Tag Archives: Marriage

A Kiss For Luck And We’re On Our Way

bruce polly gerencser may 1978

Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

Thirty-six years ago today, on a hot sweltering day, the most beautiful girl in the world walked down the aisle of the Newark Baptist Temple to meet her husband to be. Polly was nineteen and I was twenty-one. We were young, naïve, inexperienced Baptist kids, ill prepared for marriage, but here we are, thirty-six years later, still married.

We spent our honeymoon at the French Lick Hotel in French Lick, Indiana. A month before our honeymoon, I sent a check to the Hotel to guarantee our reservation. The check bounced, the first of many bounced checks during the early years of our marriage. We had no experience with handling money, and it took us a few years to figure out how to keep a checkbook. It also took us a few years to figure out that if you pay the light, telephone, and gas bill they don’t shut them off.

The groomsmen and I ordered our tuxes from a place in Pontiac, Michigan, not far from Midwestern Baptist College where we all were students. We didn’t try them on before the wedding, so imagine our surprise when we found out one of the tuxes was the wrong size. My soon to be mother-in-law altered the pants so my groomsman could squeeze into them. All would be well, or so we thought. As we were walking into the church auditorium, all of sudden the altered seam ripped open. There stood Mike Lavery with the crotch ripped out of his pants. We all snickered and he walked ever so carefully to the front of the church. No one was the wiser.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978-005

Our Wedding Party, July 15 1978

The soloist for our wedding was one of our best friends from college, Mark Bullock. Mark often led the singing during chapel and was quite a gifted singer. He also drove one bad-ass Plymouth Barracuda. Mark sang three songs, All My Life by Tommy Malone Jr., The Wedding Song by Peter, Paul, and Mary and We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters. It is these last two songs that caused quite a stir at the Newark Baptist Temple. They were the first and last secular songs sung from the pulpit of the church. Thirty-six years later, all wedding music must still be approved ahead of time. Our wedding made a last impression.

Polly’s dad, Lee Shope and uncle Jim Dennis, both preachers and graduates of Midwestern Baptist College, performed the wedding. Polly’s eccentric uncle, Art  Robinson, volunteered to take pictures. Moments before the start of the wedding, the new flash he had just bought failed. As a result, we have no live photos of our wedding. All told, there were about 225 people at the wedding.

After the wedding, the Shope/Robinson family and the Gerencser family gathered at Polly’s parents home for a meal Since my Dad and his wife lived in Arizona, they had not met Polly before the day of the wedding. Finally it was time for us to leave and we went upstairs to change our clothes. Polly’s Mom was upstairs and as Polly was heading to a separate room to change, her Mom guided her to where I was changing and told us, you are married now.  This was the first time we had seen each other undressed. Needless to say, we were quite embarrassed.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978

Post Wedding Picture, July 15 1978

We spent the first night at a motel in Springfield, Ohio. While I will not write much about our initial sexual experience, we were quite inexperienced, having had no training about sex. We did read Tim LaHaye’s book, The Act of Marriage, before our wedding, so we had a general idea of how things worked.  I can say, thirty-six years later, we have the sex thing down pat.

We spent several nights at the hotel in French Lick and then we drove up to Rochester, Indiana to see my mother. After visiting with her, we drove over to Bryan, Ohio to see my sister. That night, we stayed at the Exit 2 Motel near the Ohio Turnpike. The room was infested with mosquitoes and the air conditioner thumped and groaned all night long.  After we got up the next morning, we drove home to our 3 room upstairs apartment on Premont Street in Waterford, a community near the college.

Several weeks before our wedding, I stopped at a yard sale that had a bunch of furniture for sale. I asked them how much they would take for all the furniture. We agreed on a price and I hauled the furniture junk over to the apartment. Polly was not thrilled when she saw the w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l furniture I had bought just for her. It was not long before we went to debt to buy a couch from Kay’s Furniture and a bed from J.L. Hudson. Credit was easy to get, we had little understanding of how debt worked, and we quickly were over our heads in debt. We were kids playing in an adult world.

We enrolled for our junior year at Midwestern. Our plan was to continue our studies, graduate, and move somewhere to start a church. However, six weeks after our wedding we got a big surprise…Polly was pregnant. Oops!  Several months later, I lost my job, we were behind our rent, utilities, and bills, so we had to drop out of college. In February of 1979, seven months after our wedding, we moved to Bryan, Ohio. We lived with my sister for a few weeks until I could get a job and find a place to live. After getting settled, Jay Stuckey, the pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, asked me to come work with him and I agreed to do so. Our nine months at the church revolved around me working two jobs and never being home and Polly taking care of a newborn. We saw very little of each other.

bruce polly gerencser wedding 1978

Polly’s Father Walking Her Down the Aisle

In what should have been an early warning sign, I worked myself into exhaustion and landed myself in the county hospital. Two weeks after getting out of the hospital, we packed up and moved to Newark, Ohio. For the next fifteen years, we lived in central and SE Ohio. Five more children were born while I pastored churches in Buckeye Lake and Somerset. It was during this period that Polly and I grew up. We faced a lot of hard, difficult times, from my health problems to having a daughter born with Down Syndrome. Due to my commitment to pastoring full-time, we were poor, often without two nickels to rub together. We drove junk cars, lived in old houses or mobile homes, and made do.

And here’s my point in telling you this. These experiences, these hard, difficult times, are what helped to make us who we are today. We are survivors. We endured hardship. While we have no desire to go back and live the good old days, we do recognize that these experiences left a deep, lasting imprint on our lives. Through the pain and difficulty of the past we are better people today. Anyone who has been married a long time can tell a similar story.  The key to a lasting marriage, at least for Polly and I, is our commitment to endure whatever came our way.

bruce polly gerencser fall 1978

Polly’s Grandfather, parents, and us in front of our apartment. Polly is a three months pregnant

Thirty-six years ago, we were mutually infatuated kids thinking they were ready to join the real world. Our growth into adults was slow, painful, and quite humorous. Over time, puppy love began to turn into real, lasting love and here we are, all these years later, deeply in love with one another. A love that is not shown in cards, flowers, and candy but in our resolve to love one another in sickness and in heath, for richer or poorer, until death do us part. Our marriage is deeply flawed. We have had our share of failures and disappointments. Life certainly has not been what we expected it to be, especially since we are no longer Christians. But, regardless of our childish expectations and fanciful made for TV dreams, the adults we have become are well suited for the partnership we have developed.

Who knows what may yet lie ahead. It matter not as long as Polly is by my side. I love her dearly and I am glad she said Yes to me thirty-six years ago. I think the lyrics of We’ve Only Just Begun still aptly describe our marriage:

We’ve only just begun to live
White lace and promises
A kiss for luck and we’re on our way
We’ve only begun

Before the risin’ sun, we fly
So many roads to choose
We’ll start out walkin’ and learn to run
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Sharing horizons that are new to us
Watching the signs along the way
Talkin’ it over, just the two of us
Workin’ together day to day, together, together

And when the evening comes, we smile
So much of life ahead
We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow
And yes, we’ve just begun

Published: July 15, 2014 | Comments: 16

Kurt Vonnegut’s Contract with His Pregnant Wife

kurt and jane vonnegut

From the September 2012 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Hilarious! I suspect my wife wishes we had subscribed to Harper’s years ago so she could have cut this out, highlighted it, and taped it to the fridge, bathroom mirror, and computer screen. :)

From a January 26, 1947 contract between Kurt Vonnegut and his pregnant wife, Jane, to whom he had been married for sixteen months.

I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed:

I. With the agreement that my wife will not nag, heckle, or otherwise disturb me on the subject, I promise to scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors once a week, on a day and hour of my own choosing. Not only that, but I will do a good and thorough job, and by that she means that I will get under the bathtub, behind the toilet, under the sink, under the icebox, into the corners; and I will pick up and put in some other location whatever movable objects happen to be on said floors at the time so as to get under them too, and not just around them. Furthermore, while I am undertaking these tasks I will refrain from indulging in such remarks as “Shit,” “Goddamn sonofabitch,” and similar vulgarities, as such language is nerve-wracking to have around the house when nothing more drastic is taking place than the facing of Necessity. If I do not live up to this agreement, my wife is to feel free to nag, heckle, and otherwise disturb me until I am driven to scrub the floors anyway—no matter how busy I am.

II. I furthermore swear that I will observe the following minor amenities:

a. I will hang up my clothes and put my shoes in the closet when I am not wearing them;

b. I will not track dirt into the house needlessly, by such means as not wiping my feet on the mat outside and wearing my bedroom slippers to take out the garbage;

c. I will throw such things as used-up match folders, empty cigarette packages, the piece of cardboard that comes in shirt collars, etc., into a wastebasket instead of leaving them around on chairs or the floor;

d. After shaving I will put my shaving equipment back in the medicine closet;

e. In case I should be the direct cause of a ring around the bathtub after taking a bath, I will, with the aid of Swift’s Cleanser and a brush, not my washcloth, remove said ring;

f. With the agreement that my wife collects the laundry, places it in a laundry bag, and leaves the laundry bag in plain sight in the hall, I will take said laundry to the Laundry not more than three days after said laundry has made its appearance in the hall; I will furthermore bring the laundry back from the Laundry within two weeks after I have taken it;

g. When smoking I will make every effort to keep the ashtray I am using at the time upon a surface that does not slant, sag, slope, dip, wrinkle, or give way upon the slightest provocation; such surfaces may be understood to include stacks of books precariously mounted on the edge of a chair, the arms of the chair that has arms, and my own knees;

h. I will not put out cigarettes upon the sides of, or throw ashes into, either the red leather wastebasket or the stamp wastebasket that my loving wife made me for Christmas, 1945, as such practice noticeably impairs the beauty and ultimate practicability of said wastebaskets;

i. In the event that my wife makes a request of me, and that request cannot be regarded as other than reasonable and wholly within the province of a man’s work (when his wife is pregnant, that is), I will comply with said request within three days after my wife has presented it. It is understood that my wife will make no reference to the subject, other than saying thank you, of course, within these three days; if, however, I fail to comply with said request after a more substantial length of time has elapsed, my wife shall be completely justified in nagging, heckling, or otherwise disturbing me until I am driven to do that which I should have done;

j. An exception to the above three-day time limit is the taking out of the garbage, which, as any fool knows, had better not wait that long; I will take out the garbage within three hours after the need for disposal has been pointed out to me by my wife. It would be nice, however, if, upon observing the need for disposal with my own two eyes, I should perform this particular task upon my own initiative, and thus not make it necessary for my wife to bring up a subject that is moderately distasteful to her;

k. It is understood that, should I find these commitments in any way unreasonable or too binding upon my freedom, I will take steps to amend them by counterproposals, constitutionally presented and politely discussed, instead of unlawfully terminating my obligations with a simple burst of obscenity, or something like that, and the subsequent persistent neglect of said obligations;

l. The terms of this contract are understood to be binding up until that time after the arrival of our child (to be specified by the doctor) when my wife will once again be in full possession of all her faculties, and able to undertake more arduous pursuits than are now advisable.

Published: July 2, 2014 | Comments: 2

Jack Hyles: Why Women are Frigid

jack hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

From Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

…Do you know who the frigid women are? They are the unsubmissive ones. I’ve been counseling for over 30 years as a pastor. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many men have come to my office and said, “My wife is not passionate. My wife does not enjoy romance.” I don’t know how many women have come and said, “Pastor, I’d like to enjoy romance, but I just don’t. Just to be quite frank with you, my husband doesn’t turn me on.”

Do you know why? The unlighted candle is always cold. The candle that has submitted itself to the superior force is the warm candle.

I have counseled with hundreds of ladies who don’t even want their husbands to hold their hands or couldn’t care less. Each of them would like to thrill when her husband holds her hand. Each one would like to thrill when he kisses her, but it doesn’t work. They say, “What’s wrong with me?”

I never work on the biological end of it; I work on the submissive end. It is as natural as can be that when the candle comes in contact with the fire and yields itself to the superior force, the warmth will take care of itself. Physical love, romance, if you please, is far, far sweeter to that young lady or woman who submits herself to the superior force for which she was made.

Published: June 9, 2014 | Comments: 26

Jack Hyles: Why God Made Women

jack and beverly hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

From Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

God made woman to sit on the sidelines and cheer when a man succeeds.

Why did God make woman? He made woman to cheer on the sidelines while her fellow made a touchdown. God made a woman to sit in the audience while her husband preaches and say, “That’s the best preacher in the world!” God made woman to stand on the side of the street and watch her little boyfriend ride the bicycle using no hands or standing up on the seat and say to him, “That’s the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life!” God made woman to see her man run the 100-yard dash and say, “That’s the greatest accomplishment I ever saw!” God made a woman to sit on the sidelines and watch her fellow throw a 100-pound stone 50 feet and say, “Nobody else could do it like that!” God made a woman to sit on the sidelines and watch a fellow climb a tree faster than anybody in the world and say, “That’s my man! He’s the best tree climber in the whole world!” That’s why God made woman. He made her to be man’s help meet.

God made woman for man! The word “help meet” means “completer.” God said, “I will make a completer for man.” It is like an incomplete circle. Man has almost all he needs, but there’s something he doesn’t have. God said, “There’s something I’ve got to give to man,” so He took from beneath man’s heart a rib, and from that rib He made a woman. God said, “I want that woman to go to that man, and I want her to complete him.” Man will not be complete until he has her.

No, God didn’t see a child needing care and say, “I’m going to send somebody down to take care of that child.” Now I’m for children! I think they’re wonderful, but ladies, God didn’t make you for your children! No, He didn’t. God didn’t look down one day and say, “Hey, there’s a little fellow down there that needs his diaper changed. I’m going to have to make somebody to go down and complete him.” God didn’t do that.
God didn’t look down and say, “There’s a dirty house down there. I want somebody to clean it. I’ll make a house cleaner.” No, God didn’t make you for that. God didn’t look down and say, “You know, man needs to love somebody and protect somebody, and I’m going to send somebody for man to love and protect.” No, God didn’t do that either.

God didn’t send you down to be helped; God sent you down to help….

…Somebody says, “He doesn’t help me at home.”

He wasn’t made to help you at home. If he wants to help you at home, that’s a pretty good bonus, but it is not part of God’s plan. I’m not saying it is wrong for him to help you at home, and I think it may be good for him to help you at home, but it is not in the Book for him to do so.

You were made for him; the man was not made for you. Man’s main business is outside. Woman’s main business is inside. Man’s main business is not the woman. Woman’s main business is the man.

You say, “He doesn’t give me as much attention as I give him.”

The Bible doesn’t say he’s supposed to do that. Let me put it this way. You be what you ought to be so you can make your man to be what he ought to be to you.

This is why girls should be taught to cater to their dads. Girls who cater to their dads make better wives. A little girl should bring her dad’s houseshoes to him. The mother should teach her to do it. The daughter ought to be taught that if Dad’s tea glass gets half empty, she should fill it and cater to him and spoil him.

This is important, not for Dad’s sake, but the girl’s sake.

When Cindy and Linda were our only two children home, they catered to their dad. They spoiled me! They liked to do nice things for me. I enjoyed it. I wanted my girls to get accustomed to spoiling a man so they could spoil their husbands. I wanted them to get in the habit of supplying Dad’s needs so as to practice for marriage. I enjoyed their

spoiling me, but that wasn’t my goal. I had ten thousand times rather my daughters be good wives than good daughters. If each daughter will make some man a loving, completing, spoiling kind of cheering wife, I’ll feel then that the girls are what God wants them to be….

…I want you to have the very best. I want you to have the happiest life and the sweetest eternity, but you never will until you become that thing for which God made you. No creature that God has made will ever be happy or useful until that thing which is its superior becomes its master.

God’s purpose for you is to be a completer. Woman was made for man, not for children, not for a house, not for cooking; she was made for man!

Published: June 9, 2014 | Comments: 15

Jack Hyles Tells Women that it is ALL up to Them

jack hyles shrine

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

From Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

…It’s difficult to imagine that this beautiful queen of the Garden of Eden, the one who filled every need of Adam, could possess in her breast the hatred of Herodias, who had John the Baptist’s head served in a platter! It’s hard to believe that she could be a soiled Rahab, who could sell her body to the hands and lusts of wicked men. It’s hard to believe that this beautiful one has the potential so that her feet could carry her to Moab with Naomi. It’s hard to believe that these lips could possess the potential of lying as did Sapphira. There behind her smile dwells the possibility of hatred and the disposition of Abigail.

Ladies, it is up to you, as it was to Eve, to decide, for there is in your breast all the loyalty of Sarah, the loveliness of Rachel, the tenderness of Mary, the servitude Martha, the patience of the mother of Christ (His earthly mother), and the gentleness of Rebecca. There is also a bit of Jezebel, Athalia, Michal, Abigail and the others. It is up to you to decide.

Whether it be good or bad, there is one thing that woman always does; she determines the spirit and the atmosphere of any place where she is present.

Woman was not made to till the soil, she was not made to build the house, she was not made to steer the crane, nor stack the brick, nor hew the stones, nor build the road, nor head the state, nor lead the church, nor reap the harvest.

It is woman’s job to determine the atmosphere while the soil is being tilled. It is woman’s job to determine the atmosphere while the house is being built. Though it is not her job to steer the crane, it is her job to make happy the one who steers the crane. It’s not her job to stack the brick nor hew the stone; it’s her job to make a wonderful spirit and atmosphere while the brick is being stacked and the stone is being hewn. It’s not her job to build the road, nor head the state, nor lead the church, nor reap the harvest. Everywhere woman has ever been, it has been her job to provide the spirit of atmosphere while man does his work and changes the course of history.

