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Your Questions, Please

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Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a year since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would, once again, open the call lines and ask readers to submit their questions, along with $66.66 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the universe. Reason — praise be to Reason! — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking and skepticism to infinity and beyond. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want are questions; your pithy, erudite questions. Please try to ask questions that you think I haven’t answered before.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section of this post. I will answer questions in the order they are received; that is, unless you are a bigly donor. Readers who shower me with cash, checks, gold bullion (ouch), Bitcoins, and restaurant gift cards just might be moved to the front of the line, or be sent a 20×30 glossy photo of me pole dancing at the Big Bear Strip Club — “might” being the operative word. (Long-time readers who know and understand my humor, sarcasm, and snark know whether I am speaking factually. Everyone else? Keep on dreaming of Bruce Almighty swinging on a brass pole wearing only his shorts, suspenders, and wing tips.)

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 Halloween, after which time it will disappear into the bowels of this blog never to be seen again. Or at least until next year at this time.

Let the fun begin.

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Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor

ifb preachers importance

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I know a lot of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who love being called Doctor. They expect church members to call them Doctor and their undoctored colleagues to bow in reverence to them. In the IFB church movement, to have a doctorate means you have arrived, that your dick is bigger than that of your fellow pastors.  Having a doctorate gives one an air of importance and respectability. Go to any of the big IFB conferences, and you’ll find the scheduled speakers list littered with the names of men who have doctorates. But, here’s the thing: the overwhelming majority of preachers sporting a doctorate didn’t earn the moniker. Most likely, one of their preacher buddies, who just so happens to run an unaccredited Bible college, gave them their doctorate. Or, they did minimal coursework at one of many IFB diploma mills. Either way, their doctorate is nothing more than the plume of a peacock. Look, look, look at me, I am special, I am important, I am a Doctor.

Even at the IFB college, university, and seminary level, many of the professors have doctorates that were granted to them by the institution at which they are teaching or some other unaccredited college. I spent 25 years in the ministry, and I came in contact with a lot of Doctors. In every case but one, the doctorates were either honorary or “earned” through minimal work done at diploma mills. The only person I knew that had an earned doctorate was Tom Malone — the founder and chancellor of Midwestern Baptist College. Dr. Malone had a Ph.D. in education from Wayne State University.

Christian Bible College is a good example of an IFB diploma mill:

costs christian bible college
Course Costs Christian Bible College
course requirements for christian bible college
Course Requirements for Christian Bible College

Andersonville Theological Seminary is another good example of a diploma mill:

doctor of theology andersonville
Course Requirement for Andersonville Theological Seminary
costs andersonville
Costs Andersonville Theological Seminary

I know several IFB preachers who advertise that they have a doctorate in counseling. Andersonville offers a doctorate in counseling, complete with licensure from the National Christian Counselors Association. (NCCA) Here’s what Andersonville has to say about their counseling doctorate and NCCA licensure:

counseling doctorate andersonville
Counseling Doctorate Andersonville Theological Seminary

This has all the making of a Holiday Inn commercial: I’m not a licensed, qualified counselor but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night.

I suspect that most IFB church members don’t have a clue about how their pastor got his doctorate. They naïvely assume their pastor is just like their medical doctor or a professor at the local college. They likely think their pastor went through the rigors of a Ph.D. program and is eminently qualified to teach them the Bible. Little do they know that their pastor’s doctorate is nothing more than a high-five from a friend who operates a college, or a piece of paper given to him after paying a fee and doing minimal course work.

On one level, who cares, right? But, many of these “Doctors” are counseling people with serious mental health problems. A troubled church member goes to their pastor thinking he is qualified to help them. After all, he has a doctorate in counseling, right? He is just as qualified as the psychologist at the local mental health clinic, right? Unbeknownst to the church member, their pastor’s doctorate is little more than words scrawled on used toilet paper.

As Paul Harvey used to say: now you know the rest of the story.

Doctorate-sporting IFB preachers are like Diotrephes in III John: they love to have the preeminence. Go to an IFB church or conference and watch how Dr. Bob or Dr. Jack or Dr. Paul are fawned over and treated like gods. I wonder when these Doctors last preached on James 2:

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

(Please see The Evangelical Cult of Personality.)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Rebellion and How an Authoritarian God Deals With It

rebellion

Rebellion is a common word in the vocabulary of Evangelical Christian pastors, church leaders, husbands, and parents.

Here’s what the Bible says about God’s view of rebellion:

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (1 Samuel 15:23)

Those who practiced witchcraft were to be put to death (Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:9-11), so it is clear that God considered rebellion a serious matter.

God commanded a harsh punishment for a rebellious son:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them; Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you and all Israel shall hear, and fear. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

The Old Testament is the written record of how a thrice Holy God dealt with a rebellious people, Israel. Page after page details God’s judgments against his people and those who got in his way.

When we get to the New Testament, the word rebellion is not used. Does this mean that God has changed? Of course not. How is it possible for a perfect God to change? Malachi 3:6 says:

For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

The Bible says, speaking of Jesus:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

It is clear, from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God that God is immutable. He doesn’t change (though there are a few texts that seem to suggest otherwise).

Evangelical churches and pastors generally believe that both Testaments are authoritative (especially those Old Testament verses about tithing). Granted, Evangelicals are quite contradictory in their interpretations of the Old Testament, picking and choosing what they want to believe, but they do say all sixty-six books of the Bible are authoritative.

The key word is AUTHORITATIVE.

Evangelicals take seriously the matter of rebellion because they believe that the Bible is an authoritative text, and from that text they deduce an authority structure.

It goes something like this:

  • The Christian God is the supreme authority over everything. He is the sovereign King and Lord over everything. He is the creator. He is in complete and absolute control. Even with salvation, no one can be saved unless God permits them to be saved. Both Calvinists and Arminians alike believe God is the final arbiter when it comes to salvation.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy in the church. Under Jesus Christ, pastors (elders, bishops) are the head of the church. They have been called by God to teach, correct, lead, and direct the church. They are to initiate discipline when necessary to ensure the church is a pure, holy body (though many churches have a pretty low standard for pure and holy).
  • The Christian God has established authority hierarchy in the home. Again, under Jesus Christ, the husband is the head of the home, and his wife is to submit to his authority. Children are to obey their parents, and submit to their authority.
  • The Christian God has established an authority hierarchy for nations. All nations are to bow to the authority of the Christian God. Their laws should reflect God’s law. Better yet, theocracy, God rule, is the best form of government.

Evangelical Christians believe God rules over everything. There is no King but Jesus, and no God but the trinitarian deity of Christianity.

The problem here, of course, is that Evangelical Christians are human. Contrary to all their talk about being saved and sanctified, Christians are pretty much like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. For all their praying and confessing sin, they live and talk just like everyone else. Simply put, like all of us, they do what they want to do.

And that is a big, big problem.

You see, the authoritative God of the authoritative Bible demands absolute obedience. God expects Christians to implicitly and explicitly obey his commands. All of them. God will have none of this picking and choosing that American Christians love to do.

So everywhere you look you have Christians in some form of rebellion against God, their pastors, their parents, or their husbands. No matter how much they pray, read the Bible, go to the altar, and promise to really, really, really obey God this time, they continue to lapse into sin and rebellion.

This is what Jesus told his followers in Matthew 5:48:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

It seems “nice” Jesus didn’t lower the standard when he came to earth. God expects and demands perfection. God will have none of this “I am not perfect, just forgiven” cheap grace Christianity. Jesus expects his followers to walk in his steps. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, they have been given everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

The difference between atheists and Evangelical Christians is guilt. Evangelicals live in a constant cycle of living right, rebelling, feeling guilty, repenting, and going back to living right. This cycle can go on numerous times a day. Atheists can feel guilty at times, but since they are not encumbered by a long list of Biblical laws, commands, rules, regulations, precepts, or standards, they are less likely to feel guilty. With no God hovering over them and no pastor preaching at them, the atheist is pretty much free to enjoy life. Generally, atheists try to live by the maxim: don’t hurt or cause harm to others, and when they fail they are likely to make restitution and ask for forgiveness from the people they hurt. No need for a God, Bible, church, or pastor. As humans, atheists have all the faculties necessary to be a good person.

What makes it worse for Evangelicals is that when they go to church on Sundays, their pastors remind them, from the Bible, of course, of how rebellious they are. These fallible, frail, sinful men of God point out the sins of their congregants, reminding them that God hates sin. These whitewashed sepulchers call on rebellious church members to repent. You would think that people would get tired of all this, but each week they dutifully return to church so their pastors can remind them of their sinfulness and need of repentance.

Children, especially teenagers, get this same treatment from their parents. When children don’t obey their parents, they are chastised and reminded that God hates rebellion. But kids will be kids, as every parent knows, and in most homes, it seems that children are either starting into rebellion or coming out of it.

Parents are commanded by God to beat the rebellion out of their children (Proverbs 13:24). God provides himself as a good role model to follow.  Hebrews 12:5-10 says:

And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

The Bible records how God goes about chastising rebellious Christians. He maims them, makes them sick, kills their families, takes away their possessions, starves them, and, if necessary, kills them. God goes to great lengths to make sure a Christian seeks after the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11)

Here’s how God expects Evangelical Christian parents to respond to the rebellion of their children:

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Let me tie this all together.

A divinely authoritative text from an authoritarian God establishes authority structures (hierarchies) for the church, family, and nations. Disobedience to God-ordained authority is to be punished.

For those of us raised in this kind of Christianity, we well know how this works out practically. The Bible, in the hands of God’s man, the pastor, is used to dominate and control people. Individuality and freedom are discouraged, and, in some cases, severely punished.

Pastors remind their churches about “pastoral authority.” Parents remind their children that they are to be obedient, and threaten them with punishment if they don’t. Husbands remind their wives that they are the head of the home and their word is f-i-n-a-l. Collectively, Christians warn government officials that Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and God demands they submit to the authority of God, the Bible, and his people (this is the essence of the theocracy movement in this country).

Some readers are likely weeping by now. Their minds go back twenty years or more to a time when they were teenagers. Their parents considered them rebellious. Often their rebellion consisted of things such as listening to rock music, smoking, getting pregnant, talking back, having sex, or smoking marijuana. Their parents, needing to show them that they were in charge, sent them off to group homes to get their “rebellion” problem fixed. What really happened is that they were cruelly misused, abused, and debased. Years later, their lives still bear the marks of the Godly “rebellion” treatment they received.

It is hard not to see cultism in all of this. I am sure Bible-believing Christians — people of the book — will scream foul, but the marks of a cult are there for all to see if they dare but open their eyes. Millions of people attend churches that believe the things I have written about in this post. This is what Bible literalism gets you. How could it be otherwise?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Just Remember, Satan was the First to Demand Equal Rights Says IFB Pastor Tony Greene

knoxville baptist tabernacle

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle, pastored by Tony Greene, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to the church’s website:

In May, 1952, Dr. R.W. “Bob” Bevington led a group of earnest Christians in establishing the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was founded on the principles of strong Bible preaching, house-to-house soul winning, separation from the world, and support for world-wide missions.

Through the years, some of America’s greatest preachers and soul-winners have spoken from our pulpit– men such as John R. Rice, Lee Roberson, Billy McCarroll, Fred Garland, Dolphus Price, Lester Roloff, among many others.

The Tabernacle was a participating host for many years of the International Fellowship of Fundamental Baptists.

Prior to Bro. Bob’s Homegoing in 2009, the Tabernacle called Bro. Tony Greene as its second pastor.  Bro. Greene continues the ministry in the same vein as Bro. Bob, with a strong emphasis on evangelism…

The church also operates a Christian school.

Several years ago, the sign at the top of this post caused quite a bit of controversy. WATE.com reported (link no longer active):

A sign posted by a Knoxville church continues to raise eyebrows and spark both discussion and outrage after it was posted online.

The sign posted by Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church read “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.” Many people posted the picture to the WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook and Twitter pages, starting a debate about what the sign really means.

The pastor says the purpose of the sign was to send a message about unity and spark conversation in the community. He says it wasn’t meant to offend anyone.

Our sign referencing Satan demanding his equal rights to ascend into the heavens and be God was simply ‘I’ and all about that individual,” said Pastor Tony Greene. “It was not a statement against any one group in particular, you know what about the rights of the unborn babies, the rights of children, the rights of everyone?”

After the picture was posted on Facebook, there was mixed reaction to the message. Stephanie Settlemyre said, “As a Christian, I find this highly offensive, these kinds of signs and messages are exactly the reason why people are turned off by Christianity.”

Adam Miller posted, “Honestly thought that the photo was shopped, I thought, “surely someone wouldn’t post such a thing,” said Miller. “Makes me sad I was wrong, and doubly sad that these folks are in my back yard.”

Ashley Smith wrote, “Church offends many anyway, you could write Jesus loves you and someone would get bent out of shape.”

Now the sign reads: “Glad you reading, did not intend to offend, we all need Christ.”

Pastor Greene spoke about why he made the change.

“We are a diversity congregation of people. We’ve reached people that know us and know our stand in this community know what we’ve done,” said Greene. “My heart breaks in the dividedness of our country.”

Greene says they like to interact with the community and they typically change the sign once a week. Greene says they will have another message posted later this week…

knoxville baptist tabernacle 2

Does anyone believe that Pastor Tony Greene and the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle didn’t mean to offend? Does anyone believe they had no particular group of people in mind? Of course not. It is in the DNA of IFB pastors and churches to offend anyone and everyone who believes, thinks, acts, or lives differently than they do.

Pastor Greene’s message is clear: those demanding equal rights — you know, LGBTQ people — are in league with Satan.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Robert Gilmore, Sr. Accused of Sexual Abuse

arrested

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.

Robert Gilmore, Sr., pastor of an unnamed Evangelical church in Casper, Wyoming, stands accused of repeatedly sexually abusing church girls . While the news story does not name the church Gilmore, Sr. pastors, a LinkedIn page for Robert Gilmore, Sr. says he is the bishop of New Life Tabernacle (no web presence) in Casper.

K2 Radio reports:

[Pastor] Robert Lee Gilmore Sr. often took on a father figure role for the girls — whose dads were in prison or absent for other reasons — before sexually abusing them, court documents state.

In one case, a victim took her own life after turning to drugs and alcohol to cope with the abuse in her adult life, court documents state.

Gilmore Sr. is charged with six counts of second-degree sexual assault and seven counts of indecent liberties with a minor. If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced up to 190 years behind bars.

He has not entered a plea to the charges.

According to a heavily redacted affidavit of probable cause, a man contacted Casper police in March involving Gilmore Sr. The man told police that Gilmore Sr. spoke at a funeral for a family member. As Gilmore Sr. spoke, a woman got up and left the chapel.

The woman told the man Gilmore Sr. sexually assaulted her when she was a child and Gilmore Sr. was the pastor, court documents state.

Court documents do not specify at which church Gilmore Sr. was a pastor.

A Casper police detective contacted the girl and described an incident in 2003. She told the detective that she was in Gilmore Sr.’s office preparing for her baptism into the church when Gilmore Sr. sexually assaulted her, court documents state.

Gilmore Sr. allegedly told the girl, who was 5-years-old at the time, that God had chosen her to perform those sex acts with him and that they were necessary to prepare her to be baptized and given “the holy ghost.”

According to the affidavit, a woman came forward and told investigators that she witnessed Gilmore Sr. sexually assault a friend of hers when he was in his 20s and the girl was 11.

As the girl in that instance grew older, the sexual relationship between her and Gilmore Sr. continued, court documents state.

“(Gilmore Sr.) would provide (the alleged victim) with methamphetamine and money as a way to keep her from disclosing the sexual abuse that (Gilmore Sr.) inflicted on her as a child,” the affidavit states. That alleged victim, as an adult, took her own life in 2009.

The affidavit goes on to describe an additional victim who disclosed to a friend that Gilmore Sr. sexually abused her as a child.

Charging documents detail an incident in 2018 when a woman was taking care of her parents who lived in an apartment. An alleged victim of Gilmore Sr.’s was also at the apartment helping out when Gilmore Sr. called and said he would stop by. The alleged victim panicked to the point that she jumped out a window and started running away.

According to the affidavit, yet another alleged victim came forward and described an incident that happened in the spring of 2004 or 2005. In that case, the alleged victim described being taken into the church basement after Sunday school to change into a baptismal gown. Gilmore Sr. allegedly accompanied the girl into a closet to change her clothing. He reportedly took the girl’s clothing off, including her undergarments, and molested her.

In that instance, Gilmore Sr. told the girl that the assault was God’s will and that God would be angry at her if she did not relent.

According to court documents, police spoke with a victim from 1998 who described preparing to be baptized when Gilmore Sr. brought her to his office and said it would “hurt” God if she didn’t let him sexually abuse her.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Black Collar Crime: United Methodist Pastor John Hackmann Accused of Soliciting Child Pornography

pastor john hackmann

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.

John Hackmann, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Marion, Illinois stands accused of soliciting child pornography.

KFVS-12 reports:

Reverend John S. Hackmann, Jr., 45, was charged with child pornography and intimidation.

The Williamson County sheriff said on Monday he had bonded out of the Williamson County Jail.

According to the State’s Attorney’s Office, Hackmann’s preliminary hearing was set for Nov. 19.

Court documents state Hackmann solicited a teen to get lewd photos of female friends that are her age. He’s accused of threatening to show the teen’s mother a private video of her and boyfriend.

Frank J. Beard, Bishop of the Illinois Area, The United Methodist Church, released the following statement:

Conference leadership has been notified of the arrest Thursday by Williamson County authorities of the Rev. John S. Hackmann II, 45, pastor of Marion First UMC.

In the best interest of all concerned, Rev. Hackmann has been temporarily relieved of his pastoral duties while an inquiry is made into the circumstances which led to the arrest.

An interim pastor will be assigned to serve Marion First during this time. It is our intention to cooperate with the criminal investigation as it unfolds.

The judgment of guilt or innocence regarding the criminal charges will come through that process. Our responsibility is to care for the welfare of the people involved and of the Church.

Please join us in prayer for Rev. Hackmann, his family, all parties involved and this congregation as we move forward guided by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Abner Anibal Rolon Accused of Fraud

abner anibal rolon

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.

Abner Anibal Rolon, pastor of Calvary First Assembly in Haines City, Florida, stands accused of attempting to “bilk an 85-year-old woman with visual, hearing and mobility impairments for more than $35,000.”

News Chief reports:

Abner Anibal Rolon, 46, a Davenport resident and senior pastor at Calvary First Assembly in unincorporated Haines City, allegedly attempted to bilk an 85-year-old woman with visual, hearing and mobility impairments for more than $35,000, according to a Haines City Police Department press release.

He also was charged by HCPD with scheming to defraud in the amount of more than $20,000 and presenting himself as a contractor without a license. Rolon turned himself in on Friday. He was subsequently released on $10,500 bond, according to Polk County Jail records.

According to HCPD, the victim, who resides with a caretaker, was seeking flooring and roofing repairs in preparation to sell her home. Rolon allegedly handed the woman “A Servant’s Hand” business card in June in which he presented himself as a licensed contractor capable of multiple services.

HCPD stated while the caretaker was away, Rolon insisted more services were necessary. He eventually billed the woman six times between July and September for work totaling $36,440.

According to police, the Haines City Building Division and Code Compliance unit discovered a water heater, ceiling fans, windows, electrical work and light fixtures were incorrectly installed and must be reworked. Rolon allegedly also billed the woman for roof and porch repairs that were not done.

HCPD stated Rolon was not licensed for electrical and contracting work and failed to procure permits for the work.

“To take advantage of an elderly woman trying to sell her home and to this extent, is simply unconscionable,” HCPD Chief Jim Elensky said. “We should be able to rely on our local pastors to serve as community leaders — not lying, stealing and taking advantage of people.”

Rolon and his wife, also a church pastor, have already been scrubbed from the Calvary First Assembly website. Their Facebook page is currently unavailable.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland Rejects Plea on Sex Crime Charges

Pastor Stricjavvar Strick Strickland

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.

Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, pastor of Second Baptist Church (website not active) in Kalamazoo, Michigan stands accused of sexually assaulting four teen boys, paying them to have sex with his wife while he watched.

Strickland faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct on a student, another on a person age 13-15 and another by force or coercion. The good pastor also faces four counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity and three counts of child sexually abusive activity.

MLive reports:

A Kalamazoo pastor accused of sexually assaulting four male victims between the ages of 15 and 17 is said to have paid the children to have sex with his wife while he watched.

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, has been charged with 11 felonies connected to alleged incidents spanning from Aug. 1, 2015- Aug. 31, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week in Kalamazoo County District Court.

….

A warrant for Strickland’s arrest was issued Aug. 21. As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, the pastor was yet to turn himself in. His attorney, Michael Hills, told MLive early Tuesday, that the two were making arrangements for the pastor to turn himself in.

….

“It has been two years since these allegations first came forward and Pastor Strickland has remained in contact and available. He is not running from this,” Hills said. “Pastor Strickland remains ready to turn himself in and deal with these charges accordingly.”

….

If convicted, the pastor faces a potential penalty of 15 years in prison on each of the first four charges, and 20 years on each of the other seven charges, according to his warrant.

….

In a bond recommendation, filed with the court along with the arrest affidavit, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin J. Mehrtens-Carlin recommends the court not allow the pastor to have any contact with the four alleged victims, his wife Jazmonique Strickland, or anyone under the age of 18.

“Per the reports, the defendant and his wife would use their employment at Phoenix High School (in Kalamazoo) and to some extent, the defendant would use his work as a pastor, to find male teens to engage in sexual activity with the wife, while the defendant watched and masturbated,” Mehrtens-Carlin writes in her bond recommendation.

Pastor Strickland calls the charges against him “absolutely preposterous.” Strickland added, “All I can say for now is that we are prepared for this fight. God will prevail.”

It is doubtful that God will show up on the scene to deliver Pastor Strickland from his predicament. Hopefully, justice will prevail. Kudos to Michigan state police and prosecutors for not letting Strickland’s notoriety stand in the way of seeking criminal charges against him.

According to an archived bio page for Strickland:

Pastor Strick Strickland succeeds Rev. Matthew W. Wright as pastor of Second Baptist Church and was elected January 22, 2012. Strickland has been preaching since age 19, a year after he got saved. He says that although he grew up in the church in Warren Hill, Mississippi, he didn’t really accept Christ until age 18. Apart of what helped him make his decision in the end was seeing his peers struggle on the streets where he grew up. In fact, he mentions that he had strayed away from church for a while. He got into trouble and landed in an alternative school. However, even there he excelled academically and tested in the top 5 percentile of students across the nation. He was in a gang and was labeled “Expected to fail”. Thus, Pastor Strickland’s story is one of how God is still a God of miracles, even today.

When asked how he knew he was called to preach, he replied, “Because it was the last thing I wanted to do”. He says that it was not only that he didn’t want to preach, but it was also that he didn’t relish the lifestyle of a preacher.

Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist. Prior to accepting the position as Pastor at Second Baptist Church, Pastor Strickland pastored at Pen Oak Missionary Baptist Church from 2005-2008, then went on to lead Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Collins, Mississippi. Second Baptist Church and the city of Kalamazoo hopes this is the beginning of a long stay at Second Baptist.

Pastor Strickland is also a national recording artist and the lead singer for a group called the True Believers. We hope that through his preaching and singing many souls will be won for the Kingdom of God. Since his election at Second Baptist Church, he has been involved in the Spiritual Awakening Services at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, the Jump Start Revival at his church, and spoke on 95.5 FM radio. As a young pastor, this is an example other young people that want to become pastors, ministers, singers or entrepreneurs can learn from.

Pastor Strickland relocated to Michigan, while most of his family lives in Mississippi where he was raised by his grandmother as an only child. His grandmother was a spiritually-oriented woman who helped him with his homework every night. He was in junior high school when he found out that his grandmother could not read or write. The way Strickland learned, however was heeding her advice to “sound out the words”. His mother Ida M. Turner resides in Joliet, Illinois along with his uncle, aunt, and a host of other relatives. Strickland says he is excited to be closer to his mother as he is her only child and she is his biggest fan.

An August 2018 WWMT-3 news report alleged that Strickland had a sexual relationship Aniya Mack. Mack was later murdered by her boyfriend, Donnovan Lewis. Strickland released the following statement, denying the allegations against him:

All of the things that I am being Accused of are ministry related!

1. Second Baptist under my leadership has helped more than 30 families with transportation barriers Aniya’s situation was no different.

2. We have shared thousands of dollars of resources to help members with rent, utilities, food…

3. The All Expenses Paid trip was a choir trip with 50 other people. This trip was also all expenses paid for all College Students of which there was 6-8 more! Who all shared rooms together. My family wife and kids where with us…

lastly, this is an attempt to discredit the church, the NAACP, and the black leader. However, I’m not running from this story. I am rather trying to be sensitive to the source of your information (A young man I don’t know at all. Who has killed his ex-girlfriend and is declaring himself insane!) his family deserves peace and my response to the propaganda will only disrupt their peace!

Ultimately and finally, I have no control over people’s dreams and feel that it is extremely unfair that I be held accountable for was a person thinks or imagines is happening!

In this particular case we have a young man who has confessed to murder and I’m sure that had I been a white leader here in Kalamazoo that would be no story especially based solely upon the word of a confessed killer and self-proclaimed insane suspect.

Aniya Mack’s memory deserves to be left in tack! Here is a young lady that has already lost her life and future and now she is being denigrated to nothing more than her pastor’s mistress! That’s the biggest injustice of all!

On October 23, 2020, Strickland rejected a plea deal offered to him by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor. A scheduled probable conference was waived and pushed until early December.

CW7 reports:

A former Kalamazoo pastor charged with sexually assaulting four teenage boys, Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, denied a plea deal Thursday, his attorney told News Channel 3.

Attorney Mike Hills declined to provide details about the offer he said the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor’s Office proposed.

A probable cause conference in the sex crimes case against Strickland that was scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, was waived and pushed until early December, Hills said.

….

Investigators claim that Strickland, a former pastor at Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, and his wife, Jazmonique Strickland, paid teens for sex. Strickland has denied the allegations.

Authorities said Strickland and his wife used their positions within the church and the Kalamazoo Public Schools to coerce four teen boys into having sex.

Strickland turned himself in at the Kalamazoo County Jail on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, the day after Michigan State Police declared him a fugitive. He was released on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond, which means the judge allowed Strickland to be released without any deposit or collateral.

The conditions of his bond also allowed Strickland to return to his home state of Mississippi, court records show.

Hills said Strickland, a father of eight children, had been working at a horse farm in Mississippi to support his wife, Jazmonique, 28, who is pregnant with the couple’s sixth child together.

No charges have been filed against Jazmonique Strickland.

Michigan State Police said its investigation into the Strickland couple is still ongoing.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Raymond Vliet Pleads No Contest to Attempted Embezzlement

pastor raymond vliet

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.

In July 2019, Raymond Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el General Baptist Church in Flushing, Michigan, (no web presence) was accused of bilking an elderly parishioner out of tens of thousands of dollars. Authorities believed there could be more victims.  WNEM-5 reported at the time:

Vliet, pastor of Old Beth-el general Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township, faces charges of embezzling $20,000 to $50,000 from a vulnerable adult and committing a financial transaction without consent.

Sheriff Robert Pickell said the investigation started after a loan officer noticed something suspicious. Pickell said that happened when Vliet, who had power of attorney for a 91-year-old parishioner and his wife, went to a credit union to get a loan for a pontoon.

“The pastor convinced the victim’s wife before she died to sign over the modular home in the name of the church and it’s Beth-el general Baptist Church. And she did that because she was so taken in by the pastor. He was doing God’s work,” Pickell said.

The loan officer denied the loan request, and while researching, found Vliet also had power of attorney for other members of the church, Pickell said. That’s when she called the Elder Abuse Task Force.

Pickell said when the credit union turned down the loan, the pastor went to another place and did secure a loan. He also got a loan for another vehicle when he learned the 91-year-old man’s vehicle couldn’t pull the pontoon.

When a welfare check was done at the victim’s house, Pickell said officials noticed some things that just weren’t right.

In September 2019, Vliet agreed to “plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.”

In November 2019, Vliet attempted to withdraw his no contest plea, alleging that the prosecutor had “pressured” and “strong-armed” him into making the plea.

MLive reported at the time:

A Flint-area pastor is alleging he was coerced into accepting a plea deal in connection with an embezzlement case.

The allegations came about during a Monday, Nov. 25 hearing in Genesee Circuit Judge David J. Newblatt’s courtroom for Raymond M. Vliet Jr., 55, who is accused of embezzling money from a 91-year-old man to purchase several items and trips.

Monday’s scheduled hearing for Vliet included a motion to withdraw a plea deal and potential sentencing

….

