Bob was my mom’s brother-in-law. Married to my dad’s sister, Bob was a rough-and-tumble truck driver and dirt-track race-car driver. Bob’s parents were devout Fundamentalist Baptists. Bob was raised in the church, and at the age of seventeen he walked the sawdust trail at a revival meeting and asked Jesus to save him from his sin. According to Independent Fundamentalist Baptist theology, Bob was now an eternally saved child of God.
After high school, Bob left home and abandoned the Baptist faith of his parents. Over the next six decades, Bob lived as if God did not exist. In every way, he lived as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. He was a booze-drinking skirt chaser known for sexually harassing and assaulting women. Female family members knew to steer clear of Bob lest they find themselves a target of his sexual advances. Age didn’t matter to Bob, and more than a few teen family members endured his touches, squeezes, and other demeaning behaviors.
Women got “used to” Bob’s sexual assaults. Viewing him as harmless, they would recount to me, “Oh, that was just Bob being Bob.” It was the 1960s and 1970s, after all, and that’s just how men were, I was told. As I will share in a moment, Bob was anything but harmless.
In early 1969, we lived east of Farmer, Ohio in a farmhouse owned by my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. I was in the sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home from school sick. I spent the day in bed recuperating. In the early afternoon, Bob pulled into the drive. I figured he was there to see my mom, so I stayed in my room. A short time later, Bob left and I heard my mom calling my name. She was crying, saying that Bob had just raped her. She asked me to go to the neighbor’s house and call someone (I can’t remember who). I did, but no one ever came to our home.
You see, Mom had mental health problems — lots of problems. This meant, of course, in the minds of “healthy” people, she couldn’t be relied on to tell the truth. Bob was well-known in town. Bob would never rape anyone. Yes, he was a “little” too friendly with women, but, hey, that was just “Bob being Bob.” A few months later, we moved to Deshler, Ohio. Mom never talked about Bob after that. I suspect that she buried the rape deep in the recesses of her mind, right next to memories of her father repeatedly sexually assaulting her as a child.
Bob died a few years ago. His funeral was held at First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. Bob’s parents helped start this congregation and were pillars of the church for decades. I attended First Baptist as a teenager. I went to Bob’s funeral, wanting to see what kind of send-off the once-saved-always-saved Baptists would give Bob, the Saved Rapist. The pastor, John MacFarlane, gave a sermon that spoke of the night sixty years prior that Bob had been gloriously saved, and that he was now in Heaven with his mom and dad. The pastor never mentioned that Bob hadn’t darkened the doors of the church since the 1960s and he, in every way, lived a life of debauchery. The pastor cared more about protecting the memory of Bob’s parents than he did telling the truth. I have seen this behavior countless times over the years: degenerate people preached into Heaven, all because they mentally assented to a set of theological propositions. And therein lies the vulgarity of once-saved-always-saved soteriology. It’s the same theology that says I am still a Christian, and that no matter what I say or do I will go to Heaven when I die. Just pray the right prayer, believe the right things and Heaven is yours!
As the funeral service went along, I found myself becoming increasingly angry. I wanted to rebuke the pastor for his lies. I wanted to scream at the congregation for their willful ignorance of what kind of man Bob really was. Most of all, I wanted to be my mom’s voice. Not a mile away, Mom lay silent in her grave. Oh, to bring her to life again so she could give testimony to what Bob did to her! On that day, I so wished that there was a Hell. If anyone deserved endless torment, it was Bob. Alas, there is no Hell, so the only satisfaction that comes from Bob’s death is that no other woman will ever have to suffer the indignity of being sexually assaulted by him. I wish Mom had been alive to see Bob meet his end. Unfortunately, fifteen years prior, Mom turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, ripping a hole in her heart. Her beautiful, tragic life instantly came to an end at age fifty-four, due in no small part to men who saw her as an object of sexual desire and gratification, and not as the thoughtful, intelligent — and yes, beautiful — human being she really was.
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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Bob, your grandfather, and Pastor McFarlane make me sick. Too bad you couldn’t scream during the funeral.
I have no words. My heart hurts for her and for you.
Bruce, I wish that you and your mother didn’t have experiences like the one you described. I admire your courage in sharing it.
Your description of the funeral had me envisioning the one for the priest who sexually abused me as a child. I wasn’t present for what was probably another priest making the case for his entry through the Pearly Gates, but I imagine he told lies like the ones Pastor MacFarlane told.
It’s horrifying the lies evangelicals tell to prop up the street cred of the man, the myth, the legend Jesus Christ as the one who saves and changes people from horrible sinners to washed-in-the-blood True Christians (TM).
My family used to tell everyone that “unsaved” relatives “got saved” right at the end before they died. When I was a teen, Uncle T who had been on kidney dialysis for years deteriorated and died. Uncle T had been a notorious alcoholic for years until his kidneys failed. Of course, the evangelical family members told everyone that Uncle T totally got saved before he died! Praise the power of Jesus. A couple of years ago, I found out that Uncle T had sexually abused his 2nd son throughout that son’s youth, then disowned the son after he came out as gay. I don’t know if Uncle T sexually abused his other 4 children.
And then there was Uncle J who was a retired career army veteran of 2 wars who was also a notorious alcoholic and loved reading works by philosophers. Uncle J had no use for religion. Yet, miraculously, Uncle J got saved at the end too! Praise Jesus! Around the sane time Uncle J’s sister and her husband took Uncle J into their home to live and convinced him to change his will so that they inherited everything. The sister’s husband was also known for being a “creepy uncle” to my mom’s generation. Jesus didn’t see the need to interfere though.
This reminds me of my childhood church where one of the church deacons confronted the preacher’s wife out in the parking lot and threatened to rape her if she didn’t order her husband to stop a black family from visiting our Southern Baptist church. Not long after that the preacher moved his family away and I lost my best friend, their daughter, and the only preacher I have had an ounce of respect for. I formed my opinion of churches and organized religion there as a small child between that and fact we were taught in sunday school that only white people would go to heaven. Being a mixed race of Native American descent I worried where that left me as I was apparently born the wrong race.