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My Response to IFB Pastor Patrick Holt’s Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News

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Earlier this week, the Defiance Crescent-News published Patrick Holt’s response to my letter about his previous letter.

Here is what I had to say:

Dear Editor,

Patrick Holt is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. Stuck in the 1950s, Holt thinks America would be great again if we just returned to the homophobic, racist, misogynistic 50s; a return to the days when Evangelical Christianity ruled the roost. Holt looks at our culture and sees decline, decay, and godlessness. He blames these failures on the removal of Bible reading, prayer, and the Ten Commandments from public schools. If only our progeny were led in daily prayer and Bible reading by their teachers and taught the Ten Commandments, our culture would magically return to the glory days of the 1950s.

That ship has sailed, never to return. The 1950s were hardly what Holt intimates them to be. Racism. Homophobia. Misogyny. Patriarchalism. McCarthyism. Criminalization of birth control and abortion. Shall I go on? Those of us who value social progress, equality, and equal protection under the law have a very different view of the world. We intend to push back when Evangelicals try to drag us back to the “good old days.” Evangelical Christianity is dying on the vine. Younger Americans are abandoning organized religion in record numbers. The number of atheists, agnostics, and nones continues to grow, now equaling Evangelicals as a voting bloc.

Holt would have us believe that the only thing keeping him from being a thief and murderer is Jesus. Is that not the conclusion we must come to when he says “Godlessness leads to lawlessness?” I don’t know about Holt, but I murder all the people I want to. I burglarize as many of my neighbors as I want to. I just don’t want to. The unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world have moral and ethical values — no God needed.

This Saturday, Defiance will have its first Pride Walk. I have no doubt that Holt will see this event as yet another sign of decay and depravity, a sign of the soon return of the dead Jesus. I plan to be at the Pride Walk. I am sixty-five years old, by all accounts a curmudgeon. Yet, I know that a better tomorrow requires justice and equality for all. I have thirteen grandchildren. I want a better future for them. I understand Holt’s beliefs. I once was an IFB preacher, an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I also know that it is possible to break free from the narrow, bigoted, anti-human beliefs of Evangelical Christianity.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Holt, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Grover Hill, Ohio, replied:

Dear Editor,

I recently wrote a letter concerning the past and recent mass shootings in schools. I mentioned that when I was in school that there were no shootings and that prayer, the Bible and the Ten Commandments were then present. People wanted those three removed and now our schools have mass shootings.

Also mentioned was the attempt at removing those three from our society. The published response never mentioned anything about the school shootings, just a number of accusations that the writer perceived in his mind.

The author did a “Wizard of Oz” trick. Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain? The wizard said something similar to this: “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Otherwise, divert attention away from the obvious.

The author, a former preacher and pastor, claims to know what I think and believe. Sorry, that’s not possible, unless you are prophet, a mind reader or the Lord Jesus. What do we have now? Mass shootings everywhere. Murder and crime are increasing rapidly.

The author states that Christianity is dying and that those without God are taking control. So in his words what we have today is a result of those without God taking control.

Remember you can decide what you want or do not want, but you cannot change what the result will be. Look around you folks. What is going on, according to the author, is a result of those without God.

Patrick Holt
Grover Hill

Tonight, I submitted a rebuttal to the newspaper.

Dear Editor,

What follows is my rebuttal of Patrick Holt’s recent letter to the editor.

I never mentioned Pastor Holt’s school shootings “argument” because it is absurd. Holt sees a connection between banning school prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments in public schools, and school shootings. When he and I were in school, cell phones had not been invented. There were few school shootings. Now virtually every public school student has a cell phone and we have frequent school shootings. Using Holt’s logic, I could easily conclude that cellphones caused the increase in school shootings. I can make the same argument with birth control. Absurd, right? Holt should stop reading the Bible, and read up on the “correlation implies causation” fallacy. Holt wrongly thinks that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between prayer/Bible reading/Ten commandments and school shootings. He provides no evidence for this claim other than he thinks it’s true.

Holt forgets the discussion we had on my blog. He is not a stranger to me. Further, Holt is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. I am generally considered an expert on the IFB church movement. I was raised in the IFB church, attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, pastored IFB churches, and I continue to closely follow the machinations of the IFB church movement. I know Holt’s beliefs quite well. Holt made no attempt to rebut my claims. I assume, then, that my assessment was spot on.

Holt’s soteriological and eschatological beliefs force him to see the world as fallen, in a continued state of decline. I reject his beliefs out of hand. The current attack by the religious right on women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and the separation of church and state rests squarely on the shoulders of Holt and his ilk. The “godless” have no power. While we “godless” are rapidly increasing in number, seven out of ten Americans identify as Christian. If Holt is looking for someone to blame, I suggest he look in the mirror. As a humanist, my goal is to make the world a safer place to live. Instead of blaming atheists for school shootings, put the blame where it belongs: non-existent gun laws, easy access to weapons of mass carnage, and our nation’s continued worship of the AR-15. The solution to school shootings is right in front of us. Or we could just keep praying . . .

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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  1. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    According to a study commissioned by the MJ Lisbeth Institute*:

    The French and Italians eat twice as much cheese as Americans and drink three times as much red wine as Americans or the British.

    The Germans, Belgians and Czechs drink three times as much beer as, and eat more sausages and other cured meats than, Americans.

    Yet the French, Italians, Germans, Belgians and Czechs have lower rates of obesity, cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart and liver disease than the British or Americans.

    Chile and Lebanon have some of the highest rates of smoking in the world. Yet they have lower lung cancer rates than the US, Australia or the UK.

    Therefore, the MJ Lisbeth study concludes, speaking English is hazardous to one’s health.

    *—The MJ Lisbeth Institute is privately funded through the sale of her book, “The Wit and Humor of Karl Marx” and Instagram photos of her cat.

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    Oh no no no. We must all be armed. And then we can go shopping or run errands and be ready to draw and fire at the first annoyance. Why, it’s positively Darwinian.

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    MJ, brilliant! I learned French and Russian long ago, but as Russia is massively sanctioned I suppose I should brush up on my French.

    So this pastor’s rebuttal build down to “you don’t know me”, “I am right”, and “everyone needs more Jesus”.

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      Since you of a scientific orientation, you might appreciate another MJ Lisbeth Institute study. Like the one about the hazards of speaking English, the findings and conclusions of this one were subjected to, and passed, MJLI’s rigorous standards:

      Males aged 15 to 24 consume, by far, more peanut butter, per capita, than anyone else.

      The states that consume the most peanut butter, per capita, are Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico. Hawaii consumes the least.

      In New York City, peanut butter sells best in Zip Codes 11212, 10451, 11433, 11207 and 10029.

      Males 15 to 24, as any student of criminal justice knows, commit the majority of violent crimes.

      Mississippi has the highest rate of gun violence among the 50 US states. Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and New Mexico are all in the top ten. Hawaii, on the other hand, has the lowest rate of gun violence.

      The above-mentioned Zip Codes have the highest violent crime rates in New York City.

      Therefore, the MJLI study has concluded that peanut butter is a cause of gun violence and other violent crimes and should therefore be banned.

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    ... Zoe ~

    Holt: ” People wanted those three removed and now our schools have mass shootings.”

    Zoe: Maybe because they are pissed, having discovered the lies they’ve been told by you.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Holt: ” People wanted those three removed and now our schools have mass shootings.”

      Or now there are Evangelical churches on every street corner, Christian TV, Christian radio, and Christian bookstores.

      I can do this all day, Pastor Holt. 🤣🤣

      With illogic all things are possible. 🤣🤣

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    There’s an aspect of this desire to return to the 1950s that I don’t hear people commenting on. As I understand it, the 50s were a prosperous time for the US. The rest of the world was still recovering from WWII. American industries were strong, and working people did well. Times and the world have changed, though. A lot of the happiness people remember had a lot to do with good jobs bringing in good incomes and nothing to do with all the regressive rules christianists want to impose on us.

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      REDINMN: Thank you for that statement. It sums up my experience; I started school in1950. there were some good aspects of that time period, but plenty of bad ones. For example, my husband’s parents were able to buy a nice new house in a new suburb, thanks to the G I Bill and other benefits. Years later I found out that those suburbs refused to sell to black veterans. We had prayer in school; it was composed by a committee to be as inoffensive as possible. One teacher insisted we hold our hands flat, fingers straight, palms together. Another teacher insisted we hold our hands with fingers interlaced. Very confusing, since we did neither at home. Parents insisted the prayers be stopped because the ones being used were not from the faith of the family. (I suppose this inoffensive prayer is better than the district I heard about where the students would brawl in the schoolyard about which prayer was “correct”) In seventh grade girls were assigned classes in cooking and sewing. Boys got “shop”. By the time my children were that age cooking, sewing and tool use were considered “life skills” and all students took those classes. One reason America lost its prime position in the world after the 1950s ended was that Europe and Asia had to rebuild after the war ended. Their cities, infrastructure and factories were devastated by the war; they rebuild with new technology. Our factories were about 40 years old, and could not keep up with new demands. We stayed still, they went ahead. If we lost our leadership role it was because we were too busy insisting on conformity to look forward.

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        The 1950s were pretty good if you were a returned white male soldier from World War II getting the benefits of the GI Bill, or if you were a woman happily married to one. You could have a nice house and a good income, two or more children, and a white picket fence–the proverbial American dream. My parents had it. The same dream didn’t come true for African Americans, Hispanic Americans,other ethnic minorities, single women, or LGBTQ people. Women couldn’t get credit cards in their own name and Jim Crow was in full swing. It’s older white folks who now wax nostalgic about the white-skinned, white-bread, English-only, conformist 1950s. Others don’t share that nostalgia.

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          Personally, I’d never want to go back to the 1950s for medical reasons. Medical conditions and illnesses that I and others in my circle have had, would have killed us early if we’d been treated for them then. My father died of a heart attack in 1957, he was a heavy smoker and ate a fatty diet. Science didn’t know the cause of lung cancer or about cholesterol then. He smoked cos his doctor said it would help with his ‘bad nerves.’ So no thanks. A x-tian once told me that the UK should return to victorian times when everyone went to church. I replied ‘Seriously? I’ve no desire to go back to any age that was before anaesthesia was invented.’ It seems to be part of human nature to look back to some past era as a golden age, glory days….which they weren’t.

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Bruce Gerencser