Thank You For Reading The Life And Times of Bruce Gerencser. Your Support is Appreciated.

Your Questions, Please

 

i-have-a-question

Greetings, Earthlings.

It’s been three or so years since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would open the call lines and ask you to submit your questions, along with $100 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the world. Reason — praise be to Reason — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking to the ends of the earth. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want is questions; your pithy, erudite questions.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section. I will answer questions in the order they are received. You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

This post will remain pinned to the top of the front page until August 15th, after which time it will disappear into the bowels of this blog never to be seen again

Let the games begin.

Bruce

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Daily Indignities of the Physically Disabled

handicapped bathroom

Warning! Bathroom talk ahead. If you can’t bear to read about bodily functions, it might be best if you stop reading after the story about the baseball game.

I am physically disabled. Due to muscle and joint problems — which have left me with increasing debility and pain — I always walk with a cane or use a wheelchair. Anyone who has ever seen me walk can immediately tell that I have physical problems. When entering the grocery store, people will often wait until I make it to the door and then walk in behind me. If I see that this is happening, I usually say, oh no, you go ahead. I am a slow-moving vehicle. We all have a laugh and they quickly walk through the door.

Slow-moving vehicle — that describes me well. I can’t run, bend forward more than forty to sixty degrees, and I am prone to falling, especially when I hit raised sidewalks or miss seeing that there is a step ahead. Fortunately, I have not broken anything. I have, however, pulled neck, back, and hamstring muscles, along with injuring my shoulders, knees, and ankles. Often, the greatest injury comes when I try to keep myself from falling; that moment where I tense up my body and try to stay balanced. On more than a few occasions, I have kept myself from crashing to the ground, only to be unable to get out of bed the next day because I pulled this or that muscle or wrenched this or that joint. Such is life …

It would be easy for me to throw in the towel and resign myself to never going out in public again. I have all the physical reasons necessary to justify becoming a full-time couch potato. Of course, giving in only hastens my death. I know I need to be as active as possible, so I push myself to do things that cause physical exertion and pain. Athletes often wear shirts that say No Pain, No Gain. I remember living out that mantra as a young man when I played baseball and basketball; and even as an adult athlete — well into my thirties. Today, it’s lots of pain, period.

I am now sixty-one years old. I know there is coming a day when I won’t be able to carry out even the limited things I now do. Every year brings decreased mobility. I struggle psychologically with watching my wife do many of the things I used to do. I find it embarrassing to watch Polly weed-eating the yard or doing other physical activities that were once my domain. There are times I feel less of a man when Polly does these things, but I know she’s doing them because she loves me. There are times she will do things only to make sure that I CAN’T do them, knowing that I will try to do them, causing myself increased suffering and pain.

Today, I went to a nearby golf course to shoot photographs for a local high school golf team. Two years ago, I started shooting high school sports. I take the photos free of charge. I see it as a way to give back to the local school district and to provide parents with professional quality photographs of their athlete children. I know parents appreciate the photos, and on the back end it has driven some paying business my way.

I arrived at golf course around 3:30 PM. This was my first time shooting a golf match. I was nervous about how best to photograph the golfers, what aperture and shutter speed to use, and how much walking I would need to do. As always, my sidekick, my twenty-nine year old daughter with Down syndrome, was with me. I talked to the coaches, learning how the players would play the course. I thought, man I really need to rent a cart. (I always pay my own freight, be it tickets or golf cart rentals.) I went in the clubhouse to inquire about a cart, only to find out none was available.

As I exited the clubhouse, a man came up to me and said, Bruce, is that you? I paused for a moment, and then he gave me his name. He was my last pastor, a young United Methodist cleric whom I really liked. He and I had numerous conversations about theology, history, and life. Both he and his wife were delightful people to be around. I thought he and his family had moved away a couple years ago, but discovered they still lived in the area and their two oldest sons were on the golf team. We had a delightful talk, and I was reminded of how much I missed talking to him.

While we were talking, several golfers finished their round and returned their carts. The wife of my former pastor said, Bruce, you ought to see if they have a cart for you. Good idea, I thought. I went into the clubhouse and inquired as to cart availability. The girl taking care of cart rentals said, yes, two carts just came in. I told her, great! I am here to photograph the match for __________ school. She had me sign the rental sheet, and then said the cart would be free of charge. Come to find out, unbeknownst to both of us, the owner/manager of the course had promised my cart to one of the coaches.

I took the key for the cart, and off I went to the tee for the first hole and the green for the ninth hole. I had planned to drive to the other holes, hoping to catch all the school’s players in action. One of the coaches told me that the groups were staggered, so everyone one of them would eventually end up either driving off the tee for the first hole or putting on the green of the ninth hole.

As I was standing, waiting for match to begin, I chatted with one of coaches, the aforementioned pastor and his wife, and a photographer for the local newspaper. This was the first time the coach and I had any sort of extended conversation — light chit-chat as we awaited the start of the match. As we were talking, the manager/owner came up and joined our group. He let it be known that my cart was the coach’s cart. I replied, no it is mine. He said, no it’s not. Did you pay for it? That cart belongs to the coach. I reserved it for him. Confused, I replied, the girl up at the clubhouse gave me the cart. I am here to photograph the match for ______________.  The manager/owner, with a stern face, replied, I didn’t know that. No apology, no sorry for the misunderstanding or let me see what I can work out.

The coach let it be known that he was fine with me having the cart. Once I determined I could do what I needed to do without the cart, I went to the coach and said, here you can have the cart, I’ll be fine. The coach knew I was disabled. He coaches several other sports I have photographed. He said, are you sure? I replied, yep, and then made a joke about having a stroke and his name being the last words on my lips.

After an hour or so, I found myself quite fatigued, so I decided to call it a day. I went to the clubhouse to let the girl who handles the rentals know that I had given the cart to _____________. I then told her that the owner/manager thoroughly embarrassed me in public. I explained to her what happened and recounted what he said. She had no idea the cart was reserved for the coach (who, by the way, said if he got a cart he would chauffeur me from hole to hole). She asked if I wanted to talk to manager/owner. Still angry over his words, I replied, no, he’s an asshole and that’s all I need to know. She profusely apologized, but I stopped her, saying, hey it wasn’t your fault, it was his. As is often the case, low-level employees feel the brunt of criticisms over things they had nothing to do with. I always make sure to let them know that my ire and dissatisfaction is directed at the offender, and not them.

Several weeks ago, Polly and I, along with Bethany, attended a Toledo Mud Hens/Louisville Bats baseball game. Two of our sons and their children were also at the game. I was quite fatigued before the start of the game, and by the end — due to the heat and humidity — I felt quite distressed physically. Thanks to my failure to take care of myself and drink enough fluids, I began to notice the symptoms of heat exhaustion. The game was nearing its conclusion, but there were fireworks afterward and we wanted to see them. I turned to Polly and said, We really need to go. I’m sorry, but I really feel sick: light-headed, clammy, weak. 

I told my children I wasn’t feeling well, and then we made the long, arduous climb to the concourse. By the time I reached the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, I was short of breath and could hardly walk. I had a momentary thought of telling Polly that I needed medical attention, but I thought, we are parked close by, and I if I take it slowly — as a turtle “running” across the road — I will make it to our car.

I finally made it to the exit, thinking, I made it. All I have to do cross the street, walk a couple of hundred of feet, and sweet, wonderful, life-saving air conditioning awaits me. I noticed a Toledo police officer was blocking the street and forcing people to walk elsewhere (due to the fireworks). I thought, the car is right there. I can see the ship on the horizon, deliverance draws nigh.

Polly was walking behind me with Bethany, and unbeknownst to me, she decided to walk to the corner and cross the street. I went up to the officer and said, I am really, really sick. I would like to cross the street here so I can quickly get to the car. He replied, what’s wrong with you? At that moment, I wanted to, with what meager strength I had left, scream at the officer. Instead I told him I was really sick; that I felt weak and clammy. If the officer had bothered to LOOK at me, he would have noticed that I was profusely sweating; that my shirt, ball cap, and pants were soaked with sweat; that I was walking with f-u-i-c-k-i-n-g cane. Instead, he replied, if you are so sick, how come no one is helping you? I turned, thinking Polly was behind me, only to find out she was half a city block away, crossing the street at the crosswalk. I told the officer, that my “help” was at the street corner. Look I am really, really sick, I said. I just need to get to my car. The officer looked at me with a stern face, one that said, I don’t believe a word you are saying, and said, Go on… (meaning cross the street). For a brief moment, I thought about dropping over in the street from exhaustion, thus proving the point that I really was sick. Instead, I slowly motored on, reaching the car just as Polly arrived with the keys. She unlocked the doors, and I collapsed into the passenger’s front seat. Polly quickly started the car and turned on the air conditioning. I stripped off my sweat-filled shirt and hat and tossed them into the back seat. I made it, I told myself, knowing that I had pushed myself too hard and that I could have collapsed from heat exhaustion. Lesson learned — maybe.

Last weekend, Polly and I, along with Sinnuh (my latest nickname for Bethany, a corruption of the word Sinner, from the hit TV show on the USA Network) went to the Henry County Fair. We planned to tour the grounds and then watch the tractor pull. We found good seats and settled in to watch turbocharged, fuel-injected 1,800 horsepower machines see how far they could pull a weight sled. A perfect night for me: loud tractors and the smell of alcohol fuel; much like the smells at the dirt tracks I frequent.

An hour or so into the show, I felt THAT. I said to myself, no, please God no, not THAT!  As is God’s custom, he was nowhere to be found. I turned to Polly and said, I need to use the bathroom. She replied, okay. I told her, not that kind of using the bathroom. I am all cramped up. She looked at me with lugubriousness, knowing how fearful I was of using public bathrooms to take a shit. This, by far, is the one thing I fear the most. Dirty toilets, single-ply toilet paper, lack of privacy, did I mention dirty toilets? I get distressed just thinking about having to use a public toilet.

I always try to make sure my bladder and intestinal tract are empty before I go to a public event. When I left the house, I thought I was good to go, or better put good not to go. Unfortunately, I will occasionally have what I call the mother of all shits — an experience I don’t wish on anyone. I can “feel” when one is coming on, and that’s exactly what I felt at the tractor pull.

As I stood to make my way down to the concourse, I let out a big fart. I am sure the people behind me thought, OH MY GOD. I, one the other hand, was grateful that it was gas and not fecal matter. Built back in the days when privacy and handicapped access were not important, the bathrooms were under the grandstands. I knew using the toilet was going to be an adventure; adventure as in having to spend the day with Donald Trump. Not g-o-o-d.

man using toilet

Waves of cramps let me know that I better find the bathroom soon. I entered the bathroom, looked at no one (it’s a man thing) and made my way to the farthest stall. Finally, I thought, I made it. I quickly dropped my pants, checked the toilet seat for pee, and boom all of Polly’s wonderful cooking — and three crunchy tacos from Taco Bell — exited my body. The stall door had no latch, so as I sat there doing my business, I held the door shut with the handle of my cane. I hoped that the busy kids who entered the bathroom would see my cane and not try to expose Santa in all his glory.

I sat there for a few minutes, reading emails on my phone and letting my muscles relax. I stood up to wipe my ass, only to find out that the toilet paper was the cheapest single-ply toilet paper you could buy. Awful stuff. A sure guarantee that you will end up with shit on your fingers. Worse yet, the stall walls only came half way up my chest. Here I was, leaning against the plywood stall wall so I could wipe my ass — which is an ordeal in and of itself — looking as if I was peering over into the next stall, breaking the cardinal man-club rule: no looking. (Due to a loss of mobility, cleaning up after defecating is quite challenging. The doctor suggested Polly could help. I told him point blank, my wife is never going to wipe my ass. NEVER! I would rather be dead than have her do that for me!) Finally, I pulled up my pants, only to find out that my suspenders were wet and stained from lying on the pee-soaked floor. After a few moments of reflective cussing, I got myself together, ready to watch the next class of tractors.

Just as I was getting ready to exit the stall, my bowels said, oh no you don’t big boy. A sluggish meal had finally made it to my sphincter muscle and it was demanding exit. I thought, @#$%#@, really?  Yes, really. And so, knowing the sluggish meal would not wait, down went my pants, down went my ass on an undersized, low-profile toilet, and down went the last contents of my bowel. I once again read my email and approved comments as I waited for the physical calm to come. Finally, it arrived, and I stood, gathered up a long strand of single-ply toilet paper, tripled it over, attempted to make my ass look presentable, pulled up my pants, zipped them, pulled my pee-stained suspenders over my shoulders, and exited the stall. I made my way back to the grandstand, telling Polly that I had the mother of all bowel movements, and that my pants and suspenders will definitely need washed.  We looked at each other, smiled, laughed a bit, realizing that this was just another day in the life and times of Bruce Gerencser.

Black Collar Crime: Another Day, Another Willow Community Creek Church Sex Scandal

robert sobczak jr

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois, resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct. The church’s board also resigned after their colossal mishandling of the Hybel’s scandal. And now, Fox-32 reports that Willow Creek paid out $3.25 million to settle two civil sexual abuse lawsuits.

Robert Sobczak, Jr. a volunteer at Willow Creek, was convicted of sexually abusing an eight-year old church boy. He is now serving a seven year sentence for his crime. Sobczak, Jr. was also convicted of sexually abusing another church boy and given probation. The parents of these boys sued Willow Creek. The church settled the two lawsuits, paying  $1.75 million dollars to one family and  $1.5 million to the other.

Fox-32 reports:

At the time, we’re told Robert Sobczak Junior was a volunteer for the Barrington church. He’s now 24 years old, and serving a seven-year sentence for reportedly sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy.

He also pleaded guilty in 2013, the paper reports, for sexually abusing another disabled boy and received probation.

The Tribune reports there were warning signs about Sobczak, but the church failed to act. They have since settled two civil lawsuits with the boys’ families — one for $1.75 million dollars and the other for $1.5 million.

Willow Creek did not respond to FOX 32’s request for comment, but did pass along a statement calling the experience “heartbreaking” and insisting they’ve made changes.

“We have worked with law enforcement and security experts to learn how this happened and how we can ensure it never happens again,” the church said.

….

A November 2017 Daily Herald story says:

A Cook County judge has allowed an attorney to seek additional financial damages in a lawsuit against Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington on behalf of a special-needs boy who was molested there by an adult volunteer who admitted the sexual abuse.

Lawyer Kevin J. Golden’s case on behalf of the now 13-year-old Fox Lake boy against the church and Robert Sobczak, the volunteer in question, began in Cook County circuit court in February 2014. His client has autism, ADHD and a chromosomal disorder called DiGeorge syndrome.

Golden said the case has dragged on long enough.

“The church has fought this from Day One and has not taken responsibility,” he said. “We look forward to our day in court.”

Willow Creek issued a statement on the suit Tuesday.

“As this is a pending legal matter, we respect the privacy of the parties involved and are limited in what we can comment about at this time,” the statement says. “However, Willow Creek Community Church has done everything it can to assist in this investigation and litigation. We take very seriously the safety of children entrusted to our care and hope to have the opportunity to work to reach a resolution in this case.”

The suit alleges Willow Creek was negligent by not properly supervising Sobczak, 24, who records show remains in Graham Correctional Center in downstate Hillsboro for other sexual abuse convictions not involving the boy in the lawsuit. The former Hoffman Estates man received probation in December 2013 after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual abuse against that boy.

….

Court documents say the boy’s mother placed him in Willow Creek’s Promiseland program for special-needs children when she attended a church service on Feb. 17, 2013. The suit alleges Willow Creek did not enforce a rule that two adults were to be with the children at all times, leading to Sobczak’s removing the boy from a class and molesting him in a sensory room.

….

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Orlando Martinez-Chavez Accused of Sexual Assault

orlando martinez chavez

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Orlando Martinez-Chavez, pastor of Iglesia Pentecostal Lirio de los Valles church in Jersey City, New Jersey, has been charged with sexually assaulting a ten-year-old church girl.

NJ.com reports:

A Jersey City church pastor has been charged with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl church member and fondling a relative — and a source said the pastor has threatened at least one other victim with deportation if she told anyone.

Orlando Martinez-Chavez, 47, was charged on July 27 and he was arrested on July 30, according to a criminal complaint.

….

He faces charges of sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and criminal sexual contact.

Martinez-Chavez’s troubles started a month earlier, according to the source, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. Martinez-Chavez was removed from his position on June 26 after he was accused of sending graphic pictures and videos to a 32-year-old woman who attended the church, the source said.

The Rev. Joseph Andino, who oversees the Assemblies of God churches in northern New Jersey, could not be reached for comment. An official with the Iglesia Pentecostal Lirio de los Valles church, in the Heights neighborhood, declined to comment.

The 10-year-old victim is now 15, and she told authorities that Martinez-Chavez reached inside her pants and touched her genital area in November 2012, the criminal complaint said. The pastor’s relative also came forward with the allegation that the pastor — who is married and has three girls, ages 4, 10 and 18 — fondled her breasts over her clothing, the complaint said.

Another alleged victim, a 15-year-old girl who says she was sexually assaulted by Martinez-Chavez two years ago, is too traumatized to come forward, the source said. When confronted by the girl’s mother, Martinez-Chavez threatened to have the family, which is undocumented, deported, the source said.

The alleged victim and her family, former congregants, left the church and moved out of state almost immediately, the source said.

Martinez-Chavez had been with the Jersey City Heights storefront church for six or seven years, the source said.

“I think there are a lot more victims,” the source told The Jersey Journal. “They are scared. They were threatened. These people are all illegal immigrants. He targeted them because he knows they are afraid.”

….

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor David Croyle Charged With Sexual Assault

david croyle

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Last week, David Croyle, pastor of Family-Life Church in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, was charged with sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old boy,

Trib Live reports:

Kittanning Council does not have the authority to remove a councilman from office despite charges he engaged in sexual contact with a disabled 14-year-old, Council President Kim Chiesa said Friday.

On Thursday, Council Vice President David John Croyle, 60, was arrested and charged with felony counts of statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, aggravated indecent assault of a person with a mental disability, corruption of minors and related charges.

Croyle is the editor and publisher of the Kittanning Paper and senior pastor at the Family-Life Church on South Jefferson Street in Kittanning.

….

Representatives of the Family-Life Church, Applewold Council and East Franklin Township Fire Department either refused or did not return requests for comment.

….

Later that year, according to court documents, the victim told police he first met Croyle while filling out an employment application at the Kittanning Paper. The victim told officers the application indicated he was 14 years old. The victim told police he next heard from Croyle through the social media application Grindr. That contact led to an exchange of phone numbers, which eventually led to the victim and Croyle exchanging nude images, according to court documents.

During the summer of 2016, the victim told police, Croyle invited him to his residence on South Jefferson Street. When he arrived, the victim told police, Croyle led him to a bedroom for a sexual encounter. After the encounter, the victim told police, he was instructed to stay silent lest Croyle lose his job.

A second encounter occurred later that summer, the victim told police, and was again told to remain silent about it.

Croyle’s church bio page says:

David J. Croyle is the senior pastor of Family-Life Church, which owns and operates Family-Life TV in Western Pennsylvania. He hosts a regional daily television program “Share” and also an international weekly prayer call-in program called “Family-Life Sunday Night.” Viewers in 30 countries participate via the Internet at www.familylifetv.com. A graduate of Armour Baptist Seminary [unaccredited] located in the state of Washington with a Bachelor’s degree in Bible, he is also a graduate of Carolina Christian University [unaccredited] with a Master of Science degree in Psychology and Counseling. He is certified by the National Christian Counselors Association as a Temperament Therapist and Licensed Pastoral Counselor. He has authored three books.

Croyle’s bio page also states:

He preached his first sermon at the age of 14. He has traveled thousands of miles in ministry and lives to be a blessing to those around him. Meet him this week in person at Family-Life Church or via the Internet!

 

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Jeff Jakes Resigns Over Sexual Misconduct Allegations

pastor jeff jakes

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Jeff Jakes, lead pastor at Orangewood Church and Christian School in Maitland, Florida, resigned today over sexual misconduct allegations. Orangewood Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) — a Fundamentalist sect.

The Orlando Sentinel reports:

The probe was conducted by GRACE, an independent Christian organization that investigates claims of abuse and misconduct within religious institutions. GRACE said it spoke to 76 witnesses and surveyed more than 600 Orangewood community members.

It began after a former intern, Katherine Snyder, accused Jakes of abusing his position as youth pastor in 1998 by expressing romantic feelings, making comments about her body and detailing his own fantasies when she was 18. The behavior, she said in a Facebook post in February, continued while she attended college.

The report validated Snyder’s claims and criticized Jakes for saying he regretted “confusing” the former intern, a description GRACE said “marginalizes her dignity and robs her of the honor she deserves in bringing very painful events to light.”

Jakes has previously denied Snyder’s allegations.

One former associate pastor explained to GRACE that the Maitland church had handled the claims against Jakes “by considering it a ‘private sin’ and not a ‘public sin’.”

In its letter reacting to the findings, church leaders admitted “some of our earliest public statements only made matters worse” for victims, “including the use of a term like sexual misconduct without a full understanding for what that term means.”

Church leaders’ initial framing of Snyder’s allegations against Jakes — as nonsexual or, in one elder’s description, an “inappropriate emotional relationship” — angered Snyder, who said he touched her in ways that made her uncomfortable, such as kissing her cheek or caressing her hair.

While the church said it would accept Jakes’ resignation, it added that he could return to preaching in the future.

“It should be noted that the Session has found that Jeff is not disqualified from future pastoral ministry,” the church wrote in its letter. “After a time of counseling, study, healing and restoration, we believe Jeff can effectively serve in pastoral ministry.”

GRACE also reviewed claims of sexual abuse in the mid-’90s from at least three former students against then-Orangewood school coach Timothy Manes, concluding the school mishandled these allegations as well, including by not reporting them to authorities.

Among other recommendations, GRACE said Orangewood should provide funding for counseling received by victims of past sexual misconduct, harassment or abuse from members of the Orangewood community as well as ongoing training for staff.

No one will face criminal charges, and it is likely that Jakes, after spending time in sackcloth and ashes, will rise from the ashes of sexual improprieties and pastor again. Can’t keep a God-called preacher down, right?

February 2018 Orlando Sentinel article

This Week with Evangelicals on Social Media by ObstacleChick

facebook and twitter

A Guest Post by ObstacleChick

Many of my relatives and friends from my Evangelical days are prolific in posting their religious views on social media. I’d love to ask them how many converts they think they’ve gotten from their posts. From what I can tell, they get “likes” from those who agree with them in their echo chamber while the rest of us just roll our eyes and scroll by.

Here are some highlights from this week.

Religion:
If I obey, I’m accepted.
If I’m good, God will love me.
People: Good and bad
Focus: What I do or don’t do
Produces: Pride and despair
Motivated by fear

Gospel:
I’m accepted so I obey.
I’m bad and Jesus loves bad people.
People: Repentant or not
Focus: What Jesus did
Produces: Humility and confidence
Motivated by love

Interpretation

“I don’t follow a ‘religion’, I follow something infinitely superior — the Gospel! I’m a bad bad person and Jesus loves me anyway because I was repentant and accepted the fact that I was so incredibly bad that Jesus/God had to become human, die, and be resurrected to prevent himself/God/Jesus/Holy Spirit from damning me to eternity in hell if I humble myself and admit how utterly bad I am. Now I’m confident I won’t go to hell. Because love. Because Jesus committed suicide for us, but not really because himself/his dad could raise people from the dead. So don’t call me religious.”

We must never rest until everything inside us worships God – A.W. Tozer

“We’ve gotta worship God all the time to make sure we keep him happy. Because if God ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Yay God!”

The modern world demands that we approve what it should not dare ask us to be tolerated – Nicolas Gomez Davila

Interpretation

“My inspiration of the Holy Spirit (aka, what my pastor tells me) from the Bible assures me that gay people should not have equal rights to straight people; that women should be submissive to their husbands, fathers, pastors, etc., and should stay home and take care of babies and homes whether they want to or not; that people who do not believe the way I do are apostates and going to burn in hell for eternity; that my religious freedom demands that I be allowed to discriminate against all these apostate sinners. Why? Because Jesus! And you shouldn’t ask me to be tolerant of other people’s beliefs, because they’re wrong — Jesus/my pastor told me they are wrong.”

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me – 2 Timothy 4:17

“I got scared and my mommy wasn’t there so I thought real real hard and remembered this Bible verse. And then I was able to go do adult stuff. Yay Lord!”

The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto. He knows well. – A.W. Tozer

Interpretation

“My God is an abuser and I am his abused subject. He declares that I am weak and worthless without him. I believe that I am a worthless piece of garbage because he tells me so. But one of himself/his beings became human and committed fake suicide and rose from the dead because he can do stuff like that because he is omnimax so that he wouldn’t have to send me to eternity in hell just for existing if I repented hard enough, believed the right things, and said the right things. Yay God! Isn’t he awesome? Now I’m worth something because he said I am. And you’re a worthless piece of garbage if you don’t believe the right things.”

Satan tries to limit your praying because he knows your praying will limit him. – Toby Mac #SpeakLife

Interpretation

“I believe in a whole mess of supernatural beings that I can’t see. God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, angels, demons, Satan/Lucifer/Devil, Beast, Anti-Christ — they’re all totally real, y’all, and they are out there doing battle. It’s like Harry Potter (but not, because we all know Harry Potter is totally demonic because witchcraft) except you can’t see them and they’re totally all around us and all. And the Bad Guys try to control us and lead us astray and all, and the Good Guys just want us to follow them and do the right thing and not be led into temptation. Yay Good Guys! And I think that if I think hard enough in my head about the supernatural sphere or say words out loud to the supernatural sphere, that the Good Guys will hear me and will get their swords going even harder to defeat the evil old meanie Bad Guys!”

Feel free to craft your own creative responses or to share your own experiences from this week with Christians on Social Media!

Just Say No to Ed Kidston and His Plan to Deplete the Michindoh Aquifer

michindoh aquifer

The Michindoh Aquifer — covering two million acres underground — provides water for all of Williams County and parts of Defiance and Fulton Counties in Ohio, parts of Steuben, DeKalb and Allen counties in Indiana, and parts of Michigan’s Hillsdale and Lenawee counties. I live in the rural Northwest Ohio community of Ney in Defiance County. Our sole source of water is the Michindoh Aquifer.

According to an October 5, 2009 KPC news story, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — acting on a 2007 petition from the city of Bryan, Ohio — proposed designating the Michindoh Aquifer a sole-source aquifer. A recent news story stated:

A sole-source designation means the aquifer is the only source of drinking water for people in the nine-county area; it would guarantee EPA protection against pollution under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The sole-source designation was suspended by the EPA in March 2013 following comments received in a study in April 2010.

Thanks to the U.S. EPA’s suspension of the Michindoh Aquifer’s sole-source designation, there are no federal laws prohibiting outside communities from tapping the Aquifer.

water protest pioneer ohio august 13 2018 (18)

Ed Kidston, the mayor of Pioneer, Ohio and the owner of Artesian of Pioneer, wants to tap the Michindoh Aquifer and sell the water to local communities for drinking purposes. First, Kidston must drill a well to test the feasibility of pumping copious amounts water from the Aquifer.

July 14, 2018 Toledo Blade report states that Toledo-area communities are looking at the possibility of gaining access to Michindoh Aquifer water:

City councils in Maumee and Sylvania want to explore the possibility of tapping into the aquifer and have agreed to conduct a study. Officials in Perrysburg, Whitehouse, Fulton County, Henry County, and the Northwestern Water & Sewer District also are considering the aquifer as an alternative to Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz’s plan to form a regional water commission.

The cost for each entity to perform the study, using a company called Artesian of Pioneer, depends on how many agree to it. The study’s total cost is capped at $35,000.

According to the Toledo Blade, Kidston’s:

… preliminary plans call for a pair of 36-inch pipes to be installed; one along the southern portion of the region and another to the north. An additional 36-inch line could be built along the eastern edge of Fulton County to connect the two lines and build redundancy in case either line needs to be shut down.

Mr. Kidston said above-ground storage would be built along the eastern border of the lines to supply each community for one day in case of an emergency. A treatment plant would also be constructed, although groundwater requires minimal treatment.

The Williams County Alliance has started a petition that states:

Artesian of Pioneer’s plan to make money by selling our drinking water to consumers outside the aquifer is self-serving and shortsighted.The Michindoh Aquifer is Williams County’s sole source of drinking water. If we lose it to depletion, we have no other economically feasible source of drinking water. Once a pipeline to extract and sell water to entities outside the aquifer is built, there will be no turning back. Rather than a business selling our drinking water for profit, we should conserve the aquifer for future generations.

The water of the Michindoh Aquifer is a precious resource that is essential for life. Water resources should not be privatized. Existing law needs to be changed to ensure that aquifers like the Michindoh remain sustainable sources of water for future generations.

Many of the people directly affected by Kidston’s commercial water operations are up in arms, demanding that local, county and state government put a stop to Kidston’s profiteering off of the Michindoh Aquifer — a finite resource. Kidston would have locals believe the Aquifer is a limitless resource that can easily handle pumping millions more gallons a day. The City of Bryan uses one million gallons of water a day. If Maumee, Sylvania, Perrysburg, Whitehouse, and other local communities start using Aquifer water, we are talking about millions of gallons of increased daily draw-down. Based on current rain and recharge levels, the Aquifer will, if Kidston gets his way, draw down faster than it can be replenished. And once this happens, communities such as Ney could face dry wells. And what happens then? Will Kidston be required to turn the tap off that supplies water to larger local communities? Of course not. Ney will just have to figure out how to best provide water for its insignificant, non-consequential 356 residents. This very scenario has played out countless times across the United States in recent years as commercial entities draw down water tables and cause dry or under-performing wells. Even worse, numerous ground drinking water supplies have been compromised by pollution and farm runoff.

water protest pioneer ohio august 13 2018 (19)

It is up to local, county, and state government officials to use their collective power to put an end to Ed Kidston’s money-making scheme to deplete the Michindoh Aquifer. Local leaders might argue that it is not against the law for Kidston to tap the Aquifer and sell its water to communities outside of the Michindoh watershed. However, just because someone CAN do something, doesn’t mean he should. This issue is clearly one of doing what is best for the people who rely on the Aquifer for drinking water.

Once Kidston starts pumping water to the highest bidder, there is no turning back. Not only will thirsty local communities be drawing millions of gallons of water a day out the Michindoh Aquifer, so will local manufacturing concerns and large-scale farming operations. The answer is to kill Kidston’s plan before it can gain traction. Local protests and anti-Kidston signs are important, but these alone will not stop Ed Kidston from continuing with his plan. Why? Because it is all about money. It’s always about money. If Kidston was concerned with doing what’s best for Northwest Ohio, Southern Michigan, and Eastern Indiana he would, without delay, cancel his plan to drill a test well. Unfortunately, every gallon pumped out the ground and sent eastward means more money for Artesian of Pioneer and its owner Ed Kidston.

water protest pioneer ohio august 13 2018 (21)

For Further Information

Save Michindoh Water

Save Our Water: Protect the Michindoh Aquifer Facebook Page

Against the Next War by Paul Sunstone

no more war

The internet has made it now

Bound to happen

Tomorrow or the year after.

Bound to happen.

Maybe.

Up to you.

The politicians and the preachers,

The two dogs of the capitalist class,

Will once again want a war,

Just as they always do.

War to them is a gift, you see,

It’s not personal, it’s not their blood.

But war makes some folks rich

And you will never change that,

You will never change that,

Though the dogs will bark it’s not so.

A war of aggression

Against some people somewhere,

Most likely brown,

Most likely poor,

Most likely weak,

Most likely no real threat.

War for the sake of the banks

And for the merchants of death.

War for the sake of the pulpit,

And for the corridors of power.

But not a war for the sake

Of you and of me. We don’t count.

Our side is the one side

That has never counted.

Never.

That’s how war goes, it’s always been so

And it’s bound to happen again,

Soon happen again.

This is your world,

How it really is —

The world you think,

The world you were taught,

The gods want you to live in and love

Them more than you love each other.

In your world are great nations:

Nations the greatest in history,

Nations with the power of suns,

A thousands suns,

To do good, make truths come true

For even the poor man, the poor woman,

The poor child. Make truths come true.

But these nations,

Nations great and greatest,

Act only like whores,

Filthy whores,

Fucking folks raw,

Spreading their diseases,

Recruiting new girls,

Ever younger girls

To fuck you, to fuck all of you,

To fuck everyone.

This is your world

Your world without end.

But now someday you see

Someday now for once it will happen

For once it will stop

Stop the day they give a war

And you

You rise up, join hands

By the millions, possibly billions,

Linked together by the net

And by love, and by common sense.

At last,

At last you will rise, singing

“At last my spirit shall have water!

At last my cries shall be heard!

At last my thirst shall be slaked!”

Yes, you will rise up and you will say

In a voice thunderous and magnified

By the whole world joining in,

Say, “Those people are our friends,

We chat with them by day and by night.

We know their hopes, we know their dreams,

We know their troubles, we know their fears.

We know them, we know their names.

“Jane and Matthias. Terese and Sindhuja.

Mark, Parikhitdutta, and Min.

We even marry them now and then —

They shall not this time be murdered.

“You will not touch them,

Our brothers, our friends;

This once the bombs won’t fall.

This once the bombs won’t fall.

You politicians and preachers,

You capitalists and bankers all —

This once the bombs won’t fall.”

Yet you know it will ever be a dream

Just a dream, just a mere dream.

It will ever be a dream

If you, if we, keep on dividing,

Never uniting, never joining,

But instead just staying, just keeping,

To my echo chamber or to yours.

So let’s come together

Let’s come together,

Let’s come together.

So let’s come together

Before the nukes fall,

Before the demons fall.

Before we die in the winter,

And we come together

Never once come together at all.

 — Paul Sunstone, Against the Next War

Independent Baptist Songs: Hold the Fort by Philip P. Bliss

philip p bliss

Philip P. Bliss

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Hold the Fort by Philip P. Bliss. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by the Cleveland Baptist Church congregation.

Hold the Fort was a favorite in the churches I pastored, and it was also a favorite at camp meetings and preachers meetings. Militaristic songs are quite common in IFB circles. One word I never paid attention years ago was Bliss’ use of the word comrades. Today, the word comrades is associated with communism or socialism. I wonder how the song and the use of this word is perceived in IFB churches.

When the churches I pastored sung this song, we would stand, sing lustily, and when we came to the line in the refrain that said “Wave the answer back to Heaven” we held our King James Bibles high and waved them towards Heaven (or the auditorium ceiling), signaling to Jesus that we were on the battle line, with sword in hand, waging war against Satan and sin.

According to the Explore Southern History website, Hold the Fort was inspired by a Civil War battle, The Battle of Allatoona Pass.

The Battle of Allatoona Pass was fought in Bartow County, Georgia, on October 5, 1864. It was signals sent before the first gun was fired, however, that inspired one of America’s most beloved Christian hymns.

“Hold the Fort!” was written in 1870 by Philip Paul Bliss, an evangelist and composer, after he heard the story of the Union defense of Allatoona Pass told in a Sunday School class. The use of signal flags to send messages from Kennesaw Mountain near Atlanta to the threatened garrison holding Allatoona Pass was held forth as an example of how Jesus Christ signals Christians to hold strong to their beliefs, for “He is coming.”

The meeting attended by Bliss took place in Rockford, Illinois, on a Thursday and Friday, April 28-29, 1870. Among the speakers was Major Daniel Webster Whittle, who told how on the day before the battle, General William Tecumseh Sherman had sent messages by signal flag to urge the garrison at Allatoona to hold out.

Whittle remembered the message as saying, “Hold the Fort; I am coming!”

His telling of the story so inspired Bliss that he based a hymn [Hold the Fort] on the story of Allatoona
Pass.

….

Philip Paul Bliss and Daniel Webster Whittle traveled through great areas of the country over the years that followed the publication of “Hold the Fort!”

They served as traveling evangelists, speaking to crowds large and small and carrying the story of the signals to Allatoona Pass and the song with them.

In 1876, they actually visited Georgia and climbed to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. There they saw the ruins of the Civil War signal tower and in the distance could see the Allatoona Mountains.

It was a moving moment for both men and after kneeling in prayer, they sang “Hold the Fort” together. Bliss told a friend that he almost expected to see Jesus returning in the sky at that moment.

Hold the Fort by Philip P. Bliss

Ho, my comrades, see the signal, waving in the sky!
Reinforcements now appearing, victory is nigh.

Refrain:
“Hold the fort, for I am coming,” Jesus signals still;
Wave the answer back to Heaven, “By Thy grace we will.”

See the mighty host advancing, Satan leading on;
Mighty ones around us falling, courage almost gone!

See the glorious banner waving! Hear the trumpet blow!
In our Leader’s Name we triumph over every foe.

Fierce and long the battle rages, but our help is near;
Onward comes our great Commander, cheer, my comrades, cheer!

Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine

opus of a machine

This is the one hundred eighty-seventh 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Strength in Stone by Opus of a Machine.

Video Link

Lyrics

I’ve waited for gods to take me and save me in time,
But now I know this picture we hold of the holy was all in our minds.
Why should we worship those divine, the ones on the other side?
They’ll be just as fragile and helpless as us when we drown.

Misguided dreams and wasted prayers to the sky,
Hoping to ascend to the heavens and drink from the fountain inside.
As we pay this bitter price, we gain what we were denied.
There’ll be strength in our hearts as we march from this holy divide.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Still waiting to feel the warmth,
Sleeping in you and me.
Reach in and hold it, this golden light is calling.

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

And we’ll uncover what we hold inside, becoming what we once called divine,
And walk down this road on our own to feet and know what it is to be alive.

It’s scary I know, letting it all go,
It’s easier to stay in a dream than fade to dust and bones.

We will be our very own halo,
A saviour is born,
Inside of you and me, it’s inside us all,

Go on and carry the weight of the world,
Bare it all on your shoulders.
We will find our own way home,
We’ll see the weave as it’s woven.

Go,
Stand tall,
Don’t look back.
Be strong,
Be like stone.

Reliving the “Good Old Days”: Do You Have Any Change?

somerset baptist church 1983-1994 2

Our hillbilly mansion. We lived in this 720 square foot mobile home for five years, all eight of us.

Several weeks ago, Polly and I were reliving what we call the “good old days.” The “good old days” span the first seventeen years of our marriage, including the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Somerset Baptist, for a few years, was a fast-growing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist congregation, developing from a handful of attendees to over two hundred in attendance. Located in rural Southeast Ohio, in the northernmost county of the Appalachian region, Somerset Baptist was made up primarily of poor blue-collar workers or people who were on public assistance (it was not uncommon to find food stamp coupons in the offering plate). The highest total annual offering was $40,000. Most years, the offerings were in the $25,000 range. I pastored Somerset Baptist full-time, receiving what meager salary the church could provide, supplementing my income with jobs pumping gas, delivering newspapers, selling insurance, and taking in foster children. We literally lived from hand to mouth, rarely having two nickels to rub together.

We mostly drove cheap cars. I did all my own repair work, so I would buy junk cars, repair them, and keep them running until they were worn out. During the “good” years, we bought a new car — a 1984 Plymouth Horizon ($6,000) This car has a story unto itself, which I will tell at a later date. I drove the car for two years, putting 102,000 miles on the car. That’s right at 50,000 miles a year. By the end of second year of the loan, the car was worn out.

Thanks to us having a large family, we were eligible for food stamps and energy assistance. This fact thoroughly embarrassed us. We would drive to Columbus, where no one knew us, to do our grocery shopping. When the government offered free cheese or peanut butter to welfare recipients, I couldn’t bear to stand in line to get it (the “why” is yet another story for another day). Polly was embarrassed too, but she really loved what she called “welfare cheese,” so she would swallow her pride and stand in line with the other poor people.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994

Our son Jaime, and our two girls, Bethany and Laura.

I had grown up poor so I knew a good bit about poverty. Polly, on the other hand, was raised in a middle-class home where new cars, home ownership, money in the bank, and annual vacations were common. Polly’s dad worked for the railroad, and when he got the itch to go to college to study for the ministry at age thirty-five, he found a well- paying job at General Motors’ Pontiac Truck and Coach plant which enabled him to study without depriving his family. Neither of us knew the first thing about handling money responsibly. Both of us thought a life of poverty was God’s will for us, so we hunkered down and endured. Boy, did we endure!

Polly and I had six children during our years in Southeast Ohio. The first child’s birth was covered in full by insurance. The next five children were covered by state medical insurance. All told, we had private health insurance three of the first seventeen years of our marriage. The rest of the time, we either did without — thank you, oh Great Physician — or were covered by state medical insurance.

In 1989, we purchased an old, beat up 12×60-foot trailer and parked it fifty feet from the church building on the far end of the church parking lot. By then, the church had stopped running its four bus routes and attendance was less than one hundred. There were eight Gerencsers by then, so try to imagine us all living in 720 square feet. Try to picture the amount of laundry and pails of soiled cloth diapers Polly washed. Polly and I had one bedroom, the three oldest boys had another bedroom, and our daughters and youngest son had a bedroom the size of a large closet. Playing, for the children, meant going outside. Our children were four-season players, complete with bread bags on their feet in the winter so their feet didn’t get wet. Somehow we survived. That’s what Polly and Bruce Gerencser and munchkins did — we survived.

Our youngest children have very few, if any, memories of our “Somerset days.” Our oldest sons, however, have lots of memories. They, themselves, could write a book about their experiences as the pastor’s children living in the poverty-sicken hills of Perry County. To this day, my oldest sons remind me that Christmas comes in March. As children, they got very few gifts for Christmas, and most of the gifts they received were courtesy of their grandparents — my father excepted, who never sent one card or gift, ever. Christmas, then, was when we received our federal income tax return. Thanks to the earned income credit, we yearly received a large tax refund. We used this money to pay bills and buy our children clothing, shoes, underwear, and a few non-essential gifts. This was the one time of the year we had a large sum of cash. The rest of the year was spent raiding change jars and searching cars for spare coins. Ah, the good old years.

Several weeks ago, we had one of those oh-so-rare occasions where we were very low on money. Polly often laughs and tells me that I have a knack for pulling money out of my ass! On this particular day, my ass was broke. We needed bread and I had a hankering for a grilled steak. The checkbook was empty and I had $6.00 to my name. Off to Bryan we drove, stopping at Chief — a local grocery company — to see what we could get for $6.00. Polly dug through her cavernous purse and checked places were change collects in the car. She scraped up $1.48, giving us a grand total of $7.48. This gave us just enough money to buy one loaf of cheap bread and a one-pound sirloin steak (split three ways). Woo Hoo!

somerset baptist church 1985

Somerset Baptist Church, Mt Perry, Ohio, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and kids, 1985

As we got back in the car, both of us laughed about our change-fueled forage, reminding us of our days in Southeast Ohio. The good old days, we both said. I added, yeah except for the fact we are driving home in a $30,000 automobile, a car that cost more than most of our other cars combined.

The “good old days” certainly helped to make us into the people we are today, but neither of us has any desire to relive them. We are grateful for Polly’s job and its benefits. Above all, we are thankful that our children escaped the poverty of their youth and have solid, well-paying middle-class jobs. Some of them are in management positions, and all of them, save one, own homes without wheels. They, too, have fond memories of their days living as sardines in a 12×60-foot trailer, but they have no hankering to relive those days. Instead, they regale their children with stories that almost sound unbelievable — that is, except to we who lived them.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

It’s My Story and I’m Going to Tell It

this is my story

It is not uncommon for Evangelicals to question my motivations for blogging. I have the audacity to share club secrets; to point to where the bodies are buried. Worse yet, I call into question club beliefs and practices, daring to suggest they are irrational, mythical, or harmful. I am viewed as an enemy of Jesus and a hater of Christianity. Some Evangelicals even say that I hate Christians themselves — a Trumpian falsehood if there ever was one.

I have been called a liar, a man filled with pride who wants, needs, desires, and craves the approbation of my fellow atheists, non-Christians, and liberal Christians. On a few occasions, I have been accused of “being in it for the money.” I snarkily addressed this accusation recently in a post titled, Christian Man Attacks Me Because I Ask Readers to Monetarily Support My Work. Some Evangelicals have said over the years that my life story is fabricated; that they know people who know people who know people who say I never pastored ____________ church or lived in ______________ community. These conspiracy theorists — all Trump supporters, I suppose — ignore all evidence to the contrary and unjustifiably label me a liar.

Then there are the Evangelicals such as my former pastor friend Bill Beard, who oh, so politely ask me to not to share my story. Why? It’s harmful to people of faith, especially those who were once congregants in the churches I pastored. This concern is indeed valid, but if me telling my story causes loss of faith, what does that say about the staying power of their faith? Many Evangelicals find my unbelief disconcerting. One former congregant — who told me that he couldn’t be friends with me any longer because my deconversion caused him too much angst — said to me, Bruce, if YOU can lose your faith, anyone can. This congregant knew I was a mature follower of Jesus; a man who studied and knew the Bible; a man who lived out his faith day by day; a man whose family was governed by the complementarian, disciplinarian teachings of the Bible; a man who wasn’t afraid to stand for truth. Yet, I walked away from Christianity and I am now an outspoken atheist. My loss of faith causes doubt and questions, and the typical Evangelical answer for such things is to close your eyes, plug your ears, and repeatedly sing Jesus Loves Me.

I have been blogging for ten years now. I was a Christian when I started blogging, and readers who have been with me from the beginning have watched me journey from Progressive Christianity to atheism. They have watched me start and stop blogging several times, aware of how painful for me deconversion has been. They have watched as Evangelicals savaged me in their churches, on their blogs, and former iterations of this blog; watching as this savagery cut me so deeply that I bled out before their eyes. In time I would arise as a phoenix from the ashes, only to abandon my blog twelve or eighteen months later. Long-time readers will remember blogs such as Bruce Droppings and The Way Forward.

In the fall of 2014, I had yet again another meltdown and stopped blogging. Close friends waited to see if I would rise from the dead. In December 2014, I indeed — unlike Jesus who remains buried in a forgotten grave in Palestine — arose from the dead, ready once again to tell my story. In December 2018, this blog will be four years old. Imagine that, long time readers, FOUR YEARS OLD! Evangelicals haven’t stopped attempting to silence me, so why no classic Bruce meltdowns, why no running from the battle bruised and bleeding?

There are five reasons why this blog has survived:

  • I finally stopped giving a shit about what Evangelicals said or thought of me.
  • I finally understood that a lot of people really do love and support me and enjoy and appreciate my writing.
  • I finally stopped giving Evangelical zealots a platform in the comment section. The one comment rule for Evangelicals dramatically reduced stress levels. (See Comment Rules) Want to take Bruce Gerencser to the woodshed? Want to expose him as a liar, a fraud, or a servant of Satan? Get your own blog. (See Dear Evangelicals.) Keeping the comment section relatively free of Evangelical excrement has allowed a community to develop. Yes, this policy reduced the number of comments, but it allowed thoughtful unbelievers and doubters to comment without being savaged by Evangelicals. it also allowed me to focus on being a help instead of battling intransigent Fundamentalists.
  • A woman by the name of Carolyn came into my life. Almost three years ago, I received an email that basically said, I love your writing, but it needs some help; “help” being editing. From that point forward, Carolyn has edited most of the posts on this site, including old posts (if you see a post with a date — say 081615 — on the bottom, that means you are reading an old post Carolyn has edited.  Not only has her editing improved my grammar and overall writing, she has encouraged me to keep at it even when I feel like throwing in the towel. I will likely never meet her face to face, but she has become a dear friend. By the way, she edits my writing free of charge, a true act of friendship and kindness.
  • Several readers decided to take an active role in dealing with Evangelical comments. Their willingness to respond to these commenters has dramatically reduced my need to do so. Often, I just reply *sigh* — which means in the Greek “not this shit again!” — and leave it to them to challenge and engage Evangelical commenters.

Fundamentally, this blog remains a place for me to tell my story. I am one man with a story to tell, and I intend to keep telling it as long as I am physically able to do so. For Evangelicals who wish I would shut up and go the hell away, I say, sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. Evangelical churches frequently feature testimony segments, or they have big-name preachers and con-artists come to their churches to tell how God led them out of atheism and saved their souls. Some of these exaggerators-for-Jesus recount their lives as witches, new agers, mobsters, porn addicts, or homosexuals, and describe how Jesus delivered them from their sin and gave them eternal life. Some Evangelicals write books or start blogs with the express purpose of testifying to what Jesus has done for them. Other Evangelicals take to the streets, their places of employment, or go door-to-door, telling all who will listen about the wonderful, matchless grace of God. All of these people are doing what, exactly? Telling their story. And that is all I am doing.

Some Evangelicals don’t like how I have portrayed them in my writing. How dare you say that about me! How dare you say that about my pastor! How dare you say that about my church! How dare you air our past interactions! Why, Bruce, you make me look bad! Well, you should have treated me better, then. If you weren’t such a bully or an ass, the story I tell would be different. To the degree that you play a part in my life story, I am going to share that with readers. Instead of bitching, moaning, and complaining, either pray and ask Jesus to silence me or admit that you, much like yours truly, said and did things that were harmful to our congregants and families. I have found it cathartic to admit and own past bad behavior, and I challenge you to do the same. Your mileage may vary, but I plan to keep on writing. Consider my writing about you akin to you using me as a sermon illustration or a cautionary warning. Me writing about you is a cautionary tale of what happens when a man becomes a Fundamentalist sot; when one’s ability to reason and think critically is smothered by religious dogma, arrogance, and certainty. What’s good for the atheist is good for the Baptist preacher, yes?

I know it infuriates some preachers that this blog ranks first page for their name or the name of their church/ministry. (Polly’s family HATES that this site is prominently featured when people search for them or their church/ministry.) Sometimes, this site is first on the first Google page. That’s what four years of blogging have given me — increased readership, page views, email subscriptions, social media sharing, and high search ranking. I appreciate that people are willing to support and publicize my writing. As with all writers, I write to be read. All writers (and public speakers such as preachers) have a bit of narcissism in them. I want people to read my writing, even if they are raising Holy Heaven about what I have written.

The name of this blog is The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser: One Man’s Journey From Eternity to Here. I plan to keep telling my story until either Jesus comes again or I lose the ability to reason and write. My money is on dementia claiming me before Jesus does.

Thank you for being a reader of my writing. I find it humbling that anyone except Polly would want to read what I write. I will do my best in the days ahead to put out writing that is worthy of your support.

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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