The Latest from Bruce

Signs of Religious Persecution in Defiance County, Ohio

war against christianity

The overwhelming majority of Americans self identify as Christian. Here in rural NW Ohio, I suspect  there are few non-Christians. The number of public atheists I know number three. That’s right, three.  Christianity is on full display everywhere one looks. Churches on every street corner, Christian radio and TV stations, Christian book stores, Christian coffee houses, and business signs with the ichthys (fish) symbol, all testify to the fact that America is a Christian nation and rural NW Ohio is God’s Country.

Christians are free to start new churches and worship anyway they please. No matter how crazy their beliefs and practices are, there is no government or private agency  keeping them from practicing their form of crazy. From strict liturgical churches to snake handling Baptists, there is a flavor of Christianity for everyone. Christian sects, churches, religious institutions, and pastors are given special tax benefits, from real estate and sales tax exemption to the clergy housing allowance. Christian churches are considered by many to be dispensers of morality, and when bad things like a school shooting, tornado, flood, or hurricane hits a community, local Christian clergy are called in to calm fears and let everyone know God is still on the throne.

Someone visiting from another country would likely be amazed at the religiosity of Americans. I doubt they would see any signs of religious persecution, especially if they hail from a country where there’s real persecution. Thanks to fear mongering and lying  by Evangelical preachers, Catholic prelates and priests, Mormon bishops, Christian parachurch leaders, Christian college presidents and professors, Christian TV and radio programmers, and Fox News hosts, many Christians believe they are being persecuted by liberals, secularists, socialists,communists, abortionists, homosexuals, and atheists. The annual War on Christmas® has now morphed into the War on Christianity®.

There is not one shred of evidence to back up the claim that there is a concerted effort to persecute American Christians and keep them from worshiping their God. From my seat in the pew, I see government at every level bending over backwards to accommodate Christians. As a nation, we value religious freedom so highly that we grant sects, churches, and each Christian special privileges. There is no other nation on earth that has more religious freedom, yet many Christians still think they are being persecuted. Why is this?

Here’s my take. When people live in a country that values personal rights and freedom, especially religious freedom, they tend to see small accommodations or denials as frontal assaults on their rights and freedom. When groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), American Humanist Association (AHA), American Atheists (AA), or the ACLU demand that Christians abide by the Constitution and the separation of church and state, Christians see this as personal attack on their faith.

Let me give a local example of this. Recently, the ACLU of Ohio sent nearby Edon Northwest School District a letter about the school district’s core values statement found in the front of the student handbook:

core values edon northwest school district

Graphic from The Friendly Atheist

Here’s what the Toledo Blade had to say:

The American Civil Liberties Union sent a request today to a Williams County school district to stop what it calls its “sectarian policies and practices that violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The letter to the Edon Northwest Local School district, which is near the Ohio-Indiana border, cites the school system’s student handbook, which references “Christian values,” and what the ACLU says is a practice of inviting ministers to pray at mandatory school assemblies. John Granger, interim superintendent who joined the district in January, said he has not witnessed some of the incidents referenced by the ACLU, but that if the allegations are true, the district should make changes.

”This has already been settled by the United States Supreme Court,“ Mr. Granger said. “I would make a recommendation to the board of education that if we are in violation of the law, we should stop.”

The district’s website includes a copy of the student handbook, and the first page lists the district’s “Core Values.”

As we strive to achieve our Vision and accomplish our Mission, we value…” the handbook states, with “Honesty and Christian values” as the second entry.

The ACLU letter claims ministers attended assemblies before the Thanksgiving and winter holidays, and that students need parent approval to opt out of the events.

“These reports also allege that the ministers pray aloud, ask the students to join in the prayer and recite homilies concerning upcoming holidays,” the letter states.

The ACLU in its letter, signed by ACLU of Ohio’s Legal Director Freda Levenson and staff attorney Drew Dennis, recognizes that Mr. Granger is new to the position and the started before his arrival in the district.

“We now take this opportunity to make you aware of the unconstitutionality of the described practices, and request that you investigate them and bring an end to them immediately,“ the letter states…

I have no doubt that local Christians are outraged over the ACLU’s demand that the Edon Northwest School District abide by the establishment clause and the separation of church and state.I am sure they see this as a sign of religious persecution. It’s not. This kind of stuff has been going on in rural schools since the days I roamed the halls of Farmer Elementary in the 1960’s. The difference now is that groups like  FFRF, ACLU, AHA, AA, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) are paying attention to what is going on in the schools and government and are willing to litigate any violation of the Constitution.

Today, Polly took me on a short nineteen mile drive on Route 18 between Defiance and Hicksville. The following pictures succinctly illustrate the religious climate in rural NW Ohio. They tell the story far better than I could.

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The Faith4Freedom signs litter the rural NW Ohio landscape. According to their defunct Facebook page, 20,000 of these signs were printed and distributed in Ohio and Michigan. This is primarily a Catholic endeavor. Based on the lack of activity on their Facebook page, Twitter account, and a no longer available website, I assume that local Catholics have lost their religious freedom and are living in nearby catacombs. Once the black anti-Christ, Barack Hussein Obama, is divinely removed from office, they will no longer fear persecution and return to the safety of Facebook, Twitter, and the internet.

What Kind of Christian Are You?

hell

This will be a short post.

I am often accused of lumping all Christians together.

I’m not like those nasty, hateful, judgmental Christians who comment on your blog, says the Good Christian.

Fair enough.

But, let me ask one question.

When I die, will I go to heaven or hell?

Well, that’s up to…stop it.

When I die, will I go to heaven or hell?

I reject your God, Jesus, salvation, and Bible.

I reject the notion that Jesus was God, was crucified, and resurrected from the dead three days later.

With my whole heart, I reject every teaching that is central to what it means do be Christian.

I reject the Christian concept of sin. I have no need of atonement, redemption, or salvation.

So, I ask again, When I die, will I go to heaven or hell?

How you answer this question determines what kind of Christian you are.

heaven and hell

Heaven and Hell

The Phelps clan, with all the viciousness of a starving rabid dog, screams that I will go straight to hell when I die and I will be tortured by God in a place where the worm dies not and the fire is not quenched. 

How about you, Christian friend? What say ye?  When I die, will I go to heaven or hell?

You can be the nicest person in the world, but if you believe that nonChristians go to hell when they die, you are not really any different from the Phelps clan. 

If you answer my question with the word hell, then you are just like the nasty, hateful Christians you say are “bad” Christians. You may wear fashion designer clothes, smell great, and have the best smile money can buy, but if your answer to my question is hell, then you are no different from the trailer park trash Christians you say aren’t part of your family. 

Virtually every Christian sect believes eternal punishment awaits an atheist. I am an atheist, proudly so. I ask you, When I die, will I go to heaven or hell?

Your answer tells me all I need to know. 

It really is that simple.

 

 

Songs of Sacrilege: Christian Woman

This is the tenth 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 leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Christian Woman by Type O Negative.

Lyrics

a) Body Of Christ (Corpus Christi)
b) To Love God
c) Jesus Christ Looks Like Me

A cross upon her bedroom wall
From grace she will fall
An image burning in her mind
And between her thighs

A dying God-man full of pain
When will you cum again ?

Before him beg to serve or please
On your back or knees
There’s no forgiveness for her sins
Prefers punishment ?
Would you suffer eternally
Or internally ?

For her lust
She’ll burn in hell
Her soul done medium well
All through mass manual stimulation
Salvation

Body of Christ
She needs
The body of Christ

She’d like to know God
Ooh love God
Feel her God
Inside of here – deep inside of her

Jesus Christ looks like me

Songs of Sacrilege: Parasite God

This is the ninth 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 leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Parasite God by Mortiis.

Lyrics

We are floating – Above the mountains.
Watching all the tiny people.
How they waste themselves away.
Obey themselves away.

How willingly – They lay their love.
How willingly – They sacrifice themselves,
To the Locust Master – to the one that drowned the world.

They love their Parasite God – Yet they crucify me.

How willingly – They lay their love.
How willingly – They sacrifice themselves,
to the bringer of hunger – to the one that drowned the world.

They love their Parasite God – Yet they crucify me.

I want to be your Parasite God.
So i can show you what you really are.
I want to be your Parasite God.
So i can show you what you really are.

They love their Parasite God – Yet they crucify me.

Songs of Sacrilege: Merry Go ‘Round

This is the eighth 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 leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Merry Go ‘Round by Kacey Musgraves.  This is not an overtly sacrilegious song,but it does point out the disconnect between church and real life. I am a big Kacy Musgraves fan.

Lyrics

If you ain’t got two kids by 21, you’re probably gonna die alone.
At least that’s what tradition told you.
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe, come Sunday morning
You best be there in the front row like you’re supposed to.

Same hurt in every heart.
Same trailer, different park.

Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
And it ain’t slowin’ down
This merry go ’round.

We think the first time’s good enough.
So, we hold on to high school love.
Sayin’ we won’t end up like our parents.
Tiny little boxes in a row, ain’t whatcha want, it’s whatcha know.
Just happy in the shoes you’re wearin’.
Same checks we’re always cashin’
To buy a little more distraction.

‘Cause mama’s hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane
Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married.
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round and ’round and ’round we go
Where it stops nobody knows,
And it ain’t slowin’ down.
This merry go ’round.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary.
We’re so bored until we’re buried.
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go ’round.
Merry go ’round.

Jack and Jill went up the hill.
Jack burned out on booze and pills.
And Mary had a little lamb.
Mary just don’t give a damn no more.

Millions of People are Christian so Christianity MUST be True

one true religion

One of the arguments Evangelical Christians use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity is this:

 “Bruce, millions of people are Christians. Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived.”

This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? The sheer number of Christians makes it highly unlikely that Christianity is untrue, right? However, history is replete with examples of people sincerely believing things that were later found to be untrue. Millions of people have been slaughtered by zealots sincerely committed to a belief that was untrue.

In the political realm we see this all the time. President Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew us into the Vietnam War. President George Bush and his lackeys lied about weapons of mass destruction and used this lie to start a war with Iraq. Adolph Hitler, a Christian man, along with his fellow Nazis, spun a lie about the Jews and the superiority of the Aryan race. Germans embraced this lie, resulting in the death of millions of people. In each of these illustrations the lie was believed by the masses.

What does Christianity offer to people? It purports to answer the “big” questions of life, especially the question of life after death. There is no question that Christianity gives hope, meaning, and purpose to millions of people. However, just because millions of people find hope, meaning, and purpose in Christianity doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

Christianity is an exclusive religion. Some sects within the Christian tent (i.e. Catholicism) claim exclusivity for their particular sect. Some churches take this exclusivity a step further and claim that they are one of the few true churches. (i.e. Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God)  A Christian is a follower of Jesus and his teachings. At some level the Bible must be embraced as truth. Otherwise, how can a person know they should follow Jesus or what the requirements are to be a follower?

Since Christianity is an exclusive religion, all other religions are considered false. All other gods are no gods at all. According to the Christian, their God, the God of the Bible, the God who reveals himself through creation and conscience, is the one true and ever existing God.

It is this certainty about God, the Bible, sin, salvation, and life after death that draws millions of people to Christianity. On April 5th, millions  will gather together to proclaim their belief in a God-man named Jesus. In him they find the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. Surely, the sheer magnitude of the worldwide Easter gathering stands as proof that Christianity is true!

There’s just one BIG problem with this seemingly insurmountable “fact.” There are other sects that have millions of worshippers too. There are millions of Hindus, Muslims, Jews,and Buddhists who believe their God is the true God or one of the many gods in the universe. Take a look at the numbers for the major religions of the world:

top 15 religions in the world

Let’s play fill in the blank:

Millions of people are __________.(fill in with one of the above religions) Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

 I hope you see that the number of believers/followers doesn’t necessarily mean a religion is true. It is quite possible for a religion to be totally manmade and yet have millions of adherents. This is easily proved.

When I think of a manmade religion, I can think of no better example than Mormonism. Joseph Smith invented the Mormon religion, yet 15+ million people are practicing Mormons. There are over 29,000 Mormon congregations in the world and over 88,000 Mormon missionaries go from place to place making disciples for their God. Surely, this is proof that the Mormon religion is the one truth faith and the Mormon God is the one true God, right?

Wikipedia gives a concise summary of the how the Mormon religion started:

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. Founded by Joseph Smith, the faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates he said he found buried after being directed to their location by an angel. The book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. Smith dictated the book of 584 pages over a period of about three months saying that he translated it from an ancient language “by the gift and power of God”. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.

Smith later wrote that he had seen a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ in spring 1820 in answer to his question of which denomination he should join. Sometimes called the “First Vision”, Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings was reportedly the basis for the difference in doctrine between Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and that of orthodox Christianity. Smith further said that in answer to his prayer the Lord instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported having several angelic visitations, and by 1830 Smith said that he had been instructed that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church.

Mormonism is a wonderful example of American entrepreneurship. Founded on the lies/delusions of Joseph Smith, they are now one of the largest religions in America. There is no truth to their founding story, yet millions of people believe it. This is clear evidence that it is possible for millions of people to believe something and it be totally false.

How do you know that Christianity is any different from Mormonism or any of the other religions of the world?  As I have clearly shown, the number of people who believe is not proof that any particular religion is true.

Certainty

certainty erich fromm

CERTAINTY

  1. The fact, quality, or state of being certain: the certainty of death.
  2. Something that is clearly established or assured.

SYNONYMS certainty, certitude, assurance, conviction. These nouns mean freedom from doubt. Certainty implies a thorough consideration of evidence: “the emphasis of a certainty that is not impaired by any shade of doubt” (Mark Twain). Certitude is based more on personal belief than on objective facts: “Certitude is not the test of certainty” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.). Assurance is a feeling of confidence resulting from subjective experience: “There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life” (John Stuart Mill). Conviction arises from the vanquishing of doubt: “His religion . . . was substantial and concrete, made up of good, hard convictions and opinions. (Willa Cather).

Ah yes, Certainty.

One of linchpins of Christianity is certainty.

I KNOW in whom I have believed, said the Apostle Paul.

I have a KNOW-SO salvation, is a line often heard on Sunday morning.

Doubt is of the Devil.

Saved or Lost.

Heaven or Hell.

Truth or Error.

Infallibility.

Inerrancy.

A supernatural God who wrote a supernatural book that speaks of a supernatural salvation.

You can know for sure_______

If you died today would you go to heaven?

If there is one error in the Bible then none of it is true.

Yet, for all the Christian-speak about certainty, real life suggests that certainty is a myth.

We live in a world of chance, ambiguity, and doubt.

Will I die today?

Will I have a job tomorrow?

Will I be able to walk a year from now?

What does the future hold for my spouse, children, and grandchildren?

Climate change?

War?

Environmental degradation?

Pandemics?

Who will win the Super Bowl?

Will my garden flourish?

Will I get lucky tonight?

Life is anything but certain.

Christianity offloads the uncertainties of this life to  a certain future in heaven with Jesus. No matter how uncertain the present is, we can, with great certainty, KNOW heaven awaits us.

One problem though…

No one KNOWS for sure there is a heaven.

No one has been to heaven and returned to earth to give us a travel report.

The heaven most Christians believe in isn’t even found in the Bible. Most Christians have a mystic, fanciful, syrupy,  non-Biblical view about heaven.

Grandma really isn’t in heaven right now running around praising Jesus. According to the Bible, Grandma is in the grave awaiting the resurrection of the dead.

I don’t know if there is a heaven.

I have my doubts, lots of doubts.

I’m inclined to think heaven is a state of mind.

We want to believe life matters.

We want to believe there is more to life than what we now have.

We want to believe there will someday be a world where there is no pain, suffering, or death.

But, what if there is not?

What if this is it?

What if we truly only have hope in this life?

Should we not make the most of what we have NOW?

Perhaps we should  we take seriously the Bible admonition not to boast about tomorrow because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Heaven will wait.

Live.

You and I are given one life and it will soon be past.

Live.

The Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists

intractable

If you have not read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? please do so. This will help you understand my use of the word fundamentalist.

Thanks to this blog, Facebook, Twitter, and breathing air, I come into contact with Christian fundamentalists every day. They comment on my blog, send me tweets, leave Facebook comments, and send me email. I’m like a human shit pile on a warm summer day. The fundamentalist flies are drawn to me and there’s little I can do about it. As an out of the closet atheist and a writer, I know that dealing with Christian fundamentalists is part of my job description.

I’ve been blogging for over seven years. Started and stopped several times, and every stoppage was predicated by the behavior of Christian fundamentalists and how their actions affected my health and mental wellbeing. Over the years, I’ve gotten mentally and emotionally stronger, my skin has thickened, and I am pretty much impervious to the petty, childish, boorish, ignorant behavior of fundamentalists. When I am up to it, I might engage them a bit, but most of the time I let them piss on my doorstep and ignore them. When they don’t get the desired response from me, they usually head off to another fire hydrant they can whiz on. (yes, I am full of metaphors today)

Some fundamentalists have upped their game and turned to electronic means of bullying. Readers may remember all the problems I had last year with spam bots. At one time, I was receiving 1,500 spam comments a day. This was a concerted effort by someone to frustrate me and cause me grief. During this same time period, I had someone trying to access the blog login. Now this happens routinely a dozen or so times a day, but this time was different. They attempted to login thousands of times a day. The good news is they failed. My login remained secure and no spam made it to the live site.

Currently, I am receiving about a hundred spam comments a day. Quite manageable. In most cases, it’s drive by spammers wanting to either infect my computer with a virus or make my penis larger. In the case mentioned above, it was a directed attack. Someone deliberately wanted to cause me problems, perhaps even cause me to stop blogging. A great victory for Team God, yes? Yea God!

Yesterday, someone decided to set up a fake Facebook account in my name. They then gained access to my Friends list (my fault since I had it set to public) and sent them a new friend request. About 25 of my friends friended the fake Bruce Gerencser, and after they did they got a private message from the Fake. The message? A Christian one, meant to witness to them. Fortunately, several dozen friends contacted me about the fake account and in less than an hour Facebook shut it down. For future reference, I am the only Bruce Almighty Gerencser in the world. If we are already connected through social media, any other Bruce Almighty is a false one.

The one thing I have learned from this is that Christian fundamentalists, for the most part, are intractable. Intractable is not a word used very often, so let me give you the dictionary definition:

intractable

This word perfectly describes most of the fundamentalists I come in contact with through this blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Certainty has turned them into nasty, arrogant, hateful individuals who have forgotten what their Bible says about the fruit of the spirit and how they are to treat others. Safe behind their digital shield, they violently brandish their word sword, caring little about what damage they might do. Worse yet, they fail to realize that they are pushing people towards agnosticism and atheism. Why would I ever want to be a part of a religion that allows and encourages maltreatment of others?

As a pastor, I always taught church members that our actions spoke louder than our words. How we treated others determined how our beliefs would be judged. While I may have been a fundamentalist for many years, I never treated people like I’ve seen fundamentalists treat myself and others. As I mentioned in the comment rules, they are people who haven’t learned to play well with others. They are the school yard bully, demanding all bow to their God and their interpretation of the Bible.

I know there is no use trying to shame Christian fundamentalists into acting like they have graduated preschool. If seven years of blogging has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t change how a fundamentalist thinks or acts. But, Bruce, you were a fundamentalist as were many of the people who read this blog, and you changed! True enough, but I also know how hard it is to change.

The majority of fundamentalists will believe what they believe until they die. Why? Because their entire life is wrapped up in their belief system. They are in a self-contained bubble where everything makes sense. If you have not read, The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box, please do so. I think you will find both posts helpful in explaining the fundamentalist bubble. Until a person is willing to at least consider that there is life outside of the bubble, there is no hope for them.

I am convinced that inerrancy, the belief that the Bible is without error, keeps people chained to the fundamentalist God. Armed with an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible, given to them by the supernatural God who wrote and autographed it, they go into the “world” and wage war against all who disagree with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. If you want to see this belief in action, read the recent comments on The Bob Jones III Non Apology Apology, If You Don’t Believe the Bible You Can’t be Saved, and Family Driven Faith Part Two. One commenter was so certain he was right and smarter than the rest of the class, that he had no need to read a book or any of my other blog posts. He was right, end of discussion.

Those of us who were once Christian fundamentalists understand the fundamentalist pathology. After all, we wuz one of them. We know how certain and arrogant we once were, full of God and shit. We would have remained this way had it not been for an event, life circumstance, book, website, or blog. When one of these things poked a tiny hole in our bubble, we tried our best to patch the hole. But, try as we might, none of the patches would stick, so our  bubble deflated. In rushed the “world” with its knowledge. From that day forward, we knew we could no longer stay in the bubble that had been our home for as long as we could remember.  Our fundamentalist Christian friends and family, along with our pastors and colleagues, tried to patch and re-inflate the bubble; but it was too late. Like the horse escaping its pen, we were free, and once free we were not coming back.

My purpose in life is NOT to debate, fight, and argue with Christian fundamentalists. It is a waste of time to do so, and since I have so little time left on this earth, I don’t want to waste it casting my pearls before swine. I’d rather spend my time helping those who find themselves outside of the fundamentalist bubble. Confused, hurt, looking for help and answers, I want to be someone they can turn to for love and support. I also want to help and be friends with those who have already transitioned away from religion. They want to know what a post-God life looks like.  Through my writing, I try to be a help. A small help, a temporary help, whatever they need from me I try to provide.  I am not a guru, nor do I have all the answers. At best, I am a bartender, willing to spin a yarn, provide entertainment, and listen to the woes, cares, and concerns of others.

Through this interaction, I gain something too. Not another church member or notch on the handle of my gospel six-shooter. I have no church or club, I am just one man with a story to tell. But, I do gain support and strength from those who make this blog part of their day-to-day routine.  Sometimes, this blog is a cheap form or therapy; other times it is a raucous Friday night at the bar with friends. As people ride along with me on the Bruce Gerencser Crazy Train®, they have gone from acquaintances and readers to friends. Perhaps, this has become another bubble for me, but if it is, I do know there is an entrance and exit that allows me the freedom to come and go as I please. Freedom, a word I never really understood until I saw God, the church, the ministry, and the Bible in the rear view mirror.