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Dear Evangelical, Please Be Honest With Unbelievers

full disclosure
Graphic by Chris Slane

Evangelicals like to tell anyone who will listen that they are truth-seekers; that they are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. But is this really true?

I contend that many Christian zealots have a hard time admitting what they really believe. Rarely, when speaking with non-Christians, do they give a full disclosure of their beliefs. Instead, they speak of the transformative powers of their religion and how Jesus changed their lives. They speak of the fruit and benefit of being a Christian. All this is well and good, but shouldn’t Christians tell the whole story when sharing with someone the wonders of Christianity? Surely they want a person to enter into the Christian religion with their eyes wide open, right?

The truth is just the opposite. Most evangelism methods teach people to focus on the gospel, to focus on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. When a non-Christian asks questions that are not on-point, they are told to direct the person back to the main message of the forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. Questions and doubts are better left to another day after the person has become a Christian.

This seems to me like a car salesman selling someone a car without letting them look under the hood. The salesman extols the beauty and craftsmanship of the exterior without ever disclosing that the motor is missing. This is the way many people feel a year or so after they have been saved/converted/born again.

These new converts entered Christianity with a superficial knowledge of what it is that Christians really believe. They were told the bare minimum necessary to get them into the baptismal and church pew. If we can just get the non-Christians saved and in the church, we can then teach (indoctrinate) them the rest of the story, Christians think to themselves. No need to muddy the waters with talk about abortion, homosexuality, tithing, or any of the sundry other beliefs that Christians hold dear. All the sinner needs to know is that Heaven is real, Hell is hot, death is certain, and the forgiveness of sin is but a prayer away.

This way of evangelizing is rooted in the notion that the number of souls saved and the number of people attending church are the standard for determining success. By this standard, Jesus was an overwhelming failure. When the disciples in Jerusalem gathered in the upper room they numbered 120. Not much of a crowd after 3 years of preaching, healing the sick, and raising the dead.

Far too many Evangelical churches and pastors think the answer to reaching the masses is catchy clichés and slick advertising. If we can just get non-Christians to pay attention to us, Evangelical pastors think, then they will come to our store and check us out.  And granted, humans are quite gullible and subject to being easily swayed by flashy colors and promises beyond their wildest dreams. As much as we would like to think otherwise, advertising works. We see or hear an ad and the message becomes fixed in our minds. Sometimes it is very subtle. Now that millions of homes have DVRs and viewers are skipping advertisements, advertisers have taken to using in-show product placement. The next time you watch a TV show, look carefully for the product placements. Look behind the scene. The advertisements are everywhere.

Apple is a master at the product placement game. Virtually every TV show has an Apple computer, tablet, or iPhone prominently displayed. This annoys me to no end. I know that only a small percentage of homes actually have an Apple computer and that we are a Windows-based PC culture, yet if I didn’t know that, I would assume every home in America had an Apple computer.

Apple wants consumers to buy into their myth: that owning an Apple product is more than just owning a new piece of hardware. It is an “experience”  Forget the price. Forget everything that might be negative about the product and focus on the experience. (Full disclosure: I own an iPad Pro and iPhone.)

The bottom line is that corporations want consumers to buy their products and they use slick advertising to induce us to purchase their wares. They never mention what their product won’t do.  They want consumers to buy into the advertising hype without looking too closely at the negative aspects of their product. After all, they are well aware that they must convince consumers to want what they don’t need.

If corporations gave full disclosures with every product they sell, their sales would plummet. They know they must promote the positive and hide the negative in order to continue to sell products. So it is with Evangelical Christianity.

A belief system is far more important than buying a consumer product. A belief system is meant to permeate itself throughout a person’s life. Whether we say we are a Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Pantheist, Mormon, or Humanist, we should know why we are labeling ourselves in this manner. Beliefs affect how we view the world and each other. They also determine what things we value and consider important.

I deconverted almost fourteen years ago. Since then, several people I know have come out in a big way and declared themselves to be atheists, only to, a few months or years later, return to the Christian religion. The reasons for their double-mindedness are many, but the key issue is that these people did not carefully consider what it means to be an atheist. Perhaps they were just angry at God or angry at their church or pastor and in a moment they said, FINE! I reject God and I am now an atheist!  Once the anger subsided, they realized that their decision to call themselves atheists was a decision based on emotion and not fact.

Many Evangelicals come into the Christian church in similar fashion. Trouble comes into their lives: marriage problems, family problems, financial reversals, health problems, addictions, mental distress, or emptiness. They are looking for answers, meaning, purpose, and deliverance. They want their lives to be different.

And into their need steps a Christian preaching a minimalist message of a Jesus who will fix what ails you. Just, let Go and let God, people are told. Preachers and evangelizers tell them just enough to get them inside the front door of the church house. A new convert is made, glory to God!

Once inside the church,  they are then, bit by bit, exposed to the “rest” of the Christian belief system. Some new converts are appalled once they hear, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. They might say to themselves, I wish they had told me these things BEFORE I became a Christian. Others, desiring the communal aspects of belonging to a group, quickly become cafeteria Christians, believing what they want to believe and rejecting that which they find offensive.

Over time, the communal aspects of Christianity often lose their power. The new and the not-so-new converts start to see that Evangelicals aren’t any different from non-Christians. They come to understand, that for all their talk of change and newness of life, Evangelicals are quite like the rest of the human race.

Evangelicals lie, cheat, kill, steal, and commit acts their Bible says are sins at the same frequency and level non-Christians do. Simply put, they are just like everyone else (and smart is the Christian who understands this).

The pews of Christian churches are filled with people with questions and doubts about what their pastors call “truth.” Their skepticism and dubiety are never given a voice because doing so would open them up to scrutiny or charges of lacking faith. Evangelical churches and pastors demand fidelity to their teachings, and outliers or non-conformists are looked down upon, and in some cases, kicked out of the church. In many churches, it is: believe this or leave.

The ranks of atheists, agnostics, and nones are growing due to the fact that people are asking questions that they find no answers for within the Christian church. As their questions and doubts grow, so does their disaffection and estrangement from the church. Having become a Christian with a bare minimum of knowledge and understanding, they have little or no ability to find answers to their doubts or questions. Often their pastors are no help because the only answers they have are pat, superficial, proof-texts from the Bible. If all else fails, doubters are reminded that the Devil uses doubt to lead Christians astray. The antidote for doubt is faith and resting on the promises found in the Bible.

These tactics may have worked years ago, but not today. People have questions and they want answers. Real answers. Saying, God says or the Bible says, is not sufficient. As Christians listen to more and more preaching, they start to ask themselves, do I believe this? As they listen to the political and social pronouncements from the pulpit they ask, does this accurately reflect my worldview? Telling such doubters to just “faith it” will surely drive many of them into the arms of humanists, atheists, and secularists like myself.

Questioning often leads these Evangelicals to look for answers outside the church. They start reading books or searching the internet. They stumble upon blogs such as this one. They say to themselves, here’s someone who understands where we are in our lives. He understands our doubts and questions, and so do the people who comment on his posts. They might even email me or leave a comment asking for help. They find out that questions and doubts are okay, and that the most important thing is following the path of life wherever it leads.

When doubters and questioners write me, I do not try to convert them to atheism. I encourage them to read and study, offering the titles of a few books that might be a help.  I encourage them to seek out answers to their questions and doubts. Above all, I gently ask them to walk the path of life with honesty and integrity. If they will do this, I tell them, they will end up exactly where they need to be.

I try to give people full disclosure when I talk about my own life and my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. I do not hide the negative aspects of becoming an atheist. It is important that doubters have full knowledge before they choose to number themselves among the godless. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist)

I wish Christians would do the same. Instead of using shallow, superficial evangelism methods, Evangelicals should be honest about what means to profess faith and Christ and be a part of a Christian church. Evangelicals need to stop hiding the unsavory or harsh aspects of Christianity and the Bible. Instead, prospective Christians should be encouraged to study the history of Christianity before deciding to become Christians. Evangelical churches and pastors should make sure prospective converts are fully informed about what it means to follow Jesus, including the social and cultural prohibitions.

Christian churches are hemorrhaging people because they have failed to do this. Surely, it is preferable to have fewer, but better-informed converts, than to have pews filled with people whose knowledge of Christianity wouldn’t fill a 3×5 card.

Ignorance is rife within the Christian church. The average Christian couldn’t defend his or her beliefs if their lives depended on it. All they know is this: Jesus saved Me! Praise Jesus, when is the next fellowship dinner? Quote the Ten Commandments? Summarize the Sermon on the Mount? Defend the Trinitarian teaching on God? Give a cogent, complete defense of how a person is saved?  Not a chance.

The truth is most Christians rarely read the Bible. Their knowledge of Christianity comes from what the pastor says during his sermons.  I long ago concluded that for many Christians, their belief system is whatever their pastor believes. They live in blissful ignorance of what the Bible actually says and what the Evangelical church actually believes.

If Christian churches want to stem the tide of disaffection and departure, they must begin telling the truth. All the truth, not just a sanitized version to sell people on the notion of what Jesus can do for them.

Christianity is doing a good job making people atheists. Until they get serious about disclosing the good, bad, and ugly of the Christian faith, they will continue to make people the twofold children of Hell.

To those churches and pastors who love to blame evolutionists, secularists, and atheists for their numerical decline and loss of power, I say this: don’t blame us. It is your own fault for thinking you could continue to hoodwink people into believing without knowing. In this modern era of science, such an approach no longer works. If you want people to treat Christianity seriously, and you want people to consider joining your club, then you owe it to prospective converts to tell them the whole truth about the Christian religion. If you refuse to do this, the only blame for the empty pews rests with you.


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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How Should Churches Handle Allegations of Abuse?

child abuse

How should churches handle allegations of abuse? Let me state right up front that I do not think churches should “handle” anything.  This is what gets churches, pastors, and church leaders into trouble to start with. Instead of immediately doing the right thing when someone makes an allegation of abuse, pastors and church members often:

  • Consult with the pastor
  • Consult with the deacons or some other church board
  • Call a denominational leader and ask what they should do
  • Consult with a few church members to chart a course of action
  • Pray about it
  • Seek out counsel from other pastors
  • Wait to see if the “problem” goes away
  • Interrogate the individual or the person making the allegation
  • Investigate the “character” of the person making the allegation
  • Bury the “problem” in the deepest sea, never to be seen again

All of these things are the WRONG things to do. Period. End of debate. No discussion. Far too often, the church or pastor is more concerned about protecting the church’s testimony in the community than protecting the person who might have been abused. As a result, it often appears to the community that the church is more interested in its own reputation than ending and prosecuting any abuse that might be going on.

In most states, pastors and church leaders are required by law to report suspected abuse. It is not up to the church or the pastor to decide if the allegation is true. That’s what the police, prosecutor, and child protective services are for. They will investigate and act accordingly. Even in cases where the abuse took place years before, once a church or a pastor has knowledge of the allegation, both have a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to report it. A failure to do so can, in many states, leave the church or pastor criminally liable (and I wish more prosecutors would charge and prosecute pastors and church leaders for failing to report).

Once an allegation has become common knowledge, it is in the church’s best interest to make a public statement about the allegation. Yes, it is up to the police and the courts to determine guilt, but the church can state exactly what has been done in response to the allegation. They can further state what they will do to make sure that abuse does not happen in the future. It is not enough to just tell the church, the board, or write a generic letter to church members.

child abuse 2

I know of one church that has had several problems with rape and sexual abuse in their bus ministry. The pastor of the church has never fully disclosed to the church the complete details of what happened. Outside of several news stories, the public has no idea about what the church did or didn’t do in response to the abuse. The pastor says to the church members, trust me, and he says to the world, it is none of your business.

Churches like this want people to come to their church and they want people to trust them. However, the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church, the Evangelical church, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, and countless unaffiliated churches, are a poignant reminder that no one should, by default, trust a church or a pastor. I, for one, would not let my children or grandchildren out of my sight while attending church. I know too much and I have heard too many stories. (Please see Black Collar Crime Series.) If this makes me untrusting, cynical, or jaded, so be it. Better to be this way than naïvely turn people I love over to someone I don’t really know in the hope that they are what they say they are.

Some churches give the illusion that their place of worship is safe. They tell new families: we do criminal background checks on every worker in the church. While this is certainly a good idea, a one-time background check accomplishes what? If the person has never been arrested or convicted of a crime, his or her background check would come back clean. Background checks are little more than a band-aid over a festering sore.

I know of one pastor who refuses to do background checks. His rationale for refusing to do them? After a person is saved, past sins are “under the blood.”  The person, no matter what he or she may have done in the past, is completely forgiven by God (after all, God forgave David, the adulterer/murderer, right?). This kind of naïve thinking is why churches are havens for predators. It is not hard to stand before a congregation and give a wonderful testimony of God’s saving grace, yet be a child molester. It is quite easy to learn religious lingo. My family and I could dress up this Sunday, go to church, and everyone would likely think we are wonderful Christians. We know the talk, the walk, the songs. We know how to do Evangelical. Yet, in real life we are atheists, agnostics, Catholics, and Buddhists, and most of us are ― shudder to think of it ― Democrats.  Anyone who has spent any time at all in church can easily fake it.

But, Bruce, the Holy Spirit will let the church know they aren’t real Christians. Do you really want to trust the welfare of church children and teenagers to the Holy Spirit?  Are you really saying that a Christian could NOT be a pedophile, abuser, or predator?

I am often asked about how I handled abuse allegations when I was a pastor. Simple. I reported them each and every time. When I heard of an allegation of abuse, even if it was a second-hand report, I immediately called Children’s Services or law enforcement.  Years ago, we had a couple with a baby living in our church basement (they had been homeless). One day, I came into the basement and the baby was screaming uncontrollably. I went to check on the child and I asked the mother why the child was screaming. She told me she didn’t know. I suggested she should take care of the child. Her reply? When she was done eating she would get around to it.  This, along with several other things I had noticed, was enough for me. I called Children’s Services and they came out the next day to investigate. The couple was told that any further complaints would result in them losing the child. They knew I had reported them and they were furious. Me? I couldn’t have cared less about what they thought. It was the baby who mattered.

We operated a bus ministry for many years. There were several instances where abuse was suspected and I reported it. In one case, an older woman was throwing booze and sex parties for church teens. When I found out about it I told their parents and reported the woman. It was a no-brainer, even if every boy in the church thought the parties (and the sex with her) were wonderful.

Years ago ― well everything is years ago now ― I helped my father-in-law start a church. One day, the infant of one of our church families suddenly died. It was ruled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Weeks after the death, the grieving father came to my father-in-law and confessed that he had shaken the baby to death. My father-in-law came to me and asked what he should do since the man told him this in confidence. I told him he had to report it to the police. He did, and the man went to prison.

When I was counseling people, I made it clear that if they were going to confess to abuse or a felony, I was obligated to report it. I have never believed that what is said in confidence to a pastor must always remain so. When a young man confessed to me that he had murdered his girlfriend, I encouraged him to turn himself in, and then I let the police know what he had told me. I later gave a sworn affidavit in the case, Fortunately, the man pleaded guilty and I did not have to testify. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Granted, these are exceptional circumstances. The people I pastored knew that they could trust me with their secrets. As long as their secrets didn’t involve abuse or a felony, their secrets were safe with me. People often have a need to unburden themselves of past actions and “sins,” and they do so by talking to a pastor, a priest, or a good friend. When people write me and tell me their stories I always let them know that their correspondence with me will be kept confidential. However, if they confess to murdering their spouse or molesting a child, I would report it immediately,

This does not make me a saint. However, when it comes to dealing with abuse and helping those who have been abused, I am always on the side of the abused. My mother was sexually abused as a child by her father, raped by a brother-in-law, and sexually molested by a Christian psychiatrist (and they all got away with it). I have a family member who was sexually abused by her IFB father. (Her abuser has been in prison for over 20 years.) Add to this the horror stories I heard while counseling church members and the emails I now receive from people who have been abused, I hope you will forgive me if I am passionate about this issue.

As far as I am concerned, it is quite simple for churches or pastors when it comes to how to handle allegations of abuse. REPORT IT IMMEDIATELY. Then take the necessary steps to make sure that abuse does not happen in the future. It is tragic that some churches are magnets for sexual predators. In these churches, it seems that every few years a church member, pastor, deacon, youth pastor, bus worker, or Sunday School teacher is being accused of abuse. Perhaps churches such as these should be forced to have the equivalent of what we have here in Ohio for drunk drivers. Some judges require people convicted of DUI to get yellow license plates. Perhaps repeat offender churches need some sort of yellow license plate that warns the public that the church has been a haven for abusers or predators.


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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Know-it-all Christians Write to No-Nothing Bruce Gerencser

know it all

If there is one thing that fifteen years of blogging has taught me, it is that many Evangelicals are know-it-alls. Armed with a perfect Bible and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, these super-saints have life figured out. They KNOW they are right and they KNOW non-Christians wrong. And based on having the ability to discern the thoughts and motivations of others, they stand in judgment over those who have left the Christian faith.

Take Britta, a local Charismatic pastor’s daughter (Bethel Church in Defiance). Several years ago, Britta stopped by and left a comment that revealed she knew exactly what was wrong with Bruce Gerencser, the pastor-turned-atheist. What follows is her comment and my response (indented and italicized):

All grammar and spelling errors in the original.

Hi Bruce – I think I see how you ended up here. I’ve not read all of your posts, but it seems that your path is similar to a lot of folks: entrenched in some legalistic sect (borderline cults, really), then fleeing from that absurd burden you are comforted by those espousing that “the well is poisoned” (liberals of the old mainline groups), until finally you have to ditch it all. I can’t say I blame you too much – it’s exhausting to be tossed about on every wave.

Britta read all of about fifteen posts on this site. Based on these posts, she was quickly able to discern what I was really all about. This is truly amazing, I must say. Many Christians have a magical gift of being able to pass judgment on most anybody, using the slimmest of information. Of course, this is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Proverbs 18:13 states: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. A Christian should never make any judgment before hearing (reading) the whole story.

But I don’t believe that you’re an athiest. Sure, you say you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, but you do believe in a god. You. Perfectly reasonable, actually. There is no other choice. I know that know other god is going to show up and pronounce himself as such — and you know it, too, despite your protestations — and so you get to stay god of your world. Tah-dah! (Atheism is really disingenuous.)

Britta evidently thinks that there is no such thing as an atheist. All people either believe in the Christian God or they are their own God. Atheists need not apply.

No matter how many times Christians like Britta assert that there is no such thing as an atheist — here we are. And our numbers are growing. Pretending something doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so.

If by God, Britta means the person in control, then yes, I am my own God. It is my life, who else would be in control of it but me?

Christians are no different. Oh, they “say” God is in control of their lives, but they, for the most part, don’t live any differently from atheists. Are Christians morally superior to atheists? The evidence suggests they are not. Day in and day out, Christians and atheists alike live their lives the best they know how. Christians are every bit as much the “God” of their world as is the atheist (contrary to what the Bible says). Christians speak about a God who is in control of everything, but then turn around and live their lives as if this God is not in control at all (except for an occasional winning touchdown or election win).

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps, despite your own time in the pulpit, you never understood the simplicity of grace. It really is foolishness to the perishing, but life to those being saved, so here ’tis, for good measure:

Britta finally gets down to what she really thinks about my life: despite fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years in the pastorate, I never really understood the simplicity of grace.

Of course, the unstated point here is that Britta understands what I do not. She proves her point by loosely quoting a Bible verse. It is all foolishness to me because I am perishing (lost, headed for Hell). It is life to her because she is one of the saved (or one that is being saved).

You (and me and all of us) are not perfect. A God worth worshiping IS perfect. Perfection rightly demands perfection, and since none of us can attain perfection, God offered himself in our place to be that perfection. Nothing we do merits his gift. All we have to do is accept it — that is, bend a knee and admit that we are lost without God and his gift of grace.

Britta and I agree on one thing: none of us is perfect. However, Britta’s comment betrays an arrogance found among many Christians. While their behavior may not be perfect, they arrogantly think that their interpretation of the Bible is.

Britta asserts that God is perfect. What evidence does she have for her claim? The Bible? Surely not. By examining how God reveals himself through the Bible, we humans can quickly discern that God is far from perfect.  In fact, God is quite capricious. He even changes his mind. I would think a perfect deity would get it right the first time. God fucked it up from the start. He couldn’t even get creation right.

Evidently Britta has not read the book of James. James contradicts Britta’s assertion that salvation is a free gift and that all we have to do is receive it. James says that faith without works is dead. So which is it? Faith alone? Faith plus works?

(And I should add that Britta does a poor job presenting the Christian gospel. Her presentation is incomplete, to say the least.)

It’s an easy burden — but the crank legalist won’t allow it, neither will an ersatz intellectual grasp it. I’m sorry both camps have been so hard on you. (Really, I am sorry – no snark.) It takes the Spirit of God to discern things of the spirit. I’ll pray that God will open His Word to you.

Britta betrays the true nature of much of modern Christianity. It is nothing more than good, old-fashioned Gnosticism. You see, a person can’t discern the Bible and the things of the Spirit unless the Spirit of God gives them the ability to do so. On one hand, people are told they must repent and believe the gospel, but on the other hand they are told they can’t even discern what God wants unless God gives them the ability to do so.

Britta thinks she has a special, inside track with God. She is praying that God will open up the Bible to me. What is God going to show me that I haven’t already seen?  Is there some secret message, some special code that has somehow eluded me all these years? How will I know if God opens up the Bible to me? Will I start speaking Aramaic Greek?

I wish you the best, sir…

What if “best” is where I am now? Does Britta genuinely wish me the best? Of course not. There is no “best” without Jesus (or Britta’s version of Jesus).

Next up is a comment from a young Christian named Jason. Jason commented on a post I wrote about the Bible teaching different plans of salvation. Here’s what he had to say:

I have no doubt that there are “Christians” that don’t understand a lot. Many of them, as you say, may be inclined to blindly follow. However, I don’t agree that this is true of most or any “real” Christians. Those actively reading God’s word and being involved in church groups would not follow these categories. The “Christians” you are referring to in these statements are the ones who are simply professing Christians.

Right away Jason lets me know that there are two types of Christians: professing Christians and REAL Christians. Of course, Jason is a REAL Christian. I find it interesting that every Christian who takes this approach always thinks he or she is one of the REAL Christians. Calvinists do the same. I have never met a Calvinist who didn’t say that he or she was one of the elect. Seems quite self-serving, if you ask me.

About this statement:

“Christians are confused about what salvation is. Of course this is understandable because the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation.”

I don’t quite understand what you mean by the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation. It says clearly that Jesus is the only way to God the Father in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me’”. The Bible also explains in Romans 5:8 that Jesus did (sic) in our place and wiped our sin clean “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” It’s beyond me what other kind of “plan of salvation” could be.

Jason is perplexed by my statement that the Bible teaches many plans of salvation. I know that Jason has been “taught” that there is only one plan of salvation, but he might want to read the Good Book again.

In the Old Testament, how were people saved? By keeping the law.

In the New Testament, how were people saved? Paul said by faith. James said by faith and works. In Acts the early church concluded that certain works were required for Gentiles to be saved.

There are thousands of Christian sects. Each sect has its own take on salvation. Is it by faith alone? Is it by faith and works? Is it by baptism for the remission of sins? Must a person speak in tongues as evidence of salvation? Must a person persevere to the end to be saved?

Supposedly, the salvation message is so simple that even a child can understand it. If this is so, why is there so much confusion in Christianity over what is required for a person to be saved? If, as Britta says above, the Holy Spirit gives discernment, why is there so much confusion? Maybe the Holy Spirit needs to be relieved of his duties. Perhaps God should do away with the Bible and put out a Salvation FAQ. In the FAQ God should state very clearly his demands, using as few words as possible. Surely God wants everyone to know the simple gospel message, right? Oh wait, no he doesn’t, since he created some people so he could damn them, and he even makes some people spiritually deaf so they will not hear the gospel. What kind of God says to a deaf man, HEAR?

I understand that you, as a former pastor, may have been faced with many people that fell under the categories listed, but I reassure you that Christians, like myself, who, really in their hearts believe that Jesus is their savior and make that effort to learn more about Him, don’t really fit the description.

Jason wants me to know that he is not like other Christians. He is a sincere Christian®. He is a devoted Christian. He really, really believes in his heart and he makes an effort to know more about Jesus — not like those other “not real” Christians.

I am sure Jason means well. I have no doubt he sincerely believes. That said, my only advice to him is that he needs to read as many books as possible that challenge the version of Christianity he thinks is the “way, truth, and life.” Carefully read the Bible. Forget what you have been taught. What if Paul, Peter, and James really taught three different plans of salvation? What if there really are multiple Gods in the Old Testament? Instead of interpreting everything through a Trinitarian Protestant lens, let the Biblical author and text speak for itself.  When the Bible says “Let US make man in our image” don’t assume US means the Trinitarian Protestant God. Maybe it means multiple Gods. Polytheism can be found all over the Old Testament if readers will take off their Trinitarian blinders.

All Evangelicals thinks that their beliefs are right and that their God is the true God. All other Gods are false Gods. Their plan of salvation is the one that will assure them a room in God’s Heavenly Motel Six, and their interpretation of the Bible is, without a doubt, exactly as God meant it to be. Uncertainty and doubt are the tools of Satan, so through life they plod, armed with certainty, assured that their beliefs are superior to all others. Until they can at least entertain the possibility of being wrong, there is no hope for them.


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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2003 Letter to the Editor on War

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times. Published January 3, 2003. I thought posting this letter here might help readers understand how much my religious and political views had changed by the early 2000s.

Dear Editor,

What a wonderful and beautiful Christmas Day! The ground is blanketed with six or so inches of snow and all is peaceful and quiet. There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp winter morning after an overnight snowfall. This wintry scene causes me to reflect on the glory of Christmas Day and its meaning. Christmas is about redemption. Christmas is about Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh and being born of the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus came into the world at the appointed time to bring redemption to all men. He came to proclaim peace and justice for all. He is called the Prince of Peace. Later in His life, Jesus would declare that peace and justice were to be character traits of those who profess to be followers of Him.

It is my thoughts of peace and justice that now begin to cloud my mind on this Christmas Day. Jesus came to bring peace, yet there is no peace. Jesus came to bring justice, yet there is no justice. Those who claim to be His followers show little concern for peace and justice. It seems they are all too busy with eating, drinking, and being merry to bother themselves with such weighty notions of peace and justice. But, concern ourselves with them we must.

I have been reading of late the Social Essays of the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. These essays were written at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam war. I am amazed at how timely Merton’s essays are for today, though they were written 40 years ago. In his time, Merton had to constantly battle censors within the Catholic Church who attempted to silence his anti-war message. Merton was quite creative in the ways he got his message to the public. His voice still speaks loudly today.

Merton’s essays on nuclear war, unilateralism, and preemptive war should be required reading for all Americans. Merton reminds us of the lunacy of the notion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. Once the buttons are pushed, the world as we know it ceases to exist.  Thoughts of non-defensive, unilateral, preemptive war, Merton reminds us, are immoral and should be condemned by all Christians.

Today, America sits on the precipice of nuclear world war. We have become the big bully who thinks he can get his way by bluffing and threatening. Every once in a while the bully even whips some weakling to show who is the toughest.  Such is the case with Iraq. But now we have added North Korea to our list of nations we are intent on bullying. Unfortunately, North Korea does not quiver and shake at our threatenings. They well remember an America who could not defeat them during the Korean War. Since then, the North Koreans have added nuclear and biological weapons to their arsenal. According to recent newspaper reports, the North Koreans are quite willing to use what weapons they have to defend themselves.

What troubles me the most in all of this is the silence emanating from the pulpits of America. It seems the only voices that are heard come from warmongers such as Jerry Falwell. Does he, and those of his ilk, speak for the rest of us? The German Church silently sat by while Hitler put into force the plans and programs that would later give us World War II and the Holocaust. Now the clergy of America sit by silently as George Bush and Company put into force programs such as the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act. George Bush threatens war and destruction on any nation that opposes him. Our insane notion of national superiority, coupled with immoral capitalistic greed, is leading us down a path that is certain to have catastrophic results, yet nary a word is heard from our pulpits.

The Scriptures are clear: Christians are called to be people of peace and justice. We are to be peacemakers. It is absurd to suggest, as George Bush does, that by waging war we will have peace. War always begets war and history bears this out. Only peace begets peace. It is time for all nations, including America, to lay aside and destroy ALL weapons of mass destruction. Our nation needs to repudiate its doctrine concerning preemptive first strikes against other nations. The world needs to know that America will be a peacemaking nation that desires peace and freedom for all men. While we must leave place for the need of defensive war or even what the theologians call “just war,” we must forsake attacking and killing others just because we do not like their government structure or way of life. Muslims have a right to live as they choose without America interfering in their affairs. It is time we stop exporting Western civilization as the answer to the world’s problems. Better for us to concern ourselves with our own moral, ethical, and civic failures than trying to fix the problems of the world.

Fifty or so years ago the phrase “better dead than Red” was coined. Unfortunately, that philosophy is still alive and well. The proponents of this notion believe it is better for us all to be dead than to have any other government or civilization than we have now. We had best think about the reality of such a notion because when the nuclear bombs start falling, it will be too late. The Reagan/Bush Star War notion of missile defense will not save us once the bombs begin to fall. It will only take a few bombs to render this world unlivable. Those who survive will wish that they had not.

It is not too late. Voices need to be raised in opposition and protest to the war policy of the Bush administration.  Protesters need to make their voices heard via letters and public protest. Conscientious men and women in the military need to say “I will not” to their leaders who want to slaughter them on the altar of political and economic gain. Politicians need to get some backbone and be willing to stand up to the war-mongering hawks on Capitol Hill. They have been raised up “for such a time as this!”

Time is running out.

Rev. Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio


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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Focusing on Who Matters and not Wasting Time on Who Doesn’t 

cant change christian mind

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:13:

Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.

As an Evangelical Christian, I tried to live by this verse, listening and investigating before I came to a conclusion or made a judgment about a person or a belief. I felt then, and I still do, that it is important to hear people out. Unfortunately, Evangelicals rarely grant me the same courtesy.

When an Evangelical leaves a comment meant to set me straight or pass some sort of God-enlightened judgment on my character or past/present life, I always take a look at the server logs to see what they have read. Without fail, they’ve read a post or three, formed an opinion, and are now ready to pronounce their God-directed judgment. In most instances they don’t even bother to read the ABOUT page or DEAR EVANGELICAL page or COMMENT RULES page. No need, they have a direct line to God and know all they need to know.

When I call them out on their lack of due diligence, they often lie, saying that they have read everything on this blog and are sufficiently educated in all things Bruce Gerencser. The logs don’t lie, but Christians sure do. If a person isn’t willing to invest the time and effort necessary to understand my story, I see no reason to indulge their ignorance. I give them one opportunity to say whatever they want. I know my writing constipates Evangelicals so I view their comments as an enema of sorts. By letting them say their piece, it clears out their constipation and they can them move on to some other blog or person they think is in need of hearing a good word from God.

I hope regular readers will understand if I don’t waste what limited time I have each day attempting to pour water through solid, cured cement. When Evangelicals use the contact form to email their missives from God, I try to be polite and let them know I have no interest in corresponding with them. In some cases I have to be blunt, as was the case recently when I told a repeated emailer, “let me be blunt, fuck off.” I make no apology for cursing.

Being accessible is important to me and this is why I have a contact page. Many atheist writers don’t have such a page because they don’t want to deal with reams of preachy or caustic emails from Evangelicals. I choose to endure such emails because of the OTHER emails; those from people savaged and hurt by Evangelical Christianity; those from people trying to break free from the Christian cult.  They have been and will continue to be my focus.

While Evangelical commenters do provide, at times, entertainment and amusement, I’m not interested in spending time trying to disabuse them of their ignorance. As I have said many times before, until they are willing to consider that they could be wrong there is no hope for them. Their certainty and unwavering faith blinds them to anything other than what they perceive is THE way, THE truth, THE life. I’m content to let them read — if they dare to do so — what I have already written. If something I have written puts a chink in their armor, then perhaps we can have a meaningful discussion. Until then, I have no intentions of wasting my time on argumentative, judgmental, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious, arrogant, self-righteous, pompous, smug, pontificating Evangelicals.


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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How Do You Get the Elephant Out of the Room?

elephant in the room

Those of us who have Christian families often refer to our “unbelief” as the elephant in the room. My wife, Polly, and I last attended church in November 2008. For a time, Polly’s mom would ask Poll to attend church with her when they were here visiting, but after being rebuffed several times, she stopped asking. As long-time readers know, when I decided that I was no longer a Christian, I sent a letter to several hundred of my friends, family, and former parishioners. This letter caused quite a stir, resulting in a personal visit from a pastor friend and emails and letters from colleagues in the ministry and people who once called me pastor. Several churches held prayer meetings specifically to pray for me, hoping their concerted prayer would cause God to bring me back into the fold.  Several pastors took to the pulpit and preached sermons about Bruce Gerencser, the pastor turned atheist (sermon by Ralph Wingate Jr. and sermons by Jose Maldonado).  What’s interesting in all of this is that our family didn’t say a word to either Polly or me. One man, an IFB evangelist, did attempt to talk to me, but he was told to stop doing so by one of the older preachers in the family. While we’ve certainly heard gossip about this or that behind-the-back discussion about us, and we were told that the family patriarch planned to straighten me out, (please see (The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis) not one family member has sat down and had an honest and open discussion with either of us. Our deconversion and my outspokenness concerning Evangelicalism and atheism is a huge rainbow-colored elephant that everyone can see, but no one acknowledges. While I know that some family members regularly read this blog, no one has engaged in any sort of discussion with us about why we left the ministry, deconverted, and are now happy HBO-watching, wine-drinking unbelievers.

Some seasoned atheists recommend that the recently deconverted shine a bright light on the elephant and force people to see it. That’s what I did with my letter to family, friends, and former parishioners. While this approach worked for our friends and former parishioners, family just went over to the wall switch and turned off the light. To some degree, I understand their reaction. I was their preacher brother, uncle, son-in-law, and father for as long as they could remember. From 1972 to 2008, I was the family preacher, and when Polly and I married in 1978, I married into a family of pastors, missionaries, and evangelists.  Every aspect of our lives was dominated by Christianity, the Bible, and the work of the ministry. And then, BOOM, all that was gone, and Rev. Bruce Gerencser and his wife Polly are now numbered among the godless. I suspect that the cognitive dissonance this causes for some family members is too much for them to handle, so they pretend that there is no elephant in the room. This is why some family members still think we are saved. We are just backslidden, out of the will of God, and they are certain we will one day return to the faith.

Some atheists take a different approach when discussing their deconversion with family and friends. Several years ago, I watched  Chicago PD, a procedural program about an élite force of detectives in the Chicago police department. One of the detectives, Erin Lindsay, played by actress Sophia Bush, is struggling with family and addiction problems. She seeks out the help of a counselor named Dr. Charles, played by actor Oliver Platt.  Dr. Charles asks Detective Lindsay, how do you get the elephant out of the room? Lindsay had no answer to the question. Dr. Charles replied, one piece at a time.  Instead of taking the approach I detailed in the previous paragraph, some atheists take Dr. Charles’s advice and begin dismantling the elephant one piece at a time. While this approach certainly results in less stress, it can take quite some time. Atheists have to be willing to leave some issues on the table to be discussed another day. Not everyone can do this, preferring to get every issue out in the open so it can be discussed. Once this is done, there’s no need for any further discussion.

I’ve had countless new atheists and agnostics write me about how best to handle their Christian spouses, children, parents, extended family, or friends. I never tell them that they should do this or that. Every person must carefully examine his or her life and the connections each has with others before deciding how to proceed. While every atheist certainly wants the elephant out of the room, there are different ways to accomplish it. I wrote about this in the post titled, Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist. Acting rashly or in a fit of anger can have catastrophic consequences. Once a person decides to talk with Christian family and friends about their deconversion, there’s no going back. Once a person utters out loud, I am an atheist, what happens next is out of their control. I know of married people whose spouses divorced them over their deconversion. Some people have had their families excommunicate them, refusing to allow them in their homes until they come to their senses. Others receive emails, phone calls, and social media comments from family and friends about their deconversion. Often these statements are barbed with outrage, anger, and hurt. More than a few atheists have been forced to unfriend Christian family members and friends on Facebook. Sadly, more than a few times, something I’ve written has been posted to an atheist’s Facebook wall, and it has resulted in the newly minted atheist being attacked by offended Christians. 

I’d love to hear from readers about how they handled the elephant in the room. Please share your thoughts in the comment section.


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.

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

One Reason I Don’t Believe: The Silence of History

bart ehrman quote

The 2019 population of the Jerusalem was 936,000, according to Wikipedia. In 1948, the population of Jerusalem was 87,000. According to Wikipedia, the first-century population of Jerusalem was around 80,000, though this population would swell during Passover and other religious observances. When I lived in Yuma, Arizona, I observed a similar swelling of the population when the snowbirds arrived to spend winter in Yuma. Whatever the population of Jerusalem was during the three-year public ministry of Jesus, there were plenty of people who observed his works. Surely, there were thousands of eyewitnesses who could have written something about Jesus’s miracles, and his death, resurrection, ascension back to Heaven. Surely, there were eyewitnesses who could have written something about the acts of the Apostles and the early church. Why then, is there little or no historical record for the life and work of Jesus or the early followers of Jesus? God striking church members dead or causing the followers of Jesus to speak in unknown tongues surely were notable events, yet there is no record of them outside of the Bible. Why is this?

According to the Bible, the events leading up to the death of Jesus, his crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead, took place during Passover.  After the post-resurrection ministry of Jesus, Jesus ascended back to Heaven, and on the Day of Pentecost, while the followers of Jesus were gathered in an upper room, they were filled (baptized) with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2)

Acts 2:1-6 states:

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.

This miracle of speaking with other tongues caused quite a stir and, as a result, on one day:

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. (Acts 2:41)

In fact, according to Acts 2:47:

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Every day people were being saved, baptized, and added to the church, or so says the author of the book of Acts.

In Acts 3,4 we find Peter and John going to the Temple to preach the gospel. While they faced great adversity from the Sadducees over their preaching that through Jesus people could be resurrected from the dead, Acts 4:4 states:

…many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

So, in a short amount of time, the Acts narrative moves from 120 followers of Jesus being gathered in an upper room to 3,000 people being saved, baptized, and added to the church, to 5,000 men believing the preaching of the gospel. Yet, outside of the New Testament, which was written decades after the events recorded in Acts 1-4, there is no historical mention of a large number of people becoming followers of Jesus. There is no mention of 3,000 people being publicly baptized on one day. There is no mention of a large gathering of Jesus’s followers in the outer court of the Temple.

In fact, there is no non-Biblical historical record for any of the astounding events recorded in the Gospels and Acts. Suppose a well-known man died in the community you live. You saw him die. With your own eyes, you saw his dead, embalmed body. Yet, three days later, this same man came back to life and was sitting with his family and friends at the local Applebee’s. Do you think such a miraculous event would make the front page of the newspaper? Do you think it would be trending on Twitter? Do you think everyone in your community would quickly know about the dead man brought back to life? Yet, when it comes to Jesus the miracle worker, a man who purportedly raised people from the dead, cast demons out of people, gave sight to the blind, restored the hearing of the deaf, walked on water, and walked through walls, there is no non-Biblical historical record of any of his works.

According to the Bible, Jesus was well-known in Jerusalem. When he came riding into Jerusalem on a colt (or an ass, you decide) people lined the streets and cheered him. This same man, a short time later, was arrested, publicly humiliated, nailed to a cross like a common thief, and buried in a borrowed grave. Three days later — however you count three days — (please see  I Wish Christians Would be Honest About Jesus’ Three Day Weekend) this same well-known Jesus resurrected from the grave and appeared to over 500 people. Pretty newsworthy stuff, right? Yet, outside of the Bible, there is no historical record of these events.

Even more astounding, according to Matthew 27, at the moment Jesus died:

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

At the very moment Jesus died, the veil of the Temple, a curtain that was likely 30 feet wide, 60 feet high, and four inches thick, (using 18 inches as the measurement for a cubit) was torn in half. And according to the Gospel of Mark, there was an eclipse at the moment of, or right before Jesus died. Ponder for a moment such astounding events, yet, outside of the Bible, there is no record of them ever occurring.

If that is not astounding enough, consider that the Bible says when Jesus died the graves of the saints were open and out popped resurrected followers of Jesus. These resurrected saints went into Jerusalem and appeared to many people. Yet, not only is there no non-Biblical historical report of this happening, none of the other gospel writers or Paul mention it. Surely, dead relatives and dead fellow believers resurrecting from the dead and walking about the city of Jerusalem would be important to 1st century Christians, yet outside of Matthew, no one mentions it.

Yes, later Christian authors, working from the text of the Bible and stories passed down to them, speak of these events being true, but why are there no Roman or Jewish historical writings that mention these astounding events?

I am well aware of the various arguments that can be made, but I don’t buy them. It seems far more likely that these miraculous, astounding events never happened. Yes, Josephus possibly said:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.

I say possibly because what Josephus actually said is a matter of great debate (the oldest manuscript of Josephus’s writings is dated a thousand years after his death). Regardless of the authenticity of the aforementioned passage, Josephus does not mention, outside of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, any of the miraculous events that occurred at the time of the death of Jesus. Why is this?

This is one of the reasons that I do not believe the central claims of Christianity are true. While this is not proof for there being no God, it does call into question the narrative that many Christians proclaim is pure, unadulterated truth.


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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If Jesus Is. . .

jesus is

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The answer

The solution to life’s problems

The Way

The Truth

The Life

The one who makes life worth living




If Jesus is the giver of new life

If Jesus cleanses a person from sin

If Jesus gives a person new desires

If Jesus gives a person a new song

If Jesus fills the empty void in a person’s heart

If Jesus gives a person everything he or she needs pertaining to life and godliness

If Jesus heals

If Jesus sets addicts free

If Jesus cleanses sinners from all unrighteousness

If Jesus really is who and what Christians say he is . . .

Why are their lives no different from mine; no different from most agnostics or atheists I know?

It seems the only difference between me and thee, dear Evangelical, is what each of us do on Sundays between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and noon.

I am moral and ethical, as are most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and Buddhists.

I try to live morally, ethically, honestly, kindly, and justly.

I desire peace, happiness, and prosperity for all, including Christians.

Yet, I do all of this without Jesus.

If Jesus really is who and what Evangelicals say he is . . .

Why are there so many Christian books written to deal with the messy, dysfunctional lives of the followers of Jesus?

I’m trying really hard to understand what benefit there is for following Jesus. 

If I can live morally and ethically without Jesus, then why should I join a club that demands ten percent (and more) of my income to be a member in good standing?

If Jesus is what you need, I say good for you.

I hope you will say the same for people like me who have no need for Jesus.

Jesus may be the answer to your questions, but he is not the answer to mine.


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.

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

The Prayer Circle

guest post

Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

Five of us, in a circle, could barely fit into the cinderblock-walled, windowless room. George: earnest, stringy-haired lab assistant. Julie: tall, blonde lithe fresh-faced freshman. Deanna: the petite, attractive brunette whose ambitions in life were to translate the Bible “the right way” and to “bring souls to the Lord.” Thalia, a tall, rawboned Black woman whom, as it turned out, Julie had invited to a prayer meeting but didn’t seem to have talked much with her, or anyone else in that group or on that campus.

And me. It was the middle of October, a few weeks into the semester. At the beginning of it, I knew only Deanna, from the year before. With her smile and friendly manner, she had little trouble meeting people. On the other hand, when I met her, I was almost as socially isolated as I had been the year before, when I first arrived on campus. The one friend—or, more precisely, the friendliest acquaintance—I’d made was with Robert, a young gay man: the first person with whom I’d ever had a real conversation about sexuality—my own, his or anyone else’s. The other male freshmen, it seemed, were performing the same kinds of exaggerated masculine heterosexuality—or, at least their notions of it—I saw in high school.

I am now ashamed to admit that I spent time with Robert when there were no witnesses, save for two friends of his—one, a straight guy, the other a lesbian, both of whom seemed a few years older than either of us. On the other hand, as I became friends with Deanna, I made a point of being seen with her: Nobody would question my sexual orientation or gender identity—in those days, almost everybody conflated the two, as I did—at least, not openly.

Oh, and she was one of the reasons I joined a campus Christian fellowship and was in that room with her, George, Julie, and Thalia. I told her, and she told them, I thought I might be gay, mainly because I couldn’t identify with other males and the only trans women I knew about were Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards, both of whom seemed as different from me as the frat boys on campus. Turns out, Thalia told Julie she thought she was gay, which didn’t surprise me but, of course, I didn’t voice that.

The ostensible purpose of the gathering was for us to “be filled with the spirit” so that Thalia could “overcome” her “sinful” desires. They probably wanted to pray the gay out of me, too, though no one said as much. Anyway, George began with some soliloquy about gathering in the hope of receiving the Lord’s help and blessings. About all I can remember accurately is a paraphrase of a verse from Ephesians: “For we are members of his body, of his flesh and of his bones.”

Since George was earnest in the way only a young person who believes he has God and truth and justice on his side can be, he wasn’t being ironic when he paraphrased that verse in the presence of me and Thalia, one of the few people I’ve ever met who seemed more alienated and adrift than I was at that time. He intoned, “Lord, we entreat you.”

Then Julie started to drone a bunch of syllables that began and ended with drawn-out vowels sandwiching truncated consonants: aaahbaaah, or something like that, followed by sounds even less coherent or recognizable, at least to me. Before that day, I’d heard from other members of the fellowship that she could “speak in tongues.” I guess that’s what they were talking about, I thought.

As Jo droned on, Thalia started to let out long, low sobs that turned into wails, then into near-howls. She lay on her side—I opened my eyes while everyone else’s were shut—in a near-fetal curl, shaking like a child who needs a warm blanket. Her body’s vibrations turned into seemingly-volcanic convulsions, in which she thrust her arms and legs, as if trying to heave them away from her body. Her howls abated into a series of staccato grunts.

Julie continued her incomprehensible “prayer.” Deanna shouted, “Satan, leave her! You have no authority over her!” But Thalia continued to heave, grunt, and thrust her arms and legs. Deanna grasped my left hand, George my right. They said, in unison, something vaguely comprehensible—a prayer? a Bible verse? —that I can’t remember now. Julie finally said something I could understand: “Oh Lord, we pray for our sister, Thalia, that you may heal her. “Amen,” she, George, and Deanna chanted in unison.

The following day, I woke on the worn carpet of that room. Deanna slept in a dorm bed to the left of me; Julie in another bed to the right. I saw George a couple of days later and asked about Thalia. “The Lord is helping her now,” he said. I never heard about her again.


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