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The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis

pastor jim dennis
Pastor Jim Dennis at a family outing in the early 1980s

Last week, James Dennis, the retired pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark Ohio, died from complications of myasthenia gravis at the age of seventy-five. Jim was my wife’s uncle, married to her mother’s sister. Jim attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1960s, the same college Polly and I attended in the 1970s. Jim pastored the Baptist Temple for forty-six years. Known as a staunch Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Jim’s ministry was well-known in the IFB community. Jim’s three children are all in the ministry. His son Andy is an Evangelical pastor in Newark, his oldest daughter is married to IFB evangelist David Young, and his youngest daughter is married to missionary James (Jamie) Overton.

Jim came into Polly’s life as the young single pastor of the Kawkawlin River Baptist Church in Bay City, Michigan — the church attended by Polly’s parents. He later married Polly’s aunt, Linda Robinson. I first met Jim in 1976 during college Christmas break. Jim, along with Polly’s father, would marry us in a wedding held at the Baptist Temple on July 15, 1978. From that moment, Jim Dennis and I had a complicated relationship. There were times that I admired the man and coveted his advice. There were other times when I despised the man, especially after Polly and I left the ministry and later left Christianity. In the past decade, I talked to Jim a handful of times, never more than exchanging pleasantries.

The story that follows is my understanding of the past and my relationship with Jim Dennis. I am sure that others will object to my telling of this story or be offended that I dare to air Jim’s (and mine) dirty laundry. Their objections are duly noted, but I am a writer and this is a story I must tell. Readers are free to make their own judgments about what follows.

There was a time when Jim Dennis and I, theologically, were of one mind. Both of us were IFB preachers. Both of us were raised in IFB churches. Both of us attended IFB preacher Tom Malone’s “character building factory” — Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan.  Both of us believed we were proclaimers of old-fashioned, Biblical Christianity. Our theological sameness, however, did not last. Jim would pride himself in believing the same things his entire life. Polly’s mom has remarked on more than occasion that she was proud of the fact that she had in her pastor Jim Dennis a man who never changed his beliefs. In her mind, he began the ministry with the right beliefs and he died holding on to those same beliefs. Bruce Gerencser’s beliefs, on the other hand, were constantly changing and evolving. Jim never read books outside of his theological rut, whereas I was willing to read authors who held different beliefs from mine. My reading habits are what took me from the IFB church movement to Fundamentalist Calvinism to generic Evangelicalism to Progressive Christianity, and finally, to agnosticism, atheism, and humanism. In Jim Dennis’ eyes, my life’s trajectory is a warning to those who dare to dabble in the world’s knowledge and goods. And in my eyes, Jim is a tragic reminder of what happens when someone refuses to read widely or investigate their beliefs.

Jim Dennis was known as the patriarch of the family; the wise sage who freely dispensed wisdom and knowledge to all, requested or not. Early on, I had conflicts with Jim over all sorts of issues, ranging from child rearing to whether it was okay to pick my wife up from work wearing gym shorts (Polly, at the time, worked for the Baptist Temple’s daycare. She was paid less wages than male employees because she wasn’t our family’s breadwinner.) In October of 1979, we moved from Northwest Ohio to Newark. We attended the Baptist Temple for 18 months. During this time, Jim and I had numerous conflicts — some minor, some major. Jim concluded that I had a rebellious streak, a view widely held by Polly’s parents and family, and I thought Jim was a closed-minded, authoritarian legalist. Our opinions about each other would only become more settled through the forty-two years we knew each other.

In 1981, Polly and I left the Baptist Temple to help her father start a new IFB church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. Polly’s father had been the assistant pastor at the Baptist Temple for almost five years. He wanted to stay in the Newark area and pastor his own church. There were conflicts between my father-in-law and Jim that precipitated Dad’s resignation, but those stories are his to tell, not mine. Needless to say, Dad was happy to be on his own. I was the assistant pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Buckeye Lake until July, 1983, when I left to start the Somerset Baptist Church in Somerset, Ohio.

I believed that it was vitally important for a pastor to live in the community in which his church was located. Polly and I moved to Buckeye Lake — a rundown former amusement park/lake cottage rental community — so we could effectively minister to congregants. (I would also work for the village for several years as a grant writer/program manager/building code enforcement officer.) Buckeye Lake proper was street after street of rundown houses. The poverty rate was the highest in the area. My kind of people, but not the type of people Polly’s parents wanted to be living next to. Our willingness to live among them, endeared us to many people, especially local teenagers. This led to the church growing rapidly. After we left, church attendance declined, and Dad later closed the church.

bruce gerencser 1983
Bruce Gerencser, age 25, Ordination 1983, Emmanuel Baptist Church Buckeye Lake, Ohio

I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint, because that would be a falsehood. Living in Buckeye Lake, living in marginal housing, wasn’t something we would have done had it not been for the importance, in my mind, of living where you minister. During our time in Buckeye Lake, Polly’s uber-rebellious sister came to live for us a short while. One day, Jim Dennis showed up at our door wanting to talk to Polly’s sister. (Please read If One Soul Get’s Saved It’s Worth it All, a short post about Polly’s sister’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident.) Jim quickly became adversarial with Kathy, especially over the fact that she was wearing pants. Jim was an anti-pants crusader his entire life. Women who worked for the church or served in any official capacity were required to sign a statement that affirmed their obedience to his no-pants edict. As his anger towards Polly’s sister rose, Jim decided to physically grab a hold of her so he could “shake some sense into her.”  His physical assault of her quickly came to an end when I threw him out of our home. Sadly, Polly’s sister would later repent of her “sin” and returned shamefaced to Jim Dennis and the Baptist Temple. She would do this repeatedly over the years up until her death in 2005.

From that point forward, I had an off-and-on relationship with Jim. Despite our conflicts, there was a part of me that still desperately wanted (needed) his approval. I had Jim come preach meetings at several of the churches I pastored. As I continued to move leftward politically, theologically, and socially, our relationship became distanced, with us only seeing each other on Christmas Eve for family Christmas. We used to go out to their spacious country home for Christmas Day, but word one year was passed down to us that we were no longer invited to their home. The reason given was the size of our family. This, of course, deeply hurt Polly. These were her uncle and aunt. Why would they shun her like this? No answer was forthcoming.

I could spend hours talking about the various conflicts between Jim Dennis and Bruce Gerencser, but for the sake of this post I want to share just one that I detailed in a post titled Christmas, 1957-2014:

With my parents being dead, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Polly’s parents. This abruptly changed in 2010. I left the ministry in 2003 and abandoned Christianity in November 2008. In early 2009, I sent out my family-shattering letter, Dear Family Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter radically changed our relationship with Polly’s fundamentalist family.

Christmas of 2009 is best remembered by a huge elephant in the middle of the room, that elephant being Polly and me and the letter I sent the family. No one said anything, but the tension was quite palpable.

2010 found us, just like every year since 1978, at Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. This would be the last Christmas we would spend with Polly’s parents and her extended family. We decided to blend into the background, and other than exchanging short pleasantries, no one talked to us. Not that they didn’t want to. We found out later from one of our children that Polly’s uncle wanted to confront me about our defection from Christianity. Polly Mom’s put a kibosh on that, telling her brother-in-law that she had already lost one daughter and she was not going to lose another. (Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005)

I appreciate Polly’s Mom being willing to stand up to the man who is generally viewed as the spiritual head of the family. I am glad she put family first. If Polly’s uncle had confronted me there surely would have been an ugly fight. Whatever our differences may be, I deeply respect Polly’s parents. They are kind, loving people.

Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and through the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism made for an uncomfortable evening.

Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Odd Lots. One of Polly’s uncle’s grandchildren asked him what the plate was for. He replied, to go poo-poo on, poo-poo being the fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us.

On our way home the next day, I told Polly that I couldn’t do it any more, and she said neither could she. So, we decided to stop going to Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. We do try to see Polly’s parents during the holiday, but we no longer attend the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Making this decision saddened us, but we knew we had to do it. (BTW, our children still attend the Christmas Eve gathering)

Jim’s funeral was last Saturday. I did not attend, though Polly and two of our sons made the four-hour trip to Newark to represent the Gerencsers at what the Baptist Temple called Jim Dennis’ Graduation Service. Unlike Polly and our older sons, I have a hard time biting my tongue when I am around Fundamentalists. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and my face generally tells others what I think. While my health precluded me from making the trip, I suspect that deep down I simply did not want to go. I knew exactly how the service would go — two hours of praising Jesus and deifying Jim Dennis, complete with lies about where Jim went after death. Similar to their Evangelical brethren, IFB preachers often lie when preaching funerals. According to orthodox Christian theology, Jim Dennis is lying in the grave, waiting for his body to be resurrected from the dead. However, traditional IFB preaching says that the deceased is, instead, running around Heaven praising Jesus for his glory and grace.

Jim was an avid hunter. In his younger years he would take trips out west to hunt big game. I suspect more than a few funeral attendees thought that Jim was now hunting the mountain ranges of God’s Heaven. This, of course, led me to ask my son, so, there will be violence in Heaven? Ah the illogical lunacy that makes an appearance at funerals. The man, Jim Dennis, was glorified and presented as one without blemish or fault. The man, the myth, the legend. Those of us close to him know better. Yes, in many ways Jim was a good man. He loved his wife, children, and grandchildren. But, we dare not forget that he was also an authoritarian brute, a man who attempted to dominate and control the lives of others; a man who thought his advice to others was straight from the mouth of God; a man who believed he knew the will of God for others (a will of which he repeatedly reminded me). I have fond memories of us spending holidays at the lake with them. I also have good memories of the few times we went hunting together. These memories, however, do not erase the great psychological damage his preaching and behavior inflicted on countless congregants and church members. Polly and I bear deep scars from being excoriated by him over this or that “sin.” How could we ever forget him telling us that it was not God’s will for us to be poor or that it wasn’t God’s will for us to have more children (even though his own children now have large families). We can’t forget the lectures or the sermons that seemed directed right at us. You see, Polly married a man that NO ONE in the family wanted her to marry, and our current state of the affairs, to them anyway, is proof that they are right. If Polly had only married an obedient IFB preacher, why she might still be in the ministry today. Both Polly and I have made peace with the fact that we will always be on the outside looking in with her family. In the last decade or so, we have finally reached a place where we no longer give a shit about what family members think about us. We are who we are.

Let me conclude this tome with one more story. Seven or so years ago, one of the family’s preachers decided to try and understand our deconversion. We talked privately for a few days until Jim got wind of our discussions. The preacher was told to stop talking to me. I was a dangerous man, one given over to evil and false doctrine. The preacher, of course, complied. Jim was the family patriarch, and when he issued an edict everyone was expected to obey. That Polly and I were living in open defiance of his authority was not something that could be tolerated. Unfortunately, for Jim, we were safely beyond his reach, no longer caring about what came out of his mouth.

The patriarch is dead, but his religion lives on.


James Dennis’s obituary:

James Dennis

Newark – A funeral service for Pastor James Russell Dennis will be held at 11am on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Newark Baptist Temple, 81 Licking View Dr, Heath, OH 43056. Dr. Charles Keen will be officiating. Family will greet friends from 4pm-8pm on Friday, January 12, 2018 and for one hour prior to the service at the church. Following the service, Pastor Dennis will be laid to rest at Newark Memorial Gardens.

Pastor Dennis, age 75, of Newark, passed away on January 9, 2018 at Licking Memorial Hospital. He was born on November 3, 1942 to the late Russell and Grace (Welsh) Dennis in Pontiac, Michigan.

Pastor Dennis was an avid hunter, but more than anything, he loved being a preacher. He loved to help people in his community and church family. In 1968, Pastor Dennis became the pastor of Newark Baptist Temple, until he retired in 2015. Following retirement, he continued to proudly serve his Lord until his death. He was a pioneer in Christian education; he founded Temple Tots Day Nursery School in 1970 and Licking County Christian Academy in 1972.

Pastor Dennis is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Linda (Robinson) Dennis. He also leaves behind his children, Cilicia (David) Boelk, Bethlie (David) Young, Andrew (Jenny) Dennis, and Toree (Jamie) Overton; 19 grandchildren; 3 great grandchildren; and sister, Betty Freeman.

In addition to his parents, Pastor Dennis is preceded in death by his grandson, LCPL James Boelk, KIA Oct 10, 2010.

The family would like to give special thanks to Licking Memorial Hospital, 2nd Floor doctors, nurses, and staff, for all their care and compassion over the past month.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Newark Temple Baptist Missions, 81 Licking View Dr, Heath, OH 43056.

To sign an online guestbook, please visit

Published in the Advocate on Jan. 11, 2018

The Newark Advocate had this to say when Jim retired in November 2014:

It’s been 46 years since Pastor James Dennis began leading Newark Baptist Temple Church.

Although he still has an overwhelming passion for his role in the church, Dennis has decided to retire in November. It was a difficult decision to make, but he said he understands the need to bring new life into the church as it heads into the future.

“It has been a privilege to serve almighty God, to see people accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior. … It’s just a blessing to see how God can change the lives of people,” Dennis said. “But I also understand the need to get a fresh breath of air in here.”

Dennis was born and raised in Michigan, and after attending seminary school, he started a church in Bay City, Michigan. It was there that he met his wife, Linda, after her family began attending the church.

The two were happily married and living in Michigan when Dennis received a call from one of his friends who told him Newark Baptist Temple was looking for a new pastor. At the time, he had no plans to leave his home, but he felt God pushing him out of Bay City.

He accepted the position and moved to Newark in 1967. At that time, the church was still young, having been formed only five years earlier, and there wasn’t much for Dennis to do outside preaching. But through the years, the church expanded, adding multiple ministries and launching the Licking County Christian Academy.

The school was founded in response to what the church saw as a need for an educational experience grounded in morality and God’s word, Dennis said. Although it has remained small, the school provides an important component to education, and Dennis thanks the Lord for every student who leaves a graduate.

Newark Temple Baptist has very active youth and children’s ministries, and six years ago, it started Reformers Unanimous, a ministry that helps people with dependency issues.

“The Lord has been kind to us,” Dennis said of how the church has grown.


Although he is retiring, Dennis plans to stick around. He will continue to attend church at Newark Baptist Temple and said he might take on some speaking opportunities if needed.

One thing is for sure: He’s not done sharing God’s message.

“You may step down from a certain aspect of the ministry, but you never stop ministering. It’s an eternal calling,” Dennis said. “I know that God has a plan and a will for me.”


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    So depressing how so much of this boils down to what a woman wears or does not wear!

    Put aside the theological beliefs and what we have here is nothing more than a rigid-thinking control-freak who isn’t reluctant to shame and bully people. Yet factor in the theological beliefs and a fair number of folk will put such a person on a pedestal.

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    Condolences to the family on their/your loss. I’m sure for you and your wife personally, it’s very complicated given your rocky relationship with your uncle. Whenever someone dies, it’s a reminder of our own mortality and the fact that every day is precious.

    Every fundamentalist evangelical funeral is another opportunity for the gospel message to be preached, and preach it they do! Because look at this coffin – praise Jesus that this person is saved and will spend eternity with Jesus in heaven, but ARE YOU SURE you are saved? Here’s how you too can secure your spot in Glory with the Saints! (You’re fortunate not to have been forced to sit through all that again – I’m sure the pastor was salivating to preach to the heathen Gerencser family).

    So I was taught that animals can’t go to heaven because they don’t have souls. So how is your uncle hunting in heaven? What’s he hunting? And isn’t it true there no death in heaven? Assuming there are animals in heaven, is Pastor Jim just chasing them? Maybe it’s like paint-ball – he shoots them but they are just marked, they don’t die, because there’s no death in heaven. (And these were the types of questions that used to get me into trouble at church when I was a kid – my mom finally told me that I’d just have to wait to go to heaven to get the answers – but now that I’m an atheist and don’t believe in a god or a heaven, I feel somewhat cheated…. ha ha).

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    Bruce, I’m so sorry for your pain, and what your family has been through.

    My family certainly has problems, and plenty of spiritual and political differences, but nothing coming to this level of alienation.

    It’s especially grievous to me that Polly’s whole family could claim to be Jesus followers, and yet see no contradiction at all in how they respond to you or to anyone, for that matter, that has a difference with their view. What happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers..”

    It’s a cautionary tale. We can all fall into this trap of excluding, and “writing off” people who think differently from us.

    Your posts cause me to examine my own heart and life more closely.

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    Condolences to you all. This just hit me because my late FIL was so similar. Authoritarian, bossy, rude, domineering-a very toxic person all because of his religion. We had to make a cross country move to get out from under him, even then he managed to cause problems over the years. His death was a positive thing for all of us, even though others had a hard time admitting this. He died a sad death due to his always demanding his way at any cost. His family found out the depths of his selfishness after his death-he spent almost all of a large inheritance and left his wife with no pension. The VA admin has been the saving grace here. The irony is that the large inheritance was left to his wife by her parents! But she allowed this as she thought this was her duty as a Christian. He ruled his very small church for many years-running off people and pastors at will. Finally, the few people left turned on him. Coupled with health problems, his power was finally gone. But he never gave up his religious addiction. He spent most of the remaining money on himself and giving thousands to his new church. The new pastor could have cared less-the guy could not even speak of his life very well, and kept calling my mil by the wrong name during the memorial svc. What a joke! Thanks for allowing such a long comment, but I just could not believe how similar the story was. Thanks for sharing something so personal with all of us out here. Sadly, so many have been damaged by this extreme religion. You are truly shining a light and helping so many you don’t even know.

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    Becky Wiren

    I’m so sorry Bruce. Death of even a very difficult person in one’s life doesn’t make everything all right. I’m sorry for your and Polly’s loss.

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    Audrey Clarke-Pounder

    Sigh…family is complicated, even when religion is not involved. “You can pick your friends, but not your family” is so true. Sorry for your family’s loss.

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    Charles, I followed your links. While I agree with your concern, I think there is something behind this kind of rigid dogmatism and legalism. There is some type of religious addiction, a mental health disorder going on as well.

    It has to go deeper than just a difference of opinion relating to a religious conviction. I suspect that many of these people would still be authoritarian, controlling, defensive and dogmatic even if they weren’t fundamentalist Christians.

    At any rate, they are still our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have to find a way to understand and engage in compassionate ways.

    But, I have to admit, I have not found the best way to do this either. We need the patience of Job, and the wisdom of
    Solomon here. 🙂

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      I concur with the idea that it is not merely a difference of opinion, that something underlies it. Years ago, when a seminary student, I wondered why – and I realize there must be many exceptions to this broad generalization – those who were liberal religiously were also liberal politically, the same being true for conservatives. Something had to lie beneath it. I looked into it as best I could, even though I could find very little that addressed it specifically. I wrote a paper for a class, concluding that it had to do with someone’s relationship with authority – the need either to be in authority or the need to have someone, or something, in authority over them. Conservatives, I concluded, generally speaking, had a strong need for authority while liberals tended not only not to need it but to distrust it. My professor, an eminent man who was the father of the pastoral counseling movement, gave me an A on the paper, which I thought must have meant that at least he didn’t think the idea was totally bonkers. (It was not a place known for grade inflation, unlike another seminary I had attended previously.)

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        By grade inflation, do you mean everyone got an A or B in their classes because the professors knew everyone in class was “called” to serve the fundie cause?

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          Actually, I think that is pretty much spot on. The second seminary was not that kind of place. To give the first place it’s due, it was where where I sort of woke up intellectually. I suppose that’s why I had to get out. (For the pathologically curious, I started out at Nazarene Theological Seminary, backslid and moved on to Princeton. I should have backslid further, right into a whole different field of graduate study, but I was trying to understand what was going on in the whole Christianity thing. I have spent my whole life at that, actually, and am not one goddamned inch closer to it than I was when I started.)

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      “I think there is something behind this kind of rigid dogmatism and legalism. There is some type of religious addiction, a mental health disorder going on as well…”

      Agreed Rebecca.( Except the brothers and sisters in Christ part of course.} It is my observation that this kind of brother/sister talk is very much part of the religiously addicted way of being. A bully is a bully is a bully and brother in Christ bully makes no difference whatsoever? No but this kind of talk can shut down honest human expression. Compassion is taking a bully to task and refusing to be a part of his ways. Instead, many bro’s and sis’s allow him/her to abuse lifelong.
      Christianity is merely a human tool. Personally, I believe it is a useful virus in some ways but primarily harmful. I feel the same way about the military. Like the military man, a fundy Christian man obeys orders from Authority figures and does outright harm if the decision is passed down to him from above. There are of course people I would call good Christians but they are mostly humanists and have nothing to do with extremism. They state their faith in avoiding excess and in helping others within their reach and do not proselytize. They seem to understand that when they are exorted to preach the gospel, what is required is living the preach with deeds, not preaching the life with a bully mouth. And, they might be Muslim of course, or a spiritual stew of Bahai and Buddhist. The question is, does religion exist in the world to be an aid to becoming more human or less human. For me, the answer is not a simple one, perhaps because I do not sport a very strong brain. I muddle my way along in fault and almosts. Often, I can’t quite remember what I am sure I knew. But consider, if religion, if faith in a God thing is to help us be Godly, does that not mean more fully human? And has Bruce Gerencser not travelled the path of faith and become more human, thereby rendering belief obselete in his humanity? There is nothing wrong with non-belief or belief in and of iself. And when practiced without excess they each pack less harm than otherwise.
      Controlling pricks who use their bully ways to make a living, make me gag. Pastor Dennis was a good example of a controlling prick of a man. I am sure some loved him dearly as humans are apt to do, some with a gifted love and some imprisoned by it. I am sure he had harm in his background that made him act like a prick brother in Christ but it is important to make an effort to refuse the bully, woudn’t you say, to stand up and say no to authority and to acknowledge in the act that there is a less harmful way of being that like pretty much every act is condoned in scripture and perhaps worth trying out.
      I believe, Rebecca, that people get dressed up on Sunday morning to present themselves at church for a good beating, a real raking over the coals…. well, some do anyway and they choose men like Pastor James Dennis. They choose Doug Wilson or Steven Anderson. My preacher dad was milktoast compared to these guys but it hurts me that when pushed, he would essentially agree with their theology. It’s a virus, Rebecca.

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        Brian, absolutely, I believe that the Christian faith is about making us more fully human, able to participate in God’s kingdom, about healing and restoration. That is what I think in a nutshell.

        I also agree that tough love and genuine caring means that we have to find constructive ways to confront religious bullies. I”m just not always sure of the best ways to go about doing this when folks seem so closed to conversation, and unable to see their faults. I definitely would not sit in a church, and be hammered day in and day out. I can tell you that.

        Was your father one that could be open to input and conversation? There are folks who can be quite conservative theologically, but they are more open and loving within these views. They would give you “the shirt off their back. ”

        Of course, these terms progressive and conservative are also very relative., and can be problematic.

        When I’ve been with people who are quite progressive theologically, they tend to think I am much more orthodox, and conservative. Then when I’m with people who are conservative, they think I”m very progressive theologically.

        The bottom line is that Christians need to love and to care about ourselves, and people in general, regardless of where they’re coming from. As you would put it preach the gospel with deeds as much as possible.

        I’m definitely still a work in progress. 🙂

        Appreciate your input.

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          “Was your father one that could be open to input and conversation?”
          Rebecca, your question brings up the issue of interest or lack of interest in what the world and its humans have to offer. My experience in the Fellowship Baptist church of my youth, was that the things of the world are to be denied, spurned and so my answer would have to be that dad was open to input and would converse with another but had no interest in pursuing what the ‘world’ offered when set beside the teachings he interpreted from the Word.
          One of the very sad realities of faith is that is refuses the full spectrum of things and insists that the accepted view is the correct one because ‘faith’, ‘belief’, because ‘God said’ when of course God is not available to help with the scientific enquiry about anything. In other words, God is not human and does not assist us in becoming more human but less. The exhortation to lean not on your own understanding is a good example of this non-sense. Unless we lean on our own understanding we cannot claim to occupy our full hmanity, cannot possibly weigh the pros and cons of any matter with decent accuracy, with room for error and improvement or degradation. The use of ‘faith’ in things of this sort is magical thinking, imagining really and hardly thinking at all. The gospel, as you call it is anything at all it needs to be for the local religious thug or it is a label placed to explain a good deed done by someone who does not wish to own the deed but wants it added to the magical mystery of belief. When Jesus suggests another follow him, does he mean obey his commandments? Ot does he mean live just as I live, my life the example? In either case, I would say “no thanks” because of the toxic environment of religion, the tendency toward life in extremes rather than a more balanced approach that encourages health and growth in us. Of course, believers claim that this is exactly why they got saved, to balance their lives etc. Religion co-opts our freedom, our independence and then claims to give us that very freedom we have given over to magical thinking, to God. Doesn’t work for me. Religion spurns interdependence and supports codependence; In religion you are always the weak one, the bad one. I too am some kind of work-in-progress, Rebecca….. grateful as well for your contributions here. Also, I do not allow that you be given over to some kind of eternal suffering because you do not join the non-believer club. My dad used to smile when I asked him if Roman Catholics were going to hell. He knew they probably were but loved them anyway, was sad they would burn. The Bible was clear about idols etc. and God is final judge.

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    The guy sounds like he was an unmitigated pr*ck. As far as I’m concerned, one less Bible pounding mercenary religionist in the world is a good thing.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    There were undoubtedly people who loved him, and they’ve suffered a loss. That’s always sad.

    But as for the rest of it… this was a human who did his best job to keep other humans in line with a repressive concept of religion. There is a lot of sadness that has happened because of who he was, and of how he preached to congregations and individuals. Sadness from people who were hurt.

    Those who loved him can celebrate his life. Those for whom he was a burden can celebrate the loss of that burden. And I hope the latter folks celebrate heartily, or at least cease to be so burdened.

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