Christmas has played a part in my life ever since I entered the world in June of 1957. In this post, I want to detail some of my memories about Christmas.
As a child, Christmas at the Gerencser home was a typical American Christmas. Family, food, and gifts. While there were never many gifts, my siblings and I always received several presents from our parents. My Dad filmed many Christmases with his 8mm movie camera. Sadly, after Dad died in 1985, the movies were either lost or destroyed.
In the 1960s Christmas at our home changed, and not for the best. My grandfather on my Mom’s side remarried. My grandmother remarried several times, but was divorced by the late 1960s. My grandparents on my Dad’s side died in 1963. Grandpa Gerencser died February 1, 1963 and Grandma Gerencser died a month later on March 5. I was left with Grandpa and Grandma Tieken and Grandma Rausch for Christmas, and they didn’t get along.
In the 1940s, Grandpa Tieken and Grandma Rausch went through an acrimonious divorce — a divorce that resulted in neither parent being deemed fit to raise their children. They had two children, my mother Barbara and her brother Steve. Their hateful acrimony was on full display in the 1960s when Bob and Barbara Gerencser gathered for Christmas with their three children — Butch (that’s me), Bobby, and Robin. Into our family gathering would come the grandparents, teeth bared, hateful towards each other — likely fueled by alcohol. The fighting got so bad that it became necessary for us to have two Christmas gatherings, one for each grandparent.
In the summer of 1970, we moved from Deshler, Ohio to Findlay, Ohio. In the spring of 1972, my parents divorced. Dad would marry a 19-year-old girl a few months later, and Mom would marry her first cousin — a recent Texas prison parolee. From this point forward until I entered college, I have no recollections of Christmas. I am sure we celebrated Christmas. I am sure we had a tree, perhaps gave gifts, etc., but I have no recollection of it.
In the fall of 1976, I left Bryan, Ohio, and moved to Pontiac, Michigan to enroll at Midwestern Baptist College, a Fundamentalist Christian college noted for training men for the ministry. In September of 1976, I began dating a beautiful 17-year-old freshman girl named Polly. She would be the last girl I dated, and two years later, in July of 1978, we married.
My first Christmas with Polly was in 1976. I drove from Bryan, Ohio, to Polly’s parent’s home in Newark, Ohio. Polly’s Dad, the late Lee Shope , was the assistant pastor at the Newark Baptist Temple, an IFB church pastored by her uncle Jim Dennis. The Shope/Robinson/Dennis family Christmas was a multifamily affair, with two sisters joining together to have the celebration. Christmas of 1976 was held at the home of Jim and Linda Dennis.
Being Polly’s boyfriend, I was a topic of discussion and inspection. Needless to say, I failed the inspection, and I am still the topic of discussion all these years later. I vividly remember Polly’s uncle letting the whole church know that I was there visiting Polly. He said, “Bruce and Polly have a shirttail relationship. We just don’t know how long the shirttail is.” While I have no doubt Jim was trying to be funny, Polly and I were thoroughly embarrassed. This coming year we will celebrate 43 years of marriage –so the shirttail has proven to be quite long and resilient.
As I entered the Dennis home, I was taken aback by how many gifts there were. Underneath the tree and flowing out from its trunk were countless gifts, more gifts than my siblings and I received our entire childhood. The number of gifts– what I would later label an “orgy to consumerism” — continued unabated for many Christmases.
Polly’s family was littered with Fundamentalist preachers — her Dad, Uncle, and Grandfather, and later others. They made sure they put a good word in for Jesus before the gift opening commenced. Every Christmas, one of the preachers, which later included Polly’s cousins and nephew, gave a short devotional reminding everyone that the birth of Jesus was the real meaning of Christmas. Interestingly, even though I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years, I was never asked to give the devotional. Make of that what you will.
After Polly and I married in 1978, we began to develop our own Christmas traditions. We spent Christmas Eve with Polly’s parents and Christmas Day with either my family in Bryan, Ohio, or with my Mom at her home in Rochester, Indiana, and later Columbus, Ohio. Polly’s family Christmas continued to be marked by the gift-giving orgy and lots of great food. Christmas with my Mom and family was a much more measured affair. Mom made sure her grandkids got several gifts, as did my grandparents and Aunt Marijene. Christmas at Mom’s house continued until around 1990 when she and her husband Michael moved to Michigan. The move was sudden and unexpected, and I came to understand later that they likely moved due to Michael’s shady business dealings with people who threatened to kill him. Mom would commit suicide in April 1992, while living near my sister in Quincy, Michigan. Please see Barbara.)
Christmas 1983. Polly and I decided to have Christmas with my extended family at our home in Glenford, Ohio. I only remember two things from this Christmas: Grandpa and Grandma Tieken being their usual judgmental, pushy selves and Mom being upset with me because I made her go outside to smoke. This would be the first and last time my extended family came to our home. For the next decade, not one member of my extended family came to our home, save several visits by the Tiekens — whose visits were excruciatingly unpleasant and psychologically harmful. (Please see Dear Ann and John.)
Over time, I drifted away from my extended family. I began to see them as outsiders — people in need of salvation. I regret distancing myself from my family, but as with everything in the past, there are no do-overs. We continued going to my Mom’s for Christmas until she moved to Michigan. We continued going to Polly’s parents’ home for Christmas until circumstances forced us to stop going. I will detail those circumstances in a moment.
In the late 1980s, I came to the conclusion that Christmas was a pagan holiday, a holiday that no sold-out, on-fire Christian should ever celebrate. I unilaterally gave away all our Christmas decorations and we stopped giving our children gifts for Christmas. It’s not that we didn’t buy our children anything, we did. Our children, to this day, will joke that Christmas for them came when the income tax refund check showed up. Living in poverty with six children resulted in us, thanks to the Earned Income Tax Credit, receiving a large income tax refund. When the check arrived — an annual large infusion of cash into our bank account — we bought our children everything they needed — with “needed” being the operative word. While we bought our children clothes, shoes, underwear, and the like, we bought them very few toys. We left it to grandparents to buy those. We did make sure they had bicycles, BB guns, and firearms, but very few toys. Living as we did, 8 people in a 720-square-foot, battered, old trailer, required our children to spend a significant amount of time outside. Toys became whatever the kids picked up in the yard or woods. I have often wondered, looking at the wealth of toys our grandchildren have, if our children are not compensating for their childhood. I know, as we buy for our grandchildren, that we are.
During my “Christmas is a Pagan Holiday” years, I routinely disparaged the gift orgy that went on at Polly’s parent’s home. At the time, I thought the money being spent on gifts could be better spent on evangelizing the lost. While I would later move away from the view that Christmas is a pagan holiday, I never lost the belief that many Christians are quite hypocritical when it comes to Christmas. Jesus is the Reason for the Season and Wise Men Still Seek Him, devout Christians tell us, but their orgiastic celebration of the true meaning of Christmas — consumerism — betrays what they really believe. After all, conduct reveals what we truly believe, right?
Over time, I allowed — remember, we were patriarchal in family structure — Polly to resume a low-key celebration of Christmas in our home. We had to buy new decorations because I gave all away our old antique decorations given to us by our mothers. For a time, we had an artificial Christmas tree. Since we moved back to rural Northwest Ohio in 2005, we have bought our tree each Christmas from the Lion’s Club in Bryan.
With my parents being dead, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Polly’s parents. This abruptly changed in 2010. I left the ministry in 2003 and we abandoned Christianity in November 2008. In early 2009, I sent out my family-shattering letter, Dear Family Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter fundamentally changed our relationship with Polly’s IFB family.
Christmas of 2009 was best remembered by a huge elephant in the middle of the room; that elephant being Polly and me and the letter I sent the family. No one said anything, but the tension was quite noticeable.
2010 found us, just like every year since 1978, at Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. This would be the last Christmas we would spend with Polly’s parents and her extended family. We decided to blend into the background, and besides short pleasantries, no one talked to us. Not that they didn’t want to. We found out later from one of our children that Polly’s uncle wanted to confront me about our defection from Christianity. Polly Mom’s put a kibosh on that, telling her brother-in-law that she had already lost one daughter and she was not going to lose another (Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All.)
I appreciate Polly’s mom being willing to stand up to the man who is generally viewed as the spiritual head of the family (and a bully). I am glad she put family first. If Polly’s uncle had confronted me there surely would have been an ugly fight. Whatever our differences may be, I deeply respect Polly’s parents. They are kind, loving people, and I couldn’t ask for better in-laws.
Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and throughout the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism behind it made for an uncomfortable evening.
Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephews had bought on the cheap at Big Lots. One of Polly’s uncle’s grandchildren asked him what the plate was for. He replied, “to go poo-poo on” — poo-poo being the Fundamentalist word for shit. This was the last straw for us. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life with James Dennis.)
On our way home the next day, I told Polly that I couldn’t do it anymore and she said neither could she. We decided to stop going to Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. We do try to see her parents during the holiday season, but we no longer attend the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Making this decision saddened us, but we knew we had to make it. (By the way, our children still attend the Christmas Eve gathering.)
We moved back to Northwest Ohio in July of 2005. Since then, our family has gathered for Christmas at our home on the Sunday before Christmas. Doing this allows our children to avoid conflicts with their spouses’ family plans for Christmas.
These days, Christmas for Polly and me is all about family, especially the grand kids. For us, Christmas has become a celebration of love, a celebration of the gift of a wonderful family. While we do not believe in the Christian God, we still enjoy Christmas music and all the other trappings of the Christmas season. It’s a cultural thing — no need to complicate things with religious demands and obligations. When twenty-three people pile into our grossly undersized living room to open presents, we are reminded of how good we have it.
This Christmas, thanks to a raging pandemic, our children and grandchildren will not be at our home celebrating with us. We have all our shopping done, and we plan on Christmas Eve to deliver our grandchildren’s gifts to their homes. Well, their driveways, anyway. It’s hard not to feel lonely this holiday season, but I hope by next Christmas COVID-19 will be behind us.
How about you? How has the way you celebrate Christmas changed over the years? If you are now a non-Christian, how do you handle your Christian family? Please leave your experiences in the comment section.
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.
What follows is a sampling of the letters to the editors of the Bryan Times and the Defiance Crescent-News I wrote between 2008 and 2012. These letters were written after I deconverted from Christianity in November 2008.
Manifest Destiny, an American Fantasy
I am writing in response to the letter to the editor by Rebecca Soellner.
In her letter she extols the virtues of the American Dream and love for God. Her letter is a good example of the error of Manifest Destiny — the notion that America has a divine purpose and future ordained by the Christian God.
Such thinking allows Soellner to justify the demolishing of the land and the killing off of wildlife and indigenous people just so our forefathers could plant the seeds of faith, hope, and love. I am not sure that the God of faith, hope, and love (1Cor. 13:13) wants any part of a people who stole the land from its rightful owners and then murdered them if they resisted. I seriously doubt that God was delighted when our forefathers corralled hundreds of indigenous men, women, and children into a building, set the building on fire, and burned them to death.
The spirit that Soellner extols allowed our forefathers to take what was not theirs and kill those they had no right to kill, all in the name of the Christian God. Our nation had a bloody, sinful beginning and we should recognize it as such. We had no right, God given or not, to do what we did. Think of how we would respond if Ohioans decided it was their manifest destiny to live in Indiana and they, by force, stole the land and killed the inhabitants of Indiana. There would be outrage at such barbarity, and rightly so.
Some of our forefathers were indeed Christian men and women. But many of them were not. Some of them came to America because of religious freedom and then made laws forbidding any other religion but the Christian one (and in some cases outlawing the Catholic religion). Many of our forefathers were opportunists who saw a great opportunity to amass land and wealth.
They had a respectable form of religion and thought nothing of using their religion to gain economic advantage. If it meant that they ended up with more money, they gladly went along with the notion that God was behind their endeavor.
Some day I hope the myth of the Christian nation will be put to rest. I hope we will stop turning our forefathers into saints who were only motivated by the Godliest of principles and virtues. They were fallible, frail, sinful human beings. Some indeed had great religious virtue but many others were driven by avarice and greed.
We must own up to the fact that our nation’s beginning is covered with blood and that we owe indigenous Americans an apology for our national sin. They deserve complete and full restitution for our wicked actions. While we cannot undo many of the sins of the past, we can stop trying to paint over our past sins with the God paint.
Reducing the Number of Abortions
President Barack Obama has made a plea to the pro-life movement asking them to work with him in reducing the number of abortions in the United States. One would think that his overture would be readily accepted. No matter what position a person holds on abortion, it would seem that reducing the number of abortions is in the best interest of everyone, especially for the unborn.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s plea was rejected. It seems pro-lifers don’t want to get their hands dirty by holding hands with those with differing views. Better to stand on the sidelines and chuck rocks than actually work toward reducing abortions.
The latest pro-life attempt to outlaw all abortions is to encourage the passage of “personhood laws.” Such laws would grant personhood at the moment of conception. Thus, from the moment of conception forward that which grows in the womb of the mother is a person protected by the same laws and constitutional rights as those who are born.
I am sure that pro-lifers are well-intentioned in their attempt to get personhood laws passed, but such laws would wreak havoc on our legal system.
If such laws were passed, women having an abortion would be guilty of murder as would the doctors who perform abortions. Women who lose the implanted egg during a car accident could be guilty of vehicular homicide. Disposing of fertilized eggs at a fertilization clinic would be considered murder. Women who take birth control pills that cause a spontaneous abortion would be guilty of murder. I could go on and on about the implications of such a law.
Whatever we may call the fertilized egg, a person it is not. Until the fetus is viable outside of the womb it should not be granted personhood status.
The vast majority of abortions take place prior to viability, with most occurring in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. Instead of focusing on the point where most abortions take place, the pro-life movement would rather focus on late-term abortions which make up 1 percent of all abortions. Of course. this is a calculated political move. What raises more money? Pictures of four-week-old fertilized eggs or 30-week-old aborted fetuses?
The pro-life movement here in northwest Ohio is missing a great opportunity to work with people like myself who don’t believe life begins at fertilization, but who sincerely desire to reduce the overall number of abortions.
I am in contact with a number of people who have similar views as mine. They sit in the back pew of the church, silenced by the rhetoric of the pro-life movement. They desire to work toward reducing abortions, but they have no opportunity to act on their beliefs because they are considered baby killers and often considered non-Christian.
If pro-lifers are sincerely interested in reducing abortions, then it is time for them to move down from their lofty pinnacle to where sinners like me, who are willing to work toward reducing abortion, are found.
Time to End the Wars in the Middle East
President Obama announced his wrongheaded, certain-to-be-disastrous, plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. For those of us who grew up during the Vietnam War, it is hard not to have visions of Lyndon Johnson, troop level escalations, and increasing numbers of American casualties. Obama is foolishly committing the same mistakes that Johnson committed 45 years ago.
The war being waged in Afghanistan and Iraq is unwinnable. Only by pulling some form of George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” can President Obama ever hope to claim victory in the Middle East.
Thirty years ago, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. At one point, the Soviets had 300,000 troops on the ground, yet they failed in conquering Afghanistan and ultimately withdrew in defeat. The Soviet’s war in Afghanistan is often referred to as their “Vietnam.”
Adding 30,000 troops to those already in Afghanistan will raise troops levels to around 140,000 troops. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 private contractors operating in Afghanistan, bringing the force total to 240,000 people.
According to a recent McClatchy News report, the recently revised Army counterinsurgency manual states that mounting a successful counterinsurgency effort, in a country with the population and land mass of Afghanistan, would require 600,000 troops!
It seems very clear to me that President Obama is making a grievous and politically fatal error in embracing and expanding the war that former President George Bush left him. As a committed liberal and pacifist, I believed the anti-war, bring-the-troops-home message that candidate Obama preached during the presidential campaign. While I allowed for the reality that Washington is a place of compromise and campaign promises left unfulfilled, I expected Barack Obama to make a good faith effort to end the bloodshed in the Middle East.
Unfortunately, President Obama has embraced the insane notion that by waging war a nation can end war. There has never been a war ended by war. Hostilities may cease but war has no power to end war. Only peace brings an end to war. Foolish are the people who think that killing people will bring an end to killing people.
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said blessed are the peacemakers. Jesus did not say blessed are those who think peace is a good idea. He said blessed are those who make peace, who actively work for peace. Yet, here we are, a nation of millions of supposed Christ followers, and we continue to wage war with no end in sight.
I am 52 years old, and the United States has been actively involved in an offensive war somewhere in the world for almost half my life. It is hard not to conclude that we are a warring people who are willing to shed the blood of others to gain our objectives.
I renew my call to President Obama to end the war in the Middle East. I urge him to bring the troops home.
Evangelical Christian Church continues to grow while the mainstream Christian Church continues to decline. As the mainline Christian Church continues to decline, it seems likely that Protestantism will become a single party dominated by Evangelicalism. We see evidence of this in northwest Ohio. I do not know of a mainline Christian church in this area that would call itself a liberal, progressive church. Such a label would be societal suicide in our rural culture that is dominated by right-wing Christian and Republican ideology.
There are many important battles that loom on the horizon. While the election of Barack Obama dealt the political and religious right a severe blow, they have not been defeated. Theocrats, determined to make the Christian religion the official state religion, continue to argue for the enshrinement of the Christian God’s law as the law of the land. They continue to press for a revisionist history that paints our founding fathers as evangelicals and our nation as a Christian nation. The religious right continues to target local schools as a prime target for cultural change. Abstinence-only education, school prayer, Christian nationalism and intelligent design (which is nothing more than creationism in new clothes) are all points of attack that must be met head-on by those of us who are secularists. We cannot afford to give any ground to attempts to Christianize our schools and government.
Here in northwest Ohio we have become too complacent as right-wing religion (often joined at the hip with right-wing politics) pushes itself into every aspect of our daily life. A recent event is a case in point. The Bryan Jubilee was held recently. Thursday night was advertised as Christian Fun Night. The Jubilee is a public event. As such, there should be no exclusionary events. I wonder if the organizers of the Jubilee would allow the atheists, agnostics and deists of Williams County to have their own fun night, especially if that fun included acts that made light of the Evangelical Christian faith. I seriously doubt it. I want to encourage my fellow secularists and humanists to come out of the shadows and help stymie the continued encroachment of Evangelical Christianity into our schools and government. I realize our numbers are few, but we can make a difference if we are willing to speak out.
Not Everyone Believes or Accepts the Christian Narrative
Attempting to formulate a reply to the responses to my letter to the editor has left me with quite a quandary. In 500 words I must respond to issues that deserve far more treatment than I can give them. Every letter writer committed the same error as Jack Palmer.
They assumed a priori that everyone believes in the Bible, their God and their version of Christianity. According to them, it is self-evident that the Christian God is the true God. They base their assertion upon the Bible, and therein lies the problem. They believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I suspect most of the letter writers also believe the Bible is inerrant.
I do not believe the Bible is a supernatural book. The Bible is a manmade book of spiritual writings. It is rooted in a nomadic and agrarian economy that no longer exists. The last book of the Bible was written 1,900 years ago. While certainly the Bible has some value in the 21st century, it is not a book that should be used as a divine road map for life nor as a rulebook for governing society.
The Bible is best suited for use in tribal worship, cultural events and acts of personal piety. In other words, our society is far better off if the Bible is relegated to the same shelf as the great classics of the past.
Because I do not believe the Bible to be the divine truth, threats of divine retribution and judgment have no meaning to me. They did at one time. I was a student of the Bible for over 33 years, attended a Christian college and pastored evangelical churches for 25 years. As an agnostic, I have a humanistic worldview. It is a worldview that focuses on the here and now rather than eternity and a mythical home in heaven.
With all the suffering in the world, time spent pining for a mansion in the sky seems scandalous. The responses to my letter make it very clear to me that no two Christians agree on anything. Every letter writer espoused a different form of Christianity. Every letter writer has their own version of God and what constitutes a right, saving relationship with that God. This shows me that there is no such thing as Christianity (singular) in America.
Instead, what we do have is multiple Christianities, with every Christian picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible and then making God into their own image. Christians continue to use Pascal’s Wager with unbelievers to no effect. I would reverse the challenge and ask Christians, what if this is it? What if there is no heaven or hell?
What if you’ve spent your entire life seeking an eternal destiny that doesn’t exist? A life wasted that could have been spent enjoying the here and the now. A life wasted that could have been spent living and loving rather than trudging through a wicked world in search of a heaven and eternal reward that does not exist. We each have one life. This is it. Love and live.
Why Was There No News Report In the Crescent-News About the Reason Rally?
I waited in vain to see a Crescent-News report on the March 24 Reason Rally in Washington, D.C. Over 20,000 people gathered on The Mall to give their support to the idea that America should be a country governed by reason rather than superstition and religious dogma. The Reason Rally crowd was comprised of atheists, agnostics, humanists and secularists, every one of them with a love for America and its secular values and principles.
Noted speakers at the event included people like Richard Dawkins, David Silverman, Michael Shermer, James Randi, Dan Barker, Roy Speckhardt, Greta Christina and Nate Phelps, son of homophobic Westboro Baptist Church pastor Fred Phelps. Videos from people like Bill Maher and Penn Jillette were shown and musicians like Bad Religion and Tim Minchin played for the crowd. Adam Savage, co-host of the popular TV show Mythbusters, gave a passionate speech that encouraged and stirred the secular crowd.
The Reason Rally was the American secularist movement’s coming out party. As the recent census showed, secularism is on the rise in America. As people turn away from religions that no longer provide the answers to life’s important questions, they are realizing that answers, hope, meaning and purpose can be found in a non-theistic, humanistic way of life. With no promise of heaven or threat of hell, secularists are focused on improving the world we live in. We only have one life and we best be about living it. If we want a better future for our progeny, we have no time to waste dreaming of promises of mansions in heaven.
I realize The Crescent-News leans toward the right politically and socially. The editorial page is so right-wing that it falls right off the right side of the page. That’s your right as a newspaper. I also realize you represent what the vast majority of Defiance area residents believe and support. However, you do have a duty to report the news and the March 24 Reason Rally was indeed news. It is news that is not going away. The Reason Rally was but the first shot over the bow of Ship Christian Nation. We are here and we are not going away.
Homosexuality and the Bible
Cal Thomas is right about one thing. The Bible clearly condemns homosexuality. The Bible is not ambiguous about homosexuality. It is a sinful behavior that is the mark of a reprobate heart. If the Bible is taken literally, it is clear that no homosexual will inherit the kingdom of God.
And this is the very reason the Bible should not be used as a legal standard in the United States. Christians are free to live according to the dictates of the Bible, however, in a secular state, a particular religion’s moral code of conduct has no business being codified into law.
There are many moral strictures in the Bible that many moderns find abhorrent. The Bible has been used in the past to justify all kinds of vile behavior. Not too many years ago segregationists routinely quoted the Bible to justify their dehumanizing of the African-American race. We matured as a nation and realized the Bible was wrong about slavery and the so-called inferior races.
In the same manner, the Bible is wrong about homosexuality. In fact, the Bible is wrong about many sexual matters. At best, the Bible is a religious text that promotes sexual repression and control. It is a book that is currently being used by single, white, Catholic men to deny women birth control and control of their own bodies. Christians who willingly submit to such anachronistic laws are free to do so, but Christian sects have no right to force, through the legal process, others to live by their moral code.
We say we are a Nation that believes in privacy but it seems that many Christians only support a right to privacy when what is being done in private lines up with their moral code. Simply put, Christians need to mind their own business when it comes to the sexual proclivities of others. What goes on behind closed doors between consenting adults is nobody’s business. Again, Christians are free to live according to their interpretation of the moral code of the Bible, but in a secular state they have no right to insist, through legal means, that others do so.
Homosexuals should have the same civil rights as any other American. Since marriage is a legal act licensed by the state, matters of religion have no place in the process. Two men, two women, or a man or woman should have the same freedom to marry. There is no civil reason for denying homosexuals the right to marry.
Christians need to realize that the United States is not a Christian nation. It never has been. Christianity does not deserve special status and certainly the Bible should have no weight when it comes to enacting law.
Our legal system should reflect what is best for the American people — how best to live as a pluralistic people in a secular state. Allowing homosexuals to marry and have the same civil rights as heterosexuals is absolutely essential as we mature as a nation.
Who is the “Our God?”
Who is this “our God” I keep reading about in the letters to the editor section of The Crescent-News?
If the letter writers spoke of our flag, our country, our military, or our government, I would readily understand what they mean. As a citizen of the United States, I have a common connection with all other U.S. citizens. Our country belongs to all of us, contrary to what right-wingers think when they speak of taking back their country.
When the Star Spangled Banner is played, I remove my hat and turn my face toward the flag of my native land. However, when the national anthem of the “our God” crowd, God Bless America, is played, I refuse to bow in obeisance to the “our God.”
We have no “our God” in the United States. We may be one people, under one flag, willingly governed by those we elect to office, but we do not have a common God, a deity that every citizen must worship and obey.
Where in the U.S. Constitution is this “our God” mentioned? At best, the U.S. Constitution mentions a generic God, a deist form of a Creator God. Even then, the founders of this country, understanding the danger of having state-sanctioned religion, made sure that there was a separation of church and state, and no religious requirement for holding office. They made sure there was not only freedom of religion, but also freedom from religion. Christian, atheist and Muslim alike are equal in the eyes of the state.
So, I ask again, who is this “our God?” Of course, every letter writer would say “our God” is the Christian God. Again, I would ask, which Christian God? The Trinitarian God of the Lutheran or the non-Trinitarian God of the Oneness Pentecostal? The Calvinist God or the Arminian God? Which of the thousands of Christian sects have the “our God?”
Christians bitterly disagree and separate from one another over matters like salvation, baptism and communion. If Christians cannot agree on these basic teachings, how can there be an “our God?” The division and internecine warfare among Christians reveals the bankruptcy of the notion that there is an “our God.”
All that letter writers have is a personal God, a God they believe exists. I have no problem with them having a God or believing whatever they want to believe about that God. However, when they suggest that their personal God must be the God of all then I take issue with such a claim. As a citizen of a secular state that codified the freedom of, and from, religion in its founding documents, I object to any suggestion that there is an “our God” I must worship and obey.
Going down the “our God” road leads to violence, bloodshed and a loss of freedom. Such a notion must be resisted at every turn, lest we wake up one morning and find a Christian theocracy ruling the United States.
Evangelical Vote No Longer Enough to Carry Election
After the re-election of President Obama, Dr. Al Mohler, a noted right-wing Southern Baptist leader, told his followers that the American people had heard the right-wing message and rejected it.
Contrary to recent letters to the editor, the reason President Obama was re-elected was not because right-wing Christians didn’t vote. They did vote, and as this election makes very clear, their numbers are no longer sufficient to carry a national election.
What is the message of the religious right? Is it an inclusive message? Is it a message that broadly appeals to Americans?
The religious-right and the Republican Party are joined at the hip, and the Republican Party’s unwillingness to sever this tie has led to embarrassing defeats in the last two presidential elections.
Thanks to the religious right and the Tea Party, the Republican Party is now an extremist party dominated by white, aging, right-wing Christians. The Party is now known, like fundamentalist Christian churches are, for what they are against rather than what they are for.
As Mohler rightly understood, most Americans have rejected the right-wing exclusionary message. More and more Americans are coming to understand that mixing politics and religion is harmful to our republic.
Groups like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a group I proudly support, continue to point out the unconstitutional entanglement of church and state in our schools and government entities. Every month the Freedom from Religion Foundation newsletter reports legal victories in cases concerning the separation of church and state. The courts continue, much to the consternation of the religious right, to reaffirm the legal fact the United States is a secular state and there is a strict wall of separation between church and state.
Twenty percent of Americans are now considered “nones,” people who are indifferent to religion or are atheists or agnostics. What is most encouraging is that this percentage jumps to 34 percent for young adults.
Young adults increasingly reject the bigoted, exclusionary message of right-wing Christianity (and by extension the Republican Party). On issues like homosexuality, abortion, immigration, socialized medicine, and war, young adults reject the message and values of right-wing Christianity.
I am encouraged by the changing beliefs and values of American young adults. I am profoundly glad that my six children have rejected the narrow, judgmental, exclusionary right-wing Christianity they were raised in. I have great hope that my eight grandchildren will grow up to be loving, accepting adults who do not judge others based on their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.
In the Bible there is a story about King Belshazzar (Daniel 5). The Bible has this to say about Belshazzar’s kingdom: Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting. This is exactly what is happening in America. The right-wing Christian message has been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Belshazzar lost his kingdom and exclusionary, bigoted right-wing Christians are losing theirs. This is good news for all who love freedom and liberty.
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.
James Dobson, 84, is an Evangelical Christian, psychologist, and author. In 1977, Dobson founded Focus on the Family. For those of us raised in Evangelical churches, Focus on the Family was very much a part of our lives. Dobson’s books and radio broadcasts were wildly popular. Many Evangelical families read or owned Dobson’s most popular books, Dare to Discipline (1970) and The Strong-Willed Child (1992).
According to its 2019 Annual Report, Focus on the Family had almost $100,000,000 in revenue. This number is been static for a least a decade, reflecting the fact that Focus on the Family has been unable to grow its donor base. In 2017, to protect the confidentiality of their donors, Focus on the Family declared itself to be a church. Astoundingly, the I.R.S. did not object to the organization’s reclassification as a church.
In 2010, Dobson left Focus on the Family and established Table Talk — an Evangelical non-profit. Dobson also started a new radio program that is currently heard on 300 stations.
Dobson is known as a strident culture warrior. Reflecting his Fundamentalist theological and social beliefs, Dobson opposes LGBTQ rights, same-sex marriage, abortion, and premarital sex, to name a few. Over the years, Dobson has become increasingly political, a shrill the-sky-is-falling, doom-and-gloom prognosticator of the destruction of America unless it returns to God.
In 2008, in an attempt to discourage Americans from voting for Barak Obama, Dobson wrote his infamous “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America. Today, this letter is difficult to find, so I have reproduced it below in its entirety. (Focus on the Family “disappeared” the letter. I found it in PDF format on World News Daily.)
October 22, 2012
I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words, O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.
The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far- Left policies that had marked his career. They were wrong.
The Supreme Court
On January 20, 2009, President Obama’s inauguration went smoothly, and he spoke eloquently of reaching out to Republicans who would work with him. Even in the next month, when Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens announced they would step down from the Supreme Court, nobody was very surprised – Ginsburg was already 75 years-old and in ill health, and Stevens was 88. President Obama nominated two far-Left, American Civil Liberties Union-oriented judges, and the Democratic Senate confirmed them quickly. They are brilliant, articulate and in their early 40s, so they can expect to stay on the court for 30 or 40 years. But things seemed the same because the court retained its 4-4 split between liberals and conservatives, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote.
The decisive changes on the Supreme Court started in June, when Justice Kennedy resigned – he was 72 and had grown weary of the unrelenting responsibility. His replacement – another young liberal Obama appointment – gave a 5-4 majority to justices who were eager to create laws from the bench. The four conservative justices who remained — John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — were suddenly in the minority.
Then in August 2009, two months after Kennedy resigned, Justice Scalia unexpectedly announced his resignation due to health reasons and by October 2009 another Obama appointment took his oath and joined the court.
The three remaining conservatives (known as “originalists” because they hold that the meaning of the Constitution is its “original public meaning”) kept objecting that the role of the Supreme Court should not be to create laws but only to interpret the Constitution and the laws that had been passed by Congress and the state legislatures. But the six liberal justices paid no attention. They decided cases in light of their understanding of the needs of society, and they took more and more precedents not from the U. S. Constitution but from international laws.
From the end of 2009, Justices Roberts, Thomas, and Alito have been constantly outvoted 6-3, and they are essentially powerless. It might be 20 or 30 years before enough new appointments could be made to change the far-Left dominance of the Supreme Court.
Finally the far-Left had the highest prize: complete control of the Supreme Court. And they set about quickly to expedite cases by which they would enact the entire agenda of the far Left in American politics – everything they had hoped for and more took just a few key decisions.
The most far-reaching transformation of American society came from the Supreme Court’s stunning affirmation, in early 2010, that homosexual “marriage” was a “constitutional” right that had to be respected by all 50 states because laws barring same-sex “marriage” violated the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. Suddenly, homosexual “marriage” was the law of the land in all 50 states, and no state legislature, no state Supreme Court, no state Constitutional amendment, not even Congress, had any power to change it. The Supreme Court had ruled, and the discussion was over. This was a blatant example of creating law by the court, for homosexual “marriage” was mentioned nowhere in the Constitution, nor would any of the authors have imagined that same-sex “marriage” could be derived from their words. But it just followed the precedents that had been set by state supreme courts in Massachusetts (2003), California (2008) and Connecticut (2008).
President Obama repeated his declaration that he personally was against same-sex “marriage”, but he told the nation there was nothing he could do. The Supreme Court had ruled, and it was now the law of the land. The president asked the nation to support the decision.
After that decision, many other policies changed, and several previous Supreme Court cases were reversed rather quickly — raising the question, “Is America still the land of the free?”
(1) Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys. (This was to be expected with a change in the court, since the 2000 decision Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which affirmed the right of the Boy Scouts as a private organization to dismiss a homosexual scoutmaster, was a 5-4 decision, with Stevens, Ginsburg, Souter and Breyer dissenting even then.)
It had become increasingly difficult for the Boy Scouts to find meeting places anyway, because in 2009 Congress passed and President Obama signed an expansion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which extended federal civil rights protections to people engaging in homosexual behavior. So the Boy Scouts had already been kicked out of all public facilities.
(2) Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.
Many Christian teachers objected to teaching first-graders that homosexual behavior was morally neutral and equal to heterosexuality. They said it violated their consciences to have to teach something the Bible viewed as morally wrong. But state after state ruled that their refusal to teach positively about homosexuality was the equivalent of hate speech, and they had to teach it or be fired. Tens of thousands of Christian teachers either quit or were fired, and there are hardly any evangelical teachers in public schools any more.
Non-Christians found this hard to understand. “Why not just teach what the school says even if it’s not your personal opinion? So what? We can’t have every teacher deciding what he or she wants to teach, can we?”
But the Christian teachers kept coming back to something Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). And they quit by the thousands, no matter the personal cost, rather than commit what they believed to be a direct sin against God.
In addition, many private Christian schools decided to shut down after the Supreme Court ruled that anti-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation extended to private institutions such as schools, and that private schools also had to obey the law and teach that homosexuality and heterosexuality are both morally good choices.
(3) Adoption agencies: “The land of the free”? There are no more Roman Catholic or evangelical Protestant adoption agencies in the United States. Following earlier rulings in New York 7and Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled that these agencies had to agree to place children with homosexual couples or lose their licenses. Just as the Catholic Charities adoption agency had closed down for this reason in Massachusetts in 2006, so all similar agencies across the United States have now closed down rather than violate their consciences about the moral wrong of homosexual behavior.
Christian parents seeking to adopt have tried going through secular adoption agencies, but they are increasingly excluding parents with “narrow” or dangerous views on religion or homosexuality.
(4) Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same-sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle.
(5) Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as criticizing homosexual behavior. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed broadcasting and print restrictions that were in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.
(6) Doctors and lawyers: “The land of the free”? Physicians who refuse to provide artificial insemination for lesbian couples now face significant fines or loss of their license to practice medicine, following the reasoning of a decision of the California Supreme Court in North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group v. Superior Court of San Diego County (Benitez), which was announced August 18, 2008. As a result, many Christian physicians have retired or left the practices of family medicine and obstetrics & gynecology. Lawyers who refuse to handle adoption cases for same-sex couples similarly now lose their licenses to practice law.
(7) Counselors and social workers: “The land of the free”? All other professionals who are licensed by individual states are also prohibited from discriminating against homosexuals. Social workers and counselors, even counselors in church staff positions, who refuse to provide “professional, appropriately nurturing marriage counseling” for homosexual couples lose their counseling licenses. Thousands of Christians have left these professions as a result.
(8) Homosexual weddings: “The land of the free”? Church buildings are now considered a “public accommodation” by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and anti- discrimination lawsuits.
(9) Homosexual church staff members: “The land of the free”? While churches are still free to turn down homosexual applicants for the job of senior pastor, churches and parachurch organizations are no longer free to reject homosexual applicants for staff positions such as part- time youth pastor or director of counseling. Those that have rejected homosexual applicants have had their tax-exempt status revoked, and now the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has begun to impose heavy fines for each instance of such “discrimination,” which, they say, is “contrary to the U.S. Constitution as defined by the Supreme Court.” These fines follow the pattern of a precedent-setting case in February 2008, in which the Diocese of Hereford in the Church of England was fined $94,000 (47,000 UK pounds) for turning down a homosexual applicant for a youth ministry position.
(10) Homosexuals in the military: One change regarding the status of homosexuals did not wait for any Supreme Court decision. In the first week after his inauguration, President Obama invited homosexual rights leaders from around the United States to join him at the White House as he signed an executive order directing all branches of the military to abandon their “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and to start actively recruiting homosexuals. As a result, homosexuals are now given special bonuses for enlisting in military service (to attempt to compensate for past discrimination), and all new recruits, and all active-duty and reserve personnel, are compelled to take many hours of “sensitivity training” to ensure they demonstrate positive attitudes toward those with different sexual orientations and practices. Anyone who seems hesitant or who objects is routinely passed over for promotion. In addition, any chaplain who holds to an interpretation of Scripture that homosexual conduct is morally wrong and therefore does not espouse “mainstream values,” is dismissed from the military. This is not “the land of the free” for them.
Religious speech in the public square
(11) High schools: “The land of the free”? High schools are no longer free to allow “See You at the Pole” meetings where students pray together, or any student Bible studies even before or after school. The Supreme Court ruled this is considered speech that is both “proselytizing” and involves “worship,” special categories of speech which, as liberal Justice John Paul Stevens argued in his dissent in Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001), should not be allowed in public schools, since it is in a different category from other kinds of speech. (Justice Souter filed a similar dissent, which Justice Ginsburg joined). The new 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court followed his reasoning and outlawed any use of school property for any kind of religious meeting, even outside of normal school hours. In addition, Christian students cannot raise religious objections to curriculum material that promotes homosexual behavior.
(12) Church use of school property: “The land of the free”? Tens of thousands of young churches suddenly had no place to meet when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools in all 50 states had to stop allowing churches to rent their facilities — even on Sundays, when school was not in session. The court said this was an unconstitutional use of government property for a religious purpose. Most of these churches have been unable to find any suitable place to meet. Public libraries and public parks are similarly excluded from allowing churches to use their facilities. Once again, the reasoning of liberal Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg in 2001 in Good News Club (see above) was able to garner 6-3 support with the new court.
(13) Campus ministries: “The land of the free”? Campus organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity, Navigators, Baptist Campus Ministry, and Reformed University Fellowship have shrunk to skeleton organizations, and in many states they have ceased to exist.
After the Supreme Court ruled that “proselytizing” speech and “worship” speech did not have the same First Amendment protection as other speech, and after it declared same-sex “marriage” to be the law of the United States, a subsequent Supreme Court decision predictably ruled that universities had to prohibit campus organizations that promote “hate speech” and have discriminatory policies. Therefore these Christian ministries have been prohibited from use of campus buildings, campus bulletin boards, advertising in campus newspapers, and use of dormitory rooms or common rooms for Bible studies. Their staff members are no longer allowed on university property. The only ministries allowed to function on campuses are “non- discriminatory” ministries that agree to allow practicing homosexuals and members of other religions on their governing boards. With the new Supreme Court appointed by President Obama, the long years of liberal opposition to these evangelical ministries finally bore fruit, and only liberal ministries are left on campuses.
(14) Pledge of Allegiance: “The land of the free”? Public school teachers are no longer free to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States. The 9th CircuitU. S. Court of Appeals heard a new challenge to the phrase “under God” in the Pledge, and, as it had in 2002 in Newdow v. United States Congress, Elk Grove Unified School District, et al., it held the wording to be unconstitutional. Now the Supreme Court has upheld this decision.
(15) Freedom of Choice Act: Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama had promised, “The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act” (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund).
This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically. The Freedom of Choice Act also reversed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, so infants can be killed outright just seconds before they would be born. States whose laws were overturned challenged the law in court but it was upheld by the Obama Supreme Court. “The land of the free”? There is no freedom for these infants who are killed by the millions.
(16) Nurses and abortions: “The land of the free”? Nurses are no longer free to refuse to participate in abortions for reasons of conscience. If they refuse to participate, they lose their jobs, for they are now failing to comply with federal law. Many Christian nurses have left the health care field rather than violate their consciences. A number of Christian nurses challenged their loss of jobs in court, but the Supreme Court ruled that medical professionals do not have the freedom to refuse nonessential, elective care on the basis of conscience. In its decision, the Supreme Court followed the reasoning of the California Supreme Court in the 2008 Benitez case (see section (6) above).
(17) Doctors and abortions: “The land of the free”? The same restrictions apply to doctors: Doctors who refuse to perform abortions can no longer be licensed to deliver babies at hospitals in any state. As a result, many Christian doctors have left family medicine and obstetrics, and many have retired.
(18) Pornography: “The land of the free”? It’s almost impossible to keep children from seeing pornography. The Supreme Court in 2011 nullified all Federal Communications Commission restrictions on obscene speech or visual content in radio and television broadcasts. As a result, television programs at all hours of the day contain explicit portrayals of sexual acts. The court applied more broadly the “Miller test” from the 1973 decision in Miller v. California, by which a work could not be found obscene unless “the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value.” In the 2011 decision, the court essentially found that any pornographic work had some measure of “serious artistic value,” at least according to some observers, and thus any censorship of pornographic material was an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment. In addition, all city and county laws restricting pornography were struck down by this decision. As a result, pornographic magazines are openly displayed in gas stations, grocery stores and on newsstands (as they have been in some European countries for several years).
(19) Guns: “The land of the free”? It is illegal for private citizens to own guns for self- defense in eight states, and the number is growing with increasing Democratic control of state legislatures and governorships. This was the result of a 6-3 Supreme Court decision in which the court reversed its 5-4 decision that had upheld private gun ownership in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). In the new decision, a response to test cases from Oregon, Massachusetts, and Vermont, the court adopted the view of the Second Amendment that had been defended in Heller by the four liberal justices, Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer.
In this new decision, the court specified that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was limited to that purpose specified in the Second Amendment, namely, to those people who were part of a “well regulated militia” in the various states. To those who argued that this view was not the “original intent” of the framers, they pointed to a long history of dispute over the interpretation of the expression and then said that, in any case, the Constitution was an “evolving” document that must change with the times, and so what may have been applicable in 1790 need no longer be decisive. Therefore they allowed cities and states to limit gun ownership to active-duty military personnel and police officers. Citizens in those areas who are discovered owning guns have been subjected to heavy fines and imprisonment. Inner-city violent crime has increased dramatically.
(20) Home schooling: “The land of the free”? Parents’ freedom to teach their children at home has been severely restricted. The Supreme Court, to the delight of the National Education Association, followed the legal reasoning of a February 28, 2008, ruling in Re: Rachel L by the 2nd District Court of Appeal in California (although that ruling was later reversed). In the later case, the Supreme Court declared that home schooling was a violation of state educational requirements except in cases where the parents (a) had an education certificate from an accredited state program., (b) agreed to use state-approved textbooks in all courses, and (c) agreed not to teach their children that homosexual conduct is wrong, or that Jesus is the only way to God, since these ideas have been found to hinder students’ social adjustment and acceptance of other lifestyles and beliefs, and to run counter to the state’s interest in educating its children to be good citizens. Parents found in violation of this ruling have been subject to prosecutions for truancy violation, resulting in heavy fines and eventual removal of their children from the home. Thousands of home schooling parents, seeing no alternative in the United States, have begun to emigrate to other countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, where home schooling is still quite prevalent.
President Obama’s response to the Supreme Court
After many of these decisions, especially those that restricted religious speech in public places, President Obama publicly expressed strong personal disapproval of the decision and said that the Supreme Court had gone far beyond what he ever expected. But he has also stated repeatedly that he had sworn to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States,” and, now that the Supreme Court had ruled, he had no choice but to uphold the law, for these decisions were the law of the land.
In his role as commander in chief, President Obama has been reluctant to send our armed forces to any new overseas commitment.
(21) Iraq: “The home of the brave”? President Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and began regular withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, completing it in the promised 16 months, by April 2010. All was peaceful during those months, but then in May 2010, Al-Qaida operatives from Syria and Iran poured into Iraq and completely overwhelmed the Iraqi security forces. A Taliban-like oppression has taken over in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of “American sympathizers” have been labeled as traitors, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The number put to death may soon reach the millions.
Al-Qaida leaders have been emboldened by what they are calling the American “defeat” and their ranks are swelling in dozens of countries.
(22) Terrorist attacks: “The home of the brave”? President Obama directed U.S. intelligence services to cease all wiretapping of alleged terrorist phone calls unless they first obtained a warrant for each case. Terrorists captured overseas, instead of being tried in military tribunals, are given full trials in the U.S. court system, and they have to be allowed access to a number of government secrets to prepare their defense.
Since 2009, terrorist bombs have exploded in two large and two small U.S. cities, killing hundreds, and the entire country is fearful, for no place seems safe. President Obama in each case has vowed “to pursue and arrest and prosecute those responsible,” but no arrests have been made. However, he has challenged the nation to increase foreign aid to the poorer nations that were the breeding grounds for terrorism, so people could have an opportunity to escape from the cycles of poverty and violence in which generations had been trapped.
(23) Russia: “The home of the brave”? As Vice President Joe Biden had predicted on Oct. 20, 2008, some hostile foreign countries “tested” President Obama in his first few months in office. The first test came from Russia. In early 2009, they followed the pattern they had begun in Georgia in 2008 and sent troops to occupy and re-take several Eastern European countries, starting with the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. President Obama appealed to the United Nations (UN), taking the same approach he had in his initial statements when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008: “Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war,” and “All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis,” But Russia sits on the Security Council, and no U.N. action has yet been taken.
Then in the next three years, Russia occupied additional countries that had been previous Soviet satellite nations, including Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, with no military response from the U.S. or the U.N. NATO heads of state have severely condemned Russia’s actions each time but they could never reach consensus on military action. Liberal television commentators in both the U.S. and Europe have uniformly expressed deep regret at the loss of freedom of these countries but have also observed that “the U.S. cannot be the world’s policeman.”
President Obama’s popularity dropped somewhat after each of these crises, but media criticism was remarkably muted. And Vice President Joe Biden reminded the nation that on October 20, 2008, he had predicted that Russia might be one of “four or five scenarios” where an “international crisis” would arise. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy,” he said. And Obama will have to make “some incredibly tough decisions,” and that “it’s not gonna be apparent initially, it’s not gonna be apparent that we’re right.”
(24) Latin America: President Obama has also moved to deepen U.S. ties and U.S. trade with communist regimes in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, regimes that had long enjoyed the favor of far-Left factions in the Democratic Party. Several other Latin American countries seem ready to succumb to insurgent communist revolutionary factions funded and armed by millions of petrodollars from Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.
(25) Israel: “The home of the brave”? In mid-2010, Iran launched a nuclear bomb that exploded in the middle of Tel Aviv, destroying much of that city. They then demanded that Israel cede huge amounts of territory to the Palestinians, and after an anguished all-night Cabinet meeting, Israel’s prime minister agreed. Israel is reduced to a much smaller country, hardly able to defend itself, and its future remains uncertain. President Obama said he abhorred what Iran had done and he hoped the U.N. would unanimously condemn this crime against humanity. He also declared that the U.S. would be part of any international peacekeeping force if authorized by the U.N., but the Muslim nations in the U.N. have so far prevented any action.
(26) Health care systems: The new Congress under President Obama passed a nationalized “single provider” health care system, in which the U.S. government is the provider of all health care in the United States, following the pattern of nationalized medicine in the United Kingdom and Canada. The great benefit is that medical care is now free for everyone — if you can get it. Now that health care is free, it seems everybody wants more of it. The waiting list for prostate cancer surgery is 3 years. The waiting list for ovarian cancer is 2 years. Just as the Canadian experience had shown prior to 2008 with its nationalized health care, so in the U.S. only a small number of MRIs are performed — down 90% from 2008 — because they are too expensive, and they discover more problems that need treatment, so they are almost never authorized.
(27) Limited care for older Americans: “The land of the free”? Because medical resources must be rationed carefully by the government, people older than 80 have essentially no access to hospitals or surgical procedures. Their “duty” is increasingly thought to be to go home to die, so they don’t drain scarce resources from the medical system. Euthanasia is becoming more and more common.
Taxes, the economy and the poor:
Many Christians who voted for Obama did so because they thought his tax policies were fairer and his “middle-class tax cuts” would bring the economy out of its 2008 crisis. But once he took office, he followed the consistent pattern of the Democratic Party and his own record and asked Congress for a large tax increase. He explained the deficit had grown so large under President Bush, and the needs of the nation were so great, that we couldn’t afford to cut taxes.
And several of Obama’s economic policies have hurt the poor because they have decreased production and increased inflation and unemployment. Here is what happened:
(28) Taxes: Tax rates have gone up on personal income, dividends, capital gains, corporations, and inheritance transfers. The amount of income subject to Social Security tax has nearly doubled. The effect on the economy has been devastating. We have experienced a prolonged recession. Everyone has been hurt by this, but the poor have been hurt most. In dozens of cities, there are no jobs to be found.
It turns out that the people President Obama called “the rich” were not all that rich. They were just ordinary people who worked hard, saved, and built small businesses that provided jobs and brought economic growth. They kept inventing new and better ways to produce things and bring prices down. They produced the goods and services that gave us the highest standard of living in history. They provided the competition that kept prices low. And the top 50% of earners were already paying 97% of income taxes collected by the U.S. government in 2006.
President Obama increased their tax burden so much that many business owners decided they didn’t want to work any harder when the government was taking so much away. “The land of the free?” Not for the most productive workers in the American economy. Just as nearly 2 million citizens in the decade prior to 2008 had moved out of California and New York when the Democrats had control and kept raising state taxes, many of these entrepreneurs have moved their money, their factories, and often themselves, overseas. So many jobs have been lost that welfare rolls have swelled, and President Obama is calling for more taxes to meet the needs of those without work.
However, Obama’s tax bill still included “tax credits” for the lowest 40% of earners, who were said to “need the most help.” Since the bottom 40% were not paying any federal income taxes in the first place, these “tax cuts” were actually a gigantic redistribution of income, a huge welfare payment, a way to “spread the wealth around,” as Obama told “Joe the Plumber” on October 13, 2008.
When critics objected that Obama’s tax policies were leading to inflation and unemployment, he responded that our goal should not be merely to increase America’s materialism and wealth and prosperity, but to obtain a more just distribution of wealth, even if it costs everybody a little to achieve that important goal.
(29) Budget deficit: The federal budget deficit has increased dramatically under President Obama, in spite of higher tax rates. Increasing tax rates on “the rich” did nothing to reduce the deficit because the economy shrank so much with reduced investment that the total dollars collected in taxes actually decreased — even though most people’s tax rate is now higher. As numerous economists had predicted, higher tax rates meant that the government took in less money. When reporters asked Obama why he still favored higher taxes on the rich when it brought in no more money, he replied that it was important that the rich pay their fair share.
(30) Union organizing: “The land of the free”? In 2009, Congress passed and President Obama quickly signed a “card check” program that nullified the requirement for secret ballots when voting on whether workers wanted a union shop. Now the union has to get signatures from a majority of workers in any business, and unions around the country are using strong-arm tactics to intimidate anyone who stands in their way. Several industries are completely unionized, and prices of goods produced by those industries have shot up as a result.
(31) Energy: World demand for oil continues to climb, and prices keep going up, but President Obama for four years has refused to allow additional drilling for oil in the United States or offshore. Gas costs more than $7 per gallon, and many Democrats openly applaud this, since high prices reduce oil consumption and thus reduce carbon dioxide output. But working Americans are hit hard by these costs.
Nuclear energy would provide a substitute for oil in some cases, and could generate electricity to power electric cars, but environmentalist legal challenges have prevented the construction of nuclear plants, and the courts have been leaning so far in a pro-environmentalist direction that nobody expects the construction of nuclear plants for several decades, if ever.
Obama keeps reminding people we cannot guarantee it will be safe.
As for coal, President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency to implement strict new carbon emission standards that drove many coal-powered electric plants out of business. The country has less total electric power available than in 2008, and periodic blackouts to conserve energy occur on a regular schedule throughout the nation. The price of electricity has tripled in places like California, which also faces rolling blackouts during peak energy periods. The impact on our economy, and our homes, has been devastating.
Through the actions of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Congress, Democrats were able to largely silence the largest source of conservative opposition: talk radio.
(32) Fairness Doctrine: “The land of the free”? By the summer of 2009, the five-member FCC was controlled by Democratic appointees – including a chairman appointed by President Obama. The “Fairness Doctrine” became a topic of FCC consideration following pressure from Democratic congressional leaders who initially did not have sufficient votes to pass the measure. The FCC quickly implemented the “Fairness Doctrine,” which requires that radio stations provide “equal time” for alternative views on political or policy issues.
As a result, all radio stations have to provide equal time to contrasting views for every political or policy-related program they broadcast by talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Dennis Prager, Janet Parshall, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt, and broadcasters like Dr. James Dobson. Every conservative talk show is followed by an instant rebuttal to the program by a liberal “watchdog” group. Many listeners gave up in frustration, advertising (and donation) revenues dropped dramatically, and nearly all conservative stations have gone out of business or switched to alternative formats such as country or gospel or other music. Conservative talk radio, for all intents and purposes, was shut down by the end of 2010.
In order to solidify the Fairness Doctrine at the FCC, Congress in 2010 passed, and President Obama signed, legislation making it permanent.
Many legal scholars had predicted the Fairness Doctrine would be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. But the liberal Obama court upheld it easily. Of course, this bill fit the deeper purpose of the liberal-Left wing of American politics, which trumps all other purposes, and that is getting and increasing its power so as to impose its agenda on the nation. It was not surprising the liberal Supreme Court went along.
(33) Christian books: After the Supreme Court legalized same “sex marriage,” homosexual-activist groups targeted three large Christian book publishers that had publications arguing that homosexual conduct was wrong based on the teachings of the Bible. The activists staged marches and protests at Barnes & Noble stores around the country, demanding the stores remove all books published by these “hate-mongering” publishers. Barnes & Noble resisted for a time, but the protests continued, there was vandalism and secret defacing of books, and eventually the cost was too great and Barnes & Noble gave in. The same thing happened at Borders and other chains. Then they staged a massive nationwide computer attack on Amazon.com, with the same demands, and the same result. As a result, those evangelical publishers could no longer distribute any of their books through any of these bookstore chains. Any Christian publisher that dares to print works critical of homosexual behavior faces the same fate. As a result, several Christian publishers have gone out of business.
Prosecution of Bush administration officials
(34) Criminal charges against Republican officials: In his first week in office, Obama followed President Clinton’s precedent and fired all 93 U.S. attorneys, replacing them with his own appointments, including the most active members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). President Obama argued this was not a selective political action like what President Bush had done, because Obama had fired all of them, conservatives and liberals alike.
The Justice Department soon began to file criminal and civil charges against nearly every Bush administration official who had any involvement with the Iraq war. During his campaign, Senator Obama said, “What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued.” In order to facilitate these proceedings, President Obama rescinded President Bush’s executive order that had prevented presidential papers from being released, and millions of pages of previously secret White House papers were posted on the Internet. ACLU attorneys have spent four years poring over these papers looking for possible violations of law. Dozens of Bush officials, from the Cabinet level on down, are in jail, and most of them are also bankrupt from legal costs.
Where is the opposition?
Has America completely lost God’s favor and protection as a nation? If it has, is this surprising? How can God continue to bless a nation whose official policies promote blatant violation of God’s commands regarding the protection of human life, and sexual morality? Why should God bless any nation that elects officials who remove people’s freedom of religion and freedom of speech and freedom even to raise their own children? His Word says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34).
Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn’t resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations.
The same question written in “The Star Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key in 1814 rings in the air: O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Now in October 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, the answer to that question is “No.” Our freedoms have been systematically taken away. Many of “the brave” are in jail. We are no longer “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
How did this happen?
When did this all start? Christians share a lot of the blame. In 2008, many evangelicals thought Senator Obama was an opportunity for a “change,” and they voted for him. They did not realize Obama’s far-Left agenda would take away many of our freedoms, perhaps permanently (it is unlikely the Supreme Court can be changed for perhaps 30 years). Christians did not realize that by electing Barack Obama — rated the most liberal U.S. senator in 2007 — they would allow the law, in the hands of a liberal Congress and Supreme Court, to become a great instrument of oppression.
Many people thought he sounded so thoughtful, so reasonable. And during the campaign, after he had won the Democratic nomination, he seemed to be moving to the center in his speeches, moving away from his far-Left record. No one thought he would enact such a far-Left, extreme liberal agenda.
But the record was all there for anyone to see. The agenda of the ACLU, the agenda of liberal activist judges in their dissenting opinions, the agenda of the homosexual activists, the agenda of the environmental activists, the agenda of the National Education Association, the agenda of the global-warming activists, the agenda of the abortion-rights activists, the agenda of the gun-control activists, the agenda of the euthanasia supporters, the agenda of the one-world government pacifists, the agenda of far-Left groups in Canada and Europe – all of these agendas were there in plain sight, and all of these groups provided huge support for Senator Obama. The liberal agenda was all there. But too many people just didn’t want to see it.
Christians didn’t take time to find out who Barack Obama was when they voted for him.
Why did they risk our nation’s future on him? It was a mistake that changed the course of history.
What about our faith?
Personally, I don’t know how we are going to get through tomorrow, for these are difficult times. But my faith in the Lord remains strong. I still believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). I still believe “kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). I still believe our salvation comes from no earthly government for “there is salvation in no one else” than Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). I still believe God is sovereign over all history, and though I don’t know why he has allowed these events, it is still his purpose that will ultimately be accomplished. He alone can say of all history, “There is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
A Christian from 2012
As you can see — that is if you read this far — Dobson attempted to stoke mass homophobic, nationalist hysteria. Of course, he failed to do so. Barack Obama was elected to office in 2008 and 2012.
If anything, this letter provides a snapshot of the core ideas that drive the Evangelical war against secularist social progress.
Dobson continues to foment hysteria among Evangelicals. Here’s what he had to say in his August 2020 newsletter:
As I write this newsletter, voters across this nation are only a few short months away from the next general election. What an ominous time this is for our 244-year-old republic. Its future hangs in the balance. The choices we make on November 3rd will send this nation down one of two dramatically different paths. The wrong decision will be catastrophic. I agree with former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who said recently that the next election will be “the most important since 1860.” He also warned that if we appease or ignore the violence and anarchy occurring in the streets, it might be the end of civilization as we have known it. Those are sobering words coming from a man who has stood at the pinnacle of national power.
Why have I recounted our Civil War history and the election of 1864 at this time in our history? It is for two reasons. The first is to consider some striking similarities between then and now. Our nation is divided like no time since the Civil War. Lawlessness and anarchy stalk the cities as angry mobs riot, burn, loot, rob, and kill innocent bystanders. Cultural monuments are being destroyed. Scores of people have been shot. Our courageous police officers are being brutally attacked by the same people they have vowed to protect. A man and his son stopped to ask for directions, and he was gunned down on the spot. A one-year-old baby was shot in the stomach while he sat in his stroller. The child died at the hospital.
What began as a justified and lawful protest in response to George Floyd’s senseless murder by a rogue police officer has morphed into violence for the sake of violence. Hatred flows in the streets, including vitriol directed at the President of the United States or anyone who dares to support him or his policies. Constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religious liberty are being trampled.
There is also widespread belief that violence and anarchy are being organized and funded by powerful forces that are maneuvering America toward a socialist dictatorship. There is always a kingmaker behind such lawlessness. Most disturbing is open talk of another civil war. It is troubling to even utter those words. The last time Americans faced off against each other, 600,000 soldiers died. May God forbid it from happening again.
During the revolution of the 1960s, I recall a ubiquitous bumper sticker that read, “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” It was a catchy phrase that made sense to those who opposed the Vietnam War. But my reaction to it then and now is “What if they gave a war and only one side came?” That question keeps me awake at night. There are multiple millions of passive Americans out there today, many of them Christians, who are clueless about what is happening to their homeland. They are losing something precious and irreplaceable. Do they not understand that their children and those who are yet to be born will live in tyranny if we fail them on our watch? Countless young men and women have laid down their lives on battlefields around the world to protect liberty and our way of life. Now, what they purchased for us with their blood is slipping away. Disengaged people won’t lift a finger to preserve this great land. They won’t take even a few minutes to go to their polling places to vote. There are also thousands of pastors who won’t allow voting registration tables in the lobbies of their churches. Don’t they know or care that America is on the ropes? Hordes of angry anarchists are salivating over the next election, hoping to push America over a cliff. If they succeed, as Newt Gingrich said, Western civilization will never recover. Is there anyone left who believes some things are worth dying for? Aren’t there patriots out there such as Patrick Henry who said in defiance of British tyranny, “Give me liberty or give me death!”? That was the spirit during his day. The Declaration of Independence closed with these words endorsed by the signers, “We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They knew they would be hanged if they lost the war. Why did they do it? Because they loved their country enough to die for it.
How I pray for the emergence of silent, intimidated Americans who will come out of their hiding places to let their voices be heard on Election Day 2020. There must be tens of thousands of ministers in our midst who, like the Black Robed Regiment of the Revolutionary War, will strip off their clerical garb and fight valiantly for religious liberty. If these men and women of faith and conviction don’t come to the rescue of their country, it is doomed.
During the Civil War, untold soldiers gave their lives to preserve the integrity of the United States of America and to end the tragedy of slavery. Here is the question of the hour: Are you and our brothers and sisters willing to carry the bloodstained banner around which our predecessors rallied? We will know the answer on November 3rd.
That brings us to the second reason I have addressed the Civil War and the election of 1864. It is to remind us that voting matters. Each presidential campaign has been important, but some have had jaw-dropping and nation-shaping consequences. I believe we are at such a pivotal moment now. You can be certain that America will be forever changed by the political party that gets its supporters to the polls. They will win the day—and the future.
Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have a record of not showing up on Election Day. It is unbelievably sad. As many as 75 percent of them sit on their hands, apparently assuming that their votes don’t matter. They are wrong. Voting ALWAYS matters. George W. Bush won the presidency in 2000 by 537 votes in a nation of 130 million registered voters. Many down-ballot contests have been won or lost by a single vote.
I plead with you to register and vote in this presidential election. I won’t try to tell you who to vote for because you can figure it out for yourselves. But I will suggest how you might evaluate the situation we face. I’ll close with seven critical issues that have stunning significance for the nation. Please think hard about them, and then go to the polls.
1. The Next Generation
There is a fierce battle being waged now in the nation’s classrooms for the hearts and souls of our children and grandchildren. Those of us who are passionately committed to the Judeo-Christian system of beliefs are losing our kids right before our eyes. They are being force-fed a radical curriculum that is godless, anti-American, and sexually perverse. Make no mistake, the left and secular culture are manipulating the minds of your sons and daughters every day of the year. I urge you to be extremely careful about those whom you set in power over your children. Protect them with your very lives.
2. The Sanctity of Human Life
All life is sacred and is a gift from Almighty God. But as you know, America has the blood of innocents on its hands. Since 1973, more than 60 million babies have been murdered through abortion and countless lives have ended by euthanasia. This is the most tragic holocaust in the history of the world! Some states have even passed laws allowing wounded and suffering infants to lie alone on porcelain trays after somehow surviving unsuccessful abortions. They will die without the comfort of their mothers’ breasts. If that doesn’t touch your heart, you are without compassion. I hope you will not cast a single vote for any politician who supports such wickedness.
3. Marriage and Family
The family is God’s original building block for society. Marriage continues to serve as the foundation for every dimension of human life. Everything of value rests on it, including procreation and the care and training of children. If that ground floor is weakened or undermined, the entire superstructure of civil society will come crashing down. But listen carefully: powerful and highly funded forces, including LGBTQ and other leftist entities, are determined to destroy the family as an institution. It is already on its knees, and its future is grim. Before you vote, find out what position the candidates have taken on this issue. Then vote accordingly.
4. Religious Liberty
The first item listed in the Bill of Rights addresses the issue of religious liberty. All the other enumerated rights flow from that fundamental freedom. That is why it is alarming to recognize that this right to worship and honor God as we choose is under vicious attack today. The courts have done the greatest damage, but now an entire sub-culture is trying to bring down the Christian faith. Whether it has invaded your private world or not, it is at your front door. It was this primary concern that led to the Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War in 1776. We can’t compromise one jot or tittle within that fundamental right. Fight for it with every ounce of your strength and determination. Don’t let the government close the doors of your church or tell you when you can sing praises to the Lord Almighty. They have a devious agenda, and it is dangerous. Be ready to go to the mat in defense of what you believe. And let this passion influence how you cast your ballot in November. Here I stand. Will you join me?
5. Capitalism v. Socialism
It is difficult to believe that for the first time in American history, our nation appears to be thinking about trading our democratic way of life for the tyranny of socialism. I can hardly catch my breath. Could we really consider abandoning the beloved system of government that was designed to be of the people, by the people, and for the people? Is it true that up to 40 percent of millennials and others are prepared to surrender their liberties in exchange for the absolute authority of the state? Democracy and capitalism have made ours the most powerful and successful nation in the history of the world. Are we really considering scuttling the system that has served us for 244 years in exchange for what some people call “free stuff?” I pray not! But that option awaits you in the polling booth.
6. The Judicial System
Given recent rulings, we know that judicial overreach has almost ruined this great nation. Justices and judges are constitutionally charged to interpret the law, not make law. But again, and again, they have overstepped their authority and brought us atrocities such as abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the so-called “separation of church and state,” which doesn’t appear in the Constitution. Most recently, the Supreme Court handed down one of its most egregious rulings since Roe v. Wade. It is the case of Bostock v. Clayton County. This decision was not based on constitutional law but on the whims of six justices. It created a new legal definition of sex out of thin air. Lawyers tell us that this ruling will affect every dimension of culture and haunt the nation as long as it endures. Please don’t vote for politicians who will expand, rather than limit, the power of the judiciary.
7. The Nation of Israel
Scripture tells that those who bless Israel will be blessed (Genesis 12:3). Our prayer is that the next Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. will continue to promote and cultivate a vibrant bond of friendship with the nation of Israel, which is our only ally in the Middle East. Anti-Semitism and all forms of racial discrimination are inherently evil, and we condemn them categorically. We are a nation that is dedicated to “freedom and justice for all” (The U.S. Pledge of Allegiance).
I could list dozens of other issues that should be considered as we vote on November 3rd. I will end with this final statement from Abraham Lincoln.
Dobson is, at the very least, consistent. The difference between 2008 and today is that our culture has moved on from Dobson and his fellow preachers of bigotry, Christian nationalism, and American exceptionalism. Now, this doesn’t mean the Evangelical dog has no bite. It does. Come November, the American people have the opportunity to defang the Evangelical dog, rendering it unable to cause further harm to our Republic. In other words, we must VOTE, setting in motion the process of undoing our march towards fascism. Our nation will not survive four more years of Dobson’s junk-yard dog, Donald Trump.
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.
I used to be a member of the Growing Up in Bryan, Ohio Facebook group. The group is made up of people who live/lived in Bryan, Ohio. Recently, the subject of racism was brought up and this provoked a lively discussion about the state of race relations in Bryan. This got me to thinking: does racism still exist in rural northwest Ohio and Bryan? Have we reached a place where we live in a post-racial era, even here in homogenous rural Ohio? Before I answer this question, I want to spend some time talking about demographics and my own experiences as a resident of rural northwest Ohio.
My father grew up on a hundred-acre farm three miles south of Bryan and attended Ney High School. My mother moved to Bryan as a teenager. Both of them worked for local Bryan businesses such as K&R Cleaners, The Hub, Carroll Ames, and Bryan Trucking. My father was part of a close-knit ethnic Hungarian group that settled in the Bryan area in the 1920s and 1930s. My parents considered Bryan home, and in 1957 it became my home. My brother and sister were also born in Bryan.
Even though I have spent most of my life living in other places, Bryan is home to me. Try as I might to flee the topographically boring flatlands of rural northwest Ohio, I consider Bryan my home. Over the years, I’ve lived in California, Michigan, Texas, Arizona, and southeast Ohio. I’ve also lived in or near the northwest Ohio communities of Farmer, Deshler, Harrod, Alvordton, Mt. Blanchard, and Findlay. Currently, I live in Ney, a one-stoplight, two-bars village six miles south of Bryan.
Bryan was settled in 1840 and is the seat of Williams County. In 1950, the population was 6,365 people. In 2010, the population was 8,545 people. Bryan saw a 12.9% population growth between 1970 and 1980 and 5.9% growth between 1980 and 1990. Since 1990, the population has grown 8.2%.
The Bryan of today is more racially diverse than at any time in its 175-year history. While this is good news, the reason for the diversity is non-white medical professionals moving to Bryan to work for the local hospital and medical group and white-collar professionals moving here to work for local companies. This diversity is primarily driven by economics.
The Bryan of my youth was 100% white. I was five years old before I saw a black person for the first time — a porter at the Chicago train station. As a teenager, I was told by one proud and ignorant Bryanite that Bryan was 100% white and proud of it. According to him, back in the day, any black caught in town after dark was run out of town. I suspect his attitude was quite common.
In the 1970s, I attended high school in Findlay, Ohio, a community 75 miles southeast of Bryan. The 1970 population of Findlay was 35,800 people. Like Bryan, Findlay was as white as white could be. There were two black students who attended Findlay High School, and they were brother and sister. Today, .3% (886) of Findlay residents are black.
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 thinkin . . . marrying a black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.
It was not until I moved to Pontiac, Michigan to attend Midwestern Baptist College that I came into close contact with blacks. Freshman year, one of my roommates was a black man from Philadelphia. The college was connected with nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Emmanuel ran numerous bus routes into Pontiac and Detroit, busing in thousands of blacks. Most of the children from Detroit attended B Sunday school. The B was the designation given for the afternoon Sunday school. It was not long before I figured out that the B stood for black. When an overtly racist man became the bus pastor, one of the first things he did was stop running the buses to Detroit. We were told this was due to budget restraints, but many of us thought the real reason was race.
The college and church were located in a bad part of Pontiac. (Some might argue, is there a good part of Pontiac?) The projects were nearby and the area east of the college was decidedly black. My experiences with the local black community, with its rundown housing and rampant crime, helped to reinforce the racist stereotypes I had been taught by my parents. It didn’t help that gangs of black youth repeatedly broke into the dormitory and ransacked the place while everyone was at church. A few years back, the college relocated to an overwhelmingly white community.
My parents, typical of their generation, were racists. It is impossible to paint the picture any other way. Whether their racism was from their own upbringing or their membership in the John Birch Society, they made no apology for their fundamentalist Christian-driven racism. They had a special hatred for Martin Luther King, Jr. My mother thought King got exactly what he deserved when he was assassinated in 1968. Like it or not, this is my heritage.
In the 1980s, Polly and I lived in southeast Ohio. For a number of years, we were foster parents. One of the children we cared for was black. We had made arrangements to rent a house outside of Somerset, Ohio — where I was pastoring at the time — from a retired school teacher. When we looked at the house, we did not have our foster child with us. Several days before we supposed to move in, the matronly pillar of the community called and said that she decided to not rent the house. We found out later that she told people that she was not going to have a “nigger” living in her house.
We moved to New Lexington, Ohio, and enrolled our foster child in the local public school, thinking little about how hard it might be for her to be the only black kid in the school. Needless to say, she was subjected to daily racial taunts. One day, the principal called us and said our foster child had created a disturbance in class. One of her classmates had called her a “nigger” and she threw her book at her taunter and stormed out of class.
I was quite upset at her behavior. Having never walked in her shoes, I had no way of knowing what it was like to be singled out and taunted for the color of my skin. I gave her the stern Pastor Gerencser lecture, reminding her that she was accountable for behavior and that she couldn’t respond this way every time someone called her a “nigger.” While my words had a ring of truth to them, they were quite insensitive and showed that I didn’t have a clue about how difficult it was for her as a young black woman.
In the mid-1980s, the church I pastored had a black missionary come and present his work. I took the missionary on a tour of the area and we stopped at the Somerset Snack Bar for lunch. The Snack Bar was where locals hung out, and it was always a busy hive of storytelling, gossip, and news. The Snack Bar was quite noisy when we walked in the door, but as patrons glanced up to see who was coming in, the noise quickly dissipated. I later learned that several of the locals were upset over the Baptist preacher bringing a “nigger” into the Snack Bar.
In 1995, I moved back home to northwest Ohio, pastoring a church in Alvordton for a short time, and then pastoring a church in West Unity for seven years. Polly and I have lived in this area now for 23 years. This is our home. Our 6 children and 13 grandchildren all live within 20 minutes of our home.
It was during my time as pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity that I began to address my own latent racism and the racism that percolated under the surface of the local community. As my politics began to move to the left, my preaching took on a social gospel flavor, and this included preaching on racism.
When a church member would talk about “colored” people, I would ask them, so what color were they? Oh, you know what I mean, preacher! Yes, I do. So, how is the color of their skin germane to the story you are telling? I did the same when members talked about “those” people — “those” meaning blacks, Mexicans, or people perceived to be welfare bums.
What made things difficult was that we had a black man attending the church. He was a racist’s dream — the perfect stereotype. He was on welfare, didn’t work, lived in Section 8 housing, had an illegitimate child, and spent most of his waking hours trying to figure out how to keep from working. The church financially helped him several times, and we brought him groceries on numerous occasions. One time he called and told me he needed groceries. I told him that I would have someone bring them over to him later that day. He then told me, preacher, I’m a meat and potato man, so I don’t want no canned food. Bring me some meat. He’s still waiting for those groceries to be delivered.
As I read the comments on the Growing Up in Bryan, Ohio Facebook group (the post is no longer available), I noticed that there was an age divide. Older people such as I thought Bryan was still, to some degree, racist, while younger people were less inclined to think Bryanites were racist, or they thought local racists were a few bad apples. I think that this reflects the fact that race relations are markedly “better” now in this area.
The reasons are many:
Older generations, those raised in the days of race riots, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jim Crow are dying off.
Local residents are treated by doctors who are not white. My wife’s gynecologist is a dark-skinned Muslim.
Interracial couples now live in the area.
Migrants workers, once a part of the ebb and flow of the farming season, are now primarily permanent residents.
Younger adults and teenagers no longer think race is a big deal.
Music, television, and the Internet have brought the world to our doorstep, allowing us to experience other cultures.
Sports, in which the majority of athletes in the three major professional sports — football, basketball, and baseball — are non-white. Cable and satellite TV broadcast thousands of college and professional games featuring non-white players.
Exposure breeds tolerance. Bigoted attitudes about gays and same-sex marriage are on prominent display in rural northwest Ohio. These attitudes remind me of how things once were when it came to race. Time and exposure to people who are different from us can’t help but change how we view things like race and sexual orientation. My children are quite accepting and tolerant of others, and I hope that these attitudes will be passed on to my grandchildren. We are closer today than we ever have been to Martin Luther King’s hope of “a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
We haven’t arrived. Latent, institutional racism must continue to be challenged. Recent protests and riots across the United States reveal that we have a long, long, long way to go before we reach King’s hope and dream. Unfortunately, there are those who use race and fear to stoke distrust and hate of those who are different. We must forcefully marginalize (and vote out of office) those who want to return America to the 1950s. We must also be willing to judge our own attitudes about race. We enlightened liberals gleefully look at the extreme right and we see racism and bigotry in all its glory. Yet, if we are honest, such things exist in our own backyard. None of us can rest until we have achieved a post-racial world. We have much work to do.
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.
Racism is in the air thanks to Donald Trump. What was once said in secret behind closed doors is now publicly vomited on social media, blogs, and news sites. I live in an overwhelmingly white area. Confederate flag-waving knuckle-draggers are common, as are make Make America White Again® Trump supporters. In 2016, Trump overwhelmingly won in the Ohio counties of Williams, Defiance, Henry, and Fulton — rural northwest Ohio. Blacks make up less than one percent of the population, Hispanics/Latinos, seven percent. The Hispanic/Latino population is a reflection of the fact that farmers once used large numbers of migrant workers to pick crops. Some migrants who made the trek from Mexico to Ohio stayed after completing their work. They quietly go about their lives, increasingly worried that ICE might show up at their doors, destroying everything they have built and worked for. As a teenager, I knew a number of people who were in the United States “illegally.” To the person, they were productive members of society.
Rural northwest Ohio is my home, even though politically, religiously, and socially I have little in common with most locals. I have been surrounded by overtly racist people most of my life, including in the churches I pastored in this area. If you think Jesus is an antidote for racism, think again. Some of the most racist people I know, both here in rural northwest Ohio and in my extended family, love the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus H. Christ. As a pastor, I did what I could to combat racist attitudes and behaviors. Sometimes, it was just small rebukes, such as when one congregant would talk about “colored” people. I would respond, “what “color” were they, exactly?” “Oh preacher, you know.” “No, I don’t, tell me.” Or when one woman would incessantly talk about all those lazy “blacks” on welfare who won’t work for a living. I told her several times, “You do know most of the people who are on welfare and receive food stamps are white, right?” Sadly, my soft admonishments did little to correct deep-seated multi-generational racism.
Recently, a young woman (Erin) who attended a nearby church I pastored for seven years, engaged in an overtly racist discussion with a friend of hers (Tobias) from South Africa:
These comments reveal that racism is often passed on from parents to children, and until someone in the family tree sees the light, racist beliefs and practices will continue to flourish in my part of rural northwest Ohio. If you met this young woman, you would think that she is a wonderful person — and she is. But in her heart lie bigotry and hate, both birthed and nurtured by her parents, friends, church, and community.
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.
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