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Category: Religion

The ONE True Church of Jesus Christ

catholic one true church

The Churches of Christ, along with the Baptists and the Roman Catholic Church, consider themselves to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. According to catholic365.com, there are five reasons the Roman Catholic Church is the true church:

1. Authority- Jesus gave specific instructions regarding dealing with members of the Church who were in sin. Matthew 18:15-18 says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What Evangelical/Protestant Church has the authority to remove someone completely from the church? None. If an individual is removed from a ‘congregation’ then he/she can go down the street and join another ‘congregation’ of the same denomination. The congregations are individualized and have no authority outside their own denomination. That is not true with the Catholic Church. If removed from the Catholic Church, one cannot go to another city and join another Catholic Parish.

2. History- The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1st Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3rd century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.

The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther. The East-West (Great) Schism was caused by Patriarch Michael I. According to Titus 3:9-11, the divisions led by Patriarch Michael I and Martin Luther were sin. “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile. After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned..”

3. The Catholic Church gave Christians the Bible- The first official list of books contained is what is the Bible was done at the Council of Hippo in 393 and then again in Carthage in 397 and 419. However, the Council of Trent in 1556 was the first time the Church infallibly defined these books as ‘inspired’ because it was questioned by Reformers. We have to admit, the apostles did not walk around with nice leather bound Bibles in their hand. There are many parts of the Bible that are oral tradition which was written down because when early believers attended the Synagogue or church, the scripture was read. They did not have their own copy with their name engraved on the front. Oral tradition was the norm of practice long before writing and reading was a part of life. The Jews followed the Old Testament before Jesus was born and Jesus is pictured in Scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Synagogue. There were multiple writings from this time but it was only after the list of books determined to be the ‘inspired Word of God’ by the Catholic Church first with the Council of Hippo in 393 that the world had what is called “The Bible”. The Bible remained the original 73 books determined by the Catholic Church until the Reformation, when Martin Luther threw out 7 books of the Old Testament that disagreed with his personal view of theology…the same Old Testament adhered to by the Jews. He threw these 6 books out in the 16th Century. Luther also attempted to throw out New Testament books James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. In referring to James, he said he wanted to ‘throw Jimmy into the fire’ and the book of James was ‘an epistle of straw’ with no usefulness. After Pope Damasus I approved the 27 New Testament Books however in 382 AD, Luther agreed with the Pope and accepted the New Testament books but denied the Old Testament books …which remained out of his Bible. Non-Catholics will accept the Biblical books which are contained in the Protestant Bible but do not acknowledge they are accepting and trusting the authority of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was the one who proclaimed the entire list, as a whole, as ‘inspired’. The letters within the Bible are not the only letters and materials written by the Apostles so, as a result, those contained within the Bible had to be declared ‘inspired’ and it was the Catholic Church which did that duty.

4. The Sacraments are Biblical- The Apostles were given the power to ‘forgive sins’ in John 20:23, Peter taught in I Peter 3:21 that ‘baptism now saves you’, ‘anointing the sick with oil was shown in James 5:14-15, laying on of hands in Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6, marriage in the Lord in I Corinthians 7:39 and Jesus stated numerous times that the disciples should participate in the breaking of bread (Eucharist) by stating ‘he who eats my flesh has eternal life’.

5. Sola Scriptura is not supported in the Bible- It is difficult to make a claim such as Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone) when, in its very essence, the claim must be written within the Bible in order to be Biblical. The concept of “Bible Alone” says it is not truth if it is not contained in the Bible, therefore removing ‘tradition’, but the Bible refutes that principle. Jeremiah 25:3 says the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken”, not just written. Paul told us to hold to our traditions, which are taught by word and mouth or by letter, according to 2 Thess 2:15. The Bible also portrays where a Council was held to settle doctrinal disputes in Acts 15. (Who else has a Council to settle doctrine disputes and holds the authority to do such other than the Catholic Church?) The Bible also warns about ‘twisted’ interpretations of Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and I Timothy 3:15 says THE CHURCH is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth. The Catholic Church has one teaching…one unified teaching…as opposed to the now 43,000 evangelical (Protestant) groups currently established, with 2.3 added each day. Their views on everything from the Trinity, homosexuality, abortion, and salvation all contradict each other. Truth cannot be false at the same time and Truth cannot contradict each other.

trail of blood

Many Baptist churches also consider themselves to be the one true church. These Baptists believe that they can trace their lineage all the way back to Jesus and his apostles. In 1931, Baptist pastor J.M. Carroll published a booklet titled The Trail of Blood. This booklet detailed what is commonly called Landmarkism or Baptist Successionism — the belief that some Baptist churches are the one true church founded by Jesus Christ. Carroll gave ten infallible marks of a true church:

1. Christ, the author of this religion, organized His followers or disciples into a Church. And the disciples were to organize other churches as this religion spread and other disciples were “made.”

2. This organization or church, according to the Scriptures and according to the practice of the Apostles and early churches, was given two kinds of officers and only two–pastors and deacons. The pastor was called “Bishop.” Both pastor and deacons to be selected by the church and to be servants of the church.

3. The churches in their government and discipline to be entirely separate and independent of each other, Jerusalem to have no authority over Antioch–nor Antioch over Ephesus; nor Ephesus over Corinth, and so forth. And their government to be congregational, democratic. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

4. To the church were given two ordinances and only two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These to be perpetual and memorial.

5. Only the “saved” were to be received as members of the church (Acts 2:47). These saved ones to be saved by grace alone without any works of the law (Eph, 2:5, 8, 9). These saved ones and they only, to be immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). And only those thus received and baptized, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and the supper to be celebrated only by the church, in church capacity.

6. The inspired scriptures, and they only, in fact, the New Testament and that only, to be the rule and guide of faith and life, not only for the church as an organization, but for each individual member of that organization.

7. Christ Jesus, the founder of this organization and the savior of its members, to be their only priest and king, their only Lord and Lawgiver, and the only head of the churches. The churches to be executive only in carrying out their Lord’s will and completed laws, never legislative, to amend or abrogate old laws or to make new ones.

8. This religion of Christ to be individual, personal, and purely voluntary or through persuasion. No physical or governmental compulsion. A matter of distinct individual and personal choice. “Choose you” is the scriptural injunction. It could be neither accepted nor rejected nor lived by proxy nor under compulsion.

9. Mark well! That neither Christ nor His apostles, ever gave to His followers, what is known today as a denominational name, such as “Catholic,” “Lutheran,” “Presbyterian,” “Episcopal,” and so forth–unless the name given by Christ to John was intended for such, “The Baptist,” “John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11 and 10 or 12 other times.) Christ called the individual follower “disciple.” Two or more were called “disciples.” The organization of disciples, whether at Jerusalem or Antioch or elsewhere, was called Church. If more than one of these separate organizations were referred to, they were called Churches. The word church in the singular was never used when referring to more than one of these organizations. Nor even when referring to them all.

10. I venture to give one more distinguishing mark. We will call it–Complete separation of Church and State. No combination, no mixture of this spiritual religion with a temporal power. “Religious Liberty,” for everybody.

In the 19th century men such as Barton StoneThomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell took it upon themselves to restore Christian churches to their First Century Apostolic purity. Firmly rooted in Baptist soil, the Restoration movement caused numerous fractures and splits, leading to the establishment of groups such as the Churches of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). While Landmark Baptists and Churches of Christ have similar doctrinal beliefs, neither considers the other part of the true church. These two groups have spent much of the last 160 years fighting over whether baptism is required for salvation. Put a Church of Christ evangelist in the same room with a Baptist elder and they will spend their time together arguing over the Greek word eis (for) in Acts 2:38:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The evangelist will argue that the word for means that a sinner must be baptized in order to have their sins to be remitted. The elder argues that the word for means because of. Christians are baptized, not to have their sins remitted, but because their sins have already been washed away.

church of christ

Al Shannon is a Churches of Christ preacher who displays his theological prowess on the Biblical Proof website. In a May 20, 2016 post titled Are There Any Christians in Denominational Churches?, Shannon makes sure his readers understand that the only true Christians are those who are a member of a Churches of Christ congregation. Shannon writes:

Are there good people in all denominational churches? Are there any Christians once named among them? It’s a fundamental question because denominations profess to be Christians, yet they deny what it requires to become a Christian.

Most Christians understand that when someone obeys the gospel (Rom. 6:17) the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:47), of which is the only blood-bought (Acts 20:28) institution the Bible speaks. This is the “church” which Christ built (Mt 16:18).

The Bible speaks often of the Great Apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-4 f; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). This manifested itself in Roman Catholicism, from which every denomination in the world today sprang (Rev. 17:5). Error truly does begat error.

The Bible also speaks of (and condemns) sectarianism and division, which is what denominationalism really is, as each term stands firmly against the Bible-based unity declared in Ephesians 4:4.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists “factions, parties, and  divisions” as being “works of the flesh,” and warned all men everywhere and for all time that “they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In trying to understand why there are no Christians in any denomination, let us consider three points. First, there was division at Corinth. Just a mere six years after the Corinthian church was planted some of these brethren had developed a sectarian spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul begs his brothers in Christ there to free themselves from all contentions.

….

Secondly, the overwhelming bulk of the denominations in the world today subscribe to most of the views of John Calvin, in particular the false doctrine of “faith only” (that they are saved at the point of belief, separate and apart from further obedience, regardless of what John 3:5 may say).

Therefore, those in the denominations have never obeyed the gospel. They have deceived themselves into believing a lie (2 Thess. 2:11-12), and will, therefore, be destroyed at the Lord’s coming (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

….

Finally, New Testament Christians must be careful not to make man-made laws for our brethren (as some sought to do in Acts 15:1-2). When such happens, a sectarian spirit will develop and will result in something other than New Testament Christianity (Psa. 127:1).

Based on what I have shared above, the Catholics, Baptists, and the Churches of Christ all claim to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. What makes things even more difficult is that there are numerous other groups that claim they are the one true church. How are people supposed to know which sect is the one true church? The Catholics, Baptists, and Churches of Christ all point to the Bible (and history) as proof for their true church declaration. In Ephesians 4:5,6 the Apostle Paul wrote:

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Paul seems to be saying that there is only one true church. While Protestants will say (Baptists and Churches of Christ do not consider themselves Protestants) the one true church is comprised of the true Christians found in the various Christian sects, the Churches of Christ and many Baptists reject what is commonly called the Universal Church or the Invisible Church. They believe that the only church is local churches, each an independent franchise of the One True Church Club®.

So what are sinners to do? Which church is the one true church? How can anyone know whether any sect is the one established by Jesus and the Apostles? You’d think Jesus would come down from Heaven and make clear which group is his Church®. Better yet, why not rain fire down from the skies and destroy every church that is not a part of the One True Church Club®. Surely unbelievers can’t be expected to figure out which church is the right one. Come on God, help us out.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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It is all About Me, I Mean You, Jesus: Trolling for Hey-Zeus

christian troll

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

Warning! Full bore Bruce Almighty snark ahead!

Here is a Facebook message I received today:

Brother can i ask you why you are so angry…brother you are in my prayers and know that the Lord our God loves you with an everlasting love..

Here is my response:

First, you don’t know me.

Second, I am not your brother.

Third, you can’t possibly know if I am angry. You don’t have some sort of special gift to sense emotions through a computer screen.

Fourth, I am not angry. I am sitting here contemplating the fact that my youngest daughter will be married tomorrow. I am performing the ceremony. I am happy, even though I am in excruciating physical pain and I have to respond to someone like you.

Fifth, I have no interest in your God. I have no need of your God and his mythical love. I am a satisfied, happy atheist.

Sixth, by all means pray. Since I think your God is a mythical being, your prayers cannot help or hurt. If it makes you feel better to pray, go ahead.

Seventh, is it your normal behavior to troll Facebook pages offering psychological assessments and un-requested prayer? If so, you might want to try a different approach. Over the past eight years, hundreds of people have tried the same approach and failed miserably. What makes you think that YOUR words will have any effect?

In the the name of reason, Bruce

Troll’s response, with my snarky responses in [brackets]:

Well first of all congratulation on your daughter marriage, Second I just spence [sense] you were [angry]  and I am sorry [No you are not.] I was wrong. I do not troll face book [Yes you do.] I am not why your even come up [It must have been God.]..as for praying I alway will because that is what God has called me to do [Did God tell you to pray for Bruce Gerencser at 345 E Main St in Ney, Ohio on April 1, 2016 at 10:25 PM EST?] as for failing you I haven’t failed you you have fail my God [How could I fail someone who doesn’t exist?] …my words will have no effect but God word do effect people lives. [I know all of God’s words. Let’s play Bible trivia.] God bless you [How can he? I am a God-hating atheist who, with full knowledge of what he is doing, spits in the face of your God. According to the Bible I am God’s enemy, a reprobate.]  and have a wonderful day tomorrow with your daughter and family…I have five daughters and three son and only one is married,it hard to see our children grow up and leave the nest..blessing friend.. [Thanks for the let me play nice ending to what was a really bad idea. Lesson learned? Don’t email atheists, They bite.]

I have zero tolerance for Evangelicals who do these kinds of things. I am polite, but direct. Point made. End of discussion. What’s for dinner? Maybe a roll in the hay later with my hot, angry, godless wife.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

The Mythical Evangelical Victory Over Sin

romans 6 12

According to Evangelicals, the Holy Spirit lives inside of them (1 Corinthians 3:16, John 16:13 and Romans 8:9). This indwelling is what sets the Christian apart from the world — Satan’s Kingdom. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit is greater than Satan. Satan walks to and fro across the earth like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Non-Christians are easily devoured and destroyed by Satan, but not Christians. (2 Corinthians 4:41 Peter 5:8).  Supposedly, because the Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide (John 14:26), Spirit-filled, obedient Evangelicals are immune to sin. Ephesian 6 talks about Christians wearing spiritual armor as they battle Satan:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints… (Ephesians 6:11-18)

In some corners of the Evangelical world, Christians believe they can totally overcome sin and live sinless lives (sinless perfection), although many Evangelicals reject such thinking. But the Bible says that people who sin are of the devil (I John 3:8). This leads me to believe that God expects Christians to live above sin. Jesus told his followers, be ye perfect even as my father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Surely Jesus would not have said this if it was impossible for Christians to attain this lofty standard. Doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are new creations — old things pass away and ALL things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17)? Yet, as we look at how Evangelicals live their lives, what do we see?

There are numerous Evangelical websites dedicated to helping Christians who are “addicted” to porn. Other sites exist to help Evangelicals sexually toe the line. Yet, Evangelicals commit sexual sins at the same level as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. No matter how loud and long Evangelical preachers preach against sexual sin, church members continue to ignore their preaching. There is no statistical category that shows Evangelicals being more moral or ethical than their counterparts in the world. Try as they might, Evangelicals are no different from unsaved family, friends, and neighbors.

Evangelicals KNOW these things, yet they go to church Sunday after Sunday seeking victory over sin. Songs are sung (Victory in Jesus) that testify to the mighty power of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. Sermons are preached extolling the virtues of living sin-free lives. Sometimes, church members find themselves “convicted” over sin. This leads them to fall to their knees, asking Jesus to give them the victory over _____________ (fill in the blank with the sin of the week). Despite all the singing, preaching, and praying, Evangelicals continue to sin. As powerful as Evangelicals tell us God is, he is unable to keep them from sinning. Perhaps humans are more powerful than God. Perhaps human free will cannot be overcome or thwarted by God. How else do we explain daily reports of God-fearing, Bible-preaching pastors raping children, molesting children, having affairs, stealing from their churches, along with a host of other “sins”? (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.)  If Catholic priests are Jesus’ representatives on earth, how do we square this belief with the sexual scandals that have rocked the church over the past decade? If God is so powerful that he holds the world in his hands, why does he allow priests to sodomize boys and Baptist youth leaders to take sexual advantage of church teenagers?

It is time for Evangelicals to join the human race. Stop all the moralizing and sermonizing. You have been found out, Evangelicals, and now it’s time to admit it. Come join us in the muddy, dirty waters of Sin Creek. The water is warm and inviting. Bathing suits are optional. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

Depression and Lightening the Load

eeyore

Updated, corrected, rewritten, expanded

I have battled depression most of my adult life. For many years, I denied that I was depressed, attributing my melancholy to God testing or trying me, Satan tempting me, or God punishing me for this or that sin. My religious beliefs told me that depression was a sign of a backslidden, sinful, or rebellious life. After all, the Bible says in Isaiah 26:3:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee [God]: because he trusteth in thee.

Psalm 43:5 states:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

The Apostle Paul — a First Century Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer — had this to say:

 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And if these verses weren’t enough, there was always the “look at all Jesus suffered on the cross just so you could be saved and go to Heaven someday!” Compared to what Jesus went through, my depression was nothing. (Please see I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend.)

I had numerous colleagues in the ministry, but talking to them about my depression was not an option. Talking to them meant admitting I was weak or “sinful.” I never considered seeking out the help of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. How could I? I had preached numerous sermons on the aforementioned verses, and on my bookshelf sat books such as Psycho-Heresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity by Wayne and Deidre Bobgan and PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz. No, I concluded that I was the problem.

I now know that having a Type A personality and being a perfectionist and a workaholic didn’t help matters. No matter how hard I worked, I never measured up. The church growth craze of the 1970s and 1980s only exacerbated my depression. The ministry was reduced to a set of numbers: attendance, souls saved, and offerings. Push, push, push. Go, go, go. Do, do, do. Much like a crack addict seeking his latest fix, I focused on attendance increases and souls brought to Jesus to push my depression into the background. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, declining attendance and a lack of “God working in our midst” forced my depression to the forefront. I spent countless nights alone in the darkness of the church building praying to God, pleading that he would fill me with the Holy Spirit and use me to bring in a large harvest of souls. In the end, no matter how hard I worked or how much I sacrificed— money, family, and health — it was never enough. Success was a temporary elixir that soothed my depression, but its effect soon wore off and I retreated for the thousandth time into the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

depression

In 2005, two years after I left the ministry, I told Polly I needed professional psychological help. It took me another three years before I was willing to pick up the phone and make an appointment. At first, finding a “Christian” counselor was important to me. Once I found one, I then had second thoughts about people seeing me entering his office or noticing my car in the parking lot. I live in an area where almost everyone knows me — both as a pastor and now as an atheist. It wasn’t until I deconverted that I began calling counselors, hoping to find a non-religious, secular counselor. Fortunately, I found just the right person to help peel away the layers of my life, allowing me to finally embrace my depression and find ways of handling what Dexter the serial killer called his “dark passenger.” Late last year, I started seeing a new counselor, a woman. My first counselor and I had become friends (a common problem in long-term counseling relationships), so I knew it was time for me to see someone new.

Readers who have been with me since the days of blogs named Bruce Droppings, NW Ohio Skeptic, The Way Forward, and Fallen From Grace have helplessly watched me repeatedly psychologically crash and burn, only to rise again out of the ashes like a phoenix. Surprisingly, the current iteration of my blog has been active for seven years. I attribute the length of my success to the help I’ve received from my counselors. That said, I can’t guarantee that I might not, in the future, crash. I’ve told myself that if that happens again, I’m done blogging.

Some days, I feel like I have tied a knot on the rope of my life and I am desperately trying to hold on. There are days when I feel my grip slipping, leaving me to wonder if I can make it through another day. I do what I can. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen. Health problems, especially chronic pain and bowel problems, continue to drive my depression and virtually every other aspect of my life. I can’t escape these things. All I know to do is endure.

As depressives will tell you, small problems often pile up for them and turn into full-blown depressive episodes. I mean, suicide level, I can’t deal with this any longer episodes. My counselor is keenly aware of how quickly things can pile up for me. Starting with chronic illnesses, unrelenting pain, loss of mobility, and decreased cognitive function, my plate is quite full before I even get out of bed — that is, if I can get out of bed.

Recent events have filled my plate as I would on Thanksgiving Day. What’s one more helping of ham, turkey, and candied sweet potatoes, right? While I find it too painful to write about many of the things that have been added to my plate, I have talked to my counselor about how overwhelmed I am with life. She encourages me to focus on what is best for me, and not “fixing” the problems of others. I am not sure how well I can heed his advice, but I am trying.

I have written all this to say that I must continue to find ways to “lighten my load.” My health will never be as good as it is today, and someday I will likely be unable to leave my home. In the interest of improving the quality of what life I have left, I must identify the unnecessary things that are weighing me down and cast them aside. This is not easy for me to do. Giving in has never been my strong suit. I hate to let go of things (and people) who have been very much a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Over the past few months, I have made a concerted to downsize and simplify my life. I sold all my photography equipment. Boy, was this hard. Even worse, I am turning my office into a pantry and a storage room. Gone will be the metal desk I’ve owned for almost forty years — a M.A.S.H. era desk. Most of my 4,000+ plus sermons were crafted on my desk. Countless couples and church members sat across from me, telling me their woes. I used this desk every day for most of my adult life — until I couldn’t. Thanks to herniated discs in my back and neck, I can no longer use the desk. Saying goodbye to my dear friend brought tears, but I knew it was the right thing to do. My oldest son will soon move my desk to his home. I wonder if I should tell him what Mom and Dad did on that desk? 🙂

It goes without saying, that above everything I could ever do or own, I deeply love my wife, children, and grandchildren (and yes, my daughters-in-law and son-in-law too). As illness and pain whittle down my life, I am learning that what matters most is love and family. The praise of congregants and the approbation of fellow clergy are but distant memories. I would trade all of them for one day without pain. We silly humans so often focus on things that don’t matter. Age brings perspective, and what really matters — at least to me — fits on a small Post-it note. And even now, I continue to mark through things on my list. I suspect that when death claims me for its own, my list will contain a handful of names and the words “they loved me until the end.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Evangelical Mack Major Warns Christian Women About the “Sin” of Masturbation

sin of masturbation

According to Evangelical author Mack Major, Christian women are masturbating themselves straight to hell. Major writes (link no longer active):

Too many Christian women are losing their salvation because they masturbate. Dildos and all of those other sex toys have been used for thousands of years in demonic sex rituals. It’s one of the main ways ancient pagan societies worshiped their demonic gods. Masturbation is a direct path to Satan. There’s nothing normal about it. And shame on any Christian that says so.

According to an article written by Major titled Vibrators, Dildos, and Sex Demons: (link no longer active)

Many of you who are reading this have sex toys in your possession right now. And whether you want to accept it as fact or not: those sex toys are an open portal between the demonic realm and your own life. As long as you have those sex toys in your home, you have a doorway that can allow demons to not only access your life at will, but also to torment you, hinder and destroy certain parts of your life as it relates to sex and your relationships.

Huffington Post writer Ed Mazza notes that Major spends a good bit of space on his website talking about sex and masturbation. Major warns Christian readers that there are sex demons that can take control of them:

There are such things as sex demons. And the danger in masturbating is that one could inadvertently summon a sex demon to attach itself to you through the act of masturbating. And once that demon attaches, it is difficult to get it to leave. It will drive you to masturbate, even when you don’t want to. You’ll be hit with urges to play with yourself so powerful that only an orgasm will allow you some temporary relief.

The next time you are masturbating, just remember you could be summoning a sex demon! I found myself laughing as a read Major’s words. Really? Does anyone buy the bullshit that Major is shoveling? Sadly, yes. There are Evangelicals who think the sin of Onanism is a grievous act of willful disobedience to the teachings of the Bible (even though there are no actual verses that address masturbation or call it a sin). I have read more than a few articles by members of the Evangelical Purity Police® that suggest masturbation is a sin because it requires lust to get the sexual juices flowing. While this line of thinking might work with those still ensconced squarely upon Evangelical sexual prohibitions, for those of us who would love to be taken over by a sex demon, appeals to lust fall on deaf ears. Lust, along with most of the “sins” Evangelicals obsess over, is a religious construct. What Evangelicals call lust, unbelievers call desire — normal, healthy, erotic feelings of sexual need and fulfillment. Visual images can and do enhance sexual relationships, and when one is left to fornicate with his or her hand, well . . . visual stimulation is appreciated.

As is often the case, Major focuses on the sexual proclivities of women. What men like Major fear is that dildos, vibrators, and index fingers remove women’s need for men. While women may or may not find masturbation as fulfilling as intercourse or oral sex (I am not a woman so I cannot speak authoritatively on the subject), I am sure when needed it gets the job done. I know that is how it works for men, having been an expert masturbator since the age of thirteen. Despite warnings that choking my chicken (see 500 Masturbating Euphemisms) will lead to blindness, God’s judgment, and hell, I have found it to be a necessary part of what it means to be human. I often chuckle as I think of the days when it was my turn to clean the showers at the Midwestern Baptist College men’s dormitory. I can only imagine how much sinning went on behind closed shower doors – sinning that the men who are now pastors once performed with gusto. Imagine how shocked Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) teenagers and adults would be if their pastors put their stamps of approval on self-pleasuring.

I have long believed that men like Mack Major, who rage against sex — in all forms but monogamous married heterosexual intercourse — have dark, deep, locked closets filled with what Evangelicals call the sins of the flesh. Those who scream the loudest against this or that sin often practice those very sinful behaviors behind closed doors. The fact that Evangelical churches have a porn epidemic on their hands is a reminder that Evangelicals are every bit as human as the unwashed, uncircumcised, masturbating, dick-sucking, fucking Philistines of the world. The only difference is that we Philistines sin with gusto, waking up in the morning without a guilt hangover. All praise be to dildos, vibrators, and sex demons.

This post was originally written in 2016. Since then, Major has written a book titled Sex Magic: Flirting With the Demonic. Here’s how Major describes his book on Amazon:

Believers are opening portals through playing around with dangerous sexual practices and occult ideas that contradict the direct authority of scripture.

Many are being initiated directly into the occult through something called sex magic; and most don’t even know it.

Are you helping to create the Antichrist, and don’t know it? More specifically: are your sexual practices providing the vessel that Satan needs to usher in the era of The Beast 666?

If you’ve been engaging in masturbation, fornication, watching porn, adultery, homosexual relations, BDSM, cross-dressing, LGBTQ relations of any kind, spouse swapping, orgies, toy parties, had an abortion: you’ve been engaged in some form of sex magic; and whether you know it or not you’ve been having open fellowship with actual demonic entities.

Why do you think sex occupies your mind 24/7, or why you can’t stop watching porn or masturbating? Why is your mind constantly bombarded with unclean thoughts; and in spite of how much sex you have it’s never enough? Perhaps you can’t even enjoy sex anymore without the help of some form of visual aid or a sex toy. Those are not necessarily your thoughts.

Other symptoms of being involved in sex magic are even more pronounced.

Your life is overrun with constant misfortune. Relationships that start off well crumble. Golden opportunities seem to turn into dirt. Opportunities to advance in life slip right through your hands and you end up going nowhere, remaining stuck in constant frustration while living in increased desperation. Nothing that should go right is ever sustained, and instead things end up going wrong.

If this is your situation, you’re not crazy and you’re not cursed. You’ve just opened a sex portal; and now your life is being blockaded by evil spirits that are intent on destroying you in every way. In order to break free and get your life back, you must know how those portals got opened. And most of all you need to learn the methods and techniques for closing those doors forever.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

No Matter What God Tells You to Do, Do It!

never question god

And Samuel said (to Saul), Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king. (I Samuel 15:22,23)

 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)

Like all despots, dictators, and potentates, the Christian God demands his followers implicitly and explicitly obey him. When he says, JUMP, the only proper response is, HOW HIGH? The Christian God has no tolerance for those who dare to disobey him. Doubts, questions, or concerns are not permitted. John Sammis’ nineteenth-century hymn Trust and Obey says: Trust and obey, for there’s no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Those of us raised in Evangelical churches know all about obedience. Obey God. Obey your parents. Obey pastors. Obey adults. Later in life, women are told that not only must they obey God and their pastors, they must also obey their husbands. As with all cults. obedience is the key to a compliant, easily manipulated group. Jim Jones, once an ardent Evangelical, commanded his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, resulting in the death of over 900 people — including 304 children. Evangelical pastors and Catholic priests sodomize, rape, and molest children who have been taught from a young age to implicitly obey them. Trust me, I am a pastor, are words that have caused incalculable harm to young and old alike. Taught to be blindly obedient, these Christian sheep obey the commands of their shepherds. Once robbed of the capacity to think and reason, church members are easy prey for predator pastors and priests.

Of greater concern is the belief that God directly speaks to Evangelicals. Pastors routinely tell congregants that God spoke to them and told them to do ______________.  Church members, supposedly indwelt by the Holy Spirit, believe God directly speaks to them with an inaudible, small voice (I Kings 19:11-13).  According to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is given to Christians to be their teacher, voice, and guide:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)

But when they deliver you (the disciples) up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:19,20)

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (I Corinthians 2:13)

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. (I John 2:27)

According as his (God) divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, (2 Peter 1:3a)

Consider, for a moment, that millions and millions of Americans believe that God lives inside of them and directly talks to them. This should scare us, especially considering that many elected government officials think God talks to them. Do we really want a president who hears voices in his head, thinking it is the Christian God telling him what to do? What if God tells him to launch a nuclear strike on China or Russia? Should Christians such as this be anywhere near the nuclear football?

Several years ago, Randall Murphree, editor for the American Family Association Journal, perfectly illustrated the mind-numbing, reason-killing obedience the Christian God expects from his followers. Murphree recently took a trip to Kentucky to see Ken Ham’s monument to ignorance, Ark Encounter. Reflecting on his visit to the Ark Park, Murphree wrote:

 Answers in Genesis (noted for its Creation Museum in northern Kentucky) is building a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark in Williamstown, Kentucky, about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. I was blessed to tag along a few days ago when AiG hosted a media tour of the Ark under construction. Wow!

We think we can imagine what it would look like, but to walk up to it in real life took my breath away – 510 feet long (more than a football field and a half), 51 feet high (4-5 stories).

AiG cofounder Ken Ham led our tour, taking us through the four levels and to the top deck, explaining how Noah could realistically have cared for two of each kind of animal on the Ark, pointing out interior framework and structure that will house 132 exhibits lining the long walkways, explaining that animals on the Ark itself will be realistic sculptures but a petting zoo will adjoin the Ark property. And there’s so much more to anticipate.

….

As exciting and stimulating as the Ark was, I began to decompress on the long drive home. An unlikely metaphor came to mind – extreme sports, those over-the-top, beyond-reason, insane physical challenges people are tackling these days.

Extreme! Now, Noah was really into the extreme – extreme obedience! I thought. What he did was impossible for man. But God gave him specific directions, and Noah obeyed, giving himself fully to the calling…

….

Unexpectedly I was suddenly doing some real soul searching, taking a little inventory, and considering God’s direction in my life. Sometimes I think He calls me to a task too great. How often have I not been obedient? My little Ark encounter humbles me and challenges to listen more carefully for God’s voice and be ready to demonstrate – as Noah did – extreme obedience.

Murphree says that God demands EXTREME OBEDIENCE! If God tells you to go into the desert and build a huge boat, do it!  If God tells you to murder your only son, do it! If God tells you to move to Africa and be a missionary, do it! If God tells you to give all your money to the church or a TV preacher, do it! If God tells you to pitch a tent in your backyard and fast and pray for 40 days, do it! Whatever it is that God tells you to do, DO IT!  Any doubt or hesitation is a sin, an affront to the God who holds the keys to life and death in his hands.

obey god

Evangelicals are frequently reminded that God only wants what is good/best for them. So whatever God commands, he means it for their good. God is good all the time, all the time God is good say Evangelicals. Since God is the pillar of moral purity and virtue, Evangelicals can trust him when he tells them to do _____________.  According to the Biblical passage mentioned above, God isn’t interested in sacrifice (religious works). All God wants is for those who worship him to obey his commands. And not just the commands found in the Bible. God can, and does, command Evangelicals to do things that seem crazy to unbelievers. Better to be viewed as crazy than disobey God.

Remove religion from this story and hearing voices in one’s head would be viewed as a sign of mental illness. But because it involves religion, we are supposed to uncritically accept that Evangelicals do what they do because God told them to. Having spent most of my adult life in Evangelicalism, I intimately understand the notion that God “talks” to Christians. God talked to me many times, telling me whom to marry, where to live, what churches to pastor, and whether I should buy something or give money to a religious cause. For five decades, I believed God lived inside of me. I believed God and I were the best of buds. I would pray (talk) to God and he would often respond. When I needed to know what to preach or what direction to lead the church, I always asked God to tell me what I should do. And guess what? God, ever the chatterbox, never failed to tell me exactly what he wanted me to do.

I now know, of course, that the voice in my head was my own. The God who was talking to me had red hair and his name was Bruce Gerencser. (Please see A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God.) No big deal right, right? Who cares if Evangelicals think God talks to them? No harm, no foul, right? I used to think so, but as I continue to write about my past life as a soldier for the Christian God, I now think otherwise. I now see how believing God talked (leading, directing, showing, moving) to me hurt not only me, but my family. Instead of being proactive and acting as a reasonable, rational adult would, I allowed the voice in my head to keep me from acting responsibly. From selling family heirlooms and collectibles so I could use the money to “help” someone, to living in abject poverty so I could “minister” to God’s people, I know firsthand how “listening” to the voice of God can cause untold heartache and loss.

Every month or so, we hear of stories about someone who killed or severely hurt themselves or others, all because God “told” them to do it. Several years ago, a Muslim woman cut the head off a child because Allah told her to do so. I am sure Evangelicals saw this as an example of what happens when someone listens to the wrong God. However, there are plenty of stories about Evangelicals hearing the voice of God and doing things such as drowning their children, gouging out their eyes, cutting off their penis, or making the top 12 on American Idol or The Voice. I put “God told me to do it” in the search box on Huffington Post and it returned stories such as Teacher Says ‘Higher Power’ Told Him To Attack Kid With Skateboard; Mom Allegedly Tries To Drown Son In Puddle Because Jesus Told Her To; Man Allegedly Stabs Grandma, Blames Archangel Michael; Nurse Thinks Grandmother Was Possessed, Beats Her To Death; Jesus And Mary Told Me To Kill Him Because He Is Satan’s Spawn!

hearing gods voice

Jack Schaap, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch pastor who is now serving a twelve-year federal prison sentence for having an illicit sexual relationship with a minor girl in his church, told his young lover, “This is exactly what Christ desires. He wants to marry us + become eternal lovers!” Countless religious leaders have used similar lines to seduce women. How do we know it wasn’t God telling them to do what they did?  After all, the God of EXTREME OBEDIENCE might ask Evangelicals to do things the unsaved world might not understand. God expected the first woman, Eve, to sleep with her sons and expected Noah’s grandchildren to have sex with their sisters (or mothers). So why is it shocking to hear that sexual predators such as Jack Schaap and other preachers featured in the Black Collar Crime Series prey on young women because God told them to do so?

The belief that God talks to you is a great way to get whatever you want or to justify your behavior. All Evangelicals need to do is say God told me and discussions are over. God is the E.F. Hutton of the universe: When God speaks, everybody listens. His voice must always be obeyed, regardless of how silly, crazy, or irrational his commands sound. While I am sure that Evangelicals will object to my extreme presentation of their beliefs, am I really being extreme, considering that the Bible is littered with stories of people doing irrational/immoral things? If an Evangelical somewhere says that God told him to move to Montana and build a compound in preparation for the end of the world, should any of us think that the man is a nut-job? Isn’t that EXACTLY what Noah did? Isn’t that what Moses did? How about the Mormons, Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate, or the people who took over the federal building in Oregon? What about the Evangelicals who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and tried to overthrow the government? All of these people have one thing in common: they believed God told them to do what they did. Either God is schizophrenic or his followers are.

Did you, at one time, believe God talked to you?  Have you ever made an important decision based on God telling you to do something? Please share your story in the comment section. I promise I won’t call the men in white coats to come and get you. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

The Question

guest post

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

Are you Jewish?”

I lied, sort of, depending on which rabbi you ask.

Almost all agree that Judaism is passed on through the female biological line. That sounds straightforward enough, but if your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother was Jewish but nobody in any part of your family has practiced the religion or participated in any of its cultures….one rabbi might say, “You’re as Jewish as Theodor Herzl,” while another might tell you you’re as goyish as Pat or Debbie Boone.

I know: I have had exactly such an experience. As I was preparing to marry a Jewish woman of Latin American heritage, I consulted with rabbis and took classes. Since I no longer considered myself a part of the Roman Catholic church in which I’d grown up or with the Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in which I later affiliated myself, but I did not yet identify as atheist or non-religious, I was willing to participate in my wife-to-be’s religion and help raise the children we planned to have in it.

The Latin American Jewish community in which she was raised, mostly in the Miami area, was more conservative, politically and socially, than the non-Hasidic Ashkenazic Jews in whose proximity I was raised and have lived much of my life. When she went to college, she “fell away” from the religion but had returned to it, if in a more mystical and ritualistic iteration, by the time she met me. So, while she didn’t want to submit to the more severe sartorial and other regulations of some sects, she felt that prayer—in Hebrew—and other aspects of the religion were important to her life.

I would realize, much later, long after our marriage ended, that for her, her faith and “spirituality” was a way of keeping her inner torment– what some would call “demons” — at bay. She seemed to think that her faith and intense prayer were a way to deal with her extreme mood swings, some of which resulted in physical attacks on me she could not remember, or so she claimed, the following day. (Do you need more proof that prayer cannot substitute for medication and therapy?) Also, I came to understand –because I would come to the same knowledge about myself—that her religiosity was a defense (or, at least, she tried to use it as such) against desires that were not approved by her family and community.

In short, both of us were trying to deal with—or not deal with—the fact that we weren’t entirely heterosexual. Oh, and in my case, that I wasn’t the man I presented myself to be, or any kind of man at all. It would have been difficult enough for her family to approve of someone who wasn’t a mensch—which, to them, meant what some would condescendingly call a “nice Jewish boy.”

So, while I told her family and the rabbis that I am Jewish, I knew well that in the eyes of some, I wasn’t truly one of them, and never could be. And, interestingly, one of the rabbis we consulted tried to discourage me from living as a Jew. For one thing, he saw that I wanted to do so at least in part for the sake of marriage and the approval of her family. He pointed out the ostracism, persecution and worse Jewish people have faced throughout history and even warned me that no matter how fastidiously I followed the ways of his religion or how well I learned Hebrew, some “in the community” wouldn’t quite accept me.

I would later learn that he wasn’t the only rabbi who tried to dissuade people from converting to, or resuming, Judaism. So, when I heard the query, “Are you Jewish?” many years later from a young bearded man in front at a sidewalk table near Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza, I was taken aback. Unlike Christianity, Judaism doesn’t have a tradition of evangelism. At least, they haven’t tried to bring non-Jews into the fold. But that young man was part of the only Jewish community that, to my knowledge, tries to spread its words and ways –and only to other, mainly secular, Jews: the Lubavitchers, who comprise much of the Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn, Montreal, and a few other cities.

I can’t help but wonder whether that young man was more successful in his “evangelism” efforts than I was in mine as an Evangelical Christian. Some would argue that I didn’t really “have the Holy Spirit within” me because I—at least to the best of my knowledge—never “brought” anybody “to Jesus.” Likewise, I can imagine that young man chastised for his lack of faith or commitment or something for not bringing “lost” Jewish people “home.”

Of course, today, as an atheist, I don’t care whether someone thinks I am, or ever was, Jewish, Christian or of any other religion. I think my ex and her family realized that I was only “going through the motions” and would be no more Jewish than I was a man. I sometimes wonder, though, what sort of discussion or argument I could have had with that young man had I told him that I am Jewish, or had I immersed myself in the religion enough to help raise the children my ex and I planned but never had.

(In case you’re wondering: My ex remarried. Her husband was raised in a conservative Jewish community and, within five years, they would have four children whom they would raise in the religion and send to yeshivas. I also heard, from mutual friends, that they were considering a move to Israel. Oh, and I’ve gone through a long process of affirming my identity as a woman.)

Now, if anyone were to ask me whether I’m a Christian, Catholic, or Jewish, the answer to the first two would be an emphatic “no.” As for the question of my Jewishness, that would depend on how much time or energy I have for a discussion or argument. After all, someone I knew in my youth told me and the rabbi of the man she married that she was a “Jewish atheist.” The rabbi said that was entirely plausible and made no effort to convince her otherwise. I could tell that rabbi the same thing: I, like her, have Jewish heritage on my mother’s side of the family (though my relatives converted to Catholicism) but don’t believe in any “supreme” or “higher” “being.”

In the years since then, I’ve had co-workers, and have friends and friendly acquaintances, who are Muslims. Interestingly, though Islam is a proselytizing religion, none has tried to “witness” (if you’ll pardon a Christian term) to me, and most Islamic states don’t encourage proselytizing. Oh, and contrary to what some religious conservatives and grandstanding politicians would have their constituents believe, neither I nor any other atheist I know makes any effort to recruit (or, if you like, proselytize) others to our way of thinking. I guess in that sense, at least, I am as Jewish as I am an atheist!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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.

Why Can’t I be Like Everyone Else?

normal

I grew up in a Fundamentalist Baptist home. I spent the first fifty years of my life regularly attending Christian churches. Deeply immersed in the Christian life and way of thinking, I never doubted that I would become anything other than a Baptist preacher. I was five years old when I first told my mother that I wanted to be a preacher when I grew up. Not a fireman, not a police officer, not a baseball player — a preacher. Unlike most people, I never went through the angst of trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. From the time of my conversion at age fifteen to the moment I walked away from the ministry, I never doubted that God had called me to be a preacher of the gospel. I was what people call a true believer®. My life oozed Jesus, the Bible, and my visible, dedicated commitment to the Baptist church. While many people today question whether I was a “real” Christian, no one during my time in the ministry ever questioned that I was anything but a sincere follower of Jesus Christ. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deliberately ignoring the facts.

Yet, here I am at age sixty-four, no longer in the ministry, no longer Christian, and now an outspoken atheist and critic of Evangelical Christianity. I attended Midwestern Baptist College in the 1970s. During its sixty-plus-year history, thousands of students attended classes at Midwestern. Hundreds of men went on to pastor churches or work in some other capacity at churches or Christian educational institutions. Some men went on to be missionaries or evangelists. Women married preachers, went to the mission field, or became Christian school teachers. While Midwestern never had a large student body, its students and graduates can be found serving Jesus all across the globe. Yet, out of all these students, as far as I know, my wife and I are the only two who have publicly renounced Christianity. While I am certain other former Midwestern students are atheists or agnostics, I am unaware of their existence. Perhaps they do not want the notoriety and hassle that come from publicly renouncing Midwestern’s God. I know well the price one must pay when rejecting the tribal God. Polly and I lost dozens of friends and colleagues as a result of our public declaration of unbelief. We are estranged from family, have few friends, and are forced to live with the whispers and gossip of local Christian residents who treat us as some sort of exotic zoo animals. We willingly endure these things because we value honesty and intellectual integrity above cultural or social acceptance.

There are times when I find myself wondering why I cannot be like everyone else. I loved preaching and teaching. I loved helping others. I loved rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands dirty in the work of the ministry. Yet, despite loving these things, they were not enough to keep me in the fold. Why is it my former colleagues and the students I attended college with are able to continue believing and I am not? While it would be tempting to say that I am intellectually superior to them, I know this is not the case. It would be easy to dismiss everyone with a wave of the hand and a snide — bunch of illiterate hillbillies — comment, but I know that in doing so I would be painting with too broad a brush (a brush I wish atheists would quit using).

Perhaps there was something wrong with my faith. I have often asked myself this question. Was there something about my Christian experience that was in some way defective? I don’t think so. While I certainly can see how someone might — by taking a small sample size of my life — conclude that the blame for my faithlessness rests solely on my shoulders, but my life, when taken as a whole, reflects that I was one who truly believed in God, Jesus, and the teachings of the Bible. Yet, I am an atheist. While I doubt I will ever fully understand why I cannot be like others, I have come to a few conclusions about the trajectory of my life and how I arrived at where I am today.

I have always valued intellectual pursuit. While I spent many years bouncing from wall to wall within the Evangelical box, even within these constraints I diligently sought to know the truth. This is why I left the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the late 1980s. It is also why I became a Calvinist and then later abandoned Calvinism as I embraced more of a works-oriented social gospel. While many of my former colleagues in the ministry have never deviated from the theology they were taught at Midwestern Baptist College and other Evangelical institutions, I was unwilling to accept certain beliefs as “truth” just because it was the official doctrine of Midwestern or whatever group I was a part of. Years ago, I attended one of the monthly meetings of the Buckeye Independent Baptist Fellowship (BIBF). It was a well-attended meeting, and every preacher had on the uniform — suit and tie. Not I. I wore an ivory-colored sweater. The reason I remember this is because the host of the meeting pointed out the fact that I was wearing a sweater. He found my attire amusing, yet he thought that it was wonderful that I was unwilling to follow the herd’s dress code. Of course, I spent the remainder of the day having corncob in their ass preachers look at me as some sort of liberal compromiser. Closer friends in attendance ribbed me about dressing so casually. I think this story accurately reflects how I viewed life then and still view it today. Unwilling to acquiesce to tribal demands, I forged my own path. Friends and colleagues viewed me as double-minded, whereas all I was trying to do is be honest and follow the path wherever it led. I am, today, still on this path. Who knows where I might yet end up? 🙂

I have never been a go-along-with-the-crowd type of person. Even though I was a committed Fundamentalist, I didn’t do something just because big-name preacher so and so did. As any observer of Evangelical Christianity can tell you, there has been a tremendous amount of upheaval over the past fifty years. Up until the 1970s, the 1950s style of doing church was considered the Evangelical way of doing things. Today? It is hard to find a church that still does things — as IFB preachers call it — the “old-fashioned” way — old-fashioned meaning “the way things were done in the days of Ozzie and Harriet.” While my style of ministry and preaching changed somewhat over the years, I made these changes, most often, for pragmatic reasons. I firmly believed that churches and preachers must adapt their methodologies to the times. While bus ministries and door-to-door evangelism once yielded great numerical growth, these methods no longer work — regardless of what head-in-the-sand IFB preachers might tell you. Churches unwilling to adapt only hurt themselves, leading to attendance decline and closures.

Even as an atheist, I am resistant to following the herd. The atheist “movement” and Evangelicalism have more than a few things in common. In Evangelicalism, certain preachers are revered and considered mountaintop dispensers of wisdom and knowledge. So it is with atheists. All one has to do is look at the speaker lineup for atheist and humanist conferences. Instead of embracing the diversity of the atheist community, these conferences often become little more than the atheist version of star-powered award shows. And I get it. People are not going to fly or drive hundreds of miles to hear atheist nobodies. As with Evangelicals, many atheists seem to value the pronouncements of big-name speakers and writers over those of everyday, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety atheists. As with Evangelicals, the only way to get in the game is to play by the rules. If you are unwilling to play by the rules, you can expect to not be invited to play the game. I have accepted that this is the way things are. This is the price I pay for maintaining freedom and autonomy. A price, by the way, I am more than happy to pay.

As many of you know, I am working ever-so-slowly on a book. I think the book will be something that doubting Evangelicals and Evangelicals-turned-atheists will find helpful. As with all writers, I hope that my book will become a New York Times bestseller. One way to sell a lot of books is to get well-known atheists to write endorsements. I decided not to do this. While I know a handful of well-known atheists, most of my involvement with atheists comes through this blog and social media. I remain, to this day, a blue-collar laborer, unknown, but happy to have an opportunity to lend my small voice to the collective objection to evangelical Christianity. Knowing that I will never be asked to join the A-Team, I content myself with helping people break free of Evangelicalism’s pernicious grasp. While it would be fun and somewhat rewarding to speak to thousands of like-minded atheists, such an experience pales in comparison to helping people find their way out of the Fundamentalist maze.

I have said all of the above to provide some context for my answer to the question, why can’t I be like everyone else? I can’t be like everyone else because I am me. That is the simplest explanation. I am who I am and my life is what it is. I value honesty over conformity and independence over sameness. These values have only gotten stronger now that I am an atheist. No longer burdened by Evangelicalism’s written and unwritten code of acceptable belief and practice, I am free to be whoever, and whatever I want to be. I recognize that living my life this way might result in me not being accepted by the larger atheist community. I know there are pro-life atheists and Republican atheists who understand what I am talking about. Conformity — even among atheists — is often demanded if one wants to join a particular club. This is why atheism is so fractured. Proponents of various atheistic groups — Atheism+, mythicism, social justice, feminism, and the destruction of all religion — demand fidelity to that group’s doctrines. They are, in many ways, not much different from Fundamentalists, with their rigid codes of belief and conduct. Many atheists have a need to be part of something larger, so they are willing to surrender their intellectual autonomy to be a part of a group. I am unwilling to do so, and this is why, in the end, I cannot be like everyone else.

I am more than willing to work with atheist groups and individual atheists when their causes align with mine. However, as I learned from my battles with the proponents of Atheism+, it is all or nothing for many atheists. Either you accept the 10 Commandments of that group’s dogma or they will have nothing to do with you. This is why more than a few atheists have questioned my atheism. If I dare write something that runs afoul of the received atheist faith, as with Evangelicals, my commitment to atheism and humanism is questioned. If I suggest something that gives the hint of accommodationism, I am accused of promoting religion. I have received countless emails from atheists over the years who object to something I have written. If I say I am agnostic on the God question, the defenders of true atheism® are sure to let me know that they think I am a hypocrite and have some sort of religious hangover. While these letters used to bother me, I now understand that Fundamentalist thinking can be found in every group. There is nothing I can do about this. I am committed to being open and honest about my life and I am committed to passionately writing about my beliefs and worldview. If these things do not meet the criteria for acceptance into the atheist college of cardinals, so be it. I value personal freedom and intellectual integrity far more than I do membership in any group. If this limits me in some way, I am willing to accept that this is the price I must pay for being true to self. These traits will be valued by many, and that is enough satisfaction for me to continue preaching the gospel of godlessness.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

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Memo to Christians: Atheists Really Don’t Care if You Put “God Bless America” Signs on Private Property

wall of separation of church and state

Several years ago, CHARISMA reported:

An atheist organization targeted a small-town post office to demand they remove their “God Bless America” banner, but that’s not the whole story.

“Employees are free to ask God to bless America all they want on their own time. The problem comes when they ask their government employer to endorse their personal religious beliefs by plastering them on the side of the federal building,” Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Madeline Ziegler said of their campaign.

Though the Pittsburg, Kansas, post office complied with the atheist organization’s demands, residents took Ziegler’s words to heart.

According to The Morning Sun, a local fireworks shop printed 1,500 yard signs and banners, which residents plastered across the city.

“Obviously, we’re among the majority that didn’t agree with the decision to take the sign down (at the post office),” Jason Marietta, retail sales director, told The Morning Sun.

Instead of one big sign at the post office, Pittsburg  now has 1,500 across the town, marking the area for God.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation rightly objected to a God Bless America sign adorning the Pittsburg, Kansas post office. Post offices are government buildings staffed by government employees, and as such, they are not permitted to promote religion. It is time for Christians to understand that the wall between church and state defined in the Establishment Clause of the Constitution forbids government from endorsing Christianity. This is the law. Don’t like the law? Work to change it. The fact that violations of church and state have gone unnoticed for years doesn’t mean they are in some inexplicable way legal. Just because drivers routinely break the speed limit and don’t get caught doesn’t mean that speed laws are invalid.

Supposedly, U.S. congressmen know the Constitution, so it is baffling to hear U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) say:

It is outrageous that some would aim to divide a community over a banner that has been proudly displayed since Sept. 11, 2001. I commend the Pittsburg community for rejecting this decision and I stand with them. The Constitution guarantees a right to freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. This banner is not only an expression of faith, but of love for country.

Expressions of patriotism, faith, and community should be welcome in our society and I have contacted USPS officials to express my concerns about their decision and to request their reconsideration. If the local post office branch is unwilling to display the banner, then I would be proud to hang it at my own office in Pittsburg.

and U.S. Representative Lynn Jenkins (R-2nd District Kansas) say:

This banner has been proudly displayed in the Pittsburg community for nearly 15 years. Should all the owners (who bought the banner) agree my office would be a fitting place to move it to, I would be honored to hang it outside of my office on Broadway Street. Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, this banner has been a patriotic symbol in the Pittsburg community and I would be proud to continue this great tradition.

Since these Kansas government officials and many of the residents of Pittsburg, Kansas seem to lack basic reading skills and have never taken a civics or American government class (or maybe they slept through the class), let me illustrate the issue at hand with pictures:

pittsburg kansas post office
This is the Pittsburg, Kansas Post Office, owned and operated by the U.S. Government. It is illegal to hang sectarian or religious banners on this building.
handing out god bless america signs pittsburg kansas
This is a private citizen handing out God Bless America signs to be displayed on private property. This is legal.
jakes fireworks god bless america sign
This is a God Bless America sign hanging inside Jake’s Fireworks, a private Pittsburg, Kansas business. This is legal.
god bless america sign on pittsburg kansas post office
The former is legal, the latter is illegal, thus the sign on the Post Office has to come down.

Atheists do not care in the least what signs people put on private property. Woo! Hoo! Pittsburg Christians put up 1,500 God bless America signs on private property. I don’t know of one atheist who objects to this. In fact, I suspect groups like the Freedom From Religion FoundationAmerican AtheistsAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, American Humanist Association, and the ACLU would oppose any attempts to restrict the free exercise of religion on private property. What these groups and the atheists and Christians who support them object to is the breaching of the wall of separation of church and state. The Pittsburg post office violated the law and this is the ONLY reason the sign had to come to down.

I wonder what offended Pittsburg Christians would do if these signs were hanging over the local post office:

allah bless america
baphomet bless america

I have no doubt Christians in Pittsburg would demand the immediate removal of these signs. Representative Jenkins and Senator Moran would issue press releases calling for the swift removal of these anti-American, anti-Christian signs. There is one word for such behavior, HYPOCRISY. If it is okay for a Christian sign to hang over the post office, then it should be okay for the signs of other religions to hang there too. If there is no separation of church and state, then shouldn’t any and every religion have the right to adorn government buildings with their signs?

The real issue is that Christians wrongly think that their religion deserves preference and special treatment. Decades of illegal government endorsements of Christianity are now being called into question. Christians do not like being treated in the same manner as adherents of other religions. Christians, due to a poor understanding of American history and the U.S. Constitution, think that they should be permitted to adorn public buildings and lands with sectarian signs and crèches (along with opening sessions of government with Christian prayers). It is time for Christians to realize that their religion is no longer the tail that wags the dog. The United States is a secular state, and the sooner Christians realize this the better. The separation of church and state protects not only atheists and non-Christians from government encroachment, but it also protects Christians. It is this wall of separation that protects all Americans from the theocratic tendencies of many of the world’s religions. History is clear: once the wall between church and state is breached, freedoms are lost and people die. We dare not trust any religious sect, including the fine Christians of Pittsburg, Kansas, with the keys to our republic. Too much is at stake to let even an innocuous act such as hanging a God Bless America banner on a government building to go unchallenged. Our future freedom depends on us beating back every sectarian attempt to scale the wall of separation between church and state.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 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.

Connect with me on social media:

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