Menu Close

Tag: Donald Trump

Quote of the Day: How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church

tim alberta

For generations, white evangelicals have cultivated a narrative pitting courageous, God-fearing Christians against a wicked society that wants to expunge the Almighty from public life. Having convinced so many evangelicals that the next election could trigger the nation’s demise, Christian leaders effectively turned thousands of churches into unwitting cells in a loosely organized, hazily defined, existentially urgent movement—the types of places where paranoia and falsehoods flourish and people turn on one another.

….

Beginning in the 1980s, white evangelicals imposed themselves to an unprecedented degree on the government and the country’s core institutions. Once left to cry jeremiads about civilizational decline—having lost fights over sex and sexuality, drugs, abortion, pornography, standards in media and education, prayer in public schools—conservative Christians organized their churches, marshaled their resources, and leveraged their numbers, regaining the high ground, for a time, in some of these culture wars.

….

Short-lived victories, however, came at a long-term cost. Evangelical leaders set something in motion decades ago that pastors today can no longer control. Not only were Christians conditioned to understand their struggle as one against flesh and blood, fixated on earthly concerns, a fight for a kingdom of this world—all of which runs directly counter to the commands of scripture—they were indoctrinated with a belief that because the stakes were getting so high, any means was justified.

Which brings us to Donald Trump.

When Trump was elected thanks to a historic showing among white evangelicals—81 percent voted for him over Hillary Clinton—the victory was rightly viewed as the apex of the movement’s power. But this was, in many ways, also the beginning of its unraveling. The “battle lines” Bolin described as having emerged over the past five years—cultural reckonings over racism and sexual misconduct; a lethal pandemic and fierce disputes over vaccines and government mandates; allegations of election theft that led to a siege of the U.S. Capitol; and, underlying all of this, the presidency, prosecution, and martyring of Trump himself—have carved up every institution of American society. The evangelical Church is no exception.

….

The nation’s largest denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is bleeding members because of ferocious infighting over race relations, women serving in leadership, accountability for sexual misconduct, and other issues. The United Methodist Church, America’s second-largest denomination, is headed toward imminent divorce over irreconcilable social and ideological divisions. Smaller denominations are losing affiliate churches as pastors and congregations break from their leadership over many of the same cultural flash points, choosing independence over associating with those who do not hold their views.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Christians, like Americans from every walk of life, are self-selecting into cliques of shared habits and thinking. But what’s notable about the realignment inside the white evangelical Church is its asymmetry. Pastors report losing an occasional liberal member because of their refusal to speak on Sunday mornings about bigotry or poverty or social injustice. But these same pastors report having lost—in the past few years alone—a significant portion of their congregation because of complaints that they and their staff did not advance right-wing political doctrines. Hard data are difficult to come by; churches are not required to disclose attendance figures. But a year’s worth of conversations with pastors, denominational leaders, evangelical scholars, and everyday Christians tells a clear story: Substantial numbers of evangelicals are fleeing their churches, and most of them are moving to ones further to the right.

….

Many right-wing pastors have formed alliances—with campaign consultants, education activists, grassroots groups, even MAGA-in-miniature road shows promoting claims of an assault on American sovereignty—that bring a steady flow of fresh faces into their buildings. From there, the fusion of new Republican orthodoxy with old conservative theology is seamless. This explains why, even during a period of slumping church attendance, the number of white evangelicals has grown: The Pew Research Center reports that more and more white Trump supporters began self-identifying as evangelicals during his presidency, whether or not they attended church.

— Tim Alberta, The Atlantic, How Politics Poisoned the Evangelical Church, May 10, 2022

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Christian Fascists

chris hedges

The Christian fascists have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump. They are bankrolled by the most retrograde forces of capitalism. The capitalists permit the stupidities of the Christian fascists and their self-destructive social and cultural wars. In exchange, the billionaire class gets corporate monopolies, union-busting, privatized state and municipal services, including public education, revoked government regulations, especially environmental regulation, and are free to engage in a virtual tax boycott.

The war industry loves the Christian fascists who turn every conflict from Iraq to Ukraine into a holy crusade to crush the latest iteration of Satan. The Christian fascists believe military power, and the “manly” virtues that come with it, are blessed by God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. No military budget is too big. No war waged by America is evil.

….

The glue holding this Christianized fascism together is not prayer, although we will get a lot of that, but war. War is the raison d’être of all systems of totalitarianism. War justifies a constant search for internal enemies. It is used to revoke basic civil liberties and impose censorship. War demonizes those in the Middle East, Russia or China who are blamed for the economic and social debacles that inevitably get worse. War diverts the rage engendered by a dysfunctional state towards immigrants, people of color, feminists, liberals, artists, anyone who does not identify as a heterosexual, the press, antifa, Jews, Muslims, Russians or Asians. Take your pick. It is a bigot’s smorgasbord. Every item on the menu is fair game.

I spent two years with the Christian right reporting and researching my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” These Christian fascists have never hidden their agenda or their desire to create a “Christian” nation, any more than Adolf Hitler hid his demented vision for Germany in “Mein Kampf.” They prey, like all fascists, on the despair of their followers. They paint gruesome portraits of the end times. when the longed-for obliteration of nonbelievers presages the glorious return of Jesus Christ. The battle at Armageddon, they believe, will be launched from the Antichrist’s worldwide headquarters in Babylon once the Jews again have control of Israel. The closer we get to Armageddon, the giddier they become.

These people believe this stuff, as they believe in QAnon or the election fraud that supposedly put Biden in office. They are convinced that a demonic, secular-humanist ideology propagated by the media, the United Nations, elite universities, the ACLU, the NAACP, NOW, Planned Parenthood and the Trilateral Commission, along with the U.S. State Department and major foundations, is seeking to destroy them.

Violence is embraced as a cleansing agent, a key component of any fascist movement. The Christian fascists do not fear nuclear war. They welcome it. The insane provocations of Russia by the Biden administration, including the decision to provide $33 billion in assistance to Ukraine, target 10 Russian generals for assassination and pass on to Ukraine the intelligence to sink the Moskva, the guided missile cruiser that was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea fleet, supercharges the ideology of the Christian right. The marriage of the war industry, determined to make war forever, with the Christian fascists yearning for the apocalypse is terrifying. Biden is sleepwalking us into a war with Russia and perhaps with China. The Christian fascists will accelerate the bloodlust.

— Chris Hedges, Salon, Jesus, endless war and the irresistible rise of American fascism, May 10, 2022

Sounds of Fundamentalism: Oklahoma Senate Candidate Jerrin Jackson Thinks if God Wanted Us to Wear Masks We Would Have Been Born With One

jarrin jackson

The Sounds of Fundamentalism 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 of Jerrin Jackson, an Evangelical Christian running for an Oklahoma senate seat and avid Trump supporter, saying that if God wanted us to wear face masks we would have been born wearing them.

Video Link

Using Jackson’s logic, I assume he runs around naked. After all, if God wanted us to wear clothing, we would have been born wearing them.

Just saying . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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. I am an inconsistent pacifist. I am of the opinion that the United States has not fought a just war since the two world wars. And even with these wars, the United States, with its immoral nuclear bombings of Japan and its 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 by Robert Neer.)  Americans love to think of themselves as 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 by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.)

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, I was a registered Republican — the party of my tribe and religion. 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-LGBTQ
  • Anti-affordable healthcare
  • Anti-single payer option health insurance
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-undocumented worker
  • Anti-Palestinian/Iranian/Afghan/Iraqi/Muslim/Russian
  • Anti-regulation
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-euthanasia
  • Anti-global warming/climate change
  • Anti-science
  • Anti-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, Republicans committed the biggest political crime of the modern era — electing Donald Trump president. And . . . four years later, knowing that Trump was a criminal who caused the deaths of thousands of people from COVID-19, and was unfit for office, Republicans tried to elect him again.

From 2016 to today, what have we learned about the Republican Party? With lips dripping with the blood of injustice, unfairness, and unequal protection under the law, the Republican Party has waged an all-out war against LGBTQ people, people of color, and anyone else who doesn’t fit in their narrow, defined ideological box. Whatever moderate, centrist politicians that once existed in the Republican Party no longer exist. Republicans are now the party of Trump, the fomenters of insurrection, culture warriors intent on turning the United States into a violent theocratic state.

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.

Readers should not assume from this post that I am pro-Democrat. I am not. I held my nose and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 for one simple reason: they weren’t Donald Trump. Neither Clinton nor Biden was my first, second, or third choice. (I voted for Bernie Sanders both times in the primaries.) Currently, I am considering leaving the Democratic Party, registering as an independent voter. I’m done with voting for the “lesser of two evils.” The Democratic Party is weak, feckless, and cowardly, given over to extremism instead of getting things done for the American people. Is there no whack-a-doodle position too extreme for Democrats? Evidently not. In many ways, extremists in the Democratic Party are not much different from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party. The two-party system is irreparably broken, controlled by corporate money and career politicians. The “house” needs to be razed so a just, equitable system can be built. The upcoming midterm elections will go a long way in helping me decide whether I am finally done with the Democratic Party. Here in Ohio, both at the state and local level, the Democratic Party is as dead and missing as Jimmy Hoffa.

Maybe none of this will matter. If warmongers in the Republican and Democratic Parties have their way, we could be living in a nuclear wasteland by Christmas. Thinking a war with Russia is “winnable,” and the use of tactical nuclear weapons will show the world we are still the only true superpower, our political leaders are leading us down a path that leads to heartache and devastation. Coming soon will be a push to expand funding for the military and security industrial complexes. To some degree, this already happened before the war in Ukraine. I can only imagine how much money the people who allegedly “keep us safe” and “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” will be clamoring for now that we are sending billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and NATO. Nothing like a military conflict — and make no mistake about it, we are waging war against Russia and Belarus — for the bottom line.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical School Teacher Kelsey Wilson and Her Husband Sentenced to Home Detention for Participation in January 6 Insurrection

kelsey wilson

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Kelsey Wilson, a first-grade teacher at Dayspring Christian School in Springfield, Missouri, and her husband Zachary, were sentenced yesterday to home detention for their role in the January 6 Insurrection.

The Kansas City Star reports:

A former Missouri Christian school teacher and her husband who said former President Donald Trump and the crowd contributed to the environment that led to the Capitol riot were sentenced Thursday to home detention and two years’ probation. U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta sentenced Zachary Wilson to 45 days of home detention and Kelsey Wilson to 30 days, along with 60 hours of community service. They also must each pay $500 in restitution for damage done to the Capitol during the insurrection, which prosecutors say totaled $1.5 million. “It’s hard to avoid getting on a soap box in these cases, and I’m trying to resist doing that,” Mehta said. “But I don’t think it would be appropriate to at least not let any sentencing pass without reflecting on the magnitude of what occurred on January the sixth and how you all contributed to it.”

Mehta said Jan. 6 was a day in which the country was to transition power peacefully from one president to the next. “Regrettably, you all made the decision to do something that contributed to a transition of power that ultimately was marred by violence, destruction and death,” he told the Wilsons. “And that’s not something that anybody ought to downplay or suggest was not significant or could be justified by events earlier in the summer. It’s really not justifiable.”

….

“I cannot apologize enough or express remorse that I have for the actions that day,” Zachary Wilson said. “My wife and I went to Washington, D.C., to hear former President Trump and the guest speakers. We had no intention of interfering with the Congressional proceedings. We saw the crowd and got caught up and followed them up to the building. “I’m incredibly sorry for my part in what has now put a stain on American history.” Mehta asked him why he thought it was permissible to breach the Capitol that day.

“I was caught up in President Trump telling everybody that this election got stolen and he had kind of everybody enraged,” Zachary Wilson said. “We didn’t even have any idea that we were gonna do a march. We thought we were just there for the speech. And then when he said, ‘Yeah, turn around and march,’ and everybody’s like, ‘Yeah, march.’ And he’d already had everybody so worked up that when we got up there I just reacted wrongly. I really feel stupid, to be honest.”

A tearful Kelsey Wilson told the judge that her arrest “will undoubtedly be one of the most life-changing things that I will ever go through.” “I know what I did on January sixth was wrong,” she said. “We got caught up in everything that had been happening over the last year and we got swept up in the crowd. And I’m deeply and truly sorry and embarrassed for my actions that day.”

….

“I’ve already lost not one but two jobs because of my actions that day and my family is struggling,” she said. “My family is truly sorry for the embarrassment that we brought on our country, and we will definitely pay for this for the rest of our lives.” Kelsey Wilson had been employed as a first grade teacher by Dayspring Christian School in Springfield for about a month at the time of her arrest last August. When asked why she went into the Capitol building, she told the judge that “I think a lot of it just had to do with seeing everything over the summer…seeing cities burn and people divided for the last several years and then getting there and getting caught up in the crowd. It was a stupid mistake.” Mehta told the couple that in many ways, they were “victimized” themselves. “You were told lies about election fraud, about your country being taken from you,” he said. “They were lies. And regrettably, you believed them. And you acted on that.”

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bryan Hospital Overrun with COVID-19, Nurses Protest Mandatory Vaccinations

mike-pence-coronavirus-prayer

My wife and I live in a rural, one-stop light , two-bars/restaurants, one-convenience store/gas station community of 356 people in Northwest Ohio. We live on Main St, also known as Route 15, the connecting road between nearby Bryan and Defiance.

Ney has a post office, but no door-to-door delivery. Every resident has a PO box for their mail and packages. Every day or so Polly or I go “uptown” and retrieve our mail — mostly magazines, medical bills, and junk mail. Our medications come via mail, as do the Lionel O-gauge train purchases I make on eBay. Sometimes, a package will come through the post office from Amazon or one of the hat companies I do business with: Hats in the Belfry, Village Hat Shop, and American Hats. The post office is very much a part of the rhythm and flow of our lives.

The Ney Post Office is manned by a middle-aged postmistress, a friendly, talkative woman. Polly talks to her every time she goes into the lobby. Polly considers her a casual friend with whom she shares many things in common. Several days ago, she recounted to Polly the following:

A sign on the front door and on the service counter — which is covered with plexiglass — tells patrons that masks are required for entrance. Everyone who enters the small, suffocating building knows this. The “lobby” is 100 square feet or so, the PO box space, separated by a door, is even smaller. Three people in the lobby at the same time is a big crowd.

A male patron walks in the door. Unless he is blind, and he’s not, the man knows he must wear a mask while in the building. He deliberately chooses not to.

Postmistress: Sir, you are required to wear a mask when you enter

Man: I don’t read signs.

Postmistress: But, that’s what’s on the door.

In an act of toddler-like defiance, the man flips the sign off the counter onto the floor.

Man: I don’t read what doesn’t pertain to me.

And with that, the man turns on his heels and walks out of the building.

Polly has seen the same beautician for years, a winsome, talkative woman in her fifties. She always wears a mask when cutting hair, as does Polly. We try to wear masks when coming in close contact with others (though we no longer do so when our children and grandchildren are visiting). As the woman started cutting Polly’s hair, she asked Polly what vitamins she was taking for COVID. WHAT VITAMINS ARE WE TAKING FOR COVID? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? The woman went on to tell Polly that she was taking Zinc and Vitamin D. That’s right, the woman is not vaccinated. She works up close and personal with the public, and she’s not fucking vaccinated. Polly informed her that both of us were vaccinated and had also received booster shots. This woman will not be cutting Polly’s hair again.

Two of my closest friends — a friendship of 55 years — are presently in the hospital for COVID. Unvaccinated, both have respiratory problems. When admitted, their oxygen levels were in the 70s. The man also has pneumonia. The woman has numerous comorbidities, including diabetes. Her glucose level was almost 800 when she was admitted.

My friends went to ER earlier last week, only to be sent home with oxygen tanks. Why? The Bryan Hospital (Community Hospitals and Wellness Centers) is overrun with COVID patients — literally. There are no beds available, and hospitals in Toledo and Fort Wayne — having their own problems with COVID — are refusing transfers from the hospital. Some COVID patients are stacked up in the ER, waiting hours and hours for rooms to become available. (WTOL-11 news report on Williams County COVID outbreak.)

Last Sunday, Bryan Hospital nurses and their supporters gathered at the Williams County Courthouse to protest the hospital’s vaccination mandate. A hundred or so people showed up for the protest, waving signs sporting messages about FREEDOM and bodily autonomy. Several nurses were interviewed by WTOL News.

Sarah Pettit stated:

To force us to have something that we do not want is not the answer. You’re going to be short-staffed even more in these hospitals. Your communities are going to hurt because they don’t have the appropriate staff to take care of the community.”

When asked how nurses can keep themselves and their patients safe if they aren’t vaccinated, Pettit replied:

I think with diligent hand washing and masking and doing everything that we can to protect our patients, will help our patients and our community get better.

Yes, we will do everything we can EXCEPT be vaccinated. I am of the opinion unvaccinated hospital employees should be fired. However, this would cause a worker shortage for the hospital, so it is unlikely this will happen. Those who need the services of the Bryan Hospital will be left to wonder if the nurses and technicians caring for us are vaccinated, whether we will survive our surgeries only to be killed by a COVID infection we got from employees who only care about their personal freedoms. (Cue Mel Gibson and Braveheart.)

Another nurse, Brooke Gordon, the founder of Northwest Ohio Medical Freedom — which is only on Telegram — ignorantly said:

The word ‘safe’ around it I believe has been used as a shield to further push it, even though the evidence is not showing that it is providing safer environments or lesser transmission.

According to a West Bend News article, the “concerns” of the Northwest Ohio Medical Freedom group are as follows:

• The ads for the COVID-19 vaccine claim it is “safe and effective” but many are seeing the reality in their friends and neighbors that it is neither. VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System) numbers have climbed since the release of the vaccine.  

• Local Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor RoseAnna Hollo of Deep Roots Wellness in Defiance, says, “I have seen an increase of adults presenting with severe symptoms following Covid-19 injections. I am concerned about the short and long term effects of this jab. I have been educating those affected on reporting to VAERS. I am of the opinion that this vaccine is not worth the risk in most circumstances and mandates are endangering the health of many.”

• Many healthcare providers, military, airline, and nearly every other industry are standing up to these mandates in the forms of walk outs, resignations, and lawsuits.

• Mandated vaccines are un-American. 

• Many have natural immunity, which has been shown to be robust and complete in the medical literature. 

To receive updates from the NWO Medical Freedom group, you will need to have the Telegram app on your mobile device. The link is https://t.me/medfreedomnwo 

NWOMFG consists of medical choice-loving people of all political leanings, gathering monthly to share how they can combat COVID-19 mandates locally and statewide, exemptions available, alternative treatments, and other helpful resources.  

Let this group’s stated “concerns” be a reminder that just because someone is a nurse doesn’t mean that they have a comprehensive understanding of science, medicine, reason, or common sense. And don’t even get me started on “Local Board Certified” Naturopathic Doctor RoseAnna Hollo:

Rose Hollo, a Certified Master Herbalist and Naturopathic Doctor-in-training holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts/Holistic Health from Union Institute & University, an M.BA. in Digital and Social Media, and a Yoga Teacher Level 1 Certification from Aura Wellness Institute and is an Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master. Her previous background is in the animal healthcare and rescue field, and was a certified PetMassage practitioner and Veterinary Technician. She saw how well natural treatments worked for animals and decided to research alternative therapies for herself after experiencing some severe health issues. 

I know her personally — a nice, friendly woman — but she peddles all sorts of pseudoscientific nonsense. And now she’s an anti-vaxxer, who just so happens to be a registered Democrat. Board-certified means she took online classes and got a certificate. Hollo is not a doctor, nor is she a nurse. Hollo is a promoter of woo, appealing to the fears of (primarily) local women. And her “advice” is helping fuel the spread of COVID.

Currently, Northwest Ohio has the highest COVID-19 infection rate in the state of Ohio. Williams County, where the Bryan Hospital is located, has the highest county infection rates in the state, and nearby Defiance, Henry, and Fulton counties are not far behind. COVID is everywhere. People are getting sick and dying. Yet, local residents, businesses, and schools pretend the pandemic is a myth or nothing to be worried about. No matter how many people get sick and die, all that matters to an overwhelmingly Trumpist, libertarian, Evangelical populace is personal FREEDOM (people like Rose Hollo are the black swans in the midst of a flock of white swans). Most of these freedom-lovers profess to be Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, yet they show no regard for their neighbors. You know, the people Jesus told them to love.

There was a time when local residents — Democrats and Republicans — understood the social contract we have we each other; that matters of public health and safety rise above partisan divides. Those days are over. Trumpism now has a firm, authoritarian grip on rural Northwest Ohio. Almost 7 out of 10 locals voted for Donald Trump in the last election, ditto 2016. Every state and local government is controlled by Republicans. Ohio, a one-time blue state, has been taken over by red-meat Republicans — lovers of Donald Trump, guns, and the Evangelical God. Current attempts to further gerrymander Ohio, if successful, will likely make 12 of Ohio’s 15 districts solidly Republican. JD Vance (a Catholic who talks like an Evangelical) and Josh Mandel (a Jew who talks like an Evangelical) — both of whom are anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers — are the leading Republican candidates to replace Rob Portman in 2022. Need I say more? Both of these men are running on Trump’s coattails, each trying to out-Trump the other. If elected, neither of them will represent the diverse people of Ohio. They are partisan hacks, religious extremists with theocratic tendencies. It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Ohio was a Democratic-leaning union state, a state that gave us august statesmen such as Howard Metzenbaum and John Glenn (and even Republican George Voinovich, for that matter).

Sadly, there’s no hope on the horizon for rural Northwest Ohio. Extremism rules the roost, and now Trumpists are intent on taking over local school boards and election offices. Quite honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that our six children and thirteen grandchildren live here, we would pack up our belongings and move away. Outside of having a few liberal/progressive friends, we have little, if anything, in common with the people around us. Good people, kind people, but people who have bought into all sorts of political extremism and conspiracy theories. Polly and I have to live here and get along with our neighbors, but since less than half of them are vaccinated, it’s hard not to think that they are out to infect us with COVID and kill us. And if they don’t infect or kill us, they hope to deliver us from our atheistic, communistic, socialist beliefs — by the barrel of a gun, if necessary. Theocratic tendencies and militia sentiments waft through the air, leaving us to wonder what will happen to us if these folks ever gain absolute control.

Maybe it is time for me to buy a gun . . .

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

For the Sake of My Children and Grandchildren: I Hope and Work for What Might Be, Not What Is

military industrial complex
Cartoon by Matt Muerker

Evangelical Christianity taught me that humans are fallen, broken people, the world is sinful and wicked, and there’s no hope for a better tomorrow. Salvation through the merit and work of Jesus was personal, a promise of a better life after death. Until then, endure. Eschatologically, things are going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes again. Some day soon, God will unleash terror upon the earth, slaughtering billions of people. Blood will flow three feet deep in the streets as God violently kills virtually every living thing on earth.

Such beliefs lead to cynicism and fatalism. Why bother to do anything meaningful to change and transform our world . . . Jesus is coming soon! And after God is done burning the earth to the ground, he will make a new heaven and a new earth for Christians, a place void of sin, non-Christians, atheists, Democrats, and Bernie Sanders.

In recent years, Evangelicals have left their eschatology behind, seeking a theocracy on earth. Using raw political power, they hope to first make America Christian, and then the world. How will they accomplish this goal? Violence. The January 6, 2021 insurrection was just the first, not the last, attempt by right-wing extremists (who are largely Evangelical) to assert their theocratic will. What I find ironic is that Evangelicals have abandoned the hope and promise of a future heavenly kingdom for a bloody, ruthless, violent kingdom on earth. Instead of waiting for a divine payoff in the afterlife, Evangelicals want to cash in their life insurance policies now.

Evangelicals have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of following in the steps of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Evangelicals follow after political leaders, generals, and preachers — men who, themselves, crave power and authoritarian control. None of this is surprising. One need only read American history to see that this has always been our path, one paved with the blood of innocents, one where “might makes right.”

I have long advocated for a better way. Long before I became an atheist, I embraced pacifism and socialism (properly defined and understood, not as the words are ignorantly used today). I began pondering if there was any hope for a better tomorrow. Were Evangelicals right? Was the human race headed for destruction, doomed because of original sin? Should I bother trying to make the world a better place? As a cynic and a pessimist, it is easy for me to think, “fuck it, why bother?” Solomon was right when he said, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Reading the news only makes matters worse as the worst behaviors of humans (mainly men) are on display. From endless wars to stubborn inaction on global climate change, it seems the human race is determined to obliterate itself. Come, Lord Jesus, Come, right?

But then I think of my six children, their spouses, and my thirteen grandchildren. I will be dead in a few years, but they could live on another forty to eighty years. What kind of world do I want for them? It is for this reason I hope and work for what might be, not what is. If nothing is done about America’s war machine and its imperial ambitions, decimation and decline are sure to follow. If nothing real is done about global warming, my progeny will be left to live on a planet that is increasingly inhospitable and lifeless. If we don’t lay down our weapons of violence and turn them into plowshares, world war is inevitable. Donald Trump famously asked what good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them. Imagine having such a megalomaniac so close to the switch that could destroy the world (see the recent season of Fear the Walking Dead to understand what such a world would be like or read Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road). The next time, we might not be so lucky. Just last week, several Republicans were clamoring for war with China. I can imagine no scenario where that ends well for the United States. Arrogance and pride lead to destruction.

I don’t have all the answers for what a better world might look like. All I know is that hard decisions must be made if we want a safe, prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. How about we start by banning the use of coal and halving the indefensible, immoral defense budget? How about a living wage and health insurance for all? How about finally coming to terms with the systemic racism that plagues our nation? And finally, how about free and fair elections, term limits, and breaking the stranglehold right-wing extremists have on our political system? These would be a good start . . .

Or maybe Evangelicals are right. Jesus is coming soon. The world is fucked. Grab what power you can, kill those who stand in your way, and ride out the apocalypse until Jesus shows up on a white horse.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Vice News Interview: QAnon Conspiracies Are Tearing Through Evangelical America

somerset baptist church 1989

My video interview with Vice News was released today. You can watch it below. Earlier, Vice News published a print story featuring an interview I did with David Gilbert about QAnon and Evangelical Christianity. You can read it here.

Please let me know what you think of the interview and the content of the video in the comment section.

Video Link

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

VICE News Story on the Intersection of Evangelical Christianity and QAnon

qanon

Regular readers of this blog likely remember that VICE News came to my home in August to film a story on the intersection of Evangelical Christianity and QAnon (which should be released soon). Earlier today, David Gilbert, a journalist for VICE News published a print story titled Meet the Pastors Fighting Back Against QAnon. I was one of the pastors interviewed for this article:

Bruce Gerencser was raised in an evangelical household, was educated in an evangelical school, married the daughter of an evangelical Baptist minister, and soon became a fundamentalist Baptist preacher himself.

He freely admits that the gospel he preached, at times, was extreme.

“Our beliefs were quite fundamentalist. We were young Earth creationists—you know, the Earth was 6,000 years old,” Gerencser told VICE News. “We had a long list of rules and standards that govern human behavior, everything from premarital sex and adultery. We were certainly homophobic, or at least I was personally homophobic. Everything was strictly controlled.”

But in 2005, after 25 years as a pastor, Gerencser gave it all up. Three years later, he renounced Christianity and became an atheist and a humanist, after becoming disillusioned with the church’s lurch to the right. 

Now in his mid-70s [actually, I’m 64], Bruce lives with his wife of 43 years just outside the small town of Bryan, Ohio, and he spends his time fighting back against the ills he sees within the church. Most recently that fight has seen him highlight and take on those spreading the gospel of QAnon.

What he didn’t expect was that one of the people he’d be up against was his own son.

Gerencser describes his adult son, whom he didn’t want to name, as a “good kid, polite kid” and an “awesome son,” but he recalls that in January 2020 something changed, and soon he was having discussions about apocalyptic forces of evil and a coming storm. 

“Next thing I know, he’s buying a large number of firearms and ammunition and a bulletproof vest and warning that he’s preparing for what’s coming next,” Gerencser said. “And, you know, and I would say that what’s coming next, what we’re going to have open warfare in the middle of Bryan, Ohio.”

Like many who’ve fallen into QAnon conspiracy theories, Gerencser’s son has also embraced even more violent extremist groups, joining the Three Percenters militia group and espousing support for the leader of the Proud Boys.

But aside from the guns and militias, what shocked Gerencser the most was when his son one day turned around and said he’d returned to the church, joining a local Southern Baptist congregation.

When Gerencser asked his son why he’d rejoined the church, his son told him: “Because that pastor believes the same things I do.”

Gerencser is part of a small but dedicated group of current and former pastors attempting to counter the threat posed by the spread of QAnon within the evangelical community, something that’s happening from the pulpit and in congregations. While the number of pastors and churches openly embracing QAnon is limited, the conspiracy is spreading silently and quickly within the community, taking hold at a time when the church is hemorrhaging parishioners. Despite the dangers posed by QAnon within the church, very few are speaking up about the threat, preferring to bury their heads in the sand and hope the danger passes.

You can read the entire article here. Please do so, and then let me know what you think.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser