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Bruce, Your Health Problems Are God’s Judgment on Your Life

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Last week, I shared with readers my interaction with a former church member named Terry. Terry was a teenager and young adult in two churches I pastored in the 1980s and 1990s. You can read my responses to Terry here and here.

Terry decided to stop messaging me, leaving me with one final comment. After striking a conciliatory tone, Terry took issue with my use of swear words — three out of 3,000 words — saying, “Not sure why you have [to] drop foul language in you[r] blogs sounds ignorant and childish.” Sigh, right? (Please read Why I Use the Word “Sigh.”) It is almost always Fundamentalist Christians who get upset over my use of non-approved words. I addressed this subject in a post titled Evangelical Swear Words. I don’t use many swear words in my writing. If my sparse use of them offends you, then, by all means, stop frequenting this site. I wouldn’t want to cause any further anal clenching for you. 🙂

Terry also had one more judgment to hurl my way:

Have you considered your health might be a judgment from God.

Terry knows I have serious health problems. I explained all of these issues in my second response to him. Yet, he decided to say that the “real” reason for my suffering is that God is judging me. Terry is not the first Evangelical to make such a claim. How could Terry possibly know that my health problems are his peculiar God’s judgment on my life for walking away from Christianity? Only God could know this for sure, right? Yet, Terry and other Evangelicals, seem to think they can divine God’s will, purpose, and plan for what I have experienced in life.

While my gastroparesis and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) diagnoses were determined in the past three years, everything else I am dealing with: fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, neuropathy, and degenerative spine disease, all first showed their faces while I was still an Evangelical pastor. My debilitating pain predates my atheism. I was an on-fire, sold-out follower of Jesus when I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I was twenty-one years old the first time I had a problem with my spine. Polly, my partner of forty-six years, has many “fond” memories of the years I spent battling pneumonia and never-ending problems with bronchitis. She fondly remembers me spending a night in the ICU for a suspected heart attack, only to, thankfully, hear I had pleurisy. She remembers me almost dying from mononucleosis in the early 1990s; hearing the internist at the hospital tell her that if my immune system didn’t pick up there was nothing he could do for me. She almost was a widow at a young age.

Evangelicals who say my health problems are God’s judgment seem to be clueless as to how their words are “heard”; either that, or they don’t care. Do they really believe that telling me that their peculiar God is inflicting me with pain and suffering for no other reason than I lack sufficient evidence to believe in or worship him will lead me back to Jesus?

In 2023, I wrote a post titled, Bruce, You Are Sick and in Pain Because God is Trying to Get Your Attention. I said, in part:

I have a three-year-old redheaded grandson named Silas. He’s a handful. Silas has no fear of anything. He must be watched at all times. Our living room is small, 16’x20′. We have three lamps in the room, along with an overhead light. I HATE the overhead light. My grandkids know not to turn the light on when I am in the room. Not Silas. He will run over to the wall switch, give me a look — you know, THAT look — turn on the light, and run off. No matter what I say or do, Silas keeps flipping the switch. Mischief is his middle name, some sort of karmic payback for my own childhood mischief. If my mom were alive, she would be smiling.

Imagine if I determined to teach Silas a lesson about the overhead light. I decided that the next time Silas turned the light on I would break his arm. Boy, that would get his attention, right? This is EXACTLY what Evangelicals are saying when they say that God has afflicted me to get my attention or to teach me a lesson. What, exactly, did I ever do to God to deserve such punishment? Or is God okay with Bruce, the Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist, and it is Evangelicals who want to see me suffer? Sadly, many Evangelicals are sadists. Unbelievers have what they can’t have, so they rail against them, uttering threats of suffering, death, and Hell.

If I broke Silas’ arm because he kept turning on the light, I would deserve to be arrested and locked up for my crime. So it is for the Evangelical deity who inflicts suffering on finite beings. If such a deity exists, he is unworthy of our worship.

As far as my pain and suffering coming from God is concerned, I wrote:

Let me circle back around to this idea that God gave me fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, and degenerative spine disease because he is trying to get my attention; that every night I writhe in pain in bed, unable to sleep, my suffering is a message of love from the Christian deity.

What’s with God “trying” to do anything? Is he weak and powerless, unable to do what he wants? If God is not willing that any should perish, how is possible that Bruce Gerencser, a frail, broken-down biped, can thwart God’s will? Surely God can easily and effortlessly reach me at any time. “Nothing is too hard for God” and “with God all things are possible,” the Bible says. Yet, it seems that saving me is too hard for God and that it is impossible for the Big Kahuna to reach me.

If my suffering is God trying to get my attention, does this mean that if I repent and put my faith and trust in Jesus, my chronic pain and illnesses will immediately and magically disappear? Crickets are all I hear from Evangelicals. They know there is no connection between my health problems and God. None. Shit happens, and this is my shit to deal with.

