If where you live is anything like northwest Ohio, new Evangelical churches are sprouting up like weeds in a gravel parking lot. You know — the weeds that keep returning no matter how much Roundup you spray on them. Here in Defiance County, they have spiffy new names, hiding the fact that they are generic, mostly Baptist or Charismatic churches. They present themselves as fresh, new, exciting places to worship God, complete with a relational pastor and the best damn worship band in town (props to the Ohio State marching band). One local new church called itself Fresh Life. Two years later, “Fresh Life” turned into the same old shit, different building, and the pastor felt called to go somewhere else.
Here in Defiance County, Ohio, there is zero need for new churches. We already have more than one hundred churches for 37,000 people. The population is aging and in decline, and almost everyone professes to be a Christian. God, guns, and Republican politics are on display everywhere one looks. Out-of-the-closet atheists are few, and even traditionally liberal churches tend to be conservative. Why, then, is there a plethora of new Evangelical churches?
I’ll give the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement credit for one thing: their churches are initially and primarily built on evangelism. Granted, they think everyone who doesn’t believe as they do is non-Christian and headed for Hell, but they do make a concerted effort to evangelize the “unchurched.”
I was taught in Bible college that the best way to start a church was to find the meanest, baddest man in town and win him to Jesus. If this man became a Christian and started living for Jesus, it would be the best possible advertisement for the church. Here in Defiance County, I am not the meanest, baddest man in town, but I am considered the resident atheist who hates God and Christianity. I would think that pastors would be lining up at my door trying to win the preacher-turned-atheist to Jesus. In the sixteen years my wife and I have lived in the shadow of five Evangelical churches, not one preacher has knocked on our door. Why is that?
In the 1970s, the Charismatics came to this area and began pillaging established churches. Overnight, churches lost membership and income. In the 1980s and 1990s, these new churches experienced meteoric membership and income growth. Today, these same churches are in decline as their members move on to the latest, greatest churches in town. You see, it’s not about Jesus, worship, or even doctrine. It’s all about getting the best show for the dollar. Entertainment-driven Evangelicals want to be pampered and have their “felt” needs met. Fail to do this and they will leave, complaining that they are not being fed or God is leading them elsewhere. If you want to study religiously-driven narcissism, just stop by one of these new Matt Chandler-Rick Warren-Joel Osteen-Ed Young-Andy Stanley-Perry Noble-Tim Keller-John Hagee-Rod Parsley-Steven Furtick-wanna-be churches. Services are consumer-driven buffets for fat Christians who are only interested in having their “felt” needs met.
Where do most of the members of these types of churches come from? Other local churches. Overwhelmingly, their growth is transfer growth. One new church in Defiance has multiple services filled with people who used to attend other local congregations. Church leaders think they are being blessed by God, but what they are really doing is cannibalizing other churches. I am sure there are a few new converts, but, for the most part, the growth is driven by people changing pews.
And here’s the thing . . . a decade or so from now, another new, glitzy, we-have-the-most-awesome-hip-preacher-in-town church will come to town and Christians will leave the old-new church for the new-new one. I have watched this happen time and again, like the rising and setting of the sun. Evangelicalism is driven not by devotion to God, concern for the lost, or care for the sick and hungry, but by a narcissistic need to be relevant. This is why they spend enormous amounts of money on buildings, staff, technology, and feed-lot fattening programs for Christians.
What’s really happening is that wandering Evangelicals are changing which club they belong to. And that’s fine as long as Evangelicals are willing to admit “why” they are doing so. However, they aren’t willing to acknowledge that their new hippity-hoppity church is just their old church with a bigger sound system, better drum player, more charismatic worship leader, better coffee, and a preacher who can really “speak” to them.
I watch from afar, amused at the self-absorbed attempts of churches to be churches in a culture that increasingly has no interest in what they are selling. Much the same as when a town becomes saturated with fast-food restaurants and they begin trying to steal each other’s customers, new Evangelical churches come to areas already saturated with Jesus and steal members from other churches. It’s fun to watch. May the best band win.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.
Off in the distance on Hopkins Street, a resident of Defiance, Ohio “sees” a coyote. Did she really see a coyote? Could the animal have been a dog that looks like a coyote? There’s no time for proper identification. The public must be immediately warned about this looming threat, so the woman reports her alarming find on a local Facebook group known for exaggeration and hysteria:
Coyote spotted on Hopkins! Pretty sure it got a poor kitty Please get your cats inside if at all possible!
Did the coyote kill a cat? “Pretty sure,” doesn’t sound like evidence of a “crime.” If the woman saw a dead cat, it could have been killed by a redtail hawk, a dog, or a human. Should we not know for sure whether the coyote killed the cat, especially since modern-day Puritans are now calling for the “witch” to be executed; his only crime him being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Oh, wait, we humans execute wildlife just because we can. Christianity taught us that we have dominion over the earth and all its inhabitants. If we want to indiscriminately kill a curious, roaming coyote, that’s our right.
One woman suggests that someone shoot the coyote (in town) lest it eat someone’s baby. According to her, people who disagree with her are “soft”; people who care more about coyotes than babies. Think of the babies! Never mind the fact that no baby is in danger. It’s Facebook, the place where anything is possible, including coyotes eating infants.
Yours truly, the village atheist, rationalist, and skeptic decides to respond. Polly rolls her eyes, knowing that the forthcoming discussion will not change minds. But, she also knows her passionate animal-loving husband will not let this pass. He just can’t help himself. His therapist has come to a similar conclusion.
TV: This is why they need to let people hunt in city limits. Kids are going to get hurt.
Numerous locals objected to her statement, thinking she was kidding.
TV: I most certainly am not kidding. I see all kinds of kids at the park across the street and I would do anything to protect a child from a wild animal my child’s or not. I’m not saying it to be mean. I love animals too. But a person’s life is more important than an animal that can potentially kill.
TV: And that’s why I say people are soft. They would rather save the animals but it comes back to what you are saying. And eventually, people will get hurt. There has to be a solution. Until then I guess the cat population will become less. [Keep in mind, there was no evidence for the coyote killing a cat.]
TV: I saw a video on the news about a toddler attacked by a coyote. I have friends in Manhattan, New York City, Chicago. Coyotes are pretty much everywhere. Hopefully they’ll have a professional coyote cull. Hope they find a solution, with climate getting hotter and building in more rural areas and our wooded areas disappearing, plus lack of predators, they’ll continue to multiply.
BG: People soft? Really? How about responsible pet ownership and keeping cats where they belong — inside. We coexist with wildlife. In most instances, wildlife-human interactions are enjoyable. Problematic interactions can usually be addressed without killing the animals. Killing them is an easy way out. If being thoughtful and having compassion for ALL life makes one “soft,” I’m definitely soft. I prefer to live in a world where killing/bloodshed/violence aren’t the first things we turn to when solving problems.
TV: And that’s your opinion. So it’s ok for the coyote to kill because that’s the circle of life. But humans are frowned on for killing? What did we eat before vegetarians and “vegans’ [started eating] meat? That involves killing animals as well. Move along. I don’t judge your opinion you don’t have to judge mine.
BG: No, I’m not moving along. This is a public forum. No cats outside, no kitty nuggets for the coyote. Common wildlife control practice? Remove food source.
TV: IF THE FOOD SOURCE IS GONE THEN POSSIBLY A CHILD. It’s adorable people think they will leave town if all the cats are inside…. What else is out there for them to chew on? I’m not trying to be a bitch. We all have to look at the bigger picture here. Your opinion won’t change just like mine won’t.
BG: Please do your homework on children being killed by coyotes. I did, and it’s extremely rare. If your goal is to save children, or cats for that matter, there’s a host of more important, pressing issues that should be addressed. You are positing a false assumption when you suggest the coyote(s) are hungry. Do you have actual evidence that backs up your claim? Just because an animal wanders into a yard doesn’t mean he is hungry. Thanks for the discussion. The last word is yours. [I lied.] 🙂
TV: I just had an opinion sir and everyone is quick to judge my opinion. Quick to judge people for having outside cats. Quick to judge everyone. All I’m saying is One day it could be a human or possibly a child. I guess if someone gets attacked somehow it would be the human’s fault… killing a child is rare. Ha. So let’s risk it and not do anything about it.
BG: Life is filled with risk. All we can do is rationally examine the risk, and act accordingly. It is far more likely that children will be killed by trampolines, automobiles, their parents, or people shooting guns at coyotes within city limits. Yet, we tend to focus on things that rarely, if ever, happen. I could find no record of anyone ever being killed by a coyote in Ohio.
This is a public forum, so pushing back on your claims is not “judging.”
As far as outside cats, my wife and I feed a dozen outside cats every day. We’ve taken in numerous stay cats over the years. So, yes, I have a strong opinion about people who allow their cats to indiscriminately roam the neighborhoods, killing countless birds and procreating at will. Cats should be treated the same way dogs are: licensed and properly sheltered.
I reject the notion (primarily taught by Western Christianity) that humans have dominion over the earth. We have a symbiotic relationship with the biological world around us, including animals. I try my best not to kill other animals, including spiders, snakes, and other animals deemed annoyances.
Humans are just a puzzle piece in the grand picture of life, not the picture itself.
An encounter with a coyote in the urban and suburban landscape is a rare event, even where coyotes are found in large numbers.
These animals are generally nocturnal and seldom seen. You may catch a glimpse of a coyote, however, as they move from one part of their territory to another in search of prey (usually small mammals such as mice or voles).
Observing a coyote in this manner (even during the daytime) does not mean that the coyote is sick or aggressive. If the coyote is scared away by your presence, they are exhibiting natural behavior and this should not be cause for concern.
A coyote who does not run away when encountering humans has, most likely, become accustomed or habituated to people. This generally occurs when a coyote has been fed (in the form of handouts, pet food left outside, or unsecured garbage).
Coyotes who come to depend on these sources of food may begin to approach humans looking for a handout and may begin to exhibit what’s perceived as “too tame” or aggressive behavior.
When coyotes become habituated, hazing can reinstill the natural fear of humans. Hazing entails using a variety of scare techniques to teach a coyote to regard people as threatening and stay away from them.
Coyote attacks on people are very rare. More people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.
Often, coyote attacks are preventable by modifying human behavior and educating people about ways to prevent habituation. In many human attack incidents, it turns out that the offending coyote was being fed by people. In many other instances, people were bitten while trying to rescue their free-roaming pet from a coyote attack. Less often, people are bitten by cornered coyotes, or even more rarely, rabid coyotes.
There have only been two recorded incidences in the United States and Canada of humans being killed by coyotes. One involved a child in Southern California in the 1980s and the other a 19-year-old woman in Nova Scotia in 2009. These events, rare as they are, are serious and warrant serious response.
A coyote who has bitten a person will have to be specifically targeted and removed from the population. Most health departments will mandate testing for rabies, which requires that the offending coyote be killed. Under no circumstances does an attack by an individual coyote warrant killing at large, in an effort to reduce the population or simply ring up the bill on coyotes as an act of retribution.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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.
Here in Defiance County, I am considered the resident atheist. Every month or so, I write a letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News challenging the dominant Evangelicalism culture found in rural Northwest Ohio. My letters usually bring down the wrath of local Evangelicals on my head. Most responses are little more than sermonizing and Bible-quoting. Worse yet, I find it amazing how many of the responders have a faulty understanding of basic Christian theology and hermeneutics.
In recent years, several other atheists/agnostics have joined me in poking the Evangelical Christian bear. There was one, then two, and now three. Why that makes a godless Trinity. Who knows what the future may hold? Perhaps, we are in the early days of a godless revival.
While my letters to the editor cause much consternation among local Evangelicals and Tea Party members, they are not my intended target. Yeah, it’s fun watching them get all riled up, but that’s not the reason I write the letters.
In November of 2008, I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church and have not darkened the door of a Christian church since. This coming September, it will be 19 years since I pastored a church.
I started blogging in 2007, the same year we bought our home in Ney. This online exposure has allowed me to come in contact with local residents who are secretly atheists or agnostics. They fear loss of job, loss of financial stability, and social condemnation, so they stay in the closet. This blog and private email contact with me provide a safe haven for the godless who live near me.
They are the reason I write letters to the editor. The letters are my way of saying you are not alone. I hope that my letters give them strength and courage, and when the time is right, perhaps they too can join the small band of local, vocal atheists.
Not only do local Evangelical zealots respond to my letters, they also send me email, snail mail, and stop by my house. Ney, Ohio has a population of 353 people. Defiance County has an estimated 2012 population of 38,677. There has been zero population growth in the last 35 years. There is only one city in the County, Defiance, with an estimated 2012 population of 16,838. There are three villages in the County, Hicksville, population 3,581, Ney, population 354, and Sherwood, population 827. There are also 12 unincorporated communities. My point in citing the County demographics is to emphasize that Defiance County is rural, quite small, and everyone knows your business (and if they don’t they make it up). This is why it is easy for local Evangelicals to find out my address. Those of you who live in big cities can easily blend into the fabric of the metropolis, but I can’t do that. I knew the moment I said in public, I am an atheist, that the news would spread far and wide.
What adds to my fame is that I pastored a church in nearby West Unity for seven years. I was born five miles from where I now live. My grandparents owned a farm on the Defiance-Williams County line. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins, scattered here and there. My surname, Gerencser, is Hungarian and quite unique. If you run into someone in this area with the Gerencser name, we are related.
Being related can, at times, pose a problem for my wife and children. Polly and two of my sons work at the same place. It is a huge factory with around 2,000 employees. My other two sons and daughter work for local businesses that put them in frequent contact with the public. When one of my letters hits the editorial page, it is not uncommon for them to hear about it from someone they work with or a customer. I told all of them years ago that they do not have to defend me. In fact, they are free to disown me. So far, I am still their Dad.
More times than I can count, my children have had to answer the question, are you related to the guy who writes in the newspaper? Even at the local college, Northwest State Community College, where Polly and all of my children took classes, professors and students would ask if they were related to me. Usually, the inquisitor is an Evangelical or a Catholic who objects to something I wrote. Every once in a while, someone actually voices their approval or agreement with what I wrote. Such praise is rare, but I’ll take it.
One aspect of my Fundamentalist past has helped me in my current role as the resident atheist. As a fundamentalist preacher, I had an unflinching commitment to what I considered truth. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Bible, I wouldn’t bend, bow, or move. So it is today. I don’t back down. Now, I am not spoiling for a fight, but if an Evangelical says put your dukes up, I am inclined to do so.
There have been a few occasions where one local zealot has deliberately lied about me in a letter to the editor. Others have cast doubt upon my claim of being a pastor for 25 years. In their mind, they can’t comprehend some like me walking away from Jesus. Since they refuse to accept my story at face value, they try to impugn my character, suggesting that there is some “secret” reason I left the ministry and left Christianity. Several have questioned my ethics and morality.
The Defiance Crescent-News is a dying right-wing, libertarian-leaning newspaper. Letters to the Editor are supposed to be about the issues of the day. Slandering someone is usually not permitted. Evidently, if that “someone” is an atheist, it is okay if someone like Daniel Gray or Richard Mastin lies about me. I am not talking about a difference of opinion here. I am talking about slander and lies.
On July 7, 2013, Gray wrote:
Bruce Gerencser should use facts in his letters. His latest rant is so full of errors as to make his point completely obtuse. Here are a few examples…
…The fact that Gerencser can marry anyone is laughable. He received his claimed ministerial credentials by professing a faith in a deity and swearing to follow that religions teachings. So unless he does so, then his authority to marry anyone under the same is null and void. Anyone he marries could actually find that they are not and never have been married. And last, the only way to change our Constitution is by a constitutional amendment…
…History and facts yet again destroy the views of Gerencser. He should be used to that by now.
Here’s my response to Gray:
This letter is my brief response to Daniel Gray’s recent letter to the editor.
Gray continues to paint me as a liar, a deceiver, immoral, and an all-round bad person. Gray does not know me personally, so I am not sure how he comes to the conclusions he does about me. I have never made one of my letters personal, yet Daniel Gray and a few other letter writers think it is okay to attack my character and suggest that I am not a good person.
As a public figure, I know I must endure such attacks, but I wish my critics would focus on the issues rather than the person. If they would like to have a public discussion on these issues, I am quite willing to participate in any public forum they put together.
On July 21, 2013, I wrote another letter:
For the third time Gray suggests that I am not legally able to marry people and that anyone married by me is in danger of having their marriage invalidated. Gray seems to not understand the legal requirements for being licensed to marry people in Ohio. I meet all the statutory requirements and I am duly licensed to marry people in Ohio. Anyone can verify this by doing a ministerial license search on the Ohio Secretary of state’s website.
On August 25 , 2013, fellow shit stirrer Willy Pack, came to my defense:
…Our secular government guarantees all of its citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Fundamentalists, however, have made many clumsy attempts aimed at silencing Mr. Gerencser through intimidation and denigration.
Can anyone doubt that if they had the power of past ages, they would summon him before the court of the Inquisition? They all seem to be vying for the position of head inquisitor. What would be his crime other than not sharing their beliefs and daring to say so publicly? Are they really that intolerant of others’ beliefs or just afraid their beliefs cannot stand up to a little scrutiny?
With all of the different religions, denominations and sects on this planet, one thing is for certain: We are all going to hell according to somebody’s religion.
Let me conclude this post with several other letters to the editor that offended Christians have written about me.
September 14, 2014, Gary Grant wrote:
This letter is a response to Bruce Gerencser. The first question is why he is so hateful toward Christians and their belief in the God of the Bible.
I first read his article in the Sunday, Sept. 7 opinion page. It really gets frustrating to read his responses to Christians. His arrogance toward the word of God is nothing short of sheer stupidity. He acts like he knows more about God than God Himself.
Is Gerencser an atheist? If God’s word is just a joke and only stupid idiots believe it, why is Gerencser so interested in destroying it? What is he afraid of? Indeed, he should be afraid because if he dies without Christ in his life, he is in for a major shock. Why is he taking such a huge gamble with his life? I’ve been a Christian for over 40 years and don’t regret one second of it.
As far as creationism in schools, what’s the problem? I let people see both sides. Did Gerencser evolve from a monkey? What does he believe? How did we get here? There has to be a divine creator, to believe otherwise is to empty your brain of any rational intelligence.
Gerencser should turn his life over to Him before it’s too late. He could be a modern-day Apostle Paul.
May 1 ,2013, Richard Mastin wrote:
I’s true I don’t know Bruce Gerencser. His own words explain as I never could. Bruce wrote that “I object to any attempt to codify the teachings and commands of the Bible into the laws of the United States.”
Doesn’t he know that our system of life, government, laws and three branches was designed based on the Bible?
He objects to Christians trying to make biblical morality the law of the land. It’s been unwritten and in some instances written law until atheists and liberals started outlawing God in the 1960s.
Separation of church and state didn’t exist until 1947 when the atheistic ACLU and a supreme court justice, with approval of our Democrat-controlled House, Senate and presidency forced it on us. We’re losing our foundation. Government-controlled medicine is forced today.
The rights of church and state were always flexible and tolerant of the other until liberal domination in recent years. Bruce isn’t for tolerance. He wants organizations like the Christian-backed Boy Scouts to be forced to lower their moral standards to accept homosexual leaders.
Bruce wants to put the fox in the henhouse. He cares for the rights of gay persons, but not of those whose moral values lie with biblical teaching. He would destroy thousands to attain this and be happy about it. It would destroy the Scout oath.
He wrote: “I live by the precept of not doing harm to others, but be respectful of them.” Facts prove homosexual behavior is destructive to families, especially youth, and yet Bruce wants laws placing homosexuals in the their midst, hurting and destroying many. Hypocrite and disrespect come to mind.
I don’t consider any person moral who attempts to destroy Boy Scout high moral values. Bruce calls the Bible antiquated and irrelevant. Being an ex-pastor he knows God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their immoral homosexuality. If you or he think God won’t bring judgment on us, you’re wrong. This is about destroying the Boy Scouts, not equal protection for gays. His immoral atheistic ideals will bring national suicide.
The further we drift from Christianity and moral values the closer national death comes. We must stand strong behind the Boy Scouts. If homosexual leaders are permitted, the Cub Scouts, Brownies, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Campus Life and all other youth organizations will be forced to accept this immoral lifestyle and America will die.
Death is knocking on America’s door. America is like a 100-year-old barely holding onto life. If Bruce’s immoral desires don’t kill us, government’s anti-God attitude and subsidized medicine will. We must return to God now; tomorrow will be too late.
March 3, 2013, Daniel Gray wrote:
I wonder what reality Bruce Gerencser is in as it obviously isn’t where the rest of us are.
First, no one can be called a “bigot” if they are against homosexuality. Every dictionary and encyclopedia classifies bigotry as as having a bias or hatred against a group or person because of their religion-race-creed or disability, it says nothing about homosexuality; as such it is a lifestyle.
You cannot be bigoted against a lifestyle no matter how much Gerencser wishes as there is no medical nor scientific proof that homosexuality is genetic or people were “born that way”. As such, it isn’t genetic by all available present scientific and medical standards; that leaves it to be a lifestyle. Thus Gerencser’s left-wing wishes are just childish schoolyard name calling. I expected better…
…Gerencser had better hope his wish does not come true as a person of the same religious denomination he claims to have received his pastoral license from could turn him into the ruling body and send clippings of his letters. That ruling body could very well vacate his pastoral license for not following the teachings of the denomination he claims to have been part of, thus making his ability to marry anyone void. There is precedent for this. He could then apply for a justice of the peace license, but I don’t think they give them out anymore.
So, in the future may I strongly suggest to Gerencser that he start checking his facts before going off on yet another repeated tirade, especially since he has been proved incorrect on every letter he has sent so far.
January 6, 2013, Kenny Barnes wrote:
I am responding to a Jan. 2 letter to ther editor provided by Mr. Bruce Gerencser.
I am amazed that any lucid person would present an argument concerning a person or an entity that doesn’t exist! How can anyone claim to be an atheist under those circumstances? One would have to consider himself a super-intellectual, disregarding his surroundings or be as Psalm 14:1 quotes, ” A fool says in his heart, there is no God.”
I can’t answer that question. It does seem quite hypocritical to me however, that Mr. Gerencser would mention the “proclamation of angels.” Who declared the birth of Jesus still applicable today? We Christians, (born-again ) consider that babe in the manger to be God come in the flesh.
Lastly, Mr. Gerencser alludes to premarital sex among Christians. He seems to have lost all regard to pre-marital sex among ethnic groups. Babies born out of wedlock reach an astounding 73 percent.
Yet Mr. Gerencser considers his personal morality and ethics to be judged by his spouse, his children, his grandchildren, friends and neighbors. I don’t question them at all. I would suggest that he take his family and friends on a one week trip to the beautiful city of San Francisco, eat at some of the city’s finest restaurants and explain how our country is maturing, when at the tables next to them, people are dining completely nude. That’s progress isn’t it?
December 19, 2012 Gary Luderman wrote:
I am responding to an article in the Dec. 12 issue of The Crescent-News by Mr. Bruce Gerencser titled, “GOP is now an ‘extremist party.'”
The title piqued my interest enough that I took time to read the entire article. I take no pleasure whatsoever in stating that I found the letter rather intellectually vacuous. (Wait a minute, saying that didn’t make me feel that badly at all.)
First of all, this was not really a letter against the GOP as it was against Christian morality. Anyway, it appears that Mr. Gerencser does not believe in any moral standards — at least not those of the Christian faith. Not only that, but I gather from the tone of his letter that he feels intellectually and morally superior to people that do. Well, then let me ask two questions:
1. If Gerencser doesn’t like God’s rules, then whose rules are we to use? His?
2. Doesn’t Gerencser have any rules or standards at all? Is there nothing that anyone can do that he would not approve of or try to stop? Think about it, if there is just one thing that he doesn’t approve (for example, Christian values), then he is just as bad as GOP Christians. If not, then who is he to set any rules or have any opinions at all? Again, if there is no God, then who makes up the rules?
But there is a much larger issue. His philosophy not only affects you and yours, it is affecting and destroying the heart of our nation. If there are no rules or standards, then no one is free and no one is safe.
Is everybody and everything to be constantly changed and believed by the latest and largest lobby group that arises? Would you like to set up a committee to make moral decisions according to the latest polls?
Mr. Gerencser’s beliefs and thought processes have been around since almost the beginning of mankind. He presents nothing new, modern or enlightened. All he is doing is what mankind has always done — not liking God’s rules, therefore thinking that God is wrong and mankind is right. He takes the place of God and is hell-bent on making God into his own image. As a Republican, I will pray for him.
June 17, 2012, Maggie Spangler wrote:
Mr. Gerencser is trying to undermine the historical importance the Bible played in the building of our country’s government by villainizing it and by stating; “that the moral code of conduct of a particular religion has no business being codified into law within a secular state”.
What is the Bible? It’s a book, an inanimate object. Mr. Gerencser states that; “The Bible has been used in the past to justify all kinds of vile behavior.” The Bible itself is not responsible for any of the reprehensible acts that have been committed throughout history and have been justified by misquoting the Bible. It is the person behind the act that is responsible; not just for committing them but also for using the Bible in a lie to further their own agenda. No one will inherit the kingdom of God, if the Bible is to be taken literally…
…We the United States of America are not a secular state, but a constitutional republic. Our Founding Fathers created our government based upon the Constitution which was based upon three separate documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta and the Bible. Because of this our government is controlled by the Constitution. That is why it is called a, “living, breathing document”. We have been a Christian nation from the very beginning and many of us still are. Because our Constitution was based upon the Bible, that our government is based upon the Bible and the only way to change that is to change the Constitution. Hence, the fight we have been having over the last several decades.
Mr. Gerencser also stated that, “Our legal system should reflect what is best for the American people. How best to live as a pluralistic people in a secular state.”
Do you know what the second sentence in his quote means? Pluralism is the theory that a multitude of groups should govern the United States, not the people as a whole. These groups or organizations include trade unions, civil rights activists, environmentalists and business or financial lobbyists.
…A secular state remains neutral in matters of religion and treats all its citizens equal regardless of religion. Our Founding Fathers did not want our fledgling country to be sucked back into what they had just left where your religious stance could get you killed, and they wanted God to be the father of our nation. It all comes down to one thing: Do you believe in God?…
January 16, 2011, Larry Tonjes wrote:
In reply to Bruce Gerencser’s letter of Dec. 19 that this is a Christian nation, my belief as a “theocrat” is that no matter how determined any human wants to be, including Bruce Gerencser, to run away from God, it can’t be done.
The word “theocracy” is defined as “rule by divine authority.” Yes, America has had “war, torture, homophobia (not defined in the dictionary), amoral capitalism, economic collapse, the destruction of the working class and punitive political policies that punish and hurt the poor” as Gerencser mentions, but name me a nation that hasn’t had these problems.
According to the Bible and science, these problems are products of the human condition. In the insurance industry this used to be called “inherent vice,” meaning that everything in this world has an inherited flaw because it is of this world, a flawed world filled with flawed humans and flawed material to work with. The flawed problems mentioned have been endured through every type of government known to man, including Islam, communism, socialism, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Shintoism, democracy. Bruce Gerencser is looking for a scapegoat because Christianity hasn’t solved all our nation’s problems, so he is looking to the current progressive movement for salvation…
August 25, 2010 Bob Palczewski wrote:
I cannot help but wonder what would make someone who has read the Bible (assuming the entire Bible from cover to cover), attended a Christian college (attending a Christian college does not make one a Christian) and been an evangelical pastor change his mind and become an agnostic humanist.
Richard Dawkins in his book, The God Delusion, contains a chapter entitled “The Poverty of Agnosticism.”
Dawkins is a renowned atheist, and you are probably wondering why I quote an atheist to make a point. In the said chapter he discusses many points concerning agnosticism but I would like to point out two items of interest. First he observes there is an “agnostic spectrum,” varying degrees of agnosticism, ranging from one — “I believe in God but have a lot of questions concerning his existence” — to seven — “I do not believe in God, period.”
Second, he also mentions two types of agnosticism — a temporary agnosticism in practice and a permanent agnosticism in principle. I wonder where Mr. Gerencser stands.
If he was once enlightened and has fallen as far as agnosticism, then there is still hope. The next step is apostasy on which the Bible is very clear. If he has sincerely studied the Scriptures then he knows what I am referring to (Hebrews 6). If not, then he should, perhaps, rethink his position. And, yes, I know his position on the inerrancy of scripture. However, the Bible is as relevant today as it was then.
August 17, 2010, R.L. Wellman wrote:
This is in reply to Bruce Gerencser’s letter on Aug. 8. There is only one thing he wrote that I can agree with — that is you only have 500 words or less to respond to a letter that is full of untruths and assumptions.
Not everyone believes in God or the Bible. This is where the problem arises. Every other religion in the world talks about how their God or ways are the only way that’s right. Agnostics, from the Greek word agnostos means, “to not know,” and agnostic is one who admits, “I don’t know.”
There is only one true God. This is the Being who made each and everyone of us in his likeness and gave us a mind and will of our own. This is the same God who inspired the prophets of old to write the Bible, His Word. The Bible may not be a supernatural book, but it is His Word. The last book was written 1,900 years ago and is still as relevant today as when it was written….
With a humanistic worldview that focuses on the here and now, you don’t have to be good. You can do anything you want, take anything you want, because when you die that’s it. Bruce assumes Christians have no life, no joy, not living and loving. He said they trudge through a wicked world in search of heaven or eternal reward. If this is what he did, no wonder he became agnostic.
God means different things to different people. No two Christians have all the same rules to follow. That’s one reason different views exist. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not live in a world that doesn’t believe in God. It would be everyone for themselves, anything goes. If it feels good, do it. You can look and see what is happening in the United States today and it doesn’t take long to figure out we are headed away from God and in the wrong direction….
August 17, 2010, Daniel Gray wrote:
…But my other question would be while Gerencser claims to have been a pastor for 25 years and since being an agnostic is one step above being an atheist, as both of them deny the existence of a deity according to every encyclopedia and dictionary out there, is Gerencser now freely admitting that he was living a lie and that his whole life before becoming agnostic was a fraud?
And, if he was a pastor, then what about all the people he was supposed to lead? Is he now admitting that he deceived them as well? And, why bother becoming a pastor in the first place if you were just going to turn your back on your chosen religion, especially one that he has never mentioned? Something about his claim just does not sound correct…
October 14, 2009,Daniel Gray wrote:
…Gerencser himself then states “it would be easy to dismiss the right-wing fringe as tinfoil hat-wearing poorly educated kooks.” Why ask for civil discourse and then insult the same people? He claims to be a pastor, then freely admits he is a socialist? You cannot be both as this is like oil and water — they don’t mix. I find it very disturbing that a pastor would play fast and loose with the truth just to try and score political points….
March 4, 2009, Deb Joseph wrote:
This is in response to Mr. Gerencser’s letter to the editor on abortion. Wow! Sir, you are way off the mark when it comes to pro-life. This is what is wrong with the direction of this country. You cannot compromise murder. The commandment is “Thou Shall Not Kill.” It’s quite straight forward. The Bible does not say “Thou shall not kill, unless it is in the first few weeks of a pregnancy”. If, sir, you are a true Christian, you believe that there is one God Almighty, Creator of All. You also agree that God is capable of anything. So you would have to conclude that if God intended a pregnancy to last in only the final 30 weeks, it would be so. The final weeks are only possible with the first few. This completes God’s cycle. This is how He has said it will be. This is how He has designed it. By no means am I being your judge…
… Mr. Gerencser, you can call yourself a Democrat or a Republican, but with views like yours on abortion, you are a far cry from a Christian…
As far as my credentials are concerned, I am thrice ordained and licensed to marry people by the state of Ohio:
And here’s the final proof, straight from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Minister Licensing database:
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
I live in rural northwest Ohio, an area dominated by Evangelical Christianity. Even local mainline churches tend to skew to the right theologically and socially. The last church I attended before leaving Christianity was a United Methodist church. This church’s pastor was every bit as Evangelical as I was back in the day. I know of only one church that openly accepts LGBTQ people into their membership — St. John United Church of Christ in Defiance. (Please see Open and Affirming: St John United Church of Christ, Defiance, Ohio.)
Living in such a religious monoculture can be difficult for someone such as I. I love country living, so I have learned to adapt to my environment, even when I want to, at times, cuss, scream, and bang my hang on the wall. All of my children and grandchildren live within twenty minutes of my home. Every time I write a letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News, I pause for a moment to contemplate how my words might affect my progeny. I don’t want to cause them harm, yet, at the same time, I can’t and won’t be silent. If I don’t speak up for atheism, reason, and liberal politics, who will? For several years, it seemed like I was the atheist lone ranger, alone in my challenges to local Evangelicalism. Recent years have brought a handful of new voices to the editorial page of the Crescent-News. Not all of them are unbelievers, but we do share a common view of Evangelical Christianity and its negative, harmful influence on our local communities.
Today’s post is another opportunity to challenge the local Evangelical status-quo. Several days ago, I was checking out a local Facebook group and I came upon a discussion about starting a countywide youth group. The woman who suggested this surely had good intentions: let’s all work together for the common good. Several people suggested that there was no need for such a group. “We have the YMCA, and several churches have established youth groups,” they said. One person mentioned Xperience Church in Defiance. “Are they accepting of LGBTQ youth?” one commenter asked. A member of Xperience Church replied, “We accept anyone no matter what.”
Xperience Church is the latest in a long string of local cool hipster Evangelical churches. Xperience currently meets at the YMCA, but rapid attendance growth has them spending in excess of $1 million (one online commenter said the project will cost over $3 million) to move to new digs at the Northtowne Mall — a facility that will seat 825 people. The following video features Experience Church pastor Kyle Brownlee giving his “vision” for the future. Please try to listen to two or three minutes, if you dare. After that, you may need a barf bag.
After listening to Brownlee’s “vision,” you know what I wanted to do? Run! The Evangelicals are Coming! The Evangelicals are Coming! Run for Your Life!
Imagine for a moment, that you are a member of Xperience Church, and week after week you listen to Brownlee’s peppy, inspiring sermons. Imagine hearing over and over Brownlee’s “vision” for Defiance and the surrounding communities. You might come to the conclusion that Xperience Church really does “accept anyone no matter what.” However, as I will show below, Xperience Church — beneath all the loud music and relational sermons — is, belief-wise, a garden variety Evangelical church; not any different from dozens of other churches in rural northwest Ohio. (Xperience Church is affiliated with the Association of Relational Churches.)
We believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives.
We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is totally loving and completely holy. We believe that sin has separated each of us from God and His purpose for our lives.
We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ as both God and man is the only One who can reconcile us to God. He lived a sinless and exemplary life, died on the cross in our place, and rose again to prove His victory and empower us for life.
We believe that in order to receive forgiveness and the ‘new birth’ we must repent of our sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and submit to His will for our lives. We believe that in order to live the holy and fruitful lives that God intends for us, we need to be baptized in water and be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enables us to use spiritual gifts.
We believe in the power and significance of the church and the necessity of believers to meet regularly together for fellowship, prayer and growing in our faith.
We believe that God has individually equipped us so that we can successfully achieve His purpose for our lives which is to worship God, fulfill our role in the church and serve the community in which we live.
We believe that God wants to heal, set us free, and transform us so that we can live healthy and blessed lives in order to help others more effectively.
We believe that our eternal destination of either Heaven or Hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised.
We will be authentic in order to reach people who don’t know Christ.
To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to be real with where we’ve been and what God’s done to transform us. We’re not a group of perfect people, we are a group of people being perfected.
We believe the local church is the hope of the world.
We believe church is amazing. The church is God’s rescue plan for humanity and a place to introduce them to Jesus. Around here, we have a heart for building God’s House.
Having read these official statements of belief and philosophy, does anyone really think that Xperience Church would “accept anyone no matter what?” Of course not. This is nothing more than classic Evangelical subterfuge. (Please see Just Remember, Evangelicals Always Have an Agenda and The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals.) Yes, anyone is welcome to walk in the doors of Xperience Church and attend their services. Whosoever will, let them come, right? However, is Xperience Church really “accepting of LGBTQ youth?” Again, sure, as long as you don’t think about the question too hard. I am sure local LGBTQ students are welcome to attend the monthly youth meeting and weekly Sunday services. However, are the same students free to date other same-sex students? Are they free to speak openly and positively about their sexuality? If I attended Xperience Church, would I be permitted to preach the gospel of humanism and pass out Bart Ehrman’s books? Knowing what you know about Evangelical social beliefs, does anyone think Xperience Church truly has an open-door, live-as-you-want, be-true-to-self, policy? Of course not.
What the church member should have said is this: “we accept anyone no matter what, but thanks to Jesus and his awesome redeeming grace, we expect that unbelievers will be saved and become dutiful members of Xperience Church. We expect that the “anyones” will be transformed by the power of the Holy Ghost; that their addictions, perversions, and sins will be washed away by the mighty blood of Jesus Christ.” In other words, “yes, you are free to visit Xperience Church, but we will not leave you alone until you see things our, oops, I mean God’s way!”
I know people who attend Xperience Church, including family members, so I am not suggesting the church and its hipster pastor are evil. I have no doubt that they have good intentions. However, it is evident, at least to me, that Xperience Church is NOT open and accepting in the same way as St. John United Church of Christ.
Look, I don’t care what people do on Sundays. If people want to spend their Sunday mornings worshipping a mythical deity, fine. However, when it comes to going after unbelievers whom Evangelicals deem sick, broken, sinful, and in need of fixing, you can expect me to object. I am more than happy to share the same terra firma as worshippers of Jesus. All I ask is that they keep their beliefs to themselves. Now who is being delusional, right? Confrontational Evangelism is part of Evangelicalism’s DNA. Brownlee makes that clear in his “vision” video. When you believe your family, friends, and neighbors are vile enemies of God in need of salvation, it stands to reason you would do whatever is necessary to reach these lost heathens for Jesus. What remains to be seen is whether Brownlee and his church will stay “on-fire” for Jesus once they move into their new building. Or will Xperience Church, in time, become just like every other institutionalized, incestuous Evangelical church. My money is on the latter. ‘Tis the nature of Evangelical churches. Time and reality take the wind out the best of “vision” statements. Once local churches have been raided and sinful locals harassed until they get saved, what’s left for “cool” churches to do? I mean, isn’t church really all about who has the best worship band or the best preacher? What will happen when Xperience Church and its pastors become boring? Why, God will lead yet another church planter to static, dying Defiance County to establish a new church.
Just what we need, another hamburger joint.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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I am appalled, as are tens of millions of other Americans, by the fact that Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. I voted for Bernie Sanders during the primary season, believing that his progressive views were (are) the best way forward for the United States. Sanders’ inability to connect with older, rural, white Americans, and the Democratic National Committee’s attempt to derail him, doomed Sanders’ candidacy. While many Bernie supporters think that he would have beaten Trump had he received the nomination, I am of the opinion that this is little more than wishful thinking. Yesterday, I cast my ballot for Hillary Clinton primarily because I thought (and still do) that a Trump presidency will be disastrous for America. I was willing to overlook Clinton’s scandal-plagued career and her connection to Wall Street because I believed at the time (and still do) that electing Donald Trump would send the United States careening down a path that could lead to world war. A Clinton presidency would likely have been more of the same, a sameness that I could, if need be, stomach for four more years. As a progressive and a liberal, I’ve come to see that neither political party represents me. In 2008, swept up by promises of hope and change, I believed that Barack Obama would bring fundamental change to America. By 2012, I realized that idealistic hope and change had been swallowed up by an obstructionist Congress, lobbyists, big banks, and Wall Street. While President Obama talked a good game, his allegiances were still with corporate America. This became clear in the aftermath of the housing bubble collapse, when the Obama justice department failed to prosecute those who caused the collapse. The political élite ignored how angry middle America was over the pain and suffering caused by the last major recession. Having been ignored for decades, these older, white, Christian Americans see in Donald Trump a man who is willing to stand up for them; someone who speaks their language and empathizes with their pain; someone who doesn’t see them as deplorable. These are the people who swept Donald Trump into the White House. The majority of baby boomers and older people voted for Trump. Over eighty percent of Evangelicals cast their vote for the Republican nominee. Most of these people were never going to vote for a Democrat, so there is literally nothing that Trump could do that would turn them away from voting for him.
Next year, I will be 60 years old. Outside of a few years in California in the 1960s and Arizona and Michigan in the 1970s, I have spent my life living in Ohio. I have watched Ohio turn from a union-strong democratic state to a solidly red state where virtually every major political office is held by a Republican. As an Evangelical Christian and pastor, I was pleased to see Ohio move to the right. I suppose that, if I were still an Evangelical, I would be actively involved in trying to turn back the social progress of the past eight years. I have no doubt that I would have been working to criminalize abortion, shove gays back into the closet, reinstitute marriage as between a man and woman, force transgenders to use the bathroom that corresponded to their birth sex, and above all, I would been working to establish God and the Bible as the absolute authority in matters public and private. Fortunately, for me, my political and social views began to change in the late 1990s. While I was still conservative in many ways, my views began to creep leftward as I realized how hurtful and harmful many of my views were. By the time I left the ministry in 2005, I had moved to the far left of the evangelical tent, and had I not ultimately lost my faith I am sure I would now be a liberal Christian.
I now find myself quite alone in a sea of ravenous Evangelical Republicans. I know that there are numerous area residents who feel as I do. What do we do, now that our fellow citizens decided to elect a xenophobic, misogynistic, race baiting man unfit for public office? I live in Defiance County Ohio. Seventy-one percent of registered voters voted yesterday. Sixty-four percent of them voted for Donald Trump. Twenty-nine percent voted for Hillary Clinton. In nearby Fulton, Henry, and Williams counties, the splits were pretty much the same. Even worse, in Paulding County, seventy-two percent of people voted for Donald Trump, while Hillary Clinton received twenty-three percent of the vote. In nearby Putnam County, eighty percent of voters voted for Trump. A measly fifteen percent voted for Clinton.
While most rural Northwest Ohio counties have unemployment rates below state and national levels and jobs are plentiful, the fact is that much of the area has not yet recovered from the housing collapse. Yes, jobs are plentiful, but wages are not. My wife works for a large manufacturing concern who is having a hard time attracting new employees. If you find yourself looking for a job that starts out at $10 or $11 an hour, then move to rural Northwest Ohio. Housing is relatively cheap, as are groceries. If jobs are plentiful and housing and food are affordable, why do so many local residents still fear the future? One of the reasons is that wages are stagnant, and for those who work in local factories, after they reach a certain wage level all they receive are token, often laughable wage increases. The same workers have had to absorb scandalous increases in insurance costs. When my wife started with her employer in 1997, her insurance plan had a $300 deductible and a $1,200 maximum out-of-pocket. Today, her insurance plan has a $3,750 deductible and a $6,000 maximum out-of-pocket. During this time span, the amount that she pays for insurance premiums has gone up over 200%. Outrageous costs such as these are dragging many rural Americans right out of the middle class.
The housing collapse destroyed local property values. While values have improved in recent years, they are still below what they were in the 2000s. My wife and I bought our house in 2007 at the height of the boom market. Over the past 10 years we have made $25,000 of improvements on our home, including a new roof, windows, doors, and major inside remodeling. Yet, if we sold our house today, I doubt that it would bring much more than $10,000 over what we paid for it. Three houses across the street from us have sold in the last two years. All of the sellers were forced to reduce their prices in order to sell their homes. That said, housing prices are cheap, often hundreds of thousands of dollars cheaper than similar homes in cities and on the East and West Coast.
During the Obama administration, environmental regulations have been used to saddle local residents with increasing water and sewer costs. In nearby Defiance, residents are having to deal with water and sewer bills that could, when all the forced EPA mandates are met, reach $200 a month. While the EPA is absolutely right to force Defiance to stop dumping shit in local waterways, I do understand the frustrations of local residents who are forced to pay ever-increasing utility bills without any meaningful wage increases. The small community I live in had to install a sewer system for similar reasons. Fortunately, the project was shovel ready and the village received over $1 million of TARP money to pay for the new system. If the village of Ney had not received this money, our water and sewer bills would be much more like those of Defiance.
Rural Northwest Ohio is religiously dominated by Evangelical, mainline Lutheran, Methodist, and Catholic churches. These sects are decidedly white, conservative, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, and Republican. They are an aging population who think that the 1950s were the best times of their lives. Farms dot the landscape, and the latest election results show that farmers overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump, even though, if Congressional Republicans have their way, drastic cuts will be made to farm programs. Quite frankly, the only thing that will turn rural areas such as this one towards a more progressive path is for there to be a lot of funerals. Until grandma and grandpa die off, rural Northwest Ohio will continue to be a bastion of Republican values. I will do what I can to be a voice that counters their delusions, and I know many others will do the same, but we do not have sufficient numbers to make a meaningful difference in the short-term. Our best approach is to begin helping the millennial and gen-x generations find their political feet. Both the Democratic and Republican parties attempted to co-opt younger Americans for political gain. These young voters bought into Barack Obama’s message of hope and change. Eight years later, many of these same voters believe that the two-party system is broken beyond repair. It is for this reason many young Americans supported Bernie Sanders, hoping that he would split off from the Democratic Party and run an independent campaign. Disheartened by Sanders’ pragmatic refusal to do so, many of these disillusioned young voters stayed home on election day, allowing idealism to trump pragmatism. It remains to be seen if the millennial and gen-x generations will continue to support the two-party system, or will instead opt to burn the house to the ground and start a political revolution. I think Bernie Sanders is right when he says what America really needs is revolution. Perhaps after four years of being ravaged by an orange-skinned monster, America will be ready for a real hope-and-change revolution.
I am often asked why I continue to live in rural Northwest Ohio. Why would an atheist with socialistic/progressive/liberal values continue to live in an area dominated by God’s Only Party? The short answer is that this is where my children and grandchildren live, but there is more to my living here than just my love for family. First, I was born here. My father’s parents were Hungarian immigrants who settled in this area, operating a hundred-acre farm until both of them died in the 1960s. Both my mom and dad were raised on the farm. While my dad was raised in Ohio, my mom spent most of her younger years on a farm in Missouri. My rural country roots run deep. Polly and I recently celebrated our thirty-eighth wedding anniversary. We have spent most of our married years living among rural people. The slow, lazy hum of rural life suits us. Good schools surround us and we have few of the fears that many city-dwellers face. While we lock our doors and cars out of habit, if we didn’t it is likely that nothing would happen. We know our neighbors, even though we have little in common with them. We are surrounded by wildlife and greenery, and the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Michigan are but short drives away. We know little of traffic jams, and when we go to the big cities of Toledo and Fort Wayne to indulge in that which only they can provide, we are always glad when we return home; and that’s the key word…home. Yes, I am angry that my fellow country folk played a big part in electing Donald Trump. I totally get the anger that many of my blue state friends have towards rural America. Their anger is warranted, but I hope they will remember that not every country hick or hillbilly is a Republican. This is my home, and I will, from my little corner of the universe, do what I can to make sure that Donald Trump is a one term president and that his harmful policies are kept from fruition. As disheartened as I am today, I know that I cannot remain silent. If my goal remains a better future for my children and grandchildren, then I owe it to them to muster what strength I can to defeat political ideologies that want to roll back progress. Throwing feces and writing screaming blog posts will gain me nothing. I must do what I’ve always done, and that is to be a loud voice for progressive values and the humanist ideal.
“These events are a great opportunity for people to be enlightened. Too many people get three hours off on Good Friday and don’t do anything about it. If they come to these events it could change their lives. God is trying to show us that we need to be ready for Christ’s return. This is still history in the making and people can still be a part of that history, it’s not too late.”
Every year, a handful of Defiance area mainline Protestant, Catholic, and ecumenical Evangelical churches get together for a community Good Friday service. This year’s service will be held from noon-3 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church. Immediately following the service, Christians will gather at St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the annual Stations of the Cross walk. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind paywall):
There will be 14 stops on the way, to read scripture and pray in remembrance of the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Of the 14 stops, seven will be read and spoken in Spanish.
Good Friday truly is good, because Christ died for us on the cross and rose on Easter, giving us the gift of salvation that he freely offers to us. To celebrate as a Christian community with the Outdoor Stations of the Cross, we realize that our faith is such that we can take it out to the streets and be a witness to everyone, that we do believe in his death and resurrection.
The Stations of the Cross is a pilgrimage. For those of us who can’t go to the Holy Land, we walk here so we can recount the steps that Jesus took. This walk is a chance to be together with people from our community, and with Jesus, to not only understand his suffering, but to also understand the great love he has for us.
Christians doing Christian stuff on Good Friday…no big deal. What I find amusing is the notion that these events are some sort of statement affirming Christian unity. Most Defiance area churches do not participate in these events. Many local churches don’t even believe Catholics are Christian. Some Baptist churches not only consign Catholics to hell, they also doubt the Christianity of people attending liberal or mainline churches.
Father Muller thinks walking the Stations of the Cross is taking their Christian faith out to the streets as a public witness of belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus. I hate to break it to Muller, most people don’t give a shit. Many local businesses give employees Good Friday off or allow them to attend Good Friday services. Despite this, most locals — who are overwhelmingly Christian — will not be in attendance at either of the Good Friday events.
Apostle Smith thinks if people attend these events their lives could be changed. After all, Jesus is coming soon! What will be said that hasn’t been said countless times before? There’s not one person in Defiance County who hasn’t heard some version of the Christian gospel. Everyone knows who Christians say Jesus is and what supposedly happened to him 2,000 years ago. They know all they need to know, yet, come noon tomorrow most local residents will be busy living life, preparing for the REAL meaning of Easter — the Easter bunny, eggs, chocolate, and other candies. What Smith and his fellow religionists fail to understand is that, yes, people are becoming more enlightened, but this enlightenment is leading them away from, not towards organized religion. Despite all the religious pontificating from Republican presidential candidates that suggests otherwise, American Christianity is in decline — especially among millennials. There will come a day in the not too distant future that Good Friday services and walking the Stations of the Cross will be little more than relics of a bygone era.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about Evangelicals and conservative Christians, it is hard for them to get together and just have fun. Everything is a means to an end. It’s hip now for several local churches to go out in the community and “help” others. Dressed in their matching church advertisement shirts, out in the community they go to do good works for Jesus. Why is there a need to advertise the church or hand out printed materials with the church’s name on it? If it is all about Jesus, why not do these works anonymously? Instead, these social outreach programs are used as a means to evangelize and attract church members. While they certainly do some earthly good, the grand goal is to win souls to Jesus and increase the church roll.
Years ago, the churches I pastored sponsored numerous fun events for local teenagers. From all-nighters at the YMCA to roller skating and bowling, we would design activities sure to draw local teens. During every event we would have a time when we gathered everyone together and preach the gospel. You see, fun was not the objective, salvation was. Teenagers endured the preaching and high pressure evangelism because they knew that fun awaited them just beyond saying the sinner’s prayer.
Last Saturday was the inaugural Defiance Fun Fest. According to the Defiance Crescent-News (behind a paywall):
Several Defiance area churches are partnering with Ravens Care of Defiance to present the first ever Family Fun Fest, Aug. 1 from 4-7 p.m. at Diehl Park in Defiance…
Family Fun Fest is an opportunity for families to spend time together enjoying food, fun and friends, all for free. The event has been underwritten by the Defiance Police Officers Association, First Federal Bank, General Motors Defiance Casting Operations, Johns Manville, Midwest Community Federal Credit Union and The State Bank.
The idea started when Pastor Rick Rufenacht of First Church of God in Defiance talked with other pastors about working together on an event that would minister to people in the Defiance community. His church had done a similar family event the past six years, but he was looking for a greater impact on Defiance.
“I had attempted to get some pastors together to talk about doing ministry together and what that might look like,” said Rufenacht…
…Katye Katterheinrich, director of Ravens Care, loved the idea of a family event.
“There are so many adult events in our area, but this is an event geared toward families, and it’s free,” said Katterheinrich. “There are a lot of families that don’t get to go on vacation, that don’t get to go to the pool, that don’t always have these kind of opportunities. Ravens Care is supported by area churches, so working together on a family event with the churches, is really natural fit.”
Pastor Max Begley of Second Baptist Church in Defiance, is pleased to be a part of this event and the spirit of cooperation that has grown among the churches and with Ravens Care.
“Each individual church may not be able to do a family festival by itself because it may be limited by resources, so by coming together, we can do something better together that has a greater positive impact on the community,” said Begley. “Because Rick and his church had already been doing this, we agreed to work together to build on that, and once we did, it started coming together quickly.”
Several of my grandchildren attended the event. According to the newspaper, Fun Fest included:
…large inflatable attractions, Zorbs, hot dogs, popcorn, sno cones, cotton candy, games, crafts by Lowes of Defiance, a karate demonstration, a demonstration from Iron Faith Fitness Center of Defiance, a photo booth, Defiance firemen and fire trucks, Defiance policemen and cruisers, Defiance County Sheriff’s Office, DARE and K-9 dogs.
What’s not to like, right? Sounds like a lot of fun and the proceeds went to support Ravens Care, a “Christian Ministry dedicated to meet needs in the community that are not being met by other agencies.” I am all for any “ministry” or program that helps the least of these, but works of charity should not be used a means to evangelize non-Christians. While Ravens Care, as far as I know, does not evangelize those they serve, the Family Fun Fest did.
Children were able earn coupons/tickets that could be turned in for rides on the inflatables. Guess what one of ways was that children could earn tickets? Attending a gospel presentation at the ” ‘Choosing Christ’ tent for kids, (a program) designed to allow kids to learn the gospel message.” Hey kiddies, want to earn some tickets so you can go play on the big, fun rides? Just sit here and let us tell you about Jesus. As any adult who was evangelized like this as a child will tell you, what’s a little preaching and praying when you get to play games and do fun stuff when you are done. Dear Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I know you died on the cross to save me from my sins. Come into my heart and save me. In Jesus name, Amen. Tickets please!
I did a cursory Google search for the Children Choosing Christ tent and I found out that this tent is used to evangelize at NW Ohio fairs and special events. While I was unable to find out what group or person owned the tent, I was told that the preaching in the tent was decidedly Evangelical, geared to evangelizing and converting impressionable children. In any other context we would consider such behavior predatory and harmful.
We live in a small, rural, NW Ohio community, population 345. The village of Ney has one traffic light, two bars, one gas station, and two people who seriously doubt God exists. Both of the local bars serve food, one is a mom and pop style restaurant and the other is a pizza joint.
The closest town is Bryan, five miles away. Bryan has a few fast food restaurants,a Chief Supermarket, and a Walmart. Defiance, ten miles away, is the biggest community in Defiance County with a population just south of 17,000. Defiance has a plethora of fast food restaurants,a small mall, a few full service restaurants, and a small collection of free-standing big-box/small-box stores. There are five grocery stores in Defiance: Walmart, Aldi, Chief, Meijer, and Kroger.
Serious shopping requires a fifty mile drive to Toledo or a forty mile drive to Fort Wayne. For this reason and others, my favorite store is Amazon.com. I don’t have to get in the car and I don’t have to holler at Polly except when UPS or FedEx is at the door. When we want to eat a nice meal that’s more upscale than Applebee’s or McDonald’s we go to Toledo or Fort Wayne. Most of the time we go to Fort Wayne.
Our favorite grocery store is Meijer. Meijer is a regional grocery chain based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We also like shopping at Chief Supermarket, a local grocery company. Due to the loathsome politics of the Walton family, we hate shopping at Walmart. But, thanks to having more budget than money, we are forced, from time to time, to give Satan some of our money. We eat a lot of fish and Walmart is the best place for buying frozen fish and Zero candy bars. Brisket too. Walmart is the only store in town that sells brisket, a must have cut of meat during BBQ season. We also infrequently shop at Aldi and we try to shop at Chief as often as we can. Our youngest daughter and son work part-time for Chief, so we view our grocery purchases as job security for them. We do not shop at Kroger. High prices and those damn cards they make customers use make Kroger our least favorite store. We also regularly buy meat from Jacob’s Meats, located just north of Defiance.
I am the primary shopper in our family. I know, a little Susie homemaker I am, a discredit to the male species. Polly and I shop together, but I am the one who checks prices and quantities and decides what to buy. We have a white board in the kitchen and shopping needs are supposed to be written on the board. Did you notice the word supposed? (Polly is glaring at me, giving me the finger without ever raising her hand) We use coupons, shop with a list, use mPerks, and always pay with a debit/credit card.
Going to the grocery is often the only time I get out of the house. Most often, I haltingly enter the store, already in pain. About fifteen minutes into our low price safari, my thighs and face begin to burn and turn numb. Not long after, I need to lean on the cart just to partially stand up. By the time we are finished shopping, I am in tremendous pain and ready for a four Vicodin with vodka drink. I dream of this, but the reality is I am very careful with the medications I take, so it’s two Vicodin with a glass of water and a Tramadol chaser.
There are a lot of things that irritate me when I go to the grocery store, If you have some illusion that I am a Zen-like person who has perfect peace and calm as he painfully shuffles down the aisles of the grocery, I am sorry that your illusion is about to be destroyed.
I love shopping at Meijer. I am a Meijer fan-boy. Anything I can do to stick it to Walmart, I am all for it. But, as much as I like shopping at Meijer, there are some things that irritate me. I mean really, really, really irritate me.
Bruce’s, Top 21 Things I Hate About Shopping at Meijer:
My number one irritation is the greeters, well really just one greeter. This one greeter is an automaton. I kid you not, she says the exact same thing, with the exact same cadence, every damn time. When we come in the store she says in her best robot voice, Welcome to Meijer. When we leave the store she says Have a nice day, thank you for shopping at Meijer. Have you ever seen the comedy Good Burger? If so, this greeter is just like the one Good Burger worker who says, Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger! Can I take your order?
Shopping carts that have squeaky wheels or wheels that go thump, thump.
The way the meat department stacks meat above the cooling line in the meat coolers. I have complained to the manager and I have called the health department. Evidently, no one seems to care that some meat products are not kept at a proper temperature.
Advertised items not stocked. Every week we have to go ask someone for a sale item or we have to go to the service desk to request a rain check.
Fish that is on sale, but the meat department never seems to have in stock. This happens EVERY week.
Deli clerks who stand fifteen feet away and say, can I help you? No, of course not. I’ve been standing here for five minutes waiting for you to finish washing dishes. No hurry, I know Meijer doesn’t want to sell me any food from the deli.
Produce clerks who refuse to restock the counters until that last smashed tomato is purchased or the last three ears of corn are dutifully placed in a yellow bag ten times bigger than the measly sized ears of corn.
Deli clerks who ask me three times how much ham I want. Did I stutter? One pound and not one hundredth of an ounce over. Can’t you see that I am on a diet?
People who are too lazy to put items they don’t want back where they belong. Polly found a thawed out frozen cake that some lazy ass had dumped. The only worse thing? The Meijer clerk probably put it back in the freezer.
Not necessarily only a Meijer problem, but I hate the size game that food producers play, A quart is no longer a quart. An 18 ounce jar of peanut butter is now 15 ounces. I am very good at spotting packaging that has been reworked to hide a reduction in the amount of product. I think I would make a good spy for Consumer Reports.
Shopping for toilet paper. Am I the only person who thinks we are getting ripped off one sheet at time? It is becoming harder and harder to figure out exactly how much toilet paper you are getting in your single, double, triple, mega toilet paper roll. Is it single ply or double ply? Is it twice as strong or just every day get your fingers poopy strong?
People who stand in the middle of the aisle during busy times. No matter how long I stand there and give them the Gerencser glare, they seemingly are oblivious to anything but their middle of the aisle bull session.
Ditto that for people who seem to only use the motorized carts on the busiest days of the week. I am all for handicapped people being able to shop, but a little common sense about it would be very helpful.
Cashiers who don’t know their veggies. How many times have I heard “what are these?” Sometimes, when we buy a lot of veggies I tell the cashier that I work for Meijer Corporate office and I am testing their veggie knowledge. The younger the cashier the fewer number of veggies they can name.
Scanners that don’t work at the self-checkout. When I have to get help three times, that is three times too many. What makes it worse is when the clerk says “Yeah, we have had a problem with that one all day.” Argh…cuss in mind, but smile with my fake I love Jesus smile.
Stockers who think that their shelf stocking takes precedence over my ability to get down the aisle. Sometimes I will, without saying a word, move their cart. Oh the dirty looks , but I think they get the point.
Dirty bathrooms. Never clean enough for me. I expect clean floors to splatter urine on. I hate electric hand dryers. Give me paper towels or give me death by unwashed hands.
People who glare at me when I park in a handicapped space. I DO have a placard, but evidently I don’t look disabled enough. I look too young or I don’t “look” disabled, even though I walk with a cane. Never mind that going to the store, to that one store, often takes every bit of my energy, not only for that day, but for two days later. Sometimes, but I never do, I want to wave at them with my middle finger raised high.
Not stocking hats and shirts for fans of the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals. Browns, Lions, Indians, and Tigers? What, isn’t Cincinnati in Ohio? Not that I would buy hats and shirts from Meijer if they stocked them. The last time I checked, Meijer’s price for a cheap snap back hat was more than what I paid for a fitted, game day hat. I know my hats.
Not stocking candy bars I like to eat. Come on, Meijer, how about Clark, Zero, and Zagnut bars?
Not stocking Paczki’s all year. I know you stock them for Catholics loading up on calories before Lent, but some of us like to pig out 365 days a year. Same goes for chocolate frosted long john donuts. When I want a donut, I want a donut and it better be 6:00 AM fresh no matter what time of day it is.
I love shopping at Meijer. Now if they would just take my list of irritations and fix them I would be extremely happy. After all, the customer is always right.