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Tag: First Baptist Church Bryan Ohio

OMG Pastor MacFarlane, Did You Really Say There’s No Racism in Rural Northwest Ohio?

trump im not a racist

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation in nearby Bryan, Ohio — the place of my birth. I attended First Baptist Church in the 1960s and 1970s. I was attending First Baptist when I left in August,1976 to study for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I attended First Baptist during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years. This would be the last time I regularly attended the church. After Polly and I married, left Midwestern, and moved to Bryan, we chose not to attend First Baptist. Instead, we joined Montpelier Baptist Church, upsetting many of the people at First Baptist. In their minds, First Baptist was the “family” church. Mom Daugherty, the mother of three of my uncles, told me in no uncertain terms that I belonged at First Baptist. Interestingly, the church’s pastor at the time, Jack Bennett (married to my uncles’ sister), made no effort to retain us as members. Due to my mother’s mental health problems and “sinful” lifestyles, Bennett always treated me like the ugly, redheaded stepchild. Given the opportunity to become the assistant pastor at Montpelier Baptist, I took it.

John MacFarlane was a nine-year-old boy when I went off to Midwestern in 1976. John grew up, felt the call of God, and enrolled in classes at Tennessee Temple, graduating in 1991. After pastoring Twining Baptist Church in Twining, Michigan for three years, John returned home to work as Jack Bennett’s assistant. After Bennett retired, John became the pastor of First Baptist, a position he has held ever since.

John is White. He grew up in a White family, attended a White church, and spent K-12 in a White school. John is a lifelong resident of Williams County, Ohio. According to the 2010 US Census, Williams County is 95.9% White. And this is progress compared to Williams County demographics in the 1950s-1970s, I didn’t know of one Black person who lived in the county. Bryan, Ohio is one of the most White cities in America. Rural Northwest Ohio is the epitome of whiteness and White privilege. This is the world John MacFarlane (and Bruce Gerencser) was born into, grew up in, and lives in today.

I have sketched MacFarlane’s history for readers to provide context for what follows. MacFarlane publishes a daily “devotional” for church members and others to read. I am one of those “others.” Remember, John is a lifelong Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). He lives, breathes, and shits IFB beliefs and practices. John is a product of IFB indoctrination, as was I for many years.

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled Racism. As I read John’s post, I stopped and said, “OMG, John, Did you REALLY say this out loud?” I couldn’t believe he said what he did. As you shall see, his post is racist, bigoted, and ignorant. I am not shocked by what MacFarlane believes. Thousands and thousands of White rural Northwest Ohio residents believe as he does. I doubt that he will have one church member object to what he wrote. What I AM shocked by is that MacFarlane actually said what follows out loud on a public blog.

Here’s what MacFarlane had to say:

I am writing today’s devotional on June 10 while sitting in a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel room in Louisville, KY.

….

The culture of Kentucky is definitely different than the culture of Ohio.  I didn’t say wrong and I didn’t say worse.  I said different and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I want to share with you a very politically incorrect observation.  Bear with me as I set this up.

In the little dining area of the hotel, the television has the morning news running to provide those enjoying their breakfast with some indigestion.  News is never good, it seems.  The news today featured:  the millions of ransom dollars paid by a company to someone who had taken their computer systems hostage; issues on the border and a Vice-President who has yet to act as the border czar;  Presidential missteps and mistakes; millions of COVID vaccines rapidly reaching their expiration dates;  race riots, BLM, protests, white privilege, and apologizing for our race.  That’s where my observations come in.

How much of this is made up, contrived by those who aren’t content unless they are fighting?!?  How much of this is stirred up by people whose nickname should be Maytag – always agitating?

Oh, please don’t misunderstand.  I believe racism is out there.  There are places where it is practiced in some despicable ways.  But deal with it there.  Don’t bring it where I’m at and introduce it like another strain of the Wuhan plague.  I have yet to be in a place where I’ve felt that tension and I don’t want to be in that place.  Get rid of it THERE…deal with it THERE…and certainly don’t bring it around me!

Let me introduce you to Betty, Earl, Millie, and Carl.   Every one of them had a much darker tan than I have!  In fact, this was true throughout the facility.  The Hampton Inn & Suites of Louisville, KY was an ethnic melting pot.  So what?

They were the kindest people. 

….

The Asian housekeepers were courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating if you asked a question.

There were mutual niceties and respect.  I didn’t feel treated or looked at differently because of the color of my skin and I certainly didn’t treat or look at them differently because of the color of their skin.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

….

I never once felt uncomfortable or threatened.  I saw blacks treating whites respectfully, openly talking with each other.  I saw whites treating blacks the same way.  Never did I see anything that made me think that I needed to hide in fear.  Doors were opened for one another.  Common courtesies and manners were demonstrated between ethnicities.

….

We cannot deny our history and pretend that there are not some very shameful events from the past.  But I’m not living there.  If the past continues to shade our present – if we allow it to do that – we will never move on and achieve the equity that is allegedly sought.  Yes, atrocities were done.  However, the people that deserve the strongest apology and acts of restitution have been in graves for many years.

Is it possible that some people aren’t happy unless they are stirring a pot, creating a fight, and spreading animosity and hatred?  Once again, please hear what I’m saying.  I know racism exists.  But creating a national narrative that teaches racism is everywhere and that if you’re white, you’re automatically a racist is nothing more than a vicious, vulgar lie and I personally resent and am angered by the accusation.

Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  From this original couple sprang every ethnicity there is.  There are not multiple races.  We are all of one race and that race is humanity.  Ethnicities are just the spices of life that the Lord has added to keep us from becoming dull and boring.

Celebrate the ethnicities.  Respect them.  Refuse to place one above another.  Make the playing field level.  That’s the way God does it.

….

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another.  We definitely don’t need sensitivity training.  It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

If it’s a fight people want, take them to the cross where the greatest fight ever was fought and won – by a JEW, nonetheless!  Praise the Lord!

Do you see why I said “OMG, John. Did you REALLY say this out loud?” He did, and what follows is my response.

First, there is a difference between ethnicity and race. Black and White are not ethnicities; they are races. John parrots young-earth creationist Ken Ham on race, and biologically, he’s right. However. MacFarlane wants to de-colorize our world. In his uber-White mind, we are all the same; that racial and ethnic diversity is harmful.

Second, John admits that racism exists out there, somewhere (cue Fox Mulder of the X-Files), but not in the lily-white enclave of rural Northwest Ohio. In 2020, I wrote a post titled, Does Racism Exist in Rural Northwest Ohio? Having spent most of my life in White rural Ohio, I can say with a high degree of certainty that racism not only exists in rural Northwest Ohio, but that White privilege and systemic racism are very much a part of our culture. Oh, we are nice country folks who will bake you an apple pie and help put a tire on your car, but underneath our niceness lurk racist ideas and beliefs. (Please see Typical Example of Racism in Rural Northwest, Ohio.)

I could share scores of stories that would illustrate my point: that racism and white privilege abound in rural Northwest Ohio. But, instead, let me share one story from my teen years at First Baptist:

In the mid-1970s, I attended First Baptist Church in Bryan. I can still remember the day that a woman who once attended the church and moved away, returned home with her new Black husband. Oh, the racist gossip that ran wild through the church: why, what was she thinking . . . marrying a Black man! Think of the children! It was not long before she and her husband moved on to another church.

In 2008, months before Polly and I deconverted from Christianity, we visited the Methodist Church in Farmer. We had been attending the Ney United Methodist Church — which would be the last church we attended before leaving Christianity; but since the Farmer and Ney churches were on the same charge, we thought we would visit the Farmer church.

As was our custom, we arrived at the church early, so much so that we caught the last ten or so minutes of the adult Sunday school class. Teaching the class was a matronly White woman. She was telling a story about her grandson who played football (at college, I believe). She complained that her White grandson was not getting much playing time. Why? The coach gave the “Black” players more playing time. The inference was clear: her grandson wasn’t playing as much because he was White (not because the Black players had better skills).

I am shocked that in his 50+ years in rural Northwest Ohio, MacFarlane hasn’t seen racism or White privilege. Evidently, if the KKK is not burning a cross on the Williams County Courthouse square, no racism exists. John is truly colorblind. The only color he sees is White.

Third, MacFarlane thinks that racism is in the past, that all those racists are dead. Time to move on. Unfortunately, our racist forefathers’ beliefs live on in the lives of White residents of rural Northwest Ohio. I was a racist for many years. I have worked hard to cleanse my mind of racist thinking. While I like to think I am no longer a racist, I am still a White man in a White community with little interaction with people of color (unless I go to Fort Wayne or Toledo). Unlike MacFarlane, I believe the United States has yet to come to terms with its racist past. I support Black Lives Matter (not necessarily the group, but the idea) because I believe many people of color continue to be oppressed and marginalized. I own the fact that my White privilege can and does cause harm to people of color.

Fourth, MacFarlane regales us with stories about the “nice” Blacks and Asians. Why, they were “courteous and polite, smiling and accommodating.” Why did the race (ethnicity, to use John’s word) of these people matter? Was it surprising to MacFarlane that Blacks and Asians were respectful and treated him well? JFC, John, it was their job. I worked in the service industry for years. I also pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. As a result, I became an expert at smiling at rude, nasty assholes, helping them with their needs. The Blacks and Asians who waited on and helped Pastor MacFarlane and his family were just doing their jobs. Their race had nothing to do with their treatment of the MacFarlanes.

Finally, MacFarlane posits a solution for racism (that doesn’t exist in rural Northwest Ohio):

The cure to the violence, hatred, and fighting in the world is NOT to give any ethnicity advantage over another. We definitely don’t need sensitivity training. It’s for EVERY ethnicity to be brought before the cross of Jesus and together, we humbly kneel in gratitude for the blood that covers our sins and the power of the resurrection that makes us alive.

MacFarlane posits that the answer for racism is Jesus and his substitutionary blood atonement for human sin. If everyone would just get saved, why, racism (and violence, hatred, and fighting) would simply and magically disappear. Racist White Christians wouldn’t need sensitivity training, and Blacks — thanks to J-E-S-U-S — would then be equal. No need for anti-discrimination laws. No need for marches and speeches. No need for an honest reckoning over our racist past. No economic or educational help for people of color who have been marginalized and harmed for four centuries. Jesus paid it ALL, time to move on to the 1950s.

MacFarlane forgets that most American Blacks are Christian, many of whom are Evangelical. If Jesus is the cure for racism and marginalization, why haven’t things changed for people of color (in general)? The White Jesus is not the answer for what ails us, we are. Until Whites own their racist past, White privilege, and the systemic racism that plagues our country, it is impossible for us to truly become a land ruled by justice, equality, and equity.

MacFarlane wants us to deal with racism and White privilege where it exists. I am, John, and I am looking right at you. You may sincerely believe what you have written here, but your words reveal a bigoted, racist “heart.”

Note: MacFarlane is a Trump supporter, thus the out-of-right-field mention of “Wuhan plague.” I don’t know if John is an anti-vaxxer.

Other posts about John MacFarlane and First Baptist Church:

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

IFB Pastor John MacFarlane Says Showing Skin in Public Reveals a Sinful Heart

naked adam and eve
Cartoon by Hilary Price

As I have repeatedly publicized his daily “devotionals,” I am sure local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor John MacFarlane wishes I would stop doing so. MacFarlane, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — a church I attended in the 1960s and 1970s — writes daily devotional articles for First Baptist members. Since he is publishing these devotionals on a public blog, I assume he wants people outside of the church to read them and practice what he is preaching.

Here’s a list of previous posts features Pastor MacFarlane:

Today, MacFarlane wrote a “devotional” titled An Un-BARE-able Devotion! about nudity. Being the good IFB pastor that he is, MacFarlane is against women showing “skin” in public.

MacFarlane states:

Let’s go back to the original National Nude Day.  Genesis 2:8, 22, 25 says, “And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed… And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man… And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”  That’s the way it was originally.  This fact cannot be refuted.  So why did clothing get invented?

Genesis 3 records the sin of Adam and Eve.  Eve ate of the fruit first, gave it to Adam, he ate of the fruit, “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” (Genesis 3:7)  The moment that sin enters the picture and their eyes were opened, they saw their own nakedness and recognized that walking around just in what God gave you was sinful.  They did their best to cover up but it was inadequate.

After the Lord pronounces the curse of the damages brought on by their sin, the Lord reinforces their first inclination.  “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21)  God was the first fashion designer.  He gave us our original pre-sin garments made of flesh and then, after sin enters the picture, He designs the first real set of clothing.

National Nude Day thumbs its collective noses at what God’s Word clearly teaches.  In Philippians 3:18-19, we read, “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  (19)  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”  Isaiah pronounces “woe” upon those who call evil good and good evil.  The celebration and encouragement to publicly shed clothing is ungodly and heathenish.

In certain parts of the world, missionaries will encounter tribal nations that are nude.  The moment they trust Jesus as their Savior, they recognize their nudity and start to cover it up.  As we are in the depths of summer, so many in our world are walking around nearly nude without shame or a concept of decency.  Their nudity, though it be partial, is a revelation of their heart.

Our nudity is necessary for showering and bathing.  It is God-blessed and sanctioned between husband and wife.  A degree of it may be necessary when going to a doctor, a profession God uses in the healing and care of our bodies.  But beyond that, PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!  Cover up with modesty and decency.

