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VICE News Story on the Intersection of Evangelical Christianity and QAnon

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Regular readers of this blog likely remember that VICE News came to my home in August to film a story on the intersection of Evangelical Christianity and QAnon (which should be released soon). Earlier today, David Gilbert, a journalist for VICE News published a print story titled Meet the Pastors Fighting Back Against QAnon. I was one of the pastors interviewed for this article:

Bruce Gerencser was raised in an evangelical household, was educated in an evangelical school, married the daughter of an evangelical Baptist minister, and soon became a fundamentalist Baptist preacher himself.

He freely admits that the gospel he preached, at times, was extreme.

“Our beliefs were quite fundamentalist. We were young Earth creationists—you know, the Earth was 6,000 years old,” Gerencser told VICE News. “We had a long list of rules and standards that govern human behavior, everything from premarital sex and adultery. We were certainly homophobic, or at least I was personally homophobic. Everything was strictly controlled.”

But in 2005, after 25 years as a pastor, Gerencser gave it all up. Three years later, he renounced Christianity and became an atheist and a humanist, after becoming disillusioned with the church’s lurch to the right. 

Now in his mid-70s [actually, I’m 64], Bruce lives with his wife of 43 years just outside the small town of Bryan, Ohio, and he spends his time fighting back against the ills he sees within the church. Most recently that fight has seen him highlight and take on those spreading the gospel of QAnon.

What he didn’t expect was that one of the people he’d be up against was his own son.

Gerencser describes his adult son, whom he didn’t want to name, as a “good kid, polite kid” and an “awesome son,” but he recalls that in January 2020 something changed, and soon he was having discussions about apocalyptic forces of evil and a coming storm. 

“Next thing I know, he’s buying a large number of firearms and ammunition and a bulletproof vest and warning that he’s preparing for what’s coming next,” Gerencser said. “And, you know, and I would say that what’s coming next, what we’re going to have open warfare in the middle of Bryan, Ohio.”

Like many who’ve fallen into QAnon conspiracy theories, Gerencser’s son has also embraced even more violent extremist groups, joining the Three Percenters militia group and espousing support for the leader of the Proud Boys.

But aside from the guns and militias, what shocked Gerencser the most was when his son one day turned around and said he’d returned to the church, joining a local Southern Baptist congregation.

When Gerencser asked his son why he’d rejoined the church, his son told him: “Because that pastor believes the same things I do.”

Gerencser is part of a small but dedicated group of current and former pastors attempting to counter the threat posed by the spread of QAnon within the evangelical community, something that’s happening from the pulpit and in congregations. While the number of pastors and churches openly embracing QAnon is limited, the conspiracy is spreading silently and quickly within the community, taking hold at a time when the church is hemorrhaging parishioners. Despite the dangers posed by QAnon within the church, very few are speaking up about the threat, preferring to bury their heads in the sand and hope the danger passes.

You can read the entire article here. Please do so, and then let me know what you think.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

18 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Darcy Walker

    Your son is buying a lot of firearms and ammunition because he bought into QAnon. Scary, paranoid. ☆ “When the Southern Baptist Convention appointed Ed Litton as its new president this past summer, he was asked about how he plans to address the issue of QAnon within the evangelical movement. Litton dismissed it as “a fringe problem.” ” Head in the sand approach. ☆ I text with a friend who is trying to trap a feral cat, and she texts me QAnon style weird statements. She has a small generator. Because of that freeze and power failure here in Texas this last winter, I may get one, too, and be able to power it from a solar panel on my scrap of balcony. Might give me a small sense of power over my life. She says that that cold spell and power failure were an example of how the Deep State is trying to kill us. Huh?! I didn’t bother asking why any political power would try to kill productive people. Of course she has an excuse for not getting vaxxed. ☆ Can I tie all these together? Maybe its partly how different people react when they feel a loss of sense of power over their lives and loss of trust in institutions. ☆ Bruce, thanks for helping to publicly expose people in power that we should not trust!

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Excellent article. I’m sorry you are at cross purposes with your son, but worse, that he’s paranoid. How is this article going to affect him?

  3. Avatar
    Troy

    FYI : they corrected your age in the article.

    I have to wonder about the bunker mentality. My friend’s father who died about 10 years ago, left behind about 7 pickup beds worth of ammunition. Interestingly, he identified as an unapologetic atheist, but also listened to the wackadoodle source at the time, shortwave radio.

  4. Avatar
    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Does your son get angry when you write blog articles like this one, or does he just ignore your blogging? I am concerned that my son (only 20 years old) is being lured into the black hole of right wing extremist ideology and politics. Sometimes, I wonder whether I should have lived as a straight-jacket conservative so my child would have chosen to rebel against me by becoming a liberal or progressive. What is a father of insight and spiritual discernment to do in such situations—–or given his now adult age—–is it just too late?

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      My son actually had an opportunity to participate in this interview but chose not to do so. My son is no longer on Facebook, having moved to private groups. I doubt that he reads my blog. We have not had a meaningful discussion in 20 months. 😢😢

  5. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, when people get sucked into the QAnon rabbit hole, it’s like the invasion of the body snatchers. It seems to happen without warning: that person you knew (at least you thought you did) and loved suddenly becomes someone you can’t recognize.

    Something your son said reminds me of a question I have: Do people attend right-wing Evangelical churches because they believe in its theology or its politics?

  6. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    At the end of the article: “But QAnon is a unique conspiracy that entices followers with the lure of secret knowledge, convincing them that they’ll be part of a great battle between good and evil, that they will be a digital soldier fighting on the front lines and saving the children. It’s alluring, and difficult to let go of.

    “It’s very hard for these people to give up, even the ones who know its complete hogwash, because what it does is it injects a kind of purpose and meaning in people’s lives,” Kubilius said.

    “It turns people into heroes; it convinces them that they are soldiers in a digital war for the soul of America. It’s very difficult to leave something like that behind.””

    Zoe: Honestly, this part here just reminds me of my former belief system. Evangelical Christianity. It has its own way of enticing &/or luring people, especially the vulnerable, convincing them that we are in a battle between good and evil. And talk about the children. It’s a key characteristic of evangelical Christianity. Get them while they are young. Save the children.

    Yes, it is difficult to give up. Even when you know and pastors know a lot of it is hogwash. It is not easy to walk away or even admit you’ve changed your mind and are going to leave. If there is a battle, it is when one leaves the hogwash and the supposedly good side comes after you. Talk about good vs. evil.

    Evangelicals are also taught that they are soldiers.

    It’s not difficult for me to see how evangelicals can easily slide into QAnon. Evangelicals trying to point our that the QAnon’s are wrong is ironic when they themselves stand on a crumbled foundation of diversity. Trying to win them back pontificating that they aren’t following the Bible accurately is just another way of saying, ‘we’re right, you’re wrong.’ Isn’t that the history of the church anyway?

  7. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    I’ve thought about this a bit as I have family – not immediate family, luckily, but family – who have jumped down the ant-rationalist ‘Q-anon’ rabbit hole.

    I have no idea, and am making no suggestion about, whether this is in any way true for Mr Gerencser Junior as described in the article. But I have come to believe that at least SOME of these people basically live their lives, work their personally meaningless jobs (unless they can find personal meaning in simply making some money for themselves and a lot more for their bosses), smoke way too much cannabis, and surf the internet. They see people – rich Hollywood actors, politicians usually towards the left of the currently accepted political spectrum, and others in the public eye (importantly) – that appear to be trying to use some of their time, influence and energy in order to try in some small way to make the world a better place. None of them are perfect, most far from it – but they’re doing what they can here and there and it’s being reported on over the internet. If our right-wing conspiracy irrationals took all this at face value they would have to ask some hard questions of themselves – “What am I doing with any of the relative power and privilege that I have, or with the spare time I’ve got, to do anything at all – far less anything good?” It is surely a lot more reassuring to convince yourself that these ‘do-gooders’ out there aren’t ‘good’ in any way at all. In fact – what if they are the polar opposite of good? What if they are baby-eating, satan-worshipping, pure evil, bad guys? Which would therefore make ME (sitting in my mother’s basement on the internet having done nothing of ANY kind worth speaking of for months if not years) the good guy?
    PHEW!

    And nor do these newly reassured ‘good guys’ actually have to do anything. They just have to BELIEVE the right things. The cults that reinforce these beliefs for them tell them that all they need to do is type “open your eyes sheeple” into internet chat rooms and forums and they ARE fighting the good fight on its frontlines. And I can see how seductive that might be if deep down you realised that you were either part of the world’s problems or – at best – just a waste of space and a keyboard.

    But what I don’t know is how we engage people like that in the human race before it gets to all that.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      My son is a manager for a local repair shop, a superb mechanic. Hard worker, makes good money, takes care of his family. That said, I know some extremists who are as you describe.

      • Avatar
        Davie from Glasgow

        Yes, apologies. I realise reading that back that it could come off as being quite rude about your son. And you also can’t really generalise about a group as big as that.

  8. Avatar
    Darcy Walker

    Bunker mentality? I did send for the power generator and solar panel. It’s not like having truckbedsful of ammunition. Totally different rabbit hole. 🙂 Just trying to do something with “the relative power and privilege that I have.”

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I haven’t seen my son since July — an inadvertent meeting at a dirt race track. It was good to see and talk to him. Since March 2020, we’ve seen our son a handful of times. Same goes for his children. He lives five miles from our home. It’s heartbreaking, to be sure.

      I’m more worried about local QAnon/militia/right-wing extremists in general than anyone specifically. Everyone knows who I am, where I live. That scares me more than anything.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser