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Category: Politics

Quote of the Day: Beating Children Banned in Scotland

dennis the menance being spanked
Dennis being spanked by his Dad with a hairbrush

Many years ago, we at the Coalition for Equal Protection set out on a mission to give children the same protection from physical assault as adults. For a country that aspires to be the best place in the world for children to grow up, it seemed astounding that our most vulnerable members of society were the least protected from harm.

We called for an archaic defence, which allowed adults charged with assaulting a child to claim ‘reasonable chastisement’ or ‘justifiable assault’, to be removed from Scots law.

Children and families across Scotland and organisations from across civic society, including the Church of Scotland and Scottish Youth Parliament, joined together in a movement for change, to remedy what was a fundamental issue of children’s human rights.

So, when the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill was introduced by Green MSP John Finnie and then voted through overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament last year, we were both delighted and proud to see Scotland become the first UK country to commit to protecting children from all forms of physical violence.

This Saturday, when the new law comes into force, will mark a momentous day in our journey to making Scotland a country where children’s rights are recognised, respected and fulfilled.

The campaign has been a long and, at times, difficult one. Physical punishment is an emotive subject: it speaks to how we were parented; how we parent. But physical punishment isn’t an effective way to discipline children and, worse, carries with it a risk of harm.

….

The report, produced by researchers at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London, found that physical punishment did not work, damaged family relationships and there was growing evidence it increased aggression, anti-social behaviour and depression and anxiety in children, which may continue into their adult lives.

There is good evidence that in many countries, including Scotland and the rest of the UK, the prevalence of physical punishment is declining and public attitudes have shifted.

It is becoming less acceptable, and the vast majority of parents express highly ambivalent and negative feelings about its use. And there is evidence that legal change accompanied by public education campaigns accelerates this change in attitude.

….

Furthermore, children say it doesn’t work and before the last Holyrood election a Scottish Youth Parliament survey showed that Scotland’s young people – the parents of tomorrow – were overwhelmingly in favour of bringing up their children without physical punishment. More than 80 per cent of over 72,000 young people, aged 12 to 25, agreed that “all physical assault against children should be illegal”.

However, for too many children, physical punishment is still part of their upbringing. And there is evidence for the risk of escalation from milder to harsher forms of physical punishment over time.

It is for these reasons that the Scottish Parliament passed the legislation and stated in clear terms that physical punishment should no longer be part of childhood in Scotland. And this message is even more important now.

….

Young families are finding that positive parenting approaches which foster warmth and are supportive are better at helping children understand the difference between right and wrong while also making life easier for them and their children.

There is now a wealth of advice available on positive parenting techniques and setting clear and consistent boundaries in a caring and responsible way.

As three charities that have worked in child protection for many years, we know that the best way to help children is to provide support for them and their families. And support is out there to help parents manage stressful situations.

….

Next week, when the new law comes into force, we will be joining more than 50 other countries around the world, including Germany, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland, to bring in such measures.

This legal reform is something for children, families and the whole of Scotland to embrace and celebrate as a hugely positive development which can improve family relationships and wider society.

In September, when the Scottish Government announced its intention to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, it made clear its vision was to transform Scotland into a country that values, respects and cherishes every child.

And giving children equal protection to adults from physical assault and ridding our laws of nonsensical and outdated loopholes is a fundamental place to start.

— Joanna Barrett, The Scotsman, Smacking ban rids Scotland of a nonsensical law that allowed adults to assault their children, November 3, 2020

Quote of the Day: The Violent Warrior Cop

warrior cop

Quotes from a “33-page slide show used to train cadets for the Kentucky State Police encouraged ethical and moral decision-making, selflessness, pride and honor.” ( The Washington Post)

“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

— Adolph Hitler

“A warrior must possess certain traits, protect certain things and have the courage to do both at all costs.”

— Unknown

“Private and public life are subject to the same rules; truth and manliness will carry you through the world much better than policy, or tact, or expediency, or any other word that was ever devised to conceal a deviation from a straight line.”

— Robert E. Lee

Be a loving father, spouse, and friend as well as the ruthless killer.

[The page also includes instructions on how to effectively use violence, recommending that cadets are] “able to meet violence with greater violence” [and have] “a mind-set void of emotion, where perception, analysis, and response merge into one process.”

— Kentucky State Police Lt. Curt Hall

“It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.”

— Adolph Hitler

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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IFB Pastor Todd Bell: The Preacher and the Plague by Colin Woodard

pastor todd bell
Pastor COVID-19 Super Spreader

Weeks ago, Colin Woodard, a nationally recognized reporter for the Portland Press Herald in Portland, Maine contacted me to ask me questions about the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I found Woodward to be a thorough, thoughtful reporter, someone I am sure I would enjoy sharing a beer (or whisky) with on a Friday night at the corner pub. After the initial interview, Woodard sent me follow-up questions about certain words used in the IFB church movement that were not typical for him to hear in discussions about churches and sects. As I responded to Woodard, it dawned on me that the IFB churches, pastors, and colleges have their own language of sorts and that outsiders often find this language strange and confusing. I was delighted to interpret for Woodard — much like a charismatic interpreting someone’s speaking in tongues.

The focus of Woodard’s feature-length article is COVID-19 super spreader Todd Bell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Maine. When I initially read stories about the good pastor, I saw his as just another anti-government, anti-science IFB preacher with no regard for his congregation or the people of his community. I pictured Bell standing in the pulpit on Sundays with a defiant fist raised high, screaming FREEDOM! — as Mel Gibson did playing freedom fighter William Wallace in the movie Braveheart.

I intended to give Bell the Bruce Gerencser treatment, but before I could, Woodward contacted me, so I decided to pass on giving Bell the lambasting he so richly deserves. As readers may know, some of the biggest and most obnoxious voices among Trump supporters and anti-maskers are IFB preachers. I want to say thank you to Colin Woodard and the Press Herald for giving Bell the exposure he so richly deserves.

Woodard wrote:

The wedding he presided over Aug. 7 triggered a cascading series of COVID-19 outbreaks that sickened at least 178 Mainers and killed at least eight, shut public schools, locked down a jail and helped push an entire county into an elevated state of alert. Nine of his own congregants got sick too, including his 78-year-old father and a child attending his vacation Bible school.

But on the evening of Oct. 7, the Rev. Todd Bell stood at the pulpit of the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, preaching without a mask with a group of young children from his Bible school seated shoulder to shoulder below him, almost all of them also maskless. When he finished, a barefaced assistant took his place and began singing, exhaling an invisible plume of droplets from his lungs to be broadcast around the room.

That’s when someone realized an internet livestream had been left open to the public and cut off the feed, drawing the curtains against the outside world.

The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram examined Bell and the movement he belongs to in order to understand why he has so steadfastly opposed public health measures – even after contributing to multiple deaths and disruptions – and to probe who, if anyone, could influence him to comply. The newspaper’s effort reveals a man born and raised in a religious culture skeptical of science and the government, operating with nearly complete autonomy, supported by his followers and a network of allied institutions and individuals in the Appalachians, able to flout public health advice without formal repercussions.

Despite the fatalities and the pleas of town and state officials, Bell has continued to defy public health guidelines and a city ordinance meant to contain the spread of COVID-19. In late August, as the scale of the wedding-associated outbreak became clear and the first death had been reported, he told his congregation that “the world” wanted “us to shut down, go home, and let people get used to that just long enough until we can finally stop the advancing of the Gospel.” He touted the “liberty” to not wear a mask, falsely suggesting they were about as effective as trying to keep a mosquito at bay with a chain link fence. He later advised his followers that abstaining from singing in the choir was “acting foolishly” and that they were “invincible until God’s finished with us.”

In response to an interview request for this story, Bell said he would consult his attorney. Seventeen days later, he declined to answer questions because he said his attorney hadn’t responded.

The church did not fully cooperate with contact tracers from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which was unable to formally connect the outbreak to the wedding reception, even though Bell himself has said six families from the congregation attended it. “That made the epidemiological investigation more challenging,” the agency’s spokesman, Robert Long, said via email.

City and state officials appear unable to do anything to intervene. The Maine CDC can’t take enforcement actions, because churches are not subject to health inspections and licensing. Long said that in mid-September the Maine CDC “provided a summary of our interactions with Pastor Bell to the attorney general’s office to help that office make decisions on enforcement or legal actions.” But the attorney general’s office declined to comment when asked whether it is considering legal action and, if not, if it believes there are any avenues to enforce public health measures against a non-licensed entity.

“I really wish the state would do something,” says Sanford City Councilor Maura Herlihy, who has known Bell since he arrived in town and describes him as slick, self-assured and “over-the-top” charismatic. “Pushing this on municipalities isn’t going to work, because they’re in a far more difficult situation for managing this level of defiance.”

Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, who represents Sanford in the Legislature and is running for mayor, says she is outraged at Bell’s behavior. “This community opened its arms to him, and the first time we literally ask anything of him – that you wear masks and not sing in church – he just wasn’t going to comply,” she says. “He has never admitted any culpability. He has never said he was sorry. He’s shown his true colors, and what I see is no minister – he’s someone who cares only for himself.”

Julie Ingersoll, a Bath native and professor of religious studies at the University of North Florida, says many pastors share Bell’s thinking. “He’s definitely not some kind of one-off,” she says. “These are widely held views in conservative American Protestantism across the country.”

You can read the rest of the article here. I am quoted several times in the story, but you will have to read it to see what I said. (Unfortunately, the article has since been put behind a paywall.)

My quotes:

An independent fundamentalist Baptist – or IFB – church might be founded by its pastor spontaneously but more often it is “planted” by a missionary sent from an existing congregation. Typically the missionary pastor is directed by his congregation to spend months or years going to other churches to raise money from their parishioners, a process called deputation.

“You go from church to church, complete with a slideshow of all the evil that exists in the place where you are going and all the souls there that need to be saved and won’t be unless you go there,” says Bruce Gerencser, who was an IFB pastor for 25 years in Ohio, Michigan and Texas, and founded four churches before breaking with the movement in 2005. “Once you have enough money to do what you want to do, you head out into the field. But the relationship between the mother church and the new one is symbiotic, more advice and consent than ‘we are in charge of you.’”

….

IFB churches tend to take oppositional stances toward government authority, particularly when it intrudes on church business, Gerencser says. “There’s a sense of paranoia that government is trying to shut them down, and unfortunately COVID-19 plays right into their hands as far as those things are concerned,” he says. “They see themselves as patriots standing up against the evil, nefarious government. The guy in Maine, he’s not so special except for the effectiveness of what he’s done. I think he gets the prize for bad outcomes.”

….

New England, the least churched region in the country, has long been seen as a promising mission field by independent Baptists. Gerencser, who attended Midwestern Baptist College in the late 1970s, recalls pressure for young pastors to go start IFB churches in the region. “The Unitarians and the Congregationalists and the liberals had turned the whole eastern seaboard into this large block of land dominated by unbelievers!” Gerencser recalls. “The whole eastern seaboard of the U.S. was barren of Bible teaching.”

….

“The intermingling of personal finances and those of the church is easy to do, because very often in these very small churches the pastors are intimately involved in the church finances,” Gerencser says. “It’s very easy to justify moving money around, and it’s not necessarily nefarious, but it can sometimes get that way.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The Black Death of the Church

guest post

A guest post by MJ Lisbeth

It sickened and killed its first victims in China. Italy was the stage for its European arrival; from there, it spread to Spain, France, Germany, England, Scandinavia and the Balkans. Urban dwellers of means fled to their countryside manses. In the meantime, leaders insisted that things were normal, blamed their enemies and racial groups who were already experiencing suspicion and scorn, and, perhaps worst of all, recommended “treatments,” “cures” and other courses of action that, they claimed, had remedial powers but, in fact, had no empirical foundation.

So far, this sounds like an outline of the COVID-19 trajectory and the response to the pandemic, doesn’t it? Would that we were living in such interesting times, to paraphrase an ancient Chinese (!) curse. Instead, this recounting of a pandemic feels, if anything, more like the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The chronology I outlined in the first paragraph is, in fact, a rough sketch of the Black Death’s trajectory—with a slight variation. Nearly everyone who has studied the 14th Century spread of the plague agrees that it started, or at least was first noticed, in east-central Asia: somewhere in what is now Mongolia or, perhaps, westernmost China. Those same scholars say that it spread along the “Silk Road” and maritime trade routes while the current pandemic most likely spread in planes, trains, cars and buses.

What is all-too-depressingly-familiar, though, is the response of rulers—and said leaders’ relation to a “higher” authority. In late-medieval Europe, the church was all but inseparable from monarchies and the noble classes. Likewise, the heads of state in the United States, Russia, Brazil and other countries glean much of their support from vocal religious groups who, in many cases, deny the findings of scientists, ignore the recommendations of health care professionals and eschew intellectual inquiry. Thus are we advised that COVID-19 is “just a flu” that will “pass” with warm weather or the re-election of the leader making the claim. The US President bellows his prescription of injecting one’s self with cleaning products over the warnings of one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, much as medieval authorities prescribed chopping up snakes and rubbing the pieces on one’s body (the snake, associated with Satan, was supposed to attract and draw away the “evil” of the disease) or drinking potions made from a unicorn’s horn. The President also insists that religious fundamentalists, vital to his re-election, can congregate, sing, dance, hug, kiss and share meals with hundreds of other fellow worshipers, just as the medieval Church continued to encourage mass gatherings, a source of its power.

That same symbiotic relationship between political and ecumenical authorities is a reason why the former can so easily blame people who are not part of the dominant culture or religion for the pestilence spreading across the land—or for any number of actual or imagined evils and tragedies. In a world where Jews were said to poison wells, kidnap and kill Christian children and perform all manner of evil rites, it wasn’t hard for the Church and Court to promulgate the belief that Jews caused the plague—and to justify murdering them. Likewise could, and did, the President marshal the xenophobic resentments of his supporters to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or “Kung Flu,” just as leaders of other countries could, and did, blame the epidemic on religious and racial minorities or LGBTQ and other “deviant” people. The “Leader of the Free World” also fuels (or at least does nothing to tamp down) rumors that members of those same groups—or his political enemies—run pedophilia rings that—you guessed it—kidnap innocent white children and force them into unspeakable acts .

(In my admittedly-amateur reading of history, I’ve noticed this: When deranged minds and empty hearts fill clerical robes, gaudy uniforms or expensive suits, they use—or encourage others to use—the need to protect the supposed innocence of their children or purity of their women to rationalize all sorts of thuggery.)

If the parallels I’ve drawn, so far, are grim, I can offer a more hopeful comparison. While the Black Death brought the worst kinds of religious bigots out of the woodwork—as the COVID-19 pandemic is doing in the US—it also was, arguably, the first event to cause some people to question the authority of the church, and even the power of their god. It’s almost impossible for anyone in a secular Western country to imagine just how deeply monarchs and secular officials were in thrall to Church authority. (The closest analogues we have today are probably countries such as Saudi Arabia that are ruled by one interpretation or another of Sharia law.) While religious authorities held sway over secular ones at least until the Enlightenment, their influence lessened, however gradually, beginning with the Black Death.

One reason the church lost some of its authority was attrition: Priests and bishops were no more immune than illiterate field laborers to the ravages of the bubonic plague; soon, there weren’t enough prelates to conduct masses or other rites. Nearly all religious institutions act from a premise they dare not articulate: It’s harder to keep people in the fold when you can’t gather them. That, I believe, is why some religious groups, particularly Evangelical Christian and Ultra-Orthodox Jewish congregations, are pressuring or even defying local officials who have banned or restricted large gatherings.

Oh, and in some places, there weren’t enough attendees to keep churches open—even though the Catholic church, like most Christian churches today, doesn’t have a requirement equivalent to that of the minyan. And, even though the social pressure to attend mass was much greater than it is today (save in some conservative homogenous communities), some people stayed away. Although they knew nothing about how the plague was transmitted, much less of epidemiology in general, they noticed that, most often, people got sick when they gathered in large groups. (That, of course, is the reason why affluent urbanites fled to more pastoral settings.)

There is also evidence that some might have stayed away from church—or simply waned in their commitment to it—because they wondered, if only to themselves, about a God who visited such suffering on people who did nothing to deserve it:

For God is deaf and deigneth us not to hear That girls (children) for their guilts (sins) he forgrint (destroys) them all.

William Langland embedded those lines in Piers Plowman, his epic poem that is an allegory of the narrator’s quest for a “true” Christian life—or, if you like, a thinly-veiled critique of a medieval Catholic church that, too often, exploited the Black Death to stoke smoldering hatred of Jews, gypsies and other “infidels.”

Similar developments are unfolding today. While the most extreme congregations of Christianity and Judaism have shown that they are willing to disregard the health and safety of others in the name of “religious freedom,” the pandemic seems to be accelerating a trend, particularly among the young, away from organized worship and religious institutions. They don’t expect prayer or other rituals to protect them from COVID-19 any more than they believe that it’s “God’s will” for them or anyone else to suffer and die from it. If the churches and synagogues never open again, Gen X-ers and Millennials probably won’t miss them. They—and their more educated and rational elders—are leaning in so they can listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci or Deborah Birx over the bellowing of self-appointed (or selected-by-the-Electoral College) messiahs.

During the past few months, all sorts of parallels have been drawn between the 14th Century Black Death and the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some should serve as warnings, but others—such as the erosion of faith in religious institutions—might offer some hope for the future, as long as we allow ourselves to get there.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

2015-2020: A Look at My Writing — Post Christianity

letter to the editor

What follows is a sampling of the letters to the editors of the Bryan Times and the Defiance Crescent-News I wrote between 2015 and 2020. These letters were written after I deconverted from Christianity in November 2008.

March 2015

It’s Time to End the Death Penalty in Ohio

Dear Editor:

It’s time for Ohio legislators to put an end to the death penalty. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 2003, twenty Ohio inmates have been removed from death row “through exonerations, clemency, or sentence reductions because of intellectual disabilities.” In December 2014, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer testified before the House Criminal Justice Committee. Justice Pfeifer stated “The death penalty in Ohio has become what I call a death lottery…It’s very difficult to conclude that the death penalty, as it exists today, is anything but a bad gamble. That’s really not how a criminal justice system should work.”

Currently, Ohio legislators are working on bills that would prohibit the execution of those with severe mental illness, create an indigent defense fund, require crime labs and coroners to be certified, and prohibit the execution of anyone convicted solely on the testimony of jail house snitch. While these are great steps in the right direction, it is time for Ohio to altogether abolish the death penalty.

As Justice Pfeifer rightly noted, the death penalty has become a death lottery. Those of means have the ability to hire competent defense attorneys, often resulting in the death penalty being taken off the table. The poor, who can’t afford to hire an attorney, must rely on proper representation from a public defender. In many rural areas, the poor are often assigned an attorney with little capital case experience. While many public defenders do a great job defending indigent clients, there are times when they are not up to the task, lacking the necessary skill and time to adequately defend their client.

When a person’s life hangs in the balance, they deserve competent, aggressive representation. Attorneys who defend an indigent client are paid a pathetic fee and must often wait for months or years to be reimbursed by the state. If we are going to continue to use execution as the means to punish those convicted of a capital crime, then it is morally imperative that we make sure that those facing death have the same access to attorneys, expert witnesses, and crime labs, regardless of their ability to pay.

Currently, 140 men and one woman are awaiting execution in Ohio. Due to controversy over the drugs used in lethal injections, it is unlikely that there will be any executions until 2016. I would encourage Ohio legislators to use this time to find a way to bring an end to executions.

Killing someone because they committed a crime is rooted in the barbaric eye for an eye justice of the Old Testament. While many Christian sects now oppose the death penalty, Evangelicals and conservative Christians continue to demand death for those convicted of a capital crime. I ask, what happened to following in the footsteps of Jesus? Would Jesus, the Prince of Peace, approve of a criminal system that disproportionately punishes the poor and people of color? If Evangelicals, who overwhelmingly vote Republican, would get behind abolishing the death penalty, we can end this abhorrent practice.

Bruce Gerencser

May 2015

Why is the Evangelical God Silent?

Dear Editor:

There seems to be no end to the sermons printed in the editorial section of the Crescent-News. Intractable warriors for the Evangelical God preach against homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, and the evils of socialism, humanism, secularism, and atheism. Letter writers claim to know the mind and will of God on every matter, warning that failure to heed their preaching will result in God pouring out his judgment and wrath on the United States. They warn that two people of the same sex marrying will bring an end to Western civilization. Yet, it seems that their preaching is falling on deaf ears.

Several months ago, St John’s United Church of Christ came out of the closet and declared themselves to be an open and affirming church. This means gays and same-sex couples are welcome at St. John’s. When I read the news report, I could hardly believe it. I thought, have I been beamed away to an alternate universe, to a county where people are not judged for who they love or how they express intimacy? No, right here in Defiance County, a church that is not ashamed to welcome one and all.

Young adults are increasingly gay-friendly and are no longer interested in the bigoted, homophobic religion of their parents. Some of them join the ranks of the nones, those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards organized religion. On many of the issues that seem to cause Evangelicals great consternation, young adults show that they think love, fairness, justice, and compassion are more important than dogma and literalism.

When I read the letters from Evangelicals, I see an aging group of people desperately trying to regain power and control over a culture that has little interest in what they are selling. Forty years ago, instead of focusing on personal piety and good works, Evangelicals sold their soul to groups like the Moral Majority and the American Family Association. They traded their place in the community for political power. They abandoned reason and rationality and became the purveyors of ignorance and bigotry. And now they are being weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Come June, despite millions of Evangelical prayers, conferences, rallies, and sermons, it is likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will set aside state laws forbidding same-sex marriage. I wonder how Evangelicals will respond? Will they turn to the heavens and ask God why he turned a deaf ear to their prayers? Will they point the finger at their homophobic rhetoric and bigotry? I doubt it.  It will be atheists such as myself, liberals, socialists, and the Kenyan-born usurper in the White House who will be blamed for their inability to return America to the love, joy, and peace of the 1950s.

Evangelicals are like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18. They call out to the heavens asking their God to show his power and act on their behalf. Yet, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems their God is either deaf or on vacation.

Bruce Gerencser

June 2015

Medical Marijuana and Relieving Pain and Suffering

Dear Editor:

Rarely a week goes by when there is not a letter to the Editor from a fundamentalist Christian demanding their moral code and peculiar interpretation of the Bible be accepted by all.  Even when they aren’t quoting the Bible or reminding local unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of their impending doom, their letters reflect an addled worldview, one shaped by an ancient book they think offers them unchanging truth. If their beliefs were kept in the church house, non-Christians would care little and hope that one day they would see the light. However, their beliefs are not kept in the church house, and because of this people of science, reason, and common sense must continue to push back as Christian fundamentalists try by legal and political means to force people to live by a worldview that is better suited for the dustbin of human history.

Take a recent letter writer who vehemently opposes legalizing the use of medical marijuana in Ohio. Even though they didn’t mention one Bible verse, their letter dripped with the fundamentalist presupposition that suffering and pain are in some way noble and good for us. Numerous Bible verses would certainly lead one to conclude that suffering and pain have probative value and make us closer to God and keeps us from clinging too closely to this life. If we buy into this kind of thinking and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, a life after death that is free of suffering and pain awaits us.

Sounds sublime, right? But what if there is no life after death, no divine payoff for trudging through life suffering for Jesus and enduring pain because it will make us stronger? What if the only life we have is this one? Well, that changes everything. If this life is it, and I think it is, then we should try to relieve not only our own pain and suffering, but that of others. As a committed humanist, I would never want to withhold from anyone that which would relieve or end their suffering and pain. Whether it is narcotic pain medications, medical marijuana, or physician-assisted suicide, I want all humans to have at their disposal the means to lessen their suffering and pain.

Any religion that values suffering and pain is one that should be roundly criticized and rejected. And if Jesus were alive today, I suspect he’d agree with me.

Bruce Gerencser

July 2015

The Hypocrisy of Christian Government Officials Refusing to Issue Same-Sex Marriage License

Dear Editor:

Evangelical Christians are infuriated over the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Granting U.S. citizens equal protection under the law and affording them the same civil rights heterosexuals have is seen as an affront to God, the Bible, and true Christians everywhere. As a result, a handful of Christian government officials are refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, claiming doing so would violate their religious beliefs.

Should government officials be required to violate their religious beliefs in the execution of their duties? They serve the public, and when they walk in the door of their respective place of duty, what God, the Bible, or their pastor has to say has no authority or relevance. The United States is a secular state, and the highest court in the land has determined that marriage laws discriminating against same-sex couples are unconstitutional. Every government official is duty-bound to obey the law, and if they can’t they should either quit, be fired, or removed from office.

Evangelicals and their counterparts in the Catholic and Mormon church have at their disposal all the means necessary to undo same-sex marriage. If they feel the Court acted unjustly, the proper recourse is to work towards a constitutional amendment that establishes marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Empty threats of second amendment remedies, secession from the union, and Sodom and Gomorrah-like judgment from God change nothing. If Christians want real change, a return to Ozzie and Harriet’s 1950’s, then they should work to amend the Constitution. They won’t do this, of course, because they know they don’t have sufficient numbers to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.

Why is it Christian government officials issue marriage licenses to adulterers and fornicators, but draw the line at same-sex couples? The Bible sure has a lot to say about adultery and fornication, yet these “sins” are routinely ignored. Only homosexuals and same-sex couples are singled out for discrimination and abuse. Why is this?

This question is not hard to answer. Having spent the first 50 years of my life in the Evangelical church, 25 years as a pastor, I know firsthand the rampant hysterical bigotry and homophobia within Evangelicalism. Evangelicals are now known as the religion of hate, and every time people such Franklin Graham, Tim Wildmon, Al Mohler, Ken Ham, or James Dobson open their mouth, the public is reminded of this fact.

Bruce Gerencser

January 2016

Letters from Creationists

Dear Editor:

If I didn’t know any better, based on recent letters to the editor and church advertisements touting young-earth creationism, I would think that we are living in the 1920s — the era of the great creationist-versus- evolution debate.

We are almost 100 years removed from the Scopes monkey trial, yet Christian fundamentalists are still trying to hoodwink unwitting people into believing creationism is a scientific theory. Not only do they want the scientifically ignorant to believe that creationism is a scientific theory, Fundamentalists also want them to believe that it is the only explanation for the biological world.

Readers of the Crescent-News need to understand exactly what Christian fundamentalists are saying. According to them, the universe was created by the Christian God 6,020 years ago, in six 24-hour days. They also want you to believe that 2,000 years later God, in a genocidal rampage, killed every living thing with a flood, save Noah, his family, and two of every animal.

While these stories make for wonderful bedtime readings to children, they have no business being taught, outside of a comparative religion class, in the public school classroom. Creationism, along with its gussied-up sister intelligent design, is religious dogma, not biological science. I am of the opinion that any public school teacher found to be teaching creationism should immediately be removed from the classroom. We owe it to our children to make sure that they are taught sound scientific principles. God did it, is not such a principle.

I am sure my letter will bring howls and gnashing teeth from local Christian fundamentalists. They will, as they always do, cut and paste supposed rebuttals of evolution from bastions of ignorance like Answers in Genesis or The Institute of Creation Research. What they will fail to produce is peer-reviewed studies supporting their creationist claims. If creationists want to overthrow evolution, then I suggest they start publishing papers in non-Evangelical science journals. When the weight of the arguments become so overwhelming that they cannot be ignored, I have no doubt that scientists will declare creationism the winner.

This will never happen, of course, because creationism is theological in nature, not sound biological science. If people want to believe that a mythical God created the universe 6,020 years ago, fine. Ignorance is a permitted vice in a free society. But we should insist that public school children be taught science, and not long-discredited religious myths.

Bruce Gerencser

April 2016

Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?

Dear Editor,

Recently, Cal Thomas pontificated about the need for an objective standard of morality. Of course, Thomas, an Evangelical, believes the moral code found in the Bible is the true standard of morality. Thomas believes America is mired in a moral quagmire. Blaming liberals, secularists, and atheists, Thomas believes America’s only hope is for Americans to once again prostrate themselves before the Bible and promise resolute fealty to its author — God.

What exactly is the Bible’s objective moral standard? The Ten Commandments? Or is it the Nine, since most Christians no longer “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy?” Or, as dispensational Evangelicals suggest, is just the New Testament the standard for morality? If it is just the New Testament, then why do Evangelicals continue to condemn homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and abortion — none of which is mentioned in the New Covenant? And why do Evangelical pastors continue to collect tithes and offering each Sunday, a practice not found anywhere in the New Testament?

While Evangelicals will point their peculiar interpretation of the Bible to justify the notion that they are the holders of God’s standard of morality, any careful examination of their churches shows that Evangelical moral beliefs are every bit as subjective as their atheist/agnostic/secularist neighbors. There are more than one hundred churches in Defiance County, and not one of them agrees with another about what is considered moral behavior.

On matters of greater importance: salvation, baptism, and communion, local churches fight among themselves, each believing that it has the keys to the kingdom. One church has been running weekly ads in the Crescent-News to remind locals that their church — a Campbellite congregation — preaches the true gospel. Down the street Baptists preachers remind congregants that the heretical followers of Alexander and Thomas Campbell were thrown out the Baptist church mid-19th century. It is the Baptists who have the true gospel. And so the internecine wars continue unabated since the day Jesus was buried in a pauper’s grave.

Atheists such as myself laugh when Evangelicals suggest that the Bible is the standard for morality. Seeing the utter confusion and contradictory beliefs among the various Christian sects, how can anyone know for sure who is right? My money is on none of them being right. As a humanist, I believe it is up to people — not religions — to determine the standards by which we want to govern our lives.

Bruce Gerencser

April 2016

Evangelical Hysteria Over Transgender Bathroom Use

Dear Editor,

Recent news stories have highlighted Evangelical outrage and hysteria over Transgenders using public restrooms. I suspect most Americans at one time or another have taken care of business while in proximity to someone whose sexual identity or orientation is different from theirs. Why all the outrage now over such a banal issue as who and where someone pees?

At the heart of this issue lies Evangelical hatred and disgust, not only for Transgenders, but also for anyone who dares to be different from the God-approved, heterosexual-only, virginal, monogamous-sex-only-within-the-bonds-of-marriage Evangelical belief concerning sexuality. As a Baptist teenager, I vividly remember sermons and admonitions warning teens of the dire consequences of fornication and masturbation. All the scare-tactic preaching did was make us feel guilty when we acted upon normal, healthy human sexual desire.

Evangelicalism is now widely considered a hateful religion by many Americans. Why is this? In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich birthed The Moral Majority — an Evangelical group dedicated to reclaiming America for the Christian God. Along the way new groups such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association joined with the Moral Majority to fight the war against what they perceived to be the takeover of America by Godless liberals, Satanic secularists, atheists, and humanists. In the 1980s these culture warriors sold their souls to the Republican Party, joining church and state and producing the ugly monster now on display for all to see.

During this same time frame, secularists, their numbers increasing thanks to a growing number of Americans who no longer are interested in organized religion, began to push back at Evangelicalism’s message of hate and bigotry. Atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists began challenging governmental preferential treatment given to Evangelicals. Now, thanks to a rising swell of secularism, Evangelicals feel threatened. No longer are they given special treatment. No longer are their blatant assaults on the First Amendment ignored. The more Evangelicals are marginalized, the greater their outrage.

Evangelicals must accept the fact that progress has brought us to place of inclusion and acceptance of those who are different from us. Evangelical preachers are certainly free to keep preaching against what they believe are sinful behaviors. But they might want to notice that many Americans — particularly millennials — are no longer listening.

Bruce Gerencser

July 2016

Ken Ham’s Latest Monument to Human Ignorance

Dear Editor,

Four or so hours away from Defiance, a man by the name of Ken Ham has built a $100 million monument to human ignorance — The Ark Encounter. This monument is a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. As one who was raised in the Evangelical church and pastored churches for 25 years, I heard and preached countless sermons about Noah and the Ark. Regrettably, I was in my forties before I learned that this story and many others were myths, having no basis in historical or scientific fact.

According to Ham and his fellow Evangelicals, the universe is 6,021 years old. Everything we see, both on earth and in the skies, was created by God in six literal 24-hour days. According to creationists, the book of Genesis is a science textbook, one that emphatically teaches young earth creationism. Indeed, the entire Bible is infallible and without error, and should be, with rare exception, interpreted literally.

I am sure, just as Muslims who make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Mecca, Evangelicals will flock to Kentucky to Ham’s monument to scientific ignorance. Adults will pay $40 for the privilege of touring Ham’s Ark, children $26. While there, Evangelicals will be taught “truths” about the historicity and reliability of the Bible and young earth creationism. I am sure most visitors will be awed by Ham’s Ark, ignoring that much of what Ham has constructed is built upon speculation. If Ham built a boat according to Biblical specifications, I highly doubt Kentucky officials would grant it an occupancy permit, and it is doubtful such a boat would safely float.

Ken Ham also operates the Creation Museum, another monument to ignorance. When it first opened, Evangelicals flocked to Kentucky to witness the wonders of the young earth creationism lie. Once witnessed, Evangelicals moved on to other entertainments, resulting in decreasing revenues for Answers in Genesis. Following the script of Field of Dreams, Ham built his Ark believing Evangelicals would visit if he did. And they will, for a time. The problem for Ham lies in the fact that Evangelicals easily bore. Once Evangelicals have seen the Ark, will they return? Probably not, especially if Ham continues to charge King’s Island-like admission prices. Perhaps Ham knows this, and this is why he is already planning a new entertainment venture — a replica of the Tower of Babel. Those who love reason and science can only shake their heads.

Bruce Gerencser

October 2016

Local Evangelical Support of Donald Trump

Dear Editor,

Local Evangelicals often use the Crescent-News editorial page to wage war against sins they believe will cause the destruction of America. If these sins — abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, same-sex marriage, driving while Democrat — are allowed to continue, they believe God will judge our country and remove his blessing. These same writers have spent years reminding readers that electing Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and now Hillary Clinton will result in the United States turning into a Communist/socialist/atheist/humanist state. Only God and the Christian Bible will do, they tell us. Ignore their words, pay the price.

During the primaries, these same people wrote letters extolling the virtues of various Republican candidates. When the dust settled, Donald Trump was left standing. Donald Trump is a misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, sexual predator with the acumen of a third grader. He offers no policy positions other than his plan to make America great again. Recently, Trump fat-shamed women, calling them names, and last week, a recording of Trump admitting that he sexually assaulted women surfaced for all to see. “Locker room talk,” they say, “just boys being boys.”

Many Evangelicals have decided that while Donald Trump’s a vile, disgusting human being, he’s exactly the kind of person God uses for his glory. “What a testament to God’s wondrous grace that God can even use someone like Donald Trump,” they say. Some believe that Trump is a “baby” Christian and will grow in the knowledge of the Lord. What, I ask, do these people see that the rest of us cannot? Here’s a man who told the world that he’s never asked God for forgiveness, yet we’re supposed to believe he’s a Christian? Please, stop insulting our intelligence.

If God really can use anyone to accomplish his purpose, cannot he use Hillary Clinton just as easily as Donald Trump? According to Evangelicals, Clinton’s the Antichrist. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God used Clinton to accomplish his purposes? Dare Evangelicals stand in the way of God’s plan for America?

Trump and his followers want to return America to the 1950s — a time when there was no God but the Christian God, Joseph McCarthy found Commies under every bed, men in white sheets ruled the South, abortion was illegal, blacks knew their place, women stayed at home, and gays stayed in the closet. Those of us who believe in progress must not let this happen.

Bruce Gerencser

March 2017

The True Agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled Wing of the Republican Party

Dear Editor:

The recent attempt to pass what Donald Trump and Republicans dubbed the American Health Care Act has finally exposed for all to see the true agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled wing of the Republican Party. The white sheets have been torn away, exposing ideological hatred for minorities, the working class, and what the Bible calls the least of these. We now know that these shills for the one-percenters want to destroy the Federal government, roll back the New Deal, and cut the bottom out of social safety net. Their ultimate goal is to return our society to the days of the wild, wild West – days when every man controlled his own destiny; days when the capitalist with the fastest draw and surest aim or the robber baron with the quickest fists ruled the land.

As of the writing of this letter, Republicans have twice cancelled votes on the AHCA. Facing outrage from all corners of the political spectrum, Paul Ryan is increasingly aware of the fact that he never should have made public his agenda to destroy America. While I thoroughly enjoy watching Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and their surrogates get the public caning they so richly deserve, my joy is tempered by the fact that at the state level Republican extremists are quietly and effectively rolling back much of the social progress of the past century. More frightening than the AHCA debacle is the Koch Brothers-funded plan for a Constitutional Convention. And once a Constitutional Convention is convened, Tea-Party, Libertarian, and Evangelical theocrats will finally have the tools necessary to dismantle the Federal government and turn America into dog-eat-dog capitalist state ruled by men only concerned with their stock portfolios and return on investments. While Evangelicals will certainly make sure that their God is returned to his rightful place as America’s potentate, the real God of these extremists is laissez-faire capitalism.

One positive to come out of electing Donald Trump is the exposure of the true agenda of many Republican officeholders. Now it is up to Democrats, liberals, progressives. democratic socialists, and all who value social progress to coalesce into a movement willing to take on Paul Ryan/Koch Brothers/Ayn Rand Republicans. What lies ahead is a no-holds-barred fight to the death for the future of our Republic. I am ready for the fight. Are you?

Bruce Gerencser

November 2017

I Support the Kneeling Defiance College Football Players

Dear Editor:

I write to lend my support to the Defiance College football players who have knelt during the playing of the national anthem. I commend them for their courage, knowing that most local residents oppose their actions. Their continued protest has brought calls for discipline, including expulsion from school. I commend college administrators and coaches for not bowing to public pressure to silence protest. These students, along with their counterparts in professional sports, need to be heard. Their protests have nothing to do with respect for the military or flag.

What lies behind their kneeling is inequality, injustice, and racism. While these issues might seem to locals to be the problems of urban areas, the truth is that we denizens of rural Northwest Ohio have our own problems related to these things. I recently participated in a forum discussion on racism in Northwest Ohio. Having lived most of my sixty years of life in this area, I can say with great certainty that we are not immune from charges of racism and injustice. We may hide it better, covering it with white, middle-class Christian respectability, but it exists, nonetheless.

Years ago, my family and I walked into a church towards the end of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly white woman — a pillar of the church. She was telling the class that her grandson was not getting playing time on the college football team because blacks got all the playing time. She reminded me of a retired white school teacher I knew when I lived in Southeast Ohio. At the time, we had a black foster daughter. I had just started a new church in the area, and we were looking for a house to rent. This school teacher had a house available, so we agreed to rent it. When it came time to pick up the keys, she told us she decided to rent to someone else. We later learned that she said she wasn’t going to have a ni***r living in her house.

These stories are apt reminders of what lies underneath our country respectability. It is time we quit wrapping ourselves in the flag, pretending that racism, inequality, and injustice doesn’t exist. Our flag and anthem represent many things, but for many Americans, they represent oppression and denial of human rights; and it is for these reasons, among others, that players kneel.

Bruce Gerencser

March 2019

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

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

September 2019

Does President Trump Really Care About “Religious Freedom?”

Dear Editor:

President Donald Trump knows he has no hope of winning the 2020 election without white Evangelical Christians. In 2016, eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals cast their votes for Trump. For the President to win the upcoming general election, his conservative Christian base must come out in force. While some of Trump’s moral faux pas have caused base erosion, for the most part, Evangelicals continue to stand by their man.

Why do Evangelicals continue to support President Trump? I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. There was a time when Evangelical churches and pastors took resolute stands on moral virtue and ethics — especially for elected leaders. I remember my outrage over President Clinton’s sexual misbehavior and lying while in office. From the pulpit and in letters to the editors of local newspapers, I demanded his immediate removal from office. Twenty years later? Evangelicals now turn a blind eye to the behavior of a president who paid off porn stars, allegedly sexually assaulted women, possibly committed treason, and doesn’t go a day without factually and materially lying to the American people. What changed?

In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich birthed the Moral Majority. This small, innocuous group morphed into Hydra — a multi-headed monster. Gaining critical mass in the 1990s, these groups forsook their moral underpinnings, choosing instead to imbibe the sewage water of raw political power. All that matters now is keeping control, outlawing abortion, shoving LGBTQ people back in the closet, and establishing a Christian theocracy. Evangelicals even go so far as to paint themselves as a persecuted religious minority. One need only listen to Trump’s recent incoherent “religious freedom” speech at the United Nations to know he has heard his Evangelical base loud and clear.

While it is undoubtedly true that religious persecution happens in many places — including North Korea and Saudi Arabia — Trump blocking the immigration of the primarily Muslim Rohingya people reveals that his recent “religious freedom” speeches are little more than reminders to Evangelicals that he has their back. I entered the ministry in the 1970s. I didn’t know of a preacher who didn’t believe in the separation of church and state. Today? Scores of Evangelicals deny this wall even exists. For this reason, people who genuinely value religious freedom for all — including unbelievers and non-Christians — must fight the religious right’s attempt to redefine “religious freedom.

Bruce Gerencser

August 2020

The Rotting Corpse of American Capitalism

Dear Editor:

Jerry Bergman’s latest letter to the editor about Karl Marx, Marxism, and atheism would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that his distortions of history are believed by millions of Evangelical Christians. Marxism, socialism, and atheism are the new boogeymen used by preachers to foment outrage and fear among the faithful. Worse yet, many of these same preachers tell congregants that Donald Trump, a fascist, is the only thing standing between them and the socialist/Marxist horde taking over America.

Bergman takes one line from Marx, using it to paint a distorted view of 20th-century history. Here’s the rest of the quote:

“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”

As readers can see, Marx’s view of religion is more nuanced and complex than Bergman suggests.

Marx believed that religion provides a fantasy of sorts for the poor and disenfranchised. Economic realities prevent the poor from finding happiness in this life, so religion promises them happiness in the life to come. This Faustian bargain chains the poor to the rotting carcass of immoral American capitalism. It is only when the poor and disenfranchised see beyond the false promises of eternal life and heavenly prosperity that they see their only hope of a better tomorrow rests in casting off the chains of religion and resolutely standing against the political and social status quo.

It is clear to anyone who is paying attention that American capitalism is a failed economic system. Is Democratic Socialism the answer? Maybe. One thing is certain: capitalism is not the answer. Once Trump and his robber baron cronies are voted out of office in November, we can then begin anew to not make America great again, but to make her more fair, equitable, and just for all Americans.

Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Just Remember, Satan was the First to Demand Equal Rights Says IFB Pastor Tony Greene

knoxville baptist tabernacle

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

Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle, pastored by Tony Greene, is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to the church’s website:

In May, 1952, Dr. R.W. “Bob” Bevington led a group of earnest Christians in establishing the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was founded on the principles of strong Bible preaching, house-to-house soul winning, separation from the world, and support for world-wide missions.

Through the years, some of America’s greatest preachers and soul-winners have spoken from our pulpit– men such as John R. Rice, Lee Roberson, Billy McCarroll, Fred Garland, Dolphus Price, Lester Roloff, among many others.

The Tabernacle was a participating host for many years of the International Fellowship of Fundamental Baptists.

Prior to Bro. Bob’s Homegoing in 2009, the Tabernacle called Bro. Tony Greene as its second pastor.  Bro. Greene continues the ministry in the same vein as Bro. Bob, with a strong emphasis on evangelism…

The church also operates a Christian school.

Several years ago, the sign at the top of this post caused quite a bit of controversy. WATE.com reported (link no longer active):

A sign posted by a Knoxville church continues to raise eyebrows and spark both discussion and outrage after it was posted online.

The sign posted by Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle Church read “Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights.” Many people posted the picture to the WATE 6 On Your Side Facebook and Twitter pages, starting a debate about what the sign really means.

The pastor says the purpose of the sign was to send a message about unity and spark conversation in the community. He says it wasn’t meant to offend anyone.

Our sign referencing Satan demanding his equal rights to ascend into the heavens and be God was simply ‘I’ and all about that individual,” said Pastor Tony Greene. “It was not a statement against any one group in particular, you know what about the rights of the unborn babies, the rights of children, the rights of everyone?”

After the picture was posted on Facebook, there was mixed reaction to the message. Stephanie Settlemyre said, “As a Christian, I find this highly offensive, these kinds of signs and messages are exactly the reason why people are turned off by Christianity.”

Adam Miller posted, “Honestly thought that the photo was shopped, I thought, “surely someone wouldn’t post such a thing,” said Miller. “Makes me sad I was wrong, and doubly sad that these folks are in my back yard.”

Ashley Smith wrote, “Church offends many anyway, you could write Jesus loves you and someone would get bent out of shape.”

Now the sign reads: “Glad you reading, did not intend to offend, we all need Christ.”

Pastor Greene spoke about why he made the change.

“We are a diversity congregation of people. We’ve reached people that know us and know our stand in this community know what we’ve done,” said Greene. “My heart breaks in the dividedness of our country.”

Greene says they like to interact with the community and they typically change the sign once a week. Greene says they will have another message posted later this week…

knoxville baptist tabernacle 2

Does anyone believe that Pastor Tony Greene and the Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle didn’t mean to offend? Does anyone believe they had no particular group of people in mind? Of course not. It is in the DNA of IFB pastors and churches to offend anyone and everyone who believes, thinks, acts, or lives differently than they do.

Pastor Greene’s message is clear: those demanding equal rights — you know, LGBTQ people — are in league with Satan.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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.

Bruce, What Made You Tell Your Mom You Wanted to Be a Preacher?

mom moore park summer 1956
Mom, age 17, summer 1956

ObstacleChick asked:

Bruce, what was it about being a preacher, from your childhood eyes, that made you tell your mom you wanted to be one when you grew up? Do you remember?

Given your Type A all-in personality, I have no doubt that you would have driven yourself into the ground no matter what career you chose. If you had been a business owner, you’d have worn 50 hats and fired everyone for not doing their job right. If you’d been a social worker you would have worked 15 hours a day attempting to save all your cases. If you’d been a teacher, you would have been at the school long after everyone else helping students. You are who you are, regardless of whether you thought a deity was holding a whip over you. You even said in a recent post that you get involved in work and come up for air 9 hours later not knowing what time it is. It’s just Bruce being Bruce.

What an excellent question. I don’t think I have ever written about this before, so I appreciate the opportunity to do so.

Readers may or may not know — since I have not written about it yet — that I had my DNA tested earlier this year. For more reasons than I want to mention here, I have had doubts about who my father was for many, many years. My dad was 100% Hungarian. Both my brother and sister are dark-skinned, especially my brother. Both of them have Hungarian facial features. Me? I am light-skinned, blue-eyed, with flaming red hair. I was what you would call the milkman’s son.

For many years, I believed my mom’s first cousin was my biological father. He was a redhead and very close to my mother. However, my DNA test results revealed that I actually have a half-brother with the last name of Edwards — who lives 3 hours from my home. His father was a truck driver, a womanizer. He regularly drove a route from Chicago to Bryan, Ohio. My mom, at the time, worked at the Hub Truck Stop in Bryan as a waitress. She was seventeen. It is likely she met my biological father there. Unanswered is whether Mom, Dad, or my biological father knew about the pregnancy. My mom was six-weeks pregnant when she and my dad drove to Angola, Indiana to be married by the justice of the peace. A woman, at the time, had to be 21 to marry in Ohio. In Indiana, a woman could marry at age 18 without parental consent.

My mother was an outspoken, opinionated, well-read woman. She was temperamental, and battled mental health problems her entire adult life. Being sexually molested as a child by your father and raped as an adult by your vile brother-in-law will do that to a woman, not to mention being married to a man who had little capacity for human emotions. I don’t ever remember a time when my dad said to me, “son, I love you.”

There’s no question that I am Barbara Tieken Gerencser’s son. Temperamentally. Emotionally. Passionate about books. A love for writing. When I look at my life, I see Mom. (Please see Barbara.)

My mother taught me to read before I entered Kindergarten. I was a voracious reader, quickly advancing to books years beyond my grade level. I passed that gene on to my children and older grandchildren. Mom told me of a humorous incident that happened in our backyard on Columbine Street in San Diego, California. I was five or six. One day, I had gathered some of the neighbor kids together so I could “preach” to them. There I was preaching away to a captive audience. The hilarious part of this is this: I wasn’t preaching from the Bible. Instead, I was preaching about the evils of the United Nations, complete with reading from a book that likely had come from the John Birch Society. The book could have been None Dare Call It Treason (1964) by conspiracy theorist and Baptist pastor John Stormer. My parents were members of the John Birch Society, so Bircher books and pamphlets were quite common in our home. I remember seeing one pamphlet, Why Martin Luther King is a Communist, lying on the kitchen table. Mom campaigned for Barry Goldwater in California and would work for George Wallace’s Ohio campaign twice.

gerencsers 1960s san diego
Gerencser Family, 1960s, Columbine St, San Diego

One day, I came home from first grade with a note from my teacher attached to a book I had taken to school to “show” my classmates. The book had numerous graphic photos of supposed atrocities in communist countries. My teacher asked that I not bring the book to school again. Such was life for an outgoing, talkative, smart-ass boy growing up in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) home — we attended Scott Memorial Baptist Church, pastored by Tim LaHaye, of Left Behind fame.

What, exactly, caused me to say that I wanted to be a preacher is unknown. My personality was such that I was likely drawn to people who were authority figures, in charge. ObstacleChick succinctly sums up my personality traits — a Type-A workaholic. Most of my work career was in jobs where I was either a pastor, manager, or worked by myself. Most people who knew me well would describe me as passionate and driven. My primary care doctor says that part of the reason I have some of the health problems I do — especially chronic insomnia, dating back 30 years — is that I don’t have an off switch. I don’t know when to say stop or say quit. So my doctor tries to medicinally slow me down, but I can tell you this much: I am able to “fight” the medications when I am so inclined. Most people taking the drugs I take would likely be out for two days. Damn squirrels running on the wheel of my mind. Such has been my life.

I genuinely like being a leader, being in charge, making decisions. I have no problem with making snap decisions. Sometimes, I fuck up, but that’s never stopped me from making the next decision. As ObstacleChick mentioned, employers loved my work ethic, my willingness to work 16-hour days to “git ‘er done.” I don’t recommend anyone doing as I did — though several of my children seem to be following in my footsteps.

While I like to think that I have changed over the years, I wonder if the change I see is forced on me by the realities of chronic illness and unrelenting pain. I suspect if I were free of pain and relatively healthy, that I would still be working my ass off 12-16 hours a day. You reach a point in your life where you realize, “this is who I am.” I have a lot of redeeming qualities, and a few traits that drive people nuts. Polly and I have been married for forty-two years. We have learned to tolerate or ignore those traits that irritate us. Our love for each other transcends the things we don’t like about each other. For us, it works.

My path to the pulpit was paved by my mother, my pastors, and personal ambition. I always wanted to be a preacher. I never went through the angst many people go through when trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. I always knew I wanted to be a preacher. It should surprise no one who really knew me that I attended an IFB Bible college, married a preacher’s daughter, and pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. Nor should it surprise anyone that I was restless, that I had a wanderlust spirit. Long-term pastorates, short-term pastorates, always looking for the next opportunity to win souls for Jesus.

Some of my critics (and friends, such as my counselor) suggest that I am still a preacher, that I have just changed sides. This accusation used to bother me, but I have come to realize that I will always be an outspoken, passionate, opinionated man. I have embraced my new calling, “church,” and “ministry.” Why shouldn’t I passionately work to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left the faith? While I will receive no reward in Heaven (or Hell) for my work, it is enough for me to know that I have in some small way made a difference in the lives of countless people. Isn’t that all any of us can hope for?

I hope I have adequately answered ObstacleChick’s questions.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Twenty-Five Questions for Christians who say Abortion is Murder

abortion is murder al shannon

I have some questions for those who believe that abortion is murder.

  1. Does life begin at conception?  How do you know it does? Is your view based on science or is it based on a religious belief?
  2. If life begins at conception, why are you supporting an Ohio bill that makes it illegal to have an abortion once a heartbeat is detected? Does life begin at conception or at first heartbeat?
  3. Do you support the use of emergency contraception (morning after) drugs? Why or why not?
  4. Should a pro-life pharmacist have the right to not dispense emergency contraception drugs? Should I be allowed to opt out of anything that goes against my moral or ethical beliefs, regardless of their foundation?
  5. Is abortion murder?
  6. Do you believe murderers should be prosecuted?
  7. Do you believe that driving the get-away car makes a person just as guilty as the person who robbed the bank?
  8. Do you believe a woman who has an abortion should be prosecuted for murder? How about the doctor who performs the procedure? How about the nurse that assisted in the procedure? How about the person who drove the woman to the clinic? If you believe in the death penalty, do you support the execution of murderers?
  9. Do you use birth control pills?
  10. Should you be prosecuted for murder since birth control pills can, and do, cause spontaneous abortion?
  11. Should abortion be allowed for reasons of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother?
  12. If you answered yes to question eleven, do you support murdering the fetus if it is the product of rape or incest?
  13. Should a fetus be aborted if the mother’s life is at risk?
  14. Do you support murdering the unborn if it saves the life of the mother?
  15. Is your viewpoint on abortion a religious belief?
  16. What passage in the Bible prohibits abortion? Does this passage define life beginning at conception?
  17. Has God ever killed the unborn?
  18. In Genesis, God destroyed every human save eight by drowning them in a flood. Were any of the women who drowned pregnant? Did God kill the fetuses they were carrying? (Kill the mother, kill the fetus.)
  19. Do you support the death penalty? Do you support war? Should women who survive self-induced abortions be charged with attempted murder?
  20. If you answered yes to question nineteen, why do you oppose the killing of the unborn but support the killing of those already born?
  21. Why do you believe that killing the unborn is murder but consider an American bomb killing a baby 3 hours old a tragic result of war, collateral damage, but not murder?
  22. Do you support birth control being readily available in every school? If your objective is to reduce or eliminate the need for an abortion, wouldn’t easily available, free access to birth control reduce the abortion rate?
  23. Do you believe it is better for a severely deformed child to live for a day and die than for the fetus to be aborted? If so, explain why it is better for the child to suffer needlessly?
  24. Do you believe that God is in control of everything? Does everything include children being born deformed or with serious defects that will result in a life of extreme suffering and pain?
  25. Is someone a Christian if he or she supports abortion?

My view on abortion

3 day old human embyro
Three Day Old Human Embryo.

I do not think that life begins at conception, nor do I think it begins at first heartbeat. That said, I do not support abortion on demand. Approximately 65% of abortions occur in the first eight weeks, and 88% of abortions occur in the first trimester. I do not support any law that restricts access to an abortion in the first trimester. Once fetus viability (the ability to live outside the womb) is established, I do not support the right to an abortion except when the life of the mother is at stake or there’s a severe fetal abnormality.

I support women having full access to reproductive services (including access to birth control), as well as school-aged girls and young women. For women who have at-risk pregnancies, I support government-sponsored access to genetic testing and amniocentesis that will reveal severe birth defects. Better to have an abortion earlier in a pregnancy than to have a child born without a brain who will die a few moments or days after birth.

I support comprehensive sex education for junior high and high school students, and health education for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Since girls often reach menses at ages as young as ten, waiting until they are sixteen to educate them about reproduction is irresponsible and leads to unintended pregnancies. I do not support “Just say No” programs that take the “aspirin between the knees” approach and ignore the reality that most teenagers will, at some point, be sexually active. Yes, teens should perhaps wait, but they don’t, and everyone should agree that teenagers having babies is not a good idea. If we agree that this is not a good idea, then making sure they can’t get pregnant should be a top priority.

I support radical changes to adoption laws in this country. The government should make it easy and affordable for people to adopt children (after being thoroughly vetted). By changing the law, it is more likely that women with unplanned pregnancies will carry their fetuses to term. This would also put out of business adoption agencies — many of them Christian — that charge extortion-level fees for adoptions.

abortions when

Neither God, the Bible, papal decrees, nor religious rhetoric have sway over me. Showing me bloody pictures of dismembered late-term aborted fetuses also has no effect on me. I know that only 1.3% of abortions occur after the twenty-first week. In 2017, 862,000 abortions were performed in the United States. That means, roughly 11,000 abortions were performed from the 21st week to term. Why don’t pro-lifers wave around pictures of zygotes or other pictures from the chronological time period when most abortions take place? Simple: such pictures wouldn’t excite, inflame, and manipulate the passions of zygote worshipers like a bloody, gory picture of a dismembered fetus does.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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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.