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Category: Questions

Quote of the Day: Elon Musk Purchases Twitter, A Threat to Democracy

elon musk
Cartoon by Clay Jones

Article by Julia Conley, Common Dreams, ‘A Real Threat to Democracy’: Musk Buys Twitter for $44 Billion, April 25, 2022

Rights advocates, public health experts, and media critics were among those on Monday who warned that the purchase of  Twitter by mega-billionaire Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, creates a direct threat to democracy and the common good by putting the outsized power of the social media platform used by hundreds of millions worldwide into the hands of one man.

The social media company accepted Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter for $44 billion, or $54.20 per share—leading some critics to note other ways the enormous sum of money could have been spent rather than on what Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.) called “a vanity project boondoggle to silence” Musk’s critics.

“Tax the rich,” Garcia said on Twitter.

Musk’s purchase has led to concern that former President Donald Trump’s Twitter account will be reinstated. Trump was banned from the platform in January 2021 after violating its rules by inciting his followers to violently attack the U.S. Capitol in an effort to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election results.

“Musk hasn’t just purchased another expensive play toy, but a global online community that includes about 330 million regular users,” said Jessica Gonzalez, co-CEO of Free Press.

“With control of such a massive platform comes great responsibility—and Musk hasn’t shown he has the capacity to be accountable to this diverse online community,” she added, noting Musk’s own history of using Twitter to “intimidate and disparage others, including journalists, elected officials, owners of competing businesses and anyone else who might challenge his views.”

With Musk at the helm, said Gonzalez, Twitter must improve its content moderation practices and “stop amplifying bigotry and conspiracy theories that pollute public discourse, threaten the health and safety of users, and undermine democracy.”

Musk has criticized Twitter’s efforts to moderate the platform, saying early this month that he believes “it’s just really important that people have the reality and the perception that they’re able to speak freely within the bounds of the law” and that “the civilizational risk is decreased the more we can increase the trust of Twitter as a public platform.” 

Journalist Anand Giridharadas said that by taking over Twitter and claiming he’ll protect the platform as “the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk is “doing is what plutocrats have been doing… branding themselves the solution to the very problem they are.”

“This isn’t just some corporate takeover,” said Giridharadas. “This is about a set of very specific moves that our oligarchs have been taking that have gradually concentrated economic, political, and discursive power in fewer and fewer hands.”

As Media Matters reported Monday, right-wing politicians in the U.S. have been in favor of Musk’s purchase since he first offered to buy the platform earlier this month. On Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) led 18 House Republicans in writing to Twitter’s board of directors, demanding that the board preserve all records related to Musk’s bid.

“The right’s propagandists had celebrated Musk’s bid as a way to garner political gain by ending the company’s purported political censorship,” reported senior fellow Matt Gertz. “Then its elected GOP champions, responding to hesitation from and when Twitter’s board, raised the prospect of a costly congressional investigation if his offer wasn’t accepted.”

While Twitter was a large and powerful company before Musk’s takeover was announced, said Sana Saeed of Al Jazeera, the purchase “does underscore an unnerving trend—the ability of a single man to purchase something that impacts hundreds of millions (beyond users) in order to influence it in his own image.”

“It’s less than great when billionaires own sports teams—which bind communities together—as their playthings,” said Robert Weissman, president of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. “Having a billionaire own Twitter—a vital platform for communication and community—as his plaything is far more serious. It’s a real threat to democracy.”

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Twenty Questions From the Search Logs

good question

Hundreds of people a day come to this site via Google/Bing searches — 45,000 in the last three months. What follows is twenty searches that brought people to this site and my answers to their questions.

Has Ray Boltz returned to Christ?

Please see Evangelicals and the Gay Closet: Is Ray Boltz Still a Christian?

Boltz never returned to Christ because he never left him. Boltz has always claimed the Christian moniker. What Evangelicals wrongly assume is that when Boltz came out as a gay man he lost his faith or stopped being a Christian. This is not true.

Video Link

Is it okay to masturbate after you have been baptized?

Sure, but not while you are in the baptismal pool. Gross!

The question reveals the fact that the masturbation question continus to vex Evangelical Christians. Most Evangelical preachers believe masturbation is a sin. I suspect the person asking this question wonders if his sexual wants, needs, and desires are supposed to change after he’s saved/baptized. The short answer is no. Masturbation is a normal, healthly biological act. I would not attend a church that demonises masturbation (or sex between consenting adults, married or not). What people do in the privacy of their bedroom is no one’s business but theirs.

How do Independent Baptists discipline their children?

Generally, Independendent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB) follow what they call “Biblical discipline” — the use of corporal punishment to discipline children. I am of the opinion that beating/hitting/spanking children is child abuse (though there are certainly degrees of the violence used by IFB parents to keep their children in line).

Please see Does the Bible Command Parents to Beat Their Children?, Why Do So Many Evangelicals Abuse Their Children?, and Lori Alexander Says Beating Children is God’s Approved Way of Controlling Children.

How do preachers get such strong faith?

They don’t. Preachers are just better at faking “strong faith” than their congregants. Practice makes perfect, right?

Is Maren Morris a Christian?

While Maren Morris uses a lot of Christian/Church imagery in her music, it is unclear whether she is actually a Christian. Her music does show that she has intimate knowedge about the workings of southern Evangelical Christianity.

Please see Songs of Sacrilege: My Church by Maren Morris

Will [Christian] women go to Heaven after they die?

While the Bible teaches all Christians go to Heaven after they die (or after the general resurrection, depending on your theology), it also teaches that there will be no women in Heaven.

Please see Will There be Any Women in Heaven? Hint, the Answer is No!

Is Kenny Bishop gay?

Yes.

Kenny Bishop grew up in an Evangelical home in Waco, Kentucky. As a teen, Kenny joined with his father and brother Mark to form the southern gospel group The Bishops. For the next eighteen years, The Bishops traveled the country singing at churches, concert venues, and conventions.

Bishop left the family group in 2001, began working for several politicians, and went through a divorce from his wife of fifteen years. Kenny is now a married gay man and a bivocational pastor at Bluegrass United Church of Christ in Lexington, Kentucky.

Please see Southern Gospel Singer Kenny Bishop is Now a Gay United Church of Christ Pastor

Is Kenny Bishop a Christian?

Yes. Please see the previous question. Do Evangelicals think Bishop is a Christian? Absolutely not. Being gay is one of the many unpardonable sins in the Evangelical church.

What should matter is whether Kenny Bishop is happy. By all accounts he is. I wish him well. The Bishops were one of my favorite southern gospel groups back in my Evangelical days. I still listen to them today from time to time.

If Jesus is a myth, why are people willing to die for him?

People are willing to die for all sorts of lies, including religious ones. The mere fact that people are willing to die for their faith doesn’t prove that their faith is true; personally true to them, perhaps, but not true on an evidentiary basis.

Is Stalin in Hell?

Sadly, no. Hell is a myth, a religious construct used to instill fear in people or give the appearance of some sort of divine cosmic justice in the world.

Please see The Horrors of the Evangelical Hell.

Did Jesus have human parents?

Yes, Joseph and Mary. There is a rumor floating around that says God, the Holy Spirit, raped and impregnated Mary, but science tells us that Jesus had two very human parents.

Does the Bible say who can be refused entrance into Heaven?

Yes.

Please see It’s in the Bible: Who Won’t be in Heaven.

Why are Ohioans such douchebags?

Good question. 🙂

Why are women not allowed to wear pants?

Because the Bible says so.

Please see Is it a Sin for Women to Wear Pants?

Why do people think Bethel Church is a cult?

If a church walks, talks, and acts like a cult, it is a cult.

Please see Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult and Do You Really Have to Ask if Bethel Redding is a Cult?

Were Cain and Abel White or Black?

Race is a social construct based on skin pigmentation. If Adam and Eve are the first two human beings, that means every race comes from them. Think about that for a moment, Evangelicals.

Please see The Curse of Cain: Why Blacks Have Dark Skin.

What do pastors and their wives do behind closed doors?

I ain’t telling. 🙂 I will tell you this much: whatever you do behind closed doors, pastors and their wives do the same (if they are so inclined). Trust me when I say, pastors and their wives aren’t special or different from their congregants or the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

Where does the Bible say your works are as filthy rags?

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Please see The Bible Says Our Good Works are as Filthy Rags.

Why are Evangelical Christians fucking assholes?

Certainty breeds arrogance, and arrogance breeds superiority and self-righteousness. Further, Bible literalism forces Evangelicals to adopt hateful beliefs — especially towards people outside of their sect.

This blog is a running commentary on the assholery of Evangelical Christians. If Evangelicals don’t want to be viewed as Assholes for Jesus, they need to change their behavior towards people different from them — especially LGBTQ people, atheists, agnostics, liberal Christians, Democrats, and anyone else on their NATC (not a true Christian) list.

Why do ex-Evangelicals hate Christians?

While I can’t speak for all ex-Evangelicals (I don’t use this label), I can safely say that most former Evangelicals don’t hate Christians. I know I don’t. My focus is on what Evangelicals believe and practice. I try to separate the skunk from his smell. Sometimes, this is hard, if not impossible, to do. Some Evangelicals are nasty, arrogant, hateful people. Such people are hard to love and respect.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, Why Does This Site Cost So Much to Operate?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Alex asked:

You mentioned on a recent post that your website costs 135 dollars a month to run. It is a little daunting to me as someone who is getting started on running a website.. What are the reasons for the high costs and what advice would you give those of us who want to start a website? Thank you.

Clubshadenfreude asked:

I’m curious too, since I have my blog on WordPress and it’s free. I do know that ad appear on it, but for the functionality that I need, it’s okay.

There are numerous free and low-cost blog hosting providers bloggers can use when getting started. If your traffic numbers remain low, such services are sufficient. However, when your site begins to grow, you will start to notice slower page load speeds. Sometimes, traffic spikes lead to your site not being accessible.

Seven years ago, I decided to go with a managed WordPress hosting provider. My reasons for doing so are as follows:

  • Fast page load speed
  • SSL certificate provided
  • CDN service provided
  • No advertisements
  • Automatic software and plugin update
  • Responsive tech support by phone
  • Ability to handle large traffic spikes from Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, news sites
  • No throttling of service when going over alloted monthly visitors
  • Staging sites (ability to design/update site offline)
  • Free site migration

Using the above criteria, I decided to go with Flywheel (now owned by WP Engine) as the managed hosting provider for this site. Years later, I am still a satisfied client.

I use premium services from Clicky (site stats), Grammarly (post editing), Yoast (SEO — search engine optimization). I also use several paid plugins to add functionality to this site.

Using the aforementioned services, this site is well suited for continued growth.

If there are functions you would like to see added to this site, please leave your suggestion in the comment section. I do plan to update the theme used for The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. I am hesitant to change themes, but the current one is getting “old.” I will likely go to a paid premium theme.

My goal is to make this site easy to read. I personally don’t like being assaulted by numerous advertisements when I visit websites, so I made this site ad-free. I also hate post excerpts that require people to click on a link before accessing the article. When people come to the front page of this site, they are served five full content posts — no clicking required. Taking this approach means readers can read up to five articles while only clicking once on a post link. This reduces the number of daily page views, but speedy accessibility is more important than higher page view numbers.

The costs for this site are paid from donations received through Patreon and PayPal. Thank you for your continued support.

If you have any further questions, please ask them in the comment section below.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, Do You Know Any Evangelical Preachers Who Are Thoughtful, Decent, Kind Human Beings?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Becky asked:

Bruce, did you ever meet any truly lovely fundamentalists/evangelicals…besides yourself? That is, people that loved their fellow man and actually tried to follow that directive to care about the sinners, and not to just preach and be power mad?

I have been exposed to the best and worst that Evangelicalism has to offer. Do I know thoughtful, decent, kind Evangelical preachers? Sure. That said, to a person they believe that God will punish all non-Christians in the Lake of Fire after they die. Few of them are able (or willing) to form friendships outside of their club. And all too often, what friendships they do have with unbelievers have an ulterior motive: salvation of sinners. Rare is the Evangelical who can befriend someone and let them go to Hell in peace. They exist, but I haven’t met one lately.

If I used how Evangelical preachers have treated me since I left Christianity in 2008 as the measure by which to judge, I would conclude they are an irredeemable lot of judgmental assholes. One need only read emails from them I have published over the years to see that there are a lot of arrogant, nasty Jesus-loving men pastoring Evangelical churches — especially Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches. That said, I am sure there are preachers who self-identify as Evangelicals who are thoughtful and kind people. I just haven’t met any lately.

Unfortunately, Trumpism and Christian nationalism have infected a large swath of Evangelical churches, interjecting coarseness and nastiness into the public square. Whatever goodwill Evangelicals once had, it is now gone. They are now one of the most hated sects in America. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Evangelicalism is One of the Most Hated Religious Sects in America, And They Only Have Themselves to Blame.)

Becky wants to believe that I was a “lovely” Evangelical — thanks — but I must be honest: my preaching was inherently harmful. I was a separatist who divided the world up into us vs. them categories: saved vs. lost. I taught church members to separate themselves from the “world,” and I practiced the same. While I treated my neighbors and strangers with kindness and respect, my Evangelical theology was always lurking in the shadows.

Growing up in poverty and having a parent with mental health problems certainly affected how I viewed others. I spent most of my years in the ministry helping the poor, homeless, and marginalized. I was sympathetic to their plight. That said, my Evangelical theology was never far from me. I cannot overestimate how my theological beliefs materially and deeply affected my thinking.

I have a poor view of myself. I have spent the past decade trying to regain a sense of self-worth. My counselor told me that I was not as bad a person as I thought I was. I know his statement is true, but I still struggle with seeing myself as a good person. Evangelicalism will do that to you. All I know to do is to try to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, What Was Your View of “God”?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Evan asked:

My first question is, what is God to you? Also, when you were actively involved in the church, what, how, and where did you see God as? To give some examples, is God a bearded man in the sky watching us (as silly as that sounds)? Is he Invisible, Risen? Lively or Unlively? What about when praying to him (as in Jesus)? Do you think he was listening to your words?

Evan is not a Christian, so he asks these questions from the perspective of an unbeliever trying to understand how Christians view and understand God. There is no singular Christian view/understanding of God, so it is impossible to define God from a singular perspective. Put a hundred Christians in a room and have them answer Evan’s questions, and you will end up with dozens of answers. Much like Jesus, “God” is a product of human imagination and experience. Simply put, God is whoever/whatever you want him/her/it to be. What follows, then, is how I viewed God as an Evangelical Christian and pastor. My past view of God is normative within Evangelicalism, but certainly not the only view found within the Evangelical tent.

Evan’s first question is in the present tense, so let me briefly answer it before answering the “what is God to you” in the past tense. I am an atheist, so I don’t believe in the existence of deities. I am persuaded that God is a human construct, the byproduct of a pre-science world. Humans looked at the universe and tried to explain what they saw. Enter Gods. Science, of course, has now answered many of the questions that were once answered with “God.” As science continues to answer more and more questions about our universe, God becomes irrelevant. Of course, the concept of “God” is deeply ingrained in human thinking, so ridding our world of deities is not easy.

As an Evangelical Christian, I believed God was eternal and transcendent; that God was three persons in one (the Trinity): God, the father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. God was all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. Simply put, God was everywhere. There was no place I could go to escape the presence of God.

God was a personal deity. Jesus died on a Roman cross for my sins (substitutionary atonement) and resurrected from the dead three days later. By putting my faith and trust in Jesus, I believed he forgave my past/present/future sins, and I would go to Heaven after I died. The moment I was “saved.” the Holy Spirit moved into my “heart” and became my teacher and guide.

I viewed God as a spiritual presence in my life and the world. Through the Bible and prayer, God “spoke” to me — not audibly per se. Feeling and knowing the presence of God is hard to explain. Religious indoctrination and conditioning led me to believe God was an ever-present reality in my life. There was no escaping God, even when I was sinning. When I prayed, I thought I was directly talking to God. At times. I had profound experiences when praying, reading the Bible, or preaching. Just as God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I believe God walked with me too.

This is a dumbed-down (no offense to Evan) version of how I viewed and experienced God as an Evangelical Christian. I could have written a 10,000-word treatise on the Trinitarian God, complete with a plethora of Bible references. However, doing so would likely not give Evan the answers he is seeking.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, If You Had It to Do All Over Again, Would You Still Write Your Infamous Letter?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Alisha asked:

I have read several times on your page about your writing a letter to friends and family after your deconversion. You chose to be very open with people about your change in belief. Your wife, you said, has chosen not to really talk much about her leaving Christianity. Now that several years have passed since you sent the letter, I wonder if you feel it was the correct thing to do or if you think taking your wife’s approach might have worked out better?

My wife and I left Christianity in 2008. In early 2009, I wrote a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners detailing our loss of faith, and sent it to hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members. While Polly signed her name to the letter (and agreed with its content), it was generally perceived as coming from me. Others have always viewed Polly as not thinking for herself or under the spell of “Bruce.”

While there might have been a time forty years ago that was true, I can confidently say that Polly thinks for herself, makes her own decisions, and generally does what she wants. While our relationship is quite “traditional,” the patriarchal form of our marriage died an ignoble death decades ago. We now have an egalitarian approach to marriage. Does patriarchal thinking still show up in our relationship from time to time? Sure. Religious indoctrination will do that to you. Several years ago, I told my counselor that I wished Polly would be more assertive, make more decisions. He reminded me that she was free to NOT make decisions too; that maybe she liked me being the main decision-maker in our family; that I needed to accept her as she is. Doc, of course, was right. The difference now is that I no longer make unilateral decisions that affect both of us. Years ago, I would go to work with one car and come home with another. I would NEVER do such a thing today. We have learned to make decisions together.

The aforementioned letter was our coming-out party. While I continue to be outspoken about my unbelief, spending the past thirteen years sharing my story and trying to help those with questions and doubts about Christianity, Polly, on the other hand, quickly receded into the background, rarely talking about her loss of faith. Personality-wise, Polly is quiet and reserved. In high school and college, she was a wallflower. She went on one date before starting to date me. I was, in every way, her one and only. I’m a talkative, opinionated extrovert. Polly is not. I remember being frustrated with her when we were dating over how little she talked (much like her father). People, including myself, mistook her shyness for her not having an opinion. Trust me, Polly Shope Gerencser has lots of opinions. You just need to learn how to extract them from her as I have over forty-three years of marriage. Do I wish she was more vocal? Sure. But Polly is not me, and it’s unfair for me to expect her to be a quarter-fed talk-a-machine like I am. 🙂

I said all of this to make this point: our personalities largely determined our individual response to loss of faith. I charged Hell with an empty squirt gun, screaming FREEDOM!, and Polly stood on the sidelines, quietly smiling, never saying a word. We each responded the way we did because it was our nature to do so. That is still true today.

When we deconverted, I stood on a corner, street preacher-style, and told the world that I was no longer a Christian. Polly, on the other hand, stood in the crowd, quietly saying, AMEN! Alisha wants to know, with thirteen years of unbelieving life in the rearview mirror, would we do it all over again the same way? On the one hand, I could say, “we are who we are, personality-wise.” Can any of us act differently? (And no, I am NOT interested in discussing free will.) I do know, however, that my letter had real-world consequences. We lost all of our friends save two. And I mean ALL OF THEM! We lost friendships twenty and thirty years in the making. One letter, one honest reflection, and BOOM! — fractured friendships. Some of our friends turned on me, sending me hateful, judgmental emails. (Polly was spared any of this ugliness from our friends.) One of my closest friends savaged me in several emails, suggesting I was mentally ill. Another friend said I was possessed by Satan. And yet another dear friend who had known me for twenty-five years — the wife of an evangelist who had preached for me numerous times — told me that it was evident I was unsaved, that I was a deceiver, that the Devil was using me. (Our youngest daughter is named after her.)

My ministerial colleagues immediately broke fellowship with me. Not one colleague tried to “understand” my story. Not one emailed me and asked if we could talk, have lunch, or tried to interact with me. My letter was a declaration of war — a war that I am fighting to this day.

Imagine losing all of your friends and professional connections in a matter of months. Fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years in the ministry, countless relationships, all burned to the ground. To say this response was devasting to Polly and me would be a gross understatement.

Polly took a quiet, measured approach, choosing to NOT talk about her loss of faith. It’s only been in recent years that she has shared with her co-workers that she is not a believer. One of her employees is also an unbeliever, so Polly has been more open to her, but even today, she is hesitant to talk about this part of life with others. (Polly has agreed to share her story on my podcast channel when and if I ever get the *&%$#* thing off the ground.)

We have made a few friends over the years, mainly through this blog and social media. The couple who remained friends of ours when we deconverted are the only people we do things with. I have lunch from time to time with a United Church of Christ pastor and a former mainline Lutheran pastor. Outside of these friendships, neither of us has people in our lives we can call up and have in-person relationships with. Sure, we have six children and thirteen grandchildren, but we want and need non-family relationships as well.

As far as family relationships go, we are estranged from much of Polly’s Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) family. We maintain a decent relationship with her mother, but we have yet to have a meaningful discussion with Mom about why we are no longer Christians. Mom and Dad (now deceased) got the letter I sent in 2009, and that’s been the extent of any discussion about why we left the ministry and later left Christianity. I suspect Mom has read my blog now and again, as many of Polly’s IFB family have, but our losses of faith remain the proverbial rainbow-colored elephant in the room. I suspect Mom still thinks that I am the patriarch of our home; that the only reason Polly is an unbeliever is me; that when I die, she will come running back to Jesus and Evangelical Christianity.

I could go on and on about the price we have paid for leaving Christianity. Would our lives be better today if I had never sent my infamous letter to family, friends, and former parishioners? Would our lives be better if I had never started blogging, never written letters to local newspapers’ editors, never given interviews detailing my story? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. We are who we are. Could I have NOT written my letter? I have pondered that question more times than I dare admit. I suspect Alisha wants to know if it is better to gently remove the bandaid or just get it over with and rip it off. I can’t tell her what to do in her own life. Am I happy with how our life has turned out post-Jesus? Sure (in general). Is Polly happy? Sure (in general). Neither of us is a woulda-coulda-shoulda kind of person. We tend to be realists, pessimists, and pragmatists. Would our lives have been different if I had stayed quiet about our unbelief? Maybe.

Perhaps some of the readers of this blog will chime in about their approaches to declaring (or not) their unbelief. This truly is one of those questions where there is no right answer.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

ObstacleChick asked:

Related to questions others are asking, when you were fully in the fold, sold out, dedicated to the Trinity, did you ever feel any discomfort when you read things in the Bible that didn’t make sense or add up? Like, where did the children of Adam and Eve get their mates? Or about the dead that supposedly resurrected in the Easter Story in Matthew’s version? Or did Noah’s offspring all procreate with their siblings and cousins? (And why if it took so long for Noah and his sons to build the Ark there were no grandchildren running around during that time – or were those kids horrible reprobates too?) Were you a “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” kind of guy? You mentioned that you actually would study and prepare for your sermons, so you must have seen all those issues and more…you’re a smart guy.

Let me start by giving a short answer to ObstacleChick’s question: “Bruce, Were You a “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It” Christian?” No, I was, instead, a “God Said It, That Settles It” Christian. For most of my years in the ministry, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Thus, I viewed the Bible as the very words of God — written by men under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit.

I was a serious student of the Bible, spending upwards of twenty hours a week preparing my sermons. I had a large library, but most of my books were written by people who believed as I did. Thus, I rarely read dissenting voices (this changed in the late 1990s as my theology and political views became more liberal). Did I see the issues raised by ObstacleChick? Sure, but the authors I read always seemed to have answers that satisfied my questions and doubts. I was, in every way, a true-blue believer.

I believed that God would, in time, answer any doubts or questions that I might have. I might have to wait until I got to Heaven, but all things would one day be revealed.

My view of the Bible gradually changed. First to go was King James-onlyism — a cardinal sin in the IFB church movement. Then, in the early 2000s, I started preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). Influenced by the Emerging (Emergent) church movement with its post-modernist thinking, I began entertaining my doubts and questions — at least in my study — instead of turning them away with Evangelical cliches. While my preaching remained orthodox until the end — with liberal tinges — I ended the ministry a far different man from the one I was as a young preacher. After I left Christianity in 2008, several former parishioners told me that “books” were my problem; that I just needed to ONLY read the Bible. Alas, the horse had left the barn, never to return. Thanks to Dr. Bart Ehrman, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and others, it was impossible for me to return to a supernatural view of the Bible.

I regret not voicing my questions and doubts from the pulpit. I owed honesty to the congregations I pastored. Of course, I am not certain church members could have handled the truth. I might have found myself unemployed had I cast “doubt” upon the Word of God. Years ago, I shared some personal details about my life in one of my sermons. Afterward, someone came up to me and expressed displeasure over what I had said. “We want a pastor who is an overcomer, one who is victorious over sin.” Evidently, being open and honest was not appreciated. This man wanted me to “fake it until I make it.” He preferred the facade instead of the real (very human) structure.

I appreciate ObstacleChick saying I am a “smart guy.” I don’t think ignorance is bliss. As Matt Dillahunty is fond of saying, “I want to know as many true things as possible.” However, as an Evangelical Christian, my thinking processes were corrupted by religious indoctrination. “God said it, and that settles it” thinking causes untold harm. As former Evangelicals know, taking God at his word is a bad idea.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, What Was Your Relationship with Liberal Pastors in the Towns You Preached?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Astreja asked:

I have a question, Bruce: What were your (and your congregants’) relationships like with more liberal churches in the towns where you preached?

My relationships with non-Evangelical churches/pastors changed from the time I entered the ministry until I preached my last sermon in 2005. I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, and worked for and pastored three IFB churches from 1979 to1989. During my tenure as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio (1983-1994), I left the IFB church movement I was raised in and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. By the time I pastored my last church in 2003, my theology had moved leftward, as did my politics. A parishioner who heard me preach in the 1990s and then again in 2003, was astounded by how much my preaching had changed. He believed I had left Calvinism and embraced works-based salvation (social gospel). He was right. I was still in the Evangelical tent, but I had moved from the extreme right to the liberalism found on the left.

our father's house west unity ohio
Bryan Times Advertisement for Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

As a Fundamentalist Baptist pastor, I only fellowshipped with my own kind. In the late 1980s, I received a letter inviting me to attend the monthly ministerial meetings for Somerset area pastors. I responded with a letter of my own, stating that I was a separatist, that I did not fellowship with liberals. Besides, the meetings were held at a local restaurant that served alcohol — a definite “sin” in the eyes of IFB preachers. I received a kind, thoughtful reply from the local Lutheran minister. He reminded me that even Jesus fellowshipped with sinners. Smack! 🙂 It would be years later before I dropped my exclusionary practices and adopted the tag line for my church that stated: “the church where the only label that matters is . . . Christian.” In the late 1990s, I joined the local ministerial association, embracing all those who called themselves Christians. At the end of my time in the ministry, my Fundamentalist colleagues in the ministry considered me an ecumenist and a liberal — two labels I wore proudly.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Questions: Bruce, What Will Happen to This Blog After You Die?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Troy asked:

#1 Do you think your parents passing away at a young age made it easier to announce your atheism and on the other side of thing Polly’s parents were both alive until recently do you think this made her less vocal about it? (And I know writing that letter announcing your departure from religion was not easy, but pleasing parents is something that is qualitatively different)

#2 You often speak of your ill health, while I hesitate to ask it because I love you as a friend, do you want to blog to continue after you die or would you like it to die with you?

I don’t think the physical state — alive or dead — of our parents played much of a part in how Polly and I announced our loss of faith in 2008. If anything, our personalities determined our response. A story from our days at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, might best explain this. Not long after I expressed my romantic interest in Polly, we walked to an elevated drainage cover situated in the field outside of the dormitory. Sitting down, exactly six inches apart, (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.) we “talked.” Well, I should say I talked. Polly quickly learned that her new love interest loved to talk, and talk, and talk, and . . . I learned that the beautiful dark-haired girl who would become my wife two years later was bashful, rarely saying a word. I thought, “does this girl EVER talk”? 🙂 Our personalities are very different. While I have won Polly over to my talkative side — at least when she’s around me — she’s still shy around people she doesn’t know. She’s content to let me be the talker in the family, even when I wish she would speak up. After forty-three years of marriage, we accept that we are who we are, comfortable in our own skins. Dammit, Polly, will you PLEASE tell your mother ____________? 🙂

This aforementioned story best explains how each of us announced our defections from Christianity. I wrote Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and started a blog. Polly? She said nothing, not then and not now. I suspect that people at her place of employment still think Polly is an Evangelical pastor’s wife. The people who work for her know that she is not a Christian, but outside of them, she has not shared her story with anyone. And she’s fine with that. And so am I.

Polly’s Fundamentalist Baptist parents (Dad died in 2020) know we left Christianity. They know we are agnostic atheists. However, we have NEVER had one conversation with them about our loss of faith. And we likely never will. That’s been the MO of our relationship with Polly’s parents from day one (which I will cover one day in a post).

Now to Troy’s second question. Troy is a good friend of mine. While we have never met face to face, we have become close over the years through this blog and Facebook. So I accept his question as coming from a heart of love and concern. If “Dr.” David Tee asked me this question, I would hear, “Hey godless motherfucker. What going to happen to your blog after God strikes you dead and you end up in Hell?”

Troy knows that I am in poor health. Tee does too, but he’s a heartless prick, so fuck him. 🙂 Troy knows my days are numbered, as do I. I hope to live for five or ten more years, but my body tells me that the hourglass of my life is running out. Knowing this, I have had thoughts about the future of this blog. Do I want it to live on after my death? Will Polly be able to maintain this site after my demise? One of my children? I don’t know.

I know I don’t want Polly to be saddled with the costs of maintaining this site — roughly $125 a month. I know that once I am gone, readership numbers will drop, as will donations. That’s just the facts of the matter. We live in a “what have you done for me lately” world. When Bruce Almighty is turned into ashes, I hope people will mourn my loss. However, I know that readers will move on. No new content, no reason to come to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser blog.

My thoughts are this: I need to leave behind detailed instructions on how to move this to a cheaper (and slower) web hosting service. Or, if given time before I die, I will do this myself. This would reduce costs to less than $20 a month, leaving Polly to decide later if she wants to delete this site. Die! Die! My Darling! (Polly will understand this movie reference.)

I’m not sure how I feel about being memorialized after I kick the bucket. That said, I know my writing may help others after I go over the rainbow in the sky (I’m running out of synonyms for D-E-A-D). It will be left to Polly and my family to decide the future of my “ministry.” Maybe it would be nice if this blog outlived me for the sake of my grandchildren. DO IT FOR THE CHILDREN, BRUCE! 🙂 I want them to “know” my story, to read and understand my life. (Most of them were born after I left the ministry. They have no idea that Grandpa was once a Baptist preacher.) Of course, if I finished my damn book, I could autograph copies for my thirteen reasons to get up in the morning. Okay, nineteen reasons — though I can hardly even get off the couch these days when my six oh-so-awesome kids come to visit me to see how soon they will be collecting their inheritance. 🙂

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser