On February 10, 2014, a letter I wrote to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News was published in the newspaper. You can read the letter here. My letters to the local papers put my family in a difficult position because people often ask them or confront them about what I wrote. I have told them that they don’t have to defend me. If someone has questions they want answered or want to confront the evil, Satanic atheist, I am very easy to find. Over the years, I have received phone calls, letters, and visits to my home from people who wanted to “talk” to me about something I wrote in the newspaper. When we bought a new car a year ago, the salesman asked me if I was the guy who writes the letters in the paper. I said yes I was, and much to my delight, the salesman said he agreed with me. When I go to the dentist, my dentist will almost always let me know that he read my latest letter. He doesn’t agree with me but he does find my letters “interesting.” As I mentioned previously, my one neighbor lets me know when he reads the latest letter to the editor from whom he calls, his educated (or scholarly) neighbor. I know that I am the village atheist and I make no effort to hide from the public.
Last week, one of my sons had a fellow employee come up to him and “ask” him about my latest letter. Perhaps “ask” is not the right word. He wanted to let my son know that he disagreed with me and that he could refute EVERY point I made in my letter. According to my son, this man is a church going Tea Partier. In other words, he is like a lot of people in rural NW Ohio, Pro-God, Anti-Government.
The man asked my son, what I really want to know is your Dad’s economic beliefs? My son replied, making me so proud him, He is a Communist.
Silence. (my son is smirking and laughing on the inside, I just know it)
Then my son says, I think my Dad would describe himself as a fiscally-responsible liberal.
I consider the letters I write the equivalent of poking a bear. I know what I write is considered heresy and offensive to the sensitive ears of conservative, right-wing locals. Rural NW Ohio tends to be a monoculture, so my letters are an important reminder to all of God’s people that not everyone thinks like them. I also know I speak for other similar minded local people who can’t, due to job or family concerns, speak out like I do.
There are a handful of local Christian zealots who ALWAYS respond to my letters; people like Daniel Gray, Dennis Hanna, Larry Tonjes, and Randall Peabody, the four horseman of local fundamentalist Christianity. Since the newspaper only allows a person to write one letter a month, I try to plan my letter writing so these four Bruce Gerencser haters have to wait 3 or 4 weeks before they can respond to me.
I am often asked if I think my letter writing does any good and the answer is yes. When local Christians get wild about something I have written and write a rebuttal, it exposes for all to see what some Christians think about the world and those who are different from them. They are, whether they realize it or not, a great advertisement for liberal Christianity or atheism/agnosticism. While they rage against the red-headed Hungarian preacher turned atheist, others are asking themselves, is this what Christianity is really all about? And as I mentioned above, I also think my letters are an encouragement to like-minded people who must remain in the closet. (I have received emails from a few of them over the years)
But, even if my letter writing did no good at all, I would still write them. It’s in my blood. My right-wing, John Birch loving, Communist hating mother was an avid letter writer. She wrote letters about the Vietnam war, a letter in support of Lt William Calley, and a letter that stated the Kent State students murdered by the Ohio National Guard got exactly what they deserved. She was unapologetically vocal about her political and religious beliefs and her letters reflected that. She was also willing to take on issues where she saw injustice. When the city of Bryan decided in the 1970′s to start a municipal garbage service and required local residents to only use trash bags purchased from the City, she stood up for the right to use whatever trash bags a person wanted and she stood up for the independent trash hauler. When the Bryan Medical Group began consolidating its medical services, she wrote a letter to the editor saying the Medical Group was becoming a medical cartel. (And she was right. Today, there are NO independent, non Bryan Medical Group (Parkview Physicians Group) affiliated doctors in Williams County.)
So if you are looking for someone to blame for my letter writing, blame my mother. As for me, I am thankful my mother taught me that beliefs matters and if you believe something you should stand up and say so. While I have no doubt that my mother, if she were still alive, would NOT approve of my lack of belief in God or my liberal politics, she would appreciate the passion I have for writing and expressing my beliefs.