Woman can make Eden a paradise if she so chooses, or she can curse everything in it, as she did. She can make an ark a lifeboat and the Nile River a nursery if she wants to, or she can curse her husband in Job’s ash heap. It’s her choice! She can ruin a nation as did Jezebel or she can change a house into a church as did Priscilla. She can make a preaching service great by giving all or ruin one by withholding some as did Sapphira. She can fill the house with Mary’s ointment or she can fill it with Michal’s hatred. She can save a nation as did Esther or she, like Jezebel, can destroy one…

…That’s your job–brighten your corner! The atmosphere of the office is determined more by the spirit of the secretaries than that of the bosses. The atmosphere of the home is determined more by the mother and wife than by the father and the children.

Man looks to you first to see in what kind of mood you are now. Your husband comes home at night and one of the first things he wants to know is, “What kind of a mood is she in tonight??’ His evening is brightened or saddened according to your mood! Why? Man doesn’t determine the mood of the house; you do! You are the Holy Spirit of the home.

You won’t get the praises man gets. You won’t get your name in the paper like he does. You won’t get your name honored like he does, and you won’t be as big, as strong and as much of a leader. He is the Father, the children are the Son, but you are the Holy Spirit. The whole atmosphere wherever you are is determined by you.

Did you know that God has made it so that your spirit can overwhelm the spirit of man? He is stronger than you as far as your body is concerned. Your emotions could never do it, because there is more emotional stability in a man than in you, but there is one place where you can always overpower your guy or any guy and that is your attitude, the spirit, the atmosphere!

Sometimes your home is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you.Sometimes the place you work is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you. Sometimes your school is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you. Sometimes your church is happy; sometimes it’s blue. Its disposition depends on you…

….That’s what it’s all about. It’s your job to comfort. Dad’s not a very good comforter; in fact, he’s a weak comforter. Dad’s a horrible spirit-determiner or atmosphere-determiner. He waits on you…


Picture is from Jack Hyles’s funeral.

Published: June 9, 2014 | Comments: 4

Jack Hyles Tells “Unsubmissive” Woman to Kill Herself

jack hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

From Woman the Completer, by the late Jack Hyles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana:

This is every man’s right. Each has only one life to live. God looks down and sees that every man is incomplete. God gives a man a woman, and that woman is supposed to complete that man. If you fail to do it, it won’t be done. If he dies without ever having it, it’s because you didn’t give it to him. You have taken from him what is every man’s right. Every man’s right is to have a completer. That’s why God made you!

A lady came to my office not long ago and I gave her this truth. She said, “I’m not going to do all that stuff.”

I said, “I’ll give you an alternative suggestion.”

She said, “What?”

I said, “Go over here to the bridge over the Chicago River and jump off.”


“Go jump in the river.”


I said, “You’d go to Heaven, and your husband wouldn’t have to live in hell!” Listen to me, especially you young ladies, you unmarried ladies, you ladies who haven’t been married long. I’m trying to help you. I’m not trying to take any freedoms away from you. I’m trying to give you a liberty that you’ll never enjoy unless you become what God has made you to be.

I said to that lady in my office for counsel, “Look, you are standing in the way. Your husband is a good man. He’s not going to have anybody else. You’re standing in the way of your husband ever having a completer. You’d be a lot better off, young lady, in the early days of your marriage, if you would go over and jump off the bridge so your husband can have in his lifetime someone to complete the circle.”

Ladies, most of your husbands are fine men. Wouldn’t it be a shame for your guy to live and die without having what is his rightful heritage? How pitiful! How tragic! I wish I could help you realize the purpose for which God made you. I wish I could get you to get to your man and help make that man all that God wants him to be. Complete him. Then you’ll know what it is to be happy.

Do you know what these women’s libbers are? They are a group of confused women trying to find happiness and failing because they are searching for it outside of God’s Word and God’s plan.

You say, “I have my rights too!

No, you don’t. Not yet! A woman does not have any right in this world until she’s done this. You check in the Bible. Always in the Bible the first command is to the follower. In Ephesians 5:22, for example, it says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.” Then in verse 25 it says, “Husbands, love your wives.” Who’s supposed to start it? The wife!

Published: June 9, 2014 | Comments: 10

When Parents Divorce, A Personal Reflection

gerencser family 1971

Gerencser Family Picture Taken Not Long Before My Parents Divorced

The year is 1972. I am a freshman in high school. I have lived in the same town now for two years. This is a record. I have finally made friends. I really like the church we attend. There are over 100 kids in the church youth group. Lots of girls to date. Lots of fun things to do. I thought to myself, finally a place to call home.

But it was not meant to be. In one swift moment my parents turned my life into a living hell.

In the spring of 1972, my dad came down to the basement where I was working on my Lionel O gauge train layout. My dad owned a hobby store in Findlay Ohio. While working for him in the hobby store I fell in love with Lionel trains.

My dad said that he had something very important to tell me. He said that he and my mother no longer loved each other and that they were getting a divorce.

In that moment my life was turned upside down. (and even more so my younger siblings)

As I sit here, as a soon-to-be 57-year-old man, I can now see why my parents got a divorce. My mom was pregnant with me when my dad married her. There is some question as to whether or not my father is actually my biological father, but nonetheless he is the only father I ever knew. I have suspicions as to who might be my real father but that secret will lie buried forever.

My mom and dad did not have a very good marriage. My mother had mental problems that landed her in state mental institutions twice. She tried to kill herself numerous times. My memory is still scarred with the picture of my mom lying in a pool of blood, the result of her slashing her wrists. I had just come home from school. I was 11.

My parents fought a lot, my mom flying into psychotic rages, and my dad leaving the house to get away from it. I have seen too much. I’ve heard too much. I wish I could forget, but I can’t.

So, in the spring of 1972, my parents divorced. It was an amicable divorce. My sister and I lived with dad while my brother went to live with mom. Let the fracture begin.

By the fall of 1972 the family upheaval was well underway. My mother married her first cousin. Her new husband was a recent parolee from a Texas penitentiary. My dad also remarried. He married a 19-year-old girl who recently gave birth to a girl. My dad and his new wife were married in the very same Baptist church that, not too many months before, our family had sat together for Sunday worship.

Now I had a 19-year-old stepmother.  In just a few years I would be dating girls her age. I also had a new stepsister. Needless to say, things did not go well. To this day, I am ashamed of the things I said and did. I was bitter and angry. I resented my new stepmother and her daughter. Quite frankly, I hated them, hated my parents, and even hated my pastor for marrying my dad and his new wife.

True to the form that my dad displayed before coming to Findlay, six months after his remarriage we moved. One day I was attending school at Findlay High School and the next day we were having an auction and moving to Tucson, Arizona. It seemed to me, at the time, that we moved in a hurry. As I later found out, the bill collectors were after my dad. After we got to Arizona they came and repossessed our car.

I found solace in the Christian church. Not too far from where we lived there was a large church, the Tucson Baptist Temple. I got involved in the youth group and tried to stay away from home as much as possible. My stepmother and I seemed to be in constant conflict and my answer to the conflict was to stay away.

But, one Sunday, it all boiled over. I came home from church and my stepmother and I got into a heated conversation. I’m sure I probably said something smart. I was hardly a saint when it came to my treatment of her. For some reason, on this day, she decided to pick up a leather belt and swing it at me. She hit me squarely in the face.

At that moment all the anger and rage that I had towards her and my parents came rushing out. I was a trim, athletic, strong young man. In a fit of rage, I picked up my stepmother and  threw her into a cement wall. She slammed into the wall,  knocked out cold.

What did I do?

Nothing. I left her on the living room floor and walked out of the house. I went to the store where my dad was a carpet salesman and I told him what I had done.

He rushed home and my stepmother was taken to the hospital with several fractures in her back. It is wonder that I did not injure her more severely or kill her.

The only positive that came out of this was that my stepmother left me alone from that day forward.

But I knew I couldn’t live there any longer.

Five months after I had moved cross-country from Ohio to Arizona, I hopped a Greyhound bus and returned to Ohio.

I spent the summer of 1973 with my mother. In the fall of 1973 I moved back to Findlay Ohio and lived with a family in the church that I had previously attended. At the end of my 11th grade year, I returned to my mother’s house in NW Ohio. I would live there for about six months.

I dropped out of high school and began working a full-time job. I was 17 years old. In the winter of 1974 my mother suffered another mental collapse and was committed to the state hospital in Toledo. My dad got wind of this and drove from Arizona to pick us up and take us back.(my brother and sister had also left Arizona and returned to Ohio) By this time, my dad and stepmother had moved to Sierra Vista, a beautiful community in the foothills of the Huachuca Mountains. My dad had started a new business, a gun store.

It had been 18 months since I talked to my dad. I thought, perhaps things will be different and to some degree they were. I was a bit older, my stepmother was a bit older, and we mutually decided to tolerate and leave each other alone.

I started attending a local Baptist church where I met a girl who was several years older than me. We had a torrid  relationship, where I fell in love  and out of love in six short months. After our relationship ended, I once again hopped a Greyhound bus and returned to Ohio. I left behind my car which dad promised to sell  for me and send me the money. He sold the car quite quickly, and 40 years later I am still waiting for the money. It is unlikely that I will receive it since my dad has been dead for 27 years.

I would only see my dad two more times over the next 10 years. Two times, two days and then he was dead. He was 49 years old when he died. Seven years later, my mom would take a Ruger .357 revolver and put it to her chest and pull the trigger. She died instantly of a gunshot wound to the heart. She was 54.

My parents died way too young. I wish that their lives had been different and I certainly wish that my life had been different too.

When my parents divorced they turned my life into a twisted, messed up contortion that, to this day, requires a counselor to straighten out.

My dad moved us constantly.  I attended numerous schools. He continued this pattern he continued after he remarried. He was always looking for the pot gold at the end of the rainbow. He never found it. It seemed we lived from week to week and the bill collectors were always calling or knocking on the door. (that is when we had a working phone)

One time someone asked me if I moved so much growing up because my dad got transferred a lot. I laughed and said no. We moved a lot because my dad didn’t pay his bills.

One of the things I battle almost every day is the desire to be somewhere else, I am  restless, dissatisfied, and I find it difficult to be at peace. It is for this reason, among others, that I sought out a counselor 3 years ago. I knew I had to find some sort of peace. I am a work in progress, but I do now have days where I don’t feel that restless tug to be somewhere else. I am learning that here can be a good place to be and that there is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

My parent’s divorce and the aftermath are a constant reminder of the price that children pay when parents divorce. I am in no way passing judgment on those who divorce. I have counseled too many couples over the years to ever suggest that a man and a woman should stay married no matter what. Sometimes, for the sake of the children, it is better if the parents divorce.

To this day I am not certain if I would have been better off if my parents had stayed together. I kind of doubt it. Their problems were many and I suspect my mom would have still successfully found the right method and moment to kill herself. I have no illusions about our family being the perfect family if only my parents had stayed together.

Published: June 4, 2014 | Comments: 18

The Six Inch Rule: Thou Shalt Not Touch

six inch rule

Imagine for a moment, that you are sitting in the pew of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. You are 16 years old and sitting next to you is your 17-year-old girlfriend. Like normal teenagers, you are sitting as close as possible to your girlfriend and you are discreetly, cleverly holding hands

The pastor is getting ready to preach and he asks everyone to turn to 1 Corinthians 7:1,2. With a thunderous voice, the pastor says, THE BIBLE SAYS:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (1 Corinthians 7:1,2)


Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

All of a sudden, the pastor turns your way, looks at you and your girlfriend, and then slowly turns back to his sermon notes. You feel guilty, so you unclasp your hand from your girlfriends and you scoot a few inches away from her.

Welcome, to just another Sunday morning service at First Independent Baptist Church of Bible Believersville, Ohio.

In the real  world, teenage boys and girls hold hands, put their arms around each other, and kiss each other. We also know that some of them engage in intimate sexual activity. But at First Independent Baptist Church, any physical contact between unmarried teenagers or unmarried young adults of the opposite sex is strictly prohibited. (no matter the age, unmarried people are expected to keep their hands off of each other)

The thinking goes something like this. Fornication, the intimate sexual contact between unmarried people, is a SIN. Committing fornication requires touching, so the best way to avoid fornication is to keep unmarried teenagers or unmarried young adults from touching each other.

Over the years, I told countless teenagers that no girl ever got pregnant without holding hands with a boy first. I repeatedly told them that holding hands leads to familiarity and before you know it you’ll be rutting like rabbits in the back seat of a car. So the answer is NO TOUCHING!

When I was a teenager, boys and girls were not allowed to touch each other. Now, this doesn’t mean we didn’t touch each other, it just means that we did our touching away from the sight of the pastor, youth director, deacons, or any other church adult. We turned it into a game. The pastor said we couldn’t touch each other, so while adult choir practice was going on we would find out-of-the-way places to neck. It was almost like a challenge, we dare you to catch us.

From the age of 14 to my wedding day, I kissed a few girls, put my arm around them, and held her hand. But, that’s where it stopped. Both my wife and I were virgins when we married in 1978.

Polly and I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac Michigan. The college had a strict no touch policy. The rule was called the six-inch rule. Young men and women were expected to keep 6 inches away from each other at all times. A failure to do so resulted in severe discipline. (even married couples were discouraged from holding hands lest they encourage dorm students to engage in perverse hand holding)

Of course, a dorm filled with normal, hormone raging, heterosexual men and women, made the six-inch rule a real challenge. Most of us learned how to discreetly break the rule, and when we went out on double dates, we learned to double date with couples who were six-inch rule breakers like us.

Sandra, a regular commenter, shared in a comment about her time at Hyles Anderson College:

About the gateway issues with card playing . . .I’m not psychologist but I do believe if you restrict normal human behavior in one way, normal human behavior will come out in another. When at Hyles Anderson we were all told to not touch the opposite sex. I mean, no hand holding (which was fine with me and the IFB church I was in before I left for HAC). But no touching through a pen either, like tapping on a shoulder.

We are social beings and I do believe we need touch to stay alive. When at HAC, since all of the women were not allowed to touch a man on his hand or to tap his back with a pen, guess what happened? The dean of woman (Miss Belinda) said she noticed a LOT of petting going on between the women. In chapel, women would sit next to women and they’d pet each other’s hair, they’d stroke each other’s leg. And she was right – all of that behavior was happening. But my question is why? Probably due to the human need for basic touch. Since the women were not allowed to hug their own blood brother on campus, nor to hold hands for 5 seconds, nor to tap a man on the back with a pencil. . .is it any wonder that the women found a way to get physical touch in their lives? It is normal to want a hug and to rub someone’s bad when they are hurting. By repressing opposite sex touching, they encouraged same-sex touching and it was very evident.

Ponder for a moment being exposed to this kind of environment. Is it any wonder people coming out of the IFB church movement have to deal with emotional, mental, and sexual dysfunction?

When you are constantly told that a normal human desire is sinful it is bound to cause emotional and mental damage. Of course, being normal heterosexuals, our desires could only be suppressed for so long. We found various ways to get around the rules and the ever-watchful eyes of those charged with keeping us from fornicating.

In a chapter of The Fundy World Tales I wrote:

Another time I was written up for breaking the six-inch rule. The six-inch rule was a rule meant to keep unmarried men and women from getting too close to each other. 6 inches is about the width of a songbook or a Bible and unmarried students were not allowed to be closer than a songbook or a Bible from each other.

I was on the college basketball team. One day during practice I slapped at a basketball and severely dislocated a finger. I was rushed to the emergency room and the doctor was able to fix the dislocation. I’m left-handed and the dislocation had occurred on my left hand.

Every male student was required to wear a tie to class. I found it very difficult to tie a tie with one hand, so one day I asked my fiancé to tie my tie for me. In doing so we broke the six-inch rule. Someone anonymously turned us in for breaking the six-inch rule and we had to appear before the disciplinary committee to answer the charges against us.

We each receive 25 demerits for breaking the six-inch rule. We were warned that if we broke the six-inch rule again we would be expelled from school. Little did they know that we have been breaking it for quite some time.

Most dormitory students lived for the weekend. Students could only date on the weekends. Double dating was required and no student could go farther away than 10 miles from the dormitory. This was called the 10 mile limit. No physical contact between students was allowed. No kissing. No holding hands. No physical contact whatsoever.

Most students tried to adhere to the rules for a while. Some, like my fiancé and I, kept the six-inch rule religiously until we went home for our first Christmas break. While home on Christmas break were allowed to act like normal young adults who were in love. We held hands, kissed, necked, and pretty much acted like any other couple mutually infatuated with each other.

Once the genie was out of the bottle it was impossible to put her back in. When we returned to Midwestern we realized we could not continue to keep the six-inch rule. So for the next 18 months we sought out couples to double date with that had the same view of the six-inch rule as we did. We had to be very careful. Choose the wrong couple to double date with and you could end up getting expelled from school.

Rules, like the six-inch rule, put the dormitory students in a position where they had to lie and cheat just to be able to act like normal young adults. Many students ended up getting campused (not allowed to leave the campus or date) or were expelled because they broke the six-inch rule.

Illicit sexual activity was quite common among dormitory students. There was always a lot of gossip about who was doing what, when and where. During the spring of my sophomore year many of us rented apartments in the Pontiac area. We were all planning to get married over the summer, and since apartments were hard to come by, we rented them as soon as we found them.

Unfortunately the apartments turned into a big temptation for some couples. They began using the apartments as a safe place for sexual activity. I could give you the names of several well-known preachers and their wives who lost their virginity at one of these apartments. Some of these preachers are now known to rail against sexual immorality. It seems they have forgotten about their own sexual immorality many years ago.

Is it any wonder, that many of us who were raised in this kind of sexually repressed environment need counseling?  When you are told over and over that certain basic human needs and desires are sinful, it leads to overwhelming guilt and despair. (and remember masturbation, self-pleasuring, was also a sin)

This is one of the reasons why I think the IFB church movement is emotionally and mentally harmful. My advice to anyone in an IFB church is that they RUN as fast as they can away from the soul sucking insanity they are a part of. Get out before they so fuck up your mind that it requires years of  therapy to regain any sense of self-worth and emotional balance.

How about you? Did you spend your teenage years in an IFB church? Did you attend an IFB college?  How did you deal with the no-physical-contact rule? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Published: May 24, 2014 | Comments: 27