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Beware of Deacon Bob

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The following is loosely based on a true story recounted to me by a Baptist pastor’s daughter.

Every church has a Deacon Bob — a Jesus-loving man who loves getting close and personal with children. Deacon Bob is a hugger. He loves intimate physical contact. Deacon Bob goes from person to person, handing out hugs and warm embraces. Everyone loves Deacon Bob. Knowing no boundaries, Deacon Bob embraces everyone. Deacon Bob focuses his “love” on children. Children love Deacon Bob. He is known for always having candy in his suit coat pocket.  Sunday after Sunday, church children run to Deacon Bob, begging him to give them candy.

Every night, without fail, Deacon Bob and his wife — both lifelong members of Calvary Baptist Church — had their Bible devotions and prayed together. Afterward, Deacon Bob’s wife retired for the night. Deacon Bob told his wife that he would be to bed soon, but first, he needed to study his Sunday School lesson — Deacon Bob taught the fifth-grade girls. Soon his wife was fast asleep, and Deacon Bob sat down in the computer room to study his lesson — a place where he would commune with God undisturbed. Done with studies, Deacon Bob got up from his chair and locked the computer room door. Safe from interruption, Deacon Bob sat down, put on his headphones, and typed in Netscape the internet address for one of his favorite child pornography websites. Soon, Deacon Bob began pleasuring himself as he viewed children being sexually molested and violated. Once he was finished, Deacon Bob felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Oh, Jesus, I am so sorry for what I have done. Please, Lord, forgive me. I claim the promises found in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Thank you, Lord for forgiving me of my sin. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Night after night, year after year, Deacon Bob repeats this ritual — seeking self-gratification and then asking Jesus to forgive him. Deacon Bob started each morning with prayer, reading that day’s entry in Our Daily Bread, and a silent promise to God that he would never look at child porn again. Deacon Bob’s resolve lasted for a day or two, maybe a week, but soon, with deviant passions stirred by church children unaware of who and what he really is, Deacon Bob returned to the internet to seek out images and video sure to satisfy — for a moment — his perverse sexual desires.

Deacon Bob is a sexual predator hiding in plain sight. His church family thinks he’s wonderful — a lover of Jesus and children. He’s just like Jesus, Pastor Billy was heard saying. Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:16) Deacon Bob just wants to minister to children, sharing with them his love for Jesus. We need more Deacon Bobs in this church! Clueless to Deacon Bob’s true nature and desires, Pastor Billy and the church “trust” Deacon Bob with their children. Sister Eatmore was overheard saying, Why Deacon Bob sure does love children. I would trust him to take my children anywhere.

The whole church thinks Deacon Bob is their very own Mister Rogers — everyone except Margie Buttermore, that is. Sister Buttermore told her husband one Sunday after church, That Deacon Bob sure is friendly with children. I am worried that he might be a sexual predator or a pedophile. Just today, I saw him hug Julia, and as he did, his hand slid down to her buttocks. I think he did that on purpose. Brother Buttermore replied, Oh, Margie, Deacon Bob is a fine man. He teaches Sunday School, sings in the choir, and just last year, he gave a large donation to the building fund. I would KNOW if Deacon Bob is a pervert. Men KNOW these kinds of things. Deacon Bob is NOT a pedophile. Sister Buttermore said nothing more, but she decided to pay attention to how Deacon Bob physically interacted with children.

Week after week, Sister Buttermore watched Deacon Bob, becoming more certain each week that he was not the kind of man everyone thought he was. One Sunday evening after church. Sister Buttermore decided to talk to Pastor Billy about her concerns. And just like her husband months before, Pastor Billy assured Sister Buttermore that Deacon Bob was a fine, upstanding Christian. Years ago, Pastor Billy told her, we had a man in our church who really was a pedophile. Everyone knew he was a child molester. I ran him off before he could hurt any of our children. Deacon Bob is nothing like this pervert.

Several years later, Deacon Bob took his fifth-grade girl’s Sunday School class out to eat — a reward for winning the Sunday School Perfect Attendance Award. Most families dropped their girls off at the local Chuck E. Cheese. Sister Eatmore had something come up at the last minute, so she called Deacon Bob and asked him if he would pick up Julia for the party. Deacon Bob told Sister Eatmore that he would be glad to pick Julia up and safely return her home after the party. Thanks! Deacon Bob. There’s no one I trust more with our children than you. Deacon Bob replied, no problem, Sister. I love our church’s children. I want to help every child come to know Jesus as their Savior.

Just as planned, Deacon Bob picked up eleven-year-old Julia and took her to the party. On the way home, Deacon Bob told Julia to slide over close to him. With nary a thought, groomed for this very moment, Julia complied. Deacon Bob had been hugging her for years. Everyone loved and trusted him.

Several miles away from Chuck E. Cheese, Deacon Bob took his right hand and put it on Julia’s thigh. Julia didn’t seem to mind. Julia, Deacon Bob said, you know Jesus loves you, and so do I. Julia replied, I know, I love both of you too!

Years later, Julia told her therapist what happened the night Deacon Bob drove her home from the party. Twenty years had passed, and Julia had never told anyone about what Deacon Bob had done to her. When Julia graduated from high school, she left home, moving three thousand miles away to San Diego. Julia would travel home to visit her parents from time to time, but she always planned her visits so she wouldn’t have to go to church. She couldn’t bear to go to church — any church.

One year, Julia returned home for her parent’s wedding anniversary. Calvary Baptist wanted to recognize the Eatmores for being faithfully married for fifty years, so they held a party for Brother and Sister Eatmore. Julia’s mom said, Julia, I hope you will come to church for our anniversary party. Please, honey! I know you don’t like going to Calvary, but won’t you do this for us?

Guilted into submission, Julia relented. As she entered the church, Julia looked off in the distance, and there was Deacon Bob — in his eighties now — hugging a young girl. Overcome with grief, guilt, and homicidal rage, Julia ran from the building and walked back to her parent’s home. Brother and Sister Eatmore finally came home and found Julia, tears streaming down her face, packing her bag. What’s wrong, Julia? Sister Eatmore asked. Julia told her mom what Deacon Bob had done to her when she was eleven. Oh honey, surely you must be mistaken. Deacon Bob loves Jesus, and he would never, ever do such a thing. And with that, Julia called Uber for a ride to the airport, never to return to her parent’s home.

Deacon Bob died several years later, leaving behind the testimony of a man who loved Jesus and children until the end.

Did your church have a Deacon Bob? 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.

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22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Sheila

    The “Deacon Bobs” of my past are not why I left religion, (that was due to education) BUT, the “Deacon Bobs” are why I began searching and educating myself instead of blinding accepting what I was told by those who “know”. (hint, they don’t “know” shit.)

  2. Avatar
    Janf8

    I’m unaware if the church I attended had a Deacon Bob-like character, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were several.

    I’ve seen some documentaries on this type of scenario, and it is essential for people to realize predators are sneaky and usually don’t appear sinister on the surface.

    The mention of Deacon Bob not being benign like Mister Rogers brings me to a thought I’ve always nursed: Mister Rogers seemed somewhat creepy; he was a little too interested in children. Also, Mister McFeely from the neighborhood is a horrible character name.

    My rule of thumb, if someone is a little “too” anything, be wary.

    • Avatar
      Troy

      McFeely was his mother’s maiden name (and also his middle name). (From Surname database), “anglicized form of the Gaelic O’ Fithcheallaigh. The Gaelic prefix “O” incicates “male descendant of”, plus the personal byname “Fithcheallach”, meaning “Chess-player”.” (Note: Rogers’ used Mc rather than O’ but they mean the same thing)

      I’m not a big fan of Mr. Rogers myself, though I have to respect when a man pursues and presents his vision with such hard working zeal.
      I’m not sure if coddling children to such a degree is helpful. As a youngster I needed to be pushed rather than coddled, but I’m not sure my experience can be extrapolated to the whole.

      • Avatar
        Janf8

        It does make more sense since it was his mother’s maiden name and his middle name, though I’m still not a fan of it as a children’s show character name. I read he regretted it too, due to the many unwholesome jokes which resulted from it.

        Additionally, I’m not saying Fred Rogers had any ulterior motives; he did strike me as someone I wouldn’t have felt comfortable around as a child or an adult, though.

        You’re right; he worked hard and accomplished a lot in his lifetime. My son liked his show as a child, and my grandson enjoys Daniel Tiger (which I find more likable than Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood). To be fair, I’m probably in the minority in feeling he was a bit creepy.

  3. Avatar
    Troy

    I think the story of “Deacon Bob” would be more effective if it was a story from the victim/protagonist’s viewpoint. For example it is doubtful the victim would know his internet viewing habits and the dark web (as well as Chrome) didn’t even exist 20 years ago. (In 1997 It’d be chatting on AOL and doubtful that even a pervert in his 60s would be doing this) When my b.s. detector goes off (and it does here) I tend to impeach the entire narrative.
    An authentic cohesive story of the real Deacon Bob with the names changed and no bull shit would work much better.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      You must have had a different 1997. ? I dropped AOL several years before. I was surfing the naked, wild web via a dial -up modem. If I remember right, I built our first church website around this time.

      That said, this story is loosely — I emphasize loosely — based on a story recounted to me by a Baptist pastor’s daughter. I could of just as easily used any of a numbers of stories I’ve been told over the years. Deacon Bob’s are everywhere.

      • Avatar
        Troy

        Checking Wikipedia in 1997 50% of all homes accessed the internet through AOL (so 50% didn’t). So you’re right, I recall I did know a few people that used a local internet provider.

        The Dark Web started appearing around 2004 though really you didn’t start hearing about it until 2011 with the start (and closure in 2014) of the Silk Road.

        I understand the loosely part. Just a constructive criticism.

  4. Avatar
    Connie

    I’ve learned to trust the hairs on the back of my neck and on my arms. People like Deacon Bob give off an energy which makes the hairs stand up and skin crawl. The three times I ignored my alarms were not pleasant to live through. Why three? I’m a slow learner.

    Now I know it doesn’t matter how good the exterior looks if the core is rotten.

    We choose to feed our dark side or our light. I’m firmly grey as absolutes exhaust me. Anything else I say will be judgemental about Bob and his weak personality; enough discipline to maintain a cover for years but not enough self awareness to retrain himself from doing harm to children under his care.

    See? Judgemental.

  5. Avatar
    Emma

    My Deacon Bob was a teacher, not a pastor. I ignored the warning signs because I wanted to be loved. I didn’t know he loved me the wrong way.

    I don’t trust people easily. My lovely partner of five years has been patient and kind with me. He had to earn every bit of my trust.

  6. Avatar
    Ami

    Oh we had Brother Wayne.
    He was ‘huggy’.
    That’s the official word that was used when I brought my concerns to my parents.
    “Oh Brother Wayne is just huggy! He doesn’t mean any harm.”

    Brother Wayne eventually was sent to prison for ‘hugging’ his own grandson. Apparently he’d ‘hugged’ his daughters while they were growing up, too.

    After Brother Huggy went to prison, scores of people came forward to talk about their own experiences of being hugged.

    Brother Wayne died in prison.
    No word on whether he was hugged while he lived there.

    Brother Wayne was a righteous man, don’t ya know?

    • Avatar
      Davie from Glasgow

      I don’t know about EVERY church, but this sort of stuff is WAY more common than some people realise. When I was a teenager at college, I shared a flat with four other guys. One night, on her way to visit her boyfriend at out flat, my housemate’s girlfriend was held up at knife-point and raped. In the aftermath of this – with a police investigation etc. – stories started coming out among our group and it turned out that nearly all of the girls we knew at college had a story of past sexual abuse or rape of their own to tell. And these were all just girls in their teens.

      Decades later I’m pleased to say that my old college flatmate and his incredibly strong girlfriend of that time have been happily married for many years. But the events of that time really opened my eyes to how difficult it can be to navigate the world as a young girl.

  7. Avatar
    Matilda

    As a child, we spent two weeks every year with my dad’s parents 250miles away. One day each year in that 2 weeks, we spent with my dad’s best school friend, Uncle J, who’d stayed in the area. At 11yo, I went upstairs to the toilet in Uncle J’s house on the day we were visiting. I came out and he was waiting for me, grabbed me and tried to give me slobbery kisses. I broke free and ran downstairs and stuck firmly to my mum’s side for the rest of the day. I was so confused, maybe it was cos I was wearing my first bra that made him do it. I knew I had a year before I’d see him again, and my dad died in that year, so I never saw Uncle J again. He was a senior teacher. Coincidentally, 50yrs later, my husband’s job had brought us to live in this area and I attended a funeral in Uncle J’s village. In the pub afterwards I told some locals I’d known the family in the house opposite. There was racous laughter and comments like ‘That old perv, girls in his school, knew not to be alone with him.’ So he got away with it for decades….I always wondered why his 2 teen daughters left home as soon as they could which was unusual back then….I shudder to think what they suffered!

  8. Avatar
    Ann Lo

    Regarding some comments here about people intuiting that they were dealing with a predator…A book that helped me to recognize when someone seemed “a bit off” and to be wary of them is “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. The take-aways for me in that book were 1) Trust my intuition. I don’t need a well-articulated reason to get away from someone who gives me bad vibes, and I can trust that my body is trying to take care of me. 2) Don’t be afraid to be rude. Women in particular are socialized to be “nice” and sometimes perceived rudeness is exactly what’s needed, especially when the person I’m dealing with is not acting in good faith.

  9. Avatar
    Ian for a long time

    An additional book to help recognize and deal with the predators you come in contact with is Creepology, by Anna Valdiserri. This is a book written by a woman, from a woman’s perspective. It was quite insightful for me.

    Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, I heard stories from the pulpit, heard stories on Talkback, With Bob Larson and friend of a friend stories, and even read a Chick tract about how all gay men were pedophiles and they searched out young boys to prey upon. I believed this well into adulthood. I was wrong. When you look at the stories that hit the news, you will find pedophiles are mostly straight men who have set themselves up in places where they can be in contact with children. The few gay men I know abhor pedophilia as much as I do. The church used lies about gay men as a way to shield the true abusers. If you are constantly looking in the wrong direction, you’ll never see or understand the danger until it’s too late.

  10. Avatar
    Obstaclechick

    There was a creepy man at the church I grew up in who always wanted to give girls hugs. My friends and I avoided him like the plague.

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