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Questions: Bruce, Do You Have a Good Relationship With Your Children?


Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

A reader recently asked:

Do you have a good relationship with all of your kids? Did any of them ever express resentment or say they’re damaged from being raised IFB (due to fear of hell, sexism, homophobia, general shame, etc)? Do you think it’s possible to still spend time with family members who are still hardcore believers when you’re raising your own kid differently without it damaging your kid?

My partner, Polly, and I have six adult children, ages 45, 43, 40, 35, 33, and 31 (on their next birthday). Four of our children are married or living in committed relationships. We have sixteen grandchildren, ranging in age from five to twenty-three. By all accounts, both Polly and I have good relationships with our children and their families. All of our children live within twenty minutes of our home in Ney. Some of them we see once or more every week. For others, it may be a few weeks between visits. Regardless, both Polly and I think we are close to our children and their families. Whether our children think the same, you would have to ask them. As a man who is largely homebound due to chronic illness and pain, I would love to see my children, their spouses, and grandchildren more often. I recognize they have their own lives, jobs, and responsibilities, but I do yearn for more visits and interaction, as does Polly.

What constitutes a “good relationship” depends on the parties involved. I have different experiences and relationships with each of my children. How they view me as their father is theirs to share. As far as I know, my children love and respect me. Over the past two weeks, I have seen all our children — save son #2; and he and I have stayed in contact via texts. On Sunday, our youngest daughter and her three children came over for lunch, as did our oldest son and two of his three children. He and our oldest grandson, Levi, cleaned out our gutters and unplugged the downspouts. Our youngest son mows our grass every week, and then stays for dinner. Last night, I talked with son #3 about a family problem he was having. We spoke for an hour.

Our family is close, and always willing to help us when needed. And we do the same for them. Could we be closer? Sure. Does our family have unresolved conflict or trauma? Sure, as ALL families do. That said, if you really want to know how our children view their relationships with Mom and Dad, you will have to ask them. I cannot and will not speak for them.

This reader also asked, “Did any of them ever express resentment or say they’re damaged from being raised IFB?”

Not towards their parents. They understand why we were IFB and Mom and Dad were devout Evangelical Christians. They don’t blame us as much as they do the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement itself. They know we were products of lifelong conditioning and indoctrination. As far as resentment is concerned, I have never sensed resentment from any of our children. The Gerencser family is quite stoic, living “live and let live” lives. Do we talk about the past? Sure. Are apologies made and regrets shared? Yes.

Our children, except Bethany — our oldest daughter with Down syndrome — own their own homes and live on their own. If one of them were a hardcore Fundamentalist Christian, could I still have a good relationship with him or her? I’d like to think so. However, I know sects such as the IFB are exclusionary, reactionary, and narrow-minded. This means that we might not be able to openly and frankly talk with them about certain things. Knowing this, I would do everything in my power to have a good relationship with them. Polly and I deconverted seventeen years ago. Our family remains close,

Our family is far from perfect, but I wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world.

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 Comment

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    It’s great that your children have communicated that they understand why you were living by IFB rules, and that they blame the system and not you. It’s difficult to parse out how an individual’s actions were influenced by a systemic force and how much is individual choice.

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