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Category: Religion

Hey Girls: Did You Know Spaghetti Straps are Sinful?

girl wearing spaghetti straps
Girl Wearing “Sinful” Spaghetti Straps

When people think of Christian fundamentalism they most often think of the fundamentalism found in Evangelicalism and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. However, as the following story will show, fundamentalism is alive and well in the Roman Catholic church too.

Melanie Pritchard, Founder of Vera Bella Catholic Girls’ Formation Program and the Executive Director of the Foundation for Life and Love, wrote an article about why she does not let her four-year-old daughter wear spaghetti straps (link no longer active):

My four-year-old daughter Ella received a doll from a relative for Christmas that was wearing a fluffy pink skirt and a spaghetti strap tank-top covered by a sweater. To my daughter’s wild surprise, she also received the same outfit as her doll, in her own size. She put on her new outfit immediately to match her doll. I call them “the twinsy-bops,” since my daughter proceeded to try to wear the same outfit as her doll for the few days following Christmas.

Although I love the doll’s and my daughter’s outfits in their completion, I don’t allow my daughter or her dolls to wear spaghetti straps without something covering the tank-top. Some may think I go overboard or even call me a prude, but I am parenting with an advantage. I have inside knowledge of the working relationships between parents and their teenage daughters. Since I have been speaking to teenagers and their parents for the past 15 years, I have gained an extensive knowledge of the kind of drop-down-drag-out battles parents have with their teenage girls and their wardrobes.

One of those battles is over spaghetti strap tank-tops being worn without something else covering them. Now, I’ll admit, when my four-year-old attempts to wear the new spaghetti strap tank-top, she doesn’t look immodest. She still manages to look innocent and dignified. So, why won’t I allow my daughter to begin wearing these types of tank-tops at age four? Because the battle she and I will inevitably have over tank tops will be a lot easier to win if the standard never changes. The same rings true for two-piece bathing suits and other clothes that will not protect her dignity and mystery when she is at a more womanly stage in her life…

For those of us raised in the IFB and Evangelical church, Pritchard’s argument is quite familiar. Better to win the battle over clothing when a child is young and impressionable than when she is a teenager. Better to teach her “modesty” at age four than try to get her to dress “modestly” at age fifteen.

Pritchard recounts a story about her daughter that she thinks illustrates that her daughter is starting to understand the importance of modesty and why she should not wear spaghetti straps:

A couple days later, we went to enjoy taco Tuesday at a locally owned restaurant in town. We were sitting at our table waiting for our food when Ella grabbed my arm and pulled me close to her. She was pointing to the hostess with the very womanly figure wearing a spaghetti strap tank-top that kept sliding up to reveal her stomach and was accentuating and revealing her large chest. Ella whispered in my ear, “Mom, her mystery isn’t protected. She is wearing a spaghetti-strap and it’s not modest.”

Ella saw it for herself. It clicked for my four-year-old. She began to have a small amount of judgment in her voice as she continued to talk about this woman. I explained gently, “Ella, we can’t judge her or talk about her behind her back. She may not know her beautiful mystery and why she should protect it. Instead, we should pray that God may reveal it to her, so she knows just how special she is.” Ella was satisfied with my answer and agreed to pray for her.

Later in the article Pritchard reveals the real reason she won’t let her daughter wear spaghetti straps. Some day, her daughter will be a teenager, and if she hasn’t learned to be modest she might dress immodestly and attract poor, helpless horn dog Catholic boys:

I meet many parents who have allowed their daughters to wear spaghetti-straps, tube tops, leggings as pants, two-piece swim suits, and other clothing when they were young when their figures hadn’t emerged, only to find out there comes a time when they become extremely uncomfortable with their beautiful, womanly, innocent, teenage daughters wearing them in public. Fathers are by far the ones who cringe the most when they speak to me. They know teen-age boys. Every father was a teenage boy once. They cringe at the way their daughters are dressing, but the fight is so big, they often back down and let their girls wear what they want.

As a parent of six children, I know the importance of teaching children to dress appropriately. However, there is a difference between appropriate and puritanical. Pritchard goes far beyond appropriate and teaches her daughter a way of thinking that will result in her thinking her now-womanly body is sinful and must be covered up lest poor, helpless men take sexual advantage of her.

Pritchard, with her silly objection to her daughter wearing a top with spaghetti straps (and tube tops, leggings as pants, two-piece swimsuits), is making sure her daughter will grow up to be a sexually repressed Catholic woman. Instead of teaching her daughter to dress appropriately, she is planting the seed of sexual repression.

Her ban of certain clothing will do little to help her daughter when she becomes a sexually aware woman. Silly talk about a woman’s “mystery” will not keep her daughter from desiring what is natural: sex. While we can certainly debate whether it is a good idea for teenagers to have sex, the fact of the matter is they do:

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the year 2007, 35% of US high school students were currently sexually active and 47.8% of US high school students reported having had sexual intercourse. This percentage has decreased slightly since 1991.

Self-report surveys suggest that half of all 15- to 19-year-olds have had oral sex. That percentage rises to 70% by the time they turn 19, and equal numbers of boys and girls participate. Research indicating that oral sex is less risky to teens’ emotional and physical well being than vaginal sex has been advanced; researchers at the University of California do not believe this conclusion is warranted. They found that oral sex, as well as vaginal sex, was associated with negative consequences. Of adolescents engaging in oral sex only, girls were twice as likely as boys to report feeling bad about themselves and nearly three times as likely to feel used. Despite their behaviors, 90% of adolescents “agree that most young people have sex before they are really ready.”

The average age of first sexual intercourse in the United States is 17.0 for males and 17.3 for females, and this has been rising in recent years. The percentage of teens who are waiting longer to have sex has been increasing. For those teens who have had sex, 70% of girls and 56% of boys said that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner, while 16% of girls and 28% of boys report losing their virginity to someone they had just met or who was just a friend.

Pritchard belongs to a sect that is known for sexual repression and the denial of natural human sexuality. The Church also condemns masturbation and birth control. One would think if the Church wanted unmarried Catholics to remain sexually pure that they would encourage masturbation as an acceptable release of sexual tension. One would also think that the church would encourage Catholic women to use birth control since it would help eliminate the need for abortion. But they don’t. I wonder how different the discussion and rules would be if women were allowed to have a say in the teachings of the Church.

When it comes to human sexuality, the male-controlled Catholic Church is fighting a losing battle. In 2012, the Guttmacher Institute had this to say about Catholic women having sex and using birth control:

“Guttmacher’s analysis of data from the federal government’s National Survey of Family Growth found that the vast majority of American women of reproductive age (15–44) — including 99% of all sexually experienced women and 98% of those who identify themselves as Catholic — have used a method of contraception other than natural family planning at some point. Women may be classified as sexually experienced regardless of whether they are currently sexually active, using contraceptives, pregnant, trying to get pregnant or postpartum.

“By their early 20s, some 79% of never-married women — and 89% of never-married Catholic women — have had sex. (Presumably, all married women have done so.) In short, most American women (including Catholics) have had sex by their early 20s, and virtually all of them have used contraceptives other than natural family planning.

It is now known that the best way to combat unplanned teen pregnancy is to provide sex education and easy access to birth control. Just say no because God says so, is not a plan. Yet, Pritchard’s church wants to deny teens and unmarried women the means to keep from getting pregnant.

Knowing how the Catholic church views human sexuality helps to explain Pritchard’s puritanical obsession with her four-year-old daughter’s clothing. She doesn’t want her daughter to grow up to be one of those “easy” Catholic girls whom boys are fond of talking about.

Instead of teaching her daughter to embrace her sexuality and prepare her for life as a sexual being, she is teaching her that a woman’s body should be covered up so her “mystery” is not revealed. This is no different from the teaching of the IFB church, with its prohibitions against wearing any form of clothing that reveals the female shape and body. The reason? The teens and men of the church are pathetic, helpless creatures who are little more than dogs seeking bitches in heat.

Instead of teaching accountability and responsibility, religious zealots such as Pritchard teach repression and impotence. Sexually awake young women wearing spaghetti straps is not the problem. Any teen boy or man who can’t sexually control himself if he sees a woman wearing a top with spaghetti straps is pathetic. Men, regardless of their age, need to be responsible for their sexual behavior and the manner in which they treat women. Women should not be forced to manage not only their own sexuality but the sexuality of men who supposedly can’t help themselves. They are not the gatekeepers, the protectors of the “mystery.” Men need to own their sexuality and act appropriately (as the Catholic church needs to own its cover-up and protection of the real predators that roam the sanctuary and rectory: Catholic priests.

Lest readers think Pritchard is a lone fundamentalist Catholic, I leave you with the advice another fundamentalist Catholic woman, T.M. Gaouette, gives to sexually aware Catholic girls:

In a 2004 article titled “The Forgotten Virtue: Modesty In Dress,” author Monsignor Charles M. Mangan lays out a basic guide founded upon principles of modesty set by Pope Pius XII in 1957. These values are still valid today and I’ve found them to be very helpful in determining what’s modest and what’s not.

With Mangan’s help, I will offer specific guidelines on dressing modestly.

To dress modestly is to avoid deliberately causing sexual excitement in oneself or one’s neighbor (Mangan).

The objective of modesty is to refrain from wearing clothing that causes lustful thoughts, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When dressing modestly, Christian girls should avoid clothes that reveal, enhance or highlight certain body parts.

Bust: Avoid tight or see-through shirts or tops without appropriate undergarments, and tops with low plunging necklines that reveal a cleavage. If you have a large bust, then you should also stay away from spaghetti straps and strapless designs.

Thighs: When it comes to skirts, select those that are no shorter than above the knee. Make sure you account for how high the skirt rises when you sit. When it comes to shorts, opt for those that don’t expose too much of the thigh.

Back: Refrain from wearing backless shirts or dresses that plunge in the back. These styles are designed to look sexy.

Stomach: Shirts and tops should always cover the stomach.

Butt: Avoid tight skirts, shorts, dresses and pants that reveal the shape and curve of the buttocks. I also would avoid pants with words printed on the butt, since they are designed to cause the eyes to gaze at that area of your body.

I added “butt” to Mangan’s list because it often causes lustful thoughts in men when highlighted by tight shorts, pants, dresses and skirts.

There usually are no exceptions to the above rules in the case of everyday clothing. When it comes to athletic wear, make sure that your ensemble doesn’t look sexy.

Clothing fulfills three necessary requirements: hygiene, decency and adornment. These are ‘so deeply rooted in nature that they cannot be disregarded or contradicted without provoking hostility and prejudice’ (Mangan quoting Pope Pius XII).

In addition to these guidelines, I believe that, in some instances, modesty is subjective. One item of clothing may be immodest on one person, but modest on another. For example, spaghetti straps can look both modest and immodest, depending on the size of the person’s bust. However, modesty in this case can usually be attained by adding a cardigan or light jacket.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Does God Love Us Unconditionally?

unconditional love

Ask an Evangelical Christian if God loves humans unconditionally and he or she will likely respond with a resounding YES! God loves us no matter what we do, they will say. An Evangelical  familiar with the Bible might even quote Romans 8:38,39:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Do these verses apply to non-Christians? After all, when non-Christians die they go to Hell. So, this means they are separated from the love of God, right? Uh, well . . . the Bible says God is love! Okay, where does it say that God’s love is unconditional?

The word “unconditional” means without any conditions, not contingent, not determined or influenced by someone or something else. I know that Evangelicals desperately want God’s love to be unconditional, but any cursory reading of the Bible shows that God’s love is ALWAYS conditional.

Consider salvation for a moment. Are there any conditions that must be fulfilled before God will save a person? Or does a person go to bed one night unsaved and wake up the next morning saved? Of course not. In order for unbelievers to be saved, they must repent, believe, and follow. These are the conditions that must be fulfilled in order for a person to be considered a Christian.

Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that God’s love is conditional. For the Calvinist, God’s love for a person is predicated on unconditional election and predestination. For the Arminian, God’s love for a person is predicated on prevenient grace. If God unconditionally loves everyone then he would save everyone. But, he doesn’t save everyone because he has already determined who he is going to save. But Bruce, the only reason people are not saved is that they choose not to be. Okay, so then them CHOOSING is the condition for God saving them, right? Well, uh . . . can’t get away from it . . . God is not the God of unconditional love.

When God created Adam and Eve, he told them that his love, favor, and blessing were contingent on one condition: don’t eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of course, we all know how that worked out.

From the time Adam and Eve sinned until Jesus died on the cross, God required a blood sacrifice in order to expiate the sins of humans, both individually and corporately. Forgiveness was contingent on the blood sacrifice. No sacrifice, no forgiveness. Even now, the forgiveness of sin is contingent on the blood atonement of Jesus on the cross (and sects argue endlessly about whose sins and what sins were expiated on the cross). Again, it is clear that salvation and the forgiveness of sin are conditional.

When I am talking to Evangelicals about the unconditional love of God, I ask them: give me one illustration from the Bible where God’s love is shown to be unconditional? If they think about this for a moment they likely will argue that God’s love is different from human love, so it is impossible for us to understand it. According to many Evangelicals, God is capable of perfectly loving and hating a person at the same time. This is a nice theory for which there is no Biblical foundation.

Genesis 6-8 states that God caused a flood to engulf the earth, killing every human and every animal that was not on the Ark with Noah and his family. Millions of people died. Men, women, children, and babies still in the womb, died because God drowned them. Was God’s love unconditional for those who drowned?

According to Genesis 6:3, God gave humans 120 years to repent. The New Testament tells us that Noah was a preacher of righteousness. Noah was God’s warning siren to the inhabitants of the earth. Their survival depended on them repenting of their evil ways. Granted, things were bad, according to the Bible; the sons of God, which many Evangelicals believe were fallen angels, were marrying human women and having sex with them. This sexual union produced what the King James Version calls giants, mighty men, men of renown.

The conditions on earth were so bad that God:

…saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. (Genesis 6:7)

Humans had become so evil that God regretted creating them. He decided to kill everyone except Noah and seven members of his family. Simply put, God hit the reset button and started over.

When Evangelicals preach at me about the unconditional love of God, I always ask them to explain the unconditional love of God to me from Genesis 6-8. Usually, they will quickly say that God killed everyone because of their sin. So, God’s love was conditioned on them repenting, so his love wasn’t unconditional, right? Besides, God killed innocent children and unborn babies in the flood. God loved them so much that he killed them? Perhaps God thought they would be better off dead (an argument used by more than a few deranged psychopathic parents)?

It is clear from Genesis 6-8 that God’s love was NOT unconditional, and no matter where people read in the Bible, they are going to find that God’s love is conditional. If the Bible is anything, it is the written record of God’s wrath, vengeance, and hate towards those who do not accept and act on the conditions he gives them. The gospel message of the Bible is this, Do THIS and thou shalt live. Either we do things God’s way or he makes us pay.

Imagine a person saying, I love my wife, kids, neighbor, friend, et al. Yet, this person afflicts, starves, brutally punishes, and kills those he says he loves. Would we not rightly say that this person knows nothing about love? Yet, when the Unconditional Love God® does these things, he is given a pass. God is right in all he does because God is right. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 9, many Evangelicals say, How dare you question what God does! He loves because he says he loves! End of discussion.

Shouldn’t we expect God to at least measure up to human standards? A person who afflicts, starves, brutally punishes, and kills people knows nothing about love. He is likely a sociopath. He is not a person any of us would want to have anything to do with. Yet, when God acts this way, the Evangelical choir begins to sing, What a Mighty God we Serve, followed by, Our God is an Awesome God.

The truth is this: many Christians are far more loving than the God they profess to worship. We all should be very glad that many Christians are more God-like than God himself. Imagine what the world would look like if Christians loved what God loved and hated what God hated. (Read the Bible for the list of people and behaviors God hates.)

I realize that most Evangelical readers and many non-Evangelical Christian readers will reject what I have written here. They are convinced that God is love, every time, all the time, and he can be nothing but love. They even carry it a step further when they naïvely say, not only does God love unconditionally but we are to love everyone unconditionally too.

While it is hard to “prove” that an invisible God does not love unconditionally, it is quite easy to prove that NO human loves unconditionally. At best, unconditional love is a grand ideal, but back here in the real flesh and blood world, human love always has conditions.

I am sure someone will say, I love my wife and my children unconditionally.  This person’s thinking is well-intentioned, but it is based on sentimentality and not fact. Suppose for a moment this person went to work, came home early from work, and found his wife in bed with the neighbor. Would his love still be unconditional? Perhaps, he forgives his wife for her indiscretion, but what if she continues to sleep with the neighbor and even starts sleeping with numerous men. Would his love still be unconditional?

Parents like to say that they love their children unconditionally.  Suppose for a moment a father went to work, and when he came home, he found his wife and four of his five children murdered. He soon finds out that his teenage son killed his wife and children. Would his love still be unconditional?

But Bruce, these are extreme examples. Yes, and shouldn’t unconditional love work no matter the circumstance? Remember:

The word unconditional means without any conditions, not contingent, not determined or influenced by someone or something else.

It is important for us to love others, and we all can and should broaden the limits of our love. But, as with the God of the Bible, our love does have limits, and this is why I must conclude that the notion of unconditional love is a myth. It is a belief rooted in human sentimentality. Perhaps it is a worthy goal, but all I know is that everywhere I look, be it the Bible, the actions of my fellow humans, or my own actions, all I see is conditional love.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

For the Thousandth Time: Bruce, What if You Are Wrong?

i have a question

Recently, a commenter asked me three questions (slightly edited for grammar):

  • What if you die and find out you were wrong?
  • What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course, not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?
  • What will you do?

For the seemingly thousandth time, let me answer these questions.

What if you die and find out you were wrong?

Well, this is most certainly a possibility. I am not infallible, nor do possess all the knowledge that can be known. As I continue to read, study, and understand, I add to my cumulative knowledge. Unfortunately, advanced age and cognitive loss fights against me increasing my knowledge. I do what I can to better my understanding of all that it means to be human. The questioner, of course, is only concerned about me being wrong about her version of Christianity.

As an atheist, I believe life ends the moment my heart stops beating and my brain ceases to function. That’s it, end of story. As such, there is no right-beliefs test after death, no did I believe in the true Jesus, not the religious, perverted Jesus? All I can do while I am among the living is attempt to intellectually, rationally, and honestly understand the world in which I live. For example, I know that most people are to some degree or another religious. Having spent fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years in the pastorate, and eight years studying why people are religious, I have come to several reasoned conclusions.

First, all religious belief can be explained from a sociological perspective. Find out where a person was born, who their parents and grandparents are, and what culture they are a part of, and you can determine, for the most part, which religious cult they embrace as the one true faith.

Second, the central tenets of Christianity are irrational. As Michael Mock often says, Christianity doesn’t make sense. Having spent thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible, theology, and church history, I can confidently say that Christianity (in all its forms) is false. Simply put, Jesus died, end of story. Without a miraculous birth, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man from the dead, Christianity is little more than a social club. I see no evidence for Christianity being the one true faith.

I can then confidently say that Christianity is false. Thus, I have no fears or concerns about being wrong about Christianity. The same goes for all the other extant religions humans have concocted throughout the annals of history. Could I be wrong? Sure. I try to live my life according to probabilities. It is probable that I will die within the next twenty years. I have carefully examined the available evidence and concluded that sooner, and not later, death is coming my way. I can confidently say that I will likely be dead before 2036. When it comes to  Christianity, after carefully looking at the extant evidence, I have concluded that there is a .000001 percent chance that the Christian God exists and that Christianity is the one true religion.

I suppose this commenter could say, but Bruce, are you willing to risk an eternity in hell, even if the probability is .000001? Yes, I am. The greater question is why Christians do the same. I suspect this commenter believes all religions but hers are false. How can she possibly know this? Has she studied these religions? Shouldn’t she play it safe and embrace ALL religions? Better to cover one’s bases than end up in hell because you failed to choose the one true religion, right? Christians are hypocrites, demanding of me what they are unwilling to do themselves.  Why is it that Christians continue to use Pascal’s Wager to evangelize me, when they are not willing, for safety’s sake, to embrace Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any of the other countless human religions?

What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?

The previous answer adequately addresses this question.  I am certainly willing to believe IF Christians can convincingly show me that their religious claims are true. Quoting the Bible, giving subjective personal testimonies, or making appeals to nature are not proof. Each one of these evidences can be satisfactorily overturned and rejected. Ultimately, Christianity rests on a foundation of faith, not evidence (Hebrews 11). Christians believe because they want or need to do so. By faith, they believe. And that’s fine — for them. However, I don’t have the requisite faith necessary to believe. I am unwilling to surrender my life to a fictitious God who wrote a supposedly divine book that is actually an offense to modern thinking. Filled with discrepancies, mistakes, and errors, the Bible teaches that there are multiple Gods and ways of salvation. Thousands of religious sects appeal to the Bible as THE source of their beliefs. How is possible that each sect’s beliefs differ from that of others? The Bible says that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism — one Christianity — yet there are, if truth be told, millions of Christianities, with each believer shaping a God and Jesus in his or her own image.

If the commenter’s God is the one true God and the Bible is said God’s divine message to humanity, why did he write such a confusing, contradictory message? I’ve spent eight years poking holes in the Evangelical Christian narrative, coming to the conclusion that all the Christian sects are right. The Campbellites and Baptists are right. The Calvinists and the Arminians are right. The Catholics and the Lutherans are right. Every sect appeals to the Bible as the foundation of their faith. All of them can PROVE they are right, so I just agree with them. The Bible can be used as proof for almost any and every belief. Again, if God wanted his soul-saving message to be clear, he should have written it in such a way that no one could possibly doubt his words. That the Bible is a hodge-podge of nonsense is convincing evidence for Christianity’s sacred text being a human, not divine text.

What will you do?

Just for fun, let’s assume that I am dead wrong about this commenter’s God, and that when I awake in eternity I find myself standing before the Big Kahuna. What would I say?

  • Shit, I got that one wrong.
  • Hey God, why did you write such a contradictory and confusing book? Bad day? Too much to drink?
  • Hey God, did you see all the good works I did? Surely, my good works outweigh my bad works. After all, I was a Jesus Club® member for 50 years. The way I see it, Lord, is that I spent five-sevenths of my life doing good and believing all the right things. And even now, as an atheist, I do a lot of good works. My good works should at least be enough to get me a log cabin on the outskirts of Heaven. Surely Lord, you value good works far more than right beliefs.

I have no worries about what I will do because worrying about fictional things is a waste of time. This would be like me worrying that Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) might send her dragons to turn me into a roasted wiener. Not going to happen. Life is short. I choose to worry about things that matter, things rooted in reality. I have no interest in wasting my time wondering about whether I am saved or lost or whether my beliefs will land me a room at Trump’s Heavenly Hotel®.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Thus Saith the Lord: The Sun Revolves Around the Earth

john jasper
Famed 19th Century Preacher John Jasper

If, as Christians say, the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God and is meant to be literally understood, shouldn’t Evangelicals believe the sun revolves around the earth? In the late 1800s, famed black preacher John Jasper preached a sermon titled ‘The Sun Do Move’. Here is some of what Jasper had to say (text edited for readability):

Now then, I have proved to you all these things as they are laid down in the Bible, chapter and verse. According to the text, Joshua showed in the sight of all Israel that The Sun Do Move, because he stopped it, by God’s command, for a whole day, as the text states. If he stopped it, that proves that the sun was moving, and moving over Joshua and the Amorites, and of course they were nowhere else than on this here earth, and consequently it was moving around the earth, and after the battle was over, it begun moving again in its regular course.

Therefore it is proved that the Sun Do Move around the earth. Now then, this great fact of the sun’s rotation may be illustrated by many powerful texts in the Bible : I will confine myself to the most striking ones. Notice Malachi, chapter 11, verse 2 — and that come from God’s own mouth, and their can be no properer authority than God’s authority. With His own lips he said, ” For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles.” What strikes us here is that the Sun Do Move ! ” My name shall be great among the Gentiles ” — (and we people of to-day is the Gentiles) — that, is an evidence that the Sun Do Move, for it’s God that says it. And take Ecclesiastes, first chapter, 5th verse : “The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” That’s an evidence that he arose, for if he had not done left the place, he could not haste to where he arose. Again, in Psalm l, verse 1 : ” The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.” I illustrates this as an evidence that the Sun Do Move, for the psalmist is the inspired writer, authorized by the Almighty to say this. The following texts I put in evidence : Psalm 113, Verse 3 : — ” From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord’s name is to be praised.” Isaiah, Chapter 38, Verse 8 : ” Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees which is gone down in the sun-dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward ; so the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down.” And Judges, Chapter 14, Verse 18 : ” Before the sun went down—.”

Now, from the expressions of all these texts, that is evidence that the Sun Do Move, for they were all inspired and written of God, of the Holy Spirit of God, who authorized to write these things. See, also, Jeremiah, chapter 31, verse 37: “Thus saith the Lord, if heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.” Here is more evidence. No man can measure the distance from the sun to the earth, according to this text. Thus God says this distance can’t be found out, for it is impossible to measure the foundations of the earth. “In the firmament is the tabernacle of the sun ; he is gone forth as from one end of the heaven to the other, and his circuit is to the end of the earth,” saith the psalmist. That is, instead of the earth’s circling, the sun is circling the earth. Therefore the sun’s rotation can’t be overthrown.

The philosophers’ reasons to the contrary is a matter of impossibility. They say there is a nation that at 12 o’clock in the day has their foots opposite us : now it is an utter impossibility for them to know that there is any nation under there doing so, as, witness in Jeremiah, 31st chapter, verse 37, where it says the foundations of the earth can’t be measured.

Ken Ham, a defender of young-earth creationism, says that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Ham believes, for the most part, that the Bible should be read and interpreted literally. According to Ham, God spoke the universe into existence, using six, twenty-four-hour days to do so. Ham also believes Adam and Eve are the father and mother of the human race. Every crazy mythical story found in the book of Genesis — and the other 65 books of the Bible — is factual history. Why then doesn’t Ham embrace the geocentric model found in the Bible? In the aforementioned quote, John Jasper bathed his ‘sun do move’ belief in the waters of Holy Scripture. How dare Evangelicals deny the clear, unambiguous teachings of the Bible.

Just the other the day, Ham stated that the Bible is a science textbook that never changes, yet Ham holds to the heliocentric model espoused by modern science, and not the geocentric model believed by not only Jasper, but other Evangelicals today. Shame on Ken Ham for denying the Word of God and its infallible teachings. Why, this makes me wonder whether Ham is a closeted Bible-denying liberal!

Let me add in closing that John Jasper is widely revered in some corners of the Evangelical world. His biography and sermons have been republished. I owned a copy of Jasper’s biography for many years. What a great man of God, I thought at the time. Standing on the precious truths of the word of God! While I didn’t embrace Jasper’s geocentric view, I did believe that God did, in fact, miraculously cause the earth (and all other planets) to stand still. Such is the ignorance required to believe that what the Bible says about scientific matters is true.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

1998: Statements Concerning Social Issues

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

Slightly edited for spelling and grammar

What follows is an excerpt from the Constitution of Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio. I started Our Father’s House in 1995. I pastored the church for seven years.

Statements of Morality, Ethics & Doctrine

Homosexuality

We as a church believe homosexuality to be a sinful and wicked behavior. (Romans 1) Such behavior is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and no practicing homosexual will be admitted as a member of the church.

Living Together

We as a church believe that a man and woman living together (as husband and wife) without being legally and morally joined together as husband and wife are living in a state of fornication and/or adultery. (Exodus 20) Such behavior is contrary to Scripture and no couple living in such a manner will be admitted as member (s) of the church.

Abortion

We as a church believe that abortion (that is non-spontaneous or not a medical emergency) is a sin and such action is murder. (Exodus 20) We believe an anti-abortion stance is consistent with the morality and ethics of Scripture and no one may be a member of the church if they promote or advocate abortion.

The Gifts of the Spirit

We as a church affirm a non-cessationist view of spiritual gifts. We believe that God spiritually gifts His people for the evangelization of the lost and for the mutual edification of the body of Christ.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

1998: The Theological Beliefs of Evangelical Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

Excerpt from Our Father’s House website, circa 1998. Edited slightly for spelling, grammar, and adding links

Often I am asked “what does your church believe about__________?”  This is not an easy question to answer because our church is a body made up of individuals, and even in a smaller church like Our Father’s House, there are “differing” views on what the Bible says about some things. We do not set any particular creed or statement of faith as a requirement for membership in the church. Rather, if a person has repented of their sins, and by faith trusted Christ for salvation, AND has a desire to be taught the Word of God, we encourage them to become a part of our assembly. We accept the Apostle’s Creed as a summary statement of belief. Please see our church constitution for further information.

So, when asked “what does your church believe about__________?” it is better for me to say what “I” believe and to share the viewpoint that “I” teach from.

I am an expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV [I later moved to the ESV]. Some church members use the NKJV.  Usually, I preach on random passages of Scripture, and at times will preach through books of the Bible. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. It does not just contain the words of God, it IS the Words of God, every jot and every tittle.

I am an Evangelical. I willingly embrace all those who claim the name of Christ and walk in His truth. I believe the denominational fragmentation that is seen today is a dishonor to the God of Heaven. The world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. One of my desires is to promote love and unity among God’s people. Lest someone think I am an ecumenist, I oppose the Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement. While I readily grant that there are many Roman Catholics who are Christians (and I embrace them as such), the official doctrine of the Roman Church is salvation (justification) by works.  In the name of Christ, I embrace God’s people wherever they may be found, but I strongly oppose the false gospel of works taught in many churches. A sinner is saved (justified) apart from the works of the law. (or any other work like baptism, joining the church, being confirmed) Sinners are not saved by works but UNTO good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

I am a Non-Cessationist. I believe that spiritual gifts are for today and that they are in operation today. While I would not call myself a charismatic, I do find a common bond with men such as John Piper and Martyn Lloyd Jones and ministries such as People of Destiny [now Sovereign Grace Churches]. I do not believe that many of the so-called charismatic gifts exercised in many Charismatic/Pentecostal churches are of God. Such churches preach a gospel according to the Holy Spirit, not a gospel that finds as its foundation Jesus Christ. Any gospel that requires a person to speak in tongues, evidence the fullness of the Spirit, etc. is a false gospel. I also stand opposed to the modern prosperity gospel preached by men such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Frederick Price, et al. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described as a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean churches. I also stand opposed to most of the Charismatic teaching regarding demons, territorial spirits, and demon/spirit possession. There is a real Devil who can and does possess his children (John 8:44) and our battle is with him, but much of the spiritual warfare teaching is according to the philosophies of men and not of God.

I believe in the validity of the law of God. God’s law is pure, holy, and true, and man is enjoined by God to obey. I emphasize that the believer is to progress in sanctification and holiness. Saved people LIVE like saved people. I find much in common with the good men and women. of the Chalcedon Foundation. They are a small voice in a large wilderness declaring the validity of the law of God.

I am a Calvinist. I believe in the Sovereignty of God and that salvation is of the Lord. No man can save himself. I do not believe man has an innate ability to believe. Unless the Father, by the power of His Spirit, draws a man to salvation, that man will never be saved. I believe in the perseverance (preservation) of the saints. God keeps His own until the day of salvation. I consider the doctrine of eternal security preached in many Churches to be a perversion of the truth because it denies a connection between the saviorship and lordship of Christ in a man’s life. There is a direct connection between a man who is saved and how he lives. The same God who saves a man has also ordained that that same man would live a life of good works. No holiness, no heaven! While I consider myself a Calvinist, I stand against hyper Calvinism and its denial of the free offer of the gospel. I also reject double predestination as a doctrine rooted in the philosophies of men and not the Word of God. As a minister of the gospel, my desire is not to convert Arminians to Calvinists, nor is it to promote a system. I preach Christ. Calvinism is the best description of how and why God saves a sinner. I, without hesitation, affirm the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as an accurate statement of that which I most surely believe.

I am posttribulational, and amillennial. I believe the church will go through the tribulation, and that there yet awaits a day when Jesus Christ will come again and judge the world.

I believe in the Lordship of Christ. We do not make Him Lord, HE IS LORD. Because He is Lord, we are called on to live holy, separated lives. The standard for such living is the Word of God. I reject all man-made standards of living, for God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Legalistic standards of touch not, taste not are rejected as the philosophies of men.

My favorite theologians and authors are JC Ryle, Wayne Grudem, Donald Bloesch, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, Gardiner Spring, John MacArthur, and most anything written during the Puritan era. Truly a minister is known by the books he reads.  My favorite bookstore is the Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service. They are an excellent source of sound doctrinal books and, of course, they carry a large supply of Puritan books

So there you have it . . .this is not all I believe . . . but I have given you enough so that you can decide what kind of preacher you think I am. After you decide, if you are still interested, please do stop and visit. We will be delighted to have you as our guest. If you have a question please email me and I will promptly reply.

Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Prayer and Reading the Bible: The One Method That ALWAYS Works in Evangelizing Atheists

ra torrey

Several years ago, the fine, upstanding Christians over on Baptist Board were discussing my past and whether I was ever a “real” Christian. If you have not taken the time to read their pontifications, please do so. And after doing so, please let me know who in the Heaven they are talking about!

One forum participant suggested the following from R.A. Torrey’s book (Torrey worked with D.L. Moody in the nineteenth century), How to Work for Christ, for reaching people such as myself:

Having asked the man these preliminary questions, proceed at once to show him how to believe. I have found no passage in the Bible equal to John 7:17 in dealing with an honest skeptic:

“If any man WILL DO HIS WILL, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

It shows the way out of skepticism to faith, and has been used of God to the salvation of countless skeptics and infidels. You can say to the skeptic, “Now Jesus Christ makes a fair proposition. He does not ask you to believe without evidence, bet He asks you to do a thing that your own conscience approves, and promises that if you do it, you will come out of skepticism into knowledge. What Jesus asks in this verse, is that you will to do God’s will; that is, that you surrender your will to God. Will you do it?”

When this point has been settled, next say to him, “Will you make an honest search to find out what the will of God is, that you may do it?” When this point has been settled, ask the man, “Do you believe that God answers prayer?” Very likely the skeptic will reply that he does not. You can say to him, “Well, I know that He does, but of course I don’t expect you to accept my opinion, but here is a possible clue to knowledge. Now the method of modern science is to follow out any possible clue to see what there is in it. You have given me a promise to make an  honest search to find the will of God, and here is a possible clue, and if your promise was honest,you will follow it. Will you pray this prayer?

‘O God, show me whether Jesus is thy Son or not; and if you show me that He is, I promise to accept Him as my Savior and confess Him as such before the world.'”

It is well to have him make his promise definite by putting it down in black and white. After this is done, show him still another step. Take him to John 20:31:

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”

Here we are told that the Gospel of John was written that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Tell him, “Now this Gospel is given for this purpose, to show that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Will you take this Gospel and read it, honestly and carefully?” Very likely he will say, “I have read it often before.” You can say, “I want you to read it in a new way. Will you read it this way? Read a few verses at a time, and each time before you read, will you ask God to  give you light on the passage that you are about to read, and promise that if He does, you will follow as much as you see to be true. Now when you have read the Gospel through, come back to me and tell me the result.” I would again carefully go over all the points as to what he was to do.

….

This method of treatment if it is honestly followed by the skeptic will never fail.

Torrey says that if skeptics are “honest” and follow his suggestions, they will unfailingly become followers of Jesus Christ. And when they don’t? Why, brothers and sisters, they ain’t being honest.

What do you think about Torrey’s approach to skepticism? Were you convinced of the error of your ways?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Replacement Doctrine: How Evangelicals Attempt to Co-opt the “World”

evangelical-ghetto
The Wall around Vatican City, similar to the wall around the Christian Ghetto

Many Evangelicals see a clear dichotomy between the spiritual and the non-spiritual world. The spiritual world is where the Christian God rules and reigns. This world is dominated by Christianity and its God, the Bible, and its standard of morality and ethics. The non-spiritual world is one where Satan is king. The Bible says that Satan is the God of this world, the prince and power of the air. According to the book of 1 Peter, Satan walks about the earth as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. While Satan certainly is not equal in power or authority to God — after all he’s a created being — he can display near God-like powers such as causing death, sickness, and all sorts of catastrophes. Just as God the Holy Spirit does with Christians, Satan can invade non-Christian minds and bodies, taking up residence and controlling them.

Evangelicals believe that God and Satan, both on earth and in an unseen spiritual dimension — think Frank Peretti — are locked in a battle for the souls of humanity. Satan wants to take as many souls to hell as he can, so Christians feel they are duty-bound to do all they can to make sure that as few people as possible end up in the Lake of Fire. They also believe that Satan, despite Christians being indwelt by the Spirit of God, can influence and, at times, control followers of Jesus. While Satan cannot take away their salvation, he can, through trial and temptation, keep them from being the kind of Christians they should be — people who follow the Lamb (Jesus) whithersoever he goeth. Such Satan-influenced Christians are often called carnal or worldly believers. Often these weaklings in the faith are called baby Christians. This terminology came up in public discussions about “Christian” Donald Trump’s abhorrent, vile behavior towards women. Desperately wanting to believe that the Republican candidate is God’s chosen leader for America, some Evangelical talking heads have suggested that Trump is a “baby” Christian. By labeling Trump this way, they dismiss virtually all of his narcissistic, psychopathic behavior.

Evangelical churches, pastors, and parachurch leaders, realizing that the overwhelming majority of American Christians are behaviorally no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world, have decided that the best way to counteract and repel Satan and his atheistic, secularist followers is to build some sort of alternate reality, one that I often call the Christian Ghetto. The goal is to wall off Christians, as much as possible, from the world. They do this by replacing the “things” of the world with Christianized versions. The Bible says in 1 John 2:15-17:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Knowing God’s view of the world while at the same time understanding that Christians are, after all, h-u-m-a-n, Evangelical leaders have developed programs and activities that allow Christians to feel that they are part of the human race without being tainted by worldliness. Every day, millions of Evangelicals, forced to work secular jobs, go out into the world and endure rubbing shoulders with the followers of Satan. They do all they can to put in a good word for Jesus through witnessing, handing out tracts, writing Jesus loves you on bathroom stalls, and decorating their cubicles with religious kitsch. When lunchtime comes, these light-in-darkness followers of Jesus will quietly bow their heads and offer up a prayer of thanks for their lunch. They will also likely ask God for strength to help them get through the day as they come in contact with “sinners.” Come five o’clock, these world-weary Christians file out to their cars, turn on the local Christian radio station or stream their favorite contemporary Christian artists to their car’s entertainment system, and head for home. Once home, they immerse themselves in the Evangelical replacement culture. Whether in their car, at home, or at church, Evangelicals do all they can to cleanse their minds and hearts from what they perceive to be the filth of the world. Many of them will offer up prayers of not only thankfulness, but of repentance, telling God they are sorry that they allowed the “world” to influence their behavior.

Evangelical churches and parachurch groups have spent the past seven decades building a Trump-worthy wall around the Christian Ghetto. On Sundays, the front gate is opened so unsaved people — often viewed as Wildlings (Free Folk) in the Game of Thrones — can attend church services, with Christians hoping that the worldlings will get saved. The rest of the time, the gate is shut, opened only when its inhabitants go out into the world to scavenge for food and earn money to pay their tithes and offerings.

Inside the Christian Ghetto is found a plethora of worldly things that have been Christianized. Take Halloween. Many Evangelicals, not wanting to support Satanism and witchcraft, instead turn to Halloween-like parties and events that have been sanitized for Christian use. Children wear Bible character costumes instead of dressing up as witches, fairies, or Walking Dead characters. Some churches use Halloween as an opportunity to evangelize those who live outside the ghetto. These churches sponsor what are commonly called Hell houses. One such event was scheduled to be held at a Chicago public school, that is until school officials found out that the event included a re-creation of the Pulse nightclub shootings. The goal is to scare the hell out of people, and lead them to saving faith in Jesus Christ. As is often the case, Evangelicals are quite willing to use the world to further their agenda. The Catholic church wrote the playbook for this when it, centuries ago, co-opted pagan and secular holidays and turned them into religious holidays.

Most of the time, however, Evangelicals are content to live safely behind the walls of the Christian Ghetto, reading Christian books, listening to Christian music, surfing Christian websites and blogs, and attending a plethora of services and activities meant to make fat sheep fatter. Evangelical pastors, churches, and parachurch leaders know that most Christians want what the world has to offer. We humans want what we want, right? Despite everything the Bible says about the world and avoiding its soul-damaging influence, most Evangelicals want to enjoy all that life has to offer. While some Evangelical sects choose to develop rigid lists of rules that dictate what behaviors are permissible, other sects choose to allow congregants “freedom” to enjoy life, but only within the context of the Christian Ghetto. Evangelical preachers will preach against rock music and secular musicians, encouraging church members to listen to contemporary Christian music or Christian rock. They also encourage members to listen to local Christian radio stations instead of tuning into classic rock or top 40 stations. The recent explosion of praise and worship bands onto the church scene allows pastors and church leaders to use rock ‘n’ roll music during worship services. Churches now have full-blown bands that almost rival Satan’s bands. I say almost, because, as anyone who has ever lived in the Christian Ghetto knows, rarely are Christianized replacements as good as those which are found in the world. Sadly, much of the entertainment-driven worship found in many evangelical churches is a cheap imitation of that which is found in the world.

When presented with a choice between the real thing and a cheap imitation, many Evangelicals choose both, negating the purpose and reason for the Christian alternative. Fact is, despite an endless stream of Christianized entertainments, Evangelicals still love the world. DirecTV provides all sorts of Christian and “family” oriented channels and programming, and I am sure that cable TV does the same. Despite having a treasure trove of Christian programming at their disposal, Evangelicals still watch “worldly” programming, and are quite capable of having intelligent conversations about shows such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. The same Evangelicals listen to Christian music, but when pastors or fellow Christians are not around, they flip the channel to local classic rock radio stations and sing along to songs by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to give up on the replacement doctrine. It simply does not work. Evangelical parents can homeschool their children or send them to Christian schools for thirteen years, hoping to shelter their offspring from Satan and his humanistic, secularist, immoral ways, but sooner or later these same children will have to go out into the world without mommy and daddy protecting them. And once out in the world these lambs become easy prey for those who really do want to hurt them. Or, as many of us can testify, once free from the constraints of Evangelical parents and churches, young adults will throw themselves headlong into “worldly” wants, pleasures, and desires, often making a big mess in the process. The solution is not to build higher walls around the ghetto, but instead to teach children how to navigate a world filled with things that could harm them. Instead of giving them long lists of things to avoid, children would be better served if they were taught to think for themselves. Instead of telling Evangelical teenagers that drinking alcohol and engaging in premarital sex are sins, perhaps it is better to teach them how to make responsible decisions when confronted with opportunities to engage in these behaviors. Of course, part of this training would mean teaching them a situational or relativistic view of human conduct, and therein lies the problem. Evangelicals are wed to the notion that the Bible is some sort of divine road map for life, and its directions must be followed at all times. Because of this, Evangelical girls end up pregnant and boys and girls alike end up infected with sexually-transmitted diseases. No need to teach them to handle their sexuality responsibly, because God says it’s a sin and that is all they need to know. Well, God says lots of things are sins, yet from my seat in the pew, it seems that most Evangelicals are not paying attention. Try as they might to play by the rules, Evangelicals need, want, and desire that which a bunch of bronze-age and first-century men say they can’t have. Freedom awaits those who dare to consider leaving the Christian Ghetto. The first step towards freedom is relegating the Bible to the dustbin of human history. Once free of the Bible, people can then embrace their humanity without fearing God or Satan is going to get them.

Did your parents or church practice the replacement doctrine? Did you as a Christian parent do so? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Short Stories: Charley’s Steakery, the Itch to Preach, and Sex for Tacos 

charleys-steakery

After leaving Community Baptist Church in the fall of 1994, we moved to the small central Ohio village of Frazeysburg, 16 miles east of Newark, where Polly’s mom and dad lived. Polly’s parents gave us enough money for a down payment on a fairly new 14′ x 70′ mobile home. We lived in Williamsburg Square — a well-kept manufactured home community that catered to older families without children and younger families with two children or fewer. The only reason we were allowed to live in Williamsburg Square was because we had previously bought a mobile home from Williamsburg, and after observing how well behaved our children were, the owners decided it would be safe to allow the Gerencser children to prowl the neighborhood. Our older neighbors were delighted to have our children around, especially when it came time to rake leaves and shovel snow. Believing that it was important for our children to serve others, we asked them to help our neighbors without pay. This they gladly did, even though several neighbors were insistent that our children be paid.

After getting settled in Frazeysburg, I went about looking for suitable employment to provide for my family. In less than a week I had secured a job working as general manager for a Charley’s Steakery in Zanesville, Ohio.  As it was with every time I needed to secure secular employment, I made substantially more money working in the “world” than I did working as a pastor. Having managed restaurants in the past, I was well-suited for my new job. The owner was a Taiwanese man who operated a restaurant in Columbus. He was a hands-off owner who expected me to manage every aspect of his franchise. I would talk to him on the phone every few days, and every month or so he would stop by for a short visit to see how things were going. Outside of these contacts, I was on my own (which I liked).

The restaurant had been run into the ground by the previous manager. Its owner would later tell me, after contacting me to testify in a wage-hour dispute, that I was the best manager he had ever hired. He told me that he knew that I would just take care of things and that he wouldn’t have to worry about whether I was doing my job. Working for Charley’s Steakery was by far the best job I ever had. I had the freedom to hire the necessary people to ensure that the restaurant ran smoothly. Unfortunately, this meant reassigning or firing many of the existing employees, most of whom treated their job like a weekend at a spa. They learned quickly that I was a no-nonsense, the-customer-comes-first, if-you-have-time-to-lean-you-have-time-to-clean, trust-but-verify manager.

During this foray into the secular world, we attended Fallsburg Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in Fallsburg. Ohio. The church was pastored by my then-best friend Keith Troyer. (Keith currently pastors Grace Baptist Church in Greenville, Pennsylvania.) Attending Keith’s church allowed us an opportunity to recover from the wounds inflicted upon us through our horrific experiences at Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. (Please see the series I am a Publican and a Heathen.) In retrospect, we should have spent more time recuperating, but as I shall share in a moment, the not-preaching bug bit me and after a few months on the sideline I was ready to return to the pastorate. Keith tried to satiate my need by allowing me to preach from time to time. Though our friendship did not survive my loss of faith, I have always appreciated what Keith did for our family.

Going to work at Charley’s Steakery six days a week allowed me to stay busy. It was not uncommon for me to work 60-70 hours a week – workaholic that I am. Part of the reason I had to work long hours is that I had a hard time attracting and keeping employees. I’m sure some of the problem was that new employees quickly realized that they would actually have to work once they took the job, and didn’t stay long.  Over the years, I hired scores of entry-level employees and managers. Some of these new hires turned out to be wonderful employees. However, far too many of them were indolent, lazy people looking to make as much money as possible for the least amount of work. Such people, of course, frustrated the hell out of me. Workaholics have a hard time understanding why everyone is not just like them. I spent much of my life as a pastor planting new churches. This type of work lends itself to driven workaholics. I was always perturbed by pastors who viewed the pastorate as a vacation gig, one where they preached on Sundays and played golf and hung out with their preacher friends the rest of the week. Again, I projected my own work ethic and way of looking at life on others. While I still think many pastors are as lazy as a coon dog in front of a fireplace on a cold winter’s night, I do realize that my judgments of others were often unfair or misguided.

The restaurant I managed was in the food court at the Colony Square Mall on the north side of Zanesville. I had to compete with restaurants such as Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Mr. Hot Dog, and a Chinese restaurant. We not only competed for food dollars, we also battled one another over employees. Charley’s Steakery shared a back hallway with Taco Bell. Employees would enter their respective restaurants via this hallway. Taco Bell was the first restaurant after employees entered the hallway. The manager of Taco Bell, noticing the quality of several of my employees, began poaching them, offering them better wages than I could offer. After a few weeks of losing employees, I decided to contact the Taco Bell manager. I asked her to please stop soliciting my employees. There, I thought to myself. I have put an end to that problem.

Several days later, the director of franchise operations called me about a disturbing call he had just received from the Taco Bell manager. According to her, I had asked her to please stop offering sex to my employees as an enticement for coming to work for her. That’s right, because I used the word “soliciting,” the Taco Bell manager thought I was talking about her prostituting herself. Of course, I did no such thing. I assumed that she had at least a cursory understanding of the English language and knew that the words solicit/soliciting/solicitation actually have several meanings, but she did not. After explaining to the franchise operations director what my intent was, he suggested (demanded?) that I contact her and apologize. My first thought was, apologize? What did I do that was wrong? It’s not my fault this dumb hillbilly doesn’t know what the word soliciting means. After pondering what to do for several days, my what-would-Jesus-do guilt kicked in, and I sat down and wrote a letter to the Taco Bell manager apologizing for our misunderstanding. But, before I uttered the words “I’m sorry,” I made sure she understood the dictionary definition of the word “soliciting.”

The Taco Bell manager quit soliciting my employees and I went back to trying to find meaning and purpose in secular work. But five months after I took the job, I could no longer push down the urge, need, and desire — the Holy Spirit — to pastor another church. In February 1995, some (now former) friends of ours, Marv and Louise Hartman, stopped by the restaurant to visit with me. They lived in the northwest Ohio city of Bryan — the city of my birth. (We currently live five miles south of Bryan.) I had known the Hartmans since I was a teenager. Their oldest son Lyle was, at the time, a good friend of mine. As a teenager, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan, as did the Hartmans. Marv and I played church league softball together and Louise help me save money for college by managing my savings account. (Years later, after sending out my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, Louise sent me a blistering letter that said I had been taken over by Satan. She later wrote and apologized for the first letter. Our friendship did not survive.)

The Hartmans told me about a church that was looking for a pastor near where they lived — Olive Branch Christian Union Church, near Fayette, Ohio. A few short weeks later, we packed up our belongings and moved our mobile home to a trailer pad next to the church for what would be a short seven-month pastorate. In retrospect, as I shared above, we should have taken more time to heal before taking another church to pastor. Despite advice from several friends who suggested that I slow down and do pulpit supply, revivals, and itinerant work, I felt the need to be about my Father’s business, and that feeling was so great that neither money, common sense, nor my wife’s objections would keep me from quitting a job that paid twice what Olive Branch Christian Union Church was offering me. All that mattered was that God had called me to preach and I needed to be busy preaching. This is why it amuses me when people suggest that I was in the ministry for the money. I ALWAYS made more money in the secular world than I did as pastor. If I had it to do all over again, I would have worked bi-vocationally, providing for my family and scratching my God-inspired itch to preach. We wouldn’t be facing some of the financial problems we now face if I had put my family first.

As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser