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Questions?

Is there a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about ? If so, here’s your chance. If you have a question you’d like me to answer or a subject you’d like me to write about , please leave your request in the comment section. Any subject…ask away.

Doing this from time to time helps me understand what is important to the readers of this blog. I have plenty of subjects to busy myself with, but I would love to hear from you,

Thanks in advance for helping me improve  this blog.

The Anatomy of an Unaccredited Christian School

pace cartoon

clip from PACE used by many Christian schools and homeschoolers

Originally written in 2014

In this post, I want to take a look at State Line Christian School, an unaccredited fundamentalist Christian school that is operated under the auspices of the Lewis Ave Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. I know nothing about this school or church, and everything I write in this post has been gleaned from the church’s or school’s website.

Lewis Avenue Baptist Church, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church pastored by Steve Hobbins. Pastor Hobbins has been the pastor of the church since 2008. Prior to that, his father was the pastor for 37 years. Like many IFB churches, Lewis Avenue is a franchise operation, handed down from father to son.

In 2001, the church built a 1,300 seat auditorium. I found nothing on the church’s website that states their actual attendance.  Interestingly, I found nothing on their website that stated what they believed. There is one page that details how a person can go to heaven when they die. Here is the prayer they suggest a sinner pray:

Dear Jesus,

I know I’m a sinner, I know I cannot save myself. I know you died on the cross for my sin. I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins, and take me to heaven when I die. AMEN

Lewis Avenue operates a bus ministry, along with a seniors ministry, singles ministry, mentally handicapped ministry, children’s ministry, music ministry, a teen ministry that focuses on soulwinning, and a Spanish ministry. The church also has a Reformers Unanimous chapter.

The centerpiece of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church’s plan to train future IFB leaders is the State Line Christian School. The school’s about page states:

When State Line Christian School opened in 1973, Pastor Hobbins’s vision was to open not just a private school, but a Christian school, one that held the beliefs of Lewis Avenue Baptist Church and the other churches in the Greater Toledo area. The school is Baptist-based with a strong emphasis on evangelism.

State Line started with just a K-4 and K-5, but added grades every year, until they graduated their first class in 1980. It is considered a preparatory school for college – a student’s core classes are chosen for him, and each student gets four years of English, math, and science. The school uses A Beka Book curriculum. State Line has been successful in preparing its students in that better than 90% of graduates go on to pursue college…

State Line is an unaccredited Christian school that uses A Beka Books, the publishing arm of Pensacola Christian College, for their curriculum.  For one child in grade 1 through 12, the tuition cost is $4,000 plus an enrollment fee and an additional costs fee. Total cost for one child? Around $4,100.  For families with two children enrolled the tuition cost is $6,250. Four children? $8,250. The State Line website does not mention if there is an additional tuition cost for more than four children. If a family is delinquent in making their tuition payments for more than 45 days, their children will not be permitted to attend the school. If payment arrangements are not made, the school will “pursue any and all action to
collect past due money.”
If this step is taken, a 20% fee is added to the amount owed.

Pastor Steve Hobbins is the superintendent and Joshua Newbold is the principal. Both Hobbins and Newbold attended an unnamed, and I assume unaccredited, Bible college. According to the hard to find listing of school staff (no link on school website), the school has 21 teachers:

Out of 21 teachers, only one is certified by the state of Michigan.

State Line Christian School operates under the laws of the Michigan for non-public schools:

  • They are not required to use any particular textbook
  • Their school/church  properties and buildings are exempt from personal and real estate tax
  • They are required to do criminal background checks on all employees
  • They are not required to keep school records
  • They are not required to be accredited by any recognized accrediting body
  • They are not required to use certified or college educated teachers

At one time, Michigan law stated:

  • Teacher certification is optional. A teacher may qualify to work in a nonpublic school in one of the following three ways: obtain a Michigan Teaching Certificate; obtain a substitute, full year, or emergency teaching permit; obtain a bachelor‘s degree.
  • Persons without valid teaching certificates who have the requisite college credit may apply to the Michigan Department of Education for a teaching permit for employment in a nonpublic school under Mich. Admin. Code R 390.1142 (full-year permit); R 390.1143 (substitute permit); and R 390.1144 (emergency permit).
  • Teachers in the regular or elementary grade studies in a private, denominational or parochial school, i.e., a school other than a public school giving instruction to children below the age of 16 years, in the first eight grades, must hold a teaching certificate that would qualify them to teach in like grades of the public schools. Mich.Comp. Laws §§388.552; 388.553.

In 1993, The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the above provision was unconstitutional when applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. In  People v. DeJonge, a lawsuit filed by the fundamentalist Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 4-3 for DeJonge and invalidated the requirements mentioned above. Thus, State Line is under no statutory requirement as far as their teachers are concerned, and this is why most them have degrees from unaccredited fundamentalist Christian colleges.

Like all fundamentalist Christian schools, State Line has a strict code of conduct. While I was unable to find a copy of their student manual online, which is not uncommon for fundamentalist schools that want to hide their rules from prying eyes, I did find a 7th-12th grade student conduct agreement form which must be signed by the student, the school administrator, and the student’s parent. The student must answer in the affirmative or negative to the following questions/statements:

  • Do you attend church regularly? Where?
  • Do you have any objections to saluting the United States Flag, the Christian Flag, or the Bible?
  • Do you understand that the goals and standards of State Line Christian School are based on principles found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament?
  • Have you read our Student Handbook carefully?
  • Is there any standard you do not understand? If answered yes, Which one?
  • Will you dress according to the standards of State Line Christian School?
  • Will you establish and have a daily time for devotions?
  • Will you honestly agree to keep all the school’s rules and respect authority without being critical and find fault?
  • Do you want to attend State Line Christian School?

After answering these questions, the student must READ ALOUD:

“As a student of State Line Christian School, I WILL NOT cheat, swear, smoke, gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, use indecent language, use drugs, or behave in a disorderly or disrespectful manner. I WILL maintain Christian standards in courtesy, kindness, morality and honesty. I WILL strive to be of unquestionable character in dress, conduct and other areas of my life. I WILL attend all weekly services of my church unless providentially hindered. I am willing by the enabling of God to refrain from anything good or bad which might cause others to stumble, to bring reproach to the cause of Christ, to cause disrespect to the glory of God, or to be a negative influence in the character development of myself or others. I will at all times seek to maintain a careful discipline and diligence in the pursuit of my academic opportunities. I will cooperate with those in authority over me and will personally maintain respect for properly placed authority.

I realize that keeping the standards depends upon my attitude and spirit towards the goals of Christian Education. My spirit depends upon my heart commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and the goals He wants for me during my stay at State Line Christian School.

There is much evidence from Pastors, Christian Educators, and Christian Counselors across our nation that bad music, Hollywood movies,television, and bad companionship affects the character, spirit and performance of students. Any evidence that a student is under the influence or control of such will result in disciplinary measures.

While these standards will be strictly enforced, it needs to be understood that we are far more interested in a student’s spirit and attitude than outward conformity to the standards with a rebellious spirit. The student should know that attitudes show just like actions and will be approved or disapproved.

There are tens of thousands of churches like Lewis Ave Baptist Church and thousands of these churches have schools that are just like State Line Christian School. Thousands of American children are being educated in unaccredited schools, taught by non-certified teachers. These schools use fundamentalist Christian textbooks that teach evolution is a myth and promote American exceptionalism and Christian nationalism. Some of these schools don’t even use textbooks, using instead a self-guided curriculum published by Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) or Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute (ATI).

Secularists and humanists think educating children is vitally important. Having an educated populace is for our common good, and it is to everyone’s benefit to make sure every child is adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated. We expect the goverment to regulate schools in such a way that they provide a quality education for every child.

Fundamentalist Christian churches and schools have lobbied legislators and have used lawsuits to demand exemption from state laws that regulate what they can and can not do. In many states, they have been quite successful and this is why there are schools like State Line Christian School. Here in Ohio, any church can start a non-charted, unaccredited religious school. There are no regulations for such schools, and for families who choose to home school, the regulations are few. In others words, many states and local jurisdictions have abdicated their responsibility to regulate and investigate many of the schools that educate their children. (see How to Start a Non-Chartered Christian School in Ohio)

Even worse, right-wing politicians are working hard to pass voucher laws that enable private Christian schools to receive state funding with little or no oversight.  Thousands of American children have their private, religious education paid for by taxpayers. These voucher programs have caused a huge census and financial drain for many public school systems.

I put this post together so readers could see how a typical fundamentalist Christian school operates. I do not know anyone at State Line Christian School or Lewis Ave Baptist Church. They came up in a web search I was doing and I decided that they would be a good example of a non-accredited, private, fundamentalist Christian school.

Should these schools (and home schools) be permitted to operate outside the purview of federal, state, and local authorities? Should they be exempt from the laws that public schools must follow? Should we “trust” these schools to properly educate children without making sure they do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

My opinion? ALL schools should be strictly regulated by federal, state, and local government. They should receive NO public funding unless they are. I have no objection to religiously motivated private schools or homeschooling as long as they are properly regulated. We ALL have a vested interest in making sure that American children are adequately, properly, and comprehensively educated.

If the Bible is God’s Word

guest-post

Guest post by Exrelayman

If the Bible were God’s word:

  • It would be perfectly engrossing. You would love reading it.
  • It would be perfectly clear. There would not be any disagreement anywhere about the meaning of any verse or passage.
  • It would be perfectly persuasive. People of any other faith would convert immediately upon reading this clear and persuasive message.
  • It would perfectly distributed to all the cultures of the world simultaneously, in their own language.
  • It would be perfectly indestructible. Neither years nor flood nor flame could mar or destroy it.
  • It would be perfectly original and accurate in all that it says.

In brief, it would be a perfect revelation proceeding from a perfect God.

And what do we observe in the real world:

  • Very hard to force yourself to slog through it. Most who profess Christianity don’t struggle through all the begats and directions for making temple garments. Very inferior to myriads of mere human novelists.
  • Earnest disagreement about what it actually says has led to thousands of differing denominations. Not so clear then.
  • It needs a bit of help. Pastors must spend Sundays being persuasive. Persuasive hymns and apologetics are needed. Heaven and hell must be dangled as carrot and stick to evince coercion through hope and fear and not clear evidential persuasion.
  • Given at one part of the world, the gospels especially,  through unknown biased writers at unknown places and times.
  • As susceptible to decay and destruction as any other book.
  • Sadly imitative, many other dying and resurrecting savior gods from surrounding cultures preceded the Christ story. The Old Testament stories largely derive from antecedent cultures also. Flatly in conflict with what science has discovered about the age of the Earth and the evolution of life upon it. Flatly contradictory with its own self in numerous places.

At each expectation of what the revelation of a perfect and powerful God would be like, the Bible fails. Now these expectations are admittedly subjective, so that each one of them might be arguable. But cumulatively they become, at least as I see it, irresistible. Thus the verdict that it is not a divine document, but is shown by its own nature to be the product of ignorant and superstitious men writing in ignorant and superstitious times.

The Love of God

love of god 2

Dear Human,

Let me, the one true and living God, show you my love by

Starving you

Burning your house down

Killing your children

Sending a tornado to destroy your community

Giving you a terminal disease

Giving you a child with a severe birth defect

Taking your health away

Reducing you to poverty

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

At times, I might even send other humans to

Rape you

Burn your village down

Spray agent orange on your village

Nuke your city

Falsely imprison you

Rob you

Murder your wife

I do all these things because I love, love, love YOU

There is nothing I won’t do to get you to love me

I will test you, try you, and destroy you, all so you will see that I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life

If necessary, I will reduce you to sitting in an ash heap scraping the puss from the boils that cover your body

I want you to know that I am the one true and living God

I do all these things, not to you, but for you

Surely, you can see that I love you

With much love and affection

GOD

Barbara

barbara tieken 1940s

My Mom, Barbara Tieken, 1940s

Born in rural Missouri to parents who were drunks and constantly fought

Barbara suffered the indignity and shame of being molested by her father

A heinous act he never acknowledged or apologized for

When he became a Christian his past was under the blood

God may have forgiven him

But she never did

barbara and steve tieken 1940s

Barbara and Steve Tieken 1940s

She was a beautiful child who grew up to be an attractive woman

A woman who attracted the attention of men

At seventeen she found herself pregnant

At the age of eighteen she married

Did she marry the father of her baby

There are doubts

barbara gerencser 1956

Barbara Gerencser, 1956

She found her husband to unreliable, never able to keep the bills paid

He moved her from house to house, town to town, and state to state

Along the way she birthed another boy and then a girl

She loved to read and was passionate about politics

She wrote letters to the newspaper, a staunch defender of  right-wing Conservatism

She campaigned for Barry Goldwater and George Wallace

Like so many white, rural Americans of her time, she was a racist

She loved to cook

When her oldest son started playing baseball she came to his games

Her son’s father couldn’t be bothered

When she was thirty-one, her brother-in-law raped her

Her oldest son was home sick from school when it happened

So much trauma

Is it any wonder she had mental problems

Psychiatrists

Pills

Mental hospitals

Attempted suicides

Rage

Depression

Slit wrists, the kitchen floor, a pool of blood, her oldest son found her

Yet, she lived

Over time, her body collapsed rendering her an invalid

barbara gerencser 1957

Barbara Gerencser, 1957, Holding her newborn son Bruce (Butch)

By then, her oldest son was a preacher

She was proud of him

He was not proud of her

She was an embarrassment, a pill junkie, she just needed to get right with God

Four marriages

Numerous men in and out of her life

Yet, she never lost her mental acuity or thirst for knowledge

She watched the news days and night, ever ready to rage against those she disagreed with her

She told her oldest son she wanted him to do her funeral and she wanted everyone to sing the Star Spangled Banner and say the Pledge of Allegiance

barbara tieken 1950s

Barbara Tieken, 1950s

Over time, her oldest son came to accept her as she was

He would come to Columbus and take her shopping or to the doctor

She didn’t like his driving

Her phone was often disconnected

Her latest husband, just like every one before him, couldn’t keep the bills paid

The oldest son’s father died from surgery complications at age forty-nine

He called the police to give her a message since her phone was disconnected

Awhile later, in a pouring rain, she called from a phone booth

They talked and wept together

And then she moved to Quincy, Michigan, six hours away

Her oldest son only saw her a few times after the move

They talked on the phone every month or so and wrote to one another

After church one Sunday, her oldest son answered the phone at his house

His aunt was on the other end of the phone

He heard what he never hoped he would hear

His mom was dead

She had turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, and ripped a hole in her heart

In a moment, her heart stopped and the life drained from her body

Her oldest son wonders why, but he knows the answer

The graveside service was an exercise in profound, excruciating grief and denial

The preacher son could barely speak

There would be no singing of the Start Spangled Banner or saying the Pledge of Allegiance

Even in death she was ignored and denied

Her father spoke of Jesus

Her son saw only a father who molested his daughter and scarred his mother

She was fifty-four when she died

Her son misses her

Oh how he wishes for a do-over

To tell her, I love you

To proudly show off his grandchildren

But all he is left with is emptiness, pain, and regret

And memories

barbara gerencser 1978

Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978

Does the Bible Contain Multiple Plans of Salvation?

saved or lost

Several months back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Van asked:

In one of your recent posts, you made reference to the four different plans of salvation in the NT: one each from Jesus, Paul, Peter, and James. In that post you said Paul’s was the prevalent teaching in 21st century evangelical churches, and you expounded on Jesus’. Can you summarize the Peter and James plans, and ‘compare and contrast’ the four plans?

This is a great question. In the Old Testament, it is quite clear that salvation depended on the Israelite keeping the law of God. Evangelicals will go to great lengths to find the gospel of grace in the Old Testament, but such attempts are wishful thinking. Salvation belonged only to the Jews and was contingent on them keeping the Law. This was the religious system Jesus was born into, as were all the Apostles. There’s nothing in the Bible that suggests Jesus repudiated the religion of his ancestors and parents. For many years, Christianity was considered a subset of Judaism.

I am of the opinion that Jesus’s Christianity is defined in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Any cursory reading of this passage reveals that Jesus’s Christianity was rooted in how a person lived. Jesus was saying, you want to be my disciple? This is how a disciple of mine lives. The Christian church would be well-served if it returned to the Christianity of Jesus. Imagine how much better off the world would be if Christians practiced the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount.

Peter’s salvation was rooted in the laws of Judaism. While he was certainly a follower of Jesus, he believed, at least for a time, that a person had to be circumcised to be saved. He and Paul got into a argument over this issue. In Galatians 2 we find:

And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

This passage reveals a sharp contrast between the gospel of Paul and the gospel of Peter and Barnabas, another man Paul had a falling out with.  In Acts 15, we find that there was great controversy over whether a Gentile had to be circumcised to be saved:

And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

A council was held in Jerusalem to settle the matter and the church decided that circumcision was not required for salvation. They did, however, give Gentiles the following commands:

..That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

James,who I think was the brother of Jesus, sets forth the conditions of his gospel in the book of James, chapter 2. Here, James says that faith without works is dead:

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

James is clear, a faith without works is no faith at all.

We find this same faith plus works gospel in the book of 1 First John. Evangelicals rarely understand I John. Often used as a source text for proof texts, I John actually advances a works based salvation that goes so far as to say that any Christian who sins is not a child of God. Evangelicals love to quote 1 John 5:13:

These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

They love the part that says, that ye may know that ye have eternal life. They proudly say that they have a know-so salvation, yet they ignore the first part of the text where John says, these things have I written unto you. What things? The things John wrote in the previous four chapters, things that clearly show that NO Evangelical is a child of God.

Paul, the supposed writer of most of the books in the New Testament, taught a gospel of right belief. While he often mentions the grace of God, God’s grace was contingent on believing the right things. A Christian was one who believed A, B, and C. In the book of Romans, Paul taught a gospel that Evangelicals have turned into what is commonly called the Romans Road:

  • For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23
  • As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. Romans 3:10,11
  • For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23
  • But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Romans 10:9-13
  • Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: Romans 5:1
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:1,38,39

This is the gospel that dominates American Christianity. Various sects will throw in requirements like water baptism or being baptized with the Holy Ghost, but the main ingredients of their gospel can be found in the verses mentioned above.

2,000 years removed from the time when Jesus walked along the shores of Galilee, it is clear that Paul’s gospel won the gospel battle. While many progressive/liberal Christians preach a more works oriented social gospel, Evangelicals are very much the children of Paul.  It is clear that their were competing gospels within in the early church. Anyone who suggests that the early Christian church had one gospel and was some sort of pure Christianity hasn’t read much of the Bible. They wrongly assume that what we now see in Christendom is what has always existed. As Steven Pinker pointed out in one of his books, Christianity is constantly evolving, giving birth to new Christianities. I suspect Paul, Peter, James, John and Jesus would find  21st century Christianity to be quite strange, perhaps even heretical.

Most Christians rarely read each book of the Bible as a stand alone text. Instead, they invest vast amounts of energy trying to reconcile the various books of the Bible and the competing gospels found within their pages. I am not inclined to do so. I have no need to make my theology fit a particular system. What I see are competing gospels and history tells me that Paul, for the most part, has won the gospel battle. These other gospels make an appearance here and there throughout history, but Christianity continues to be dominated by Paul’s gospel of believe the right things and thou shalt live.

This is a short explanation of the various gospels found in the Bible. It would require thousands of words to do this subject justice. I hope this post is enough to challenge Evangelical assumptions about Jesus, the gospel, and salvation. The Bible says, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, but as this post shows, such a claim is false or some sort of ideal that has never been realized.

Fundy World Tales Part 5

bruce gerencser 1975

Bruce Gerencser, Arizona 1975

In May of 1974, two weeks before the end of my 11th grade year at Findlay High School, I moved back to my Mom’s home in Bryan, Ohio. During the year I lived away from home, my brother and sister had left Dad’s home in Arizona and moved back to Bryan.   After returning to Bryan, I attempted to enroll at Bryan High School for my senior year only to find out that because I left school two weeks early, Findlay High School was denying me credit for the entire 11th grade year. This meant I would have to repeat the 11th grade. Rather than do this, I dropped out of school and went to work at Myer’s Marathon as a pump attendant and mechanic.

Mom had a new husband, Chuck Jones. Chuck, a lifelong resident of Bryan, was a meat cutter in Fort Wayne. When sober Chuck was a decent enough man, but when drunk he was mean, violent, and dangerous. I tried to stay out of his way when he was drunk, but there were times we crashed into each other and the result was not pretty.  One time, Chuck and Mom were fighting and he pulled a gun on her. I quickly stood between them and Chuck pulled the hammer back on the revolver and threatened to shoot both of us.  In a moment of utter foolishness, I said, go ahead! Fortunately, Chuck didn’t shoot. A year or so after this incident, Mom filed for divorce, citing his drunkenness and violence.

In October of 1974, Mom was committed to the Toledo State Mental Hospital.  This was her second committal. Mom had mental health problems her entire life.  Sexually molested as a child by her father, Mom had a long and bitter love/hate relationship with her father, John Tieken, Their relationship took a turn for the worse after John found Jesus. When, years later, Mom confronted him with what he had done to her, he refused to acknowledge what he did and told her that God had forgiven him and that it was all under the blood. (please read Dear Ann)

During her stays at the Toledo State Mental Hospital, Mom underwent electroconvulsive therapy. Combined with the drugs they gave her, Mom turned into a zombie.  When Mom was committed in October of 1974, I was seventeen and the responsibility for my brother and sister fell on me. Not telling a soul about Mom being absent from the home, my siblings went to school and I went to work. This went on for several months before Dad found out about it and drove from Arizona to pick us up and take us back to his new home in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I still remember the gut wrenching feeling I had as we pulled away from Bryan. Mom was still in the hospital and I could only imagine how she must have felt returning to an empty house after her release.

bruce gerencser 1975-001

Bruce Gerencser, Arizona 1975

Once settled at Dad’s house in Sierra Vista, I found a church to attend, Sierra Vista Baptist Church. Sierra Vista Baptist, pastored at the time by Fred Taylor, was affiliated with the Conservative Baptist denomination. Adjacent to Sierra Vista was the strategic air command base, Fort Huachuca. Many of the members of the church were stationed at Fort Huachuca.  Just like I did at every stop along the road of my life, I immersed myself into the life of the church. I taught Sunday School and worked on a bus route. During this time I also became romantically involved with Anita Farr, an attractive woman two years my senior. While remaining chaste during this relationship, Anita proved to be a real challenge to my commitment to remain a virgin until I was married.

Late in the summer of 1975, Anita left to go Southwestern College, now Arizona Christian University. It was not long after that she and I broke up and I moved back to Bryan, Ohio. While I was in Arizona, Mom had bought a mobile home and placed it in a mobile home park on Route 6, a few miles outside of Bryan where the Mansion Mobile Home factory now sits. I quickly found work at Foodland as the dairy manager. One week I would work 40 hours and the next week I would work 37.5 hours. By scheduling me this way, Foodland was able to classify me as a part-time employee. This meant I was not eligible for the benefits that full-time employees had.

I started attending First Baptist Church. Our family had attended First Baptist for several years in the 1960’s. Jack Bennett, married to my uncle’s sister, was the pastor of the church. For a time, I went through a rebellious spell, hanging out with other rebellious teenagers/young adults that attended the church. Members at First Baptist still tell stories of the rebellious Bruce Gerencser. While I was certainly rebellious when compared to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist norm, I still didn’t smoke, drink, use drugs, or have premarital sex. I was more of an opinionated, angry, temperamental redhead who liked to have fun.

bruce gerencser 1976

Bruce Gerencser, 1976

My rebellious stage was short-lived, and in the spring of 1976 I got right with God and decided it was time to act on God calling me to be a preacher. I went to talk to Pastor Bennett about going to Bible college, but he proved to be quite unhelpful. To this day, I wonder why he was unwilling to guide and help me. While he was cordial and polite to me, he always kept me at arm’s length. Left on my own to decide where to go to college, I decided to attend Prairie Bible Institute in Canada.

Unable to come up with enough money to attend Prairie Bible Institute, I decided to attend Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. My fundamentalist grandparents, John and Ann Tieken, lived in nearby Waterford Township. John owned and operated T&W Engine Shop, an aircraft engine repair shop at Pontiac Airport.  Like my mother, I would have a love/hate relationship with John and Ann Tieken. Fundamentalist to the core, my grandparents were hypercritical and judgmental. In 2000, our relationship finally collapsed under the weight of their oppressive judgmentalism and I told them I was no longer interested in having a relationship with them. Grandpa later died of colon cancer and Ann remarried.

car I took to bible college

Car I took to Midwestern Baptist College, 1976.

In August of 1976, I packed my belongings into my car and drove 2 1/2 hours northeast to Pontiac, Michigan so I could enroll for classes at Midwestern. I was on my way to being a pastor.

Jewelry by Karen, Modeled by Bethany

Karen, a regular reader of this blog and a friend of mine, makes custom jewelry. Recently, she contacted me about making a piece of jewelry for me, and after we kicked it back and forth a bit, Karen made a piece of jewelry for Bethany instead of me. The only jewelry I have ever worn is my wedding ring, so we decided to let Bethany model Karen’s custom work. Here’s several photographs I took over the weekend:

bethany modeling jewelry

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If you are interested in having Karen make a custom jewelry piece for you, please let me know and I will put you in contact with her. Once her website is active, I will publish the link. You can also contact her on Facebook.

Note:

I got Bethany to smile by mentioning all her love interests: Rascal Flatts, Loki, and Captain America.

Blog News: I Need Your Help

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Good news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Bad news, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser continues to attract new readers. Good news, because I write to be read. Bad news, because I had to move this site to a faster server, resulting in a substantial bump in costs.

Increased Costs

As readership numbers increase, site speed slows. Last week, thanks to Facebook and Reddit sharing and thousands of new readers, this site crashed and became intermittently unresponsive, forcing me to upgrade my service package with Flywheel. I am now on a service package that costs $75 a month.

flywheelDue to previous denial of service attacks, brute password attacks, and two successful hacks of this site, I decided to move The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser to a managed service company. Some of you may remember a year or so ago before I took the blog down that I was receiving thousands of spam comments a day. When I restarted this blog last December, I contracted with  a company named Flywheel. Flywheel  takes care of all the updates and security so I can focus on writing. I’ve found the folks at Flywheel quite friendly and extremely helpful. Every time I’ve emailed or called them they have been quite friendly and helpful. BTW, I now have a Flywheel affiliate account.

I’ve got to find a way to recover at least some of the costs for operating this blog. While I do receive a handful of donations each month, they rarely cover costs. Not only do I have server costs, but I also use WP Touch Pro, a premium mobile plugin and theme. Since the majority of readers now access this site on mobile devices, it is important that they are served pages that can easily and quickly be read on whatever device they are using.

I am uncertain about what to do going forward. While I can absorb the increased cost for a few months, it is doubtful that I will be able to do so over the long-term. Should I start using advertisements? I do have an Amazon affiliate account and it generates around $10 a month. Thousands of clicks, far fewer purchases. Should I try to maximize my Amazon affiliate account? Set up a bookstore? Use more aggressive advertising? Pimp myself out on the back lot of the local truck stop?

I do know that I do NOT want a blog littered with advertisements. I hate going a site where I am greeted with numerous advertisements, so I don’t want to turn this site into an advertisement site that has a blog attached to it.  If you have any suggestions, please send me a private email.

Facebook

My Facebook page has become an increasing source of traffic and reader engagement. There was a time when conversations were limited to the comment section, but now there are comments on Facebook and other social media that are every bit as important. I want to make sure I do my best to interact with readers wherever they read one of my posts, but I am finding, in the case of Facebook, that it won’t be long before I am unable to keep up.

Every post I write is posted to my Facebook page. This page is separate from my personal Facebook account. I also post news stories, articles, and blog posts I think readers might find thought provoking or a reminder of how much crazy there is in Evangelicalism. In order to keep up with things, I am looking for several people to help me administrate the Facebook page.  The ideal person would be someone who is conversant in all things Evangelical and is able to thoughtfully engage Evangelical critics without wanting to beat them to death with a copy of the King James Bible. I could also use the help of someone who has a science background. I get a lot of science questions that I do not have sufficient training to answer. If you would like to help administer my Facebook page, please sent me a private email.

Guest Posts

I am looking for readers who are willing to write a guest post.  The subject matter is of your own choosing. I’d love to have some first person stories, testimonies about leaving Christianity or deconverting.  Anonymous stories are welcome, as are stories that were previously published elsewhere. If I can get enough guest posts lined up, this will allow me to take a break for a few days so I can get the videos I promised recorded.  If you have a guest post you’d like to submit, please use the contact form to do so.

As always, thank you for reading.

Bruce