Otherwise, there’s more than your body being exposed.  Your heart is being exposed.

Where, oh where, do I begin.

First, MacFarlane is a presuppositionalist and a Bible literalist. Second, he is King James-only. Third, he is a young-earth creationist. Thus, he genuinely believes the universe is 6,023 years old, and all humans descend from Adam and Eve. Fourth, MacFarlane believes what is recorded in Genesis 1-3 which was meant to be a mythical story, is scientifically and historically true. *sigh* MacFarlane believes Genesis 1-3 is a true accounting of human origin, written by God himself. When someone believes as MacFarlane does, no amount of evidence to the contrary will change his mind.

I spent five decades in the Christian church. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. For most of the years I spent in the ministry, my beliefs on Genesis 1-3 were indistinguishable from MacFarlane’s. No amount of evidence would have changed my mind. As long as I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, my mind was walled off from reason, skepticism, and science. It was only when I learned that the Bible was NOT inerrant that I could consider that maybe, just maybe, my beliefs about the beginning of the universe and human origin could be wrong. Until MacFarlane entertains the possibility of being wrong, there’s no hope for him. Realizing that Genesis 1-3 is a mythical story forces Christian Fundamentalists to rethink their entire worldview. I know it did for me.

MacFarlane uses an oft-repeated lie to “prove” that getting saved leads new converts in clothing-optional tribes to start wearing clothes. Once filled with the Holy Ghost, these newly minted Christians know that not wearing clothing is sinful. I have read many of the same missionary stories MacFarlane has. Here’s what I know: new Christians were coerced by Western Christian missionaries to put on clothes. God didn’t have anything to do with it. Missionaries manipulated tribes to change all sorts of behaviors — all in the name of obedience to the Christian God.

I know how the game works. Through my preaching, private admonitions, and personal testimony, I successfully manipulated church members and new converts. Suddenly, women stopped wearing pants and revealing tops. Men stopped, well . . . I never preached on proper attire for men. People indoctrinated by me stopped swearing, smoking, drinking beer, watching TV, and countless other human behaviors. What I did at Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan is no different from what missionaries did in faraway jungles.

While MacFarlane gives no proscriptions to women (or men) about how they should dress, make no mistake about it, he expects congregants (and everyone else, for that matter) to follow IFB modesty standards. I have written about these standards numerous times since 2007, so I won’t do so again. Women should cover themselves from head to toe. Men? Well, um, uh . . . wear pants and shirts. But, remember, the focus of most IFB modesty preaching is women.

Surprisingly, women at First Baptist are permitted to wear pants. MacFarlane is “liberal” in this regard. I vaguely remember church squabbles in the 1970s over this issue. It looks like the pants crowd won the day.

MacFarlane believes that what you wear reveals the true condition of your heart. Women? Wear short skirts; wear tight jeans; show a bit (or a lot) of cleavage; wear a thong; wear short shorts; wear halter tops; wear tube tops; got out in public braless you are a harlot and a Jezebel, a temptress and a seductress. Men? Keep your shirt on, unless you are playing a shirts and skins basketball game.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Frankly, Pastor MacFarlane, I Just Don’t Give a Damn

frankly my dear I dont give a damn

John MacFarlane is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio. First Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation. I’ve known John since he was a child running the aisles of First Baptist. While we had a distant, but cordial relationship when I was an Evangelical pastor, that is no longer the case.

MacFarlane writes a daily blog post for the church’s website. Typically, MacFarlane takes a story/date in the news and uses it to preach the gospel or make some sort of spiritual application. Several days ago, MacFarlane used the classic movie Gone With the Wind to admonish his congregation about swearing. Titled The Slippery Slope of Swearing, MacFarlane states:

On June 30, 1936, Margaret Mitchell’s book Gone With The Wind was published.

….

Now, for those of us who have never watched the movie, there is one iconic line that everyone seems to know.  The movie version was released in 1939 and on today’s date, that famous scene was filmed.  The scene was shot using two different lines.  The alternate version featured Rhett Butler telling Scarlett O’Hara, “Frankly, my dear, I just don’t care.”

Film censors were on hand to preview the filming.  There was nothing wrong with this line.  However, film director Victor Fleming wanted the scene to have more bite and he threw in the infamous curse.  He was accessed [sic] a $5,000 fine by the censors.

….

I have to admit that this little piece of history surprised me.  Cursing is common in commercials today but who would have thought that it was something found in books and movies to that era?  We tend to think of the early-20th c. being a little bit more pristine – or, at least, I do.

We are told in Philippians 3:17-19, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.  (18)  (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:  (19)  Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

Swearing should be shameful.  It’s certainly not today, though, and it evidently wasn’t shameful then.  Instead, there is “glory” in it.  Mr. Fleming had to pay $5,000 just to slip in one cuss word.  And what did that do for the movie?  Nothing!  Even if he could argue that it increased the sales, that is taking glory in something that is sinful and shameful.

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”  Cursing is corrupt communication.  Nobody denies that.  Yet, it’s done freely and the movie/television industry is doing its best to desensitize young people to the shamefulness of the words.

As kid-friendly movies are released, you will notice that more and more are incorporating a blatant swear, plenty of slang swears, and the obligatory misuse of God’s name.  What is the point?  Did it make the movie better in any way?  Absolutely NOT!

June 27, 1939 put the budding movie industry on a slippery slope.  The last few years have angled the slippery slope towards the kids.

As Christians, we can take a stand against this.  We can refuse to watch or buy any movie with profanity – even if it is just one.  And we can (we must!) guard our own tongues to make sure nothing rolls across our lips that would be shameful.

MacFarlane is outraged over the use of the word damn in movies, along with other words he has deemed curse words. He calls on church members to take a STAND against movies with profanity. MacFarlane believes saying swear words is sinful and shameful.

MacFarlane is right, in one regard, there IS more swearing in movies and by people in general. I swear multiple times every day. As I write this post, I am listening to the Cincinnati Reds game on 700 WLW. The Reds give me ample opportunities to curse. On the other hand, broadcasters announced that Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos, corner outfielders for the Reds, both made the National League All-Star team. My response was a hearty “fuck, yeah!”

MacFarlane is obsessed with the language of others. In a May 2021 post, MacFarlane said that people who swear have “dirty hearts.” (Please see People Who Swear Have “Dirty Hearts” Says IFB Pastor John MacFarlane.)

MacFarlane is waging a losing battle. Swearing is common in our culture, including by fine, upstanding pastors and members of IFB churches.

In 2020, I wrote a post titled Evangelical Swear Words. Here’s an excerpt from this article:

A dear friend of mine from back in the days when we both were part of the Trinity Baptist Church youth group, laughs every time she hears me utter a swear word. She often replies, “I never thought I’d see the day when Bruce Gerencser said a swear word.” From the time I was saved at the age of 15 until I left the ministry, I never uttered one swear word, outwardly anyhow. I thought plenty of swear words but never verbalized them. To do so would have branded me as a sinner and as a man who didn’t have his emotions under control.

Evangelicals are every bit as emotional and angry as their counterparts in the real world. Knowing that telling someone to “fuck off” would bring them rebuke and shame, Evangelicals have developed what I call Christian swear words. Christian swear words are expressions such has:

Shucks

Shoot

Darn

Dangit

Freaking

Crap

Gosh darn it

Son of a gun

Frigging

Shucky darn

As you can easily see, these words are meant to be replacements for the real swear words. This way, angry or emotionally upset Evangelicals can express themselves without running afoul of God’s FCC.

Years ago, a preacher who considered himself totally sanctified (without sin), was known for using the phrase, taking it to the hilt. He and I were quite good friends, and one day when he repeated his favorite phrase, I told him, you know that taking it to the hilt can be used as a sexual reference for sticking the penis all the way in up to its base (hilt). He was indignant that I would dare to suggest such a thing. He later learned I was right and apologized (Do you suppose it ever dawned on him that he had sinned by using this phrase after he said he no longer was a sinner?)

….

Many of us who use curse words use them when we are angry or upset. Sometimes, we use swear words to ameliorate a serious pain that we are having. After hitting my finger with a hammer, I’ve learned that saying “Goddammit!” really loud tends to lessen the pain. According to research presented to the British Psychological Society, swearing is an emotional language, and using it can make a person feel better. Perhaps the use of 506 expletives in 179 minutes as actors did in the movie Wolf of Wall Street is a tad bit excessive, but I know firsthand that cursing can, and does, have a cathartic effect on a person. While certainly, those who swear must be aware of proper social conventions, swearing at the referee on TV who just hosed your favorite football team can be emotionally satisfying, and I highly recommend it.

….

Swear words are just that: words. Social conventions dictate their use. I am a card-carrying member of the Swearers Club. I make liberal use of curse words, especially when speaking to officials from afar on a televised sporting event. Even Polly, sweet, sweet Polly, my wife, has devolved to my level. While I am careful when using swear words in public or around those who are easily offended, I refuse to be bullied into submission by the word police. I rarely use swear words in my writing, but I do so on occasion. It’s up to the individual readers to decide if a well-placed malediction is offensive enough to stop them from reading.

MacFarlane is free to swear or not swear. However, when he says that people who swear have “dirty hearts,” and that swearing is “sinful” and “shameful,” I am not going to let it slide. Instead of policing the language of others, perhaps he might want to focus on things that matter. MacFarlane is outraged over the word “damn” in a movie, but he had no problem preaching my rapist uncle into Heaven a few years ago.

In 2020 post titled Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell?, I wrote about my uncle’s funeral at First Baptist:

I have come to the conclusion that most preachers really don’t believe in Hell. Preach as they might about Hell, when it comes time to put their theology into practice, they cower and refuse to proclaim their Hell belief.

….

Let me tell you a story about a man named Bob. (Bob is a pseudonym, but all the details that follow are real.) Bob was raised in a Fundamentalist Baptist home. His parents were stern, devout, Christians who helped start several local Baptist churches.

At the age of 17, Bob attended a revival meeting at the local Baptist church. When the invitation was given, Bob walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and at that moment became a born-again Christian.

A short time after his conversion, Bob had a falling-out with his family and moved out of his parents’ home. Bob never attended church another day in his life apart from an occasional funeral or wedding.

Bob lived to be 83 years old. From the time Bob was 17 until he died, he lived a life of sin and infamy. Bob was a child abuser. Bob beat his wife. Bob was a drunk. No woman was safe from Bob’s leering eye and his groping hands.

Bob was a nasty, vulgar kind of drunk.

Bob raped a woman while her 12-year-old son was home from school sick. He was never prosecuted because his victim was a mentally troubled family member.

Bob died recently.

Bob’s funeral was held at the same Baptist church he once attended.  His family still attends the church. The funeral was the first time that Bob had been to church in over 60 years.

The preacher mentioned what an ornery man Bob was. And then the preacher spent the next 20 minutes preaching AT Bob’s friends. The funeral service was not about Bob at all, it was all about Jesus. Maybe that was better because it was probably hard to find much good to say about Bob.

Mercifully, the preacher brought his Jesus talk to a close with an invitation to trust Jesus as savior.

Why? So they too could be in Heaven someday with Bob. The Bob, who at age 17 walked down the aisle, knelt at the altar, prayed the sinner’s prayer, and became a Christian.

….

According to the preacher at First Baptist, Bob is safe in the arms of Jesus. Pity all the women he raped, abused, and molested over the years. Pity all those he terrorized when he was drunk. The fire insurance Bob bought at age 17 covered everything he would ever do. This gave him immunity from prosecution for all his debauchery.

It matters not that he did not attend church in the past 60 years. He never prayed; never read the Bible. In fact, he cursed God, hated God, and lived as if there is no God.

But, at age 17 . . . well, you get the gist of the story.

The pastor in this story? John MacFarlane. Instead of being worried about people saying damn, fuck or shit, he might want to focus on things that matter.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

The Students God “Led” to Attend Midwestern Baptist College

bruce and polly gerencser 1976
Freshman class, Midwestern Baptist College, Pontiac, Michigan 1976

Polly and I were reminiscing the other night about some of the people we attended college with from 1976-1979 at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was started in 1954 by Tom Malone, pastor of nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church. Both the college and the church were diehard Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institutions. In its heyday in the 70s, Midwestern had 400 or so students. Today, the college has a handful of students, and rumor has it that Midwestern might be closing its doors. At one time, Emmanuel was one of the largest churches in the United States. Beginning in the 1980s, the church and the college faced precipitous attendance declines, so much so that the church went out of business and sold its campus. While the college remains on life support, its campus was sold to developers, and the dormitory Polly and I called home for two years was converted into efficiency apartments. Currently, Midwestern holds classes at Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan. Its website has not been updated since early 2020.

While Midwestern required students to have a high school diploma to enroll, what mattered most was two things:

  • A recommendation from the student’s pastor (often a graduate of Midwestern himself)
  • A testimony of personal salvation

I was a high school dropout. Some day, I will share why I dropped out of high school after the eleventh grade. Midwestern accepted me as a “provisional student.” I had to prove my freshman year that I could do college-level work. My provisional status was never mentioned again. I had a grudging recommendation (another story for another day) from Jack Bennett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — the church I attended before enrolling at Midwestern. What mattered the most was my personal salvation testimony. Further, I testified to the fact that God had called me to preach at age fifteen as a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio (an IFB congregation affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship).

Outside of the high school diploma requirement, there were no other academic prerequisites. None. No entrance exams, no English proficiency requirements. All a student needed was a good word from his or her pastor and a correctly constructed testimony of faith in Jesus Christ.

The paucity of academic requirements resulted in Midwestern enrolling students that were unable to do college work. What made matters worse was the fact that Midwestern was an unaccredited institution. This meant that students either had to have enough money to pay their tuition and room and board (such students were called “Momma Called, Daddy Sent”) or they had to secure employment to earn enough money to pay their college bills. I did the latter, working full-time jobs during my three years at Midwestern. Polly worked a combination of part-time jobs. We lived — literally — from hand to mouth. While Midwestern had a rudimentary cafeteria, it served one meal a day, lunch. The dorm had what was commonly called the “snack room.” It was here that students “cooked” their meals, not on a stove, but in a microwave. Students were not permitted to have cooking appliances of any kind in their rooms. Cafeteria aside, dorm students had three options: fine dining in the snack room, eating junk food/out of a can in their rooms, or going out to eat at a fast-food restaurant. Most students, if they had the money, chose the latter.

Midwestern enrolled students from IFB churches all across the country. Many of the students came from churches pastored by men who were graduates of Midwestern. Churches within the IFB church movement often congregate along tribal lines — namely what colleges pastors attended. Thus, Bob Jones-trained pastors sent their students to Bob Jones University, Hyles-trained pastors sent their students to Hyles-Anderson College, and Midwestern-trained pastors sent their students to Midwestern Baptist College. (Please see Let’s Go Camping: Understanding Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Camps.) Pastors who sent lots of students to their alma mater were often rewarded with honorary doctorates. (Please see IFB Doctorates: Doctor, Doctor, Doctor, Everyone’s a Doctor.) Pastor loyalties changed if they had some sort of falling out with the college that trained them. Polly’s uncle, James Dennis, pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple in Newark, Ohio, was sending students to Midwestern, Hyles-Anderson, Massillon Baptist College, and Tennessee Temple when Polly and I married in 1978. Jim had an honorary doctorate from Midwestern — a candy stick award for supporting the college. He later had a falling out with Tom Malone and stopped sending students to Midwestern. Today, prospective college students from the Baptist Temple typically go to Bob Jones University, Pensacola Christian College, or The Crown College.

As Polly and I reminisced about our fellow college students, we couldn’t help but notice how many students we knew that were not socially or academically qualified to take college classes. Often, such students came from churches where their pastors were pushing people to attend Midwestern. It was not uncommon to hear IFB preachers say that young adults should have a Bible college education. Secular colleges were denigrated, labeled as Satanic institutions of higher learning. IFB pastors believe that men must be “called” by God to be pastors, evangelists, youth directors, or missionaries. If a man said he was called to preach, as I did at age fifteen, his pastor would tell him he needed to attend Bible college. If the pastor was a Midwestern man, he would “suggest” that the young person attend Midwestern. In the IFB church movement, “suggestions” have the force of law.

Sometimes, older single men or married men would feel called to preach and head off to Midwestern to study for the ministry. They would often leave behind well-paying jobs, hoping to find employment after enrolling at Midwestern. Some married students left their families behind, living in the dorm with men who were 20-30 years younger than them. Remember, if God calls, he provides. If God orders, he pays. Or so the thinking went, anyway. As you shall see in a moment, God was a deadbeat dad who didn’t pay his bills.

Several married men lived in the dorm while I was a student at Midwestern. They left their families at home as they chased their dream of becoming a pastor. These men, later labeled failures by Malone and other chapel preachers, washed out after a few months. Loneliness, along with an inability to do college work doomed them from the start. The Holy Spirit was no match for a man’s longing for the embrace of his wife and children. Knowing the Bible was no substitute for actually being able to do college-level work (and Midwestern was NOT a scholastically rigorous institution).

One older student lived with a woman before coming to Midwestern. He had gotten saved and his pastor told him he needed to go to Bible college. Imagine eating ice cream every day at Dairy Queen and then going off to a place where there’s no Dairy Queen. Get my drift? This man had an active sex life, and that allegedly stopped when he started living in the Midwestern dorm. The college had a no-contact rule between couples. (Please see Thou Shalt Not Touch: The Six-Inch Rule.) I suspect it was difficult for sexually active students to play by the rules. Polly and I were virgins on our wedding day. I know how hard it was for us to stay “pure,” so I can only imagine how hard it was for students who had tasted the sinful fruit of fornication. Some of these “immoral” students quit or were expelled. Others learned how to hide their sin.

One student was developmentally disabled. He was a great kid, but I suspect his IQ was in the 70s. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child. He could barely read or write. He left Midwestern after his first semester. He, too, was labeled a quitter.

Many single and married students worked full-time jobs to pay their way through college. Imagine working forty hours a week, attending church three times a week, going on visitation on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and working a bus route on Sundays. Pray tell, when were students supposed to do their school work? I knew dorm students who were working 60-70 hours a week at one of the local truck/auto plants. Often, overtime was mandatory. Many of these students either washed out or left college and rented an apartment. The money was too good, so they chose their jobs over God’s calling. I know more than a few students who followed this path, spending the next thirty years working for the man before retiring with a good union pension.

Quitters were savaged by Midwestern’s president, Tom Malone, his son Tommy, Jr, school administrators, and pastors who preached during daily chapel services. Quitters were weak, and God didn’t use quitters. Midwestern advertised itself as a “character-building factory.” Most students who enrolled as freshmen never graduated. Is it any wonder why? Sure, I learned “character,” but once Polly became pregnant and I was laid off from my job, all the character in the world wasn’t going to keep a roof over our head or our utilities on. No help was coming from our parents or churches.

I don’t fault these men (and a few women) who failed to navigate the “character” gauntlet. The system was set up to ensure their failure. Of course, those who made it to graduation think otherwise. Unasked is where was God for these students who sincerely wanted to preach and teach others? When they truly needed help, neither God, nor their churches and pastors, was anywhere to be found.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

A Person Who Doesn’t Have Jesus Has Nothing, Says IFB Pastor John MacFarlane

mansion in heaven

John MacFarlane, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bryan, Ohio — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation — writes a daily devotional for True Christians®. Recently, MacFarlane wrote a post about the worthlessness of the life of Hank Williams and that of everyone who does not worship his peculiar version of the Christian God.

MacFarlane wrote:

There is immeasurable sadness of a life lived having been exposed to the Lord through church, the preaching of God’s Word, and even through the lyrics of songs – yet so far from God that a dying man [Hank Williams] says, “There ain’t no light.” How can a person be so close and yet so far away?

….

By the admission of his friends, Hank had nothing to do with “religion,” in spite of his mother’s attempts to persuade him. We can only hope that he had trusted Jesus and was just in a very backslidden condition. However, all indicators point otherwise. Williams himself said, “There ain’t no light.”

A person who has all the success, fame, and fortune that this world can provide and yet doesn’t have Jesus, this person has nothing and ends with nothing.  If you have Jesus but very little of this world’s goods, that’s okay because you have everything.

Here’s what MacFarlane is saying: billions of people have “nothing” lives. Every Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Shintoist, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, atheist, agnostic, and pagan has a “nothing” life. MacFarlane believes only a small percentage of earth’s residents worship the one true God. Only this select few, the chosen ones, have “everything” lives. MacFarlane arrogantly tells his fellow Fundamentalists that while they may be poor, with Jesus they have E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. MacFarlane never explains what “everything” means. Pain? Hemorrhoids? Suffering? Heartache? Loss? A favorite sports team that sucks? What is this “everything” MacFarlane speaks of?

Evangelicals-turned-atheists are familiar with the “everything” word. It’s not that True Christians® have everything in this life — they don’t. Life is filled with pain, suffering, heartache, and death for many, if not all Christians. There is nothing inherent to Christianity that makes life “better.” Jesus is not the cure for what ails people. No, what MacFarlane is actually talking about is one of his favorite subjects: God’s salvation lotto payout — a mansion next door to Jesus.

The foundation of MacFarlane’s post is perfectly illustrated in the gospel song, Build My Mansion Next Door to Jesus (sung by Dottie, Buck, and Reba Rambo). Give it a listen. 🙂 You will be sure to regret it.

Video Link

Unfortunately, MacFarlane sees no value in the lives of most human beings (except zygotes and fetuses, of course). Instead, he reduces the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world to a caricature, sermon illustration, or a cautionary tale. MacFarlane demonizes, marginalizes, and condemns “sinners.” Yet, he wants “worthless” locals to come join his merry band of Baptists at the corner of Union Street and Fountain Grove Drive in Bryan, Ohio.

I plan to join Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, and the rock bands MacFarlane preaches against in Hell. Awesome music, better company (Steven Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, to name a few), and lots of Devil’s food cake and Devil’s brew. Why would anyone want to join the good pastor in Heaven?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser