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More Tough Health News and a Death in the Family

health news

Readers may remember that I was hospitalized a weekend ago for a bowel problem. If you are not aware of my recent hospitalization, please read, I Ain’t Dying — Yet: Recent Hospitalization for Bowel Problems. This past weekend has proved just as challenging.

On Friday through Sunday afternoon, my blood pressure skyrocketed and I developed a heart arrhythmia. I got in to see my primary care doctor on Monday for an exam and an EKG. Fortunately, I did not have A-Fib — as Polly has. While at the doctor’s office, I told him that my taste had changed since Tuesday; that everything, including water, tasted salty, and sweet tastes were muted. I told him Polly thought I had thrush. She, of course, was right. She’s always right. I had to say that, in hopes of keeping my meals coming. 🙂

So, I am on a drug to treat the thrush and a beta-blocker has been added to my blood pressure treatment regimen. Yes, when it rains, it pours.

Sunday morning, our oldest son arrived at our home, coffee in hand for his java addict mother. I was still in bed. I rarely rise before the early afternoon. None of our children just show up at our house. They know, call first. We might be naked, having passionate sex on the dining room table. Or, we might still be in bed. So, they ALWAYS call first.

Cell phones don’t work very well in our home. We live in Ney, for God’s sake: one gas station, two bars/restaurants, a traffic light — which we wish the state would remove — and one resident atheist. That we get any cell service at all is surprising. Our children know to text if they need to get a hold of us.

Polly’s mom, who lives in Newark, Ohio, had been trying to call her since the early morning hours. When she couldn’t get a hold of her daughter, she asked our oldest son to deliver a message: Polly’s IFB preacher father had suddenly died from complications of pneumonia — I suspect from heart failure.

Yes, when it rain, it pours, and, sometimes, it keeps pouring and pouring and pouring. . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Preachers and The Lies They Tell About Heaven

heaven and hell
Heaven and Hell

Years ago, three young Ohio boys fell through the ice on the Sandusky River and drowned. What a terrible, terrible tragedy. Two of the boys were brothers.

The pastor of the church where their funeral was held said the following: (link no longer active)

A minister has told mourners that three Ohio boys who fell through ice and died together in a river are now playing together in heaven.

This statement is restated many different ways during countless Christian funerals:

  • Granny is running around Heaven now with no pain!
  • Gramps is in Heaven now and doesn’t need a wheelchair to get around anymore.
  • Momma is in Heaven, where she has no more pain, sickness, disease, or suffering.

Here’s the problem . . .

Statements such as these are not true.

Historic, orthodox Christian doctrine teaches that when people die, they go to the grave. They are DEAD. The body remains in the grave until the resurrection. At the resurrection of the just and unjust, those who have died will receive new bodies (1 Corinthians 15).

So why is it that preachers lie about the present location of the dead? Why did I, as an Evangelical pastor, lie to numerous grieving families?

Sentimentality.

Families are grieving. They have lost a loved one. They want to believe there is a divine purpose, and they want to believe that life continues beyond the grave.

So preachers concoct grand stories about Heaven and the immediate transport of the dead from earth to the sweet-by-and-by. Never mind the fact that the Bible does not say this.

Belief in the afterlife requires faith. No one has ever come back from the dead to tell us what lies beyond the grave (if anything). Anyone who says he has is a liar.

Even Jesus himself didn’t talk about the afterlife after his resurrection from the dead. His disciples did, the apostles did, but not Jesus. He told his disciples that wherever he was, they too would be someday. He never mentioned one time any of the things commonly heard in Christian funeral sermons.

Even the notion of spending eternity in Heaven is not taught in the Bible. Search all you might, it is not there.

What IS taught in the Bible is that followers of Jesus Christ will live forever in God’s eternal kingdom (on a new earth). On this point, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably closer in belief to what the Bible actually teaches than many Evangelical Christians.

The same could be said about Hell. Those who are not followers of Jesus will NOT spend eternity in Hell. The Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible DOES teach, however, that unbelievers will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:14).

Sentimentality allows preachers, who are supposed to be guardians of Christian doctrine to ignore what the Bible teaches in favor of telling stories to comfort grieving families.

I understand WHY they do it, but let me be clear: Preacher, if you can’t tell the truth when it really matters the most, how can you expect people to believe anything you say? If sentimentality allows you to ignore what the Bible teaches about Heaven (and Hell), how do we know that you are telling the truth any other time? Not telling the truth in hard circumstances results in a loss of credibility.

As an atheist, I have serious reservations about the notion of an afterlife. At this point in life, I lack the requisite faith necessary to believe that there’s life after death. I am of the opinion that each of us had best get to living this present life because it is the only one we have. That said, if you are a Christian, you are bound by what the Bible teaches. As a preacher, you are obligated to tell the truth. In fact, you owe it to your congregants to tell them the truth, even when it is hard to do so.

Of course, remove sentimentality from the equation and the Christian gospel and the promise of eternal life lose their luster. Telling grieving family members that Grandma — who attended church for 70 years and gave vast sums of money to the church — is lying in a grave, rotting until Jesus resurrects her a day, a hundred years, or twenty millennia from now doesn’t have as much appeal as, Grandma is in Heaven right now, in perfect health, praising Jesus day after day. She can’t wait for you to die and join her in Heaven, so the family circle will be unbroken.

Evangelicalism preaches a deferred payout. Yes, Jesus saves sinners, but the Christian life is no picnic. Life is filled with pain, heartache, and suffering. Preachers know they can’t fool their congregants about their lives. The evidence is clear: life is hard, and then you die. So, they make promises of a blissful, pain-free afterlife. The payout is immediate. Draw your last breath on earth, and draw your next breath in Heaven (or Hell). Preachers have no evidence for these promises, so they tell flowery, sentimental lies, hoping that people will buy what they are selling. Their goal is to get sinners to close the eternal life deal without ever reading the fine print. The fine print — which is found in the Bible — tells the purchaser that all promised rewards happen sometime in the distant future. Until then, your worm-eaten, rotting corpse will remain in the grave. Evangelical preachers have been making eternal life promises for centuries. These preachers come and go, live and die, and much like those to whom they promised eternal life, they lie decomposing in their graves. There they shall remain until Jesus returns to earth and resurrects them from their graves. Given the fact that Jesus promised to return in the first century, I think we can safely conclude that he, too, is lying in a grave, never to arise again from the dead.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Guilt — the Essence of Evangelical Christianity

guilt

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

What would Evangelical Christianity be without guilt?

Guilt, despite what preachers say, is the engine that powers Evangelicalism.

Often preachers will try to hide guilt by giving it other names such as conviction. But no matter how they try to hide it, guilt plays a prominent part in the day-to-day lives of those who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ.

Think about it for a moment. The Bible presents God as a righteous, holy, judging, wrathful, deity. In the Old Testament, this God was unapproachable except by a few chosen people. People who got too close wound up dead.

Who can forget the story about the man who put out his hand to steady the ark of the covenant to keep it from falling and God rewarded this man by killing him? Or the story about God killing the entire human race save eight people (and yet, Evangelicals say God is pro-life). Lesson? God is a mean mother fucker you better not mess with.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see a God who gives no quarter to disobedience or sin. He demands worship and expects perfect obeisance. He is a God who not only hates sin but hates those who do it. The hate-the-sin-but-love-the-sinner line of thinking is not found in the Bible. Evangelicals often remind people such as myself that someday every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. Bow now or bow later, the thinking goes, but bow you will.

No matter how much the writers of the New Testament tried to cover this up with talk of love, grace, and mercy, the God of the Bible was not one to be trifled with. Those who dallied with him ended up dead. The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There are hundreds and hundreds of commands in the Bible — edicts that God expects Christians to obey without question or hesitation. After all, according to the Bible, God himself lives inside every Christian. Further, the Bible says Christians have the mind of Christ. The Bible also says that Christians are to be perfect even as their father in Heaven is perfect. Lest one doubt whether God is serious, the writer of First John reminds his fellow Christians that he who sins is of the devil.

The Bible’s message is clear: obey God lest you fall under his judgment, a judgment that could lead to your death. Put in words that any child can understand: do what God says or he is going to get you. Remember this is a God who killed two people in the book of Acts for lying. This is the same God who brutalized his son on the cross because of what other people did. This is also the same God that will someday ravage the earth and its inhabitants and torture in Hell for all eternity all those who are not Christians. The book of Revelation reads like a Quentin Tarantino movie script. The vengeful God will pour out his wrath upon the earth, killing billions of people and destroying the earth in the process. This destruction will be so severe that God will have to make a new Heaven and a new earth. (2 Peter 3:10-13)

It should come as no surprise, then, that many Evangelicals live with a backbreaking load of guilt. They know what God expects and they fear him, but, in spite of all their hard work, they still can’t measure up to what God demands. What deepens their guilt is preachers who say they speak for God, adding more rules and regulations — also called church standards — that God allegedly demands every Christian obey.

I spent most of my life in the Evangelical church. I desperately wanted to be a good Christian. I felt God had called me into the ministry, and I wanted to be the best pastor possible. I was willing to sacrifice everything for God. So that’s what I did. I sacrificed my family, my health, and my economic well-being for God. I held nothing back, and I was willing to die for my God if necessary.

Several years ago, someone made a comment on Facebook about my being an atheist. This person has known me for forty-two years. He said that he was shocked that I was an atheist because if anyone was a committed, true blue believer, I was. Most people who knew me in my Christian days would give a similar account of my devotion to God.

As a pastor, I gave 99% to the cause. I worked long hours without regard to whether I got paid. Most of the churches I pastored paid poverty wages, but that didn’t matter to me. I would have gladly worked for free, and, in fact, I did work many weeks and months without receiving a paycheck. It was never about the money. It was all about faithfully serving God and fulfilling his calling on my life. It was all about being obedient to the commands and teachings found in the Bible.

One would think that someone as committed as I was wouldn’t have had guilt, but guilt played a prominent part in my life. Striving for perfection quickly reveals how imperfect one is. Sometimes, I envied Christians who could take a minimal, carefree approach to God and his commands. Why couldn’t I be a nominal, slothful Christian like most of the people I pastored? I’m not sure I have an answer for that. All I know is this, I worked for the night is coming when no man can work, and the more work I put into my Christian faith the more guilt I had.

I often pondered the work of Jesus on the cross. Jesus had given his all on the cross for me, shouldn’t I give my all to him? I took seriously the command to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. I tried to pattern my life after the example of Christ and the apostles. I wanted to be found busy working for the advancement of God’s kingdom with Jesus came back to earth.

The Bible teaches that this life of ours is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away — like steam from a boiler radiator on a cold winter day. Rather than spending time building a kingdom in this life that will soon pass away, I sincerely believed my time was better spent laying up treasure in heaven. Why bother with the transitory, material world that will soon pass away? Better to spend every waking hour serving Jesus than to spend one moment chasing the baubles of this world. Yet, the harder I worked the more guilt I had.

I prayed in the morning, in the afternoon, and at night, and numerous times throughout the day, yet I feared I was not praying enough. After all, the Bible commands us to pray without ceasing. No matter how many people I evangelized, there were always more people who needed to hear the gospel. There never seemed to be an end of souls that needed saving. How dare I spend one moment taking care of my own personal needs while countless souls were hanging by a bare thread over the pit of Hell. I had no time for talk of Heaven or eternal reward. There was too much to do.

I know some readers of this blog will read this post and say, no wonder you were guilty all the time. Look at how motivated and driven you were. Yes, this is true, but I ask you, where do I find in the Bible the laid-back, nominal, easy-come-easy-go, Christian life found so prominently in Evangelical churches — even among pastors? While certainly, such a life would have lessened the amount of guilt I had, how could I live such a life knowing what I did about the teachings and commands of the Bible?

Look at the examples given to us in the Bible of people who were devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Show me the nominal Christian. In every instance, nominal Christianity is roundly condemned. God expects — dare I say demands — 100% devotion, and anything less than that is treason against God.

So, for many years I lived with guilt almost every day. I felt guilty when I stopped to enjoy life. I felt guilty when I gave more than passing attention to my personal wants and desires. I felt guilty when I spent money that could have gone to the church or to missionaries. Why could I not be like the Apostle Paul? Or why could I not be like Jesus himself?

Of course, the real problem was that I was a human being. A life of selfless devotion to God was/is an impossibility. Now that I’ve left the ministry and left the Christian faith, my problem with guilt still remains. I’m no longer guilty over my lack of devotion, and I’m certainly not guilty over committing what the Bible calls sin, but I do lament the amount of time, money, and effort I gave in devotion to a God who does not exist. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish.

I also regret leading people into the same kind of life. I regret causing parishioners to feel guilty over not measuring up to the commands found in the Bible. As I have often said, churches would be empty if it weren’t for guilt and guilt’s twin sister, fear.

Perhaps my penance is this blog. I am sure there are many people who will read this post and know exactly what I’m talking about.  Atheism and a humanist worldview have allowed me, for the most part — aside from what I have mentioned above — to live a life free of guilt (and fear). I no longer have to fear or feel guilty over not keeping God’s commands. No longer are my actions checked against God’s sin list. My works on any given day are good or bad, and when I do bad things, I need to make things right if I can and try not to do them again. There is no need for me to be threatened with Hell or promised Heaven. All I want to do is be a good person, be at peace with others, and promote human wellbeing. If my actions fail this standard, then I need to do better.

How about you? Do you still struggle with guilt post-Jesus? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Just One More Day

polly mom and dad 2018 (2)
Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2018

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

It’s 4 AM and, like every night, I am still awake.

The sounds are so clear this time of night:

The tick-tock of Big Ben on the nightstand,

Cars as they drive through the sleepy rural town we call home.

A sound machine softly plays in the background, a nightly ritual that lulls my lover to sleep.

The wind is blowing briskly as the wind chimes sing their harmonies into the fall night.

I can feel the cold draft from the wind as it pushes its way through the window frames of our 140-year-old home.

She is covered up, trying to warm herself as cold air blows over her head.

She lies beside me, just as she has these 42 years.

I look over at her and remind myself of what a great life we’ve had.

We have faced many battles that left us bruised and bloodied, but we survived. That’s what we are — survivors.

The Bible is right, there is a love that endures. She and I have that enduring love. Until death do us part, we promised each another one hot July day so many years ago.

Recent events have brought us face to face with our mortality, my mortality, her mortality.

What if it is cancer? What if there are surgical complications? What if the hourglass is close to running out? Dare we ponder our own mortality and bitter end?

Come what may, I’ve had a good life. Whether I live till Christmas or another 20 years, I am grateful for the life she and I have shared.

Forty-four years ago, a beautiful young girl dared to flirt with a brash, outspoken redheaded boy. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, we lie here in the stillness of the night, our lives shaped and filled by our shared experiences.

I think of our children and our grandchildren. I want to wake her up and say, we did well, we have more treasure than the richest man on earth.

I won’t wake her; she needs her sleep.

I hope she knows that I love her.

It’s almost 6 AM and I can feel the drugs beginning to win the battle. Sleep will soon come, and if I awake another day will be mine.

Isn’t that all any of us can hope for?

Just one more day . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheism is a Death Cult

atheism cult of death

As long as people have believed in God, there have been those who take the opposing view. The ranks of atheists have always been small, never amounting to more than four percent of the population. The key problem with atheism is that it lacks a strong “selling point.” The followers of this view find purpose in life by attacking the validity of the Holy Bible.

Atheists are so opposed to anything linked to God that their hatred gets in the way of common sense. One of their most grievous errors is a cultic fixation with death. I have read the views of several leading atheists and have found an almost universal embracing of death. For them, life is just meant to come to an abrupt end.

….

I see this welcoming attitude toward death as a form of insanity. If we managed to defy such massive odds to be born into this world, it would be foolhardy to so willingly surrender such a precious gift. I don’t regret depriving some worm of a good meal. They don’t even have enough intelligence to say, “Boy, Todd tastes good. Yum!”

Atheists’ cheeriness about the end of life extends to the second death. Even though they don’t believe in a hell, most express a bizarre willingness to take a swan dive into the lake of fire. Pat Condell is a well-known atheist on YouTube. In one of his latest videos he said:

“So can I say to the people who have said they are praying for me, don’t do it. I’m beyond redemption. I categorically reject God. I wholeheartedly deny the Holy Spirit. I’m resigned to damnation. And I’m absolutely fine with it.”

If there is no God to grant us an afterlife, atheists should be the main frontline cheerleaders of an effort to find immortality through research. One of them should be the Jerry Lewis of natural causes: “Yes, please donate so we can find a cure for what is responsible for one-hundred percent of non-accidental deaths.”

I don’t know of any leading atheists that plan to be cryogenically frozen. According to the game plan medical science will eventually advance to the point where it can revive and restore a dead person to perfect health. These atheists could spend their first few days of new life dancing on the graves of foolish Christians who trusted in a pipe dream.

….

I spoke with theoretical physicist, Lawrence Krauss, at a Las Vegas conference, and he said, “Atheists don’t like to use the word eternity.” Even though the forces in the universe may remain constant for all eternity, they avoid the term because God is too closely associated with it.

Atheists go as far as calling eternal life a curse. They argue that life with no end would eventually become boring and unbearable. One atheist said that if he, was allowed into heaven after a few thousand years, the empty perfection of the heavenly realm would compel him to ask God for annihilation.

I don’t see the warm embrace that many atheists associate with death. At the end of their lives they would lose everything they achieved in this world. Their loves, discoveries and experiences would all be instantly voided.

I can only conclude that the obsession with death on the part of atheists is the result of demonic delusion. Even a godless skeptical mind should know that one of the basic driving forces in nature is the desire to preserve life─at all costs.

One thing that helped me remain confident in my faith is the understanding that there are forces dedicated to attacking my beliefs. If God was a lie and there was no life after death, why would people have such a volatile allergic reaction to a message that seems so reasonable? When I see people who blindly embrace death, I see the fingerprints of the one who brought death into this world.

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

— Rapture Ready, Atheism — The Cult of Death

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser