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Tag: Bruce Gerencser

1975: Anita, My First Love

bruce-gerencser-1975
Only picture of me I have from 1975, age eighteen.

In the spring of 1972, my parents divorced. I was fourteen at the time. Several months later, both of my parents remarried. Mom married her first cousin — a recent parolee from the Texas prison system. Dad married a nineteen-year-old girl he met at the Millstream Motor Speedway outside of Findlay. She brought with her a toddler girl. A year later, Dad suddenly decided to move to Tucson, Arizona. As was his custom, he didn’t ask his children what they thought about moving. Dad treated us like furniture, things to be moved whenever he felt like it. I hated my father for uprooting us repeatedly over the years. What made this move worse was that I had actually attended the same school for thirty-one months — a record. I loved my church and had lots of friends. I played basketball and baseball and had an active social life. None of that mattered to Dad. I later learned that creditors were chasing him, and THAT was the reason for the sudden move to Arizona. Several months after we moved, Dad’s creditors finally figured out where he was and repossessed both of his cars.

I stayed in Arizona for the remainder of my tenth-grade year. As soon as school was out, I jumped on a Greyhound Bus and returned to Bryan, Ohio to live with my mom. By that time, she was living with a violent drunk named Chuck Jones. After living with Mom for two months, I moved back to Findlay to live with a church family. After a few months living with this family, I was abruptly told I could no longer live with them. At the time, I had no idea what I had done to warrant being booted out of their home. Years later, I concluded that the husband likely thought his wife and I were getting too “close” to each other. Was he right? I don’t know, but I can certainly understand him thinking that way.

I then moved in with an older woman in the church, Gladys Canterbury. I was made a ward of the court so she would receive monthly income for my care, and I would have Medicaid health insurance. I finished my eleventh-grade year in May 1974, and then, unbeknownst to Gladys, I arranged for my mom to pick me up so I could move back home. This caused quite a bit of controversy, including threats of arrest. I was, after all, a minor and a ward of the court. However, I was also seventeen, close to the age of emancipation, so the court decided not to intervene.

When it came time to enroll at Bryan High School for my senior year, I decided I no longer wanted to go to high school. Mom was livid when I told her I was dropping out of school. I was a good student, but I just wanted to do my own thing at this point in my life. Influencing this decision was the fact that one of my friends had also dropped out of school. In the 2000s, I took and passed the GED exam, remedying one of the biggest mistakes of my life.

In November of 1974, Mom was committed to the state psychiatric hospital in Toledo, leaving her children, ages 17, 16, and 14 to fend for themselves. Dad got wind of this and came to Bryan to move us back to Arizona. By this time, Dad had moved to Sierra Vista.

Got all that? Now let me get to the subject of this story: Anita.

Once settled in Sierra Vista, I quickly found union employment as a stocker and cashier at Food Giant. As a devout Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian, I also found a new church to attend, Sierra Vista Baptist Church — affiliated with the Conservative Baptist Association of America. It was while attending this church that I met a nineteen-year-old girl named Anita Farr.

Anita and I quickly hit it off, and for the next five months, we had a torrid relationship — Baptist-style. No sex, but lots of making out. While I had dated lots of girls before Anita, she was what I would call my “first love.” Whether she truly “loved” me, I still don’t know, but we were inseparable until she left for college in the fall of 1975.

Anita and I had similar personalities: talkative, bullheaded, and ornery. Years later, I concluded that had we gotten married, one of us would have killed the other and ended up in prison. Our similar personalities quickly put us on the radar of the legalists in our church. One deacon, Chuck Cofty, took issue with Anita’s miniskirts, asking me to do something about it. I, of course, didn’t have a problem with Anita’s skirts. Some members also had a problem with Anita waitressing at a local pizza place that served beer — a cardinal sin in IFB churches. While Anita could have got a job elsewhere, I suspect she loved the fact that her employment irritated the hell out of the church’s legalists.

Our first date was at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson. We also took several trips to Mexico, spending the day walking the streets of the border towns. As I look back on our time together, we spent a lot of time driving — anywhere that was away from Sierra Vista. We would drive for hours with no planned destination, talking about God, family, and one another. Sometimes, we would take drives up into the mountains and park to watch the stars — well, that, and make-out. Both of us also loved to hike. Our hikes took us all over southeast Arizona, including to the hummingbird sanctuary in Ramsey Canyon.

Anita, on occasion, would come to my house. My siblings are fond of reminding me that I gave them money to go to 7-11 while Anita was there. I remember my dad “meeting” Anita for the first time. We were lying on the floor making out when Dad walked in on us. “Hi, this is my girlfriend, Anita.” I also spent a fair bit of time at Anita’s house. One night, we were sitting at the dinner table, and Anita said something smart to her father. Her dad stood up and smacked her, knocking her off her chair. I was shocked by her father’s behavior. I was fourteen the last time my dad laid a hand on me.

In the fall of 1975, Anita moved to Phoenix, Arizona to begin her sophomore year at  Southwestern Conservative Baptist Bible College — now known as Arizona Christian University. We intended to continue our relationship. I would drive up to Phoenix on weekends to visit Anita, staying in the college’s dormitory. However, I began to notice a different Anita. I saw that she was quite the flirt, and this, of course, made me jealous. This came to a head in late September. Filled with jealousy and pettiness, I broke off our relationship. I jumped in my 1967 Chevy wagon and returned to Sierra Vista at breakneck speeds, picking up a speeding ticket several miles from home. A week later, I packed up my meager belongings, hopped a bus, and returned to Bryan, Ohio.

Our break-up emotionally wounded me, affecting my dating proclivities and relationships with women for quite a while. While I dated several women post-Anita, I made it clear that I was not interested in a serious relationship. I would carry this feeling with me to college, thinking that I would spend my years at Midwestern Baptist College being a serial dater. However, I met a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly, and forty-two years later, I am still madly in love with her.

Anita and I corresponded several times after I returned to Ohio. I lost touch with her, and I have often wondered how life turned out for the first love of my life.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Why I Don’t Do Debates

gerencser family 2018
Bruce and Polly Gerencser and Family 2018

Smart is the person who understands his skill levels, his strengths, and his weaknesses. There’s nothing worse than watching someone unskilled attempt to do something that is out of his skill set, all because he thought it would be a good idea or his supporters suggested he do it. Years ago, during my Fundamentalist Baptist days, I got into a discussion with a liberal Baptist preacher. We were attempting to talk about psychology, a subject that I knew nothing about. Back and forth we went, with me pontificating, showing that I had no understanding of the subject at hand. If I remember right, it is when we got the subject of Abraham Maslow, that I tried to make my liberal Baptist friend see that I was an “expert” on Maslow, that he said, “Bruce you don’t know what you are talking about. You’re full of shit.” And he was right.

As a preacher, I believed I always had to have an answer for every question. I had to be the smartest guy in the room, the source of all wisdom and knowledge. After all, I spoke for God. Sure, I had a large library, but my all of my books essentially reinforced my beliefs, reminders of the fact that I was right. I had a handful of books on psychology, but these authors, to the person, were anti-psychology. Their theme was the same as virtually every Evangelical book: The Bible Says _______________.

Over time, I learned three things:

  • I had huge gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the world
  • I had good public speaking and writing skills
  • I should focus my time and effort on the things that I am good at

I was fifty years old when I left Christianity and became an atheist — by all accounts, a set-in-his-ways old man. Today, I am sixty-three. While I have learned all sorts of new things since deconverting, I am too old to embark on a new career, to reinvent myself. As long-time readers know, I have a lot of health problems, and it seems that no miracle healing is forthcoming. I have accepted the premise that my life is what it is, and unless I want to live every day in despair, I must take life as it is and do what I can. I am a realist, a pessimist at heart, so I don’t expect doctors to come riding in on white horses to deliver me from my afflictions. Knowing this, it is essential that I focus on honing my writing and speaking skills, not wading into new endeavors.

This brings me to the subject of debates. Over the years, I have been asked if I am interested in debating Christians. The short answer is no. Let me explain.

First, there are numerous atheist and agnostic debaters producing quality — dare I say phenomenal — content: Matt Dillahunty, Bart Ehrman, Steven Woodford (Rationality Rules), Alex O’Connor (Cosmic Skeptic), Drew McCoy (Genetically Modified Skeptic), Aron Ra, and Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist), to name a few. I see no need to add my weak voice to an already crowded field of expert debaters. I ask myself, do we really need another hamburger joint in town? The answer is no.

Second, I am a conversationalist, a storyteller. This blog has always been one man with a story to tell. I suspect that if I changed my focus to the rules of logic, philosophy, and debating, my hard-won audience would likely go elsewhere. Most people who read this blog do so because they find my story resonates with them in some way. When doubting, troubled Evangelicals show up for the first time, they find a man who understands their pain, what they have experienced and gives voice to their struggles. Such people have always been my focus, and I see no need to change my course now.

Now, this doesn’t mean I never talk about logic or philosophy, I do. The same goes for science. I do not get into debates (arguments) with creationists. First, I am not a scientist, and second, young earth creationists, in particular, are some of the most obstinate people on planet Earth. If I choose to briefly engage them, I ignore their ill-informed science arguments and, instead, attack the foundation of their beliefs: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible book, and the rest of their beliefs come tumbling down. For me personally, it’s a matter of focusing on what I know, instead of getting into an argument about science where neither participant knows what the hell they are talking about.

You won’t see my on the debate stage any time soon. I will be in the crowd cheering on my favorite atheist debaters. I plan to stick to telling my story. I am working towards, after years of broken promises, putting out a podcast. I am waiting for a laptop I purchased to arrive, and then I will be ready to go. My goal is for my podcast to be an extension of this blog: telling my story and continuing my in-the-know critiques of Evangelical Christianity. If this project goes well, my podcast will be available on all the major podcasting services, including YouTube. I recognize that the video and podcast markets are growing by leaps and bounds. If I believe my story is worth hearing and can help those who have doubts about Christianity or who have left the faith, then it is important for me to take my story and turn it into accessible videos and podcasts. Like it or not, younger people, in particular, are more likely to listen to my story on one of the video/audio services than they are to do a search on Google and come to this site. One-third of the people who come to this blog for the first time arrive via a web search on any given day. I suspect that the age demographic skews older for these first-timers, so my goal with the podcast is to reach people who don’t normally frequent this site. The Apostle Paul said he became all things to all men, and that’s my approach with the podcast. I hope to produce one podcast each week. This should not affect my writing schedule — health-willing. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

As always, thank you for your love, kindness, and support.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Short Stories: Down the Hill in Chula Vista

chula vista 1960s
Chula Vista, early 1960s. Front Row: My brother Bobby, my sister Robin, friend of Marijene’s, Aunt Marijene, and Butch. Back Row: Neighbor boy. Gotta love my gun, hat, and vest.

In the early 1960s, my dad packed up Mom and me, along with my younger brother and sister, and moved us to California. Dad was certain that California was a land of rainbows, and that a pot of gold awaited him in the Golden State. Three years later, as broke as when he arrived, Dad moved us back to Bryan, Ohio. In fact, Dad was so broke that he had to trade his pocket watch for a tank of gas in Illinois — just enough fuel to get us to Bryan.

We lived in several houses in California, one of which was a sprawling ranch house on a hill in Chula Vista. One day, my grandmother, Jeanette Rausch, and her daughter, Marijene, came to visit us. While Grandma and Mom were talking, my siblings and I went outside to play; “play” being climbing in the front seat of Grandma’s car.

I was sitting on the driver’s side of the car, and my sibling were next to me. I am sure both of them would say that it was no surprise that Butch (my family nickname) was in the driver’s seat. I was ALWAYS in the driver’s seat; the boss; the “man” in charge.

I had not yet shut the driver’s side door when I decided — as ornery six-year-old boys are wont to do — to grab the column shifter and put the transmission in neutral. Much to my youthful surprise, the car began rolling down the hill. Instead of trying to put the car in park or hit the brake, I bailed out of the open driver’s door, leaving Robin and Bobby in the car as it rolled down the hill.

The car picked up speed as it went down the hill, crashing through the neighbor’s fence and mowing over his beautiful poinsettias. The car continued rolling through his yard, ending up in the middle of the road at the bottom of the hill.

Payday for my crime was swift in coming. Grandma was livid. I remember hearing her hollering as she spanked Robin and Bobby. I received no such whipping. I denied being in the car, despite the protestations of my siblings. Somebody had to pay. I was sure glad it was Robin and Bobby.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

A Moment of Kindness Remembered for a Lifetime

kindness

It’s early spring in Northwest Ohio, the year is 1972.

A fourteen-year-old boy is playing with his Lionel trains in the basement of a rented house on Cherry St. in Findlay, Ohio.  He loves playing with the trains, a love picked up from working at his dad’s hobby store, G&B Trains.

The boy hears footsteps coming down the basement stairs. It’s his dad.

His dad says, I need to talk to you.

This is strange, the boy thought. Dad never talks to me about anything.

Your Mom and I don’t love each other anymore, says the boy’s dad, and we are getting a divorce.

And just like that, whatever shred of family the boy had was destroyed.

It wasn’t long before the divorce was final.

The boy is in ninth grade, and it is graduation time. His parents both want to come to his graduation but the boy says, I am not going to graduation, and that was that.

Tenth grade. High School. All the ninth graders from Central, Donnell, and Glenwood would join the older students at Findlay High School, making the school one of the largest in Ohio.

The boy’s friends would all be there, his school friends, his church friends, and the boys he played baseball and basketball with.

The boy’s dad remarried — a 19-year-old girl. She has a baby. In a few short years, the boy would be dating women the age of his dad’s new wife. She was never more than dad’s new wife to him. The boy had a mother, and he only needed one of those.

Fall turned to Winter, and then one early Spring day the boy’s dad says, we are moving to Arizona.

What? the boy thought. You can’t do this to me. All my friends are here. You promised, no more moving. Two and a half years, the longest the boy ever lived in one place, and now he has to move.

Upset, angry, bitter, and no one seemed to care.

On a Saturday in March, 1973 the auctioneer’s voice rings out, and everything but essentials are sold to strangers who came to gawk at household goods.  And with auction proceeds in hand, the Gerencsers pile into two cars and move to Tucson, Arizona. Later the finance company would track down the boy’s dad and repossess the cars. When the boy became a man, he then understood why he had to move so suddenly and quickly 1,900 miles from his home.

The boy, despite hating his dad for taking him away from his friends, is excited about the prospect of traveling across the country. So many things to see, so many new experiences to be had.

The first thing the boy does is find a new church to attend. Isn’t it amazing, the boy thought, right in our backyard is the Tucson Baptist Temple, a Baptist Bible Fellowship church! Just like the church in Findlay, this must be God working things out, the boy quietly hopes.

The Tucson Baptist Temple is a large church pastored by Louis Johnson, a preacher from Kentucky. The boy joins the church and starts attending youth group. But, try as he might he can’t make friends. It isn’t like his church home in Findlay where the boy had all kinds of friends, and even a few girl church friends. He feels very much alone.

With the move, the boy has to ride a city bus to his new school, Rincon High School. Right away he notices that some of the kids from the youth group attended Rincon, but they pretend they don’t know him. He feels quite alone.

Rincon has what is called open lunch. Every day the boy would go outside and sit on the grass and eat his lunch. One day, a beautiful Asian girl comes near the boy and sits down to eat her lunch. She is warm and friendly, and treats the boy like she has known him for years. And for the next ten weeks, on most days, she eats lunch with the boy from Ohio. Outside of the fat boy everyone made fun of who rode the bus, this would be the only friend the boy would make.

And then came summer, and the boy hopped a Greyhound bus and moved back to Ohio. With the help of his church and friends, the boy is able to go back to his old school, his old church, with his old friends. Life for the next year is grand, just as if he had never left.

Unfortunately, the boy would have to move to his mom’s home at the end of the school year. This move brought great unrest and turmoil to the boy’s life, but that is a story for another day.

The boy is an old man now, and as he watches a musician on a reality show, he sees a girl that brings to his mind a time long ago, when a beautiful young woman took the time to befriend a friendless boy from Ohio. It reminds him that moments of kindness are often remembered for a lifetime.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Evangelical Man Wants Me to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth About My Life

calvin and hobbes proving truth

Recently, an Evangelical man by the name of Roger Smoak left the following comment on Why I Hate Jesus, the most widely read (and misunderstood) post on this site:

I would be interested in knowing what Really happened? Was it your fibromalga that wasn’t healed? Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis? Was it your dad dying at an early age or you mom who committed suicide?Was it depression you faced when you quit believing and/or your wife (pastor’s child) had to choose between you and her faith? Was it all the material wealth you experienced during your pastoring where you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God? If the “Western Jesus” has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament? Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church? I guess just as you judge others I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

When I receive comments such as this — and I have received hundreds of them over the past thirteen years — the first thing I do is look at the site logs to see exactly what the commenter has read.

Take Roger, a South Carolinian. He read:

That’s it. Right next to the Why I Hate Jesus page is a page titled WHY? On this page is a plethora of posts that curious readers can read, and in doing so find most of their questions about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism answered. Evidently, Roger didn’t see this page or couldn’t be bothered to look at its content.

Evangelicals tend not to be very curious, that is unless they are surfing YouPorn. Then they are quite interested in every aspect of female and male bodies. But actually reading about and investigating the life of an Evangelical pastor turned atheist? Nah, how much information does one need to judge a man the Bible says is a fool, a follower of Satan.

In 2015 post titled Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait, I wrote:

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser-than-a-cat Evangelical, but many aren’t. I frequently get emails or blog comments from Evangelical Christians wanting to “help” me find my way to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill to win me to Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and fellate their God.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. (Or the past 90 days, 64,000+ first-time visitors have come to this site via a search engine — mostly Google.) These searchers read that one post and immediately conclude that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of their peculiar flavor of Jesus.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have only read the pages their search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding, leading them to make wild judgments about me, and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If they would just read the About page and the WHY page they would be better informed about me and this blog. How hard can it be, right?

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity, is because they are one-hundred percent certain that they are absolutely right. In their minds, they worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tells them that they are his own. They have a supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life they will ever need. Why should they read anything else?

When you are certain, there’s no need to think, reason, investigate, question, or doubt. When the triune God is on your team, no need to consider any other team. When your God/sect/church/pastor has declared that strawberry ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate Chip, or any other flavor.

Simply put, no need to know anything else, when you already know all you need to know. God said it and that settled it. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,023 years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible blueprint for Christ-honoring families, happy marriages, obedient children, and great sex. When the answer to every question is God, it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-minded, senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer will you go to heaven when you die, the journey rather than the destination becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

Now let me circle back around to Roger’s comment.

From the get-go, Roger says that he thinks I am lying or withholding information. He wants to know what REALLY happened to me. Well, shit, Roger, this blog is titled, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. This is a clue that says, HEY ROGER, THIS BLOG IS ABOUT THE LIFE OF EVANGELICAL PASTOR-TURNED-ATHEIST BRUCE GERENCSER!

Most readers would say that I am open, honest, and transparent about my past and present life. I have been willing to write about things that are painful and embarrassing to me. I have never wanted to paint a less-than-honest picture of my life. I watched too many preachers do just that back in my preaching days, and I see it going on still today. Sometimes, I want to scream to them TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH! Alas, Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of truth avoidance; a culture that values name, reputation, and prestige more than it does honesty and truth.

Roger goes through a greatest hits list of reasons he thinks may be the reason I left the ministry and later left Christianity (grammar corrected for readability):

  • Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?
  • Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?
  • Was it your dad dying at an early age?
  • Was it your mom committing suicide?
  • Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?
  • Was it your wife — pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?
  • Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Let me call Roger’s statements the Seven Was-Its.

Was-It Number One: Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996 — 12 years before I walked away from Christianity. During my career as a pastor, I battled chronic bronchitis, had bacterial pneumonia twice, had pleurisy several times, contracted mononucleosis — which almost killed me — and was treated for a plethora of joint and muscle problems. Not one time did I question God. I accepted being sick as God’s perfect plan for my life.

Was-It Number Two: Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?

Actually, my oldest daughter has Down syndrome. When Bethany was born thirty years ago, my wife and I viewed her as a gift from God. We never questioned God blessing us with Bethany. Bethany having Down syndrome played no part in my deconversion.

Was-It Number Three: Was it your dad dying at an early age?

A curious reader would have found out that my dad and I weren’t close. We didn’t have an adversarial relationship, but definitely not close. I was outside the church raking leaves when Polly told me Dad was dead. We hugged, and I went back raking leaves. While I now miss my dad, his death played no part in my deconversion.

Several months ago, I had my DNA tested. I learned what I have long suspected — that Dad was not my biological father. (I plan to write about this someday.) I found that my father was a truck driver who lived in Chicago at the time. He likely met my seventeen-year-old mom while she was working at The Hub, a now-defunct truck stop in Bryan, Ohio. I have a half-brother in Michigan. Talk about messing up your ancestry tree.

Was-It Number Four: Was it your mom committing suicide?

Mom and I were close. Her suicide at age fifty-four deeply affected me. I so wish she were here today so she could play grandma to our grandchildren. (Please see Barbara.) That said, Mom’s death played no part in my loss of faith. My life with Mom certainly affected me in more ways than I can count, but not when it came to walking away from Christianity.

Was-It Number Five: Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?

This one is almost funny. I have battled depression most of my adult life — from my early 20s. Thus, depression was the dark passenger of my life from the time I pastored my first church until today. The difference back then is that I buried my depression under a mountain of lies, prayers, and Bible verses. After I left Christianity, I sought out a secular psychologist to talk to. It was only then that I began to unwind the complexities of my life. I still battle depression today. It ain’t going away. My mental health goal is to keep from falling into the rabbit hole and having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, I fail.

Was-It Number Six: Was it your wife — a pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?

Now, this one is downright funny — and stupid. Yes, Polly is the daughter of a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Her parents have attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio for over four decades. That said, Polly has never had to make a choice between her “faith” and her husband of forty-one years. I never sensed that she struggled with choosing between me and God. Sure, we left Christianity together, but that’s where the similarities end. Each of us has our own reasons for deconverting. One thing is certain, if I ever said I was planning to re-enter the ministry or start attending an Evangelical church again, Polly would like divorce me or kill me with one of her Lodge cast iron pans. Trust me on this one, my wife has zero interest in Christianity. In many ways, her feelings about the past are much stronger than mine. The only difference is that Polly doesn’t write about her feelings on a blog that is read by thousands of people.

Was-It Number Seven: Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Seven strikes and you are out, Roger. For most of my ministry, I believed that living in poverty was God’s chosen path for me and my family. A good case can be made from the Bible that materialism and wealth are contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. While I prayed for material blessing, I never questioned God’s provision. I worked my ass off, and let God take care of the details.

Roger goes on to ask, “if the ‘Western Jesus’ has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament?

These are the kind of questions that make me want to scream. Roger evidently has never read a Christian history book. He thinks that his brand of Christianity is that of Jesus, the Apostles, and the first century church, when it is, in fact, every bit as westernized as mine was in my preaching days. In fact, I suspect if Roger had met me back in the day, he would have loved my preaching and teaching.

By not being curious, Roger misunderstands the chronology of my life. Roger writes:

Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church?

I pastored my last church in 2003 and left the ministry in 2005 — three years before my deconversion in November 2008. I still did some preaching, but I no longer was interested in the dog-and-pony show called the ministry. In 2005 — as a last fling of sorts — I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. It became clear to me that my heart was no longer in the ministry, and neither was Polly’s. We spent the next three years trying to find a church we could call home. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT! for a list of the churches we visited.) In the end, we concluded that despite the names above the doors, churches are all pretty much the same.

Roger concludes his comment by saying:

I guess just as you judge others, I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

This brings me around to the fact that Roger thinks I am lying about my past and present life. He wants to “judge” my life, and determine for himself the “real” reasons I left the ministry and later left Christianity. Roger would love to interrogate my wife and children or “someone” — whoever the hell that is — who would confirm the “real” reasons I am no longer an Evangelical pastor. Something tells me that Roger thinks he already knows the “truth” about my life. He just needs someone to authenticate and confirm his judgments.

I have decided to be brutally open and honest with Roger. I sincerely — in the name of Loki –want him to know the truth about me.

Roger, I never was a Christian. The joke is on the thousands of people I pastored. I was a deceiver, a false prophet, a destroyer of souls. I spent most of my adult life living a lie, pretending to be a follower of Jesus just so I could work 60-80 hours a week, earn $12,000 a year, live off of food stamps, drive $300 cars, and raise six children in a 12′ by 60′ foot mobile home. Instead of accepting secular employment that paid fabulously well, I chose the aforementioned lifestyle all because I wanted to be a wolf among sheep.

I know you really want to know about the sex stuff. You got me, Roger. I fathered several children with female congregants. I also had gay relationships with several deacons. Not only that, I also was a porn addict, frequented houses of prostitution, and attended all-male revues at the local strip club.

I spent five years teaching church children without pay at our Christian Academy. I taught them the Bible and the doctrines of historic Christianity. Why? I was a deceiver, an apostate.

Today, I am a crossdressing worshiper of Satan. Every Halloween, I sacrifice Christian infants to Lord Lucifer. I spend every waking hour trying to destroy God. I hate him, as I do all Christian churches and pastors.

This, I suspect, is more akin to Roger’s narrative of my life than reality. Why read, investigate, ask questions, and attempt to understand when you can read a couple of pages and render infallible, self-righteous judgment.

Let me leave Roger with a verse from the Bible he says he believes. Proverbs 18:13 says:

New International Version
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.

New Living Translation
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

English Standard Version
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

New American Standard Bible
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

New King James Version
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

King James Bible
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens–this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

Contemporary English Version (my favorite)
It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.

Good News Translation
Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens– this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

New American Standard 1977
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

American Standard Version
He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him.

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that answereth before he heareth sheweth himself to be a fool, and worthy of confusion.

Thus saith the Lord.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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Bruce Gerencser