In August 1989, my wife, Polly, and I, along with several members of Somerset Baptist Church, the church that I was pastoring at the time, started teaching fifteen church children at Somerset Baptist Academy (SBA). SBA was a non-chartered, tuition-free Calvinistic Baptist school. It was the only non-Catholic religious school in Perry County. Polly and I did most of the teaching, spending hours each day teaching K-12 students English, writing, spelling, reading, math, history, science, Bible, and computer literacy. In addition, parents in the church helped teach classes such as home economics, shop, and small engine repair. One dear lady in the church, Delorse, watched our three youngest children eight hours a day so we could teach the church’s children.
SBA was a one-room school. Using standardized testing and other criteria, students were put in particular classes according to their academic abilities. Thus, we had several high school students taking math with third graders. No one was shamed over this. The goal was to meet each student where they were academically. While SBA, its administrator (me), and its teachers had many flaws, we did well when it came to teaching students the basics. Adults who were young children at SBA in the 1990s, to this day, thank Polly for teaching them to read. Unfortunately, no such praise comes my way. 🙂 Students called me “Preacher.” I was a stern taskmaster who demanded obedience, who meted out discipline when students failed to comply. While I have MANY fond memories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist, I also have many regrets. Fundamentalism causes harm. I was a victim, but I also was a victimizer. I plan to write more posts about SBA in the future. Maybe I can get some of the students, three of whom are my children, to share their SBA experiences, safe from having to write out KJV Bible verses as punishment or memorize the 1989 London Baptist Confession of Faith and Catechism.
In the late 1980s, a Fundamentalist man, whose name remains lost in the deep recesses of my mind, wrote several anti-culture books and offered them free to churches. One book had a red cover, and the other was blue. He sent me two cases of books to distribute to church members. The following report, written by my eleven-year-old son, Jason, on January 11, 1990, was a review of one of the chapters in these books — I assume on the evil of television.
Polly and I owned a TV when we married in 1978. Unfortunately, by the mid-1980s, “God” had convicted me of the sin of watching “Hellivision.” So out to junk pile went the TV until the late 1990s. If you want a bit of insight into my thinking about TV during this period of time, please read The Preacher and His TV.
The following report by my son shows how religious fundamentalism deeply affects the thinking of children raised in such environments. Religious indoctrination is not harmless. Jason, of course, is blameless. Not now, buddy. 🙂 Much like his father and mother, Jason was psychologically affected by Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) thinking and Bible literalism. Children are products of the environments and cultures they grew up in. The good news is that parents and children alike can overcome religious indoctrination. The Gerencser family is living proof of this claim. Either that or Satan/Antichrist has control of us. 🙂
This report was slightly edited for grammar, spelling, and readability.
Yes, the television is an idol. We worship the TV every time we turn it on and watch it. The Devil is behind the television. It was his idea to make the television so he could enter people’s houses and rule over them. He loves this idea. It gives him a chance to kill people. The Bible says that the Devil is a roaring lion who seeketh to devour people. In people’s houses, everything is turned toward the television. We do not talk to guests. Instead, we watch TV, and once in a while make a comment about what we’re watching or something else. Even so-called “Christians” watch filthy, junky, ungodly stuff on TV. Soon we become slaves and addicts to the TV. When people start watching TV, it is hard for them to stop watching it. People watch dirty and gruesome things. They say what was wrong with what was on TV, and how terrible it was, yet still watch it. No one even bothers to not watch TV or get rid of it. The Devil laughs at us when we do this because he has won. People have let TV become part of their lives, so therefore they let it control them instead of them controlling it. When we come home we turn on the TV right away. Whenever we’re there, it’s on full blast. TV damages adults, but totally destroys children. One school teacher had her students not watch TV for 24 hours, then write a report on it. One boy thought one minute was like one month, another imagined that the favorite shows were on TV. Japanese children think that they cannot live without it. They have at least 3 TVs in their homes. They think you’re different if you do not have a TV to look at all the time. The TV is a thing that lays the way for the Antichrist. The Antichrist will rule the world by the way of the TV. He will have everybody hooked on the TV, and watching filthy stuff which allows demons to come into their homes. TV is many people’s number one idol, besides other things. The Antichrist will speak through the TV. Unsaved people cannot watch the TV during the tribulation, because they will be killed for not bowing down to him when he comes on TV. We should not watch filthy things on TV. (Over 400 words)
— End of report
Students were required to write a certain number of words for their reports (and they wrote LOTS of book reports) — thus the “over 400 words” statement at the end. Jason and his fellow students quickly learned how to use “filler” (AKA bullshit) to reach the word count requirement. 🙂
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.
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