Menu Close

Category: Evangelicalism

How Fundamentalist Prohibitions Cause Needless Suffering and Pain

sin can make you sick

Polly’s father, who died two years ago, was always a hard worker, often able to work circles around men half his age. He and I got along well because we both had that workaholic drive, the need to constantly be busy and get things done. However, at the age of sixty-five, Dad was in an industrial accident that injured his back and required immediate surgery. He never walked straight again.

Soon, pain became an ever-present reality for him. Dad, having been taught that taking narcotics could lead to addiction, refused to take anything more than Tylenol or aspirin. Later in life, Naproxen was added to the mix, as was Darvocet, a drug that was later removed from the market due to serious side effects. Dad would do his best to only take what he thought he needed, often only taking half a pill or going without taking anything for several days. No matter how often I reminded him that it would be better if he took the drugs regularly and on schedule, he continued to endure the pain rather than take the drugs as the doctor ordered. Dad’s doctor eventually gave him a prescription for Tramadol, and later prescribed Oxycontin. Finally, I thought, Dad will find some relief for his pain and suffering. Sadly, that was not to be.

You see, Dad was afraid of becoming addicted. I tried to explain to him the difference between addiction and dependence, but I don’t think heard me. Having been a narcotic user for seventeen years, I know that I am physically dependent; I’m not an addict. I take the drugs as prescribed. I wish that Dad had seen that being dependent is no big deal, and that regularly taking Oxycontin would have reduced his pain and improved his quality of life. Unfortunately, thinking drug dependence is a sin kept Dad from getting the full benefit of the drug.

This is a perfect example of how Fundamentalist prohibitions cause unneeded suffering and pain. From preaching that says addiction (dependence) is a sin to viewing pain and suffering as some sort of test from God, many Fundamentalists eschew drugs and treatments that would likely improve their quality of life. Better to suffer for Jesus, the thought goes, than to become dependent on narcotics. In just a little while, Jesus is coming again . . .so endure until you see your Savior’s smiling face.

I pastored numerous people over the years who thought taking pain medications was a sign of weakness or lack of dependence on God. I watched one man horrifically suffer from bowel cancer, unwilling to take drugs for the pain. I’ve come to see that this is the Evangelical version of Catholic self-flagellation.

As an atheist, I am deeply troubled by this kind of thinking. Since I think this life is the only one we have, we should do all we can to eliminate not only our own pain and suffering, but that of others. Since there is no Heaven and no reward in the sweet by and by, why needlessly suffer? Better to become dependent on narcotics and have some sort of pain relief and improved quality of life than to go through life suffering, only to die in the end.  While I certainly think having a chronic illness and living with unrelenting pain has made me more compassionate, I don’t wish such a life on anyone, especially those I love.

How about you? Were you taught that taking narcotics and becoming dependent on them was a sin? Please share your story in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Understanding the Difference Between Private and Public

ideas dont have rights

Evangelical Christians, among others, have private (personal) beliefs that people such as I consider uninteresting, intellectually lacking, or irrational. As long as they do not try to force their beliefs on me, codify their beliefs into law, or demand special treatment, I am quite indifferent toward their beliefs. I have no interest in regulating what people believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, or anything else for that matter.

However, when Evangelicals state/argue/debate their beliefs in the public space — newspapers, TV, books, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, public meetings, etc. — then the rules of engagement change. Once these beliefs are uttered publicly they are no longer considered private and are open to criticism, investigation, debate, ridicule, mockery, and attack. People deciding to utter their beliefs in public should know this, and if they don’t, they are in for a rude awakening the first time they “share” their beliefs publicly.

As a writer, hopeful author, essayist of letters to the local newspaper, and the public face of atheism where I live, I am considered a public figure. As such, I open myself up to criticism, investigation, debate, ridicule, mockery, and attack. While I would hope people would treat me fairly and with respect, I have no right to expect such treatment and I have no recourse if someone lies about me, distorts my beliefs, or attacks me personally.

I can’t do anything about what someone may say about me or my writing on their own blog or in an internet forum. I can’t control the sermons Evangelical preachers preach about me. They can take something I have written and twist and distort it, and there is nothing I can do about it. This is the wild, woolly nature of the public space.

I wish Evangelical Christians would understand the difference between private and public. When they drag their beliefs into the public space, they have no right to whine, moan, or complain that I am attacking them and their beliefs. If they don’t want their beliefs assaulted or challenged, then they need to keep them out of the public space. As Tristan Vick said in a comment:

Someone needs to tell this caterwauling Christian that it’s people who have rights, not ideas.

Evangelicals often think that this blog is public; that they have a right to say whatever they want in the comment section. However, this blog is actually private; a site that the public can read and if they follow the rules comment on. As the owner of a private site, I have the absolute right to decide who may comment and what comments are approved. This site is no different from the churches Evangelicals attend.

If Evangelicals want to take me to task, critique my writing, or attack my character, they are free to do so on their own blogs, from the pulpits of their churches, on their podcasts, or any other medium of their choosing. But not on my blog.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Update: Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Sean Masopust Sentenced to 30 Days in Jail for Sexually Abusing Church Teen

Sean Masopust

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In February 2022, Sean Masopust, a youth pastor for Northridge Church in Owatonna, Minnesota, was accused of sexually abusing a church teenager. Astoundingly, the church “investigated” the accusation before reporting it to the police, sending Masopust to Kansas to “take some time off.” According to the victim’s mom, the church never told her about the incidents between Masopust and her child. Way to go, Northridge! Masopust is married to the daughter of the church’s pastor, Mark Perryman. Need I say more?

Bring Me The News reported at the time:

A now-former youth pastor at an Owatonna church is accused of sending nude photos and sexually abusing a member of his youth group when she was 17. 

Sean Patrick Masopust, 32, of Owatonna, is charged with fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct in connection to the incidents that occurred in 2018. 

The “inappropriate relationship” between Masopust, who was the youth pastor at Northridge Church in Owatonna, and the then-17-year-old girl was reported to police on Dec. 23, 2021, the Owatonna Police Department said

A member of the church’s regional counsel reported the incident to police after the church did its own investigation, which led to the church firing Masopust, the criminal complaint states. 

According to the criminal complaint, a member of the church’s regional counsel told police last December that Masopust had a texting and inappropriate relationship with the 17-year-old girl in 2018. 

The regional counsel member told police Masopust admitted to sending pictures of him in his underwear to the victim, and he has since been fired, charges state.

The victim was a member of Masopust’s and his wife’s youth group and she worked at the church’s daycare with Masopust’s mother-in-law, the complaint says. 

She told police from about June-October 2018, Masopust sent her inappropriate texts and Instagram messages, including nude photos and video of him masturbating. He also kissed her and touched her inappropriately on a few occasions, including at the church and at Masopust’s home after his wife hired her to babysit their children.

Masopust sent a message to the victim in October 2018 stating they couldn’t talk anymore because his wife had found the text messages, noting the church’s pastor had sent him to Kansas to “take some time off,” the charges said. The victim’s mom told police the church never told her about the incidents between Masopust and her child.

Masopust also texted the victim on her 18th birthday, welcoming her to adulthood and apologizing “for everything that happened.” He asked for her forgiveness, adding he almost lost his wife and family and he’s ashamed of what he did. 

“I’m always here and you are a big part of my wife and girls lives so I hope we can remain friends,” the text message said, according to the complaint. 

The victim told police said she looked up to Masopust for a long time, noting he was her pastor in elementary school, and it felt weird to tell him no, so she just let it happen, the complaint says.

The victim said she was active in the church until her high school graduation and became active again around November 2020 when she moved back to Owatonna. Around that time, Masopust’s wife asked her to be an adult youth leader. 

Masopust’s wife called the victim on Oct. 19, 2021, asking her to come to the church. She said she met with two men from the Minnesota Assemblies of God and shared her story. 

The Minnesota Assemblies of God (Northridge Church is part of the Assemblies of God) shared its finding of fact with police on Jan. 24, with the documents noting Masopust had sent pictures to the victim and admitted to a “flirtatious” text message thread, as well as having “hand contact” with her with the intent of having sex with her, the complaint states. 

The Roys Report’s extensive coverage of this story adds:

Sean Masopust was fired this past fall, former board member Pat McCauley and other former church members say, and he’s no longer listed on the church website.

Calls to Northridge seeking information about Masopust and his employment status were not returned.

Masopust’s wife, youth pastor Felicia Masopust, was also accused of sexual abuse in a letter sent this month by the parents of a youth group member. In the letter, which was obtained by The Roys Report, the parents state their son received a sexually explicit text from Felicia in 2019.

Kayla Mollenhauer and other former youth group members say Felicia Masopust also failed to take concerns seriously when girls told her certain men in the church made them uncomfortable. They also accuse her of manipulating them and creating a cult-like atmosphere in which they were expected to tell her everything about their private lives.

Former church members including McCauley and his daughter-in-law, Shelley McCauley, say Felicia Masopust resigned from the church in January. However, the church hasn’t made any announcement regarding Felicia Masopust’s employment, and she remains listed on the church’s website.

The Roys Report reached out to Northridge Church for clarification about Felicia Masopust’s employment, but received no response.

The Roys Report also contacted the Minnesota District of the Assemblies of God to ask about Northridge and Sean and Felicia Masopust. Mark Dean, the district superintendent, said “the accusations have been investigated.”

“We have forwarded our findings to the Owatonna Police, as well as to the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo.,” Dean wrote in an email. “We have no additional comment to make.”

The McCauleys and Amber Will, a former adult leader in the youth group, allege Perryman failed to notify church board members or to investigate fully when he first learned in 2018 that his son-in-law was accused of flirtatiously texting with the teen.

When Sean Masopust left the church staff, the church was told only that Masopust had committed “conduct unbecoming of a pastor,” said Shelley McCauley, another former youth group volunteer.

“The congregation has no idea why Sean was fired, why Felicia resigned,” she added.

Now the McCauleys, Will, and others, including the young woman who says she was assaulted, say they’ve been ostracized by the church.

In October 2022, Masopust pleaded guilty to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim between the ages of 16 and 17 who he had a position of authority over. Astoundingly, Masopust was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 10 years probation. He must have received the preacher’s discount.

Owatonna.com reports:

The former youth pastor of Northridge Church in Owatonna has been sentenced to minimal jail time and a decade of probation after pleading guilty to grooming and molesting a teenager who had been in his youth group.

Sean Patrick Masopust, 33, was sentenced Thursday morning in Steele County District Court to 30 days jail, with credit for two days already served, and 10 years supervised probation, for a felony conviction of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim between the ages of 16 and 17 who he had a position of authority over. Masopust pleaded guilty to the charge on Oct. 6.

….

Terms of Masopust’s probation include attending and completing a sex offender treatment program, no unsupervised contact with persons under the age of 18 (with the exception of his own biological children in cooperation with Child Protective Services), no access to or use of internet without approval, no possession of any device that allows for internet capabilities or access to the internet without internet monitoring software, and he must register as a predatory offender.

….

According to the criminal complaint, on Dec. 23, 2021, a member of the regional counsel of Northridge Church reported to Owatonna police an “inappropriate relationship” that took place between Masopust and a 17-year-old female in 2018. The reporting party allegedly told police the church had first heard the “relationship” was through texting, but after some digging found that “inappropriate things” were occurring. Masopust reportedly admitted to the counsel to some of the conduct and has since been fired from the church. The reporting party said the victim was a part of Masopust’s youth group at the time of the “relationship.”

The victim and her mother met with police on Christmas Eve. The mother told police the church “never told her” about what happened with Masopust and her daughter, according to court documents.

The victim reportedly told police she began working at Sunshine Tree Daycare, located in the church basement, in 2018, while Masopust was the associate youth pastor at the time, and she was a student youth leader under his and his wife’s direction. In June 2018, the victim said the first incident happened when Masopust allegedly sent her a private message and asked what kind of underwear she was wearing.

In August 2018, the victim said Masopust reportedly pulled her from the daycare while she was working and brought her to a back hallway/storage area and began aggressively kissing her and touching her body.

On more than one occasion, the victim said Masopust allegedly sent her photographs and videos of him in his underwear, of his genitals, and of himself masturbating. At one point, Masopust sent her a message complaining about her not sending a nude photo back, and she then complied, according to court records.

The victim said she would be asked to babysit Masopust’s children, and on one occasion, he allegedly brought her to the basement and tried to gain access to her genitals and breasts but stopped when she was clearly uncomfortable.

The victim said the last incident took place in October 2018 at Northridge Church when Masopust tried to grab and hug her in his closed office, according to the report. The victim said everything stopped later that month when Masopust reportedly sent her a message saying his wife “found the messages and got upset.”

The victim said she remained active in the church until she graduated from high school but returned in 2020. According to court records, the victim said she became active in the church again and was eventually asked by Masopust’s wife to become an adult youth leader. The victim said, on Oct. 19, 2021, Masopust’s wife asked her to come to the church, where the victim said two men from the Minnesota Assemblies of God met with her and she provided her story.

According to Owatonna police, the church fired Masopust in October 2021.

On Feb. 3, Tammy Perryman, mother-in-law of Masopust and wife of the church lead pastor, resigned from her position as director of the Sunshine Tree Daycare, which is located in the basement of the church. Lead Pastor Mark Perryman, Masopust’s father-in-law, voluntarily resigned from his position on Feb. 6. Felicia Masopust, the daughter of the Perryman’s and wife of Masopust, also resigned from her position as a youth pastor.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Robert Kasler Charged with Engaging in Prostitution

pastor robert kasler

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Robert “Rob” Kasler, pastor of Manchester Christian Church in Akron, Ohio, stands accused of engaging in prostitution and possession of criminal tools.

WKYC reports:

Seventeen men in Northeast Ohio were arrested and charged as the result of a human trafficking investigation that took place on Dec. 8.

An online ad offering sexual favors for money led the men to a Microtel Inn & Suites hotel in Canton, the center of an undercover operation. 

Sixteen of the men were arrested and charged with Engaging in Prostitution (M-1) and Possession of Criminal Tools (M-1):

….

Robert L. Kasler, age 50, Massillon, OH

….

Reports indicate one of the men, Robert Kasler, is a pastor at Manchester Christian Church in New Franklin. He’s listed as the church’s senior pastor. He declined to speak to 3News Investigator Marisa Saenz at the church. 

Manchester Christian describes itself as:

a non-denominational church. This means we are a church that is self-governing  (independent) and not affiliated with any larger denomination or organization. We are accountable to God only, and adhere to the teachings of Christ and the Bible as the sole standard of faith and practice. All decisions and authority are derived from Holy Scripture and overseen by the Elders of the church. (1Tim. 3:1-8)

Independent Christian Churches, like MCC, have their founding in the Restoration Movement. Our worship emphasizes gathering, singing praise with music, baptism, offering communion weekly, biblical teaching, and prayer.

Kasler has been scrubbed from the church’s website.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Frozen Embryos: If Life Begins at Conception . . .

3 day old human embyro
Three-Day Old Human Embryo. Why He Looks Just Like his Father.

According to anti-abortionists/forced birthers, life begins at conception. At the very moment the sperm and egg unite, a new life is created. Anti-abortionists are intractable when it comes to their position. Life begins at conception . . . end of debate.

Let me tell you a story . . .

This story takes place at the We Make Life Possible Fertility Clinic, owned by Dr. David Tee, a renowned gynecologist, fertility expert, and archeologist.

Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl through in vitro fertilization. Her baby girl is one month old. Sue stopped by the Fertility Clinic to show off her newborn to the clinic staff.

While Sue was there, a huge explosion rocked the place and the clinic was engulfed in flames. Later speculation on World Net Daily, Charisma, Protestia, and TheologyGynocology, suggested a supporter of Barack Obama/Joe Biden/Nancy Pelosi/Kamala Harris/AOC was behind the attack.

John, named after John the Baptist, a forced birth activist, happened to be passing by the clinic when the explosion took place. John went running into the clinic hoping to perhaps save someone from the fire.

John had been to the We Make Possible Life Fertility Clinic before. His wife Purity had problems conceiving, and not wanting to wait on God to open her womb, she went to the clinic for non-vaginal-sex fertilization. While the treatment was successful, Purity miscarried a few months into the pregnancy.

John knew the clinic stored hundreds of fertilized eggs (embryos) in a freezer. As he rushed into the clinic, John saw Sue huddled in a corner with her newborn daughter trying to get away from the fire. John thought, “Surely I should save these two.”

John thought for a moment, asking himself What Would Jesus Do? Suddenly, he realized the fire was going to destroy all the frozen embryos. John told Sue and her baby Sorry, maybe Jesus will come to rescue you, and he rushed to the freezer where the frozen embryos were stored. Through John’s heroic effort, hundreds of frozen embryos were saved. Sadly, Sue and her newborn daughter were burnt to death.

Who among us would fault John? After all, he acted according to the greater good. Who wouldn’t save two hundred lives at the expense of two lives?

The above story follows the logic of the life-begins-at-conception viewpoint to its illogical conclusion. There is no difference between two hundred embryos and Sue and her baby. Life is life. It makes perfect sense for John to save the frozen embryos and not Sue and her little one. Surely John would be praised for saving the two hundred embryos, right? If the clinic is unable to reopen, perhaps the frozen embryos can be put up for adoption. After all, EVERY embryo is a life.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Better without God

guest post

A guest post by John

I was having a meal with a friend recently. He is a really nice guy and fun to be around. We’ve known each other for at least 17 years. He grew up as a Southern Baptist, but is now an atheist. I’ve been an agnostic atheist for about 6 years. Prior to my deconversion, I had been a Christian for 36 years, mostly in the evangelical/charismatic world. It turns out that my friend and I went through our deconversion process basically at the same time, but neither of us knew about the other. Both of us are still mostly closeted atheists. My wife doesn’t even know the full extent of my “change in some beliefs.” As with my friend, most of my friends and family are Christians and, like him, I’m not ready to go full-on just yet.

It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I noticed some of his posts on social media that made me go, hmmm. There weren’t many and they were subtle, but they made me think that he might be questioning his Christian beliefs as I had. I decided to ask him about it. I knew he was a Christian, but I also knew he was not really hardcore. So even if I was wrong and told him where I was in life, it would probably be fine. Once I brought it up and we both came clean, so to speak, we spent about 4 hours talking about our deconversion experiences. We still talk about them to this day as we proceed down this road.

One thing I noticed about my friend is that he is just as great a human being now as he was as a Christian. In fact, he is probably a better human in many ways. I feel the same about myself. I know I’m a better human being now as an atheist than I was as a Christian. I’ve found this to be a pretty common theme among people who used to believe in a God but are now atheists. I’m less judgmental, I have a lot less fear in my life, I don’t have any hidden agendas to get people to my church or my Jesus, I’m more compassionate and empathetic towards myself and others, and when I give (time, money, etc.) it’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to. And not because I think I’ll get something in return. Yep, the prosperity gospel (BIG eye roll).

One thing that helped me become a better person is that now I feel free to study other ways of viewing life and the world. I enjoy learning about secular Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. I have picked up many tools from both philosophies that better help me navigate life. My overall mental and emotional state is better now than it ever was when I was a believer.

I can also say that life in general is better. I have more money because I’m not giving 10%-20% of my income to religious organizations. I’m free to focus on my job without thinking I am doing so until I can do full-time ministry. Ugh! It makes me cringe just typing that out! I’m much more chill now and worry less about things that used to worry me. Not praying anymore really helps! People pray because they want things to change or turn out a certain way. It’s an illusion of control. So much wasted energy. And, in my opinion, praying often takes the place of people doing things for themselves and others. Now, if I can change something that I think needs changing in my life, I do it. If I can’t change it, I adapt the best I can — using the tools that I have picked up along the way. Tools that I did not have when I just prayed about most things, hoping God would somehow fix them.

I was listening to a podcast a while back and the hosts were talking about what didn’t happen in their lives after they left religion. Their pets didn’t die, their cars didn’t break down, they didn’t get sick, their marriages didn’t fall apart, they didn’t lose their jobs, and life pretty much went on as normal. Even better than normal. I remember being told in multiple churches that if you decide to leave God, all kinds of bad things will happen to you. I’m not saying life is perfect, but most of those bad things I was told would happen never took place; not any more than they were happening when I was still a Christian. Cars break down, jobs change, pets die, loved ones die, people get bad news from the doctor, and people get divorced. Life happens to everyone, theist and non-theist alike.

Here is an example of what I believe is me being a better human now than I was as a believer. Not to toot my own horn, but simply an example of how I’ve changed since leaving religion. A close relative came to me recently and told me she was gay. I was thrilled for her! I was so happy that she had discovered this about herself. I pretty much knew, based on clues over the last couple of years, and was very humbled and happy that she trusted me with this news. She has been pretty careful about whom she shares this with, and I don’t blame her a bit for that. She did tell another close relative who happens to be a very devout Christian and it did not go well. I’m so glad that I have been away from religion long enough, and have grown as much as I have, that I could celebrate with my loved one instead of judging her for what I once considered to be wrong and “sinful.” I plan on continuing to change and to grow to be the best human I can be during the time I have here on this planet. No God needed.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce, You Would Give the Shirt Off Your Back to Help Others

where your treasure is

My wife, Polly, is the daughter of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher and his wife. Polly’s family on her mother’s side is littered with preachers, missionaries, and evangelists. Her grandfather was a United Baptist preacher. Most of my experience with Polly’s family over the past forty-seven years comes from Polly’s parents and her mother’s close family. One thing that I noticed is that while Polly’s mom and dad, along with her grandfather, aunt, and uncle were gracious, kind, and helpful towards IFB family members, they weren’t the same towards people outside of the family. This always troubled me. Why were they so hesitant or unwilling to help people who weren’t “blood?”

In 1989, our two oldest sons and a girl from the church I was pastoring at the time, attended the Licking County Christian Academy — a ministry of the Newark Baptist Temple, the church pastored for fifty years by Polly’s uncle, Jim Dennis. We would carpool the children to and from school, a thirty-mile drive each way. One day, it was the girl’s father’s turn to pick up the kids from school. Before arriving at the school, Harold picked up a homeless man and brought him to the Baptist Temple, thinking the church would help him. He quickly learned that the Baptist Temple was nothing like the church he attended. The church turned the homeless man away.

Harold wrongly thought all Christians were the same; that the Baptist Temple would treat poor people the same way we did at Somerset Baptist Church. Surely, the Baptist Temple, a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church, would follow the teachings of Christ, Harold thought. At Somerset Baptist, we fed and clothed the poor and the homeless. We paid the rent and utility bills of people in dire straits, even though Somerset Baptist took in only one-thirtieth the money each year the Baptist Temple did.

Jim and I got into an argument one day in his office over material wealth. We were struggling to pay our school tuition bill. I wanted to find out if there was anything the church could do to help us. The answer was no. I have never forgotten what Jim told me: “it is never God’s will for a Christian to live in poverty.” In other words, he was telling me that I was not doing the will of God. I retorted, “this would be news to Jesus, the disciples, and countless other Christians.” Our meeting ended on a sour note. Our children finished the year at LCCA. By the start of the next school year, I had started Somerset Baptist Academy — a tuition-free school for church children.

Was Jim a bad person? Of course not. He grew up in a middle-class home. He had never experienced poverty or doing without. I, on the other hand, had real-world experience with poverty. He and I had very different life experiences, and these lived experiences affected how we viewed the world and ministered to people. I have always been sensitive to the needs of the poor. Most of the people I pastored over the years were working-class poor or on public assistance. Sure, I pastored several millionaires and upper-middle-class families, but they were the exception to the rule. And quite honestly, poor church members tended to be more gracious and giving than affluent members. As a Baptist church, we believed Christians should give ten percent of their income to the church. It was the church, then, that decided how to spend donations. One millionaire wanted to control where his tithe went. He told me the church couldn’t be trusted with his money. No control, no donation. You can guess how that turned out. Not well. He later left the church.

I co-pastored Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas in 1994. After returning to Ohio and then moving back home to rural northwest Ohio, we started a new Baptist church in West Unity. Months after we started the church, a family from Community Baptist contacted me about moving to Ohio to be part of our church. I said yes, and began making plans for them to move from Texas to Ohio. A preacher friend and I drove to San Antonio to help them move. I rented a car for our trip, paying for our gas and meals. I also helped pay for some of this family’s moving expenses. All told, I spent almost $2,000 out of pocket to help them move. I sold my firearms to help fund this trip, a decision I deeply regret.

The family moved into the church until they could find employment and housing. The congregation went out of its way to help them. The family didn’t stay. I had warned them about how different it would be for them as a Hispanic family living in white rural Ohio. They assured me that this wouldn’t be a problem. It was. They missed their family and culture. I was disappointed (and angry, at the time) that they left, but years later I understand why they did.

One day, Polly’s mom and dad happened to be visiting our home. Polly and I were discussing moving this family from Texas to Ohio, when Mom interjected, “Bruce, you would give people the shirt off your back.” We just stared at her, wondering why this was a problem. It seemed to be the Christian thing to do; the way we had lived our married life from the get-go and still do to this day. Realizing how bad that sounded and that she had “stepped” in it, Mom added, “not that that is a bad thing.”

Our conversation moved on to other things, but her comments to me were a reminder that we lived in different worlds; that we had different beliefs about what it meant to be a Christian. What I always found odd is that Mom grew up dirt poor. Her parents were migrant farm workers. She had experienced poverty firsthand. Yet, once free of being poor, she had no interest in helping anyone outside of her immediate family. Was Mom a bad person? Of course not. That said, it is hard to read the Gospels and not have a heart for the poor and marginalized. And where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Short Stories: George of the Jungle and a Dog Who Plays Basketball

george of the jungle

My wife, Polly, and I have six children — four boys, and two girls. As children of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher and his wife, they lived sheltered lives, safe from Satan and the world. Our two oldest sons attended public school for two years. Outside of that, our children either attended a private Christian school or were homeschooled. Our two oldest children attended Licking County Christian Academy for one year and our three oldest children attended Somerset Baptist Academy, a school I started, for five years. Our youngest three were homeschooled from kindergarten through grade twelve.

We didn’t have a TV for years. I detail my battle with the TV here: The Preacher and His TV. And even after we got a television, I carefully controlled what our children could watch. Our youngest children fondly remember watching programs such as Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, Lois & Clark: The Adventures of Superman Continue, Five Mile Creek, Quantum Leap, and Sliders. We also let them watch G-rated/PG-rated movies. The goal was always the same: to protect them from the “world.”

In the late 1990s, our (my) view of the “world” began to change. We were still quite Fundamentalist, but we loosened the reigns, so to speak, when it came to “entertainment. Our older sons were allowed to listen to contemporary Christian music. I remember when I brought home a PETRA CD. Polly thought God was going to strike us dead and burn our house to the ground. Alas, God didn’t give a shit about what kind of music we listened to.

air bud

In the summer of 1997, I told Polly I wanted to take the children to the drive-in theater. Polly and I hadn’t been to an evil Hollywood movie since our teen years, and our children had never been to a theater of any kind. Polly, ever worried about God getting us, thought it was a bad idea to go to the drive-in. I assured her that God would be okay with us going to the movies. After all, we were going to see Air Bud and George of the Jungle. 🙂 Sure enough, we learned that God didn’t give a shit about what kind of movies we watched either. Our family and a wonderful time at the Wauseon Drive-in Theater. Our children were 18, 16, 13, 8, 6, and 4 the day the “world” won and Satan took over our family. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Bruce Gerencser