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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.

IFB Church Visitation

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I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, made a public profession of faith at an IFB church at age fifteen, attended an IFB college in the 1970s, married an IFB preacher’s daughter, and pastored several IFB churches. For much of my life, I attended church every time the doors were open. At the height of my involvement with IFB churches, I attended church services and programs a minimum of four days a week. Throw in revivals, youth rallies, and Bible conferences, I spent over 225 days a year at the church building. Factor in studying for sermons and work projects, and I pretty much lived at the church.

For much of my life, I lived and breathed “church.” No, the “church” wasn’t my Lord and Savior; Jesus was. My love for Jesus and his church motivated me to give my life to the work of the ministry. My goal as a pastor was to teach the saints (church members) and evangelize the lost (unsaved). Tuesdays were the night I met with a handful of church members so we could go on “visitation.” This was the night we went two by two (either same sex or married couples) to the homes of people who recently visited the church or had stopped attending services. I believed it was important to contact every first-time visitor as soon as possible, showing them that we “cared.” When people started missing church services, I wanted to make sure someone from the congregation touched base with them. I never wanted someone to leave the church without giving a reason why. If there was a problem, I wanted the opportunity to fix it.

Most church members skipped Tuesday night visitation. The same went for Saturday bus visitation. The people who showed up on Tuesdays were the same people who showed up on Saturdays. Every church has a core group of members who do most of the work. Most congregants were passive church members. One church I pastored reached 200 in attendance. Yet, it was a group of 20 or so people who were the glue that held the church together. Attendance on Sunday evenings dropped to 90, and on Thursdays, less than 50 people showed up for prayer meetings (and at the churches I pastored, we actually PRAYED).

Visitation was a tool I used to entice new people to attend the church and keep sheep from wandering away. Like a door-to-door salesman, my goal was to convert prospective customers (visitors) into product users. My preaching and personality, along with the friendliness of the congregation, were likely the primary selling points. People who loved me and my sermons and felt “loved” tended to join the church. Those who didn’t went elsewhere.

Did your church have a visitation night? Did you go on visitation? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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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.

Cosmic Significance

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A guest post by Neil Robinson. Neil blogs at Rejecting Jesus.

One of the most liberating aspects of jettisoning Christianity was the realisation that nothing I did had cosmic significance. Nothing anybody does has cosmic significance. Yet to hear the cult’s leaders and spokesmen talk, now as then, everything matters.

First and foremost, what you believe determines whether you lived forever in Heaven or not. Can you credit that: what you believe! So better get that doctrine sorted out! Right thought makes all the difference. Believe something only minimally unorthodox and your eternal life is in jeopardy. Not only that, but what you think in the privacy of your own head, about issues like abortion, homosexuality, politics and society, is subject to the Lord’s scrutiny. Better get it right – ‘right’ being the operative term. It means recognising that the Almighty is really only interested in the USA; with the exception of Israel, he hasn’t much interest in other nations, so better get your thinking straight on that score too, buddy.

God is, or so his self-appointed mouthpieces like to tell you, obsessively interested in how you, as an individual, spend your time, the language you use, and whether you’re a faithful steward of the money he supplies (a.k.a. the money you earn for yourself). He lays it on your heart about how you should spend your time, the only valuable way of doing so being in the service of his Kingdom-that-never-comes.

You’re made to feel that if your marriage isn’t close to perfection then you’re not really working at it (though god knows the ‘Biblical view’ of marriage is nothing like the one promoted by today’s Christian leaders). You’re made to feel you must share the gospel with everyone else you have relationships with: children, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, complete strangers. Don’t they too deserve to have a chance at eternal life? You don’t want them denied it because you failed to speak up, do you? Well, do you?

And then there’s the guilt when you can’t do all of this. You’re not sure you believe all the right stuff. You think you do but then you’re told about some point of doctrine you hadn’t considered and it is, apparently, really essential you believe that too. So you consult the Holy Spirit who you think lives in your heart and you wonder why he hasn’t spoken up before now. Maybe you have liberal views about abortion. And really, you can’t find it in yourself to condemn all those ‘sodomites’ you’re told about; what difference does it make if you do or don’t? And your marriage is less than perfect. In fact, it’s a little bit messy, like human relationships tend to be, and sometimes you want just to relax, maybe laze a little bit. Not everything you do has to contribute to the Kingdom, after all.

But the guilt won’t let you. What kind of Christian are you, anyway? And as for witnessing at every opportunity, you wonder why you feel like a dog that’s compelled to pee at every lamp-post. Can’t friends just be friends? Can’t you just appreciate others for who they are, not as sinners who need saving? Apparently not.

What a wonderful release it is then, when you finally realise that none of this crap matters. Nothing you do, say or think makes the slightest bit of difference to whether you or others live forever (Spoiler: you won’t, they won’t). How you act may help others feel a bit better about themselves or provide you with a sense of fulfilment but that’s the extent of it. Outside your immediate context, you’re insignificant, and there’s great significance to that. The pressure is off; God is not watching you to see whether you’re a good and faithful servant. Your time, money, and thoughts are yours and yours alone. It’s entirely up to you how you use them, free from the tyranny of religion.

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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.

The Legacy of IFB Pastor Jack Hyles

Jack Hyles Through the Years

Members of First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana, and people closely associated with Hyles-Anderson College and Pastor Jack Schaap, were astonished at the firing of  Schaap for having sex with a teenager he was counseling, and his later criminal conviction in March 2013. Evidently, these people have a short memory or live in denial. First Baptist has a long history of pastors and other church leaders getting themselves in trouble with the fairer sex. (Please read Chicago Magazine feature story on First Baptist and their sordid history.)

Jack Schaap’s father-in-law, Jack Hyles, had a long-running illicit sexual relationship with his secretary. The evidence against Hyles was overwhelming, yet the church rejected this evidence and Jack Hyles continued to pastor the church until his death in 2001. (Please read The Biblical Evangelist’s report on Jack Hyles)

David Hyles, the son of Jack Hyles and youth pastor of First Baptist Church, had numerous sexual relationships with women in the church. The church quietly sent him away to pastor another church, not telling the new congregation about his sexual proclivities, and he continued to have numerous sexual relationships with women in the new church.

Many people praised the church for publicly exposing Jack Schaap’s “sin.” This is the same church that ignored Jack Hyles’ “sin,” covered up David Hyles’ “sin,” and whitewashed numerous other scandals in the church and college. So forgive me if I don’t think they are acting “better” than the Catholic Church (as one commenter said).

The people of First Baptist Church were taught by Hyles and Schaap that if they didn’t see something it didn’t happen. (Please see Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen.) They were taught that unless an allegation could be confirmed by two or more witnesses (Matthew 18) they were not to believe it. This kind of thinking resulted in a culture where “sin” was ignored or swept under the proverbial rug — a rug that is so high now that you have to walk up a ten-foot hill to get into the church.

In general, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement abhors scandal and its members do everything they can to cover it up. More important than the sin itself or the victims is the church’s “testimony.” The church’s testimony must be protected at all costs, even if a pedophile in their midst is ignored, as was the case with Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida and its pastor Bob Gray.

For First Baptist Church of Hammond to out Jack Schaap, they had to have been backed into a corner without the option of covering it up or quietly making the “problem” go away. Calling in attorney David Gibbs to “manage” the crisis speaks volumes about the depth of the scandal. Gibbs is considered a “fixer” in the IFB church movement.

The root of the Jack Schaap scandal is found in the ministry, teaching, and doctrine of his predecessor, Jack Hyles. The remainder of this post will focus on him. It is impossible to understand the Jack Schaap story without first looking at Jack Hyles’ forty-two year ministry at First Baptist Church of Hammond (a church that was an American Baptist Church until Hyles pulled it out of the Convention a few years after he arrived there in 1959).

In its heyday, First Baptist Church was the largest church in the United States (and at times, claimed to be the largest church in the world). The church was built around two things: the bus ministry and Jack Hyles.

In 1973, First Baptist saw attendances exceeding 25,000 people. At the center of this huge church was its pastor, Jack Hyles. In the late 1960s and 1970s, Jack Hyles was, as many of us described, the pope of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement. He authored numerous books with titles such as Let’s Go Soul Winning, Let’s Build an Evangelistic Church, Enemies of Soul Winning, The Hyles Church Manual, How to Rear Infants, How to Rear Children, How to Rear Teenagers, Satan’s Bid for Your Child, Marriage is a Commitment, Woman the Completer, and Blue Denim and Lace.

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Jack Hyles, 1973

There is a hard-and-fast rule in the IFB movement: the greater the church attendance, the more authority the pastor is granted and the more weight his words carry. I heard countless big-name IFB pastors say, “until you have as many eggs in your basket as I do, you have no right to criticize me.” Pastors with small churches were looked down on and were expected to shut up and learn from those whose baskets were overflowing with eggs.

From 1976 to 1989, I heard Jack Hyles preach numerous times. I traveled to a number of Sword of the Lord conferences, often taking with me people from the churches I pastored. Hyles was a dynamic preacher, a real motivator. He used very little of the Bible in his preaching. His sermons were always topical or textual and were littered with personal stories and illustrations. Hyles was a narcissist. Most of his stories and illustrations were about his own personal life and exploits. His stories about him and his mother are legendary.

Over time, as I became more and more dissatisfied with the IFB church movement, I paid closer attention to the substance of Hyles’ sermons. In particular, I focused on the stories Hyles told. I came to the conclusion that Hyles was a narcissistic liar.

Hyles would often talk about how important and busy he was. In several sermons, he talked about how many people he counseled every week. I sat down and did the math and I concluded it was physically impossible for Hyles to have counseled as many people each week as he claimed.

Hyles was a ruthless man. I watched him, during Q and A time, at a conference at the Newark Baptist Temple,  dress down and belittle pastors for asking the “wrong” questions. He refused to allow anyone to challenge his authority as the king of the IFB hill.

To understand the scandals at First Baptist Church in Hammond, we must understand the gospel that has been preached at First Baptist for over 50 years. It is the same gospel that is/was preached by men like Bob Gray of Texas, Bob Gray of Jacksonville, Curtis Hutson, Dennis Corle, Tom Malone, and thousands of other IFB pastors.

Jack Hyles preached a bastardized version of the Christian gospel. The Hyles gospel has been labeled as decisional regeneration or one, two, three, repeat after me. (Please see One, Two, Three, Repeat After Me: Salvation Bob Gray Style.) I used to label the methodology of the IFB church movement this way:

  • win them
  • wet them
  • work them
  • waste them

(Please see IFB Church Movement: Win Them, Wet Them, Work Them, Waste Them.)

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Jack Hyles, Let’s Go Soulwinning

The only thing that mattered was winning souls. IFB Evangelist Dennis Corle told me one time that I should spend more time soul winning and less time studying in preparation to preach on Sunday. All that mattered to him was the number of souls saved.

In the IFB church, the key to church growth is to keep more people coming in the front door than are going out the back. IFB churches are notorious for membership churn — especially when a pastor leaves and a new one comes in.

The Hyles gospel focused on praying the sinner’s prayer. (Please see The Top Five Reasons People Say the Sinner’s Prayer.) Pray this prayer and you are saved. Good works? They were desired and even expected, but if saved people never exhibited any change in their lives they were still considered “saved.” This gospel is prominently on display in the preaching of David Anderson and the writing of “Dr.” David Tee. (Please see Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona.)

If a pastor dared suggest that new life in Christ meant a change in conduct, they were accused of preaching “works salvation” (the Lordship Salvation controversy). According to the Hyles gospel, it was all about praying the prayer, and once a person prayed the prayer they could NEVER, EVER be lost again. This is why some people insist that I am still saved, even if I don’t want to be. Once God has you he never lets go.

The Hyles gospel filled churches with people who had made a mental assent to a set of propositional beliefs. Every year, churches like First Baptist Church in Hammond and Longview Baptist Temple report thousands of people being saved. Most of these new converts stop attending after a short while, but this is of no consequence. They prayed the “prayer.” On to the next sinner in need of saving.

The IFB church movement is centered on men. Most IFB churches are pastored by one man who has total control of the church. Most IFB churches are congregational in name only, with the pastor being the autocratic king of the church.

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Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jim Krall, World’s Greatest Men

Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, and countless other big-name IFB traveling preachers routinely promote the notion of pastoral authority. The pastor, under the authority of Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit, is the final authority in the church. He is the hub around which everything turns.

IFB churches are not known for their names, but for who their pastors are. IFB church members routinely say, when asked about what church they attend, say: I go to Pastor So-and So’s church.

In a post titled The Cult of Personality, I wrote:

Churches aren’t known for what they believe or even the works they do. They are known for who their pastor is. When asked where he goes to Church, a Christian will often say “I go to Pastor Smith’s Church.”

The focus of everything is on the pastor. He is the mover and shaker. He is what powers the machine. Without him it all fails.

Christian TV, radio and publishing is all about the personalities within the Church. Name recognition is the name of the game.

Does anyone really believe Rod Parsley is a good writer? Yet, his books sell. Why? Name recognition.

Everything is focused on and culminates with the sermon and the preacher.

I had people drive 40 minutes to the  church I pastored in SE Ohio. They loved my preaching. They thought I was the greatest preacher since the last guy they thought was wonderful. Really? As much as I think that I am a pretty good public speaker, they had to drive past 40  churches to get to the  church I pastored. Not one of those  churches had a preacher that could preach competently? ( Well maybe not, after hearing more than a few preachers.)

What happens when the pastor leaves the  church? What happens when the personalities change, when a new preacher takes over? Strife. Division. People leave the church. Why? Because church became about the preacher rather than about Jesus and serving others.

Why is it the pastor’s name is on everything? The sign out front. The bulletin . Every piece of literature the church produces. If it is really is all about Jesus then why does it matter if anyone knows the pastor’s name?

Ah, but it does matter. Many Evangelical Christians are good capitalists (serving a socialist Jesus). They are consumers first and Christians second.  They know people are “attracted” (the attractional method) to the church by the pastor, the programs, the building, etc.

They know the pastor becomes the face of their church. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is, and quite frankly, it is the church itself that must bear the blame for this.

The church members revel in the cult of personality. They love having a name- brand preacher. They watch Christian TV and listen to Christian radio because Pastor/Rev/Dr/Evangelist/Bishop/Apostle so-and-so is on. Take away the names and it becomes as interesting as eating a no-name hamburger at a no-name restaurant surrounded by no-name people . . .

Is it any wonder IFB pastors and churches have the scandals they do? Members are taught to obey their pastor without question. He is the man of God. If he is doing something wrong, God will chastise him. This kind of thinking allows IFB pastors to commit adultery, molest children, and steal from the church without anyone ever knowing about it. I could spend days writing about IFB pastors who have abused their place of authority and committed heinous acts against the people they pastored. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.)

IFB churches think they are above the world and other churches because of what they believe. They are “Bible believers” and their pastors preach hard against “sin.” Because of this, they have a hard time believing that their pastors or famous preachers could ever commit crimes like Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, David Hyles, and Bob Gray did.

Bob Gray, pastor emeritus of Longview Baptist Temple had this to say on this blog about the Schaap scandal (I was unable to find the post on Gray’s blog):

May I present the practical side?  There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches.  Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while.  This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Look carefully at the argument Gray is making here. The Southern Baptists and the Catholics are worse than we are! Praise Jesus! Such thinking should sicken all of us.

Here is what I know about the IFB church movement. They will wail and moan for a while, but, in a few weeks or months, the scandal will pass, and they will go back to “winning souls” and “preaching hard against sin.” It is only a matter of time before a-n-o-t-h-e-r scandal rocks their churches. Until the IFB church movement repudiates its corruption of the Christian gospel and changes how their churches are governed, there is no hope of meaningful change.

Change is not likely to come because of their literalism, and their belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Armed with certainty, knowing they are right, they will continue to preach a corrupted gospel and allow narcissistic pastors to rule over them.

Posts on Jack Hyles

Posts on David Hyles

Posts on Jack Schaap

Posts on Bob Gray, Sr.

Posts on the IFB Church Movement

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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.

What They — And I — Remembered

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Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

Last weekend, I travelled to a village about three hours from my New York City apartment. I have visited about two dozen countries and lived in one besides the United States. Yet I felt more like a stranger in that place, so close to my home yet a world apart.

New York is often cited, along with California and Massachusetts, as one of the “bluest” states in this country. While we elect Democrats by wide margins to national offices and the Governor’s Mansion, it’s mainly because the Empire State’s population is concentrated in New York City, Albany, and a few smaller urban areas. Beyond those metropoli are rural expanses like the Adirondacks and Rust Belt towns.

It is in the latter enclaves that one finds the detritus of a tide that receded after World War II. Someone once quipped that the Statue of Liberty was chosen as a state symbol because the splintered remains of a barn or the weathered bricks of an abandoned factory wouldn’t make for very good public relations.

But those barns and plants would be good stand-ins for not only what has left the state but what remains in much of it. As agriculture corporatized and moved south and west, manufacturing followed the same trajectory before leaving these shores altogether. The sorts of folks who vacationed in the Catskills and Adirondacks would follow suit once relatively affordable flights to more exotic locales became available; and the young decamped for Albany, New York, and other larger cities; the ones left behind felt like children whose parents broke promises to, and abandoned, them.

The promise, whether explicit or implicit, was that as long as they worked hard and did what they were told, they would have jobs that paid them well enough to support their families and, perhaps, spend a week or two in a cabin by a lake. And the fact that they were their families’ providers would give them a place at the head of their tables and the top of their food chains.

What I realized during my recent trip is that such people — nearly all of them white men, almost none of whom continued their education beyond high school, and many of whom “served their country” when they were sent to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan — were just like the man who occasioned my trip.

He was my uncle — and godfather, which, if you grew up Catholic, is almost as important as your biological father. I was there to attend a memorial service for him. He’d passed a week and a half earlier, nominally from a heart attack but, I believe, also from health problems many years in the making. While growing up, I spent a lot of time with him, as we didn’t live very far from each other and, I believe, we had a great love for each other that survived the changes each of us experienced.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I am a transgender woman. My gender affirmation didn’t seem to change his affection for me. In retrospect, that seems particularly remarkable given a change he underwent: About twenty years ago, a near-fatal auto accident caused him to re-evaluate much in his life and “accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.” Until that time, his relationship to the Catholic faith in which he’d been raised wasn’t much different from mine after I’d drifted away, although I had yet to declare myself a full-blown atheist.

The pastors who presided over his memorial remarked on how avidly he read and studied the Bible and how important prayer had become in his life. In a few of our conversations, he said, “I’m not Catholic, I’m Christian.” My aunt echoed that declaration. At the memorial, other members of his church and Bible study groups echoed the pastors’ assessment of my uncle. With the exception of one man, who looked young enough to be one of the pastor’s grandsons, they seemed remarkably similar to my aunt and uncle: white people without much formal education who worked hard but, because of changes in the economy (and culture) could not reap what they believed to be the rightful fruits of their efforts. And they were marooned in a place that international economic neo-liberalism (in the classical definition of that term) had left behind.

In other words, the tide receded, and they were grasping at anything they could. They aren’t stupid but they don’t understand what left them where they are, any more than I — with a formal science education that ended before Reagan and Thatcher took their offices — can tell you what causes the waves to turn back toward the horizon. I hope I don’t seem condescending in saying that such people are easy prey for whomever and whatever would present themselves as saviors, or who or what would at least offer an easy explanation of why they are in their current plight. More important to those who feel helpless, those who preyed on them offered scapegoats, and the hope that everything will be better, if not tomorrow, then some day, some day.

While my uncle didn’t express the resentment toward non-white, non-Christian, non-cisgendered folks who “took” something by gaining the same rights other people enjoy — and, if this sounds self-interested, accepted me — he did grasp at a straw of hope offered to him when he was at his most vulnerable. At his memorial, I realized that vulnerability and the fear it engenders when one hasn’t learned how to deal with it, made him, and his fellow church and Bible study members easy “marks” — not only for the promise of an afterlife that resembled the one they’d lost or yearned for, but for someone who parlayed the silver spoon that was in his mouth when he was born into reality TV stardom and multiple bankruptcies. At least my uncle didn’t vote for him. But that’s not the only reason I miss him.

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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.

Life in Rural Northwest Ohio: Defiant Anti-Maskers

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Earlier today, my wife and I, along with our daughter, went to the medical clinic in Bryan to get our annual flu shots. In, out, done. We later got drinks at McDonald’s and sandwiches at Arbys and then took a short drive down the country roads where my Hungarian grandparents lived and died almost sixty years ago. Just beyond the farm runs Beaver Creek, swollen over its banks from several days of rain. A bit farther down the road, we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. We stopped, rolled down our windows, and watched bluejays, annoyed at the bald eagle’s presence, divebombing him. Nature — a wonderful distraction from a nation that seems to be on the precipice of lunacy, financial collapse, and civil war.

The bald eagle moved on, tired of the blue jays disrupting his afternoon siesta. Polly put the car in gear and pointed it towards home, five miles away. She drove slowly, allowing the both of us to survey what was new in our neighborhood. Not much. A pool closed for winter. A new roof here, new siding there. Flooded farm fields, with soybeans and corn ready to be harvested. Life moves slowly in the country. We like it this way.

Our conversation turned to our visit to the medical clinic — a place I have been going to for fifty-plus years. The clinic has a strict mask policy. No mask, no treatment. Polly told me of a new sign at the check-in counter, a list of behaviors that will NOT be tolerated. No doubt, this list resulted from anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers being outraged over Parkview’s mask mandate. Less than half of locals are vaccinated, and non-mask-wearers far outnumber people who care about their neighbors in places such as Walmart, Meijer, Menard’s, or Chief. Only local medical facilities require masks.

In the corner of the waiting room was a Trump supporter — a defiant anti-masker. He was wearing a red, white, and blue flag print mask with a statement about FREEDOM printed on the front. I say “wearing,” but only in the loosest sense of the word. His mask was pulled down, not only below his nose and mouth, but below his chin. Yep, he was a “patriotic” American who didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone or anything except his Trump-inspired FREEDOM. He knew he had his dick (and morality) hanging out for everyone to see. His face dared his mask-wearing neighbors to say anything. Hell, in rural northwest Ohio, this “patriot” may have been carrying a concealed weapon. I said nothing, but I wondered how long it would be before his FREEDOM delivered his aged, decrepit body to the front door of the ER across the street. Then this “patriot” will wish he had done differently.

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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.

Bruce Gerencser