Tag Archive: Democratic Party

Life in Rural Northwest Ohio: Committing Social Suicide

jesus-flag

Local home flying the team flag. Go TEAM JESUS!

I have spent most of my sixty years of life living in rural Ohio. I was born in Bryan, Ohio — a small community in Northwest Ohio. My dad’s parents immigrated to the United States from Hungary in the 1920s and settled down on a hundred acre farm a few miles south of Bryan. Dad and his siblings attended schools in the very district my wife and I now call home. We live in a small spot along State Highway 15. Ney, population 345, has two bars/restaurants and a convenience store/fast station. Dad graduated from Ney High School in 1954. I attended elementary school for several years west of here in the flashing-light, spot-in-the-road town called Farmer. Dad frequently moved us from town to town, unable, for some inexplicable reason, to pay the rent. It wasn’t until junior high that I got a taste of “big” city life.  For three and a half years, we lived in Findlay, the home of Marathon Oil. This allowed me to attend the same school for three straight years. I actually had the same friends from one school year to the next!

Divorce and Dad moving us to Arizona turned my happy world upside down. At age sixteen, I returned to Findlay for my eleventh-grade year. I then returned to Bryan to live with my mother. Lots of drama, including Mom being locked up in Toledo State Hospital, resulted in my siblings and me being uprooted and moved once again to Arizona. By then, I had dropped out of high school. In the fall of 1975, I moved back to Bryan and took a job working at a local grocery store. A year later, I left Bryan to attend classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I returned to Bryan three years later, pregnant wife in tow.

Polly and I spent much of our married life living in small, rural communities. The churches I pastored were, for the most part, attended by white, working-class people. In 1995, we moved back to the flatland of rural Northwest Ohio. I pastored two nearby churches, moving away from the area to pastor a church in rural Michigan, along with a move to Yuma, Arizona. In the end, like the proverbial bad penny, I seem to always make my way back to Northwest Ohio. In 2007, we bought our house in Ney. Our six children and eleven grandchildren (soon to be twelve) all live within twenty minutes of our home.

There are times when Polly and I yearn for the big city; for the anonymity that living in such places provide. But, we love our family, and when we bought our home, we committed ourselves to living here until death do us part. This is the place and people we call home. We love the slowness of life, and when we need a big city fix, Fort Wayne and Toledo are but an hour away.

I write all this to say that my roots run deep into the soil of rural Ohio. No matter how often I fled the scene, looking for excitement and diversity, I always seemed to come right back to where life started for me. Polly was a city girl, but forty years of country living have turned her into a small-town girl who has embraced the rural way of life. Would we live where we do if it weren’t for our children and grandchildren? Probably not. And the reason for this is simple. While both of us feel quite at home in rural Ohio, our beliefs have changed greatly over the past two decades. This change of thinking puts us at odds with most of our neighbors — politically, religiously, and socially.

Rural northwest Ohio is the land of God, Guns, and the Republican Party. Hundreds of conservative churches dot the landscape, and virtually every public office is held by a Republican. In Defiance County where I live, the Democratic Party has fielded two winners in the last decade, neither of whom is currently in office. Living here means that I must accept  the monoculture of my surroundings, a society where it is assumed that everyone thinks and believes the same way. Someone like me, a socialist/pacifist/atheist, is a rare bird. While I have met more than a few people with similar views (particularly young adults), there are no liberal/humanist/atheist/secular groups or meet-ups in rural Northwest Ohio. People who don’t fit the rural Ohio political and religious mold exist, but few are vocal about their liberalness and unbelief. Why? Doing so would be socially suicidal.

One of my sons and I were talking about this tonight — about how being an out-of-the closet unbeliever or liberal leads to social suicide. While I am often lauded for my outspokenness about local politics and religion, my position has come at a high cost socially. I have in the past pondered whether, if I had it to do all over again, I would have been so vocal early on about my atheistic beliefs. I know that my outspokenness (and my age and disability) has made me unemployable. I own a photography business. When locals are given a choice between an Evangelical photographer and me, guess what? They usually choose the God-fearing one (regardless of the quality of work).

Over the past fifteen months, I have made a concerted effort to, outside of this blog, to tone down my public pronouncements. At times, I feel guilty for doing so; feeling as if I am a sell-out or a hypocrite. Everyone should be able to be who and what they are, right? Sure, but small-town life demands at least some modicum of outward conformity to tribal political, religious, and social beliefs. Disobey and you will pay the price. And for my family in particular, I don’t want them being socially and economically punished for who their father is. Some of my children may agree with me, but their futures depend on them not committing social suicide. Rarely does a week or two go by without one of my children telling me that someone at work — a boss, fellow employee, or customer — was inquiring about whether they were related to me. My children have become experts at fielding such interrogations, knowing that they are always free to say, Hmm, Bruce Gerencser? Don’t know the guy.

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Ney Village Limit Sign, Slightly Altered.

I plan to live the remaining days and years of my life in Ney, Ohio. As a committed liberal and atheist — who also wants to get along and be accepted by his neighbors — I have to find ways to be true to self while at the same time not being ostracized by locals. Everything, unfortunately, comes down to money. My wife and I need to earn money to live. Earning money requires acceptance by local employers/customers. While it would be wonderful to be a street-corner atheist (and some locals think I am way too outspoken, even at presently muted levels), I have to live here, and being one would be social suicide. The violations of separation of church and state are so common is this area that the Freedom From Religion Foundation could spend the next year or so filing lawsuits against local government agencies, schools, and businesses. Yes, I find these violations of the law egregious, and the street-corner atheist in me wants to call out and condemn their sins. But, I can’t, for in doing so I would cause great social harm not only to myself but to my wife, children, and grandchildren. If I made $40,000 a year blogging, things would be different, but as things now stand, I must swim in waters infested with Evangelical/right-wing Republican sharks, and being a lone fish is sure to turn me into a snack.

I have much hope in the belief that things are slowly changing here in rural Northwest Ohio. Local millennials are not as religious as their parents, and they most certainly don’t hold to the moral and religious values of their grandparents. It is in these young adults that I see promise. It is unlikely that this area will ever be as liberal as the West or East coasts, but I am hoping that there is coming a day when it won’t be social suicide to say that I am a liberal, a socialist, and non-Christian.

For now, I must choose my battles carefully, hoping that I can safely navigate the dangerous waters of rural Ohio. I have seen progress on this front thanks to my high school basketball photography. I have talked to more locals in the past few months than in the last ten years combined. I want them to see me as a family man, as a decent, kind curmudgeon who also happens to take really good pictures. I know that Google is not my friend, but there nothing I can do about the stories she might tell if someone asks her about Bruce Gerencser. Just last week, one my children ran into several people their age who were once members of a local church I pastored. These young adults have heard the gossip about me and read up on me, thanks to the Internet, but they still can’t understand how it is possible that the man they once called pastor is now a heathen. What happened? they asked, desperately trying to figure out how I ended up where I am today. Lost on such people is the fact that I am, in many ways, the same man I was when I was their pastor. Sure, I am a political liberal and an atheist. But, personality-wise I am pretty much the same guy. I am still a down-home friendly man with a wry sense of humor. I am…Bruce. [My editor commented, Your closing raises some interesting questions. Are you the same guy? I think it is hard for you to claim that you are. Sure, you are still a decent, hard-working man, but you have done an about-face in regard to many of your core beliefs of your prior life.]

I would love to hear from readers who find it difficult to navigate the waters of their communities. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: The Democrats are the Party of the Anti-Christ by Jim Bakker

jim and lori bakker

This is the one hundred and sixty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip from convicted felon Jim Bakker’s television show.

Video Link

Partial transcript:

“The left has become anti-Christ. I’m convinced, if we would have elected the other candidate, we would be, right now, probably packing boxes to move out of our buildings and Christian television would begin to be a part of the end of era of the freedom of Christian television. They don’t want us, we’re one voice that speaks biblically and they don’t like the fact that God’s word differs with what they teach. If we change positions in this country and the other team takes over, you better get ready because all hell is going to break loose and America will not be a religious nation any longer.”

 

The Republican War Against the Health of Poor and Working-Class Americans

republican healthcare plan

Congressional Republicans are waging a full-scale war against the health of poor and working-class Americans. Their battle plan is quite simple:

  • Do away with the federal funding of Medicaid.
  • Force states to either raise taxes to fund Medicaid or drastically cut services.
  • Enrich the medical industry by ignoring the runway cost of healthcare, wrongly suggesting the market forces with correct the current excesses.
  • Raise insurance premiums for the sick and elderly.
  • Do away with Obamacare regulations that forced insurance companies to cover preëxisting conditions and provide basic preventative healthcare.
  • Give businesses huge tax cuts.
  • Give the wealthy huge text cuts.

The Republicans who oppose the current Senate healthcare bill do not object because they want Americans to have better healthcare. What they want is a complete dismantling of the federal government, including any laws and regulations that govern healthcare. These Ayn Rand-loving Libertarians don’t care one whit about whether Americans live or die or whether any of us has affordable insurance. Left to their own devices, these Republicans will destroy the social progress of the past sixty years, remolding America into a fiefdom where the rich and major corporations rule the land. The difference between people such as I and these Republicans is that we actually care about the welfare of the American people and these Republicans don’t. Their concern begins and ends with their wallets. Ironically, most of these Republican are Christians, people who supposedly follow Jesus and keep his commandments. Evidently, these human-hating Republicans have never read Jesus’ words about riches and how those of means should treat the poor.

republican healthcare plan

The solution, of course, is to raise taxes, and provide single-payer health insurance for all Americans — rich, poor, and working class. It is time we take the profit out of healthcare. People should not have to look at their bank balances before deciding to seek medical treatment. As it stands now, even those of us who have healthcare are facing astronomical rises in insurance premiums, deductibles, and drug costs. The only sure way to make certain that all Americans have comprehensive, affordable healthcare is to burn to the ground the current system. This means, first, voting out of office any Republican or Democrat who continues to suckle at the teat of the healthcare industry. These “leaders” of ours cannot, as Jesus said, serve two masters. You will love the one and hate the other. And as it hands now, it sure looks like the ruling class hates poor and working-class people.

The True Agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled Wing of the Republican Party

letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. Submitted on March 24, 2017

Dear Editor:

The recent attempt to pass what Donald Trump and Republicans dubbed the American Health Care Act has finally exposed for all to see the true agenda of the Ayn Rand-fueled, Koch Brothers-funded, Evangelical-empowered, Paul Ryan-controlled wing of the Republican Party. The white sheets have been torn away, exposing ideological hatred for minorities, the working class, and what the Bible calls the least of these. We now know that these shills for the one-percenters want to destroy the Federal government, roll back the New Deal, and cut the bottom out of social safety net. Their ultimate goal is to return our society to the days of the wild, wild West – days when every man controlled his own destiny; days when the capitalist with the fastest draw and surest aim or the robber baron with the quickest fists ruled the land.

As of the writing of this letter, Republicans have twice cancelled votes on the AHCA. Facing outrage from all corners of the political spectrum, Paul Ryan is increasingly aware of the fact that he never should have made public his agenda to destroy America. While I thoroughly enjoy watching Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, and their surrogates get the public caning they so richly deserve, my joy is tempered by the fact that at the state level Republican extremists  are quietly and effectively rolling back much of the social progress of the past century.  More frightening than the AHCA debacle is the Koch Brothers-funded plan for a Constitutional Convention. And once a Constitutional Convention is convened, Tea-Party, Libertarian, and Evangelical theocrats will finally have the tools necessary to dismantle the Federal government and turn America into dog-eat-dog capitalist state ruled by men only concerned with their stock portfolio and return on investment. While Evangelicals will certainly make sure that their God is returned to his rightful place as America’s potentate, the real God of these extremists is laissez-faire capitalism.

One positive to come out of electing Donald Trump is the exposure of the true agenda of many Republican officeholders. Now it is up to Democrats, liberals, progressives. democratic socialists, and all who value social progress to coalesce into a movement willing to take on Paul Ryan/Koch Brothers/Ayn Rand Republicans. What lies ahead is a no-holds-barred fight to the death for the future of our Republic. I am ready for the fight. Are you?

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

 

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Liberals Hate Everything Evangelicals Stand For by Lee Duigon

lee duigonRemember when they booed God at the Democrat National Convention, 2012? It should have told us what we were in for, but Mitt Romney found a way to lose the election in spite of that display.

Now, five years later, we have managed to win a national election—and Democrats are back to booing God. The latest example was at a Republican town hall meeting in Louisiana, hosted by Sen. Bill Cassidy, at which Democrat “protesters”—do they even know what they’re “protesting”?—loudly booed both the opening prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.

The prayer got them really riled up. “Prayer? Prayer?” cried one incredulous progressive. “Pray on your own time!” bellowed another. And a woman, at the top of her lungs, invoked the name of Lucifer, who runs American leftism when George Soros is otherwise occupied. They got especially raucous at the mention of Jesus’ name; and then they heckled and booed the recitation of the Pledge. At this point we usually hear liberals deny they’re anti-Christian and angrily declare, “Don’t you dare question our patriotism!”

Again, these people are energetically showing us who they are, and shame on us if we don’t listen.

Why do liberals hate God? Because they’re after His job. They want to sit where He sits, and they insist that they can and will do all the things He should have done, but couldn’t do because He doesn’t exist. They, by the brute force of an all-powerful government run by themselves, will wipe out income inequality, abolish hate, war, poverty, disease, and while they’re at it, Save The Planet. And we’ll all live happily ever after as Citizens of the World. They haven’t gotten around yet to offering us forgiveness of sins and eternal life, but they’re working on it.

So they boo God, boo the country, and put up yard signs, as one of my neighbors has done, proclaiming such gems of tolerance and wisdom as “Patriotism is for Scoundrels,” “Blankety-blank Clingers,” “Black Lives Matter,” “Science (they mean Global Warming, evolution, and abortion) is Real”… and, as the bottom line, “Kindness is Everything!” I don’t think I want to know how they define kindness. The Bible has already told me that: “the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10). Leftist “kindness” usually involves a lot of barbed wire and piles of dead bodies.

….

They have cut the cable that anchored them to God, and now try to tie up to the water. Anyone can see how well that works.

….

Whether or not these liberals are beyond hope of repair is not for us to say. But we need to have our heads examined if we even think about ever again allowing them to run the country. They hate everything we love, and they will take it away from us if they can.

My Thoughts on the Complicity of Rural America in the Election of Donald Trump

donald trump

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.

Donald Trump, Thieving Democrats, God is Pro-Life, And Jesus is the Cure for Heroin Addiction

Welcome to Defiance County, Ohio, home to Jesus and Donald Trump.

god-is-pro-life

Evidently, the person who put up this sign has never read the Bible. Had they bothered to do so, they would have found out that God is definitely not pro-life.

thieving-democrats-defiance-ohio

This sign would be hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that the person who put it up really believes these things. Come Wednesday, I am sure she will be screaming long and hard about how Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump.

gamerz-defiance-ohio

Gamerz is a Defiance, Ohio video game store. While I certainly believe that every American has a right to voice their political views, it is not good for business to do so when you own a small business. Earlier in the day, the owner of Gamerz unfurled and hung two anti-Clinton banners above the sidewalk in the front of his business. He had taken them down by the time I took this photograph. Evidently, the owner is more interested in supporting Trump and disparaging Clinton than he is making money. He shall, most certainly, NOT get any of my money.

the-gathering-place-defiance-3

the-gathering-place-defiance-4

The Gathering Place, Defiance, Ohio is a frequent contributor to my church sign series: On the The Road Looking for God’s True Church. While these signs wisely do not mention Donald Trump, rest assured Gathering Place congregants and pastors support Donald Trump. Those voting for Hillary Clinton will keep their heads down and mouths shut lest they give the appearance of standing against God’s chosen one, Donald, Pussy-gabbing Trump. Turning back our nation is code for “time to evict the Negro from the White House and replace him with an orange and white “baby”  Christian.”

heroin-kills-jesus-saves-3

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V.I.P Nails (and gym) in downtown Defiance wants passerbys to know that Jesus is the ONLY answer for those struggling with heroin addiction. In fact, their banner suggests that local police and drug rehab centers should STOP fighting against heroin and instead lead addicts to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine a man jonesing for a heroin fix — willing to do ANYTHING to feed his need. Get saved? Sure, now can I have some s-m-a-c-k? Telling addicts that only Jesus can cure them is not only dangerous, it could also kill them. Yes, Defiance County has a heroin problem, but the solution is NOT a soul-saving experience with Jesus. What happens when the Jesus-fix wears off? Addicts go right back the streets, looking for the only God who can satisfy their needs.

Republican Candidates for Defiance County Sheriff Vow to Militantly Uphold Second Amendment

fear-and-gun-ownership

Cartoon by David Horsey

Last Thursday, Republican candidates for Defiance County sheriff attended a forum at the Defiance County Fish and Game Club and shared their thoughts about the importance of the Second Amendment. Long-time Sheriff David Westrick is not seeking a ninth term, so Deputy Doug Engel and write-in candidate Steve Flory are battling one another, hoping to claim Westrick’s empty seat.

Both candidates think that protecting gun rights is very important. Both candidates said they would take a militant stand against attempts by liberals to take away guns or restrict their use. Todd Helberg, reporting for the Defiance Crescent-News, had this to say about the candidates (behind paywall):

A former sheriff’s deputy, Flory opened, quoting founding fathers George Washington and John Adams in defending the Second Amendment and its provision for allowing the citizenry to bear arms. Specifically, he noted Adams’ remark that the amendment assures the “private self-defense” of citizens.

“How often do we run into someone who doesn’t think private self-defense is part of (the Second Amendment)?, asked Flory. “Baloney. That’s exactly what it’s there for — for you and I to protect ourselves.”

While pledging “to stand with you guys,” on the Second Amendment, Flory mentioned the passage of a conceal carry law in Ohio some years ago, saying he’d like it to be a little less restrictive. And, he noted the misperceptions some apparently have with conceal carry laws across the country.

Flory explained that approximately 33,000 people are killed annually in traffic crashes nationally, then asked the audience how many have been killed by conceal carry permit holders during the past 10 years. According to a “very leftist” Internet website, he said the figure is 885, including suicides.

“We’re more dangerous to ourselves and others when we are just driving down the road everyday,” Flory said, adding that the conceal carry holder is there to protect himself, his family “and you.”

“… I think a lot of Second Amendment naysayers just are not educated enough to realize a good upstanding citizen … is doing (conceal carry) for their own purposes,” Flory said.

Engel, who is Westrick’s chief deputy, said “we in the sheriff’s office will always protect your Second Amendment rights.” …. “I will guarantee you … nobody — absolutely nobody — is going to enter your house and remove our firearms,” Engel said. “The only exception is if you have committed a crime with that firearm.”

In stating this, Engel suggested a militant stance if Second Amendment rights were changed by the U.S. Supreme Court. At present, he noted the court has been friendly to these rights with rulings in 2008 and 2010, but cautioned that this could change after the next presidential election.

“Our next president is going to have the ability to appoint three (Supreme Court) justices, maybe five,” Engel said. “… We need to get smart here. … The Supreme Court has been very protective, but if we make a mistake and don’t elect the right person, we’re in trouble — all of us.”
….
During a brief question period….another person asked what would happen if the Supreme Court made a decision that changed Second Amendment rights.

“No one’s going to take my guns, period,” said Engel. “They’re not going to take our guns. As sheriff I’m not going to get your guns … .”

“I’m telling you the same thing,” added Flory.

On one hand, the statements by both candidates are typical NRA-driven, the-liberals-are-coming-to-take-away-our-guns hysteria. Defiance County is awash in right-wing religious and political ideology. Making these statement played well with their target audience — white, right-wing, lock-and-load, Christian Republicans. Both Flory and Engel know that they don’t need votes from people such as myself. True liberals — those of us who want universal background checks, universal gun registration, banning of assault weapons and large capacity magazines, and the abolition of concealed carry permits — are as rare as the ivory-billed woodpecker. As a voting demographic, we don’t matter.

What troubles me is that both candidates advocate lawlessness. I thought the sheriff is the chief county law ENFORCEMENT officer? Yet both men said they would break the law IF the federal government or the U.S. Supreme Court attempted to alter the Second Amendment or restrict gun ownership.

Both candidates seem to want a wild, wild west of gun ownership. Both men fail to understand the difference between personal gun ownership and a well-regulated militia. What will future Sheriff Flory or Sheriff Engel do when tasked with enforcing laws that run contrary to their personal opinions? The sheriff doesn’t make law, neither is he tasked with interpreting the Constitution. His sole duty is to enforce the law, even those laws he personally disagrees with. What if the Ohio legislature and the U.S. Congress finally realize that the only way to put an end to mass shootings and gun violence is to limit gun ownership and use? What if these laws are upheld by the Supreme Court? Will future Sheriff Flory or Sheriff Engel enforce the law? Based on the aforementioned comments, I suspect both men would refuse to enforce the law. This fact should trouble Republicans and Democrats alike.

On the Road Looking for God’s True Church

As Polly and I travel the roads of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Indiana, we are always on the lookout for God’s True Church®. Here are a few of the churches we stumbled upon in recent weeks.

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This photograph pretty well explains the political and religious landscape in rural Northwest Ohio. True liberals and progressives are few and far between. Many local Democrats attend Evangelical churches and are pro-life. Seven out of ten Defiance County registered voters are Republicans. Every local, county, and state officeholder is Republican. Those of us who are liberal Democrats have no voice in local politics. We are vampires who only come out at night. We skulk about, hopelessly wandering through the streets wailing woe is me, woe is me. When reelection time comes, local Republican officeholders know that they will easily win, often because the Democrats can’t find anyone to run against them. Rural Northwest Ohio is a right-wing political and religious monoculture. This is s-l-o-w-l-y changing thanks to millennial voters (if they vote) who tend to be more liberal and progressive than their parents and grandparents. It will be interesting to see what the voter party splits are come election day. Will local Evangelicals say to Donald Trump, ENOUGH! and vote for Clinton, Johnson, or Stein? Or will hatred for Clinton trump bigotry and misogyny?

calvary-united-methodist-church-williams-center calvary-united-methodist-church-williams-center

Calvary United Methodist Church, Williams Center, Ohio, pastors Dorothy, Larry Zuvers, and Stephen Brooks. Calvary does not have a website, but it does have a Facebook page. The “choose Jesus” sign is code for vote Republican. GOP=God’s Only Party. Donald Trump thinks GOP means grab our pu**ies.

 

An Open Letter to the DNC

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Cartoon by A.F. Branco

Dear Democratic National Committee,

I write to express my outrage over recent revelations detailing how DNC officials attempted to derail Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign. It is evident, based on released internal emails, that Deborah Wasserman Schultz and operatives within the DNC were working behind the scenes to marginalize Bernie Sanders, paving the way for Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic candidate for President. Earlier this year Bernie Sanders complained about attempts by Wasserman Schultz and the DNC to keep him from becoming the nominee. The DNC dismissed Sanders’ claims, categorically stating that both candidates were being treated fairly and equally. Thanks to Wikileaks, we now know better.

I am a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter. As a liberal, democratic socialist, I found Sanders’ policy positions to be the closest to my own. Sanders is the voice of progressivism; Hillary Clinton is the voice of centrist Democratic politics. Sanders is a man of principle; Hillary Clinton is a political opportunist. Bernie Sanders didn’t take a dime from Wall Street; Hillary Clinton made millions off of private Wall Street-sponsored speeches. Bernie Sanders opposes  war in the Middle East; Hillary Clinton will continue the blood-spilling policies of the Barack Obama. It is for these reasons (and others) that I support Bernie Sanders.

I am also an atheist. Offensive revelations that Wasserman Schultz and the DNC considered tarring Bernie Sanders with the atheist label suggests to me that the DNC doesn’t realize that most atheists are political liberals who most often vote Democrat. It is also clear that the DNC doesn’t understand that scores of millennials are non-religious. These millennials generally skew to the left — good news for Democrats. Good news, that is, if the DNC stops treating non-religious people as if they have some sort of communicable disease.

I am pleased that Wasserman Schultz has been removed as the head of the DNC. But that action is not enough. Every DNC operative who thought labeling Bernie Sanders an atheist was a good idea should immediately be fired. A failure to take such action shows that Democratic leaders don’t value fairness. The DNC should also publicly apologize to the atheist community for their shameful use of the word “atheist” as some sort of pejorative term. A full-page apology in the New York Times and personal letters to the major atheists groups will suffice.

I plan to vote for Hillary Clinton come November. I will do so for one reason and one reason alone — Donald Trump. I cannot in good conscience do anything that will increase the likelihood of a Trump presidency. These are perilous times, and I must do what is best for my country. Quite frankly, if a centrist Republican was running for President I would likely cast my vote for Jill Stein. In doing so, I would be telling the Democratic Party that until they value me as a voter, they have lost my vote. I want to do this now, but I can’t. I know that if Donald Trump is elected he will fundamentally and permanently harm our Republic. It’s Hillary Clinton’s lucky day. She will get my vote, not because I think she best represents my views, but because Donald Trump is a real threat to national security and social progress. If Clinton wins the election, the DNC might want to consider how to keep my vote come 2020. If liberal, democratic-socialist atheists aren’t welcome in the Democratic Party, then perhaps it is time to start seriously considering  third-parties that value people such as myself.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser
A Former Right-Wing Evangelical Republican Turned Liberal, Democratic-Socialist Atheist

Why I Could Never Be a Republican

just say no republicans

I am politically progressive and liberal. I make no attempt to hide my democratic socialistic tendencies. I am a registered Democrat and a supporter of Bernie Sanders who will drink two or ten shots of whiskey and vote for Hillary Clinton come November. I am an inconsistent pacifist. I am of the opinion that the United States has fought not a just war since the two world wars. And even with these wars, the United States, with its immoral nuclear bombings of Japan and it firebombings of Germany, has shown itself to be as violently ruthless as its enemies. The same goes for the United States’ use of napalm during the Vietnam War. (Please read Napalm: An American Biography.)  Americans love to think of themselves kind, goodhearted people who only resort to violence when backed into a corner, when in fact the United States, thanks to its colonialist, imperialistic, and nationalistic tendencies, is a nation whose history is steeped in the blood of innocents. (Please read The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America 1500-2000.)

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, I was a registered Republican — the party of my tribe. The reasons I am no longer a Republican are many. Let me list a few of them. These statements reflect my understanding of the Republican Party at the national level.  I realize that not all Republicans believe/support the positions that follow.

The Republican Party is and I am not:

  • Pro-life
  • Pro-Christian
  • Pro-gun
  • Pro-NRA
  • Pro-war
  • Pro-Israel
  • Pro-big business
  • Pro-Chamber of Commerce
  • Pro-dark money political contributions
  • Pro-unrestricted campaign contributions
  • Pro-charter schools
  • Pro-unregulated religious schools
  • Pro-Pledge of Allegiance
  • Pro-Christian nationalism
  • Pro-American expansionism
  • Pro-American imperialism and colonialism
  • Pro-military as the world’s policeman
  • Pro-Patriot Act(s) and other government intrusions into privacy
  • Anti-welfare
  • Anti-Environmental Protection Agency
  • Anti-Department of Education
  • Anti-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Anti-affordable college
  • Anti-separation of church and state
  • Anti-LGBT
  • Anti-affordable healthcare
  • Anti-single payer option health insurance
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-undocumented worker
  • Anti-Palestinian/Iranian/Muslim
  • Anti-regulation
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-euthanasia
  • Anti-global warming/climate change
  • Anti-science
  • Ant-evolution
  • Anti-minimum wage
  • Anti-Black Lives Matter
  • Anti-atheism

And Best Hits of the Republican Party keep on playing.

And if these things aren’t enough, the Republican Party has committed the biggest crime of the modern era — presidential nominee Donald Trump.

And finally, with lips dripping with the blood of justice, fairness, and equal protection under the law, the Republican Party has called for an all-out war against the LGBT community. Just today, a Republican National Committee subcommittee — thanks to the work of homophobic bigot Tony Perkins, voted to add a plank to their 2016 platform supporting LGBT conversion therapy.

According to a New Civil Rights Movement article by David Badash:

Republican National Committee subcommittee members Monday voted to approve a plank embracing the use of harmful anti-LGBT conversion therapy, after it was introduced by the head of a certified anti-gay hate group. The plank will be voted on by a committee and then all RNC voting members before becoming an official part of the 2016 platform.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, an RNC delegate, Monday morning met with RNC chair Reince Priebus, reportedly to discuss including the call to support medically dangerous efforts that claim to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Earlier on Monday, according to Badrash, subcommittees of the RNC:

voted for amendments that call for to the Bible being taught in schools, and transgender people to use the restroom of the gender they were assigned at birth, and voted to keep a call for a ban on same-sex marriage in their 2016 national platform.

It is for these reasons, and others, that I could NEVER, EVER be a Republican. They are the antithesis of everything I believe and stand for.

The Night I Set My Life on Fire

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Bryan Times Advertisement for Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio

Family and close friends know that I can be temperamental and impetuous. I am quick to make decisions, and doing so has, for the most part, served me well. There are those times, though, when making snap decisions has resulted in me doing things that I later regret. The story that follows is one such instance.

I have not written much about my time as pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I plan to devote a chapter in my book to this church. After resigning from Olive Branch Christian Union Church in Fayette, Ohio, I took the Bruce Gerencser Traveling Preacher Show five miles south to West Unity, a small community south of the Ohio Turnpike, and started a church. I spent seven years pastoring Our Father’s House. We bought the old West Unity library and began holding services in September of 1995. At its inception, the church was called Grace Baptist Church. After conflict over the use of praise and worship music and non-cessationism (the belief that charismatic spiritual gifts are valid today) resulted in five families leaving the church, we decided to rename the church Our Father’s House. By this time, I had theologically made a move to the left. I wanted the church’s name to reflect our belief that sectarianism was contrary to the teachings of Jesus. After the name change, we had the front door lettered with “The Church Where the Only Label That Matters is Christian.”

During the last three years of my time at Our Father’s House, I became increasingly disenchanted with Evangelical Christianity. Deeply influenced by authors such as Thomas MertonWendell Berry, and John Howard Yoder, I embraced pacifism and changed my political affiliation from Republican to Democrat. I now see know that the seeds of my unbelief were planted during this period of time.

One night, after a long, depressing self-reflection on Evangelicalism and my part in harming others in the name of God, I gathered up all the ministry mementos I had collected over the years, piled them in the yard, doused them with gasoline, and set them on fire. In a few minutes, 20 years of sermons notes, recorded sermons, letters, and church advertisements went up in smoke. At the time, I found the consuming fire to be quite cathartic. This was my way of breaking with my past. Little did I know that 8 years later I would torch the rest of my ministerial and Christian past and embrace atheism.

Today, I sure wish I still had the things I turned into a pile of ashes in the backyard. I have no doubt my sermon notes and recorded messages would provide information and context about the decades I spent as an Evangelical pastor.