As I told one Evangelical zealot several weeks ago after she said she was praying God would totally heal me, if God heals me I will immediately repent and become a Christian. I will shutter this blog and immediately return to church. I might even become a pastor again. What a miraculous story I would have to tell. The Defiant Atheist Bruce Gerencser Brought to Repentance and Faith By God Delivering Him From Pain and Suffering!! What a story, right?

And a “story” it shall remain. As much as I would like to go to bed tonight without pain and debility, I know that God is not going to heal me. This is my lot in life, and no amount of praying will change this fact. God isn’t judging me. I am paying the price of admission to the human race. I accept that this is just how things are.

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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    Me too Bruce. I’d also repent in a heartbeat if God healed my infirmities. For a start, I wouldn’t mind being healed of a few of these 86 years which have become burdensome sometimes. OK, ALL times. Heck I won’t ask much. I’d settle for being 60 which I now realize was very young. Ah well, SIGH!

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    It is a horribly sad belief to think god punishes people with serious health issues just get their attention. They fact that Christians like Terry willingly prey on the vulnerabilities of people speaks volumes about their belief system.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    What this Terry hasn’t bothered to consider when it comes to this subject of multiple ailments is the role epigenetics plays in health conditions and events. Insurance companies are slow to catch on to just how amazing it would be for both patients and doctors if insurance could pay for such promising therapies. Even red hair has a role to play here, because of recessive genes that are tied in with the trait. While looking up one study, I’d seen the one regarding red hair, and inflammation. PRP is just a start,when it comes to using stem cells and other things for treatment.

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    I’ve been told that my mental health problems are from me turning away from God. Or, that Satan is trying to get my soul. “If you would be a better person, then God wouldn’t allow those terrible things to happen to you.” 🙄
    Not helpful, Christians.

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    Regardless of the obvious silly fool nonsense that this way of thinking intuitively feels, it doesn’t stand scrutiny on its own terms. God, according to Christians, gives you free will, enabling you to either believe or not believe. Rewards are in the next life, as are punishments. If God starts interfering by making you ill, or rewarding you (say by giving you two private jets), then he’s taking away at least some of your free will.

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    ... Zoe ~

    I came out of the same stuff that Terry is in. Sick? Your (my) fault. Or, maybe Satan’s fault because you (me) are doing such a great job for the Lord. Or, you (me) must have some deep secret sin in your heart and need to confess said sin?

    Such a heavy back pack those in this belief carry on their shoulders.

    Then when the pastor is caught in sin, his illness is blamed on the church congregation not doing their fair share of service. Or, not tithing enough. Or, not praying for them.

    Then when the fundamentalist is dying, they despair furiously of trying to stay alive and search like hell for the sin, or your sin, or for whatever clue that will help them stay here. Ever notice that a fundamentalist is never in a hurry to spend an eternity with their Saviour?

    Terry’s backpack is full of this stuff and so much more. And one of the things in that backpack is telling other people their illness is because they are sinning. Terry doesn’t know any better. He can’t think it through. If he does he’s going to swear and that’s another thing in his backpack.

    How heavy it is Terry. I remember.

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    Oh Terry, why did you have to go there? Bruce told you he suffers from a lot of ailments. Where is your compassion? Why couldn’t you have shown a bit of empathy toward someone you used to regard fondly? Or just said nothing? If your Jesus would have said this to Bruce, he’s a real a$$hole and you should reconsider his teachings. If you came up with this yourself, perhaps you should examine yourself.

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    The ignorance that comes from the mouths of Christians like this is astounding. It is no surprise that the vast majority of of people who share his dogma are Trump supporters. They lap up the ignorant blathering from their orange Jesus as though it’s manna from heaven. (Sigh)

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    Preacher back home used to say that the unruly people in his “flock” had infirmities because of their rebellion and sinfulness. But anytime something happened to one of the perfect people, god was building their faith and character.

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    Brian Vanderlip

    The trouble with being saved like Terry is it harms the boundaries of decency if you are not very careful. You see, Terry, you have admitted you are a pile of stinky dung without your belief and that might make you stink sometimes. When you include others in your self-harm (above) as if you are doing them a favour, your odor may become most oppressive. You might think you are offering knowledge, the opportunity of knowledge but your opportunity is an insult. We call that a misstep, not a sin, not proof of your evil heart or whatever… You can see that, if you like and offer another, better perspective, or you can go to Sunday School to feel better. Both choices are always yours to freely choose, I trust. As for Bruce Almighty, well, he’s already judged because I know for a fact he thought of breaking a child’s arm for merely touching a light switch. Yes, that was in his head for sure and he’s bound to pay for it! Every thought, Terry! Every private _______. Boyzzz it’s gittin’ warm in here!

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    So what’s Terry’s explanation of other illnesses, say a child with terminal cancer?
    Terry is a fine example of why I no longer believe. A god who will hurt someone on purpose (See what you made me do?) is a narcissistic asshole.

    Terry, while definitely not a god, is also an asshole.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    I was just reading the blog,Homeschoolers Anonymous( it’s just heartbreaking to read of the ordeals of these survivors, once small children, and it’s not a stretch to imagine most of these Fundie parents breaking a toddler’s arm, because they disobeyed the command to not touch the light switch. Many of these same parents ARE members of IFB churches. Terry, you know very well that Bruce was not that kind of pastor,or parent,like so many church goers are ! And you have to know by now, that nagging people never works. I’m a Christian, and that’s not changing. Just the same, this blog is a refuge for those who were or are being spiritually abused, have church- based trauma, and the Black Collar series is both a community alert,and a deterrance to anyone thinking about doing the same things those now- convicted felons have done ! I really benefit from reading Bruce’s writing , and look forward to new posts all the time. A mug of hot Lipton tea and Bruce’s blog, daily. I’m a better believer for it, and certainly, there are examples what a Christian should NOT be doing, like Tee Hee and Reviled& Fired. While a practicing Christian, Bruce went above and beyond the call of duty, and beyond what most pastors are willing to do for others, since it’s been my experience as a person who has lived all over the country, that American pastors chase the big bucks, power, prestige, and are classic narcissists. Too lazy and disinterested in others’ lives and woes. You know yourself the kind of pastor he was during those years,right ? Christian nagging doesn’t work – so stop it ! Just stop ! Bruce has already told everyone that if something supernatural happens, that can’t be refuted, he’ll return to Jesus. You know where he stands on the issue. Grow up, and quit bothering the man !

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    Terry reminds me of the (modified by me a bit) “I-95 song” (q.v.). ♫Was Terry borrrn an asshole or did he get it from IFB?♫ I suppose health problems are the bane of existence (and good old fashioned entropy), rather than the wrath o’God. The older you get the more health problems you’re going to get. With Bruce one need to look at living in poverty, hard working man with a large family and overworked and underpaid for the LORD. Someone mentioned red hair and recessive alleles, could be that too. Either way, modern science has made living to 66 seem less astonishing that it should be. In 1900 you’d be lucky to make it out of your 40s… And people were MUCH more religious back then.

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    John S.

    Bruce please forgive me for stating the obvious- you are better off without Terry in your life. One less self righteous True Christian®️ you have to walk on eggshells around because you don’t know what their going to say about whatever is happening to you or someone else you care about, etc.
    And Terry, Bruce is and will always be alot more “Christ like” than you’ll ever hope to be. Why, you might ask? Because he cares about people and not ideology. He judges on the content of character and not on the content of religious belief.

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    It sure is sad the unkind nasty things said about Bro Terry who loves you all enough to share the gospel with you.

    It’s like running over the person who told you the bridge is out.

    Jesus said it would happen though.

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      John S.

      John- I can’t speak for anyone else, but I am quite familiar with the Gospels (there are four of them in cannon). I don’t recall Jesus telling the Centurion that his servant was terminally ill because he was (most likely) a pagan and God was punishing him for serving in the Roman army by killing his servant. Maybe if he become “Jewish”? His servant might have lived. Oh, I also don’t recall Jesus hectoring Zaccheus the tax collector because he was in service to the Romans and had a habit of unethical conduct in how he carried out his job..or Jesus agreeing with his disciples that the blind man was blind because of his own sin or that of his ancestors..I think I missed that, maybe Bruce can help me out. He does actually know the Gospels quite well, too, considering he spent most of his life studying and preaching from the Bible.
      I’m sure Bruce associates with many Christians who are actually “sharing” the Gospels- By wishing him well, respecting him as a human being. By respecting the fact that he has sacrificed most of his life for a version of Christianity that Jesus as portrayed in the Bible would not approve of.
      Terry could have expressed his views in a lot more of a respectful manner. Instead he chose to lecture a man far older than him, who has done more for other people than Terry will ever conceive (both as a Pastor and currently as a moderator of this page) about religion. Sorry, I don’t see “sharing the Gospel” in how he communicated. Just my opinion, nothing more.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Terry wasn’t really sharing the Gospel with Bruce or fellow readers here- he was merely doing what is known as ” Christian nagging.” Usually it’s parents who feel compelled to nag kids who hate going to church, to get up and go to church with the parents. While it’s understandable to want Bruce to return to belief in Jesus, nagging, guilt mongering and threats don’t work. Bruce has stated what WOULD work. I would give that some thought.

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      John, Bruce said what it would take to get him back. Full healing.

      And there are countless Charismatic / Pentecostals who would return if only the promised tenfold return on their offerings happened. After all, the Bible itself says, “Prove me and see if I won’t open heaven’s floodgates after you give.

      Been giving. And waiting. And giving. And waiting. And giving. And waiting. But so far … crickets.

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      You’re an asshole too, John. Go fellate the Holy Spook in the privacy of your own prayer closet – we aren’t interested in pious performative preacher porn here.

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