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The Bryan Times Allows Pastor Luke Nagy to Use Its Pages to Savage Simone Biles

simone biles
Simone Biles, a woman who lives a worthless life, according to Bryan, Ohio Evangelical pastor Luke Nagy

Luke Nagy is the pastor of First Brethren Church in Bryan, Ohio. An educated Christian Fundamentalist, Nagy is a regular columnist for The Bryan Times. I have mentioned Nagy several times before:

Pastor Luke Nagy, A Theological Anthropologist

Letter to the Editor: Evangelicalism is One of the Most Hated Religious Sects in America, And They Only Have Themselves to Blame

Several weeks ago, Nagy penned a vitriolic attack on transgender people. The aforementioned letter to the editor of The Times was my brief response to Nagy (I had bigger fish to fry: Evangelicalism). Then, last Thursday, Nagy set his sites on Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles.

Nagy wrote (behind paywall):

So, everyone seems to have an opinion about Simone Biles. And the opinions seem to range from: “You go, girl!” to “She betrayed ‘Merica!” Which is strange, considering nobody cares about women’s gymnastics who isn’t actively participating in women’s gymnastics – unless it’s the Olympics.
….
But I must admit, the whole story is deeply confusing! Biles says she needs to stop competing for her mental health. If her mental state is actually in danger, then bowing out might be the best choice. But didn’t she realize her mental health was this fragile until now? She didn’t realize the pressure was getting to her until after qualifying and opening ceremonies, when the rosters are fixed and she’s already competed? She didn’t consider that this might be too much for her? And even if she didn’t, she can’t just stick it out for a few more days? She’s spent her whole life training for this moment and she’s just going to drop out?
….

However, I think I already stated the real problem. You probably skimmed it over, so I’ll repeat it: “she’s spent her whole life training for this moment.” Sadly, and I can’t say that this is true for Simone, but it is true of MULTITUDES like her, her life revolves around sports, which is a cruel and merciless idol. Gymnastics is not kind to gymnasts, especially women gymnasts.

….

Most of these girls (and guys) build their life around something that is destined to end before their prefrontal cortex is fully formed! They dedicate themselves to something that will be of no use to them after they “retire” in their teens!

Sports is an idol, and like all idols, sports disappoints. I think Simone Biles is coming to grips with the reality that dedicating your life to being the greatest gymnast in history is actually a pretty meaningless and empty life. I think she’s learning just how soul-crushing it is to learn that idols aren’t the living and true God and therefore cannot give life, love, purpose or peace.

I’m sad she’s learning this in such a public and vulnerable way. But maybe it’s good that it’s public, so that maybe American parents will learn from this oft-repeated lesson and not subject their kids to idolatry. Maybe, but I doubt it.

Nagy is a Jesus-loving Fundamentalist, so there’s little I can say about his verbal assault of Simone Biles, athletes in general, and people who struggle with mental illness or other psychological challenges that will make a difference. The focus of this post is on The Bryan Times.

According to its web page:

The Bryan Times was founded in 1949 and has been owned by the Cullis family since its inception. Based in Bryan, Ohio, its coverage area includes Williams County and rural northwest Ohio, with a circulation of nearly 10,000. The Bryan Times is a publication of The Bryan Publishing Company, which also publishes the Napoleon Northwest Signal, The Countyline and Realty Northwest.

Chris Cullis is the editor of The Times. I have known Cullis for years. During my Evangelical days, I wrote numerous letters to the editor to the newspaper:

I also wrote several Community Voice editorials, 800-1,200 word articles that appeared on the editorial page. I found Cullis to be thoughtful and fair. Cullis had me re-write several pieces, concerned over the “tone” of my writing. Remember, I was a Fundamentalist Christian. I was, in effect, Luke Nagy. The difference between Nagy and me is that I grew up and matured, even going so far as to write a letter of apology to the readers of The Times for some of the things I said (I was still a Christian, at the time). Cullis asked me at the time, “are you sure you want me to print this?” I replied, “yes.”

Why is Nagy’s writing not subjected to tone policing (and Cullis was right about my tone) as mine was thirty years ago? It seems Nagy can say whatever he wants without an editor’s red pen being taken to his bilious screeds. In successive articles, Nagy has savaged marginalized people. While I don’t want Nagy to be censored — he’s the best advertisement for atheism I can think of — Publisher Cullis and Editor Ron Osburn could have attached editor’s notes to Nagy’s columns. Or they could have asked someone to respond to Nagy. That no clergyperson has responded to Nagy’s attacks on transgender people and Simone Biles is telling. When people don’t stand up to bullies, they will continue to verbally beat on those they disagree with. Memo to The Bryan Times: I would be more than happy to respond to Nagy’s column, but I cannot do so in the space of a four-hundred-word letter to the editor.

As I write this post, I am listening to the Cincinnati Reds-Cleveland Indians baseball game — a game played by people with meaningless, empty lives, according to Nagy. Except for the Christian athletes, of course. They have Jesus, so their physical endeavors matter. With Jesus, everything matters. Without him? Your life is worthless. I wonder if Nagy is aware that Bilies is a professing Christian? Of course, she’s a Catholic, so according to Nagy’s Evangelical theology, she’s headed for Hell.

Premier Christianity reports:

On finding out that his grandchildren were in care, Simone’s grandfather adopted her at the age of three and she was raised by him and his wife in a Catholic home. Her adoptive mother, Nellie, believed that God had called her to take in the young girl: “It was meant to be, without a shadow of a doubt, nothing was supposed to be different and it’s the best decision we’ve ever made,” she said.

As her talent shone through, Biles increasingly made gymnastics and training a feature in her life, leaving mainstream school in favour of home schooling in order to increase her training hours from 20 to 32 hours per week. Biles has always spoken openly about her faith, previously describing her gymnastic ability is a God-given skill that she believes she’s called to steward.

The Olympian said: “I think God gives every individual something special and mine was talent. So I never take it for granted. My dad always told me: don’t waste God’s gift that he gave you. Because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. One day I’ll be too old to do gymnastics. For now I have to use it to the best of my ability.”

Biles also uses her platform to speak about her faith and encourage others to be open about their own beliefs. Speaking to the Houston Chronicle in 2016, Biles said: “Kids today talk about faith, and I think it’s OK for me to share my faith so kids can see how it helps you through the whole process.”

In their faith-filled household, the athlete was always encouraged to pray and invest in her personal relationship with Jesus. Her mother Nellie said: “I am a very prayerful person so I encourage my children to do the same thing too, to pray. I know it doesn’t matter what situation you are ever in, you just put it in the hands of the Lord and he’s going to walk you through it.”

….

And it’s not just in moments of success that Biles has turned to prayer, the inspirational athlete has also said that she works through failure and hardship with the help of God.

Previously, she has said: “I didn’t make national team so I was super upset about that. But I knew that it was God’s way of telling me that I needed to go home, train harder, so that next year I could make it happen so I believe that some obstacles that we’ve had always work out for the better because God knows that without those you wouldn’t be as strong as you are.”

Aside from taking the practical, and understandable, step of withdrawing to protect her mental health, Biles will undoubtedly draw on her faith to support her at this time.

She said: “I was taught that you can go to him [God] for anything and he’s the one that directs your life. [My mum] would always tell you if you don’t know, leave it up to God. Pray to him about it.”

As Biles steps out to shine a light on the value of wellbeing over achievement, many will not see a woman crippled by weakness, but someone carrying a strength so vast, it can only have come from God.

Further, Biles is a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar. So in what universe is it okay for Nagy to use the pages of The Bryan Times to attack the character and mental health of a young woman, regardless of whether she’s a public figure? Never mind the fact that Biles’ aunt died during the Olympics.

Video Link

Here’s what Luke Nagy needs to do: apologize. And The Bryan Times needs to print his apology. Further, Cullis and Osburn need to stop printing whatever Nagy writes without, at the very least, some sort of editorial control. (I assume Cullis and Osborn do not agree with what Nagy has written about Biles and transgender people.) I know he writes a column for the weekly church page — a sermonette for Christianettes — but, make no mistake about it, Nagy is editorializing. Nagy asked if parents with sports-playing children will “heed” his “sermon”? He replied, ” maybe, but I doubt it.” The same can be said for Nagy apologizing. He speaks for God, and there’s no going back when you speak for the Big Man. Rare is the preacher who admits he is wrong and makes restitution. I did, but I’m an atheist — one who lives a meaningless, purposeless life, engages in deviant sex (WHAT? says my wife 🙂 ), and eats barbequed fetuses for dinner. My actions don’t count. I’m a hellbound child of Satan. Nagy’s behavior, however, “matters.” And I hope Christians and atheists alike are paying attention to his words. Does Nagy reflect what Jesus and Christianity are really about? Will a local cleric dare to come out of his or her study and say “no!” and call Nagy to account? We shall see.

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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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24 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    Wow. I don’t get the Times so I don’t have access to that article. Are you writing a letter to the editor with what you’ve generally said here?

      • Avatar
        BJW

        I hope you can. And in retrospect, the Bryan Times tries to be moderate, but can’t offend the majority all the time. Still, I remember the first gay wedding in Williams county was put on the front page of the paper when it happened. And last year, they ran a story about a small BLM protest here. Of course, I only read snippets. I think our subscription lapsed about then.

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    When I got the Times, I thought it was on a balancing act between conservative and liberal. Better than the Crescent News. But I haven’t read it in awhile

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The Times still tries to pull off the liberal/conservative balancing act on its editorial page. I said “tries.”

      Several months ago, the paper ran an editorial that talked about the importance of newspapers giving voice to everyone. That’s a nice ideal, but The Times’ pages reflect white Christianity, not everyone. Ignored is the fact that the number of local atheists, agnostics, and “nones,” is increasing. However, the people who actually subscribe to the newspaper are overwhelmingly white, Christian, and Republican. I continue to subscribe out of a sense of loyalty to local journalism. I stopped subscribing to the Crescent-News after it went to 3 days a week and took a sharp right editorially.

  3. Avatar
    Benny S

    Congrats to The Bryan Times (/s) for this. More Gen Zs will probably walk away from the “church” because of this, which is a good thing.

  4. Avatar
    missimontana

    She took a small step back and went on to win a bronze medal. But her life is meaningless. Tim Tebow pretty much failed at sports, but Evangelicals in Colorado still get a hard on at the mention of his name. I’ve heard them say they don’t care if he wins games, it’s more important he set an example with his public display of prayer. Obviously, the fans and franchise didn’t agree. But of course, what can you expect from a bunch of idol worshipers? Better ditch that Red’s cap, Bruce! 😁

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          What, no 🚗 race car? 😂 When we married, Polly grossly underestimated how “addicted” I was to sports. She knew I played sports in high school, but I suspect she thought my addiction wouldn’t carry over to adulthood. Boy, was she wrong. 😂

          Polly knew almost nothing about sports when we married . Well, she knew what ball went with what sport. 😂 I appreciate that she genuinely tried to understand my addiction. She’s now conversant in baseball/football/basketball. She will sit with me as I scream at the TV — book in hand, of course. 😂😂

      • Avatar
        BJW

        I grew up during the big Red machine back near Dayton, Ohio, which for all intents and purposes re the Reds, was an extension of Cincinnati. 😉

  5. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Simone Biles endured sexual abuse from her former team doctor. She is also a young Black woman.

    She is, therefore, carrying a lot of trauma. It’s like a smoldering fire that can flare up at any time, whatever she might do to sublimate it. As someone who endured childhood sexual abuse (from a priest) and sexual assault as an adult—and who is a member of a minority group (transgender) who experiences micro- and macro-aggressions, I understand her need to take care of her mental health because neither she nor I can take it for granted.

    That she has prioritized her mental health over Olympic glory—and to speak publicly of her struggles—is more meaningful to more people than a smug narcissistic proclamation of faith.

    Oh, and if she hadn’t taken care of her mental health, she could have broken her neck. What would Pastor Nagy’s friend Jesus do for her then?

  6. Avatar
    Sage

    Nagy’s bigotry and hatred is showing – once again. As it turns out, many elite athletes do not have that toxic masculinity trait of “be a man, tough it out” followed by manly grunts.

    Simone Biles has already show her exceptional athletic ability, with multiple medals and wins on the Olympic and World stage, and performing very difficult skills that no other athlete can currently perform. Among all men and women, she is on of the top athletes in the world

    Even after all of this, Nagy labels her a failure because she chose health, in this case mental health, over a current competition. Maybe, just maybe, she made this choice because she places her sport in a proper place, not as the most important thing in the universe. This allows her to choose when and where to compete, and walk away when a health condition arises that could lead to injury.

    I don’t think most athletes train for that “single moment”. This plays into that idea that there are only 2 types of athletes, the winner, and everyone else, I am sure most athletes like to win, but I also suspect that elite athletes cherish the competition of pitting their skills against their opponent’s skills. Maybe, just maybe, instead of training for that “single moment”, they train so they can be their best whenever they face their competition.

    But what do I know, I am no athlete, and I do not follow sport closely, It just seems to me that elite athletes may be a more intricate and complex person than the one you see in competition,

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I played sports, good enough to make the team, but typically sat on the end of the bench. I was far better at basketball 🏀 than I was baseball ⚾️. Did I like to win? Absolutely, but more than that I enjoyed the physicality of the games. As an adult, I loved sweating, taking my mind off everything but the dribble, rebound, and shot. I played basketball into my 30s. Knee problems ended my “career.” I miss playing sports. 😢

    • Avatar
      Autumn

      I happen to think that if it hadn’t been a form of vertigo, but instead say, an ankle or knee acting up a little she probably would have sucked it up, but what was happening could have cost her her life, and she damn well knew it because she was practicing with better fall padding than could be used in competition and when she came back to win a bronze on balance beam she took out the twisting dismount she might ordinarily have done.

      Secondly when athletes are injured they are not excused, in other words they can get such dreadful scores that they mire the whole team hopelessly back in the pack.

      Oh and this Nagy numbskull doesn’t understand is that former gymnasts become coaches, physical therapists, PM&R doctors and orthopedic surgeons who care for other athletes! They are hardly washed up!

      • Avatar
        thatotherjean

        ‘Thank you, Autumn! Very much this. Simone Biles’ life is hardly going to be “meaningless” and “empty” when she retires from gymnastics. She’s 24 now, and has to have known there was an end to her career ever since she started. She’s an intelligent woman, and I’m sure she has considered what she wants to do next.

        In the Olympics, she did what was best for her–dropping out of competition until she regained whatever she had lost–and for her team, which allowed them to go on to win medals, too. I have no doubt that she will be successful when her years as the best gymnast the world has ever seen are past. Nagy needs to apologize for what he wrote about her.

  7. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    Nagy: “Most of these girls (and guys) build their life around something that is destined to end before their prefrontal cortex is fully formed! ”

    Zoe: ‘Most of these pastors build their lives around something that is defined and habituated before their prefrontal cortex is fully formed.’

    I suspect that Nagy’s still undeveloped patriarchal misogynistic patriot brain is pissed that the American gold medal count wasn’t even higher.

    • Avatar
      Obstaclechick

      I thought Jesus was really into sports given all the athletes in interviews who talk about giving him all the glory, blah blah blah. I guess as long as they aren’t taking a knee in protest, or getting injured, or whatever…..

      For Simone Biles – and other gymnasts – who are able to compete for such longer careers now, in their 20s, it shows that they must have been doing something right to be competitive at such a high level for such a long time. To hear arm chair idiot quarterbacks critiquing a world class athlete is beyond absurd.

  8. Avatar
    Troy Heck

    I’m surprised anyone has anything but sympathy for Biles, she trains like crazy and then gets a case of the “bendys”. More than her awe inspiring gymnastics I also admire her for not being pressured to “just give it a try” when she knows her mind-body synergy is out to lunch. If your body isn’t doing what it should be then getting out is the only logical course of action. The United States ended up winning the medal count anyway.
    As for the assertion that athletics and in particular gymnasts are wasting their life. We all study and prepare for things that we can’t use into adulthood. For example I was surprised when a friend mentioned she still played her clarinet. The minutia of our education adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I’m sure the dedication and awe for her own abilities Biles learned in gymnastics will serve her in ways that are different than even she will expect.
    As for the editorial, it’s really a sermon on idolatry, yes we know Christian ministers think it is clever to take something from the news, integrate it into a lame-o sermon, to refresh nauseatingly well trodden ground.
    My retort to this inane sermon is simple, if the LORD wanted us to be constantly thinking o’ him, he could have placed the same amount of zeal as exists in the teenage male sex drive. Of course people spend more time thinking about their hobbies, families, favorite shows, and sports than churchy stuff. “Idolatry” get real!

  9. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Good grief!!!!!!!!!!! That is all the pith I can summon after reading what Nagy wrote. Are you sure that’s not “Naky”? Something is showing through in what he wrote, but I cannot put my finger on it—which is probably a good idea—-to save my finger that is. Good grief!!!

  10. Avatar
    Brocken

    The local small-town newspaper also has a section where some of the local ministers are allowed to submit letters on certain subjects. About 18 years ago the local Catholic priest decried the way parents got their children overly involved in sports and that overinvolvement in sports activity was a threat to family life. One women wrote a rebuttal letter to the editor that stated that sports activity had a positive aspect and gave a sense of accomplishment to some children’s lives. There was no name associated with the letter. I later learned that the lady who wrote the letter didn’t want to have her name printed because she was a member of that priest’s parish.

    • Avatar
      BJW

      Bruce, I used to be surprised at the vicious cruelty by “God’s people.” No more. It seems like it is all of a piece with people that worship a cruel, grifting adulterer. The fundie/evangelist crowd are the ones who are happy to perpetuate their hostility to everyone and everything that is slightly different than them. An Olympic multiple gold champion (GOAT() has an off period and doesn’t want to end up killing herself…and she’s a coward. But there are scores of male athletes who’ve quit, or dropped out for a time, and while these “good” people are disappointed they don’t call male athletes cowards or quitters. Oh, but all the sympathy goes toward Christian nationalists, usually if not always white.

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Bruce Gerencser