Life

Ruminations in Punctuality: Why I Am Early For Everything

punctualityAsk anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I am early for everything. It is not uncommon for me to arrive thirty minutes to an hour before an event begins. When I attend major league sporting events and dirt track races, I arrive a half hour or so before the gates open. The same can be said for medical appointments and dinner reservations. The surest way to irate me is for someone to say he or she will be somewhere at a certain time, and then to show up late, leaving me oh-so-impatiently waiting. When someone makes me wait for no good reason (and doesn’t text or call), that person is being rude and wasting my time; time that could be used to do other things. I am acquainted with people who have no problem making other people wait for them to make their grand entrance minutes or even hours after the appointed time. Such people think that setting a time for an event, meal, or get-together is a suggestion, one they need not follow if more “important” stuff claims their attention. They seem clueless to the fact that their lack of punctuality robs others of their time; that ultimately it shows a lack of respect. “Bruce, you don’t understand; shit happens.” Yes, shit does indeed happen to ALL of us, but many of us still meet our obligations on time. Why is that?

One of the reasons I am punctual — “punctual” meaning well before an event begins — is because I don’t like crowds and I don’t like being the focus of attention. I know that sounds odd coming from a man who spent most of his adult life being the center of attention as a pastor, but Polly will tell you that I go out of my way to avoid people/crowds, preferring to blend into the background. This is especially the case when I go somewhere I haven’t been before. I want to arrive early so I can survey the lay of the land. The same applies to going to a restaurant to eat. I prefer, if at all possible, to sit where I can clearly view my surroundings. I prefer a seat where no one can walk behind of me. That’s just how I am. My children know not to invite me to crowded public events. Take concerts — I might love a particular band, but if entrance to the event is general admission, count me out. Years ago, my sons took Polly and me to hear Collective Soul at Pierre’s in Fort Wayne. We had a wonderful time; that is until it was time to leave. I was surrounded by younger adults who had spent most of the evening swilling beer. They pushed, shoved, and repeatedly banged into me. The last straw was one man who dumped beer on me. With one hand, I stiffed-armed the man, sending him reeling. My sons decided it was best to quickly get Dad out of the place before he killed someone. And then there is Christmas shopping. We used to go to local retail stores and shop, but I found myself being repeatedly battered by people whose only mission in life was to save $2 on a toaster. After an hour or so of that, I was ready to commit homicide with my cane. No thanks. We now do all our shopping online.

beater station wagon

$200 beater. Polly and the boys HATED this car.

Another reason I am punctual goes back to the days when Polly and I were first married — over forty years ago. We drove junk cars — cars I purchased for a few hundred dollars. We went through dozens of cars the first two decades of marriage. My oldest two children still “fondly” remember me picking them at the Christian school in the dilapidated, noisy, green full-sized Ford station wagon pictured above.

newark-telephone-car

Here’s another beauty I bought in 1980 for $225. It was formerly a fleet vehicle owned by the Newark Telephone Company. If you carefully look at the driver’s side fender, you will notice the fancy body work I did with duct tape. I drove it to work in Columbus for two years before selling it to a man in our church. I gave him instructions on how to baby the car along. He didn’t listen to me, and two weeks later he trashed the transmission. “Idiot,” I thought at the time. Ah, those were the days.

These clunkers and others rarely had good tires on them. I drove on tires years ago that had cords showing through their tread. Today, I wouldn’t leave my driveway with such tires. Of course, driving cars with bald ties meant sitting alongside countless roads with flat tires. Back then, I usually carried two spare tires, just in case one of them didn’t stay inflated. Changing a flat took time, so I began adding time to whatever trip I was taking to account for having to change a tire. Generally, I added thirty minutes or so to the drive time. Remember, I hated being late; and being on time was the same as being late. Allowing time for changing a tire was the best way for me to arrive on time. As the years passed, I started buying nicer cars, finding out that they did come with decent tire tread. Why, I even found out that there were stores that sold NEW tires. (I used to buy used tires for $5 apiece from a guy who attended our church. For a few years, I went the retreaded tires route.)

These days, I am far removed from junk cars and flat tires. But what still remains is the time with which I pad trips, just in case something happens that delays me. You never know, right?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Tales From the Appalachian Foothills — Bruce Goes to a Faith Healing Service

somerset baptist church 1989

In July 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

From time to time, I want to share a few short stories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Today’s story is titled, Bruce Goes to a Faith Healing Service.

I grew up in a religious monoculture. The only churches I attended were Evangelical/Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregations. I attended a Methodist church one time, but that’s only because I was chasing a girl who went to that church. I was twenty-six years old before I attended the services of any other church beside a Bible-preaching Evangelical church.

One of my responsibilities as an IFB pastor was to preach against false pastors and teachings. On Sundays, I would preach against Catholics, Southern Baptists, Charismatics, Mainline churches, and any other sect I deemed heterodox or heretical. As a fully certified, circumcised, and lobotomized IFB preacher, I had a long list of things I was against. The goal, of course, was to make sure that congregants didn’t stray. They were members of the “best” church in town. Why go elsewhere, right? I saw myself as a gatekeeper, a divinely called man given the responsibility to protect people from false teaching. And protect them I did — from every false, harmful teaching but my own.

One Sunday afternoon, I decided to attend a Charismatic faith healing service at the Somerset Elementary School gymnasium. I thought, “if I am doing to preach that Charismaticism is from the pit of Hell, I’d better at least experience one of their services.”

I arrived at the service about fifteen minutes early. I brought one of the “mature” men of the church with me, a man who wouldn’t be swayed by the false teachings we were going to hear. There were 50 or so people in attendance. Songs were sung, a sermon was preached, and an offering was collected. Pretty standard Baptist stuff. But then it came time for people have the pastor lay hands on them and deliver them from sickness and demonic possession. People started speaking in tongues as the preacher walked down the front row “healing” people. According to the preacher, numerous people were being healed, though I saw no outward evidence of this. This so-called man of God would stand in front of people, ask them their needs, lay his hand on their heads, and pray for them. And just like that, they were “healed.”

Near me was sitting a dirty, scraggly woman. Her black hair looked like it hadn’t been washed in weeks. It had a sheen that said, “last washed with used motor oil.”  When it came time for the preacher to lay his hand on top of woman’s head, he refused to touch her greasy, dirty head. Instead, he held his “healing” hand just above her head, prayed for her, and quickly moved on to the next mark. I thought, “what a fraud. Why not put your hand on this woman’s head? What’s a little grease on your hands?

I attended other Charismatic services during my eleven years as pastor of Somerset Baptist, but there’s nothing like your first one, right?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Caremark “Congratulates” Us for Having Lots of Medical Debt

family out of pocketCaremark, the online drug service owned by pharmacy giant CVS, handles part of the drug benefit for Polly’s group health insurance plan. Caremark tracks insurance-approved medical expenditures with a graphic on their website. This graphic shows how much money you have paid in a particular year for out-of-pocket medical expenses. This year, the maximum out-of-pocket is $6,750.

The company Polly works for pays about $18,000 a year per employee to provide each employee with medical insurance. On top of that, married employees with children pay $3,900 a year for insurance — $150 every two weeks. This means that if an employee reaches the maximum out-of-pocket this year, the total cost of health insurance is almost $29,000.

The past fifteen months have been a medical nightmare for Polly. And we are not done. She now has serious bladder pain, and is getting up in the night numerous times to use the bathroom. She’s up more often than I am during the night, and that’s tough to do since my prostate/bladder just love making life miserable for me. In previous years, I have had my own medical nightmares, leading to exorbitant medical expenditures. Over the past decade, we have met the maximum out-of-pocket five times; all while trying to make ends meet on Polly’s income. (That’s why me being able to draw Social Security beginning in June will be a big help to us.)

Polly’s insurance provider finally paid the last of her bills from her January hospitalization for acute ulcerative colitis. This put us over the maximum out-of-pocket for the year. Woo hoo! right? The good news is that everything is FREE — to us anyway — the rest of the year. The bad news is that we have accumulated $6,750 of new medical debt over the first ten weeks of 2019. On top of that is the $50 a month we have to pay for Lialda, a drug Polly will be on the rest of her life. When the gastroenterologist first prescribed Lialda, we took the script to the local Meijer Pharmacy, only to find out it would cost $890 a month. Well, that sure as hell wasn’t going to happen, regardless of its benefit to my suffering wife. We simply couldn’t afford it without being forced to sleep in our car. Fortunately, we found a service that works with lower income families to provide expensive drugs for them at a reduced cost. Prescription Hope was able to procure the drug for $50 a month. Since the cost of the drug is not run through insurance, we will have to the monthly cost regardless of meeting our maximum out-of-pocket for the year. I plan to contact the insurance about being reimbursed for the $50 a month cost. We do have a tax-free HSA account. Polly’s employer kicks in $138.47 every two weeks and we set aside another $100.

As the above graphic shows, Caremark congratulated us for reaching our maximum out-of-pocket. This, evidently, is what Caremark is congratulating us for: in 2019, 30 percent of our net income will go towards medical costs. That’s the “prize” for reaching the maximum out-of-pocket finish line. And this doesn’t include dental costs.

I look towards the future and ask myself, how will we manage? I don’t have an answer. I told my counselor that I had finally figured out how to get our medical costs under control: death. I am grateful that we can still keep our head above water financially, but if medical costs continue to increase (and they have increased every year over the past decade), it leaves me wondering how in the hell we are going to make it. Of course, the answer is single-payer insurance/socialized medicine. While there are a handful of champions of this cause in Congress, Republicans and many Democrats are in the pockets of insurance, medical, and pharmaceutical corporations. Our political leaders actively work against our best interests, health-wise. This leaves the rest of us scrambling to figure out how to pay the price for living.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Tales From the Appalachian Foothills — The Perry County Dump

somerset baptist church 1989

In July 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

From time to time, I want to share a few short stories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Today’s story is titled, The Perry County Dump.

In 1985, we bought an old abandoned brick Methodist church building five miles east of Somerset. Built in 1831 and located on the top of Sego Hill, the building had been abandoned years earlier. Purchased for $5,000, the building needed extensive repairs. One of the first things we had to do was haul away truckloads of junk that had been left behind by the Methodists and debris that had accumulated from the years of being left open to the elements.

Being fairly new to the area, I asked one member where the landfill was. He told me, I’ll haul everything to the “Perry County Dump” and it won’t cost anything!” I thought, “great!” Over the next several weeks, this man — who later would drive one of our bus routes — dutifully hauled numerous pickup truck loads of junk to the dump. Finally, the last load was delivered to the dump. I thanked the man for hauling everything away, and then moved on to helping another congregant level the floor in the main building.

Later that year, I was tooling down a gravel/dirt road south of the church and came upon a ravine where someone had been illegally dumping junk and refuse. As I looked more closely at the littered ravine, I noticed several items that looked just like the junk hauled from the church. Sure enough, what the man had call the “Perry County Dump” was actually an illegal dumping site. This man didn’t think twice about doing this. It’s what he had always done, and “no one ever said anything,” he told me! Needless to say, I said something, telling him that it was NOT okay to dump junk at the “Perry County Dump”; that in the future anything hauled for the church would have to be taken to the real landfill. The man never understood “why” he couldn’t use the “Perry County Dump,” but he agreed to use the landfill in the future.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

1973-1976: Bruce, The Wandering Baptist

bruce gerencser 1976

Bruce Gerencser, 1976

In the spring of 1972, after fourteen years of marriage, my parents divorced. By then, my mother was generally considered a nut job. Her post-divorce actions: suing (and later winning) Winebrenner Nursing Home over wage discrimination, and marrying her recently-released-from-Texas-prison first cousin, only reinforced how she was negatively viewed by others. My adulterous father, on the other hand, was viewed as the aggrieved party. Several months after my parents’ divorce, my father married a nineteen-year-old local girl with a baby. Gene Millioni, the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — an IFB church — performed the ceremony.

I was angry. How could my parents divorce, adding yet more turmoil to our home? And how could my supposedly Bible-believing pastor marry my father and his new teenager girlfriend? And who was this woman who thought she was going to be my new “mom?” After several months of seething anger, I calmed down a bit, accepting my new reality. Shortly after my father remarried, he moved us from a rental home on Cherry Street to one on the south side of town. This was par for the course when it came to my father. Rent a house, live there awhile, get behind on the rent, run out of ways to manipulate the landlord, and then be forced to move. At least this move was in the same town, same school.

bruce gerencser 1971

Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade, 1972, wearing “welfare” glasses. I was so embarrassed that I quickly earned enough money to buy wire-rimmed glasses

After my parents’ divorce and my father’s remarriage, my parents and siblings stopped attending church. I, however, threw myself headlong into the church. That fall, I was saved and baptized, and a few weeks later I announced to the church that God was calling me to be a preacher. I was fifteen. The church became my surrogate family. My parents had stopped being responsible caretakers years before, so I was pretty much on my own. I spent very little time at home. School, playing sports, attending church, and hanging out with my friends consumed most of my time. I wanted nothing to do with my father’s new wife, a feeling that was returned in spades. Our relationship would later explode, with her hitting me in the face with a leather belt, and me picking her up and hurling her into a cement wall, fracturing a vertebrate in her back.

In early March 1973, my father gathered us together and let it be known that we were moving to Tucson, Arizona. Not when school was over, but soon, as in, right away. My father was trying to outrun his creditors. Two weeks later, our household goods were auctioned off, and what remained was packed into a U-Haul. Off we went, 1,900 miles to Tucson. I cried on and off during our trip. My father had moved us here and there repeatedly over the years. A great adventure, he called it, but I hated him for repeatedly uprooting my life. We had lived in Findlay almost three years; the longest we lived anywhere. I attended the same school system for eighth, ninth, and most of tenth grades. Finally, my father was getting his act together. I had made friends both at church and school. I played city league basketball and baseball, and was actively involved in youth group activities. I had even preached my first sermon. And now, with a snap of his fingers, my father was burning my life to the ground. I felt I had a number of reasons to be wrought with emotion.

As I had done numerous times before, I adapted to my new circumstances. I found a new church to attend, the Tucson Baptist Temple. I tried to involve myself in the church’s youth group, but I never felt like I belonged. Besides, I missed my friends in Ohio. After classes ended at Rincon High School, I packed my meager belongings, hopped a Greyhound Bus, and moved to my mother’s home in Bryan, Ohio. Bryan wasn’t Findlay, but I did have some friends there from my days attending First Baptist Church in the 1960s. Reacquainting myself with these friends provided a short respite for me, but as summer wore on, I found myself yearning for the seeming stability and normalcy of my past life in Findlay.

In August 1973, I moved to Findlay and enrolled in eleventh grade at Riverdale High School. A young family at Trinity Baptist had agreed to let me live with them. While I would have to attend yet another new school, I would still be going to Trinity and have my old friends back, so I thought I could live with attending Riverdale. Besides, Riverdale was a small country school. This would afford me the opportunity to play high school basketball. Unfortunately, after a month or so, the family I was living with had a falling out with the pastor of Trinity, and they decided to start attending a Bible church in nearby Arlington. Once again, I was forced to abandon my friends for people I did not know.

In early October, the family I was living with let Bruce Turner (Please see Dear Bruce Turner), the youth pastor at Trinity, know that I could no longer live with them. No reason was given as to why other than it was “not working out.”  As I ponder this point in my life, I can’t help but wonder if the real reason was that the husband thought I was getting a bit too friendly with his wife. Regardless, I had to move. Bruce found me a new home, this time with Gladys Canterbury. Gladys, in her sixties, was a devout Fundamentalist Baptist. While I wondered how it would work out living with a senior citizen, doing so allowed me to regain much of the life I left behind when my father moved us to Arizona, so I agreed to move in with her.

Gladys went to court and had me made a ward of the court. This action gave me access to medical insurance and provided Gladys with a monthly check for caring for me. To provide for my own personal needs, I started working at Bill Knapp’s Restaurant as a busboy. I arranged my class schedule in such a way that I would be finished with my classes around noon. I would then walk or ride my bike to Bill Knapp’s, arriving in time to work the lunch schedule. Afterward, I would take an extended break and work the dinner schedule. Once again, I adapted to my new reality.

By May of 1974, I was tired of living with Gladys. She was a taskmaster, and often refused to let me hang out with my friends. I was used to going and doing whatever I wanted, so I found Gladys’ approach to caring for me to be quite oppressive. Certainly, she meant well, but I didn’t want to hang out with a senior citizen.  I suspect my feelings weren’t much different from those of my friends. Teenagers, right? I had also learned that Bruce Turner was leaving Trinity. He was my surrogate father, and his departure left a huge hole in me emotionally.

The second week of May, I called my mother and asked if I could move back in with her. She said yes, and a week later she drove to Findlay and picked me up. My secretive move caused quite a bit of turmoil. Gladys threatened to have the police return me to her home, but nothing came of her threats. I started attending First Baptist Church of Bryan, quickly reconnecting with old friends. I found employment at several places: Bob’s Dairy Freeze, Everhart’s Restaurant, and Myer’s Marathon.

I turned seventeen in June of 1974. I took driver’s training at Bryan High School, and prepared to enroll in my senior year. However, Bryan High told me that I would have to repeat eleventh grade; not because of failing grades, but because I left Findlay before school ended. Findlay High denied me credit for my entire junior year because I missed the last ten days of school. I was so angry over this decision that I decided, “fine, I’ll drop out of school!” And so I did.

By October of 1974, my mother was, once again, a patient at Toledo State Mental Hospital. For the next six weeks, I was the head of the home. Both of my younger siblings were still in school. I made sure they went to school, and then I went to work. Outside of that, life at my mother’s house was pretty much one long party. Somehow, my father got wind that we were living without parental supervision, and in November he came to Ohio, picked us up, and moved us back to Arizona. By then, he had moved to Sierra Vista and opened a gun store with a settlement check he received from Ohio Workmen’s Compensation for his back.

After settling into my new reality, I found a stocking job at Food Giant. I learned that I was quite good at grocery work, skills I would later ply into several good jobs. After visiting several churches, I decided to join Sierra Vista Baptist Church — a Conservative Baptist Association congregation. I quickly became involved with the church’s bus route and helped teach Sunday School. It was not long afterward that I started dating a girl named Anita Farr. Anita was, I believe, two years older than I. Anita would become my first real love. I was smitten, and it was not long before we talked of getting married. Anita was in college, so marriage would have to wait, but I had no doubt that she was the one for me.

I turned eighteen in June of 1975. Two months later, Anita returned to college. We planned to see each other as often as we could on weekends. I drove to Phoenix several times that fall. I would stay in the dorm and then we would spend the weekend running around and attending church. Everything seemed headed in the right direction, until it wasn’t. You see, I was immature and prone to jealousy. Anita was a free spirit who loved flirting with men. It was not long before our relationship crashed and burned.

polly bruce gerencser cranbrook gardens bloomfield hills michigan 1978

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Cranbrook Gardens, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1978, two months before our wedding.

Two weeks later, I packed up a couple of suitcases and caught a Greyhound Bus to Bryan, Ohio. I moved back in with my mom and took a job at Foodland as their dairy manager. I spent the next ten months having one of the most thrilling times of my life. I was an adult, had a good job, rented an apartment, owned my own car, and spent every waking hour either at work, church, or running around with my friends. I had no interest in serious relationships with the opposite sex. Anita cured me of that. I dated a good bit, but the moment things started turning serious I was off and running away. I was what you might call a serial dater.

In the spring of 1976, I decided it was time to act upon my call to the ministry. One friend of mine, Randy Rupp, laughed at me when I told him I was going to Bible college. He said, “you’ll never go!” But go I did, packing up my earthly belongings once again, and moving to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll for classes at Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. And with this move, my wanderings came to an end. Well, kind of . . . well, not really . . . but for twenty-nine months Midwestern was my home.

It was there I met the love of my life and got married. I thought, “everything is moving in the right direction!” Get married, graduate, start a new church, that was the plan. However, God/Bruce had other plans. Seven months after Polly and I said “I do” we . . . you guessed it . . . moved. And over the past forty years we have moved numerous times. New houses, new communities, new churches. The reasons and circumstances for these moves are many, but the driving motivation was, I believed at the time, God. After years of counseling, I now know that wanderlust drives my desire and need to move. Even today, wanderlust whispers in my ear and says, “hey wouldn’t you like to live in ____________?”  Always restless, I am — a restlessness birthed a lifetime ago as my father moved me from town to town, state to state, and house to house. While my reasons for moving  — mostly religious in nature — are different from my father’s, I still followed in his footsteps. We try so hard to break free from our parents, yet when it comes time for me to give an account of my life, it seems that the proverbial apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Like it or not, I am the son of Robert and Barbara Gerencser. Well, not really. Have I told you the story about my father not being my “real” father? I’ll save that for another day.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

One of the Reasons I Love My Wife

text conversation

How do I love thee? let me count the ways . . .

Every day, Polly, without fail, texts me when she arrives at work. The screenshot above is of a text conversation we had earlier this week.

I love the last text from Polly, “I’d go to hell and back with you!” — complete with two smilies, signifying that her words are meant in a humorous way. We can’t, of course, go to hell and back. There is no hell. Hell and Heaven are mythical places used by preachers to keep congregants in line. In classic carrot-and-stick fashion, preachers promise congregants Heaven if they will play by the rules, and Hell if they don’t.

While there is no such thing as Hell, it is an apt metaphor for the lie Polly and I have shared. We started dating in the fall of 1976 and married the summer of 1978. This July we will celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary. Polly and I have had a wide range of experiences as a married couple. Good times, hard times. Heaven, Hell. I can look back over our lives together and see we have experienced a fair bit of Hell in our lives: Poverty. A child born with Down Syndrome. Church strife. Severe health problems. Disagreements with parents and extended family. Loss of faith.  We have had extended periods as husband and wife when we wondered if would ever stop raining; if the sun would ever shine again; if life would ever return to normal. Yet, through it all, we persevered; and in that sense we have indeed been to hell and back. No matter the circumstance, with stoic determination we hung on, hoping (and praying) for a better tomorrow. And as sure as Donald Trump will say something stupid on Twitter, better times did come our way.

I could list numerous reasons why I love Polly, but the one reason that stands above all others is that when I have descended into hell, she has been right beside me, and when I emerge from the pit into the sunshine of a better day, she is still there.

Forty years ago, Polly and I stood before friends and family at the Newark Baptist Temple and recited the following vows:

Groom: I, Bruce, take thee, Polly, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Bride: I, Polly take thee, Bruce, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Till death do us part. The hells of life have certainly left us scarred, but we have endured. Every day presents us new challenges, but hand-in-hand Polly and I meet them together. And if we must, yet again, descend into hell for a time, we know we will make it because we have one another. To each other, we are friends who stick closer than brothers, even when it’s hot.

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Wedding July 1978

polly mom and dad 2018 (2)

Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2018

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Grandpa, You Were a Pastor?

bruce gerencser 1990's

Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, Early 1990’s

As many readers know, my wife, Polly, and I have six children. Our oldest child will turn forty in May, and our youngest will be twenty-six. We have two distinct families: the oldest three, a space of five years, and then the youngest three. The first group grew up in a strict Fundamentalist Baptist pastor’s home. Economically, during their childhoods, we lived from hand to mouth, and sometimes the hand didn’t quite reach. The latter grew up in a less-strict, more inclusive Evangelical pastor’s home. Economically, things greatly improved — especially from the late 1990s forward. What remained the same for both groups was the fact that their lives revolved around the church and my work as a pastor. It is in this context that my six children know me.

I left the ministry in 2005, and deconverted from Christianity in 2008. For the first time, my children, then ages fifteen through twenty-nine, experienced family life that did not revolve around the church. For the first time, Dad wasn’t the law by which they had to live. In 2009, I sent a letter to family, friends, and parishioners, that said, in part:

I have come to a place in life where I can no longer put off writing this letter. I have dreaded this day because I know what is likely to follow after certain people receive it. I have decided I can’t control how others will react to this letter, so it is far more important to clear the air and make sure everyone knows the facts about Bruce Gerencser.

I won’t bore you with a long, drawn out history of my life. I am sure each of you has an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I have made. I also have an opinion about how I have lived my life and decisions I made. I am my own worst critic.

Religion, in particular Baptist Evangelical and Fundamentalist religion, has been the essence of my life, from my youth up. My being is so intertwined with religion that the two are quite inseparable. My life has been shaped and molded by religion and religion touches virtually every fiber of my being.

I spent most of my adult life pastoring churches, preaching, and being involved in religious work to some degree or another. I pastored thousands of people over the years, preached thousands of sermons, and participated in, and led, thousands of worship services.

To say that the church was my life would be an understatement. As I have come to see, the Church was actually my mistress, and my adulterous affair with her was at the expense of my wife, children, and my own self-worth.

Today, I am publicly announcing that the affair is over. My wife and children have known this for a long time, but now everyone will know.

The church robbed me of so much of my life and I have no intention of allowing her to have one more moment of my time. Life is too short. I am dying. We all are. I don’t want to waste what is left of my life chasing after things I now see to be vain and empty.

….

I know some of you are sure to ask, what does your wife think of all of this? Quite surprisingly, she is in agreement with me on many of these things. Not all of them, but close enough that I can still see her standing here. Polly is no theologian, she is not trained in theology as I am. She loves to read fiction. I was able to get her to read Bart Ehrman’s book Misquoting Jesus and she found the book to be quite an eye-opener.

Polly is free to be whomever and whatever she wishes. If she wants to start attending the local Fundamentalist Baptist church she is free to do so, and even has my blessing. For now, she doesn’t. She may never believe as I believe, but in my new way of thinking, that is OK. I really don’t care what others think. Are you happy? Are you at peace? Are you living a good, productive life? Do you enjoy life? Yes, to these questions is good enough for me.

I have six children, three of whom are out on their own. For many years I was the spiritual patriarch of the family. Everyone looked to me for the answers. I feel somewhat burdened over my children. I feel as if I have left them out on their own with no protection. But, I know they have good minds and can think and reason for themselves. Whatever they decide about God, religion, politics, or American League baseball is fine with me.

All I ask of my wife and children is that they allow me the freedom to be myself, that they allow me to journey on in peace and love. Of course, I still love a rousing discussion about religion, the Bible, politics, etc. I want my family to know that they can talk to me about these things, and anything else for that matter, any time they wish.

The best thing I ever did for Polly and our children is to say to them, you are free. Choose your own path. At the time, I received quite a bit of criticism for doing this. “How dare I cut them loose and ask them to choose their own path when I had, for the most part, dictated their path for them!” While I understood where my critics were coming from, I saw no way to handle things other than setting everyone free. It was time for everyone to fly on his or her own, much like the fledgling kicked out of the nest,

Each of my children has plotted his or her own course. None of them stayed in the Evangelical church, and neither are they all atheists. Some of them are religious/spiritual, and others are indifferent towards religion. Now, this doesn’t mean I agree with all of the choices they have made. What’s different is that they no longer have to conform to Evangelical beliefs/practices/morality/ethics. They don’t have to bow to Bruce Almighty’s authority and interpretation of the Bible. They are, in every way, FREE. Of course, the same goes for their parents. In the Gerencser family, freedom is a two-way street. We may disagree on specifics, but we put our family relationships first. Too bad we didn’t choose this way of life sooner, but crying over the past is a waste of time. What we have is the present and each and every day ahead until we meet our end.

bruce gerencser 2016

Bruce Gerencser, 2016

Polly and I are blessed to have twelve grandchildren — ten girls and two boys — ages nine months to eighteen years. Our grandchildren only know us post-Jesus, post-church, post-ministry. They have never seen us pray or read the Bible, attended church with us, nor heard me preach. They know Nana as a woman who makes them awesome food and works at Sauder’s Woodworking. Grandpa they know as the man who takes lots of photographs and comes to their games. They know nothing about our previous lives as Pastor and Mrs. Bruce Gerencser. They know nothing about our travels and the churches I pastored. We bought our home in 2007. This is the only house our grandchildren will ever know us to live in. And that’s okay. We hope to live long enough for our grandchildren to grow up, become adults, and have families of their own. We hope that they will have wonderful memories of spending time with Nana and Grandpa. We hope after we are gone that they will drive by our home and have fond memories of playing in our big jungle of a back yard. Maybe they will wistfully say to their own children, “I remember when Nana and Grandpa planted this tree, that bush, or flowers.” Regardless, unlike our children, they will NOT have any memories of Grandpa preaching and Nana playing the piano. That part of our life is foreign to them. All of them, in time, will stumble upon this blog. They will read stories that deeply resonate with their grandparents and parents, but have no connection to them.

A couple of days ago, one of my sons required a letter from me stating that he had been baptized. He and his wife are becoming more active in church, and he wants to become a member. While I was typing up the letter, my son explained to his oldest daughter that I used to be a pastor and that I had baptized him at nearby Harrison Lake. She quizzically looked at me and said, “Grandpa, you were a pastor?” I replied, “Yes. I was for twenty-five years. Someday, when you are older, we will talk about it!”  My granddaughter pondered for a moment what I said, and then moved on to other things. Someday, she will know the story of the life and times of Bruce Gerencser. For now, I am content to leave things as they are.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

good question

Twenty-Six Questions From the Search Logs

What follows is a list questions from the search logs. These questions are a handful of the thousands of Google search queries people use to get to this site. In this post, I plan to “answer” these “important” questions. Let these search questions remind you of how Evangelical beliefs can and do psychologically harm people. If this is not the case, then why-oh-why would a rational person ask such questions? No, my friend, Evangelical beliefs hinder critical thinking. How could they not? When a Bronze Age religious text is your go-to book, is it any surprise people end up fretting over the things mentioned in these questions?

Snarkiness and cussing ahead! You have been warned. Now, go and sin!

Is Bethel Church in Redding, California a cult?

Yes, Bethel Church in Redding is a cult. Every crazy, irrational Evangelical/Charismatic belief and practice can be found at Bethel. Bethelmania has spread far and wide, it seems.  A nearby church pastored by Tim and Lisa Hacker has changed its name to Bethel. The Hackers, members of the Bethel Leaders Network, believe God wants them to “make things on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

My advice to people wanting to hook up with the nutters at Bethel Church in Redding is simple: RUN!

Please read Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult.

Why are Evangelicals so mean?

Evangelicals are mean because their God is mean. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Mean God.” This God is the meanest son-of-a-bitch in the universe; meaner than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Why are Evangelicals so hateful?

Evangelicals are hateful because their God is hateful. All one needs to do is read the Bible to find the ‘Hateful God.” This God is the most hateful asshole in the universe; more hateful than Satan himself. Not that God or Satan exists, but if they did . . .

Evangelicals preach up love, joy, peace, and tithing, but their behavior suggests that they don’t practice what they preach.

Where is David Hyles today?

Hopefully, David Hyles is under a rock somewhere, fearing further exposure of his vile and criminal behavior. Why would anyone want to know where Hyles’ is today? Passionately unrepentant, Hyles is attempting a comeback of sorts.  My goal in life is whack him on the head every time he pops his head up from the rock he is currently hiding under.

Please read UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been RestoredDavid Hyles Says My Bad, JesusIs All Forgiven for David Hyles?Serial Adulterer David Hyles Receives a Warm Longview Baptist Temple Welcome, and Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses

Is kissing your boyfriend a sin?

Think about this question for a moment. Humans are naturally sexual beings. It is very human to desire to kiss someone you are attracted to. If God is your creator, why did he give you sexual desire and then expect you not to act on it? Silly, right?  Any church/sect that demands you refrain from kissing before marriage is a cult. My advice? RUN!

Please read Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend? and Hey Girlfriend: Is it a Sin to Kiss Your Boyfriend?

What is the name of the Ohio preacher who became an atheist?

Bruce Gerencser. You can find everything you would ever want to know about him here. Beware! Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers believe Gerencser is a tool of Satan, a destroyer of the faith once delivered to the saints. His writing has been known to cause fear, doubt, gas, and loss of faith.

How do atheists handle death?

Every atheist is different, so I can’t speak for all atheists. That said, death is inevitable. It stalks all of us, and will one day — all too soon — catch us. Worrying about death is a waste of time. Here’s the advice I give to people to ask such questions:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please read How Does an Atheist Handle the Death of a Loved One?

Who won’t make it to Heaven?

No one will make it to Heaven. Heaven (and Hell) are fictional places used by clerics to ensure congregants remain faithful. They use a carrot-stick approach. Heaven is the carrot, and Hell is the stick. Without the promise of eternal life in Heaven (or the threat of Hell) after death, most churches would close. Why bother with getting up on Sundays, giving ten percent of your income to the church, and listening to boring sermons if there’s no life after death?

Why are black women more loyal to their pastors than their husbands?

I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that black female Evangelicals are quite devoted to their pastors and churches. Pastors can commit all sorts of crimes, yet there is Sister Bertha and the Missionary Union standing behind them, faithful unto the end. I suspect this has to do with being taught to submit to male religious authorities.

Perhaps someone who spent years in a black church can better answer this question.

Why do some pastors stop believing in God?

Where oh where to I begin? Please read the posts on the WHY page for more information on why I divorced Jesus in 2008.

Is Christopher Hitchens in Hell?

Of course not. There is no such thing as Hell, silly boy. Please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell

Is it a sin for a man to have long hair?

I see IFB preachers are still preaching against long hair on men. Any man focused on your physical appearance is a cultist (and a creep). His goal is to control you though demanding you look and dress a certain way. Please read Is it a Sin for a Man to Have Long Hair?

Was Jack Hyles a false prophet?

The short answer is yes.  Please read The Legacy of Jack HylesThe Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still MattersThe Mesmerizing Appeal of Jack Hyles, and Sexual Abuse and the Jack Hyles Rule: If You Didn’t See It, It Didn’t Happen

Is the IFB a cult?

Yes. All churches and sects, by definition, are cults. That said, IFB churches and pastors often use psychological manipulation and religious indoctrination to control congregants. My advice is simple: RUN! There are plenty of kinder, gentler, human-affirming flavors of Christianity. Check them out. You need not stay in the IFB cult.

Here’s the dictionary definition of the word cult:

  • An interest followed with exaggerated zeal.
  • A system of religious beliefs and rituals.
  • A religion or sect that is generally considered to be unorthodox, extremist, or false.
  • Followers of an unorthodox, extremist, or false religion or sect who often live outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.
  • Followers of an exclusive system of religious beliefs and practices.

Need I say more?

Should IFB wives obey their husbands without question?

Back in my IFB days, I would have said yes, with one qualification: wives do not have to obey commands that are contrary to the Bible. That said, men are far smarter than women, stronger too. I read that in the Bible, so it must be true, right? (That’s sarcasm, by the way.)

Should churches get rid of their youth programs?

Yes, immediately. Don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200. Please read Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments

Why are Baptists not allowed to play cards?

Many Baptists think playing cards of any kind is a sin. The first church I worked in almost had a split over card playing. Here’s how one Fundamentalist site explains why card playing is sinful:

Playing cards, like reading your horoscope, has become a joke or just a game. However, the Lord does not look at it as a joke or game. There are serious consequences for reading your horoscope as well as using cards or just having them in your home. It has been said that nicknames for a deck of cards is “The Devil’s Bible” and “The Devil’s Picture Book”. At one time the church took a strong stand against the card game. Until recently preachers and churches warned about the dangers of cards.

Some of the most common places you will find a deck of cards (besides our homes) will be with prostitutes, gamblers, thieves, murderers, in taverns, brothels, prisons, insane asylums, gambling dens, etc., but never at a prayer meeting.

The king represents Satan, Prince of Darkness, usurper and foe of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ten card is for the Spirit of lawlessness, in opposition to the moral law in the Word of God. In 1300, clubs were the chief weapons used by murderers, therefore this suit represents the Spirit of Murder and death by violence. The jack represents the lustful libertine, from pimp to adulterer and whoremonger, a moral leper whose chief ambition is to gratify sensual fleshly lusts. The queen represents Mary, Mother of Jesus, but in the card language she is called Mother of Harlots. The joker represents Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Joker means fool and therefore Jesus is held up to ridicule. The joker is said to be the offspring of licentious jack and the queen, Mother of Harlots.

All other cards also have hidden obscene and blasphemous meanings. Nine-tenths of all gambling today is done with these cards. Witches, psychics, and satan-worshipers use playing cards for divination and to cast spells and curses. Born-again believers should not want to be in contact with such a tool of Satan. In Deuteronomy 7:26 we are told not to have abominable things in our homes. It will bring a curse on you and your household. It is time that Christians clean house and destroy the hidden works of darkness.

Is it ever okay to lie?

Yes. Please read Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Is masturbation a sin?

Many Evangelicals believe masturbating is sinful. In their “clean” minds, since masturbation requires “lust” for matters to rise to the occasion, it is a sexual sin rooted in pride. Not pride over penis size. Everyone knows Evangelical men have small dicks (and Evangelical women never, ever ring the Devil’s doorbell). Since masturbation is generally a solo act, it is wrongly focused on prideful self-gratification. Besides, masturbation will make you blind.

Again, such beliefs are all about control. Evangelicals hold to Puritanical beliefs on sex. No sex before marriage, and that includes masturbation. Silly, I know, but many people believe masturbation to be every bit as sinful as fornication.  If this is so, skip spanking the meat and go straight to intercourse. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun!

Please read Good Baptist Boys Don’t Masturbate, Oh Yes, They Do!

Is Game of Thrones pornographic?

No, and only people who have never seen porn think it is. Yes, GOT has a good bit of nudity (and dragons). But, pornographic? Nope. Want to see REAL porn? Ask your pastor for a list of his favorite porn websites. Maybe, the both of you can check them out together. Nothing better for the soul than searching YouPorn with your preacher.

What religion approves of incest?

Christianity. It is, after all, in the Bible.

How do you witness to an atheist?

You don’t. True-blue atheists are NOT good evangelistic targets, especially if they were previously Christian. There are so many souls in need of saving. Why not go after the low-hanging fruit instead of wasting your time with people who know the score and have zero interest in your Gods?

Please read How to Witness to an Atheist

Is wearing leggings a sin?

No. Now, it may not be becoming for you to wear them. Spend an evening at the local Walmart and you see women who should never, ever attempt to put their size 22 ass in a size 12 pair of leggings. That’s just my personal opinion, so if you want to wear leggings, go for it. Don’t let ANYONE tell you how to dress, especially religious authority figures. Remember, their goal is not social propriety, it’s control.

Please read Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Wearing Leggings is a Sin

Why do liberals hate Evangelicals?

I am a liberal and I don’t hate Evangelicals. I do, however, hate Evangelical beliefs. I know a lot of nice, kind, thoughtful Evangelicals who have horrible, anti-human, anti-progress, anti-science beliefs. Such beliefs deserve a swift death, and I plan to do my part in smothering the life out of them. To use a common Evangelical cliché: I love the Evangelical, but hate the beliefs.

Why doesn’t God stop abortion?

Good question, why doesn’t he? Keep asking yourself that question until you exit the church doors into the fresh air of reason and freedom. God doesn’t stop abortion because he can’t. God doesn’t exist, so how can he stop anything? That why there is war, starvation, sexual violence and other calamities. It’s up to us to fix these problems, not God.

Where is Bruce Gerencser?

Right here. Not dead. Not in Hell. Seek and ye shall find. And please, God dammit, spell my last name correctly when you are using a search engine to locate me. Gerencser, how hard can it be? It’s Hungarian by the way, not that I am, in any way, Hungarian. I am the milk man’s son.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Forgiveness

guest post

Guest post by Michael

The word “forgiveness” comes from the root word “forgive” which the dictionary says “to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake.”

I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was physically abused by her father. He was never a “hands on” dad (meaning when it came to the raising of his daughter, he wasn’t active). He served in the military, but came home and started abusing his two daughters. The mother and father are now divorced and the father is in jail for what he did. The young woman told me that her father blames his behavior on the military (he did see action), and that he thinks that the kids are going to forgive him and let him still be a part of their lives. The daughter will not hear of it. She wants nothing to do with him. I do not know the extent of the abuse, or what kind of abuse, but I assume it’s bad because he is in jail.

We’ve all heard the saying “forgive and forget”, but the problem is you can never forget some things. These things can cut deep into your very being. While it is said that time can heal all wounds, forgiveness is a part of that. Most think forgiveness is for the person who wronged you. I argue that it is not. In fact, when you read the definition, it is all about the person who was wronged. After a person hurts you, the way you deal with the hurt to make it stop hurting you (when you think about it) is the process of forgiveness. Forgiveness DOES NOT absolve the person of his or her wrong-doing.

Melody was my girlfriend for four-and-a-half years. Her family lived in Florida (except her daughter). I took care of her during her battle with lung cancer for eighteen months. When she died (October 2006), her family came in and took all her stuff. I didn’t care about most of it. She had little of value when it came to electronics, jewelry, money, or possessions. But what she did have were pictures, art, and memorabilia from our four-and-a-half years together. They cremated her without letting me know (she wanted to be cremated . . . I knew that, it was just they did it without including me). There was no grieving with me. I had no one to grieve with. They did everything behind my back and refused to talk to me. The only exception was that her sister called me up from Florida (two days after she died), and left me a voice message, threatening me with jail time if I did anything with her money or bank accounts. I was livid. I heard the voice message and I immediately began to shake with sorrow and anger! Here I lost the love of my life and all I got from her family was a threatening call.

I was angry, really angry. It was so consuming that I couldn’t grieve her death because I was so angry at her family. I tried to reach out to them, find out why they did what they did, but I never got any answers. They just took her stuff away, thought I had no right to any of it, and left me alone to grieve. The worst thing about that is there would never be closure. I would never know why they did it. Closure is the only thing I wanted in this situation and I was never going to get it, and that made me even angrier. For three months, I would go to work, come home with takeout and wine, eat the food, drink three-quarters of the bottle of wine and fall asleep with the XBOX controller in my hand. Wake up the next morning, rinse and repeat. It was the most miserable I had ever been in my life and I struggled to come to grips with it.

Then one night, I was working on a piece of music which I was using as a way to deal with my anger. I had put together all the voice mails I received after she died and set them to background music. When I came to the sister’s threatening message, I put the sound of vulture calls in the background and changed the music. And all of the sudden it hit me. You see, Melody was not close to her family. She thought all her siblings and her mother had major issues. The reason the family took her stuff was because they were trying to desperately to regain the part of her they didn’t have . . . her heart, her love. But no matter how hard they tried, they would never get that. Her heart and her love were not in her possessions. I had her heart, I had her love . . . inside of me. I’ve always had those parts. And all the things that she taught me over those years would be alive and in me . . . and then I could pass those nuggets of knowledge on to my daughter and those around me . . . and thus Melody lives on. All of a sudden, I realized . . . I won! I had her heart! I had the most important thing! These people will never know the Melody I knew, the wonderful, talented, nurturing, person she was. I was a direct benefactor of that. Once I looked at it that way, the anger subsided, almost instantaneously. I had finally found a way to look at the situation and be at peace. I had found a way to forgive them. Notice, I didn’t say forget. I still wouldn’t piss on any of them if they were on fire, but I was able to move on, knowing I was the one who actually won in this situation. I am also not ashamed to admit that I don’t feel an ounce of sorrow for them. I don’t feel anger towards them. I just feel nothing towards them. They weren’t a part of my life before, they aren’t a part of my life now . . . so I don’t care what happens to them.

I relayed that story to this young woman, and something clicked with her. Her eyes were glazed over with tears and she said “I never thought of it that way. This really helps me with this situation and another that I’m going through. Thank you so much. Would you become my “step-in dad?” And with that . . . Melody lives on! I’m still winning! If it weren’t for me going through that situation more than twelve years ago, I would have not had the tools to help this young lady.

So, forgiveness is not about the other person, it’s all about you! It’s about the way you cope with someone who wronged you. You can never put the toothpaste back in the tube. You can’t change what happened or the way people are, you can only change your reaction. You can only change your perspective. Once you decide to exorcise the offending situation from your life, peace is right behind. If the person who wronged you means something to you and it would be worth keeping him or her in your life, you will have to deal with it and find some way to make the relationship work. If the person should be “dead to you,” then cut them out of your life and don’t look back!

Why Aren’t Chronic Pain Sufferers Considered Stakeholders When Discussing the Opioid Crisis?

letter to the editor

What follows is a letter I recently submitted to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News.

Dear Editor,

Every week articles appear in the Crescent-News about the current opioid crisis. Medical professionals, substance abuse counselors, law enforcement, local government officials, and former addicts routinely are asked for comments or input on how to deal with drug abuse. There is, however, one stakeholder who is never asked to participate in these discussions – the chronic pain sufferer who takes opioid-based medications. Instead, the aforementioned groups speak as if chronic pain sufferers don’t exist. How else to explain the comments by authority figures about medical marijuana? Here’s a drug that can help people with chronic pain, yet law enforcement and government officials in particular go out of their way to make it hard or impossible for chronic pain suffers to access medical marijuana. Republican state legislators, in particular, are doing their best to make it nigh impossible for chronic pain sufferers to access and affordably buy medical marijuana. Local communities, giving into irrational hysteria, have caused harm to suffering locals by banning medical marijuana sellers. Imagine the outrage there would be if local governments banned cancer treatment drugs. Why, they would be voted out of office. Yet, it seems okay to demean, diminish, and harm chronic pain sufferers. Why is this?

One reason for these actions is that chronic pain sufferers are not part of local discussions about opioid abuse and use. Chronic pain sufferers who use narcotics as part of their pain management regimen are now treated like drug addicts. Chronic pain sufferers must jump through numerous hoops put in place by doctors, pharmacies, and government to get their prescriptions filled. Not one time have chronic pain sufferers been asked to have a seat at the discussion table. Instead, they suffer indignity in silence, fearing they will be looked down on if they dare to complain about the increasingly complex process required to get prescriptions filled.

I have read comments by Defiance Mayor Mike “Medical Marijuana is Not Part of Our Brand” McCann that reveal he is clueless about what chronic pain sufferers (and the handicapped) go through every day. The only way to change such ignorant perceptions is to include chronic pain sufferers in discussions about opioid abuse, medical marijuana, and pain treatment in general. Excluding them paints an inaccurate picture, leading to uneducated, ignorant, and irrational conclusions. Thanks to the war on opioids, chronic pain suffers have been pushed into the shadows. We deserve better.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

1979: Canoeing on the St. Joe River

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

In February, 1979, Polly and I left Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan and moved to the place of my birth, Bryan, Ohio. I had vowed never to return to rural northwest Ohio — with its flat land and monoculture — but thanks to me losing my job and Polly finding herself pregnant six weeks after we married, we needed to move somewhere where we could get help and find work. That place was Bryan and the home of my sister and brother-in-law. We had gone to the dean of students for counsel about how to deal with our predicament. His advice? Pray, trust God, and above all else, do NOT drop of school. He advised us to borrow money, if necessary, to pay our tuition bills and to stay in school no matter what! Of course, his advice was terrible counsel for a pair of twenty-something, soon-to-be parents. Never mind that fact that Polly and I were clueless about money, budgeting, and credit. Fortunately, no one would loan us enough money to cover our college debt, so we decided to drop out of school and move to Bryan.

On the appointed day, we packed our meager belongings in a U-Haul trailer and towed it with our 1967 Chevrolet Impala to the home of my sister and brother-in-law. We lived with them for a month. Polly and I shared a bunk bed. I quickly found work at General Tire. However, after a few weeks, I was moved from first to third shift. I decided I didn’t want to work that third shift, so I looked for a new job, and quickly found work at ARO Corporation — a large employer who made pneumatic pumps and other air equipment. I worked in shipping and receiving making $7 an hour, including top-shelf, free medical insurance. My brother-in-law worked at ARO, as did my uncle and several of the men I attended church with at nearby First Baptist Church.

My local friends assumed that I would return to First Baptist, the family church pastored by Jack Bennett, my uncle’s brother-in-law. Much to everyone’s surprise, Polly and I decided to attend Montpelier Baptist Church. My sister and her family attended church there. The church was a stridently Fundamentalist church affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC). Running about 150 in attendance, the church was poised for growth. (Montpelier Baptist reach 500 in attendance on our last Sunday at the church. Yes, Skippy, I had a lot to do with the attendance growth.) After we visited the church several times, its pastor, Jay Stuckey, came to my sister’s home and asked if I would be interested in being his assistant — a full-time, unpaid position. Eager to get busy serving Jesus, I said yes, and for the next seven months I worked at ARO full-time and devoted the rest of my waking hours to helping Pastor Stuckey. I primarily worked with the bus ministry and visitation program. Strangely, Stuckey never asked me to preach. I did, however, preach several times on Sundays at the Funny Farm Campground. The owners attended the church and were looking for someone to preach to the campers. I’d go preach a short sermon, give an altar call, and then a love offering would be taken. The money was dumped in a paper bag and given to me as I was leaving. Pretty good pay for less than an hour of work. It was, by the way, more money than I ever received from Montpelier Baptist. The church had the means to provide me some sort of stipend, but chose not to.

My sister married at the age of fifteen. Several months pregnant, she married a man who was one day younger than I was. He and I were in the same hospital nursery in June 1957. Initially, I didn’t like my brother-in-law. He was a pot-smoking hippie who listened to rock music! However, between the time they married and my return to Bryan, they found Jesus and were actively involved in various church ministries at Montpelier Baptist.

My brother-in-law seemed to really love Jesus, outwardly anyway. We got along quite well, and when I needed help driving one of the church buses, he gladly volunteered. One day, my brother-in-law asked if I would be interested in going canoeing with him. At the time, I was an outdoorsman — quite fit — so I said, sure!

Up to this point, the only canoeing I had ever done was at youth events at canoe liveries near Loudenville, Ohio. These canoe trips were quite docile, with little threat of drowning. Little did I know that the trip my brother-in-law had in mind would be, on one hand quite thrilling, but on the other hand, quite dangerous.

It was late March, and the St. Joe River was flooded from early spring runoff. The water was cold, in the thirties, temperature-wise. We planned to canoe from Montpelier in the north to Edgerton in the South — a 12-15 mile course. I was excited about making this trip, though I did worry a bit about the coldness of the water. What happened if someone fell in the water? I thought. I quickly dismissed my concern, jumped into the canoe, and my brother-in-law pushed us off from shore. Being a good swimmer, I didn’t wear a life preserver. What could go wrong, right? Little did I know, my carelessness almost cost me my life.

The St. Joe was quickly moving thanks to all the runoff swelling its depths. This, of course, made for swift currents — just what two athletic young men wanted. Towards the end of our trip, we came into some fast-moving water that was partially blocked by a fallen tree. My brother-in-law navigated our canoe towards the right side of the river, and when we came close to the tree, I attempted to push us away with my paddle. To this day, I don’t know for sure what happened next. Somehow, my pushing movement caused the canoe to become unstable, and before I could help right it, I was catapulted over the side. As I hit the freezing water, I found myself gasping for breath. This resulted in me taking in a bunch of water — choking. Little did I know, I was moments away from drowning. Fortunately, my brother-in-law realized I was in serious trouble and, grabbing ahold of the neck of my coat, he pulled me back into the canoe. He literally saved my life.

My brother-in-law paddled the rest of the way down the river with me lying in the bottom of the canoe. We arrived to our destination, loaded the canoe onto our vehicle, and quickly made for home. Boy, did I have a story to tell my bride of eight months! My brother-in-law and I never canoed together after that. I suspect he didn’t want to put his life in the hands of someone as inexperienced as I was. I learned a valuable lesson: ALWAYS wear a life preserver when you are on the water. Unfortunately, this did not steer me clear of doing other dumb, dangerous stuff. When God is with you, no worries. right? Except it was a human, and not God, who pulled me from the chilly waters of the St. Joe on that fateful day. If I had waited on God to “save” me, my wife would have been a widow, and my unborn son an orphan.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

I Thought Jesus Would Take Care of Me When I Got Old

isaiah 41 10

I started preaching at age fifteen, enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College to study for the ministry at nineteen, married my wife at age twenty-one, and took my first church job a few months before I turned twenty-two. I was young, full of life, and raring to go for Jesus. I also was clueless about what awaited me in the ministry. Little did I know, that life would not turn out as Polly and I envisioned; that our fairy tale would not be one of love, peace, and potluck dinners; that our vision of a future with a white two-story home with a boy named Jason, a girl named Bethany, and a white picket fence would turn into a 12’x60′ trailer, six children, food stamps, and a $200 station wagon.

It’s common for young marrieds to have all sorts of hopes and dreams. Polly and I thought that God would surely use us in a mighty way to bring countless people to Christ; that we would be respected and rewarded for our hard work; that our children would grow up, get married, and follow in our footsteps. As a young man, I believed Jesus would always take care of me. He, after all, gave me a wonderful wife, blessed us with children, and favored the work we accomplished in his vineyard. Though Jesus never personally appeared to me, I saw all my ministerial success as coming directly from him. Boy, was I wrong!

One Tuesday in the early 1980s, I attended a Buckeye Baptist Fellowship Meeting at High Street Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio. I thoroughly enjoyed the monthly pastors’ fellowships I attended at various Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. These meetings were a time for me to shoot the breeze with my ministerial colleagues and listen to what I considered, then, to be great preaching. On this particular Tuesday, one of the speakers was Charles Mainous, the pastor at High Street. Mainous was known for his virulent anti-government sermons. At the time, the steeple of his church was red, white and blue, church members carried firearms, and posted warnings on the doors warned government agents of this fact. I had heard him several times before, so I knew what to expect. During his harangue, Mainous said that it was a sin for pastors to pay into Social Security; that it was up to God to take care of his preachers, not the government. If Catholic priests could take a vow of poverty and be tax exempt, so should Baptist preachers. I thought, “he’s right. God called me, God leads me, God talks to me, and God gives me my sermons to preach. Surely, God can take care of me when I get old.” And so, following Mainous’ advice, I filed for exemption from paying social security taxes on my ministerial income (and housing) (IRS Form 4361). I was twenty-five years old. Still physically fit, playing competitive basketball in the winter and softball in the summer, I looked good, felt good, and thought of myself as downright invincible. Jesus and Bruce were ready to take on the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world!

I thought that I would one day set up a retirement plan and the churches I pastored would pay into it, providing for my care when I retired. Not that I ever planned on retiring. My goal was to keep preaching until I died. I even thought it would be an awesome sermon illustration if my appointed time to die (Hebrews 9:27) was right at the end of one of my sermons. What a way to punctuate my message, right?

I am, however, still here, and the only thing that died was my relationship with Jesus. What did change was that the youthful preacher named Bruce Gerencser came down with mononucleosis in 1991 and almost died. For the first time, there was a chink in my supposedly invincible armor. I was sidelined from preaching for over a month, and mono left me with physical problems that I deal with to this day.

In 1997, after a year of unexplained fatigue and muscle pain, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. This forced me to reconsider the naïve notion that Jesus was going to take care of me. In 2000, I decided to opt back into Social Security. Unfortunately, the paltry wages I received from this point to 2005 when I left the ministry didn’t do much to improve the level of social security I would receive at retirement. My health continued to decline, and by 2005 I was totally disabled, unable to find meaningful, paying work that meshed with my disability. Since that time, we have been a one-wage-earner family.

I looked in vain for Jesus. He was there when I was healthy, but nowhere to be found when I was sick. Of course, he was just a figment of my imagination, but I really did believe he was a friend who would stick closer to me than a brother; a supernatural being that would take care of me no matter what I faced in life. You see, religious beliefs are not benign. They can and do have consequences; they can and do cause psychological and physical harm; they can and do make a mess of your life. At least, that was the case for me. Thanks to not paying Social Security for twenty years, the only retirement income I’ll have will be based on the secular work I did on and off while pastoring churches.

In seventeen days, I will file for early Social Security. Come June, I will draw my first check for about $600. I sent a message to Jesus, asking him to make up the difference, but he did not respond. “I know I am an atheist and all that now, but come on Jesus, I worked seven days a week for you, month in and month out for over two decades. Surely the laborer is worthy of his hire, as the Bible you wrote says!”

Jesus is too busy building imaginary mansions in Heaven (John 14:1-6) to be bothered with my needs. He owes me, as he owes billions of people before me, but he’s never paid on his promises. He promised, at least in my IFB-addled mind, to take care of me, and to be my BFF. Instead, as he is wont to do, Jesus left me to fend for myself. And that, my friend, is the point of this post. Each of us is responsible for our own lives. Deep down, at some level, I knew that, but I convinced myself that Jesus would come through for me in the end. The responsible thing for me to have done was to pay into Social Security. The responsible thing for me to have done was to demand the churches I worked for do a better job at providing for my future needs, and those of my family. Of course, I was Head Cheese® at most of the churches I pastored, so to some degree I am to blame for them not taking care of me. I allowed myself to become a cheap whore for Jesus. I allowed myself to be paid poverty wages with no promises for tomorrow.

During my time at Somerset Baptist Church, a man who had pastored a nearby church for decades died. He and his wife (and children), had lived in the church’s parsonage for thirty years. There was an unspoken promise — an assumption — made to the pastor’s wife: “we will take care of you.” Much to her horror, “we will take care of you” meant “you can live in the parsonage for two months and then you will have to move. Our nice, new, shiny young pastor will need the parsonage for him and his wife and children,” And just like that the aged preacher’s wife was out on the street, forced to move in with one of her children. I thought, at the time, “how awful,” but I never considered why she was in that position. Her husband was a church slave. He worked for paltry wages, supplementing his income with side hustles. Living in the church parsonage allowed him and his family to live frugally, yet keep working in God’s coal mine for slave wages. I am sure they had no thoughts of retirement. Jesus promised to care for them too. Imagine the dead preacher’s wife’s surprise when she found out that the people they had labored with and cared for had no interest in reciprocation. “Our pastor is dead. Time for a new one!” End of story.

Over the years, I have given numerous young preachers advice. I tell every one of them the same thing: be bivocational. Get a “real” job, one that allows you to adequately provide for your family’s needs. Don’t let paltry wages from the church keep you on the bread line. Expect the church to pay you a decent salary and provide the same benefits you would have in the secular world. If a church won’t pay you, then don’t pastor that church. (In retrospect, I should have been far pickier about the churches I pastored.) If a church can’t pay you as much as you need due to its size, then get a job and pastor the church part-time. And above all, DON’T let anyone convince you to opt out of Social Security. The government is NOT your enemy!

If I had it to do all over again, I would have been a bivocational pastor. I would have worked jobs that adequately provided income for my family. I would have put my wife and children first, not God. It’s not God who suffers when there’s no money. It’s not Jesus who suffers when the cupboards are bare and your children are wearing bread bags on their feet to keep them from getting wet in the winter. And don’t even get me started on the Holy Spirit. Why that dumb ass “led” me to do all sorts of stupid things, things that caused harm to my health and the financial well-being of my family. I should have listened for the beep-beep-beep of a Brink’s truck backing up to my house instead of just, with a wing and a prayer, “trusting” the triune God of Evangelicalism to take care of me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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