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Questions: Bruce, Why Can’t You Let Evangelicals Make Their Own Decisions?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Theologyarcheology/“Dr.” David Tee/David Thiessen asked:

Since it is your decision to walk away from the faith, why can you not let evangelicals make their own decisions?

I did not know that I was such a powerful person; that I have it within my power to keep Evangelicals from making their own decisions. I have no ability to force someone to change their opinion about Jesus/Christianity/Bible. Nor would I want to.

I am just one man with a story to tell. Yes, thousands of people read this blog, including many Evangelicals. That’s not my fault. Evidently, there’s something in my writing that resonates with people. That said, compared to the countless Evangelical blogs, websites, and social media accounts, this blog is but a gnat on the proverbial elephant’s ass.

I have never attempted to evangelize or convert one Evangelical to atheism or agnosticism. Have people deconverted as a result of reading my writing? Sure. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, professors, worship leaders, and church members have told me that my writing played a part in their deconversion from Christianity. I spent many years in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. People from an IFB background, in particular, find my work helpful. You see, I dare to talk about what goes on behind closed doors. I know the secret handshake, and I know where the bodies are buried. People appreciate me telling the truth.

If the telling of my story results in people leaving Christianity, that’s not my fault. I have a passive relationship with readers: I write, they read and respond accordingly. If readers email me or comment on social media, I respond to them. I am friendly and available. However, I make no effort to evangelize. Sure, I will answer their questions, offer advice, or befriend them. But, evangelize? Absolutely not. I despise proselytization — be it atheist, Christian, Muslim, new age, or Cleveland Browns fans.

Do I find a sense of personal satisfaction when readers deconvert or move away from Fundamentalist Christianity? Sure. Every writer wants his work to be read and appreciated. If my writing results in a transformation in the lives of people, that’s awesome. If not, I am fine with that too. I was going through old blog comments, emails, and Facebook friendships over the weekend. I couldn’t help but notice that more than a few people no longer comment on this blog. Some of them have died — five in the last three years. Others have likely moved or don’t feel a need to comment anymore. I am sure some readers became bored with my writing. And I suspect other readers were offended by something I wrote. Whatever the reason, I am grateful that I could help them for a time. I know that not everyone will be with me until the end — though I expect some of you to be my virtual pallbearers. 🙂 I am content to play whatever part readers allow me to play in their lives.

I am not the Wizard of Oz; I am just Bruce. Bruce Almighty, that is. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Your Questions, Please

i have a question

Greetings, earthlings and residents of other galaxies.

It’s been a while since I asked readers to submit questions for me to answer, so I thought I would, once again, open the call lines and ask readers to submit their questions, along with $66.66 donations to help me reach Evangelicals throughout the universe. Reason — praise be to Reason! — has called me to evangelize Evangelicals, and your donations will help me take the gospel of critical thinking and skepticism to infinity and beyond. Just kidding. While donations are always appreciated, what I really want are questions; your pithy, short, erudite questions. Please try to ask questions that you think I haven’t answered before.

If you have a question you would like me to answer, please ask it in the comment section of this post. I will answer questions in the order they are received; that is unless you are a bigly donor. Readers who shower me with cash, checks, gold bullion (ouch), Bitcoins, and restaurant gift cards just might be moved to the front of the line or be sent a 13×19 glossy photo of me pole dancing at the Big Bear Strip Club — “might” being the operative word. (Long-time readers who know and understand my humor, sarcasm, and snark know whether I am speaking factually. Everyone else? Keep on dreaming of Bruce Almighty swinging on a brass pole wearing only his shorts, suspenders, and wingtips.)

You can also email your questions to me via the contact form.

Please do not answer the questions. In the past, well-intentioned commenters have answered the questions, making my responses moot. Once I answer the questions, feel free to give your own answer.

Let the fun begin.

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bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

OMG Pastor MacFarlane, Did You Really Say There’s No Racism in Rural Northwest Ohio?

trump im not a racist

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in nearby Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. I attended First Baptist Church in the 1960s and 1970s. I was attending First Baptist when I left in August,1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I attended First Baptist during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This would be the last time I regularly attended the church. After Polly and I married, left Midwestern, and moved to Bryan, we chose not to attend First Baptist. Instead, we joined Montpelier Baptist Church, upsetting many of the people at First Baptist. In their minds, First Baptist was the “family” church. Mom Daugherty, the mother of three of my uncles, told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged at First Baptist. Interestingly, the church’s pastor at the time, Jack Bennett (married to my uncles’ sister), made no effort to retain us as members. Due to my mother’s mental health problems and “sinful” lifestyles, Bennett always treated me like the ugly, redheaded stepchild. Given the opportunity to become the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist, I took it.

John MacFarlane was a nine-year-old boy when I went off to Midwestern in 1976. John grew up, felt the call of God, and enrolled in classes at Tennessee Temple, graduating in 1991. After pastoring Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan for three years, John returned home to work as Jack Bennett’s assistant. After Bennett retired, John became the pastor of First Baptist, a position he has held ever since.

John is White. He grew up in a White family, attended a White church, and spent K-12 in a White school. John is a lifelong resident of Williams County, Ohio. According to the 2010 US Census, Williams County is 95.9% White. And this is progress compared to Williams County demographics in the 1950s-1970s, I didn’t know of one Black person who lived in the county. Bryan, Ohio is one of the most White cities in America. Rural Northwest Ohio is the epitome of whiteness and White privilege. This is the world John MacFarlane (and Bruce Gerencser) was born into, grew up in, and lives in today.

I have sketched MacFarlane’s history for readers to provide context for what follows. MacFarlane publishes a daily “devotional” for church members and others to read. I am one of those “others.” Remember, John is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He lives, breathes, and shits IFB beliefs and practices. John is a product of IFB indoctrination, as was I for many years.

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled Racism. As I read John’s post, I stopped and said, “OMG, John, Did you REALLY say this out loud?” I couldn’t believe he said what he did. As you shall see, his post is racist, bigoted, and ignorant. I am not shocked by what MacFarlane believes. Thousands and thousands of White rural Northwest Ohio residents believe as he does. I doubt that he will have one church member object to what he wrote. What I AM shocked by is that MacFarlane actually said what follows out loud on a public blog.

Here’s what MacFarlane had to say:

I am writing today’s devotional on June 10 while sitting in a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel room in Louisville, KY.

….

The culture of Kentucky is definitely different than the culture of Ohio.  I didn’t say wrong and I didn’t say worse.  I said different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I want to share with you a very politically incorrect observation.  Bear with me as I set this up.

In the little dining area of the hotel, the television has the morning news running to provide those enjoying their breakfast with some indigestion.  News is never good, it seems.  The news today featured:  the millions of ransom dollars paid by a company to someone who had taken their computer systems hostage; issues on the border and a Vice-President who has yet to act as the border czar;  Presidential missteps and mistakes; millions of COVID vaccines rapidly reaching their expiration dates;  race riots, BLM, protests, white privilege, and apologizing for our race.  That’s where my observations come in.

How much of this is made up, contrived by those who aren’t content unless they are fighting?!?  How much of this is stirred up by people whose nickname should be Maytag – always agitating?

Oh, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe racism is out there.  There are places where it is practiced in some despicable ways.  But deal with it there.  Don’t bring it where I’m at and introduce it like another strain of the Wuhan plague.  I have yet to be in a place where I’ve felt that tension and I don’t want to be in that place.  Get rid of it THERE…deal with it THERE…and certainly don’t bring it around me!

Let me introduce you to Betty, Earl, Millie, and Carl.   Every one of them had a much darker tan than I have!  In fact, this was true throughout the facility.  The Hampton Inn & Suites of Louisville, KY was an ethnic melting pot.  So what?

They were the kindest people. 

….

The Asian housekeepers were courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating if you asked a question.

There were mutual niceties and respect.  I didn’t feel treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin and I certainly didn’t treat or look at them differently because of the color of their skin.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

….

I never once felt uncomfortable or threatened.  I saw blacks treating whites respectfully, openly talking with each other.  I saw whites treating blacks the same way.  Never did I see anything that made me think that I needed to hide in fear.  Doors were opened for one another.  Common courtesies and manners were demonstrated between ethnicities.

….

We cannot deny our history and pretend that there are not some very shameful events from the past.  But I’m not living there.  If the past continues to shade our present – if we allow it to do that – we will never move on and achieve the equity that is allegedly sought.  Yes, atrocities were done.  However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.

Is it possible that some people aren’t happy unless they are stirring a pot, creating a fight, and spreading animosity and hatred?  Once again, please hear what I’m saying.  I know racism exists.  But creating a national narrative that teaches racism is everywhere and that if you’re white, you’re automatically a racist is nothing more than a vicious, vulgar lie and I personally resent and am angered by the accusation.

Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  From this original couple sprang every ethnicity there is.  There are not multiple races.  We are all of one race and that race is humanity.  Ethnicities are just the spices of life that the Lord has added to keep us from becoming dull and boring.

Celebrate the ethnicities.  Respect them.  Refuse to place one above another.  Make the playing field level.  That’s the way God does it.

….

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another.  We definitely don’t need sensitivity training.  It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

If it’s a fight people want, take them to the cross where the greatest fight ever was fought and won – by a JEW, nonetheless!  Praise the Lord!

Do you see why I said “OMG, John. Did you REALLY say this out loud?” He did, and what follows is my response.

First, there is a difference between ethnicity and race. Black and White are not ethnicities; they are races. John parrots young-earth creationist Ken Ham on race, and biologically, he’s right. However. MacFarlane wants to de-colorize our world. In his uber-White mind, we are all the same; that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful.

Second, John admits that racism exists out there, somewhere (cue Fox Mulder of the X-Files), but not in the lily-white enclave of rural Northwest Ohio. In 2020, I wrote a post titled, Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio? Having spent most of my life in White rural Ohio, I can say with a high degree of certainty that racism not only exists in rural Northwest Ohio, but that White privilege and systemic racism are very much a part of our culture. Oh, we are nice country folks who will bake you an apple pie and help put a tire on your car, but underneath our niceness lurk racist ideas and beliefs. (Please see Typical Example of Racism in Rural Northwest, Ohio.)

I could share scores of stories that would illustrate my point: that racism and white privilege abound in rural Northwest Ohio. But, instead, let me share one story from my teen years at First Baptist:

In the mid-1970s, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan. I can still remember the day that a woman who once attended the church and moved away, returned home with her new Black husband. Oh, the racist gossip that ran wild through the church: why, what was she thinking . . . marrying a Black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.

In 2008, months before Polly and I deconverted from Christianity, we visited the Methodist Church in Farmer. We had been attending the Ney United Methodist Church — which would be the last church we attended before leaving Christianity; but since the Farmer and Ney churches were on the same charge, we thought we would visit the Farmer church.

As was our custom, we arrived at the church early, so much so that we caught the last ten or so minutes of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly White woman. She was telling a story about her grandson who played football (at college, I believe). She complained that her White grandson was not getting much playing time. Why? The coach gave the “Black” players more playing time. The inference was clear: her grandson wasn’t playing as much because he was White (not because the Black players had better skills).

I am shocked that in his 50+ years in rural Northwest Ohio, MacFarlane hasn’t seen racism or White privilege. Evidently, if the KKK is not burning a cross on the Williams County Courthouse square, no racism exists. John is truly colorblind. The only color he sees is White.

Third, MacFarlane thinks that racism is in the past, that all those racists are dead. Time to move on. Unfortunately, our racist forefathers’ beliefs live on in the lives of White residents of rural Northwest Ohio. I was a racist for many years. I have worked hard to cleanse my mind of racist thinking. While I like to think I am no longer a racist, I am still a White man in a White community with little interaction with people of color (unless I go to Fort Wayne or Toledo). Unlike MacFarlane, I believe the United States has yet to come to terms with its racist past. I support Black Lives Matter (not necessarily the group, but the idea) because I believe many people of color continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I own the fact that my White privilege can and does cause harm to people of color.

Fourth, MacFarlane regales us with stories about the “nice” Blacks and Asians. Why, they were “courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating.” Why did the race (ethnicity, to use John’s word) of these people matter? Was it surprising to MacFarlane that Blacks and Asians were respectful and treated him well? JFC, John, it was their job. I worked in the service industry for years. I also pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a result, I became an expert at smiling at rude, nasty assholes, helping them with their needs. The Blacks and Asians who waited on and helped Pastor MacFarlane and his family were just doing their jobs. Their race had nothing to do with their treatment of the MacFarlanes.

Finally, MacFarlane posits a solution for racism (that doesn’t exist in rural Northwest Ohio):

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another. We definitely don’t need sensitivity training. It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

MacFarlane posits that the answer for racism is Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement for human sin. If everyone would just get saved, why, racism (and violence, hatred, and fighting) would simply and magically disappear. Racist White Christians wouldn’t need sensitivity training, and Blacks — thanks to J-E-S-U-S — would then be equal. No need for anti-discrimination laws. No need for marches and speeches. No need for an honest reckoning over our racist past. No economic or educational help for people of color who have been marginalized and harmed for four centuries. Jesus paid it ALL, time to move on to the 1950s.

MacFarlane forgets that most American Blacks are Christian, many of whom are Evangelical. If Jesus is the cure for racism and marginalization, why haven’t things changed for people of color (in general)? The White Jesus is not the answer for what ails us, we are. Until Whites own their racist past, White privilege, and the systemic racism that plagues our country, it is impossible for us to truly become a land ruled by justice, equality, and equity.

MacFarlane wants us to deal with racism and White privilege where it exists. I am, John, and I am looking right at you. You may sincerely believe what you have written here, but your words reveal a bigoted, racist “heart.”

Note: MacFarlane is a Trump supporter, thus the out-of-right-field mention of “Wuhan plague.” I don’t know if John is an anti-vaxxer.

Other posts about John MacFarlane and First Baptist Church:

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce and Polly Sitting in A Tree

polly bruce gerencser cranbrook gardens bloomfield hills michigan 1978
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Cranbrook Gardens, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Spring 1978, two months before wedding.

Polly and I are celebrating our forty-third wedding anniversary today. Tomorrow, we plan to travel to Findlay, Ohio, and celebrate our anniversary at The Gathering, an upscale restaurant. Afterward, we will take a stroll along the Blanchard River at Riverside Park. Weather permitting, I hope to take a picture of both of us. It’s been two or three years since I have done so.

Last night, as I typically do on Wednesdays, I watched Matt Dillahunty’s show The Hang Up. At the end of the show, Matt takes what is called Super Chats from viewers. Any donation over $10 is read live on air. What follows is my $19.99 Super Chat. (Clip starts at 2:16:25 if the embed doesn’t work properly for you.)

Video Link

Thanks, Matt! And most of all, thank you, Polly, for forty-three mostly wonderful years. I love you!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser