Menu Close

Category: Religion

Why I “Retired” from the Ministry

i quit

What follows is a post I wrote detailing the reasons why I retired from the ministry in 2005. When I wrote this, I had not yet declared myself an atheist/agnostic. As you will see, I was still clinging, ever so precariously, to my Christian beliefs. I hope you will find this post instructive and helpful in your own journey.

Originally written in 2008. Slightly edited, revised, and corrected.

I am often questioned about why I retired from the ministry. I started preaching as a teenage boy and I pastored my first church at age 24. Since then I have pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, with my last pastorate being in 2003 (I candidated for several Southern Baptist churches in 2005). I have been married over 30 years, and I have spent my entire married life in the ministry.

Acquaintances, family, and friends are often miffed about why I walked away from the ministry. Why quit preaching? I am often asked. Surely there’s a church somewhere for you to pastor? Surely you still “want” to pastor? If God called you. how can you walk away from his calling?

Good questions, and quite frankly, I have more questions these days than I do answers. What follows is my attempt to shed some light on the “why” question.

Why did I retire from the ministry?

  • I retired because the word “retire” is a better word than “quit.” I don’t want to be known as a quitter. I was told my whole life by my peers that God hates quitters. I can still hear the scathing words of Tom Malone and Jack Hyles ringing in my ears as they skinned quitters alive in their sermons. So I use the word retire but, truth be told, I have just plain quit.
  • For health reasons. I have Fibromyalgia. I am in constant pain. Last year I was tested for MS and the tests were inconclusive. I have numbness in my face, hands, and legs. My doctor ruefully told me that he is uncertain as to what my actual neurological problem is. I’ll just have to wait to see what “breaks.” I am a type A, perfectionist workaholic. I worked myself into a physical collapse, foolishly thinking that anyone cared how hard I worked. God didn’t, and neither did the people I pastored.
  • For family reasons. I sacrificed my family and my marriage for a mistress called the Church. I lived for the Church. I was willing to die for the Church. I worked long hours for lousy pay. I allowed my family and my wife to become appendages to the work I was doing. They were the default clean-up, tear-down crew and did all the jobs no one else wanted to do. Our family was so wrapped up in the Church that we lost our self-identity. I want my children to know me for more than just being a pastor. I want my wife to have a husband who doesn’t always put her second to the Church. Whoever said “you must sacrifice your family for the sake of your calling” is not only wrong but also a destroyer of families. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that family comes first.
  • Changing theology. My theology is undergoing a complete and thorough overhaul. I entered the ministry as a Fundamentalist Baptist. I have become, over time, progressive in my thinking and I now identify with liberal causes and beliefs. I am not the man I once was, but neither am I the man I want to be. As my friend Tammy Schoch told me recently, “it is normal in mid-age to reevaluate one’s beliefs and to readjust or change your beliefs accordingly.”
  • Thomas Merton and Wendell Berry. These two writers have fundamentally changed how I look at the world and how I view my place in it. I have come to realize that I spent most of my adult life wasting my time with a religion that made no difference in the world I live in and a religion I have increasingly come to believe doesn’t do much to prepare us for the next life either.
  • The meaninglessness of vast parts of American Christianity. I now realize that most of what we do in Christianity doesn’t amount to much of anything. We seem to spend most of our time and effort making sure we have things to spend most of our time and effort on. We collect money so we can spend the money so we can collect money so we can spend the money . . . it seems that much of our work is simply done to keep the Titanic floating. Little progress is made in truly making a difference in the world.
  • Changing understanding of the Bible. I started out in the ministry as a King James-Only, every-word-of-the-Bible-is-inerrant believer. I have come to understand that such a belief is not only unsustainable theologically but is absolutely irrational. I no longer use the Bible as a science or history textbook and I no longer need to read any particular systematic theology into the text in order to enjoy reading the Bible. I simply enjoy reading the Biblical narrative for its own sake. It now speaks to me in ways I never thought possible.
  • Meeting people of other religious faiths or no faith at all. I was blessed with Catholic daughters-in-law. They forced me to come to terms with my deep-seated hatred for any religion but my own. As you may well know, we Baptists hate Catholics. The big change for me was when I attended a Midnight Christmas mass with my wife and some of our children. What a beautiful and powerful service. It shook my bigoted bones right down to my core.
  • Gandhi. Gandhi showed me the way of peace, of non-violent resistance. Of course, according to my Baptist beliefs, Gandhi is burning in Hell right at this moment. I no longer believe that, and I do not believe such vengeful hate by God is consistent with His love and mercy. I have abandoned the classic Baptist understanding of hell and I believe in annihilation. My beliefs are becoming more and more universalist as I go along. I will leave it to God to sort out the “who is in and who is not.”
  • For mental health reasons. I came to the realization that I was full of fear and regret. I feared God and I regretted wasting my life serving a deity I only served out of fear. No matter how perfect I was, no matter how much I did, I simply couldn’t meet God’s standard (or that of the men who spoke for God). I despaired for my life. I have since been introduced to a God who loves and has mercy and who does not use fear in his dealings with his children.
  • For my kids and grandkids. I want to know my kids and grandkids. I want to be more than just a religious guru to them. I want to be able to enjoy THIS life with them without everything revolving around the NEXT life. I struggle with the “dad doesn’t go to Church any more” . . . but I hope in time I can have a relationship with my kids and grandkids that doesn’t revolve around religion. Yes, I still want to talk about God, but I also want to enjoy the day-to-day things of life and I want to share those things with my kids and grandkids.
  • Guilt. This is the biggest problem I face — guilt over how I have lived my life, how I wasted my life, and how I hurt my family. I am sure some pious soul is going to tell me “Get over it and move on with life.” I wish I could, but I can’t. Until I can come to terms with the past 30 or 40 years, I cannot move forward from here. I am sure my wife is tired of me living in 1985 or 1994, but I must resolve the issues that plague me before I can move forward. I am making progress in this area and I plan to start on a book in the new year titled “From Eternity to Here.” Several people, I respect greatly have suggested that writing a book might be cathartic, just what I need to move my life forward.(I still want to write a book, but I fear physically it is an impossible goal.)
  • I simply don’t want to be in the ministry anymore. I have no desire for it and I do not want to give the requisite time necessary to be a “good” pastor. I believe I still have good teaching skills and I have a sincere desire to be a help to others, but I do not want to exercise my gifts in a traditional Church setting. I have wasted enough time already and I don’t want to waste anymore.

