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Chronic Illness: Oh, What a Night!

oh what a night

There are days, and then there are DAYS; memorable days; unforgettable days. Yesterday, and into the early morning hours of today, was one of those unforgettable days. I have had a lot of bad, really bad, awful days over the past three years. Thanks to gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and degenerative spine disease, every day is challenging. Most days are normal, but there are other days that stand above what has come to be my “new normal.”

About 7:00 pm last night, my battle with nausea kicked into overdrive. My goal is to avoid vomiting. I took some Zofran, hoping it would ratchet the nausea down to normal levels. An hour later, I realized that the medicine was not going to work (it usually works quickly). I finally felt that awful feeling, the call to bow before and worship the porcelain God. I slowly rose from my recliner, picked up my cane, put my right hand over my mouth, and made my way to the bathroom. I quickly knelt before the toilet and up came the contents of my stomach. I repeatedly vomited for what seemed like eternity. Once I determined that I was “safe,” I got up off the floor, washed my face and beard — which was covered with chunks of vomit — and returned to the living room. I still felt nauseous, so I took more Zofran, hoping that I wouldn’t have to throw up again. The medicine quickly kicked in. All praise be to Loki and modern medicine.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Polly came home from work at 2:30 am. She asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I told her nnnnnooooo! We watched a bit of TV and then headed for bed. The time was 3:45 am. Polly did her usual bathroom routine while I arranged my side of the bed in preparation for yet another titanic struggle with pain. I took my nightly medications, including Vicodin, Zanaflex, and Trazodone — all meant to reduce my pain so I could sleep. At 4:15 am, I told Polly “good night” and told her “I love you.” As is her custom, Polly gently patted my side and told me “I love you too. I hope you have a good night.” In a matter of minutes, Polly drifted off to sleep. I started watching a new series on Netflix, hoping to join Polly in dreamland one to three hours later.

Surprisingly, I fell quickly asleep, only to wake up an hour later. What could happen in an hour, right? Due to the excruciating pain in my back and neck, I typically sleep on my right side or on my stomach. This night, I started out on my side. Sometime during the hour I was asleep, my right leg fell off the bed (a common occurrence). When I woke up (the first time), I was alarmed to find that my leg and right arm were totally paralyzed (not numb, paralyzed — a first). It took me about ten minutes to get my leg back on the bed. I suspect the nerve (s) controlling my leg and arm had gotten pinched. Once I was properly situated on the bed, the paralysis eventually went away.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I wrangled my body on the bed something didn’t feel right. Why do my back and legs feel wet? I stood up by the bed and surveyed the blanket and sheets. Water, maybe? Nope. Shit. Lots of shit. I had lost control of my bowels. Worse, in trying to get my body settled, I had rolled in the shit. The “wet” on my back and legs was shit. Think: vanilla ice cream cone rolled in chocolate. I said to myself, “are you fucking kidding me?”

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I made my way to the bathroom to get a wet washcloth and towel, I noticed I was really weak and lightheaded. Halfway to the bathroom, I passed out for a second, sending me careening into a white folding table in the living room. Fortunately, this broke my fall.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Nope. You see, when I used the table to break my fall, my glasses were on the top of the table, Of all the things I could have hit, I put my full weight on my glasses, bending them to such a degree that I can’t wear them.

I finally made it to the bathroom, got the towels I needed, and returned to the bedroom to clean up my mess. Amazingly, Polly slept through all of this. I didn’t feel I needed to wake her up, though I could have used some emotional support. “My shit, my problem,” I told myself.

After cleaning the bed, I sat on the side of the bed for 30 minutes or so, head in hands, wondering if I could go on. I finally decided I could, and snuggled back in bed next to Polly.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Finally, I can say yes.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Short Stories: Sunday Night Communion and STARS Dirt Track Racing

bob hartman midway speedway
Butch Hartman

In the late 1980s, I planned to take Polly and our four children at the time to a dirt track race at Midway Speedway in Crooksville, Ohio. The STARS (Short Track Auto Racing Series) were making a Saturday night appearance at the track — a one hundred-lap event. Scores of big-name racers planned to be at this event. On the scheduled night it rained, forcing the track to move to Sunday.

At the time, I was pastoring Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio. We had two services on Sunday: 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. I was facing a dilemma. I had tickets for the race, but I had to be present and accounted for Sunday night at the church. I couldn’t tell the church that I couldn’t be there because I had tickets to a “worldly” racing event. Doing so would have been considered a sin. Yet, I really, really, really wanted to go to the race. My two oldest sons really wanted to go to the race. All our dirt track racing heroes would be there. And a hundred laps? Wow, most late model races were 25-50 laps.

scott peltz midway speedway
Scott Peltz

So, I went to the Lord in prayer, seeking his guidance and wisdom. Just kidding. I concocted a plan to hold a “special” communion service at 5:00 pm, one that would be finished in less than an hour. And it was. My family and I quickly said our goodbyes and out the door we went. I am sure some members wondered why we were in a hurry.

The race was everything I thought it would be. On our way home, the guilt set in. Instead of taking the night off or telling congregants why I couldn’t be there, I manipulated them so I could do what I wanted. The good news? I prayed for forgiveness, and Jesus magically forgave me. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Do Clergymen Have “Easy” Lives?

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Over the years, I have thought about starting a series titled “Dumb Shit Atheists Say.” Atheist YouTube creators and podcasters, in particular, say all sorts of nonsense about Christianity, Evangelicalism, and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I have, on occasion, tried to politely correct some of their more egregious errors, to no avail. I have received no response from the offenders, and far too often, they make the same factual errors over and over again. These same people object when Christians mischaracterize atheist beliefs, yet they are blind to their own mischaracterizations.

If atheists are going to talk about Christian theology, the Bible, and church history, at the very least they should have a rudimentary understanding of these things. And if they are unwilling to do this, they should shut the hell up. They are making atheists look bad.

Recently, I heard an atheist YouTuber say that clergymen have easy lives. He implied they were grifters. This strawman assertion is categorically absurd; a distortion meant to paint clerics in a bad light.

Most atheists (or Christians, for that matter) have no idea about how preachers live their lives. Are there lazy, indolent pastors? Sure, just as there are in every profession. By the same token, there are far more hard-working clergymen who devote their days to their positions. Yet, instead of recognizing this fact, these atheists portray clergy laziness and indolence as the norm for all preachers.

Most clerics are devoted to the work they believe God called them to do. They are devoted to the work of the ministry, believing they have some sort of divine purpose and calling. How else do we explain their willingness to work for low wages, often with few benefits? Many pastors even work a second job so their churches can have a pastor.

Contrary to what the aforementioned YouTuber said, pastors work hard and do so regardless of what they are paid. For every megachurch pastor making millions of dollars, there are thousands of pastors making average, or below-average wages (even when housing allowance is taken into account). It’s one thing for atheists to attack and challenge theological beliefs. It is another thing to attack the character of clergymen, all because they don’t like what they stand for.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

My Recent Interaction on Social Media with a Fundamentalist Christian Named Soupy Sales

peanut gallery

What follows is a recent discussion I had on Facebook with a local Fundamentalist Christian named Soupy Sales (SS) on the subject of abortion. I also had conversations with four other local Evangelicals. I typically don’t engage in such discussions on social media, but I felt the urging of the Spirit, so I did so. I doubt that I changed hearts or minds, but, maybe, just maybe, I planted a few seeds of doubt. You can read all of the discussions here.

Enjoy! 🙂

SS: If you want to kill a baby (abortion sounds better)…it’s between you and God…So leave me out of your murder. I don’t want to have to pay for your abortion…praying God opens your eyes.

Bruce: no, it’s between a woman and her doctor.

Abortion is a medical procedure. Let’s say you needed a heart transplant and I’m opposed to heart transplants for religious reasons. Should I be able to keep you from getting a heart transplant? After all, I don’t want to have to pay for it (through insurance premiums or taxes).

Participating in the American social contract means we will, at times, pay for things we disagree with.

SS: American Social contracts doesn’t include supporting murder of an innocent life….

Bruce: then why are you complaining about having to pay for them? Which is it?

SS: .here in simple words for you to understand….because people like you are trying to get it pass to be free for every woman who wants to get one…understand…

Bruce: you mean like every other medical procedure? Yes, insurance should be required to cover all reproductive services just like they do other medical procedures. We need to stop making carve-outs for “offended” Christians.

No need to insult my intelligence. Do better.

SS: murdering an innocent life doesn’t offend you…so sad..

Bruce: I reject your claim that abortion is murder. That’s a religious claim; one, I might add, that has dubious Scriptural support. You are certainly free to let your religious beliefs inform your medical decisions. However, your religious beliefs should play no part in the medical care of others. We are a secular state. There’s a wall of separation between church and state. Thus, what you or any other Christian wants shouldn’t matter. That it does reveals how far afield we are from our founding principles.

If supporting reproductive rights makes me a “murderer” so be it. I don’t care one whit what you think of me. My wife, my adult daughters, my ten granddaughters, my sister, and the women who will be protesting the reversal of Roe v. Wade on Saturday? They are the people who matter to me. I learned long ago that no amount of arguing will change the minds of forced birthers. (For the record, I was anti-abortion for 45 years.)

SS: it not my claim…it’s God’s words….read Proverbs 6 verses 16 to 19. This country was founded in God we trust not do whatever you want. So you are saying you didn’t learn anything after 45 years. If you really care about your family than lead them to the truth not to hell. No one is forcing anyone to have a baby….there are protective products out there or sustain having sex until you are married. Shame on you. Go read the context and reason that Thomas Jefferson wrote in the constitution about church and state separation. Read his words not mine or anyone’s else for the truth…if you can handle it.

Bruce: Saying the Bible is a God’s word is a “claim,” for which you provide no evidence. The Bible was written by mostly unknown men. It is a human text through and through. To say it is a God’s word is a faith claim, one that I reject.

You do know I was in the Evangelical church for fifty years, right? A college-trained pastor for 25 years. I know what the Bible says inside and out. But, its words are irrelevant. We live in a secular state governed by laws. Forced birthers are using the power of the state to rob women of bodily autonomy, civil rights, and equal protection under the law. As is our right, those of us who value the rights of women will protest.

I’ve read Jefferson’s words. I’m quite familiar with the separation of church and state.

SS: first…The Bible is God’s holy word…you are not rejecting me…you are rejecting Jesus. A believer job is to spread the word….especially when someone is lost…No one is stopping a woman from having an abortion. It’s between her and God…She makes the choice. Abortion is killing an innocent baby. She should be shown both sides not just one. To be a preacher…you are called by God ….not a college trained person. Satan knows the Bible better than me or you. Just because you belong to a church doesn’t make you saved. You should know that. You must lay down your life and take up your cross. Jesus said that…You should know that. Matthew 6 verse 24. Obviously, you don’t study your Bible or the first amendment. In closing…Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Matthew 15 verses 13 and 14. Shame on you for leading people to hell.

Bruce: sigh. Do you really think quoting Bible verses will make a difference with me? Really?

I likely know more about the Bible than you do. I spent over 20,000 hours reading and studying the Bible. So pick the subject and let’s talk. Or you can keep verbally masturbating, thinking your proof texts mean anything except to you.

I understand where you are coming from. I once was just like you.

Feel free to email me via my blog. I’m more than happy to engage you in discussion.

SS: I’m quoting God’s words not mine. As Jesus said….No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mam-mon. Matthew 6:24. You should know that. Yes we were once the same…sinners..but now I’m saved and converted…Jesus is my Lord and Savior. If don’t believe in God’s word…what’s there to debate about…your non-believe…really…for person that confess to be pastor…your language. Do you really think you know more than our maker? I leave you with Psalms 14: 1….The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

Bruce: no, we were once the same: saved/born again Fundamentalist Christians. My storyline. You don’t get to control it.

Isn’t amazing that God always agrees with you; or that the Bible always supports your peculiar beliefs? A-m-a-z-i-n-g.

Do I know more than your deity? Of course I do, he/she/it is a myth.”God” doesn’t know anything. People do. That’s why I’m talking to you, not the ceiling.

OMG! You called me a fool! Why, I’ve never, ever had that happen before. Again, I reject the authority of the Bible, so I don’t care what it says. I’m more concerned with what my God, Polly Gerencser, 🤣 says than a fictional deity.

I’d be more than happy to discuss with you the Bible itself: its nature, history, inerrancy, infallibility, immoral teachings. Better yet, I will gladly pay for one of Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books on these things and have it shipped to you. Ehrman, a NT scholar at the University of North Carolina, is an expert on these issues.

I don’t like the pants you are wearing! Tough poop, you say? So it is with people who try to police language.

SS: So you going to take the words of a man than Jesus. I did not call you a fool…I quoted you a Bible verse. I leave you with Psalms 118 verse 8…It is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in man. Praying God opens your eyes to the truth…if it be God’s will.

Bruce: you do know Jesus never wrote anything, right? Not one word. We have no idea what Jesus said. The gospels were written by unknown authors 30-80 years after the death of Jesus; that the oldest copies of the gospel manuscripts — copies of copies of copies — were written 300-400 years after Christ’s death. There’s no evidence for the claim Jesus spoke the words in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. I know you have heard differently, but what you have been told is not true (and most educated preachers know it’s not true).

You put your trust in “men” all the time. Even with religion, you put your trust in preachers, teachers, and books. The Bible is a compilation of books, all written by, mostly unknown, men. Most of the books of the Bible were not written by the men whose names are attached to them. Seminary and college-trained preachers know this, yet they hide the facts about the Bible from their congregants. They lie because they don’t want church members to lose “faith” in God/Bible. Truth matters, and pastors owe it to people to tell them the truth about the nature and history of the Bible.

My offer of a Bart Ehrman book stands. I’ll even give you a copy of one of his books that you can pick up from my home in Ney. I’ll put it on my front porch so you don’t even have to talk to me. Surely, truth matters to you. If your faith is as strong as you claim it is, surely a “book” won’t harm you. You deserve to know the truth about the allegedly inerrant, infallible Bible. Let me know.

SS: your belief and trust is in man and in the world….I believe and trust in Jesus the creator. Praying for your eyes to be opened.

Bruce: no, you trust in “men” too. When you go to the doctor, dentist, lawyer, or auto mechanic, you put your faith and trust in “men.” You do this countless times every day. If not, you’d sit in a corner of your home, waiting for God to do everything for you.

My eyes are wide open, friend. That’s why I’m an agnostic atheist and a humanist. You keep wanting me to return to the garlic and leeks of Egypt. No thanks. Why would I ever want to return to slavery and bondage? My life is better in every way post-Jesus.

But, by all means, keep praying. We will what kind of pull you have with the triune God.

My offer of a Bart Ehrman book still stands.

SS: for someone who supposedly believed has turned so easily. Peter 1 verse 21 …For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Question what made you change from supposedly loving Jesus to hating Jesus? For your 25 years of a being a so called pastor nothing but a big lie in your eyes. Shame on you for being a wolf in sheep clothing. You can keep your Satanic books written by world centered scholar. Always, praying God’s will be done not mine.

Bruce: I have written extensively about my story. Seek and ye shall find. I’ve provided numerous links on this post.

There is a difference between a claim and evidence. Quoting a Bible verse is a claim. Where’s the evidence for the truthfulness of your claim? Just because you said so?

I wasn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Just ask any of the people I pastored. Sadly, you have refused to answer any of the challenges or questions I offered up. Instead, you resort to insults and proof texting. I am used to such treatment from Evangelicals. When someone can provide no evidence for his claims, instead of admitting this, he attacks his interlocutor.

You are so certain you are right, that you fear reading anything that might challenge your Fundamentalist assumptions. It’s just a book. Surely, your God is more powerful than a book.

SS: both the man and the woman will answer for their choice…Nobody has the right to kill an innocent baby .

Bruce: according to the Bible, babies aren’t “innocent.”

In Genesis 6-9, we have the story of Noah and the Flood. God killed everyone on earth save eight people. Did God kill any “innocent” babies?

SS: glad you found your Bible…now let’s see if can read some Bible…Question …How do you know if there were any children at that time? Everyone is born in sin..a baby is considered to be innocent until the holy ghost convicts their heart and let’s them know that they are a sinner….and they need salvation. Being supposedly a pastor, you know this. Have you ever in your 50 years of studying the bible…heard the age of accountability? You should…So sad….for your lack of knowledge.

Bruce: why do you seem to be incapable of interacting with people you disagree with without insulting them?

Actually, there are several different views of the age of accountability. Most Evangelicals don’t believe babies become sinners, they are sinners (from conception). “I was shaken in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

Regardless, the age of accountability is a red herring that has nothing to do with God killing innocent people. I used the word in a colloquial sense, as you did.

Based on Genesis 6-9, God killed innocent babies. Many scholars believe upwards of 6 million people were killed in the flood. Are you really suggesting that there were no fetuses, babies, young children, or developmentally disabled people killed in the flood?

SS: 1 Timothy 6: 20 and 21. ..O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen.

For your information you are one who said that you were smarter than me and God. I just asked a question if you have 25 years of being a pastor and 50 years of studying …why is understanding and knowledge of the Bible lacking.

So sorry your feelings got in the way of our discussing the truth.

Listen…Jesus is my Lord and Savior…I pray to God everyday thanking him for saving a sinner like me.

Obviously, the only thing you want to do is argue a point that has been settled along time ago….bye…still God will open your eyes before its too late.

SS: Hey you need to hang around with Bruce because both of you: hate the Bible, believe in abortion and can’t handle the truth…..praying God will open your eyes before its too late…..bye…got better things to do…

Bruce: feelings? Nope, you are an amateur compared to other Evangelical assholes over the years. Most of you seem incapable of having a discussion without hurling insults or attacking someone’s character. Please go to the Bible and find out what it says about your behavior. Start with the fruit of the Spirit, the sermon on the Mount, and what Jesus said about how you should treat your enemies. You might also want to check out what Paul said about “corrupt communication.”

This is my last comment.

Be well.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce, You Never Knew the REAL Jesus

who is the real jesus

I have been accused hundreds of times over the years of never having been a True Christian®. The gist of this accusation is that I met, worshiped, and followed a counterfeit Jesus. If I had encountered the REAL JESUS and put my faith and trust in him, I would have become a True Christian® and would still be a follower of Christ to this day. The Bible gives cover for this argument when it says:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (I John 2:19)

According to Evangelicals who say I never met the REAL JESUS, the angels of light in my life — parents, pastors, professors — were actually tools of Satan used by him to deceive me. And true to my training, I then became a false angel of light too — deceiving the churches I pastored and pulling the wool over the eyes of my colleagues in the ministry; that is, if any of them knew the REAL JESUS themselves.

The fact that I no longer profess to be a follower of Jesus is further evidence that I never met the REAL JESUS. Had I met the REAL JESUS, I would have continued in the faith; I would have continued pastoring churches. That I now stand in opposition to Christianity and the teachings of the Bible is clear evidence to Evangelicals that whatever Jesus I followed over my fifty years in the Christian church, he was not the REAL JESUS.

A good example of this thinking can be found in the recent blog comments by Rod Rogers [all spelling and grammar in the original]:

Yes, but you now claim that you are not a christian and therefore you never were a christian, right? You have painted your self into a corner. Either you were a liar for years or you are lying now; but you have to choose. My point is that God is always God or there never was a god. You have claimed both. Very sad.

Bruce, you don’t go from preaching God’s word, studying and praying daily and then wake up one day and say God never existed. That never happens. Somewhere you came to a place where God didn’t meet your expectations. I don’t know where that happened but it happened.

“Each aspect of my life must be judged in its context.” Ok, YOU said you were a Christian, said you were a preacher. In that context, were you preaching the truth or preaching a lie? Preaching a lie makes one what? “All I am saying is that I once was a Christian just like you, and now I’m not.” And all I am saying is that by your own admission you believed in once saved always saved. Now you don’t believe in God at all. By you own theology you yourself believed either you were not saved to begin with or you preached a lie. You are in a corner.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Matthew 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Either you never were a child of God or you still are.

Bruce, it doesn’t matter what happened when. The only thing I am assuming is that you are telling the truth when you say that you were an IFB. If you were ever IFB then you believed in OSAS. You just don’t want to admit the truth. Your comment, “It’s like saying, I’m divorced now, so that means I never was married”?”, has nothing to do with my comment; its Non Sequitor.

I’m 64 years old and have met a lot of people and you are the only one who claims to have lived at the foot of the cross and woke up one day and renounced it. Sorry, I don’t believe that.

Rod is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). As such, he believes in the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”  According to this doctrine, once a person is saved, he can never, ever fall from grace; never, ever lose his salvation. Built upon a foundation of intellectual assent to a set of theological propositions, most proponents of “once saved, always saved” believe that I am still a Christian; that I am just backslidden or out of the will of God. I say most, because some “once saved, always saved” believers can’t bear to fathom that someone who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29) can still be a Christian. If I am not now a Christian, in their minds that means I never was a Christian; that in decades of pastoral experience I never came in contact with the REAL JESUS.

Calvinists fall into “once saved, always saved” crowd, albeit they believe that a person must endure to the end (death) to be saved; and even then, some people who thought they were saved will wake up in Hell, realizing that they never were one of the elect. What a con job, right?  Much like many in the “once saved, always saved” IFB crowd, the Calvinists who knew me have concluded that I never met the REAL JESUS. If I had met the REAL JESUS, I would still be in church, availing myself of means of grace. That I am now an outspoken opponent of True Christianity® is proof to them that I was a false Christian.

In 1994, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church — an independent Calvinistic congregation — in Elmendorf, Texas. While at Community, I became friends with Jose Maldonado, pastor of Hillburn Drive Grace Baptist Church. I had met Joe in the fall of 1993 when he and Pat Horner — my soon-to-be co-pastor — came to preach a conference at the church in Ohio I was pastoring at the time.

I resigned from Community in the fall of 1994. You can read more about that debacle in the series titled, I Am a Publican and a Heathen. After leaving Community, I had no further contact with Maldonado. Imagine my surprise, then, to hear that Maldonado, sixteen years after our last contact, took to the pulpit to let people know that I was now an atheist; a man who never knew the REAL JESUS.

Here’s a short audio clip of Maldonado “exposing” me as a false prophet:

You can listen to Maldonado’s four-part sermon series or read transcripts of his sermons here.  You also might find interesting the post titled, Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.

The hilarious thing in the whole “Bruce met a false Jesus” saga, is that “once saved, always saved” Baptists and Calvinistic Baptists bitterly oppose one another, each believing the other preaches a false gospel. In other words, each side believes the other has never met the REAL JESUS.

As you can see, the core theological problem for both groups is that True Christians® are eternally saved. The Bible says in John 10:27-29:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow after him are given eternal life and are held safe in his hand. No man is able to pluck Christians out of the hand of Jesus. The problem with this argument, of course, is my life as a Christian clearly shows that I heard the voice of Jesus and followed after him. There’s nothing in my storyline that remotely suggests that I was following after a false Jesus; that I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing; that I was a false prophet. Yet, here I am today, having safely jumped out of the hand of Jesus, an out-and-proud apostate. “How can these things be?” Evangelicals ask themselves. Zealots such as Rod refuse to accept my story at face value, suggesting that there is some part of my story I am not sharing lest I give away the “real” reason I am no longer a Christian. This leads people to concoct all sorts of conspiracies about my loss of faith.

How about we let Occam’s Razor tell the story here. Occam’s Razor is a philosophy which suggests that if an event has two possible explanations, the explanation which requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct: I once was a Christian and now I am not; I once was a follower of Jesus and now I am not; I devotedly loved Jesus and now I don’t; the telling of my story is an honest, forthright reflection of my life as a Christian and an Evangelical pastor — theology be damned.  Christians holding to Arminian theology believe followers of Jesus can and do fall from grace. In their minds, I am just one more sad example of someone who chose not to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Works for me.

Here’s what I know for sure, I once was saved and now I am not. It really is that simple. It is not up to me to help Evangelicals square their theology with my testimony. Can’t make my story fit in the narrow confines of your rigid theological box? Tough shit, not my problem. I have no doubt I met numerous times the REAL JESUS. A mythical being, to be sure, but I most certainly had a torrid love affair with this Jesus for most of my adult life. Just as I would never doubt a sincere Christian’s testimony of faith, all I ask is that Evangelicals grant me the same courtesy. This will never happen, of course, because their theology bars them from doing so. Their intransigence reveals the real truth behind this discussion; that the question has never been about meeting the REAL JESUS; that what really matters is believing the right sectarian doctrines; that Evangelicalism is inherently a text-based system; that what really determines entrance into Heaven is checking off the right boxes on the Beliefs Checklist. The Evangelical gospel is this: BELIEVE THESE DOCTRINES AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED. It’s never been about the REAL JESUS.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Bruce, These Doctors Can Heal You

peanut gallery

Today, a woman named Sherryll left the following comment on the post titled The Tyranny and Oppression of the To-Do List. I have no idea whether Sheryll is a drive-by reader or a regular reader. I doubt she’s a regular reader for this reason: people who have been reading my writing for years know I have no use for unsolicited medical advice. Both on the comment guidelines and contact page, I ask people to not send me medical advice. I have an expert team of medical doctors caring for me. Beyond that, I have read scores of books, articles, and studies about the various diseases that afflict me. I have been tested, poked, scanned, and injected more times than I can count, including extensive work-ups at the University of Michigan and the Toledo Clinic. I’m confident that my diagnoses are accurate, as is my treatment plan.

Hi there Bruce! I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such pain!

I have been dealing with chronic pain for twenty-five years. My pain is widespread and diverse, from the bottoms of my feet to the top of my head. I have muscle pain, nerve pain, joint pain, eye pain, and bowel pain. This pain is not the normal aches and pains expected at age sixty-five. I have three types of days: less bad pain days, bad pain days, and screaming, off-the-charts pain days. I don’t have pain-free days.

Most of my pain is structural. I have osteoarthritis in virtually every joint in my body. Eighteen months ago, I started having severe pain in my upper back. This pain later spread to my neck. An MRI of my back revealed:

  • Disc herniation (T7,T8)
  • Disc herniation (T6,T7)
  • Central spinal canal stenosis (T9/T10, T10/T11)
  • Foraminal stenosis (T5,T6)
  • Disc degeneration/spondylosis (T1/T2 through T10/T11)
  • Facet Arthropathy throughout the spine, particularly at T2/T3, T3/T4, T5/T6, and T7/T8 through the T12/L1 levels.
  • Hypertrophic arthropathy at T9/T10

An MRI of my neck revealed similar damage.

These issues are structural in nature. No medication, supplement, or exercise is going to “cure” me. I recently saw a neurosurgeon at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne. There’s nothing that can be surgically done for me, especially my back. The surgeon’s notes state: the patient will have to live with it.

I too have suffered through the years with similar issues but I fortunately found a doctor in Dallas Texas that helped me. He died three years ago, but his associates are carrying the torch and assisting others in their personal healing process!

Doctor Sherryll, who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, says that she had “similar” problems as mine. I doubt it. She doesn’t know enough about me to make such a judgment, but that doesn’t matter in this Internet age. She sees that I have chronic pain; she had chronic pain; she was healed; I can be healed too.

The doctors in question operate the Environmental Clinic in Dallas (Richardson)Texas. The front page of their website lists their primary service offerings: allergy testing, immune support, nutrition, and detoxification. Does anyone smell “alternative medicine?”

Environmental Clinic’s website states:

Did you know that many common ailments may be traced to substances you are exposed to in your everyday environment? Thirty years ago, even medical science was not broadly aware of the extent the environment affected health. But, thanks to much research and the work of pioneering physicians, doctors now recognize such maladies as headaches, sinusitis, fatigue, joint aches, blood vessel abnormalities, asthma and chronic infections may be caused by environmental factors. The Environmental Health Center-Dallas is one of the oldest and most advanced centers in the world addressing health and disease as it relates to the environment. The center provides full-service medical care with a special emphasis on the impact of environmental factors on the human body.

According to Dr. William J. Rea, the surgeon who founded the Clinic in 1974, various exposures may cause sleep disturbance, learning disorders, blood vessel, colon and bladder inflammation, as well as a host of other inflammatory problems. The “environment” involves all of our surroundings, including everything we breathe, eat, or touch. It consists of thousands of substances we are exposed to each day, but often do not even know exist. They are substances like the air-pollens, molds, and animal danders in the air, machinery, carpets, cleaning supplies, perfume and smog produces chemical by-products.

For those unacquainted with the effects of the environment on our lives, this process can be compared to carrying a load of bricks. Just as we might fill our arms with bricks, our bodies are being filled with a variety of stressors, including biological, chemical, emotional and physical. As long as the amount of bricks, or stress factors, stay within a range our bodies can manage, everything is fine. But, when the load becomes more than our bodies can handle, down come the bricks. This collapse is represented physically as symptoms.

New patients begin by completing a detailed patient questionnaire and meeting with the physician. Lab tests are often recommended, as is sensitivity testing. In the latter, the patient is exposed to or injected with low levels of various substances which help to identify the cause of their sensitivity.

When the triggering agents are pinpointed, the physician determines an individualized program to help each patient achieve a state of maximum health. This program includes educating patients about their sensitivities, nutrition and environmental exposures as well as getting them actively involved in their treatment. Some patients also receive immunotherapy, a specialized type of vaccine treatment that may provide substantial relief.

At this point, I say sigh. (Why I Use the Word “Sigh.”)

It takes being pro-active though consisting of adopting a healthy diet and exercise within your present capacity.

Note the judgmental presumptions Sherryll makes about me. She assumes, without evidence, that I am not being proactive about my health; that I am not eating a “healthy” diet; that I am not exercising enough. How could Sherryll possibly know these things? In her mind, she thinks that I am not “healthy,” so these must be the reasons why. Would it matter to Sherryll if I told her that I AM proactive; that I eat a vegetable-filled well-balanced diet; that I do what I can physically within the limits of what my body will tolerate and allow? Of course not. Much like religious Fundamentalists, food fundies, homeopathic fundies, and alternative medicine fundies think they have THE truth; that all other viewpoints are lies bought and paid for by big pharma, rich doctors, and hospital conglomerates. These people want us to stay sick, keeping from hearing the true gospel of glorious health. This, of course, is bullshit.

When I look at prospective treatments, all that matters to me is the science. Not anecdotal stories; not sketchy studies; not medical professionals who have an axe to grind.

I realize you feel as if you’re knocking on heaven’s door(as an atheist, you still get the picture) but I am hoping with your drive—- albeit diminished via the illness—you could be up to the challenge! If interested look up Environmental Clinic in Dallas Texas! My best to you!

Sherryll wrongly thinks that she is providing me a “challenge”; that if I really want to get well, I need to accept her challenge. What, are we in grade school? I did look at Environmental Clinic’s website, including its extensive offerings of woo and pseudoscience. No thanks.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Tyranny and Oppression of the To-Do List

to-do-list

As a younger man, I pastored Evangelicals and worked secular jobs, mostly management-level employment. I was a general manager for Arthur Treacher’s, Long John Silvers, and Charley’s Steakery. I also was a grant manager and building code enforcement officer for the Village of Buckeye Lake. My last job (2004) was working for Allegro Medical, managing their Yuma office. While I worked blue-collar jobs, my skills were best suited for managerial positions. As a pastor and a manager, I was the man in charge. Blessed (or cursed) with a Type A personality and a driven, no-nonsense work ethic, I was well suited for the management world. By all accounts, I did my job well and my employers appreciated the work I did for them.

Over the years, I developed certain skills that helped me do my job. One skill was the use of a to-do list. Every day, I would make a list of the things I needed to do, and then I worked the list. Sometimes, I would keep this list in my mind, other times, I would write it down on a yellow pad. As I worked the list, I would mentally or physically draw a line through each completed task. Typically, my work day did not end until I completed the list.

Having an Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) certainly fueled my list-driven work ethic, as did my Fundamentalist Baptist religious beliefs. The Bible was a list of God’s laws, precepts, and commands. The thrice holy creator of the universe expected me obey each and every one of his commands. After all, the Bible says that followers of Jesus are to be perfect, even as their Father in Heaven is perfect. I never had much use for Christians who treated the teachings of the Bible as optional.

Over the years, I employed hundreds of people. If asked, I suspect these former employees would say I was a driven, no-nonsense boss who expected them to show up every day and do their jobs. I had no tolerance for idleness or horsing around. I had zero tolerance for “excuses.” Let me give you an example. When I started managing Charley’s Steakery in Zanesville, Ohio for a Taiwanese immigrant, I inherited two assistant managers. I would have hired neither of them had it been up to me. It wasn’t, so I had to try to work with them.

Jeff was an easygoing “praise Jesus” Evangelical Christian. One of the first things I had to deal with had to do with Jeff’s religious beliefs. Keep in mind, I was an Evangelical pastor, at the time. However, I checked my religion at the door when I came to work. I didn’t try to evangelize employees, nor did I invite them to church. If an employee asked about my church or religious beliefs, I would answer their questions, but when I was at work, I worked for my employer, not Jesus. I tried to model Christianity to my employees by my behavior, not my words.

When Jeff opened the store, he knew he had certain tasks that had to be done, every day, without exception. Yet, Jeff never seemed to get his work done. I would come in around 10:30 am and find the pre-opening tasks incomplete. Of course, I would get after Jeff for this, telling him that these tasks had to be done prior to opening. It was HIS job to make this happen.

No matter what I said, Jeff didn’t do his job. Finally, I decided to figure out what was going on. Come to find out, Jeff was spending the first hour of his work day — are you ready for it? — praying and reading his Bible! He was shocked when I told him he couldn’t do this; that I expected him to start working the moment he walked in the back door. He thought that I, as a pastor, would understand the importance of starting the day communing with God. Of course I did. I read the Bible and prayed every morning too. I did it, however, on my own time, before I came to work. (His excuse was that his home was too noisy for him to have devotions.)

Jeff was notorious for leaving work undone. Such a work ethic was foreign to me. My job. My responsibility. Get it done. No excuses. Ever. I expected Jeff (and my other manager) to account for the money every day. When I came to the store, they were using a communal till. No one was responsible for the money. I changed that by requiring new drawers every time a new employee was put on the register. I discouraged my managers from running the register, telling them that if they did and there was a problem with the money, I would hold them accountable for the missing money.

Every day, the opening manager was required to count the two cash drawers and the safe. There was an exact amount of money in the safe. The total amount had to be exact — no exceptions. And if it wasn’t, the opening manager was expected to figure out why. No excuses. I expected the money to be correct, right down to the penny. This process was repeated at night. At the end of the night, I expected the manager to count the drawers, balance the safe, and make the deposit. The money had to balance, each and every time. If it didn’t, I expected my managers to stay there until it did, and if they couldn’t figure it out, I expected them to call me.

I was having a problem with drawers coming up short on the night shift (when I wasn’t there). One drawer came up $50 short twice in a week. I determined that the cashier was stealing the money. I fired her. The next weekend, I was off work. Jeff was in charge. I came in on Monday morning to find a note taped on the safe that said, “Sorry, Bruce. The money is not right, and I couldn’t figure it out.” The safe was short $70. I recounted the safe and drawers several times. I removed the drawer mechanism from the register to make sure the money wasn’t there (unlikely since this amount required multiple bills). I went to the bank and made sure the previous night’s deposit amount was correct. It was. So, I was left with two possible explanations: either a customer was given too much change (unlikely since there were no $100 bills in the safe/deposit) or someone stole the money. I believed it was the latter, but I had no way of proving it.

When Jeff showed up for work, I took him aside and gave him the ass-chewing of his life. He knew it was his responsibility to make sure the money was right. He knew that he was required to call me if he couldn’t figure out what happened. Worse, when I asked him who was on the register over the weekend, he told me: numerous people. According to Jeff, he was so busy that he just didn’t have time to count the drawers and switch them. In other words, he ran a communal drawer all weekend. The thief could have been anyone — including him. Jeff is fortunate I didn’t fire him on the spot.

I had policies and procedures in place for a reason. I expected the people who worked for me to follow them.

Fast forward to today. The Bruce from yesteryear still lives in my mind. I still have an exacting work ethic. I still make to-do lists. The difference now, of course, is that I can no longer mentally or physically work the list. Oh, I want to (just ask Polly, my children, or my counselor), but I can’t. I need to, but I can’t. The drive is still there, but there’s no gas in the tank. Gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and degenerative spine disease have robbed me of the ability to do the things I used to do. My life is now measured by the things I have had to give up. Last year, I sold all my professional camera equipment. No longer able to hold a camera due to its weight, I had to give up on photography. Two years prior, I sold all my woodworking equipment, fearing that I would hurt or kill myself if I didn’t. I haven’t driven an automobile since March 2020. I sold my car, knowing that I will never physically be able to drive again. Two years ago, I was excited to rekindle my love affair with O-gauge Lionel trains. I spent months buying engines, cars, and equipment on eBay. Two of my sons helped me build my layout table. Polly painted it for me — a dirt tone. And then, the proverbial train ran out of fuel. A year later, the trains, buildings, and equipment gather dust. I wonder if I might as well give up on this too, and sell the things I have collected. Simply, I am not sure I can (mentally) do this and still want to get up in the morning. So, it sits.

I have kept our financial records our entire married life — forty-four years. Polly never had any interest in doing so. Our checkbook always balanced to the penny. I used programs such as Quicken or Microsoft Money to track income and spending. Always the list maker, I used categories to track everything from the money we spent for utilities to the money we spent buying candles (a lot 🙂 ) We have never been very good with money, but we knew exactly what we were spending money on. Come the first of the year, I would tell Polly, “do you know we spent X dollars on ___________?” We would both laugh/cry/groan, and then promise to do better in the new year.

Three years ago, I started having an increasing problem keeping up with our finances. Receipts would sit on the desk for months. The “checkbook” no longer balanced. I started missing payment due dates. So, I gave up. After talking with my oldest son about this, I was able to develop a system that worked for me in my present dilapidated condition.

I know that tomorrow will not be better than today. I have resigned myself to the fact, that I will be forced to give in until there is no more to give. That’s the nature of my afflictions. They rob me of my life, one inch at a time, launching at me and mocking me as they do. I try to focus my energy on Polly, our children and grandchildren, and writing. If I’m lucky, I will get to spend time sitting in the yard, taking a short road trip, attending one of my grandchildren’s games/performances (though I can rarely do so since I require someone to drive me to these events), going to the grocery store, or eating out with the love of my life.

Last night, Polly and I went out to eat at Sweetwater Chophouse in Defiance. Bethany stayed home and watched the new Elvis movie on HBO Max. After we were done eating, Polly asked if I wanted her to take the long way home. The answer is always “yes.” I never want to go home. So we drove west from Defiance to Sherwood (where we stopped at the Apache Dairy Bar and I had a chocolate malt) and then turned north and east to our home in Ney. When we arrived in Ney, I told Polly that I want to tour the town (population 356, about 100 houses). She asked, “which way?” I replied, “I want to go down all the streets.” “All of them?” Polly asked. I replied, “all.” And so we did, gossiping about our neighbors along the way. We noticed a block from our home six or so feral cats, six to eight months old. We love cats and have fed feral animals for decades, but we despise humans who show no regard for them and leave them to their own devices.

I returned home in time to watch Sunday Night Football. As I tiredly sat in my recliner, I opened up my iPad Pro to check for new blog comments, emails, and social media messages. There were — a couple of emails from people upset that I didn’t respond to their email when they thought I should. Of course, I will, when I can, politely respond to them, apologizing for my delinquent behavior. I want to ask them, “do you know how sick I am?” In recent days, I have thought about doing away with my comment form, but even if I did, people would still find ways to contact me. Last week, a man in his 70s from Chicago somehow found my phone number and called me — at 8:30 am. I had been asleep for two hours. His call disrupted my sleep for the rest of the day. Yes, he needed someone to talk to. Yes, he had questions about religion and atheism. But, damn, it has taken me several hours and a plethora of medications to fall asleep, and you woke me up!

Deeply engrained in my mind is the need to work the to-do list. The list is still there; it will always be there. The difference now, of course, is that I can no longer work the list like I used to. The list gets longer and longer and longer. On “good” days I will knock a few things off the list, but on most days, the list continues to grow. Three weeks ago, I bought a kit at Menard’s to repair our toilet. There it sits on the kitchen shelf, unused. Everywhere I look I see jobs half-done, projects incomplete. Whether it is my home or this blog, things left undone have become tyrants who love to mock my fragility and inability. On “good” days, I ignore their voices, telling them to fuck off. On “bad” days, I find their mockery and taunts to be overwhelming, constant reminders that I am a frail, dying man.

I am at a place where I have more decisions I must make. I am facing increasing physical problems. The memory problems that were just a niggling problem for years are now getting in the way of me doing what I want and need to do. (This is not dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is more likely driven by the cumulative effect of chronic illness and pain.) I will have days when I feel like the man on The Waterboy: “you can do it.” Such days are flights of fancy, much like an auto engine that runs its best just before it blows up. Reality says that I must use a cane, walker, or wheelchair everywhere I go. I am not stable on my feet. Prone to falls, I must plot out every step when in public. I know a bad fall could be the end for me. I am losing strength in my hands. A new problem, nerve-related, causes my left thumb (I’m left-handed) to fold under my fingers, numb and unmoveable for several minutes. This is likely caused by the herniated discs in my neck. I continue to have problems with my eyes. I have done from near-sighted to far-sighted. I have given up wearing glasses.

These days, even the basics of life are challenging. Nausea and vomiting have turned eating into a chore instead of a joy. I try, but I have found nausea to be an enemy I cannot defeat. Medicine helps, but I can only take so much Zofran. The rest of the time, I endure nausea. It’s really not fun when drinking ice tea makes you nauseous

I don’t write these things to whine or solicit sympathy (fuck you, Derrick Thomas Thiessen). Writing about my life is a distraction, a medication that lessens my suffering. And maybe, just maybe, my writing might resonate with a few of you, a reminder that you are not alone. I will continue to do what I can for as long as a can, but I know there will likely come a day when I must further trim my to-do list, reducing it to one line: breathe.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Just Remember Girls, No One Ever Got Pregnant Who Didn’t Hold Hands with a Boy First

angry preacher

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. (I Corinthians 7:1-2)

The Apostle Paul told the church at Corinth that unmarried men should not touch women. Touch not, want not, right? If men couldn’t contain their sexual desires, then to avoid fornication, they were to marry. In other words, marriage was a considered a cure for horniness. Countless Evangelicals have been taught that if they cannot contain their sexual desires — remember masturbation is a sin — then they should seek out someone of the opposite sex to marry. Hey Betty, I am horny. Will you marry me? 

Many Evangelical preachers use I Corinthians 7:1-2 as justification for the Puritanical rules they use to regulate physical contact between unmarried teenagers and young adults. I came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. I was a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship (BBF), and First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio, also an IFB congregation. Public displays of affection were forbidden. This prohibition forced church teens to turn to secretive means to show their “love” to their boyfriend or girlfriend. We learned how to hold hands in church or on the church bus so no one could see us. There was something exciting about flaunting the rules, even more so when we spent time necking in out-of-the-way church hallways or in the shadows of the parking lot. My favorite necking time was Wednesday evenings when the adults were having choir practice. Church teens were left to their own devices, and many of us used the time for fornication-lite. One girl I dated for a short time told me recently that I was the first boy who kissed her — in the back of the church while the adult choir was practicing Bill Gaither’s song, He Touched Me. 🙂

I had many such dalliances, but that is as far as they went. I was a true believer, so I limited my physical intimacy with the opposite sex to hand-holding and kissing. I was one of the few summer-of-love children who didn’t get laid before marriage. Conversations in recent years with people who were in the youth group with me have revealed that there was a lot of fucking and sucking going on, but none involving preacher boy Bruce Gerencser. I assumed, at the time, that everyone was on the straight and narrow as I was. I now know that their spirits were willing, but their flesh was weak. 🙂

In the fall of 1976, I entered Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan to study for the ministry. A dark-haired beauty by the name of Polly also enrolled for classes. Polly’s goal was to find herself a preacher boy to marry. I thought of college as being a place of plentiful dating opportunities, and I planned to play the field. I dated a girl by the name of Peggy for several weeks and then turned my romantic interest towards Polly. We quickly hit it off, even though we had little in common. She was a quiet, shy preacher’s daughter. I was a motormouth with a bit of a rebellious streak. Polly would tell me later that she thought of me as her “bad boy.” Polly’s parents saw me as a bad boy too; bad as in not good for their innocent daughter. They spent the next eighteen months trying to discourage our relationship, even going so far as to tell Polly that she couldn’t marry me. A short time after this papal edict, Polly informed her parents that we were going to get married with or without their blessing. This was the first time Polly stood up to her parents. If my mother-in-law had to sum up her son-in-law in one sentence, I suspect she would say, Bruce is “different” and he ruined our daughter.

Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist institution. Established by Dr. Tom Malone in the 1950s, Midwestern had a strict code of student conduct. Single students were required to live in the dormitory, and every aspect of dorm life was strictly regulated. Students could only date on the weekends and had to double-date. Dating couples were not permitted to touch each other — no hand-holding, kissing, snuggling, or other displays of affection. Keep in mind, most of the dorm students were ages 18-30 — the raging hormones years. And it was the 1970s, the freaking 1970s!

i would rather be fornicating

Single students were expected to keep at least six inches distance from the opposite sex — six inches being the width of a church hymnbook. (Please read Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six Inch Rule.) Breaking the six-inch rule brought severe punishment. Repeated infractions resulted in expulsion. While there were a handful of couples who self-righteously obeyed the letter of the law, most students quickly learned who they could double-date with without getting in trouble for holding hands with or kissing their date. More than a few students rounded third and slid into home, with several girls becoming pregnant — or so it was rumored anyway. Students caught fornicating were immediately expelled from school.

Polly and I married after our sophomore year. A year later, we left Midwestern and moved to Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. A few weeks after our move, I became the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist Church — a young, growing IFB church. After spending seven months at Montpelier Baptist, I resigned and we moved to the Central Ohio community of Newark. Polly’s dad was the assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. Her uncle, the late James Dennis, was the pastor. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis.) We joined the Baptist Temple, and when Polly’s father decided to start a new church in nearby Buckeye Lake in 1981, we joined him. I became his pastoral assistant (primarily working with the youth of the church), a position I held until June of 1983.

In July of 1983, I started a new IFB church in Somerset, Ohio — thirty miles south of Newark. I would pastor Somerset Baptist Church until March of 1994. At every stop during my young ministerial career, I was exposed to and worked with men who believed it was a grave sin for unmarried teens and young adults of the opposite sex to touch each other. I carried this belief into my first full-time pastorate. Church teens likely remember Pastor Bruce preaching against all forms of physical/sexual intimacy between unmarried people. I am sure they remember me famously saying — oh how I wish I could forget — “no girl ever got pregnant who didn’t hold hands with a boy first!” (Yes, I really did say this, and I did so many times!)

I viewed hand-holding as a sexual gateway drug. I thought that if I could shame teens and young adults into not touching one another (or not touching themselves), then there would be no fornicating going on and no teen pregnancies. I pastored Somerset Baptist for eleven years. During that time, no unmarried church female became pregnant. Does this mean that none of the church unmarrieds was having sex? Of course not. Having talked with a handful of church teens who are now in their 30s and early 40s, I now know that they were lustily ignoring my preaching. I am grateful that there were no unwanted pregnancies that I knew of, though I suspect several girls might have gotten pregnant and secretly had abortions.

Is it any wonder that so many IFB married couples have sexual dysfunction? What in my preaching taught these couples a healthy, scientific, rational view of sex? Nothing that I can think of. Instead, I used guilt and shame in my attempts to get them to conform to an anti-human, irrational view of human sexuality. Thousands of Evangelical preachers continue to preach the Thou Shalt Not Touch gospel to church teenagers. Ironically, these preachers didn’t heed this gospel when they were teens, and they surely have to know that neither will their church teenagers. Hormones, need, and desire win every time. Wouldn’t it be far better to teach unmarrieds how to own their sexuality, preparing them for the day when they engage in sex for the first time? I know, the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says, but Christians have been trying to live by Puritanical beliefs about sex for centuries. How is that working out? Perhaps it is time to shelve the Bible with its archaic sexual prohibitions and embrace a healthy, natural view of sex. Sorry preachers, but everyone IS doing it. You can live in denial all you want, but the fact remains that by age twenty-one, eight out of ten teenagers have had sex, including teens in your congregation. And now that people are waiting until their mid-twenties to marry, I can safely say that most of the singles listening to your antiquated sermons have likely engaged in some form of sexual activity.

Were you raised in an Evangelical/IFB church? How did your pastor handle I Corinthians 7:1-2? What do you remember your pastor saying about necking and premarital sex? Did you feel shame and guilt when your pastor preached about sex? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Dear Christians, if the Holy Spirit is Your Teacher and Guide . . .

indwelling of the holy spirit

Evangelicals believe that the moment a sinner is saved, God, in the person of the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost, comes into the born-again sinner’s life and lives — somewhere, no one can say for sure where — inside of that person. This is commonly called the “indwelling of the Spirit of God.” Every true Christian® is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:19 states that the bodies of Christians belong to God; that these bodies are the temple, the residence, of the Holy Ghost.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

In Romans 8:7-10,13,14,16, the Apostle Paul says that Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling inside of them.

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God…The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Those who do not have the Spirit’s indwelling are not Christian. How can someone know he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? While Evangelicals tend to focus on right beliefs as evidence of salvation, Paul says that behavior is evidence of whether someone is led by the Spirit. Those who are in the flesh (unbelievers) cannot please God, but, according to Paul, Christians are “not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” Paul speaks of death for those who live according to the flesh. True Christians® are to mortify (put to the death) the flesh. This mortification of the body brings life, both in the present and the afterlife.

Reflecting the Gnosticism found throughout the Bible, Paul tells the Church at Corinth that the things of God cannot be known apart from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost:

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:10-14)

The natural man (non-Christian) cannot understand the things of God. Supposedly, only Christians can understand and correctly interpret the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The Bible is the only book ever written that cannot be understood just by reading it. Unbelievers, according to Evangelicals, have sin-darkened hearts and are in bondage to the ruler of this earth, the prince and power of the air, Satan. According to the Bible, non-Christians are deaf and blind to Biblical truth. No unbeliever can understand the Bible without first being saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman tackles unbelievers not understanding the Bible in a post titled Does a Person Need the Holy Spirit to Interpret the Bible?

I’ve never found it at all convincing that a person needs the Holy Spirit in order to interpret the Bible. As an agnostic, of course, I don’t believe in the Holy Spirit (since I don’t believe in God). But even when I did believe in the Holy Spirit, I thought that it was silly to claim that a person could not interpret the Bible correctly without the Spirit – for a couple of reasons that have always struck me as virtually irrefutable.

The first is this: if it’s true that the Holy Spirit is the one who provides the correct interpretation of Scripture, then why is it that so many people who claim to have the Holy Spirit cannot agree on what the Bible means? This is simply an empirical fact that is not open to dispute. Different Christian interpreters of the Bible, all of them claiming to be guided by the Holy Spirit based on humble prayer, come away with diametrically opposed interpretations of major important passages, of minor less important passages, and of major biblical themes and doctrines – just about everything.

I saw this vividly when I was myself a fundamentalist Christian: clear and hard-core different interpretations of major issues, by devout and spiritual Christians, based on how the New Testament was being read. As a poignant example: I had come out of a charismatic background where we believed that “speaking in tongues” was the clearest manifestation of God’s spirit, based on our reading of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. At Moody Bible Institute, on the other hand, we were taught that charismatic activity, and especially the speaking in tongues, was a demonic activity and that the charismatic group from which I had come was misinterpreting these passages. Well, which is it? Both groups claimed to be representing the views of the Holy Spirit that had guided their reading of Scripture.

I could point to passage after passage after passage where well-meaning and clear headed Christians who claim to be given their understanding by the Spirit provide two, three, or four contradictory interpretations of the passage. So what is the evidence that the Spirit assists in interpretation?

The second reason I’ve never bought this is that as a complete agnostic who does not believe in the Holy Spirit, I have studied passages and come to the very same conclusions as those who claim the Spirit has told them what the passages mean. If I “need” the Holy Spirit to interpret these passages, why have I interpreted them in the same way that people who have the Holy Spirit has interpreted them? Seems like I’ve done all right without the Spirit.

And there’s a reason for that. Whatever you think about God, the Holy Spirit, or the Bible – the Bible is written in human languages following human rules of spelling and grammar and coming out of completely human situations lived in by human authors. To interpret the Bible you need to be a human, one who can read words and understand sentences. Even if the Bible is inspired, it is inspired in human words and is, therefore, susceptible of human understanding. My view is that the Spirit does not contribute to the process.

Ehrman is quite right when he says that Christian confusion over exactly what the Bible says belies the notion that the Holy Spirit lives inside Evangelicals, acting as some sort of divine GPS or search engine. According to many Evangelicals, all they need to do is say, Lord lead me/show me the way, and BOOM! their lives follow the exact course mapped out by the Holy Spirit. The same goes for understanding the Bible. Evangelicals metaphorically type their questions into God’s Google app, and BOOM! the Holy Ghost leads them to the exact book/chapter/verse answer. Awesome, right? No need to think. Just “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,” with God promising “every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matthew 7:7,8)

If the Holy Spirit lives inside EVERY believer, why can’t Christians even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, communion, and whether masturbation is a sin. There are thousands of Christian sects, each guided by the Holy Spirit, each believing that their Jesus is the way, truth, and life and their little merry band of believers is the holder of the faith once delivered to the saints. Christianity might — I say might — be taken more seriously by non-Christians if sects/churches/pastors all spoke with one voice. But, they don’t. Instead, Christianity is rife with internecine warfare, with sects and churches competing with each other over money — err — I mean souls. Jesus said that the world would know that people were his followers by their love for one another. Hey Christians . . . how’s that loving one another thing working out?

Supposedly, being indwelt by the Holy Ghost gives Christians the requisite power necessary to live above sin (transgression of the law of God) and the world. I say supposedly, because from my seat in the atheist pew, I don’t see any difference between Christians and non-Christians. Am I missing something here, Christians? If all the above is true, if God the Holy Spirit, really does live inside of you and is your teacher and guide, why is it that Christians don’t live any differently from unbelievers? If, as John says, in 1 John 2:3,4,15, 29, 3:6:

….we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him…. 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….ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him….whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

Can anyone really say that he or she is a Christian? 1 John 3:8 states that anyone who sins is of the devil! Can someone be a Christian AND a child of the devil? At this point, Evangelical readers likely will say, Bruce, Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. Christians are works in progress.  Wait a minute, what about all the verses mentioned above? What about what 1 John 3:10 says, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” John says the difference between God’s children and Satan’s children is behavior. The writer of the book of Matthew says in chapter 25 that on judgment day it will be what people did and did not do that will determine where they spend eternity.

Video Link

I am sure that I will hear from Evangelicals who will castigate me for “wrongly” interpreting the Bible. After all, I don’t have the Holy Spirit living inside of me, so how can I possibly tell others what the Bible says and means? Well, I just did. So much for needing the Holy Ghost to know what the Bible says. The aforementioned verses aren’t ambiguous, so what conclusions should unbelievers come to when observing how Evangelicals live their day-to-day lives? At best, we can conclude that Christians are, in every way, just like unbelievers; that if the Holy Spirit lives inside of believers, he is fast asleep or on vacation; that Christianity has no moral or ethical authority, given that Christians themselves can’t practice what they preach.

If you are an Evangelical, think about the notion that God lives inside of you; that the Bible is some sort of Gnostic book that can’t be understood by six-sevenths of the human race; that only the saved understand what the Bible teaches. Do you REALLY believe these things? Do you really believe that the moment I left Christianity that I lost the ability to understand the teachings of the Bible; that decades of reading and study disappeared from my memory, never to be remembered again? In what other realm do we see this kind of thinking?

Sadly, Evangelicals, unlike liberal and progressive Christians, stubbornly hold on to their literalistic interpretations of the Bible — interpretations that force them to endorse, support, and defend silly beliefs, no matter how stupid and ignorant it makes them look. There is little that any of us can do to reach people who think they know the punch line for the biggest joke in history. While mere worldlings feast on the plethora of literature available today, Evangelicals scour the pages of a book deemed inexhaustible, hoping to find Bronze age wisdom for twenty-first-century living.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser