Menu Close

Category: Evangelicalism

Spaniard VIII Warns People to Not Take the Mark of the Beast

bruce-gerencser-worships-the-antichrist

Spaniard VIII (Sp8 for short) warns people such as myself that we can’t be saved if we take the mark of the beast:

Once the person receives the mark of the beast, there will be no more hope of salvation for him or her. The reason is, that the Bible clearly states that worship of the beast is involved with the acceptance of the 666.

Finally, a sure-fire way to let Evangelical zealots know that we are no longer saveable. Praise Satan!

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.

Sin and the Myth of the Slippery Slope

slippery slope

According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law of God. (1 John 3:4) Evangelicals, as a general principle, believe this to be true. However, when it comes to what, exactly, is the law of God — well, let the battle begin. Every sect and every pastor has their own idea about what constitutes God’s law. None of them actually follow and practice ALL the laws found in the Bible. Every follower of Jesus picks and chooses, cafeteria-style, which laws to obey and which to ignore.

Several days ago, a local group posted on Facebook that they were having a Black Lives Matter/Pride rally this Saturday. An Evangelical woman responded by posting comments about the evil of homosexuality, complete with Bible verses. I responded, so, you believe LGBTQ people, adulterers, fornicators, non-virgins, and Mormons should be executed? After all, that’s what God commands in the Bible. Of course, she ignored my challenge to her hypocritical use of the Bible to condemn behaviors she doesn’t like, choosing, instead, to attack me personally.

This woman is not unique in any way. I don’t know of one Evangelical who believes and practices every law in the Bible. Granted, Evangelicals have all sorts of lame explanations for their duplicity, but the fact remains that Evangelicals practice pick-and-choose Christianity. (Please see Should Christians Keep the Old Testament Law?)

For the sake of this post, I am going to assume that every Evangelical extracts from the Bible certain laws, commands, and precepts to govern their lives; that transgressing these edicts are sins.

I grew up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Over the 50 years I spent in the Christian church, I heard a lot of preaching against sin — generally and specifically. I preached a number of sermons myself against this or that sin. Convincing people that they are sinners is the precursor to salvation. Without sin, there’s no need for salvation. Remove sin, fear, and guilt from the equation, and Evangelical churches will empty out overnight.

Once saved, Evangelicals continue to battle against indwelling sin. Surprisingly, having God as your father, Jesus as your BFF, the Holy Ghost living inside of you, and having at your fingertips the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God is not enough to keep Evangelicals from sinning daily in thought, word, and deed. In fact, it seems that Evangelicals sin just like their counterparts in the evil, Satan-controlled world. That’s why Evangelical preachers spend an inordinate amount of time preaching against sin to largely Christian crowds.

Supposedly, Evangelicals are to grow and mature in their faith. One would think that sin would become less of a problem as Evangelicals became more intimate with Jesus. However, as any honest Evangelical pastor will tell you, worldliness, carnality, and sinfulness are common among God’s chosen ones. Jesus is no cure for the human condition.

Evangelical preachers often warn congregants of the danger of the slippery slope. These so-called men of God believe that one behavior deemed sinful, if unconfessed and not forsaken, leads to more serious sinful behaviors. Let me give readers several examples.

Evangelicals believe that it is sinful to use street drugs. Marijuana is considered a gateway drug that opens people up to using harder, more addictive drugs. I came of age in the 1970s. I heard numerous sermons about the evils of drug use — especially marijuana. Numerous church teens were dope smokers. So were my classmates at Findlay High School. It was not uncommon to see people smoking marijuana is the restrooms. Anti-drug preachers posited that marijuana use led to more serious drug use. Start smoking marijuana, and down the slippery slope you will go, ending up a heroin addict. Don’t want to be a heroin addict? the thinking went, don’t smoke marijuana. Of course, few of my fellow youth group members or school classmates became mainline heroin users. I am sure more than a few of them tried LSD or or other psychedelics, but hardcore heroin users? It didn’t happen.

The IFB preachers of my youth loved to preach against sexual sin. I, of course, continued in their footsteps, spending significant time over the years condemning illicit, sinful sexual behavior. I embarrassingly told church teens in one sermon (1980s) that I never knew of a girl who got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first. The slippery slope . . .

slippery slope fallacy

When it came to sexual sin, the slippery slope argument went something like this. Couples who hold hands will tire of it and want more intimacy. Thus hand-holding leads to kissing, and kissing leads to petting, which leads to fornication. Want to avoid committing fornication? Never hold hands. (Never asked was WHY should we want to avoid fucking?) This thinking led the churches I grew up in and the college I attended to develop bizarre anti-human rules. I would later pass on those same rules to churches I pastored. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.)

A similar argument is used for pornography. People who view porn grow tired of it, seeking out more explicit content, ultimately leading to sexual assault and rape. That’s right. It is just a hop, skip, and jump from YouPorn to becoming a serial rapist.

The slippery slope is a tool used by Evangelical preachers to scare people into conformity. Remember, the goal is always obedience and conformity. Whatever a preacher thinks the law of God is, his goal is lock-step compliance with the teachings of the Bible.

Of course, this approach does not work. Outwardly, it does, but when Evangelicals are on their own, safe in the privacy of their homes and automobiles, no regard is paid to the slippery slope. Sure, sinning Evangelicals have to deal with fear and guilt, but these things are not enough to keep them from behaving in normal, healthy human ways. Any preacher is deluded who thinks that by railing against marijuana and hand-holding he is going to keep church teens and young adults from partying and fornication. Human want, need, and desire win every time.

But, Bruce, for some people, the slippery slope is a real problem. Yep, any of us can and do give in to excess. Most people can drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics. That some people become alcoholics is regrettable, but should we ban the sale and use of alcohol? The same can be said for drugs. Anything can be abused and misused. For example, Polly makes me an angel food cake every year for my birthday. I LOVE angel food cake. I mean really, really, really love it. I can, I kid out not, eat a whole cake by myself. And it is for that reason that Polly only makes me an angel food cake once a year.

We all have habits and desires that seem excessive to others not so inclined. When sin and the slippery slope are removed from the discussion, it becomes easier for us to understand why we do the things we do. Our three oldest sons grew up poor. Rarely, did they get new clothes or shoes. To this day, they talk of the ugly colored Converse tennis shoes I bought them on close-out at Big Lots. Virtually every bit of their clothing either came from their grandparents at Christmas, Goodwill, or hand-me-downs. The boys owned plenty of jeans adorned with iron-on patches. Such was life in the Appalachian hills of southeast Ohio. Fast forward to when the boys were older and had good jobs. Their closets were filled with expensive clothing and shoes. Why, they even had more than one pair of shoes! It’s not hard to draw a line from their upbringing to their extravagance as young adults. One of my sons refuses to let his children wear cast-off shoes to school. His ex-wife is fine with the children wearing $5 shoes from Goodwill. Not my son. It ain’t going to happen! Why? I suspect he remembers his days attending a private Christian school; how his shoes were old, cheap, and shabby compared to those worn by his classmates.

We have a new 2020 Ford Edge, by far the most expensive car we have ever owned. As I reflect on our evolving car-buying habits over the past decade or so, it is evident that decades of driving rust-buckets deeply affected our view of automobiles. We want, dare I say need, newer cars. I can give all sorts of reasons for buying newer cars, but the real reason is that we enjoy owning a new car. I suspect all of us have similar needs in our lives.

My point is this, once we are free of guilt- and fear-inducing sin, we are free to live life on our own terms. Each to his or her own, right? While I think the slippery slope argument has merit in some circumstances, for the most part it is little more than an attempt to control human behavior. Smart are those who recognize where in their life the slippery slope lurks. I am a retired professional photographer. Photographers must be aware of the slippery slope — also known as gear acquisition syndrome (GAS). Photography is not a cheap hobby. I have invested thousands of dollars in camera bodies, lenses, flashes, studio equipment, and miscellaneous equipment. It is really easy for me to want (need) new equipment. Every couple of years, Sony comes out with new camera bodies, always with higher resolution sensors and new bells and whistles. GAS really kicks in for me when they do. But I have learned to not give in to my wants, knowing that doing so sends me careening down the slippery slope that leads to a pile of debt. I know that it is the photographer, and not the equipment (generally), that makes the picture. Sometimes, I fail to reign in my desires. I suspect most of you know what I am talking about. We all have things we are passionate about, things we are willing to spend money on. Don’t get me started on my hats. God, I’m addicted.

For those of you who are ex-Evangelicals, did your pastors use the slippery slope analogy to demand obedience and conformity? Do you still have a problem with guilt and fear over human behaviors you know aren’t sinful, yet you can’t shake the voice of your pulpit-thumping preacher in your head? If you no longer buy into the Christian concept of “sin,” how do you order your life and make decisions these days? Please share your stories in the comment section.

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.

You Can do It: How to Start an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church

start ifb church

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Warning! Lots of snark and sarcasm ahead!

John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste recently graduated from an unaccredited Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college. After three or four years of superficially studying the Bible, John received his degree in Jesus-Loving, Devil-Chasing, Sin-Hating Pastoral Ministry. Now what?

Graduates are encouraged to go into all the world — well mainly the United States — and win souls for Jesus. The best way to do this is to start a new church.

Here is what John “Jesus Lover” Baptiste needs to do to start a brand spanking new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church.

First, find a town where there are churches on every corner and convince yourself that ALL of those churches are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music.

Second, confuse your own desire and ambition with the Holy Spirit leading you and God calling you to start a new church.

Third, rent a meeting place or building. Make sure you get the building as cheaply as possible. If the building owner is a Christian, lay a spiritual guilt trip on him to get him to lower the rent and then invite him and his family to the first service.

Fourth, put a puff piece in the newspaper telling locals why you are starting a new church in their community. DON’T tell them that you think ALL the other churches in town are liberal, apostate, using the wrong Bible translation, or using worldly music. You want to be able to poach members from other churches later, so it is important no one knows what you really think of every other church in town.

Fifth, every day pray that God will bless your endeavor. Convince yourself that God put you in the community to win everyone to Jesus, and that without you they will all go to hell.

Sixth, tell your wife and children that you love them, but they are going to have to understand that Jesus comes first, and you will have to neglect them in order for a GREAT church to be built. Also, tell them that they will have to mow the churchyard, clean the church, play the piano, work in the nursery, teach Sunday School, and anything else you ask them to do. Try to explain to them that, yes God called YOU, but he expects you to bring luggage.

Seventh, much like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, knock on every door in town and witness to everyone who dares to answer. Lie to them by saying, I am not here to take you from your church home. All that is important is that you know Jesus as your Savior. Don’t let them know that if they get saved you will expect them to come to the church that cared enough to lead them to Jesus. And get baptized. And attend services every time the church doors are open. And tithe. And obey every edit uttered by you from the pulpit.

Eighth, run some ads in the local newspaper and put up flyers on every public bulletin board. Church-hopping members (please see The Fine Art of Church Hopping) from nearby IFB churches will notice the ads and see this as “God leading them” to leave their churches. This is the quickest way to start a new church. And just remember, when they leave your new church a few years later for a newer church, that you were willing to sacrifice your integrity for numerical gain.You are now ready for your first service. Remember one thing: most new church plants fail, especially IFB churches. Perhaps, it would be better if you join up with one of the other churches in town and help them. Silly me, you will never do that. You are a God-called, Holy-Spirit-powered, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, and such a calling deserves its own church, and a BIG sign that says, in BIG type, JOHN BAPTISTE, PASTOR.

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.

Baptist Campmeeting Time

faith baptist camp
Faith Baptist Campmeeting, Resaca, Georgia

A Campmeeting is a scheduled time when Christian people get together for a few days or a week of concentrated preaching and singing. Some campmeetings are held at churches, while others are held at campgrounds. People often stay at the campgrounds or rent motel rooms. Meals are often provided for attendees.

Most campmeetings take place south of the Mason-Dixon line. I attended my first campmeeting at an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Rossville, Georgia. A pastor friend of mine from an IFB church east of Columbus invited me to go to the campmeeting with him and several men from his church.

Our trip from Columbus to Rossville was frightening, to say the least. My pastor friend was quite a control freak. He insisted on driving the entire 500 miles to the campmeeting. What was frightening, you ask? My friend knew one speed — fast — often driving in excess of 90 miles per hour. What made matters worse was the fact that my friend spent most of the trip with his head turned to the right, talking to me in the front seat. I spent most of the trip hanging on for dear life. Needless to say, I never went anywhere with him again. We later had a falling out. My friend took issue with some of my theology, and decided he could no longer “fellowship” with me. He is now divorced, and no longer in the ministry. (He replaced a pastor who was caught having sex with his secretary in the church office while congregants were out visiting their bus routes.)

Besides the white-knuckle ride to Rossville, several things stand out about the trip and campmeeting.

At the time, I was quite the Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. I had a long list of things I would not do out of wanting to maintain a pure testimony bAt the time, I was quite the Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. I had a long list of things I would not do because I  wanted to maintain a pure testimony before God and man. One thing I would not do is eat at restaurants that served alcohol. That meant, of course, the only place I could get a steak was at Ponderosa. Remember their streaks? Yeah. Not good. Thank God for atheism and Texas Roadhouse.

Several hours into our trip, my pastor friend decided it was time to stop for lunch. He, of course, didn’t have a problem eating at restaurants that served alcohol. So he and his fellow church members chose a restaurant that served booze. I explained my “conviction” to him, and asked that he choose an alcohol-free establishment. Instead, he laughed at me and said I could sit in the car. So, I did. Needless to say, our relationship went south from there.

What stood out the most to me was the campmeeting itself. The campmeeting featured numerous notable IFB preachers. The preaching itself was challenging, convicting, and quite entertaining. What was bizarre was the behavior of many the attendees. The services from start to finish were emotionally charged. Both the music and preaching stoked emotions, leading to behaviors I had never seen before (I was 31 at the time). I saw grown men (and a few women) running the aisles, standing on the pews, waving towels and Bibles, hooting and hollering, and egging the preachers on with shouts of AMEN! and PREACH IT, BROTHER! What I experienced was the Baptist equivalent of a Pentecostal/Charismatic church meeting — without the speaking in tongues. I found the first night to be quite troubling, but by night three, I had joined the nonsense.

The next year, I took a group of people from Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio to a campmeeting at Midway Bible Baptist Church in Fishersville, Virginia. This was, and still is, the home church of Evangelist Don Hardman.

Somerset Baptist was located in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. Some of the people who went to the campmeeting with me had never been out of southeast Ohio. One woman openly wept as we crossed the bridge over the Ohio River into West Virginia.

This campmeeting was more structured than the one in Georgia, but had similar preaching and music. One thing that stood out to me was how many of the church’s members had cancer and serious illnesses. I later wondered if the area was some of sort of environmental cancer cell.

I also attended one IFB campmeeting in Ohio, held at Fellowship Baptist Church in Lebanon. Fellowship Baptist owns and operates the Fellowship Tract League. As with the meeting in Rossville, the preaching and music at Fellowship Baptist’s campmeeting were emotionally stirring. This led to all sorts of crazy behavior. Normal for regular campmeeting attendees, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-crazy to first-timers.

Fellowship Baptist provided free housing and meals for those in Fellowship Baptist provided free housing and meals for those in attendance. I brought Polly and our children to the campmeeting. Her first night at the meeting was definitely an eyeopening experience for her, as she had never experienced worship southern-style. The churches I pastored were quite staid emotionally, so being around a bunch of people hollering, shouting, standing on pews, and generally acting like they were on crack was quite a phenomenon.

Two things stand out from this campmeeting. First, when we walked into our motel room, there was a used condom on the floor. Ugh. Second, the motel offered free HBO. I was quite anti-TV at the time, and fearful that I might be tempted to watch the Home Barf Office — as I often called HBO in my sermons. To keep myself from giving in to sin, I broke one prong off of the TV’s plug. Yeah, I know, bizarre behavior, but try to understand my actions in light of the Bible verses that say:

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)

In my IFB mind, breaking off the electric plug prong was the equivalent of plucking out my eye or cutting off my hand. The goal was to abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)

By the early 1990s, I had moved on from IFB campmeetings to staid, emotion-free Reformed Baptist/Sovereign Grace meetings. While some attendees would say AMEN when agreeing with the preacher, everyone stayed in their seats. Overt emotional expressions were frowned upon.

It is clear, at least to me, that worship style and practices are driven by cultural and tribal norms, not God/Holy Spirit. Have you ever been to a campmeeting? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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.

My Experience with Religious Fundamentalism and Bipolar Disorder

guest post

Guest post by Steve

For 18 years, I considered myself a Christian. My family raised me in the Disciples of Christ denomination, generally known as a progressive and inclusive branch of Christianity. Love, service, and respect for others were baked into the framework of my parents’ religious philosophy. So too were dysfunctional aspects of Christianity, such as taboos around sex, drugs, other religious frameworks, et cetera. For sixteen years I lived relatively peacefully under such a framework and the moderately strict rules it imposed.

That would all change shortly after my sixteenth birthday. For some reason, I felt the urge to dive deeper into the tenets of my faith. Enter the Internet, which, as of 2009, was a long way from the juggernaut it is today. Feeling as though my parents’ and grandparents’ explanations of biblical concepts were lacking, I turned to Internet websites and forums, as well as a teen study bible my grandparents had found on their doorstep one day and given to me as a gift.

That would turn out to be one of the most painful and consequential mistakes I would ever make. After reading through the study bible and its perverted explanations of biblical phenomena and excuses for genocide and murder committed in God’s name — which I didn’t notice at the time but can see oh, so clearly, now — I went down rabbit holes on the Internet, looking up the answers to important questions such as, “Is it a sin to listen to secular music?” among others.

My readings left me isolated from my family, feeling as though I had discovered the truth and could not admit it to them. This caused a great deal of tension in my relationship with them, as I began to believe that if I wanted to be a true Christian, I should cut myself off from my family and their liberal interpretation of the Bible and seek the companionship of others who believed as I did.

However, my beliefs did not usually translate to actions. There was a powerful dissonance between the person I was up until I stumbled upon all of this poisonous fundamentalist posturing and the person I was afterward. I did not think to question my beliefs, thinking that doing so would be a blasphemy towards God. Instead, I lingered in them and the conflict between my two selves — one a burgeoning fundamentalist and one a rational secularist — came to a head. It was truly as if the devil and god were raging inside me, and their warfare tore me apart.

I can vividly remember the crushing pressure in my chest from those early battles, a pain so fierce and unrelenting that I would fall asleep in the middle of class as my body started shutting down to escape it. I was stuck in a limbo, but I could feel the flames of hell eating away at my soul. I vividly believed that if I did not give up everything I once loved, the secular pursuits that did not glorify God, I was hell-bound.

My rational side fought like hell to keep my rising fundamentalist zeal at bay. For the most part, I excelled in school, bringing home As and Bs with every report card. Yet I felt isolated from my peers. I attempted to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but I am so grateful to say that they did not manage to get their claws into me and I bowed out after several meetings.

I cannot pinpoint when exactly my mood started to shift, but after several long and arduous months, I began to feel good again. I started to put myself out there and make friends. By doing my best to intentionally avoid the bible and all forms of fundamentalist rhetoric, I began to feel somewhat normal and happy. However, maladaptations would present themselves. I would become obsessed with certain girls as a coping mechanism, a way to cling onto the unstable safety of my current state. The flames of hell were further below, but I could still feel their heat. Magma still churned in my chest.

I had to cling to something for dear life, and as a male adolescent with a decent sex drive, I chose women. Now mind you, I was 270 pounds at the time, so I didn’t have a good shot at all at getting most of them. My social skills were also substandard. I was definitely what you would call a nerd, maybe a geek, and it showed. Still, for a few months, I felt good enough to resume a normal pattern of activity and engage in the secular pursuits I once felt so guilty about.

In the same vein, I cannot pinpoint exactly what pulled me down again. While this depressive episode was shorter and somewhat milder than the last, I desperately wanted to escape. That escape would come in the form of a forum one of my classmates showed me in the library one day where an “alien” delivered sacred knowledge to the world. After reading this, my mind latched onto it and used it as a weapon to beat back the flames that were once again searing my soul.

This time the depression may have been milder, but the high was even higher. I excelled in my last semester of high school. I visited seven colleges and got accepted to the college I wanted the most. I got all 5s on the three AP exams I took that year. My mind was as sharp as a tack, as clear as a bell. Everything clicked. Things just came to me. I was at my peak level of performance. It was an absolutely thrilling time to be alive and active in the world. I was filled with a spirit of hope and love. I graduated ready to take the world by storm, even if I had no clue exactly what it was I was going to do with my life.

Sadly, this wouldn’t last either. One Bible verse about not cursing later (I don’t remember which one it was and I don’t care to relive that again), I crashed hard. Instead of entering college feeling healthy and alive, I entered college a husk of the self I was just a few short months before, drained and lifeless and struggling to keep up with the myriad tasks and activities that come with the first few weeks of freshman year. I felt so alone and isolated, though I did try to reach out.

Several times, I was awfully close to embracing fundamentalism again, as the college I went to was in a fairly religious city in the southern United States and it was easy to find people who believed passionately in Christianity and to talk with them. I felt I would need to make a decision about what I was going to do soon, and I was leaning heavily towards embracing fundamentalism.

My lowest point in college came when I dropped a class without notifying my professor I was going to do so. I almost lost both my scholarships and had to pay back some $350 dollars to one of them. Thankfully, I was able to keep both of my scholarships all the way through college from that point on.

The end to all of this madness would come swiftly and miraculously. One day, after a three-hour class in which we had been watching a documentary, I decided to browse online to see what other documentaries were out there. That decision would change the course of the rest of my life. I was out of the house. I had my own laptop. I didn’t have parental figures hovering over my shoulder. I was angry as hell about being so depressed again, and felt I had nothing to lose. So I decided to watch the Youtube docuseries by a man named Evid3nc3, Why I became an Atheist.

Video Link

Approximately three hours later, my mind was shattered. Everything I had ever known was wrong. There were good, rational, justified reasons for not believing in God. There were good, kind people who did not believe. Hell, there were thousands of preachers who no longer believed! With this knowledge in mind, the knowledge that I did not need a god to be good or to live a good life, I gave Christianity and the toxicity of fundamentalism and evangelicalism the boot and I have never had good cause to look back since.

I am done with religion, even though religion’s effect on my psyche will always remain to some extent. I am free of the chains of dogma and ideology. I am free of the flames of hellfire, the judgement of a wrathful god, and the intercession of His son, who suffered a needless and preventable death on the cross for something nobody asked him to die for in the first place. Good fucking riddance.

The next time I was home from college, I came out as an atheist to my parents and destroyed the study bible that had sent me down this road to madness. Nobody will ever be infected with its poisonous interpretations again.

But my story is not done. For you see, nearly a decade later I have a new chunk of knowledge, a new insight that has rocked my world just as much as when I found out Christianity was not true.

A few days ago, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This is a mental illness in which your mood swings between a manic state (a euphoric, happy, joyful, blissful time) and a depressed state. I believe that my bipolar disorder was the cause of so much dysfunction in my life during my late high school and early college years. Looking back, my mood swings make so much sense when viewed through that context as I altered between hypomania (milder than manic) and depression.

One facet of bipolar disorder is that those who have this mental illness often suffer from delusions, which can come in both manic and depressed states. While I have never suffered from delusions in my manic states, I have in my depressive states.

And that has led me to ask myself: would I have been able to catch this disease earlier if not for the Christian framework that I believed for those last couple years of high school? I firmly believed I was in danger of going to Hell. I felt it so vividly. There was no way you could convince me that that belief was not a delusion. It was supported by the Christian cultural framework my life was based around at the time.

Did my Christian worldview mask my delusional depressive symptoms? That is definitely a question that deserves a lot more thought. Who else with undiagnosed mental illness is laboring under a Christian framework that amplifies and exacerbates it? Is it the preacher at the pulpit? The choir director? The youth pastor? The worship leader?

How many religious folks are undiagnosed simply because their worldview masks and adapts to their symptoms, leading them to believe that they aren’t ill in the first place while still struggling mightily through life and sometimes hurting those closest to them with their often inexplicable and unjustifiable actions? What if the true burden of mental illness is not fully known because of how well religion can adapt to it? These are all questions I hope to answer one day, or at least make progress towards answering.

Life after Christianity has not been easy. I’ve been to the psych ward, twice. I missed my college graduation after a major depressive episode that led to multiple suicide attempts before my roommate finally called the police and EMTs. I had a second stay in the ward this past September, due to another suicide attempt. No, life is not a cakewalk.

But that doesn’t mean I need to lean on God or religion to help me cope. I have friends. I have family. I have my own kind of faith in the world. I have myself and all the beauty and confidence I possess. And now I have closure about why I am the way I am and why I’ve gone through what I’ve gone through. I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t need fundamentalism, evangelicalism, or any of the baggage they bring, any less than I do now. All I need is to love — to love myself and to love others zealously. The rest will take care of itself.

If you think you may have a mental illness, I encourage you to seek out a mental health professional and discuss your symptoms as soon as you possibly can. Living with mental illness, especially one as severe as bipolar disorder, is no joke and we must take the needs of those suffering from any mental health condition seriously. For so long, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and now I do. You don’t have to suffer in silence. It may be a long road to finally get the treatment you need to live a relatively normal life again, but there is hope. And my hope for you is that you keep fighting and realize that you only have one life, one you and you alone can choose how to live.

Southern Gospel Music: Diesel Sniffers

happy goodman family

The Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) circles I ran in thought southern gospel music was God’s music. IFB churches are known for being anti-cultural, especially when it comes to music. Rock music? Contemporary Christian music (CCM)? Rap Music? Blues music? True Christians® don’t listen to such worldly, Satanic music, IFB preachers told their congregants. Yet, despite all the anti-music preaching, congregants — especially teens and college students — continued to listen to “worldly” music.

Reaction to country music was somewhat mixed. Many preachers divided country music into two categories: old style and new style. Old-style country was grudgingly permitted, but new style country was verboten — no different from rock music. Congregants were encouraged to listen to southern gospel music — country music with Jesus-y words.

As an IFB pastor, I regularly scheduled Southern gospel groups to sing at our church. Most of these groups were local/regional musicians who were willing to come sing for us for a love offering. Over the years, I had several well-known groups come to our church: Robbie Hiner and The Journeymen, to name two. In the 1990s, I went through a CCM phase, thinking that if I brought in name groups, doing so would attract people to our church. Groups who sang at our church included: David Meece, Sierra, Annie Herring (2nd Chapter of Acts), and NIA. As far as attracting new church members? A big, fat bust.

Video Link

Ever the marketer, I advertised these concerts, hoping to draw large crowds. (Largest crowd? 400 for Sierra. Lowest? 20 for NIA.) Often, Ever the marketer, I advertised these concerts, hoping to draw large crowds. (Largest crowd? 400 for Sierra. Lowest? 20 for NIA.) Often, people from outside of our area would attend the concerts. Typically, these people were what I called diesel sniffers. Many of the musical groups traveled using diesel busses. Some people would follow their favorite group’s bus wherever it went. For them, southern gospel music was a drug; something that gave them a “spiritual” pick-me-up.

While IFB preachers attempt to paint southern gospel music as something that is “spiritual,” it is, in fact, entertainment. IFB preachers are known for their anti-entertainment preaching. It is well known that Fundamentalists take the fun out of everything. But, when it comes to southern gospel music, these same preachers ignore the fact that this style of music is a spiritualized form of entertainment.

I had a friend who was a devoted southern gospel fan. He and his wife attended numerous southern gospel concerts every year. His love for the music changed after he heard the McKameys sing twice in one week. What upset him, you ask? The McKameys sang their hit song, God of the Mountain. The acts were identical, right down to the lead singer gesticulating at the exact same time and kicking off her shoes. It was all a show. My friend thought these groups were spirit-led, when, in fact, they were well-paid professional entertainers.

Video Link

Another friend of mine spent several years traveling with well-known southern gospel groups. He, too, thought doing so would be a spiritual endeavor for him. What he found, instead, was rampant alcohol consumption and immorality. Yes, southern gospel singers have groupies too.

I am fifteen years removed from preaching my last sermon. As I reflect on the decades I spent in the ministry, it’s hard not to conclude that entertainment played a central part in virtually every service. Whether it was my preaching or a quartet singing, the goal was to entertain people. Now, the word “entertainment” was never uttered. Such things were considered spiritual and supernatural. However, when the religious trappings are stripped away, what’s left is entertainment. People may have found my preaching helpful or profound, but make no mistake about it, they found me to be quite the entertainer. So it is with southern gospel music.

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.

Is IFB Preacher Jack Schaap a “Model” Prisoner?

jack schaap 2

In 2012, Jack Schaap, the son-in-law of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) demigod Jack Hyles, was fired from his job as pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana. Schaap was accused of having an illicit sexual relationship with a teenage church girl he was counseling. Schaap later pleaded guilty, admitting “he had sex with the girl, the girl was under his care or supervision, and he used a computer to persuade the girl to have sex with him illegally.”

Schaap was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

In 2014 Schaap’s lawyers asked the U.S. District Court to vacate his 12-year prison sentence. Why? His lawyers argued that his sentence should be mitigated because the girl he victimized was “aggressive” and had prior sexual experience. In other words, it was her fault that Schaap was a pathetic, weak man who took sexual advantage of a teen girl with whom he had a professional pastoral relationship. His lawyers also argued that Schaap received ineffective counsel during plea agreement and sentencing proceedings. His request was denied.

Earlier this month, Schaap petitioned the court for early release on compassionate grounds, citing the poor health of his elderly parents and sister as justification for his release.

According to Schaap, he has been a “model” prisoner.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

Schaap has worked toward being “a model prisoner,” with an “excellent work record with my prison bosses,” he wrote. Schaap also said he is in a vocational apprenticeship sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

For several months last year, Schaap wrote he was able to serve as chaplain “preaching in chapel and conducting the communion service for the Protestant inmates” when the prison didn’t have a chaplain.

He also teaches a business plan workshop class and Bible classes in the chapel, Schaap wrote.

“Throughout my time here I have counseled men who had no place to go upon release and have helped get them connected to church-sponsored missions and other alternate care places throughout the country,” Schaap wrote.

In a post earlier this month titled IFB Pastor Jack Schaap Asks for Release from Federal Prison, Says He’s A Good Boy Now, I wrote:

In other words, Schaap is using the “good boy” argument, revealing he has continued to act like an IFB preacher while imprisoned. Years ago, I said when Schaap is released from prison, he will find some way to re-enter the ministry. The calling of God is irrevocable, the Bible says, and I have no doubt that Schaap still views himself as a man of God who just had a little David and Bathsheba bump in the road. Asked about his plans if released — besides caring for his sick sister and elderly parents — Schaap plans to “work to empower missionaries around the world, establish independent missionary schools to train the nationals, and help to establish churches.” I suspect he is presently working with some IFB preachers and fan boys to make this happen.

Remember, in the IFB world, all that’s necessary to wipe the sin slate clean and get a brand-new start is to pray to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) (Please see David Hyles Says, “My Bad, Jesus”.) Schaap will have plentiful opportunities to preach and evangelize once released from prison. He will likely follow in the footsteps of his brother-in-law, David Hyles, believing that no sin is beyond the grace and forgiveness of God; that no one dare suggest that he is no longer qualified for the ministry.

Thanks to a post by former Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) devotee Eric Skwarczynski, we now know that Schaap has been anything but a model prisoner.

In a document asking for Schaap’s compassionate release request to be denied, U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II wrote:

“Defendant describes in detail the health challenges his parents are facing. Id. at 1. The government verified the accuracy of those claims by speaking directly with Defendant’s mother, who explained that although she and her husband have the means to move to an assisted living facility, she strongly prefers to remain at her home and hopes to be cared for by Defendant. Defendant makes additional claims in his motion, however, that the government does dispute. He claims he asked for a pre-indictment plea to “show [he] accepted full responsibility and to avoid a lengthy trial period which [he] felt would be detrimental to [his] congregation and to prevent any other staff personnel from being indicted.” Id. That statement is inaccurate in two respects. Defendant did not ask for a plea; rather, the government offered him a pre-indictment and he signed it after sitting through a presentation of the government’s overwhelming evidence of his guilt. Second, contrary to Defendant’s claim, there was never any chance that a member of his staff would be indicted. Although a staff member did drive the victim across state lines at Defendant’s request, that individual had no idea that he intended to engage in illicit sexual conduct with the girl once out of state. Accordingly, the staff member did not engage in criminal conduct of any kind. Similarly unconvincing is Defendant’s claim that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” at the time. Id. If that were true, why arrange for someone else to drive the victim across state lines? And why download a program specifically designed to delete photographs and then use it to destroy pictures of his sexual encounters with the victim? Further, it appears doubtful, given his failure to mention the victim in his motion and his attempt to USDC IN/ND case 2:12-cr-00131-TLS-PRC document 75 filed 06/19/20 page 6 of 13 7 blame the victim in his post-conviction petition, that Defendant truly does “realize the seriousness of [his] crime and accept[] responsibility for it,” as he now claims. Id. Finally, the government obtained evidence from the BOP that tends to refute Defendant’s claim that he has “strived to be a model prisoner” while incarcerated. See Exhibit 1, filed herewith. In 2013 – the year after he was sentenced by Judge Lozano – Defendant admitted putting his “hand under [the] jacket and in the crotch area of a female visitor,” for which he was disciplined. Id. And a year later, Defendant admitted “writing [a] letter and mailing [it] out of [the] facility [where he was housed] to be mailed back in.” Id. Interestingly, when confronted about this latter violation, Defendant “denied knowing it was not allowed” (id.) – much like he now claims that he “did not know [he] was violating the law” by arranging for someone else to transport a minor to Michigan and Illinois so he could have sex with her.”

You can view Schaap’s prison disciplinary record here.

As readers can clearly see, Schaap is not only a liar, but he refuses to accept responsibility for his behavior. Schaap thinks that saying, “I didn’t know” is a credible defense for his lawbreaking. At an early age, I was taught (and later taught my children) that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” Schaap has a habit of claiming ignorance when he finds himself accused of criminal behavior or violating prison rules.

In his latest attempt to get out of jail, Schaap (speaking of his sexual assault of a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling) stated:

Although there were extenuating circumstances and I did not know I was violating the law, the fact is I did violate the letter of the law and I did plead guilty. I realize the seriousness of the crime and accepted responsibility for it.

” I did not know I was violating the law,” and “I did violate the letter of the law,” Schaap said.

In the aforementioned post I wrote earlier this month, I said:

What extenuating circumstances? Schaap seduced a 16-year-old church girl he was counseling. Schaap had the girl driven across state lines so he could have sex with her. Schaap took advantage of the victim, all so he could fulfill his lustful, vile desires. I see zero extenuating circumstances. What we have here is a man who refuses to own his behavior and face the consequences of said behavior.

Schaap says that he broke the “letter” of the law, that, at the time he was having sex with a minor church girl he didn’t know he was breaking the law. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit! So Schaap thought it was morally and ethically permissible to have sexual intercourse with a teen church girl he was counseling? Is this the argument his request for release hangs upon?

Any reasonable person reading this story will conclude that Jack Schaap, esteemed pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way; that he put his perverse sexual desires above the psychological and spiritual care of a girl who called him pastor. His behavior, in my eyes, remains despicable and indefensible. And as such, he should serve every bit of his 12-year sentence.

Schaap spent most of his adult life telling Christians and unbelievers alike that the Bible is God’s divine law book, and that ignorance of its teachings is no excuse. Countless Hyles-Anderson students were severely disciplined for breaking the college’s rules. Imagine a student coming before Schaap and Jack Hyles and saying, “I didn’t know that having sex with my girlfriend in the back of the church bus was wrong.” Why, fire from Heaven would be called down upon the student’s head. Students were expected to know and follow the rules to the letter. Evidently, Schaap is a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do, hypocrite.

Over the past three years, I have published almost 700 stories about clergy criminal behavior — mostly sex crimes. I am currently sitting on several hundred more stories that I need to investigate and publish as part of the Black Collar Crime Series. Most of these stories feature Evangelical preachers and church leaders. A common thread that runs through these stories is the refusal of so-called men of God to admit they have committed crimes (and sinned against God). Worse yet, are church members who refuse to accept that their pastors committed heinous crimes. Even after their pastors are convicted (or plead guilty) and are sentenced to prison time, many church members refuse to see things as they are.

I have no doubt that Schaap has numerous supporters; people who think his victim was a conniving, seductive whore who was used by Satan to take down the man of God, (please see The IFB River Called Denial and What One IFB Apologist Thinks of People Who Claim They Were Abused) and that Schaap is the victim, not the teen girl he sexually assaulted.

Those of us who no longer drink IFB Kool-Aid (or never have) see the Schaap saga for what it is: the story of an arrogant, self-righteous preacher who sexually took advantage of a naive, vulnerable minor. He knew the law. He knew the risks. He knew exactly what he was doing. And that’s why Schaap should remain behind bars.

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.

Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?

hell-is-a-real-place

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Oh, preachers preach about it. Life is short, Hell is real, or so they say. But I am not sure they really believe what they are saying.

Baptists are noted for being hellfire and brimstone preachers. In my Baptist preacher days, I preached hundreds of sermons on Hell. The altar was often lined with sinners fearing Hell. I was a very, very good Hell preacher.

Everyone knows that someday they will die. Many people fear what happens after death. It is the fear of the unknown that leads many people towards religion. Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is good for the church business. If people fear Hell, they are more likely to buy into the salvation/Heaven scenario. You don’t want to go to Hell, do you? You don’t want to burn in the flames of Hell forever, do you? Scare people right into Heaven, that’s the essence of the gospel preached by many Evangelicals.

I have come to the conclusion that most preachers really don’t believe in Hell. Preach as they might about Hell, when it comes time to put their theology into practice, they cower and refuse to proclaim their Hell belief.

Let me tell you a story about a man named Bob. (Bob is a pseudonym, but all the details that follow are real.) Bob was raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist home. His parents were stern, devout, Christians who helped start several local Baptist churches.

At the age of 17, Bob attended a revival meeting at the local Baptist church. When the invitation was given, Bob walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and at that moment became a born-again Christian.

A short time after his conversion, Bob had a falling-out with his family and moved out of his parents’ home. Bob never attended church another day in his life apart from an occasional funeral or wedding.

Bob lived to be 83 years old. From the time Bob was 17 until he died, he lived a life of sin and infamy. Bob was a child abuser. Bob beat his wife. Bob was a drunk. No woman was safe from Bob’s leering eye and his groping hands.

Bob was a nasty, vulgar kind of drunk.

Bob raped a woman while her 12-year-old son was home from school sick. He was never prosecuted because his victim was a mentally troubled family member.

Bob died recently.

Bob’s funeral was held at the same Baptist church he once attended.  His family still attends the church. The funeral was the first time that Bob had been to church in over 60 years.

The preacher mentioned what an ornery man Bob was. And then the preacher spent the next 20 minutes preaching AT Bob’s friends. The funeral service was not about Bob at all, it was all about Jesus. Maybe that was better because it was probably hard to find much good to say about Bob.

Mercifully, the preacher brought his Jesus talk to a close with an invitation to trust Jesus as savior.

Why? So they too could be in Heaven someday with Bob. The Bob, who at age 17 walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and became a Christian.

Shocking?

Hardly.

I have attended dozens of funerals over the years. I have preached a good number of funeral sermons myself. In every case, the deceased was preached into Heaven. No matter how the person lived, no matter what they did, heaven was their final destination.

Baptists are known for believing in what is commonly called “once saved, always saved.” While I no longer claim to be a professing Christian, and I am quite vocal about my atheism, according to many Christians, I can’t get “unsaved.” Once saved, always saved (also called eternal security or the preservation of the saints). God has me whether I want him or not.

According to the preacher at First Baptist, Bob is safe in the arms of Jesus. Pity all the women he raped, abused, and molested over the years. Pity all those he terrorized when he was drunk. The fire insurance Bob bought at age 17 covered everything he would ever do. This gave him immunity from prosecution for all his debauchery.

It matters not that he did not attend church in the past 60 years. He never prayed; never read the Bible. In fact, he cursed God, hated God, and lived as if there is no God.

But, at age 17 . . . well, you get the gist of the story.

It is time to be honest, preachers. Hell doesn’t really exist, does it? For all your hellfire and brimstone preaching, when it comes right down to it everyone makes it in. Anyone who EVER had a momentary religious experience is safe.

Preachers, if you object to what I have written, why not tell the truth about the Bobs of the world? If your God be true and every man a liar, if your Bible is true, then people like Bob are burning in Hell. It seems you can quite easily tell wonderful stories about people going to Heaven, why not the opposite?

Personally, I do not believe in Hell. If there is any hell at all, it is here and now. But, if you claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, then speak as if you do. Don’t pollute God’s Heaven by sending any more Bobs there.

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.

Dear Family and Friends: Why I Can’t and Won’t Go to Church 

no church

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

To those who call me Bruce, Butch, Dad, or Grandpa:

In November 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. Since then, I have walked through the doors of a church three times, once for a baby baptism, and twice for a funeral. All three experiences left me angry and irritated.

The first service was a baby baptism at a local Catholic church. I thought, Bruce, ignore the bullshit, you are there to support your children. I was fine until the priest began exorcising the devil out of my granddaughter. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. After the service, I made up my mind that I would never again attend such a service. No baptisms, no confirmations, no dedications, no nothing. Nada, zero, zip. All of my children and extended family know this. Polly is free to attend any or none of these services, but I can’t and I won’t.

The last two services were funerals. One was the funeral of my sexual predator uncle. The local Baptist preacher preached my uncle right into heaven. (I wrote about that here: Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell.) The second service was for Polly’s fundamentalist uncle. Nice guy, but the service was all about Jesus, complete with a sermon and call to salvation. Again, I wanted to scream, but I reminded myself that I was there to support our family.

I’ve decided I can suck it up and endure the Jesus talk for the sake of family. I know there are a lot of funerals in our future, that is if the rapture doesn’t take place. I wish it would so there would be no Christians left to bother me. I’ll do my best to support my family in their hour of grief; however, anyone who tries to evangelize me does so at their own risk. I refuse to be bullied by sanctimonious Bible thumpers who think they are salvation dispensing machines.

I’ve decided that I will walk through the door of a church for two events: funerals and weddings. That’s it. I don’t do church, and the sooner family, friends, and local Christian zealots understand this the better. If the event doesn’t say funeral or wedding, I ain’t going. I can’t and I won’t. If this causes someone to be angry, upset, or irritated, there is nothing I can do about it. That’s their problem.

You see, twelve years ago I said to my family, “you are free.” (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) Be who and what you want to be. Be/stay a Christian, choose another religion or philosophical system, or choose nothing at all. With freedom comes choice. It seems the religious love their choice. They find great benefit, purpose, and meaning, through their particular religion. That’s great. If it makes them happy, then I am happy. But, shouldn’t I be afforded the same freedom and happiness? Why shouldn’t my wife and I have the freedom to NOT participate in church services, rituals, and the like?

Suppose I worship the Cat God Purr. Once a year, all the Purrites get together at my house for a very special service. Part of our ritual is the sacrifice of a female cat. Much like the Israelites in the Bible with their blood sacrifices to Jehovah, we offer up a cat as our sacrifice to Purr. Afterward, we roast the cat and eat it, and in doing so we are taking into our body and soul the blood and body of Cat God Purr.

Now imagine me inviting my Christian family to the service. I let them know when the service is and how important it is to me for them to be there. I also let them know that I would like them to partake of the roasted cat so they too could have inside of them the blood and body of the Cat God Purr. Can you imagine how they would respond?

First, in their eyes Purr is a false God. Second, the cat roasting ritual is barbaric and offensive. While I may invite them to the service, I would certainly understand if they didn’t come. Why? Because my God is not their God and I respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. 

It seems if people are atheists, they are not afforded the same decency and respect. Did Polly and I become lesser persons, parents, or grandparents the moment we stopped believing? Does our relationship with family and friends hinge on us sitting our ass in a pew for ten minutes or an hour? Frankly, I refuse to let any particular circumstance harm a relationship. If someone asks me to go to a church service or a ritual and I say no and they never ask me again, it’s no big deal. However, once someone knows that I do NOT attend such services and they continue to ask me anyway, this tells me that they do not respect me.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the ministry. I’ve had enough church to last me ten lifetimes. The best way for the religious and the nonreligious to get along is for both sides to compartmentalize their beliefs. I don’t talk about religion/atheism/humanism with my Christian family and friends unless they ask. If they ask, I will gladly give my opinion or share my viewpoint. I am not going to invite them to hear Sam Harris speak, nor am I going to give them Bart Ehrman’s books. If they ask or want to know, that’s different, but if they don’t then I choose to focus on the other things we have in common and leave religion/atheism in the closet. Christian family and friends need to do the same. If I ask, then by all means tell me. If not, let’s focus on the things we have in common. Life is too short to have conflict over religion.

I subscribe to the when-in-Rome-Do-as-the-Romans-Do rule. When I am at a Christian’s home and they offer up a prayer to their deity, I respectfully bow my head. It’s their home and they are free to do what they want. Yes, I have an opinion about God and prayer, but their home is not the place to share it. The same goes for my home. We are not religious, we are not Christian. We don’t pray over our meals, nor do we give the gods one thought before we eat. While we do allow Polly’s dad to pray over the meal when he is here, that is out of respect for him. No big deal, just one more prayer hitting the ceiling. Thousands are already embedded in the paint, what’s one more?

When Christians come to my home, they shouldn’t expect me to change how I live or how I talk. I shouldn’t have to change the music I am listening to, change the TV channel, or remove books from the bookshelf. This is our home, and anyone, even family, who walks through the door is a guest. And the same goes for the Christian’s home. If I visit there, I don’t expect them to do anything different from what they normally do. I respect their space, their freedom.

Freedom is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, for many Christians it is a one-way street called Their Way. They want the freedom to worship their God and practice their faith, but they don’t want to grant others the same freedom. Of course, I know why. They think they have the truth and Polly and I are on a false path that leads to judgment, hell, and eternal punishment. They don’t want us to continue driving on the highway that leads to perdition. But, here’s the thing . . . we don’t think we are on the highway to hell. Since we don’t believe there is a God, it naturally follows that we don’t believe in hell, judgment, heaven, or eternity. It’s up to us to determine what road we want to travel, and for Polly and me, we are quite happy to drive on the road named Reason.

Let me conclude this post with a personal thought about church services in general and why I can’t and won’t attend them.  First, I know the Bible inside and out. I have a theological education, an education that began at a Bible college and continued through the 25 years I spent pastoring churches. So, when I hear preachers and priests preach, I can spot the bullshit from a mile away. I also have little tolerance for preachers who lack the requisite skills necessary to craft a good sermon and deliver it. In my opinion, there’s lots of anemic, pathetic preaching these days. Second, I find many of the rituals offensive. Casting the devil out an infant? Washing away sin with water? Services that are all show and no substance? Vows that are uttered and become lies before the service is over?  Wine and wafers turning into real blood and flesh? Magic wand rituals and practices that pretend to make the past go away and make the present brand new? Preachers, pastors, bishops, and priests touching a person and conferring some sort of divine power? All of these things are offensive to me. They are reminders to me of the bankruptcy of religion and why I want nothing to do with it.

I know that I can’t force people to accept me as I am, but I can choose how and when I interact with them. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Laura and a grandmother called up complaining about her daughter-in-law. Dr. Laura told her to quit her bitching. If she didn’t, she risked not being able to see her grandchildren. That was good advice and I remembered it years later when my fundamentalist step-grandmother called me. I wrote about this in the post Dear Ann:

. . . For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you preceded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years, I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train…

That’s what can happen when we push, badger, and cajole. I am an atheist, not a Christian, and will likely remain so until I die. My family and friends need to come to terms with this, and if they don’t, then it’s on them if they ruin our relationship.

When our children married, we vowed that we would NEVER be meddling parents/grandparents. If we offer our opinion on something, we do it once. That’s it. Unless someone asks, we don’t say another word. Every person in my family has the right to live freely and authentically. Yes, they make decisions that I think are foolish, but it’s their life and they are free to live it any way they want. Whether it is Polly’s parents, our children, our daughters-in-law, or our grandchildren, we don’t meddle in their lives. We want them to be happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.

All that I want is the freedom to live my life authentically. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

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.

Blast From the Past (1990): Is TV an Idol in America?

tv-is-evil

What follows is an essay written by my ten-year-old son while a student at Somerset Baptist Academy in Mt. Perry, Ohio. As you will see, my son had been paying attention to my sermons. My three oldest sons, now 41 39, and 36, watched very little TV growing up. We did not own a TV until they were teenagers. (Please see The Preacher and His TV.)

Yes, television is an idol. We worship the TV every time we turn it on and watch it. The Devil is behind the television. It was his idea to make the television so he could enter people’s houses and rule over them. He loves his idea. It gives him his chance to kill people like that Bible says: that he’s a roaring lion and seeketh to devour someone.

In people’s houses everything is turned towards the television. We do not talk to guests. We watch TV and once in awhile make a comment about what there is to watch or something else. Even so-called “Christians” watch filthy, junky, and ungodly stuff on TV. Soon we become slaves and addicts to the TV.

When people watching the TV it is hard for them to stop watching it. People watch dirty and gruesome things and just say, what was wrong with it? or how terrible it was, and keep watching it. No one even bothered to not watch it or get rid of it. The devil laughs at us when we do this because he has won. People have let TV become a part of their lives, so therefore they let it control them instead of them controlling it.

When we as people come home we turn on the TV right away. Whatever there’s to see, it is on full blast. TV damages adults, but totally destroys children. One school teacher had her students not watch TV for 24 hours, and then write a report on it. One boy thought one minute [not watching TV] was like a month, another imagined that his favorite shows were on TV. Japanese children think that they cannot live without it. They have at least 3 TV’s in their homes. They think you are “different” if you do not have a TV to look at all the time.

The TV is a things that lays the way for the Anti-Christ. The Anti-Christ will rule the world by way of the TV. He will have everybody hooked on to the TV and watching filthy stuff, which allows demons come into their homes. TV is man’s number one idol besides other things. The Anti-Christ will speak through the TV. Unsaved people cannot watch or worship the TV during the Tribulation because they will be killed for not bowing down to him [Anti-Christ] when he comes on TV. We should not watch filthy things on TV. (Over 400 words)

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.

Life in a Homeschool — Part Two

ace

Guest post by Ian

Part One

It‘s been several years since I wrote my original Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) series. I had wanted to finish out my experience memoirs, but the homeschooling portion of my ACE experience still hit a lot of nerves in my life. There were a lot of flux and upheaval going on throughout my homeschool years. Dad started believing in Calvinism (or Sovereign Grace), we changed churches, we were put out of a church, my parents split up for a while and other generally disrupting things happened in my life.

Some of these things are still raw, even 30 years later. I have thought about writing this off and on for a while, but could never do it. Then Bruce had a post where someone looked at, but didn’t read, my ACE experiences. (Please see Fundamentalist Man Strains at the Gnats and Swallows a Camel.) I re-read what I had written and decided I needed to finish the story.

As you read this, remember that it is my story and my experience. People may have had similar experiences, but no two people process things the same.

This is the last installment in my ACE schooling series. The first four installments were about being in actual schools that used ACE curriculum, the last two are about my homeschooling experiences along with the use of ACE. 

In tenth grade, my parents decided to homeschool my brother and me. This was due to two issues: separation from the world (and worldliness of the churches we had attended) and my brother’s dyslexia. The one-on-one instruction helped my brother; the separation issue was another matter. 

Eleventh grade started out more relaxed than tenth grade. Although we were being held to school standards, we didn’t have to wear ties or recite the pledges of allegiance to the USA and Christian flags and the Bible. Morning devotions went by the wayside, too. A lot of learning how to operate in a homeschool environment had been done, so things were just much more relaxed.

That year, we did have a major change in the school schedule. The church school we were affiliated with and my parents both decided to use a trimester school year. This consisted of the school year being in three major sections, rather than two; each trimester was 12 weeks long, with one week off in between. The pastor and my dad used the argument that long summers off were only needed for people working on farms, due to tending cattle, weeding, etc. All I knew is that this was just one more thing that made me and my brother “unique.” No TV, no Christmas, no movies, no secular music, being homeschooled, trimester school year, yep, we were unique. But we were told that we were a peculiar people, called to show God’s light. I just wanted to be normal. 

Trying to explain all of these things to neighborhood kids was like trying to explain why you had 3 legs. They knew me when I went to the Christian school. That was no big deal, there were a lot of private schools in town. Homeschooling was weird for them, but they got used to us always being home. The trimester thing was almost too much for them, though. Our breaks didn’t coincide with their breaks, so I didn’t get out with them much. 

Schooling, itself, was better. I had a better attitude, which meant that I wasn’t in as much trouble. Math was easier, since I was taking a business math course. Social Studies was still a chore, though. The rote memorization was horrible. Speeches, quotes from documents, dates, wars, peace treaties, it seemed that there was no end to what I had to memorize. I spent many hours learning these things, only to promptly forget them, once they were no longer needed. 

English was something that I enjoyed. The literature portion used the books Adventures in Appreciation and Adventures in English literature. These books were a great relief for me. The stories weren’t all religion-based, and, because the books were ACE approved, I was able to read all of the stories in them, with no parental interference. I also became good at diagramming sentences and putting words together. Those skills have helped me greatly in my various jobs — report writing has been easy for me. I attribute this to all of the practice I had in chopping up sentences and then putting them back together. 

It was during this school year that our family was put out of our church. My dad’s constant need for separation and closely following the scriptures were causing issues. That is a whole different story, but things finally came to a head that year. The fact of our being put out of the church was literally just ahead of my dad saying we were leaving. Kind of like the boss firing you before you could quit. 

We finished the year out with no other great issues. Just a couple of kids on with a weird school year who suddenly weren’t going to church anymore. Yep, the neighbor kids noticed that, too. 

Twelfth grade brought some big changes. I was no longer required to wear dress clothes to school and scripture memorization was a thing of the past. We went back to a semester school year, too. My step-mom got a job that year, so my brother and I were left to do schooling by ourselves. Now the conflicts came from me trying to make him do his work. I was responsible for making sure things got done, and I took it seriously. Probably a bit too seriously, but that is what older siblings are for. 

During the school year, I started working for my grandparents after school, as well as working part-time at the construction/environmental company my dad worked at. I would rush to get my school work done and head off to work. Fortunately, my senior year was a pretty easy year. I was able to get things done quickly, usually before lunch. My poor brother would be stuck doing his stuff, though. He had a hard time that year. I helped when I could, but I was doing my own stuff. 

In the middle of that year, my dad and step-mom split up. The weeks leading up to this caused a lot of friction at home. My brother and I stayed with Dad, while Mom moved out. It was about this time that Dad’s work started taking him out of town on a regular basis. So, my brother and I spent a lot of time staying with other people while Dad was out of town. 

By the spring of my senior year, I was working every day, part-time. School in the morning, work in the afternoon. Brother left behind. Not good. Looking back, I am amazed at how well he did on his own. I’d come home from work and help him with whatever he needed. We got him through the year, but he did a lot of it himself. 

On my final day of school, I took my last test, scored it, put it up for my dad to review, and headed out to work. I remember that I stopped by a hardware store on my way to work and bought a carbide scribe pen for a project I was doing. I’ve still got that scribe, and use it quite often. My graduation was just another day in my life. 

A week later, some friends had us over for dinner and a graduation cake. The wife gave me a couple of pencils with my name on them and a scripture-based graduation card. 

This finishes my personal experience with ACE, through regular and home school. I’ve tried to show the good, the bad, and the ugly. I learned a lot using ACE, but I also know that I missed out on so much. Literally 2 years ago, I was in a museum looking at Chinese exhibits. The dates given coincided with the time of the Exodus. It hit me, like a ton of bricks, that I had never given any thought to what else was happening in the world while reading my Bible stories. All I knew was what I had been taught by a narrow, prejudiced system. 

Math and English were okay for me, but that system won’t work for everyone. 

Spelling was easy for me. 

Social Studies was a joke. I learned so many things that were either twisted to fit a narrative or outright lies. Very little that I learned has been applicable in any way. It was only after studying history for myself that I began to have an understanding of how and why things are the way they are. 

Science made no sense because it didn’t have a grounding in real world application, for me, anyway. It wasn’t until I started working in a job that required using chemicals that I really began to understand those principles. 

The scripture-based studies, Old and New Testament Survey, Life of Christ, etc., are pretty much useless in the real world unless you are going to have a job at a church or Bible college. 

Those of you who have gone through ACE will be able to relate to my experiences. Those of you who haven’t will just shake your heads. Thank you for following along, though. 

Thank you, Bruce, for allowing me to share. 

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheism Kills Everything

atheism kills

In Atheism Kills, Barak Lurie exposes the horrors of a world without God. Contrary to the mantra we’ve heard time and time again that religion is responsible for more deaths than anything else, it is in fact the absence of God which has killed–in obscene numbers. Ever since atheism first assumed government control in the French Revolution, it has done nothing but kill.

Atheism has killed through its many deputies: progressivism, eugenics, fascism, and communism. Lurie shows that it was the godlessness in each of these ideologies that killed hundreds of millions.

But atheism doesn’t just kill lives. It kills purpose, free will, beauty, compassion, a sense of the past and future, creativity, and freedom itself. Atheism offers only the horrors of chaos and totalitarianism.

The world misplaces its focus on Radical Islam as the greatest threat to civilization. As horrible as it is, it is doing nothing and having no sense of self which are the true enemies. It was our will to fight and sense of mission that overcame fascism and communism. We must have these to keep Radical Islam at bay, too.

This is why we must resist the growth of atheism. It was God that gave us our freedom. It was God who gave our sense of purpose that created civilization. Take those away, and there is nothing to fight for. In this way, Lurie shows that the lack of belief in God is our greatest danger. How does he know? Because like a hurricane, godlessness has only known how to destroy everything in its path. It has never created.

Like there will always be fires, there will always be enemies that seek to destroy our civilization. But if we don’t have fire stations with crew, and protocol in each city to deal with fires, those fires will consume us. Likewise, how we prepare ourselves to deal with horrific ideologies will be what saves us.

That preparation can only come with our embrace of the centrality of God.

Dennis Prager, forward to the book, Atheism Kills: The Dangers of a World Without God — and Cause for Hope by Barak Lurie

Excerpt from the post Atheism Kills—Sometimes a Blurb Is Enough by Steve Ruis