Menu Close

Testing God: Putting Out a Fleece

fleece

And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water. And Gideon said unto God, Let not thine anger be hot against me, and I will speak but this once: let me prove, I pray thee, but this once with the fleece; let it now be dry only upon the fleece, and upon all the ground let there be dew. And God did so that night: for it was dry upon the fleece only, and there was dew on all the ground. (Judges 6:36-40)

Let me give you a bit of context. The Israelites, those oft-sinning followers of Jehovah, disobeyed God and he punished them severely for their sins:

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD. (Judges 6:1-6)

Jehovah impoverished the Israelites because of their sins. Modern-day followers of the Christian God must really be living right because they are definitely not impoverished.

For seven years, Jehovah pummeled his followers with the judgment stick. At the end of the seven years, the Israelites cried out to God and he sent a prophet to ask them if they had had enough of his judgment.

After the prophet left, an angel came to an Israelite named Gideon. The angel and Gideon had a conversation:

Angel: The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.

Gideon: Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? but now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 

Angel (or Lord): Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?

Gideon: Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house. 

Angel (or Lord): And the LORD said unto him, Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.

Gideon: If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me. 

God gave Gideon the sign he requested and he went forth to be a messenger for God, for a while.

It seems that Gideon’s skeptical side kept getting in the way. He wanted to make sure it really was Jehovah speaking to him, so Gideon asked God to prove to him he really was God.

Gideon put a fleece of wool on the floor. He said if the fleece was wet in the morning and it had not rained (or dew covered the ground) outside he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was wet in the morning. Did Gideon believe God? Nope. Skeptical Gideon asked for more evidence.

Gideon reversed the fleece experiment. He said if the fleece was dry in the morning and there was dew on the ground outside, he would believe what God had said.

Sure enough, the fleece was dry in the morning.

God allowed Gideon to test him multiple times (read Judges 7 to see more of Gideon’s God tests). Evidently, Gideon had a faith that required authentication and proof.

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement I grew up in, putting out a fleece was common practice. Putting out a fleece was a way of “testing” God or finding out the “will of God.”

Like casting lots and drawing straws, Christians use putting out a fleece as a way to make decisions. In 1979, I was looking for a job, so I applied for a restaurant management job with a company in Findlay, Ohio. They told me they had an interest in me working for them and they would get back with me with their final decision. At the time, we were living in Montpelier, Ohio. We were thinking about moving to Newark, Ohio, the central Ohio community where Polly’s parents lived. What should we do? Restaurant manager in Findlay or move to Newark?

So, I put out a fleece. I prayed, “God if you want me to take the restaurant manager job then have the company call me by ____________. If they don’t call, I will take that as a NO from you.”

The call didn’t come, so we packed everything up and moved to Newark. The funny thing? The restaurant company called a day or two AFTER the fleece deadline and offered me a well-paying job. I stood by what I had divined through putting out the fleece.

Silly, I know.

Christians often use this kind of thinking without even recognizing it. Such and such will happen in their life and they take that as “proof” that God is moving and working in their lives. I have heard countless prayers where a person said “I was praying for _________________ and sure enough God came through. What an awesome God we serve!”

Never mind that there are multiple explanations for _________________ happening. Even when unexplainable things happen, why is it assumed that it is God making things happen? Unexplained things are just that — unexplained.

Sadly, many Christians wait for God to work, move, come through, or bless them. As a result, they are robbed of the ability to make decisions on their own. Unless they can “sense” God working, they refuse to make a decision. Or they make a horrible decision because they have a feeling they call “God.”

For the non-Christian, reason, common sense, experience, and advice from others, is usually sufficient for making a decision. Sometimes, when it is necessary to make a quick decision, we have to “go with our gut.” Going with our gut, however, is not the same as going with God (article on Psychology Today about this subject).

How about you? Do you have any “putting out a fleece” stories to share?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Does the Bible Really Say “Thou Shalt Not Judge?”

thou shalt not judge

The short answer is this: no, it doesn’t.

And if it actually did, it is the one command every Christian breaks on a daily basis.

I am sure you have been in one of THOSE arguments, debates, or discussions; the one where you express your opinion about a matter and someone shrieks, YOU ARE JUDGING!

Why of course you are judging.

We all judge each and every day of our lives. Common sense tells us this is so.

People who use the stop judging line are trying to control the debate and stifle any opinion other than their own. If you agree with the person you are wonderful, but if you disagree with them you are judgmental.

I wish these don’t judge people would at least be honest when they open their mouths, post something on Facebook, write a blog post, etc. They need to preface each public pronouncement with:

I am not interested in what you think. If you disagree with me, I will consider you to be a judgmental person, and if you continue, I might even throw a fit, and if you really, really keep at it, I will SHOW you . . . I will unfriend you on Facebook. TAKE THAT!

Let’s settle one thing right here, right now. You judge, I judge, we all judge. What matters is HOW we judge, what standard we use for judging.

And that, by the way, is exactly what the Bible says.

Evangelical Christians, by far, are the whiniest people on earth when it comes to judging. With Bible in hand, they make all sorts of judgments. They judge who is saved and who is lost. They judge what sin is and isn’t, and they really like to judge sexual sin (a sign that they have not gotten laid lately).

Yet, when others turn their judgment back on their heads, they loudly protest, saying, the BIBLE says, thou shalt not judge.

Let’s look at what the Bible actually says:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

Most people stop at Matthew 7:1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it?  Don’t judge others if you don’t want to be judged yourself.

This one verse is foundational for those who think we should tolerate any and every belief a person might have. The toleration at all costs crowd thinks every person is autonomous and has a right to say whatever he or she wants. Free speech reigns paramount. And that’s true. However, that does not preclude others from saying your beliefs are irrational, anti-science, racist, bigoted, hateful, stupid, ignorant, hilarious, or that you personally are full of shit. Free speech applies to everyone, does it not?

Generally, I think toleration is a good idea, but when individuals or groups bring their ideas into the public square, any notion of toleration must be put aside. In a democracy like ours, we fight our battles in the public arena. Citizens bring their ideas to the public square in the hope of finding like-minded people to join their cause. Often they do, but in the public square they also find those who oppose their cause. And so competing causes, ideas, and beliefs clash with one another and wage war against each other in the public square. Over time, it is hoped the best cause, idea, or belief wins (and I speak with gross generalization here).

It is likely the winner’s cause, idea, or belief will have been altered by those who challenged it. Through this bloody give and take, we progress and move forward as a people.

Religion does not play well in this kind of environment. Religion is based on revealed truth, on dogma. In the United States, the dominant religion is Christianity, a religion founded on truth that cannot be altered or changed. This is why Christians do not fare well in the public square. They have little capacity for change. To contemplate change, they must consider that they or their God are wrong. As we look through the lens of 2,000 years of Christian history, we know that the Church has indeed adapted and changed. But, it should be noted that this kind of change takes a much longer time than it does with other people and groups. Christianity is nothing if not arrogant and intractable about its truth.

On the other hand, the scientific method fits well in this kind of environment. Scientist A says _____________________, and Scientists B, C, and D take exception, and through the scientific method set out to challenge, refute, or modify what Scientist A said. It doesn’t take centuries to root out errors.

Note what the Bible says in Matthew 7:2-5, the verses few Christians ever bother to read. (Many Christians subscribe to the ignore what doesn’t fit my agenda, worldview, way I want to live, or my personal rules of interpretation.)

Verse 2 says:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

For WITH WHAT JUDGMENT YE JUDGE, ye shall be judged. The Bible is quite clear. It is a given, we all make judgments, so when we judge, whatever standard of judgment we use, that same standard of judgment will be used by others when they judge us.

The Bible even addresses the method we use to judge when it says with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. In modern vernacular the Bible is saying, however you dish out judgment, expect it to be dished back to you the same way.

Over the course of my seventeen years of blogging, people have left tens of thousands of comments on various iterations of my blog. Currently, almost 48,000 comments have been left on this blog since December 2014. A small percentage of comments were left by Evangelical Christians with nasty dispositions, people who were so filled with certainty that they had no tolerance for any differing viewpoint. (I can count on one hand the non-Christians who acted similarly.) They knew the truth and their objective was to tell me that I was wrong, deceived, blind, lost, headed for Hell, an enemy of God, etc. In their worldview, there is no room for doubt or not knowing.

These know-it-all Christians tend to be arrogant, bombastic, and lacking in basic social graces. Of all the different types of people I have met on the Internet, theirs is the type that most often gets under my skin (perhaps because I was just like them once in my life). At one time, I responded “in kind” to this kind of commenter. Using Bible terms, I just meted out to them what they meted out to me. These days, I tend to follow another biblical admonition: don’t cast your pearls before swine.

Well, enough of chasing that rabbit trail. (The preacher in me still lives.)  Back to Matthew 7:1-5.

Verses 3 and 4 say:

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

The Bible teaches that we should first consider our own lives, our own faults, our own inconsistencies, and for my Christian readers, our own sins, before we consider the deficiencies of others.

As is often the case, we tend to be able to see the smallest of matters in the lives of others (the mote, the small sliver), all the while not being able to see the biggest of matters in our own lives (the beam). Before we judge others, we should carefully judge ourselves, engaging in self-reflection – taking an inventory of our own lives. As the old Baptist evangelist once said, draw a circle on the floor, stand in the middle of the circle, and judge everyone in the circle. This kind of judgment will fundamentally change how we judge others. As we carefully plumb the depths of our own being, we will likely become more understanding of those with whom we disagree. This doesn’t make the disagreements go away, but it does help us to see that we are ALL capable of embracing ideas that are faulty or dangerous.

judge not

Does this mean we shouldn’t judge others? Of course not. Notice what verse 5 says:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

If we judge ourselves first, we will then be able to better judge the actions, words, ideas, and beliefs of others. The hypocrite ignores his own life and focuses on others. We see this all the time with Evangelical pastors. You know the type: they thunder against sin, most often sexual sin. They eviscerate all those who dare transgress the Bible’s sexual standard. Yet, in their own lives, they do the very things they condemn. (Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Bob Gray, Jack Hyles, Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch, Jim Bakker, Eddie Long, and too many Catholic priests to count, just to name a few. Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)

Those who shout the loudest over the peccadilloes of others often commit those very same sins in the privacy of their homes, offices, motel rooms, or back seats of their cars. They are hypocrites of the first degree.

The Bible, from start to finish, clearly teaches that Christians are to judge others. It never teaches, thou shalt not judge. It DOES teach judging righteously. It does teach using a proper standard of judgment. It does teach a judgment that begins with self.

“But, Bruce, you are not a Christian.” No, I am not. I wrote this post to tell those Christians who love to scream “DON’T judge” to shut the Hell up. They need to read the Bible they say they believe. Better yet, they need to PRACTICE the teachings of the Bible they say they believe.

As an atheist, I can glean some helpful guidance from Matthew 7:1-5. It stresses the importance of self-judgment before taking on the task of judging others and their ideas and beliefs. I need to be reminded of my own shortcomings (sorry Christians, no sins for me) and motives. I need to be reminded that I am, as are those I oppose, a fallible, frail human being. I can be w-r-o-n-g.

The comment section awaits your judgment of this post.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Site Changes

blogging

In a move to reduce expenses, I moved The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser from Flywheel to Hostinger. I have been with Flywheel since December 2014. This move should reduce expenses by $80 a month.

It takes three or four days for a site to propagate throughout the Internet. If by Wednesday evening you cannot reliably access this site, please let me know. So far, I have noticed faster page load speeds. Let me know what you think. Once this issue is settled, I plan to install a new theme. I have been using the same theme for a decade.

Your advice, suggestions, and bitching are almost always welcome. 🙂

signature

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

How I Answered Science Questions When I Was an IFB Pastor

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is . . . I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, I and the world I was a part of were insulated from secular science. As a pastor, I rarely had someone ask me a science question, and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately and literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it in six 24-hour days, 6,027 years ago
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right. Always, without exception.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

Besides the Bible, we Fundamentalists had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in Evangelical circles. I do not doubt that if I were still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum — Ken Ham’s monument to ignorance — so we could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored were largely insulated from the world. Many of the children were homeschooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially wicked secular colleges. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children, and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks — books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher. My wife and I also homeschooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

As a pastor, the few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says . . .

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says . . .

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands and thousands of American churches and pastors who hold similar views. The United States is one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific facts. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

IFB Pastor Jack Hyles Tells Unsubmissive Woman to Kill Herself

Jack Hyles

If you are unfamiliar with Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, please read The Legacy of Jack Hyles.

Excerpt 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.”

“What?”

“Go jump in the river.”

“Why?”

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.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Welcome to the Church BBQ

church bbq

I was an Independent, Fundamentalist-sin-hating, Devil-chasing, pulpit-pounding, King-James-waving Baptist preacher. I prided myself on HARD preaching, just like old-time Baptist preachers.

If people were happy with my preaching it meant I wasn’t preaching hard enough.

Cecil Hodges, an old IFB preacher from Georgia said one time:

“We hit our people over the head with the sin stick so often that they duck when we begin to preach.”

I was one of those kinds of preachers.

Preach long. Preach loud.

No subject was spared.

Preaching the whole counsel of God required preaching about EVERY sin, even the unpopular ones — such as chewing gum during church, writing notes in church, and using the bathroom during the sermon.

One young preacher I heard about was upset over people getting up to use the bathroom during his sermon. He sternly told his flock:

I don’t want anyone using the bathroom while I am preaching. If you need to use the bathroom, pee in your shoes. You can wring out your socks after the service.

He was fired several weeks later.

In IFB churches, the pastor is god. He’s the law. What he says goes. The Church CAN fire him, but it is often hard to do. After all, in many cases, the pastor started the church. He has a following no matter what he says or does.

When the pastor stands up and preaches, whatever he says is taken to be the gospel. A good IFB church member hates what the pastor hates and loves what the pastor loves. To go against the pastor usually meant you were looking for another church to attend.

Two incidents stand out for me that I think would illustrate how I preached.

Two school teachers attended the church I pastored. They were husband and wife — good people. They joined our church after the congregation they attended had a split (a common occurrence in IFB churches). I will call them The Smiths.

The Smiths taught high school. Mr. Smith was a girls’ high school basketball coach and taught English. Mrs. Smith taught business classes. Both of them were members of the teacher’s union.

One week, the teacher’s union took a policy position that was contrary to what I thought the Bible taught. I concluded that a Christian who was right with God could NOT be a member of the teacher’s union.

Sunday came, and I entered the pulpit ready to do battle with the sin of being part of the teacher’s union. I preached long and hard. I exposed the sin of belonging to the teacher’s union. I called on all teachers in the church (all two of them) to leave the teacher’s union.

They left all right.

The church.

Early in my ministry, I became convinced that the Masonic Lodge was a Satanic organization. The local Masons had come to me and asked to use our church bus to attend a Masonic function in a nearby city. I told them absolutely not, and then proceeded to let them know how Satanic the Masonic Lodge was.

On the following Sunday, I entered the pulpit ready to do battle with the sin of being a member of the Masonic Lodge. I made it very clear that a person could not be a Christian and a Mason, and no one who was a member of the Masonic Lodge could be a member of our church.

There were several members of the Masonic Lodge visiting our church.

They got the message.

We never saw them again.

I am sure some of my more liberal Christian readers are saying WOW about now. You should be.

I was taught in Bible college that God often builds a church by subtraction. Losing people could be a good thing. Ultimately, fellowship is a bunch of fellows in a ship all rowing in the same direction (often right over a waterfall).

When people left it was never my fault.

After all the Bible says:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 John 2:19

I saw leavers as carnal, soft, weak people who had no stomach for real, hard, Holy Ghost-inspired Bible preaching.

I was wrong.

I do not have enough life left to repent of all the foolishness I did in God’s name. I ran off a lot of good people — people who had the misfortune of thinking differently from me.

I was not an oddity within the Baptist church. In Independent and Southern Baptist churches, I would have been considered typical, especially in the 1970s and 1980s. As many of the readers of this blog can testify, preachers such as I are quite common. Legalism and cultic control of people (now called spiritual abuse) is far too common, not just in Baptist churches, but in every branch of Evangelicalism.

I should note that I did not remain the preacher described in this post. Over time, I came to realize how abusive I was. In the late 1980s, I learned to preach expositionally, and doing so helped to get me away from the type of preaching with which I started my ministry. Towards the end of my ministry, I was considered a liberal by many of my Baptist preacher friends. They thought I had gone soft (and from their perspective I had).

A survey of atheists and agnostics will certainly show that a large number of them were raised in rigid, legalistic Christian environments.  Fundamentalism extracts a huge price from everyone it touches.

Were you raised in a church that prided itself on hard preaching? How did this kind of preaching affect you psychologically? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Short Stories: The Story of Fish Lips

Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade 1971-72
Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade 1971-72

The year is 1972.

I am a ninth-grader at Central Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio.

I am a typical boy.

The need to prove I am “one of the guys” is important to me.

I want to fit in.

I want to be part of the club.

The “retards” have a classroom in our building.

You know who they are.

The freaks.

The morons.

The half-wits.

A wonderful opportunity to prove that I belong.

Fish Lips.

That’s what we called him.

He had big lips like Mr. Limpet.

Every day he wore a tin sheriff’s badge and carried a toy gun.

No post-nine-eleven worries in 1972.

Why do the retard’s parents send him to school like that?

Don’t they know boys like me lurk in the hallways looking for opportunities to mock and harass their son?

And so I did.

I mocked him and made life miserable for Fish Lips.

So did other boys, but I am the boy I remember.

I was part of the group now.

I hope Fish Lips didn’t mind being the price of admission.

It is 1989.

I am thirty-two years old now.

I have three children.

I am the pastor of a thriving Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church.

My wife is pregnant with our fourth child.

Our beautiful red-headed daughter was born on September 1st.

Our first girl.

We are so excited to finally have a girl.

It was not long before we realized something wasn’t quite right with our daughter.

The doctor sent us to University Hospital in Columbus.

A genetic test . . .

We didn’t need the results.

We already knew . . .

Our daughter had Down syndrome.

Her features were mild and the doctor missed all the signs.

We found out she had Down’s the same day our second daughter was born.

I had a developmentally disabled child.

All of a sudden I had a flashback to 1972.

Visions of a hateful boy persecuting the mentally handicapped, all because the boy wanted to belong.

I thought of what I would do to that boy today if he did today what he did then to my daughter.

I wept.

I couldn’t undo what I did.

But I could make sure I am never that boy again.

The least of these deserve my protection and care.

They deserve to be who they are without worrying about a boy with something to prove.

I am glad that boy died in 1989.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser