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Category: Evangelicalism

Bruce and Polly, My Final Wish is That You Come Back to the Lord

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, in front of first apartment in Pontiac, Michigan, Fall 1978 with Polly’s Grandfather and Parents

For Bruce and Polly Gerencser, 2020 has gushed into 2021, washing over virtually every aspect of our lives. Now that an adult is president, we are confident better days lie ahead. We watched the White House press briefing today. Oh my, what a refreshing difference from the insanity of the Trump years. Dr. Tony Fauci spoke about the Coronavirus Pandemic and how the Biden Administration plans to address a virus that will likely kill over 500,000 Americans by the first of March. So refreshing (and sobering), to say the least.

While it is nice to see a glimmer of hope here and there, I can’t help but be physically reminded that I am very sick and there seems to be no end in sight for my struggles. I saw a gastroenterologist yesterday, hoping that he might have some sort of magical cure. Alas, none is forthcoming. The bile reflux problem I am having is the direct result of having my gallbladder removed last August. Bile reflux is a known complication of the surgery — which was never explained to me by my surgeon — and all that can be done now is to treat and manage the symptoms: bowel pain, weight loss, lack of appetite, intermittent constipation/loose stools. Currently, I am on three medications. The doctor wanted to add one more drug, but the cost was so prohibitive I couldn’t fill the prescription. Our insurance doesn’t have a drug plan, per se (outside of life maintenance drugs). Thus, we have to pay the full cost for prescriptions until we reach our $3,400 deductible. Then we pay 80/20 until we reach our maximum out of pocket, $6,700. In 2020, our total medical costs were almost $10,000.

If these drugs don’t work as expected, then the next step is having a procedure where the doctor injects the pylori sphincter muscle in the stomach with Botox, paralyzing the muscle. This treatment typically lasts 3-4 months. When the doctor was explaining this procedure to me, I couldn’t help but make a joke about getting Botox injections for the wrinkles on my face. When I want to cry, I try to look for a joke — somewhere, anywhere — to take my mind off my afflictions. Some days, nothing stems the flow of tears. To use a worn-out cliche, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

And if that was not enough to deal with, Polly’s 85-year-old mom had a heart attack on Tuesday and was rushed to the hospital. You might remember, Polly’s dad suddenly died several months ago. We also found out that Mom has stage three/four kidney failure — something she has known for a year but ignored because she “felt” fine. Mom has had congestive heart failure for years, and while in the hospital this time, the doctor put in a stent. This made a big difference for Mom, but the long-term prospects for her don’t look good.

Polly called her mom just before she went in for her heart catheterization procedure. Mom, short of breath and having difficulty speaking, told her only daughter, “my wish for you is that you come back to the Lord.” I suspect Mom knows the end is near and she wants to be sure she makes her dying wish known to us. Polly thanked her mom, changed the subject, and told her that she loved her. This is the second time in twelve years that Mom has said anything to Polly (or me) about our loss of faith. Outside of telling us that she is praying for us, our unbelief has remained THE elephant in the room. We have not had one meaningful discussion with Polly’s mom (or dad when he was alive) about why we left the ministry and later walked away from Christianity.

We certainly want Mom to have her every need met as she nears the end of her life. We have no desire to cause her unnecessary pain or disappointment. However, her wish is one we cannot fulfill. Had she taken the time to understand why we deconverted, she would have known that mere wishing will not bring us back to the faith. If only wishing would change our lives, right? In a humorous moment last night, I told Polly, “I wish for strippers and millions of dollars!” We both had a good laugh, not at Mom, but the idea that wishing can make anything happen.

Mom is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). Her late husband was an IFB preacher for many years. I pastored several IFB churches, and Polly was right there beside me every step of the way. I am sure Mom sincerely thinks that if we would just return to those days, that all would be well. She could die happy, knowing that we would someday join her in the IFB version of Valhalla. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen — ever.

As much as we want Mom to leave this mortal life with a smile on her face, we can’t dismiss our beliefs and come back to Jesus just to make her (and other family members) happy. As with many atheists and agnostics, the only thing that will possibly change our minds is evidence; evidence for the existence of the Bible God; evidence that the central claims of Christianity are true; evidence that Jesus is who Evangelicals claim he is. We cannot and will not just “faith-it until we make it.”

I fear that after Mom dies, we will face one last effort by IFB family members and Mom’s pastor to reel us in for Jesus. “Don’t you want to join your mom in Heaven?” “Don’t you want the family circle to be unbroken?” Maybe we will hear one last warning about God’s judgment and the Lake of Fire or Pascal’s Wager will be trotted out for the 10,000th time. None of these tactics will work. As confirmed as IFB family are in their beliefs, so are we in our unbelief. Trying to guilt us into believing will not work.

As Polly and I prepared for bed last night, I told her of my concerns about settling Mom’s affairs after she is gone. It’s going to be a mess, but as the only daughter, it falls on Polly to take care of everything. We live almost 4 hours from Mom’s home, so, in the midst of a pandemic, we will have to risk our health to take care of everything from the funeral to paying bills to clearing out her apartment. This is certainly not something that we are looking forward to. But, when you are an only child, the burden is yours. And as the dutiful child she has always been, my dear wife will take care of things.

I reminded Polly that once all these things are done, we will get in our car and drive home, never to return to Newark, Ohio — a place of so much heartache. We will lament Mom’s passing, but seeing Newark in the rear view mirror? We will rejoice, knowing that we no longer have to deal with a church and (some) IFB believers who have caused us harm. I am sure it will be a sad, but liberating, moment.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.

Bruce, I Was an Atheist Like You Before I Found Jesus

adam savage quote

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Over the years, countless Evangelical Christians have told me, “Bruce, I was an atheist like you before I found Jesus.” Typically, my pithy answer is this: “No, you weren’t.”

Usually, this line is used by Evangelical apologists trying to get me to see that they “understand” where I am on the God issue. However, when pressed, they usually reveal that they were not as atheistic as they claimed to be, or they wrongly believed that not being a Christian means you are an atheist. Each of us was born into this world without any religious belief or moral framework. No one is born a Christian. This is the clear teaching of the Bible and every Christian denomination. To become a Christian, a person must commit to becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. One must embrace the Christian gospel and profess a desire to follow Jesus. This profession of faith is different from sect to sect. Some require a person to be baptized, while others require the person be confirmed or make a public profession of faith.

These rituals do not take place in a religious vacuüm. The United States is predominantly Christian, so it should come as no surprise that most Americans embrace the Christianity of their family and culture. Religion is inherently tribal, as can clearly be shown by looking at what the dominant religion is in a particular place. There are historical, geographical, and sociological reasons why, in a certain locale, most people are a certain flavor of Christianity (or a different religion altogether). For example, most Christians in the South are Evangelical and Baptist, while here in the North, Methodists and mainline sects have a greater foothold. Even at the local level, we see dominate sects, such as in nearby Archbold, Ohio where the Mennonite sect has numerous churches, or parts of rural northwest Ohio where Lutheran churches dominate the religious landscape.

The atheist-turned-Evangelical-Christian and I began life the same way, but our stories are very different from there. Like the Evangelical apologist, I too became a follower of Jesus Christ. For almost 50 years I was a devoted follower of the Lord, but at the age of 50, I left Christianity and embraced atheism and humanism. This was an open, honest, and sincere intellectual choice of mine, unlike many people who are Christians because they grew up in the Christian faith, and not because of any intellectual choice of theirs.

Most Evangelicals who say they once were atheists never made honest intellectual choices to become atheists. They were non-believers by default, and at some point in their lives, they decided to become followers of Jesus Christ, or their parents decided for them. They took off their non-believer clothing and put on the robes of Jesus Christ’s righteousness. One day they were unbelievers, and the next day they were Christians. This is not how the process worked for most of the atheists I know.

Many atheists were at one time, like me, devoted followers of Jesus. Our deconversions weren’t a matter of taking off the righteousness of Christ and putting on shirts with a scarlet A. Most of us spent months and years reading and studying before we concluded that the claims of Christianity are false and the Christian God is fiction. For some atheists, due to family and social pressures, they spent decades in the atheist closet, unwilling or unable to declare their godlessness.

While I can point to a definite place and time — on the last Sunday of November in 2008 — when I dared to say out loud I no longer believe, I spent years getting to that point. My journey took me from the strict Fundamentalism of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement through Calvinism and generic Evangelicalism to emergent Christianity and liberalism, and on to universalism, agnosticism, and atheism. Every step along this path was laden with emotional and mental anguish. The hardest decision I’ve ever made came at the moment when I was willing to say that I no longer believed. Making this decision meant I was saying that my previous life as a Christian was based on a lie.

So, I say this to Evangelicals who say they once were atheists: Yes, you may have been an unbeliever, but you were not an atheist like me. Until you can show me that you have done your homework, then I am going to assume that you were what I call a default atheist. If you are going to comment on my blog and claim you were an atheist before you became a Christian, then it is fair for me to ask you to demonstrate how and why you became an atheist. It is not enough for you to say that you didn’t believe in God and then you became a Christian. ALL of us didn’t believe in God at one time. That’s the normal human condition, according to the Bible.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.

Playing In Traffic: Don’t Worry, God Will Protect Us

the big c

If the Evangelical Christian teaching on the sovereignty of God and God’s personal, direct intervention in our lives is taken seriously, it often results in Christians acting foolishly and irresponsibly. It often leads to fatalism. The thinking goes something like this: God is in control. Nothing happens that is not part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives. Christians live fearlessly, knowing that God is controlling and directing their lives. All they need to do is surrender their will to his, dying to self (cue the song I Surrender All). God promises Christians he will never leave them or forsake them. He promises to be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promises, promises, promises . . .

Back in the real world, Christians fail, get sick, have accidents, lose their jobs, get divorced, file bankruptcy, and die just like the rest of us. Despite the promises of God, their lives are no different from the lives of godless atheists. They “think” their lives are different, but any cursory examination proves otherwise.

A scene in an episode of the Showtime hit The Big C illustrates how Christians often deceive themselves. The Big C is a comedy/drama about a woman — Cathy (Laura Linney) — who has terminal cancer. Her son Adam (Gabriel Basso) has turned to Christianity as his mom continues to struggle with the reality that she is dying. The Christianity the show portrays is a mix of Lutheranism, Emergent church, and Evangelicalism. Adam starts attending a Bible study where he meets a girl. She is “saving” herself until she is married, so she only will have anal sex with Adam. In her world, anal sex and oral sex are not really “sex.”

One evening, Adam is out with his girlfriend and they come to the curb of a busy, traffic-filled street:

Girlfriend: (starts praying) God help me to help Adam. Let him know your love and protection like I do. Let him give over his life to your loving hands.

GirlfriendOkay, RUN! (and grabbing Adam’s hand they begin to run across the street dodging cars)

AdamOh shit!

Adam: (Upon safely reaching the other side of the street) I can’t believe we did that, we could have died.

GirlfriendBut, we didn’t because God protected us. Just like he protects all of his children.

This is EXACTLY the way many Evangelical Christians think.

Never mind that if this same scenario was played out again, it is likely they would have been killed. Perhaps they escaped death a second time. All that would mean is that they were lucky the first two times. They might run out of luck the next time they try to cross the road. And if Adam and his girlfriend were hit by a car and killed? Christians have an out for that too. It was their “time” to die. God called their number, end of story! To God be the glory.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.

Bruce, the Fixer

fix it man

Earlier today, my good friend Brian Vanderlip said:

Hey Bruce, Practice resting and see if you can beat me at it! I have this theory that all those damaged by the fundy virus are unable to relax without guilt making it impossible to sustain or nearly so. I sit and read for a while and then get up because I feel guilty… Just for taking it easy with a book! That guilt-free time of rest and reading is what I wish for you, my friend, and the strength to venture forth with your camera. Pope Brian has absolved you of your ignorant disdain for cheese with burgers and your foolish nonsense about toilet paper rolls being hung any old which way. (Comment on the post Living with Fibromyalgia.)

Brian is the son of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, and, much like myself, a crusty curmudgeon. I love Brian’s numerous turns of phrase, while at the same time making thoughtful points and observations.

In today’s post, I want to build on what Brian said about how our former religious beliefs and practices made it almost impossible to rest; that attempts to rest and relax often brought feelings of guilt. Spend decades and decades in such an unhealthy environment, and it leaves deep, lasting psychological scars. Even after divorcing Jesus and walking (running) away from Evangelical Christianity, some of us have trouble getting away from the pathological need to be perpetual motion machines. In my case, I spent my life fixing things that were broke: churches, marriages, and relationships. When I was looking for a new church to pastor, why was I so drawn to dysfunctional churches that would require herculean efforts to fix? I hope to answer this question and others in this post.

One question that comes to mind, at least for me, is how much obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) plays a central part in my restless need to fix things. Was I always this way? Did my staunch Fundamentalist Baptist upbringing fuel my OCPD? I am not sure I can adequately answer these questions. All I know for certain is that from my teen years forward I’ve been a restless person, always looking for the next conquest. I can look back over my life and it is not hard to see a man who was a wanderer, someone who was never satisfied. Of course, it was my religion that taught me to never be satisfied with self. I was taught and then taught others that we sinned daily in thought, words, and deeds. There could never be a good day, a sin-free day, a day when I felt that Jesus wasn’t lurking around the corner, ready to punish me for my indiscretions and failures. Even as a Calvinist — a sect that speaks much of and glories in God’s grace — I never had a day where I felt that everything between me and Jesus was a-okay. Calvinism is inherently a works-based religion. True Christians® must persevere until the end to be saved, and even then God could say to you, “HA! the jokes on you! You never were one of the elect. It’s Hell for you, buddy.”

As a pastor, I believed most Christians were quite lazy. How dare they fritter their lives away while there was work to do building the Kingdom of God. Hell is hot and Jesus is coming soon, I thought at the time. How dare we lounge around and relax while there were souls to save! So I was quite driven to labor in God’s vineyard. Didn’t Jesus say:

I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. (John 9:4)

I suspect my personality made it easy for me to work myself to death serving Jesus. I carried the same work ethic into my secular employment. I worked hard, never missed work, and rarely took days off. I was drawn to management jobs that allowed to me to work, work, work. For many years, between my church and secular employment, it was not uncommon for me to work 60+ hours a week. Polly not-so-fondly remembers the days when I would go to work in the morning, come home, shower, and head for the church, returning late at night. Day in day out; six, often seven days a week. I am not looking for a medal here (or condemnation). I recognize that my driven personality caused harm to my family, and materially affected my health. But, you can’t understand the man Bruce Gerencser without understanding what I have shared thus far.

This behavior when on for decades. The churches I pastored loved me because I was willing to be a full-time pastor while working a full-time job outside of the church. Churches loved my passion and zeal, my commitment and devotion. And I did it all for Jesus. Well, that and the fact that I really craved being busy. I was, in every way, a textbook workaholic. It certainly wasn’t for the money. Our family made more in 2020 than I made in eleven years pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. Now don’t read too much into that. It’s not that we are well off. We’re not. It just that the churches I pastored didn’t pay well, and not one church I pastored provided insurance or retirement. I don’t blame these churches, per se. After all, I was the CEO. Why didn’t I ask for (demand) a better salary and benefits? On the other hand, why did the deacons/church board/congregants never raise the issue and demand the church take better care of its preacher?

Truth be told, I would have worked for free. I was so in love with Jesus and the work of the ministry that I practically took a vow of poverty. When the churches I pastored had money problems, I was first in line to say, “don’t worry about it. Just don’t pay me this week.” Of course, I never thought I would be a broken-down sixty-three-year-old man unable to work. Choices made decades ago have now extracted their due in the sunset years of my life.

Since how much money I was to be paid was never the object for me, I focused on the work of the ministry: preaching, teaching, evangelizing, street preaching, teaching Christian school students, cutting firewood, shoveling snow, working on church vehicles, remodeling church buildings, and daily ministering to the needs of church members. My motto? Better to burn out than rust out.

Over the course of twenty-five years, I pastored/worked for seven churches. My pastorates were either long in tenure, or quite short: 8 months, 2 1/2 years, 11 years, 7 months, 7 months, 7 years, and 7 months. (What was it about the number seven, right?) What I do know is that I wasn’t very good at determining “God’s will for my life.” I have always had a hard time saying no. Take my short time at Victory Baptist Church in Clare, Michigan — a now-defunct Southern Baptist congregation. After I sent my resume out to Southern Baptist area missionaries, it was only a matter of days before my phone was ringing off the hook — calls from churches looking for a pastor. I was thirty-five years old at the time, with three children still at home. And, my wife played the piano, and both of us sang special music. Woo hoo! Just what churches were looking for! You would think that I carefully considered each of the 15+ churches that contacted me. Surely, I did that, right? Sadly, I did not. Victory Baptist was the first church that contacted me. First come, first served.

We traveled to Clare and I preached for the church one Sunday. Nice people. Friendly. But, oh my God, dysfunction was on display everywhere I looked. I should have run away, but instead, I agreed to come back and preach for them again in two weeks. Afterward, the church asked me to become their pastor (and the former pastor remained in the church). I should have said no. Everything in Polly’s reaction said to me, “just say no, Bruce.” But I ignored my intuition and my smart and sensible wife, choosing instead to come and “help” these really, really nice people. Victory Baptist was a church I was sure I could “fix.”

While the church had its largest attendance while I was their pastor, seven months later I was out the door. My idea of what the church needed to do to grow and prosper was very different from that of the entrenched, indolent power base. The former pastor’s wife said in a public business meeting before I left, “Bruce, your vision for the church was never our vision.” I warned the church that I would not fight with them, but they wanted to fight anyway, so I resigned. THE issue? Toys in the nursery. Toys in the nursery? Yep. A long-time member of the church hauled into the nursery a bunch of outside yard toys, many of which were dangerous for toddlers. I told her it was not a good idea and removed them. (Our insurance agent would have told her the same thing.) Livid, she took the matter to the deacons. Three days later, we were sitting back in Ohio. Not one church member said goodbye or helped us load our moving truck. This would be the last church I pastored. I was done.

Underneath the story of my life courses a restlessness that drives me to work, work, work. No time for rest, not because of God or some sort of divine calling, but because it’s who I am. I am happy to report that I do rest and relax more now than I ever have. Good news, right? Progress. Not really. You see, my health problems are what have forced me to take it easy. I don’t want to, but I really have no choice. That is, IF I want to live. So, I crawl kicking and screaming to the couch, fretting over what I call the tyranny of the to-do list. Every week and month I get farther and farther behind. Maybe I just need to set my to-do list on fire! Problem solved.

I have, in the past year, rediscovered my love for Lionel O-Gauge electric trains. With the help of two of my sons and Polly, I am building a layout in one of our unused bedrooms. And I promise — I really, really do — that once this is done, I am going to rest.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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?

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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.

An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma

bruce gerencser 1983
Bruce Gerencser, age 25, Ordination 1983, Emmanuel Baptist Church Buckeye Lake, Ohio

Contrary to what some of my critics say, I have no great need to convert others to what they derisively call the atheist religion. I’m quite content to live and let live. I fully recognize that many people find great value in believing in God and the afterlife. I even understand the deep emotional need such beliefs meet. Who am I to rob someone of anything that gives their life deeper meaning and purpose? It doesn’t matter whether their beliefs are true. All that matters is that THEY think their beliefs are true, and I have no pressing need to deliver people from their fantasies, delusions, or irrational beliefs.

As much as I think that I am a rational person driven by evidence and knowledge, I know I can, like any other human being, be led astray by false or misguided beliefs. No human being is a god when it comes to rational thinking. We all can and do, at times, fall off the wagon of rational thought. As long as religious people don’t try to convert me, I am inclined to leave them well enough alone. I suspect if the Christian religion were a private, pietistic religion, practiced quietly behind the closed doors of homes and houses of worship, I would have little to write about. Since it is anything but, I am inclined to push back at those who think their beliefs should be required for all, whether believed voluntarily or under threat of law.

For twenty-five years, I was pastor to hundreds of people in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was their friend, counselor, and confidant. I married the young and buried the old. A few times, I buried the young and married the old. I led them to faith in Christ. I baptized them. They looked to me to give them certainty and hope, and a message from God that said he loved and cared for them. Through every phase of life, I was there for them. That’s the life of a pastor. I cared for them, loved them, and even to this day I want only what is best for them. And this puts me in a real spot, what I call An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma.

I pastored my last church in 2003. In 2005, I left the ministry, and 3 years later I left Christianity. By late 2009, I was self-identifying as an atheist. I am not a person who is hard to find. I have a unique last name. I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world (ain’t I special?!).  My Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog email contact information are readily available via any search engine. I guess what I am saying here is this; I am not an ex-pastor in hiding. I am not trying to forget a past life and make a new life for myself. It’s not that simple.

Here’s my dilemma . . .

Former parishioners and Christian friends often try to touch base with me. They haven’t found this blog yet or read any of the other things I have written that are posted on the Internet, so they assume I am still a pastor. A middle-aged woman, a woman I first met when she was a troubled teen, contacted me to let me know what a wonderful difference God was making in her life. She just knew I would want to know that FINALLY God was using her to help other people. Quite frankly, I AM glad God is using her to help other people. I am glad God has made her life better. I remember the tough time she had growing up, the great sorrows and difficulties she faced.

I didn’t respond to her inquiry. I didn’t want to open the door to her being discouraged or disillusioned. It is one thing if she stumbles upon this blog. If she dares to search a bit, she will find the truth, but I would rather she come to it on her own and rather than me telling her. I am not being a coward. Those who know me know I don’t play the coward’s part very well. But, at the same time, I still have a pastor’s heart. I don’t want to see people hurt. Maybe she will never find out I am an atheist. Maybe she will live a good life, thinking that Pastor Gerencser is proud of her. Such a small deception is one I will gladly commit if someone such as she finds peace and purpose as a result.

It is one thing if an ex-parishioner or Christian friend comes after me like a hungry lion chasing a bleeding deer. Those who find out about my defection from Christianity and become angry, combative, defensive, and argumentative will find that I am quite willing to meet them in the middle of the road and do battle. If I am forced to do so, I will speak my mind and pointedly share what I believe (or don’t believe). However, for those who are only looking for the man who loved them and nurtured them in the faith, I am not inclined to hurt them or cause them to despair. It was never my intent to hurt anyone intentionally, both as a pastor, and now as a preacher of the one true God, Loki. (Please see Dear Wendy, Dear Friend, and Dear Greg.)

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

An Email From a Fundamentalist Christian

grumpy cat

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I received an email from a Christian man by the name of Mike Gallagher. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ve noticed in your articles that you have a bitterness toward so-called Baptists. (Hyles, Swaggart, etc.)  I’ve never considered these men to actually be true men of God. ( “by their fruits, ye shall know them”).  If I may, please allow me to state some observations; and I shall make them brief.  I will not preach to you (tho preaching is a form of communication; and in my experience people are afraid to listen to preaching because they are not secure in their core beliefs.)

1.  I perceive that what you had was religion. Sure, you knew about God and all the doctrines and teachings associated with it. (tho I can’t understand how a serious Bible student could get the doctrine of Calvinism out of it. Calvin wasn’t even a Baptist- yet he persecuted them)  You knew about the Bible and studied it and crafted sermons from it. You looked up to and deified(?) men that you admired; even mentored a few. You were also strongly influenced by them, yea, molded by them.  You had the mechanics of all what a Christian life should be – except for one thing..

2.  Relationships.  You know what they are.  You’ve had one with your wife for 37 years.  No doubt you’ve had strong friendships with others for years.  You have a  relationship with your children and grandchildren;  each one individually (I hope).

Relationships consist of 3 essential elements – Trust, Honesty, Commitment.  Long lasting relationships must consist of these.  But the One whom you have not had a relationship is – God. Sure one can study all about Him, know about Him, what men say about Him – but to know Him, ahh is different.  That’s why salvation always comes

First; it’s the actual meeting; the face to face (by faith) contact.  From that point on you get to know Him more (just as the more time you spent with your wife, you got to know her better; and your friends; and your children; etc.).  You’ve always known He was out there but always distant.  You prayed but didn’t know if He answered or not until you saw results – disappointing or otherwise.

He’s a person.  This is why prayer is a  2-way street;  not one sided.  He’s not there just to listen to you – He wants you to listen to Him.

3.  God didn’t forsake you; you forsook Him. The Bible is not a law book – it’s a guide book.  God isn’t the One who’s changed all these years (especially in our generation in America) We are the ones who have “gone astray”.  Can you HONESTLY say we are better off as a society than we were 50 years ago?

Well, I said I would keep it brief.  Hope we can become friends, Bruce. Some of the things you said about our flesh and humanity is true. The Apostle Paul had trouble with his; and David; and Peter; and Samson; and….. you get the idea. If I’m honest with myself, with others and most importantly, with God;  then I feel secure in what I believe. I don’t think that you do.  write soon, come on you know you can’t let this go without a response!

Mike

I will leave it to you to judge the merit of his letter. My response was short, sweet, and to the point:

You are kidding right? Be friends? Why would I want to be friends with someone who is a judgmental, arrogant ass who refuses to allow me to tell my own story on my own terms?

So no, I am not interested in being friends, hearing from you, or anything else. After hundreds of emails just like yours, I hope you will forgive me when I say to people like you, go to Hell.

Bruce

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Evangelical Man Calls Me a Fascist Over Recent Gun Control Post

lol

I have written a major post on gun control exactly twice over the past twelve years. Americans love their guns, and anything that threatens to limit or take them away brings anger, fury, and attack. One commenter on my latest gun post had this to say about me:

Bruce, it appears that you are quite fascist in your views. Those who don’t see things as you need to be silenced and regulated. It also appears that you are just an extremist. Before your deconversion, you were an Evangelical extremist. Now you are an Anti-Christian left-wing political extremist.

I replied:

Ahh, you hurt my feelings.

You said, “Before your deconversion you were an Evangelical extremist.” You might want to read my story before making rash, uninformed judgments.

I make no apology for my political beliefs. I support using the political process to advance a liberal/progressive worldview. Evidently, only Christians are allowed to do so? By all means, Geoffrey, I will meet you in the arena of the public square. Let’s do battle, but please leave your guns at home. May the best ideas win.

Geoffrey (Geoff) is an Evangelical Christian. I assume from his comment that my ideas about gun control caused him to forget who he is talking to. Geoff has been reading this blog on and off for five years. Have I ever written ANYTHING that remotely suggests that I am a fascist? (Please see Wikipedia article on Fascism.) Of course not. Not one word. I suspect I upset Geoff with my liberal anti-Second Amendment beliefs. Instead of engaging me on the issues I raised, Geoff decided to personally attack me, suggesting that I want to regulate and silence those who disagree with me. This, on its face, is absurd, and Geoff knows it. He is an Evangelical, yet for the past five years, I have allowed him to comment on this site. This is definitely not how I typically handle Evangelical commenters. I did not regulate or silence him, though I did, at times, strongly disagree with what he had to say.

When I write posts such as America’s Gun Culture in Light of the Recent Insurrection, I expect people to disagree with me. I know people have all sorts of ideas about guns. Fire away. But personal attacks, or hurling a derogatory epithet my way? To quote the esteemed Bengals philosopher Ocho Cinco, Child, please. (Ocho Cinco explaining what Child, please means.)

I get it. Some readers love my atheism and hate my politics. If I wrote about politics all the time, I am sure some readers would stop reading. That said, I also know that a number of readers generally agree with my political views. As a writer, my objective is NOT to please people, to make them really, really, really like me. I have a point of view about religion and politics that may or may not resonate with this or that reader on any given day. All I know to do is tell my story and share my worldview. It is up to readers to decide whether what I write speaks truth to them.

Have a good week, comrades. I am off to a meeting of local fascists, also known as Trumpists.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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I Hope You (Fill in the Blank)

meaning of life

Well-meaning people have all kinds of expectations and desires for me, revealing how they view my life and me as a person. Often, they view me as hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Instead of allowing me to define who and what I am, they use their own version of who and what I am and then come to certain conclusions about me. It’s like me saying I am a cat and someone saying no you are a dog, and then all their subsequent judgments about me are based on their belief that I am a dog. No matter how loud I meow, they still think I am a dog.

These kinds of people think there is something wrong with me. Take my friend Bill. Here is what he said in a blog comment:

But in my not very humble opinion as a person who has known your thinking for more than 25 years (?), the topic of “god” is disturbing your mind to no good end.

Now, on one hand, Bill has known me for a long time. He lives thousands of miles away from me and we met face-to-face one time in the late 1990s. Years ago, I sponsored the CHARIS discussion list, and Bill was a regular participant. He has, on and off, read my writing for almost 25 years. He has followed my evolution from a Calvinistic pastor to an atheist. Surely, he should “know” me, right?

While I consider Bill a friend, I would never say that Bill “knows” me. In fact, the number of people who really know me can be counted on one hand. And even then, can someone ever really completely “know” me? During the course of our friendship, Bill has mentally developed his own version of Bruce Gerencser. While this Bruce bears some resemblance to the real Bruce, it is not the real Bruce and if Bill doesn’t understand this, he will likely, as in his comment above, come to a wrong conclusion about me.

I think Dale summed up things quite well when he said to Bill:

What Bruce is doing is therapeutic for him and for many of us.

Dale precisely summed up why I write. I am not sitting here raging at God. I am not, on most days, hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Outside of the constant pain I live with, I am quite happy. I have a wonderful marriage and family, and I love interacting with my internet friends through this blog. Yes, I can go through bouts of deep depression, but people like Bill wrongly assume that my depression is driven by my questions about God and religion. It’s not. My health problems are what drive my depression. Feel better=less depression. Lots of pain=more depression.

These days, the only time I think about God and religion is when I am writing. There are no unanswered questions for me when it comes to the Big Kahuna. I don’t think there is a God, so this pretty well answers all the “God” questions for me. My interest in religion has more to do with sociology, philosophy, and politics than it does anything else.

I frequently get emails, blog comments, and comments on other blogs that start with, I hope you _____________________. These people have read something I have written and have made judgments about me. They think I am lacking in some way, and if I would just have what they are hoping I will have, then all would be well for me.  They hope I find peace, deliverance, salvation, or faith. They are Internet psychiatrists who think they can discern who I really am and what my life consists of by reading a few blog posts.

I know that this is the nature of the Internet. People make snap judgments about a person based on scant information. (Just today, a Christian commenter told me I was a fascist. OMG! A fascist?) They think they “know” me after they have read 1,500 words, and they are then ready to pass judgment on what I am lacking.  Everyone who writes in the public space faces this problem, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

This is me saying, I don’t like it. I am not a problem in need of solving. I am not a broken toy that needs fixing. I don’t need what my critics are hoping for me. I am quite happy with who and what I am. It is atheism that has allowed me the freedom to be who I am. I realize this presents a real problem for Evangelicals because they believe that a person cannot be happy, satisfied, or at peace without Jesus. But, here I am.

One commenter stated:

Dear Bruce, I hope you are delivered from your delusions of a happy, satisfied, peaceful life. You are living in denial of how things REALLY are for you.

All I can say to this is that I am enjoying every delusional moment of this life, and I suspect many of my fellow atheists are doing the same.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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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.