Vliet agreed Sept. 20 in Genesee District Court to plead no contest to attempted embezzlement from a vulnerable adult $20,000 or more but less than $50,000.

K.C. Baran, Vliet’s attorney, however, told the court Monday that his client said the plea deal was not voluntary as he felt “pressured” and “strong-armed” after being asked by Newblatt what the claims were that may be made at a future hearing.

“This is just how he feels and how he felt at the time he entered the plea,” said Baran.

Vliet claims he was told he’d face additional charges, increased bond and could remain in jail for up to two years awaiting trial.

Assistant Prosecutor Rebecca Jurva-Brinn argued there was “absolutely nothing” to Vliet’s claims he didn’t understand the plea deal.

….

Vliet would have to pay restitution to two victims as determined by the probation department as part of the previously negotiated deal which has yet to be approved by the court.

The judge ultimately called for a Dec. 11 [2019] evidentiary hearing to hear the claims by Vliet, along with any other witnesses.

In attempting to track down which church, if any, Vliet is pastoring, I came across conflicting reports.

The Daily Gazette reports:

Defense attorney Fred Meiers said he hasn’t yet had an opportunity to review all the evidence against Pastor Vliet and didn’t want to make any comments.

Meiers told The Morning Gazette Radio Show last week that it was unclear from the police report what church his client is affiliated with after being told a Linked In page by Pastor Vliet says he currently serves as pastor at Time of Grace Community Fellowship on Davison Road in Flint. A website for the Flint church does not list Pastor Vliet as being affiliated with their church in any way and a message at the church has not yet been returned. A Facebook Page for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township also does not list Pastor Vliet and has only three “likes” registered on it, but a sign in front of the church, however, does have Vliet listed as its pastor. No phone number could be obtained for Old Beth-El General Baptist Church.

As of the writing of this post, I found no final disposition of Vliet’s case, or whether he is still a pastor.

I did, however, receive a comment from a man who says the case against Vliet is all lies — a conspiracy between the sheriff’s office and the prosecutor (all grammar and spelling in the original):

Do you believe in truth in reporting? I would think putting your name on this article you would have some integrity. did you investigate any of this information you posted or are you just here to Bash any Pastor to push your atheism?

This man is innocent he has taken the evidence to the FBI to prove that he’s innocent.

And I don’t know any guilty person that would do that. but let me just tell you Bruce when the old woman passed her children tried to come in and steal everything from the old man and put him in a home and they tried to do that before his kids could find out she passed so they could take what little bit they had they actually tried prior to her passing. And when the pastor wouldn’t allow them to do that then they took advantage of the fact they had a deputy in the family working for the Sheriff’s Department and they conjured up all kinds of things and decided if they couldn’t steal it from the old man that they would contact a daughter and start all this BS.

Now the daughter by her own admission in the police report admit she hadn’t had a relationship with her father in over 20 years fact is she wouldn’t even take his call the old woman and the old man told several people this.

Don’t you find it strange the police or no one who had contact with a couple or was in or out of their home didn’t talk to any of them didn’t interview anyone in the church they claimed the pastor had Powers of Attorney over everyone in the church

yeah I’m part of the church and I can tell you not one member does the pastor hold a power of attorney over or even another human being.

In addition everything else that was put in news media what’s a complete lie fabricated by the Sheriff’s Department.

If you want the truth and you want to prove email me we will send you all you need to know the print the truth. Unless of course you’re not interested in the truth the Constitution gives you the right of free speech Integrity gives you the right of Truth in free speech.

I responded:

This series relies on publicly reported stories. On November 25, 2019, Raymond Vliet pleaded no contest and was ordered to pay restitution. I will update the story to reflect this. If you have any further public news stories about this case that show what I have reported is incorrect, please provide them. I always want these stories to be accurate. You saying something did or didn’t happen is not the same as a verifiable news report. I’ve written 800 of these stories. Occasionally, people contact me, as you have, outraged that I’ve printed a “false” story. Yet, when asked to provide public news stories that support their claims, they are unable to do so.

For future reference, passively-aggressively besmirching my character is so “Christian” on your part. You want my help, yet you insult me.

If you have actual evidence to send me, please use the contact form at the top of the page.

Bruce Gerencser

As of today, this commenter has not provided any verifiable public information to support his claim that Vliet is being railroaded by the Genesee County sheriff’s department and county prosecutor. If such evidence is provided — and I did a through web search on this story — I will gladly amend this post.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.

Bruce, What Made You Tell Your Mom You Wanted to Be a Preacher?

mom moore park summer 1956
Mom, age 17, summer 1956

ObstacleChick asked:

Bruce, what was it about being a preacher, from your childhood eyes, that made you tell your mom you wanted to be one when you grew up? Do you remember?

Given your Type A all-in personality, I have no doubt that you would have driven yourself into the ground no matter what career you chose. If you had been a business owner, you’d have worn 50 hats and fired everyone for not doing their job right. If you’d been a social worker you would have worked 15 hours a day attempting to save all your cases. If you’d been a teacher, you would have been at the school long after everyone else helping students. You are who you are, regardless of whether you thought a deity was holding a whip over you. You even said in a recent post that you get involved in work and come up for air 9 hours later not knowing what time it is. It’s just Bruce being Bruce.

What an excellent question. I don’t think I have ever written about this before, so I appreciate the opportunity to do so.

Readers may or may not know — since I have not written about it yet — that I had my DNA tested earlier this year. For more reasons than I want to mention here, I have had doubts about who my father was for many, many years. My dad was 100% Hungarian. Both my brother and sister are dark-skinned, especially my brother. Both of them have Hungarian facial features. Me? I am light-skinned, blue-eyed, with flaming red hair. I was what you would call the milkman’s son.

For many years, I believed my mom’s first cousin was my biological father. He was a redhead and very close to my mother. However, my DNA test results revealed that I actually have a half-brother with the last name of Edwards — who lives 3 hours from my home. His father was a truck driver, a womanizer. He regularly drove a route from Chicago to Bryan, Ohio. My mom, at the time, worked at the Hub Truck Stop in Bryan as a waitress. She was seventeen. It is likely she met my biological father there. Unanswered is whether Mom, Dad, or my biological father knew about the pregnancy. My mom was six-weeks pregnant when she and my dad drove to Angola, Indiana to be married by the justice of the peace. A woman, at the time, had to be 21 to marry in Ohio. In Indiana, a woman could marry at age 18 without parental consent.

My mother was an outspoken, opinionated, well-read woman. She was temperamental, and battled mental health problems her entire adult life. Being sexually molested as a child by your father and raped as an adult by your vile brother-in-law will do that to a woman, not to mention being married to a man who had little capacity for human emotions. I don’t ever remember a time when my dad said to me, “son, I love you.”

There’s no question that I am Barbara Tieken Gerencser’s son. Temperamentally. Emotionally. Passionate about books. A love for writing. When I look at my life, I see Mom. (Please see Barbara.)

My mother taught me to read before I entered Kindergarten. I was a voracious reader, quickly advancing to books years beyond my grade level. I passed that gene on to my children and older grandchildren. Mom told me of a humorous incident that happened in our backyard on Columbine Street in San Diego, California. I was five or six. One day, I had gathered some of the neighbor kids together so I could “preach” to them. There I was preaching away to a captive audience. The hilarious part of this is this: I wasn’t preaching from the Bible. Instead, I was preaching about the evils of the United Nations, complete with reading from a book that likely had come from the John Birch Society. The book could have been None Dare Call It Treason (1964) by conspiracy theorist and Baptist pastor John Stormer. My parents were members of the John Birch Society, so Bircher books and pamphlets were quite common in our home. I remember seeing one pamphlet, Why Martin Luther King is a Communist, lying on the kitchen table. Mom campaigned for Barry Goldwater in California and would work for George Wallace’s Ohio campaign twice.

gerencsers 1960s san diego
Gerencser Family, 1960s, Columbine St, San Diego

One day, I came home from first grade with a note from my teacher attached to a book I had taken to school to “show” my classmates. The book had numerous graphic photos of supposed atrocities in communist countries. My teacher asked that I not bring the book to school again. Such was life for an outgoing, talkative, smart-ass boy growing up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) home — we attended Scott Memorial Baptist Church, pastored by Tim LaHaye, of Left Behind fame.

What, exactly, caused me to say that I wanted to be a preacher is unknown. My personality was such that I was likely drawn to people who were authority figures, in charge. ObstacleChick succinctly sums up my personality traits — a Type-A workaholic. Most of my work career was in jobs where I was either a pastor, manager, or worked by myself. Most people who knew me well would describe me as passionate and driven. My primary care doctor says that part of the reason I have some of the health problems I do — especially chronic insomnia, dating back 30 years — is that I don’t have an off switch. I don’t know when to say stop or say quit. So my doctor tries to medicinally slow me down, but I can tell you this much: I am able to “fight” the medications when I am so inclined. Most people taking the drugs I take would likely be out for two days. Damn squirrels running on the wheel of my mind. Such has been my life.

I genuinely like being a leader, being in charge, making decisions. I have no problem with making snap decisions. Sometimes, I fuck up, but that’s never stopped me from making the next decision. As ObstacleChick mentioned, employers loved my work ethic, my willingness to work 16-hour days to “git ‘er done.” I don’t recommend anyone doing as I did — though several of my children seem to be following in my footsteps.

While I like to think that I have changed over the years, I wonder if the change I see is forced on me by the realities of chronic illness and unrelenting pain. I suspect if I were free of pain and relatively healthy, that I would still be working my ass off 12-16 hours a day. You reach a point in your life where you realize, “this is who I am.” I have a lot of redeeming qualities, and a few traits that drive people nuts. Polly and I have been married for forty-two years. We have learned to tolerate or ignore those traits that irritate us. Our love for each other transcends the things we don’t like about each other. For us, it works.

My path to the pulpit was paved by my mother, my pastors, and personal ambition. I always wanted to be a preacher. I never went through the angst many people go through when trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. I always knew I wanted to be a preacher. It should surprise no one who really knew me that I attended an IFB Bible college, married a preacher’s daughter, and pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. Nor should it surprise anyone that I was restless, that I had a wanderlust spirit. Long-term pastorates, short-term pastorates, always looking for the next opportunity to win souls for Jesus.

Some of my critics (and friends, such as my counselor) suggest that I am still a preacher, that I have just changed sides. This accusation used to bother me, but I have come to realize that I will always be an outspoken, passionate, opinionated man. I have embraced my new calling, “church,” and “ministry.” Why shouldn’t I passionately work to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left the faith? While I will receive no reward in Heaven (or Hell) for my work, it is enough for me to know that I have in some small way made a difference in the lives of countless people. Isn’t that all any of us can hope for?

I hope I have adequately answered ObstacleChick’s questions.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

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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.

God Gave Me Breast Cancer Because He Loves Me

calvin and hobbes god

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Joni Eareckson Tada was severely injured in a diving accident in 1967. For the past fifty-three years, she has been a quadriplegic. Tada’s life story was popularized in a best-selling book titled Joni: An Unforgettable Story (1976) and the movie Joni (1979).

In the Friday, June 25, 2010 edition of the Defiance Crescent-News, there was a story about Tada undergoing treatment for breast cancer (behind paywall).

As I read the article, what astounded me was Tada’s comment about God’s involvement in her breast cancer.

Tada said:

I’ve often said that our afflictions come from the hand of our all-wise and sovereign God, who loves us and wants what’s best for us. So, although cancer is something new, I am content to receive from God, what ever he deems fit for me. Yes, it’s alarming, but rest assured Ken and I are utterly convinced that God is going to use this to stretch our faith, brighten our hope and strengthen of our witness to others.

In other words, God gave Tada breast cancer because he loved her and deemed it best for her. God gave her cancer so that she and her husband would have more faith and be a stronger witness to others.

Tada’s God is best described as a know-it-all deity who afflicts humans with sickness, disease, suffering, and death because he loves them and wants to increase their faith in him. He then wants them to use the afflictions he gave them to tell others what a wonderful God he is.

Crazy, isn’t it? I doubt if Sigmund Freud could even figure this out. How is this any different from a violent sadist expecting his victims to praise him for not killing them. “Hey, I cooked them awesome dinners while they were hanging in my basement!”

The Christian interpretation of the Bible presents God as a father and the Christian as a child (a son). Good fathers love, protect, and nurture their children. They don’t beat them, abuse them, or afflict them with pain and suffering. Every right-minded human being knows what qualities make for a good father. We also know what qualities make for a bad father.

In his best-selling book, The God Delusion, Dr. Richard Dawkins described the Bible God this way:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Anyone who has read the Bible knows that this is an accurate description of God, the “father.” If God was Santa Claus, he would definitely be played by Billy Bob Thornton, of Bad Santa fame.

A father who has the power to heal and doesn’t is a bad father. A father who causes suffering, sickness, and disease when he could do otherwise is a bad father. A father who afflicts his child with breast cancer is a bad father. A father who gives his child breast cancer so she can tell everyone what a wonderful father he is, is a bad father. From my seat in the pew, this God-the-father, as presented by modern Christianity, is a bad father.

Tada’s argument for a breast cancer-giving God is one of the reasons I left Christianity. I could no longer believe in a loving God that willingly afflicts and kills his children because he has determined that it is best for them. This God demands the Christian bear whatever affliction he brings upon them, and in true narcissistic fashion, he also demands that they love him while he is afflicting them. I want nothing to do with such a capricious, vindictive, warped God.

Disease, sickness, suffering, and death are all around us. If God could do something about these things and doesn’t, what are we to make of such a God? What are we to make of a God who is seemingly involved in the intimate details of life — helping Granny find her car keys — yet when things really matter, he is absent without leave (AWOL)?

Christians sing a song that says “what a mighty God we serve.” A mighty God? In what way is the Christian God mighty? Batman and Superman were mighty gods. They used their powers for good. They were always on call, ready at a moment’s notice, to swoop in and help those in need. But the Christian God? It seems the bigger the need the harder he is to find. As I noted in another post, God seems to involve himself in trivial matters like getting a woman a $200 refund on her plane ticket, but he seemingly can’t be found when an environmentally catastrophic oil leak needs plugging or forest fires are destroying lives and property. Perhaps we need to forget about this God and turn on the Bat-signal.

I am saddened by Joni Eareckson Tada’s affliction with breast cancer. Being a quadriplegic for over fifty years is enough suffering for one lifetime. But I know just because you have one health problem in life doesn’t mean you won’t be afflicted again. As I have learned in my own life, just because I have fibromyalgia doesn’t mean I won’t get some other disease. Life isn’t fair. Life can be cruel. I’ve known Christians whose lives were devastated by one tragedy or sickness after another. I know one Christian woman whose oldest son recently committed suicide, her middle son is in prison for murder, and her youngest child died of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma at age 23. Yet, she still devotedly praises God for his manifold blessings. If God is the one dumping all this on them, it would seem proper to ask God to move on to someone else. “Please God afflict sister so-and-so. She is in perfect health.”

Christians often quote the verse that says God will never give anyone more than they can bear. In other words, no matter what you face in life, God has determined you can bear it. This verse always leaves God off the hook. God, who is sovereign over all things, determines that you can bear to have cancer, AIDS, fibromyalgia, ALS, MS, emphysema, or any other dreaded disease, so he afflicts you. You are expected to bear whatever he brings your way. If you don’t, it is your fault. Your failure to bear your burden shows that you lack faith or you have secret sins in your life.

Reality paints us a far different picture. Many Christians, if not most, do not bear their burdens as the Bible says they should. I have counseled hundreds of Christians over the years who were weighed down by the burdens allegedly given to them by God. At the time, I encouraged them to have more faith, but rarely did the faith of the afflicted rise to the weight of the burden. Most often, the burden broke their back. Sadly, many of these people continue to walk around, stooped over and crippled, all the while singing “what a mighty God we serve.”

There is a hypocritical vein in this line of thinking. The theory is this: God afflicts his children with suffering for their good because he loves them and wants to increase their faith. I would ask then, why do Christians go to the doctor and take prescription medications? It seems to me that not seeing the doctor and not taking medication would result in a greater increase in faith. Surely a sovereign, omnipotent God is bigger than high blood pressure or diabetes, and surely a sovereign, omnipotent God is bigger than any pain a Christian might have, right?

There are Christian sects that do have this kind of faith. They don’t go to doctors, and they refuse to take medication of any kind. And every few years we have the privilege of reading about them in the newspaper when they are charged with manslaughter or child abuse for failing to get proper medical care for one of their children.

For me personally, it is more palatable for there to be no God, or a deistic God that is not involved in his creation, than there is a God that afflicts people because he loves them and wants to increase their faith. Such a God is a monster of vast proportions, a deity unworthy of worship.

I recognize that sickness, suffering, and disease can be instrumental in shaping us and changing us, and making us better people. But this is far different from a loving God-the-father afflicting us so that we will love him, have more faith, and be better witnesses. Such thinking is barbaric and best relegated to the ancient past it came from.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Thank You, God, for Blowing My Leg Off

rebekah dimartino
Rebekah Martino’s Amputated Leg

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Most Christians are taught to give thanks for everything. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:18:

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

No matter what, the will of God is for them to always, in every circumstance, give t-h-a-n-k-s. When tempted to whine, complain, or pity themselves, Christians are reminded of the pain and suffering Jesus endured on their behalf. No one has ever suffered like Jesus — or so Christians are told by their pastors, anyway. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend.)

As with all of us, bad shit happens to Christians. They get sick; they have accidents; they are at the wrong place at the wrong time, or any of the other countless misfortunes that may befall humans. They contract sicknesses and diseases, so much so that it makes an outsider wonder if the Great Physician has lost his license to practice medicine.

When it comes to physical, emotional, and mental maladies, Christians are in the same boat with the rest of us. The difference is they have to pretend that what is going on in their lives is good for them, that God had a wonderful, awesome, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious plan for their lives. They must always look on the bright side. They know every word of the Footprints in the Sand Poem by Mary Stevenson:

One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”

He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”

Jim Steinhauer spoke for many of us when he wrote:

Sorry to have to break it to you, Jesus, but those are obviously my footprints.

Look closely. See how those footprints have that wavy tread pattern on the bottom, just like my docksiders? If they were yours, they’d make a sandal mark, like the footprints next to mine a little farther up the beach when I was going through better times.

See the footprints at the time of my divorce? You’ll notice that the sandaled footprints drift off from the docksider ones. They lead to that picnic bench over there, the one with the cigarette butts scattered all over. It appears that in my darkest hour, instead of carrying me, you sat on a stump and had a couple of smokes. Real helpful, Jesus. Real helpful.

Sure, the sandal footprints came back when I got that big job promotion, but right at the point where my son Tommy died, they veer off again. Actually, now that I look again, it seems like there’s an unusually large distance between each of the sandal-wearer’s footprints around the time of my son’s death, as if the person were actually running away.

I’m sorry, Jesus, but your whole story about carrying me during my worst moments just doesn’t gibe with the facts. Besides, you’d certainly think a person would remember being carried by the Son of God, right? That’s a pretty memorable thing, wouldn’t you say? Well, either I’ve got amnesia, or you’re a liar, because I don’t recall ever being toted around by the Messiah. The only thing I do remember about my worst moments on the path of life is the horrible feeling of plodding along the cold sand all alone while icy rain fell in sheets and chill winds assailed me.

So thanks, Jesus. Thanks a bunch. You were really there for me when things got tough.

I realize that thanking God amidst adversity and suffering can be a coping mechanism. One night, in the midst of a bout of horrible pain, I found myself crying out to the God of Ceiling®. While my utterance brought no answer from the Great Physician, it did help to distract me for a moment from the unrelenting pain. My utterance also caused me to chuckle and say, hey, Bruce, who ya taking to? Dumb ass!

I don’t want to rob anyone of anything that helps get them through the rough times of life. But, when I read news reports of someone praising God for their sickness, disease, or accident, it does cause me to wonder if the person is living in denial or has been so conditioned by their religious training that they cannot see life as it is. Such is the case of Rebekah DiMartino.

On April 15, 2013, DiMartino was standing 3 feet away from the Boston Marathon finish line when a bomb went off. The blast caused severe damage to DiMartino’s left leg. Weeks later, the leg had to be amputated. She now has a prosthetic leg with the word BLESSED embroidered across the front of it.

Several years ago, DiMartino told her story (link no longer active) at St Matthew’s Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky:

“Whatever you are going through in your life, don’t give up because God has got a plan for everything. And everything that we go through, it ultimately works together for your good.” “I took everything in the back of the legs so that Noah [her son] would be saved. That is God’s purpose [for me]. I cannot feel sorry for myself in the least bit because I know my son is running around like normal today. … I thank God every day for my little boy still being here.”

While I certainly sympathize with DiMartino, and I somewhat appreciate her positive outlook on her life after the bombing, I cannot accept or embrace a God who uses a terrorist and a bomb to blow someone’s leg off. Using DiMartino’s God’s-got-a-purpose-for-everything logic, the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard, all victims of the same bombing, happened because God had a purpose and plan for them. And the same could be said for policeman Sean Collier who was shot to death by the bombers. According to the Boston Public Health Commission, 264 people were injured in the bombing. Like DiMartino, 16 people lost a limb, and three people lost multiple limbs. Is this really God working out his plan for all of these people?

I understand the religious conditioning required to think like this. I used the same “reasoning” for years to “explain” my health problems. God has a plan for my life. God is working all things out for my good. God is teaching me to trust him more. God is drawing me closer to him. God is testing my faith. God is chastising me so that I might draw closer to him. Christian clichés — that’s all these are. The truth is, for Rebekah DiMartino, she was the victim of a terrorist bombing. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and her son, fortunately, was at the right place at the right time.

These kinds of stories should remind us that our lives hang by a slender thread. An accident, a genetic abnormality, a stray bullet, a moment of clumsiness or inattention, along with a plethora of diseases, can snuff out our lives in the blink of an eye. As an atheist, I have no intention of praising an absent or fictional God for the suffering and pain I must live with every day of my life. Instead, I embrace the pain and suffering and do my best to make the most of it. Certainly, that’s what DiMartino is doing. The only difference is that she thinks the Christian God is behind the wizard’s curtain orchestrating the events of her life.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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I Did it All for Jesus, My Life of Self-Denial

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.

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. Having been baptized a Lutheran and later making a public profession of faith in a Baptist church at the age of fifteen, I have been a part of the Christian church most of my life. I preached my first sermon at the age of fifteen, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college as a young man, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and pastored churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

I never went through the angst many people go through when determining what to do with their lives. At the age of five, I told my mother I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. From the age of fifteen to the age of fifty, I was a preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no doubt that God had called me to preach to sinners the unsearchable riches of Christ.

I am an all-in kind of guy. I have little tolerance for doing things halfway. When Jesus called to me and told me to leave my proverbial nets, I did so immediately. I was a devoted, committed, sold-out follower of Jesus Christ. My passion was for God, his church, and the Word of God. For twenty-five years, my life was consumed by the ministry and the work I believed God had called me to do.

Up until I started blogging in 2007, no one had ever doubted that I was saved, that I was a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. A person who years ago knew me quite well, was shocked when she heard that I was no longer a pastor and that I was now an atheist. She said, Butch (my family nickname) was the real deal. If he’s not a Christian, no one is. It is important to understand this point. NO ONE . . . out of the thousands of people I came in contact with, ever expressed doubt about my salvation, my personal relationship with Jesus. Not one teacher, not one deacon, not one evangelist, not one church member, not one fellow pastor, ever expressed doubt that I was a Christian or that I was a God-called preacher.

Those who now contend I was never a Christian or that I was a false teacher make their judgments based not on the evidence of the life I lived, but on their peculiar interpretations of the Bible. For the Baptists, Calvinists, and many Evangelicals, the only way to square my life with their theology is for them to say I never was a Christian, or that I still am a Christian, just backslidden. Arminians have less of a problem explaining my life. While they are “troubled” by my apostasy, they recognize that I once was a Christian. In their eyes, I fell from grace, and I am now no longer a Christian.

I realize that I am a rare bird. While there are many men (and women) who leave the ministry, few leave it as late in life as I did. Many of the notable preacher-turned-atheists apostatized and left the ministry in their twenties and thirties. I left at the age of fifty. This does not make me special in any way, but it does make me an exception to the rule. And this is why Evangelicals have such a hard time understanding how it is possible for a man to be a Christian for most of his life and to pastor churches for twenty-five years, to then just walk away from it all and renounce Jesus.

Those who know me personally have a difficult time wrapping their mind around Pastor Bruce being an atheist. To quote Nicodemus in John 3, how can these things be? But whether they can understand it or not, here I am. I once was a Christian, I once was a man of God, and now I am not.

My life was motivated by the following verses:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:24,25)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1,2)

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16)

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:15,16)

For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. (James 4:14,15)

These verses, along with my commitment to follow every command in the Bible, led me to a life of self-denial and economic simplicity. While most people around me were focused on earning a living, providing for their families, and accumulating material goods, I was focused on making just enough money to keep a roof over my family’s head. I took seriously the command to “learn in whatever state I am to be content.” I practiced a Baptist version of voluntary poverty, and as the head of the home, I led my family to do the same. I figured that whatever money and material goods we had were what God wanted us to have. To desire, require, or want more was a sure sign that I was in love with the things of the world, and not God.

somerset baptist church 1983-1994
Our son Jaime, and our two girls, Bethany and Laura.

Over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry, my family and I were economically at or below the poverty line. For many years, we drove junk cars, and for five years our family of eight lived in a three-bedroom (large closets) 12’x60’ mobile home. I paid $2,800 for the mobile home and parked it next to the church. It was a ratty old mobile home to which I had to do extensive work so we could live in it. As I look back on it now, I see this mobile home as a snapshot of my/our life of self-denial.

Somewhere in the late 1990s, I woke up one day, looked around, and realized that our family was the only one living this way. Everyone else, pastor friends included, were busy building their kingdoms on this earth. Their focus was on their jobs, careers, homes, lands, education, and retirement. My focus was on living a voluntary life of self-denial so that I might preach the gospel. I saw myself as following in the steps of Jesus and Paul. Why wasn’t anyone else living this way?

I still think my interpretation of the Bible was essentially correct. It wasn’t that I took Christianity too seriously, it was that most everyone else didn’t take it seriously enough. After all, did Jesus not say:

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (Matthew 6:24, 25)

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:  for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:19,20)

My heart was squarely focused on Jesus. I treasured the Word of God and preaching the gospel. I saw the world neatly divided into saved and lost. As a saved man, one who believed in a literal Hell, how could I idly sit by while knowing that most people did not know the saving grace of Jesus Christ? I spent most of my married life hustling for Jesus. Preaching, teaching, witnessing, preaching on the street, preaching at nursing homes, visiting prison inmates, knocking on doors, visiting bus routes, handing out tracts, and starting churches. Like the Apostle Paul, I believed, woe unto me if I preach not the gospel!

I took seriously Ezekiel 3:17-19:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me, When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

I believed that God would hold me accountable for every soul that went to Hell because I did not witness to them. I felt I was duty-bound to warn sinners of their wicked ways and of the judgment to come. My preaching, methodology, and lifestyle reflected this. Even though I was more committed than anyone else I personally knew, I also knew I was far from perfect, that I was far from being as committed as I could be. I pleaded with God to give me more of his power, more of his Spirit, just as he gave to great preachers like DL MoodyHudson TaylorDavid BrainerdJohn WesleyCharles FinneyAdoniram Judson, and Charles Spurgeon.

I left the ministry in 2005, and I left Christianity in 2008. It is hard for me not to look back on my/our life of self-denial without bitter regret. Yes, I helped a lot of people, and yes, in spite of our poverty, we had a good life. But, a lifetime of self-denial has put my wife and me in an economically difficult place. We are by no means poor. We have more than enough money to pay our bills and live a comfortable life. We still live simply, and outside of a 2020 Ford Edge sitting in the driveway, our home and its furnishings are modest. When we bought our home in 2007, we bought a fixer-upper, and we have been fixing it up and down ever since. Our life is comfortable, dare I say blessed. But I can’t help thinking about where we might now be if I had not been so focused on living a life of self-denial. Last year, I officially “retired.” I draw a minimal social security check because I didn’t pay social security tax for most of the years I was in the ministry. I have no other retirement plan. Polly will likely have to work after she reaches retirement age. I deeply regret this, but decisions have consequences, and because I made a decision years ago to not pay social security tax, and because I thought Jesus and the church would take care of me when I was old, I made no other plans for the future. After all, I planned on dying with my boots on.

Life is one long lesson learned. How about you? Were you a devoted follower of Jesus? Did you take seriously the verses I mentioned in this post? If so, what did your life of self-denial look like then and now? Did you do without for the sake of Jesus and the church? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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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.