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Your Questions, Please

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Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a while 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, short, 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 13×19 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 wingtips.)

You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

Please do not answer the questions. In the past, well-intentioned commenters have answered the questions, making my responses moot. Once I answer the questions, feel free to give your own answer.

Let the fun begin.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Questions: Bruce, Do You Know Any Evangelical Preachers Who Are Thoughtful, Decent, Kind Human Beings?

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I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Becky asked:

Bruce, did you ever meet any truly lovely fundamentalists/evangelicals…besides yourself? That is, people that loved their fellow man and actually tried to follow that directive to care about the sinners, and not to just preach and be power mad?

I have been exposed to the best and worst that Evangelicalism has to offer. Do I know thoughtful, decent, kind Evangelical preachers? Sure. That said, to a person they believe that God will punish all non-Christians in the Lake of Fire after they die. Few of them are able (or willing) to form friendships outside of their club. And all too often, what friendships they do have with unbelievers have an ulterior motive: salvation of sinners. Rare is the Evangelical who can befriend someone and let them go to Hell in peace. They exist, but I haven’t met one lately.

If I used how Evangelical preachers have treated me since I left Christianity in 2008 as the measure by which to judge, I would conclude they are an irredeemable lot of judgmental assholes. One need only read emails from them I have published over the years to see that there are a lot of arrogant, nasty Jesus-loving men pastoring Evangelical churches — especially Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. That said, I am sure there are preachers who self-identify as Evangelicals who are thoughtful and kind people. I just haven’t met any lately.

Unfortunately, Trumpism and Christian nationalism have infected a large swath of Evangelical churches, interjecting coarseness and nastiness into the public square. Whatever goodwill Evangelicals once had, it is now gone. They are now one of the most hated sects in America. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Evangelicalism is One of the Most Hated Religious Sects in America, And They Only Have Themselves to Blame.)

Becky wants to believe that I was a “lovely” Evangelical — thanks — but I must be honest: my preaching was inherently harmful. I was a separatist who divided the world up into us vs. them categories: saved vs. lost. I taught church members to separate themselves from the “world,” and I practiced the same. While I treated my neighbors and strangers with kindness and respect, my Evangelical theology was always lurking in the shadows.

Growing up in poverty and having a parent with mental health problems certainly affected how I viewed others. I spent most of my years in the ministry helping the poor, homeless, and marginalized. I was sympathetic to their plight. That said, my Evangelical theology was never far from me. I cannot overestimate how my theological beliefs materially and deeply affected my thinking.

I have a poor view of myself. I have spent the past decade trying to regain a sense of self-worth. My counselor told me that I was not as bad a person as I thought I was. I know his statement is true, but I still struggle with seeing myself as a good person. Evangelicalism will do that to you. All I know to do is to try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Short Stories: Hockey, Fishing, and Toxic Chemical Exposure

bruce gerencser eighth grade
Summer of my eighth-grade year, with my mom and a friend (that’s a Rambler in the background)

In 1971, my dad moved us yet again to a new town and a new school district. This would be the fourth move in less than three years: Lima, Farmer, Deshler, and now Findlay. Dad rented a WWII-era cracker jack box on the west side of Findlay. I started my eighth-grade school year at Central Junior High School, joined a new church, Trinity Baptist Church, and set out to make new friends. I quickly became friends with neighborhood boys such as Dickey Miller, Mark May, and Billy Kuhlman, along with befriending Trinity’s assistant pastor’s son, Ronnie Johnson.

I spent the fall and winter of 1971 and the spring and summer of 1972 doing what boys of my generation did: riding bikes, playing backyard sports, and dreaming of girls. Our adventures often took us to a pond on the west side of I-75, dug when the interstate was built. The pond was later filled in so the land could be used for commercial expansion.

During the winter, we would go to the frozen pond and ice skate or play hockey. In the summer, we dropped our lines in the pond, catching numerous bluegills. One day, Ronnie and I caught a five-gallon bucket of fish. I took some of the fish home, gutted and descaled them, and had Mom cook them for dinner. Some summer days, we would swim in the pond. Little did we know that there was a deadly monster lurking in its waters.

After one of our dips in the water, we became sick. I mean really, really sick. One of my friends ended up in the hospital, while several other boys and I developed large blisters on our bodies. Come to find out, there were barrels of chemicals floating in the pond, and it is likely we had been exposed to their contents. No city, state, or EPA investigation followed. It was the 1970s — long before the United States took chemical pollution and exposure seriously.

My friends and I recovered, but we never dipped our toes again in the pond. I have often wondered what chemical, exactly, I was exposed to, and whether it could have played a part in the health problems I have today.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Dying for Your Beliefs

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A Guest Post by ObstacleChick

I have started and discarded this post several times as it’s painful to write. The world has changed dramatically in the past few years, with some of those changes being long overdue while others are incredibly backward and damaging.  It has been difficult for me to process and accept that things in our country were not as I had believed them to be. The ascension of the Trump administration and the covid-19 pandemic have exposed the ugliness that had previously been covered with a sheer veneer of respectability. It’s an exposure of my privilege that I have been blind to so much that is reprehensible in our country. I feel that the United States is like the Pharisees whom Jesus admonished, calling them “whited sepulchres”:  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27 KJV) The ascension of the Trump administration allowed the people who are racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, authoritarian, bigoted, and patriarchal, to openly emerge into the light of day, loudly proclaiming their putrid rhetoric. Dog whistles have been replaced by blaring trumpets.

Sometimes it feels like our country is falling apart. I used to take for granted that women had the right to our bodily autonomy – was that not hashed out by our Supreme Court in 1973? I took for granted that black people had equal rights – was that not codified by amendments to our Constitution, and further reinforced by the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s? I took for granted that finally LGBTQ people could marry whom they loved – was that not declared by our Supreme Court in the 2010s? I took for granted that we were a nation of people who work hard, who are for the most part educated, who are becoming increasingly diverse, and who are part of a world-leading nation.

But I have come to see something quite different. I see large swaths of people who embrace anti-intellectualism, who believe conspiracy theories, who think the QAnon conspiracy theories are real, and that a Satan-worshiping cabal of Democrats, Hollywood elites, and name-your-favorite Bogeyman are baby-killing, blood-drinking pedophiles who are trying to take over the U.S. Government, and our Great White Hope is . . . Donald J. Trump, a former reality-TV “star” who runs his businesses like a mafia boss, steamrolling over anyone who gets in the way of his profit. I see white supremacists coming out of the woodwork, fighting to keep their Confederate statues that were erected during an era in which white people were afraid that black people might be able to exercise freedoms. I see people protesting over wearing a mask in order to prevent the spread of a disease that is much more fatal than the common seasonal flu. I see that people are actively working against their own self-interest to promote their distorted version of freedom: a freedom that allows them to carry hand-held killing machines in public without much restriction, that allows them to force their religious symbols and statements onto others, that allows them to prevent people from having access to basic healthcare, housing, child care, and other needs. (If you have an opportunity to read Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl, I urge you to do so.) A political party has convinced nearly half of our country — many of whom profess to follow Jesus who urged that the greatest commandment is to love one’s neighbor as oneself — that leaving everyone to their own devices is the good and right thing to do.

How do we reach these people? I honestly do not know. They live in a different ecosystem from the one I do. They consume different sources of media from those I do. They wholeheartedly embrace untruths, believing them to be “true,” and they go around spreading their lies and their covid-19 infections to the innocent. The term “compassion fatigue” aptly describes how I feel right now. Part of me wants to leave them to their own devices — if they don’t want to protect themselves from covid-19, let them die. Yet, real people are being hurt.

One of the real people who was hurt was a colleague and friend of mine, a 38-year-old woman whose father is a retired police officer and an ardent Trump supporter. When the pandemic started, she was terrified that she would contract covid-19, and due to her chronic asthma and history of issues with bronchitis, pneumonia, and other pulmonary issues, she was very careful about where she went, wearing a mask, and washing her hands. Then things changed. Then Fox “News” and the Trump Administration promoted the notion that covid-19 wasn’t so bad and that people weren’t really dying from covid-19. Even after rolling out covid-19 vaccines through Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration foolishly did not capitalize on a marketing campaign that could have convinced thousands and thousands of their supporters to get vaccinated. Instead, they left it up to people to do whatever they felt like doing. And guess what? More lies abounded regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines. 

My friend believed stories that people were dying from the vaccine, that it was more dangerous than covid-19. She started going out in public more often, leaving her mask at home. She bragged at work that she only wore her mask at work because we mandated it, but that everywhere else she would not wear it. She and her husband started going to restaurants and clubs and hanging out with friends, many of whom were also resistant to getting the vaccine. Then one day, she came into work saying that her husband was sick and was getting tested for covid-19 — just in case. That afternoon, he texted her that his test was positive. We sent her home immediately with instructions not to return until both she and her husband were in the clear. She got a rapid test that came back negative. Several of our employees who had already experienced covid previously encouraged her to get tested again as it may take a few days for the viral load to build up enough to test positive. Sure enough, she tested positive a couple of days later.

While her husband started recovering, my friend got sicker and sicker. She joined in a few work calls, and she was coughing so much that we suggested that she focus on resting. It wasn’t long before she let us know that she was hospitalized. Unbeknownst to her, when her husband checked her into the hospital, the staff told him that they waited too late and there was little they could do. We kept texting and calling her, and she kept telling us that she was getting treatment but that it would be a long road. The night before she died, I was texting with her, and she just kept saying that she still didn’t feel well, but she never let on how bad it was. She passed away the following day, with her husband and parents by her side. I will leave out the awful details that her husband and parents told us; let’s just say that dying of covid-19 is not a good way to go.

I want someone to blame: the GOP, Trump, the science-deniers, people’s stubbornness, Fox “News” and other far-right outlets, American individualism, my friend’s parents & friends, my friend herself . . . Does it matter? It matters to my friend’s family (most of whom apparently went out and got vaccinated after her death), to her friends, to our company (her department is understaffed by 25% with her passing), to all she touched in her 38 years. Actions have consequences, and unfortunately, I do not see any magic deities coming in to save the day. If your doctor says that you are eligible, PLEASE get vaccinated.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Anti-maskers Try to Disrupt Ayersville School District Board Meeting

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A small contingent of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers in Defiance County, Ohio, are trying to force local school districts to make mask-wearing voluntary. These anti-science Trump supporters think the word tyranny means being required to wear masks during school board meetings. As you shall hear in the video below, “tyranny” is not being able to do whatever you want to do. Of course, these “patriots” don’t really believe this. I suspect that if I went to their homes, stripped naked, and stood on the sidewalks in front of their houses, they would call the police. What happened to FREEDOM? Shouldn’t all of us be free to do whatever we want? Of course not. This is nothing more than libertarianism gone wild.

As an Ohioan and a Defiance County resident, I am more than embarrassed by the behavior and ignorance displayed in the following video. Kudos to the Defiance County Sherriff’s deputy and Ayersville school district employees for standing their ground. Fortunately, the mob quietly retreated after being refused entrance to the meeting.

This video is shot in the wrong orientation, but I hope you will watch it anyway. Pay close attention to the anti-science questions and statements made by some of these anti-maskers, including a “medical professional.”

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Sadly, there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will change their minds. The only thing that might work is a COVID-19 infection and a stay in the ICU on a respirator. Reason, science, and common sense are unable to make a difference with these folks. I know some of them personally, having crossed swords with them over Donald Trump, socialism, and militarism. No amount of “words” will change their minds, as the sheriff’s deputy and others learned.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser