his idea to make the television so he could enter people’s houses and rule over them. He loves this idea. It gives him a chance to kill people. The Bible says that the Devil is a roaring lion who seeketh to devour people. In people’s houses, everything is turned toward the television. We do not talk to guests. Instead, we watch TV, and once in a while make a comment about what we’re watching or something else. Even so-called “Christians” watch filthy, junky, ungodly stuff on TV. Soon we become slaves and addicts to the TV. When people start watching TV, it is hard for them to stop watching it. People watch dirty and gruesome things. They say what was wrong with what was on TV, and how terrible it was, yet still watch it. No one even bothers to not watch TV or get rid of it. The Devil laughs at us when we do this because he has won. People have let TV become part of their lives, so therefore they let it control them instead of them controlling it. When we come home we turn on the TV right away. Whenever we’re there, it’s on full blast. TV damages adults, but totally destroys children. One school teacher had her students not watch TV for 24 hours, then write a report on it. One boy thought one minute was like one month, another imagined that the favorite shows were on TV. Japanese children think that they cannot live without it. They have at least 3 TVs in their homes. They think you’re different if you do not have a TV to look at all the time. The TV is a thing that lays the way for the Antichrist. The Antichrist will rule the world by the way of the TV. He will have everybody hooked on the TV, and watching filthy stuff which allows demons to come into their homes. TV is many people’s number one idol, besides other things. The Antichrist will speak through the TV. Unsaved people cannot watch the TV during the tribulation, because they will be killed for not bowing down to him when he comes on TV. We should not watch filthy things on TV. (Over 400 words)

— End of report

Students were required to write a certain number of words for their reports (and they wrote LOTS of book reports) — thus the “over 400 words” statement at the end. Jason and his fellow students quickly learned how to use “filler” (AKA bullshit) to reach the word count requirement. ūüôā

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

The Preacher and His TV

dehann-quote

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

In the 1960s, my Dad would drop my siblings and me off at the Bryan Theater so we could watch the 25-cent Saturday afternoon matinee. But somewhere in my primary school years, going to movies became unacceptable. I suspect that this was due to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preaching my parents were hearing and absorbing at the time. From that point forward, outside of attending a drive-in movie one time at age 18 and taking two different girls on movie dates (Jaws and Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)  I didn’t go to a movie theater again until I was in my late 30s.  As a Christian, I believed that going to or renting movies was supporting Hollywood, an institution that I considered a den of iniquity.

In the late 1990s, having become more “liberal” in my thinking, I decided it was time for the Gerencser family to go to a movie. When I told Polly that we were all going to the drive-in to see a movie, she was appalled. She literally thought that God was going to strike us dead. Well, here we are, all these years later, still among the living. Evidently, God didn’t seem to give a shit about us going to the drive-in. By the way, the first hardcore, violent, nudity laden movie we saw? George of the Jungle! The Second? Air Bud.

I grew up in a home that always had a television. My Mom told me one time that American Bandstand was my babysitter. The first memory I have about television is watching the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. I remember my dad coming home with what I later in life called the ‚Äúpoor man’s color TV.” It was a colored, plastic sheet that Dad taped to the TV screen. The top of the sheet was blue and the bottom was green. Supposedly, the screen was meant to simulate sky and grass. Dad wasn’t impressed, and we quickly went back to watching black and white TV. The Gerencser family didn’t own a color television until sometime in the 1970s.

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, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, that watching TV was a sin. This was in the mid-1980s. After swearing off watching TV, I decided that no one, if he or she 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 — you read that right, 90 minutes — 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 13-inch black and white TV in the churchyard 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.

calvin and hobbes tv

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 itHow 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 or covered with a towel when the man of God made an appearance at their home. That’s just how the game is played.

In the early 1990s, I would, from time to time, rent a television from a local rent-to-own business. Two times come to mind: the World Series and the 1991 Gulf War. Outside of that, my oldest three children grew up in a television-free home. They were teenagers: 18, 16, and 13, before they watched TV (except for watching Saturday cartoons when they were little). Well, this isn’t entirely true. When they visited their grandparents, they were permitted to watch TV — even though I wasn’t happy about them doing so. Like Amish children, they were mesmerized by Disney movies and cartoons.

After our family attended their first movie, I decided I would buy a television, setting in motion seven years of what any competent psychologist would call bizarre, mentally imbalanced behavior. While what I am about to share will sound hilarious to those who never spent any time in Christian Fundamentalism, at the time, there was nothing humorous about my actions.

calvin and hobbes tv 2

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, Lord. This is sin. I will get rid of the TV and I promise to never, ever 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? Evidently not.

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 the 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. Needless to say, I know exactly how long it takes to look at a pornographic photo while on a dial-up connection. Way too long, by the way. ūüôā

My three oldest children, now in their 30s and 40s, 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.

Where was Polly in all of this, you ask? She was the dutiful, submissive wife who believed her God-called, on-fire, sold-out Christian pastor of a husband knew best. Polly rarely watched TV, so having one didn’t matter to her. I was the one who “needed” to watch TV. As I now psychoanalyze this period of my life, I think watching TV was my way of being normal. Serving a sin-hating God and preaching to others a rigorous morality meant that I had to live a Christ-honoring, sin-free life. Again, in light of the atoning work of Jesus on my behalf, I thought that forsaking the pleasure of the “world” was but a small price to pay for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Yet, I wanted to be like everyone else, so I would come home after a long day of studying for my sermons and visiting church members, and leave God sitting on the front porch. Watching TV was my way of unwinding after working days which were often 12 hours long. While I still was selective about what I watched, my attempts to avoid “sinful” viewing rarely kept me from watching whatever I wanted to watch, especially after the children went to bed. Over time, my guilt levels would increase, ultimately leading to the behaviors outlined in this post.

In 2006, 2 years before I deconverted, I finally put an end to my battle with the television. I decided, God be damned, I was going to own a TV and watch whatever I wanted to watch. From that point forward, we have owned a television. While I have continued to buy televisions, my purchases are driven by resolution, refresh rate, and screen size, and not the thought that God was going to strike me dead for seeing a naked woman on TV.

Several years ago, as we were watching an episode of True Blood, I turned to Polly and said, who would have thought that we would be sitting here watching bloody, naked vampires having sex?  We laughed together, both grateful that the preacher had finally been delivered from the demon of TV.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Good Omens: Dear Fundamentalist Christians, Don’t Like a TV Program? Don’t Watch It

good omens

Frequently, it seems that Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics are outraged over a program on network TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, or many of the other media streaming services. We live in a day when the choices of what to watch are endless. As someone who loves watching television, I am thrilled that I have so many excellent programs to choose from. Of course, there are some channels that I don’t watch. One in particular is the¬†Hallmark Channel.¬†Gag me with a spoon!¬†Fundamentalists, of course, love the Hallmark Channel. Its programming regularly reinforces their moralistic religious worldview.¬†Fundamentalists watch the Hallmark Channel, I don’t.¬†See how easy that is? It’s all about choice. We all choose to view what we want. No one is forcing Fundamentalists to watch programming that they deem sinful, offensive, or contrary to their version of Christian decency. For the life of me, I don’t understand why Evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics, if they are so offended by what is on the screen, don’t turn off their televisions, or better yet get rid of them altogether. (Please see¬†The Preacher and His TV.) Psalm 101:3 says:¬†I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. If what is on the TV is so wicked, why do Fundamentalists continue to own televisions? Perhaps, it is time for them to become Amish and throw their hellivisions into the trash. Of course, most Fundamentalists won’t do this. Why? Because they like watching TV just like most of us. Remember, Fundamentalists scream long and hard (no I am not talking about their sex lives) about the moral failures of our society, yet they, all too often, imbibe in the very “sins” they condemn.

Earlier this week, the¬†American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property¬†(ASDTFP) — a Roman Catholic organization — put up an online petition that called on Netflix to immediately cancel¬†Good Omens¬†— a television series adapted from the late¬†Terry Pratchett’s¬†(an atheist) and¬†Neil Gaiman‚Äôs¬†(view of God: “I think we can say that God exists in the DC Universe. I would not stand up and beat the drum for the existence of God in this universe. I don’t know, I think there’s probably a 50/50 chance. It doesn’t really matter to me.”) 1990 fantasy novel,¬†Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch.¬†Never mind the fact that¬†Good Omens¬†is not on¬†Netflix, it’s on¬†Amazon Prime. Damn, if you are going to protest a TV program, at least you can do is make sure you have your facts straights. After several days of being roundly mocked in news stories and on social media, ASDTFP corrected their petition. Thanks be to Loki, their faux outrage is now directed at the right streaming company. So far, 20,621 offended souls have¬†signed the petition.

Other programs ASDTFP objects to include the¬†Cartoon Network promoting “gay pride,”¬†¬†Fleabag on Amazon Prime,¬†Arthur on PBS, and¬†¬†Miracle¬†Workers on TBS.¬†The¬†man behind¬†the¬†Good Omens¬†petition is none other than Fundamentalist Catholic apologist¬†John Horvat II.¬† What is it about¬†Good Omens¬†that so offends Horvat II and the fine Catholics at ASDTFP?¬†¬†Their petition states:

The Amazon series “Good Omens,” based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, portrays the agents of Good and Evil as fighters in an arbitrary struggle devoid of meaning and truth. This series presents devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom in the following ways:

‚ÄĘ An angel and demon are good friends, and are meant to be earth’s ambassadors for Good and Evil respectively.

‚ÄĘ This pair tries to stop the coming of the Antichrist because they are comfortable and like the earth so much.

‚ÄĘ God is voiced by a woman.

‚ÄĘ The Antichrist, who will oppose the Kingdom of God, is portrayed as a normal kid that has special powers and a mission to destroy the world which he doesn’t really want to do.

‚ÄĘ There are groups of Satanic “nuns” that are chosen to raise the Antichrist.

‚ÄĘ The four riders of the Apocalypse, God’s means of punishing sinful earth, are portrayed as a group of bikers.

In the end, this is a denial of Good and Evil: morality and natural law do not exist, just humanitarianism and an ultimately useless creed. This is another step to make Satanism appear normal, light and acceptable. We must show our rejection. Please sign our petition, telling Amazon that we will not stand silent as they destroy the barriers of horror we still have for evil.

So, let me get this straight: Horvat II and his merry band of God/Jesus/Mary worshippers is all bent out of shape over how fictional Bible characters are portrayed in Good Omens? Okay then . . .

Neil Gaiman tweeted the following after hearing about the petition drive:

‚ÄúI love that they are going to write to Netflix to try and get #GoodOmens cancelled. Says it all really. This is so beautiful … Promise me you won‚Äôt tell them?‚ÄĚ

Gaiman later tweeted:

“Says it all.” They are asking Netflix, a company who does not broadcast #GoodOmens to “cancel” Good Omens, a show broadcast on another network, and already complete and out. I find it difficult to respond to them with anything other than flippancy. No, not difficult. Impossible.

A tweet by Evangelical Christian Isaac Peterson perhaps explains best the sentiment behind the outrage over Good Omens:

isaac peterson tweet

In Peterson’s mind, the Bible belongs to Christians and it is “cultural appropriation” for Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to take and use what doesn’t belong to them — damn heathens that they are. First,¬†Good Omens¬†is based on the book¬†Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,¬†and not the Bible. Not that it would matter. The Bible is a work of fiction too, so what’s the harm in adapting its stories and themes into TV programs and movies?¬†According to Wikipedia, the plot of the book goes something like this:

It is the coming of the End Times: the Apocalypse is near, and Final Judgement will soon descend upon the human species. This comes as a bit of bad news to the angel Aziraphale (who was the guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden) and the demon Crowley (who, when he was originally named Crawly, was the serpent who tempted Eve to eat the apple), respectively the representatives of Heaven and Hell on Earth, as they have become used to living their cosy, comfortable lives and have, in a perverse way, taken a liking to humanity. As such, since they are good friends (despite ostensibly representing the polar opposites of Good and Evil), they decide to work together and keep an eye on the Antichrist, destined to be the son of a prominent American diplomat stationed in Britain, and thus ensure he grows up in a way that means he can never decide between Good and Evil, thereby postponing the end of the world.

In fact, Warlock, the child who everyone thinks is the Anti-Christ, is a normal eleven-year-old boy. Due to the mishandling of several infants in the hospital, the real Anti-Christ is Adam Young, a charismatic and slightly otherworldly eleven-year-old living in Lower Tadfield, Oxfordshire, an idyllic town in Britain. Despite being the harbinger of the Apocalypse, he has lived a perfectly normal life as the son of typical English parents, and as a result has no idea of his true powers. He has three close friends – Pepper, Wensleydale and Brian – who collectively form a gang that is simply referred to as “Them” by the adults.

As the end of the world nears, Adam blissfully and naively uses his powers, changing the world to fit things he reads in a conspiracy theory magazine, such as raising the lost continent of Atlantis and causing Little Green Men to land on earth and deliver a message of goodwill and peace. In the meantime, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse assemble: War (a war correspondent), Death (a biker), Famine (a dietician and fast-food tycoon), and Pollution (the youngest–Pestilence having retired after the discovery of penicillin). The incredibly accurate (yet so highly specific as to be useless) prophecies of Agnes Nutter, 17th-century prophetess, are rapidly coming to pass.

Agnes Nutter was a witch in the 17th century and the only truly accurate prophet to have ever lived. She wrote a book called The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, a collection of prophecies that did not sell very well because they were unspectacular, cryptic and all true. She, in fact, decided to publish it only so she could receive a free author’s copy. This copy is passed down to her descendants, and is currently owned by her multi-great granddaughter Anathema Device. Agnes was burned at the stake by a mob; however, because she had foreseen her fiery end and had packed 80 pounds of gunpowder and 40 pounds of roofing nails into her petticoats, everyone who participated in the burning was killed instantly.

As the world descends into chaos, Adam attempts to split up the world between his gang. After realizing that by embracing absolute power, he will not be able to continue to grow up as a child in Lower Tadfield, Adam decides to stop the apocalypse.

Anathema, Newton Pulsifer, Sergeant Shadwell (the two last members of the Witchfinder Army), Madame Tracey (a medium and Shadwell’s neighbour), Adam and his gang, Aziraphale and Crowley gather at a military base near Lower Tadfield to stop the Horsemen from causing a nuclear war and ending the world. Adam’s friends capture War, Pollution, and Famine. Just as Adam’s real father, the devil, seems set to come and force the end of the world, Adam twists everything so his human father shows up instead, and everything is restored.

In the aftermath of the prevented Apocalypse, Crowley and Aziraphale discuss their restored property and the possibility of a second Apocalypse between humanity and the combined forces of Heaven and Hell; Shadwell and Madame Tracey decide to get married and move into a bungalow together; Anathema receives a sequel to Agnes Nutter’s prophecies but does not read it so as to not be bound by them; and Adam evades his grounding to go scrumping.

Sure, I see some similarities between¬†Good Omens¬†and the Bible, but¬†Good Omens¬†is hardly Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments. Peterson doth protest too much.

Second, since when in a free society is the Bible or religion in general off limits? Sorry, but religious books, beliefs, and ideas are fair game for critique, criticism, and ridicule. Third, is Peterson really arguing that¬†Good Omens “hurt” his feelings and those of people who treat Christianity with the “proper” modicum of reverence and respect it deserves? Behind Peterson’s feigned offense is the idea that if religious beliefs are “sincere” then they should not be criticized. I wonder if people such as Peterson have really thought about how stupid this kind of thinking really is? We humans “sincerely” believe all sorts of bat-shit crazy stuff. Smart, educated people can and do believe things that defy reason and common sense; you know, beliefs such as a virgin having a baby, dead people coming back to life, walking on water, turning water into wine, walking through walls, and healing blindness with mud and spit, to name a few. Many of these same people believe the earth is 6,023 years old, a universal flood destroyed the world a few thousand years ago, a man named Moses led millions of people on foot across the desert from Egypt to Canaan, and God lives inside of them, talking to them each and every day. Think about all the anti-scientific woo people believe: you know like vaccines cause autism and essential oils cure a plethora of diseases. The world is awash in nonsense. Should we not combat bad thinking and ideas, especially if they cause psychological and physical harm? Pray tell, why should religion be exempt from similar treatment?

What Horvat II and ASDTFP, along with the¬†American Family Association,¬†One Million Moms, and¬†Parents Television Council¬†— whom all have articles and petitions on their websites expressing outrage over TV programming — need to do to quell their outrage is this:¬†DON’T WATCH TV!¬†¬†Don’t like¬†Good Omens? Don’t watch it. Exercise your free will and change the channel. Better yet, get rid of your TVs. You see, the real issue here is that these groups want to control what the rest of us watch. If they can’t watch¬†Good Omens, by golly we can’t watch it either. And therein is the core of Fundamentalist thinking:¬†controlling others. Think about the current culture war these very same people are waging against LGBTQ people, same-sex marriage, fornication, masturbation, birth control, abortion, Democrats, socialism, liberal Christians, and a host of other “sins.”¬† Their goal is to legislate and ban any behavior or group they deem “sinful” and an affront to the Christian God.¬† Bound by their religion’s moral strictures and chains, Fundamentalists demand all of us submit to the same bondage. Sorry, but that ain’t going to happen. Those of us who have escaped the pernicious claws of Fundamentalist Christianity, along with our unwashed, uncircumcised Philistine brethren in the “world,” have no intentions of letting Fundamentalists have their way.

Time to binge watch Good Omens this weekend.

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.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: IFB Evangelist Larry Brown Preaching Against Television

evangelist larry brown

This is the one hundred and ninety-eighth 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 a video clip of IFB evangelist Larry Brown preaching against television. This sermon was preached years ago at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. At the end of this clip, Brown advocates threatening your wife with an axe if she objects to you destroying the TV.

Video Link

Is It a Sin to Go to the Movie Theater?

mary poppinsBack in the days of my youth, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I attended banned their members from going to indoor and outdoor movie theaters. Their logic went something like this:

  • By attending movies, you were supporting evil, immoral Hollywood.
  • By attending movies, you might cause other Christians to think poorly of you. What if they saw you leaving a multiplex theater that offered G-rated and R-rated movies? They could wrongly assume that you were watching an R-rated movie and not a God-approved G-rated movie. This would lead to you having a bad testimony in the eyes of other believers.
  • By attending movies, you could cause spiritually weaker Christians to stumble. If these spiritually immature believers saw you attending a movie, they would assume that it was all right for them to watch a movie too. And their spiritual immaturity could result in them watching non-G-rated movies.

This same logic was applied to watching television and eating in restaurants that served the Devil’s brew, alcohol. (Please see¬†Catch-All Bible Verses: I Will Set No Wicked Thing Before My Eyes) Several years ago, I wrote a post titled,¬†The Preacher and His TV. Here’s an excerpt from this post that best explains how IFB churches view things such as movies and television:

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.

….

In the early 1990s, I would, from time to time, rent a television from a local rent-to-own business. Two times come to mind: the World Series and the 1991 Gulf War. Outside of that, my oldest three children grew up in a television-free home. They were teenagers: 18, 16, and 13, before they watched TV (except for watching Saturday¬†cartoons when they were little). Well, this isn’t entirely true. When they visited their grandparents, they were permitted to watch TV (even though I wasn’t happy about them doing so). Like Amish children, they were mesmerized by Disney movies and cartoons.

After our family attended their first movie, I decided I would buy a television, setting in motion seven years of what any competent psychologist would call bizarre behavior. While what I am about to share will sound hilarious to those who never spent any time in Christian Fundamentalism, at the time, there was nothing humorous about my actions.

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.

….

In the late 1990s, I came to the conclusion that it was not a sin to watch a movie as long as it was G or PG-rated. One Saturday evening, Polly and I loaded our children into our car and drove to a nearby drive-in theater. Polly was fearful, thinking that God would judge or kill us for going to the theater. I told her that I was confident that God wouldn’t judge us for watching¬†Air Bud¬†and¬†George of the Jungle. Not that I knew this, of course. I had concluded that some of our Fundamentalist phobias were legalistic nonsense, and the prohibition against movie attendance was one such phobia. Over time, we, however, proved that IFB preachers were “right” about movies; right in the sense that once you start watching movies, you are on a downhill slide that leads to R-rated, NC17-rated, and even X-rated movies. Over the years, our viewing habits did change, especially once we moved away from Evangelicalism. We didn’t, however, turn into vile, evil people who thirsted for the things of the flesh. Today, we watch what we want to watch, regardless of the rating. We generally prefer PG-13 or R-rated movies or M-rated TV programs.

Over the holidays, a monumental event took place with Polly’s parents; one that we NEVER, EVER¬†thought would happen. Polly grew up in a home where movie attendance was verboten. Well, almost verboten. Her family had a dirty little secret. When they went on vacation to Florida, they would go to the movies. Their logic, if you call it that, was that no one from their church would see them. This same logic was played out at the¬†college we attended. Female students were not permitted to wear pants. Students were also not permitted to travel more than ten miles from the school. One Saturday evening, while out on a double-date, Polly and I stopped at a mall that was outside of the ten-mile radius. Imagine our surprise when we saw the college president’s wife and her daughter strolling through the mall wearing pants! They never expected to run into students, so they felt safe wearing sinful, wicked, immoral pants. So it was with Polly’s family and movies while they were on vacation: out of sight, out of mind.

While at home, Polly’s family¬†NEVER¬†attended the movies. Doing so was a sin.¬†But Bruce, weren’t Polly’s parents (and preacher uncle and aunt) being hypocritical; living one way at home and a different way while on vacation?¬†Sure they were, but such inconsistencies were common among IFB preachers and congregants. As the case for almost all Evangelicals, they made it up as they went along. Behaviors that were sins in the 1970s became approved actions in the 1990s. In the late 1970s, the church Polly’s parents attend believed having facial hair was a big, fat s-i-n. Today? It is not uncommon to see male church members sporting mustaches and beards — but no long hair. I have concluded that IFB churches, standard-wise, are about 20 years behind the “world.”¬†Just wait long enough, and things that once were sins will no longer be so.

Back to the monumental event that took place during the holidays. My oldest son and his children visited Polly’s parents over Christmas. While there, he and his cousins and their children got together and went to a movie. While the cousins claim varying degrees of Evangelical Christianity, none of them has a problem with movie attendance. The shocking part of this story is that Polly’s mom and dad went with them! This is the first time in over fifty years that they have attended a movie on their home turf. All told, twenty-two of them went to see a racy, violent movie —¬†Mary Poppins Returns.

Only one family member held to the IFB standard: Polly’s recently widowed aunt. Her husband had been a hardcore IFB preacher for over fifty years. She couldn’t bring herself to violate the standard her husband had preached over all those years. Of course, once the movie comes out on DVD or Netflix, well then it will be okay to watch it. I remember having a “discussion” with her preacher husband back in late 1980s about the inconsistency of his stand on movies. He preached against attending movie theaters, mainly because doing so supported Hollywood and could lead to a bad testimony. However, he had no problem renting movies at the local video store; a store which, by the way, had a special room where they stocked explicit X-rated movies. Hypocritical? Yep, but that’s the norm in Evangelical churches, including IFB congregations. If a preacher or congregants want to do something that violates the law of Medes and Persians, well they will find a way to get around the law. My problem was that I was a perfectionist who demanded strict obedience to the law. If going to a movie theater was a sin, so was renting movies from a video store. In the early 1990s, I tried to live — quite comically — according to the standard of not doing business with any concern that sold alcohol. I found that it was¬†IMPOSSIBLE¬†to do so. Every grocery store and most gas stations sold alcohol, as did upscale restaurants. Thus, I had to — dare I say —¬†compromise¬†my beliefs. Purity of belief was impossible.

Today, things are far different for Polly and me. God and the Bible no longer have any authority over us. We are free to do what we want. Having such freedom makes for living a peaceable life. We no longer worry about God raining fire from Heaven down on our heads or afflicting us with leprosy. We are free to live our lives as we wish. This doesn’t mean we are hedonists, doing as we will without compulsion or fear of consequences. We still live our lives according to personal standards and cultural norms, but we no longer let Christian belief determine how we live.

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.

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Bruce Gerencser