Tag Archive: Christmas

1976: My First Christmas with Polly

bruce polly gerencser midwestern baptist college 1977

Bruce Gerencser, Polly Shope 1977

In August 1976, I packed my meager belongings into my dilapidated, rust-bucket of a car and moved two hours north to the Midwestern Baptist College dormitory. Midwestern, located in Pontiac, Michigan, was a small, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college. I planned to study for the ministry. Well, that, and chase girls. I thought, at the time, that Midwestern would provide me an ample supply of Baptist girls to date. Playing the field, was my goal. However, “God” had different plans. By the end of September, I was in a serious relationship with a beautiful dark-haired preacher’s daughter named Polly. To say that I was smitten is a gross understatement. In February of 1977, we became engaged, and in July 1978 we tied the knot at the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio.

Forty-three years ago, I met a young woman who altered the course of my life. How we got to where we are today requires a book-length telling, but for today, let me share with you the story of our first Christmas.

Polly’s family gathered for Christmas on Christmas Eve. On a snowy Christmas Eve afternoon, I left my mother’s home in Bryan, Ohio and traveled four hours south to Newark, Ohio — the home of Polly’s parents and aunt and uncle. The family gathering that year was held at the home of Jim and Linda Dennis. Jim, married to Polly’s mom’s younger sister, was the pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple — an IFB institution. Both Jim and Polly’s father were graduates of Midwestern Baptist College.

Prior to the family gathering, a short, dutiful Christmas Eve service was held at the Baptist Temple. Jim, ever the jokester, pointed out to the congregation that his niece Polly had a guest with her. “They have a shirttail relationship. We just don’t know how long the shirttail is.” Polly and I were thoroughly embarrassed. No one in Polly’s family, at the time, thought that our relationship would last. I was Polly’s first boyfriend, so her family thought I was just a fad that would quickly pass.

After church, we drove to the Dennis’s home. Polly’s mom had her sister and cousin ride with us, just in case we did something nefarious; you know like hold hands or kiss. We safely arrived to Dennis’ home with our virginity intact.

Until my arrival in Newark, Polly and I had never kissed. That’s right, we had been dating for four months and had not yet kissed each other. The reason for this was simple. Midwestern banned, under threat of expulsion, all physical contact between unmarried dating couples. Called the six-inch rule, this ban caused all sorts of emotional trauma for dating couples. You see, it is normal for couples to desire and have physical contact with each other. “Normal” at Midwestern, however, was determined by the Bible, sexually frustrated preachers, and arcane rules imported from Bob Jones University — the college where the founder of Midwestern, Tom Malone, received his ministerial training.

Getting caught touching a member of the opposite sex was a sure way to get yourself “campused” (grounded from all outside activities, including dating). Repeat offenders were “shipped” (expelled). Polly and I both received demerits for breaking the six-inch rule. Our sin? I played on the college basketball team (not a big feat — think intramural basketball). One day at practice, I slapped at a basketball, severely dislocating a finger. I went to the local ER and oh-so-painfully had the finger put back in place. It remains crooked to this day. I had to wear a finger splint for several weeks. Male students were required to wear ties to classes. The splint hindered my ability to tie my tie, so I asked Polly to do it for me. Keep in mind we were standing in the middle of dorm common area when Polly tied my tie. If we had plans to break the six-inch rule, this would not have been the place we would have done so. Unfortunately, a couple sitting nearby turned us into the disciplinary committee. The next week, we appeared before the committee and were shamed for our licentious, immoral behavior. I suspect the only reason we weren’t punished more severely was because of who Polly’s uncle and father were (Jim was a college trustee at the time).

As you might imagine, by Christmas, our hormones were raging. We looked forward to getting away from the college and its rules so we could privately and intimately express our love to one another. Oh, college administrators warned unmarried students that the six-inch rule still applied while at home for Christmas break. I thought, at the time, “yeah, right. Catch us if you can.”

Polly’s parents lived in an apartment on Union Street. I spent a total of twenty-four hours with Polly that first Christmas. Our first kiss came when Polly’s mom asked her to go to the apartment complex’s laundry room to do some laundry. Seeing an opportunity for some old-fashioned necking, I went along, and it was there we had our first kiss. We did a lot of laundry that day.

Come Christmas Day, it was time for me to go home. Polly begged her mom to let me stay one more day, but she refused. Polly’s mom would spend the next fifteen months doing all she could to destroy our relationship — including forbidding us to marry. Needless to say, she and I have had an on-and-off-contentious relationship for years. In recent years, our relationship with Polly’s parents has improved. Age and impending death will do that, I suppose.

Many kisses would follow that first kiss on Christmas Eve 1976. After our return to Midwestern after break, Polly and I had a real problem on our hands. You see, we had crossed a physical line, and once that line was crossed there was no going back. We spent the next nineteen months breaking the six-inch rule, only double-dating with dorm couples who had the same “moral” standards we had. Summer breaks allowed us the freedom to act normally, but while classes were in session, we had to sneak around to just kiss one another. While we both were virgins on our wedding day, both of us knew that if we waited much longer to get married that we would likely have given in to our passions. A week or so before our wedding, Polly’s mom let us go to The Dawes Arboretum south of Newark without a chaperone. We spent several hours enjoying one another’s embrace, coming oh-so-close to rounding third and sliding into home. As it was, Polly was on a strict curfew, and we were late. Boy, did we get a lecture when we arrived home. Here we were getting married in a matter of days, and we were being treated like children.

One memory about our first Christmas stands tall in my mind. Polly and I were sitting on the couch, close enough to touch one another, but not so close as to arouse her eagle-eye mom’s attention, watching a TV special starring Captain & Tennille. One of the songs they sang was their 1975 number one hit, “Love Will Keep Us Together.

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Forty-three years later, that song is still true. Love, indeed, has kept us together.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Bruce, You Ruined Your Children When You Walked Away From Jesus

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Oldest Three Boys with Oldest Daughter, Front pew Somerset Baptist Church, Circa 1990

My wife and I have six adult children. Our children are gainfully employed and we have good, close relationships with all of them. Our children were raised as PK’s — preacher’s kids. Growing up as the children of the pastor wasn’t easy. Both congregants and their father held them to a higher standard than that of other children. My children knew that their behavior would directly reflect on me — warranted or not. As a result, my children were generally respectful, polite, and well-behaved. I have often wondered if they liked this life that was chosen for them. None of them has said one way or the other, but I do wonder if they would have preferred a “normal” childhood (however “normal” is defined).  Perhaps, one of these days my daughter or one of my sons will write a guest post for this site, sharing their thoughts about what it was like growing up as the children of Rev. Bruce Gerencser, a devout Evangelical pastor. Or maybe, just maybe, my children prefer to let their childhoods lie buried in the past, never to be resurrected again. Their stories are theirs alone to tell. The same goes for Polly.

After my wife and I divorced Jesus, I heard from former colleagues in the ministry and parishioners who had a message for me from Jesus: YOU ARE RUINING YOUR FAMILY, BRUCE! Polly was never blamed for anything. Always Miss Perfect! 🙂 I was the head of the home, I was told, so I was responsible for how their lives turned out. It’s been eleven years since we attended church for the last time. Our children, at the time, were age 15, 17, 19, 24, 27, and 29.  All of them were old enough to decide for themselves when it when came to God, Christianity, the Bible, attending church, etc. Three of them were married and had children. Yet, according to my critics, it’s my fault for their loss of faith. Granted, Mom and Dad not going to church, Dad not preaching, and Jesus/Bible/church not being the focus of discussion 24/7 certainly confused them. I have been accused of turning my children over to the wolves by just cutting them loose after I deconverted; that I owed it to them to steer them in the “right” direction, even if I didn’t want to head that way myself. Here’s the thing: my children were old enough to think for themselves. Steering them in the right direction meant giving them the freedom to be whomever and whatever they wanted to be — no strings attached. Some of my children were already at the back door of the church, ready to push it open and walk away. All my deconversion did was give them freedom — you’re free, cheezy bread, you’re free!

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Fundamentalist family members believe that if I would have just kept serving Jesus and preaching the Word, that all of my children would still be attending Evangelical churches, would still be worshiping Jesus, and would still be part of the machinations of church life. I can’t help but feel my mother-in-law’s disappointment when she quietly shakes her head over our “worldliness” and that of our children. How worldly are we? Why, we drink alcohol and cuss. That’s about it. Well that, and watch HBO. Yes, two of my sons have gone through divorces, but am I to blame for their failed marriages? I think not. Sure, our family is more boisterous now that Jesus isn’t the center of attention, but we are not degenerates. This Sunday, our family will gather at our home for Christmas — twenty-four, in all.  We will all cram into our 12’x18′ living room to watch the opening of gifts. Someone will suggest, as they always do, that the windows need to be opened and we need to build on an addition to our home. Jokes will follow, and Dad will abused by his sons. One thing is for certain, crammed as the room shall indeed be, it filled with love. The focus will be on family, not religion. “But, Bruce, JESUS is the reason for the Season!” Really? No, he’s not, not even in Evangelical homes. Oh sure, there will be prayers and Jesus talk, but once those things are dispensed with, it’s on to fun, food, and fellowship. The Gerencser family just so happens to enjoy the fun, food, and fellowship, sans Jesus. Several of our children will attend mass over the Christmas season, but for the most part they will focus their time and energy on their families. You see, whatever they think of me leaving the ministry and my subsequent loss of faith, they understand that what really matters is family. And if I can be faulted for teaching my children (and grandchildren) anything it is this: family matters.

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Youngest Children, Defiance, Ohio, Circa Late 1990s, Early 2000s.

When the substance of this life is boiled away and you are on your deathbed, what will matter the most to you? Your money? Your car? Your home? Your looks? Your material possessions? I doubt it. I know, for me at least, that what matters are Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, Aalyiah, Victoria, Karah, Levi, Emma, Guin, Gabby, Morgan, Charlee, Lily, Alayna, Ezra, my daughters-in-law, my son-in-law, Polly’s parents, and my brother and sister. From there, I have a few friends who are dear to me. These people make up the sum of my life. I labor under no illusions. I will never be an award-winning Sports Illustrated photographer or be remembered for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I know when I die that I will, over time, be forgotten by most of the people with whom I have crossed paths. I will become little more than a historical footnote. Perhaps this blog will live on after I die, but who will pay to keep it operating, and who will take care of its day-to-day administration? It, like everything in life, will eventually fade away. Everything in life is transitory, but a vapor, the Bible says, that appears for a moment and vanishes away. I remember sitting in school classrooms on cold winter days, aimlessly watching the steam from boiler radiators rise up and dissipate. That’s life. When Polly, our children, and our grandchildren share their favorite Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories at my lakeside memorial, I hope they will have good things to say about me, and a few ribald, silly things too. In that moment, they will learn that all we really have is our memories. Treasure them, for they too, over time, will fade away.

As for former colleagues in the ministry, former church members, and Evangelical family members who continue to paint me as Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa — a man who ruined his family — all I can say is “talk to the hand.” Well, I “could” say a lot more than that — I love the F word these days — but why bother? It’s too late in the game for me to worry about catcalls from the stands; to worry about arrogant, judgmental Christians who cannot or will not see how blessed the Gerencser family really is without Jesus.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Breaking News: John MacArthur Says I’m a False God

bruce-gerencser-santa-claus

I found the following excerpt on the Reformation Charlotte blog. Transcribed by Tony Capoccia from a 1990 sermon by Fundamentalist Calvinist John MacArthur, it is clear that Mac believes Santa is a false God; and since I am Santa, that means he thinks I am S-a-t-a-n in the flesh.

Here’s what MacArthur had to say about Santa Claus:

What a false, fake substitute the world puts forth at this time [Christmas 1990] for that true message. Do you remember these words? “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why; Santa Claus is coming to town. He’s making a list and he’s checking it twice; gonna find out whose naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping; he knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes. You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why; Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Now does that threaten you? That is a very threatening poem. That is intended to scare children. Now listen, if you look at the letters of Santa, you will see that Satan is hidden in Santa. When we teach a child to sing this song, we are teaching him a false theology. We are teaching him a false set of doctrine. Let me see if I can explain it to you.

First, that song teaches that Santa is a transcendent being. He lives on a higher plane. He lives on another level. He transcends time and space. He has powers equal to whom? God! Not only that, he knows everything. He’s omniscient. “He knows when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows when you’re naughty. He knows when you’re nice.” He knows everything.

Not only that, he’s everywhere. “He sees you when you’re sleeping.” He’s not only omniscient, he’s omnipresent. And he is watching to see whether you have been good or bad. And not only that, but he bestows favors. Now on what basis does Santa give his favors? What must I do to receive good things from this transcendent being, called Santa. Well it is very simple, I have to be what? Good. I can “earn” Santa’s favor. If I am good, Santa will give me gifts. After all, he’s making a list and he is checking it twice to make sure that we’ve been either naughty of nice. And on the basis on how we’ve been, he’ll deal with us.

And if I’m not nice and good, I won’t get any gifts. So I better be good for goodness sake, not to mention for my own sake or anybody else’s sake. But do you want to know something about Santa? He may be transcendent, and he may be omniscient, and he may be omnipotent, and he may be omnipresent. He may be dispensing all of the good things, but you know what? You can’t trust him. You can’t trust him. You say, “What do you mean by that?”

It says, “He’s checking to see if you are naughty or nice.” And you better be good for goodness sake, because if you aren’t good, you won’t what? You won’t get anything. You want to know something? That’s not true. Plenty of times I haven’t been good and I get something anyway. Every year I get something. And you want to know the truth of it? There are a lot of naughty people that get a lot and there are a lot of nice people that don’t get anything.

Do you know what about Santa Claus? You can’t trust him. He doesn’t even stay true to his own word. He’s blustering around and warning everybody to mind your manners and be good all the time; be nice and not naughty and good and not bad. And then you know what? When Christmas comes he caves in, and even when we have been naughty he gives us all that stuff. And sometimes he overlooks people that are nice. He really can’t be trusted. His threats are meaningless and so are his promises. But that’s good because it takes the sting out of him.

And there is another good thing about Santa; you only have to worry about him once a year. He only shows up once and you know when it is; it’s always on Dec 25th, so you can get your act together just a few days before. You say, “Well where is he the rest of the time?” Oh, he’s in the North Pole. Could that be heaven in Satan’s little scheme? “What’s he doing?” Oh, he has all these elfs around him. “What are they doing?” Whatever he tells them. Mostly, meaningless things like make toys. He is sort of inane isn’t he? He threatens but never fulfills his threats. He promises but doesn’t always fulfill his promises.

Is it any wonder that if I believe all that as a child, when I come to be an adult, I might have a hard time believing in a Transcendent God who does know everything, who is everywhere, who does have all power, who does keep his promises and his threats, and who does not save me and give me good gifts on the basis of my works but on the basis of His grace. If Santa has been my understanding of God, then I am in trouble. That’s why I say, hidden in the letters of Santa is Satan.

Other Posts on Christmas

1983: Drafty Windows, Bubbly Water, Dead Kittens, and the Christmas from Hell

Tales From the Appalachian Foothills: The Church Christmas Tree

1978: Our First Christmas

How Fundamentalist Christians Ruin Christmas

Christmas: A Plea To Evangelicals Who Evangelize Non-Christian Family Members

Christmas, 1957-2014

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Don’t Tell Your Children Santa is Real

Christmastime can be so much fun when you have children. Many of us remember the excitement of Santa, the Christmas tree, and presents from our own childhood. They’re happy memories, and we want to recreate those for our children.

But as Christian parents, our first priority isn’t fun, it’s obedience to Scripture. Yet is there a way to make Christmas merry for our children while still upholding God’s Word? Is Santa patently unbiblical?

No, he doesn’t have to be, as long as he keeps his sleigh parked inside the parameters of Scripture. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Santa can be unscripturally naughty, and how godly parents can keep him nice and biblical.

….

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage.

….

Santa Claus isn’t omniscient. 

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good, for goodness’ sake!¹

Uh uh. No way. Omniscience is an incommunicable attribute of God. He is the only One who has the power to see and know all things, and it is an insult and an affront to Him to even suggest that a mere mortal – let alone a fictional character – has the same power and knowledge that He has. In reverence and awe for God’s preeminence, we should never ascribe to others the things that belong to God alone.

….

Santa Claus teaches works righteousness. In St. Nick’s economy, good behavior earns a reward (presents). Bad behavior earns punishment (coal). If you’ve ever shared the gospel with anybody, that will probably sound familiar. Most lost people think that’s what Christianity is. If you’re a “good person” God is happy with you and you’ll go to Heaven. Hell is the punishment for “bad people”: Hitler, murderers, and rapists. This is not what the Bible teaches, either about salvation, or about why children should obey their parents.

— Michelle Lesley, What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?, December 2, 2019

Tales From the Appalachian Foothills — The Church Christmas Tree

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In July, 1983, I started a new Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Somerset, Ohio. I would remain the pastor of Somerset Baptist Church until March 1994. Somerset was a community of 1,400 people located in Perry County — the northernmost county in the Appalachian region. It was here that I learned what it meant to be a pastor; to truly involve yourself in the lives of others.

The membership of Somerset Baptist was primarily made up of poor working-class people. Most church families received some form of government assistance — mostly food stamps and Medicaid. In many ways, these were my kind of people. Having grown up poor myself, I knew a good bit about their struggles. I deeply loved them, and they, in return, bestowed their love on me.

From time to time, I want to share a few short stories from the eleven years I spent pastoring Somerset Baptist. I hope you’ll enjoy them. Today’s story is titled, The Church Christmas Tree.

In 1985, the congregation bought an abandoned Methodist church building five miles east of Somerset on top of Sego Hill. After months of remodeling, the sanctuary was ready to use. Built in the 1830s, the church had oak floors, colored glass windows, and a 25-foot vaulted ceiling. The building was classic for its era, one of the oldest church buildings in the county. Purchased for $5,000, the sanctuary and annex required $15,000 in improvements, including two gas furnaces to replace the coal-converted-to-propane monster in the basement. We would later install a wood/coal furnace after propane costs skyrocketed one year.

December, 1985, was our first Christmas in the new building. I decided that we would purchase a Christmas tree and put it in the back of the sanctuary. After discussing with several congregants whether to get an artificial or real tree, one man spoke up and said, “preacher, I can get us a real Christmas tree and it won’t cost us anything.” I replied, “that would be great.”

A few days later, the man showed up at the church with a huge Christmas tree in the back of his 1960s Ford pickup. The man unloaded the tree, carried it into the church, and propped up in the back corner. Proudly, he asked, “preacher, what do you think?” I looked at scrawny pine tree — 12 feet in height. I thought, “man, this tree sure is scrawny. I wonder where he bought it?” I told the man, “looks great! — a lie to be sure, but better than wounding the man’s spirit. He was so proud of doing this for me that I didn’t want to discourage him. It’s just a tree, I told myself. No big deal. “Where did you get this tree?” I asked. The man replied, “oh I went up on Route 13 and cut down one of the trees growing along the highway.” You WHAT? I alarmingly replied. “You do know that those trees are government property?” The man genuinely seemed clueless about the ownership question.  And then, without missing a beat, he replied, “well, preacher, those trees belong to God!”

This tree would be the first and last Christmas tree in the sanctuary. Two years later, I came out against Christmas and its excesses, putting an end to any sort of tree or decorations in the sanctuary. In their place, the sanctuary rang with sermons against Christmas and the excesses of the season. I am sure, compared to my guilt-inducing sermons, congregants missed the scrawny Christmas tree, regardless of its provenance.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS From the Atheist Santa

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I love Christmas. I even say “Merry Christmas.” I thoroughly enjoy the holiday season, and I might even listen to a few religious Christmas songs. At the Gerencser home, Christmas is all about family, good food, booze, gift-giving, lights, and a Lionel train circling our fresh-cut Fraser fir-tree. Tomorrow is our family Christmas. Our children, their spouses/girlfriends, and our twelve grandchildren will all be here if the fates allow.

Surprisingly, Christmas means more to me now and is more enjoyable than it ever was as a Christian. No dutiful sermonette before gifts are open; no boring reading from the Gospel of Luke; no verbose prayers reminding everyone that Jesus is the real reason for the Season.  While some in attendance still believe in Jesus, others do not. What we all agree on, however, is the importance of family and of love. Oh, we don’t always like each other, and we can fuss with the best of them, but we never forget how blessed we are to have each other.

I plan to take a break from writing until January 2. Polly and I continue to battle health problems, so we hope over the next two weeks unwind a bit, visit Polly’s parents (her mom has been given six months to live and her dad is slowly fading into the background of life), and maybe take a couple of day trips IF the damn Sun ever deigns to shine again in rural northwest Ohio. It’s winter in Ohio, and one thing seems constant: cold, dreary, gray days.

I hope you and yours have a blessed holiday season.

Bruce

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michelle Lesley Says It’s a Sin to Tell Children Santa is Real

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We have raised our five year old to know that Santa Claus isn’t real. Now that he’s getting old enough to have conversations with his little friends, how do we explain to him what to say to them when they talk about believing in Santa? I don’t want him to crush their dreams but I also don’t want to teach him to perpetuate the lie for his friends.

This is a great question, and one my husband and I also had to address with our own children, since we raised them to know that Santa Claus isn’t real.

Before I tackle your question, I’d like to address Christian parents who tell their children Santa Claus is real, that he is the one who brings their presents, etc.

I’m sure you have the best of intentions and only want to make Christmas fun for your children, but when you tell them these things about Santa Claus, you are lying.

Santa Claus isn’t real. If you tell your children he is, or that he is the one who brings their presents, or that he knows whether they’ve been naughty or nice, you’re lying. The Bible says that lying is a sin, period. There’s no exception for jolly old elves who pass out toys (or for tooth fairies or Easter bunnies, either, for that matter). And not only is lying a sin, it is extraordinarily hypocritical to lie to your children about Santa Claus and then turn around later and punish them when they lie about something. Lying to your children about Santa Claus teaches them that it’s OK to lie (i.e. sin) when you want to or when it would be to your advantage. Excerpted from: The Mailbag: What should we tell our kids about Santa Claus?

And this reader has raised another ripple effect of your sin of lying. You’ve now put your brothers and sisters in Christ in the difficult position of figuring out how not to blow your cover when their child (who knows the truth) interacts with yours. Do they teach their child to take part in your lie, or do they risk their child telling the truth, disappointing your child and possibly angering you? And think about the pressure on a five year old child to try to keep something like that a secret, knowing someone will be disappointed if he doesn’t. You’ve created a no-win situation for people you are supposed to self-sacrificially love, encourage, and edify.

Our sin always negatively affects others.

Michelle Lesley, Mailbag: My Kid Knows the Truth About Santa. What if He Tells His Friends Who Don’t ?, December 3, 2018

Leave it to Christian Fundamentalists to suck the magic and fun out of Christmas (and Easter too).

Quote of the Day: The True Meaning of Christmas by John Hardin

santa claus drownsMy partner, Amy Gustin, had a great idea the other day. This is not at all unusual for her. A lot of my columns begin with one of her great ideas, and this is one of them. The other day, Amy was perusing some books about the cave paintings at Lascaux and Chauvet while contemplating the flora and fauna of Ice Age Europe, and speculating about the Paleolithic origins of certain pagan European Christmas symbols, when she said this: “Environmentalists should take over Christmas.”

“What?” I replied. She explained that a lot of European pagan Christmas symbols celebrate the Boreal Forest and an arctic climate. We have Christmas trees. Christmas is the only time of year when snow is popular, and Santa lives at the North Pole and gets around on a sled pulled by caribou. All of these things remind us of the arctic, and they should remind us that the arctic is undergoing dramatic changes due to global climate change.

Can you think of a better symbol for global climate change than Santa Claus? First, he drives a zero-emission, carbon-neutral vehicle, and he’s been doing it for centuries. Second, everything Santa owns faces imminent destruction, unless we can stop the sea ice from shrinking. Santa, Mrs. Claus, all of the elves and the whole toy factory are headed straight for a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean unless we stop global warming now.

….

Coca-Cola has done a great job of making the polar bear into a symbol of Christmas, and we should adopt that symbol wholeheartedly. Instead of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, put a mother polar bear and her two cubs in your nativity scene. I’m all for wise men, if you can find any, but how wise can your men be if they’re standing next to a hungry polar bear?

The global climate crisis effects everyone, and it’s time to make Christmas into a holiday for everyone. From now on, Christmas is about the North Pole and the gift of a stable climate. Being born doesn’t get you a holiday, in my book. Jesus has a holiday — it’s the one he lived and died for, and Christians should go ahead and do Easter big. But Christmas is too important to let Christians hog it to themselves. Besides, Christmas is better without Jesus.

We’ve still got Santa Claus, but now Christmas is about saving Santa. We’ve got reindeer and sleigh bells, snow and Christmas trees and we’ve got all of the animals coming together to help their friend the polar bear. We’ve got the Nutcracker to help us crack the nut of global climate change, and we can re-edit the Charlie Brown Christmas Special so that Linus’ big speech reflects the holiday’s bold new direction. Everything you love about Christmas will still be there for you, but now Christmas has a mission.

— John Hardin, Like You’ve Got Something Better To Do, The True Meaning of Christmas, December 18, 2017

Danger! Children Learning Santa Isn’t Real Might Lead to Them to Think Jesus Isn’t Either

santa in the bible

James Bachman, pastor emeritus of Roanoke Baptist Church in nearby Roanoke, Indiana and author of the Parson to Person column in the West Bend News, took to his column (no link available) to discourage parents from allowing their children to believe in Santa Claus. According to Bachman, allowing children to believe in Santa Claus, only to find out later that Santa isn’t real — say it aint so, Moe! — might lead children to question whether what they have been told about Jesus is true.

Here’s what NO-FUN-da-mentalist Bachman had to say:

My little daughter hears her friend excitedly talk about Santa Claus. Should I tell her he doesn’t exist or just wait and let her find out?

Santa does exist as a mythical, pretend character. Your daughter needs to understand the truth from her parents now. Otherwise, when she discovers the truth, she may wonder if you have been truthful about other things, including Jesus.

Children and youth especially are attracted to supernatural characters who know all things, are immortal and can give them what they want.

Why not rather tell her of the real person of Jesus Christ, who has all power — “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matthew 28:18) He created all things — “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” (Colossians 1:16) He understands even our feelings — “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He promises to help with all our needs — “Let us come boldly unto the
throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) And he showed us the greatest love possible — “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Compared to the real Christ of Christmas, the pretend Santa is a complete fraud. Christ wants to be to us every day much more than children want Santa to be at Christmas.

Why not allow children to enjoy the Christmas season, including believing the Santa myth? No child has ever been harmed by believing in Santa, a claim that cannot be made for the Jesus myth. Bachman’s anti-Santa column is a reminder of the fact that Christian Fundamentalists take the FUN out of everything. Tonight, I attended my granddaughter’s high school basketball game. I wore a white shirt, red suspenders, red jacket, and Santa hat. I play the part because I enjoy doing so. I know I am a dead ringer for the REAL Santa — yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus — with my ruddy complexion, portly build, and full white beard. Before and during the game, I had numerous adults, teenagers, and children come up to me and address me as Santa. I had a lot of fun, as did those around me. And yes, a handful of children wondered if I was the real Santa. I replied, maybe.

Pastor Scrooge can’t bear to hear of children believing in Santa. He would rather children be taught about Jesus and his blood cult. No candy canes or presents, dear children. You must learn the truth; that you are a vile, wretched, sinful urchin who is headed for eternal torture in the Lake of Fire unless you tell Jesus you are really, really, really sorry for disobeying mommy and daddy and ask him to come into your heart and save you from the behaviors Pastor Bachman says are sins.

Children believing Santa is real is harmless fun. It’s too bad people like Bachman want to ruin Christmas for everyone. Bah! humbug! I say to Santa-hater Bachman. May his stocking be filled with coal.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Christmas 2017: The Christmas Light Drive-Thru in Hicksville, Ohio

keep christ in christmasMy wife, oldest daughter, and I, along with several of our children and grandchildren, recently attended the Christmas Light Drive-Thru at the Defiance County Fairgrounds in Hicksville, Ohio. Attended by thousands of people from Northwest Ohio, Northeast Indiana, and Southern Michigan, the drive-thru is a mishmash of lighted secular and Christian displays. Thousands of dollars and man-hours go into putting on the largest Christmas light display in the area. Volunteers at the entrance held donation buckets for attendees to donate. Not knowing what awaited me beyond the entrance, I threw in a $5 bill.

While the trappings of secular Christmas were everywhere we looked, it became very clear to us that Jesus, along with Christian nationalism, were the true stars of the show. At both the entrance and exit, there were lighted American flag displays. Later in drive-thru, we passed a lighted memorial to the Twin Towers in New York (yeah, it struck me as bizarrely strange too). We later drove by a display that said that God gave the us two things: the cross Jesus died upon and the flag of the United States of America.  This display, in particular, was a perfect example of how fused Christianity and right-wing political beliefs lie in the minds rural Midwesterners.

More than a few displays touted Christian clichés: Jesus is the Reason for the Season, Keep Christ in Christmas, to name two. My favorite display was one of a shirtless Santa lounging on a beach. After being assaulted by a barrage of Christian Christmas messages, Santa Bruce and Polly were ready for a trip to the beach too, along with a steady stream of alcoholic beverages.

There was nothing in the Christmas Light Drive-Thru that surprised me. I know rural Northwest Ohio quite well. It is, after all, the land of my birth and where I have spent most of my adult life. This is the land of conservative Christianity, right-wing politics, and Christian nationalism. Recent local outrage over Defiance College football players refusing to stand for the National Anthem revealed that Jesus and the GOP — God’s Only Party — are very much alive and well. Of the numerous letters written to the Defiance Crescent-News about the kneeling players, only three letter writers, including yours truly, supported their actions. The Christmas Light Drive-Thru, then, serves as a reminder of who rules the roost in rural Ohio — Jesus and right-wing politics. I am surprised that the Drive-Thru didn’t have a display of three wise men standing before a crèche while saluting an American flag flapping in the breeze over the white baby Jesus’ manger.

The people behind the Christmas Drive-Thru are decent, good people who simply in their actions reflect the tribal beliefs of most denizens of rural Northwest Ohio. I don’t find fault with the Christmas displays, except for the fact that there were no displays touting the Winter SolsticeHanukkah, or Kwanzaa. I suspect the area’s whiteness and lack of religious diversity has a lot to do with why these “other” holiday themes were not represented. (And if any of the people behind the Christian Light Drive-Thru stumble upon this post, I would love to provide and pay for a Winter Solstice display next year.)

The Drive-Thru cost us $5 and an hour of our time. While it is not likely we will make a return visit, I certainly understand its appeal — a bright shining display touting the beliefs most locals hold dear. I know we are generations away from, if ever, locals seeing and understanding that both the Jesus and Santa on display at the Christmas Light Drive-Thru are myths. As long as the Jesus myth prevails, so will displays touting the rightness of rural, white, conservative Christianity.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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

Gone For the Month of July

gone fishing

I have decided to take a month-long break from blogging. I plan to start writing again on August 1st; that is if Donald Trump hasn’t caused a nuclear war by then. If he has, it has been good knowing you.  It’s been two and a half years since I have taken a break, so I am due. Physically and psychologically I am worn out. Throw in a recent car accident — Bambi’s Dad ran into the left front of our 2015 Ford Escape — a fall that broke my relatively new iPad Pro — which Apple will replace for a mere $600 — a mounting financial problem due to medical debt, and one of my sons inexplicably and stupidly walking out on his wife and four children, well, I am ready to go over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto. Since my wife prefers that I remain among the living, I thought it best to take a break, not only from blogging, but also social media.

Polly and I have a short trip planned for July 14-17 — our thirty-ninth wedding anniversary. We plan to stay at the historic Boone Tavern Hotel in Berea, Kentucky. While there, we plan to travel nearby back roads looking for trouble and suitable photography subjects. On the 16th, we plan to visit the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg, and on the 17th we have tickets for the Cincinnati Reds vs.Washington Nationals baseball game. Our youngest son and his girlfriend will be house-sitting for us, along with babysitting Bethany, our dog, and our cat.

I also plan to do some seriously needed work to my photography site, Defiance County Photo. I have been trying to get a photography business up and running, but so far the gods are working against me. I need to invest some time in doing some promotional work, along with expanding my portfolio. I also plan to morph into Santa Claus come November and December, hoping that between this and my photography business to make some much-needed cash.  I just received the pattern for my Santa suit. Polly and my youngest daughter, both of whom are excellent seamstresses, have agreed to make the suit for me. I have the beard and the build, now all I need is the suit. I have some thoughts about merging the Santa gig and my photography business during the Christmas season, offering area residents personal access to the man from up North — and no I don’t mean Michigan.

I hope to come back from my sabbatical reinvigorated, ready to take on the Evangelical horde and the Trump administration. I do plan to re-post several posts every few days from 2015 and 2016 while I am gone. Hopefully, these posts will keep readers engaged until I return August 1st.

Until then,

Bruce

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