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Life in Rural Northwest Ohio: Defiant Anti-Maskers

freedom 2

Earlier today, my wife and I, along with our daughter, went to the medical clinic in Bryan to get our annual flu shots. In, out, done. We later got drinks at McDonald’s and sandwiches at Arbys and then took a short drive down the country roads where my Hungarian grandparents lived and died almost sixty years ago. Just beyond the farm runs Beaver Creek, swollen over its banks from several days of rain. A bit farther down the road, we saw a bald eagle sitting in a tree. We stopped, rolled down our windows, and watched bluejays, annoyed at the bald eagle’s presence, divebombing him. Nature — a wonderful distraction from a nation that seems to be on the precipice of lunacy, financial collapse, and civil war.

The bald eagle moved on, tired of the blue jays disrupting his afternoon siesta. Polly put the car in gear and pointed it towards home, five miles away. She drove slowly, allowing the both of us to survey what was new in our neighborhood. Not much. A pool closed for winter. A new roof here, new siding there. Flooded farm fields, with soybeans and corn ready to be harvested. Life moves slowly in the country. We like it this way.

Our conversation turned to our visit to the medical clinic — a place I have been going to for fifty-plus years. The clinic has a strict mask policy. No mask, no treatment. Polly told me of a new sign at the check-in counter, a list of behaviors that will NOT be tolerated. No doubt, this list resulted from anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers being outraged over Parkview’s mask mandate. Less than half of locals are vaccinated, and non-mask-wearers far outnumber people who care about their neighbors in places such as Walmart, Meijer, Menard’s, or Chief. Only local medical facilities require masks.

In the corner of the waiting room was a Trump supporter — a defiant anti-masker. He was wearing a red, white, and blue flag print mask with a statement about FREEDOM printed on the front. I say “wearing,” but only in the loosest sense of the word. His mask was pulled down, not only below his nose and mouth, but below his chin. Yep, he was a “patriotic” American who didn’t give a rat’s ass about anyone or anything except his Trump-inspired FREEDOM. He knew he had his dick (and morality) hanging out for everyone to see. His face dared his mask-wearing neighbors to say anything. Hell, in rural northwest Ohio, this “patriot” may have been carrying a concealed weapon. I said nothing, but I wondered how long it would be before his FREEDOM delivered his aged, decrepit body to the front door of the ER across the street. Then this “patriot” will wish he had done differently.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Anti-maskers Try to Disrupt Ayersville School District Board Meeting

freedom

A small contingent of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers in Defiance County, Ohio, are trying to force local school districts to make mask-wearing voluntary. These anti-science Trump supporters think the word tyranny means being required to wear masks during school board meetings. As you shall hear in the video below, “tyranny” is not being able to do whatever you want to do. Of course, these “patriots” don’t really believe this. I suspect that if I went to their homes, stripped naked, and stood on the sidewalks in front of their houses, they would call the police. What happened to FREEDOM? Shouldn’t all of us be free to do whatever we want? Of course not. This is nothing more than libertarianism gone wild.

As an Ohioan and a Defiance County resident, I am more than embarrassed by the behavior and ignorance displayed in the following video. Kudos to the Defiance County Sherriff’s deputy and Ayersville school district employees for standing their ground. Fortunately, the mob quietly retreated after being refused entrance to the meeting.

This video is shot in the wrong orientation, but I hope you will watch it anyway. Pay close attention to the anti-science questions and statements made by some of these anti-maskers, including a “medical professional.”

Video Link

Sadly, there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will change their minds. The only thing that might work is a COVID-19 infection and a stay in the ICU on a respirator. Reason, science, and common sense are unable to make a difference with these folks. I know some of them personally, having crossed swords with them over Donald Trump, socialism, and militarism. No amount of “words” will change their minds, as the sheriff’s deputy and others learned.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Christian Syrup for My Existential Pancakes

Today, I received the following card from someone local to where I live:

jesus syrup

I am not sure why the sender would feel “anxiety” over sending me an anonymous card. The “worst” that thing that could happen is that I would share the card on my blog, exposing the sender’s words to critique and, perhaps, ridicule.

The sender did list a street address (no city or zip code) on the envelope. A cursory Google search revealed two local locations for this address: Bryan and Bowling Green. This doesn’t mean, however, the sender lives in one of these communities. Local mail is processed through the Detroit, Michigan processing center. So, the sender may live somewhere farther away from my home. Or, she could have had layovers at the Detroit or Toledo airport and mailed the card from there. I say “she” because the handwriting seems to be that of a woman.

The sender calls me “Mr. Bruce.” This usage is somewhat odd: perhaps the person has never met me face to face, is an immigrant, from the South, or believes in using proper form. My grammar Nazi grandmother and I traded numerous letters when I was a child. Her letters to me were always addressed to “Master Bruce Gerencser,” and later in life to “Rev. Bruce Gerencser.” (Man, do I miss Grandma’s letters!)

The sender signs her name saying, “In Christ’s Love.” I assume from that that she is a Christian, and I will use that assumption for the rest of what I say about this card.

The sender believes her God has laid something on her heart that she wanted to share with me:

  • I pray for you
  • I pray for your heart
  • I pray that you may know you are a blessing
  • I pray that you may know that you are loved

I have been told thousands of times over the years by Christians that they are “praying” for me: praying that I will get saved, praying that I will come back to Jesus, praying I will get right with God, praying God will kill me, etc. Lots of praying, but as of the writing of this post, not one Christian prayer mentioning Bruce Gerencser has been answered — not one. Either God ain’t listening or doesn’t care, or there is no God, and all these prayers made it as far as the ceiling before bouncing back to earth.

The sender says she is praying for my “heart.” I assume she is using the word “heart” in a spiritual sense; that my “heart” is lacking or defective in some way. I reject the idea that humans have spiritual “hearts.” The same goes for us having “souls.” But, setting that aside for a moment, how could the sender possibly know the true condition of my “heart”? The Bible says that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the “heart.” (I Samuel 16:7) I assume the sender is judging my heart’s condition based on what she sees and knows about me outwardly: that she has concluded, based on her external observations, that I need a “heart” transplant.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. By all accounts, my “heart” was in the right place for most of my life. I slavishly and devotedly loved and followed Jesus, the eternal, virgin-born, miracle-working, crucified, resurrected, coming-again-in-power and-glory Son of the one true God. My “heart” yearned to be filled with the Holy Spirit. My “heart” ached for those dead in trespasses and sins. I diligently preached the Christian gospel and evangelized sinners, hoping that none should perish and that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). I wasn’t “perfect,” but tried to be, walking in humility, truth, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. And when my “heart” felt conviction over sin? I repented, applying 1 John 1:9 to my life.

Yet, at the age of fifty, I walked away from Christianity. I am now an atheist, one who opposes the religion he once believed and practiced. By Bible standards, I am a heretic, an apostate, a reprobate, an enemy of God; one who has spit in the face of Christ and done despite to the spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). What changed? Did Satan secretly in the night remove my Christian “heart” and replace it with an “atheist” heart? Of course not. What changed was my “mind.” I once believed, and now I don’t. The only thing wrong with my mind is that I don’t remember things as well as I used to. Other than that, I am the same Bruce post-Jesus. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting. What once made perfect sense to me no longer does (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.)

The sender says that she is praying that I know I am a “blessing.” A blessing to whom, exactly? I am most certainly not a “blessing” to Evangelical Christians. Everything I write is in opposition to their beliefs and practices. Quite frankly, I am not sure what the sender means by this statement. I am the village atheist, well-known for my opposition to Christianity. More than a few Evangelical zealots wish I would stop being such a “blessing” to others. 🙂

Finally, the sender is praying that I will know that I am “loved.” This is where the proverbial pancake becomes slathered with syrupy Christianese. I suppose I should be glad she didn’t use the word “unconditional” to modify the word “love.” (Please see Does God Love Us Unconditionally?) Perhaps the bigger question is whether Christians should love me. After all, I am leading people astray, causing countless people to walk away from Christianity. I know the Bible says Christians should love their enemies, but what does the sender really mean when she says she’s praying that I will “know I am loved?” By God? By Jesus? By Christians?

God is a myth, Jesus is dead, and if I had to judge Christianity based on how I have been treated by the supposed followers of Christ over the past thirteen years, I would conclude that Christianity is a morally bankrupt religion. Mahatma Gandhi was right when he said: I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

To the sender I say this: I am fine just the way I am. There’s nothing wrong with my “heart.” I am loved by people who matter to me, and they know I love them in return. I am “blessed” by having them in my life. I don’t want, need, or desire to “loved” or “blessed” by Christians, especially anonymous senders of cards. (I do have several Christians in my life I deeply love.) If the sender truly wanted to connect with me, she would have let me know who she was. Instead, she sent me an anonymous cryptic message that God allegedly laid upon her heart. If she knows me at all and has read my writing, she surely knew how I would respond to her “message.”

As I finished up this post, it dawned on me that this card could be from a Christian who is sending messages to random people; I was just one of her lucky targets. The fact that she said she had a “touch of anxiety” suggests that this person does, in fact, know me. She knows that I am an anxiety-causing kind of guy. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

OMG Pastor MacFarlane, Did You Really Say There’s No Racism in Rural Northwest Ohio?

trump im not a racist

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in nearby Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. I attended First Baptist Church in the 1960s and 1970s. I was attending First Baptist when I left in August,1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I attended First Baptist during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This would be the last time I regularly attended the church. After Polly and I married, left Midwestern, and moved to Bryan, we chose not to attend First Baptist. Instead, we joined Montpelier Baptist Church, upsetting many of the people at First Baptist. In their minds, First Baptist was the “family” church. Mom Daugherty, the mother of three of my uncles, told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged at First Baptist. Interestingly, the church’s pastor at the time, Jack Bennett (married to my uncles’ sister), made no effort to retain us as members. Due to my mother’s mental health problems and “sinful” lifestyles, Bennett always treated me like the ugly, redheaded stepchild. Given the opportunity to become the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist, I took it.

John MacFarlane was a nine-year-old boy when I went off to Midwestern in 1976. John grew up, felt the call of God, and enrolled in classes at Tennessee Temple, graduating in 1991. After pastoring Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan for three years, John returned home to work as Jack Bennett’s assistant. After Bennett retired, John became the pastor of First Baptist, a position he has held ever since.

John is White. He grew up in a White family, attended a White church, and spent K-12 in a White school. John is a lifelong resident of Williams County, Ohio. According to the 2010 US Census, Williams County is 95.9% White. And this is progress compared to Williams County demographics in the 1950s-1970s, I didn’t know of one Black person who lived in the county. Bryan, Ohio is one of the most White cities in America. Rural Northwest Ohio is the epitome of whiteness and White privilege. This is the world John MacFarlane (and Bruce Gerencser) was born into, grew up in, and lives in today.

I have sketched MacFarlane’s history for readers to provide context for what follows. MacFarlane publishes a daily “devotional” for church members and others to read. I am one of those “others.” Remember, John is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He lives, breathes, and shits IFB beliefs and practices. John is a product of IFB indoctrination, as was I for many years.

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled Racism. As I read John’s post, I stopped and said, “OMG, John, Did you REALLY say this out loud?” I couldn’t believe he said what he did. As you shall see, his post is racist, bigoted, and ignorant. I am not shocked by what MacFarlane believes. Thousands and thousands of White rural Northwest Ohio residents believe as he does. I doubt that he will have one church member object to what he wrote. What I AM shocked by is that MacFarlane actually said what follows out loud on a public blog.

Here’s what MacFarlane had to say:

I am writing today’s devotional on June 10 while sitting in a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel room in Louisville, KY.

….

The culture of Kentucky is definitely different than the culture of Ohio.  I didn’t say wrong and I didn’t say worse.  I said different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I want to share with you a very politically incorrect observation.  Bear with me as I set this up.

In the little dining area of the hotel, the television has the morning news running to provide those enjoying their breakfast with some indigestion.  News is never good, it seems.  The news today featured:  the millions of ransom dollars paid by a company to someone who had taken their computer systems hostage; issues on the border and a Vice-President who has yet to act as the border czar;  Presidential missteps and mistakes; millions of COVID vaccines rapidly reaching their expiration dates;  race riots, BLM, protests, white privilege, and apologizing for our race.  That’s where my observations come in.

How much of this is made up, contrived by those who aren’t content unless they are fighting?!?  How much of this is stirred up by people whose nickname should be Maytag – always agitating?

Oh, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe racism is out there.  There are places where it is practiced in some despicable ways.  But deal with it there.  Don’t bring it where I’m at and introduce it like another strain of the Wuhan plague.  I have yet to be in a place where I’ve felt that tension and I don’t want to be in that place.  Get rid of it THERE…deal with it THERE…and certainly don’t bring it around me!

Let me introduce you to Betty, Earl, Millie, and Carl.   Every one of them had a much darker tan than I have!  In fact, this was true throughout the facility.  The Hampton Inn & Suites of Louisville, KY was an ethnic melting pot.  So what?

They were the kindest people. 

….

The Asian housekeepers were courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating if you asked a question.

There were mutual niceties and respect.  I didn’t feel treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin and I certainly didn’t treat or look at them differently because of the color of their skin.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

….

I never once felt uncomfortable or threatened.  I saw blacks treating whites respectfully, openly talking with each other.  I saw whites treating blacks the same way.  Never did I see anything that made me think that I needed to hide in fear.  Doors were opened for one another.  Common courtesies and manners were demonstrated between ethnicities.

….

We cannot deny our history and pretend that there are not some very shameful events from the past.  But I’m not living there.  If the past continues to shade our present – if we allow it to do that – we will never move on and achieve the equity that is allegedly sought.  Yes, atrocities were done.  However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.

Is it possible that some people aren’t happy unless they are stirring a pot, creating a fight, and spreading animosity and hatred?  Once again, please hear what I’m saying.  I know racism exists.  But creating a national narrative that teaches racism is everywhere and that if you’re white, you’re automatically a racist is nothing more than a vicious, vulgar lie and I personally resent and am angered by the accusation.

Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  From this original couple sprang every ethnicity there is.  There are not multiple races.  We are all of one race and that race is humanity.  Ethnicities are just the spices of life that the Lord has added to keep us from becoming dull and boring.

Celebrate the ethnicities.  Respect them.  Refuse to place one above another.  Make the playing field level.  That’s the way God does it.

….

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another.  We definitely don’t need sensitivity training.  It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

If it’s a fight people want, take them to the cross where the greatest fight ever was fought and won – by a JEW, nonetheless!  Praise the Lord!

Do you see why I said “OMG, John. Did you REALLY say this out loud?” He did, and what follows is my response.

First, there is a difference between ethnicity and race. Black and White are not ethnicities; they are races. John parrots young-earth creationist Ken Ham on race, and biologically, he’s right. However. MacFarlane wants to de-colorize our world. In his uber-White mind, we are all the same; that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful.

Second, John admits that racism exists out there, somewhere (cue Fox Mulder of the X-Files), but not in the lily-white enclave of rural Northwest Ohio. In 2020, I wrote a post titled, Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio? Having spent most of my life in White rural Ohio, I can say with a high degree of certainty that racism not only exists in rural Northwest Ohio, but that White privilege and systemic racism are very much a part of our culture. Oh, we are nice country folks who will bake you an apple pie and help put a tire on your car, but underneath our niceness lurk racist ideas and beliefs. (Please see Typical Example of Racism in Rural Northwest, Ohio.)

I could share scores of stories that would illustrate my point: that racism and white privilege abound in rural Northwest Ohio. But, instead, let me share one story from my teen years at First Baptist:

In the mid-1970s, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan. I can still remember the day that a woman who once attended the church and moved away, returned home with her new Black husband. Oh, the racist gossip that ran wild through the church: why, what was she thinking . . . marrying a Black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.

In 2008, months before Polly and I deconverted from Christianity, we visited the Methodist Church in Farmer. We had been attending the Ney United Methodist Church — which would be the last church we attended before leaving Christianity; but since the Farmer and Ney churches were on the same charge, we thought we would visit the Farmer church.

As was our custom, we arrived at the church early, so much so that we caught the last ten or so minutes of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly White woman. She was telling a story about her grandson who played football (at college, I believe). She complained that her White grandson was not getting much playing time. Why? The coach gave the “Black” players more playing time. The inference was clear: her grandson wasn’t playing as much because he was White (not because the Black players had better skills).

I am shocked that in his 50+ years in rural Northwest Ohio, MacFarlane hasn’t seen racism or White privilege. Evidently, if the KKK is not burning a cross on the Williams County Courthouse square, no racism exists. John is truly colorblind. The only color he sees is White.

Third, MacFarlane thinks that racism is in the past, that all those racists are dead. Time to move on. Unfortunately, our racist forefathers’ beliefs live on in the lives of White residents of rural Northwest Ohio. I was a racist for many years. I have worked hard to cleanse my mind of racist thinking. While I like to think I am no longer a racist, I am still a White man in a White community with little interaction with people of color (unless I go to Fort Wayne or Toledo). Unlike MacFarlane, I believe the United States has yet to come to terms with its racist past. I support Black Lives Matter (not necessarily the group, but the idea) because I believe many people of color continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I own the fact that my White privilege can and does cause harm to people of color.

Fourth, MacFarlane regales us with stories about the “nice” Blacks and Asians. Why, they were “courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating.” Why did the race (ethnicity, to use John’s word) of these people matter? Was it surprising to MacFarlane that Blacks and Asians were respectful and treated him well? JFC, John, it was their job. I worked in the service industry for years. I also pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a result, I became an expert at smiling at rude, nasty assholes, helping them with their needs. The Blacks and Asians who waited on and helped Pastor MacFarlane and his family were just doing their jobs. Their race had nothing to do with their treatment of the MacFarlanes.

Finally, MacFarlane posits a solution for racism (that doesn’t exist in rural Northwest Ohio):

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another. We definitely don’t need sensitivity training. It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

MacFarlane posits that the answer for racism is Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement for human sin. If everyone would just get saved, why, racism (and violence, hatred, and fighting) would simply and magically disappear. Racist White Christians wouldn’t need sensitivity training, and Blacks — thanks to J-E-S-U-S — would then be equal. No need for anti-discrimination laws. No need for marches and speeches. No need for an honest reckoning over our racist past. No economic or educational help for people of color who have been marginalized and harmed for four centuries. Jesus paid it ALL, time to move on to the 1950s.

MacFarlane forgets that most American Blacks are Christian, many of whom are Evangelical. If Jesus is the cure for racism and marginalization, why haven’t things changed for people of color (in general)? The White Jesus is not the answer for what ails us, we are. Until Whites own their racist past, White privilege, and the systemic racism that plagues our country, it is impossible for us to truly become a land ruled by justice, equality, and equity.

MacFarlane wants us to deal with racism and White privilege where it exists. I am, John, and I am looking right at you. You may sincerely believe what you have written here, but your words reveal a bigoted, racist “heart.”

Note: MacFarlane is a Trump supporter, thus the out-of-right-field mention of “Wuhan plague.” I don’t know if John is an anti-vaxxer.

Other posts about John MacFarlane and First Baptist Church:

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Let’s Play Smear the Queer

smear the queer

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, I attended a high school football game in which the fans on both sides of the field stood with hands over hearts as the band played our post-9/11 national anthem — God Bless America. This largely Evangelical, conservative, Republican crowd views religion and patriotism as one and the same. In their minds, the United States is a uniquely chosen and blessed nation, a people whose God is the deity found within the pages of the Bible. I doubt that any of these uber-patriotic Christians thought, as they stood to praise Jesus, that what they were doing turned faith into a political football to be tossed to and fro, according to the whims of our political elites. From their perspective, the United States has always been God’s Country®. Other religions are grudgingly permitted, and even atheists are allowed the freedom to live as they please, but no one should ever doubt that there is one true God, and J-E-S-U-S is his name.

Once the crowd was finished masturbating to the American flag and our country’s phallic “greatness,” they settled in to watch two-plus hours of rock-em-sock-em, mano-a-mano organized violence. Christianity quickly faded into the distance as each side cheered their team, calling on them to pummel their opponent into submission. Players were encouraged to hit hard, incapacitating their enemy. So much was on the line: future tales of gridiron glory and a conference championship awaited the team with the most points at the end of the game. As the game wore on, one team got the upper hand and handily beat their rival into the ground. From both sides of the field, the people who just an hour or so ago were singing praises to their God were now screaming and cursing at the officials. One offended fan even went so far as to attack one of the officials because he was fat, leading my son to say, what does the official’s weight have to do with the call he made?

After the game, as I walked to my car, a man and his son passed by me. As they did, the father asked the son what he had been doing during the game (many children “attend” football games, but don’t actually watch the event). The boy replied we were playing smear the queer. I thought, oh my God, here we are in the 21st century, and a boyhood game is STILL called, with nary a thought, smear the QUEER. The boy’s father said nothing, giving tacit approval to his son’s disparaging use of the word “queer.” I suspect the boy has never bothered to consider that using the word QUEER (or any other pejorative word for LGBTQ people) might be offensive. But the father knew better, and yet he said nothing. (and I know some LGBTQ people call themselves queers. That doesn’t mean non-LGBTQ people should use the word in a pejorative way.)

I am not surprised by the things I observed. After all, I live in rural northwest Ohio, a land primarily inhabited by heterosexual white Republican Christians; a land that gives white preference its color; a monoculture proud of its ignorance and simplistic view of the world. While I thoroughly enjoy watching (and photographing) high school sporting events, I find the cultural trappings surrounding these contests to be disheartening. I know that most fellow locals have never ventured far from the farm fields, manufacturing facilities, and Christian churches of northwest Ohio. They are simply living out what they know, rarely, if ever, exposed to the complex, contradictory world that lies outside their borders. When those who live in a particular locality never come in contact with people different from them, and when the few who are different are dismissed and marginalized, it is no surprise that the locals think and behave the way they do. In their world, smearing a queer is just another childhood game; a game, however, that says much about place where it is played.

It goes without saying that not every local is as described above. I am deliberately painting with a broad brush. Over the past fifteen years, I have met a few liberal-minded locals who value pluralism and multiculturalism; people who know something about life beyond the flatlands and cornfields of rural northwest Ohio. Personally, I love the place I call home, even if I am not loved back. I appreciate the slowness of small-town life. I love living in a town where I never have to worry about being burglarized or murdered, and if I leave my car unlocked it will still be in the drive come morning. I don’t want readers to think that I hate where I live. I don’t. This is my home. My children and grandchildren live here, and it is for them I continue to confront local bigotry, racism, and religious extremism. I want them to have a better tomorrow.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser