Blog News

Blog News: You Can Now Use Markdown with Comments

simplified blogging

Cartoon by John Atkinson

Want to add HTML links or graphics or format your comments? Now you can with markdown. Readers familiar with using markdown are jumping up and down with joy!  Don’t know what markdown is or how to use it? Please check out the following articles:

Some of you might find these pages overwhelming, I encourage you to dip your toe in the water by trying some of the basic markdown functions. I love the fact that I can now add graphics to my comments. Sometimes, a graphic speaks louder and more effectively than words — you know, like the shit emoji for certain Fundamentalist commenters. 🙂 Just remember, if you want to add a graphic, you have to have a link to where the graphic is located. I hope to have, in the future, localized icon/emoji graphics that commenters will be able to quickly and easily access.

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Blog News: Changes to Email Subscriptions for Posts and Comments

blogging

As I previously mentioned, I am moving the email subscription service from Mailchimp to WordPress Jetpack. Some of you have already noticed the change and acted accordingly. Here’s what you need to know:

Daily Posts

  • Previously, posts were received in a digest form. I will leave this service operational for a week or so until everyone who wants to switches to the new service. Going forward, subscribers will receive an email every time a new post is published.
  • You can either subscribe by clicking the box the says Notify me of new posts via email. at the bottom of the comment section, or imputing your email address on the subscription form on the right side of the front page.
  • You can also read new posts via RSS feed (link requires feed reader). You will need a feed reader to read the comments. Feedly is a good option. If you are an iPad/iPhone user, Newsify is an excellent RSS feed reader.
  • Every new post will have links at the bottom you can click to either manage your subscription or unsubscribe. If you have any questions or have trouble subscribing/unsubscribing, please let me know.

Comments

  • Previously, readers could subscribe to comments without commenting. Going forward, that will no longer be the case.
  • When leaving a comment, you may receive notification of new comments by clicking the box that says, Notify me of new comments via email.
  • You can also read new comments via RSS feed (link requires feed reader). You will need a feed reader to read the comments. Feedly is a good option. If you are an iPad/iPhone user, Newsify is an excellent RSS feed reader.
  • The comment editing function will remain the same.
  • Every new comment email will have links at the bottom you can click to either manage your subscription or unsubscribe. If you have any questions or have trouble subscribing/unsubscribing, please let me know.

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Blog News: “Like” Function Added to Site

worst blog

Many of you have asked me to add a LIKE button to posts and comments. Late yesterday, I added this function. I see that a few of you have already availed yourself to clicking the button. Want to show your appreciation or agreement with a post or comment? Click the LIKE button. Want to show your dislike or disagreement? Go into a nearby room and scream. I’m sure I will hear you.  🙂

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Check Out Randy Withers’ Review of The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

worst blog

Randy Withers, a licensed professional counselor and clinical addictions specialist, recently wrote a review of The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Randy wrote:

Bruce Gerencser is an avid and prolific blogger who lives in rural Ohio with his wife of more than four decades. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years in three different states but left the ministry in 2005. In 2008 he left Christianity as well. He now considers himself a humanist and an atheist.

His blog is about that journey, and why and how he chose the path he did. His blog, by the way, is enormous. He’s got something like 3,000 separate entries. I mean, good lord.

Bruce Gerencser is my hero. For one thing, he’s got a huge readership, many of whom are pissed off Evangelicals who seem to believe that Bruce just needs a stern talking to about his errant ways.

Bruce does a great job of interacting with his readers in the comment section of his blog, which he both reads and moderates. I’m impressed by this, given the sheer vitriol that many of his Christian readers express towards some of his life decisions. He has the patience of Job (sorry for the reference, Bruce), and a matter-of-fact wit that is straight-up hysterical.

You can read the rest of the review here.

I appreciate Randy’s kind and thoughtful words. Finally, someone who appreciates my sense of humor.  As far as his critique of this site’s ancient theme, he is right. Readers can expect a new theme and design in the near future — that is, if the rapture doesn’t take place first. Well, come to think of it, I will be left behind when Jesus comes to gather up his chosen ones, so I’ll have plenty of time to work on a new theme.

Please check out Randy’s website, especially 10 of the Absolute Best Mental Health Blogs You Need to Start Reading in 2020.

Here’s to a mentally healthy 2020.

2020: My Plans for this Blog in the Year Ahead

worst blog

Thank you for reading The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser in 2019. Readership numbers were up over last year, and I hope this will continue in 2020.

Over the coming months, I hope to:

  1. Change and update the site theme
  2. Update broken links
  3. Update and refresh Facebook page and Twitter
  4. Finish off orphan series
  5. Start podcasting
  6. Update and expands and repost some of the posts from 2015
  7. Continue to write about Evangelicalism, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, and clergy crime (Black Collar Crime series)

Sometime, sooner than later, I must make a decision about what to do with the daily digest mailing list. Over the past two years, MailChimp has increased the cost of its service by 40% (25% rate increase last month) over the past two years. While the raw subscriber numbers show 931 subscribers, the metrics show that less than 10% of subscribers read one or more posts on any given day. It is likely that I will move the mailing list to Automattic’s Mailing list service via Jetpack. Readers may have to re-subscribe, and I am sure that a few readers will be pissed off by the move. Sorry about that . . .

Health willing, I hope 2020 is the best year ever for this blog. Your kindness and support are appreciated.

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2019: By the Numbers

blogging

What follows are the traffic statistics for 2019.

Statistics

Page Views: 851,666
Mailing List Subscribers: 931
Posts Written: 661
Posts from December 2014 to Date: 4,174
Comments from December 2014 to Date: 24,781

Top Twenty Commenters

  1. ObstacleChick
  2. Brian
  3. Brunetto Latini
  4. GeoffT
  5. Karen the Rock Whisperer
  6. Caroline
  7. Becky
  8. Mary G
  9. Matilda
  10. Hugh Young
  11. Melissa Montana
  12. Zoe
  13. Troy
  14. Kris
  15. CarolK
  16. Angiep
  17. Ami
  18. That Other Jean
  19. John Arthur
  20. Dave

Top Ten Incoming Links

  1. facebook.com
  2. infidel753.blogspot.com
  3. pathos.com
  4. reddit.com
  5. google.com
  6. secularwings.wordpress.com
  7. crooksandliars.com
  8. twitter.com
  9. freejinger.org
  10. instagram.com

Top Ten Locales

  1. Chicago, Illinois
  2. Dallas, Texas
  3. Houston, Texas
  4. Seattle, Washington
  5. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  6. New York, New York
  7. Charlotte, North Carolina
  8. Los Angeles, California
  9. Atlanta, Georgia
  10. Washington, District of Columbia

Top Fifty Pages

  1. brucegerencser.net
  2. Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult
  3. Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls
  4. Evangelical Pastor Dean Curry Starts New Church After Being Fired Over Sexual Misconduct
  5. About page
  6. Why I Hate Jesus
  7. Beware of Christian Counselors
  8. Cindy Schaap, Daughter of Jack Hyles, Divorces Convicted Felon Jack Schaap
  9. The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters
  10. “Why Do Liberals Think Trump Supporters Are Stupid?” by Adam-Troy Castro
  11. Black Collar Crime: IFB Pastor Jon Jenkins Moves to New Church After Decades of Controversy
  12. Evangelicals and the Gay Closet: Is Ray Boltz Still a Christian?
  13. Dear Evangelical
  14. Why
  15. UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored
  16. Quote of the Day: Why Atheists Refuse to Respect Christian Beliefs
  17. Southern Gospel Singer Kenny Bishop is Now a Gay United Church of Christ Pastor
  18. Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping “Fallen” Pastors Get Back on Their Horses
  19. Black Collar Crime: Independent Baptist Worship Pastor Kurt Stephens Busted in Prostitution Sting
  20. Black Collar Crime: Pastor Cameron Giovanelli Resurrects From the Dead, Found in Florida
  21. Emotionally Manipulating IFB Church Members through Music and Preaching Styles
  22. Black Collar Crime: IFB School Teacher Shannon Griffin Charged with Sexual Assault
  23. Black Collar Crime: IFB Preacher Cameron Giovanelli Accused of Sexual Assault
  24. Black Collar Crime Series
  25. Pastor Perry Porter Outraged Over Gay Man Giving A Presentation at Local Library
  26. Breaking News: IFB Preacher Bob Gray, Sr. Admits to Driving Church Members
  27. Black Collar Crime: Hyles-Anderson College Teacher Joe Combs Sentenced for Raping His Daughter
  28. Black Collar Crime: Mother of Alleged Victim of Evangelical Children’s Pastor Matt Tonne Speaks Out
  29. Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Benjamin “Gus” Harter Accused of Molesting Girl
  30. Steven Anderson’s “New” IFB Movement Erupts Into a Food Fight Over Donnie Romero
  31. Contact (Over eighty percent of people who click on the contact link do not follow through and hit send.)
  32. Abby Johnson is a Hypocrite When it Comes to Abortion
  33. Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Rick Iglesias Accused of Sexual Assault
  34. The Official Independent Baptist Rulebook
  35. From Evangelicalism to Atheism Series
  36. Why Evangelical Christianity is Dying
  37. Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Eric Garland Charged with Prescription Fraud
  38. The David Hyles Saga
  39. Black Collar Crime: Mennonite Aid Worker Jeriah Mast Accused of Sex Crimes
  40. IFB Pastor Bob Gray Sr. Shows His True Colors
  41. Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate: Oh Yes, They Do!
  42. Samantha Bee Shows Evangelical Trump Advisor Paula White is a Con-Artist
  43. Ohio Baptist Megachurch Pastor Victor Couzens Admits Having Multiple Affairs
  44. Fundamentalist Pastor Greg Locke Justifies Divorce From His Wife
  45. IFB Preacher Donnie Romero Caught Cavorting With Prostitutes, Smoking Weed, and Gambling
  46. IFB Church Member Takes Issue With a Post I Wrote about Tony Hutson and Middle Tennessee Baptist Church
  47. Comment Policy
  48. Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona
  49. What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused
  50. Why Pentecostals Speak in Tongues and Baptists Don’t

Top Twenty-Five Searches

  1. Secure search (199,028)
  2. Bruce Gerencser (and variations)
  3. David Lynn Preacher Arrested (and variations)
  4. Bethel Church Redding California (and variations)
  5. Jack Schaap (and variations)
  6. Bruce Gerencser Blog
  7. Jack  Hyles (and variations)
  8. Ray Boltz
  9. Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser
  10. Cameron Giovanelli (and variations)
  11. Abby Johnson
  12. Dean Curry
  13. Matthew Tonne
  14. Why are Evangelicals so Mean
  15. Donnie Romero
  16. David Hyles (and variations)
  17. Devil Worshipers
  18. Tullian Tchividjian Scandal
  19. Gus Harter
  20. Phillip Buckson
  21. Shane Idleman (and variations)
  22. Roy McClendon Thompson
  23. Christian Swear Words
  24. John McFarland Pastor
  25. Kenny Bishop

Search Engines Used

  1. Google (81%)
  2. Bing (9%)
  3. Yahoo (6%)
  4. Duck Duck Go (3%)
  5. Everyone Else (1%)

Operating Systems

  1. iPhone (38%)
  2. Android (27%)
  3. Windows (25%)
  4. Mac OS (8%)
  5. Everyone Else (2%)

Over 65% of visitors use a smartphone or tablet.

Here’s to a numerically successful 2020.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

2019: A Year of Trial and Adversity

2019

2019 proved to be quite a year for Bruce and Polly Gerencser. In January, Polly spent almost a week in the hospital due to complications from what would be diagnosed as ulcerative colitis. In July, doctors found a fistula between Polly’s colon and bladder. This caused fecal matter to enter the bladder. In August, the fistula led to life-threatening problems for Polly. She was hospitalized for almost three weeks at Parkview Regional Hospital in Fort Wayne. She had major abdominal surgery, and part of her colon and bladder were removed. The colorectal surgeon performed a colectomy. Polly currently has a colostomy bag. Hopefully, the colectomy will be reversed in late March 2020.

In a post titled, An Example of Our Broken, Costly Healthcare System, I detailed the horrific medical costs we’ve had this year:

Late on August 6, Polly was transferred by Williams County EMS — the only ambulance service in the county —  to Parkview. Polly would later have successful bladder and colon surgery. All told, she spent eighteen days in the hospital. Total cost for the January and August hospitalizations? $250,000. And that’s what our insurance paid, not what the various service providers billed. The sheer amount of the billings and various providers is mind-boggling, even to a man who spent most of his adult life handling church and secular business finances.

Our annual insurance deductible is $3,400. Our maximum out of pocket is $6,750. On top of that, we pay $84 a week for family medical coverage. Polly’s employer pays another $19,000 a year to provide our family insurance.  This means that we personally paid $11,118 this year for medical expenses. Add what Polly’s employer pays to this amount, and our total medical costs exceed $30,000. And, all praise be to the God of American Capitalism, this starts all over again come January 1. Well, with one change: our insurance premiums go up again, as they have most years over the past two decades! (Some years, premiums remained the same, and deductible and out of pocket maximums were increased. Over the past two decades, our deductible has increased 1,000% and our family maximum out of pocket has increased over 500%)

Polly’s March 2020 surgery will quickly escalate our total medical debt. Yes, we have insurance, but that doesn’t change the fact that the out-of-pocket expenses continue to accumulate. So far, we have been able to make payment arrangements. Depending on who gets paid first for Polly’s upcoming surgery, 2020 could be a challenging year. Parkview takes your balance and divides it by 12 — that’s your monthly payment. They refuse to extend payments beyond 12 months, threatening collection action if we don’t pay their demand. So, we shall see what 2020 brings — hopefully a loaded Brink’s truck.

My health remains the same — not good, but better than Polly’s. Woo hoo! Several weeks ago, I had a huge cyst drained. This cyst covered the area above my breast to under my arm, and from my sternum to my collarbone. The cyst is already returning, so I will likely have to have it surgically removed in 2020. Maybe not, if it doesn’t get any larger, but I suspect it will. The radiologist who drained the cyst warned me that it was pressing on an artery that could cause blood clots/stroke. Just one more problem to worry about, right?

Polly’s Fundamentalist Baptist parents are in failing health. I fear that one or both of them will die in 2020. I hope not, but it seems, from my observations, that they are just hanging on, waiting for the end. We will travel to Newark to visit them on Christmas Day. Polly’s aunt has terminal bone cancer. She’s on borrowed time. 2020 could be one of those years. Such is life when you reach our age.

I “retired” and started drawing Social Security in August. The added income has been a big help financially. We continue to have concerns over Polly’s job. The company she works for has been outsourcing parts of her department for the past two years. Oh, they call it strategic realignment, but the bottom line is that the outsourcing company pays its employees less and doesn’t provide insurance. This allows them to do the work Polly and her employees do at a cheaper cost. We would not be surprised if eventually her entire department is outsourced. If I had my way, Polly would retire. However, neither of us is old enough to receive Medicare, so attempting to live without insurance would likely be financial ruin for us. Income-wise, we would be fine; it’s just the damn insurance that’s the problem. It’s ALWAYS the insurance. I am 30 months away from being able to sign up for Medicare. Polly is three and a half years away.

I closed my photography business in 2019. I was operating at a loss, and I saw no way to turn it around, so I closed the business. Sadly, smartphones, Mommys with cheap DSLR cameras, and photographers who will work for next to nothing have pretty well ruined the photography business here in rural northwest Ohio. I continue to do paid work for family and friends. I also continue to do sports photography work for the local school district. This work gets me out of the house several times a week. Getting to watch high school sporting events is an added bonus.

This past year, two regular blog readers died: Steve Gupton and Pat Fields. Steve died suddenly at age 51 from a massive coronary. Pat died from kidney failure. She had been on dialysis for a number of years. Pat commented infrequently. Steve, however, was a frequent commenter. Rarely, did a week go by that I didn’t talk to him. I still have a selfie of Steve on my computer. I see it almost every day. I can’t bring myself to file it away.

There were good things that happened in 2019 too. I just hope in 2020, that on balance, the good things outweigh the trials and adversities. Yesterday, our family celebrated Christmas. Now, if every day could be like that . . .

Have a blessed 2020. May the God of reason smile upon you and your family.

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

2019: Thank You for Your Financial Support

pile of money

Here’s a picture of all the money I have made off of this blog.

Every year, a handful of people financially support the work I do. In 2019, the following people supported this site through Patreon, PayPal, or Facebook:

Monthly Patreon Donations

  1. Carolyn
  2. Marja
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Sally
  6. Brian
  7. Kerri
  8. Marc
  9. Steve
  10. Darcy
  11. Stephen
  12. Thomas
  13. August
  14. Michael

Total Patreon Contributions for 2019: $1,457

PayPal Donations (One on More Donations)

  1. Michelle
  2. Darcy
  3. Sally
  4. Diana
  5. David
  6. Robert
  7. Angela
  8. Geoff
  9. Randy
  10. Robert D
  11. Mary
  12. Sheila
  13. Lois
  14. Christine
  15. Heather
  16. Dean
  17. Randolph
  18. George
  19. Sonya
  20. Troy
  21. Joanna
  22. Janet
  23. William
  24. Larry
  25. Rosemary
  26. Olusiji

Total PayPal Donations for 2019: $1809

Facebook Donations

  1. Jo

Total Facebook Donations for 2019: $50

Website Costs for 2019

  • Web hosting (Flywheel) $980
  • Google (email hosting) $72
  • Yoast (SEO) $62
  • Name Cheap (domain registration) $10
  • Jetpack (site functionality) $108
  • Grammarly (writing aid) $70
  • Clicky (web stats) $120
  • WP Touch (mobile theme) $52

Total Website Costs for 2019: $1,474

Profit or Loss 2019

  • Total Income: $3,316
  • Total Expenses: $1,474
  • Income Before Taxes: $1,842
  • Federal/State/Local Taxes (Estimated): $360
  • Net Income: $1,482

Your ongoing monthly support is greatly appreciated.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

I Do Not Accept Phone Calls from People I Do Not Know

talking on the telephone

I don’t like talking on the telephone. My dislike for phone conversation stems from my days as a pastor. I would receive numerous calls from congregants who “urgently” needed my counsel or advice or needed someone to talk to. Never mind the fact that I had already worked a twelve-hour day, or that I had Fibromyalgia and just wanted to call it a day and crawl into bed. For whatever reason, I never developed ways to cut phone calls short. So, I would listen and listen and listen as people droned on about this or that problem, concern, or objection. Answering machines and voice mail finally allowed me to distance myself from callers, but by then I had developed a psychological aversion to talking on the phone. Today, I rarely talk on the telephone. Call me and you will get my voice mail. I make no apology for walling off my life from unsolicited, unwanted calls.

Every few weeks, a blog reader will try to reach me via telephone, Skype, Facebook Messenger, or Google Voice. After trying several times to reach me, these frustrated callers will email me and ask WHEN I plan on calling them back or WHEN is the best time to call me. The answer to both questions is NEVER. Want to contact me? Email me. I will do my best to respond to you in a timely manner. Yes, I am currently weeks behind with answering emails. If you need immediate help — most often counseling or advice — I suggest you contact a mental health professional. I will do what I can to help you, but I am not a counselor. My first priorities are self and family. (And I rarely talk to family on the phone. They know to text me if they want/need an immediate response.) “Bruce, you are selfish, thinking of only yourself!” Yep, and I make no apology for it. I spent most of my adult life helping others. I sacrificed my health and family for the sake of congregants and strangers. I don’t regret doing so, but I hope you will understand when I say that I have nothing left to give.

This blog is my offering to you; my way of helping people who are struggling with doubts about Christianity or who are trying to carve out a new life post-Jesus. Want me to address a particular issue? Please ask. Want to contact me? Please email me. I promise that I will, in time, answer your question or respond to your email. But, if you are waiting for me to return your phone call, you are going to be waiting for a long, long time. I hope you will understand. If not, or you are o-f-f-e-n-d-e-d, I don’t know what to tell you. I spent most of life living according to the J-O-Y acronym: Jesus first, others second, yourself last. I came to understand the acronym went something like this: Jesus first, others second, you don’t matter. Now that I am a humanist, I have learned that I must take care of myself first; then my spouse; then my children and grandchildren. And what I have left, I offer it to others. The best way to get a piece of what I have left is to email me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Please Do Not Offer or Send Me Unsolicited Medical Advice

chronic illness

My health is very much a part of my story. It is impossible for readers to understand where I have come from and where I am today without me telling them about my struggles with chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis. Over the past decade, I’ve not been shy about sharing with readers my health history. Unfortunately, in doing so, I have opened myself up to unsolicited medical advice from people who have diagnosed me from afar. In recent years, I have received emails, letters, telephone calls, texts, packages, and personal visits from people who are certain they know the cure for what ails me.

One woman — a former church member — would stop by my house every few weeks hoping to sell me super-duper, cure-all shakes that she was certain would return me to perfect health. I had to hide in my bedroom and have Polly lie to her about my availability. After months of attempts to evangelize me, the woman finally took the hint and stopped. At the time, she was on the shakes. Today? She has abandoned this miracle cure and continues to face debilitating health problems.

Well-meaning people have told me that this or that drug, this or that supplement, reiki, spinal adjustment, surgery, acupuncture, iridology, yoga, chakra alignment, mindfulness, homeopathic concoctions, essential oils, Native American rituals, magnets, diets — need I go on? — would infallibly cure me. Today, I received in the mail a list of books from a blog reader — some of which I have read — that, if followed, would supposedly put an end to my chronic pain. The gist of the books is this: your pain is all in your head.

I go out of my way to avoid interaction with readers when they put on lab coats and play doctors. I either ignore them altogether or I quickly say “thank you” and change the conversation. Yet, it seems no matter how many times I say, PLEASE DO NOT OFFER OR SEND ME UNSOLICITED MEDICAL ADVICE, people continue to ignore my request and offer advice anyway. What is it that says to some readers that they are free to disrespect me as a person? Is there anything ambiguous or unclear in PLEASE DO NOT OFFER OR SEND ME UNSOLICITED MEDICAL ADVICE? Do some readers think I am stupid or ignorant or lacking competent medical care?

I get it. I am the kind of writer who has swung open the door of his life, inviting such advice. However, I have politely asked that people not give me unsolicited medical advice. How hard can it be for readers (and family members) to respect my wishes and leave me alone? Can they not see that their tactics are no different from those used by Jehovah’s Witnesses or evangelizers from Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches? “Sir, we are here today to offer you something that will change and transform your life!” Never mind the fact, that I am not ignorant about what they are peddling, be it Jesus or a “cure” for Fibromyalgia.

Let me be clear. I am under the care of a team of competent medical professionals. I am well-educated concerning my afflictions. Unless researchers come up with new treatments, I am going to die “Just as I am.” I have resigned myself to the fact that a combination of what ails me will eventually lead to my demise. And I am okay with that. I do what I can to manage my symptoms. If I read of something that “might” be helpful, I bring it up to my primary care doctor. In the twenty-three years he has cared for me, he has NEVER said no to me; never refused an off-label drug or treatment that “might” alleviate my pain and suffering. “Let’s try it and see if it works.”  My orthopedic doctor treats me in a similar manner. He knows, based on x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, that I have arthritis from head to toe. He knows that surgery is not a good option for me, so he does what he can to alleviate my pain. The scans tell him that the pain is not in my head.

unsolicited medical adviceI know that writing this post and making it prominently available will do little to stop certain readers offering unsolicited medical advice. It is not like I can ban them or anything. As long as I have a widely read blog and make it easy for people to contact me, I am going to receive emails, letters, telephone calls, texts, packages, and personal visits from pretend doctors. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t bitch about it. Praise Loki for the power of bitching, amen? Amen!

Let me conclude this post with several excerpts from articles that address the issue of unsolicited medical advice. The first article is titled, Your Unsolicited Health Advice Isn’t Just Irritating. It’s Damaging. Sarah Blahovec writes:

You may be thinking, “These people [people who offer unsolicited medical advice] sound irritating, sure, but why are you making such a big fuss? They’re just trying to help!”

Of course, I get that they’re trying to help, and in some cases, it really is just a pet peeve that I’ll politely accept or decline and move on. But the thing is that constant unsolicited advice, questioning, and imploring to try something different becomes very invalidating. You don’t just hear a helpful tip to try, you hear that you aren’t trying hard enough, that using medication to treat your condition means that you’re giving up or aren’t willing to seek out a non-medicinal alternative. You hear that all of the work that you and your doctors have done, the tests, the procedures, the trial and error of different combinations of medications and treatments aren’t enough, and that you need to try a different path. You hear that if you did give these suggestions a shot in the past, you didn’t try long or hard enough, you weren’t following it correctly, or you bailed and took “the easy way out.”

It is frustrating to constantly hear the message that not only are you not trying hard enough to improve your own health, but that you and your doctors are not the most knowledgeable about your medical and lifestyle needs. A stranger or acquaintance took it upon themselves to say that they know more about your condition from a bit of Googling and a few books than your doctor with their experience and education, and you with your everyday, lived experience of actually having the medical condition. It is emotionally damaging to not only hear that you aren’t living with your disease correctly, but to always have to educate others on why their unsolicited advice is unwanted and harmful. Unfortunately, they usually just they reply that you’re overreacting and become offended that you won’t take their suggestion. This only adds to the emotional pain, and very often, the physical pain of a medical condition that can be triggered by stressful situations.

My message is this: please, please do not give advice when it is not specifically requested. If someone wants information about your lifestyle, your choice, or your product, they will ask you and they will do the research. If you do give advice and somebody says that they aren’t interested or asks you to stop, just respect their wishes. Nobody should be coerced into trying something they don’t want to try, and if you push forward with your advice, not only would they not listen, but they may become stressed, hurt, and invalidated by your inability to respect their wishes.

Trust that disabled and chronically ill people and their medical teams are the most knowledgeable about their own health and their medical and lifestyle needs. Trust that they will seek out you or the proper sources if they’re interested in what you have to offer. And out of respect for disabled and chronically ill people everywhere, please stop forcing your unsolicited advice upon those who don’t want it.

In an article titled, Please Give Me Your Support, Not Unsolicited Medical Advice, Megan Klenke writes:

I would rather spend the rest of my days banging my head against a wall than to continue trying to explain to people that their essential oils and kale will not cure me. OK, I’m being dramatic, but not as much as you might think!

If you’re anything like me, when you first became chronically ill (if you’re reading this as someone who’s sick), you possibly went through a naive stage early on in your illness. The stage where you believed the random person in an elevator who’s known you for two whole minutes who said that snake oil was God’s gift to the ill, or your aunt’s cousin’s brother’s half-sister who swears by this new detox where you only eat eggs for a month and every illness ever will be reversed, or some crap like that.

But seriously, there was a period of time at the beginning of me being sick that I desperately held onto the belief that I had control and would get better, so I tried anything and everything anyone presented to me. The worst was this “joint juice” concoction my dad ordered off an infomercial that tasted worse than words can describe. Yuck.

After awhile, it became something I did out of spite. Eventually there were few things left that I hadn’t tried, but when someone offered me something new, I would try it to prove to them how wrong they were.

When people constantly offer up these things, especially after I’ve spent time telling them my story, it doesn’t come off as helpful. I know, I know. People generally mean well. Sure. I’d like to say I believe that. But there’s condescension there almost always. And disbelief. And disrespect. It’s a smack in the face. It’s basically people saying to me that I just must not be doing enough or else I’d be better.

We as humans don’t like to lose control. We don’t. I certainly don’t. It’s not fun. We try to control every aspect of our lives. We love to plan out how every minute of everyday is meant to be spent and we think we can control that.

But the truth is, we can’t control everything. We cannot always control our bodies and our health. I know it’s scary to realize this, but it’s true. And I think that’s a big reason why one of the most common reactions people have to finding out that I’m chronically ill is to give me advice (that I didn’t ask for) on how to get better (from my incurable diseases). They want to help, but they want even more to keep up the illusion of control in their world. They’d rather believe that it’s essentially my fault that I’m not better because I’m not doing something right, because I don’t have the proper self-control, than to acknowledge the lack of control we have over our lives.

So what all of this unsolicited advice says to me is, “I didn’t listen to anything you just said because I’m scared of facing our lack of control and my mortality. I think you just don’t know what you’re talking about. I know better.”

That’s the truth of it. So the next time you’re thinking about offering up unsolicited advice to someone who’s chronically ill, it’s probably best to just…not.

Thank you for your love, kindness, and support. Many of you have come alongside me and brought understanding and encouragement during difficult times. It is enough for me to know that people care.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Happy Thanksgiving

john-piper-thanksgiving

I hope you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Eat, drink, and be merry. And watch some football too. Tell John Piper to go f**k himself. Is there anything that Fundamentalists won’t try to ruin? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.

I don’t plan to do much, if any, writing over the next few days.

Thank you, for your love, kindness, and support.

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