Thank You For Reading The Life And Times of Bruce Gerencser. Your Support is Appreciated.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Jack Graham Tells More Lies About Socialism

pastor-jack-graham

Let’s define our terms. Socialism is a political and economic system in which there is government ownership of the means of production and the primary focus of providing equality. Socialism favors large government and governmental control of social services and much more. In socialism, the government is all important and is involved in every aspect of the lives of those whom it rules. 

Contrast this with capitalism. Ours is an economic system in which there is private ownership, private property, and private possession of goods. In capitalism, there is a limited role for the presence and force of government in individual lives. Economically and philosophically, capitalism and socialism are two forms of government between which we need to differentiate. 

Americans have historically favored capitalism and the freedom it provides. Surprisingly, however, a shift appears to be occurring in public opinion, especially among the young. 

A recent USA Today report said that 4 in 10 Americans embrace some form of socialism. A recent poll of millennials found that a majority, 58 percent, would rather live in a socialist nation than a capitalist nation. Some young people perceive capitalism and corporate America as being greedy and without compassion or concern for others. Yes, there is greed in this country, but there is greed whether it is in a socialistic system or a capitalistic system. It is in the heart of every human being.

What accounts for the changing attitudes among the young? Those under 30 years of age have not seen the devastating effects of Soviet-style repressive governments under socialism. It is the big bad brother, communism. We’re past the Cold War now, and a generation has arisen that either hasn’t been taught history, doesn’t read or understand it, or doesn’t care. They are listening to their liberal teachers, professors and politicians; and what they have been told sounds good. It appears compassionate and loving. But is it? I can say emphatically that it is not!

Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview because it seeks to suppress all people according to the dictates of the state. No one serious about their Christian faith can accept socialism, and here’s why. Socialism is totally secular and is predicated on atheism. That is a fact. Our faith in Jesus Christ is built on the Word of God, the revelation of Scripture, and the belief that God exists. We believe in the coming resurrection of Christ, and with that faith comes freedom to live an abundant life that is founded on liberty.

Contrast that with Karl Marx, the father of socialism. He considered religion of all types, specifically Christianity, to be what he called “an opiate of the people.” In other words, belief in God is a drug to be used to pacify the public. Marx was the originator of the horribly repressive Soviet style of government. He was also greatly influenced by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. It purports to explain the existence of life on earth. Human beings, he said, are nothing more than advanced animals. If that is true, any one of us can be disposed of at the whim of the state.

— Jack Graham, What the Bible Teaches About Socialism and Capitalism, August 5, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Christians Should Fear What Liberals and Socialists Might Do

james dobson

Ladies and Gentlemen, I write you today to express my profound concern for our nation and for everything cherished by people of faith. “Love of country” as we have known it is in serious jeopardy. Those who are determined to “fundamentally change” America have forged a virulent and growing political movement that recognizes no allegiance to the U.S. Constitution. They think they have a better idea. People like that despise the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights—among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Indeed, the concept that our freedoms were a gift from the Creator is anathema to these revolutionaries. I am especially concerned about a generation of children who are being manipulated and warped day by day. These vulnerable boys and girls have no defense against activists and some liberal teachers who are propagandizing them. They see our kids as a way to guarantee their vision of a socialist future. Their goal is to recast America as a Marxist, atheistic, all-powerful form of government. 

Is such a tragic day coming on this beloved country? Not if we and millions of other patriots can prevent it! 

….

If you are among them, I hope you will remember these exhortations when you continue to hear the mainstream media promoting socialist revolution in the days ahead. I also urge you to support the voices who are warning against those who want to “fundamentally transform” democracy. What is so wrong with our constitutional form of government that it should be thrown on the ash heap of history? What we are facing here is a culture war that is driven by those who hate Christianity and the Church of Jesus Christ. If the far left is successful in capturing the hearts and minds of Americans, the entire world will descend into a spiritual darkness unlike anything that has ever been seen. Please make that a matter of fervent prayer during these next 14 months [until we get baby Christian Trump re-elected], and do pass this letter on to your friends and pastors.

— James Dobson, Newsletter, August 5, 2019

Evangelicals “Want to Believe”

fox mulder

Guest post by ObstacleChick

From 1993 to 2002, a unique show called “The X-Files” ran for a total of 9 seasons on Fox. Fans were excited in 1998 when “The X-Files” and in 2008 “The X-Files: I Want to Believe” movies were released in theaters. In 2016 and 2018, two additional seasons of “The X-Files” were released to enthusiastic fans of a certain age who had followed the series. The basic premise is that FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) are teamed up to investigate unusual cases that defy conventional solutions. Agent Mulder has an open mind regarding the paranormal and is up to date on mythology across cultures. Agent Scully is a trained medical doctor whose goal is to find scientific answers to the cases to which they are assigned. The conflict of believer and skeptic, along with a good dose of sexual tension, combined with stand-alone cases and overarching story arcs created a cult following that eventually became a pop cultural icon. One of the props designed for the show, Agent Mulder’s poster of a typical 1960s rendition of a UFO ship with the caption “I Want to Believe,” is a well-known image that sums up who Agent Mulder is and who Agent Scully is not.

I know a lot of Evangelical Christians who profess to “know” that their rendition of God is the One True Rendition of the supernatural. In short, they believe that their deity is omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient. Many believe that gods from other religions are either nonexistent or are demons or Satan trying to pass themselves off as deities in order to deceive followers from adhering to the One True God of Evangelical Christianity. Not unlike Tigger from the Winnie-the-Pooh series who states that “the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is I’m the only one,” many Evangelicals feel the same way about their deity. Yet when I have asked any Evangelical Christian what evidence they have of their One True God’s existence, they always fall back on “heart” evidence; they felt it in their “heart” so it must be true. Additionally, they may comment that human knowledge is inferior to God’s knowledge, or that we cannot rely on our own understanding as we are flawed, inadequate creatures (Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 55:8-9). Some may say that their deity reveals himself in nature and in His Holy Word, the Bible. Like Fox Mulder, they want to believe.

I know Christians who say they cannot contemplate facing a day without knowing they have God overseeing and protecting them throughout the day. They derive comfort from thinking that their powerful deity is protecting them in their day-to-day lives, helping them find the closest parking spot at the supermarket, revealing the lost $20 in their jacket pocket, or protecting them from being in a car accident. Of course, when things do not go well, these folks attribute unfavorable circumstances to “Satan,” or to “sin,” or that “God has other plans” for them. There’s always a reason other than that their god doesn’t exist or that he is not a benevolent, all-powerful god who is striving to protect them. Like Fox Mulder, they want to believe.

My grandmother loved a song by William J. and Gloria Gaither called “Because He Lives.” I think it sums up how a lot of Christians feel about their God and their own attitude about their lives. That “life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove my savior lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

How sweet to hold a newborn baby
And feel the pride and joy He gives
But greater still the calm assurance
This child can face uncertain day, because He lives

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

And then one day, I’ll cross the river
I’ll fight life’s final war with pain
And then, as death gives way to victory
I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Lori Alexander’s Sexual Assault Fantasy

lori alexander

Women were much safer when they lived under their father’s roof until marriage (IF they had a good father) and then under their husband’s roof when married (IF they have a good husband). Feminism has made women unsafe. They have fought for women to attend universities. Are women safe in the universities? “Sexual assault on college campuses is a common problem that often goes unreported. It includes any unwanted sexual activity, from unwanted touching to rape. Alcohol and drugs often play a role in sexual assault on campuses.” They have fought for women to have careers. Is the workforce safe for women? “Workplace sexual harassment is widespread, with studies estimating that anywhere from almost a quarter to more than eight in ten women experience it in their lifetimes.”

As you can see, women attending universities and having careers have made women much more unsafe than they were living under their fathers’ roof and then their husbands’.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, Women Are More Unsafe These Days, August 3, 2019

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Woodstock was a Secular Worship Service

As I watched the new PBS film and revisited the 1970 documentary, it struck me that Woodstock was a fundamentally religious event: a worship service for a secular age; a liturgy of liberation where the object of devotion was not God, but freedom. The event signaled the dawn of a new spiritual ethos that would extend far beyond the world of hippies: a rejection of authority in almost every sense except for the authority of the expressive self. 

….

Among the ways Woodstock marks a key moment in Western cultural history is that it helped solidify the move of transcendence and religious awe from the church and institutional religion, into the realm of popular culture. After Woodstock, the outdoor music festival became a key liturgy of secular religion: sacred spaces of communion with nature and fellow man, where music and drugs and alcohol contribute to feelings of physical elevation, emotional escape, and spiritual transformation.

….

Woodstock lives on, both in its legacy for the world of music festivals but also as a microcosm of the 1960s cultural revolution that still shapes our world today.

The reverberating echo of Richie Havens’s “Freedom!” is still our culture’s rallying cry. The impulse to “look within” for transcendence remains pervasive—if not in acid trips and gurus, then in mindfulness apps and “wash your face!” self-help. 

Meanwhile, progressivism is still trying to figure out how to reconcile the dual values of unrestrained personal autonomy and “help each other” communal responsibility, as well as how to speak with moral authority on pet causes (LGBT rights, global warming, abortion rights) despite having built itself on the (inherently unstable) foundation of anti-authoritarianism. 

And just as the masses at Woodstock longed for an “alternative city” where they could be known and understood, singing praises (of sorts) with one voice, so do the masses today. The lost souls who flocked to Woodstock were looking for meaning, just as their 21st-century counterparts are when they crowd into stadiums, theaters, concert halls, national parks, or wherever they go to “worship.” 

These pilgrims are looking for something more. Revival. Purpose. Transcendence. Something of substance. What can Christians do to present the local church as a place where spiritual wanderers might find these things? Because even as the Western world became more secular, the religious impulse never went away. The human need to worship never fades, as Woodstock’s “worship service” so vividly shows. 

But worship satisfies only when its object is utterly and eternally worthy. That’s why, when all the secular liturgies of this age fail to satisfy, the church of Jesus Christ will still be there—singing to the same God she always has, with words and rituals that have outlasted countless cultural trends and countercultural zeitgeists.

— Brett McCracken, The Gospel Coalition, Woodstock was a Secular Worship Service, August 3, 2019

A Decade Removed from Leaving Christianity, My Wife’s Mom Finally Asks Her if She Believes in God

believe-in-god

Polly and I attended church for the last time in November, 2008. While I was quicker to embrace the atheist moniker than Polly, she intellectually, at least, didn’t believe in the existence of God. In recent years, she has been more open about her lack of belief, but even now she’s quite reserved when compared to her word-generating-machine husband. That said, we are both on the same page when it comes to the existence of the Christian God.

Polly’s father is a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976 — the same year his daughter enrolled for classes. Dad and Mom moved south to Newark, Ohio where Dad became the poorly-paid assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. The Baptist Temple was pastored by Jim Dennis. Jim was married to my mother-in-law’s younger sister. Dad would later pastor a church in nearby Buckeye Lake. After this church closed, Dad and Mom returned to the Baptist Temple, the church they call home to this day,

Talking about things has never been Mom and Dad’s forte. When we left the ministry in 2005 and Christianity in 2008, Mom and Dad never said a word — NOT ONE WORD! (even after receiving Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners). That is, until today. As most of you know, Polly is having surgery tomorrow to remove bladder cancer and repair a fistula. An hour or so ago, Polly’s mom called her at work. This is the gist of their conversation:

Mom: I have never asked you before, but do you think like Bruce does?

Polly: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, like do you still believe in God?

Polly: No, Mom!

Mom: How can you not? You asked Jesus to save you when you were seven! [actually, it was at age five]

Polly: I’m fine, Mom.

Mom: Well, we pray for you and Bruce and the kids [all heathens, in her eyes, by the way], a lot!

End of discussion.

Polly texted me, “Sigh, OMG! How many years did she have to ask?”

Polly texted me later “Pretty sure she was more upset than me! If she didn’t want to know, she should have kept quiet! I told her I had excellent specialists taking care of me. I mean, seriously! What’s Jesus going to do for me?”

This is the first and only time Polly’s parents have asked about our loss of faith. They had a decade to ask, yet never, ever said a word outside of the constant reminders, “we are praying for you!” I suspect Mom felt led by the Holy Spirit to call her daughter. Knowing that Polly was having surgery, Mom wanted to make sure where her daughter stood with the Christian God. I am quite sure she didn’t expect to hear Polly say she didn’t believe in God. Mom and Dad and their former pastor, the late Jim Dennis, have always believed that I have a larger-than-life influence over Polly. There was a time that that was true, but those days are long gone — as in, twenty-five plus years gone. Polly is her own person, and able to make decisions for herself — including whether she believes in the existence of God.

Polly enters the hospital tomorrow trusting that skilled medical professionals will do their best to remove the cancer and fix the bladder side of the fistula. We are confident that they will succeed in this endeavor. Mom fears for Polly’s soul. All I want is for the love of my life to come home safe and sound.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Fundy World Tales — Part Three

the-fundy-world-tales

Shortly after I began the seventh grade school year at Ney Junior High School — the same school my dad graduated from in 1954 — we suddenly moved thirty-four miles south to Deshler. I was angry with Dad — yet another move to a new school; yet another year of being the “new kid.” But I knew that my thoughts and feelings didn’t matter, so I said nothing. I had started playing football at Ney Junior High, and I continued my football career at Deshler. I was a short, lightweight boy, ill-suited physically for football, but I wanted to give it a try. I played very little, and once the season concluded I decided to focus on baseball and basketball instead.

By the time we moved to Deshler, my parents pretty much stopped being my parents. Mom was in and out of manic states, and Dad busied himself working as a district manager for Combined Insurance and selling firearms at weekend gun shows. I pretty much had the run of the town. Mom would ask what I was up to and where I was headed, but never said no. Dad? I don’t remember him being much involved in my day-to-day life. Well, except for the pool hall incident, that is.

Growing up as the son of Bob Gerencser, I learned at an early age that if I wanted anything that cost money, I either had to steal it or earn the money to pay for it. While living in Deshler, I began delivering morning newspapers for the Findlay Republican Courier. Seven mornings a week, I would get up early and deliver my route. I also was responsible for collecting subscription payments from my customers. Dad helped me open a checking account at the Corn City Bank. My collections were supposed to go into this account, and then once a month I would write a check to the Courier to pay for my papers. Whatever was left was my profit.

Unfortunately, my parents gave me no instructions as to how to manage money. In my immature mind, the money I collected was mine — all of it. I started hanging out at the pool hall, playing pinball for hours on end. When I needed money for the machines, I would write a check to the pool hall. After a month or so, the Courier contacted Dad and inquired as to why I hadn’t paid my paper bill. Dad quickly found out that I had spent all the paper money. I was a pinball addict. Well that, and pop and candy bars. The Courier fired me as a delivery boy, even though Dad paid my past due bill. Dad somehow knew that children my age were not permitted to be in pool halls, so he threatened the pool hall owner, telling him that if he didn’t return all the money I had spent at the hall, he was going to report him to the state. The pool hall owner quickly coughed up the money and banned me from entering his establishment.

During the ten months I lived in Deshler, my parents, siblings, and I attended Westhhope Bible Church — a rural Evangelical congregation north of Deshler. Tom Vanarsdall was the pastor. The one thing I remember about him is that he had an attractive daughter whom he kept an eye on lest she get too close to a boy. The other memory I have of this church is the black choir that came to the church to sing one Sunday night. I could count on one hand the blacks I had seen up to that point, and here was a stage full of people who looked very different from me. While the choir’s music was typical of what I had heard for years, their body movements were different from anything I had seen in the Baptist church. The choir “felt” the music, unlike the staid northern Baptist Christians of my tribe who thought such feelings were Satanic.

In May, 1970, Dad packed up his family again and moved 23 miles southeast to Findlay. I will pick up my story here in the next installment of The Fundy World Tales.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why I am Still in the Ministry — a Guest Post by John Calvin

guest post

In response to my request for guest posts from liberal/progressive Christians, a reader I’ll call John Calvin submitted a thoughtful post detailing why he still, to some degree, “believes.” John is currently a minister in a  mainline Calvinistic denomination. John feared his words would be seen as blatant hypocrisy, but I hope readers will listen carefully to what John is trying to say, and consider the deep emotional and psychological struggles he faces every day. I know more than a few liberal/progressive ministers read this blog, including some who are atheists/agnostics and still preaching on Sundays.  I appreciate John’s willingness to be honest about where he is in his life, and how he struggles with the existence of God. May his words be instructive and helpful.

I grew up in fundamentalism, the holiness variety, and was caught by all the claws of its well-designed trap. In my culturally deprived southern working-class environment, the church was essentially all I had. There was music — bad music, but it was music. There was poetry — bad poetry, but it was poetry. There was literature — bad literature, but it was literature. There was community, and it wasn’t bad. In a childhood of some moving around, the church became my hometown. It seemed full of warm, loving people. Now, though, after all these years, I greatly resent the fact that my spiritual life was entrusted to them. They should not have been in charge of it. Was the warmth and loving just one more tooth in the trap?

I’m sure I thought it was God’s will that I attend a denominational college; that I take a degree in Biblical Literature. I also married into the family of a pastor who used his fundamentalist conservatism as a weapon. Marriage among undergraduates in that school, especially for ministerial students, was almost expected. If you didn’t get married, you would probably end up having pre-marital sex, and there was nothing God hated more than that. After college, I went to the denominational seminary.

I never remember wanting or planning to be a pastor. You might say I didn’t take career planning nearly seriously enough. What I wanted was to understand the religion I found myself struggling to swim in. Being more of a seeker than was warmly welcomed at that seminary — where the truth, having once been delivered unto the saints, was already fully known, I transferred to an old, Eastern establishment seminary. The intellectual freedom I felt there was a wonderful breath of fresh air. By the time I graduated with my M.Div. I had departed my holiness denomination and become a pastor in a large, so-called “mainline” denomination. Frankly, I was worn out, had a family, was in debt, and didn’t know what else to do. (I was twenty-nine years old. I had started school at age four. I had taken a year off, twice, at different times, but essentially I had been going to school for twenty-five years. My diploma was written in Latin. I couldn’t read it. I still have no idea what the damn thing says. But it had better be good.)

A lot happened in subsequent decades. That large denomination I joined is a lot smaller now, partially, I’m sure, because of my feeble efforts. That cute little holiness preacher’s daughter I married, who could play the piano and sing like a bird (good one, not some crow or red-winged blackbird), told me she was embarrassed to tell people she was married to a minister, had a string of affairs, and finally left my sorry ass flopping in the dust.

I got out of the ministry for a while. Then I remarried, this time to a woman with no apparent pride and who didn’t mind being married to a minister, so I got back in. Now I am supposed to be retired, but I am still a part-time pastor, having the best time I ever had in the ministry. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it. Most of the time I found being a pastor a painful and uncomfortable experience. (Hey, I never wanted to do it anyway, but the hooks were well set.)

Now, as to why I am still doing what I do. I guess I fit the definition of a progressive, liberal Christian, I prefer the term “cultural Christian,” which to me is analogous to someone being a cultural Jew rather than being a religious Jew. Some people might call me an atheist. I have called myself that on occasion, but only to myself. Whatever is left of my Christianity is bereft of any supernatural elements.

I understand the Bible to be the product of human beings, at its best a record of peoples’ interpretations of how God had worked among them. The Bible is clearly full of errors, contradictions, and outrageous mythological constructions. The idea of a perfect, inerrant Bible delivered by the hand of God is ludicrous.

While I believe it is possible that Jesus of Nazareth was not a historical person, I also believe it is possible that he was. If the things the New Testament says happened, it is amazing that none of Jesus’ contemporaries felt them important enough to mention, not even the matter of Jewish saints coming out of their tombs on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion. Seriously? No one thought to jot that down? “Hey! Guess what happened!” Still, it seems to me probable that there was a guy back there somewhere to build the legends around. Much of the New Testament is no doubt fiction, designed to present him as a divine prophesy-fulfilling miracle worker. Even so, I find the core of his teachings to be inspiring and, even if they are not totally original, potentially revolutionary. I think his teachings of love and compassion are especially needed in a world that is increasingly violent and hateful, most especially when so many of those who call themselves Christ-followers are enabling the hatred and violence. (“Christians have to keep telling people they’re Christians, otherwise no one would notice.”)

The Church that says it follows him is a humiliation and an embarrassment. It has done some good in the world, but it has done some horrendous things too. I am not convinced that Christianity is a net positive force in the world. If nothing else it is guilty of diverting peoples’ attention from important issues such as living with love and compassion, to minor ones. What the church most demonstrates is that humans are institution-building animals.

So, again, why do I keep doing what I do, and why would I have any hope of being anything other than a blatant hypocrite?

It does not take much to reach the realization that there is no big man in the sky, that the earth and its creatures were not zapped into existence 6,000 years ago. Still, almost every human culture has tried in some way to grasp something beyond itself. Some have called it “God.” That “something beyond” has had a powerful impact on humans and their histories. As it happens, more humans identify with Christianity than any other single religion, as they have been doing for 2,000 years. I think that’s significant. Even if it is an amazing shared delusion, is it not something that can be honored for what good it does contain, for what good it has done? Are we right when we say, “Well, all those people were idiots?” “Thank God, our intellect is so much better than theirs that we have it all figured out and can toss it all aside like ideas of a flat Earth or the belief that some chickens have lips.” Does not the tradition, if nothing else, deserve some honor?

Maybe none of that works. Honestly, I was at least a little uncomfortable writing it. But, as I said, I am a cultural Christian. This is where I was born. This is where my people are. We share history and ritual and community. I sit with them as they die. I pray with them then and there. Not because I am challenging God to alter the laws of the universe, but because I hope and think the prayer might help them. It is not about me. It is an act of service on my part, because the whole thing is so much bigger than me, and I am willing to accept the reality of mystery. I see no benefit in standing by a bed in a hospice and saying, “Well, I’m sorry you’re dying, but don’t expect God to hold your hand through this. You’re just gonna slip back into the darkness forever, so get over it.” I expect to slip back into the darkness forever, sooner rather than later, and I’m fine with that, but I don’t think I have a right to impose that on them, at least at that point. That work needed to be done a long time before that.

I do strive for authenticity in my preaching. I do not lie to people. I do not present the Bible as a magic book, but as a book written by real flesh and blood human beings. I do not pretend that Adam and Eve were real people. I straightforwardly acknowledge that evolution is true. At the same time, even though my cultural Christianity has lost its supernatural elements, I will never stand up on Easter morning and say, “Look folks, we know this never happened. Dead people don’t come back to life. If this was true we could at least expect the Gospels to get their stories straight.” I think of it as being respectful of people.

I do not encourage peoples’ belief in their mythological Father-God “up there” somewhere, and that the instant they die they’ll be reunited with their dead loved ones at Jesus’ feet by the crystal sea. Maybe I leave people to assume that I believe much of that just like they do, and maybe that all by itself makes me that blatant hypocrite. On the other hand, maybe that is what gives me the opportunity to move them along, little by little.

I genuinely care for the people in my parish. I embrace them with love. I try to educate them to have a better understanding of the Bible and what it means to be a Christian in these days, and I know that to some extent I succeed. I try, as gently as I can, to challenge their assumptions and presuppositions. I try to lead them to what I would like to believe is a more mature faith.

Sometimes, I think I must sound like a broken record, saying over and over, “Come on! Let’s live as Jesus said! With love and compassion.” I also feel like the voice of one crying in the wilderness when the vast majority of American Christians seem to be saying, “Screw that!”

I do not care about maintaining the institution of the church, which is too bad, because ultimately I believe that’s what parish ministry is all about.

I admit to being conflicted. Sometimes I think I would like to turn in my resignation and run out the door yelling, “Freedom!” I haven’t yet, and it is not because I’m getting paid. I do take the money, but if I stopped getting those big church bucks it wouldn’t change my life one bit. I guess I do it because for whatever reason it still matters to me. I’ve never been able to get those hooks out of me. I once asked a friend who seemed to have the same ambivalence about ministry that I had, after he had been fired as president of a seminary, “Would you do it again?” He said, “I would have to. It’s my curse.” I understood completely.

One thing for sure has happened. Here in my Calvinistic denomination, I have finally proved the truth of Arminianism. I have definitely lost my salvation. But, hey, heaven for the climate and hell for the company. Am I right?

Quote of the Day: Why the Phrase “Separation of Church and State” is Not in the Constitution

separation of church and state 2

What these persons fail to understand is that it would have been redundant to include such a phrase [separation of church and state] in the Constitution. The document as a whole embodies the view that government is not to meddle in religious matters. The federal government is given very specific, limited powers only over various secular matters. It has no powers relating to religion. The government is secular both in its origin (the consent of the governed) and its function. The government and religious institutions are completely separate and have nothing to do with each other. To insist that the Constitution doesn’t mandate separation of church and state because it doesn’t contain that phrase is more preposterous than a person who is not named as a beneficiary in a will insisting he has a claim on the estate because the will does not specifically exclude him by name.

Dr. Ronald Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do, December 2014

Purchase The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do

Quote of the Day: Secularism and Evangelical Bigotry

separation of church and state

Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Evangelical Christians continue to represent a sizeable percentage of the current president’s base support. To those who have watched evangelicals spend “the last 40 years telling everyone how to live, who to love,” and “what to think about morality,” the continued alliance with this president makes evangelicals the “biggest phonies” in all of politics. Indeed, the behind-the-scenes details of how a “thrice-married, insult-hurling” president obtained the endorsement of the evangelical hierarchy are as lewd and hypocritical as one might expect.

As much as the hypocrisy of evangelicalism can be mocked and exposed however, there exists a kernel of truth lurking behind the claim that evangelicals are supporting this president out of fear. It is simply impossible to deny that institutionalized persecution of religious ideas by public universities has occurred. Thankfully, this persecution has been continuously challenged and overturned in the courts.

The fact that persecution of religious ideas can and has occurred in our society however, does not even remotely suggest that intolerance is a uniquely “secularist” problem. In fact, intolerance of dissent and censorship of opposing views has been a general feature in religious institutions for thousands of years. Moreover, the same intolerance and censorship evangelicals claim they hate so much when it occurs in “secular” institutions is expressly embraced at the largest Christian colleges in the United States today, such as Liberty University. Does this past and current existence of intolerance in religious institutions mean that religion is inherently intolerant? No, because human bias exists generally in all human institutions, a fact the framers of the Constitution knew all too well and the exact reason why they chose to embrace secularism.

….

For example, David French, who I would argue is a moderate evangelical, has argued recently that we should be wary of European immigration because those countries have a “secular-bias” that will “alter American culture in appreciable ways.” In answering this nonsense from French, it is important to acknowledge that such a statement amounts to nothing less than vile bigotry.

To illustrate, imagine for one second how French would react if a liberal pundit on MSNBC  said we should avoid immigrants from Christian-majority countries because America is steadily becoming more secular. Is there any doubt French would find such a statement to be a reflection of bigotry against Christians based on ridiculous notions that they are somehow incapable of assimilating into American culture? Yet he felt no issue disparaging and demeaning immigration from a whole continent based entirely on whether they held certain religious beliefs or not. Why? Because for all too many evangelicals, non-belief is simply not viewed with the same respect as religious belief, despite the fact that our Constitutional free conscience liberty makes no distinction. Put simply, it is nothing less than disgraceful the level of bigotry that evangelicals impose on the none-religious. Until and unless the religious stop lying about the nature of secularism, falsely depicting it as the ultimate evil, I fear such bigotry will continue to increase.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The False Demonization Of Secularism, July 30, 2019

Update on Polly

polly gerencser 2018

My wife, Polly, has had a rough spell health-wise over the past eighteen months. AFib. Surgery to fix a bleeding problem. Surgery to fix a deviated septum. A week in the hospital that resulted in an ulcerative colitis diagnosis. In recent months, Polly has been dealing with a painful bladder problem. Last week, she had a cystoscopy at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne. The urologist found two problems: a fistula between the colon and bladder, and bladder cancer. Polly has also been fighting a serious bacterial infection, the result of fecal matter entering the bladder. This means taking antibiotics, which, of course, aggravates her ulcerative colitis.

The cancer was unexpected — as in at age sixty hearing the doctor say, congratulations, you’re pregnant! On Thursday, Polly will have surgery to remove the cancer and close off the bladder side of the fistula. Next week, she will have major colorectal surgery to fix the colon side of the fistula. This will likely result in the surgeon removing some of her bowel. He warned us in January that this was a possibility. That “possibility” has now become a reality.

Polly will be off work for several weeks. This will truly test my ability to, as Polly says, “pull money out of my ass.” We’ll endure, and hopefully, Polly will be on the mend and back to “normal” — whatever THAT means — soon. Polly does have short-term disability insurance. There’s a waiting period, and then it pays fifty percent of her base wage for up to six months.

As for me personally, watching Polly suffer has been difficult. So much of our focus over the past twenty years has been on my health problems. Now, Polly’s health struggles are added to our already full plate. At times, I am tempted to ask, “why me,” but I remind myself of what Christopher Hitchens said when asked that question, “why not me?” We are not special or exempt from the struggles that are common to humankind. Polly breezed through life with very few health problems. Ninety-nine percent of our medical expenditures were mine, not hers. That all changed eighteen months ago. All we know to do is to get up each day and face what comes our way. By the grace of Loki, we will persevere to the end. Why? Because that’s just what we do. We don’t know how to live any other way than by putting one foot in front of the other and stumbling forward.

The one good thing that’s happened in all of this is that Polly has lost almost forty pounds! The bad news is that I EAT when I’m stressed, so I know where some of her weight went. Polly hopes to maintain the weight loss, and I hope to get back to not feeling like I need to eat a whole box of Cap’n Crunch.

Your thoughts and well wishes are appreciated. Polly’s surgeries and hospital stays will likely affect my writing schedule. Thank you for your understanding.

signature

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.