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Category: Life

What is Life?


I will soon celebrate my sixty-sixth birthday. In July, Polly and I will celebrate our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. We now have thirteen grandchildren. Two of our granddaughters will start their senior year of high school in the fall. Both are straight-A students, and both have boyfriends! OMG, where had the time gone? I am now, without question, an old man, a cranky curmudgeon. I have seen a few things and experienced a lot of this thing we humans call life. As I comb through my past, I have come to the conclusion that life is the sum of our choices (and, at times, the choices of others), held together by the mortar of luck and circumstance. As I carefully examine my life, I can see how certain decisions I made in the past materially affect my life today. For example, as a married, full-of-life, physically fit young preacher, I decided to opt out of Social Security. For the next seventeen years, I paid no social security/Medicare taxes on my ministry-related income. I leveraged the clergy housing allowance and other legal tax avoidance schemes in such a way that I often ended up showing no personal income on my tax return and paid zero taxes for the year. This went on for years. Not bad, right? My motivation was simple: as a die-hard right-wing Republican, I believed that the government didn’t deserve my money. In my mind, the less money local, state, and federal agencies had, the better. I thought, at the time, “Why should I pay real estate taxes? My children attend a private Christian school or are homeschooled. Why should I pay for the world’s children to be educated in government schools?” When I bought automobiles, I purchased them through the church, thus avoiding paying sales tax. I expensed everything I could, with the goal in mind that I was economically starving the government.

In the late 1990s, I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized, for the first time, that I was one day going to be where I am now, and that I would need some sort of retirement income. I also started having niggling health problems, and in 1997, after months and months of unexplained fatigue and pain, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. At that moment, Bruce-with-a-big-S-on-his-chest learned that he was not invincible; that life was a kryptonite of sorts that will, in the end, lead to my demise.

I opted back into Social Security and started paying taxes again, but this was too little too late. Fortunately, over the course of my work career — from age fourteen to today — I worked numerous “secular” jobs:

janitor, gas station attendant, short order cook, newspaper motor route, life insurance salesman, sweeper salesman, restaurant general manager, network manager, durable medical equipment supply office manager, dairy department manager, grocery stock clerk, workfare/court offender program manager, litter control manager/officer, building code enforcement officer, grant manager, real estate updater for an auditor’s office, farm worker, auto mechanic, cable box repairman, shipping and receiving, turret lathe operator, and numerous general laborer jobs in factories

These jobs provided enough work quarters for me to qualify for a nominal monthly social security payment of about $800. While this is not a large amount of money, retirement-wise, it makes a meaningful difference for us. Neither of my parents lived long enough to collect social security, so I have outlived them and will win the prize. Woo-hoo! However, I can’t help but think about how much better off I would be as a disabled retired man had I paid social security/Medicare taxes on my ministerial income. The difference would be significant, but due to a singular decision made long before I ever had a thought about getting old, I am forced to live with the consequences of that decision.

I always made more money working secular jobs than I did working for God. The most I ever made income-wise as a pastor was $24,000. Most years, I made $8,000-$20,000 (including housing) pastoring churches. If it hadn’t been for secular work, government assistance, and Medicaid insurance, we would have been destitute. As it was, we were dirt poor for most of the years I spent in the ministry. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that things improved for us. Polly started working for Sauder Woodworking (she just celebrated her twentieth-seventh anniversary there) and our oldest sons started working jobs of their own.

It’s unfortunate, though, that I had decided as a young husband and father to let “God” take care of our wants and needs. As anyone who has ever done this has learned, “God” loves keeping his followers in the poor house. Why, if “God” had backed up a Brink’s truck to our home and unloaded some of the “treasure” he supposedly has, we wouldn’t have “needed” him any longer. So, “God” kept us on our knees, ever begging for divine assistance. I sincerely believed that “God” would meet our needs and even throw in a few wants from time to time, so I accepted that our poverty was God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will for our lives (Romans 12:1,2). Of course, I never asked Polly or our children what they thought of this arrangement I had with God. I was the family patriarch. End of discussion. I wonder how different our lives might have been had I put the financial and material welfare of my family first; had I built a career managing restaurants or working in government alongside my work as a pastor. Would we have been better off? Probably. But, who really knows for sure?

Have you ever thought about certain decisions you have made in your life and wondered how things might have turned out differently? I call this the what-if or would-of, could-of, should-of game. While we like to think that life would have been different if we had only made this or that decision, there are too many variables for us to know for sure how things might have turned out. For example, at age eighteen, I was madly in love with a twenty-year-old college girl named Anita Farr. (Please see 1975: Anita, My First Love.) For much of 1975, we had a torrid relationship — as no-sex-before-marriage Baptist relationships went, anyway. I was sure she was the one. However, our relationship didn’t last, and in late ’75, I packed up my meager belongings, hopped a Greyhound bus, and returned to Ohio. As I look back at this time in my life, I see two people who had similar personalities and dispositions. Both of us were quite outgoing, personable, and temperamental. I told Polly a while back, as we were talking about past choices, “If I had married Anita, one of us would have murdered the other and ended up in prison.” Our relationship was very much one of a lit match and gasoline. A year later, I enrolled in ministerial classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. My game plan, girl-wise, was to play the field. I thought at the time, “what a blessing from God, a dormitory filled with fine Baptist women!” Sure enough, I started dating a girl by the name of Peggie. After a few weeks, our casual relationship petered out and we moved on to other people. Next up for me was a seventeen-year-old dark-haired preacher’s daughter named Polly. She was (and is) a beauty, but I had no thoughts at the time that she was a woman I was ready to settle down with. It was not long, however, before Bruce, the player, was smitten and in love. On Valentine’s Day in 1976, I proposed and Polly said “yes.” So much for playing the field!

Choosing to marry Polly — a choice I would make again in a heartbeat — certainly changed the course of my life. On a hot day in July,1978, at the Newark Baptist Temple, we stood before our family and friends (and God, or so we thought at the time) and pledged our troth to one another. We were two mutually infatuated children, ill-prepared for the pressures and challenges of married life. Six weeks after we married, Polly informed me that she was pregnant. Six months after that I was laid off from my job. This forced us to leave school and move to the home of my birth, Bryan, Ohio. So much for our “plans,” or God’s, for that matter. From there, my ministerial career and our married life took a completely different path.

I have written this trip down memory lane — one that will receive the voluminous treatment it deserves in my book — to illustrate how the many choices we make, along with external influences, materially and permanently affect our lives. I don’t believe in soulmates. I don’t think for a moment that Polly is the only suitable woman on planet earth for me. She is, however, the woman I chose to love and marry, and together we have made a good life for ourselves. We have made a hell of a lot of bad decisions and wish we could have a do-over on more than a few things. But, on balance, we’ve had a good life. The sum of our choices has led to where we are today. Hopefully, we have learned a thing or two over the past forty-five years, but I am confident that we still have a few fuck-ups left in our lives. Live and learn, right? Or, well, live anyway . . .

Do you ponder the decisions you have made in your life and how things have turned out for you? Do you wonder about how different life might have been for you had you made different decisions? Do you have a simple philosophy by which you govern your life? Please share your erudite thoughts in the comment section.


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: Thou Shall Not Touch

I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. IFB preachers are known for their staunch, unflinching views on human sexuality. Only sexual behavior between married, monogamous, heterosexual couples is ordained by God. Some preachers believe that certain sexual behaviors within marriage are sinful too: anal sex, oral sex, and mutual masturbation. In their minds, the primary goal of sexual intercourse is procreation. In this regard, their beliefs aren’t different from those of the Roman Catholic Church.

These preachers, in particular, focus on the sex lives of unmarried teenagers and young adults; no physical contact before marriage, including kissing. Some IFB preachers forbid dating couples from even holding hands or putting their arms around each other. Holding hands is considered the first step on the slippery slope that ends in immorality. As a young IFB preacher, I remember telling church teens that no girl ever got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first. And unmarried young people better not use their hands to find sexual gratification sans a partner either. Masturbation is considered an act of lust, one in which the person is only concerned with pleasuring one’s self. IFB preachers remind unmarried teens and young adults that the Bible commands them to deny themselves. Of course, many of these preachers didn’t practice what they preach when they themselves were hormones-raging young people.

My wife and I were virgins on our wedding day. Two decades of IFB indoctrination and conditioning made sure of that. We were true believers. Several years ago, I had a discussion with two women who were friends of mine during high school. The three of us were part of the same youth group at an IFB church in Findlay, Ohio. During our delightful time of reminiscing, I quickly learned that there was a whole lot of sexual activity going on among church teenagers; that I may have been one of the few virgins in the youth group. This did not surprise me. Now an old man and having pastored scores of teenagers and young adults over the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, I know premarital sex is common; that all the rules in the world won’t staunch raging hormones.

At the age of eighteen, I had a torrid six-month relationship with a twenty-year-old woman from the Conservative Baptist church we both attended. I was naive when it came to sex, whereas she had already had a sexual relationship with a previous boyfriend. We spent a lot of time together, often taking evening drives in the southeast Arizona desert. We would park along back roads and enjoy the clear, star-studded skies. We would, of course, make out. It’s a wonder that we didn’t have sex, but I suspect “fear” of disobeying God and being labeled fornicators by the church kept us from doing so.

In the fall of 1976, I left northwest Ohio and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll in classes at Midwestern Baptist College — an IFB institution. My plan was to play the field, but it was not long before I met a beautiful, dark-haired preacher’s daughter who would later become my wife. Midwestern had strict no-contact rules for unmarried students. Students of the opposite sex were required to stay at least six inches from each other at all times. No handholding, no kissing, no embraces. “Thou shalt not touch the opposite sex” was the eleventh commandment, etched in stone.

For the first five months of our relationship, Polly and I played by the rules. Breaking the no-contact rule was a serious offense that could lead to being campused (unable to leave the college campus except for work and church) or expulsion.

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

Christmas 1976 found me driving to Newark, Ohio to spend Christmas with Polly. For the first time, we were not under the watchful eyes of college and dorm leaders and rules keeping, turn-you-in-if they-see- you-breaking-the rules Pharisees. Polly’s parents were living in an apartment at the time. Her mom asked Polly to go down to the laundry room to get their laundry. I, of course, went along with her to “help.” It was in that nondescript, out of the way laundry room that we had our first embrace and kiss. For obvious reasons, it took us a long time to bring the laundry back to the apartment.

A week later, both of us returned to Midwestern and its no-contact rule. The problem for us was that we had enjoyed the forbidden, and putting the genie back in the bottle was impossible. What were we to do?

Students were permitted to double-date on weekends. Some couples were rigid Fundamentalists, keepers of the letter of the law. Others, not so much. We quickly learned which couples were “safe.” We spent the next eighteen months breaking the rules, fearing getting caught and kicked out of school. Love and hormones won the day. Our virginity survived — barely — until our wedding day.

A week before our wedding, I drove to Newark to spend the day with Polly. We decided to go out to The Dawes Arboretum to spend the afternoon before attending church that night at the Newark Baptist Temple. We had a wonderful day, and as a soon-to-be-married couple, we did a lot of kissing and walk here and there arm in arm. Our passion, for two sexually unaware young adults, was palatable, so much so that I feared we were going to lose our virginity before our special day. We didn’t, but we did lose track of time, arriving home late. Boy, did Polly’s mom give us a tongue-lashing for breaking curfew. Here were were a nineteen-year woman and twenty-one-year-old man and we were being treated like children. We said nothing, changed our clothes, and headed to church. Seven days later, we said “I do.”


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.

Much Like Mutual Orgasm, God Has “Perfect” Timing


Imagine for a moment a passionate, uninhibited couple making love. As their naked bodies writhe in unison, they reach a point of sexual release. And in that perfectly timed moment, both simultaneously have an orgasm. Nothing is better, at least to me, than such moments in life. My wife and I have been married for 45 years. We have made love a time or two. Okay, at least six times. 🙂 As any long-married couple will tell you, not every sexual encounter leads to skyrockets in flight, afternoon delight. Sometimes, the sex is just good or okay. But there are also times when the sex is magical, when it seems that everything is perfectly aligned, leading to the type of momentary experience I mentioned above.

As I was reading a comment on social media from an Evangelical talking about God’s “perfect” timing, I thought about how this notion is quite similar to a couple having mutual orgasms. Bruce, you have a “dirty” mind, some Evangelical is sure to say. Yep, I do. Now that we have THAT out of the way . . .

Most Evangelicals believe that their God not only created the universe, but also controls every aspect of their lives. Calvinists, in particular, preach up the sovereignty of God, believing that everything that happens — past, present, and future — is ordained and decreed by God (including orgasms).

Most Evangelicals believe that their God is involved in not only life’s big things, but also what is considered minutiae, the trivial things of life. According to Evangelical orthodoxy, the Triune God of the Protestant Bible is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God is all-powerful, present everywhere, and knows everything. According to the Gospels, God cares for the fallen sparrow and knows the very number of hairs we have on our heads. He is a God of detail; a God who pays close attention to the small stuff. Years ago, I preached a sermon about the cliché, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” I rejected this notion, telling congregants that God sweated the small stuff and so should they. Nice guilt inducing sermon, but I digress. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals that the Christian deity most certainly cares about our every behavior. The Bible story that illustrates this best is that of Uzzah and the Ark of Covenant. 2 Samuel 6:1-8 states:

Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before the Lord on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perezuzzah to this day.

Uzzah, being a good Jew, saw the Ark shaking, and fearing the embodiment of God’s presence would fall, he put out his hand to steady it. How did God reward Uzzah for his quick save? He smote him — love the King James Bible! — and Uzzah died.

According to the Rational Christianity website:

The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God’s presence with the Israelites. The atonement cover (or “mercy seat”) that covered the ark was God’s throne (2 Sam 6:2) and God’s presence was above it (Lev 16:2); it was also the place where God met Moses and gave him commands (Ex 25:22). If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God’s presence – a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6) – and would die as a result of their sins. For this reason, God had given the Israelites many rules concerning the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple, hidden from view by a curtain (Ex 26:33). Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and then only after he had undergone ceremonial cleansing, made sacrifices to atone for his sins and the nation’s sins, and burned incense to conceal the atonement cover (Lev 16). When the ark was moved, it was covered with at least 3 layers of cloth by the priests to protect others from seeing it (Num 4:5-6, 15, 18-20); the priests/Levites carried it and everyone else had to stay about a thousand yards away (Josh 3:4). These laws enforced the concept of God’s holiness: sinful people couldn’t be in his presence, not even the high priest.

Hence, when Uzzah touched the ark, he was profaning it and disobeying God; he should have grabbed the poles used for carrying the ark instead, for that was their purpose (Ex 25:14-15)

God sure made his point, didn’t he?

Another Bible story that punctuates God’s attention to triviality is found in Acts 5:5-11:

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Acts 4 details the story behind the aforementioned passage of Scripture. Recent Jewish converts were selling their lands and houses and giving the proceeds to the Apostles so they could buy a Lear jet. Verses 34 and 35 state:

Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Married converts Ananias and Sapphira wanted to do their part, so they sold a parcel of land, planning to donate the money to the Apostles. Being good Independent Baptists, however, Ananias and Sapphira decided to short God a few bucks so they could take a vacation to Rome. Somehow, the Apostle Peter, who just weeks before denied knowing Jesus, found out about Ananias’ and Sapphira’s greed and exposed their subterfuge. Once exposed, God rained judgment down upon their heads, killing them both. As a pastor, I said on more than one occasion that if God still killed Christians today for lying as Ananias and Sapphira did, churches would be empty. One little lie, and God struck both of them dead. Damn, Jesus, your Father sure has a temper!

It’s clear from Holy Writ that the Evangelical God cares about everything Christians do. Thus, it is not surprising that Evangelicals believe that Jesus sits in Heaven hearing their prayers, making sure that their requests align with his will. And at the exact moment a prayer lines up with the perfect will of God, the request is granted, leading the recipient to praise God’s “perfect” timing.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Evangelicals believe that these verses teach that there is a time (and purpose) for everything. Evangelicals are known for divining what happens in their lives as God’s “perfect” timing. Meet a man at Starbucks you later marry? God’s “perfect” timing. Find a red Ford Fiesta at a price you can afford? God’s “perfect” timing. Need a house to rent and find one that’s just the right price? God’s “perfect” timing. Receive a call from a church wanting you to be their next pastor? God’s “perfect” timing. Leaving a church to pastor another church? God’s “perfect” timing. Having sex with your secretary in your study? God’s “perfect” timing. Okay, I am kidding about the last one. That aside, Evangelicals believe that whatever unfolds in their lives is according to some sort of divine clock God uses to determine what will and won’t happen in their lives.

Bruce, this is nonsense! Yes, it is, but this doesn’t change the fact that most Evangelicals view God as the controller of their lives (as do many Catholics, Muslims, and other religious people). In the real world, there’s no master string-puller. Luck, and not divine decree, often facilitates many of the events in our lives. Back in my college days, I believed the Evangelical God brought my wife and me together. After all, I had planned to enroll at Prairie Bible Institute in Canada, but at the last minute God — also known as a lack of money — “led” me to register for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I planned to have fun dating as many girls as I could, eventually settling on one to marry when I was a junior or a senior. God, however, had other plans for me — a beautiful, dark-haired seventeen-year-old preacher’s daughter. I dated one girl for a couple of weeks, but then I decided to ask Polly out on a date. Talk about God playing matchmaker!  Six months later, I asked Polly to marry me, and in July we will celebrate forty-five years of marriage. God’s will? God’s timing? Pfft! Luck, just plain luck, and raging hormones. Two years before meeting Polly, I was wildly in love with a college girl I met while attending a Baptist church in Sierra Vista, Arizona. We talked about marriage, and for six months we had one hell of a torrid relationship — within the boundaries of no-sex-before-marriage Christianity — barely. And then, POOF! our relationship was over and I moved back to Ohio. Years later, I would conclude that had this girl and I married, one of us would have ended up in prison for murdering the other. Both of us had similar personalities: outgoing and temperamental. Was our failed relationship God’s “perfect” timing for our lives? Of course not. We were lucky that we dodged a bullet.

As I look back over my life, I can see luck playing out time and time again. Not always, of course. Sometimes, I can see that things happened because of decisions I made or decisions that were made by others. Who is absent in this survey of my life, however, is the Christian God.

The next time you are having an awesome roll in sheets with your lover, I hope when you achieve mutual orgasm, you will be reminded of God’s “perfect” timing. 🙂 Or at the very least, how lucky you are to have had such a wonderful experience.


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.

Was Yesteryear “Better” Than Today?

the good old days
Cartoon by Dan Gibson

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted the following on her wall (which was copied from somewhere else):

The way I remember it, too.

I grew up in Ohio and never once questioned my Dads income, it was never a discussion. We drank Kool-Aid made from water that came from our kitchen sink with real sugar. We ate fried egg sandwiches, or even tuna (which was in a can not a pouch), PB&J & grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs, but mostly homemade meals consisting of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, and meat loaf or fried chicken on Sunday’s.

We grew up during a time when we mowed lawns, pulled weeds, babysat, helped neighbors with chores to be able to earn our own money. We by no means were given everything we wanted.

We went outside a lot to play, ride bikes, run with friends, play hide and seek, or went swimming. We rarely just sat inside. We drank tap water from the water hose outside, bottled water was unheard of. If we had a coke, it was in a glass bottle, and we didn’t break the bottle when finished. We saved it and cashed it back in at the store for a refund.

We watched TV shows like Leave It To Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, Happy Days, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, Looney Tunes, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Sanford and Son, Disney on Sunday night, McHales Navy, Andy Griffith, and I Love Lucy. Mom decided everything we watched or didn’t watch. After school, we came home and did homework and chores, before going outside or having friends over. We would ride our bikes for hours.I had to tell our Mom where we were going, who we were going with, and be home when the street lights came on!

You LEARNED from your Mom instead of disrespecting her and treating her as if she knew absolutely nothing. What she said was LAW, and you did not question it, and you had better know it!

We watched what we said around our elders because we knew if we DISRESPECTED any grown-up we would get our behinds whipped, it wasn’t called abuse, it was called discipline! We held doors, carried groceries, and gave up our seat for an older person without being asked. You didn’t hear curse words on the radio in songs or TV, and if you cursed and got caught you had a bar of soap stuck in your mouth.

“Please, Thank you, yes please, no thank you, yes ma’am, no ma’am yes sir, and no sir were part of our daily vocabulary!

The world we live in now is just so full of crooked people, hate and disrespect for others.

Consider re-posting if you’re thankful for your childhood. I will never forget where I came from and only wish children nowadays had half the chance at the fun and respect for real life we grew up with! And we were never bored!

The woman who posted this is in her late seventies. Born in the late 40s, her “world” was very different from the world of today. I can say the same thing myself. I was born in 1957. My childhood was very different from that of my grandchildren. Polly and I married in 1978. We will celebrate our forty-fifth anniversary in July. When we married, we owned a car that cost $200. Our rent was $225. We had a black dial telephone, a record player, an eight-track tape player, an RCA AM radio, a 13-inch black and white TV with a metal clothes hangar as an antenna, a toolbox of tools, a few games, clothing, shoes, jewelry, used furniture, and home furnishings. That’s it. We had no cable bill, no Internet bill, and no cellphone bill — though we did pay twenty-five cents a minute to make long-distance phone calls on our home phone. Simple times, to be sure. However, were these times “better” than today?

Baby boomers are known for romanticizing the “good old days,” much like their Great Generation parents before them. We seem to forget that the good old days were not, at times, “good.” Vietnam; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers; the Birmingham church bombing; the KKK; Jim Crow; race riots; AIDS, and countless other things that happened in the good old days.

Polly and I have evolved with the times. We have embraced change, even when there are days when we want to sell everything and live off the land. Many older baby boomers don’t use computers, and if they have a cell phone, it flips. I chose to embrace computers, buying my first DOS PC in 1991. Polly had no interest in computers, but in the late 2000s decided to finally join the technology revolution. Today, she uses a computer at work, owns an iPad and iPhone, and still says, “Hey, Bruce, something is wrong. Please fix it.” 🙂

I quickly fell in love with modern technology. I even owned my own computer service and repair business for a few years. I still devotedly read Maximum PC. At one time, I received four other computer magazines, including Computer Shopper. I would scan its pages of BBS (bulletin board service) listings, looking for new local connections.

Today, we have a $40,000 automobile, a cellphone bill, an Internet bill, streaming services bills, expensive medical, home, and auto insurance, all sorts of modern kitchen appliances and gadgets, lots of books, a 65-inch TV, a DVD player (which we rarely use), a ROKU box, an AV receiver, awesome speakers, clothing, shoes, and all sorts of other stuff. Polly and I are “rich” compared the young Bruce and his bride when they first married. (Yet, we feel less financially secure than we did in the 70s; always worried about the next big health crisis. We just surpassed our $3,050 annual medical insurance deductible this week. Woo Hoo, right? Sure, but that means we have already spent over $3,000 on medical costs, in addition to the $68 we pay every week for the insurance. So, forgive me if I am not in a Woo Hoo mood.)

Several years ago, I was complaining to my therapist about something one of my children was doing discipline-wise with their kiddos. I framed my complaint as old people often do; that the way we did it raising our children was better. He replied, “better, or just different?” As I pondered his words, I thought, “he’s right. What we often consider “better” is just different. Who’s to say which way of doing things is better?

When I find myself carping about the behaviors of Gen-Z, Millennials, or Gen-X, I try to remind myself of what my counselor tried to teach me: that just because there’s a difference between A and B, doesn’t mean that one or the other is better. Learning this allows me to see my children and grandchildren as they are: people whom I love trying to make their way in life. While I still interject stories and advice now and again, I try to give them the freedom to make mistakes and carve out new paths just as Polly and I did so many years ago. That’s how we learn.

A year from now, two of our granddaughters will be headed off to prestigious universities. Not Bible colleges; not looking to marry a preacher or be a missionary. Almost perfect grades throughout high school will likely give them numerous colleges to choose from. On that day, I will definitely say “better.” When we see the curse of mind-numbing Christian Fundamentalism broken with our children and grandchildren, both Polly and I will say “better.” And then we will say, “Dammit, can’t our boys buy their girls pants without holes in them?”

We’re old . . . 🙂


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.

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Short Stories: My One and Only Dog

bruce gerencser 1960s
“Butch”, 1960s, with a different stuffed animal

I will soon celebrate my sixty-sixth birthday. I was born on a warm summer day in June at Cameron Hospital — five miles from where I live today. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles came to visit Bob and Barbara’s redheaded boy. I am sure some of them looked at my dark-skinned, dark-haired father and then looked at me, saying to themselves, hmm. Sixty-four years later, a DNA test revealed that my biological father was a truck driver from Michigan; a man who met my seventeen-year-old mother at a local truck stop where she worked. One thing led to another, and nine months later I was born.

Those who came to visit me in the hospital nursery brought gifts, though none of them brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. One gift was a stuffed animal; a light-brown colored dog with a big nose and a hat. I left the hospital with two things: the nickname Butch, given to me by my doctor who said “isn’t he a Butch,” and my dog.

I quickly became attached to my dog. Over the next eighteen years, I lived in communities such as Bryan, Ney, San Diego, Harrod, Farmer, Deshler, Findlay, Tucson, Mt. Blanchard, and Sierra Vista. No matter where I lived, my dog went with me. In fact, he slept with me every night. When I left home to go to college in 1976, my dog went with me. By then, my dog’s stuffing had settled, its nose was partially detached, and its hat was lost somewhere between Ohio and Arizona.

While at college, I started dating a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly. Six months later, we were engaged. Polly, of course, met my dog. As I write this, I wonder what she thought about my dog and my love for a scraggly stuffed animal. Whatever she may have thought, she kept her thoughts to herself. On one occasion, she performed emergency surgery on my dog, keeping his innards intact.

After we married, we left college and moved, for a time, to Bryan. From there, we moved to Newark, Ohio, the home of Polly’s preacher father and mother. We rented a house directly across the street from Polly’s parent’s home. By then, Polly and I had a baby and a toddler, and both of us were working full-time jobs.

We stored some of our belongings in Polly’s parent’s basement, hoping to retrieve them once we got settled in our new home. My dog was safely stored in a box, or so I thought, anyway. One day, I decided to retrieve several boxes from the basement, only to find out that the box where my dog lived was gone. This box not only contained my dog, but it also contained mementos (pictures, books, baseball pennants) from my childhood. Evidently, the box had become damp, and my mother-in-law unilaterally decided that the box was filled with junk and threw everything away — including my dog.

My dog survived twenty-two years of moving, but it didn’t survive a woman who had no regard for him (or for his owner); who gave no thought to whether the dog had any sentimental meaning to me. While my dog can’t be replaced, he and I did a lot of traveling and shared many wonderful experiences.

I miss him.


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.

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Short Stories: Polly’s AMC Hornet

1972 AMC hornet
1972 AMC Hornet, the car in this story was a darker blue

During the summer of 1972, my wife’s family took a vacation road trip from Bay City, Michigan to California. While in California, their car suffered a major mechanical failure. Polly’s dad decided to junk the car and buy another one: a brand spanking new 1972 AMC Hornet, complete with bench seats, crank windows, and an AM radio.

Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan in the spring of 1976 and moved his family to Newark, Ohio so he could work at the Newark Baptist Temple as its assistant pastor. By then the Hornet was worn out and Dad was driving a Chrysler. (Polly’s dad was known for misusing and abusing cars. It is no surprise that he wore out a four-year-old automobile. Besides, it was built by AMC — a company not known for quality cars.) The Hornet moved to Newark too, only to return to Pontiac with a new driver: seventeen-year-old Polly. While Polly started taking some college classes at Midwestern during her senior year of high school (from which she graduated second in her class), her first full year began in the fall of 1976.

While at Midwestern, Polly’s dad spent four years working an excellent-paying union job at GM Truck and Coach’s Pontiac plant. His new job at the Baptist Temple paid seventy-five percent less than he made at Truck and Coach, and had no insurance benefits. When Polly arrived at Midwestern with her Hornet, she was on her own. Her parents were unable to pay for her tuition and room and board, so it was up to her to pay her own way. This was quite a culture shock for her, having grown up in a blue-collar middle-class home.

Polly quickly found work, but the wages were poor. Fortunately, she met a redheaded boy from Ohio who quickly caught her fancy. I had much better-paying jobs than Polly did, so I often gave her money for food, gasoline, and other incidentals. One of my responsibilities was repairing and maintaining Polly’s car. Not long after Polly arrived at Midwestern, the Hornet quit running. Her dad told her to junk the car (without providing her with new transportation). I told Polly to ignore her dad; that I could get the car up and running in no time flat. And I did.

The Hornet was a non-stop repair project. I was up to the task, able to fix virtually anything on a car. Those were the days. By the winter of 1976, the Hornet was already showing signs of rust, especially on top of the front fenders. One day I was driving the Hornet down Golf Drive near the College on my way to work. Suddenly, the hood unlatched. The wind caught the hood, standing it straight up, pushing the hood straight down into its rusted fenders and wells. This, of course, caused a lot of damage. Not having any money to properly fix the hood and the fenders, I removed the hood, and we drove the Hornet for several months hoodless. When it rained or snowed, I put a canvas tarp over the motor to keep it from getting wet.

By the spring of 1977, not even Bruce, the magical mechanic, could keep the Hornet running. Polly called her dad to tell him, only to be lectured for not junking the car when she was told to. Never mind that Polly’s parents left her to fend for herself. How was she supposed to get to work or buy groceries? Polly spent the next sixteen months either driving my cars or bumming rides off of fellow students. To this day, I don’t understand Polly’s parent’s indifference toward their daughter’s plight. (I suspect their own financial problems kept them from helping their daughter.) She was naive, as innocent as they come. She had no idea about how to care for a car or manage her finances. Things could have gone very wrong for Polly had it not been for her fiancé and friends.

After determining that the Hornet was no longer drivable, Polly parked it at the back of the student parking lot — a junkyard of sorts for other cars that were no longer usable. Our intention was to sell the car to a junkyard. Before we could, a fellow student named Randy — who had a crush on Polly, a man I despised — asked Polly what she planned to do with the Hornet. She told him “Junk it.” Randy replied, “Can I have it?” Polly said yes, and I reminded him that the car was NOT drivable. He replied, “No problem.” Later that day, we heard a loud banging sound in the parking lot. We went outside to see what the commotion was all about. There was Randy repeatedly driving his own automobile into the Hornet, treating it like it was a demolition derby car.

I can’t remember how many times Randy smashed into the car, but when he was done, the Hornet was a certifiable wreck. The college informed Polly that she had to have the car immediately towed off school property. And that was the end of the Hornet.


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.

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The Similarities Between Food Fundamentalists and IFB Zealots

bruce midwestern baptist college pontiac michigan 1978
Bruce Gerencser, Midwestern Baptist College, Spring 1978. I already had high blood pressure. 1969 Pontiac Tempest, by the way. 326 CID, three-speed on the floor. Sweet ride.

Every month or so, I receive a polite, wordy email — complete with links — from someone who is certain that if I just follow a certain fad diet, eat certain foods, or follow this or that dietary program, whatever ails me will be instantaneously, miraculously cured. These Food Fundamentalists® certainly mean well, but I don’t find their “advice” helpful at all.

The contact page states: “I know you stayed at a Holiday Inn last night, but you are not a medical professional, so please do not send me unsolicited medical or psychological advice. I am not interested — ever.” Food Fundamentalists® — who often eschew Western medicine — evidently believe that since they are “helping” me, my request doesn’t apply to them. These food zealots are not much different from Evangelical Bible thumpers who fill my email box with sermons, Bible verses, and personal attacks. Food Fundamentalists® think their gospel, if believed and practiced, will “save” me from my “sins.”  In their minds, my biggest “sin” is obesity or a bad diet. If I just worshipped and obeyed their deity, why I would drop 200 pounds and look as slim and trim as I did the day I entered Bible college.

Of course, when I investigate their Holy books and websites, I find that they are filled with errors and contradictions, much like the inerrant Word of God. Every food cult has its own divine text, each purporting to be the truth. What’s someone like me supposed to do? Read. Investigate. Look at the science and studies behind a particular food cult’s gospel. (Two of the first places I go are Quack Watch and Science-Based Medicine.) I find, without fail, that Food Fundamentalists® preach gospels that are not backed up by science and empirical data. I am not saying that these cults don’t help anyone – they do. But the same can be said for Christian Fundamentalism. Some people find real, lasting help through believing in the miracle-working power of a dead man named Jesus. The reasons for this are many, and so it is with the various diets Food Fundamentalists® present to me as the cure for my afflictions. Despite the success stories, most people who put their faith and trust in Jesus find out that the dead Son of God is not what cultists claim he is. So it is with diets. Most people who go on diets lose weight for a time, but, in the end, they gain the lost weight back and then some. Diets don’t work, regardless of their name. Bruce, it’s not a diet, it’s a way of life, food cultists say. Sound familiar? It’s a relationship, not a religion.

Christian Fundamentalists blame the person when Christianity doesn’t stick. They didn’t pray the right prayer, believe the right beliefs, or really, really, really have faith. Food Fundamentalists® do the same. If an obese person fails to succeed or later regains lost weight, it’s their fault for not religiously, devotedly following the plan.

The biggest issue, at least from my perspective, is that Christian Fundamentalists and Food Fundamentalists® both make assumptions about my life — past and present. Food cultists assume — wrongly — that the reason people are obese is because of the type or quantity of food they eat. In the minds of these Fundamentalists, all fat people need to do is eat less and eat cult-approved foods. These preachers of fidelity to the BMI chart, make assumptions about me, assuming I am overweight because I eat too many McDonald’s Big Macs or eat too much processed foods. These zealots don’t know what or how I eat, they just assume that I must eat too much food or eat the wrong food because I am spatially challenged.

I hate to break it to them, but my diet is NOT the problem. Sure, I can overeat at times, and I certainly am not going to pass up ice cream if it is offered, but on most days, I eat healthily — that is, if anyone can actually define what the fuck it means to eat “healthily.” Sorry, Food Fundamentalists®, but your super-duper diet plan is not the answer to my medical problems. If it were really that simple, I am certain one of the many doctors and specialists I have seen over the past thirty years would have mentioned it. Yeah, I know, they are all members of a secret cabal who deliberately keep me sick so they can make lots of money off of me. Child, please.

Miller Peak, 1975, with my Sunday School class. Miller Peak is almost 10,000 feet high. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m the 18-year-old redhead in the back.

The only medical problem I have that is affected by what I eat is diabetes (and it’s under control with medication). That’s it. Everything else: Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, degenerative spine disease, gastroparesis, and the excruciating, debilitating pain that comes from these medical afflictions are not helped, harmed, or cured by what I eat. The real problem now, thanks to gastroparesis, with its attendant nausea and vomiting, is that I often don’t eat enough. In fact, I have lost one hundred pounds. Did my health change after losing twenty-five percent of my body mass? Surely, losing a lot of weight magically cures obese people, right? That’s what Food Fundamentalists® say. The only measurable difference for me has been the reduction of my A1c to 5.8.

I have high blood pressure too, but I have concluded, based on a thorough study of my sixty-six-year medical history and family history, that hypertension runs in our family. My seventy-three-year-old aunt started taking medicine to control her blood pressure in her 20s, and she has never been a pound overweight a day in her life. I took a careful look at my blood pressure numbers from my high school years. At the time, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds soaking wet. I played baseball and basketball, I rode a bicycle virtually everywhere I went — spring, summer, winter, and fall. Later in my teen years, I frequently went hiking, including hiking to the top of Miller Peak in the picture above. I was a slim, trim, fit fighting machine, yet I had high blood pressure.

As I look back over my medical history, I see a plethora of reasons that better explain where I am today than simplistically saying, Bruce, you are fat. Lose weight and all will be well. I wish things were that simple, but they are not. I am at a place in life where I do what I can, and some days, “doing what I can” means getting through the day without committing suicide. So, please walk in my shoes first before you decide to send me “advice” I didn’t ask for. Think I am being too pointed and direct? Again, walk in my skin for a few days, weeks, or months, and then we will talk. When you are doing all you can to make it to tomorrow, the last thing you need is a pompous, arrogant Food Fundamentalist® preaching to you his or her food cult’s gospel. Imagine, for a moment, you are walking home from a long twelve-hour day at work. Every part of your body is screaming for an hour-long dip in a hot bath, followed by several glasses of red wine. As you walk towards your home, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) street preacher accosts you on the street, intent on evangelization and conversion. How would you respond to this man’s evangelistic efforts? What if he persisted to hound you every time he saw you? Why, I suspect you might feel homicidal rage welling up inside of you. You might even tell him you “tried” Jesus and it didn’t work for you, and with a flip of your middle finger say to him, now, fuck off. This is exactly how I feel when I receive yet another email from a Food Fundamentalist® wanting me to join their cult. If you really love and respect me as a person and appreciate my writing, then do me a favor: leave my medical treatment to me and my doctors — men and women who, unlike you, actually went to medical school to become experts in their chosen fields of practice.


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.

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Short Stories: Do You Want a Date, Hon?


After my freshman year of classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, I returned home to my mother’s palatial palace — also known as a trailer — on U.S. Hwy. 6, five miles southwest of Bryan, Ohio. I had come home to work, hoping to earn enough money to pay for my next year of college. I accepted a first-shift machine operator position at Holabird Manufacturing, a manufacturer of cheap trailer furniture. Holabird would later close its doors and file for bankruptcy in 1983. I also worked a second shift job at Bard Manufacturing, a maker of HVAC units. I was attending First Baptist Church in Bryan at the time. One of the church’s deacons was a manager for Bard. He graciously arranged for Bard to hire me for the summer.

I was twenty years old in the summer of 1977; strong, fit, and full of energy. Had I not been, I would never have been able to work eighty hours a week: 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Holabird and 4:00 PM to midnight at Bard. I didn’t catch up on sleep on the weekends either. Oh no, weekends were for running around with friends, going to one of the local lakes, or trekking to Newark to visit Polly for the day. That’s right, for the day. Polly’s mom didn’t like me and treated me like a rash she hoped would go away. I would get up early on Saturday, drive three hours southeast to Newark, spend as much time as I could with Polly, and turn around and drive back to Bryan. (Under no circumstances would Polly’s mom let me spend the night.) On more than one occasion, I was so exhausted that I pulled off along the road and slept for several hours. The things we’ll do for love, right?

I followed the aforementioned schedule for twelve weeks. Come late August, it was time for me to return to Midwestern to begin my sophomore year. I packed my belongings into my car and headed in the general direction of Pontiac, Michigan. As I neared Toledo, I decided to take U.S. Route 23 to Pontiac. Ninety minutes into my drive, I exited the highway into a rest stop. I needed to stretch my legs and use the restroom. As I walked towards the restroom, a 30-ish large-breasted black woman wearing revealing clothing came up to me and said, Do you want a date, Hon? Confused, I replied, excuse me? The woman repeated, Do you want a date? I smiled and said to her, no thanks, I already have a girlfriend. And with that, I continued walking to the restroom. As I walked back to my car, I saw the woman walking with a man towards a parked delivery van.

almost twelve kenneth taylor

I was quite naïve when it came to matters of sex. My sex education consisted of reading an Evangelical book titled Almost Twelve and six years of locker room sex ed. I knew the fundamentals, but as far as a broader understanding of human sexuality and its darker, seamier side, I knew nothing. And as ignorant as I was, my fiancée was even worse. One warm day in the spring of 1977, Polly was in the college parking lot, sitting in her car — a 1972 AMC Hornet. Purchased new in 1972 by Polly’s father after the family car broke down during a vacation in California, by 1977 the car was already worn out, a piece of junk. This car is a story unto itself, one that I will tell another day. For now, picture sweet, naïve Polly sitting in her car, AM radio blaring, singing along with Starland Vocal Band’s hit Afternoon Delight. I came up to the car window and asked what she was listening to. She replied, Afternoon Delight. I said, you know that song is about having sex! Polly replied, IT IS NOT! The song is about having fun in the afternoon. Slightly less naïve Bruce took the time to educate sheltered Polly about exactly what it was they were having fun doing in the afternoon. This lesson would pay dividends after we married and we experienced a bit of afternoon delight ourselves.

Video Link

After I returned to college, I told my roommate about what the woman had asked me at the rest stop. She asked me if I wanted to have a date! Why I didn’t even know her. Why would she want me to go on a date? I already have a girlfriend. My roommate laughed and said, she was a prostitute and was asking you if you wanted to have sex with her. Really? I replied. Yes, really. I would receive many more such lessons over the next year.


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.

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Short Stories: Dreamy Lips

robert gerencser 1950's

I grew up in an Evangelical Christian home. While living in California in the early 1960s, my parents got saved at Scott Memorial Baptist Church (now Shadow Mountain Community Church) in El Cajon. Tim La Haye was the pastor of Scott Memorial, at the time. LaHaye is best known for co-authoring the Left Behind books and The Act of Marriage. After a couple of years in California looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Dad packed his family up and moved them back to Bryan, Ohio — his birthplace. I was eight years old.

We lived in a small brick home on Mulberry Street. Down the street was the Southern Baptist church we attended at the time, Eastland Baptist Chapel. Dad had an 8 mm movie camera. He was quite proud of his video masterpieces. One weekend night, Dad set up the movie screen so the Gerencser family could watch movies. We watched several movies about our move to and from California and various family events. As time crawled on, I became bored, so I started going through Dad’s titled movies, hoping to find something a bit more exciting than travel clips. I came upon a movie titled Dreamy Lips.

I pulled Dreamy Lips out of the box and asked Dad what it was about. Embarrassed, he quickly said “None of your business,” and quickly grabbed the movie from my hand. Movie night was officially over. It would be years later before I learned that Dreamy Lips was a stag film; that Dad had a collection of pornos.

While I find this story amusing today, it is a reminder that my parents lived a double life — as all Christians do. There was the church life, the oh, how I love Jesus life; and then there was the private life behind closed doors, one filled with contradictions and, at times, pain and heartache.

Most of Dad’s movies have been lost to time. I have one that was converted to a VCR tape. I hope to have it put on DVD so my grandchildren can “enjoy” one of Bob Gerencser’s famous movies.


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.

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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: My Love Affair with Baseball

cincinnati reds gnome
Cincinnati Reds Gnome that Graces our Front Yard

In 1962, the Gerencser family moved from the rural northwest Ohio community of Bryan to San Diego, California. I was five. My grandmother, Jeanette Rausch, and her daughter, Marijene also moved to the Golden State. That summer, for my birthday, Grandma bought me a baseball glove, ball, and hat, and took me to my first game. On the appointed day, Grandma picked me up — not my sister, not my brother, just me — and drove us to Lane Field to watch the San Diego Padres play — then the AAA minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

I don’t remember anything about the game, but I have no doubt I spent the evening listening to Grandma explain the game to me. You see, she was an avid baseball fan, having attended numerous Detroit Tigers baseball games with her attorney father as a child. Grandma, like her father before her, was a Detroit Tigers fan.

In fourth grade, I was given an assignment to write a story about an experience one of my grandparents had. Grandma Rausch was my favorite grandparent, really my only grandparent. I asked Grandma to tell me about seeing Babe Ruth play, which became the story I shared with my class.

I became the third generation to root for the Tigers. My grandfather, John Tieken, with whom I had a difficult relationship, was also a Tigers fan. For my eleventh birthday, Grandpa took me to a baseball game at Briggs Stadium between the Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. This was the year the Tigers won the World Series.

Here’s the box score for the game:

tigers indians 1968

I played baseball from the age of nine through fifteen. I was a diminutive child, a lefthanded boy who was fleet a foot but couldn’t hit a breaking ball to save his life. I was good enough to make the team, but usually one of the last few boys chosen. I played outfield and was often put in the game to bunt. Being a fast-running lefty gave me a distinct advantage, but more than a few pitchers I faced had difficulties pitching to left-handers. Instead of hits, I got plunked in the back, ribs, buttocks, and head. A hitter I was not, but I did make a good target for wild opposing pitchers.

The summer between eighth and ninth grades, I started having problems fielding the ball, so much so that I feared coach was going to cut me. Instead, he said to me, “Hey, Gerencser. You need to get your eyes checked.” Sure enough, I was nearsighted. Glasses fixed my fielding problem, but I still couldn’t hit a curve ball.

My dad never attended my games; whether he was too busy or disinterested, I do not know. Lacking transportation, I rode my bike to my home games. For out-of-town games, I caught a ride with one of my coaches. Mom attended a few of my games. One summer, I was playing high school summer league baseball for Jaques Sporting Goods in Findlay, Ohio. On July Fourth, I played in a game against North Baltimore. Mom and Grandma attended the game. I played a few innings. I even had one attempt to showcase my batting prowess. Grandma was sitting along the baseline on a blanket, cheering me on. As I came up to bat, I heard Mom and Grandma loudly cheering for me, especially Grandma. While she was a small woman, weighing less than a hundred pounds, she had a loud voice, one made raspy from decades of smoking cigarettes. I took a couple of pitches — balls — swung and missed a couple of strikes, and then came the deciding pitch, a breaking ball — a called strike three. Before I could even turn, with head hung low, from the batter’s box, I heard — well, everyone heard — “Hey Ump! That was not a strike!” That was Grandma, defending her oldest grandson to the end.

I stopped playing baseball after tenth grade. Too many moves and new schools for me to make a team and play. As an adult, I turned to competitive slow-pitch softball for my baseball fix, a sport I played into my early thirties.

Like my great-grandfather, grandmother, and grandfather before me, I was a Detroit Tigers fan. I would remain a Tigers fan until 1980. By then, I was married with one child, and living in Newark, Ohio. I took a job as a general manager for Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips — a popular fast-food chain at the time. I did my training at the Heath store and worked as an assistant manager there for a few months before I got a store of my own in Reynoldsburg. My fellow assistant was Neal Ball, a newly married man my age. We quickly became close friends, playing basketball together, eating dinner at one another’s homes, and, most importantly, attending Cincinnati Reds baseball games.

Neal was an avid Reds fan. He lived and breathed the Redlegs. His infectious love for the Reds wore off on me, and it was not long before I had a conversion of sorts, and switched teams. I was now a Reds fan, and I remain one to this day. While I still follow the Tigers from a distance, the Reds are my team. I have watched thousands of their games on TV or listened to them on their flagship station, 700-WLW. My three oldest sons have fond memories of me listening to nightly games on a portable AM-FM radio. We lived in a mobile home at the time. The trailer’s metal exterior made it impossible to get an AM radio signal inside, so I would either sit on the porch and listen to the game or put the metal coat hanger attached to the broken antenna outside of the living room window so I could get the signal. When I was out and about doing the Lord’s work on summer evenings, the game was always on the car radio, with Marty and Joe broadcasting the game.

Forty-three summers have come and gone, and I remain a diehard Cincinnati Reds fan. The game is on the TV as I write this post. Our children are all Reds fans, though some of them are not as committed to the family religion as their father. The third generation has also embraced the Reds — as if they had any choice. 🙂 One of our granddaughters is named Morgan Rose. That will tell you everything you need to know about the Gerencser family’s love for Cincinnati baseball — even when the Reds suck.


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.

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Bruce Gerencser