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Questions: Bruce, Is Incest Always Wrong?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

A reader asked:

Bruce, is incest always wrong?

Ask people if sex between family members is wrong, and most people will say yes. Typically, this is a gut response to a difficult question. Sex between family members seems “icky” so it must be, right? The Bible says incest is a sin, so it must be, right? Lost on Christians is the fact that, according to the Bible, incest played a central role in the propagation of the human race. Adam and Eve had three sons, Cain, Abel, and Seth. These men all had children. Who did they have sex with? Either their mother, Eve, or their sisters (who are not mentioned in the Biblical text). So, if incest is wrong/immoral/sinful, why was it permissible in the book of Genesis? Good luck with this one, Evangelicals.

I oppose incest for scientific reasons; that sex (and pregnancy) between closely related people can and does lead to birth defects. The Amish have a problem with birth defects because they almost always marry within their group. Healthy population groups require outside DNA. Some Jewish sects have a similar problem.

If two closely related people want to marry and have sex without having children, I have no reason to say no. I may find such a thing icky, but I can’t think of one rational, scientific reason to object. My mother married her first cousin, Robert Slayman. Mom couldn’t have children, so she was free to marry him. Icky? Maybe, but ickiness is no reason to forbid such relationships.

The same thing can be said for adult step-children marrying each other. Icky? Perhaps, but there’s no scientific (or moral) reason for objecting to such marriages. We all agree that biologically connected parents, children, grandparents, aunts, and uncles should not marry each other. What about cousins?

A 2018 Popular Science article says:

The paper, published in the journal [by Paul Erlich]Science, looks at genetic data from millions of online genealogy profiles. Among other things, the researchers were able to determine at what point in history marrying cousins went out of vogue, and the average degree of relation between married couples today. And hey, since we’re on the subject: Is it wrong to marry your cousin (for a survival perspective)?

While it’s taboo today, cousins used to get hitched all the time. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor, was his fifth cousin once removed; she didn’t even have to change her name. And scientific geniuses like Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their cousins, too. For much of human history, these unions weren’t considered bad or gross. Oftentimes, there weren’t many better options.

From 1650 to 1850, a given person was, on average, fourth cousins with their spouse, according to Erlich’s data. “Many people may have married their first cousin and many people married someone not at all related to them,” he says. But within a century, that had changed. By 1950, married couples were, on average, more like seventh cousins, according to Erlich.

One common sense explanation for this shift is that when transportation methods improved, bachelors and bachelorettes had access to potential partners they had once been denied by geography. This makes sense, given that before 1950, most people stayed in place and ended up marrying someone who lived with in a six-mile radius of where they were born.

Other factors could be at play, however. Erlich says that, according to his data, many continued to marry their cousins even after the Industrial Revolution dramatically improved mobility. While proximity may be one key to romance, it seems consolidating money or power played an important part in family marriages, too. Erlich believes it was changing social norms—and the advent of this cousin marriage taboo—that finally pushed people to look beyond their village and their family. Other factors, including the increasing autonomy of women and shrinking family sizes (which left fewer cousins to marry) could also have been involved.

Whatever the underlying cause, by the end of the Civil War, many states moved to outlaw cousin marriages. Today, 24 states ban marriage between first cousins, while 20 states allow it. The others allow first cousins to couple up, but only under certain circumstances. (“Certain circumstances” include: only if both are over 50, or 55, or 65, depending on the state; only if one or both are permanently infertile; and only if the couple has received genetic counseling.) And, of course, even in states where it is legal, the practice is taboo.

First cousins share 12.5 percent of their DNA. (Siblings, as well as parents and kids, share about 50 percent.) Any child that results from a first cousin union is, therefore, going to have a pretty substantial portion of similar-looking genes. And that can pose a problem.

In biology, genetic diversity is all the rage. If something goes wrong with the genetic material provided to you by your mom, you’re more likely to shake it off if your dad’s genetic material is very different. If dad’s left you hanging when it comes to susceptibility to a certain disease, a mom from a radically different gene pool could confer the protection you require. If mom and dad are genetically similar, however, both versions of a gene are likely to shut down at the same time. It’s estimated that 4 to 7 percent of children born from first-cousin marriages have birth defects, compared to 3 to 4 percent for children born from distantly related marriages.

That’s not nothing, but it’s also not the end of the world—or the family tree. The real issue would arise if the next generation of kids also married their first cousins. Their offspring will have even more DNA in common—and an even greater chance for birth defects.

Ultimately, marrying your first cousin carries some risk. But the odds of healthy offspring dramatically improve with each new distance of relation. Second cousins share only 6.25 percent of their genes and third cousins share just over 3 percent. Seventh cousins—the average distance between modern American spouses—have no meaningful genetic relation at all.

Today, you’d be hard pressed to find an advocate of cousin marriages, and there are of course good reasons for that. But looking at Erlich’s family tree, it’s not an “ew” factor one feels, but an “aw” factor. The genetic data, branching off this way and that, reveals just how closely related we all already are. “[All] of us are something like 10th to 12th cousins of each other,” Erlich says softly. “When you think about wars and violence all over the world, it’s all within the family.”

In 1975, a psychology textbook said one out of a million births were due to incest. Thanks to DNA testing, a recent study revealed that this number is actually one out of seven thousand.

The permissibility of incest is a good example of an issue that humanists and other non-Christians must wrestle with when determining morality, Ickiness is never a reason to forbid something. I can’t wait to read the headlines on Evangelical blogs that say, “Atheist Bruce Gerencser Approves of Incest.” 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Kenneth Sapp Accused of Exposing Himself to Undercover Officer

pastor kenneth sapp

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Kenneth Sapp, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana, stands accused of exposing himself to an undercover police officer. Sapp was charged with obscenity, possession of a Schedule Two, prohibited acts/drug paraphernalia, open container, weapon use violent act, manufacture/distribution/possession of a Schedule One drug, and possession of marijuana.

WGNO reports:

From the documents KTVE/KARD gathered, we know that on Thursday night, right before midnight, Reverend Kenneth Sapp of Arcadia was arrested after allegedly exposing himself to an undercover officer in the public restroom at the Stoner Boat Launch in Shreveport, Louisiana. The 63-year-old is the pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Ruston, Louisiana.

According to police in a probable cause statement, Sapp was also found to be in possession of 30 grams of suspected marijuana, 21 grams of suspected meth, multiple glass pipes, and an unlabeled bottle of pills. Officers also found a handgun in Sapp’s possession. Sapp was booked into the Shreveport City Jail Friday morning and transferred to The Caddo Correctional Center early Saturday morning. His bond was set at $21,000 and he was booked on obscenity, open container, and 5 different drug charges.

On Monday, KTVE/KARD did reach out to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church for a comment, but we were told that a statement would not be given at this time.

The Shreveport Times adds:

Kenneth Sapp, 63, of Arcadia was booked into Shreveport Jail on obscenity, possession of a schedule two, prohibited acts/drug paraphernalia, open container, weapon use violent act, manufacture/distribution/possession of a schedule one and possession of marijuana.

According to booking records, Sapp was arrested after allegedly exposing himself to an undercover officer in a public restroom.

Booking records also state he was found to have 30 grams of suspected marijuana, 21 grams of suspected meth, multiple glass pipes, an unlabeled bottle of pills and a handgun.

On April 28, Sapp was transferred to Caddo Correctional Center, with his bond set at $21,000.

Sapp is the pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church the Oasis in the Woods and has served in this position for the last 30 years.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Black Collar Crime: Southern Baptist Youth Worker Ralph Britt, Jr. Arrested on Child Porn Charges

ralph britt jr

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Ralph Britt, Jr., a long-time youth worker at Dunwoody Baptist Church in Dunwoody, Georgia stands accused of nine counts of sexual exploitation of children. Dunwoody Baptist is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

WSB-TV reports:

A church employee was arrested after Roswell police say they found child sexual abuse material at his home.

The investigation began on February 10, 2024, when Roswell detectives began looking into child sexual abuse material transmitted through peer-to-peer file-sharing networks.

This led detectives to Ralph Britt Jr., 59, Johns Creek home on April 24, where a search warrant was executed.

According to police, authorities found more child sexual abuse material at the home and took several electronic devices for processing.

Later that Wednesday, detectives met Britt at Dunwoody Baptist Church, where he was arrested.

At the time of his arrest, Britt was an employee of the church, where he reportedly worked closely with children and the youth in different capacities over the past 20 years.

RPD says the church has cooperated with the investigation, which remains active and ongoing.

Britt was booked into the Fulton County Jail on nine counts of sexual exploitation of children. Officials said more charges are forthcoming.

Channel 2′s Tom Regan was at the Dunwoody Baptist Church Tuesday, where church leaders said the news hit the congregation hard.

“We are shocked and devastated,” Pastor Allen Taliaferro said. “This is someone we have known for decades.”

Taliaferro said Britt was most recently involved in a drama production and was involved with several different ministry departments.

Church leaders broke the news to their 2,000 members in an email and conversations.

“This was tough to sit down and say to the church,” Taliaferro said.

Pastor Alan Jackson said there is no evidence that the crimes happened on church grounds.

“No evidence has been brought forward that any person-to-person contact took place, and no parent has brought any suspicious memories either,” Jackson said.

Church leaders said they did regular, rigorous background checks on Britt and have measures in place to protect children.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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What My Evangelical Professors Taught Me About the Bible

bible thumper 4

I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan from 1976-1979. Midwestern is a diehard Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution. Established in 1954, Midwestern requires its professors to rigidly hold to IFB/Evangelical beliefs. Not doing so leads to firing for professors and expulsion for students. No one was permitted to deviate from the “faith once delivered to the saints” — as interpreted by Chancellor Tom Malone and the college’s administration.

These presuppositions guided every professor’s teaching:

  • The Bible is the very words of God.
  • The Bible is inspired — breathed out by God.
  • The Bible is inerrant — without error.
  • The Bible is infallible — true in all that it says,
  • The Bible is meant, with few exceptions, to be read and interpreted literally.
  • The Holy Spirit teaches us what particular verses of the Bible mean.
  • The Bible has no errors, mistakes, or contractions.
  • The Bible is internally consistent (univocality).

Further, Midwestern had particular beliefs about soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and pneumatology. Only the King James Bible was used in the classroom, and only Erasmus’ text was used in Greek class. Hebrew was not taught at Midwestern. Opposing viewpoints were rarely brought up, other than to tell students, “We don’t believe that here.” Not one class was spent addressing Calvinism or any other eschatological system except dispensationalism, premillennialism, and pretribulationalism. Indoctrination, not knowledge, was always the goal.

My college education was rudimentary, at best. My real education came in my study, as I spent 20,000 hours reading and studying the Bible. I quickly learned that my professors had misled me. I suspect many of them didn’t know any better, having been raised in similar IFB surroundings as I.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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How Evangelicals Read and Interpret the Bible

want truth read bible-001

How do Evangelicals read and interpret the Bible? By Bible, I mean the sixty-six books of the Protestant Christian Bible. Before Evangelicals read one syllable of the Bible, they agree to the following presuppositions:

  • The Bible is the very words of God.
  • The Bible is inspired — breathed out by God.
  • The Bible is inerrant — without error.
  • The Bible is infallible — true in all that it says,
  • The Bible is meant, with few exceptions, to be read and interpreted literally.
  • The Holy Spirit teaches us what particular verses of the Bible mean.
  • The Bible has no errors, mistakes, or contractions.
  • The Bible is internally consistent (univocality).

All of the presuppositions above are faith claims. Either you believe them, or you don’t. Of course, these claims are little more than special pleading. Evangelicals don’t read any other text or book this way except the Bible. Imagine taking this same approach with an auto repair manual or a biology textbook.

Books are meant to provide us with knowledge. We read because we want to know. When Evangelicals read the Bible, they want knowledge too, but that knowledge is conditioned by the claims made above. As a result, this leads to wild, rationally indefensible interpretations of the Bible and demands for conformity of belief.

I have no doubt some of my Evangelical critics will object to this post, saying that the “natural man understands not the things of God” or unbelievers, lacking the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, cannot rightly read, interpret, or understand the Bible. In their minds, the moment I deconverted, God did a Men in Black-like mind wipe on me, and all the knowledge I had about the Biblical text was gone. This, of course, is absurd.

Anyone can understand the Bible if they are willing to read it and use widely available tools to interpret the text properly. Contrary to what Evangelicals say, the Bible is NOT so simple that a child can understand it. The Bible is a complex text written in several languages by numerous authors over many centuries. An inability to read the underlying Hebrew and Greek manuscripts hinders the ability to determine what the Bible actually says. There are tools that can be used to ameliorate this problem, but even here, Evangelical-produced tools can and do operate from the presuppositions above. Instead of letting the chips fall where they may, these tools dishonestly present the Bible as a unified text, consistent in all that it says. This is patently untrue, as any non-Evangelical Biblical scholar will tell you.

Every reading of the Bible should start with the data. Instead of letting the two creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 speak for themselves, Evangelicals try to make the conflicting accounts “fit.” This is called harmonization. There are lots of such contradictions in the Bible, yet Evangelicals will deny this, coming up with all sorts of novel explanations to turn away claims that the Bible is not infallible and inerrant. The Bible, in Evangelical minds, can’t be errant and fallible. If it is, that means their God, who wrote the Bible, is errant and fallible too.

Faith prevents Evangelicals from seeing the Bible for what it is: a fallible, errant text written by fallible, errant men. Does the Bible have value? Sure. Can the Bible provide wisdom and direction? Yes. Can the Bible lead people to God? Absolutely. These things can be true without the Bible being a supernatural text written by a supernatural God.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Questions: If You Could Travel Back in Time, What Would Sixty-Seven-Year-Old Bruce Tell Young Bruce?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Cubs Fans asks:

And if it were possible for you to time travel back to the 70’s and 80’s and talk to your younger self what would you say to him?

Years ago, I wrote a post titled, Advice for Young Pastors From an Ex-Evangelical Preacher. This post was well-received and has been mentioned several times in books written by Evangelicals. Here’s what I had to say:

1. Don’t confuse your self-identity with the church. Far too many pastors allow themselves to be swallowed up by the church, losing their self-identity in the process.

2. Don’t sacrifice your children or spouse for the sake of the church. Trust me, twenty-five years later, the church will have long since forgotten you and your sacrifice will mean little.

3. Choose which battles are worth fighting. Not every hill is worth dying on, and not every challenge to your authority or leadership is worthy of a fight. Remember, the church is not your church. You, along with people who likely have been there for many years, are simply caretakers of the church.

4. Be willing to say, I don’t know. I realize this puts you at great risk of being unemployed (since church members crave certainty) but speaking with certainty when you know there is none is lying and dishonest.

5. Be aware of the traps that can destroy your ministry, especially the big two – money and women (and men). Never touch the money and never allow yourself to be put in a position where moral compromise is possible.

6. Insist that the church pays you well. Don’t be a full-time worker for part-time pay. It is okay to pastor churches that cannot pay you a living wage, but the church must understand that you have an obligation to your family and you must work a job outside the church to properly provide for them.

7. Make sure there is an annual pay review procedure in place. You should not have to beg for a raise. Make sure you have an employment contract where the job requirements, pay level, benefits, pay review period, and termination procedure are clearly laid out. If a church is unwilling to put all of this in writing, what does that tell you?

8. If at all possible, own your own home. Someday you will not be a pastor. Someday you will be old and retired. Then what? Where will you live? Churches can rent out the parsonage and provide you with a housing allowance. Remember, most of the church members are building equity in their homes and you should be able to do the same.

9. Insist that the church pays into a 401(k) that you own. Do not let anyone convince you to opt out of Social Security. It may sound okay now, but when you are old you will regret it. What happens if you are disabled and have not paid into Social Security? You are out of luck, and God isn’t going to pay your mortgage.

10. Make sure that all sacrifice is shared. Remember, it is not your church and it is not you alone who is responsible for saving the church from whatever crisis it faces.

11. Don’t use your wife and children as gophers and fill-ins every time something needs to be done at the church. Insist that church members take ownership of the church and do the work necessary to maintain the church and do what is required to keep the church functioning.

12. Don’t be in a hurry to find a church to pastor. A lot of churches that are looking for pastors don’t deserve one. They have chewed up and spit out the last five preachers before you and, trust me, they will do the same to you. Let them die.

13. If a community already has X number of churches, don’t delude yourself with thinking that if you started a new, exciting church it would be different from all the rest. It won’t. People are people, and churches are pretty much all the same. Don’t flatter yourself.

14. Focus on people that need help. Focus on the least of these. By all means, offer them Jesus, but do not neglect their physical needs. The greatest difference you can make in a person’s life is to help them when they are suffering. Above all, be their friend.

15. Visit regularly the homes of the people you pastor. Get to know them. Allow them to be honest with you and ask you whatever questions they want. Eat their food, take them out to eat, and pay the bill. Don’t smother them, but don’t neglect them either.

16. Don’t get sucked into buildings and programs that the church does not need. Rather than building a fancy new building, complete with a gymnasium, think about maximizing what you have so more money can be given to the poor. If church members want to play basketball or do Pilates, they can go to the Y.

17. Do everything you can to integrate the youth into the church. They should be stakeholders. After all, they are the future of the church. This does not mean that you must become one of them. There is nothing more embarrassing than a pastor who tries to act like a teenager. Grow up and be a good example.

18. Work hard and be honest. Don’t be the kind of preacher that gives all preachers a bad name. Just because you are the pastor of a church doesn’t mean you are entitled to special treatment. Don’t ask for discounts and don’t expect people to favor you just because you pastor X church on Main St.

19. Don’t tell anyone you are a preacher. Don’t self-promote. Don’t insist people call you Reverend or pastor. Be an authentic human being, complete with faults and frailties. Don’t be afraid to admit to the church that you are a failure, that you are no better than anyone else.

20. Don’t let people put you on a pedestal. Trust me, falls off the pedestal are nasty.

21. Above all, understand that life is more, far more, than the ministry. Stop and take time to enjoy life, to enjoy the world you say your God created.

I stand by these words today. If only someone had told me these things when I was a young, on-fire preacher, I would have avoided some of the costly mistakes I made over twenty-five years in the ministry.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Questions: Bruce, Could You Still Preach a Sermon Today?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Charles asked:

Could you still preach a sermon today?

As an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years, I preached lots of sermons — three to seven times a week, 4,000 sermons, in all. I am a seasoned public speaker, and according to the approbation of others, pretty good at it. Preaching never came hard for me. I was a consummate outliner, rarely saying anything I didn’t intend to say.

I am confident that I could still preach a sermon if asked to do so. Preaching is a learned skill, so I didn’t lose my ability to preach just because I deconverted. Evangelicals assert that preaching requires the filling of the Holy Spirit, but this is a faith claim, not one rooted in fact. Scores of Evangelical zealots have told me that I never was a Christian. If this is so, and effective preaching requires being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, why was I able to preach 4,000 sermons as an unsaved, apostate child of Satan? It seems to me, that effectual preaching requires skill, dedication, passion, and commitment, none of which requires the Holy Spirit.

Over my lifetime, I have heard many phenomenal preachers; men gifted with the ability to passionately and effectively preach. I have also heard over the years, many preachers who couldn’t preach their way out of a wet paper bag. Men who lack basic preaching skills, these men of God have no business preaching. They might be good with people, but these preachers can’t preach sermons that challenge and move people. My father-in-law was one such preacher. His sermons were awful. Often, they are rabbit chasers who think “getting up there and winging it” is a sound strategy. It’s not, and just because people praise your sermon after the service doesn’t mean they aren’t lying. (I stopped shaking hands at the door after the service for this very reason.)

Could I still preach an effective, passionate, call to action? Absolutely. Now if I can only find a church that would let me put my words to the test. 🙂

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Is Jesus Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary?

hopeless and helpless

I used to enthusiastically preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say Evangelical Christianity, made them weary and hopeless.

What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive — so destructive that some people have thoughts of committing suicide.

It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus — real or not — is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.

No, it is what the church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.

I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot of people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.

They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no place to turn. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).

So they suffer in silence. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.

Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to Hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?

I want you to know that I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.

My desire for you is hope and rest.

For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has caused psychological harm. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know.

It’s late . . .

I can hear the clock ticking.

Another night with no sleep.

I hear my lover snoring.

I think of our life together.

So much time wasted.

So much work invested in things that do not matter.

Years have passed us by.

God, we served you.

God, we loved you.

God, we worshiped you.

God, we left all to follow you.

Careers, ambitions, wealth, family . . .

All forsaken to follow you.

Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.

And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.

What am I to make of all this?

Can I go on?

Will I go on?

I must go on.

God or not, there is a life to be lived.

God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.

Because I AM dying.

So much life yet to live.

So much life yet to experience and enjoy.

God is back on the shelf where he belongs.

Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.

Probably not.

Until then, I will live morally and ethically.

Until then, I will love and hate.

Until then, I will walk the path called life the best way I know.

Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.

I still have hope.

My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.

These days, the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.

I devote myself to these gods.

I worship them.

That’s enough for me.

I will leave eternity to another day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Questions: Bruce, As an Evangelical Pastor, Did You Ever Interact with an Atheist?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Cubs Fan asked:

As an evangelical pastor did you ever engage an atheist?

This question will not take me long to answer. Outside of “meeting” a pair of atheists while knocking on doors in the 1970s as a student at Midwestern Baptist College, I never interacted with anyone who claimed to be an atheist.

In 2021, I wrote a post titled, Bruce, As an Evangelical, What Were You Taught About Atheism? Here’s what I had to say:

This could be the shortest post I have ever written. Not really. Remember, I was a preacher for twenty-five years. I always have something to say on a subject. That said, the short answer to this question is this: absolutely nothing. I have no recollection of my pastors or my professors at Midwestern Baptist College ever mentioning atheism or atheists. In the 1970s and 1980s, the enemies of Evangelicalism — particularly in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — were: liberalism, the Southern Baptist Convention, modern Bible translations, situational ethics, and sexual immorality. The culture wars fueled by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority were all the rage. I heard lots of sermons about abortion and prayer/Bible reading in schools, but not atheism proper. At times, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s name would come up in sermons, but only in the context of the aforementioned culture war issues.

I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I can’t recall preaching one sermon on atheism. I mentioned O’Hair on occasion, but not her atheism per se. In fact, I didn’t know any atheists. As far as I know, no atheist ever attended one of the churches I pastored. Were there atheists in the midst? Sure, just like there were LGBTQ people too. Such “abhorrent” beliefs and identities were, however, hidden — deeply buried in the proverbial Fundamentalist closet.

There is one atheist story I would like to share with readers, a humorous conclusion to this post. During my freshman year of college, a fellow dorm student and I were out knocking on doors one Saturday, hoping to find someone willing to let us share the gospel with them. Students were required to go soulwinning every week. Then we were required to report our evangelistic endeavors to the college. Many students, myself included, lied about how many doors they knocked on, how many people they led to the Lord. During the three years I attended Midwestern, I led a total of two people to Christ. I was, when it came to winning souls, a failure.

As my friend and I went from door to door in a Pontiac neighborhood, we had little to no success when it came to the “souls saved” department. What happened next, however, left an indelible impression on two virgin Baptist preachers-to-be. First, as we walked up the sidewalk to the next house, we noticed a number of squirrels in the yard. All of a sudden, one of the squirrels ran for my friend, jumped on his leg, and proceeded to scale his tall frame before jumping off his shoulder. Once we regained our composure, we walked up to the door and knocked. I should note before I tell the rest of this story, that locals were frequently harassed by Midwestern students. Imagine, being up late on Friday night, only to have a couple of Bible thumpers banging on your front door first thing in the morning. Many of us went soulwinning early on Saturdays so we could have the rest of the day to ourselves. It was the one day when I could spend significant time with my wife-to-be.

Then, as we knocked on the door, we heard people scuffling inside. Soon the door opened, and standing there stark naked were a man and a woman. My fellow dorm mate and I were speechless — I mean dumbstruck. Before either of us could start our soulwinning spiel, the man said, “we’re atheists, and we are not interested in what you have to say.” And with that and a laugh, the man shut the door.

This would be my first and last interaction with an atheist until I started reading books by atheist and agnostic authors in 2008. I still haven’t met many atheists in person. Most of my interaction with godless people has come through this blog and social media.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Why Do Evangelical Preachers Lie About Their Support of Israel?

israel flag

Evangelicals love the Jews, or so they would have you believe, anyway. Grossly misinterpreting what the Bible says about Abraham and Jehovah’s chosen people, the Jews, many Evangelicals believe the future of the United States rests squarely on the unconditional support of Israel and its genocidal war against the Palestinian people. God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who don’t, so the thinking does. What’s not stated outside the safety of Evangelical churches is what else they believe about Jews:

  • Jews are not chosen in a salvific sense of the word. Because Jews reject Jesus as their Messiah, they will go to Hell when they die.
  • After Jesus returns to earth and raptures away his chosen ones — born-again Christians — earth’s inhabitants will face seven years of violence, torture, bloodshed, and death at the hands of God and the AntiChrist.
  • Many Jews will eventually bow a knee to Jesus, but going to Heaven after they die requires them to be martyred for their faith. As the movie A Thief in a Night showed, many of these Jewish martyrs will be beheaded for their allegiance to Jesus.

Jews need to be aware that these teachings lurk behind all the “We Love and Support Israel” talk flowing from Evangelical mouths. The Jews are just a means to an end, and when all is said and done, they will burn in Hell.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser