Tag Archive: Bryan Times

Letter to the Editor: Evangelical Hysteria Over Transgender Bathroom Use

evangelicals transgender

This cartoon correctly shows how many Evangelicals perceive the Transgender/bathroom issue. Their perceptions, however, are categorically wrong.

Letter to the Editor submitted to The Bryan Times on April 22, 2016 (never printed) Resubmitted to the Defiance Crescent-News on May 19, 2016

Dear Editor,

Recent news stories have highlighted Evangelical outrage and hysteria over Transgenders using public restrooms. I suspect most Americans at one time or another have taken care of business while in proximity to someone whose sexual identity or orientation is different from theirs. Why all the outrage now over such a banal issue as who and where someone pees?

At the heart of this issue lies Evangelical hatred and disgust, not only for Transgenders, but also for anyone who dares to be different from the God-approved, heterosexual-only, virginal, monogamous-sex-only-within-the-bonds-of-marriage Evangelical belief concerning sexuality. As a Baptist teenager, I vividly remember sermons and admonitions warning teens of the dire consequences of fornication and masturbation. All the scare-tactic preaching did was make us feel guilty when we acted upon normal, healthy human sexual desire.

Evangelicalism is now widely considered a hateful religion by many Americans. Why is this? In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich birthed The Moral Majority — an Evangelical group dedicated to reclaiming America for the Christian God. Along the way new groups such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association joined with the Moral Majority to fight the war against what they perceived to be the takeover of America by Godless liberals, Satanic secularists, atheists, and humanists. In the 1980s these culture warriors sold their souls to the Republican Party, joining church and state and producing the ugly monster now on display for all to see.

During this same time frame, secularists, their numbers increasing thanks to a growing number of Americans who no longer are interested in organized religion, began to push back at Evangelicalism’s message of hate and bigotry. Atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists began challenging governmental preferential treatment given to Evangelicals. Now, thanks to a rising swell of secularism, Evangelicals feel threatened. No longer are they given special treatment. No longer are their blatant assaults on the First Amendment ignored. The more Evangelicals are marginalized, the greater their outrage.

Evangelicals must accept the fact that progress has brought us to place of inclusion and acceptance of those who are different from us. Evangelical preachers are certainly free to keep preaching against what they believe are sinful behaviors. But they might want to notice that many Americans — particularly millennials — are no longer listening.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

1969 Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times by my Mother, Barbara Gerencser

berkely protest 1969

Student Protest Berkley 1969

What follows is a letter my mother wrote to the editor of the Bryan Times It was published May 7, 1969. I am hoping this letter will provide a glimpse of the type of home I grew up in. I was 11 years old when this letter was written. 12 days later, this letter was also published in the Toledo Blade.

Bryan Times:

In view of recent student uprisings, revolts, demonstrations, anarchy and lawlessness on college and university campuses in these United States — I, an American taxpayer and mother of three children, urge a PUBLIC Congressional Investigation into the colleges and universities that fit the above and an investigation into the SDS, its leaders, motives, and followers.

Either local authorities on campus or the government must stop this outrage or there should be a taxpayers’ revolt. I, for one, do not care to support such so-called institutions for a so-called higher education. Why don’t parents of these students cut off funds? Why doesn’t the government cut off funds to such institutions and cut off student loans to such students?

Now, summer approaches and Americans are wondering and waiting to see whether the riots in our cities will resume. Many of these same students will be taking to the streets this summer. Rioting has become a habit, a thrill. I have heard the remark, many riot all day and run home to watch themselves on the 6 o’clock news.

Many Americans are justifiably living in fear. I have heard remarked that only a dictator and a police state will be able to protect American citizens from anarchy and lawlessness. Is this what we want? I ask you to ask yourself, what can I do? What can or should our duly elected government officials do? What can or should our tax supported institutions do? Let your universities and government officials know how you feel. It is time to stand up and be counted.

I had thought that with a new administration (Richard Nixon) we might begin to enter into a period of law and justice and might once again go back to majority rule upon which this country was founded. How can a handful of 50 students completely subdue a college campus and its authorities?

I used to think a college education was an ideal goal for a youngster. Now I am very skeptical of sending my children to such an educational institution. Have you ever asked yourself why the students on the large and small campuses of Bible colleges and other religious institutions are not rioting, or are you trying not to think, period? (now that was one snarky line, Mom)

Did you  ever stop to think that the students who do not like their teachers, courses, university rules and regulations have the freedom to go elsewhere? Perhaps a trip to Vietnam might give them the proper perspective. While our boys fight and die to preserve freedom, the students usurp the freedom and rights of others to an education in a tax supported institution. Teachers not going along with students are being intimidated as well as their families being threatened. Some even have had bomb threats in the name of freedom.

To all college and university authorities, to all judges and law enforcement officials and to all government officials: in regards to the students, I say Amnesty-NO, Prosecution, Expulsion-YES.

Sincerely yours,

Mrs. Barbara Gerencser
Route 2, Hicksville

A 1997 Bryan Times Editorial by Bruce Gerencser: “America is in Trouble, Big Trouble”

america is in trouble

Published on September 25,1997. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

America is in trouble… big trouble. The moral and ethical structure of our nation is crumbling at its very foundation. We, at one time, accepted the “law of God” as our moral and ethical standard, but now, relativism reigns supreme. Law, morality, and ethics are relative to the situation and circumstance. It seems that there are no absolutes. We debate such issues as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, homosexuality, etc., and by our debate suggest that God has not spoken on these issues. God’s law is not a mystery. His law is clear. It is we, as defiant creatures, who have shaken our fist at the heavens and said, “We will not have You to rule over us.” As a result, instead of being ruled by the laws of Jehovah, we are ruled by the laws and system of corrupt humans. We have become a nation of people aptly described as “they did what was right in their own eyes.”

Who do we blame for the mess we are in? It is easy to blame the politicians. It is easy to point to the Clinton/Gore administration and say “they are the problem.” Recent articles in the Bryan Times reported on the meeting of the Christian Coalition. They were quick to blame the Democrats for all the ills in our society, all the while ignoring the ethical and moral lapses of those they support (i.e. Newt Gingrich). No, I would contend that what we see in Washington is a consequence and not a source of our ills.

The blame must be laid on the church and her ministers. There was a day when the church and her ministers were respected and were considered the moral voice of the community and our nation. Such is not the case today. Society has concluded that the church is irrelevant and her ministers are nothing more than educated buffoons. We are told to keep our religion within the four walls of the church (separation of church and state you know) and to keep our moral and ethical pronouncements to ourselves. If a prophetic voice is raised, screams of “Thou shalt not judge” are quickly heard. We, as ministers of the gospel, should be ashamed for allowing our voices to be silenced in such a manner. God has called us to be a clear voice of light in our decadent society. How then, can we be the prophets of God has called us to be?

First, we need to be reminded of who the boss is in this world. It is not the government, it is not society, it is not any mere human: it is God. He is the Sovereign of the universe. He is the Creator and we are the creatures. Our society needs to be reminded of who is in charge and that we will all be held accountable on Judgment Day.

Second, we need to be reminded of the authority of the Bible and the law of God. The Bible is God’s written revelation to man. His laws are to be loved and obeyed. The pulpits of America have been silent to the law of God and as a result antinomianism reigns. Church members have no absolutes and as a result they follow their own rules or they let “their conscience be their guide.” The greatness of a nation is directly related to the respect and obedience it gives to the law of God.

Third, we need to return to being  bastions of absolute truth and morality. Ministers need to be thundering prophets instead of mild, wimpy church mice. There is no time for compromise. The battle is real and we must fight. On Judgment Day we will not be judged on our popularity, but rather on how we faithfully fought the battle and kept the faith.

Fourth, we need to stop trying to be culturally relevant to such a degree that we sacrifice what is true and honoring to God. The appearance of Audio Adrenaline at the Williams County Fair is case in point. In an effort to “reach”young people (and perhaps fill the grandstands) two high-powered “Christian” rock ‘n roll groups were booked at the fair. When Audio Adrenaline took the stage the party began to rock and roll. Complete with body piercing and mosh pits, we were given a quick lesson on how far we have slipped in our Christian society. We see the troubles that young people face and we think by lowering the standard and meeting them at the lowest common denominator we’ll “reach” them. Sadly we have been deceived. Young people need to hear truth, absolute truth. They need to hear preaching that challenges, provokes, and rebukes. They need to hear the kind of preaching that ultimately lead them to a higher standard in Jesus Christ. We have become convinced that the timeless methods that God has ordained no longer work. This is the ultimate deception.

Fifth, we need to return the word SIN to our vocabulary. God says sin is transgression of the law of God. The church and her ministers are not the final authority on what is holy and what is sin. God is. Ministers are called on to repeat what God has said (thus saith the Lord). Because of the fear of men we do not preach on the “hard” subjects. We piously leave that to the “conscience” of the people. Such denial of responsibility will not wash with God on Judgment Day. We desperately need a revival of preaching against sin and the preaching of the solution to sin that is found in Jesus Christ.

When will we learn that people want truth and not compromise? We fear being rejected or ridiculed. We fear our message will not be heard or that we will be viewed as a Bible thumping fanatics. Well, a cursory reading of the Bible will show that we would be in good company. The prophets of old did not conform to their society, but instead demanded that their society conform to the truth of God’s Word. They demanded of all men everywhere that they”repent and believe the gospel.”

I would ask my fellow ministers and fellow Christians…when our eulogy is read what will be said? Will we be remembered as one who was a true follower of Jesus Christ? One who was faithful to his holy Word? Will our life reflect one who was a radical follower of Jesus? Life is short and in but a few days we will pass from this life. Let us labor for that which is eternal. Let us restore those things we have let slip and restore God as the rightful ruler of our nation.

2003 Letter to the Editor: Cat Killer

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times. Published 2003. I thought posting this letter here might help readers understand how much my religious and political views had changed by the early 2000s. This particular letter was written after the county prosecutor declined to prosecute a cat killer.

Dear Editor,

A cat killer is loose in Williams County. He is known by our local authorities. He even boasts of his cat killing and the enjoyment it gives him. Why should this be a concern to anyone? After all, he is just killing cats, right?

The Humane Society spoke of prosecuting the man because cats are considered property, and by his actions he violated the property rights of the cat owner (s). Do they have any moral standing apart from their relation to their owner?

All animals are a part of God’s created order. They were endowed by their creator with life, and with that life given certain rights. Animals have a right to be respected as created beings within the context of the order of Creation. While it is debated whether or not animals should be eaten for food, there should be no debate concerning the care of, love for, and responsibility to animals. Factory farms, factory slaughter houses, trophy hunting, and abandoned, mistreated animals are all abhorrent testimonies to the depravity of man. The wicked man cares not for the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10).

The man who killed these cats should be prosecuted. Prosecutors who hide behind their prosecutorial discretion should be reminded of voter discretion at the next election. We need government leaders who recognize that cruelty to animals is just as abhorrent as a crime against a human. If we do not prosecute when it involves the “least” of us, who is to say we will not turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to other immoral behaviors deemed more serious by the powers that be?

If this man can not be prosecuted, how about a sign in front of his house that says “Beware, cat killer lives here!”

Rev. Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio

2003 Letter to the Editor on War

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times. Published January 3, 2003. I thought posting this letter here might help readers understand how much my religious and political views had changed by the early 2000s.

Dear Editor,

What a wonderful and beautiful Christmas Day! The ground is blanketed with six or so inches of snow and all is peaceful and quiet. There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp winter morning after an overnight snowfall. This wintry scene causes me to reflect on the glory of Christmas Day and the meaning of it. Christmas is about redemption. Christmas is about Jesus, the Son of God, taking on human flesh and being born of the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus came into the world at the appointed time to bring redemption to all men. He came to proclaim peace and justice for all. He is called the Prince of Peace. Later in His life, Jesus would declare that peace and justice were to be character traits of those who profess to be followers of Him.

It is my thoughts of peace and justice that now begin to cloud my mind on this Christmas Day. Jesus came to bring peace, yet there is no peace. Jesus came to bring justice, yet there is no justice. Those who claim to be His followers show little concern for peace and justice. It seems they are all too busy with eating, drinking and being merry to bother themselves with such weighty notions of peace and justice. But, concern ourselves with them we must.

I have been reading of late the Social Essays of the Catholic monk Thomas Merton. These essays were written at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam war. I am amazed at how timely Merton’s essays are for today, though they were written 40 years ago. In his time, Merton had to constantly battle censors within the Catholic Church who attempted to silence his anti-war message. Merton was quite creative in the ways he got his message to the public. His voice still speaks loudly today.

Merton’s essays on nuclear war, unilateralism and preemptive war should be required reading for all Americans. Merton reminds us of the lunacy of the notion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. Once the buttons are pushed, the world as we know it ceases to exist.  Thoughts of non-defensive, unilateral, preemptive war, Merton reminds us,  are immoral and should be condemned by all Christians.

Today, America sits on the precipice of nuclear world war. We have become the big bully who thinks he can get his way by bluffing and threatening. Every once in a while the bully even whips some weakling to show who is the toughest.  Such is the case with Iraq. But now we have added North Korea to our list of nations we are intent on bullying. Unfortunately, North Korea does not quiver and shake at our threatenings. They well remember an America who could not defeat them during the Korean War. Since then, the North Koreans have added nuclear and biological weapons to their arsenal. According to recent newspaper reports, the North Koreans are quite willing to use what weapons they have to defend themselves.

What troubles me the most in all of this is the silence emanating from the pulpits of America. It seems the only voices that are heard come from war mongers such as Jerry Falwell. Does he, and those  of his ilk, speak for the rest of us? The German Church silently sat by while Hitler put into force the plans and programs that would later give us World War 2 and the Holocaust. Now the clergy of America sit by silently as George Bush and Company put into force programs such as the Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act. George Bush threatens war and destruction on any nation that opposes him. Our insane notion of national superiority, coupled with an immoral capitalistic greed, is leading us down a path that is certain to have catastrophic results, yet nary a word is heard from our pulpits.

The Scriptures are clear: Christians are called to be people of peace and justice. We are to be peacemakers. It is absurd to suggest, as George Bush does, that by waging war we will have peace. War always begets war and history bears this out. Only peace begets peace. It is time for all nations, including America, to lay aside and destroy ALL weapons of mass destruction. Our nation needs to repudiate its doctrine concerning preemptive first strikes against other nations. The world needs to know that America will be a peacemaking nation who desires peace and freedom for all men. While we must leave place for the need of defensive war or even what the theologians call “just war,” we must forsake attacking and killing others just because we do not like their government structure or way of life. Muslims have a right to live as they choose without America interfering in their affairs. It is time we stop exporting Western civilization as the answer to the world’s problems. Better for us to concern ourselves with our own moral, ethical, and civic  failures than trying to fix the problems of the world.

Fifty or so years ago the phrase “better dead than Red” was coined. Unfortunately, that philosophy is still alive and well. The proponents of this notion believe it is better for us all to be dead than to have any other government or civilization than we have now. We had best think about the reality of such a notion because when the nuclear bombs start falling, it will be too late. The Reagan/Bush Star War notion of missile defense will not save us once the bombs begin to fall. It will only take a few bombs to render this world unlivable. Those who survive will wish that they had not.

It is not too late. Voices need to be raised in opposition and protest to the war policy of the Bush administration.  Protesters need to make their voices heard via letters and public protest. Conscientious men and women in the military need to say “I will not” to their leaders who want to slaughter them on the altar of political and economic gain. Politicians need to get some backbone and be willing to stand up to the war mongering hawks on Capitol Hill. They have been raised up “for such a time as this!”

Time is running out.

Rev. Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio

Edited for grammar December 28, 2015

2000 Bryan Times Editorial by Pastor Bruce Gerencser About True Christianity

i am god

Published on August 17, 2000. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I  used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

It is time that we make some radical changes to our printed money and the pledge of the Allegiance. Both our printed money and the Pledge of Allegiance give testimony to the historical truth that the United States was a country that believed in God. Not just any God, but Jehovah God, the God of the Christian Bible.

Sadly, we as a nation no longer believe in Jehovah. Due to misguided thinking about pluralism and tolerance, we have become a nation of many gods. Those that dare assert that we were founded as a Christian nation (and a Protestant Christian nation at that) are labeled narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant miscreants.

The God attested to on our printed money and in the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer allowed to be mentioned in our Country. Recently, a young girl wanted to sing the song Kumbya at a camp talent show. She was not permitted to sing this song because it mentioned the word Lord. Government schools have eradicated every vestige of God from the classroom. The very schools that were founded on Christian principles (Just look at a set of  McGuffey Readers) have not only left that foundation, but try to insist such a foundation never existed. School officials are so afraid of God (or is it the god called the ACLU) that children no longer have Easter break. Instead they have spring break. Children are given two weeks off at Christmas, yet they are never told what Christmas is. Attend the average government school Christmas program and you will come away with the conclusion that Christmas is all about snow, Rudolph, Frosty, et al. Pages could be written on the deliberate banishment of Jehovah from every aspect of public life.

What are the reasons for this happening? They are several. First, there is the mythical, so-called “separation of Church and State.”The separation clause is routinely quoted by government and school officials when they want to dismiss the religious requests and activities of others. Truth is, what is really happening is that Jehovah is the only God not welcome. All other gods are quite welcome.The god of humanism is quite welcome.The new age god is welcome.This past school year, in a Williams County elementary class room, a teacher took class time to teach the children about serial killers. Our children can be taught about such perverse things but they can not be taught the solution to serial killing? (faith in God) Schools try to enforce a moral and ethical code yet they fail. Why? You cannot have morals and ethics without a religious foundation. Morals and ethics demand an answer to the question “WHY is this wrong?” Why is it wrong to have sex before marriage? Why is it wrong to steal? Without God and His standard, the Ten Commandments, we have no foundation for morality and ethics.

Another reason is the myth called toleration. Liberals and conservatives alike bandy about the thought of toleration. The foundation of toleration is that all truth is equal and that all viewpoints are valid.Our Country has become one big comparative religion class. Truth is, there is no such thing as true toleration, nor can there be. Christians believe the Bible to be their standard of morality and ethics. They believe the Bible to be, not just one truth among many, but THE TRUTH! Christians are called on to love what God loves and hate what God hates. Yes, we are a narrow, intolerant bunch because we dare suggest there is but one God, one way to heaven. We dare suggest there is but one moral and ethical code, the Bible. We dismiss arguments couched in words “well that’s your opinion“ and we reply by saying “Thus saith the Lord.” Matters such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, drunkenness, abortion etc. are not matters for political debate. The Bible is clear on such matters.

It is amazing how we have redefined that which God calls sin. Homosexuality is called an alternative lifestyle. Drunkenness is called a disease. The adulterous partner is now called the significant other. On and on and on it goes. God said “Be not deceived…For whatever a man sows that he will also reap.” We are reaping our harvest in America. The foundations are crumbling. Is anyone paying attention?

It’s time we either admit that Jehovah is dead and remove His name from our money and the pledge of allegiance or perhaps it is time we reassert the kingdom rights of the true and living God. God’s people need to stand up and be counted. Not in Marches for Jesus, but in the workplace, the school. the government and in every public arena of life. We need to sound forth that name which is above every name. That name, and only that name, by which men shall be saved.

Notes

This article might shed some light on why local Christians don’t know what to do with my defection from Christianity. I was a leader, a spokesman for the faithful. I wrote what they wished they could say. And now? An atheist? How can such things be?

2005 Bryan Times Editorial by Bruce Gerencser About the Iraq War

bruce gerencser 2002

Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Published on August 25, 2005. This was written two years after I left the ministry. If you have been reading the previous editorials I have posted  you will notice in this editorial that my worldview has definitely shifted. This was written in reaction to my frustrating inability to find a church to attend that did not support the war in Iraq This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

There is a new fundamentalism rising up in America. While it has Christian theological overtones, it is really right-wing political extremism wrapped in the clothes of conservative Christian dogma. There was a time when politics and religion did not mix and were considered separate planes in God’s created order.  Things are much different today. Political activism from the pulpit is common. A recent front page feature article in the Columbus Dispatch about Rod Parsley, pastor of World Harvest Church in Columbus shows very clearly the agenda of this new fundamentalism. Parsley pastors a Church with over 10,000 members. The annual Church budget is in excess of $32,000,000. Parsley advocates pastors rising up to become Patriot Pastors. Theocracy is the goal.

Some would suggest that we ignore this folly and it will fade away as quickly as the Atkins Diet. Our nation has faced many well-intentioned but misguided attempts at reclaiming the culture for God. All have run their course. All have utterly failed because they attempt to use political means to gain a spiritual end.

But we can not ignore this movement because it is resulting in the death and maiming of thousands of people. Virtually every person involved in this new fundamentalism  supports the war in Iraq. They have bought into the rhetoric that the war in Iraq is a war of good vs. evil. Opposition to the war is shouted down with angry words such as traitor,  unpatriotic, liberal, etc. All discussion has ceased. Arrogant fundamentalism has usurped the right to speak for all Christians. We must always remember that one the key tenets of fundamentalism is the belief that you have the complete truth and that all other views are error. No discussion. No shades of gray. Those who hold a different view are considered the enemy.

The most dangerous factor in the Iraq war is the fundamentalist religious right. Their thinking is not much different from the fundamentalist Muslims. They believe God is on their side and that the infidel needs to be destroyed. It is no wonder that many Muslims view the war in Iraq as a religious war. America, led by a Christian President, claims to be a Christian nation. God is invoked to justify virtually everything we do.

Most of the leaders of the fundamentalist religious right have a particular eschatological belief called pretribulational premillennialism. This is the theology of the wildly popular Left Behind book series. It is a relatively modern school of eschatological thought which is first found in writings of the mid-19th century. According to  this system of thought, the world is headed toward a seven-year period called the Great Tribulation. This period of time concludes with Armageddon, at which time the thousand-year millennial kingdom of Christ will be established. Prior to the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return and rapture out all the Christians. it is important to keep this in mind when listening to the war rhetoric of the fundamentalist religious right. According to their theological system, Mathew 24 must be literally fulfilled. One of the key tenets of Matthew 24 is “war and rumors of war.“ Those holding to this theological persuasion have no impetus to be “peacemakers.“ War is inevitable, and the more war we have the closer we are to the rapture.

I am a conservative Christian. My theology and personal lifestyle practices place me squarely in the conservative Christian camp. Unfortunately, I am, along with many others, the son no one talks about. We sit silently in church while our ministers talk up war and nationalism from the pulpit. l speak for those who are Christians but who can not support the war in Iraq. I speak for those who believe that Jesus called us to be ”peacemakers.” It is not enough to believe In peace. We must actively promote peace.

Where are the conservative Churches and pastors that take a stand against war and actively promote peace? Have we become so blinded by our political agenda and fanciful eschatological interpretations that we have forsaken the Jesus who preached the Sermon on the Mount?

We should note that when justification for war is talked about, it is the name of God that is invoked. Have you noticed that no one says, “Jesus supports the War In Iraq?“ Using the generic term God invokes the Image of the wrathful God of the Old Testament. When we speak the name of Jesus we come away with a different image. We do not see Jesus as the soldier, the warrior. We see him as the shepherd, as the meek, mild-mannered, peace loving Savior of the world.

slightly edited to correct some embarrassing grammar errors

A 2002 Bryan Times Editorial by Pro-Life Pastor Bruce Gerencser

thou shalt not kill

Published on January 13, 2002. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

The anniversary of the famed Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade has just past. Almost 30 years ago the Supreme Court ruled that abortion on demand was legal in the United States. Since that time, a battle between the forces called pro-life and pro-choice has raged without abatement in our country. We truly are a nation divided when it comes to abortion. Both sides have taken to the legal and political arena in an attempt to stifle or crush their opposition. In the case of the pro-life movement, some on the far extreme of the movement have taken to murdering clinic workers and the doctors who perform the abortions.  Several men with such beliefs are on the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

How are we, as Christians, to respond to the continued murder of babies in abortion clinics, private doctors offices and hospitals? Some may suggest that I am asserting that the word Christian and pro-life are synonymous. Such observation  is correct. Christianity and pro-choice are not compatible one with the other. I have written a number of times over the years on this issue, and each time I receive letters from supposed pro-choice Christians. Perhaps such folks are well-intentioned, but it is theologically impossible to square being a Christian with also being pro-choice. To be a Christian is to walk in the steps of, and follow after, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was pro-life and the Law of God states very clearly “Thou shalt not kill.”

The command “Thou shalt not kill” has a positive precept attached to it. That precept is “thou shalt preserve life.” If we are not to kill, then we are to preserve life instead. This preserving of life extends to not only the abortion clinic, but also the prison and countries where we are engaged in war. The Bible teaches and permits capital punishment, but it also prescribes when and who it is to be carried out.  The Bible permits just war, but it also prescribes when and how such war is to be carried out.  We must always remember that the killing of other human beings shows the baseness of human society, not its superiority.  As Christians, we have a duty to preserve life at every opportunity. We must stand against abortion. We must work to outlaw the practice in the United States and the rest of the world. We should also be actively working to promote justice for those in prison and to insist that God’s law be followed in the execution of those guilty of first degree murder. We must hold our government and military accountable for its actions in Afghanistan. Find the terrorists. Punish the evildoer, but in doing so do no harm to innocent men, women and children.

We must continue to wage the war of words with the pro-choice crowd. They speak of the “woman’s right to choose” and yet they are rarely challenged to the assertions they make in regard to this statement. I too, support a “woman’s right to choose.” She makes a choice to have sexual relations with a man, and she must live with the consequences of such an action.  The pro-choice movement is at the forefront of the “right to have sex whenever with whomever movement” and then with the quickness of a magician they deny any accountability for the choice that is made. There are many choices a pregnant woman can make, but far too often abortion is the only option given because it is the easy way out.  Adoption is an option. Extended family assistance in raising the child is an option.  Our government needs to streamline the adoption process making it easy for families to adopt these unwanted babies

We must do more than just object to abortion. We must also put our words into action. We must help support women in their pregnancy and provide the means for their care.  Every unwanted baby needs a home. My wife and I are the parents of six children, yet if needed, we would take on the responsibility of another child. It would not be easy, but our words must be backed up with action.

We must continue to oppose the fringes of the pro-life movement that advocates violence and murder in the name of God.  Murdering a baby via abortion is a sin but so is murdering an abortion clinic doctor.  We must not bear the sword. God gives government the responsibility of bearing the sword to punish evildoers. As we stand against abortion we must work to change the laws of the land. Abortion must once again be illegal. We must work to enact laws that make it criminal to participate in any part of the abortion process. We need to stop the tax flow to organizations that promote abortion. Let Planned Parenthood get its money from its liberal constituents, but not from the American taxpayer.  There is much work to do and killing an abortion doctor will not stop the abortion mills. There will always be another to take their place. Instead, we must make abortion illegal thus removing the financial incentives that continue to fuel the abortion mills.

It is easy to become complacent in the matter of abortion.  As I watched the events of September 11th my heart was grieved. I mourned and wept for days over the tragic loss of life. Yet, keeping it all in perspective, the loss of life at Ground Zero equals one day of work in the abortion clinics of America.  Our hands are covered with the blood of millions of babies that have been aborted since that fateful day when Roe vs. Wade became law. We must not rest until justice for all once again prevails in our Land. May God give us the grace and strength necessary to not waver in this battle of battles.

Local Christians Respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

biblical marriage

On Friday, the godless, anti-American,socialistic, communistic,  jihadist, liberal, satanic-inspired U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ohio’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Ohio Governor John Kasich, also known as Mr. Wall Street, publicly admitted the marriage battle is over: (link no longer active)

“I’ve always felt that marriage is, you know, one of these traditions between a man and a woman, but the Court has spoken. And I’ve said all along that when the Court makes a decision, we abide by the law of the land. And they made their determination and—just move on. It doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed, I am, but the decision has been made.”

 

Williams County Commissioner Al Word, formerly the sheriff of Williams County, evidently slept through high school government class. Word told The Bryan Times (behind paywall):

“Why don’t they change the voting process so the minority always wins?  I believe everyone should be treated with respect, whoever they are, but this has gone completely over the edge. I’m in total disbelief and most people don’t realize the gravity of the whole thing. It changes who we are and how our issues get decided.”

Evidently, Word thinks the United States is a democracy where the majority rules. However, as anyone who has ever taken a government class should know, the United States is a republic with a representative form of government. Majority or minority has little to do with it, and in the case of the Supreme Court ruling, the issue is the court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, especially the equal protection clause.

I understand why Word is upset. In 2004, Ohioans voted to restrict marriage to “only a union between one man and one woman.” This constitutional amendment passed 62-38 percent statewide. In Williams County the margin was 73-27 percent. According to The Bryan Times, the voting margins were similar in nearby Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Paulding, and Van Wert counties.

But, let’s look at the numbers (link no longer active) for God’s Kingdom-Northwest Ohio Division, also known as Williams County. In 2004, there were 26,722 registered voters in Williams County and 18,294 of them voted on the marriage amendment. (68% voter turnout) 13,275 voted for Issue One, and 5,019 vote against the amendment. Yes, 73% of those who voted cast a vote in favor of the marriage amendment. However, when measured against the number of registered voters, the number drops to 50%. As in the case of most Ohio ballot initiatives, they are voted up or down by a majority of a minority. (in 2004, Ohio had its largest voter turnout in years)

I think Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is right when he said:

“The court has spoken. The public is behind the court and the court speaks for the public…I am convinced Ohio voters, if they had it to do over would agree. Marriage equality is the law of the land now, period, just like civil rights. It’s a victory for everyone, gay and straight. Those who disagree will be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

After the Court’s decision, The Bryan Times contacted “virtually every church in Bryan”  to get a response. Only two pastors responded: Pat Schwenk, pastor of New Hope Community Church and Kevin Kellum, pastor of Grace Community Church. Both pastors were deeply disturbed by the ruling.

Schwenk stated:

This is certainly not the firs time the U.S. Supreme Court has made a ruling contrary to the truth of God’s word. It’s not a decision we celebrate, nor is it one we despair over either. God is still in control. Regardless of the moral and spiritual drift happening in our country, our response should be to faithfully honor God first, while loving others–even when there is disagreement.

Kellum stated:

Troubling, for a number of reasons. The church’s worldview of marriage has always been that it’s a vow between a man and a woman. Now we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve talked about openly with the congregation. Our doors are open to any race, gender, and (sexual) orientation.  We still have hope and we still believe and obey the word of God and depend on him for guidance on our lives, and we continue to look to God for his definition (of marriage). I’m concerned that there is a whole generation of young people who have no foundation in the church’s teachings, and with this ruling, I expect that to continue, to present a challenge to the church.

Don’t be blinded and misled by the talk of loving others and open doors. These words are loaded with Evangelical presuppositions, and all that is meant by their perfidious words is:

Yes we love homosexuals, they need Jesus, so our doors are open so that they can repent and find Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And if they don’t, they are going to be eternally tortured by God in hell.

Neither pastor is willing to openly and without reservation embrace homosexuals and welcome them into the membership. Married same-sex couples will find that very few local churches are willing to treat them as they do married heterosexual couples. As long as the Bible is the authoritative standard, same-sex couples will never be treated justly, fairly, and equally in churches like New Hope and Grace Community Church.

Over in Defiance County, the Crescent-News asked readers what they thought of the Court’s ruling. Here’s what several local fundamentalists had to say on the newspaper’s Facebook page:

crescent news 1

crescent news 2

crescent news 3

I left more comments on the Crescent-News’s page than anyone else, yet when the newspaper printed many of the comments in today’s edition of the paper, none of my comments were printed. It’s hard not to conclude that they either “overlooked” my comments, they were too long, too intellectual, or they didn’t want to give the village atheist any more press.

The Bryan Times was able to find an openly gay local man willing to comment. Here’s what Denver Henderson of Bryan had to say:

“Yesterday, I could do anything everyone else does–buy a car, own a house, pay taxes, fall in love–but there was always one thing I couldn’t do. Tomorrow I can. It’s not a big national question of ‘Can we?’ anymore. Now it’s the personal question of ‘Do we want to?’  (That kind of freedom is)  what it feels like to be a part of ‘We the People.’  It’s a big deal. It’s history happening right now and you don’t get to see that very often.”

Notes

Over the years, I’ve tried to give the Crescent-News editorial staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like not printing my comments, but I have reached a point where I am no longer willing to do so. If I am missing something here, then I’d love for Steve VanDemark, Dennis Van Scoder, Todd Helberg, Mark Froelich , or Bruce Hefflinger to point it out to me. From “lost” letters to the editor, a “lost” 35th wedding anniversary announcement, numerous resumes submitted for a photography position flushed down the toilet, and no response to emails, comments, and tweets, it’s hard not to conclude that the newspaper has no interest in engaging me at any level. Even when fundamentalists personally attack me in their letters to the editor, making inflammatory and untrue statements, the newspaper says nothing. Why is this?

Grace Community Church is a part of the Ohio Mennonite conference. While there has been some movement towards accepting same-sex marriage at the national level, I suspect most NW Ohio Mennonite pastors/churches consider homosexuality and same-sex marriage a sin.

New Hope Community Church is a garden variety Evangelical church. Here’s their doctrinal statement (proof texts removed):

The Infallibility of the Bible
We accept the miracles, creation, etc., as literal accounts.
To repudiate any portion of Scripture as unreliable is like changing an inch on a ruler.
If one inch is changed, the entire system of measurement is altered.

The Absolute Diety of Christ

The Virgin Birth of Christ

The Historical Creation of Man
Man did not accidentally evolve from lower forms of life.
God created man as a unique spiritual being.

The Sinful Nature of Man
Man is not basically good.
He is basically evil.

The Substitutionary Death of Christ
Others have died difficult, martyrs’ deaths.
Jesus is the only One who died for the sins of the world.

The Bodily Resurrection of Christ
Some say Christ arose in spirit or His teaching lives on.
But the Bibles teaches Jesus arose bodily from the grave.

A Literal Return of Christ to Earth as Promised

The Resurrection and Assignment of All People to Heaven or Hell
We are sometimes criticized for too rigid a stand.
But Jesus said, “Narrow is the way…”

Nuclear War and the Prince of Peace

letter to the editor

“I am against war, against violence, against violent revolution, for peaceful settlement of differences, for nonviolent but nevertheless radical changes. Change is needed, and violence will not really change anything: at most it will only transfer power from one set of bull-headed authorities to another.”

Thomas Merton

“Technically I am not a pure pacifist in theory, though today in practice I don’t see how anyone can be anything else since limited wars (however ‘just’) present an almost certain danger of nuclear war on an all-out scale. It is absolutely clear to me that we are faced with the obligation, both as human beings and as Christians, of striving in every way possible to abolish war”.  

Thomas Merton 1961

“Nonviolence seeks to “win” not by destroying or even by humiliating the adversary, but by convincing him that there is a higher and more certain common good than can be attained by bombs and blood. Nonviolence, ideally speaking, does not try to overcome the adversary by winning over him, but to turn him from an adversary into a collaborator by winning him over.”

Thomas Merton 1968

“Perhaps peace is not, after all, something you work for, or “fight for.” It is indeed “fighting for peace” that starts all the wars. What, after all, are the pretexts of all these Cold War crises, but “fighting for peace”? Peace is something you have or you do not have. If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world. Then you share your peace with everyone, and everyone will be at peace. Of course I realize that arguments like this can be used as a pretext for passivity, for indifferent acceptance of every iniquity. Quietism leads to war as surely as anything does. But I am not speaking of quietism, because quietism is not peace, nor is it the way to peace.”

Thomas Merton 1966

I wrote the following on Christmas Day 2002. At the time, I was a Christian pastor. As you can see, I had wandered far from my Fundamentalist/Evangelical roots. This was published the next week in The Bryan Times.

Dear Editor,

What a wonderful and beautiful Christmas Day! The ground is blanketed with six or so inches of snow and all is peaceful and quiet. There is nothing more beautiful than a crisp winter morning after an overnight snowfall. This wintry scene causes me to reflect on the glory of Christmas Day and the meaning of it. Christmas is about redemption. Christmas is about Jesus the Son of God taking on human flesh, and being born of the virgin Mary in the city of Bethlehem. Jesus came into the world at the appointed time to bring redemption to all men. He came to proclaim peace and justice for all. He is called the Prince of Peace. Later in His life, Jesus would declare that peace and justice were to be character traits of those who profess to be followers of Him.

It is my thoughts of peace and justice that now begin to cloud my thoughts on this Christmas Day. Jesus came to bring peace, yet there is no peace. Jesus came to bring justice, yet there is no justice. Those who claim to be His followers show little concern for peace and justice. It seems they are all too busy with eating, drinking, and being merry to concern themselves with such weighty notions of peace and justice. But, concern ourselves with them we must.

I have been reading of late the Social Essays of the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. These essays were written at the height of the cold war and the Vietnam war. I am amazed at how timely Merton’s essays are for today, though they were written 40 years ago. In his time, Merton had to constantly battle censors within the Catholic Church who attempted to silence his anti-war message. Merton was quite creative in the ways he got his message to the public. His voice still speaks loudly today.

Merton’s essays on nuclear war, unilateralism, and preemptive war should be required reading for all Americans. Merton reminds us of the lunacy of the notion that a nuclear war can be fought and won. Once the buttons are pushed, the world as we know it ceases to exist. Thoughts of non-defensive, unilateral, preemptive war, Merton reminds us, is immoral and should be condemned by all Christians.

Today, America sits on the precipice of nuclear world war. We have become the big bully who thinks he can get his way by bluffing and threatening. Every once in a while the bully even whips some weakling to show who is the toughest. Such is the case with Iraq. But now we have added North Korea to our list of nations we are intent on bullying. Unfortunately, North Korea does not quiver and shake at our threatenings. They well remember an America who could not defeat them during the Korean War. Since then, the North Koreans have added nuclear and biological weapons to their arsenal. According to recent newspaper reports, the North Koreans are quite willing to use what weapons they have to defend themselves.

What troubles me the most in all of this is the silence emanating from the pulpits of America. It seems the only voice that is heard is from war mongers like Jerry Falwell. Does he, and those like him, speak for the rest of us? The German Church silently sat by while Hitler put into force the plans and programs that would later give us World War II and the Holocaust. Now, the clergy of America sit by silently as George Bush and Company put into force programs like the Patriot Act and the Home Security Act. George Bush threatens war and destruction on any nation that opposes him. Our insane notion of national superiority, coupled with immoral capitalistic greed, is leading us down a path that is certain to have catastrophic results, yet nary a word is heard from our pulpits.

The Scriptures are clear, Christians are called to be people of peace and justice. We are to be peace makers. It is absurd to suggest, as George Bush does, that by waging war we will have peace. War always begets war and history bears this out. Only peace begets peace. It is time for all nations, including America, to lay aside and destroy ALL weapons of mass destruction. Our nation needs to repudiate its doctrine concerning preemptive first strikes against other nations. The world needs to know that America will be a peacemaking nation who desires peace and freedom for all men. While we must leave place for the need of defensive war or even what the theologians call “just war”, we must forsake attacking and killing others just because we do not like their government structure or way of life. Muslims have a right to live as they live without America interfering in their affairs. It is time we stop exporting Western civilization as the answer to the world’s problems. Better for us to concern ourselves with our own moral, ethical, and civil failures than trying to fix the problems of the world.

Fifty or so years ago the phrase “better dead than Red” was coined. Unfortunately, that philosophy is still alive and well. The proponents of this notion believe it is better for us all to be dead than to have any government or civilization than we have now. We best think about the reality of such a notion because when the nuclear bombs start falling it will be too late. The Reagan/Bush Star War notion of missile defense will not save us once the bombs start to fall. It will only take a few bombs to render this world unlivable. Those who survive will wish that had not.

It is not too late. Voices need to be raised in opposition and protest to the war policy of the Bush administration. Protesters need to make their voice heard via letters and public protest. Conscientious men and women in the military need to say “I will not” to their leaders who want to slaughter them on the altar of political and economic gain. Politicians need to get some backbone and be willing to stand up to the war mongering hawks on Capitol Hill. They have been raised up “for such a time as this!”

Bruce Gerencser
Alvordton, Ohio