I could pastor a church tomorrow if I wanted to. Thousands of churches are without pastors. Most of them don’t deserve to have another pastor. They have chewed up and spit out the previous 20 pastors and they will do the same to the next one. Quite frankly, many Churches just need to die. As I look back at how willing I was to sacrifice so small Churches could have a “full time” pastor, I am ashamed of myself. Living on food stamps, with my kids wearing hand-me-down clothes, all so people could say “we have a full-time pastor and he has kids” The most I ever made in the ministry, counting housing, salary and reimbursements, was $26,000. While everyone else progressed economically, my family was supposed to settle for welfare wages and a chicken or two. I never pastored a church that took it upon themselves to offer me a raise. I had to ask, and often plead and beg, to get a raise. I saw their cars and houses. I saw their material stores, yet I was just supposed to sing “Oh how I love Jesus, thank you for keeping me poor.”

The most prosperous times of my life came when I was bi-vocational. I managed restaurants, sold insurance, delivered newspapers, pumped gas, and managed government grant programs. In retrospect, I should have always been bi-vocational. I should not have allowed the church to keep me poor. My problem was that I could never do anything half-way. I still can’t. So while I worked a full-time secular job, I also worked the church job full-time. I often worked 60 or 70 hours a week, rarely taking a day off. Vacations? We only took them if I was preaching a conference somewhere. Dates with my wife? Only if there was a church outing to go to.

I realize some of this sounds like the grousing of a bitter old man. I shall plead guilty to that charge. I am bitter at times, and as the Dixie Chicks said “I am not ready to make nice.” I fully accept my own culpability in the affairs of my life. I write for the sake of my family and for the sake of my own mental health. I also write this as a warning to young pastors who are tempted to take the same path I took.

I will stop writing this with the sharing of the biggest breakthrough in my life over the past few months. I spent my life “living for Jesus and Living for Others.” I bought into the mantra of Jesus First, Others Second, and Bruce doesn’t matter. I spent far too much time worrying about what others thought of me, of how they viewed my ministry and family.

My big breakthrough is pretty simple. I have come to the place where I don’t give a shit about what others think of me or what I believe. I don’t give a shit that you are upset that I wrote the word shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. I simply don’t care. Things matter to me, but what someone thinks of me personally or what they think of my beliefs, I don’t care. It has been liberating to be delivered from the judgments of others.

Have you said WOW yet? I heard you!  Let me paraphrase Thomas Merton. People were upset with Merton because his beliefs were always changing, always in motion. He said he frustrated his critics because just when they thought they had him pinned down on an issue, they found out he had already move on to something else.

That’s me, always moving, until the heart stops beating.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

You, Me, and the Bible

There’s You.

There’s Me.

And there’s the Bible.

You believe the Bible. You believe it is God’s Word. You believe it is inspired, inerrant, infallible, and supernatural.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is God’s divine road map.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is God’s moral and ethical rule book.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible gives us everything we need for this life.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is truth.

I don’t.

You believe the Bible is the rule by which we are to measure all things.

I don’t.

You assume everyone thinks like you.

I don’t.

When you quote the Bible to me, please remember what I have written here.

I know what the Bible says.

I know Christian theology

I can quote the Bible.

In fact, I have likely read and studied the Bible more than ninety-nine percent of American Christians. My rejection of the Bible is not due to a lack of knowledge or understanding.

I am more than happy to talk to you about what the text of the Bible says.

I am more than happy to talk to you about theology.

But, please remember this is an academic exercise for me.

I don’t have your beliefs about faith, God, the Holy Spirit, and the afterlife.

What faith requires, I do not have.

I am a permanent resident of Missouri.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Bruce, I Love and Respect Your Position

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Bruce, I love and respect your position.

No, you don’t.

And you shouldn’t.

If you are a Christian, I mean a card-carrying member of the Jesus club, you should find my views abhorrent, loathsome, and damnable.

I know you say you are my friend.

I know you have become adept at separating the man from his message.

I appreciate the fact that you make an attempt to love me where I am and how I am.

But I wonder . . .

Do you really love me for being me, or is your love a means to an end?

Perhaps you operate under the delusion that if you just love me as you think Jesus loves me that I will return to the Christian faith and the universe, your universe, will be in balance once again.

You hold on, hoping that the hounds of heaven chase me down and drag me kicking and screaming back to the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes, I think you are like those people whose spouses have died. Night after night, they sit on the couch hoping that it is all a mistake and that their spouse is going to walk through the door.

I am not coming through the door.

It is time for you to embrace reality.

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

I am an unbeliever, one with lots of knowledge about Christianity, but an unbeliever nonetheless.

I am an apostate.

I am a Christ-denier.

My life is a repudiation of all you believe is true.

I spit in the face of God and trample under the blood of the covenant.

Outside of these things I am still a pretty good guy.

You don’t really love and respect my position.

How can you?

I stand in opposition to virtually everything you believe.

Besides, I voted for Obama, and I plan to vote for Biden in November.

You believe the Bible is God’s truth.

I don’t.

You believe that human beings are vile, depraved sinners needing salvation.

I don’t.

You believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life.

I don’t.

You think attending church on Sunday is the most important thing a person can do.

I don’t.

What does the Bible say about someone like me?

Be honest.

I am a dog returned to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22).

I am a pig returned to the pig pen (2 Peter 2:22).

I have given heed to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).

I am a scoffer walking in my own lusts (2 Peter 3:2-7).

I am willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:2-7).

I am a false prophet, a false teacher out to deceive all who come in contact with me (Matthew 24:11-12).

Let me remind you of what the Bible says about someone like me:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:

(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;

Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2)

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

The Bible is clear. God has spoken. It would have been better for me not to have ever known Jesus, never to have been saved.

I understand why some Evangelicals become so violent, so aggressive with me. I am a fly in their ointment, a stench that cannot be removed. Their answer is to declare that I never was a Christian, that I never was saved, that I never believed the truth, that I am a publican and a heathen (Matthew 18).

But YOU know better.

You know what I believed.

You know how I lived.

You know . . .

I don’t ask you to love and respect my position.

Stand for what you believe, what you think is the truth.

All I ask of you is that you truly have an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15).

Don’t tell me what your denomination, pastor, or church believes.

Don’t tell me to read the latest, greatest book by a Christian apologist.

What do YOU really believe?

If you know what you believe, shout it out from the mountaintops.

But, if you are not so sure . . .

If you have questions . . .

If you have doubts . . .

Consider me an alternative viewpoint.

I am not a guru.

I am not a prophet.

I am just one man on a journey from eternity to here.

This blog is the written expression of my journey.

It is my “bible.”

I am nothing more than one man crying in the wilderness of his own life, seeking to know and understand not only his own life, but the lives of those he inhabits the earth with.

Most of all, I am here to help.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

How I Answered Science Questions When I was an IFB Pastor

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

As a Baptist pastor, how did I answer science questions? The short answer is . . . I didn’t.

I was five years old when my parents joined Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego, California. I would remain associated with the Evangelical church for the next forty-five years, pastoring churches in Texas, Ohio, and Michigan. Whether as a church member or as a pastor, I and the world I was a part of were insulated from secular science. As a pastor, I rarely had someone ask me a science question, and the reason for this is quite simple. I believed and taught others to believe:

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible, Word of God.
  • The Bible, in most instances, is meant to be read literally.
  • Genesis 1-3 accurately and literally records HOW God made the universe and everything in it in six 24-hour days, 6,023 years ago
  • If science conflicts with what the Bible says, science is wrong and the Bible is right. Always, without exception.
  • Questions and doubts are the works of Satan.
  • Certainty of belief is a sign of faith and maturity.

Besides the Bible, we Fundamentalists had our own science books and scientists. My favorite Evangelical “scientists” were Henry Morris and John Whitcomb. Morris had a degree in engineering, Whitcomb a degree in theology. Even though their books contradicted accepted scientific facts, they had a high view of Scripture and accepted the Bible as the final answer to every question, so their books carried great weight in many Evangelical circles. I have no doubt that if I were still a pastor I would have taken church groups to the Creation Museum — Ken Ham’s monument to ignorance — so we could see the “proof” of our creationist beliefs.

The children in the churches I pastored were largely insulated from the world. Many of the children were homeschooled or attended private Christian schools. Children were not encouraged to go to college, especially wicked secular colleges. The highest calling for a woman was to marry a godly man and bear children, and the highest calling for a man was to become a preacher or a missionary. All other vocations were considered inferior.

From 1983-1994, I pastored Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. For five of those years, we operated a tuition-free, church-member-only, Christian school. We used Rod and Staff science textbooks — books that emphasized the young earth creationist point of view. Rod and Staff is a Mennonite/Amish book publisher. My wife and I also homeschooled our children. We used Rod and Staff textbooks to teach science to our children.

I have very little science training. I took a general science class in 9th grade, biology in 10th grade, and biology in college. My college biology class was an absolute waste of time. No lab. No experimentation. The teacher, a local pastor, read to us from a biology book published by a Christian book publisher. The only thing I remember from my college biology class (the same class my wife took) was the teacher’s lecture on not marrying outside of your class, religion, or race. He was quite bigoted and racist.

The few times I was asked a science question that challenged my creationist beliefs I replied:

The BIBLE says . . .

This was the answer I gave for almost every challenge to what I taught.

The BIBLE says . . .

THE BIBLE SAYS really meant:

This is my interpretation of the Bible, my interpretation comes straight from God, my interpretation is final, so shut up and get back to serving Jesus.

There are thousands and thousands of American churches and pastors who hold similar views. The United States is one of the most scientifically advanced nations on earth, yet, at the same time, we are quite ignorant about basic scientific facts. We can thank religion for our collective ignorance.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Christian Fundamentalists are Right about Genesis 1-3

“I think that if the data is overwhelming in favor, in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult, some odd group that’s not really interacting with the real world. . . . And to deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death if we stopped loving God with all of our minds and thinking about it, I think it’s our spiritual death. It’s also our spiritual death in witness to the world that we’re not credible, that we are bigoted, we have a blind faith and this is what we’re accused of. . . . And I think it is essential to us or we’ll end up like some small sect somewhere that retained a certain dress or a certain language. And they end up so . . . marginalized, totally marginalized, and I think that would be a great tragedy for the church, for us to become marginalized in that way.”

— Christian Hebrew scholar Bruce Waltke.

Several years ago, Cameron Buettel, a student at The Master’s Seminary, — a Fundamentalist institution established by John MacArthur — recently wrote an article on the Grace to You website about the importance of believing in a literal, six-day creation. Here’s what he had to say:

Most of us are familiar with politicians who obfuscate simple questions with complex political answers. Who can forget Bill Clinton’s “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”? Unfortunately, obfuscation exists in the realm of theology as well. God may not be “a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33), but there are scores of biblical scholars, theologians, and pastors who insert plenty of it into the first few chapters of Genesis.

Evangelicalism abounds with theologians who don’t know what the meaning of the word “day” is. The Hebrew word for day, yom, appears more than two thousand times in the Old Testament and would attract virtually no debate were it not for six specific appearances in Genesis 1. But those six days of creation are now at loggerheads with modern scientific dating methods. Rather than stand firm on the biblical account, church leaders acquiesce to unprovable theories and confuse the clear and consistent biblical teaching on origins…

Buettel is correct when he says the literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 is at odds with modern scientific dating methods. The gap between the two is so vast that there is no possible way to reconcile the two viewpoints. Both could be wrong, but both cannot be right. If you accept that universe is about 14 billion years old, then the idea that God created the universe in six literal 24-hour days is false.

Later in the article, Buttel addresses the implications of the 6 days of creation being anything other than literal 24-hour days:

…There are only two ways to deny a six-day creation: ignore the text or reject the text. Scholars ignore the actual text by blinding themselves to the genre, grammar, and layout in order to insert their own. Skeptics simply reject the text as erroneous. Either way, the result is the same—a clear text becomes a confused text.

Some people like to dismiss this debate as a secondary issue, not directly related to the gospel. But it is clearly an issue that goes to the authority of Scripture. And furthermore, as MacArthur rightly points out, it has massive repercussions for the gospel:

“If Adam was not the literal ancestor of the entire human race, then the Bible’s explanation of how sin entered the world makes no sense. Moreover, if we didn’t fall in Adam, we cannot be redeemed in Christ, because Christ’s position as the Head of the redeemed race exactly parallels Adam’s position as the head of the fallen race: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18–19). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life–giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45; cf. 1 Timothy 2:13–14; Jude 14).

So in an important sense, everything Scripture says about our salvation through Jesus Christ hinges on the literal truth of what Genesis 1–3 teaches about Adam’s creation and fall. There is no more pivotal passage of Scripture.”

The opening chapters of Genesis are not up for debate, nor are they negotiable. The academic credibility of our faith is meaningless if we’re so quick to sacrifice the meaning of Scripture at the altar of public opinion. Better to be counted a fool for the sake of God’s Word than to be embraced for our willingness to compromise it.

Buettel and MacArthur are correct. There is no textual or theological warrant for making the six days of creation mean anything other than six literal, 24-hour days. The natural reading of the text demands that the word “day” = 24 hours. Revisionists, desperately trying to reconcile evolution with Genesis 1-3, need to stop with the intellectual and theological gymnastics. The text says what it says. There are no gaps, no alternative explanations.

The only question that remains is whether to accept or reject what Genesis 1-3 says. If a Christian goes with science and the universe being 14 billion years old, he must explain what he plans to do with Adam and Eve, their fall into sin, and how their non-existence affects the atonement of Jesus for humankind’s sin. Several years ago, biologist Jerry Coyne had this to say about Adam and Eve:

…The problem, as you’ll know if you’re a regular here, is that genetic data show clearly that the genes of modern humans do not descend from only two people (or eight, if you believe the Noah story) in the last few thousand years. Back-calculating from the genetic diversity seen in modern humans, and making conservative assumptions, evolutionary geneticists have shown that the human population could not have been smaller than about 12,250 individuals: 10,000 in Africa and 2,250 in the group of individuals that left Africa and whose descendants colonized the rest of the world.  There was a population “bottleneck,” but it was nowhere near two or eight people.

This shows that Adam and Eve were not the historical ancestors of all humanity. And of course that gives theology a problem: if the Primal Couple didn’t give rise to everyone, then whence our affliction with Adam and Eve’s Original Sin? That sin, which the pair incurred by disobeying God, is supposed to have been passed on to the descendants of Adam and Eve, i.e., all of us. And it’s that sin that Jesus supposedly came to Earth to expiate. But if Original Sin didn’t exist, and Adam and Eve were simply fictional metaphors, then Jesus died for a metaphor. That’s not good!

That doesn’t sit well with theologians, of course, who, if they accept the science (and most of the smarter ones have), must then explain the significance of Adam and Eve, and whether they really existed. I discuss this in the Albatross as well; suffice it to say here that there are several interpretations of Adam and Eve as both historical and metaphorical, many of them funny and none of them coming close to solving the problem of Original Sin and the coming of Jesus…

It’s the proverbial slippery slope. Abandoning a literal six-day creation results in abandoning a literal Adam and Eve. No Adam and Eve? No original sin. No original sin? No need for Jesus to die on the cross.

Fundamentalists are right on this one. So what’s a Christian to do? Simple — use the brain you say God gave you. Based on the available scientific evidence, is the universe 6,000 years old or 14 billion years old? Does evolution best explain the biological world, or does a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-3 explain it? If you answer 14 billion years and evolution, then a greater intellectual task awaits you: reconciling what you believe about sin, Jesus, and redemption with what you know about the universe.

I don’t think it can be done, though I admire and appreciate those who try. I know many liberal/progressive Christians want to embrace what science says about the universe while, at the same time, hanging onto the Bible and what it says about sin, Jesus, and redemption. From my perspective, this is a match made in intellectual hell, one that requires a good bit of cognitive dissonance.

It’s not up to me to tell people what to believe about God, but I do think Christians should be honest about the dilemma science poses for them. How is it possible to reconcile a 14 billion-year-old universe and evolution with what the Christian church has historically taught about creation, Adam and Eve, original sin, Jesus, and redemption?

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Evangelicals and Their Duplicitous Argument for the Generic God

thomas jefferson

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Evangelicals are quite specific when it comes to God. There is ONE God, their God, the triune God revealed in the Christian Bible. All other gods are false gods. While it is increasingly common for Evangelicals to embrace Catholics as fellow Christians, it was not that long ago that most Evangelical churches and pastors believed the Roman Catholic church was the harlot of Revelation 17 and that Catholics were worshipers of a false deity. While it is encouraging to see some Evangelicals consider the thought that Catholics and Mormons might worship the same God as they do, the overwhelming majority of Evangelicals believe their God is the one, true God. No other gods need apply.

What I find interesting is how duplicitous Evangelicals can be when it comes to the mentioning of God in the founding documents of the United States, on our money, and in the Pledge of Allegiance. Evangelicals, knowing that the constitution forbids the establishment of a state church, argue before Congress and the courts that the founding fathers spoke of a generic god, that the God mentioned in the Pledge of Allegiance is no god in particular.  And since the documents, laws, and the like use the word god in a generic sense, they do not violate the establishment clause or run afoul of the separation of church and state.

Yet, they turn right around, once they are away from the halls of congress and the courthouse, and say the use of the word God in our founding documents is in reference to the Christian God. They preach sermons and write books about the United States being a Christian nation. Evangelical pastors remind parishioners that the Pledge of Allegiance’s God is the Christian God, and some churches even say the Pledge on Sundays. And to some degree they are right.

Did our founding fathers have a generic god in mind when they spoke and wrote of God? The simple answer is no. Now, they most certainly did not have the modern Evangelical God in mind when they used the word, but they didn’t have the gods of Islam, Judaism, or any of the other religions of the world in mind either. Their God was the Christian God. Some of them were orthodox Christians, others were deists, but no one, as far as I know, meant anything other than the Christian God.

Why is it that Evangelicals run from this fact when they speak before congress or the courts? Why do they argue that these mentions of God are generic and not a reference to any specific god? Again, the answer is quite simple. They know admitting that these documents use the word God in a specific sense weakens their argument for their continued use. If the Pledge of Allegiance or “In God We Trust” on our money reference a non-specific God, then it makes it harder for atheists and secularists to argue that these things are unconstitutional.

It’s time for Evangelicals to start telling the truth when they testify before congress or appear before state and federal courts. It’s time they admit that the God of our founding documents and much of America’s history is the Christian God. Once they do this, we can then have a legislative and legal discussion about “In God We Trust” on our money, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the countless other places the use of the word God implies a sectarian view of God.

Whatever our country might have been in 1620 or 1776, we are not that now and our government should reflect this. Certainly, Christians are free to be legislators and judges, but their religious beliefs should not play a part when they act on behalf of the people of the United States. It’s time we return to the pre-1954 Pledge of Allegiance:

pledge of allegiance before 1954
Pre-1954 Card with the Pledge of Allegiance

The same could be said about our paper money. “In God We Trust” appeared for the first time on paper money in 1957. Adding “In God We Trust” to our money, and adding a reference to God in the Pledge came during the McCarthy era — a time many Americans saw a “red (communist) under every bed.” Representative Charles Edward Bennett of Florida cited the Cold War when he introduced the bill (H.R. 619, a bill that required that the inscription “In God We Trust” appear on all paper and coin currency in the House) saying “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, we should continually look for ways to strengthen the foundations of our freedom.”

As the citizens of the United States increasingly embrace secularism and pluralism, perhaps it is time to throw the Christian God into the dust bin of human history.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Black Collar Crime: ELCA Pastor Steven Tibbetts Charged with Distributing Child Pornography

steven tibbetts

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Steven Tibbetts, pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey, Illinois, stands accused of distributing child pornography.

KMOV-4 reports:

Steven P. Tibbetts, 61, served as the head pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Godfrey.

….

Prosecutors say the investigation of Tibbetts began in August 2019 when the blogging and social network site, Tumblr, provided a cyber tip line report about one of its user accounts to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The account was searched by law enforcement and allegedly found to contain images and videos of nude minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

According to the complaint, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also received a tip from Twitter in February 2020 that one of its users had uploaded two images of suspected child pornography.

Investigators were allegedly able to trace the Tumblr and Twitter accounts back to Tibbetts’ home, where a federal search warrant was executed on June 18. A search of Tibbetts’ computer allegedly revealed the presence of additional child pornography images and videos. Agents then arrested Tibbetts at his home.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Is God to Blame for Weather that Kills People?

god in control of the weather

Is God to blame for weather that kills people? If you are a Christian and you believe the Bible is truth then the answer to this question is an emphatic YES. People killed by tornadoes? God’s doing. The people killed by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy? God’s doing. Mudslides, floods, tsunamis, lightning, thunderstorms, blizzards, ice storms . . . all of these come from the hand of God, and he is ultimately responsible for any death or injury caused by these weather events.

The Bible is clear:

  • And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt. Exodus 10:19
  • And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth. Numbers 11:31
  • For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: Job 28:24-26
  • But the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken. Jonah 1:4
  • But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered. And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.  Jonah 4:7-8
  • He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.  Psalm 78:26
  • These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.  Psalm 107:24-25
  • He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries. Psalm 135:7
  • And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish. And he saith unto them, Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith? Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. But the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! Matthew 8:25-27
  • Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Exodus 9:18
  • And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. Exodus 9:22
  • Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire. Isaiah 29:6
  • And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.Genesis 6:17
  • Thou didst cleave the fountain and the flood: thou driedst up mighty rivers. The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Psalm 74:16
  • For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; 2 Peter 2:4-6
  • For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth. Genesis 7:4
  • And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. Deuteronomy 11:13-15
  • That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45
  • For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth; likewise to the small rain, and to the great rain of his strength.  Job 37:6

If you are a Bible-believing, born-again, Jesus-loving Christian, there’s no doubt about who’s in control of the weather. The Bible makes it clear that God is the divine weatherman. If God controls the weather, then HE is responsible for the devastation and death that come when bad weather comes our way.

Not happenstance.

Not Mother Nature.

God.

Not any God, the Christian God.

Dear Christian friend, the next time you are bitching about the weather please turn your bitching towards your God. He’s the one to blame.

Several years ago, a Christian commenter left this gem:

The thing is you want a God in your own image. You are justifying yourself and bringing him down to a human level. Complain, mock all you want. Like a crybaby. He is God and is right and as God can make the rules, not you. He is truth, whether you like it or not. The creator has the right to impose what he deems correct on His creation according to His standards. I am sorry for whatever has brought you to the point that you have set yourself against Him so, but it is just pitiful that in the end you are going to find out that the reason He does what he does is for your good and final happiness also, not because He is a tyrant like you think. But you will have missed out, because all you think of is “poor me.”

According to the Bible, this commenter is correct. Basically, God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do. How dare any pimple-on-the-ass-of-God human beings say anything about what God does. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 9, shut the fuck up

Every day, somewhere in the world, the Christian God is using his control of the weather to bring devastation and death.

Who are we to complain?

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Certainty

certainty erich fromm

CERTAINTY

  1. The fact, quality, or state of being certain: the certainty of death.
  2. Something that is clearly established or assured.

SYNONYMS certainty, certitude, assurance, conviction. These nouns mean freedom from doubt. Certainty implies a thorough consideration of evidence: “the emphasis of a certainty that is not impaired by any shade of doubt” (Mark Twain). Certitude is based more on personal belief than on objective facts: “Certitude is not the test of certainty” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.). Assurance is a feeling of confidence resulting from subjective experience: “There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life” (John Stuart Mill). Conviction arises from the vanquishing of doubt: “His religion . . . was substantial and concrete, made up of good, hard convictions and opinions. (Willa Cather).

Ah yes, Certainty.

One of linchpins of Evangelical Christianity is certainty.

I KNOW in whom I have believed, said the Apostle Paul.

I have a KNOWSO salvation, a line spoken by countless Baptist on Sunday mornings.

Doubt is of the Devil.

Saved or Lost.

Heaven or Hell.

Truth or Error.

Infallibility.

Inerrancy.

A supernatural God who wrote a supernatural book that speaks of a supernatural salvation.

You can know for sure_______ (fill in the blank with a theological premise).

If you died today would you go to Heaven?

If there is one error in the Bible then none of it is true.

Yet, for all the Christian-speak about certainty, real life suggests that certainty is a myth.

We live in a world of chance, ambiguity, and doubt.

Will I die today?

Will I have a job tomorrow?

Will I be able to walk a year from now?

What does the future hold for my spouse, children, and grandchildren?

Climate change?

War?

Environmental degradation?

Pandemics?

Who will win the Super Bowl?

Will my garden flourish?

Will I get lucky tonight?

Life is anything but certain.

Evangelical Christians offload the uncertainties of this life to a certain future in Heaven with Jesus. No matter how uncertain the present is, Evangelicals can, with great certainty, KNOW Heaven awaits them.

One problem though . . .

No one KNOWS for sure there is a Heaven.

No one has been to Heaven and returned to earth to give us a travel report (and those who say they have are either lying or out to make a quick buck).

The Heaven most Evangelicals believe in isn’t even found in the Bible. Most Christians have a mystical, fanciful, syrupy, non-Biblical view of Heaven.

Grandma really isn’t in Heaven right now running around praising Jesus. According to the Bible, Grandma is presently rotting in the grave awaiting the resurrection of the dead.

I don’t know if there is a Heaven.

I have my doubts, lots of doubts.

I’m inclined to think Heaven is a state of mind. Or West Virginia.

We all want to believe life matters.

Many of us want to believe that there is more to life than what we now have.

We want to believe there will someday be a world without pain, suffering, or death.

But, what if there is not?

What if this is it?

What if we truly only have hope in this life?

Should we not make the most of what we have NOW?

Perhaps we should take seriously the Bible admonition not to boast about tomorrow because we don’t know what the day will bring.

Heaven will wait.

Live.

You and I are given one life and it will soon be past.

Live.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Should Churches be Tax-Exempt?

irs

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

If people give money, services, or property to a church, they can use the amount of their donation to reduce their federal income tax liability. Every year, billions of dollars of money, services, and property are given to churches. All churches, by default, are tax-exempt. Many people wrongly think that a church must be 501(c)(3)-approved to be tax-exempt. But that’s not the case. All a group needs to say to be tax-exempt is this: we are a church. That’s it. By 9:00 a.m. next Sunday, I could start a church that would be completely tax-exempt by IRS standards, even if only my family attended. (Please see How to Start an Independent Baptist Church.)

The IRS deliberately steers away from explicitly defining what a church is. In their view, if it looks and acts like a church, it is a church. Here are the main criteria the IRS uses to decide whether a church is tax-exempt:

  • a distinct legal existence and religious history,
  • a recognized creed and form of worship,
  • established places of worship
  • a regular congregation and regular religious services, and
  • an organization of ordained ministers

As you can see, it is very easy for a group to be considered a church by the IRS.

Churches are also, in many states, exempt from paying sales and real estate taxes. Ohio is one such state. Churches can even operate for-profit businesses that are tax-exempt. In the 1970s, churches were encouraged to start daycare centers as a way to maximize building use and generate income – uh, I mean, minister to the poor. Just because a church tacks the word “ministry” on the end of a business name doesn’t make it one.

The question I ask is this: Should church donations be tax-deductible? Should churches be tax-exempt?

Christians will quickly state that their church is a charity and does good in the community, so their church should be tax-exempt and members should get a tax deduction for their donations. Relative to the amount of money they take in, do churches really do a great amount of good in the community? If the average church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone outside of the membership care? Take a look at a church’s budget. Where does MOST of the money go? Salaries, benefits, insurance, utilities, buildings, and programs that only benefit the congregation. If a “real” charity spent their money in this manner, the IRS would pull their tax exemption and donations to said charity would no longer be tax-deductible. Yet, the IRS and federal and state governments give churches a blind-eye pass.

I have written on churches and their finances many times over the years. If you are getting ready to object, here’s my challenge. Send me your church’s budget. Let me take a close look at it. I have eagle-like eyes for seeing through the budget secrecy and bullshit many churches practice. Let’s take a close look at the numbers. Not the annual generic summary, but the actual income and expenses, I have made this challenge many times over the years, and not one church, pastor, or Christian has taken me up on it. They whimper, whine, and complain, but they never produce their financial documents. Why? They know the emperor has no clothes. They know if they shared their financials that the truth would be revealed.

If a church wants to be considered a tax-exempt charity, then they should be required to apply for charity status. They should then be required to spend the bulk of their money on charitable services that benefit the community. No church should be tax-exempt just because they say we are a church.

Most churches are social clubs and the price of membership is what people give in donations. The club rightly spends the bulk of its money on things that directly benefit the membership. As a club — a for-profit business — a church should be required to pay taxes and fill out all the tax forms that other businesses do. Isn’t it about time churches start paying their own way, just as every other business does? Why should First Baptist Church or St Peter’s Catholic Church be tax-exempt and receive free fire and police service and free infrastructure improvements? Why shouldn’t Betty’s Coffee Shop or Bob’s Bar and Grill get the same tax treatment as a church?

I support the elimination of all church tax exemptions (sales, real estate, income, social security), church donation tax deduction, and the clergy housing tax allowance/deduction. A practical side effect of eliminating these exemptions is that churches would then be free to endorse political candidates. No more Christian whining about their “free” speech being stifled. Churches would be FREE to do what they want AND pay taxes just like everyone else.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?

hell-is-a-real-place

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Oh, preachers preach about it. Life is short, Hell is real, or so they say. But I am not sure they really believe what they are saying.

Baptists are noted for being hellfire and brimstone preachers. In my Baptist preacher days, I preached hundreds of sermons on Hell. The altar was often lined with sinners fearing Hell. I was a very, very good Hell preacher.

Everyone knows that someday they will die. Many people fear what happens after death. It is the fear of the unknown that leads many people towards religion. Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching is good for the church business. If people fear Hell, they are more likely to buy into the salvation/Heaven scenario. You don’t want to go to Hell, do you? You don’t want to burn in the flames of Hell forever, do you? Scare people right into Heaven, that’s the essence of the gospel preached by many Evangelicals.

I have come to the conclusion that most preachers really don’t believe in Hell. Preach as they might about Hell, when it comes time to put their theology into practice, they cower and refuse to proclaim their Hell belief.

Let me tell you a story about a man named Bob. (Bob is a pseudonym, but all the details that follow are real.) Bob was raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist home. His parents were stern, devout, Christians who helped start several local Baptist churches.

At the age of 17, Bob attended a revival meeting at the local Baptist church. When the invitation was given, Bob walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and at that moment became a born-again Christian.

A short time after his conversion, Bob had a falling-out with his family and moved out of his parents’ home. Bob never attended church another day in his life apart from an occasional funeral or wedding.

Bob lived to be 83 years old. From the time Bob was 17 until he died, he lived a life of sin and infamy. Bob was a child abuser. Bob beat his wife. Bob was a drunk. No woman was safe from Bob’s leering eye and his groping hands.

Bob was a nasty, vulgar kind of drunk.

Bob raped a woman while her 12-year-old son was home from school sick. He was never prosecuted because his victim was a mentally troubled family member.

Bob died recently.

Bob’s funeral was held at the same Baptist church he once attended.  His family still attends the church. The funeral was the first time that Bob had been to church in over 60 years.

The preacher mentioned what an ornery man Bob was. And then the preacher spent the next 20 minutes preaching AT Bob’s friends. The funeral service was not about Bob at all, it was all about Jesus. Maybe that was better because it was probably hard to find much good to say about Bob.

Mercifully, the preacher brought his Jesus talk to a close with an invitation to trust Jesus as savior.

Why? So they too could be in Heaven someday with Bob. The Bob, who at age 17 walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and became a Christian.

Shocking?

Hardly.

I have attended dozens of funerals over the years. I have preached a good number of funeral sermons myself. In every case, the deceased was preached into Heaven. No matter how the person lived, no matter what they did, heaven was their final destination.

Baptists are known for believing in what is commonly called “once saved, always saved.” While I no longer claim to be a professing Christian, and I am quite vocal about my atheism, according to many Christians, I can’t get “unsaved.” Once saved, always saved (also called eternal security or the preservation of the saints). God has me whether I want him or not.

According to the preacher at First Baptist, Bob is safe in the arms of Jesus. Pity all the women he raped, abused, and molested over the years. Pity all those he terrorized when he was drunk. The fire insurance Bob bought at age 17 covered everything he would ever do. This gave him immunity from prosecution for all his debauchery.

It matters not that he did not attend church in the past 60 years. He never prayed; never read the Bible. In fact, he cursed God, hated God, and lived as if there is no God.

But, at age 17 . . . well, you get the gist of the story.

It is time to be honest, preachers. Hell doesn’t really exist, does it? For all your hellfire and brimstone preaching, when it comes right down to it everyone makes it in. Anyone who EVER had a momentary religious experience is safe.

Preachers, if you object to what I have written, why not tell the truth about the Bobs of the world? If your God be true and every man a liar, if your Bible is true, then people like Bob are burning in Hell. It seems you can quite easily tell wonderful stories about people going to Heaven, why not the opposite?

Personally, I do not believe in Hell. If there is any hell at all, it is here and now. But, if you claim to believe the Bible is the Word of God, then speak as if you do. Don’t pollute God’s Heaven by sending any more Bobs there.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Dear Family and Friends: Why I Can’t and Won’t Go to Church 

no church

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

To those who call me Bruce, Butch, Dad, or Grandpa:

In November 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. Since then, I have walked through the doors of a church three times, once for a baby baptism, and twice for a funeral. All three experiences left me angry and irritated.

The first service was a baby baptism at a local Catholic church. I thought, Bruce, ignore the bullshit, you are there to support your children. I was fine until the priest began exorcising the devil out of my granddaughter. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. After the service, I made up my mind that I would never again attend such a service. No baptisms, no confirmations, no dedications, no nothing. Nada, zero, zip. All of my children and extended family know this. Polly is free to attend any or none of these services, but I can’t and I won’t.

The last two services were funerals. One was the funeral of my sexual predator uncle. The local Baptist preacher preached my uncle right into heaven. (I wrote about that here: Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell.) The second service was for Polly’s fundamentalist uncle. Nice guy, but the service was all about Jesus, complete with a sermon and call to salvation. Again, I wanted to scream, but I reminded myself that I was there to support our family.

I’ve decided I can suck it up and endure the Jesus talk for the sake of family. I know there are a lot of funerals in our future, that is if the rapture doesn’t take place. I wish it would so there would be no Christians left to bother me. I’ll do my best to support my family in their hour of grief; however, anyone who tries to evangelize me does so at their own risk. I refuse to be bullied by sanctimonious Bible thumpers who think they are salvation dispensing machines.

I’ve decided that I will walk through the door of a church for two events: funerals and weddings. That’s it. I don’t do church, and the sooner family, friends, and local Christian zealots understand this the better. If the event doesn’t say funeral or wedding, I ain’t going. I can’t and I won’t. If this causes someone to be angry, upset, or irritated, there is nothing I can do about it. That’s their problem.

You see, twelve years ago I said to my family, “you are free.” (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) Be who and what you want to be. Be/stay a Christian, choose another religion or philosophical system, or choose nothing at all. With freedom comes choice. It seems the religious love their choice. They find great benefit, purpose, and meaning, through their particular religion. That’s great. If it makes them happy, then I am happy. But, shouldn’t I be afforded the same freedom and happiness? Why shouldn’t my wife and I have the freedom to NOT participate in church services, rituals, and the like?

Suppose I worship the Cat God Purr. Once a year, all the Purrites get together at my house for a very special service. Part of our ritual is the sacrifice of a female cat. Much like the Israelites in the Bible with their blood sacrifices to Jehovah, we offer up a cat as our sacrifice to Purr. Afterward, we roast the cat and eat it, and in doing so we are taking into our body and soul the blood and body of Cat God Purr.

Now imagine me inviting my Christian family to the service. I let them know when the service is and how important it is to me for them to be there. I also let them know that I would like them to partake of the roasted cat so they too could have inside of them the blood and body of the Cat God Purr. Can you imagine how they would respond?

First, in their eyes Purr is a false God. Second, the cat roasting ritual is barbaric and offensive. While I may invite them to the service, I would certainly understand if they didn’t come. Why? Because my God is not their God and I respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. 

It seems if people are atheists, they are not afforded the same decency and respect. Did Polly and I become lesser persons, parents, or grandparents the moment we stopped believing? Does our relationship with family and friends hinge on us sitting our ass in a pew for ten minutes or an hour? Frankly, I refuse to let any particular circumstance harm a relationship. If someone asks me to go to a church service or a ritual and I say no and they never ask me again, it’s no big deal. However, once someone knows that I do NOT attend such services and they continue to ask me anyway, this tells me that they do not respect me.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the ministry. I’ve had enough church to last me ten lifetimes. The best way for the religious and the nonreligious to get along is for both sides to compartmentalize their beliefs. I don’t talk about religion/atheism/humanism with my Christian family and friends unless they ask. If they ask, I will gladly give my opinion or share my viewpoint. I am not going to invite them to hear Sam Harris speak, nor am I going to give them Bart Ehrman’s books. If they ask or want to know, that’s different, but if they don’t then I choose to focus on the other things we have in common and leave religion/atheism in the closet. Christian family and friends need to do the same. If I ask, then by all means tell me. If not, let’s focus on the things we have in common. Life is too short to have conflict over religion.

I subscribe to the when-in-Rome-Do-as-the-Romans-Do rule. When I am at a Christian’s home and they offer up a prayer to their deity, I respectfully bow my head. It’s their home and they are free to do what they want. Yes, I have an opinion about God and prayer, but their home is not the place to share it. The same goes for my home. We are not religious, we are not Christian. We don’t pray over our meals, nor do we give the gods one thought before we eat. While we do allow Polly’s dad to pray over the meal when he is here, that is out of respect for him. No big deal, just one more prayer hitting the ceiling. Thousands are already embedded in the paint, what’s one more?

When Christians come to my home, they shouldn’t expect me to change how I live or how I talk. I shouldn’t have to change the music I am listening to, change the TV channel, or remove books from the bookshelf. This is our home, and anyone, even family, who walks through the door is a guest. And the same goes for the Christian’s home. If I visit there, I don’t expect them to do anything different from what they normally do. I respect their space, their freedom.

Freedom is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, for many Christians it is a one-way street called Their Way. They want the freedom to worship their God and practice their faith, but they don’t want to grant others the same freedom. Of course, I know why. They think they have the truth and Polly and I are on a false path that leads to judgment, hell, and eternal punishment. They don’t want us to continue driving on the highway that leads to perdition. But, here’s the thing . . . we don’t think we are on the highway to hell. Since we don’t believe there is a God, it naturally follows that we don’t believe in hell, judgment, heaven, or eternity. It’s up to us to determine what road we want to travel, and for Polly and me, we are quite happy to drive on the road named Reason.

Let me conclude this post with a personal thought about church services in general and why I can’t and won’t attend them.  First, I know the Bible inside and out. I have a theological education, an education that began at a Bible college and continued through the 25 years I spent pastoring churches. So, when I hear preachers and priests preach, I can spot the bullshit from a mile away. I also have little tolerance for preachers who lack the requisite skills necessary to craft a good sermon and deliver it. In my opinion, there’s lots of anemic, pathetic preaching these days. Second, I find many of the rituals offensive. Casting the devil out an infant? Washing away sin with water? Services that are all show and no substance? Vows that are uttered and become lies before the service is over?  Wine and wafers turning into real blood and flesh? Magic wand rituals and practices that pretend to make the past go away and make the present brand new? Preachers, pastors, bishops, and priests touching a person and conferring some sort of divine power? All of these things are offensive to me. They are reminders to me of the bankruptcy of religion and why I want nothing to do with it.

I know that I can’t force people to accept me as I am, but I can choose how and when I interact with them. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Laura and a grandmother called up complaining about her daughter-in-law. Dr. Laura told her to quit her bitching. If she didn’t, she risked not being able to see her grandchildren. That was good advice and I remembered it years later when my fundamentalist step-grandmother called me. I wrote about this in the post Dear Ann:

. . . For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you preceded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years, I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train…

That’s what can happen when we push, badger, and cajole. I am an atheist, not a Christian, and will likely remain so until I die. My family and friends need to come to terms with this, and if they don’t, then it’s on them if they ruin our relationship.

When our children married, we vowed that we would NEVER be meddling parents/grandparents. If we offer our opinion on something, we do it once. That’s it. Unless someone asks, we don’t say another word. Every person in my family has the right to live freely and authentically. Yes, they make decisions that I think are foolish, but it’s their life and they are free to live it any way they want. Whether it is Polly’s parents, our children, our daughters-in-law, or our grandchildren, we don’t meddle in their lives. We want them to be happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.

All that I want is the freedom to live my life authentically. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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