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Category: Questions

Questions: Bruce, What Do You Think of the Reinterpretation of Bible Verses on Homosexuality?

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.

(I use the word homosexual for the sake of answering this question, knowing Evangelicals will be reading my answer. I know it is a derogatory term, as is sodomy/sodomite, used by Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims to denigrate LGBTQ people. I rarely use it in my writing.)

Sage asked:

I personally have escaped christianity and do not consider the Christian Bible to have any useful value. But lately I have heard LGBTQ people, who still attend church, saying that the biblical prohibition on homosexuality is a misinterpretation introduced in the 20th century, and prior it was prohibiting pedophilia. What are your thoughts?

Let’s start with Leviticus 18 (in context):

Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour’s wife, to defile thyself with her.

….

 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.

And Leviticus 20 (in context):

And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them.

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.

And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.

And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

Romans 1:26-27 says:

For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature. And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

The Apostle Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

The above quotes are from the King James Version of the Bible. It is clear from these verses that the Bible condemns homosexual sex. The Bible does NOT say that being LGBTQ is a sin. It is who a person is fucking (and perhaps how) that determines whether a sex act is sinful. Just because someone is LGBTQ, or heterosexual, for that matter, doesn’t make them a sinner. Certain sex acts do. This same interpretation is borne out in modern translations too.

Our society is far more accepting of LGBTQ people than it ever has been. Progress, right? Even among Evangelicals, we are seeing increasing acceptance of gay people. The Bible hasn’t changed; people have. Thus, to make the Bible fit what people now believe, the aforementioned verses are reinterpreted. Instead of the Bible condemning homosexual sex, revisionists say it condemns incest, sex with children, or sex with prostitutes. However, if these verses are read in context, it is clear that the Bible condemns homosexual sex (and in other places, it also condemns incest, sex with children — sometimes — sex with prostitutes, fornication, and adultery). These reinterpretations are just ways for Christians, Jews, and Muslims to have LGBTQ friends or engage in homosexual sex without feeling guilty about it. Instead of just saying the Bible (God) is wrong or outdated, Christians, Jews, and Muslims make the Bible fit their feelings and beliefs.

The Bible can be used to justify almost anything. Just reinterpret the Hebrew, Greek, or English, and viola! homosexual sex is no longer sinful. This is a sign that the Bible is losing its control over our culture. And all the atheists said, AMEN! What was sin fifty years ago is no longer sin today. Some Evangelicals no longer believe fornication is a sin — hard telling what sins will be reinterpreted or vanquished by Christians in the years to come.

For further information about how the Bible prohibitions on homosexual sex have been reinterpreted, please read the Wiki titled, The Bible and Homosexuality. You might want to take some Tylenol and Aspirin before you do.

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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, Which Bible Translations Did You Use?

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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.

This is a follow-up question from the post Questions: Bruce, What Bible Do Evangelicals in Non-English- Speaking Countries Use?

I grew in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the 1960s and 1970s. I attended an IFB college in the mid-1970s. I married an IFB pastor’s daughter. After leaving college in the spring of 1979, we moved to Bryan, Ohio. I became the assistant pastor of an IFB church in nearby Montpelier. I later helped my father-in-law start an IFB church in Buckeye Lake, Ohio. From there, I spent eleven years pastoring an IFB church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. It was six years into my tenure at Somerset Baptist Church before I used any other Bible but the King James Version (KJV). For thirty-two years, I believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I read the KJV, studied the KJV, and preached from the KJV. Only the KJV was used in the churches I pastored. No sermon from other than the KJV was preached from the pulpits of the churches I pastored.

I believed that there were no errors, mistakes, or contradictions in the KJV. I also believed the 1611 and 1769 editions of KJV were virtually identical; that the only differences between the two were corrections of typographical errors. Then, in 1989, I stumbled upon a list of word differences between 1611 and 1769. These differences were far more than typographical error corrections. OMG, there were word changes, meaning that my belief that the 1611 KJV was inerrant was untrue. Further study led me to conclude that the KJV was not inspired, inerrant, or infallible, and neither was any other Bible translation. For the next eight or so years, I believed the KJV was faithful and reliable; that it was the preferred Bible for English-speaking people.

In the late 1990s, I preached my first sermon from a non-KJV Bible, the New American Standard Bible (NASB). In 2001, I started exclusively preaching from the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still using the ESV when I preached my last sermon in 2005. I believed the ESV was a reliable translation, but not inspired, inerrant, or infallible. God inspired the original manuscripts, but not any Bible translation.

After I left the ministry in 2008, I started reading THE MESSAGE for my daily devotionals. For the first time in my life, the Bible spoke to me in my own language — the everyday language of commoners. I still used the KJV and ESV (and other translations) in my studies, but I found THE MESSAGE a delight to read.

Today, the only Bible in our home is my KJV preaching Bible — an artifact from a life lived long ago. I also use the E-Sword software program to look up specific verses when writing posts for this blog. Every atheist should have E-Sword installed on their computers, smartphones, or tablets.

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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: Can a Mixed Marriage Between an Evangelical and Atheist Succeed?

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.

Michael asked:

Based on your deep learning and long experience, what do you see as the primary obstacle(s) in a marriage involving an evangelical (who came to the faith well after marrying) and an atheist/agnostic? And, given the scriptural warnings against such a union, how would you evaluate the chances for such a union to succeed? Thank you.

How often have you heard the statement “opposites attract”? Polly and I are very different from one another. She was a wallflower when we met, while I was, on the other hand, outgoing and talkative. Forty-three years later, Polly is still quiet and reserved, while I am, well, not that. 🙂 Over the years, an interesting thing has happened. Polly and I each developed hobbies and likes different from those of the other. But, we also developed hobbies and likes we share.

Both of us were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christians when we married. Twenty-nine years later, we walked hand-in-hand out of the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Today, I am an out-and-proud (and vocal) atheist. Polly is an agnostic who rarely talks about her unbelief. I can say this: her dislike of organized religion is much stronger than mine. I know, I know, hard to believe, but it’s true. I may be the outspoken atheist, but if I ever said to Polly, “let’s go to church today,” she would blister the paint off walls with curse words her IFB mother has never heard her say. 🙂

Our marriage has survived all these years because I am awesome. Or maybe I am delusional. 🙂 That was a joke, by the way. We share many common goals and ideals. We enjoy one another’s company. Our politics and religious views are similar. But, ultimately, it is the things we hold in common that are the glue that keeps our marriage together.

It is commonality, not differences, that typically attract one person to the other. This is why I recommend that people marry men or women who hold similar values, morals, and beliefs. Sure, all of us know couples with disparate values, morals, and beliefs who have been married for years. Such couples find a way to make things work. However, we also know numerous couples who divorced over dissimilar values, morals, and beliefs. No couple wants to spend their days arguing about politics, religion, or any of the other things that people argue about. And no couple wants to compartmentalize their lives, unable to talk with their spouse about certain things. (I deliberately paint with a broad brush. I know there are exceptions to the rule.)

I would never, ever recommend that an atheist marry an Evangelical Christian. The risk of conflict is too great. I am not suggesting that an atheist should never marry someone religious. It depends on the religion, how devout the person is, and the likelihood the person will become more religious over time. I know atheists who are married to mainline Christians. Their marriages seem to be successful and happy. Typically, the mainline Christian spouse is a universalist, so there are no worries about threats of Hell or evangelization. I have had two atheist friends die over the past two years. Both of my friends were outspoken atheists. What did their Evangelical families do after they died (one person was married, the other was not)? They ignored their final wishes and had funeral services for both of them. I have no doubt my friends were screaming and rolling over in their graves.

What about marriages where one spouse becomes an atheist or an Evangelical years later? Can such marriages “survive”? The short answer is yes. I know that some of the readers of this blog are in “mixed” marriages. They entered marriage equally yoked together as followers of Jesus. Then, years later, one of them lost their faith and deconverted. Some of the people I am talking about are “secret” atheists. Many of them even attend church on Sundays with their spouses and children.

That said, I have corresponded with numerous atheists who were/are married to Evangelical Christians. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to receive another email from them months or years later that says they have either separated or divorced. They either found they couldn’t make their mixed marriages work or decided that they didn’t want to spend any more time in a relationship where their significant other didn’t share their interests, values, and beliefs.

I have written several posts on this subject:

Let me conclude this post by addressing the “Scriptural warning against believers marrying unbelievers.” While I don’t care one wit about what the Bible says on anything, I do recognize that the Good Book occasionally offers sage advice. In the case of mixed marriages, the advice given in the Bible is generally sound.

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 Bible Do Evangelicals in Non-English- Speaking Countries Use?

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.

Kate asked:

One of your recent columns made me wonder about something, and now that you’ve asked for questions, here it is. In non-English speaking countries, what do evangelical fundamentalists use for their guidebook? An ‘approved’ translation of KJV, or some other version of the bible?

There was a time when American Evangelicals (who are inherently Fundamentalist — please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) primarily used the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible (1769 edition). A small percentage of Evangelicals used the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Beginning in the 1960s with The Living Bible, Evangelicals began using non-KJV translations: the New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (NIV), The Message (MSG), and the English Standard Version (ESV), to name a few. This ushered in the Bible translation war. Personally, I used the KJV, NASB, and the ESV at different points in my ministry. The more right-leaning sects, churches, and pastors are, the more likely they are to use the KJV.

The Bible translation war has been going on for almost seventy years. While I was unable to find any study on which translations Evangelicals use, I will venture an educated answer to this question: fewer Evangelicals use the KJV than ever, while Christians on the far right of the Evangelical spectrum have turned using the KJV into an unwavering article of faith. I candidated at one Southern Baptist church in Weston, West Virginia that wanted me to become their pastor. I used the ESV in my trial sermons. The pulpit committee told me that they really wanted to call me as their next pastor, but an influential family in the church had objected to me using a non-KJV Bible. Not wanting to upset this family, the committee asked if I would only use the KJV. Knowing how cantankerous KJV-only adherents could be, I said no. As a result, the church declined to call me as their pastor.

Evangelicals spend billions of dollars of years evangelizing, through missionary endeavors, non-English speaking people. This includes providing these people Bibles in their native languages. (Most major people groups already have Bibles in their respective languages.) For example, my wife’s cousin and her husband, Toree and James “Jamie” Overton, are Bible translation missionaries in India for Worldview Ministries. Their objective?: translating the Scriptures into the heart language of a people is required for effective church-planting movements and discipleship . . . a focus on unreached people groups and a purposeful strategy to reach them is required if we are to be in complete obedience with the Great Commission.

Some Evangelical Bible translation ministries use the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic (and other) manuscripts to produce Bibles in native languages. This is long, hard, arduous work, as any linguist can tell you.

Some translation ministries, however, only use certain manuscripts to translate the Bible into native languages. Take Worldview Ministries. Here’s a screenshot of their translation methodology:

worldview ministries bible translation

Got all that? Lurking behind this world salad is King James-onlyism and the idea that only certain Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic manuscripts are the divinely preserved and authoritative Word of God. Other manuscripts and translations are rejected out of hand and considered corrupt. These claims are patently false, but are common in certain corners of the Evangelical world.

In Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) circles, it is not uncommon to find Bible translation ministries using the KJV as the foundational text for translation. Instead of translating the Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic manuscripts into native languages, the 1769 revision of the King James Bible is used for translations into native tongues. Such translators believe the KJV is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. Yes, an inspired translation. Evidently, God speaks KJV. Thus, it makes “perfect” sense to translate the English KJV directly into other languages. The problems with this approach are beyond the scope of this post. Needless to say, I can hear my linguist friends banging their heads on the walls of their offices. Translation is hard work, and this KJV-to-Native-Language approach is a shortcut that leads to inaccurate translations.

The goal of these translations is evangelization. Hundreds of millions of dollars a year are spent translating Bibles into native languages. Evangelicals seek out people groups without a Christian Bible in their native tongue. Then they spend years learning the languages so they translate Bibles into native languages. Once completed, these Bibles (usually the New Testament or the Gospel of John) will be “freely” distributed and used to save “sinners.” Personally, I view such efforts as con artists selling unwary people that which they don’t need. In the case of my wife’s cousin and her husband, why do native Indians need Christian Bibles? Why not leave them alone? Why try to turn them into Western Christians? Wouldn’t money be better spent feeding, clothing, and housing people? Instead, such ministries “prey” on non-English speaking natives. Evangelicals like nothing better than a missionary story about third-world heathens being saved. Open come the pocketbooks and out come the credit cards to finance what I call Evangelical busy work; unnecessary efforts to conform native people into the image of white American Christians.

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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 Can’t You Let Evangelicals Make Their Own Decisions?

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.

Theologyarcheology/“Dr.” David Tee/David Thiessen asked:

Since it is your decision to walk away from the faith, why can you not let evangelicals make their own decisions?

I did not know that I was such a powerful person; that I have it within my power to keep Evangelicals from making their own decisions. I have no ability to force someone to change their opinion about Jesus/Christianity/Bible. Nor would I want to.

I am just one man with a story to tell. Yes, thousands of people read this blog, including many Evangelicals. That’s not my fault. Evidently, there’s something in my writing that resonates with people. That said, compared to the countless Evangelical blogs, websites, and social media accounts, this blog is but a gnat on the proverbial elephant’s ass.

I have never attempted to evangelize or convert one Evangelical to atheism or agnosticism. Have people deconverted as a result of reading my writing? Sure. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, worship leaders, and church members have told me that my writing played a part in their deconversion from Christianity. I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. People from an IFB background, in particular, find my work helpful. You see, I dare to talk about what goes on behind closed doors. I know the secret handshake, and I know where the bodies are buried. People appreciate me telling the truth.

If the telling of my story results in people leaving Christianity, that’s not my fault. I have a passive relationship with readers: I write, they read and respond accordingly. If readers email me or comment on social media, I respond to them. I am friendly and available. However, I make no effort to evangelize. Sure, I will answer their questions, offer advice, or befriend them. But, evangelize? Absolutely not. I despise proselytization — be it atheist, Christian, Muslim, new age, or Cleveland Browns fans.

Do I find a sense of personal satisfaction when readers deconvert or move away from Fundamentalist Christianity? Sure. Every writer wants his work to be read and appreciated. If my writing results in a transformation in the lives of people, that’s awesome. If not, I am fine with that too. I was going through old blog comments, emails, and Facebook friendships over the weekend. I couldn’t help but notice that more than a few people no longer comment on this blog. Some of them have died — five in the last three years. Others have likely moved or don’t feel a need to comment anymore. I am sure some readers became bored with my writing. And I suspect other readers were offended by something I wrote. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I could help them for a time. I know that not everyone will be with me until the end — though I expect some of you to be my virtual pallbearers. 🙂 I am content to play whatever part readers allow me to play in their lives.

I am not the Wizard of Oz; I am just Bruce. Bruce Almighty, that is. 🙂

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.

Your Questions, Please

i have a question

Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a while since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would, once again, open the call lines and ask readers to submit their questions, along with $66.66 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the universe. Reason — praise be to Reason! — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking and skepticism to infinity and beyond. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want are questions; your pithy, short, erudite questions. Please try to ask questions that you think I haven’t answered before.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section of this post. I will answer questions in the order they are received; that is unless you are a bigly donor. Readers who shower me with cash, checks, gold bullion (ouch), Bitcoins, and restaurant gift cards just might be moved to the front of the line or be sent a 13×19 glossy photo of me pole dancing at the Big Bear Strip Club — “might” being the operative word. (Long-time readers who know and understand my humor, sarcasm, and snark know whether I am speaking factually. Everyone else? Keep on dreaming of Bruce Almighty swinging on a brass pole wearing only his shorts, suspenders, and wingtips.)

You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

Please do not answer the questions. In the past, well-intentioned commenters have answered the questions, making my responses moot. Once I answer the questions, feel free to give your own answer.

Let the fun begin.

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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, Why Did You Start to See a Secular Counselor?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

Brian asked:

I admire the personal work that you have done to be able to garner perspective about your directions in life. It sometimes seems that the vast majority of folks are not able to seek professional help in dealing with trauma in their lives.

Very often, when listening to someone tell some personal history, I will use the word ‘trauma’ in expressing sympathy, in acknowledging the tale but so often I am rebuffed with something like: “No, it wasn’t traumatic. So many people have terrible things they have to deal with and mine wasn’t like that at all…” The vast majority, once again, seem pre-therapy and not really ready to make that step to include real feeling, real self-care in their lives. They distance themselves from the heart.

Christianity, particularly evangelical sorts encourages people to look to God for cures, for help, for everything! And unless a therapist is in the bubble, they are of-the-world and thereby suspect in the work they do.

I wonder if you would speak some more to how and why you started to see a counsellor. You have spoken to this issue before in passing but could you share with us some of the feelings that allowed/suggested counselling was a direction to go. You have mentioned being ostracized and alone in your search. You were a hardliner IFB preacher who studied how to become a hardliner’s hardliner. Yet, eventually, your direction brought you to an exit sign. Perhaps you have said all you wish to regarding this matter but I think in these times of trouble, it might be helpful to share some more about your way of healing, the coping with God’s army at your door, the struggle with lonely choices. It’s a lot to ask, I know and feel free to set it aside if that is necessary.

Thanks for the question, Brian.

I grew up in a home dominated by mental illness. My mom tried to kill herself numerous times, finally succeeding in the 1990s. (Please see Barbara.) She was fifty-four. Mom was placed in a mental hospital for two lengthy stints when I was a teenager. To say that Mom’s illness was traumatic for me would be a gross understatement. I still bear the psychological scars from her manic episodes, attempted suicides, and being cruelly asked to perform her funeral after she killed herself with a Ruger revolver. I am weeping as I write this. Oh, how I miss my mother. I grieve the fact that she never got to know most of my children and none of my grandchildren. I told my youngest daughter the other day that Mom would have loved her oldest son, two-and half-year-old Ezra. He is, in every way, a spitting image of his grandfather. He is impulsive, ornery, and rambunctious. I imagined my mom telling Laura, “Ezra’s a little shit just like your dad was.” So many memories left unmade because of mental illness and suicide.

As a teen and a young man, I quickly learned to keep my feelings safely in the arms of Jesus. As a devout Evangelical Christian, and later a pastor, I believed that God was in control of everything and that would never give me more in my life than I could handle. Every bit of trauma and adversity in my life was God testing me, increasing my faith, or chastising me for a known/unknown sin. Whatever came my way, I sucked it up, believing that it was all part of God’s wonderful plan for my life.

Of course, psychologically (and later physically) things were not okay with me. I struggled with deep, long-lasting bouts of depression and on many occasions had thoughts of killing myself. To the outside world and to the churches I pastored, I was the model Christian and pastor, but my wife and our children saw the “real” Bruce Gerencser. No matter how much a depressive tries, he can’t hide his trauma and struggles from those who are close to him. Mom’s mental struggles, my parents’ divorce after 15 years of marriage, moving from school to school and house to house, witnessing Mom being raped by her brother-in-law, finding Mom lying a pool of blood after she had slit her wrists, knowing Mom had been sexually molested by my grandfather, my own molestation by a relative as a young boy, having a father who likely knew I wasn’t his biological son — a father who never said “I love you” or attended one of my ballgames or school events — and spending much of my young life living in poverty, often having to steal money for lunch and shoplift to get school clothes, is it any wonder that I might have a problem with depression; that I might have thoughts of killing myself?

This was a heavy load for a young man to carry, and carry it I did until I was in my forties. I finally reached a place where I recognized I was in trouble; that if I didn’t seek professional (non-religious) help that I was going to become a statistic, a sorry story on the obituary page of the local newspaper. Yet, it took me two more years before I saw a counselor. I made several appointments with one counselor, only to cancel the appointments. I was worried that someone I knew would see my car at the clinic or see me going into the counselor’s office. I couldn’t bear being “exposed” to people who knew me. Bryan is the town of my birth. I have family scattered all over rural northwest Ohio. What if people found out I was a “nutjob”? “Just like his mother!”

It wasn’t until we bought our home in Ney (2007) and we deconverted from Christianity (2008) that I finally sought professional care from a secular psychologist by the name of Dr. David Deal. Past trauma, along with the loss of faith and career had put me in a desperate place. It was David who came along side me for the next decade and helped me to unravel my past and understand my struggles, along with helping me build coping mechanisms in my life. I will be forever grateful for all that he did for me.

The first thing we did in counseling was peel back my life. David likened it to peeling an onion one layer at a time. Painful and teary-eyed to be sure. When I left Christianity, I left all I had ever known. I had been a pastor for twenty-five years. My whole identity was wrapped up in being Pastor Bruce or Preacher. Now that my faith and career were gone, I was left with answering the question, “who am I?” “What do I want in this life?” By this time, health problems had added a whole new layer of complexity. Being in pain all the time is enough to drive anyone to thoughts of suicide, let alone a depressive such as I am.

Over time, I began to understand my past and began building a healthier understanding of self. I like to think I have become a better man, husband, father, and grandfather. Do I still battle depression? Do I still have thoughts of suicide? Yep. As Dexter the serial killer was fond of saying, depression and suicidal thoughts are my “dark passenger.” Recent new health problems and hospitalization drove me to the edge of despair. I told Polly, “I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t . . .” Fortunately, my dark passenger withdrew into the recesses of my mind. I am not better health-wise, but psychologically I am in a better place — at least enough so that I am not dwelling on suicide.

COVID-19 has made it impossible for me to see Dr. Deal. I hope that this pandemic will soon come to an end. He and I have a hell of a lot of stuff to talk about. Until then, I continue to write. David urged me to keep writing; that doing so would help others and also provide an outlet for my passion. I write because I must do so. Without writing for this site, I am not sure I would make it through a typical week. This blog allows me to tell my story. It is, I suppose, a digital journal of sorts, with entries of millions of words since December 2014.

Thank you for “hearing” my story and continuing to support what I do.

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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, Were You a Supporter of Israel as an Evangelical Pastor?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

ObstacleChick asked:

When you were an Evangelical pastor, did you have an obsession with Israel as part of God’s plan for eschatology? How did you view the Jews? Did you believe that the Jews prior to Jesus were “saved” by belief in a savior to come, but Jews after Jesus are condemned to hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as the messiah? Did you believe Christians were “adopted” as God’s chosen people?

What great questions, none of which I believe I have answered before.

To best answer these questions, I must divide my twenty-five years in the ministry into three distinct periods of time:

  • IFB pastor
  • Calvinistic Evangelical pastor
  • Progressive Evangelical (Emerging) pastor

I was raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and worked for and pastored several IFB churches. IFB blood flowed deep in my veins. Theologically, I was 100% IFB. This meant that I believed:

  • The Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.
  • The Bible was meant to be read literally.
  • There was a discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments.
  • The Jews were God’s Chosen People.
  • Old Testament Jews were saved by keeping the law.
  • After the death and resurrection of Jesus from the dead, salvation for everyone — including Jews — required putting one’s faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
  • The New Testament church was a branch grafted (adopted) into the vine (Israel); that in this present dispensation of grace, the church was God’s chosen people.
  • In 1948, God miraculously reestablished Israel as a nation.
  • Nations that blessed (supported) reconstituted Israel was specially blessed by God — especially the United States.
  • Multitudes of Jews will be saved during the Tribulation, their salvation requiring martyrdom.

Make sense? I can explain every one of these points in-depth, complete with proof texts, but I am more interested in showing how my views changed over the years. If you have questions about a particular point, please ask it in the comment section.

In the late 1980s, I left IFB orthodoxy and embraced Evangelical Calvinism. As an IFB pastor, I held classic IFB eschatological beliefs: dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, premillennialism. Embracing Evangelical Calvinism dramatically changed my eschatological beliefs, especially my view on the Bible and Israel itself. I believed:

  • The Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God,
  • The Bible was to be read contextually, interpreted holistically, and preached expositionally.
  • There was a continuity between the Old and New Testaments.
  • The New Testament Church was a continuation of Old Testament Israel.
  • The New Testament Church was God’s chosen, covenant people.
  • Salvation in both Testaments was through the merit and work of Jesus Christ.
  • There would come a time when a multitude of ethnic Jews would be saved.

As an Evangelical Calvinist pastor, I held the following eschatological beliefs: non-dispensational, post-tribulational, amillennial. As you can see, my beliefs about the Jews and eschatology changed dramatically once I became a Calvinist.

In the early 2000s, my theology and politics move leftward, so much so that many of my ministerial colleagues considered me a liberal. This was probably an unfair assessment due to the fact that my theology was still quite Evangelical, with a few caveats. In Evangelical circles, the word “liberal” is often used to define anyone who holds different beliefs from True Christians®. However, by the time I left the ministry in 2005, it was evident that my preacher friends were right; that I had left the farm:

  • I no longer believed the Bible was inerrant and infallible.
  • I still believed the Bible was, in some sense, God’s word, but it was the work of human hands.
  • I believed in inclusive Christianity; that the names on church doors didn’t matter.
  • I believed that ethnic Jews and Israel had no connection to the Jews of the Bible.
  • I publicly stood against Israel’s immoral behavior towards Palestinians.
  • I opposed the United States’ Evangelical-driven support of Israel.
  • I eventually embraced works-based salvation; that a follower of Jesus. demonstrated his faith by his works, not his beliefs.
  • I embraced what is most often called the social gospel.

Evangelical gatekeepers warned that emerging/emergent theology that infiltrated Evangelicalism in the 2000s would cause pastors to reject orthodoxy and embrace liberalism. (Please the Wikipedia entry for the Emerging Church.) These gatekeepers were right. Scores of Evangelical pastors left the farm, so to speak, and embraced liberal Christianity or left the faith altogether. I am certainly a poster child for what happens when someone asks too many questions; when one dares to ask, “Yea hath God said?” (Genesis 3:1)

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, Do You See Young People Leaving Christianity in Rural Northwest Ohio?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

ObstacleChick asked:

Where you live in evangelical conservative land, are you seeing younger people leaving religion as polls seem to indicate in the US?

I live in rural northwest Ohio. While I have lived in Michigan, California, Arizona, and Texas over the years, rural Ohio is my home. I understand country thinking, chafe when city-slickers call us ignorant hillbillies, and generally appreciate the cultural values of country life. That said, as I have moved leftward politically and embraced atheism, I have increasingly found the God-Guns-Republican ethos of rural folks to be stifling and frustrating.

Older locals, with a few exceptions, view me as a curiosity — someone they can’t figure out. I have been told on more than a few occasions, “Bruce, how can you be so smart, yet so dumb?” Those who were congregants of mine or know my Evangelical background are shocked that someone of my education, experience, and faith could ever turn his back on Jesus and start worshiping Satan — “Satan” being a catchall for atheism, liberalism, progressivism, communism, socialism, and other -ism’s their pastors have deemed anti-God.

Over the years, I have been repeatedly eviscerated by local Evangelicals and conservative Catholics in letters to the editors of the Bryan Times and the Defiance Crescent-News. Some of these Jesus-lovers have turned to lies and distortions to “prove” that I am Satan incarnate or a communist infiltrator. One man said that I was lying about my ministerial past, and that he had reported me to the state of Ohio for illegally performing weddings (which he did not actually do).

One day, I received an email from this man’s nephew. He informed me that he considered his uncle a blooming idiot. This 20-something man told me that he didn’t attend church; that he was an atheist. Over the years, I have received numerous emails and social media comments from younger locals. With the exception of one woman — a local pastor’s daughter — these young people voiced their discontent over the right-wing/conservative nature of rural northwest Ohio. Many of them no longer attended church or still went to services on Sundays because they had to.

Based on these anecdotes, I have concluded that local young people are increasingly disaffected from the religious beliefs and politics of their parents and grandparents — especially those who had opportunities to move away,go to college, and experience the world outside of homogeneous rural northwest Ohio.. I see this same disaffection with most of my children. Regrettably, one of my sons has become a gun-toting, Trump-supporting, white supremacist — who is now flying a militia flag and the Christian flag from his front porch. Except for him, my children have liberal/progressive values. Not all of them are atheists, but none of them, except for our white supremacist son, attends Evangelical churches. I suspect all of them will vote for Biden on election day. Even Bethany — our daughter with Down syndrome — if she could vote, she’d vote for Biden. The other day a Trump ad came on TV. Bethany booed and said, FUCK TRUMP! She is certainly a product of her environment.

Generally, local churches are losing younger congregants, especially when they go off to college. Churches are dying on the vine, though local Christians would try to argue that this is untrue. “Look at Xperience Church in Defiance,” they would say. “Xperience is growing by leaps and bounds! See, Jesus is alive and well.” However, as someone who has studied Evangelical church growth since the 1970s, I know that just because a few new Evangelical clubs are growing doesn’t mean the rest of the clubs are okay. In fact, where do churches such as Xperience get most of their new members? Transfer growth — Christians moving from one church to another. (Please see The Fine Art of Church Hopping.) Xperience Church has pillaged other congregations to fuel their explosive growth, Interestingly, some of the churches that have suffered the greatest loss from Xperience stealing members are those who did the very same thing to mainline churches in the 1970s and 1980s. You see, it is immoral capitalism that drives Evangelical church growth. Xperience Church just so happens to be the newest hamburger joint in town. Everyone loves visiting a new restaurant — especially here in rural northwest Ohio where Applebee’s and Chipolte are considered upscale fine dining. (Please see Dear Evangelical, Just Because You Quote the Bible Doesn’t Make Your Comment True, “We Accept Anyone No Matter What,” Local Evangelical Says.)

Looks, then, are deceiving. Yes, some local Evangelical churches are growing. However, the question remains, WHY are these churches growing? Where are there new members coming from? Since virtually everyone in rural northwest Ohio is a Christian, this growth can’t be driven by conversions. What’s driving this growth is people deciding they prefer Wendy’s over McDonald’s. The good news is the fact that many young people have decided they don’t like any of the offerings from local hamburger joints, choosing instead to cook at home, become vegans, or seek out rational, progressive restaurants. When you have had a Five Guys or Red Robin hamburger or eaten at a gastropub in Fort Wayne or Toledo, it’s hard to return to cheap, unsatisfying hamburgers sold on every corner in rural Ohio.

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