How My Relationships With Women Have Changed Post-Jesus

temptress

I grew up in a system of religious faith that taught me a negative view of women. Every Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and professor who instructed me in the True Christian Faith® taught me the following:

  • Women were created by God to be their husbands’ helpmeets.
  • Women are commanded by God to be keepers of their homes. Their primary tasks are housekeeping, cooking meals, caring for children, and spreading their legs whenever their husbands want sex.
  • Women, when compared to men, are weaker vessels and need the protection of males.
  • Men are the head of their homes and their wives are to submit to their rule and authority.
  • Women are temptresses, leading men (and teen boys) into sexual immorality.
  • Women have the duty to dress in ways to keep men from lusting after them. Women, then, are sexual gatekeepers.
  • Women cannot be pastors or serve in any church capacity that puts them in authority over men. Some of pastors and professors taught me that women were to be silent in church and were not permitted to participate in church governance.

These beliefs were modeled — albeit imperfectly and hypocritically — to me throughout my primary, secondary, and post-secondary years. It should come as no surprise, then, that once I began preaching and pastoring churches, I taught these beliefs to congregants. Multiple generations of people were taught by me that women were inferior, dangerous beings best suited for domestic work, teaching women, preparing church dinners, and staffing the nursery.  Women who violated these Biblical truths were viewed as rebellious towards God, their churches, and their husbands.

My wife and I lived by these beliefs for many years. Our home was what I would call a traditional IFB home. Not only did Polly care for the home, she also home schooled our six children. For five years, she taught our children and others in our church’s private Christian school. Polly did work in a church day care (Temple Tots, a ministry of the Newark Baptist Temple) and taught third grade one year at Licking County Christian Academy in Heath, Ohio. Polly received a lesser wage than male teachers because I was the head of our home; she was  not.

Ten years before we deconverted, Polly took a job cleaning offices at a local manufacturing concern. She works for this company today as a manager, recently celebrating twenty years on the job. By the time Polly started working at Sauder Woodworking, our marriage had evolved, taking on more of an egalitarian quality. Our quest for true marital equality and egalitarianism continues to this day. Old habits die hard, but we do work presenting an egalitarian model to our children and grandchildren. I suspect this late in the game we will never outlive the deep marks complementarianism has made on us personally and on our marriage.

It wasn’t until I deconverted that I was able to have female friends. As long as Jesus and I were best friends, I had no female friends. How could I, since I believed that some women were temptresses out to seduce and bed me? I had women I considered acquaintances, but I always kept them at arm’s length out of fear of being tempted to sin. I was taught to avoid the very appearance of evil. Thus, I was not permitted to enjoy the company of women if my wife was not present. No social interaction whatsoever was permitted. Of course, this kind of thinking cut me off from a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. When it came to the churches I pastored, I ran the show, and when serious decisions had to be made, it was the men who made them. Women were permitted to vote in business meetings, but there was no doubt about which sex and which member of that sex was in charge.

in 2008, I divorced Jesus. Once free of Christianity, I was then free to be friends with whomever I wanted, regardless of their sex (or sexual orientation). Now, this doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to the fact that close company with the opposite sex can and does lead to moral compromise. That said, I don’t “fear” women. I own my sexuality, so it’s up to me how and to what degree I interact with women. Both Polly and I are free to enjoy the company of the opposite (or same) sex, even though, quite frankly, we enjoy one another’s company the most.

Earlier this week, I had my beard trimmed. I was starting to look a lot more like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomer, than Santa Claus. Prior to this appointment, my hair — when I had any — and beard had always been trimmed by men. This time a woman trimmed my beard. I became casually acquainted with her (and her husband) several years ago as I photographed my grandson’s baseball games. Her son played on my grandson’s team. I have run into her many times since at baseball games, high school games, and school events. A month or so ago, I ran into her at a local high school basketball game. I knew that she cut hair, so I asked her if she trimmed beards. I told her my previous barber was quite a hack, and I was looking for someone to care for Santa’s beard. She told me she trimmed beards, so this week I had her cut mine. She did a wonderful job. I must admit that it felt strange having a woman not named Polly run her fingers through my beard. That said, she’s the beard trimmer for me.

As Polly and I were leaving, I told the woman who trimmed my beard, “you are the first woman to ever cut my hair or trim my beard in almost sixty-two years.” I did not tell her that it took divorcing Jesus for me to be comfortable with a woman who is not my wife touching my hair and/or beard. I believe she is religious, so I don’t want to have THAT discussion while she has scissors in her hand.

Did you avoid relationships with the opposite sex due to your religious beliefs? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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4 Comments

  1. Sally

    Hi Bruce! This was a very interesting article. I could/would be further interesting to hear about your transition from Crazy Christian Beliefs About Women to Normal Person. There must have been some internal struggle, some culture shock, some personal battles that you fought along the way. Your experiences could be helpful to other men trying to leave the IFB/Jesus Freak culture that would find it helpful and useful.

    But even MORE interesting would be to hear from Polly on this subject. What was her experience going from Wife of IFB Pastor to an actual human being with her own thoughts, ideas, opinions, and value? Many many women are trapped in this cultish mindset and the culture shock is as much if not more for them. Almost like going from child to adult with little transition.

    I apologize if my language us rough. I love and respect you both. My viewpoint is from a complete outsider.

    Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    I learned that complementarian bull crap growing up in Southern Baptist church. My grandma took it to heart and lived it. I could tell she didn’t like it either from the passive aggressive comments she made about it. My grandfather wanted nothing to do with it, and he taught me to be independent.

    I can’t describe the feelings I had being taught by church that I was designed to be a helper, that i was inherently designed never to be in leadership, that my brain was designed to be emotionally driven rather than analytically driven. That because of the Fall my body was a stumbling block and distraction for men and that I must cover up and wear loose clothing. I was angry, indignant and felt trapped. At 18 I swore never to marry as I couldn’t be submissive. I am glad for my grandfather’s influence toward education and independence.

    Complementarian teaching was my 1st major indicator that I needed out and that maybe some fundamentalist teachings were wrong.

    Bruce, it must have been difficult for you to shed some of your ideas about women and their abilities and intentions. Kudos to you for examining yourself and making changes. It must have been difficult for your wife too as your relationship shifted.

    Reply
  3. Brian

    Religion is designed to do exactly what it does… It is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and harms us with its ‘love’. My mom was the daughter of a Baptist preacher. Similar to other true Christian families, ours expected my mom to be the helpmeet and take on the vast responsibilities of domestic care (six kids) AND to go out and work to supplement her preacher husband’s meagre wage from the Baptist church. Mom was kinda’ pissed about the arrangement and her passive-aggressive ways quite often boiled over some! She did not hold her tongue and suffer silently. Arrangements from God to keep women under the male thumb failed somewhat as my mom had more need to work out of the home to bolster the larder and keep the kids in decent, hand-me-down clothes. As a child of church ways, I have adopted certain sick attitudes towards women but I remained unaware of them for the most part until I was cured of the Christly virus and found I could suddenly see with some healthy objectivity. As I courted my wife, I endeavored to control her spiritual life in order that she could travel with me to heaven when the Lord called us. I worked at this for more than a year and even ended our relationship for a time because we would clearly be ‘unequally yoked’. Like Bruce Gerencser and myriad others of the one true faith, I was a completely blind fucking asshole wearing a Jesus grin. How my wife endured me is a bit of mystery but eventually we fell into our bed and were committed, equal or not! She still believes in God (Bahai flavor) and I am without God of course (probably the result of her female charms misleading me and destroying my faith with her cultic wiles! ;-)) Yes, we are truly addled by the ideas put into us early on in our lives and we live with the poison forever, even as we rail against it and spit it out! Jesus doesn’t save, dear biped. He spends all the money you give him on gilding the poison lily, on feeding fat priests and Baptist preachers. Jesus spends all your offerings with glee. If you are a young woman, my old man advice regarding the world faiths, regarding Christianity and Islam (among others), is run for your life! Don’t look back! A very real monster has you in its sights and wil delight in gobbling you up.

    Reply
  4. mary g

    religion does have skewed view of women. my own mother tried hard to fit into this mold as a pastor’s wife,but she struggled. she would often rant about women having more rights,but keep trying to fit the religious mold. my dad was a kind person, but he believed that educating women beyond regular school was a waste as women would be at home raising kids. I did choose to stay at home w/my kids but a college degree would have helped me to help my husband w/finances. now i am near retirement age, and can only qualify for minimum wage low skill work. loved staying home w/kids,but i wonder how much better things could be for my family had i gotten a degree and worked for a few years longer before kids. religion has a way of robbing people of their lives,and we are not aware until it is too late.

    Reply

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